The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 6/23/17 Trump obstruction investigation

Guests:
Nick Akerman, E.J. Dionne, Karen Clay, Michael Philips, Joan Walsh, Nancy Giles, Michael McFaul, Andy Greenberg
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: June 23, 2017
Guest: Nick Akerman, E.J. Dionne, Karen Clay, Michael Philips, Joan Walsh,
Nancy Giles, Michael McFaul, Andy Greenberg

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: 30 years after Justice Powell`s announcement,
his replacement, Justice Kennedy, the current swing voter on the court.
Maybe if he`s going to retire that might conceivably be the day he`d
announce it.

That would be President Trump of course with yet another pick for the
Supreme Court and an opportunity to shift the court significantly to the
right if he can confirm someone significantly more conservative than
Kennedy.

Justice Kennedy is 80 years old, the top Republican senator on the
Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, has been hinting that he expects
someone on the court to retire this summer. So Monday could be
interesting. Set your alarm.

That does it for us tonight. Have an excellent weekend. We`ll see you
again on Monday. Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ari Melber sitting
in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Nice to see you, Rachel. You know, replacing
Justice Kennedy on the court would be the electoral college equivalent of
replacing, like, Florida and Ohio.

MADDOW: Yes, it would be like for – like if the Democrats really did
start winning Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Yes. It would be big.

MADDOW: You know what I mean?

MELBER: So we`ll be watching.

MADDOW: Yes.

MELBER: Have a good weekend, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ari. You too.

MELBER: Good to see you as always.

I am in for Lawrence O`Donnell. We have a special report tonight on Trump
versus Medicaid. Why is the candidate who ran on protecting that key
health program now ready to cut it? We have an exclusive with the former
Medicaid director. We will also hear from a family who says their lives
literally depend on this program, and they have a message for Congress that
has nothing to do with politics.

But first our top story tonight. There are no tapes, Donald Trump admits,
but there are conference calls on Russia that Trump holds every single
morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and
Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A major point of contention for the Senate GOP health
care bill, Medicaid.

RE. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: This bill that`s currently in front of the
United States Senate. Not the answer. It`s simply not the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell and him are just playing political
games. They want a win. It doesn`t matter what it looks like. They just
want to win and what that means is that the other side`s got to lose.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC`S “MEET THE PRESS”: I think they`re solving a short-term
political problem. I think they`re buying long-term pain here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today President Trump illustrated the danger of doing
an interview with a friendly media organization in the midst of a federal
investigation into potential obstruction of justice.

TRUMP: When he found out that I – you know, that there may be tapes out
there, I think his story may have changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This couldn`t have been a good day for President
Trump`s lawyers to hear these freewheeling comments from Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shows a real pattern of Trump trying to change the
trajectory of this investigation, and that`s what Mueller is looking at for
obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: About 41 days passed between Donald Trump`s tweet suggesting he
taped his conversations with Jim Comey and Trump`s confession that there
are no tapes. Much time was spent on those potential tapes, a reminder of
how the Trump presidency can feel like a national version of Candy Crush,
wasting our time whether we like it or not.

Now after that nudge from FOX News, Trump says maybe he misled everyone
about the tapes to shape Comey`s testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When he found out that I – you know, that there may be tapes out
there, whether it`s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I
think his story may have changed. I mean, you`ll have to take a look at
that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events and
my story didn`t change. My story was always a straight story. My story
was always the truth. But you`ll have to determine for yourself whether or
not his story changed. But I did not tape it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in
his hearings.

TRUMP: Well, it wasn`t – it wasn`t very stupid, I can tell you that. He
was – he did admit that what I said was right. And if you look further
back before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn`t admitting that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Trump suggesting that maybe Comey`s account changed over time.
But of the two men in this story, one man, Trump, suggested he had
contemporaneous evidence, tapes, when there never were tapes. Another man,
Comey, said he had contemporaneous evidence, notes, taken after every
conversation, and there were notes.

Consider one man has largely avoided adversarial questioning on this topic.
Another testified under oath for seven hours in two hearings, taking some
adversarial and difficult questions from 34 different senators.

Keep that record in mind as the president`s spokesperson doubled down on
the idea that a false assertion, there might be tapes, was offered in
service of some larger truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president made it
very clear that he wanted the truth to come out. He wanted everyone to be
honest about this and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. And I think he
succeed in doing that.

The reality is, is that he wanted to make sure that the truth came out.
And by talking about something like tapes made people have to – it made
Comey in particular think to himself, I better be honest. I better tell
the truth about the circumstances regarding the situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: “I better tell the truth.”

[22:05:03] Is that now what the White House thinks Comey did? Because
Comey testified that Trump inappropriately pressed him for loyalty, said he
should be investigated for obstruction, and that he wrongly interfered with
the Flynn inquiry. Trump`s immediate reaction was that some of Comey`s
statements under oath were not true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some of the things that he said just weren`t true.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: He did say under oath that you told him to let
the Flynn – you said you hoped the Flynn investigation – he could let go.

TRUMP: I didn`t say that.

KARL: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn`t say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn`t say
that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So Trump said Comey was lying about things that make Trump look
bad, but he tweeted a misleading statement about tapes to make Comey tell
the truth, which worked except for when it didn`t.

At this point you might want to throw your hands up and say, forget it or,
worse, you might say maybe nothing matters. But that`s not actually the
case. These things do matter. And while Trump`s approach here, call it
bravado or propaganda, call it lies, may be designed to exhaust and obscure
and petty fog, it is notable his approach failed first because Comey
offered thorough testimony that even Republican senators praised.

Second, because Comey flipped the script on Trump and basically punked him
over the tapes saying if they existed, they would exonerate Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Look, I`ve seen the tweet about tapes.
Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Third, Trump`s tweet failed because it drew a formal demand to
release any tapes. Congress set a deadline of today, which is why Trump
admitted there were none. Yes, some things do matter. And, fourth, this
all failed because Trump`s tweet about tapes was a major driver of the
decision by his own DOJ to appoint a special counsel he now apparently
disdains.

And we know that because three White House aides are now telling “The
Washington Post” the president holds a conference call on Russia every
morning at 6:30 a.m., quote, “part strategy consultation, part presidential
venting session during which Trump`s lawyers and public relations gurus
take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their
plan for battling his avowed enemies, the special counsel leading the
Russia investigation, the fake news media chronicling it, and in some
instances, the president`s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.”

Let`s take stock of all of this with Nick Akerman, a former assistant
special Watergate prosecutor and former U.S. attorney there in the southern
district, as well as E.J. Dionne, an opinion writer for “The Washington
Post” and an MSNBC political analyst.

Nick, a lot of time spent on the tapes. Some people feel time wasted. But
as you go through the record that I just did there, it would seem this did
lead to some things, and they might be good for the investigation.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, what
he`s done is he`s just continued his obstruction of justice. I mean what
he has done with that tape in basically threatening Comey as a witness
amounted to nothing less than witness tampering.

The statute that`s involved is Section 1512 of the United States Code, and
I`ll just read from it because it`s spot on. “Whoever knowingly engages in
misleading conduct,” which we clearly have here. He misled everybody for
six weeks about these tapes. “Toward another person with intent to
influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding commits a
crime.”

I mean it couldn`t be any clearer. This is just part of his entire
obstruction of justice that he has been constantly perpetrating since the
time he asked Comey to forget about the Flynn investigation. When Comey
didn`t drop the Flynn investigation, he then fired Comey. And on top of
it, he also, in between those two events, he asked Dan Coats and Admiral
Rogers to drop – to try and put an end to the investigation.

So you`ve got now five acts of obstruction of justice. You`ve got the
president of the United States admitting that he got rid of Comey because
of the Russian investigation. You`ve got him admitting to the Russian
ambassador that he fired Comey because he didn`t want the Russian
investigation on his back. And now you`ve got him admitting to FOX News,
in kind of a most convoluted way, that he was trying to manipulate Comey`s
testimony.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what more do you need to convict this man
of obstruction of justice?

MELBER: E.J. Dionne, what more do you need?

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don`t need that much. I think what`s
striking as Nick says is that when the first talk about obstruction came
up, there were a lot of people saying, well, you can`t really easily make
an obstruction case. You need to prove intent. What you`ve had is the
president laying out intent in public today, saying he was trying to get
Comey to tell the truth, although as you pointed out there were truths that
Comey said that Trump denied were true.

[22:10:08] So you have that. You`ve got the threat to fire – first the
try and influence Comey and then the firing itself. And now you`ve got the
attack on Mueller, where there is clearly an effort to build up the idea
that Mueller is biased, that, you know, god forbid, he`s hiring people who
made contributions to Democrats. So he has a political track where he`s
trying to create pressure.

MELBER: Right. Well –

DIONNE: And then he`s got the legal track.

MELBER: Here was Trump on Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He`s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome.
But he`s also – we`re going to see. I mean we`re going to have to see in
terms – look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion.
There has been leaking by Comey. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous if
you want to know the truth from that standpoint. But Robert Mueller`s an
honorable man and hopefully he`ll come up with an honorable solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Nick, you`ve worked in a similar format as a prosecutor dealing
with a sensitive case touching the White House. If you in an office heard
comments like that, what is the approach? You ignore them or you look at
them as potentially also problematic?

AKERMAN: Well, you ignore them. You know they`re problematic. But this
is really history repeating itself. This is exactly the tack that the
Nixon administration took against Archibald Cox before Nixon fired him. It
was the complaint about Archibald Cox, who was the solicitor general for
President Kennedy. There was the complaint that there were people being
hired in the prosecutor`s office who were registered Democrats. By the
way, there are also registered Republicans who are part of that office.
But it was the exact same tack that was taken back in 1973. This is just
history repeating itself.

MELBER: E.J., there is that argument that it`s history repeating itself.
There`s also the argument made by many Trump allies that the difference was
in Watergate there were a lot of direct links to the underlying crimes that
led back to the White House and a money trail. And here at this stage in
the investigation, there`s no public evidence that any of the crimes that
occurred, such as felonious hacking, have yet been linked in any way to the
White House or Trump associates. So does that in your view leave a great -
- bigger burden of evidence for anyone who wants to make that comparison?

DIONNE: Well, no, but you didn`t have enormous amounts of evidence linking
Nixon to Watergate at the beginning. And they were trying to say that this
was a kind of rogue operation, and that`s why the tapes were so important.
So we pretend that Watergate happened all of a sudden. Watergate was in
`72 and he wasn`t out until `74.

Here`s what I think is a big difference, which is you have much more
political polarization and a much more homogeneous for Republican Party.
When Elliott Richardson and then William Ruckelshaus, the deputy attorney
general, were fired, Richardson and Ruckelshaus represented a very
substantial wing of the Republican Party. There were liberal Republicans
back then.

Now you have almost – you have no liberal Republicans, and I think it`s
easier for Trump to turn this into a totally partisan matter than it was
for Nixon, who tried it, who got pretty far, but there was a wing of that
party that was always ready to stand up to him.

MELBER: Right, and that also goes to the president`s response. He did not
directly send a letter to Congress acknowledging their inquiry. He was
clearly moved by the deadline, but he took it to Twitter. He took it to
the public as he increasingly does and continues to impugn aspects of the
inquiry as Nick was explaining.

E.J. Dionne and Nick Akerman, thank you both.

AKERMAN: Good to be with you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the special report we`re doing tonight. “Trump versus
Medicaid,” Donald Trump making so many promises about health care out on
the trail including yet he said no cuts to Medicaid and everyone will be
taken care of.

We`re going to speak directly with a family who says this repeal and
replace plan could tear them apart literally.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:16:21] TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without
cuts. Have to do it. I am going to take care of everybody. I don`t care
if it costs me votes or not. Everybody is going to be taken care of much
better than they`re taken care of now. My first day in office, I`m going
to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous
law. We will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to
do it. You`ll have great health care at a fraction, a fraction of the
cost, and it will be great.

I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our
country if I`m president. I`m not going to cut Social Security like every
other Republican, and I`m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Donald Trump was telling the truth there about a lot of other
Republicans, but apparently lying about himself. During the campaign he
promised he would not cut Medicaid, money that primarily helps children,
seniors, and the disabled, especially at lower income levels. Now
President Trump says he will support the Republican plan which literally
does just that.

Then despite President Trump reportedly calling one version of the House
plan mean and saying he wanted a plan with, quote, “heart,” Republicans in
the Senate are making even deeper cuts to Medicaid. They`re phasing out,
for example, a Medicaid expansion program under Obamacare. They are
capping the federal money that is given to states which helps support all
of these programs and Medicaid insurance.

Now Republican Senator Dean Heller today, the fifth Republican to say he
will not support the bill in this form. Quote, “It takes away insurance
from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,”
he said. Nevada one of the 31 states that already did expand Medicaid
through the trigger from Obamacare.

And here`s what White House press secretary Sean Spicer had to say about
the Senate bill and Medicaid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: He`s talked about having heart and he likes a lot of the reforms
that have been in there. He`s committed to making sure that no one who
currently is in the Medicaid program is affected in any way, which is
reflected in the Senate bill, and he`s pleased with that. He – so I think
he is very pleased with that bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining us now is Andy Slavitt. He`s the former acting
administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where he
served in two years through 2017.

Thanks for being part of our special coverage. What does Medicaid do now
that`s most important for the health of regular Americans and what would
you see being effected under this bill?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND
MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, Medicaid`s one of the most essential programs in
our country and one of the most essential promises to American families.
In the real world, half the babies born in the country are paid for by
Medicaid. Half the people in the program are kids. And then 70 percent of
the funds go to care for people who are either living in nursing homes or
who are living with a disability. So it`s a vital program.

It`s a program that doesn`t have a lot of slack in it. And the plan that
we see before us in the Senate would take that program and cut it by 25
percent, which I think we can only interpret to mean that the services for
those individuals are going to be cut by 25 percent or 25 percent of those
individuals are just going to be simply cut off of Medicaid.

MELBER: Who is going to make that call?

SLAVITT: Well, that`s going to come down to individual state governors,
and that – if this law passes, it`s going to put governors in an awfully
tricky spot because unless there`s another way to raise revenue, and I`ve
yet to talk to a governor who believes they`ve got the ability to raise
revenue, many are running deficits as you know, Ari, they`re going to have
to make some draconian choices. They can of course look to other parts of
their budget, but they don`t have many. They can cut pre-kindergarten, but
that doesn`t get you very far. So fundamentally they`re going to have to
choose between how they`re going to make these choices.

[22:20:08] This is – we`ve got a baby boomer wave that`s entering the
nursing home period of their lives in the next few years. The costs are
going to go up. We have an opioid epidemic which is paid for largely
through Medicaid. It`s the largest payer of Medicaid. So slashing that
budget right now just isn`t smart and it hurts people in the real world.

MELBER: Briefly on the final point, you`re saying that most of the federal
funding for dealing with what has been described by both parties as a
national opioid crisis is also something that is run through Medicaid?

SLAVITT: That`s right. Depending on what state you`re in, Medicaid pays
about a third of all opioid treatments right now.

MELBER: Wow.

SLAVITT: But in some states that`s as high as 50 percent. So if Medicaid
is slashed so dramatically, governors will not have much choice but to
slash the treatment here. And I think what you`ll probably see in the next
week is the Senate will throw a bone to opioids by announcing some small
fund. The analysis of the size of the fund, it shows that it`s about only
20 percent adequate towards meeting the needs that are currently being met
in the program. We should be spending more on the national epidemics like
we are, not dramatically slashing it.

MELBER: Right. Andy, what I`d like you to do is stay with us because part
of our special coverage is we want to look at how the Medicaid cuts would
affect many real and normal Americans who are involved in the program.

There`s a 33-year-old we`re going to speak with. Mike Phillips as a spinal
muscular atrophy. He`s enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. In 2008, in
fact, a TV version of the very famous radio show, “This American Life,”
took a look at Mike`s life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His thumb is just a fraction of an inch away from this
whole switch that runs his computer. He can`t type so he can`t
communicate. He has all these horrifying stories where something goes
wrong, wrong in a way that could kill him. And he has no way to tell
anybody. And when you meet Mike, he`s remarkably chill for somebody who
regularly has these moments of total frightening isolation.

So, Mike, so let`s review all the different ways that you communicate.
Just show me yes. And no. And then you had one for reset when it`s time
to reset everything? OK. I`m going to ask a question now and type your
answer in. The question is, so if we were to replace your voice with
somebody`s, what would you want it to be?

This process is just incredibly slow. Typing out this one-sentence answer
takes over three minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d want either Johnny Depp or Edward Norton, whoever
is available because either way, they are both badasses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Mike Phillips and his mom, Karen Clay, will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate and the House are trying to put us, the
people with disabilities, into a situation where we will end up in nursing
homes where we will die. I`m semi-paralyzed. All I`m asking for is the
right to live in freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Protesters who gathered outside of Senator McConnell`s office on
Thursday, most of them didn`t say – and you may have seen these dramatic
images. Most of them didn`t say they were political activists. They
didn`t describe themselves as Obama allies. A lot of them said they were
Americans who receive their health care through Medicaid and they said they
want to be heard from before the Republican Congress makes these drastic
cuts to Medicaid.

[22:25:03] Now Michael Phillips could not protest outside of Senator
McConnell`s office, but he did send out this tweet that got a lot of
notice, saying, “Hi, my name is Michael Phillips. I live at home because
of a Medicaid waiver. Don`t cut Medicaid. Don`t take away my home.”

And joining us now on THE LAST WORD is Mike Phillips who is living with his
spinal muscular atrophy and who stands to lose Medicaid benefits under the
potential Senate health care discussion bill. We`re also joined by his
mom, Karen Clay, who is his full-time caregiver.

Thank you both, Karen and Mike, for being here. Starting with you, Karen,
how do you see this issue and why was it important for both of you to speak
out?

KAREN CLAY, FIGHTING FOR HIS SON`S MEDICAID SERVICES: Thank you. When my
son was diagnosed over 30 years ago, the doctors told me he wouldn`t see
his first birthday. And yet here he is. Over time his needs have changed
and the amount of care that he`s needed has increased. And that`s what
Medicaid is all about. Medicaid is called a lifeline. But for people like
my son, Medicaid is a life.

Through a Medicaid waiver, we are enabled to keep Mike at home and to care
for him by a family who loves him and who knows his needs best. If you
take away Medicaid from individuals like my son – and my son in particular
, there would be no place for him.

In the state of Florida, there are no facilities for individuals who cannot
be weaned from a vent, which is how Mike breathes. He would be forced into
an institution not even here in the state of Florida but somewhere else in
the country.

His other option – and we have seen other individuals with vents who have
been in hospitals and had nowhere for them to go. And this is at an
extreme cost. My son doesn`t want to live at our local hospital. He
doesn`t want to be out of state in an institution. He wants to stay at
home and we want him to be at home. It`s amazing that after all these
years, I would have to fight to spend less money.

MELBER: So, Karen, you`re saying that the way this works, if there were
the funding cuts and you didn`t have that support and that waiver, it`s not
just reduced health care, which is significant. You`re saying it might
mean that you wouldn`t be able to have Mike at home or care for him at
home?

CLAY: Yes. That`s exactly what could happen.

MELBER: And, Mike, we read what you wrote on Twitter, and I understand
that you`ve also written something else, and you wanted to share it. So
please go ahead so folks can hear from you.

MIKE PHILLIPS, FIGHTING FOR MEDICAID SERVICES: Hi, and good evening.
First, I just want to say it`s an honor to be here. I watch your legal
analysis every day. You`re spectacular. So ever since November 9th, 2016,
I haven`t been sleeping well. I`ve been scared. I`ve never been scared by
the results of an election. It`s an odd feeling. I`ve always felt like
the federal government exists to protect citizens, even when state
governments won`t do so. Maybe especially when state governments won`t do
so.

So, yes, I`m scared. Scared of what could happen to me if Medicaid cut
comes to pass in Florida and scared because Florida is bent on doing so
because they know the federal government won`t stop them. Though I`m quite
disabled, Medicaid services allow me to live a full, productive life,
interacting with the community, being cared for at home.

I live at home. I have a personal care assistant. She takes me anywhere I
want to go, the movies, Starbucks, dinner with friends, the tattoo shop,
when the mood takes me, which is often enough. I don`t have a girlfriend
right now, but I had one for quite a while, and I`d like to give things
another go.

I`m a published writer. I helped develop assistive technology. I`m not
exactly Ryan Gosling, but I lead a good life. Losing Medicaid, being
forced into an institution, I`d lose everything. I`d lose the rights
guaranteed to me under the Constitution, life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. People with disabilities know happiness isn`t guaranteed, but
we want a shot at it just like anybody else.

MELBER: Mike, thank you for sharing that. It`s very eloquent.

[22:30:05] Karen, what else do you want people to know about this bill,
about the battle ahead?

CLAY: This bill is not just mean. This bill is cruel. This is not about
replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act because there is nothing in the
Affordable Care Act that mentions block grants or per capita caps. Per
capita caps would result in not only the $880 billion in cuts that we`re
looking at over the next 10 years, but it will be far greater than money.
It will be loss of life. And that`s why we`re fighting because we cannot
believe that a bill that is this cruel could possibly be enacted by anyone
in Washington.

This isn`t about Democrat or Republican. This is about lives and this is
about caring for people, especially our most vulnerable citizens.

MELBER: Karen and Mike, I want you to stay with me. I mentioned, you
know, we were speaking with Andy Slavitt, who on the policy side, has run
this program.

Andy, I think you`re still with us. As you listened to this and you think
about the disability aspect, which we often hear about in terms of data, we
hear the words, walk us through how this program works nationally and how
many people with disabilities and families are affected.

SLAVITT: Well, there`s nothing that I could say that will be more eloquent
than what Karen and Mike just told you. But what I can tell you, having
overseen the Medicaid program for two years, is that there`s 10 million
people living with disabilities in this country who are dependent upon the
kinds of services that just allow them to not only lead a life that gives
them the basics of their health care, but to lead a life of some
fulfillment.

And if you can imagine if some of those services that Mike just talked
about didn`t come daily but came weekly, just imagine the kinds of cuts
that would change his life, let alone the size of these cuts, which would
eliminate in many, many states the possibility of the kind of waivers that
Karen described to you.

And Karen said something very important. These waivers are humane.
They`re what families want. They keep families together. But they`re also
very efficient. It`s much better to keep people at home and take care of
them in comfortable settings. So we have, I think, we`re on the verge of
making, I think, a mistake that in the real world will hurt millions of
people like Mike. And I`m so glad Mike and Karen were able to come on and
share their story.

MELBER: Karen and Mike, stay with me here, with Andy.

Joan Walsh and Nancy Giles are here. We talk about politics a lot. We
talk about policy a lot.

Joan, you`ve been covering the health care battles for seven plus years. I
wonder what you`re thinking.

JOAN WALSH: I`m thinking what the hell kind of a country are we, Ari, that
Michael has to lose sleep wondering if he can stay in his home with his
family? I mean, what is this family supposed to do?

Paul Ryan has been dreaming about cutting this program since he was hanging
out at Keggers in college. He`s told that story.

NANCY GILES, GILES FILES PODCAST: What kind of a man is he?

WALSH: What kind of a monster is he? Who dreams of cutting Medicaid?
They act like people are merely takers. They don`t act like they
understand hardship of any kind. Paul Ryan, who actually got Social
Security as a survivor when his father died, God bless him. I mean the
cruelty – Karen uses that word. It`s the only word we can use. The
cruelty of this bill is beyond belief. And if Donald Trump is really going
to go along with this, don`t like the man, didn`t vote for him, but he
promised not to do this. There has to be a way to reach the consciences of
multiple Republicans on this bill, and I think you`ve begun to do that
tonight.

Thank you, Karen and Michael.

MELBER: And Nancy, how about that? Because when we listened to Mike and
he told us that he`s been scared since the election, obviously he`s
listened and analyzed and done his own work. We heard from a candidate and
we played it earlier this hour who said on the facts, on the record, that
he wasn`t going to cut Medicaid, although that`s clearly what this bill
does. So obviously something`s come through here between the promises the
president made and what is in this health care bill.

GILES: I – I`m so overwhelmed at Mike and Karen that I don`t really know
what to say. I mean, for starters that anybody could think the kind of
care that he gets and that his mom supports him in getting is a luxury and
not something that is his right as a human being, I just find appalling.

I echo what Joan said. I just – I`m really confused about what kind of
country we are. We`re revealed by how we treat our most vulnerable
citizens, and if an inefficient system that profits some people could mean
that an earned right, not a – you know, not a gift, I mean, Medicaid and
Social Security, they`re not gifts.

[22:35:18] These are things that we earn. That something like that could
be denied someone like Mike, who has thrived and used it and is able to
express himself, to not have a chance for his voice to be expressed is just
criminal. It`s criminal.

MELBER: Karen, did you want to respond to any of that? And I did also
want to ask you what you thought of some of the activists we showed that
did get some attention there. The folks – well, some of them who said
they were activists and some of them who said they`re just people who
happened to use this type of health coverage that were there outside
Senator McConnell`s office.

CLAY: That was a display yesterday that I never imagined I would see in
this country. And I asked myself the same question. Where are we? What
kind of people would ask – would have them dragged out of wheelchairs
because people in wheelchairs are still fragile. You have muscles that
have not been used. You have bones that have not borne weight. If you
don`t know how to really pick someone up to move them from their chair, you
can harm them. You could hurt them. And I know that these people – that
some of the people were hurt yesterday.

It was a display that I found to be absolutely unacceptable, and I was just
so – I was on the verge of anger and tears the entire day. I never
thought I would see that in this country, ever.

MELBER: And Andy, while I have you here, the other question I wanted to
pose is what do you say to backers of health care reform and some of the
Republican backers of this bill who say they`re not against the recipients
of these programs. They`re certainly, they say, not against patients in
America. But they say the overall system cannot hold and that you have to
revert things back to the states and have state-level reform. What do you,
as someone who`s run these programs, what do you say to that argument?

SLAVITT: I`d say a couple things. First of all, we have a commitment in
our country that we made in 1965 that wasn`t a partial commitment. It
wasn`t a halfway commitment. It was a commitment to people that when they
need medical care and they`re in the straits that we`re talking about, that
we would get them to them. And we`re a country that can afford that. And
as a matter of fact, the Medicaid program costs about 28 percent less. All
things considered, it even costs 28 percent less than a commercial
insurance plan, and its medical cost growth is negligible.

So yes, it costs our country more money to cover more people. Of course it
does. But Medicaid is an incredibly efficient program and it`s doing
wonderful things. And if we can imagine a greater national priority that
we would rather fund, whether it`s a wall or some other thing, then I think
we`re going to have to take that to the American public because the one
thing I will say, and I think Karen said this very well.

There was no mandate in this election to take health care services away
from people like Mike and 70 million other people on Medicaid. That was
not part of this election. So we are – I think we have to basically – if
we want to have that debate, I think we`re happy to have that debate and I
think there`s no two better people than Karen and Mike to be participating
in that debate.

MELBER: We`re almost out of time for what we`ve devoted to have this
discussion. I`m so appreciative of everyone for being a part of it. And I
know, Nancy, you said you have one more question for Karen so go ahead.

GILES: Yes, just very quickly, Karen. I`m wondering what do you think is
the disconnect between your elected representatives and where you stand? I
mean, they`re elected to represent your needs. Why do you think there`s –
why do you think we`re at this juncture right now?

CLAY: Because all they want is budget predictability and there is no
predictability in health care. Just as I said with my Mike, his needs have
increased over time. His care has increased over time. And that`s what
Medicaid is there for. You know, all of us are one job – you know, one
job loss or one economic downturn, in Florida, one hurricane would put –
and this is from FEMA – approximately 2700 people on the rolls of
Medicaid.

If you had a widespread, you know, storm, it would put tens of thousands.
Now where are they going to get their health care? This is this lifeline.
This safety net is in place for a reason. And to me, this bill is nothing
more than – it`s not just cuts to Medicaid. They want to decimate
Medicaid. And budget predictability and flexibility are words that they
use. We have flexibility in our Medicaid state plans. What they want to
take away are our rules, regulations, and our rights.

MELBER: Karen Clay, thank you so much for sharing with us your story.
Mike Phillips, I really appreciate what you wrote, what you said, your
eloquence.

[22:40:02] And Andy Slavitt, thank you. I really appreciate it. And I
want to thank, of course, Joan and Nancy as well. Appreciate it. Thank
you all.

Coming up, we turn to some breaking news. There were some new comments by
President Trump on Russian interference in the 2016 election. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back. And we turn to another story tonight, the Russian
effort to tip the 2016 presidential election caused overwhelming panic
inside the U.S. government. This was in the lead-up to the election.

New story in “The Washington Post” reporting that top Obama officials
called for a tougher counterattack on Russia, that their situation room
planning sessions on the issue went into a secure lockdown on a level that
hasn`t been used since the bin Laden raid. And that Obama had ordered an
implant attack on Russian networks that may actually be deployed up to this
day.

The story also notes that one reason the U.S. did not hit back harder was
the credible fear that Russia may have been able to attack the actual
voting on Election Day. Obama was weighing that risk in how he did his
response.

And tonight President Trump is weighing in. This is for an interview with
“FOX & Friends Weekend,” and he is apparently eager to second-guess his
predecessor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about
Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it. But
nobody wants to talk about that. The CIA gave him information on Russia a
long time before they even – you know, before the election. And I hardly
see it. It`s an amazing thing. To me, you know, in other words, the
question is if he had the information, why didn`t he do something about it?
He should have done something about it. But you don`t read that. It`s
quite sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Why didn`t he do something? Well, up next, we have a very senior
Russia expert to report on this. That`s straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:47:59] SEN. MARTIN HENRICH (D) NEW MEXICO: Did the president in any of
those interactions that you`ve shared with us today asked you what you
should be doing or what our government should be doing or the intelligence
community to protect America against Russian interference in our election
system?

COMEY: I don`t recall a conversation like that.

HENRICH: Never?

COMEY: No.

HENRICH: Do you find it odd?

COMEY: Not with the President Trump.

HENRICH: Right.

COMEY: I attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: James Comey there speaking about the difference between two
administrations in the approach to Russia. Joining me now is former U.S.
ambassador to Russia and MSNBC contributor, Ambassador Michael McFaul.

Thanks for joining.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Sure.

MELBER: Right before the break I played some new sound from President
Trump arguing that Obama didn`t do enough. And then you have that big
report today that I`m sure you have a front row seat to it. I know there
is parts of it you can and can`t talk about. But put it all in context for
us what the “Washington Post” reported and President Trump saying, hey. why
didn`t Obama do more?

MCFAUL: Well, there are lots of strange things in that sound bite you just
played. The strangest for me was the first sentence where he said I just
learned for the first time. That cannot be true. And if it is true I`m
really scared because obviously we`ve known about this intelligence for a
long time. The Obama administration released a statement about it in
October of 2016.

We`ve been talking about it in the U.S. Congress, on your shows here at
MSNBC for months. So that was the first thing that was shocking to me.
The second thing of course is shocking and counter intuitive.

MELBER: Well, let`s – I`ll pause you. Yes, I`ll pause you in that,
though. I mean, if you take the president at his word that he just learned
about this the first time would that be normal? Would that be concerning?

MCFAUL: It`s not normal. Of course it`s not normal. If that is true then
his National Security team is not doing their job in terms of briefing him
about intelligence that even people like us know about.

[22:50:02] He has access to a lot – a much greater detail, classified
information about that. And surely he should have been briefed on that by
now.

MELBER: And then we`ll take you to your second point and here is a more
recent tweet along the same lines. Donald Trump says, “Just out, Obama
administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling
by Russia. Did nothing about it. Why?” Or I suppose if I want to read
that accurately, it`s in caps. So it`s why? Your response.

MCFAUL: Well, again two different pieces. I mean, first of all he has
been denying that this happened for months now, right? Both as a
candidate, President-elect Trump and then President Trump has been denying
the fact that this happened. So you can`t criticize the President Obama
for doing something that you yourself said that didn`t happen.

Secondly, however, he is now the president. We need to take actions to
prevent this in the future. There are very concrete steps that could be
taken. And to the best of my knowledge, I don`t have – I`m not privy to
all conversations, they`ve done absolutely nothing.

MELBER: Nothing.

MCFAUL: To prevent future attacks.

MELBER: And so that`s the last thing I want to ask you about from the
“Washington Post” piece. He says Obama had a cyber operation that involves
deploying implants in Russian networks, importantly adversary which would
cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted. According to the
U.S. official the implants developed by the NSA and designed so they could
be triggered remotely. Does that the kind of thing that might still be in
President Trump`s arsenal if he wanted to do as you put it, nothing?

MCFAUL: Well, you know, I think about it as different layers of how you
defend yourself against cyber security attacks. The first one is
attribution. And to this date the president has not been explicit about
talking about the basic facts. Maybe that changed today. But up to today
he hasn`t. Second, there are the kind of coercive things that was
described in that excellent today from the “Washington Post,” including
things like that.

There is also sanctions, including congressional legislation that he has
the opportunity to sign if he wants to do that in terms of a coercive
response. And third there is the resilience. We can do things to make our
systems more secure. We can do things to make our computers more secure,
we can have paper trails as backups in terms of elections. There is a
myriad of actions if you wanted to up our resilience. All of those things
so far, none of those have been done.

MELBER: Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you as always.

And coming up, what Russia is actually planning next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think we have to assume
for all the reasons that have been discussed here, that the Russians will
be back and possibly other state actors and possibly other bad cyber
actors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:56:28] MELBER: Will the Russians be back or have they never left?
Cyber security experts are saying Russia has actually been at this a while
including an extensive and ongoing ground testing in Ukraine. In fact this
month`s cover story in “Wired” reports extensively on how suspected Russian
hackers interfered in the country`s elections as well as its power grid
with one expert saying they`re testing out red lines, what they can get
away with. You push and you see if you get push back, if not you try the
next step.

That is truth of reporting from Andy Greenberg, a senior writer at “Wired”
magazine and the cover story is entitled “Lights Out” and it`s in the July
issue of “Wired.”

What did you find?

ANDY GREENBERG, SENIOR WRITER, WIRED: Well, I found that something
unprecedented is happening in Ukraine. Hackers are attacking the country
with a scale, a scope that we`ve never seen before, attacking every strata
of society, finance, the media, destroying hundreds of computers, shutting
down the railway system ability to issue tickets. But then finally the
most unprecedented thing that`s happening in the Ukraine in the cyber
security, in this kind of cyber war in fact is that hackers have shut down
the power grid. And that has never happened before in history.

MELBER: How much of this is physical? And how much of this is about
affecting a society and its expectations, its public faith, these sort of
softer things.

GREENBERG: Well Russia is at war with Ukraine. There is an actual
physical deadly war happening in eastern Ukraine right now. But this is
the kind of digital aspect of that war. And we`re seeing a new kind of war
here, where Russia is trying to make – to create this impression that
Ukraine is a failed state, that its government agencies don`t work, that
its power grid is faulty. But I think the more disturbing thing about
what`s happening in Ukraine is that all of this is kind of a canary in the
coal mine that Russia can get away with things in Ukraine that it can`t
elsewhere. So it`s using Ukraine as a test lab, as a king of training
ground to hone weapons that it may then use against western Europe or the
United States.

MELBER: How much of this reporting gave you a window into you think what
the lines are or the ways to affect Putin because as you know the view in
the United States is wow, he got a big return on investment, he might be
emboldened based on our election experience.

GREENBERG: Well, you kind of see the history of Ukraine, actually Russia
tried to hack the Ukrainian election first in 2014. They tried to spoof
the results on the Central Election Commission`s Web site to make it look
like this far-right candidate had won and the election officials only
caught that with hours to go. And when they got away with that really no -
- they faced no sanctions internationally or, you know, no real punishment
then they tried it in the United States. So then now that we see Russia is
turning off the power in Ukraine, the next logical step is, are they going
to try that in the U.S. as well.

MELBER: And would that be an act of cyber war?

GREENBERG: I think it would have to be. I mean, we`ve always defined
cyber war as a digital attack that destroys or disrupts physical things.

MELBER: Something physical, right?

GREENBERG: Yes. That`s happened in Ukraine. We know that Russia is
willing to cross that line now. And it seems like a matter of time. In
fact they`ve built the weapons to do it elsewhere.

MELBER: You don`t make me feel better but you do make me feel more
informed.

Andy Greenberg, happy Friday night.

GREENBERG: Yes. You too.

MELBER: Appreciate you sharing your reporting with us.

I am Ari Melber and thanks for watching the LAST WORD. If you want more
you can try Sunday “ON THE POINT.” We have a special report on leaks, the
good, bad and the illegal. And I have exclusive with Yale Law professor
Jack Balkin who argues we`re not in a constitutional crisis but Trump is a
symptom of, quote, “constitutional wrought.” He will explain. That`s 5:00
p.m. Eastern on Sunday. And more importantly the “11TH HOUR” starts right
now.

END

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