The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 9/28/17 Trump skeptical of his own tax plan

Joy Reid, Tim O'Brien, Mariana Atencio

Date: September 28, 2017
Guest: Joy Reid, Tim O’Brien, Mariana Atencio

MADDOW: That does it for us tonight – tell you, this inaugural committee
thing is – it doesn’t keep me up at night but when I wake up at night for
other more worthy reasons, it’s definitely the second or third thing I
think about every single night.

We’re going to figure it out. I’ll 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: Good evening Rachel, you know
what you left there.

MADDOW: What do you mean?

O’DONNELL: I mean, there’s some hooks there, how am I supposed to – so
something more worthy than –


But the inauguration fund awakens you at night.

MADDOW: I would just say that –

O’DONNELL: Question mark –

MADDOW: A, I have a bad back, so usually, that’s what wakes me up. B, I
work on stuff that I like to keep secret, and C, I sometimes lie about that
to make people think that I’m more interesting than I am.

O’DONNELL: All right, well, we will leave it there for TV anyway, we’re
going to leave it right there, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O’DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Well, it finally happened. Even “Fox &
Friends” is dumbfounded by Donald Trump.

We will show you that historic moment as it happened this morning on “Fox &
Friends”. And today is only day two of the Trump tax cut crusade and one
of the key players in the Trump tax cut crusade is already skeptical about
the Trump tax proposal.

Any guesses who that might be? We’re going to give you about a minute,
maybe a little more to tweet us your guesses about who on team Trump is
already skeptical of the Trump tax cut, and the one hint that I can give
you is the last name begins with a “T”.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Tax reform is going to make health care
look like a piece of cake.

chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There’s not a table in here, it’s unbelievable, they
don’t have the numbers.

REPRESENTATIVES: This is not again, a tax reform. It’s a tax giveaway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s not a tax cut for the rich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that the rich don’t benefit from this is
patently false.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, JOURNALIST: There will be middle class families you
got to tax in for (INAUDIBLE) plan, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There’s an exception to every rule.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So that’s a yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, look, I can’t guarantee anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is shambolic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s unbelievable.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Another big trickle down tax cut.


TRUMP: It’s going to be something very special.


O’DONNELL: We are at day two of President Trump’s massive tax cut crusade.
That’s his phrase for it – massive tax cuts.

And already two Republican roadblocks have appeared in the Senate, and one
very serious speed bump has appeared in the White House itself.

Today, Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at “Axios” are reporting that the
biggest doubter of the Trump tax plan in the Trump White House is of course
none other than Donald Trump.

“Axios” reports that on Monday, Republicans on the Hill were genuinely
uneasy and thought there was a chance POTUS wouldn’t sign off.

The president had spotted something that he really did not like in the tax
plan that was actually written by the Republican congressional leadership.

And the president was right. He is right to be worried about something
that the congressional leadership apparently is not worried about.

“Axios” reports Trump was also attuned to the political risks of raising
the bottom rate from 10 percent to 12 percent while cutting the top
individual tax rate.

And this is something that I talked about here on this program last night.
This raising of the bottom rate. The Trump tax plan cuts every income tax
rate except the bottom tax rate.

Not cutting the bottom tax rate along with the other rates would be
politically problematic enough, but the Republican plan that President
Trump is now the front man for does something much worse than that.

It actually raises the bottom tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent.
That’s a 2 percentage point bracket increase for the people who can least
afford to pay income taxes while the people who can most afford to pay
income taxes get a 4.6 percentage point bracket reduction.

The bracket reduction for the rich is more than double the bracket increase
for the poorest income tax filers.

Is Donald Trump really the only Republican who knows how bad that looks? Or
is Donald Trump just the first Republican in Washington to recognize how
bad that looks, and how bad that policy actually is?

It wasn’t always this way for Republicans. When President George W. Bush
did his deficit exploding tax cuts, he included the political master stroke
of cutting the bottom tax bracket the most.

President George W. Bush cut the bottom tax rate from 15 percent to 10
percent. Five full percentage points.

And so, in the years after that, when you heard the Democrats railing
against the damage the Bush tax cuts did to the deficit and the debt and
when the Democrats got their chance during the Obama presidency to restore
the Clinton tax rates under which the economy thrived in the 1990s, the
Democrats never considered restoring the bottom Clinton tax rate of 15

The Democrats weren’t going to touch that 10 percent rate at the bottom
created by George W. Bush.

The Democrats wanted the top rates to go back to the Clinton levels, but
never that bottom rate. It seems like elementary politics to understand
that you don’t want to be the party caught raising the bottom income tax

Donald Trump knew none of that tax history, of course, but his political
instincts were good enough to know that raising the bottom tax rate is a
very bad idea.

But in order to help the taxpayers who the Trump tax bill is trying to
help, you have to take something away from other taxpayers, and so when
you’re trying to cut the corporate tax rate by a whopping 15 percent and
when you’re trying to completely eliminate the estate tax for estates over
$10 million, you have to take money from someone else to try to pay for
that or pay for at least some of that so you can then try to make the claim
that this massive tax cut does not spiral the deficit out of control as
massive tax cuts always have in the past.

And so, if Ivanka Trump and her brothers are going to pay zero estate tax
on their inheritance, someone else is going to have to pay more somewhere
else in the tax code.

And President Trump doesn’t like where the Republicans reached for some of
that money and he’s right. So congressional Republicans are worried.

They are very worried about President Trump again. “Axios” reports if
Trump shows the fickleness he showed on repeal and replace championing the
House plan then later calling it mean, that could increase the chances the
plan sinks with him blaming Congress.

And so, there we are on day two with the congressional Republicans worrying
once again that Donald Trump can turn on their plan, turn this time on
their tax plan or support every element of the tax plan as it’s moving
through the House of Representatives, but then when it gets to the Senate
tell America that it’s mean.

That it was mean of the House of Representatives to raise the bottom tax
bracket or that it was mean to eliminate the deductibility of state and
local taxes which is the same thing as a very big tax increase on the
people who deduct state and local income taxes, and property taxes.

That is a huge issue for Republican members of the House and states like
New York, New Jersey, California passing a tax bill in the House without
their votes is virtually impossible.

If the Republicans do manage to get what the president calls his massive
tax cuts bill through the House, two senior Republicans in the Senate have
already made demands that would make it impossible for the massive tax cuts
bill to get those senators’ votes in the Senate.

Senator Bob Corker said there’s no way that a tax cut bill that adds to the
deficit will pass and there’s no way that he, Bob Corker, will vote for it.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Trump tax plan that was announced
yesterday would massively increase the deficit.

Which is why some Republicans will be changing their tune on the deficit.
Here’s what Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina told the
“New York Times” about the deficit and Republican rhetoric about the

It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-
led, it’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the

We’ve seen this before. Republicans who ignore the deficit when it’s
Republican legislation that is increasing the deficit.

John McCain is taking a similar position on tax cuts to the position he
took on the Republican healthcare bills.

John McCain said “we need to do it in a bipartisan fashion.” And if John
McCain holds to that principle, then he cannot vote for the Trump tax cuts.

A bipartisan bill would be a very different bill from the one President
Trump is pushing now. The Democrats would insist that the bill not
increase the deficit.

That would mean a much smaller corporate tax cut if any tax cut at all. It
will also mean the elimination of more corporate tax breaks.

The Democrats would also insist on preserving the deductibility of state
and local taxes and preserving some form of the estate tax perhaps at a
higher threshold, perhaps on all estates about say $20 million.

That’s all negotiable. And of course, Democrats would insist on no
increase in the bottom tax bracket and they already know that Donald Trump
is ready to agree with them on that bottom tax bracket.

There’s always a deal to be done with tax legislation. It is numbers. It
can be compromised. There’s always a set of compromises to make to achieve
real bipartisan tax reform and senators like Bob Corker and John McCain
just might force the Republicans to make those compromises.

Joining us now, Jared Bernstein; senior fellow at the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities, she was chief economist to Vice President Biden, he’s
also an Msnbc contributor.

And also with us Joy Reid; Msnbc national correspondent and the host of
“A.M. JOY” on the weekends here at Msnbc.

And Joy, raising the bottom tax rate – I’m telling you, the second I saw
it, I went – you know, because when George W. Bush got that right in –


O’DONNELL: In 2000, I thought, wow –

REID: Yes –

O’DONNELL: The Republicans have figured out.

REID: They figured out, yes –

O’DONNELL: This particular piece –

REID: Yes –

O’DONNELL: Of the talking points –

REID: Yes –

O’DONNELL: Not now.

REID: Can I just say that, by the way, in your earlier poll when we first
came on, he said who is skeptical, I voted for Tiffany, so I hope you’ll
retweet me –

O’DONNELL: Oh, you did, yes, OK –

REID: Yes, I voted for Tiffany –


REID: So please retweet me. You know, it’s interesting, Donald Trump has
this way of exposing his party, an elements of it that the party had worked
for decades to try to hide, right?

So Republicans for decades have tried to obscure this idea that they’re
just monical-wearing monopoly man party that just wants to give the rich
everything and hurt the poor.

But Donald Trump keeps exposing them for being exactly that. So here you
have Donald Trump who’s essentially because he doesn’t really know anything
kind of captive to the monical-wearing part of the party.

The Paul Ryans of the world who really do just want to take the tax code
and transfer as much money as possible to the very rich, give all the money
to the very rich, get rid of the estate tax, essentially reinstitute the
sort of futile system.

And Donald Trump at least has the decent-enough political instinct because
he’s a salesman. And he understands –

O’DONNELL: Right –

REID: The people he’s selling $40 hats to, it’s not those guys –


REID: The people he is selling low rate hotels to, it’s not those guys.
So he at least understands, wait a minute, if we soak the poor right off
the bat, we’re exposing ourselves as the Goldman Sachs party.

So at least he knows that. the sort of funny thing about it is, the
Republicans just think they can use Donald Trump to do the monopoly man
monical-wearing thing and have him sell it to the broke people.

O’DONNELL: It’s what Grover Norquist has always said. We just want a
Republican president to sign this stuff –

REID: Yes –

O’DONNELL: Is to sign it. And Jared Bernstein, it should be remembered
that none of the current Republican congressional leadership on tax policy
had any of these jobs when the Bush tax cuts were going through as have
them now.

So none of them actually have experience with any of this. And the
president himself being the one to spot that bottom tax rate and say, what
are we doing?

It is by the way also the simplest thing in the bill to spot. It’s not one
of the more complicated ones.

POLICY PRIORITIES: Yes, I have been astounded to hear the commentary
coming out of these rookies.

So for example, today, Steve Munchin; Treasury Secretary, he didn’t just go
out and say this tax cut is going to be deficit neutral.

It’s not going to increase the deficit. We heard that lie already. And I
guarantee you as would any other economist on both sides of the aisle who
is not getting paid by the Trump administration would guarantee you the
same thing .

Of course, the deficit is going to go up if you cut taxes this deeply. So
they used to say, no, it’s not going to increase the deficit.

Today, Mnuchin went out and said, not only are we going to pay for the tax
cut, a couple of trillion dollars in tax cut, but we’re going to end up
with a revenue positive outcome.

This is going to raise another trillion dollars. So it’s almost as if
they’re saying, you know, we told them that it’s not going to cut taxes on
the rich and you know, that isn’t really working.

We told them it’s going to be deficit neutral and that isn’t working, so
let’s see what else we have in our – you know, in our back pocket here.

And so, they’re just kind of shuffling through the deck to try to sell this
thing, and I think you and Joy are exactly right.

Trump may not know what the heck he’s talking about – doesn’t understand
tax policy. But boy, he can sniff out the kind of thing that’s not going
to work with his base, and we saw that with healthcare.

It does seem to be morphing in a similar way. The administration tells
you, hey, everybody, this is going to be great for you.

And then the score-keepers start getting a hold of it and it looks
extremely different.

O’DONNELL: You know, I never thought I’d say this, and this could change.
But so far, Donald Trump is the best sales person – he’s the best sales
person they have on the tax bill so far.

Listen to Gary Cohn in the White House press briefing today, telling you
what not to look at in the tax bill. Please, don’t look at the details,
listen to this.


you all to do is don’t look at any one piece.

Look at the plan and its entirety. That’s how we’re looking at tax reform.
We’re looking at it in its entirety.


O’DONNELL: Joy, don’t look at what I have in this hand –

REID: Look at that –


O’DONNELL: Just look at what I have in this –

REID: Yes –

O’DONNELL: Hand here, don’t – please, no details.

REID: Donald Trump – Donald Trump knows he is the guy who’s got to go
sell this –


REID: To the base. So he knows, Gary Cohn doesn’t have to do it. Steve
Mnuchin is too busy flying his actress wife to sit on the roof of whatever,
you know, Treasury building he’s flying on.

He is surrounded by people, who he hired by the way –


REID: Who fly around –

O’DONNELL: The best people –

REID: In corporate jets, the best people, who fly around in corporate jets
when they could take commercial.

Who are using these government jobs to live fabulous life styles of the
rich and famous. They’re not the ones who have to go sell this in

They are the ones who have to go to –

O’DONNELL: Right –

REID: Cheboygan and convince the Trump voter that this is OK, he’s got to
do that. So Donald Trump understands that all of these things that
Republicans keeps saying, which we all know are lies.

Deficit –


REID: Neutral, that’s a lie. Not going to raise – not going to lower
taxes on the super rich, that’s a lie. All of these lies, Trump has to
sell them.

Well, since he’s a salesman, and that’s the one thing he’s really actually
kind of good at, he knows he can’t sell that. Even he cannot sell that to
the base.

BERNSTEIN: Let me – let me tell you that –

O’DONNELL: Jared, are you surprised that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and
the others have not been better sales men for this, and Trump is the best
one they have –


O’DONNELL: So far?

BERNSTEIN: What can you sell? I mean –

O’DONNELL: Yes, OK, yes –

BERNSTEIN: But let me – and I actually – is the point I wanted the make.
What I think Gary Cohn was talking about there was the middle class.

So they say it’s not going to cut taxes on the rich. That’s patently – I
mean, that may be the biggest lie of all because –


BERNSTEIN: You get rid of the estate tax – remember the estate tax only
hits the top .2, the richest .2 percent of estates.

You cut the corporate rate, well, who does that help? You get rid of the
AMT, that’s 31 million for Trump according to the “New York Times” tonight.

But the middle class, now they’re trying to tell you that this is actually
going to help the middle class. Well, people are starting now to crunch
the numbers.

The details are coming out, we don’t have all of them yet, we need more.
But it looks like taxes will actually go up for some middle class families
and the reason is that they’re getting rid of the personal deduction – the
personal exemption.

They double the standard deduction and that helps a lot of low income
families, but they get rid of the personal exemption which is about $4,000
per person for people who take that exemption.

I’m not going to get into the gnarly bits of the code, but people are
starting to crunch numbers and figuring out that there are some families,
typically with a couple of kids in the upper part of the middle class who
look like based on what we know so far, they’re going to get a tax

So yes, that’s the kind of thing you don’t want people looking at if you’re
Gary Cohn.

O’DONNELL: Steve Mnuchin and possibly Gary Cohn are going to find
themselves testifying to the Senate Finance Committee about this, and they
are going to get shredded in there.

With the way this bill stands right now. With the way this bill stands
right now, and with what they’re trying to push right now, we’re going to
have to leave it there for tonight.

Jared Bernstein, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really
appreciate it. Coming up, the president managed to stump the cast of “Fox
& Friends”, just completely flummoxed them for the first time in history.

We’re going to show you that. And the president is complaining that he is
not getting enough credit for what he has been doing for Puerto Rico, of
course, he’s been doing a lot of other things instead like attacking
football players.


O’DONNELL: On “Fox News” this morning, President Trump tried to explain
why the Republican healthcare bill did not pass the Senate.


TRUMP: The healthcare bill didn’t go down, we have the votes, but
reconciliation is a disaster. But as you know, it ends on Friday, so we
don’t have enough time because we have one senator who is a yes vote, a
great person, but he is in the hospital.

And he’s a yes vote, so we can’t do it by Friday.


O’DONNELL: For once, even “Fox & Friends” were dumbfounded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know what he means when he says he has the
votes, one guy in the hospital, I don’t know what that means, do you?


O’DONNELL: No, I don’t, especially since no senator is in the hospital.
And as all of the Republicans in the Senate have admitted, they don’t have
the votes.

The president was also asked about his public dissatisfactions with Mitch
McConnell which, of course were made public by the president himself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still have confidence in Mitch McConnell?

TRUMP: I do. I mean, look, I’ve dealt with Mitch for a long time, and I
think he has to get rid of the filibuster rule, I think it’s just a
disaster for the Republican Party because it means you need 60 votes on
most pieces of legislation and you’re not going to get it, so they have to
get rid of the filibuster rule otherwise it’s – they’re just making a


O’DONNELL: Of course, the Republicans did not need 60 votes for the
healthcare bill, they only needed 50 senators to vote for the healthcare
bill, and then Vice President Pence would be allowed to cast the tie-
breaking vote to pass it.

But McConnell’s refusal to try to get rid of the filibuster rules is one of
the reasons the president has repeatedly portrayed Mitch McConnell as weak.

Ken Vogel and Jeremy Peters are reporting in the “New York Times” tonight
that Steve Bannon and two of his long time benefactors are putting together
a political coalition designed to ensure that the victory of a Republican
insurgent in the Alabama Senate primary this week was just the beginning of
the surprises that await the party establishment.

The head of the Super PAC allied with the Bannon efforts said, quote, “our
efforts are about replacing the GOP establishment.”

Joining us now, Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice President Joe
Biden and a former senior aide to President Obama.

And also with us, Ken Vogel, “New York Times” reporter. Ken, your report
is really extraordinary. It’s been inching toward this every day of the
Trump administration.

But there has never been a party in chaos in Washington like we are seeing
as reported by you tonight in the “Times” about this Republican Party.

KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, that’s right because, Lawrence,
it’s not just Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, the establishment and the
sort of anti-establishment president.

Even the folks who supported Trump during the campaign and were kind of
leaders of this anti-establishment sentiment, I’m talking about Steve
Bannon, are now suspicious of the president, and don’t think that he has
this America first populist, nationalist, anti-establishment sort of

They think he’s lost that, and drifted away from that. So they are taking
matters into their own hands. They are starting sort of a third prong of
this Republican Party and chaos that is both anti-establishment and trying
to enforce from the right or from the sort of populist, nationalist right
to try to keep Trump on track.

That’s potentially going to cause problems for both Mitch McConnell as
we’ll see if Roy Moore ends up being the senator from Alabama.

And also potentially for Donald Trump in some of these contested GOP
primaries where incumbents, Republican incumbents in the Senate are going
to get challenges from this Bannon-led coalition.

That is the recipe for a real civil war.

O’DONNELL: The pro-Trump faction in all of this works on the principle
that Donald Trump can never be wrong, can never do anything wrong.

Therefore, if something goes wrong, someone else has to be blamed and that
has been either Paul Ryan on one day or Mitch McConnell on another. Let’s
listen to the way Rush Limbaugh talks about this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: They don’t want Trump to succeed with his
agenda. They can’t afford that. I’m not exaggerating here.

They can’t afford for him to succeed with his agenda, they can’t afford it.
The lid’s blown, the gig is over. The joke is revealed.

If an outsider with no prior political experience can come in and fix
messes that people have been promised would be fixed for 30 years, how does
that make them look? They can’t allow that to happen.


O’DONNELL: Ron, the striking thing about the media defenders of Donald
Trump and his agenda is there is no Trump agenda.

There – he has simply adopted the Republican Party’s –


O’DONNELL: Agenda in the Congress with a flourish here or there about a
wall and a travel ban. What Trump agenda is Rush Limbaugh talking about?

KLAIN: No idea nor does Rush know what he’s talking about. Look, Trump
himself every other day says, well, it’s up to the Republicans in Congress
to deliver –


KLAIN: This healthcare bill.


KLAIN: They’re supposed to deliver this – I’m just suppose to sit here
and sign this stuff when it shows up. And, you know, the problem they have
is, Lawrence, you worked on the issues on the Hill too.

This legislation is hard. It’s complicated. It requires presidential
leadership. I mean, you know, President Obama called senators and
congressmen every hour to get the –


KLAIN: Affordable Care Act, plus –


KLAIN: Deep in the detail, and on the weekend before Cassidy-Graham went
down, Donald Trump sat at his golf club and tweeted about the NFL.

And they are never going to get anything done in this Congress if that’s
the kind of presidential, quote, “leadership they’re going to see from
Donald Trump.

O’DONNELL: And Ken, the people who are talking about going to war with the
congressional leadership, the Republican establishment, do they consider
that that might actually lead to Democratic wins in the House and the

VOGEL: I don’t think they really care, for them it’s all about blowing
things out –

O’DONNELL: Can we stop you for a second, Ken? Here’s the part. Why would
they not care? Why would it not be at least important to them to prevent
the Democrats from taking over a Senate seat or a House seat?

VOGEL: Because their enmity is towards the establishment writ large. And
they are conservatives, so they are sort of most directly able to take on
the Republican establishment.

But if their efforts to blow up the Republican establishment ultimately
hurt Republicans and the Republican Party and help Democrats, they would
see that as to some extent mission accomplished.

It’s like with the tea party, when you had these folks like Christine
O’Donnell in 2010, Sharron Angle who went down, who won Republican
primaries because they rode a tea party wave and then went down to
overwhelming defeat sometimes in seats that were thought were – that were
thought to be winnable in the general election.

Some of the tea party folks said, we’d rather lose with principled
candidates than win with these moderates, with these rhinos.

I think we’re seeing a similar sentiment, howbeit from a slightly different
place on the philosophical spectrum from Steve Bannon, from the mercers and
from some of the folks who feel that Donald Trump has drifted from the
America first agenda that he laid out during the campaign.

And I disagree to some extent with Ron and you, Lawrence, say that there’s
no agenda. I think that he did hit on some themes that were – that did
resonate with people that he’s largely abandoned, not completely but
largely abandoned because of his desire to get a win and he’s thinking that
the Republican establishment has the best – the best chance of getting a

So he would sign a bill, a health care bill that wasn’t sufficiently –
that didn’t sufficiently repeal Obamacare because it was a win, obviously,
that hasn’t worked out but it also has inflamed his base.

O’DONNELL: Ron Klain, a quick last word here.

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, he made a lot of promises during the campaign, Ken is
right about that. Bu he wasn’t serious about when he made them.

He’s not doing the work to get them done now, and he’s not going to get
them done because he doesn’t know how. He’s the most incompetent president
we’ve ever had.

So I agree with Ken, he made a bunch of promises on the campaign trail,
he’s farther from keeping them today than he ever has been.

O’DONNELL: Ron Klain and Ken Vogel, and Ken, your article tonight
describes a party unlike anything we have ever seen in Washington, a
mandatory reading.

Thank you very much, both of you, really appreciate it.

VOGEL: Thanks, Lawrence.

KLAIN: Thanks Lawrence.

O’DONNELL: Coming up, the president defended his attacks on football
players today. And, of course, the president managed to at least tweet
about Puerto Rico.


LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, in NFL news, the Chicago Bears
and the Green Bay Packers, team members, linked arms during the National
Anthem before the NFL game in Green Bay, Wisconsin. No player on either
team kneeled tonight. Today, president trump said this about the NFL.


country. They cannot disrespect our flag or our national anthem. And they
can’t have people sitting down or kneeling down during our national anthem.

And I saw this a year ago with Kaepernick. I said this is a terrible thing.
I have so many friends that are owners and they’re in a box. I mean I had
spoken to a couple of them.

They say we are in a situation where we have to do something. I think
they’re afraid of their players, you want to know the truth and I think
it’s disgraceful.


O’DONNELL: Today in the Whitehouse Press Briefing Room, reporter April
Ryan nowhere in the attempt to clarify whether the President thinks protest
has ever been a positive force in this country.


APRIL RYAN, REPORTER: The NFL players, what we’re hearing, not about
having not pride. They’re saying their patriots. They love this country.
What does the President say when you look at history and see how people
love this country but wanted to challenge the system to make it better?

history, look at thousands of Americans who have given their life to
protect that flag, to protect that anthem. The President is simply talking
about what we’re for and not about what we’re against and certainly this
administration will always be for protection and celebration of the flag
and the national anthem and that’s not going to change.

RYAN: Just a follow-up. Wait a minute. Just to clarify on this.

HUCKABEE: I don’t think there’s much to clarify. I think it was pretty,
pretty black and white there.

RYAN: People are very divided on this issue. It is a racial issue for some
people and the question is, when the military issue is brought in, the
military goes and fights for the freedoms of this nation and the players
are saying they’re thankful for the military’s service to allow them -

HUCKABEE: As we all are.

RYAN: To allow - we have the freedom to do this. I mean, is there some
kind of confusion here or is it us versus them scenario?

HUCKABEE: It certainly should be. As I’ve said several times before, this
isn’t a us versus them. This would be something that brings our country
together. These are symbols of what our country stands for and should be
the opposite of what this is and a unifying moment when the national anthem
plays, all Americans should be proud to stand up, salute that flag, salute
that anthem and be part of that process.


O’DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, Tim O’Brien, Executive Editor of
Bloomberg View, the author of Trump Nation, the Art of being the Donald.
And back with us MSNBC’S Joy Reid. Joy, I haven’t heard a bit of evidence
that there’s anyone working in the white house who thinks that protests in
this country has ever been a positive thing.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, because I think Donald Trump sees this
from the point of view of the NFL team owners. right? And that they should
be able to order the players to do what they say. And I think you know now
that we have unpacked a lot of this, we know there’s a defense department
deal that forced these players to go out on the field and sort of make a
patriotic display of themselves.

You got a couple of players starting with Eric Reid and of course Colin
Kaepernick who decided to use that moment when they’re basically the NFL’S
being paid to do the patriotic display by the defense department to make a
statement, not about patriotism if the flag but about police brutality, of
the killing of black people by police with impunity. That is what the
protests area about.

Donald Trump wants to make it about him. He wants to wrap himself in the
flag. Well, you know, he had a chance to wrap himself in the flag and
fight in Vietnam and he got deferments so he didn’t have to do that. So he
didn’t have to fight for the anthem or the flag. Donald Trump is the wrong
person to lecture anybody about their duties to their country.

O’DONNELL: Tim, you studied Donald Trump and the family. I haven’t found
any member of the Trump family who’s ever served in the military. Is that

TIM O’BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That is correct. That is correct. you
know, he’s very proud of his uncle who did some government work as a
scientist during World War II. But that’s about the extent of it. You
know Sarah Sanders said a revealing thing duing that press conference, she
said I think this is a very black and white issue. And on the whole NFL

I mean I think she is right. It is. The President keeps trying to make this
about the flag. and patriotism when what’s really at play here and has been
at play since the Charlottesville Protest is the President historically has
been a profound and fairly flagrant race baiter. It goes back to, you
know, his family’s record with discriminating against people of color in
their housing projects. We get the Central Park Jogger case in the late
’80s when he, you know, basically invaded an issue and baited people
racially so he could be part of that. It continued in news campaign.

We saw it after Charlottesville and it happened again last Friday and I
think what he is trying to do now is say it’s about the flag. It’s about
military service, about patriotism because I think he realized he stepped
in it and Kobe Bryant and others were, you know, hold our beer.

O’DONNELL: But Joy, he seems to relish every one of the questions every
time it comes up. He seems eager to talk about it.

REID: He thinks he got to talk about it because he understands that the
base that he’s talking to, who are the only people, let’s just be honest,
Donald Trump is not talking to the country, not President of the United
States. He’s the President of one third of the voting population of the
United States. He’s about one third of one half of the adult population of
the United States. And he’s only talking to them.

And he understands that that trigger, especially since it’s a racial
trigger. He only goes after the black ESPN reporter, the black football
players. He has this thing because he understands that there’s a part of
his base, not all of his base. But there’s a part of his base that wants
to say those entitled, rich, black athletes needs to shut up and entertain
me, get out on the field and rub up and down the field and entertain me
while I sit and watch the anthem eating Doritos.

I want them to stand up and perform patriotism because I said so, because
the owners said so. And he knows that is there’s a part of his base that
has that racial grievance that Donald Trump shares. That he’s been using
to elevate himself since the 1980s. He’s doing it on purpose because
that’s part of who he is and he knows that it makes his base happy.

O’BRIEN: And the owners aren’t in a box. He keeps saying they’re in a box.
They’re not. Actually some of the owners stood up and said we believe in
the right to express themselves and in solidarity we will support that.
There’s wrong with it. He’s saying they’re in a box because he’ petrified
of the fact that his campaign donors don’t agree with him. And that other
white men in charge don’t agree with him.

O’DONNELL: And Joy, does he do the math that you just did that the stuff
he is talking about is aimed at one third of the voters? And does he
understand how many more voters he needs in order to actually get re-
elected if that’s what he wants to do or how much more voter support he
needs if, say, he wants to pass a tax bill?

REID: I think don’t think Donald Trump thinks that way. I think that he
sees the entire universe as two groups of people. People who love Donald
Trump and everybody else and none of those people matter. And Donald Trump
is laser focused on whoever loves Trump because that’s who he’s selling $40
hats to, that’s who he’s selling the gold cards when he text out buy a gold
card with my face on it.

He knows that who he’s marketing to. Donald Trump is a marketer. He’s
selling things to one particular group of people and that’s the only people
that he cares about.

O’DONNELL: And, Tim, this would make perfect sense to me as a Trump
strategy if you show me the poll of 51 percent support. If he had 51
percent support and he was never doing a thing to try to change any minds,
I would go, okay. That could work.

O’BRIEN: And - and, you know, his base isn’t just the post industrial
working class white voter. He also pulled in affluent Republicans who I
think he’s starting to shred. I think he’s starting to lose – we’ll know
in the midterms but his playing with fire around this. I don’t - but I
don’t think he’s ever actually cared about electoral math. He cares about
his ego.

O’DONNELL: To your point, Joy, how this is perceived, Quinnipiac Poll,
Trump’s handling of race relations, approve, 32 percent. disapprove, 62
percent. And that approve of 32 percent is worth staring at. That’s right
around where Donald Trump’s support number is now, 32 percent, 35 percent.

REID: Yeah. He got elected, remember, Donald Trump became President with
about that level of support. So in his experience, being tremendously
unpopular with the vast majority of Americans doesn’t matter. And he won’t
admit that he got into office because he had a leg up with the help from
the Russians, because he had a leg up with all sort of external factors.

He thinks that just the power of his personality gets him over the finish
line even with 32 percent support. So he honestly I don’t think does math
or not does he care.

O’DONNELL: Tim, the public, of course, overwhelmingly believes that no
player should be fired. Donald Trump says they should be fired. And he
makes these declarations that I don’t – obviously, he doesn’t understand
what presidential language is supposed to be. But he’s in there saying
they cannot do this.

They cannot do this. No, yes, they can. That’s kind of the point. Its one
thing for you to say I don’t like it when they do that but it’s the
president saying they cannot do this.

O’BRIEN: Well, you know, he came to Washington I think with a great
misconception that everyone’s going to step and fetch it on any number of
issues, public protests or health care bill through, and the great
education of Donald Trump is that no matter how much he shake it is rattle
in the playpen, he is not getting his way.

O’DONNELL: Tim O’Brien and Joy Reid, thank you both for joining us
tonight, really appreciate it.

REID: Thank you.

O’DONNELL: Coming up, the President’s finally worried about Puerto Rico.
But he mostly seems to be worried about the media coverage of his response
to the crisis in Puerto Rico.


O’DONNELL: In the eight days since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico,
the President Tweeted 23 times about the NFL and 12 times about Puerto
Rico. And many of those Tweets about Puerto Rico are actually complaints
about the media’s coverage of the President’s slow response to the crisis
in Puerto Rico.

President Trump Tweeted tonight, FEMA and first responders are doing a
great job in Puerto Rico. Massive food and water delivered, docks and
electric grid dead, locals trying really hard to help but many have lost
their homes. Military is now on site. And I will be there Tuesday and this
is the most important part, wish press would treat fairly.

Today, Rihanna, that who has twice as many followers on Twitter as
President Trump Tweeted at the President saying, dear Donald Trump, I know
you’ve probably already seen this but I just wanted to make sure. Don’t let
your people die like this.

And, of course, citizens of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States.
Today, the Trump Administration finally waived the Jones Act allowing
foreign ships to deliver food, water and supplies, something President
Trump did immediately in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and
Hurricane Irma in Florida. And Tom Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland
Security Adviser asked about the slow response.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why has it taken eight days to get three-star general
on the ground to start organizing this? we know the island situation. Why
eight days?

Tom Bossert, Homeland Security Adviser: Yes, well because it didn’t ever
require a three-star general eight days ago.


O’DONNELL: Speaking to reporters outside the Whitehouse acting Homeland
Security Secretary Elaine Duke responded to questions regarding her
satisfaction level with the government’s response to Hurricane Maria.


know it’s a hard storm to recover from. But the amount of progress that’s
been made and I really would appreciate any support that we get. I know it
is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the
limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating


O’DONNELL: So for the acting Homeland Security Secretary, Puerto Rico is a
good news story as you just heard her say while the New York Daily News
calls it an American tragedy. We’ll speak with reporters in Puerto Rico and
get an assessment, next.



JOSE AYALA, CROWLEY’S VICE PRESIDENT: So far, the people from FEMA here on
the island, they’re doing what they can. But we need more resources. And
the President has to send much more resources. This is not going to be
resolved with a waiver of the Jones Act.

Send people here, send the military here, send heavy equipment to open our
roads, to clean our roads. Send more resources so we can distribute all
these goods to the people of Puerto Rico.


O’DONNELL: Puerto Rico’s shipping harbor are now open and there are
thousands of containers filled with fuel, water, medicine and supplies. But
the problem is now getting all of those supplies to the people who need
them. MSNBC’S Mariana Atencio joins us live from San Juan. And Mariana,
what are the problems they’re facing now with trying to move those

MARIANA ATENCIO, MSNBC REPORTER: Lawrence, so as we were watching these
long lines of people all over the island, they kept telling us, the
supplies are here, they’re just not getting to us. So we went to the port
ourselves to check it out. And immediately we saw these thousands of
containers with those life-saving supplies at the port.

We spoke to the Vice President of Crowley, they it’s a company that
handles almost half of the operations at the ports on the island. And this
man, Jose Ayala whose sound byte you just played here on the show, he said,
listen, first of all, we don’t have the drivers to be able to take the
supplies to the people of Puerto Rico.

Secondly, the infrastructure of the island is completely devastated.
Thirdly, there is a problem with cell signal. 91 percent of Puerto Rico
does not have any cell phone reception and the fourth, you have a problem
with access to fuel. So it’s almost what I’ve been calling the perfect
storm after the storm.

And you can just imagine how frustrating it is to know that that fuel, that
medicine, that building material, that gas that people need is just sitting
there at the port, stranded since Saturday, thousands of containers and
they’re not being able to be moved for the people of Puerto Rico. I also
checked up with him later after the Whitehouse said that that wasn’t really
the information that they were handling.

And they said that they had seen some movement but that only today,
according to Crowley, 250 of those containers had been moved, 250 out of
thousands, Lawrence. And then finally, you know, Jose Ayala, the Vice
President of this company, told me, Mariana, the people of Puerto Rico
they’re not any different than the people who suffered during Harvey and
during Hurricane Irma. I want to play that sound byte for you, Lawrence,
right now.


AYALA: He is our president as well. And we deserve the same attention and
the same support that everybody else in the mainland.


ATENCIO: I wanted to hear the other sides to the story as well. So I
contacted the COMS person of the port. This is a government person,
nothing to do with this company, Juan Carlos Hernandez and he said the same
thing, for them it’s the drivers. Only 20 percent of them have reported to
work so they just urgently really need these supplies moved as soon as
possible, Lawrence.

O’DONNELL: Mariana Atencio thank you very much for that live report,
really appreciate it. Tonight’s Last Word is next.



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