Michael Wolff interview Transcript 1/8/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 8, 2018
Guest: Michael Wolff
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And you know how when we get a kind of big
guest, we try to do everything we can to let the world know that we have a
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Sure.
O`DONNELL: Everywhere I went this weekend, people knew that I had Michael
Wolff as a first guest on the show tonight. His book, of course, “Fire and
Fury” disappearing from book stands – bookstores, unprecedented sales.
And the word got out he would be here and people were just after me – I
actually was on two flights, one on Friday, one this morning, to/from Los
Angeles, people were trying to grab the book out of hi hands.
O`DONNELL: There`s nothing like it. It`s nothing – I mean, do not, do
not get caught walking the streets carrying this book anywhere. People are
just going to try to grab it.
MADDOW: I will tell you, I`m a subway reader and –
O`DONNELL: Don`t, don`t.
MADDOW: I took the dust jacket off because I didn`t want to be like, you
MADDOW: You know? Muggings are real. That can happen. I didn`t want to
make it too juicy a target.
O`DONNELL: It is right now the most valuable book in America so who knows
what people might do to grab one.
MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.
Well, the Trump White House is reeling tonight from the impact of something
that has never caused a full-scale crisis in a White House still in its
first year – a book. A book that portrays the president as someone
incapable of reading a book, incapable of reading anything of significance.
The book represents the president as semi-literate, someone who could not
begin to comprehend the significance of a chemical weapons attack in Syria
and did not want to discuss it until he was shown large pictures of Syrian
children literally foaming at the mouth.
The book has many new and important insights like that about how policy,
important policy, is shaped in the Trump White House. But the news created
by the book is not about domestic policy and how the most right wing
president in history could sit in the White House and ask Republicans and
Republican staff determined to repeal Obamacare and determined to then cut
Medicare, why they couldn`t just expand Medicare for everyone, single-
payer, the single most liberal health care proposal in American history,
the idea supported by Ted Kennedy before he died and the idea supported by
Bernie Sanders now.
That would be the most shocking policy gem in any other book like this
about any other presidency, including all of the books written like this
written by Bob Woodward using that same inside the White House methodology
On foreign policy, the book reports that the president believed by making a
quick trip to Saudi Arabia, he could achieve, quote, and these are the
president`s words, the biggest breakthrough in Israel-Palestine
negotiations ever. That alone is the single most delusional statement ever
attributed to a president about the Middle East peace process. That
delusion alone would be a page one headline about any other book, about any
But in this book, in this presidency, the story that overshadows all other
stories is the story of the man now occupying the Oval Office and as
reported in this bill, in this book, using the Oval Office as a clubhouse,
in the center of a maze of disorganization, back-stabbing and leaking to
the press. This is not the story of governing by policy, and with an
organized political approach to implementing that policy. This is the
story of governing by family, a dysfunctional family headed by a deeply
This book provoked the question that no previous book about a current
presidency has ever provoked. Is the president fit to serve? Is the
president of the United States capable of fulfilling the duties and
responsibilities of the office?
This is the first, the first book in the history of White House literature
that`s provoked that question and that is why it`s already the most sought
after book in the history of White House literature.
It`s sold out. It`s completely sold out in America. Sold out in
bookstores, sold out online. A million copies have been sold, already.
That is the highest selling, possibly highest selling nonfiction book in
American history and to judge by that response, this then is the most
important book in the history of White House literature.
That`s what book buyers are in effect saying by their stampede to buy this
book. That`s what voters are saying by their stampede to buy this book.
No such book has ever had such an instantaneous pull on American readers
and no such book has raised a more important question about the American
presidency – is the president a danger to sensible governance. Is the
president a danger to the country? Is the president who casually tweets
threats of nuclear war a danger to the world?
Joining us know, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White
House,” Michael Wolff.
Michael, thank you very much for being here. I know it`s been a long day,
a long weekend.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, “FIRE AND FURY”: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: A weekend unlike any in your life.
You knew that this pressure was coming. You knew what you were writing.
You knew how this White House operates. You know how this president
You might not have specifically known there would be a cease and desist
letter from lawyers, but the attacks that you have faced from the White
House, from the Trump machine, since this book came out, is that what you
WOLFF: No. I expected some response.
Did I expect the president to basically drop everything? I had heard from
a source who still speaks to me that he wanted my media schedule for today.
He`s probably watched – spent the whole day just watching me on
This is – the man is – among other things, the man is an obsessive.
That`s how he responds to things.
So, he responded to this. I mean, this is – it`s literally crazy to write
a cease and desist, a president has never done that. A prior restraint of
a book to say that his privacy is invaded, that he`s been defamed. This
has never happened before.
Also, let`s remember the effect is just to sell more books, so he shoots
himself in the foot in this instance as in many other instances. And then
to go on days of tweeting and then obviously to culminate in this – in
going for the – in front of the American people and saying, I`m sane. I`m
actually a very stable guy.
O`DONNELL: Very stable genius.
WOLFF: A very stable genius. I am a genius and I`m stable.
Nobody could have predicted this, even of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: One of the things he said since the book came out is he doesn`t
know you. He doesn`t know this guy.
How long have you known him?
WOLFF: Since the 1990s. So I was at “New York Magazine” and he used to –
I was one of the people he used to call up to complain about what was said.
Actually usually about what was – what articles he was not in that he
wanted to be in.
I used to see him on – you know, cocktail parties. I have literally known
– I mean, we`re hardly friends but I have known him for a good long time.
When I interviewed him in June 2016, just before the convention, it was
like old homecoming week. Michael Wolff, oh my God, I cannot believe –
O`DONNELL: He welcomed you into his home in Los Angeles during the
campaign. Sat there eating vanilla ice cream with you?
WOLFF: Even where – I actually – it was sort of set up and then I met
him at the Kimmel show. And went in and then he said to an aide, how long
do we have? And they said, 45 minutes.
I can see the look that came over his face. He said, you don`t give
Michael Wolff 45 minutes. And then the said, why don`t after the show come
back to the house and we`ll hang out. That was interesting because nobody
knew he had a house in the middle of Beverly Hills.
O`DONNELL: I learned it through your article. Yes.
O`DONNELL: Let me go to something that Tony Blair has said because this
goes to the contesting elements of the book and this is the most
significant one I`ve seen. Some of the others are literally about how many
Ls in Hilary and Hilary Rosen and I learned through the correction of your
book there`s only one. I have known Hilary for decades. I didn`t know
Tony Blair in the book, this passage, page 157 – in February, Blair
visited Kushner in the White House on this trip, the now freelance diplomat
seeking to prove his usefulness to this new White House imparted a juicy
nugget of information. There was, he suggested, the possibility that the
British had had the Trump campaign staff under the surveillance, monitoring
the telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump
Now, Tony Blair said about this, the story is a complete fabrication
literally from beginning to end. I never had such a conversation in the
White House, outside the White House, with Jared Kushner, with anyone else.
WOLFF: What I know about this is that this was – this was reported to me
by – by two different sources. And then I do know that shortly after this
– this conversation, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon jumped into a car,
they went out to Langley, had a meeting with the director of the CIA and
the deputy director who reported that this was a miscommunication. And
O`DONNELL: And you fully recount that in the book. The follow-up, that
they go out to the CIA and the CIA says, there`s nothing there.
WOLFF: Right. So – so, if you`re in the position of the reporter you
think, that sounds pretty much like something happened there. And I`m very
careful and I don`t know how Tony Blair reported this. I hear maybe a
suggestion. Have you thought of – et cetera, et cetera.
But I would be overwhelmingly certain that something related to Tony
Blair`s suggestion that the Brits might have wiretapped happened.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, by the way, we`re not able to get to the detail and
just refer to it. One of the reasons the book is fascinating and necessary
reading is just how does Tony Blair know Jared Kushner? And that is a
fascinating little piece in and of itself that we`ll have to save for
another time, or just buy the book.
WOLFF: As a little – I was – when that happened, so much happened, I`m
sitting on the couch in the West Wing, and there is Jared Kushner and Tony
Blair coming out.
O`DONNELL: So, you see them together.
WOLFF: Totally. And I actually overheard, I`m overhearing the discussion
of which I obviously immediately take a note on and they`re talking about
the difficulties of the Middle East situation and Jared says to Tony Blair,
damn it, we can solve this problem.
O`DONNELL: And that`s in the lobby of the West Wing?
O`DONNELL: That is kind of like, for people that don`t know. It`s kind of
a like a hotel lobby and people pass through from each of it, and that kind
of moment can occur. I remember working in the Senate in the finance
committee, going up there for a tax meeting and then there`s the CIA
director sitting over there in the next chair, and you have these
encounters that can only happen in that lobby.
WOLFF: And it`s very interesting, because you go over there. You get the
appointment. Say, they pass you in, you go there and then, of course, the
appointment, you know, it drifts.
WOLFF: It drifts.
O`DONNELL: And you wait.
WOLFF: Sometimes –
O`DONNELL: And you wait and you wait.
WOLFF: – for hours. You think, this is really annoying and how can they
do this to me? But then you realize, oh my God, it`s all going –
WOLFF: You just see it all.
O`DONNELL: Right. And the less organized the White House, the more
valuable it is to hang out in the lobby.
I want do go to an important and possibly Shakespearian-style quote from
what seems to be your principal source in the book, Steve Bannon. He said:
The daughter will take down the father.
What did he mean?
WOLFF: He meant – in his – as he puts it, every piece of advice they
have given has been bad advice.
O`DONNELL: Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
WOLFF: Yes. And in the end, he believed that they would protect
themselves over the president, that the advice that they gave him was
advice fundamentally to protect them that would ultimately damage him –
Comey obviously, the prime example.
O`DONNELL: Comey firing was their idea, urged by then?
WOLFF: Certainly pushed, pushed by them.
O`DONNELL: Opposed by Steve Bannon in this account?
WOLFF: Steve Bannon said, you know, I spent a lot of time. You come to
actually like Steve Bannon. Even if you don`t –
O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I`m not sure you pulled off that magic trick.
WOLFF: The insights – so anyway, so in this regard, he said, when Donald
Trump is worked up, it means somebody has been working him up.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And you detail exactly how they work that and you – you
are expressing Jared Kushner`s concerns to be quite a range of concerns,
everything from possible investigations of Trump family business, but also
to Kushner family business, including his father Charlie Kushner who`s
already been convicted of federal crimes.
WOLFF: And gone to jail.
O`DONNELL: Gone to jail. Yes.
I mean, one of the issues here is, is Charlie Kushner, Bannon obviously
believes, is he imperiled? If he is imperiled, who would – who would
Jared Kushner choose between his father or father-in-law?
O`DONNELL: The – in the book Steve Bannon calls Don Jr. Fredo, referenced
to “The Godfather”, and the weak son in “The Godfather”. We have seen
Steve Bannon come out with a statement in which he says that his comments
in the book, now famous comments about the Don Jr. meeting at Trump Tower
during the campaign of Russians being treasonous, that was not aimed at Don
Jr. He says that was aimed at Paul Manafort, but let`s also acknowledge
that in that statement, he does not dispute, he has an opportunity to, he
does not dispute a single word in this book attributed to Steve Bannon.
WOLFF: No. I think he tries to triangulate the least – the least
revision he can and that`s to say it`s about Manafort. But trust me. It
was about – it was about Don Jr. It was about Fredo. It was about as he
says Don Jr. will be cracked like an egg on national television.
O`DONNELL: And Don Jr.`s not the only one. He says that Donald Trump`s
long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, will also be cracked like an egg, that he
has these complicated relationships.
But a lot of the Bannon stuff sounds – people speculate about, why would
he say these things to you? Why would he say these things to you? Is he
as uncontrollable a conversationist, self control I mean, as Donald Trump?
WOLFF: You know, it`s within of two things. Either – either Steve has
the most remarkable big mouth in history or he has a strategy. And I tend
to think that it`s a strategy. And I tend to think that his strategy was
Roy Moore would win.
That would mean Steve Bannon would win. Donald Trump would lose. That
means Steve Bannon would hold the leverage going into 2018. And Steve
Bannon in part using this book would break with Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: How much of your interviewing with Steve Bannon occurred after
he was fired from the White House?
WOLFF: Very little.
O`DONNELL: So, most of this is while he`s in the White House and what we
read is a roller coaster ride for Bannon. There are days when he feels up
and he feels like he`s the one in control of all the factions in the White
House. There`s other days where he feels like this could be my last day.
I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: How did that affect what you were getting out of him as a
source? I mean, the guess of the reader sometimes is, well, this must be a
really bad day for Bannon. He thinks he`s going to be fired, therefore
he`s telling Michael Wolff all the worst stuff.
WOLFF: Absolutely. When he was riding high, it was – those were the days
that I would sit in the White House waiting for him and the whole day would
pass and then somebody come out and say we got to put it off until
Thursday. When he was in the nadir, then hours and hours and hours of
O`DONNELL: What is there to say about policy-making in the Trump White
House? I have tried to figure out at the end of the book, tried to figure
a way of describing it, and what – and whatever way you would describe it,
the president is kind of like the hub cap that gets put on the automobile
at the end of the assembly line. He`s kind of the last component to
policy. He`s just the person who`s OK is needed at some point but he`s
never generating anything in the story.
WOLFF: He wants to have, as little to do with this as possible. He wants
someone else to do it. He wants Mitch McConnell to do it. Or he wanted
Steve Bannon to do it. Or sometimes he wanted Jared – anyone else to do
it but Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: And Steve Bannon was the one who came up with what he believed
was the right defense for the White House as a special prosecutor started
to surround the White House and that was to wall it off and create what he
considered to be this wall, leave any comment about the investigation to
the Trump legal team outside of the White House, to the spokesperson for
the Trump legal team outside of the White House.
What went wrong with that strategy?
WOLFF: Donald Trump went wrong with that strategy. I mean, this was –
Steve would go over this. He`s saying this was – this was not only the
perfect strategy, but the only strategy. That in order to survive this
kind of investigation, which he would then point out the Clintons endured
and survived –
O`DONNELL: Because they handled it that way.
WOLFF: To do this, you had to be incredibly disciplined. And, of course,
his boss or client was – is the most undisciplined man in certainly ever
to occupy the presidency and maybe – he may the most undisciplined man in
O`DONNELL: There were several days in the course of the last year when
Steve Bannon firmly believed that he was winning in these faction fights in
the White House and that Ivanka Trump and her husband would be back in
Manhattan by now. There were plenty of times when he thought that. Turns
out he`s the one that`s out.
We`re going to have to take a break here. Michael, we`re going to come
back more if you can please stay.
Michael Wolff`s book “Fire and Fury”. When will people be able to buy
this? That`s all like – everywhere they – whenever people see me with
this, they want to know when they can get their copies.
WOLFF: All I do is hear from the relatives all day, because they can`t get
O`DONNELL: Is it this week? Do you know when?
WOLFF: It`s – yes.
O`DONNELL: We`ll see.
WOLFF: I mean, they`re rolling them out.
O`DONNELL: All right.
That`s – and later, we`re going to have more information about Robert
Mueller`s Russia investigation, the president of the United States is now
the – one of the next interview subjects Robert Mueller wants to talk to.
O`DONNELL: – Twitter news from the White House tonight. And it is about
the Golden Globes and you will recall that last year, the president tweeted
about the Golden Globes, rather hatefully about Meryl Streep. Nothing from
But Ivanka Trump has tweeted this. She says: Just saw Oprah`s empowering
and inspiring speech at last night`s Golden Globes. Let`s all come
together, women and men, and say, time`s up.
Michael Wolff, there are more than 20 women who want to say time`s up
directly to Donald Trump.
WOLFF: I was just thinking.
O`DONNELL: The self confessed sexual assaulter in the White House. What`s
your reaction to that?
WOLFF: Yes. You know, a couple of things. Number one, it`s so – who
does she think her father is? What does she think this White House is
Why does she think her father was, in fact, elected?
She doesn`t get this in some phenomenal way. Head in the clouds. Just
Or, it just goes to the heart of the White House. It doesn`t matter. She
and Jared are New York Democrats and that doesn`t seem like a contradiction
to Donald Trump. And in fact, it apparently doesn`t.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to page 23 of the book because we have been
discussing a little bit about governing by family. I now want to talk
about who this man is, the president of the United States, and this is the
book where we learned things that we have never learned anywhere else.
It says: Trump liked to say that one of the things that made life worth
living was getting the friends` wives into bed and pursuing a friend`s
wife, he would try to persuade the wife that her husband was perhaps not
what she thought. And then he`d have his secretary ask the friend into his
office. Once the friend arrived, Trump would engage in what was, for him,
more or less constant sexual banter.
Do you like having sex with your wife? How often? You must have had
better sex than wife. Tell me about it.
I have girls coming in from Los Angeles at 3:00. We can go upstairs and
have a great time. I promise.
And all the while Trump would have his friend`s wife on the speakerphone
listening in. Who is this man who is president of the United States?
WOLFF: Just a man.
O`DONNELL: Who is that man? Who is the man that does that?
WOLFF: Just a man without any scruples, a man who`s only interest is his
own instant gratification. A man who doesn`t care about you or anybody
O`DONNELL: And these are his friends we are talking about? This is how he
deals with his friends?
O`DONNELL: What – by the way, what did the lawyers of the publishing
house have to say about that paragraph? How much time do they spend on
WOLFF: They were confident the source was good on this.
O`DONNELL: You had to – there isn`t any sourcing indicated on the page.
The lawyers had to have a conversation about that?
WOLFF: Oh yes. Oh yes.
O`DONNELL: I want to get to more about this family dynamic, page 252.
Donald Trump`s sons Don Jr., 39, and Eric, 33, existed in an enforced
infantile relationship to their father, their father took some regular
pleasure in pointing out that they were in the back of the room when god
handed out brains.
Why would he be entrusting his businesses to two kids who doesn`t think
have the brains?
WOLFF: Well, he – Trump is in his heart of heart – he`s a naysayer.
Everybody is a bad person. Everybody has disappointed him. Nobody is –
O`DONNELL: Ivanka disappointed him?
WOLFF: – as smart as him.
Less so. She`s the one who gets more credit than anyone else. But having
said that, you know, she will – you know, he`s never going to yield to her
and yield the stage to her.
Everybody has done something wrong. Everybody has disappointed him.
Everybody is – everybody is bad at what they do.
I mean, everybody who works for him in the White House has to put up with
this. And he spreads this. You know, he puts – he puts this out. He
calls his billionaire friends at night and says, you know, you know, Steve
is – Steve is disloyal or Kellyanne Conway is whatever she is.
All of this kind of stuff and then he goes back to them and he says,
whoever he was talking to, who he`s told this, he then reports they told
O`DONNELL: You have one of those phone calls almost word for word and it
specified that it`s 26 minutes long and as a reader, you get the feeling
that it`s you on the other end of the phone.
Question. Was that –
WOLFF: You can assume whatever you think.
O`DONNELL: OK. And when you get to that passage the readers can decide.
And that struck me as – part of what I was reacting to when I was hearing
him saying I don`t know Michael Wolff and I`m looking at the material and
he says he never met you in the Oval Office. This wouldn`t be the Oval
Office. It could have been 26 minutes on the phone and might be that no
one in the White House knows he made that kind of phone call.
WOLFF: Yes. I`m sure they don`t. I mean, he makes – the phone calls are
constant. Everybody is actually calling their sources in this kind of
Trump coterie to find out who he has called and what he has said, what`s
going on. I mean, say when`s going on in New York? Because he`s talking
to the New York people.
O`DONNELL: In the White House, you described Ivanka as actually being
treated and regarded sort of functionally as the president`s wife, and as
the president`s daughter, you describe Hope Hicks who is one of those many
people in this White House who has – there`s no counterpart like her in
any previous White House.
There`s this passage about Hope Hicks. Shortly after Lewandowski with whom
Hicks had an on and off romantic relationship was fired in June 2016 for
clashing with Trump family members, Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and
his sons and worrying about Lewandowski`s treatment in the press and
wondering aloud about how she might help him.
Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even
paternal way, looked up and said, why? You`ve already done enough for him.
You`re the best piece of – he`s ever – going to have sending hicks
running from the room. But, Michael, as we know, she keeps coming back into
the room But Michael according as we know she`s still keeps coming back
into that room. And she apparently is basically running Donald Trump`s
press separately and part from the actual press office.
MICHAEL WOLFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And she was but she`s even taken a step
up now, And I would now argue that she is the central – his central
adviser in the Whitehouse.
O`DONNELLL: 29-year-old now? she is now 29?
WOLFF: Yeah. I mean her experience before this as a fashion, you know,
O`DONNELL: And she is part of the – she was brought in by Ivanka Trump.
O`DONNELL: And she`s part of Jared/Ivanka factions as the factions line up
in this book.
WOLFF: Yes. Yes.
O`DONNELL: There comes a point where Steve Bannon is just screaming at her
in the halls of the West Wing and in the end calling her dumb as stone. And
this is after he suspects her of having tried to leak information that he
supported the Comey firing.
WOLFF: Exactly. I mean, it was a brutal fight. It was a fight that kind of
shook everybody. In a brutal, in a brutal whit house where there`s fights
every day. This was – this was a legendary fight. As a matter of fact, in
the Jarvanka side actually went and complained to the Whitehouse Counsel
about Bannon, that this was essentially accusing him of harassment.
O`DONNELL: And Jarvanka is the short hand in the Whitehouse for Jared and
O`DONNELL: Can we take a quick commercial break and come back and talk
about when`s become the central issue of discussion of the book and that`s
the President`s fitness to serve?
WOLFF: of course.
O`DONNELL: And we`ll right back. We`ll be right back with more from
O`DONNELL: Were back with Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury,
inside the Trump Whitehouse. Soon to be available at your local book store
once they get restocked after being sold out. I want to go to a passage
you have here. Early in the book Michael and it`s comes back. This
concept comes back from time to time throughout the book.
You talk about Trump`s friends who knew him for a long time very concerned
that he was “wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main
requirement of the job. What neuroscientist would call executive function.
WOLFF: The ability to distinguish cause and effect, the ability to adjust
your behavior to different situations, the ability to organize and be
orderly in the way you think.
O`DONNELL: Neurologists tell patients make sure you have your will and all
that stuff done in your 60s at your latest because for all of us executive
function is going to decline if we live long enough. It`s the ability to
make choices, make rational choices and so forth. In his case, there is
much concern now about his general mental health, his general ability to
actually keep himself composed and function.
WOLFF: it`s – And it came up again and again in really descriptions of
the interactions with him and I would say the thing that bothers –
O`DONELL: This is staff talking to you?
O`DONNELL: Saying it`s changing and changing over time?
WOLFF: Yes and I would say the thing that bothered them most and
justbecause you didn`t know how to deal with it. What`s so weird is the
repetitions. He just repeats and repeats and repeats and hammers on –
it`s not even hammering on a point. It`s the same story.
He tells and you know? Always has an anecdote. And then he will repeat it
and he`ll repeat it in the same words, the same expressions, the same tone
and you think, well now wait a minute. I mean when you – And I`ve heard
this and originally – you start to think, oh, no. I guess this is – I`m
just imaging this.
And then you hear it a third time. And then everybody – and then a running
theme was to chart this. OK. It use to be three stories in 25 or 30
minutes. And it was three stories in 10 or 15 minutes, the same three
stories. And if you`re working with the guy you come away and – I mean,
what do you think about this? How do you, you know – none of these people,
you can`t diagnose. You can even – it`s even hard to discuss it among one
O`DONELL: There`s a moment in the book where Roger Aels suggests John
Boehner as the Whitehouse Chief of Staff and Trump says who`s that and
Trump used to know him and could be if it`s true, a failure of that kind of
memory which is how this kind of decline –
WOLFF: It could or it could also be, in fairness, his utter inattention
WOLFF: Because he`s not thinking about anything but what he wants to think
about. When I interviewed him in June, that was two weeks I think before
the Brexit vote. And I asked him about that and, you know, I asked him,
using the word Brexit. he said, what? And I said, Brexit and he repeated,
what? And then I said, you know, the U.K.`s exit from the EU. And then he
said, oh yeah, yeah, that. I`m going to favor that.
O`DONNELL: Everything – almost everything they`re doing can be done by
another government. Tax rates can go back up. We`ve seen that happen.
The one thing that cannot be fixed after the fact is a nuclear exchange
with North Korea. How worried are you about the possibility of a nuclear
exchange with North Korea?
WOLFF: You know, maybe naively not too worried. Not too worried because
this a guy that doesn`t want – going to war, you know, I think George Bush
decided he wanted to go to war. I think Donald Trump sees that, gets
nothing out of that. It`s like what do we get for that?
You know? And that may be a good thing in this utter transactional
understanding of the world. Do I really care about that? Now, on the other
hand, if this – if the configuration starts and he has to analyze this in
a particular, nuanced way, you know, I would be awfully worried.
O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff, thank you very much for giving us some extra
time tonight, really appreciate you joining us.
WOLFF: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And were glad to have you here. Coming up, how President
Trump is reacting to this book that has gone inside his Whitehouse and
shown us a picture of the inside of, operations of the West Wing like we
have never seen before, not in fiction, not anywhere.
O`DONNELL: In a Tweet this weekend defending himself against Michael
Wolff`s charge that he is mentally unfit to carry out the duties of the
presidency, Donald Trump tweeted that he is a very stable genius. Joining
us now, my favorite very stable genius, Joy Reid, MSNBC National
Correspondent and host of AM Joy Weekends. On MSNBC Also with us Ezra
Klein, an Editor at large at Vox and the host of the Ezra Klein Show
podcast. Joy, you reaction to where we stand tonight with this book.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I feel particularly qualified to react
because I went to very school, Lawrence, very good schools. So its
interesting so, you know, as you were talking with Michael Wolff, I was
making notes about some of the things I found interesting about it.
This idea of him describing Donald Trump as an obsessive that`s it`s
literally crazy, the way he tried to stop the books and the lengths he went
to which only sold more of the book really kind of reinforces what you and
I have both talked with Donald Trump`s bi biographers about the fact that
he doesn`t understand cause and effect. That he does become obsessed. And
he doesn`t understand that he is bringing about more of the thing he
doesn`t want. The more he talks about this book the more people want to
read the book.
O`DONNELL: Yes. That`s – Ezra, that is an important element Joy was
talking about, that very basic doesn`t understand cause and effect. And
Michael Wolff has passages specifically about that in here. And we – it`s
almost having read the book, I feel like I can write now the current
chapters of it like we know that there were people in the Trump Whitehouse
desperately trying to get him not to comment on it, not to say let`s have a
cease and desist letter and all that sort of stuff.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: But this is the strange about the book.
It`s created a huge controversy. This huge hubbub and yet virtually
everything major in it we have confirmed elsewhere. We see every day. It`s
almost strange to be having this debate over, you know, whether or not so
and so-called him an idiot when we know what Rex Tillerson called him when
Rex Tillerson never actually denied on television.
Were in this world where I report on Trump Administration. I know you all
have too. And you talked to his staffers and they are more seering about
him than his liberal critics are. Actually serving the guy is a very
depressing and for many of them very scary experience.
It`s I`ve never had an experience of reporting quite like this. People
aren`t really defending what their doing. So much as defeending that
somebody needs to be doing there doing it to keep it from going entirely
off the rails. And so there`s a lot in the book i think that can be
questioned. And there are some misstatements of fact and there are things
that people denied.
But this overall story that were watching a President without executive
function or basically the mental competence for the job act within it.
It`s not – you don`t even need the book to tell you that. It`s playing out
before our eyes every single day.
O`DONNELL: Joy, you know, during the commercial break I asked Michael if
he had anticipated that the story about this book would be the President`s
mental competence. And he said, no, I didn`t really anticipate that`s
where it would be. But I think in reaction to what Ezra just said since
all of us had been questioning it. I mean I did the first 25th amendment
segment on this show about I don`t know 30 days into this presidency when
he looked stark raving mad already. And so with a year of that building
that has seems to have become the burning question even before the book
REID: Absolutely. JUST to show everybody just how I`m reading this book.
OK, this is how I marked it all up with –
O`DONNELL: Such a good student.
REID: Such a good student but a lot – and the reason I`m showing this, a
lot of this is because it`s a story of a progression of self interest. It`s
not so much just a story about Donald Trump. There are people around him,
just as Ezra said who worked throughout from the very beginning, from
inauguration night, from the campaign who know this man is inadequate, who
know he`s child like, who know he can be used and manipulated and making
calculations as read throughout this book.
They`re making calculation. What can I get? How can I succeed from this?
How can I use him? How can I manipulate him? That`s pretty scary.
O`DONNELL: And one of the important calculations we see them making in the
book is how do I make the exit? We`re going to have to squeeze in a quick
break here. Joy and Ezra, please stay with us when we come back, more about
O`DONNELL: We are back with Ezra Klein. And Ezra NBC News broke the news
today that the President`s lawyer were in negotiation with Special
Prosecutor Robert Mueller about having the President to submit to an
interview. Last year the President said absolutely, no problem, I will do
that. It is hard to believe this President where he is tonight would be
willing to submit an interview with Robert Mueller.
KLEIN: Yes. This is going to be a tough question for them. And this
actually goes to some interesting things in the book and also in Trump`s
public performance. It is very difficult to imagine anything potentially
more disastrous than the President who walked out and turned to Lester Holt
and just to be extremely clear, the reason I fired James Comey was not over
Clinton but in order to obstruct justice on the Russia investigation.
Letting him go into an interview with Robert Mueller and wonder around and
repeat himself and sort of go down the blind alley as he tend to go
towards. Showing discipline and being on message on the times when he
really needs to be is not this President`s strong suite.
And on the other hand refusing to have that interview with Mueller will
look potential to his base, potentially to the country like he`s maybe got
something to hide.
O`DONNELL: Joy, in the book we read Steve Bannon`s happy proclamation, I
don`t know any Russians. I got nothing to do with any Russians. He talks
about everybody who got involved with the Russians as being crazy and
treasonous in this book. But Steve Bannon has created – his contribution
to this book is something that the Special Prosecutors have to studying.
REID: Absolutely, when he called Don Jr. `s actions treasonous and saying
that any – he should have known that you don`t go yourself into these
meetings with Russian operatives. And then you just – when you just spoke
with Michael Wolff, he said that the son Eric and Don Jr. had an forced
relationship with their father. That begged the question if they`re taking
meeting – that Donald Jr. is taking meeting with some lawyer whose
probably got dirt on Hillary Clinton. The idea that he did not run
upstairs to Trump Tower in 26th floor where ever the father lived and tell
him about the meeting that goes against everything that we have now learned
about the son.
O`DONNELL: And Ezra we discovered about in Michael Wolff`s book about that
famous meeting that Donald Trump Jr.`s motivation for running that meeting
was he actually wanted to move up and take over the campaign. He wanted to
– with Lewandowski out he wanted to be the next guy in charge and is
trying to show his father how good he could be at this. That`s where Steve
Bannon offers the idea of course, Don Jr. would want to run upstairs and
tell his father.
KLEIN: You know maybe. I mean I read that part of the book. And I thought
it was plausible but I didn`t think it was proven. I think that what we
saw in the book is that the Trump`s Campaign it`s a reverse of the old line
that every cause begins as a movement becomes a business and ends a racket.
The Trump Campaign begins as a racket, becomes a business and ends somehow
astonishingly as presidency. But in it`s racket phase a lot of dumb people
are doing by dumb things. And why they did it I think might be as straight
forward as Donald Trump Jr. looking for anyway to be important or looking
for some kind of leg up when it had that meeting.
Well, it seems clear and what I think Wolff`s reporting on is pretty strong
on is that when it came down to it, it was Donald Trump on the plain trying
to figure out the statement that was potentially going to be a very, very
significant piece of the obstruction of justice charge because he`s pretty
clearly misleading around what Donald Trump Jr. is doing and what the
extent of know the relations and why the relations were there with the
O`DONNELL: Joy, back to the impact of this book which is where I began.
We have never seen something like this. Bob Woodward has a comparable
book. It was about the first year of the Clinton Presidency. It`s called
the Agenda. And it`s something about what was going on inside the
Clinton`s Whitehouse in the first year. T
Here is always dysfunction but there is no crazy people and there is no
question of competence among any of the people involved in that book. The
methodology is the same. The people in the Woodward book are sane. The
people in the Wolff`s book are something else.
RIED: Yes, absolutely. I mean people need to understand that is the way
these books are written. They`re written because you get insiders in the
Whitehouse who will talk to you on background. In this case, he had people
talking to him on the record, giving quotes that were damming about their
boss, the President of the United States, admitting that he should not be
And this book is selling out in Lubbock, Texas. It`s selling out in North
Dakota and it is selling out in Red States and Blue States. You know the
Hill was reporting that Wikileaks attempting to steal the content of the
book and post it to try to under mind the sale. This book is selling to
people who like Donald Trump and people are going to learn that the word
Ezra Klein just used is the word that describes this presidency, it is a
racket. The risk to Donald Trump are immeasurable. It is content and
(INAUDIBLE) for Bob Mueller. It`s content and (INAUDIBLE) for the
Democrats. It`s devastating for the reputation that was already pre-
stained of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, I really don`t know how to calculate the impact of this
book because we really truly have never seen anything like it. There is
nothing on this scale of this magnitude with the first year Whitehouse,
possibly any year of a Whitehouse. What is your estimation as we sit here
tonight, the impact of this book going forward?
KLEIN: Everyday the Trump`s Presidency brings something that any
Presidency would have been an apocalyptic. My ability to judge the impact
of any one given how much happens a week after every single one of these
events is hard. But the constant drum beat of this, the constant chaos,
the constant understanding that this is unqualified President amidst a
dysfunctional presidency. I think the cumulative impact of that is really
bad. I think you`d be looking polling he`s lost a lot of strong
supporters. I think people are moving away. You`re seeing big backlash
It is no one thing. it is everything. The sense that the country is being
run terribly by people who are not qualified to run it permeates everything
now. And then I think the big long term question is under this kind of
pressure which Trump is not hold up under when and how and under what
circumstances does he crack? When you have him Tweeting out he`s a very
stable genius, if he`s going to be having his fake news awards. But it`s
going to take a little bit longer to choose the final awardees.
Something is going there. This is very, very hard on anybody`s psyche.
The President sees enough to break any normal human being. And Donald
Trump wanted to with maybe fewer resources than many. And I think that the
big way this book might affect the american politics, is it increases his
feeling of shelteredness and threat. He could do something very, very
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein gets the Last Word on Fire and Fury, Inside the
Trump White, Michael Wolff`s book, We will be right back
O`DONNELL: Page 279, if he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment
quicker. Those are the words of Steve Bannon in fire and fury, Michael
Wolff`s book. And that`s tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian
Williams starts right now.
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