Flake exit threatens GOP agenda Transcript 10/24/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

Guests:
Evan McMullin, David Jolly
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 24, 2017
Guest: Evan McMullin, David Jolly

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

So, it`s my turn to blush, as I`ve been doing here in the studio.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: There is a very nice lady named Judy who
wants you – who has great taste in diners who definitely wants you to run
for president.

O`DONNELL: You had me hooked on the enormous breakfast. That story was
good enough. That story was good enough, and I didn`t – we didn`t – the
other part, wow. Wow.

MADDOW: Just not to throw that in your lap or anything. I`m just saying,
that`s how I started my day today. Physical therapy, enormous breakfast,
Larry needs to run for president.

O`DONNELL: Well, I actually skipped breakfast this morning, Rachel. So,
we have balanced out the 9:00 to 11:00 p.m.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well done.

O`DONNELL: So, Rachel –

MADDOW: Yes?

O`DONNELL: – imagine my joy, imagine my joy when I was sitting there
almost a half an hour ago watching you remind us that Massachusetts Senator
Ed Brooke was the first Republican to stand up and say Richard Nixon had to
go. I had forgotten he was the first Republican. And now I remember how
proud so many of us were in Boston when Ed Brooke did that.

MADDOW: Well, then – I think that`s – for me, the Ed Brooke is
instructive at a number of levels. Number one, Ed Brooke is an amazing
figure in American history who deserves more attention than he gets.
Number two, he was an unusual senator in the sense that he was the only
African American serving in the Senate. He was an African American
Republican from Massachusetts serving two terms, World War II combat
veteran, had served in a segregated unit.

He had this – he had had this very unusual background. He was willing to
be iconoclastic and combative in his role in the Senate and do stuff his
own way. And it takes sometimes a senator who doesn`t fit in some ways, a
senator who is willing to stick out and not go with the flow to be the
first to do something very politically difficult on that.

And it took so long after he was the first before any other Republican
senators followed him. And even he waded really deep into Watergate before
he made those remarks.

O`DONNELL: And, of course, he lived in the day when there was a thing
called a liberal Republican.

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And he was one of the last truly liberal Republicans in the
Senate. And he in his beginnings with the Nixon presidency, he actually
opposed Nixon in `68 in the election that gave Nixon the presidency in the
first place, which is the quickest little plug I will ever get in here for
my book about the 1968 election, which is coming out in a few weeks, which
you know about and have been generous about.

But, Rachel, I have a quick Ed Brooke story for you.

MADDOW: OK.

O`DONNELL: We will – we will close with those. I heard Tip O`Neill tell
this story when Tip O`Neill was the most powerful member of Congress from
Massachusetts. And he had these two incredibly famous senators, Ed Brooke
and Ted Kennedy. He was at a Massachusetts event in these big banquets.

And he said, you know, at these big events, you know, when it`s over, there
is a big line. Everybody is trying to get Ted Kennedy`s autograph. And he
said, then there`s another line, it`s almost as big to get Ed Brooke`s
autograph. And then there is a line bigger than both of those to come to
me to get a favor.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: The perils of being famous in the Senate.

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

MADDOW: Versus being in control.

O`DONNELL: And everybody knew if you really needed something to get done,
you go to tip.

MADDOW: Yes, that`s great stuff. Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Good night.

O`DONNELL: Well, Jeff Flake was supposed to be a lifer. That`s what
Republicans were hoping for when Jeff Flake won his Senate seat at the age
of 50, the same age that John McCain won his Senate seat, the seat Senator
McCain still holds at 81 years old. Everyone thought the United States
Senate would be Jeff Flake`s last job – unless he somehow moved up to the
presidency or vice presidency. But most senators who run for president or
vice president don`t win.

So, Jeff Flake looked like he was going to take his spot in a long line of
Arizona senators who serve at least three terms. That`s a short run for an
Arizona senator, often longer than three terms.

But today, Jeff Flake did something that no Arizona senator in history has
ever done. He announced that he would not run for reelection to a second
term.

Senator Flake followed the standard Senate playbook for announcing a
retirement. First, most importantly, he tipped off his home state
newspaper, as senators always do, so that “The Arizona Republic” could have
15 minutes before the news broke where the “Arizona Republic” had the story
before Senator Flake rose on the Senate floor. They had the big scoop and
they had the online headline, Arizona`s Jeff Flake announces he will not
seek reelection to U.S. Senate.

Jeff Flake will be only the second Arizona senator in history to serve just
one single six-year term. The first one to do that was also a Republican,
Ralph Cameron. But Senator Cameron didn`t choose to serve only a single
term. It was forced on him.

He lost his reelection in 1926, and he was followed in that Senate seat by
Democratic Carl Hayden who served 42 years in the Senate for Arizona.
Senator Hayden`s most famous junior senator from Arizona was Republican
Barry Goldwater who failed in his run for president and served 30 years in
the Senate.

In Arizona politics, the United States Senate is a career, not a six-year
job. But Trumpism has changed everything, including Arizona politics.

Last summer, after Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, I
tweeted: Even if you don`t have children or grandchildren, you will be
asked for the rest of your life, what did you do to stop Donald Trump.

Today, Jeff Flake gave this answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I have children and grandchildren to answer
to. And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This was an eloquent and very, very carefully written speech.
One of the most carefully written speeches I have ever seen on the Senate
floor. I have watched hundreds of Senate speeches, most of them while
sitting right there on the Senate floor as a staffer. And I have never
heard a Senate speech where the phrase “Mr. President” was inserted more
definitely and carefully and pointedly than it was in this speech today by
Jeff Flake.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I
will not be complicit. That was in his written text.

A lot of Senate speeches don`t actually have the phrase “Mr. President”
written into the text of the speech that the senator reads. The phrase
“Mr. President” is often just randomly inserted by the senator. It can be
at the beginning of any sentence they want, beginning of every paragraph if
they want, and senators just insert that as a way of catching their breath.

But today, Jeff Flake clearly wanted the words “Mr. President” in the most
pointed sentences he spoke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: Mr. President, I rise today to say enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Those exact words have been running on banners in quotation
marks, on cable news today. And that`s exactly what Jeff Flake was hoping
for. Mr. President, I rise today to say enough.

Technically, the president who Senator Flake was talking to when he spoke
that sentence was this guy, the presiding officer of the Senate at the
time, technically all Senate speeches are directed to the person who is at
that moment sitting in at the president of the Senate, the presiding
officer. It is a duty traditionally given to junior senators because it is
considered so unbearably boring. So, the “Mr. President” Jeff Flake was
technically speaking to today was John Hoeven, a Republican senator from
North Dakota, who will never be president.

But no one in the Senate, and no one in the country for one second made the
mistake of thinking Jeff Flake was directing his comments at John Hoeven.
This was the most powerful anti-Trump speech yet given by a Senate
Republican. And, of course, the name “Trump” was never mentioned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our
principles. Now is such a time. We must never adjust to the present
coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top. The
flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most
often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing
whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected
to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be
regarded as normal. We must stop pretending that the degradation of our
politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They
are not normal. Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become
excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just
reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

Jeff Flake was, as always, flawlessly polite today. And so, he didn`t
directly blame Arizona Republicans for forcing an end to his Senate career.
But he made it very clear he thought he would not be able to win the
Republican nomination in his reelection campaign because Republican primary
voters would vote against him unless he fully embraced Trumpism. Something
he would not do.

Jeff Flake would not be able to live with the man Jeff Flake would become
if he said what he would have to say to win his Senate reelection. Here is
how he put that to Chuck Todd today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: The path to victory in a Republican primary these days is to agree
with the president, not just his policies, but the behavior as well, and
not to speak out. And I can`t do that. I don`t think that we as a party
should do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today on the Senate floor, Jeff Flake used Teddy Roosevelt`s
words to condemn blind loyalty to Donald Trump as morally treasonable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: President Roosevelt continued to announce that there must be no
criticism of the president or that we are to stand bay president right or
wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to
the American public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It was already an extraordinary day in the United States Senate
before Jeff Flake made it even more extraordinary.

President Trump attended the regularly scheduled Republican Party policy
luncheon today to discuss the policy Republicans are hoping to pass. Now,
prior to the Trump presidency, the president going to his party`s policy
lunch in the Senate would be the huge news story of the Senate that day.
Bill Clinton was actually the very first president to do that. It is an
extraordinary event. Most presidents never even dreamed of doing it.

And the president in his party in the Senate would normally use that big
news coverage that that would attract to push the most important thing on
their legislative agenda in the Senate, and that`s not the way it worked
today because Trump. The Republican Chairman of the Foreign Senate
Relations Committee Bob Corker decided today would be a good day to drive
Donald Trump crazy again. Which Senator Corker did by making the rounds of
morning TV, knowing the president was watching when he said things like
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I guess like all Americans, I would have
hope that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our
nation, Charlie. Hopefully, what presidents do is to try to bring the
country together, to unify around common goals, and not to debase our
country, if you will. And that has not happened. And I`m beginning to
believe that it`s not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That provoked Donald Trump to start tweeting lies about Bob
Corker like Senator Corker supported the Obama Iran deal, which Senator
Corker actually opposed, and that Senator Corker decided not to run for
reelection when Trump refused to endorse him. In fact, Donald Trump asked
Senator Corker to run for reelection.

Senator Corker then responded on Twitter same untruths from an utterly
untruthful president. Alert the day care staff.

Senator Corker, of course, knew exactly what he was doing. He was drawing
the president into a childish Twitter war in which the president would
humiliate himself in the eyes of every senator, Democrat and Republican,
reading the president`s lies about Bob Corker. And so, of course, the
president obliged Bob Corker and kept humiliating himself with those
senators. Just a few hours before the president would go up to the Senate
luncheon.

Senate Republican luncheon, to try to persuade Bob Corker to vote for a
giant package of Trump tax cuts that will explode the deficit and the debt,
Donald Trump tweeted this. Senator Corker is the incompetent head of the
foreign relations committee, and look how poorly the U.S. has done. He
doesn`t have a clue as the entire world was laughing and taking advantage
of us. People like Liddle Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we
move forward!

Tonight, “The Washington Post” published an op-ed piece by Jeff Flake that
will appear in tomorrow`s newspaper. Senator Flake begins the piece
remembering the famous words of Joseph Welch when he reached the breaking
point in a Senate hearing with Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy who was
the Donald Trump of his day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WELCH: You`ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At
long last, have you left no sense of decency?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jeff Flake quoted Joseph Welch approvingly saying those words
in an op-ed piece where Jeff Flake asks: How many more disgraceful public
feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves
are disgraced? How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at
a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

This summer, Jeff Flake wrote a book entitled “Conscience of a
Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to
Principle.” That book foreshadowed Jeff Flake`s retirement announcement
today, because for most of us, it was very hard to read Senator Flake`s
thoughtful book and imagine him successfully running for reelection in a
party overrun by Trumpism.

The last lines of Jeff Flake`s op-ed piece that will be in “The Washington
Post” tomorrow are: For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of
politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience. It`s time
we all say: enough.

We will be joined by some Republicans in the thick of the Trump versus
Flake and Corker battle next.

And later, you will hear extraordinary video from Bill O`Reilly. This is
actually something that was on Chris Hayes` show, and I only discovered it
seeing it on Chris Hayes` show. It is too important to be seen only once
tonight. It needs to be rerun.

It is Bill O`Reilly in full self-pity mode, saying he is mad at God. Those
were his words. He is mad at God for where Bill O`Reilly finds himself
tonight.

All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, in an impromptu man on the street interview, one Trump
voter said he is definitely not going to vote for Trump`s reelection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has great difficulty with
the truth on many issues.

REPORTER: Do you regret supporting him in the election?

CORKER: Well, let`s just put it this way. I would not do that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. It wasn`t a man on the street interview. It was man in
the hallway of the Senate.

Joining us now, Evan McMullin, former independent presidential candidate
and co-founder of Stand Up Republic. Also with us, former Republican
Congressman David Jolly from Florida, who served with Senator Flake on
Capitol Hill. And Jonathan Alter is here, he`s an MSNBC political analyst
and a columnist for “The Daily Beast”.

Jonathan, I know you thought you`ve seen it all. But today, today was a
day from Jeff Flake to Bob Corker to Donald Trump and back again, that
we`ve never seen before.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, Lawrence,
you and I write history on the side. And this will be an historic moment,
as certain Senate speeches have been over the last couple of hundred years.
And the reason is because Jeff Flake laid down a gauntlet. And basically
said this is a character test, not just for every senator, but for every
member of the Republican Party.

And your other guest, David and Evan have long since passed this character
test. But every other Republican must now look in the mirror and ask
themselves whether they have the courage to do what Jeff Flake and Bob
Corker have done. And he has given them – you know, a lot of people don`t
like to admit they made a mistake. It`s very important that Corker today
admitted that he made a mistake in supporting Trump. So this gives people
a way to save face a little bit, and to admit they were wrong and
supporting him in the past and to move forward to removing him from office.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, you know Jeff Flake. You have worked with Jeff
Flake.

FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Sure.

O`DONNELL: You know Bob Corker. But give us your reaction to the Jeff
Flake we saw on the Senate floor today.

JOLLY: Yes, look. Jonathan is exactly right and very kind. This was Jeff
Flake`s day for history. You and Rachel talked about Senator Brooke. I
look back at Margaret Chase Smith and her declaration of conscience in
1950, confronting McCarthyism, calling for independent thought and a unity
of a Republican Party.

But tomorrow morning, Jeff Flake wakes up wondering what his role in this
Republican Party is. He told his local paper, he is not sure there is a
place for him in today`s Republican Party. And for folks like myself and
Evan and now Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, the question they face is, do you
stay within the party and fight or not?

Because he is going to be confronted by Republicans who say Jeff Flake, how
dare you for criticizing our Republican president and Republican
colleagues? My answer to that is how dare you. Because just as you`ve
been a lifetime Republican, Mr. Trump fan, so have I. And we have a right
to fight for the future of the party.

I hope we see Jeff Flake and Bob Corker stay within the party and fight for
the future of the party to keep it together so it doesn`t fracture.

O`DONNELL: Evan, you were as inside this party as you get, working for the
Republicans, but broke and ran as an independent candidate after Donald
Trump got the nomination, trying to give some Republicans anyway, an
alternative way to cast their vote. What about it? You`re one who knows
people who have stayed in the party. You know people who have broken from
the party.

EVAN MCMULLIN, CO-FOUNDER, STAND UP REPUBLIC: Absolutely. And I think
Jeff Flake and Corker and McCain have now put the – forced the question
for everyone, for all Republicans. Where are you going to be? They`ve
made it harder for people not to have a position.

I think Paul Ryan joked recently that he wakes up and reads the tweets from
Trump and tries to figure out what he is going to have to ignore. I think
it`s very difficult now for Republicans in Congress to do that. He was
joking, but he was also serious.

Now there is a decision to be made. And I think as I think there will be
more senators and members of Congress who come out and say similar things
in their own ways, and I think there will be a tipping point at which
people will rush to say these things. Others won`t.

I actually believe that the party is fracturing, whether it can be put back
together any time soon is a question. But it is fracturing. There is a
growing movement within the party that is opposed to the basic principles
upon which the country was founded, namely the inherent, self-evident
equality and liberty of all.

And as long as that`s the case, as long as there is a sizable movement
within the party like that, the party will shrink in relative size in the
midterm, in the near term, and definitely in the midterm. And it will
certainly be unable to lead the country. And that`s a sad thing.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, Arizona has a history here that`s relevant. You
have both senators from Arizona now standing in opposition to Trumpism.

And it was Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona was one of the Republican
senators who actually went up to the White House at a certain point when
President Nixon was on the edge, and told him it`s over. You have to
leave. You will be impeached by the House of Representatives. You will be
convicted by the Senate if you don`t leave.

ALTER: He went out on the White House lawn afterwards and the press said,
what are you going to do now? He said, go home and have nine or 10 drinks
and go to bed.

O`DONNELL: Because it was very public what his mission was going up there
that day. Yes.

ALTER: So the question now is whether this is a tipping point. And Jeff
Flake in his op-ed piece mentioned Joseph Welch, the Boston lawyer who in
the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings said have you no sense of deans it is.
Even though Margaret Chase Smith four years earlier had been speaking to no
apparent effect against McCarthy, it took a while.

But then when they reached that tipping point, by the end of 1954, the
Senate censured Joe McCarthy, 65-22. It wasn`t even close. Then –

O`DONNELL: You never would have predicted that six months earlier.

ALTER: Never.

O`DONNELL: Right.

ALTER: So, at a certain point, politicians do reflect on what the
principles this country was founded on are. And they realize they`re in
politics for something more important than the next election.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, talk about that for a moment. We talk about
tipping points in various activities and various arenas. But often in the
Congress, it doesn`t look like a tipping point when it happens. It looks
like a stampede.

JOLLY: Sure. Well, because all of the sudden it becomes politically
acceptable to be critical.

Listen, today was not the end point for Flake and Corker. Today was the
very beginning of their journey, because just as we focus in on their
criticisms of Trump, the reality is the spotlight they turned today is on
McConnell and Ryan and other Republicans.

And the reality is this. It will be easy for them to fade away. But we
need them as mainstream Republicans to keep the pressure on Republican
leadership, because that`s how we get to the tipping point. The reality is
the indictment today was yes on Donald Trump, but more so on Flake`s
Republican colleagues who have been complicit in going along and empowering
a president who continues to create danger for this country.

O`DONNELL: Evan, we had Democratic senators come out today and say they
have heard from their Republican colleagues in the Senate exactly the same
kinds of things that Bob Corker and Jeff Flake say, but those senators
haven`t dared say them publicly. Is that your experience, that actually
right under the surface there are a bunch more Jeff Flakes and Bob Corkers
in the Republican Senate?

MCMULLIN: There are, and in the House. There are some who are genuine
Trump loyalists. But there are others who are not, and who have serious
reservations about the president.

The issue is that over time, and David can tell you about this too, over
time, it`s become commonplace for many members to prioritize the
maintenance of their seat, their place in Congress over all else, over
their principles, over the ideals of the – the core ideals of our country.
It`s so common and so acceptable that they say it to each other. I can`t
do this or that because I`ll lose my seat. They say to it the public even.
It`s accepted as – it`s acceptable in their minds.

It is not acceptable, though. It is absolutely not acceptable. And we
have to change that. And if you give a close reading to Flake`s speech
today, he makes that point. He says at some point, you have to put your
principles before your careers, and now is such a point.

And he is absolutely right. I believe we reached that point a long time
ago – in fact, when he started speaking out against Trump in the campaign.
But at least now we have reached that point. And the time is for them to
put the country first.

O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin and David Jolly, thank you both for joining us
tonight.

Jonathan, please stick around.

Coming up, what is Jeff Flake going to do, by which I mean, what is he
going to do to the Trump agenda in the Senate?

And later, extraordinary video of Bill O`Reilly from his podcast. And I
know it`s big news to most people that Bill O`Reilly has a podcast. But on
his podcast, he actually says he is mad at God. And you`ve got to see him
say it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF FLAKE, UNITED STATES SENATOR: The impulse to scapegoat and belittle
threatens to turn us into a fearful backward looking people. In the case of
the Republican Party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful
backward looking minority party. We were not made great as a country by
indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against
ourselves, glorify in the things that divide us and calling fake things
true and true things fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Today on the Breitbart website Steve Bannon greeted
Jeff Flake`s retirement announcement with this headline, Winning: Flake
Out. A Breitbart Editor quoted Bannon on a tweet as saying our movement
will defeat you in primaries or force you to retire. The day of
establishment Republicans who oppose the people`s America first agenda are
numbered.

Joining us now Josh Barro, Senior Editor for Business Insider, an MSNBC
contributor and also joining us Daniel Dale, Washington Correspondent for
the Toronto Star. Josh, it turns out that Jeff Flake, when you look, as you
pointed out in your piece today about this, that when you look at his
governing agenda, the kind of bottom has fallen out on Republican voter
support for that.

JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR FOR BUSINESS INSIDER: Yes. No, I mean Flake is
in this totally weird position where in very strong terms attacking the
President, and attacking him for his personal behavior and his demeanor,
and yet out there voting in this very orthodox, Republican way.

O`DONNELL: And voting for trump on virtually everything this year.

BARRO: Right. And I think not out of loyalty to trump, but because the
Trump pushing an orthodox Republican agenda. He is pushing things Jeff
Flake agrees with. So Jeff Flake has been voting for those things. But
that leaves him in a hopeless position in election because nobody is
pleased with him. You have liberals and moderates who don`t want to vote
for Flake because Flake is very conservative and disagree with them on what
the government should do.

O`DONNELL: Right. So he can`t reach over there for votes.

BARRO: And the conservatives - yes and then conservatives 85 percent of
whom like Donald Trump. And they feel like Flake is criticizing Trump.
And they feel like Flake is blocking Trump`s agenda, though it`s really
more some other Republican Senators who are blocking that agenda.

So he is left with no constituency. And there is nobody out there who wants
this thing where it`s low taxes and spending and cut government, but also
liberal immigration and free trade and also be nice to each other and
dignified and don`t do the sort of stuff Donald Trump does there is no
constituency for that. So that`s why he can`t win an election

O`DONNELL: Daniel Dale, the problem for Jeff Flake as he was identifying
it today is basically the mix of voters who show up in a Republican Primary
in Arizona. He seemed to think he wouldn`t be able to get by the primary.
He may well survive in the general election against a democrat. But he
didn`t think he could get the nomination with those voters.

DANIEL DALE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think he was right. You know, we see
that in the poll numbers. I called up a County Chairman in Northern Arizona
today who said Jeff Flake is not a conservative. He loves illegal
immigrants. And this is a guy with -

O`DONNELL: Can I stop you for a second, Daniel?

DALE: Yes.

O`DONNELL: In those conversations, did they ever rattle off what a
conservative is using policy ideas or it is just rhetoric?

DALE: Well, this gentleman, who is a psychiatrist, an educated man said
that voters in his community want the wall. They want a hard line on
illegal immigration. And they believe that Trump is doing a great job on
almost everything. And they want a Senator who will vote with him on almost
everything. I didn`t interject to say well, Flake does but as Josh alluded
to.

You know there`s – when flake talks like he talks about Trump, he conveys
the impression, you know, to the benefit of his image with liberals but to
the detriment of his image with conservatives that he is not standing with
Trump when in fact he has been almost always.

O`DONNELL: So Josh, here`s the problem for Republicans. Trump seems to be
politically just a wrecking ball. If you vote with him on everything that
comes to a vote in the Senate, you still – he still opposes you. How do
you – how is a Senator supposed to behave?

BARRO: It`s essentially hard because as Donald Trump`s agenda has gotten
mired and as his popularity has stagnated, he has had this strategy with
attacking the Republican Congress and basically saying I`m doing great. I`m
the best president.

And when I`m not, it`s because the Republicans in Congress are not
delivering for me. And that he`s going to have to go into a 2018 election
where somehow he is going to have to go out and try to convince people to
go vote for these people. Some will retire like Jeff Flake, and maybe some
of them will be beaten in primaries. But most will be seeking reelection.

It`s going to be really hard to make that argument. It`s going to be really
hard for them to work together with the President saying these people,
they`re terrible. They don`t stand by me, and you have to reelect them. So
I think a lot of even more in the house, where there is more competitive
races. But I think both the members of the House and the Senators have to
be very nervous about that.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Sean Hannity had to say about today`s
developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, AUTHOR: So I have a suggestion. For all you never Trumper
Senators who are headed for exits, people like Corker and Flake, you know
what? guess what, you guys, take your other colleagues with you. Mitch
McConnell, goodbye. Ben Sasse, goodbye. John Cornyn, goodbye. Lisa
Murkowski, Susan Collins. Either get the job done you promised the American
people, advance the President`s agenda. What are the conservative values
that the President is advocating for that you`re unwilling to support?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Daniel Dale, does the Whitehouse think that`s the way to
preserve a governing coalition in the Senate?

DALE: If they do, I think they`re delusional. Like I think there is this
Hannity Whitehouse Bannonite belief that there are these magical Trumpite
people out there somewhere who would get very unpopular Trump ideas through
the house and senate. I don`t think it`s true. I think the problem is the
agenda.

Trump keeps saying we were one vote away on health care, you know. We
needed one better Senator, we could get it through. But we know there was a
whole additional caucus that was keeping quiet about their health care
plan, not saying anything because they didn`t want to commit either. So I
think they`re much farther away than they think they are. And if they think
Mitch McConnell is the problem, I don`t think they`re correct.

O`DONNELL: Josh Barro and Daniel Dale, thank you both for joining us
tonight. Thank you.

BARRO: Thank you.

DALE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump`s behavior is now hurting the only
thing that Republicans really, truly care about above all else, and if he
ruins that for them, look out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: So what does Jeff Flake do now? I don`t mean two years from now
when he is not a Senator. I don`t mean the next stop in his career. I mean,
what does he do now in the United States Senate?

Jeff Flake has been a reliable Trump vote so far in the Senate vote. But
now that he doesn`t have the pressures of a republican primary election in
Arizona, what does he do? Jeff Flake is a member of the senate foreign
relations committee, where his chairman, Bob Corker, now stands accused by
Donald Trump of trying to block the Republican Tax bill, which Senator
Corker just might do, because he says he`s not going to vote for tax cuts
that increase the deficit.

And the Republican bill, no matter how it is written, is definitely going
to increase the deficit. Jeff Flake likes to think of himself as a deficit
hawk too. The Trump-McConnell tax bill in the Senate will test just how
much Jeff Flake cares about the deficit. What it won`t test is just how
much Jeff Flake cares about getting reelected.

And that means Jeff Flake is joining Bob Corker and Jeff Flake`s friend,
the Senior Senator from Arizona, John McCain in the group of Republican
Senators who are no longer worried about ever having to face Republican
voters again for their reelection. Those three conservative Republicans
could find common cause with a couple of less conservative republicans,
Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who along with Senator McCain
voted against the Trump-McConnell health care bill.

There is now in the Senate the makings of a five-vote coalition in the
Republican Party who are opposed to much of Trumpism. And it takes only
three of them on any one bill to kill that bill in the senate. The kids at
Breitbart who don`t know anything about the politics of governing might be
happy about Jeff Flake`s announcement today. But they don`t realize that
the President`s governing agenda in the Senate is in much more trouble
today than it was yesterday. Up next, what Jeff Flake will do, and a look
at how Bob Corker today confirmed something that I said last night on this
program about the tax bill.

O`DONNELL: And later do, not miss. This Bill O`Reilly as you have never
seen him before on the verge of tears and on the verge of maybe a
breakdown, complaining not about what The New York Times has done to him
with their investigative reporting about his massive sexual harassment
settlements, but complaining about what God has done to him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: Resentment is not a governing philosophy. And at some point, you
actually have to govern, and you have to have competencies in governing.
And you move ahead with certain policies that really have animated the
party for generations. And I think until we return to that, we`re going to
be – we`re going to be in trouble electorally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, E.J. Dionne, Opinion Writer for The
Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst and co-author of the new book
One Nation after Trump. And Jonathan Alter is back with us. E.J., the
question now is what will Jeff Flake do in the Senate? And as the Tax Bill
approaches, if it has a massive explosion of the deficit built into it,
which it looks like it`s likely to at this point, Jeff Flake will have a
choice. Is he a deficit hawk or is he absolutely married to tax cuts?

E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, as you know, Lawrence, tax
cuts are the one doctrine that tax cuts are always good is the one
doctrine.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

DIONNE: That defines if Republican Party. And I think – I still think it`s
very unlikely very unlikely that Jeff Flake votes against tax cuts. But at
this point, as you said, he is free. He doesn`t have to worry about
reelection. And it is a powerful way to send a signal that you are not
going to be complicit with Trump, which is what the central theme of his
speech was that Republicans have to end their complicity with Trump.

It is a powerful way to send the message that that`s over now. So, I think
he`s going to be torn between his basic ideology, which is still very
conservative and wanting to send a message to trump.

O`DONNELL: Now, I made the point on this program last night that Donald
Trump was already messing up the tax bill by giving things away when he
Tweeted, for example, there will be no change to your 401K. This has always
been a great and popular middle class tax break that works and it stays.
And, of course, the Republicans were thinking about changing the thresholds
for 401K contributions, reducing them dramatically so that those funds
would go down for people. And that provoked Bob Corker to say this morning
on CBS. Let`s listen do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB CORKER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I would let the Tax Writing Committees
do their work. I think both the House and Senate has done a lot of
preliminary work, and stay out of taking things off the table and really
negotiating against the process before it even begins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, Donald Trump correctly interpreted that as a
criticism of him.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTIOR: Yes, yes. So, the range on what this
tax bill does to the deficit ranges from 1.5 trillion with a T, to 2.2
trillion. We`re talking real money, and this decision on the 401Ks brings
it up closer to 2 trillion because it`s hundreds of billions of dollars
that they`re talking about. So, I don`t actually think it`s that hard of an
idea logical test for Jeff Flake. H

He`s been a deficit hawk. This is an enormously irresponsible bill for any
principled republican. Yes, he likes tax cuts, but this is an insane bill
if you care at all about the solvency of the United States, which Jeff
Flake does. So, I actually think the odds are a little higher than he will
Join McCain and corker and maybe a few others and sink this. And if he
does, then trump has nothing to show for 2017 and he goes into an election
year, a complete failure in terms of getting bills through congress.

O`DONNELL: E.J., it seems if the President does not get his tax bill that
explodes the deficit, then his presidency explodes. That seems to be the
Washington Republican Republicans` view of this. We have to do this or we
all go down.

DIONNE: I think that`s right. And what you had today were and over the
last week were cracks in the dam. I mean, you had bush, you had McCain, now
you`ve got flake and you`ve got corker. And I think you only need a few
more republicans to reach critical mass. And one of the things that would
help you reach critical mass is a Republican saying, if this guy can`t even
get us a tax cut, they`ve stuck with him because they like all the
deregulation he`s doing because they hope to get a tax cut.

And if he can`t deliver that, I think there are more republicans who have
stuck with him so far who would be ready to speak out. So, yes, I think the
tax cut is do or die, not only for the Republicans in Congress, but for
Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Lindsey Graham tonight on fox news trying to
give the president some advice because he knows he`s watching, about how
not to ruin this tax bill for Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: There are a lot of barking dogs in
Washington, Mr. President. You don`t have to kick every one of them.
Sometimes you hurt yourself when you get in these fights and you go, you
know, you punch down, you wind up making stories that get in the way of
your agenda.

But I`m here to help where I can. I`m not going to abandon Jeff Flake or
Bob Corker. I love John McCain, But, Mr. President, I want to help you cut
taxes and win a war we can`t afford to lose so, let`s all up our game. How
about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Let`s up our game, Mr. President. Good luck with that.

ALTER: Yeah, the thing that he doesn`t understand is that Trump isn`t
going to change.

O`DONNELL: He`s not going to up his game.

ALTER: He`s not going to up his game. As was once said about Henry
Kissinger, you know Hendy doesn`t lie because it`s in his interest. He
lies because it`s in his nature. So this is part of who Donald Trump is,
and there is this kind of na‹vet‚ that you hear from these Republicans.
Suddenly he`s going to get the message and start governing effectively.
It`s not going to happen.

O`DONNELL: E.J., let`s remember the President was on his way up to the
senate today to lockdown every single republican vote for the tax cut. And
on the way he attacks Bob Corker, one of the Republicans whose vote he
needs.

DIONNE: Right. What he`s done is he`s created a coalition against him, and
he`s created enough people in that coalition that they alone could sink
this. But the other striking thing and it`s why his presidency is so empty,
the reports of that meeting afterward were that trump really didn`t say
much at all about the tax bill. He bragged about his achievements in the
early months. So, he wasn`t even doing the work he went up there to do
before he blew it up before he got there

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter and E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for joining
us tonight, really appreciate the response

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: coming up a very special last word. Bill O`Reilly as you
haven`t seen him, without makeup, and very mad at God.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Bill O`Reilly, the fearless warrior to save Christmas from the
pagans is now apparently joining the pagans. He is mad at God for allowing
The New York Times to tell the truth about his massive sexual harassment
settlements including one for one person for $32 million. Here Is Bill
O`Reilly on the verge of, we`re not sure what.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, JOURNALIST: Am I mad at God? Yeah, I`m mad at him. I wish I
had more protection. I wish this stuff didn`t happen. I can`t explain it to
you.

Yeah, I`m mad at him. If I die tomorrow and I get an opportunity, I`ll say,
what did you guys work me over like that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bill O`Reilly gets tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with
Brian Williams starts now.


END

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