The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donell, transcript 3/24/2017

Ezra Klein, Rick Wilson, Indira Lakshmanan, Nick Kristof, David Corn, Jim Himes


Date: March 24, 2017

Guest: Ezra Klein, Rick Wilson, Indira Lakshmanan, Nick Kristof, David Corn, Jim Himes


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight.  We will

see you again on Monday.  Have an excellent weekend.  Now it`s time for



Good evening, Lawrence. 


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Rachel, so important for the last two

nights that you have been emphasizing how this happened, that it was those

protests.  It was that citizen activism that all has been ignited in the

last 60 days that turned this around. 


MADDOW:  And it`s – I think it`s been really easy to focus on this as a

beltway story and the various caucuses and the discussions that happen in

hallways and meeting rooms, but I really believe with all my heart what

moved this is the discussions that happened in those town halls and those

constituent offices all around the country.  It`s like nothing I have ever



O`DONNELL:  Hundred percent.  And Rodney Frelinghuysen is the – he`s the

chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. 


MADDOW:  The Appropriations Committee. 


O`DONNELL:  When I saw that tweet that he put out, that`s when I upped my

bet that this thing was dead.  If the chairman of appropriations, this is

the third most important job in the House, if he`s voting against his

speaker on this, then the whole world is, if you actually record this vote,

I mean, I`m not sure that they would have gotten 50 percent of the vote if

they actually recorded it. 


MADDOW:  I know.  People are talking about how bad Paul Ryan looks now. 

The one really good thing that Paul Ryan might have done just as a

politician and a legislative leader today is not make his members commit

themselves one way or the other because they`d all be paying for it one way

or another with nobody winning. 


O`DONNELL:  Well – exactly.  And Tom Cotton and other Republican senators

kept using that phrase, walk the plank, walking the planks.  So Ryan didn`t

let his people walk the plank, take a vote that they would pay for in the

next election and never get it the thing through the Senate anyway, or even

have it fail in the House today. 


MADDOW:  That`s right. 


O`DONNELL:  Incredibly dramatic day, but really, your point is so

important.  It all started with those people.  Without those town halls,

the video you showed last night, without those people in those town halls

telling their real stories to those legislatures who had clearly never

heard them before.  Wasn`t that the amazing part in the video?  You could

tell this was news to them. 


MADDOW:  Yes.  And you know what legislators, even if – even if the ones

you don`t like them, they`re human beings.  And when you get confronted by

something like eye-to-eye with somebody who you at the base level are

responsible for, and it`s within your power to either do something that

they say is going to kill them or not, it`s – I mean, no matter how

heartless you think your public servant is, every human being has to live

with themselves at the end of the day. 


And having had those personal testimonies, at so many levels, especially in

their home districts, in their hometowns, it`s – there`s nothing else like

it in politics.  And I remain convinced that the next big act, whatever

those mobilized Americans decide to do next, is similarly going to blow

everybody away in terms of what – what supposedly inevitable thing they

stopped from happening. 


O`DONNELL:  I think it`s going to have a lot to do with resistance to the

Trump budget, which seems pretty dead in the water tonight. 


MADDOW:  Yes. 


O`DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.  Appreciate it. 


O`DONNELL:  Another great night of coverage.  Really appreciate it.  Thank



So today was a big win, big win for the president.  The 44th president,

Barack Obama.  And it was, to put it in Trump speak, a complete disaster

for the current president.  What Donald Trump and the Republicans learned

today is that President Obama really did bring change to America. 

President Obama changed the way Americans think about health care and most

Americans now believe health care is a right, not a privilege.  And it`s a

right that Donald Trump cannot take away. 




REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Doing big things is hard. 



couldn`t quite get there. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER:  We`ll take credit for that. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They didn`t pass because they couldn`t get 215 from

their own party. 


RYAN:  The president gave his all in this effort. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He did everything wrong here.  He paid no attention to

the details.  I don`t even know if he cared about the details. 


TRUMP:  I don`t want to speak about specifics. 


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  At the end of the day, this

isn`t a dictatorship. 


TRUMP:  I, alone, can fix it. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Donald Trump is a 70-year-old rookie. 


TRUMP:  Because I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days.  My

first day in office, I`m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk. 

We will be able to repeal and replace Obamacare.  Nobody knew that health

care could be so complicated. 



that it`s a victory for – philosophically, for Obama. 


RYAN:  Obamacare is the law of the land, it`s going to remain the law of

the land. 



DELETED) deal. 


PELOSI:  Let`s just for a moment breathe a sigh of relief. 



Act is here to stay. 




O`DONNELL:  OK.  It`s time to discuss the legislative leadership and powers

of the presidency.  And it is impossible, impossible, to exaggerate the

enormity of what happened to Donald Trump today.  His presidency

effectively ended today.  He will retain the office, of course, but not the

powers because he demonstrated today that he has none.  He is a powerless



The president will, of course, still have commander-in-chief authority over

the machinery of war, but he has exercised more authority over the

machinery of golf since becoming president than he has military activities. 


The rest of the presidency is about international relations in which this

president is already an abject failure, unwilling to even shake hands with

one of our most important allies. 








O`DONNELL:  The president`s most important executive orders have been

blocked by federal courts and now, now, the president has lost his first

big legislative battle.  And that is a sentence I have never said before. 

The president has lost his first big legislative battle.  They all win

those battles and they win them because their parties unify behind the

president.  That`s the way it always works on the first big bill.  And

usually for most of the first year, at least, not now. 


The members of Donald Trump`s own party in the House of Representatives and

the Senate do not care what he thinks.  They do not care what he wants.  He

has proved himself incapable of changing their minds, incapable of

commanding their loyalty, incapable of commanding their respect.  And why

would they respect him? 


Here is what he was doing yesterday after he publicly gave up trying to win

support for his own bill. 


And so tonight, the president, who has already proven himself to be the

laziest, most ignorant president in history is now the weakest.  Nothing,

nothing will get through Congress because Donald Trump wants it to get

through Congress.  The Republicans will probably get a tax cut through

Congress because they`ve had a tax cut ready to go since before Donald

Trump ran for president.  And tax cutting is the one, one kind of

legislation that Republicans do know how to get done.  But it won`t be

Donald Trump`s tax cut.  He will be completely irrelevant to the process. 

It will be Paul Ryan`s tax cut negotiated with Mitch McConnell.  And Donald

Trump will sign it because all Donald Trump is now to this Congress is the

rubber stamp for what they choose to pass. 


Mitch McConnell will do everything he can to confirm a Supreme Court

justice who was not chosen by Donald Trump, but was simple a name on a list

handed to Donald Trump during the campaign.  A list of names Donald Trump

had never seen before.  He was told that you get to pick one of these. 

That`s it. 


Donald Trump is the most powerless president we have ever seen and nothing

can change that because it is who he is.  He is a weak president because he

is a weak person.  Weak of mind, lazy, undisciplined, reckless and ignorant

to the point that he amazed Republican House members in private

conversations.  And remember, Republican members of the House of

Representatives are the least knowledgeable people in government about

health care policy. 


And one of them told Ryan Lizza at the “New Yorker,” “R`s astonished, how

in over his head Trump is.  He seems to neither get the politics nor the

policy of this.”  That was the word from inside a private Republican

meeting with the president on the health care bill. 


Republicans in the House have now seen Donald Trump up close trying to make

the deal.  And it was very clear to every one of them that he did not

understand a single word of the deal.  He had no idea what he was talking

about.  Some members of the Trump staff whispered to reporters that it was

easier to negotiate with Congress without Trump. 


Of course it was, because Trump was telling everyone who came through the

door what they wanted to hear.  And in congress, that means you can never,

ever get a deal because you are going to have to be able to say no to

someone on what he or she wants and still, still, get that person to vote

for your bill. 


[22:10:03] That is the only way bills like this get passed.  Members of

Congress vote for a bill that they don`t like very much because their

president needs them to do it.  That`s how Bill Clinton got his first bill

passed by exactly one vote in the House of Representatives and in the

Senate.  There was very little in it for Democrats to like.  It was a big

tax increase along with big spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid all to

reduce the deficit.  Democrats voted for it in the end. 


And what put the bill over the top was the belief among Democrats in the

House and Senate that if their president lost on his first big bill, his

presidency would be instantly irrelevant.  That`s how Bill Clinton got to

51 votes in the Senate.  The last 10 Democrats to come on that bill did so

only to save Bill Clinton`s presidency.  It was a hard vote for them.  But

that argument always works. 


Whenever Democrats or Republicans in Congress need it, we have to pass the

president`s first big bill or his presidency will be irrelevant.  That

argument has always been right and that argument has always worked.  Until

today.  Republicans in the House do not care about the Trump presidency and

they proved that today by crushing the Trump presidency into irrelevance. 

Today the resistance against President Trump won and the resistance this

time on this day was completely Republican. 


President Trump is now a man without a party in a government that only has

two parties.  Trump voters were convinced that Donald Trump could push

Congress around, that any member of Congress that crossed Donald Trump

would have his or her political career instantly destroyed by a Trump

tweet.  Trump would fire off those tweets like drone strikes into the

congressional districts of those members.  The Congress would live in fear

of Donald Trump. 


When the president got tired of negotiating on the health care bill, he

issued the ultimatum to the Republican House that it was time to vote.  It

was time to shut up and vote.  And if they didn`t vote for the Trump bill

this time, they would not get another chance.  The ultimatum laid it all on

the line for President Trump and now we know what a Donald Trump ultimatum

means to congressional Republicans.  Absolutely nothing. 


President Trump has the lowest approval rating of any president in the

first two months at 37 percent in the latest poll.  And that is now a

higher job approval rating than President Trump has with his own Republican



Today Donald Trump did what no president before him has publicly done on

health care reform – he quit.  He gave up.  He could have said, we are

going to spend the weekend working on this bill and see if we can bring it

to a vote next week.  And if we can`t, we`ll keep working on it until we

can bring it to a vote.  That`s what you`re supposed to say. 


The last big health care legislation ended in a signing ceremony at the

White House.  The one before that ended in 1994 with no bill.  President

Clinton`s bill managed by Hillary Clinton didn`t make it through Congress. 

It made it through the relevant committees, but it never came to a vote on

the floor of the House and the Senate. 


Remember Bill Clinton`s speech the day he surrenders on health care the way

Donald Trump did today?  Do you remember Hillary Clinton`s speech the day

that the Clintons surrendered to Congress on their health care crusade? 

No, you don`t.  Because they never surrendered.  Not publicly. 


The Democrats kept drafting alternative compromises that they thought might

be able to get through the House and the Senate well into September of that

session.  But no one ever publicly gave up on the Democratic side and the

truth is, you never have to admit complete defeat in Congress if you are

willing to at least, at least, go through the motions of continuing to try

because the door never actually closes on legislation, but Donald Trump

just gave up today, and that forced Paul Ryan to admit that they were

giving up. 


We have been wondering since the election what it would take for Trump

voters to realize the size of the fraud that they voted for.  Donald Trump,

the guy who said repealing and replacing Obamacare would be easy, spent

less than 60 days trying to do it, and many of those days on the golf

course before quitting because, as he had to admit along the way, it was

just too complicated.  And more importantly because he is the laziest, most

ignorant, most incompetent, and now the most irrelevant president in



Joining us now, Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of  Also Rick

Wilson, Republican strategist and contributor to the “Daily Beast.” 


[22:15:07] Ezra, Donald Trump realized it seemed, you know, two or three

weeks ago that this is complicated.  And to the end, he apparently never

understood just how complicated. 


EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VOX.COM:  And this turned out to be a huge

problem.  One of the things that I kept hearing from people who`ve been in

meetings with him, who`ve been part of his big ultimate closer push is he`d

walk into meeting and it was clear he had no idea how the bill worked.  And

I think when people hear that, it does, it sounds funny.  But it actually

matters when you are doing this kind of big thing, when you are asking

members of Congress to take a dangerous vote, you actually have to get them

committed to something bigger than themselves.  You have to convince them

this is a big deal.  That this is worth losing your seat over. 


That`s what Obama did.  He gave a speech to the Democrats at the end of the

Obamacare push.  He said this bill is worth losing your seat over.  And

Trump did not understand the bill.  Did not seem to like it very much, did

not like to talk about it and came in with a cynical, political closing

argument.  If you don`t vote for it, you`ll lose your seat.  And that is

not enough to get people to vote for a bill that only has a 17 percent

approval rating. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  That`s – Ezra, I mean, the polls show exactly the

opposite of the Trump threat, and Rick Wilson, everybody has the same

access to those polls that Ezra just mentioned.  You know, if you don`t

vote for this, you lose your seat.  The polls said exactly the opposite. 

If you vote for this, you are taking an extreme risk with your seat. 


RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes.  This was an existential choice

for a lot of these guys particularly in seats where Donald Trump did not,

you know, over-perform.  These guys were looking at number where this bill

was in the mid-20s to high teens in almost every case for approval.  And

the fact of the matter was, the pressure on these folks from Donald Trump`s

minions and Donald Trump`s the fear of the mean tweet, it diminished as the

political reality set in, that no matter what you think about Obamacare,

there was no way that Donald Trump is going to be a guy who could go out

either in private or in public and articulate an argument for this bill

that would move the numbers that would make sense. 


I mean, the emperor has been buck naked from the very beginning.  But, you

know, as Ezra noted, I`ve talked to members who`ve been in these meetings,

and they have said basically, this guy has no clue whatsoever what he`s

talking about.  He`s easily overcome by inanimate objects than is much more

comfortable being a – to the presidential truck driver rather than

somebody who can argue about a serious consequential, complex bill like



O`DONNELL:  Yes, Ezra, historically in legislation like this or any of the

complex legislation, you don`t let anyone do any negotiating who isn`t in

complete command of the details.  That`s why a lot – most of this

negotiating historically has been left to chairmen of the committees who

know the material best, the congressional leaders and very rarely the

president on specific issues because the president is always – and this is

no fault of the president – going to be less informed of the details than

Congress is. 


And it certainly looked like some members were having conversations with

Paul Ryan that were unsatisfactory, and then they would go down to the

White House and have conversations with the president and the president

would say, yes, I think you`re right, I think we should try to do that,

thereby undermining whatever Paul Ryan had just said to them.  And you have

this two-headed monster of negotiations going on. 


KLEIN:  I think that`s true.  But I also think we shouldn`t lose sight of

the larger picture here.  This was an atrocious bill. 




KLEIN:  The reason – it was not just that Donald Trump did not know enough

to make a good case for it.  There wasn`t a good case that could be made

for it.  If there was, somebody else could have been out there doing it. 

Paul Ryan could have been out there doing it.  Secretary Tom Price could

have been out there doing it.  Secretary Tom Price could have been out

there.  Mike Pence could have been out there.  Reince Priebus could have

been out there.  But there wasn`t. 


When Heritage Action came out against the bill today, and Heritage Action,

it`s a conservative group.  I mean, we are not talking about liberals here. 

They said you`ve got to vote against this bill because not a single

conservative health care policy on the list is for it. 


This was a bill opposed not just by AARP, but the American Hospital

Association, the American Medical Association, anybody who knew anything

about health care said it was terrible. 




KLEIN:  And not only was it bad, but it broke all of their promises.  It

broke Donald Trump`s promises to give everybody health care and to make

sure health care had lower deductibles.  This was not what anybody wanted. 

And so even if Trump had known more about it, I think what that mainly

would have done would have been to  make him uncomfortable with the fact

that this didn`t go with anything that he had said on health care. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, Ezra, that is such an important point to get us back

focusing on what was actually in the bill.  It was a disaster on its face. 


And Rick Wilson, I would add that to the issue of competence.  The pushing

a terrible bill is one of the signs of incompetence. 


WILSON:  You know, if you are a conservative, this bill looked – if you

are a fiscal conservative, this bill looked like a disaster.  If you are a

market conservative, you look at this bill, and say, wow, we just

reconfigured the giveaways to the insurance industry and pharma a little

bit.  We haven`t done anything that`s going to bring market forces in to

reduce the premiums and to reduce the deductibles, to reduce the burdens

that have been imposed on people by Obamacare. 


[22:20:08] It doesn`t fix anything and it also, just from the look and feel

of the thing, it`s a disaster.  It gives you every hook.  If you`re a

Democrat, it gave you every hook to go after this bill, about putting

people off their insurance and maternity and mental health care, all these

other things that just were immediate news hooks and people understood them

viscerally.  And there was no effort to market this bill beyond the thought

that Donald Trump would sell it to the public. 


I mean, that`s like saying we are going to outsource, you know, a daycare

center to a team of serial killer clowns.  It`s ridiculous.  You can`t –

you can`t outsource something like this, you know, where it needs some

heart and soul and some feel, that it isn`t some heartless mechanism that

throw people off their insurance to Donald Trump, the guy with the least

sympathetic affect of any human being. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  So they came up with a bill that couldn`t be sold, and

then did everything wrong after that, too. 


Ezra Klein, Rick Wilson, thank you both for joining us, really appreciate



KLEIN:  Thank you. 


WILSON:  Thanks, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Coming up, we have an expert panel on the chaos in the White

House.  What we have already seen in these first 60 days and what we can

expect to see in what`s left of what we call the Trump presidency. 


And also, we are going to be joined by an intelligence – House

Intelligence Committee member, Jim Himes.  He will join us with the latest

on exactly what has happened with congressman – with Chairman Nunes today,

who has changed his story.  He is now telling a completely different story

of the intelligence information that was brought to him this week that he

rushed over to Paul Ryan, and then rushed down to the White House. 




O`DONNELL:  This just in, the front page of tomorrow`s “New York Post,”

Rupert Murdoch`s own newspaper.  Even they realized this was a devastating

day for Donald Trump.  The “Post” says, “After conservative revolt,

President Trump was forced to drop a House vote on legislation to replace

Obamacare.  It was a harsh defeat for the GOP which has long campaigned

against the law.” 


So much for Donald Trump`s attempt to blame the Democrats.  I`ll be right





[22:25:41] O`DONNELL:  And so with today`s crushing defeat, the superman

who Trump voters seem to believe that they`re sending to the White House

has now met his kryptonite at the end of two months of sheer chaos,

incompetence and weakness. 




TRUMP:  With no Democrat support, we couldn`t quite get there with just a

very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed. 


PAUL:  I will not sugar coat this, this is a disappointing day for us. 


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR:  With respect to the president`s tweets about

alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no

information that supports those tweets. 


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I have recused myself in the matters that

deal with the Trump campaign. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Retired U.S. army, three-star general, an

intelligence specialist had resigned as National Security adviser. 


LESTER HOLT:  Breaking news, a short time ago, a federal appeals court here

in California ruled against the government, refusing to reinstate President

Trump`s ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. 




O`DONNELL:  We`re joined now by Indira Lakshmanan, Washington columnist for

“The Boston Globe,” also Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist

for the “New York Times,” and David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for

“Mother Jones” and an MSNBC political analyst. 


I want to take a quick look at what Charles Krauthammer said this evening

on FOX News about what happened today. 




KRAUTHAMMER:  The big picture, I think, is that it`s a victory for –

philosophically for Obama.  He – it is now seven years since the act was

put into place.  The country is changed.  There is now the generalized

expectation that there is an entitlement to universal health care. 




O`DONNELL:  Nick Kristof, it took a long time for Republicans to grasp that




seven years of trying desperately to overturn this and then 18 days of

their own effort that they also spectacularly and let`s hope this is behind

it but, I mean, frankly, my concern, and President Trump articulated is now

he`s going to try to kill Obamacare and he can certainly sabotage it and

then blame it on its intrinsic difficulties, saying that it`s dying when in

fact he`s stepping on the oxygen hose.  And I think that`s one of the main

risks ahead.  That`s one power he still does have, to sabotage it. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, Indira, that would then fall to the Democrats to try to

identify that, where they see that happening as much as possible, basically

rush to the scene of that crime to bring attention to it. 



thing about President Trump here is, let`s not forget, though, this is a

man who loves to win.  His entire brand is all about winning.  And today

was about a spectacular, colossal failure.  And this is on top of a number

of failures in the first two months.  You know, we`ve talked on this show

before about his travel ban that failed not once, but twice already now,

about all sorts of questions about intelligence and this on top of it. 


And it seems as if Trump just didn`t really realize how difficult health

care was.  He said things like we didn`t know how difficult it was.  Well,

actually everyone in Washington already knew how difficult it was.  So, you

know, I think it was kind of Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the

Senate, who had the last laugh today when he said that this is the most

incompetent White House he has ever seen, and so much for the art of the



I think, unfortunately, a lot of Trump supporters may be thinking that,

too, if they thought they were going to get some kind of better health care

deal out of it.  And now this has just been shelved to be forgotten. 


O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to one of the lies Donald Trump told today when he

was making excuses about this, saying that he never said he could do this

in just 64 days.  Let`s listen to this. 




TRUMP:  I never said – I guess I`m here, what, 64 days?  I never said

repeal and replace Obamacare.  You`ve all heard my speeches.  I never said

repeal it and replace it within 64 days.  I have a long time. 




O`DONNELL:  All right.  David Corn, he did say he would get it done on the

first day. 




O`DONNELL:  And other timeframes.  But I don`t think he ever specifically

said 64 days, he might be right about that. 


CORN:  No, no, no.  He didn`t say 64 days, he said would do it immediately. 




CORN:  He said he was the only guy who could do it and we had a video up on

“Mother Jones” today in which he said it would be easy. 




CORN:  Easy, easy.  So he clearly doesn`t remember what he said.  But it`s

such a situation where he doesn`t know what he said 10 seconds ago.  It`s

all about the moment. 


[22:30:06] I will say this to Nick`s point about stepping on the oxygen

hose, a very apt metaphor here. That the one thing we know about Donald

Trump, when he does these speeches for 50,000 bucks and tells people the

secret to being Donald Trump, how you`d make money like Donald Trump, he

says the most important rule he can teach anybody in business, they won`t

teach you this at Wharton, they won`t teach you this at Harvard, that if

somebody screws you, you screw them back and you screw them back 10 times

over, 15 times over. 


So this is a guy who looked kind of defeated now, and kind of was, you

know, low key about it.  But I believe this obsessive need for revenge will

cause him to lash out and do all sorts of things at Republicans, at

Obamacare, maybe at everyone. 


O`DONNELL:  But, Nick, Republican congressmen are very sensitive to the

idea of revenge and about Trump being revenge.  Not one of them, not one of

them seems to fear that. 


KRISTOF:  Well, I think they fear voters maybe more than they fear Trump,

but, I mean, my greatest concern about revenge is ultimately his the

revenge against Obamacare and we`re going to see one test of that very soon

when we have the House of Representatives lawsuit against the extra

subsidies on Obamacare. 




KRISTOF:  And if the Trump administration does not defend against that

suit, then Obamacare is deeply sabotaged and President Obama has said today

that the Democrats now own Obamacare, that it`s going to die.  I fear that

he is signaling that he is not going to defend that suit and that he wants

to see it succumb and then blame it on Obama. 


O`DONNELL:  Right. 


KRISTOF:  Which, you know, would be a catastrophe to go from great victory

today to seeing it cover less people because of his own ineptitude. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Indira, one of the mysteries that I have been waiting to

see unfold is what was Donald Trump`s legislative power going to be?  And

we have now seen a defeat like nothing else we have ever seen on the first

bill of a president.  And this – things get more difficult from here. 

They will probably get tax reform because the Republican Congress knows how

to do it.  But Donald Trump wants to do individual trade deals with

individual countries around the world.  This shows today that he won`t get

– he won`t do a single one because the only thing more complex than health

care legislation is a trade deal with one country or multiple countries. 


LAKSHMANAN:  Not to mention, legislation and whipping things through

Congress takes an attention span.  You know, you can`t just – 


O`DONNELL:  Right. 


LAKSHMANAN:  You know, Nick Kristof was saying 18 days.  I mean, look,

Obama spent 18 months on Obamacare and even then it was so hard to get it

through.  He said after 18 days, that`s it, I`m done.  I`m done with this. 

You know, that`s all he had the attention span for?  It really doesn`t make

sense.  He spent the day deflecting blame and saying this is the Democrats`



But the bottom line is that he got, what was it?  He needed three dozen –

there was something like three dozen Republican deflections here.  So the

point that he was unable to get his own party in line because of deep, deep

divisions within the Republican Party.  If he couldn`t do that over

Obamacare, which was something which was universally hated by Republicans,

then it`s hard to see how he`s going to do it on many other issues that

remain on the agenda and beginning with a loss is not the great way to



O`DONNELL:  And the previous presidencies that worked on this subject,

Obama, and then the Clintons before him, they each spent two years on the

presidential campaign trail studying health care policy and working on the

details of it in debates before even getting to the White House.  Donald

Trump obviously – we`ve got to squeeze in a break right here.  We`re going

to come back with our panel. 


The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, now admits what he

said Wednesday is not true.  He has a brand-new story.  You`re going to

hear that when we come back. 




[22:37:40] O`DONNELL:  Devin Nunes is running scared.  The chairman of the

House Intelligence Committee did two things today.  First he canceled a

hearing scheduled for next week creating outrage once again among Democrats

and the intelligence community and, second, he changed his story about what

was in the intelligence reports that he says he brought first to Speaker

Paul Ryan, and then to the president on Wednesday. 




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Can you clarify whether Trump associates were

monitored or just mentioned in the intelligence report? 



– we won`t know that until we`ve actually received all of the





O`DONNELL:  That`s what he said today and here is what he said about that

on Wednesday. 


NUNES:  This is information that was brought to me that I thought the

president needed to know about incidental collection where the president

himself and others in the Trump transition team were clearly put into

intelligence reports. 




O`DONNELL:  The president, himself, was clearly in the reports on Wednesday

in the White House driveway, and now he`s not.  Now Devin Nunes doesn`t

know.  So I guess that means that he now doesn`t know why he ran to tell

Paul Ryan about those reports, and then ran down to the White House to tell

the president. 


On FOX News last night Devin Nunes gave yet another reason for running down

to the White House. 




NUNES:  I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because as you

know he`s been taking a lot of heat in the news media. 




O`DONNELL:  So Devin Nunes thought he could help the president out with the

heat he`s taking in the news media.  There is no governmental reason to go

to the White House in what you just heard Devin Nunes say on FOX News last

night.  Absolutely none. 


On FOX News last night, Devin Nunes is admitting he did it for nothing but

public relations reasons to help the sunken credibility of the pathological

liar in the White House whose credibility can never be helped because he

has lied his way through his life. 


Devin Nunes is in way over his head.  He is obviously incompetent.  He has

no idea how to properly handle intelligence and is now trying to publicly

block his own committee`s progress by cancelling next week`s hearing. 





think that there must have been a very strong pushback, you know, from the

White House about the nature of Monday`s hearing.  It`s hard for me to come

to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be canceled. 




O`DONNELL:  Congress Jim Himes who is on that Intelligence Committee will

join us next. 




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes from

Connecticut.  He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. 


Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.  First of all, can you tell

us what you were hoping to accomplish in next week`s hearing?  What that

testimony would have been and why you believe the chairman canceled that



REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT:  Sure, thanks, Lawrence.  I was really

looking forward to Tuesday`s hearing because, remember, the vast bulk of

the work that we do as an investigative committee in this particularly

arena is not likely to be able to happen in public.  We are dealing with

classified information, very sensitive surveillance, that sort of thing. 

So like Monday`s hearing, next Tuesday was to be an opportunity for us to

hear from the former director of the CIA and the former director of

National Intelligence, as well of course as from Sally Yates, the deputy

attorney general. 


All of whom would have known a lot about the investigation which as FBI

Director Comey told us has been on for nine months.  They would have known

a lot about that investigation prior to their leaving office in January. 

So this was a great opportunity for the American public to hear a little

bit more but also to learn more generally from professionals about what it

looks like when Russians seek to influence an election.  So the

cancellation of this Tuesday open hearing was really – a real blow not

just to the investigation, but to an awful lot of very curious Americans. 


O`DONNELL:  And what do you make of the chairman`s reason for doing it? 


HIMES:  Well, to me it`s clear as day.  The Monday open hearing, in which

we had the FBI director and the head of the NSA, was a pretty rough five

hours for the president in which the FBI director acknowledged a lengthy

investigation in which, to use his words, he`s looking into links and

coordination between Trump associates and the Russians. 


And of course both of them knocked down the absurd tweet of the president

saying that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him.  And then, of

course, the Democrats, we ran through all kinds of questions which painted

a little bit of a picture of the bizarre connections of people like Paul

Manafort and Roger Stone and Michael Flynn with the Russians and the fact

that they have consistently hidden those connections. 


[22:45:09] And that`s not normal for a presidential campaign.  So suffice

it to say that that was a very painful five hours for the White House.  And

my best guess is that the White House called up Chairman Devin Nunes and

said we`re not doing that again and here we are. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I guess I was impressed with the chairman on Monday in

that he allowed the hearing.  And no, he didn`t actively agree with

anything you were saying, but more importantly, to experienced watchers, he

didn`t try to contradict anything you were saying.  They changed the

subject to an irrelevant point about leaks and unrelated matter.  And I

thought wow, this is a Republican chairman letting this happen, letting all

this damage occur to the president and I was kind of impressed with that

until he, apparently, couldn`t take it anymore. 


HIMES:  Yes.  Well, whether he could take it or not, it`s pretty clear that

some people in the White House said this is really going in a very bad way

for us.  And of course it wasn`t just the cancellation of the open hearing

next week, it was just the bizarre, as we have come to call it, the

midnight run.  You were talking about it earlier in the show.  You know,

that you would get some intelligence that you wouldn`t tell the rest of the

committee members, that wouldn`t tell the staff of the committee but you

would somehow feel a sense of obligation, and you played the quote, to

somehow help this president with heat in the media. 


I mean, you know, third grade civics, we all remember that the Congress is

a check and a balance on the president.  We are not their public relations

people.  And so that, of course, cast a huge question on Devin`s

objectivity and, you know, created a problem for us two days ago.  And of

course today we get the cancellation of the hearing.  So suffice it to say

that we Democrats really do want a meaningful and objective investigation. 

We are in a tough place today. 


O`DONNELL:  You know the chairman personally, how surprised are you by his

erratic and unpredictable behavior this week? 


HIMES:  Well, I`ll tell you, I do know him and I respect him and I count

him as a friend.  And, you know, this is not the first time we`ve had a

week like this one.  You`ll recall a couple of weeks ago he and Senator

Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, admitted to have the

behest of the White House tried to knock down a “New York Times” story that

the White House didn`t much like. 


We`ve seen this sort of thing before.  What makes it confusing is, that

yes, I do know him.  And in fact, inside, behind closed doors, he`s been

very constructive about this investigation.  You know, we`re working on a

witness list right now, as you pointed out.  He allowed that open hearing

on Monday.  So we`ve seen a lot of inside cooperation.  But of course that

changed this week. 


And it`s put us in a terrible spot because on the one hand, you know, you

sort of say to yourself, what are we here for if we`re not going to – if

we`re going to be cancelling open hearings.  The fact of the matter is that

because we don`t have an outside bipartisan commission we`re kind of the

only show in town.  So we walk away from this investigation and I`ll tell

you, there are some people who are under suspicion who probably popped the

champagne corks that evening. 


O`DONNELL:  Congressman Himes, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

Really appreciate it. 


HIMES:  Thanks, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Coming up, more with our panel on this whole Devin Nunes and

House Intelligence Committee investigation and other Trump messes. 






[22:51:14] NUNES:  This is not an easy process because the – you know,

there`s politics on both sides of this and I`m trying to navigate this best

as I can.  I would say that what we have been very successful at is we have

people that continue to come forward to provide us information and we want

that to continue. 




O`DONNELL:  We are back with our panel, Indira Lakshmanan, Nick Kristof and

David Corn. 


David Corn, he – Devin Nunes admits there`s politics on both sides of

this.  The politics on his side of it got out of control this week. 


CORN:  Yes, I expect him to say, who knew that intelligence oversight could

be so complicated. 


O`DONNELL:  Right. 


CORN:  I mean, everybody on the committee that I have spoken to, the

Democrats, all think that, you know, the hearing was canceled because Trump

just took a thumping from the hearing held earlier this week.  And if

Brennan and Clapper came on there, and Sally Yates stars talking about what

the administration did and didn`t do about Michael Flynn lying to the vice

president and his connections with Ambassador Kislyak, the Russian

ambassador in the U.S., it would just again define the week – you know,

the day and just give more ammunition to people who are investigating the

Trump-Russia scandal. 


But also, you know, another weird press briefing today, he essentially

conceded that he`d gone off a few days ago without acknowledging that.  He

said he hadn`t seen all the documents, he heard about it earlier in the

week, and by Wednesday afternoon, he was rushing to the microphones.  It

was incredibly reckless and he was telling us he had been incredibly



O`DONNELL:  Nick, I want to go to a quote from your column yesterday.  It

was entitled “There`s a Smell of Treason in the Air.”  It says, “I am also

told, not by a Democrat, that there`s a persuasive piece of intelligence on

ties between Russia and a member of the Trump team that isn`t yet public.” 

So another Trump team person. 


KRISTOF:  I believe that there are, you know, more shoes to drop.  And I

think this is going to continue to stagger along.  I mean, my sense of this

is that there is going to be evidence of what we might call soft collusion,

not a hard, quid pro quo between the Trump team and the Russians, but

advanced knowledge, some degree of cooperation. 


I think that the challenge is going to be to connect that soft collusion by

members of the Trump team to President Trump himself, and I think that may

be very, very difficult and for those people who are counting the days

toward impeachment, I think that is going to be a critical obstacle.  I

think we may see a president enormously weakened by this. 


I mean, we talked earlier about health care.  This is another blow that is

going to, you know, innervate the presidency as we go ahead.  But I think

it`s going to be very hard to connect it to show his knowledge. 


O`DONNELL:  Indira, I was watching that hearing on Monday in the House

Intelligence Committee, and thinking how did they let this happen?  How did

the Republicans allow this hearing to go on?  Because it`s completely, as

people now realized, it`s completely up to the chairman to have this

hearing.  How did the White House allow the chairman to have this hearing? 

And it looks like this is another case of incompetence all around where

they apparently did not understand ahead of time how devastating this well

advertised hearing was going to be to the president. 


LAKSHMANAN:  Well, there`s another thing, Lawrence, let`s not forget,

called the separation of powers.  And the whole point of the House Select

Committee on Intelligence is that they are supposed to be an oversight

committee providing bipartisan independent oversight on the intelligence

community and also, in this case, investigating Russian interference in the

U.S. election and any potential collusion that we have been talking about

between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. 


And the point here, and I think the most important bottom line question

going forward is, can an investigation by this committee be considered

impartial, independent and credible? 


[22:55:12] And after what Devin Nunes did on Wednesday, it`s really hard to

see how it can be.  Because even if you are a Republican, even if you are a

member of the Trump transition team, as he was, his job is to lead a

bipartisan probe, an investigation which he has said he would do

independently.  So to then go run to the president and brief the president

on a probe of which he is one of the subjects, very, very strange behavior

indeed.  Including what you referred to.  The late-night disappearance. 


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


Indira Lakshmanan, Nick Kristof, David Corn, thank you all for joining us,

really appreciate it. 


Coming up in tonight`s LAST WORD, a very special LAST WORD by President

Barack Obama. 






OBAMA:  There are all kind of things that many of you would like to see

that isn`t in this legislation.  There`s some things I`d like to see that`s

not in this legislation.  But is this the single most important step that

we have taken on health care since Medicare?  Absolutely.  Is this the most

important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hard-

working middle class families out there since Medicare?  Absolutely. 


We have been debating health care for decades.  It has now been debated for

a year.  It is in your hands.  It is time to pass health care reform for





O`DONNELL:  That`s what it looks like when a president is fighting for his

health care legislation until the last minute.  That was President Obama

the day before the House of Representatives cast its first vote on the

Affordable Care Act. 


Barack Obama gets tonight`s LAST WORD. 








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