IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 5/9/2016

Guests: Christian Schneider, David Corn, Charlie Sykes, Rick Tyler, Jake Sullivan, Hari Sevugan, Jeffrey Pollack, Darren Samuelsohn, Trae Crowder

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: May 9, 2016 Guest: Christian Schneider, David Corn, Charlie Sykes, Rick Tyler, Jake Sullivan, Hari Sevugan, Jeffrey Pollack, Darren Samuelsohn, Trae Crowder

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD, Ari Melber is in for Lawrence tonight, good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel, I`m glad you`re covering Judge Moore, it`s a story a lot more of politics than law in his case.

MADDOW: Yes, God bless him, yes, thanks, Ari, appreciate it, man --

MELBER: Thank you --

MADDOW: Thanks.

MELBER: Ted Cruz will be back to work in the Senate tomorrow, you may have heard a week after his presidential bid ended, but it is Donald Trump`s Thursday meeting with the Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell that has everyone talking.

And it may bring an answer to the question, whose party is it?




REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think it would be a mistake to pretend that our party is unified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the grand old party is mired in a modern day civil war.

RYAN: After we just went through a very divisive primary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet that he told Trump a year ago that he`d be their Republican nominee, he would have said, but I`m a Democrat.

TRUMP: Well, I thought I`d do it, I didn`t know I was going to do it this early.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Donald Trump thinks this is his party now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like ourselves, don`t we? Look at that face? We love ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Palin is ready to end Paul Ryan`s career after he refuses to back Trump.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: His political career is over --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we`ve landed on the fighting presidential matchup between us. God lifts liberal Democrats and Hillary Clinton.


TRUMP: I could focus on Hillary, crooked Hillary.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m not going to run an ugly race.

TRUMP: She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler.

CLINTON: I am going to run a race based on issues.

TRUMP: He was impeached because he lied -- I did not have sex with that woman and then a couple of months later, I`m guilty.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Entertainment, this is supposed to be a country.


MELBER: Good evening to you, I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. And Donald Trump is on top of the ticket but is he in charge?

That is the question animating several skirmishes in the GOP right now. Tonight, Nbc News has learned Trump`s top aides just met with RNC officials to plot general election strategy.

We know that it was a three-hour briefing by D.C. operatives on the tools, staff and money that the RNC can offer in the general election.

Now, that coordination comes as tension continues between Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan who has taken the unusual position of declining to back his party`s chosen nominee yet.

But in a candid interview today with the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel". He offered to get out of Trump`s way if the nominee doesn`t want him chairing the Summer`s convention, and then he balanced out that olive branch by knocking Trump for failing to focus on true unity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he asked you to step down as chair of the convention, would you --

RYAN: I`ll do whatever, he`s the nominee. I`ll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention.

We have to unify the party if we`re going to be at full strength to win in the Fall which is our goal.

Which I definitely want to see happen. And to pretend we`re unified isn`t going to put us at full strength to win in the Fall.

We have to actually unify.


MELBER: There is a real disagreement here. Trump doesn`t see it that way, and he suggested unity means simply backing him.

He appeared to threaten to bounce Ryan from chairing the convention on "Meet the Press" this weekend and suggested that the Republican Party founded over 150 years ago is now simply, completely the party of Trump.


TRUMP: Does the party have to be together? Does it have to be unified? I`m very different than everybody else, perhaps who`s ever run for office, I actually don`t think so.

I have to stay true to my principles also, and I`m a conservative. But don`t forget, this is called the Republican Party, it`s not called the conservative party.

You know, there are conservative parties, this is called the Republican Party.


MELBER: Now, that`s only the beginning of Paul Ryan`s problems on the issue.

This morning, one of Trump`s highest profile supporters, Sarah Palin, yes, that`s Sarah Palin said she will take the extreme measure of working to defeat Speaker Ryan by backing his primary opponent in Wisconsin.


PALIN: I think Paul Ryan is soon to be `Cantored`, as in Eric Cantor. His political career is over, but for a miracle because he`s so disrespected the will of the people.

And yes, as the leader of the GOP, the convention certainly, he is to remain neutral and for him to already come out and say who he will not support was not a wise decision of his.


MELBER: It`s not just Sarah Palin, tonight, conservative commentator and former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan lashing out at Paul Ryan over this dispute, saying, "Paul Ryan in declaring that he cannot now support Trump and imposing conditions during his support has crawled out on a long limb.

Trump cannot capitulate, he has to saw if off, this is one Private Ryan we cannot save."

Now, Ryan will find out if Trump is following that kind of attack on Thursday. And late today, Senate Republican leaders announcing they will also meet with Trump on that day.

Donald Trump is certainly right about one thing. Most nominees do get their congressional leaders support pretty much automatically.

This week, he`s going to test if he can get it at all. Joining us now is Christian Schneider; columnist for the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel", who is one of those reporters in that room talking to Paul Ryan today as well as Charlie Sykes, radio host on "WTMJAM" in Milwaukee and editor-in-chief of "Right Wisconsin".

A leader of the "Never Trump" movement as well as David Corn from "Mother Jones", an Msnbc political analyst.

Hello everyone, Christian, what did you pick up from Paul Ryan in that room, talking about Trump today?

CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER, COLUMNIST, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL: Well, yes, so, Paul Ryan is now the leader of the Republican wing of the Republican Party.

So, I thought it was a little odd if he were at a convention where he didn`t support Donald Trump as the -- as the nominee for him to be chairing it.

So, I asked him, obviously, if he would continue to do so, he said, you know, it`s Trump`s party at the convention, if he wants to do -- I`ll do whatever he wants me to do.

And so, that`s kind of where we got there. It was almost kind of a --

MELBER: Did he seem genuine? Did he seem to feel that way or have been brought around to that position by pressure?

SCHNEIDER: It was almost one of these like -- almost inviting Trump to disinvite him type of thing.

You know, I`ve heard more magnanimous ways of putting it, saying, you know, now Ryan knows Trump, is in charge of the party or whatever.

But no, I think Ryan probably wants nothing to do with it and at this point, he`s -- you know, he`s just trying -- the cat trying to get away from Pepe Le Pew at this point.

MELBER: Yes, I`ve heard the -- I`ve heard Pepe Le Pew, I`ve heard the brier patch, David Corn, there`s a lot of ways that Paul Ryan might be doing himself a favor.

And yet, there`s something I just want to be clear and in a sense fair to the nominee. There is something unusual going on in his position, even though what he`s asking Trump to do is not unusual.

Take a listen to Ryan as well today talking about what it takes to unite Republicans.


RYAN: For all kinds of conservatives. For all the different wings of the conservative movement.

There are some bedrock principles that really mattered to us. And that`s what you must unify around in my opinion so that we can have the kind of campaign we need to have going forward.

It`s important to understand that there are a lot of conservatives who felt alienated in the process or who are not there right now.

And if we`re going to win in this Fall, we`ve got to unify all wings of the party.


MELBER: So, David, if you take --


MELBER: Paul Ryan at his word, one way to do that would be to give some nominal support to the nominee and then work on the uniting, rather than bucking someone who just beat 16 people and got the plurality.

CORN: Well, I don`t take him at his word, and I don`t mean that in bad faith.

But this issue of unifying with Donald Trump is something that I don`t think any reasonable, rational Republican can find a path forward on.

I mean, that means unifying with a man who says we should keep Muslims out of this country, who attacks the other candidates, likely candidate in general election, Hillary Clinton for basically being a woman.

Who wants to build this wall, who has called Mexican immigrants rapists. And you can -- or who doesn`t understand what the nuclear triad is, and who has registered more Pinocchios for lying than any other candidate running this year.

I mean, unity is not an option for anybody who has a degree of faith or pride or any belief in electing somebody who is not a maniac.

MELBER: Charlie, let me bring in --

CORN: And Charlie Sykes can get into this --

MELBER: Charlie Sykes --

CORN: But I mean, that --

MELBER: Talk about that?

CORN: That`s a problem the Republicans have. It`s not about finding --


CORN: A compromised position, it`s about how to deal with Donald Trump.

MELBER: Charlie?

CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST: Well, yes, I mean, if you -- before you get on the Trump train, you ought to check what`s in the baggage car because you`re getting all of that.

And you know, what I find really remarkable about this is that, you know, considering how extraordinary the hostile takeover for the Republican Party was that, that apparently the Trump supporters believe the conservatives.

Leaders of the party like Paul Ryan should simply capitulate, should simply surrender without even asking questions, without even having a conversation about some of those things that David Corn was just mentioning.

Because it`s not just right-left conservative issues, it`s what are you getting with Donald Trump? Is he going to change his tone?

And what -- I think we`ve seen in the last week is the fact that this is a man who is not prepared to make a pivot.

He is not becoming more presidential, he is not being gracious. He certainly could have said at some point, hey, I know this was a tough primary.

I know that it is my job to reach out and begin to persuade people, you know, on the conservative wing of the party.

I`m more than happy to do that. Instead, what have they done? They`ve unleashed the flying monkeys; you know, the Pat Buchanans and the Sarah Palins.

I mean, think we`re right here in the age of Trump. They do have Sarah Palin being one of the arbiters of what is rational conservative discourse in America today.

MELBER: Well, and Charlie, he doesn`t seem -- people talk so much about the pivot, the primary may be like the godfather where you have to knock everyone out and it`s a zero sum game.

That`s not the general --

SYKES: Yes --

MELBER: You have to do addition.

SYKES: Right.

MELBER: In your view as a Trump critic, does he even get that?

SYKES: No, I mean, I think that what you saw in the last week was, that he`s not interested in unifying the party.

An that maybe he is constitutionally incapable of unifying the party. He is incapable of doing that kind of outreach or of changing his approach to his critics and the people that he`s going to need in this election.

Look, it`s a matter of mathematics. If you do not have addition to, you know, given where he`s at on some of these demographic groups.

If you are not able to add in the main constituencies of the Republican Party, there`s no way he can win. He`s got to know that --

MELBER: Right --

SYKES: But perhaps the man just lacks the self control to be able to do what needs to be done at this point in the campaign.

MELBER: So, Christian, as a Paul Ryan watcher, is this a prelude to some sort of kumbaya deal or do you see Paul Ryan going into November with this distance from Trump?

SCHNEIDER: You know, Paul Ryan is a bedrock conservative and has been his entire life.

So, I don`t think you`re going to see a meeting on Thursday, you know, where they sit down and eat a sandwich and suddenly, you know, Paul Ryan is on board with Donald Trump unless Trump is some kind of, you know, hypnotist.

And you know, I don`t -- on the other side, I don`t see Trump changing his behavior to the point where Paul Ryan could actually end up supporting him.

So, maybe there`s something here or there, maybe they can agree on. But you know, Paul Ryan is really trying to give cover to his members in the House of Representatives.

Some of those people that say, look, we can`t go and stand on a stage with Donald Trump, he`s too embarrassing, everything he says is going to come back to us.

We`re going to get asked to respond to, you know, every intrepid comment --

MELBER: Right --

SCHNEIDER: He makes. And so he`s given cover to those -- to those of his members down the ballot.

MELBER: So, David, I want you to speak to the counter argument to all this, which was surfaced by among others, Rachel Maddow earlier tonight.

That, yes, we can find these examples and Paul Ryan is a biggie. But there is in her argument a heck of a lot more prominent Republicans who are coming around to Trump.

As she shows polling showing already 80 percent, plus Republicans preferring him and people like the former Texas Governor Rick Perry and others who had sworn up and down Trump was terrible, now rushing to endorse him.

What about the idea that a lot more Republicans ultimately get on this train?

CORN: Well, there was a Utah congressman Republican who previously called Trump our Mussolini, his words, not mine.

And he`s now endorsed Trump. I think there are a lot of people in the Republican Party from the top to the bottom who may be opportunist, who may hate Hillary Clinton so much that they are going to go along with Trump regardless of what they really believe.

I think this is a moment of truth for many Republicans. You know, do you take a guy like Donald Trump -- and I don`t believe in many pivoting.

We have watched him for over a year as a -- as a presidential candidate, we`ve watched him for a year before that.

They know who and what he is. He`s not going to change, and so, the moment of truth is, do you accept this as a president regardless of ideologies or issues?

MELBER: Well, his positions may change and his temperament and his approach and his style of --

CORN: Exactly --

MELBER: Leadership does not change, we`ve seen this --

CORN: The type of person he is --

MELBER: Yes, exactly. David Corn and Christian Schneider, thank you both for joining us, Charlie Sykes stays with us, we`ll see you later in the show.

Now coming up, Donald Trump may have trouble convincing another key-voting bloc to go to the polls in this general election.

Why this election is making some evangelical Christians literally "sick to their stomachs" if Trump can`t convince them to vote in November, does he pony up for a loss?

And in the war room tonight, Hillary Clinton`s campaign trying to capitalize off Trump`s tax plan.

What is their strategy and will it work? Also, the rising YouTube star known as the Liberal Redneck sharing his views on this race for president.

This is a LAST WORD exclusive, stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Transgender, Liberal Redneck. I`m switching up this week, you all, because this week I ain`t even got my red up. No, (INAUDIBLE), I`ll call him (INAUDIBLE).



MELBER: Pastor Gary Fuller in Lincoln, Nebraska, tells the "Washington Post" that he "has a hard time stomaching Trump as the Republican nominee and plans to vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday, even though the senator has dropped out of the race, of course.

And it turns out Pastor Fuller is not the only evangelical person, evangelical leader or follower saying they won`t vote for Trump. That story is next.


MELBER: Donald Trump exploded many premises about how to win a Republican primary, but not all of those unconventional victories automatically translate to a general election.

Some evangelical leaders are saying they won`t back Trump in this general election and they are of course a determined voting bloc, often critical to Republican success.

Consider that when Bush was re-elected in 2004, about 1 out of 4 general election voters identified as evangelicals and they broke overwhelmingly for Bush 79 to 21.

Trump has won support from many voters who do identify as evangelicals in the primaries in that smaller voting box.

But it doesn`t ensure success among a larger pool here in November. Religious conservatives are concerned about Trump, as a "Washington Post" headline blares today, "There`s Nobody Left: Evangelicals Feel Abandoned By GOP after Trump`s Ascent".

One of those evangelicals is Reverend Russell Moore; a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention who said this about Trump in a new interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a Republican Party where we`ve had leaders who have said for a generation that character matters, that virtue matters.

And now we see some leaders wishing just to sweep those things away. The Donald Trump campaign has been about the selling of Donald Trump.

We`re looking though at a situation where there`s a reality television character who is saying let`s not just accept what we see as cultural decay, let`s glory in it.

And I think that`s a problem.


MELBER: A substantive exchange there, a substantive criticism, many ways a nominee could address it.

Here`s what Trump tweeted, "Russell Moore is a truly terrible representative of evangelicals and all of the good that he stands for, a nasty guy with no heart."

Not exactly turning the other cheek. And joining me now is Rick Tyler; former national spokesman for Ted Cruz and an Msnbc contributor.

And still with us, radio host Charlie Sykes. Charlie, your thoughts on that response and whether a candidate should sort of mix up how tough they are on political opponents versus say religious leaders.

SYKES: Well, as I said before though, Donald Trump has a chance now to show the different side of him, right?

That he`s going to be gracious, that he`s going to be presidential. And what does he do? He lashes out at a minister and this has been the pattern that we`ve seen, you know, when anyone criticizes him or challenges him.

You would think that there would be just a little bit of maybe hesitancy, do you really want to go with that kind of language against somebody, you know, like Reverend Moore? Or -- and by the way, you know, the juvenile level of the -- of the shots.

But this is going to be a real problem for him because and maybe Rick Tyler can explain this.

Because this is a one thing and I will admit, you know, that I don`t -- I do not get about this year`s campaign.

Why so many evangelicals supported Donald Trump knowing what we know about his character, his behavior, his obvious indifference and his sort of Christian values.

And this has been something that I have asked and tried to figure out, and you know, when all of this is over, and they would look back on this as one of the great mysteries of this campaign.

MELBER: Right, I think the response there is rude, is childish, it`s really unbecoming a leader.

And yet, Rick, the flip side would be that Donald Trump was, you might say, candid in addressing evangelicals in the primaries.

Not pretending to play much of a role. I don`t know if you caught "SNL`s" impression of your old boss, Ted Cruz, (INAUDIBLE) this weekend and I won`t ask you to comment on it if you don`t want to.

But part of the joke was the idea that Ted Cruz was too sanctimonious about these issues. Here is Donald Trump when asked about forgiveness before religious audience in the primaries.

Here was his fairly blunt answer.


TRUMP: I`m not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there, I don`t think so.

I think I -- if I -- if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don`t bring God into that picture.

I think in terms of let`s go on and let`s make it right.



RICK TYLER, FORMER NATIONAL SPOKESMAN FOR TED CRUZ: Well, I mean, that was a stunning moment in the campaign because Donald Trump is a Presbyterian, and a Presbyterian is a liturgical church, and in a liturgical church they recite the Lord`s prayer.

And in the Lord`s prayer, you ask for forgiveness, so it`s kind of strange like --


Did he like, you know, lip-read through that part or just sort of skip it? You know, it just was very revealing.

But to answer a part of Charlie`s question, a lot of -- if you drill down into evangelicals, many self-identified evangelicals are not church-going evangelicals.

They call themselves evangelicals because their parents belong to evangelical church, they may have gone to a church when they were a child.

But they still call themselves evangelicals even though they`re really as secular as anybody else who doesn`t attend church.

Ted Cruz lost those people, Donald Trump won them, and Ted Cruz won the people who when you ask them, do you go to church every week?


TYLER: They say yes and if you go, did you say -- did you go last Sunday? Which is really getting to the root of the problem.

Ted Cruz did win those people, but nevertheless, there was a lot of evangelicals, self-described and even those who were church going that did support Donald Trump --

MELBER: Well --

TYLER: And it was a problem in the strategy of the campaign.

MELBER: And Rick, looking forward as a policy, you`ve got some folks saying they want to fight over the platform, the "New York Times" reporting today some Cruz allies saying that there are red lines so to speak on issues related to their religious beliefs that they want in the platform.

Do you think that`s a place for Cruz allies to push?

TYLER: It seems moving in that direction, you know, there`s a surprising number of -- is not surprising.

The Cruz campaign has done a really an amazing job led by Ken Cuccinelli of making sure and all for the second ballot strategy which may be mute now.

But there will be many Cruz delegates in Cleveland and they want to make sure that we don`t eviscerate the platform.

Now, the platform is a set of ideas that a Republican Party can rally behind, and one of the most important ones is life and the sanctity of life.


TYLER: Marriage is defined between one man and one woman and free market economics.

And so, there are the people who are conservatives in the party do not want to see those planks gutted in the Republican Party.

MELBER: Charlie, is that an important fight?

SYKES: I think it`s a necessary fight to have at this point. You know, looking forward, I find Rick`s explanation to be very interesting.

Because I do wonder whether there`s going to be a lot of bias remorse among evangelical Christians that bought into the Donald Trump soundbites when they realize exactly what he`s all about.

Whether there`s going to be a backlash. I also think there`s going to be a reckoning coming at some point among the religious leaders.

Those who were willing essentially to sell out many of their principles and you know, tenets of their faith to support Donald Trump.

I think very much like there`s going to be a reckoning for the conservative media. You know, when people say, you know, who sold out?

Who was shilling during this particular period? I think you`re going to see the same thing among Christian churches.

I mean, the Jerry Falwells of the world, at some point they`re going to have to explain why they chose to do this.

MELBER: Charlie Sykes and Rick Tyler, thank you both for your time tonight. The state of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice are suing each other over transgender Americans rights.

A law in North Carolina was one of the things that YouTube star, Liberal Redneck sounded off about, and tonight, he has something to say about the 2016 elections, that is coming up.


MELBER: Coming up, in the war room, operatives who have been on the inside assess how the Clinton campaign is trying to turn Trump`s tax plan into an attack on his claims to populism.

But first, here`s how it looked on the campaign trail today.


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump has one heck of a task in front of him to unify a broken Republican party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now the grand old party is mired in a modern day civil war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far he won`t rule out over throwing the Republican`s convention chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ryan`s aides say the two haven`t spoken since March.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump resurrects the impeachment scandal in his toughest attack yet on both Clintons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to have to lot to talk about in this campaign.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump has really gone after your husband and even you as an enabler --

CLINTON: I`m not running against him. He`s doing a fine job of doing that himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Christie going to lead Donald Trump`s White House leadership team should Trump win the presidency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flip-flop, Trump does a 180 on raising taxes on the rich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clinton campaign has been very clear that every time he does that, they`re going to try to remind voters of his initial statements.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to support Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, I`ve known him for 25 years.

SANDERS: Oh, you know Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a massive force. It`s a big tsunami coming.

SANDERS: Oh, I get it, you don`t think he`s a brilliant, successful business man?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better watch out because he`s going to fix it. Is he? I don`t know but he has a brand to protect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you`re a Democrat, would it make you more likely to vote for him now that he`s going to raise taxes on the wealthy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never vote for him anyway.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. It is time for tonight`s war room and presidential campaigns. And the war room is of course where top strategists develop and disseminate messages that can break or break a campaign. And Donald Trump is running an unusual one where his words and tweets are the front line of his war room. He hasn`t even hired a pollster yet. The Clinton campaign uses a more traditional, they would say tested play book, and today their war room seized on Trump`s new tax comments.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I come up with the biggest tax cut by far for any candidate, anybody and I put it in. But that doesn`t mean that`s what we`re going to get. We have to negotiate. The thing I`m going to do is make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks because they have been absolutely shunned. The other thing I`m going to fight very hard for business. For the wealthy, I think frankly it`s going to go up and you know what, it really should go up.


MELBER: Here are the actual facts on Trump`s written plan. This is from the Nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "The wealthiest would get $1.3 million in new tax cuts under Trump." Now Clinton aides are seizing on that to attack him as a false populous. And one Clinton aide made the case on a media conference call just today.


JAKE SULLIVAN, CLINTON ADVISOR: This is a tax plan by the billionaire for the billionaires. His tax plan proves that he`s on the side of the wealthy and the big corporations and not the middle class. And we fully intend to hold him to it.


MELBER: And joining us tonight in the Last Word War Room is Jeffrey Pollack, a Democratic pollster and president of Strategy Group, and Hari Sevugan, a veteran of President Obama`s 2008 campaign. Starting with you Hari, you look at this, yes, it`s good on the facts, it doesn`t let Trump use sort of this negotiation claim to back out of it. But is it enough when he is hitting so hard and personally right now?

HARI SEVUGAN, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, OBAMA 2008: Well, I think the negotiation claim is great because he claims to be the world`s greatest negotiator. If we except what he says today is true. Essentially he`s negotiating against himself, which would violate the first rule of negotiations. I do think it`s enough. There`s lot of talk about whether he flip-flopped on this or did a 180. and I think the idea that he did that is fine, but really what this is about is that it`s not a flip-flop, it`s doubling down on a tax plan. And if I`m in the Clinton camp, I`m saying it`s not a flip-flop, it`s doubling down on a tax plan that is give away to billionaires that is paid for on the backs of working people.

MELBER: Well, he`s the one, Jeff, claiming there`s more to the plan. He`s wanting to get into the flip-flop so he can broaden what he claims his plan is. So he`s wanting to get into a flip-flop so that he can broaden what he claims his plan is. But that`s not all. We`re talking about the tax piece as you look at this as someone who`s been inside these war rooms, advised campaigns, look at what Hillary Clinton said today when she was asked point blank about Bill Clinton attacks, the attacks on the marriage, and the way he`s conducted himself? Take a listen.


CLINTON: I`m going to let him run his campaign however he chooses. I`m going to run nigh campaign, which is about a positive vision for our country with specific plans that I think will help us solve problems that we`re facing, knock down those barriers that stand in the way of people. I`m not running against him. He`s doing a fine job of doing that himself.


MELBER: But she is running against Donald Trump.

JEFFREY POLLACK, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER, PRESIDENT, STRATEGY GROUP: Yes, there`s no question it`s a two-person race. So you`ve got somebody to oppose. Here`s with interesting, look all of us, all three of us, have been in war rooms. We understand what it`s like when the candidate goes out and says something you have to count. Here the challenge is Donald Trump does so many things you can`t follow. What he said in that clip that you played is unintelligible. Right, let`s be clear. And also not what he says on paper.

MELBER: You don`t think he understands what Donald Trump is suggesting about Bill and Hillary Clinton?

POLLACK: No, I`m talking about his tax policy.

MELBER: I`m talking about the fact that he`s attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton. One thing I learned on the Kerry campaign was If you sit around while other people define the candidate, and don`t respond directly to the criticisms you are taking a big risk. Fair?

POLLACK: Totally fair. But it I don`t think these guys are taking this risk. I think they are taking him very seriously. Because they know is this power of Donald Trump`s words, but today and the last 48 hours have been about economic policies. It`s been, has the guy flip-flopped on minimum wage? Has a guy flip-flopped on tax policy? But if you look at it carefully, think about that war room mentality, you hear somebody, you`re off research. Your research team gathers together and says hold on, these are not the facts. That`s actually the debate. Yes, Donald Trump may want to take it to personal attacks but right now he is actually a little bit on the defensive in terms of defending his own policy. Because frankly, I don`t think he knows what his policy is.

MELBER: So Hari, speak to that as a former `08 Obama advisor. You had a newer candidate the country hadn`t fully met and you had to choose some days to explain his vision, but you also had to choose some days to deal with smears that were totally untrue. You guys put out a YouTube video having to explain that he wasn`t a Muslim, but even if he were that would be Ok. Because there`s nothing wrong with being a Muslim. Those were hard communications challenges. How did you choose when to do what?

SEVUGAN: There there`s no question you need to make sure the facts are out there and respond swiftly and forcefully, but it`s also a question of choosing the battle field that you want to have these battles on and if you get into this personal back and forth with Donald Trump, you`re on his battle field, he`s in a defensive cross in this tax issue and the other thing to note what the Clinton campaign is taking advantage of. Today if I`m them and I`m looking at their opera book, is this movement that he`s had on the minimum wage. He`s gone sort of back and forth on minimum wage. Again, it`s not about the flip-flop, but a great opportunity to remind people of that line he had in one of the very first Republican debates, where he said wages are too high in this country. I would have that video all over the place today. But again, to Jeff`s point, it`s about choosing the battles and I want to choose the battles that puts Donald Trump in the wrong position, on some of these economic issues.

MELBER: Here`s the video the Hillary campaign is playing in a new web ad about economics. Take a look.


TRUMP: they talked about like I`m giving a tax increase for the wealthy, I`m not. They`re still going to be paying less than they pay now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest beneficiaries are the .1 percent when it comes to raw dollars that will be saved.

TEXT: "The top 0.1% would get an average tax cut worth over $1.3 million," Tax Policy Center, 12/22/15

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: your proposed tax cut would add $10 trillion to the nation`s debt.

TEXT: "The vast majority of Americans will end up as big losers." Citizens for Tax Justice, 3/9/16

TEXT: Trump`s economic plans: if he wins, you lose.



POLLACK: Look, that`s exactly what Hari`s talking about. You want to be on that playing field where you`re talking about economics. And he`s just wrong. He`s trying to mealy-mouth his way into saying, "Well my tax plans good for the middle class." But independent budget analyses have looked at it and said, "Look, this is a tax cut for the wealthy." And even in his own things he saying, yes, the rich will pay more. He means pay more than my original plan, which has this horrendous tax cut that`s not going to go to the middle class, but to the wealthy. So, if I`m the Clinton folks, and it`s not my job to advise them, but if you`re sitting in the war room put him on the backend. Put him on the back and the defensive. That`s the way to do it.

MELBER: And pose the questions. What did you mean?

Pollack: Absolutely.

You see it in the web ad. Yeah, I mean to Hari`s point, they do want to own some of this terrain. Hari Sevugan and Jeff Pollack thank you both, a peek inside the war room. Coming up, Donald Trump already looking for -- yes, for members of his cabinet, but who would accept a job in the Trump administration?


Imagine a new president Donald Trump would choose do sit around his cabinet meetings in the White House.


TRUMP: You`ll find when you become very successful, the people that you will like best are the people that are less successful than you. Because when you go to a table, you can tell them all these wonderful stories and they`ll sit back and listen. Does that make sense to you? OK. Always be round unsuccessful people because everybody will respect you. Do you understand that?


MELBER: Do you understand that? It`s 182 days until this election. We have about six months to go. And according to a report in "Politico" Trump`s empty administration, here`s what a source close to Donald Trump said about naming policy experts for his team. "He doesn`t want to waste time on policy and thinks it will make him less effective on the stump. It won`t be until after he`s elected, but before he`s inaugurated then he`ll figure out exactly what he`s going to do and who is going to try to hire."

Even when Donald Trump does decide to vet those potential personnel, some political veterans worry about the caliber of talent he can attract. That same article site as former senior administration from the Bush administration who said, "The bottom line is Trump will be able to fill these jobs because there is a whole class of people who want these titles so badly it doesn`t matter whose president. But these are B or C level people. They are honorable but not very good. The A level people, and there are not that many of them to begin with, mostly don`t want to work for Trump." Joining me now is Darren Samuelsohn, Senior Policy Reporter for Politico who wrote that piece "Trump`s Empty Administration." Based on what we usually see, how abnormal is what you found?

DARREN SAMUELSOHN, SENIOR POLICY REPORTER, POLITICO: It`s pretty abnormal. Donald Trump is not your typical politician. And I think as he`s running for president and begins to think about what kind of people might serve in his cabinet and administration. And we`re talking 3, 4,000 people who will be serving at the cabinet level, but also the Deputy Secretary level, the assistant administrators, the undersecretary`s, everywhere from the State Department, to the EPA, To the Health and Human Services Department. These are people who are not necessarily as intrigued and interested as jumping into that maybe revolving door that you might think. These Republicans who have been sitting in exile for the last seven years from the Bush administration. People who have expertise in all manner of governing, are just not interested in jumping back in. You see this obviously, when Obama came in. A lot of the Clinton people were very interested in getting back to government. I think this happens over and over if you cycle through. But with Donald Trump it`s just not the case.

MELBER: Yeah, your reporting here is really significant. There`s a ton of tension on the politics of this and we`ve been covering it tonight. It was our lead story, the more important thing is looking into his fissures with these current office holders and we can put on our screen the former nominees, who it`s unheard of in the last hundred years. You see if there with the exception of McCain, most of these folks not supporting, not going to the convention. That kind of thing and yet they have less skin in the game, particularly if they`re emeritus, if they`re older and out of it. You`re telling us that people who are experts, who are in the middle of their careers, who served before and would have every reason to do this for careerism, are actually more willing to take are actually more willing to take a buy. That`s how much they object to the notion of Trump governing.

SAMUELSOHN: Exactly. I mean, these are people especially who served in the George W. Bush administration, who watched Jeb Bush get dragged around back and forth on that debate stage, who felt a level of disgust towards Donald Trump. They don`t like what they`ve heard rhetorically from him. They don`t like the policies that they`ve seen from him. They haven`t really seen much meat on the bones of what Donald Trump is expected to do as president.

So, they`re not really very interested in jumping on board and saying, yes, I want to go take a job, it`s not a very good paying job. The senate confirmation process is pretty awful. These are people that just don`t want to make that leap and are happy to sit back and make money, stay in academia, stay in their jobs where they`re at, and let Donald Trump find new people. Find people who maybe he wants. And I think as well, Donald Trump thinks about reading may be reading our story. Good riddance, he doesn`t really need these people. But with that said, he does have to run a government.

MELBER: How much of it comes down to Donald Trump`s approach and knowledge of the government? Because if you read "Art of the Deal" and some of the other books about him, you see that he has a kind of an ADD jumping from one thing to the next, which would be hard to apply to governing the massive federal bureaucracy well.

SAMUELSOHN: Exactly. I mean running a government is a lot different than running a business. There`s contracts, federal agencies, working with congress, all aspects of governing are just much more difficult, much more complicated, I would say, than working in business. I think Donald Trump is he`s going to come into government, if he is the president of the United States, you would imagine he would surround himself with a lot of the business people he`s known and worked. The same way that Obama brought Chicago people with him, or George W. brought Texas people with him.

You know, you would see a New York, New Jersey group. a contingent of business people around Donald Trump and would probably be very close advisors to him. But I think it`s a lot different then again, running these federal agencies where there`s statutes, there`s history, there is legislative history. You know, where the bodies are buried. How you make your way through government it`s a big difference.

MELBER: Darren Samuelsohn, thank you for joining us. You have a very interesting piece.

Coming up, five questions for the comedian known as the liberal redneck.


MELBER: And now for the good news, a high school student in Ohio wanted to show his mom how much he appreciated the sacrifices she`s made for him throughout his life. So he gave her a gift that she had wanted for years to go to prom. Melro Potter grew up in 23 different foster care homes and by age 16 she was homeless and pregnant, she raised her son as a single mom by working as a model, but never got to have any kind of high school prom experience. Melro`s son Trey wanted to give something back. Trey told the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, "She never had that experience and she`s risked so much throughout my life and made so many sacrifices I thought it would be the right thing to do. I think it shows her how much I appreciate her," he explained, "because I really do. After all she`s been through and all I`ve been through with her." Melro Potter now works in Ohio as an advocate for foster children.


MELBER: Today the Obama Justice Department took North Carolina to Federal Court seeking to block its controversial bathroom law as state discrimination against transgender Americans among others. The law restricts people to using bathrooms based on the gender of their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity. Now last week the DOJ determined that the law violates federal civil rights protections. And they gave North Carolina`s governor a deadline to try to narrow its implementation in order to try to comply with those required civil rights protections. Well, North Carolina`s governor declined today and escalated the standoff by filing suit against the feds.


PAT MCCRORY, GOVERNOR NORTH CAROLINA: We believe a court rather than a federal agency should tell our state, our nation and employers across the country what that law requires. Ultimately, I think I think it`s time for the U.S. Congress to bring clarity to our national antidiscrimination provisions under Title 7 and Title 9.


MELBER: The Justice Department responded there with a suit that had clearly been in the works. As Attorney General Lynch explained in a fiery speech today comparing North Carolina`s law to Jim Crow segregation of bathrooms.


We are seeking a court order declaring HB-2`s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory as well as a state wide bar on its enforcement. We retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina`s Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.

MELBER: It`s a serious subject and the debate has been raging over the legislation. But one voice rose among many others, while managing to make people think and laugh.


TRAE CROWDER, COMEDIAN: What`s up y`all, you have a red neck here. We`re going to do it again. Fired it up, son. I`ve been seeing all these Facebook posts about transgender bathrooms and every one of them comes down to the same -- we got to watch out for the kids, the kids, the kids. You are so full of -- what do you think is going to happen? You do know that transgender people have existed forever, right? What bathrooms you think they been using? And how many times you here about what you`re worried about happening, happening? Hardly not never. Because even people that are child molesters are not going to pray on a kid in broad daylight in public, especially not with their mouth breathing troglodyte dad a 12 feet outside the door just dying to punch something different. It don`t make no sense. And you know what`s good not a hand now, because we`ve got white people boycotting target. Damn, I thought I`d never see the day. But now you ain`t comfortable, so you`re screaming, "We gotta boycott target. Escape the deep, deep. Well."


MELBER: That is a little something different. His name is Trae Crowder. A Tennessee comedian. He calls himself a liberal red neck and after his videos on trans bathroom legislation went viral, we interviewed trade to get to know a little bit more about him. Here`s some of what he had to say.


CROWDER: Is the liberal redneck a character? I mean, yes and no. I am a comedian. It is a character. But only a character in as it far as it`s just been exaggeration of who I actually am I mean I did grow up super redneck. I have always been very liberal in terms of ideology or whatever. And so really the only thing that make as difference is in person I`m not as aggressive or in your face about my beliefs or whatever. I do that because I feel that`s how a lot of rednecks are though. They`re very, this is what I believe and I don`t give a damn how you feel about it. And so I want to turn that around down them and show him like how that feels to be on the other side of that. But other than that, I mean, it`s pretty much me. So, yes and no.

One other issue that has really upset the liberal redneck. You ain`t going to believe this. But all of them. I mean, you name it and I`ve got an opinion on it. I mean again, still a redneck. You know, so, yeah, I got some thoughts. The whole income inequality, we`re basically living in a plutocracy, which you know, I could do without. The war on drugs has been a catastrophe. You know unlike anything else we`ve ever even had. And then from that institutional racism is a big thing. To me, I think is a major problem. I want to do videos about most of these things eventually, it`s just where the conversation has been right now, has been focused on the LGBT stuff.

But yeah, I got pretty strong opinions on most of it, all of your typical bleeding heart stuff. So, stay tuned I guess. What does a liberal redneck think about the 2016 election? You`ll probably be surprised to learn that the liberal redneck is not all together for it, this election. I mean, it`s absurd, frankly, everything about it, it`s an absolute clown show. It makes me feel ashamed sometimes and if you can make a red neck feel ashamed, by God you are really doing it. Because we are not known for giving a damn as a people. But, yeah, it`s just -- our political system just keeps getting crazier by the election cycle as far as I can tell and almost seems like it`s coming to its crap crescendo this year. So I mean, it`s fascinating, but it also, I mean, you know, I`m a dad, so I just hope we survive it. Follow me on Facebook and twitter@traecrowder. I`ll have all the videos on there. And the last thing I will say, I just really appreciate y`all having me. It means a lot to me, you know, and yeah. Say goodbye.


MELBER: You can see the full last word interview on last word Facebook page. and you`ll find it on the website, I`m Ari Melber that`s our show. Thanks for watching. Chris Hayes is up next.