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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 8/3/2016

Guests: Dan Zak, Jonathan Alter, Louis Fisher, Rick Wilson, Rory Cooper, Rick Wilson, Jay Michaelson, David Cay Johnston

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 3, 2016 Guest: Dan Zak, Jonathan Alter, Louis Fisher, Rick Wilson, Rory Cooper, Rick Wilson, Jay Michaelson, David Cay Johnston

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thank you, sir.

O`DONNELL: Well, we examined Donald Trump`s mental health last night and found that he has every one of a long list of symptoms of a personality disorder.

And that man with all of those symptoms is now asking American voters to give him the nuclear launch codes and a new poll shows most voters don`t trust Donald Trump with nuclear weapons.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The campaign is doing really well, it`s never been so well united.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The campaign is in a very good shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This campaign apparently is spiraling out of control.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total and complete chaos.

TRUMP: The biggest problem we have is a dishonest press.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some key allies of Donald Trump are plotting a kind of intervention.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Some of what Trump has done is just very self-destructive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidate is in control of his campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you trust Mr. Trump with the nation`s nuclear codes?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: John, I`m here to talk about Zika.

TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the trouble is when you say that --

TRUMP: Possibly --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What concerns you most about Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How erratic he is.

TRUMP: I have one of the great temperaments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inconsistency, unpredictability, those are dangerous things.

TRUMP: I will not be a happy-trigger like some people might be. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDNETIAL NOMINEE: Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?


O`DONNELL: It`s not a button. President Trump`s finger would not be near a nuclear button. It`s a briefcase. It`s always within steps of the president.

It`s the only briefcase in the world with a nickname, "The Football". The Football is always carried by a military aide, five of them share this 24- hour duty.

One from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The briefcase is heavy, 45 pounds. Inside is a very simple manual for starting the most complex process that any one human being could ever do -- conduct nuclear war.

The decision to do that belongs to the one person who can open that briefcase -- the president of the United States. The briefcase, The Football is not enough to start a nuclear attack.

The President also needs The Biscuit. That`s a nickname, too. The Biscuit is a card with verification codes for launching nuclear weapons.

When Ronald Reagan was shot and the medical staff at George Washington University hospital cut off his clothes, The Biscuit fell out of one of his pockets.

It was immediately grabbed by the FBI. The President is always supposed to have The Biscuit. It`s always in his pocket.

In May, when President Obama visited Hiroshima, one of the two places on earth to be hit with a nuclear weapon, both of them delivered by the United States.

The President had in one of his pockets The Biscuit; the codes for launching the world`s third nuclear attack.

On our next inauguration day, The Football will follow President Obama from the White House to the Capitol, and The Football will then follow the new president back to the White House.

And the new president will then have The Biscuit. If that new president is named Trump, America and no doubt the world will worry about nuclear war in a way it has never worried before.

The new worry will not be Russia or China`s nuclear capability, people already worry about that. The new worry would be President Trump`s nuclear capability.

It would be the first time the United States of America wouldn`t trust its own president with The Biscuit and The Football.

A new "Fox News" poll tonight shows that the vast majority of Americans do not trust Donald Trump to make decisions about using nuclear weapons.

There is only one use of nuclear weapons that has been seriously contemplated and rehearsed by the American military, and that is the defensive use of nuclear weapons in the event of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, now Russia or China.

In that scenario of defensive use of nuclear weapons against a nuclear attack that has been launched against us, the President will have a maximum decision-making time, maximum of six minutes.

Those six minutes could be cut in half or less if the attack actually comes from a Russian submarine in the Atlantic West of Bermuda, where Russian submarines frequently patrol.

Think about Donald Trump in those six minutes or in those three minutes. In 1979, national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski received the proverbial 3:00 a.m. call in the middle of the night telling him the United States appeared to be under nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.

That`s what the early warning monitors in a bunker in Colorado showed. Before he could tell the president, Brzezinski got a second call confirming now an all-out attack from the Soviet Union.

And just as Brzezinski was about to wake President Carter so that the President would have those full six minutes to decide what to do, Brzezinski got a third call telling him it was a false alarm.

Imagine. Imagine President Trump`s national security adviser in those minutes, in the middle of the night. The national security adviser is not confirmed by the Senate.

It can be anyone Donald Trump chooses. Imagine team Trump in the middle of the night facing what could turn out to be a false alarm or could turn out to be nuclear war.

For the first time in history, Americans including the Americans serving in the missile launching sites who would have to insert their launch keys and turn them, sending millions of people to their deaths, would have to worry about the possibility of a president of the United States ordering a nuclear attack without any nuclear provocation at all.

Unlike presidents, soldiers in those missile silos are tested for their sanity. And in that military test, sanity is defined as the ability to unflinchingly follow the coded order to launch nuclear weapons without hesitation and without question.

What would happen to their sanity under President Trump? How many of them in those silos would be among the vast majority of Americans who would not trust Donald Trump to make decisions about using nuclear weapons?

The more you think about what`s separating us and what has separated us from nuclear war, the more you don`t want to think about it. Twenty four hours a day, the only thing separating us from nuclear war, The Football, The Biscuit, and ultimately the president`s brain.

After the Nixon presidency, reports emerged indicating we had survived the most dangerous president of the nuclear age.

In the last year of the Nixon presidency as Congress was moving closer and closer to impeachment, the president was frequently drunk late at night, sometimes crying with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

At a small dinner party he reportedly said, "I could leave this room and in 25 minutes, 70 million people would be dead."

Nixon`s Secretary of Defense in those days, James Schlesinger told all military commanders to immediately alert him if they received any strange communication or orders from the president.

We were lucky. The world was lucky. We survived a drunken, mournful, self-pitying president on the verge of impeachment wandering the White House late at night with The Football always just steps away and The Biscuit in his pocket.

It might take all the luck we have left as a country to survive a Trump presidency.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons.

Three times he asked, at one point, if we have them, why can`t we use them?


O`DONNELL: Well, at least Donald Trump doesn`t drink. Joining us now, Louis Fisher; Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project and the former Library of Congress senior specialist in Separation of Powers.

Also with us, Dan Zak; reporter for the "Washington Post" and the author of "Almighty", a new book about nuclear weapons.

And here in New York studio, Jonathan Alter, Msnbc political analyst and a columnist for "The Daily Beast". Dan Zak, I want to go to those minutes that have been described in many accounts that a president has and that some of our presidents have had to decide in the face of what turned out to be false alarms.

And what it is -- how many people are -- in the past in these situations, especially in the false alarms, how many people do we know the president has had an opportunity to consult with or deal with in the minutes that they have to make these decisions.

DAN ZAK, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, Lawrence, it`s very few, and that`s the concern here. It`s the amount of time that a commander-in-chief has to make a decision if there`s an incoming attack.

Even someone who is -- does have their wits about them, who is very patient and very considered in their thinking, even someone like that in the minutes that are allowed to confer about the legitimacy of an attack and the options for a counterattack.

Even someone who`s very well qualified is going to be under an enormous amount of stress. So, the number of people who are involved and the time involved are both very minimal.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Alter, they`re given in that little -- in The Football, there`s a coded menu of choices. You can attack military installations only.

You can attack military installations and governing installations, which in, say, Russia`s case would include Moscow and government buildings.

And there`s at least three different levels of this. And it`s the kind of thing that when you stop and imagine Donald Trump in these scenarios, it is truly just unimaginable.

JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: It`s terrifying, and it`s also terrifying to me that there are certain people who don`t trust him with The Football, with the nuclear codes.

They`ve said they don`t trust him, like Marco Rubio, and yet they`re for him for president.


ALTER: To me, that`s the combination of --

O`DONNELL: Well, how about in the voters? I mean, we have -- we have fewer voters -- more people --

ALTER: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Are voting for him than trust him with the nuclear codes.

ALTER: Yes, see, those people are by my lights unpatriotic. That`s the definition of unpatriotic. If you want somebody with this awesome responsibility who you don`t trust to protect the lives of millions of people.

But the problem goes beyond this. You know, Trump, even his close friends describe him as impulsive. So, he`s a risk in this moment of nuclear decision.

But you don`t get there in the middle of the night as a bolt out of the blue. You have deteriorating relationships that usually would precede any, you know, nuclear exchange.

And this is something that he would also greatly contribute to. He`s already said that he wants to let South Korea, Japan, and other nations develop nuclear programs. This would tremendously multiply the odds of a nuclear exchange.

Not necessarily involving the United States, but somewhere in the world. So, this danger goes beyond, you know, mental instability or deep insecurity on Trump`s part.

Because certain policies in breaking down our alliances that will greatly increase the odds of nuclear war.

O`DONNELL: Mr. Fisher, this is obviously something that the constitution could not have contemplated obviously for technological reasons.

Where the constitution vests the power to declare war in the Congress. It also gives Congress the power to make rules about military and how the military is used.

How did we get to the place legally where there is a general consensus that one person, one person has the power to make this kind of war without any consultation with anyone?

LOUIS FISHER, SCHOLAR IN RESIDENCE AT THE CONSTITUTION PROJECT: Well, from 1789 to 1950, any president who wanted to go to war came to Congress either for a full declaration or statutory authority.

And 1950 was the first time a President Truman went to war on his own, bypassed Congress. Under law, he had to come to Congress under the U.N. Participation Act and get authority from Congress, but he violated that statute.

And that procedure of bypassing Congress and going to the U.N. or bypassing Congress and going to NATO allies was later used by Clinton several times and again by Obama in Libya in 2011.

So, to me we`ve had presidents from 1950 on acting illegally, going to war, that`s been the process. Completely against what the framers expected and completely against what the -- what the statute says.

O`DONNELL: But in the contemplation of nuclear war, it`s always been in a defensive mode. And is the consensus, the legal consensus in Washington that if the United States is perceived to be under a nuclear attack, the President has the legal authority to respond immediately with nuclear weapons without consultation?

FISHER: That`s the understanding, and certainly that was the understanding under Kennedy is that Soviet Union had launched an attack against the United States, with the understanding that Kennedy could respond by himself.

The danger to me and is that Presidents had regularly made poor judgments on the basis of false information. As we all know, George W. Bush claimed six reasons to go to war against Iraq, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

All six claims were false. So, that`s the danger. Not just that a president is trigger-happy and wanting to go to war but he`s surrounded by people who give false information.

O`DONNELL: Dan Zak, if Donald Trump is elected president, how quickly could you expect the Congress might act to pass a new clarifying law that says nuclear weapons can only be used in defense of a nuclear attack.

ZAK: Well, I can`t begin to predict what Congress -- how Congress would react. But I think even contemplating that scenario, I think illustrates just how much power we`ve invested in one person.

I mean, that`s really kind of what we`re deciding to do with this election, what we just do with every presidential election. Which is, there is an ultimate authority here that we are assigning to one person.

And when that person makes a decision to authorize a nuclear strike, Congress does not vote, it doesn`t get run by the Supreme Court, the citizens don`t vote on it.

It`s a decision made by one man or one woman. And so, you know, I can`t begin to think how Congress would react to a President Trump.

But I think it`s worth thinking about as a society, you know, is it worth assigning this great responsibility and power to one person who has minutes to decide what to do.

O`DONNELL: I just want to report that Paul Manafort denied the account that Joe Scarborough gave on his show this morning about someone discussing foreign policy with Donald Trump and Donald Trump asking about the use of nuclear war.

But I want to show another very important clip from "MORNING JOE" this morning involving General Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA, former Director of the CIA, let`s watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who amongst your peers that you respect greatly, whether they think like you or not think like you, did you know that`s advising Mr. Trump?



O`DONNELL: Jonathan, this is a terrible situation because I can understand why people are boycotting Trump. But isn`t there also a responsibility for responsible people to try to get to him and teach him how to think about this if that`s possible?

ALTER: Well, he met with Henry Kissinger, he`s met with some other people, but the more we learn about the people around him like General Michael Flynn, who almost ran on the ticket, and you know, he is supposedly a major adviser.

Turns out he`s on the payroll of a Russian propaganda television program that`s basically run by the Russian government. He`s totally compromised.

So, the people around him do not inspire confidence.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Louis Fisher, Dan Zak, thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

ZAK: Thank you --

ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence --

FISHER: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a Trump campaign chaos, more chaos, that is. Trump allies now openly planning an intervention on the most undisciplined and mentally unstable candidate in history.

While the campaign staff is reportedly "suicidal", not literally, of course, just figuratively. And some Republicans plot to take the nomination away from Donald Trump.

Is there a legal way to do that? Hint, yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from London tonight. The London Metropolitan Police Force are investigating a mass stabbing tonight in central London.

Police were called after -- to the scene of a man with a knife attacking people in Russell Square. Nbc News has confirmed that one woman is dead and as many as five other people were injured in the attack.

Police have arrested one man, and the police say that terrorism is a possibility but they aren`t yet certain of a motive.

Up next, Republicans hoping the Trump kids can do an intervention on their dad.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, with a new "Fox News" poll showing Hillary Clinton with a substantial lead over Donald Trump, it is officially panic time in Trump world.


GINGRICH: I think some of what Trump has done is just very self- destructive. I don`t know if it`s a fixable problem, but I think it`s a very big moment for Trump. He has got to find a way to slow down, really learn some new lessons.

I mean, this is a little bit like "The Apprentice", except he`s the apprentice, he`s not the boss.


O`DONNELL: And that`s a Trump supporter there talking. Reports indicate that Republicans think Donald Trump needs an intervention to save his campaign. Sources tell Nbc News that Reince Priebus, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich hope to join forces with the Trump children for that intervention.

Here`s what Paul Manafort said publicly about the intervention today.


MANAFORT: The campaign is focused. I mean, the campaign is moving forward in a positive way. The only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren`t true.


O`DONNELL: With Donald Trump refusing to endorse Speaker Paul Ryan in Ryan`s re-election campaign, and Trump vice presidential pick Mike Pence going out of his way to endorse Paul Ryan enthusiastically.

A display of disunity we have never seen in a presidential ticket before. Donald Trump addressed the unprecedented disagreement with his vice presidential candidate this way.


TRUMP: I just want to tell you the campaign is doing really well. It`s never been so well united. And we started on June 16th -- I would say right now, it`s the best in terms of being united that it`s been since we began.


O`DONNELL: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is said to be "apoplectic" that Donald Trump will not endorse Paul Ryan. "Politico" reports that Priebus abandoned his softer demeanor when he called the candidate Tuesday afternoon.

"He lit into him pretty good", said a source with knowledge of the conversation who is obviously a Reince guy. "It was basically him saying, do you realize how badly you`re f-ing this up?"

Joining us now, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who is a contributor to the website "Heat Street". Rory Cooper, a senior adviser for the "Never Trump" Super PAC.

Rick Wilson, I don`t know Reince Priebus, I just know the guy who plays Reince Priebus on TV. I cannot imagine him lighting into Donald Trump on the phone or anywhere else.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, Reince Priebus gave up his manhood to Donald Trump the day he scurried up to Trump Tower to have Trump sign that pledge. And I don`t think he`s ever recaptured it.

There is no way that Donald Trump respects Reince Priebus. He doesn`t respect anyone, much less anyone he`s vanquished. And he looks at Reince Priebus as someone he has acquired or vanquished.

Priebus may be an interesting pet but he`s not somebody that Trump respects or listens to.

O`DONNELL: Rory Cooper, we have reports of Paul Manafort having just given up, that it`s hopeless to try to manage this thing, and that he is phoning it in. But at least he`s still willing to deny that on TV.

RORY COOPER, SENIOR ADVISER, NEVER TRUMP SUPER PAC: All right, well, I mean, I think it`s interesting that only in Trump world is Paul Manafort seen as a voice of reason. If you look at where we are right now, we`re only 14 days out from the convention.

The idea that we require an intervention for Donald Trump, I frankly don`t have a lot of sympathy for the Republican leaders who are looking at that because two weeks ago there were a number of delegates who were looking to still try and make a change in Cleveland at the convention within the process and the rules of the committee.

And they were run down by the committee. And now two weeks later, we`re trying to figure out what to do with the candidate that we`ve got.

You know, if you look at the poll today, 7 out of 10 voters were offended by how Donald Trump treated the Khan family. And probably, the other 30 percent are either lying to themselves or lying to the pollster.

He`s in bad shape. But it`s nothing new. It`s what everybody in the "Never Trump" movement has frankly been talking about for six months. The fact that it`s being treated like a revelation today is a little surprising.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at that "Fox News" poll that came out tonight with Hillary Clinton up nine points.

This is a three-way poll showing Hillary Clinton at 44 percent, Donald Trump at 35 percent, and Gary Johnson, libertarian, at 12 percent.

What strikes me about that poll, Hillary Clinton at 44 percent in a three- way race, is that Bill Clinton in 1992 won the presidency in a three-way race that included Ross Perot with exactly, basically the same number Hillary Clinton has tonight.

He won it with 43 percent. So, Rick Wilson, that poll we`re looking at tonight, is an electoral college winning poll for Hillary Clinton.

WILSON: Well, and Lawrence, more importantly, you look at the polls that have popped out in states since the Democratic convention ended.

You look at the -- you look at the shifts in the electoral college numbers, and right now, it is -- she`s putting states like Georgia and Utah into play.

And Donald Trump is living in a fantasy bubble thinking he`s going to win Pennsylvania, California, New York, New Jersey.

You know, this is a guy who is completely disconnected from reality. And these polls, they`re tonight screaming, oh, these are all -- these are all fake polls and they`re wrong, and there`s the conspiracy, it`s all rigged against Donald.

And this is not a sign of somebody who`s looking at this in a clear-eyed way. This is a sign of somebody who is -- who is absolutely crazed.

O`DONNELL: We have new video today of Donald Trump demonstrating his symptoms of personality disorder. This is when someone in the crowd, a woman yells out to him, "thank you for your sacrifice."

You might not be able to hear the "thank you for your sacrifice" part. But here you will see Donald Trump`s inability to connect in any way with modesty.

Let`s just play this, it kind of speaks for itself.


TRUMP: Now -- thank you very much, I appreciate -- thank you for your sacrifice, thank you. Who said that? Who said that statement? Somebody in there, very nice, thank you very much.

That`s very nice. Well, it is a sacrifice -- look, we`re all making sacrifices. We want our country to be great again.


O`DONNELL: Rory Cooper, people who spent a lot of time trying to explain to him the meaning of the word "sacrifice" since Friday when he began attacking the Khan family, he`s a very slow learner, it seems.

COOPER: Well, I mean, that presumes that he wants to learn. I mean, and that`s really been the problem that we`ve had for the last year, which is that there`s this idea that Donald Trump will somehow be coached or taught into acting like a nominee, acting like a president, acting like someone that should be taken seriously in the political world.

When in fact he really doesn`t have any interest in learning the policy nuances that it takes to govern or what the positions are that the conservative movement have taken, which is why he had a hard time with the conservative movement.

Because when you try to speak to them, he was unable to speak speak their language on issues like life or guns or taxes or any number of national security issues.

And one points to the polls that Rick was pointing out, you know, you look at where he is with Hispanics in Florida, down where Rick is. He`s doing horribly compared to where our last three candidates have done. And if you look at where he is with married woman with a college degree, a demographic that Republicans have taken since Harry Truman, he`s underwater with them.

But we can talk about polls between now and November, but the numbers are never going to add up for him, which is why one of the reasons we`ve always been concerned about him as a nominee, which is because he guarantees Hillary Clinton presidency.

O`DONNELL: Rick Wilson and Rory Cooper, thank you both for joining us tonight.

COOPER: Thanks. Thanks, Lawrence.

WILSON: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what if the Republican Party decides to actually try to dump Trump? As some people are reporting, they are studying to dump him and replace him on the ballot. Is there a legal way to do it? Can they thread that needle? We`ll go inside the war room for the answer to that one.


O`DONNELL: With 96 days left before the election, there are some reports indicating that the Republican Party`s campaign war room is actually considering ways to drop Donald Trump as their nominee. At the same time, we have reports that the Trump campaign war room is in chaos. One report last night indicating that the Trump campaign staff is "suicidal."

Joining us now, Jay Michaelson, Columnist for the "Daily Beast" who today wrote, "The RNC can legally dump Donald Trump but it has to act fast." Jay, take us through the steps. How do they get rid of this poison in their system?

JAY MICHAELSON, LEGAL COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": Well, they`ve got to get super legalistic super quickly. Obviously, if they had a withdrawal so, if Trump were to resign, which is not in his nature probably, that would actually be no problem. The ballot rules and then the rules in the Electoral College would allow the party basically to decide. But if he doesn`t, if he doesn`t consent, there might just be enough of a loophole in Rule 9 of the Republican rules which says .

O`DONNELL: I happen to have it right here.

MICHAELSON: I thought .

O`DONNELL: You know what I`ll do? I`ll read it so no one thinks we`re making this up. It says, "The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for president."

MICHAELSON: So that`s the magic word. That word otherwise.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. What does that mean?

MICHAELSON: And it`s not find -- there are no, you know, tell like a government statute where there are a lot of regulations saying what that means. It`s up in the air. I mean, it`s what lawyers, you know, I was trained as a lawyer. It`s what we call a weasel word, which kind of allows you to get in through the back door.

Now, that would be really unusual. It would be obviously unprecedented and it would be fought, right? Donald Trump would probably sue immediately and he might have a good case. But it`s not impossible to say, especially when we hear the language about unfit or, you know, sort of something about his temperament or mental illness or something like that. You can see the building of a case if the RNC, the committee wanted to make it.

O`DONNELL: Speaking of mental illness, there is one historical precedent for this on the other side, 1972. On the Democratic ticket, Tom Eagleton, it was revealed after he got the vice presidential nomination that he had undergone some electroshock therapy from a psychiatrist, and people thought this isn`t going to work. And -- but he left the ticket voluntarily, was replaced by Sergeant Shriver, and that`s another party. So, there`s nothing on the Republican side to .

MICHAELSON: No, and I think that the key point is that he left.


MICHAELSON: Right? So, this is, you know, it`s kind of difficult to negotiate with somebody whose negotiation strategy is to just blow up the room.

O`DONNELL: So assuming somehow they actually made this move, the next thing you`re up against is getting names changed on ballots in each of the individual states. And the deadline to do that is different in every state.

MICHAELSON: That`s right. It`s all over the map. Everywhere or some deadlines have passed, for example, in Delaware, and some deadlines won`t pass until the end of September. So you could have a situation where Donald Trump`s name is on the ballot in some states and let`s just say Paul Ryan`s name is on the ballot in others.

Even in that case, though, in most states even if Donald Trump`s name is on the ballot, most states allow the party to really designate who the electors are at the Electoral College, and so it would still be, again, let`s say Paul Ryan.

O`DONNELL: So the ballot could have Jay Michaelson on it.

MICHAELSON: I hope so.

O`DONNELL: But then when the Electoral College meets, those electors could vote for the suggested candidate .

MICHAELSON: For Paul Ryan. So let`s -- and let`s say actually -- so even that is a state by state rule. So there are some states, there are about a dozen states that do require the electors to swear that they`re going to vote for the candidate.

O`DONNELL: All right. Now, so there`s a less than 10 percent chance of this happening, would be my estimate. But this is called doing our job, OK, because there`s usually a zero percent chance of this happening. And when there`s a 10 percent chance we have to examine the options.

Jay Michaelson has done it for us today. Jay, thank you very much.

MICHAELSON: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it.

Coming up, Remember Donald Trump`s tax returns, the ones we`ve never seen because he says he`s being audited by the IRS? When is the political media going to understand that there is absolutely no proof that he is actually being audited? Tax expert David Cay Johnston, the author of "The Making of Donald Trump," will join us.


O`DONNELL: Remember the tax returns. That should be a bumper sticker in the anti-Donald Trump campaign. We`re going to remember the tax returns tonight with David Cay Johnston, who knows a lot about Donald Trump and taxes. But first, here`s how it looks today on the campaign trail.


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We start with yet again a phrase we have heard in this campaign before, "Nearly unprecedented."

CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: This campaign seems to be imploding like some decrepit piece of real estate.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The campaign is doing really well.

KATHARINE BEAR TUR, NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There have been conversations between officials and the children to try and get Donald Trump on message.

TRUMP: We`ve never been this united.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No rational candidate would pick a fight with the Gold Star family. It makes no sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very aware of the media reporting about the campaign disunity.

TRUMP: Don`t call me Donald. Call me Mr. President.

JACKSON: Let me just point this out, though. Trump supporters don`t care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything at this point that Trump could do that would make you not want to support him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump can do no wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary should have been locked up.


TUR: The campaign wants Donald Trump to focus on Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are not going to let him do to America what he has done to so many other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Clinton team is actively courting Republicans and Independents.

TRUMP: Our biggest obstacle is the press. They`re so dishonest. They`re disgusting people that work for the media.

CLINTON: When Donald Trump is asked about where he makes things, he makes them anywhere else but America. Bangladesh, Turkey, Slovenia, Mexico.

TRUMP: I have many Mexican people working for me. They`re fantastic people.




TRUMP: We`re going to make this hotel and casino and resort the most successful in the world by far. And I look forward to it. We love you. You`re our family. We`re going to take great care and have a great time.


O`DONNELL: That was the failed casino operator on the day he was opening the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Donald Trump put the Trump Taj Mahal into bankruptcy a year after it opened. The Trump Taj Mahal, which he no longer owns will close forever in September. Donald Trump`s spectacular failures in Atlantic City are part of the story told in David Cay Johnston`s new book "The making of Donald Trump".

Joining us now, David Cay Johnston and I love the cover but here`s the thing. I think this line down here, the print should be bigger. The part where it says "Winner of the pulitzer prize."


O`DONNELL: That should be really big.

So if in this era of limited attention spans a voter could take one story out of this book, one story that a voter should know out of this book, what is that most important story in this book?

JOHNSTON: That Donald Trump put the life of an infant, his grand nephew, in jeopardy, to get revenge and he sought mercy for a major cocaine trafficker who managed his helicopters, supplied him with his helicopters and moved into Trump tower.

O`DONNELL: OK. Let`s do the helicopter guy first and the baby after that.

JOHNSTON: Well, so a convicted felon, mob guy named Joey Weichselbaum provided Donald with his helicopters. There are a lot of helicopter companies that have provide you with service to run the high rollers down to Atlantic City. Donald chose this guy for reasons that are not at all clear. They went bankrupt. They were subsidized by the state of New Jersey. Donald kept hiring him.

He eventually rented an apartment to this guy under unusual circumstances I describe in the book. When he`s indicted, under your casino license as an owner you must prove by clear and convincing evidence your character and honesty. Donald should have cut him off. Donald keeps doing business with him. And his -- the case against him involving as much as 1,500 pounds of drugs at a time, and this guy physically handled the drugs, is between Miami and Cincinnati. The guy asked the case be moved to either Miami or New York City where he lives. Instead it gets moved to New Jersey, where it comes before Judge Mary Ann Trump Berry.


JOHNSTON: Now, hold on, Lawrence. Imagine you`re the chief judge, and I`m a judge and I come to you and say, listen, I`ve got to get rid of this case, you`ve got to assign it to somebody else because my wife works for Donald and flies in this drug dealer`s helicopters every week, I fly in them, our children fly in them.


JOHNSTON: How are you feeling, judge, about the danger to the danger to the integrity of the courts?

O`DONNELL: Wow. OK. And this baby story you`re talking about?

JOHNSTON: So before Fred -- Donald Trump has an older brother Fred Jr. who died many years ago. When the will was opened when Fred Trump Sr., Donald Trump`s father died. The four surviving children got virtually all the money and the line of Fred Jr. got bubkes. Not unreasonable.

O`DONNELL: That much I knew.

JOHNSTON: OK. But they -- so they went to court challenging the will, and undue influence case. And Donald`s response was everybody in the Trump family got medical care from the company.


JOHNSTON: Donald`s a big believer in medical care.


JOHNSTON: They immediately cut off medical care for the family even though they knew this child was desperately ill and had run up enormous bills. And when Heidi Evans of the "New York Daily News," a wonderful reporter got to Donald about this and said, what about this, he said, "Well, he sued my father, I have to do this." And Heidi says, "Well, you know, don`t you think it`s a little cold hearted?" What else am I supposed to do?

Donald Trump`s motto. Donald Trump who says I`m a Christian, who has all these pastors supporting him, his motto is revenge. He`s written about it in chapters of books. He`s given speeches. And he has a word for people who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, schmuck.

O`DONNELL: OK. We -- you -- we just realized in the last few minutes that we know the tip of the iceberg about Donald Trump. This is all new stuff. I`m going to take a quick break. We`re going to come back with more.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can`t do it, can`t release it because he`s under audit. Now, I`ve got news for him. I`m under audit too. And I would be delighted to meet him at any place, anytime between now and election. I`ll bring my tax return. He can bring his tax return. Nobody`s going to arrest us. It is not -- there are no rules against showing your tax returns. And just let people ask us questions about the items that are on there.


O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, one of the beats you`ve covered better than anyone is tax policy. The Trump tax returns. I keep trying to get people to understand, there is absolutely no proof that he`s even being audited.

JOHNSTON: That`s right. That`s right. And if he is being audited, it may not be for his income tax returns. There are -- he has business entities.


JOHNSTON: There are reporting forms. There could be a lot of different things. But that`s that he .

O`DONNELL: He waved a letter from his lawyers which I have here and they indicate that some returns are under examination now, but they don`t indicate whether they`re personal returns or not. All we`re talking about is his personal tax returns. That`s the first thing we`re talking about.


O`DONNELL: We`d like to see the company tax returns too. But at minimum the personal tax returns. And this is just a letter -- this is not the audit letter he would get from the IRS which he could easily show us.

JOHNSTON: But Lawrence, let`s take him at his word. He doesn`t feel .

O`DONNELL: OK. If you insist.



JOHNSTON: If he says he can`t show us the returns under audit, well, that`s apparently only 2012 forward. Where are your returns from 1980 to 2011? They`re not under audit. Let`s see those. And we`re never going to see them because we know that in 1984, and I`ve written about this and it`s in my book, Donald prepared a tax return that his long-time tax lawyer and accountant said, well, that`s my signature on the return, put there with a photocopy machine but I didn`t prepare that return. And he showed zero income for his freelance business as a consultant and 600 plus thousand dollars of deductions he couldn`t justify. And this is just one of many indications that Donald has not paid taxes, in some cases because government has special rules for real estate people but indications that he`s cheated on his taxes. So we really need to see .

O`DONNELL: Did we ever get a peek in any litigation about what his charitable contributions are on his personal tax return?

JOHNSTON: Well, from his foundation reports we know that he`s given virtually nothing to his own foundation.


JOHNSTON: That his foundation made a campaign contribution to -- which is absolutely illegal, to the attorney general of Florida when he was under investigation by the attorney general of Florida. And that he has only made one gift in the last ten years. That`s an indication he has no income. There`s one other element. He got something called the star tax credit in New York.

O`DONNELL: The reason it`s an indication of no income is the charitable contribution wouldn`t be deducted .

JOHNSTON: It would be worthless.

O`DONNELL: . it is not deducted, it`s an income.

JOHNSTON: That`s right.

O`DONNELL: So the cheapest man in the world isn`t going to give you any.

JOHNSTON: That`s exactly right.


JOHNSTON: And in addition to this he got something called the star rebate here in New York.


JOHNSTON: You have to make under $500,000. Donald spun this as that he made a mistake. It`s done by computer. And that tells you the computer said oh, taxable income, anything less than $500,000, you get the check. That tells you that Donald`s income is nowhere near what he wants you to think it is, at least as he puts it on the tax return.

O`DONNELL: And we would see all that in the tax returns.

JOHNSTON: Oh, yeah. You give me -- ask Hillary Clinton .


JOHNSTON: .about when I reverse engineered her tax returns how livid she was what I figured out.

O`DONNELL: All right. We are -- quickly, what did you figure out in ten seconds?

JOHNSTON: Paid more than twice as much federal income tax as the law required and the process shortchanged charity by the same amount and then she adopted my tax advice.

O`DONNELL: Shortchanged charity, how?

JOHNSTON: Because the government got the money instead of the charity.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I search this one. OK. All right. We got to go. We`re going to do more of this. David Cay Johnston, thank you very much. This is the mandatory campaign reading, "The Making of Donald Trump" by David Cay Johnston. We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: We have sad news tonight about a friend of the show. Former Republican congressman and frequent guest here on THE LAST WORD, Steve LaTourette, has died. Congressman LaTourette was known for being a moderate Republican in an increasingly conservative Republican Party.

Steve LaTourette grew up in Ohio. Went to the University of Michigan and then returned to Ohio for law school. He was elected to Congress in 1994 and retired in 2003. At his retirement he said, "I`ve always believed that the art of being a legislator is finding common ground." He is survived by his wife, Jennifer and six children. Steve LaTourette was 62 years old.