Nunberg says he’ll comply. TRANSCRIPT: 03/05/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: March 5, 2018
Guest: Mike Murphy, Betsy Woodruff, Ashley Parker, Francesca Chambers, Ron
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And this is the day we`re always going to remember where we were when we
first heard Sam Nunberg speaking to Ari Melber at 6:00 p.m. and I just – I
was mesmerized to put it mildly, every second of it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: You know, mesmerizing rising is the
right word, because it was sort of thing where you watched and you`re very
engrossed and you think you know it`s happening and then you look up and
several hours have passed and the lights turn on, and you understood less
than when you started watching.
O`DONNELL: Exactly, yes.
MADDOW: It`s like being mind controlled by some sort of sub-human
creature. It was bizarre.
O`DONNELL: And so, my first guest tonight, Mr. Ari Melber. We will – he
will decode it all. I`m sure he has had time to think about.
MADDOW: He hadn`t some time to recover. Well done.
O`DONNELL: Right. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, I was in a car today, was in a car when Ari began his
interview with Sam Nunberg. I was listening to MSNBC on Sirius Radio in
that car. I had to pull over, I had to stop and do absolutely nothing
except listen to every word.
And for 35 minutes I sat there and listened as Sam Nunberg unraveled and
became the number one topic trending on Twitter. In the history of
American news media, we had never witnessed anything like this. In his
next television appearance after Ari, Sam Nunberg was asked, quite
understandably, if he was drunk.
In a moment, we`ll ask Ari Melber if he thought Sam Nunberg was under the
influence of alcohol during that interview. There are many reasons why Sam
Nunberg took center stage in our politics today in a display unlike
anything we`ve ever seen, and one of those reasons is that Donald Trump was
lying when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the most dedicated
people. I have the best people. I have the best people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Trump campaign had the very worst people – the very worst
people that any Republican campaign could have beginning with Sam Nunberg,
who was Trump`s political advisor before Trump announced his candidacy.
Trump had the very worst people working on his campaign because the best
people would not consider working for a person like Donald Trump,
experienced Republican campaign operatives like Nicolle Wallace, Steven
Schmidt, Stuart Stevens, and Mike Murphy, he`s going to join us tonight,
would never work on a Trump campaign.
So Donald Trump had people on his campaign who would never be hired, be
allowed to be near a serious Republican presidential campaign. Many of
them have flamed out of Trump world, none more spectacularly than Sam
Here`s a sample of what Sam Nunberg had to say today about Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I`m not a fan of Donald Trump, as
you well know. Katy, did you know that?
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: You said it.
NUNBERG: I`m not a fan of his. He treated Roger and me very badly and he
screwed us over during the campaign. He did nothing wrong, Roger. OK. He
did nothing wrong. In fact, he was treated terribly by Donald Trump.
TUR: Do you think they have something on the president?
NUNBERG: I think they may.
NUNBERG: I think that he may have done something during the election.
And Donald Trump is responsible for this investigation because he was so
stupid after he fired Comey. They probably have something on Trump, Trump
did something pretty bad.
Roger was treated terribly by Donald Trump. Trump is the most disloyal
person you`re going to ever meet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Trump world has delivered to some institutions of higher
learning the biggest embarrassments in their history. Donald Trump is the
biggest embarrassment in the history of the University of Pennsylvania`s
Wharton School. There is surely no other graduate of that institution who
believes that trade wars are good and trade wars are easy to win. Surely
most of the rest of the graduates of Wharton know that no one, no country
has ever won a trade war.
But Donald Trump is disgracing Wharton once again this week by threatening
a trade war that will not kill people, but will American jobs.
But tonight, a little law school on Long Island has reached a level of
embarrassment that it could not see coming. Sam Nunberg is a graduate of
Touro Law School, which was created in 1980, and fully accredited in 1989.
It`s one of our youngest law schools.
And we don`t know what grades Sam Nunberg got in his courses on criminal
procedure at Touro Law School. But today, he sounded like someone who
wasn`t taking a single note during those courses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: Roger Stone is like a surrogate father – he`s like my father.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, “THE BEAT”: You feel loyal to him?
NUNBERG: And I`m not going to go in there for them to set up a case
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sam Nunberg alternated from insisting that his friend Roger
Stone has done absolutely nothing wrong to then insisting that the special
prosecutor wants to use Sam Nunberg`s testimony to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that Roger Stone did something wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why do you think after you did the other interview do they want to
make you go in the grand jury room.
NUNBERG: Because they`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger
Stone and I`m not going to have it. Roger is my mentor. Roger is like
family to me and I`m not going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`ve known for a couple years now that we have no idea what`s
happening next in Trump world and we have known for over a year that we
don`t know what`s going to happen next in the Trump presidency. But we
have developed a set of expectations of the kinds of things that could
happen next, a sudden retirement or quitting the White House. But none of
us, none of us, could have predicted that a Trump operative could spend a
day on live television inviting a special prosecutor to arrest him for
refusing to comply with a subpoena from the special prosecutor and ending
his day in the news media with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your
NUNBERG: Well, I have not had had a drink.
BURNETT: You haven`t had a drink? So, that`s not –
BURNETT: Anything else?
NUNBERG: No. Beside my meds.
NUNBERG: Antidepressants, is that OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sure, it`s OK.
When physicians and psychiatrists prescribe antidepressants, they are
required to tell their patients not to mix them with alcohol. The Mayo
Clinic Website advises that one of the many dangerous side effects of
mixing alcohol and anti-depressants is that it can, quote, affect your
But there`s nothing on the Mayo Clinic`s list of possible side effects of
mixing alcohol and antidepressants that says it might affect your ability
to tell the truth about Donald Trump.
Joining us now Ari Melber, chief legal correspondent for MSNBC and host of
“THE BEAT” on MSNBC. Also with us, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to
Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to
President Obama, and Mike Murphy is with us, he`s a Republican strategist
who has advised both the Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain`s presidential
Ari, first to you, and the first question is, did you smell alcohol on Sam
Nunberg`s breath? Was he drunk do you think when he was talking to you?
MELBER: I did not smell that. I did not ascertain that from any
indication on him, scent or otherwise. I do think it`s quite clear from
his conduct in the interview we had, as well as his other public
presentations that there is something going on with him.
And as we explored in our interview, that may be the strain and pressure
that comes with this type of situation, people handle it differently. We
tried to speak to both the legal and the human side in it.
Even if one wants to stipulate that what we heard from Mr. Nunberg is
inconsistent and there is a range of performance and activity here which is
now raveling the political and legal world. The obvious significance here,
as you know, Lawrence, it`s very rare to see the name and details of a
grand jury subpoena leaked it`s rare to hear someone like he has, both on
“THE BEAT” last week and again tonight, describe in detail the line of
questioning of the special counsel`s investigators as well as the grand
jury subpoena, which is legally different than the FBI interview for
viewers who follow this closely as many people have, the FBI interview is a
more cooperative framework, you have a witness with a lawyer sitting down
with the investigators and talking it out.
The grand jury subpoena which Mr. Nunberg says he received on Friday and
we`ve obtained documentation to try to verify that is much more high
stakes. Your lawyer is not present. And he believes and he maybe wrong as
we`ve been reporting, but he believes that it is an effort based on the
questions he`s heard thus far to build a case against his mentor Roger
So, even if one stipulates that Mr. Nunberg has changed his story to some
degree or is dealing with an incredibly stressful situation, there is a lot
of light as well as heat here, the last thing I`ll say in the spirit of
reporting is, I`m speaking to you at 10:09 p.m. here on the East Coast, at
about 9:51 p.m., I was able to reach Mr. Nunberg against by telephone. We
discussed some of this. I also spoke to his father, who is with him, as
are other people are him, trying to walk him through the situation he`s in,
which is a serious one.
And I`ll say this in closing, my conversations with his father were off the
record and I`ll keep the confidence under the agreement we had. My
conversations with him were on the record and he said to me as of 9:51 that
while he may ultimately cooperate in the end, which, of course, is the big
question, because jail hangs over someone who defies a prosecutor with a
lawful request, he said he continues to maintain his insistence he feels
this is overbroad, that he`s not sure he wants to do it, and as to Friday,
which is the big testimonial question on the table, Lawrence, he still told
me as of 9:51, he does not intend to go in on Friday.
So, I think there`s a lot here to unpack that`s significant, even if one
thinks he`s a person going through a tough time having a range of
O`DONNELL: Ari, who are his lawyers?
MELBER: There`s a lawyer he has who I believe is named Patrick Blakely and
my understanding – we discussed this in our interview today, is that his
lawyer today is either unhappy with what he`s doing or they have not
connected about it.
O`DONNELL: And is his father a lawyer, or his mother a lawyer? I was
hearing today –
MELBER: My understanding his father is a lawyer, although I – the
conversation I had with him he asked to be off the record.
O`DONNELL: So, I`ve never seen anybody with worse legal advice or worse
understanding of legal advice. I was stunned today, Ari, to discover that
he was a law school graduate after we heard him begin his day by telling
Katy Tur that it would be funny, he said it would be funny if he got
arrested, he would laugh about it if he got arrested. And he said again on
television today that if he was sent to prison for this, he would go to
prison and laugh about it.
MELBER: Well, Lawrence, I think you`re putting your finger on it. That`s
the serious part of this. In other words, obviously, this is not the first
and perhaps not the last person in Donald Trump`s orbit given the hiring
decisions he makes and the type of people that seemed willing to work for
him who has, shall we say, a performative style.
But this is not performance. This is real life. This is a real special
counsel investigation. There are already people who have gone to jail.
One could argue, and this is a point we raised in our entrepreneur with Mr.
Nunberg earlier on “THE BEAT”. One could argue there are people who gone
to jail for less than what he`s done.
He`s also made it clear in multiple interviews that part of what the
investigators for the special counsel team are concerned about is he`s
speaking out of turn his defiance and now, his public revelations of what
is in here. He may feel and I mentioned this in our interview and I think
it`s a human side to this that we – my view is we should all bear in mind.
He may feel incredible amount of stress under the situation, he may feel
that he cooperated very recently in doing the interview and he may feel a
great deal of loyalty to Mr. Stone.
At the end of the day, however genuinely those beliefs are held, and
whoever much stress he`s under, the fact is we have a system of law in this
country. It`s not a system of opinion. It`s certainly not a system of
And so, one of the striking admissions he made on live television earlier
today was that he wanted to withhold his testimony in part to protect Mr.
Roger Stone, who is under a type of criminal scrutiny, a criminal
investigation for his alleged dealings with WikiLeaks and other entities
believed to be acting as pawns and facilitators of an operation that`s now
been charged in American federal court by Bob Mueller as an international
criminal conspiracy to impact the U.S. election.
This is serious as a heart attack. And people who take it lightly will I
think in the view of Mr. Mueller who has obviously charged people thus far
with false statements and other, what might call obstruction-related
activity, Lawrence, they take it lightly at their own peril.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, I give you a wide open shot here at what you think
you were witnessing today when you were watching Sam Nunberg.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: Yes, you know, it may not
have been college basketball on Ari`s show, but it was definitely March
Madness. That`s what I thought as I watched it unfold.
Look, I mean, I think Ari`s analysis of this is as usual on target and very
pointed. But I do think there is something serious going on and that is
this, what you saw today with Sam Nunberg is what you see in countries
where the rule of law is eroded, where an authoritarian leader defies the
courts, defies the justice system and inspires his followers, perhaps even
critical followers like Mr. Nunberg, but his followers to do the same.
And I think we`re going to see sadly more and more of this. Donald Trump
attacking the Justice Department, attacking the special prosecutor,
attacking the idea, attacking the legitimacy of this investigation
encourages people just to say, I`m going to laugh in the face of it and
we`ll see what happens. And I think that`s really dangerous and nefarious
thing that we saw unfold on TV today. It was funny, it was almost comical
but something serious may be going on here.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Sam Nunberg`s appearance with Ari last
week just to show people what a different human being was speaking last
week than who showed up there today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: It wasn`t a waste of taxpayers` money to have me in there. It
wasn`t a waste of time for me either. I`m happy to have been in there and
happy to have cooperated.
MELBER: Did you leave with the impression that they knew more than a lot
of witnesses they see?
NUNBERG: Yes, yes, yes. That`s why I`m saying, it wasn`t a waste of time.
I`m not a victim here. They didn`t waste their time. They did not just
gratuitously have me in there for no reason and to be mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, it seems he went from being a reasonable person
dealing with that investigation to doing his best impression of Donald
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. No, I thought it was
performance. I think, predicting the future, this will go from comedy to
drama if he sticks with this plan and really defies a subpoena. I don`t
think he will. I think they`re going to pry him away from the alleged
legal team of gin and tonic. And get him some real lawyers, and we`ll quit
the Dillinger act as somebody will remind, the last guy to talk like that
was Dillinger and he went home in a bucket.
MURPHY: So the FBI will crush this guy and put him in jail if they have
to, the investigation, but the FBI, it`s – you know, it`s mechanism. I
don`t think he`ll be there on Friday. I think he`s under great pressure
and this was the performance art of this reality show presidency. And I
think he`ll be back down to gravity and his own self-interest.
But I kind of agree with what Ron said. If he doesn`t, if he makes this
stand which will turn out very badly for him, but if Donald Trump tweets
rewarding this behavior or anything like that, where we start to ignore
institutions and the idea of legitimacy of the investigations, that takes
this thing from today`s news comedy into a very serious I think attack on
our institutions, which the president ought to get on front of, stopping
MELBER: And, Lawrence, just to jump in on that, even if one stipulates
they don`t believe this individual`s statements or predictions about his
own conduct, let`s not lose sight of where we are. This investigation has
been going on for many months since the appointment in May. This is the
first time this week we`ve had a list of names leaked from an official
grand jury subpoena.
This is the first time I, by my count as a legal correspondent covering it,
that we`ve had this level of detail from an individual saying what they
were asked in the line of questioning. And the purpose as you have on the
screen, this is now we know, and I`ve obtained as others have, this
subpoena, of who`s under investigation. So, Lawrence, there is a lot of
light here, even if one doesn`t buy Sam Nunberg`s heat and the Roger Stone
part is significant and interesting because he`s under the belief, true or
not, that the purpose of bringing him before the grand jury was to lay a
foundation of testimony and evidence against Roger Store.
Is that true? We`ll keep working that side of the story regardless of Mr.
Nunberg`s cooperation with the special counsel.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber has earned the last word in this segment. Ari,
thank you very much for joining us tonight.
MELBER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it.
Mike and Ron, please stay with us for more.
And coming up, we`re going to have the legal trouble that Sam Nunberg is
actually now facing. We will do the legal analysis of what it is he had to
And later, the chaos presidency, causing global turmoil with the
possibility of a trade war and the president talking about presidents for
life in China and maybe the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: I`m not going to jail. Come on, Ari. Do you think I`m going to
jail? They`re not going to send me to jail.
You know what, Mr. Mueller, if he wants to send me to jail, he can send me
to jail and then I`ll laugh about it. I`m not going to jail. Do you think
I`m going to jail?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for
the eastern district of Michigan and a professor of law at the University
of Michigan. She`s also an NBC News and MSNBC legal contributor.
And back with us, Ron Klain.
Barbara McQuade, as a former prosecutor, can you answer his question, is he
going to jail?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think if he continues to defy
the subpoena, the answer is yes. There`s the legal principle that says a
grand jury has the right to ever man`s evidence, and there are a few
exceptions to that. What I hear Mr. Nunberg to be saying is that he wants
to protect his mentor Roger Stone from criminal charges.
Well, you do have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. So,
you can decline to answer the questions if it incriminates you. But the
key word there is self. You can`t use that privilege to refuse to testify
against others. And so, I have not heard the assertion of any legitimate
And so, if he continues to defy the subpoena, I think Robert Mueller can
and likely will file a motion for contempt and the penalty for that is jail
for up to 18 months in an effort to induce compliance. And if at the end
of 18 months, a person still won`t comply you can be charged criminally and
punished for an additional six months.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what he said about his attempt here, talking to
Ari, about his attempt basically to protect Roger Stone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: They`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone and
I`m not going to have it.
MELBER: Are you basing that view –
NUNBERG: From the questions I got.
MELBER: They`re trying to use you to get to Roger based on a theory or
based on the questions they asked you?
NUNBERG: Based on the questions they asked me. I had no idea in advance
what they wanted for the grand jury, but what they do – what they did tell
me I wasn`t going to be the subject or target and I was going to get the
same kind of immunity. But they wanted something. Now, Ari, let me just
say something –
MELBER: They offered you immunity?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, apparently in law school, he wasn`t paying attention
where he could learn the only way he could protect Roger Stone with his
testimony is to marry him.
KLAIN: Yes or perhaps build a priest-penitent relationship.
Look, I think that – I agree absolutely he`s going to give up the evidence
or go to jail. During the Watergate investigation one witness refused to
comply with the special counsel, special prosecutor, Susan McDougal, and
she was, in fact, put in prison for 18 months for refusing to comply. So
there`s a precedent for this.
You know, look, I think what we saw today was a lot of theater, a lot of
noise. And perhaps, you know, common sense will reign and he won`t go to
jail because he will comply, but I think he will have to do this or he will
face constraint he will face confinement to get his evidence. I do think,
look, Roger Stone seems to be behind this. That`s a pretty significant
thing. I mean, Roger Stone wouldn`t be guilty of perjury if he hadn`t
lied. And what he may have lied about what his work with WikiLeaks, his
collusion with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign to help undermine the
So, there`s something serious going on beneath the comedy and beneath the
O`DONNELL: And, Barbara, there was a reference to immunity there and there
were so many things that were jammed into parts of sentences and parts of
answers. But it sounded to me like he doesn`t have a formal immunity
agreement because he`d be violating that today with what he was doing. But
he seems to think he`s been offered immunity. What did you make of that?
MCQUADE: He – I think that was the word he used is offer, that he`s been
offered immunity. So not clear whether he`s accepted that offer. But one
of the things that can happen is the prosecutor could go to the court and
get a compulsion order, so regardless of whether – oftentimes you try to
work out an informal immunity arrangement without bothering the court. But
if you can reach an agreement, you can go to the court and tell the court,
I promise not to use any of the defendant`s statements against him and then
the court will issue an order compelling the person to testify.
So, if in violation of that order you refuse to testify, that is also
contempt of court.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron, he complained about the burdensome nature of the
subpoena and one of his complaints was they were demanding to know about
all of his communication with Carter Page and he has no communication with
Carter Page. And as we k now, if that`s the case, you simply write that in
that line, I`ve had no communication with Carter Page, and you`re done.
That takes less than a minute.
And so, everything he was saying about burdensome nature of this didn`t
make sense when you listen to what he was talking about.
KLAIN: That`s right, Lawrence. I mean, he certainly could have taken the
hours he spent running from cable news show to cable news show to search
his e-mails and comply. I mean, the only way you can possibly understand
is maybe he`s the first person ever trying to build an insanity defense for
a subpoena, which I assure him will not be successful. I do think, though,
look, maybe he was showing off for Roger Stone, maybe he was showing off
for Donald Trump. Maybe he was trying to impress somebody with his
performance, it will not work, he will comply or he will wind up in jail.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I don`t – it doesn`t seem he`s showing off for Trump
since he insulted Trump so much in the course of what he had to say today.
But I want to show something he said about his theory of the prosecution
case against the president having something to do with the president`s
business. Let`s listen to what he told Ari about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: I think they were interested in something with his business.
MELBER: With his business?
MELBER: Did they ask you about the way he ran his business?
NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business, and I have no – by the
way, I have no idea what he did. And he may not have done anything, and I
could be wrong.
MELBER: You feel they were asking more crimes related to the Trump
Organization than related to Trump campaign?
NUNBERG: That`s what I felt, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Barbara, your reaction to that?
MCQUADE: Yes, I think I take that with a little bit of a grain of salt.
One, I`m not sure how reliable Mr. Nunberg is in his interview. But also,
just because the focus of the questions about Mr. Nunberg related to
Trump`s business doesn`t mean that is the full scope of the investigation.
So, it does seem likely that that`s one aspect of what Robert Mueller is
interested in. But I imagine that the questions they`re asking Sam Nunberg
may be different from the questions they`re asking of other people. So,
interesting, likely to be part of the investigation, but probably not all
of the investigation.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade and Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us.
Really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the
Trump Russia dossier has written another memo that said Russia interfered
with President Trump`s choice for secretary of state.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The New Yorker reported today that
Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the Trump-Russia
dossier wrote a separate unpublished memo claiming that Russia meddled in
one of Donald Trump`s Cabinet decision. Jane Meyer reports in the New
Yorker. This memo is shorter than the rest and is based on one source,
described as a senior Russian official.
The official said that he was merely relaying talks circulating in the
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But that he`d heard – but what he
heard was astonishing. People were saying that the Kremlin had intervened
to block Trump`s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. The
unpublished memo said the Kremlin had made specific demands to Trump about
his Secretary of State “the Kremlin through unspecified channels asked
Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine related
sanctions and who would cooperate on security issues of interest to Russia
such as the conflict in Syria. As a Presidential candidate in 2012 Mitt
Romney said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, FMR. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Russia is not a friendly
character on the world stage. This is our number one geopolitical foe. They
fight ever cause for the world`s worst actors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Christopher Steele wrote the memo about Mitt Romney in
November of 2016 when President-Elect Trump was publicly considering Mitt
Romney for Secretary of State at one point taking Romney to dinner in a
very public way. President-Elect Trump chose a Secretary of State who had
no experience in government but had a lot experience being as nice as
possible to Russia. Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobile, Vladimir
Putin had awarded Rex Tillerson Russia`s Order of Friendship when he was
running Exxon Mobile.
The New Yorker notes that since the 2016 election Congress imposed
additional sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its interference. But
Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them. The New York Times
reports today that the State Department under Rex Tillerson has been given
$120 million to fight Russian election meddling and it has spent zero.
According to the New Yorker Christopher Steele is believed to have
discussed his memo about Russian Veto of Mitt Romney with the Special
Prosecutor`s investigators. Joining us now Betsy Woodruff, a politics
reporter for the Daily Beast and an MSNBC Contributor and back with us is
Mike Murphy. And Mike, in your experience with working with Mitt Romney,
you knew well his attitudes toward Russia which sound wiser and wiser as
everyday goes by. But the Kremlin was obviously afraid of him.
MIKE MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well yes, I think there`s no doubt that
Mitt Romney would have been a nightmare Secretary of State for the Russians
and he would have counterbalanced President Trump`s blind spots I think on
the geopolitics of Russia. Now I think Christopher Steele is a patriot and
a hero. This is raw intelligence from some credible Russian source but you
know how it can be, we`re so good we killed off the Secretary of State.
I do know there was a lot momentum for the choice. And you know, I`m going
to wait for Reince Priebus memoirs to know exactly what happened in the
yard on it where Trump – something didn`t happen was that Trump`s evil
plot to you know treat Romney poorly or was it the influence – you know he
keeps rolling over to their geopolitical interest. I`m not sure if this is
But there`s no doubt the Russians would have been unhappy with Romney and
they were more comfortable from business dealing dealings in the oil
industry was Rex Tillerson who I will say has been a bit disappointing from
my point of view in the State Department. But is no fool and is a grown up
in geopolitics. So this is yet another mystery swirling around the
Russians and Donald Trump. It just never seems to end.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Betsy, another element of Jane Meyers reporting talks
about Christopher Steele and saying he did not begin his work involving
Donald Trump during the presidential campaign. He said he ran across
Trump`s name almost as soon as he went into private business many years
before the 2016 election. Two of his earliest cases at Orbis, Steele`s firm
involved investigating international crime rings whose leaders
coincidentally were based in New York`s Trump Tower. It was as if all
criminal roads led to Trump Tower, Steele told friends. Betsy, your
reaction to that?
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: We know that Trump`s buildings have
often sort of coincided with the preferred locations of people engaged in
complex international criminal activity. Whether or not there`s a causal
link there is completely up in the air. Any time you have highly expensive
luxury real estate like the type that Donald Trump develops and sells,
you`re likely to have people who have extraordinary amounts of money and
are looking for ways to spend it and potentially launder it.
This is not a problem that`s unique to the Trump real estate brands. That
said, and this is a point Christopher Steele makes that`s very much correct
and important, we absolutely have seen much coinciding of this type of
troubling illegal activity and Trump properties. One of the biggest
examples is the gas for gold sanctions evasion scandal in Manhattan Federal
Court. There were trials over the past year or so related to an elaborate,
complex international scheme on the part of gold traders in Trump Towers
and Istanbul to evade American sanctions on Iran.
This isn`t just a question of international crime. It`s a question of
National Security and some of that operation was based in a Trump-branded
building. This is sort of the nature of luxury real estate and its part of
the reason you rarely see luxury real estate developers take important
political leadership roles because that type of business just attracts lots
of sorted characters as we`ve clearly seen and as Christopher Steele has
clear seen with the Trump Properties.
O`DONNELL: Mike, one thing you`d advise a President taking office under
these conditions and under these clouds is whenever Russia policy issues
come up, we have to at least appear to be hard lined and actually be hard
lined and actually be hard lined as often as is reasonable. For example if
they give us $120 million, you know, to deal with Russia meddling in
elections, we`ve to use that smartly, instead of absolutely not spend a
penny of it.
MURPHY: Right. If you work for Jack The Ripper the first thing you say is
don`t hang out in White Chapel anymore. OK. We have a burden of proof to
prove we`re not what people speculated we may be. But you know there`s no
adult drawn up operation here. The President does what the President wants
and there`s a bunch of guys running after him trying to clean up after him
24/7 which is completely s exhausting.
But I don`t think there`re any strategies or something. I think it`s all
Trump driven. And I`ll give you one salacious rumor on all because it`s
Russia speculation. I was walking around Beverly Hills and God, I don`t
want to be pulled in by Mueller on this because I don`t know anything. But
I was walking around international businessmen who I know pretty well,
swore me to secrecy, and you can said you can say on TV, a friend of mine
got pulled in Mueller asking about a MOU, a memorandum of understanding
that Trump had with Russian financial interest during the 2016 campaign and
Mueller has the document. That`s my contribution to the cloud of
speculation. I believe this guy is credible, but no way of knowing if it`s
O`DONNELL: And Betsy, quickly before we go. There has been recent
reporting about the possibility of Trump businesses being concerned with
Russian prospects during the campaign.
WOODRUFF: Right, certainly. That`s something that`s a major question. Any
time that you have sizable criminal investigations, like the type that
Mueller is running, questions of following the money are always central.
And Mueller`s has been following the money from Jump Street. I reported
months ago he was working hand in hand with investigators from IRS`s
critical investigation unit who focus on financial crimes. Trump`s brand is
money, his brand is cash, so it`s not a surprise that Mueller is digging in
deeply on those financial questions.
O`DONNELL: Betsy Woodruff and Mile Murphy thank you both for joining us
tonight, really appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: The Washington Post is calling it Trump`s darkest days and the
President now sounds interested in being president for life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Don`t forget china`s great. And Xi
is a great gentleman. He`s now President for life. He`s great. Look, he
was able to do that. I think it`s great. Maybe I want to give that a shot
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President for life, President of the United States seems to
approve of the President of China making himself a President for life
according to an audio tape obtained by CNN this weekend. And the President
seems to be suggesting that he, too, would like to be a president for life.
And we don`t know if the American President is making a joke or really
means it or might try to actually take steps to become President for life,
or has lost his mind.
It is now easy to imagine some of the titles of the books that will be
written about the Trump Whitehouse. The Darkest Days of Donald Trump will
surely be one of those titles. And that`s what the Washington Post is
calling the days we are living through right now. The most commonly used
word to describe the Trump Whitehouse in the responsible news media is
The Washington Post has called it pure madness. After tiring of doing
something that no President before him has ever done, threatening nuclear
war with North Korea, President Trump has chosen to threaten a trade war
instead, but not a trade war with North Korea. A trade war with Canada, our
most reliable ally in history and our most important and honest trading
partner in history. The President has also threatened a trade war with
every other country that produces steel or aluminum.
Those countries have threatened their own retaliations against American
exports, especially the exports that come from Paul Ryan and Mitch
McConnell`s states, which caused Paul Ryan today to beg the President not
to go through with his plan for a disastrous trade war. Ashley Parker who
co-wrote the article in the Washington Post describing the darkest days
will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is responsible for this investigation
because he was so stupid after he fired Comey he had the Lester Holt
interview and he had the Russians in his office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Washington Post reports Trump is now a President in
transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private
that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable
news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration
that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on air defenders. He revives old
grudges and he confides to friends that is he is uncertain about whom to
trust. Still Trump`s friend are increasingly concerned about this well
being, worried that the President obsession with cable commentary and
perceived slights is taking a toll on the 71 year old. Pure madness
lamented one exasperated ally. Joining us now is the coauthor of that
article Ashley Parker and also joining us, Francesca Chambers, the
Whitehouse Correspondent for the Daily Mail. These are the Darkest Days,
as you report, of the Trump Whitehouse but only the darkest days so far and
we`ve seen the days there can always get darker.
ASHLEY PARKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that`s what was so striking. In
our story we outlined sort of a tremendous level of chaos and tumult but in
talking to these aides, one of them said to us, I don`t think this has
bottomed out yet, you know we don`t know where this going. But we think
it`s going to get worse before it possibly starts to stabilize. So it`s
certainly not a good time and it`s pretty bad time with no immediate end in
sight at least according to those who work within the Whitehouse.
O`DONNELL: And for Francesca Chambers, what do we expect the Donald Trump
reaction to be to Sam Nunberg turn in the spotlight tonight?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well already we heard the
Whitehouse reacting to this in real time in the Whitehouse Press Briefing
with a little bit of shock considering how long he`s been outside of Trump
world and the Trump circle. But to speak to Ashley`s point about this, it
seems like there`s been pendulum swings with President Trump. You`ll see
him swing very far to the left and see him swing very far to the left and
you`ll see him swing very far to the right with these mood swings. And
you`re also hearing though from people who are close to the President that
there`s a method to this madness, right.
That he likes this kind of competition and he likes the rivalry and they
think it produces a better process and better outcome and better results in
the end. But at the same time you`re also hearing from people close to
President Trump that he might not be being well served by staff at this
point because of some of these headlines that you`re seeing and what you
could call unforced errors.
O`DONNELL: And Ashley, the trade war talk comes at the same time about
the President musing about president for life. Not only does he not voice
any objection whatsoever to the Chinese President in effect making himself
a President for life. He actually entertains it seems the notion of that
PARKER: Well two points. This is a President who has long he sort of
admired publicly and private strong men leaders. He`s expressed an
affinity for Russian Vladimir Putin. He`s expressed an affinity for the
leader of the Philippines. So he`s sort of unabashedly admires these
leaders or even dictators who seized power.
And then you drew a very interesting connection between those comments and
the way he was acting on trade. What was striking in talking to these West
Wing aides was that was sort of the connection they drew as well. They
said, you know, every one`s talking about personnel change is that Hope is
leaving him. What does that mean?
And what`s going on with Mueller. But they said the thing that they
thought most closely showed how spiraling out of control he was, was
actually trade. They said that was him sort of saying like I`m the
President. And I`m going to do what I want do regardless of what you my
aides tell me. And the more people telling him you can`t do this, the more
they try to tell him, you know, maybe these tariffs are a bad idea, he sort
of had this opposite reaction and went ahead and did exactly what he wanted
to do, kind of flouting the advice of a lot of people around him.
O`DONNELL: And Franchesca according to more Washington Post reporting and
the reporting that Ashley`s done some people seem to have figured out
exactly how to target Donald Trump in the way they want to. For example,
possibly Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. Ashley`s reporting says Trump
seized with anger last Wednesday night over cable news coverage of a photo
obtained by Axios showing Sessions at dinner with Deputy Attorney General
Rod Rosenstein. The next morning Trump was still raging about the photo,
venting to friend and allies about a dinner he viewed as an intentional
show of disloyalty. And Franchesca, he`s proving that now Jeff Sessions and
others know how to get to him.
CHAMBERS: This also – the other thing, before it goes back to those
pendulum swings because then we saw the president at the Gridiron Dinner on
Saturday evening, he was in very high spirits, making fun of himself and
others in the administration, including Jeff Sessions who he joked about
giving a ride and then saying that he recused himself or Rod Rosenstein by
the way was also at that same exact dinner as well.
And so with the President he`ll be angry at Jeff Sessions and attacking him
one day. the next day he`s praising him more or less at an Opioid Summit
saying they`re going to be working on this together and you never know with
the President when he wakes up what he might tweet the next day or what he
might be upset about.
O`DONNELL: Francesca Chambers and Ashley Parker, thank you very much for
joining us with your important reporting tonight, really appreciate it.
PARKER: Thank You.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s last word. And that will of course go to Sam
Nunberg and something he said to Katie Couric in his first media interview
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, NBC REPORTER: Are you worried about getting arrested?
SAM NUNBERG, FMR. TRUMP AIDE: I think it would be funny if they arrested
COURIC: If you`re held in contempt of course, wouldn`t you have higher
NUNBERG I think it would be really – I think it would be really, really
funny if they wanted to arrest me because I don`t want to spend 80 hours
going over e-mails I have with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I think it would be really, really funny if they arrested me.
And that was when the public speculation began on the question of what is
or was Sam Nunberg`s state today. Was he in his right mind? Was he sober?
Which ended up in his last TV interview of the night with the interviewer
asking him about the fact that she, Erin Burnett, could smell alcohol on
his breath. Sam Nunberg had a day like we have never seen anyone else have
on Trump world television. We have no idea what will happen in Trump world
or Nunberg world tomorrow. That`s tonight`s last word. There is a lot of
the Sam Nunberg interviews we were not able to get to in this hour. John
Heilmann who knows Sam Nunberg is going to join Brian Williams in the next
hour. The 11th with Brian Williams starts now.
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