The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 1/2/2017
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 2, 2017
Guest: Michael D`antonio, Karine Jean-Pierre, Jonathan Alter, Malcolm
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, 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 –
MADDOW: Happy new year –
O`DONNELL: I believe that`s what we call a quorum in the Senate –
MADDOW: Yes, that`s exactly right –
O`DONNELL: I can`t believe it –
MADDOW: And I won`t pull the –
O`DONNELL: And Bernie Sanders.
MADDOW: Yes –
O`DONNELL: It`s going to be a great night.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Well, a lot of people have been wondering
this weekend whether Donald Trump committed treason this weekend.
It`s not the first time people have wondered about that online and it`s
probably not the last. We have the answer for you and we have the answer
to that question of did Donald Trump commit treason?
And we have a model from the past of a presidential candidate in Donald
Trump`s situation dealing with a foreign country in a way that people
suspect Donald Trump has been dealing with Russia.
All of that coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hacking is a very hard
thing to prove, so it could be somebody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs to stop denigrating the intelligence
committee, he`s going to rely on them.
TRUMP: And I also know things that other people don`t know. You`ll find
out on Tuesday or Wednesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he holding it out there like some tease for a
SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I
think he does know things, that`s why he`s the president-elect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump does not have any better information than
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Putin has hacked into our
elections, he`s trying to undermine democracy all over the world.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We will be working for much tougher
sanctions against Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While Trump himself praised Vladimir Putin for not
responding in kind.
“Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has chosen to side with a murderous dictator,
Vladimir Putin, over the patriots who serve our own intelligence services.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My big fear right now is that he doesn`t appreciate
that Russia is a threat to this country.
MCCAIN: The hacking was an attack and we should be treated as such.
TRUMP: Hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs to stop talking this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Treason, it has come to that – treason. We now have to
discuss treason because Donald Trump did something this weekend that we`ve
never seen before.
Something that reasonable people think is treasonous. The word “shocking”
has lost its meaning with Donald Trump.
But I was shocked on Friday afternoon momentarily, anyway when I saw what
Donald Trump had done because although the word “shocking” has lost its
meaning in America, the sensation still exists.
We can still feel shocked, and if we lose that feeling, when Donald Trump
does something shocking, that is when Donald Trump will have really finally
He will have killed the outrage that is always the proper reaction to the
Donald Trump now knows that the way to erase the shock of anything he has
said or done is to simply say something else. Anything else.
It doesn`t have to be shocking, it just has to be new. And the news media
will latch on to the newest thing Donald Trump has said because it`s new.
That`s why you haven`t heard much about what Donald Trump said three days
ago. The news media has processed it and moved on to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I also know things that other people don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Of course, the president-elect should know things that other
people don`t know.
But so far, there`s no evidence that Donald Trump does. And then there`s
his refusal to know what everyone else knows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They notice any time anything wrong happens they like to say the
Russians – well, she doesn`t now if it`s the Russians doing the hacking,
maybe there is no hacking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Maybe there is no hacking. That`s what he actually said about
the stolen e-mails from Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman John Podesta.
Does that mean that he thinks John Podesta may have just forwarded his e-
mails to WikiLeaks?
That is how desperate Donald Trump has been to deflect blame from Vladimir
Putin and Russia for these cyber attack that U.S. intelligence officials
have concluded was launched by Russia and directed by Vladimir Putin.
After Vladimir Putin decided not to retaliate against the sanctions imposed
by President Obama and to delay any response until after Donald Trump is
Donald Trump tweeted something that could be a federal crime. A very
serious federal crime.
And instantly, Twitter was filled with speculation about that. Did Donald
Trump just commit treason? Here`s what he said.
“Great move on delay by V. Putin, I always knew he was very smart.” Now,
there is so much to react to in that tweet. But it was the treasonous
sound of it that got most attention.
But before we turn to that, just consider for a moment why does Donald
Trump think that Vladimir Putin is very smart?
Does he think you have to be very smart to be a dictator who does not allow
dissent and crushes, imprisons or murders his opponents?
Invades a neighboring country and oppresses gay people, do you have to be
smart to do that?
And in that tweet, the man who thinks he`s the greatest negotiator in the
world has said Vladimir Putin is smart to wait to deal with the greatest
negotiator in the world.
He`s smart to wait to deal with Donald Trump instead of President Obama.
And it`s easy to actually agree with that, but not in any way that`s
complimentary to Donald Trump.
Of course, it is smart for Vladimir Putin to deal with Donald Trump if, and
only if, Vladimir Putin believes Donald Trump will be easier to deal with
because Donald Trump is a weaker negotiator.
Because Donald Trump is a push-over or because Vladimir Putin sees Donald
Trump as his very own rodeo clown.
That is the only reason that it could be smart for Vladimir Putin to wait
to deal with Donald Trump.
There is no compliment to Donald Trump in that concept, but, of course,
that`s one of the many things that Donald Trump doesn`t know.
“Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart.” Jamil
Smith of “MTV News” tweeted: “this is borderline treasonous.
I don`t know what Putin has on this cat, but my Lord, it must be
incredible, God help us.”
John Leghem(ph) of Think Progress tweeted: “I don`t think Trump committed
treason with this tweet, but he`s in the neighborhood.”
DeRay McKesson tweeted: “what`s the threshold for treason?”, and that is
the question that Donald Trump`s tweet poses.
It is very possible that Donald Trump will tweet and say and do other
things especially in relation to Russia that will provoke this question
time and time again this year.
What is the threshold for treason? Everyone at least vaguely remembers
something about providing aid and comfort to the enemy, was that tweet aid
to the enemy?
Was it comforting to the enemy? Surely Vladimir Putin was comforted by
Donald Trump calling him very smart.
But is Vladimir Putin the enemy? Treason is the only crime that is
specified in the constitution.
It says “treason against the United States shall consist only in levying
war against them or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and
comfort.” That`s it.
Treason is levying war against the United States or giving the enemies of
the United States aid and comfort.
The United States Supreme Court has come to interpret that sentence to mean
giving aid and comfort to our enemies in a declared war.
Which is why no one has been charged with treason in the United States
since the last time we were in a declared war, which was World War II.
Without a declaration of war against Russia, Russia and Vladimir Putin
would not fit the definition of enemy in the constitution`s definition of
And so, no, Donald Trump did not commit treason because it is virtually
impossible to commit treason when we are not formally in a declared war
with another country.
That`s why when CIA officer Aldrich Ames was caught selling secrets to
Russia, he was not convicted of treason, he was convicted of violating the
Which brings us to the Logan Act which Donald Trump may have violated.
The Logan Act prevents citizens from carrying on any correspondence or
intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof
with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government
or of any officer or agent thereof in relation to any disputes or
controversies with the United States.
That`s what Donald Trump was doing with that tweet. He was clearly
communicating with the foreign government and an officer of the foreign
government by name, V. Putin.
He clearly intended to influence the conduct of that foreign government in
relation to a dispute with the United States.
There is nothing in law that says the Logan Act does not apply to
presidents-elect. The Logan Act is, in effect, the one president at a time
principle written into law.
With Donald Trump, we frequently say we have never been here before. We`ve
entered a new zone with no precedent.
Not this time. In 1968, when he was the Republican nominee for president,
Richard Nixon engaged in conduct that the sitting president of the United
States Lyndon Johnson privately said was treason.
And now we have new proof published in the “New York Times” yesterday of
exactly what Richard Nixon did.
In 1968, the Vietnam war was raging out of control to the point that Lyndon
Johnson decided not to run for re-election.
Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic nominee, President Johnson was
desperately trying to get the South Vietnamese who were – who we were
supporting into peace talks with North Vietnam.
South Vietnam`s president was afraid that Lyndon Johnson would not be tough
enough with the North Vietnamese.
And so it was a struggle to get the people we were supporting with money
and already with 30,000 American war dead to the peace talks.
Richard Nixon got word to the South Vietnamese through emissaries to resist
any peace negotiation.
Nixon feared any breakthrough in the peace negotiations would give the
election to Hubert Humphrey.
The broad outlines of this story have been known for years now. The names
of the key players have been known.
But what Jack Farrell has discovered and reported in yesterday`s “New York
Times” for the first time are Nixon`s own words about the scheme, the
Jack Farrell has found Nixon campaign aide Bob Haldeman`s notes of the
conversation with Nixon about the scheme.
Haldeman`s notes, “keep Anna Chennault working on South Vietnam any other
way to monkey wrench it.”
That`s what Nixon said to Bob Haldeman as rumor spread that Nixon might be
interfering with the talks.
He got very worried about this, knowing that it was a crime. He called
President Johnson and he lied to him about what he was doing when Lyndon
Johnson confronted Richard Nixon about this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello? Mr.
LYNDON JOHNSON, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes –
NIXON: This is Dick Nixon.
JOHNSON: Yes, Dick.
NIXON: I just want you to know that I got a report from every person
regarding your call.
And I just went on “Meet the Press” and I said that – on “Meet the Press”
that I had given you my personal assurance that I would do everything
possible to cooperate both before the election and if elected after the
And that if you felt – secretary of state felt that anything would be
useful that I could do, that I would do it.
That I felt Hanoi – I felt Saigon should come to the kind of – to the
conference table, that I would – you felt it was necessary to go there or
go to Paris, either one.
I just wanted you to know that I feel very strongly about this and any
rumblings around about somebody trying to sabotage the Saigon government`s
attitude certainly has no – actually no credibility as far as I am
JOHNSON: I`m very happy to hear that, Dick, because that is taking place.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “That is taking place”, that`s what President Johnson said. He
heard Nixon`s excuse, didn`t accept it, told him it`s taking place.
He continued pressing him about what Nixon called sabotage and Richard
Nixon said this to President Johnson.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: The point that I am making is this, that my God, I would never do
anything to encourage Hanoi.
I mean, Saigon not to come to the table, because basically that was what
you got out of your bombing pause.
It just got to be marked over in Paris. We`ve got to get them to Paris
where you can`t have a peace.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Richard Nixon mentioned their mutual friend Everett Dirksen,
Senator Dirksen at the beginning of their conversation, Republican senator.
Lyndon Johnson privately said to Everett Dirksen that this is treason.
Those were his words. This is treason.
That`s what the president thought. Everett Dirksen said, I know. Richard
Nixon did not just help prolong the war through the election season of
He kept it going for five years as president costing the United States
another 28,000 lives. Joining us now, John Farrell; the author of the
upcoming book, “Richard Nixon: The Life”.
Jack, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Your first interview
about this discovery which you just published.
First of all, when is the book coming out? We can`t wait.
JOHN FARRELL, AUTHOR: March 28th.
O`DONNELL: March 28th, OK, I`m going to be at this bookstore. So this –
you have many discoveries in the Haldeman notes and I`d like to get to some
more of them.
But I`d like to –
FARRELL: Sure –
O`DONNELL: Concentrate on this for the moment and that feeling in
Washington by the president, by Everett Dirksen, by the people who
discovered the evidence about this at the time.
Feeling that this was treason. They had never witnessed anything like
FARRELL: There`s always been some finagling in American elections with
foreign affairs. And Nixon himself had been on the losing end in 1960 when
Nikita Khrushchev delayed the release of some captured American pilots in
order to keep Nixon and Eisenhower on the Eisenhower ticket a boost in the
election against John Kennedy.
So, he also knew that in 1966, Lyndon Johnson had come up with an October
surprise in the off-year elections and he was very suspicious that this was
being played on him again.
And so he took the steps to prevent it by reaching out through his
intermediaries to the South Vietnamese government.
O`DONNELL: And you make the point in your “New York Times” report about
this that this does look like a violation of the Logan Act.
FARRELL: As far as I read the Logan Act, it sounds like this fits it to a
The problem with the Logan Act is that only one person has ever been
indicted for it and that person`s prosecution was dropped.
So, it runs against some of the tenets of the First Amendment, and so, it`s
been a very difficult law to apply. It gets trotted out and thrown about
in charges and counter-charges, but it`s more of a warning.
The best that can be said or maybe the least that can be said is what Henry
Kissinger said, which is that if Nixon did this, it was – it was highly
And Nixon himself in his interviews with David Frost said I would never do
that, that would be a terrible thing to do. So, there`s definitely an
element of self-consciousness there on Nixon`s side.
O`DONNELL: And then you recounted that Henry Kissinger is one of the
people who is communicating to Nixon about the progress being made in the
FARRELL: Yes, actually the Haldeman notes that I found while doing the
work on the book was sort of exonerating to Kissinger because Kissinger`s
advice even while he`s tipping Nixon off is to sit tight.
We don`t know what exactly is going to happen, we don`t know the meaning of
this. We know there`s a breakthrough that you could be caught unaware of,
so just don`t go out too far on a limb.
Nixon took it just the opposite, Nixon went roaring out on a limb, telling
Bob Haldeman to – and other contacts that revealed in the notes to
pressure South Vietnam into what he said holding firm his main envoy, Madam
Chennault was captured on an FBI wiretap using almost those exact words to
the South Vietnamese ambassador in Washington.
O`DONNELL: At some point Lyndon Johnson was on to this and they actually
started putting some surveillance on some of the people who they thought
were involved in communicating with the Vietnamese.
FARRELL: Yes, the chain is now – with these notes the chain is pretty
much complete from Nixon to Haldeman and John Mitchell to Anna Chennault to
the South Vietnamese ambassador and to Saigon.
The great question that still is out there is how much did this – how much
did this influence the South Vietnamese government which was having its own
internal political battles and so how great a chance was lost?
The saddest thing that I found was a note in the Lyndon Johnson library
from his national security adviser which said almost mournfully to Lyndon
Johnson, this is the best chance we`ve had since 1961 to get out of this
This has been very painful, I`m here with your generals, we think we should
go ahead, we think with determination we can make this work.
So, we can look back now and say, boy, those North Vietnamese were
incredibly stubborn, this was never going to happen.
But at the time, Johnson and his advisors believed that this was – this
was more than viable, they thought this was a potential breakthrough.
O`DONNELL: And Jack, a final point here. Why didn`t Lyndon Johnson reveal
publicly what he knew about this before the election?
FARRELL: They had a long discussion about that, and some of his aides
urged him to.
But there were two reasons. The more nefarious reason was that Nixon had
been – not Nixon, but his envoys had been wiretapped and eavesdropped and
And it would look very bad for an American president to be using the FBI in
the late stages of a campaign.
But the practical reason was, and as Clark Clifford told him in this 11th-
hour meeting about this when they made the decision not to, was that we
really don`t know whether Nixon was personally directing this.
And that`s what the Haldeman notes show was that Nixon was personally
giving these orders.
O`DONNELL: And Jack, I imagine you`ve been having some sensations of
parallels to what we`ve been seeing this year.
Some Democrats complaining that President Obama should have come out more
strongly with what they found out about the Russian hacking, about Vladimir
And a similar reluctance on the president`s part about just how political
this might be perceived to be.
FARRELL: Yes, and there are certainly echoes. There was a great picture
in the “New York Times” a few weeks back, and it was a – it was a picture
of one of the computers that – servers that had been hacked standing next
to one of the file cabinets from the Democratic National Committee that had
been broken into during the Watergate escapade in the 1970s.
And it`s very reminiscent in many ways and this idea of flirting with the
enemy on the eve of an election is stunning in some ways and in other ways
O`DONNELL: John Farrell, the book is “Richard Nixon: The Life” coming out
March, say it again?
FARRELL: March 28th.
O`DONNELL: March 28th, it will be at the bookstore. Jack, thank you very
much for joining us with this, really appreciate it.
FARRELL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking Trump transition news now, Nbc News has
confirmed that Donald Trump will nominate lawyer Robert Lighthizer to be
the U.S. Trade Representative.
Robert Lighthizer served as the deputy U.S. Trade Representative under
Ronald Reagan whose trade policies were exactly the opposite of everything
Donald Trump has announced to be his own trade policies.
All of the trade agreements that are being complained about now were born
during the Reagan era including NAFTA. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Following up with photos and videos of extremely long customs
lines at several major U.S. airports tonight.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection experienced a nationwide computer
system outage forcing international travelers across the country to be
processed by hand.
Stephanie Bertini is a correspondent for Nbc 6 in South Florida, she`s live
at Miami International Airport. Stephanie, what`s the situation there?
STEPHANIE BERTINI, NBC 6: Well, basically we`re here in a section of the
airport where the international arrivals come through.
So, we`re kind of zooming into the area. We`ve been keeping an eye sort of
on the door behind the glass here just slightly out of the camera`s view.
That`s where it`s all going down. And there`re some images that we`ve been
able to get our hands on from travelers taking to Twitter, pictures that
have been sent to us really showing just seas and seas of people.
People waiting and waiting. And what we`ve heard from travelers we`ve
spoken to tonight who have actually been able to make it through is that
the waits are anywhere from two to three hours.
Now, according to Customs and Border Protection, they`re calling this some
sort of a problem, some sort of a power outage.
So, a technical issue with their processing system, and they`re saying
that, that is what is affecting sort of the flow of being able to clear
And that`s what`s creating all these backlog. They`re saying it`s an issue
across the country.
In terms of Miami International Airport, airport officials are telling us
there`s been about more than 30 flights and that`s since 6:00 p.m.
So, since the problem erupted, affected by all this. And you know, if
travelers are coming through and stopping here in Miami, it`s one thing.
But we`ve spoken to a lot of travelers that were connecting through Miami.
So, now they`ve missed their flights to connect to their final
So, that`s really created a problem, a lot of frustration in this airport
tonight – Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: Nbc 6`s Stephanie Bertini, thank you very much for joining us
live from Miami, really appreciate it, thank you.
Coming up next, President Obama coaching the Democrats on how to deal with
O`DONNELL: The 115th Congress will be sworn in tomorrow and the Trump
resistance will officially begin on one side of the aisle.
President Obama will go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to talk with Democrats
about how to protect his landmark healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act
against a Republican-led Congress that promises to repeal it.
And a president who promises to sign that repeal. Next Tuesday, President
Obama will go to Chicago and give a farewell address where he will, “offer
some thoughts on where we all go from here.”
At his new year`s eve party at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump told his guests
what he will do when he takes office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Taxes are coming down. Regulations are coming off. We`re
We`re going to have strong borders so that when people come into the
country, they`re going to come into the country legally, which is the way
we want it.
We will build the wall, you know that. We will build the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Michael D`Antonio; Pulitzer Prize-winning
writer and author of the new book “A Consequential President: The Legacy of
And Karine Jean-Pierre; senior adviser and national spokesperson for
Karine, the striking thing to me in that video, and this is really unusual
for a Republican audience, especially a rich Republican audience which was
They got a little bit of applause for taxes are going down but he brought
the house down by saying we`re going to get rid of Obamacare.
That got the biggest applause, not one person in the room has interacted
with Obamacare in any way. Not one of them.
They`re all cheering for the removal of health insurance from millions of
people who can`t afford it and that was their biggest cheer of the night.
And it seems that pressure is on Donald Trump to deliver on that repeal.
KARINE PIERRE-JEAN, SENIOR ADVISER & NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG:
No, that`s exactly right, Lawrence.
And don`t forget, I actually don`t know if it`s been really reported that
much, is that he also made about $500,000 off of that new year`s eve event.
His Trump organization did. And so the thing, too, to look at for the next
couple of weeks is also how is the – how are the Republicans going to deal
with Donald Trump?
Because a lot of Donald Trump`s rhetoric will bump against what Mitch
McConnell and Paul Ryan have listed that long list of policy ideas that
they`ve had for very far-right ideas that they`ve had for many years.
Because if we look at, in particular, Medicare and also Social Security,
Donald Trump has said during the campaign, I don`t want to touch those.
But that`s pretty much on the list for McConnell and Paul Ryan. So, we`ll
see how that goes.
But I think at the end of the day, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will
certainly tramp Trump`s fake populism that he played during the 18 months
of his campaign.
O`DONNELL: Michael, your new book, “A Consequential President: The Legacy
of Barack Obama”.
First of all, a quick outline of what you think is the essence of the
consequential president, his achievements. And then also what you now see
as the risk to his legacy with the Trump presidency.
MICHAEL D`ANTONIO, AUTHOR: Well, I think the theme of hope that he started
with in 2007, 2008, is really the capstone of his legacy. When you look
around the world, it`s not just Americans who took hope from his election
and from his dignified and decent presidency. It`s people all over the
world who saw America as something different than it was under George Bush.
The fact that a man named Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American man,
could be elected in the United States of America to the highest office was
inspiring to all. You know, and I think that`s why there were hundreds of
thousands of people in Grant Park cheering his election on the night of on
the night of his election. I think this is really the image that people
are going to carry forward.
And then you look at all of his accomplishments in his very first year of
saving the economy, pursuing health care, saving the auto industry. There
are so many things that he accomplished so quickly that this legacy, you
know, it can`t be erased by a single President Trump and it can`t be erased
by a single congress.
O`DONNELL: So, Karine in Michael`s view the legacy is not simply the
affordable care act which I believe has many more procedural hurdles that
it will have to get over to be repealed than the republicans are
acknowledging. There`s no version of this where you can repeal it in one
day. That isn`t legislatively possible.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR/NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: No,
that`s exactly right. It is going to be very difficult. I mean, in many
ways the republicans are like the dog that caught the car on this one.
They had six years to actually work with democrats. I mean, democrats have
said the president, himself, even Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail
said, hey, you know, it needs to be fixed.
And even with the minor fixes the past six years, the republicans refused
to do it and so now they`re put in a situation where millions and millions
of Americans who rely on this could be in the harm`s way because they`re so
stuck to their partisan idea of repealing Obamacare.
O`DONNELL: Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up next, when do you call a lie a lie? When you are
reporting on Donald Trump?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When the
World Trade Center came tumbling down and I watched in Jersey City, New
Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that
building was coming down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Lie? Not a lie? Donald trump has inspired a debate about lying
that has been going on for over a year. His lies during the presidential
campaign including the lie that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered
on 9/11 have been a central part of that debate, how can journalists fairly
describe these statements? What should they call them? According to an
analysis by Politico in September, Donald Trump averaged about one
falsehood every 3 minutes and 15 seconds over a 5-day period during the
campaign. The New York Times used the word, lie, for the first time in
September to describe Donald Trump`s birther statements.
Yesterday, Wall Street Journal Editor In Chief, Gerard Baker was asked by
Chuck Todd on Meet the Press whether he is comfortable using the word, lie,
to describe an outright falsehood by Donald Trump and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERARD BAKER, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITOR IN CHIEF: I`d be careful about
using the word, lie. Lie implies much more than just saying something
that`s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead. I think it`s
perfectly - when Donald Trump says thousands of people we`re on the
rooftops of New Jersey on 9/11 celebrating. Thousands of Muslims were
there celebrating. I think it`s right to investigate that claim, to report
what we found which is that nobody found any evidence of whatsoever.
And to say that, I don`t - I think its then up to the readers to make up
their own minds to say this is what Donald Trump says, this is what a
reliable trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what I don`t
think that`s true. I think you can start scribing a moral intent as it
were to someone by saying that they`ve lied. I think you run the risk that
you look like you are being - you`re not being objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Jonathan Alter an MSNBC political analyst and a
columnist from Daily Beast. Back with us Michael D`Antonio. Jonathan your
verdict on the 9/11 thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey, do you
call it a lie if not what do you call it?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I call it untrue and a falsehood.
I`m not sure it was a lie because it in Trump`s fantasy mind he might have
believed it. He believes all kinds of conspiracy theories even that of
Reddit, online somewhere and believed the lie as a - so repeated a lie but
I think a lie is more like when he said, you know, Hillary Clinton wants to
abolish the second amendment.
That`s something he knows it`s a lie he`s telling. Or if he says I can`t
release my taxes because I`m under audit. He knows that`s a lie. There
are certain more clear cut lies. We don`t want to call every falsehood
that comes out of his mouth a lie or we`ll just be going lier, lier, lier
all day long and we would debase the currency of calling him to account.
What I really objected to about what Gerard Baker said, he said “at the
risk of losing our impression of objectivity.”
He has put objectivity and balance at the very top of journalistic values
and at the top of our values, at the top of our hierarchy of values is
true. Balance and objectivity are little further down below truth and
accuracy. And we`ve - you know, the constitution didn`t protect the right
to be objective. There was no objective press in those days, it was the
right to challenge and hold the government accountable with the truth.
And I think we`ve lost sight of that in the business.
O`DONNELL: But Michael could you hear Baker to be saying about the
objectivity? The reason why I want to preserve the image of objectivity is
so that I can get you to believe that what I`m trafficking in here at this
newspaper is truth?
D`ANTONIO: Well, and this is the trap that Trump puts everybody in. So he
demands that we adhere to a higher standard than -
D`ANTONIO: – he`ll follow so he`ll lie and he does lie. I mean, I would
sort of feel like the second time he says it, once he`s been corrected
about the Muslims on buildings, rooftops celebrating, then it`s a lie. And
I think what he said about abolishing the second amendment -
O`DONNELL: But do you think journalists – even if it`s a lie, even if you
agree it`s a lie, as an editor, would you think journalists can overuse it
to the point where lie becomes an ineffective term?
D`ANTONIO: Oh, yes. I mean we have this - we do need to assert our
institutional value -
O`DONNELL: I mean, use it accurately.
O`DONNELL: But you`re using it, you know -
D`ANTONIO: Because you`ll lose your reader, you lose your viewer.
O`DONNELL: Yes, right.
D`ANTONIO: And then they don`t trust you. So then, Donald has us all
lumped in to this untrustworthy world where nobody is certain of anything
and then what institution can the public trust?
O`DONNELL: Now you spent a lot of time with him up close doing a book.
You must have had moments where you thought this is lie, this is a fantasy.
D`ANTONIO: Oh, yes, yes.
O`DONNELL: This is – he`s just winging it, he might think it`s true, it
might not. I mean –
D`ANTONIO: He`s either deluded or he believes a conspiracy theory, I think
he`s very much a fan of certain conspiracy theories or he just likes to
assert things as if they should be true and if he says it often enough, it
will become true.
O`DONNELL: Let me give you an example of something that`s also 9/11 that
let`s see what we think about this in terms of lie. Let`s listen to this
first one from the republican debate in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: How did he keep us safe when the world trade center – the world –
excuse me, I lost hundreds of friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So that`s – he lost hundreds of friends on 9/11. The next
morning on Meet the press, listen to how he said the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I was there. I lost many, many friends in that tragedy. That
was the worst tragedy in the history of the country. Worst than Pearl
Harbor because they went - they attacked civilians - they attacked people
in office building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So hundreds of friends in less than 12 hours became many, many
friends. And here`s the important thing. He never said it again. And on
the night of the debate when he said it, I tweeted immediately that he was
lying. In fact, no one lost hundreds of friends on 9/11. The math of that
tragedy is such. He never went to a single 9/11 funeral. I mean, there
couldn`t have been anything in his wildest imagination that was true about
that when he said it, could there?
ALTER: No. But there isn`t about a lot of things that come out of his
mouth. What we need to develop, Lawrence, are a new set of journalistic
conventions and phrases to indicate -
ALTER: – so we need to say routinely his lie is so inflammatory that the
president`s statement was unsubstantiated. The president`s statement was
unfounded. President`s statement was false.
O`DONNELL: Is untrue ok? Is that something softer than lying?
ALTER: You know, I think untrue is a good word also.
ALTER: These are ways that are more digestible for the public to indicate
that the president is speaking with a forked tongue.
D`ANTONIO: I think to say there`s never been any evidence offered to
support the president`s claim. I mean there`s
D`ANTONIO: I mean there`s so many ways to get at this that also indicates
that we`ve done our due diligence.
O`DONNELL: Ok. But on twitter, I`m sticking with lie because it`s three
characters. It`s what I got to do. Jonathan Alter and Michael D`Antonio,
thank you both for joining us. I really appreciate it.
D`ANTONIO: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the most surprising moment of the NFL season
happened yesterday and it had nothing to do with football.
O`DONNELL: Two people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on behalf of
the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe climbed into the rafters during the U.S. Bank
Stadium in Minneapolis during the Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday dangling
from ropes high above the playing field. The protesters unraveled a large
banner that said U.S. Bank divest, no D-A-P-L. The protesters displayed
the banner in the second quarter and police did not attempt to remove them.
The banner stayed up until the game was over.
The protesters were then arrested. A statement released by the protesters
said that U.S. Bank has given $175 million line of credit to Energy
Transfer Partners, the parent company of the pipeline. Goes on to say
January 1st marks the original deadline for the completion of the pipeline.
Today the pipeline is still incomplete. Investors have a right to withdraw
business contracts from the project and we urge them to do so. President
Obama blocked construction of the pipeline on December 4th. The worry
President-Elect Trump could reverse that order so they`re focusing on
companies that are financing the pipeline. Some companies have divested.
Guardian Newspaper reports in November the largest bank in Norway, DNB,
announced it had sold its assets in the pipeline and Odin Fund Management,
major Norwegian fund manager sold $23.8 million worth of shares invested in
companies behind the pipeline.
Earlier in December, the Swedish bank Nordea said it would not back the
pipeline if the corporation violated the demands of the Standing Rock Sioux
Tribe. U.S. Bank is not commenting on whether it will divest. In a
statement to The Last Word, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave
Archambault said oil prices have dropped and production from the Bakken
fields have declined significantly. This means on top of everything else,
there is no economic rationale to increase the regional pipeline capacity.
It is simply the pipeline company`s greed. Chairman Archambault continues
while we are not directly associated with all of the divestment protests,
the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe agrees with the push to get more people to
divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Coming up, Malcolm Nance reacts to the latest terrorist attack in Turkey
and Donald Trump`s comments about it.
O`DONNELL: We have more breaking news about the problem at U.S. airports
tonight. U.S. Customs and border protection says the breakdown of its
computers systems has been fixed. All systems are back online and they are
processing travelers now as quickly as possible. It will still be a long
wait but your loved ones will be home soon. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Many, many, many
people killed. it`s a horror show. So we`re going to get things running
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance will join us next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight authorities in Turkey had been carrying out raids in
Istanbul as part of the investigation of the terror attack in the early
hours of New Year`s Eve. Officials released this picture of the suspect in
that attack who they say carried out a mass shooting at a well known
nightclub. 39 people were kill and dozens others injured. The Turkish
government it has found or believed to be the gunman`s fingerprint and
police are close to identifying him. Today ISIS made a rare move and
claimed responsibility for the shooting calling the gunman a Soldier of the
Caliphate and the attack revenge for Turkish Military involvement in Syria.
Joining us now, Malcolm Nance, MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence
analyst. Malcolm, your reaction to what happened over the weekend and
Donald Trump`s comments about it.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well first off, Turkey has suffered
many, many terrorist attacks over the last year which have killed almost
200 of its citizens. Most notably, the attacks in Ankara at the airport –
I`m sorry, Istanbul at the airport where they lost almost 50 people, by the
same type of people, Uzbeker or Turkish (INAUDIBLE) nationals who were
members of the Islamic state terrorist group. That being said, it is
virtually impossible for intelligence, even with advanced intelligence and
some knowledge of the plot, which is appears there were indicators of, to
stop every act of terrorism. Donald Trump`s comment just, again, reveals
his naivety. There`s no way you can constantly promise you`re going to
take care of this when you can`t get into the mind of a single individual
who could be inspired to attack.
O`DONNELL: And so when he sees something like this and as you say,
there`s a history to this in Turkey, there`s a repetition to it. We –
what assets, what could we bring to Turkey following Donald Trump`s logic
that could somehow affect the future of this kind of thing in Turkey?
NANCE: Well, technically, we`ve already done possibly the maximum that we
could do in terms of bringing cooperation, technical intelligence, you
know, using strategic collection assets, even tactical collection assets
that are on the ground which may have given the American intelligence
agencies up to two weeks warning that this attack was going to occur. It
appears that there`s reports that they had warned the owner of the Reina
Nightclub that facility would be attacked but you can`t choose the place
and the time of the terrorist leader who just decides to do it on a random
night if you don`t actually heed that warning or put out enough security.
So for the most part, we are doing maximum effort. now, possibly Trump
could, you know, get into a relationship with Erdogan and provide more on-
the-ground intelligence assets but that wouldn`t go over well certainly
politically and Erdogan, himself, he has his own political games that he`s
playing internally that prohibit more United States participation.
O`DONNELL: What do you expect Turkey`s reaction to be?
NANCE: Well, Turkey`s reaction is going to be – is pretty predictable, if
we`re going to watch the trend they`ve had over the last year. Since the
Coup d`‚tat we expect Turkey is going to ignore the Islamic State or the
ISIS claim that they carried out this terrorist attack and they`re going to
use it to bash their opponents in the Guhelinis camp or the Guhelin
organization (INAUDIBLE). He`s the exile who lives in Pennsylvania and by
doing that they will just further ostracize the Turkish people and give the
Islamic State an opportunity to attack again.
O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, thanks for joining us tonight, really appreciate
it. MSNBC`s live coverage continues now into “THE 11TH HOUR”.
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