New Parnas info TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell

Josh Lederman, Jim Himes, Bill Weld, Fred Hochberg




RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I want beer. It took almost 14 years with

prohibition was finally gotten rid off, finally overturned in 1933. And

that leads me to the best new thing in the world.


The anniversary of the centennial of prohibition I feel is a timely

reminder that sometimes our country makes terrible, terrible decisions.

Decisions that cause terrible harm to this country and to our – to its



But when we do that, we should remember that we can change our minds. We

can undo those things. We can get smarter and resolve to never do those

things again. We are capable of growth and learning as a country.


And that is the best new thing in the world today. Cheers. That does it for

us tonight. I will see you again very soon. Actually, see you tomorrow

morning when I will be a guest on “A.M. Joy” at 10:00 a.m. eastern time.

That`s tomorrow morning.


I will also tell you on Sunday night starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, MSNBC

is going to re-air both of the parts of my interview with Lev Parnas.

Again, Sunday night 10:00 p.m. See you there. Now, it`s time for the “Last

Word” where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: We can undo the things we`ve done wrong. We can

undo our mistakes. That`s a great way to leave us, Rachel. Thank you.


MADDOW: Cheers, Ali. Thanks.


VELSHI: We`ll see you Sunday night and we`ll see you Monday again. Thank

you friend – and tomorrow. We are seeing one reason why Senate Republicans

want to rush an impeachment trial. The material keeps coming and none of it

is good for Donald Trump.


At this rate, what will we know by Tuesday, day one of the impeachment

trial? We`ll get to all the new texts, documents, and audio that have just

come out this evening including new documents related to the House

Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes.


House Intelligence Committee member Congressman Jim Himes will join us.

Governor Bill Weld, who is running for the Republican presidential

nomination against Donald Trump, is here to put his Republican Party on



It is now or never to do their constitutional duty. And if all of that news

isn`t bad enough for the White House, there are not one but two stunning

stories out today from the new book “A Very Stable Genius,” which is also

on sale on Tuesday.


Including a new story about just how early Nancy Pelosi started standing up

to President Trump, and just how afraid some in the Trump orbit were of her

even before she became speaker.


But first, we`ve got breaking news tonight. The House Judiciary Committee

has released new impeachment documents against President Trump. The

documents contain text messages from Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of

Rudy Giuliani about the alleged surveillance of former U.S. ambassador to

Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.


The text messages include a series of exchanges between Robert Hyde, a

Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut and an unknown phone

number discussing what appears to be the whereabouts of Ambassador

Yovanovitch, “She has been there since Thursday. Never left the embassy.”


An audio file, which was also released was sent from an unknown account to

Robert Hyde and forwarded to Lev Parnas.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s confirmed. She`s in Ukraine.




VELSHI: The documents also show that Lev Parnas has frequent communication

with Derek Harvey, an aide to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes. Text

messages put Harvey in contact with Parnas throughout the spring of 2019.


The very same time Parnas was working with Giuliani and other Trump

associates to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Harvey mentioned the topic

of foreign assistance to Ukraine in late march 2019, sending Parnas a text

message saying, “Can we get materials?”


Within just four days or with just four days to go until the start of the

Senate impeachment trial, it remains to be seen how these new documents,

these texts, these recordings will impact proceedings, along with an

undisclosed file that has been transmitted to the House Judiciary Committee

with even more evidence.


Leading off our discussion tonight is Josh Lederman, national political

reporter for NBC News and Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney

General Eric Holder and MSNBC contributor.


Jonathan – I`m sorry, Josh, let`s start with you. You have been doing a

lot of the research. You`ve been to Kiev as part of your reporting on the

story. You have been looking through this – this new trove of documents,

texts, and audio that`s come out tonight. What stands out to you?



and another document dump showing that as much as we thought that we knew

about what happened behind the scenes over the past year or so with



There is so much more that we did not know and still have yet to uncover.

All of that, obviously, ramping up pressure for there to be witnesses, new

evidence entered as the impeachment moves into the Senate trial.


And in these new documents that were released just in the past couple of

hours, Ali, we have two buckets of information that are both pretty

troubling. One, as you were just mentioning, has to do with this guy Derek



He actually used to work for Trump at the White House on Iran and some

other issues. Now, works for the top Republican on the House Intelligence

Committee, Devin Nunes.


And what it shows is that House Republicans on the intelligence committee

were deeply involved in their own investigation into Ukraine matters and

trying to move forward the same kinds of things that President Trump,

through Rudy Giuliani and his associates, were.


You have all of these conversations between Lev Parnas and Derek Harvey

trying to actually set up Skype interviews with former prosecutors from

Ukraine who have made allegations about Joe Biden. Those are the same

prosecutors that Rudy Giuliani ultimately did interview.


And the other piece of this being these text messages showing that this

character, Robert Hyde, who purportedly had a surveillance operation on

Ambassador Yovanovitch was actually kind of copying and pasting information

that he had gotten from another Trump supporter who he, Robert Hyde,

identified today as Robert de Caluwe through our own reporting in NBC News

lining up phone numbers and photos. We believe that was the person who

provided this information about – purported whereabouts of Ambassador



VELSHI: This is kind of remarkable, this Robert Hyde character. Just when

you thought you`d met all the characters that your brain can handle in this

caper, Matt Miller, guys like this show up. What does tonight`s document

dump tell you, Matt? What picture does it paint for you that wasn`t already

painted? What part of the portrait does it complete?


MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, a couple things. First of all, I

think it show us that Lev Parnas, someone who is under indictment for

multiple felony counts in New York and has a long history of fraudulent

activity in his business life, is more honest than the leading Republican

member of the House Intelligence Committee.


You kow, he has been saying for months through his lawyer and then most

recently this week to Rachel Maddow, that he was working with Devin Nunes

and Nunes` staff. And Nunes when asked about it initially said – he

pretended he didn`t really know Parnas at all. And it turns out he wasn`t

telling truth, Lev Parnas was.


And I think, you know, these messages really do corroborate the story that

Parnas has been telling about how he was working, you know, with Rudy

Giuliani and others and with Devin Nunes.


And I think the picture, if I could add one thing to what Josh said that

these messages show is, it really paints a picture of how Trump was able to

take some of the most unethical and dishonest people from all different

spheres of Washington, D.C.


From inside his administration, from Capitol Hill, their private attorneys

that show up on Fox News all the time who he used in this plot that show up

in these text messages, as well as journalists- like for example, John



Able to take all of these people and use them in this plot to discredit and

smear and ultimately remove a U.S. ambassador and to manufacture dirt on

ones political opponents.


It`s the type of thing you might expect to see in a non-democratic country

where there is, you know, not really separation of powers and where the

state really controls the media. It`s not what you expect to see in the

United States.


VELSHI: Josh, let me ask you about some reporting from our investigative

reporter, Tom Winter, talking about some of this material that was handed

over that came from the FBI and the Southern District of New York.


The House Judiciary Committee released excerpts that they say are from Lev

Parnas` electronic calendar. Now, I don`t know that we`ve been able to

verify any of the information in here, but the calendar includes excerpts

of an appointment for breakfast with President Trump in New York City on

September 26th, 2019.


It gives a time – this is it on the screen. It`s very hard to read – it

gives a time of 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., but that is in universal time, which

would be 7:00 a.m. eastern at the time.


That`s, the FBI typically when they recover data from a phone, it comes out

in universal time. So you have to make that translation. What does that

mean to us? Does that mean that the president and – and Lev Parnas might

have had breakfast together?


LEDERMAN: We don`t know if they actually went ahead and had that breakfast,

but it does appear from these documents that at least the breakfast was

scheduled. And it really raises the question, Ali, of how is it possible

that as President Trump has continued to say, including today, that he

didn`t know Lev Parnas?


You don`t usually schedule breakfast with somebody that you don`t know. And

the evidence has continued to pile up, be it the multiple photographs, some

of which you`re looking at right now, that show Parnas meeting with the

president on several occasions


As well as Parnas` comments to Rachel Maddow last night saying that he had

been at a lot of small events, round tables, with the president that Trump

knew exactly who he was. It`s really calling into question the president`s

attempts to try to distance himself from Lev Parnas and these other

characters by suggesting that, you know, it might have been a photo at a

fundraiser but then he didn`t know who they were.


VELSHI: Matt Miller, what do you make of Lev Parnas` degree of cooperation,

the length of the interview with Rachel, the idea that he`s talking a lot?

Obviously, this is a guy in trouble who is trying to get himself into less



But the bottom line is he does seem to have come with receipts and texts

and recordings and photographs and things that, in theory, could be

corroborated because he`s stating dates and times and places.


MILLER: I`m very much glad, happy that he`s talking to Rachel Maddow

because he is shedding a lot of new light on this scandal. But with all due

respect to Rachel who we all love, he`s talking to the wrong people.


I suspect that what he`s after, he`s trying to – you know, people who come

under indictment, if you ever know anyone who`s been indicted, they feel

just beaten down. They feel isolated. They feel like all the world`s turned

against them.


And I suspect he`s trying to clear his name a little bit in the only form

he feels like he can right now. But what he really ought to be doing is

talking to the Southern District of New York.


And I suspect that thing that`s preventing that from happening is he

probably wants to come in and talk to them all about this scandal and all

about what he did with Rudy Giuliani and we know the Department of Justice

has said they don`t want to investigate that. That was a ruling from main

justice in Washington.


And what SDNY wants him to talk about are the actions for which he`s under

indictment and I suspect that`s where the disconnect is. As important as

the information he`s been able to share has been for, I think, for House

prosecutors. I think we`ll see it come up in the Senate trial,


As important it`s been for shedding light on the president`s misconduct, I

don`t know that it`s going to do a lot to help his legal case. He really

ought to be talking to the prosecutors who`ve indicted him.


VELSHI: Josh, talk to me about this person you said – Robert Hyde, who he

was getting his information from.


LEDERMAN: Yes, Anthony de Caluwe. So we spoke to a friend of his who said

that he`s Belgian. He spends a lot of time in Belgium, which explains why

the phone number is a Belgian phone number.


And if you look at his online social media, it`s just replete with pro-

Trump slogans, photographs of him at all kinds of Trump events and other

types of comments that makes clear that he is someone whose identity is

largely wrapped up around support for the president and make America great



And you see this as a kind of a pattern with a lot of these folks,

including Robert Hyde himself, where they ingratiate themselves in Trump`s

orbit by donating, showing up to these events, and trying to draw proximity

to the president and his aides.


VELSHI: It`s remarkable story. Thank you for your continued reporting on

it. Josh Lederman and Matt Miller, thanks to both of you. Joining us now is

Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is a member of the

House Intelligence Committee.


Sir, is your head spinning from the last 72 hours of information that has

come to light that I think largely corroborates a lot of the information

you already had but it`s just more detail, more flesh on the bones, if you




sort of reflecting on this, Ali. You know, I mean, it`s a revelation a day

or a revelation a week. I mean, remember it was just, you know, four weeks

ago or so that Sondland came before us and told the story only because he

was forced to of the phone call that he had with the president in which the

president asked him about the investigation.


You know, there`s just revelation after revelation, but it gets mixed up in

all of these characters like Rob Hyde and, you know, all these sort of

colorful characters that we sort of lose the line.


And the line that we can`t lose here, Ali, is that just every single fact -

- every single fact and believe me I`m acquainted with all of them having

been on the investigation from the beginning – points to some really

serious misbehavior that the Senate cannot possibly say we have all the



Without talking to Mike Pompeo, without talking to the chief of staff,

without talking to Rudy Giuliani, if the Senate says, gosh, we`ve heard

enough, we don`t need to talk to those people. It will be one of the most

irresponsible moments in American history because as you point out, every

single day, there is new and incriminating evidence.


VELSHI: But the senators are not blind to this information. Whether or not

they hear it in the Senate, whether or not it`s – these witnesses are

called or the documents are subpoenaed, the Senate is not blind to the

conversation that is going on around us, which indicate that the president

has been involved in some serious misdeeds. At what point does the chicken

come home to roost? At what point do they have to say we cannot avoid this

any longer?


HIMES: Well, I mean, it`s – there`s a really disappointing answer to that

question that just reflects the extent to which the country has become

tribal in its politics.


But more importantly than that, the extent to which Donald Trump and the

Republican Party have really become a cult. You know, you`re going to hear

about the same three or four senators who are in, you know, non-Trumpy

areas who will, you know, occasionally show flashes of impartiality.


But every other senator is going to consider the fact that if they turn

against Donald Trump, chiefly amongst them by the way, Mitch McConnell, who

is up for re-election in November, if they turn against Donald Trump

regardless of the fact, you know, we go back to shooting somebody an Fifth

Avenue and there being no consequences.


That if they turn against Donald Trump, they lose a primary. And very, very

sadly, despite the overwhelming evidence and, Ali, you`ve been watching

this, too. You know that at no point really have the Republicans engaged

with the body of evidence.


What they do is they say, well, Adam Schiff is a bad guy. The government

accounting office, which yesterday said – we haven`t even talked about

this – yesterday said that the administration broke the law. Well, the

government accounting office, it probably has Democrats in it.


VELSHI: Right.


HIMES: I mean, it`s just – sadly, it`s reflective of the fact that the

Republicans now are completely enthrall almost in a religious way to Donald



VELSHI: It`s the first time Lev Parnas called it a cult. When you say it`s

tribal, I mean, tribes change their leaders. This doesn`t do away with the

tribe of Republicans to say that Donald Trump has done things incorrectly.

I`m a little puzzled by that.


But let`s talk about Devin Nunes for a second because you were just talking

about Adam Schiff. What do you make of this communication that puts Lev

Parnas in proximity to Devin Nunes?


HIMES: Yes. Well, sadly, it`s not a surprise, you know. And I`ve watched

Devin Nunes since the day that Jim Comey came before our committee a year

and a half, two years ago and announced the investigation into the



From that moment on, Devin Nunes became attorney, advocate, private

investigator on behalf of the president. And this goes way back to when

Devin Nunes was trying to run a sort of one-man investigative campaign of

trying to hunt down the Steele dossier sources and this sort of thing.


And big picture here, you know, and look, he embarrassed himself, right. I

mean, as you know, a couple of weeks ago when he was asked about this, he

denied really having any memory of Lev Parnas. It turns out, of course, he

did. He had an eight-minute conversation with the guy.


So, you know, he`s damaged his own credibility. And what he`s done to the

country is rather than being what the Constitution would have him be, which

is a check and a balance on the president, he of course has become an

advocate and a fighter for the president.


And that`s a huge problem and further evidence of the extent to which the

Republican Party has become a cult in support of Donald Trump.


VELSHI: Well let`s see what happens in the next few weeks, congressman,

whether or not this piling on of evidence moves anybody to do the thing

that the constitution calls upon them to do. Congressman, good to see you.

Thank you for joining me.


HIMES: Thank you, Ali.


VELSHI: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Coming up, as new material

comes as some Republican senators are no doubt considering this weekend how

to proceed. This is a time of choosing. Republican presidential candidate

Bill Weld joins us next.




VELSHI: The impeachment of Donald Trump is the moment of truth for

Republican senators. The Constitution asks them to put their country, the

rule of law, and the weight of the evidence ahead of their political party

or ambitions.


And history, as it is being written right now, is holding Republican

senators accountable. Accountable to the oath they signed into history

yesterday, promising to do impartial justice.




JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Do you solemnly swear that in

all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John

Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial

justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?






VELSHI: The question, which the world will soon have an answer to, is

whether Republican senators will render that oath meaningless by ignoring

overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump has done wrong, or will they, “do

impartial justice” by considering the totality of the evidence that they

need to fulfill their constitutional duty as impartial jurors.


That totality of records and documents now include information emerging in

the last 72 hours, including just tonight, from documents handed over by

this man, Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of the president`s personal

lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.


Republican senators now know that a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency

concluded that the Trump administration broke the law in withholding

congressionally approved aid to Ukraine. He just wasn`t allowed to do that.


And evidence indicates that people inside the White House knew that in

real-time. Republican senators also have heard directly from Lev Parnas in

his astonishing interviews with Rachel Maddow.





what was going on. He was aware of all of my movements. He – I wouldn`t do

anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.


MADDOW: The president was aware that you and Mr. Giuliani were working on

this effort in Ukraine to basically try to hurt Joe Biden`s political

career. He was – he knew about that.


PARNAS: Yes, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden. It was never about





VELSHI: These revelations show that the American public does not have the

full truth about the extent to which President Trump abused his power. As

even more evidence and reporting could emerge, will Republican senators

give that truth the full consideration that it deserves in the Senate or

will they empower and enable President Trump by giving him an acquittal

without considering the necessary documents and witnesses?


Republican senators ought to consider this. What will Donald Trump do after

being vindicated when he feels he has escaped impeachment unscathed?

Remember the last time Donald Trump declared victory against our nation`s

checks and balances?


Special Counsel Robert Mueller had just testified before Congress about

Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. The day after Mueller`s

testimony, President Trump picked up the phone and asked the newly elected

Ukrainian president to meddle in our upcoming election by telling him to,

“do us a favor, though and to look into Joe Biden and his son Hunter.”


Joining me now is Bill Weld, former Republican governor of Massachusetts.

He is running for the Republican presidential nomination against President

Trump. And he has tweeted yesterday, Governor, good to see you again.


You`ve tweeted yesterday, “Worth noting that the oath administered to our

senators by Chief Justice Roberts requires fealty to the Constitution and

laws. It says nothing about loyalty to a political party or to Donald

Trump.” Your views are clear on this, Bill Weld, but this is the party you

are fighting to try to save.


BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Ali, I think the point is that

the Constitution requires the senators to hold a trial by jury in all cases

of impeachment. And in order to have a trial, you need evidence.


A charge is not evidence. It`s not even admissible as evidence. The charge

is the thing you have to prove. And when I worked on the Nixon impeachment,

I had to read the transcript of all cases of impeachment in the Senate, and

there were always witnesses.


They never said, oh, thank you, managers, for coming over with your charge.

We don`t want to hear any witnesses. We vote to acquit the accused in this

case. There`s a word for that and it would be cover-up.


VELSHI: Governor, you know, Lev Parnas has described this orbit around

Donald Trump as a cult. Jim Himes and I were just speaking about people are

tribal politically. But none of this speaks to who you are as a Republican.


Why are there not more Republicans like you out there saying we`re

Republicans? We`re not Democrats. We`re not changing our views to be

Democrats. But there`s something wrong with the way this guy has acted

according to our constitution.


WELD: Well, I think there are at least half a dozen Republicans who are

going to be tempted to follow the evidence, but the vast majority, so far,

have not given any indication of that. Their defense seems to be silence.


And as I`ve said in the past, I think if they stick with that, there`s

going to be a blood bath in the 2020 election and the Republicans will

suffer heavy losses in the Senate and lose control of the Senate and may

not be, in time, recognizable as the same party. I think they`re playing a

very risky game.


VELSHI: What does it do for them, sir because they are elected officials,

in some cases, in many cases? Why is that worth more than doing the right



WELD: Well, I think it`s an obsession with being re-elected. And I don`t

understand that having been the national chair of term limits when I was in

office. But it`s part of the poisonous atmosphere in Washington that we

need to get rid of.


There`s just too much hyper-partisanhood and no cooperation between the two

parties and, you know, I see state capitals like Boston where I was

governor for two terms, we absolutely did everything together and everyone

felt much better about it and they felt much better about the government.


And that`s exactly what we need in Washington, D.C. And if these senators

sit on their hands and say we don`t want to hear any evidence, I mean,

that`ll be a new low for Washington, D.C.


VELSHI: You`re not entirely alone in the wilderness. You and I sometimes

talk about this, what it feels like to be Bill Weld in a Republican Party

that`s shutting you out of a lot of primaries. But there is a group called

Republicans for the Rule of Law, and they are going to air some ads on “Fox

and Friends” and “Lou Dobbs Tonight” next week. Let`s just listen to what

one of them says.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Ambassador John Bolton. He was National Security

advisor to President Trump. He was in all the meetings in which the

president`s National Security team discussed withholding aid from Ukraine

in exchange for announcing investigations into the Bidens.


Now, Ambassador Bolton has agreed to testify before Congress. He`s willing

to do his duty to tell the truth. Are Senate Republicans willing to do

their duty to listen?




VELSHI: And it has some Senate Republicans in that image who are the ones

who are, as you said, the half a dozen or so who might be susceptible to

the message. Is that message effective?


WELD: Well, yes, I think so. I`ll tell you, I encountered that on the

(inaudible) all the time. I may not encounter it too much in the halls of

the Republicans in the Senate and the House in Washington, but out in the

field, I mean, my wife and I were just in Iowa for five days last week.

We`re in New Hampshire three or four days most weeks.


And people say, you know, can`t you change what`s going on in Washington?

Can`t you get rid of this guy? They don`t even want to say his name.

They`re just exhausted. And they want to move past all this.


And I think for the Republicans to sit on it and say we`re going to

preserve the status quo by simply smothering anything that might suggest we

should move on, I think that`s a recipe for disaster for the Republican



VELSHI: Governor, good to talk to you. Thank you for joining us. Republican

presidential candidate, Bill Weld.


WELD: Thank you, Ali.


VELSHI: All right. Coming up, a provocative new book about our self-

described stable genius in the White House provides the full picture of

what Donald Trump did and said to make former Secretary of State Rex

Tillerson describe him as an effing moron. That`s next.




VELSHI: Remember, when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly

called Donald Trump and effing moron? Well, today excerpts from the new

books - the new book, “A Very Stable Genius,” reveals stunning new details

from the briefing between Trump and his generals that prompted Rex

Tillerson to say that.


The book recounts how six months into his presidency, Rex Tillerson, along

with the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the Director of the National

Economic Council, Gary Cohn, were concerned by Trump`s lack of knowledge of

history, and even basic geography.


So they organized a tutorial to help educate Trump about the value of key

alliances, trade deals, and strategic deployment of U.S. troops. They used

visual aids maps, charts, even dollar signs to get his attention. Philip

Rucker and Carol Leonnig of “The Washington Post” right in the book, quote.

“Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe, but also allergic to the

dynamic of his advisors talking at him. His ricocheting attention span led

him to repeatedly interrupt the lesson.”


Now, according to the book, Trump raged about how the United States has

been ripped off when certain words like base or NATO were mentioned. He

fumed about wanting to get out of the Iran nuclear agreement before quote,

“Trump unleashed his disdain,” calling Afghanistan a quote, “loser war.”

That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at

the table, but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back



“You are all losers. I wouldn`t go to war with you people.” Trump told the

assembled brass. Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked,

“you`re a bunch of dopes, and babies.” You`re a bunch of dopes, and babies.


Joining us now, Zerlina Maxwell, Senior Director of Progressive Programming

at SiriusXM Radio and an MSNBC Political Analyst; Jennifer Rubin, Opinion

Writer at “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC Contributor.


Zerlina, we`re getting a little more information about what led a guy of

great composure like Rex Tillerson to say the kind of thing that we don`t

generally say in company, about Donald Trump. And the book just seems to

have example after example of the type of thing that would cause the people

around Donald Trump at the time to be outraged.



disturbing. The excerpts that are out today are terrifying. You have Donald

Trump seemingly completely ill-equipped to do the job as President.


And one of the things that`s really frustrating about this is the fact

that, he ran against somebody who was prepared to be president on day one,

who did have the experience, and we picked the businessman who doesn`t have

any experience.


So I think, as we`re heading into the next election, I think that`s a

question the American people should be thinking about. Do they want a

president who is prepared to take on these really tough challenges when you

have so many foreign policy hotspots in the world, and he has no

understanding of any of the underlying policy or any of the strategy that

would go into making life and death decisions.


VELSHI: Jennifer, one of our producers pointed out today that we are

heading into this election and there are examples in this book that would

provide cover to some of Donald Trump`s former cabinet secretaries and

others to come out and tell the American public that they cannot vote for

this man. That he is dangerous to national security, and yet, we haven`t

really seen that happen.


JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s exactly right. It is, I think,

great moral cowardice, frankly, that these people are sort of hiding in the

shadows that you will get, occasionally in daily news reports, a former

official, or you get a scene that is painted, obviously, by these very same

people who were in the room, but they`re unwilling to go on the record for

the protection of the country, for the protection of the Republic, for the

protection of the troops.


There`s one interesting little tidbit in there where Tillerson watches

essentially, Mattis, just being very passive in front of Trump. And he

realizes this guy`s a military man, he`s never got a buck the president.

Yes, well, first of all, that`s an indictment of putting military people in

the cabinet, because civilian leaders are supposed to speak up when they

think something is going wrong.


But it`s also very telling about Mattis. And people keep waiting for him to

be the hero, waiting for him to come forward and tell us, some deep dark

secret. But I don`t think these people are ever going to do it. And I think

the lesson here is that we need to pick presidents, not because we think

that they`ll have smart people around him, but that we picked smart

presidents because they get rid of the smart people around him or they

ignore him.


VELSHI: You know, you paraphrase that - that section of the book well. I

want to read it, because, I think, it deserves being read to our audience.

“Tillerson, in particular, was stunned by Trump`s diatribe and began

visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had

been staring straight dumbfounded at Mattis who was speechless. His head

bowed down toward the table.


Tillerson thought to himself, Gosh, darn it, Jim say something. Why aren`t

you saying something? But as he would later tell close aides, Tillerson

realized in that moment that Mattis was genetically a Marine, unable to

talk back to his Commander in Chief, no matter what nonsense came out of

his mouth.


Zerlina, we hoped in those days that these people were performing a public

service because the nation`s interests were at heart and that they were the

adults in the room - we used to use that term if you recall. What does it

tell you that went countered on to speak, they didn`t, and now when they

are, they`re still not speaking?


MAXWELL: It`s terrifying. And I think it`s been ongoing national security

threat. Donald Trump is a bully. And I think one of the things that we`re

learning is that, you don`t have a lot of folks in this administration that

are willing to stand up to the bully in the room.


And, unfortunately in this case, is the President who has all of the power

that goes along with his office. But you don`t - you wouldn`t even allow

somebody who has this level of experience, and this history of behavior and

lack of experience to be the assistant manager at a Starbucks.


I don`t understand why we`re in a moment where we are allowing this person

to continue on as the President of the United States with the nuclear

launch codes. And I think that, you know, when I first started mentioning

the launch codes in the first year of the administration, people on set

would be like, you`re overreacting, you`re going too far.


But I think that those are the stakes that we`re talking about. And until

we actually grasp just how much danger we are in as long as Donald Trump is

in charge, I think it`s going to be a very anxiety inducing year here as we

head into this election that, hopefully, will result in the American people

making a different choice.


VELSHI: Jennifer Rubin I invoked you without saying your name when I was

talking to Governor Weld a little while ago, in asking that in this moment

of truth, because that`s where we are. This next week is going to be a

moment of truth. Republican members of the Senate - but Republicans in

general, are going to have to send a message that their fealty is to their

constitution and their country, rather than their party.


The greatest cost that you have pointed out many times in your writing and

on the show. The great cost to Republicans who do the right thing in coming

weeks and months will be losing their seat.


RUBIN: Yes, this is - they don`t go to Senator jail for saying something

out of school. They don`t suffer great financial ruin. Many of these people

are wealthy or they have jobs in the private sector. The only thing that

might happen to them is that they might lose their seat.


But for so many of these people, that`s the only thing that matters. Their

entire sense of self-worth, their place in society, all of their ego stems

from holding on to that seat and so they will do anything. They will

humiliate themselves, they will knowingly avoid - willfully avoid evidence

of gross misconduct and they will say things that they know are patently

untrue, because they so badly want to hang on to power.


And this is cravenness. This is cowardice of the first order. And, I think,

voters have got to be able to say to these people, listen, we expect you to

at some point, Buck your party, buck your own personal interest and do

what`s right. And the only remedy for this is at the ballot box.


And you`ve seen a lot - it came out yesterday in the Morning Consult polls,

all of the senators who are up for reelection, none of them have a approval

rating that`s over 45%. These people are very unpopular already. So I don`t

know how they think they`re going to kind of get away with this, and

they`re going to pretend that they don`t know what`s going on, or they`re

going to pretend there`s not enough evidence, or they`re going to hide from

the evidence.


But it is really a sad, sad scene. And I think the level of public

cowardice from people in the administration who used to be in the

administration, in the Congress and in the Senate is really quite sobering

and quite disturbing. We do not expect our public servants to be angels,

but we do expect them to be decent human beings. And right now you have to

be very depressed that one party has decided to sell their souls to the



VELSHI: Stay with us both of you. We`re going to take a quick break. When

we come back, what happened in the room when Donald Trump met Nancy Pelosi

days after the Women`s March, protesting Trump`s inauguration?




VELSHI: We`ve seen House Speaker Nancy Pelosi take on Donald Trump, but

today we`re learning about another showdown that surprised even Steve

Bannon. The new book, “A Very Stable Genius,” details how Nancy Pelosi

challenged Donald Trump at a reception, the Monday after his inauguration.


Quote, “Pelosi assumed Trump would open the conversation on a unifying

note, such as by quoting the founding fathers or the Bible. Instead, the

new president began with a lie. You know, I won the popular vote. He

claimed that there had been widespread fraud with 3 to 5 million illegal

votes for Clinton.


Pelosi interjected, Well, Mr. President, that`s not true,” she said.

There`s no ever evidence to support what you just said, and if we`re going

to work together, we have to stipulate to a certain set of facts.”


According to the book, the White House Chief Strategist at the time, Steve

Bannon, whispered to his colleagues, quote, “She`s going to get us. Total

assassin. She`s an assassin. Zerlina Maxwell and Jennifer Rubin are back

with us.


Zerlina this is a constantly interesting topic, Nancy Pelosi standing up to

and being a thorn in the sight of the President. What we didn`t know, until

this book, is how early that started.


MAXWELL: It`s not surprising to me at all. I`ve interviewed Nancy Pelosi a

few times in my career, and every single time I`m always impressed with how

tough she is. She is no nonsense. She literally does not flinch. One time I

asked her, how does she deal with all the criticism and hatred she receives

from the right wing. And she leaned in and basically said, I do not care.

I`m just doing my job.


And so, I think when you`re focused on what you`re trying to achieve for

the Democratic Caucus, and when you`re implementing your strategy and

executing it properly, I don`t think that you do flinch, especially when

you`re up against an adversary who has no idea what they are doing.


And Donald Trump is completely out of his depth in this particular

position. And she`s somebody who has such years of experience and successes

in different aspects of leadership throughout the House, and also in her

former tenure year as Speaker where she never lost a floor vote. So she`s

just somebody who is in a - on a different level then Donald Trump, and I`m

not surprised it started immediately in the administration.


VELSHI: Jen your take?


RUBIN: Yes, I think she has two superpowers over Donald Trump. First of

all, she treats him like a spoiled child. I think your experience as a

mother and a grandmother is absolutely relevant here. She doesn`t put up

with temper tantrums. She calls him out when he is projecting, as she often

does. She tells him to basically be quiet or you`re not telling the truth.

She`s fearless in that regard.


And her other superpower is that she is absolutely exquisitely in touch

with her caucus. She knows what they need. She knows what parts of her

caucus need some help, what others don`t. She doesn`t get too far out ahead

or too far behind.


The way she has slowly brought them all together to a degree of unanimity

that we thought was probably impossible a year ago on impeachment, the way

she held back the articles, allowing the to build, this was masterful. This

was a Maestro - a symphony conductor, really bringing the orchestra along.

And Donald Trump has never experienced someone with that level of control

either personal or his profession.


VELSHI: It`s kind of the opposite of the way he rolls with things. Thank

you to both of you this evening. Zerlina Maxwell and Jennifer Rubin.


Coming up, one thing we shouldn`t lose sight of amid all the news about

impeachment, is that Donald Trump is bad at deals. That`s next.




VELSHI: Today, Donald Trump was mad about impeachment, but he`s also mad

about something else. Not enough praise for his China announcement. Years

from now, when we look back at this day, nobody`s going to remember Nancy`s

cheap theatrics. They will remember though, how President Trump brought the

Chinese to the bargaining table and delivered achievements, few ever

thought were possible.


But it turns out by many metrics, the deal isn`t worth celebrating.

According to Fred Hochberg, the Former President and Chairman of the U.S.

Export-Import Bank, “The truth is that the negative effects of Trump`s

trade war with China linger on and the success of the USMCA is mostly due

to the hard work of Democrats in Congress.” Fred Hochberg will join us when

we come back.







We just made the two largest trade deals in history - one with China and

the other one with Mexico, Canada.




VELSHI: Joining us now Fred Hochberg, the Former President and Chairman of

the U.S. Export-Import Bank. He`s also the author of the brand new book,

“Trade is Not a Four Letter Word.”


Fred, in a normal world, these two deals, if they really were deals, and

they`re not necessarily the deals we think they are. But two major trade

deals like that would be all we`d be talking about in a - for a lucky

President that might be all you talk about for a year.



absolutely right, but not in this case.


VELSHI: Because these deals are not exactly what the President represents

them to be. The China deal in the first place is more of a celebration of a

fire that`s been extinguished that you set while playing with matches next

to the curtains.


HOCHBERG: You said it perfectly. Exactly. We - you set a fire. You put it

on, you say, see how good I am? I put the fire out. This is - people have

called this a truce, a ceasefire. And part of the problem is, President

Trump is obsessed with trade deficits - bilateral trade deficits. You

cannot find - the only economist who believes in that is Peter Navarro in

the White House. So that`s part of the problem.


VELSHI: But who can he argue as better off as a result of where we are

today then before he started this? He definitely captured a sentiment

across America of people who feel that they have been - they`ve been done

wrongly by these trade deals. There`s some legitimacy and some validity to

that. But he hasn`t actually improved the stage for them.


HOCHBERG: No, he is - he pictures Americans as sort of crouching victims,

and he`s going to save everybody. And he has set that up, and that`s how

his presidency is premised on. So he sets that up, and therefore says, see,

he I`m the hero, I took care of everything for you. I`m dad.


VELSHI: Who`s better off because of Donald Trump`s China deal?


HOCHBERG: Well, in some ways - listen, not fighting, not having an active

cold war is better than having one. So it is better that we have ceased

this nonsense that we`ve gone through for the last two years, that`s been

very damaging - damaging to farmers, damaging to workers, damaging to our

status in the world. And looking at America as someone who`s providing

leadership globally.


VELSHI: And damaging even to the one constituency that has benefited from

trade for the last 50 or 60 years, and that is consumers. This year, we`ve

even seen damage to that.


HOCHBERG: Right consumers is damaged. And the real people he seems to worry

about are farmers, and frankly, I`m not sure that these farmers are going

to want to sell all - try and sell all those goods to China for one or two

years. And then what? And then they`re going to lose that sale again.


So whether they`re going to really plant more fields and to try and do all

that to capture a market for a year or two is not clear to me that China

will put our American farmers or put all their quote unquote, “soybeans in

one basket” and sell to the Chinese.


VELSHI: Well, we`ve learned that last, right? Because we were selling

something our two-thirds of our soybeans to China. When this trade deal

started, China started nurturing relationships with other countries that

could provide them with large quantities of soybeans. And a lot of farmers,

who I`ve spoken to, and soybean farmers in particular, who say, we`re not

expecting to get all that market back anyway.


HOCHBERG: Right. And you have to remember, there`s been this horrible -

about the pigs in China, where almost 50 percent of the pigs in China have

died from this horrible virus. So their need for soybeans and animal feed

is drastically reduced right now. So that`s another question that is

hanging over this deal.


VELSHI: Does he get rewarded for this? Because he talks a lot about the

fact that the stock market is at record high, unemployment is very low.

He`s tying it all together like he`s this remarkable economic success.


HOCHBERG: Well, I think - listen, people like a little more stability. So

this is more stable than more threats of tariffs and more instability that

he`s been fostering and festering in the global economy for a long time.


So in some ways, yes. I think the market is trying to say we need a little

more stability. China, I think, needs more stability more than anything,

because Is the uncertainty that the tariffs have placed has really put them

at a great risk.


VELSHI: Fred, good to see you again. Thank you so much. Fred Hochberg,

joining us tonight.


HOCHBERG: Thanks for having me.


VELSHI: And that is tonight`s “Last Word.” I`m Ali Velshi. “The 11th Hour

with Brian Williams” starts right now.





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