The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 7/31/2017 Trump dictated Don Jr.’s statement
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: July 31, 2017
Guest: Al Hunt; Betsy Woodruff; Mieke Eoyang; Vince Warren; David Jolly
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: The county police on Long Island
– going to bring it up. He ain`t going to bring it up, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC: He`s not going to bring it up –
O`DONNELL: No –
REID: And it was not a joke. I don`t even know how to make a joke like
O`DONNELL: Yes, and the – unfortunately, the police who were present at
the time, Suffolk County Police on Long Island, seemed to enjoy the
president`s comment. And they –
REID: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Also very much enjoyed his comments about how much he wanted to
dismantle Obamacare, and these are all police officers who themselves and
their entire families have –
REID: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Government-provided health insurance basically for the rest of
their lives through their retirement.
REID: Yes, when I heard that and a lot of people heard it, the first thing
that popped in their mind was Freddie Gray.
It was a really sobering thing to see police officers cheering for that.
But have a great show.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy, thank you –
REID: Good night –
O`DONNELL: Well, the president brought in the mooch to stop White House
leaking, to crack down on Reince Priebus and those White House leakers.
That didn`t work out so well. And so today, the president brought in
former Marine Corps General John Kelly to get rid of the mooch first of all
and then stop the leaking.
And of course, of course, tonight right on schedule, “The Washington Post”
has another massive breaking news story about the Trump White House and the
president in particular entirely supplied by Trump leakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: If you want to eat an
elephant, you got to eat it one bite at a time. And Sarah and I are going
to do that together.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He does not
have a role at this time in the Trump administration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was Anthony Scaramucci fired, or did he resign?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I think he was certainly pushed out.
SANDERS: The president certainly felt that Anthony`s comments were
SCARAMUCCI: Reince is an expletive deleted, paranoid schizophrenic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can safely assume that it wasn`t because
Donald Trump was shocked and appalled by the language he used.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And said he offended General Kelly.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will do a spectacular job
I have no doubt as chief of staff.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: How can any staffer end the chaos if the chaos comes
from the top?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump said today there is, quote, “no White
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are Kleenex to Donald Trump. He uses them and
throws them away.
TRUMP: I predict that General Kelly will go down in terms of the position
of chief of staff, one of the great ever.
EUGENE ROBINSON, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: I`m looking at my watch
to see how long this lasts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “The Washington Post” is reporting tonight another blockbuster
breaking news story that it was the president of the United States who
dictated the exact wording of Donald Trump Jr`s first statement to the “New
York Times” on July 8th about his meeting during the campaign with a
Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin along with several other people in
the room that day.
Which included other Russians and the president`s son-in-law and senior
adviser Jared Kushner who did not disclose that meeting as he was required
to do on his application for a security clearance.
It is news that the president dictated every word of that statement, but it
is not news that that statement was a lie.
The statement of Donald Trump Jr. as dictated by the president from Air
Force One said “it was a short introductory meeting, I ask Jared and Paul
to stop by.
We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children
that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since
ended by the Russian government.
But it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up, I
was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the
name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
Tonight`s “Washington Post” reporting shows that the White House knew that
that statement as dictated by the president was a lie.
And we know this because on the very first day of General John Kelly`s
service as White House chief of staff. The White House is leaking like
Which is to say leaking like yesterday and the day before and every other
day of the leakiest president in history.
Donald Trump fired Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff on Friday
and replaced him with General Kelly, specifically to stop this. To stop
what happened tonight.
To stop the leaks to the “Washington Post” and to the “New York Times” that
come blasting at us virtually every night.
The sources cited in “The Washington Post” article are all unnamed advisors
to the president. And “The Washington Post” has multiple sources when
describing the most inexperienced communication staff in White House
history whole picks.
And Josh Raphael(ph) quote “advocated for a more transparent approach.”
“The Washington Post” quotes people with knowledge of the conversations,
this is a day one disaster for the new White House chief of staff whose job
it is to pluck those leaks.
That`s job one, that`s what the president wants from him the most. And it
is another disaster story for the White House, showing the president trying
to cover up the truth of what happened in his son and son-in-law`s meeting
with the Russians at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.
An unnamed presidential adviser in “The Washington Post” story said quote
“now, someone can claim he is the one who attempted to mislead. Someone
can argue the president is saying he doesn`t want you to say the whole
“The Washington Post” article then says, “although misleading the public or
the news media is not a crime, advisors to Trump and his family told “The
Washington Post” that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to
hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost
inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from special prosecutor Robert
In an example of the public communication`s message that the new White
House chief of staff John Kelly seems to be controlling tonight.
The White House is referring all questions about “The Washington Post”
article to the outside lawyers who are defending the president and his son
and his son-in-law in this special prosecution investigation.
We can only wonder how the White House communication team would have
responded if Anthony Scaramucci was still in charge of White House
communications even though he had never actually been hired by the White
He was the only White House communications director who was in charge of
all of the communications without having been hired. Friday night, on this
program, I said that the incoming White House chief of staff would face a
very clear challenge on Monday today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I think we have a test for General Kelly on day one, and that
is exactly how minutes does it take him to yank those White House
credentials off the neck of Anthony Scaramucci because if Scaramucci –
ROBINSON: Right –
O`DONNELL: Works in that White House, by definition, General Kelly has
failed to control that White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And he passed. General Kelly passed that test today. It was
the easiest test that any White House chief of staff has ever been given.
And now he has a Jared test, the Ivanka test. The job of White House chief
of staff was called Appointment Secretary until Richard Nixon militarized
the title to chief of staff.
The power of the Appointment Secretary was the power of who got to see the
president. The Appointment Secretary was supposed to be an honest broker
who made sure that the president was hearing all of the relevant
information needed for presidential decision-making.
And none of the nonsense that interferes with presidential decision-making.
Jared Kushner is one of the horrifically incompetent people in the White
House who advised the president to fire FBI Director James Comey.
It is General Kelly`s new job to prevent advice like that making its way to
the president. Advice from a person with no authority or expertise who has
nothing helpful to say.
There`s a roven band of such people in the White House now with access to
the president. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump
to name – but the most prominent.
The list goes on to include most other people working in the White House.
No other White House chief of staff has ever had the job of keeping most
people who work in the White House away from the president.
No other White House chief of staff has ever had the job of deciding
whether to revoke the president`s son-in-law`s security clearance which the
son-in-law lied to obtain.
That`s John Kelly`s job now. John Kelly is now the commander of a ship of
fools, the challenge that he faces now is unlike any challenge he has ever
Tomorrow`s challenge and the challenge for the day after that, on the day
after that will be which fool did he control or get rid of that day.
Joining us now, Chris Whipple; the author of “The Gate Keepers: How the
White House Chiefs of Staff Defined Every Presidency”.
Max Boot; senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on
Foreign Relations, he`s a former foreign policy adviser to presidential
campaigns of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio.
Also with us, Jeremy Bash; Msnbc national security analyst and a former
chief of staff at the CIA and Defense Department.
And Jeremy, I want to start with you because you know General Kelly, have
worked with him, and I want to get your sense of what he is going to be
able to accomplish going forward.
First of all, in this leak patrol that the president very much wants him to
be the leader of.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT THE CIA & DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I
think General Kelly sees his primary job, not so much as constraining the
So I think over time, he has seen in the Pentagon and in other jobs really
the only way to combat leaks is loyalty, is not by investigation and by
trying to chasing down.
It`s really by engender and trust. So I think he sees his primary job is
to get rid of the chaos and dysfunction that led to presidential decision-
making in a catastrophic manner thus far.
And I think he believes he has to control as you referenced, access to the
president, he has had a regular battle of rhythm of meetings, and he has to
tee up decisions for the president in an orderly fashion.
And his job is not going to make decisions about policy, but to make sure
policy decisions are tee-ed up for the commander-in-chief.
O`DONNELL: So Chris Whipple, he has brought in everyone – the situation
in Syria, should we fire these missiles or not?
He`s brought in everyone who has something to say about it, but before he
makes his decision, Ivanka would like a word with him.
What does the chief of staff do in that situation.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR: Well, I think he – look, his most important, one
of his most important duties is to be the so-called honest broker. He`s
got to make sure that all of these decisions are tee-ed up with the best
information on every side.
He`s got to make sure that only the toughest decisions get in there, and
he`s got to make sure that only the people who belong there are in the
So if Ivanka Trump doesn`t belong in the room for that kind of decision.
So he`s got to enforce that. And you know, I think frankly, he`s also got
to in addition to being empowered as first among equals.
He`s got to draw some red lines. You think about this meeting, think about
Trump dictating this memo on Air Force One.
You know, it`s White House chief incompetence now practiced that Donald
Trump was permitted to even be in that cabin dictating that message.
It`s White House chief malpractice for Donald Trump to be allowed to be in
a room with Jim Comey by himself in the context of an investigation into
I mean, Comey has to find – I mean, Kelly has got to find a way to prevent
those kinds of meetings and that kind of presidential malfeasance.
O`DONNELL: So Max, the scene is, they`re at the G-20 meeting, and the
White House staff gets the word that the “New York Times” is on to the
meeting that the kids had.
That Jared and Donald Jr. had. So the people working on this for the White
House at the G-20 meeting on Air Force One are former fashion operative who
worked for Ivanka Trump.
And then a former movie business low-level PR functionary. These are the
two people who were working in the White House Press Office that day.
And they actually have better advice than anyone named Trump comes up
within the whole story. They actually advised for more disclosure and it`s
the president who says no, we`re going to tell them not only less, but
we`re not even going to tell them anything close to the truth.
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN
RELATIONS: Well, respectfully, Lawrence, I`m not sure I agree with you
that more disclosure is actually in Trump`s interest because as we surmise,
he`s got a lot to hide.
I mean, more disclosure only makes sense –
O`DONNELL: Well, their –
BOOT: If he`s still innocent, right?
O`DONNELL: Their argument –
BOOT: Yes –
O`DONNELL: As naive and inexperience as they were –
BOOT: Yes, it will come out –
O`DONNELL: It`s all going to come out –
BOOT: Yes –
O`DONNELL: So maybe we should put it out –
BOOT: Right –
O`DONNELL: They finally figured that out –
BOOT: Right –
O`DONNELL: And they were right about it all coming out because it did over
the course of –
BOOT: But I think President Trump, what we`re seeing now is he understood
that they had something serious to hide –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
BOOT: This wasn`t just a PR problem, it`s a real issue, and I think the
broader problem here is, you know, you can talk about the staff all you
want, and yes, of course he`s surrounded by sycophants and misfits and
That`s true, but that`s not the problem. The problem is not Sean Spicer,
it`s not Reince Priebus, it`s not even Anthony Scaramucci, the problem is
Donald J. Trump.
He is not qualified intellectually, morally or ethically to be president of
the United States.
And at some level, it doesn`t matter who he is surrounded by because this
is not a situation like Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, where you can have a
more effective chief of staff come in and rescue a president who is
Flailing around is kind of Donald Trump`s nature, I don`t think he`s going
to escape this.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy, I want to go to that scene at the G-20 where this
information comes in and now, I want to put General Kelly there.
What does he do – you have – you have whole picks, you have, you know,
Ivanka`s operative there and they have access to the president and they
want to tell the president that Donald Jr. has this issue with the “New
We have Chris Whipple and others in “The Washington Post” saying the
president should not be allowed even near this information at this point in
He should not be involved in any way in what the statement is. Does
General Kelly simply say no, no one is allowed to tell the president this
Does he tell the president the information, close the door on Air Force One
in the office there and tell him then what not to do?
BASH: I think General Kelly has to lay down some key ground rules at the
outset of his tenure here. And I think he will do that. And one of the
key – one of the first ground rules will be anything pertaining to the
criminal investigation of the president.
And it`s worth repeating, Lawrence, the president of the United States is
under federal criminal investigation. And General Kelly should inform
everybody, anything having to do with that should be handled by the
president and his council, not by the White House staff.
The moment any member of the White House staff talks to the president about
these narratives under investigation, they become a witness, and they
basically open the door for Bob Mueller to collect e-mails and to interview
witnesses in this case.
So, I would think that, that is one of General Kelly`s principal jobs here,
and I think he will do that.
BOOT: Can I just jump in quickly, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead –
BOOT: And just say, I think the problem that General Kelly has here is he
doesn`t actually know what happened with the Russians.
I think President Trump does know what happened with the Russians and John
Kelly does not. So he`s really operating in the dark, and I don`t think
that Donald Trump is going to tell him what he knows.
O`DONNELL: Yes, but the rule that Jeremy just laid down sounds like the
reasonable rule to – for the chief of staff to try to administer.
Let`s go back now though to one of the president`s lawyers. This is what
happen when you consult the president`s lawyers on this.
The “New York Times” was aware that the president was involved in the
drafting of the statement. They didn`t know that he actually dictated it,
that`s “The Washington Post” contribution.
So let`s listen to George Stephanopoulos discuss with Jay Sekulow about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, JOURNALIST: So the president signed off on that
statement. Does he feel he was this led by his son and by Jared Kushner if
indeed they didn`t tell him about these e-mails that they both received.
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER: The president didn`t sign off on anything, he was
coming back from the G-20. The statement that was released on Saturday was
released by Donald Trump Jr. and I`m sure in consultation with his lawyers.
The president wasn`t involved in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the “New York Times” says that he wasn`t involved in
it, that several people on the plane were involved in this. So you`re
SEKULOW: That`s incorrect –
STEPHANOPOULOS: That account from the “New York Times” –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So Chris, that`s the quality of information we`re getting from
WHIPPLE: Yes, well, you know, they`d be – they could take a page from the
Clinton White House as you know and I mean, during the Monica Lewinsky
scandal when Erskine Bowles was the White House chief.
They had Podesta in charge of the Monica scandal. And you know, they were
able to isolate it there and Bowles was able to keep Bill Clinton focused
on governing every day.
You know, you have to keep the president away from stuff like this. No
matter – no matter how much he may know, you know, you`ve got to keep him
away from that in order to have a chance of governing.
And I think that, you know, at this point, this White House is broken, I
mean, it can`t do anything right. It can`t issue executive orders that are
enforceable and can`t pass legislation, it can`t prioritize the president`s
agenda, it can`t get anybody on the same page.
For Kelly, you know, this really is almost mission impossible.
O`DONNELL: So in Kelly leaving it wisely, I think we all agree to the
Trump lawyers tonight and not responding from the White House. We now have
this statement from Trump lawyer John Dowd, and is statement is quote “fake
news, incorrect, and misinformed of no consequence.”
So Max –
BOOT: That`s your confirmation –
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s round with –
BOOT: Yes –
O`DONNELL: The Trump lawyers who originally denied that the president had
even any sign off on this statement –
BOOT: Right, I mean, I think the fundamental problem here, Lawrence, is I
think what we will all agree on is yes, the president could use better
damage control, he can use better lawyer, and he can use better PR.
But I think at the end of the day, I think his problems run so deep that
none of their stuff is actually going to resolve the issue because this is
not a question like Bill Clinton lying about sex.
I think we`re seeing evidence of collusion with the Russians, we`re seeing
evidence of obstruction of justice, these are very serious charges and
there`s no way to spin your way out of them.
I think that`s the underlining reality and that`s why I don`t think that
John Kelly is going to be able to do the job that a lot of people expect
him to do.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy Bash, knowing General Kelly as you do, does he as many
people in government do, basically have their resignation letters in their
pocket, meaning they know exactly what lines they won`t cross – might not
necessarily be able to predict the specific one.
But they know who they are, and they know when that moment comes, they`re
not going to bend, they`re not going to compromise, they`re going to go.
BASH: Yes, I suppose, although, I don`t think he`s going to the job with
that frame of reference. I think he`s going and thinking that he can add
value and can bring some order to presidential decision-making.
But I have to hasten that, John Kelly is a man of very high integrity,
possibly the highest integrity with anybody I know, certainly anybody I
work with at the Pentagon.
And I know that he – and I think he`ll be the first person to say to the
president`s others that if he feels that he`s been personally compromised,
he will not stand idly by.
WHIPPLE: But you know, that`s precisely why I think he needs to go into
the Oval Office, close the door and tell Donald Trump there are certain red
lines here that you cannot cross.
And one of them would be – look, if I can`t control the Twitter account,
if you`re not going to show me your tweets in advance.
If you tell a demonstrable lie on Twitter, that`s at the end for me. I
will resign and you can find a third White House chief of staff.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy, quickly, I would assume that the journal would have
covered a certain amount of this ground in discussions with the president
We have some reports indicating the job was offered to him weeks ago and
that he turned it down. And so, something in the offer might have changed
if that`s the case, including these kinds of specifics.
BASH: I don`t know for certain, Lawrence, but I can tell you, obviously,
it`s clear now that he went in saying, I cannot be chief of staff if
somebody like Anthony Scaramucci does not report to me.
And really, if somebody like Anthony Scaramucci is at all a member of this
team, his ousting of Scaramucci today I think speaks volumes on day one
about just how much authority the president has destined in him.
O`DONNELL: Yes, he absolutely deserves credit for that, and it`s
absolutely stunning. This Scaramucci could have said what he said and
stayed on – not just stayed on the job, got on Air Force One and flew a
couple of trips with the president back and forth on Air Force One.
Stayed on the job all Saturday, all Sunday and it took the new White House
chief of staff to get rid of him. Jeremy Bash, thank you very much for
joining us tonight –
BASH: Thanks, Lawrence –
O`DONNELL: Max Boot, Chris Whipple, thank you for joining us tonight,
really appreciate it.
Coming up, John McCain – I`m sorry, coming up, John Kelly is also taking
over a West Wing intent on diminishing the role of Jeff Sessions and the
How will General Kelly handle that. And the president versus Republicans,
he is now increasingly a president without a party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I just want to congratulate him on the great job he`s done with
Homeland Security, and I have no doubt that he will be an absolutely superb
chief of staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Seated directly across the table from the president in the
second meeting, only the second meeting of the Trump cabinet today, was
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who the president has publicly attacked and
demeaned on Twitter and rolled his eyes about when asked shouted questions
After a weekend of some speculation that the president might try to move
Jeff Sessions to fill the new opening of Secretary of Homeland Security so
that the president could then install a new attorney general who could then
fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, the White House Press Secretary was
authorized to say this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: There are no conversations about any cabinet members moving in
any capacity, and the president has 100 percent confidence in all members
of his cabinet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Al Hunt; he is the columnist at “Bloomberg
View”, and Betsy Woodruff; a politics reporter for the “Daily Beast”.
Al, General Kelly has a lot to deal with, not the least of which is this
latest maneuver being rumored about the White House seemed ready to spike
today, which is moving of Jeff Sessions` new attorney general, firing of
It sounds like that was a Kelly-authorized statement today with 100 percent
confidence and no one is moving.
AL HUNT, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Yes, it does, Lawrence. Look, the
only – the whole Jeff Sessions brouhaha was about one single thing, that
Trump wants to get rid of Bob Mueller.
And the – in his mind, the question is how does he do it and will he do
it? It has nothing to do with Jeff Sessions.
There`s no policy disagreements with Jeff Sessions. He`s furious about
Mueller being there. What he`s furious about, we can all speculate.
What he`s trying to hide, we can all speculate. But, you know, it`s
remarkable. This should not be on the table.
Bob – there is no one in law enforcement who can manage the kind of
bipartisan respect that Bob Mueller does.
He`s doing a job, he was appointed by Trump`s Justice Department, it`s a
serious investigation, and the notion that this president would really be
looking for ways to get rid of him is just a travesty.
O`DONNELL: I want to read another passage from tonight`s breaking news
report from “The Washington Post” which says Trump – his advisors now –
his advisors say that these are the leaking unnamed anonymous advisors in
“The Washington Post”.
They say that Trump is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist
and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals
he has hired.
He refuses to sit still. The presidential adviser said he doesn`t think
he`s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem
he`s going to solve by himself.
And Betsy, if he doesn`t think he`s in any legal jeopardy, why hasn`t he
been able to follow the advice that any lawyer would give him if he was not
in any legal jeopardy, which is just to, you know, step back and let this
process take care of itself?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: That`s a good question.
I think a big part of the reason for this is that the president just isn`t
the kind of person who thinks long and hard about the law and legal culture
and the way that lawyers think and the difference between the court of
public opinion and actual court of law.
Remember, unlike the prior president, Trump does not have any sort of law
background. He`s been a businessman, he`s never been a lawyer and he
hasn`t had any sort of formal legal education besides what he`s just seen
in his time as a businessman in New York.
And based on my coverage of the Justice Department speaking with current
and former officials, one sense that I get is that people who
professionally work in the legal world see Trump as someone who just
doesn`t whatsoever get it.
They see him as someone who treats lawyers like means to an end, right? Who
sees lawyers as tools that he can use to accomplish his larger goals rather
than as people who are integral parts of the way that our system of justice
And I think that`s part of the reason that the president`s relationship
with so many of his lawyers has been so messy and complicated and also part
of the reason why he has been his own biggest stumbling block in terms of
legal problems both individually and in terms of his administration as a
O`DONNELL: Al Hunt, so we have an Irish guy from Boston, chief of staff of
the White House. And I think the last one of those might have been Kenny
O`Donnell for President Kennedy, no relation to me.
But he`s not a political guy. This is someone who –
HUNT: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Has been in the military. This is someone who is accustomed to
people following orders. He`s accustomed to having a lot of honor and
decency around him in the workplace.
What`s your prediction for how General Kelly manages this new White House?
HUNT: Well, as your – as your guests in your previous segments said, I
think it`s an impossible task, and I don`t think he will succeed.
I would just add one thing to what Betsy said that not only does Trump not
have respect for the law, he is to be perfectly candid a chronic liar.
It has been enumerated by “The Washington Post”, “Politico”, he just does
it, he`s pathological about it. Any good lawyer really has difficulty with
a client who is a pathological liar.
I think General Kelly is going to have an enormous problem here. I also
disagree with Jeremy Bash that getting rid of Scaramucci speaks volumes.
If he couldn`t do that –
O`DONNELL: Yes –
HUNT: That was the easiest thing in the world.
O`DONNELL: Right –
HUNT: I mean, from second one. But, Lawrence, just to go quickly to your
question, look at those White House Chief of Staffs who succeeded, Jim and
Howard Baker, John Podesta, Leon Panetta, Josh Bolton, Rahm Emanuel. What
do they share in common, Lawrence? They all know the ways of Washington.
They all know politics in the broadest sense of the word.
General Kelly is a very respected marine corps general, but he`s got a very
narrow background in that sense. And I think the White House Chief of Staff
is not a management job. It`s a political job.
O`DONNELL: And, Betsy, it`s the top political job in Washington, pure
political job. And General Kelly does have experience in the pentagon
working on defense appropriations bills and lobbying the house and the
senate on that, but that`s really the only legislative experience he`s ever
had. That tells you nothing about how to handle finance and ways and means
on tax bills and all these other forms of legislation that are moving –
the health care legislation, which is behind us now.
So he doesn`t have – it`s hard to point to people with less experience. I
guess Matt McClardy for Bill Clinton at the beginning. In that arena of
actual domestic governance in Washington.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR THE DAILY BEAST: For sure. And I
think that`s very much by design. Before General Kelly`s name was batted
around as someone who potentially could run the Department of Homeland
security, there are reports that he actually told some of his confidants
that he specifically did not want to be in any administration. He didn`t
want to be a creature of the beltway.
He doesn`t see it as you know his natural habitat at all. Of course there`s
this perhaps no particular job that puts you closer to the epicenter of the
D.C. Beltway than being the president`s chief of staff. My understanding
based on conversations with current and former officials, with folks who
have worked with him in the past, is this isn`t a gig he was jonesing for.
And that how I view it as a big part of the reason that he took this
position is that the president asked him too, right?
Secretary Kelly is not a political ladder climber. Obviously you have to
have some sort of political background to get to be a four-star general,
but this isn`t someone who based on my understanding had any sort of
electoral ambitions. But given his time in the military, given his
understanding of the importance of authority, hierarchy, chains of command,
if the president asked him to do something, which is obviously the case, he
wouldn`t say no. And I think the important counterpart to that is in the
same way that General Kelly didn`t want to say no to the president, he`ll
expect his subordinates not to say no to him.
And that`s why you`re seeing Scaramucci on his way out potentially with
others to follow.
O`DONNELL: Al, my experience in politics and government in Washington
tells me that General Kelly better have the resignation letter in his
pocket at all times, and he better have informed to the president about
exactly what will provoke his resignation letter because that`s what his
power will come from. His power will come from the basic – the - the
threat of the disruption of his resignation if the president does not
follow his advice on x or y.
HUNT: That is a mighty sword he has, Lawrence, if he`s willing to use it.
He`s got to start by telling the president, you can`t lie. You just can`t
go out there every day and lie. That`s going to be a tough conversation. I
would remind you that the last time we brought a general in to really take
care of a beleaguered presidency was Alexander Hague for Richard Nixon.
That didn`t turn out so well, did it?
O`DONNELL: Well, Alexander Hague ended up being the first chief of staff
for President Gerry Ford when he moved up. Al hunt, thank you for that
historical perspective very helpful, appreciate it, Betsy Woodruff, thank
you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
HUNT: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, who is John Kelly? What do we know about his record
and what do we know about his brief record as a civilian in government at
the department of homeland security?
O`DONNELL: And so President Trump now has a White House Chief of Staff who
was not a part of his campaign and didn`t like his campaign. General John
Kelly complained about what he saw as the lack of reality in both the Trump
and the Clinton campaigns last year, and he publicly warned any former
general like Mike Flynn that getting involved in politics is a mistake,
especially what he called, quote, the cesspool of domestic politics.
In his seven months as head of Homeland Security, General Kelly has backed
every bit of the president`s immigration policy including every one of
Donald Trump`s unconstitutional executive orders banning people from
entering the United States from certain Muslim countries. And until the
firing of Anthony Scaramucci today, there was no evidence at all that
General Kelly had any desire to talk Donald Trump out of any of his
Joining us now, Mieke Eoyang, a former House Intelligence Committee staff
member and now the vice president for National Security Program at the
Third Way. Also with us, Vince Warren. He`s the executive director of the
Center for Constitutional Rights. And Mieke, I – I wanted to listen first
of all to something that General Kelly said about Jared Kushner`s attempt
to set up a secure form of communication with the Russians and Russian
governments from - from the Russian embassy in Washington during the
Let`s listen to what the general said about that on “meet the press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was
before the - before government was in place, during the transition. I think
anytime you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they`re
good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mieke, it seemed he was the only person who had any pentagon
experience who thought that was not a terrible, disastrous idea.
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM AT THE THIRD
WAY: I think that`s right. And remember, General Kelly also served in the
Obama administration, which was for opening up lines of communication with
countries that were adversaries. However, it`s really the method that Jared
Kushner was suggesting that was really problematic.
And he didn`t say anything about that. That method really looked like Jared
Kushner was trying to set up some kind of channel to get around U.S.
Government oversight, and that`s really troubling.
O`DONNELL: So, Vince Warren, the president issued an executive order, the
first one banning people with green cards, banning people with green cards
from entering the country. And this secretary of homeland security says,
OK. We`ll go enforce that right away.
VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
Well, not only did he do that, after the orders were issued and it was a
huge Kerfuffle and a mess, he took responsibility for something that he
said that he actually had no idea was going to be coming out. This guy is
someone that is willing to sort of take the heat for the president, and for
this president, that`s a terrible, terrible idea. We have to remember that
he was the head of South Command, The Southern Command of the Army which
And he was in charge when the men in Guantanamo were brutalized after a
peaceful hunger strike and took no - had nothing - nothing but positive
things to say about the way - that the horrible way that the men were
treated in Guantanamo. And now he`s overseeing one of the largest push
backs with respect to undocumented people in recent American history. And
this is the person that we`re now relying on to keep the president in
And I think that even if he manages to wrestle the president`s blackberry
to the ground, we want to set the bar higher with respect to what we want
from our public officials and someone that is overseeing civil rights
O`DONNELL: Mieke you worked with General Kelly in the past. Have you been
surprised by his tenure as the secretary of homeland security for president
EOYANG: I have been. I always thought of General Kelly as someone with
tremendous integrity and respect for Congress, who had always worked very
well and had a good sense of what it meant to serve the constitution. I was
surprised at some of the things that were coming out of DHS. Though when
you look back at what the Trump administration was initially proposing in
January, the very beginning and how over broad it was and how overtime it
had to whittle it back and whittle it back.
I wonder if General Kelly is quietly actually pushing back on the Trump
administration but not talking about his opposition.
O`DONNELL: And - and Vince, the executive orders were extraordinary
because they didn`t go through any kind of – any of the processes that an
executive order goes through. Basically these things like written on the
back of a napkin. And Secretary Kelly either didn`t seem to recognize that,
and that could be understandable. He`d never been involved in an executive
order before. He didn`t know what the process was for an executive order.
WARREN: Yeah, that`s – it`s not shocking in this administration, but it`s
extremely problematic. One of the things that you would want to see from
someone who is the head of the Department of Homeland Security and what we
expect to see with this person as Chief of Staff of the White House is the
ability to say, wait a minute. Let`s stop this. We`re not doing these
things by the right protocols. I would love it if he would recognize that
this was blatantly unconstitutional and didn`t put his weight behind it,
but we`re not seeing that from him.
You know one other thing is that generally if human rights groups have to
sue you, it`s not a good idea for you to be the White House Chief of Staff.
And in fact, my organization and American Immigration Council (INAUDIBLE)
filed a lawsuit just a couple of months - couple of weeks ago rather where
this administration`s Department of Homeland Security was refusing to let
people across the border valid asylum applications in contravention of U.S.
Law and international law. It`s a problem.
O`DONNELL: Vince Warren and Mieke Eoyang, thank you very much for joining
us. I really appreciate it. Coming up, Donald Trump, now something Rush
Limbaugh hates. A republican in name only.
O`DONNELL: President Trump behaves like a man without a party. He attacks
Republican Senators when he feels like it. He complains on Twitter about
Republican Senators not protecting him.
The President doesn`t seem to realize that most of his Tweets as
conservative Peggy Noonan and others have pointed out are demonstrations of
utter weakness. They are mostly expressions of his frustrations, about
things he`s not powerful enough to change. His Tweets end with the word sad
because he doesn`t have the power to do anything. Tweets from the President
who tricked voters into believing that he would be the toughest guy whoever
occupied the office.
Now he`s just the sad guy. Of course President Trump attacks Democrats too,
but the public attacks against members of his own party in Congress are
uniquely Trumpian and are producing new power dynamics in the Republican
Party. Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to Jeff Sessions` Alabama
Senate seat when sessions became Attorney General is running for the seat
in a Special Election. So is Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks.
Brooks is a Trump Republican. Senator Strange is now a McConnell
Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything
he can to deliver financial support to Senator Strange`s campaign. Mitch
McConnell knows that his party has the least popular President in the
history of polling at this stage of his presidency. Mitch McConnell knows
that there really isn`t a Trump agenda in Congress, but Congressman Mo
Brooks doesn`t know that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MO BROOKS, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: By golly, maybe they ought to start
at the top with Mitch McConnell leaving his position and letting somebody
new, somebody bold, somebody conservative take the reins. If Mitch
McConnell cannot get the job done on this, how is he going to get the job
done on the rest of President Trump`s agenda over the next 3 1/2 years?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And now Mitch McConnell knows that the last thing he wants in
the Senate is another Trump-supporting senator like Mo Brooks. Coming up,
Senate Republicans slowly turning away from their President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE DENT, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Here we are trying to focus on whatever
the issue is at the moment, whether health care or tax reform or
infrastructure. But if we`re having to deal with these types of – whether
tweets or inappropriate statements coming from the president, that just
completely distracts us. Frankly it`s exhausting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Former Republican Congressman, David Jolly.
David, are you seeing the third party develop in front of our eyes, the
Trump party in Washington that seems to think it`s not Republican?
DAVID JOLLY, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Of Course. What does the Republican
Party do with a Donald Trump party? And listen, you referenced Mitch
McConnell. You referenced the Alabama race.
Listen Mitch McConnell in the election con of Twitter is not old enough to
remember that after the tea party wave we Sharon Engle in Nevada lost a
race she should have won. Kristine O`Donnell in Delaware having to run a ad
saying I`m not a witch. And Richard Mourdock in Indiana saying God ordained
rape. And the reason Mitch McConnell, the guy that the left the guy loves
to hate is actually pushing back against the far right because he a
opportunity squandered six years ago in the wave of the tea party. And it
will be more squandered in the wave of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: All of those characters emerged before Donald Trump. I want to
look at the Tweet he did about Senator Lisa Murkowski voting against the
Trump-McConnell health care bill. Senator Lisa Murkowski of the great
state of Alaska really let the Republicans of the country down yesterday,
A Couple of things about that David, when he was running for President he
told everyone it was going to be easy to repeal and replace. He never said,
unless Lisa Murkowski stands in my way. Then it`s just going to be too bad.
When his people read this Tweet, this kind of idea of – we were going to
but Lisa Murkowski got in the way so too bad. When does the deflation of
the all powerful Trump appear?
JOLLY: And Lawrence, rhetoric plays fools and only fools play rhetoric.
Listen you know this as article 1 cynic guy. Lisa Murkowski controls the
Department of the Interior and nothing Donald Trump or Ryan Zinke wants to
do will affect anything more than what Lisa Murkowski can do to them. And
so what we are seeing right now is frankly a very JV President who has no
idea what he is doing inside the beltway. And he likes to cater to the base
but that`s 35 percent. We`ve seen that over and over in the polls.
O`DONNELL: And at what point - I mean is General Kelly the guy whose going
to say to the President hey, you know, you need more in order to win this
thing you need more votes. He is not the political guy. He is not the vote
counter the Whitehouse Chief of Staff is supposed to be
JOLLY: He is not. But he was the legislative lee son for the Marine
Corps. And here`s what we also know and I hope every viewer will listen to
this. General Kelly is a solid guy, a leader`s leader. And here what is
we need to hold on Donald Trump right now.
The ultimate fate of John Kelly will be the litmus of the seriousness of
Donald Trump`s interest in leading because if John Kelly can`t do it,
Lawrence nobody can. And that is the litmus test for in administration.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly thank you for joining us.
JOLLY: You`ve got it. Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word, is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: You got to hand it to him. No one is better than
Trump at claiming victories from overwhelming defeats. I could honesty see
him at the end of the term saying I didn`t have the ability experience or
intelligence to be a successful President. I turned out to be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He might – he might say it. John Oliver gets tonight`s Last
Word. the 11th hour with Brian Williams is next
BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR ANCHOR: The breaking news we`re covering
tonight, another bombshell from the Washington Post. Their report that the
statement that covered up for Don Junior`s meeting with the Russians, the
one that said the meeting was about adoptions, that statement was drafted
by his father the President. Meanwhile, the big story all day, the mooch is
no more. The spectacular fall of Anthony Scaramucci as communication
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