The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 9/1/17 Inside IRS Criminal investigation unit
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: September 1, 2017
Guest: David Frum, Jed Shugerman, Neera Tanden, Martin Sheil, Maria Teresa
Kumar, Marielena Hincapie
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: These are your friends, your neighbors,
your co-workers, and we`ll feature their stories collected by the folks at
“DEFINE AMERICAN.” You don`t want to miss it.
Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. And we keep using this
number, 800,000 –
O`DONNELL: – but these people have parents. They have mothers, they have
fathers, they have siblings, many of them younger siblings, who are
O`DONNELL: This is millions of people we`re talking about –
O`DONNELL: – who are just being put through agony this weekend, waiting
to hear if this President of the United States is going to try to drive
them out of the country on Tuesday.
REID: Yes. Just imagine trying to make basic decisions, going to school,
going to work –
REID: – just trying to live your life, and you have no certainty
REID: It`s insane. Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I`ll be watching the way you`re covering it tomorrow, Joy.
REID: Thank you. Have a good night.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, it turns out, to the world`s surprise, that Donald Trump`s golf
weekends are not all golf and binge watching “The Queen” on Netflix to
learn how to be presidential. Sometimes, instead of golf, the President
According to tonight`s breaking news in “The New York Times,” the long
Bedminster weekend began late Thursday, May 4th, when Mr. Trump arrived by
helicopter, joined by a trio of advisers – his daughter, Ivanka; his son-
in-law, Jared Kushner; and Stephen Miller.
It rained during part of the weekend, forcing Mr. Trump to cancel golf with
Greg Norman, the Australian golfer. Instead, Mr. Trump stewed indoors,
worrying about Mr. Comey and the Russia investigation.
Mr. Miller and Mr. Kushner both told the President that weekend they were
in favor of firing Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump ordered Mr. Miller to draft a
letter and dictated his unfettered thoughts. Several people who saw Mr.
Miller`s multi-page draft described it as a screed.
“The New York Times” is reporting tonight that Special Prosecutor Robert
Mueller has obtained a copy of that screed.
According to “The New York Times” sources, White House Counsel Don McGahn
managed to prevent the President from sending the screed to FBI Director
James Comey. McGahn believed that the Trump and Miller co-authored letter
Mr. McGahn and others on the White House staff were alarmed that the
President made the decision on the unprecedented action of firing the FBI
Director after consulting only his daughter, his son-in-law, and the 31-
year-old Stephen Miller, who has no legal training and, like the
President`s daughter and son-in-law, has absolutely no experience that
would earn him a senior position in any White House, other than the most
out of control, most incompetent White House in history.
Mr. McGahn identified several passages in the Trump/Miller letter that he
wanted deleted. Mr. McGahn then arranged for the President to meet with
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
to discuss firing James Comey.
During that meeting with the President, Mr. Rosenstein was given a copy of
the Trump/Miller screed. Mr. Rosenstein agreed to write his own memo about
why Comey should be fired. That memo was released by the White House when
Comey was actually fired.
There are several ways that the Special Prosecutor could have obtained the
Trump/Miller screed, but you don`t have to think about it very long to
realize that the most likely way and the easiest way is the Deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein simply gave Mueller his copy of it, knowing that it
is relevant to the Special Prosecutor`s investigation.
Joining us now, David Frum, senior editor for “The Atlantic.” Also with
us, Jed Shugerman, professor of law at Fordham University, and Neera
Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.
And, David Frum, here is the confirmation that when the President made what
is probably so far, for him, anyway, and his own future, the worst decision
of his presidency, firing James Comey. It was on the advice of the junior-
most people in the White House, in terms of experience, who have the
senior-most positions apparently – his daughter, his son-in-law, and
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: So the President has been given
the lie twice today on this matter. The first is, with this report, he`s
been given the lie that the story – that the firing did not originate, as
was said at the time, with the Deputy Attorney General, who doesn`t seem to
have played a very heroic role here. And again, this has not played a very
[22:05:01] The second lie, the President gave himself when he tweeted
earlier today that – how angry he was that James Comey had been too soft
on Hillary Clinton. Remember, ostensibly, the reason for the firing was to
punish James Comey for having been too tough on Hillary Clinton, nothing at
all to do with Trump or Russia.
The story has collapsed. And not that anybody is terribly surprised by
that, but it is in ruins. And one of the things, when you look at an
obstruction case, you wonder about is, not only did the person lie, but if
there is a lie, what is behind the lie because obviously you lie to protect
something you don`t want people to know. If you had something creditable
to say, you wouldn`t bother to lie to conceal it.
O`DONNELL: Professor Shugerman, in the near tense cat (ph), we discovered
that the President had meetings with a wider circle once he had made that
decision. And it wasn`t just White House Counsel who saw the screed;
others saw this.
What happens to those people in the wider circle who were consulted about
this, even those who were advising against the President doing it?
JED SHUGERMAN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: That`s the biggest
question to address, and I think it`s the biggest news of the night. There
are lots of people we suspected before of participating in obstruction of
justice. The biggest name tonight is Vice President Pence, so let me
explain why this timeline puts him in legal jeopardy.
So we know that this letter was drafted on one day. And then after Stephen
Miller came back with that draft, it was read in a room of people,
including Vice President Pence. And when that letter was read, it had,
quote, “The New York Times” talks about a screed, and it identified all of
these other connections to the Russian probe for why they were – why Trump
had decided to fire Jim Comey.
Then after this letter is edited, Mike Pence then tells the media that
Comey – the Comey firing was not connected to the Russian probe, and he
said it was due to Rod Rosenstein`s recommendation. Those are untrue.
Those statements are untrue, and it implicates Mike Pence now in a
combination of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, aiding and
abetting obstruction of justice, and also a relatively less known felony
called misprision of a felony, which is 18 USC Section 4. And it`s not if
– when one has knowledge of a felony and if one conceals and does not make
it known to an – to the legal authorities, one can be guilty of misprision
of a felony.
And also, let`s keep in mind that the Nixon articles of impeachment
included a provision blaming Nixon for misleading or false statements to
the public. Now, that`s not a felony, but it was grounds for impeaching
President Nixon. It may be grounds for an impeachment of Vice President
O`DONNELL: And tonight`s new word for me, because I didn`t go to law
school, is misprision.
Neera Tanden, the trip wires for everyone involved in this case are –
there`s just more of them than they realize. I imagine Mike Pence might be
hearing his possible jeopardy for the first time if he`s listening to the
But all of these people now, all of these people who are named in these
meetings about this, are all witnesses for the Special Prosecutor,
including White House Counsel because White House Counsel does not have an
attorney/client privilege with the President. The President is not his
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Absolutely. You
know, I mean, I think if we really step back here and look at this,
obviously, there are lots of people in the White House who knew what was
really going on, and they all basically lied to the public.
But let`s just say what`s happened here, we have evidence that the
President fired Director Comey because of the Russia investigation.
Everybody knew it was because of the Russia investigation. And then a lot
of people basically conspired to come up with another reason, which was the
They all knew that wasn`t the real reason. They had heard directly from
the President the real reason was because of what he was doing with the
Russia investigation. The President wanted to stop that, that
investigation of himself. And then they came up with an excuse for the
public and an excuse for the media.
And the fact that the White House Counsel and other people around the
President were perfectly comfortable with a lie to the public for the
rationale of this firing, it says to me that they all pretty much knew that
there was illegality here.
You guys, this is how you act when there`s something wrong. You come up
with a cover. And this whole episode is a bunch of people coming up with a
O`DONNELL: In the Nixon White House, we had John Dean, among others, crack
and tell the truth about what he experienced in the Nixon cover-up.
[22:10:01] Let`s listen to the first person in the Trump White House who
cracked and apparently told the truth about why James Comey was fired. He
actually told that truth to Lester Holt on video in the White House. Let`s
listen to this witness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made a recommendation.
But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there
was no good time to do it.
And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you
know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It`s an
excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Frum, that will surely be an exhibit or being certainly
maintained as an exhibit at this point in the files of the Special
Prosecutor. Whether it`s ever used in court is another matter, but there`s
Donald Trump basically turning in Donald Trump.
FRUM: Well, to lift this out of the legalities into the politics a little
bit, that incident that is so beautifully quoted there illustrates, I
think, a problem that all of us have in being – in responding to all of
this appropriately, which is Donald – because Donald Trump lies all the
time, because he`s lost so much credibility, when his White House tells
lies, people don`t – are not actually fooled.
No one actually ever believed for even 30 seconds that this all happened
because of Rod Rosenstein. No one ever believed that story. So we`ve lost
the capacity to be offended and shocked if the story turns out not to be
true because we weren`t fooled, therefore it was – you know, we don`t feel
like we were deceived. And therefore, we don`t have the anger against the
lie that we should.
The lie, however, remains a lie. And it remains hugely improper for a
President to do, even if the President had already, by then, so trashed his
reputation that no one was ever fooled for a moment.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman –
TANDEN: Can I just say –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Neera. Yes.
TANDEN: Sorry. Just, I mean, the issue here is, of course, none of us
trust – I mean, I don`t trust President Trump in any – in the things he
says. But the issue here is that he – they all came up with an
They were, at least for a period, trying to explain this and to offer, you
know, another explanation that wasn`t illegal, that wouldn`t have bought an
obstruction of justice charge. The fact that Don McGahn recognized that
the screed basically condemned the President tells us that his screed was
an issue that the Special Prosecutor should be obviously examining as
obstruction of justice.
O`DONNELL: Professor Shugerman, what are the prosecutors looking for in
that screed that they have – they now possess and may have possessed for
quite a while?
SHUGERMAN: Well, let me just note that, for all of Trump`s lies, he has
already confessed, as you just showed, with Lester Holt, to the basic – I
mean he told the truth to Lester Holt, that he fired Jim Comey because of
the Russia investigation.
I mean that could be the Nixon articles of impeachment right there, so
we`ll pause there and just note that. And also keep in mind that he also
said in his letter explaining the firing of Jim Comey, he said, while I
appreciate you telling me on three separate times that I wasn`t under
investigation, I nevertheless am firing you.
That`s an amazing non sequitur confession. I mean, it`s – the first part
of that sentence explained what he was really thinking about, which is,
thanks for telling me I was in investigation.
Now, we find out what the letter – and this is what you`re asking,
Lawrence. What Mueller is looking at is the rest of the screed there,
which is President Trump wanted Jim Comey to tell the public that Trump was
not under investigation. And really, what Trump wanted was to stay not
under investigation and that`s why he fired Jim Comey. So that`s pretty –
that`s amazingly significant.
I do also want to be clear, there`s another news event today or yesterday
that President Trump`s lawyers had met with Robert Mueller and tried to
make the argument that because a President has the power to fire an FBI
Director, this can`t be obstruction of justice. That basic argument is so
wrong that it shows why there`s so little that the Trump lawyers have to
A president has the power to order a military strike. But if the President
is ordering that military strike with the intent of, let`s say, killing
someone who slept with his wife, that`s still murder.
A president can pardon someone. But if the President pardons someone
because he received a million dollar bribe, that`s still a felony of
Just because the President has the power to do something, it doesn`t mean
that it excuses any exercise of that power because intent matters.
O`DONNELL: Professor Jed Shugerman and Neera Tanden, thank you for joining
us tonight. David, please stick around.
Coming up, as we reported last night, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is
using IRS agents from the criminal investigation division of the IRS.
These are the IRS super agents, the A-team. You don`t want them on your
case. This – there is probably nothing about Robert Mueller`s
investigation that scares Donald Trump more than having these IRS agents on
[22:15:09] A former director of the IRS criminal investigations division
will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m not releasing tax returns because, as you know, they`re under
audit. You learn very little from a tax return. What you should do is go
down to federal elections and take a look at the numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The IRS` best agents are on the case as Betsy Woodruff of “The
Daily Beast” reported to us here last night. Special Prosecutor Robert
Mueller has now added special agents from the IRS criminal investigation
division to his team investigating President Trump and his campaign
associates, including his family.
Measured strictly in terms of money, IRS auditors are the most valuable
players in government. Senior auditors working on the biggest cases are
paid close to $150,000 per year. And on average, they each find and
collect, for the government, $19 million per year in tax revenue that the
government was never going to see if those IRS auditors didn`t find it.
Of course, hating the IRS is an article of faith in Republican politics and
cutting the IRS budget is a Republican favorite. And no Republican is
going to want to cut the IRS budget more than Donald Trump now that the IRS
super agents from the criminal investigation division are working with
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Joining us now, Martin Sheil, former branch chief of the IRS criminal
investigation division. He spent 30 years at the IRS.
Mr. Sheil, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And tell me what
the – what this means to the investigation, that Robert Mueller has your
old team on the case.
MARTIN SHEIL, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION AGENT, INTERNAL
REVENUE SERVICES: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me
here, Lawrence. It`s a great compliment, and I appreciate the offer to be
What it means, in a nutshell, is that the finest financial investigators in
the world are now focusing on members of the Trump organization and
possibly Trump himself. You know, there is now a change of the focus of
the original counterintelligence investigation. It`s now morphed into a
[22:20:03] And, you know, certainly, FBI has some tremendous people
involved in doing their financial investigations, but IRS criminal
investigators focus only on doing financial investigations. They don`t do
much of anything else.
You know, they do some things like, you know, identity fraud and computer
forensics and things like these, but there are 2,200 agents focused on
doing financial investigations, focusing on tax fraud, money laundering,
and Bank Secrecy Act violations.
So this would be an indication that Mr. Mueller and his team think that
there`s a real good possibility that there may be some potential financial
violations along the lines of tax violations, money laundering, and
One thing I`d like to point out is that while many federal agencies have
the authority to investigate money laundering, IRS is the only agency that
has the authority to pursue criminal tax violations. So that`s an
And just to point out to the quality of their CIS investigations, since
1919 when the intelligence unit was established, which turned into C.I.
around 1978, they – C.I. has had a success rate, a conviction rate, of
over 90 percent every single year since 1919. In fiscal year 2014, I
believe the conviction rate was 93.4 percent.
So when Criminal Investigation comes after you, they`re going to do a very
thorough, comprehensive financial investigation. And if I was on the other
end of that, I would be – I would be pretty nervous.
O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about one of –
SHEIL: The whole idea here of –
O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about one of the people who is on the other end of
it, Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: And the documents he doesn`t want any of us to ever see, his
O`DONNELL: Is it a fair assumption that the Special Prosecutor has his tax
returns now and those agents are studying them?
SHEIL: You know, that`s a rebuttable presumption. I don`t know, to answer
your question. Certainly, if IRS is involved, it is much easier to obtain
the tax returns from Mr. Trump than –
O`DONNELL: How do they obtain them? Is there any need for a court order?
Is it just automatic that any of these agents can obtain them?
SHEIL: No. Well, you know, special agents can apply – can obtain them
through the service center. But, you know, in special circumstances,
certain designated, you know, sensitive type areas like the President of
the United States, that`s going to require authorization right up the
ladder, you know, so.
Now, the point – one important point here is if it was just the FBI
investigating Mr. Trump and they wanted to see Mr. Trump`s tax returns,
they would have to get a court order, an ex parte or what is called a 6(e)
the U.S. Attorney will get a judge to sign off on it.
That used to be – years ago, when I started, that used to be a simple one
or two-paragraph form letter, but that 6(e) now has morphed into pretty
much like a search warrant affidavit where you have to establish almost
probable cause to show the connection of the tax returns to your
investigation and to the potential criminal violation.
So it`s certainly a lot easier to have IRS involved to get the tax returns,
but there are still internal hurdles that they have to jump over to get
them. But it`s a lot easier, much easier, so.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight. Martin
Sheil, thank you for joining us tonight. We`re going to have – I think
we`re going to need you more as this investigation continues. Thank you
very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SHEIL: Thank you so much for inviting me.
Coming up, millions of people are in the grip of fear this long weekend in
America, not because of a natural disaster, but because of Donald Trump`s
threat to deport 800,000 young people who have grown up in this country and
call it home. They will find out on Tuesday if Donald Trump is going to do
everything he can to ruin their lives as he has promised to do.
[22:24:28] And later, a special last word on this summer of Trump.
O`DONNELL: The President has made this holiday weekend an agonizing three
days for millions of people by threatening to deport 800,000 young people
known as Dreamers who came to this country as children and babies and who
do not have citizenship in this country.
The millions of relatives, mothers, fathers, younger siblings of these kids
who were born in this country are terrified this weekend that the Dreamers
they`re related to, their loved ones, will be deported.
The White House let it be known today that the President will announce his
decision on Tuesday on whether to end the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program, what`s known as DACA, created by President Obama, that
allows those 800,000 people who consider themselves Americans to remain in
Imagine the agony of living through this weekend with your fate in the
hands of the most uncaring President of the United States that we`ve ever
had. Those 800,000 young people have never seen such an uncaring person in
the White House in their lifetimes.
Some Republicans are worried both about the cruelty of the policy and the
political price that their party might pay if the President does carry out
his threat to deport all of the 800,000.
Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake tweeted today, Congress needs to take
immediate action to protect DACA kids.
Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, the senior-most Republican in the
United States Senate, said in a statement, I`ve urged the President not to
rescind DACA, an action that would further complicate a system in serious
need of a permanent legislative solution.
Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was able to find his voice this time to
say the President should not deport these kids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: Yes. I mean, I actually don`t think he should do that,
and I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.
[22:29:59] These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here
by their parents, and don`t know another home. And so I really do believe
that there needs to be a legislative solution. That`s one that we`re
And I think we want to give people peace of mind. And so I`ve had plenty
of conversations with the White House about this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is what candidate Donald Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The executive order gets rescinded.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: You`ll rescind –
TRUMP: One good thing about –
TODD: You`ll rescind that one too?
TRUMP: One good thing about –
TODD: You`ll rescind the Dream Act executive order, the DACA?
TRUMP: We`re going to have to. We have to make a whole new set of
standards. And when people come in, they have to come in with –
TODD: So you`re going to split up families?
TRUMP: Chuck –
TODD: You`re going to deport children?
TRUMP: Chuck – no, no. We`re going to keep the families together. We
have to keep the families together, but they have to go. But –
TODD: But you`re going to kick them out?
TRUMP: They have to go.
TODD: What if they have no place to go?
TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is what President Trump said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should dreamers be worried?
TRUMP: We love the Dreamers. We love everybody. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Maria Teresa Kumar, the president and CEO of
Voto Latina and an MSNBC contributor. Also joining us, Marielena Hincapie,
the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
And, Maria Teresa, we get mixed signals from the President. One is a very,
very clear statement that he said during the campaign, which is all of them
must go. All of them.
And then we`ve gotten these signals, you can call them, like this thing he
said today, we love the Dreamers. We`ve heard that kind of signal from him
before that, possibly, could give some people hope.
How do you translate all of this?
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: It`s almost like
Judas` kiss. You don`t want him to be – beloved by him. But in all
seriousness, when we`re talking about the Dreamers, we`re talking about
800,000 people that are in a federal database that trusted the government,
that came out of the shadows, and are now doing right by the law. It`s
almost as if the government wants to now (INAUDIBLE) a government contract
and say not anymore.
And what we fear – and Marielena will chime in there, but what we fear is
that what he`ll do is that he will actually sunset. So individuals that
are right now on DACA, their – more than likely, their status will sunset
for the next year or two and new folks will not be able to come out of the
shadows and, again, do right by the law.
But to put it in perspective, Lawrence, you have roughly 60,000 young
Dreamers right now in the city of Houston. If he were to rescind this act,
the DACA Act, we`re talking about 10,000 kids a week that, all of a sudden,
become undocumented overnight without an opportunity to continue
contributing to their family or to their community.
We have an average of these individuals that are not only contributing
happily to the economy themselves, but they belong to close to 6 million
American mixed status families. This not going to be easy.
And the reason the DACA young people are fighting and they`re fighting
strong, not just because this is the only country they believe in that
they`ve been able to demonstrate their patriotism, but fighting for a
system and a country that they actually see as their future. And they
believe that the better angels will find us to really make sure that we`re
doing right by them.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at how the country feels about this. This is
an NBC News poll this week on the opinion on DACA.
Do you support or oppose the DACA policy? Support, 64 percent; oppose, 30
And, Marielena, there aren`t a lot of issues you can poll in this country,
political issues, that get 64 percent agreement in favor of it.
MARIELENA HINCAPIE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER:
No. I mean, I think the great thing about this program, Lawrence, is it`s
been in place for five years, and it`s been a resounding success.
The 800,000 young immigrants who are part of this program who have been
able to thrive, who have been able to support themselves, their families,
contribute to their communities, 75 percent of them are working in the top
25 Fortune 500 companies. They are – 97 percent of them are working or in
school. They`re contributing so much.
And they finally are being recognized by this country and have had work
authorization for the last five years, and Donald Trump is about to pull
the rug underneath from them. It`s torture.
What you were saying at the beginning, this week has been so surreal.
Though everything is changing from moment to moment, the fact that this
President can`t make one of the most – easiest decisions that is
politically in his favor to say, we`re going to do the right thing.
It`s not only constitutional, it`s legal, it`s moral, and it`s good for our
economy. This should be an easy decision for him. But instead, he is
giving in to his base, which we know has anti-immigrant fervor.
O`DONNELL: And, Maria Teresa, we`re not talking about just 800,000 people
affected by this.
O`DONNELL: I mean, you deport a college student, you deport a little
league player, that – every one of those kids has relatives here already,
so you`re crushing that whole family. You`re crushing the friends of these
kids, United States citizens` friends, that could include a lot of these
[22:35:00] This is millions and millions of people, have a loved one, a
best friend, that they`re worried about this weekend because of this
KUMAR: Well, and just – and in large part, it`s because he has never been
– he is not a president who is clear, and there`s not a purpose. And this
is why it`s an incredible opportunity for Congress, the Republican-led
Congress, to do the right thing, to do right by law, to make sure not only
that is – that there is a replacement, a permanent replacement, because
this was an executive order by the Obama administration because the
Republicans before had failed to act.
Now, they have an opportunity to step up to the plate, show leadership, and
actually provide a permanent solution so that these individuals don`t have
to worry about, year-by-year, whether or not you have a random person
sitting at the White House that has their fate in their hands. And more
importantly, they also have an opportunity to clean the slate and say, this
is – these are the values that we hold dear as Americans.
Most people don`t realize that the reason that we have so many undocumented
people in this country was because, 40, 50 years ago, we didn`t have
immigration laws that took this long, that we actually had a freer flow of
immigrants. And there`s a really interesting study done that we only need
as many immigrants – the basic laws of supply and demand, Lawrence, that
only the immigrants that we actually need will come.
But because we have archaic, non-modernized immigration systems, we have
these young people stuck in the shadows. And we are actually now having to
reckon with not only who we are as the soul of our country, but also what
is the country that we actually want a place for in the future.
O`DONNELL: And, Marielena, there`s a flurry of tweets today by Republican
members of Congress saying, I`ve got a bill ready to go. We want to –
they want to legislate a fix to this. They want to take this – they want
to fix it. Many Republicans want to fix this for these Dreamers so that
the President won`t be able to touch it.
HINCAPIE: That`s right. And I think, Lawrence, it`s because of the
polling that you showed. If you note, we have all diverse parts of civil
society coming out. We have business leaders, educators, faith
communities, people across the country saying, we should not be doing this.
We should not be deporting young immigrants who are contributing to our
country, who are American, except for that piece of paper that the
government hasn`t provided to them.
And so Republicans see the writing on the wall. They know that if they
allow this President to pull the rug out from under DACA, to place these
800,000 young people at the threat of deportation or to actually deport
them, as some of them have been, Republicans know that they need to do
And look, this was a temporary measure. That President Obama used his
executive authority, the same executive authority that every presidential
administration, Republican and Democrat since Eisenhower, has used for the
last 50 years. This is constitutional, but it was temporary.
And so, yes, absolutely, it`s up to Congress now. Both Democratic and
Republican leadership need to step up. And Republicans know that they will
be held accountable if they allow this program to fail and if they allow
these young immigrants to be placed in harm`s way.
O`DONNELL: Marielena Hincapie, thank you for joining us tonight. Really
HINCAPIE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, please stick us for one more conversation.
KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, poorly informed and impulsive was John McCain`s
charitable way of describing Donald Trump in the op-ed piece that John
McCain wrote for “The Washington Post” this week. That`s next.
[22:41:56] O`DONNELL: With Congress on the last weekend of its summer
recess, Senator John McCain has written an op-ed piece in “The Washington
Post” that offers an old-fashioned sort of road map for how to govern.
He writes, Congress will return from recess next week facing continued
gridlock as we lurch from one self-created crisis to another. Congress
must govern with a President who has no experience of public office, is
often poorly informed, and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.
We must, where we can, cooperate with him, but we are not his subordinates.
We don`t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be
diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his
David Frum and Maria Teresa Kumar are back with us for this part of the
And, David, Senator McCain goes on to say, we should go back to, what he
called, regular order. That`s something he said a couple of times in his
first speech back after he was diagnosed with brain cancer on the Senate
floor. He was speaking about healthcare, and you need to go through
regular order, which is the process that actually forces compromise between
FRUM: Regular order, I think, here is also a metaphor for a larger sense
of regularity. Remember, last week, the President went to John McCain`s
own state, threw down a gauntlet of power.
He`s attempting – the President is attempting to interfere in an internal
Republican primary in John McCain`s own state. John McCain is the Senior
Republican there. He would expect some consultation and respect, and he
was shown none.
This is a quarrel that goes back a long time, all the way back to President
Trump`s preference of people who are not POWs. He likes the guys who don`t
get captured. And I think you see here the beginning of John McCain
emerging as a much more powerful voice than he has been until now – or,
I`m sorry, since beginning with the healthcare vote, of course.
KUMAR: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Let`s take a look at what David just referred to,
President Trump in Arizona talking about john McCain in what was
deliberately a very insulting way to this Arizona crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: ObamaCare is a disaster, and think. Think! We were just one vote
away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and
replace. One vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential,
isn`t it? Very presidential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, John McCain clearly not afraid of Donald Trump
and not afraid to hit back at him after that kind of speech.
KUMAR: Well, and what John McCain was able to do today in the op-ed is to
crystallize more importantly that the congressional members, the Congress
itself, is on equal footing with the President, that they have to stand up
for the institutions that they serve, for the people that they serve.
[22:45:01] What Donald Trump missed completely in that oration that he gave
in Arizona was that the reason that the healthcare bill fell was not only
because of those individuals that went and cast a vote against it, but more
importantly the people, the American people, the voters that were showing
up daily at the congressional offices, that were showing up in the district
offices, that were marching in the streets, that were making phone calls
and saying, let`s be diligent.
So when we are talking about saving the government, which is basically what
John McCain was talking about, asking his fellow Republicans and his
Democrats to say that we cannot fail – we cannot – we cannot forget that
the reason that they are governing is for the American people, for the
institution, and for this aspiration of a perfect democracy, even if right
now what we`re facing in the White House is someone that is out of our
traditional political sandbox. That they have to hold strong and they have
to make sure that they`re holding that President accountable.
And it`s also talking about, for so long, people have said that being a
civil servant, an elected official, was easy. What we`re finding, that it
is actually a skill, that we actually have to make sure that we are
electing people who are qualified, who understand the nuance and appreciate
the constitution and the checks and balances of our government, and who
want to make sure that these institutions are strong long after whoever is
elected is held in office.
O`DONNELL: I don`t want to leave this subject without noting that John
McCain went out of his way in this op-ed piece – it`s almost two op-ed
pieces. There`s another section of it that`s pretty much – it`s his
reaction to Charlottesville where he, very specifically, makes it clear
that there weren`t good people on both sides of that argument there.
And there`s one line where he says, most of us share Heather Heyer`s
values, not the depravity of the man who took her life. And you can tell
that that section of the piece is aimed directly at President Trump and his
equating of the two sides to the extent that he did.
We`re going to have to take a break here.
Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
David Frum, stay with us when we come back. Thank you.
KUMAR: Thank you, Lawrence.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, another month has passed in the Trump presidency,
and we`re not sure how many more months the Trump presidency has.
[22:50:40] O`DONNELL: And so another month that felt like a year in the
Trump presidency comes to a close. And like every other month, at the end
of the month in the Trump presidency, it feels like the strangest month of
all. Here is a look at the hottest month yet in Trump world, August 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?
North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will
be met with fire and fury.
I say, very simply, where is repeal and replace?
Mitch, get to work and let`s get it done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any response to Russian President?
TRUMP: No. I want to thank him because we`re trying to cut down on
We have many options for Venezuela. I`m not going to rule out a military
We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of
hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.
I think there is blame on both sides.
Not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Believe me.
Was George Washington a slave owner? How about Thompson Jefferson?
Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his
Mr. Bannon came on very late. We`ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.
I`m not finished, fake news.
I hit them with everything. I got the White supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I
got them all in there. Let`s see. Yes, KKK. We have KKK.
Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe? I`ll make a prediction. I
think he is going to be just fine.
I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe. Actually, in the middle of a
hurricane, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be
We won`t say congratulations. We`ll congratulate each other when it`s all
What a crowd, a turnout.
Can I say Missouri or should I say Missouri?
Do you want to take one more? Would you want to take one more? Go ahead,
SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: What? Oh –
TRUMP: Go ahead.
NIINISTO: Please. Let –
TRUMP: Again? You`re going to give her the same one?
NIINISTO: No, she is not the same lady.
TRUMP: Another one. Go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, with one summer down in the Trump presidency, we`re not
sure tonight how many more summers to go. Maybe three, maybe not.
David Frum will be back with us after a break on the summer of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:56:32] 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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that was judged by many to be the President`s worst moment
in the month of August. Back with us, David Frum.
And, David, worth noting that the Gallup tracking poll today has the
President, today, at his highest disapproval level in the Gallup tracking
poll yet, 61 percent, and at his lowest approval level yet in the Gallup
daily tracking poll of 34 percent. So August has left him at the bottom of
FRUM: Here is a way to take us a longer-term view on what is happening to
this number. Since the first of June, the President has had exactly one
day where he was north of 40 percent in the Gallup poll. Zero days in
August, zero days in July.
Back in the spring, he would have a number of days, sometimes as many as a
third of the month, where he would be above 40. So this is like – it is -
- as you say, it`s a line. It bobs up and down, but the trend is pretty
sinister for him.
And this – and as you say, August seems to have been really an epic, where
a big part of the country turned off the set. And I don`t think it`s going
O`DONNELL: And when you see that today`s daily tracking poll is an all-
time low for him, this comes after his performance – which, I guess, is
the right word, his performance in the aftermath of the hurricane.
FRUM: Well, you also see a lot of signs of slowing American economy. Job
creation numbers come in. They continue to be positive and everybody
welcomes that, but they`re not growing as fast as they were. The American
economy is bumping up into some resistance.
And the number that the President keeps pointing to, the stock market, the
broader indexes – Standard & Poor`s, not Dow Jones – not looking so good.
A lot of up market Republicans are getting a little nervous about that.
And the prospects for the tax reform that – are the thing that so many
Republicans have been biting their tongue in order to get, that doesn`t
look good because the differences between House and Senate and White House
are very substantial. And without presidential leadership to bring the
different factions of Republicans together, it`s possible that the whole
thing could fail the way healthcare reform and repeal failed.
O`DONNELL: And, David, we showed a focus group, an NBC focus group, this
week in Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania that had about five Trump – had five
Trump voters in it out of a dozen people. And those five Trump voters were
all disappointed. They all said disappointed. None of them offered
anything in any positive descriptions of the President.
O`DONNELL: The only neutral one was the word unique. But they said things
like crazy. They said the kind of words that you hear from Clinton
supporters talking about Trump at this point.
FRUM: They were supposed to be bulldozers in the ground. There were
supposed to be things being built. There was supposed to be a real
tightening in the job market, especially for blue-collar men. There were
supposed – things were supposed to be more different from the way they
were in the past.
You know, one of the things, we all now know how the Trump story went.
Remember, for a lot of people for whom politics is something they pay
attention to some of the time, the Donald Trump they knew was the one –
the character they saw from “The Apprentice,” not only the great
businessman but the man who held people to account, who said you are fired.
And this is an administration that can`t hold itself to account.
[23:00:06] O`DONNELL: David Frum gets tonight`s last word. David, thanks
for joining us.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: “THE 11TH HOUR” starts now.
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