The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, transcript 3/3/2017

Jonathan Alter, Adrian Karatnycky, David Frum, Evan McMullin, Zerlina Maxwell


Date: March 3, 2017

Guest: Jonathan Alter, Adrian Karatnycky, David Frum, Evan McMullin, Zerlina Maxwell


 RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Long the staffers know her.  They`re like,

“Andrea, come on.”  The State Department`s silence really has been

deafening, we are told tonight that after these months of silence the

regular press briefings will at least start up again on Monday with some

caveats.  Andrea reports tonight there will be two briefings next week on

camera, the rest will be done on the phone and of course they`ll take

Fridays off.  But they will start to speak again.  We don`t know what these

State Department briefings will exactly look like under this new

administration.  Until then, nobody is holding their breath, certainly not

Andrea, who is not having it.  That makes me love her all the more. 




ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  When do you think you might have a deputy? 






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Come on, guys.  Come on.  Let`s go.  Andrea. 




MADDOW:  Andrea, please, they`re not going to talk to you. 


That does it for us tonight, raise your children to be reporters.  We`ll

see you again on Monday.  Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence



Good evening, Lawrence. 


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, Rachel.  You know how every night on

this show since the election, we`ve been doing our “Where is Hillary”

segment and we show video of where Hillary is that day?  You don`t get to

watch the show that much. 


MADDOW:  Well, it`s a – 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Well, OK, actually, tonight is the first night. 


MADDOW:  OK, good. 


O`DONNELL:  It`s the first night we`re going to do it.  And – 


MADDOW:  I was thinking that I must have been missed, nodding out for that. 


O`DONNELL:  You`ve missed nothing.  And we`ve got exclusive video of where

Hillary was today. 


MADDOW:  Very nice. 


O`DONNELL:  Do you know where she was? 




O`DONNELL:  OK, that`s why.  That`s why there`s a 10:00 show, Rachel. 

Where is Hillary?  And we have exclusive video supplied, Rachel, supplied

by the youngest O`Donnell correspondent ever to supply MSNBC with any

video.  Not Kelly O`Donnell.  Not Kelly O`Donnell. 




MADDOW:  I am on the edge of my seat. 


O`DONNELL:  Youngest ever, like a year younger than you. 


MADDOW:  Or more, maybe. 




MADDOW:  All right, you got me. 


O`DONNELL:  Rachel, that`s why we have a 10:00 show. 


MADDOW:  We have a 10:00 show for a lot of reasons, my friend. 


O`DONNELL:  OK.  Thank you, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Good night, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, we will close the show tonight with the wisdom of Ruth

Bader Ginsburg but first we will wade through Trump world`s troubling

contacts with Russia concentrating on the Jeff Sessions chapter of that

scandal and we will consider the question what would Jeff Sessions have

done differently today if he knew he was guilty of perjury. 





of the Kremlin – I`m sorry, I misread that.  White House. 



House in Florida and we get a lot of work done. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Blasting old pictures, Senator Chuck Schumer with

Vladimir Putin. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he even enjoyed a Krispy Kreme doughnut. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Nancy Pelosi with the Russian ambassador in 2010. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You were one of the first people to call for Jeff

Sessions to resign. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER:  For him to say, “Well, I was just

meeting with him.” 


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I do remember saying I had gone to Russia

with a church group in 1991. 


PELOSI:  It`s beyond naive, it`s almost pathetic.  It`s almost pathetic. 


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE:  There are transcripts that provide very

helpful, very critical insights into whether or not Russian intelligence

were colluding with the Trump campaign. 


MITCHELL:  Do such transcripts exist?  Is that what you`re saying? 


COONS:  I have not seen them.  I believe they exist. 


MITCHELL:  Wow.  Because that`s news. 



into the Trump presidency and people in his own party are already talking

about a special prosecutor.  It`s like you`re on a third date with someone

and you`re already introducing them to your divorce lawyer. 




O`DONNELL:  So you`re the recently confirmed attorney general of the United

States and you are suddenly suspected of perjury in your confirmation

hearing and you absolutely did not perjure yourself.  What do you do? 


Immediately offer to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee

that voted to confirm you and answer any and all questions about everything

you said in your confirmation to prove that you absolutely did not commit

perjury in your confirmation hearing?  And this is important to you as

attorney general of the United States because you are going to be

overseeing countless perjury prosecutions brought up by federal prosecutors

in your Justice Department virtually every day?  Some of those perjury

prosecutions will need your guidance, most of them won`t. 


But when federal prosecutors consult you on perjury prosecutions, you don`t

want any of them in that room to be wondering if you yourself are guilty of

perjury as they all now have a right to do including the attorney general

of Washington, D.C. who has jurisdictional authority to prosecute you, the

attorney general, for perjury. 


But Jeff Sessions didn`t do that today.  He didn`t volunteer to testify to

the Judiciary Committee to clear his name of the suspicion of perjury. 


What would you do if you were the attorney general of the United States and

you are suspected of perjury in your recent confirmation hearing and you

knew that what you said under oath does fit the legal definition of



[22:05:07] What would you do?  What would you do when almost half of the

members of the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the chairman demanding

that you be called back to testify to the Judiciary Committee? 


Doing nothing would not be an option.  You`d have to do something.  You`d

have to offer to at least submit some so-called corrections to the record

in writing to the Judiciary Committee, and if you were guilty of perjury

you wouldn`t want to be in the open verbal crossfire of the Judiciary

Committee again, but giving them something in writing, something that your

friends on the committee could claim absolve you of any guilty would be the

least you could do and that – that is what Jeff Sessions announced he

would do today.  The least he could do. 


What if you were chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and you had

just voted to confirm an attorney general who is now suspected of perjury? 

What would you do?  If you were sure he was not guilty and you wanted to

prove that, you would summon him back to the committee to answer every

member`s questions until they ran out of questions.  You would give him the

forum to prove he was not guilty of perjury. 


Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley did not do that today. 


What would you do if you were chairman of the Judiciary Committee and you

recently confirmed a friend of yours to be attorney general and now that

attorney general was suspected of committing perjury in his confirmation

hearing?  What would you do?  What would you do if you thought that your

friend went dangerously close to the line of perjury or went over that line

and committed the crime of perjury and you wanted to get him through this

crisis unscathed? 


Then you would not invite your friend back into the open crossfire of the

Judiciary Committee hearing and if members on your committee demanded that

you bring the attorney general back for more questioning you would protect

your friend, you would refuse to do it.  That`s what Chuck Grassley did

today.  Chuck Grassley refused to recall to the committee an attorney

general suspected of perjuring himself in his confirmation hearing. 


If Chairman Grassley wanted to make Jeff Sessions look guilty of perjury

today he did everything he possibly could to fuel that suspicion by

refusing his own committee members` demands that he bring Jeff Sessions

back for more testimony. 


If Jeff Sessions wanted to add to the speculation that he is guilty of

perjury then he did everything right today.  Jeff Sessions did nothing

today to lessen the suspicions about the possibility that there was

something criminal in his testimony, in his Senate confirmation hearing,



And the man who appointed Jeff Sessions and in effect delivered the Russian

influence peddling scandal to Washington in which Jeff Sessions is now

implicated behaved as he always does when not sluggishly reading a

teleprompter in the chamber of the House of Representatives.  He behaved

like a clown. 


The president of the United States took to Twitter where he once again

demonstrated his cognitive difficulty in spelling in what may be his

declining years. 


With the entire White House staff there to help him it took him three full

attempts to spell the word “hereby” correctly.  It appeared in his

imbecilic tweet where he now seems to be indicating that anyone meeting

with any Russian at any time is scandalous. 


It is impossible for President Trump to get himself or his closest advisers

in the Trump campaign and in the White House out of the quicksand of their

own Russian entanglements, some of which may have been illegal, during and

after the presidential campaign, and so now he thinks he can drag any

Democrat into that quicksand. 


Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, anyone who`s ever met with a Russian official,

or the Russian ambassador, even though it is well within their normal

duties and responsibilities in the Congress to have such meetings.  What

the tantrum tweeter in the White House is hoping for is that his followers

who have never shown any interest in fact or detail will give the same

answer about Trump world`s entanglements in Russia that they have always

given to me whenever I have the opportunity to point out Donald Trump`s



They always say the same thing when you point out Donald Trump`s lies to

Donald Trump supporters.  They always say, “All politicians do it, they all

lie.”  They don`t defend Donald Trump, they know he`s a liar.  They just

like where his lies are leading, whether it be about building a wall or tax

cuts or banning Muslims from entering the United States.  Donald Trump is

now in the business of trying to convince at least those people that they

all do it.  All politicians do it.  They all have the same kinds of

meetings with Russians.  Its meetings or discussions of any kind with

Russians that may have in any way affected the last presidential election. 


[22:10:07] That – that is the essence of the crippling scandal that the

Trump administration sinks deeper into every day.  Not one Democrat has

ever been implicated in that scandal.  It is a purely Trumpian scandal, a

purely Republican scandal, and Jeff Sessions is now holding on for dear

life tonight as attorney general with purely Republican help. 


Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who has no

more questions for Jeff Sessions.  None.  Republican Donald Trump who only

has questions for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and people completely

uninvolved in the investigation of contacts with Russia during and after

the presidential campaign. 


President Trump cannot tweet his way out of this investigation.  Remember

when he tweeted how he would win the Trump University lawsuit before he

completely surrendered in that lawsuit and would pay $25 million to the

unfortunate victims of his fraud?  Remember when he threatened that he

would sue all of the women who accused him of sexual assault?  He hasn`t

sued any of them, and he never will. 


Trump tweets, Trump threats have never meant anything in an investigation

of Donald Trump and they don`t now and so we now have the highest-ranking

federal prosecutor in the land, the attorney general of the United States,

presiding over every federal prosecution in the country, every day, and

every day he does that he is now suspected of being a felon himself. 


Joining us now, David Frum, senior editor for the “Atlantic,” Jonathan

Alter, MSNBC political analyst and a columnist for the “Daily Beast,” also

with us Adrian Karatnycky, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an

expert on Russia who recently returned from Ukraine. 


And Adrian, I suspect I will now be tweeted about by Donald Trump having

met on television with – 






KARATNYCKY:  We know of civilization. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  So we know what Donald Trump is trying to do.  Try to say

anybody with a Russian name, anybody from Ukraine, Russia, anywhere, who

any American government official meets with is exactly the same as what

Michael Flynn did, as what Jared Kushner did, as what Jeff Sessions did. 


KARATNYCKY:  Well, you know, I think Jeff Sessions has a perjury issue.  I

don`t think he has a Russia issue.  He`d come clean.  It was a legitimate

function of his role in the Armed Services Committee. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  But it was not a legitimate function of his role to

discuss the election and the campaign with the ambassador. 




O`DONNELL:  And if he had done that, he would not have been confirmed. 




O`DONNELL:  If he admitted – 


KARATNYCKY:  If he had admitted to that. 




KARATNYCKY:  Absolutely.  I mean, I think that the – however, the issue –

you know, the real reason why there is this great tension is that there is

a huge number of these informal backdoor constant dialogues with the

Russian side and then there are these very strange comments from Donald

Trump showing a great proclivity to getting along with Russia.  On one

level it shows a degree of amateurism but on the other hand it shows that

there – you know, there is just a lot of smoke there and there is

obviously this deep interest in parsing out exactly and unpacking

everything that has happened and certainly there is a suspicion that there

was some signaling to the Russians that, wink, wink, we`re going to get

this right.  We`re going to have a special relationship even before the

American people gave them the mandate to conduct those kinds of stuff. 


O`DONNELL:  And Jonathan, there was some signaling to the Russians that any

interference they could possibly conduct on our elections was very welcomed

including from candidate Trump at the microphone at his rally publicly

asking Russia to please find Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and release them. 


JONATHAN ALTER, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST:  Right, and you know, the Sessions

meeting with the Russian ambassador in Washington has been the focus of

this story so far, but he also met with him in Cleveland when he went there

by his own admission. 


O`DONNELL:  At the convention.  Republican convention. 


ALTER:  At the Republican convention.  He said he was not going there as a

senator, he paid for it through campaign funds, his travel and

accommodations.  He was there as a representative of the Trump campaign,

meeting with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland.  So we need to know what

happened in that meeting as well. 


He`s already basically indicated in his comments to reporters that they

did, quote, “gossip” about the campaign and he said, as you indicated last

night, “I don`t recall the substance of that gossip,” so it`s pretty clear

that they had some kind of conversation about the campaign. 


The only way we`re going to get to the bottom of all of this is with a

special prosecutor and I now think that this is likely to happen.  So a guy

named Rod Rosenstein is having confirmation hearings on Tuesday that are

very, very important.  Rosenstein is the U.S. attorney in Baltimore who`s

been nominated to be deputy attorney general.  It will be up to him to

announce whether there`s a special prosecutor or not in this case. 


[22:15:02] Presumably the Democrats – and I hope some Republicans – will

not confirm him unless he commits to appointing a special prosecutor. 


O`DONNELL:  And David – David Frum, that hearing is next week and

certainly a special prosecutor from the Democrats` perspective is probably

what it will be about from start to finish. 


DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  Yes, I`m here with some advice. 

The first is, the Jeff Sessions story is I think to a great extent a rabbit

hole.  Sessions, whether amounts to perjury or not, I`m not going to guess. 

But he spoke untruthfully.  But the reason he spoke untruthfully was

because he sensed the Russia story was dangerous and he didn`t want to go

near it. 


He`s not part of the Trump-Russia scandal it very strongly looks like.  And

if you go after him – and I understand what liberal minded people, they

have other reasons for being upset about him, why they want to go after

him, but he will not draw you toward the center of the Russia story, he

will draw you away from the center of the Russia story. 


Meanwhile, the call for a special prosecutor I think is a grave mistake. 

Ben (INAUDIBLE) of Law Fair Blog has recommended a select committee.  I`ve

talked about an independent – some kind of independent outside body.  You

want to know the facts and a lot of the facts here are not crimes. 


If Donald Trump, for example, was laundering money for the Russians in the

1990s outside the statute of limitations, that`s not a crime.  There`s

nothing to prosecute.  And a special prosecutor has to look away.  You want

to know about that.  It`s not a crime for Americans like Paul Manafort to

have intense conversations with people inside Russia.  You want to know

whether that happened or not, and you want to know who in the Trump

organization – was it just Roger Stone who`s kind of a whacko or was it

more serious people?  Did Jared Kushner have those conversations?  Did

Trump himself? 


None of those things are crimes and if they – are probably not, and if

they come before a special prosecutor, the special prosecutor must look

away.  You want to analyze the security risk.  You want to know, are there

people who don`t have the best interest of the United States at the center

of the U.S. government? 


ALTER:  But, David, the problem is we have a long history of commissions

just ending up as a bunch of mush and even the idea of getting an

independent commission at this point is very dicey because it`s usually the

president or the Congress as a whole that, you know, appoints the

commission.  The Congress is controlled by Republicans.  Obviously the

president isn`t going to do it.  So the best shot – the only place that

the Democrats really have leverage is on the nomination of the deputy

attorney general. 


And all they need is three Republican votes to prevent him from being

confirmed unless he signs off on a real investigation, and yes, maybe there

should also be a commission but why not at least first look to see whether

there was some law-breaking in this case? 


FRUM:  But what if – what if what we have is a massive series of security

violations?  I mean, we`re speaking hypothetically.  We don`t know.  We

want to not let the surmises outrun the knowledge but what if you have a

massive series of security violations, of compromises of national

sovereignty, but no crimes?  And the special prosecutor has to then spend

two years and say, you know what, I haven`t found anything and then people

get a – the functional equivalent of a clean bill of health when the

country is still in danger. 


O`DONNELL:  Adrian, what is your sense of where the center of this story



KARATNYCKY:  I don`t think the center is with Jeff Sessions.  I mean, there

– maybe procedurally the question of his relationship to his colleagues in

the Senate.  But in terms of his views on Russia, historically he`s been a

hawk.  He supported weapons – lethal weapons to Ukraine.  He was more

hawkish than the Obama administration on these questions.  He supported

sanctions.  So I don`t think there`s a question. 


I mean he did try to accommodate himself and became someone who would try

to explain how Donald Trump was well intentioned in seeking a stronger and

good relationship.  He was trying to suck up to the candidate and position

himself presumably for this job or some other job, but I don`t think – the

Russians would not have looked at him as a mark with whom to influence

policy because I think they would have regarded him as someone that they

don`t want – they don`t want in power. 


They may have been gathering some intelligence, they may have been

gathering – kind of game him that he`s the guy on the inner circle to

figure out what are the influences around Trump and how can we push him

further into the direction of accommodating Russia and of making a deal

that gives Russia sort of sanction for some of the aggressive actions it`s

taken over the last three years under Putin. 


O`DONNELL:  Jonathan Alter, a quick word about Jared Kushner who has

allowed certainly falsehoods to be put out about contacts with Russians

because he never included himself in any of these descriptions that the

Trump transition team or campaign released and he knew that he himself had

these contacts. 


ALTER:  Yes, and you know, there are so many avenues to pursue here for

reporters.  We just heard on Rachel`s show about these D.C. report story

about Trump – meetings between Trump and a Russian fertilizer king that

happened on a suspiciously common basis.  Jared Kushner has huge real

estate interest himself as – you know, and then the Trump Organization`s

other connections, which Trump`s son said a few years ago they had a

disproportionate amount of Russian investment. 


[22:20:15] But we need somebody with subpoena power.  The press is doing a

great job so far.  It`s not enough because we can`t subpoena anybody. 

That`s why we need a real investigation. 


O`DONNELL:  It feels like we are at the tip of the iceberg. 


Thank you very much for joining us.  Really appreciate it.  Jonathan Alter,

Adrian Karatnycky, and David Frum. 


Coming up, the Russian perspective on Jeff Sessions meeting with the

Russian ambassador.  That`s next. 


Also coming up, our exclusive, “Where is Hillary” video.  We found her

today.  We will not show you that video until the moment comes later in the

program.  Anyone know where she was?  I do. 


Also coming up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will get tonight`s last word after Iman

gets the subject started. 




O`DONNELL:  What was Vladimir Putin hoping for in that meeting between his

ambassador and then-Senator Jeff Sessions, and what did he get?  The man

who promoted the ambassador to that job offers his view next. 




O`DONNELL:  An unwitting agent of the Russian federation, that`s how former

CIA acting director Mike Morrell described Donald Trump back in August,

just a month before then-Trump campaign policy adviser Senator Jeff

Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his Senate office. 


[22:25:02] Today Andrea Mitchell spoke to the man who once promoted

Ambassador Kislyak to be his deputy before Vladimir Putin came to power. 

Former Russian Minister Andre Kozyrev explained what he thinks happened

after the ambassador left Jeff Sessions` office in September. 




ANDREI KOZYREV, FORMER RUSSIAN MINISTER:  The first plan he would report

that Sessions apparently didn`t tell him to stop the hacking.  To stop the

interference into American domestic policies.  That`s the message which

Kislyak, being professional, would mention the first in his cable, that in

the Armed Service Committee I was not even – not even reproached for that

matter, not to say Putin warning that you don`t do these things, that

America will retaliate with the full force. 


MITCHELL:  What would Vladimir Putin sitting in the Kremlin think when he

get this report back from his ambassador?  They didn`t even mention it. 


KOZYREV:  That`s the message, that I can get away from that or maybe even

have a sympathy on that side. 




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Evan McMullin, former CIA operative and a

former independent presidential candidate.  He is currently the co-founder

of Stand Up, Republican.  Also back with us, Adrian Karatnycky. 


Adrian, what do you make of that interpretation of what the ambassador`s

report would be? 


KARATNYCKY:  Well, if that was the nature of the conversation that probably

would be a lot of woo-woo. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And what`s so striking is, when Jeff Sessions decided to

share with us some of the details of what was said stressing “I don`t

recall” three times for any of the interesting details, one detail that he

did not offer was, oh, I told them, stop interfering in this election, stop

your hacking in the United States right now.  He could have said the other

day that he`d said that, he didn`t. 


KARATNYCKY:  No, I think that`s right.  But, I mean, look, it`s very clear

that Mr. Sessions was positioning himself to have a post in the upcoming

Trump administration.  So he was going to go where the signals were going. 

And I assume – 


O`DONNELL:  No, no, I mean this week.  I mean, when he gave us, what he

shared yesterday. 


KARATNYCKY:  I understand. 


O`DONNELL:  Here are the little things that – 


KARATNYCKY:  But he may not have raised that issue. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, exactly.  I mean, he had a chance. 


KARATNYCKY:  For that very reason. 


O`DONNELL:  I see what you mean.  So for his future with the administration

if possible – 


KARATNYCKY:  You know. 


O`DONNELL:  Why should – 




KARATNYCKY:  If the presidential candidate was signaling go for it. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Evan, his candidate – Jeff Sessions` candidate was on

the stage in his rallies begging the Russians to do more. 


EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  Right, well, absolutely.  And that

sends a very clear signal to everybody in the campaign that it`s open game

on the American democracy for Russia and, you know, I think that that`s

something that is chief for his top campaign advisers already knew but

obviously it`s highly concerning and I think there`s a lot more there. 


O`DONNELL:  And so, Adrian, his memories were of comments about a visit he

made to Russia in 1991 with a church group.  He remembered all sorts of

details that felt convenient yesterday when he was talking about it but he

certainly didn`t remember the details of saying, you know, don`t do any of

this hacking. 


One of the participants in that discussion, the Russian ambassador, now

controls the outcome here.  The Russian ambassador owns the attorney

general of the United States.  The Russian ambassador tomorrow could come

out and say, here`s what he said in that meeting and it could condemn Jeff

Sessions or not.  It`s completely up to the Russian ambassador. 


KARATNYCKY:  Well, you know, I mean, there`s also the question of whether -

- yes, he potentially could but what is the credibility of the Russian

ambassador?  I mean, I think – I don`t think we should take it

definitively if he exonerates him or on the other hand if he implicates him

that this is anything but a Russian operation.  I think that`s the whole

problem with these kinds of contacts that there was a lot of – I wouldn`t

say in the case of Senator Sessions but in the case of other members of the

campaign there`s this kind of an informality in which relationships were



There were people on the foreign – you know, foreign affairs advisers to

the campaign who never met with the president who had side meetings with

the Russians.  I mean, the Russians saw this as a great mine – you know, a

data mining.  They were data mining, they were building relationships for

the future administration.  They didn`t know exactly how it would turn out. 

But I have to make one point and that is, it`s not going very well for Mr.

Putin.  I think what we`re seeing is all this scrutiny is actually

backfiring on Putin because the entire intelligence establishment, the

entire media and a very large portion of the legislative branch are, you

know, watching this intently, want to get to the bottom of absolutely every

kind of contact and that`s the last possible thing that Mr. Putin would



[22:30:02] And I think that in a sense it constrains Trump today from

pursuing an accommodation list line with Russia because he is now under

such a degree of suspicion that he was – that he had some kind of hidden

relationship with the Russians. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, removing the sanctions tomorrow is a little more awkward

than the Trump transition team might have thought. 


Evan, as a former CIA operative, a scenario in which the attorney general

of the United States is in effect indebted to the Russian ambassador to

stick with the attorney general`s story about what happened in that



MCMULLIN:  Well, look, the Russian ambassador as an intelligence operator

is skilled in compromising people, in the beginning in very subtle ways,

and this is how it works.  You have somebody divulges something that they

shouldn`t at a time when they shouldn`t and then they`re compromised and

that compromise can lead to bigger compromises and so forth. 


We don`t know if that happened, though, and I want to be very clear about

that.  We don`t know what the nature of the discussion was.  You`re right

that the ambassador holds some cards but there were also other people in

the room and when there are other people in the room, it`s difficult for

anything too untoward to happen. 


I think the bigger issue here is that AG Sessions lied under oath to the

Senate about his meetings with Russian officials.  That`s the bigger

concern.  But like David Frum said in the previous segment, I don`t think

this is really the core of where we should be focusing.  I think the core

is Donald Trump himself. 


But I want to say another thing about whether Putin is happy about what`s

happening or not.  You know, it`s true that maybe this is backfiring in a

way that isn`t going to end well.  And actually I think that`s the case. 

I`m optimistic that our country is going to learn a range of lessons as a

result of this episode and we`ll be better for it in the end.  But in the

near term, in the short term, Putin has succeed in making our democracy

look a little bit off.  A little bit ineffective.  A little bit



And this is what Putin`s goal is so often.  He wants to make us look worse

to make his autocratic style of leadership look more appealing or at least

less worse.  So there are some wins for Putin here at least in the short



O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight.  Adrian

Karatnycky, and Evan McMullin, thank you both for joining us.  Really

appreciate it. 


MCMULLIN:  Thank you. 


O`DONNELL:  Coming up, who is winning?  The constitutional institutions

that are empowered to resist the presidency or Donald Trump? 


And tonight`s last word goes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 




[22:36:23] O`DONNELL:  The day after Donald Trump was elected I told you

that the Constitution is more powerful than the president.  The Congress,

the judiciary, the First Amendment that protects newspapers and protesters,

all more powerful than the president. 


So almost halfway through Donald Trump`s first 100 days, who`s winning? 


Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, director of Progressive Programming for

Sirius XM, back with us, Jonathan Alter and David Frum. 


Zerlina, who is winning? 



the institutions are winning at this moment.  And that`s because

essentially the best spotlight on things that are going on in the

government that the public needs to know is the press right now.  I mean, I

think that the last year we`ve seen just a reinvigoration in the press. 

The “Washington Post” is hiring dozens of reporters, the “New York Times”

hiring dozens of folks and that is good for the country because we need to

know what our government is doing and there`s plenty of fodder for

journalists to uncover in this particular administration. 


O`DONNELL:  And you see in Donald Trump utter confusion that, as he puts

it, the “Washington Post” and the “New York Times” are allowed to do this. 


MAXWELL:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  This is a guy who spent decades trafficking in gossip items

with, you know, New York tabloids. 


MAXWELL:  Right.  Playing his own publicist. 


O`DONNELL:  So he was creating up stuff. 


MAXWELL:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  And then he`s also stunned that the – the judiciary has a



MAXWELL:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  That he could write an executive order that could be reviewed

by a mere judge in Seattle. 


MAXWELL:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  And that could stop everything. 


MAXWELL:  Right. 


O`DONNELL:  That all seems to be news for him. 


MAXWELL:  Well, this is what happens when you elect someone who has never

held public office and doesn`t understand necessarily the function of

government and – 




O`DONNELL:  Listen, I want to defend people who`ve never held public





O`DONNELL:  And are not utter imbeciles on matters of the constitution. 


Jonathan, most people know what Donald Trump doesn`t know about these



ALTER:  Yes, it`s not that he`s a business guy who hasn`t held public





ALTER:  It`s that he is too often an ignoramus. 




ALTER:  And he just doesn`t the time – 




MAXWELL:  I was being nice. 


O`DONNELL:  You were. 


ALTER:  He doesn`t take the time to ever read the Constitution that he

swore to uphold.  You know, and unfortunately the institution of the

presidency has been really hurt by his ascension to higher office.  So

that`s one that is weaken.  I don`t think the Congress has been helped by

this covering itself in glory.  You have a lot of Republicans who are not

exactly profiles in courage at this time of character testing. 


You have others who are stepping up, very conservative Republicans, who

understand that Constitution and country comes before party.  But too many

don`t.  Civil society, on the other hand, which is a kind of an

institution, our nonprofits, that`s very strong and responding very

strongly.  And the American public is supporting things like the ACLU which

is just bringing in huge amounts of money.  Supporting things like Pro-

Publica or D.C. Report that broke this big story tonight that are doing

investigative journalism outside of the main news organizations so that`s a

good sign that our civil society is strong. 


O`DONNELL:  And on the protest front, it is on a scale that we haven`t seen

since the Vietnam War.  Let`s take a look at Paul Ryan today trying to deal

with his motorcade and protesters who don`t like what he`s doing with the

Affordable Care Act.  Let`s look at this. 










[22:40:02] O`DONNELL:  David Frum, the Affordable Care Act is nowhere to be

seen.  The revision of it, that is, the repeal of it, that the Republicans

are talking about, wherever that document is no one can find it except

maybe Paul Ryan but the people don`t – a lot of people don`t like what

they see, they`re taking that protest directly to the Republican

legislators in a similar way that opponents of the Affordable Care Act took

it to Democrats when they were trying to legislate it and here it is, that

unbridled use of the First Amendment by protesters reaching into the

legislative process. 


FRUM:  Mark me down as a warrior, I don`t share the optimism of the rest of

the panel.  I don`t think the institutions are winning.  The – it`s

important when you think about the media it`s important to remember far and

away the most important media institution in the country is Facebook, not

the “New York Times” or CNN or MSNBC, or any of the other traditional

institutions.  That`s how most Americans get their news, especially most

younger Americans. 


The president has been buffeted with a series of credibly established

charges, each of which in advance would have been regarded as just

absolutely devastating.  Back in the summer we said well, it`s true that

Donald Trump is receiving all of this aid from the Russians but if it were

ever shown that people on his campaign called the Russians back or had any

connections with the Russians that would be curtains, right?  That would be

alter his on steroids. 


We now know that that`s true and the Congress has stood by the president. 

American institutions are basically storm-proofed against presidential

misconduct.  But what they are not storm proofed against is presidential

misconduct enabled by the Congress.  And because the Congress is to date

standing with the president, you`re seeing a corrosion of these

institutions and while there are brave truth tellers in the intelligence

agencies who are talking to news organizations they can found and they can

be silenced. 


They can be – and they can be silenced, they can be set to Ulan Bator. 

They can be separated if their spouses have government careers their

spouses can be put 5,000 miles apart and people can be driven out of

government.  And if the Trump people don`t know who`s leaking, the Russians

do and they will tell them. 


ALTER:  You know, you`re right that sometimes leakers can be caught, David,

but most of the time they`re not.  And presidents being frustrated by

leakers goes back a long way, remember Ronald Reagan said I`ve had it up to

my Keister with leaks and Richard Nixon created the plumbers unit to find

the leakers and, you know, it goes back before Franklin Roosevelt. 


They never actually find them because there are more leakers than one would

imagine and people leak for a huge variety of reasons. 


FRUM:  Here`s the difference with Nixon. 


ALTER:  And so – yes. 


FRUM:  The Nixon parallel does not hold.  Richard Nixon was president

during a time of extraordinary economic strain, gas prices rising, high

unemployment, high inflation and a defeated war.  The job market is pretty

good.  The stock market is popping.  And – 


ALTER:  Right. 


FRUM:  And – 




ALTER:  I agree that Trump could get reelected and survive this but – 


FRUM:  The policies that most upset the viewers of MSNBC, especially

immigration enforcement, are popular.  So my guess is that six months from

today Donald Trump`s numbers will be higher not lower than they are today. 


O`DONNELL:  Zerlina, a quick last word. 


MAXWELL:  I don`t think so.  I think that when you see families being

ripped apart on television, that`s going to lower his approval ratings even

more.  Now, you know, Congress – as it goes down Congress is eventually

going to stand up for themselves. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  To expect Congress to jump in 50 days isn`t much.  Let`s

get 100, let`s get a couple of hundred days and see where they are. 


MAXWELL:  Right. 


David Frum, Zerlina Maxwell, Jonathan Alter, thank you all for joining us

tonight.  I just appreciate it.  Thank you. 


MAXWELL:  Thank you. 


O`DONNELL:  Coming up next, how some of our wisest political observers saw

the week.  The late-night comedians get their say. 




[22:46:51] O`DONNELL:  And now let`s take a look back at the week as seen

through the eyes of some of the latest sleepers in politics. 




CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, “CONAN”:  He`s going to give his first primetime

speech before Congress.  Yes.  His speech will be on a 10-second delay so

Trump can live tweet about how great his speech is going. 


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  I saw that former Iranian

president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently wrote a 3500 word letter to Trump

criticizing his immigration policy.  When asked if he read the letter Trump

said, “I haven`t even read my immigration policy.” 


COLBERT:  According to a new report, Obama officials fought to preserve

evidence of Russian election meddling.  It`s a good idea.  Though I do

believe there is one large piece of evidence sitting in the Oval Office

right now. 


MEYERS:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference today and

recused himself from any Department of Justice investigations into the

Trump campaign`s ties to Russia.  Said Trump, “May I also be recused?  I

don`t like it here and I want to go do other stuff.” 


TREVOR NOAH, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Every time we dig deeper into Trump`s

campaign, it seems like there`s a new person who`s connected to the

Russians.  You know, first it was Manafort, then it was Flynn, the whole

thing is like one of those Russian nesting dolls.  You know?  Every time

one person goes away, someone else pops out. 


COLBERT:  You can`t possibly know if he`s lying on purpose. 


JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  You can – Stephen, you can. 

He`s lying on purpose.  You want to know how? 




STEWART:  Because he constantly says the phrase “believe me.” 


O`BRIEN:  Despite the allegations, President Trump says he has total

confidence in Jeff Sessions.  That`s what he said.  Total confidence.  In

other words, Trump is waiting until the weekend to fire him. 




O`DONNELL:  Coming up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets tonight`s LAST WORD with an

assist from a couple of supermodels.  And tonight`s episode of “Where is

Hillary?”  We have the exclusive video of where Hillary Clinton was today. 




[22:51:56] O`DONNELL:  And now for tonight`s episode of “Where is Hillary?” 

Today a senior at Harvard College in her last semester noticed a bubble of

people moving through Harvard yard and curious to take a look at what that

was all about she approached and was suddenly faced with the similar

dilemma everyone else in the crowd was faced with – try to shake hands or

try to shoot video.  Luckily for us, she chose video. 






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my god.  Oh, my god. 




O`DONNELL:  Thanks to LAST WORD Cambridge correspondent Elizabeth O`Donnell

for giving up the handshake in order to get the video. 




O`DONNELL:  In our final segment tonight, as usual, we will not show any

nudity.  But it will be discussed.  That`s next. 




[22:56:41] O`DONNELL:  Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.  World famous

photographer Peter Beard was not quite famous enough in Kenya the day he

stopped a political science student in Nairobi on her way to campus and

asked her, “Have you ever been photographed?”  The student said, “Yes, of

course I have.”  And tried to get away from him thinking what do these

people think?  That I`ve never seen a camera? 


Peter Beard followed her.  He kept begging to take her picture and she

agreed to allow him to photograph her for the cost of her tuition which was

about $8,000.  And so Peter Beard took the first professional photograph of

Iman who almost instantly became more world famous than Peter Beard. 


Peter Beard`s photographs skyrocket in value over the following decades and

people have ended up in court fighting over rights to them more than once,

most recently last week in Manhattan where Justice Charles Ramos presided

over the conclusion of a two-year legal battle between Peter Beard and a

collector of his work.  The judge ruled in favor of Peter Beard and voided

the sale of a million dollars in art work. 


The “New York post” reports that at the end of the case, the judge

announced his intention to keep his own copies of the images that were

entered into evidence, including an erotic photo of a model.  “I`m not

throwing out the pictures.  I have one of Miss White scantily dressed,” the

judge said in open court referring to Beard`s alluring model muse Natalie

White.  The image of White in a cleavage bearing tank top with her head

back and smoking a cigarette is in the judge`s chambers. 


Thank you, “New York Post.” 


Now this is the spot where we would show you that photograph which we`d

have to do some pixelation on but even MSNBC cannot afford the rights to

display a Peter Beard photograph, even for a second.  As it happens, Peter

Beard`s model Natalie White was herself the subject of another court case

this year, she was convicted in federal court in Washington, D.C. of

defacing federal property last summer. 


Natalie White painted “ERA Now” on the steps of the capital in water based

paint that was easily washed away.  She did that after walking 250 miles

from New York City to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to and express her

support of the Equal Rights Amendment for women which came close to

ratification in 1982 and has been virtually ignored since. 


The judge in Natalie White`s case recognized that it was an act of civil

disobedience, fined her $50 and barred her for six months from going near

the capital unless it is to meet with members of Congress and others to

lobby for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. 


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said if there was one

amendment she could add to the Constitution it would be the Equal Rights



Natalie White, now an artist in her own right with exhibitions in New York

galleries included in a recent gallery show this statement by Ruth Bader

Ginsburg.  “Every Constitution written since the end of World War II

includes a provision that men and women are citizens of equal stature. 

Ours does not.  I have three granddaughters, I`d like them to be able to

take out their Constitution and say here is a basic premise of our system

that men and women are persons of equal citizenship stature.” 


Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets this week`s LAST WORD, thanks to Peter Beard,

Iman, and Natalie White. 


Chris Hayes is up next. 







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