Trump destroyed notes of meetings. TRANSCRIPT: 1/16/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here is the congresswoman at the end of her search in the
Russell Senate Office Building.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He can make it from the
Oval Office if he wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer supports Speaker
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
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
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 –
RON KLAIN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL: Yes.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: ISIS claims responsibility. If
true, that shows that they`re not defeated and they have been emboldened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from
Maryland who is a member of the Finance Committee and the Senate Foreign
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?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FINANCE AND SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEES:
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said when
asked about Steve King and President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MCCARTHY: This wasn`t the first time that he used this language.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
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
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor of
theroot.com, 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.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes. He couldn`t remember
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.
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.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: Attorney General nominee
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.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Seth Meyers` impression of Rudy Giuliani gets tonight`s last
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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