House intel GOP ends Russia probe. TRANSCRIPT: 03/12/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 12, 2018
Guest: Jenny Willoughby, Malcolm Nance
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And today`s episode of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is going straight to the
museum of broadcasting, not – not just because we heard you say golden
showers four times in the first 15 minutes, but because it is the perfect
kind of mid-course summary of where we are on the Russia investigation
which you have been teaching us every night and leading us and watching you
lead this discussion with David and Michael Isikoff about their new book
really was that kind of, OK, everyone, let`s stop, collect our thoughts and
catch up to where we are, really, really you summarized everything really
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Well, thanks. I mean, they – it`s –
I`m just reporting on what`s in their book. But I do think that there is
something useful because – this scandals been going on for more than a
year now, the investigations have been going on for a year now, and that –
you know, the intensive pace of reporting on this stuff has been going on
for so long that it`s changed our feelings about what counts as a scoop
anymore, or how frequently we expect them.
That one of the things I think they`ve done which is this which I think is
going to make the book very successful is that they really have synthesized
a ton of information, putting it both in chronological order but also sort
of an order of importance – in terms of recognizing what were the
important moments, when did people come along who are unexpected
characters, that we should probably get some sort of explanation as to why
they ended up there.
Synthesis and connecting the dots is more valuable than almost any
individual piece of information at this point. And it`s hard to do on a
daily basis, but I think they`ve done the first book that actually and it
takes a crack at it.
O`DONNELL: And we have 2018 cast of characters, 2017 cast of characters.
But there`s a 2016 cast that`s fascinating, which is the Obama
administration and –
O`DONNELL: – and listening to you read the passages where you`re inside
the Obama administration`s reaction to what`s coming through in
intelligence reports and is that dramatic moment that you read – because
you have the book and I don`t, and so you`re ahead of me on this book. No,
but no, but Friday – I was learning about this from your reading of it.
When you have that moment where Joe Biden hear – as vice president is
hearing about what the intelligence is gathering and he says, if this is
true, it`s treason – it was so chilling for me because it goes right back
to the 1968 presidential campaign where Lyndon Johnson says this is treason
when he hears what the intelligence reports are coming in on what Richard
Nixon`s doing in colluding with South Vietnam to delay peace talks so that
the war is going badly so that`s good for his campaign.
It`s those kinds of inside the Oval Office moments that are quite striking
MADDOW: Yes, and in the timing about it, I think the thing I didn`t really
wrap my head around until seeing it in this context is that the Obama
administration knew some of what was going on. Obviously, we saw the – in
October before the election in 2016, we saw homeland security and the
intelligence – some of the intelligence agencies come out and say, hey, we
see what you`re doing, we see what Russia is doing with messing with some
of the electoral rolls, looking at to these – or at least hacking into
state election infrastructure.
We see what`s going on there. They outed that. They published that long
document, all that technical information about how the states could
So, we know they knew that was going on. We also knew – because we all
knew it from public source reporting that it was Russia who was behind the
attack and hacking that went after the Clinton campaign and the DNC. What
we didn`t realize though is that the counterintelligence investigation part
of it, the part where the intelligence agencies did have this incredible
reporting about these contacts between the Trump campaign, Trump associates
and the Russian government in all sorts of different iterations, that
information wasn`t given to even President Obama until after the election.
He and Vice President Biden are learning that for the first time after
Trump has already been elected, oh by the way, the FBI`s
counterintelligence investigation has been tracking really weird contacts
between them and Russia while these attacks were going on.
I understand why that happened, why that was walled off, because FBI
investigation should be kept separate from the executive branch except to
the extent that they need to know about this stuff. But I just can`t
imagine what it must have been like to be the president and vice president
learning this stuff after the damage was done.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it really, really stunning. And also tonight, Rachel, we
hope Jennie Willoughby joining us in the program. She is Rob Porter`s
second wife, who was the first one to tell her story publicly. And it was
her story that was out there when John Kelly and the rest of the people in
the White House were just ignoring what she had to say and still praising
Rob Porter, even though they had heard what she had to say.
So, we`re going to get her reaction to what it`s like a month later now to
having gone through this and the White House`s reaction to what she
MADDOW: Well done.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, tonight, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee actually
released a draft report without the consultation of the committee Democrats
that in effect ends the committee`s investigation into Russian interference
in the presidential election. Republican Congressman Mike Conaway who is
leading the investigation said the committee Republicans agreed with the
conclusions of the American intelligence agency that that Russians had
interfered with the election.
But according to “The New York Times”, the committee Republicans, quote,
broke with the agencies on one crucial point that the Russians had favored
Mr. Trump`s candidacy. The bottom line, the Russians did commit active
measures against our election in 2016, and we think they will do that in
the future, Mr. Conaway said. But he added we disagree with the narrative
that they were trying to help Trump.
The committee`s final interview took place last Thursday, with former Trump
campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, but several witnesses thought to be
central to the investigation never came before the panel. According to
“The Times”, including Mr. Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort,
Mr. Manafort`s deputy Rick Gates, Mr. Trump`s former national security
adviser Michael T. Flynn, and Mr. Trump`s former campaign foreign policy
adviser George Papadopoulos all of whom are under indictment by the special
The ranking Democrat, leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee,
Congressman Adam Schiff, said this tonight on Rachel`s program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Not
a surprise, Rachel, but a grave disservice to the country. Essentially,
it`s the intelligence committee majority saying we just rather not know if
it`s going to be bad news and that is I think a betrayal of the promise
that was made that we would follow the facts wherever they lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Trump tweeted: The House Intelligence
Committee has after a 14-month-long in-depth investigation found no
evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia
to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Bloomberg” reports that special prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigation
into whether President Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to
completion but, quote, he may he may set it aside while he finishes other
key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of
Democrats according to current and former U.S. officials.
That`s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in
the obstruction case the part that may hit closest to Trump personally
witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe or the
president may move to shut it down altogether.
According to “Bloomberg”, the obstruction portion of the investigation
could likely be completed after key outstanding interviews, including with
President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.
Joining discussion now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from
California. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And David
Frum, senior editor for “The Atlantic”, and author of “The New York Times”
bestseller, “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic”.
And Congressman Swalwell, how surprised were you to discover today that the
investigation is over, the one you`ve been working on?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I`m not very
surprised considering what we`ve seen in the past from House Republicans.
O`DONNELL: But just technically, did you know this was going to happen
SWALWELL: I didn`t know.
SWALWELL: No, I read about it on the news. We weren`t told.
It invites another attack.
O`DONNELL: And let`s just stop there for a second. This is not the way
congressional investigations end. Committees do not preemptively on one
side of a committee, one partisan side of a committee simply say it`s over
without even telling the minority side.
SWALWELL: It`s something we`ve never seen after an attack, right?
SWALWELL: After Pearl Harbor, September 11th, the weapons of mass
destruction debacle, we came together, we unified. This invites another
attack, this incomplete report. They claimed they weren`t looking for
collusion or they claimed there was no collusion. They were never looking
for collusion. That`s the problem.
They didn`t use the subpoena power that they had. They didn`t allow us to
bring in third-party witnesses who could verify through communication logs
or hotel records or bank records whether what we were being told was the
truth. You know, we are charged with protecting the ballot box and this
report shows that they were more interested in protecting Donald Trump.
They can`t even admit after looking at all the social media posts that were
out there that the Russians had a preference for Donald Trump. That is as
clear as day when you look at what they were putting up.
O`DONNELL: And, David Frum, the Republicans on the committee have a 150-
page report ready to go, and that`s basically you know a day or two after
the last witnesses testified. So, this clearly looks like something they
were aiming at shutting down and as Congressman Swalwell says, it`s not
surprising in that we were hearing from Democrats on the committee that it
felt like this was what they were going to do.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: But what amazing bad luck in
their timing that they would release the statements day on the very day –
the very day when the United States the spokesmen – the spokesperson for
the president of the United States will not name Russia hours after the
prime minister of Great Britain did name Russia as the author of a nerve
gas attack in the United Kingdom.
I spoke today to two people would served in senior national security roles.
One in a Democratic and one in a Republican administration, and both of
them said in any normal administration that the after attack of such
severity happened in the United Kingdom, the prime minister of Britain and
the president of the United States would have coordinated their statements
so there was no daylight on them. And if the United States thought that
Britain was leaning too far, that would all be sorted out in private
between the two so there would be an expression of solidarity.
There`s no secret – it may be many secrets here, there`s no mystery. We
see it happening in plain sight. Britain will name Russia. The secretary
of state of the United States will name Russia. The spokesperson for the
president of the United States will not. And that happens on the day when
the House Intelligence Committee releases its report saying nothing to see,
there`s the whole world to see.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, it also happens the day before a very
important special election in Pennsylvania. And so, I`m sitting here
wondering with the Republican in what is supposed to be a safe Republican
district falling behind in the polls did the Republicans – and this is the
House who needs this guy to get elected did they decide and the president
decide, we need to be able to tweet tonight that it`s over.
Here`s this presidential tweet tonight saying, 14-month-long in-depth
investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordinated – the
coordination between Trump campaign in Russia.
Did Donald Trump need to get that out as an election eve tweet in
Pennsylvania? Is that part of what we`re watching?
SWALWELL: His numbers are in the tank, they`re already putting out the
talking points as to why they may lose that seat. He did that in all caps,
SWALWELL: Right? Innocent people don`t, you know, send out all caps. It
looks coordinated. It feels coordinated and this is what we`ve seen before
where the Republicans will make a move on the committee and then Donald
Trump will parrot it and it all seems like it`s intended to undermine Bob
O`DONNELL: But, David, we do have Bob Mueller`s investigation, and there`s
nothing that the Republicans in the House can do about that.
SWALWELL: Right. Well, that`s sort of the baffling thing about president
nailing on his wall this Trump University diploma of vindications, because
what happens when there are indictments? How does that make the House
Intelligence Committee look?
Devon Nunes is from California. I mean, he`s from a very safe district but
from a very Democratic state where – and we`ve seen, you`re not safe at R
plus 11, his district is a little more than R plus 11, none of these people
And they are about to be confronted and confronted again with evidence that
they didn`t do their jobs properly to safeguard the national security of
the country. And this is not like failing on ag or failing on a highway.
This is failing on intelligence in the national security of the United
O`DONNELL: Congressman, in my experience on committees like this, even
though when there`s a very sharp partisan divide, there are those private
moments and there are those people on the other side of the partisan divide
who win private moments, share feelings that are similar to yours, even
though the party is controlling the overall outcome.
Is that one of the conditions that isn`t working the intelligence
committee? Are there Republican members of that committee who actually
have sympathies that leaned in your direction?
SWALWELL: I wish I could tell you that, Lawrence, I always thought because
we`re underground that you know they would be more forthcoming because it`s
not on camera.
SWALWELL: It`s not going to get out to the press.
I was clearing out my text messages from last year trying to put more
memory in my phone yesterday on the train ride, and I saw some text I sent
back in February 2017 to Republican friends, some of them on the committee.
I was asking them to support my bill for a independent bipartisan
And reading those texts, I just couldn`t help but think how naive was I to
think that these guys would do the right thing, that they would unify and
to think about where we`re at right now where they showed a complete
unwillingness to protect the ballot box.
O`DONNELL: But is this a command decision? I mean, is it that they never
got to make that decision, this was a Paul Ryan and down decision?
SWALWELL: You know, I don`t give them that out. They were sent by their
constituents to protect our country and, you know, and we should have seen
O`DONNELL: They didn`t take an oath to Paul Ryan.
SWALWELL: They didn`t take an oath to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan or the
O`DONNELL: David Frum, a quick last word here.
FRUM: I think we are going to see more and more evidence of how untrue all
of this is and it`s going to get harder and harder to contain. What they
have done, it`s like those scenes in a horror movie where the teenagers
slam the door shut, hoping that that means the skeleton behind the door
isn`t there, but the skeletons still there.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both for
joining us tonight. I really appreciate.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump is now desperately trying to save a
Republican House seat in Pennsylvania that is only at risk for Republicans
because of the Trump effect. That`s coming up.
And also, Rob Porter`s former wife Jennie Willoughby will join us to tell
us what it was like to have the White House disregard what she had to say
about Rob Porter and what she would like to hear from the White House and
from John Kelly.
O`DONNELL: If you have a life, you were not home on Saturday night
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s 1999, I`m on “Meet the
Press”, a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd. He`s a sleeping son-
of-a-bitch I`ll tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, what was that? Does that sound like a campaign speech for
a Republican in a special election for a House of Representatives seat in
Pennsylvania? Of course, it doesn`t. But that`s what it was supposed to
Yu just heard some of the president`s campaign speech for Republican Rick
Saccone in Pennsylvania`s 18th congressional district, which is why Rick
Saccone is now running second in the polls to Democrat Conor Lamb in a
district which candidate Donald Trump won by 20 points, in the district
that presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by 17 points. It takes
something very special for a Republican to fall behind in the polls in that
district, and that special thing is obviously the Trump effect.
Donald Trump delivered in the campaign speech with racist comments about
California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represents a district a couple
of thousand miles away from Pennsylvania`s 18th, and I`m not going to show
you what Donald Trump said about Maxine Waters because it is simply too
vile, too poisonous, too hateful to fully Trumpian.
But in that same campaign speech in which he attacked a congresswoman,
Donald Trump defended North Korea`s dictator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: South Korea came to my office after having gone to North Korea and
seeing Kim Jong-un. And no, it`s very positive. No. After the meeting
you may do that but now we have to be very nice because let`s see what
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The people in that crowd cheering on that man represents a
minority of voters in Pennsylvania`s 18th, and a minority of voters in the
United States of America. And as long as Donald Trump plays only to them,
only to that minority, the Trump effect is going to mean losing.
Republicans losing elections and Republicans losing big leads over
Democrats in districts like Pennsylvania`s 18th.
Joining our discussion now, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for
American Progress and also joining us is former Republican Congressman
David Jolly from Florida.
Neera, I hope I`m sure that your life does not include watching Trump
campaign speeches for special house elections on Saturday nights, but it
was impossible not to consume some of this in the video that circulated
afterward. I`d like to get your reaction to how this just as a political
matter, not – forget the morality and the evil ugly stuff immorality
that`s on display there, but as a political matter, who thinks this is
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think the
lesson here is that Donald Trump campaigning for in the midterms will be
all about Donald Trump. And I think the lesson of this race tomorrow which
is in a district that Donald Trump won by 20 points. It`s a district that
has a plus Republican district of plus 11.
So, they have a strong majority a Democrat hasn`t won here in decades.
This is a neck-and-neck race, and I think that`s because Conor Lamb is a
great candidate. Rick Saccone is a bad candidate, but Donald Trump cannot
deliver a House district in a part of the country where he won by 20
points, which should tell Republicans there are few places in the country
he can campaign for them and deliver. And that should really scare Devin
Nunes and everyone else working to overtime to cover up for his misdeeds.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, the Monmouth poll here uses a couple of different
– it uses three different models. One is a surge model with a surge vote.
Conor Lamb wins that 51-45. A high turnout, Conor Lamb is ahead in that
one, 49-47. A low turnout, Conor Lamb, the Democrat is ahead by his
biggest margin there on the low turnout, 51-44.
So – and every one of these versions the Democrat is in the lead right now
and whatever the outcome – unless somehow the polls are wildly wrong and
the Republican comes back and wins this thing by 15, this is a big loss of
yardage for Republicans.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is. Look, one thing that
we`ve seen in every special election is the GOP has underperformed under
Donald Trump. As Neera said, there`s not a down ballot impact on a
congressional candidate from Donald Trump.
And, Lawrence, look, this is a great paradox it is emblematic of where the
Republican Party is today. You have a congressional seat vacated by a
Republican member of Congress who left under disgrace for trying to compel
his mistress have an abortion and that seat is trying to be saved by
president who just paid hush money to a porn star.
Donald Trump`s – his currency if you will does not translate down ballot.
So, while we have seen Republicans underperform what that means in this
race is it`s going to be very tight. The one thing we learned in the
Ossoff race in particular though is this – even Republicans who are upset
with the president who don`t want to turnout for the president, they do
turnout for their party and I do think that`s where the Republican
candidate might have a small chance tomorrow night is to turn out the vote
operation by the GOP.
O`DONNELL: Neera, to David`s point, I mean, this is supposed to be – I
don`t know what you`d call it, sort of a morally cleansing election given
that the vacancy occurred out of this scandal involving the Republican who
held the seat and abortion for his mistress all that stuff, and there`s
Donald Trump taking his stance in the middle of this kind of moral
TANDEN: I mean, I agree, it`s probably not the best messenger in the
district at the moment, but we should remember, this is a very Republican
district. Again, a Democrat didn`t even – there wasn`t even a Democrat
who ran and some of the races recently because it`s been such a tried and
true Democrat – I mean, sorry, Republican district.
And so, in a district that`s plus Republican registration by 11 points,
that is – that is quite a district. If Democrats can be competitive here,
not win even, competitive here, that should be a lesson to Republicans, and
that is why they are dumping the kitchen sink. They have outspent Conor
Lamb ten to one. There`s they just put $11 million into this race.
Rick Saccone has done a poor job, but he`s had to be bailed out by the
Republican establishment in Washington because this race which should be a
shoo-in is a very, very tight competitive district.
O`DONNELL: Now, David, what does that mean for the Republicans when they
suddenly have to spend all sorts of money in a place they really weren`t
JOLLY: Well, it means the party is going to spend all their money to
defend seats not try to pick up seats. And it also says that for some
members who may be vulnerable who still have a few weeks to go to make a
decision for reelection, you may see some retirements depending on the
turnout tomorrow. You`re also going to see recruiting efforts be dampened.
Listen, candidates like myself at one point who might consider being on the
ballot, you`re going to look at Pennsylvania and say, not a chance are you
going to be a Republican on the ballot under this administration. Look,
Donald Trump and we saw this in Pennsylvania, he continues to behave if you
will like a carnival barker, a two-bit huckster and that doesn`t translate
to candidates down ballot. It only hurts them.
It`s not only an embarrassing time to be a Republican when you see moments
like that, it`s exhausting to be an American. We`ve seen – we saw on
Saturday night this trifecta of Donald Trump`s regular act, which is to
insult people by calling them names, to attack the media, attack the press
and to simply lie, only Donald Trump can get away with that in this
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us.
JOLLY: You got it. Thank you, Lawrence.
TANDEN: Thanks. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: Rob Porter`s former wife Jennie Willoughby will
explain John Kelly does not understand about abuse. She wrote an op-ed
piece about this last week. She will be our next guest.
O`DONNELL: Our next guest is Jennie Willoughby. She published an op-ed
piece in “The Washington Post” entitled: I was married to Rob Porter,
here`s what John Kelly doesn`t get about abuse.
She wrote: It has been one month since the story became public of the abuse
I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and along with
accusations from his first wife, Colbie Holderness. Yet the White House
has still not acknowledged our names or apologized to us for mishandling
the situation. In fact, just this month White House Chief of Staff John
Kelly added insult to injury when he explained that he had discounted the
allegations against Rob as “just the accusations of a messy divorce”
including “some level of emotional abuse.” Kelly said he came out with a
strong statement defending Rob because “I made no mention of any type of
physical abuse. I can barely contain my indignation.”
In fact, Jenny Willoughby described a violent encounter that occurred when
after an argument she decided to take a shower and Rob Porter followed her
into the bathroom and dragged her out of that shower by her shoulders.
John Kelly didn`t think that was serious abuse. John Kelly didn`t think it
was serious when Jenny Willoughby obtained a protective order after Rob
Porter punched through the glass on their front door.
After those facts and other details of verbal and emotional abuse became
public John Kelly actually said this about rob porter. Rob Porter is a man
of true integrity and honor, and I can`t say enough good things about him.
He is a friend, a confidant and a trusted professional. I am proud to
serve alongside him.
John Kelly said all of that after Jenny Willoughby told her story of the
marriage to Rob Porter and now a month later, John Kelly is insisting that
Jenny Willoughby`s story amounts to nothing more than “the accusations of a
messy divorce.” If it were up to John Kelly, rob Porter would be still
working in the White House after everything Jenny Willoughby had to say
about him. But the black eye photograph of Rob Porter`s first wife was
something that John Kelly couldn`t dismiss as just “some level of emotional
As if emotional abuse isn`t abuse. As if a wife living in constant fear is
just one of the possible conditions of marriage. It seems John Kelly is
living in constant fear now of being asked, what did he know about Rob
Porter and exactly when did he know it? That is what Congressman Trey
Growdy asked John Kelly in a letter last month, writing in his capacity as
Chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform., Trey
Gowdy asked Kelly “what derogatory information was subsequently made
available to the White House on Porter, when and to whom?”
When we reported on that letter and question last month, it seemed we were
going to get an answer to what John Kelly and everyone else in the White
House knew and when they knew it. But this is the Trump White House after
all, so John Kelly has simply ignored Trey Gowdy`s letter and had an
assistant to the President, named Mark Short, write a reply letter to Trey
Gowdy last week that completely ignores the questions about Rob Porter.
And so we still don`t know what John Kelly knew and when he knew it. The
top Democrat on the Committee, Elijah Cummings has asked Chairman Gowdy to
subpoena the White House for the answers that John Kelly is refusing to
give about Rob Porter. The Rob Porter scandal in the Trump White House has
once again exposed John Kelly to what has become his greatest challenge as
White House Chief of Staff, telling the truth.
When John Kelly was caught telling a completely false story about
Congressman Fredericka Wilson and President Obama, he didn`t apologize to
either one of them and didn`t apologized to the country for lying about
them. And so it is sadly consistent that he has not apologized to Jenny
Willoughby for not taking her story seriously. John Kelly has not
apologized to Jenny Willoughby for actually fighting back is what he did.
He actually fought back against what she had to say by defiantly saying,
Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor. And I can`t say enough
good things about him. Joining us now Jenny Willoughby the former second
ex-wife of former White House Secretary Rob Porter. She`s also a writer
and speaker. Jenny Willoughby thank you very for joining us tonight.
I`m very sorry that the discussion we`re going to have and the reason
you`re hear is because of the difficulties you experienced in your
marriage. But I think we`re all learning a lot from it. So thank you for
joining us and sharing your feelings about this.
JENNY WILLOUGHBY, MSNBNC CONTRINUTOR: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you for
the opportunity to hopefully educate and shed light on the conversation of
O`DONNELL: So you`re a month into this experience of it being public. And
I want to give you a forum here to expand on your op-ed piece that you
really directed to John Kelly because of the way John Kelly dismissed your
revelations when they became public. And then continues to now say that
all he – all he got from what you said was what he called, the stuff that
happens in a messy divorce.
WILLOUGHBY: So I wrote the op-ed because I did have righteous indignation
after he held the press conference saying it was only a messy divorce,
emotional abuse. And my reaction was wow, people can still live – in 2018
live in the denial of the severity of domestic violence. And so while I
addressed the op-ed to General Kelly himself personally, really I think
it`s to the nation as a whole that we live in a place, that we live in a
moment where even after you know, the Me Too Movement, even after all this
exposure of women`s issues and empowerment of women, we still have people
in power who tend to side with their colleagues, who tend to side with the
professional image they`re given. And this is the reason why victims, male
or female, reluctant to speak out because this is how society accepts our
accounts when we do find the bravery to say the truth.
O`DONNELL: What was the reaction to the white house`s reaction to your
revelations? There was a period there before the second set of revelations
came out from Rob Porter`s first wife where you were alone in this and
apparently being dismissed.
WILLOUGHBY: So I wish that my account would have been enough. I wish that
the FBI delaying the security clearance would have been enough. In those
first days as the story was breaking, it was just so overwhelming. I
didn`t really have the time to stop and contemplate the import of what that
means, they weren`t believing my story.
Now I`m a couple weeks removed from it, again it speaks to the greater
problem we have of denial, plausible deniability, right? Well if we can`t
see it then we can like it`s not happening. And that`s so damaging to
anyone in a domestic violence situation that the White House would portray
it that way because that`s what happens when people speak out.
O`DONNELL: It seems that when I look at John Kelly`s comments about this
if I`m to believe them or give them credibility to actually be revealing of
what`s going through his mind. It seems he has some kind of standard and
by the way, we`re using John Kelly I think here in this discussion, to
represent literally millions of people in America –
WILLOUGHBY: Yes, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Certainly millions and millions of men and possibly some
women, whose experience of this leaves them thinking that the proof is in
the choices that the wife makes. The proof is in the choices that you make.
And what they see is the choice that you were making continuously to stay
in this relationship, and stay in it even after some of the troubles
WILLOUGHBY: Right. And the more that I understand about domestic violence
and certainly from my own experience, that is not uncommon because you are
with someone who you love or loved at one point. You chose to enter a
relationship with this person. And the contrition after the violent
episodes is very sincere and very believable.
And because it`s a cyclical pattern, it`s not as though you are living with
someone who is constantly abusive. What you are living in is this state of
not knowing, walking on eggshells. Am I going to get the loving, caring,
public persona or am I going to get the person I need to be afraid of.
O`DONNELL: And you wrote something as this was coming out about why you
stayed. And it actually created this hashtag and this chorus of quoting
you, and so I stayed. I read it on this program in the first coverage of
this. I have to say it`s the most eloquent and illuminating set of
explanations and reasons about why someone stays.
And I think in the broader subject it might be your most important
contribution is putting us in that position of the person who`s choosing to
stay in these situations. And this is – normally as the host when I have
this kind of material, I read it. But I – I would love the audience to
hear this again – or hear it from – could you read this for us? Would you
prefer me to read it?
WILLOUGHBY: No, I – I would love to read it. I haven`t read it out loud
ever. And it is certainly something that`s very emotional, impactful and
does summarize all the emotional up and downs that I was going through over
the course of those four years.
O`DONNELL: Please read it because I think this is where the lesson really
needs to be taught.
WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. I kept my mouth shut and stayed. I was told yes, he
was deeply flawed. But then again, so was I. and so I worked on myself and
stayed. If he was a monster all the time, perhaps it would have been easier
to leave. But he could be kind and sensitive.
And so I stayed. He cried and apologized, and so I stayed. He offered to
get help, and even went to a few counseling sessions and therapy groups,
and so I stayed. He belittled my intelligence, destroyed my confidence, and
so I stayed. I felt ashamed and trapped, and so I stayed. Friends and
clergy didn`t believe me. And so I stayed. I was pregnant, and so I stayed.
I lost the pregnancy and became depressed, and so I stayed.
O`DONNELL: And Jenny, I think when we all read that, we could feel the
loneliness in the corner that you were in. and when I think back to the
neighborhood that I grew up in and women in similar predicaments it was a
different set of reasons why they stayed, including in our case in my
community, that they would be excommunicated from the catholic church if
they left their marriage. The enormity of these kinds of pressures but
everything you identify in there I think puts us in your position and in
the position of these victims, and I think you`ve uniquely conveyed that
for us. I think that`s an invaluable lesson.
WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. I hope, as you said, that it sheds light on the
fact that it`s not just a weak woman or a woman who doesn`t have financial
security or a woman who feels compelled to stay there for other religious
or personal reasons. There are numerous reasons that go into it. Perhaps
the biggest one for me and other people who have shared their stories is
shame because you have stayed. After the first incident for whatever reason
you chose to stay.
And then the shame builds. And to tell someone you`re in the situation when
it`s not something talked about openly, when there are myths and
misconceptions about what an abusive situation looks like, it`s shameful to
have to say that`s me, I`m in one. When you`re educated, when you come from
a family of upstanding Harvard graduates,when you`re in a church community
where people don`t get divorced, they work on their marriage. it is
shameful to have to admit you find yourself in that situation and it keeps
so many people to be victims, afraid they won`t be believed and afraid
people will think less of them for having been in that situation.
O`DONNELL: Jenny, I want to go back to one word you used there, which is
the word weak which is an image people might have of people who stay.
that`s why I find your explanation for staying as long as you did so
powerful but there`s also – in that decision to stay, there is it seems to
me in the way you describe it, this incredible definition of strength, is
strength staying and fighting for this marriage, is that how to express
strength? Or is it strength is best expressed in leaving? I think people
think this is some clear picture of weakness versus strength don`t get it.
WILLOUGHBY: I`ve had a lot of people write to me in comments and in
personal e-mails telling me well I wouldn`t have stayed. You obviously
chose this. You wanted to be abused if you didn`t leave.
And you`re right I don`t think they understand the magnitude and nuances of
what happens in an abusive relationship. It`s not about weakness of
character or physical weakness or emotional strength. It`s about what you
value in your life and what you value is your sense of self and your self
image and that is your first thing to go in your relationship. So how can
you possibly assess the situation clearly?
O`DONNELL: Jenny Willoughby thank you very much for spending some time
with us tonight. And again I`m very sorry this is the subject that`s
brought us together. But I believe what you`re letting people understand is
extremely helpful and may be opening the eyes of people like John Kelly who
have some judgments about this that aren`t including all the factors they
should. So again, jenny, thank you for joining us.
WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and
his daughter were poisoned with a military grade nerve agent of a type by
Russia. The government has concluded it was highly likely that the Russian
government was responsible for the attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, of course, any other President of the United States other
than Donald Trump would express support of our British ally. But we`re not
dealing with any other President of the United States. We`re dealing with
the Trump presidency. And in Trump Administration style, his team cannot
get their story straight on the U.S. response to Prime Minister May`s
statement. Next Counter Terrorism Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance
will tell us what the United States should be doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAY: So therefore only two plausible explanations to what happened in
Salisbury on the 4th of march. Either this was a direct act against the
Russian State against our country or the Russian Government lost control of
it`s potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to
get into the hands of others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Malcolm Nance an MSNBC Counterterrorism and
Intelligence Analyst. So Malcolm, which is it? A direct attack by the
Russian State or Russia lost control of its weapon of mass destruction?
Malcolm Nance, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This was without a doubt a direct attack
by Russian Federation on the United Kingdom. Let me go one step further.
This is a state sponsored terrorist attack using class one terrorist.
That`s a state intelligence organization, North Korea that would go out and
carry out a weapon of mass destruction attack on a NATO Member. This is a
very serious event and no one should be taking it lightly because they went
after two individuals. They contaminated over 21 and again, this is a state
O`DONNELL: And speaking of taking it lightly, that seems to be the White
House Press Secretary today refusing to make any kind of real statement
NANCE: Well, yeah. This is insane. Look, Britain was attacked. They could
if they want to, if they determine the scope of this spread of this weapon
of mass destruction of the mythical Novichok Nerve Gas which, you know, I
took chemical weapons training. This stuff was never even known.
We knew about VX-type nerve gases. This is more virulent. The United
States should be on a maximum alert that this stuff isn`t used in this
country. Britain could invoke article five of the NATO charter saying that
they were attacked and that all NATO nations would have to come to its aid
in this instance. I don`t believe this White House would honor that.
O`DONNELL: Malcolm, if it can happen there, can it happen here?
NANCE: Absolutely. Let me tell you, the United States has taken in dozens
of former Soviet and Russian Intelligence officers who have worked for the
CIA or other agencies or who have just retired in the United States. I know
some personally. And let me tell you, Vladimir Putin believes right now and
he said it on state television just two or three nights ago that the one
thing that he will not tolerate, this is, by the way, this is an ex-KGB
He will not tolerate betrayal. The next day Russian State Television came
out and said this is what happens to traitors. They are going after all ex
Soviet and Russian agents that ever worked for the United States, Great
Britain, Nato and are attempting to kill them. This could easily happen in
the United States. It could easily kill more than just the intended
victims, which is, of course, the definition of terrorism.
O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, thank you for your invaluable expertise on this
tonight. We really needed it tonight. Thank you, malcolm.
NANC: My pleasure
O`DONNELL: The Last Word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for Tonight`s Last Word.
COLIN JOST, HOLLYWOOD ACTOR: in January of 2017 a secret meeting took
place in the Seychelles between a Trump associate, an official from the
United Emirates and a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin. So sounds
At least with all this Mueller stuff we`re learning a lot about geography,
you know. I mean Trump at this point is basically Carmen San Diego, only he
wants to deport anyone with a name like Carmen San Diego.
O`DONNELL: Staten Islands local hero Colin Jost gets tonight`s Last Word.
One of Florida`s members of congress who met with President Trump after the
Parkland Mass Murder will give her reaction to new school safety proposal
next in the 11th hour with Brian Williams, which starts now.
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