Trump destroyed notes of meetings. TRANSCRIPT: 1/16/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

John Brennan; Ben Cardin; Jason Johnson; Claire McCaskill

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


I guess it`s been a thing, the fake newspaper for almost a year or so.  The

Harvard Lampoon putting out editions of “The Harvard Crimson,” the campus

newspaper, filled with that kind of stuff.  Then is it spread during the

New York City newspaper strike one time and actually some lampoon graduates

putting out, it was “The Daily News” – one of the newspapers was down and

I think they put out fake copies along with people from “The National

Lampoon.”  There is a rich comic history at work here. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  And, you know, I remember at the very

start of the – right after the election, the “Boston Globe,” speaking of

Massachusetts, the “Boston Globe” did its own not quite satirical, but

another sort of thought experiment front page as to what might become of

the United States, what might become of the news under a Trump presidency,

trying to get people to imagine if the president kept to his word on some

of his promises. 




MADDOW:  So, sometimes people do this to themselves, sometimes people punk

other papers.  In this case, it`s an activist group punking “The Post”, and

“The Post” is not happy about it. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, for me, this isn`t the time because the real headlines are

so strange.  I just don`t want to have to go through the process of trying

to figure out, is this the joke one or is this the real – not now. 


MADDOW:  This is not a time when we need to shock ourselves out of the idea

these headlines are real.  Yes, I know the feeling. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Thank you, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Thanks, my friend. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, Donald Trump discovered today that his job does not come

with the same privileges that come with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez`s job. 

Donald Trump doesn`t have floor privileges.  The president of the United

States does not have the same floor privileges that a member of Congress

has, a member of the House of Representatives can enter the House chamber

at any time and a member of the House of Representatives can also enter the

Senate chamber at any time. 


Donald Trump cannot.  The president of the United States needs an



And today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the president because of the

government shutdown that he created, she cannot extend an invitation to him

to deliver his State of the Union Address in the House of Representatives

to a joint session of Congress. 


And Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put the blame for the shutdown

right where it belongs as of now, and that is in the United States Senate,

and she did that by exercising her floor privileges and walking right in to

the United States Senate chamber to deliver a letter to Mitch McConnell,

telling him to bring the government funding bills that have already passed

the House of Representatives to a vote in the United States Senate, where

those bills would pass if Mitch McConnell would simply allow a vote. 


Now, House members entering the Senate chamber is a rare occurrence.  Most

people working in the Senate never see it happen.  Most staff members never

see that happen.  House members entering the Senate chamber in protest –

well, that`s even more rare. 


And the way the country discovered that that was possible, that House

members have the Senate floor – the Senate floor privileges to do that was

when the then very few women members of the House of Representatives

marched across the capitol campus and invaded the floor of the United

States Senate to demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee re-open the

confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas so that they

could hear testimony from Anita Hill about what she said was the sexual

harassment she suffered from Clarence Thomas. 


And I was working in the Senate then at the time, and I can tell you that

that hearing was not going to be re-opened.  That was not going to happen,

if the women of the House didn`t do what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided

to do today. 


Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is the second most famous member of the House

of Representatives.  Nancy Pelosi being the most famous member.  Now, we

have not seen such a famous freshman member of the House since John Quincy

Adams was elected to the House of Representatives after serving as our

sixth president of the United States. 


And in modern politics, in social media politics, with fame comes power –

the power to direct media attention where you want it, the power to push a

policy position into the national political debate.  And Congresswoman

Ocasio-Cortez did that today more effectively than any other member of the

house of representatives could have done it because of that fame. 


And there is apparently no one in the House of Representatives who

understands fame and knows how to use fame better than Congresswoman

Ocasio-Cortez, who does not need a staff to explain Instagram to her or any

other social media or mass communication tool, including how she should

handle herself on Stephen Colbert`s show.  She went to the Senate chamber

looking for Mitch McConnell, after she checked the majority leader`s office

adjacent to the Senate floor and she was told he wasn`t there, but it`s a

large office suite with plenty of places to hide, but what are you going to

do?  The staff says the majority leader isn`t there. 


Every majority leader also has a separate Senate office that is granted to

him as a regular member of the Senate representing his state, and so,

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez took the Senate subway over to the Russell

Senate office building where McConnell`s Kentucky Senate office, a place he

rarely sets foot. 


Here she is on the Senate subway on the way to that office, #wheresmitch. 




REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  OK, guys, we went to Mitch

McConnell`s office where we went to the Senate cloak room, #wheresmitch. 




O`DONNELL:  Here is the congresswoman at the end of her search in the

Russell Senate Office Building. 




OCASIO-CORTEZ:  He`s not in the cloak room.  He`s not in the capitol.  He`s

not in the Russell building.  He`s not on the floor of the Senate and

800,000 people don`t have their paychecks, so where`s Mitch? 




O`DONNELL:  Where`s Mitch?  He wasn`t on the Senate floor.  He wasn`t in

the cloak room.  He wasn`t in any of his offices. 


There is one other place congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez could have gone but it

wouldn`t be easy to find.  There is no marking on the door.  It is Mitch

McConnell`s hideaway.  That`s literally what it`s called, a hideaway. 


Senior senators like McConnell get an extra office, some of them smaller

than their official office, some of them quite grand, and they are secret

rooms in the capitol building near the Senate floor with no markings on the

door and it is the one place where a senator can go and literally hide



Today, Mitch McConnell might have actually been using his hideaway as the

place to literally hide away from Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the place to

hide away from the inescapable fact that this shutdown now belongs to Mitch

McConnell.  Donald Trump started it and Mitch McConnell is doing everything

he can to keep it going for Donald Trump.  He is not using the powers of

his office the way Nancy Pelosi is to solve the problem that Donald Trump

handed to them.  He is using the powers of his office to block a solution

to the shutdown, and so the shutdown continues.


And because a State of the Union Address takes enormous planning by the

speaker of the House and by the House sergeant at arms, and by the capitol

police and hundreds and hundreds of government workers who have to

coordinate to provide security and logistics for a 21st century State of

the Union Address, many of whom are not currently being paid, those

workers, Nancy Pelosi has decided she cannot demand that the federal

workforce necessary to support a televised State of the Union Address from

the House of Representatives be ordered to work without pay. 


And so, Speaker Pelosi sent a letter to the president today saying, quote,

given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I

suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after

government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering

your State of the Union Address in writing to Congress on January 29th.


Now, actually most state of the union addresses delivered by most

presidents have been delivered in writing only, but that changed in the

20th century when Woodrow Wilson delivered his State of the Union Addresses

in person as a speech to a joint session of Congress, and every president

after him has done the same thing.  Those speeches became ultimately

delivered to national audiences on radio and then on television and then

Donald Trump shut down the government and may have pushed the presidential

State of the Union Address back into the 19th century. 


And comments to reporters today, Nancy Pelosi suggested the president had

another option if he doesn`t want to just deliver his State of the Union

Address in writing. 




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  He can make it from the

Oval Office if he wants. 




O`DONNELL:  And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer supports Speaker

Pelosi`s decision. 




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER:  Well, what is the State of the

Union?  The government is closed because of President Trump.  If it

continues to be closed on the 29th, I think it`s a good idea to delay it

until the government is open. 




O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Ron Klain, a former senior adviser

to Joe Biden and President Obama and the former chief counsel of the Senate

Judiciary Committee.  And Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from

Missouri who is now an MSNBC political analyst. 


I won`t ask you where your hideaway was in the Senate. 


CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  By the way, all senators have a

mount.  Once they open the convention center. 


O`DONNELL:  It used to just be the seniors. 


MCCASKILL:  Right.  When they open the convention center, the new facility


O`DONNELL:  There`s more space. 


MCCASKILL:  They moved a lot of offices out of the capitol, which gave

space for every senator to have a hideaway. 


O`DONNELL:  Let`s just for a moment, it`s not as bad as it sounds. 


MCCASKILL:  No, it`s not. 


O`DONNELL:  A lot of productive work gets done by the senators in the

hideaways.  It`s where you can read, it`s where you can think, and

occasionally take a nap between those votes in the middle of the night. 

So, it`s not –


MCCASKILL:  Most of the time it`s use when we`re voting late at night. 


O`DONNELL:  Because it`s close to the floor. 


MCCASKILL:  Right.  Or if you need to do a quick meeting and you can`t get

all the way back over to your office in Hart and you need to stay in the

capitol complex because of other things going on.  So, the name is really

tacky.  We need to change the name.  It is weird because they won`t even

tell senators where another senator`s hideaway is. 


O`DONNELL:  No, that`s right. 


MCCASKILL:  The only way you find out is if the senator tells you where it



O`DONNELL:  If you get invited. 


MCCASKILL:  Right.  It is a culture that probably needs to be changed. 


O`DONNELL:  Some of them are quite magnificent.  We could go on and on

about this. 


Ron Klain, after the break, we`re going to talk about what`s the most

impressive hideaway we`ve seen in the Senate. 


But – so this – Nancy Pelosi, when the president shuts down the

government, goes to work and she says our job is legislating, our job is

funding the government.  It`s the Congress` job to fund the government. 


She goes to work.  She funds the government.  She passes bills to fund the





O`DONNELL:  Those bills get sent to the United States Senate. 


MCCASKILL:  Correct. 


O`DONNELL:  Nothing happens.  That`s where the shutdown is now, isn`t it? 


MCCASKILL:  It`s Mitch McConnell.  He`s been looking at his shoes and

hiding under his desk from day one. 


Remember, he got 100 votes for a bill to get the funding through, 100

votes, unanimous in the Senate.  Mitch McConnell did that.  He did that

because he had gotten an agreement from the president. 


O`DONNELL:  Before the shutdown. 


MCCASKILL:  Right.  He had gotten an agreement from the president that he

would sign it. 


Well, then a company of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter got on their shows

and, you know, gave him what for, and he then reversed course.  He backed

up the truck and said, no, I won`t sign it. 


So Mitch knew from the beginning this was going to have a bad ending.  So

Mitch`s goal was very simple, I don`t want to be anywhere near this.  So,

if you remember, he immediately started saying, this is about the Democrats

and the president.  This is about the Democrats and the president. 


And you got to give him this, the polling shows that only about 5 percent

to 6 percent or 7 percent are blaming the Republicans in Congress.  They`re

blaming Trump. 


And what Mitch McConnell is doing is trying to protect his members, those

that are up for election in 2020 in tough states.  He doesn`t want them to

have to take this vote because he knows they`re going to have a tough road

to run in terms of winning in 2020.  If we don`t put more pressure on him,

and I applaud what the congresswoman did today, we all need to be putting

pressure because this – if Mitch McConnell wanted to get this done, he

could get it done tomorrow. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, and Ron Klain, some of these individual senators are going

to come under increasingly enormous pressure.  Johnny Isakson, Republican

from Georgia, said an extraordinary thing today.  He said that the way to

get this shutdown to end – and he represents the – one of our most

important airports, the Atlanta airport obviously, major hub, major factor

in all of the economy of Georgia.  He wants to see – he`s advocating a

strike by TSA agents, including at his airport, so that that will force the



Now, let`s consider what this is.  He`s advocating an illegal strike –




O`DONNELL:  – by federal workers because he is afraid, he is afraid of

himself doing his own job that he`s paid to do and cast a vote in the

United States Senate. 


KLAIN:  Yes, it`s crazy, Lawrence.  I mean, look, to win approval for his

14th century wall, President Trump may have backed himself into a 19th

century State of the Union Address, as you said at the outset of the



But, you know, look, Trump is kind of in some ways delivering on what he

promised us.  He said he would run the government the way he ran the Trump

Organization.  He`s got hundreds of thousands of workers who he`s nod

paying, he`s got contractors who he`s stiffing.  He`s got a giant disaster,

the Trump shutdown, that he`s put his name on top of. 


I mean, this is what we would have expected from Donald Trump.  He`s the

most incompetent president in history.  His incompetence is kind of the

driving force behind this shutdown. 


O`DONNELL:  I`ve just been handed the breaking news from “The New York

Times” tonight, the latest inside the Trump White House report of what the

president is thinking about this.  And I think you might be able to help

the president with this, Senator McCaskill. 


This is Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni with their sources inside the White

House reporting what Donald Trump is saying, and he is saying, we are

getting crushed, Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown.  According to one

person familiar with the conversation, why can`t we get a deal? 


You want to answer that for the president? 


MCCASKILL:  Well, it`s pretty simple, you know, he should have taken yes

for an answer.  His administration asked for $1.6 billion.  We gave them

$1.6 billion.  That`s all they asked for. 


O`DONNELL:  When you say we, this was done before the shutdown, before

Christmas, way back when Claire McCaskill was still a senator. 


MCCASKILL:  Still a senator, exactly. 


And so, you know, this is what`s nuts about this and, you know, good Nancy

Pelosi, what a badass.  I mean, her realizing that she could make – remove

the invitation for the State of the Union, I think it was a brilliant

political play.  It made sense.  It was reasonable.  I think most people

think it`s reasonable. 


And it, once again, she has outmaneuvered him in terms of leveraging the

situation.  He is not going to get $5 billion for his sea to shining sea

wall.  And the sooner he realizes that and figures another way out of this,

and Mitch McConnell is the guy who can do it. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Ron, another thing about withdrawing the invitation for

the State of the Union, we`ve all seen – you worked in the Senate and

Senator McCaskill knows this.  We`ve all seen how many people go into

overdrive and overtime to put together what it takes to deliver a State of

the Union in the 21st century with all the security that that takes.  Most

of those people aren`t being paid. 


KLAIN:  Yes. 


O`DONNELL:  Nancy Pelosi is saying this is not an emergency.  Under a

shutdown work rules, it`s only supposed to be basically emergency critical

personnel who are working.  We can`t say to them that this speech is the

kind of emergency that must bring them out back from home into work for

this.  I don`t see how she could actually justify it if she wanted to make

the case that it is an emergency for us to hear from Donald Trump. 


KLAIN:  Yes, I mean, it`s a stunning thing to think about, the amount of

security and logistics that go no the State of the Union Address.  You have

sitting in one room obviously the president, all members of his cabinet

except one, who is off in a secure location, the entire Supreme Court and

obviously the entire House and Senate. 


Our entire government sits in one room for one night a year.  It is

obviously the highest risk security event we have every single year.  So

the number of people it takes to secure that, to deal with the

transportation logistics of getting these people back and forth and all

these things, it`s just an enormous number.  To ask those people to work

for no pay, which is the Trump proposition right now, is ridiculous. 


I think Nancy Pelosi did something very smart as far as it went.  She

should have gone the rest of the way.  She might as well have invited Ann

Coulter and Rush Limbaugh to deliver the State of the Union Address because

they appear to be running our country right now.  Whatever they say goes

with Trump.  They appear to be the highest authority in the United States. 


O`DONNELL:  Claire, let me – Senator McCaskill –


MCCASKILL:  Claire`s great. 


O`DONNELL:  I`m going back to before your Senate days when we first met. 


MCCASKILL:  Exactly. 


O`DONNELL:  When I use that. 


Just so I understand, Ron Klain is both possibly has the most – one of the

thickest resumes of anyone who appears on this show, having worked for a

president and vice president, Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice

Department, but he is our resident stand-up comedian. 


KLAIN:  I appreciate that. 


O`DONNELL:  He`s the one who is going to do the Ann Coulter give the State

of the Union Address joke, I just want to make it clear because there is

no, you know, laughing audience here. 


MCCASKILL:  OK.  Got it. 


O`DONNELL:  Senator Claire McCaskill in her debut as a former senator on

THE LAST WORD, thank you for starting us off tonight. 


Ron Klain, thank you for joining us. 


And when we come back, Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign

Relations Committee will join us on the Senate`s important vote on Russian

sanctions in which 11 Republicans voted against President Trump`s position

on sanctions. 


And Michael Cohen reportedly plans to testify that his former close friend

Donald Trump is, in Michael Cohen`s words, a madman.  Now imagine if you

were a CIA director and you heard a former close friend of the president

describe him as a madman, how would you feel?  I`ll ask former CIA Director

John Brennan, next. 


And Jason Johnson will join us to discuss how Republicans have turned on

Steve King for his racist comments and try to answer the question, why now?




O`DONNELL:  So, how do you feel when we first reported last night, maybe

you heard it today, that President Trump`s former personal attorney,

Michael Cohen, in testimony that he`s preparing for Congress next month,

will call the president of the United States, quote, a madman.  How do you

think former CIA Director John Brennan felt when he heard that?  I`ll ask

him that in just a moment.


Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee is considering issuing a subpoena

to Michael Cohen as part of the committee`s ongoing Russia investigation. 

Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, confirmed to ABC News

that a subpoena is possible. 


“Wall Street Journal” is reporting that Michael Cohen`s public testimony

next month before the House Oversight Committee, quote, is expected to be

highly restricted to avoid interfering with the special counsel`s Russia

investigation, suggesting the hearing may be less revelatory on certain

subjects than anticipated.  According to a person close to Michael Cohen,

he will not be able to talk about some of the topics that he has discussed

with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. 


But a source tells NBC News that Michael Cohen is still expected to give an

explosive recounting of his experience working for Donald Trump.  This

source who is familiar with Michael Cohen`s prepared remarks says that

Cohen plans to describe the president of the United States as a, quote,

madman.  The testimony will give you chills.


Joining our discussion now, John Brennan, former CIA director.  He`s a

national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.


As a former director of the CIA, knowing so much more than we can ever know

about the actual weight of the responsibility of all the national security

apparatus that the president controls, what is like to hear a comment like

that from someone who knows Donald Trump better than anyone who`s working

for him now?


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Well, first of all, I think it`s

collaboration of what a lot of people have believed for so long, a belief

that has been borne out by a lot of Mr. Trump`s actions and policies and

statements over the last two years.  But I think more than that, it`s very

worrisome, that this is a person who American citizens entrust with their

national security, with their future prosperity, and somebody who is just

so self-promoting, self-advancing, and is interested in self preservation

at the expense of this country.


I think it really does underscore what Michael Cohen has witnessed over the

course of many years.  So, I think many of us are going to be interested in

hearing his first person representations of what it was like to see Donald

Trump up close and personal.  Again, it`s very, very worrisome because he

is in the Oval Office.  He`s the incumbent right now. 


And we all should be very worried about this lack of stability.


O`DONNELL:  There`s so much that`s developed recently this week that the

president and information about Russia, including that he basically

restricts anyone in the administration from really knowing what he has said

in these conversations with Vladimir Putin.


And if you`re standing there as a CIA director and these things occurred

that were – no one else was allowed in the room or the translator`s notes

were not available, the stories that we`ve been reading about how this has

been handled, what would you do?  You would have an interest still in

knowing what was said in that room, but you can`t find out from the

president.  What would a CIA director do? 


BRENNAN:  Well, you`d need to know what transpired in that two-hour

exchange, because the Russians know. 




BRENNAN:  And the Russians have internalized whatever message it was and

the exchanges that Mr. Trump had with Mr. Putin.  And so, I would be very,

very interested in pursuing avenues to try to have a better understand of



First of all, I would go to the White House and, you know, try to insist

that we need to know


O`DONNELL:  Would you try to go face-to-face with the president –


BRENNAN:  I would. 


O`DONNELL:  – and say I need to know – after he got back from Helsinki or



BRENNAN:  I`ve never encountered a situation like this before, because the

previous presidents I`ve worked for, both Democrat and Republican, would

want to make sure that their senior staff and, you know, directors of the

intelligence community would understand because that gives us a sense how

the Russians might try to exploit whatever was discussed there.  So, it`s

still – you know, it`s inexplicable why Mr. Trump did not allow his

national security adviser and secretary of state in that meeting.  And,

clearly, he was trying to keep something from them.  What was he concealing

and what did Mr. Putin come away with from that conversation? 


So, you know, intelligence agencies do not collect against the president of

the United States or U.S. officials, but we do have this need to understand

how the Russians are going to take advantage of whatever Mr. Trump might

have said. 


O`DONNELL:  And so, this is the strange presidency where he actually does

these things on TV.  And during the campaign, he asked the Russians to

steal Hillary Clinton`s e-mail and provide them in effect to the Trump

campaign or to leak them to the American public.  And because he did it on

TV, the Republicans` defense was, oh, it`s a joke. 


I want to look at another piece of video.  There is no sound to this.  This

is Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.  They`re at the G-20 dinner in Germany. 

And Trump is highlighted there on one part of the screen.  Putin`s down

there.  There`s this signal that he gives to Putin and we`re going to rerun

it because we look at that and I`m wondering if you had picked this up as

some kind of intelligence, that the American government picked up in a

Russian restaurant of two people giving that kind of signal, and you know

that these people are in positions of trust by their governments to –

essentially an adversarial position. 


I mean, what do you think you`re looking at when you see that? 


BRENNAN:  It really is quite curious.  I think it just reflects that there

is a special relationship between those two individuals.  And if any

previous president had done that, I wouldn`t, quite frankly, think twice

about it because I`m sure we would have gotten the full readout. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, right. 


BRENNAN:  The fact that Mr. Trump with all the baggage that he has on his

relationship with the Russians and Mr. Putin and Russian interference, and

the way that he has had this fawning attitude towards Mr. Putin and he has

these very, you know, one-on-one conversations with him that he keeps from

others, it really just continues to fuel the suspicions and the concerns

about what is going on, and that`s why the – I think the intelligence

community agencies have a right to try to understand better, again, how the

Russians may be taking advantage of somebody like Mr. Trump, who I don`t

believe is an asset of Russia, you know, by the formal term, but I do

believe that he is being manipulated and exploited.


And that Putin, who is a trained KGB intelligence officer, is a master

puppeteer in many respects.  I just feel as though Mr. Trump is – has

fallen prey to what Mr. Putin is trying to do, undermining the national

security of this country.  And when I hear Mr. Trump say that he is

thinking about getting out of NATO, an alliance, an organization – we

celebrate the 70th anniversary of NATO this April 4th.  This the

cornerstone of our national security and our partners and allies in Europe,

and to think we`re going to remove ourselves from that alliance, that

partnership that is so important as far giving the United States access to

land bases in Europe, giving us overflight rights in Europe, preventing the

expansion of first the Soviet Union and Russia. 


I can`t even begin to understand what is the basis of the logic behind it,

other than he believes that he is doing this and he`s going to gain some

favor from Mr. Putin and others.  It is just totally head-scratching. 


O`DONNELL:  And on NATO, what seems to be lost in it all, the one lesson

you might be able to teach Donald Trump is remember World War I, remember

World War II, they were 20 years apart.  Twenty years later, those same

countries, those same European countries were all very strong allies thanks

to, among other things, an organization called NATO. 


BRENNAN:  And American leadership. 




BRENNAN:  And we were not recoiling from our leadership responsibilities

around the world.  And Mr. Trump is doing it every time, whether it be on

Syria or whether it be on issues like our NATO alliance.


O`DONNELL:  John Brennan, thank you very very much.


BRENNAN:  Thank you so much.


O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate it.


And when we come back, 11 Republicans broke with the president today on

Russian sanctions.  They voted against the president`s position.  We will

be joined by a senator who was there.




O`DONNELL:  A majority of the Senate voted today to block President Trump`s

removal of sanctions for companies associated with Russian oligarch Oleg

Deripaska.  But the blocking maneuver required 60 votes in the Senate,

which it did not get, and so the president is now free to remove those



Fifty-seven senators voted to block the president, including all Democrats

and 11 Republicans.  Forty-two Republicans voted to support the president`s

removal of sanctions.  Today, Senator Lindsey Graham said the latest ISIS

attack in Syria that killed 19 people, including at least four Americans,

proves that President Trump was very wrong when he said that he had

defeated ISIS in Syria.




SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  ISIS claims responsibility.  If

true, that shows that they`re not defeated and they have been emboldened.




O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from

Maryland who is a member of the Finance Committee and the Senate Foreign

Relations Committees.


Senator Cardin, that vote in the Senate today needed 60, got 57, but picked

up 11 Republicans.  What does that tell you about Republican willingness to

go against President Trump at this stage?



Well, it tells me that the clear majority of the United States Senate

disagrees with President Trump.  This is not the time to ease sanctions on

Russian entities.  Russia has done and continues to do its business against

the U.S.  And it`s important that we let Mr. Putin know that we`re not

going to be easing on sanctions.  We actually should be tightening



So I think it was a very healthy vote.  It was an uphill battle to try to

get it passed and then get over a president veto, but I think it`s a clear

message we disagree with the president on how he`s managing the

relationship with Russia.


O`DONNELL:  Is that an indication of what would happen if Mitch McConnell

were to allow a Senate vote on the government funding bills that Nancy

Pelosi has moved through the House of Representatives and sent to the



CARDIN:  There`s no question on my mind that the majority of senators would

vote to open government.  This is clearly something that President Trump

has done.  You remember, we did that once before, we did it in December by

unanimous vote.  We voted for a continuing resolution and the appropriation

bills that have nothing to do with the border security issues have already

been acted on by the Senate.


So clearly, if Mitch McConnell allowed us to vote on the bills that passed

the House, they would pass the Senate and we stand a good chance of opening



O`DONNELL:  And the – another Senate piece of business I really want to

get you on is confirmation hearing for William Barr as the president`s

attorney general nominee.  It looks like he has no resistance from Senate



And so that seems like he will definitely be moved out of the committee on

to the Senate floor.  And after some debate, if nothing changes in these

dynamics, it looks like he will be confirmed.  Do you expect that to be

pretty much a party line vote?


CARDIN:  Well, I think we still want to get more information from Mr. Barr. 

I know there are still meetings taking place with senators.  We are

concerned about whether he will make available the full report from the

Mueller investigation.


We also want to make sure that he will not impede the needs of the Mueller

investigation.  So that`s of major concern.  There are other issues,

including border security issues in which Mr. Barr`s comments have raised

several questions.


So at this point, look, we`re not naive.  We know that there seems to be a

rally by the Republicans behind this nominee, but we do think that we

really need to get better answers before we have a vote on the floor of the



O`DONNELL:  And the – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did that very rare thing

today of walking into the Senate chamber where House members rarely do it,

to bring the message that the Senate – the shutdown now belongs to Mitch

McConnell, in effect, in the Senate.


If he would simply bring up these bills, that would be the only way to test

what is now only a theoretical threat by the president, that he would veto

something.  And we`ve all seen presidents threaten to veto things that when

they finally pass, depending on the vote count, they choose not to veto. 

But there is no way to know that unless you put a bill in front of the



CARDIN:  You`re exactly right.  And we know that President Trump has caused

this shutdown.  He said he would be proud to have this shutdown.  But now

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is denying the Senate the

opportunity to act as a co-equal branch of government.


We can clearly act – and let the president do what he wants to do.  We may

override his veto.  He may sign it.  But it`s our responsibility to open

government.  We have the votes, do it.


And the legislation we`re talking about is bipartisan legislation.  A lot

crafted under Republican leadership of committees so this is not a partisan

effort.  This is for the Congress to exercise its power as a co-equal

branch of government, to do our work, take up the bills to open government,

and if the majority – I`m sure there is a clear majority, let that – the

will of the body go forward.  And Mitch McConnell is blocking that.


O`DONNELL:  I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking because

you`re in Maryland, you represent more federal workers than other senators. 

But senators in big states like Texas, New York, California represent

really, big, big, big numbers of federal workers.  This is all over the



And the president`s council of economic advisers have come out today and

said that this shutdown is actually affecting economic growth, it`s

affecting the health of the economy.  We`re not sure what it takes to get

through to Donald Trump, but what we are sure of is he sure doesn`t care

about any of your constituents as government workers who aren`t getting



CARDIN:  I`m very proud to represent really dedicated government workers

who have been laid off, furloughed without pay, who are working without

pay.  There`s also a lot of other people who have lost their jobs as a

result of the federal agencies being closed.  The impact on our economy is

billions of dollars a week.


Along with Senator Van Hollen and my colleagues from Virginia, we`ve asked

President Trump to meet with these people, meet with the federal workforce

because they`ll tell you they want to work and they want to get paid for

what they`re doing.  The mission`s critically important.  Whether it`s

airline safety or food safety or small business loans, the IRS and helping

people with their tax refunds.


All of those critical missions that are now not being done as a result of

President Trump closing – partially closing government.  We never should

have had it.  The shutdown needs to end.


O`DONNELL:  Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, thank you very much for joining

us tonight.  Really appreciate it.


CARDIN:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Jason Johnson will be joining us, along

with Claire McCaskill to discuss why Republicans have turned on Steve King

and why Donald Trump has not turned on Steve King.




O`DONNELL:  Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush introduced a censure

resolution against Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King today which was

then read by the clerk on the House floor.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  July 13, 2006, on the floor of the House of

Representatives, comparing immigrants to livestock.  Representative Steve

King of Iowa stated, “we could also electrify this wire with this kind of

current that would not kill somebody but it would simply be a

discouragement for them to be fooling around with it.  We do that with

livestock all the time.”




O`DONNELL:  The censure resolution was then referred to the House Ethics

Committee for review.  On Monday, House Republicans stripped Steve King of

his committee assignments.  Local newspapers in Steve King`s home state of

Iowa are now calling for his resignation.


Yesterday “The Des Moines Register” editorial board wrote, “Steve King

should resign.  He has lost even the potential to effectively represent his

Iowa constituents.”  The “Sioux City Journal” whose editorial board

previously endorsed King wrote, “It`s time for Steve King to go.”


Here is what Steve King said in a radio interview yesterday when asked if

he would resign.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have no committees left.  Let me ask you this

question, are you going to resign?


STEVE KING:  No.  No chance at all.  I`ll go out of this place dead before

that happens.  And the lord will have to make that decision.




O`DONNELL:  Here`s what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said when

asked about Steve King and President Trump.




REPORTER:  You and also Senator Ernst Have condemned Representative King

for his comments.  And I`m wondering why haven`t you also condemned the

president for the many insensitive comments, racially tinged comments that

he has made?


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  Look, it`s been my practice

for the last couple of years not to make sort of random observations about

the president`s tweeting and other things.




O`DONNELL:  The one thing the House of Representatives is now united on is

condemning Steve King.  Why now?  Republican Minority Leader of the House

Kevin McCarthy seemed to suggest that Republicans should have condemned

Steve King earlier under the leadership of Paul Ryan.


When we come back, former Senator Claire McCaskill and Jason Johnson will

consider what has changed in the House of Representatives that has turned

Republicans against Steve King.




O`DONNELL:  Here`s the Republican Minority Leader of the House of

Representatives Kevin McCarthy talking about Steve King on a radio program

in Kevin McCarthy`s district.




KEVIN MCCARTHY:  This wasn`t the first time that he used this language.




MCCARTHY:  When he used this, I came out directly and denounced it and was

frustrated.  But I knew that I watched past leaders did not act.  And I

just felt, I don`t care if it hurts me or not, I`ve got to just do the

right thing.




MCCARTHY:  But when I had looked in the back of the things he had said even

recently and done, it doesn`t reflect us and it can`t reflect us.




O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor of, an MSNBC contributor and former Democratic Senator Claire

McCaskill who is also now an MSNBC contributor is back with us.


Jason Johnson, who could Kevin McCarthy be talking about?  He`s talking

about past leaders.  Apparently, recent past leaders of the House of

Representatives.  I guess he couldn`t think of Paul Ryan`s name.



Paul Ryan.  He couldn`t remember Reince Priebus.  He couldn`t remember tons

of other leaders of the Republican Party.


This is not new.  You know, Steve King has been a white nationalist for

years.  He has said white nationalist things.  They have heard about them.  

They have dismissed these statements in the past.


This newfound religion of the Republican Party, which is let`s condemn

white nationalist talk but let`s not stop white nationalist policies, does

not impress me at all.  So the idea that McCarthy can`t really remember and

says this isn`t us, this is you.  This is the Republican Party.


If you have someone like that who is in your party who has felt comfortable

behaving in this way for 10 years, and you have several other people that

have the same belief system, they just know how to say it with sugar on

top, that is a reflection of your party.


And until you make those fundamental changes in what you accept

ideologically and policy-wise, censuring him, moving him from committees,

none of that really matters.


O`DONNELL:  Senator McCaskill, every elected Republican in the House of

Representatives voted against Steve King on that resolution about his

language the other day including Steve King.  He voted against himself,

saying you know, I shouldn`t have said it.  Donald Trump silent.  Donald

Trump, the elected Republican in Washington has nothing to say about Steve



CLAIRE MCCASKILL, FORMER SENATOR:  Yes.  Donald Trump this week said he

hadn`t really followed it.  Now, he was up to the minute on Jeff Bezos`s





MCCASKILL:  But he hadn`t managed to follow a candidate for Congress that

he supported in so many ways, said that they were on the same page

together, they saw things – by the way, Kevin McCarthy, talk about phony

baloney.  He gave Steve King 10 grand last year out of his PAC.


So if this is something that has troubled him for a long time and he didn`t

understand why Paul Ryan hadn`t acted, why did he write a $10,000 check to

Steve King last year for his re-election?  All of these guys were there for

Steve King, for his re-election last year.  So it really is phony.


O`DONNELL:  Jason Johnson, do you think it`s the election results in

November that has changed their attitude toward this?


JOHNSON:  Part of it, yes.  You know, the Republicans are shook, right. 

They`re like oh, my gosh, we lost a bunch of seats and the new faces of the

Democratic Party are brown and young and millennial and I guess we need to

clean up our act.


But the problem is, you know, cleaning up your act or healing or improving,

you can`t heal if you can`t agree on the diagnosis.  And I have said this

before, most of the Republicans and a lot of Democrats, they couldn`t even

tell you what a white nationalist is.


So they`re condemning something because they`ve heard it`s a bad word, but

they don`t know what it is.  They don`t know what white nationalism is. 

And they`re not really trying to remove it.


White nationalism is the wall.  White nationalism leads to what happened

with police in Ferguson.  White nationalism is what you have that killed

people in South Carolina.  White nationalism is what killed people in

Pittsburgh.  White nationalism leads to violence.


And until the Republican Party and the Democratic Party understands that

white nationalism isn`t just mean words that make people feel bad but it

results in domestic terrorism, all of this is a dog and pony show.


O`DONNELL:  Senator McCaskill, this is – Steve King`s a mid-west member of

the House.  You were a mid-west Senator.  Is there something in the

political dynamics in that region that the Republicans were worried about? 

Because now you have his local newspapers saying resign, you`re useless to

us, they`ve kicked you off the committees, you can`t really represent us.


MCCASKILL:  Well, I just think what happened, there was obviously a

cumulative effect.  And I think as time went on and no one really reined in

Steve King, he just went further and further and further.  And then

finally, he went so far that he really couldn`t look the other way anymore.


It was compelling even to his local newspaper.  But he`s from a very rural,

red area.  I remember when Tom Vilsack`s wife ran against him for Congress. 

She came I think within 10, which is amazing when you think about that. 

That was a few cycles ago.  I think the guy that ran against him was a

veteran or a former baseball player who came back and didn`t have much of a

shot but he came closer than Christine Vilsack did.


So I think the Republicans maybe clean up on aisle five.  Let`s get rid of

this guy so we can get another Republican in there so we don`t lose the

seat.  Because if Steve King is their nominee, they`re probably going to

lose the seat.


JOHNSON:  Right.


O`DONNELL:  Jason Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight.  And Senator

McCaskill, I just want to say, I have seen United States senators leave the

Senate when they decided to retire, and I`ve seen them leave when they

involuntarily were retired.


MCCASKILL:  Correct.


O`DONNELL:  And what I`ve always noticed is about a month later, you can`t

tell the difference because they`re just so happy to be out of that

submarine.  And you look like you`re bearing it with both grace and

dignity, which is just the way you entered the Senate.  And I want to thank

you for your service there.


MCCASKILL:  Thank you so much, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL:  Thank you for joining us.  Really appreciate it.


MCCASKILL:  OK, you bet.


O`DONNELL:  Tonight`s last word is next.




O`DONNELL:  Time for tonight`s last word.





William Barr said today that it would be a crime for the president to offer

someone a pardon in exchange for a promise not to incriminate him.  And

then Rudy Giuliani went on “CNN” to say “Crime isn`t even illegal.”




O`DONNELL:  Seth Meyers` impression of Rudy Giuliani gets tonight`s last









Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC.  All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the