Trump reverses decision TRANSCRIPT: 10/21/2019, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 21, 2019
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And that explains Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell both talking about the
possibility of this moving to the Senate around Thanksgiving.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Uh-huh. Yes. Because the calendar doesn`t
make sense unless there`s a crunch factor in there that we haven`t been
able to see from the initial scheduling. I mean, there`s – I think
there`s still a little wiggle room in terms of who`s going to show up for
their depositions. If they`re going to work straight through the weekends,
they`ll be more likely to hit that deadline.
O`DONNELL: And when they say work through the weekends on the depositions,
that mostly means the staff working for the weekends on the depositions.
We`ll see how many members actually show up for the weekend depositions.
MADDOW: Fair point. Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, the operating principle of Donald Trump`s presidency is
to govern by lie, and so he lied today when explaining why he surrendered
to the resistance once again. This weekend, Donald Trump surrendered to
the resistance that rose up after he announced his illegal and
unconstitutional plan to bring the next G7 meeting to a Trump hotel so that
the American government and foreign governments would be paying Donald
Trump directly at the same time. We`ll get to that later in this hour.
Trump lies and stupidity go hand in hand. Donald Trump depends on a sort
of collective stupidity for people to believe his lies and Sunday morning,
he issued a deeply disturbing tweet about the situation in Syria and the
Kurds and in the tweet, he lied about bringing our soldiers home. He also
got the secretary of defense`s name wrong. And that`s what makes it a
classic Trump presidential tweet – the combination of deceit and stupidity
Calling Defense Secretary Mark Esper “Mark Esperanto” got Trump a lot of
ridicule on Twitter yesterday and a lot of laughs but I couldn`t laugh this
time. Sometimes I do, sometimes I laugh at Trump nonsense and sometimes I
just can`t. And I`m sure you all have those moments, can`t quite tell when
they`re going to come. Kind of a mood thing. Times when you laugh about
Trump and times when you just can`t.
For whatever reason, this one was one of those moments for me where I
couldn`t laugh, and the Mark Esperanto tweet did not strike me as funny.
It actually felt deadly serious.
Normally typos on Twitter mean nothing, but a typo is when you type
something by mistake that you know is wrong and you usually go correct it
pretty quickly. There`s no reason for anyone in the world to be confident
that the president of the United States actually knew the real name of his
defense secretary when he typed it as Esperanto. But if we just limit
ourselves to the typos, just the typos in Trump tweets and in official
White House statements written by the least competent White House staff in
White House history, the number of written mistakes by Donald Trump and the
people working for him in the White House is now something close to the
number of stars in the sky and in a typical presidency, you can spend a
year looking for a typo in an official White House document and not find
These mistakes mean a lot from Donald Trump and the people working for him.
They just don`t care about details. They don`t know how to care about
details. And that explains his constant refusal to care about details. He
doesn`t know how.
Explains everything about Donald Trump`s presidency, from his deadly
decision about the Kurds in Syria, to his alleged criminal conduct
described in the Mueller report and revealed in his own words in his phone
call with the president of Ukraine. He does not know how to care about
And so, we`ll take some time at the end of the hour tonight to consider in
all seriousness the clear and present danger of having a president of the
United States who might or might not have thought for a few hours yesterday
before the White House corrected his tweet that his defense secretary is
Mark Esperanto. Donald Trump`s lifelong inability to care about details
including details like the law is what has him on the verge of impeachment
by the House of Representatives, where the House Democrats are now working
on an outline of what will become the impeachment case against the
In an exclusive report tonight, NBC News says, House Democrats are zeroing
in on a framework for their impeachment case against President Donald Trump
that will center on a simple abuse of power narrative involving the
president`s actions regarding Ukraine, according to multiple people
familiar with the deliberations. Democratic House committee chairs and
leaders are still debating the need for possible additional articles of
impeachment or charges that extend beyond the president`s dealing with
Ukraine, but according to NBC News: Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been adamant
that the case against Trump must be targeted and easy to communicate in
order to build public support, according to those familiar with
Tomorrow morning, Ambassador Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to
Ukraine who sent a text message calling a quid pro quo over military
assistance to Ukraine crazy, that was his word, which is very easy to
understand, he is scheduled to be deposed tomorrow morning. Now, now that
it appears absolutely certain that there are more than enough Democratic
votes for impeachment in the House of Representatives, there is also a
crack in the Republican wall in the House of Representatives. On Friday,
Republican Congressman Francis Rooney said he is open to the possibility of
voting for impeachment. Telling reporters, “I`ve been real mindful of the
fact that during Watergate, all the people I knew said, oh, they`re just
abusing Nixon and it`s a witch hunt, it turns out, it wasn`t a witch hunt.
It was really bad.
When asked if the president`s dealings with Ukraine amount to an
impeachable offense, Congressman Rooney said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANCIS ROONEYT (R-FL): I don`t know. I want to study it some more.
I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple more
ambassadors, but it`s certainly very, very serious and troubling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then the very next day on Saturday, Congressman Rooney`s
boldness came into clearer perspective when he announced that he is not
going to run for re-election to his house seat.
In the Senate, Mitt Romney is becoming increasingly comfortable with the
role of Republican senator who might vote to convict Donald Trump in his
impeachment trial in the Senate. In an interview with “The Atlantic`s”
McKay Coppins, Senator Romney said he`ll make up his mind about the
impeachment case when he hears all the evidence at the impeachment trial.
Senator Romney told McKay Coppins, at this stage, I am strenuously avoiding
trying to make any judgment.
And Mitt Romney did another interview this weekend with Axios on HBO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Going on TV and saying, China, will you
investigate my political opponent, is wrong. It`s a mistake. It was
shocking for the, in my opinion, for the president to do so and a mistake
for him to do so.
I can`t imagine coming to a different point of view. We certainly don`t
have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political
value. That is, after all, against the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are: NBC News correspondent
Heidi Przybyla. Heidi broke the report about Democrats focusing on the
abuse of power in their articles of impeachment.
Mieke Eoyang is with us, former member of the House – staff member of the
House Intelligence Committee. She`s the vice president of national
security program at the Third Way.
And Jonathan Alter, columnist for the “Daily Beast” and MSNBC political
analyst is with us.
Heidi, let me start with you, your breaking news reporting about what the
Democrats are considering. Do we know now whether Nancy Pelosi or –
whether Nancy Pelosi wants, let`s start with Nancy Pelosi, a single article
of impeachment that is simply about the phone call with the president of
Ukraine or the possibility of including, say, elements of the Mueller
report, obstruction of justice, in separate articles of impeachment?
HEIDI PRZYBLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPODENT: We do know, Lawrence, that right
now, she wants a simple article with an umbrella being abuse of power and
underneath that, everything that happened with regards to Ukraine which
includes that phone call. It includes the reports about a quid pro quo
about the military aid. It includes pushing aside the former ambassador to
Ukraine in order to install the president`s handpicked confidants who
referred to themselves as the three amigos which helped push the Ukrainians
to try to cook up charges against the Bidens. It includes all of those
things. But it is narrowly focused in the sense that it does just focus on
Still under debate is the second wave of charges, which would be related to
obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress. Believe it or not, there`s a
much more difficult and contentious one to decide on. Whether that is
going to be just Ukraine, where they think they have a really strong case
given the October 8th White House letter from Pat Cipollone, the White
House counsel, basically telling Congress to go you know where and, they`re
just not comply with anything, going to include anything on Mueller on
Lawrence, I`m told there it`s a little more difficult because Congress
never did get the chief witness in the obstruction charges, Don McGahn to
testify before Congress and they don`t want to give any excuses for anybody
to not support what they believe is a clear-cut case of an impeachable
offense when it comes as well to obstruction.
O`DONNELL: Heidi, is there – is there any indication in your reporting of
what the process will be? How will the Democrats arrive at a consensus of
what the shape of the article should be?
PRZYBYLA: That`s still really early, Lawrence, and I must stress that in
my reporting that while there is this big umbrella focus on the narrative
of abuse of power, the speaker`s office did caution me that the actual
legal drafting of articles has not begun because they haven`t collected all
of the evidence yet and all the information.
But historically, what would happen is that all of the committees would
send in their best information. Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee
chairman, has called on all committees to send their best information to
Judiciary which would then be tasked with drawing up specific articles.
But make no mistake, the speaker is going to be the one who drives this all
and who makes all of these decisions as to specifically how many articles
there are going to be and right now, again, we`re a snapshot in time. But
according to my reporting, the thing that has been decided is the abuse of
power narrative that they will hammer out something on obstruction/contempt
of Congress, but that addition articles at this time are unlikely.
Now, that could change with pushback from various stakeholders and
committee chair people who`ve been doing months of investigative work on
issues like emoluments who believe that the president is clearly violating
the Constitution by being – continuing to, you know, own his companies and
benefit from the presidency with the Trump Hotel in Washington and foreign
governments there taking up in order to curry favor with him. But right
now, we`re just looking at abuse of power in Ukraine and then something
separate on obstruction in Ukraine and maybe something from the Mueller
O`DONNELL: Mieke, with your experience working in the House and the
Democratic staff side, how does that sound to you? And do you think that
the House general – Democrats in the House would agree to that approach?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: Look, I think
it`s always a challenge to manage a caucus as diverse as one that`s in the
majority. You have people with competing political interests here, a lot
of different kinds of concerns, but one thing we`ve learned is that Nancy
Pelosi is a master politician and her ability to understand exactly where
the caucus is and what they can support and what the political implications
are of that is unmatched and she`s going to be able to marry that with
what`s the legal case for impeachment of this president.
I think that her instinct, make it as simple as possible to understand with
this umbrella of abuse of power is really helpful. All too often,
Democrats can get bogged down in process arguments and making it a very
simple, clear, this is about how Trump has abused his office and used his
power for his own personal benefit, that can help cut through all the
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, there is – there`s a risk to history in a very
narrow drafting of articles and that is does it leave the implication, if
you leave out the emoluments violations, that that`s OK, does it somehow
certify what Donald Trump has done running a hotel business in Washington,
for example, taking income from foreign governments that way? Does it
certify his refusal to obey the law and hand over a very clear law that
says Treasury Department must hand over any tax return that the House Ways
and Means and demands, they`re violating that law and a string of other
And does it – is it a concern to leave out this long string of things
might leave them as certified acceptable action for the future president?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess it is a concern, but it`s
a balancing test because you want to be politically disciplined, and Nancy
Pelosi`s a boss. Remember what Will Rogers said about the Democrats, you
know, I`m a member of no organized political party, I`m a Democrat.
Nancy Pelosi is disproving this. She`s running a really disciplined
effort. So, today, she released a fact sheet which I would urge everybody
to review. It`s just four pages.
First page is On the shakedown, it`s called. Second page is on the
pressure campaign. Third page is on a cover-up. So, it lays out in very
bold colors exactly what the impeachable offense was.
Now, given what Mick Mulvaney did this week, the argument that there was no
quid pro quo is – I know you don`t like that expression, but it`s now in
ALTER: So when we get into the trial, and there`s going to be a trial,
that`s now clear, Chief Justice Roberts presiding, we may not even be
arguing about whether there was abuse of power. The Republicans are now on
the way to admitting that there was abuse of power. Then the only argument
will be, does it rise to the level of impeachment? That is a very, very
bad state of affairs for Donald Trump where all you`re arguing about is not
whether he did something really wrong but just whether it rises to the
level of impeachment.
And that`s a case that Democrats can make in front of the whole country in
O`DONNELL: Heidi, does your reporting – in your reporting, are you
finding any kind of lines of defense forming for the president in the House
PRZYBYLA: Not really. I`ve been speaking with some Republicans who the
Democrats would be targeting in order to get votes from some Republicans
and they`ve said that they really just want proof positive that this is a
quid pro quo. Well, those meetings were prior to Mick Mulvaney`s
confession, essentially, that it was a quid pro quo.
And so, I think they`re just kind of laying low for right now. There`s
definitely the majority of Republicans who will never vote for this but
they don`t need the majority. They just need some Republicans to vote for
it and in my discussion with Democrats, you know, there`s a specific
framing of this. It`s not just abuse of power because he was withholding a
White House meeting.
It`s abuse of power because reportedly, and if the facts bear out, he was
withholding federally appropriated tax dollars endangering our national
security because just to remind people, this military aid was to be used by
Ukraine which is a buffer country against Russian aggression and Russian
expansion. And, therefore, it becomes a danger and a risk to our national
security and that is the framing that Democrats are going to use with the
public and with these Republicans that they`re hoping to bring over.
O`DONNELL: Mieke, I want to check with you on Rachel`s reporting at the
top of the hour that they`re now going to schedule depositions on weekends
going forward. Does that sound to you like they are trying to make some
kind of, at least, penciled in deadline at this point?
EOYANG: Yes, I think they are. And what typically happens is when you
have something that`s of an urgent national concern, the schedule goes out
the window. You wind up working around the clock. You work weekends. As
you pointed out, it`s usually the staff who does that. The members will
pop in, but you will press really hard toward a deadline.
So, the staff and the members working on these issues have a lot of
sleepless nights ahead of them because it`s not just the depositions,
themselves, it`s going through them. It`s fact checking. It`s pulling in
all the documents that they`ve asked for. There`s a lot to go through
But what they are doing with all that information is filling in the
details. We know the basic outlines of this. We know that the president
was using his office to put pressure on Ukrainians for his own personal
benefit. It`s just the question of how.
And then the real issue will be once we have all that evidence and they lay
that all out there before the American people, does that convince some of
the Republicans and some of these people who are on the fence that this
was, in fact, the quid pro quo, the kind of real abuse of power, that a lot
of people think that it was?
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, thank you for joining us to start the discussion
And, Heidi Przybyla, thank you for joining us with your breaking news
reporting. Really important for getting us start tonight. Thank you very
And, Jonathan, please stick around with us.
And when we come back, two friends of Rudy Giuliani who have worked with
Rudy Giuliani were described by their lawyer as members of Donald Trump`s
legal team. They have also been described as alleged criminals working for
Russian gangsters, and they are actually currently indicted.
Former Justice Department official Matt Miller will join us to connect
those dots along with former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah, next.
O`DONNELL: The Trump Justice Department is closing the door to Rudy
Giuliani. He is not welcome there anymore now that he is under
investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an investigation that some
members of the William Barr Justice Department did not know about when they
had a meeting with Rudy Giuliani recently. It was a kind of routine
meeting that defense lawyers have with prosecutors all the time. Rudy
Giuliani was there as a member of the defense team on an unrelated case.
And now that everyone in the Justice Department knows that Rudy Giuliani is
under investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York after that story broke
publicly, the Justice Department had to issue a formal statement of regret
that they allowed Rudy Giuliani in the door while he was under
When Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers
met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr.
Giuliani`s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not
have met with him had they known.
Donald Trump has claimed that he doesn`t know the Giuliani friends and
associates who had been indicted in the investigation by the Manhattan U.S.
attorney but the lawyer for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman told the House of
Representatives his clients could not testify to the impeachment
investigation because among other reasons they were part of the Trump legal
defense team through their work with Rudy Giuliani. “The Wall Street
Journal” obtained access to Lev Parnas` private Instagram account which
shows he had regular access to President Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
On March 25th, just 1 day after Attorney General William Barr released his
four-page memo of the Mueller report, Parnas posted this victory photo with
Rudy Giuliani and Trump`s personal attorney Jay Sekulow at a celebratory
Joining our discussion now, Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney in
the Southern District of New York, and Matt Miller, a former spokesman for
Attorney General Eric Holder. They are both MSNBC contributors.
Mimi, I am fascinated by the compartmentalization apparently of the
knowledge that Rudy Giuliani and his friends were under investigation. So,
we have – it`s since been revealed that, yes, William Barr knew about it,
was known about it at the highest levels because it`s normal to report
those kinds of things from U.S. attorneys, but apparently not enough people
in the Justice Department knew about it so that some of them were granting
meetings with Rudy Giuliani.
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, it`s possible that, I mean,
that that`s true. Sometimes the right hand/left hand, you know, don`t know
what the other one is doing. It`s also possible that there was a very
deliberate effort by the Southern district of New York not to let other
people in the Department of Justice know about it given the sensitivity of,
you know, who Rudy Giuliani is and who he`s close to and who he might hear
I`m not saying the Southern District doesn`t trust other people in the
Department of Justice, but, you know, you could just decide this – we`re
putting a lid on this.
I think what`s interesting, though, one thing that`s interesting about this
statement that was put out by the Department of Justice, is they say had we
known that Giuliani`s associates were under investigation, we wouldn`t have
met with Giuliani. Those two things don`t necessarily follow. If
associates of mine, and I`m a defense attorney, are under investigation,
but I, you know, have nothing to do with that investigation, that doesn`t -
- there`s no reason why I couldn`t get a meeting with the Department of
It`s only if that investigation has to do with me. And, remember, the
Southern District, the Department of Justice, has never officially
confirmed that Rudy Giuliani is under investigation. So this seems to me
like an implicit confirmation of that by the statement.
O`DONNELL: Matt, your reaction to this statement that Rudy Giuliani`s not
welcome here anymore.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, first of all, Mimi`s exactly
right. It was the Justice Department implicitly confirming what they can`t
explicitly say which is that Rudy Giuliani is the subject of an
investigation. They can`t say that because their rules prohibit them from
saying that, but they`re letting everyone know that`s why they wouldn`t
have taken this meeting.
I think the problem for the department in taking this meeting in the first
place, Rudy is kind of a walking conflict of interest. When he comes and
meets with the Justice Department, you don`t know who he`s speaking for.
Is he speaking on the behalf of the client he`s there ostensibly
representing or is he speaking on behalf of his other client, the president
of the United States?
We`ve already where he tried to – where he basically took over the State
Department, war running the off the books foreign policy for the president,
where State Department employees were expected to report to Rudy Giuliani
and take direction from Giuliani. So, if you`re at the Justice Department
taking a meeting with him, you have to wonder if you give him an answer
that he doesn`t like about his client, is he going to go report you to your
boss, the president of the United States? It`s a very problematic
I think that the thing I take away from the statement, though, is less
about the underlying substance of the meeting and more about what`s
happening at the Justice Department. That was a very unusual statement for
DOJ to make and the thing that was so unusual, it was just about the head
of the criminal division. The A.G. did know, the deputy attorney general
did know that Rudy was under investigation.
But the statement reads to me like the head of the criminal division trying
to distance himself from it. And I think what it says is there`s something
that we don`t yet know about the department`s involvement in the Ukraine
scandal. It probably has to do with those early days when they squashed a
full investigation. It was the head of the criminal investigation who`s
taking the heat for squashing that investigation.
There`s something I think we don`t know that`s still to come out and
because of that, everyone at the department is running as far and as fast
as they can from Rudy Giuliani and anything touching Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: And, Mimi, president saying he doesn`t know who these Giuliani
pals are who got indicted and now more pictures come being made public of
them with the president, himself, getting notes from the president, thank-
you notes from the president. And their lawyers saying they were part of
the Trump defense team.
ROCAH: Yes, it`s incredible. We have talked so much about, you know, how
the Trump presidency, the administration, you know, walks like the mob,
talks like the mob, looks like the mob. Literally, now, we have a straight
line to Russian organized crime through Parnas and Fruman and Giuliani.
I mean, they are connected to Dmytro Firtash who is Russian organized
crime, who is under indictment, himself, here who is fighting that and now
that is a direct line to Giuliani. We have his own lawyers saying that
these men were aiding in his defense. His case. It`s not real legal work
so I don`t like using those terms.
I mean, this is – this is really, you know, you couldn`t make this up
because no one would believe you, and those photographs are so
incriminating. They are a prosecutor`s dream come true because they show
what you can`t explain.
There`s no way he can say he didn`t know them. I mean, sure, the president
takes a lot of pictures maybe with people he doesn`t know, but there`s a
whole series of them here. They look very intimate with Giuliani.
I mean, Giuliani, if and when he is under indictment, is going to have, you
know, a strong case against him and exhibit 1 is going to be these
O`DONNELL: And, Matt, if they are closely connected with kind of deadly
Russian gangsters, that might make them very inhibited if the federal
prosecutors are trying to get some cooperation out of them.
MILLER: Yes, it certainly might. Look, I think the story that is going to
start to emerge here is if they were working for Rudy Giuliani, for Donald
Trump, they weren`t being paid because we know Donald Trump wasn`t paying
Rudy Giuliani. He`s working on his behalf for free.
And what I think they were really doing is they were then trying to
monetize their access to the president and their access to Rudy Giuliani by
going out and signing up separately this Ukrainian oligarch with ties to
the Russian mob. And so, they were, I think, trying to effectuate this
really corrupt trade where they would get information from this Ukrainian
oligarch, manufactured dirt about Joe Biden that`s not true, supply it to
Rudy Giuliani who would supply it to the president of the United States,
and in return, they were going to try to deliver for this Ukrainian
oligarch who is under indictment some kind of dismissal from the Justice
Department or some kind of way for him to get out of his case.
It is as corrupt as you can be and now you have both of them under
indictment and Rudy Giuliani under investigation. You know, look, these
aren`t the first members of Donald Trump`s legal team to go to jail.
Obviously, his Former Personal Attorney went to jail. And I think you`re
right, if I were them, though, I would be much more scared of offending
this Ukrainian oligarch with ties to the Russian mob than I would be
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller and Mimi Rocah, thank you both for your expertise
tonight. Really appreciate it. And when we come back, Tim O`Brien has
expertise in Donald Trump`s taxes because he`s actually seen Trump tax
returns in the middle of litigation when Donald Trump was suing him. And
now Donald Trump is saying that giving up having the G-7 at one of his
hotels is just another Trump act of sacrifice in the presidency. That`s
O`DONNELL: The resistance won again. The resistance crushed Donald Trump
again. This time it was Trump`s dream which also happened to be an illegal
conspiracy to have the next G-7 meeting at a Trump hotel in Florida. And
this time, the resistance was bipartisan.
This weekend, Republican members of Congress let Donald Trump and his White
House staffs know that trying to defend his illegal scheme to enrich
himself by having the federal government and foreign governments pay him at
the same time for the privilege of staying at a Trump hotel was just too
much to bear even for Republican members of Congress.
When asked today about why he changed his mind about trying to get away
with the obviously illegal scheme, the President blamed the Democrats only
for complaining too much about it. And while he was at it, he mentioned,
“This phony emoluments clause”. The emoluments clause in the constitution
like everything else in the constitution is not phony. For a better or
worse, the words of the constitution are the words we have to live by in
There are things in the constitution that people have disliked from the
start, like slavery and a number of other things that were changed through
amendments to the constitution, but one thing that no one has ever
complained about before Donald Trump is the emoluments clause.
Donald Trump is the only President in history to be locked in litigation
about the emoluments clause because of his unyielding determination to make
money from the presidency including from foreign governments at his hotels
especially the hotel in Washington and the hotel he lives at in Florida
and, of course, Donald Trump is now blaming his failure to pull off his
illegal scheme on the man who publicly announced the illegal scheme,
current Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, whose thin ice surely got much
thinner after his appearance on Fox News yesterday. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: It was poor Mick Mulvaney who got the job last week of
announcing Donald Trump`s illegal scheme to hold the G-7 summit at one of
his Florida hotels and yesterday it, of course, fell to Mick Mulvaney to
explain why Donald Trump planned the illegal scheme in the first place and
then why Donald Trump gave up on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: At the end of the day, you know,
he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business and he saw an
opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted
to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say he considers himself in the hospitality
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he`s - that his background. He wanted to put on a
show. He wanted to take care of folks. That`s the - he`s in the hotel
business. At least he was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, an expert on trump business Tim O`Brien, he`s
the Executive Editor of “Bloomberg Opinion” and MSNBC Contributor. He is a
longtime student of the workings of the businesses of Donald Trump.
Jonathan Alter is also back with us. Tim, the Trump plan launched last week
by Mick Mulvaney was going along smoothly until this weekend and then it
hit the rocks.
TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, “TRUMPNATION”: I`m so glad that the White House hasn`t
learned yet they need to keep Mick Mulvaney under lock and key because he
put out there what the President has put out there, this has been about the
money from day one. When Donald Trump ran for President, I don`t think he
thought he was going to win. I think he saw it as a marketing event.
We`ve seen time and time again when people have tried to explain what
motivates Donald Trump and gone to these sorts of elaborate locutions or
back flips around strategy or political jujitsu jujitsu. It`s always about
the money. The reason he has an interest in Turkey is he sees at some point
now or in the future, he can get a deal done there.
I think that informed everything around his attitude towards Vladimir
Putin. When he wanted the G-7 to be at Doral, it wasn`t just because he was
in the hospitality business. It wasn`t because he thought he was the best
place on earth to have the summit. It`s because he could direct a lot of
money into his own wallet quickly and efficiently. That`s exactly what he
was trying to do.
O`DONNELL: And so, Jonathan, now reports in “The New York Times” that the
White House is looking for another Chief of Staff because, of course,
Donald Trump`s crazy scheme is Mick Mulvaney`s fault.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, of course, he has to always throw
somebody under the bus, but, you know, the Doral was losing money.
ALTER: And, you know, this idea that this wasn`t a scheme to try to put
them back into the black again is ridiculous, and Trump today, he talked
about the phony emoluments clause. The guy has never read the constitution
of the United States. The thing that he was taking an oath to uphold, you
would think that he might have read it once to find out what was in it.
There`s nothing phony about it. The founders were very, very clear about
this. Then he tried to say, well, George Washington, he had a business desk
and then he had a President`s desk. Well, George Washington wasn`t inviting
foreigners to give him money because he knew that that was a violation of
His business was domestic. It`s true. There have been other Presidents
who`ve had domestic business. But there`s a bright line that the
constitution draws between doing business with people overseas and doing
business at home.
O`DONNELL: And, Tim, you earned a lot of credit today for not taking the
presidential salary, $400,000. JFK didn`t take it. Herbert Hoover didn`t
take it. This wasn`t Donald Trump`s idea. I want to listen to something
else Donald Trump said today about his finances. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When you see my
financials, which I`ll give at the right time, you`ll say, man, he was much
better than we even thought. This guy knows right here, Mnuchin, because he
was in the private sector. He knows very much what I have. He would tell
you. Someday, maybe he`ll tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Someday, maybe he`ll tell you.
O`BRIEN: Which means let`s translate that has never, I will never, ever
tell you and Steve Mnuchin knows nothing about how much money I have.
That`s how we should translate that. In that same tape he also said at some
O`DONNELL: It begins with - he`s talking to reporters. “When you see my
O`DONNELL: Which they know they`re never going to see.
O`BRIEN: –which he`s been saying since 2016, his taxes and financials.
During the course of that same conversation, he said I`ve taken a huge hit
being President. Its cost me somewhere between $2 billion and $5 billion in
lost revenue being President, which is also completely bonkers and untrue.
Donald Trump does not have $5 billion to lose. Donald Trump has never been
close to deal flow worth $2 billion to $5 billion. At any point in his
career except in the late 1980s when he almost went broke. Right now,
between 2015 and 2019, he didn`t give up that much money. All of this is
obviously the same charade he`s been engaging with since he entered the
Oval Office which is this smoke and mirrors around his wealth because it
matters more to him than it matters to anybody else.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, what does it say to you that Republicans told Trump
and the White House, we cannot carry this one for you?
ALTER: It`s very important moment because it could be a prelude. Now, I
wouldn`t bet on Republicans turning on him because we`ve seen so much that
has not led them to do so, and, you know, we have Trump fatigue but we also
have Trump amnesia and all of us, I think, have forgotten all the times
that Republicans failed the character test of their generation and they
will again before this is done, but this suggested that there`s a
possibility that the dam could break and, you know, you have to develop
some muscle memory of standing up to the President and it might be possible
for them to do it in a more significant way a little bit down the road.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter and Tim O`Brien, thank you, both, for joining us
O`BREIN: Thanks Lawrence.
ALTER: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the clear and present danger of Mark
O`DONNELL: I have to remind myself not to laugh at Donald Trump sometimes.
Laughing is a natural reaction because Donald Trump is so relentlessly
buffoonish. But he is the President of the United States for another 15
months or so and because he`s President, Donald Trump`s buffoonery,
ignorance, publicly revealed stupidity, are both funny and dangerous.
We all need to laugh and the late night comedians have been doing a great
job for years now of gathering us together to laugh about Donald Trump and
the goofier Donald Trump gets, the better their comedy casts. But the
goofier Donald Trump gets the more dangerous he becomes because he`s
It is well documented that Donald Trump is the laziest President in
history. He is also most ignorant President in history. And he absolutely
doesn`t care about details. To compound the danger, all of that is also
true of his White House staff. That`s why Donald Trump and his White House
staff produce an endless stream of typos and incorrect statements like no
other White House in history.
I`m not talking about their deliberate lies here I`m only talking about
their mistakes, things they wish they hadn`t said. Donald Trump is in the
trouble he`s in tonight because he does not know how to care about details,
even when he`s trying to obstruct justice during the Mueller investigation
and even when he`s trying to force Ukraine to help him in his re-election
Donald Trump does not know how to care about details. Just ask Mark
Esperanto. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Yesterday Donald Trump tweeted this. Mark Esperanto, Secretary
of Defense, “The cease-fire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor
skirmishes that have end quickly. New areas being resettled with the Kurds
and USA soldiers are not in combat or cease-fire zones. We have secured the
oil bringing the soldiers home”.
We are not bringing the soldiers home. We have not secured any oil. And
Mark Esperanto did not say that because Mark Esperanto doesn`t exist. But
Donald Trump`s Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, also did not say that. Donald
Trump apparently is attributing a quotation to the Secretary of Defense
that he supposedly said to the media, but not true.
The Mark Esperanto part of that tweet was actually the part I took most
seriously because we have secured the oil is a standard Trump lie. That was
a deliberate lie. We`re bringing the troops home, deliberate lie.
But Mark Esperanto, that was a mistake. Does Donald Trump know his Defense
Secretary`s name? It took over two hours for the White House to correct it,
to correct that tweet. We live in a condition now where we don`t know
whether the President of the United States actually does know the name of
the Defense Secretary.
And we don`t know if he cares, and we don`t know if he cares about anything
involving any kind of detail. What as a generic problem could be more
dangerous in a President than not knowing how to care about detail?
Joining our discussion now is Norm Ornstein he is a Congressional Historian
and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. And Matt
Miller is back with us. And Norm, I`m sorry but I got fixated on Mark
Esperanto. I just couldn`t laugh it off yesterday. And I think this is the
I think we all laugh at some of this stuff and then there is other stuff
when we see it, we just look at it and realize how far we`ve fallen and how
dangerous a place we are in now.
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: So, Lawrence, when I first saw
this, I went to Twitter and typed in Esper to see if maybe this was auto
correct, which has happened to all of us. It wasn`t. This is what he typed
in. And what we know is and the word I`ve used since the beginning is
kakistocracy, government by the least and most unscrupulous among us, the
worst kind of government.
This reflects sloppiness as you say, a lack of concern, not even knowing
the names of his own cabinet members besides making up quotes from them.
That is unlike anything we have ever seen in American history.
O`DONNELL: And Matt, the staff, the staff lets this sit out there for over
two hours yesterday. And apparently no one knows there`s a problem.
MILLER: Yes. It`s really incredible. I mean, look, I was a staffer on the
Hill for years, like you were. I worked in the Executive Branch. If I ever
put out a press release with an error, I was modified and would try to
correct it instantly. The way that they do this reminds me of little bit
about the story of the Brown M&Ms with Van Halen.
Van Halen was famous for in their green rooms demanding that M&Ms to be
delivered with no ground M&Ms. And people thought they were - for it and
they explained later that they did that because they had these expensive
shows with pyrotechnics and heavy equipments that could fall on their heads
and kill them when they`re in their own show and they wanted to know that
the crew was paying attention to detail.
If you couldn`t get the M&M`s right in the green room, it meant that you
couldn`t pay attention to the stage and the band wouldn`t safe while they
were working. It is the same thing in this administration. Look, if the
President can`t get little details right, he`s not pay attention. You have
to look at the debacle in Syria right now is the perfect example.
The President made the decision he didn`t want troops there, fine. A
President that paid attention to details wouldn`t have just done things
willingly. He would have worried about how do we make sure that we get out
without seeing hundreds of ISIS prisoners escape? How do we get out in a
way that doesn`t leave to bloodshed of the Kurds? How do we get out in a
way that doesn`t give license to Iran and Russia to run wild?
But he doesn`t pay attention to the little details or the big details. I
think that`s one of the problems you see come up over and over again in the
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Norm, in an imaginary world where Donald Trump didn`t
have criminal impulses or any inclinations to cross legal lines at all.
This would be the central problem of the Trump White House and Donald Trump
himself, is that he cannot comprehend detail, never mind master detail. He
can`t even begin to get a grip on it.
ORNSTEIN: It`s true across the administration, though. He set the tone for
everybody else. When you lose hundreds if not thousands of children in a
child separation policy and can`t keep track of them despite court orders,
when you don`t file with renters their ability to keep their housing when
the shutdown occurred as the Department of Housing and Urban Development
All of this, the lack of interest in governing, the sadistic quality to it,
the corruption that goes along with it, they`re all part and parcel of the
same thing. It`s kakistocracy, it`s autocracy and it`s kleptocracy all
combined into one.
You`re right, you can make humor out of Esperanto, we could have done our
segment in the language of Esperanto, I suppose. But it`s not a laughing
matter because it`s all tied together with the corruption that we have and
that horrible governance that this country`s been put through for the last
almost three years.
O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein gets tonight`s “Last Word”. Norm Ornstein and Matt
Miller, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks Lawrence.
MILLER: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. The “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