Trump objects to Mueller testifying. TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That`s called early, Rachel. Five
seconds. Rachel, come on.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s (INAUDIBLE) low expectations right
O`DONNELL: Just take your time. Just let it, just whatever you need. You
know what the space is for. This is for whatever you need.
MADDOW: You`re very welcoming at the threshold idea. Appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, dues for membership in the National Rifle Association are
$45 a year and the dues payers of the NRA have been getting abused by
corruption at the top of the NRA and that is according to the officials at
the top of the NRA. Wayne LaPierre accused Oliver North of financial
corruption and Oliver North accused Wayne LaPierre of financial corruption,
including using $200,000 of NRA dues money to pay for Wayne LaPierre`s
Italian suits at a Beverly Hills boutique.
Now, if you`re having trouble picking whose side you`re on in this
corruption story, I`ll show you at the end of this hour why you might not
have to pick a side, why they both might be right about all this corruption
but one of them is definitely way, way more corrupt than the other and
we`ll show you why at the end of the hour.
Also tonight, Congresswoman Katie Porter is back. This time, she`ll be
discussing the Trump administration`s refusal tonight to comply with a law
that no one has ever refused to compile with before, a law that has never
been challenged. It`s the law that requires the IRS to hand over Donald
Trump`s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
But, first, today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler in
writing for the first time made the consideration of articles of
impeachment against President Trump, the official business of the House
Judiciary Committee. He did that in a 27-page report to the House
Judiciary Committee that the committee will use on Wednesday morning at
10:00 a.m. as the basis for a vote on holding Attorney General William Barr
in contempt of Congress for refusing to meet the deadline this morning for
turning over the full, unredacted Mueller report to the Judiciary
Jerry Nadler`s report to the committee says the reason the committee needs
the full, unredacted Mueller report is to conduct, quote, an investigation
into alleged obstruction of justice public corruption and other abuses of
power by President Donald Trump, his associates and members of his
The purposes of this investigation include: one, investigating and exposing
any possible malfeasance, abuse of power, corruption, obstruction of
justice or other misconduct on the part of the president or other members
of his administration. Two, considering whether the conduct uncovered my
warrant amending or creating federal authorities, including among other
things relating to election security, campaign finance, misuse of
electronic data and the types of obstructive conduct that the Mueller
report describes. And three, considering whether any of the conduct
described in the special counsel`s report warrants the committee in taking
any further steps under Congress Article I powers.
That includes whether to approve articles of impeachment with respect to
the president, or any other administration official, as well as the
consideration of other steps such as censure or issuing a criminal, civil
or administrative referrals. There it is. That is the first document
entered into the congressional record by the chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee referring to the possibility of, quote, articles of
impeachment with respect to the president, President Donald J. Trump.
But that reference is not limited to articles of impeachment against the
president, it includes the possibility of articles of impeachment against
members of his administration. That is clearly a veiled reference to the
Attorney General William Barr who has been defying Chairman Nadler.
Tonight, there might be the beginnings of a crack in the wall of defiance
that the attorney general has built. Jerry Nadler announced tonight that
the attorney general`s staff is suddenly eager to meet with Chairman
Nadler`s staff tomorrow.
Chairman Nadler said in a statement, quote” I`m pleased that the Department
of Justice agreed to meet with my staff tomorrow. It remains vital that
the committee obtained access to the full, unredacted report and the under
lying materials. At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney
General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still
My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow`s meeting towards
resolving this dispute. The committee remains committed to finding a
If they don`t find a reasonable accommodation tomorrow, Chairman Nadler
will go ahead with the 10:00 a.m. Wednesday committee vote on contempt of
Congress by the attorney general.
The House Judiciary Committee is trying to schedule a hearing with Robert
Mueller as the witness to guide them through the Mueller report. Reports
this weekend indicated that the committee was trying to lock in Wednesday
of next week, March – May 15th but that has not yet been confirmed as the
In a historic demonstration that we have never seen before, 536 former
federal prosecutors signed a statement today about the Mueller report. It
begins: We served under both Republican and Democratic administrations at
different levels of the federal system as line attorneys, supervisors,
United States attorneys and senior officials at the Department of Justice.
The offices we served were small, medium and large, urban, suburban and
rural, and located in all parts of our country.
Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in
special counsel Robert Mueller`s report would in the case of any other
person not covered by the office of legal counsel policy against indicting
a sitting president result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of
justice, the Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the
elements for an obstruction charge, conduct that obstructed or attempted to
obstruct the truth finding process as to which the evidence of corrupt
intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These
include the president`s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence
about that effort, the president`s effort to limit the scope of the
investigation to exclude his conduct and the president`s efforts to prevent
witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.
And we are joined now by one of the signers of that statement, Gene Rossi.
He`s a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Also joining us, Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia. He`s a
member of the House Judiciary Committee. He will have to decide whether to
vote to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress.
And Dahlia Lithwick is with us. She`s a senior editor and legal
correspondent for slate.com. She`s the host of the podcast amicus and one
of the great legal authorities we have on this program.
And, Gene Rossi, let me start with you on this document unlike anything I
held in my hands with all of these federal prosecutors. What brought you
to sign this document?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I have a moral compass and I am
embarrassed by the antics of the people who are running the Department of
Justice. Lawrence, what is important about this document, this letter is
it`s Republicans and Democrats, but there is one significant signatory that
people have sort of ignored. Don Ayer was deputy attorney general of the
United States Department of Justice under George H.W. Bush. `89 and `91 or
`90, the same time that Bill Barr was head of the Office of Legal Counsel
and Bill Barr replaced Mr. Ayer.
So, for Mr. Ayer to sign this document is not only a courageous act, he is
saying that Bill Barr`s analysis of obstruction of justice is insane.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Johnson, let me go to you on this. I want to
get your reaction to the prosecutor`s letter and then also where it stands
tonight as far as you know between Chairman Nadler and the attorney
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Well, it`s actually an extraordinary letter. It
a development that gives me confidence about the fact that we`ll be able to
protect our republic, preserve the rule of law and ensure that we get down
to the bottom of any attempts by the Trump administration to obstruct the
O`DONNELL: And what about – what do you know about Chairman Nadler`s
negotiations at this stage with the attorney general or the attorney
general`s staff? Do you think there is any chance of coming to what the
chairman calls an accommodation before the 10:00 a.m. vote scheduled for
Wednesday morning is this?
JOHNSON: Yes, the chairman and staff of the Judiciary Committee have been
almost daily in talks, oral communications with the Department of Justice
staff about reaching a reasonable accommodation. We realize that the
Department of Justice has certain interests in protecting information that
they have, but we also insist upon being able to carry out our prerogatives
as the third or as the first co-equal branch of government, legislative
branch. We got oversight. We`ve got legislative and we`ve got
constitutional prerogatives that ensue as a result of this investigation
and we are hell-bent on making sure that we carry it out and get to the
bottom of everything that happened and air it out to the American people so
that we can take appropriate action from this point.
O`DONNELL: Dahlia, this is one of those big days for historians. It will
be that document, that first document that the House Judiciary Committee
has generated with the words articles of impeachment regarding President
Trump. But I want to go to you first about this letter that Gene Rossi,
and so many of these prosecutors, many of whom you know and have covered,
whose work you covered over the years, who have signed on to this letter.
What do you make of the legal presentation, the legal scholarship presented
in the letter?
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: All I can say is the same thing I said a week
ago about the note that Bob Mueller sent to William Barr that shocked all
of us because it looks as though it`s lawyerly and careful but if you read
what lawyers write, that was explosive. That was almost excoriating Barr
for his conclusions.
This is the same thing. This is talking about multiple felony charges of
obstruction that are for which he`s eligible. This is not mincing words.
So I think one thing is that they are not, you know, in any way being cagey
in the letter about their conclusions of law and they`re not being cagey
about I think, as you pointed out, saying that Barr`s findings and legal
analysis is straight up wrong.
To me, I see this as a way of saying, look, Congress has an independent
constitutional obligation to look at these obstruction claims because Barr
punted it. In fact, he did more than punt it. He papered over it and
obstruction is an impeachable offense. I see this as Congress saying it
O`DONNELL: Gene, let me go back to you. What do you see as the most
important element of obstruction of justice that you see in this case
against the president?
ROSSI: It`s the corrupt motive. And to me, the corrupt motive is entirely
obvious. He`s asking the White House counsel to not only lie to other
people and to get the White House counsel to make a representation to the
attorney general, but he`s asking the White House counsel to create a false
document that history will look at, that is incredibly disgraceful and that
satisfies corrupt motive.
The president obviously knows there is an on going investigation and it did
attempt to impede, and that`s the key, Lawrence. You don`t have to succeed
with obstruction, you have to attempt. When you swing at a fastball and
you miss, the swing is the crime even though you missed the fastball.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, what do you think a letter like this would
mean to your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee with it`s specificity
about what – these are experienced prosecutors and we keep hear Chairman
Nadler and others saying we need to see the full, unredacted Mueller
report. These experienced prosecutors without seeing the full, unredacted
Mueller report have seen enough to in effect bring their own in effect
public indictment against the president.
JOHNSON: Well, I think sensible Americans can see the redacted report, see
the broad outlines and the conclusions that are made by the Mueller
investigators and they can see that although Mueller did not accuse the
president himself of obstruction, he did leave it up to Congress and he
left it up to the American people to make a judgment about the evidence
that he laid out. He laid out a road map towards constitutional action
against the president in light of the Department of Justice opinion that a
sitting president cannot be indicted.
So what Mueller did was laid it out without commentary to the American
people. I think most people can see that yes, there certainly is probable
cause to believe that the president obstructed justice, not once, not
twice, not three times but over too hand folds of times and it`s pretty
O`DONNELL: Congressman, what can you tell us about the possible date for
Robert Mueller`s testimony to your committee?
JOHNSON: Well, that is still under investigation or – excuse me, still
under negotiation. May 15th is a target date but if that date is not the
actual date that is arrived at, I think it should be at some point very
soon thereafter. So I`m optimistic that the committee will be able to
reach an agreement with Mueller`s representatives and Mueller will testify
and if the president tries to keep him from testifying, then we`ll go back
through this process of subpoenaing Mueller and I don`t think he`ll take
the same attitude as Barr has taken, which has been to be flippant this
their response to legislative oversight.
I believe that Mueller will respond and it should be pretty easy to get him
into the witness chair, and I`m looking forward to it and I know the
American people are looking forward to it.
O`DONNELL: Dahlia, what will you be looking for? Would you want him to be
asked and what would you hope he would answer?
JOHNSON: I think I want to know some of the places where he didn`t reach
conclusions, some of the places where he enlighted hard questions and said
the nature of the constitutional question means I can`t address
So, I would want to press on essentially on the places where we thought he
would do more than he did and he opted not to and in many instances we know
why. We know for instance that the guidance, the OLC guidance played a
huge part in his making a decision, that he couldn`t indict a sitting
president. But there are a lot of sections of the report where there is a
lot of merc and I would like to know what he would have done absent the
constraints that he felt he was under and I think that`s a place I would
want to press.
O`DONNELL: Gene Rossi, one of the distinctions between the attorney
general and Robert Mueller is the attorney general went out of his way to
say when he was discussing the obstruction of justice components of the
report to say there was no underlying offense, there was no underlying
crime that the – and the attorney general`s view that the president was
trying to cover up and Robert Mueller makes it clear that legally an
underlying crime is not a necessary component of an obstruction of justice
Could you explain to viewers who I think would have trouble understanding
how can you be guilty of obstruction of justice if there was no crime that
you were trying to cover up?
ROSSI: I`ll give you an example. If the FBI serves me with a subpoena for
my tax records and they feel that I`m a tax cheater and the IRS serves me a
subpoena, and I`m an honest taxpayer but I`m just mad that they serve me
with a subpoena and then I instruct my accountant to burn my records, I
have obstructed justice even though I didn`t cheat on my taxes.
But I want to say this, Lawrence – there are underlying crimes. We had
two indictments, the GRU, the IRA, we had Michael Flynn, we had Manafort,
we had Papadopoulos, there are crimes all over the place, more than Baskin-
Robbins has flavors.
So, the canard that there is no underlying crime is false.
O`DONNELL: And, Dahlia, as the Judiciary Committee goes forward, do you
think William Barr`s attitude, anything that can happen that can change his
attitude to the processes?
LITHWICK: I think he`s pretty dug in, Lawrence. I think he has now gotten
cut out in being not entirely honest in the rollout and less than honest in
his summary. Every time he gets cut out instead of copping to it, he seems
to dig in more. And I think just the posture he`s taken testify in front
of the House for pretty pretextual reasons about the questioning and
refusing to provide the unredacted report, I think he keeps making claims
that things are unprecedented, they are actually quite precedent.
LITHWICK: We call them oversight.
So I think he`s digging in and I don`t know he`s doing himself any favors
because courts don`t like it when you don`t attempt to accommodate.
O`DONNELL: We have to squeeze in a break here.
Congressman Hank Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Gene Rossi and Dahlia Lithwick, thank you for joining us. We
really appreciate you-all starting us off tonight.
And when we come back, the breaking news of the night, Steven Mnuchin has
refused to obey the law and hand over Donald Trump`s tax returns as
required by law to Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal. This is a law
that`s never been defied. It has never been challenged. Congressman Katie
Porter will join us next on that.
O`DONNELL: The breaking news of the night is this letter from Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways
and Means Committee. Steven Mnuchin saying that the Treasury and the IRS
will not as required by law turnover Donald Trump`s tax returns to the
chairman. And treasure secretary says: I have determined that the
committee`s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.
Two things, he has no legal right to determine that and the other is, the
committee does not need a legislative purpose. The law specifies that the
chairman can have these returns for any reason. There is absolutely no
limiting reason on the chairman getting these returns.
And so, secretary of the treasury rejected the House Democrats` demand,
Chairman Neal`s demand for six years to the president`s person personal tax
returns and failed to comply with he deadline, or compiled to the deadline
by sending this letter defying the law. And now we have what is going to
be a battle between the White House and Congress that we`ve never seen
before, a legal battle.
In the letter, the treasury secretary said: In reliance on the advice of
the Department of Justice, I have determined that the committee`s request
lacks a legislative purpose and the department therefore is not authorized
to disclose the requested returns and return information.
Every single word of the secretary`s letter is not true and is legally
false. Every word of it. Secretary Mnuchin refused, could not explain his
rational for not compiling. Couldn`t explain it because he said the
Justice Department is working on a legal reason. And the Justice
Department, Attorney General William Barr will publish a legal opinion as
if that legal opinion has any legal weight.
Chairman Richard Neal issued a statement saying that he will consider what
action to take, what legal action to take but if this is a legally
unprecedented territory that we have entered tonight. The chairman said,
I`ll consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response, that
response is something that no chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee has ever, ever had to come up with in a situation like this.
Every single time the chairman of the Finance Committee demanded to see tax
returns under that law, those tax returns have been immediately delivered
by the IRS. That is the way the law is supposed to work.
We`re joined now but freshman Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter from
California. She`s a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I want to get your reaction to this – this is a very simple law as you
know and you`re a law professor, you know how to read these things. There
is not much in the tax code that is simple but this is. And it simply says
that the secretary shall hand over those tax returns.
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Yes, and the use of the word shall is important.
So this is not a discretionary option, this is not, there is not a list of
exceptions, there is not a bunch of defenses here. This is a very simple
law passed back in 1924, it`s not new. It`s been long part of our
country`s history and it simply obligates the treasury secretary to
turnover the taxpayer`s tax returns, in this case, President Trump`s tax
And, you know, Mr. Neal asked for six years of business and personal
returns in order to allow Congress to do it job which is oversight.
O`DONNELL: And it seems legally – what do you see here as legally the
next potential step?
PORTER: I think this is going to result in litigation. I think there are
two choices Chairman Neal and Congress could use. Both will be protracted
and delay from the important other work that Congress should be doing.
So one option is to subpoena the tax returns and the other option is to sue
under the statute itself in federal court. Either way, this will have the
House`s lawyers, the House`s counsel office is going to have to bring these
lawsuits, and meanwhile, the president is throwing plenty of other work at
the House counsel office, suing, for example, to overturn the Affordable
So, this is just another stall tactic. This president doesn`t want to
provide anything. He doesn`t want to provide the underlying documents that
Mr. Mueller used. He doesn`t want to provide the tax returns. He doesn`t
want to provide this and that.
This is one constitutional crisis after another. All of which is avoidable
if the president will simply understand that in the United States of
America, nobody is above the law.
O`DONNELL: And we are about 18 months away of these tax returns being
handed over if there is a new president after the next inauguration day
because there would be a new IRS commissioner and treasury secretary who
would not defy this law.
PORTER: Correct. I mean, these tax returns are very likely to become
public at some point if Congress continues to pursue them and I think my
view for President Trump is if there is nothing to see here, then allow the
American people to see them.
So you either did something wrong, you did something you`re embarrassed of,
maybe you`re not as rich as you told everybody you were, you know, this is
a valid congressional purpose, and the law itself doesn`t require a
purpose. So, here we see Chairman Neal going out of his way to set forth a
purpose that`s to do oversight and the president is continuing to obstruct
that purpose. So, it`s extremely unproductive what the president is doing
and I fear it`s ultimately causing to continue to weaken the American
public`s confidence in the president and Congress.
And so, this kind of bipartisan – this kind of bickering back and forth –
just turnover your tax returns. It`s what the rest of us have to do to the
IRS. We`re not in public life like President Trump is.
O`DONNELL: And to the extent you could divine a purpose to this law since
it was passed in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal, it was actually a law
passed specifically in response to corruption, perceived corruption at the
presidential and administration level. And so, the committee actually, the
chairman of the committee wanting to see anyone in the administration`s tax
returns for possible corrupt purposes, corrupt investigations of corruption
is exactly what it was designed to do.
PORTER: Correct. This is the purpose of the law. The purpose of the law
is to allow Congress to make sure there isn`t corruption going on. It was
passed in the 20s in the wake of scandals including Teapot Dome at the time
there was a law to allow the president to obtain anyone`s tax returns for
any reason upon the president`s request and this law was designed to
empower Congress to have the co-equal power.
So this is really a balance about powers between Congress and the
president. And now, as a result of this, Secretary Mnuchin`s flat out
refusal to follow a clear law, we`re going to now see it go to the courts.
O`DONNELL: And one of the reasons this hasn`t come up before is that
presidents publicly released their tax returns. That has become the modern
Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you once again for joining us tonight.
We really appreciate your coming back.
PORTER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the president has had a very strange
weekend of tweeting. It has scared a lot of people about what`s going to
happen on the next inauguration day. When we come back, I`ll tell you why
you have nothing to worry about.
O`DONNELL: One of the easiest things for the news media and for voters to
do is to overreact, to inane tweets by the president of the United States.
This weekend provided another opportunity for that when the president
retweeted a ridiculous tweet from Jerry Falwell Jr. saying that President
Trump should have two years added to his first term as president.
That is as silly as saying that Donald Trump should have two inches added
to his height. But many took that to be the president`s launch of an
unconstitutional power grab to add two years to a presidential term but
then the president himself tweeted that the Mueller investigation stole two
years of his presidency “that we will never be able to get back.”
So that`s the president himself acknowledging that it`s impossible to add
two years to a presidential term but a “New York Times” interview with
Nancy Pelosi then inadvertently added fuel to this nutty fire when people
misinterpreted her comment that the Democrats need to win big in the
presidential election so that Donald Trump cannot challenge the legitimacy
of the election.
A close reading of what the speaker actually said shows that she simply
means that the Democrats have to win big so that Donald Trump can`t get
away with saying that it wasn`t an illegitimate election. She was simply
referring to Donald Trump`s rhetoric after the election, not his actions
after the election if the Democrats win the electoral college.
She did not say or suggested in any way that Donald Trump would not be
forced to leave the White House on or before inauguration day if he loses
the electoral college vote. In fact, the inauguration of the next
president has nothing to do with the current president and it never does.
Donald Trump does not have to show up at the inauguration of the next
president. He doesn`t ever have to concede the election. Three presidents
refused to show up at the inauguration of their successors because they
were so bitter.
John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson were all so disappointed
in the election result that they did not show up at the inauguration to
hand off the presidency to their successors. Donald Trump has absolutely
no power to prevent the transfer of power to the next president and he
knows that as his tweets suggest.
But Donald Trump is happy to let the world think that he does have that
magic power to extend the years of his presidency. Political Scientist
Brian Klaas has studied Donald Trump`s similarities and his rhetoric and
actions to authoritarian leaders and has called the president “a want to be
despond”. Brian Kloss will join us after this break.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump really seems to admire the heads of state who do
not have term limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): This president is totally dazzled by Vladimir
Putin, by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, by authoritarian leaders in
countries like Brazil. He gets on the phone with them and he loses it,
gets all googly-eyed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Brian Klaas, a columnist for “The
Washington Post” and an assistant professor of Global Politics at the
University College London. Brian, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it.
I want to get your reaction to, first of all, Donald Trump`s attempt to
create for himself a persona that resembles the Putin persona in Russia and
leaders like him around the world.
BRIAN KLAAS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
LONDON: Well, he has a serious case of dictator envy I`d say. Donald
Trump is somebody who admires dictators, wants to emulate them, wishes he
was free to democratic constraints.
He spent the last two years doing his best to try to chorine through the
norms and guardrails of democracy in America with Banana Republicans in
Congress driving a getaway car. And it`s been a car crash for the last
couple of years but there`s still some damage to American democracy and I
think that`s something we need to pay attention to.
He`s conditioning the American public also to accept authoritarian style
politics that previously was unthinkable and that is where he actually can
do some serious damage despite the fact that are we still a country of rule
of law and that he can`t simply prolong his term by two years.
O`DONNELL: I want to read a tweet by Lawrence Tribe that I found very
powerful in relation to all of this. He said, “Can you believe the world
isn`t screaming about the fact that Trump talked to Putin about Mueller but
refused to talk to Mueller about Putin? Which country is 45 loyal to?
What oath did 45 take? Your reaction to that?
KLAAS: Well, it`s one of the main things that the president is supposed to
put at the center of their presidency is to protect the United States. And
at every turn, when it came to Russian information warfare attacks on the
United Stated directed by the Kremlin, Trump has sided against law
enforcement trying to protect the United States.
To talk on the phone with Vladimir Putin and agree with him that it was a
hoax when it was clearly not and it was directed, perpetrated by Vladimir
Putin himself and then to continue to praise him despite the fact that he`s
an authoritarian dictator or to say that he`s in love with Kim Jong-Un who
murders people for sport and froze hundreds and thousands of people in
Gulag. And just a few days ago, Trump said, “I`m with him.”
So I think this is a pattern of authoritarian style behavior that over time
does condition the Republican Party and Trump`s base to accept unthinkable
actions. And I think that`s what is going to outlast Trump.
He might lose in 2020. He might leave the White House in 2020 but that
aspect of his presidency will linger on and will take root in the
Republican Party after Donald Trump leaves the Republican Party or leaves
the White House.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And Brian, one reason I want to talk to you about this is
Donald Trump is absolutely no power to extend his term one minute beyond
what the Constitution allows. But he does clearly have an attraction to
the people who do, who are allowed to be able to go on as long as they
Not the least of which the North Korean dictator who once again tweeted
this weekend, the president tweeted about, “He`s my guy, I am close to
him.” And the president seems to have the belief that his personal
relationship with Kim Jong Un is more important than any actions that Kim
Jong Un takes, including firing off some new test missiles.
KLAAS: Yes. I mean it`s just astonishing what we have grown used to
because he`s saying I`m with somebody who as I said murders people for
sport, murdered an American, a young American, and threatens to incinerate
I mean if any other president did this, it would be the scandal that
defined their presidency. And for Donald Trump, it`s another Monday or
Tuesday or Wednesday and it`s becoming more frequent.
And in terms of his admiration for those who do not have to abide by term
limits, when President Xi in China declared himself president for life
effectively, Trump praised that decision and then said I might have to try
Now, of course, he can`t but the fact that he`s trying to instill in his
supporters the notion that maybe actually democracy is not so great, that`s
I think the toxin that`s been injected into the American political
bloodstream that talks of authoritarianism and that`s going to be hard to
find an antidote for because between 30 and 40 percent of the public is
cheering somebody who is behaving like this. And that`s what I`m really
worried about when we look at the future of American democracy.
O`DONNELL: Well, luckily for that future, the vast majority are opposed to
this and Donald Trump has the highest disapproval rating consistently of
any president in the history of polling. And so his attachment is only to
this minority that can`t control an outcome like that.
KLAAS: That`s right. And that`s why I think that the appropriate response
here is not just for congressional oversight, which is essential but also
for voters to say, you know what, it doesn`t matter whether you`re a
Democrat or Republican, we believe in democracy. And if you believe in
democracy, you need to vote out the person that`s the greatest menace to it
in the country`s modern history. And I think that is Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Brian Klaas, thank you for your perspective on this tonight.
Really appreciate it.
KLAAS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the Democratic candidates for president
are running not just against Donald Trump but also against Donald Trump`s
most important enabler. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The Democrats running for president are not just trying to
defeat Donald Trump. They`re also hoping to defeat or at least demote
President Trump`s most important ally and enabler in Washington. Here is
Beto O`Rourke today in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You asked specifically about
Mitch McConnell, someone who when Barack Obama was elected to be our
president of the United States of America, the president of everyone
Republican, Independent, Democrat, alike, Mitch McConnell said his number
one job was not to find common ground with him, not to work on issues of
common cause or concern but was to defeat him at the ballot box, to make
him an unsuccessful president.
Mitch McConnell kept President Obama from fulfilling his constitutional
obligation of nominating a Supreme Court justice a year out from the end of
his administration, cutting a year arbitrarily off of his duly elected term
This guy is a bad actor. He does not believe or live the democracy that
you just described right now. The best and surest path to addressing Mitch
McConnell is to ensure that he is the minority leader of the Senate in
2020. And we all have an opportunity to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell is running for reelection in Kentucky which
should be easy for a Republican senator, but Mitch McConnell`s polling in
Kentucky could not be worse. The latest poll shows his approval rating is
only 33 percent which is unbelievably bad for a Republican senator in
Kentucky. No Democrat has yet announced a challenge to McConnell in
Up next, the National Rifle Association, the leadership of the National
Rifle Association is a cesspool of corruption according to the leadership
of the National Rifle Association. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The National Rifle Association`s long-time CEO Wayne LaPierre
has accused the president of the National Rifle Association of corruption.
And the president of the National Rifle Association, Colonel Oliver North
has accused Wayne LaPierre of corruption.
And any fair reading of the evidence indicates that they`re both right.
Wayne LaPierre won the power struggle with Oliver North recently in which
they both accused the other of corruption, but Wayne LaPierre is the one
who faces the biggest legal risk now.
The board of the National Rifle Association sided with Wayne LaPierre
against Oliver North and forced Oliver North out of the NRA presidency last
week. They each accuse the other of using the NRA`s advertising agency for
Wayne LaPierre says that the advertising firm that the NRA has been using
for decades paid Oliver North millions of dollars for 12 episodes of a
series called “Oliver North`s American Heroes,” but only three episodes
have been actually produced.
Oliver North accused Wayne LaPierre of funneling hundreds of thousands of
dollars in travel expenses through the advertising firm without providing
documentation of those expenses and what those travel expenses were
actually for. The travel included Wayne LaPierre`s trips to Europe and the
Bahamas, which Wayne LaPierre charged directly on one of the advertising
company`s credit cards.
The NRA, a federally recognized nonprofit organization, recognized by the
IRS as a nonprofit, then reimbursed the advertising firm for Wayne
LaPierre`s travel, using the dues money of NRA members who have absolutely
no way of finding out what good work Wayne LaPierre was doing for them at
their expense in the Bahamas.
As bad as that sounds, Wayne LaPierre has been up to something much worse
and much more clearly corrupt, and much more likely to involve hundreds of
thousands of dollars in tax evasion, criminal tax evasion.
Oliver North has accused Wayne LaPierre of charging over $200,000 in
clothing to the NRA`s advertising firm, and the NRA is completely admitting
to that one. The NRA has publicly told “The Wall Street Journal” that they
are completely cool with $200,000 in NRA members` dues money being used for
suits, Italian suits, Xenia suits for Wayne LaPierre.
“The Wall Street Journal” report “NRA officials have said the spending was
justified because of his numerous speaking and T.V. appearances.
Unfortunately, for Wayne LaPierre, the Internal Revenue Service doesn`t see
it that way.
Tax law takes the common sense approach that if your employer gives you
$200,000 in clothes, that is $200,000 in taxable income to you.
And so ask yourselves, what are the odds that Wayne LaPierre, who is paid
millions of dollars a year in salary by the NRA declared the $200,000 in
suits as income on his tax returns? You can all make your own judgments
My personal calculation is that there is a 99.9 percent chance that Wayne
LaPierre did not declare the $200,000 in Italian suits purchased in a
Beverly Hills store as income to him. And so he surely did not pay the
approximately $80,000 in income taxes that a top tax bracket earner like
Wayne LaPierre would owe to the IRS on those Italian suits.
So Wayne LaPierre may be guilty of at least $200,000 in tax evasion, and
that he and the NRA have in effect confessed to that publicly when they
admitted that the NRA and the NRA`s Advertising company had been paying
$200,000 for Wayne LaPierre`s suits.
And Wayne LaPierre could be guilty of much more tax evasion than that,
depending on whether all of his expense paid trips to the Bahamas were
really personal trips or business trips. Here is what those NRA dues
payers get for their money. A suit that looks really good holding a rifle
and a suit that looks even better, especially good beside a guy who wears
ill-fitting jumbo-sized suits that he can`t even button.
And so Wayne LaPierre is definitely the winner of the corruption
competition and the NRA leadership between Oliver North and Wayne LaPierre.
And the losers are, of course, all those NRA members who pay $45 a year for
their membership cards that now clearly identify them as the people who pay
Wayne LaPierre`s millions of dollars in salary and hundreds of thousands of
dollars in Italian suits from a Beverly Hills store.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The
elites don`t care not one with –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And by the elite he means of course the leadership of the
National Rifle Association. That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR”
with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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