Trump files finance disclosure. TRANSCRIPT: 05/15/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: May 14, 2018
Guest: Michael Avenatti, Ron Klain, Nicholas Kristof, Joyce Vance
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. And it`s so sad to see
what`s happened to what used to be called the food stamp program.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, “A.M. JOY”: Indeed.
O`DONNELL: Which when it was created was one of the real bipartisan
triumphs of the Congress. Conservative senators like Bob Dole from
agriculture states teaming up with liberal senators like George McGovern
from an agriculture state put that program together.
REID: Yes, and it literally goes directly into the cash registers of
places like Walmart and super markets. Proctor and Gamble loves it, they
sell a lot of macaroni and cheese and things like that. So, it`s
interesting. It had that broad support, but no longer.
O`DONNELL: Nothing is the way it used to be.
REID: At all. Thank you so much, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy.
REID: Have a good night.
O`DONNELL: Well, finally, the president of the United States has said
something that will command the agreement of even the most relentless
members of the resistance to the president of the United States. Donald
Trump`s most unforgiving critics agree with the spirit of the statement the
president made today, even if they might choose different specific words.
As with most Trump statements, it need not be said that no president in
history has ever said anything like this. Today, Donald Trump actually
said his White House staff, quote, are traitors and cowards. For any White
House staffers for whom working for Donald Trump wasn`t shameful enough
before today, they can now add to their shame that even Donald Trump thinks
they are traitors and cowards.
In a tweet late this afternoon, the president said: the so-called leaks
coming out of the White House are a massive over-exaggeration put out by
the fake news media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that
being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they
So, the leaks from the Trump White House are fake but Donald Trump thinks
that leakers, White House leakers are traitors and cowards and he`s trying
to find out who they are. And while he is busy trying to find out who they
are, 22 of those traitors and cowards teamed up to supply “The Washington
Post” with its latest story based entirely on leaks the president is trying
to stop, about a day in the life of the president under investigation.
The president vents to associates about the FBI raids on his personal
attorney Michael Cohen, as often as 20 times a day in the estimation of one
confidant. And they frequently listen in silence, knowing little they say
will soothe him. Trump gripes that he needs better TV lawyers to defend
him on cable news. He plots his battle plans with former New York Mayor
Rudolph W. Giuliani, his new legal consigliere. Twenty times a day.
The White House staff who the president now calls traitors and cowards also
told “The Washington Post” that, quote, they privately express worries that
the probe may yet ensnare more figures in Trump`s orbit, including family
members. There is particular worry about Trump`s eldest son, Donald Trump,
Jr., and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser.
Last night on Showtime`s “The Circus”, John Heilemann delivered the moment
last week when Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, dramatically
changed our understanding of what Michael Cohen was up to in Trump world
before the FBI raided his home, his office and his hotel room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HEILEMANN, THE CIRCUS: You got a tweet written?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAYWER: Two tweets.
HEILEMANN: Two tweets.
AVENATTI: This is the first tweet. After significant investigation, we
have discovered that Mr. Trump`s attorney, Mr. Cohen, received
approximately $500,000 from a company controlled by a Russian oligarch with
close ties to Mr. Putin. These moneys may have reimbursed the $130,000
HEILEMANN: That`s a big deal. Give me the second tweet now.
AVENATTI: The executive summary may be accessed via the link below. Mr.
Trump and Mr. Cohen have a lot of explaining to do. It was just sent.
HEILEMANN: It was just sent. There it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann and Michael Avenatti will join us in a moment.
Michael Avenatti`s revelations about millions of dollars received by
Michael Cohen for questionable consulting was all confirmed and then some
by follow-up reports in newspapers, only that Michael Avenatti had
understated the total amounts paid by some of those corporations.
Today`s “Wall Street Journal” carried new details about how Michael Cohen
obtained those fees after Donald Trump was elected president. He would
tell prospective clients large corporations worried about their lack of
connections to President Donald Trump`s administration, that he didn`t know
who he was advising them but that the company should fire them all, a
person familiar with Mr. Cohen`s approach, said. I have the best
relationship with the president on the outside, and you need to hire me,
Mr. Cohen told them, according to this person.
“The Journal” reports that Michael Cohen traded on his labeling of himself
as the president`s lawyer and leaned all the more heavily on companies that
did not want to do business with him. Mr. Cohen repeatedly pitched Uber,
which said, no, citing Mr. Cohen`s ownership of New York taxi medallions as
a potential conflict of interest with the ride-hailing firm, a person close
to the company said. He modified his pitch in response to those
objections, reminding the company he was the president`s lawyer, this
Michael Avenatti has once again expanded the dimensions of the Michael
Cohen story by tweeting yesterday video images captured in the lobby of
Trump Tower during the transition on December 12, 2016. Those images show
Michael Cohen close to a bald man who appears to be Ahmed Rumaihi and
another shot that some – that same day of Michael Cohen in the lobby of
Trump Tower with Michael Flynn.
In a follow-up tweet, Michael Avenatti said, why was Ahmed al-Rumaihi
meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December of 2016? And why
did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials
according to a sworn declaration filed in court?
And joining us now with what we hope is the answer to his own question,
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. Also with us, John
Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s the co-
host and executive producer of Showtime`s “The Circus”. And Joyce Vance is
with us, former federal prosecutor. She`s a professor at the University of
Alabama School of Law and an MSNBC contributor.
Michael Avenatti, so do you have the answer to your question about what
Michael Cohen was up to there in the lobby of Trump Tower?
AVENATTI: We have the answer, Lawrence, but we`re not going to disclose it
tonight. Let me say this, I tweeted this out moments ago. I mean, I think
when the truth relating to this meeting comes out shortly, it`s going to
redefine the word ugly. When the truth comes out relating to what Michael
Cohen was doing there that day in connection with these two individuals in
this elevator at Trump Tower, we know that Michael Flynn was also there
And, you know, Lawrence, the problem is, is that Michael Cohen was not a
registered lobbyist. He was not a registered foreign agent. He had no
formal role in connection with the transition, ultimately, had no formal
role in the administration. So, I don`t think he`s taking these guys
upstairs to pick up to-go dinners or anything of that nature.
I mean, they had to be there for something. I think it`s going to come out
shortly as to why they were there, and I don`t think it`s going to come out
shortly as to why they were there and I don`t think it`s going to be
O`DONNELL: Now, you mentioned an American lawsuit in which al-Rumaihi is
quoted as bragging about in effect bribing politicians in Washington. Is
it through that lawsuit that you expect the information to come out?
AVENATTI: Well, I don`t want to get into how I expect it to come out. But
what I will say is, is that there is a declaration filed in that lawsuit
that I think is absolutely bullet proof, that details the statements of
this individual relating to the fact that he had successfully bribed
administration officials, namely Michael Flynn. And I don`t think it ends
there. We have a video and photographic evidence that shows that Michael
Cohen was at the center of this.
We know from what we released last week, to your point that`s been
confirmed, that Michael Cohen was selling access to the president of the
United States. And let me also say, Lawrence, that I think the suggestion
that all of this was going on with involvement by Michael Cohen,
involvement by Michael Flynn and at the same time the president knew
absolutely nothing about it is absurd.
O`DONNELL: Now, we all remember those days during the transition and Trump
Tower and there were cameras set up all day and people moving in and out of
there, sometimes dozens of people, including the likes of Kanye West, James
Comey had his day in the lobby. All sorts of people passed through there.
Is it possible that it`s just coincidence that Michael Cohen is on that
elevator at that time with al Rumaihi?
AVENATTI: No, because if you see the video actually, and I think we also
post in the video, at least we designated portions of the video that people
should go and look at on my Twitter feed, if you look at the video, he
walks in with them, it`s clear as day he walks in with them and gets on the
elevator with them. I don`t think this is just happenstance by any stretch
of the imagination.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, once again the guy beside you has expanded the
dimensions of what we are aware of – I was going to say what we know about
Michael Cohen, it`s more about a matter of what we are aware of, because
I`m not sure what we know as a result of those images. Michael Avenatti`s
promises in the past that there is more to come have generally proven to be
HEILEMANN: Well, let me tell you about the story, and it`s going to take
us into the weeds here, but it`s a little – it`s pretty interesting, I
think. You may have red in the last couple weeks about a lawsuit that was
filed by – the lawsuit that Mr. Avenatti is referring to which is a
lawsuit filed by two individuals, Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube, the rapper,
who run a league called the Big3, which is an old timers NBA basketball
league. They had some Qatari investors, including Mr. Rumaihi.
In the course of the – there have been various financial entanglements and
disputes between the league, those two guys, Kwatinetz and Cube, and those
Qataris. They`ve now sued the Qataris, and it`s in the course of that
lawsuit that this declaration have been made, that Mr. Kwatinetz, somebody
I happened to have known since my senior year in high school, I went to
college with –
O`DONNELL: No, no, the world is not that small. The guy I was reading
about in this lawsuit today you went to high school with?
HEILEMANN: No. Someone I knew in my senior year (AUDIO GAP) I lived with
for two years at Harvard, and graduate school, who is – continues to be
someone I know extraordinarily well.
So, he declares in the lawsuit that the reason that the Qataris invested in
Big3 was because Jeff Kwatinetz, was a very good friend of Steve Bannon,
and that the Qataris were trying to use their investment in the league to
get access to Bannon and through Bannon influence Trump. And it`s a sworn
declaration in this case where he says that in his discussions with the
Qataris and Mr. Rumaihi, that he claims to had already bribed Mike Flynn.
And he said, you know, you should take our money to give to Steve Bannon,
and Kwatinetz says this is a terrible idea, I don`t want to be involved
with this. And he says, what are you talking about? A lot of Americans
take our money, Mike Flynn took our money.
Michael Cohen is not named in that lawsuit. So, what Mr. Avenatti has done
here, at least at this point, is connected a dot between this lawsuit and
the allegations that the Qataris, they claimed according to this, that they
had bribed Mike Flynn. Now, we have Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and the
person who is said to have bribed Flynn in this elevator together.
I don`t know what the connection between – what Michael Cohen is – I know
nothing about the Cohen connection to this, if there is any Cohen
connection to this other than the fact they rode in an elevator together.
But the story of these Qataris and their attempts to get into – basically
engage in what seems like an influence operation through this very strange
medium, which is to say an old-timers basketball league, is an amazing
story, that probably because it involves a rap star like Ice Cube.
But here we have an instance where it seems like again, one of the things
that Michael Avenatti has done in bring various cases kind of bring threads
together and sow – create a garment. We don`t know exactly what the shape
of this garment is, or at least I don`t yet, but the garment is starting to
become a little more visible.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, certainly the special prosecutor is aware of this
sworn statement in the lawsuit and this – and the way – what Rumaihi is
quoted as saying basically, is, do you think Mike Flynn didn`t take our
money? That`s the kind of statement made in a lawsuit like that that would
attract the special prosecutor`s attention.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It would attract a lot of attention if
they had not known about it before the statement was filed in connection
with the lawsuit. We`re seeing a lot of indication, though, that Mueller
was looking at a lot of different threads in this investigation back late
last year that we`re only just now learning that he was looking at back in
that time period.
So, one rather suspects that he would have been onto this well before it
became public knowledge as has been the case over and over again in this
investigation and that`s really what you would expect. You would expect
prosecutors to know much more and be much further down the path than the
public is aware they`ve been able to travel.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce, let me ask you another legal question about what we
heard Michael Cohen quoted as saying when he was approaching these
companies to represent them. At a certain point on saying to them, you
need me. You need to hire me.
Does that begin to edge up toward something that sounds threatening?
VANCE: Lawrence, I think this is the real question in the Cohen
investigation. Was he just a huckster? Was he someone who is self-
promoting and trying to hustle some business? Or was he really selling
access to the president of the United States?
That will likely have been the focus for Mueller and his team trying to
determine whether Cohen was freelancing or whether he was actually selling
access to the president. And there`s an interesting little bit of
circumstance swirling around this, because if you`re going to set yourself
up in a pay-to-play situation, you know, you`ve got to pay me if you want
to play with this administration, there has to be some reasonable threat
that you can really carry out.
So, here we have a tweet that the president was tweeting out about American
companies and there were financial repercussions for the companies when
those tweets happened. It will be interesting to see how this all compares
as Cohen goes out and sort of bids with people, tries to get them to hire
him, was there Twitter activity in that industry? Did any of these
companies believe either from tweets or from other sources and other
circumstances that they really did have to hire Cohen if they wanted to get
contracts, get favorable treatment, have access? That will be what this
investigation will be looking at.
And it`s not unforeseen. It`s not unpredictable that will happen. That is
the bread and butter of prosecutors doing public corruption cases.
O`DONNELL: And, Michael, there`s another side of this legal coin. One
side of it is you need to hire me in order to get benefits. The other side
of it is, which is kind of the old mafia version of it, you need to hire me
to prevent this president from doing serious damage to you. I will – I
will get this president not to do damage to you.
AVENATTI: Well, there`s little doubt, Lawrence, I don`t know this for a
fact, but, look, based on the way I know Michael Cohen and the way he`s
conducted himself, there`s little doubt in my mind that probably both
messages were delivered. And, look, let me also say this, I seriously
doubt that at the end of this, there`s going to be any doubt as to whether
Mr. Trump knew what was going on here. Because otherwise, Michael Cohen
would have had to string these clients along, month in, month out, month
in, month out, relating to what he was telling the president,
communications with the president.
At some point, these clients that retained him had to ask him, well, did
you run it by the president? What did the president say? When do we get
to meet the president? Or when do we have lunch with the president?
What`s the president`s position? I mean, that had to have occurred at some
point during this process.
So, unless Michael Cohen is absolutely lying to the clients that are paying
him all this money, then obviously, the president had to have known that
Michael Cohen was carrying the water for some of these folks.
O`DONNELL: And, John, the chances of Michael Cohen lying to the clients
also seem to have a very high possibility. One of “The Wall Street
Journal” reports talk how unhappy Michael Cohen was about his lack of
relationship with the president while Donald Trump was in the White House.
HEILEMANN: One of the fundamental realities about Michael Cohen is that if
you went back to the period in 2010, 2011, 2012, when President Trump was
thinking about running – candidate Trump was thinking about running for
president, in the earlier cycle, Michael Cohen was with him constantly, and
there was no one who covered Trump in that period as I did who didn`t
expect Michael Cohen would be his campaign manager had he ran in 2012.
When you got to 2015, 2016, he wasn`t in the campaign in any essential way.
And then, of course, we all know, Donald Trump didn`t want to take him to
Washington. So, some distance had happened. And one wonders whether the
extent to which Cohen was actually making legitimate representations about
his connections with the president, versus overstating how close he was.
We know he was depressed and felt betrayed about not getting to go.
A lot of questions there about where – what the state of that relationship
at the end of – at the time when the transition was happening.
O`DONNELL: A quick last question on timetable, when will we find out what
happened on December 12, 2016, at Trump Tower?
AVENATTI: I think soon.
O`DONNELL: Soon is a week? Soon is a month?
AVENATTI: Soon is soon.
O`DONNELL: Soon is soon. Michael Avenatti, soon is soon. That`s – I
think that`s on your business card.
HEILEMANN: Maybe on the other side of this break.
HEILEMANN: Who knows?
O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti and Joyce Vance, thank you for your legal
perspective on this. I really appreciate it. John Heilemann is going to
stay with us.
Coming up, the disgrace of John Kelly continues and deepens as President
Trump proves that John McCain was right in banning the president from his
And later, what is Mike Pence up to? That is the question some Trump
staffers are asking each other.
O`DONNELL: John Kelly continues to find new depths of disgrace in his role
as White House chief of staff. His vicious comments last week about
immigrant families being ripped apart by the Trump government with children
thrown into, quote, foster care or whatever, actually reflect John Kelly`s
own thinking. That is something Kelly would happily opine about at any bar
in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up.
That cruelty comes straight from John Kelly`s own heart. That cruelty is
not something that he learned in the Trump White House. The immigrant from
John Kelly`s own ancestry who came to this country not speaking English and
never learning to speak English fit perfectly John Kelly`s description last
week of people who should not be allowed into this country.
So, John Kelly managed to disgrace his own ancestors with those comments,
but he sure sounds like he means it when he says it. At the same time, it
is still impossible – just impossible to imagine that John Kelly shares
White House staffer Kelly Sadler`s disdain for Senator John McCain when she
said this last week in a White House staff meeting in reaction to Senator
McCain`s opposition to the president`s nominee to be the director of the
CIA. Quote, it doesn`t matter, he`s dying anyway.
It is impossible to believe that John Kelly does not respect John McCain,
the decorated former prisoner of war in Vietnam who comes from a family
richer in military tradition than John Kelly`s own family. And so, John
Kelly`s silence about Kelly Sadler`s comments has to be the product of John
Kelly`s own cowardly fear of the wrath of Donald Trump.
Any other White House chief of staff would have fired Kelly Sadler
immediately upon learning of her comment. Any White House staffer with the
slightest sense of decency and duty to the White House would have
immediately quit when her comment became public, so as to relieve the White
House of that terrible controversy. But not Kelly Sadler, she doesn`t have
that kind of decency.
She promised Senator McCain`s daughter, Meghan McCain, last week in a
telephone apology to Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly and
she has not done it. And so, it is now very clear who is managing the
White House response to the Kelly Sadler comments about John McCain.
Here`s the White House press briefing today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why not just apologize so America doesn`t think that is an
acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I understand the
focus on the issue but it`s going to be dealt with, and has been dealt with
REPORTER: Can you explain how it`s been addressed internally?
SHAH: Obviously, if I explain all that, then it won`t remain internal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I can explain it, you can explain it. Anyone who`s been
watching Donald Trump can explain it.
Donald Trump is obviously personally managing this controversy in the White
House and he is forbidding Kelly Sadler from publicly apologizing to John
McCain and he is forbidding John Kelly from firing Kelly Sadler, and he is
forbidding John Kelly from standing with the American military hero John
McCain and at least publicly condemning Kelly Sadler`s comment, even if he
is not allowed to fire her.
There will be leaks. We might have to wait for another Michael Wolff book,
but there will be leaks about how John Kelly handled himself inside the
Trump White House when the day came to stand silently with Kelly Sadler or
stand honorably with John McCain.
The White House press secretary conducted a meeting about the leak of what
Kelly Sadler had to say about John McCain and “Axios” reports: a visibly
upset and furious press secretary Sarah Sanders told the group, I am sure
this conversation is going to leak, too, and that`s just disgusting.
And, of course, I can read you that quote of what the White House press
secretary said in that meeting because it was leaked by one or more of
those people who Donald Trump calls traitors and cowards.
Joining our discussion now, Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice
Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President
Obama. And back with us is John Heilemann.
And, Ron Klain, you have lived and worked in a White House. And all White
Houses are concerned about leaks, but we have never seen anything quite
RON KLAIN: No. Look, leaks are part of Washington, and they happen in all
administrations, but this seems to be the worst by a factor of many than
anything we`ve seen. But the fundamental problem is this, if the president
wants to stop leaks of horrible, embarrassing information about his
administration, he ought to stop doing horrible and embarrassing things.
I mean, the fundamental problem really isn`t that the stuff is leaking out,
the fundamental problem is that this stuff is having. And that a member of
the stay to say what Kelly Sadler said about John McCain, again, the issue
isn`t that it`s leaked, it`s that she said it and nothing ha been done
O`DONNELL: And by now, John Heilemann, we – it`s fair to infer that
President Trump thinks about John McCain exactly the way Kelly Sadler does.
HEILEMANN: Well, I think we could have inferred that sometime before given
the history with him and John McCain. I really think that – I don`t want
to cut – she said a horrible thing. Everybody we know has said something
snotty, or something disrespectful or something nasty about someone at some
point, and regretted it. And it`s the easiest thing in the world.
It`s hard. Not – it`s not – it`s not completely easy. But really, if
you just come out and apologize, everyone will understand that you could
have said something obnoxious. She apparently apologized privately to the
McCain family. Having apologized privately, what is the reason why they
will not apologize publicly?
It has something to do with Donald Trump`s attitude which is never
apologize for anything ever.
And I think they just – it`s the most insane prolonging of a ridiculous –
a story that`s doing nothing but bad for them, when all it would have taken
was 30 seconds for the woman to say, and the White House to stand by her
and say, yes, I said something terrible. Genuinely terrible, I`m really
sorry for that. And it will all be over.
But, of course, that then would have raised the question, well, wait, your
boss said that he started trashing John McCain when he first got in the
race and isn`t what you`re saying just basically consistent – a worse
version, but a consistent version of what President Trump thinks about John
McCain and then you have a whole other set of issues and troubles.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, different jobs have different standards of public
conduct and different reactions to when private conduct becomes public.
There`s no stricter standard that I`m aware of than the White House itself.
Can you imagine something like this even if it was said – her defense is,
it was a joke. That`s her defense.
That can work as a defense in comedy writing rooms, in Hollywood. It can
work in many settings. It can work in many workplaces. But what do you
think any other White House, their reaction would be to a comment like this
being made public?
KLAIN: Well, look, I agree with John Heilemann. Everyone says things they
regret in politics and in public life. The key thing is to own up to them
and to apologize both privately and publicly. That wasn`t done here.
I have doubts that this was a joke, though. I mean, as John mentioned,
Donald Trump has said the most horrible things about John McCain, by the
way, not just in this campaign, but all the way back to 2000 when Donald
Trump started on this troupe that John McCain wasn`t a hero because he was
captured during the Vietnam War, this man who avoided service to his
country during that war. So, I think that the fundamental problem here is
a lack of respect for Senator McCain.
Look, I disagree with John McCain on a lot of issues. I worked hard on a
campaign to beat him for the presidency, but I also don`t see how anyone
cannot respect the man, the hero that he is, his service to our country and
that lack of respect is just evident in the Trump White House. The last
thing I will say is, you know, John McCain has a lot of friends on Capitol
Hill and in the U.S. Senate in particular. And this attitude from the
Trump White House is going to cost them up on Capitol Hill if they want to
try and get anything else done up there in the foreseeable future.
O`DONNELL: John Kelly famously said I remember when women were sacred,
held sacred. Apparently he does not remember when prisoners of war were
JOHN HEILEMANN, HOST, THE CIRCUS: You would think if John Kelly had
control over this White House and again, he`s a military man, he must, on
some level – he must respect John McCain`s sacrifice, respect John McCain,
so he must either feel as though he`s given up on trying to contain some of
the excess in the White House or he feels cowed by President Trump who he`s
afraid if he were to order the person who committed this sin to atone that
somehow he would face the wrath of the President for allowing anybody in
the White House to apologize for anything. And so either one, either he is
given up or he is afraid of Donald Trump, neither is a good look.
Ron Klain, your reaction to the former marine general, working in the White
House, being absolutely silent on this comment about John McCain.
KLAIN: It`s sad. There`s no other way to describe it. John Kelly had
great service to the country, paid the ultimate sacrifice in the loss of
his son serving our country. And he is a dedicated loyal military man.
And for someone with that kind of record not to have the authority or the
will or whatever he has been deprived to say to Kelly Sadler, you march out
there publicly and apologize to senator McCain and his family in public is
a horrible unwinding of his authority, of his moral authority, of the kind
of authority you should have as White House chief of staff. And that
Donald Trump has done that to him is a horrible thing and that John Kelly
has accepted it is an equally horrible thing. And it`s a disgrace to see.
O`DONNELL: And John Kelly will continue to go to work tomorrow and work
side by side with Kelly Sadler.
Ron Klain, thank you for joining our discussion tonight.
Coming up, some members of team Trump are getting very worried about team
O`DONNELL: What happens when the leader of a party would rather play golf
than lead a party, and doesn`t know how to lead a party anyway?
Enter Mike Pence, the “New York Times” reports Republican officials now see
Mr. Pence as seeking to exercise expansive control over a political party
extensively helped by Mr. Trump tending to his own allies and interests
even when the President`s instincts lean in another direction. Even as he
lays his perfect remarks with praise for the President, Mr. has influential
chief of staff Nick Ayers are unsettling a group of Mr. Trump`s fierce
loyalists who fear they are forging a separate power base.
Mike Pence knows that he is going to be running for President in 2024,
either to follow the Trump presidency or to unseat the Democrat who will
have defeated Donald Trump. And Mike Pence knows that unlike Donald Trump
he cannot win on personality alone.
According to the Times, while Mr. Trump remains an over powering
personality in Republican politics, he is mostly uninterested in the
mechanics of managing a political party. His team of advisers is ribbon
with personal divisions and the White House has not yet crafted a strategy
for the midterms. So Mr. Trump`s supremely disappointing to running mate
has stepped into the void.
The Times also reports that today the Pence team tried to counter any
suspicions of disunity by letting it be known via FOX News that Donald
Trump`s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski is joining the effort as
an adviser to the Pence political action committee.
Joining us now Jonathan Allen, a national political reporter for NBC news
digital and then John Heinemann is still with us.
Jonathan Allen you have been reporting on what`s going on in the Pence camp
and the worries that the Trump camp has. What`s the situation tonight?
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS DIGITAL NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, as you
noted in the intro, Lawrence, Mike Pence has basically emerged as a
political force on his own. He has a web of groups, including this super
Pac that Corey Lewandowski has signed on to, then he has used his vehicle.
You know, one`s a political action community, the other is a nonprofit, a
charity. That he is using to go around the Republicans to help Republicans
stands and maybe also to help himself.
A lot of the folks in Trump world were not pleased with that. One
Republican source familiar with move told me that the President asked Corey
Lewandowski to go kind of keep an eye on – to keep an eye on Pence world.
And another source I talked to about this, you know, basically said Trump
and Pence are generally aligned, they get along personally, but this is
Trump making sure it`s clear to everyone who`s still boss.
O`DONNELL: And John, “Politico” is reporting tonight on another possible
point of friction, and that is Senator John McCain has reportedly decided
he doesn`t want Donald Trump at his funeral but he does want the vice
President. So what does the vice President do? Does the vice president
attend? If he does attend, does that irritate President Trump?
HEILEMANN: Hard to imagine it won`t irritate President Trump. But I kind
of think in the end that Trump will probably will be happy to outsource
that particular activity, that particular duty, to Pence because I think
Trump probably would not want to go to the funeral. So there, you know how
Trump is. Trump will be – Trump is focused on slates. And that – I`m
sure it has annoyed him to have heard that he`s not welcome at the funeral.
It`s also the case of Trump being as narcissistic as he is, he would rather
be playing golf that day anyway, whenever that day happens to be who he
preferred in playing golf. And so, he will console himself with the notion
that, well, I didn`t really want to go to that thing anyhow.
O`DONNELL: Right. Jonathan Allen, this story also coincides or all these
stories about leaks and the President calling his own staff traitors for
leaking and certainly part of the concerns about leaking is what`s going on
with the Pence operation and what might they be leaking?
ALLEN: Well, I mean, the irony of Donald Trump calling people cowards and
traitors for leaking is pretty strong. I mean, this guy has been talking
to the press for the last 30 or so years. Sometimes under his own name,
sometimes as John Baron or what have you.
Look. Everybody in this White House, it appears, for all the reporting and
– I mean, everyone in Trump world leaks. And somewhat like it, the Pence
operation has been a little more tightly held. And there are bunch of
Pence people, you know, sort of marble throughout the White House. I mean,
it is not just (INAUDIBLE), you got Marc Short, the White House legislative
affairs director. His experience on Capitol Hill was as Mike Pence`s staff
director when he was the chairman of the Republican study committee and the
Republican conference in the house.
So these Pence guys know how to play the game in Washington pretty well in
a way I think a lot of the other Trump folks may not be as adept at. So as
a result I think generally speaking their leaks are a little bit more
O`DONNELL: Yes. And John Heilemann, one of the White House leakers in
chief, Kellyanne Conway, was on FOX News earlier tonight and actually
saying that she actually expects there to be some firings – personnel
changes as they put it, as a result of the leaking investigations that
they`re trying to run now.
HEILEMANN: I would bet a reasonable amount of money that is an empty
threat. It`s one of those things where you are asked – people know you`re
conducting leak investigations, what will be the consequences of these leak
investigations, Ms. Conway? Nothing. Now, you can`t really say that. So
of course, you have to say there are going to be changes. We are going to
do something at the end of the investigation or else (INAUDIBLE).
I will say about Mike Pence this. If you think about the various things
he`s doing and the aggressiveness in which he suddenly doing it, it does
reflect I think his understanding that he is playing a very weak hand on
some level. He is someone who is not the natural inheritor to Donald
Trump`s base. He is not the national inheritor or anybody`s base at this
point. And he is looking at a situation where either Donald Trump is going
really – he is going to survive this first term. He is going to run for
reelection or not, and either win or not.
But then he is looking at running in 2024. That`s a long way down the road
and the party is going to be radically different at the end of either one
of those outcomes or Trump is not going to finish out the first time, in
which case Pence will not be the inheritor, will not waltz (ph) to the
Republican. I mean, he will be challenged by 25 Republicans. Many of them
much better candidates, much more beloved with much bigger bases in the
national Republican Party than himself. So he has to do everything he`s
doing right now to try to put himself in a reasonable position to thrive
let alone rise.
O`DONNELL: And on that, the most dramatic scenario of all that we have
considered tonight. We have to take a break.
Jon Allen and John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate
Coming up, President Trump did keep a campaign promise today.
O`DONNELL: Today, Jared Kushner was allowed to speak publically 5,900
miles away from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: By moving our embassy to
Jerusalem, we have shown the world once again that the United States can be
trusted. We stand with our friends and our allies, and above all else we
have shown that the United States of America will do what`s right, and so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Jared Kushner was speaking, here`s what was happening 50
miles away, violence erupted as thousands of Palestinians protested at the
border fence separating Israel from Gaza. Israeli soldiers and snipers
used tear gas and gun fire to keep protesters from entering Israeli
territory. At least 58 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700
At the White House, the deputy press secretary placed all the
responsibility for the violence in Gaza on Hamas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We believe that Hamas is
responsible for what`s going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there is no responsibility beyond that to the
Israeli authorities? Kill at will?
SHAH: What I`m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization,
is engaged in action that`s leading to these deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting on Gaza
tomorrow. And Nicholas Kritof will join us next on the development of
Israel and Gaza today and what might happen at the United Nations tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUSHNER: As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even
today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning
columnist for “The New York Times.”
And Nick, you have been to Israel and Gaza many times. Your reaction to
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think first of all it`s
just kind of horrifying to watch a celebration at this new U.S. embassy at
a time when 1,300 people are being shot 40 miles away in Gaza. And I guess
also it just strikes me that this is so unnecessary that – and, you know,
for 70 years the U.S. has aspired, not always succeeded, not always
effectively, but we have at least aspired to be a good faith intermediary
between Israel and the Palestinians.
And by moving the embassy in this way. And by today having the White House
say – not even call for restraint on Israel a part, just signals that we
are no longer intermediaries. We are completely on the side of Israel on
And I guess I think also, you know, we are very much focused on the – on
Gazans responding to the move of the American embassy. But let`s also
acknowledge that they are responding to a misery that has been created by a
dozen years of an economic blockade that has systematically robbed people
of economic opportunities, undermine the middle class, robbed people of
hope, and obviously there are very genuine security issues that Israel has
to deal with and any country has to protect its border. But one would also
like to see a little bit of restraint, a little bit of greater attempt to
avoid unnecessary casualties.
And, you know, instead what we`ve seen is journalists with press marketed
on them being shot. My colleague, Declan Walsh, was at the border and saw
a woman nearby, a 26-year-old woman who had a mental disability shot in the
stomach, and I just find it kind of heartbreaking that at the moment this
is going on, we are celebrating the opening of the embassy and not even
calling for restraint.
O`DONNELL: John Brennan said today, deaths in Gaza, result of utter
disregard of Trump and Netanyahu for Palestinian rights and homeland. By
moving embassy to Jerusalem, Trump play politics, destroyed U.S. peace
maker role, new generation of Israelis, Palestinians, need to isolate
extremists to find path to peace. That last hopeful sentence seems like a
KRISTOF: Remember the Trump administration talking about how it was going
to bring peace. And instead what it has brought is a despair and
hopelessness and undermined the leadership in these areas. And, look, you
know, when the White House criticizes Hamas, absolutely. Hamas has been
repressive. It has been an awful administrator of Gaza. There`s
tremendous resentment against it. But we aren`t responsible for Hamas. We
are arming Israel. We`re providing Israel with aid. And when our ally
then goes and shoots 1,300 people in one day, I mean this is like a war
what was going on today. And then we don`t even call for restraint. I –
and when we`re celebrating, it just seems to tonally just repulsive and
repugnant to me.
O`DONNELL: Nicholas Kristof, who has real experience in the region, thank
you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD is from last night`s episode of John
Heilemann`s show, the circus, on Showtime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I stop predicting what happens in a world where Donald Trump`s
a factor. And the only similar sensation that we have ever felt to this
were the final two years of the Nixon presidency, which ended the way it
ended. There`s never been anything else that feels like that. But Nixon
was a rational man compared to Trump, and therefore to a certain extent,
predictable. This is completely unpredictable, and everyone who issues
predictions in this thing is faking it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The circus gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
One of the writers of a new “Washington Post” story that reveals what it is
like inside Robert Mueller`s grand jury room will join Brian in the 11TH
HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS, which starts now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight inside the Russia investigation as Robert
Mueller enters year two as special counsel, Ashley Parker of the
“Washington Post” standing by with details –.
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