Trump talks impeachment in interview. TRANSCRIPT: 08/30/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: August 30, 2018
Guest: Stuart Stevens, Eric Swalwell, David Frum
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
Let me try a theory –
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: OK.
O`DONNELL: – about the president`s lawyers and when this is going to end.
That all of their communication, whether it`s on television or privately to
the president, but all of it is really for the audience of one, whenever
they`re speaking. So when they are saying these things on television, when
John Dowd was giving the information it is going to be over at a certain
time, when Ty Cobb was saying – urging the president to let`s comply with
these requests for documents because it will be over faster, that they all
knew that these things do not ever end in the kinds of timetables they were
talking about. But they knew if I ever told the president a realistic
estimate of how long it might go, that he might just fire everybody in
sight and get himself impeached on a much faster schedule.
MADDOW: I mean, but like Chicken Little, right?
MADDOW: How many times can you do it before he starts to know that you`re
doing it? It may placate him momentarily. You can`t persuade him to do
things he might not otherwise do because you`re telling him it`s about to
be over. For a while, he kept proclaiming that it was about to be over,
But like when you tell him it is going to be Thanksgiving and then December
and then January and then May and then September, I mean, presumably, he
remembers these things. Eventually, he`s going to stop being susceptible
to this kind of suggestion, won`t he?
O`DONNELL: It is like a parenting exercise in a cross country drive. You
have left New York City, headed for San Francisco and you are somewhere in
eastern Pennsylvania and the three-year-old is saying, are we there yet?
And you are just constantly saying, we`re almost there.
MADDOW: Almost there. Hold on a little bit. Don`t hit your brother.
MADDOW: Yes. Even a 3-year-old eventually figures it out, maybe sometime
around Iowa, but yes.
O`DONNELL: Three-year-olds figure it out. We`re not sure about – about
the client the president`s lawyers have.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, the president is once again talking about impeachment with an
interview with “Bloomberg” released tonight. The president says I don`t
think they can impeach somebody that`s doing a great job, proving once
again that the president has never read one word of the Constitution,
especially a part that is most relevant to his future, the impeachment
The president told “Bloomberg”, so you get elected as a Republican or
Democrat and the opposite party gets put into the House, that would mean,
oh, let`s impeach him. Can`t do it, Trump said. If you look at the
definition of impeachment, that`s a high bar and that`s would take a long
time to fight that if you are doing a good job. And I`m doing a great job.
To judge by legislative accomplishments, the performance of the economy,
and significant reductions in the deficit, which Donald Trump has never
achieved, Bill Clinton was actually doing a much better job than Donald
Trump when he was impeached. After last night`s breaking news at this hour
that the Trump White House is full of talk of impeachment these days, we
got a look today at one of the president`s most important lines of defense
to a possible obstruction of justice charge because of his firing of FBI
Director James Comey.
We learned from “The Washington Post” exactly 24 hours ago, quote, Trump
recently consulted his attorneys about the likelihood of impeachment
proceedings. Rudy Giuliani actually told “The Washington Post”, we`ve
talked a lot about impeachment at different times, and one of the things
Rudy Giuliani and the president have actually talked about is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: One of the things
they`re concerned about did the president obstruct justice when he fired
Comey? He made it clear to Lester Holt he did it knowing the investigation
would continue, so he couldn`t have obstructed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Couldn`t have obstructed it. Made it clear to Lester Holt that
he knew the investigation would continue. Rudy Giuliani said that a month
ago. A month ago.
And today, the president tweeted this lie about NBC News. When Lester Holt
got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly.
The president is lying about that. Lester Holt, as everyone knows, did not
fudge the tape of his interview with President Trump. NBC News has had the
extended video of the Lester Holt interview online since it was originally
broadcast last May. You can go to it right now at
olt. You can Google it. It`s right there. It`s been there every day.
Still it is.
The interview remains the most important interview anyone has ever done
with President Trump, and it would obviously become exhibit A in any
obstruction of justice against the president for firing James Comey because
the president said to Lester Holt that he was going to fire James Comey no
matter what recommendation he got from his attorney general and from his
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about what to do with James Comey.
The recommendation the president got, which was written by Deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein was that he should fire James Comey because of the
public comments James Comey made about the FBI`s investigation of Hillary
When Lester Holt asked the president about firing James Comey, he never
mentioned the investigation of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. But he did
mention what he called this Russia thing. The president told Lester Holt
when he decided to fire James Comey, quote, I said to myself. I said, you
know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
That was what the president of the United States said was in his head when
he decided to fire James Comey. Now he has discussed impeachment through
Giuliani and others in the White House, the president knows that one of his
most dangerous criminal and impeachment exposures is a charge of
obstruction of justice for firing James Comey and attempting to fire
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and special prosecutor Robert Mueller in an
effort to obstruct the Mueller investigation. And so, the president knows
that he needs a defense against what he said to Lester Holt in that
And so, his defense today is Lester Holt did something with the videotape,
quote, fudging my tape. That is a lie that could only work with Trump
voters and probably it will not work with most o them, but it will not work
with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It will not work in impeachment
hearings in the House Judiciary Committee if the Democrats win the House,
and it will not work in an impeachment trial in the United States Senate
where the Lester Holt interview about the firing of James Comey will be
played in its entirety for the United States Senate if they sit as jurors
in a Trump impeachment trial.
The president knows that fudging my tape lie won`t work in the real world
and so when it comes to his actual legal defense, today`s tweet is probably
best read as a Trumpian variation on what Rudy Giuliani said a month ago
about the Lester Holt interview. The part about the president knew the
investigation would continue after he fired Comey so that couldn`t be
obstruction of justice. Now, let`s listen once again to a portion of the
unedited video in which Donald Trump describes to Lester Holt what he was
thinking after he got the written recommendation from Rod Rosenstein to
fire FBI Director James Comey.
It is even more extraordinary to listen to now because the president begins
his explanation with praise of Rod Rosenstein saying he`s highly respected,
very good guy, very smart guy. This is the part of the video that you will
be hearing repeatedly if there is an impeachment hearing in the house
judiciary committee and an impeachment trial in the United States Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I was going to fire
regardless of recommendation which they –
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: So there was –
TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He`s highly respected. Very good guy,
very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.
He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to
fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it.
And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you
know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It`s an
excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election, that they should have
won, and the reason they should have won it is the Electoral College is
almost impossible for a Republican to win, very hard, because you start off
at such a disadvantage.
So everybody was thinking they should have won the election. This was an
excuse for having lost an election.
HOLT: But are you angry – angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia
TRUMP: I just want somebody that`s competent. I am a big fan of the FBI.
I love the FBI. I love the people of the FBI.
HOLT: Were you a fan of him – him taking up that investigation?
TRUMP: I think that – about the Hillary Clinton investigation?
HOLT: No, about the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: No, I don`t care.
HOLT: And possible links between –
TRUMP: Look, look. – let me tell you – as far as I`m concerned, I want
that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now, I said, I
probably maybe will confuse people. Maybe I`ll expand that, you know, I`ll
lengthen the time because it should be over with. It should be – in my
opinion, it should have been over with a long time ago, because all it is -
- just it is an excuse.
But I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I
have to do the right thing for the American people. He`s the wrong man for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now for legal analysis of what you just heard is
former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, who`s now an MSNBC legal analyst.
Also joining us, David Frum, senor editor at “The Atlantic” and author of
“Trumpocracy”, and John Harwood, editor at large for CNBC.
And, Joyce Vance, to the legal theory that we seem to be hearing from Rudy
Giuliani and possibly it`s what we`re going to eventually hear from the
president, that moment could not be obstruction of justice and he couldn`t
be describing an obstruction of justice to Lester Holt when he was thinking
about the Russia investigation because later as he goes on, he says that he
knew the investigation would continue and he just thought James Comey was
the wrong man for the job.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It seems like a fabricated defense. I
suppose it is what you do when you know the real facts and you know that
the president has given an interview where he`s given a very persuasive
reason that he chose to fire Jim Comey. And you realize months down the
road, oops, that was the wrong thing to say. If we say that, we got
So they try to look around at what else was said during that interview and
see if they can craft a new version of what was said. And the problem for
them is that at the end when the president says, I know the investigation
will go on – he talks about the fact that it had gone on for much too
long, that it should have been over, and it`s clear that the import of his
full statement is he would like to see that investigation come to an end
and he, in fact, takes steps to end it.
O`DONNELL: John Harwood, the president had a strange Twitter morning, even
for him, an outpouring of tweets about the status of the investigation and
what`s happening with White House personnel. A lot of tweets about Don
McGahn being fired, which the president was making clear was his decision.
But he wanted to take Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner out of that story. He
tweeted: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had nothing to do with the so-
called pushing out of Don McGahn. The fake news media has purposely so
wrong, they love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that
chaos doesn`t exist. Just a smooth running machine with changing parts.
It is impossible to read that with a straight face, John Harwood, but the
president seems very concerned with the perception of how this White House
is working, especially with the exit of Don McGahn?
JOHN HARWOOD, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNBC: Well, as you know, Lawrence, it`s
routine for the president to protest stories that turn out to have been
true. The president gives every indication at this moment of feeling
incredible pressure from the Mueller investigation, from the Southern
district of New York investigation, from other legal activity going on in
New York, the Manhattan district attorney and the New York attorney
general. And he is alone in the White House venting, trying to divert
attention, trying to cloud the credibility of people who were coming after
But the dominant impression you have is somebody who knows that the hounds
are approaching his room and he doesn`t quite know what to do about it.
And it – a lot of these tweets didn`t really make sense. They didn`t
reflect a real connection with reality or rationality. There wasn`t a
logic to a lot of the things he was saying and I think, you know, the
country is watching this play out in real-time. It is not pretty.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, the president is trying a new impeachment defense,
and that is you cannot impeach a president if he`s doing a good job.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I – what is so striking about
that defense is that the president is grappling with a political reality.
And I think to echo what John said, what the president is recognizing is
not only is he facing tougher law enforcement challenges, but it`s now
almost the first of September, the election campaign is coming to an end.
I think he`s looking at polling that shows bad results for the Republicans.
You know, it is striking when you watch that Lester Holt tape. We`re used
to comparing the Donald Trump of today to that of 20 years ago in marking
the apparent cognitive deterioration. But even compared to a year and a
half ago, he seems impaired. He was calmer and more fluent even when
talking to Lester Holt than he is today.
There is some tremendous accumulating pressure on him. It is not just
legal. I think it is political. He is preparing for the argument he
expects after November when clearly he expects to face at least a Democrat
House, maybe a Democratic House and Senate.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, the president is venturing into legal scholarship
tonight in his interview with Bloomberg.
He says: I view it as an illegal investigation. I`m not saying anything.
I`m just telling you this. You read the great scholars, the great legal –
there should have never been a special counsel.
Your reaction to that?
VANCE: He`s just wrong when he says that. The reason that we use special
counsels in our federal criminal justice system or previously independent
counsels is when we have a criminal investigation that the Justice
Department needs to conduct but the people who would be in charge of the
investigation have a conflict of interest and they need to recuse. So, we
make provision for this sort of situation where when it`s something that so
pervades the entire Justice Department, you can have someone who is
independent, someone who is not employed by government who becomes the
counsel who takes that investigation over.
It is worth noting, Lawrence, I know you remarked a lot on this when it
happened, universally there are people in the Republican Party, from Newt
Gingrich on who lauded the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel
to run this investigation. There wasn`t even a whiff of claims that it was
an illegal process at that point in time from anyone other than the self-
interest of the president of the United States who never wanted to see this
O`DONNELL: And, John Harwood, the president, again, tweeted something that
is inconceivable from any other presidency. The White House counsel has
not left. His successor has not been named.
And yet, this morning, the president said, I am very excited about the
person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House counsel.
I liked Don, but he was not responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or
Jeff Sessions, so much fake reporting and fake news.
Two big things to go into there. He`s very excited about someone he has
not named and we have ever reason to believe he has not found that there
actually at this point there is no one to take that job is as likely as
not. But then this pushing the idea that he did not stop me from firing
Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions, the president is not disputing that he
thought about it or tried to and maybe he wants to claim that he stopped
HARWOOD: That`s what`s so disturbing about these notes, Lawrence. It is -
- he is playing out some sort of dialogue within his own head. It didn`t
make any sense to sit there and say I`m excited about someone that I
haven`t selected yet.
He had other tweets today where he was saying, oh, yes, and I can`t
emphasize enough how fake the news is. And he talked about fake books and
all – these are all transparent attempts by the president to deny the
reality that`s closing in on him. And so, you know, when he talks about
the great legal minds say that we shouldn`t have had a special counsel or
it`s illegal, that`s not connected with consulting any legal minds. That
is a primal impulse on his part of self-protection now that he sees that
the special counsel has put him in danger.
He`s not hard to read. When he talks about, oh, Jeff Sessions, what kind
of a man is he? He shouldn`t have recused himself. He is frightened
because he didn`t have an attorney general who would turn off the switch on
this investigation. And that`s what he is complaining against and it`s
reality and it`s getting closer to him.
O`DONNELL: There is a lot of speculation he had a specific target in mind
on a tweet this morning attacking as he calls it the enemy of the people,
the so-called fake news. He specified this time, this includes fake books
which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources and are pure
fiction, enemy of the people.
So, David Frum, he`s talking about you there, who`ve written “Trumpocracy”.
FRUM: I know. I cannot get him to use my name in a tweet. It just makes
such a difference.
O`DONNELL: I miss it myself. He used to attack me all the time. He
hasn`t done it in a long time and I miss it.
But there is a lot of speculation he`s worried about the Bob Woodwork book
that`s scheduled for publication on September 11th that is an inside the
Trump White House book and he seems to be possibly ramping up for some kind
of defense of that.
FRUM: Right. That seems so right. I like John Harwood`s description of
this is like a dialogue with himself. It is like Gollum in Lord of the
Rings, constantly reassuring himself and stroking the precious and
reminding himself that everything is going to be OK.
But I think the new tone that is different, he is thinking about this not
just as a legal problem now, but as a political problem. That may be the
reason it is difficult to recruit a new White House counsel. The new White
House counsel is going to have to testify probably in front of very hostile
committees of at least one house of Congress and that is going to be an
awkward, inconvenient and maybe career-damaging event that if you are
trying to recruit somebody who has things to lose, which is what reputation
to lose, clients to lose, which is the kind of person who become counsel in
the past, that person may be very reticent.
O`DONNELL: David Frum –
HARWOOD: Has he figured out whether Joyce Vance is available?
O`DONNELL: Well, Joyce is –
VANCE: I`m going to bow out for that one.
O`DONNELL: OK. But we`re going to need you here, Joyce.
David Frum, John Harwood, Joyce Vance, thanks for starting off our
And when we come back, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen were reportedly
trying to buy everything in the Pecker safe.
And Lindsey Graham has a new defense of Donald Trump that is so ridiculous
that he actually had to specify that it is not a joke.
O`DONNELL: New reporting from “The New York Times” reveals that Donald
Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen devised a plan to buy every
salacious story that the “National Enquirer” had on Donald Trump dating
back to the 1980s.
The move by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen indicated just how concerned they were
about all the information amassed by the company, American Media, and its
chairman, David Pecker, a loyal Trump ally of two decades, who has
cooperated with investigators. Donald Trump never did end up buying that
trove of dirt, which according to “The Times” includes, quote, stories
about Mr. Trump`s marital woes and lawsuits related, story notes and lists
of sensitive sources. Some tips about alleged affairs and – get this –
allegations of unscrupulous golfing.
This developments give us new insight into these secretly recorded
conversation between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in September 2016
released one month ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the
transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that
– I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up and spoken –
TRUMP: Give it to me and –
COHEN: And I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole
thing up with –
TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?
COHEN: – funding.
TRUMP: One fifty?
COHEN: Yes. And it`s all the stuff –
TRUMP: I was thinking about that.
COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company –
you never know what he`s going to be –
TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.
COHEN: Correct. So, I`m all over that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We now know that this goal goes far beyond hush payments to
playboy Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Donald Trump
and Michael Cohen hint at their plan to buy the tabloid`s entire vault from
David Pecker with the support and guidance of Allen Weisselberg, the chief
financial officer of the Trump Organization. Allen Weisselberg and David
Pecker have been granted immunity in exchange for cooperating with
prosecutors in their case against Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to
campaign finance violations and confessed in court that he committed those
crimes with Donald Trump, with the intention of affecting the outcome of
the presidential election.
Joining us now, Stuart Stevens, Republican political consultant who served
as chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential campaign, and Ruth
Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at “The Washington Post”
and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Ruth, apparently they didn`t pull off the deal to buy the entire safe
load of material. So, I think we can expect to be learning more of what
was in that safe.
RUTH MARCUS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The magnificent vault. I think this is
one of those many Trumpian moments where we need to take a step back and
just reflect on the amazingness of this moment where think what other
presidential candidate or actual president could have a vault full of
“National Enquirer” decades of information about him.
This seems like a little bit more of a potential political problem for the
president than a legal one since we already have knowledge of Cohen`s
allegations that this was a crime that he confessed to and that he did it
on behalf of and at the instruction of the president for the purpose of
influencing the election. But, gosh golly, to have a notion that there
were not simply two kind of random related problematic events but a whole
safe load of them, that`s just pretty remarkable.
O`DONNELL: Stuart Stevens, it is striking that the president himself is
talking about impeachment more and more. He`s now talking about it in
every interview he does. He`s the president – he became the first
president in history last week in an interview with Fox News to say if I
ever got impeached. No other president was ever led into that particular
phrasing in an interview before.
Here he is tonight with Bloomberg talking about impeachment, saying you
can`t impeach a president if the president is doing a good job. And all of
this impeachment talk from the president has erupted after he learned that
Michael Cohen was pleading guilty, after Michael Cohen implicated the
president in federal court himself and after the president learned that
David Pecker is under an immunity agreement with prosecutors and all of the
contents of that safe are presumably available to prosecutors.
STUART STEVENS, FORMER SR. STRATEGIST, ROMENY FOR PRESIDENT 2012: Yes,
it`s pretty amazing. As Ruth says, we sort of have to stop and look at how
we got here and just the extraordinariness of it which gets lost in a
moment to moment. This defense that you can`t impeach someone who is
popular I think would work better if he was popular.
The majority of American people don`t approve of Donald Trump`s job
performance, don`t approve of him. I mean, he`s somewhere around 40
percent. So it just doesn`t really hold up. I think he`s sort of
floundering around here, trying to come up with pretty much any reason that
he shouldn`t be in the position that he is in.
But it shouldn`t surprise anybody, including Republicans because this is
pretty much the same Donald Trump that has existed for a long time, and
they had a good insight into the primary and the general election of what
he was going to be like. And this is a bargain that was struck.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, it`s the same Donald Trump who Lindsey Graham during
the primaries, Ted Cruz during the primaries, others said, is unfit to be
president and he`s unfit to be president because of suspicions about the
kinds of things about him that now have been proven and have been – and
some confessed to Donald Trump saying last week that, oh, yes, I knew about
the payments to the women. But I knew about it, as he put it, later,
whatever that supposed to mean.
And so, as Stuart says, this person was kind of an open book, even though
the “National Enquirer” did what it could to keep that book closed for so
MARCUS: Yes, it was a sealed safe but an open book. Everything that we`re
seeing about Donald Trump now is consistent with what he demonstrated to us
during the campaign and what we were able to learn about him during the
I think that the more astonishing transformation is that one that you
allude to, which is the old Lindsey Graham truth-telling, Trump-criticizing
Lindsey Graham, and new, Trump-loving, Trump-excusing, Trump-enabling
Lindsey Graham. What we have been talking a lot about, Senator John McCain
this week, what a disappointment the new Lindsey Graham would be to Senator
O`DONNELL: And Stuart, what do you make of what we`ve seen Lindsey Graham
do just in the last couple of months, especially the last couple of weeks.
I mean here was somebody who said, “Absolutely holy hell to pay if you even
think about firing Jeff Sessions.” Now, Lindsey Graham enabling the firing
of Jeff Sessions saying, “Of course, the president deserves an attorney
general who he can have confidence in.”
STEVENS: Well, look, as someone who has admired Senator Graham, it just
makes my heart hurt and my head hurt. I just don`t understand it. They
all served with Senator Sessions. They all seemed to like Senator
Sessions. They were all for Senator Sessions.
And it seems to be the sin that Senator Sessions has committed here is
actually doing his job that he was appointed to do and caring more about
that job than about serving a political patron, which, you know, I would
have thought that the Senator Graham that I admired and so many people
admired for so long would applaud that. It is just one of these
confounding things that you wonder when you look back on it a couple of
years from now, is this going to be a moment that he feels good about and
reflects the best of him.
O`DONNELL: It`s just astonishing to see. I mean Donald Trump is not a
better president now than he was when Lindsey Graham was defending the
attorney general. If anything, there is much more reason to be supporting
the attorney general and Lindsey Graham has done a complete reversal.
We`re going to have to leave it there.
Ruth Marcus and Stuart Stevens, thank you both very much for joining us
And when we come back, are you having trouble, anyone having trouble
keeping track of all of the scandals of Donald Trump, the Trump
administration, the Trump cabinet, the Trump family? Well, of all people,
the House Republicans have helpfully compiled an almost complete list of
all the Trump scandals that they think should be investigated or, I should
say, will be investigated if Democrats win control of the House. And
Congressman Eric Swalwell will join us on that next.
O`DONNELL: If you are having trouble keeping track of the very long list
of Trump scandals and Trump administration scandals, here is something that
really helps. According to “Axios”, Republicans on Capitol Hill are
circulating a spreadsheet among themselves listing all of the Trump
scandals they have refused to investigate as they prepare for what
Democrats might investigate if Democrats take back the House in November.
Here is a Republicans list of potential Trump investigations according to
“Axios”, Trump`s tax returns, Trump family businesses, Trump`s dealings
with Russia, the payment to Stormy Daniels, James Comey`s firing, Trumps`
firing of U.S. attorneys, Trump`s proposed transgender banning for the
military, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin`s business dealing, White House
staff personal e-mail use, cabinet secretary travel, office expenses and
other misused perks, discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago,
Jared Kushner`s ethics law compliance., dismissal of members of the EPA
Board of Scientific Councilors, the travel ban family separation policy,
hurricane response in Puerto Rico, election security and hacking attempts
and White House security clearances.
Republicans may hope that the list will scare the Trump base to the polls
to protect Donald Trump from any of those investigations. But as
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeted today, “House GOP went so far
to make a list of objectionable conduct by Donald Trump.”
So if they know, why won`t they investigate this stuff? Joining us now
Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California and member of the
Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And Congressman Swalwell, that was
one of your angrier tweets about this, but it is kind of extraordinary to
watch the Republicans basically draw up the preliminary outlines of an
overall indictment of the ethics of the Trump administration, the Trump
family. And then say the danger to the country is that this will be
investigated if Democrats are elected.
ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA. Good evening, Lawrence. You almost went into
Brian William`s hour there going through that list. But, you know, what
was so concerning for me was that they know. And it`s as if a lawyer asked
their client, you know, tell me everything that you did and they compiled
this long list of their client`s exposure. Except, that`s the problem, the
Republicans view Donald Trump as their client, as someone who they are
supposed to protect. And they have put this list out there to their
donors, to their base as a reason that they must keep the majority, not to
investigate all of this alarming conduct but to protect the president from
And so thank you for the list, I say. And I can assure the American people
if Democrats are given the responsibility of leading, we will look into all
of this alarming conduct because we do believe that corruption is keeping
us back from addressing issues of protecting health care, making sure
paychecks grow and protecting our environment. So thank you to the
Republicans, but we`ll do the right thing with the list.
O`DONNELL: And you may add a thing or two to that list including
Congressman Wilbur Ross`s strange business dealings, to put it moderately,
since he has been in office. I want to get your reaction to something the
president said tonight about impeachment. He`s talking about impeachment
more than ever because he`s obviously worried about a Democratic House
beginning impeachment proceedings against him. And he said to Bloomberg,
“You cannot impeach a president who is doing a good job.” What is your
reaction to that?
SWALWELL: He shouldn`t worry. We`re not going to impeach a president
who`s doing a good job. The problem, though, is he is not a president who
is doing a good job. But what we can assure him is that we will give him
the fairest investigation that he`s never given anyone, that there will not
be a rush to judgment, that we will conduct thorough investigations.
And if he has crossed red lines, he`s not above the law, and we will make
sure an impenetrable bipartisan case is made to the American people. But
yes, he doesn`t have to worry about someone doing a good job losing their
O`DONNELL: And the president now is talking about impeachment more than
anyone else in Washington, more than any other elected official in
Washington. He`s done it in his Fox News interview. He did it again in
his Bloomberg interview today, talked about impeachment repeatedly. He
offered the theory on impeachment that not only that you cannot impeach a
president who is doing a good job, but that there is a very high bar to get
over and that all legal scholars agree that it is impossible to reach that
and anything like that in what we`ve seen of the evidence against Donald
What is your reaction to the president`s notion that there is nothing out
there yet that would even begin to suggest the possibility of impeachment?
SWALWELL: There is certainly a lot out there, Lawrence, to investigate and
probe. And, again, we will do that. But the reason he`s talking about
impeachment is because he doesn`t want to talk about what every day
Americans want to talk about and we`ll go to the polls on, their health
care costs are going to go up as open enrollment starts this fall, that
wages are in decline and that only the wealthiest have benefitted from his
As well as that right now, Lawrence, what we`re seeing in this country is
that hardworking people continue to work hard and it is not adding up too
much. Over 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings
account. He doesn`t want us to talk about any of that or he doesn`t want
us to talk about the fact that he just denied millions of Federal workers a
pay increase that they rightfully deserve for working so hard. So we`re
going to talk about those issues but we`re also going to be able to walk
and chew gum and investigate his alarming conduct.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us
SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Senator Lindsey Graham has a new defense of Donald
Trump, that he knows is so ridiculous that when he said it today, he
actually had to specify that it is not a joke. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Lindsey Graham seems to think that he is the sharpest lawyer in
the United States Senate, possibly because he is the only lawyer in the
United States Senate who has appeared before the Senate as a lawyer, as a
House of Representatives Prosecutor in the Senate`s impeachment trial of
Congressman Lindsey Graham lost that case, but he used it as the launching
pad for his first campaign for United States Senate which he won, which was
probably the whole point of the Senate trial for Lindsey Graham who now
refuses to apply the same moral and ethical standards to Donald Trump that
he applied to Bill Clinton.
Senator Graham is now doing a very lawyerly job of trying to undermine
Robert Mueller`s investigation of the president while pretending to defend
it. Here is what he said on “CBS NEWS” this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here is what I will tell the president. There is no
scenario where you can end this investigation, the Mueller investigation,
through some political intrigue and survive. That`s the end of you. The
only person in America that can clear Donald Trump is Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIABLE MALE: You said you have faith in Mueller?
GRAHAM: I do.
UNIDENTIFIABLE MALE: So if Mueller finds something else that is not
GRAHAM: Then he`ll act on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, all of that sounds good, but Lindsey Graham has now
reversed his position on protecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and is
supporting Donald Trump`s desire to get rid of Jeff Sessions after the
midterm election. Getting rid of Jeff Sessions means that Robert Mueller
would have a new boss.
A new boss loyal to Donald Trump. A new boss either as acting attorney
general or an attorney general confirmed by the Republican Senate who would
be able to limit Robert Mueller`s investigation without ever closing it
down and who would also be able to take Robert Mueller`s final written
report of his investigation and lock it in the attorney general`s safe,
never to be seen by anyone.
Lindsey Graham knows that you can`t really support the Mueller
investigation if you are in favor of giving Robert Mueller a new boss in
the Justice Department who will protect Donald Trump.
After this break, Joyce Vance will analyze Lindsey Graham`s new legal
defense of Donald Trump against the charge of collusion. And when Lindsey
Graham offered this defense today, he actually had to specify that he does
not mean it as a joke.
O`DONNELL: Here is Senator Lindsey Graham`s new legal defense of Donald
Trump and the Trump campaign against the charge of collusion with Russians
during the presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I say this as a joke but it`s kind of a half of a joke. To
collude, you`ve got to sit down, come up with a plan and stick with it.
Trump`s not good at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance and David Frum are back with us.
And Joyce Vance, what do you make of Lindsey Graham`s half of a joke, as he
JOYCE VANCE, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: It`s actually not a
very good joke or maybe the joke ends up being on someone in the Trump
family. Because when Senator Graham is talking about collusion, we know
that the federal charge would really be conspiracy. And the essence of a
conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal
So it`s really pretty simple. It could be as simple as the Russians
offering to provide election assistance and somebody on the Trump side
saying, “If it`s what you say, I love it.”
O`DONNELL: David Frum, the Graham defense is since Donald Trump is bad at
everything, he is so bad at trying to commit a crime that he can`t commit a
DAVID FRUM, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Now, they`ve been trotting this
up for a while, too disorganized and chaotic to collude. But what I keep
looking at is the timeline of events on the fateful day of October 7th, the
day of the Access Hollywood tape release and then within 45 minutes the day
of the second big WikiLeaks stamp.
And what I was struck by as I went through it minute by minute was how
within hours of that dump, the Trump people had chosen their talking
points. As chaotic as they were, they had seized on which e-mails to
weaponize, which to use to tell American Catholics, for example, that
falsely that there were insults to them in the dump. They moved very
swiftly and effectively. They`re not terrible at everything.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And Joyce, part of David`s point there is this was a
massive amount of material and they were very, very quick about picking up
the best parts of it for them to use suggesting some kind of coordination
VANCE: It certainly suggests it. And, of course, we don`t know how the
work was accomplished. And so it`s possible that in this sort of a
conspiracy situation, you can have one party that`s very organized and
another party that`s just along for the ride. Because the crime here is
this conspiracy, this agreement to do something illegal.
We know that when folks get together and agree to do a crime that sets up
serious dangers, that`s why we have that crime in the first place. It`s no
different than drug dealers who agree to sell drugs. Here, the agreement
is to defraud the American people.
FRUM: And whether it`s a crime or not, the whole question of criminal
conspiracy is less important than the question of whether the United States
is beholden to a foreign power in a way that he shouldn`t be. And as we
now discover, whether he may be beholden to an American tabloid the way he
O`DONNELL: And Joyce, to Lindsey Graham`s point here, he`s saying he`s a
strong defender of Robert Mueller. He always tries to appear that way but
he no longer defends the position of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. So
he`s advocating a new boss for Robert Mueller knowing that that new boss
can, without our knowledge, limit Robert Mueller`s investigation in very
VANCE: It`s potentially a dangerous position for Mueller because as you
accurately point out, someone new could come in and could limit, without
firing Mueller, could limit the scope of the investigation. One hopes that
Senator Graham perhaps realizes that it will be virtually impossible to
confirm a new attorney general, and it`s unlikely for this scenario to play
out. But this president has been so unpredictable except in his focus on
ending this investigation that I would not want to try to survive on that
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, David Frum, thank you both for joining us tonight.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST: In a private meeting to get support during the mid-
terms, President Trump reached out to Evangelical pastors. Yes, in
exchange, Trump promised to only sleep with Christian porn stars. That`s
the deal. Make sure everybody`s happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Conan O`Brien gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR WITH
BRIAN WILLIAMS” starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the president calls Robert Mueller`s
probe illegal and won`t say in a Bloomberg interview Attorney General Jeff
Sessions will last beyond the midterm elections.
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