The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 1/13/2017
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 13, 2017
Guest: John Lewis, Sean Spicer, Karine Jean-Pierre, Kathleen Clark
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And that`s it for us tonight. We will see you again
on Monday. Now, it`s time for “The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell”, one
of his guests tonight is David Corn who brought some major news today.
Good evening, Lawrence. Congratulations on having David tonight.
LAWRENCE O`DONELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I was going to break that to the
audience. That`s my big news over here. But anyway (ph), thank you.
MADDOW: I`ll go back in time and take it back. I`m sorry.
O`DONNELL: No, no, no, no, it`s all better when it comes from you, because
your excitement is contagious.
MADDOW: Say it again.
O`DONNELL: You just watch what happens now.
MADDOW: Say it again.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.
As you just heard, we will be joined tonight by the man who talked to the
spy, the former spy who compiled that dossier on Donald Trump`s alleged
actions in Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF UNITED STATES: I told him, be yourself
and say what you want to say. Don`t worry about me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing certain in politics this week, Trump`s
cabinet choices often at odds with their future boss.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Developing news today on contacts between Russia`s
ambassador and Donald Trump`s national security adviser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump`s pick to be national security adviser was
on the phone with the Russian ambassador here at the same time the Obama
administration was considering sanctions against Moscow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His comments about Putin and Russia just aren`t in the
world of reality.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just today, President-elect Donald Trump slamming the
intelligence community again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legitimacy of America`s highest office is being
publicly called in to question by civil rights legends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t see the president-elect as a legitimate
president. I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and
others to help him get elected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If, in fact, Donald Trump knew that there was
absolutely no contact between the campaign and Russia, that these Flynn
calls are completely innocent, he would be taking exactly the opposite path
(ph) that he is taking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Washington was rocked this morning by news that an adviser to
Donald Trump made several phone calls to Russia`s ambassador to the United
States on December 29th, the same day that the Obama administration
announced sanctions on Russia in retaliation for Russian cyber attacks in
our political system.
Sanctions that include the expulsion of 35 Russian officials, and tonight,
seemingly in response to that news this morning, the Senate Intelligence
Committee announced that it will conduct a bipartisan investigation of
Russian intelligence activities. This is the investigation that Democratic
senators and some Republican senators like John McCain have been calling
for, but no one has been sure would happen.
Senate Committee chairs have the power to schedule these hearings and
investigations without the approval of their party`s leader in the Senate,
in this case Mitch McConnell. A chairman doesn`t even have to consult with
the majority leader about making a move like this. So it is not clear
tonight how much Mitch McConnell actually supports this Senate
The committee intends to investigate everything “related to Russia and the
2016 U.S. election including any intelligence regarding links between
Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns”.
Now, which political campaign do you think is worrying tonight about where
this investigation might lead?
The Senate Committee specified but it intends to “interview senior
officials of both the outgoing and incoming administrations, including the
issuance of subpoenas, if necessary, to compel testimony”.
The committee will hold public hearings as well as closed-door hearings in
order to preserve the secrecy of some of their sources. The committee will
produce a classified version of their final report and an unclassified
public version of that report.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most truly bipartisan committee in
the Senate. It is the only committee with a chairman and a vice chairman.
And the vice chairman is a member of the minority party. The Republican
chairman of the committee is Richard Burr of North Carolina who won his
recent re-election if – in North Carolina with more votes than Donald
Trump won in North Carolina.
The Democratic vice chair of the committee is Senator Mark Warner of
Virginia. In their joint statement, they said, “The committee will follow
the intelligence wherever it leads. We will conduct this inquiry
expeditiously and we will get it right.”
But, in Vice Chairman Warner`s individual statement, he did not sound quite
as confident about this committee getting it right. He included this
extraordinary warning about his own committee`s investigation. He said,
“If it turns out that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence cannot
properly conduct this investigation, I will support legislation to empower
whoever can do it right.”
David Corn was the first reporter to break the story of a former spy who
produced memos describing Russia`s attempts to compromise Donald Trump
including information that could be used to blackmail Donald Trump,
descriptions of Donald Trump`s own behavior in the Moscow hotel, those
descriptions are authored in those memos without proof.
Today, David Corn published his own story of how he developed a working
relationship with that former spy and why the spy was investigating Donald
When David Corn asked the former spy why he had decided to share what he
found with both the FBI and with David Corn, the former spy said, “The
story has to come out.”
Joining us now, David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones
and an MSNBC political analyst, Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff to
Leon Panetta as the CIA and Department of Defense, and Michael McFaul,
former ambassador to Russia and an MSNBC contributor. David, have you
managed to – have you spoken to this former spy since it has become the
news of the week here?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I have not. He has not made
contact with people who I know, people who put me in touch with him. And I
assume that he has gone into, if not hiding, he is trying to get away from
the public eye.
And, there`s a question too when the full memos were published, which I did
not do when I had them last October. I characterized them, I didn`t
publish in specific details. It also put some of his sources at risk. So
I think there`s a real question of security for him and his sources.
O`DONNELL: And as you`ve seen the story unfold this week in elements of
the internals of his dossier being evaluated for credibility, what is your
view at this point of his credibility and the credibility of his work
CORN: There was no question about his credibility. As I noted when I
reported this in October, he has spent two decades as a counterintelligence
professional who works, you know, mainly on Russian matters. If anyone
talks to him, you immediately see that he`s a somber, serious and
The memos he wrote, people call them a dossier. What they really were, it
was a series of memos. They were iterative. He was basically updating the
firm that had retained him on what he was finding, what he was hearing from
his sources. It was not a finished work product in which he would have
said everything here has been vetted and is clear.
So it was – this is what I`m hearing, this is what I`m being told and I`m
going to keep trying to develop more information on these various fronts.
And so, I think to that degree, it`s unfair to judge these as a final
assessment. And – but I – you know, he was confident in his sources.
And I was confident in his abilities.
I also spoke to people in the U.S. government who had worked with him
recently on other matters who said that he had a long and proven track
record of providing valuable and accurate information to U.S. government
O`DONNELL: I want to read the passage in David Ignatius` report from the
“Washington Post” this morning, that certainly opted (ph) a voltage on the
story of Russian connections to the Trump campaign today, talking about
Michael Flynn who is Donald Trump`s choice to be national security adviser
and his conduct on December 29th.
It reads this way, it says, “According to a senior U.S. government official
Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on December
29th, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35
Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking.
What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act,
though never enforced bars, U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to
influence a foreign government about disputes with the United States. Was
its spirit violated?”
Ambassador McFaul, David Ignatius goes on through that article to ask a
several very pointed questions that he says demand answers. The kinds of
questions now that we now know tonight will be taken up and investigated by
the Senate Intelligence Committee. But when David Ignatius was asking
those questions earlier today, there was absolutely no indication of who
might get the answers to those questions.
What`s your reaction to the intelligence community`s announcement tonight
of this investigation?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, I think it`s great
news. I mean, I`ve got a thousand questions of my own including of the
Obama administration, by the way. There are just so many unknowns in terms
of something so grave in terms of our national security and sovereignty.
So I welcome that news.
I`m also worried that it may not be enough. I appreciated what Senator
Warner added as a caveat. Because it may take a bipartisan, independent
commission to get all of the facts, but at least this is a good first step.
O`DONNELL: What would be the difference? What would be the advantage of
that other version?
MCFAUL: Because I`m not an expert on this, in particular intelligence
committee, and I want to say that precisely. But, any intelligence
committee, any committee of the U.S. Senate is going to have a partisan
flavor to it. That, you know, this is not going to be seen in an
I like the 9/11 version, where you had people that were, you know, of
different parties and persuasions but really saw their RET (ph) and they`re
mandated as being independent of anything political. I just think it`s
hard for senators to be apolitical.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy Bash, you had dealings with this intelligence committee,
what`s your reaction with that announcement tonight?
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CHIEF OF SATFF TO CIA DIR. PANETTA: Yeah, and I did
serve as chief counsel for the Congressional Intelligence Committee on the
house side. And, I think this investigation is very significant for two
Number one, once this investigation has been announced, as it has been this
afternoon, immediately, everybody affected has in effect a preservation
order, a legal requirement to preserve all documents, all e-mails, all
records, all voice mails on the topic. If you destroy that material now,
you are violating an obstruction of justice and that`s a felony.
And so, anyone who the committee is now investigating, including the
presidential campaign you referenced earlier, must preserve all the
Second of all, this potentially sets up a flash point, an early flash point
between the CIA and the White House. Why do I say that? Because when the
Senate Intelligence Committee investigators go out to Langley and start
pulling the thread on all of the intelligence, on all of the activity, on
all the records, the CIA has to decide whether to play ball or not, whether
to turn that material over.
They are required to do so under law, but traditionally, they check with
their political masters, their bosses at the White House. And that
happened when I worked at the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee was
investigating the interrogation techniques.
We had a lot of dialogue and Secretary Panetta wrote about this in his
book. There was some tension even between the White House and the CIA.
And so, this investigation is going to cause a lot of people to have
meetings, discussions, maybe even tensions over whether the CIA under a
Trump administration will cooperate with this investigation.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy, can the Trump White House, or the Trump White House
counsel or the president himself order the CIA not to reply or comply with
a Senate subpoena in a case like this?
BASH: That would be very dangerous. It would be very risky. I don`t
think the CIA leadership would abide that.
The requirements of the law are that under the 1947 National Security Act
that the Intelligence Committee has the right to get any material that`s in
the possession of the agency. And so, it would really be treading on very
thin legal ice for the White House to do it.
But, the reality is, is that the CIA works for the president. And the
White House is involved in discussions about what the intelligence
committee – community turns over to the Congress.
And sometimes it`s for a political reason. Sometimes it`s for, you know,
for executive branch privilege reasons. I mean, some of the fights have
been adapt whether to turn over the President`s Daily Brief on the theory
that this is executive branch material, deliberative information that it
should not be turned over to Congress.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, I read some of the passages in that release that
the committee made today as being specifically instructional to the people
in the Trump transition who`ve never been here before, who doesn`t – don`t
understand how any of this works, spelling out specifically what they
intended to use the subpoena powers for, how they intend to hold these
hearings, both publicly and privately, all of that. There can be no doubt
in Trump Tower tonight what this investigation is aimed at.
CORN: There`s no doubt. I`m with the ambassador though on this point,
that I worry a little bit about this being bottled up in the Senate
In the years past, there`ve been tons and it`s – they haven`t held all of
the public hearings that we wanted. They – you know, Dianne Feinstein had
to fight really hard to get out the report on torture that Jeremy just
referred to. And Richard Burr, the senator who chairs at the Republican,
up until today, was resisting having this type of inquiry. That you have
to wonder what went on behind the scenes that finally convinced him.
And so, Mitch McConnell, he doesn`t, you know, have jurisdiction over this
as you`ve noted at the beginning, but there is still the ability to have
some political influence over this. An independent commissioner, even a
select committee that went across several committees jurisdiction or a
House Senate select committee would be a better choice. I worry just about
this being bottled up and it goes away for a long time, and we have to wait
to see if they do a good job.
O`DONNELL: And Ambassador McFaul, you can certainly imagine that that is
what the vice chairman was concerned about when he said about his own
committee, “If this committee can`t get it right, I am prepared to support
another route to do this.”
MCFAUL: Yeah. And there`s already a legislation floating out there to set
up an independent commission. I think that`s exactly what he was alluding
And, you know, this is an awkward, awkward, I don`t know if that`s the
right word, but delicate investigation because the people that are being
investigated, some of them are starting their new jobs on January 20th and
And so there`s going to be, I`m predicting, political pressure to limit the
scope and to keep things, you know, classified. And, you know, for me, I
got a lot of questions. I got a lot of questions about what Mr. Flynn was
doing on his trip, you know, sponsored by R.T. (ph). I would love to know
what he was talking with Ambassador Kislyak about.
I worked on the transition in the Obama campaign in the transition. I was
a Russia guy at the time. To the best of my knowledge, there were zero
phone calls to Ambassador Kislyak until after we went into office.
So, you know, those are things that might have a partisan feel in the
context of a committee on the intelligence committee on the Senate. But
again, it`s a good first sign, don`t get me wrong, it`s better than nothing
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Michael –
BASH: Yeah, and I just –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead quickly.
BASH: Just want to add – I just want to add that the executive privilege
will probably not attach the people who are operating the transition. In
other words, I don`t think, you know, if Flynn or others –
O`DONNELL: Very good point.
BASH: – could say, I can`t testify because I`m an executive branch
official. He was not –
O`DONNELL: To testify about issues that preexisted the executive
BASH: December 29th, yes.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, OK. Jeremy Bash –
CORN: Donald Trump doesn`t play by the normal rules. So, I think – you
know, who knows what`s going to happen. This could be another front of
chaos in Washington.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ll see what happens. Jeremy Bash, Ambassador Michael
McFaul, thank you for joining us.
David Corn, your memoirs were already going to be interesting, now there is
a spy novel.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Coming up, Elizabeth Warren goes after Donald Trump`s conflicts of
interests in Ben Carson`s confirmation hearing. This is something you have
to see. And an extraordinary statement on Donald Trump from an American
hero who is called commonly in Washington, the “conscience of the
Congress”. Why didn`t Donald Trump fight back today when John Lewis said
he is not a legitimate president?
O`DONNELL: You are not alone if you are planning to go to Washington next
week for the presidential inauguration to protest. The bus parking permits
tell the story you have to request a parking permit for your bus if you`re
going in there for the inauguration.
And so far, 200 bus parking permits have been requested for Friday,
inauguration day, the next day. The day of the Women`s March on
1,200 bus parking permits have been requested for the day after the
inauguration, six times the number of parking permits for the day of the
inauguration. It could be that the day after is the bigger crowd.
Up next, we now know who Donald Trump is afraid of. I mean, really afraid
of. Will not say a word about this guy. Congressman John Lewis.
O`DONNELL: And so, we have found someone who Donald Trump and everyone
working for Donald Trump is afraid of.
Imagine what Donald Trump would do, imagine how quickly he would fire off
the hateful and insulting tweet to any prominent person who said he is not
a legitimate president. Look at how he reacted to Meryl Streep not even
mentioning his name at the Golden Globes, he mounted (ph) his Twitter
attack against Meryl Streep because she told the truth about him mocking a
physically disabled reporter. Something the whole world has seen Donald
Trump do, something the whole world knows is true. And Donald Trump
attacked her for telling that truth and then he lied about it.
Tried to tell you that you didn`t see what you saw, that he was not mocking
anyone. You didn`t hear what you heard.
Imagine if Meryl Streep were a member of Congress, a Democratic member of
Congress, who said something about Donald Trump mocking the disabled. He
would have attacked her, possibly even more as a member of Congress.
Surely even more as a member of Congress than he did on Monday.
And so what happened today when a member of Congress said that Donald Trump
is not a legitimate president, how many hateful and insulting tweets were
fired off at that member of Congress by Donald Trump? What was Kellyanne
Conway`s attack line about that member of Congress, how vicious was Sean
Spicer in hitting back at that member of Congress.
It was a day like no other in Trump world. Donald Trump was hit with the
worst rhetorical attack any member of Congress could say about a president,
not a legitimate president and Donald Trump did nothing, said nothing,
stayed silent. Would not dare speak or tweet a word because the person who
said it is commonly referred to as “the conscience of the Congress.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: You have forged relationships with many
presidents. Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald
REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: You know, I believe in forgiveness. I
believe in trying to work with people. It`s going to be hard. It`s going
to be very difficult. I don`t see this president-elect as a legitimate
TODD: You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected.
And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
I don`t plan to attend the inauguration. It would be the first one that I
miss since I`ve been in the Congress. You cannot be at home with something
that you feel that is wrong.
TODD: That is going to send a big message to a lot of people in this
country, that you don`t believe he`s a legitimate president.
LEWIS: I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and
others to help him get elected. That`s not right. That`s not fair.
That`s not the open, Democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Someone in Trump world had the good sense to send out the order
that no one should challenge the moral authority of John Lewis, that no one
should attack him. That that is a fight that the Trump team could not win
and should not fight.
And so when Sean Spicer was asked about John Lewis, listen to what he said
and watch him for the first time walk away from taking a swing at the
person who hit Donald Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the facts speak for
themselves. The election was a clear and decisive win for Donald Trump in
an agenda of change to make America great again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Donald Trump be reaching out to journalists?
SPICER: Donald Trump is reaching out to all Americans right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us, David Corn, and also joining the discussion,
Charlie Pierce, writer at larder for Esquire.
Charlie, we`ve never seen a day like that. That was the sharpest thing a
member of Congress could say about Donald Trump and not a word back from
MICHAEL PIERCE, WRITER AT LARGE ESQUIRE: No, not yet. I mean, all this
does is force people like David and I to stay up until 4:00 in the morning.
PIERCE: Because you know he`s going to sneak down the hallway looking for
O`DONNELL: David Corn, what do you think? Are they going to leave it
where it is and just hope that John Lewis doesn`t say this too often?
CORN: You know, once again, Charlie stole my best material.
CORN: Because I was going to say you can`t be sure until 6:30 a.m.. And
so, I mean, it`s not over yet in Trump – under Trump rules.
But I will say this about the question of legitimacy. For many years,
Donald Trump said that Barack Obama was not a legitimate president.
Because the Russians meddled? No, because he was born in Kenya. So he –
you know, so now, the shoe`s on the other foot for a different reason.
And, I think it`s going to be very hard for Trump not to respond. And I
guess the question is, how long they can keep that phone away from him.
O`DONNELL: But Charlie, to the content of what John Lewis actually said
here, you know, legitimate is not a legal term. It is his sense of this.
He understands that the Electoral College legally delivers to you the next
president of the United States and that that has been done.
And – but I`m not sure exactly how you argue against what John Lewis has
said as his feeling about the situation, especially given everything we`re
now learning everyday about Russian involvement in the campaign.
PIERCE: Yeah. I think, you know, a president`s legitimacy exists
primarily in the minds and hearts of the people of the country and there
are millions and millions of Americans for whom this guy is not a
legitimate president of the United States.
And John Lewis – he was the – now, he was – because of the position he
earned with his own blood was the first guy to step up and say this. Of
course, he`s going to be inaugurated. He`s going to get the, as you put,
the biscuit and the football. He`s going to get the trappings of the
office. He`s going to, one day, get a library and God alone knows what
that`s going to look like. It`s going to be the only one that has a casino
But, I think what you`re going to see is, he`s going to have to earn
whatever legitimacy he has. And John Lewis, who previously this week sat
in front of the Judiciary Committee and explained to them that what Jeff
Sessions stands for is not what he almost died for. Some days, I wonder
why John Lewis doesn`t show up with an ax.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, he certainly has much to be angry about, but that`s not
who he is, David.
O`DONNELL: That`s not John Lewis at all.
CORN: No, no. He`s like a great role model for all of us. Even when
making a point, as sharp as that point is today with Chuck Todd, he still
does it with grace, with some regret and it`s really not a question, I
think, of legitimacy. I think what he`s talking about is Donald Trump`s
moral standing as a leader of a great country.
And, that still has yet to be proven.
O`DONNELL: Charlie Pierce, thanks for joining us. And David Corn, I just
got word from your bodyguards, they`re ready for you to leave the building
CORN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.
CHARLIE PIERCE, WRITER AT LARGE, ESQUIRE: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump`s cabinet nominees discovered the only
way, and I mean the only way, to get through Senate confirmation hearings,
is of course to disagree with Donald Trump. And Donald Trump seems to have
noticed that. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: And tonight`s, we`ve never seen anything like it segment.
There`s only one way to get through Senate confirmation hearing as a
cabinet nominee chosen by Donald Trump, and that as we saw consistently
this week is to disagree with Donald Trump.
Donald Trump`s choice for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense,
Attorney General, Director of CIA had to disagree with Donald Trump to
survive their confirmation hearings. And today, Donald Trump seems to have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: We want them to be themselves. And I told
them, “Be yourselves and say what you want to say. Don`t worry about me.
And I`m going to do the right thing, whatever it is. I may be right.” And
they may be right, but I said “Be yourselves.” When you say – let them do
it. I could have said do this, say that. I don`t want them. I want them
all to be themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yeah, Steve Harvey thinks that they should be themselves. Here
is a sample of them being themselves. A sample of what Donald Trump had to
listen to this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE NOMINEE: I would consider the
principal threats to start with Russia.
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset not a
liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can
help us fight ISIS.
MATTIS: If we did not have NATO today, we would need to create it. NATO
is vital to our national interest.
TRUMP: I think NATO maybe obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago.
REP. MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: It`s pretty clear about what took
place here, about Russian involvements in efforts to hack information and
to have an impact on American democracy.
TRUMP: Russia, but you know what, it could have been others also.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I would have recommended that
the Ukraine take all of its military assets it had available, put them on
that eastern border, provide those assets with defensive weapons that are
necessary just to defend themselves, announce that the U.S. is going to
provide them intelligence and that there will either NATO or U.S. will
provide air surveillance over that border.
TRUMP: I don`t like what`s happening with Ukraine, but that`s really a
problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us. And they should
be leading some of this charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Karine Jean-Pierre, Senior Adviser and National
Spokesperson for MoveOn.org, also, Elise Jordan, former Senior Policy
Adviser to Senator Rand Paul`s presidential campaign and an MSNBC Political
And, Karine, the key to confirmation is disagreeing with the guy who
nominated you. We`ve never seen that before.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MOVEON.ORG, SENIOR ADVISER: Right. But I have to tell
you, Lawrence, I think it`s all an optical illusion, because at the end of
the day it doesn`t matter what the subordinates, his subordinates think,
right, because they are going to work at the pleasure of. It`s not vice-
And, you know, Trump is going to be setting the policies, so he`s going to
move forward and they`re going to follow. I think the most problematic
picks are the ones who don`t need confirmation. You have a national
security adviser who is freelancing diplomacy with Russia. You have a
white supremacist that`s going to have an office right next to the Oval
Office. And you have a person, an adviser who gets on T.V. and lies. So
this is all. It doesn`t matter at the end of the day.
O`DONNELL: Elise, my theory of Trump is that no one, no one understands
better than Donald Trump what a complete ignoramus he is. And so when he
is speaking to his Defense Secretary, when he`s speaking to any of the
people who`d just showed, he knows they all know more than he does, even
Rex Tillerson who doesn`t – who knows less than any other Secretary of
State and (inaudible) way more than Donald Trump.
And so, I suspect that these people may be heavily invested with
policymaking powers in a presidency where the president just sits there and
nods when the guy who knows something is speaking.
ELISE JORDAN, FMR. SENIOR ADVISOR, RAND PAUL CAMPAIGN: Well, no one knows
Donald Trump`s world view when it comes to foreign policy. No one knows
what he actually hopes to accomplish, aside from America first. So,
there`s this huge gap, a power vacuum, you could say, of the
paleoconservative, the neoconservatives, the realists.
Everyone is trying to come in and shape Donald Trump`s foreign policy. And
the reason that they aren`t on point with what Donald Trump has said is
that it`s virtually impossible to be because Donald Trump, himself, doesn`t
know what he truly believes.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. Karine, he doesn`t really – he`s not consistent. It`s
almost as if he doesn`t remember what he said the last time he was asked
about something. So it – this seems strikes me as a situation where the
cabinet could be very powerful, at the same time its guess work here. You
know, you could be completely right, the zero attention span president
might not even be able to follow what a cabinet member is telling him.
JEAN-PIERRE: Well, Lawrence, I think its two things. I think first of
all, it`s just for show. A lot of the things that he`s doing is all for
show, right? And he takes along – he takes us along on this ride. And
the second thing is just a pure narcissism. He needed to come out and say,
hey, you know what, it`s OK for them to say that so that he shows he`s
still in charge, right? And it`s continuing to show his lack of impulse
and that he`s just a petulant child. But I think at the end of the day, it
really is all for show that he`s doing.
O`DONNELL: He`s going top take the oath of offices, the most powerless
president who`s ever taken the oath of office in – polling anyway. Gallup
poll shows today, “Do you approve the handling of the presidential
transition?” Donald Trump lowest score in history, 51 percent disapprove,
44 percent approve. President Obama had the highest score in this poll`s
history, 83 percent approval, only 12 percent disapproval.
And, Elise, the people who are staring at that are the Republican members
of Congress who are there wondering how much of this Trump agenda should we
try to carry? We have on day one the most unpopular president in the
history of a day one president.
JORDAN: You know, in that poll, something that struck me was how much his
poll numbers have plummeted because of his tweeting.
JORDAN: Because of tweeting, specifically, and that`s related to
impulsivity and that`s what so many of these members of Congress are
watching, is Trump going to do things that are too extreme where it`s just
indefensible for me to go home to my district and explain why I`m backing
O`DONNELL: Yeah. His polls – when you`re talking about (inaudible), his
polls actually went up a little bit after Election Day, the way they always
do for everyone, and then they just sank as he kept behaved the way he
Elise Jordan, Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you both for joining us. I really
JORDAN: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, today the Office of Government Ethics posted a
refresher of misuse of position for executive branch employees. Now, why
would they need to do that, reminding that everyone what is against the
ethics rules? And, oh, by the way, you cannot endorse products and
companies the way the incoming President of the United States has done.
He`s got a lot to learn.
O`DONNELL: Senator Elizabeth Warren hammered at a potential conflict of
interest facing Donald Trump during Ben Carson`s confirmation hearing this
week. If confirmed for the job, he clearly knows nothing about.
Dr. Carson will oversee $49 billion budget at the Department of Housing and
Urban Development. Senator Warren asked Dr. Carson to assure her that none
of that money will enrich Donald Trump or his family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Can you just assure us that not
one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family?
BEN CARSON, NOMINEE FOR HUD SECRETARY: It will not be my intention to do
anything to benefit any American.
WARREN: I understand that.
CARSON: It`s for all Americans, everything that we do.
WARREN: Do I take that to mean that you may manage programs that will
significantly benefit the president-elect?
CARSON: If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that is
working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you are
targeting is going to gain, you know, $10 from it, am I going to say no,
the rest of few Americans can`t have it. I think logic and common sense
probably would be the best way.
WARREN: The problem is that you can`t assure us that HUD money, not $10
varieties, but of multimillion-dollar varieties will not end up in the
president-elect`s pockets. And the reason you can`t assure of us that is
because the president-elect is hiding his family`s business interests from
you, from me, from the rest of America.
He knows, he, the president-elect knows what will benefit him and his
family financially, but the public doesn`t, which means he can divert
taxpayer money into his own pockets without anyone knowing about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump, of course, stacked a giant pile of paper, which
seemed to be blank pages of paper on a table today at – on a table – at
his news conference this week to try to demonstrate with some pile of
nothing in effect that, of course, he will wall himself off from his
businesses. More on that next with an expert on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER SHAUB, DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Stepping back
from running his positions is meaningless from a conflict of interest
perspective. The president is a full-time job and he would have had to
step back any way. The idea of setting up a trust to hold his operating
businesses adds nothing to the equation. This is not a blind trust. It`s
not even close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter
Shaub. That – this was supposed to be the big story of the week. Donald
Trump`s conflicts of interest and how he`s going to deal with them. It has
been pushed aside by all the other pressing new stories of the week, but
we`re going to try to stay on this and I`m sure we`re going to be on this
from most of the year.
We are joined by Kathleen Clark, a Professor of Law at Washington
University in St. Louis. Professor Clark, you`re an expert on these
matters. Quickly, your reaction to what you saw Donald Trump do with that
press conference. He had a stack of paper, probably blank paper from all
we know. What you heard from his lawyer about how he`s handling his
KATHLEEN CLARK, PROFESSOR OF LAW IN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS: So
what we heard from President-elect Trump was essentially showmanship going
through the motions of dealing with an ethic issue, but not actually doing
what he needs to do, which is divest from his businesses. And pretty much
the same from his lawyer on Wednesday afternoon.
On the other hand, what we heard from the Office of Government Ethics,
Chief Walter Shaub, this week was really quite impressive. And is that
government – the agency had speaking publicly about what it is that the
president-elect needs to do in order to do, you know, protect the interest
of the American people.
O`DONNELL: And it seems the person who has the most stress about this at
the end of the week is Mr. Shaub, Jason Chaffetz and the House now saying
they`re going to drag him in for a hearing where he now somehow has to
justify explaining ethics laws and why is he doing that.
CLARK: It`s actually worst than that. Chaffetz actually invited, more
indicated that Shaub was going to have come in not for a public hearing,
but for a private interrogation. So – and I believe that the Democrats in
Congress have objected to that kind of forum. It looks to some of us like
the Republicans are trying to – or Chaffetz, anyway, is trying to
intimidate or retaliate against Shaub for doing his job, for announcing
what the public – what President-elect Trump needs to do.
O`DONNELL: Well, awaken (ph) at minimum tonight thank Jason Chaffetz for
helping us keep a focus going forward on Donald Trump`s conflicts of
interest because what he is doing will actually help us do that. Kathleen
Clark, professor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
CLARK: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, $1 from you to the KIND fund does the same work of
$1 from a celebrity? We got $1,000 on Monday night at the Golden Globes.
Wait to see that.
O`DONNELL: I don`t think I`ve ever said this before. Hit the record
button for the next segment. You`re going to want to keep this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PAULSON, ACTRESS: And to the remarkable Marcia Clark, you are an
inspiration to me. If I could live my life with a fraction of your wit,
integrity and unapologetic fierceness, I would be on the road to doing it
right. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was, of course, the brilliant Sara Paulson in her Golden
Globe acceptance speech on Sunday night. Earlier in the evening, Moet &
Chandon, the official champagne of the Golden Globes donated $1,000 to the
nominees` charities of their choice and here was Sarah Paulson`s choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULSON: I would really love you guys to choose for the KIND fund, which
these kids that needed best, for children in Malawi, a raising fund that
Lawrence O`Donnell started this charity several years ago. And it`s an
incredible charity that creates opportunity for children to actually have
places to learn, yes, to stay about and seated on the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it about that cause that`s really touched you
personally on a personal level?
PAULSON: Well, it`s – any well-being mostly in the world wants to learn.
And when you are not able to do it in a comfortable way that encourages
allowing knowledge to permeate your mind and stay there because you`re not
comfortable and you`re not able to also have a place of power. You go into
your school and this is your desk, this is your chair, this is what you`re
doing, you`re learning and you`re working. And it`s – it should be that
way and everyone should have that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Thanks to Sarah Paulson and many, many more of your
contributions to the KIND fund. They have continued to come in after the
holidays. You can, of course, contribute to the KIND fund 24 hours a day,
any day of the year, at lastworddesks.msnbc.com.
And since I last updated you on the KIND fund on our last show of 2016, we
have crossed another major threshold in our fund-raising. You have
contributed another $559,266, which has brought this season`s total fund-
raising to a record of $3,444,760 and that has pushed us across the $14
And so in these six years of the KIND fund, you have now contributed a
total of $14,156,680. And I think the credit for breaking all of those
fund-raising records this year goes to the students of Malawi who you heard
from on this program this year.
Like Tamandani Khuphuki whom finished high school on a KIND fund
scholarship and is now applying to nursing school. And, of course, the
poet laureate of “The Last Word,” Joyce Chisale. Joyce is the 14-year-old
student who told me she wants to be a doctor and a poet. And when I heard
that she wanted to be a poet, I asked if she can recite one of her poems
And so, “The Last Words” that you heard on this program in 2016 were from
Joyce Chisale reciting her poem, which she calls “Little by Little.” It`s
a poem that beautifully evokes the struggle, girls like Joyce face trying
to get through high school in Malawi.
And at the same time, tells us all something about how we manage the
struggles in our own lives. How true through it all, no matter how many
set backs we face, how to keep trying to reach our dreams, our dreams for
ourselves, our dreams for our loved ones, for our country, for the world.
We`re going to listen to Joyce`s poem one more time and I hope you record
this because as this New Year gets underway, I`m sure we will all need to
be reminded from time to time of what Joyce Chisale has taught us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYCE CHISALE, KIND FUND SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT: Little by little, we`ll
go. No matter how far the distance is, we are not shaken. Little by
little we`ll go and reach our destination. Little by little we`ll go, no
matter how bumpy or rocky the road is, we`re not going to turn back. Little
by little we`ll go, and see through our dreams. Little by little we`ll go,
no matter how narrow the pass is, we are going to force ourselves to pass.
And little by little we`ll go, and reach the promised land. Don`t be
shaken, don`t turn back. Little by little you`ll go, and reach you