The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/24/2017

Malcolm Nance, Nicholas Kristof, Indira Lakshmanan, Nancy Giles, Erin Gloria Ryan, Christina Grier


Date: February 24, 2017

Guest: Malcolm Nance, Nicholas Kristof, Indira Lakshmanan, Nancy Giles, Erin Gloria Ryan, Christina Grier

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  The only people allowed to cast votes in that

election tomorrow for Democratic chair are the members of the Democratic

National Committee.  477 people who are members of the DNC.  Right now

nobody really seems to know who`s going to win.  “The Hill” did a whip

count that says that Ellison is leading with 105 votes, the AP says

Democratic strategists have Tom Perez ahead with 205 votes.  But either way

that means that neither of them have the 224 votes you need to win this

thing.  So we`ll see.  Election Day tomorrow in a small but serious way. 


That does it for us tonight.  I`ll see you again tomorrow – no, see you

again Monday.  Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD.” 


Good evening, Ari. 


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.  I didn`t know Election Day

was tomorrow.  I always learn something watching your show. 


MADDOW:  You know, it`s like it`s always 5:00 somewhere?  It`s always

Election Day somewhere. 


MELBER:  That`s true.  Awesome.  Have a great weekend.  Thank you. 


There are two big storylines tonight.  What Trump wants everyone to focus

on, another dramatic battle with the press, and the story he is trying to

bury.  Some of the worst news to hit his administration on national

security this year. 





news.  It`s fake.  Phony.  Fake. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is an administration that understands how

important having enemies is.  And if it`s not the media, it`s going to be

some other group.  So expect to hear this a lot. 


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR:  If I were doing fake news, I would have been

fired a long time ago. 


TRUMP:  They`re the enemy of the people. 


DAN RATHER:  It is an effort to divide and conquer, to divide the press

from the people and to divide the press among themself.  I don`t think in

the long run, I honestly don`t think even in the short run it`s going to



TRUMP:  They shouldn`t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody`s



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  His aides were giving an unnamed background briefing

at the White House just this morning. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just hours after President Trump called fake news an

enemy of the people, his administration refused to allow several reporters

into an off-camera, on the record session with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. 



would use FOX and Breitbart to plant news that is fake.  Gosh.  I wish

there was a term for that. 




MELBER:  Good evening to you.  We have some important breaking news tonight

and it comes as President Trump wants people to focus on his latest rounds

of attacks on opposing views, whether they are coming today from government

officials leaking dissent or what Trump officials view as the permanent

opposition in the free press as he literally called journalists the enemy

of the American people before that big conservative conference this



That rhetoric was the context for the controversial moment at the White

House today when the press secretary excluded reporters from outlets the

administration has slammed like “The New York Times.”  This was from that

briefing in Sean Spicer`s office.  So those are the actions taken by the

Trump White House to evoke a response.  And sure, some response may be

necessary given the stakes on those issues.  But seeing the entire factual

picture tonight requires more than just reacting to what the government

wants the headlines to be. 


Here`s what President Trump apparently did not want people to focus on.  A

devastating indictment of the president`s signature travel ban by his own

national security experts.  Trump said his travel ban is designed to

prevent terror attacks.  But a new report from his own DHS basically says

it won`t do that. 


This is, I think, one of the more important developments of Trump`s first

month in office.  It`s not about Trump versus the media or Trump versus the

Democrats.  This is about Trump versus Trump and Trump versus facts.  And

it sets a collision course.  What will President Trump do when his own

national security experts present him with facts he doesn`t like? 


White House aides are still working on that new revised travel ban.  Will

they listen to DHS explain why the seven countries in their old ban are not

top threats for immigrant attacks.  And let`s remember Trump says he likes

his new head of DHS. 




TRUMP:  Our new and brilliant leader at DHS, General John Kelly.  General

Kelly, by the way, has done a fantastic job.  Fantastic.  General Kelly, we

have great, great people.  General Kelly now Secretary Kelly.  He`s really

doing the job.  You`re seeing it. 




MELBER:  Doing the job.  Well, this is part of the job.  Here are the

facts.  Breaking news tonight from General Kelly`s DHS, a memo that was

leaked to the AP.  Fact number one.  Restricting immigration solely by

citizenship unlikely to predict terror attacks.  Fact two.  The largest

source of terror attacks in the U.S. are American citizens, not foreign

immigrants.  Three, most of the countries that have sent terror attackers

are not in Trump`s travel ban at all.  Fact four, most of the countries

that are in Trump`s travel ban have never, never sent a deadly terror

attacker to the United States. 


And fact five, most countries in Trump`s ban are dangerous to visit and

pose a threat to neighboring countries regionally, but they are not a

threat of sending attackers all the way to the U.S.  The way countries like

Saudi Arabia did on 9/11. 


The DHS is basically telling Donald Trump this isn`t even a close call. 

His travel ban not even in the ballpark of targeting actual immigrant



Now will the White House listen?  The aide in charge of this policy,

Stephen Miller, recently pledged that the new ban will be just like the old






technical differences.  Fundamentally you`re still going to have the same

basic policy outcome for the country, but you`re getting a response to a

lot of technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be





MELBER:  Mr. Miller must be new at this because by admitting that they`re

bringing out basically the same policy he makes it more likely judges will

just block the new ban just like they blocked the old one. 


Challengers barely need the ACLU when they have Stephen Miller speaking off

the cuff on live TV.  And that whole fight is about whether the ban is

blocked while it`s ultimately tested in court.  And let`s be clear.  The

Supreme Court could uphold the ban. 


But legal or not, the big news tonight is about this White House reaction

which does suggest something more troubling for national security.  An

administration that appears at this hour uninterested in the facts even

when gathered by their own national security experts at DHS. 


Joining me now on this important story, Indira Lakshamanan, Washington

columnist for the “Boston Globe,” Nicholas Kristof, of course Pulitzer

Prize winner from “The New York Times,” and Malcolm Nance, a

counterterrorism and intelligence expert and an MSNBC analyst. 


Malcolm, what is, in your view, the context of these facts now being

presented formally by the DHS to President Trump? 



context is very simple.  You have intelligence professionals who have done

a very hard core analysis using all empirical evidence based on the best

available information that comes from not just DHS but multisource, many

agencies contribute to the report.  And that division, which is called the

I & A division, right, Intelligence and Analysis at Department of Homeland

Security, have stated facts as they exist. 


The question is, will the White House resist those facts or just call those

fake news?  But if they do, they run the risk of actually, you know,

discrediting their own department which will have to give them information

where they may have to be protect American lives. 


MELBER:  You put your finger on it. 


NANCE:  And the Trump administration – yes. 


MELBER:  And to your point I`m going to read the White House response here

about how do they deal with this.  They said they don`t dispute the

authenticity but telling NBC News it was incomplete and based on open

sources which are, of course, publicly available facts.  


Indira, I`ll give you one item from public sources and get your response. 

Cato looked at this, who are the victims of people, Americans and others,

in the U.S. who died from these foreign-born tacks.  Well, 98 percent were

killed in 9/11, which is mostly Saudi and UAE.  All other attack, 1.4

percent, Indira. 



has Cato looked at the victims of those foreign-born terror attacks, Cato,

which I would like to point out, is funded by the Koch brothers famously,

quite conservative but libertarians.  Cato also looked at the study who all

was responsible for terror attacks dating back to the 1970s all the way

through the end of 2015.  Of course the vast majority of the terrorism

deaths in that period were all on one day on 9/11. 


MELBER:  Right. 


LAKSHMANAN:  But if you separate out all the rest, your chance of being

killed by a foreign terrorist on U.S. soil is – it`s like 1.3 – 1 in 3.64

billion a year is a chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist

attack caused by a refugee is just one example.  And the numbers are even

more striking if you want to look at the chances of being killed by an

illegal immigrant.  So if you actually look at the numbers, it is quite

clear that, you know, they don`t add up to these seven countries being

particularly dangerous. 


MELBER:  Well, they don`t add up because, Nicholas Kristof, zero plus zero

is still zero.  And that`s the most devastating number in this report.  You

talk about open sources.  We can put up on the screen, deadly attacks from

the seven countries from those seven countries.  Zero.  It`s not always

this simple.  But it is on this issue. 



particular DHS memo is simply restating what we really already know in that

since 1975, as you say, there have been zero lethal attacks by anybody

connected to any of these seven countries. 


And while there – and in that same period there are then 3.2 million

American gun deaths, for example.  So if one wanted to try to reduce

American vulnerability to murder, there are a lot of things we could do. 

Keeping out all refugees from Syria is maybe not the number one on the



MELBER:  I wonder, Nicholas, if you could speak to Malcolm`s point, then

we`ll go back to Malcolm on how is the government then deal with this

strife over the facts? 


KRISTOF:  I think it will ignore it.  I mean, you know, these facts have

been out for a while.  There have been nobody associated with these

countries who has killed a single person in a terrorist incident in the

U.S. since 1975.  Well, there have been a number of countries that have

been involved.  And indeed there have been Americans involved.  As you

know, a few days ago in Kansas we had a 51-year-old American white guy who

shoots two Indian engineers in what sure looks like a terrorist attack even

though we tend not to think of it in those terms. 


And – but I think the – you know, the White House will continue to ignore

the fact that these seven countries aren`t the center of the problem and it

will go ahead and issue a revised executive order keeping them out. 


MELBER:  Malcolm? 


NANCE:  He`s absolutely right.  And if I can just be frank, I mean, looking

at it from the intelligence perspective, White House response to this is

not going to be respect for intelligence.  The White House is working on

stoking emotion, stoking xenophobia, and, just quite frankly, racism, by

pointing out seven, although seemingly random Arab countries.  I mean,

although you could argue Syria and Iraq are dangerous countries, as is

Yemen with a, you know, lack of government stability and virtually all of

those countries, but again the issue is the president is saying we are

stopping terrorists from coming into America.  And that is not what`s

happening.  And our intelligence community can`t help you if you don`t want

to listen. 


MELBER:  Right.  And – 


NANCE:  And this is where we`re going to have all the trouble with this



MELBER:  And Indira, these are certainly powerful metaphors and rhetoric. 

You can go back to the Great Wall of China, if you want, or Matt Damon`s

Hollywood version of it, right?.  Walls are powerful, but we expect more

from the president and DHS on the facts.  And that doesn`t, by the way,

mean that you can`t have tighter immigration policy.  That`s been debated a

lot in our country and there`s people goodwill on both sides of that.  I

want to be clear about that.  But on the fact piece, take a listen to what

President Trump is about to say and I wonder if you could fact check him on

the – on the return. 




TRUMP:  We fully understand that national security begins with border

security.  Foreign terrorists will not be able to strike America if they

cannot get into our country.  We will not be deterred from this course. 

And in a matter of days we will be taking brand-new action to protect our

people and keep America safe. 




MELBER:  Indira? 


LAKSHMANAN:  Yes, I want to say a couple of things about this.  I`m holding

the three-page DHS memo in my hand.  And it specifically says DHS assesses

that country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of

potential terrorist activity.  And it goes on to talk about how no one from

Syria has committed any of these attacks.  You know, we can go on and on

about this but that doesn`t seem to make a difference here. 


Nobody is suggesting, as you just said, that there shouldn`t be vetting. 

This vetting already goes on as we`ve talked about on this show before. 

There`s two years worth of vetting before a refugee can come into this

country, for example.  And as Nicholas points out, you know, there`s a

greater chance of being killed not only by gun violence in this country but

by a toddler wielding a gun. 


There`s a greater chance of being killed by falling out of your bed.  And

I`m not just making that up.  Those are actual statistics.  Than being

killed by a refugee or illegal immigrant in this country.  So, you know,

we`ll see whether the facts and the numbers actually come out or whether

this is going to be more about ideology at the end of the day. 


MELBER:  Well, and Malcolm, I mean, this idea of oh, well, the facts may or

may not matter, of course, they don`t matter with this administration until

they do.  The facts surrounding General Flynn we were told didn`t matter

because he had the trust and loyalty of the president.  And that was

certainly what was said for a while, then all of a sudden he was gone. 


A final thought from you on whether these facts will make any difference



NANCE:  Well, they`ll make a difference to General Kelly and they`ll

certainly make a difference to General McMasters.  These are two gentlemen

that do not suffer fools gladly.  They are empirical war fighters.  And

they know what that intelligence means and how it will actually protect the

American public. 


What you`re going to get is you`re going to get a clash of ideologies

between the Steve Bannons and the – you know, the – you know, terror

fraud Sebastian Gorkas of the world and they`re going to run smack into a

wall of defense – you know, defense led generals who will not tolerate

this.  And it will be very fascinating to watch, but it`s not going to help

keep this country safe. 


MELBER:  Malcolm Nance, as always, thank you for your expertise. 


The panel stays.  Coming up, the Trump administration versus the press,

what I was mentioning earlier.  But is this a distraction from other chaos

in the White House? 


And the president making several more big claims at that CPAC conference. 

We have an important fact check on it coming up. 




MELBER:  At 10:00 a.m. this morning President Trump called journalists the

enemy of the American people.  About two hours later the president was

tweeting out a link to an AP story quoting the AP`s headline.  Then by the

end of the day the White House had kicked up another controversy.  If it

all sounds dizzying maybe that`s because it`s supposed to, but there is no

need to live in a dizzy spell.  We have an antidote for your weekend

clarity.  That`s next. 






TRUMP:  Now I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. 

It`s fake.  Phony.  Fake.  A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy

of the people.  And they are.  They are the enemy of the people. 




MELBER:  Donald Trump speaking to supporters at CPAC today, the country`s

top conservative conference which is so politically important Steve Bannon

appeared on stage.  That`s a role he rarely takes willingly. 


Trump has so aggressively co-opted this term fake news.  It`d be easy to

forget it began as an indictment of largely pro-Trump phony articles that

ran during the campaign and were some of the most shared items on Facebook

if you count true and false items. 


That is the context for Trump`s rhetorical aerobics.  The candidate who

benefited from fake news now playing national ombudsman and lamenting

anonymous sources. 




TRUMP:  I`m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. 

They shouldn`t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody`s name. 

Let their name be put out there.  Let their name be put out.  A source says

that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.  Let them say it to

my face. 




MELBER:  Now that would be a fair point in some circumstances, but it`s

worth considering the source.  The White House required anonymous sourcing

just today when pushing back on stories it opposed.  A reporter also noted

Reince Priebus asked today to be referred to not only anonymously but

requested reporters cite something he said as the product of multiple

sources.  In other words, adding a, yes, fake source. 


And these complaints come as a new controversy hit the White House press

area when Sean Spicer held a type of pool briefing for some reporters while

excluding several specific outlets including “The L.A. Times,” Politico,

CNN and “The New York Times.”  Now that decision drew very strong rebukes

from top names in the news.  Take “The New York Times” executive editor

Dean Baquet.  “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House,” he

said, “in our long history of covering multiple administrations of

different parties.” 


He went on to say, “We strongly protest the exclusion of the `Times` and

other news organizations.  Free media access to a transparent government is

of crucial national interest,” end quote.  And while we should be clear

it`s not totally unprecedented in history to restrict access to a briefing

when there is a pool of reporter present because the idea of being well

content will still be publicly available, this is drawing very serious

consternation from some of the most senior people in the nonpartisan press. 


So back with me we have Nicholas Kristof as well as Indira Lakshmanan. 

This involves your paper, your boss.  What do you think? 


KRISTOF:  Well, look, I mean, I think there is some risk that we sound a

little self-indulgent talking about the press being bullied.  But what`s

important here is not what`s happening to these particular organizations

but the fact that Trump is trying to fight back at an institutional check

on his power, on an institution that`s limiting his ability for corruption,

limiting his capacity to break the law, and to suppress whatever happened

vis-a-vis Russia.  And I think it`s also a distraction from these larger



MELBER:  Right.  It is both potentially corrosive depending on how it is –

how it`s affecting how people do their jobs but it also, yes, becomes a big

part of stories other than what was our lead story which was look at these

other facts brought to you by the AP the press. 




MELBER:  From DHS that undermines some of the administration`s claims. 

Take a listen to Sean Spicer bringing up the D word, dictatorship, to talk

about what they won`t do. 




SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We have a respect for the press

when it comes to the government.  That that is something that you can`t ban

an entity from.  You know, conservative, liberal or otherwise, I think

that`s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship. 




KRISTOF:  Well, it`s a funny way of expressing respect for the press by

declaring that we are an enemy of the people, then by barring critical

organizations from a press briefing and, you know, that is an attack more

broadly not just on these news organizations but on civil society, on

institutional structure that we have in this country.  But I`ve also got to

say, you know, look, I`ve covered a lot of tin pot dictators around the

world bullying reporters, and I`ve also covered their demise.  And in the

long run I look forward to covering the demise of Putin and of Trump

because this does not succeed in the long run. 


MELBER:  And Indira, on that point we have actually something brand-new

from the president tweeting tonight, “Fake news media knowingly doesn`t

tell the truth.  A great danger to our country.  The failing `New York

Times` has become a joke.  Likewise CNN.  Sad.” 


You can say he`s baiting the press on the one hand.  On the other hand that

word danger as we respond to Sean Spicer`s notion of dictatorships, that

word danger really does stick out. 


LAKSHMANAN:  Right.  Well, I`d like to point, first of all, that the “New

York Times” subscriptions are at a new high, that CNN viewership is at a

new high.  So, you know, these institutions that he`s calling fake have

actually gained listenership, viewership, readership, as people are turning

to them for facts amid a very confusing time. 


On the one hand, I completely agree with Nick when he says that we`re not

the story, the story is the story, and we shouldn`t be distracted and focus

too much attention on these attacks on the press as long as we`re still

able to do our job. 


We need to focus on the big stories like DHS, what we were talking about,

the migrant ban, Russia, all these other important things.  Like Nick I`ve

covered authoritarian regimes all over the world.  I spent seven years

based in China and was, you know, detained by authorities six times.  I –

you know, what I hear from Trump reminds me a lot of Hugo Chavez in





MELBER:  Is that fair?  I mean, is that really fair as compared to this

abuse of the – 


LAKSHMANAN:  Yes.  I think – 


MELBER:  Abuse of the justice system? 


LAKSHMANAN:  Well, what I was going to say about Chavez is that Chavez came

to power, democratically elected, and he then used democratic institutions

– he used democracy to subvert democratic institutions. 




MELBER:  But you`re not alleging – you`re not – I just want to be – 


LAKSHMANAN:  Obviously President Trump has not done that. 


MELBER:  I`m not trying to cut you off. 


LAKSHMANAN:  I`m saying that clearly.  He`s not done that.  And that`s why



MELBER:  You`re not – yes, you`re not alleging that level.  Go ahead. 


LAKSHMANAN:  Absolutely not.  And that`s why I`m saying we should focus on

doing our job and doing it correctly.  Nobody is being locked up in this

country.  Nobody is being prevented from doing journalism. 


MELBER:  Right. 


LAKSHMANAN:  So I`m trying to say, you know, let`s – like, let`s calm down

for a moment here. 


MELBER:  Got it. 


LAKSHMANAN:  If it gets to the point where, you know, something more

serious is happening, then we`re talking about something that`s a whole

different ball game.  At this point I think we can focus on the story and

not try to get distracted so much about navel gazing about the media. 

Because we really should be paying attention to the federal registry, and

the facts and what`s happening under this administration. 


MELBER:  Right.  I think your point is very well taken.  I want to read,

David, on that – excuse me, from David (INAUDIBLE), the CEO of Foreign

Policy Magazine, to you, Nicholas.  He says, “The Russia cover-up story and

the media lockout story are the same story.  Administration hunkering down

for the scandal that will end it.” 


I want to be clear.  You know, that is speculative what he`s saying but

it`s also fascinating because what he`s arguing is the rigor, the almost

panicked tone is not that of a strong bully but much more of someone

worried about who will call them out and what evidence might be piling up. 


KRISTOF:  I mean, in my experience, a good signal for reporters is that if

a government is desperate to suppress a story and is busy denouncing it or

trying to block reporters from covering it, then one`s journalistic

instinct should be to go uncover that.  And if they try to bully you, then

that`s the signal to charge ahead.  And so I hope that we in the media will

do – I mean, they`ve been trying to kill this – the Russia connection

story.  They tried to politicize the CIA and get CIA officials to criticize

the story.  And that should be our red flag to march on ahead and dig up

what they don`t want covered. 


MELBER:  Two journalists with a lot of experience here, Nicholas Kristof

and Indira Lakshmanan.  I really appreciate you joining us. 


And coming up next, I`m going to break down the rest of Donald Trump`s

political speech at CPAC and some facts that he might not have included. 

Plus later tonight, do you know whether the protests are working?  A

Republican lawmaker conceding today, I don`t know if we`ll be able to

repeal Obamacare now.  We`ll explain that later tonight. 




MELBER:  Now to some politics news.  Donald Trump declared the empty talk

era was over today at CPAC.  A year ago he was booed for pulling out of

that conference amid complaints he wasn`t a true conservative.  The CPAC

Twitter account even tweeted last year his absence sent a clear message to



Well, there was plenty of conservative talk today. 




TRUMP:  We`re going to build a wall.  Don`t worry about it.  We`re building

the wall.  We`re building the wall.  In fact, it`s going to start soon way

ahead of schedule.  Way ahead of schedule.  Way, way, way ahead of

schedule.  It`s going to start very soon. 




MELBER:  It`s ahead of schedule, we`re going to start soon.  Well, critics

did ask if Trump hasn`t started building wall, how far ahead of schedule

can he really be?  Now you could take a more charitable view.  Maybe Trump

is like Nas who once rapped he`s never on schedule but always on time. 

Either way Trump quickly moved on to promise that miners are going back to





TRUMP:  We`re preparing bold action to lift the restrictions on American

energy.  And we`re going to put our miners back to work.  Miners are going

back to work. 




MELBER:  Here are the facts.  Since 2007 the number of mining jobs has

dropped from about 220,000 to 184,000.  There has been a slight uptick of

about 2,000 mining jobs since Trump took office.  That`s if you count

January, although he was only there for the last 10 days.  February numbers

are not out yet. 


President Trump also touted a big endorsement he received during the





TRUMP:  Our Border Patrol, I`ll tell you what they do.  They came and

endorsed me.  ICE came and endorsed me.  They never endorsed a presidential

candidate before.  They might not even be allowed to. 




MELBER:  Yes, they might not.  That one is completely false.  And Trump is

lucky that it was false because a federal government endorsement would be

illegal.  A union that repped some of those agents did endorse Trump.  That

is a huge difference.  And then there was this dig at the Affordable Care





TRUMP:  Obamacare covers very few people.  And remember, deduct from the

number all of the people that had great health care that they loved that

was taken away from them. 




MELBER:  Oh, the problem there, well, “The New York Times” reports 16

million people have gained coverage under the ACA.  The uninsured rate has

dropped to a record low in modern American history at 10.9 percent and we

couldn`t go without covering this gem from Trump`s speech. 




TRUMP:  I took a lot of heat on Sweden. 




TRUMP:  And then a day later I said, has anybody reported what`s going on? 

And it turned out that they didn`t.  Not too many of them did.  Take a

look.  Take a look at what happened in Sweden. 




MELBER:  Yes.  Take a look.  The president apparently seeming to still

maintain some kind of imaginary attack in Sweden occurred and that the

media wouldn`t cover.  That`s not true and Sweden has not seen an uptick in

its overall crime rate since taking in some refugees.  That was the

apparent reference.  The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention

found no significant increase in the overall crime rate from 2015 to 2016. 

Those are the facts. 


lawmaker admitting the town hall protests are working.  A panel so special

they`re standing in our studio. 


See you guys soon. 






TRUMP:  The era of empty talk is over.  It`s over.  Now is the time for





MELBER:  And now is the time for Nancy Giles, contributor, CBS News Sunday

Morning and the host of “Giles Podcast.” Also Erin Gloria Ryan, senior

editor of the “Daily Beast” and the host of “The Girl Friday Podcast,” plus

Christina Grier, associate professor of political science at Fordham

University.  Christina – 



UNIVERSITY:  I`ll get a podcast. 




MELBER:  You`ve got to get one. 




MELBER:  You hear – you hear President Trump there talking about the era

of empty talk is over. 


GRIER:  Right. 


MELBER:  As Rihanna would say, talk that talk.  What do you think of this



GRIER:  What I think a lot of Americans should do, something they started

doing under the presidency of Obama, which is when Obama would give

speeches because he was such a great orator, I would read the transcript

just so I could really see the policy that was, you know, in there and not

get distracted by sort of the great way that he presented his message. 


With Donald Trump, it`s the exact opposite.  I mean, the way he presents

himself is not presidential and many people are struggling with hearing his

message.  But reading the transcript really shows that he actually did not

mention policy hardly at all.  There was nothing buried in there.  He is

still on the campaign trail.  He hasn`t made the transition from

campaigning to governance. 


He`s still talking about his opponent from November.  He`s still talking

about what he`s going to do.  He uses lots of empty adjectives to kind of

talk about the framing.  He loves the jokes and there`s lots of laughter in

there to break it up.  So he clearly likes the attention and the sort of

stand-up routine of playing presidential. 


But when I read the transcript multiple times, there`s early – it`s I`m

going to do a lot of big things and these things, but what? 


MELBER:  To that point, I spoke to a reality show executive who had insight

into how Donald Trump got here, who said so far he looks much more focused

on playing the role of president than doing the rest of the job. 


GILES:  Well, here`s what`s interesting that you bring that up.  I always

thought he was very good on his reality show playing the part of the

businessman because the bottom line is we`ve never seen his tax returns. 

What little we know about that part and the real part, the not fake facts,

but the real part is that he`s gone bankrupt and his business practices

which are what sold him to many people as a presidential candidate might

not be that great. 


And I always was interested in him sitting in his office set in a leather

chair set, looking very, sort of, you know, serious, you`re fired, you`re

fired, and all the trappings of someone who knows what he`s doing but

really didn`t.  And I`m totally with you.  When I read his transcript there

was no there-there.  Absolutely none. 


ERIN GLORIA RYAN, THE DAILY BEAST:  Yes, I mean, I – but I listened to the

whole thing twice because I hate myself. 


GILES:  Wow. 


RYAN:  I listened to the whole thing twice.  And what struck me wasn`t what

impression it`s going to leave with people like us.  What struck me was

what kind of impression it will leave with his people.  Like it was half –

the newsroom like, we got in half Groundhog Day, like he`s stuck in the

election day, he`s stuck on the campaign trail. 


GILES:  He can`t let go. 


RYAN:  But at the same time he sounded like a storyteller.  He was a

storyteller telling his favorite story like – 


GILES:  Over and over. 


RYAN:  To his favorite friends over at dinner. 




MELBER:  Well, I love Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor, all the kids are

above average. 




GILES:  Right.  Yes.  And all the women are beautiful. 


MELBER:  And all the women are beautiful. 


GILES:  And the men are good looking. 




MELBER:  Go ahead. 


GRIER:  I thought that he was going to practice for February 28th when he

actually has to address his colleagues.  And I thought that this would

actually be a space where he would try out certain policy positions and

really start planting the seeds for the conversation that he`s hopefully

going to have on Tuesday. 


MELBER:  You`re talking about what`s going to be – yes, the biggest

address of the presidency.  Let me read from – 


GRIER:  That`s right.  So why didn`t he use this as an opportunity? 


MELBER:  And one of his top advisers said, quote, on that address,

“President Trump is determined to capture the sunny optimism of Reagan.” 


RYAN:  Oh gosh. 


MELBER:  To temper the populist anger reflected in his core policies. 


Nancy, I would like you to come in and –




MELBER:  Could you annotate all of the – 




GILES:  Lucy, we got a problem.  No.  Number one, don`t compare yourself to

Reagan.  He might not have the greatest policies but he knew how to

communicate.  And even if people made fun of his acting in “Bedtime for

Bonzo,” he was very good in “Dark Victory.”  He knew what he was doing and

one thing you could say about Trump except for that fake businessman

setting he – this presidential jazz just doesn`t sit well on him. 


MELBER:  Right. 


GILES:  And it keeps going off script.  That`s where I think he`s really

going to have a danger in this next address.  Even if there`s stuff right

in front of him, he kind of trails off into the polls. 


MELBER:  Right. 


GILES:  And abyss.  You know. 


MELBER:  That makes me want to ask you something else.  We have to fit in a

break.  So sit tight.  When we come back, something that did get blown out

of the coverage at CPAC today.  What Kellyanne Conway said about women. 

Our panel may have something to say about that. 






KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR:  Donald Trump is someone who is

not fully understood for how compassionate and what a great boss he is to

women.  He has been promoting – he`s been promoting and elevating women in

the Trump Corporation, in the Trump campaign, in the Trump Cabinet,

certainly in the Trump White House.  It`s just a very natural affinity for





MELBER:  The panel`s back.  Erin Gloria Ryan, that was Kellyanne Conway who

spoke a lot about women at CPAC. 


RYAN:  Yes, she did.  She sure did speak a lot about women at CPAC.  And I

have some thoughts about what she said.  So to her first point that Donald

Trump – or to the first point that we all saw just now that Donald Trump

is somebody that has elevated women.  I believe he`s appointed five women

to Cabinet level positions out of 22.  Now five over 22 is significantly

less than 50 percent.  And this country is fast with – 


MELBER:  Sounds like fake math but well. 


RYAN:  Right.  I mean, it could be fake math.  You know, and also, I am a

woman so you never know how good the math is going to be. 


MELBER:  You`re saying it could be lady math.  OK. 


RYAN:  Right.  Right.  It`s lady math.  But you know, he has – maybe there

are women who have worked in the Trump administration that have had good

experiences with him. 


MELBER:  Sure. 


GILES:  His daughter.  Anyway, go ahead. 


RYAN:  Right.  But there`s also plenty of women who have had bad

experiences with him. 


GILES:  Right. 


RYAN:  And I believe we saw several press conferences involving several of

those women in the weeks leading up to the election. 


MELBER:  Christina, take a listen to Kellyanne Conway talking about the

word “feminist.” 




CONWAY:  For me it`s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the

classic sense because it seems to be very anti-now and it certainly is very

pro-abortion in this context, and I`m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. 




GRIER:  My goodness.  What trip to gravyville are we taking right now?  I

think I would tell everyone to please read Erin`s piece in “The New York

Times” which contextualizes this nonsense.  But also when did becoming a –

feminism is about equity.  Right?  And so when did this become about not

being for abortion?  I mean, this is clearly her attempt to play to the

crowd.  But also we have to recognize that Kellyanne Conway knows that

she`s also in the weeds and she`s possibly on her way out. 


So I think she`s just trying to have that last grasp of relevance from the

past weeks, and possibly – and she`s a smart woman, to set herself up for

possibly the next gig because I can`t see this gig lasting very long. 


RYAN:  Right. 


GRIER:  When multiple networks and media agencies recognize that she`s just

not credible and she`s almost doubled down a little bit too much, the same

way Giuliani and Christie sort of double down for Trump, Trump doesn`t

respect that.  So to a certain extent she`s overplayed her hand. 




MELBER:  Let me play one more, Nancy, I wanted to get you on.  Her talking

about whether women have a problem with women in power. 




CONWAY:  It turns out that a lot of women just have a problem with women in

power.  You know, this whole sisterhood, this whole let`s go march for

women`s rights, and you know, just constantly talking about what women look

like or what they wear or making fun of their choices or presuming that

they`re not as powerful as the men around, this presumptive negativity

about women and power I think is very unfortunate. 




GILES:  What?  Number one, what?  Number two, what?  I mean, she does make

one interesting point, though, because white women did vote – 


GRIER:  52 percent. 


RYAN:  I`ll never understand why they voted for Trump and some women do

have problems with women in power.  But I just have problems with dopey

people in power.  And also just to go back to that point about feminism

meaning anti-male and pro-abortion, no woman that I`ve ever known including

myself is pro-abortion.  All we are is pro-women having choices.  No one

wakes up in the morning and you go, hey, let`s get an abortion.  It doesn`t

happen.  And I hate hearing that.  I really resent that. 


RYAN:  I mean, that`s like – that`s one of the greatest hits of the right

trying to disparage feminism. 


GILES:  Yes. 


RYAN:  And there`s also – I wanted to point out really quickly, there`s a

difference with being empowered and being a feminist.  Kellyanne Conway is

an extremely empowered person.  She`s working in the White House, she ran

the first ever – she`s the first ever woman to run a successful major

party presidential campaign.  So she`s empowered but she`s not someone who

is doing feminist things with her power.  What she`s doing is furthering –

she`s working for a man who is furthering policies that hurt immigrant



GILES:  Absolutely. 


RYAN:  Women who are workers.  Women who are – 


GILES:  Women of color. 


RYAN:  Yes, absolutely. 


GRIER:  And anyone not his daughter or one of his wives. 


RYAN:  Right. 


GRIER:  But, Nancy, back to your point, though.  I think we do know why 53

percent of white women voted.  And I think historically, if we historicize

it, we`ve seen white women choose patriarchy over their own self-interests. 

And I think that – 


GILES:  White women. 


GRIER:  White women. 




RYAN:  It protects white women. 


GRIER:  Exactly.  Well, I mean, this whole exercise of American democracy

is set up to protect white women. 


GILES:  Yes. 


GRIER:  So I mean, I think this is – she`s problematic on a host of

levels.  I wonder how long she`ll last. 


MELBER:  Well – look, we`ve given her a lot of air time quite frankly in

the news so we`ve heard from her, we`ve played her and now we`ve played

some responses and that`s how it works. 


Stay with us.  Up next, a Republican congressman worrying the protests are

impacting the courage of the Republican caucus. 






GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  I don`t think there`s a danger listening

to the loud voices, and they are loud and they should be loud.  My

citizens, they are being impaired and endangered by these chaotic,

unprincipled, unplanned tweeted policies. 






MELBER:  And now an update on the resistance, protests at Republican town

halls over Obamacare may be striking a nerve.  Here`s a congressman, Mo

Brooks, Republican of Alabama. 




REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA:  There are, in my opinion, a significant

number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests.  I

don`t know if we`re going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because those

folks who support Obamacare are very active, they`re putting pressure on

congressmen and there`s not a counter-effort to steal the spine of some of

these congressmen in toss-up districts around the country. 




MELBER:  Our panel is here, Nancy Giles, Christina Grier, and Erin Gloria



GRIER:  Yes.  Well, I don`t think it`s just about toss-up districts.  I

think some of these Republicans are realizing even if they`re in super red

safe districts, you know, Republican safe districts, they could still be

primaried.  You know, there are a lot of Republicans who have been

benefiting from Obamacare over the past several years and the fact that the

Republicans had eight years to think of an alternative and they just wanted

to be the party of no.  And now they`re just saying, we`ll repeal it, we`ll

replace it, we`ll do something with alliteration and it`s not going to be

enough.  And so they can`t put a vote up because they don`t have anything

to give their constituents. 


MELBER:  Right.  But, Erin, credit where it`s due, if that was a candid

statement that this Republican is listening to his constituents and feels

that the intensity, which sometimes matters more than numbers in politics. 


RYAN:  Right. 


MELBER:  If the intensity we`re seeing is going to change policy, then you

can give the Republicans some credit there. 


RYAN:  Yes.  I think that that`s good to see them acknowledging that their

constituents` wishes actually have an impact on them because that`s

literally what their jobs are. 


GILES:  Thank you. 


RYAN:  But I also think that what – there might be something else going on

here with the Alabama – that we just heard.  He`s calling his colleagues

like chicken basically. 


GILES:  Spineless. 


RYAN:  Yes, yes.  And it`s almost as if these trying to goad them into



MELBER:  So you think there`s more than one thing going on here. 


RYAN:  There might be more than one thing going on here as there usually is

with this sort of thing. 


MELBER:  Well, Nancy. 


GILES:  Yes. 


MELBER:  Is it also just, to Erin`s point, he`s saying they don`t have the

spine so drink more milk and be more conservative?  Let`s calcify the

backbone of the Republican caucus. 


GILES:  But what a minute.  What spine?  If you`re constituents are saying

we want these protections and you`re supposed to be representing them?  I

believe it`s called the House of Representatives, then you`re supposed to

do what they`re asking you to do.  So what is he talking about?  What I

love about what`s going on is that people are – I don`t care whether

they`re Republican or Democrat, I really don`t.  They`re getting engaged. 

Because the bigger story in this election was the almost 100 million people

didn`t even bother to vote.  And maybe now they`re getting the connection

that the local races are as important if not in this case more important

than the president. 


MELBER:  Well, that`s such a deeper point that goes beyond folks who are

super into politics.  The old saying, Christina, used to be if you don`t

vote, you don`t get to complain. 


GRIER:  Yes. 


MELBER:  I always thought that was totally ridiculous.  There are many ways

to engage.  Not everyone is up on every election.  Sometimes you wake up

and you realize, oh, that`s the superintendent of public schools? 


GRIER:  Right. 


MELBER:  Oh, that`s where they`re building the garbage dump and outside my

kid`s school?  And now you want to get involved, that`s a good thing. 


GRIER:  Right.  And I mean, we have to also recognize that this was the

first election that we went to the polls without the full protection of

Voting Rights Act because there are many people who wanted to participate,

either they were intimidated from doing so or they were actually thrown off

the polls for very strategic reasons because of what`s happening on state

levels.  So we have to remember that piece. 


But I think, Nancy, your point is completely correct.  These are our



GILES:  That`s right. 


GRIER:  But we do have attention between representatives who vote for their

own interests because they read the policy and they know better than their

constituents and then other representatives who feel like, well, if you

send me forward, even if it`s not possibly the best thing for you maybe I

should do it because that`s what the group wants.  At least explain to them

what`s going on.  And that`s what I also find between the theatrics. 


MELBER:  Right. 




MELBER:  As Kellyanne Conway would say, preach, sisters.  And thank you for

being here.  I really enjoyed this.  Now I want to thank all of you. 


We also have some MSNBC programming news here for you.  Full disclosure. 

It does involve me.  This Sunday MSNBC is launching “The Point,” a two-hour

show on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.  It`s part of our expanded coverage

of the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  The news outlet, The

Wrap, reported on the show today noting it will air throughout the

remainder of the first 100 days of Donald Trump`s presidency with the final

episode April 30th. 


The article also adds, quote, that I`m known for slipping random hip-hop

references into my coverage.  You know, I don`t really consider them

random.  They`re always supposed to be on point. 


Anyway, I do hope at home you will all tune in on Sunday.  Lawrence will be

back Monday at this show.  And up next “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes. 







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