House passes bill to avert shurtdown Transcript 1/18/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL
Date: January 18, 2018
Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Barbara McQuade, Steven Buser, Frank Thorp
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, do we know in the reporting
tonight that whether the president is going to Florida at the request of
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the belief that this can only work with
him out of town?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: You know, Mitch McConnell, as this gets
to be longer and longer days and they keep talking and talking about this
and it’s not getting resolved and they keep trying to get the Democrats to
cave on the Dreamers, Mitch McConnell keeps speaking more and more openly
about he has no idea what the president wants. And so, if he’s supposed to
pass something that the president will sign, it would be helpful if he
could figure out what the president wants, but he has no clue.
O’DONNELL: Yes. And, of course, the president doesn’t understand the
significance of the majority leader saying that. It is – one fact is, no
Republican leader in history has ever stood on the Senate floor and said, I
don’t know what the Republican president wants. You won’t find that in the
congressional record anywhere.
MADDOW: You know, and the reason they use the shutdown willy-nilly, I
think recklessly and irresponsibly as a political tactic is because they
always hope when the government shutdowns happen, there will be somebody
clear to blame and it will be happening for a clear reason, right? They
think they’ll make a hero and goat out of this.
In this case, they’re planning on shutting down the government, while they
control all branches of governance for something they can’t explain that
they don’t know if they agree with the president about.
O’DONNELL: And they’ll make history doing that. We never had the one
party control model on a government shut down.
MADDOW: That’s right. Thanks, my friend.
O’DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
O’DONNELL: Well, the United States government is on the verge of a
shutdown tonight because the president of the United States did not get
what he wanted from Mexico.
The president has said that if there is a shutdown he will, of course,
blame it on the Democrats for not giving the president what he wanted, but
the truth is, the president would be shutting down the government because
he surrendered the power to shut down the American government to the
Mexican government. The deal that the president wanted to avoid a shutdown
included $20 billion of American taxpayer money to pay for the Trump wall
on our southern border. The wall the president always promised Mexico
would pay for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re going to have a real
wall and who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: You better believe it, 100 percent, 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That was Donald Trump during the campaign, nothing about a wall
that you could see through, nothing about allowing hundreds of miles of the
border not to have a wall because the terrain there is too rough, just
we’re going to have a real wall.
And here he is two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have there been any more efforts to get Mexico to pay for the
TRUMP: I believe Mexico will pay for the wall. I have a good relationship
with Mexico. As you know, we’re negotiating NAFTA. We’ll see how that
goes. Yes, but Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: But Mexico will not pay for the wall and that is why the
American government is on the verge of a shutdown. Donald Trump humiliated
himself to everyone with a high school level understanding of government
when he first said Mexico will pay for the wall.
And then he got personally humiliated on the telephone with the president
of Mexico when the president of Mexico told him in very empathic terms, he
would not pay for the wall, to which the president of the United States
said, you cannot say that to the press. If you are going to say that,
Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with
you guys anymore, because I cannot live with that.
There was the great negotiator the Trump voters put in the White House.
The great tough guy the Trump voters believed they put in the White House.
When the president of Mexico got tough with him, he had no idea what to do
or say next. He had no idea what to say, and so, that was it.
Donald Trump was beaten in that phone call by the president of Mexico,
humiliated by the president of Mexico. So, now, Donald Trump is going to
shut down the American government because the president of Mexico shut him
We now know the real truth of what Donald Trump was saying on the campaign
trail was, Mexico will pay for the wall, if Mexico doesn’t pay for the
wall, I will shut down the government to try to get Congress to pay for the
wall with your taxpayer money.
The president is ceding our sovereignty to Mexico. The president is
willing to allow the government to be shutdown because Mexico did not pay
for the wall.
No president of the United States has ever given a foreign country that
kind of power. What if Donald Trump’s campaign speech had been, we will
build a wall and I will force the Democrats in Congress to pay for that
wall with your tax dollars or I will shut down the government.
Today, the president tweeted this. We need the wall for the safety and
security of our country. We need the wall to help stop the massive inflow
of drugs from Mexico, now rated number one most dangerous country in the
world. If there is no wall, there is no deal. And here we are tonight
because the president failed to get Mexico to pay for the wall.
The Senate began debating tonight a bill passed by the House today that
would continue funding the government until February 16th. It would extend
the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, something that
Democrats want. That provision was obviously attached to the bill in the
hope of attracting Democratic votes, but only six Democrats in the House of
Representatives voted for the bill today.
Joining us, Adam Jentleson, former deputy of chief of staff to Senator
Harry Reid and current director for public affairs for Democracy Forward.
Also, joining us, Sam Stein, politics editor of “The Daily Beast” and an
MSNBC contributor. Daniel Dale is also with us. He’s the Washington
correspondent for “The Toronto Star”.
Adam, how do you see this play unfolding on the Senate floor tonight?
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, one of the
things you’re seeing tonight is more manipulation by Mitch McConnell
because, you know, one of the secrets of the Senate is it can move very
fast when it wants to. And the bill that came over from the House could be
voted on tonight, Senator Schumer tried to. Democrats could show that
they’re going to defeat it and actually leave an entire another day for
negotiation and a day in negotiation terms, especially this close to a
deadline is eons.
So, one of the many ways in which Mitch McConnell is manufacturing shutdown
is he’s preventing a vote that could happen tonight from happening, so they
could move on and try to cut a last minute deal or something like that.
He’s trying to hold the vote open until tomorrow because he thinks it will
put more pressure on them. But this is purely a manufactured shutdown by
O’DONNELL: And here is the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard a
Senate leader say in a situation like this. Here’s Mitch McConnell saying
tonight on the Senate floor that he does not know what the president wants.
Let’s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The presidency, under our
constitutional system is not irrelevant. He’s the person who signs things
into law. And for most of us in the house and Senate on the Republican
side, we’re interested in what his views are. And those have not been made
fully apparent yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Sam Stein, that’s a moment we have never seen in a situation
like this before.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and we’ve never seen a president have
an affair with a porn star either. So, these are weeks and days of firsts,
But it is presenting a few interesting and difficult quandaries for
lawmakers on the Hill. This morning, the president tweeted, as he’s prone
to do, that he didn’t want a six year CHIP extension attached to a short-
term government funding bill, which was news to basically everyone in
Washington, D.C. because that’s what the Republican strategy has been and
is for funding the government. What we were reporting today is that it
threw things momentarily into utter chaos on the Hill. Where Republicans
are to check if the bill they were attaching the entire government funding
operation to would end up being vetoed by the president. That’s a peculiar
thing to have to inquire about 48 hours before the government shuts down.
So he’s creating a lot of problems for the process and it doesn’t make
Mitch McConnell’s life easier or Chuck Schumer’s life easier, whether he –
he met with Nancy Pelosi and President Trump and had a DACA deal, but that
DACA a deal was rescinded shortly thereafter.
O’DONNELL: Daniel Dale, does the White House really believe that Donald
Trump flying to Florida tomorrow, just getting out of town, will somehow
absolve him of any blame for the government shutdown.
DANIEL DALE, TORONTO STARR: I think the White House knows Donald Trump
wants to go to Florida, and they let him do what he wants, they let him
have his two scoops of ice cream and let him go to Florida when he wants to
do that. I think it’s clear regardless of who’s to blame for this issue,
the president will be blamed. He has unified control of the government.
The president gets blamed when it’s not really his fault. Voters hold him
accountable for making congress run.
And I think what’s interesting here, is Trump has surrendered some of his
leverage in making the case himself for specialness of Dreamers. So, the
Republican line is, do Democrats want to shut down the government for
illegal immigration? How is that going to work for you? Well, Trump has
made it that Dreamers are a special case, that they deserve to be treated
with heart, as the president said, they deserve to be protected.
So I don’t know if the primary argument is going to work for them the way
the president thinks it is.
O’DONNELL: And, Adam, going back to the Senate, Lindsey Graham, Republican
who’s been trying to maintain a relationship with the president so that he
can influence the president in these matters. He’s hit a point of
exasperation telling “The Washington Post” today we don’t have a reliable
partner at the White House to negotiate with t. Graham said that Thursday
morning this has turned into an s-show for no good reason.
And, Adam, he clearly is aiming that at both the president and John Kelly
because he has talked specifically about Kelly’s attempts to go up to the
hill and try to negotiate something because he thinks he’s a better
negotiator than Lindsey Graham.
JENTLESON: Yes, that’s right. I’ve never seen a more dysfunctional set of
negotiations in my life. It’s really something. But, yet, another thing
interesting about Lindsey Graham, is that Lindsey Graham also said he would
not vote for the House-passed CR, which tells you something. Which is that
Mitch McConnell may not have 50 Republican votes for the partisan House-
passed CR bill to keep the government open.
So, part of the reason McConnell is leaning on Democrats so heavily is that
he probably has failed to manufacture a majority of Republicans to vote for
his own bill. There’s a bipartisan that will pass easily, which he’s
blocking. But he can’t get the votes for the House-passed CR, the one
Republicans need to keep the government open. And so, he’s leaning on
Democrats to cover for his own failure.
O’DONNELL: Well, Adam, let’s pause for that for a second, because I’ve
been wondering about that myself, and I’ve been wondering about whether the
Democrats and Chuck Schumer should drop any 60-vote threshold and watch
this thing actually go to a vote, a straight ahead vote on the Senate
floor, a majority vote and see if it fails on the majority vote.
JENTLESON: Well, you need unanimous consent to do that. You need
cooperation of all 100 senators. Although Republicans would look silly if
they tried to block Democrats from letting them have majority threshold on
a bill they claim is important to have the government open. So –
O’DONNELL: Yes. Well, it is – it is one of the tactics that is
Sam Stein, I want to go back to the president flying out of town and if the
vice president flies out of town, then you know that they don’t think
there’s anything that they can do here. But the president going to Florida
just completely leaving the scene of the shutdown, how do you expect that
STEIN: Well, it’s not so much that he’s at his own property probably
playing golf while tens, if not hundreds of thousands of government workers
are furloughed, which is fairly bad optics, I would surmise. But it’s also
a wasted opportunity.
I remember after the 2013 shutdown, one of the things that Obama White
House did frantically was they had Obama in settings like going to Lincoln
Memorial, or walking down the street to get, you know, sandwich and stuff
that showed he was still working, even though the government wasn’t and
that also putting a spotlight on the government functions that weren’t
working that the tax-paying public wouldn’t be able to take advantage of.
And to be brutally frank about shutdowns, they’re really tedious blame
games, right? It’s really about which side can endure the most political
pressure before blinking. And one of the great tools the president has is
the bully pulpit. It’s the fact that you can’t get cameras following you
So I don’t really see this as so much a dumb PR move, although it probably
is one, it’s really a wasted opportunity for Trump to stay in D.C. and
hammer home the message that he’s still working even if the government is
O’DONNELL: Let’s listen to what Paul Ryan says about this as he tried to
play the blame game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I ask the American people to
understand this. The only people in the way of keeping the government open
are Senate Democrats. Whether there is a government a shut down or not is
now entirely up to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Daniel Dale, Paul Ryan seems to have forgotten about the
president of Mexico who was the first person who stood in the way of paying
for the wall.
DALE: Sure. I mean, you know, he’s omitting the president of the United
States who rejected a bipartisan deal after saying that he would sign
anything brought to him. So, you know, I agree with Sam.
This is – we’ve seen this movie before, you know? They’re going to blame
each other. Some of the arguments are going to be rational, and some of
them are not going to be. But I think it’s clear to everyone, Democrats
cannot be solely blamed at least for what we’re seeing tonight.
O’DONNELL: We’re going to have to squeeze in a break here. Sam Stein,
thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, the FBI is investigating whether Russia funneled
money to the National Rifle Association which then helped fund Donald
Trump’s presidential campaign.
And, predictably, President Trump is reportedly livid at John Kelly after
John Kelly called him uninformed.
O’DONNELL: – now adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. And that is, of
course, to try to put more pressure on Democrats who somehow find a way to
join Republicans in voting for a bill that passed the House of
Representatives today to keep the government funded until February 16th.
Tonight, John Kelly might be learning the hard way that Donald Trump
doesn’t believe in evolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He has evolved in the way he’s
looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things and this
president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: “The New York Times” reports that President Trump was livid
when John Kelly described him as evolving in his immigration position.
Throughout the evening on Wednesday, Mr. Trump fielded calls from allies
who described Mr. Kelly’s comments to Congress as undermining the
president, stoking Mr. Trump’s fury before John Kelly talked about Trump
evolution on Fox News, he had been quoted by some Democrats telling them
that Donald Trump had been uninformed about some immigration issues when
campaigning for president, and has evolved since then.
The president tried to kill the theory of evolution saying in tweets the
wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day icon
received of it. If there is no wall, there is no deal.
Here’s what the president had to say when he was asked about John Kelly
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He’s great. I think he’s doing a great job. I think General Kelly
has done a really great job. He is a very special guy.
REPORTER: Did you mind him calling you uninformed about immigration.
REPORTER: Did you mind that he told members of Congress that you were not
fully informed about immigration?
TRUMP: No, he didn’t say that. Well, I don’t think – he didn’t say it
the way you would like him to say it. He didn’t say that. He’s doing a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Joining us now, Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent
for “The Daily Mail”, and back with us, Adam Jentleson.
And as we just heard the president say what a great job and great guy John
Kelly is, I just want to remind us what the president had to stay about
Steve Bannon four days before he was fired. Let’s take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have confident in Steve?
TRUMP: Well, let’s see. And, look, look, I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a
friend of mine. And I like him. He’s a good man. He’s not a racist, I
can tell you that. He’s a good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: And, Francesca, four days later, he’s fired. So where do we
stand tonight on John Kelly’s status in the White House?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: But this is
the first sort of dispute like this that you’ve seen between John Kelly and
the president. And at the point in which Steve Bannon was fired, we all
knew that was coming. That wasn’t a surprise to a lot of us who are at the
White House every day, but even viewers of the show.
And the same goes for Reince Priebus, John Kelly’s predecessor. At the
point in which Mr. Priebus was fired, we had thought for months that
Priebus was on the ropes. I mean, almost since day one, there was a lot of
talk about how long Priebus would stay in that role.
And so, John Kelly has now been in this position since the end of July.
So, the fact that this is the first real dispute that we’ve seen between
these two men play out, considering everything else you’ve seen in this
administration between President Trump and some of his senior officials,
that’s actually kind of remarkable.
O’DONNELL: And, Adam, we saw John Kelly go up to the Hill to try and
negotiate a legislative package here that could save the day. This is the
least experienced White House chief of staff in history who has ever had
such meetings on legislation, especially crisis meetings, trying to get
something done at the last minute.
JENTLESON: Yes, least experienced and also the least interested in
learning some of the critical parts of the job about how Congress works,
how the different bodies work. You know, there are stories about him
refusing to talk to former chief of staffs who reached out to him to try to
help him learn the ropes, both Democrats and Republicans.
So, I think this is a man who believes he knows everything he needs to
know, doesn’t have a lot to learn, but that’s nothing can be further from
the truth. He actually has very little idea how the legislative process
works. And it’s a shame he’s not go doing more to learn what he doesn’t
O’DONNELL: And, Francesca, the president, of course, is always looking to
assign blame. Is he at this point assigning blame inside the White House
that we are at the government shutdown threshold?
CHAMBERS: Well, so far, President Trump is blaming Democrats for the fact
that there might be a government shutdown and specifically the fact that
they want to see the pathway for citizenship for Dreamers in a bill, a
DREAM Act essentially pass here. However, if you look at what the
president said this morning, it was the president who undermined his own
strategy by sending out that tweet about the children’s health insurance
program, which really muddied the waters on whether or not he supported the
short term resolution.
And then, of course, you had Paul Ryan come out and say before the House
vote, yes, of course, he supports it, I talked to him on the phone, he
tells me he’s behind it the way it is currently. But even the White House
statement that came out said he supports a short term resolution, but it
wasn’t 100 percent clear as Mitch McConnell ends up bringing up on the
Senate floor exactly what he wanted to happen here. And so, if you’re
looking tomorrow to assign blame, there’s going to be a lot of talk about
what the president could have done differently in the situation as well.
O’DONNELL: Adam, we have an update on the president’s plans in Florida
this weekend. On Saturday, they have scheduled an anniversary event for
the president’s inauguration, which starts – tickets for the event start
at $100,000 a couple, $250,000 a couple will get you a seat at the dinner
and a photograph with the president.
And so, with the government possibly shutdown on Saturday, the president
plans to be in Florida, raising money and having pictures taken for
$250,000 a shot.
JENTLESON: Yes, I think that shows the fundamental lack of seriousness
about his approach to this shutdown. He’s tried, you know, very little to
actually make it – to prevent it from happening. He has undermined
Republican strategy, and this weekend he’s going to be cavorting with very
rich people down in Florida, miles away from where negotiations are
I think the significance of Mike Pence not being there is also significant
because that’s one vote that Republicans might need in a pinch. But he
seems to also not think it’s serious enough to stick around town and try to
prevent the shutdown from happening. So, it’s a fundamental lack of
O’DONNELL: Francesca Chambers and Adam Jentleson, thank you both for
joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, the FBI is investigating whether Russia funneled illegal
campaign money to the National Rifle Association which then used that money
to support the Trump presidential campaign. That would be a crime.
O’DONNELL: Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team is reportedly
investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin
illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association, which in turn
used that money to help Donald Trump win the presidential election. The
McClatchy news agency reports FBI counterintelligence investigators have
focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of
Russia’s central bank, who is known for his close relationships with both
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections. The NRA
spent $30 million in support of the Trump for president campaign. That is
triple what the NRA spent in the last presidential election in support of
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.
McClatchy notes: At the NRA’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Aleksandr
Torshin’s spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s
national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016 when his father won an earlier
than usual NRA Presidential endorsement. In December the New York Times
reported on an e-mail sent from a conservative operative named Rick Clay in
May 2016, to Jeff Sessions and campaign adviser Rick Dearborn who is now a
Whitehouse Deputy Chief of Staff. Russia, Rick Clay wrote was quietly but
actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. and would attempt to use the
NRA’s Annual Convention in Louisville, Kentucky to make first contact.
Rick Dearborn testified to the House Intelligence Committee yesterday.
Members said he answered all the questions and never claimed executive
privilege. Today the House Intelligence Committee released their
transcript of the testimonu of Glenn Simpson, the Founder of Fusion GPS.
His testimony was consistent with what he told the Senate Judiciary
Committee. And we know that only because Senator Diane Feinstein in
violation of the Judiciary Committee’s customs took it upon herself to
release the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Testimony taken
by Glenn Simpson.
And she did that without the approval of the committee Chairman Chuck
Grassley. One new point that Simpson discussed in his testimony with the
House Intelligence Committee is the Russian connection to the National
Rifle Association. Glenn Simpson told the committee, it appeared the
Russians you know infiltrated the NRA. It appears that the Russian
operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations.
And they targeted conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and
they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA. In
Simpson’s testimony, he identifies Aleksandr Torshin’as, “a Russian
banker/duma member/mafia leader, who is a life member of the NRA.” Joining
us now, Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent at Business Insider and
Barbara McQuade, former Federal Prosecutor and a Professor of Law at the
University of Michigan. She’s also an NBC News and MSNBC Legal
And Natasha, this Russia connection to the NRA, what was it that the
Russians believed they could accomplish, other than just funding for the
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it’s interesting. And this is
just another example of how the Russians were really trying to exploit the
divisions that existed in American society in order to ingratiate
themselves in the political culture. It happened with Facebook. It
happened when they were trying to sow division based on race.
They were infiltrating these organizations, such as the NRA to cozy up to
the right wing or the Republican political leaders during the election.
Now Maria Botina who of course is one of the Russian associates who was
Aleksandr Torshin assistant and is very close to him. She actually wrote
way back in 2015 that what we need now, the United States needs in order to
ferment better ties with Russia is a Republican President.
So she was kind of on that train even before Trump was considered a serious
candidate. She then went on to pursue him and, you know, she went to a few
of his rallies. She asked him questions. So this was a long term effort
that lasted on behalf of the Russians to use the NRA to get to the Trump
campaign whether or not that panned out, whether or not that Russian money
went to the NRA, we don’t know. And whether or not that money came from the
Russians and was then used by the NRA to give to the Trump campaign. That
is something that will need further investigating.
O’DONNELL: Barbara, what does the Special Prosecutor have by way of tools
to find out what the NRA was up to? Does he immediately start subpoenaing
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTIOR: I think he does. The Grand Jury
subpeona is such a powerful tool So the first thing he can get are their
campaign finance filings you know were they so blatant as to list Aleksandr
Torshin as the person who made donations, probably not. Perhaps there are
intermediaries there. So I think the first step is to look at the filings
and see who made contributions to the NRA.
But the next step is to use a subpoena to get their contributions, to get
those records and to pour over them to see if you can make those
connection. Now again there maybe intermediaries involved and so it can
take several steps to identify who the true donors are, but the first step
is getting records through grand jury subpoenas.
O’DONNELL: And Natasha it’s fascinating to see a Putin-inspired operation
funding the concept of the right to bear arms that every person in America
has a right to a gun. That’s something Vladimir Putin would never allow in
BERTRAND: He’s completely opposed to that idea. You have a bunch of
fringe groups in Russia such as Maria Botina, Aleksandr Torshin citizen who
are pushing this right to bear arms movement that isn’t popular in Russian
society. The average Russian says that they don’t want looser gun
controls. So this is something very unusual would have gotten Russian
government funding and if it did, if the Republican government in anyway
gave money to Maria Botina or to Aleksandr Torshin to then give to the NRA
then that would be extremely telling.
O’DONNELL: And Barbara were the negotiations continue between the
committee and Steve Bannon about testimony, they’ve decided to delay his
testimony to figure out exactly what they can agree he’s willing to talk
about. But we have a report indicating that Donald Trump, the President of
the United States, personally made the decision and read from policies
report, personally made the decision to curtail the testimony of former
Chief Whitehouse Political Strategist Steve Bannon before the House
Intelligence Committee. Barbara, there’s the President of the United
States in the Whitehouse making the legal calls, the lawyer calls, on what
Steve Bannon should or should not say in that committee.
MCQUADE: Yes, it’s really astonishing because especially in light of how
complicated the idea of executive privilege can be. It applies only to
deliberative processes. It only is during the duration of the
administration, for example. It’s difficult for lawyers to figure out how
The idea that Donald Trump is back there calling the shots is problematic.
I think it also feeds into the notion of obstruction of justice. Is he
asserting it for proper reasons to preserve the power of the presidency or
for some improper purpose to prevent disclosure of facts that could
embarrassing to him? I did note that they did not assert executive
privilege with respect to the testimony of Rick Dearborn. So these
statements that Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s is making that were just doing
this to preserve the power of the Presidency seem disingenuous when you
apply it to some witnesses but not other.
O’DONNELL: And Natasha you have to imagine that some of the Trump lawyers
anyway are horrified by this. They have a client who is under
investigation for obstruction of justice. They would not want him near
this kind of maneuvering and trying to control what someone says in a
BERTRAND: Absolutely, this is another thing for Bob Mueller to look at,
frankly. I mean already building a very strong obstruction of justice
case against the President, you know from what we’ve seen from numerous
reports and just from the public behavior I mean on his twitter account,
he basically incriminated himself when he said that he fired michael flynn
because you know he spoke to the FBI. So it’s just things like this that
are really getting Trump in deeper trouble than he needs to be in.
O’DONNELL: And Barbara the reports specify that the President talked to
the Deputy Whitehouse Council not the Whitehouse Counsel which were all
wondering about because Don McGahn is actually a client of the same lawyer
who represents Steve Bannon. And so we all imagine Steve Bannon’s lawyer
on the phone with his other client at the Whitehouse. Apparently that’s not
how it works.
MCQUADE: Yes. It is you know complicated when you’ve got one lawyer
representing people who are involved in different capacities. There is a
potential conflict of interest there. But clients are allowed to waive
those conflicts. So I’m not sure why the President Trump chose to rely on
the deputy in this instance for legal advice. But it’s a cast of characters
who share the lawyers. So it’s an interesting cast of characters.
O’DONNELL: And Natasha Hope Hicks’ Testimony has been delayed. Hope Hicks
is one of the people who Michael Wolff in his book describes as someone who
will crack like an egg under this kind of questioning.
BERTRAND: It’s her. It’s Donald Trump Jr.. It’s Steve Bannon. These
are players that have really, really deep knowledge in the Whitehouse’s
inner workings. No matter what President likes to say about how close
Steve Bannon was or wasn’t to his presidency. He came out with a statement
saying well Steve Bannon really was never — he had nothing to do with me.
He had nothing to do with my Presidency.
Well if that’s the case, why are they trying so hard to prevent him from
testifying freely?: Why did they say to him right after that misleading
statement was drafted aboard Air Force One about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting
with the Russians? Why was Steve Bannon looped on that decision. It’s
really clear from everything that we’ve been seeing that Bannon was really
a key player in the Whitehouse. And now the Trump Administration, as they
do whenever anything comes out about any of these players, they’re trying
to distance themselves from him.
O’DONNELL: Natasha Bertrand and Barbara McQuade thank you both for joining
us tonight, really appreciate it.
MCQUADE: Thanks Lawrence.
BERTRAND: Thanks Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Coming up, it’s time to get a second opinion about Donald
Trump’s health and his mental health. In fact, we’re going to get a bunch
of second opinions. Including one from a former Air Force physician, whose
job it was to certify personnel to work in the nuclear weapons program. We
will ask him if Donald Trump would qualify to work in the nuclear weapons
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNY JACKSON, WHITEHOUSE DOCTOR: In summary, the President’s overall
health is excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: The New York Times decided to get a second opinion. In fact,
they got three second opinions. The Times consulted three cardiologists.
The first cardiologist interviewed by the times said God, no, when he was
asked if the President is in excellent health. The cardiologist pointed to
the President’s very high cholesterol levels even though the President is
on a daily dose of a powerful drug that lowers cholesterol levels. Dr.
Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripts Research Institute found that
public discussion about whether the President is technically obese to be
Here the question is does he have abdominal obesity Dr. Topel said. I don’t
care what his height is. All you have to do is look at his abdomen.
Abdominal Obesity, that’s the machinery for inflammation for the heart.
The President was proud of passing the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, in
which he was able to name these three animals.
There they are. Luckily for the President, the cognitive assessment did
not ask him to identify three countries in Africa, any three countries.
Take your time, Mr. President. In yesterday New York Times another doctor
said we need to know much more about the President’s mental state than his
ability to tell the difference between a lion and a camel. Dr. Steven Buser
was a physician in the Air Force for 12 years and is a trained clinical
One of his responsibilities was e evaluating the mental stability of the
personal who handled nuclear weapons following standards described in the
Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program. In yesterday’s Times Dr. Buser said
personnel who handle nuclear weapons are held to higher standards of
physical and mental readiness than other personnel. The Department of
Defense specifies “only those personnel who have demonstrated the highest
degree of individual reliability for allegiance, trustworthiness, conduct,
behavior and responsibility shall be allowed to perform duties associated
with nuclear weapons. And they shall be continuously evaluated for
adherence to P.R.P. standards.
Dr. Buser wrote, the Commander in Chief the one who would decide and when
how to use those weapons is the only individual in the chain who is not
subject to the ongoing certification under the program. In his op-ed piece
in the New York Times yesterday Dr. Buser asked this question, what if
President Trump were instead Airman Trump and was to be assessed under the
program’s guide lines, would I certify him as P.R.P. ready to work in the
vicinity of nuclear weapons?
Dr. Steven Buser will answer that question after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, United States President: Fire, fury and frankly power the
likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: That’s the way the President imagines nuclear war. joining us
now is former air force major and clinical psychologist. Steven Rooser. He
is the is the co-author of a clear and present danger, narcissism in the
era of President Trump. Dr. …_ would Donald trump pass the Air Force test
for personnel working with weapons?
STEVEN BUSER, UNITED STATES AIRFORCE DOCTOR: Well that’s the real
question. Somebody in that level of power with not only access to nuclear
weapons or the ability to launch them you know within you know minutes,
would he be certified around nuclear weapons? I have to start by saying
absolutely not without further evaluation. Looking at somebody of Airman
Trump were he to be in the Air Force or the military, we would look at
past behaviors, sexually abusive behavior to women. We might look at the
cyber bullying through twitter.
We look at paranoia of being persecuted by others or surveilled. We look
at untruthful comments or at least highly distorted comments and somebody
like that you know we would be suspect of giving authorization to be around
nuclear weapons unless we did a thorough psychiatric evaluation to probably
determine what was going on in the case.
O’DONNELL: There is concern about this for many years. And it hasn’t
ever been as prominent as it is now. You actually quote something Jimmy
Carter said. Jimmy Carter wrote about this in the mid 1990s, and he was
writing about the 25th amendment and how it needs clarification.
He said consider the medical histories of the 18 presidents who have sat in
the Oval Office during the 20th century. One half of the 18 had cardiac
disease, five had serious hypertension and four suffered strokes while in
office. Given that the 25th amendment at the moment is the only thing we
have that in any way concerns it self-with the President’s fitness
including mental fitness. What else do you think we need to have in place?
BUSER: That’s a wonderful question. We really need some safeguards and
when you’re talking about nuclear war, global nuclear war which could in
effect eliminate the species from the planet or at least get pretty close
to it. There needs to be safeguards in place, One that is in Congress
right now, House Bill 669 forbids any President, not just the current
President but any President from launching a first strike nuclear attack
against any country without the express and - without the OK from Congress
with that which is a common sense you know bill.
Why would anybody not want Congress to at least approve an attack of that
nature? That’s one thing. The missiles are currently on a hair trigger
wire and we need to somehow make a safer system you know with that. There
is also House Bill 1987 which allows Congress to insist that the President
get an evaluation, psychological or physical if there is ever any concern
he’s incapacitated or and duly affected by that.
Again both these pieces of legislation are common sense ones that in this
day in age with older Presidents that could be suffering from either
medical or cognitive impairment, why would we not want the safeguards in
place to keep the American people safe?
O’DONNELL: Dr. Steve Buser thank you very much for joining us tonight,
really appreciate it.
BUSER: Thank you.
O’DONNELL: Tonight’s Last Word is next.
O’DONNELL: For more in tonight’s breaking news in the United States Senate
we’re joined now by phone by NBC News Capitol Hill Report Frank Thorp.
Frank, Senate opens for business at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. What happens then?
FRANK THORP, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well were going to figure out whether or
not or were going to figure out who blinks first, to be honest. We’re in a
situation now where Senate Democrats are hoping to bring republicans to the
table, are hoping to bring President Trump to the table to negotiate
something on DACA. But this is something Senator McConnell said repeatedly
doesn’t need to be addressed until March. Senator McConnell doesn’t believe
that this deadline is tomorrow. But that’s what Democrats had been saying.
So we expected there to be a vote tonight. We expected actually there to
be a vote tonight where were going to find out that this bill was going to
fail. That this short term continuing resolution that includes this
funding for the CHIP Program for the children health insurance program but
doesn’t include anything for the D.R.E.A.M.E.R.S., anything DACA
We expected a vote on that and for it to fail. But McConnell has pushed it
until tomorrow. he wants to put as much pressure on the democrats that plan
on voting against the bill. He wants to put as much pressure as possible
on these Democrats who are planning on voting against this bill. He wants
to put as much pressure as possible on these Democrat in an effort to make
them flip and in effort to make them look responsible for what could and
looks like could be a potentially inevitable shut down if they don’t get
anything done by end of tomorrow.
O’DONNELL: Is there any indication Chuck Schumer is considering allowing
this to go to a vote, in other words dropping the 60-vote threshold,
letting it go to a majority vote and then on the bet that possibly the
Republicans can’t even have those votes for the majority?
THORP: So there hasn’t been any indication that was going to happen. It
sure seems to advocating now for the idea of actually passing a shorter
term DR, something that would get them four or five more days to negotiate
some kind of compromise on DACA. He doesn’t want to do - he doesn’t want
to actually extend this another month.
He wants to have these negotiations happen as soon as possible. To be
perfectly honest they don’t know where Trump stands on this. And they’re
worried that the longer the debate drags on that they are going to have
President Trump change his mind over and over and over again. They think a
shorter period of time is better and they can get them a little bit more
leverage if they could actually just extend this for five days instead of a
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