The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/20/2017

Laurence Tribe, Eugene Joseph Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Rick Wilson, Rick Wilson, E.J. Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Susan Glasser


Date: February 20, 2017

Guest: Laurence Tribe, Eugene Joseph Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Rick Wilson, Rick Wilson, E.J. Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Susan Glasser

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC:  But right now, Congress is home, people are going to

– all this week while Congress is home, there are more than 150 town halls

and constituent events like this all over the country.


For a lot of people, D.C. is inaccessible, right? Phone lines in Congress

have been jammed. 


But right now, Congress is home, people are getting a chance for the first

time in a while to talk to their representatives face-to-face.  This is day

one of something that`s going to go on all week.  People apparently have a

lot to say.


That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time

for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell and I am very happy to say that

Lawrence O`Donnell himself is back.


Lawrence, good evening –






MADDOW:  Welcome back. 


O`DONNELL:  Finally, back, Rachel.  And listen, gone for two weeks, thank

you very much for making the world stand still while I was gone.


MADDOW:  Yes, nothing happened. 


O`DONNELL:  Nothing happened as I understand it. 




Like, nothing, right?


MADDOW:  We missed you terribly.  That`s the only –


O`DONNELL:  I – you know –


MADDOW:  Thing that happened –


O`DONNELL:  I just –


MADDOW:  While you were gone. 


O`DONNELL:  I just needed some follow-up surgery on some broken bones from

a few years ago.


And I hobbled in here on a cane tonight, but Rachel, we are but weeks away

from you and me back on the dance floor Saturday nights like we always do

in this town.  You know – 


MADDOW:  It`s true.


O`DONNELL:  Doing that, you know, Jennifer Grey-Patrick Swayze thing that

we do every Saturday night. 


MADDOW:  The thing that I like is that we get to switch off who gets to be

Jennifer.  I know. 


O`DONNELL:  That was our little secret until now.




Thanks, Rachel, thanks a lot.  I got some serious work to do here now. 


MADDOW:  Welcome back, honey, thanks. 


O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.  Well, enemy of the American people.  That`s

what Donald Trump says I am now.


But he`s said a lot worse about me in the past and I`ll have a few words to

say about that tonight.  But first, why is Mike Pence the most dangerous

person in Donald Trump`s world?





learn the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were




become the national security adviser.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS:  Can he say definitively that nobody

in his campaign had any contacts with any Russian agents?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  First of all, the answer is no.


TRUMP:  We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA:  When you look at history, the first thing

that dictators do is shut down the press. 


TRUMP:  Here`s the bottom line, we got to keep our country safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president behaving like a petulant child. 


TRUMP:  Many of the countries in NATO, they`re not paying their bills.


PENCE:  The United States is expressing strong support for NATO. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or President



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So-called not my Presidents` Day marches were staged in

New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Members of Congress were met with protests at

constituent town halls over the weekend.




CROWD:  Trump taxes! Trump taxes! Trump taxes!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ever since the election, I have felt like a passenger

in a car that is being driven by a drunk driver.










O`DONNELL:  We are now a month into the most incompetent and the most

overtly corrupt presidency in history.


And I know that sounds like editorial comment, but it is simply fact.  It

would be impossible for an honest Trump supporter to point to a more

incompetent and chaotic first month of any other presidency.


And it would be impossible to point to a more overtly corrupt first month

of a presidency.  Overtly corrupt. 


The Nixon presidency ended in flames of corruption, but none of that

corruption was overt in the first month of the Nixon presidency.


President Nixon was not obtaining copyrights for his businesses from

foreign governments while changing his foreign policy for that country that

granted him a copyright, as Donald Trump has done with China.


President Nixon did not have a lease on a federal building in Washington

where he ran a hotel business in direct violation of the government`s terms

of that lease which forbids an elected official from holding that lease.


No president has ever spent his weekends selling access to himself through

a private club in Florida that the president owns.


No president has ever done anything like those things, and Donald Trump has

done all of that overtly, publicly.


It may be years before we know all the Nixonian behind the scenes

corruption that President Trump might have a hand in.  But as of now, he is

the most overtly corrupt presidency in history.  And it`s only been a



The month that feels like a year.  How long can this go on? That`s what

everyone is asking themselves.


How long? Four years? A presidency defined by incompetence and corruption

spinning out of control, four years of that?


We`ve never seen that before.  The lesson of the Nixon presidency is that

when the trouble starts and when the corruption starts to go public, the

end can come quickly.


On this day in 1973, one month into the second term of President Nixon, no

one in America was using the word “impeachment”.  No one in America was

thinking that Richard Nixon wasn`t going to get four more years. 


On this very day in 1973, a month into President Nixon`s second term, the

“New York Times” front page did not have a single corruption story about

President Nixon.


Nixon hated the “New York Times”, but on this day there was nothing for him

to complain about, February 20th, 1973.


And there he was on the front page with his Labor Secretary and the

president of the AFL-CIO talking about international trade.


And on the editorial page, “The Times” was editorializing about the

International Monetary Fund, the draconian sentencing for drug crime that

Governor Rockefeller was advocating.  And amnesty for draft evaders and

deserters during the Vietnam war.


The kind of amnesty “The Times” pointed out, that was supported by

Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Jackson and Lincoln. 


Scandal in the White House was so far from the minds of anyone at the “New

York Times” that day that they even found space for a short editorial

entitled “The Romantics”.


Which contains my favorite “New York Times” sentence ever in a sense,

“squirrels are romantics”.  That editorial was an ambitious poetic turn

about the coming of spring. 


That`s where we were on this very day in the second term of the Nixon

presidency when no one in America knew that in the next year, the president

would be facing impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives and

would resign the presidency.


Eighteen months after taking the oath of office.  Eighteen months after

“New York Times” editorial about how romantic squirrels are.


Today, the “New York Times” has no room for an editorial about the romance

of squirrels.


Every day, the “New York Times`” reporting is adding to the corruption file

of the Trump administration and they`re not the only news organization

doing that.


All of which makes Mike Pence, Mike Pence, the most dangerous man in Donald

Trump`s life and at some point even Donald Trump will realize that.


While Donald Trump was at home in Florida today, Mike Pence was in Brussels

looking and sounding presidential in the Republican sense, at least.


And Mike Pence was asked a question that no other vice president has been





UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or President





O`DONNELL:  Imagine how a question like that drives Donald Trump crazy. 

Who should we listen to? Who is the real president of the United States? Is

it Mike Pence?


And that question is not going away.  What makes Mike Pence the most

dangerous man in the world for Donald Trump is that Mike Pence is a

standard issue Republican president.


A no drama Republican president.  Someone who world leaders would be

completely comfortable with.  They`ve all dealt with a version of Mike

Pence in the presidency before.


And Mike Pence would be a president that most Republicans in the House and

the Senate would be more comfortable with.


He`s one of them.  What an incompetent, incoherent president needs most is

a vice president who scares people even more than the president does so

that no one starts to think getting rid of the president would make

anything better.


But Donald Trump has Mike Pence who would be better received around the

world and would be better liked and respected by congressional Republicans. 

And here is something the president does not know about his vice president.


Something that should make Donald Trump fear Mike Pence more than anyone

else in the world.  It is uniquely within Mike Pence`s power to take the

presidency away from Donald Trump.


The vice president has the constitutional power to do that, thanks to the

wisdom of the 25th Amendment enacted in 1967.


The 25th Amendment provided for some situations that the founding fathers

had not foreseen like the vacancy of the vice presidency which tragically

occurred in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated.


And in the age of modern medicine, it became clear by the 1960s that we

could have a president who was on some kind of protracted life support

leaving no one with the constitutional authority to act as president.


And so, section 4 of the 25th Amendment says “the vice president shall

become acting president.”


That`s the title, acting president.  Whenever the vice president and a

majority of the cabinet decide that the president is unable to discharge

the powers and duties of his office.  People have always assumed that that

provision is to be invoked only in health situations. 


But there is nothing in the language of the amendment that defines what it

means to be unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.


That is entirely up to the vice president and a majority of the cabinet. 

They don`t need Donald Trump to become medically unable to do the job. 

They don`t need a written opinion from a psychiatrist that Donald Trump is



If the president objects to such an action taken by the vice president and

the majority of the cabinet, then the amendment provides that, “Congress

shall decide the issue.”


And that will be determined by a two-thirds vote of both houses of

Congress.  And when those votes are counted, Mike Pence could become acting



That would be that title, acting president.  And no one, no one but Mike

Pence has the individual power to start that whole process that leads to

Mike Pence becoming acting president.


Imagine how Donald Trump is going to feel about Mike Pence when he finds

out about section 4 of the 25th Amendment.


When I first started talking about the 25th Amendment on Twitter weeks ago,

and now the subject has gained a bit of momentum.


When I first mentioned the 25th Amendment, no one in Congress was then

questioning the mental health of the president of the United States.


As at least one senator and a couple of members of Congress have now done

with President Trump.


We now know that President Nixon`s mental stability became fragile toward

the end of his presidency as he was facing impeachment hearings.


But at this point in the Nixon presidency, no senator would have gone on

television as Al Franken did recently and wonder aloud about the

president`s sanity.


Psychiatrists and psychologists are increasingly going public, most

recently in the “New York Times” with their concerns about the president`s

mental stability.


We can expect more and more of them to be going public with those concerns

as Donald Trump press conferences continue to exhibit the symptoms that

mental health professionals are most concerned about.  One month.


We are one month in.  At this point in the presidency, it is supposed to be

impossible to imagine impeachment.


It is supposed to be impossible to imagine a vice president invoking the

25th Amendment and taking over the presidency.  But in the age of Trump,

the impossible to imagine has become history right before our eyes.


It was impossible to imagine the reality TV buffoon becoming the Republican

nominee for president.  It was impossible to imagine ever having to say the

words, “President Trump”.


That was once impossible.  It may be impossible for Mike Pence to imagine

tonight using his constitutional power to invoke the 25th Amendment against

his president, but who knows what another month will bring.


Another two months.  Who knows what another year will bring.  A year of

this is now unimaginable.


How low can a president`s poll numbers go? Donald Trump seems to be on his

way to finding out, and as those poll numbers sink every day, Mike Pence

becomes more dangerous to Donald Trump.


Because Donald Trump made the mistake of choosing a vice president who is

more acceptable to the world and far more acceptable to the congressional

leadership for the Republican Party than Donald Trump has ever been or can

ever be.


How long can this go on? Four years? Impeachment? The 25th Amendment in the

age of Trump, anything is possible.


Coming up, Ana Marie Cox, E.J. Dionne and Rick Wilson will join us on much

of the news of the day.


Also with us, Harvard Law School`s Constitutional Law Professor Laurence

Tribe will give us his reading of the 25th Amendment.




O`DONNELL:  We are joined now by Harvard Law School`s Professor of

Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe.  Also with us, E.J. Dionne, Pulitzer

Prize-winning opinion writer for “The Washington Post”.


Professor Tribe, I`m eager to hear you on the 25th Amendment because

there`s so many things I find striking about it including the lack of

specificity of what – of the reasons that can be used to invoke the 25th.


It reads as anything that Mike Pence and a majority of the cabinet define

as basically “unfit to serve”.



comes close to that.  It talks about inability to discharge the powers and

duties of the office.


There`s no doubt that somebody who`s conscious can discharge the power.  An

autocrat can discharge the power.


But discharging the duties of the office of president in a representative

democracy requires at least some connection with truth and falsity.


Some sense of obligation to the Republic.  And it`s clear from the

deliberate use of that loose language that the framers were not thinking

simply of the comatose president or the temporarily disabled president in a

physical sense.


They wanted – because they set this high bar, you would need two-thirds of

the House and two-thirds of the Senate.


Even higher than for impeachment where a mere majority of the House and

two-thirds of the Senate will do.  They wanted that high bar because they

were unwilling to require a medical diagnosis.


They really wanted a broad idea of whether someone can be trusted to

discharge the obligations of the presidency as opposed to being, perhaps,

indebted to other countries or unconnected to reality. 


O`DONNELL:  And professor, what`s clear in that appeals process that they

wrote into the amendment was you can appeal this to the president who`s

being basically removed from power in favor of an acting president can

appeal this to the House of Representatives and the Congress, and then the

Congress votes.


But there`s no provision for any appeal beyond that in this amendment. 


TRIBE:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  I don`t see how you ever, after a vote of the Congress, get to

take this out to a court, to the Supreme Court, to try to get the upcoming

Congress overturned. 


TRIBE:  That`s clear.  There`s no role for the court here.  Just as the

court said that it had no role when the Senate is given the sole power to

try impeachments.


This is something that is left entirely to the political process.  And it

would not be politically realistic to have a declaration of presidential

inability unless and until the whole country – it doesn`t mean everybody,

but including some of Trump`s own supporters conclude that they have not

only buyer`s remorse.


But a sense of tragedy that they put the power in the hands of someone who

just doesn`t understand what it means to obey the constitution.


O`DONNELL:  And E.J., politically what you see in the 25th Amendment is if

it gets bad enough and they want to act quick enough, they have a short-

circuit system which is much quicker than the impeachment process. 



that is precisely why it`s there.


I mean, initially as you said in the opener, in case somebody were on life

support or something like that.  But the language does not specifically say

anything about health or define any circumstances.


And I think it`s a well-done amendment, if you can call an amendment that

because they do have the high bar where Congress can overturn it because

they don`t want a cabinet pulling a political coup.


They don`t want a cabinet using the power of the 25th Amendment to throw

someone out just because they don`t like him.


And so, I think what you need is something approaching a political

consensus in the country that the person in office, in this case we`re

talking about Donald Trump, is actually unfit to serve.


And what you`ve seen in the wildness of this first month is enormous

interest in the 25th Amendment.


Lee Drutman at the New America Foundation discovered that searches on the

25th Amendment passed searches on the 2nd Amendment for the first time

ever.  That tells us something. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, I started searching the 25th Amendment about four weeks

ago, maybe about three weeks ago.


So – and the last time I`d done that was when the West Wing was working on

an episode working, and using the 25th Amendment.


But – and Professor Tribe, one of the things you start to do as you look

at it, as you realize, OK, this is in a sense a legal process described by

the amendment.


But it is – it is written very much with the understanding that there`s

the possibility for political process to go to work here.  And –  


TRIBE:  Right –  


O`DONNELL:  And that`s why you don`t see some very specific standard that

must be found.


Not even that phrase that exists in the impeachment language of high crime

and misdemeanor, just no specificity –


TRIBE:  Exactly –  


O`DONNELL:  At all about what it could take for the vice president or the

cabinet to act.  It`s left to their judgment.


TRIBE:  Right.  And if it were meant to be a specific medical term, then it

would be kind of crazy to say that two-thirds of the House or two-thirds of

the Senate –




TRIBE:  Would vote –




TRIBE:  On it. 


O`DONNELL:  Right. 


TRIBE:  I mean, they`re not shrinks.  They`re not –


O`DONNELL:  Right –


TRIBE:  Doctors.  It is understood to be bound up in the idea of whether

someone can be trusted with power rather than regarded as potential

dictator or autocrat.


O`DONNELL:  And E.J., you start to pull out the list of heads of

departments because the language is actually heads of departments.  So that

does not include every name that people commonly consider a member of the



And you start to look at votes and you can imagine a crisis situation in

which somebody like, say, James Mattis, John Kelly, Elaine Chao, Rex

Tillerson, I think Wilbur Ross would be willing to vote this way if the day



Rick Perry who started off as a hater of Donald Trump in the presidential

campaign.  Getting to five right off the bat isn`t hard, three more gets

you to eight and that gets you an acting president.


DIONNE:  Right, you know, I went through this exercise recently myself, and

it`s honestly hard to get there any time soon. 


O`DONNELL:  Right. 


DIONNE:  But there are people – it tends to be the people in the cabinet

who get the most universal approval in the country.


People like Mattis who gets praised on both sides.  Those are the people

you start to count in here.  But there are other people in that cabinet

whom you imagine would be loyalists down to the end.


So you could have a very fierce fight in that cabinet if this ever came up. 

And you have the whole question of what will the president do with his

cabinet if he ever gets word that something like this is brewing?


O`DONNELL:  Professor Tribe, you remember 1973 well and that feeling – 


TRIBE:  Yes –  


O`DONNELL:  That you had as we went from 1973 to 1974.  As I say, at this

time in 1973, there wasn`t a whiff of a possibility that there could be any

impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.


He just won a second term in a landslide.  Four more years were coming,

everyone was resigned to that.


And it is – it`s hard to describe to people today how quickly – 


TRIBE:  What it felt like – 


O`DONNELL:  That began to change as soon as the corruption stories began to



TRIBE:  Right, this time, however, we have a president who is really a

master at pulling out so many rabbits from this crazy hat that people might

just get used to the insanity of it all.


I mean, he had his Saturday night massacre on one Monday night with Sally

Yates, whereas it took Nixon a long time to get there.


So the danger is that there would be a kind of new normal and people will

see somebody who, you know, claims to have won a huge electoral college

victory when the numbers aren`t there.


Somebody who claims that there was terrorism in Sweden when he gets his

information from Alex Jones.


People might get used to it.  But I don`t think the cabinet and the

Congress will get used to it.


And I think popular discontent with a presidency gone wild might just

overtake his magical capacity to toss bubbles into the wind and keep people

off balance.


O`DONNELL:  Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you for your

invaluable guidance through this constitutional amendment – 


TRIBE:  Thank you –  


O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate it, thank you, we`ll be back with the panel








in this room, all of us in America, have generally paid for our gas and oil

all along.


And I am sure that we will continue to do so in the future.  We`re not in

Iraq to seize anybody`s oil.




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, people who pay for their gas and oil, Ana Marie

Cox; senior political correspondent for “MTV News” and host of a new

podcast with “Friends Like These” which launches this Friday.


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

“Daily Beast”.


E.J. Dionne is still with us.  Ana Marie, so, there is the Secretary of

Defense saying don`t listen to the president of the United States.


Yet, another don`t listen to the president of the United States day.



to the man in front of the curtain. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, that`s a new one.




Yes –


COX:  That is quite good, quite understand –




COX:  What`s going on here. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes – 


COX:  I don`t understand, I mean, I guess it does seem to go to your acting

president sort of theory.


Like if people are outwardly out there just saying, like don`t pay

attention to the president, at what point do they decide, you know what?

Maybe we shouldn`t even – 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, how big a change is this?


COX:  Yes, like why even have like the fiction of someone who`s not even a

figure head?


O`DONNELL:  Yes.   


COX:  You know, now this is – it`s – I mean, it`s on the one hand, it is

good to hear someone say we`re not here to take your oil, I hope that it

comforted the Iraqis a bit.


But we`re not going to – you know, seek to commit war crimes just out of

the gate.  On the other hand, yes, I mean, it – 


O`DONNELL:  Well, it will be interesting to see how many people in the

world, and heard the Defense Secretary say that today compared to how many

people heard the president now advocate this war crime time and time again. 

Let`s listen to this.




TRUMP:  I didn`t want to go there in the first place, but now we take the

oil.  We should have kept the oil.


Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil.  I said, keep

the oil.  Keep the oil.  Keep the oil.


Don`t let somebody else get it.  You know, it used to be to the victor

belong the spoils.  Now, there was no victor there, believe me, there was

no victor.


But I always said, take the oil.  Four years ago, I said, bomb the oil and

take the oil.


And if we did that, they wouldn`t have the wealth they have right now.  Now

I still say the same thing.


We should have kept the oil, but OK –




Maybe we`ll have another chance.




O`DONNELL:  So, Rick Wilson, there he is at the CIA, he`s actually

president of the United States standing there saying, you know, we should

have taken the oil.


RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You know, Lawrence, it seems like

there`s a growing conspiracy of grown-ups inside the Trump administration

where you saw today General Mattis who understands the situation on the

ground in Iraq.


Who he`s forgotten more about it than Donald Trump will ever know.  You had

Mike Pence reassuring NATO allies that there`s still some stability and

some understanding of the value of the NATO alliance after 70 years almost.


And with the choice of McMaster which I feel like Trump had basically

forced upon him, you have somebody who is a war fighter with a brain and a

heart in the NSC and a guy who hopefully will be able to excel in that job.


And bring some stability into that organization in the disastrous wake of

Mike Flynn and the presence of Steve Bannon on the NSC.


Hopefully, the grown-ups will win a few more of these battles, and the

contrast today was so telling.


You saw Mike Pence at the security conference, you know a guy who is –

people may disagree with Mike Pence, but he`s not obviously as crazy as a

rat in a septic tank. 


This is a guy who clearly likes, you know, reassuring people and being a

steady hand on the tiller as opposed to Donald Trump who revels in this

showmanship and this lunacy. 


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Yes, Mike Pence is the president from

central casting as most republican presidents are.  This is way they sound

and look.  He gave – what I – what was my favorite moment of the day and

I just want to take a longer look at it here -


WILSON:  Sure. 


O`DONNELL:  when he was asked in Europe today, who should we listen to, you

or the president of the United States? Let`s listen to this. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or president

Trump?  And can they be certain that what you say, the assurances you give,

won`t be contradicted in a tweet or a statement to the press conference




question.  Let me say, it was my great privilege to serve as vice president

for the 45th president of the United States, and the president directed me

to go to Munich and to come here to Brussels with a very specific message. 




O`DONNELL:  E.J., oddly enough, he did not attack the reporter for asking

the question.  He just used the old trick of not answering the question. 

That`s the way you`re supposed to do it. 



face and wondering what the thought balloon really was next to him.  I

mean, you really have a situation where the Pence/Mattis administration is

trying to reduce Donald Trump to a constitutional monarch.  You know, that

Trump handles TV and twitter and they`ll handle everything else.  But this

is a real problem because in the end, a vice president or a defense

secretary cannot obliterate in the mind of the world everything that the

president says. 


And you have other forces inside the Trump administration, one presumes

Steve Bannon being one of them, who are not necessarily in the same places

that Mattis or Pence are and you`ve had Trump on NATO trying to undermine

it pretty much throughout the period since he announced his candidacy for

president.  So, you know, this will be reassuring in the short run, but

it`s completely untenable in the long run.  They can`t just keep doing



O`DONNELL:  And Ana, my favorite part of that question was actually the

second part of it where he said, you know that anything you say, Mike

Pence, won`t be contradicted in a tweet or a statement by the president. 

Of course, it`s going to be contradicted in a tweet by the president. 


ANA MARIE COX, POLITICAL COLUMNIST:  And as much, you know, as much hope as

we might put in or whatever these victories might seem to be, you know,

from Pence and Mattis and whatnot, the other side is winning.  I mean, if

we look at what the actual policies that have been rolled out, if you look

at what the president actually says, it`s the Bannon wing of the White

House that has power.  You know, they lost about a battle with Flynn but,

you know, we heard what Trump said at the press conferences about Flynn. 


It`s almost like we – I still suspect he`s going to be calling up Flynn

and asking about that strong dollar question. 


O`DONNELL:  Right.  Yes. 


COX:  You know. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Rick Wilson, one thing we know about white House in

turmoil especially a first month of turmoil is the power dynamics will not

remain the way they are -


WILSON:  Correct. 


O`DONNELL:  – in that first chaotic month.  That whoever is on top now in

that White House better enjoy it because they`re not going to be on top

probably by St. Patrick`s Day. 


WILSON:  The White House has always experiences staff stress generally it

takes about 12 to 15 months before it starts to show and the internal

fights and dynamics start to become public and ugly.  But in this case, I

think we`ve gone so quickly, and the fact that the war between the previous

faction and the Bannon faction is so overt and right on the surface.  The

fact that Steve Bannon has weaponized his outside allies in the alt right

and in the Breitbart world and everything else to go after Priebus and

Priebus` staff and that Priebus is now returning the favor.  You know, the

ugliness is I would recommend they all get Kevlar and food tasters at this



DIONNE:  They used to say at the BBC that things have gotten so bad that

they`re stabbing each other in the front.  That`s kind of what`s happening



O`DONNELL:  E.J. Dionne and Rick Wilson, you share the last word there in

that segment.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I really

appreciate it. 


WILSON:  Thanks Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Coming up, what does it mean to be an enemy of the people? 






PROTESTERS:  Hands too small can`t build A Wall. 




O`DONNELL:  Oh come on, “Hands too small, cant build a wall.”  That`s what

they were chanting.  That is so unfair he never said he was going to build

the wall with his own hands.  Thousands gathered in cities across America

today like people you just saw for what organizers were calling Not My

Presidents` Day.  Peaceful protesters and more than two dozen cities

including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Washington, showed up to

resist Donald Trump`s policies.  Here`s what some of them said today. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All this ridiculous things that he – executive orders,

I think it`s time to put a stop to it. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I came to the United States 17 years ago as a refugee

from Afghanistan and I`m here for the immigrant community, for the

Hispanics, for the refugees. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As a retired teacher, I want this country to stand

for what I taught my students to stand for.  Decency, civil rights, a

welcoming attitude, honesty, facts, I think it has to be resistance to his

entire regime. 




O`DONNELL:  So what does it mean to be an enemy of the people?  It used to

be lonely.  To be what Donald Trump now calls an enemy of the people, but

now, now I a have a lot of company, that`s next. 







lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it. I will do

whatever I can that they don`t get away with it.  They have their own

agenda.  And their agenda is not your agenda. 




O`DONNELL:  But of course, if FOX news and Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart lie

to you, Donald Trump will stand firmly on the side of the liars as he has

done so many times before.  In a Friday night tweet, Donald Trump said,

“the fake news media failing “New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is

not my enemy.  It is the enemy of the American people.”  That sparked a

weekend of tweets with the #nottheenemy, many of those tweets included

photographs of journalists killed in the line of duty. 


Here at NBC News and MSNBC, we think of David Bloom every day because there

is a permanent exhibit commemorating his service on the third floor of this

building where most of our studios are.  Every time I get off the elevator,

I see the helmet David was wearing when he died in the Iraq war.  I will

see that helmet again when I leave this studio tonight.  When Donald Trump

attacks the news media, he doesn`t exempt the war correspondents. 


He doesn`t limit himself to people like me who express opinions.  He wants

to make sure that his supporters don`t believe anything that comes from any

of the major news organizations in this country.  It`s as if President

Trump fears that if his supporters believe anything that we say, he will be

driven out of office.  The president actually said, “when media lies to

people, I will never, ever let them get away with it.  I will do whatever I

can that they don`t get away with it.”  And the funny thing is that that,

that, that has been my personal vow about Donald Trump since he began lying

about President Obama`s birth. 


I have attacked every lie out of Donald Trump`s mouth since then.  Every

lie that I`ve had the time to cover during this hour.  And I did it years

before most news organizations would dare to use the word, lie, to describe

Trump`s statements and now the crusade against Trump lying is not as lonely

as it used to be, six years ago, five years ago, four years ago, three

years ago, two years ago, and worst of all, last year when it really

mattered.  If Donald Trump was getting the media coverage last year that he

is getting this year, we don`t know who would be President now.


In Trump world, enemy of the American people is an enemy of Trump lies.  I

have been on Trump`s enemies list since he told his first lie about

President Obama`s birth.  It was a pretty short list in those days, and

Trump`s media enemies list remained a very short list after he began his

presidential campaign, and the news media prized access to Trump.  There

was nothing better for your ratings on TV than a Donald Trump interview. An

interview that I never got because I was on that enemies list from day one. 

And Donald Trump knew. He knew very well how an interview with me would

have gone.  It wouldn`t have been one of those interviews that I was

conducting in the hope of getting him to agree to come back for another



He attacked me on Twitter every chance he got.  He threatened to sue me on

Twitter and I wore every one of those Tweets like a badge of honor.  A

badge that said, enemy of Trump lies.  And tonight the good news for

America is there are more and more of those enemies of Trump lies in the

American news media every day and yes, better late than never. I know

exactly where David Bloom would have stood in the face of Trump lies. 

Candidate Trump got lucky in more ways than we could count and one of them

was never having to face David Bloom.






JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Consolidation of power, when you look

at history, the first thing dictators do is shut down the press.  And I`m

not saying that that`s – that President Trump is trying to be a dictator

I`m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs

Columnist for Politico. co-author of the book Kremlin rising: Vladimir

Putin`s Russia and the end of the revolution.  And back with us, Ana Marie

Cox.  Susan, you covered Vladimir Putin close up.  Did he ever say the

press was the enemy of the Russian people?


SUSAN GLASSER, POLITICO EDITOR:  Well, you know, it`s funny, that was

really pretty much Vladimir Putin`s very first move in office was to retake

power over the media.  The state TV had always been the biggest force in

Soviet Russia.  In independent Russia, they had a brief period where people

were allowed to say what they wanted on the air and TV was the big

important media and the very first thing he did in his first year in office

was take over the TV stations.  It`s a pretty good playbook.  Now, of

course, you don`t want to go too far in the parallels between Trump`s

America and Putin`s Russia, but I think this is something that is a

playbook out of almost every authoritarian leader today including in

Turkey, for example, where the same thing is happening right now.


O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what Trump said on Saturday at his rally in

Florida about the fake news and ignoring them.




TRUMP:  We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to

live or what to believe.  We are free and independent people and we will

make our own choices.




O`DONNELL:  so Ana, this begins, of course, with misstating the case. Lying

that the news media is trying to tell us what to do.


COX:  Right.


O`DONNELL:  Nobody – you`re not going to tell me what to do, right?  So he

gets that reflex right away.


COX:  Right.


O`DONNELL:  Tell us how to live.


COX:  Right.


O`DONNELL:  We`re not telling how to live.  No one is doing that.  But

that`s one of the elements of whipping up the hysteria against the media.


COX:  Right, he`s stoking resentment, very specifically.  And I was

actually going to say with that lead, quote from McCain where he said the

first thing dictators do is stop the free press.  The first thing they do

is delegitimize it.  The first thing they do is actually what he`s doing

now which is turn people against it, make them doubt it.  And again, what`s

actually really frustrating is that it`s not in the service of even telling

some greater truth.  It`s just to get people confused and have them doubt

everything.  A colleague of mine said, you know, confusion is an

authoritarian tool.




COX:  If you can get people confused, if you can get them doubting what`s

real, you can tell them anything.  And I feel like is happening right now.


O`DONNELL:  That`s a great description.  Susan, how do you think Vladimir

Putin is seeing what`s happening in the United States?  Do you think he

imagined what`s happening here now was ever possible, that you could have a

President who was declaring the press to be the enemy of the American

people?  And telling that it`s all lies, everything the American media

says?  That`s something Vladimir Putin has been trying to convince the

world of.


GLASSER:  You know, that phrase, enemy of the American people, it just such

a stunning phrase to anybody who spent any time in Russia.  Enemy of the

people was literally the sentence and the exact term used to contempt

people by Stalin to the Gulag and to death. And in fact you can`t utter

that phrase in Russia today without having it a very specific connotation. 

To see that used in an American context even by the standards of Trump`s

over the top rhetoric, I really did a huge double-take the other day and it

just – it`s something that`s so far outside of the pal.  I remember right

now this is in a context in Russia wher, you know, of course Putin didn`t

expect he`d be living in a world with Donald Trump as President.  None of

us expected it.  But I go back to Ana Marie`s word, Confusion.  I think

that regardless of what the Russians thought they were doing in the

election, one of their things that was their goal was confusion, you know,

to the extent they had a program of supporting Donald Trump in the

presidential election.


They certainly didn`t expect that it would succeed, but I do think they

expected they could successfully confuse us, undermine legitimacy of our

institutions.  What`s such a stunner is just the notion that right now it`s

Donald Trump who`s undermining the legitimacy of our institutions as much

as it is any Russians.  And that, again, you know, again is sort of my

point.  You don`t need to look at the conspiracy between Putin and Trump

because we don`t really know what that`s about.  Just look at what Trump is

actually doing. which is undermining these institutions of our system.


O`DONNELL:  Susan, as soon as you figure out what`s going on with Putin and

Trump please come back and let us know what that`s all about.   Susan

Glasser, Ana Marie Cox, thank you both for joining us, really appreciate



GLASSER:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  Coming up, thousands of people in the United Kingdom are saying

no to Donald Trump.  The resistance to the Trump visit to the United

Kingdom is active.






PAUL FLYNN, BRITISH POLITICIAN:  This is of great concern when you have a

man who`s the President behaving like a petulant child.  How is he going to

behave in a future if conflict might arise?






O`DONNELL:  Thousands of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside parliament

in London today to protest Donald Trump`s state visit scheduled for later

this year there.  The crowd was over 7,000 people according to Reuters.  A

petition asking the government to take back the state visit invitation

“because it would cause embarrassment to the queen.”  That got more than

1.8 million signatures since it was started in December, which meant the

issue got a symbolic debate in parliament today.




FLYNN:  We are greatly concerned about the actions that he`s taken.  I

mean, extraordinary actions blundering into frozen conflicts around the



PAULA SHERRIFF, POLITICIAN:  To use the expression, grab them by the

(BLEEP), describes a sexual assault and, therefore, suggests that he

shouldn`t be afforded a visit to our Queen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Entirely agree.


UNIDENFITED MALE:  The American people voted for Donald Trump.  Get over it

because he`s





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