Tax bill could add $1 trillion to deficit Transcript 11/30/17 The last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL
Date: November 30, 2017
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. December 13th. I’m
just writing it down right here.
So, this breaking news report that you had Joyce Vance on analyzing about
“The New York Times” saying that the president was calling in the summer
when he was behaving very erratically publicly and very angrily public,
calling important Republican senators trying to get them to stop the Senate
Intelligence Committee investigation – fascinating interpretation by Joyce
Vance about how this could contribute to a possible obstruction of justice
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Right. If there are other – whether or
not those – the actions described in multiply sourced in “New York Times”
tonight are themselves actionable in any legal matter. These actions could
be used to go – to serve as evidence to the president’s state of mind as
to whether or not he really was trying to stop the Russia investigations.
If there are other actionable things he did, this behavior toward
Republican senators, which Republican senators are putting their name to
tonight in the “New York Times” would be useful at showing, at proving that
the president’s aim in taking these action was to try to get the Russia
investigation shut down and that’s at the very, very heart of any
obstruction of justice case against the president of the United States or
O’DONNELL: And reading between the lines of these kinds of articles, as I
do. I’m always looking for the staff – having been former staff myself
working in the Senate, I’m always looking for the staff. One of the things
that I’m wondering especially after listening to Joyce Vance talk about it
is, what if there were White House staff, White House chief of staff
telling the president do not make that call.
O’DONNELL: Do not call Chairman Burr and then he makes sure there is no
one in the room when he calls Chairman Burr.
O’DONNELL: That would add very much to his – to a description of his
MADDOW: That is one of the very important details at the every end of this
“New York Times” story in which they say that, at least for some of these
calls, the president appeared to be calling on his own with no – at least
no senior staff with him.
O’DONNELL: And there is usually a reason for that.
MADDOW: Yes. Exactly.
O’DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Appreciate it.
O’DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, the Trump tax bill is in trouble tonight in the United States Senate
and the proof that it is in trouble came just after 7:00 p.m. tonight when
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to cancel votes on
amendments to the bill tonight. And the proof that Mitch McConnell does
not know what to do next is that he said the Senate would resume
consideration of the tax bill tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Is that when
you’re starting work tomorrow morning? Eleven a.m.
Now, I know it looks to civilians like the United States Senate moves very
slowly, but when you have legislation moving in the United States Senate,
every single minute counts and the workday on the Senate floor starts at
9:00 a.m. and sometimes starts earlier than that. And so, Mitch McConnell
pushing to at least 11:00 a.m. tomorrow means he does not know. He does
not know what to do next.
Managing legislation on the floor of the Senate when you know what your
next move is, you want to get to that move as soon as you possibly can.
You want to get to it in the next minute. If Mitch McConnell now what he
was going to do tomorrow morning, he would have the Senate back at work at
that bill, on that bill at 9:00 a.m. Mitch McConnell knows he needs at
least all night tonight and two extra hours in the morning after 9:00 a.m.
to be able to present something on the Senate floor that might have a
chance of passage because right now, Mitch McConnell does not have a bill
that can pass the United States Senate.
Republicans in the Senate have been engaged in group wishful thinking about
what this tax bill will do to the deficit. It has been very clear to
Democrats and to anyone who can think straight that a massive tax cut will
dramatically increase the budget deficit. Economists agree on that.
Republicans have been insisting quite correctly that a tax cut does
stimulate economic activity, but a tax cut never ever stimulates enough
economic activity that creates enough new tax revenue to the Treasury to
make up for the amount of tax revenue lost in the tax cut. That never
happens. It has never happened. Republicans have been pretending that it
is now possible.
Today, the official congressional estimator of the impacts of tax
legislation, the Joint Committee on Taxation, issued its report on the
Trump bill saying that the Trump bill will increase the deficit by a
trillion dollars. After considering the positive effect on economic growth
that the tax cut will create and the Joint Tax Committee agrees it will do
that, the Joint Committee on Taxation says that the Trump tax bill will cut
revenue to the Treasury by $1.5 trillion, but it will also stimulate the
economy to produce a new half trillion in tax revenue to the Treasury. So,
that it will net out to be a $1 trillion loss to the Treasury.
And so, Republican senators who have been worried about the tax cuts’
impact on the deficit, which is precious few of them now, are even more
worried tonight. Reports indicate that Republican Senators Jeff Flake and
Bob Corker want to reduced that massive increase in the deficit. They
would like to cut it in half, to about $500 billion.
That means two things. That means they would have to find a way in this
tax legislation to raise $500 billion in tax revenue, which is really easy
to do. Simply by not cutting the corporate tax rate 15 percentage points.
If they just cut it 10 percentage points they could solve their problem.
But it is important to note that what the so-called deficit hawks among
Republicans are trying to do in any version of this bill is that they are
trying to find a way to vote for a bill that will massively increase the
deficit, either by a trillion dollars or half a trillion dollars. That’s
what Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are trying to do. Let’s make a half a
trillion instead of a trillion. There is not one Republican in the United
States Senate, not one who is standing by a vow that many of them made in
the past to never vote to increase the deficit or national debt, and this
tax bill does both of those things.
John McCain who had the courage to vote against George W. Bush’s tax cuts
because they heavily favored the rich and massively increased the deficit
has now decided to vote for a tax cut package that is even worse on both of
those issues. Here is what John McCain said when he stood in politically
brave opposition to his own Republican Party on the Bush tax cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Should the president consider
postponing his tax cut?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would have – I voted against the tax
cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest
Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order
to help address the deficit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: And so the question tonight for the United States senate, for
Republicans in the United States Senate is who is right about these tax
cuts? John McCain or John McCain?
The John McCain who said he was opposed to tax cuts that heavily favored
the rich and increased the deficit or the John McCain who today issued this
written statement: After careful thought and consideration I have decided
to support the Senate tax reform bill. I believe this legislation though
far from perfect would enhance American competiveness, boost the economy,
and provide long over due tax relief for middle class families.
The Joint Committee on Taxation’s estimate of exactly how much the tax cuts
that John McCain now favors would boost the economy is 0.8 percent over 10
years. That’s how much. Employment is projected to increase about one
half of 1 percent, 0.6 percent.
And as to the tax cut for those middle class families that John McCain
cares so much about, the Joint Committee on Taxation says overall, the net
effect of the changes to the individual income tax is to reduce average tax
rates on wage income by about 1 percentage point. That’s it. One
That’s what middle class tax families can expect. That’s what John McCain
now calls a middle class tax cut 1 percent point. A tax cut of 1 percent.
The rich are getting a much, much bigger tax cut than that, much bigger
than 1 percent. But for wage income, which is to say people who do not
share in the profits of businesses, the average tax rates that you pay will
be about 1 percentage less and for that John McCain is now willing to
explode the budget deficit and debt.
And John McCain is willing to do that tonight without having any idea what
the Republican tax bill is going to look like tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the
Senate, if Mitch McConnell is actually ready to present his new version of
the bill he’s trying to create overnight at 11:00 a.m.
Watch tomorrow because every minute that Mitch McConnell delays tomorrow
morning after 11:00 a.m., if he does delay is an indication that the bill
is in even more trouble than it is in right now. This is the most suspense
that a Republican tax bill has ever faced because nothing is easier for a
Republican-controlled Congress than passing tax cuts. It’s so easy that
Republicans always get Democratic support for tax cuts in the House and in
the Senate, because getting on board with tax cuts is irresistible to
Democrats who win in swing states, where Republicans can successfully
campaign against them if they don’t vote for a tax cuts.
But this time, no Democrats. Not one Democrat so far has been even tempted
to vote for these Republican tax cuts because these are the most
irresponsibility tax cuts ever presented in Congress. Something that’s
sadly no longer seems to trouble John McCain.
Joining us now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and
MSNBC. Also with us, Bruce Bartlett former deputy to security of treasury
under President George H.W. Bush. He isl also the author of the new book
“The Truth Matters.”
And, Bruce Bartlett, the Joint Committee on Taxation issued the truth today
about this Republican tax bill and that seems to be what the suspense is
about tonight, how to deal with this joint tax report.
BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH TREASURY OFFICIAL: Well, I’m
flabbergasted that apparently, there really were people in the Senate who
thought this tax cut would pay for itself, and that there was going to be
no revenue loss. I mean, did anybody really believe that?
I mean, why did they bother to pass a budget resolution permitting them to
increase the budget deficit, the national debt by $1.5 trillion if they
didn’t think that was necessary?
I’m truly flabbergasted.
O’DONNELL: And, John, there is also something that Rachel was reporting on
earlier in her program and it was a report on “The New York Times” today.
One thing that Republicans are counting on is Treasury Secretary Mnuchin
producing a report out of the Treasury Tax Analysis Department showing that
this was possible, showing that there would be with what they call dynamic
scoring, a massive growth in the economy that would then generate so much
tax revenue that this deficit effect would disappear.
Not only is that not ready, it turns out they didn’t do a minute of work on
it and now, the inspector general of the Treasury is investigating was the
treasury secretary lying to Congress about this?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The Treasury
– well, first of all, I want to say, I know you would be discussing Steve
Mnuchin tonight. I believe he likes to be called Steven Mnuchin. I’m
wearing my honorable, my – this is my Steven Mnuchin suit.
O’DONNELL: That’s a treasury secretary suit.
HEILEMANN: I’m thinking, this is the kind of suit that a man wears who
likes to sign money and get in the bathtub with the money and all that kind
Look, it’s reminiscing a little bit of the Trump transition where, you
know, the stuff you’re supposed to do to get ready to be president of the
United States, you don’t do and find yourself as president of the United
States and you’ve done none of the work in this case, Steve Mnuchin does
not seem to be really engaged in the part of the job that’s not the part
where you sign the money. Or go and visit the money or touch the money,
the symbolic stuff that he seems to like so much. This is the part that
touches on the policy piece and nobody suggested Steven Mnuchin is
particularly strong with respect to policy and particularly understands the
legislative process, and I think that’s, you know, one of many things that
are coming back to bite this effort now.
The bigger thing, it does seem to me, and we discussed this earlier. You
mentioned in your opening, Lawrence, it would be easy to solve this
problem, the problem they are facing. The easy way to solve the problem is
move the corporate rate from 20 percent to 22 percent or 25 percent. The
problem is Trump wants 20, the other problem is the Freedom Caucus wants
20, and they are all looking how difficult the reconciliation will be,
conference committee is going to be with the House and you got the slam
bloc of Republicans in the House that caused the problem with repeal and
replace, the same bloc led by Mark Meadows and saying we’re not going to
move off 20 percent.
So the easy solution is not at hand when you have the Freedom Caucus and
president stuck on that 20 percent number at the corporate rate.
O’DONNELL: And, Bruce, that’s fascinating to hear because that would be
the easiest number in this whole package to slide, just let it slide upward
and to hear that these so-called ultra conservatives in the House won’t
allow it. What are they thinking? Is it so important to them about
getting the corporate tax rate that low?
BARTLETT: My theory is that they think that this is golf.
BARTLETT: And that the lower the tax rate is, somehow or other you win.
But this is just simply ridiculous.
There is no analysis underlying any of what is going on here to explain
what the benefits to the United States will be of having the lowest golf
score – I mean, corporate tax rate, other than, you know, cheers, you
know, great for us. This absolutely makes no sense whatsoever.
O’DONNELL: John, what happens tomorrow? What are the – I mean, you’re
asking me before the show and I’m sitting there having worked on this kind
of legislation –
HEILEMANN: You know more about this than any of us.
O’DONNELL: My answer is I don’t know. I can’t believe this struggle has
come to this point in the Senate on the tax cut.
HEILEMANN: Well, it obviously seems to be the case as you review the
history a little bit today. You know, this morning, this afternoon, this
thing looked like it was on a glide path especially when John McCain came
HEILEMANN: But it all was premised on the notion they could get this
little piece of legislative gimmickry into that would be allowed to have
this triggered mechanism, that would allow people like Bob Corker and Jeff
Flake to assuage their conscience and vote for a massive budget busting
deficit exacerbating bill and then the parliamentarian goes back and says,
no, the trigger thing is exactly what it looks like to anybody that knows
anything about tax policy, it’s a gimmick. It’s just a conscience
assuaging mechanism. We’re not going to let you do that.
And it looks like, again, we keep coming back to the question about Mitch
McConnell’s legislative mastery. You and I have talked about this for a
year. Mitch McConnell, legislative master, failed to exhibit that mastery
on the health care repeal. He now seems to have put all of his eggs into
that basket, that that was how he would solve the deficit hawks problem,
and that now seems to have gone away and it feels a little bit like – I’m
sure he has tricks up his sleeve.
But I’m not any more convinced that Mitch McConnell always has a trick up
his sleeve. So, maybe tomorrow will be chaos.
O’DONNELL: But you can take the tricks away. Meaning, if you say it’s
absolutely impossible for Mitch McConnell to move on the corporate tax
rate, I mean, he’s willing to move anything on the bill. If he can’t, then
there is nothing he can do.
I just want to go to Bruce on one thing about the Joint Tax Committee
report. It is actually a very optimistic report in my reading, Bruce,
about what the economic, the positive economic impact would be of the tax
cuts that almost one full percentage point of growth.
And I just want to identify for the audience, when an economic model does
this, it has to make some assumptions and it has to make really micro
economic assumptions about you, about you viewers, about your economic
behavior, and in fact, how much money you will spend, how much money you
will push into the economy because of these tax cuts.
And I just want – this is one of the assumptions in this very positive
estimate by the Joint Tax Committee. It says, individuals are assumed to
make consumption and labor supply decisions to maximize their lifetime
well-being given the resources they can foresee will be available to them.
And, Bruce, as we know, this is economists idealizing the consumer as being
able to see exactly what my lifetime income is going to be for the rest of
my life, therefore, I know exactly how much I can spend this year and pump
into the economy.
And so, when you have assumptions like that about human behavior, perfect
information is another one that they assume, the consumer has perfect
information about everything. You know these are optimistic and it still
doesn’t get the Republicans where they need to be.
BARTLETT: Well, the great untold story is that we’re especially at full
employment. The big difference between this huge tax cut and every other
big tax cut in history is they all took place at a time when the economy
was slow, when unemployment was high, and there was some justification for
a stimulus for the economy. There is none in this particular case.
And I’m – one of the things I’m concerned about is what assumptions have
been made about the Federal Reserve? Because if this legislation actually
has any stimulative impact, a lot will go into inflation, that could lead
to Fed tightening, which could lead to the next recession. And I’m sure
that the Joint Committee did not assume any recession over the forecast
period. But believe me, we’re long past the point at which we’re over due
O’DONNELL: Yes, there is no recession assumed in there at all. And
remember that, audience, always read the economic assumptions in the
Bruce Bartlett, John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate it.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, more on the breaking news tonight that president
Trump urged top Republicans in the Senate to end the Senate Intelligence
Committee’s Russia investigation.
And also, Ezra Klein is with us tonight to discuss his extraordinary
article, the case for normalizing impeachment, which is today’s mandatory
O’DONNELL: Breaking news tonight, “The New York Times” is reporting that
President Trump, quote, repeatedly urged Republicans to end the Senate
Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the
2016 election. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told “The
Times” that it was something along the lines of I hope you can conclude
this as quickly as possible, Senator Richard Burr said. He said he replied
to Mr. Trump that, when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we
Today, the House Intelligence Committee met separately with both Attorney
General Jeff Sessions and Trump supporter Erik Prince who reportedly tried
to establish a backchannel of communication between Donald Trump and
Congressman Adam Schiff said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I
asked the attorney general whether he was ever instructed by the president
to take any action that he believe would hinder the Russia investigation
and he declined to answer the question. There is no privilege basis to
decline to answer a question like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Joining us now, California Democrat, Congressman Eric Swalwell,
a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Also with us, Mieke Eoyang,
a former House Intelligence Committee staff member and vice president for
national security program at the Third Way.
Congressman Swalwell, what was – what did you gain from this discussion
with the attorney general today?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we see a trend that I think the
president is emboldening, which is individuals believing they don’t have to
cooperate with us. You know, as Mr. Schiff pointed out, he was asked
plainly, were you ever directed to do anything that would hinder the
investigation and sitting no privilege at all said he couldn’t answer that.
And then Erik Prince today later in the afternoon, a number of times
refused to answer questions and then abruptly ended the interview.
We also saw with Jared Kushner, he called it quits and shorter than three
hours said that he was done answering questions.
So, I think the president’s attitude is having an affect on the witnesses,
which is – because we’re not bringing them on subpoena is really limiting
the amount of information we can receive from them.
O’DONNELL: So, Erik Prince cut the interview short. Did the attorney
general cut the interview short?
SWALWELL: No, the attorney general sat for sometime but he refused to
answer a number of questions citing as he has in the past that he’s not
going to discuss conversations with the president. Well, it turns out that
a lot of his conversations with the president really pertain to actions the
president may have been asking him to take around Russia, based on what
we’ve heard from other witnesses. And it’s very unfortunate that the
attorney general can’t be forthcoming with us about what was asked,
particularly if it was to do something illegal, which has no privilege in
O’DONNELL: And, Mieke Eoyang, is it conceivable that the attorney general
would decline to answer questions like this because they verge on the
special prosecutor’s investigation?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE SAFF MEMBER: If that’s
the case, then he should be asserting the basis which he’s not answering
the questions, right? Refusal to answer the questions because he might be
interfering with an on going law enforcement investigation may be a
legitimate reason to say, hey, I don’t want to answer this right now. But
he didn’t do that nor has the White House asserted executive privilege.
So, basically, the attorney general is just thumbing his nose at the powers
of Congress and what’s shocking is that the chairman of the committee or
those running the investigation are not affronted by this and are not
insisting that he be held in contempt and be forced to answer.
O’DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, what about what we’re hearing in the
Senate? We’re hearing the president of the United States calling up the
chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wanting to get this
investigation over with, calling other members of the committee, calling
Mitch McConnell repeatedly and angrily, saying he wanted this investigation
over with and shut down.
Is that happening on this House side? Is here any evidence that the
president is making similar phone calls to Republican House members and
Republican House leadership?
SWALWELL: Well, yesterday we saw clear evidence of this. An internal
Republican memo on the intelligence committee suggested that the Department
of Justice should be held in contempt of court for not, you know, following
the president’s wishes and other wishes that they, you know, haul in
witnesses related to some of these bogus Uranium One claims, and then after
that memo was leaked yesterday on FOX News, within hours, the president was
tweeting about it.
So, that shows some degree of coordination and, of course, the chairman of
our committee is recused because he’s been working hand and hand with the
So, I think from every level of congressional or criminal investigation,
from asking James Comey to make the Flynn case go away, to the tweeting
about calling the investigation a hoax, to his pressure that he’s putting
on senators, it’s clear that he is acting like somebody who has a lot to
O’DONNELL: And I want to read a passage about Senator Blunt who’s also one
of the senators who was pressured by the president. Said Mr. Blunt flying
on Air Force One with Mr. Trump to Springfield, Missouri, in August, when
he found himself being lobbied by the president to wrap up this
investigation, according to a Republican official familiar with the
conversation. Mr. Blunt was not bothered by Mr. Trump’s comments, the
official said because he did not see them bearing, quote, a sinister
Mieke Eoyang, your reaction to that?
EOYANG: I mean, it doesn’t really matter how the listener took it and
whether or not the listener felt intimidated on this. What really matters
is the president’s intent and if he’s trying to shut down an investigation
before it reaches its natural conclusion. Then, we’re talking about
potential obstruction of justice and I think that that is something that
these Republican senators in trying to walk a political line are
O’DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang and Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both for
joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
EOYANG: Thank you.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, Ezra Klein in a new article says it’s time to fire
the president who used to pretend to fire people on TV. Ezra’s article
about this is called “The case of normalizing impeachment.” Mandatory
O’DONNELL: If you’re charged with a crime in this country, the Founding
Fathers gave you the following rights, you have a right to a trial but a
jury of your peers, if you don’t like the result you have the right to
appeal it and if you don’t like the result of the peel you have the option
to appeal up to the Supreme Court and if you don’t like the result in the
United States Supreme Court, too bad because that is your court of last
resort. And whatever the court of last resort decides is what you’re going
to have to live with. For impeachment, the Founding Fathers very
deliberately gave the President no such rights. The President of the United
States can be brought up on impeachment charges by a vote of the House of
Representatives. And then he has a right to a trial in the United States
Senate in which the members of the United States Senate are the Jurors.
And if the President does not like what that jury of Senators decides, too
bad because for the President, the United States Senate is the court of
last resort in the impeachment trials. The President does not have a right
to appeal to a higher court. There is no higher court.
The President does not have a right to appeal to the Supreme Court if
convicted by the Senate in an impeachment trial and that means that the
proper grounds for impeachment are whatever the United States Senate says
they are when they decide an impeachment case, And for centuries we have
pondered the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors as if by pondering it we
can come up with a regional standard, an objective standard, a judicial
standard about what exactly constitutes an impeachable defense.
In his brilliant new article, mandatory reading entitled the case for
normalizing impeachment; Ezra Klein has studied that phrase, high crimes
and misdemeanors. He has studied the history of impeachment in the United
States Government mostly used to impeach Federal Judges who have lifetime
And Ezra Klein has discovered that high crimes and misdemeanors means
whatever the United States Senate says it means. Joining us now, Ezra Klein
editor at large Vox and host of the podcast the Ezra Klein Show. Ezra,
loved every word of this, could read it twice. Please go to the first
impeachment case that you cite in your article and this is a Federal Judge
and this – and what this judge was being impeached for.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So the first ever Federal Impeachment is
John Pickering who as you say is a Federal Judge. And he does not commit
really a crime. He is probably suffering we think from early stage
He’s an alcoholic. He rants and raves at people from the bench. He is more
or less impeached for conduct unbecoming of a judge. And this is not an
unusual thing back then. And by way it’s something the Founding Fathers is
very clear with the President too.
There’s quite a few examples of Founding Fathers considering things that
are not crimes. That they say would nevertheless be impeachable if the
President did them, firing executive officials capriciously. Not a crime
but James Madison says a President who does this would be impeached. So
it’s very clear at that time in that era that high crimes and misdemeanors
is much more than just criminality.
O’DONNELL: And Ezra you make the case in your piece it is arguable that
instead of the American Government seeing impeachment as a drastic thing
that should be used once a century or less, there is a case it should be
used more frequently.
KLEIN: This is the key. We have an attitude toward impeachment that it
can really be used in the case of criminality. If it can really only used
potentially the 25th amendment for mental incompetence and so we are in
this strange position where we are running a nuclear hyper power.
The President of the United States is the most dangerous job in the world.
A President who is the wrong person, the extent of what can go wrong there
goes all the way over to nuclear holocaust which can be launched more or
less before breakfast. And this is the only job, the only job any of us
can think of where incredibly poor performance cannot get you fired?
There is something wrong with that. And I will say when I began this piece
my belief was that the cost, the consequences of impeachment were too large
to consider. And by the time I had finished reporting it out, talking to
people really thinking through what can go wrong when if the President who
should not be President it became an absurd position to me. Everything else
in the economy is against some standard or performance and so too should be
O’DONNELL: When I began really studying impeachment for the first time,
it was the Clinton Impeachment and I stopped working in the Senate. But
talking to the Senator Moynihan about it and others privately and we all
believed we would find this Holy Grail of high crime and misdemeanors and
what it meant. And the longer every one stared at it they all began to
realize one by one, the senators began to realize there’s no definition.
It’s up to us. We’re just going to look at this Clinton evidence and decide
for each one of us does this meet our standard as Senators. And there is
no other standard. There is nothing written down.
KLEIN: This is one of those hard things. We don’t like the burden of
interpreting the constitution.
O’DONNELL: Right, right.
KLEIN: we want to do this stuff as we’re conducting a s‚ance with the
KLEIN: But high crimes and misdemeanors is written that way because they
decided, they choose not to enumerate impeachment. There is an earlier
version of the impeachment power that said what you could be impeached for
bribery or treason. And they rejected that as too narrow.
They left it up to us to at least to have ability to decide. But we don’t
always like that. We want somebody else to make the decision for us
because it’s easier that way. It’s safer that way. But there’s nobody
there to make that decision for us.
It’s on us. We actually have to take that responsibility and by the way,
when they create that power, they weren’t worried about nuclear weapons.
They weren’t worried about the American military’s ability to project power
all across the world.
They weren’t looking at a presidency anything like the one we have or
consequences anything like the ones we can create. And so we are dealing
with our world and our consequences and we need to take that seriously. We
need to hold not just leaders accountable but ourselves accountable for
what we can do.
O’DONNELL: I think it’s clear the Founding Fathers would be shocked there
is so much reluctance to use the impeachment process against a president –
any president that has this nuclear codes stuff in his pocket, that has
that power they never contemplated putting in the hands of an individual.
We could go on and on and on about this.
The way to go on and on is read Ezra Klein’s article. Ezra thank you very
much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you. Coming up a team of journalists watching Donald Trump
for decades says that this week proves Donald Trump is a madman and that’s
the headline they put out. That’s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Little rocket man, he is a sick
TONY SCHWARTZ, TRUMP’S ART OF THE DEAL CO-AUTHOR: This is a person who is
now exceptionally dangerous because he is losing his grip.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there is an incident is this President emotionally
and intellectually available to address the crisis? And the answer is no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He picked a fight with the Prime Minister of our
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I made my position clear of the
tweets. Britain first is a hateful organization.
TRUMP: Hey look, I’m president. I don’t care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Donald Trump is a madman. That is the considered opinion of a
journalistic team that has been watching Donald Trump longer and closer
than the national news media. Donald Trump is a madman is the headline of
the New York Daily News lead editorial today which says after the latest
spasm of derange tweets, only those under his spell can deny what growing
numbers of Americans has long suspected the President of the United States
is profoundly unstable. He is mad.
The sheer strangeness of Trump’s behavior leads us to conclude that we are
witnessing signs of mania. We had a psychiatrist on this program once
again last night who said all of that about Donald Trump in precise
clinical terms, even Republican Senators who would decide whether to remove
Donald Trump from office in an impeachment proceeding know that he is mad.
Bob Corker has said as much calling the Whitehouse an adult daycare center.
And Republican senator Lindsey Graham was one of the first Republican
Senators to say Donald Trump is crazy. Donald Trump is a madman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSAY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I’m not going to try to get into
the mind of Donald Trump because I don’t think there is a whole lot of
space there. I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: A kook, crazy. That was Lindsey Graham in February of 2016 at
the beginning of the presidential season saying Trump is a kook. He’s
crazy. He’s unfit for office. And now that we’ve had almost two more years
of Trump kookiness and almost a full year of the Trump Presidency and Trump
craziness and Trump proving in office that he is unfit for office, Lindsey
Graham now says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: You know what concerns me about the American Press is this
endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook, not fit to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: When we come back, Republican Campaign Expert Mike Murphy will
help us decide who is right about Donald Trump. Lindsey Graham or Lindsey
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I am not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump’s
because there is a whole a lot of space there. I think he’s crazy and unfit
You know what concerns me about the American Press is this endless, endless
attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook, not fit to be President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Joining the discussion now Mike Murphy, Republicans
Presidential Campaign Strategist who worked on the Romney and the Cain
Presidential campaigns. So Mike, who’s right? Lindsey Graham saying that
Donald Trump is a kook. He’s crazy. He’s unfit for office or this other
guy named Lindsay Graham who says no one should ever say that the President
is a kook or fit for office.
MIKE MURPY, MSNBC CONTRINUTOR: Well Lindsey is my friend. And I’m
personally, particularly sympathetic to version one of those sound bytes.
But I’ll defend Lindsey a bit because you have to look at context. The two
guys who were toughest on Trump early and all through the campaign were
Lindsay Graham and Jeb Bush. The rest of them were in witness protection.
But then they learned the frontal assault didn’t really work.
And, you know, Lindsey is a sitting U.S. Senator and Trump is a fact of
life. So I think part of what’s going on and I’m guessing here is that
senator graham now that Trump is reality us trying to become influence and
keeping him away from his own worst instinct which we know President Trump
can be very, very bad. I think you are seeing a master politician moving
around but with the right intent in a crazy situation.
O’DONNELL: Yes. It’s a bad move when you use the exact same word one year
to the next in the opposite direction. But we know that Lindsay Graham
said the Republicans Party collapses and pretty much has to close up if
they don’t pass the tax cuts. And that’s Lindsay Graham’s number one
So people in the business understand why he’s not going to say anything
negative of Donald Trump until those tax cuts are passed. But he has a
senator said negative things about Donald Trump. And Trump - that Mike
doesn’t Trump have to worry about when assuming the tax cuts passed that
the Lindsey Graham are liberated and the Republicans who wanted something
out him are not looking for anything else at that point. And he becomes
much less protected from criticism.
MURPHY: I think absolutely. It is a shotgun marriage and when you know,
what I think is going happen is we are going to enter an incredible mid
turbulent election where were going to have a big national debate about all
these. And the Republicans are and I say as a Respondent: operative the
leadership vibes I get particularly in the House so they’re terrified about
losing our majority.
So the President, I think is quite capable of deciding to triangulate
himself into threatening to run as an independent or something like that
and ditching the Republican establishment who are already extremely nervous
of Donald Trump and believe that they’re down to nothing now but the
Republican base because President Trump has chased all the swing voters
away. He’s of course never going to get any of the Democrats.
So they look at Republican base in their point of view. I am not sure if I
agree with this, and well we didn’t Obamacare repealed. So we damn well
need to get a tax cut even if we have to pass the New York City phone book
or something so we can go back in our safe district and at least argue to
the party’s faithful that there - there is something and try to cling to
that rock to survive the midterm election.
So that is what’s it’s created this as Lindsey said this imperative to pass
something. But now we’re finding out in the last 24 hours how hard it is
to get the fiscal hawks and Republican Party to get on board, something,
that you know has more than a few from the Republican point of view, at
least a conservative point of view as I came up in the party of ideological
problems particularly on the spending side.
O’DONNELL: Mike, a major headline American Newspaper in this case the New
York Daily News Editorial Headline, the President is a madman. We’ve never
seen that before. And that maybe the first of a series of such editorial
headlines around the country.
MURPHY: It is astounding that we are debating the mental health of an
American President. But if you look at this week you know alienated – our
relations with our closest ally are the worst it has been for 100 years.
We’ve got an American President for the first time I think ever disinvited
from visiting London.
We have had that problem with other countries that he’s alienated. Not to
mention just the juvenile name calling. I mean I’m to the point where I
think his twitter feed has become a threat to the national interest of the
United States. So I’m not qualified to judge. But we are in new territory
here. This is a - this is a new situation. And this debate is only going
to continue I think as we enter what will be a political civil war over
Donald Trump in the midterm elections.
O’DONNELL: More madman editorials to come. Mike Murphy, thank you very
much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thank You, Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Tonight’s Last Word is next.
O’DONNELL: Just in the last 24 hours we have raised $57,357 thanks
entirely to you generosity and kindness to the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of
Desk, and The program that we use to deliver desks to schools in Malawi
where the kids have never seen desks.
We also provide scholarships for girls to attend high school. I want to
read one tweet in the last that we got overnight. It’s from I’m with her.
It says Lawrence, I have nine children. I have donated a desk in each of
their names for the past two years. They were thrilled to share their gift
from me with needy kids. My youngest, Wes, 10 said to me, grand mom, you
could not have given me a better gift. Thank for KIND from a retired
teacher. That is something I love about the KIND Fund.
Wes you are the greatest. 10 year old kids love this because they see the
imagery of those kids their own age on the floor in those schools in
Malawi. And they want to help and teacher and retired teachers have always
been strong supporters of this because they know how important their
classroom is and how much the classroom has improved by those desks, can’t
thank you enough.
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