GOP defends Trump’s remarks Transcript The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell 1/12/18
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 12, 2018
Guest: Sam Jean, Nancy Giles, Mark Thompson, Charlie Sykes, Jason Johnson, Wendy Sherman, Ruth Marcus
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: – Christmas and New Year`s. Prosecutors also
reported a way higher number of electronic devices in their possession than
they did a month ago.
A month ago, when they made their declaration to the court, it was 36.
Now, they`re saying they`ve got 87 devices that they are making available
to the court and to the defense for moving ahead at trial.
You have to wonder what exactly did they stumble upon since this time last
month. Oh, we just found 50 more laptops, by the way.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. Now, it`s
time for THE LAST WORD with Ali Velshi in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I`m renewed. I`ve got – it`s a whole new me in
the last 24 hours because in this era of identity politics, thanks to the
President, I have now got a new thing to call myself. You know, I was born
MADDOW: Well, but the question is, do you feel comfortable calling
yourself what the name that the President has bestowed upon you and your
VELSHI: It`s not one that I have ever used to describe myself. Usually,
I`d say Kenyan in referring to my birth, but we have new ways to describe
Rachel, you have a fantastic weekend. Great to see you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
VELSHI: All right. Good evening. I`m Ali Velshi in for Lawrence
Less than 24 after – hours after asking why are we having all these people
from shithole countries come here, President Trump stood at a White House
podium today and, without any sense of irony, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we celebrate Dr. King
for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear that, no
matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all
created equal by God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I apologize to you for having said that word and for having to
have to say that word tonight, but it`s the President of the United States.
Today, he denied, by the way, using the word “s-hole” to describe countries
in Africa during an immigration meeting with lawmakers yesterday, tweeting
this morning, quote, the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough,
but this was not the language used.
And despite reports that the President also said, quote, why do we need
more Haitians? Take them out, Trump tweeted, quote, never said anything
derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is obviously a very poor and
troubled country. Never said take them out. Made up by Dems. I have a
wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future
meetings. Unfortunately, no trust.
We don`t have a recording of that meeting. It would be nice actually,
maybe, if the President did record some of these meetings, so we wouldn`t
be deliberating about whether he actually said these things. But there
were seven members of Congress in the Oval Office with the President
Two of them, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue say – get this – they
can`t recall the President saying those comments specifically. These guys
have bad memories if they can`t recall whether he said s-hole specifically
in relation to people from an entire continent, maybe of whom are dark
But other senators have better memories. Here is Illinois Senator Dick
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I cannot believe that in the history of
the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the
words that I personally heard our President speak yesterday. You have seen
the comments in the press. I`ve not read one of them that`s inaccurate.
To no surprise, the President started tweeting this morning, denying that
he used those words. It is not true. He said these hateful things, and he
said them repeatedly.
My colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, spoke up
and made a direct comment on what the President said. For him to confront
the President as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary
political courage, and I respect him for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, Senator Lindsey Graham subsequently released this statement
following comments by the President – I said my piece directly to him
yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I
said and how I feel. I`ve always believed that America is an idea, not
defined by its people but by its ideals.
That`s a sentiment shared by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who would have
turned 88 on Monday. Here is what the press pool asked President Trump
after the ceremony commemorating Dr. King`s life and legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Mr.
President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you refer to African nations – did
you use the word shithole to refer to African nations, sir?
RYAN: Mr. President, are you a racist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you going to add to your comment,
RYAN: Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about
your statement, sir?
DR. DARRELL SCOTT, SENIOR PASTOR AND CO-FOUNDER, NEW SPIRIT REVIVAL CENTER:
No, the President (INAUDIBLE).
RYAN: I`m talking to the President, not you, sir.
SCOTT: I`m talking to you.
RYAN: Mr. President, are you a racist?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All of that really happened. Joining us now, Sam Jean is an
attorney born in Haiti and immigrated to the United States with his family,
including his brother, musician Wyclef Jean.
Nancy Giles is an Emmy-winning contributor to “CBS News Sunday Morning” and
the host of “The Giles Files” podcast.
And Mark Thompson is the host of “Make It Plain on SiriusXM Radio.
Thanks to all of you for spending this Friday evening with me on a
conversation that I would never have predicted we were going to have.
Sam Jean, let`s start with you. More than 800,000 people of Haitian
descent in the United States, probably more once you start going back
further. What is your reaction?
SAM JEAN, SPOKESPERSON, YELE HAITI: Well, my reaction is what the reaction
of any decent person would be, whether they`re Haitian, American, Kenyan,
or Canadian. It`s disgusting, it`s vile, and it`s racist.
And I don`t think that we need to ask the President whether he`s a racist
or not. The President`s words, they speak for themselves. It`s bigotry
speaks for itself.
I think, though, the problem that I have most of all with this – and we
know who the President is. We know what the President is. He`s been
having this conversation. He`s been saying these things for three years.
What I want to know is what the senators, the representatives, the members
of Congress, what they intend to do to stop this man.
JEAN: Because this man is doing this because he knows he can say whatever
he wants, and there are no consequences to the words that he uses, the
bigotry that he espouses.
VELSHI: I think this is an interesting point. We have lots of evidence,
lots of examples of Donald Trump`s racism over the years, including on the
day that he launched his presidency.
NANCY GILES, CBS SUNDAY MORNING CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
VELSHI: He said lots of things. There were eight people in the room. One
was a president. There were seven legislators. One was Dick Durbin who
said what he said. Another was Lindsey Graham who said what he said.
So we`ve still got five others. Two senators, Nancy, who said they don`t
VELSHI: This is 24 hours ago –
VELSHI: – not 24 months ago –
VELSHI: – or 24 years ago.
VELSHI: And then we had Paul Ryan. Everybody was waiting to see what Paul
Ryan and Mitch McConnell would say about this. Here is what Paul Ryan had
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I read those
comments later last night. So the first thing that came to my mind was
very unfortunate, unhelpful. Whether you`re coming from Haiti – we`ve got
great friends from Africa in Janesville who are doctors, who are just
incredible citizens. And I just think it`s important that we celebrate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Some of my best friends are –
GILES: Wow. Some of my best friends.
VELSHI: Yes, exactly. But that`s interesting, unhelpful.
VELSHI: That wasn`t – and he said that was my first thought. And I think
that`s unusual. To Sam`s point, whether you`re Canadian, Kenyan, American,
Haitian, the first thought isn`t unhelpful. It`s kind of gross.
GILES: It should be gross. It should be outrage.
GILES: I can say, to start, I`m so grateful Dick Durbin was in the room.
GILES: Because I don`t think if he was in – if he was not in the room –
VELSHI: We may not have that story from anyone.
GILES: We would not know what happened.
GILES: So I`m sure these conversations have gone on for quite a long time
so, A, my hat`s off to him. Paul Ryan is just – he`s a weasel. I`m
Maybe, at one point, he had a bit of a spine. But if you even look at his
body language, he`s cowed. He`s like – it`s an embarrassment –
VELSHI: Well, he had spine for –
GILES: – and their silence is complicity.
VELSHI: He had a spine for several hours after the “Access Hollywood”
tapes came out.
GILES: For a few minutes, yes.
VELSHI: And suddenly, nothing phases him. The issue, Mark, is that this
wasn`t – I heard on Fox an anchor say this is bar talk. This is what
Americans do at the bar.
But Americans at the bar aren`t making my immigration policy. This was
actually a highly specific conversation between the President and senior
members of the legislative branch to design immigration policy.
MARK THOMPSON, HOST OF “MAKE IT PLAIN,” SIRIUSXM RADIO: Well, as the NAACP
defines, racism and White supremacy is prejudice plus power.
THOMPSON: And so he makes these statements. We`ve known it. This is not
breaking news –
THOMPSON: – that he is a racist. We know what he is. But he has the
power to make policy, and they were discussing policy. He talked – the
other day, he came in and said, welcome to the studio. Well, why didn`t he
bring the cameras in for this conversation?
THOMPSON: And say that in front of those cameras. I believe – because we
never know how this impacts young people to hear the President of the
United States. Young people who`ve always had to fight against racism and
White supremacy see their humanity condemned. What must it mean to hear
And so we have to not only condemn him but counter what he said, I believe.
These are not s-hole countries. Africa was the birthplace of –
THOMPSON: – civilization, where the stem fields were born which the
Greeks copied. The great explorer, Abu Bakali – Abu Bakr from Mali
journeyed to Central America and the Western Hemisphere and met the
indigenous people from whom the El Salvadorans descend and established
trade long before Columbus was ever heard of in the 1300s.
After slavery and colonization, the Haitians, through a revolution, freed
themselves and then fought to free Americans from British rule.
GILES: Yes, they fought with us.
THOMPSON: That is who these young people are descended from.
VELSHI: But in a sentence –
THOMPSON: They are not s-holes.
VELSHI: Sam Jean, in a sentence, the President can slur entire groups.
He said of Haitians – according to “The New York Times,” when talking
about the 15,000 Haitian immigrants who received visas last year, he said
they all have AIDS. When talking about Nigerians, he said once they`ve
seen the United States, they would never go back to their huts. He talks
about Mexicans as rapists.
The point is this does – while it must offend all of us, two members of
these groups, it does serve to embolden the base in saying that`s why we
don`t want Haitians. That`s why we don`t want Nigerians. That`s why we
don`t want Mexicans in this country. It is damaging.
JEAN: It`s damaging, but it speaks to the prejudice of the people that
he`s speaking to. What he knows is that 36 percent of the people that
support him engage in this kind of bar talk, if you want to use that
language. They engage in this kind of bar talk.
It used to be that we would be appalled if the President of the United
States had this kind of conversation, not only the language but the
sentiment. He is the nation`s top diplomat. He is supposed to be talking
about the best aspects of this country.
What happens is when Donald Trump gets – when Donald Trump is in a
position where he is threatened or he feels threatened, he goes back to
what he knows best. And what he knows best is this is exactly who he is.
I could come up here and talk about the beautiful beaches of Haiti, the
mountains of Haiti.
VELSHI: But that`s right.
JEAN: I could talk about beautiful places in Africa, Tanzania. I could
talk about all those things. But the point is the man knows these things
exist, but it doesn`t matter to him because the message that he`s trying to
convey to his base, who feels set upon by the Browns –
GILES: That`s right.
JEAN: – the Black and the others –
GILES: That`s right.
JEAN: – is that I am on your side. And that`s the message that –
VELSHI: So it could be clear this is ignorance.
JEAN: – that Trump`s sending.
GILES: Oh, no. Oh, no.
VELSHI: This is not ignorance.
GILES: No. I totally agree with Sam. It`s not. It`s a concerted effort
to put forth these vile and bigoted points of view.
GILES: And I have to say, you know, every once in a while, you wish all
Black people were on the same side about any one issue. And I know we`re
not a monolithic group, but I looked around the room.
I saw Dr. King`s nephew. I saw Ben Carson. And I was like, what are you
guys even doing this there? How could Ben Carson –
GILES: How could he stand there and say things like the message of Dr.
King, equality, justice, the common dignity of man, urgently needed to heal
the division of our age, standing next –
GILES: – to the most divisive person in the room?
VELSHI: It did seem quite surreal.
GILES: And even looking at Trump saying things. And then I saw these
other Black folks standing around and applauding while he was ignoring the
questions. Thank God for April Ryan.
While he was ignoring questions, I started thinking, do they work for him?
Because I wasn`t aware there were that many Black employees at the White
VELSHI: At the White House.
GILES: Or did he hire them like parody extras?
VELSHI: So, Mark, to that point, you heard April Ryan.
THOMPSON: Yes, yes.
VELSHI: You know, April`s going to get some kind of award for the type of
work she`s been doing in the last year.
GILES: Bless her heart.
VELSHI: But she asked the President, are you a racist? The President
wasn`t even facing reporters at this point. He had turned his back
immediately. And we can probably show that video again.
VELSHI: As that signing ceremony ended, the President turned his back and
started walking out of the room.
It is 2018. We have esteemed members of the press corps in the White House
asking the President if he`s a racist. You and I were talking before the
show started. I thought racism had gotten more sophisticated in 2018.
This is decades old, centuries old, let`s just call people names.
THOMPSON: Well, he is no longer operating from the sophisticated Lee
Atwater playbook so to speak.
GILES: If he ever was.
THOMPSON: If he ever was.
THOMPSON: So he is going right for the jugular. And Lord knows I love
April. She was on the air on my show this morning, driving to work at the
White House, so we kind of, you know, co-enabled her, make sure that –
GILES: You riled her up, did you?
THOMPSON: You know, it was like let`s get this going.
THOMPSON: And she said what she was – she was on her way to cover that.
But just as you mentioned, Nancy, the people there – and this is Dr.
King`s birthday week. It`s also the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti
THOMPSON: – which makes it even more despicable, Sam Jean.
THOMPSON: But let me just say. I think the most important thing to
acknowledge, is we look at his state of mind. He`s very insecure man.
THOMPSON: He`s insecure about Barack Obama and Kenya. He`s insecure about
the woman who actually beat him for the presidency.
GILES: That`s right.
THOMPSON: He just can`t let it go.
GILES: No. And he`s insecure about the beauty of all of these vast
cultures he just insulted. And so all of those who are insulted by him
know that you`re actually bigger than what he is.
In Dr. King`s own words, if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper or a
to be a bush in the valley rather than a pine on the hill, Donald Trump`s
words confirm, even if you – if that is your lot, you are still bigger
than the tiny president.
VELSHI: Yes. Sam Jean, I was walking and speaking with Maria Hinojosa
earlier today and she made an interesting point, that while when you say s-
hole, that`s what everybody focuses on.
VELSHI: But what the President said about – allegedly said about the
Haitians, when he said, why do we need more Haitians here? Take them out.
GILES: Get them – take them out.
VELSHI: And Maria used a term. She said it was like a Gestapo-like thing.
VELSHI: And I said, look, that might be strong to describe ICE employees
as the Gestapo.
VELSHI: And she said, if you are one of these people and there had been
immigration raids, by the way, all week and arrests.
VELSHI: And you see these people coming for you and they stop you on buses
and they stop you on trains and they bang on your doors at night, that`s
the kind of thing that history makes your mind think about.
VELSHI: She says the “take them out” from a man who can actually order the
removal of people from this country is something we should be paying more
JEAN: It`s astonishing and it`s – the way that the President operates,
it`s very simple as one of your guests pointed out. He`s a very insecure
man, but he`s also not a well-read man. He`s also not a deep thinker.
He`s also not into nuance.
He – everything is a nail to Trump, and so he hammers everything. He
doesn`t even understand the nature of the consequences of the language that
he uses because all he`s interested in is playing to that base.
I`ll tell you this. Haitians don`t care about Donald Trump, OK? They
don`t care about Donald Trump. They have survived worse than Donald Trump.
They`ve survived Napoleon.
VELSHI: For decades.
JEAN: For decades, for centuries –
JEAN: – they have survived worse than Donald Trump. But my problem is, I
want to know, what is the Republican Party going to do with this menace at
the head of the Republican Party?
GILES: Yes. Sam is right. Menace.
JEAN: People don`t talk like this.
JEAN: Normal, reasonable, rational people don`t talk like this.
VELSHI: Well –
GILES: Just to jump on something Sam said, it`s just a great example of
why education is so important because so many of the things that Trump has
said and – are from ignorance.
GILES: From ignorant, narrow-minded thinking, not being intellectually
curious, not caring about anything other than what looks like him. It`s
VELSHI: Nancy, thank you for your time. Nancy Giles, Mark Thompson, and
Sam Jean, we appreciate your spending some time with us this evening.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
VELSHI: Coming up the end of the show, by the way, a special last word
from Lawrence about an inappropriate president attacking the First
But next, is President Trump digging a hole, to Sam`s point, that
Republicans are going to have to climb out of, or does the President`s base
even care about all of this? That`s next.
And later, “The Wall Street Journal” reports tonight that President Trump`s
lawyer arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult film star to keep her
from talking about Trump during the campaign.
VELSHI: NBC News is reporting that, according to two sources close to the
administration, President Trump worked the phones last night, calling
allies outside of the White House to gauge the reaction to his s-hole
One source described the President`s mood regarding the fallout and
coverage of his comments as belligerent. Another source said that Trump
sought insight about how the episode might resonate with his base.
A few Republicans have publicly weighed in on the President`s remarks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn`t commented yet. You heard
House Speaker Paul Ryan say the remarks were unhelpful.
Senator Jeff Flake was more forthcoming. He said, the words used by
President – by the President, as related to me directly following the
meeting by those in attendance, were not tough. They were abhorrent and
Can Republicans dig themselves out of another mess created by this
President? It`s hard to say, this won`t make it any easier.
In another surprising revelation, NBC News reports tonight that during a
March meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a member
related to President Trump that potential welfare cuts would harm her
constituents, not all of whom are Black. The President replied, really,
then what are they?
Joining us now are Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com and MSNBC
contributor and – and an MSNBC contributor, and Charlie Sykes, the author
of “How the Right Lost Its Mind” and also an MSNBC contributor. Welcome to
both of you. Thank you for being here.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE ROOT: Good to be here, Ali.
VELSHI: Let me start with you, Jason. Where do you think we go from here
if you`re a Republican? Is this concept of getting your agenda forwarded
more important than basic humanity? Because we saw this play out with the
Roy Moore saga.
JOHNSON: Well, yes. Look. Ali, it`s really clear that most of the
Republican Party is like, look, people who assault women, racist, terrorist
sympathizers, and accused pedophiles, I can work with all those people as
long as I can get a tax cut and stop the Affordable Care Act.
So I think as far as most members of the Republican Party – we haven`t
really heard much from Mitch McConnell. Paul Ryan basically gave a very
sort of flaccid, limp-wristed response where he said I don`t really care, I
think this is bad, I think this is terrible, but he really didn`t condemn
the President. Nothing is really –
VELSHI: He said it was unhelpful.
JOHNSON: Yes, exactly, unhelpful. Nothing is really going to change with
Republicans in Washington. But I will say this, Republicans I know, my
former students who are Republicans, are saying this is embarrassing to
them. And I think this becomes a problem in the midterm elections.
VELSHI: Charlie, let`s say the President has 35 percent support if you
look at various polls.
VELSHI: And let`s say there`s a 25 percent base that has nowhere else to
go because they believe in UFOs and they believe that Barack Obama is a
Kenyan-born Muslim, right? So there`s 10 percent to play with in there,
people who want lower taxes perhaps or smaller government or good old
conservative principles that are pretty mainstream. Does this move them?
SYKES: Well, you know, this is, of course, the calculation that we`ve been
– we have been living with. You know, and Donald Trump, when he`s on the
phone, you know, he is thinking, does this play with that hard-core, always
Trump base? But there are a lot of people who just hold their nose and
vote for Republicans because they`re not Democrats.
And, you know, look, this is the price that the Republicans are paying for
going on with this constant defining of deviancy down, you know. And the
reaction of the Republicans is actually far more disheartening than the
fact that Donald Trump is a racist.
That is not breaking news. Donald Trump is who he is, you know.
SYKES: It is the underwhelming response, their willingness to go along
with this, or the assumption on the part of Republicans that, in fact, this
is the way Republicans think.
Look, Americans are fundamentally decent people. Most Republicans are
fundamentally decent people. The problem with Donald Trump is that not
only does he appeal to the worst instincts, that he actually continues to
move that window of what is acceptable.
And you think about, from the Republican point of view, this was the week
that Donald Trump was supposed to convince everybody that he was the stable
VELSHI: Yes, yes.
SYKES: And he ends the week talking about restricting, you know,
immigration from shithole countries and paying off porn stars. And it`s
only the middle of January.
VELSHI: No, no kidding. Let me ask you this, Jason. Jim Renacci,
Republican from Ohio – mainstreamish Republican. I think he`s an
accountant by trade. I sometimes have trouble getting him to stick to the
truth when he`s on this show. But now he`s running for Senate in Ohio, and
he had this to say about the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO: I`ve said all along, the President, many
times, says what people are thinking. I learned as a business guy that you
have to be careful what you say because people pick everything up.
Judge the President after four years. Let`s judge the President after what
we`ve done. Let`s not judge the President on what he says.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Four years? My head`s going to explode. It`s been a year and, as
Charlie says, on weekly basis, you get this basket, this cartload, full of
nonsense that you have to come and pull apart. Is that a fair analysis,
judge the President after four years not on the basis of what he says on an
JOHNSON: Well, as a former Ohio voter, I would definitely say no. We`ve
already seen who this president is.
And some of this, I think it`s important. It`s, you know, chuck the base.
How low can they go, right? Like, how low can Trump`s base go to justify
what he is doing?
He doesn`t have to defend this President in order to be successful in Ohio.
Ohio is a reddish/purplish state.
But I think the real issue here and the real challenge for Republicans and
people who want to save this party in the future is to realize, you don`t
have to work with this guy in order to be a good Republican. And to the
degree that you continue to justify his behavior, you downgrade the entire
Republicans are about to become nonexistent in California out of this
midterm. They`re losing state-level races that they shouldn`t lose because
they refuse to get off the crack pipe that is the racism of this presidency
and recognize that there are real policy things they can do that don`t have
to come at the expense of people of color.
VELSHI: Charlie, what happens? Because it`s really just not a good thing
for the world if the Republican Party has to disappear from the scene. We
VELSHI: We like the idea that they`re going to be two sides to
discussions, but the Republican Party may need to save itself before the
SYKES: They may but the clock is running. You know, they`ve had numerous
opportunities to draw the line and they haven`t done it.
They`ve entered into this Faustian bargain with the President, you know,
and you`re seeing right now the price of that going up all of the time.
You know, the price of, you know, selling your soul. You get a lot of
things you want, right, but it turns out to be way more expensive.
But I do think that analogy of California is absolutely correct. I mean,
you`re watching Republican candidates around the country. Martha McSally,
who is the establishment candidate down in Arizona, twisting herself into
pretzels to, you know, not condemn this sort of thing. They`re
Now, there is this argument that Republicans are making that, look, you
know, if you leave aside Donald Trump`s tweets, he`s actually delivering
the conservative agenda. You know, you`re hearing that from David Brooks.
You hear that from guys like Hugh Hewitt all the time, that, you know, what
conservatives ought to be happy with Donald Trump.
What they`re missing is the way that Donald Trump is poisoning the
Republican Party, poisoning conservatives. Yes, they`re getting some of
the things they want, but, for a generation, people are going to look at
Republicans and say, you stood with Donald Trump.
When Donald Trump was saying these things and acting this way, you stood
with him, or you were complicit by your silence. And there`s not going to
be much of a defense to that other than saying, well, yes, but we did cut
the corporate taxes, right? And doesn`t that cover for this kind of
VELSHI: Guys, good to see you. Thank you for both of you for joining me.
Jason Johnson and Charlie Sykes.
All right. Coming up next, international condemnation of the American
President. Ambassador Wendy Sherman is here.
And President Trump, an adult film star, and $130,000 payout. That report
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT COLVILLE, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN
RIGHTS: This isn`t just a story about vulgar language. It`s about opening
the door to humanity`s worst side.
It`s about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will
potentially disrupt and even destroy the lives of many people. And that`s
perhaps the single most damaging and dangerous consequence of this type of
comment by a major political figure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That there are real consequences to the President`s comments is
the point that Rupert Colville was making. He was the – he is the Human
Rights Commissioner – human rights spokesman for the United Nations. He
was expressing just some of the reaction that the President`s s-hole
comment has received from around the world.
Today, someone started the hashtag, “my s-hole.” And Twitter users, many
from African countries, have posted some of the most beautiful pictures in
response to the President of the United States.
Joining us now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state
for political affairs and an MSNBC global affairs contributor.
Wendy, good to see you.
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER COUNSELOR FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Good to see
VELSHI: After you and I spoke this morning, I had a conversation with
Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who had said she really
hopes that Rex Tillerson, who is the boss of all the ambassadors, comes out
and speaks to Haiti and El Salvador and Africa where some of our U.S.
ambassadors are being called in for explanations and either apologizes to
them or tries to explain what`s going on.
And I thought to myself as she was saying that, I have a better chance of
growing an afro than she has of that happening.
VELSHI: But this is the anti-diplomacy, right? This is the opposite of
what the soft power that the United States has worked 250 years to gain is
supposed to do.
SHERMAN: Yes. It`s quite extraordinary, Ali. Not only do we not have
ambassador slots filled all over the world as has been reported here and in
our newspapers, but the ambassadors we do have, the acting ambassadors,
many of them called were called on the carpet today in Botswana and
Senegal, were called in and asked to really explain what the President was
The African Union has asked for an apology. I think the Haitian Ambassador
to the United States has tried to be as diplomatic as you possibly can be
when the President of the United States has said we don`t need more
Haitians in the United States.
So I think that we should look at these other diplomats who are trying to
act diplomatically and try to keep the relationship going. You know, the
fastest growing economies, as I said to you earlier today, are in Africa.
There is just enormous entrepreneurship going on.
When President Obama started a Young African Leaders Program, 500 slots,
50,000 young people applied. There`s energy, there`s purpose, and we need
that energy and we need that purpose. We need that entrepreneurship.
That`s always what`s fueled the United States.
So we had our Ambassador to Panama resign today, a really fine Foreign
Service officer whom I know quite well. A career professional who just
thought this crossed the line for him. It`s been a very tough day for U.S.
diplomats, and we have not heard Secretary Tillerson speak out.
SHERMAN: He gave a speech today that seemed really off script given the
VELSHI: Let`s – “New York Times” columnist Nick Kristof was on THE LAST
WORD last night. I want you to listen to what he said, and I want to talk
to you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: China, essentially, is
competing for these countries that offer infrastructure investments.
And what the U.S. has offered in part has been our soft power, our culture,
our democracy, our history that people truly admire. And we just took a
bludgeon to our soft power in Africa and indeed, you know, in many other
countries around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: This is to the point that you were making. In Africa, when you go
to Africa, various African countries in East Africa and West Africa, today,
you see a lot of Chinese presence. They`re building roads. In one case,
they`re building a parliament. People use Chinese devices as opposed to
iPhones in Africa.
China is all about infrastructure in this growing opportunity that is
Africa, and America has been, as Nick said, something else to Africa. Then
we just insulted all 54 countries at the same time.
SHERMAN: Absolutely. When you do polling survey around the world, it`s
Africans who still think highly of the United States.
SHERMAN: Whereas, other countries have gone way down in their support for
America, Americans, and certainly for the President of the United States
where only Russia and Israel are the only two countries where we still have
a positive view of the President have gone up, not down. So, yes, we have
just turned ourselves upside down.
And, you know, China shouldn`t get a free ride. They bring in Chinese
workers. They don`t share their capacity. They don`t share their
They don`t share skills. They do it all of themselves, and that`s burnt a
lot of African economies. So we have opportunities here that we`re not
I think the other thing I want to say, Ali, and I started to say it this
morning, is that there was a very famous German Protestant pastor during
the time of Hitler. At the beginning, he supported Hitler. At the end, he
ended up in a concentration camp for seven years.
He said of himself that he was anti-Semitic to begin with, but he wrote a
very famous poem. And to quote it in this instance that we are facing now
– and this is what America`s been about, speaking up for people on behalf
of people`s rights.
That I – first, they came for the Salvadorians and I did not speak out
because I was not Salvadorian. Then they came for the Haitians, and I did
not speak out because I was not Haitian.
Then they came for the Africans and I did not speak out. I was not
African. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak.
SHERMAN: We`ve got to speak up.
VELSHI: Poignant way to end it. Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you for
your analysis today.
Later, our last word from Lawrence on the President and the First
And next, “The Wall Street Journal” report about Donald Trump, an adult
film star, and $130,000 payout.
VELSHI: “The Wall Street Journal” is reporting tonight that a month before
the 2016 election, Donald Trump`s lawyer arranged a $130,000 payment to a
former adult film star to stop her from disclosing an alleged sexual
encounter with Donald Trump.
The payment to Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the stage name Stormy
Daniels, was arranged by Trump attorney Michael Cohen, people familiar with
the matter told “The Journal.”
The report says Ms. Clifford has privately alleged the sexual encounter
with Donald Trump took place after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf
tournament in Lake Tahoe, a year after he married Melania Trump.
And in an interview published tonight by “The Daily Beast,” adult film star
Alana Evans says she spoke with Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels,
on the night of the alleged encounter.
Quote, Stormy calls me four or five times. By the last two phone calls,
she is with Donald Trump and I can hear him. And he`s talking through the
phone to me, saying, oh, come on, Alana, let`s have some fun. Let`s have
some fun. Come to the party, we`re waiting for you.
And I was like, OMG, it`s Donald Trump. Men like him scare me because they
have so much power, and this was way before his presidential nomination.
So I bailed on them and turned my phone off.
Alana Evans says they spoke again the next day. Quote, she tells me, all
I`m going to say is I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him
chasing me around me his hotel room in his tighty-whities. I was like, oh,
I really don`t need to hear that.
Then she said he offered her keys to his condos in Florida. And I was
like, wow, guess you had a good night. And that was the last we ever spoke
Alana Evans confirmed those – the accuracy of those quotes to THE LAST
WORD tonight and says she stands by her statements.
“The Daily Beast” says it had been in talks to interview Stephanie Clifford
in 2016, but she backed out five days before the election.
In Michael Wolff`s book, “Fire and Fury,” Steve Bannon implies another
Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, helped to get Trump out of, quote, jams with
women during the campaign.
Quote, Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the
campaign – what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all
The White House and Michael Cohen released statements today that denied a
sexual encounter between Trump and Clifford but did not deny the claim that
a payment was made to Clifford.
Cohen also released a letter he says is signed by Stormy Daniels in which
she denies she had a relationship with Trump or got hush money.
“The Washington Post`s” Ruth Marcus will react to this story after this.
VELSHI: Ruth Marcus writes about Donald Trump in her editorial in
tomorrow`s “Washington Post.”
Yes, Trump`s reference to shithole countries represents a terrible, tragic
moment in our nation`s history. Even more terrible and tragic? This was
only the worst of so many more over the span of just a few days in a week,
all too typical of this appalling presidency.
We`re joined now by Ruth Marcus who, I assume, wrote this before the Stormy
Daniels, adult film star, debacle was made clear.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think
so. I was pretty much done and then I looked at my Twitter feed. Always a
VELSHI: Yes. I mean, I don`t know what you do other than put your face
into your palm. It is – it does have the sense of an administration
coming off the rails. They just got crisis after crisis, the sort of which
we describe as shooting one`s own self in the foot. These are all self-
MARCUS: Sure. They`re all self-inflicted crises, but they`re a different
kind of wounds, right?
The reason that I wrote about what had happened earlier in the week is that
I really worry that we – that Trump is going to make us suffer from
outrage overload. In other words, what he`s doing is so appalling on a
daily or sometimes hourly basis that we forget the appalling thing that he
did the day before –
MARCUS: – or the day before that. And so I`m really worried that we`re
going to just become really numb to these assaults on the rule of law. He
attacked court – a court ruling that he didn`t like this week in a very
That we`re going to become numb to these attacks on freedom of speech. He
assailed the FBI agent in an interview with “The Wall Street Journal” as
having committed treason. That`s a very serious assertion coming from
someone who`s told us that he is in complete control of the Justice
Department, which, if there were going to be a prosecution for treason,
would do it.
MARCUS: So those are really just terrible things that go against –
VELSHI: Well, let me just touch on one of them.
MARCUS: – from my point of view, Democratic values.
VELSHI: Let me touch on one of them that you write about. This is Donald
Trump talking about libel laws this week, we think, in relation to negative
books or reports about him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to take a strong look at our country`s libel laws so
that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about
someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts. Our
current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American
values or American fairness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: This is complicated, Ruth, because our current libel laws are not
a sham and a disgrace, but they do stand as something that has to deal with
a very strong First Amendment in this country.
This is complicated and not the sort of thing that you want somebody who,
by the way, puts out a lot of false information and then has a thin skin,
deciding that they want to change how journalists can perform their jobs.
MARCUS: Right. I mean, it`s – to describe our libel laws as a sham and a
disgrace just – is just one –
VELSHI: It`s inaccurate.
MARCUS: – another one of those illustrations of how he doesn`t understand
what the freedom of speech and free press is all about.
And connecting that up with the notion that you can complain about libel
laws not being – it`s soft and not allowing you to collect damages from
people who libel you, and then go ahead and call an FBI agent a traitor? I
mean, come on.
VELSHI: Yes. Ruth, I don`t know. You can`t make this up.
Ruth Marcus is the deputy editorial page writer – editor and a columnist
at “The Washington Post.”
Thank you, Ruth, for being here.
MARCUS: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: Ruth Marcus. And then a special last word from Lawrence O`Donnell
on the presidency and the First Amendment. We have been here before.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: As excerpts of Michael Wolff`s book, “Fire
and Fury,” became public, the President of the United States put his
lawyers to work, trying to stop the publication of that book the week
before it was scheduled to go on sale.
Donald Trump became the first president in 47 years to try to stop the
presses, to try to stop the publication of material he did not want made
The last president to try that was Richard Nixon who made legal history
when he tried to stop the publication of leaked government documents about
the Vietnam War, documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers.
That`s the story told in Steven Spielberg`s new film “The Post.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not the full report but it`s over 4,000 pages of
CARRIE COON, ACTRESS: Huh. Are these in order?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think so.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: There are no page numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s what the top-secret stands for. My source
had to cut them off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re supposed to retire on Friday.
BOB ODENKIRK, ACTOR: Ben, how are we supposed to comb through 4,000 pages?
They`re not even loosely organized?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.
ODENKIRK: “The Times” had three months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ODENKIRK: There`s no way we can possibly get this done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s right. We got less than eight hours.
COON: We could shoot for the city, and then we`d have 10.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Hey, hey, hey. For the last six years, we`ve been
playing catchup. And now, thanks to the President of the United States,
who, by the way, has taken a (INAUDIBLE) all over the First Amendment, we
have the goods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us, Oscar-winning screenwriter, Josh Singer, who co-
wrote “The Post” screenplay with Liz Hannah.
And, Josh, you won your Oscar for the – for “Spotlight,” another film
about journalists working as the heroes of the movie. And we worked
together at the “West Wing,” which, I think, on your previous appearance,
people know we co-wrote there.
When you were working on this, you and Steven Spielberg, Liz Hannah, this
year – working on this script this year – did it feel like you were
writing in the present tense?
JOSH SINGER, CO-SCREENWRITER, “THE POST”: It did a little bit, Lawrence.
You know, I think the reason that Steven and Liz and Meryl and Tom and
Kristie Macosko Krieger, and Amy Pascal were so – we thought it was so
necessary to tell the story this year is because the press has been under
siege. And because we figured that something like happened this week might
happen again, where a president would try to restrain the press.
And you know, I think it was Justice Black who said – in the Supreme Court
opinion allowing the Pentagon Papers to be published, he said only a free
and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
And that was when the Supreme Court, because of the bold move made by “The
New York Times” and then made by Kay Graham, leading her company, basically
decided to publish these papers. That`s when the Supreme Court said, yes,
this is what we need. We need the Fourth Estate to hold our leaders
O`DONNELL: And this is, as you know, settled law. You`re a Harvard law
school graduate. This, we thought, was all settled law 47 years ago. What
did it feel like this past week when we saw the President of the United
States trying to threaten prior restraint on publication?
SINGER: You know, I think the President, in a lot of slightly – you know,
I think that the President, in a lot of other ways, has been threatening
publication, has been threatening the press, talking about fake news,
trying to denigrate the press. And –
O`DONNELL: Creating a general air of intimidation.
SINGER: And what`s been incredible is how “The New York Times,” “The
Washington Post,” and MSNBC and other organizations, CNN, have stepped up
to really take that challenge on.
He`s thrown down a gauntlet. They said, you know what, this is what we do.
This is what we need to do, is we need to hold our leaders accountable.
And, frankly, you know, one of the things that`s great about our story is
it`s not a liberal story, right? Kay Graham, when she`s holding leaders
accountable, she`s holding LBJ and JFK accountable. Those are Democratic
Because all presidents lie. Even Obama, even Clinton. They lie! And we
need to hold them accountable when they do lie, and we need to check on
them and make sure that they are not deceiving the American public.
O`DONNELL: And it was a unanimous Supreme Court decision, and it gets
revealed very dramatically in your screenplay in this movie.
And so it was – there was nothing partisan about that decision at the
time, and there was no giant partisan objection after the Supreme Court
made its ruling. The Supreme Court made its ruling, the Pentagon Papers
went out, and that was the end of the controversy.
SINGER: That`s the end of the story. And you know, one of the things I
loved about this movie is, you know, I didn`t get taught this in high
We got up to the World War II and that was it, so I never learned about the
Pentagon Papers. I didn`t learn about it until I was taking Larry Tribe`s
class at Harvard. And you know, to me, this is a part of – a chapter of
our history that is very important, not only because it establishes the
Fourth Estate in the powerful way in which they exist.
O`DONNELL: You know, I was a semi-alert news consumer in college when this
was happening. I learned everything I now know about the Pentagon Papers
from this movie. All the behind the scenes stuff I did not know. It
really is a dramatic story and really has lots to say about our situation
SINGER: I mean –
O`DONNELL: We are out of time, Josh Singer. Thank you for coming by again
with your latest movie effort. Really appreciate it.
VELSHI: And “The Post” premieres nationwide today. That is tonight`s last
Please be sure to join me and my colleague, Stephanie Ruhle, for “VELSHI
AND RUHLE,” weekdays, 11:00 a.m., and Saturdays at 12:30.
“THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts right now.
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