The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 11/16/2016
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 16, 2016
Guest: Murphy, John Heilemann, Ken Vogel, Tim Mak, Adrian Karatnycky,
Jonathan Greenblatt, R. T. Rybak
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And that does it for us tonight, we will see you
again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell,
good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, Donald Trump is coming for your
MADDOW: Yes –
O`DONNELL: It`s –
Bound to happen, I guess.
MADDOW: Yes, good luck.
O`DONNELL: Yes –
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Well, the Trump transition team is already
functioning as the worst transition team we have ever seen. And the good
news is the slower they do their work, the better off we are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The arc of the moral universe
is long, but it bends towards justice.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: A president of the United States should
not have a racist at his side – unacceptable.
CLINTON: Sometimes it can feel awfully long –
Believe me, I know.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: A lot of activity going on
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: It`s a knife fight.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: A Stalinist purge of certain
CONWAY: It`s just not that way, there`s no fault.
SCHMIDT: It`s disorganized and chaotic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very calm, it`s very structured. And anyone
saying anything else is someone who is just bitter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s messed up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it`s really messed up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another name now in the mix for Secretary of State.
SCHMIDT: Nikki Haley. I have no idea if she knows anything about the
complexity of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s less frightening to hear Haley than a Bolton or
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Bolton is so far out there, he`s advocating
bombing everyone in the world.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I`ve been all over the world –
honorary knighthood – yes, I heard about – from –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes –
GIULIANI: Great Britain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You look at their background and think, are you sure
this is the right fit?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We only know Priebus and Bannon at this point having
SANDERS: Rescind the appointment of Mr. Bannon. We will not be involved
in the expansion of bigotry, of racism, sexism, homophobia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We have not been contacted. That is very good news. That is
what the State Department Press Secretary said today, “we have not been
The question was, have you heard from anyone on the Trump transition team?
We have not been contacted.
That was the answer at the State Department today, same answer at the
Pentagon, same answer at the Justice Department.
It`s the same answer at every single department and agency in the federal
government controlled by the president.
There is a sign in the lobby of the State Department pointing to the
transition office, but there is no one there.
Because the Trump transition team has not supplied the name of the person
who will be the official contact for the State Department.
The State Department has a big briefing book waiting for that person. The
State Department has all kinds of guidelines waiting for that person.
They have all sorts of advice they`re ready to give that person, but they
can`t give that material to anyone but the person who is specifically and
officially designated by the Trump administration as the State Department
And there is so far no such person. This is something that no one outside
of the Trump transition office should worry about.
This is something that America should not worry about. The State
Department alone has 400 jobs that the president has to fill.
I showed you the Plum Book last night, this giant thing. It`s called
officially United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions. This
is the book that contains all of the jobs, 4,000 jobs that the president
has to fill.
Everybody in Washington wants one of these jobs studies this book. It`s
called the Plum Book because the people in Washington turn the pages
looking for the plum that they want, the job that they want.
Here are the State Department pages right here in the middle of the book.
About 40 jobs per page, 10 pages, 400 jobs.
Including, of course, the legislative management officer. Actually,
there`s one for the house, one for the Senate.
Also, while the undersecretaries, the assistant secretaries, the special
envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, that`s in here.
All sorts of jobs that the public doesn`t know are here. All sorts of jobs
that most people have never heard about, that I`ve never heard about.
Rudy Giuliani, a possible candidate for Secretary of State has never heard
about. The remarkable slowness of the Trump transition team in filling all
these jobs is a very good thing.
The incompetence of the Trump transition team, the likes of which we`ve
never seen is a bad thing.
And so, the longer incompetent people delay in doing what they`re doing,
we`re always better off whenever incompetent people are delaying what
they`re going to do.
And in this case, the government will essentially be run by the people who
are running it now. The top level Obama appointees will leave by
But the professional permanent staff that lies right beneath them will
still be in place, making everything work until the Trump appointees start
populating the offices on top of them.
So far, there is no indication that we should be eager for the Trump
employees to take their places in those offices.
The rumored frontrunner for Trump`s Secretary of State is former New York
City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who of course has no foreign policy experience.
He will be the first Secretary of State whose last public office was mayor,
the most thoroughly domestic public office that we have.
Rudy Giuliani is on the list not because of competence, not because of
foreign policy experience, he`s on most entirely because of loyalty to
In pre-Trump Washington where the old rules applied, Rudy Giuliani could
never survive the Senate confirmation process.
The FBI background check would show that he had an out-of-control affair
with his Press Secretary while he was mayor of New York.
That his marital life became unhinged with his wife kicking him out of the
mayor`s residence of Gracie mansion. That he took up residence as a house
guest in an apartment owned by friends of his.
The friends were a loving gay couple. And that is the best thing I know
about Rudy Giuliani. Is that in his most desperate moment, desperate time
of need, he turned to a gay couple for help.
He didn`t think no, I can`t do that, it will look bad if I – if I go to
them. He went where he felt safe and good for him, good that he did that.
But he needed to feel safe because he turned his life into a public mess.
A public mess that the “New York Tabloids” covered daily.
And that the country never paid attention to, and the country has forgotten
if they did pay attention to it.
Rudy Giuliani would bring conflicts of interest into any Senate
confirmation hearing that would be impossible to clear if confirmation
hearings operate under the same gravitational forces that they used to in
the pre-Trump era.
But we are in a new era, a new era where campaign rules certainly don`t
apply, and who knows what other rules don`t apply.
The question for the Republicans running the confirmation hearings in the
United States Senate is whose rules are they going to use?
Their own rules or Trump rules? Senator Jeff Sessions is reportedly on the
Trump shortlist to be either the next Secretary of Defense or the next
Attorney General of the United States.
According to the old rules, Senator Jeff Sessions could not be confirmed by
the United States Senate because in fact he wasn`t.
When Ronald Reagan nominated him for federal district court judgeship, the
Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination.
Something the committee had not done in 50 years. Jeff Sessions is now the
Chairman of the Committee that rejected him.
He sits beside the ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy who voted against Jeff
Session`s nomination in that committee in 1986.
Strom Thurmond, the former segregationist candidate for president was the
Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 and he tried
to get Jeff Sessions` nomination through that committee, but he couldn`t.
Because Republicans defected and voted with all the Democrats to reject
Jeff Sessions` nomination when they discovered that when he was working as
a prosecutor in Alabama, he called the NAACP Un-American.
And he addressed a black lawyer as “boy”. That`s why Jeff Sessions
couldn`t get through Senate confirmation process under the old rules
followed by Democrats and Republicans.
He couldn`t get through a Republican-controlled committee. If Jeff
Sessions had been an editor of something like “Breitbart”, Ronald Reagan
wouldn`t have even nominated him.
The Reagan administration discovered those things about Jeff Sessions only
after he was nominated.
But that was then, and Trump is now. Trump is now. And we don`t know what
the rules are now.
Someone who traffics in much more than what Jeff Sessions said back then
will be with the president every day in the White House as his senior
We don`t know who will be in that president`s cabinet. And we don`t know
that now for two reasons.
Donald Trump hasn`t decided, and most importantly, we don`t know if the old
rules still apply.
Joining us now, John Heilemann; managing editor of “Bloomberg Politics” and
co-host of “WITH ALL DUE RESPECT” on Msnbc.
Also with us, Mike Murphy; long-time GOP strategist and host of the podcast
Radio Free GOP, he is an Msnbc political analyst.
Mike Murphy, I want to go to you for the Republican perspective on this
transition. It`s looking pretty messy from where we`re sitting.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it`s messy. Now, we`ve had messy
transitions before but we`re in new territory here, I think.
One of the main reasons why – I think there are really two reasons. One,
there`s kind of a culture of infighting in the Trump political world.
We saw so much of that during the campaign, and it`s not surprising that
hasn`t changed. It`s just unfortunate.
And second, I think most, if not all of the senior Trump people, I believe
this on some authority, thought they were going to lose.
So, there wasn`t that much focus on the transition, at least, not as much
as you get on a campaign that`s highly confident they`re going to win.
So, they`re kind of behind the 8-ball to begin with. The infighting to me
is the more worrisome thing because normally these transition efforts are
about expanding to get the widest possible talent pool.
And they seem to be kind of in a purge mode and narrow, and that will not
serve President-elect Trump very well.
O`DONNELL: We`re going break in here, we have some breaking news about the
Trump transition and we`re going to be joined by phone now by Nbc`s Kristen
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS (via telephone): Hi there, Lawrence, good
evening. Well, I`m just learning that according to a source familiar with
the transition process, President-elect Donald Trump intends to select
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Again, this is according to a source familiar with the transition process.
Just to remind everyone who Flynn is.
He ran the defense intelligence agency from 2012 to 2014. He served as a
top national intelligence adviser to General Stanley McChrystal in Iraq.
He was one of Trump`s top national security advisors throughout the
campaign. As you will recall, a number of foreign policy experts distanced
themselves from Donald Trump, not Michael Flynn.
This is someone who is considered a loyalist and as we have watched this
transition process unfold, again roiled by reports of turmoil, Donald Trump
seems to be really focusing right now in this initial phase on loyalists.
So, it would fit into that broader pattern. Now, I would of course caveat
all of this that until we hear this from the president-elect himself, it`s
not etched in stone.
But at this hour, according to the source who is familiar with the
transition process, President-elect Donald Trump intends to select
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
This is not a position that requires confirmation. This is a pick that
like his Chief of Staff, he gets to choose on his own and have installed.
O`DONNELL: Kristen, any word on when this announcement will be made?
WELKER: I do not have exact timing, but I wouldn`t be surprised if we get
word within the next 24 hours, sometime tomorrow.
You`ll recall that Eric Trump earlier today said it`s likely we`re going to
have some names by the end of the day today.
That has not happened. They are feeling some pressure to get some of these
names out to start filling in the blanks of this cabinet.
So, I have not been given the exact timing, but I wouldn`t be surprised if
we learned within the next day or two at the latest.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, a key point here is that this is a White House
job, no Senate confirmation involved.
And General Flynn would certainly have –
JOHN HEILEMANN, MANAGING EDITOR, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Yes –
O`DONNELL: A bumpy road –
HEILEMANN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: In the –
HEILEMANN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Senate confirmation.
HEILEMANN: He would, he`s a very controversial figure for a variety of
You know, the – someone who – again controversial not just among
Democrats who obviously are not going to like most of Donald Trump`s
But controversial among many people in the national security establishment,
many people in the Republican mainstream. The thing about this appointment
that, again, goes to me is most. If this is true, right?
National security advisors, like White House Chiefs of Staff, their job
generally if they`re – if they`re competent and qualified and effective is
to be honest brokers in the White House.
That`s what they`re there for. They`re not there to be advocates,
generally. They`re not there to be partisans, they`re not there to be
The ones who do the job very well are the ones who lay out the range of
options, filter down the range of options that are available to the
president, lay them out in an honest, brokerage way and then let the
president make the choice among those options.
Which is why in general, when you`re putting together a White House staff
and putting together a good one, you`re looking for someone there who is
not someone who`s going to be heavy-handed.
Not someone who has profound passionate commitments, but someone who again
will play that role of honest broker.
Michael Flynn not exactly cut from that cloth. Someone who has very strong
views about almost everything in the realm of national security and
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, the – that point about it doesn`t require Senate
confirmations, so you get to pick who you want.
Though, obviously is a factor in this. But as John says, that job is the
one that is physically closest to the president every day.
Closer than Secretary of State, closer than Secretary of Defense. And is
supposed to be the funnel through which all of that information comes?
MURPHY: Right, it`s originally a super bureaucratic job to balance all the
interests of the security aspects of the cabinet between defense and
intelligence and of course the State Department.
But really, beginning with the Nixon White House, the one with Henry
Kissinger, it became kind of a super powerful position.
But John is right, it`s traditionally the honest broker job. And I think
the pattern we`re – pattern we`re seeing here if this is true, and it
probably as it`s been leaked kind of before.
He was the frontrunner, is that President-elect Trump is going for people
he knows and people he feels are loyal to him, that`s not necessarily a bad
But the troubling thing is, I don`t know that President Trump knows that
many people. I`m not sure how big the menu is.
And there is, as John said, some bit of – what would I say, controversy
that while General Flynn is well experienced in intelligence matter, he is
a controversial figure in the national security establishment in both
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Ken Vogel of “Politico” who – Ken, you
have some reporting on General Flynn tonight?
KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, that`s right. I
was told that General Flynn and a guy by the name of Carl Higbie; a former
Navy SEAL who served two tours in operation Iraqi freedom.
Who was a spokesman for one of the pro Donald Trump Super PACs that Flynn
and Higbie were seen recently at the Pentagon meeting with some officials
So, I think that we have seen some preparations being made in this regard.
Even as you reported in the opening, we haven`t seen the landing teams as
they`ve called them actually meeting with folks at these agencies in
Now that said, there was just a conference call that the Trump transition
team held with the reporters in which they said that they are announcing
their landing team tomorrow on the national security front.
This is the NSC. So, Flynn would be included potentially in that, as well
as DOJ, Department of Defense and Department of State.
So, they`re clearly making moves. They may not be moves that insiders like
in fact. Flynn has said that he could – he would support cutting half the
workforce, the civilian workforce at the Pentagon.
So, you see already this controversial, but that fits in. That reform-
minded approach fits in with the one that Donald Trump has espoused so far.
O`DONNELL: And John, once again, we see loyalty seems to be the number one
characteristic for Donald Trump`s selection. General Flynn being
obviously, tightly loyal to Donald Trump throughout the campaign.
HEILEMANN: Yes, and somebody who – I mean, again, to get some of the
substance of why Flynn is so controversial.
In the national security establishment, it is somewhat frowned upon for
people to take extremely harsh partisan roles in campaigns.
This is a guy who stood up at the Republican convention and reveled in the
chants of “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton.
Who has called President Obama a liar. Who has just said that the U.S.
Justice system is corrupt.
He`s become someone who for a lot of his former colleagues, people like
Stanley McChrystal who looked at General Flynn and sort of said, this is
not the person I thought I knew.
Not the kind of person who is going to be more buttoned-up kind of military
figure and that partisan tone.
Also, someone who has advocated for a much tighter ties with Russia and had
raised some eyebrows in terms of some of the consorting that he did around
Seen at a dinner party famously sitting next to Vladimir Putin. Again,
raised a lot of eyebrows among national security officials who looked at
him and thought these kind of behaviors were not what they had thought what
he was like previously.
And there`s a – kind of an undercurrent of the stories we read during the
campaign of, this was a guy we thought we knew who seems to have changed in
a profound way and become this much more kind of person –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HEILEMANN: Figure, much more controversial figure, like someone who I
think if you`re right, Lawrence, put in a position where he had to get
Again, under the old rules – under the old rules –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HEILEMANN: That you stipulated before would have a very hard time.
O`DONNELL: Right, and so Senate confirmations people should remember in
these kinds of jobs, they`re normally routine for Defense Secretary.
And what you`re looking for is how much turbulence do you have with the
minority party? How much turbulence do you have with the other party?
How much trouble did the Democrats cause for a particular nominee on the
way to actually being confirmed.
And usually it`s very little. And in some of these instances, they clearly
would be able to stop them and they`d get Republicans to switch –
VOGEL: And –
O`DONNELL: And stop – go ahead, Mike.
VOGEL: And you know, and that`s right, you know, Lawrence, I mean, the –
what John just mentioned there about the ties with Russia. I mean, he
advocated for closer cooperation with Russia in the Middle East.
Those would be things that would raise concerns among Republicans who are -
O`DONNELL: Right –
VOGEL: Already uneasy with the nice things that President-elect Trump has
said about Putin, has said about warming of relations with Russia.
And that people around him like Flynn, like Paul Manafort, his former
campaign chairman who my sources say is still talking to President-elect
Donald Trump and has close ties to the pro-Russian-Ukrainian party and
Those are things that would raise concerns among hawkish Republicans.
O`DONNELL: Kristen Welker –
MURPHY: It`s also –
O`DONNELL: Hold on a second, Mike, I just want to get to Kristen for a
second before she has to go.
Kristen Welker, the Trump campaign has said that they will have their
official designees at the State Department, Defense Department, and
national security agencies tomorrow.
What are we hearing about the rest of the government? Some of those they
are more than a week away from getting their official contacts ready.
WELKER: That`s right. And I think they`re feeling some pressure to fill
in these blanks before Thanksgiving, many of them at least.
If you look back at past administrations, they`re probably a little bit
behind where former President George W. Bush was.
He filled out his cabinet fairly quickly. President Obama, it took him a
number of days to do that and it took former President Bill Clinton even
So, they`re not so far behind at the same time, Lawrence, I stressed that
point they are feeling the pressure. They want to start naming names,
particularly because they have all of these reports of turmoil.
One more point I`ll just make about Flynn is that we`re already seeing, and
we`ve seen Democrats come forward and start to express their opposition.
Adam Schiff, who is of course the ranking member on the House Select
Committee said earlier today I`d be worried about an impulsive president
with an impulsive national security adviser.
So, even though this isn`t a position that necessarily requires
confirmation, I think you`re going to see some push-back if in fact and
when this does happen.
O`DONNELL: Kristen Welker, thank you very much for joining us with this
breaking news tonight.
WELKER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, I think I cut you off there as Kristen was joining
MURPHY: No, just a point about General Flynn. He has a reputation
reveling a very strong point of view, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
But in that job at the NSC, you`re supposed to be the fair broker that all
the other interests can work with.
And there was this at least leak story about early in the process for
candidate Trump to get intelligence briefings that Flynn attended and kept
interrupting the professional briefer from the intelligence community.
Leading Governor Christie who at that time had a larger profile in Trump
land to kind of interrupt and tell him to pipe down.
So, that`s not normally the personality you see in a national security
adviser who`s supposed to get all the feuding departments and cabinet
agencies to work well together.
O`DONNELL: And Ken Vogel, the – one of the – what`s the – what is the
word you`re getting on other potential nominees? Today was a day when other
names started to emerge.
People like Nikki Haley and others for different jobs, additions to the –
to the possible lists.
VOGEL: Yes, I think we`re going to see them focus on these landing teams
as they call them, and the ones they interact with the actual agencies and
sort of facilitate the transition of power.
And we`ll see some hints in them, the folks who are named to them or folks
who are going to be possibly nominees themselves, or the allies of those
folks will be the folks on these landing teams.
That`s why I think this news about General Flynn was so interesting coming
the day before they announced the landing team for national security.
So, that`s something to keep an eye on these landing teams. And it also is
as Kristen suggested, an effort by the Trump team to change the narrative
that they`re totally disorganized.
It`s not a coincidence that they have this press call hastily organized
tonight. Literally like an hour before they had the call, they sent out an
e-mail to reporters. And they`re saying it now every single day.
At 10:30 in the morning, they`re going to have one of these calls to update
reporters on who Donald Trump is meeting with as well as possible
O`DONNELL: And John, the crucial thing about the so-called landing teams,
the official designees –
HEILEMANN: Right –
O`DONNELL: Is that`s how you actually populate those 400 jobs in the State
Department. Getting the secretary is the easy part compared to what –
HEILEMANN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: The rest of those jobs are.
HEILEMANN: Yes, and it`s one of these things that, you know, goes to –
one doesn`t want to disqualify people from the presidency who have never
served in the military or who have never served in public office before.
It`s fine in principle that an outsider could come in and become president
of the United States.
But one of the things you`re lacking if you are – come from that
background is a lot of connections to the kind of networks of policy and
regulatory and administrative specialists who you would populate a
Donald Trump obviously knows many people in the country. But does he know
4,000 people through his extended networks? I don`t mean personally.
But can he – in the way that someone like Barack Obama, someone like
George W. Bush, someone like Bill Clinton could with effort and with
organization with preparation eventually fill those 4,000 jobs with people
who all at least met minimum qualifications, and often exceeded minimum
It`s not clear that Donald Trump has that. Even if he thought he was going
to win, is not clear that he has that, and he did not think he was going to
And so, they are on a very difficult posture. I agree with you in some
sense that letting the bureaucrats, if you will –
O`DONNELL: All right –
HEILEMANN: Letting the career government officials run things is an OK
idea for a while. The problem is that those jobs will eventually be
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HEILEMANN: And the question is at some point when they start to just fill
them with people, if they`re really late to this party, who will those
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HEILEMANN: And how much damage can they do?
O`DONNELL: And –
MURPHY: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Most of these jobs –
HEILEMANN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Are not Senate confirmation jobs. Go ahead.
VOGEL: Yes, and you know, I think they –
HEILEMANN: No —
VOGEL: Limited the pool tonight because they announced on this press call
that they would have not just a lobbying ban for people incoming.
They want to be – a lot of lobbyists working with transition team. But a
five-year post-employment lobbying ban. That`s unprecedented.
And that`s more than twice as long as what president Obama had. And
President Obama actually had a difficult time finding people who were
career government services professionals.
Because lobbying is such a part of the industry here that, you know, anyone
who works in this community who is qualified, chances are at some point in
time they will do something akin to lobbying, whether they`re actually
registered as a lobbyist or not.
It was interesting to see this was an effort to emphasize the drain the
swamp sort of approach to creating a new government.
But I think it also may play into this problem that he`s having of
attracting a wide pool of talented and experienced folks.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, you are –
MURPHY: Yes, the problem with the –
O`DONNELL: You are not lobbying –
MURPHY: Go ahead –
O`DONNELL: Republican, they need you.
MURPHY: Well, the problem with draining the swamp is you also kill
everything that lives in the swamp.
And some swamp life is useful and has an important role. I think the other
thing, I agree of the point about the career staff.
But one of the worries there was – I`m up here today, I have a role, a
defense-oriented think-tank, and it was me with some people.
And one thing you got to remember is if you get your top appointments
wrong, you start to lose professional staff.
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HEILEMANN: Yes –
MURPHY: And because Donald Trump is controversial to begin with, there`s
some stress or people are thinking about their career planning like the
master sergeants of the army, the machinery runs on this professional
You don`t want to lose them. And so you have to be careful about the
signals you send.
There has been talk about some of the people in the National Security
Council, the long-time kind of not particularly partisan staff.
And I`ll be interested to see if the next wave of leaks indicates
unhappiness there. That`s something the Trump people have to manage.
Lastly, I`d say haste does not solve the problem. If they`re getting press
heat for –
O`DONNELL: Right –
MURPHY: Being slow –
O`DONNELL: Oh, yes –
MURPHY: That`s bad. But better to be slow and right than quick and not
good. So, I would be careful if I were them about rushing out stuff if
they`re not ready.
And it looks to me like in many areas they`re just not ready yet, they have
O`DONNELL: We have to get a quick break in here now, John Heilemann, Mike
Murphy, Ken Vogel, thank you all, really appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thank you –
O`DONNELL: Coming up next, the man Donald Trump has named to be his senior
strategist. Could not, absolutely could not pass a background check if
we`re still using the old rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I call upon Mr. Trump to rescind the
appointment that he made of Mr. Bannon. A president of the United States
should not have a racist at his side, unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was senator Bernie Sanders saying in effect that he wants
Washington to operate under the old rules, where someone like Steve Bannon
would never be allowed to visit the Whitehouse, never mind work there. 169
House Democrats signed a letter to the President-elect today urging him to
“rescind this appointment immediately.” Under the old rules, Steve Bannon
could never get a security clearance. But there could be a new rule, the
The Daily Beast reports today that if Steve Bannon is denied a security
clearance, the President could simply overrule that denial and order that
security clearance. joining us now, Tim Mak, senior correspondent for the
Daily Beast. Tim, you reported on this extensively in the Daily Beast
today, including the various processes involved in getting the security
clearance. What are people telling you about someone like Steve Bannon
going through the process to get a security clearance?
TIM MAK, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, “THE DAILY BEAST”. Look, Steve Bannon
raises as lot of regular flags. And what National Security experts are
telling me, those in particular, these experts are experts in getting
security clearances is that he would have a bumpy road. He would have a
very difficult time getting a top secret clearance if he was anyone else.
When you go through this top secret security clearance process, they ask
about your foreign ties, whether you have any ties with violent groups,
whether you have ever been arrested. And Steve Bannon has ties to the
notorious alt-right. He has ties with far right groups in Europe, in
Germany, in France, and in the past he has been charged with domestic
abuse. This was some time ago, though, in 1996.
O`DONNELL: And what are the – what do the experts tell you about the
likelihood of a President overruling a judgment on security clearances? Do
we know whether, if that is done it would be made public? Would we know
that the President overruled and in effect granted the security clearance
MAK: A couple of things. Firstly, we`ve never had someone appointed to
such a senior level in the government in the Whitehouse, the top strategist
to the President to need to set very many precedents in this regard. But
ultimately, the President can choose who he or she surrounds himself or
herself with. Steve Bannon, if President-Elect Trump wants him to have a
security clearance, will get a security clearance because the President can
overrule the intelligence community and the FBI investigators. now that
may come at the expense of his relationship with lawmakers, the FBI, with
the office of the Director of National Intelligence. But he can do it.
O`DONNELL: But as I say, will we know if he does it? Is it a public
process where we would know that he has done that?
MAK: It`s not a public process. It`s possible that that information could
get out there. But FBI Investigators and people in the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence typically keep these sorts of things
under wraps. But it`s impossible to tell if that sort of information might
leak if there are disaffected bureau agents, if there are people working in
intelligence who are unhappy about a man who under any normal circumstances
would not be given access to the nation`s top secrets.
O`DONNELL: Tim Mak, thanks for your reporting tonight. Thanks for joining
us, really appreciate it.
MAK: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a Republican Senator wants the Senate now to
investigate the hacking of the Democratic National Committee e-mails and
any possible linkage to the Russian Government and Vladimir Putin. Adrian
Karatnycky will join us and also get his reaction to this news that General
Michael Flynn is on the verge of being announced as Donald Trump`s national
O`DONNELL: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was a campaign adviser
to Donald Trump when he said this –
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I don`t think anybody knows it was Russia
that broke into the DNC. She is saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it
was. I mean, it could be Russia. But it could also be China. It could
also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody that is sitting on
their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Did General Flynn guide him in that answer? Did he approve
that answer? Did he give him that answer? Admiral Mike Roger, the current
Director of the National Security Agency and the Commander of U.S. Cyber
Command visited Donald Trump today at Trump Tower. Here is what Admiral
Rogers said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE ROGER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: there shouldn`t be any
doubt in anybody`s mind. This was not something that was done casually.
This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that
was selected purely arbitrarily. This is a conscious effort by a nation
state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP
O`DONNELL: So maybe now Donald Trump and maybe General Flynn think it
wasn`t somebody sitting on a bed fooling around, doing some casual hacking.
Senator Lindsey Graham now wants Congress, the Senate specifically, to hold
hearings to investigate what Russia has been up to. Senator Graham says
Russia`s misadventures throughout the world, including whether they were
involved in hacking into the DNC should be investigated. Were they
involved in Cyberattacks that had a political component to it in our
elections, Graham asked. If so, Putin should be punished, joining us now,
Adrian Karatnycky senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Adrian so we have an announcement tonight that if true will be of real
interest to Vladimir Putin and the Russians, the Donald Trump`s National
Security Adviser Lieutenant Flynn.
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Lieutenant Flynn has -
O`DONNELL: General Flynn, sorry.
KARATNYCKY: Has a very strong relationship with Russia today, the main
propaganda vehicle externally of Russia. He participated in their 10th
anniversary celebration in Moscow, this vehicle of disinformation.
O`DONNELL: This is Russia TV?
KARATNYCKY: The Russian – it`s Russian TV, that broadcast it to the
outside world. They`re on all your cable stations. In any event, he was
there, and he has been a frequent, you know, guest on their talk shows. He
has a cozy relationship with this Kremlin propaganda vehicle. And he is
also an advocate of a close cooperative relationship with Russia.
So I think this is actually kind of related to what the head of the NSA
said, which is mischief against the enemies of Russia or the critics of
Russia. We saw it in the DNC. But we can also see it potentially operating
within the Trump Administration. that is to say if there are particular
candidates or people in positions of power that Russia doesn`t like, they
could try to knock them off to create a better array of policy makers that
would be more suitable to Kremlin interests. It`s really fascinating.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And so what Lindsey Graham is talking about there is the
tip of a possible iceberg. Hacking DNC e-mails, that could be small
compared to what they can do now.
KARATNYCKY: Absolutely, I mean, you know, current members of Congress,
people who speak out. I mean there had been a lot of these hacks by these
two entities that have been identified as Russian linked. And they`re
called cozy bear and – I don`t remember the other. There are these two
entities that have been linked to hacks on – against western entities,
including George Soros` Foundations, including the DNC, including John
McCain, including, you know, ad infinitum, including a German Europe
entities. So there`s been a lot of this stuff going on.
O`DONNELL: Well listen to what President Obama said in Greece today about
NATO because this maybe the last time we hear a President of United States
say something like this at least for four years. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent years, we`ve made
historic investments in NATO, increased America`s presence in Europe. And
today`s NATO, the world`s greatest alliance is as strong and as ready as
it`s ever been. And I am confident that just as a America`s commitment to
the transatlantic alliance has endured for seven decades, whether it`s been
under a Democratic or Republican administration, that commitment will
continue including our pledge and our treaty obligation to defend every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That last line noted that that commitment will continue, our
pledge to defend every ally. When Vladimir Putin hears that tonight, he can
look forward to January where that kind of talk stops according to the
candidate who Donald Trump was.
KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that the array of people that he`s going to put
in and the candidates that are being discussed short of General Flynn are
people who will try to prevent that kind of commitment from being watered
down. These are pretty hawkish people, people who are committed to the
Transatlantic Alliance. I think where Trump will push is to push these
allies into greater military spending so that there are no free riders.
But using, you know, loose talk about having separate but equal
relationships within the NATO alliance is pretty dramatic and pretty scary
to many of these countries.
O`DONNELL: What would you be looking for in any of the personnel
decisions coming up in the Trump Administration that would be – that would
send a strong message to Russia?
KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that most of the candidates have been touted for
Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State are – well, you may question
their competence, but certainly the signals that sent to Russia would be
pretty tough. Even Rudy Giuliani who is pretty inexperienced in foreign
affairs spoke recently through a Wall Street Journal or conference about a
containment policy Visa be Russia post Crimea. So, you know, general
sessions, Senator Sessions, Senator Corker, these are people who have very
tough positions on Russia, very strong positions to provide say weapons,
lethal weapons to Ukraine. So the names that he has suggested for these two
portfolios are likely to be – to give no comfort that means they could
become prey to Russia`s Cyberwars.
O`DONNELL: Adrian Karatnycky, thank you very much for joining us tonight,
really appreciate it. Coming up, Donald Trump`s big KKK supporter David
Duke, who has never been happier with result of a presidential election
than he is now has once again gone on an anti-semitic attack, this time
against a United States Senator.
O`DONNELL: Alexander Hamilton designed the Electoral College. Alexander
Hamilton was something that Ku Klux Klan, former Ku Klux Klan former leader
David Duke would not like. He was an immigrant. He was not Jewish,
though, which could only be relevant to David Duke.
Alexander Hamilton decided quickly that the Electoral College wasn`t
working the way he wanted it to. He wanted it to be electors making
independent decisions about who should be the best Presidents. He didn`t
expect them to ban together and basically make political alliances to
choose the next President.
And so Alexander Hamilton himself tried to get an amendment to the
constitution that would change his own design of the Electoral College. But
he failed. And yesterday Barbara Boxer, Senator from California took up
Alexander Hamilton`s mantle and advanced in a Constitutional Amendment to
change basically eliminate the Electoral College.
She introduced that in The United States Senate. And so today, so today
David Duke tweeted this. Thank God our ancestors established a just system.
These Jewish supremacists should stop trying to change everything. We`re
joined now by Jonathan Greenblatt. He is the Ceo of the Anti-Defamation
League. Jonathan, here is someone who has cheered the election of Donald
Trump. And the only thing he sees, the only thing he sees when Barbara
boxer takes the floor in the United States senate is a Jewish person. he
doesn`t see anything else.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Right, right. look.
David Duke Is a great example of the KKK Redux. 50 years ago he would have
been hiding behind a white hood. Today he hides behind a keyboard. But the
result is the same. A twisted vision that really doesn`t understand what
makes America great.
O`DONNELL: And here we have Steve Bannon in the Whitehouse. Someone who in
sworn testimony by his wife said that he didn`t want his kids going to
school with Jews in Los Angeles. This is an unthinkable thing in any
GREENBLATT: If that was on the record for any one you would never have to
O`DONNELL: Has you ever – has the ADL ever objected to any one a
president has chosen to bring into the Whitehouse on the job?
GREENBLATT: Certainly not in recent memory. But these are very unusual
times. And look, even if we don`t focus on the gossip, the facts are the
same. This guy created Breitbart, essentially as the haven for the alt-
right. A band of white supremacists who hate immigrants, Jews, Muslims,
African Americans, anyone who doesn`t comport to their notion of white
O`DONNELL: And what do you expect? Do you feel like there is now any kind
of new jurisdiction for the ADL? There has to be a new attentiveness.
GREENBLATT: Yes. Well, you know, the ADL was founded over 100 years ago
with a mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure
justice and fair treatment for all. So we fought for African Americans in
the civil rights movement, the LGBT community in the `90s. And today we`re
fighting for immigrants and people in all minority communities who find
themselves under assault by this new resurgent movement of white supremacy.
O`DONNELL: What do you say to the people who say well, so and so, whoever
it, whether Donald Trump or anyone, can`t be an anti-Semite because he is
related to, because his son-in-law, because –
GREENBLATT: Something is happening out there, Lawrence. Since last
Tuesday`s election night, we have seen a surge in hate crimes across the
country. We have seen vandalism, acts of violence, verbal harassment. In
real world, I`m not even talking what is happening on social media. So
again it`s hard to ascertain intent, but the outcome is pretty scary.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you very much for joining us. It`s a
sad subject. and I wish we weren`t in it.
GREENBLATT: me too.
O`DONNELL: But here we are. Thank you very much.
GREENBLATT: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the big changes the Democrats made in Washington
today as they now brace for their role as the opposition party in Congress.
O`DONNELL: Democrats in the Senate today voted in a new leader. But they
might have more than one leader now. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The United States Senate on the Democratic side today had their
election for the new leadership team. Chuck Schumer, as expected, was
elected the Democratic Leader, the Minority Leader of the Senate by his
Democratic Senate Colleagues. Bernie Sanders was elected to a leadership
position created for him. They are calling it the Chair of Outreach.
Elizabeth Warren is in the position called Vice Chair, which was the
position Chuck Schumer had before he was elevated to Minority Leader.
There are two kinds of leaders now in the Democratic Senate. One is the
leader of the Senate, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate that is
clearly Chuck Schumer. But who will be the leader of the opposition, which
is a different job, unofficial job. Joining us now, R. T. Rybak Vice Chair
of the Democratic National Committee and the former Mayor of Minneapolis.
He`s the author of Poll Hole Confidential: My Life as Mayor of Minneapolis.
Mayor of Minneapolis being makes you a distinguished successor to the last
mayor who found himself a Democratic Nominee for President, Hubert
Humphrey. That`s quite a distinguished lineage you have there.
I`m wondering now. We know Chuck Schumer is going to be the minority
leader in the senate. That`s a job that is filled with a variety of
burdens that make it difficult for him to always be in all instances the
strongest voice of opposition in the senate. That makes me wonder about
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren In the senate. both of whom are in a
position to simply step forward whenever they choose as strong voices of
opposition to what the Republicans are trying to push. What do you expect
to see from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in this new senate?
R. T. RYBAK, VICE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I don`t think
their voices are going to change at all. And it`s what Democrats have
always been saying. We are stronger together, but we`re going to fight like
heck if anybody tries to divide us.
And that`s what Trump talked about in the campaign. If he goes back there,
we`re going to fight like heck. It`s why I supported Keith Ellison for
chairing the Dnc because I know Keith. And I know he`s not going to take a
lot of stuff. He`s going to be in the halls of Congress arguing. But he
is going to go out to the protests and talk to people.
That`s why somebody like a Tim Ryan can go to a bar in Youngstown just as
well as in Congress and talk to working people. Democrats know how to carry
the message. We just have to take some telephone new voices and bring them
O`DONNELL: What is your advice to Democrats when legislation starts to
come their way in the House and in the Senate, especially if it is I`d say
giant tax cut that includes some tax provisions that they like?
RYBAK: Well, I believe we stand strongly against having the tax code used
to make the income disparity in America any worse than it already.
Democrats know that. I think we should not do what the Republicans did,
which is to spend eight years saying they would do absolutely nothing
because we do stand for the country.
So if there is a big bill to do infrastructure improvements and it is about
working people, let`s do that. But let`s absolutely fight with every ounce
that we have to protect healthcare and make it even better. And I think the
fact of the matter is this is a tough moment for democrats. But it`s also
exciting to see so many people out there mobilized. Let`s take all that
energy. Let`s be the Democrats we know we have always been. And maybe every
once in a when an opposition that lets you get even more tougher and clear
about what you`re about. I think that`s a good thing for Democrats.
O`DONNELL: And what do you say to Democrats who are dispirited, who have
turned off their TVs. They don`t want to hear any of this news. They want
to rest from all of this?
RYBAK: Yes, boy, I would too. I`d like to curl up in a ball like Hillary
said she would but she is out. And I think we all have to go do that. The
fact of the matter is we don`t have the luxury of pulling back from this.
I remember the first few months of the Reagan administration when all sorts
of things happened too fast. We cannot allow that to happen. Get out
there, battle, fight. We know what we believe and we`ll come back and win
or not if we sit back.
O`DONNELL: R.T. Rybak thank you very much for joining us tonight, really
O`DONNELL: MSNBCs Live coverage continues now into “THE 11TH HOUR” with
Brian Williams. That`s next.
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