The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 8/22/17 Rally in Phoenix
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: August 22, 2017
Guest: Ron Klain, James Fallows, David Cay Johnston, Marielena Hincapie,
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence
O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I`ve learned so
much in your hour.
First of all, that people in Phoenix are called Phoenicians –
MADDOW: Phoenicians –
O`DONNELL: Which the mayor – mayor of Phoenix said on your show as I was
saying there –
MADDOW: Beautiful term, yes –
O`DONNELL: My – had termed, I did not know that.
MADDOW: Neither did I –
O`DONNELL: And this Inspector General`s report, Rachel, I remember when
this story first came out that the Interior Secretary in effect, picked up
the phone, called Senator Lisa Murkowski, threatens her over the health
care vote with resources in his department.
And immediately I started saying, wait a minute, there`s some legal issues
around that. I know everybody thinks that`s the way it works, but it is
not the way it works and there are some legal prohibitions against doing
that kind of thing.
And here we have tonight Inspector General of that department looking into
MADDOW: Yes, and it`s a very interesting legal question and political
question both because Ryan Zinke is an interesting figure in the cabinet.
But also because of what he did, what he did is not really contested. It`s
just a matter of whether or not it`s policeable.
Sort of by a coincidence, we had a former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade
here who brought up that incident, saying that`s an example of – not of a
criminal obstruction of justice or something.
That`s an example of what we call log rolling. That`s the sort of thing
that happens in politics. That said, the Inspector General is looking at
it as an ethics violation.
And an ethics violation versus a criminal matter and inspector general`s
investigation versus a Justice Department investigation.
I mean, all of these things are very close reads, and this is a whole new
scandal for the Trump administration to handle.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s true, there`s so many dimensions, there`s ethics
dimension to it and then there are some criminal lines that are drawn here,
things that you cannot do or say in the pursuit of congressional votes.
MADDOW: Right –
O`DONNELL: And that is exactly what`s being investigated.
MADDOW: Yes, and then there`s the complicated factor that the president
may or may not have the ability to fire some particularly pesky inspector
general if he really wants to push it.
So, yes, this is – this one`s got legs.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: You are watching right now live video of the Phoenix Convention
Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
That`s the vice president. President Trump is scheduled to speak at any
moment at the campaign rally there for his 2020 re-election campaign.
That`s right. You are watching a Trump 2020 campaign event. Seven months
after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United
The Trump re-election campaign is paying for tonight`s event. The
president will be joined at the rally as you see by Vice President Mike
Pence and beside him there, Housing and Development Secretary Ben Carson.
The only African-American member of the Trump cabinet. This campaign rally
comes exactly one week after President Trump sparked outrage by equating
Nazi white supremacists with people protesting Nazi white supremacists.
if the president has any more comments about that tonight, we will go to
that live, we will pick that up for you.
There have been rumors for days swirling around the White House that the
president would use this event in Phoenix to publicly pardon former Sheriff
This afternoon, a White House spokesperson said, “no action will be taken
on that front at any point today.” In reaction to that, Joe Arpaio said
quote “he didn`t say he is not going to do it, he said tonight.”
Joe Arpaio has been convicted of criminal contempt of court for willfully
violating a federal injunction barring him from conducting immigration
round-ups that targeted Hispanics.
We will cut to the president`s speech live if he starts talking about the
Joe Arpaio case or if the president adds anything to the speech that he
gave last night about what he called his new strategy in Afghanistan that
has been condemned today by many Trump supporters because it is the exact
opposite of what the president said as a candidate.
Donald Trump said last night that his first instinct as president was
simply to pull out all United States troops from Afghanistan but that his
generals who he once claim to be smarter than patiently convinced him to
stay the course in Afghanistan and to continue doing what his predecessors
in the White House have done.
The Trump administration is now expected to increase troop levels in
Afghanistan, but refused to announce when they would do that.
That refusal to actually specify what the troop levels will be or when they
will go up is the only innovation that Donald Trump has brought to
Total secrecy as to how many American lives are being put at risk in
Afghanistan is the uniquely Trumpian element of the administration`s Afghan
The Democratic mayor of Phoenix asked President Trump not to come to his
city, and the Republican power structure of Arizona is boycotting the
Republican Governor Doug Ducey and Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff
Flake are not attending the Trump event.
That is unprecedented treatment of a visiting president by the senior
members of his own party in a state. The president has attacked John
McCain repeatedly, most recently for Senator McCain`s refusal to vote for
the Trump healthcare bill in the Senate.
And President Trump has attacked Arizona`s junior Republican Senator Jeff
Flake repeatedly and indicated he will support Jeff Flake`s Republican
challenger in a primary.
The “New York Times” reports tonight that President Trump is feuding with
Senate leader Mitch McConnell and that they have not spoken in weeks.
Mitch McConnell has authorized a super PAC ad attacking Senator Jeff
Flake`s primary challenger, thereby setting up another point of conflict
with President Trump.
Last week, Trump tweeted, great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running
against Flake, Jeff Flake, who is weak on borders, crime, and non-factor in
He`s toxic! Today`s ad authorized by Mitch McConnell attacking Jeff Flake`s
challenger calls her “Chemtrail” Kelli because she has supported the idea
that the moisture trail that is sometimes visible from jet engines in the
sky is actually filled with chemicals that the federal government is
willfully dumping on the people of America.
It is a debunked conspiracy theory that Kelli Ward has considered in the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chemtrail Kelli has got her head in the clouds with
crazy ideas. She bizarrely blamed John McCain for ISIS.
KELLI WARD, POLITICIAN & OSTEOPATHIC PHYSICIAN: John McCain is directly
responsible for the rise of ISIS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yet dangerously calls for restraint in fighting them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your response to ISIS?
WARD: Restraint and realism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now after losing bigly to John McCain, “Chemtrail”
Kelli says he should resign so she could be senator.
O`DONNELL: We`ll go live to the president`s comments if he gets into any
of that. Joining us now, Cornell Belcher; Democratic pollster and MSNBC
David Cay Johnston; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who founded
DCReport.Org; a nonprofit news organization that covers the Trump
Also with us, Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden
and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama.
We see president Trump taking the stage there, a clapping either for the
crowd or himself. We will listen to the beginning of his remarks when he
Ron Klain, tonight`s story in the “New York Times” about the president
having an angry conversation with Senator –
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes –
O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell saying that in fact the way the “Times” reports
it, complaining about the senate leaders refusal to protect him from
investigations of Russian interference.
The question raised in Rachel`s last hour is that obstruction of justice?
KLAIN: Yes, well, it`s certainly attempted obstruction of justice. Look,
if this investigation is such a witch-hunt as President Trump claims, he
has been very busy trying to round up war locks to help him.
I mean, he has this bitter phone call with Mitch McConnell. And let`s
remember the timing. That was reported to be on August 9th, just days
after McConnell did something extraordinary, which you talked about on this
Which he made the decision not to put the Senate into a normal August
recess, but instead put the Senate into a rolling recess so Trump could not
remove Sessions, put in a recess appointment and fire Bob Mueller.
And that timing of that call just after McConnell blocked Trump`s efforts
to fire Mueller to use the recess to replace Sessions is very interesting
That there is no doubt that Donald Trump – the story says he is upset
about health care, taxes, infrastructure, Donald Trump has one thing on his
mind and that`s protecting himself in this Russia investigation.
O`DONNELL: David, the report says that he was in the phone call with Mr.
McConnell yelling and cursing about the health care bill, but much more
animated, much more angry about the Russia investigation that`s been
conducted by two Senate committees.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR & JOURNALIST: Well, Donald is very vulnerable
about it and he knows this – need to cut in?
O`DONNELL: David, let`s listen to the president begin his remarks and see
if he gets anywhere, we`ll come back to you soon.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And just so you know, from
the Secret Service, there aren`t too many people outside protesting, OK?
That I can tell you. A lot of people in here, a lot of people pouring in
right now, they can get them in, whatever can you do, fire marshal, we`ll
And I want to thank our great Vice President Mike Pence for the
introduction as well as my friend Dr. Ben Carson.
And thank you to a very special man, Franklin Gram, Reverend Franklin
Graham for leading us in prayer.
And thank you to Alveda King; the niece of the great Dr. Martin Luther
It really shows you that America is indeed a nation of faith, we know that.
TRUMP: Well, I`m thrilled to be back in Phoenix, in the great state of
Where so many thousands of hardworking American patriots – you know, I`d
love it if the cameras could show this crowd because it is rather
incredible. It is incredible.
O`DONNELL: OK, we`re back to the cameras show the crowd piece of a Trump
speech. This is all very familiar territory.
We`re monitoring the speech and we will go to it if he raises anything that
is within the news of the day. So David Cay Johnston, this report says
that the president was yelling, swearing at the Senate majority leader for
not controlling the Senate investigations of Donald Trump`s campaign and
his involvement with Russia.
JOHNSTON: Well, and that may as Ron was pointing out, well be a criminal
offense because it may have been, depending on the exact words, an effort
to interfere with an investigation by Congress.
But I think that event and what we just saw are all connected. Trump knows
he is in deep trouble. He knows he is highly vulnerable in an
investigation of Russia.
He`s signaled that to us without any question. And so holding a campaign
rally for 2020 is part of an effort to make sure that if things go badly
for him, he will have people who will be out there in the streets who will
be acting on his behalf and who will be disrupting our democracy.
The central thing to keep in mind about Donald Trump is Donald is about
Donald. He is not about our country, he`s not about anything else but
O`DONNELL: And Cornell Belcher, there is a politics story at the heart of
this “New York Times” story, and that is Donald Trump attacking incumbent
Republican senators like Jeff Flake trying to knock them off in primaries.
Mitch McConnell and other Republicans believe if you do that, that opens up
a very good chance for the Democrat in Arizona to possibly take that seat
and that`s the argument, that`s where the argument is joined politically.
Donald Trump apparently not worried about that.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Lawrence, I got to tell you. I
want to step back for a moment and take a larger look at this because this
is really fascinating, right?
You have a president a couple of months in – and look, I`m a campaign
hack, I do campaigns for a living.
But to have a president a couple of months into his first term out doing
campaign rallies is just unbelievable to me, right?
And a couple of different things like why is Secretary Ben Carson there,
right? Did he just need a black prop there?
Because of the Charlottesville? Like this is just bizarre things going on.
And we had talked about, you know, for years now the tea party and a
Republican civil war that was brewing.
You know, and with Boehner and Cantor and apparently, Lawrence, those were
just minor skirmishes, right?
Right now, you have a sitting Republican president and a rather red state
although teetering red state who has openly gone to war with both of the
Republican senators there and has basically endorsed one of the Republican
senators you know, challenge her in a primary while the Senate majority
leader Mitch McConnell has – is spending money to protect his Republican -
- his Republican incumbent.
This is – this is bull`s run. I mean, if the tea party was a skirmish,
this is full on Republican civil war. This is fascinating, and something
that quite frankly, I don`t think we`ve seen in modern times.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, the “New York Times” report ends with a quote “from
Billy Piper, who is a former McConnell chief of staff.
And it is a really stunning quote. It says quote “the quickest way for him
to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and
be faced with a Democrat-led Senate said Billy Piper; a lobbyist and former
McConnell chief of staff.
Now, that is not just a political comment. That comment implies that there
is impeachable evidence that would be brought up by a Democratic Senate
that will not be brought out by a Republican Senate.
And implicit in that statement is the possibility that indeed the
Republicans in the Senate are helping to cover up what`s really going on in
the Trump investigation.
KLAIN: Well, that`s right, Lawrence, I mean, I hope the president enjoys
his rally in Arizona because if his administration continues on this path,
it`s going to have to have future rallies at Allenwood Federal Prison and
we have the Secretary of Interior now under investigation.
You know, as Cornel mentioned, Ben Carson is there tonight. What about the
hat shack? The hat shack prohibits people other than the president and the
vice president from engaging in certain kinds of political activity.
I think, you know, state secretary Carson(ph) (INAUDIBLE) at the hat shack
tonight. Rachel discussed this investigation surrounding Carl Icahn; his
former regulatory adviser.
So, the legal problems around the Trump administration are piling up at
rapid speed. And right now, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the
Senate are protecting Donald Trump.
But if he continues down the path he is on, you know, I don`t think that
will continue. And as for the idea that Trump is really upset about health
care, he attacked Jeff Flake who voted with him on health care.
You know, he is going after Jeff Flake not because of health care, he is
going after Jeff Flake because Flake has said he wants to hold Trump
accountable for his wrongdoing.
And that tells you exactly like David Cay Johnston said, Donald Trump is in
this only to protect Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: I want to re-emphasize the essential passage of this “New York
Times” report tonight. It says, “during the call which Mr. Trump initiated
on August 9th from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr.
McConnell of bungling the health care issue.
He was even more animated about what he intimated was the senate leader`s
refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the
And here is the sourcing, “according to Republicans briefed on the
conversation.” And David, that is saying that there are some Republicans
who know about this conversation.
Each of them becomes of investigative interest to the special prosecutor
who will no doubt want to hear from Mitch McConnell and want to hear from
him under oath about this phone call.
He`ll also want to know who Mitch McConnell told about this phone call and
who else might have been listening to this phone call while it was going
And I think Ron can confirm to us that it would not be terribly unusual –
JOHNSTON: Yes –
O`DONNELL: In the Senate majority leader`s office to have a staff person
or someone else hearing the leader`s end –
JOHNSTON: Right –
O`DONNELL: Of a presidential phone call.
JOHNSTON: Right, no, I would thoroughly expect that at least one of the
person who was listening and to take notes on this call.
And having been on the other end of a few of Donald-out-of control phone
calls, I can imagine how that conversation went.
The – I think the important issue about this story is clearly McConnell
either wanted this story out or he didn`t object to it because it`s clear
that people were free to talk to the “Times” about this.
And that should send a signal to Donald. The problem is, he is not
sophisticated enough to get the signal.
So this – I really do think this is a very important story, and when you
add in the Zinke development tonight, and the development about Carl Icahn,
which is going to be very interesting because what happens if we have
somebody who technically isn`t a federal employee.
Which may be the case with Icahn, but they`re acting as if they are, and
they get something that profits them is our legal system have a way it
effectively take care of that.
O`DONNELL: Cornell Belcher, David just mentioned what feels like team
McConnell sourcing on this “New York Times” report.
There is another intriguing possibility about the sourcing of this. This
is one of the first big bomb shells to come out in the kind of routine
we`re now used to with the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post”.
The first big one to come out since Steve Bannon was kicked out of the
White House, and he could easily have information about that phone call.
BELCHER: He certainly could, and I think the president is on a slippery
slope here and particularly he`s on a slippery slope when – because his
line of defense are Senate Republicans, right?
And he is not making it easy for Senate Republicans. Lawrence, I think
it`s really important for us to understand what Senator Corker did, right?
Senator Corker came out and said he doesn`t – he`s not sure the president
has the stability or the competence to be successful.
Senator Corker is from a state, Tennessee, where Donald Trump won with 61
percent, right? So, this – when you have senators like – from deep red
places coming out against the president like that, there could be a
O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to dip into the president`s comments
live at this point. Let`s listen to this.
TRUMP: So the – and I mean, truly dishonest people in the media and the
fake media. They make up stories, they have no sources in many cases.
They say a source says, there is no such thing, but they don`t report the
facts. Just like they don`t want to report that I spoke out forcefully
against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis,
the white supremacists and the KKK.
I openly called for unity, healing and love. And they know it because they
were all there. So what I did –
So what I did is I thought I`d take just a second, and I`m really doing
this more than anything else because you know where my heart is, OK?
I`m really doing this to show you how damn dishonest these people are.
So here is my first statement when I heard about Charlottesville, and I
have a home in Charlottesville, a lot of people don`t know.
Here is the first, can`t believe they haven`t figured that one out yet, now
Now they finally know. But I just – I don`t want to bore you with this.
But it shows you how dishonest they are.
And most of you know this anyway. So here is what I said really fast, here
is what I said on Saturday.
We`re closely following the terrible event unfolding in Charlottesville,
Virginia. This is me speaking. We condemn in the strongest possible terms
“this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”
That`s me speaking on Saturday right after the event.
So I`m condemning the strongest possible terms, egregious display of
hatred, bigotry and violence. OK, I think you can`t do much about it,
right? OK, but they didn`t want to put this on.
They had it on initially, but then when they talk, he didn`t say it fast
He didn`t do it on time. Why did it take a day? He must be a racist. It
took a day.
Dishonest people. So here is – here is me. I hope they`re showing how
many people are in this room. But they won`t.
They don`t even do that. The only time they show the crowds is when
there`s a disruptor or an anarchist in the room.
I call him anarchist, because believe me, we have plenty of anarchists,
they don`t want to talk about the anarchists.
So this is me, it has no place in America. I`m talking about hatred,
bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.
What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the
protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their
safety, security in our society and no child should ever be afraid to go
outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.
This is me speaking.
Here is further. This is on Saturday. The first one. I did this three
times. We have to come together as Americans with love for the nation and
true affection, really?
And I say this so strongly. True affection for each other. I didn`t say
true affection for you and you. I said for each other, all of us, all of
us, all of us.
But they don`t report it. They don`t – they just let it go. Above all
else, we must remember this truth, no matter our color, creed, religion or
political party, we are all-Americans first, we love our country, we love
our God, we love our flag.
O`DONNELL: We should point out that the president is misquoting himself,
he keeps saying, this is me speaking.
He did not quote the part where he said the blame goes to many sides –
TRUMP: And then I went on. This my first segment. And they said,
remember, they said, well, he wasn`t specific enough.
Why wasn`t he more specific? So on my second statement I got really
specific. And they said, why didn`t he do it faster?
I`m telling you, folks, look, I know these people probably better than
anybody. And a lot of people have a problem with it.
Because look, what happens with them, if they`re doing a story about me, I
know if it`s honest or false.
O`DONNELL: This is the president lying about the media. He is telling his
audience that the media lies about him.
The president just quoted his remarks on Saturday after Charlottesville and
he falsely quoted his remarks.
He said on that Saturday, “we condemn in the strongest most possible terms
this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on
He repeated that twice. He did not include that just now in his quoting of
himself to this audience. He is lying to this audience about what he said
and he is lying to this audience about what the media said about what he
said. Let`s go back to the president.
TRUMP: But all the network, I mean, “Cnn” is really bad. But “Abc” this
morning, I don`t watch it much. But I`m watching in the morning and they
have little George Stephanopoulos talking to Nikki Haley, right?
Little George. And he talks about the speech I made last night, which
believe it or not got great reviews, right?
They had a hard time. They were having a hard time because it was with
soldiers, we were somber, we were truthful.
We were doing – we were saying things and it really did. So he talked
about it for like that much. Then he goes, let`s get back to
And Nikki was great. She`s doing a great job, by the way. So now, I say
we have to heal our wounds and the wounds of our country.
I love the people of our country, the people, all of the people. It says I
love all of the people of our country. I didn`t say I love you because
you`re black or I love you because you`re white or I love you because
you`re from Japan or you`re from China or you`re from Kenya or you`re from
Scotland or Sweden.
I love all of the people of our country.
So I said – here`s my – this is by the way, folks, this is my exact
words. I love all the people of our country, we are going to make America
great again but we`re going to make it great for all of the people of the
United States of America.
And then they say, is he a racist? Is he a racist? Then I did a second one.
So then I did a second one, don`t bother, it`s only a single voice and not
a very powerful voice.
How did he get in here? He is supposed to be with the few people outside.
How about – how about all week they`re talking about the massive crowds
that are going to be outside.
Where are they? Well, it`s hot out. It is hot. I think it`s too warm.
You know, they show up in the helmets, in the black masks and they`ve got
clubs and they`ve got everything.
And (INAUDIBLE) –
So on August 14th, so that was it, and I said all people I love all people,
everything, right? Now I figure, I`m going to do it again, I`ll be even
So said, based on the events that took place over the last weekend in
Charlottesville, I would like to provide the nation with an update. That
was right after the event, the first one, right? An update on ongoing
federal response to the horrific attack and violence witnessed by
everybody. To anyone who acted criminally in this week weekend`s racist
violence you will be held fully accountable.
Justice will be delivered. That`s what I said. Listen to that. I said that.
But they don`t show that.
They don`t show it. They talk – they will take one thing like seriously,
he was late was the best thing. He was late. So I said to anyone who acted
criminally at this weekend`s racist violence.
Then I go, we must love each other. Show affection for each other. And
unite everything in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must
rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as
Then I said, racism is evil. Did they report that I said that racism is
evil? You know why? Because they are very dishonest people. Now I said
racism is evil. They only choose a sent sentence here or there. They put
lightweights all around a table and all say what a bad guy I am. Then you
wonder why CNN is doing relatively poorly in the ratings because they put
seven people all negative on Trump.
O`DONNELL: I want to bring in Cornell Belcher and get his reaction to this
because Cornell, we`ve heard the President say repeatedly when he quoted
himself about his comments about what happened in Charlottesville, he
repeatedly said to his audience, this is me speaking. This is me speaking.
And he was reading from the written remarks prepared for him on that
Saturday. And he left out the part where he said, on many sides. On that
Saturday he actually referred to what happened in Charlottesville as this
egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many
sides. Those were the key words that were objected to, the President lied
to his audience tonight refusing to mention those words to his audience
tonight and inventing objections that news media and others had about his
speech and that`s just a pure lie about what he said on Saturday.
BELCHER: You know, Lawrence I think this is may be one of the – some of
the most weirdest ever uttered by a President, sitting President of the
United States, as he rambles on. You know whether you`re Democrat or
Republican, you tend to see Presidents offering some vision and talking
about country and talking some the policy and talking about what they`re
trying to do for country.
This president rambled on for several minutes talking about only himself,
right? And you know don`t take my language from it but the Republican
Senator Collins basically said the President failed at his moral obligation
around Charlottesville, right? And he`s giving a wink and nod to Neo-Nazis
and White Nationalists, right? And it is awfully – awfully divisive.
But here is a real frightening part, Lawrence. Is that yes he is lying. And
he is lying to those people at that rally and it`s not going to make a bit
of difference, right? The core of his supporters and you see him polling
right now. The core of his supporters are not moving off of him no matter
how outrageous an act he does in the Whitehouse or how it whatever he does
in a Whitehouse is sort of embarrasses this country.
His core supporters and he said, I could stand in the middle of Times
Square and shoot someone and I wouldn`t lose support. For better or worse,
his core supporters are not moving away from him.
O`DONNELL: Yes and I said earlier we wouldn`t go to the speech live
because there is so much wasted time in a Trump speech where he is
congratulating himself for things. The other big problem with going to a
Trump speech live is the extent he is willing to lie and lie directly to a
television audience that we have a responsibility monitor what is being
delivered to that audience. The President tonight falsely quoting himself,
lying about what he said in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville, can
be taken as an admission that the President knows that it was wrong for him
to say on many sides, on many sides which he said twice on Saturday and
which he refuses tonight to admit that he said.
And Ron Klain, that would, to me, read as an admission that Donald Trump
knows that he should not have said on many sides because he dare not quote
himself tonight having said that
RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence, he also said that the people
marching with the Nazis were very good people. He is not bringing that up
either. But his inability to quote what he said shows a lack of
And I also want to build on what Cornell said. I mean it may be true that
his core base is sticking with him but I think his poll numbers are
dropping because folks in the middle are disappointed and saddened. I`ve
been here for Democratic and Republican Presidents. I disagree with them.
But President at their best speak to the suffering of others.
Heather Hayes lost her life. We haven`t heard him talk about her tonight.
Donald Trump could only talk about his own suffering at the hands of the
national media. And that suffering is them accurately reporting what
Donald Trump says. And so that`s not Presidential leadership. That`s just
man raving at the television set and that`s what we were seeing again from
Donald Trump tonight.
O`DONNELL: Cornell, such an important point Ron just made that Heather
Heyer`s name hasn`t been mentioned. And what Donald Trump sees in the
entire range of Charlottesville events is something for him to feel sorry
for himself about because of the way the news media covered it and we
covered it because we covered accurately and reported what he actually said
which he is now tonight afraid of saying what he actually said the first
BELCHER: And Lawrence can I just jump in at this last point here is, I
don`t think any of us, no matter how partisan we are, could imagine that no
representative from a Bush Whitehouse or no representative from an Obama
Whitehouse, if not the President himself would not have been at that young
lady`s funeral. And what the President is doing right now and sort of
ignoring it is – is a disgrace to our country quite frankly.
O`DONNELL: Cornell Belcher I know you have to go: Thank you for staying
with us into overtime tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you
BELCHER: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Let`s go back and pick up more of what the President is saying,
see if there is something worth following here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I went better schools than they did. I was a better student than
they were. I live in a bigger more beautiful apartment. And I live in
the Whitehouse too, which is really great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Clearly there is nothing worth following in what he is talking
about. Now let`s go back. I think we have already the piece of video from
just earlier this remarks where he lied, very clearly lied about what he
said on the day that Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display
of hatred, bigotry, and violence. That`s me speaking on Saturday right
after the event. So I`m condemning strongest possible terms, this
egregious display hatred, bigotry, and violence. OK, I think you can`t do
much better, right?
OK. But they didn`t want to put this. And they had it on initially. But
then one talked he didn`t say it, he didn`t say it fast enough. He didn`t
do it on time. Why did it take a day? He must be a racist. It took a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that is pure Donald Trump lying. Here are the words he
left out. He said, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the
egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many
sides. He very specifically left those words out in quoting himself to
that audience. And immediately after cutting those words out, he said to
his audience, this is me speaking.
He promised his audience these are the real words he spoke that day. That
was a lie. He then lied about what news media reaction was. The news media
reaction was all to that phrase on many sides.
Almost all of the reaction was about the phrase, on many sides. He
invented some other reaction from the news media and critics that never
happened. And let`s go back to that original statement that he actually
made about Charlottesville that the day that it happened, the day that
Heather Meyer was murdered.
Let`s listen to him talking about on many sides. The words he is afraid to
use tonight. He is afraid to quote himself accurately tonight. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re closely following the terrible events unfolding in
Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms,
this egregious display of hatred, with bigotry and violence on many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We are joined now about James Fallows. Joining the discussion
of National Correspondent for the Atlantic. He`s a former speechwriter for
President Jimmy Carter. James Fallows that is as deplorable a lie as you
can imagine a President telling on live television to an audience.
JAMES FALLOWS, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE ATLANTIC”: It is. And I`m
thinking back, it was only 24 hours ago that you remember our many
colleagues from many leading news organizations were saying we are seeing
the new Trump. He now he was Presidential. He was sober. He was under
General Kelly was shaking things up or shaking them down as Chief of Staff.
And this is back to the Trump we`ve seen before. Also I want to suggest the
possibility either that was a flat out an intentional lie or else there is
always the possibility that Donald Trump, you know, he thinks its true now.
There is always this kind of glee that you when he`s reading prepared
remarks. He`s kind of excited to see what is there and he sort of adlibs
the text as if he had not seen it before in front of his, you know, his
prepared speeches. And I can imagine that he thinks he`s telling what
really happened. That certainly is the way he`s performing for the
audience right now.
O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston you know the mind of Donald Trump better
than the rest of us. Did he delivery cut out those words or has he erased
them from what is left of his mind.
JOHNSTON: Well he may have erased them from his mind. But Lawrence what
I`m struck about – about in this talk he repeatedly said things designed
to not unite people. He talked about the anti-fascists, the people
outside. Apparently someone was ejected because I don`t have a view of the
And he called the people who are protesters anarchists when we in our
constitution enshrined the right to decent in the first amendment. He
basically said if you don`t believe in God you`re not part of this country.
He said a whole series of statements that are not only a lie by the
omission that he`s told.
But also divide peoples. And what he is trying to do is stir up more
trouble because Donald sees that as benefiting him.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, the – Donald Trump I think is a frustrated lawyer.
I think he`s been subject to the powers of lawyers in civil cases that he`s
lost so many times. Like Trump University case where he lost $25 million.
And he was doing tonight that device, that good lawyers can do, which is
that you know, pull the piece of paper out of the pocket. In trial practice
it is a deposition transcript or something of a previous statement under
And you read this previous statement and you prove the case by reading the
previous statement. Here Donald Trump pulls out what he says is his
previous statement and makes himself a liar, an outright liar, by reading
what he claims is his previous statement and it isn`t. And he convicts
himself on live national television of lying.
KLAIN: Yes, f he is a frustrated lawyer, he be a very bad one if he were a
lawyer because of course in any court if you would try to pull this, they
would read back the record and he would be held in contempt and ultimately
lose his license. And I think there is another tell in his speech tonight,
lawrence. When he talked about his speech last night, praising himself for
his speech last night, saying we were truthful which is an odd way for a
President to praise his own remarks as if it were an extraordinary event
last night that he actually gave a speech where he was truthful.
So I don`t buy Jim Fallows theory that Donald Trump doesn`t know he is
lying. I think he is a very conscious liar. And I think he has done it all
through the campaign and now fortunately more people are on to it and he`s
being called out for it as you are doing here tonight as you should do.
And I think that`s the undoing of Donald Trump`s leadership of the country.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Fallows, I have to say I did take your diagnosis to be a
very positive one. It sounded to me like a reading of mental illness in
the patient that his mind actually does not contain what used to be there.
FALLOWS: Of course, none of us on the panel is a medical professional,
starting with me. My dad was Dr. Fallows and even if we were we can`t do
it at arm`s length. But I think it is – there has been a long sort of a
record of whether Donald Trump is sort of in the moment thinks whatever he
is saying. There`s a – we know there`s an impolite term for this which
initials are bs`ing that I won`t go into so whether or not that is the
I think a political significance to it is something that yes, your
panelist are mentioning – mentioning earlier. There are more and more
signs that whether or not this is appealing to the crowd right there in
Phoenix or the crowd he will turn out in West Virginia or any place else.
The Republican Party of McConnell and Corker and even Paul Ryan and others,
they are deciding how long they will stay with him. And I think they have
to look at this kind performance and think is this the ship to which we
want to lash our fortunes in the long run.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now in the discussion by Marielena Hincapie. She
is the Executive Director of National Immigration Law Center. And Marielena
there was some rumor, very hot rumors going that Sheriff Joe Arpaio was
going to get an onstage pardon tonight something we`ve never seen before in
a Presidency but may at some point seen in the Trump Presidency a live on
T.V. pardon. That didn`t happen but Sheriff Arpaio has hopes that it will
MARIELENA HINCAPIE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER:
Thanks for the invitation, Lawrence. I mean look I think the conversation
tonight is a reminder we are in a moment in history in which we are all
being called on to decide and answer the question about which side are you
on. And this President has made very clear both with his inability to
denounce White Supremacist in Charlottesville then quickly talk about the
possibility of pardoning Arpaio. Whether or not he does or doesn`t
Lawrence the damage has already been done. By standing shoulder to
shoulder with Joe Arpaio who is basically for us the immigrant justice
world he is the Bill Conner of today. Joe Arpaio been convicted of racial
profiling. He`s been convicted for contempt of court and the fact that
Trump considers him a great Sheriff –
O`DONNELL: I`m sorry. He is talking about Joe Arpaio now. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sorry, remind the audience that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is convicted
of a Federal Crime. That`s who they are applauding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should of had a
jury. But you know what? I`ll make a prediction. I think he will be just
But – but, I won`t do it tonight because I don`t want to cause any
controversy. Is that OK? All Right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good. The
people of Arizona know that the deadly and heart breaking consequences of
illegal immigration, the lost lives, drugs, gangs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Marielena Hincapie there we have basically a public promise by
President Trump that he will pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has been
convicted of Federal Crimes in relation to his illegal attempts to enforce
HINCAPIE: And Lawrence, this is completely reprehensible. And this is
exactly why actions speak louder than words. Trump can say whatever he
wants. He can omit what he said last week and pretend he didn`t say that
he in fact in his heart does stand with white supremacists and the fact he
is saying that Sheriff Joe has been convicted for doing his job rather than
really calling out the truth which is Sheriff Joe has terrorized entire
communities in Maricopa County simply because of the color of their skin,
simply because they speak English with an accent, simply because their
surname is like Hincapie or like mine.
So this is the real Trump. He is standing shoulder to shoulder with a White
Supremacist that has been convicted under the laws of the United States.
And rather than go to Arizona and to pardon the people have convicted by
Sheriff Joe like young immigrants with DOCKA that he terrorized and put in
jail, We`re seeing a President that is saying be I`m going to pardon you.
And I`m not going to do it publicly tonight because I don`t want the
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, you just had the President of the United States tell
the country and the world by way that in the United States of America you
get convicted of Federal Crimes for doing your job.
KLAIN: Yes. Well, you know, as said before, it is irreprehensible. It`s
also interesting because we should call him ex-Sheriff Joe because
President jump loves to return of the voters admits the fact that the
voters of Maricopa Country Joe Arpaio out of office because they were tired
of his illegal behavior. They were tired of his outrages. And while the
people in the hall tonight the Trump supporters may be cheering for him
Sheriff Joe lost with the voters in addition to doing illegal acts.
And so I think it`s important to remember that Donald Trump once again
isn`t really speaking for the American people. He isn`t speaking for the
broad main stream. He is speaking for and to a very narrow segment of
popular opinion. .
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion
writer at the Washington Post. And Jennifer I wanted your reaction to the
President defending himself and defending what he said in his first
reaction to what happened in Charlottesville by quoting himself to this
audience tonight and lying about what he said when he quoted himself to
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: this is pathetic. He of
course revealed himself once again to be a liar. But understand the
context in which it comes. 24 hours ago he was announcing to the country he
was sending more young men and women to die in Afghanistan.
And 24 hours later this is what he is doing, complaining about the media.
He is creating racial divisiveness. He is walking arm in arm with a man
convicted not only racial profiling but of obstruction of justice. This is
the most astounding really pathetic performance we`ve seen from him yet.
If you have to edit your own remarks and air brush your own remarks out
doesn`t that say you made a mistake the first time. But the entire tenor is
so Unpresidential, is so distasteful. He is coming across like a bitter
losing candidate not like the President of the United States who just
ordered more men and women into war.
O`DONNELL: James Fallows you`ve done much reporting in depth on our
military readiness, up close with our troops and there he was – there was
the President yesterday last night some 24 hours ago speaking to an
audience of current military at an army base outside of Washington. And
beginning a military announcement with a rather long description of
American society and what he hopes for American society. This is clearly
material written for him.
And he read off the teleprompter in a pretty robotic way. This is all about
racial harmony. America coming together obviously sentences he couldn`t
conceive of himself.
FALLOWS: Yes, and he did that last night. I think it`s worth putting
into some historical perspective the astonishing nature of what he said
about ex-Sheriff Joe. Think of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower if
during the desegregation crisis In Little Rock Arkansas in 1950s if Dwight
Eisenhower had said he was going to pardon essentially of the – of the
segregation officers who had overstepped. Imagine during the 1960s if
President Kennedy and then Johnson had indicated their support for people
who are resisting – for Bull Connor or for the people in the University of
Mississippi resisting immigration.
A President`s job is to speak for the entire country as Donald Trump tried
to do last night. And as we`ve said in various ways he is just signaling
support for the most divisive, least presidential, least historical
moments, you know, in the responsibility of his job. So it is. It is –
Cornell Belcher said earlier this was a Weirdish event. This is Weirdish
to the nth degree and really troubling.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin in Republican circles there is a question. That
is now a larger question apparently by the day. Will Donald Trump be an
unchallenged Republican nominee as incumbent Presidents usually are
unchallenged nominees. But I`m now told he is talking about the wall and
the southern border which we will go to if he talks about that. He`s
recently tried to construct at least within the Whitehouse they are trying
to construct a deal that would include the possibility of getting
Democratic votes for this by making a deal on dreamers to get Congress to
pay for the wall.
Let`s listen to what he said about that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If we have to close down or government we`re building the wall. Let
me be very clear to Democrats in Congress who oppose the border wall and
stand in the way of border security. You are putting all of America safety
You`re doing that. You`re doing that. Again, the border patrol today – I
said how important is the wall to some of the folks? I meet with a lot of
them. And they looked at me they said it`s vital. It`s vital.
It`s so vital. And you know we have walls. I don`t know if you know we`re
already starting to fix a lot of the walls we already have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK, this is a familiar portion of a Trump speech. He is
obviously working from a teleprompter and then leaving it whenever he wants
to expand on points. And – and Jennifer Rubin, I want to come back to this
question of possible Republican challengers to this President in the next
RUBIN: Oh yes. I think if he last that long. I think there is some
question whether he is going to wear out his welcome before then or that he
is going to have a complete break with reality. I absolutely think there is
going to be at least one challenger. Listen, if Jimmy Carter had a
challenger and if Gerald Ford had a challenger this guy is certainly going
to have a challenger. And that may come within the party. If that`s doesn`t
work there may be a third party candidate.
I think what you`re seeing now clearly with the story that surfaced on the
New York Times about Mitch McConnell and his knock out drag out with the
President, is that members publicly, or privately are acknowledging that
guy is a basket case. That he cannot serve. He cannot lead the party.
My regret is they`ve been so cowardly for so long and did nothing to stop
him and it took this long for them even whisper in background he was unfit.
Where were the folks seven months ago ten months ago two years ago? But be
that as it may to your question I think there will be challengers. And
frankly those members of Congress who have gone along with him who have
enabled him the Tom Cotton of the world the Ted Cruz`s of the world they`re
not in a position to challenge him because they`ve been as bad as he is.
So you`re going to have to look to people who have been critical to him
rightfully so. You`ll have to look to people like Ben Sass, like John
Kasich to present another choice for the voters.
O`DONNELL: James Fallows, as we`ve been speaking here the President has
just said he is willing to shut down or will as he put it shut down the
government in order to get Congress to pay for the wall. That`s another big
showdown with Mitch McConnell.
FALLOWS: Indeed. I think Republicans while they`ve had stands of principal
you could call it over the years in trying to repeal Obamacare they have
enough tribal memory to recognize that these government shutdowns are
historically a really losing approach for them back to the time of Newt
Ginrich when he was doing this with Bill Clinton. So I think there was no
appetite at least within the Republicans in the Senate and probably many of
them in the House for again attaching themselves to Trump on an issue where
they think the public is not with them and the electorate they have to
face. So that will be another source of cleavage.
O`DONNELL: And David Cay Johnston it can be that the I will shut down the
government to pay for the wall is the latest version of Mexico will pay for
the wall. It is as empty a threat.
JOHNSTON: Absolutely. There is – as we know no way that Mexico will pay
for the wall and Donald`s original proposal of a tariff meant we would pay
for it. But I`d be surprised at this point if anyone in Congress certainly
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan is going to use up one ounce of political
capital to help Donald get the wall built., just not going to happen.
And tonight in this audience look at how he has stirred this crowd up.
What`s going to happen when those people go back out into the streets? This
is – we`re going to see a pattern I suspect of more of this by Donald of
stirring crowds up who are his supporters because the unsettling nature of
that and the places like open carry states like Arizona is going to have an
intimidating effect on people.
O`DONNELL: And Ron Klan this is a campaign event, paid for by the Trump
2020 Campaign. The Trump 2020 Campaign is raising money it can use for
another purpose and that is paying the criminal defense lawyers who are
representing Donald Trump in the various investigations. And it may be
that running this campaign fund and raising this money as he is doing now
is actually more important to him today as a defense fund than it is for
paying for renting halls like this.
KLAIN: Yes. This is the Trump University of political campaigns. I mean I
think he is trying to get people to use these – this colorful crazy wild
language that stirs up his base to get people to write checks that are
going to be used to pay for Donald Jr.`s criminal defense. That`s what this
It`s no different than the Trump University scam except there will be more
and more victims all over the country sucked into it and more and more
lies. I meanI think it`s – we can never skate past the fact that he said
countless times last year that Mexico would pay for the wall.
He had the crowds chanting Mexico would pay for the wall now what he is
saying all of the government services will shut down unless U.S. Taxpayers
pay for the wall. And some of those services are actually border control
services themselves. So you know the lies continue, the lies mount and as
a result the criminal defense bills will mount too
O`DONNELL: I want to thank all of our guest for helping in this live
coverage of this Presidential speech. I`m not sure that we`ve done it the
really by interrupting the President and pointing out when he is lying.
But it is a unique situation to have a President go out to the American
public like this on live television and lie this way.
James Fallows, David Cay Johnston, Ron Klain, Marielena Hincapie, Jennifer
Rubin, thank you for joining us. Thank you for helping us through the
Stay with us live on MSNBC because live coverage of the presidential speech
continues now into “THE ELEVENTH HOUR” with Brian Williams.
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