The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 9/18/17 McCain and ACA repeal
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL
Date: September 18, 2017
Guest: Ron Klain, Nick Akerman, Mieke Eoyang, Kurt Andersen
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Holds up, that means there could be – earlier this
year. If this reporting holds up, that means there could be tape of
whatever Paul Manafort and Donald Trump talked about while again, Manafort
was again reportedly under surveillance because of his contacts with
suspected Russian operatives.
Just Monday night. We’ve also learned tonight that Donald Trump Jr. and
Kellyanne Conway have now turned down the Secret Service protection they’ve
been enjoying for months.
What does that mean? I have no idea. None at all. That does it for us
tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it’s time for THE LAST WORD
with Lawrence O’Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Rachel, it seems like someone
doesn’t want the Secret Service following them around everywhere they go.
Can you – I don’t know.
MADDOW: Oh, you know, I have to imagine that there’s all sorts of innocent
reasons why you would want more privacy than a Secret Service detail would
It’s also weird that the two of them are both making that decision on the
O’DONNELL: And Rachel, I just need to warn you of something, it’s
important, you should know this, and I feel I should have told you before
now, but –
MADDOW: OK –
O’DONNELL: I am wearing a wire. And I know that some people in the work
place now worry about colleagues wearing a wire when talking to them.
My wire is right here, it’s on my lapel, I want to be completely opened
MADDOW: Mine too.
O’DONNELL: Completely open about that because Rachel, imagine like working
in a work place where you’re worried that your colleagues are wearing a
wire and maybe, you know, investigators are listening to what you’re
MADDOW: When your colleagues start saying we’re going to have – start to
have shirtless staff meetings now, that’s when you really have to worry
about this –
O’DONNELL: No, my wire is right there, Rachel, just you are warned, OK?
MADDOW: Roger that.
O’DONNELL: Thank you Rachel –
MADDOW: Bye, Lawrence.
O’DONN0ELL: This is more consistent with you’d you go after an organized
crime syndicate. So says a former federal prosecutor and a “New York
Times” breaking news report tonight that prosecutors told Paul Manafort
they plan to indict him.
It was not a threat. It was a plan to indict him. That was after the FBI
raid in July on Paul Manafort’s home in Virginia, the prosecutors told
him, that’s when they told him he would be indicted.
No uncertain terms, that raid could have only been allowed by a federal
judge if Mueller’s team presented probable cause that a crime had been
That’s what was necessary for that search warrant and the unannounced entry
into the home could only be authorized if the prosecutors convinced the
federal judge that Paul Manafort would probably destroy evidence if he got
a chance to do that.
“Cnn” is reporting tonight that Paul Manafort has been investigated off and
on by the FBI going as far back as 2014 over the way he conducted business
in Ukraine with the Putin-friendly regime there.
That report says that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped, including as part
of the investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But according to the reports sources, the FBI did not listen in to Paul –
what Paul Manafort’s phone calls during the June 2016 period when that
meeting occurred in Trump Tower – that included Paul Manafort, Donald
Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, a Russian lawyer and a few other Russians in that
Who arrived there promising what they were calling dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Joining us now, Mieke Eoyang; a former House Intelligence Committee staff
Also with us, Nick Akerman; a former Watergate special prosecutor, and Ron
Klain; former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and
a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And Ron, I wanted to get your reaction to these latest breaking news
reports about the conduct of this investigation and how the procedures that
we’re seeing here are what you would expect in an investigation of
And also this possibility that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped by the FBI
going as far back as 2014.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes, Lawrence, I
mean, I think that what we’re seeing here is I said many times on the show
that it’s hard to understand the conduct of the people around Donald Trump
unless they’re really guilty.
And what you are seeing here is increasing evidence that Paul Manafort
committed federal crimes. They would not have been able to get that
wiretap without some suspicion that he was a foreign agent and that’s why
the FBI got the renewed wiretap in 2016.
And while the news tonight is about Manafort, the real consequence is about
President Trump because the Trump defense has been first, there was really
And the fact that we now know there’s a pending and potential indictment
against Manafort means there’s something here that – oh, Trump never
talked to Manafort after he left the campaign.
Who was Manafort? We don’t even know Manafort anymore. And he was talking
to him all the way into 2017? You know, and the fact that the FBI renewed
that wiretap after the Trump Tower meeting means the idea that that meeting
was a nothing burger is highly suspicious.
O’DONNELL: Nick, this characterization of the – of the prosecution as
using the techniques you used going after organized crime. As a – as a
former Watergate prosecutor, how would you characterize it?
NICK AKERMAN, LAWYER: I think these are the techniques you use after –
going after an organized crime ring. I used to do that as an assistant
U.S. Attorney, I used to prosecute organized crime.
I used to get search warrants, I used to get wiretaps. This is exactly –
O’DONNELL: But you told us I believe in Watergate, the whole
investigation, no search warrants.
AKERMAN: There are no search warrants –
O’DONNELL: And I assume now no wiretaps in the –
AKERMAN: No wiretaps. And in fact, nobody wore a wire. I mean –
O’DONNELL: Yes –
AKERMAN: We were so sensitive to that because the whole Watergate scandal
started out of a bugging incident at the Democratic National Committee
So we were very sensitive about actually doing certain things. I would say
we really erred on the side of being conservative.
But don’t forget, one of the things that we had that was really helpful
were those White House tapes.
O’DONNELL: Well, it turns out Nixon was doing his own wiretapping of
himself in effect in the Oval Office with the tapes.
AKERMAN: Which is very helpful.
O’DONNELL: Yes, Mieke Eoyang, in your experience in congressional
investigations, you don’t have these kinds of tools like search warrants,
wiretaps, those aren’t available to you.
What do you make of what you’re reading about the details and the way the
special prosecutor is proceeding and how does that affect the way the
committees are proceeding in their investigations.
And when they read about these tactics, does that make them think, maybe we
should let the special prosecutor go and just hang back a bit?
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS, THIRD WAY: So
they’ve already had meetings at the special prosecutor’s office to try and
deconflict the two investigations.
You see the members of Congress on a slow but steady path of calling their
witnesses, and it may be that they have coordinated to try and give Mueller
time with this very aggressive strategy to get out ahead.
Mueller does have tools at his disposal that congressional investigators
don’t have, but they may go back and look at all of his investigative
records when they put together their reports later.
O’DONNELL: And Ron, this – the report tonight about the wiretaps
indicates that the wiretaps covered a period where Paul Manafort was
talking to Donald Trump including during the presidency when his lawyer –
Donald Trump’s lawyers were telling him not to talk to Paul Manafort.
Eventually, apparently, the Trump lawyers prevailed on getting Donald Trump
to stop talking to Paul Manafort, but as Rachel already said in the last
hour, Donald Trump might show up on these wiretaps.
KLAIN: Donald Trump might indeed be the first president ever to show up on
a wiretap like this. That would be a dubious, historical precedent.
But I think it’s actually even more important than that because Paul
Manafort was a campaign chairman who was fired, and wasn’t supposedly
working on the Trump campaign.
So what is Donald Trump doing, talking to him after the campaign is over?
What can possibly be the subject of that conversation?
Can’t be campaign strategy. Can’t be campaign tactics. The campaign is
over. So if he’s still talking to Paul Manafort in November, December,
January, maybe even longer, he clearly is talking about this investigation,
what Paul Manafort knows, what he’s told the investigators.
And the fact that Donald Trump is so interested in that, that’s a very
O’DONNELL: Nick Akerman, there’s a striking moment in these reports, and
that is the after the raid of Paul Manafort’s home when prosecutors
unnamed, we’re not sure exactly who – tell Paul Manafort, we plan to
O’DONNELL: That is a very unusual move by prosecutors. It’s not a common
interaction between the prosecutors and someone who they plan to indict.
What is that about? When does a prosecutor decide, I am going to tell this
guy, we plan to indict him?
AKERMAN: You decide to tell somebody that when you want that person to
turn and testify against other people, that is not good news for Donald
Trump, for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner or anybody else who was
president at that June 9th meeting at Trump Tower.
They have their sights on Paul Manafort, they are trying to work their way
up through other people. They view him as somebody who is knowledgeable
about everything that went on.
He is a key person and they’re telling him that because they want to give
him an opportunity to come in and bare his soul and cooperate and get a
deal so he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in federal prison.
O’DONNELL: Mieke, what does a leak like this do to the congressional
investigators? When they – when they read this report saying that the
prosecutors have said to Paul Manafort, we plan to indict you.
Does that make them more reluctant to try to get Paul Manafort’s testimony?
EOYANG: Not necessarily, but it does suggest that Manafort’s testimony may
be less valuable. If he knows he is going to be indicted, he may assert
the fifth and not actually provide congressional investigators with
substantive testimony about what he is doing.
You asked Ron earlier what he could have been talking to Trump about, and
if you remember, Paul Manafort is deeply connected to these Russian
oligarchs, some of them who are Ukrainians, some of whom are in Russia.
And so he may have been discussing business dealings and their real
questions about whether or not he was offering quid pro quo to the Trump
organization. Very interested in doing business in Russia during this time
O’DONNELL: And Ron, there’s so much speculation about what they could be
talking about. But you make the point, it’s so much more interesting that
they’re talking during the presidency because there’s no working
There’s not supposed to be, and what you could have in those kinds of
conversations are Donald Trump trying to find ways to say to Paul Manafort,
you know, just please, you know, kind of help me out here.
Don’t give the prosecutors anything that can help them get me.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, obviously, Trump could have been promising him a
pardon like he promised – like he gave Joe Arpaio.
He could be promising him efforts to help, Manafort could be urging Trump
to fire Comey early on in this. We – you know, we just don’t know.
What we do know is that one of the real firewalls that Trump tried to build
between himself and this investigation, that they’ve been building over the
past several months.
They are like Manafort may have been bad, but we got rid of him and that he
was no longer part of our world.
That firewall has been blown wide open tonight. And the fact that Manafort
was in touch with the president through the rest of the campaign through
the transition into the presidency means that Donald Trump had a
relationship with Paul Manafort that went beyond him counting delegates at
the Republican National Convention.
O’DONNELL: And Nick, if on a wiretap you have the president reminding Paul
Manafort that he is the pardoner-in-chief, where does the special
prosecutor go with that?
AKERMAN: Oh, that is an obstruction of justice. I mean, if what he’s
suggesting to Paul Manafort is don’t worry, I’ve got your back, I’m going
to pardon you –
O’DONNELL: But I mean, there are ways of saying things that aren’t quite
so explicit. And it’s a question of, you know, might Donald Trump find
that way of saying that it isn’t quite as explicit?
AKERMAN: Well, there’s always the wink and the nod –
O’DONNELL: Yes –
AKERMAN: But that’s hard to do over the telephone –
O’DONNELL: It is hard to do on the phone, yes –
AKERMAN: Makes it tough –
O’DONNELL: Yes –
AKERMAN: And Paul Manafort also has the added problem that he’s probably
right in the sights of the New York Attorney General who is also
investigating him for money laundering and other crimes that some of which
are more serious than the federal crimes.
I mean, between the two, I’d rather spend my time in federal prison than
have to go to Rikers Island.
O’DONNELL: And Mieke, the – this revelation tonight about Paul Manafort
and wiretaps – let’s go back to the point where Paul Manafort is hired to
work on this campaign.
A presidential candidate is hiring someone who is under FBI investigation
when he hires him to go to work on this campaign.
EOYANG: That’s right. You’re seeing Paul Manafort who is at the fringes
of politics come into this campaign at a very high level.
A lot of other people were taking a pass on Donald Trump because they
didn’t think that he was really a serious candidate.
Paul Manafort had had a lot of political experience again with these
Russians and Ukrainians. And so when you’re talking about people who would
know about how to broker connections between Vladimir Putin and the Trump
campaign, Paul Manafort is the perfect candidate for that.
O’DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang and Nick Akerman, thank you both for joining us
tonight. Ron, we’re going to talk to you in another segment coming up.
And up next, we now have a tie, it’s an actual tie now in Washington for
the two worst lawyers in Washington.
And they both work for Donald Trump. And they both talk very loudly at
Washington restaurants about their client Donald Trump and the trouble that
he’s involved in right now.
And anyone can hear him including “New York Times” reporters, we’re going
to have that story. Also, a Republican senator who promised to use the
Jimmy Kimmel test for health care legislation so that any child in America
could get the life-saving surgery that Jimmy Kimmel’s new born baby got
this year, that same senator has introduced a bill and is pushing a bill
now in the Senate in a kind of panic last-ditch push that violates the
Jimmy Kimmel test.
And Jimmy Kimmel has noticed.
O’DONNELL: It’s always worth remembering that Donald Trump could not get
his first choice of lawyers to defend him in the special prosecutor’s
He was turned down by the best Washington law firms because of his
reputation for failing to pay his bills and his recurring public
demonstrations of being a ridiculous client for a good lawyer to deal with
in any way.
A client who actually attacked a federal judge in the Trump University
fraud case which Donald Trump then went on to lose to the tune of $25
And so Donald Trump is stuck with nothing close to his first choice of
lawyers in what is the most important moment of his lifetime of legal
Two of those lawyers proved their fundamental incompetence as lawyers by
sitting in a Washington restaurant last week, talking loudly enough for a
well-known New York Times” reporter at a nearby table to listen in.
The “New York Times” Ken Vogel, a frequent guest on this program and many
other cable news programs tweeted this picture of the two lawyers doing the
worst possible job they could for their client at lunch, talking about the
And you are speaking publicly whenever you are speaking in such a way that
other people can hear you, and real lawyers know that.
John Dowd who is being paid as Donald Trump’s private outside lawyer has an
obligation to maintain attorney-client privilege with Donald Trump.
He violated that obligation at lunch by being overheard by “New York Times”
reporter Ken Vogel.
Ty Cobb, the other lawyer at the table who is now tied with John Dowd for
the title of worst lawyer in Washington, talked loudly about his
disagreements with Chief White House counsel Don McGahn about turning over
documents to the special prosecutor.
He complained about other lawyers in the White House Counsel’s office.
I’ve got some reservations about one of them.
I think he is like a McGahn spy. When Ken Vogel and Peter Baker contacted
the White House and the lawyers involved in that discussion before printing
their article about that discussion, John Dowd told this lie to the “New
York Times” about the conversation that Ken Vogel had actually heard.
He said, “nothing we said reflected adversely upon Don McGahn.” Joining us
now, Kurt Andersen; the author of the new book “Fantasy Land: How America
Went Haywire”, and Ron Klain is back with us.
And Kurt, right at the end of this article, you have Don McGahn saying,
that stuff you heard us say, we did not say.
KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR: Well, it’s the old joke. Don’t believe your lying
O’DONNELL: Yes –
ANDERSEN: Here was the – here was a “New York Times” reporter several
feet away taking their picture and recording notes on his iPhone as they
And there it is – and by asserting the opposite that – oh no, nothing bad
was said about the White House Council Don McGahn –
O’DONNELL: We didn’t say he has spies.
ANDERSEN: Yes, it’s extraordinary. And by the way, these – I do say
these loud, publicly-speaking lawyers were the lawyers brought in to
replace the bad lawyers –
O’DONNELL: Right –
ANDERSEN: To professionalize –
O’DONNELL: Right –
ANDERSEN: The Trump legal team. It’s extraordinary – and by the way, the
thing that – I only realized after I read the initial story is the
steakhouse is in the Trump International Hotel as well.
The BLT steak is in the Trump International Hotel which as everything
becomes essentially a bad TV show in this administration, that’s a thing
that a studio executive would say, no, that’s just too on the nose that
it’s in the president’s own –
O’DONNELL: Right –
O’DONNELL: Let’s listen to what Ken Vogel said about John Kelly’s reaction
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: John Kelly; the chief
of staff and Don McGahn; the White House counsel were incredibly
displeased – to put it mildly, they called Ty Cobb in on Friday and
basically read him the Riot Act by saying, you can’t be talking about this
incredibly sensitive information in such an obviously public context.
The concern here being not just potentially tipping their hand through the
press to what their strategy is and tipping their hand to Mueller.
But also a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Ron Klain, your reaction.
KLAIN: Well, you know, I’m glad they had this at the BLT steakhouse
because BLT must stand for bad lawyers for Trump.
You know, I think that it’s an incredible thing. But, you know, one thing
that’s in that story, that story by Vogel and Baker is the fact that one of
these complaints was that Don McGahn has documents in a safe in the White
House that he will not show to Donald Trump’s lawyers.
And what I can tell you about that, Lawrence, is those documents in a safe
cannot be documents that are good for Donald Trump.
Because if they were, his lawyers would have seen them. So, you know, this
obviously was a horrible act of lawyering by these two people.
But really it begs the question of what is here and what’s yet to come out,
and gives a road map for Bob Mueller for the documents he most want to see.
O’DONNELL: Kurt, you’re one of New York journalists who has been studying
Donald Trump for decades. He’s not a good sleeper, we know that.
He’s an insomniac, there’s something that keeps him awake at night. And
now he’s got this. Now he’s got his two lawyers sitting there being
overheard, even Donald Trump knows this is utterly buffoonish behavior.
ANDERSEN: Overheard, disagreeing with each other, and one of them loudly
disagreeing with his White House counsel Don McGahn who by the way may be
criminally culpable himself.
So – and has lawyered up as a result. So yes, at this point, Trump who
until recently, his first group of lawyers who were dismissed were lawyers
who had no experience whatsoever in this kind of Washington criminal law.
He thought he’d replaced them with the guys who know this score and this is
what they do. This mind boggling version of publicly sharing their
client’s most important legal negotiations and questions. It’s
O’DONNELL: Ron, you used to work in the Justice Department, can you tip us
off as to where the Justice Department’s lawyers go to lunch so that we can
overhear the special prosecutors and Robert Mueller fighting among each
other about how they’re handling the prosecution, the investigation –
ANDERSEN: Yes –
O’DONNELL: Of Donald Trump?
ANDERSEN: Yes, they eat at their desks, Lawrence –
O’DONNELL: Is that going to happen? –
ANDERSEN: They eat at their desks –
O’DONNELL: Yes, that’s right –
ANDERSEN: That’s the key, Lawrence, they eat at their desks.
O’DONNELL: Yes, I mean, if you just think about it and say, OK, let’s
shift this over to the other side and the impossibility of anyone ever
overhearing Robert Mueller or any of the lawyers working in on that side of
KLAIN: It seems profoundly unlikely. Look, people are human, I’m sure
mistakes happen, perhaps, but not like this, not in public, not actually at
an outdoor table where you’re walking by on the sidewalk could have heard
it, and just not in this way.
And you could see really the pressure this is bringing on the White House,
the part of that piece you alluded to at the outset of the program about
people in the White House so worried that their colleagues are wearing
wires to White House meetings.
Now, I’ve worked in the White House, Lawrence, it’s a hard place to work
under the best of circumstances. If you think your colleagues are wired,
that’s got to be wreaking just havoc on the president and his team.
O’DONNELL: And then, Kurt, it’s as good as them being wired in the sense
that there’s one there who trusts another nor should anyone in that
building trust anyone else in that building based on what we’ve seen in
terms of the way they leak –
ANDERSEN: Well, exactly, whether they’re wearing wires or not, I – you
have to believe that every one of them is making contemporaneous notes
every night about what he has said to me or she said to him.
That has to be case, now – no, that’s not as good as evidence in a trial
or a criminal proceeding as tape recordings.
But they have to believe that’s there and –
But they have to believe that’s there and who can they trust? I guess
Ivanka and Jared trust each other, and that may be the extent of the
implicit trust in the White House.
O’DONNELL: And Ron, and in your career in Washington, working in the
Senate, working in the Justice Department, working in the White House.
When you go to a restaurant with someone who you might be discussing
anything sensitive, you’re very careful about what table that is, about how
far away from other people you are, and if you’re too close, you just don’t
talk about it.
This just doesn’t happen. We don’t have another one of these stories.
About the times so and so was overheard in the Washington restaurant
because everybody knows you don’t do this.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, again, people are human, they make mistakes, but this
is a colossal mistake. And I think the scope and nature of this really
And the fact that it was about not just sensitive or kind of politically
sensitive information, but attorney-client information really makes it
And of course, the fact that they were caught lying about it afterwards as
opposed to just kind of coughing it up and admitting it only adds to that.
And so, this is fiasco of a fiasco of a fiasco, but it illustrates just how
bad things are in the Trump White House right now.
O’DONNELL: Ron Klain and Kurt Andersen, thank you both for joining us
Coming up, are Senate Republicans really going to try to push their latest
version of repealing and replacing Obamacare?
And if they do, what will John McCain do this time? His best friend is
pushing that bill. And Donald Trump used the eve of his first U.N. speech
to taunt North Korea on Twitter.
But is North Korea actually afraid of Donald Trump? Do they understand
Donald Trump? Do they understand his tweets?
An American reporter who’s just returned from North Korea with a stunning
report will join us.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We have a restaurant correction to make
on our last segment. We were talking about BLT Steak in Washington, D.C.
That’s where Donald Trump’s lawyers can be overheard talking about the
case. So if you want to hear Donald Trump’s lawyers talking about the
case, go to BLT Steak which is not in the Trump Hotel in Washington.
There is another BLT named restaurant in the Trump Hotel in Washington. If
you want to hear the Trump lawyers talking about the Trump case, you go to
BLT Steak and apparently you sit outside because they do it right outside
on the sidewalk. You can just walk by. You don’t have to pay for lunch. You
can just overhear them as you’re walking by so, BLT Steak not in the Trump
And now, to the latest on healthcare, the republican healthcare bill in the
senate and Jimmy Kimmel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: If your baby is going to die and it
doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t be matter how much money you make. I think
that’s something now whether you’re a republican or democrat or something
else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do. I saw a lot of families
there and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save
their child’s life.
It just shouldn’t happen. Not here. So -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: After Jimmy Kimmel told that powerful story of how doctors at
children’s hospital in Los Angeles performed life saving surgery saving
surgery on his newborn so. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
proposed what he call - he thought of this term, the Jimmy Kimmel test for
healthcare legislation. Senator Cassidy’s Jimmy Kimmel test is would any
child born with the same heart diseases is Jimmy Kimmel son be able to get
everything he or she would need in the first year of life even if it cost
more than a certain amount of money?
Senator Cassidy was a guest on the show after Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CASSIDY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Lowering premiums with coverage
passing the Jimmy Kimmel test, if we do that, we get an American plan. Not
democrat, not a republican, and American plan and that’s where we need to
KIMMELL: Senator the Jimmy Kimmel test I think should be no family should
be denied medical care emergency or otherwise because they can’t afford it.
Can that be the Jimmy Kimmel test? As simple as that? Is that
CASSIDY: Hey man, you’re on the right track. And if that’s as close as we
get, that works great in government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: And that was a very slippery politician’s answer that Jimmy
Kimmel’s audience was hearing there. He did not actually agree with Jimmy
Kimmel’s version of the Kimmel test. Instead, he simply said that Jimmy
Kimmel’s was on the right track and now that very same Senator Cassidy is
pushing a healthcare bill that will repeal and replace Obamacare and would
completely fail the Jimmy Kimmel test.
Millions upon millions of people would lose health care under the Cassidy
bill that is being co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham. But we don’t
know exactly how many millions because the congressional budget office has
not even scored the bill yet but republicans are still ready to vote for
it. Senator John McCain whose best friend in the senate is Lindsey Graham
cast the deciding no vote the last time the republicans tried to pass a
healthcare bill in the senate.
Here’s what John McCin told the reporters about the Graham/Cassidy bill. I
am not supportive of the bill yet. When asked what he needs to be able to
support the bill, John McCain said, among other things, the regular order,
lots of things. Regular order means having hearings on the bill. In the
house and in the senate and then having committee votes on the bill in the
house and in the senate.
And then voting on the bill on the senate floor where it is open to
amendment by any senator. That process normally takes several months at
least. And there are only 12 days left for the senate republicans to pass a
healthcare bill in the senate under the procedural protection of the rule
called reconciliation where the bill needs only 51 votes to pass. Joining
us now, Andy Slavitt the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid services from 2015 to 2017.
Also joining us Jennifer Reuben, an opinion writer for “The Washington
Post” and, Jennifer, you wrote about this Cassidy/Graham bill today for
“The Washington Post” and Jimmy Kimmel tweeted your article to his 10
million followers and you make the point very clearly in this article that
the Cassidy bill fails the Kimmel test.
JENNIFER REUBEN, OPINION WRITER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: That’s right. One
of the things it does, for example, is put a per capita caps the Medicaid
for every state. So that people who are enjoying Medicaid benefits won’t
enjoy Medicaid benefits in the future. We are not just talking about
rolling back the extension of Medicaid. We are talking about a worst cut
We are talking about giving states the right to redefine what the minimum
benefits are. Maybe they’re going to define minimum benefits as excluding
birth defects. They’re not going to define it as not including heart
defects and which was one of the things that - which was the defect that
Jimmy Kimmel’s son was born with. They also have the ability under the
Cassidy/Graham bill to decide that preexisting conditions maybe don’t have
to be covered completely.
So, in the guise of sending it back to the states and the guise of
federalism, it’s really the most draconian of all versions and you are
right. They’re trying to rush this through in the dead of night. I would
say one thing, however. They really don’t have 12 days because pardon the
pun, thank goodness we have the Jewish holidays so it will be out on
Thursday and Friday. And then, by next Friday they better be out by sun
So they have less than 12 days and I would suggest that if democrats are
concerned about this that they slow things down. Make people read the bill.
Make people discuss it. Find out what’s in it.
O’DONNELL: And, Andy Slavitt, one thing that the democrats are demanding
is a full CBO score of this bill. Chairman Orrin Hatch the senate finance
committee is scheduling a hearing on the bill next week and that seems to
be the finance committee’s nod to John McCain’s demand for regular order
but that’s not regular order for a bill like this. The senate finance
committee had 24 hearings as I recall when we were considering the Clinton
Healthcare Bill then almost as many hearings and meetings at least over the
ANDY SLAVITT, FMR ACTING ADMINISTRATOR OF THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND
MEDICAID: Well, this has all the features of a rush job. So the
republicans are now prepared to bring this bill to the floor without a full
CBO score. The CBO said today, they will not be able to score the bill in
time. The timeframe that - that Jennifer just laid out. We also know that
this hearing you’re talking about is a rush together kind of hearing, a
show hearing, hoping that that can get McCain to check the box.
And then third we just heard word tonight, it’s not yet been reported that
the great work of Lamar Alexander has been doing with Patty Murray, they
try to come to a bipartisan bill that the republican leadership has put a
stop to that bill to apply pressure for people to say, you’ve got to vote
for this cassidy bill or you’re not going to have anything at all. So this
is a - this is more rush job of a very harmful bill.
O’DONNELL: And, Jennifer, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain
stopped the last republican bill. Based on what they said about the last
republican bill and what was in it and why they were voting against it in
terms of content of the bill and we know Senator McCain said a lot about
the procedure but the content of the bill, how is this different from the
content of what they voted against before?
REUBEN: It’s worse. They were concerned about Medicaid cuts, they were
concerned about cuts for rural healthcare, they were concerned about a lot
of things and this really is worse because essentially by pushing it back
to the states they can do essentially whatever they want. By the way, that
might entail in blue states setting up a single payer system. So
republicans could be slitting their throats. They would be sending out a
bunch of experiments in single payer healthcare and probably not what they
And, and Andy Slavitt would Senator McCain made the really kind of
emotional first speech on the senate floor after he was diagnosed with
brain cancer, it was all about the procedures of the senate, and the
procedures of content. It was more of congress, it was more about that than
the content of the bill and he kept talking about regular order and when I
heard him say that, it sounded to me like he absolutely was going to have
to vote against the bill that was in front of them because as I said
regular order is a minimum of six to nine months of consideration of a bill
like this before it comes to a vote.
How could he possibly vote for something like this rushed through a fake, a
truly fake version of regular order if that’s what they’re going to pretend
SLAVITT: Lawrence that’s a great point. If you think about it, you’re
thinking about what Senator McCain’s legacy will end up being if he
reverses himself under something that he got universal (INAUDIBLE) for.
He’ll end up in situation where we will have passed the most partisan, one-
sided bill by a partisan process only of course to have the democrats very
likely attempt to the same thing in the next election and so on and so on
and so on.
And I don’t think Senator McCain wants to be responsible for that. All due
respect to his friendship to Senator Graham, all due respect to his loyalty
to the party, he would be setting off a wave of things long probably beyond
his time in the senate that would create an atmosphere of partisanship that
would be well beyond even where we sit today. He can put a stop to it.
O’DONNELL: So far Rand Paul’s the only republican senator coming out
against it saying it’s not conservative enough. Susan Collins is saying
she’s concerned about the bill but not taking a position for or against it
just yet. We’ll going to keep covering it. Jennifer Reuben and Andy
Slavitt, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SLAVITT: Thanks Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, how does North Korea interpret Donald Trump? They
are having as much trouble interpreting him as we are interpreting North
O’DONNELL: This is for the nuclear war. That’s exactly what Evan Osnos was
told when he was being shown the dual purposes that are built into a subway
station in North Korea where everyone he talked to including a 11-year-old
boy seemed to believe that nuclear war is certainly possible and
survivable. North Korea has perfected its ability to absorb pain.
That’s what Evan Osnos discovered in the extraordinary reporting in North
Korea, the cover story of this week’s New Yorker Magazine. It’s North
Korea’s ability to absorb pain apparently makes our traditional nuclear
deterrence strategies feel almost useless with North Korea.
North Korea believes that they won the Korean War. And that the United
States lost the Korean War and having endured war with the United States
before, some North Koreans express a certain kind of confidence about doing
it again, A confidence that does include the possibility that millions of
North Koreans would die in nuclear war with the United States. A few
thousand would survive said a North Korean government official. A lot of
people would die. But not everyone would die.
A government of a country with 25 million citizens that can see some
form of victory in only a few thousand of them surviving a nuclear war is a
government that no American President has figured out how to negotiate with
and now the united states and North Korea each have a head of state that
the world struggles to understand. As Kim Jong-Un’s statements and Donald
Trump’s tweets seem to be edging ever closer to nuclear war. Evan will join
us next with the answer that he got to this question when he asked it in
North Korea. If your country would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange, why
are you really entertaining the idea? He got that answer, he got an answer
to the question in North Korea and it will surprise you. Evan Osnos joins
us with that answer next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I had the long conversation with
President Xi of China. We discussed trade and we also discussed a place
called North Korea. Let’s see what happens. I think we’re making great
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That was the President speaking tonight in New York City.
Tomorrow he will speak to the United Nations general assembly for the first
time and the Whitehouse says that the threat from North Korea will be the
focus of his address. Joining us now Evan Osnos, staff writer at the New
Yorker. He wrote the recent cover story, the risk of nuclear war with North
Korea. and, Evan, I wanted to talk about North Korea’s attempts now to
interpret the President of the United States, which has become more
difficult than it ever has in the past, including, for example, this Tweet
that the President tweeted yesterday.
He said, I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night, asked him
how rocket man is doing. long gas lines forming in North Korea. too bad,
exclamation point. And as you report, the North Korean officials read
these right away, including some officials who are here in New York City.
But they struggle to figure out what they mean.
EVAN OSNOS, JOURNALIST: Yeah, in many ways the North Koreans ask the same
questions about Donald Trump that we ask about Kim Jong-Un. They asked me,
is he, as they put it, rational, or is he smart? They said they’re
struggling to answer that question. You know, in some ways we know how we
look at this confrontation.
This feels to us as it North Korea is taking these inexplicable steps
toward greater and greater confrontation with the United States. But from
the north korean perspective, they say they are encountering a U.S.
President than they have dealt with before. He’s using language like
they’ve never heard.
And they feel as if taking about things that they never expected like
preventive war. And as they said to me when I was in North Korea in
august, the United States is not the only country that can launch
O’DONNELL: And one of the interpretations that comes out very clearly in
your piece is they are interpreting Donald Trump to intentionally be
marching toward war.
OSNOS: Yeah, they take him at his word. You know, they have listened to
his statements. They’ve read his Tweets very closely. They have said to me
that – and others that they believe that they’re not going to suffer the
same fate that befell Saddam Hussein and mow Muammar Gaddafi.
Those of course were two leaders who were developing nuclear weapons and
gave them up. And so when they hear Donald Trump say the only solution to
this crisis is to give up their nuclear weapons, they say that is putting
us on a path towards war.
And I think the other piece that is important to remember is the way they
regard themselves is they see themselves as having suffered and survived
terrible things in their history, the Korean War, the famine in the 19090s.
As a government official said to me, if we had to do it again we would do
it a third time and we would survive.
O’DONNELL: Yes, they say to you they have already survived things that
they consider as bad as nuclear war. You asked this question that you
report in your piece. If your country would be destroyed in a nuclear
exchange, why are you really entertaining the idea? And what answer did you
OSNOS: They said, because we have no other choice. In this case, they
really feel as if they are on track towards survival. They feel that
they’re facing an existential threat from the United States. And I this is
where we’re at a crucial moment right now because remember we’ve been
dealing with North Korea one form or another since the end of the Korean
War in 1953.
But suddenly we have found ourselves in this very confrontational moment.
And that’s partly because they have radically escalated the pace of their
nuclear program and their missile program. But it’s also because we have
chosen to deal with them in a new way under the Trump Administration.
And I think there is a growing sense that in addition to maximum pressure,
which you are seeing now with more sanctions, it’s perhaps time also for
maximum engagement, which is the other side of this. Looking for the
opportunity to get to the negotiating table and de-escalate the
O’DONNELL: And, Evan, it is an extraordinary journey you took to North
Korea. While in the middle of all this conflict and while Donald Trump was
firing off Tweets in august that people were asking you about while you
were there, you visited, among other things, you visited a school. There
was a moment with an 11-year-old boy when they were – the students were
told, you know, you can ask him anything. Eventually one kid decided to try
asking you something. And what did this 11-year-old boy say?
OSNOS: He stood up in the front row of the classroom and he said, why is
the United States trying to provoke a war with us? And why is the United
States trying to prevent us from getting a nuclear weapon? The message for
me was very clear, which Is North Korea gets up, North Korean population
gets up every day and they are reminded, they’re thinking about this all
the time. They see it on bill boards on the street. They see it on
television. As far as they hear they need to prepare for war with the
United States and we should take steps to prevent that.
O’DONNELL: Evan Osnos, it is the cover story of this weeks New Yorker,
North Korea on the brink. It is extraordinary reporting, Evan, just
stunning how you got permission to travel to North Korea, everything you
went through while you were there. We’re going to be referring to elements
of this story, I’m sure, in your reporting for weeks to come if there’s so
much that we didn’t get to we will get to more at another time. Evan Osnos
thank you for joining us.
OSNOS: Thanks Lawrence, much appreciated.
O’DONNELL: Tonight’s next word is next.
O’DONNELL: President Trump will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly
for the first time tomorrow, the first time in his Presidency. But possibly
more importantly for the future of his presidency, and about the same time
Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen will be speaking to,
that is to say, testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee behind
closed doors. That’s tonight’s Last Word. The 11th hour with Brian Williams
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