The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 2/27/2017

David Frum, Jonathan Alter, Nick Confessore, Richard Stengel, Jay Rosen, Steven Brill, John Schindler

Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Date: February 27, 2017
Guest: David Frum, Jonathan Alter, Nick Confessore, Richard Stengel, Jay Rosen, Steven Brill, John Schindler

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: But if – right now like it was in Delaware right
now, Connecticut Senate is tied, it`s even.

And there are two seats up for grabs. One of them is considered to be a
safe Republican seat, the other one is considered to be a safe Democratic

But if either party can pull off an upset, if one of those races can swing
the other way, it will change which party controls the Senate in the state
of Connecticut.

Oh, it`s all very exciting. We`ll keep you posted. 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: Good evening, Rachel, I am happy
to report that the mystery has been solved.

It was not Warren Beatty`s fault. It wasn`t. I mean, it was clear. I
kept watching the reruns last night and then the close-ups on the, you
know, HDTVs.

You could see what it said on the envelope that he had. That it was for
best actress and then he didn`t want to read what was on that.

And you could tell he was kind of showing it to Faye Dunaway, about to say
we got a problem and she said the name of the movie she saw – but it
wasn`t – it wasn`t his fault –

MADDOW: My favorite part of it was that she was going to be like teasing
him for going so slow.

O`DONNELL: Right –


O`DONNELL: Right, so the “Daily News” has cracked the case and the guilty
party is going to be on the cover of the “New York Daily News” tomorrow

Here`s a look. Here`s a peek at the guy who got it wrong. He apparently
was in charge of the envelopes – we`ll take it down.

It`s too painful. It`s too – I don`t want – it`s too – look, it`s his
one moment on television on the cover of a newspaper in his life and the
short of that moment is the better for him because he was the guy.

MADDOW: Although –

O`DONNELL: He is the guy with the envelopes.

MADDOW: Although famous is famous, right? Maybe –



MADDOW: Forever be known for this one thing.


MADDOW: Yes, thank you –


MADDOW: Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: It wasn`t Warren`s fault, OK, let`s just – let –

MADDOW: Fair enough –

O`DONNELL: History show.

MADDOW: Let`s –


MADDOW: Adopt –


MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. So, Donald Trump discovered today that health
care policy is complicated.

During the campaign he always said that repealing and replacing Obamacare
would be simple and easy and can be done very quickly.

And that`s because the only health care expert Donald Trump knew then was
this guy, his personal physician who put in writing the lie that Donald
Trump would be the healthiest president in history.

That doctor just made up that lie and signed his name to it. That`s the
kind of health care expert Donald Trump was accustomed to dealing with
before becoming president of the United States.

And that is why President Trump and Republicans in Congress are trapped in
a nightmare of their own making in their desperate and confused attempt to
repeal and replace Obamacare.

And they`re trying to do that. That huge legislative endeavor. While the
air of scandal and incompetence thickens around the White House.


safety and national security budget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From talking to my constituents over the last week
during recess, one of their greatest fears of this president is that he`s
going to get us engaged in war.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Republican and Democratic leaders in the house,
they are split over how to go forward investigating President Trump and his
advisors over alleged ties to Russia.

have any evidence that would – of any phone calls. It doesn`t mean they
don`t exist, but I don`t have that.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We haven`t obtained any of the evidence
yet, so it`s premature for us to be saying that we`ve reached any
conclusion about the issue of collusion.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How many people have to say that
there`s nothing there before you realize there`s nothing there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support a special prosecutor on Russia?

TRUMP: Thank you –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support a special prosecutor on Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for asking –

SCHIFF: Is this all make believe? I don`t understand exactly what the
president is trying to say except to deflect from the poor way he`s running
the administration thus far.


O`DONNELL: Special prosecutor. Since Richard Nixon was driven out of the
presidency by the work commenced by a special prosecutor. The words
“special prosecutor”, those two words are the worst words a White House can

And as the Trump White House embarks on its second month, only its second
month, the calls for a special prosecutor to look into Trump ties to Russia
have spread from Democrats to Republicans.

And so today in a White House covered by clouds and scandal and rank
incompetence, the most ignorant, incoherent and incompetent president in
history walked into a room full of governors to tell them how he plans to
bankrupt the federal government.

And by extension the states who depend on the federal government. Of
course, there was no hint that the president understood that everything he
was saying would bankrupt the federal government.

But all of the governors knew what they were hearing. The president was
proposing massive increases in spending and massive tax cuts along with a
new tax increase on some imported goods.

A tax that the president erroneously seems to believe would be paid by
foreign countries when, in fact, it would be paid entirely by American

The president proved to the room his utter ignorance of everything that`s
happened in the world since World War II when he suggested that the reason
the United States no longer wins wars the way we used to is that we just
don`t spend enough money on them.


TRUMP: We have to win. We have to start winning wars again. Let`s just
say when I was young in high school and college, everybody used to say we
never lost a war.

We never lost a war. you remember. Some of you are right there with me and
you remember, we never lost a war. America never lost. And now we never
win a war. We never win. And we don`t fight to win.


O`DONNELL: Of course, when Donald Trump was in college, he was the only
student there who did not know that we were losing a war.

Every day that he was in college, we were losing the Vietnam war. Donald
Trump managed to get a doctor to say that he had bone spurs that then
allowed him to escape the draft and possible service in Vietnam.

Those bone spurs never inhibited Donald Trump`s physical activity before or
since the Vietnam war.

And his utter obliviousness to the Vietnam war today surely helped convince
most of the governors in the room that he was as divorced from reality as
his speech was.

There was even a moment in his speech today when he left his prepared
remarks to announce that he, alone among Americans had just discovered that
the health care system in this country is complicated.

And that repealing and replacing Obamacare is not going to be as easy as he
thought. We`ll have more on that later in this hour.

The president said he will talk more about his proposed budget tomorrow
night in an address to Congress, but he did not actually promise more

President George W. Bush appeared on “The Today Show” this morning and Matt
Lauer asked him about the travel ban the Trump administration continues to
try to rewrite into a new executive order.


very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for
people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all.

I mean, the bedrock of our freedom – a bedrock of our freedom is the right
to worship freely.

MATT LAUER, HOST, THE TODAY SHOW: And you were for or against the ban.
You were against the ban?

BUSH: I am for an immigration policy that`s welcoming and that upholds the


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, David Frum; senior editor for “The Atlantic”,
Jonathan Alter; Msnbc political analyst and columnist for “The Daily

And Nicholas Confesore; a Pulitzer Prize-winning political reporter for the
“New York Times” and an Msnbc contributor. David Frum, I want to go first
to you on what President Bush had to say this morning.

You were a speechwriter for President Bush in his White House. Your
reaction to what he told Matt Lauer about the travel ban.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, that`s him all over. I
mean, one of the – I mean, he made such an effort in his administration to
establish the war on terror was not the war on any particular religion.

And in fact, one of – one of the weirder things that or things that struck
English speakers as weird.

Has used the term evil doers to describe terrorists came about because of
an attempt to find a word in Arabic that would not be offensive to Arabic
sensibilities and then back translates that into English.

So, that was him. That was the authentic man.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, the budget talk that the president gave today
was the most incoherent budget talk ever given by anyone who`s taken the
oath of office as president.

With all of those asides that Trump does when he`s – when he`s giving a
speech, no real specificity.

He doesn`t seem to understand what the Republicans in the house – what –
in the Congress are doing as opposed to what he talked about during the

look at the people he`s appointed.

And the bad news is he appointed a guy named Mick Mulvaney, a tea party
congressman to be head of his Office of Management and Budget.

And the indications are that the president`s budget is going to be an
extraordinarily conservative document which slashes, not just trims, but
slashes and eliminates many social programs.

So, we`re going to be arguing all through the spring, winter and spring
about this budget. Tax reform isn`t until August they`ve said. Obamacare
repeal ain`t happening for reasons we discussed.

So, we`re going to be obsessed about this budget and it`s going to make
Ronald Reagan`s budget in 1981 which caused a huge storm in Washington look
like a picnic.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what some of the Republicans in the House are
saying about this budget.

This is Charlie Dent who`s – appropriations committee in the House. He
said “the president will propose and the Congress will dispose. We`ll look
at his budget but at the end of the day we in Congress write the
appropriations bills.

And I am not one who thinks you can pay for an increase in military
spending on the backs of domestic discretionary programs which constitute
13 percent or 14 percent of all federal spending.”

And Nick, the problem there is if you`re not looking at discretionary
programs, you have to look at the so-called entitlements.

They`re really big items, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. Donald
Trump promised in the campaign never going to touch Social Security or

NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: Look, here`s the problem. Trump is not
an American conservative, right? He`s just –


CONFESSORE: Not. He promised to defend entitlements for middle class
people, Social Security and Medicare, exactly.

So, the problem is that to balance the budget or to expand spending on the
Pentagon on the backs of the EPA or the National Endowment for the Arts –
it`s impossible, right?

And he`s saying I`m going to have it all, right? I`ll have the
entitlements. We`re spending on defense, I`m going to cut the taxes and
regulation and cut taxes. It`s impossible to do.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, is the – is the ultimate move here going to be,
yes, cut the National Endowment for the Arts and cut all these things that
Republicans – some Republicans have always wanted to zero out and

And increase military spending and just put the rest of it on the deficit.
Just don`t pay for it, just increase that spending.

FRUM: Well, Donald Trump`s essential business method was to borrow money
and not pay it back.

Which can be a very powerful, wealth-creating effect for the individual.
And he`s often recommended that approach to the United States.

That the United States could borrow money and not pay it back. And so I
think there are – that probably is the plan.

You know, the traditional Republican answer has been that you can –
there`s a lot – there are lot of ways to find savings inside Medicare
without changing the nature of the benefits, but by squeezing providers.

But that means you have to get into the actual details of program
administration. You have to think about how the health care delivery
system in the United States works, and as we learned today, it turns out
it`s complicated.

O`DONNELL: Yes, here`s more from “Politico”. This is Republican
Congressman Steve Womack and he says “trying to sort for a deficit in the
hundreds of billions of dollars cannot be accomplished through deeper cuts
in discretionary programs without terrific harm to both the economy and a
lot of innocent people.”

And Jonathan, that`s not what you will hear from most Republicans. They`ll
leave out the part about possible harm to the economy or innocent people.

But if they`re honest about the numbers, they will just point out
mathematically the numbers don`t exist in discretionary spending to try to
do this sort of thing.

ALTER: Right, but they don`t care about deficits when a Republican is in
the White House.

Remember when George W. Bush was in the White House, Dick Cheney said
quote, “deficits don`t matter”. They only care about irresponsible
spending when Democrats are in the White House.

So you can expect them to run up the deficit to pretend that the numbers
add up even when they don`t. To use what they call “rosy scenarios of
economic growth” that will somehow take care of these deficit problems.

And they`re also – remember, they only have a two-vote margin in the
Senate. So, it doesn`t require a lot of defections for them to just get
slam-dunked on all of these things. And the president`s political capital
is rapidly depleting.

O`DONNELL: But Nick, I remember a presidential candidate running against
the national debt and running against the deficit that adds to the national
debt and his name was Donald Trump.

CONFESSORE: Well, you know, politicians are sometimes not always
consistent with their promises and keeping –

O`DONNELL: Really? Oh, OK –

CONFESSORE: It happens sometimes. George W. Bush also ran on getting rid
of debt or at least of not spending too much, and he did, of course, right?
I think –

O`DONNELL: Yes, but in fairness, George W. Bush, as a presidential
campaigner in the year 2000 did not see al Qaeda coming obviously and
coming to the World Trade Center and hitting Washington.

So, he had a war on his hands that he wasn`t –

CONFESSORE: Absolutely –

O`DONNELL: Anticipating as a candidate. But still when the time came,
they funded that war and cut taxes.

CONFESSORE: Here`s the problem. We have – you know, been in an age of
austerity kind of as it is for the last eight or five, six years because of
the sequester. So many agencies are already operating at the bone. You
just can`t squeeze that much –

O`DONNELL: Right –

CONFESSORE: At the lemon to accomplish all these things he wants to do.
He can`t –

O`DONNELL: But David, again, there`s a long list of things that many
Republicans in Congress would be happy to see zeroed out.

And so it`s – if you want to preserve the program, you could look at it
and say, well, there`s nothing else we can cut from it. But if you don`t
care if that program dies, there`s more you can cut from it.

FRUM: Look, there are a lot of programs that Republicans have ideological
objections to that they`d be happy to cut.

But they tend to be pretty small. And so they don`t have a big budget
impact. Now, they feel still strongly about it regardless, but they don`t
have the big budget impact.

If you want to make a big budget impact, then this is the thing that
President Obama wrestled with in 2009 and 2010.

You have to – the way to do it is to bring American health care costs into
line with the rest of the developed world. If we – if the United States
were spending on health care what – these are figures you`ll remember.

We talked about this five years ago. What Norway or Switzerland were
spending, who are the next runners-up in the developed world, you could
have the entire defense budget for free.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, quickly, before we break here. The air of
scandal surrounding the White House while they`re trying to legislate.
What does that do? What kind of a drag does that put on the legislative

ALTER: The considerable one because Washington can only do one thing at a

And Trump who is a master at distraction is now going to be a victim of
distraction because when he wants to keep focus on, you know, cutting food
stamps or whatever it is he`s going to be doing in the next few weeks.

The stories are often going to be about Russia and he`s going to have a
problem getting his message across.

O`DONNELL: Jon Alter gets the last word on this round, Nick Confessore,
Jon Alter, thank you both for joining us tonight, appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump`s big budget proposal tomorrow night probably will
not have as much detail as he has been promising. And the pressure for a
special prosecutor continues to grow around the Trump White House.


O`DONNELL: Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that he is reviewing
current Justice Department policy toward state laws on marijuana and
deciding whether or not to crack down on marijuana in states that have
legalized it.

The Attorney General says he has not yet made a decision. But we have a
new Quinnipiac poll finding that 71 percent of Americans oppose a federal
government crackdown on marijuana in those states.

Twenty three percent support it. Even a majority of Republicans, 55
percent oppose a crackdown. Up next, the investigation of Trump world and


O`DONNELL: The first big crack in the Republican congressional wall of
defense around the White House is Darrell Issa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independent prosecutor and –


And Jeff Sessions should recuse himself the same way Loretta Lynch recused


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You`re right that you cannot have
somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who
was an appointee.

You`re going to need to use the special prosecutor`s statute in office to
take not just to recuse.

That`s – you can`t just give it to your deputy that`s another political
appointee. You do have to do that.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Darrell Issa followed that up today with a written
statement on why he believes we need a special prosecutor to investigate
Trump world`s connections to Russia.

“An investigation is not the same as an assertion of specific wrong-doing.
It`s following the facts where they lead so that the American people can
know what may or may not have taken place.

Any review conducted must have the full confidence of the American people
which is why I recommended an independent review.”

The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, held an
unprecedented press conference today in which he discussed what the
committee has been finding in their investigation.


NUNES: I don`t have any evidence that would – of any phone calls. It
doesn`t mean they don`t exist.

But I don`t have that and what I`ve been told is by many – by many folks
is that there`s nothing there.


O`DONNELL: “Axios” reported today that Congressman Nunes was one of
several government officials including CIA Director Mike Pompeo who was
asked by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to talk to reporters.

Quote, “to try to discredit a “New York Times” article about Trump campaign
aides` contact with Russia.” Nunes seems to have delivered on that request
in his press conference today.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee didn`t discuss any
evidence because he says the committee hasn`t received any evidence. But
he did say this.


SCHIFF: On the basis of conversations that the chair and I are having with
intelligence officials, we can`t draw any conclusions and nor should we.
We shouldn`t be prejudging where the facts lead.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Richard Stengel; managing editor of – former
managing editor of “Time Magazine” and he has – who has also interviewed
Vladimir Putin when he was with “Time Magazine”.

He last visited Russia in 2016 when he was undersecretary of state for
public diplomacy. He`s now an Msnbc contributor.

And back with us, David Frum. Rick Stengel, the notion of a White House
reaching out to the intelligence committees and the House and the Senate
saying please help defend us to the “New York Times” and others about this

And in fact, the fact that the chairman actually made those phone calls
show that they have an inherent conflict of interest and they can`t be
independent and impartial in the investigation.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, what`s your reaction to these developments?

FRUM: Well, I have a – I am here with a special commercial message, which
is please stop talking about a special prosecutor.

The special prosecutor is a law enforcement official whose job it is to go
find if crimes are committed.

It`s not illegal for an American citizen to have conversations with a
hostile foreign intelligence agency. It`s inappropriate, it`s unethical,
it`s a security risk, but it`s not a crime in most cases.

So, this is – this is a trap. It takes us down a path of legality. The
thing we want to know is are there security risks inside the White House?
It`s not a crime to be a security risk. It`s just dangerous to have them
inside the White House.

So, I plead for people to think not in terms of a special prosecutor under
the special counsel law, but of an independent commission run by
intelligence professionals that has the power to identify security risks
and to recommend that they`d be excluded from government and to go fast.

Because you don`t want to wait for the legal process, you want to get
security risks out of the government fast.

And that is the higher up that person is positioned, the closer to the
office of the presidency that person is, the more important it is to get
them out of office fast.

O`DONNELL: David, quickly, just to complete your public service
announcement, who do you want to appoint to that commission?

FRUM: That, it will have to be appointed by Congress. And I don`t have a
lot of confidence in Congress right now.

But public pressure is an amazing thing. That the kind of people who
should be running it are people who have served at the highest levels in
the intelligence community. Professionals, not lawyers.

O`DONNELL: So, Rick Stengel, a commission which I will now sketch into
shape with appointees coming from the leader – the Democratic leadership
of the Senate, the Democratic leadership of the House and an appointees
coming from the Republican leadership of the Senate, Republican leadership
of the House.

And I think David makes a very good point that the limit – the problem
with the special prosecutor at this stage is the limitation of the focus is
on crime and nothing but crime.

And if the special prosecutor doesn`t find crime, that special prosecutor
might actually end up revealing nothing.

STENGEL: Yes, I mean, I won`t get into the statute, these laws passed
after Watergate difference between independent counsel –


STENGEL: Special prosecutor. The key word is independents –

O`DONNELL: Independent –

STENGEL: Here, right? So, whether it`s an independent commission like 9/11
or an independent prosecutor, that`s the key thing.

But the thing I would add in my public service announcement is that the
investigation has to be larger than just the connection between Trump world
and Russia.

Russia has been trying to invade our domestic space and influence our
elections since 1982 which is in that great “New Yorker” article this week.

They have been knocking on the door and finally they got someone to answer
the door – Donald Trump.

And the ramifications for our democracy are huge. The investigation can`t
just be about Trump, but about how they`re doing this and how Trump

Because Trump has played into their act. He has been what Lennon(ph)
called the “useful idiot” to their efforts which no one has done since

O`DONNELL: David, go ahead.

FRUM: I won`t disagree with that. I mean, I agree with Richard Stengel,
those are things that we want to know and there should be books written
about them.

But right now, right now, there are people in the West Wing with access to
all kinds of secret information including the names of American agents
inside other countries who may be security risks.

And you have to exclude them and you have to do it fast. So, I don`t want
members of Congress on this commission.

I want professionals but the commission must be appointed by Congress, but
make it go fast, find the risks, identify them and isolate them from power.

O`DONNELL: So Rick, I think we could probably – we could all agree that
an investigative priority would be the connections of people currently
working in the White House and working back from that transition officials,
where apparently there was a significant amount of contact and then
campaign officials.

STENGEL: See, the other thing that people forget to mention is that during
the campaign, Donald Trump, candidate Donald Trump quoted from “Russia
Today” articles, quoted from “Sputnik” pieces that are Russian propaganda.

That famous Sidney Blumenthal reference that he did was from a “Sputnik”
piece. How Russia has infiltrated our campaign space is a very dangerous

And I agree with David, there`s an actual security risk right now that
needs to be investigated.

O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, David Frum, thank you both for joining us
tonight, appreciate it.

FRUM: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the White House Correspondents` Dinner is now
officially a canceled TV series.



MATT LAUER, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: Did you ever consider the media to
be the enemy of the American people?

to be indispensable to democracy that we need an independent media to hold
people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can
be corrosive and it`s important for the media to call to account people who
abuse their power whether it would be here or elsewhere.

One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a
person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an
independent press.

LAUER: Right.

BUSH: And it`s kind of hard, you know, to tell others to have an
independent free press when we`re not willing to have one, ourselves.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President George W. Bush on the Today
Show this morning. Joining us now, Jay Rosen, media critic and professor
of journalism at New York University, he`s the author of “Press Think: A
Blog about Journalism.” Jay, so now for former presidents, the first
question is, did you ever think the media was the enemy of the people?

President Bush gave a very good answer. He said it`s hard for me to
persuade foreign dictators about the importance of an independent press
when we are dismantling it, ourselves. You know, when the press used to
accompany the president on foreign trips, one of the most important things
that would happen is that the American press would get up and ask questions
of the president and the foreign dictator he was with. Or the foreign
government he was meeting with.

O`DONNELL: Contentious questions.

ROSEN: Contentious questions.


ROSEN: And the point was to prove to others that American democracy lives
wherever the president lives. And now we`re kind of reversing that.

O`DONNELL: And the – to go to the weekend developments on the White House
correspondent`s dinner, something that has been highly controversial within
the business for a while. First, every celebrity in Hollywood pulled out.
Just a complete boycott, no stars going to the first Trump White House
correspondents` dinner and once Donald Trump realized that he would have no
supporting Hollywood cast in the audience, he decided to pull out.

And, you know now we have – I`m not sure what`s left. But in fact – in
fact, what`s left is the essence of it before it was completely corrupted
by the Hollywood influence and that is they give awards to White House
correspondents and reporters and these are hard-earned awards that deserve
attention and never get any attention.

ROSEN: Right.

O`DONNELL: Because everybody`s looking at the movie star over there or
waiting for the comedian to talk.

ROSEN: Right. Well as it grew into this monstrosity, the awards to
journalists and the college scholarships to young people got overwhelmed by

O`DONNELL: It`s like a dozen kids who go up on that stage and receive
scholarships that change their lives.

ROSEN: But no one would even know them.


ROSEN: So, it became something else. One thing it became was, look how
important we are, we can get the president to come. Another thing was,
look at how glamorous our profession is. We have all these movie stars.
And then a third thing I think, it was sort of saying, look, we tussle with
each other, there`s fights, there`s tensions but we`re all on the same
business, so we should be able to have a laugh and clink our glasses
because we`re really all part of the same world.

All of those things have become inappropriate with Trump in office.

O`DONNELL: And it took Donald Trump, apparently, for most of the media to
finally see this.

ROSEN: It did, although he quit them before they quit him.

O`DONNELL: Well, a lot of them were quitting, though. A lot of them were
canceling parties.


O`DONNELL: You know, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, the parties are being
cancelled, none of the – the tables weren`t sold yet so we don`t know what
the turnout would have been.

ROSEN: But what about the WHCA, itself? What about the White House
Correspondents Association? They are still acting like its business as
usual. They still want the normal access, the normal routines, the normal
dinner. And I think that was a mistake.

O`DONNELL: Well, they can get a smaller room this year.


O`DONNELL: Jay Rosen thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate it. Coming
up, Donald Trump finally admits what we all always knew. He doesn`t know
anything about health care. He admits it just when the congress was hoping
he did.

And an NBC news exclusive report reveals that the first military mission
ordered by President Trump was a total failure.



have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost and it`s going to
be so easy.


O`DONNELL: He gives so much better speeches when he`s wearing the hat. On
the campaign trail in October, Donald Trump called repealing and replacing
Obamacare so easy. Today at the White House with no hat, Donald Trump said


TRUMP: We have come up with a solution that`s really, really, I think,
very good. Now, I have to tell you, it`s an unbelievably complex subject.
Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.


O`DONNELL: No. Nobody knew. Donald Trump`s comments came after the
Washington Post reported last night that Ohio governor John Kasich tried to
convince Donald Trump not to make drastic changes to Obamacare. The
Washington Post reports that during a meeting last Friday, “at one point
senior adviser Jared Kushner reminded his father-in-law that house
republicans are sketching out a different approach to providing access to
coverage. Well, I like this better, Trump replied.”

Republicans continue to disagree on what should be in the Obamacare repeal.
Tonight, the head of the republican study committee, Mark Walker, said he
would not support the draft republican plan to repeal Obamacare. The plan
would get rid of Obamacare subsidies based on income and replace them with
tax credits based on age.

He called it, a new health insurance entitlement with a republican stamp on
it. Joining us next, Steven Brill who literally wrote the book, the most
definitive book on Obamacare, he will join us here on the day that Donald
Trump finally admitted that health care is unbelievably complex.



TRUMP: Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.

complicated stuff. And the hospital executives who are here and the
doctors who are here and the consumer advocates who are here can tell you.


O`DONNELL: And Steven Brill can tell you, he wrote a book about it.
Steven Brill journalist and author of America`s Bitter Pill: Money,
Politics Backroom Deals and the Fight to fix our Broken Healthcare System.
Steven`s also on MSNBC contributor. So there`s Donald Trump finally
admitting what we`ve all known for many, many decades, anyone who ever
applied for health insurance.

STEVEN BRILL, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Listen, I felt bad. I spent two years
writing a book about such a simple subject, but the only thing I can think
of is you know, I`m one of those people who doesn`t think that Trump is
anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is. But he apparently is wealthy
enough that he`s – and healthy enough that he`s never seen a hospital

He`s never seen an insurance company`s explanation of benefits. Something
I`m sure you`ve seen a lot of.

O`DONNELL: Right. Right.

BRILL: And you know you can`t decipher them. The healthcare is – I mean
I`ve written about antitrust law, you name it.


BRILL: It is the most complicated subject –

O`DONNELL: Right. International trade, whatever you want –

BRILL: Because we have twisted ourselves into a pickle with our healthcare

O`DONNELL: And the republicans and the president have now done it on the
policy. It feels like if you go by the sound you`re hearing, that they
have painted themselves into a corner they don`t know how to get out of.
Let`s listen to Chuck Schumer talking about where he thinks the republicans
are now.


their party will grow as republicans turn to Washington after this last
week of angry town halls. I believe the odds are very high. We will keep
the ACA. It will not be repealed.


O`DONNELL: Steven, he first said something like that, in my memory, to
Rachel Maddow in this building shortly after the election and he was – it
was more –

BRILL: Like the day after.

O`DONNELL: It was more of a hunch. He`s sounding much more confident
about this now.

BRILL: Well that`s because he understands the way you understand it.

O`DONNELL: He`s been through it.

BRILL: That it`s hard to do and there`s a lot of moving parts and you
can`t just take one part out and expect the thing to keep going. I mean
just to give you an example. One republican plan says that they`re going
to allow the insurance companies to charge the elderly five times as much
as young people. The current regulation is three times as much.

The same plan says that when they give tax credits, they`re going to give
tax credits to the elderly that are twice as much as the tax credits that
go to the young people. How does that compute? How does that work? They
might not even know it because it`s, you know, a couple paragraphs down.

O`DONNELL: And so enter John Kasich to the White House who apparently was
saying the kinds of things to Donald Trump that he wanted to hear about
here`s, you know, you can keep insurance for kids on their parent`s
policies up to age 26. You can keep the pre-existing conditions piece.

You can keep, you can keep, you can keep. And maybe John Kasich never
quite said you can keep that by keeping Obamacare and Jared Kushner at some
point heard enough and realized that his father-in-law was drifting way,
way far away from where the congressional republicans are.

BRILL: That`s right. Nor have the republicans explained how when they
appeal – when they repeal Obamacare what they`re going to do with the
billion dollars worth of taxes that are in Obamacare. I didn`t see that in
his budget. I don`t know what his budget assumes about that.

O`DONNELL: Right, yes because Obamacare has about 15 taxes in it.


O`DONNELL: They raised together a significant amount of money.


O`DONNELL: And if you repeal it, all that income to the treasury –

BRILL: I say billion I meant a trillion. Yes.

O`DONNELL: Yes. All of that is gone.


O`DONNELL: And gone forever but, again, I mean, it`s not clear, because
there`s been no specificity, I`ve never heard a republican say here`s what
we want to do to the tax pieces in Obamacare.

BRILL: The only thing I can tell you for sure is when he does it, he`s
going to declare victory. It`s what a lot of people said we should have
done in Vietnam, you know, just declare victory and get out. He`s going to
declare victory, he`s going to say there are just as many people covered.


BRILL: We`re spending less money.

O`DONNELL: OK. That brings us to last night`s New York Times, historic
New York Times TV ad at the Oscars. Let`s take a look at it.


O`DONNELL: And truth is more important now than ever and that`s going to
play into both the dimensions of this debate and the outcome. You`ve long
held that when I was trying to figure out how will they do this, how will
they do this, you basically said on the show, well in the end they`ll just
lie about what they did.

BRILL: Now the problem they`re going to have is even though the president
has just discovered this is really complicated.


BRILL: And really hard to understand, people will understand when the
insurance policies they buy for, let`s say, a premium that doesn`t go up
that much in cost, it`s not going up in cost because the benefits have been
cut back. The deductibles have been raised. People will get that. The
thing about health insurance is as complicated as it is, the cost, the toll
on individuals, every consumer, every person in this country, is really

That stuff`s not complicated.

O`DONNELL: And – and that`s when – when you have statements going out
there as Donald Trump has done, as Kellyanne Conway has done at different
times saying no one who`s a current beneficiary of Obamacare will suffer in
any way, in the end of their story, if they pass a bill, they`re simply
going to have to lie about that part.

BRILL: Yes. And you guys could do a town hall every night with people who
have been hurt by it.

O`DONNELL: Right. I used to pay this, now I don`t have anything.

BRILL: I mean you could do a town hall in the Yankee Stadium.


BRILL: For people who have been hurt by it.

O`DONNELL: Steven Brill thanks for joining us once again.

BRILL: Sure enough.

O`DONNELL: In this perennial subject is going to be with us for the rest
of the year at least and tonight. Coming up the Trump administration is
still calling the raid in Yemen where we lost a Navy S.E.A.L. a success,
but the father of that Navy S.E.A.L is not so sure. And now a new NBC news
report cites multiple government officials saying the raid obtained no
usable intelligence information.


O`DONNELL: Bill Paxton always knew better than most of us that life was
fleeting. That you just never know when the end was coming, Bill was 8
years old when he convinced d his father to bring him to see the president
of the United States in person for the first time. He`ll never forget that
first moment of seeing John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

He waved to the president. A big Texas wave,Bill was waving hello. He
didn`t know that he was also waving good-bye. Later that day in Dallas,
the president was shot in the back of the head. Bill told me that story
late one night when we were working together on the HBO series, Big Love.

In Bill`s telling, it felt like it happened yesterday. The lead actor in a
TV series should be the captain of the cast and crew. The cheerleader who
helps everyone get through their day. That`s who Bill Paxton was every day
that I worked with him. He taught us all a lot.

He always brought humility and respect to his work and never had a second
of not being deeply grateful to be there. Bill started as a member of the
crew on film sets and worked his way all the way up to director and number
one on the call sheet as an actor. He knew how to do every job on the set
and everyone knew that, but he always deferred to the judgment of the
people who were doing those jobs.

Bill Paxton brought big love to the set of Big Love every day. Yesterday,
his family announced that Bill died on Saturday from complications from
surgery. He leaves his wife, Louis, and his son, James, and his daughter,
Lydia. Bill Paxton was 61 years old.



SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell him that on behalf of
the president, his son died a hero and the information that he was able to
help obtain through that raid, as I`ve said before, was going to save
American lives.


O`DONNELL: Sean Spicer today was speaking to the father of a Navy S.E.A.L.
Who was lost in Yemen, speaking to him through the press at that briefing
today. He said that this afternoon, but tonight, NBC news is reporting
that multiple officials say that the raid in Yemen in which that Navy
S.E.A.L. was killed, “has yielded no intelligence of value.”

In an interview with the Miami Herald the father of the Navy S.E.A.L. says
he refused to meet the president when his son`s body was returned to Dover
Air Force base. Bill Owens, a military veteran, himself, told the
newspaper he, “cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the
president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son`s life.” And
asked, “why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it
wasn`t even barely a week into his administration?”

Joining us now is John Schindler, National Security Columnist for the New
York Observer and former professor at the U.S. Naval War College. John,
what do you make of the evaluations of this raid as we understand them at
this point?

think the raid was clearly badly executed. Well-intentioned but badly
executed. What happened, we don`t know how high up the chain of command
the mistakes began, but clearly this was a raid that should have been
curtailed but wasn`t.

Chief Owens died as being reported, 25 or more civilians died as well. This
is not a happy situation.

O`DONNELL: And we do know there are reports of how the decision was made
that the president made the decision –


SCHINDLER: – in effect at dinner instead of in the formal setting of a
situation room briefing or a formal briefing by everyone who you would want
present for such a briefing. Do you think – and was basically General
Flynn making – as the national security adviser – making the
presentation. Do you think that`s part of the problem here?

SCHINDLER: Oh, I think it clearly is, and I`m not big about Monday Morning
quarterbacking. Mistakes happen. But clearly the Flynn, now former Flynn,
nexus with the president probably had something to do with this and was
probably not very productive and I think we need to move on from that and
just be glad it probably won`t happen again.

O`DONNELL: And when you read what the father of this Navy S.E.A.L had to
say in that Florida newspaper, he is deeply upset about this and
questioning it at every level.

SCHINDLER: Yes, look, he as an American citizen, Chief Owens`s father has
the right to do this. We`ve been through this before, back in 1993 after
the Blackhawk Down incident in Somalia, one of the fathers of one of the
two army delta operators who received the Medal of Honor for that
posthumously refused to shake President Clinton`s hand. I thought that was

I think this is a little bit childish, frankly, too. I hate to say that.
But that is their absolute right as American citizens and grieving parents.
I don`t know if that gets us any closer to the resolution of what really
happened here.

O`DONNELL: Quickly before we go I just want to mention a letter now signed
by 120 retired generals and admirals tonight –


O`DONNELL: Criticizing the White House apparent budgeting in which they
would be making major cuts including cuts from the state department.
They`ve signed a letter. It includes David Petraeus, Mike Hayden, saying,
quoting Jim Mattis and saying “as Jim Mattis said while commander of U.S.
Central command, if you don`t fully fund the state department, then I need
to buy more ammunition. Fascinating to see them emerging as –


O`DONNELL: – as defenders of the state department budget and others.

SCHINDLER: And this is – thank you for bringing this up, Lawrence. This
is absolutely nonpartisan. All these former generals and admirals
understand the state department is a critical underpinning of American
security worldwide. And the current administration`s efforts to defund
elements of what the state department does to give to the department of
defense is something I don`t know anyone who supports this outside the
White House, frankly.

This is not rational decision-making in a national security sense and I`m
very pleased to see this letter and I`m pleased to see you mention it.

O`DONNELL: It`s kind of extraordinary because it`s easy to get departments
to rival each other in that –


O`DONNELL: – attempt to get vigorous slices of the pie. But to see
people with a defense department background coming forward and saying don`t
do this to state is extraordinary.

SCHINDLER: Yes generals, admirals, top civilians in the pentagon fully
understand the critical part the state department plays in all of this and
they don`t want to see that defunded in any way, shape or form.

O`DONNELL: John Schindler gets tonight`s last word. Thanks for joining us

SCHINDLER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC`s live coverage continues in to the 11th Hour now with
Brian Williams, that`s next.


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