GOP Senators change story on Trump remarks Transcript 1/15/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL
Date: January 15, 2018
Guest: Karine Jean-Pierre, Roland Martin, Neera Tanden
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And so, the president of the United States is in a credibility contest.
Just after “The Washington Post” counted over 2,000 lies in his first –
his first year as president. So, who you’re going to believe? Who you’re
going to believe?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Well – you know, yes, punt.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, there it is, tonight, it’s Donald Trump versus Dick Durbin, on who is
telling the truth. Now, most Americans don’t really have to hear more than
that to decide who is telling the truth, even though most Americans don’t
know who Dick Durbin is, 63 percent of Americans say Donald Trump does not
tell the truth. That poll came out on Thursday, the day Senator Dick
Durbin who was the only Democrat in a meeting in the White House with the
president revealed that the president referred to Haiti in all 54 countries
of Africa as shithole countries in that meeting.
That immediately became the biggest news story in America and the president
did not deny saying those words, he had all day Thursday, all day Friday,
all day Saturday to deny saying those words and the president did not deny
The White House did not deny it. They did not deny it. They did not put
out a statement saying that the president did not say those words. None of
the Republicans in the room denied that the president said those words.
And so, on Thursday night, that was in effect confirmation that the
president said those words. In fact, reporting quickly emerged on Friday,
indicating that the president made the kind of nighttime phone calls to
billionaire friends from the White House that Michael Wolff describes in
his new book. And the president in those calls boasted about saying those
words and how those words would improve his position with his base on
immigration because he said those hateful words.
And as the story clearly got worse and worse for the Trump White House on
Friday and Saturday, the Trump White House decided it was time to change
their story, just completely change their story. It was time to change
Donald Trump’s story and enlist whatever help they could from other
Republicans. And now, Donald Trump is saying that Dick Durbin
misrepresented what he said in the Oval Office, and two Republican senators
who were in the room have decided to change their stories dramatically.
Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue on Friday released a very
unusual joint statement about that White House meeting, very unusual for
two senators to release a joint statement together. It said, we do not
recall the president saying these comments specifically. Do not recall –
on the biggest thing that the president has ever said in their presence,
according to the way the news media was reacting to it and they do not
recall. They very specifically did not then deny that the president said
that they simply claimed to not recall.
Now, I have been in work sessions like that in the Oval Office when I was
working in the Senate during the Clinton administration. Let me tell you,
you come out of that room remembering every word the president says, every
So, just based on my own personal experience in the Oval Office, I did not
believe a word of Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue’s statement about not
recalling. And it turns out now, according to them, they were not telling
the truth. They now say they lied to you. Senator Cotton and Senator
Perdue now claim that they do recall what was said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: You’re saying it did not happen or you’re
having – or you just don’t recall.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Yes, I didn’t hear it and I was sitting no
further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.
SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: The gross misrepresentation was that
language was used in there that was not used, and also that the tone of
that meeting was not contributory and not constructive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: So, there you have Tom Cotton and David Perdue calling Tom
Cotton and David Perdue liars for their first statement. And they now want
to be believed for their second statement.
Senator Durbin is not changing his story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I know what happened. I stand behind
every word that I said. I stick with my original interpretation. I am
stunned that this is their defense. That is – that’s their choice.
What the president said in that meeting was so awful and so impactful on so
many people that when he denied saying it, I felt duty-bound to clarify
what actually happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Senator Durbin has described Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
as very forcefully arguing with the president about the president’s
description of those countries.
On Friday, a South Carolina’s newspaper reported that Tim Scott, South
Carolina’s junior senator, confirmed that the state’s senior senator,
Lindsey Graham, told him what Dick Durbin said about the president was
Today, Lindsey Graham told South Carolina’s “Post and Courier”, quote: My
memory hasn’t evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said.
Here is the president last night denying that he said what Dick Durbin and
Lindsey Graham now say he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you think your comments the other day made it harder?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see what various
senators in the room said about my comments. They weren’t made.
REPORTER: What do you say to all the people who think you’re a racist?
TRUMP: No, no, I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have
ever interviewed. That I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That I can tell you, with a nod. That I can tell you.
That is one of Donald Trump’s many tells whenever he says, “That I can tell
you”, he is lying. “Believe me” is another one of his tells. Whenever he
says “believe me”, you know he’s lying. When he’s lying, he always reaches
for that little something extra and the crazier the lie, the more he needs
one of those “believe mes” or “that I can tell yous”.
And so, the most overtly racist president since the abolition of slavery
says I am the least racist person.
Because he is an out-of-control pathological liar, he could never be
content with the sentence no, no, I am not a racist. That what he first
said, no, no, I am not a racist. And the reason he is not content with
that sentence is because it does not sound believable, even to him.
And so, the twisted mind of the used-car salesman/real-estate
salesman/casino operator/hustler is always desperately trying to lay
something on top of a simple statement of fact that simply does not sound
believable like Donald Trump saying, “no, no, I am not a racist”.
And it is because Donald Trump knows that that does not sound believable
that he goes to the utterly insane length of adding the utterly insane
statements “I am the least racist person”. And because he is and has been
for decades a deeply dysfunctional pathological liar he has no idea that
saying “I am the least racist person” not only does not sound believable it
does not sound sane. Would a sane person ever say that? Would someone who
is not a racist ever say “I am the least racist person”?
It never makes sense to say you are the most or least anything. If you say
you’re the most generous person in the world, I’m sure I can find someone
who is more generous than you are and if you say you’re the least angry
person in the world, I’m sure I can find someone who is less angry. But
when you’re talking about a group of 45 people, which is a little smaller
than my class when I was in an elementary school in Boston, you can
actually start using words like that.
There was a tallest kid in my class. There was a smartest kid in my class
and it wasn’t me. It was Michael Trapp (ph). We all knew that, because it
was a small group, there’s only 50 of us.
There have been only 45 presidents of the United States, and it can be said
with absolute certainty that Donald Trump is definitely not the least
racist person who has been president, but he is without a doubt the least
intelligent, the least believable and obviously the least sane person who
has ever been president.
Joining us now: Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for “The Washington Post”
and an MSNBC contributor. Karine Jean-Pierre is senior advisor and
national spokesperson for moveon.org. Also with us, Roland Martin, host
and managing editor of TV One cable network.
And, Karine, I’d like to start with you again. You joined us on Thursday
night. You are Haitian-American and the president isolated the country
that your family came from in his discussions. What’s your reaction to the
way this story has developed over the weekend to now?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: What I can tell
you, Lawrence, is that Donald Trump is a boorish braggart racist, and that
is a fact. That is the truth. We have a long laundry list of things that
he has done in the `70s with the – with the racism that he did against
black people, with the black tenants. And in the `90s with the Central
Park Five, in 2011 with birtherism, being the spokesperson for that, and
most recently with Mexicans being called rapists, Muslim ban, you name it,
everything that he does is racist.
And with the lying part of it too, it’s not surprising that he’s lying. He
lies all the time. There was a report that came out today that said that
he has lied or misled over 2,000 times since he took office, since he took
the White House. And so, it is – it is not surprising.
But the one thing I wanted to make the comparison to is, so, who do you
believe, Dick Durbin who’s trying to save kids, who’s trying to keep kids
here, or do you believe a boorish braggart racist who lies constantly?
O’DONNELL: Jonathan, I want to take a look at what Jeff Flake had to say
about this because he’s indicating that he and other senators shortly after
the meeting heard a version of this that was the Dick Durbin version.
Let’s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARKANSAS: I was in a meeting directly afterwards were
those who had presented to the president, our proposal, spoke about the
meeting, and they used – those words were used before those words went
public. So, that’s all I can tell you is I heard that account before the
account even went public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Jonathan, your reaction?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That’s pretty incredible and it
shows that Senator Cotton and the other senator he put the statement out
with our lying. You know, I had dinner with friends tonight and we were
talking about the fact that one of my friends talked about the fact that
President Trump these things happen to him and he’s like Teflon, nothing
And when he said that, a light switch went off in my head. It’s not that
President Trump is Teflon. It’s that Republicans on the Hill congressional
Republicans, those Republicans who were in the meeting, Senator Cotton and
others who will not come out and say truthfully what President Trump said
in that meeting in the White House, President Trump’s not Teflon. They are
And it is their complicity that makes it possible for Donald Trump time
after time after time to say these things that not only denigrate the
presidency, strip the moral authority of the Oval Office and humiliate the
country, but it’s also something that is doing damage to our reputation
around the world and could potentially considering what he said about
countries of Africa and Haiti and El Salvador and the message that sends to
other countries around the world, what does that mean for our troops around
The president of the United States doesn’t have enough respect for other
countries who are helping the United States maintain not only the global
order but U.S. national security. If he’s not going to respect them, why
on earth should they protect our troops? Why on earth should they even
take our national security concerns into account?
O’DONNELL: There’s new reporting tonight from “The New York Times” on how
the Republican senators story and the White House story evolved. I want to
read some of this. It says there was little effort to significantly push
back in the story that night because aides knew that Trump had said it, and
that the president wasn’t even too upset according to people involved in
Then Friday morning, Trump appeared to suggest in a tweet that he had not
used the objection award at all. The language used by me at the DACA
meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. Three White House
officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard shit-
house rather than shithole, allowing them to deny the president’s comments
on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that
they could not recall what the president said.
Roland Martin, your reaction?
ROLAND MARTIN: Well, first and foremost, Lawrence, my maternal
grandfather, his parents migrated from Haiti, and so, I’m a descendant
those Haitian immigrants. And so, this is the thing that we have to pay
attention to, and that is we can focus on did he say shit-house or shithole
did he say this, what if they say? But it’s the implications of his
He is desiring of whiteness. He does not want folks from Africa nations,
Haitians, El Salvadorian in this country. He says, why can’t we more
Why is that the case? Because in 2043, America will be a majority minority
country, already in our public schools, 51 percent of all of our kids are
black and brown. What you have here is fear, you have fear in terms of
there’s a nation changing before the very eyes.
The folks that support Donald Trump, they are scared of what’s about to
happen. So, when he presses the buttons of immigration, he is speaking to
white fear, oh, this is why we’re losing our jobs.
1994, remember, in California, I was just there for the NAACP Image Awards,
they passed proposition 187. What was it all about? Fear that Mexicans
were going to take over California. It’s been 23 years since it passed,
California is still standing and still thriving.
And you have to understand American history in the late 1800s when they
attacked the Chinese because over opioids, because they were angry that the
Chinese were taking jobs. Any time in the history of America, white
America had an economic anxiety, they began to lash out that those who are
That’s what this is about and the Republicans are offering cover as
Jonathan said. But remember it, this happened in the ’60s when you had the
segregationist Eastland, Richard Russell and others, they were consumed by
power. And so, white supremacy has always provided comfort to those who
were bigots because they desire power. Perdue, power, Cotton, power,
Speaker Ryan, power, McConnell, power. They don’t care about his racism or
bigotry. All they care about is maintaining power.
O’DONNELL: On this Martin Luther King holiday, John Lewis was on “The
View” today. Let’s listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW: I said that Trump would’ve won if Dr. King were
alive. Do you think that’s true?
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I agree with you.
BEHAR: You agree.
LEWIS: If Martin Luther King –
LEWIS: – have been alive, no, Dr. King would have been able to lead us to
a different place. And our country will be different, and the world
community would be different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Karine, your reaction to that?
JEAN-PIERRE: I agree with John Lewis. I think that if Dr. King were
alive, he would be at the front lines of fighting against Trump’s divisive
policies that we see practically every day coming out of the White House.
You know, instead of Donald Trump decided that he was going to be golfing
on his exclusive golf course, golf club today, instead of having a day of
service like most presidents have had on both sides of the aisle, and I
mean, this is just unbelievable, after making racist comments that’s what
he decided to do.
Today, Lawrence, I was in Michigan, and I spoke at the University of
Michigan for the MLK symposium. I had the honor of doing that.
While I was preparing to make that speech about 40 miles away in Detroit,
there was a year old man, Jorge Garcia who came to came here from Mexico
when he was 10 years old, undocumented. And because of the crackdown of
the Trump administration, he was being deported. He hadn’t been in his
country for 30 years and he was being deported. He was saying goodbye to
his wife and his two kids.
That’s what was going on while Donald Trump was playing golf, people are
being deported all across the country and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t –
it doesn’t faze him at all.
MARTIN: But, Lawrence, I think we’re making a mistake we talk about if Dr.
King was alive. I was here in San Antonio and given the MLK Day speech.
This is the largest MLK parade in the country, and it’s not like this is a
majority of black city.
This is the mistake this movement and even this birthday that the – the
birthday is about Dr. King’s birthday, but really, when he accepted the
Nobel Peace Prize, he accepted on behalf of the entire movement. But
people should be saying, what are we doing? Not if he was alive. He was
killed. What are we doing how we mobilizing local, state, national? That
should be the challenge for anybody in 2018.
O’DONNELL: Karine Jean-Pierre, Jonathan Capehart, Roland Martin, thank you
all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
MARTIN: Thanks a lot.
O’DONNELL: Coming up: U.S. counterintelligence officials are reportedly
concerned that Rupert Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, might be
trying to use Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, her friendship with them to
help the Chinese government.
And a special LAST WORD tonight about President Trump, one of the poorest
county one of the poorest counties in the United States and one of the
poorest countries in Africa.
O’DONNELL: Donald Trump and John Kelly and the other immigration tough
guys in the Trump White House celebrated Martin Luther King Day today by
among other things deporting Jorge Garcia. Jorge Garcia would have had
protected status under DACA if he had just been born a couple of years
later. He came to this country at ten years old from Mexico. He’s now 39
years old, has a wife and two children, and he has been living and working
and providing for his family in Detroit until today when he got deported to
President Trump first said he wants to end DACA and now says he wants to
continue it. Some Democrats are saying they will not vote for any bill
funding the government that does not include new DACA legislation. Here’s
the president last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We’re ready willing and able to make a deal on DACA, but I don’t
think the Democrats want to make a deal. And the folks from DACA should
know the Democrats are the ones that are not going to make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Joining us now, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for
American Progress. Also with us, Maria Teresa Kumar, president of CEO of
Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Maria Teresa, it is a federal holiday but in this country, you can
still get deported, even if you came here when you were 10 years old and
it’s 29 years later.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And Garcia demonstrates how broken
the system actually is. The fact this man came here at 10 years old, he’s
leaving behind two American citizen children on Martin Luther King. Martin
Luther King who fought for justice, for equality, making sure that people
had access to the system. And instead, we have a government grossly
violating the human rights of individuals and being incredibly cruel.
And the fact that Americans don’t realize his story is the tip of the
iceberg, At Voto Latino, we’re hearing stories where parents are asking if
a power of attorney, Lawrence, is enough to grant to their neighbor in the
event that ice comes up and swoops them up and they can actually have their
child given to a neighbor so that they don’t get lost in the foster care
It is – it goes deep. It goes wide. And while people keep saying that he
is not deporting, because it’s true, the White House is not deporting
folks, instead they’re holding in deportation detention centers much
longer. So, it is cruel, it is long and there’s people making money off of
O’DONNELL: Neera Tanden, we have more reporting tonight on the details of
what’s been going on in the White House since that Thursday meeting when
the president said those now famous words. And in that reporting, John
Kelly is emerging as possibly the president’s closest and most important
adviser on immigration matters. And in that reporting, John Kelly is
emerging as possibly the president’s closest and most important adviser on
immigration matters. The reporting indicating that this might be the only
policy issue that he weighs in on with real force and, of course, he’s
weighing in on as a very hard line immigration tough guy.
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, and I would say you just
showed the video of Donald Trump saying last night that he’s for a DACA
deal. He was presented with a bipartisan deal on Thursday. A deal that –
I didn’t present it to him. It wasn’t just Dick Durbin, it was Dick Durbin
and Lindsey Graham.
Three Republican senators had been negotiating that bill, Senators Flake,
Senator Gardner and Senator Graham. That bill, that proposal, if Donald
Trump had supported it would pass.
The truth is that Donald Trump has said from the beginning said he wants a
government shutdown. He’s opposing the deal in front of him on DACA. He
basically is doing everything he can to hurt immigrants in this country.
It’s plain as day.
What happened today with Jose Garcia is heart-breaking and should never
happen to anyone. He doesn’t know Mexico. America is his country, 80
percent of Americans want to do something about DACA that ensures that
things like this don’t happen. And I think at the end of the day, we’re
heading towards a shut down at the hands of Donald Trump. Every American
should know that.
O’DONNELL: Let’s listen to what Democratic Senator Chris Coons said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Majority of my caucus, myself included, we
will not fund the government without a DACA deal. The challenge is, to
make it clear to the American people, this is not just about immigration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Maria Teresa, how do you see the Democrat strategy going into
KUMAR: I think they have to remain strong. There’s going to be some
Democrats who don’t want a government shutdown because they’re going to go
into a tough election in 2018. But let’s be clear. Who right now controls
the government? All three branches, it is the Republicans. They are the
ones that are going to have on their – you know, on their watch whether or
not 800,000 young people are set up for deportation.
And let’s not forget that under this president, he’s actually creating a
new class of undocumented immigrants by removing temporary protective
status to close to 300,000 people. He’s trying to remove the HIB1 visa for
spouses. So, he is creating an immigration problem because there is an
opportunity for folks to again increase detention beds.
And you hit the nail on the head, Lawrence, when you mentioned John Kelly.
John Kelly is lock-step with Steve Miller. They are nativists nationalists
who unfortunately are trying to create more harm in this country than
create an opportunity to do good, to provide a pathway for citizenship, to
actually deal with and modernize our immigration system, because yes, the
system is broken but by rescinding DACA, rescinding TPS, to individuals who
made right by the law, come out of the shadows, paying taxes, who have been
vetted with clear background checks is not only an injustice, but it’s
actually the government breaking their contract with these individuals.
O’DONNELL: Neera Tanden, John Kelly who himself is an American thanks to
chain migration, as is true of most of the Irish immigrant families that
were in his neighborhood in Boston, he has never apologized to Congressman
Wilson for lying about her. Donald Trump was – Mia Love, Republican
congresswoman, demanded President Trump apologize to what he said last
week. But this is the never apologize White House with John Kelly and
TANDEN: Yes. I mean, everyone looks to some kind of reasonable steps.
The reality is, if you work for Donald Trump, you agree with his views.
After last week, we now have story after story about how the staffers at
the White House didn’t think it was a big deal because they knew he said
And then 24, 48 hours, they’re spinning a web of lies about it. The truth
is, this is very basic. The president of the United States has created
this problem around DACA. He never needed to create this problem. He
He was given a bipartisan deal by a bunch of Republicans and Democrats.
It’s not everything I like. But it’s a bipartisan deal. He rejected it.
If we have a government shutdown, it – and this is also a president who
has said he wants a government shutdown. The reality is for every single
Democrat out there, what do we need – what message do we have to have sent
to us? He wants a government shutdown. He wants to put a bullet to our
heads to get what he wants, and you have to say no.
At some point, enough is enough. You have to stand up for principle.
O’DONNELL: Go ahead, Maria.
KUMAR: Lawrence, just to underscore what Neera just said, the bipartisan
agreement addressed every issue that the president wanted to be addressed.
They addressed the visa lottery system. They addressed chain migration.
They addressed funding for the wall. They ensured also to look and revisit
the lottery system.
So the fact he came back and said dead on arrival, not only was he being
unfair, but the American people need to know that bipartisan deal addressed
every issue he said he needed in order to pass and propose DACA.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And we saw him on TV a couple days
before saying he’d sign whatever they gave him. Maria Teresa Kumar, Neera
Tanden, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
NEERA TANDEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, Malcolm Nance will join us on what the false missile
alarm in Hawaii tells us about the Trump Administration.
O’DONNELL: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Jared Kushner was
given a warning by U.S. Counterintelligence Officials early last year that
Wendi Deng Murdoch, a Chinese American businesswoman and are you Rupert
Murdoch’s ex-wife could be using her friendship with Jared Kushner and
Ivanka Trump to further Chinese Government interests in the United States.
Officials are reportedly concerned that China wants to use people close
ties to the Trump Administration to influence policy.
Ivanka vacationed with Wendi Murdoch in 2016. And both women were seen
together at the Trump inauguration. And Wendi Murdoch posted a photo on
social media at Jared Kushner’s 35th birthday party. The Kushner family
company also held talks with a Chinese company last year for a real estate
investment up to $1.2 billion, which ultimately did not happen.
In his new book, David Frum explores the dangers of an administration that
has rolled back ethical rules and moved towards authoritarianism. David
Frum writes Trumpocracy has left Americans less safe against foreign
dangers, has diverted their money from its proper purposes to improper
pocket, has worked to bias law enforcement in favor of the powerful and has
sought to intimidate media lest they report things the public most needs to
know. To shrug and say what’s it all matter is not only to dismiss the
poor and vulnerable but to submit your own interests to the mercy of the
greedy and unscrupulous.
It is to submit to live as a subject rather than a citizen. Joining us now
David Frum, Senior Editior for the Atlantic and the author of the new book,
Trumpocracy: the Corruption of the American Republic. And David the book
is published tomorrow, available for purchase online at midnight. David,
your reaction to the latest information that the counterintelligence
officials are saying to Jared Kushner, look, people are going to try to use
you, they’re going to try to use you in various ways and here’s someone
who’s trying to do it.
DAVID FRUM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You reminded viewers in your setup of Jared
Kushner’s attempt to do this giant deal with En Banc Financial group, a
Chinese financial company, very close to the Chinese state. Kushner holds
this very troubled investment on Fifth Avenue in New York. It looked
doomed before the election night miracle. Shortly after the election,
almost immediately after the election, he sat down with these Chinese
investors over bottles of wine that cost $2,000 each, to figure out where
they could get some money to save him.
The Kushner family properties are sustained, their residential properties
with investment by Chinese investors looking for visas. You were talking
before about the deportation of people who have been in the country for 20
years. But if you buy an apartment in a Kushner Building that visa is
yours for a half a million dollars. The biggest problem with this
administration in many ways is to remember all of these stories because
otherwise they loose their pattern.
O’DONNELL: David, when you think about what was the better part of a
decade that Republicans, through what began as the White Water
Investigation, went after President Clinton and the first lady Hillary
Clinton. That all began because of a possible conflict of interest of some
sort, financial conflict of interest of some sort, while he was Governor of
Arkansas, all involving numbers that would be less than a month’s rent in
the world of the Trumps.
FRUM: Well, I think one of the things that’s hard for people to keep track
of is how new a lot of our ethical standards are in American politics.
Most of what you think of as the ethical regime that governs American
politics was constructed in the middle 1970s. If you were to ask how were
elections paid for in the United States before 1972, nobody knows.
They were paid for in cash. No one knew where the money came from. We
built this 50-year structure. But it’s already falling apart and that’s
happened faster and faster. And one of the – the reason that the Donald
Trump presidency is not just an episode, it represents a serious attack on
ethical norms that were already in trouble, that had been falling even
faster since Donald Trump became President.
O’DONNELL: And one of the things about the confirmation process that has
developed since those ethical processes have been put in place, it tended
to favor people with government service for a variety of reasons not just
the experience but also the fact that they had been living a life necessary
above the standards to get through confirmation hearings. All of that was
junked in the Trump confirmation hearings.
FRUM: When I began - became interested in this story early that I would
ask people who served in the Whitehouse Counsel Office what are the rules
that prevent say a President’s relatives from cashing in on the President’s
- on a presidency. And the answer came back well there are no rules.
It just was assumed that nobody do that. Donald Trump is operating a
business while being President. That’s actually not against any rule.
He’s not disclosing the business. He’s receiving streams of payment worth
potentially millions of dollars from the Philippines, from Turkey, the
United Arab Emirates, from other places where his business partners are
under the pressure of authoritarian governments and none of that is
disclosed and none of that against the rules. It was just against our
expectations of what the President would do. And this administration, this
President is smashing those expectations. How do we put them together
O’DONNELL: David Frum’s new book is Trumpocracy. You will be hearing a
lot more about it on this program. David Frum thank you very much for
joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
FRUM: Thank you.
O’DONNELL: Coming up tonight, a special last word about one of the poorest
countries in Africa and one of the poorest states in the United States of
O’DONNELL: Saturday morning in Hawaii peoples’ phones lit up with this.
Warning, ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate
shelter. This is not a drill. That was a false alarm, luckily. A Senior
Administration official involved in the Whitehouse response told Politico
all the fresh faces sitting around the table in the situation room have
little idea what their roles would be in this scenario. The bottoms line
is without a principal’s level exercise we shouldn’t have any confidence
that the cabinet would know what to do in an attack level scenario.
Here’s the President’s response to a reporters questions about the false
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, United States President: Well that was a state thing. But
we’re going to now get involved with them. I love that they took
They took total responsibility. We’re going to get involved. Their
attitude and what they want to do is terrific. They took responsibility.
They made a mistake. We hope it won’t happen again. part of it is people
are on edge but maybe we’ll solve the problem so they won’t have to be on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Former Counter Terrorism Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance
will join us next with what that false alarm has taught us about the Trump
ERNEST MONIZ, FMR. UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF ENERGY: The possibility of a
nuclear weapon being used today is higher than it has been since the Cuban
Missile Crisis. And the main driver of that is the possibility of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That was Obama Administration Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz,
today. Joining us now Malcolm Nance an MSNBC Counterterrorism and
Intelligence Analyst. Malcolm, what have we learn from this false alarm.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The first thing that we learned is that
I’m not particularly sure that we can have confidence that the President of
the United States understood what was going on at the time when that alert
went out. He has a lot of systems, a lot of literal bells and whistles
that will go off in the event of an actual ballistic missile launch,
whether it goes up into space, even at the moment of launch. We know that
There’s a system designed to inform him within minutes. But with the
entire state of Hawaii running away from a perceived attack, we didn’t see
anything about it until today. That does not inspire confidence that he
understands the seriousness of what went on and perhaps he thinks that you
know we’re placing somebody in the seat on the watch standard who won’t
press the button next time is good time enough.
But this really required presidential leadership. We didn’t see much of
O’DONNELL: And Malcolm you’re Hawaii, your phone goes off like this, one
of the things you’re wondering is, could this be a false alarm. But that
language seemed very certain and it was very certain that said it’s not a
false alarm. It said, this is not a drill, find shelter.
The next thing you’re looking at your phone for is the message that this is
a false alarm. That’s the next thing you want to know, and I believe that
Hawaiians and people around the country assumed there was something in
place that was going to tell us very quickly that this was a false alarm.
NANCE: Well, I agree with that. I saw Tulsi Gabbard tweet even as it came
out where she said this just came across, you know, the emergency alert
system. Now I – we all assumed it was probably a false alarm. But when
you’re sitting there and you see the state emergency action message system
has come across and is telling you that there’s been a ballistic missile
launch and it is inbound to Hawaii, if you don’t know anything about how
the system operates, how the response system should - would detect this,
you’re just going to assume that it’s true.
What happened here is that an entire state and all its visitors were
terrorized, and most importantly. And most importantly there was no
calming effect until it had already worked its way through the entire state
system and finally the news media started reporting in dribs and drabs that
there was no actual threat. It should have come right from the Whitehouse
that immediately the President or one of his Senior National Security
advisers on the National Command Authority Staff should have come out and
said, this is not true, it’s an error, everybody calm down.
O’DONNELL: On that difference between State and Federal responsibility,
incoming missile attack, federal responsibility. Malcolm Nance, thank you
very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
NANCE: My pleasure.
O’DONNELL: Up next, a last word about what President Trump says about
O’DONNELL: Time for tonight’s last word, which is, sadly, shithole.
That’s what Donald Trump calls Africa’s 54 countries, most of which he’s
never heard of. The President’s defenders say that his insulting label for
those countries is not based on the color of the skin of the people who
live there but simply the economics of Africa. They want us to interpret
Donald Trump’s one-word description of African countries just as economic
shorthand and nothing else, a way of describing the economies of African
countries compared to the economy of the United States.
If Donald Trump and trump defenders are OK with that, why don’t they use
that same concept within the United States? Mississippi is the poorest
state. West Virginia is the second poorest state. McDowell County in West
Virginia is the state’s poorest county. Should the rest of West Virginia
look down on McDowell County and not want any of those poor people from
McDowell County to move into their county?
The median household income in McDowell County, which is overwhelmingly
white and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, is $24,921. That’s in a
country with a median household income of $57,617. The richest state has a
median household income of $78,945.
So according to Trump and Trump defenders, people in Maryland have every
right to call West Virginia a dump or worse. But that’s not the way decent
people talk or think. We all understand that different places have
different economic advantages and disadvantages and that the landlocked
West Virginia with no international port has never been able to provide a
good living to everyone in a state that is overly dependent on one
industry, coal mining.
So the rich states send their tax dollars to Washington, and Washington
redistributes their money to places like West Virginia and Alabama whose
economies are incapable of adequately supporting the people who live there.
Malawi is the West Virginia of Africa. It has land locked country which
produces a coffee crop and a tobacco crop that struggles in the world
market against bigger countries that easily produce higher grade coffee and
higher grade tobacco.
And so Malawi struggles economically and the people of Malawi bear that
struggle with grace and no nobility and they work harder than anyone you’ve
ever seen work in the United States. They walk miles barefoot in the rain
to bring their wares to market. They work much harder for less economic
reward. No one in the Trump family has ever worked as hard as anyone in
Maureen Vester is a second grader who we introduced you to last month on
this program. She has a desk in school now because you sent her that desk.
The contribution of this audience to K.I.N.D. Fund, kids in need of desks
have now sent hundreds of desks to kids in Malawi who have never had desks.
When Maureen is ready to go to college, the K.I.N.D. fund will be there to
help her with a scholarship for her high school tuition.
You contributed $2.5 million during the holiday season this year and last
year bringing our total since we started the program to 16,845, $517.
Maureen hopes to become a doctor. If Maureen is lucky, she will come here
to the United States at some point during her medical training. And if
we’re lucky, the people who tonight believe Donald Trump is right and don’t
want anyone like Maureen to come here will someday change their minds, see
the light, and understand how lucky we would be to have her here.
now, I know how naive that can sound, but during most of Martin Luther King
Jr.’s years of crusading for civil rights, it seemed impossible that he
would not just defeat segregation but change people’s mind about
segregation, make them stop believing in it. Martin Luther King Jr. never
gave up on changing people’s minds, even when it seemed hopeless.
To truly honor martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work and the memory of the
man, we must never give up. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. taught us.
That’s what he taught us to do, simply never give up.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.