The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/21/2017
Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Date: February 21, 2017
Guest: David Corn, Steven Goldstein, George Will, David Frum, David Corn, John Gartner, Lance Dodes
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Today, minutes after his American – and even though
the Spanish made that request last year, Austria decided that today,
minutes after his American extradition hearing, today that would be as good
a time as any to arrest him on those other European charges.
So, frankly, right now it`s anybody`s guess as to how this affects whether
or not this guy ever gets extradited to the U.S.
Maybe he`ll get extradited to Spain instead. We raised this last night,
this is worth following from an American perspective because of the open
question as to whether the Justice Department under the Trump
administration is going to go after Putin`s friends.
Whether the Trump administration Justice Department would go after a Putin-
Will they bring him back to this country to face charges or would they let
it slide? We still don`t know if he`s coming down to this country to face
It got really weird today in that court house elevator, we`ll stay on it.
I don`t know. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time
for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Hey Rachel, special guest
tonight, someone who Donald Trump spent some serious time campaigning to
have fired from “Fox News”.
Campaigned that apparently is successful.
MADDOW: Oh, well, you know, the people who he has invade against, it`s a
good group of people. We ought to all got to get together at some point.
O`DONNELL: There`s a badge of honor in that. And one of them –
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Will join us. Thank you, Rachel. So, Donald Trump knows what
he wants us to talk about tonight.
You can always tell what a politician wants you to talk about because they
have photo-ops designed to force you to talk about that.
But there are so many other important things for us to be talking about
tonight and we will be doing that.
But one thing you can say about Donald Trump so far, he has made
congressional town halls great again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anti-Semitism is horrible
and it`s going to stop.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Too little, too late Mr. President.
He should have done this Thursday.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No matter how many times he
talks about this, it`s never good enough.
TRUMP: I am the least anti-Semitic person that you`ve ever seen in your
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a cancer of anti-Semitism growing in this
White House. President Trump and Steve Bannon are leading it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Notorious white nationalist is a special adviser to the
president. Would like to know your thoughts on that.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Members of Congress facing tough questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was overwhelming evidence that a foreign country
was meddling in our election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why didn`t you pick someone with a commitment to
quality public education? –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Public education –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cold doctor(ph), not coming back, and now these
people don`t have the insurance they need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare, improve it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can answer any of that, I`ll sit down and shut
up like Elizabeth Warren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is time to put country over party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We know what the president wants us to talk about tonight, and
we know what the president doesn`t want us to talk about tonight.
He`s not going to get his way on this program. In a presidency that has
become so invalent that it makes the last 70-year-old in the White House
look like an unstoppable force of energy.
Donald Trump had exactly one thing on his schedule today, and he got that
out of the way first thing in the morning when he had a photo-op at the
national museum of African-American history and culture.
Photo-ops are the way politicians tell you what they are hoping you will
talk about. A photo-op is a cynical, political manipulation that
politicians in trouble are always hoping will change the subject.
And no politician in America is in more trouble than Donald Trump. The
most unpopular first month president in the history of polling.
President Trump was so desperate to change the subject today that he
actually set foot in a museum.
Something he may never have voluntarily done before in his adult life with
the possible exception of attending glamorous parties in New York museums
where he would have had the choice of gazing upon the beautiful women or
Which do you suppose he chose? Donald Trump brought his serious face to the
museum today to try to convince observers he was actually interested in the
subject that he has never actually been interested in before – African-
American history and culture.
That could be a story worth talking about. The presidential candidate
enthusiastically supported by the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist and neo-
Nazi groups visits the National Museum of African-American History and
It`s not a great story for Donald Trump because he knows it brings up all
of his own past racist issues as a landlord, as an attacker of Barack
Obama`s academic credentials simply because Barack Obama is black.
And all the aid and comfort he has given to white supremacist groups.
Donald Trump knew that all of that stuff would be thrown into the coverage
of his museum visit today.
But he believed it was worth it. If it could change the subject from even
worse stories for Donald Trump.
The stories he doesn`t want us to talk about. The news that although
Donald Trump has found a new national security adviser, he still has the
incompetent and reckless and racist Steve Bannon as a current member of the
National Security Council.
The president doesn`t want us talking about that, he doesn`t want us
talking about impeachment which is now being brought up at town halls that
Republican members of Congress are having.
The president doesn`t want us talking about his mental health which is now
being publicly diagnosed by psychologists and psychiatrists.
Two of whom will join us tonight. He doesn`t want us talking about 25th
Amendment which the vice president can use to remove a mentally ill
He doesn`t want us talking about the gridlock of his legislative agenda,
the complete failure of the Republican Congress to make any progress at all
on tax cuts, on repealing and replacing Obamacare, on funding a wall on the
He certainly doesn`t want anyone to hear a single word of what George Will
thinks of him, the conservative columnist who Donald Trump urged “Fox News”
to fire. And so you will hear from George Will tonight in his first
appearance on this program.
Before we get to all of that, let`s take a quick look at what Donald Trump
had to say today at the National Museum of African-American History and
And you will see that every word comes from the heart. The heart of
whoever wrote his prepared remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This tour is a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry,
intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.
The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community
centers are horrible and are painful.
And a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out
hate and prejudice and evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And on the same day, here`s how Donald Trump`s legislative
agenda is playing in Iowa at Republican Senator Chuck Grassley`s town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all do respect, sir, you`re the man that talked
about the death panel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to create one great big death panel in this
country that people can`t afford to get insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, David Corn; a Washington Bureau chief for
“Mother Jones” and an Msnbc political analyst.
And Steven Goldstein; the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for
Mutual Respect. David, we know what the photo-op was about today, it was
about changing –
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Yes –
O`DONNELL: The subject, but it turns out even there, it`s impossible to
change the subject to a subject that is just positive for Donald Trump.
That has no other side of the coin that does his damage – does him damage.
CORN: Well, that`s because he has this long record. There`s only five
days ago that he was basically telling a Jewish journalist who was asking
about anti-Semitism at that wonderfully unhinged press conference to
essentially sit down and shut up.
That`s only, you know, a week or so back, two weeks ago that the White
House – who used the word Jews in its statement issued on Holocaust
So, he goes to work each day and who does he probably spend the most time
with? It`s Steve Bannon who was a champion of – they call the alternative
right, the alt-right.
But it really is white nationalist, and I know basically for being racist.
But there`s a lot of anti-Semitism sprinkled in as well.
So, you know, he can try to talk about this other stuff for a day, reading
off a no-card without any conviction or passion. But you know, it doesn`t
sell to anyone who`s paying attention.
O`DONNELL: And Steven, the fish out of the water of Donald Trump really in
any kind of museum.
STEVEN GOLDSTEIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ANNE FRANK CENTER FOR MUTUAL RESPECT:
It`s remarkable. And what`s more remarkable about Donald Trump`s
appearance today was his complete thin ear to the perception that is
accurate that he is anti-Semitic.
There Donald Trump was this morning, and he expected like Moses, the waters
to part because he said anti-Semitism was bad.
Donald Trump quacks, walks, and talks like an anti-Semite. That makes him
O`DONNELL: What`s an example of that?
GOLDSTEIN: Well, for example, he hired Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon we all
know is notorious anti-Semite.
Donald Trump refused to include Jews and holocaust remembrance.
Denying Jews had a particular hurt in the holocaust is nothing short of
holocaust denial and anti-Semitism at its worst.
This weekend, our organization and others begged Donald Trump, begged him
to comment on the bombing, the bomb threats of JCCs. He wouldn`t do it.
He wouldn`t talk about the desecration of 170 Jewish cemeteries in St.
So, what happened today, Lawrence, as you said, he read soullessly this
statement, anti-Semitism is a very bad thing. Every Jewish person like
myself who has a conscience should be shocked.
Here`s a man who doesn`t know how to stick to a teleprompter. Today he
stuck to a teleprompter because he probably couldn`t say the words from his
O`DONNELL: Let`s look at what happened at Chuck Grassley today where
impeachments came up at a town hall, a Republican senator`s town hall in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Who brought up the impeachment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I did.
GRASSLEY: OK, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I – first of all, I want to – I want to
apologize for being so outspoken, but I do – I am so unsettled.
It feels like we`ve got a juvenile running our country.
AUDIENCE: Here –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David, there`s a –
CORN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Polite Iowa discussion of impeachments on what is it? Day 32.
CORN: Well, you know, I don`t think there`s a lot of talk here in
Washington about that, and it probably is premature.
But I will tell you, I get this in the green room here at the TV studio. I
get this when I walk the halls of Congress.
Republicans will tell you, whether they`re elected Republicans or
professional Republicans, consultants, staffers that they think Donald
Trump is erratic.
That they think there are issues that cause them to be a frightening
leader. And they, you know, all believe that there`s a certain amount of
craziness going on.
Now, will any of them really say that publicly? No. They`re running
scared, they`re afraid he`s going to tweet at them.
You know, this weekend, John McCain took sort of baby steps towards calling
Trump a dictator or a crack pot.
You know, because of his attacks on the media. But by and large, there`s a
consensus in Washington amongst Republicans that he may not be fit to
But there`s little courage in terms of talking about that openly as you
just saw in the – like you just saw in the town hall meeting.
O`DONNELL: Oh, let`s see what it`s like at the end of a month too. Let`s
look at –
CORN: Who knows?
O`DONNELL: Let`s look at what Senator McConnell run into today in his town
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last I heard we held on for not coming back, and
now these people don`t have the insurance they need because they`re poor.
And they worked them coal mines and they`re sick. The veterans are sick.
The veterans are broken down.
They`re not getting what they need. If you can answer any of that, I`ll
sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Steven, you worked in the Senate and the House. You know
that when these guys come back – at their town hall meetings, this is all
taken very seriously.
As much as they might want to make it look like the people attacking them
is something that they can fend off.
There`s not any senator who walks out of that town hall meeting and doesn`t
take what happened with that woman very seriously.
GOLDSTEIN: Yes, Lawrence, you know as well as I do that when a senator or
a representative gets three e-mails or three letters –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
GOLDSTEIN: It`s the equivalent of ten million.
GOLDSTEIN: So, right now –
O`DONNELL: They get a count every day.
GOLDSTEIN: Yes –
O`DONNELL: They get a report from the mail room. It used to be letters
coming to Washington as you know. Phone call counts, how many calls?
Saying this and that and they take them very seriously.
GOLDSTEIN: No profession listens to the last person in their ear as much
O`DONNELL: Yes –
GOLDSTTEIN: Politicians. It`s remarkable. Right now Mitch McConnell is
having a total meltdown. Maybe not a bad thing. Maybe the republic will
be safe because of it. And they are discussing a fact –
O`DONNELL: It`s part of the gridlock.
GOLDSTEIN: Steve, it`s part of the –
O`DONNELL: Meeting – town hall meetings like that explain why Mitch
McConnell has done nothing on Obamacare and has no plan for it.
GOLDSTEIN: Right, and Lawrence, I predict that if there`s impeachment
against Donald Trump, it`s going to have to happen in the first year.
Because Republicans are going to want the second year to recover. So
something will happen soon –
O`DONNELL: Or the congressionals, yes –
GOLDSTEIN: Or the congressionals, for sure.
O`DONNELL: Steven Goldstein, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I
really appreciate it.
Coming up, the guests for tonight`s segment on the 25th Amendment are two
mental health experts.
One has a petition saying that the 25th Amendment should be invoked to
remove Donald Trump and install Mike Pence as the acting president on the
grounds that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to serve as president.
But our next guest is the phrase maker who coined the term, political
sociopath for Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Not one network person has
been let go.
Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talks smack all day long
about Donald Trump has been let go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, after Kellyanne Conway said that, one of them was let go.
The “Fox News” commentator who said that Donald Trump is a buffoon, a
political sociopath, a bloviating ignoramus.
A counterfeit Republican, a charlatan, history`s most unpleasant and
unprepared candidate and arrested development adolescent. The conservative
commentator who said all of that will join us next.
O`DONNELL: When the Trump for president campaign started, Rupert Murdoch;
the owner operator of “Fox News” reacted like most people thinking it was a
bad joke and an embarrassment.
His first tweet about it was after the Trump announcement speech.
Rupert Murdoch defended Mexican immigrants against Donald Trump`s
accusations about their criminal behavior and ended the tweet with the
simple message, “Trump wrong.”
About a week later, when Donald Trump insulted John McCain for being a
prisoner of war, saying, quote, “I like people who weren`t captured.”
Rupert Murdoch tweeted: “When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing
his friends, let alone the whole country?”
We now know the answer to that question is never. And in the meantime,
Rupert Murdoch has embarrassed himself and “Fox News” and the “Wall Street
Journal” and the “New York Post” by reversing his personal position on
candidate Trump and using every one of those media outlets he owns to
support the Trump candidacy and now the Trump presidency.
To the point that an editorial writer at Rupert Murdoch`s “Wall Street
Journal” was recently let go for being consistently anti-Trump.
While, of course, being consistently conservative. Any thoughtful
conservative has known from the start that it is impossible to be both
conservative and pro-Trump.
And that is why it has been impossible for shows like this to book
intellectually honest and logical conservative supporters of Donald Trump.
They don`t exist. Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist George F.
Will is the inheritor of William F. Buckley`s position as America`s leading
conservative intellectual commentator and the most artful pro-stylist among
Throughout the Trump campaign, George Will became an increasingly lonely
voice at “Fox News” by refusing to bend his conservative principles to find
something positive to say about Donald Trump.
George Will has been anti-Trump from the start, the start being the 2012
campaign cycle when Donald Trump threatened to run for president.
That`s when George Will called Trump a political sociopath. Here is some
of what George Will had to say on “Fox News”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WILL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump doesn`t do evidence. He
says apoplexy is a substitute for arguments.
He`s a one trick pony. He consists of saying I`m rich, everyone who
disagrees with me is stupid and all our problems are simple if you`ll put
me in charge.
Donald Trump is a con artist and all the rest, a clown act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The day after the Trump inauguration, “Fox News” confirmed that
George Will`s contract was not being renewed.
Rupert Murdoch stopped tweeting about Donald Trump in the middle of the
He was last seen entering Trump Tower on January 15th when he obtained an
interview with Donald Trump for “The Times of London”; a Murdoch-owned
When Donald Trump is looking for a friendly question, the news press
conferences, he knows the safest place to look is wherever the Murdoch-
owned press corps is sitting.
The story of Rupert Murdoch`s conversion to Trumpism is part of the story
of conservative Republicans conversion to Trumpism. Paul Ryan`s conversion
to Trumpism. Mitch McConnell`s conversion to Trumpism.
And to guide us through a discussion of how Republican conservatism
converted to Trumpism, we are now joined by George F. Will; syndicated
columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Republican.
George, welcome to THE LAST WORD, very happy to have you here. Tell us
about that middle of the summer moment where you broke with the Republican
Party and publicly announced you were leaving the party.
What got you to that point?
WILL: Well, actually, it was on the 2nd of June, I remember it well, Paul
Ryan for his own reasons in responding to his own pressures, and I`m not
judging him about this.
He endorsed Mr. Trump, and the next morning I went in and changed my
registration because if Paul Ryan, the very best of the Republican Party
was going to help normalize Donald Trump, then I felt the party was going
somewhere I did not want to go.
O`DONNELL: How do you trace that conversion? That, what happened to Paul
Ryan, what happened to Rupert Murdoch, what happened to – what you`ve seen
happen to Mitch McConnell and so many others over the course of this year.
That last year –
WILL: Well –
O`DONNELL: That last year.
WILL: I sympathize with the leaders of the Congressional party. The
congressional party has its own existence.
Its own corporate duties and the presidency is not everything. You know,
the presidency is not all of the federal government, the federal government
isn`t all of American governments, and American government isn`t all of
So Mr. Trump is a small part of this. Larger than perhaps we wish he were,
but the modern presidency has become swollen beyond all the founders
But that being so, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Ryan have their own duties and
their own imperatives and their own people to lead.
I am a free agent however. I do not have to do that. I`ve spent 40 years
at the project of the Bill Buckley really began in the mid 1950s, of making
American conservatism intellectually coherent and politically palatable.
That is incompatible with the Trump presidency.
O`DONNELL: As you look back on the history of the Republican Party and the
conservative movement, do you see now any signs of the seeds being planted
here or there for what eventually gave us Donald Trump as a Republican
nominee and now a Republican president?
WILL: I really don`t. I really think he`s what the economist call an
exogenous factor. Something that swooped in from God knows where.
Take for example Mr. Bannon. Mr. Bannon is a recognizable phenomenon.
He`s a continental European right winger.
Blood, soil, throne, alter all the rest. There really is no American
pedigree for that kind of thought. This is – this is – I hate to use the
word to a protectionist president, this is an import from Europe.
O`DONNELL: George, you suffered the Trump assaults on Twitter that were
non-stop including at a certain point, him saying on Twitter, “Fox News”
should fire George Will. Did you ever feel a pressure coming from “Fox
News” about that issue?
WILL: None, no one at “Fox” ever tried to rein me. It`s an analog here.
When I went to work in my first job in Washington journalism, was as
Washington either – Bill Buckley`s “National Review”.
I began that in January 1973 just as the Watergate cover-up was about to
unravel. And Bill Buckley was stuck with me. I very quickly decided that
Richard Nixon was guilty and was – and eventually Watergate would be
traced to the Oval Office.
Bill Buckley never once tried to restrain me, although I was hurting him
with some of the contributors who helped keep “National Review” floated
And with regard to “Fox News”, no one ever pressured me. Now, I was not
invited to participate in the coverage of the Cleveland Republican
Convention, but that`s their decision.
But no one ever spoke to me about that and I have nothing but fond memories
of working with Chris Wallace and James Rosen and all the rest.
O`DONNELL: But there were some really awkward friction points there. You
had reviewed for example Bill O`Reilly`s book, just simply the finest
review I`ve read of an O`Reilly book.
In what he considered to be the most vicious and unfair, possible terms.
And it`s hard to imagine they`re not being some kind of tensions in the
hallways about that.
WILL: Well, I`m sure that there are lots of tensions in the hallways at
the News Corps in New York, I gather.
But yes, I think that there is “O`Reilly Factor” at “Fox News”, and I
certainly got cross-wise with them.
But that`s my job is to do things like that. I mean, one of the projects
of the American left has been to discredit Ronald Reagan.
They got an enormous assist from Bill O`Reilly`s perversely named book
I read it which maybe more than O`Reilly`s done, I don`t know –
Decided it was an outrage and acted accordingly.
O`DONNELL: What happens now to George Will conservatives? George Will
Republicans and/or former Republicans.
As you approach future ballots of people who are supporters of Donald Trump
on the ballot as Republicans or a Donald Trump re-election campaign?
WILL: Well, Donald Trump has to perform now. The next thing he has to do
is submit a budget.
When the budget comes up, calling for a trillion-dollar in infrastructure
spending, a tax cut that will lose by bipartisan assessment $5.8 trillion
over a decade, plus an increased military spending.
Plus protectionism which means government deciding what Americans can
consume at what prices and then what point are these.
What`s called economic planning and crony capitalism and all the rest of
them. When that budget comes out, people are either going to rediscover
their conservative convictions or there`s going to be a banquet.
A feast of people eating words they`ve spoken for 30 years. I watch –
I`ll tell you who to watch. Watch Congressman Meadows from North Carolina.
He`s the head of the freedom caucus.
The freedom caucus represents – to paraphrase what Howard Dean said when
he represented the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
They represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party. These are the
true blue conservatives and I think you`re going to find that at that
point, conservatism begins to rediscover itself.
O`DONNELL: So then would it be the $9 trillion increase in the national
debt that is right there in the budget documents that they`ve already
Is that – is that the thing we`re going to be hearing about the most?
WILL: Well, that will get your attention, certainly.
O`DONNELL: Yes –
WILL: But it is – again, I think when they realize all that you embrace
when you embrace protectionism, enormous executive discretion.
Government planning essentially what we can consume and how the economy
will work and who should be winners and who should be losers.
When they realize the slippery slope they`re on, away from bedrock
conservative principles, I think things will change by mid-summer.
O`DONNELL: And someone might have to remind them that tariffs are in fact
sales taxes on goods sold in the United States paid by the American tax
And I have a feeling that George Will columns might be reminding them of
WILL: That will be – conservatives will have to decide whether they
really want a new revenant scream to the federal government.
O`DONNELL: George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us, really
appreciate your first appearance here –
WILL: Glad to – glad to be with you –
O`DONNELL: On the show, thank you. Coming up, the mental health
professionals who are worried about President Trump`s fitness to serve.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: It was not a good day for Steve Bannon
at The White House today because it was Lieutenant General H.R. McMasters
first day as President Trump`s new National Security Advisor, that meant
Steve Bannon has lost the compliant and sympathetic and incompetent
conspiracy theorist general Mike Flynn who was the president`s first choice
for national security advisor.
There is no reason that a competent National Security Advisor would ever
want to include Steve Bannon in a national security council meeting and
that issue came up. At Sean Spicer`s press briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he advises the president who would prefer not to
have the chief strategist as a member of the principle`s committee, would
the president -
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president has made
clear to him, as I said, he`s got full authority to structure the national
security team the way he wants. Obviously it`s something like that we
would come to the president and make that recommendation but the president
would take that under high - you know, serious consideration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, David Frum, senior editor for the Atlantic,
David Corn still with us. David Frum, so I heard two answers there from
Sean Spicer, says the president has made it clear that he has full
authority to structure the national security team the way he wants. OK, so
he can get rid of Steve Bannon then there`s the next sentence, he can make
that recommendation to the president and I`m sure the president would take
that under serious consideration.
But even with the double answer, it`s not a good day for Steve Bannon when
you get a competent professional person into that job to take the place of
Flynn who was more than happy to have Steve Bannon in the room.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE ATLANTIC: Shortly after the national
security team was sworn in for the first time, I had lunch with a long time
veteran of U.S. Intelligence and defense matters. And who was actually
present. He was somebody who had begun as a Trump supporter. And he said
the National Security Council had a strong smell of Iran conflict about it.
And what he meant by that was a lack of process, a lot of freelancing and
failure of people on the National Security Council to understand what it`s
for. The National Security Council does not exist to execute policy, but
to deliberate about policy. But meanwhile, Bannon has been having a back
channel to friendly allies like the German ambassador and has been
expressing his view and perhaps the president`s that the E.U. would be
better off smashed into little pieces to make it more vulnerable to Russian
And that is something that people have to take seriously.
O`DONNELL: And David Corn, that`s at the same time that Mike Pence is
telling the Europeans we`re with you a 100 percent.
DAVID CORN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: The issue with the Trump foreign policy
is that there is no Trump foreign policy. There`s no core principles, no
core convictions, so you have a conventional military veteran coming in as
National Security Advisor who probably draws within the lines. And then
you have Steve Bannon who is really completely out there but more
importantly, Jared Kushner who was involved in the Israeli policy with no
experience. But really have Donald Trump who has no clear idea and sort of
pops into his head.
So, during the campaign, you could have him literally saying on the night
that Mike Pence was giving his big convention speech that he would
basically blow apart, NATO, and then Paul Manafort, we cannot say, that`s
not what he said. But of course it was what he said. So now, latest today
as David just alluded to is that Pence is in Germany saying we stand fully
behind NATO and with the E.U. while Bannon`s telling the German Ambassador,
well according to Reuters.
Well, you know, we want to break things up. So, I think this is going to
be a big problem for the national security advisor and we`ll see if he can
sort of corral people around Trump in to some form of coherence.
O`DONNELL: David Frum you mentioned Iran. Contrary which was a republican
White House out of control in the sense is that we`re talking about.
There`s also the model of Dick Cheney running his own operation in the
Republican Bush White House where you served such that it ended up with his
deputy, Scooter Libby, a convicted criminal defendant who had it - who
sought the mercy of the president in the sentencing getting a sentencing
There`s no good history of these kinds of off book operations in the White
House, is there?
FRUM: Well first I`m to have Scooter Libby has you said, he got a really
raw deal. He did not - was no the source of the leak for which he was
punished. That was Richard Armitage.
CORN: He lied to the FBI though.
FRUM: That`s never a wise idea. But the investigation is set in motion on
O`DONNELL: He got the same deal everybody gets when they gets caught lying
to the FBI. But go ahead David Frum, please go ahead.
FRUM: But the difference in what happened with Dick Cheney, it would
happen with Iran-Contra was, when Dick Cheney was the vice president of the
united states. They were operating within a channel. Within a kind of
process, the results may have been good or bad, but they were not a – you
were not running dual foreign policies within the same building the way
they were during Iran-Contra. And the way that is happening now, where the
formal policy of the United States is that we - is the same as it been
since the Eisenhower administration.
But the President`s policy is entire - is much more in line with Putin`s
policy? The people talk about this though as if you know, if the president
and the defense secretary and the national security advisor have a deep and
conscientious disagreement and they can`t resolve it then the President has
to resign. That`s not the way it works. The president is (INAUDIBLE)
foreign policy and if Donald Trump has a Putin aligned foreign policy and
the national security advisor and secretary of defense and even the vice
president have a traditional one, the president tends to prevail.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, what do you suppose the shelf life is for Donald
Trump`s master mind Steve Bannon, Donald Trump`s brain, if Donald Trump
continues to have the lowest – if he goes from having the lowest first
month polling of a president to the lowest second month, the lowest third
month, the lowest fourth month?
CORN: Well, I would say that my guess would be that Reince Priebus is more
in the firing line in terms of Donald Trump than Bannon at this point in
time or Kellyanne Conway. Here Donald Trump, it seems - it seems, you
know, he never can blame himself, right? He`s a narcissist but if
something happens he does look to blame others. But really what happens in
his circle is others find a scapegoat. They this person is what`s making
you look bad. And I think we`re a bit of a way from putting Bannon into
that position yet.
O`DONNELL: The Davids, Frum and Corn thank you both for joining us
tonight. Really Appreciate it.
CORN: Sure thing.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, 25th amendment empowers the vice president and the
majority of the cabinet to install the vice president as acting president
whenever the president is, “unable to discharge the powers and duties of
his office.” Our next guest believe that Donald Trump is now mentally
unfit to discharge his powers and duties of the office.
O`DONNELL: Nuclear weapons changed everything about the presidency.
Everything, and everything about the president himself became more
important than ever before. American nuclear weapons empowered a single
individual to start a world war in minutes to order the annihilation of
millions of people in minutes and so character became more prominent issue
in the presidential campaigning. Who is this person we`re entrusting our
Who is the person that the world is entrusting their lives to? This person
who can fire off nuclear weapons around the world in minutes, that`s one of
the reasons the 25th amendment was enacted in 1967 to clarify the line of
succession in the presidency. In the nuclear age, we have to know who is
in charge every minute. So when President George W. Bush had anesthesia
during a colonoscopy he signed over the powers of the presidency to Dick
Cheney as acting president.
Something that was made possible only by the 25th amendment and as I
explained, the 25th amendment enables the vice president and the majority
of the cabinet to vote to make the vice president acting president whenever
they believe the president cannot carry out the duties of the office for
whatever reason. In the nuclear age the mental health of the president
became infinitely more important than it ever was before. The 25th
Amendment anticipates mental illness in the president that prevents the
president from carrying out his duties.
That`s one of the reason the Vice President and the Cabinet can remove the
president and install the Vice President as acting President. The first
time psychiatrists stepped forward to say something about a candidate was
in the nuclear age when Republicans Barry Goldwater seemed all to eager to
use nuclear weapons, 1964 President Candidate. 1,189 Psychiatrist co-
signed an article saying that Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit to
And after that the American Psychiatric Association decided to institute a
rule calling it unethical to offer professional opinions about someone
without the professional examination of that person. That rule has been
broken this year by a number of psychologist and psychiatrist who have
decided that the more important rules to observe in the case of president
Trump is the duty to warn. Mental Health Professionals have a duty to warn
others when they see a danger presented to other people. They have a duty
to violate patient confidentiality in cases like that.
There are now more than 26,000 signatures online petition entitled mental
health professionals declare Trump is mentally ill and must be removed. The
petition sites that the 25th amendment as the proper procedure for removing
a mentally ill President. The author of that petition will join us
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the walls of the Kremlin. They`re preparing
Vladimir Putin for a first meeting with America`s president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is under preparation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Compiling a dossier on Donald Trump`s mental strengths
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, John Gartner, the author of the online
petition, mental health professionals declare Trump is mentally ill and
must be removed. Also joining us, Lance Dodes, former Professor of
Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. John Gartner, there we have the
Russian`s doing a version of the work that you`re doing apparently
compiling a psychological dossier present to Vladimir Putin on Donald
Trump. Governments do this all the time within their intelligence
They employ psychology professionals to do exactly that within the
intelligence community. You`re doing a version of this publicly and you`re
doing it as I said, in violation of this long-standing rule since 1964
presidential campaign that you`re not supposed to diagnose people publicly
who you have not seen privately and you`re never supposed to share any of
the diagnosis that you`ve made privately. Why have you come to this point?
JOHN GARTNER, PSYCHOLOGIST: Because of exactly what you mentioned this
duty to warn. If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we
could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump.
He`s a paranoid, psychopathic narcissistic who`s divorced from reality and
lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies. And this is someone as you
mentioned who`s handling the nuclear codes. You know This Goldwater Law,
rule, is frankly absurd from three different vantage points.
First the debacle that took place during Goldwater year was in the Freudian
time. Before we have the diagnostic and statistical manual the great
advance of the diagnostic manual is it gave us clear behavioral diagnostic
criteria for every disorder. So whereas these psychiatrist were saying he
had potty training issues and latent homosexuality issues that were
We now know if we can observe someone`s behavior and their words, we know
we can diagnose them. And actually this whole idea that the psychiatric
interview is the gold standard for making an assessment, that`s just
frankly not true. Empirical research shows that the psychiatric interview
is one of the least reliable ways of forming a diagnosis that it`s – that
behavior and informants and we have thousands of hours of behavior and
informants are much more accurate.
And finally, as far as ethics go, I would argue to my colleagues that those
who don`t speak out are being unethical. That if we have some knowledge
and understanding about the unique danger that Donald Trump presents
through our psychiatric training and we don`t say something about it,
history is not going to judge us kindly.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Dodes I`d like to show you some video of Donald Trump
because everything we`re talking about is based on what you`ve been able to
see him do publicly on video, and there was a moment that for me was the –
pardon the expression from an amateur, but the sickest moment of Donald
Trump`s lying history. It was in a South Carolina debate when he said he
lost hundreds of friends on 9/11. Let`s just look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How did he keep us safe
when the World Trade Center – the world – excuse me. I lost hundreds of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. now here`s the truth. It was not hundreds. The next day,
12 hours later on Meet The Press, he reduced the hundreds to – he lost
many, many friends. The truth is he lost zero. Donald Trump did not attend
a single 9/11 funeral. He stands there in front of the debate audience and
lost hundreds of friends of 9/11. The truth is he lost zero. He lost
nothing. He suffered nothing on 9/11. What do you call that? What did we
LANCE DODES, FRM PROFESSOR AT HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, it`s lying,
but there are two pieces to it, I think. One is that he lies because of
his sociopathic tendencies that Dr, Gartner was talking about. That he
lies in the way anybody who scams people does. He`s trying to sell an idea
or a product by telling you something that`s untrue. There`s that lie.
There`s also the kind of lie he has that is in a way more serious. That he
has a loose grip on reality.
We can say that because he lies about things which aren`t even that
important to him, like the Electoral College majority and he`s been told
it`s not true, but he keeps doing it. I think what that indicates is that
he can`t stand an aspect of reality that he doesn`t want. So he rejects
it. His grasp of reality and his attention to reality is loose, and
extremely dangerous trait in a President that actually makes him
O`DONNELL: And, John Gartner, I mean it`s imagined – it`s certainly there
are people who we could find who exhibit more overt mental illness, but
they could never get themselves up on to a debate stage and put sentences
together. it seems to me that your point is within the realm of people who
could possibly win a major party nomination and then go on to win the
presidency, this, you`re saying, is as sick mentally as you can get.
GARTNER: Right. This is literally the worst case scenario because you`re
right, if he was a paranoid schizophrenic and wearing a tinfoil hat then he
wouldn`t be elected President but he`s just sane enough as it were to pass,
but actually detach from reality as the Dr. Dodes said so that what is real
is fluid. It`s totally malleable according to his personality disorder.
And so you have someone handling the nuclear codes who`s not in touch with
reality and who`s paranoid who imagines he`s under attack by people who are
not actually attacking him. Then what you have is a very dangerous
combination of someone who can act on his paranoid fantasies in a way that
can have catastrophic consequences.
O`DONNELL: I wish we had more time for this discussion. I`m sure we`ll
come back to it another night. I really appreciate you joining us on this.
Lance Dodes and John Gartner thank you very much for joining us.
DODES: You`re welcome.
GARTNER: You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And the other thing chaos, zero chaos, if we are running – this is
a fine-tuned machine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s Last Word. Tomorrow night in this space, a
special Trump, the first month. It`s going to be a live two hour special.
It will air at 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night. The 11th Hour with Brian
Williams starts now.
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