The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 11/22/2016
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 22, 2016
Guest: Norman Eisen, Josh Barro, Gabrielle Sherman, Hunter Walker, David
Fahrenthold, Roland Martin, Tom Nichols
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: An unpredictable precedent, breaking – well, it
looks like a fun event there. And by the way, happy Thanksgiving, you have
a good weekend, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, you too, have a good show.
MELBER: Donald Trump ran as an unpredictable precedent, breaking
candidates, you know that.
But today, his biggest cheerleaders Ann Coulter, Jeff Sessions, Reince
Priebus and “Breitbart” itself where they seem to be getting a wake up, the
President-elect Trump hasn`t changed.
Plus, an exclusive interview tonight with the “Washington Post`s” David
Fahrenthold on the Trump Foundation now admitting under oath to self-
What are the penalties also? Vladimir Putin`s aggressive new move with
missiles, but first, a major Trump campaign promise goes down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: She should be locked up, she should.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Well, today he says forget about it.
LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST: Now, backing away from his vow to prosecute
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: “It`s just not something that I feel very strongly
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, so much for lock her up, I guess.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: He thinks that she and
the Clintons have suffered enough.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I do hope that all the things
that Donald Trump said about how crooked she was.
TRUMP: Crooked Hillary, ladies and gentlemen. She`s as crooked as they
GRAHAM: That we just don`t let it go.
TRUMP: Because you`d be in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A sitting president is not allowed to tamper in his
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Breitbart” in a headline calling this a broken
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much of this is attitude and how much of this is
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Why is Donald Trump president?
What is he trying to do?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: He wants his son-in-law
to be his top adviser.
TRUMP: He`s very good at politics.
CORN: Who is married to Ivanka, who will be controlling a company.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: We got the company into a blind
trust, and it would be run by us.
KARL ROVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: He has a blind trust,
his kids, that may not meet the test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scale of wrong-doing that has already began is
SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: His daughter sat in on a meeting
with a foreign leader.
Maybe she was just filling in for Mike Pence who bailed because he didn`t
want to get booed in Japanese.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Good evening. President-elect Donald Trump has been walking back
several policy promises from the campaign, from Obamacare to deportations.
Now, today he said he would drop a very different promise, his
unconstitutional pledge to investigate his political opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If I win, I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a
special prosecutor to look into your situation.
Because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. Lock her up
is right. She deleted the e-mails, she has to go to jail!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Everyone remembers that tough talk. Well, Trump aides walked it
all back this morning on MSNBC.
And then Trump himself told the “New York Times”, “I don`t want to hurt the
Clintons, I really don`t.
She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”
Pressed on whether he had definitively ruled out a prosecution of Mrs.
Clinton, he said, “it`s just not something I feel very strongly about.”
Now, let`s stop right there. Donald Trump was wrong to campaign on jailing
an opponent. The kind of interference with an independent DOJ that was
literally one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
But even if it is a step in some people`s eyes for him to back off that
irresponsible pledge, he is wrong today to suggest this is even his call.
Yes, think about that. Donald Trump has managed to get this issue
fundamentally wrong twice.
Independent investigators and prosecutors decide in our system whether to
investigate or bring charges, not the president.
And as everyone remembers, the FBI already cleared Clinton of any potential
crimes for her e-mail.
It is not the president`s call, not this President Obama and not the next
one, Trump`s, to overturn that or act like not overturning it is some kind
of presidential choice.
Now that basic point has been noted by experts across the spectrum, calling
it an extraordinary breach of protocol which Trump said today. And
pointing out, look, the president doesn`t decide who gets prosecuted and
Meanwhile, prominent Trump supporters are also upset, “Breitbart” run of
course by Trump aide Steve Bannon, came out swinging with that headline.
“Broken promise, Trump doesn`t wish to pursue Clinton e-mail charges.”
And so-called moderate Republican Lindsey Graham who did not, Trump seemed
to go further, suggesting that the new administration might get a do-over
of that finished FBI inquiry that didn`t go far enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: Well, so much for locking her up, I guess. I can understand
wanting to put the election behind us and heal the nation.
But I do hope that all the things that Donald Trump said about how crooked
she was, that we just don`t let it go without some serious effort to see if
the law was truly violated.
I think that would be a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, that`s some of the reaction. But with so many other things in
the world of Trump, we are seeing people again lose the thread today.
In fact, many people, including in the press are implying Trump did a favor
to Clinton today – that`s nonsense.
He`s doing himself a favor, backing off a flatly illegal pledge, that if
pursued at all, could have led to resignations at the FBI and DOJ in the
coming months or a crisis that would consume his first term, and even, yes,
As Harvard law`s Laurence Tribe explained, the Trump effort to politically
target and jail his opponent would mark an abuse of power so grave there
would be an impeachable offense.
Trump has now inadvertently served up a big test for his Attorney General
nominee, Jeff Sessions.
In his confirmation hearings, Sessions will likely be asked if he will
stand up to Trump`s dangerous claim once in the campaign and repeated at a
different angle today.
That President Trump thinks he decides who`s investigated and prosecuted.
It`s a legal issue the president got wrong once and got wrong again today.
Joining me now is Josh Barro; a senior editor for “Business Insider” and an
And Norman Eisen who served as special counsel and ethics special assistant
to President Obama.
Mr. Eisen, I start with you. Is Donald Trump anywhere in the ballpark of
trying to walk this back while repeating, as you heard me argue, the same
fundamental error about who makes the call?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: Ari,
when I had the privilege to work for President Obama in the White House, we
had a very strict rule from the president on down.
And that is that the White House does not interfere in investigations or
prosecutions. He was wrong to bring it up in the campaign.
He was wrong to repeat it again and again. He is taking a different
position today, but who knows? Knowing Mr. Trump, he may reverse again when
his poll numbers start to plummet.
So, if I were a betting man, I`d bet we had not heard the last of this
inappropriate and just wrong persecution of your political adversaries.
This is for the Justice Department and the FBI, not for Donald Trump.
MELBER: Yes, I mean, Josh, at a level of strategy and negotiation, he has
people seeming to react to or pat him on the back for a thing that isn`t
even his to exchange.
JOSH BARRO, JOURNALIST: Yes, I mean, I think Donald Trump has loose lips.
And so we`ll see what this means in terms of what he actually does in the
He through the course of four years is going to opine on all sorts of
things that he shouldn`t opine on.
So, I think, we`re going to have to use that to an extent. I would note
that there has not always been a good, bright line about this.
President Obama opined on the validity of the accusations regarding Hillary
Clinton`s e-mail server at a point in the investigation when he probably
That`s part of why Jim Comey had to be the first who ended up making that
And so the Justice Department and the Obama administration came in saying
that they would not prosecute Bush-era officials over torture allegations.
Both Presidents – Rahm Emanuel issued statements to the effect that they
did not want prosecutions on that.
So, it`s not entirely new for people in the West Wing to be talking about
things that are theoretically up to the Justice Department –
MELBER: Well –
BARRO: Side –
MELBER: I think you have one good example there and one bad one. I mean,
the question about Clinton was discussed in a much wider level in
discharges. He was asked about it repeatedly, he would always say he
didn`t want to interfere with Comey.
The other example you gave is a good one. And one that a lot of civil
objecting to criticizing at the time.
There was sort of this idea of – oh, they have a position on potential
charges when in fact the facts should lead with regard to waterboarding, et
cetera. I want to bring Norm back on the other issue that Donald Trump
doesn`t want us to talk about.
Which is maybe why he makes so much other noise, and that is, these growing
conflicts of interest questions that they seem to be doing nothing to try
In his interview with the “New York Times” late today, he said, “the law is
totally on my side when it comes to questions about conflicts of interest
and ethics laws.
The president can`t have a conflict of interest.” I want to contrast that,
Norm, and get your response to some of what we`re hearing already from
Ben Cardin saying that we`re going to introduce a resolution, trying to get
Congress on the same bipartisan page to call on Trump to either convert his
assets to simple conflict free holdings or adopt blind trust.
Or take some sort of measure as you and others have opined. There are
powers the president has that gives him more range here than a normal
federal employee. But to you, does that mean that this should just go, you
know, totally blank check?
EISEN: Ari, like so much of what the president-elect has said during the
campaign, his assertion that the conflicts laws don`t apply to him is half
true at best.
It is true, there are some narrow aspects of the federal conflict of
interest laws that apply to everybody else except for the president and the
vice president. But there are many laws that are founded on conflicts
policy, like our bribery law.
We don`t want anybody, including the president, taking bribes in connection
with official actions, that`s a conflict-motivated law that applies to the
We have a conflicts provision in the constitution.
MELBER: Right –
EISEN: That applies to the president. The emolument or the no foreign
bribery or gifts laws.
The reason the founders put that in the constitution was because they were
afraid the president would be conflicted by receiving gifts from foreign
sovereigns. So, it`s not true that the conflicts laws don`t apply.
There`s many more that apply.
And, as I have said, and that there`s been a bipartisan call for this now,
including from the “Wall Street Journal” and one of the president-elect`s
favorite papers, the “New York Post”.
He ought to put his holdings in a blind trust, and I`m glad to know that
Senator Cardin and the Democrats in Congress are calling for that. It`s –
when your kids are running it, it is not a blind trust. That is –
MELBER: Well, Norm –
EISEN: The opposite.
MELBER: As you know, you and Karl Rove always agree on everything,
everybody knows that.
Here is Karl Rove on that point on whether the kids can just run this while
they run the business, while they sit in on all the secret meetings – Karl
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE: This is going to be thorny, he has a blind trust to his kids.
Typically, blind trust has to be liquid assets and independent directors.
If he just simply –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK –
ROVE: Takes his empire of buildings and turns it over to his kids, that
may not meet the test, and then he could be embroiled for years in
controversy about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Embroiled seems to be, Mr. Eisen, the big concern from some of his
EISEN: Yes, he won`t just be embroiled, he`ll be deep fried. The level of
his international connections, his domestic business. The fact that he`s
already had his daughter in meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.
This mixing of the business of the United States and the Trump family
business, it`s like a hostile takeover of the U.S. by the Trump
And it just makes no sense. I hope Republicans will join with the
Democrats in urging Mr. Trump not to do this.
You know, I`ve noticed, Ari, when he`s pushed back, he responds. We
criticized him on nepotism grounds. Today, he said, oh –
MELBER: Yes –
EISEN: Maybe I won`t hire Mr. Kushner. When he wanted a top secret
clearances for his kids in the transition, there was criticism.
He said, oh, it was a low-level intern. We`ve been hearing about that same
low-level intern in Washington D.C. ever since I got here a quarter –
MELBER: Right, you know what? –
EISEN: Of a century ago –
MELBER: I take your point that it`s a busy low level intern that makes all
the bad decisions, and speaking as a former low-level person on the Hill, I
know what it`s like.
I want to bring Josh into the close here, though. It seems the opposite of
independents to get your kids involved in stuff.
Because I know people who have no leverage, pointing to a rich who might
not be touched by things that normally we`ll worry about. The one thing
they`re going to worry about is their kids.
BARRO: Yes – no, I mean, it`s not a blind trust if your children are
running, it`s just a task. I would note though it`s a political matter.
When he was running, he never said that he would divest his assets. He
said, I`ll put it in a blind trust run by my children, which was always a
But it was always out there. He was going to have his kids run the
business. So, I think, you know, our voters are going to be mad about
Well, the ones who voted for him, they already voted for this. I think
where this becomes a political problem for him is if people are thinking
about quid pro quos, they`re going to be looking for the quo.
It`s not so much, did President Trump get a building permit in Argentina
that was useful for him?
It`s where there were actions of the United States government that
benefited a foreign government that did a nice thing for Donald Trump.
EISEN: Right –
BARRO: That`s where I think the thing could start getting him deep fried.
But those things would have to actually arise.
Right now, it`s basically just a theoretical thing, there might be things
that he could do with U.S. foreign policy to benefit his interest.
If those – if specific –
EISEN: Right –
BARRO: Acts start arising, that`s where I think it becomes a really big
MELBER: Right, well, we have something even more fun than this mess of a
kettle of fish. And I want to show it to people, this is just moments ago,
I am being told in my ear.
Candidate for a position in Trump`s cabinet was talking about meeting with
the president-elect on a national network television show, we`re going to
show you which one. Here`s Rick Perry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was more surreal, performing with Vanilla Ice
here tonight or your big meeting in New York yesterday?
RICK PERRY, FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: Oh, can I take no comment on that one
at the moment?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you can say performing here right now.
PERRY: Being with Vanilla Ice is always number one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, there`s no way to get more down than to be down on the ice
with Vanilla Ice. Norm Eisen, your thoughts as a long-time White House
EISEN: Well, I would not say that performing with Vanilla Ice on “Dancing
with the Stars” was the kind of auditions we were looking at when I was
working in the Obama transition in `08.
MELBER: I think that`s a fair point in terms of qualifications. I will
say though that collaborating and listening are both big advantages in
government, if you do it right.
And Ice always said stop, collaborate and listen. Norm Eisen and Josh
Barro, thank you for bearing with all of this.
I want to tell people coming up, Donald Trump`s latest Twitter tantrum
today accidently revealed his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus may have misled
him to get out of that interview with the “New York Times”.
Also up next, what Donald Trump really thinks about President Obama. A new
quote we`re going to share with you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look
forward to being with you many more times in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was a big meeting, no matter how you`ve cut it. Now, we have
reports on what really happened in that room at least according to Donald
This is brand new. Here`s what Trump reportedly said at the off-the-
record-meeting yesterday with several media executives including those from
“The president-elect was effusive in his praise of Obama”. According to a
source in the room, adding “he had spoken to the president twice at least
since their White House meeting.”
And according to the source, Trump had said he had never met Obama before
the meeting, and that he didn`t think he would like him.
Trump said he ended up liking Obama, “so much” and that he had so much
respect for him, “the feeling is mutual, because it takes two to tango”,
Trump said according to the source.
There you have it. We`re just telling you what he said. Now coming up, is
there trouble already between Trump and his brand new Chief of Staff Reince
Priebus, straight ahead.
MELBER: Donald Trump will be managing a lot of people as president, but
every boss knows some aides like to manage up. A new report shows how
that`s happened to Trump with some potentially big consequences.
This morning, Trump initially canceled a meeting with the “New York Times”
because he said they changed the conditions.
The “Times” said that wasn`t true, then they pushed back and eventually
that meeting did take place.
Now, that may sound like any little scuffle over a meeting, who cares? But
because it involved reporters, they reported why Trump was so misinformed.
It turns out his Chief of Staff gave him false information as the “Times”
reports, fearing he would face questions he might not be prepared to
Priebus, “relayed to Mr. Trump erroneously, the “Times” had changed the
conditions of the meeting believing it will result in a cancellation.”
So, when Priebus couldn`t convince Trump to skip this meeting, he just
redefined what the meeting was. And it might have worked, but he got
caught this time and this has happened before.
You may recall, the “New York Post” reporting last month, former campaign
manager Paul Manafort lied to Trump about the condition of his plane during
the VP search that was in order to give Manafort more time to convince
Trump not to pick Chris Christie.
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway may have put it all best in an interview
with “New York Magazine`s” Gabe Sherman, this was last month, saying, “the
key to managing Trump is to let him feel like he`s in control always.
It all has to be his decision in the end.” The article goes on, “instead
of criticizing Trump`s angry tweets for instance, she suggested that he
also include a few positive ones.
You had these people saying delete the app, stop tweeting, she recalled. I
would say, here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.
It`s like saying to someone, how about having two brownies and not six?
Joining us now are people who know their brownies.
Hunter Walker; national correspondent for Yahoo News and the author of that
article Gabe Sherman from “New York Magazine” and a contributor here.
Gabe, you look at that, you look at a meeting like this, there`s a
goofiness to this, and then there`s something that`s deeply scary about the
Chief of Staff of the incoming president according to reputable reporters
who have –
GABRIELLE SHERMAN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Three sources on that –
MELBER: Three sources, what in the industry we call direct knowledge, that
he`s lying to Trump to engineer an outcome.
God-willing, it`s only about media meetings and not, whether the generals
need to see him this hour or what the threat is out there.
SHERMAN: Yes, I know, it`s really shocking, and this has been persistent
from the very beginning of Trump`s presidential campaign.
There was a lot of talk that his inner circle, then Corey Lewandowski and
others were shielding him from stories, only printing out stories that they
wanted the candidate to see.
This was a candidate who in many ways was very isolated. And that becomes,
as you mentioned, problematic when he moves into the Oval Office and is
actually dealing with war and peace.
MELBER: Yes, and Hunter, “Washington Post” also was looking at Steve
Bannon and how he sort of got to where he is by being one of the people who
interviewed Donald Trump in a way that he actually liked.
What he thinks maybe the press, all the press should do. Here`s the quote,
“and those exchanges are dynamic emerged.
Bannon often coaxed Trump to agree to his viewpoint. Whether on climate
change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in
Congress at times, Bannon seemed to coach Trump to soften the harder edges
of his message.”
Basically, through flattery, you get farther with this guy, but at some
point, aides who are paid by the taxpayer by us have fidelity to the truth
and the government.
Not just making Donald Trump feel good or cutting off his information.
HUNTER WALKER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, you know, I
talked extensively to a lot of early age from the campaign.
And as Gabrielle was alluding to, it`s gone through a lot of different
phases. But one thing they all said was that you had to sort of guide
Donald Trump where you wanted him to go.
They said that you couldn`t manage or handle him. And if he felt like that
he`d get very angry.
He actually felt that`s how Mitt Romney lost. He had too many different
voices pulling him in different directions.
And one really influential early aide on Sam Nunberg(ph), who was basically
a one man policy shop for Donald Trump in the beginning.
He told me that every time he would present something to Donald Trump, it
was very similar to what you described with Bannon.
He would make it as though it was Trump`s suggestion. And that was the way
you could get Donald Trump to maybe incorporate a talking point.
I mean, he never used written, prepared –
MELBER: Right –
WALKER: Materials, but that`s how you could get him to incorporate talking
points into his speech.
MELBER: Right, which is how people win bosses over and in meetings all
around the country –
WALKER: Yes –
MELBER: Large and small. The point here though – by the way, Trump might
not be wrong that a lot of politicians are over-coached.
WALKER: Sure –
MELBER: He certainly paved less on polling and found his way to his base
WALKER: Yes –
MELBER: Right? Let`s give credit where it`s due on the politics.
This is a different job we`re told, Gabe. I mean, what does it mean that
the senior most aide, the Chief of Staff who`s supposed to control the
gateway information might still be in marketing mould – oh, hey, we`ll
just fix this or that rather than facts.
SHERMAN: And then you add on top of that, the fact that the candidate
doesn`t seem to have any core principles on substance.
We saw that today –
MELBER: And walking –
SHERMAN: On top of that he has no sense to – he walking away from the
torture claim that he was going to practice. You know, saying that he
talked to General Madison, he was pushed away from that.
If you`re that malleable, I think that raises a lot of concerns in the heat
of the moment. What are you going to fall back on?
MELBER: You call him malleable, other people are now calling him soft.
He`s gone from being the most hard-line candidate to the “Daily News” as a
new cover –
WALKER: Yes –
MELBER: Coming out tomorrow, that`s already making waves. You see it
there, “Mr. Softy”, and that`s a stylized treatment of his hair.
It`s not what his hair actually looks like, but it has turned a New York
fashion, Hunter, into a softy cone.
WALKER: Well, this is what`s so interesting. Is all this is coming out of
the “Times” meeting. And based on their reporting, this was a meeting that
Reince Priebus said don`t go to.
MELBER: Right –
WALKER: And now he`s taking all this flak for having come out of the
meeting, seemingly changing a bunch of his positions.
Maybe Reince Priebus had the right idea.
MELBER: Yes, well, and someone said to me when Donald Trump told the
“Times”, he`s open to maybe the climate deal that he always said he was
going to gut.
Yes, he`s open to everything, and he`s close to everything –
WALKER: Everything –
MELBER: That`s the strength of the position. It`s literally taking up the
whole spectrum. Now, here`s Reince on Fox News explaining the meeting
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE & CHIEF OF STAFF-
ELECT: Obviously, we don`t feel like we`ve been treated very fairly by the
media. And I think most people watching would probably agree.
But you do have to try to heal and move forward and build relationships so
that things can get better, at least a little bit more fair.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And Gabe, you report on the media, there`s opinions and then
The folks who have studied this say that Donald Trump got the equivalent of
over $2 billion of free advertising from the over coverage –
SHERMAN: Sure –
MELBER: That was more than his fellow Republican candidates in the primary
and more than Hillary Clinton.
SHERMAN: Yes –
MELBER: But Reince is still saying it`s an obvious fact that this was
SHERMAN: Yes, I know, I mean, this is the default position when there`s
coverage that the campaign doesn`t like as they fall back especially in
Republican circles on media bias.
I think what`s interesting with Trump is he has this co-dependent
relationship with the media that he likes to get in this Twitter feuds with
the “New York Times”.
And yet, he then – he`ll then sit down and deal with them. I think this
is going to be a dynamic, we will see throughout the administration.
HUNTER: And this was one of the flip-flops in the meeting to that. I
mean, throughout the campaign, his moniker for it was the failing “New York
And then he goes in the meeting today and reportedly calls it a crown
SHERMAN: Yes –
HUNTER: So, he really does have this interesting back and forth with the
MELBER: Yes, and with a lot of his targets, and obviously, Megyn Kelly, I
mean, who he seemed obsessed with at times.
And the question would even pose on one of the morning shows is this like
you have some sort of “crush or obsession”, et cetera.
I want to ask you about some of your other reporting –
HUNTER: Yes –
MELBER: Late tonight that is drawing interest but also some criticism –
HUNTER: Yes, sure.
MELBER: I`m going to read from your story. You filed this tonight on
Clinton and whether or not there are voting irregularities that require
some greater auditing.
You write that “Alex Halderman; the director of the University of Michigan
Center for Computer Security and Society believes along with the group they
have found “persuasive evidence results in Wisconsin, Michigan and
Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.
The findings you report indicate that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7
percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines
compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots.”
What did you find and what do you think is going on?
SHERMAN: Well, what we know, the reportable fact is that on Thursday,
there was a conference call between John Podesta, Marc Elias and these
computer scientists and lawyers who are trying to persuade the remnants of
the Clinton campaign to call for a recount in the state of Wisconsin,
Michigan and Pennsylvania.
They made their case to Podesta in a conference call. There have been
What we know is they are trying to get the Clinton people there. My
reporting indicates the Clinton folks aren`t quite there to actually call
for this recount.
But it`s a live – this is an active discussion taking place in Clinton
MELBER: What does it mean to have 7 percent fewer in the places that used
a different counting?
SHERMAN: They don`t know – from my reporting, they don`t know, they just
know that this anomaly exists, and they feel it warrants an audit.
And they say we should find out, they`re not saying they know, they`re just
saying we should look into it.
MELBER: All right, it was an interesting piece that I know people are
looking at. Hunter Walker and Gabe Sherman, thank you both, appreciate it.
HUNTER: Thank you –
MELBER: Coming up, self-dealing is when a charity gives money to the
people who run the charity which isn`t very charitable.
That is exactly what the Trump Foundation has officially admitted to doing.
The “Washington Post`s” David Fahrenthold has been all over these stories,
has an exclusive interview with us on his new reporting and what it means
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: The more e-mails, Wikileaks releases the
more lines between the Clinton Foundation, the Secretary of State`s Office
and the Clinton`s personal finances. They all get blurred. All of the
money funneled into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments and
corporations. It was pure and simple pay for play. She wants to sell out
American security to the Clinton Foundation for a big fat pile of cash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump often attacked the Clinton Foundation as corrupt.
Those were the days. A new Washington Post report, though, raises some big
questions about Trump`s Charitable Foundation noting that it admitted to
the IRS it violated a legal prohibition against self-dealing which bars non
profit leaders from using their charities money to help themselves, their
business or their families, again the opposite of charity. Now the details
about self-dealing are actually in the Trump Foundations own newest 2015
tax filings. one of the new revelations we`ve seen about the President-
Elect`s dealings with the IRS because as everybody knows, he has refused to
release his personal and corporate tax return. Joining me now the man
behind the story David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. What did you
find? What does it mean?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well as you said one of the most
basic rules of running a charity is you can`t take money out of a charity
and buy things for yourself. If you`re the charities leader you have to
use the charity money for charitable purposes, not for your own. And what
Trump`s Foundation did today with this new filing was they admitted to the
IRS that in 2015 and also in the past, before 2015, they had violated those
laws by using the charity`s money to benefit somebody associated with the
Trump Foundation, most likely, Trump himself.
MELBER: And that`s not all. You`ve got a quote for an expert here who
basically says a guy who is the IRS Chief Counsel`s Office says why did the
Trump foundation admit to self-dealing in prior years, so this new thing
you found is them saying, yep, we did this before. And he notes that in
the prior years, and IRS filings are under the penalty of perjury,
truthful, you know, under threat and in the prior years it told the IRS it
hadn`t done that.
FAHRENTHOLD: that`s right. Repeatedly, Donald Trump signed under penalty
of perjury tax filings from the foundation saying that he had done none of
these things. And now we in the last few months we have gone back and
looked at the Trump Foundation and found a number of instances where it
appears to have violated these laws and not told the IRS about it. He used
the money in the charity to buy two very large portraits of himself, one of
which decorates a sports bar, as one of his golf clubs. He also used
$258,000 from the charity to pay off legal settlements that involved
Trump`s poor profit businesses. Now those are all appear to be pretty
clear violations of the self dealing rules. And in all those years, the
Trump Foundation checked the box saying, no, we did none of that.
MELBER: So what do you say to people watching at home or reading The
Washington Post, and you`ve been all over these stories, and they ask, OK,
what`s going to happen now that this has been exposed?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think the Trump Foundation has finally gotten some
decent lawyers. And we looked back, and they spent like $300 total on
legal fees for over a 30 year period. But once we started writing about
them they actually hired a real a real tax law firm. And that law firm I
think has told them look, get ahead of this. admit what you did to the IRS,
admit what you did to the New York State Attorney General`s Office whose
investigating this. It will be better than if you let the Fed`s find it
MELBER: I mean briefly I mean people want to know are they going to lose
their status as a charity if they`re doing all this.
FAHRENTHOLD: That`s certainly possible. They also could face – Trump
himself could face some penalty taxes. He could have to reimburse the
foundation for the money it spent on his behalf. But yes, there could be a
loss of their tax-exempt status if the violations are found to be bad
MELBER: David Fahrenthold, thank you for your reporting.
FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up next, Richard Spencer led a crowd of White Nationalists.
in chance praising Donald Trump. Today Trump directly was confronted about
that rally, and journalist Roland Martin confronted Richard Spencer about
it too, next, Roland Martin me to share what he found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD SPENCER, AMERICAN WHITE NATIONALIST: Hail Trump! Hail our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Many have asked why Donald Trump Has failed to stand up and
proactively confront the white nationalists celebrating his victory. We
raised that question last night on the Last Word in fact. Today the Editor
in Chief of the New York Times Dean Beckett asked that question to Trump
that question to his face. Now Trump said he did not energize these
groups, and he disavowed it, condemned them, asked if he had any
responsibility for their renewed prominence. Trump said I don`t think so,
Dean. Now that all comes after Richard Spencer, one of the founders of the
effort gathered White Nationalist in Washington D.C. to celebrate Trump`s
victory this weekend. That scene has drawn a lot of attention. Roland
Martin a TV1 Journalist, a TV Political Analyst and then the Author of the
A Black Man`s View of America asked Spencer for a dialog. Here is part of
their exchange today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND MARTIN, COMMENTATOR, TV ONE: What is your vision for America that
is white land and the rest of us can leave?
SPENCER: I think that white people, Europeans formed the core of American
MARTIN: So why don`t you go back to Europe?
MARTIN: You keep saying European.
SPENCER: I just said – I just said you being European isn`t just a plot
of land. Being European is about blood and spirit. These people form the
core of American identity. What it means to be American is ultimately what
it means to be a white person here I myself am critical of the Founding
Fathers. However clearly they did not believe in multi-racial equality.
Cleary if you look at the first -
MARTIN: And you agree with that?
SPENCER: I – yes, I agree with that. I do not believe that every one is
MARTIN: So you don`t brief in multi-racial equality?
SPENCER: No. I mean I don`t think anyone does, actually. I mean do you
really think that all people are equal in talents and identity and –
MARTIN: That`s – no, no, no. When we say all people are created equal,
that means that the moment you are born we`re going to treat you in the
same way we treat everybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: An interview coming up, we will show you Roland Martin confronting
Spencer about his depiction of the use of the Nazi salute at the event.
Roland Martin will join me to discuss why he wanted to talk directly to
Spencer and where we go from here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPENCER: I do think that the alt-right, we`ve gone from being a movement
that was not connected to the political mainstream, not connected to the
political fray, we now are. People are paying attention to us. People are
looking at us. We need to think of ourselves as a mainstream movement
that`s going to reach people, because we do have that power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: People are paying attention. That was Richard Spencer, the
founder of part of the so-called alt-right movement this morning with
Roland Martin on News One Now and Roland Martin joins me now. Everyone has
been talking about this guy including as I mentioned president-elect Donald
MELBER: Why was it important for you to sit face-to-face with him, and
what did you learn about him in that setting?
MARTIN: Well, this is the second time I`ve had him on my show. I talked
to him during the election. I also had a white lives matter activist when
they had a protest down in Houston where I am right now in my neighbor
city. And he is the extreme in terms of white nationalists. He wants to
call him self the alt-right.
But the reality is, when you look at polls, when you look at studies out
there are many whites out there who also hold his views. They`re not as
overt. They`re covert. And I think we`re seeing that. I think we`ve been
making a huge mistake and we`ve been breaking down the election results.
The reality this year, Donald Trump denies he played a role in it.
No. No. He pushed those buttons. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Steve Bannon knew exactly what he was doing at Breitbart as well. And what
we`re dealing with are right now in America, we`re dealing with white fear.
We saw this after Reagan`s elections in 1984. Demographics are changing in
By 2044 there will be no one major - no one group that`s a majority in this
country we are in for a 30-year battle between now and 2044. We better get
prepared for it.
MELBER: What you just said about the link with Trump and what we`re seeing
in establishment and newspaper like the New York Times raised directly to
him on the record is much farther along to my observation than where we
were a year ago, in terms of what people were willing to say and confront
about some of these uncomfortable linkages. I want to read and get your
response to Southern Poverty Law Center which focuses on this about the
Trump role saying quote, “he`s pretending he has no idea why his election
has energized the newest incarnation of the white supremacist movement,
alt-right. The reason he`s energized them is simple. He`s been playing
its tune from the day he announced calling Mexican immigrants rapist,
proposal to ban Muslims, mass deportation, attack on political correctness.
It`s all been music to the ears of a movement that envisions a white
MELBER: – and exactly the America the alt-right wants to see”. When you
confronted Richard -
MELBER: – about European Americans, there was euphemism though as well?
MARTIN: Look, he was using all the code language and he, oh, no, I`m not a
white supremacist and I want all of us to be here, but this is about us,
and we`re afraid of - that we`re not getting these jobs. You know, what
that says? We don`t like diversity.
Oh, we`re afraid that these companies are not hiring white men. That means
they don`t like inclusion as if all of this means and again he`s very overt
but you have those people who are covert. The studies back `em up. Thomas
Edsall, the New York Times had a piece earlier this week talking about
studies after 1984 where white voters were saying that Democratic Party,
you`ve done too much for black folks and for immigrants and for the poor.
You`re taking my money. We have to understand this. And look, you know, I
listen to Morning Joe everyday driving in to work. And I`ve been tweeting
Joe and Mika saying, hey, guys, you are missing this whole thing. This
thing is so much deeper. We keep saying economic angst. No, this is
literally what people say America is changing. take our country back.
Make America great again.
No, it`s trying to go back to a time when literally white culture dominated
America. People are seeing the writing on the wall. They`re saying that
you`re now going to have share a space with African-Americans and Latinos
and others. And that is hard for people.
And that`s really – I don`t think Ari we really want to get down and dirty
with that. You know, my buddy [0:04:54] is pollster.
MARTIN: Has been writing about that in his book and look I`ve been - I was
reading on the plane talking about a black man in the White House. How
Obama really made that happen in 2009. I told –
MELBER: Yes. I just want to get one more question in.
MELBER: – because we`re running out of time.
MARTIN: Yes. Go ahead, go ahead.
MELBER: The language of victimization which I heard in the interview.
While you confronted him about -
MELBER: Hosting an event where people are literally going Heil, you know
in the air and you confronted him on that while he`s using the language of
that they`re the victims, in your view, why?
MARTIN: Because that`s a part of his deal. Because I said in 2009 to John
Avlon, with the election of Obama you`re about to see white minority
resistance. His whole idea of, oh my goodness things are not - things are
so bad for us. It`s in the polling data. We`ve simply been ignoring it
because there`s this belief that all these things are being done for
everybody else but us.
But the reality is, everybody else has been playing catch up. We have been
a white-dominant culture, America, since our inception and what you`re
facing in, whether it`s in big cities or in small towns, there`s a fear of
how America`s changing. And trust me we`re seeing this in education, in
business, we`re seeing this in all aspects. We have to deal with it. It
MARTIN: It`s not going anywhere, Ari. It`s real.
MELBER: Author, analyst, journalist, Roland Martin. Thank you for joining
MARTIN: Thanks a bunch.
MELBER: And coming up, we`re going to look at why Vladimir Putin decided
now is the time to move a major defense system closer to European boarders,
this is weeks before Donald Trump officially becomes president.
MELBER: And coming up, Vladimir Putin making a big military move as Trump
gets closer to inauguration. What does it mean? Tom joins us to explain,
MELBER: The United States may be spending some time looking inward, but
obviously, the rest of the world keeps on turning. For Vladimir Putin,
that means Russia moving new missiles in to Kaliningrad, a piece of Federal
Russian land between Poland and Lithuania. Those are two countries
protected by NATO, the post-World War Two compact that of course pledges to
defend Western countries against Russian aggression.
It`s also the compact that Trump once talked about weakening, against the
advice of every living president, leaders from both parties in congress and
really most U.S. experts. Now a Putin aid cited NATO and explaining this
new move saying quote, “Russia is doing what is necessary to protect itself
amid NATO`s expansion towards its borders. For its part, NATO offered this
understatement, saying the new missiles do not help, quote, lower tensions
or restore predictability to our relations.”
Now while the move maybe somewhat concerning, the trend is obviously not
new, and Putin talked about NATO expanding in an Oliver Stone documentary
that happened to air just last night on Russian TV saying why do we react
so vehemently to NATO`s expansion. We`re concerned with the decision-
making process, what should we do, he asked, we need to take
countermeasures, meaning to aim our rocket systems at the new facilities
which considered to be threatening us.
And joining us now to explain it all is Tom Nichols, a foreign policy
expert and a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, for folks who aren`t
thinking about NATO everyday but obviously have U.S. security in mind as we
have in administration transfer. What does this mean?
TOM NICHOLS, PROFESSOR, U.S. NAVAL WAR COLLEGE: Well Putin`s laying down
markets. As far as he`s concerned, the Obama administration is pretty much
over. He has a personal loathing of president Obama, and this is one more
thumb in his eye, but it`s also a message to the Europeans, to say that the
Russians are going to have a very muscular presence on the Baltic and that
NATO might not be as strong as the Europeans are hoping it is, especially
given the president-elect`s campaign rhetoric.
And of course as always I`m representing my own view here Ari.
MELBER: Understood. But if you interpret this analytically as a message
to the outgoing Obama administration, then what do you see as the next step
to the incoming Trump administration and to Putin`s attempts to, if he
believes he can sort of play Donald Trump?
NICHOLS: I think Putin definitely thinks he can play Donald Trump. The
message - the outgoing Obama administration is that you`ve achieved nothing
and that you`ve settled nothing in Europe despite the Obama administration
is very clear message that the Russians have changed the rules of the game
in an unacceptable way. And I think it`s Putin trying to give some kind of
back – backbone or force to what might have been just campaign rhetoric
from the president-elect about NATO having to pay its own way and to deal
with its own problems.
I think those were – That was music to Putin`s ears. The Russians have
been waiting for over 60 years for an American president who seems to lacks
a commitment to NATO, and they may think that they`ve found one, which I
think is particularly dangerous.
MELBER: Right and it was so striking in terms of who`s thinking about
this. Senator Mitch McConnell basically came out the day after the
election and said, we`re excited to work with him and by the way NATO means
something. Russia needs to know that. You know, really extraordinary for
a post-election statement, but given what Donald Trump has said,
Here was Donald Trump on the campaign trail talking about NATO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The 28 countries of NATO. Many of them aren`t paying their fair
share and that bothers me because we should be - yes, we`re defending them
and they should at least be paying us what they`re supposed to be paying by
treaty and contract.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is there a point at which he sits round with enough folks in
government, the people you`re surrounded with in and out of the government
there, the War College who explain this is more than a contract issue?
NICHOLS: I think the republicans in the Washington as well as the
bipartisan consensus have always understood that NATO is not a protection
racket. That it`s based on common principles and a common view of freedom
in the Atlantic area. And I suspect that that message is going to come
through loud and clear from people like Senator McConnell and others who
have dealt with foreign policy for a long time.
At the very least, we have to hope so, because I think NATO is a bipartisan
issue, and not simply a matter of who`s pulling their weight at any given
moment. The United States contribution to NATO is always going to be
larger, because we`re the largest member in NATO, but it also serves our
interests and serves our common security and I that is something that is
pretty well understood in the security community in Washington.
MELBER: Right and it`s not a one for one, but we`re also one of the - the
only country that have ever had article five invoked after 9/11. It`s
something that`s supposed to work for us.
NICHOLS: That`s correct.
MELBER: That`s why it`s been a bipartisan item. Tom Nichols, thanks for
NICHOLS: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: I appreciate it. MSNBC`s live coverage continues right now in to
“THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams, that`s next.
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