Trump voters blame Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 1/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Evan McMullin, Tim O`Brien, Norm Ornstein, Ron Klain, Matt Viser

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


Extraordinary reporting you have last night on this case.  And what do you

expect at this press conference tomorrow? 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  You know, we`ve been, you know,

translating everything ourselves, which is not ideal.  And we`ve been

trying to monitor Russian language media and it is hard to tell.  It was

definitely a surprise when she got arrested.  It was a surprise when she

turned up in court, when she was allowed to make those remarks to

reporters, and it was a surprise when she was released today. 


So I think what I`m looking forward to hearing her speak in her own words

about what she`s been through.  Obviously, she`s been in a very sort of

scarily precarious place right in the middle of this gigantic international

scandal up against some very scary people.  And so, I`ll be interested in

hearing from her, and I`m hoping it`s not just lawyers talking about her. 

I hope it`s her. 


O`DONNELL:  We will be watching.  Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.  I appreciate it.


O`DONNELL:  Are you exasperated with Rudy Giuliani?  If you are, you`re not



“Politico” is reporting tonight that President Trump agrees with you.  In a

story headlined, Trump exasperated by gaffe-prone Giuliani. 


“Politico” reports Rudy Giuliani has a growing list of enemies in the White

House which now includes his boss, President Donald Trump.  Trump was

apoplectic after a pair of weekend interviews by his personal lawyer in

which Giuliani said that the president had been involved in discussions to

build a Trump Tower Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign, a

statement that enraged Trump because it contradicted his own public

position according to two sources close to the president. 


“The New York Times” is reporting several people close to Mr. Trump had

grown exasperated with Mr. Giuliani`s public appearances.  They also

expressed concern he is increasing prosecutors` anger with the president

and possibly creating a misimpression about the Trump Tower project in

Moscow, a misimpression.  That is “The New York Times” at its most polite. 


Rudy Giuliani has made several statements about just how long Donald Trump

and his son and daughter and Michael Cohen worked on a deal to build a

Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.  Since “BuzzFeed”

reported last week that those negotiations went on longer than previously

reported and involved more meetings than previously reported, Rudy Giuliani

made the rounds of Sunday morning shows last weekend whereas usual, he left

his audience mostly confused about what he was trying to say. 


But later on Sunday, he gave a very clear interview to “The New York

Times.”  Just could not have been more clear.  It was so clear that he

actually quoted President Trump, telling him that the Moscow deal was the

subject of ongoing discussions, quote, from the day I announced to the day

I won. 


Rudy Giuliani quoted those words from the president`s mouth, saying that. 

The Trump Tower deal in Moscow was being pushed by Donald Trump and his

family and Michael Cohen every single day of the presidential campaign. 

That was much worse than what Michael Cohen has publicly admitted to, which

is that the discussions continued up until at least June of the election

year.  And now, “The New Yorker” has released an interview with Rudy

Giuliani conducted yesterday in which Rudy Giuliani changes his story again

and sometimes changes his story from one sentence to the next sentence

within that same interview. 


When asked by “The New Yorker`s” Isaac Chotiner about that quote to “The

New York Times” in which Donald Trump says were, quote, going on from the

day I announced to the day I won, Rudy Giuliani said, I did not say that. 

He was asked if “The New York times” just made up that quote, and Rudy

Giuliani said I don`t know if they made it up. 


“The New York Times” has not released a recording of their interview with

Rudy Giuliani.  But “The Times” stands by its reporting.  Giuliani told

“The New Yorker” that as soon as he read the “BuzzFeed” story last week

which also claimed that Michael Cohen will testify president Trump told him

to lie under oath to Congress, that Rudy Giuliani knew that that was false. 

Because asked “The New Yorker,” because I have been through all the tapes,

I have been through all the e-mails and I knew none existed.  And basically

when the special counsel said that just in case there are any others I

might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same



“Wait, what tapes have you gone through?” asked “The New Yorker”.  “I

shouldn`t have said tapes.”


In this same interview, Rudy Giuliani brags about his skills as a lawyer,

especially as a criminal defense lawyer which is the role he now sees

himself playing for the president.  And I`ve got to say one thing I have

never heard a great or even good, even OK criminal defense lawyer say is, I

shouldn`t have said tapes.  In fact, with good lawyers, you never hear them

say I shouldn`t have said – anything. 


Rudy Giuliani finished his answer to the question about what tapes he has

listened to by saying, “BuzzFeed” alleged there were texts and e-mails that

corroborated that Cohen was saying the president told him to lie.  There

were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the president never told him to



In “The New Yorker” interview, Rudy Giuliani said, “The New York Times”

wants to crucify the president and the president had no conversations.  I

shouldn`t say he had no conversations.  These are his words.  OK, this is

what he actually said. 


And then Rudy Giuliani said once again that the president did have

conversations during the presidential campaign about building a Trump Tower

in Moscow. 


At the close of that interview, Isaac Chotiner turned to Rudy Giuliani`s

legacy, saying things for Trump not always being truthful about it, do you

ever worry this will be your legacy?  Does that ever worry you in any way? 


Absolutely.  I am afraid it will be on my gravestone, Rudy Giuliani, he

lied for Trump.  Somehow, I don`t think that will be it.  But if it is, so

what do I care?  I`ll be dead.  I figure I can explain it to Saint Peter. 

He`ll be on my side because so far – I don`t think as a lawyer, I ever

said anything that`s untruthful. 


We have no comment yet from Saint Peter. 


Michael Cohen will testify in public to a House committee on February 7th,

and it will definitely be the hearing of the year so far.  But that might

last only a day because the very next day, the chairman of the House

Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, is bringing in acting attorney general

Matthew Whitaker to testify to the Judiciary Committee about his

conversations with President Trump.  Chairman Nadler sent a letter to

Whitaker today, telling him exactly what the most important questions will

be, and every question is a heavily loaded question. 


For example, on January 18th, the special counsel issued a rare statement

describing some aspects of the “BuzzFeed” story as inaccurate.  Did you

have any communication with the White House about the “BuzzFeed” report or

the decision of the special counsel`s office to issue its subsequent

statement?  If so, with whom?  What was discussed? 


Leading off our discussion now, Tim O`Brien, executive director of

“Bloomberg Opinion”, and Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor.  They`re

both MSNBC contributors. 


And, Mimi, I want to start at the end there, with these just amazing

questions that Jerry Nadler has already put in writing publicly to Matthew

Whitaker, the acting attorney general.  What he seems to be getting at

there with the “BuzzFeed” question is, it`s pretty unusual for the special

prosecutor`s office to put out any statement at all.  Did you, Matthew

Whitaker, order them to do that?  Did Donald Trump order you to order them

to do that? 


MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right, and look, that is an

important, important question to be asked.  And we need truthful answers to

that.  And I`m glad that there`s somebody now in Washington that has the

power to ask those questions and get those answers.  And in fact, this does

tie back to Rudy Giuliani, because in one of his many interviews over the

weekend, he said that he had reached out to Mueller about the “BuzzFeed”



Now, that is different from Whitaker reaching out, but was there any

coordination?  You know, well, first of all, did Rudy really reach out, it

seems he wrote a letter but you never know for sure with Rudy that what

he`s saying to be true.  But I think that all of the questions that are

listed in that letter to Whitaker are about the conflict that we`ve all

been so worried about with Whitaker.


And they`re really well-drafted questions because they`re really trying to

get at the heart, is Whitaker compromised?  Was he compromised before he

became the attorney general in some way?  Did the acting attorney general,

did he make any promises to Trump about trying to curtail both the Mueller

investigation, and there`s two very questions about the Southern District

of New York?  And specifically saying, were you in any way made to promise

that you would try to interfere with the Southern District of New York,

that you would reassign people of the Southern District of New York? 


I mean, these are extreme questions that in any other world would have been

shocking to even hear asked, but they make a lot of sense in this



O`DONNELL:  And Jerry Nadler made it clear to the acting attorney general

that he was putting these questions in writing ahead of time because he

expects him to possibly try to invoke executive privilege.  Jerry Nadler

doesn`t think executive privilege applies.  But he said that I found so

interesting in the letters is what I don`t want you to do is come into this

hearing room and say that might be a matter of executive privilege so I`m

going to consult with the White House to see if I can exert executive

privilege over this. 


Nadler wants to know ahead of time.  Are you going to try to exert

executive privilege over any of these questions?  And if they do, Nadler is

prepared to get into that battle. 


ROCAH:  Right.  I mean, again, I think this is smart tactic, because

instead of, you know, he sort of got away the positive and negative of

giving the questions in advance so he can prepare his answers and also

being able to see, you know, what executive privilege arguments they`re

going to make.  Because there will be some legitimate executive privilege

claims, but not all.  There`s no way that they can get around really

answering the substance of these questions, at least most of them. 


And so, I think they`re right to want to go in and fight back if that`s

going to be the answer. 


O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, what Rudy Giuliani did do today in his interview

with “The New Yorker” is he did write one line that was immediately typed

into his on-file obituaries, which “The New York Times” already has for

many of us.  They`re kind of – they`re ready for this.  It`s definitely

going to say – it`s going to quote Rudy Giuliani saying, Rudy Giuliani, he

lied for Trump.  That`s going to be in any summation of Rudy Giuliani`s



TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, “TRUMPNATION”:  It`s really jaw dropping.  This is

Rudy Giuliani who built his initial reputation in the public sphere as

being a, you know, prosecutor with the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan,

following the rule of law, not lying, and upholding the justice system. 

And now, he`s openly admitting that he`s wearing the mantle of throwing

around smoke screens for the president and lying on behalf of the



The other thing about Rudy that I think is fascinating in this context is

Trump supporters in the White House routinely call the media or Trump

critics or people who are suffering from Trump derangement syndrome.  But

there`s no one in the media that even comes close to acting in this

deranged a fashion as Rudy has over the last six months.  He doesn`t follow

the fact pattern.  He`s unfamiliar with the chronology.  He`s unfamiliar

with the basic facts, that some of the core events prosecutors are looking

at that affect the president.


O`DONNELL:  So why would Trump be bothered by this now?  There was nothing

different in the Rudy performances this week than there always have been. 


O`BRIEN:  But this has come up before.  You know, when Rudy said that the

Cohen tapes weren`t going to be a problem for the president, or when he`s

done various reveals on television of facts we didn`t know about before,

supposedly Trump was furious about this.  But I think the reality is to a

certain extent, Rudy runs interference around some of the most damaging

information that`s coming out.  I don`t think he does long debriefs with

the president about any of this. 


And most of them are thinking about immediate strategy, unfortunately, most

of the time.  Not a legal strategy and it really serves all of them poorly

in the end. 


O`DONNELL:  Mimi, to go back to the hearings we`re going to have back-to-

back and that is Michael Cohen followed the next day by Acting Attorney

General Matthew Whitaker, in different meetings, but this is going to be an

extraordinary two day event.  And at this point, if Matthew Whitaker – I

mean, look, there`s a whole set of answers to these questions from Jerry

Nadler for Matthew Whitaker, which is just says no, no, no, in which case

his testimony is non-controversial. 


One of the big questions in there is have you been briefed on Robert

Mueller`s investigation?  They asked him to what extent, what role he`s

played in Mueller`s investigation.  If he answers basically all of these

questions with noes, that becomes kind of a nonevent.  But any one of those

questions could create a bigger explosion possibly than even Michael

Cohen`s testimony. 


ROCAH:  Exactly.  And, you know, this actually does again tie back to

Giuliani in the sense that, look, Giuliani is clearly in my view willing to

go out there and lie for Trump.  And I agree that I`m not really buying

that Trump is, you know, so upset about this.  I think that is a more

calculated strategy.  We`re talking about Giuliani, not about Trump.  The

lies are to front some of the information in ways that desensitize us to



Is Matthew Whitaker willing to lie for Trump?  You know, I think a lot of

people would sort of reflexively say yes, but that`s a big deal.  And

again, we don`t know all the facts.  We have to get them.  But my sense is

there is no way he can answer all of those questions truthfully and not

implicate Trump in some at least unethical behavior because I don`t think

this is president that thought about that or cared about that. 


And so they probably did overstep the line.  I mean, I will wait and see,

you know, the facts.  And also Whitaker hopefully understands now what

other members of the Trump, you know, circle are seeing, that when you go

and you testify in Congress under oath just because they may not have a

piece of evidence right there and then to refute what you`re saying if

you`re lying, it`s going to come out later and, you know, you`re under

oath.  So, you know, Whitaker should take that seriously. 


O`DONNELL:  And Jerry Nadler asks him about his own recusal and refusal to

recuse supervision of the Mueller investigation, and I don`t see any

privilege that will get him out of answering those questions. 


ROCAH:  Yes, I think that`s right.  I mean, these weren`t his personal

lawyers.  Those were discussions with, you know, the office of the

Department of Justice, and he should have to answer for that, because he

went – he sidestepped the normal process and we should know what the

process was that he made up. 


O`DONNELL:  Mimi Rocah, Tim O`Brien, thank you for starting us off tonight. 


And when we come back, Mitch McConnell is finally admitting that, yes, the

Senate can help solve the government shutdown after a month of Mitch

McConnell doing nothing and the Senate doing nothing.  Senator McConnell is

now going to bring two bills to a vote in the Senate.  One is supported by

Donald Trump.  The other is supported by Nancy Pelosi. 


And the producer of “The Apprentice”, the TV show in which Donald Trump

pretended to fire people reportedly has connections to a banker with close

ties to Vladimir Putin.  Is Putin somehow connected to everything Donald

Trump has ever done?  Is that possible? 




O`DONNELL:  Today, the FBI Agents Association issued a report saying the

partial shutdown of the federal government which includes a shutdown of the

FBI is hampering the FBI`s ability to investigate terrorism, drug

trafficking, child sex predators, and Donald Trump`s favorite target, the

gang MS-13.  President Trump has told the country that we need to build a

wall to defend against all of is hampering the FBI`s ability to investigate

terrorism, drug trafficking, child sex predators, and Donald Trump`s

favorite target, the gang ms-13. 


President Trump has told the country that we need to build a wall to defend

against all of those things especially the invasion of MS-13 gang members

across the southern border, and in order to get that wall now, President

Trump has shutdown the government and some of the operations of the FBI,

and that has now made life easier on that very same gang, according to the



One FBI agent who oversees FBI SWAT teams says they have no means of

purchasing critical equipment, gear or ammo for either training or



TSA is now pleading for back up officers to help with staffing shortages as

the number of unpaid TSA agents who did not show up for work on Sunday hit

a record high of 10 percent.  With polls showing the blame for the shutdown

rests decisively on Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, Senate

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has finally decided to do what he could

have done weeks or ago but always claimed he would not do.  He is going to

bring one of the bills Nancy Pelosi passed through to the House of

Representatives to a vote in the Senate.  That bill would reopen the

government with temporary funding until February 8th.  If that bill passes

the Senate, it will be immediately sent to the White House for the

president`s signature. 


And because the president is Donald Trump, we have no idea whether the

president will or wouldn`t sign that bill.  The vote on the Pelosi funding

bill and the McConnell controlled Senate will come after Senator McConnell

gives President Trump the pleasure of watching the president`s latest

proposal come to a vote in the Senate.  That bill would include the

president`s current request of $5.7 billion for border wall funding. 


The reason Mitch McConnell has a second bill ready to come to a vote after

the Trump bill is that Senator McConnell knows the Trump bill will be

defeated in the Senate.  The votes are currently scheduled for Thursday. 


Joining us now, Ron Klain, former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary

Committee and former senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and

President Obama.  Also wit us, Matt Viser, national political reporter for

“The Washington Post.”


Matt, I want to start with you because you had reporting especially from

Michigan from areas – you visited areas where Donald Trump has had pretty

good support.  And even in those places, at crucial Electoral College areas

for Donald Trump, they – according to your reporting, they`re blaming the

shutdown on Donald Trump. 



right.  I spent a couple of days in Macomb County, Michigan, and suburban

Detroit.  This is an area when we think of blue collar voters who swung the

2016 election to Donald Trump, these are the voters we`re talking about. 

And many that I spoke to have concerns about President Trump. 


Republicans or Democrats who swung and voted for President Trump are

concerned about him, and the shutdown is adding to that.  They`re worried

about things it might do to an economy they so far felt pretty good about. 

And I think that is causing more anxiety, and they`re saying it would take

something miraculous for them to support President Trump again. 


So, it illustrates a little bit of the challenges that he faces right now

as he deals with the shutdown and gets a lot of the blame for it. 


O`DONNELL:  Speaking of something miraculous, Ron Klain, Mitch McConnell

has risen from a version of the dead in the Senate.  And here he is now

doing what he said he wouldn`t do, and he`s actually trying to move some

bills on the Senate floor. 



the U.S. Senate of Mitch McConnell could putting up proposals that will

lose be considered actual legislation.  And, you know, that`s what`s going

to happen.  They`re going to put this Trump proposal, which is no

compromise at all, which is a threat to take the Dreamers hostage and then

partially released them as hostages, in exchange releasing the wall as a

hostage, they`re going to put that up for a vote and it`s going to lose. 


And then we`ll see the second bill is a vote that passed unanimously in

December.  Will they be able to get the votes to pass it again?  We`re

going to have to see what change since then.  The only thing that`s changed

since then is after two years of Republicans controlling the Congress and

refusing to fund the wall for those two years.  Now, they expect a

Democratic House to fund the wall instead of having either Republicans fund

it or Mexico fund it as the president promised.  So, I don`t really know

that anything productive is going to happen in the Senate on Thursday, but

at least they`re open for business and they`re going to cast some votes. 


O`DONNELL:  And yet, Matt, Ron points out something really interesting

about the Pelosi bill when it comes to a vote after the Trump bill.  And,

look, Mitch McConnell wouldn`t be talking about voting on a second bill if

he wasn`t 100 percent confident the first one, the Trump bill will fail. 

But the fact that this United States Senate in effect voted unanimously for

this bill already puts an interesting kind of pressure on Republicans in

the Senate. 


And then there`s also the question of what their constituents are telling

them and what their constituents want not so much tonight but by Thursday

when their voting on these things.  Because in the United States Senate,

everything that a senator thinks he`s going to do on a vote like this can

change when the moment actually comes. 


VISER:  It does.  And they need 13.  You know, if all the Democrats support

it, they need 13 Republicans to join in to pass this legislation.  Given

this is the grip that President Trump seems to have on his party and on

Senate Republicans, it seems like a tall order.  But as you point out,

they`ve been on record supporting this kind of thing in the past. 


So I think you will see a lot of pressure on Senate Republicans to try and

join probably a unanimous Democratic Senate to pass the bill. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Ron Klain, I just want to have to say for the audience in

the United States Senate you and I worked in, this kind of situation would

not even be suspenseful because the entire Senate would be working against

a president who said he was proud to shutdown the government.  They – you

would get easily two thirds agreement to move something over presidential

veto to open the government in a situation like this. 


KLAIN:  Well, absolutely, Lawrence.  And I think, look, Trump appears to be

willing to go down with the ship to save his wall.  And the question is,

are Republican senators willing to take their own careers down for the

cause of Trump`s wall? 


I mean, a match reporting polls that are coming up show that even

Republican leaning independence, even some Trump voters say what`s

happening now is wrong, working class people are losing their jobs.  We`re

seeing working class people who work for the government lining up in food

kitchens to get food supplies.  FBI agents have turned a field office into

a food bank. 


I mean, this is something that no politician on either party should want a

part of.  And to get a wall they never paid for before, that Mexico was not

paying for, that`s Trump`s decision.  The question is will Republican lash

themselves to that horrible judgment? 


O`DONNELL:  And Matt Viser, we know political polling has different ways of

measuring the strength of feeling in a voter.  We have recent polling

indicating that 57 percent of voters say they definitely will not vote for

Donald Trump.  And that decision by a voter to definitely not vote for

someone tends to be one that holds more strongly than other decisions

voters make about who they might vote for not vote for.  But when they`re

saying definitely won`t vote for is pretty intense. 


Is that the kind of intensity you were finding in Michigan when you were

talking to voters? 


VISER:  It was, yes.  I mean – and this is again among people who voted

for Donald Trump in 2016.  There are some I talked to already there

definitely aren`t voting for him again.  So, that illustrates I think a lot

of the challenge that he has.  And the way we are now, you know, people may

forget about this government shutdown by then, but it`s causing some kind

of lasting opinions of people, particularly in blue collar areas who see

themselves in some of these government workers. 


You know, let`s do a blue collar middle class government employees who are

going without a paycheck, people in areas like Detroit see themselves in

those people and feel for them.  So, I think they`re identifying with them

a little bit in the government shutdown in an unusual way. 


O`DONNELL:  I think this time, it`s going to be hard for voters to forget

about the government shutdown because campaign commercials are going to be

filled with Donald Trump promising to shutdown the government and saying he

would be proud to shutdown the government.  That`s going to be running on a

loop in the campaign. 


Ron Klain, Matt Viser, thank you both for joining us tonight.  Really

appreciate it.


VISER:  Thank you.


KLAIN:  Thanks, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, “Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett has

made a surprise entry in the investigation of Donald Trump`s ties to





O`DONNELL:  Since the Trump presidential campaign began, all eyes in

Hollywood have been trained on Mark Burnett who was the producer and owner

of the NBC show in which Donald Trump played the part of a successful

businessman who pretended to fire people.



Mark Burnett is the owner and custodian of all of the video shot for that

show including all of the video of Donald Trump that they did not use and

could not use on the show.  Sources involved with the show have suggested

that Donald Trump said things on video that would be politically harmful to

him if revealed but his friend Mark Burnett has so far successfully blocked

access to that video.


And now Mark Burnett has made a surprise entry in the investigation of

Donald Trump`s ties to Russia.  “ABC News” is reporting tonight, nine days

after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for

meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of the

“Apprentice”, Mark Burnett reached out to one of Trump`s closest advisers

to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long-held ties to Russia.


That banker was Robert Foresman, a vice-chairman at UBS who has claimed

connections to Putin`s inner circle and who previously ran a $3 billion

Russian investment fund.  “ABC” reports, in mid-November 2016, Foresman

sought contacts inside Trump`s orbit and with Burnett`s help, he found his

way onto the daily calendar of Thomas Barrack, who at the time was chairing

what would become Trump`s $100 million inaugural funds.


Foresman name appears without a scheduled time and a notation, “Mark

Burnett contact” next to it.  Barrack`s meetings with Foresman was

ultimately canceled but sources say Foresman continued to pursue a role

with the Trump team.  In January, he secured a meeting with Michael Flynn,

who according to two sources, familiar with Foresman`s contacts.


“ABC” also reports that Foresman recently attracted attention from

congressional investigators and prosecutors in New York examining the Trump

transition and inauguration.  Also this week, “The New York Times” is

reporting details on the Trump administration`s deal to lift sanctions on

companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.


“The Times” reports a binding confidential document signed by both sides

suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with companies

controlled by the oligarch may have been less punitive than advertised. 

The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of

dollars of debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of

his most important company.


Joining us now, Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and former

independent presidential candidate.  And back with us is Tim O`Brien.


And, Evan McMullin, the Oleg Deripaska sanctions seems to have been not

something that with the Trump administration`s help, he has to suffer much



EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  Yes, that`s right.  And the

administration is making statements basically trying to move attention on

this story to the point that they`re disrupting Oleg Deripaska`s finances. 

They`re making him sacrifice some of his ownership.  They`re trying to

limit his ability to exercise control over that aluminum company`s

operations, thereby making it more difficult as they say for him on behalf

of the Putin regime to use that company`s operations to carry out illicit

activities around the world.


But in reality, though, they`re giving a gift to Putin.  They`re giving a

gift to this oligarch.  What`s important is not just sanctioning these

oligarchs, and that is important, but it`s also sanctioning the assets that

the regime uses to enrich and control these oligarchs and to empower the



And so if you simply say, look, Oleg Deripaska, as long as you remove your

ownership and control from this company, we`re not going to sanction the

company.  Then the regime simply adjusts and it makes sure that Oleg

Deripaska is still taken care of, but it still has this company that is

operating on behalf of really the regime still generating profits, still

generating value and still capable of serving Putin`s interests in

whichever way he wants.


So it is important that we continue to have sanctions on this and other

companies that Putin uses as this kind of vehicle.  And unfortunately,

we`re not.  And I think the administration knows that very well.


O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, big surprise.  Mark Burnett connected to a banker

who`s close to Vladimir Putin.  This becomes a little bit of an echo of

reporting in “The New Yorker” earlier this month that Mark Burnett turns

out tried to do a reality TV show involving Vladimir Putin, wanted to be in

business with Vladimir Putin in the TV business.



this is a moment when it`s worth remembering that prior to “The

Apprentice”, Donald Trump was a punchline in jokes about the accesses in

the 1980s.  And “The Apprentice” almost –


O`DONNELL:  And he still was during “The Apprentice” except for people out

there beyond Manhattan didn`t know the truth about Donald Trump.


O`BRIEN:  Well, and I think a lot of people who voted for him, “The

Apprentice” really fixed in the imagination of middle America Donald Trump

is a guru to aspiring entrepreneurs.  And Mark Burnett play an

architectural role in building that.


And now, to some extent, it`s come full circle because there`s always been

this question about why wouldn`t Mark Burnett release tapes that supposedly

existed or authorized at least someone to look into whether there were

tapes of Donald Trump saying untoward things on all fair segments of “The

Apprentice”.  And why didn`t he come out more vocally against the president

during the election and after he won?


And we now know that apparently, he was acting as a broker for an

investment banker with ties to Russia to Tom Barrack and the rest of the

Trump administration during the inauguration.  And the inauguration was a

sort of almost bank heist of people trying to pour money into Trump`s

inauguration to get access.  We don`t know what Burnett was doing, but he

probably now becomes a candidate for congressional inquiry.


O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin, the Trump Tower Moscow now seems to be possibly

a serious center of Russian influence in terms of the president, the

president`s family.  Ivanka Trump eagerly making plans about the spa she

wanted to run in that building.  Donald Trump, Jr. actively involved in

discussions with Michael Cohen and others about this possible building.  In

your experience in intelligence, what did you see in the Trump Tower Moscow



MCMULLIN:  Well, I see a president or a presidential candidate who was

carrying a lot of the water for Russia in its attack against the country. 

I mean I say this over and over.  I still don`t think we`ve fully come to

terms with it here in this country.



But Russia – but Trump was the biggest asset, the biggest weapon in

Russia`s attack on the country.  I mean he repeated their propaganda and

their disinformation the whole way through.  And you couldn`t have avoided

it if you lived in America during the campaign.


And, you know, that was on everything from sanctions to Russia`s invasion

of Ukraine to all kinds of issues, but especially sanctions and NATO.  And

then the divisive rhetoric, trying to divide Americans and turn us against

each other.


So all the while, Trump is carrying this water.  And I think he knew it.  I

think he understood exactly what he was doing.  And I think he then,

therefore, saw an opportunity to advance his business interests in Moscow,

in Russia.


He saw that because – I believe because he was doing this essentially work

for Russia in the United States by carrying Russia`s message, et cetera, by

covering for their attacks on the United States, that he had an opportunity

and he was trying to strike while the iron was hot in my view in Moscow,

trying to benefit from what he was doing here in the United States to

benefit Russia`s attack on our country.


And so that`s why he was doing it and that`s why also he didn`t want to

admit it.  That`s why he concealed it even after the campaign, continued to

deny that he had any business interests in Russia.  Well, that`s because he

understood the illicit nature of that transaction, whether it was explicit

or implicit.


O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin and Tim O`Brien, thank you both for joining us.


And when we come back, why has Mitch McConnell redefined the Senate

majority leader`s job as being essentially a servant of the president? 

Does that make him the worst majority leader in history?




O`DONNELL:  After President Trump`s unforgettable tantrum in the oval

office with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

in which the president promised to shut down the government and said he

would be proud to shut down the government if he didn`t get funding for a

border wall that he used to promise Mexico would pay for, the adult not in

that room promised us that there would be no shutdown.




SEN. MITCH MCCONNEL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  I think a government shutdown

is not a good option.  In my view, the American people don`t like it, we`ve

been down this path before.  And I don`t believe we`ll go down this path




that, are you convinced that we will not be shut down over Christmas?


MCCONNELL:  Yes, I am.




O`DONNELL:  That`s how a strong majority leader of the Senate talks, they

tell you what`s really going to happen and they tell you what`s not going

to happen.  But Mitch McConnell is not a strong leader of the United States

Senate.  He could not stop Donald Trump from shutting down the government

because he would not stand up to the president of the United States as

majority leaders have done many, many times in history including standing

up against presidents of their own party.


And then once the shutdown started, Mitch McConnell did nothing to solve

the problem.  When the Democrats then took over the House of

Representatives 12 days into the shutdown, Nancy Pelosi immediately went to

work to reopen the government and passed a variety of funding bills that

would reopen the government.


And Mitch McConnell was afraid, just afraid to bring up those bills when

they were sent to the Senate.  Because unlike any previous majority leader

of the Senate, he seems to live in fear of the president.  And so the

800,000 federal workers who have missed their paychecks have missed them

because of Donald Trump and very much because of Mitch McConnell.


The former Democratic leader of the Senate Harry Reid said this about Mitch

McConnell to “The New York Times.”  “I believe that Mitch McConnell has

ruined the Senate.”  Reid who retired in 2017 now says, “I do not believe

the Senate for the next generation or two will be the Senate I was there

for.  It`s gone.  The old Senate is gone.”


When we come back, we will be joined by someone who remembers the old

Senate, congressional scholar Norm Ornstein and he will discuss where Mitch

McConnell fits in the history of this job called Senate majority leader,

which is only about 100-years-old.


The Senate went quite a while without ever having a majority leader and so

there`s not that many people to compare him to.  But it is hard to find

anyone in that history who has been as weak in confronting a president of

the United States than Mitch McConnell.


We`ll be right back.




O`DONNELL:  When “The New York Times” asked Mitch McConnell`s wife Elaine

Chao who is Donald Trump`s secretary of transportation, if President Trump

and Mitch McConnell like each other, “The Times” reports she was silent for

a full four seconds before replying you`ll have to ask the president that

and you`ll have to ask the leader that.


Joining our discussion now, Norm Ornstein, a congressional historian and a

resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  Norm, you`ve known

most of these Senate majority leaders.  I think there`s general agreement

that Mike Mansfield was probably the best and the longest serving.


The majority leader who I watched up close when I was working in the

Senate, George Mitchell, absolutely brilliant, fearless, brilliant

strategist and had to many times explain to President Clinton, I saw him do

it, that what the president wanted to do couldn`t be done and here`s what

we`re going to have to do instead, and here`s why ultimately that`s going

to work.


That seems like that kind of moment has never happened with Mitch McConnell

and Donald Trump.



right.  And if you look at the history of this office, as you said it goes

back to 1920.  And if you go through the whole series of leaders from Oscar

Underwood on, the ones that you mentioned, people like Robert Bird,

Republican leaders like Howard Baker and Hugh Scott, even Trent Lot, all

the way up, they believed in a certain level of integrity for the Senate.


And what we`ve seen from McConnell in the last two years is exactly the

opposite, protecting Trump, kowtowing to Trump.  But, of course, before

that, we have to add that he destroyed the rules of the Senate as Harry

Reid Said.  He almost single-handedly destroyed the norms of the

institution and the way it had operated and there`s a lot to answer for



O`DONNELL:  And Norm, when I was working in the Senate, Bob Dole was the

Republican leader and Mitch McConnell was one of the most reasonable

members of the Republican side of the Senate at that time.  He was the

chairman of the Ethics Committee and he, at that time, recommended the

expulsion of the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and

the chairman of Finance had to resign as a result of that.


If you had told me in the early 1990s Mitch McConnell is going to be the

Republican leader of the Senate in the 21st century, I would have said

good.  I mean there has to be a Republican leader and that`s one of the

people who I think would have been reasonable.  What happened to him?  What

has happened to the senator he used to be?


You know, his mentor, the person he first worked for when he came to the

Senate was John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, somebody I knew who was a man

of just sterling integrity and who venerated the Senate.  And I think if

John Sherman Cooper were around today, he would be horrified of what became

of Mitch McConnell.


It may have started when he chaired the Senatorial Committee, went out and

raised a lot of money and his ambitions got greater.  It may have gone to

his growing antipathy towards any regulation of the campaign finance system

and his belief that he would do anything necessary to deal with it.


And that led to what he did to destroy the confirmation process for judges

as well as justices of the Supreme Court.  And then it goes to believing

that the ends justify the means on just about everything.  This has been a

change.  And the McConnell that I knew, even when we were trying to get

foreign aid done when he was chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee on

that front was a reasonable moderate conservative and he`s turned into

something entirely different.


It`s a sad thing for the country and a tragic thing as we look at what he`s

done and what he`s now doing on the policy front and on protecting Trump

and let`s not forget that he blocked from consideration a bill that would

have protected Robert Mueller that would have gotten overwhelming

bipartisan support.  So this goes to a lot more than just being weak at

this moment on a shutdown.


O`DONNELL:  So, Norm, just quickly in our 100 years of Senate majority

leaders, where does Mitch McConnell rank?


ORNSTEIN:  Dead last.


O`DONNELL:  Dead last.


ORNSTEIN:  By acclimation.


O`DONNELL:  There it is.  Norm Ornstein, thank you for joining us.  Really

appreciate it.


ORNSTEIN:  Thanks, Lawrence.


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




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


“Politico” reports that within 24 hours of announcing her campaign for

president, California Senator Kamala Harris raised $1.5 million, which tied

Senator Bernie Sanders record-breaking one-day total from his 2016

presidential campaign.  Kamala Harris got that support from 38,000 donors,

which is 3,000 more than Senator Sanders got in one day.


Now, take a look at this 2020 primary schedule.  These are tentative dates

at this point.  But February 3 is when it all begins in Iowa.  A month

later, what you`re looking at is one month after those first votes are cast

in the Iowa caucuses on February 3, if the candidates who hang on until

March 3 make it to that date.


Look at the important states that are voting.




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