The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 9/4/17 Congress returns to shutdown threat

Guests:
Indira Lakshmanan, David Jolly, Jonathan Allen, Bill Moyers, Prudence Gourguechon, George F. Will, Ben Trachtenberg
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: September 4, 2017

Guest: Indira Lakshmanan, David Jolly, Jonathan Allen, Bill Moyers,
Prudence Gourguechon, George F. Will, Ben Trachtenberg


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Lawyers are up next. LAST WORD with Lawrence
O`Donnell, starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t believe that any
president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or
seven months. I really don`t believe it.

GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: It`s a completely sterile
presidency.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER, SENATE: Our new president of
course has not been in this line of work before.

TRUMP: I`m very disappointed in Mitch.

MCCONNELL: And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things
happen.

TRUMP: Now I want tax reform, and I want a very big infrastructure bill.
We have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don`t think a government shutdown is necessary.

MCCONNELL: There is zero chance, no chance we won`t raise the debt
ceiling.

TRUMP: Mitch, get to work and let`s get it done.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are not the president`s subordinates.
We are his equal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re at a point where there needs to be radical
changes take place at the White House itself.

BILL MOYERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everything antagonizes
him. He`s constantly at war with everybody.

WILL: He`s a bull who carries his China shop around with him.

(LAUGHTER)

MOYERS: This man does not seem to me to have what we would normally think
of as a soul. He has an open sore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: It has been a rough year so far
for the Trump presidency, and Congress returns to work tomorrow to a series
of crushing deadlines.

Congress must raise the federal debt ceiling by September 29th. The next
day, funding for the government runs out unless Congress passes a budget
before that.

The congressional budget office says that if the debt ceiling is not
raised, the United States will default on its debt.

And now Congress needs to pass a hurricane relief bill that no one saw
coming, possibly the largest hurricane relief bill they`ve ever passed.

Here`s what the president said about an aid bill for Hurricane Harvey
victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think that you`re going to see very rapid action from Congress,
certainly from the president.

And you`re going to get your funding. We expect to have requests on our
desk fairly soon, and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I
feel in a very bipartisan way, that will be nice.

But we think you`re going to have what you need, and it`s going to go fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this situation make you reconsider the possibility
of a government shutdown next –

TRUMP: I think it has nothing to do with it really, I think this is
separate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Before Hurricane Harvey, the president threatened to shut down
the government over funding for his border wall with Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we`re building
that wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This is what Trump said three days after Hurricane Harvey hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Tuesday, you said if we have to close down our
government, we are building that wall.

TRUMP: Well, I hope that`s not necessary –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico is paying for the wall, why would we close down
our government –

TRUMP: Let me just tell you – yes, I hope that`s not necessary. If it`s
necessary, we`ll have to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Indira Lakshmanan; Washington columnist for the
“Boston Globe”, she`s the chair in journalism ethics at the Pointer
Institute for Media Studies.

Also with us, Jonathan Allen; author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary
Clinton`s Doomed Campaign”.

And joining us David Jolly; former Republican congressman from Florida.
Indira, the president can`t possibly go into September threatening a
government shutdown.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST, BOSTON GLOBE: I think he`s doing
that to put pressure on Congress to get money for his wall because he knows
that the optics of not raising the debt ceiling at a time when Texas
desperately needs money for Hurricane Harvey relief is impossible.

But at the same time, I think he hasn`t calculated that many people, even
strong supporters of Donald Trump within Congress.

Like Representative Mark Meadows, who`s the chair of the House Freedom
Caucus have said, oh, absolutely we`re going to pass money for Hurricane
Harvey relief, but that doesn`t mean we have to tie it to Donald Trump`s
border wall funding.

So I don`t think the president is necessarily going to be able to ride on
the coattails of Harvey relief in the way that he seems to have calculated
that he can.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, it looks like a legislative hurricane coming for
the House Republicans, Senate Republicans in September.

What are they going to do?

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Yes, Lawrence, and this is personal for
me. I served on the Appropriations Committee before I was in Congress.

I was on staff. I`ve lived through Katrina and I`ve been on all of these
relief packages. In September, we have three issues.

We have the debt limit increase, which is separate from the end of year
funding, September 30th, which is separate from flood insurance
reauthorization at the end of September.

And so all those have to be resolved, and what we are wrestling with, and
while this is not a time to really talk politics even in the aftermath of
Houston, September will involve politics, and we are wrestling with a
president who in his first six months has failed to establish leadership
and credibility going into this debate.

The truth is, this president`s budget has underfunded so many of the
accounts that are responsible for taking care of the victims of Harvey, and
we can`t separate those two.

I think this gives Republicans a bit of breathing room on the Hill, they
will be a little hypocritical in coming up with a solution to keep the
government open and fund Harvey.

But at the end of the day, conservatives will lose on their convictions in
this debate.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, it seems strategically that House and Senate
leadership will want to package all of this as just one moving legislative
vehicle, debt ceiling, budget, Hurricane Harvey all together so that if you
want to vote for Hurricane Harvey relief, you have to vote for the other
things that the leadership needs to get done.

JONATHAN ALLEN, AUTHOR: Yes, that`s what I`ve been hearing. And I – you
know, it`s just a simple math exercise, Lawrence.

The number of Republicans in the Texas delegation in the House, plus the
number of Democrats, all of whom will be supportive of Harvey funding is
more than a majority of the House members.

So the freedom caucus is not going to have a lot of leverage on a Harvey
spending bill. I mean, you have a majority just out of those two sets.

One thing, though, that I think is interesting is before Harvey hit, there
was an assumption that what Donald Trump was doing was threatening an
either/or situation with the wall or a government shutdown in which there
was some trade off there.

I think there are a lot of people in President Trump`s base who saw wall
funding and the government shutdown as good options.

Remember Ted Cruz in 2013 basically forced a government shutdown against
the wishes of Republicans in Washington, and that launched his political
career within the conservative movement, made him a viable presidential
contender in 2016.

I think that Harvey changes that calculus. I think the most likely
scenario here is that you get some sort of government funding extension,
maybe not for the full year in terms of the basic functions of government.

Hard to shut them down in the middle of a hurricane. The optics of that
are bad even if you`re funding the pieces that go to Hurricane relief.

You`ll get Harvey funding and also see some sort of debt limit increase.

O`DONNELL: And Indira, there`s now a new argument in what will be the
budget debate. Democrats want to increase spending on X will be accused of
trying to take money away from Harvey victims.

Republicans who want to cut spending or raise spending on something else
will be accused of taking money away from Harvey victims.

LAKSHMANAN: Look, there`s always a lot of accusations that fly in both
directions. Let`s not forget that many of the prominent Texas Republicans
who now want relief for their own state are the same men who voted against
relief for Hurricane Sandy.

That hasn`t been forgotten. But some of the Republicans in New York and
New Jersey like Representative Peter King have said, well, we`re not going
to – you know, we`re not going to hold a grudge, we`re still going to
support the people of Texas despite the fact that all those Texas
Republicans voted against our relief bill.

I`d just like to point out this is a critical issue. We`re talking about
$3.3 billion that FEMA has in its federal disaster relief funding.

We`re talking about how Hurricane Sandy needed $50 billion, and Katrina got
over $100 billion in relief.

I mean, Sheila Jackson Lee; the Democrat from Houston has asked for $150
billion, I don`t think that`s really realistic in the near future.

But I do think they`re going to have to talk about significant money.
We`re hearing from Wall Street estimates of tens of billions of dollars in
destruction from this 500-year flooding.

So I think it`s not realistic for the president to think as I said earlier,
that he`s going to be able to just tack on whatever else he wants.

Hurricane funding is going to go through, Senator Mitch McConnell said
there`s no way that we`re not going to raise the debt ceiling.

But let`s not forget, Lawrence, the latest polling shows that fewer than 4
in 10 Americans support the president`s proposal for a Mexican border wall.

And that means that only – you know, that means almost six in ten oppose
it. So the president is sticking by his guns here, but let`s not forget he
promised Mexico was going to pay for it.

So I think it`s kind of hard for him to go back on that and insist that the
American people should support something that only a minority of Americans
actually want.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, I think the action in the Senate is going to be
relatively simple compared to the House.

Mitch McConnell and –

JOLLY: It will be –

O`DONNELL: Chuck Schumer know how to get together on a package –

JOLLY: Sure –

O`DONNELL: Like this that would include debt ceiling, budget, hurricane
relief. The House is a whole different ball game.

You have members there who will not want to vote. They`ll want to vote on
hurricane relief as a separate item.

They will want to vote on the budget as a separate item so that they can
have their separate arguments about it, and they will very much want a vote
on the debt ceiling as a separate item.

How does Paul Ryan pull it off?

JOLLY: Sure, so Lawrence, this is where reasonable Republicans get very
angry tonight, and this is – and all commentators are right.

To Jonathan`s point, the Texas delegation is larger than the freedom caucus
delegation. But listen, I fought those fights and it was the conservatives
in the House who fought against mitigation efforts, who fought against
flood insurance reform.

Who fought against funding for climate change. It`s those very
conservatives from Texas who are now going to be asking for help.

And why we are careful in our politics coming out of Houston and we should
be. The reality going into September in a budget fight is there`s going to
be a lot of political hypocrisy.

At the end of the day I think what happens is all of these disaster
accounts create an opportunity for conservatives to say, we`re going to
keep the government open because we need disaster funding because of
Houston and because of Harvey.

And maybe they punt the harder debate to the debt limit increase and find
some way to declare victory on a spending reform that really means nothing.

But they can isolate the two. They can say, we`ve got to keep the
government open. For the first time, conservatives in years are going to
fight to keep the conservative – the government actually open, and they`ll
punt the real political debate that you`ll hear on talk radio to the debt
limit increase.

They`ll find a way hypocritically to declare success, but it`s not actually
going to be a success because at the end of the day they`re going to raise
the debt ceiling, it`s going to be a clean lift.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Allen, it`s not like it`s a simple scenario for
Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. They`ve got some interesting choices to
make.

ALLEN: They will have interesting choices to make. I think that they are
generally pretty strong on the idea of spending money on disaster relief.

In fact, if you ask House Democrats right now, they would like to see the
government forward fund disaster relief, essentially to have a much larger
standing account for this kind of stuff.

They are going to want to see spending for next year, but they`re not going
to want to see wall funding.

And she`s got a lot of leverage there on things that Republicans will want
to put in a year-long appropriations bill along with the Harvey funding.

So, it will be interesting to see how she handles this. You know, the one
thing that you`ve always got to keep in mind is that Nancy Pelosi more than
any other leader in my time covering the House of Representatives has
command of her caucus at times like this.

They will do what she ask them to do.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen, David Jolly, Indira Lakshmanan, thank you very
much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

ALLEN: Take care, Lawrence –

JOLLY: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Up next, an exclusive cable news interview with Bill Moyers.
He grew up in Texas, became Lyndon Johnson`s White House press secretary
and is now a journalist with unique insights on this tumultuous first year
of the Trump presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOYERS: During the campaign last year, I kept thinking that Donald Trump
has given a big bull horn to some of the most malevolent furies in American
life. I`ve now decided he is the malevolent fury.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC: I`m Milissa Rehberger, here are your top
stories. DACA supporters filled downtown Los Angeles streets today.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will hold a briefing tomorrow on the program
that gives temporary legal status to nearly 800,000 immigrant children.

Senior officials tell Nbc News that the president is leaning toward ending
the Obama era policy with a six-month implementation delay.

Speaker Paul Ryan says DACA should be fixed by Congress. That six-month
postponement could give the House and Senate time to revamp that program.

THE LAST WORD continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Was George Washington a slave owner? So Will George Washington now
lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me.

Are we going to take down – are we going to take down statues to George
Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas
Jefferson? You like him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do love Thomas Jefferson –

TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a
major slave owner. Now are we going to take down his statue?

So you know what? It`s fine. You`re changing history, you`re changing
culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Trump tweeted, “sad to see the history and culture of
our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful
statues and monuments.

You can`t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee,
Stonewall Jackson. Who is next? Washington, Jefferson, so foolish.

Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will
be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced.”

Of course, every confederate statue could be replaced by a statue to a
soldier or a distinguished general who actually fought in battle for the
United States of America instead of against the United States of America.

There are hundreds of war heroes on the union side of the civil war or
World War II who have never been recognized with statues in the United
States.

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers is a son of the south. He was born in
Oklahoma, he grew up in Marshall, Texas, he later worked in politics and
government, serving both in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

He was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. When the president
signed the Civil Rights Act in July of 1964.

On the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, Bill Moyers said this about Donald
Trump`s original political lie, the lie about President Obama`s birth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOYERS: He rode to power on the wings of a dark lie. One of the most
malignant and ugly lies in American history. We must never forget it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Bill Moyers; Peabody award-winning journalist.
He served as President Johnson`s press secretary from 1965 to 1967.

Bill, there are so many things I want to cover with you. But I want to
just start with, you are someone who had that job, press secretary.

You stood at that podium in that briefing room. What is it like for you
when you watch what happens in that room now, that room that was a sacred
place for you?

MOYERS: Well, it was a sacred place, but we committed a lot of sins.

O`DONNELL: Sure.

MOYERS: In that sacred place. We were not perfect. Now, I was not a
perfect press secretary, Lyndon Johnson was not a perfect president when he
came to disposing to the press.

But he never asked me to lie. Sometimes I lied, I`m sure in contradicting
something that he had said or I had said.

But when I became press secretary against my will, my father sent me a
telegram. He`s an everyday working man in east Texas (INAUDIBLE).

He sent me a telegram saying, “Bill, tell the truth if you can, but if you
can`t tell the truth, don`t tell a lie.”

O`DONNELL: Yes –

MOYERS: That`s what I tried –

O`DONNELL: Yes –

MOYERS: To do. But as I`ve often joked, our credibility was so bad, we
couldn`t believe our own leaks. Today, I must say we were better than they
were by any means, but we made an effort not to deliberately deceive the
public.

And now, it`s just one lie coming out after another. I don`t believe they
have the capacity or the freedom under this president to speak the truth.

O`DONNELL: You struggled with the first presidency in the modern age that
was embattled in an unpopular war, which is what made all of your struggles
in that briefing room were pretty much all about that.

This is – this is a different struggle that we`re seeing. This is a
president who is the struggle. The White House staff`s struggle is with
the president himself.

MOYERS: You know, Lawrence, when – during the campaign last year, I kept
thinking that Donald Trump has given a big bullhorn to some of the most
malevolent furies in American life.

I`ve now decided he is the malevolent fury. Somebody said today he has to
get away from himself. He can`t get away from himself.

This man does not seem to me to have what we would normally think of as a
soul, he has an open sore. Everything antagonizes him.

He`s constantly at war with everybody, and he degrades everything around
him. He is the malevolent fury that is attempting to provide a return to
many of the practices and behaviors that we have spent 250 years
overcoming.

O`DONNELL: You worked for a southern president who signed the Civil Rights
Act and knew politically when he was doing it, and said –

MOYERS: He said –

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: What this would cost him.

MOYERS: He said that evening, I think we`ve just delivered the south to
the Republican Party for my lifetime and yours.

What he meant by that is for 100 years the Democrats had been the protector
of slavery, the defender of slavery and of white power.

Now with the boat coming, the Democrats would move away from that, and the
Republicans would fill the gap.

There would be a white flight to the Democrat – to the Republican Party,
and there was. The Republican Party became the party that promotes racism
and white power in American politics today.

O`DONNELL: The president went from a couple of days ago, saying
confederate monuments are a local decision, local communities should decide
whether they want them or not want them.

Now, today, he`s decided they are absolute national treasures, we must
never touch them, and we can never possibly build any statues as beautiful
as those again to replace them.

MOYERS: The paradox is – I mean, we`ve done that at – the University of
Texas. The confederate statues have been moved to a museum as in fact they
should have been.

But the paradox in what the president is saying is that most of the statues
we`re talking about were built after constructed, erected after 1900,
around the time that Jim Crow laws, the laws of enforcing segregation were
established.

And the terrorism that became Jim Crow was beginning to be enacted against
blacks. It was not to honor the soldiers of the civil war.

It was to remind blacks and whites that this force of the state would still
be used to subjugate them to a different form of slavery.

All of those could come down without affecting history at all, and you
could put them in the museums for teachers and (INAUDIBLE) could explain
why they were put up in the early part of the 1900s.

O`DONNELL: The – but just that eroticism on his part from a couple of
days ago, it`s a local matter, which is kind of a safe – relatively safe
political thing to say, to now coming out today and saying, oh, no, they
must all be saved.

I mean, this is – how is the country supposed to follow a president like
that?

MOYERS: By looking at the consistency of his inconsistency. This is a man
who is unable to finish a sentence in the way he obviously intended it when
he started it –

O`DONNELL: Yes –

MOYERS: Lyndon Johnson was a man of contradictions, Lyndon Johnson could
be as perplexing as Donald Trump was.

But Lyndon Johnson knew what he was doing. He knew government, he loved
government, he knew how to make it work.

And he also knew that if you continually contradicted yourself the way
Trump is doing, as Johnson would do later in Vietnam, you`re destroying
yourself.

And I think that`s what`s happening with Donald Trump, is he`s destroying
himself except with that one-third of the electorate that thinks he can do
no harm.

O`DONNELL: I want to take a look at some stunning magazine covers that
came out from around the world.

We have “The Economist” which shows Donald Trump basically blowing into a
bull horn that is a – looks like a Ku Klux Klan hood.

“Time Magazine” came out with one that puts him in the position of giving
sort of a Hitler salute with the American flag.

We have a couple of others. But these are things – this is the kind of
coverage we have never seen in this country.

MOYERS: Right. You know, the saddest part to me of (INAUDIBLE) bill other
than the death and the injury that occurred was the fact that there`s – in
fact, I saw this on Nbc News last night, the nightly news.

There`s a synagogue there, the Beth Israel synagogue, about 40 or 50 people
come regularly to worship. And during the troubles down there last
weekend, three men armed with AK – with 40 – with automatic rifles stood
across from the synagogue eyeing it suspiciously.

Parades of young men came by with swastikas. They`d say, there is the
synagogue. Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil.

This comes from the rabbi –

O`DONNELL: Yes –

MOYERS: Zimmerman, who told the story on the Nbc last night. And they
were carrying the swastika, the Nazi flag, and I cannot understand how
anyone today can march or salute – march under or salute the Nazi flag
without recognizing what the Nazi regime did to Europe, to the world, and
particularly to six-plus million Jews who were rounded up, murdered, sent
to concentration camps, starved to death, buried alive.

That`s what that swastika flag means to those Jewish congregants in that
synagogue who watched them come by saluting Adolf Hitler.

O`DONNELL: Before we go to this break, I just want to get a word in you,
as a southerner to southerners about these confederate monuments, I mean
they watch people like me, northerners from Boston who couldn`t care less
about these monuments talk about them and want to see them removed.

You supported them being removed from your alma mater`s campus. What would
you say as a southerner to southerners about these monuments and what they
mean now?

MOYERS: That is not your heritage. Your heritage is different from what
happened under slavery. Your heritage – now all of you are free, white
and black are free.

And these monuments are – you said it very well when you began this
discussion. You know, George Washington risked his life to lead an army
whose mission was to create the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson risked his life by writing the declaration. Both were
slave owners. George Washington freed his slaves, Jefferson didn`t.

But they – the statues are commemorating men who fought in and led armies
designed to destroy the United States of America.

And I would say to everybody that the civil war failed. it did not destroy
this union. But the losers kept fighting until they`re still fighting
today.

Let them go, you lost the war, let`s move on.

O`DONNELL: Bill Moyers, thank you for joining us. Up next, is President
Trump mentally fit to be the commander-in-chief?

One psychiatrist says she has figured out what the test should be. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: 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. And we need for him to be
successful. Our nation needs for him to be successful.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: I started talking about the 25th
Amendment two weeks into the Trump presidency when it had become painfully
clear that by any previous behavioral standard applied to the presidency,
Donald Trump was unfit to serve. The 25th amendment allows for the removal
of a president who is, quote, unable to discharge the powers and duties of
his office.

The 25th Amendment leaves it to the vice president to decide when the
president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. It
can be for health reasons. It can be for mental health reasons. It could
be for reasons of corruption or any reason the vice president chooses. The
vice president cannot do this alone. He needs the written agreement of a
majority of the cabinet, and with that the vice president becomes the
acting president as long as the president remains unable to discharge the
powers and duties of his office.

In the weeks and months that have passed since then, no one`s confidence in
President Trump`s ability to discharge the powers and duties of his office
has increased. A month into the Trump presidency, Senator Al Franken
wondered aloud about the president`s sanity, something that no senator had
ever done with a new president.

Psychiatrists and psychologists started going public with their concerns
about the president`s mental stability. Some of them appeared as guests on
this program, and people who knew the president well and had been very
friendly with him for years began to publicly question his mental health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he had a condition or an issue during the campaign,
people close to him say it is now getting very, very troubling and very
worrisome.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: This is a president isolated and out of
control and in decline.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think he`s such a narcissist. It is
possible that he`s mentally ill in a way. He`s not well. At the very
least he`s not well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: When the president attacks Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski,
many more people began to question the president`s health because of the
viciousness of the attack. But there was nothing new stylistically in the
Trump attack. He had been at least that vicious with Rosie O`Donnell years
ago and was equally vicious with Megyn Kelly during the campaign. But the
negative reaction was more intense this time because of all of the
accumulated bursts of Trumpian madness that preceded the attack on Joe and
Mika.

And then came this, a wordless tweet that presumably captured the
president`s frame of mind, his state of mind, about “CNN”.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god, what`s going to happen? Oh, my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The tweet seen round the world. So that created a new burst of
interest in the 25th Amendment and the mental stability of the president of
the United States. It was like a straw breaking a camel`s back. The
world`s strangest Twitter given his position in our government and his
position in the world tweeted one of his strangest tweets after a week in
which his mental health was already being questioned.

What everyone knew the second they saw that tweet about him fighting with
CNN was that the president – that presidents do not do this. That`s
everyone`s first reaction. Presidents do not do this. In a recent piece
in “The Los Angeles Times,” Psychiatrist Prudence Gourguechon considered
President Trump`s fitness to serve using what she calls, the one source
where the capacities necessary for strategic leadership are clearly and
comprehensively laid out. The U.S. Army`s field manual on leadership.

Joining us now, Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
and past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Doctor,
thank you very much for joining us tonight. Run us through why the army
field manual and what it tells us about the president.

DR. PRUDENCE GOURGUECHON, PSYCHIATRIST & PSYCHOANALYST: Thanks for having
me tonight. I was fascinated by the language of the 25th Amendment, and
the idea of how would we determine that a president was unable to carry out
the duties of his office?

And I was – I had the idea a couple months ago that continuing to diagnose
him was not going to go very far because first of all, you can never get
three psychiatrists to agree on a diagnosis. And as “Fox News” just
pointed out the other day, 49 percent of presidents have served with a
mental health diagnosis. So I wanted to develop – I kind of had a – I
imagined Mike Pence in the cabinet, well, how would we decide that this
president can`t carry out his duties?

So I started building a checklist and ended up discovering the army field
manual, which is a fantastic document based on really sound psychiatric and
psychological knowledge going back a century. And it comes up with a set
of criteria, a set of capacities and abilities that a leader with strategic
responsibility has to have. And so I put them into a pocket-size checklist
of five core capacities straight out of the army field manual.

And anybody – you don`t have to be a psychiatrist or a doctor. Any
observant person can take a look at these and say, does Donald Trump meet
these – does he have these capabilities?

O`DONNELL: And you laid out in this op-ed piece those capabilities are
trust, discipline and self-control, judgment and critical thinking, self-
awareness, empathy. And on the discipline and self-control, it`s really
quite striking because one of the things the army field manual identifies
is, for example, viscerally or angrily when receiving bad news or
conflicting information, reacting viscerally –

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: And we recognize Donald Trump in that and pretty much
everything else that the army field manual does not want in leadership.

GOURGUECHON: Exactly. The phrases come out at you and just they`re kind
of stunning when compared to the tweets that you talked about in the
introduction. Also the capacity to anticipate consequences of your
actions, and the army field manual talks about not only does a leader have
to anticipate immediate consequences but secondary and third-degree
consequences. And that one struck me in addition to the lack of
discipline.

And they also tie together. If you don`t have discipline, you can`t think.
You can`t strategize. You can`t plan. And they just – I looked at the
tweet with – about Mika Brzezinski. And it seemed to me that every one of
the criteria was fell short with that one tweet.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Every one of the criteria that would get you knocked out
of a leadership position in the army was met by the president in a single
tweet.

GOURGUECHON: In a single tweet, all five.

O`DONNELL: And here he is commander in chief of that army. The army field
manual is – has been developed, as you say, over the course of about a
century. And as a psychiatrist, how would you evaluate its usefulness
because you make the point that there`s been a lot of studies about various
forms, various kinds of human characteristics, but leadership is not one of
them. Entrepreneurial stuff, business leadership has been written about.
But this kind of leadership has not been written about.

GOURGUECHON: Well, even in business, in the business literature, the basic
capacities of what does it take to be a human being with vast
responsibility for life and fortune of others? Even that in the business
literature is not clearly pulled together in one place. The army field
manual was the only place where I could find where anybody did that. I do
want to correct one thing. I didn`t mean the field manual had been in
existence for 100 years. It does have a long history.

But the background, the psychological and psychoanalytic knowledge that
it`s based on goes back 100 years. But the question is what – how do we
define not mental health, mental illness, but capacity to shoulder enormous
responsibility and the fate of nations? And this document is the only
place I`ve found that really puts that down.

And I think that we`re better off looking at positive attributes of
capacity rather than, oh, does he have this diagnosis or that diagnosis
because not only will there be disagreement, but it`s not – a diagnosis of
– a mental diagnosis does not necessarily disqualify you to be president
as Abraham Lincoln famously was severely depressed at different times in
his life.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.

GOURGUECHON: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Up next, after President Trump`s reaction to the nazi white
supremacist violence in Charlottesville, more Republicans have been talking
about a primary challenge to the president in 2020. The new question seems
to be how many Republicans will run against President Trump. George Will
joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: There has been no reaction from the divider in chief today to
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham`s statement about him this morning. Mr.
President, your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.

Last night on this program, former Republican Congressman David Jolly
predicted that Donald Trump has now divided the Republican Party to the
point that he will have a Republican challenger or challengers in the next
presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: There`s a lot of Republicans thinking
tonight, if I can`t find somebody to run against Donald Trump, I`ll run
against him myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ohio Governor John Kasich was the last man standing against
Donald trump in the last Republican presidential primaries, and on the
“Today” this morning, as soon as the governor was introduced, before he was
asked a single question, John Kasich said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Pathetic, isn`t it? Just pathetic. To not
condemn these people who went there to carry out violence and to somehow
draw some kind of equivalency to somebody else reduces the ability to
totally condemn these hate groups. A president has to totally condemn
this. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-nazis, and
anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a
statement saying we can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred.
There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not
supporters of American ideals and freedoms.

Mitch McConnell`s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was
standing beside Donald Trump yesterday during the press conference with
John Kasich and Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have been
criticizing.

Today, Senator Ted Cruz had no problem saying the kind of thing that Donald
Trump should have said if he had the decency to actually think these
things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President said that both sides were to blame and
seemed to equate the white nationalists with the counter protesters. Do
you agree with that?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You know, the President speaks for himself. The
Klan is evil. They are racist bigots. Nazis are the very face of evil.
Their hatred, their anti-semitism is completely unacceptable. And I think
we should speak unequivocally, condemning their hatred, condemning their
racism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Our next guest is a former Republican who quit the Republican
Party when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination,
Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist, George F. Will joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: This is terrible. The President of the United
States needs to condemn these kind of hate groups. Think about what you
have seen. You know, as one of the reporters said, reminiscent of what we
saw in Germany in the 1930s. The President has to totally condemn this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize Winning
journalist for the Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst.

George, we had Willie Geist, our own Willie Geist reporting via tweet
tonight saying, sources close to John Kasich tell me after Charlottesville,
there is growing sense of “Moral imperative to primary Trump in 2020.” Is
John Kasich likely to be the man to take on an incumbent president within
his own party?

GEORGE F. WILL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not the man. He`ll be among the men
I assume. Ben Sasse in Iowa, Tom Cotton has been in Iowa. And our Tom
Cotton is much sympathetic to Mr. Trump in either Kasich or Sasse. But the
idea that he would be close reelection assuming he is still there and
hasn`t quit in a huff over a rigged system. He was implausible.

O`DONNELL: I was struck by David Jolly on this program last night
basically saying if I have to run against him myself, I will. Those are
almost the exact words that Gene McCarthy said after a – during actually,
privately during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 1967 when
the undersecretary of state was testifying about Vietnam an outrage in Gene
McCarthy and Bill Fulbright on that committee.

Gene McCarthy came away from that hearing saying privately to his Chief of
Staff, if I have to run for president myself to stop this, I will. And he
did. And the incumbent president he ran against, as of course you
remember, dropped out of the race when he was challenged that way.

WILL: Well, you see the Republicans are in this awful position that they
put themselves in when they made the Faustian bargain that they would have
protracted, routine interactions with Mr. Trump, knowing that these would
be diminishing and soiling to them, but they would get things done.

Well, let`s go to Washington`s premiere power couple. You mentioned a
moment ago that Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, vastly
experienced, hugely respected in Washington, stood there, mute, next to Mr.
Trump during his rant.

She did so because she was there because they were supposed with long last
to talk about the trillion dollar infrastructure program. Tax reform is
not going anywhere. Replace and repeal hasn`t happened. But
infrastructure is going to happen.

The problem is, at Winston Churchill once head of his Secretary Of State
Dallas that he was a bull who carries his China shop around with him.
That`s what Mr. Trump does. So there`s no such thing as being on message.
There is no message but chaos. So on the one hand, Elaine Chao is there as
a mere ornament, watching another opportunity slip away at the end of the
seventh month of this barren presidency.

She, of course, is married to the Senate Majority Leader. This week, he
has been deeply involved in the Alabama Senate primary to fill the seat
vacated by Mr. Sessions who is now attorney general. He is supporting the
appointed Senator Luther Strange, against a man who has been removed twice
from the Supreme Court of Alabama for defying the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Alabama race, I was down there looking at it in Birmingham. Trump
is hugely popular and McConnell is detested by all three candidates and the
three who entered this in the first round of the voting, saying we`re loyal
to Trump and we can`t stand McConnell.

And if you look at the polls among the Republican Party, the Republican
base is still loyal to Mr. Trump and by about four to one. They prefer
Trump over Mr. McConnell. So he`s also in a position of having made this
awful bargain on this substance that we get something done and it`s
completely sterile presidency seven months in.

O`DONNELL: There is a report tonight, in U.S. Today saying that there was
a delay in Mitch McConnell issuing his statement about those comments
because he was “livid” and his being livid, if he was no doubt is related
to his wife being effect forced to stand there beside the President as he`s
making those remarks.

WILL: So that old saying in politics that you know when Lawrence when
you`re explaining you`re losing, what`s worse is when you`re saying there
really are no good neo-nazis, you`re really losing. When you had messing
of the day just think of them.

I mean, Mr. McConnell was a Senate staffer because he became an
institutional lifer in the Senate. And the agony he`s going through to be
tethered to this man.

O`DONNELL: George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.

WILL: Glad to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: It`s intern night here on THE LAST WORD the departure of Ben
Trachtenberg, our last summer intern. Ben, how are we going to do this
without you?

BEN TRACHTENBERG, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: So you`re at northwestern. You guys start late, like in
September.

TRACHTENBERG: Yes, we do.

O`DONNELL: Right. And that`s pretty late for college these days, so we
got to keep you later.

TRACHTENBERG: That`s pretty great.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it is. What are you majoring in?

TRACHTENBERG: I`m majoring in journalism and political science.

O`DONNELL: And you have one more year.

TRACHTENBERG: I have two more years.

O`DONNELL: Two more years, OK. And then what?

TRACHTENBERG: I wish I knew.

O`DONNELL: OK, you don`t have to know. You know what I knew? When I was a
senior in college, you know what I knew I was going to do?

TRACHTENBERG: Tell me.

O`DONNELL: Nothing. And I did nothing. I proved it for the next couple
of years. Just, you know, I did continue to be a parking attendant in my
local parking lot.

So if you are a local parking attendant, you`ll be doing just as well as I
did.

TRACHTENBERG: I`ll take that as consideration, sir.

O`DONNELL: Yes, think about it. Ben, thank you very much for all of your
help all summer, really appreciate it. Ben Trachtenberg gets tonight`s
last word, finally.

Up next, a special presentation of the Watergate documentary “All the
President`s Men Revisited”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END

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