Trump averts his self-made tariff crisis. TRANSCRIPT: 6/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And thank you for covering that story because I tried to figure out how to
squeeze it into this hour tonight and I couldn`t.
One point I want to make is among the people who don`t like that story are
Republican senators, because they know where the money comes from. It
comes from their projects. They also have projects that are in that
application pipeline and they don`t have an individual there whose job it
is to cover their state in the transportation.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: To make sure that one state`s projects are not
only stove-piped at the department so that they go right to the stop, they
go right to the chief of staff of the department but also to make sure
those patrons specifically are serving the political needs of one
particular politician in that state who happens to be married to the
I mean, this is the sort of thing you would find out was happening in some
banana republic around the world and you would be like yes, that`s why they
can`t get state department funded blah, blah, blah. They`re too corrupt.
But in this case, it`s Mitch McConnell`s family.
O`DONNELL: You know, it is the department that operates most like the old
O`DONNELL: And the old earmark system was actually for the same kind of
thing. It was for the same kinds you have building projects and renovation
So, this is Mitch McConnell basically the earmark system ended for everyone
apparently except Mitch McConnell.
MADDOW: You know, they could make it fair. They could give every senator
a spouse in the cabinet. Yes, that would work.
O`DONNELL: Yes, bigger cabinet, much bigger cabinet. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, in Congress, every vote is a story – some more dramatic
than others, and few are more dramatic than the votes by seven Republican
members of the House Judiciary Committee in favor of impeaching the
Republican president in 1974. We`re going to bring you one of those
stories tonight in the congressman`s own words. A conservative Southern
Republican whose mother told him that his political career would be over if
he voted to impeach Richard Nixon, but he believed that Republicans had an
extra obligation to hold a Republican president accountable.
That congressman would not recognize his Republican Party in Congress
today. We`re going to show you the video of that congressman at the end of
this hour because we have so much of the news of the day to cover before
that. And you will see that congressman fighting back tears when he was
describing what it was like to cast that vote against the Republican
president ten years after he cast that vote to impeach Richard Nixon. That
moment still brought him to tears when he thought about it.
And you`ll want to hear what principled Republicans sounded like back then
when the Judiciary Committee was considering the impeachment of Richard
Nixon and it is a very important historical reference point today because
that is not what we heard in the House Judiciary Committee today.
Once again, evidence was presented against a Republican president today in
the House Judiciary Committee but Republicans on the committee showed no
indication that they took the matter seriously.
While House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is still in
negotiations with Robert Mueller to testify about the Mueller report and
while Chairman Nadler is still in negotiations to release more of the
underlying material to the committee, Chairman Nadler began convening today
what the committee expects to be a series of hearings about the Mueller
report beginning with witnesses who were not involved in the Mueller report
but offered their professional assessments of it.
The first witness was former Nixon White House counsel John Dean who
testified against President Nixon during the congressional investigation of
the president and ultimately pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in
the investigation of President Nixon. And John Dean then fully cooperated
with Congress and the special counsel investigating President Nixon.
And John Dean said that the Mueller report is today`s version of the
evidence against Richard Nixon that the special prosecutor delivered to the
Judiciary Committee in 1974.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: In many ways, the Mueller
report is to President Trump what the so-called Watergate road map
officially titled “The grand jury report and recommendation concerning
transmission of evidence to the House of Representatives” was to President
Richard Nixon. Stated a little differently, special counsel Mueller has
provided this committee with a road map.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Dean took particular interest in the value of former Trump
White House counsel Don McGahn`s testimony because Don McGahn held the same
position in the White House that John Dean held in the Nixon White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Because of my testimony, the model code of the ABA today makes very
clear in rule 1.13 that Mr. McGahn represents not Donald Trump but the
office of the president. His client is the office of the president. And I
think he owes that office his testimony before this committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee
made light of John Dean`s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This committee is now hearing from the `70s and
they want their star witness back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And it went downhill from there with the Republicans on the
committee, none of whom made any serious points during the hearing. We
would show you if they did, but there is simply nothing to show you from
that side of the committee.
President Trump`s reaction to John Dean`s testimony was predictable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, John Dean`s been a
loser for many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance who join us in a moment
offered the committee her assessment of the Mueller report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The facts contained in that report
would be sufficient to prove all of the elements necessary to charge
multiple counts of obstruction of justice. The evidence is not equivocal
nor is the charging decision a close call. And I would be willing to
personally indict the case and to try the case. I would have confidence
that the evidence would be sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict and to win
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The House Judiciary Committee announced today that the Justice
Department has finally agreed to provide Congress with “key evidence”,
that`s what they`re calling it, key evidence collected by special
prosecutor Robert Mueller that committee members said could head shed light
on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump.
The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to
provide has not been made public.
“The New York Times” reports the house still plans to vote on Tuesday to
authorize the committee to go to a federal court against Attorney General
Barr to seek full enforcement of its subpoena and to petition a judge to
unseal grand jury secrets related to the case for congress.
But in a sign of newfound cooperation, the House will not formally vote to
hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress leveling a criminal accusation
against him at least for now.
And in a new poll from “The Des Moines Register” of Iowans who plan to
caucus for Democrats, 48 percent say that Congress should continue to
investigate the president, but should not launch impeachment proceedings.
Forty-two percent say that Congress should launch impeachment proceedings
against the president.
Leading off our discussion tonight is one of the former federal prosecutors
who testified before the House Judiciary Committee today, Joyce Vance. She
is an MSNBC legal contributor and testified on her own behalf as a legal
Also joining us, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special
prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.
And John Heilemann is with us. He`s the national affairs analyst for NBC
News and MSNBC. He`s co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s “The
And, Joyce, if you asked me a month ago, who do I think is going to testify
about the Mueller report, I would have said Robert Mueller. It turns out
it`s Joyce Vance. So, you got the surprising call to give your assessment.
What was it like in general in that committee room and was it fair for me
to say at least I didn`t hear any serious point made by the Republican side
of the committee today? Correct me if I`m wrong. I didn`t hear every
word. So, maybe I missed something.
VANCE: You know, I think it`s fair, Lawrence, and it was a little bit
disappointing. I had hoped we would have the opportunity to engage with
legislators from both parties to discuss the evidence and to talk through
how prosecutors analyze evidence, and how they make an assessment about
whether or not charges should be brought. But that wasn`t the inquiry that
Republicans were there for today.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce, what do you think the value of today`s hearing was?
VANCE: I hope it was helpful for some of the legislators. I hope that the
people that were watching us on C-Span got the opportunity to hear a little
bit about how prosecutors operate in the real world because we understand -
- you know, one of the things that prosecutors` offices don`t necessarily
do a good job of is taking to the public how we work. So often, the
evidence that prosecutors use has to remain secret while these decisions
are being made.
This is an opportunity we have this body of evidence, and now former
prosecutors like myself can talk with the public about how you use the law,
the elements prosecutors have to prove to assess the evidence and decide
whether you have a prosecutable case or not.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, this should have been odd for you to watch
having worked on the Watergate case where in fact, Republicans did
cooperate in the House Judiciary Committee. A total of seven Republicans
ultimately voted for at least one article of impeachment against President
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It shows how different the
world is now that there is absolutely no interest in the Republicans in
even listening. They did not ask any serious questions.
They did not challenge any substantive thing that Joyce Vance or Barbara
McQuade or John Dean said. Rather, they attacked them. One even said
wasn`t that quaint which I found particularly offensive, in talking about a
particular statement that was made about whether or not the laws were being
And I think that we need to get to a point where we may need to pass a law
that says these hearings have to be broadcast on Fox News because I think
Joyce correctly said she hopes she persuaded some legislators but I don`t
think that people who listen to Fox News heard what was said today. And
that`s who we have to have hear this.
The people need to hear or else you have the woman at the Amash town hall
who says I had no idea that there was anything negative in the Mueller
report, because I listen to conservative news. And that`s the problem is
we need to have – it`s sort of a chicken and egg. You need to have
support to go ahead with impeachment but you need to have impeachment to
get the support.
And I think in Watergate, we had Senate hearings that preceded the
Judiciary Committee hearings. And, of course, we had fact witnesses, which
is also very important.
So I think that we need McGahn, I think John Dean did an excellent job and
was very persuasive in showing the similarities between what he did and
what is going on in this White House. And that he was punished for that
and that they should be, too. But it would be much better to hear McGahn
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the comparison between President Nixon and
President Trump that was raised by Congressman Eric Swalwell`s question to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Comparing Nixon to just
any future administration, would you say there was a future administration
that committed more crimes than the Nixon administration as far as
DEAN: I would say the Trump administration is in fast competition with
what happened to the Nixon administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Fast competition, John Heilemann.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Fast competition indeed.
You know, you note the kind of hearings today we basically had a hearing
that was sort of two hearings which is a perfect metaphor for the two
measures we live in, one America tethered to reality and another America
tethered to the Republican talking points that seek to knock down reality
at every opportunity.
The president tweeting and attacking John Dean, just as Republicans did all
day long today. He called him at one point a sleaze bag attorney. Now,
look, John Dean was part of a criminal enterprise at one point in the White
House but then what he is remembered for mostly is he told the truth in the
president`s view that, makes him a sleaze bag attorney.
That was the talking point the Republicans prosecuted all day long. Jill
just said this was a good table setting for setting out the issues and
teeing up what now has to happen which is we must hear from, not from the
learned scholars and brilliant people like Joyce and others but must hear
from Don McGahn. We must hear from the actual witnesses to the crimes in
O`DONNELL: Jill, to the point of John Dean`s truth telling during the
investigation, my understanding of the history of this is John Dean`s
veracity was tested and it was tested by you and the special prosecutor`s
office in more than one way. And he proved to your satisfaction to be
telling the truth.
WINE-BANKS: There`s no question. Let me just say during Watergate, John
Dean was the equivalent of a computer because he was our source of
knowledge in the days before computers. And my relationship with him was
if I needed to fact, I would ask him.
Since then, he and I have been on a panel together and have become we`ve
become friends. And I respect him enormously. I did then, too.
He testified before the Senate based on his memory alone. He did not know
there were tapes. That was something he found out at the same time we did,
which was long after his testimony.
And it proved that everything he said in that testimony was fundamentally
100 percent accurate. He was so consistent in having the dates right and
the substance conversations were exactly right. When he said on March
21st, I said there was a cancer on the presidency and president said, well,
I know where I can get a million dollars, it all was there. All you had to
do was listen to the tapes.
But I believed him before that. He was an incredible memory. He had very
good accuracy. And I think that some other witnesses like McGahn could be
the same and they owe it to the public to do their job and come forward.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce, on the Democratic side of the committee, the
reality side of the hearing, what do you think had I were the most
important points in terms of the members` interest on the Democratic side
VANCE: The Democrats seemed to be trying to get a sense of we have these
ten episodes of obstruction that Mueller considers in the report. They
were pushing for details on which of those incidents were the most
And it seemed like the consensus on the panel and as the Congress people
talked among themselves was that this episode war where Don McGahn, who has
been previously directed by the president to fire Bob Mueller, then has
that story come to light about six months later in the press, and he`s
directed by the president to essentially create a document, to create false
evidence that says that the president never asked him to fire Bob Mueller.
That seems to be the most compelling piece of evidence that the legislators
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, obstruction of justice, those are the two
parallels between the Trump and the Nixon investigations.
HEILEMANN: Yes. I mean, look, and I think in the end, you know, there`s
still is I think enormous ground that is people don`t focus on in the
Mueller report related to the first part of it related to Russia, but, you
know, that is the parallel. It is the parallel and it is – there are now
millions of Republicans and dozens of elected Republicans who wish to
pretend that obstruction of justice is somehow not a crime or is a lesser
crime, or is in some way the purview of the president and his executive
power, the president does, as Nixon famously said, it must be legal and, of
course, that is false.
It is the most powerful parallel, always the most powerful parallel we`ve
seen so many instances in which the president acts with apparent corrupt
intent. And the example that Joyce gave a second ago I find the most
compelling. There`s not a lawyer in the country left right or center
presented with that strip Trump away from it and ask the request whether
that is not obstruction of justice. In any case, there`s not a lawyer who
won`t go. That`s obstruction of justice dead to rights.
O`DONNELL: A quick word about the politics before we go to break. Your
reading of that Iowa poll with 4 percent saying continue to investigate but
don`t go to impeachment and 44 percent coming up right behind that saying
go ahead, go to impeachment, 42 percent.
HEILEMANN: My reading that have poll is that investigate – obviously
there are those, there are many people in the Democratic Party who think
that Trump needs to be impeached. But the 48 percent is not a “we will
never be open to impeachment”.
HEILEMANN: The 48 percent is, investigate away. As of now, we`re not open
to impeachment but let`s see what happens. This is the biggest mistake
people are making about the politics of this over and over again, which is
the fallacy of static analysis.
As new facts arise, public opinion is malleable. That doesn`t mean there
will be a giant shift towards impeachment but it doesn`t mean there won`t
be depending what facts are put on the table. Again, that gets back to why
we need fact witnesses to testify to these crimes.
O`DONNELL: The fallacy of static analysis, I`m writing that down here. I
will be stealing that. Viewers will be hearing that on this program in the
Jill Wine-Banks, Joyce Vance, and John Heilemann, thank you all for
starting an us off tonight. Really appreciate that.
And when we come back, no one on the House Judiciary Committee knows more
about impeachment than our next guest. Zoe Lofgren served on the committee
when Bill Clinton was impeached, as did many other members of the
committee. But she is the only member of the committee who was there when
the committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Back then, Congresswoman Lofgren was a staffer on the House Judiciary
Committee during the Nixon impeachment proceedings. And she will join us
O`DONNELL: House Democrats scored a big win in their struggle to obtain
more documents, underlying documents of the Mueller report. Today, House
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced that the Justice
Department has agreed to turn over more documents to the House Judiciary
Committee. The exact scope of that material is not known.
But in a statement, Chairman Nadler described them as, quote: Mueller`s
most important files providing with us key evidence that the special
counsel used to assess whether the president and others obstructed justice
or were engaged in other misconduct.
As negotiations continue for the release of more of the Mueller report,
Chairman Nadler has agreed to at least for now set aside the criminal
contempt vote against Attorney General William Barr. But House Democrats
are still moving forward with a vote tomorrow that would empower the
Judiciary Committee to go to court to enforce its subpoenas for Attorney
General Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn, both of whom have
refused to testify.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren served on the committee during Clinton`s
impeachment and she was a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee
during the Nixon impeachment proceedings, she is the only Democrat on that
committee with more seniority is Chairman Nadler.
Zoe Lofgren, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. And I was – I
have to say, I guess somewhere in the back of my head was that you were a
staffer during Watergate, but I thought, no, it`s impossible she`s too
young. I`m going to believe your resume. I`m going to accept that.
Tell us what you felt today in this historic moment? Here have you John
Dean. Once again, you were there when he was testifying to Congress. Here
he is again testifying about the possible impeachment, certainly about the
investigation of a president.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it was incredible. He said the last time
he had testified before the judiciary committee was July of 1974. And I
was working for Don Edwards, a member of the committee at that time. And I
remember I was there, as well.
It`s good to remember how that proceeded in a way that was orderly, that
met the standards of the Constitution, and in the end was bipartisan as
really a template for people looking at a president as we are.
O`DONNELL: And I want to go back to ha hearing the moment you`re talking
about in 1974 and let`s listen to M. Caldwell Butler, as you will recall,
Republican from Virginia, one of the seven Republicans who voted to impeach
the president. Let`s listen to what he said about what he called the
frightening implications for what would happen if they did not vote to
impeach the president. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. M. CALDWELL BUTLER (R-VA): There are frightening implications for the
future of our country if we do not impeach the president of the United
States because we will establish as a matter of record a standard of
conduct for the president of the United States which will be for all time a
matter of public record. If we fail to impeach, we have condoned and left
unpunished a course of conduct totally inconsistent with the expectations
of the American people.
We will have condoned and left unpunished a presidential course of conduct
designed to obstruct the very process he has sworn to uphold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, do those words apply today in this case?
LOFGREN: Well, Caldwell – well, Butler was a very courageous man and did
the right thing. I say, by the time he gave that statement, the committee
had reviewed at some length the direct evidence that supported the articles
of impeachment. As of this moment, the judiciary committee has not had
access to a single piece of evidence. We have been denied the evidence
until this afternoon when the Justice Department finally indicated they
would give us the underlying or some of the underlying documents for the
I just texted the staff of the Judiciary Committee asking, can I go see
that in the morning. So we are in need of reviewing not only the
underlying evidence but hearing from fact witnesses of course, the
Judiciary Committee in `74 had done that by the time Mr. Butler made those
O`DONNELL: Is the clock running out on impeachment? Certainly it would
take a minimum of say ten months from today if there was the beginning of
an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives. That would take
you well into next year, election year, April somewhere around, that`s if
you started today. So, the audience can do the math on every week or month
LOFGREN: I don`t know that there is that specific time frame. We`ve had a
fight to get the evidence. Fortunately, the courts have accelerated their
schedule for hearing our case. The law is clear. In fact, many of the
precedents stem from the Nixon era.
And so, we have had great success if getting documents. The attorney
general says we`ll now get the evidence for the Mueller report. We will be
proceeding tomorrow in terms of going to court to compel testimony from a
fact witness, Mr. McGahn. There are other fact witnesses we hope to
Have to do that. And you know, can`t be short circuited. But it can be
done on a fast track.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, do you expect the complete, the chairman to
itemize publicly tomorrow what it is the Justice Department is handing
LOFGREN: Well, I don`t know what the chairman will do. I know he`ll do
the responsible thing. I – it`s my understanding that even though the
material is being kept away from us unlike in the Nixon case or the Clinton
case where the evidence was brought to the House, we`re going to have to
traipse over to the Justice Department, it`s going to make it more
difficult to review it.
But that we are not prevented from discussing the information broadly that
we see. So, I`m sure that Jerry will take steps to make sure that the
public has an understanding of the breadth or narrowness of what`s been
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, the House of Representatives highest
authority on impeachment – thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
LOFGREN: Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Congresswoman.
And when we come back, President Trump did it again. He played the crisis
game with himself. And guess who won? That`s next.
O`DONNELL: If you`re surprised that President Trump announced that his
brilliant negotiating skills have averted a new crisis with Mexico over
tariffs, you have not been paying attention to Donald Trump`s crisis
management style, which is first create a crisis with a foreign country,
second threaten that country to make concessions to the United States,
third get no concessions, fourth announce victory.
You can plug in North Korea or Mexico in that formula. But what you should
have known from the start is that President Trump`s threatened tariffs on
Mexico were never going to happen for many reasons.
First of all, the Trump administration spent two years negotiating NAFTA
2.0, which is really more like NAFTA 1.1. It includes no changes -
structural changes in NAFTA that in any way changed the fundamental nature
of our trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. The new NAFTA cannot go into
effect unless it is approved by Congress which could turn out to be a
difficult thing for the Trump administration to get through Congress.
But it would have been impossible for the Trump administration to get it
through Congress, if Donald Trump was already violating the new NAFTA and
the old NAFTA by illegally creating a bunch of new tariffs on Mexican
And it has finally sunk in to the point where Republicans are actually
admitting it publicly because their voters have figured it out that the
Trump tariffs are paid for by Americans not by foreign countries.
The Trump tariffs are paid in effect as sales taxes on things we buy in
America in this country, and so the tariffs are not popular. So, Mexico had
no trouble figuring out that Donald Trump`s tariff threat was a fake Trump
And now that the news media is on to the Trump game of creating a crisis
and then pretending to solve the crisis, the President is upset that the
news media is accurately reporting that Donald Trump got nothing new from
Mexico and surrendered on his threatened tariffs.
So, the President is pretending he got some secret agreement with Mexico on
something else that the President won`t even say what it is, and Mexico is
saying that is completely untrue. The President has no secret agreement
with Mexico, according to Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I want to thank Mexico
and we do have one other thing that will be announced at the appropriate
time, but they have to get approval from their legislative body.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are the Mexicans denying it then?
TRUMP: I don`t think they`ll be denying it very long, it`s all done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Chuck Schumer predicted all of this a week ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He makes these threats and then he backs off
when he sees the danger. I believe that he will back off when faced with
the opposition among business, among his own Republicans.
And when he sees what a dumb move he has made in terms of dealing with both
the border, the American economy, and with any kind of trade agreement he
might try to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, what will the next fake Trump crisis be? Will Donald
Trump continue to play the crisis game throughout the Presidential
campaign, and will enough of his voters continue to fall for it? After this
break, John Heilemann will be back with us and will be joined by Tim
O`Brien who has been studying the Trump negotiating model literally for
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, as promised, are Tim O`Brien, the Executive
Editor of Bloomberg Opinion and an MSNBC contributor. He has reported on
Donald Trump for decades and actually written a book about the Trump
businesses. John Heilemann is back with us.
Tim O`Brien, you`ve been watching this Trump negotiating model for a long
time and now, as President, he seems that he`s decided he is completely
empowered to both create the negotiating crisis and then declare himself
the victor of it.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Yes, Lawrence, I don`t
even think I think it graces it to call it a negotiating style, because
people who negotiate are interested in an outcome and they`re interested in
some sort of a goal that both sides reach in order to get something out of
And that`s not what`s going on here with President Trump. He`s really like
a kid playing with matches and I think he likes to see how many fires he
can start and what kind of results he can get from that, because it keeps
him at center stage.
It causes the media and his critics and his opponents in Congress and on
the global stage focused on what - the question of what will Trump do next.
And he sees it almost - he thinks about these things very cinematically. He
doesn`t think about them strategically, he doesn`t think about them in
terms of getting an outcome.
And it was classic this week with the Mexican tariff. It replicates
something he`s done for decades in his business life, which is just throw a
bomb into a process at the very end to try to just shake things up and keep
people off balance without any real sense of where he`s heading with any of
It`s not the first time he`s done it. He did this when he shut the
government down, the federal government down, late last year. He`ll do it
again. He just threatened China this evening with tariffs, if she doesn`t
speak with him at the G20. And it all comes from this place where he`s the
solo pilot and he likes finding avenues of operation where he doesn`t have
to be beholden to anyone else.
O`DONNELL: So, John, of course the world of American business doesn`t like
tariffs for very good reasons, economists don`t like tariffs for a lot of
good reasons. So, CNBC - Donald Trump was not having a good day, he was
being criticized by the head of the Chamber of Commerce today on CNBC for
the whole tariff game, whereupon the President picked up the phone, called
Joe Kernen at CNBC and then we had this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE KERNEN, CO-HOST, CNBC`S SQUAWK BOX: Mr. President, most economists -
and I know you`ve heard this, I don`t know how you`ve responded - most
economists say it`s a tax on US consumers. Tariffs are simply a tax on US
consumers, they hurt US consumers, how do you respond - and even I think
that one of your guys and one of our guys Larry Kudlow kind of conceded
that at least a major part of it could be on the US consumer?
How do you respond to that, because I know you`ve heard all of the
economists say that?
TRUMP: Sure, I hear it all the time and I hear the other also, but I hear
it all the time. And with Larry, in all fairness to Larry, they didn`t let
him finish his answer. He had further to go and nobody put that on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, Larry Kudlow had further to go. Chris Wallace said to him,
do the US businesses and US consumers pay? And Kudlow says, yes, to some
extent, I don`t disagree with that.
So everyone knows what Kudlow`s answer was, because Kudlow has been on
JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL-AFFAIRS ANALYST, MSNBC: A lifetime.
O`DONNELL: Yes, a professional lifetime.
HEILEMANN: A lifetime. You and I could take an hour of your show tonight,
if we wanted to, and play Larry Kudlow`s punditry and his time in
government back in the Reagan years. We could play it all out for an hour,
more than an hour - we could play an hour, and we could find an hour`s
worth of clips Larry Kudlow saying tariffs are terrible, their bad
economics, that of course if we impose them, they will have negative
effects on US economy, they`ll have negative effects on US consumers.
US consumers pay for tariffs not to a large extent, but entirely. You could
find Larry Kudlow saying all of that and yet, like so many alleged free
marketers, so many business people, so many Republicans who have built
their entire ideology on the ideology of free trade and anti-tariffs causes
over the course of the last 50 years in America, all of them are now like,
well if Trump`s for it, I guess I`m - everything I said before is no longer
operative. It`s a joke.
O`DONNELL: What about the Trump voter, they have learned that China is a
pretty big soybean buyer, they`ve learned what - how dependent on trade the
agriculture sector is? Trump voters have learned a lot in the year in the
two years of the Trump tariffs. Are they - where are they going to be on
HEILEMANN: You would like to think that if voters voted according to their
rational economic interest that those voters would be like, okay this is
this is lunacy and it`s harming our businesses, it`s not bringing back
jobs, it`s madness to the extent that there have been tariffs employed,
although as Tim pointed out, these tariffs on Mexico were never going to
get imposed, there`s zero chance that that was going to happen.
You would like to think if they voted for the rational economic interest,
they would reject Trump on this basis alone, and the fact that he`s playing
with fire et cetera, et cetera. But what we know, Lawrence, over the course
of our lives is that we`ve seen there are a lot of voters, particularly
many voters in the Republican coalition, who consistently over and over
again vote against their economic interests because there are other things
they care about more like Trump`s cultural populism and his sense of racial
grievance and other things like that. So, what will they do? I`m not sure
they`re going to abandon Trump on mass because of this because they love
him for reasons that are not rational.
O`DONNELL: Tim, so the – what about the crisis game? Can he continue to
play the crisis game as he did with North Korea`s sabre-rattling and then
immediately switching it to I deserve the Nobel Peace Prizes and Kim Jong-
un, I love the man and all of that stuff, will he find other arenas in
which to do this if the tariff game isn`t working?
O`BRIEN: He absolutely will because it`s more than just a game for him,
this is where he operates. He thrives in chaos and he thrives around the
idea of keeping people off balance, so they`re guessing about what he`ll do
next. The real danger here and we`re in a very dangerous time now, is that
this is going to move out of tariffs into things like military conflicts in
the Persian Gulf, conflict with China, et cetera, et cetera, and people
have to be wary of that.
O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien, John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us
tonight. Really appreciate it. And coming up, you will hear more from
Congressman Caldwell Butler, the Republican Congressman who was afraid of
what would happen to America if Congress did not vote to impeach Republican
President Richard Nixon in 1974.
You`ve heard some of what he had to say in my conversation with Congressman
Lofgren earlier in this hour, but every word of what he had to say applies
to the situation Congress is facing with President Trump right now,
especially Republican members of Congress. This is the time to listen to
what he had to say; that`s next.
O`DONNELL: An unusual 60-second TV ad appeared this morning on Fox &
Friends. It was produced and paid for by the Republicans for the Rule of
Law, who said that the new ad is “a reminder of what patriotism and
political bravery can look like.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Nixon was alleged to have obstructed justice,
Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee took these allegations
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two major allegations which I am concerned and
these involve the area of obstructing justice.
HAROLD FROEHLICH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-WI): I`m concerned about
obstruction of justice, a plan whose purpose was to save an administration
LAWRENCE HOGAN, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-MD): He consistently tried to
cover up the evidence and obstruct justice. For our system of justice and
our system of government to survive, we must pledge our highest allegiance
to the strength of the law and not to the common frailties of men.
CALDWELL BUTLER, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-VA): These things have
happened in our House and it`s our responsibility to do what we can to
clear it up. It is we, not the Democrats, who must demonstrate that we are
capable of enforcing the high standard we would set for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In Congress, every vote is a story and after this final break,
we`ll tell you the story of the man who got the last word in that video you
just saw. Congressman Caldwell Butler of Virginia, Republican Congressman,
his mother told him he would lose his congressional seat and his political
future if he voted against President Nixon. You`ll want to hear how he
replied to his mother in a letter and we`ll see him fight back tears when
he recalls his vote against the President ten years after he cast that
vote. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: M. Caldwell Butler believed that he was elected to Congress in
his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia because he was swept into office on the
coattails of Republican President Richard Nixon`s landslide re-election
victory in which President Nixon won 49 states. Congressman Butler was very
grateful to the President. Congressman Butler and his wife to whom he was
married for 64 years were guests in the Nixon White House family quarters.
He was only in his second year in office when he announced on July 25, 1974
that as a member of House Judiciary Committee, he was joining six other
Republicans in voting to impeach Republican President Richard Nixon. He
said that President Nixon`s conduct in office “is our shame”. He meant
Republican`s shame and that Republicans had a special duty condemn the
Republican President`s conduct.
The legendary Washington columnist Mary McGrory said that that was “The
single-most fiery and liberating sentence spoken in the Judiciary
Committee.” It wasn`t easy for Congressman Butler to vote against the
President. He began with his gratitude to President Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTLER: I`ve worked with him in every national campaign in which he has
taken part. And indeed there are those who suggest that I would not be here
today where it not for our joint effort in 1972. And I`m deeply grateful
for the many kindnesses and courtesies he has shown me over the years. I`m
not unmindful of the loyalty I owe him. I have a word for my colleagues on
this side of the aisle and to my Republican friends who may be listening
and for my colleague from Indiana who`s concerned about the effect the
impeachment will have on the Republican Party.
For years, we Republicans have campaigned against corruption and misconduct
in the administration of the government of the United States by the other
party. But, Watergate is our shame. Those things happened in the Republican
Administration while we had a Republican in the White House and every
single person convicted (ph) to date has one way or another owed allegiance
to the Republican Party.
We cannot indulge ourselves the luxury of patronizing or excusing the
misconduct of our own people. These things have happened in our House, and
it is our responsibility to do what we can to clear it up. It is we, not
the Democrats, who must demonstrate that we are capable of enforcing the
high standards we would set for them.
It is my judgment also that the standard of conduct, which the American
people are reasonably entitled to expect of their President, is established
in part by experience and precedent. There are frightening implications for
the future of our country if we do not impeach the President of the United
States. Because we will by this proceeding establish as a matter of record
a standard of conduct for the President of the United States which will be
for all-time a matter of public record.
If we fail to impeach, we have condoned and left unpunished a course of
conduct totally inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of the
American people. We will have condoned and left unpunished a presidential
course of conduct designed to interfere with and obstruct the very process
which he has sworn to uphold and we would have condoned and left unpunished
an abuse of power totally without justification. And we would have said to
the American people these misdeeds are inconsequential and unimportant.
The people of the United States are entitled to assume that their President
is telling the truth. The pattern of misrepresentation and half-truths that
emerges from our investigation reveals a presidential policy cynically
based on the premise that the truth itself is negotiable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Butler`s mother wrote him a letter telling him that
he “will go down the drain if you do not stand with your party at this
critical time.” Congressman Butler then wrote back to his mother, “Dear
Mother, you are probably right.
However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me
of the obligation which I have.” Congressman Butler was re-elected
repeatedly and in his last two elections, he faced no opposition. Ten years
after he cast that vote in favor of impeaching President Nixon, he
described what he did as soon as the committee adjourned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTLER: I went back to my office and called my wife and because you felt
the urge to share this experience with somebody. And I wanted to be
reassured, and she reassured me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: M. Caldwell Butler died in 2014 at the age of 89. It`s not
hard to imagine what he would think of today`s congressional Republicans.
M. Caldwell Butler gets 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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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the