The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 1/5/2017
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 5, 2017
Guest: Jack Rice, Michael Isikoff, Jason Kander, David Frum, Felix Salmon,
Julian Epstein, Pete Buttigieg
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, Rachel, I was watching your show, and I
would say I don`t know everything about your process.
But I do know that you and not executives write your scripts and segments.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That is – that is – that is true. Although,
you know, if anybody wants to come in and help on – tomorrow night, say a
block, I could take (INAUDIBLE).
MELBER: You could take a little help from your friends. Good night –
MADDOW: Thanks Ari –
MELBER: Rachel, good night –
MADDOW: Good to see you then –
MELBER: Good to see you –
MADDOW: We do have a lot of breaking news tonight. Donald Trump has
picked his new director of national intelligence.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey who is big news when he became an adviser
Well, tonight, we can tell you he abruptly announced he`s quitting, and
this is of course on the eve of Trump`s much hyped meeting with the current
Also tonight, Trump complaining that reporters learning any details about
this briefing show evidence of some kind of politicization of intelligence
which is what this whole fight is about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, UNITED STATES: I don`t
think that we`ve ever encountered a more aggressive campaign to interfere
in our election process.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: He has no doubt there was interference from Moscow.
CLAPPER: Hacking classical propaganda, a disinformation, fake news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have full faith in the conclusions of the
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, Obama is the centrist on this. And you know, on
one side you have Senate Republicans –
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think what Obama did was throw
a pebble. I`m ready to throw a rock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d move on to boulders, though.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, on the other side, you have Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could be somebody
sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grow up, Donald, grow up.
Time to be an adult when you`re president.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president-elect
has expressed his very sincere and healthy American skepticism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a difference between skepticism and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the media lies to make it look like I`m against
intelligence when in fact I`m a big fan.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Very strange for the future
commander-in-chief to use sarcastic quotations about the intelligence
agencies he will soon rely on to keep enemies from killing us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In breaking news tonight, details leaking on what is inside the
intelligence briefing Donald Trump will receive tomorrow on Russian
And here`s one detail. Election night cheers for Trump at the Kremlin.
Nbc News has learned senior Russian officials celebrated Trump`s election
win, according to what the U.S. calls “international intercepted
U.S. officials also saying Russian intentions went beyond the would be
presidents in 2016 and targeted the Obama White House, the Pentagon, the
State Department and top American companies.
That`s all in our new reporting tonight. Why? Officials say Russia wanted
to hurt the nation`s democratic process and get back at the Obama
administration for it questioning Putin`s legitimacy.
And these anonymous leaks also come on a day when of course intelligence
chiefs were speaking out on the record.
As DNI leader James Clapper said he has little respect for Julian Assange,
the man Donald Trump has been citing as a reliable source about the Russian
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Clapper, how would you describe Mr. Assange?
CLAPPER: Well, I don`t think those of us in the intelligence community
have a whole lot of respect for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump has invoked Assange, who did an hour long special on “Fox
News” just this week.
Today though, Trump walked back his remarks a bit, saying that “while the
press likes saying I`m in agreement with Julian Assange – wrong, I simply
state what he states.
It is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media
lies to make it look like I`m against “intelligence” when in fact I am a
Well, the people can make up their minds or their minds. And tomorrow,
intelligence chiefs will try to impact Donald Trump`s mind and show him why
their reporting and research and evidence is according to the intelligence
officials, superior to the fugitive publisher behind WikiLeaks.
For more, we want to get right to it, so I have Jack Rice here; a former
CIA special agent and terror expert as well as investigative reporter
Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News.
Who is also co-author of a relevant book here “Hubris: The Inside Story of
Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War”.
Jack, your thoughts on those developments I just detailed.
JACK RICE, FORMER CIA SPECIAL AGENT & TERROR EXPERT: Well, I`m not shocked
by this. If we look at what`s going on here, this isn`t about the
This isn`t exclusively just about this election. This is about something
This is something that goes back for multiple election cycles. And we have
to remember, in the end, the Russians don`t like or hate any of them.
This is about the Russians for the Russians. We have 17 independent
intelligence organizations in the United States, have all come together at
the same time and said, look, this is what the Russians did, this is how
they did it.
And to some degree, this is why they did it. To simply sit back and say,
well, you know what?
I like the results, so it`s cool, it`s OK, it`s not. And the problem is
that we don`t even know the extent of it to simply sit back and say, well,
you know what? It`s good enough, I guess, because it`s not.
And you know, I think we have to stand up and realize this is not about
party, this is about country.
MELBER: You say it`s about country, the president-elect saying tonight
it`s about politics. And I want to be very clear with viewers, we report
on what Donald Trump says and does.
We report based on other sources and we report when he is directly critical
of our reporting which I know becomes a stack of things.
But I want to be transparent. Donald Trump calling out and upset with Nbc
News based on the reporting, I will put up what he`s saying.
“How did Nbc get an exclusive look into the top secret report he Obama was
Who gave them this report and why? Politics.” Michael, your view of Donald
Trump`s criticism there that if investigative reporters at Nbc News are
getting this kind of material or sourcing, that in itself, he alleges it`s
some kind of politics?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, YAHOO NEWS: Well, look, you know,
the politicization of this issue has reached unbelievable heights at this
But you know, this is going to be an extraordinary briefing tomorrow,
because you`re going to have not only Director of National Intelligence
But FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, all presenting a
united front to the president-elect.
Basically telling him he`s been wrong about everything he`s been saying
about this Russian hacking.
And you know, Clapper`s testimony was pretty strong today. He made it
clear that the intelligence has only gotten stronger since that statement
of October 7th that supports the conclusion that the Russian government was
behind the hacking of the election.
He made it clear that it went beyond just the cyber attacks on the DNC and
the John Podesta e-mails and included what he described as a multi-facetted
campaign of disinformation, propaganda, fake news, use of social media.
And he also said – and this is going to be – this is a particularly
fascinating angle that it included the use of RT, the Russian government
propaganda station that was – he wrapped it in as part of the entire
Russian government campaign here to disrupt our election.
And what`s particularly fascinating about that is, Trump in all likelihood
is going to have his soon-to-be national security adviser sitting in on the
That`s retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn –
RICE: Yes –
ISIKOFF: Who flew to Moscow in December 2015 for the 10th anniversary –
RICE: But see, Michael –
ISIKOFF: Galore of actually sitting next to at a dinner table with
MELBER: Jack, go ahead.
RICE: Well, Michael, and I want to add into that. I mean, again, what we
really have to look at here and we have to figure out is that this isn`t
just about attacking one particular party.
The problem is, is what we have seen from Donald Trump is really a desire
to not just be willfully ignorant.
His unwillingness to actually listen to the briefings themselves, but it`s
almost purposeful in nature.
And when you see a disparagement at a level which is extraordinary. I
mean, you have to contemplate.
People who work in the intelligence community, just like people who work in
the military, work in the State Department and journalists who work around
the world, they risk their lives, they risk the lives of their families,
they risk the lives of their assets.
And they do this for country.
MELBER: Right –
RICE: When you have a man –
MELBER: Right –
RICE: Who has never risked anything in his entire life to be sitting on
some ivory throne someplace and talking about this without any true
understanding, any willingness to be as ignorant –
ISIKOFF: Yes –
RICE: As absolutely possible is simply outrageous –
MELBER: Well, to your point, Jack –
RICE: To those of us who have worked and continue to work.
MELBER: They call it human Intel for a reason, which is, there are a lot
of humans involved –
ISIKOFF: Right –
MELBER: And that`s why there`s beyond a tone deafness. There`s sort of an
ignorance in the way Donald Trump has talked about it or in the echoes in
the whole rest of it.
Clapper hit that today, I mean, he talked about how skepticism is expected
and warranted and nobody saying that an incoming president shouldn`t have
all of his rights – his or her rights to address and change the
Having said that –
RICE: True, but there`s one aspect –
MELBER: You just settle – let me just – let me finish, Jack, let me –
RICE: Yes –
MELBER: Finish. So having said that, that`s part one. Part two is
Clapper was saying there is that and then there is going on to
Let me play that –
RICE: Right –
MELBER: And get your response on the return. Here`s James Clapper today.
RICE: Please –
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAPPER: I think there`s a difference between skepticism and
disparagement. I have received many expressions of concern from foreign
counterparts about, you know, the disparagement of the – of the U.S.
intelligence community or I should say what has been interpreted as
disparagement of the intelligence community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Jack, what did you think of that moment?
RICE: I would agree absolutely. And again, I see this as more than simply
This is about using ignorance as a badge of honor. And the idea that if I
have more intelligence, it somehow makes me less capable.
And the less that I have, the more capable that I am. And the –
ISIKOFF: Ari –
RICE: Problem is the whole concept of what we do in the –
ISIKOFF: Yes –
RICE: Intelligence business is provide information so you can come up with
the most logical conclusions.
MELBER: Michael, you get the –
ISIKOFF: Yes –
MELBER: Last word.
ISIKOFF: Yes, I was just going to say that said, it is worth pointing out
that there is going to be a public report released next week.
And Clapper said he wants to push the envelope and publicly disclosing what
the evidence is. And I think that`s going to be very crucial to resolving
whatever lingering doubts people have.
Because it is – it is worth seeing the evidence. We should see the
evidence. We are – it is right to be skeptical of the intelligence
They have certainly been wrong before. It is – it is certainly true that
in this case, the confidence level that intelligence professionals have
expressed about this conclusion is pretty strong.
But I think, you know, when we see the evidence next week, that`s going to
be the key. We need to see that public report –
MELBER: Right, you make an important point and no one is saying the CIA
should get automatic deference.
I will point out though where we began the segment, Donald Trump is both
saying nothing is good enough.
And then when there is reliable reporting based on intelligence sources of
what is happening.
He calls that itself politics and attacks journalists and others for
dealing with it.
So, he is setting up a catch 22. I don`t know that trying to respond to
him working the refs is going to satisfy anyone but certainly more
transparency is welcome.
Jack Rice, Michael Isikoff, we are over time, so thanks again for joining.
Coming up, the CIA giving Trump everything it has as evidence as discussed
about the hack.
But what do Republicans do if Donald Trump won`t believe it. Also, a
Congressman now saying tonight – this is pretty interesting, that Donald
Trump`s team is looking at ways to ask Congress to pay for a wall on the
That means your money, not Mexico`s money. We have the updates straight
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Grow up, Donald, grow up. Time to be an adult when you`re
president. You got to do something.
Show us what you have, you`re going to propose it in a legislation, we`re
going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in
Congress. Let`s see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Back to that late breaking news I mentioned before the break.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey announcing he`s quitting his role
advising the Trump transition.
“Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a senior adviser to
the President-elect Trump or the transition.”
This is his office saying it. In a news statement which wishes Trump and
its team great success.
Neither Woolsey nor the transition team is elaborating in public on why
they have grown apart.
But in a new interview, Woolsey basically cast the separation as something
that it had already begun, saying he didn`t feel like he was really an
adviser anymore anyway.
He was last seen at Trump Tower in early December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I didn`t want
to fly under false colors. I have been an adviser and felt that I was
making a contribution.
And I strongly support Mr. Trump for president, did since early September,
and I wish him well.
But I`m not really functioning as an adviser anymore. Just felt like
things had come to the point that I ought to make sure that nobody gets a
I didn`t want to be claiming that I`m something I`m not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, whatever the reasoning, the timing is obviously notable.
This was no kind of quiet Friday news dump departure or an exit over the
holidays that just occurred which would have been low key.
Woolsey is bowing out on the eve of what might be the most controversial
hyped intelligence meeting of any transition team in the modern era.
That is because as you probably know by now, Trump has repeatedly
criticized the intelligence chiefs that he`s meeting with tomorrow.
Even suggesting they weren`t ready for this meeting based on that little
snafu over a two-day debate about the scheduling of the meeting.
Now, those chiefs will meet with him fresh from their testimony in the
Senate today where they rebutted publicly Trump`s charges that they`re
wrong about Russia`s interference in the election.
And one day before he briefs Trump on the issue, the Director of DNI there
James Clapper reinforced his office`s view from October that the Russian
government directed these hacks.
Now, much of this story has been out there for weeks, if you watch the
news, you`ve heard a lot of it.
But if you listen closely to one part of today`s testimony, Clapper
emphasized how the Russian effort went beyond just hacking e-mail.
And he cited something that`s been covered repeatedly right here on THE
Pointing to Russian`s campaigns inclusion of not only disinformation but
what he directly called fake news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAPPER: This was a multi-facetted campaign. So, the hacking was only one
part of it, and it also entailed, you know, classical propaganda,
disinformation, fake news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stated that the report soon to be released will
discuss the motive. Would you care to give any kind of preview today?
CLAPPER: I`d rather not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t think so –
CLAPPER: There are actually more than one motive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, the night, Trump continued to use his platform to
engender doubts about all this evidence.
He tweeted: “the DNC would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer
info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia.
So, how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested
an examination of the computer servers?
What is going on?” That`s what he asked. Now with Donald Trump the
question may be rhetorical but there are answers.
Investigative sources tell Nbc News the FBI didn`t need physical inspection
of the DNC`s servers because it already had the relevant forensic data in a
process they call upstream collection.
And that is how the FBI says it told the DNC it had been hacked. If you
take Trump at his word, he just doesn`t know how any of that works.
Add it to the list of valuable lessons for Donald Trump in tomorrow`s
Joining me now is Jason Kander; a former military intelligence officer in
Afghanistan and an outgoing Secretary of State in Missouri.
And David Frum; reporter, senior editor for “The Atlantic”. Thank you both
for being here. Jason, your thoughts on everything we just learned.
JASON KANDER, SECRETARY OF STATE, MISSOURI: Well, it`s pretty clear that
what is actually happening here is that the president-elect is conducting a
misinformation campaign against the American intelligence community.
And when we talk about the American intelligence community, we should
remember that this is not just folks who wear ties and testify in front of
The vast majority of the intelligence community is the military, it`s the
army, it`s the Navy, it`s the Air Force, it`s the Marines.
It`s the sons and daughters of our country who are risking their lives, and
that`s who the president-elect – is not just saying he doesn`t believe,
but is saying cannot be believed –
MELBER: And Jason, you`re making a serious assertion there that this is
not a new president who is misinformed or unclear.
You`re saying he`s knowingly conducting misinformation, that`s your view?
KANDER: I`m saying he doesn`t like the answer, so he`s trying to say that
the people who are giving him the answer cannot be believed.
And that makes us less safe.
MELBER: David, that would certainly raise the culpability of the
president-elect if true, if provable.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, we – I`d like to widen the
aperture on this a little bit.
And maybe bring what maybe a harder teaching for some of the liberal
listeners to this program.
Because we need to look at this as James Clapper said from the Russian
point of view and not just the American.
What are they doing? Russia is running a shooting war in Europe right now
against – in and against the Ukraine.
The first great power shooting war on the European continent since 1945.
Ten thousand people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced.
They are systematically interfering in the politics of the countries in the
band between Germany and Russia.
Substituting pro-western, pro-democratic reasonably honest governments in
places most people don`t pay attention to like Moldova and Romania with
more authoritarian and more corrupt governments that tilt in their
They interfered in the British election in the Summer of last year. They
are playing the French election right now.
They are playing in the German election right now. They are very clear
that they want to break up both NATO and the European Union.
There`s a lot of suspicion that they were supporting the Scottish
separatists to break up of the United Kingdom.
By the way, Scotland is where the British have their major nuclear base in
Scotland would be – an independent Scotland would be a non-nuclear power.
So, Scotland exited the United Kingdom, Britain would cease to be a nuclear
power that could stop Russia.
That is the context in which they have tried to reshape the politics of the
United States. There`s no – this is a story with many secrets but no
It`s not puzzling what is going on here. Donald Trump campaigned as a
candidate sympathetic to the Russian point of view on issues like Ukraine,
like Syria, like the bust-up of NATO, like the bust up of the EU.
Russian foreign policy in every case, and a violation of in some cases 70
years of American foreign policy.
Of course they liked him and of course they tried to help him.
MELBER: Well put, Jason, your thoughts on that, the geopolitical part of
this and the notion that all of this sort of – what you were calling
earlier misinformation is an outcome rather than a driver if it does
reflect Donald Trump having being critical of NATO, having praised Putin so
And the other big question mark because of Donald Trump`s sudden usual,
refusal to release his tax returns.
The looming questions over how much his personal financial empire is funded
or boosted by Russian or Kremlin-linked financiers.
KANDER: Well, there`re two things here. The first is that Vladimir Putin
is as David points out doing this for a reason.
And in this case, you have to ask yourself how many times in American
history a presidential election may end up resulting in the United States
essentially switching sides in a war.
Because that`s what Vladimir Putin is after. And furthermore, over the
course of all of our lifetimes, we have all whether we voted for the
president or did not vote for the president, lived under the sense of
safety that the president of the United States was the most powerful person
in the world.
And if the president of the United States ends up deferring national
security decisions to the leader of Russia, then what that means is that
Vladimir Putin in a couple of weeks may actually become the most powerful
person in the world.
And I don`t think anybody who voted for Donald Trump was probably voting
MELBER: Right, you`re making the argument that he would be the de facto
most powerful leader of the world –
KANDER: Yes –
MELBER: If not as the saying used to go the leader of the free world.
Jason Kander –
KANDER: All right –
MELBER: Thank you very much for joining tonight and sharing your expertise
KANDER: Thank you, Ari –
MELBER: David Frum, stay with us for the next topic. We have some
developing news about what some members of Congress are saying about who
would pay for the Trump wall.
It might not be Mexico. Also tonight, an exclusive interview with a brand
new candidate who wants to head the DNC, he`ll tell you why when he`s here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to build the wall 100 percent and Mexico is going to
pay for the wall.
They don`t know it yet, but they`re going to pay for the wall. We`re going
to build the wall and Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They don`t know it yet but they`re going to pay for it. Does that
apply to Mexico or the United States?
Well, the story tonight, Republican Congressman Luke Messer of Indiana
saying now that Republicans on Capitol Hill are working on possible ways to
fund Trump`s border wall with U.S. taxpayer dollars.
If you are watching this program inside the United States, I`m talking
about your money.
On the other hand, there are other sources on Capitol Hill telling Nbc News
that Republicans have not been approached by the Trump transition team to
appropriate funds yet.
That`s the state of play, it`s pretty simple, so, I`ll bring in our analyst
Felix Salmon; senior editor at “Fusion”.
And back with us, “Atlantic” senior editor and former George W. Bush White
House official David Frum. Welcome to you both.
FELIX SALMON, SENIOR EDITOR, FUSION: Thank you.
MELBER: Felix, what`s going on?
SALMON: There`s a law which George W. Bush passed ten years ago which
authorizes construction of the wall. And the republicans are saying hey we
have this wall passed in congress already ten years ago. There was no
expiry on this laws. So, let`s just go and build this thing. Let`s not
wait for Mexico to pay for it, because of course they never will.
We`ll just put it into an appropriations bill, force the democrats to pass
it and then we`ll get $10 billion to build the wall.
MELBER: And why do you think republican house members are even talking
about this yet? The kind of thing that some people are going to go, the
wait, we have to pay for it, Americans?
SALMON: I think there – I mean its $10 billion, which is not huge in the
context of the federal budget. And they want to do things. They want to
make changes. They feel they could have this mandate and they want to move
fast. And a wall is pointless, right, from an immigration perspective. We
have more Mexicans leaving America than entering America. I mean what are
we trying to do, keep them in with a wall? There`s no policy reason to
build this wall.
It`s a political piece of theater but we are entering four years of
political theater and this is all part of that.
MELBER: David, as a student of the different wings of the conservative and
republican movement, what do you think is really going on here?
FRUM: Well let me say, I start as someone who believes the United States
does need a much more restrictive immigration policy than it has. And like
Felix, I believe, I`m a naturalized U.S. Citizen so I`m talking —
thinking critically about U.S. immigration policy may be one of those jobs
that Americans just won`t do. The George W. Bush era appropriation builds
about enough fencing to cover a little less than half of the distance of
the U.S./Mexican border, about 700 miles.
And it`s probably not the most useful thing you could do. It`s a powerful
symbol. Where fencing has been built like between San Diego and Tijuana,
and that`s a relatively short stretch. It makes a difference. But the
reasons republicans have been attracted to the wall building is they wanted
do security at the boarder so they don`t have to do it at the work place.
And the workplace is the place that really makes a difference. If you want
to really crack down on illegal immigration, the most important thing you
could do is to change immigration law so that if your factory is polluting
in some way or you`re violating labor standards, in some other way.
No one has to show that you knew you were doing something wrong. If it
turns out that the people you say I thought they were 18 years old and it
turns out they were eight years old, that the law does not have to prove
did you know that they were eight year olds. You`re just – you`re guilty
of the fact. With immigration enforcement, the state is required to prove
that the employer knowingly violated the law. These are not criminal
offenses, they`re administrative offenses.
Knowledge is not essential. Just say if it turns out that anyone who works
for you is illegal, you pay a fine and not the small fine that are levying
today but substantial fines.
MELBER: I did not know we were going to get into the mental requirements
of strict liability offenses. I feel like I`m right back in law school
David but –
FRUM: But that`s what it`s about.
MELBER: I know it`s about – let me –
FRUM: If you want to stop illegal immigration, strict liability is the way
you do it.
MELBER: I hear you. And there are complexities to that. The question
about this symbolism is you build a wall and who pays for it. And I was
out on the road during this campaign season. That was a huge applause
line. I spoke to Trump supporters who believed the wall would be built. I
also interviewed many as a reported who said, it doesn`t matter whether he
really builds it or it`s all the way across the country. We like that he
was willing to do something.
Now take a listen to Donald Trump during the campaign when he had that big
meeting in Mexico with President Pe¤a and said they didn`t get into
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We did
discuss the wall. We didn`t discuss payment of the wall. That will be for
MELBER: Felix, getting Mexico to pay for it was always part of the
applause line, though.
SALMON: Right. Yes. It`s a great applause line, right? It`s an awesome
applause line. And did he really expect anyone to believe that? I don`t
know that people believed it because they wanted to believe it. Probably.
Is he maybe going to send Mexico some big sort of novelty check invoice to
Mexico City and say, here, pay us $10 billion? And then eventually like he
can – he said – he has any number of pieces of political theater he can
There is no political actor – and I`m using that word in a very literal
sense – who is more theatrical than Donald Trump. So, this is all about
theater. And if you try and sort of pass the specifics of what he`s doing,
you`re missing the point. What they`re doing is they`re saying, we`re
going to build the wall and next time they go we`re going to get Mexico to
pay for it. And to David`s point, this has got nothing to do with
This has got nothing to do with like optimal policy to some kind of
immigration reform ends. This is all about just trying to get the
headlines and get all of the stuff people like you and me on television
talking about it, which is what we`re doing.
MELBER: Well not – that is true in the beginning when it was a sales
pitch. I don`t know that he wants before he even gives us an (INAUDIBLE)
speech to back down with the point of saying Americans have to pay for
this. But yes, there`s a lot of different stories swirling around on how
they`re going to do it. Felix Salmon and David Frum, thank you both for
FRUM: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up next, why the Trump transition team is gathering names
of government workers who might not agree with future Trump policies.
MELBER: The republican house`s attempt to gut ethics rules got lots of
attention leading to a dramatic backtracking when congress was sworn in
Tuesday. But republicans pushed another plan in into the rules package
that did passed this week, a rule that gives congress the power to directly
target and cut salaries for individual agencies and employees separate from
the annual budget process. Now, why is that important? Well it means that
even if there`s general funding for, say, the Environmental Protection
Agency, congress then has extra power to come back around and cut money
from specific parts of the EPA.
Now republicans say there`s nothing nefarious about targeted spending
cuts. They know that while congress hasn`t had this power since the early
80s, it was used for decades at earlier points in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MCCARTHY, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FOR CALIFORNIA`S 23RD DISTRICT:
I think it gives us an opportunity really thinking about what this election
was about, that they want to see change. And this is a big rule change
inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn`t before. And
we put it in there to last a one year. And we`ll look back it again a year
from now to see how well it worked and others but it will be a nice pilot
program for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And sure, on paper this is just a one-year option to target
funding. But let`s also connect the dots here in this Trump transition
era. This rule comes right after reports that Trump`s aides were
specifically requesting names of people at the energy department who work
on climate change. And separate reports that Trump aides also asked the
state department for details on jobs and programs that were specifically
devoted to advancing gender equality.
So if you combined one, a new rule that can cut salaries for specific
workers, and two, new lists of employees working on issues like climate
change or gender equality, you have the ingredients for a chilling effect
on federal workers or, worse, the ingredients for a purge. So, to the rule
makers getting all these ingredients together, please know we see you. And
this new rule still requires approval from the entire house and senate to
Joining us now for more context, Julian Epstein, a former chief minority
counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, very experienced in this matters.
What do you see happening here?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FMR. COUNSEL TO THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well talk
about the gang that can`t shoot straight Ari. First we have this week a
republican congress that tries to exempt itself from the ethics rules, the
very first thing it does. The second thing it does is to try to take us
back to a very dark period in the American history, the McCarthy era where
congress could punish ordinary Americans if they didn`t conform to the hard
line views of the ruling party. In this case it would be civil servants
that wouldn`t conform to the hard line views of the Republican Party.
MELBER: So you`re worried this rule could be abused to target federal
EPSTEIN: That`s the purpose of it. It goes back – this goes back it`s
so-called Holman rule in the late 1800s. It`s been tested, it`s been
declared unconstitutional. It`s a bill of attainder by the federal courts.
But that`s exactly what could happen Ari. So, if at the department of
energy for example, the best climate scientists in the world issue a report
on climate change that the new secretary of energy doesn`t like, the
secretary of energy, parenthetical that you couldn`t even remember the name
of the agency.
Or that hard liners on the hill don`t like, they could simply zero out all
the salaries and punish the scientists for issuing a report telling us
about the dangers of climate change. If for example the republicans didn`t
like the fact that you`ve got civil servants working on women`s rights at
the state department, international women`s rights, what they could do is
identify who`s working on them and zero out all their salaries. Punish
them for their political views. It`s an extremely dark Putin-esque view of
democracy and our democratic values.
And it`s been challenged. There was a case, and you`re probably familiar
with this Ari. As an attorney the Lovett case in 1943 where congress did
exactly this. They identified 43 – I beg your pardon, 39 federal
employees who they didn`t like their views on and they try to fire them by
zeroing out the salaries, the Supreme Court looked at it, they said wait a
second, congress doesn`t this that power. Congress can`t punish people for
their political views that happened to be federal employees by firing them
or cutting out their salaries.
Congress can`t do it. It doesn`t have the due process apparatus in able –
to be able to do that. And these federal employees are entitled to due
process. So, this has been tested in the courts and it`s been declared
unconstitutional. But if you think we`re not getting back in to that
McCarthy era as you pointed out at the outset of this segment Ari. The
Trump transition team has already started taking names.
EPSTEIN: They`ve started taking names of the climate scientists at the
department of energy. They started taking names of department of state
employees who are working on women`s international rights. I mean this is
a process –
MELBER: So, final question. Yes, we`re almost out of time.
MELBER: Do you view this on par with the ethics rule and that citizens
should try to press congress on this? They have to hear about it?
EPSTEIN: Absolutely. I mean I don`t even know how to equate these two
things. One rule which says congress is going to exempt itself from ethics
rules and can be free to engage in all kinds of unethical behavior with
very few checks, that`s awful for our democracy. Another rule that says
congress can punish people if they don`t conform to the ideology, the
strict hard line right extremist views –
EPSTEIN: – of the Republican Party, we`ll punish you by taking away your
jobs. That`s a kind of a very dark throwback to the McCarthy era as I
said. That`s equally troubling in terms of our democratic values. And
this is just – the strict constitutionalists, the people that said they
believe in the constitution. Where are they now?
MELBER: Julian Epstein, you get the last word on this topic. Thank you
very much. Coming up, everything we now know about that terrible Chicago
crime that was streamed live on Facebook. And after that, we will return
to some politics on the democratic side. A new candidate entering the race
to run the DMC.
MELBER: We turn now to Chicago where charges have been filed in that
horrific beating of a young man. Four people have been arrested and
charged with several serious felonies, hate crimes, aggravated kidnapping
and battery after that disturbing video which they streamed live on
Facebook showing them beating and torturing a mentally disabled white
NBC`s Blake McCoy has more on this story from Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKE MCCOY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The horrifying images have now been
seen around the world, an 18-year-old with mental health challenges
tortured, his clothing and hair slashed with a knife, his head pushed into
a toilet, forced to drink the water. The accused, four African-Americans,
did not hide their faces in the video streamed live to Facebook, taunting
the white teen with racial and political expletives. Tonight reaction from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITEHOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They do demonstrate a level of
depravity that is an outrage.
MCCOY: The victim`s grandmother tells NBC news she`s too upset to watch
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t want to watch him suffer. I know he did.
MCCOY: Investigators confirm the victim went to school with one of his
assailants, Jordan Hill. The victim`s parents dropped him at a suburban
McDonald`s to meet Hill for a sleepover last weekend. Hill then allegedly
drove him in to the city in a stolen van. Investigators say the 18-year-
old was being held captive in one of these homes on Chicago`s west side.
He was found Tuesday afternoon wandering and disoriented about a block
KEVIN DUFFIN, CHICAGO AREA NORTH DETECTIVES COMMANDER: He is able to
escape when a downstairs neighbor calls the police complaining of all the
MCCOY: Among the charges announced today against the two men and two women
who are sisters, a hate crime, aggravated kidnapping, unlawful restraint
and battery with a deadly weapon. African-American community leaders are
UNIDENTIED MALE: You see the racial slurs there, you see the insults
there. And he has a disability. You know, it`s a hate crime all the way.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I hope god speaks to their souls and shows them the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A tough story there. Now coming up in politics we have the new
name in the running to head the DNC. He`s here for an exclusive interview,
MELBER: We have some of the best breaking news I can give you in all the
anchoring we`ve been doing and here for the past several weeks. This is
breaking good news from an MSNBC family member. Sam Stein and his wife
Jessica welcoming a new baby boy into the world Tuesday night, now Sam just
shared his reaction for the first time with us tonight. This is Sam Stein
on fatherhood. “Everyone says this precise moment is unlike any other that
you experience, that bringing a child into the world gives you a sense of
exhilaration, love and fear that`s unmatched by anything else. They were
absolutely right.” Welcome to the world Jamie Alfred Stein. A big
congratulations to mom and dad and thanks for sharing with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS, SENATOR OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don`t know the
mayor of South Bend. I know Tom Perez, and he`s a very decent guy. But
what you need right now is a total transformation of the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senator Bernie Sanders has a big following among the democratic
grassroots. And when it comes to who should lead the party he says he`s
not informed about the mayor of south bend or excited by the Obama pick in
the race, Labor Secretary Perez. Sanders already gave his coveted
endorsement for new DNC chair to Keith Ellison. The progressive Minnesota
congressman and Sanders decided to get into the race early and back a
fairly prominent name.
There`s nothing wrong with that, but it is the kind of endorsement that
Sanders criticized in the presidential primary when they said too many
people were lining up behind the Clinton name before the democratic process
played out. That`s the argument of some lesser known candidates for DNC
chair since the race is still two months away and one of those candidates
is the Mayor Sander`s says he didn`t know about. Pete Buttigieg, a
democrat who won an executive position in a pretty red state in 2012 and
was reelected in 2014.
He also served for seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S.
Navy Reserves plus graduated at Harvard and throw it in, he was a Rhodes
Scholar. For democrats seeking new voices, it`s probably a background
worth knowing. And if you don`t know, now you know. Joining us now for an
exclusive interview about his DNC race is Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South
Bend. Why do you want to be DNC chair and are you older or younger than
PETE BUTTIGIEG, MAYOR, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Well the answer to the last
question is not for me to say. But I`ll tell you why I`m getting into the
race. I believe that there needs to be a voice that has more of a local
perspective because the solutions that our party needs aren`t going to come
from Washington. And I think that the experience that you get in this part
of the country as a mayor, not only working for the city but also
politically building on the ground, that kind of organizing is exactly the
sort of thing that our party needs more of looking forward.
MELBER: Can I ask you – this is the real question I have when I looked at
your background. I thought, OK, you`ve already won this mayorship early
on. And you have an incredible background. As someone who study politics,
I`m wondering why does he want to go to the DNC which is not always a
politically advancing as compared to pursuing a higher office.
BUTTIGIEG: Well I guess I believe in going where you can make yourself
useful. And look, I love my job. I love serving as mayor of my hometown.
But like a lot of others, I think everything changed on Election Day.
Certainly how I see the world, the political world and how I fit in. And I
think nothing could be more important, nothing could be more consequential
than organizing the opposition in the face of what`s going to be the most
monstrous presidency of our lifetimes, not to mention what`s going on in
congress, what`s going in the states.
And I think it`s particularly in the states that allowed the most important
political decisions that can hurt everyday Americans are going to happen if
we don`t have an organized opposition.
MELBER: You look at the issues right now, not just in America, but around
the world, the anger over what are perceived as bankers and global elites
making decisions that can ruin lives and economies. You look at BREXIT.
You look at the real intensity behind both Trump and Sanders. I want to
ready something you`ve said recently. Some democrats “participate in the
fiction that if we just turn back the clock and get rid of trade, everybody
can get their manufacturing jobs back. There are a lot of people who think
their lost their jobs because of globalization when they actually lost
their jobs because of technology.”
That sounds solid, but what are you offering people on the jobs agenda then
for the Democratic Party?
BUTTIGIEG: Well I would point to the experience of South Bend. Look we`re
not done make things, not by any means. And we have found ways not through
any old trade but we have found ways where for examples in South Bend I`ve
got union auto workers making vehicles that are being sold all over the
world. Workers can win in the future if we`re not afraid to face it. But
there`s not going to be some silver bullet for that.
We have always been the party of fairness. And that includes economic
fairness as well as political fairness. We`ve got to stand up for that.
And I think that`s a kind of message that will resonate across many people,
including a lot of the people that we as a party seem to have struggled in
my part of the country to connect with in this last election.
MELBER: And what do you think you could bring to the fight against Donald
Trump as DNC chair that the other candidates could not?
BUTTIGIEG: Well again, I hope it doesn`t sound too audacious for somebody
my age, but I would really say experience. The experience of somebody`s
who has been an executive, a mayor, who has to pick up the trash and plow
the snow and run a $300 million budget in a thousand person organization
accountable for results every day. I think my military experience doesn`t
hurt, including frankly some cyber and counter intelligence training, which
I`m sad to say is highly relevant right now for anybody who wants to lead
the DNC. But it`s not just the –
BUTTIGIEG: – about me. It`s, you know, we`ve got to get out of talking
about the politicians and even the party organizers as though we`re what`s
most important. What`s most important is people`s lives.
BUTTIGIEG: The more we can have a conversation about that, the better
we`ll be as a party.
MELBER: Well I`m not in to prediction business Mayor Pete but I feel like
we`ll be hearing from you again. Thanks for joining tonight.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
MELBER: I`m Ari Melber and thanks to you for watching. You can always
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don`t go anywhere though. Our live coverage
continues in to the 11th Hour next.
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Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>