Trump disputes Gold Star Widow Transcript 10/25/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

Guests:
Bruce Barlett, David Cay Johnston, Chris Murphy, Max Boot
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL
Date: October 25, 2017
Guest: Bruce Barlett, David Cay Johnston, Chris Murphy, Max Boot

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

You know, I watched the president today explaining to people that he’s so
smart and he’s one of the reasons – one of the proofs of being so smart is
he went to an Ivy League college. I was wondering why you never seem to
feel compelled to tell your audience how smart you are and where you went
to school, because you’re asking people to believe a lot of research that
you do and that you present, a lot of stuff that they have never heard
before.

How are they supposed to believe it if you don’t tell them how smart you
are?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: It’s called showing your work. That’s
how it works. You don’t actually have to tell people to trust your
unbelievable assertion because you’re a smart person if you just show
people what it is that you’re showing them, if you just prove things along
the way. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to remember your grades
from seventh grade or whatever in case you count on that.

O’DONNELL: OK. You’re just going to leave out any claims of great
educational achievement or – you just leave that out?

MADDOW: Show your work.

O’DONNELL: Just go with the work?

MADDOW: Everybody. We can all do it together no matter where you went to
school.

O’DONNELL: OK, that’s one way of doing it. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, man.

O’DONNELL: Well, the president has more than one super power. The
president insisted today that his memory of his condolence call to the
widow of Sergeant La David Johnson is perfectly accurate. And Sergeant
Johnson’s widow’s memory of that call is completely wrong.

And Donald Trump claims to have a super power to prove that he is right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: Internal strife is tearing the
Republican Party apart at the seams.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have actually great unity
in the Republican Party. Great unity, tremendous unity.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: So much unity.

TRUMP: Pretty good unity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump might think he had a love fest with the
Republican senators yesterday.

TRUMP: I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a
lovefest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually spoke with a few last night. They were
rolling their eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president by some counts has personally insulted
one in five Republican senators in his conference.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We can’t continue to just remain silent when
the president keeps going on like this.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETT: I’m really glad to see someone
like Jeff Flake speak up, but what really matters are not words, it’s the
actions.

TRUMP: You know, people don’t understand. I went to an Ivy League
college. I’m like very intelligent person.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We have had too many of these
“emperor has no clothes” moments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that there’s a real lack of imagination among
all of those senators who were cheering like sycophants yesterday about the
possibility for a real tragedy caused by reckless actions by this president
of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O’DONNELL: Intelligence is hard to measure. It might be impossible to
measure. IQ tests were an attempt to evaluate students’ intelligence when
Donald Trump was a kid, but they’ve been largely abandoned because
intelligence is a multidimensional, dynamic, fluid brain function that
cannot be reliably and consistently captured for everyone in any test.

SAT tests are really just tests of knowledge, not intelligence. You can
memorize your very high scores on SATs, but the capacity of memorization is
not intelligence. Machines can memorize.

Once you begin to try to describe what intelligence is, you see the
difficulty of trying to measure it.

But Donald Trump, of course, knows none of this. Donald Trump firmly
believes that intelligence is measurable and describable, especially his
own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very
well. I’m a very intelligent person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: There are murderers who went to Ivy League colleges. There are
rapists who went to those schools, tax criminals. Ivy League colleges have
produced just about every kind of criminal you can think of since the first
one opened the doors 381 years ago.

And since Donald Trump seems to believe that Ivy League colleges use
measurable intelligence in their admissions process, he must then believe
that the Ivy League colleges that have always and forever been regarded as
better than the one he went to require even more intelligence to get into
than Donald Trump has. For people who keep score about this sort of thing,
which is to say, the Trumps of this world, Harvard, Yale, Princeton,
Columbia have always ranked so far above Wharton, the school Donald Trump
is so proud to claim but is not so proud to claim him.

Now, that he tries to use his college as the proof of his intelligence, it
is very, very hard, if not impossible to prove intelligence. But proving a
lack of intelligence is much, much easier. Here’s a perfect example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I’m a very intelligent person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: That functions as a proof of the opposite. No intelligent
person says I’m a very intelligent person. Bill Gates who went to Harvard
and has made astronomically more money than Donald Trump, which Donald
Trump also seems to consider a measure of intelligence, has never said I’m
a very intelligent person.

Einstein didn’t say, I’m a very intelligent person. Einstein certainly
heard a lot of other people say that about him.

Barack Obama who went to Columbia and Harvard Law School never said, I’m a
very intelligent person. Bill Clinton, who is a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale
Law School graduate never said, I’m a very intelligent person.

The only president who’s ever said I’m a very intelligent person is the
president with the least fluency in the English language and the provably
smallest vocabulary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I had the best words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: A few minutes after saying, I am a very intelligent person,
before boarding a helicopter on the White House lawn, Donald Trump once
again disputed what Myeshia Johnson said about his condolence call for the
loss of her husband La David Johnson in combat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYESHIA JOHNSON, WIDOW OF SGT. LA DAVID JOHNSON: It made me cry because I
was very angry about the tone of his voice and how he said. He couldn’t
remember my husband name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: And after listening to her say that, here is what the president
said about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I
certainly respect La David, he – who I by the way called La David right
from the beginning. Just so you understand – they put a chart in front,
La David, says La David Johnson.

So, right from the beginning, there’s no hesitation. One of the great
memories of all time. No hesitation.

I think she’s a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her. Extremely
respectful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: So his defense on remembering the name is that they put a chart
in front of him with the name. So, how could he possibly have failed to
mention the name La David Johnson?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, I thought right from the beginning no hesitation. One of the
great memories of all time. There was no hesitation.

I think she’s a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her. Extremely
respectful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: One of the great memories of all time. What does that mean?

For Donald Trump, a condolence call to a grieving widow who’s lost her
husband in combat whose body could not be recovered for two days, for
Donald Trump, that’s one of the great memories of all time? That call for
Donald Trump was like a little kid watching his favorite team win the World
Series? One of the great memories of all time.

That’s what that sentence actually means in the flow of those sentences.
But because Donald Trump is such a lazy and incompetent user of the English
language, it could mean something else. Donald Trump speaks quickly in
order to prevent interruptions but he is very, very lazy about including
every word that a sentence or a paragraph needs to make sense or every word
that a sentence needs to convey what he actually might mean.

And so, some Trump scholars looking at that line – one of the great
memories of all time – jammed in the middle of his description of that
phone call, might read that to be a disjointed Trump boast about how great
his memory is. Therefore, Donald Trump is right. Myeshia Johnson is wrong
because it’s impossible for the widow of the army sergeant to have a better
memory than someone that went to an Ivy League college, someone who has
high intelligence and has the greatest memory of all time.

Now, I have no doubt that people who are still tonight Trump supporters
believe that there is absolutely no comparison between Myeshia Johnson’s
memory and one of the great memories of all time – the memory that belongs
to Donald Trump.

People who are still Trump supporters seem to believe in Donald Trump’s
personal superiority over everyone including themselves – in all things,
wealth, intelligence, memory.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake was never a believer in Donald Trump. He
boldly refused to endorse Donald Trump in the campaign last year, even
after Trump was the Republican nominee and Senator Flake publicly disclosed
that he did not vote for Donald Trump on Election Day.

In response to Senator Flake’s eloquent speech against the president in the
Senate yesterday when the senator announced that he would not be running
for re-election, Donald Trump decided that the best way to handle Jeff
Flake today was the classic Trumpian way. It was to simply lie about him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He wrote a book about me before I ever met, before I heard his
name. I mean, he came out with a horrible book, and I said, who is this
guy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: That is a lie. Jeff Flake’s book “Conscience of a
Conservative” came out seven months into the Trump presidency. Came out
this summer, 2017.

You just heard Donald Trump say he wrote a book about me before I ever met
him. Donald Trump met Jeff Flake a year before Jeff Flake’s book came out.
It was in a meeting with Senate Republicans before the Republican
Convention last summer in order to try to build party unity.

Here’s part of “The Washington post” the account of this meeting. Trump’s
most intense exchange was with Senator Jeff Flake when Flake stood up and
introduced himself, Trump told him, you’ve been very critical of me. Yes,
I’m the other senator from Arizona, the one who didn’t get captured. And I
want to talk to you about statements like that, Flake responded, according
to two Republican officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He wrote a book about me before I ever met him, before I ever heard
his name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: That is what Donald Trump looks like when he’s lying. He knew
exactly who Senator Jeff Flake was by the time Jeff Flake’s book came out.

Here is the other lie that criticism from other Republican senators like
Bob Corker and McCain provoked today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a very good relationship. Honestly, when you look at –
when you take a look at when’s happened with Hillary Clinton and Bernie
Sanders and the hatred and the division and the animosity, I’ll tell you
what, honestly, the Republicans are very, very well united.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Oh, yes. It is vicious these days between Hillary and Bernie.
Hillary Clinton called bounce lying Bernie today and Bernie Sanders called
Hillary Clinton little Hillary – only in the fevered madness of the brain
of Donald Trump.

Of course, they didn’t do that. They never did that. They would never do
that.

There is only one politician on the national stage so utterly uncouth as to
have launched personal attacks that Donald Trump has launched at Democrats
and Republicans. In fact, he has personally attacked, ridiculed and given
condescending nicknames to more Republicans than Democrats. No president
in history ever behaved this way and no president in history ever failed as
completely as Donald Trump has so far failed in pushing his legislative
agenda through a Congress whose Republican leadership he has attacked
repeatedly.

And he has now been rewarded with an all-time low in a new Fox News poll
tonight: 38 percent approve of Donald Trump’s job performance, 57 percent
disapprove.

Joining us now, Indira Lakshmanan, columnist for “The Boston Globe”. She’s
with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Eli Stokols is White House
correspondent for “The Wall Street Journal” and an MSNBC political analyst.

Indira, this – this childishness with which he approaches his self-
aggrandizement publicly, it is – it is indescribably indecent and foolish.
But then to try to use that same boastful stance against Myeshia Johnson
and to claim a superiority over her, with it comes to the recollection of
this phone call, and never, ever once saying, if she misinterpreted my
intention, I’m sorry. That’s the thing he can never bring himself to say.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, COLUMNIST, BOSTON GLOBE: You’re right. Donald Trump
never apologizes. This, of course, is not new. This is just another
Wednesday in the Trump administration.

The fact is we have seen this over the years. Donald Trump is obsessed
with IQ. He’s talked about it repeatedly. He’s obsessed with standing
ovations and with praise for himself. Ultimately, it’s always about him.

This is what it comes down to. This call with Myeshia Johnson, it always
has to reflect back on him. And, of course, it’s incredibly denigrating
and insulting not only to her but to all the people who voted for him to
say, I went to an Ivy League school. I’m so smart.

It reminds me of the other week when he was telling Rex Tillerson, you
know, let’s go head to head on an IQ contest after hearing that Rex
Tillerson privately called him a moron.

The problem here is when someone is so self-obsessed, when the job he has
is to take care of the American nation, the democracy and the American
people, it’s incredibly disturbing that someone would be so focused on
himself.

You mentioned the Fox News poll. So negative for him. But also, the
“Morning Consult” poll in which majorities of the American public find him
reckless, untrustworthy, thin-skinned and uncompassionate.

These are not good numbers for Donald Trump and yet we have three quarters
of Republicans siding with him. So, that hasn’t really moved and these
things are not really moving the needle on that either.

O’DONNELL: And, Eli, there’s a lot of ways to handle questions about that
phone call, including the possibility that two people in a phone call
remember it differently. And he could acknowledge that she remembers it
differently and say he doesn’t want to disagree with her and then offer the
apology for any misunderstanding about it. It’s an easy thing to do. It’s
hard to find an adult who not know how to do that.

But that is who we have as president of the United States.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That’s
right. And it’s probably the thing that made Jeff Flake feel compelled to
come forward at this point and deciding to not run again and feeling sort
of liberated to speak freely. But what he spoke about, what Bob Corker
spoke about yesterday, at its core, those were comments about the
president’s unfitness for office, as Corker said his debasing of our
country.

Donald Trump very nonchalantly shrugged this off as kind of personal feud.
He said, oh, it’s obvious that the politics he wasn’t going to win. It’s
just about politics.

And Republicans were happy to go along with that narrative because none of
them want to confront the fact that this is a president who cannot
acknowledge a grieving widow’s pain who refuses to accept her view of the
phone call and to grand her that dignity. And instead of addressing the
question of whether or not this president is fit for office and debasing
the country, all the senators, the Republican senators that I saw speak
today on this matter, said that, wow, we just got to pass tax reform. We
got to keep the feuds private. You know, Rand Paul said something about –
well, I get along with the president because I respect the office, as if it
matters whether you have a personal relationship with the president.

That’s not what we’re talking about. I think everything has gotten so
personality driven that the White House and the Republican senators on the
Hill, they don’t want to be called out as complicit, so it’s much easier to
shield themselves from all of that and from talking about the crux of this
matter by just painting it as a personal melodrama of two people that don’t
like each other.

And that is not why Jeff Flake and Bob Corker said the things that they
said yesterday. They didn’t say them because they don’t get along with the
president. They said them because they’re concerned about the country and
none of their Republican colleagues in the 24 hours since acknowledged
that.

O’DONNELL: I just want to come back to the point of the phone call to
Myeshia Johnson. If we must choose between the two different accounts of
the phone call, to choose Donald Trump’s account, Indira, is to choose a
proven liar’s account. And I just showed you a lie he told within minutes
of his description of the phone call about Jeff Flake, just outright rank
lying about when he knew about Jeff Flake.

So, he’s been caught in more lies than anyone can count. The poll you
mentioned, the “Politico”/”Morning Consult” poll, not trustworthy, 53
percent. Not honest, 51 percent. Reckless, 56 percent. Not
compassionate, 54 percent.

And so, this is someone who the public is studying for a long time.
Myeshia Johnson is new to all of us, but what Myeshia Johnson doesn’t have
is a long, multi-year, in fact, in Donald Trump’s case, lifetime, public
record of lying.

LAKSHMANAN: Here’s the problem: Donald Trump has been proven to make false
and misleading statements every single day, just since his presidency
started. “The Washington Post” has been keeping a running tally. They’re
now up to an average of five false and misleading statements that he makes
every day. You know, whether he’s intentionally, knowingly lying or just
doesn’t have the greatest memory of all time, you know, whether he thinks
that he actually didn’t meet Jeff Flake at the time that Jeff Flake wrote
the book, I can’t speak to that.

O’DONNELL: I can! I can!

I am telling you. The man is lying outright. He knows when he had the
first run-in with Jeff Flake because Jeff Flake stood up to him in the
Senate last year in the campaign face to face like no Republican would
dare.

LAKSHMANAN: Absolutely he did, but here’s the problem – Jeff Flake has
stood up to him on a moral compass way and but he still voted with the
president almost across the board. So, you can say Bob Corker spoke out.
Jeff Flake spoke out. They did, but they’ve also supported the president’s
agenda in Congress.

And the thing is, if we keep wondering when’s the next domino going to
fall, when are all the Republicans who find him offensive and appalling and
immoral going to finally step up to the plate, they’re not doing so as you
say because they value their agenda over decency, and I keep waiting, who
stands up and says, have you no decency, sir? You know, going back to the
McCarthy era.

O’DONNELL: You know, Jeff Flake’s “Washington Post” op-ed piece today he
cited that exact quote. And these – Jeff Flake, Bob Corker standing up as
they are, are doing it at a much faster pace than we saw happened with
President Nixon and Republicans, and President Nixon was ultimately driven
out of town.

We’re out of time for this segment. Eli Stokols and Indira Lakshmanan,
thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, the very worst, very worst negotiator to have involved in any
kind of complex, piece of legislation is, of course, Donald Trump. And
Republicans know it now. They’ve always known it but, boy, is he scaring
them now.

And Senators Flake and Corker say many more senators, many more Republican
senators say they believe Donald Trump is as dangerous as they said that he
is. Senator Chris Murphy joins us with his report from inside the Senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL: The Republican tax plan is a bit like having a baby to save a
failing marriage. That’s not me saying that. That was the first line of a
“New York Times” report today on the chaos in the Republican Party as it
tries unify around tax cuts – the one thing that’s always unified the
Republican Party more easily than anything else.

The problem for Republicans having a tax plan to save their failing
marriage with Donald Trump is that having a baby never saved one of Donald
Trump’s failing marriages because Donald Trump has always been the most
difficult part of any marriage that he has been in, and congressional
Republicans married to Trump now fully realize that. The president is
ruining the congressional tax-writing committee’s ability to write a tax
cut bill because he is suddenly taking things off the table in tweet that
surprise the Republicans who are trying to write that bill.

The most amazing of example of that yet is the president’s suddenly
tweeting two days ago that 401(k)s are off the table. He did that after it
was leaked that Republicans were considering cutting the amounts you would
be allowed to put into your retirement accounts. That would amount to a
tax increase for people with 401(k) accounts. The president wanted to get
all the credit for killing that bad idea so he announced on Twitter that he
had killed it.

That created a big problem for Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways
and Means Committee, who has the job of writing the first draft of the
Republican tax bill. Kevin Brady is still insisting he needs the 401(k)s
to be on the table in order to come up with a package. And I’ll explain
why he’s insisting on that in a moment.

The important thing for now is just the demonstration we saw this afternoon
of how out of his depth Donald Trump is when it comes to negotiating a tax
bill with Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 401(k)s to me are very important and they’re important because
that’s one of the great benefits to the middle class. I didn’t want that
to go too far. That’s why I ended it very quickly.

REPORTER: Chairman Brady, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee said this morning it could be on the table.

TRUMP: Well, maybe it is and maybe we’ll use it as a negotiating but I –
trust me. That’s within of the great things. You know, there are certain
elements of deals you don’t want to negotiate with. 401(k)s and Kevin
knows it, and I think Kevin Brady is fantastic. He knows how important
401(k)s are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: I am sitting here with a veteran of Republican tax legislation
in the past who’s helped put these things together. We were both laughing
during that. We’ll explain why in a moment.

There’s Donald Trump saying absolutely, quote, I ended it very quickly,
meaning that he ended the possibility of 401(k)s being changed in any way
and then a reporter mentioned that Kevin Brady wants to do it and the
president says, OK, well, maybe, maybe as a negotiating device and then say
that is you shouldn’t use it as a negotiating device because it’s so
important.

So, there’s Donald Trump publicly throwing away what could have been at
least a negotiating device to pick up some Republican votes that might be
worried about other provisions in the bill. You could say to them, look,
we’re going to have to do that thing you don’t like and help you on the
401(k) thing and get rid of that. That’s all gone now. Donald Trump threw
that negotiating device away with reporters today.

And he got nothing back for it in the negotiation because you can’t
negotiate a tax bill with reporters – something everyone in Washington
knows except, of course, the man who constantly says, I’m a very
intelligent person.

Joining us, Bruce Bartlett, former deputy assistant secretary of the
treasury under President George H.W. Bush, and he’s the author of new book
“The Truth Matters”. Also with us is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
David Cay Johnston, the author of “The Making of Donald Trump.”

Bruce, we watched something no other president has done. He takes an
important possible moving part of a tax bill, and when I say moving parts,
you and I know this part might just move right out of the bill and get
thrown away but if it does we’ll get something in return. He does it in
the driveway with reporters.

BRUCE BARTLETT, ECONOMIST: Well, plus, I don’t think he really has any
clue as to what he’s talking about.

O’DONNELL: There’s that, too.

BARTLETT: I seriously doubt he tells you what the 401(k) limit is,
contribution limit is, the rules for putting money in or taking it out.
He’s grossly ignorant about all of these things. I mean, his own tax
accountant has said he doesn’t understand anything about taxes and any –
and then big deals, some of which as you know saved him millions of
millions of dollars of taxes were apparently not motivated by tax
considerations at all.

He – the accountant, you know, out in the little office in Queens figured
this stuff out. But it’s right. I mean, just as a matter of negotiating
strategy, what he is doing is utterly ridiculous from his own point of
view.

O’DONNELL: David, you made your name as a tax reporter covering the tax
bills. Tell us how you think this one’s going.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, we may not see a tax
bill. I mean, I earlier some months ago thought, well, the one thing the
Republicans will do is they’ll pull off something they will call tax
reform. It will just be a tax cut giveaway to the best off in America.

But the way these things are going and the divisions within the Republicans
between the deficit hawks and the people who are corporate America needs a
tax cut maybe we won’t see one, especially with Donald in there throwing,
you know, himself around and giving away things and demonstrating as Bruce
put it, you know, he doesn’t know anything about taxes.

O’DONNELL: Here’s what –

JOHNSTON: He claims, however, to be the world’s greatest expert on it.

O’DONNELL: Yes. And I agree with David completely. The one thing I was
sure they were going to do is the tax cut bill. They know how to do that.

Here’s Republican Chris Collins from New York state is telling “Bloomberg”
today: We don’t know the brackets. We don’t know where we are on the
estate taxes. We don’t know where we are on the state and local deduction.
We don’t know where we were on and the size of the child tax credit. We
don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know.

And, Bruce, they are trying to do sol things in there things tried to do
for generations like limit or eliminate the deductibility of state and
local taxes, better legislators than them tried and failed with that.

BRUCE BARLETT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think that what we got here is
really a replay of the Obamacare repeal business. Trump had absolutely no -

O’DONNELL: Wait. Do you think they’re going to pass a bill? Do you
think they might not?

BARLETT: Well that’s where I’m getting at because I think it could end up
the same way.

O’DONNELL: Wow.

BARLETT: Because Trump apparently thinks that all the stuff is thought
through and that there’s a bill pretty much ready to introduce and be
passed by the House tomorrow. And he doesn’t realize they’ve been working
on this for years and not able to come up with anything on their own. And
talking about ignorance, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin seems to be as
ignorant as Trump on the issues. He’s not giving them much in the way of
guidance that I can see. And I think it’s because he doesn’t really know
anymore than Trump does.

O’DONNELL: And one thing, David, we know Mnuchin doesn’t know the politics
of tax legislation, how it affects different states, different me believes
of Congress, different members of a delegation within the same state can
have a different view of a same provision and a level of complex he has no
comprehension of.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Republicans from relatively
high tax states, New York, New Jersey, California are going to have a tough
time voting to say you can’t deduct your state and local taxes even though
they’re Republicans. And so, putting together a coalition that works here
is very, very difficult. They’re making a big point of a $2,000 tax credit.

The current credit is nonrefundable and most people even if they have four
kids let less than $1,000 as a result of it. And they’re also proposing
that the bottom bracket go up from 10 percent to 12 percent. And they
would eliminate the 15 percent bracket.

The largest share of Federal Income Tax comes from the 15 percent bracket.
And yet, they would replace it with a 25 percent bracket. That’s two thirds
higher. And I don’t suspect many voters will be happy discovering money to
be taxed at 15 percent is going to be taxed at 25 even if it’s only sliver
of it

O’DONNELL: Breaking news, two of our most experienced tax legislation
experts believe tonight that the Republicans might actually fail to do
something they have never failed to do before, pass a tax cut bill. David
Cay Johnston and Bruce Barlett, the author of the new book, the Truth
Matters. Thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

O’DONNELL: Coming up, at least half of the Senate now is in rebellion
against the President. Senator Chris Murphy joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL: Here’s Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Morning Joe this
morning continuing his criticism of President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF FLAKE, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think we ought to say this is speech
that’s reckless and it’s undignified. And until we do we are complicit in
normalizing that kind of behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Yesterday on the Senate floor in his dramatic speech against
Trumpism Senator Flake said there are times when we must risk our careers
in favor of our principles. Now is such a time. And this morning Senate
Chaplain Barry Black, a former Navy Admiral who was chosen to be the Senate
Chaplain by Republicans began today’s Senate session with this echo of Jeff
Flake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY BLACK, UNITED STATES SENATE CHAPLAIN: Lord, provide us with more
patriots who will stand for right regardless of the consequences. We pray
in your sovereign name, amen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy joins us next of

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: That’s very, very minor. We
have great unity. I was with the Senate yesterday, the entire Republican
Senate. And other than two people I tell you there was a lot of love in
that room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Joining us now Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. Senator Murphy
the I – from my distance I have never seen anything like this Republican
disunity and chaos in the United States Senate. Is it as bad as it looked?

CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Well, you know, sort of imagine who -
- what Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would have imagined
they would have gotten done by October of the election year if they were
sitting around on the night of the President’s inauguration. Probably the
answer would not have been nothing. I mean, it is extraordinary that we are
almost a year in and not a single Republican priority has been passed in
part because all of it is deeply unpopular and they’re at war with
themselves.

So, you know, they’re abiding Trump, most of them and his recklessness
because they have one last shot here to get their sacred trickle down tax
cut for the wealthy through the Senate, And they’re going to pretend that
Trump doesn’t lie five times a day in order to get it done. We’ll see if
they’ll be successful.

O’DONNELL: Now you served in the Foreign Relations Committee with both
Senator Flake and Chairman Bob Corker. They both insist that there are many
other Republican Senators who share their thinking about the President. But
those Senators are not yet willing to go public. Is that your sense of the
way things are in the Republican cloak room?

MURPHY: Yeah. They have a better sense of their members than I do. But I
certainly talk to Republican Senators who share with me privately the
things that Jeff Flake and Bob Corker said publicly. But, you know, they’re
very scared of primaries. They also want to operationalize Trump for their
tax cut.

And so, you know, they’re I think very willing right now to let a few of
them speak on behalf of the rest of them but rhetoric is one thing. The
question is, are these Republicans starting to break away from Trump
rhetorically actually going to do something with their vote? Are they going
to support the health care reform bill that was worked out between
Republicans and Democrats that takes away from Trump the power to destroy
the health care system?

Are they going to work to pass an authorization of military force in the
Middle East which checks the President’s war making powers? You know
talking about how reckless is President is one thing, passing legislation
to restrain him is another

O’DONNELL: There’s also the gun violence issue which you have been more
active on than most senators. We’ve had 896 Americans killed by guns since
what happened in Las Vegas. What is the next step or any possible step
legislatively on this?

MURPHY: Well, you know we introduced today a new universal background
check bill that’s supported by 90 percent of the American public. There’s
really no issue like this out there today in which you have 9 out of 10
Americans who want something to happen and Congress won’t do it. But I
understand that the NRA largely has a vice grip on the Republican House and
Senate and Whitehouse so we’ve got to go and organize outside of this
place.

We’re starting to beat Republicans who vote against their constituents and
with the NRA. We beat Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. We won a Senate seat
on this issue in Nevada. So we’ll continue to get stronger. We’ll continue
to plan more races in 2018.

Republicans can look at this background check bill, sign on to it or stand
on the sidelines and oppose it. If they do that, ultimately I think that
they’re going to lose. They’re going to pay at the ballot box.

O’DONNELL: And the rules of the Senate being what they are you might find
an opportunity to basically introduce this on the Senate Floor as an
amendment to some other moving vehicle and possibly get a recorded vote on
it on who actually is for and against what 94 percent of the public is for.

MURPHY: Yeah. Although, the senate really doesn’t work like that anymore.

O’DONNELL: Right.

MURPHY: That’s the Senate of 20 years ago when you add votes. We actually
don’t have the opportunity under leader McConnell to bring the measures up
and so who knows whether we’re going to actually get a vote on background
checks? Who knows if we get a vote on banning bump stocks?

You know we’ve got to get the Senate back to regular order where we got the
chance to say yes or no to big policy proposals. So I hope you’re right.
But that doesn’t seem to be the Senate that we’re operating in today.

O’DONNELL: We just had to my surprise on these show two experts on tax
legislation, one Republican, both saying that they have strong doubts that
the Republicans are going to be able to pass the tax cut bill. I am stunned
to be at this point in the conversation because the one thing I believed
they could do from the beginning was their tax cut bill.

That’s what they know how to do. They have never failed at that. Where do
you think it is?

MURPHY: Well, I listened to their analysis. I may be not as optimistic as
they are that this is going to fall by the wayside because I think
Republicans are desperate. They thought that the wall would be funded.
They thought that the the health care bill would be repealed. They thought
that the tax cut was already going to be passed.

And so, you know, they have stirred up their electorate to the point where
they’ve got to deliver something. Of course very few of Trump’s based was
looking for a big tax cut for the rich. But do think they feel like they
have to deliver something. The problem is this bill when it finally emerges
is going to frankly easier to message against than the health care bill
because all this is - is a big tax cut for the rich paid for by cuts to
Medicare.

This is going to end up being less popular than the health care bill and
might see the cold feet you saw surrounding the health care bill reproduce
itself on the tax bill. But I think there’s a different sense of
desperation in the caucus now than you even saw at the end of the health
care debate.

O’DONNELL: You remind we have not spent enough time concentrating on the
Medicare cuts part of that package. And we will do that. Senator Chris
Murphy thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MURPHY: Thanks.

O’DONNELL: Coming up, the cowardice of the Republicans. That is the quote
from an article written by a Republican, will join us coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL: NBC News is reporting today diplomatic efforts between the
United States and North Korea are in peril with North Korea shunning talks
in response to President Donald Trump’s increased public attacks on Kim
Jong-Un according to multiple U.S. Government and Congressional officials.
Here is what Jeff Flake said about that yesterday in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: As a matter and duty of conscience the notion that one should stay
silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined.
And as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire
world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140
characters, the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such
mercurial behavior, is A, historic, and believe profoundly misguided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Max Boot who has served recently wrote in Foreign Policy
Adviser to Presidential campaigns in the Republican side recently wrote in
Foreign Policy Magazine, Corker says that virtually all his fellow
Republican Senators agree with hi. But instead of saying in public what
they say in private these invertebrate office holders try to change the
subject or simply refuse to comment.

They are a profile in cowardice, these Republicans. And they are making a
mockery of their oaths to support and defend the constitution. If they
truly believe that Trump is not fit for office then they have an obligation
to impeach and remove him. Instead they choose to act as if Trump is their
partner in governing. Max Boot will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL: Here’s what Paul Ryan had to say today about Republicans
Senator’s Jeff Flake’s and Bob Corker’s public comments about President
Trump’s fitness to serve as President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Do I
wish these differences wouldn’t be happening out in the public, yeah. I
think people should settle their differences personally. I think its better
that way. I think it’s in our interest to have party unity so that we can
continue to work forward on an agenda.

I’m not that worried about this because I know Jeff. I know Bob and these
guys. I know they want what’s right for their constituents. And I know
they’re for tax reform, And I know they wanted to get these things done.
But I would - it’ll be nicer to see people just settle their differences in
private than in public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: Joining us now Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security
Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former foreign policy
advisor for the McCain-Romney and Rubio Presidential campaigns. And Max,
tonight the New York Times we have former Republican Senator Tom Coldburn
quoted as saying “we have a leader who has a personality disorder.”

That is the kind of thing along with what Bob Corker and Jeff Flake has
been saying that the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, firmly believes
should be kept private. If you think the President is unfit to serve as a
Republican you should never say that publicly in the interest of party
unity. Paul Ryan actually said that publicly.

BOOT: I mean this is, you know, the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of a
once great party. And it keeps getting worse and worse. I mean the mantra
you hear from people like Paul Ryan is you know say nothing about the
behavior of the naked emperor in the Whitehouse. Pretend everything is
normal because we’re going to get this wonderful policy agenda through, you
know, the very same agenda which is not actually being enacted and yet is
always an excuse not to say anything.

I mean this dereliction of duty on the part of our elected representatives
is truly shocking. And it’s why I’m very glad that I quit the Republican
Party after nearly 30 years because I can’t stand to be a part of this. And
you see Flake, Corker and McCain and others cannot stand to be a party to
this either. But unfortunately you seems to be happy to go along with it.

O’DONNELL: Did you see this coming? I have to say I did not know Paul
Ryan could be this compliant with a character like Donald Trump.

BOOT: I didn’t see it coming. You remember last summer he made a big show
of hesitation before embracing Trump. But you saw the same thing,
everybody, you know, Rubio, Ted Cruz, everything else who called Donald
Trump every name under the sun and said he was unfit to have nuclear
weapons et cetera, et cetera and then they endorse him anyway even though
they say that his unfit.

And now they’re ignoring the fact that he’s behavior seems to be getting
worse as Bob Corker has pointed. And that he’s basically in adult day
care. And they’re pretending as if everything is normal. I mean this to me
is again, it’s a truly shocking and shocking dereliction of their duty as
our elected leaders.

O’DONNELL: You say in your piece that the Stockholm syndrome should
really be renamed Republican Syndrome.

BOOT: Exactly. I mean they’ve basically come to identify with their
abuser. I mean there’s no other way to describe it. And what you see now
is that even supposedly main stream normal moderate Republicans like Ed
Gillespie in Virginia whose a professional lobbyist is basically sounding
like a born again Trumpian.

I mean excoriating his opponent for supposedly favoring immigration and
defending confederate monuments. The entire Republican Party is embracing
this white nationalist populous agenda which is in anathema to everything
that it has stood for - for many decades

O’DONNELL: Let’s listen to one republican who isn’t. This is Charlie Dent
of Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE DENT, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: We’ve had too many of these
emperors has no clothed moments. And I said to my colleagues it’s important
to state when you agree with the President, say publicly when you support
him.

But you shouldn’t be afraid to check him when he moves in a bad direction
or call him out if he does something inappropriate or offensive. We
shouldn’t be afraid to do that. And you know I think people are afraid of
their bases in too many cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL: And Max, that is considered heresy among most Republicans in
Congress.

BOOT: You know I mean I think it’s a very cowardly group of lawmakers
because they don’t want to see happen to them what happened to Jeff Flake
where his approval ratings in Arizona plummeted. He got a primary
challenger.

They’re all petrified of doing the same thing. And so they’re allowing
Trump to basically get away with murder. And that, you know, I think is
something history will look upon very poorly.

O’DONNELL: Max Boot gets tonight’s Last Word. Thank you Max.

BOOT: Thank you.

O’DONNELL: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

END

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