The Last word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 9/29/17 Trump faces backlash over Puerto Rico
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: September 29, 2017
Guest: Jordyn Holman, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Indira Lakshmanan, Jonathan
Capehart, Betsy Woodruff, Catherine Rampell, Walter Dellinger
[22:00:00] RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Is that because they just got around
to doing this stuff they meant to do before?
I mean, imagine if you`re – one of your family members is one of those
essential State Department personnel being left behind. How do you feel
about that? Is the State Department ensuring their safety?
Because, weird enough, when it seemed like maybe Cuba or some other
government was attacking American diplomats. But now, without any
explanation, we`ve got this dramatic action by the U.S. government.
Without explanation as to why they have taken this dramatic action, it`s
just weird. It`s just weird. Lots of unanswered questions.
That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for the last word with Joy
Reid filling in for Lawrence.
Good evening, Joy.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rach. You know, every single
thing about this administration`s hemispheric relations is strange, I have
MADDOW: Yes. You know, we have the Mayor of San Juan on tonight, and she
was talking about, you know, the – having so much admiration for the U.S.
response in Haiti, right?
MADDOW: I mean, talking about the U.S. being able to display incredible
capacity for dealing with something like the Haitian earthquake for all the
trouble there. She`s saying, I envy that response.
REID: Yes. It`s heartbreaking. And listening to her speak on your show
and listening to that soundbite of what she said earlier today, it`s
heartbreaking as an American just to see this happening.
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
REID: Absolutely bizarre.
MADDOW: Thanks, Joy.
REID: Thank you so much, Rachel.
REID: Thank you. Have a great weekend.
All right. Donald Trump says Tom Price is a good man, and the Trump
administration is doing a good job responding to the unfolding catastrophe
in Puerto Rico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he`s a very fine
person. I certainly don`t like, like, the optics.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the kind of thing that really makes people mad
about Washington, the idea that they`re living high on the hog on our tax
dollars and not doing the people`s business.
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Price is paying the price, pun intended,
because it`s a bad week for Trump.
TRUMP: I`m not happy, OK? I can tell you, I`m not happy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millions of residents are still focusing on the bare
essentials: food, water, fuel, money to get through sweltering days on an
island devastated by Hurricane Maria.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: I am begging, begging
anyone that can hear us to save us from dying.
TRUMP: We have done an incredible job considering there`s absolutely
nothing to work with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is saying that we have a lot of support,
but I don`t see it really. At least not yet.
CRUZ: I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am
mad as hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Very satisfied, great job, incredible. Those are some of the words
that Donald Trump and administration officials have used to describe their
relief efforts in Puerto Rico after the U.S. territory was devastated by
Now, it should go without saying, but nothing is great, let alone
incredible, about what`s going on in Puerto Rico. And Trump administration
officials are facing a growing backlash over the sluggishness of the
federal response as well as for tone-deaf remarks like this one by Elaine
Duke, the Acting Homeland Security Secretary, during a Thursday press
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I am very satisfied.
I 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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: A good news story. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Make no mistake about it, the situation in Puerto Rico is dire. Roughly
half the residents are still without running water. Just 36 of Puerto
Rico`s 69 hospitals are open and have power.
Millions of people who, again, are U.S. citizens are increasingly desperate
and begging for help, literally, and a Trump administration official is
concerned about good press.
After a day of bad news stories about Elaine Duke`s response, she had a
different message today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUKE: Clearly, the situation here in Puerto Rico after the devastating
hurricane is not satisfactory. But together, we are getting there, and the
progress today is very, very strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: But while Acting Secretary Duke seems to have learned something from
the criticism, her boss, the President? Well, he`s still Donald Trump.
This morning, he tweeted out more self-congratulatory praise, quote, Puerto
Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello just stated the administration and the
President, every time we`ve spoken, they`ve delivered.
The fact is Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big
decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding,
Now, if you didn`t catch that, in addition to highlighting some positive
comments about himself, Trump also cast doubt on whether Washington would
even lend a hand to repair the damage to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
There`s a big question mark over that at the moment with a spokesman for
FEMA telling NBC News that administrators want to assess the damage before
committing to fixing public infrastructure.
[22:05:05] During his speech this morning, Trump muddied the waters even
further on whether Puerto Rico will get that assistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to
determine how this massive rebuilding effort, will end up being one of the
biggest ever, will be funded and organized and what we will do with the
tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Hours after that speech, Trump was answering questions on the White
House lawn about the administration`s relief efforts. And at the same
time, in San Juan, the city`s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, was also speaking
about the administration`s relief efforts.
And the differences in their responses is worth listening to. Here`s what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ll tell you, the governor of Puerto Rico has been unbelievably
generous with his statements. I mean, he`s been praising our efforts.
And this is very difficult. This is a total devastation. But I can tell
you this, we have done an incredible job considering there`s absolutely
nothing to work with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. And here`s San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: We are dying here. And I cannot fathom the thought that the
greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island
of a hundred miles by 35 miles long. So May Day, we are in trouble.
Now, I have been very respectful of the FEMA employees. I have been
patient, but we have no time for patience anymore.
So I am asking the President of the United States to make sure somebody is
in charge that is up to the task of saving lives. I will do what I never
thought I was going to do.
I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If
anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us
with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Joining us on the phone from San Juan, Puerto Rico is Jordyn Holman,
a business reporter for Bloomberg.
So, Jordyn, it`s pretty stark hearing the mayor of an American city. Not
since Katrina have we heard that kind of plea from Americans to their
federal government for help.
Give us a sense of who is right. Donald Trump says the relief effort is
going quite well, and the mayor of San Juan says it`s dire. Who is right?
JORDYN HOLMAN, BUSINESS REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS (via telephone): I`ve
been talking to a lot of citizens down here in the past few days in San
Juan and other rural towns on Puerto Rico, and it really does sound like
the mayor is right. A lot of people here just have not seen FEMA, have not
felt like they were getting the deliveries they had been promised.
They are waiting in long lines, spending their whole days trying to get
gas, trying to take money out of ATMs, trying to get food from the grocery
stores. It`s just a very arduous process this past week.
REID: And we`re hearing reports – and this is from some notes when you
spoke earlier with our producers. What about the situation for schools and
for kids? Because, of course, this is the time when they would normally be
HOLMAN (via telephone): It is, and they`re not in school. You know, the
last time a major hurricane hit Puerto Rico, it was in the `80s and school
was out for three weeks. I was talking to some parents today. They think
it might be two months.
And so that puts parents in a really difficult space because they don`t
want their kids to fall behind in school, but then, also, they don`t have
anywhere to go. The parents are looking for jobs while the kids are just
out in the streets.
REID: And if you would just explain sort of to folks who, you know – and,
obviously, these pictures are remarkable, but the damage to the actual
physical infrastructure, how extensive is that?
HOLMAN (via telephone): So the highways were pretty much cleared, but it`s
when you go to the rural towns. There`s still trees laying around.
Utility poles are leaned over into the streets as if it`s like a ladder.
So the roads are pretty bad when you get into the mountainous areas of the
I was talking to some truckers who are trying to get, you know, this aid
and food and ice to people out in those areas. And they say you have to be
very brave to try to even get – drive there.
[22:10:03] REID: Wow. Well, Jordyn Holman, thank you very much, coming to
us from San Juan. Thank you very much for your time.
HOLMAN (via telephone): Thanks for having me.
REID: And joining us now, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is the New York City
Council speaker. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and just returned
from the island earlier this week after a three-day visit.
Also joining us is Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for “The Boston Globe.”
So I want to start, you know, where we just ended with Jordyn, the physical
infrastructure damage. Is there enough or, when you were there, did you
actually see federal agencies on the ground, U.S. military on the ground,
attempting to address those infrastructure issues?
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: No, not at all. I
was there last weekend through Tuesday, and there was absolutely no
presence of any sort of federal agency or FEMA that I could see.
Now, let`s be clear. This is a hurricane that we knew was going to hit the
island. We could track its progress for over a week. We knew it was a
Category 5. We knew it was going to be a straight on, dead on hit on the
island, and it was going to be catastrophic.
So the fact that there was no effort to even be ready, once that hurricane
hit, to be sending aid and have assistance on the ground is reprehensible.
That is talking about the mismanagement and the lack of empathy and
understanding or even having a plan.
So this is real sheer chaos and there is absolutely no empathy coming from
this administration. And the fact that he was, last weekend, at a golf
resort, this weekend at a golf resort, when this is happening to 3.4
million U.S. citizens really speaks to the lack of interest on his part and
even attention to something that is so critical and is dire. It really is.
And it`s just – does not seem to be really be getting better. With only
10,000 people on the ground between troops and relief workers when we had
40,000 in Florida with Irma, when we had 30,000 in Texas with Harvey,
right? When international solidarity, we had over 20,000 troops in Haiti,
which was great. I`m not –
MARK-VIVERITO: You know, this is – pales in comparison. So there is
benign neglect happening to the residents and the citizens of Puerto Rico.
REID: And, Indira, I want to play one more soundbite. Rachel Maddow
tonight had on the San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, and she talked a
little bit about just the confusion in the federal response. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: So I was still getting questions from FEMA of, what are my
priorities? It seems pretty simple. You save lives with food, water, and
It just doesn`t seem like the most powerful nation in the world could be
incapable of just having, in a hundred by 35 mile-long, the ability to just
put fuel into hospitals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: What did – how did the administration explain, Indira, the
inability to do those basic things?
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, COLUMNIST, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Look, I really empathize
with the Mayor. My heart goes out to her and to everyone in Puerto Rico
because it`s a stunning dissonance to hear the President boasting about
this supposedly fantastic response from the federal government.
I mean, what it brings to mind for me is, 12 years ago, when President Bush
was roundly ridiculed for saying after Hurricane Katrina, heck of a job,
brownie, you know, speaking about his FEMA administrator. Remember how
that one statement came to haunt him so much and came to sort of epitomize
what was seen as a slow response by Washington to the Katrina crisis.
Here`s a situation where, as the Mayor has pointed out, you know, the –
our response to Haiti and to natural disasters in other countries, not to
mention the response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma here
in Florida, was so much stronger than it has been.
At the beginning, it was almost as if Trump was sort of, you know, AWOL.
He was at the Bedminster Trump New Jersey resort, you know, tweeting about
NFL players and Alabama, the primary – for the Republican primary there.
And we didn`t hear anything about his response to 3.4 million Americans
living in Puerto Rico.
Now, on the one hand, about, you know, half of Americans don`t even realize
REID: That`s right.
LAKSHMANAN: – that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
LAKSHMANAN: And I think that leads to a lot of the neglect that we were
just talking about.
REID: Yes. Well, Donald Trump, you know, did business on the island of
Puerto Rico. He used to run a golf course there. You would presume he
knows sort of where it is.
And this was Donald Trump talking about it today and sort of trying to
explain the difficulty, apparently, in his mind of getting to Puerto Rico.
This is Donald Trump in big water.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Big water. Can we just show the map of where Puerto Rico is in
relation to the United States, folks?
OK. It`s not far away from the United States. If you just look at that
map, you can see where Puerto Rico is in relation to the United States.
[22:15:00] Donald Trump is saying that it`s the big water that`s preventing
the response from being better. Your thoughts?
MARK-VIVERITO: I mean, it`s just – you have to laugh at this. It`s just
mind-boggling. This is an individual who is incredibly ignorant, doesn`t
really understand or have any sense of context or understanding of issues.
Can`t pay attention. Doesn`t seem to have an attention span to really
understand the severity.
And who is, you know, I say very boldly, I mean, like, he exhibits
sociopathic behavior. This lack of empathy and really being able to
understand, you know, what people are feeling and being able to empathize
in any way. It`s just really horrible.
The fact that within all of this context of this pain and suffering and
dying that is happening, that he would even talk about costs of the
REID: And Puerto Rico`s economic issues.
MARK-VIVERITO: Economics. Right, exactly.
MARK-VIVERITO: It`s incredible, right? When that was not being discussed,
again, with Texas where he said 75 percent, we`re going to take care of the
infrastructure, and we`re going to build.
You know, again, this narrative of people of color and immigrants, were
migrants but immigrants, of being drains on the U.S. economy, right? That
we don`t have anything to contribute. That we`re going to have to wait and
see if we`re going to help you out.
I mean, this is incredible. It is racist. I truly believe it. Prejudiced
behavior that is now implemented through policy, and it really is costing
us so much.
REID: And you know, Indira, you – one would want to believe that – you
know, that that is not the reason for what definitely looked like neglect.
But you also have the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which isn`t
much better, and we weren`t even able to find much news and updates on
what`s happening there. But it`s not as if the response to the U.S. Virgin
Islands also an American territory has, you know, been covered in glory.
LAKSHMANAN: Right. Well, you know, one thing that we see in common here
is that people who live in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not
have the ability to vote in the general election for President.
And I think so it`s not only about the color of their skin, but the second-
class citizenship that is extremely unfortunate. I think that if they had
a vote, if they had a sway in the Electoral College, that would make a
Puerto Ricans who are living on the U.S. mainland have a vote if they`re
living in Florida or in New York or wherever else. But if they`re living
in Puerto Rico, they don`t. And I do think that also influences the
President`s response in this case.
LAKSHMANAN: But, you know, I think this is a much larger problem here
which, as she says, it`s a lack of empathy. But it`s also the fact that
President Trump is trying to put the blame on Puerto Rico itself, saying
you have a debt problem before this even started and see we`re going to
have to see how much we can actually do to help you. It`s incredible.
REID: Melissa, I`ll give you last word.
MARK-VIVERITO: No, I think that 1 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida.
MARK-VIVERITO: It is the largest population outside of the island at the
moment, so we have to be the voice for the island. We have to be the voice
and put the pressure on the administration. And I believe that within the
congressional delegation and the Senate delegation in Florida, they`re
going to understand that this has consequences.
REID: Yes. That`s absolutely right. People are not going to forget.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, thank you very much.
Indira Lakshmanan, thank you both for joining us.
And coming up, price cut. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is
out of the job and likely back to flying commercial.
And later, it begins. Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s team goes to the
White House as a new report tonight details why the White House Counsel
almost quit over Jared Kushner.
[22:20:59] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: By the way, you`re going to get the votes? You better get them.
TRUMP: He better get them. Oh, he better – otherwise I`ll say, Tom,
you`re fired. I`ll get somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And today, Tom Price, the Health and Human Services Secretary,
resigned, becoming the first cabinet secretary to leave the Trump
administration. But technically, it wasn`t healthcare that took him down.
Price resigned after days of scrutiny for jetting around the country on
private planes. According to some estimates, his private jet trips gobbled
up more than $1 million of taxpayer money.
In his resignation letter, Price said, I regret that the recent events have
created a distraction.
The President, today, accepted Price`s resignation, making Don J. Wright,
the current Deputy Assistant HHS Secretary, the Acting Secretary.
And tonight, Trump`s Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, sent a letter to the
rest of Trump`s cabinet officials, reminding them of something you`d think
they`d know. That they are public servants.
Quote, every penny we spend comes from the taxpayer. We, thus, owe it to
the taxpayer to work as hard managing that money wisely as the taxpayer
must do to earn it in the first place. Put another way, just because
something is legal doesn`t make it right.
That`s a lesson several other Trump cabinet secretaries might want to take
to heart. Hint, hint, Steve Mnuchin, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and David
Shulkin. All under fire for their swanky taxpayer funded travel as well.
And a new report tonight finds that it`s not just the gilded Trump cabinet
doing the spending. According to CBS News, the Trump kids` annual Aspen
ski vacation in March, that fancy vacay cost taxpayers some $300,000.
Joining us now is Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for “The Washington
Post” and an MSNBC contributor. And Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for
“The Daily Beast.”
So, you know, Jonathan, this is an administration that`s come in saying
they were going to go after waste, fraud, and abuse. We can`t afford food
stamps. We can`t afford healthcare.
But they certainly do live high on the hog. Did Tom Price pay the price
for living too well on the public dime or in your view, was it living too
high in the public dime plus healthcare didn`t pass?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s that, but
also, the other thing you left out, getting bad headlines that reflected
poorly on the President because we have a president who cares only about
what his headlines are.
And so a couple of days ago, Joy, I tweeted out, let`s be clear here.
President Trump is not upset by what Secretary Price did. He`s upset by
the negative press caused by what Secretary Price did.
And so with all the people that you mentioned who also have their sort of
flight gate problems, you know, flying around on private planes at the
expense of taxpayers, only Secretary Price is the one who`s had to walk the
And it didn`t help that the healthcare – TrumpCare went down in a ball of
flames again. But I don`t think we`re going to see any of those other
people you mentioned walking the plank in the way that Secretary Price –
oh, I`m sorry, former Secretary Price did.
REID: Well, we`ll see what happens if tax reform doesn`t go through. Then
Steve Mnuchin, you know, might – his travel might look a lot more
interesting for Donald Trump.
Betsy, you know, Price did try to reverse those headlines Jonathan talked
about. He tried to sort of clean them up. He offered to pay back $51,887
but not the full cost of the planes, just the cost of his seat. Is there
any evidence that that effort to try to clean it up might have actually –
made things worse in the eye of Donald Trump or made him look weak?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: I haven`t seen any
evidence suggesting that that`s part of the reason. And my sense here very
much is that the planes were basically just an excuse for the President to
fire Secretary Price.
My understanding is that there was little love lost between Price and
President Trump. These are two very different men. Price is southern.
He`s very conservative. He`s very much in the Paul Ryan mold when it comes
to how public figures present themselves, how they perform their work.
[22:25:04] Meanwhile, Donald Trump, of course, dispositionally, is
extremely at odds with that. My sense is that their relationship was never
a particularly warm one.
And then when you couple that with the fact that Price became the face of
this huge failure to appeal the Affordable Care Act, it actually – this
plane crisis was sort of my sense, the sense that I get just from having
conversations with folks this evening, is that the plane crisis was a
convenient reason for the President to shuttle off Price.
But remember, the President has an extraordinarily high comfort level with
controversies. This is a guy who is willing to give the benefit of the
doubt to White supremacists in Charlottesville. The idea that, all of a
sudden, he`s worried about the bad P.R. from people flying on fancy planes
doesn`t really pass the lab test.
REID: Yes. And he hired a lot of billionaires for somebody who is
concerned about optics, Jonathan, and not only – Price is the only one, to
You had Kellyanne Conway who was also on that Price private plane trip from
Dallas to Philly and back on September 15th that cost about $25,000. She
did that as well.
You had Steve Mnuchin who`s had his own issues with spending. You had Ryan
Zinke who, back in July, who`s made trips that were expensive. You had
Mike Pence who – it was reported his Super Bowl trip cost taxpayers about
So it`s not as if Price is the only one nor is he the only sort of big-
spending billionaire. So it had to be something more, right?
CAPEHART: Right, it had to be something more. And the disaster that was
TrumpCare, I agree with Betsy, was probably part of it. But here`s the
thing, just broadly speaking, Joy, that makes this whole thing so galling.
Donald Trump ran for president saying we`re going to drain this swamp.
Secretary Price was one of these people who was on record bemoaning sort of
this – the profligate ways of Washington. And even, I think, there`s him
going on about private planes that the government has.
And yet, he is drummed out over his use of private planes and, like,
flagrantly using private planes. I mean, Joy, would you take a plane from
Philadelphia to New York or – I would never take a plane from Philadelphia
And so to my mind, that shows just this unbelievable disconnect between,
you know, the words that they say when they`re in Congress, and then
suddenly, they are wrapped in the trappings of power. And suddenly, they
see these planes and all these things and they take advantage of them.
They have lost their way when their message that got them into office is
completely ignored, and they forget that this money that they`re spending
isn`t theirs. It`s the taxpayer`s.
And I think this is ultimately going to be yet another problem for the
President because people are going to start, maybe one day, paying
attention to the fact that the words from the campaign and the words from
the administration don`t match the actions of either.
REID: Yes. And you know, Betsy, you know, I was talking earlier on Chris
Hayes` show about the idea that, you know, Trump is almost Teflon to his
base. There`s nothing he can do that would upset them. They his gold
palace as sort of aspirational. They`re fine with it.
But at a certain point, when you have so many cabinet members and when it`s
Pruitt at EPA, it`s Zinke at Interior, it`s Shulkin at V.A., it`s the
Treasury Secretary, it`s the Vice President, that are all living high on
the hog on the taxpayer dime, at a certain point, does the Trump voter
begin to say, wait a minute, they`re laughing at me.
They`re using this money. They`re using these jobs as a way to pad their
lifestyles. Ad they`re literally just sort of laughing in the face of
those of us who wanted to drain the swamp.
WOODRUFF: My sense is that Trump voters only say that if Trump himself
says that. And part of American culture is almost this glorification,
idolization, of extraordinary levels of wealth. That explains so much of
the entertainment we consume, the reality T.V. shows that we choose to
The word they use is usually helpful, aspiration, right? So the fact that
Mnuchin`s wife was posting Instagram pictures of herself and tagging the
designers that she was wearing isn`t something, I think, that necessarily
would trouble the Trump base.
And I think if it were going to, we`d see Trump behave differently. But
the reality is that Melania Trump, the first lady, Ivanka, the – Trump`s
inner circle, these folks, none of these people are trying to hide or
disguise the fact that they`re extraordinarily wealthy.
And as long as the President`s comfortable with it, I think his voters are
going to be comfortable with it. Thus far, I have not seen any indications
that the President`s opulent lifestyle is going to be a liability for him.
When it comes to his cabinet members, the only question is, does he decide
to say it`s a problem –
WOODRUFF: – as he did in the case of Secretary Price, or does he stick up
to them and try to change the conversation?
REID: Well, I`m old enough to remember when the tea party people and
Republicans used to claim that government workers were all overpaid and we
needed a hiring freeze, and they didn`t deserve the money they were making.
We had to bust their unions and pay them less.
I remember that. That wasn`t that long ago.
CAPEHART: You know –
REID: Bet we`re– I`m sorry, we`re out of time.
REID: But quickly, Jonathan, it was – go on, say it, now.
[22:29:58] CAPEHART: No. Really quickly, let – no one begrudges someone
being wealthy and serving in the government. That`s not the issue here.
And we – I just want to give a shout out – one shout out – to Secretary
Betsy DeVos who is wildly wealthy, flies on a private plane, but it`s her
private plane, period.
REID: Yes. Yes. There we go. And a shout out.
CAPEHART: Thanks for the extra time.
REID: Betsy Woodruff, thank you for joining us.
And coming up, Donald Trump claims he won`t benefit from his tax proposal
at all. OK. Well, he could show his tax returns and prove it because the
billionaires in his cabinet? Well, they stand to benefit a whole lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My administration is working every day to lift the burdens on our
companies and on our workers so that you can thrive, compete, and grow.
And at the very center of that plan is a giant, beautiful, massive, the
biggest ever in our country tax cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: The tax cut will be giant, beautiful, massive, if your name is
Donald Trump. If you remember the American middle class, not so much.
According to “The New York Times,” the plan would save Trump more than a
billion dollars in taxes, including the money he get to leave tax free to
whichever Trump children make it into the will – Ivanka, the lion hunters,
Tiffany – due to the elimination of the estate tax.
It would also save Donald Trump`s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, $545
million according to Bloomberg.
It would save the father-in-law of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
[22:35:02] It would save the head of the Small Business Administration,
Linda McMahon and her husband, Vince McMahon, $250 million.
But the average American? Well, the Trump plan could raise your taxes.
Today, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found, by 2027, taxes would rise
for roughly one quarter of taxpayers, including nearly 30 percent of those
with income between $50 and $150,000. That likely include a lot of Trump
supporters who thought the Trump tax plan would be more like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My plan is for the working people and my plan is for jobs. Now, I
don`t benefit. I don`t benefit. In fact –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but what people benefit?
TRUMP: In fact, very, very, strongly, as you see, there`s no – there`s –
I think there`s very little benefit for people of wealth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Back with us is Jonathan Capehart and joining us now is Catherine
Rampell, an opinion columnist for “The Washington Post.”
So, Catherine, you know, Donald Trump`s claims his plan is for the middle
class. It`s clear from the numbers that it is for the very, very, very
CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
REID: But he can sell it to his base anyway, right?
RAMPELL: Well, the thing about being a populist is that you have to do
things that are popular. Usually, that`s helpful.
RAMPELL: And if you look at the polling about tax cuts for the wealthy,
tax cuts for corporations, they are not popular, even amongst Republicans.
You know, large shares of Republicans, majorities even, depending on what
poll you look at, believe that taxes should be raised on corporations and
the wealthy. So, no, I think it will be very hard sell for his base.
REID: This is when they find out if they`re in that lower – the lower
brackets that they get their taxes increased.
You know, Jonathan, one of the things that Donald Trump, today, did was
something he loves to do, is just brag. And here he is today talking about
the wild economic growth under his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: GDP growth hit over three percent last quarter, was just adjusted
yesterday, and is now at 3.1 percent, a number that hasn`t been seen in a
very, very long time and a number that`s way ahead of schedule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: He also tweeted, GDP was revised upward to 2.1 last quarter. Many
thought it would be years before that happened. We have just begun.
Well, in fact, quarterly growth was three percent or higher eight different
times under President Barack Obama, most recently in the first quarter of
2015 when it was 3.2 percent, so that`s not even true.
CAPEHART: Yes. The President, as you showed in the intro, he loves his
superlatives. Everything is the biggest, the best, and never happened
before he became President. And yet despite all the evidence to the
contrary that we can see with our own eyes, he`s proven wrong.
But in the world of Trump, it seems it doesn`t matter. And in that world
of Trump, it`s just not the President, but those supporters of his who are
sticking with him, no matter what he does or what he says.
He said right there, on air, just now, I don`t have – I don`t benefit by
this at all. And we know now that that is not true. And in fact, there
are many members of his administration who will benefit greatly from this.
And yet the people who really need to hear this and understand this and
take this all in either won`t hear it or won`t believe it when they`re
presented with the evidence.
REID: Right. Yes. And you know, Katherine, you also have this thing that
Republicans want to do which is to punish blue states, the states that have
state income taxes. And essentially, it`s a transfer of wealth to states
who don`t have income taxes, right?
So “The New Yorker” today wrote, the top 10 in terms of the value of the
state to local tax deduction – we have a little map that shows you who
would actually be hurt the most. It`s states like New York, New Jersey,
Connecticut, California, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Massachusetts,
Minnesota, you get the idea, Illinois.
Hurting those states by hurting their taxpayers. I guess Republicans think
that`s a winning strategy, too.
RAMPELL: Well, I actually don`t think that they think it`s a winning
strategy. They just know that they need to have some offsets somewhere
because this bill would be so –
REID: They need the revenue?
RAMPELL: It would be so expensive. And the other sources of revenue that
they had planned on, things like the border adjustment tax which everybody
has already forgotten about, that`s not going to happen. The ObamaCare
repeal? That was also effectively a form of an offset. That`s not going
So the reason why they`re going after the state and local tax deduction,
maybe they want to stick it to blue states. I mean, possibly, that`s a
motivation. But I think it would be – even that is going to be difficult
because even in the blue states, there are still Republican
RAMPELL: There are Republican representatives in New Jersey who are going
to fight this tooth and nail.
RAMPELL: So I think it`s a mistake to think that that`s going to be so
easy for them to get through.
REID: Yes. Yes. Tax reform is not going to be any easier than
healthcare. Sorry, Republicans.
Jonathan Capehart and Catherine Rampell, thank you, guys, for joining us.
And coming up next –
CAPEHART: Thanks, Joy.
REID: – tick, tick, tick, Donald Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s
team has reportedly started interviewing White House staffers. I`ll talk
to former solicitor general Walter Dellinger about what they might learn
and what Mueller might do next.
[22:40:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON
INTELLIGENCE: It appears that former Director Mueller is making tremendous
progress and is closing in on senior White House officials.
I believe the President is probably being investigated for obstruction of
justice because of the firing of James Comey. And I also believe that
there is damaging evidence that people on his team sought to and were eager
to work with the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation is apparently
starting to accelerate. Fox News reports tonight investigators have begun
questioning White House staffers.
Sources say that retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, the chief of
staff of the National Security Council, was interviewed on Thursday.
Questioning covered former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
Fox also reports that federal agents and congressional investigators are
looking at a Trump campaign national security meeting in March of 2016 at
Washington, D.C.`s old post office, now the site of Trump International
Team Mueller is also reportedly expected to interview former White House
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. And “Politico” reports that Mueller himself
recently talked to a lawyer for Vice President Mike Pence.
In 26 days, we will hear our first public testimony from a member of Donald
Trump`s inner circle. Donald Trump`s long time personal lawyer, Michael
Cohen, will testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the Committee
says it`s reached agreement to subpoena former Trump campaign manager Paul
Manafort, if necessary.
[22:45:03] Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee isn`t happy that
senior White House adviser Jared Kushner did not reveal his private e-mail
use and has asked him to search his e-mail account for anything related to
the Russia probe.
And tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” has a new report about the White
House Counsel nearly quitting over Jared Kushner.
The “Journal” reports White House Counsel Don McGahn this summer was so
frustrated about the lack of protocols surrounding meetings between
President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner that West Wing officials expressed
concerns that the top lawyer would quit, according to people familiar with
And that McGahn expressed concern that meetings between Mr. Kushner and Mr.
Trump could be construed by investigators as an effort to coordinate their
I`ll ask former Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger about all of
REID: Joining me now is Walter Dellinger. He served in the Clinton
administration as assistant attorney general and head of the Office of
Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996 and was acting solicitor general from 1996
And, Mr. Dellinger, thank you for being here. I want to get right to the
last thing that we talked about here, and that is, Don McGahn, the White
House Counsel`s concern that meetings between Jared Kushner and other
members of the administration could be construed as trying to coordinate
Could that, in and of itself, put Jared Kushner or others in some sort of
[22:49:58] WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I
think it`s – you know, it`s a difficult time to be White House Counsel.
It`s a demanding job under any circumstance.
And I think the dynamic that you have here, Joy, is that if there`s an
investigation of what went on during a campaign and then so many people who
were involved in the campaign go into the White House and are part of
government service and are working together, it gets very hard to separate
out the investigation into the campaign with what`s going on in the White
And any White House Counsel would be concerned if there were communications
going on between the President and someone who was under investigation.
Well, if that someone happens to be a family relative, like a son-in-law,
it gets very, very difficult to separate those strands out.
But it would be understandable if a White House Counsel did not want to be
serving in the White House anyone who is under investigation.
REID: Does the White House Counsel enjoy attorney/client privilege with
Donald Trump, and can he be made to talk to Bob Mueller himself?
DELLINGER: No. I think it`s been generally been understood – you`ve got
some different circuit courts going different ways on this, but my
understanding was always that every lawyer for the United States has only
one client and that client is United States.
So that the President is not the White House Counsel`s client. The United
States of America is his client. And that`s true of all the lawyers in the
government. So there may be other kind of privileges at the margin, but
not attorney/client privilege.
REID: Yes. What does it say to you that you now have this reporting that
Bob Mueller`s team is now interviewing White House staffers and that even
Mike Pence might have already talked to Bob Mueller and been interviewed
over the summer? Does that tell you that this is heading toward some sort
of outcome that could involve indictments?
DELLINGER: Well, you know, it`s – we`ll find out. I think, you know, we
may only know the tip of the iceberg. We get some information about what`s
happening with Robert Mueller`s investigation through who we know.
It`s been publicly reported that he`s investigated, but this may be the tip
of the iceberg. There may be more things we don`t know. Some may be
exculpatory. Some may be more incriminatory. But I think it`s going to be
– you know, we`ll find out at the end of the process.
REID: You know, I think one of the questions people just want to know when
they think about this, not that we`re anticipating what`s going to happen
or projecting, could a sitting president of the United States, if he is
found, let`s say, to have obstructed justice, could he or his Vice
President actually, in reality, be indicted?
DELLINGER: Well, I think it is established that a vice president can be
indicted like all other officers while they are serving. That was
established in the case of Nixon`s vice president, Spiro Agnew.
With regard to the President, it`s a very complicated subject. One thing
is clear, you can`t put a president on trial while he continues to serve in
We have to remember, we need these rules for presidents we love as much as
for presidents we loathe. And because a president, unlike the other
branches of government, has nondelegatable duties, it would interfere too
much with the executive branch to put a president on trial.
Now, it could be, though – the Office of Legal Counsel has ruled to the
contrary. It could be that a president could be merely be indicted without
going forward. And that would – without going forward with the
prosecution. And that would serve the very valuable purpose of not letting
the statute of limitations run on any crimes.
Generally, you have to bring criminal charges within five years. For tax
evasion, it would be six years. So indicting a president but not going
forward would, at least, stop the statute of limitations.
A wise special counsel may decide, however, it`s best to submit a report to
the Attorney General. In this case, it would Deputy Attorney General
DELLINGER: It would be up to the Deputy Attorney General to decide whether
to send that report on to Congress.
DELLINGER: But surely he would.
REID: He would have to.
DELLINGER: Surely, he would be under immense pressure, he would have to do
REID: Yes. It`s fascinating stuff. Walter Dellinger, thank you very much
for joining us tonight. Have a great weekend.
DELLINGER: Thank you.
REID: Thank you. And tonight`s last word is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:57:44] TRUMP: I noticed last night or I was told – I didn`t see it,
but I heard everybody stood for the national anthem. And that shows
respect for our country, our flag, and for the national anthem. So, you
know, I`m very happy.
I heard that. And they should stand. You have to stand. It`s our
national anthem. You have to stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And a new poll today shows that a majority of Americans do not agree
with Donald Trump that players should stand.
Forty-six percent say not standing for the national anthem disrespects
freedom, but 45 percent say not standing demonstrates this freedom,
demonstrates the freedom that the anthem represents.
Forty-nine percent say the professional sports league should require
athletes to stand during the national anthem, but 47 percent say they
But here`s what big majorities of Americans do agree on. Sixty percent say
protests by professional athletes are effective. And 60 percent agree that
Donald Trump was wrong to criticize those athletes for protesting.
Now, last night, I was a guest on this show talking about NFL players being
on the field during the national anthem. During the discussion, I said
that there was a Defense Department deal that forced these players to go
out on the field and make a patriotic display of themselves.
Well, today, the NFL pushed back, saying that isn`t the way it worked at
all. And so we asked for a clarification. An NFL spokesman insisted that
the 2009 decision by the league to have all the players on the field for
the anthem during all games wasn`t connected to the deals the Department of
Defense made with individual NFL teams between 2011 and 2015 to pay for
patriotic displays at games.
The NFL says the decision to have the players on the field for the anthem
had nothing to do with the DOD. Well, OK. But we know about those
separate Pentagon deals because they were revealed in a 2015 report
commissioned by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Their report revealed that the Pentagon was, in fact, paying teams in
various sports leagues millions of dollars for what the senators called
“paid patriotism.” The DOD said it was for recruitment.
Senator McCain`s statement at the time said the DOD paid for on-field color
guard performances, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of
the national anthem, full field flag displays, and ceremonial first pitches
and puck drops.
[23:00:06] About the contracts, Senator McCain added, fans should have
confidence that their hometown (AUDIO BREAK) their honorable military
(AUDIO BREAK), not as a marketing ploy. Just so we`re clear.
I`m Joy Reid, and you can catch me tomorrow morning ion AM JOY, starting
at10am Eastern right here on MSNBC.. The 11TH HOUR is up next.
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