The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, transcript 3/3/2017
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: When do you think you might have a deputy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrea –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, guys. Come on. Let`s go. Andrea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, ” THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT”: Big news out
of the Kremlin – I`m sorry, I misread that. White House.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the southern White
House in Florida and we get a lot of work done.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Blasting old pictures, Senator Chuck Schumer with
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.
SETH MEYERS, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS”: We`re not even six weeks
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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 –
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, RUSSIAN EXPERT: One step removed.
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
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
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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
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?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUS XM: I think
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.
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.
O`DONNELL: And then he`s also stunned that the – the judiciary has a
O`DONNELL: That he could write an executive order that could be reviewed
by a mere judge in Seattle.
O`DONNELL: And that could stop everything.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Coward.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Coward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[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
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
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
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 –
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.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Thank you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Oh, my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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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