Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 20, 2016 Guest: Dave Levinthal, David Corn, Jonathan Greenblatt, Serena Nunn, Michael McFaul, Joe Cirincione, David Frum, Zerlina Maxwell
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: Rachel, I just want to report no one raised their hand --
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: In the studio --
MADDOW: I can see --
O`DONNELL: Here --
MADDOW: Everybody watching at home, everybody is looking at this.
O`DONNELL: Not one hand went up in this studio, not one.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Well, there has been another historic first for the Trump transition team. A meeting with the leader of an Austrian group that was founded by the Nazis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC: The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party visited General Flynn a few weeks ago inside Trump Tower.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: The Freedom Party was founded in the 1950s by literal Nazis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is very comfortable with the global far right. He`s comfortable with Putin.
SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Good for him. The voters spoke and he won fair and red square. Now --
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER, SENATE: There`s no question the Russians were messing around our election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And still, no true acknowledgement from the incoming administration of Putin`s role.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very disturbing because the evidence is quite overwhelming.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: She put the Secretary of State up for sale. Favors and access were granted to those who wrote checks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, he is the one facing questions about access to him and his family.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Donald Trump`s sons launched a Texas non-profit to sell access to their father on -- get this, the day after the inauguration.
TRUMP: The corrupt pay-for-play scheme.
REID: You know, if irony still has a meaning, that was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Austria`s Freedom Party was founded in the 1950s by Nazis.
The "New York Times" reports that recently the leader of the Freedom Party was welcomed to Trump Tower where he met with Michael Flynn; Donald Trump`s choice for national security adviser.
The Trump transition team has refused to comment in any way on that meeting.
But the leader of the Freedom Party wrote in a Facebook post: "internationally the Freedom Party continues to gain in influence."
Certainly seems to have some influence at Trump Tower. The "Times" reported that the Freedom Party has a cooperation agreement with Russia`s ruling political party.
That means Michael Flynn seems to be on a collision course with General Joseph Dunford; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Who has a fixed term of office that will leave him in that role for at least the first year of the Trump administration.
Here`s what General Dunford said about Russia in Senate testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you consider the greatest threat for our national security?
JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: My assessment today, senator, is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.
If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I`d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behavior, it`s nothing short of alarming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russian individuals and companies that it says are connected to Russia`s incursions into Ukraine.
Joining us now, David Frum; senior editor at "The Atlantic", Joe Cirincione; the president of Ploughshares Fund at Global Security Foundation.
And Michael McFaul; former U.S. ambassador to Russia and an Msnbc contributor. Ambassador McFaul, your reaction to this meeting at Trump Tower.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Inappropriate, of course. What more is to be said?
It`s inappropriate in so many different levels, but the main level of course, is that it is this right-wing party that has alliances with other parties like it throughout Europe.
You remember the communist international? I call it the illiberal international. And they all have, as you just reported quite accurately, very close ties to President Putin.
Whatever Mr. Flynn`s private ideological views when he was a civilian, an independent person, that`s one thing.
But now that he is representing the transition, he has to deal with governments and he has to start treating our allies and our friends around the world as if they are our allies and friends.
Including the government of Austria.
O`DONNELL: Joe Cirincione, is there any explanation for this that you can think of and that Trump campaign has offered no explanation at all, just no comment at all.
What could be the best case scenario for a meeting like this?
JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND, GLOBAL SECURITY FOUNDATION: That you want to hear all points of views even really wacky neo-Nazi points of views.
But that is very flimsy justification. Remember, this is not the leader of a governing party, this is the leader of an opposition party.
As you say, a party that was founded by a Nazi and a former SS officer in 1956. A party that has just signed an agreement of cooperation with Russia.
So get this, the head of an Austrian political party has signed an agreement with a foreign leader, Russia, to cooperate with them to have regular meetings.
We used to call these kinds of people during World War II, Quislings, named after the Norwegian politician Quisling who cooperated with the Nazis in the occupation of his own country.
We are now seeing a new network of Quislings. The far-right parties who are allying with Putin, with Russia in a common cause against their own governments.
And now the soon-to-be national security adviser, the president of the United States has legitimized these people, has welcomed them into Trump Tower. The White House in waiting and blessed them, and this has not gone unnoticed.
The far right, the alt-right as we call them here are crowing about this, they`re talking about a new axis of nationalism that spans North America and Europe.
This is a deeply troubling development.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Chris Murphy said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: This is an incredibly disturbing meeting, although it`s not really surprising.
Flynn is a very dangerous character inside the White House. This is someone who regularly trades in conspiracy theories.
And who is going to be sometimes the first and last person that President Trump sees when he gets up and leaves the Oval Office at night.
And it also speaks to this much broader effort that`s happening to link far right parties around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Frum, your reaction.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, you asked the question what`s the case for it?
Here`s the case that in any bureaucracy, you have -- in any foreign policy bureaucracy, you have people who are at some distance from the center of the organization who keep in touch with all kinds of undesirable people all over the planet.
The Austrian Freedom Party may well come to power. You need someone who knows what`s going on there.
Just as you have conversations through intermediaries with Hamas and with the Iranians and other bad actors all over the planet.
But you also make sure that in a well-structured foreign policy operation, that those people don`t come too close to the center, partly because it`s a reward.
Partly because you want to -- you want to handle the delicate situations with kid gloves. The problem is not that people in the Trump campaign talk to bad actors.
People in every campaign have proxies who talk to bad actors all over the planet. The problem is that there does seem to be -- and then as the two previous -- as the ambassador and Joseph Cirincione said.
The Trump campaign seems actually to be of like mind with Russian foreign policy. What we are seeing here is a very systematic Russian attack attempt to smash NATO and the EU to pieces.
Well, Russia has a GDP about the size of Italy. On its own, it is not a very powerful actor, certainly not compared to a united Democratic western world. It can only be powerful by setting the parts of the Democratic world at each other`s throats.
And there are parties inside the EU willing to do that, not because they`re Nazis, but because they have various kinds of sinister agendas that are more modern than Nazism. And the Trump campaign seems to be -- either share those or not to understand the stakes.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador McFaul, it leaves the question of what powers exist outside of the Trump administration with it to counter-balance this?
What kind of congressional oversight or congressional influence can be brought to bear in this situation?
MCFAUL: Well, I think all of the checks and balances of our system need to be at play and by the way, I think they will be. I have confidence in that. Remember, even the executive branch not everybody changes.
But I remember my first day working at the White House, I walked in and met my new staff and every single person the previous day had worked for George W. Bush.
Those people will be there. Our diplomats will be there that understand this party. At the Pentagon, there are lots of people including, as you just pointed out General Dunford that has a very sober view of what Russia is doing.
And the U.S. Congress I think needs to play a very important role in interrogating and examining every foreign policy move including in the transition.
And finally, just like what we`re doing right here, I think it`s a very important time to educate the American people.
And by the way, maybe educate even the Trump people who may not understand the history of this party.
Who may not understand the linkages back to United Russia, the party in Moscow. By the way, the gentleman who signed that agreement from Moscow is on our sanctions list.
And through that process at least hope that we don`t do as a country as the administration doesn`t do radically stupid things.
O`DONNELL: Joe, it seems like Michael Flynn at this point is on his own. He`s not going to get support from the Joint Chiefs or for anything that`s already in place institutionally.
And one wonders at some point, is Donald Trump going to notice this? Is Donald Trump going to notice that no one agrees with Michael Flynn?
CIRINCIONE: Well, he certainly represents one faction inside the incoming Trump administration.
The sort of Islamophobic conspiracy-minded faction. There are others like this, frankly, the representative Pompeo named to be the director of the CIA shares some of these views.
That`s not the views of General Mattis, possibly Secretary of Defense, or of Rex Tillerson, possibly the Secretary of State.
So, you will see this struggle going in. And look, nobody`s against improving relations with Russia.
The general is absolutely right. Russia represents the greatest threat, the existential threat to the United States.
They have 1,000 nuclear war-heads ready to launch at the United States in a moment`s notice, and by the way, we do, too.
Which is one reason we should take these weapons off of hair trigger alert right now.
And so you have to improve relations with Russia. The question is what`s the deal? What`s the balance?
And David points out in an excellent article in "The Atlantic" that we -- some people are now afraid that the Trump team is giving away the U.S. advantage.
Is agreeing to things to do with Russia without getting anything in return, is already showing all their cards.
And that`s the danger. Yes, improve relations with Russia, but get something in return for it.
O`DONNELL: David, give us an example of how the U.S. should -- and the Trump administration should play those cards.
FRUM: Look, remember, Russia is poor. Russia is weak. Russia is under sanction.
The Trump administration is unpredictable and scary. It should look scarier. One thing you do is you do not make up your mind early to have a bad relationship with China.
The old Nixon-Kissinger understanding was that the United States is the -- those three great powers.
The United States is the one with the most freedom of action. So, act like it. As Joe said, Trump is -- has already insulted the Chinese.
Meaning that he has reduced his own freedom of action. And the question is, is that ideological or do the Russians have something on him?
And I think one of the things is a way we talk about this as if it`s all very unfortunate and as if Donald Trump doesn`t understand.
That if only he understood what his best interests really were. But you know, a lot of things to criticize about Donald Trump but not knowing what`s in his best interests has seldom being one of them.
And so when you see him acting in a certain way, you have to assume he`s got a reason to do it. And if the reason looks dark, that doesn`t mean it`s not true.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador McFaul, your reaction to that, the likelihood or the possibility that the Russians through various means would as David put it have something on Donald Trump.
MCFAUL: I can`t -- I really -- I mean, it`s a hypothesis that could be true. I don`t know that to be a fact.
But I do want to build on this conversation about means versus ends. And let me give you -- I`ve actually negotiated with the Russians that for several years when I was in the administration.
And like Joe, we weren`t against good relations. But we had objectives that we wanted to get done.
Foreign policy objectives that we thought were good for the American people. We got a START. treaty done, not a 1,000, Joe, but we got it down to 1,550. Weapons pointed at each other through the new START treaty. We got sanctions on Iran.
We got a new distribution route to Afghanistan. We got Russia into the WTO. And the means to do that was engagement with then President Medvedev.
Trump`s got it backwards. He has made the objective of his foreign policy at least so far is getting along with Russia.
And Putin`s got a really clear idea, a strategy for achieving that. Well, if you endorse what I do in Syria, I`ll let us have a nice party in the Kremlin.
If you lift sanctions, I`ll say we get along better. If you endorse our annexation of Crimea, we`ll approve your -- you know, your popular approval ratings here in Russia.
In other words, he`s got it exactly backwards. And so far, I don`t know what he seeks in terms of the great deals that he`s promised to do with Russia.
That comes first and then the means for achieving them either through engagement or pressure comes second.
O`DONNELL: Joe Cirincione, David Frum and Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you all for joining us tonight, appreciate it.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the extraordinary story of a woman whose sentence, prison sentence was commuted by President Clinton.
And who was then recently pardoned by President Obama. She is now a lawyer, and she will join us later in the program.
O`DONNELL: There`s been a massive explosion at a fireworks market just outside the -- of Mexico City at the San Pablito market.
A Mexican official tells the "Associated Press" that at least 27 people have been killed and dozens are hurt.
The market was crowded with shoppers buying fireworks for the holidays. It`s not clear exactly what caused that explosion at that fireworks market.
Similar explosions have happened there in the past, in past years at that market. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: And now a few words from Kellyanne Conway. We don`t usually quote Kellyanne Conway on this program because Kellyanne Conway is in the business of spouting mostly nonsensical Trumpisms peppered with lies.
You never learn anything by listening to Kellyanne Conway. But she said something today to the "New York Times" that offers a beginning point to the discussion of how Democrats in Congress should approach the Trump presidency.
She told the "Times", "the professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election."
Now there`s Kellyanne Conway saying that congressional opposition to a president is corrosive to our constitutional democracy.
She is pretending that if the Democrats in Congress opposed Donald Trump on everything that he tries to do, that will be the very first time in history that, that has happened.
She is pretending that the Republicans did not do that every day for eight years with President Obama. And she`s pretending that the Democrats leader in the Senate did not say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), SENATOR: We`re not going to work with him for the sake of working with him.
We`re not going to oppose him just because he says something, it`s something that Trump sponsors.
On certain issues, candidate Trump voiced very progressive and populist opinions. For instance, getting rid of the carried-interest loophole, changing our trade laws dramatically.
A large infrastructure bill, cleaning up the swamp in Washington. These are things that Democrats have always stood for and frankly, Republicans have always been against.
So, we`re going to challenge President Trump to work with us on those issues where we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now David Corn; the Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst.
Also joining us Zerlina Maxwell; political analyst and the former director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign.
Zerlina, here`s this question. Did the Democrats take the Mitch McConnell approach and oppose every single thing that Donald Trump tries to do?
Or do they as Chuck Schumer says look for the spots where they can find something that they agree with Donald Trump on and try to get a legislative agreement on that?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that instead of looking for the spots where they should find agreement, they should look for the critical areas in which they can make some headway in terms of the real questions in terms of his business interests and the conflicts with foreign governments.
But also some of the transparency issues that we know are going to be a reality under the Trump administration.
And I really think that Democrats need to stop acting like this is business as usual. This is not business as usual.
This is an unprecedented moment in our democracy and it`s very important for the Democrats to hold strong and fight like hell.
Now, this is different than Mitch McConnell because President Obama was a democratically elected president where there was no corruption implied and no confirmation that there was a foreign government hacking in our election.
And so that`s something that distinguishes this moment from when President Obama was elected in 2008.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, what are you -- what are you hearing from Democrats about the position that Chuck Schumer just announced which is, we will try to find areas to work with him, President Trump, where we can and then oppose him where we disagree with him.
And as opposed to that McConnell Republican style --
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Right --
O`DONNELL: Just oppose him every day right from the start, don`t give an inch.
CORN: I think, you know, Republicans -- excuse me, Democrats are split a little bit on this. And I would flip the question and now where will, you know, Democrats perhaps work with Trump, but where might Trump work with Democrats.
I agree with Zerlina that the overall context here should be that Trump is illegitimate. I`m not talking about not by because he won the electoral college or because he lost the popular vote.
But as a leader, he`s not serious, he`s not responsible. You talk about corrosive effects, he pushed the racist birther notion for years.
And so he needs to come to Democrats to the rest of the country and show that he`s not a bully, bigot and an arrogant, know nothing.
So, if he wants to do an infrastructure bill, I think Democrats, you know, should look at it, but decide if it`s going to help Americans or not.
And that way be more responsible than what happened in the first year or so of the Obama administration when Obama did reach out to Republicans on the stimulus bill, on healthcare.
And said listen, I`m taking some of your ideas even before we start to negotiate and putting them in as a sign of good faith.
So, I think really the Democrats should not be -- should be stand office, they should not trust a single thing he says or promises.
But take a look at what he puts on the table but ultimately, I don`t think it`s going to be Donald Trump driving the train.
It may be Ryan or McConnell or maybe Pence. So, it`s going to be very difficult for Democrats to be able to have an honest assessment of what Donald Trump intends to do.
O`DONNELL: I want to get to something Bill O`Reilly said tonight. Here we are the day after --
CORN: Good --
O`DONNELL: The electoral college met and Bill O`Reilly weighing in on the electoral college.
And he clearly has no idea how the electoral college was initially designed of course, no one was allowed to vote directly for the president because the founding fathers simply didn`t believe that voters off the street were smart enough to do that.
And the electoral college was of course supposed to be a smarter group of people, learned men as they saw it who could make that decision.
Let`s listen to now Bill O`Reilly`s entry into the electoral college debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Newspapers like the "New York Times" and the "L.A. Times" have editorialized to get rid of the electoral college.
They well know that neutralizing the largely white rural areas in the Midwest and south will assure liberal politicians get power and keep it.
Talking points believe this is all about race. The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with.
Therefore, white working class voters must be marginalized. And what better way to do that than center the voting power in the cities.
Left wants power taken away from the white establishment, they want a profound change in the way America is run.
Taking voting power away from the white precincts is the quickest way to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, the electoral college does nothing but redistribute an imbalanced voting power geographically.
It makes a vote in Wyoming worth 20 times more than a vote in California. It just makes one person, one vote a parody, it`s just a joke.
Zerlina, O`Reilly sees this in nothing but racial terms.
MAXWELL: Well, what`s interesting is that, in the beginning of his rant, I kind of agreed with him because it is about race.
Because if you look at the history of why the electoral college was created, it was in part, yes, to make it more fair.
But it was to make it more fair for southern slave-holding folks who lived down in the confederate states.
And so, I think with the problem that we have here is over emphasizing the importance of the white working class voter and doing that at the expense of other working class voters black and Latino voters.
We never talk about black working class voters, we never talk about the Latino working class voters.
And I think Democrats and certainly the country at large needs to understand who is working and that it`s not just white people in Oklahoma that are working and struggling, it`s people everywhere.
And that --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
MAXWELL: Message that Democrats and politicians need to put forward needs to resonate with those groups.
But the electoral college is certainly an outdated institution that comes from really troubling beginning.
CORN: You know --
O`DONNELL: And David, Republicans like O`Reilly defending the electoral college, they will talk about neutralizing rural areas instead of making all votes equal.
That`s all --
CORN: Right --
O`DONNELL: We`re talking about when you`re talking about getting rid of the electoral college.
Making all votes equal. Making all those rural votes equal to urban --
CORN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Votes as opposed to 20 times more powerful than urban votes.
CORN: I don`t think I can put it better than you, once again. But when I was listening to O`Reilly do that rant tonight, I was thinking about South Africa.
Talking about protecting the white establishment? I mean, O`Reilly and you know, folks at "Fox" are always, you know, yelling at the left and others for putting things in racial terms.
I can`t think of anything more racial than saying that you know, people are protecting or trying to attack a white establishment.
I mean, you know, a lot of populists could go after the establishment, but they don`t call it a white establishment.
Sounds like he was defending apartheid. I mean, you know, there are a lot of low moments for Bill O`Reilly.
But this has to be at least in the top 100.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break here, Zerlina Maxwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
MAXWELL: Thank you --
O`DONNELL: I appreciate it --
MAXWELL: For having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Trump boys rewrite their invitation to pay big money to hang with the Trump boys.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s rewrite. This morning Time Magazine published a new report from the center for public integrity. Non-profit run by Donald Trump`s sons offers inauguration access for $1 million. A new Texas non-profit led by Donald Trump`s grown sons is offering access to the freshly mints President during inauguration weekend all in exchange for a $1 million donations to unnamed conservation charities. The non-profit, the Opening Day Foundation was incorporated in Texas last week.
The filing lists Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as directors. an Opening Day brochure advertising a party the day after at inauguration in Washington, D.C. offered Bald Eagle, that`s what they called them bald eagle donors who contributed $1 million or more "a private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with Donald Trump and a multi-day hunting and or fishing excursion for four guests with Donald Trump Jr. and or Eric Trump and team.
Exposure of that offer by Washington Post Politico and the Wall Street Journal forced the Trump transition team to release this statement. The opening day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not approved or pursued by the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are not involved in any capacity. This afternoon, the opening day brochure was rewritten to offer big donors a private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guest guests with VIPS and celebrities associated with the event and a multi day outdoor excursion for four guests. Not a word about hanging with the Trump boys.
Joining us now, one of the people whose work helped stop this from going forward, Dave Levinthal who`s the Senior Political Reporter at the Center for Public Integrity. And he was an editor on the story. Also David corn is back with us. Dave Levinthal, how did you find this story and how quickly did the Trump team respond to it?
DAVE LEVINTHAL, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: It took about 24 hours for the Trump team to go ahead and formally respond to it. And we`ve had sort of three different types of answers coming out. We have the Trump transition team effectively saying no, they`re not involved.
We have some folks who are involved in this event itself saying well the Trump sons and Donald Trump, maybe they`ll be involved. They`re sort of involved. Then we have documents that indicate that in fact, is the Trump brothers are very involved. So a lot of the conflicting messages right now. my colleague Carrie Levine dug out a registration paperwork document from Texas that indicated that a pro non-profit organization had been set up that Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were directors of this although the transition team says that is that really isn`t going to be the case going forward. That they are not going to be involved so a lot of questions open right now.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said about pay for play operations during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Bill Clinton was being paid to give speeches by many of the same people who had matters before the State Department while Hillary was Secretary of State. Clinton donors got favorable treatment and access to the state department. It`s called pay for play.
When it comes to Hillary Clinton all you have to do is these three words. Follow the money. We`ve just learned she tried to get $12 million from the King of Morocco for an appearance, one appearance, more pay for play. The FBI is investigating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Corn, the Trump deafness to this concept but that`s the way it is with everything. Accuse other people of doing it then do that exact what you`re accusing other people of.
CORN: Lawrence, we could stay here for the rest of the show tonight and on unto the next year talking about all the ethical lapses and conflicts that have already occurred before Donald Trump enters the Whitehouse. You know, whether auctioning off his daughter, having Donald Trump Jr. sitting in on vetting sessions for cabinet picks while he`s running a business that has international and national interests. Of course, just for the heck of it, let`s remind people of Trump University.
I mean, it`s just, everything he has said in attacking the ethics of others whether it`s Hillary Clinton or anybody else he has doubled, tripled, tenfold times done the worst. He will be entering the Whitehouse in violation of the constitution. He will be violating the GSA contract. And at the same time, he`s put off this press conference and won`t tell us when it`s going to happen about how he`s going to distinguish himself from his business while having maybe his son-in-law who is married to his daughter who will be running the business in his oval office. It`s such a mess. It is so sad. I mean, it`s really boggles the mind how absurd this is, and yet, we`ll see if anybody on the republican side in Congress stands up to this.
O`DONNELL: And David Levinthal, It seems like there`s going to be a cycle here that the press gets into. These kinds of things will be conceived. They will be under way or getting under way, you discover them. Other reporters will discover them. And then we`ll watch that how long it takes for the Trump -- what will become the Trump presidency to unwind one of these things or to try to pull whichever Trump is in it out of it and say no, no, no, that Trump is not a director that have thing. And it seems like this will be a cycle we will go through.
LEVINTHAL: We have a whole lost things going on and a preponderance of evidence that Donald Trump the reality of his transition is not living up to the rhetoric of his campaign. David mentioned the situation with the coffee with Ivanka Trump. You have the situation with this non-profit organization engaging in what ostensibly is to pay to play activity. Another biggest one of all over my shoulder over by the U.S. Capitol, you`re going to have the Trump Inauguration. And If you have a $1 million, if you want to give that to the Trump inauguration, you can access Donald Trump, Mike Pence and really the entire Trump Administration at a very, very intimate and high level during that inauguration weekend.
If you`re don`t have two dimes to rub together, the closest you get to Trump on inauguration weekend is about 500 feet back from the street of Pennsylvania Avenu when the parade is going through. So there`s definitely a disconnect that takes place. And People will fairly say, this happens every inauguration. This always happens but Donald Trump is sweeping into Washington saying I`m going to drain the swamp. I`m going to end pay to place. There`s a standard that he has set for himself. The question is, as President and President-Elect, will he live up to it.
O`DONNELL: No. I think it was just a standard he set for the Clintons and had no intention of living it up to himself. David Corn, David Levinthal. We`re out of time on this. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
CORN: Thank you.
LEVINTHAL: Sure thing.
O`DONNELL: Coming up next is, Donald Trump`s bankruptcy lawyer would be the worst U.S. Ambassador to Israel in history and so of course, that is who Donald Trump has chosen for Ambassador to Israel.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Donald Trump wants his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, to be the next Ambassador to Israel. David Friedman has apparently done a good job of using bankruptcy law to save Donald Trump from paying his bills but he has no experience or expertise in Middle East policy or diplomacy of any kind.
He is in all of his public statements about as diplomatic as Donald Trump. And he is about as willing to tell the truth as Donald Trump. He said Huma Abedin has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has said that Jewish Liberals who support the Washington Lobbying J. Street are worse than Jewish collaborators with the Nazi`s during World War II. When Senator Al Franken expressed concerns been anti-semitic imagery used in the Trump campaign David Friedman called Senator Franken a moron. Senator Franken will have a vote in the confirmation of David Friedman as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Joining us now, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti- Defamation League. Jonathan, what`s your reaction to this choice for Ambassador to Israel.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well look, Lawrence, I don`t know David Friedman. I never met him before but the president has the right to choose his own diplomats. And what i do know is that it appears David Friedman is both a very committed to Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people and B, very close to the President-Elect. That`s why I think those are some positive signs.
But make no mistake. This isn`t some sleepy diplomatic outpost. This is one of our most important embassies in the world in the most volatile region in the world. and so I look forward to and I think all Americans would look forward to the hearing that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct when we`ll be able to probe and judge him not on a few stray comments but on his qualifications and beliefs that he would bringing to this important job.
O`DONNELL: Let`s -- by the way, about your organization, the anti- Defamation League, David Friedman has said I don`t see how anybody can take the anti-defamation league seriously. What`s your reaction to that?
GREENBLATT: Look, Mr. Friedman apparently said these things before he was a diplomat. I think calling the Anti-Defamation League or deriding us or attacking other Jews has Nazi collaborators these are hardly diplomatic things to say. With that said, we`re not going to engage in partisan politics. I`ve got one job which is fighting hate and extremism. And we`ve seen the surge of hate crimes over the last six weeks that have been incredibly troubling both from the extreme right and we`ve seen issues on the radical left. So, let me be clear. We`re going to stick to our job which is defending the Jewish people and other minorities from prejudice and hate no matter what names anybody chooses to call us.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen what the president of J STREET said with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY BEN-AMI, PRESIDENT OF J STREET: No control over his mouth and no control over the way in which he refers people he doesn`t like or doesn`t agree with is simply should not pass the test for the senate of advice and consent. It should be a nomination that is rejected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It sounds like he is headed for opposition on the senate.
GREENBLATT: It would seem that way. And I think what you pointed out about Mr. Franken having a role and a vote on the senate foreign relations committee is really important. But again because this job is so crucial like other ambassadorial posts the senate will have the opportunity, the American people will hear exactly where he stands on what he believes. And we should just mention for a moment you don`t get to pick and choose an ambassador who you represent based in their political persuasion.
He will have to represent all Americans. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha`I and in that role I hope he`s ready to have an inclusive approach to the interests of all of the American people.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
GREENBLATT: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a public defender who is hoping President Obama will use his remaining time in office to issue many, many more pardons. She received her own pardon from President Obama yesterday.
O`DONNELL: And we`re down to four. Just four shopping days till Christmas. Feeling stressed about that? We are officially on the verge of panic Christmas shopping and Maya has a great idea. She tweeted great last minute gift idea that will help kids in school in Malawi and of course she`s talking about the K.I.N.D Fund, kids in need of desks. You can contribute a desk for a school in Africa or a scholarship for girls who attend high school in Malawi by going to lastworddesks.msnbc.com and you can designate your contribution as a gift in the name of anyone on your holiday gift list.
Kevin McManus surprised me with this one. He said thanks Lawrence for introducing me to K.I.N.D, my Christmas present to myself was a donation. Wouldn`t have known about it if not for you. And that`s really a - that`s a first, Kevin. Contributing as a gift to yourself. Sounds like a great idea. Allison tweeted our family just bought two desks for K.I.N.D fund in the name of W.D McManus and A. James McManus a retired teacher.
You know, a lot of people contribute K.I.N.D as a gift to teachers and a lot of teachers contribute to kids in need of desks. Also no one knows better than teachers what a difference an improved classroom can make. Steven Dorian tweeted been meaning to tell you how great during this times to see how K.I.N.D is helping these kids, proud annual supporter. Thanks a lot Steven. Elizabeth tweeted, these K.I.N.D stories are some of the only good things we hear about these days. And Jean Johnson tweeted, she gets the last night`s - she gets tonight`s last tweet. She said simply, kindness rules.
O`DONNELL: President Obama has the power to change lives in huge ways. Every remaining day of his presidency and he can do that with his absolute power to pardon. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The president has exactly one absolute power. The constitution says the president shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States. Congress and the courts have absolutely no control over this power of the presidency. You would think that presidents would use that absolute power and use it a lot. A president could issue dozens of pardons a day, hundreds of pardons, thousands of pardons if they wanted to everyday or just maybe one pardon a day.
But no president has ever come close to issuing a pardon a day. A modern presidency lives in political fear of being labeled soft on crime. And so the president`s one absolute power is to put it mildly underused. President Obama has issued more commutations of sentences than any other president. He has commuted sentences in 1,176 cases.
That it`s more commutations than any other president has granted but president Obama has pardoned fewer people than recent presidents have. He has issued only 148 pardons. Joining us now someone who received a commutation from President Clinton and a pardon from President Obama. Serena Nunn is now an attorney practicing in Georgia. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SERENA NUNN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: This is astonishing story. As we know, even in cases that deserve it, the statistical probability of getting a commutation are like below one percent. The possibility of getting a pardon are below one percent. You got both. How did that happened?
NUNN: Well, first I would say I just thank god for both of them and through a lot of hard work and through a diligent attorney by the name of Sam Sheldon, I mean, it`s been a long time coming and it`s been a long journey.
O`DONNELL: And you`re conviction was on drug charges. Is that correct?
NUNN: Correct, drug conspiracy charges.
O`DONNELL: When you were 19.
NUNN: Yes, when I was 19. I was convicted in federal -- in federal district court in Minnesota. I received a sentence of 188 months. And that was in December of 1989 after serving almost 11 years President Clinton commuted my sentence on July 7th, 2000. After my release, I went to Arizona State University where I obtained my bachelor`s Degree in political science and after that, I went on to law school at the university of Michigan and graduated from there and ultimately, I took the bar in Georgia and I am now practicing as a criminal defense attorney in the public defender`s office.
O`DONNELL: What would you like to say to President Obama in addition to thank you for the pardon, but in the remaining days of his presidency how he should be thinking about using this absolute power?
NUNN: I would definitely like you said first say thank to you President Obama. I mean, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Like you said, I think that I`m probably one of a handful of federal prisoners who received a commutation and a pardon. In addition to that, I believe I may have been -- I may be the first black female who received both. I would like to say to President Obama please do as many commutations and pardons as you can before you leave office because you are truly affecting a lot of lives.
Being able to have a pardon will help me not only inspire and encourage others who have made poor decisions in their past to know that if they work hard, they can outlive their bad decisions. And I think that I hope that the following administration build upon the foundation that President Obama has already laid in terms of pardons and commutations.
O`DONNELL: Serena Nunn gets tonight`s last word. Serena, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
NUNN: Thank you again for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. MSNBC`s live coverage continues in to "THE 11TH HOUR" now with Brian Williams, that`s next.