The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/10/2017

Guests:
Rick Stengel, Colin Kahl, Rick Wilson, Ken Vogel, Jonathan Allen, Erin Gloria Ryan, Hunter Walker
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL

Date: February 10, 2017

Guest: Rick Stengel, Colin Kahl, Rick Wilson, Ken Vogel, Jonathan Allen, Erin Gloria Ryan, Hunter Walker

 

[22:00:00] RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does for us tonight.  See you

again Monday.  Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD.”  Ari Melber sitting in

for Lawrence tonight. 

 

Good evening, Ari. 

 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.  Have a great weekend. 

 

MADDOW:  You too. 

 

MELBER:  I am Ari, in for Lawrence.  And Donald Trump`s National Security

adviser Michael Flynn discussing sanctions with Russia before Trump was

inaugurated, which contradicts what the administration has been saying. 

Also tonight, Donald Trump`s latest voter fraud fear is buses from

Massachusetts, and voters around the country challenging their

representatives at town halls to stand up to the new administration. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC`S “HARDBALL”:  Anger that`s been erupting across the

country at Republican town halls. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`ve been at the White House for 20 years, my fourth

president.  I`ve never seen this. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was the first time that a police department

determined that I needed an armed escort to safely leave the venue. 

 

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Despite denials, National Security adviser

Mike Flynn did, in fact, discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia with the

Russian ambassador. 

 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Leading Democrats in Congress now calling

for an investigation into National Security adviser Michael Flynn. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought Michael Flynn was unqualified for this job to

begin with.  This just proves the point. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If, indeed, Mike Flynn lied to him or misled the vice

president, you tell me, how can they continue to work together? 

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know about it.  I

haven`t seen it. 

 

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “COLBERT REPORT”:  Quick follow-up question, should

a president know stuff or not know stuff?  I don`t know which one of those

two. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Good evening.  It is a principle bordering on a cliche that the

president holds no greater responsibility than keeping Americans safe. 

That is why the “Washington Post`s” new report suggesting the possibility

of one of the most serious scandals an administration can face must be

seriously reviewed. 

 

The “Post” reporting there`s evidence that Lieutenant General Michael

Flynn, President Trump`s National Security adviser, covertly discussed U.S.

sanction with a Russian ambassador during the Obama administration`s

tenure. 

 

Now those reports appear to contradict those very public denials by Vice

President Pence, among others, and raised the question of how high in the

administration this alleged deception about statecraft went. 

 

NBC News, we should note, has also confirmed this same account from the

“Washington Post.”  Now it all stems from phone calls between Flynn and

Putin`s ambassador on December 29th.  In case you weren`t counting, that

was the very same day President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for

interfering in the U.S. presidential election. 

 

Now, this report, we should note, is not preliminary.  It is not based on

the accepted journalistic minimum of, say, two sources or a few more, say

three or four.  The “Washington Post” cites nine current and former

officials in senior posts at multiple agencies at the time of the calls. 

They unanimously state, quote, “Flynn`s references to the election-related

sanctions were explicit.”  Two of those officials went further, saying,

“Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by the

current president at the time, Barack Obama, making clear that the two

sides would be in a position to review the matter after Donald Trump was

sworn in as president.” 

 

Now about those denials.  Pence, Reince Priebus, and Sean Spicer have all

stated the opposite. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They did not discuss

anything having to do with the United States` decision to expel diplomats

or impose a censure against Russia. 

 

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  I have talked to general

Flynn.  None of that came up.  None – the subject matter of sanctions or

the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the

conversation. 

 

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  There`s been one call.  I talked

to General Flynn about this again last night.  One call talks about four

subjects. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Now to be clear and to be fair, Flynn is not corroborating the

entirety of these new reports, so you can consider them still contested. 

But there`s something really interesting happening.  He is backing off the

previous denials.  We`re going to show you exactly what his spokesman has

told our own NBC News, quote, “Flynn can`t be 100 percent sure, but he

doesn`t remember talking sanctions with the Russian ambassador.” 

 

[22:05:02] The senior official also telling NBC News that Vice President

Pence based his comments about Flynn`s discussions on conversations that he

had only with Mike Flynn. 

 

Now reporters asked President Trump about this story this afternoon.  As

you can see, it`s a big story.  It has previously been discussed by senior

officials who work for the president.  And this question we`re about to

show you was asked 16 hours after the “Washington Post” story broke.  The

president`s response was to suggest he`s out of the loop. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  What do you make of reports that General Flynn had

conversations with the Russians about sanctions before you were sworn in? 

 

TRUMP:  I don`t know about it.  I haven`t seen it.  What report is that? 

 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  There have been a number of reports – 

 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  The “Washington Post” is reporting that he talked

to the ambassador to Russia before you were inaugurated about sanctions,

maybe trying to – 

 

TRUMP:  I haven`t seen that.  I`ll look at that. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  The prospect of an American citizen working to covertly undermine

U.S. foreign policy is obviously serious, and we can tell you back in

Congress, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, Democratic

Senator Claire McCaskill, is now calling on FBI Director James Comey to

provide a briefing on the scope and status of any FBI investigation related

to General Flynn`s contact with the Russian government. 

 

Now, let`s be clear, few Americans today relish the idea of the FBI engaged

in another politically sensitive investigation of any kind, but McCaskill

is arguing the notion of not investigating such serious, now-documented

contacts is far worse. 

 

Joining me now for context is Rick Stengel, former undersecretary of State

for public diplomacy in the Obama administration, a contributor here at

MSNBC, Colin Kahl, a professor at Georgetown University and a former

adviser to Vice President Biden, and Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist

and contributor to “The Daily Beast.” 

 

Colin, how serious is this based on what is known? 

 

COLIN KAHL, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  It`s pretty serious.  I mean, there is

a couple things going on here.  There`s the principle that you have one

administration at a time, so you potentially had someone working for Trump,

working behind the administration`s back to undermine the administration`s

policy.  You then have the question of whether – you know, why Flynn

appeared to have misled both the public, but also people within the

administration to include Vice President Pence about what those

conversations were about. 

 

And I think it raises deeper questions about what type of ties there were

between members of now the Trump administration, but previously, the Trump

campaign and representatives of the Russian government dating back to the

campaign time, which was another part of that “Washington Post” story and

also a piece in “The New York Times” today. 

 

MELBER:  And a part of the whole underlying issue, Richard Stengel, because

these sanctions here were applied by the previous administration based on

intelligence findings of election-related hacking and misinformation. 

 

RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY:  Yes, and

there are also the other sanctions that the Obama administration imposed

because of the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine.  Those

really hit and hurt the Russians, and they had been trying to get them

reversed for a long time.  If these stories are true, it is highly, highly,

highly inappropriate, to say the least, and may indeed the violation of the

Logan Act, which no one has been convicted of since it was passed in 1799,

which does not allow private U.S. citizens to talk to foreign powers about

American policy. 

 

MELBER:  So two questions and then I`ll bring in Rick Wilson.  Number one,

is your view that someone who`s an incoming administration member would be

treatable as just like a private citizen?  And two, have you ever seen

anything like this in your time at the State Department? 

 

STENGEL:  I haven`t seen anything like this at all.  And I think people,

particularly dealing with Russia where it matters, are so highly sensitive

and go straight up to the president`s office, that people are very, very

loathed to do something like this.  So to me it`s pretty much

unprecedented.  The fact that he was likely to be in the incoming

administration might have some influence, but the law and the statute says

nothing about that, as you know. 

 

MELBER:  Rick Wilson? 

 

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think the two central quick

questions here are very simple.  The first is, Mike Flynn`s relationship

with Russia and with Putin was already a matter in question before this

happened.  We – it was obvious that he was lying when he said, oh, I

wished the ambassador a Merry Christmas a couple weeks ago.  This merits an

investigation.  This merits an actual investigation, not something cursory. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MELBER:  Well, let me – 

 

WILSON:  And the real question here – 

 

MELBER:  Let me draw on that –

 

WILSON:  – is whether Republican leadership will take that up. 

 

MELBER:  Let me draw you on that.  You`re making a very serious claim

there.  You`re saying it was obvious at the time it was a lie?  What is

your evidence for that? 

 

WILSON:  Look, the fact of the matter is Michael Flynn has a relationship

with Putin and the Russians that stretches well beyond the – I mean, he

worked for Putin`s propaganda television network, RT.  You know, the guy

retires from the DIA and he`s in Russia a few weeks later having dinner

with Putin. 

 

[22:10:03] This is a guy who has got some sort of connection there, and I

believe he is the facilitator of a lot of this happy talk.  And Mike Flynn

is reported in a variety of sources to believe that he can strike some sort

of anti-Muslim alliance up with the Russians.  We can put aside all

Russia`s behavior and adopt them as our new BFFs as long as they`ll fight

Islam with us. 

 

MELBER:  Well, let`s distinguish – 

 

WILSON:  And I think that`s what`s driving a lot of this. 

 

MELBER:  But let`s distinguish – 

 

WILSON:  That`s been reported pretty widely, Ari. 

 

MELBER:  Yes, let`s distinguish, though, between the policy debate, whether

that is a good idea, which is a part of any democracy, debating whether you

want to be warmer or not to Russia, and what you seem to be referring to,

which would be more problematic, some sort of corruption or alliance with

Russia that is based on something other than U.S. interests. 

 

WILSON:  You know, we talk about the Logan Act a lot, Ari, and most of the

time it`s when someone like Ted Kennedy goes over to Russia and talks smack

or Jimmy Carter goes to some third world nation and criticizes the U.S.

and, you know, makes all these statements.  But in this case, we have a guy

who is going to be the most senior intelligence official in the country, de

facto, at least, go to the Russians before the election – or before the

inauguration, and say we`re going to lift these sanctions, don`t worry

about it, don`t overreact, let me help me help you. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  Right. 

 

WILSON:  And the fact of the matter is, that is something that is a very

bright line, I think.  And I think you`re going to see the leaks continue

because the intelligence community is quite obviously the number of sources

in both the “Times” and the “Post” stories today were astounding. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  Well – 

 

WILSON:  And these are folks who see this guy as a security threat. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  And what you`re referring to is just something that can`t

be emphasized enough.  There is a fundamental distinction between arguing a

case or a point in the United States. 

 

WILSON:  Right. 

 

MELBER:  And trying to use elicit or covert meanings to undermine the

position of the U.S. government, whether you agree with it or not. 

 

Colin, take a listen to Senator Chris Murphy.  You look at how Democrats

are reacting, how far do they want to go.  This is how far he was prepared

to go. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Some of your colleagues calling for an investigation, some

calling for his resignation.  What`s your reaction to that news? 

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT:  Well, I think Michael Flynn is very

dangerous.  And so I think it`s time to start talking about whether he is

still suitable to be in the National Security Cabinet. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Colin, do you agree with that? 

 

KAHL:  Well, I think Michael Flynn`s ideas have been dangerous for a long

time.  The question of whether his conduct is dispositive and should get

him kicked out of the administration I think is probably something they`re

debating in the White House right now, if for no other reason, because I

have to imagine that Vice President Pence and Spicer and others are upset

that he apparently misled not only the American public but misled them. 

 

So this is a serious issue, but I do really think it speaks to this broader

question.  You know, the intelligence community determined overwhelmingly

with high confidence that the Russians interfered in our election, so it`s

not just whether or not Michael Flynn, you know, lied about what he did

during the transition period, but also whether he had contacts during the

campaign that speak to this question of whether there was a broader issue

of collusion.  And so this really has to be investigated from top to bottom

in the Congress. 

 

MELBER:  Rick Stengel, I want to ask about what would have been our top

Russia story tonight if there wasn`t so much going on, something you know a

lot about from your tenure.  Investigative journalist Cynthia McFadden

reporting Russia considering returning Snowden to the United States to,

quote, “curry favor with Trump.”  Intelligence collecting information that

Russia is considering turning Snowden over as a, quote, “gift,” calling the

NSA leaker a spy and a traitor, Trump has, and saying he deserved to be

executed. 

 

That`s according to a senior U.S. official who`s analyzed a series of

highly sensitive intel reports detailing the Russian deliberation and says

the Snowden handover is one of the various ploys to curry favor with Trump. 

Your thoughts. 

 

STENGEL:  Yes.  I mean, Ari, if true, it would be a win-win for Russia. 

Presumably, they`ve extracted as much information from Snowden as they can

get.  They would look like they were doing a favor for the new president. 

The president would look strong in terms of prosecuting somebody who`s kind

of violated the most sanctified national security dictums.  So it could be

true and it would be a probably a smart ploy for Putin, who has shown his

ability to manipulate the new president from beginning to end. 

 

MELBER:  Would Americans view it as a foreign policy victory for Donald

Trump? 

 

STENGEL:  I think I mean, popularity of Snowden, I mean, there`s lots of

disagreement about that, but I think most Americans feel that he betrayed

the country, so I think it would look like something that was strong for

the new administration. 

 

MELBER:  Rick Wilson, where do the politics go from here?  There are

references to the Logan Act, there`s investigative processes there.  I want

to be clear, there`s been no FBI public findings on anything like this. 

 

WILSON:  Correct. 

 

MELBER:  So that is all speculative.  But what about the political

reaction, if any, from either party on what to do about this or how to

investigate it, at least out of Congress? 

 

WILSON:  Well, look, I mean, the Democrats have a significant disadvantage

here, is that they just don`t seem to have a single thematic point they can

latch on to with any of their messaging right now. 

 

[22:15:04] They drift from this to Puzder to Tillerson to protests in the

streets.  They seemed unfocused on this.  The only people that can actually

address this and protect our national security in this matter and get to

the bottom of what`s going on, if you even take the best-case scenario that

Michael Flynn has had contacts that are inappropriate, there needs to be

someone taking a look at this.  And the fact of the matter is right now,

leadership in the House and Senate, they have other fish to fry and they`re

going to let Trump keep running out the chain. 

 

There are other members of the Senate – I`ve spoken to two of them today

who are very nervous about this, who are very upset about this, and they`re

reaching a point where they`re not going to play polite ball with

leadership.  But in the House, it`s pretty much on lockdown.  You saw Jason

Chaffetz last night essentially say that Donald Trump gets a get-out-of-

jail-free card.  And his administration seems to be a slap on the wrist to

Kellyanne Conway but silence about a matter that could have incredibly

consequential and profound impacts on our national security. 

 

MELBER:  Well, it`s a big story, it is another shoe dropping in what has

been a lot of revelations about the role of Russia in the election, which

is something that is of nonpartisan concern, I would say, to many people in

the nation. 

 

Rick Stengel and Colin Kahl, thank you for your expertise tonight.  Rick

stays with us – Rick Wilson. 

 

Now coming up, Donald Trump says he`s infuriated about these leaks that

keep coming from the White House and the details of his confrontational

phone calls to some foreign leaders. 

 

Plus, Trump resurrecting baseless voter fraud claims and this time telling

it was buses of illegal voters coming from Massachusetts.  That`s next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MELBER:  There`s a famous proverb from the businessman, poet and rapper

Jay-Z, a wise man told me don`t argue with fools because people from a

distance can`t tell who`s who. 

 

Keep that proverb in mind as the Trump administration again renews its

argument that the American elections that we all participate in are rife

with voter fraud.  President Trump now alleging without evidence that

secret buses of illegal voters from Massachusetts have tainted the

election. 

 

Ken Vogel broke the story.  He joins me next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

[22:20:43] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  You spoke about you`re going to win this

court battle against the immigration and travel ban. 

 

TRUMP:  We`ll win that battle.  The unfortunate part is it takes time

statutorily.  So it takes time.  We`ll win that battle, but we also have

other options, including just filing a brand-new order on Monday.  Could

very well be, but I like to keep you – you know, I`d like to surprise you. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  That was President Trump talking about the element of surprise in

his immigration policy.  Considering that the way he rolled out his travel

ban did lead to a surprise federal court ruling blocking the entire order,

some of his critics will keep rooting for surprises. 

 

It has been at times difficult to follow the administration`s legal

strategy here.  Minutes before Trump spoke on Air Force One, for example,

an aide said the White House did not plan to appeal the ruling against him

to the Supreme Court.  Two hours later, White House press secretary Sean

Spicer told NBC News, “Every option is on the table.”  And it includes

going to the Supreme Court. 

 

Meanwhile, Politico is reporting today that Trump is increasingly

frustrated with some parts of his new job.  Being president is harder than

Donald Trump thought.  His mood has careened between surprise and anger as

he`s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional

delays over his Cabinet nominations, and legal fights holding up his

aggressive initiatives, to staff infighting as well as leaks. 

 

Joining us now is Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico, and

back with us, Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to “The

Daily Beast.” 

 

Ken, what are you finding in your reporting? 

 

KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO:  Well, like you said in

the intro there, Trump is really frustrated.  He – you know, some of these

things are really predictable, that he would have congressional opposition

to controversial nominees, that there would be judicial review and

challenges of – even decisions against him if he pushed aggressive

initiatives through executive order. 

 

You would think you would understand that coming into the presidency, but

our sources tell us that with each of these setbacks, he`s become

increasingly like surprised anew and angry and really looking for

vengeance, as opposed to looking for ways in which to proceed. 

 

Now you hear him, of course, talking about issuing a new executive order

potentially.  That`s a little bit of a surprise based on what our sources

tell us, that he was so dug in on this and so looking to win these battles. 

 

MELBER:  Right. 

 

VOGEL:  That he would just – he would just sort of continue to fight. 

Maybe it`s a good sign in some ways that he`s willing to take a step back

and recalibrate. 

 

MELBER:  Oh, sure.  I mean, I think if he`s open to changing an order in

response to the courts, that should be welcomed by all.  It`s funny,

though.  I mean, some of this reporting makes it seem – you know, I`m

reminded of a scene in “Casablanca,” I`m shocked there`s gambling going on

here.  It is like Donald Trump showed up to the boxing match in Washington

and is shocked that there are disputes to be had and disagreements. 

 

Reading from the piece, “The president and his allies believe career

National Security staff assigned from other agencies are out to get them. 

Some NSC staff believe Trump doesn`t possess the capacity for details and

nuance required to handle sensitive issues discussed on these calls,” and

that he`s politicized their agency by appointing chief strategist Steve

Bannon to the council.  I mean, he`s got to be ready for these kind of

fights if he`s doing what he`s doing. 

 

VOGEL:  Yes.  And some of it really just underscores the difference between

running a business, even a fairly large one like the Trump Organization,

versus running the United States government.  You`re the CEO of a business,

your decision goes, no matter what.  There aren`t these checks and balances

of the courts and of Congress.  But you would think over the course of time

running for president, you would become aware that there were these checks

and balances and sort of ready for them. 

 

I think some of it stems from the fact that so many of the folks who he`s

brought in who are in his inner circle have zero government experience. 

We`re talking about Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner.  These aren`t folks who

are able to anticipate it or able to necessarily prepare Trump for the

types of setbacks that are just part of governing. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  Rick, as promised, I`m going to read from this new voter

fraud allegation.  I want to be clear, I`m reading this not because it`s

true but because the president talked about it.  He claims that he and

Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte both would have been victorious in the

Granite State if not for the thousands of people who were brought in on

buses from neighboring Massachusetts to, quote, “illegally vote in New

Hampshire.” 

 

I want to reiterate something I`ve reported on air before and that will

continue to report, which is that while President Trump has pledged a

massive investigation into voter fraud that he said would have proved his

claims, he has not begun – he has not issued the order.  It is another

area where action has not matched the words. 

 

WILSON:  Well, Ari, look, it sort of speaks to a larger piece about the

entire Trump administration.  They are comfortable lying on the outside so

much, and they are comfortable telling things – following Trump`s lead on

telling these fantastic stories.  You know, President Von Munchausen here

has always got some sort of externality that explains anything that doesn`t

go right for him, whether it`s, you know, buses of illegal voters or

millions of Muslims trying to sneak into the country to blow things up or,

you know, Donna Brazile giving Hillary Clinton the debate questions.  He`s

always got an external explanation for anything that doesn`t quite go his

way. 

 

But unfortunately, at some point, no matter how loudly he screams the words

fake news, the facts will out in many of these cases.  And obviously, of

course there`s no evidence of this.  Of course this is made up out of his

head or from some, you know, third-tier, fever-swamped nutcase whack job

Web site that has, you know, suddenly – you know, probably has White House

press credentials, and it`s the sort of thing that he`s going to continue

to do until he gets checked on it and until his staff gets checked on it. 

 

And I think the resistance to folks like Kellyanne Conway that`s growing

with a lot of the media is you can`t just govern by lies.  You can`t just

govern by an endless BS tornado every day and hope that people will just

nod their head and go, well, at least it`s not Hillary.  So. 

 

MELBER:  Ken, I don`t think you can use as many choice adjectives as Rick,

but what do you make of this? 

 

VOGEL:  Well, I think the fixation on the electoral college victory or the

size of the popular vote loss, the size of his inauguration crowds, you

know, the fixation on this idea that there was all this illegal voting, it

really offers something of an explanation for why he`s found it so

difficult to focus on some of the details of governing.  I mean, you know,

we reported in the story that when these conversations turn to the

complexities and the details, he`ll often change the subject really quickly

or just delegate the detail questions to Steve Bannon or Jared Kushner,

even House Speaker Paul Ryan. 

 

Well, it sort of makes sense if he has all this stuff on his mind, all

these grievances that he continues to litigate at every possible

opportunity, not just to members of Congress, to foreign leaders.  He

talked to Vladimir Putin – 

 

MELBER:  So where does that – yes. 

 

VOGEL:  – about his electoral victory. 

 

MELBER:  So, Ken – I mean, I think that`s an interesting point,

particularly the way that he doesn`t want to sit through some of the acts

of governing.  So you`re running and you`re running and you`re running

away, but you can`t run away from yourself.  Where does it go? 

 

VOGEL:  I mean, who knows?  At this point, we would have thought that he

would have already made the shift and that he would have stopped thinking

about the election and stopped litigating some of these things, but here we

are, and I think some of the things that he wants to accomplish are

suffering as a result, including the executive orders not being as clearly

thought through as they otherwise might have been.  It`s a cycle where he

gets called out on – you know, he gets called out on this case by a three-

judge panel unanimously on the executive order on restricting travel from

the seven predominantly Muslim countries. 

 

And instead of taking the step back, the instinct kicks in, the sort of

fight with the judges over Twitter, fight with the media coverage of it. 

Now we`re seeing maybe some of his advisers sort of imploring him and him

taking their advice to take a step back.  But you see where his instinct

is, and it`s not there. 

 

MELBER:  Ken Vogel and Rick Wilson, thank you both for joining me this

Friday night. 

 

WILSON:  Thanks, Ari. 

 

VOGEL:  Thanks, Ari. 

 

MELBER:  Coming up next, tremendous health care at a low price?  That is

what President Trump promised today, and the Republican health care would

be once the Affordable Care Act is repealed.  Stay tuned. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

[22:32:32] TRUMP:  We`re also working very much, and this has a lot to do

with business, on health care, where we can get great health care for our

country at a much reduced price.  Obamacare, as you know, is a total and

complete disaster, so we`re going to end up with tremendous health care at

a lower price, and I think people are going to be extremely happy. 

Difficult process, but once we get going – and as you know, Tom Price was

just approved a few hours ago, so we finally have our secretary, and now we

get down to the final strokes. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  President Trump there referring to the new Health and Human

Services secretary, Tom Price.  He was sworn in today.  President Trump

betting on Price to help speed up those efforts to repeal the Affordable

Care Act at a time when Republicans in Congress are struggling to figure

out what comes next. 

 

Now some of those congressional Republicans facing angry constituents who

fear what will happen if the health care law is simply repealed with no

other plan. 

 

Here was the scene at a town hall in Utah last night.  This was supposed to

focus on health care and was hosted by Republican Congressman Jason

Chaffetz. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

(CROWD CHANTING “DO YOUR JOB”)

 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Almost like the “Arsenio Hall Show” there. 

 

Joining me now Jon Allen, head of community and content for Sidewire, Erin

Gloria Ryan, senior editor for “The Daily Beast,” and Hunter Walker,

national correspondent for with Yahoo! News. 

 

Erin, they looked pumped up.  There is a question here about, oh, are you

doing what the Tea Party did, are you doing something else, the resistance? 

We`ve been reporting on our show – in THE LAST WORD here, with Lawrence

O`Donnell about how the numbers show incredible, historical turnout. 

 

ERIN GLORIA RYAN, THE DAILY BEAST:  Right. 

 

MELBER:  That this is as big as you`d go back in several decades. 

 

RYAN:  Right.  Well, I think it`s really tempting to try to create a 1-1

correlation between things that you`re seeing now and things that recently

happened that were similar to what we`re seeing now, but there are some

things that are pretty encouraging to Democrats in this situation.  If you

look at what happened in the 2010 elections, not every single person from

the Tea Party who rolled into office that year ended up being a superstar,

but if you look at some people who did – Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Mike

Lee – they all had big years in 2010.  So if Democrats – 

 

MELBER:  Ted Cruz. 

 

RYAN:  Yes, Ted Cruz.  If you`re looking to – if you`re looking to the

future – if you`re looking to the Democratic Party for, like, what`s going

to come next, this is a good sign.  If you want to believe that there`s

like activism will lead to people running for office and will lead to,

like, a new generation of Democrats. 

 

[22:35:06] MELBER:  Well, let`s bring in Jon Allen, who is a longtime D.C.

insider, and therefore, John, you don`t believe in the grassroots and the

protests as much as some people.  It`s just in your nature. 

 

JONATHAN ALLEN, JOURNALIST:  Ouch. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MELBER:  I want to play for you Bernie Sanders saying this stuff makes a

difference and I want your view on whether in Washington people agree. 

Take a listen. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR:  Do you think these protests are going to have

any impact, though, on Republicans who will, of course, control this repeal

and replace? 

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Do I think?  I think it has already had

a huge impact.  You remember it was just a month or two ago, Republicans

were, we`re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  We`re going to throw

millions off of health insurance.  We`re going to raise prescription drug

costs for seniors.  We`re going to do away with pre-existing conditions. 

We`re going to do away with all of that, repeal, repeal, repeal.  Guess

what?  You`re not hearing that so much anymore.  I don`t think you`re going

to see them going forward with the repeal of the ACA. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  John? 

 

ALLEN:  Yes, I`ve got to say, Ari, I wouldn`t always say this, but I agree

with Bernie Sanders 100 percent.  You`ve already seen a change here.  If

you`re a Republican congressman or a senator from Tennessee or Alabama or

Mississippi or Georgia, a lot of these Trump states where people have been

doing, you know, better as a result of the Affordable Care Act, whether

they`re Democrat or Republican or independent or even previously

unaffiliated and unlikely to vote, people are angry about this. 

 

You saw that at the Chaffetz thing yesterday.  And the one other thing I

would say about this is the Republicans – the Tea Party groups in 2010,

2009-2010 at those town hall meetings were adopting left-wing disruption

tactics. 

 

MELBER:  Right. 

 

ALLEN:  The left wing is going to be a lot better at using those disruption

tactics against the Republican congressmen than the Tea Partiers were in

adopting them. 

 

MELBER:  Hunter? 

 

HUNTER WALKER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS:  The big question here

is whether or not conservatives and independents are going to be swayed to

kind of join this, quote-unquote, “resistance” movement.  You know, Jason

Chaffetz is in a district that`s about 70 percent Republican.  And if I had

to guess, I`d say most of those people shouting at him at the town hall are

from the 30 percent that are not Republicans.  And the only thing that will

move members of Congress is their own poll numbers.  And you know, in this

country, where half of the people are Democrats and half are Republicans,

we need to see a sort of shift for people to care at all. 

 

MELBER:  Well, and Erin, that speaks to the wider point, which is you

mentioned some of the Tea Party folks.  Some of those were in primaries and

there were angry grassroots conservatives willing to challenge their own

party. 

 

RYAN:  Right.  Like Rubio. 

 

MELBER:  Do you think that –  

 

RYAN:  Beating Charlie Crist. 

 

RYAN:  Do you think that`s an important ingredient for progressives here in

resistance? 

 

RYAN:  Well, I think it`s a little bit inaccurate to assume that the

country is evenly 50-50 Democrat and Republican and there`s no room to

budge.  The reality is not every single person in the country is

politically active.  There is a lot of room on either side to get people to

feel as though they`re politically active. 

 

November 9th to me and to people who kind of watch the left, felt like an

awakening.  And things that have happened since then have felt like an

awakening.  So it is possible, although Chaffetz`s district is heavily

Republican, that there are people that were sort of not active that felt,

you know, goaded into action. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  And is it 50-50 or is it 50 and then 50 plus three million

– 

 

RYAN:  Right, there`s 30-30, 30-15, 15-15. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  Did one candidate get more votes than the other? 

 

RYAN:  Right, exactly. 

 

MELBER:  Is it an interesting constitutional system where the person who

gets less votes wins? 

 

RYAN:  Yes.  Yes. 

 

MELBER:  Yes.  That is, if we`re counting.  Everyone gets to stay.  So you

guys sit tight and we`ll be right back. 

 

Coming up, Sarah Palin is the next person that might hear “You`re Hired” by

Donald Trump himself. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

[22:41:51] MELBER:  Mexico is debating the wall.  Now Canada has a few

pressing questions for the new administration. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Prime Minister Trudeau is going to be here next

week.  Can you confirm which day?  Have discussions on reviewing the

Canadian part of NAFTA started?  And can you confirm that Sarah Palin is

being considered as ambassador to Ottawa? 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  What now?  But at Wednesday`s briefing, Sean Spicer didn`t have

the answers. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Can you confirm that Sarah Palin is being

considered as ambassador to Ottawa? 

 

SPICER:  So I will have further updates on the – on the prime minister`s

schedule either later today or tomorrow.  I`m not at a position where I can

finalize that, but we will have this. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

SPICER:  Guys, you`re on a roll.  So, we will – with respect to the

ambassador, we have no additional ambassador nominations or announcements

to make on that front.  I`m sure at some point, we`ll have soon. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  You can almost see the gears turning in his head.  Canada,

however, has not slowed its role about the rumors of Ambassador Palin. 

Outcry already from the opinion pages in the capital`s largest newspaper

from some Canadian politicians and from so many on Twitter.  The Rupert

Murdoch-owned “Ottawa Sun” ran this headline, “Sarah Palin for U.S.

Ambassador to Canada?  You Bet Ya!” 

 

We now know that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet at the

White House.  That`s Monday.  As to whether our neighbors to the north can

expect Ambassador Sarah Palin, please, stay tuned. 

 

Coming up, we`re going to show you some of that raucous scene at

Congressman Jason Chaffetz`s town hall in Utah and where else are voters

demanding Republicans hold the Trump administration accountable.  Straight

ahead. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

(CROWD CHANTING “SHAME”)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

[22:47:03] MELBER:  Protesters today at a meeting in Greensboro, Georgia. 

That was hosted by aides of three Republican members of Congress.  The

protesters, of course, chanting “shame,” after learning that no questions

would even be taken at that event.  Newly confirmed Education secretary

Betsy DeVos was also meant with chants of “shame” when she was blocked from

entering a school in Washington.  Meanwhile, protesters in Cincinnati

waited outside the Chamber of Commerce today for Senator Rob Portman, whose

spokesperson said he had to cancel his appearance due to votes in

Washington. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He`s a coward.  He knows that Cincinnatians are mad. 

He knows that we are angry that he sold out our children, and he doesn`t

want to face us. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I hope it`s the Tea Party for the left and I hope

it`s much, much more than that.  There is so much going on. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`ve done more in three weeks since the inauguration

than I`ve done in 72 years. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Back with us, Jon Allen, Erin Gloria Ryan, Hunter Walker. 

 

Erin, that protester was channeling part of what you were saying. 

 

RYAN:  Yes. 

 

MELBER:  There`s an electoral conversation in the country, and it is very

binary, and there are a lot of people who weren`t all that happy with

either choice, although as we were mentioning, Hillary Clinton did get more

votes.  What does it say to you that we`re seeing this level of energy,

broadly on the left, but I wouldn`t call it solely a Democratic Party left. 

 

RYAN:  Right.  It`s like the Democratic Party as it`s established and then

to the left of that, for sure.  One of the things that I`ve kind of

noticed, especially in the last week, with Warren kind of having a protest

within, you know, the Senate, being rocket-shipped to viral fame, the

accessibility of virality makes protesting feel like it could mean more

when you set out to do it.  So you know, 10 years ago you set out to block

the Education secretary from entering a school on the first day that she`s

trying to enter a school, it wouldn`t necessarily go nationwide

immediately, but now it`s just a second.  It`s just – 

 

MELBER:  So – yes, what do you mean when you say virality? 

 

RYAN:  Virality, I mean, it`s the potential for something that you do, a

small act to be shared on social media and suddenly be shared a million

times.  Suddenly you go from just being five people doing something to

being a million people looking at five people doing something, and that I

think is encouraging to somebody who`s a protester who feels like maybe

their voice is small and would be drowned out otherwise. 

 

MELBER:  Hunter, how about that? 

 

WALKER:  Well, I think social media`s absolutely having an impact.  There`s

no question that we`ve seen with Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter,

sort of more movements gaining steam than we have in the past.  But I again

think the biggest thing – you know, members of Congress are self-

interested, and they don`t care necessarily about hashtags.  What they care

about is their own poll numbers.  And the second we see this social media

snowball start to impact that, I think we may see them, you know, do things

like push for investigations of Trump, cross party lines on confirmations

and, you know, it will really make a difference. 

 

MELBER:  But, you know, Jonathan, I mean, that`s the whole architecture

here, right?  I mean, the conservative Republican Party has had a much

longer level of success with a talk radio echo chamber or ecosystem, pick

your term. 

 

[22:50:09] And progressives have what they consider some outlets, but

nothing like that until you look at what Erin was talking about, the kind

of explosion on the Internet or social media that can create something like

that. 

 

ALLEN:  Right.  There`s a complete Democratization of information.  The

platforms are free where you used to have to have the money for the radio

network to listen to – or to put out Rush Limbaugh or any of the other

conservative talkers.  Now the left has the ability to do that on the

Internet, on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other number of media platforms. 

 

You know, look, I think a lot of these issues that we`re talking about

here, Affordable Care Act, public education, these are things that are

going to energize people who aren`t normally part of the process normally. 

These are the things when they look at and they say my public school system

is not going to have a federal Department of Education that`s looking out

for it or have somebody in that job who even believes in public education. 

 

That is going to energize people.  You can remember – we don`t really

remember this, but if you look in the history books, Jimmy Carter, the sort

of PTA president, where the PTAs organized from the teachers` unions

organized for him.  These are issues that cut across party lines when you

really get down into people`s lives and them being affected by having

health insurance or not having it, by having a strong public school system

or not having it, and that`s why there`s going to be fear on the part of

Republican lawmakers who walk into auditoriums and see 1,000 people sitting

in there, as Jason Chaffetz did, or if you`re Diane Black, who is in

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, yesterday with – Tennessee State University

getting pinned down on the Affordable Care Act and basically said, I`m

going to pass and not talk about it anymore. 

 

These members of Congress are going to respond I think even before the

polls do.  They respond to people getting in their face. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  Well, you talk about those auditoriums.  I want you guys

to stay with us, because the next question I want to ask you about is what

is the role of some of those uncomfortable questions and the pressure it`s

putting on Washington.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I like to keep you – you know, I like to surprise you. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  No matter what surprises, presidential or otherwise, come this

weekend, I want you to know we here at MSNBC have you covered.  I will be

hosting Sunday night, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Sunday.  I`ll be

interviewing Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and Harvard Law professor Allen

Dershowitz, Christina Grier, and John Walsh will also be there so I hope

you will, too.  That`s Sunday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

[22:56:15] MELBER:  Last night, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz got a

taste of what it`s like to have to answer as a Republican for Donald Trump. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will let you know why Trump is too despicable for

your 15-year-old daughter, why is he fine for me? 

 

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH:  I`m proud of the fact that as a Republican,

when I heard and saw that video, I called it out, and I said that was

absolutely wrong.  I withdrew my endorsement.  I do believe in my heart of

hearts, that given the choice that was before us, by far, Donald Trump was

the better choice.  By far. 

 

(CROWS BOOING)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Back with me, Jon, Erin and Hunter. 

 

You know, Hunter, you look at that, and it`s – well, it`s past prologue. 

To some degree, there`s still a re-litigation of how Donald Trump became

president there in a Republican district. 

 

WALKER:  Yes.  And you know, what we just saw there was the town hall

attendee referencing Jason Chaffetz`s really extraordinary waffling on his

endorsement of Trump.  After the Billy Bush video came out, he dropped his

endorsement, and I think that lasted about 10 seconds before he was back on

the Trump train.  So I think that one – that`s a case where it`s really

going to stick to him.  And that`s really interesting because as head of

the Oversight Committee, he`s actually someone who`s in a unique position

to investigate Trump.  So if he`s feeling unique pressure, that could get

very intriguing. 

 

MELBER:  Well, and Erin, it makes you wonder whether some of these

Republican House members think that their constituents have any memory

whatsoever.  Here`s Justin Amash, Michigan Republican here now.  He`s

talking about again the Russia story which we led off with tonight.  Take a

listen. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN:  Given the consistency that I`m hearing

from members of the committee, the various heads, I think it is likely that

there was Russian interference in the election.  I think further

investigation is warranted. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How you feel about the Russians having some

influence? 

 

AMASH:  So the question is how do I feel about the Russians having some

influence.  Not good. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Which is a low bar. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

RYAN:  Well, I kind of have two ways of looking at this.  One is like the

non-cynical, regular human being way, and the other way is the sort of

cynical reads about this every day kind of a way. 

 

MELBER:  Right.  

 

RYAN:  The non-cynical way is like these people are represented and they`re

trying their best to represent their constituents, and that means sometimes

getting yelled at, because everything they do is not going to please every

constituent.  That`s the good human being thing.  The cynical half of me

thinks that they think that just showing up will prove to the part of the

electorate that already loves them how brave they are and keep them

motivated to show up to the polls and keep them in office, even though all

these very mean left-wing people are yelling at them. 

 

And you`ve seen kind of in some news reports on Twitter as of today. 

 

MELBER:  Right. 

 

RYAN:  There`s already a new narrative about how nasty the left is and how

mean the left is and how they`re picking on these poor, helpless

congressmen that just are having a town hall. 

 

MELBER:  Well, and John, there`s nothing forcing members of Congress to

hold any town halls when they`re home. 

 

ALLEN:  No, absolutely not.  They usually do – these days they do teletown

halls a lot to try not to interact with their voters, but they also know

that everyone`s watching to see if they pull back from those town halls and

instead hang out with a bottle of Stolie in their office and just get on

the phone with their constituents.  So, you know, I think that these

members of Congress are smart enough to know that they`re better off facing

these audiences and doing it. 

 

I actually thought Chaffetz, though he left a little bit early and he got

shouted down a lot, actually handled himself the way that you would want to

as a member of Congress, which is with a smile. 

 

MELBER:  Right. 

 

ALLEN:  And being fairly patient.  He was actually from my perspective kind

of a model and we will see other members of Congress that don`t deal with

it nearly as well. 

 

MELBER:  And he answered a lot of questions substantively, which I think is

always appreciated. 

 

Jon Allen, Hunter Walker, and Erin Gloria Ryan, thanks so much for joining

us, and thank you for joining me here on THE LAST WORD.  Stay tuned because

an MSNBC special event, “CHICAGO IN THE CROSSHAIRS” – 

 

END   

 

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