GOP & Who owns a shutdown Transcript 1/17/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 17, 2018
Guest: Ron Klain, Norm Ornstein
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You know, I`ve been thinking about the president and the porn star story
but haven`t mentioned it on this show. And then, listening to your
analysis of it, you raised a point that I hadn`t considered, which is this
important point about who paid the money?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Who paid the $130,000 that`s reported as a kind of hush money,
buying the silence of this former adult film actress? And that was one of
the issues in the John Edwards case, was who was paying the money to keep
that quiet. And that was investigated as an FEC violation, which is what
you were getting at tonight.
MADDOW: Yes. Whatever you think about, you know, the president and his,
you know, pants and stuff, the issue of money here matters, particularly
when one of these alleged payments happened a month before the election,
another one around that same time. These are both very credibly reported
payments, $130,000, $150,000.
If the “National Enquirer” made one of those payments essentially as an in-
kind donation to the Trump campaign, that may have FEC implications. That
$130,000 that hasn`t been denied by Trump`s personal lawyer, we have no
idea what the source of that is. But again, a month before the election,
there`s potential criminal campaign finance implications there.
So, again, you don`t have to care about the sex part of it to know this
could be a serious story for the president.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and I think it`s one of the stories because there`s a sex
part of it, we`re distracted from the strike zone of the story you found,
which is where the focus should be.
MADDOW: Yes, I put on like as me to bag and glasses with the aviator sides
on it anytime I read the story. No distractions.
O`DONNELL: You`ve read more of it than I have.
MADDOW: I don`t want to talk about it.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: There she goes but taught us another important lesson tonight,
The president and the porn star has been a story since last Friday and I
have not said a word about it because there are so many more important
stories that we have to cover.
Now, this is the very first copy of “In Touch” magazine that I have ever
held in my hands and I`ve learned a lot from this magazine. There`s a lot
more in here than what`s on the cover, including a lot of stuff that I
don`t have time to read. Like everything you could possibly want to know
about everyone and anyone named Kardashian and there are some quick read
items like are they going overboard with lip plumping I actually didn`t
have to read that one to get the right answer which of course is yes. And
there`s some really nice human interest stories like the couple that lost
407 pounds together.
And there`s a story about someone else in the magazine whose doctor would
like him to lose some weight, this guy. That`s one of the pictures of him
that appears in the cover story about the president of the United States
and the porn star. On the cover of the magazine, the headline is: My
Affair with Donald, and it promises you the details inside the magazine
about, quote, secret hotel hookups, how they hid it from Melania, and the
cover asks, will the first lady file for divorce? And I did not have to
read the article to get that answer right to, which is no.
Here is how the cover story is presented inside the magazine. In her own
words, Stormy Daniels, Donald cheated on Melania with me, with an explosive
interview with “In Touch”, a woman from Donald Trump`s past spills her
secrets of their affair. And that is all I have had the time to read in
this article about Donald Trump having an affair with a porn star four
months after his third wife gave birth to his fifth child, 10 years before
he ran for president.
OK, I actually did read one more thing in the article. It`s the big poll
quote in the middle of the article. It`s Stormy Daniels talking about her
first date with Donald Trump. She says, I was definitely stimulated. I
could tell he was nice, intelligent in conversation.
Intelligent in conversation, that is actually the article`s only direct
contribution to the current controversy surrounding the president`s mental
capacities. So, that`s a bit of good news. The president was able to pass
the porn star intelligence test 10 years ago. We didn`t know that until
today, but that`s it. That`s all I had time for in this story, the first
time in history the president of the United States is on the cover of a
magazine with a porn star in a story about them having an affair and the
president paying the porn star $130,000 to buy her silence in the Trump
White House. That is just another day at the office.
And the White House press secretary today was not asked a single question
about the porn star in the president. Not one question. There is no
clearer measure of how much Donald Trump has changed the presidency and how
much Donald Trump has changed the White House press corps and the news
media in America.
But he hasn`t changed the news media the way he wants to change the news
media. He has not bent the news media to his will. He has not beaten them
down to the point where no one in the White House press corps dared to ask
about the president than the porn star today.
He has simply changed the news media`s ability to focus on the president
and the porn star story by creating so many more important stories about
his presidency more urgent stories, including so many more negative stories
about his presidency, stories like his racist attack on all 54 countries in
Africa, stories like the Trump White House chief of staff who decided that
the right thing for him to do today would be to side with Joseph Stalin and
Donald Trump against Republican Senator Jeff Flake who compared Donald
Trump to Joseph Stalin on the floor of the United States Senate.
Talked about Senate history, that`s the first time a senator has compared
president of the United States to Joseph Stalin. And we`re also covering
stories like the president`s former White House chief strategist deciding
to cooperate with the special prosecutor investigating the Trump White
House. That is a more important story then the president and the porn
NBC News reports the source close to Steve Bannon`s legal team says that he
is cooperating with special prosecutor Robert Mueller and will be
interviewed by the special prosecutor`s team of investigators instead of
being subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury. Sources indicated that it is
still undecided exactly when that interview will take place. The source
also tells NBC news the during Bannon`s appearance before the House
Intelligence Committee yesterday, roughly six hours were spent on questions
related to the campaign and another roughly five hours were spent on
questions related to the transition and balance time at the White House.
“The Associated Press” has new details about that. Steve Bannon`s attorney
relayed questions in real time to the White House during a House
Intelligence Committee interview of the former Trump chief strategist.
That`s according to people familiar with the closed-door session.
“The Associated Press” continues, Bannon`s attorney Bill Burck was asking
the White House counsel`s office by phone whether his client could answer
the questions. He was told by that office not to discuss his work on the
transition or in the White House. It`s unclear who Burck communicated
with, or whether it was top White House lawyer Don McGahn.
Burck is also representing Don McGahn in the special counsel Robert
Mueller`s investigation. Tonight, White House chief of staff John Kelly
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Did the White House tell him to invoke
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No.
Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House since he left.
I know Steve a little bit. Not very well. He left the White House and has
certainly never returned to the White House, with the exception of a few
phone calls here and there, very, very little contact with the White House.
And I certainly have never spoke to him since he left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here`s what Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat
on the House Intelligence Committee just said to Rachel about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:
They send General Kelly out today to say we haven`t invoked executive
privilege. Technically, that`s true. But what they have done, which is
more problematic, is saying – telling witnesses, don`t answer the
questions, but also don`t tell the committee that we`ve invoked executive
privilege, we don`t want to look like we`re hiding something by invoking
privilege, but we don`t want you to answer the questions, so don`t answer
If we allow this, it will not only obviously impair our ability to get to
the truth, it will impair the ability of any Congress in the future to hold
any administration accountable if we will simply take no for an answer when
it`s convenient to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for “The
Daily Beast”, and an MSNBC contributor, also with us, Ron Klain, former
chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior
aide to President Obama. He`s also a former chief counsel to the Senate
Judiciary Committee. Also with us, John Heilemann, national affairs
analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
And, Ron Klain, I want to go to this news today about Steve Bannon
Cooperating enough with the special prosecutor that they dropped to the
threat of a subpoena to a grand jury. What is the difference for Bannon
testifying to a grand jury where his lawyer would not be allowed in the
room, I have to answer under oath and speaking in this less formal
interview context with the prosecutor`s office?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I think
the difference is obviously, it`s part of Steve Bannon`s makeup tour with
the White House and I think the differences you noted, Lawrence, is that
his lawyer will be present and as you discussed a moment ago, his lawyer is
also the lawyer for the White House counsel. So, that means that basically
the White House`s lawyer`s lawyer will sit in the room when Bob Mueller
asks Steve Bannon these questions and they will know what Steve Bannon
said, they will know if he said something bad about the president or his
son or whatever.
And so, it is an effort by, I think – I think Bannon and his team are
trying to get right with the White House. They`re kind of on an apology
tour and this seems like it`s – it`s part of that effort.
O`DONNELL: And, John, we just heard Congressman Schiff say that John Kelly
was technically write to that on Fox News when he said no to the question
of, was Bannon invoking executive privilege? But when you listen to the
congressman, he said, yes, OK, so he was invoking some kind of privilege
that doesn`t even have a name. I mean, least executive privilege has a
name even though you would be falsely applying it.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALSYT: Yes, this has
been one of the consistent frustrations for people on the Hill and one of
the consistent frustrations I would hope for the American public that
you`ve seen throughout these investigations over the course of 2017, Trump
administration officials going forward and saying I`m not going to answer
that question to Senate and White House investigators –
O`DONNELL: Yes. And in some of the televised hearings, it seems Jeff
Sessions do that.
HEILEMANN: Many times and some of the national security people as well,
and they have come back – the senators have come back and said, well, are
you invoking the executive privilege. So, I`m not talking executive
privilege, I`m just not going to answer.
HEILEMANN: And it turns out the problem is this is a wrong without a
remedy, because you can be censured by the committee, you could be censured
by the Senate, you probably know more about Senate rules than I do.
But in the end, you can, it turns out, just say, I`m not invoking executive
privilege, I`m not going to answer the question, slap me on the wrist if
you want but I`m not going to do it. It`s profoundly anti-Democratic and
it`s not at all helpful and it`s not – it`s outside all precedent, but
what`s new with the Trump administration?
And, Betsy, these witnesses know that the only real remedy Congress has in
those kinds of hearings is to basically charge them with contempt of
Congress which becomes a complicated legal proceeding which ends up in
court and Congress has to be pushed really far to take that kind of action.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Correct, you`d have to have a majority
vote either in the House or the Senate to hold someone in contempt of
Congress and then the either chamber would have to refer that contempt
citation to the U.S. attorney for the district of Washington, D.C., and
that U.S. attorney would decide whether or not to bring charges.
And one thing that I imagine your viewers may be aware of is that Jesse
Liu, who`s currently the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., was a member
of President Trump`s transition team. The likelihood that a Republican
House or Republican Senate would refer four charges, one of the president`s
former advisors, and then a U.S. attorney who was part of the president`s
transition team would bring charges against that person is incredibly low.
And that`s why the Mueller investigation is so important because for all
practical purposes, Congress just doesn`t have that much leverage, doesn`t
have very many tools and it`s toolbox to get people in the White House to
give it information.
O`DONNELL: And one of the great lines of the many great Steve Bannon lines
in Michael Wolff`s book one of them is quoting Bannon now saying, there`s
no executive privilege. We proved that with Watergate.
So, Bannon himself, without having gone to law school, gets it.
Let`s listen, I want to listen what Adam Schiff said tonight about Corey
Lewandowski today. Corey Lewandowski was in the Steve Bannon chair today
in the closed-door session with the committee. Let`s listen to what
Congressman Schiff says about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Mr. Lewandowski came to testify. Yesterday, he said on Fox that
he would answer every question we had. Today, however, he refused to
answer questions like Steve Bannon that referred to anything after he left
the campaign. Now, he`s not an administration official, never has been an
administration official, is obviously no privilege of the promised here.
Those questions included by the way, did you have a conversation with the
president United States within the last 24 hours where you discussed your
testimony? And that is a question he would not answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, that last question is something that lawyers
ask all the time depositions in courtrooms who have you talked to to
prepare your testimony. But the Lewandowski refusal to answer question is
just inconceivable grounds for that.
KLAIN: Yes, you know, it goes back to what John said a minute ago. The
Trump administration has invented the “I just don`t want to answer that”
privilege and, you know, a kind of a toothless Republican Congress seems
generally inclined to accept the “I just don`t want to answer that”
privilege. And there are two problems with that, that one, it is a very
bad precedent for the future. That`s a problem.
But I will say conversely, as Betsy referred to, this is not going to be
the case when these people get in front of Bob Mueller. Bob Mueller is not
going to accept the, hey, I just don`t want to answer that privilege. He
is going to make these witnesses answer. They will answer voluntarily or
he will go compel their testimony and it comes down to the question whether
or not, particularly, Steve Bannon, wants to play on team Trump or is mad
at the president, and whether or not Donald Trump has more to fear from
Stormy Daniels or Stormy Steve, you know that`s the question we don`t know
O`DONNELL: And we also have a report tonight, at least Bannon apparently
gave at least one answer according to “Axios”. They`re saying Bannon
admitted that he`d had conversations with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and
legal spokesman Mark Corallo about Don Jr.`s infamous meeting with the
Russians and Trump Tower in 2016, June 2016.
And, John, that`s something he`s going to have to tell the special
prosecutor all about, that conversation.
HEILEMANN: That crucial. It`s crucial and the reality is that there`s a
bunch of things like that – Ron is right – the question is, does Bannon
is he trying to kill the president or is he trying to make up with him?
But the reality is, he`s now on the record in the Wolff book saying a lot
of things that are interesting areas for exploration. This is one of the
It`s true that Bannon was not with this campaign and was not working for
Donald Trump during the period of time when most of the things that we are
concerned with, with respect to a lot of the collusion inquiry took place.
However, because of the instance that you`re talking about, that is a
pivotal incident in the obstruction of justice case and if he had the
conversation that he admits that he had, presumably he did, he now has not
only as he involved and have valuable testimony to give on the question of
obstruction, but he also that has a window into the speculative stuff that
he`s saying about what happened around the Russia meeting in June of 2016.
So, that opens up two lines of fruitful inquiry just on this one mistake
that he seems to have made yesterday before the House Intel Committee.
And, Betsy, a conversation like that is a prosecutor`s dream because
Bannon`s in a position to tell the prosecutor what Reince Priebus said that
he knew about that meeting.
O`DONNELL: What Sean Spicer knew about that meeting, what Mark Corallo
knew about that meeting, and beyond that, he – you know, Reince Priebus
might have said that he had heard from someone else some fact about that
meeting all of that becomes discoverable material once Steve Bannon is
talking to special prosecutor.
WOODRUFF: Certainly, and all of this really paints a picture of man and as
potentially being a really vital witness to Mueller and to his team.
That`s why it`s so important that what we`re hearing from Bannon world
early last evening when he came out of that House Intel Committee hearing
and then throughout the day is that Bannon is planning on being very candid
very open with Mueller.
One source told me that Bannon is going to tell Mueller everything he
knows. That`s really important for Mueller and his team. That said, one
piece of context that I think is vital to this conversation, circling back
to the White House section is that the White House has not been consistent
in what its had senior staff do when they go before the House Intel
I was told by a source today and Congressman Schiff might have said this
publicly, that a Rick Dearborn who`s currently the White House deputy chief
of staff answered questions from members that he didn`t say that there was
any sort of executive privilege or any areas that he wasn`t allowed to talk
about that he was candid in a way that many members actually found to be
sort of heartening, but also extremely out of step with the message the
White House has been sending. So, it seems like and this will probably not
shock folks to hear, that the White House is planning for these House
Intelligence Committee hearings is not as organized and not as put together
as folks in the White House may have hoped, it would be.
And the result is we`re seeing the president`s legal team and the White
House legal team be caught flat-footed again and again, and what that means
for Bannon talking to Mueller is that it`s very tough to game out how ready
they`ll be from a defense perspective for any information that Bannon gave
to the special counsel.
O`DONNELL: That`s all hugely important, Betsy. It does sound chaotic that
there`s someone who does conceivably have grounds for a claiming executive
privilege, who doesn`t at all, and then two other people who have seen lee
no grounds for it are claiming some kind of mysterious privilege.
Betsy Woodruff, thank you very much for your invaluable input tonight.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump has the Republicans headed for a
possible shutdown this week a shutdown that the gut that the Republicans
are come in complete control of one way or another. They control the House
of Representatives, they control the Senate, they control the White House.
The shutdown is theirs if it happens.
And that is why Paul Ryan is running scared. He`s running so scared that
he has told people he will not run for re-election in Wisconsin, and the
news for Republicans in Wisconsin got a lot worse last night.
O`DONNELL: – secretary of state has reportedly referred to the president
as a moron and some reports indicated he put a colorful and profane
adjective in front of the word moron when he called the president a moron.
Today, the president`s chief of staff called him uninformed. And now, we
are all uninformed about something. In fact, we`re all uninformed about
most things. But we are supposed to be informed, in fact, very highly
informed, about the knowledge needed to operate effectively in our jobs.
Today, White House chief of staff John Kelly said the president is
uninformed about. It`s the kind of thing that provokes other people in
your workplace to call you a moron.
Mitch McConnell is too much of a Kentucky gentleman to publicly say the
president is a moron. But he said essentially the same thing today when he
spoke to reporters and said the only problem to avoiding a shut down was
that the president doesn`t know what he wants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I`m looking for something
that President Trump supports, and he`s not yet indicated what measure he`s
willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be
convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels going to this issue on
the floor, but actually dealing with a bill that has a chance to become law
and therefore solve the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As soon as we figure out what he`s for, and Republican senators
standing around him nodding their heads about that. No Senate leader has
ever publicly complained about the president of his own party not having
any idea what he is for in legislation. Mark Meadows, the right wing
extremist leader of a group of House Republicans who call themselves the
Freedom Caucus says it is impossible for the Republican leadership to pass
a government funding bill with only Republican votes.
Mark Meadows said, quote: They do not have the votes. And, of course, they
do not have the votes because Mark Meadows won`t give them the votes.
That is why chief of staff John Kelly was on the Capitol Hill trying to
find a compromise position between Democrats and Republicans that could
create a large enough vote to avoid a shutdown.
“The Washington Post” reports John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers that
some of President Trump`s campaign promises on immigration were, quote,
uninformed. And Kelly reportedly said a concrete wall from sea to shining
sea is not going to happen, and there will be no wall that Mexico will pay
Joining us now: Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the American
Enterprise Institute and co-author of the book “One Nation After Trump”.
John Heilemann is back with us.
And, Norm, we have seen the government approached the whole government
shutdown deadlines many, many times in the past. We`ve never seen it quite
like this before.
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL EXPERT: That`s for sure, Lawrence. We`ve had
shutdowns when Ronald Reagan was president and at least one house of
Congress was controlled by the Democrats. We had shutdowns when Bill
Clinton was president obviously precipitated by then Speaker Newt Gingrich.
We had one with Republicans precipitating one when Barack Obama was
This will be the first time if it happens when you have all of the reins of
government effectively controlled by one party and by any standard, they
could do it on their own and if they don`t, it`s their responsibility.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Lindsey Graham tonight on the Senate floor
because the person he seems to be blaming for where we are now among others
but high on his list is White House chief of staff John Kelly. Let`s
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: General Kelly, as much as I
admire you, for 10 years, I and many others in this body have been trying
to find a way forward to fix an immigration system is broken they`re
turning into a merit-based immigration system over time to get the 11
million right with the law. So, I haven`t been fiddling. What I asked the
White House is find out what you`re for. I can`t read your mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, that`s about as insulting as Lindsey Graham`s
going to get to John Kelly and Donald Trump right now.
HEILEMANN: Yes, sir, that`s exactly right. You know, look, Lindsey
Graham`s been landed at the feet of John Kelly and the White House staff
and, you know, Kelly talked about this on Fox News tonight, so I went up
and talked to my friend Senator Graham, he`s trying to figure out a way
But, look, I mean, in the end, this is not a staffing problem. This is not
a John Kelly problem. This is not even really a Donald Trump problem. So,
go back to Norm`s point. This is a problem of one of the latest of many
vivid illustrations over the course of last year that the Republican Party
is not a functional governing party. It is a deeply profoundly corrupt
institution that made a bunch of promises for instance about repealing and
replacing the Affordable Care Act for eight years and then got a chance to
do it and had no idea how to do it. That was one vivid illustration.
This is another one, we`re headed towards a government shutdown because
Republicans, even though they control every part of the government that`s
relevant, this process cannot get their act together on not just this
immigration thing, but on a wide array of things. This is not a hard thing
for unitary government to do and they are on the brink of failing at this
very basic task.
O`DONNELL: Norm, when you think of other president`s White House`s when
they send up the White House chief of staff or, you know, their best
political operative which is usually the White House chief of staff to work
on something like this with the Congress, they`re sending up someone far
more experienced than John Kelly who has absolutely no experience in
politics. He has Donald Trump`s amount of experience in politics even less
because he wasn`t on the Trump campaign.
And what`s going on there is politics and John Kelly is completely lost.
ORNSTEIN: And that`s true of almost everybody in the White House. But I
think it`s important to note, Lawrence, that what John Kelly said in his
interview with Bret Baier today reinforced something that we learned
before, that it was Kelly and probably in conjunction with Steve Miller who
killed the possibility of an agreement that Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin
and Jeff Flake and others had worked out that might have avoided a shutdown
and actually resulted in something constructive moving forward.
Kelly called Tom Cotton and then called Bob Goodlatte, two people who will
never be a part of a comprehensive way of dealing with DACA or the rest of
immigration to make sure that to make sure Trump didn`t do something they
didn`t want. And Trump who didn`t know much about anything, much less what
was in the agreement or what it would do was basically was set off by
Kelly. So Kelly doesn`t know politics. But also intervened because of his
own strong Nativist views, which have become apparent over a long period of
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes, that was very obviously. We have
time for one quick prediction, question. One word answer, John Heilemann
will there be a shutdown? Yes or no. OK, yes. Norm Ornstein, what do you
ORNSTEIN: I think so, yes.
O`DONNELL: And my vote is I don`t know.
ORNSTEIN: You can`t do that Lawrence
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Just it`s because it`s your show you
get to do that.
O`DONNELL: I got no (INAUDIBLE). I said at the outset, we`re all – we
all have pockets of ignorance. This is mine. I can`t guess what`s going
HEILEMANN: That`s cheap and sad.
O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein thank you very for joining us.
ORNSTEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to endure John Heilemann for another segment. Coming
up, what history was made in the United States Senate today. It was a very
sad history made there, when a Republican Senator actually compared the
President of the United States to Joseph Stalin. And this is important, no
one in the Senate was surprised and no one in the Senate objected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF FLAKE, UNITED STATES SENATOR: “Not only has the past year seen an
American President borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but
it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with this own
language. That is reprehensible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steven Spielberg`s new film The Post, a truly inspiring story of
the free press at work has been banned in Lebanon. That`s the kind of
thing previous Presidents used to condemn. But it`s now the kind of thing
the President of the United States encourages. Here`s more from Senator
Jeff Flake today who became the first Senator in history to compare the
President of the United States to Joseph Stalin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLAKE: The enemy of the people was how the President of the United States
called the free press in 2017. Mr. President, it is a testament to the
condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously
spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so
fraught with malice was the phrase enemy of the people that even Nikita
Khrushchev forbade its use telling the Soviet Communist Party that the
phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such
individuals” who disagree with the Supreme Leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, on Fox News, Whitehouse Chief of staff John Kelly
was not asked why he lied about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson 90 days ago
and has never apologized for those lies even though video has proven that
everything he said about Congressman Wilson was a lie. But when offered
the chance to side with Joseph Stalin and Donald Trump or Senator Jeff
Flake, that was an easy choice for John Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a speech today, Arizona Republican senator said the
president`s description of the press as fake news is Staliness. How do you
respond to all that?
JOHN KELLY, WHITEHOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it`s unfortunate that he
would do that. I think he`s completely wrong. It suggests to me – well, I
just think he`s completely wrong. I think it`s beneath him. But he is a
United States Senator and he has his opinions and he can voice them anyway
he wants I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Nina Khrushcheva, Professor of International
Affairs at New School and the great granddaughter of Nikita Khrushcheva who
once leader of the Soviet Union and Yascha Mounk a lecturer on government
at Harvard and the author of the People versus democracy, why our freedom
is in danger and how to save it. Nina, referee this dispute between John
Kelly and Jeff Flake. John Kelly says, I think he`s completely wrong, when
Jeff Flake was talking about comparing Trump`s language to Joseph Stalin.
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: When I think John Kelly is completely
wrong because enemy of the people was a very well known phrased that was
used in Stalin`s Russia, was used in Hitler`s Germany to brand anybody who
was disagreeing with the political system right from the top. So this is
actually historical fact. It`s truth and, therefore, John Kelly is wrong.
Although, I do want to say when we speak about Flake – Senator Flake
comparing Trump to Joseph Stalin, I think we are wrong because he didn`t
compare them. He just compared the language which I think in a democracy
already is a coup but nonetheless it`s not a direct comparison between the
O`DONNELL: Explain on that point in a democracy it`s coup if the
President is using Stalin`s language.
KHRUSHCHEVA: Well in a democracy it is a coupe because not only the
President is using enemy of the people, not only summarily the press
organizations today which we saw the results of the fake news award, which
is remarkable in many ways, so it is a coup that the President summarily
brands those who disagree with them as the enemies and those who produce
fake information – that is something that non-democracies do. so I think
in this sense it`s a coup that in his language the President cites those
well known dictators, and not just the 20th century dictators but all
autocrats from and memorial.
O`DONNELL: That`s another point Jeff Flake went on to make. Let`s listen
to more of what he said, talking about President Assad of Syria and Rodrigo
Duterte of the Philippines. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLAKE: In February Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty
International report that some 13,000 people had been killed in one of his
military prisons by saying you can forge anything these days, we`re living
in the fake news era.
In the Philippines, the President Rodrigo Duterte complained of being
demonized by fake news. Last month the report continues with our President
“laughing by his side” Duterte called reporters spies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Yascha Mounk the President has been fueling this kind of
things since he started denying President Obama`s birth certificate was the
President`s birth certificate.
YASCHA MOUNK, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean you know what
we`re seeing is a full-scale attack on basic rules and norms of democracy.
And most important of that is politics on the basis of truth.
You can`t go about as a top politician and simply make things up if it
happens to be useful to you. In fact I think what Trump is doing one step
further. Not just he lies when it`s convenient, which politicians do, it`s
that he wants to overwhelm with so many claims and ridiculousness that
nobody can actually orient themselves. That we all have to give up
thinking what`s right, wrong, did happen and didn`t happen, and everyone
goes with their own team. When that happens, you no longer have a rational
basis for democracy.
O`DONNELL: You wrote saying Trump himself has not been normalized. But
the fact that the President of the United States is deeply abnormal has.
Expand on that.
MOUNK: Yes, I was reflecting on where we`re at one year into The trump
presidency. if you remember the sort of mood after Trump you was elected
and his first days in office, there were all these warnings and we would
end up normalizing Donald Trump and what people meant is we would start to
think that Trump and his policy and his administration are an ordinary part
of American political life.
Look at the spectacle of the last day, the comments that Trump reportedly
made about African countries, if you think about the extraordinary news
about Stormy Daniels, even if you think about today`s fake news award,
everybody knows this is not normal, right? Everybody realizes we`re living
in this extraordinary bizarre times. But I`ve seen people over the last 12
months get used to it. they haven`t changed how they act, that`s true of
Republicans in Congress who haven`t stood up to Donald Trump, it`s true of
the stock markets that even though there`s downside risks from him,
possibly government shutdown on so on, is going from one strength to
another, and I think it`s even true with some of the people who most
despise Donald Trump who want to stand up to him, a year ago, the huge
protests against him, now the protests are much smaller. I think we have
normalized living in an abnormal situation. And that is just as dangerous.
O`DONNELL: Nina Khrushcheva and Yascha Mounk thank you both for joining
us. I really appreciate it.
KHRUSHCHEVA: Thank you.
MOUNK: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Democrats got a big, big win last night. And now,
Paul Ryan is more worried than he`s ever been. The Republicans are feeling
the wave coming.
O`DONNELL: If any Republican couldn`t see the wave coming before today,
they can all see it now. After a special election last night in Wisconsin,
Republican Governor Scott Walker tweeted, Senate District 10 Special
Election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.
A very long time ago, actually about three years ago, Scott Walker was the
front runner for the Presidential nomination, then came Donald Trump and
now comes the wave. The wave that Republicans fare fear is going to wipe
them out in this year`s Congressional elections. Wisconsin Republicans
including Paul Ryan were already afraid, which is why Paul Ryan has
reportedly told confidants that he will not run for reelection Congress
this year. Here`s what Paul Ryan had to say about yesterday`s big
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with Scott Walker that last night`s
results were a wake up call for Republicans and is it evidence that a
potential wave election is coming in November.
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well I know Sheila Harsdorf, very, very
well. I know this district fairly well. It`s not my district. It`s over
in Western Wisconsin. But typically we held the seat, and we lost it last
night, so yes, I think we should pay attention for it.
O`DONNELL: It sounds like Ryan speak for it looks like the Democrats are
in for a big win in the elections. John Heilemann and Ron Klain will l be
back to discuss that next.
O`DONNELL: In that special election to the Wisconsin Senate last night,
the democrat Patty Schachtner beat her Republican opponent by 11 points,
55-44. Donald Trump won that district by 17 points in 2016 and Republicans
have held that seat for 17 years. Back with us John Heilemann and Ron
Klain. And Ron, when you`re looking for – looking at the horizon, looking
for a wave, is this the kind of thing you look at?
RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. You know Lawrence I`m sitting here in
front of the capitol. Were a 100 miles from the Atlantic Ocean but even
here you can see the blue wave forming on the horizon. And you know look I
think it relates so much in the last segment you had. You know we are a
democracy. And Trump`s excesses are going to have a reckoning.
I think that reckoning has been in these special elections all along. But
particularly will be this fall with the Congressional Elections. And, you
know, that`s largely because of a reaction to the kind of presidency Donald
Trump has had, and because of tremendous activism and enthusiasm by the
grass roots. What`s really exciting is these victories we`re seeing in
special elections, 35 state legislative seats flipped since Donald Trump
became President. That`s not because of people in Washington like me. It`s
because of people in the grassroots are really getting active and really
reacting to what they`re seeing.
O`DONNELL: And John, you always wonder how far down-ballot does
presidential impact go. And now you`re looking at these state legislature
elections. But when you have a polling question like this, new Quinnipiac
Poll, is the President mentally stable? No, 47 percent, yes, 45 percent.
That has never been a question in a poll.
HEILEMANN: He`s doing worse on that poll question than I would do, that`s
O`DONNELL: But we can`t even compare that to previous Presidents, because
no one thought to ask the question. And when questions like that are being
asked by the head of your party it`s got to be tough way down ballot.
HEILEMANN: Sure, it`s going to be tough very down the ballot. And look
midterm elections are always referendums on the President whose in power.
They are nationalized elections mostly at the House level and down ballot,
not so much the Senator and Gubernatorial levels. They kind of make their
own wind and weather.
But I`m not good at math but I think the number that we just looked at was
a 17-point, 18-point swing. Cornell Belcher was on air earlier tonight
saying you know a pollster, somebody who knows a lot about numbers more
than I do. And he said you know you don`t see that kind of swing. That`s
a crazy swing, right?
And you look at the generic ballot. You look at what we`ve seen in terms
of the enthusiasm of the democratic base. You look at the way the voters
are peeling off from moderate, suburban Republicans, who are peeling off
from the party on Republican side. You look at all the evidence. You kook
at everything that we`ve seen and then this.
Wisconsin is not really Trump Country. Wisconsin is the state that has
been a blue state for a pretty long time. It`s purplish, right? Hillary
Clinton didn`t go there in the fall campaign, sorry to say that To Ron
Klain. But the campaigns did not send here there. And it allowed Trump to
go in and steal the state.
Right now there`s a lot of places in the country like that. places like
Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, that are not Trump country, and
they are going to – that is where you are going to see this down-ballot
effect where there`s going to be the blue wave well into the industrial
heartland and a lot of other places if we keep heading this direction.
O`DONNELL: Ands Ron, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, his home state,
Wisconsin. He`s trying to lead the House of Representatives, the
Republican side of the House of Representatives, and he won`t tell them he
himself will run for re-election this year. And apparently has privately
told confidants that he won`t. He apparently doesn`t believe he can get re-
elected in Wisconsin this year.
KLAIN: Yes, it`s like the scene in The Titanic where he people on the top
decks are trying to get to the boats while everyone else is trying to
figure it out. So, you know, Paul Ryan sees what`s coming. But the truth
is, even if Paul Ryan`s trying to hide what he`s doing, a record number of
House Republicans, a record number of House Republicans are retiring.
O`DONNELL: And the Chairman.
KLAIN: Chairman and people who have spent their whole careers being there
for this moment. They`re retiring Lawrence for a reason, because they know
that wave is coming and they know that this comeuppance for Donald Trump is
going to take them down too.
HEILEMANN: The number at this date, eight House Republican Chairmen at
this point. Something you never see, a year out, eight House Republican
Chairmen who have decided to step down for no reason –
O`DONNELL: And there`s plenty of time for more of them to take that
decision. Ron Klain, John Heilemann, thank you for joining us, really
KLAIN: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from the House of Representatives, the
House Rules Committee has just voted on a short-term funding bill to avoid
a government shutdown that would fund the government till February 16th.
It would include no provision for DACA, nothing on DACA.
It would include a six-year extension of the Child Health Insurance
Program, children`s Health Insurance Program. It would also suspend for
two years some of the taxes in the Affordable Care Act. That could be voted
on in the House of Representatives tomorrow. That`s tonight`s Last Word.
The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.
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