GOP fears Trump shutdown “chaos”. TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 


And we don`t have a report yet from the Trump campaign about how much money

they raised last night when they put out this fund-raising e-mail before

the president`s speech, which apparently was what the speech was all about. 

This fund-raising e-mail went out saying we need to raise $500,000.  You

need to contribute by 9:00 p.m.  And if you contribute by 9:00 p.m., we`re

going to give your name to the president.  So, Donald Trump will see that

you`re one of his strong supporters.


And they were telling these victims of the Trump fund-raising operation

that they were going to be contributing to, quote, the official Secure the

Border Fund.  The fine print showed you were contributing to the Trump

presidential campaign, but normally when there`s a big fund-raising event

like that, they like to report the next day just how much they raised, but

they haven`t said a word about how much they raised. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  Do you – my jaw dropped when I saw you

cover this last night in your “A” block after the speech when you were

like, this is what all the TV networks in America just helped the Trump

campaign do.  That`s what this was about.  I was flabbergasted. 


But do you think the implication of that fund-raising pitch was that people

who responded to it, people who actually sent money believed that they were

going to be helping build the wall? 


O`DONNELL:  If you sent money in response to this, it seems very unlikely

to me that you – that you read the fine print. 


MADDOW:  Yes. 


O`DONNELL: It was – it was written in classic con man style to make you

think that you were contributing to the, quote, official Secure the Border



MADDOW:  Wow. 


O`DONNELL:  And then – and then they had a 9:00 p.m. deadline, but like on

special offers, it can be extended. 


And so, after – after the speech they sent out the second e-mail saying

we`ve extended the deadline for three hours if you contribute now.  We will

still bring your name to the president and he will see –


MADDOW:  Plus, free shipping and handling.  And your second installment

payment is free. 


O`DONNELL:  All that.  All that. 


MADDOW:  Amazing. 


O`DONNELL:  Nothing like it. 


MADDOW:  Well done, my friend.  Thanks, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 


Well, in “Vanity Fair,” Gabriel Sherman is reporting that a prominent

Republican close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described

Trump`s handling of the shutdown as total chaos.  And in the actual quote

between the word total and chaos is that heavy piece of profanity that Rex

Tillerson reportedly used to describe exactly what kind of moron Donald

Trump is.  And that chaos continued today because Nancy Pelosi just said



And when the speaker of the House says no to the current president of the

United States, Donald Trump literally does not know what to do or to say. 

Because prior to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump has never heard the

speaker of the House say no. 


When it comes to legislative matters, the speaker of the House is always

more powerful than the president.  That is by constitutional design.  The

speaker of the House always has the power to say no to presidential

legislation, and they often do, even when the president is in the same

party as the speaker. 


No one remembers George W. Bush`s re-election campaign promise that made

reforming Social Security a number one priority for the second term of the

Bush presidency, and no one remembers that because the Republican speaker

of the House said no to the Republican president.  So did the Republican

Senate majority leader. 


And so, the Republican president`s number one priority of reforming Social

Security never even got a hearing in the house or the Senate because when

it comes to legislation, the speaker of the House is more powerful than the

president and every previous president has understood that, and so, every

previous president has treated the speaker of the House publicly with

respect and privately with even more respect. 


But today the president of the United States got up and walked out on the

speaker of the house because Nancy Pelosi said no. 




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER:  He asked Speaker Pelosi, will

you agree to my wall?  She said no, and he just got up and said, then we

have nothing to discuss and he just walked out.  Again, we saw a temper

tantrum because he couldn`t get his way. 




O`DONNELL:  The Republican congressional leadership in the room with the

president and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer all agree that that is exactly

what happened, the president just walked out, but they insist that it

wasn`t a temper tantrum because they say, they insist that the president

spoke very politely. 


According to a congressional aide who described the meeting to NBC, at one

point, Senator Schumer asked the president, why won`t you open the

government and stop hurting people?  To which Donald Trump responded,

because then you won`t give me what I want.


Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi seemed convinced that Donald Trump does not

know that 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving their paychecks are

actually having a hard time. 




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The president seems to be

insensitive to that.  He thinks maybe they can just ask their father for

more money.  But they can`t.  But they can`t. 


If you don`t understand the national insecurity, then you would have a

policy that takes pride in saying I`m going to keep government shut down

for months or years, unless you totally agree to my position. 




O`DONNELL:  Prior to the meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer at the

White House, the president had a luncheon meeting in the Senate with

Republican senators, and even that meeting didn`t go well because while the

Democrats are completely, totally unified behind their leadership in the

House and the Senate on this issue, Republicans are not. 


There are now at least 12 Republicans who have publicly split with the

president and support the bills that Speaker Pelosi passed in the House of

Representatives last week.  Eight Republicans in the House of

Representatives are supporting the Pelosi position and at least four

Republican senators are supporting the Pelosi position, which means now a

majority of the U.S. Senate, 51 senators, support the Pelosi bills to re-

open the government at the beginning – and at the beginning of this story

a few weeks ago, those bills actually passed the United States Senate



And so it should not be surprising now that at least four Republican

senators who voted for those bills before when President Trump said he

would sign those bills, before changing his mind, that at least four of

those Republican senators are now in favor of those bills again, and it

could be many more.  There could be other Republican senators who simply

aren`t saying so publicly but would be ready for vote for those bills if

they came to a vote in the Senate. 


And so, the president`s trip to the Senate today, which is an extremely

rare thing for a president to do, was a desperate move to try to hold

Republican senators in line against the Pelosi bills, and it`s not working. 

But to hear Donald Trump describe the meeting with Republican senators, you

would think that Republican senators are totally unified on this.  And you

would have no idea that four Republican senators have already moved over to

the Democrats` position publicly. 


And Donald Trump knows that the Republican senators are not totally unified

on this, and that is exactly why he had to make that trip to talk to the

Republican senators at their luncheon today, to try to hold them together. 

Every reporter waiting to speak to the president after that luncheon knows

all of that.  They know the Republicans are not totally unified, but Donald

Trump tried to tell them that the Republicans are totally unified. 




REPORTER:  Did any Republicans in that meeting today tell you they want you

to pursue a different strategy, that they want you to re-open the




yes, a couple talked about strategy but they`re with us all the way. 

They`re with us. 


REPORTER:  Mr. President, what about the idea that –


TRUMP:  I just want – the fake give the fake news, and I just want to tell

you that the Republicans are totally unified. 




O`DONNELL:  Totally unified. 


Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was in the meeting.  Yesterday she

became the third of the four Republican senators to defect from the Trump

position.  She is opposed to the Trump position. 


Here`s what Senator Murkowski told reporters after that meeting with the

president today. 




SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA:  I wish that there had been more

opportunity for question and answer.  But, you know, the president was very

clear in what he was asking for, which was unity from the Republicans.  I

reiterated that I thought that there was unity when it came to supporting

our national security and providing for secure borders, as well as to deal

with the humanitarian crisis, but I did suggest that there was some

separation in terms of how long the shutdown would continue, that folks are

impacted whether they`re in the state of Alaska or wherever around the





O`DONNELL:  Maybe no one in the room translated that for Donald Trump. 

Lisa Murkowski is saying that, sure, there`s Republican unity on policy,

but there is no unity on the shutdown. 


Lisa Murkowski does not want the shutdown to continue, and so she wants to

fund the government now and fight about the wall later. 




REPORTER:  Were you happy with how the meeting went? 


MURKOWSKI:  The meeting with the president? 


REPORTER:  Mmm-hmm. 


MURKOWSKI:  I wish that we had had a little more clear direction as to how

we`re going to get there. 




O`DONNELL:  That is the polite public, senatorial language for what that

unnamed Republican called total chaos. 


Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for

NBC News and MSNBC.  He is co-host and executive produce of Showtime`s “The



Charlie Sykes is with us.  He`s the editor in chief of the Bulwark and

MSNBC political analyst. 


And Sam Stein, the politics editor of “The Daily Beast.”  He`s also an

MSNBC political analyst. 


Charlie, I`m sorry, that in the teleprompter was the first time that I

learned that you are running something called “The Bulwark”, which we find

where?  Is that online? 


CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  That is online.  A lot of the

staffers from “The Weekly Standard” are there. 


O`DONNELL:  All right.  We just did the full promo on it. 


John Heilemann, Donald Trump comes out of a meeting with Republicans where

everyone in the world knows that Republicans are not totally unified.  If

they were totally unified, Donald Trump would not have been running up to

the Senate today trying to make them unified. 



Donald Trump on Capitol Hill at lunch, saying that the Republicans are

unified, was the best evidence that, in fact, the Republicans are not, in

fact, unified.  Of course if the Republicans were unified, the whole world

would be different, but as we saw last night, one of the things, you know,

before the speech and you covered it very well last night, Lawrence, but

one of the things you noted, which was – which was true, you know, Trump

confessing to those reporters before the speech that nothing would change

on the basis of the speech, which is why he didn`t want to give it. 


Trump has had very few moments of great clarity in his mental state such as

it is, but that one he was right about.  He was right the politics were

against him, the policy is against him.  The country is against him.  The

Democrats are unified against him and his party is starting to turn against

him slowly but inevitability. 


And so, he knew the speech wasn`t going to accomplish anything.  So, today,

everything that unfolded I think, again, Trump rarely clear, rarely lucid,

but I think he saw back as far as yesterday afternoon that he was going to

be in this situation where he was going to give a speech that was going to

have no effect whatsoever and he was going to have to spend today lying

about the fact that his speech had a profound effect on the unity of his



O`DONNELL:  Charlie, it had no effect on Nancy Pelosi who has a very simple

one-word negotiating position with Donald Trump on the wall, and that word

is no. 


SYKES:  Yes, and apparently the author of – or the guy who claimed to be

the author of “Art of the Deal” doesn`t know how to handle that. 


But, look, this is a very difficult position for the Republicans.  When you

think about it, it used to be if they were involved in a government

shutdown they wanted to shrink the size of government.  They cared about

the size of the deficit.  They were concerned about the debt. 


And here they find themselves presiding over this chaos, this cluster in

the cause of spending more money, increasing money, spending money on a

medieval boondoggle, and think about, you know, I mean, having railed about

government overreach for years, sitting in the room with the president who

is threatening to declare a national emergency. 


Think about what that must sound like to conservative Republicans who claim

to be concerned about the rule of law and constitutional balance between

the branches of government. 


O`DONNELL:  Sam Stein, I assume that the president knew exactly what he was

going to do as soon as he heard the no from Nancy Pelosi that he knew he

was going to hear, and the best he figured he had today was, I`ll go out

and I`ll tweet that I walked out on Nancy Pelosi and Rush Limbaugh`s going

to love that. 


SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST:  Yes, that`s sort of pro toe

typical Trump stagecraft hoi.  Part of what he`s trying to do is at least

show there is some talk or progress happening from his vantage point.  The

worst thing that could happen for Trump is for things to be stagnant.  He

has to at least show that things are moving, whether they`re moving in a

direction or compromise or agitation or confrontation, they have to be

moving, otherwise the focus comes squarely on him. 


So calling people up to the White House when you know the outcome is

something that he has to do.  I will say this, though, we`re putting a

preponderance of attention on Trump and Pelosi.  At the top of your

monologue, you made a very interesting valid point, which is the

congressional leaders hold an immense amount of power in this negotiation. 


Pelosi is just one of two.  The other person is Mitch McConnell.  And at

any moment in time, Mitch McConnell could just say, I`ve had enough of this

and I`ll let it go to the floor and I will likely get enough votes to

override a presidential veto and we`ll be done with this. 


But Mitch McConnell has notably stayed very far away from the debate.  What

I thought was the most interesting element today was not Trump getting up

and walking out on Nancy Pelosi, I thought it was Mitch McConnell yet again

not going out with Republicans after that confrontation to talk to the

cameras because he really clearly wants no part of this negotiation. 


O`DONNELL:  That is exactly what I was seeing in those – when they went

out to the cameras afterwards, was no Mitch McConnell.  That`s what I was

seeing there. 


John Heilemann, Sam is so right about how important that is.  McConnell has

been very careful in his language.  People are reporting to have said – to

say repeatedly he will not bring up a bill unless.  He`s not saying that. 

He`s saying things like it`s not realistic to bring up.  It could be

realistic tomorrow afternoon or it could be realistic Monday.


So Mitch McConnell`s language in everything I see him say leaves him the

opening that as Sam suggests could come at any moment where there`s enough

Republican support in the Senate where he just moves and ends this thing. 

And there`s – in addition to the fact that Mitch McConnell had nothing to

say publicly outside the White House, there is a report indicating he has

absolutely nothing to say in the room when the president was in the room

talking to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and that`s just inconceivable. 




O`DONNELL:  That the Senate majority leader would be in the room with the

speaker and the president and not say a word. 


HEILEMANN:  Well, I mean, look, I think he`s still obviously feeling burned

by the way the president has handled this entire thing and doesn`t want to

get burned again.


But, look, I mean, I do think we are coming quickly – if you listen to the

tentative reporting that was coming out from the Hill over the course of

this day and you started to hear Republicans, even before the Pelosi and

Schumer meeting where Trump walked out, even before that, you were starting

to hear this ambient noise of Republicans on Capitol Hill starting to say,

well, there is really only one way out of this.  The only way out is for

Trump to declare a national emergency. 


And then after the Pelosi meeting, you heard that volume was amplified to

some extent.  You`re now starting to hear from Republicans, most of them

not on the record, but it`s the – as I said, the ambient noise is

Republicans starting to realize the only way out is the national emergency. 

And I do think, Lawrence, the point that you and Sam both just made throws

into very stark relief the choice that Republicans are going to face in the

coming days. 


Trump is clearly moving in that direction, and so the question for the

Republican Party is going to be, are you going to acquiesce into that kind

of action, which is truly the act of an autocrat.  Are you going to accept

and embrace the notion that the only way out is a national emergency

declaration by the president where he usurps all kinds of powers and acts

in this kind of unprecedented – not totally unprecedented but certainly

unconstitutional, extra constitutional way. 


Or are you going to acknowledge that there of course is another way out and

that is to behave like responsible legislators and take the vote you took

again a couple of weeks ago and as you say would probably pass at this

point by veto-proof margins?


O`DONNELL:  Charlie, polling overwhelmingly against president Trump and

Republicans on the shutdown.  We have an “Economist” poll saying who is

most to blame for the shutdown.  Obviously most people say Donald Trump, 50

percent.  Another 5 percent say Republicans.  So there you have 55 percent

with Trump and the Republicans.  Thirty-two percent Democrats.  And that 32

percent Democrats is really every Trump voter in the country at this point. 


SYKES:  Yes. 


O`DONNELL:  Presumably. 


But, Charlie, to John`s point, the emergency saves weak senators from

exactly what they want to be saved from, which is any kind of vote that is

awkward.  The emergency they know would be immediately challenged in court,

just like the Trump Muslim ban, probably get an injunction against it in

federal court very, very quickly, and the ball has left the Senate and

Mitch McConnell could kind of go on with business. 


SYKES:  Well, think about that, though, that the only endgame that they can

envision involves basically overriding the legislative process. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes. 


SYKES:  The Republican Party has gotten to the point where they could do

exactly what John describes and Mitch McConnell, you know, in the back of

his mind, he always wants to have an end game, but for the end game to be

the declaration of a national emergency and the transfer of billions of

defense department dollars to the wall, for them to think that, OK, we`ll

do that because the courts will probably throw it out, but the precedent is

just horrible. 


This is a constitutional crisis, and it is just an indication, again, of

the price they are paying for the acquiescence to Donald Trump and the

enabling of Donald Trump.  Look, those poll numbers are bad today.  They`re

going to be a lot worse as I think the damage from the shutdown becomes

clearer, as the cost becomes clearer.  I also think when people begin to

think through the concept of declaring a national defense emergency on the

border, I think there`s going to be a tremendous backlash to that as well. 


O`DONNELL:  Sam Stein, anyone who knows anything about the way the Army

Corps of Engineers, the Defense Department spends money, does construction,

building things, especially things that require permits, which a lot of

their stuff doesn`t if it`s being done in combat zones, say in Afghanistan


STEIN:  Sure. 


O`DONNELL:  If you`re trying to build something in Texas and you are the

defense department, you are a minimum, if you`re completely unobstructed by

the political process or by courts, you`re a minimum of over a year away

from a shovel hitting any dirt anywhere in Texas on the border to build

this wall. 


STEIN:  Yes, absolutely.  And that`s not even mentioning the fact that you

are probably usurping and taking the eminent domain land from private

ranchers who don`t want anything to do with this.  You`re talking about not

just one legal fight but many, many legal fights spanning across numerous

jurisdictions.  And all of this, of course, is not to mention that we were

promised at the very beginning of this that Mexico would pay for this wall. 


So I`m not entirely sure that a national emergency is in the best political

interests for Trump.  It creates a whole host of political and legal

problems.  It underscores how hollow his initial campaign promise was, and

a little bit nuanced here, but I happen to think he likes having the issue

of the wall as a political cudgel.  I don`t – I think part of him wishes

it was still out there going into the 2020 elections and that might be

giving him some hesitation about declaring this national emergency, too. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, Sam, you`ve just hit on a theory that has been advanced

by Ezra Klein.  Ezra`s going to join us later in the show with exactly that

case, that Donald Trump doesn`t actually want the wall, he wants the fight. 


John Heilemann, Charlie Sykes, Sam Stein, thank you all for starting us off



And when we come back, as I said, Ezra Klein`s going to join us with that

theory that Sam just annunciated, that maybe really Donald Trump doesn`t

want the wall, he just wants the political fight over the wall.  Just

imagine Donald Trump going into the 2020 campaign without having a fight

over the wall.  Anyway, you`ll hear more from Ezra Klein about that. 


Also tonight, more on Paul Manafort sharing campaign information with

people close to the Russian government. 


And an NBC News report tonight that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

wants to stay, plans to stay in office until Robert Mueller completes his

investigation, but will President Trump allow him to do that?  Will

president Trump fire Rod Rosenstein?




O`DONNELL:  The partial government shutdown has not stopped the hiring of

lawyers at the White House.  “The Washington Post” is reporting tonight

that the White House has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks.  That has just

about doubled the number of White House lawyers in the White House

counsel`s office and they are still hiring reportedly more lawyers, all of

this in anticipation of dealing with the investigative reports that will

eventually be issued by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. 


Yesterday, court filings in the case of Paul Manafort who was awaiting

sentencing revealed that Manafort shared campaign information with people

linked to the Russian government.  “The New York Times” reports that

according to a person knowledgeable about the situation, most of the data

was public but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working

for the campaign. 


According to “The Times,” Manafort wanted his former business associate,

Konstantin Kilimnik, to pass that campaign information to pro-Russian

Ukrainian oligarchs.  The legal filing in the case also revealed that

Manafort conceded that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace

plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion. 


Writing in “The Washington Post” today, Max Boot asked, why would an

individual with ties to Russian intelligence need polling data on the U.S.

election?  There is only one reason I can think of, to help direct the

covert social media propaganda campaign that Russian intelligence was

running on Trump`s behalf. 


Today, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark

Warner, said this about Paul Manafort`s use of that campaign information. 





this appears as the closest we`ve seen yet to real live actual collusion. 

Clearly, Manafort was trying to collude with Russian agents.  And the

question is, what did the president know? 




O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney

for the northern district of Alabama and an MSNBC legal contributor.  John

Heilemann is still with us. 


Joyce Vance, your reaction to these revelations about the information Paul

Manafort was sharing. 


JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  I think that the value of this polling

data really cannot be estimated highly enough.  You know, for Manafort to

convey this to Russians, this is an agreement.  An agreement is the heart

of a conspiracy. 


So even if it goes through the circuitous route through pro-Russian

Ukrainian oligarchs, we`re seeing the architecture of a conspiracy here. 

And what`s valuable about polling data?  It`s really the negative polling

that`s used in a campaign. 


You know, the horse race, how Trump is polling versus Clinton, that`s

interesting, but what really interests people running a big campaign like

this is what negative arguments work against your opponent.  We don`t know

for sure what kind of data Manafort shared, but I`ll bet you it`s that

negative data which would have then found its way into Russian hands, into

the Internet Research Agency operation that pervaded social media in the

United States.


And the only real question that remains is whether this was Manafort

freelancing somehow in an effort to pay off his open bad debts or whether

there was someone else in the Trump campaign who was involved along with



O`DONNELL:  John Heilemann, I have looked at presidential campaign data two

ways.  I`ve looked at it myself and I have looked at it with the guidance

of professionals who have actually run president campaigns. 




O`DONNELL:  And I find that guidance very helpful, and I`m sure Russians

seeking to interfere in our election and trying to help Donald Trump would

love to have professional guidance on what to look for in polling data,

guidance from say Paul Manafort. 


HEILEMAN:  Right.  I mean, look, I don`t think it`s a question about love,

Lawrence, I think it`s a question of need.  This question`s been around –

this issue`s been around for awhile, right? 


Russians are smart.  The people who ran these covert operations against the

United States, these counterintelligence operations, these active measures,

they`re smart.  They know a lot of things about Americans.  They can learn

a lot about American and American politics through open source methods,

through the Internet, through books, through a lot of other things. 


If you`re going to run an active measure campaign that has the kind of

precision and effect that the Russian social media effort did in the United

States in places where Donald Trump won by a very slim margin, in places

that we know like Wisconsin – 




HEILEMANN:  Through a lot of other things.  If you`re going to run an

active measure campaign that has the kind of precision and effect that the

Russian social media did in the United States, in places where Donald Trump

won by a very slim margin, in places that we know like Wisconsin, like

Michigan, like Pennsylvania.


To run that social media operation requires a degree of expertise and

sophistication and precision, as I said a second ago, that you need

guidance for.  You can`t open-source that knowledge.


You need the data.  You need the demographic data.  You need the county

data.  You need all the data that good polling would show and then you need

someone to help you figure out what it means and how to act on it.


Paul Manafort is one of the people probably who helped them out, it appears

or this evidence suggests.  But I think it raises the larger question which

is who was helping the Russians at the end of the Trump campaign when

things were tight and the media – this media campaign had its greatest

effect?  That question is still outstanding?


O`DONNELL:  Well, Rick Gates, Manafort`s associate, Joyce Vance, was still

with the Trump campaign.  He didn`t leave when Paul Manafort did.


VANCE:  He was still with the campaign.  He`s cooperating with Mueller.  He

hasn`t been sentenced yet.  So we know that his cooperation is ongoing.


There is no doubt that Gates plays a big part in completing this picture

here for Mueller.  But this is the outstanding question, and there`s a

whole cast of characters that could have possibly been involved.  We simply

don`t know.  We`ll have to wait on Mueller to share that answer with us.


O`DONNELL:  Joyce Vance and John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us



HEILEMANN:  Thanks, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, as I said, Ezra Klein will join us on

what he thinks Donald Trump is really up to in the government shutdown and

what he thinks Donald Trump really wants at the southern border.




O`DONNELL:  In these dark and confused and chaotic days of the American

presidency in which the president has said that he is glad to shut down the

government, glad to take the blame for it, and glad to keep the government

shut down for months or even years, sometimes you have to be glad that the

president is glad to take advice from “Fox & Friends.”




STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST, FOX & FRIENDS:  The most likely thing is he`s

probably going to declare it`s going to be a national emergency.  He did

not mention that last night, but according to people close to him, that is

the most likely option.


BRIAN KILMEADE, CO-HOST, FOX & FRIENDS:  That would be bad.  Next thing you

know –


DOOCY:  Why?


KILMEADE:  – there would be a Democrat in office and they`ll say, well,

climate change is a national crisis and here are the stats that show that

temperatures are rising and fish are dying.  So I just think that that

would be – will be in another legal fight and then nothing gets done as

the courts mull this through.




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is Ezra Klein, editor-at-large at Vox and the

host of the podcast “The Ezra Klein Show.”  Ezra, you have a theory about

this case that I am strongly attracted to.  I have a doubt about it but I

want you to present the theory about what Trump`s doing with the wall and

we will discuss.


EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, VOX:  Theory is this, he`s doing nothing. 

He`s doing nothing at all to get the wall.  I thought the tweet today was a

perfect piece of evidence in support of the theory.  You do not have a

negotiating session, walk in, storm out then send out a tweet bragging

about how you said bye-bye to Nancy and Chuck after giving them candy, I

guess, because they would not give you what you wanted when you didn`t

offer anything at all.


From the beginning of this, I`ve said that there is something – the

measure of somebody`s commitment, of a politician`s commitment to a policy,

is not how often they ask for it, but what they`re willing to trade away to

get it.  So far, Donald Trump has been willing to trade away nothing.


If he wanted the wall, he would make an offer to give the Democrats

something they wanted in order to get the wall.  What he wants is for his

own base to see him fighting for the wall.  And in that, he`s succeeding.


Every single day, he`s succeeding.  I think that`s why he seems to

basically enjoy this.  But that`s the entirety of his plan here.  There is

no plan to get the policy, there is only a plan to be seen fighting for the



O`DONNELL:  And if it were any other politician, I would be embracing this

theory completely.  Here is my pause.


What you just laid out is rational.  It may be twisted.  It may be a

perverse use of government but it is rational.  It is Donald Trump saying I

don`t really want the wall, therefore I am rationally not offering them

anything for the wall.


But this guy is not rational.  And so I don`t know how to use that rational

theory of bargaining exchange, apply it to Donald Trump and say he`s not

doing the rational bargaining exchange, therefore he must rationally not

want the wall.  I have trouble with all that rationality that seems to be

built in there somewhere.


KLEIN:  Let me try to merge it in a different way, actually.




KLEIN:  Because I`m not saying that when Donald Trump goes to bed at night,

he says to himself, “You know, I don`t actually want that wall.”  I think

he does want the wall.


What I`m saying is you see what people really want based on what they do. 

And what I think brings these things together a little bit, the bitter

irony of Donald Trump claiming for so long to be a deal maker is that he

has the worst view of deals you can possibly have.


He believes his deals are zero-sum.  He believes there is always a winner

and always a loser.  And what Donald Trump wants is not deals, what he

wants is to be seen as a winner.  That is always throughout his career,

throughout his presidency, what he wants to be seen as.


And so he believes if he concedes anything, if he gives Democrats something

that hurts for him to give it, he`ll be seen as a loser.  So what Trump

wants is to be seen as a winner.  What he wants is to be seen as a fighter.


And he just doesn`t care that much about the wall behind that.  These

things are all tied together.  It`s not so much about whether or not he

doesn`t want a wall.  He`d love to have one if he can get it the way he`d

want it.  But in the ordinal ranking of what is important to him, what is

important is how he looks on television, far away above any policy at all.


O`DONNELL:  And certainly when you compare it to the way he dealt with

Stormy Daniels, how much he wanted Stormy Daniels to be silent at the end

of the campaign, he gave her something.  He gave her $130,000.  He

delivered something in order to get something, and he`s not willing to do

any of that here.


Ezra, I want to get your reaction to this possibility raised by “Fox &

Friends” and by the wise – the wisdom of “Fox & Friends” deciding that

it`s a very bad idea to declare the national emergency and try to get

somehow the defense department to start building something at the southern

border.  If the president does try something like that, what do you

anticipate happening?


KLEIN:  Court cases.  So that`s a way – I mean, of the different ways he

can get out of this, he could do that and say that he didn`t give anything

and he`s still fighting for it and now there`s an emergency and there will

be the wall.  But, of course, it would again go to the theory, he would be

seen trying to get the wall but he wouldn`t get the wall because this would

immediately go to the courts.


What Donald Trump could do with a declaration of a national emergency is he

would be able to try to move money around from other pots that is put there

for other purposes and try to bring a bit of it to the wall.  What he could

get and what he could not get would be a legally contestable question and

he probably couldn`t get that much.


This would not be a way you could actually get the wall.  It would not be a

way you could actually dramatically change policy.  Calling it a national

emergency is technically what would be happening but it makes it sound like

a much more powerful thing to do than what it would actually be.


He would be able to get a little bit more money, probably not anywhere near

the $5.7 billion he wants.  And it would be at the cost as the “Fox &

Friends” correspondent said of setting a precedent that this could be done

by any president whenever there`s something they want that they`re not



In theory, when you have Republicans for years talking about too much power

arrogating into the executive, being upset about President Obama doing DACA

and so on and so forth, this is probably not a precedent they want to set. 

And by the way, that “Fox & Friends” guy is right, climate change is

actually an emergency.


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  That`s – “Fox & Friends” has finally acknowledged that

that`s where we are.


Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate



KLEIN:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  And coming up, Rod Rosenstein is telling people that he wants

to stay in his job as deputy attorney general until Robert Mueller files

his investigative report, but will Donald Trump allow Rosenstein to stay? 

Will Donald Trump fire Rod Rosenstein before Mueller finishes his





O`DONNELL:  In an exclusive report tonight, NBC News` Pete Williams is

reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will resign and leave

the Justice Department after the special prosecutor who he appointed,

Robert Mueller, has finished his investigative and prosecutorial work.


NBC News report says, “A source close to Rosenstein said he intends to stay

on until Mueller`s investigative and prosecutorial work is done.  The

source has said that would mean Rosenstein would remain until early March. 

Several legal sources have said they expect the Mueller team to conclude

its work by mid to late February.  Although they said that timeline could

change based on unforeseen investigative developments.  The source said

once Mueller`s work is done, the special counsel`s report to the Justice

Department would follow a few weeks later, and Rosenstein would likely be

gone by then.”


“Reuters” is reporting tonight that President Trump`s legal team told

Robert Mueller before Christmas that the president “will not answer any

more questions in the probe.”  In an interview, Donald Trump`s TV lawyer

Rudy Giuliani said, “As far as we`re concerned, everything is over.”


Rudy Giuliani told “Reuters” that “they could try to subpoena him if they

want, but they know we could fight that like hell.”


“Vanity Fair`s” Gabriel Sherman reported yesterday that “Rudy Giuliani

recently told a friend that he expects Mueller`s report to be horrific.” 

That`s according to a person briefed on the conversation who says you`re

already hearing people speculate that Trump could do a deal and resign.


Today, President Trump`s nominee to be the next attorney general William

Barr met with senators in advance of next week`s confirmation hearing in

the Judiciary Committee.  Senator Lindsey Graham who was officially named

chairman of the Judiciary Committee today said everything that Democratic

Senators are hoping to hear from William Barr under oath next week.





directly, do you think bob – Mr. Mueller`s on a witch hunt?  He said no. 

Do you think he would be fair to the president and the country as a whole? 

He said yes.  And do you see any reason for Mr. Mueller`s investigation to

be stopped?  He said no.


Do you see any reason for a termination based on cause?  He said no.  Are

you committed to making sure Mr. Mueller can finish his job?  Yes.




O`DONNELL:  But what about Rod Rosenstein?  At his confirmation hearing

next week, William Barr will probably be asked if he intends to fire Rod

Rosenstein.  After the president fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general

and created the opening to nominate William Barr, the president tweeted

this, accusing Rod Rosenstein, among others, of committing treason.


Why would President Trump leave in place a deputy attorney general who he

says has committed treason?  Why would Donald Trump allow Rod Rosenstein to

continue to help Robert Mueller complete his investigation?


Today`s reports about Rod Rosenstein`s intention to stay in his job until

Robert Mueller completes his work came from sources close to Rod

Rosenstein.  So that`s what Rod Rosenstein apparently wants to do.  But why

would Donald Trump allow Rod Rosenstein to stick with the Mueller

investigation until the end and see everything that Robert Mueller has

found about Donald Trump?


Matt Miller will join us next to consider what today`s reports tell us

about the future of Rod Rosenstein and the future of Robert Mueller`s







UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We learned today about William Barr, the attorney

general nominee for the president.  He has told Lindsey Graham that he

would not interfere with the Mueller investigation.  Do those assurances

that he`s giving reassure you in any way about the Barr nomination?



Absolutely not.  Trump has made clear he doesn`t believe that he is subject

to the laws of the land.  And he clearly wants to try to undermine the

Mueller investigation.  I believe that`s why Mr. Barr was selected and I

believe even though Mr. Barr`s got a great reputation from the past that he

ought to recuse and actually his name ought to not go forward.




O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Matt Miller, former spokesperson

for Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.


Matt, what Lindsey Graham had to say is a lot about what Barr has to say,

is a lot of what Democratic Senators are hoping to hear him say under oath

in addition to more reassurance about the Mueller investigation.  What do

you make of what Lindsey Graham had to say about his conversation with




you see the incoming – the now chairman of the judiciary committee trying

to do a little pre-emptive rehabilitation of his nominee.  Look, I think

what Lindsey Graham said today is really the bare minimum of what you would

expect from a nominee.


Of course, he`s going to pledge not to interfere with the investigation. 

Any nominee would expect to say that.  What I think Democratic Senators

will be looking for next week are more concrete promises, though.  For

example, will you pledge to accept the advice of ethics officials on

whether you ought to recuse yourself?


There are very I think serious questions about whether he can actually

oversee this probe given the fact he wrote this memo to the Justice

Department and gave a copy of it to the White House, this memo that

questioned some of the theories of obstruction of justice that seemed to be

at play in the case.


I don`t think it`s enough to say he`ll consult since we saw what Matt

Whitaker did, he consulted and ignored their advice.  And I think the big

question ultimately at the end of the probe, if Bob Mueller has a public –

has a report that he presents to you, will you make it public?


Those are the kind of answers that Democratic Senators need to get out of

him, not just will he pledge not to interfere, which I think really doesn`t

mean that much on its own.


O`DONNELL:  Matt, the reporting about Rod Rosenstein wanting to stay till

the end of the Mueller investigation, why would the president allow Rod

Rosenstein to do that?


MILLER:  You know I think he might let him stay just because he already has

effectively sidelined him from the decisions that the president`s going to

care the most about.  Because Whitaker did ignore this advice from ethics

officials and now is in charge of the probe, all the reporting shows that

Rosenstein is still overseeing it on a day-to-day basis but any big

decisions like whether a report is made public would go ultimately to the

acting attorney general.


So the president already has someone in place that will make a decision at

least that he thinks will make the decision he wants.  I imagine he thinks

the same thing about Bill Barr.  So I think if Rod, you know, manages to

stay on as long as he seems to want to, it`s because the president thinks

he`s already somewhat rigged the game.


And I will say, according to Pete`s reporting, he wants to stay, you know,

kind of until the investigative steps are done but then would leave before

this report kind of comes up to the attorney general.  And to me, that

forecloses the idea of whether Barr will recuse himself because – and I

don`t think that ought to be a fate to complete.


Because of these questions, I think that`s a really live question that will

be keyed up for ethics officials, and if Barr – if he recommended – if it

was recommended that he recuse himself, I think he ought to.  And that

would put the probe right back in Rod`s lap where, of course, it`s been for

the past year and a half.


O`DONNELL:  The language is interesting.  It says that Rod Rosenstein wants

to stay until the investigative and prosecutorial work is done. 

Prosecutorial work is prosecuting cases in court.  We don`t know how many

more possible court prosecutions might emerge from those special

prosecutors` investigation.


KLEIN:  No, we certainly don`t.  Look, it seems obvious that Roger Stone

and Jerome Corsi are both very likely to be indicted if that happens.  They

wouldn`t be in a trial for something like nine months, maybe a year, and

then you have the trial itself.


So I read that as when the investigative steps, meaning all of the

indictments are filed.  I can`t imagine he`s committing to stay until the

prosecutions are done because that will be many months if not years down

the road.


O`DONNELL:  Matt Miller, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

Really appreciate it.


And you`re not alone watching the show tonight.  At 9:00 – let`s see. 

Yes.  At 10:43 p.m., President Trump tweeted about what`s going on here

tonight on MSNBC during this hour.  He doesn`t like it.  I`ll tell you what

he said when we come back.




O`DONNELL:  At 10:43 p.m. Eastern tonight, President Trump tweeted about

how angry he is at what I`m doing here tonight during this hour.  He said,

“MSNBC is going crazy.”





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