President Trump’s approval rating. TRANSCRIPT: 9/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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
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?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, almost all the votes are
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
theroot.com 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.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes, it is. Two things
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
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
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
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
SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE
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
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
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
CHARLIE COOK, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT PUBLISHER & EDITOR, NATIONAL
JOURNAL COLUMNIST & NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: The old line that there`s
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.
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
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
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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