Congress has yet to see Mueller report. TRANSCRIPT: 3/27/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Eleanor Holmes Norton, David Kris, Tasha Nelson
Transcript:

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

 

Just finishing my notes here, 10:00 a.m., Maria Butina.  Thank you for

that.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  Status hearing. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Here`s what I don`t understand, Rachel.  I thought the Mueller

investigation was over.  I thought that until I watched your show tonight

and now I`m wicked confused. 

 

MADDOW:  I will drop off the transcript from that hearing in your studio on

my way out if you want.  It`s amazing. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, so, we don`t really have kind of clarity, kind of surgical

ends of what`s going on here legally. 

 

MADDOW:  No, it`s interesting.  In the Barr report, in William Barr`s four-

page summation of what he says Mueller came to in his investigation,

remember he did have that one line that was sort of ambiguous as to Mueller

handing off different elements investigation to other prosecutors and other

elements in the Justice Department.  We didn`t know at the time if that was

retrospective, if that was just describing something he did earlier in his

investigation in ways that we could see and already knew about or whether

that meant he was still doing that now. 

 

We`ve seen all week long him handing over more pieces.  We got confirmation

today that the grand jury that he`s convened in D.C. is robustly continuing

its work under new prosecutors.  So that means more to come. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Much more to come. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Thanks, Lawrence. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

 

We are finally getting a – much closer to a very important number. 

Something that the House Judiciary chairman said today.  It`s a number

we`ve been talking about on this show for awhile. 

 

But before we get to that, we have to do a little bit of full disclosure

here because in the second half, the back half of this show, you`re going

to see two people I know, who people who are friends of mine.  One

Democrat, one Republican.  I`ve worked with both of them. 

 

Tom Malinowski who is now a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, I

worked in Senator Moynihan`s office.  Tom has spent a career concerned with

human rights, most recently as a State Department assistant secretary of

state in the Obama administration. 

 

He got his first chance today, his very first chance in the house foreign

affairs committee to question Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and he wanted

to know what`s to like about the murderous dictator of South Korea.  That`s

how we`re going to end this hour tonight.  We`re going to get to that at

the end of this hour.  You`re going to want to see Tom Malinowski`s

questioning of Mike Pompeo. 

 

And before that, we`re going to hear from Stuart Stevens, who is now

working full-time with the one Republican who is actually seriously

exploring a primary threat, Republican primary threat to President Trump. 

And Stuart Stevens was the top strategist in Mitt Romney`s quest for the

nomination and then his campaign in 2012.  Stuart Stevens has worked on

more Republican campaigns possibly than he can remember at this point.  So

this is a very serious Republican player who is going to give us a real

insight about what the real possibilities are, what the impacts could be

from a challenge to a sitting Republican president in presidential

primaries. 

 

The last time we saw that the Republican president did not win his re-

election.  It was when Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush in

Republican primaries.  President Bush got the nomination.  Buchan didn`t

get the nomination.  But President Bush could not hold on to the White

House after that challenge. 

 

We`re going to hear from Stuart Stevens about is this the – is this a year

where we could see something like that happen again? 

 

But to begin, we are finally getting closer to a very important number, and

it`s a big one.  It`s so big that it makes perfect sense why this number

would have been deliberately excluded from Attorney General Barr`s letter

about the Mueller report if, and I`m only saying if here, if the attorney

general`s letter was actually trying to make the Mueller report seem as

favorable to the president as possible.  If that`s what the attorney

general was trying to do, and we don`t know if he was, but if that`s what

the attorney general was trying to do in that letter, one thing he wasn`t

going to mention is how long the Mueller report actually is, how many

pages. 

 

Most of the news media seemed to treat the attorney general`s four-page

letter about the Mueller report to actually be the Mueller report, which,

of course, no one in the news media has actually seen.  So what if on the

first page of the attorney general`s four-page letter instead of writing,

this report is entitled report in the investigation into Russian

interference in the 2016 presidential election – what if instead of that

the attorney general wrote, this 900-page report is entitled report on the

investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Nine hundred pages would have staggered the news media, 700 pages would

have staggered the news media, 500 pages would have staggered the news

media – 500 pages would have humbled the news media into instantly

realizing that a four-page letter that they were holding was not a 500-page

Mueller report. 

 

But the page count was not included in the attorney general`s letter

describing the Mueller report and Ari Melber was the first to raise this in

his suburb coverage of the attorney general`s letter on Sunday night.  We

discussed it here on this program for the last two nights. 

 

And finally today, we are moving closer to an answer because the chairman

of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, agrees with Ari Melber that

it is an important question.  So important that it is one of the things he

discussed today with Attorney General William Barr in what Chairman Nadler

said was a ten-minute phone call. 

 

This is what Chairman Nadler told reporters about that conversation this

afternoon. 

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  I had a

phone call with the attorney general and I asked him about the length and

the breadth of the Mueller report.  He told me it was a very substantial

report.  A very substantial report.  One that in my judgment a four-page

summary cannot begin to do justice to. 

 

REPORTER:  How many pages is the report?  When you say very substantial, do

you mean hundreds of pages?  How many pages?

 

NADLER:  I can`t say that, but it`s very substantial. 

 

REPORTER:  And you know how many pages it is? 

 

NADLER:  Yes.  It`s very substantial. 

 

REPORTER:  Fox News is saying 700.

 

NADLER:  What?

 

REPORTER:  Fox News is saying 700.  Is that accurate?  More than that? 

 

NADLER:  I can`t comment. 

 

REPORTER:  Very substantial, less than 1,000? 

 

NADLER:  Oh, I would think so. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  First thing he said, very first thing he said, I asked him

about the length.  I asked him about the length and breadth of the Mueller

report and so now we know.  It`s less than 1,000 pages.  That means it

could be the longest special prosecutor`s report in history. 

 

If Fox News is right and it`s 700 pages, that would make it the longest

special prosecutor`s report in history.  Kenneth Starr`s report on

President Clinton that led to the impeachment of President Clinton in the

House of Representatives was 445 pages, all of which was released to the

Congress and the public. 

 

We don`t know how many pages of the Mueller report describe and analyze

Lester Holt`s interview with President Trump after the president fired FBI

Director James Comey.  But in an exclusive interview with Lester Holt

today, James Comey said he is eager to see that and everything else that`s

in the full Mueller report. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR:  I don`t know what the special counsel

found and I`m prepared – I hope everybody is – to wait and get the

transparency that we need. 

 

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Do you ask yourself why Mueller did not

subpoena President Trump to try to get the – to get to the heart of this

intent question on obstruction? 

 

COMEY:  Yes, I do, and I don`t know the answer to that.  I have the same

question about how the attorney general could resolve the question, which

he says in his letter turns upon the president`s intent, without the

president having been asked what his intent is. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The clearest picture we have of the president`s intent actually

came in Lester Holt`s interview immediately after the president fired James

Comey. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In fact, when I decided to

just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with

Trump and Russia is a made up story. 

 

HOLT:  What did you think when you heard that? 

 

COMEY:  I thought that`s potentially obstruction of justice and I hope

somebody is going to look at that.  Again, the president appears to be

saying, I don`t know what`s in his head, which is why I can`t reach the

conclusion.  What he appears to be saying is I got rid of this guy to shut

down an investigation that threatened me. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Now, remember, James Comey is a former U.S. attorney in the

Southern District of New York.  He`s a former deputy attorney general of

the United States who in effect served as acting attorney general when

Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized. 

 

James Comey was the director of the FBI, appointed by President Obama. 

Most of his service has been in a Republican-run Justice Department and

even James Comey with all that experience is mystified as to – as the rest

of us are about why Robert Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the

obstruction of justice investigation of the president. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

COMEY:  The purpose of the special counsel is to make sure that the

politicals, in this case the attorney general, doesn`t make the ultimate

call on whether the subject of the investigation, the president of the

United States, should be held criminally liable for activities that were

under investigation.  And so, the idea that the special counsel would reach

the question and hand it to the political leadership doesn`t make sense.  I

don`t – I`m not prejudging it, I`m just saying it doesn`t make sense on

its face. 

 

I don`t know why he didn`t here and I don`t know what combination of law

and fact led him to that, which is why I`m going to wait and hear the

explanation, which I hope will come. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  To President Trump and his supporters who claim there never

should have been an investigation, James Comey said this –

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

COMEY:  I don`t know what people are thinking saying we shouldn`t have

investigated, right?  Remember where this started.  In late July of the

election year, we knew the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to

hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, and then we learned that a

Trump campaign adviser had spoken to a Russian operative about the dirt

they had on Hillary Clinton before any of us knew anything about it.  How

on earth would the FBI leave that alone? 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion now, member of Congress on one of

the committees leading the current effort to get the Mueller report,

Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton who has represented

Washington, D.C. in the Congress since 1991.  Eleanor Holmes Norton has

seen it all.  That`s why we need her here tonight.  She serves in House

Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

 

Also joining us, David Kris, former assistant attorney general for national

security under President Obama.  He also served as the associate deputy

attorney general for national security issues under President Bush.  We`re

going to discuss with him the national security issues that have not yet

been resolved and might or might not be by the Mueller report. 

 

And we`re lucky to have Jon Meacham here with us tonight, a presidential

historian and an MSNBC contributor.  And Jon Meacham has more historical

perspective on these issues than I could summon if you gave me all night. 

 

I want to start with you, Congresswoman, and get your reaction, first of

all, to Chairman Nadler`s description of his conversation with the attorney

general.  He was very circumspect in what he was willing to reveal about

it.  He clearly got either a very specific page count from the attorney

general or something close to what it is, but he didn`t want to share that

publicly at this stage, and it seems like what`s coming your way should you

get your hands on the whole thing may very well be the longest special

prosecutor`s report in history. 

 

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.:  Which is only part of

the reason we must have it, because even when we have the whole thing, we

probably have to do our own executive summary.  You know, we`re used to

getting executive summaries in congress, but they always give us the whole

thing right along with it.  There`s no way to avoid giving this document to

the Congress. 

 

When is the last time you`ve seen such bipartisanship?  The Republicans say

we ought to have it.  The Democrats say we ought to have it.  There`s no

way we`re not going to get it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Jon Meacham, the precedent here is very clear.  There was

no hesitation really for Ken Starr handing over the whole thing directly to

Congress.  Of course, he was operating under different laws, different

controls than this new version of the special prosecutor, but precedent

here is basically full disclosure at this stage. 

 

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Absolutely.  Iran-contra, Judge

Walsh`s report.  I don`t think – I can`t think of a precedent where these

have been held back in any way.  I think it`s absolutely essential except

for the obvious redactions for national security, we see it as soon as

possible, and then reason has to take a stand against passion in the arena. 

 

And I think if in fact what has been reported, if what the attorney general

wrote is the best that Director Mueller could do and there was no collusion

here, there was no evidence of it and not sufficient evidence or of

obstruction, then reason for those who are unhappy with the incumbent

president suggests that it`s time to focus on moving forward and trying to

take care of this in the 2020 election. 

 

It also means that the folks on the right, as you just alluded to, who

spent the last two years saying that Mueller was the Fortinbras of the deep

state, this enemy of Trump who had been pushed forward to do in the

president and now he`s become the savior of the republic to Fox News folks

who weren`t particularly thrilled with him 96 hours ago, I think they too

have to acknowledge that, as Director Comey just said, the investigation

was essential, the conversation that we`re having is essential, what

Congresswoman Norton and her colleagues will be looking at and going

forward is essential. 

 

But what I think we need more than anything else right now is at least a

nod at letting the facts lead our political discussion.  The president of

the United States doesn`t want us to do that.  The president has helped

create a climate where ideology Trumps a reasonable reaction to data and I

think that process, that process of reformation, if you will, has to begin

with us. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, David Kris, I want to go to a point that`s been raised by

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.  He`s been speaking today in

one interview about the need to determine what is happening with the

counterintelligence investigation that was begun actually even before the

special prosecutor was named, a counterintelligence investigation on

Russian interference with the election, because that – that could operate

on a separate track and a continuing track past the end point of the

Mueller investigation. 

 

Could you explain how that works? 

 

DAVID KRIS, FOUNDER, CULPER PARTNERS:  Sure.  The FBI has long had open a

counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference, and,

frankly, I have no doubt whatsoever that that investigation continues

because Russian efforts to influence our future elections have obviously

not stopped. 

 

So, there is this underlying and ongoing need to defend against these

foreign threats to our national security, to the integrity of our

elections.  We`ve got a good understanding of what the Russians did in

2016.  I think we have some understanding of what they tried to do in the

midterm elections in 2018, and I know that our intelligence community is on

guard and continuing to do good work to try to figure out what they intend

for the next election and to try to put a stop to it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Congresswoman Norton, if you look at Trump approval ratings, it

appears as though the general public believes nothing happened on Sunday

night when the Barr letter was made public.  There`s a “Politico” approval

poll coming out that says before the Barr letter was released, President

Trump had a 41 percent approval rating, 54 percent disapproval.  After the

Barr letter was released, those numbers are statistically the same, a

movement of tightly within the margin of error, one point, 42 percent

approve, 54 percent disapprove.  So, the disapproval went up one point and

the approval went up one point.  Pollsters will tell you there is no

movement there. 

 

So, Congresswoman Norton, it seems the public recognizes actually nothing

happened on Sunday night and they`re waiting for the Mueller report.  

 

NORTON:  They certainly are waiting.  When you put out a four-page summary

that essentially clears the president of obstruction, clears him of

collusion with no underlying word as to why, the public is not going to –

public opinion is not going to move and it`s not going to move one way or

the other until someone can explain this report.  You can`t explain a

report you don`t have.  Even when we get the report, I will not be

satisfied. 

 

I want Mr. Mueller and Mr. Barr before our committee so that we can talk to

them.  Look, you can`t cross-examine a report.  You can`t cross-examine a

summary of a report.  I need to talk to the real deal, these two men, but

at the – but at the very least we want the full report out. 

 

And you`re very right, if we get the report out – suppose it is 1,000

pages, it`s going to take you and the press and a lot of staff to make

members of Congress and the public understand what is the core of that.  I

don`t suggest that if we had the whole thing we`d know how to talk about it

today. 

 

So imagine taking, if it was 1,000-page report, and boiling it down as Mr.

Barr did and expecting that anybody in the public would believe that that`s

all we need to know or that`s all there is to it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  David Kris, let me take you back to this point about the

counterintelligence investigation and clarify for us that there are

different objectives between say a Mueller investigation and a

counterintelligence investigation.  Counterintelligence investigation, for

example, might or might not be targeted at trying to uncover crimes and

issue indictments, or as I understand it might just kind of continue

indefinitely in order to pick up information necessary to mount a defense

against whatever that intelligence invasion is. 

 

KRIS:  Well, that`s exactly right.  A criminal investigation is focused on

whether somebody violated the criminal law, and prosecutors don`t return

indictments unless they have enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a

reasonable doubt.  So the first thing is there is a lot of daylight between

that standard and a finding that there is no evidence of guilt, and I think

there`s been some confusion on that.  The Mueller report is quoted by Barr

said the evidence doesn`t establish a conspiracy but we don`t know what it

shows with respect to a conspiracy, short of establishing it by proof

beyond a reasonable doubt. 

 

And the counterintelligence investigation has a much wider scope and focus. 

It is focused on the threat posed by Russian election interference and it

would embrace criminal conduct but also conduct that isn`t criminal but is

still bad. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

KRIS:  That puts our country in danger.  So even if there is not a criminal

conspiracy or agreement between the Trump campaign and the Russian

government, the counterintelligence investigation might address things

like, well, did the Trump campaign, you know, follow best practices in

dealing with these offers of dirt and other things from the Russian

government?  Or are there some things we can learn here and maybe do better

the next time around?  Because we obviously need to do better. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We have to squeeze in a break here.  Congresswoman Eleanor

Holmes Norton and David Kris, thank you both for joining us. 

 

Jon Meacham, please stay with us. 

 

And when we come back, you first met Tasha Nelson (ph) on this program when

she was fighting to protect her 7-year-old son Jack by fighting to save the

protections of the Affordable Care Act that have benefitted her and her

family so much.  And now, thanks to President Trump`s new legal move

against the Affordable Care Act, she is back at it.  She will join us once

again. 

 

And in tonight`s LAST WORD, the freshmen Democrats have done it again. 

Today was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo`s turn to be questioned by the

freshmen Democrats and he really didn`t have the answers when asked what`s

to like about a murderous dictator in North Korea?

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Jon Meacham is going to be back with us in a later segment

because Jon delivered a moving eulogy for Barbara Bush at her funeral, and

there is a new book coming out revealing just how anti-Trump Barbara Bush

was.  Which means Barbara Bush might be the next deceased subject of a

twitter attack by the president of the United States.  We`ll get Jon

Meacham`s reaction to that possibility later in this hour. 

 

But today in the House of Representatives, the top Republican in the House

is reportedly disagreeing with President Trump`s decision to try to destroy

the Affordable Care Act in the courts.  “Axios” reports House Republican

Leader Kevin McCarthy told Trump over the phone that the decision made no

sense, especially after Democrats killed Republicans in the midterms, in

part over the issue of pre-existing conditions, according to two sources

familiar with their recent conversation. 

 

NBC News reports that sources familiar with White House discussions say

four members of the president`s administration expressed concerns about the

move to the president.  Attorney general William Barr, Health and Human

Services Secretary Alex Azar, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Vice

President Mike Pence. 

 

“The New York Times” reported there was a heated meeting in the Oval Office

on Monday where acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney convinced the president

to move forward with trying to kill the Affordable Care Act.  “The Times”

says that Vice President Mike Pence was concerned about the political

ramifications of moving ahead without a strategy or a plan to handle the

suddenly uninsured if the suit succeeds, 21 million people could lose

health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down. 

 

The White House officials admit to NBC news that they currently have no

plan to replace Obamacare.  Something the world already knows.  But Donald

Trump said today, quote: If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out,

we will have a plan that is far better than Obamacare.

 

Joining our discussion now is someone who depends on the Affordable Care

Act because her son has what health insurance calls a pre-existing

condition.  Tasha Nelson has a 7-year-old son named Jack who has cystic

fibrosis. 

 

And, Tasha, thank you for joining us tonight.  I know you are an expert on

both the politics of this and an expert on the real life of this, and I

hate to rush into politics discussions when real lives are involved.  Tell

us what this would mean to you if on a certain day in the future, the

Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety and as of

that day there was no Affordable Care Act. 

 

TASHA NELSON, MOM OF 7-YEAR-OLD SON WHO HAS PRE-EXISTING CONDITION:  I

advocate with the little lobbyists.  We are a group of parents and

caregivers who advocate with our medically complex and disabled children on

Capitol Hill to tell our stories, and the number one thing that we all

benefit from in the Affordable Care Act is the protection for pre-existing

conditions, because our children all have pre-existing conditions. 

 

When it comes to medical complexity, that comes at a cost.  I received a

box at my home yesterday that`s my son jack`s monthly meds.  The price tag

on that box is $9,000, $108,000 a year. 

 

Without protection for pre-existing conditions, how will I come up with the

money to keep my son alive?  The medications in that box keep his organs

functioning, his lungs breathing. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And what do you see as the possibilities here if the Supreme

Court does this? 

 

The Democrats are not in a position, having only control of the House of

Representatives.  There couldn`t be any kind of quick legislative remedy at

all.  We know that.  The Republicans have proved they can`t legislate

anything. 

 

NELSON:  No, the fact is health care should not be a partisan issue.  It`s

the one thing that unites us all in this country.  Every single American

needs access to high-quality affordable health care.  Everybody is one day

away from a diagnosis that could change their life, be it cancer, a car

accident where they`re injured or a baby born with a pre-existing

condition.  These are real life realities that can happen in the flick of

the eye.  Both sides of the aisle need to be involved, and the truth is the

side that – that protects the people the most is the side that`s going to

win, as was evidenced in the 2018 elections. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Tasha, it seems that in the inside reports in the White

House, if they are true, at least Mike Pence – or we should say perhaps

even Mike Pence understands what would happen to you if on a day in the

future the Supreme Court just ruled the Affordable Care Act

unconstitutional in its entirety and knocked it out.

 

It was Mike Pence who was saying what would happen to people with pre-

existing conditions?  We don`t have anything in place.  We don`t have

anything ready that could possibly deal with that.

 

NELSON:  Families like mine, we can`t bank on the hope that something might

come that will protect us later.  We need it in black and white, in ink, we

need the legislation to say and exist that says this is exactly how we will

protect you because our lives are on the line.

 

A cold or a flu could take out my son.  I know what fear is.  What this

administration has done to me and my community this week is terrorized us. 

We are terrified.

 

O`DONNELL:  Tasha, how is Jack doing now?

 

NELSON:  He was in Baltimore all day today.  He saw ENT, hematology,

pulmonology, respiratory therapy, nutrition.  He had a bunch of tests done.

 

For the last couple of weeks, his lung function has been declining as a

result of having the flu, recently.  And he`s been to Baltimore from

Northern Virginia three times in the last week because that`s where his

care center is.

 

O`DONNELL:  Tasha, we`re very glad to have you back.  We wish this stress

wasn`t coming your way once again.  And our best hopes for Jack.

 

NELSON:  Thank you so much.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

 

Well, we now have a challenger, one challenger exploring a Republican

presidential campaign against President Trump in the Republican primaries

and a top Republican strategist has joined that exploration.  That top

Republican strategist will join us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  And tonight, Twitter awaits another hate storm from the

president of the United States aimed at another now-deceased Republican

icon.  Just before her death, Barbara Bush sat for a series of interviews

with veteran journalist and “USA Today`s” Washington Bureau Chief Susan

Page.  Those interviews are the basis for Susan Page`s new book, “The

Matriarch.”

 

According to an excerpt of the book released today, Barbara Bush kept a

Trump countdown clock, counting down to his last day in office, that sat on

her bedside table.  Barbara Bush was so disheartened by the way her party

had embraced Trump that by February 2018, she no longer considered herself

a Republican.

 

We`ll ask Jon Meacham about that in a moment.  Jon knew Barbara Bush very

well and delivered an eloquent eulogy for her at her funeral.  Barbara Bush

would no doubt be encouraged by former Massachusetts Republican Governor

William Weld who is at the exploratory stage of a Republican primary

challenge to President Trump.

 

Stuart Stevens, the top strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential

campaign has now joined Bill Weld`s exploration full-time.  Stuart Stevens

has worked on Republican campaigns, including several presidential

campaigns for most of his adult life.

 

He is also the author of several non-fiction books and novels.  And we

worked together on a short-lived television drama where Stuart Stevens was

the most colorful character in the writer`s room.  He is very much a

political realist and so we want to hear from him tonight in realistic

terms what are the real possibilities of a Republican primary challenge to

Donald Trump.

 

Stuart Stevens and Jon Meacham will join us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Here is former Republican Massachusetts Governor William Weld

announcing his exploration of a candidacy to challenge Donald Trump in the

Republican presidential primaries.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAM WELD, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS:  They say the president has

captured the Republican Party in Washington.  As he himself might tweet,

sad.  It`s even sadder that Republicans in Washington, many of them exhibit

all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, identifying with their captor.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Stuart Stevens, a Republican

political consultant who served as the chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s

2012 presidential campaign.  He`s now a political adviser to William Weld. 

And Jon Meacham is back with us to mount what might be a peremptory defense

of Barbara Bush against a tweet storm from President Trump.

 

Jon, let me just start with you on Barbara Bush and what we just discussed

in the last block.  So Susan Page`s book is going to come out.  It`s

apparently going to be filled with what Barbara Bush doesn`t like about

Donald Trump.

 

We`ve seen what President Trump continues to do to John McCain.  What are

you expecting from the president and what do you know about Barbara Bush`s

feelings about Donald Trump since you knew her so well?

 

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, I would just – you said some

kind words about the eulogy I was honored to give.  I`ll tell you quickly I

always, like you I suspect, you`ve gone to funerals and you`ve left

thinking, boy, I wish the person we were talking about had just heard that.

 

And so I asked her if she wanted to hear the eulogy and she said, no, but

I`ll be listening.  So I`m saying everything I`m about to say with that in

mind.  She and her husband once – I remember hearing him say once after

she had been holding forth on various subjects, “Bar, how do you have so

many damn opinions about everything?”

 

This is Barbara Bush unfiltered, which is redundant.  All right.  Mrs. Bush

was one of the last great truth tellers in American politics and it got her

in trouble.  Remember, 1984, she referred to a female opponent of her

husband`s as a word that rhymed with rich and the family came after her and

everybody came after her.

 

And she realized, as she said, “I`m not the poet laureate, I should watch

myself.”  I think that if I were Donald Trump, I would pick a fight with

somebody my own size, and Barbara Bush is way too big for him.

 

O`DONNELL:  Stuart Stevens, it strikes me as I listen to Jon that there are

some real family similarities between Bill Weld, the Weld family, and the

Bush family.  The old line New England wasp style, Republican,

stylistically very similar people.

 

But you`re now fully engaged in trying to help Bill Weld move toward

possibly a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.  We think

of the challenges we`ve seen in the past in these situations, the very

first one I think we all saw was 1968 with Gene McCarthy.  McCarthy didn`t

win the nomination, but the president he challenged didn`t win the

nomination or the presidency either.

 

We saw that happen with Pat Buchanan challenging George H.W. Bush.  George

H.W. Bush won the nomination, but after that challenge, he couldn`t win the

presidency.  Is that dynamic possible here with Bill Weld?

 

STUART STEVENS, FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST, MITT ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT 2012: 

Same with Jimmy Carter when he ran – Ted Kennedy ran against Jimmy Carter.

 

O`DONNELL:  Ted Kennedy, yes.

 

STEVENS:  I think it`s very possible.  You know, Bill Weld, when he ran for

governor in 1990, was a super longshot.  I worked for him then.  We

couldn`t get enough votes on the Republican state convention to get on the

ballot.  We had to get petitions.

 

And he won that and became the first Republican governor elected in 20

years in Massachusetts.  So he`s not afraid of big challenges.  He`s

speaking the odds before.  He got re-elected with historic numbers, 71

percent.

 

You know, he`s really the perfect alternative if he Decides to run to

Donald Trump.  I mean, as U.S. attorney, he won 110 out of 111 corruption

cases.  He broke up Kevin White`s machine, which you remember well,

Lawrence, in Boston.

 

Running against a president whose campaign manager, deputy campaign

manager, national security adviser, foreign policy adviser, are all now

felons.  I mean that`s just a perfect contrast for somebody who go in and

clean up what is clearly a mess.

 

He balanced a budget.  That`s something Republicans have seemed to have

completely forgotten about.  So he`ll definitely be a strong voice to give

people a real alternative if they have a different vision of the country

and the party.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Stuart, talk about him as a campaigner because I believe

you worked on one of his – at least one of his Massachusetts governors`

campaigns.

 

STEVENS:  I did.  I worked on actually both of them in `90 and `94.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, talk about his ability to roll with what becomes the Trump

experience in a Republican primary.

 

STEVENS:  Well, yes, he`s very quick.  He doesn`t take things personally. 

In a debate with John Silvery, accused him of coming over on the Mayflower

and he famously said, “No, my family didn`t come over to Mayflower, we sent

the servants over with the silver.”  And everybody fell down laughing and

that was the end of that.

 

He`s a big guy, in all senses of the word.  He has a big heart and a big

soul.  He sort of embraces this.  So I think that he`ll really enjoy if he

decides to run running in New Hampshire.

 

And there`s this weird thing in New Hampshire that the person that seems to

enjoy it the most seems to do very, very well in New Hampshire.  I learned

that lesson when John McCain was running against George Bush.  And I was

working for George Bush.  They were having a lot more fun in the McCain

campaign.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Jon Meacham, Bill Weld is a tall guy.  He`s a big guy.  He

takes the same space that Trump takes up.  And as Stuart just mentioned, he

obviously has a sense of humor.  He had to.

 

He survived Boston politics.  He was running against that Boston Democratic

machine all the time.  And they were trying to push him around.  And I have

to say, I observed from them that they developed a real respect – grudging

respect, I should call it, a grudging respect for his ability to beat them.

 

MEACHAM:  You`re exactly right.  He`s a happy warrior.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

MEACHAM:  I`m an admirer of Governor Weld in that sense.  And he`s a TR

Republican, right?

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  I mean which is vanishingly a rare breed now.  I think he`s

perfect for this and I think he`ll have fun.  And I think, as Stuart says,

I think he`ll communicate that he`s having fun.

 

I remember him saying back probably 20 years ago now when we were in the

middle of some moment where we wanted an independent to come in and save us

from the pettiness of politics, and he said, you know, everyone denounces

the pettiness of politics, I love the pettiness of politics.  He`s perfect.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And Stuart, as we know, there are few things more

dangerous than a smart politician who has nothing to lose.  And that would

be Bill Weld in this campaign.

 

Stuart Stevens, Jon Meacham, thank you both very much for joining us

tonight.  Really, really appreciate it.  Thank you.

 

And when we come back, the House Democratic freshmen did it again today. 

Today, it was Congressman Tom Malinowski`s turn.  I introduced Tom

Malinowski on this program weeks ago.  You`re going to want to see what he

did with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a hearing this afternoon.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Those freshmen have done it again.  Members of the House of

Representatives only get five minutes to question witnesses in hearings. 

And the freshman Democrats in the House as we have shown you repeatedly on

this program are making the most of their five minutes.  And confronting

witnesses in many ways that we have never seen before in Congressional

hearings.

 

Today, it was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo`s turn to learn what it`s like

to go up against the freshman Democrats.  This time he was facing one of

the most experienced of the freshmen Democrats, a veteran of the Obama

State Department, Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey.

 

And he has been – Tom Malinowski has been deeply outraged every time

President Trump has said this about the murderous communist dictator of

North Korea.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He likes me.  I like him. 

Some people say oh, you shouldn`t like him.  I said why shouldn`t I like

him?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  What`s to like?  That was Tom Malinowski`s question today for

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  What`s to like about the dictator who has

murdered countless numbers of his own people and held Otto Warmbier in

custody and tortured him before sending him home to die?  What`s to like?

 

We`ll show you Mike Pompeo`s failure to answer that question after this

break.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Full disclosure, freshman Democratic Congressman from New

Jersey Tom Malinowski and I both served on the staff of Senator Daniel

Patrick Moynihan before Tom went on to serve in the Clinton administration

and most recently in the Obama State Department as assistant secretary of

state for democracy, human rights, and labor.

 

In the House Foreign Affairs Committee today, Tom Malinowski had a chance

to question Donald Trump`s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY:  If we`re going to be so forceful in

denouncing socialism, why is the administration so high on communism?

 

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Yes.  I mean the very statement there is

pretty outrageous.

 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, I`m talking about North Korea, sir.  The most perfectly

realized communist state in history, a country where the state owns

everything and everyone.  And yet the administration is repeatedly

referring to how it has “awesome economic potential, how it can become an

economic powerhouse” without changing its system, simply by giving up

nuclear weapons.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Malinowski was just getting warmed up.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MALINOWSKI:  I`m asking because there`s a whole lot of rhetoric about

liking Kim Jong Un, falling in love with Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Un being our

friend.  And so let me ask you, why is liking Kim Jong Un a sufficient

reason to cancel or not to pursue sanctions against companies helping his

nuclear program as the White House said last week?  I`m quoting the White

House there.

 

POMPEO:  There have been more sanctions put in place by this administration

with a global coalition than at any time in the world`s history, sir.

 

MALINOWSKI:  And yet liking him is cited as a reason not to do more.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Last week, President Trump tweeted that he was going to undo

some sanctions on North Korea.  The White House press secretary then issued

a statement saying, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn`t

think these sanctions will be necessary.”

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MALINOWSKI:  Is Kim Jong Un responsible for maintaining North Korea`s

system of labor camps?

 

POMPEO: He is the leader of the country.

 

MALINOWSKI:  Is he responsible for ordering the execution of his uncle, the

assassination by chemical agent of his half-brother?

 

POMPEO:  He is the leader of the country.

 

MALINOWSKI:  Was he responsible for the decision not to allow Otto Warmbier

to come home until he was on death`s door?

 

POMPEO:  I`ll leave the president`s statement to stand.  He made that

statement.  We all know that the North Korean regime was responsible for

the tragedy that occurred to Otto Warmbier.  I`ve met that family.  I know

those people.  I love them dearly.  They suffered mightily, sir.

 

MALINOWSKI:  So what`s to like?

 

POMPEO:  They suffered mightily, sir.

 

MALINOWSKI:  So what`s to like about Kim Jong Un?

 

POMPEO:  Sir, don`t make this a political football.  It`s inappropriate. 

It`s inappropriate to do.

 

MALINOWSKI:  Well, when the White House says that sanctions decisions are

based on liking Kim Jong Un –

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Political football.  That`s what Mike Pompeo calls the question

so what`s to like about Kim Jong Un?  Mike Pompeo knows the answer to that

question is nothing.

 

But Mike Pompeo also knows that he could lose his job for telling that one-

word truth in today`s hearing.  Mike Pompeo was terrified, terrified to

tell that truth in that hearing today.  Because Donald Trump allows his

appointed officials just about as much freedom of speech as Kim Jong Un

allows in North Korea.

 

That`s tonight`s last word.

 

“THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS” starts now.

 

 

 

 

END   

 

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