The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 8/23/17 Trump’s speeches

Guests:
Ron Klain, John Mclaughlin, Peter Wehner, Adam Jentleson
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: August 23, 2017

Guest: Ron Klain, John Mclaughlin, Peter Wehner, Adam Jentleson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: The Defense Secretary James – Pentagon on
implementing that ban. Guidance spells out that openly transgender people
won`t be allowed to join the military anymore and it spells out that the
discretion that Defense Secretary James Mattis will apparently have for
throwing out currently serving transgender troops one by one.

There are thousands of transgender Americans who are serving in every
conceivable role in the U.S. military right now in all branches.

The “Wall Street Journal” is describing this planned guidance for the
Pentagon but we have not seen it directly yet.

We`ll let you know more when we learn more. Now it`s time for THE LAST
WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evenings, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Rachel, and more
breaking news, Rachel Maddow has a new boyfriend.

MADDOW: I do –

O`DONNELL: And we learned that in the last hour –

MADDOW: I don`t know his name, is the sad thing.

O`DONNELL: We have his picture, I want to put his picture –

MADDOW: Yes –

O`DONNELL: Back up because there he is, he`s the guy who`s not Chuck
Grassley –

MADDOW: Yes –

O`DONNELL: Standing up there with the hat and he asked the question of
Chuck Grassley at the town hall in Iowa tonight that Rachel Maddow would
have asked if she was there.

MADDOW: He knew exactly what he was talking about. He asked it perfectly.
He asked it way more concisely than I ever could have and he had all the
right follow-up questions and he wouldn`t let Grassley get away without
committing to it.

It was just beautiful. I love him.

O`DONNELL: And the great thing is, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is going to
rerun tonight as it does every night.

So you can – you can see America, you got one more chance to see –

MADDOW: You can see me –

O`DONNELL: To see Rachel announce her new boyfriend, introduce her –

MADDOW: Yes –

O`DONNELL: New boyfriend here –

MADDOW: Now, I have to go home and have a big fight with Susan.

O`DONNELL: And we`re working –

MADDOW: You know –

O`DONNELL: Very hard on trying to get his name. I`ve been checking local
Iowa media, I haven`t been able to find it.

We`re going to get you two together.

MADDOW: Susan will kill me, but thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel –

MADDOW: And you too, actually, good to make it up, thanks Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Well, the Jekyll and Hyde presidency went to
Reno, Nevada today to give us speech at the American Legion Convention.

It was one of those locked-on-the teleprompter speeches where every word
Donald Trump said was written for him and he robotically turned from one
teleprompter to the other teleprompter and said nothing.

Nothing controversial, nothing that could get him in trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American Legion embodies
the spirit of patriotism that is the true source of our strength and the
best hope for our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was such a great prompter shift from one to the other.
The only slightly interesting moment came in his very first lines when the
president was thanking some of the dignitaries for being there and he said
this about Nevada Senator Dean Heller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Dean Heller is here someplace or will shortly be here. He`s caught
the first flight out, so I want to thank Dean Heller, senator, for being
here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s what you`re supposed to say about the senator from
Nevada when you`re in Nevada, especially when that senator is in your own
party.

But in last night`s performance by the Jekyll and Hyde presidency in
Arizona, the Republican president of the United States attacked both
Republican senators from Arizona, both of whom boycotted the Trump event.

One of whom is up for re-election next year and the other is suffering from
brain cancer. Here`s how Donald Trump attacked Arizona`s Senator John
McCain last night in Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Think of it, seven years, the Republicans – and again, you have
some great senators. But we are one vote away from repealing.

CROWD: Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!

TRUMP: But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good
last night, please, Mr. President, don`t mention any names.

So I won`t. I won`t. No, I won`t vote – one vote away. I will not
mention any names. Very presidential, isn`t it? Very presidential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: No, it was not very presidential. It was deplorable. It was
strategically stupid for a president who is going to be begging for John
McCain`s vote on other bills and it was utterly indecent.

John McCain is suffering from a glioblastoma tumor in his brain. Googling
glioblastoma could tell someone in the White House just how darkly serious
that is.

But no decent human being would have to know the details of glioblastoma to
simply, publicly wish John McCain well in his battle with brain cancer.

As you`re standing there in front of a crowd in John McCain`s home state in
Phoenix, Arizona, but Donald Trump has no sense of decency.

He never has, he never will. And he could go into a public rally in
Arizona and attack the Arizona senator in his own party who is suffering
from brain cancer.

And he could ignore and never even mention the ten Navy sailors who lost
their lives on the USS John McCain; the Navy ship named for Senator
McCain`s father and grandfather who both served as admirals in the United
States Navy.

Donald Trump is the only president to have lost 17 Navy sailors in two
accidents at sea in two months.

And Donald Trump can stand on a stage before the grieving families of those
sailors have even been able to have the funerals and he can completely
ignore those dead Navy sailors, completely ignore them.

Not say one word about them, not mention one name. That is something no
other president would ever have done.

But it is because Donald Trump has no decency, absolutely none, and he is
increasingly despised by senators in his own party because of his public
attacks on Senator John McCain, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and
also last night the junior Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who has
written a recently published book about how harmful Trumpism is to the
Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who`s weak on
borders, weak on crime. So I won`t talk about him.

(BOOING)

Nobody wants me to talk about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jeff Flake voted for the Trump-McConnell healthcare bill in the
Senate. And so what Republican senators know tonight is Donald Trump will
attack you if you vote against his legislation as John McCain did, and
Donald Trump will attack you if you vote for his legislation, as Jeff Flake
did.

There are indications that the Trump crowd isn`t really buying it anymore.
Jenna Johnson of the “Washington Post” who was there in Arizona last night
filed this report.

“Many in the crowd lost interest in what the president was saying.
Hundreds left early while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled
through their social media feeds or started up conversation with their
neighbors after waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally
hall where their water bottles were confiscated by security people, were
tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn`t keeping their
attention.”

The president`s most important lie last night was about himself. He lied
about what he said on the day Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville
when she was participating in a demonstration against Nazis and white
supremacists.

The president pulled out of his pocket what he said were his comments on
that Saturday and he read them to the crowd and then he accused all of us
in the news media of lying about what he had said that day and in that
moment the president lied to his audience and to the country about what he
said on that Saturday.

It is a provable lie, but because the president is a pathological liar, he
tells lies that can be instantly proved to be lies and that`s what we did
last night during this hour.

We interrupted the Trump speech to point out that he was lying about what
he said himself. Here is how he quoted himself last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So here`s what I said – really fast, here`s what I said on
Saturday. “We`re closely following the terrible events 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And he was lying, of course, because he left out the part where
he said “on many sides, on many sides.”

(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, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many
sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: On many sides. Donald Trump willfully left out the words “on
many sides” last night when he was quoting himself because he knew that
those were the words that were criticized in most of the media and by
politicians in both parties.

And Donald Trump was afraid to say the words “on many sides” last night
when he was quoting himself because he knows those are the words that got
him in trouble.

His deliberate refusal to quote himself saying those words is his own
admission that he knows he should not have said those words, that those
words are indefensible.

His refusal to say those words last night is Trump`s confession. That he
knows that the people who criticized those words were right.

And if he said it again, he would be attacked for saying it again and the
people attacking him would be right again.

And so Donald Trump very consciously did not say those words. He very
consciously did not quote himself when he was pretending to his audience to
be quoting himself.

Here were the choices that the president had last night in that – in that
part of his speech. Don`t bring up that subject at all, leave it all
behind him.

That is no doubt what his new Chief of Staff General Kelly recommended that
he do. That would have been the smart, political choice after having made
the horribly stupid and awful and egregious and immoral political choice of
having said those words in the first place.

Or the other thing the president could do, the president could defend what
he said about Charlottesville after the murder of Heather Heyer.

But to defend what he said, he was going to have to misquote what he said
to defend what he said the president was going to have to lie about what he
said.

That is the choice that no politician would make. Only a very sick mind
would make that choice publicly defend what I said by lying about what I
said in a way that will be immediately caught and on Msnbc, at least
immediately contradicted in the middle of the speech so that the audience
will know that I`m lying as I`m saying it.

And that is the choice that Donald Trump made last night. It is the kind
of choice he will make again and again because Donald Trump is a
pathological liar and his pathology will be flooding the news media, and
for the most part overwhelming the news media for as long as his presidency
lasts.

No White House chief of staff will ever be able to cure what ails Donald
Trump. Joining us now, Eugene Robinson; Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion
writer for “The Washington Post” and an Msnbc political analyst.

Also with us, Christina Greer; professor of political science at Fordham
University. And Gene, the president quoting himself lies about what the
president said, which to me shows what they call consciousness of guilt.
He knows –

EUGENE ROBINSON, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes –

O`DONNELL: That those words were wrong.

ROBINSON: Yes, I noticed that omission, that deliberate omission, as did
everybody else. And, you know, at some point, you have to ask, does he not
know that this was all on videotape, that this was going to be played back
immediately?

And of course he knows, perhaps he doesn`t care, perhaps he just can`t help
himself. Perhaps this is just who he is and he will never – you know,
given any given situation, he will never default to just plain telling the
truth.

O`DONNELL: Christina, I think one of the things is work is he knows, at
least up until last night, that when he`s doing this, the cameras just stay
on him and there are no live contradictions going on.

And so he can attack us all, specifically attack “Cnn” as he did last
night, knowing that “Cnn” is just going to keep the camera on him, and his
people think that`s a demonstration of power.

Look, he`s attacking “Cnn” and “Cnn” just keeps the camera rolling for the
whole hour and a half.

CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Even
with the lies, but the difference is, nowadays we have people like Lawrence
O`Donnell who will say like, let`s stop the tape.

Because we now know there`re few things we know. One, he`s an
embarrassment and the people in his party are seeing it and they recognize
that they are in bed with a mad man and they`re trying to figure out a way
out of this.

As you said, if he`s going to attack someone who agrees with him, and
attack someone who doesn`t agree with him.

No one is safe because he really doesn`t care, he only cares about Donald
Trump. Two, he`s a liar.

We have to call him a liar, he lies constantly. It`s not about just being
in New York and a real estate agent, it`s beyond that.

It`s deeper than that. It`s filled with hatred and evil and he`s throwing
red meat to his supporters because he knows that they don`t really care
that he`s lying to them.

And then three, he traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism and as he
traffics in it, we have to finally recognize this is who he is.

He believes in it. He believes in superior genes. He believes in the
stereotypes of racial groups. He went to Arizona specifically to sort of
make these racialized nods and barks that he`s been doing since day one of
the campaign.

So that`s part of the problem. And until the people as (INAUDIBLE) change
that on this show.

Until his enablers start to speak up, we know we`re dealing with a 71-year-
old baby, a child, who if we opened him up, he`d be filled with old VCR
tapes and hatred, right? That`s all that`s inside of him.

And that`s part of a problem because the Republicans are not doing their
jobs even as they fall one by one.

O`DONNELL: Gene, the reports that Steve Bannon was absolutely thrilled
with last night`s rally which had come as no surprise to anyone.

He certainly had more influence over it last night than the new White House
chief of staff did. But any other president – can you imagine any other
president in the aftermath of two stunning accidental collisions by the
Navy in open sea, losing 17 lives overall, 10 lives very recently.

Any other president would have at some point gone into an emergency meeting
about what`s going on in the Navy –

ROBINSON: Of course –

O`DONNELL: And gotten involved in this and maybe canceled a raucous
celebratory public event indifference to those sailors who have been lost.

ROBINSON: Of course. And you know, in two months, we`ve had two Navy
ships involved in collisions in the open sea with good visibility.

I mean, there`s no – so what is going on? And, look, this hope that some
expressed at the beginning of the Trump presidency that he would somehow
grow into the job or that the weight of the job would have some sort of
magical transformative effect.

You know, that was always the longest of long shots. I didn`t quite
understand believing in it then, but it`s obviously never going to happen.

And so he doesn`t understand that that`s what a president should feel. He
doesn`t feel the weight of responsibility for what happened to those 17
soldiers in those two incidents.

He doesn`t feel that responsibility and so he doesn`t react to it in the
way that we would expect any president to react and he won`t. He simply
won`t.

O`DONNELL: We had a new low in a Quinnipiac poll of his approval rating
down to 35, the same poll shows that 62 percent of the country believe that
the president is dividing the country.

And Christina, once again, after another Trump speech, the white
supremacists are thrilled. Richard Spencer, white supremacist who was
involved in the Charlottesville, organizing all of that, said after last
night, “Trump has never denounced the alt-right nor will he.”

They notice that they are protected in –

GREER: Right –

O`DONNELL: Every Trump speech.

GREER: They are protected. I mean, it is very clear, we know that this
president`s vocabulary is incredibly limited.

So we have to – you know, look at the few words that we`re given. He
loves pronouns. He loves us versus them.

He`s very clear that he`s part of the odds, and the rest of the people I`m
assuming – myself, yourself, those are the enemies.

And so the alt-right knows that they`re part of the odds. They`re part of
the in-crowd, they`re part of the people that this country is – that this
president is working for.

He can`t be any more clear. I mean, that`s part of the problem where the
people – the senators and members of the house in his party have to
recognize he has no allegiance to them, right?

He only has allegiance to himself and the people who come to his rallies
who cheer for him. And as a side note, when those soldiers – when – you
know, when it was announced that those 10 soldiers had perished at sea, we
still don`t know why?

Was it radar? Was it weather? Was it something else? We have no idea. His
first response was, that`s too bad.

This is a man who has no moral compass, no moral core. If people are
waiting for it, you`ll be waiting for ever.

He has no idea about public service, he has no idea about the office.
George Bush actually grew into the office, George Bush 43, because he`s
from two generations of public servants.

I don`t think he was ready when he first came in, but something about the
weight of the office pushed him into it, slowly but surely.

And I had a lot of issues with George Bush. But Donald Trump will never
get there. He has no empathy. He does not understand anyone else`s plight
except for his own.

O`DONNELL: Professor Christina Greer, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for
joining us tonight.

And if there`s anything in this short amount of time, you didn`t get to
say, be assured, sadly, we will be back to this subject because the
president will continue to be giving speeches like this.

We know this is going to happen again. Christina –

ROBINSON: Right check –

O`DONNELL: Eugene, thank you both very much for joining us, really
appreciate it.

Coming up, Republican senator told reporters that the president is, quote,
“consumed with the Russia investigation”, and now we know that the
president has been threatening senators, calling senators, trying to get it
to stop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s breaking news from “Politico” says “Donald Trump
privately vented his frustration over Russia-related matters with at least
two other Republican senators this month according to people familiar with
the conversations.

Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and
tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker that it
wasn`t good policy.

Trump argued that the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would
damage his presidency. Corker was unrelenting and told Trump the bill was
going to pass both houses with bipartisan support.”

Just last week, Senator Corker said this about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS: The president
has not yet – has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some
of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: “Politico” is also reporting that the president quote “dialed
up Republican Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina on August 7th.

Tillis is working with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware on a bill
designed to protect Robert Mueller.

The independent counsel investigating the president`s Russia connections
from any attempt by Trump to fire him, the Mueller bill came up during the
Tillis-Trump conversation.

According to a source briefed on the call, “Trump was unhappy with the
legislation and didn`t want it to pass.”

A senior Republican aide said this about the president to “Politico”, “it
seems he is just always focused on Russia.”

Tonight`s “Politico” report follows a “New York Times” report about an
August 9th phone call the president initiated with Senate Majority leader
Mitch McConnell, the “Times” report says that the president was quote
“animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader`s refusal to
protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016
election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Joining us now, Adam Jentleson; former deputy chief of staff for Senator
Harry Reid, he`s currently at the Center for American Progress Action Fund
and a senior adviser for the Moscow Project.

Also with us, Ron Klain, former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary
Committee and chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.

And Ron, as you know, we just picked some of your resume for each
introduction each night –

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Thank you,
Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: We read about –

KLAIN: Appreciate that –

O`DONNELL: The Vice President Joe Biden and other things –

KLAIN: Yes –

O`DONNELL: And Ron, I wanted to go to you on what you`re hearing in these
reports. the sourcing is clearly Republicans.

It`s – all of the sourcing on these recalls to Republican senators have to
be Republicans, and they are kind of opening their kind of phone logs on
what`s going on here –

KLAIN: Yes, you know, the White House says that President Trump is making
these calls as part of his legislative agenda pursuit.

But it`s pretty clear the only infrastructure project Donald Trump cares
about is trying to pave over the Russian investigation.

When you hear Republican senators, Republican senators, the Republican
Senate leader and his closest allies in that “New York Times” piece.

Republican senators in the “Politico” piece and their allies, basically
dimming out Donald Trump is being obsessed with the Russia investigation,
not really working on healthcare, not really working on infrastructure, not
really working on taxes, just trying to shut down the Russia investigation.

That tells you how much it bothers Trump and how much Republican senators
are not going to be partners in his effort to obstruct justice.

O`DONNELL: And Adam, it also tells Republican senators how to play Donald
Trump. I mean, we have this aide – the Republican aide telling “Politico”
it seems he is just always focused on Russia.

And so I have noticed certain senators at certain times, Rand Paul among
them, in effect kind of poo-pooing the Russia investigation just sort of
indicating it`s not something that they`re terribly concerned about.

That buys them enormous credits with Donald Trump. I think with President
Trump, you could vote against any bill that he was pushing as long as at
the same time you said you weren`t terribly concerned about the Russia
investigation.

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR HARRY REID: Yes,
that`s a good point. And I mean, you know, Bob Corker and Thom Tillis are
not exactly, you know, squishy moderates.

I mean, those are the two of the hardest core Republicans in the Senate.
And the fact that they are dimming him out as Ron said tells you a lot
about where Republicans minds are on the president at the moment.

And for – I`m Trump, I would be very worried about that.

O`DONNELL: And Ron, to the issue we first started to talk about last
night, the issue of obstruction of justice when it comes to congressional
investigative committees, in this case, Senate Investigative Committees.

There`s the president on the phone complaining to Mitch McConnell about
what the investigative committees are doing in the Senate and why isn`t
Mitch McConnell shutting that down.

First of all, the Majority leader as we know doesn`t technically have the
power to shut down those committees.

But it does raise this interesting issue about is that obstruction of
justice?

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, it is a twofer because it looks like Trump is pursuing
a criminal conspiracy and he`s doing a really poor job –

O`DONNELL: Yes –

KLAIN: Of it. You know, so – yes, you know, the call to McConnell is the
wrong call and McConnell is obviously calling him out on that.

The effort with Tillis to try to stop legislation to protect Mueller is in
some ways even more telling because that`s trying to block a path that will
prevent Trump from shutting down the criminal investigation of the Russian
activities.

But you know, I think you`re right. He is obsessed with the Russia
investigation, he`s doing everything he can to stop it, and you know, you
also have to factor in the firing of Comey, the firing of Yates, the firing
of Barra(ph), you know, all of these acts.

One after the other after the other shows someone who is just ravenously
trying to stop this investigation.

If there`s nothing there really, it`s almost impossible to understand what
Donald Trump is doing.

O`DONNELL: So the staff of Ron`s old committee, the Senate Judiciary
Committee took 10 hours of testimony yesterday from Glenn Simpson from
fusion GPS.

This was about that dossier that we`ve all heard about that was kind of got
– this investigation started on Trump and Russia.

And Chuck Grassley, the chairman of that committee was asked about this
tonight at a town hall in Iowa and the questioner who asked Chuck Grassley
about it has become Rachel Maddow`s new boyfriend and you will see why.

That`s what she said on her show. You will see why? We`re going to show
you this question and answer right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate Judiciary Committee, staff members met for
10 hours, and I would like to know what they discovered in that meeting and
I would like the transcripts released. Will you do that?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: The answer is it will take a vote of the
committee to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will you do that?

GRASSLEY: Of course, we`ll put it to a vote of the committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you personally vote –

GRASSLEY: Yes –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the release of the transcripts?

GRASSLEY: I don`t know why I wouldn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Adam, then Chairman Grassley tried to hide behind the idea
of, well, we have to let the witness study the transcript to make sure it`s
all accurate.

And then Rachel Maddow broke the news tonight that the witness, Glenn
Simpson has given his public permission through Rachel actually tonight in
that announcement that they can release that transcript today as far as
he`s concerned.

JENTLESON: Yes, and you know, this is just another example of Republicans
trying to cover for Trump when it comes to the Russia investigation.

You may not expect this coming from me, but I`d like to defend Mitch
McConnell for a second against the president`s attacks on him.

You know, the president reportedly was attacking Mitch McConnell for not
doing enough to defend him on Russia.

I would actually argue that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have
done a tremendous amount to defend Trump from the Russian investigation.

So Grassley is just the latest example of that.

O`DONNELL: Ron, a quick last word on that transcript. Do you expect to
see it released from the committee you used to work for?

KLAIN: I do. I mean, I think Chuck Grassley, maybe unknowingly, very
cleverly by that gentleman put himself in a box.

He has to take a vote and I think he`s going to have to explain why he
doesn`t vote “yes”. If he votes “yes”, the Democrats vote “yes”, that
transcript will come out.

And really that will – I can only imagine what the tweet storm from
President Trump tomorrow morning about that is going to look like.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain`s predictions about the Senate Judiciary Committee,
you can all write them down –

(LAUGHTER)

KLAIN: Yes –

O`DONNELL: They are very solid, Ron, thank you very much for joining us
tonight –

KLAIN: Great, Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: Adam, we`re going to talk to you in another segment coming up.
Coming up, after last night`s speech, the president`s fitness to serve is
once again an issue with one intelligence professional worried about the
president having the nuclear codes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: At the end of President Trump speech last night which was
widely greeted in the media as an hinged and full of lies. The Former
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FMR. UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I
really question his ability to be, his fitness to be in this office having
some understanding of the levers that a President can exercise. I worry
about frankly you know the access the nuclear codes. The in feat peak, he
decides to do something about Kim Yoo-jung. There is actually very little
to stop him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, John McLaughlin, a former acting director of
the CIA, a 32-year veteran of the CIA and is now an MSNBC National Security
Analyst. And John, your reaction to what Jim Clapper said.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I understand where
Jim Clapper is coming from. People like Jim Clapper and myself who have
worked for a lot of Presidents and there`s qualities that you see in a
President that I see in every President that are lacking in this one.
Presidents that I`ve known have been calm and controlled in a crisis. They
have been able to unite the country, even when their personal popularity
has been down, and they have taken responsibility for things even when
something that`s happened is not directly their fault.

On the nuclear codes – and I don`t see those qualities in the way this
President behaves in that rant, sort of self-pitying rant that we heard
last night. What Director Clapper is referring to on the nuclear codes is
that there is a two-person rule that is if the President gives an order for
a nuclear attack, the Secretary of Defense is in the loop and has the
opportunity to concur but does not have the legal authority to veto a
presidential decision. But thankfully, there is a second person in the loop
and he would have the opportunity to counsel but he does not have the legal
authority to veto.

O`DONNELL: Talk about how tense the decision can be if what we`re talking
about is a retaliatory nuclear strike. And so if there is something
detected coming our way from North Korea or elsewhere, how many minutes
does the President have to make a decision about what to do?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it varies, of course, with the range of an incoming
missile and the circumstances completely. There have been instances in
which Secretaries of Defense have been awakened in the middle of the night
with 1979, Secretary Perry talks about this, being awakened in the middle
of the night with a report that 200 soviet missiles were heading towards
the United States. It turns out to have been a computer glitch of some sort
and a false report.

But he had only minutes to figure that out. If there are missiles coming
from as far away as the Soviet Union, they take about 35 minutes to reach
us and I suspect in the case of North Korea, although this is not yet
established. But I`m guessing that the time would be about 35 minutes and
you would have, I think, warning time of, I`m going to guess now, maybe 20
minutes of that time. But you would detect their launch rather quickly.

O`DONNELL: In Secretary Perry`s and other`s memories of the false
alarms, one thing that they were concerned about is they were down to a
window of about six minutes to have to make the decision of launching a
retaliatory strike because it is the question.

MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

O`DONNELL: so it`s not that you can just wait as those things are flying.
You`ve got to decide exactly how to retaliate and that`s where all the
pressure is. And they could have retaliated and discovered after the fact
that it was a false alarm. That`s the ultimate danger of the false alarm.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it is. It`s the ultimate danger of it and you don`t have
– there`s only certain times in that sequence when your retaliation can be
meaningful and you also have, of course, in the mix of things here, missile
defense, which is not elaborately tested or proven for intercontinental
ballistic missiles. It`s not a situation you ever want to get into,
technically with someone who is not particularly calmed and controlled and
common crisis.

O`DONNELL: It is the most super human test of human judgment that we
could possible imagine. And that judgment would now rest with Donald
Trump. John McLaughlin, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate
it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank You, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, guess who is paying for the Wall now. Hint, Trump
threatened last night to shut down the government to pay for it and he did
not mean the Mexican government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: You remember the wall. of course you remember the wall, the
Trump Wall. Of course you remember who was going to pay for it. And
strangely, there was no chanting about the wall at the Trump rally last
night because the Trump audience is going to have to figure out a new
chant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will build a
great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for
that wall. Mark my words. The greatest wall that you`ve ever seen, see that
ceiling up there, higher. Mexico`s going to pay for the wall, believe me.

When you have Trump negotiating for you on your behalf, they will pay. We
give Mexico billions of dollars. Who couldn`t get that money? They are
going to pay it so gladly. Who?

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Mexico.

TRUMP: You better believe it. The Great Wall of China is 13,000 miles,
folks, and they didn`t have caterpillar tractors. We need a thousand miles.
Build that wall! Build that wall! Who`s going to pay for the wall?

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Mexico!

TRUMP: Who`s going to pay for it?

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Mexico!

TRUMP: we`re going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for the wall.
Believe me. That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin. We`re
building the wall. In fact, it`s going to start soon, way ahead of
schedule. Some of the fake news said, I don`t think Donald Trump wants to
build the wall. He just had some fun during the campaign on the wall. That
wasn`t fun, folks. We`re building that wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And who`s going to pay for it? Mexico. Actually, last night
Donald Trump told the people of Arizona that they`re going to pay for it
and every taxpayer in America is going to pay for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, the obstructionist Democrats would not like us to do it but
if we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And who`s going to pay for it? We are. That`s the new chant
that the Trump crowds are going to have to learn. Who`s going to pay for
it? We are. because Donald Trump Has completely given up on getting Mexico
to pay for the wall, as we all knew he would except for maybe some

Trump voters and now he wants American tax dollars to pay for the wall and
it seems someone has explained to him that will require 60 votes in the
senate which means Democratic votes which means it`s not going to happen.
And so Donald Trump threatens to shut down the government to pay for the
wall to which the Speaker of the House today said this

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAU RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t think anyone`s interested in
having a shutdown. I don`t think it`s in our interest to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so it`s Donald Trump versus the Republicans on the wall.
I don`t mean the Mexican Republicans. I mean the American Republican Party,
the one that he`s a member of. More on Donald Trump versus the Republicans
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM COLE, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: I would strongly advise against any
threat to shut down the government of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s Republican Congressman Tom Cole today answering the
President`s threat last night that he made to shut down the government to
force Congress to pay for the Trump wall. The wall that he promised his
voters Mexico would pay for. Joining us now, Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow
at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He worked in the last three Republican administrations, including as a
senior aide to George W. Bush. Also back with us is Adam Jentleson. He
worked for Senator Harry Reid in the Senate. Peter, this is the President
running into immediate resistance, obvious public resistance. Paul Ryan,
Tom Cole, saying no we`re not going to shut down the government or come
close to shutting down the government over paying for the wall that you
said Mexico would pay for.

PETER WEHNER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and Ryan and Cole and all the rest
are right. This is an insane strategy to try and shut down the government
for a wall that 60 percent of the public doesn`t want. But this is part of
a growing phenomenon and really a growing collision between Trump and the
Republicans. You can just see it and feel it over the last three or four
weeks. Trump is going after Republicans.

They`re starting to go back after him. And I have thought for a long time,
as you know, that the Republican Party has to break with Trump. That`s
becoming more urgent not only because of his mental instability which is
so obvious. But I also think what`s going to happen if they don`t break
with Trump. Trump is going to break with them.

I think Trump is showing he has no institutional loyalty to the Republican
Party and positioning himself something of an independent figure now. So
this is going to get uglier and more intense. as he New York Times reported
there is tremendous and moss at this time between Senate Majority Leader
McConnell and Trump. That`s not good for Trump

O`DONNELL: And Adam, you know a lot of these Republicans. You worked
with them in the senate. They`re looking at a president with a 35 percent
approval rating. If we were talking about a president with a 65 percent
approval rating, I`d understand where we are. But what is holding back
Republicans in Congress, Republicans in the Senate, in breaking with the
President who has a 35 percent approval rating?

ADAM JENTLESON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there`re two things.
First of all, 35 percent is historically extraordinarily low. The problem
for Republicans is that if you`re a Republican, that 35 percent comes
directly out of your half of the electorate. If you`re trying to get 51
percent you can`t afford to lose 35 percent if that translates to Trump
supporters in their own states for their re-election prospects.

The other I would say is as long as the prospect of achieving something
like tax reform is still hanging out there, a lot of Republicans are going
to tell themselves that it`s worth it to endure whatever they have to
endure with the President on a daily basis in some cases just to achieve
the goal of tax reform. I think if tax reform falls away and it becomes
parent it`s not going to be achieved, you`ll see a lot more Republicans
breaking with the President.

O`DONNELL: And Peter, this is going to be a tax cut bill they`re going to
offer. . It`s not going to be reform as we`ve defined it in the past.
They`ll try to use that word. But what we know is many of the provisions in
this bill will be of a benefit to Donald Trump. We just won`t know exactly
which ones they are because he`s never released those tax returns and so we
won`t know how he`s enriching himself in that legislation

WEHNER: That`s right. And the legislation itself is not going to be
popular. But the legislation isn`t go to go anywhere. His legislation is
dead in the water. And this is going to be a first year without any
significant legislative accomplishments.

O`DONNELL: But Peter, Republicans have never failed to pass a tax cut.
It`s the thing they know how to do.

WEHNER: I understand that, but they`ve never had Donald Trump as
President before either. And the ineptness of this group is extraordinary.
And the kind of reform that they were talking about, they`re not going to
get. But look, I think your point here is right.

Donald Trump is radioactive. He`s at 35 percent. And at some point,
Republicans are going to have to figure out that the interests of the party
and the interests of Donald Trump no longer align. And once they understand
that, they`ve got to make a break.

And it has to be a comprehensive and full throated break and it has to be
not just in terms of substance and policy but morally because this guy is
contaminating the party. It`s gone on way too long. And he`s not going to
change. And on some level, they know it`s not going to change so they`ve
got to get on with this task. It`s not easy but there`s no alternative.

O`DONNELL: Adam, there are a lot of things Senators can do for a
President that don`t become public moves that they can make behalf of the
President behind closed doors. It`s hard to imagine Republicans being
incentivized to do things like that for this President.

JENTLESON: Yeah, I think that`s right. No Republican in the Senate is
going to lift a finger to help this President at this point. But I also
want to say one other thing. there`s this woes me act going on with
Republicans right now where they`re all saying look at the damage, the
tough position that we`re in. I wanted to say that you know, everything
that`s happening right now to them and everything happening with Trump was
completely knowable last year.

All the signs were there. Mitch McConnell in 2016 led the way to unite
Republicans behind Trump. He was on the front page of the Wall Street
Journal, sorry, Usa Today in may of 2016 saying to Republicans, relax.
Trump is going to be fine. So you know, this is something they brought on
themselves.

O`DONNELL: And Peter he ever, this is something you`ve been saying
basically what Adam has been saying for over a year.

WEHNER: That`s absolutely right. This is the most predictable thing I`ve
ever seen in American politics. This notion Trump was going to grow in the
office, he would be responsible, that was a delusion. Obviously it was a
delusion during the campaign and obviously during his presidency.

It`s going to get worse because as the walls close in on Donald Trump, as
the pressure gets greater, As the Mueller Investigation gets closer to him
and his family, he`s going to lash out more. This thing is going to blow
apart and it`s going to destroy the Trump Presidency and a lot of
Republicans in the process. They aided and abetted him. And this is going
to be the cost to them.

O`DONNELL: Peter Wehner, a long time frustrated Republican now in the age
of Trump gets tonight`s last word. Peter, thanks for joining us. Adam
Jentleson, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. We`ll be
right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O`BRIEN, TELEVISION HOST: A lot of protesters at a rally today in
phoenix attended by President Trump and Vice President Pence yeah, a lot of
protesters there. Things got awkward when it turned out that the impeach
Trump chants were being led by Mike Pence. They were trying to -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Conan O`Brien gets tonight`s last word. And I`m going to
continue laughing about that after I say the 11th hour with Brian Williams
starts now.

Brian Williams 11th HOUR ANCHOR: tonight, another day and a very different
President, a scripted version of Donald Trump before Veterans Today after
letting it fly at rapid rally in Phoenix last night. Plus Russia rises
again

END


END

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