President Trump’s approval rating. TRANSCRIPT: 9/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Adam Schiff, Susan Rice, Charlie Cook

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


And, you know, the American Academy of Political and Social Science every

year now awards the Moynihan Prize in honor of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. 

And it – they choose someone who represents that combination of scholarly

achievement that Professor Moynihan did and the similar achievement in

government service as senator and former ambassador to the United Nations

Daniel Patrick Moynihan did. 


And this year`s winner, to be awarded on October 3rd, is Ambassador

Samantha Power. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, there you go. 


O`DONNELL:  And when you were talking about her prose styling, which is

unique, that someone in her position would be such a good writer.  That is

exactly one of the qualities that I know Senator Moynihan would be smiling

upon in this particular winner. 


MADDOW:  That`s great.  It`s really good.  I do say the book is freaking

good.  I hate reading political official memoirs because they all feel like

they were churned out by the same calculator. 




MADDOW:  To read one from someone who`s both had an interesting career and

can freaking write with the best of them makes work a pleasure, and also

it`s insightful stuff. 


O`DONNELL:  This is one of those nights where I would have handed over a

lot of the real estate here for you two to just keep talking.  I could have

listened for quite a while. 


MADDOW:  Thank you, my friend. 


O`DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, we`ve been following the special election in North

Carolina`s 9th congressional district all night. 


Let`s go straight to Steve Kornacki with the latest. 


Steve, where are we now? 



in, Lawrence.  Now, you can see Dan Bishop, the Republican, leading this

thing by over – nearly 4,000 votes at this point. 


NBC News I can tell you has not called this race yet, but I would say if

you are Dan Bishop and you`re looking at what I`m looking at right here,

you do like what you`re seeing.  The story here, this is one we`ve seen

before.  In the early vote tonight, Democrats got everything they could

have hoped for here.  The early vote`s about half the vote here in North

Carolina in this district.  The Democrats overperformed in just about

everywhere in the early vote. 


But this is interesting in terms of the same day vote, the folks who

decided to go out and cast ballots today in the Republican bastion here.  I

can show you Union County.  This is about a third of the district.  Dan

Bishop getting 60 percent with all the vote counted here.  The Republican

last year got 59.  So, he improved there. 


And in these rural areas, smaller population, rural areas in the eastern

part of the district, Bishop really significant improved in terms of the

election day vote.  That`s why he`s ahead here. 


It does raise the question, Lawrence, the president was there in the

district last night with that rally.  Is that the reason perhaps Bishop had

that same-day voter explosion? 


O`DONNELL:  Steve, thank you very much.  We will come back to you as soon

as there`s more to report.  We appreciate that. 


If the presidential election is a referendum on Donald Trump, he is going

to lose.  That is now becoming the consensus opinion of professional poll

watchers and election analysts.  And I don`t mean people like me who have

dabbled in the use of polls during election seasons only.  I mean the

professionals who live and breathe polls and voter data every day of the

year, whether it`s election season or not.  I mean, people like

Washington`s esteemed election analyst Charlie Cook, who will join us later

in this hour. 


Charlie Cook now says if the election is a referendum on Donald Trump, he

will lose.  Charlie Cook got more ammunition for that today when a new poll

came out showing that 60 percent of Americans believe Donald Trump does not

deserve a second term. 


We will, of course, continue to keep you up to the minute on the breaking

news in the congressional election in North Carolina tonight.  And we begin

tonight with what might be even worse news for Donald Trump than today`s

very bad polls for the president on a day when Donald Trump`s re-election

campaign is facing nothing but very bad news in a bunch of new polls the

president created what might be one of the biggest problems his re-election

campaign could be facing a year from now, John Bolton`s memoirs.


Tonight, in their New York offices, major book publishers are probably

staying late trying to calculate how many millions of dollars they can

offer John Bolton now if he can deliver an inside the Trump White House

book that will hit bookstores in the final months of the presidential

campaign when such a book would have maximum sales potential. 


John Bolton is already the author of a couple of books, including a memoir

of his experience serving in George W. Bush`s administration.  But now,

John Bolton is in a position to write and deliver the most explosive Trump

book ever, which means it would be one of the best-selling books in

publishing history if the book hits bookstores before Donald Trump goes

down to defeat on election day if, as all polls now indicate, is most

likely – that`s the most likely version of our next presidential election

at the polls as of now. 


We will discuss those polls later in this hour.  Those polls will be part

of book publishers` calculations of how much money they can offer John

Bolton.  They`re making those calculations right now.  And those polls say

John Bolton can become one of the richest authors in history if he delivers

a book before Election Day. 


And that same book the day after the election might be worth much, much

less if Donald Trump loses the election.  So, you have to ask yourself if

you`re Donald Trump, you have to ask yourself what kind of person is John

Bolton?  Is he one of those people working for Donald Trump who will avoid

any possible public conflict with Donald Trump like former Defense

Secretary James Mattis, who has written a book which is now being largely

ignored because it does not describe the kind of Trump chaos that Bob

Woodward`s book describes and Michael Wolff`s book describes, both giant



If John Bolton is the kind of person who will hold back what he knows is

publishing gold, is John Bolton that kind of person?  Is he the kind of

person that will now protect Donald Trump out of personal loyalty to Donald



John Bolton has already publicly disagreed with Donald Trump about how he

left his job as national security adviser.  There is very likely going to

be a John Bolton book about Donald Trump.  And John Bolton began in effect

writing it today in a tweet contradicting president Trump. 


The least important disagreement that Donald Trump and John Bolton have

ever had is their final disagreement, the disagreement over John Bolton`s

departure today from the job of White House national security adviser. 

President Trump says he fired him.  John Bolton says, I resigned. 


At two minutes before 12:00 noon today, @RealDonaldTrump tweeted, I

informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at

the White House.  I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did

others in the administration, and therefore, I asked John for his

resignation, which was given to me this morning.


Twelve minutes later, John Bolton contradicted the president`s version of

events with this tweet: I offered to resign last night and President Trump

said let`s talk about it tomorrow.


So, the Bolton tweet account appears to be that he offered his resignation

last night.  The president decided not to talk about it until today.  And

then he didn`t talk about it today.  And as promised, instead, the

president decided to accept John Bolton`s resignation via tweet and pretend

that the resignation was all Donald Trump`s idea. 


Six minutes after John Bolton`s tweet claiming that he wasn`t fired, he

quit, Fox News hosts were busy reading the Trump-Bolton Twitter battle on

their phones when this happened. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then, of course, we heard from the just-fired

John Bolton saying that, no, it didn`t actually play out that way. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Bolton just –


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I offered to resign last night and President Trump

said, let`s talk about it tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Bolton just texted me.  Just now.  He`s watching.  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you read it? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  He said, let`s be clear.  I resigned.


And I said, do you mind if I say that while you were talking?  And he

wrote, yes. 


So John Bolton has just told me, texted me to say I resigned. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  So, he answered yes go ahead. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, go ahead and say that. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For all the obvious –


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So John Bolton has just answered the president`s tweet

by saying, yes, I resigned. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why are we doing this? 




O`DONNELL:  We are doing this because the Trump White House is now and

always has been in chaos.  Chaos described vividly in Michael Wolff`s book

“Fire and Fury”, and in Bob Woodward`s book “Fear.”  And very likely in

what could be the most politically damaging book of all that could outsell

all the rest of them, John Bolton`s next book, for which publishers, who

are calculating their massive offers to John Bolton tonight, are probably

using a working title of something like “I resigned,” by John Bolton. 


There are important questions to be asked about the immediate effects of

John Bolton`s departure from the White House.  What does this mean for the

Trump approach to North Korea?  What does this mean for the Trump approach

to Iran?  What does this mean more generally to the national security

apparatus of the Trump administration?  And what might it mean for

congressional investigators who might want to question John Bolton now that

he is a private citizen? 


There is no one better positioned to handle those questions tonight than

our first guest, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam

Schiff.  Congressman Schiff is a Democrat representing California`s 28th

congressional district, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Pasadena,

Burbank, and the San Fernando Valley. 


Chairman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really

appreciate it. 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Great to be with you. 


O`DONNELL:  I want to get your reaction to the firing and/or resignation of

John Bolton. 


SCHIFF:  Well, he never should have had the position to begin with.  He

lacks the temperament.  He lacks the judgment.  To really have that job,

you`re supposed to be a facilitator, to help the president get to yes, to

mediate the national security officials and help them provide the president

with options. 


I remember when he was first named as nominee, one of my colleagues asked

me, what did I think about Michael Bolton being named as national security

adviser.  And I said I think you mean John Bolton, Michael Bolton is a

singer.  But honestly, I think Michael Bolton would do a better job, I`d be

comfortable with him. 


It was an astonishing choice.  It was obviously not his first choice.  It

was his third candidate, fourth candidate, since one turned it down for

national security adviser.  But a bad choice from start to finish, although

ironically he was right on a couple of things that were profound

disagreements with the president.  That is, if we can believe what Bolton

has evidently been telling people, that he disagreed with the president`s

approach to North Korea, which has been a debacle, and he disagreed with

this reality TV effort to have a summit with the Taliban at Camp David. 


Those were both I think quite disastrous decisions by the president.  We`re

paying the price for it. 


O`DONNELL:  Well, there`s – we`ll have to wait for John Bolton`s book to

at least get his thorough version of this.  But there`s also the question

of how they agreed or disagreed on Iran and was John Bolton pushing for a

military strike against Iran that the president then decided against? 


SCHIFF:  Well, you know, I can tell you, I participated with a meeting with

the president in the cabinet and Mr. Bolton.  He didn`t contribute at all

to the conversation.  And that may have been a reflection this was on the

eve of the president`s decision to pull back from a strike on Iran. 


That may have been because the president didn`t particularly want to hear

from him.  But, you know, it`s certainly true that he has been very hawkish

on Iran.  I think he has held very dangerous views, dangerous positions on

Iran.  That he was probably among others in urging the president to

withdraw from the JCPOA, which I think has had really significant adverse

consequences for the country. 


So, on Iran, I think he has been a singularly bad influence on the

president.  But as we have seen in many other things and with many other

cabinet officials, even though he had often disagreements apparently with

the president, it didn`t stop him from serving as an enabler of this

president, both in terms of the disastrous policy vis-a-vis North Korea and

with respect to the Taliban summit, but also sticking to the president even

when he at least purportedly had these profound differences. 


O`DONNELL:  What does it mean to your investigations in the intelligence

committee that John Bolton is now a private citizen?  Does that change in

any way the possibility of obtaining testimony from him? 


SCHIFF:  Well, in theory it ought to make it easier if the – if Bolton is

outside the administration, he would be more accessible as a witness.  But

the practice of the administration has been to claim privilege over

anything anyone might say at any time they were in the administration, even

during the transition. 


So, yes, if you`re willing to cooperate, he could shed light, for example,

on what was said during these private meetings between the president and

Putin.  Did the president try to hide interpreter notes?  Was he excluded

from these meetings for a reason?  Was it ever communicated to him why the

president wanted no witnesses in these conversations? 


Did he ever learn that the president was continuing to pursue Trump Tower? 

Were there some other illicit financial motivation?  Were, you know – were

intelligence items discussed with Putin or other Russian officials that

could cause U.S. intelligence secrets to be jeopardized? 


You know, he could certainly answer those questions.  Whether he`d be

willing to or whether we could overcome the White House opposition, I guess

only time will tell. 


O`DONNELL:  And there`s been developments over the course of the August

recess with members of the House adding their voices to the encouragement

of an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.  This week, the

Judiciary Committee will be having a vote that basically empowers the

committee with all of the powers of an impeachment inquiry. 


What is your view of what the Judiciary Committee is doing?  I know that as

chairman of intelligence that you have your own shop to run.  But do you

support what`s happening this week in the judiciary committee? 


SCHIFF:  I do because the procedures that the Judiciary Committee is

adopting will allow it to move more expeditiously.  It will allow

subcommittees to do some of the witness interviews.  It will allow staff to

do some of the questioning. 


Given just how much the administration is stonewalling Congress`s

oversight, whatever practices and policies we need to adopt in our

committees to expedite our investigation we should undertake.  So, yes, I

do support what they`re doing.  I think it will help us get answers more



O`DONNELL:  And I want to get your reaction to the reporting we`ve seen

this week here at NBC News and at other news organizations about a Russian

spy, a spy who was serving American interests while working in Vladimir

Putin`s administration who was extracted during the first year of the Trump

presidency.  There was a consideration, an attempt to extract him before

that during the Obama presidency. 


But there are many elements of this story including what may be now a lack

of resources for the CIA for information coming from inside the Putin



SCHIFF:  Well, I can`t comment on those specific allegations.  I can tell

you that really our mission on the Intel Committee is to make sure the

intelligence committee has the resources it needs to do the difficult human

intelligence work. 


Russia is a very hard target.  There are other hard targets out there.  And

we spend a lot time assessing are we able to get the information we need? 

What changes do we need to get more information? 


There are several reports, and I can`t comment on the specifics of them. 

But, you know, one of the other reports today was the president continually

questioning the value of human intelligence.  You know, for the president

to do that and send a message if this reporting is correct that these

people who are risking their lives in service to this country, these are

foreigners often on foreign soil who do so sometimes, yes, for money but

other times because they believe in America, because they believe in

democracy, they want something better for their own country.


If this is correct and the president is casting doubt on the value of this,

even as he has quite publicly castigated the intelligence agencies,

comparing them to Nazis, it means sources are going to dry up, both human

sources as well as some of our sister intelligence agencies around the

world, who won`t give us their most sensitive information if they think the

president can`t be trusted with it.  So, there are real world consequences

to this perception of the president as being untrustworthy with the

intelligence, untrusting of our intelligence agencies, skeptical of the

value of intelligence itself.  That just makes all of our jobs that much

more difficult and the country more vulnerable. 


O`DONNELL:  Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us

tonight.  Really appreciate it. 


SCHIFF:  Thank you. 


O`DONNELL:  And we have breaking news.  NBC News projects that Republican

Dan Bishop has won the special election in North Carolina`s 9th

congressional district. 


Coming up, Donald Trump is looking very bad in Texas polls.  Texas.  If

Donald Trump loses Texas, then we`re going to have to find a new way to

describe the big blue wave.  It`s coming up. 




O`DONNELL:  There are several new polls out today, all with bad news for

Donald Trump.  An ABC/”Washington Post” poll finds that only 38 percent of

Americans approved of the job President Trump is doing.  That`s down six

points in that poll, since July.  A new CNN poll puts the Trump approval

rating at 39 percent.  That`s the lowest the Trump approval rating has

fallen in that poll since the government shutdown in January.


That poll also found that 60 percent of Americans do not think that

President Trump deserves to be reelected, with only 36 percent saying that

he does deserve to be reelected. 


And new Univision poll of Texas voters shows one-on-one match-ups of Donald

Trump and six of the top Democratic presidential candidates.  The results

showed Donald Trump losing or in a statistical tie with all six candidates

in the state of Texas.  That`s the Republican state of Texas. 


Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat who carried Texas in a presidential

race.  No Democrat has won in a statewide election of any kind in Texas in

25 years. 


But the new Univision poll of Texas shows Bernie Sanders ahead of Donald

Trump, 48-42.  Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump, 47-43.  Julian Castro ahead

of Trump, 44-41.  Elizabeth Warren ahead of Trump, 44-42.  Cory Booker

ahead of Trump, 43-41.  Kamala Harris ahead of Trump, 45-44. 


The poll did not include any other Democratic candidates in one-on-one

match-ups against Donald Trump in Texas. 


Joining our discussion now is Jason Johnson.  He`s the politics editor at and professor of politics and media at Morgan State University. 


And Jennifer Rubin is with us.  She`s an opinion writer at the “Washington



Both are MSNBC political analysts. 


And, Jennifer, these are – these are bad numbers for Donald Trump.  And

that`s before John Bolton`s memoirs are published. 



jumped out at me.  One is what he was surviving on was his handling of the

economy.  And in both those polls, he`s down on that measure. 


The other thing that`s interesting is I`ve been watching white women and

white college-educated women, for the first time now you see white non-

college-educated women abandoning Trump in droves.  So I think if you`re a

Republican looking at this mess you`re thinking, oh boy, are we in trouble?


And if you`re a Democratic primary voter, maybe you`re thinking to

yourself, you know, maybe electability is a broader concept than we

thought.  The only one who is unelectable at this point seems to be Donald



O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And, Jason Johnson, these polls show it seems to me a

very simple fact of the Trump presidency and that is that he has never once

tried to speak to voters who haven`t already voted for him.  He`s never

once tried to change the mind of a voter who did not vote for him. 


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  Here`s the thing, Lawrence

– there`s nobody in America who doesn`t know how they feel about Donald

Trump.  There`s no undecideds.


O`DONNELL:  Yes, right.


JOHNSON:  I don`t want to hear anyone say I`m an undecided voter next fall

because I know you`re lying.  Everyone knows you`re lying. 


So, what`s really key about these polls is it`s not just that Democrats are

leading but they`re leading in the high 40s, which means that the undecided

numbers are very, very low and it means that a lot of the top three

Democrats could actually beat him. 


But the other question, and this is always what really, really concerns me. 

There`s a big difference between Donald Trump losing in a head to head

against Bernie Sanders or losing in a head to head with Warren, or losing

in a head to head with Warren, or losing in a head to head with Biden.  And

these sort of generic numbers that show him losing or people not wanting to

have the job. 


This will inevitably get closer as the attacks are going and once there`s

actually a Democratic nominee.  So, the Democrats need to make sure that

they stay focused.  This is not a slam dunk by any means.  It`s only

September and a lot of people didn`t start paying attention until after

Labor Day. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Jennifer, tonight, we saw tonight in North Carolina a

district, a congressional district that Donald Trump won by 12 points.  The

Republicans struggling to win it and at this point winning it by about two



RUBIN:  Correct.  There are some 32 districts I think that are less

favorable to Republicans than that.  So I think their chances of winning

back the House are infinitesimal.  And as a result, I think you`re going to

see a lot more Republican resignations. 


That in turn I think is going to open up all sorts of possibilities in

Texas and other places.  We`ve already seen a batch of Republicans from

Texas decide to throw in the towel.  So, the House situation could actually

get worse for Republicans in 2020. 


O`DONNELL:  Jason, the Republicans do have a difficult map when they look

at the House of Representatives.  They have a difficult map when they look

at the presidency.  But the Senate is the place where the Republicans

should believe that there`s a way for them to hang on, that does look like

there`s a way for them to hang on. 


How much should the Democrats be concentrating in what they`re trying to

achieve next year in taking back that Senate and getting Mitch McConnell

out of that majority leader job? 


RUBIN:  Ground zero should be Georgia.  Look, you essentially have two

seats.  You can go after Perdue and there`s an open seat because Isakson

had just said he`s not running next year. 


The Democrats need to spend as much time and money as they can in that

state, with the amount of attention that`s been paid to voter fraud and

voter suppression, it`s now going to be much harder for Brian Kemp, the

governor, to suppress votes there.  And that is a great opportunity for



And I know that people don`t want to hear this.  They need to give up the

fantasy of Beto O`Rourke running in Texas.  He`s not going to run.  He`d

have to declare by sometime in January.  He`s made it very clear he`s going

to stay in the presidential race. 


But Georgia I would say needs to be ground zero for Democrats.  They`d

probably pick that up seat in Colorado.  We don`t know what`s going to

happen in Maine. 


But that is a purple state where me could actually make upend up a

difference and possibly flipping Georgia to being a Democratic state this

fall.  So, there`s optimism to be had if Democrats want to spend the time,

the money and find good candidates. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Jennifer, one of the signs of lack of Republican Party

confidence is canceling presidential primaries now that Donald Trump has

three Republican – declared Republican opponents who want to run in

primaries against him.  You would think they`d want to show off just how

strong Donald Trump is in trying to secure his second Republican

presidential nomination. 


RUBIN:  Even Vladimir Putin holds elections.  So, I mean, I really find it

hard to believe that he`s so powerful and so dominant and on the other hand

doesn`t want to run against either of these – or actually there are three

of them now, candidates out there. 


So, I think it`s bad for a couple reasons. 


One, one of the ways you get information on voters and pump out turnout in

the general election is by getting them all excited during the primary run. 

They`re throwing that opportunity away.  They`re essentially saying we

don`t know who all these other people might be in the state but we`re just

going to go back to the lists we had in 2016.  That`s ridiculous. 


At the same time, there`s going to be this Democratic primary where no one

knows how it`s going to come out or if they say they do they really don`t. 

And it`s going to be excitement and it`s going to pump those numbers. 


I would also say to what Jason said that the other state to keep an eye on

is Arizona.  That was also a state in which a Democrat won last time.  You

have the husband of Gabby Giffords who is running for the McSally seat. 

And that is another state where you see the creepy-crawly diminishment of

the Republican advantage there. 


So, keep an eye on Arizona, too. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, and there`s already polls showing Mark Kelly ahead of

McSally in Arizona.  We`ll be watching that one. 


Jennifer Rubin, Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us.  Really

appreciate it. 


JOHNSON:  Thanks, Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Donald Trump has appointed three

national security advisers in his less than three years as president. 

President Obama appointed three national security advisers in his eight

years as president. 


Susan Rice was the longest serving national security adviser for President

Obama.  Susan Rice will join us next. 




O`DONNELL: President Obama had three national security advisors over eight

years in office. President Trump has had three national security advisors

over less than three years in office. President Trump`s first national

security advisor, Michael Flynn, served only 21 days in the job, the

shortest tenure of any national security advisor in history. Michael Flynn

was in court today for a pre-sentencing hearing for the crimes he has

pleaded guilty to, crimes he committed in the White House while serving as

National Security Advisor when he lied to the FBI.


Michael Flynn was replaced by H.R. McMaster. H.R. McMaster was then

replaced by John Bolton, and John Bolton will be replaced next week

according to the President. The position of National Security Advisor does

not require Senate confirmation. So the only possible struggle for the

President in appointing a new national security advisor is finding someone

who will accept the job.


It was an honor for Susan Rice to accept the offer from President Obama to

serve as his third national security advisor. She served in that position

for the entire second term of the Obama presidency. In the first term of

the Obama presidency, Susan Rice served as the Ambassador to the United

Nations. Ambassador Susan Rice will join us next.




O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is someone who can give us an

invaluable perspective on the job of National Security Advisor. Susan Rice

is the last person to serve in the job of National Security Advisor before

Donald Trump started appointing national security advisors. Susan Rice

served as President Obama`s National Security Advisor from 2013 to January

of 2017. And before that, she served as President Obama`s Ambassador to the

United Nations from 2009 to 2013. Her new book, “Tough Love: My Story of

the Things Worth Fighting For,” comes out next month.


Ambassador Rice, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I just wanted

to get what was your first reaction today when you heard the news that John

Bolton was either fired according to Donald Trump or resigned according to

John Bolton?



U.N., & AUTHOR, TOUGH LOVE: Well, Lawrence, it`s good to be with you. I

confess when I heard the news, I was working out, and I was a bit surprised

to see it flash across the screen. I had to plug in the headphones to find

out what was actually going on.


I was surprised more by the timing of the announcement. It was unexpected

in that regard. But not the actual outcome because for quite a while, it`s

been apparent that John Bolton and Donald Trump were on very different

sheets of music when it comes to almost every national security issue of

import. And either Bolton was going to continue to be publicly humiliated

and fail to persuade the President of his course of action or the President

was going to capitulate, which seemed highly unlikely. So something was

going to come a cropper (ph) at some stage it seemed.


O`DONNELL: But it`s hard to think of anyone who in Republican politics and

foreign policy or any of our politics and foreign policy who agrees with

Donald Trump on North Korea, his approach to North Korea, on this idea of

“let`s invite the Taliban to Camp David” on the Trump tariffs, which are a

national security issue. And it`s hard to think of who would fit.


RICE: Well, I think there are degrees of fitting. I mean, let`s break this

down. There`s two levels of challenge. One is finding a national security

advisor who can serve the President effectively from the vantage point of

being a good national security advisor.


I think Bolton failed in that regard to the extent that he refused to run a

proper national security decision-making process that involved all of the

cabinet-level principals sitting around the table, wrestling with the

analysis and the facts and the intelligence and the very difficult options

that surround any tough national security decision. He didn`t run that

process, and he arrogated a lot of authority to himself and, I think, was

wrong on a number of important issues.


Having said that, we could have the second coming of - as national security

advisor, the greatest one in history, running a perfect process and still

we`d have a President who could care less and wasn`t interested in facts,

history, analysis, or the national interest. And that`s what we have.


So we have two problems, a process - a national security decision-making

process that is badly broken and a President who is not interested in

rational decision-making that serves the national interest.


O`DONNELL: What should people be–


RICE: So, yes, it would be a hard job for anybody.


O`DONNELL: Yes. What should people be hoping for in the next national

security advisor? And I include opponents of the President. What should

they be hoping for in the next national security advisor?


RICE: Somebody with integrity. Somebody with judgment. Somebody who

recognizes that being national security advisor is not a solo endeavor. I

liken it to being a point guard leading a basketball team. And I write

about that in my book. It is a team sport. And we don`t seem to have had

that of late.


I also would like to see a national security advisor who is prepared to

tell the President the truth and differ with the President when necessary.

In that regard, I give Bolton credit because a national security advisor is

supposed to keep his counsel - his or her counsel private, but is supposed

to give their honest and best judgment. And in this instance, we have a

President who seems to not want to hear anything other than yes.


O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, this seems to be an illustration of many things.

But one of them might be this is what happens to you if you do tell

President Trump of what you honestly think about something. In this case,

John Bolton is reported to have been maybe the key player in stopping the

Taliban visit to Camp David, and that frustrated the President and now John

Bolton is gone. That may be the lesson of this. This is what happens if you

do tell the President the truth.


RICE: Well, then we`re going to have probably seven or eight national

security advisors, if we have decent ones, by the time this administration

gets through four years, because the last thing we need, whether - as the

head of NOAA or National Security Advisor is leadership that lies or

leadership that obfuscates or leadership that isn`t interested in the

national interest. And that`s even more dangerous than anything that I can

think of.


O`DONNELL: President Obama had, as I recall, a grand total of three

national security advisors over the eight years, with you serving the

longest in that office. President Trump has now gone through three. He`ll

be starting his fourth, he promises, next week. And so they could be on

track to getting close to eight even in the first term. What does that do

to the national security processes within the administration?


RICE: It`s extraordinarily disruptive. And it`s irresponsible, quite

frankly. To illustrate the point, when I was named National Security

Advisor in early June of 2013, I had more than a month of - or about a

month of overlap with my predecessor, Tom Donilon. That was a time in

which, even though I was still serving as United Nations Ambassador, I

spent most of my time in Washington meeting with Tom, going in great depth

through the issues that were on our plate and the processes that I needed

to understand.


I spent time in national security meetings, the President`s daily briefing

with the President of the United States. I got a sense of how President

Obama wanted that role to be played, a very, very important role at the

right hand of the President. And when I came to - back to Washington to

take on the job, July 1st, not only was I well prepared by Tom in that

process but obviously I had the experience of having sat at the principals`

decision-making table for the prior 4.5 years.


It is not at all clear who President Trump is going to get to sit in the

National Security Advisor`s office, who will have the experience, the

judgment as well as the preparation to hit the ground running. And with all

that`s going on in the world, that is exactly what we need.


O`DONNELL: Let me ask you about this story that has broken in our news over

the last 24 hours, major news organizations, including NBC News, reporting

on the extraction of a spy working for the United States within the Russian

government. This occurred during your watch as National Security Advisor.


According to the stories, that`s when the harvest of the information was

coming in from this spy. And then there was a first consideration of

extracting him during your time in office. What can you share with us about

that and what elements of the reporting could you confirm for us?


RICE: Lawrence, I can`t discuss classified information. And I`ve never done

it in my career, and I`m not going to start now.


O`DONNELL: Is there anything that you would caution the public about in

what they`re reading about this story now?


RICE: No. I don`t want to get into parsing the story and what may be

accurate or inaccurate. It`s just not appropriate.


O`DONNELL: Ambassador Susan Rice, I think we understand that completely.

Thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.


RICE: Great to be with you, Lawrence. Thank you.


O`DONNELL: And coming up, Charlie Cook has a major prediction for the 2020

Presidential election, and it is not good for Donald Trump. We`ll also get

Charlie Cook`s reaction to the special election in North Carolina tonight.

Charlie Cook joins us next.




O`DONNELL: We`re back with tonight`s breaking election news from North

Carolina. NBC News projects that Republican Dan Bishop will win the special

election in North Carolina`s 9th Congressional District.


Joining us now is Charlie Cook. He`s the Editor and Publisher of “The Cook

Political Report.” He`s an NBC News Political Analyst, and columnist for

the “National Journal” and just who we want to be talking to tonight on a

special election night.


All right. Charlie, your reaction to what we`ve seen in North Carolina





nothing more exhilarating than having been shot at and missed. Well,

Republicans have to be really exhilarated because they`ve come - this is a

district that not only did Donald Trump win by 12 points but Mitt Romney

won by 12 points.


So they should be coasting. Instead, they win by two points, which is more

than we expected, really, as of the last few days, 5,000 votes. But the

thing is, this would have been an apocalyptic story for Republicans had he

lost. So they`ve got to be really, really, really relieved, but the signal

is still there. They underperformed by 10 points.


Last November, across the board, Republicans underperformed by six

percentage points. So Republicans have to really, really, really worry

about what`s going on in the suburbs because Democrats when they picked up

40 seats last year in suburbs of Atlanta and Dallas and Houston and Kansas

City and Oklahoma City and Richmond, there`s still more out there. So

Republicans need to be very, very nervous. They just can be relieved about

North Carolina 9.


O`DONNELL: So how many seats do Republicans have where their margin of

comfort is lower than the one they had going into tonight`s election?


COOK: What is it? 31, I want to say. There are still plenty of districts

out there that President Trump won by fewer than, say, six, seven - or

certainly 10 points. There`s a whole slew of them. Now, Democrats may not

have decent candidates in all of them, but we`re looking - the chances of

Republicans picking out the House are just really, really, really small.

And that`s - given that the margin isn`t that wide, that`s really bad news

for them, but they`ve got to be relieved because this would have been a

disaster had you had two points go the other direction.


O`DONNELL: Charlie, please stay with us. We`re going to squeeze in one

final commercial break here. When we come back, I want to get your big

prediction that you issued this week about the 2020 Presidential election.

We`re going to be right back with Charlie Cook.




O`DONNELL: Charlie Cook, the Editor and Publisher of “The Cook Political

Report” is back with us.


Charlie, I read a major prediction of yours in John Harwood`s column

yesterday about the 2020 election. And it`s all about if the election is a

referendum on President Trump.


COOK: That`s–


O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Charlie. Go ahead. Sorry.


COOK: Yes. OK. I`m sorry. I was - I thought you were going to - somebody

was going to read. That`s the thing. If it`s a referendum, that`s not a

race where he can win. I mean, whether you had the 239, the Gallup and CNN

polls that had him at 39 percent today or the ABC/Washington Post at 43

percent, these aren`t alone. You`ve had 348 major national polls ask his

approve/disapprove, and exactly one out of 348 was his approval higher than

his disapproval, one Fox poll back in February of 2017.


And when you look at that CNN number, about 30 percent, say, deserves re-

election and 60 percent - 36 that he deserves re-election, 60 that he

doesn`t. You just sort of combine this. If it`s up or down on him, he can`t

win that. He`s got to make this a choice and a choice between him and

something less desirable.


And that`s where - it`s like the old story about the woman who was asked by

a friend, “How`s your husband?” And she replied, “Compared to what?” And

how President Trump is going to do? Compared to what? Because if it`s up or

down on him, he can`t win this.


O`DONNELL: But aren`t incumbents usually what the issue is? Isn`t when you

have an incumbent in a race, isn`t it usually a referendum on the



COOK: Yes, it is, but we`ve never seen one quite like this where the

remarkable thing about President Trump`s numbers, it`s the lack of

elasticity. That - take Gallup. His best job reproval rating yet, 46; his

worst, 35. For Fox, it`s 48 and 38. Ten, 11-point ranges so that there`s

not much give there. So 75 percent of Americans strongly approve or

strongly disapprove. There`s no ambiguity here.


So there`s not - his numbers - I mean, all presidents` numbers, they start

big, they go down, they come up and down. His have been in a very tight

trading range, and it shows that people`s minds about him is made up - are

made up. But their minds about whoever the fill-in-the-blank Democrat, now

that`s up in the air. And he`s got to make it a choice.


O`DONNELL: One of the most important aspects of it being a referendum on

Donald Trump, if that`s what it turns out to be, is the vote for third-

party candidates could evaporate because that voter in Wisconsin who cast a

vote for Jill Stein probably won`t be doing that this time if that voter is

much more concerned with stopping Donald Trump.


COOK: No, that`s absolutely true, and it fits into a historic pattern. When

you`ve had elections where a third-party candidate arguably made the

difference, in the next election, very few people vote for third-party

candidates. I mean, the desire to “well, I`m not going to throw away my

vote.” And that was true after `92 with Ross Perot, it was true in 2000

with Ralph Nader. These things - I think it will be true after 2016. So I

think you`re going to have a minuscule third-party vote. So it`s going to

be up or down.


O`DONNELL: Charlie Cook, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really

appreciate it.


COOK: Thanks.


O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams

starts now.







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