The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 8/30/17 Trump’s do over on

Jed Shugerman, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson

Date: August 30, 2017

Guest: Jed Shugerman, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Has something going on that the –

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: It`s something that presidents
tend to mention once every four years when they`re running for president
and it never comes up again.

MADDOW: Or conceivably if the senator from Iowa has something going on
that the president really has strong feelings about.

The president`s son getting called before Grassley`s committee less than
one day before this call to Grassley about – we have a hard – you know,
heartfelt feelings about Ethanol.

It`s a little unsubtle even for this White House. Even for the
conservative media that isn`t buying it, but we have to adjust our subtlety
meter in this era.

O`DONNELL: So it may be that this is the first time in history that Donald
Trump picked up the phone for something other than self-interest. Just to
praise Ethanol.

MADDOW: Just to praise Ethanol. He was just thinking warm thoughts about
corn –



O`DONNELL: Yes, thank you, Rachel –

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, today the president went to Missouri to give a
teleprompter speech about tax cuts, and apparently just to try to prove
that he does have empathy.

He read every word that his speechwriters gave him about thoughts and
prayers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.


really how unnatural empathy is to President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collective criticism from some circles is that he met
no victims, saw no rain, and demonstrated no empathy.

TRUMP: Can I say Missouri or should I say Missoura, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president hasn`t demonstrated over a period of a
week or two weeks that there`s any consistency in his speech making in
front of a crowd and his law making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polling, it shows that there is no doubt a bleeding
in his support among conservatives and Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to be his own worst enemy. He couldn`t be
any worse at achieving goals in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s embarrassed them as a president. This is not what
they want, and this is not what they expect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not even professional, let alone presidential.
If he could at least just become professional, it would be –


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little – it will be a little better.

TRUMP: We`ll have it both ways.


O`DONNELL: Some of the people that you saw in the open there were part of
a focus group – all of the people you saw in the open there speaking from
that focus group.

A focus group last night in Pennsylvania that included five Trump voters,
none of whom had good things to say about the president.

We`re going to see more of that focus group later in this hour. The
president went to Springfield, Missouri, today to give one of those
speeches where he is locked on a teleprompter and obviously reading it for
the first time, discovering facts in it for the first time, like this one.


TRUMP: I`m especially pleased to be here in Springfield; the birthplace of
a great American icon, the legendary Route 66.


Who would have known that?


TRUMP: Yes, who would have known that? Well, pretty much everyone in that
room in Springfield, Missouri, today would have known that.

The people who wrote that speech for you and put it in the teleprompter
knew that, but Donald Trump obviously didn`t know that until he read it in
his teleprompter today.

And I`m sure there`s absolutely no chance that Donald Trump knows where
Route 66 ends, and I`m not going to tell him, he`s going to have to learn
that someday in his teleprompter.

But actually that will probably never be in Donald Trump`s teleprompter
because Route 66 doesn`t end in Trump country.

I`ll give them just a little hint end of the Pacific Ocean in a place that
used to be Mexico and still retains its Mexican place name in honor of
Saint Monica.

I don`t expect Donald Trump to be able to figure out where that is because
he doesn`t speak Spanish, and the name of the place is in Spanish as are
most of the place names in that part of America that used to be Mexico.

The part of America that Donald Trump and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio want to
cleanse of anyone who they think looks to them like they belong in Mexico.

During these speeches, these teleprompter speeches, you can tell that
Donald Trump`s teleprompter is filled with things that he does not know,
including, in many cases, the names of the United States senators from the
state that he`s speaking in.

He made mention of both of Missouri`s senators today, Republican Roy Blunt
and Democrat Claire McCaskill.

What are the odds that Donald Trump walks around with Claire McCaskill`s
name in his head?

What are the odds that he actually knows the name of the Democratic senator
from Missouri?

Here`s is how Senator McCaskill`s name came up while Donald Trump was
closely reading his teleprompter today.


TRUMP: We must – we have no choice. We must lower our taxes, and your
Senator Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you.

And if she doesn`t do it for you, you have to vote her out of office.




O`DONNELL: He was very clearly reading the teleprompter when he said her
name. It was right there in the prompter.

His speechwriters working in the White House on the government payroll
wrote that completely political campaign passage in the president`s speech
in violation of the law.

It`s against the law for White House speechwriters to write lines like
that. Federal government workers are not allowed to use their jobs in
campaigning for or against a candidate.

Watch what happens when Donald Trump ad-libs off the teleprompter about
Claire McCaskill right after saying that.


TRUMP: She`s got to make that commitment. She`s got to make that
commitment. If she doesn`t do it, we just can`t do this anymore with the
obstruction and the obstructionists.


O`DONNELL: She – when he was ad-libbing, when he was off the
teleprompter, he couldn`t remember her name, or that`s the way it looked

Claire McCaskill is the reason Donald Trump went to Missouri today. The
president of the United States fueled up Air Force One, loaded up the
Secret Service on the plane, got another contingent of Secret Service
active on the ground in Missouri to meet the plane at a time when the
Secret Service has already run out of its travel budget for the entire year
because of the excessive travel and golfing that Donald Trump and his
family do.

And the president did all of that today with an over budget Secret Service
simply to attack Claire McCaskill and issue a political threat that she`d
better vote for the Trump tax cut bill or he will urge those people to vote
her out of office.

President Trump took Air Force One to Missouri today in pursuit of exactly
one vote in the Senate. One vote.

That was a one-vote plane ride. Of course, Donald Trump is going to urge
Missouri voters to vote Claire McCaskill out of office next year whether
she votes for Donald Trump`s tax cuts or not. She`s a Democrat.

He`s going to be campaigning against her. So his threat is not as scary as
he thinks, but it was a political campaign threat issued to a named United
States senator during an official White House trip paid for entirely by the
taxpayer on what was supposed to be an official visit by the president of
the United States to a company in Springfield, Missouri, to talk to the
country about tax policy.

And specifically to build support for the Trump tax cuts, a bill that has
yet to be written and was described by the president today only in the
vaguest terms.

The president spoke today at the Loren Cook Company; a factory that makes
industrial fans. When the president talked about possibly eliminating some
deductions in the tax code, he said that that might be harmful to rich tax
filers like the owner of the factory, Mr. Cook and Donald Trump.


TRUMP: That is why tax reform must dramatically simplify the tax code,
eliminate special interest loop holes – and I`m speaking against myself
when I do this, I have to tell you.

And I might be speaking against Mr. Cook, and we`re both OK with it, is
that right?


It`s crazy. We`re speaking – maybe we shouldn`t be doing this, you know?


But we`re doing the right thing.





O`DONNELL: Last word he said there was “true”, is it true? We have no
idea. Everything Donald Trump says about taxes, we have no idea whether it
affects him or not.

His taxes are a secret. We have no idea what deductions he takes on his
corporate tax returns or on his partnership tax returns or on any of his
business tax returns or on his personal income tax returns, state and
federal, we have no idea.

So when the tax debate gets to specifics and we discover that Donald Trump
is in favor or opposed to the elimination of certain tax deductions, we
will have no idea whether Donald Trump actually uses that tax deduction.

We will have no idea whether he is, as he puts it, speaking against
himself. When has Donald Trump ever taken a position against his own self-
interest? Let`s ask a Trump voter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is almost totally lacking in empathy. So that`s why
he scores so poorly on all these issues just about.

He cannot put himself in the other person`s Moccasins, whether it be racial
or international or socio-economic. He`s incredibly obtuse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a great word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I voted for him.


O`DONNELL: That was a Trump voter in that focus group of Pennsylvania
voters that we told you about. We`re going to be hearing more from them
later in the program.

At this hour last night, there were eight confirmed deaths from Hurricane
Harvey in Texas. Tonight, there are 21, and as I said last night, that
number will probably go up.

President Trump was clearly stunned by the criticism he received here and
elsewhere for the way he made his visit to Texas yesterday all about him
and not about the victims of the hurricane and the destruction of their
lives and those 21 deaths.

The White House staff typed words into the president`s teleprompter today
that he could not find in his heart yesterday.


TRUMP: To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is
grieving with you, and our hearts are joined with yours forever.

The citizens of Texas and the Gulf Coast need all the prayers, support, and
resources our communities have to offer.

Recovery will be tough, but I have seen the resilience of the American
spirit first-hand all over this country.


O`DONNELL: And here was the mandatory thoughts and prayers section.


TRUMP: Our thoughts and prayers remain firmly with the citizens and our
fellow people, great people all affected by this tragedy.

We`re also glad to be back in the heartland with the very fine folks of




O`DONNELL: And that was it. Not another word about Texas. Not another
word about death and destruction and tragedy mounting, increasing tragedy.

Now, it was time for the birthplace of Route 66, tax cuts, and campaigning
against Senator Claire McCaskill.

The president didn`t say another word about Texas today. Joining us now,
Nicholas Kristof; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the “New York

Also with us, Brian Klaas; a fellow of Comparative Politics at London
School of Economics and the author of “The Despot`s Accomplice”.

Nick, so the president got a lot of criticism yesterday for the way he
handled himself. And today he goes off on what is basically a political

You could call it a policy rally, I suppose, if you want to. But it was –
once he got past that very short, mandatory thoughts and prayers section,
he was on into, you know, Trump rally territory, getting applause, having
fun, and having fun with Claire McCaskill in his way.

his comments about hurricane were perfectly unobjectionable.

But that`s a pretty low bar. And at the end of the day, of course, a
president`s response to a hurricane isn`t about his words on date – on the
following day after recovering, but it`s about policies.

And you know, at the end that seems to me what we need to focus on. You
can`t have a serious discussion about the response to a hurricane unless
you begin to talk about climate change, and you can`t have that
conversation without talking about Paris.

And you also need to talk about adaptation so that coastal communities
around the country are prepared for the next big event.

And so I thought his words today were perfectly fine as words, but you
know, that`s not a response that we need as a country to what happened.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Brian, there`s no one in politics who would have
thought this is a good idea.

This is what you do the day after you visited Texas, and the situation in
Texas is so bad that you can`t really visit where the trouble is.

You can just go to the edges out there in Corpus Christi. And the death
toll is still mounting. No one in politics would say, OK, go give one of
those kind of rally speeches about tax cuts.

That`s what to do while this crisis is still going on in Texas. So it
seems like the White House staff, if there`s anyone there who has any ideas
about what`s appropriate for a president, that they`ve all just given up.

They`ve just given up, and they get, well, better that he`s doing this
today, that it`s an hour when he won`t be able to tweet.

Well, we`ve lowered the bar so much for Trump that we`re thinking about him
as a president and not as just a normal person.

Everyone looking at those images thinks, you just hug someone. You look at
them and you say, you`re suffering.

This person, Donald Trump has lived in a gilded penthouse that`s impossible
to have floodwaters come to it.

He doesn`t understand what could ever happen to someone. He didn`t go
there to try to comfort people.

It`s the easiest slam dunk a president has, almost as easy by the way as
condemning neo-Nazis forcefully.

And on all these things that are not about presidentialism, they`re about
basic humanity, he`s failing the test.

And I think that`s where we need to think, OK, this person is lacking
empathy. And I agree with you completely that we need policy focus, but we
also need somebody – I mean, we have a president that is both head of
government and head of state in the United States.

And the head of state role is really important to unify the country. And
we have somebody who is dividing the country on things that are absolutely
the easiest part of comforting the nation.

To say the same things that President Bush and Obama have said in tragedies
before him. And he cannot do it.

He gets four or five attempts, and finally the teleprompter comes through.
And that`s what I think we continue to see every time with President Trump.

O`DONNELL: And Nick, when we`re talking about empathy this week and we`re
talking about it in terms of those moments that we`ve seen with other
presidents in situations like this, including specifically hugging people
who are there, making comments and public statements about the situation
that feel empathetic.

But empathy is a factor throughout government, including the subject the
president was talking about today in the tax structure of this country.

And there was not one empathetic word in what he had to say today about the
people who live at the bottom end of the tax bracket, the people who –
some of whom get the earned income tax credit.

Is there any consideration that they might get a larger earned income tax
credit, for example.

KRISTOF: Right –

O`DONNELL: There`s not a hint of any thought to anyone who lives anywhere
in that tax code that`s a different neighborhood from Donald Trump`s
position in that tax code –

KRISTOF: But Lawrence, you missed all the empathy in that speech for

O`DONNELL: Yes, oh, yes –

KRISTOF: It was full of discussion about –


KRISTOF: Lowering the corporate tax rate. And of course, I mean, there
are legitimate reasons to lower the marginal corporate tax rate.

But you do that by broadening the base and taking away deductions like
those that go to the real estate world, like the deductibility of interest
by people exactly like Trump.

And so, you know, I found Trump on tax reform kind of as scary as I find
him on North Korea. And also in a sense as misleading.

I mean, one of the main points he made today in Missouri was that the U.S.
has a higher corporate tax burden than other countries.

And it`s true that the marginal 35 percent rate is higher than in other
countries, but nobody pays that.

O`DONNELL: Right –

KRISTOF: And so indeed the – as a percentage of GDP in the U.S., it`s
about 2 percent which is lower than in France, lower than in Canada, lower
than in Japan.

And so I thought the central message of his speech today was fundamentally

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Brian, he`s making this case to these workers
assembled in front of him at this plant that it`s really good for them if
he can cut the taxes of their bosses and of the owners of these factories.

And he wasn`t getting a lot of applause in that section of the speech.

KLAAS: And I don`t think anyone is – around the country is thinking that
corporations are the ones who need a break right now in America.

And I think the people who are going through these flood waters in Houston
and around Texas, watching him in Missouri talk about how we need to talk
about corporations, it couldn`t be more tone deaf at the exact wrong

And it`s just a complete lie that it`s going to have this trickledown
effect and massively create jobs.

It just does not happen. There`s no evidence to suggest it happens. And
so, you know, they`re being sold on this package that already doesn`t have
a contour because there`s no bill.

And then he`s touting this thing as though it`s going to solve all the
problems of inequality, which is growing rapidly in America.

A lot of people are still looking to see if their homes are standing,
right? I mean, it`s an incredible moment of juxtaposition between
inequality and the lack of wealth that so many people in this country have,
and Donald Trump`s priorities, which seem to always be driven by people
like him.

And I think that`s something that`s really an astonishing fact for this
presidency seven months into it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, say something today, Nick, about the home mortgage
deduction. Are you going to put a ceiling on it?

And, oh, by the way, what happens to the home mortgage deduction of the
people whose homes floated –

KRISTOF: Right –


KRISTOF: Right –

O`DONNELL: In Texas, who will not have jobs or a home and still have the
liability to pay that mortgage note? What is Donald Trump`s government
going to do with them?

KRISTOF: I mean, Trump talked a lot about creating jobs, and the one thing
we know that won`t create jobs is his efforts to give a huge break to
corporations to bring back $3 trillion or more that is packed overseas.

We can try that, and it`s used to buy back stock, for example. If you want
to help create jobs, you lower payroll taxes. And you know, that is
something that is clearly not on his agenda.

O`DONNELL: Yes, we`re going to have to leave it there for tonight. Nick
Kristof and Brian Klaas, thank you both for joining us tonight, really
appreciate it.

Coming up, we have breaking news on the Trump-Russia investigation. Robert
Mueller is working with the New York State Attorney General, and this is a
big and important breakthrough because the president does not have pardon
power over state crimes.


O`DONNELL: It might now be all up to the State Attorneys General, and
special prosecutor Robert Mueller seems to know that.

The president`s pardon power is limited to federal cases. The president
cannot pardon anyone charged or convicted of a state crime like murder or
money laundering.

And now that we have spent considerable time here discussing the
president`s ability to pardon away the Mueller investigation, the case has
reportedly taken an important turn beyond the scope of presidential pardon

If the president pardons Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump
Jr. and Michael Flynn and Ivanka Trump and anyone touched by Robert
Mueller`s Russia investigation, then the Mueller investigation would
essentially collapse.

But what if New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also on
the case? “Politico” is reporting exactly that tonight.

Special counsel Robert Mueller`s team is working with New York Attorney
General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his
financial transactions according to several people familiar with the

The cooperation could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage
to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump`s
campaign as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

This is what Joe Biden would call a big deal. Federal Prosecutors normally
have nothing to do with state prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors have a bit of a superiority complex over state and
local prosecutors, but not this time.

“Politico” also reports the two teams have shared evidence and talked
frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said.

One of the people familiar with the progress on the case said both
Mueller`s team and Schneiderman`s have collected evidence on financial
crimes including potential money laundering.

People close to Manafort say the team has pressured him by approaching
family members and former business partners, a number of other firms and
people who have worked with him have received subpoenas.

Also tonight, we have new information on who has testified before Robert
Mueller`s grand jury. The financial times reports “Rinat Ahkmetshin, the
lobbyist and former Soviet army officer who met senior Trump campaign aides
at a controversial meeting last year has given evidence before a grand jury
investigation according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Akhmetshin gave testimony under oath for several hours on Friday,
August 11th, in a sign that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at
the 2016 meeting as part of his investigation into links between Donald
Trump`s election campaign and Russia.

Rinat Akhmetshin is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence and is
one of several Russians who were present at a June 9th, 2016 meeting with
Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort at Trump Tower.”

And the “New York Times” is reporting that President Trump`s long-time
lawyer Michael Cohen sent an e-mail to a spokesman for the Russian
President Vladimir Putin.

That spokesman, Mr. Peskoff(ph) on Wednesday confirmed to reporters that
the Kremlin had received the e-mail, but he said he did not respond to it
and that his office did not get involved in such matters.

Joining us now, the co-author of that “New York Times” article,
investigative reporter Matt Apuzzo.

Also with us, Jed Shugerman; professor of law at Fordham University. And
Matt, your article about Michael Cohen touched a lot of bases including his
very direct attempt to make contact with Vladimir Putin through a

know because Michael Cohen has turned over a lot of e-mails to Congress.

What we know is that there was obviously a great outreach by people around
Donald Trump in an effort in 2015 to try to build a Trump Tower Moscow.

And as that deal fizzled, Michael Cohen sort of in this last-ditch effort
sent an e-mail to the general mailbox of the Russian press secretary, I
mean, the kind of the Russian equivalent of, saying,
hey, can you help me resurrect this deal?

But you know, look, Michael Cohen is really – is putting his cards on the
table. He has gone through the dossier, as it`s been called, point-by-
point and is issuing, you know, a pretty serious categorical denials that
there was any sort of Russian collusion.

And he`s trying to follow in the Jared Kushner mold and say this is all –
this is all bogus, there`s nothing to this, kind of put up or shut up.

O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, your reaction to these developments in the case
tonight and to Matt`s point about Michael Cohen`s push-back.

the significance of connecting with New York Attorney General Eric

This is a very significant development particularly because we`re hearing
increasingly that there is discussion behind closed doors about Trump and
pardons for the circle.

This is a very important point to make, which is that the president cannot
affect state prosecutions and state crimes through the pardon power.

It – there are some complicated procedures, but let`s say the question is
if Trump then tells Manafort or Flynn, hold on, just toward the party line,
and I`ll make sure to pardon you.

If there are New York or other attorneys general and other state
prosecutors who are stepping forward, they cannot count on that pardon to
save them.

They will have to face the pressure and will face state pressure to
cooperate and turn state`s witness.

And so it`s important to – for Schneiderman and Mueller to coordinate to
figure out what`s going on behind the scenes.

O`DONNELL: And Matt, the coordination with Schneiderman has to be an
extreme irritant to the president.

It was Eric Schneiderman who fought the president to a $25 million
settlement on the Trump University case.

That was $25 million that President Trump vowed he would never pay but was
forced to pay as a result of Attorney General Schneiderman`s pursuit of
that case.

And so Schneiderman has been on the Trump case before.

APUZZO: Sure, I mean, look, if you are Bob Mueller, of course you`re going
to want to make sure you know the – who is in what lane in New York.

When you`re looking at banking stuff, New York is the center of the
universe. But the long and the short of it, at least the political reality
in the short term is none of these guys, whether it`s Manafort or Flynn can
be playing in the short term for pardons.

I mean, they`ve got to be playing to win. And you know, they`ve got
powerful lawyers, and you don`t want to hold out your hope for a pardon.

That frankly opens up a whole host of problems for the president, not the
least of which is that once you`ve been pardoned, Congress can haul you in
front of an open session and demand you testify publicly because you don`t
have the right to the Fifth Amendment protections anymore.

So I mean that`s interesting in the theoretical, but right now where the
rubber meets the road, this is a very live federal investigation with a lot
of real consequences hanging over everyone.

O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, to that Fifth Amendment protections point, it`s
a bit complicated now, isn`t it?

When we consider the possibility of state charges because if Paul Manafort,
say, was pardoned by President Trump and then he was pulled into these
Congressional Committees to testify and he – and he tried to invoke the
Fifth Amendment, he might make the claim that the Fifth Amendment he`s
invoking is in protection of himself against state charges, not the federal
charges that the President has pardoned him for.

JED SHUGERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: that`s correct. I think there was a
misimpression from the point that was just made before because they could
still invoke the Fifth Amendment precisely because they could still face
state prosecution. So the question is not whether by accepting a pardon
they can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment. It`s the other pressure, the
pressure precisely because they could face state prosecution.

But keep in mind just because someone might be pardoned for a past crime
but then later on they perjure themselves, and you have documents or other
witnesses come forward, you can`t pardon someone for a future crime. So
the possibility that they are forced to testify either in court or in
Congress or in state court, pardons don`t affect a future perjury. There is
an important point in New York and in other states about the double
jeopardy question. If and there are some states that extend a statute to
protect against a second prosecution if the federal prosecutors have
started a prosecution and not just an indictment.

But if there are witnesses that have testified or juries have been sworn
in, then New York has a state statute that sometimes prevents a state
prosecution. So this timing gets complicated. And that`s another reason
why it`s so important that Mueller and Schneiderman are talking and
coordinating so that they can figure out the timing of when to bring

Ordinarily there`s a policy where you defer – where a state prosecutor
waits and defers to a federal prosecutor. But it`s only a policy of
deference and waiting for federal prosecutors. if they`re talking behind
the scenes and realize that maybe it`s better for Schneiderman to go first
because of the threat of Trump`s pardons and because of this complicated
rule that New York has, this is what`s significant about those

O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s why this could truly be historic, that a federal
special prosecutor basically assigned to investigate the President of the
United States might make the choice to, in effect, step aside for a state
attorney general to make that case and some of the elements of the case
against some of the people involved in the case might step aside in favor
of that state Attorney General. We`ve never seen that before. Matt Apuzzo
thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

APUZZO: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: And Jed Shugerman thank you too for joining us, really

SHUGERMAN: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: We`ll have much more of the breaking news on this Russia
investigation, and there is more. We`ll have that right after this break.
And what is the one word you would use to describe Donald Trump. We will
show you how some Trump voters answered that question and none of them were


O`DONNELL: And so we now know that the President was indeed pursuing a
very big business deal in Russia during the Presidential Campaign, a deal
to build a giant Trump Tower in Moscow. A deal that Donald Trump knew
would require Vladimir Putin`s approval and likely involvement and possibly
secret financial participation. Vladimir Putin is widely rumored to seek a
personal piece of the action in deals like a giant office tower being built
by Americans in Moscow.

With the new revelations about what the President and his lawyer Michael
Cohen were up to in the Presidential Campaign on the trump Tower Moscow
project, Jennifer Rubin`s column in the Washington Post today is headlined,
what more proof of a secret Russian connection do we need? Joining us now,
Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at the Washington Post and Eugene
Robinson a Pulitzer Prize winning opinion writer for the Washington Post
and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Jennifer, this is the story that finally
lets us make sense of what we were seeing in Donald Trump every time
Vladimir Putin`s name came up during the campaign or every time Russia was
mentioned and how at every possible turn in this, he could never bring
himself to say anything negative in the direction of Vladimir Putin or

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. He says negative things
about everyone and he`s continued to except for Vladimir Putin. And I
think the lay of the land is the following. Donald Trump has always been
trying to do business in Russia since the days when he had the beauty
pageant there. He has tried and failed at various times.

During the Presidential Campaign as he was engaged in debates where he was
being asked questions about Russia, he was still trying to get a deal done
in Russia. And his intermediaries were, as you`ve just reported, trying to
get the attention of even the private secretary of Vladimir Putin to help
facilitate this. He said, I have nothing to do with Russia. He not only
said, I don`t have deals in Russia, as in the present tense. But I have
nothing to do with Russia.

That was a lie. And so it makes sense then that as Mueller would begin to
investigate collusion as to the campaign. That he would come across this
information. And Donald Trump would feel like this is not a safe place to
be. And, hence, we go down the road then of obstruction, of trying to get
rid of, for example, James Comey, of trying to get other officials to weigh
in on, for example, Michael Flynn`s behalf so it`s a tangled knot, but it
really does begin and end – doesn`t it always with Donald Trump with his
money and his financial interests in Russia.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, real estate deals never die. It may have been
that this deal collapsed at a certain point in time. But if you`re Donald
Trump and you`re running for President and you don`t expect to win, you
expect to be a real estate developer after the next Presidential


O`DONNELL: You would never lose that dream of building Trump Tower in
Moscow. You`d always want to be able to go back and try to rekindle the
real estate romance with Vladimir Putin.

ROBINSON: Yes, and you would know that the way to put the tie bars on that
deal permanently would be to say something bad about Vladimir Putin, who
would be the ultimate decider, right? If he doesn`t want a Trump Tower in
Moscow, there`s not going to be a Trump Tower in Moscow. On the other –
conversely, if he does want one, there`s going to be one.

And as you alluded to, he probably would have a piece of it. It could be
financed, for example, through Russian state-owned banks, say, and there`s
some weird connections there. This whole story has a cast of characters
around it with shady pasts and byzantine connections that seem to lead into
the Kremlin.

O`DONNELL: And, Jennifer, so you believe we are there. Your column today
is the declaration, you know, we are there. We have the evidence that you

RUBIN: Well, I think we have the connection at any rate. As you said,
we`ve all been wondering why was Donald Trump so upset about this
investigation by Mueller? Why was he so nice to Putin? Was there
psychological reason?

Was there personality reason? This is the beginning of putting pieces
together. listen, Bob Mueller and the New York Prosecutor are going to get
all of the nitty-gritty bits they`re going to get from people like Michael
Cohen, the content of e-mails and phone calls.

They`re going to get the conversations probably between Michael Cohen and
now President Trump. And they`re going to be able to lay out the evidence
bit by bit, showing a financial interest and a financial connection to
Russia. In a way, that then helps the obstruction charge because although
you could have obstruction when there`s no underlying crime, it sure gives
you a lot of motive and a lot of incentive and makes a lot more sense if
you have something to hide.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin and Gene Robinson, please stay with us while we
sneak off to this break. We`ll be right back. Coming up, how would you
describe Donald Trump in one word? And you have to keep it clean, or at
least the people you`re going to hear from had to keep it clean because
they were in a focus group.

And you`re going to hear what they had to say, and you`re going to hear
what Trump Voters had to say in one word to describe Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: Here`s a focus group in Pennsylvania last night that
includes five Trump voters. Now see if you could pick out which five were
the Trump voters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to ask you for a word or a feeling about
Donald Trump.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abject disappointment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not ready to be president.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Completely unfit to be president.




O`DONNELL: Okay. The Trump voters were the ones who said outrageous,
abject disappointment, unique, off the scale, and crazy. So if you call
Donald Trump crazy, you might be a Trump voter. Here`s more of what the
Trump voters had to say last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to be his own worst enemy. He couldn`t be
any worse at achieving goals in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything he does is outrageous. He just doesn`t have
that soft touch to sell you on what he wants to accomplish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thing that drives me crazy is all the tweeting he
does. Why doesn`t he just quit that tweeting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just – he`s let me down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know he`s a nut. Everybody knew he`s a nut. He`s
not even professional, let alone presidential.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I question what he`s trying to do and don`t
fully understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s such a flawed individual. He makes a travesty of
the office.


O`DONNELL: There are now signs in polling that some - some of Donald
Trump`s base is turning on him. Tonight a new Fox News Poll shows Donald
Trump with his highest disapproval yet in their poll. 55 percent disapprove
while just 41 percent approve. Donald trump has lost the most support in
the Fox poll among conservatives, republican men, and white voters without
a college degree.

The fox poll also shows 56 percent of Americans say Donald Trump is tearing
the country apart while 33 percent say he is drawing the country together.
We`ll hear more of what Trump voters don`t like about President Trump next.


O`DONNELL: Here`s a Trump voter in last night`s focus group in
Pennsylvania who agrees with Donald Trump`s policies but wishes Donald
Trump was not on his side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What most disappoints me is he`s such an incredibly
flawed individual that has articulated many of the values that I hold dear
and the messenger is overwhelming the message. I wish he was on the
opposite side of where I hold dear because it would be better for the
causes that I like.


O`DONNELL: Back with us, “Washington Post” columnist Jennifer Rubin and
Eugene Robinson. And Eugene what did we learn from that focus group?

ROBINSON: The first thing was the use of the word disappointment which we
heard a couple of times. And you have Donald Trump is paying a political
price with his voters for not achieving anything, not getting stuff done.
And - and for his antics. And – and so I think that`s an important word.
The other thing I heard was the woman who said, called him crazy and said,
well we knew he was a nut, right?

O`DONNELL: Yes, yes. Explain that to me. She voted for him.

ROBINSON: You know – well, you know, look, elections are contests, right?
And they`re choices. And so she made a choice to vote for a guy who was a
nut. Now, it could be that she didn`t like Hillary Clinton. It could be
that she just thought the whole, the political establishment was spent and
had no answers and she wanted to sort of knock down – knock things over
and start again.

But that - that sort of urge that caused people who knew he was a nut to
vote for him I think it`s a mistake to think that`s all dissipated and all
gone away just because people see indeed he is a nut. So that`s the one
sort of cautionary note I think for democrats and other who`s oppose Donald
Trump. You know, you can`t beat somebody with nobody. And they`d better
have somebody to beat him with.

O`DONNELL: Well I know more than one Trump voter with that same attitude
that that woman had of we knew he was a nut and the ones I know were sure
he was not going to win. And they cast the vote only as a protest vote. And
so Jennifer, there will be no – it seems to me, the Trump protest vote of
people who don`t expect him to win probably won`t be present the next time.

RUBIN: No, they won`t. And the – I can`t stand Hillary vote so I`ll vote
for this crazy person won`t be there I would hope that the democrats don`t
nominate Hillary Clinton all over again. But I am struck by the sense that
were they not watching you Lawrence? Were they not reading Eugene and me
during the campaign? We could have told them exactly what was going to

And we were right. He is so imbalanced, so unprofessional, so crazy that
whatever you would hope to get out of him was going to be impossible from
the get go. You can`t elect someone like this president and have it hope to
work out. And I got to say
she`s in some pretty good company because Paul Ryan said much the same
thing during the campaign and look where he is right now.

O`DONNELL: And Gene, the truth of it is that most voters do not watch this
kind of television at all on any network. They don`t read your columns
ever. In fact, at least half of the people in that focus group did not the
know who Robert Mueller is. And so they have at least an average and some
of them obviously a better than average command of the news about Donald
Trump but that`s who - that`s who voted for him, and you can`t get a
positive word out of them about him now.

ROBINSON: No, you can`t. And - and look, on election day, I`ll bet they
had the image of him that he was a successful businessman and despite all
of the nonsense, he must be – he must be a smart guy. He must be able to
get stuff done because look, you know he was – look at him on the
“Apprentice” and - and lo and behold, you know he wasn`t a great

And he can`t get anything done. And not only that, he works against himself
so you know, they`re disappointed.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That point about expected the businessman in Trump to
come out and make everything work in the White House, that very point was
made by the man in the focus group who voted for Donald Trump and now calls
him outrageous, called him that repeatedly. Jennifer Rubin, Eugene
Robinson, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, California`s Junior Senator Kamala Harris made news
during a town hall in Oakland.


KAMALA HARRIS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I`ll break some news. I intend to
co-sponsor the Medicaid for all bill and because it`s just the right thing
to do. It`s just the right thing to do.



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