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The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 2/13/2017

Guests: John Harwood, John Schindler, Indira Lakshmanan, Colin Kahl, Yashar Ali, David Jolly, Indira Lakshmanan, Zerlina Maxwell

Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Date: February 13, 2017 Guest: John Harwood, John Schindler, Indira Lakshmanan, Colin Kahl, Yashar Ali, David Jolly, Indira Lakshmanan, Zerlina Maxwell

JOY REID, MSNBC: Good evening, Rachel. You know, I`ll tell you, I am here in Los Angeles and I swear if Hollywood, if a Hollywood screenwriter were to write a screenplay about the last three weeks and say it was about a presidential administration, I doubt anyone would buy it, they`d say it`s just not realistic.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly, you`ve got to put this back, workshop this in a little bit, try to make it a little more nuanced, yes.

REID: Make it more like something that would really happen in a presidential administration, was wow, it is -- it is wow.

Well, thank you very much my friend, have a --

MADDOW: Thanks Joy --

REID: Great night --

MADDOW: Thanks.

REID: OK, take care, thank you, Rachel. And I am Joy Reid in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Donald Trump`s national security adviser is accused of lying to the vice president about his conversations with Russia.

Tonight, there`s breaking news from "The Washington Post" which claims that the White House was warned about General Flynn and a Republican congressman thinks Flynn should be fired.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn`s future in question.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: "The Washington Post" reported that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador weeks before President Trump`s inauguration.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Are you saying you`re satisfied that he did not have those conversations?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: General Flynn has said he can`t recall.

KORNACKI: Are you saying that is good enough for President Trump to consider the matter settled?

CONWAY: I think General Flynn`s statement speaks for itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flynn led Vice President Pence to believe that he absolutely did not talk about the sanctions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have confidence in him? Did he lie to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s so much -- crazy, it`s like three weeks of Trump is like five years of Nixon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real toxic environment right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a national security adviser that the president can trust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His security clearance ought to be withdrawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really think it`s time for him to step down.

MATTHEWS: Somebody is a pain in the butt, you got to deal with it, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You stand by him 100 percent?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean Spicer; the press secretary said the president is evaluating the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mentally though, are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kidding me? Are you actually --


REID: Chaos reigns in the White House. It`s been nearly four days since reports first surfaced that President Donald Trump`s national security adviser Lieutenant General Michael Flynn may have discussed easing U.S. sanctions against Russia when he spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump was inaugurated.

And we still don`t have a clear picture of what Donald Trump thinks about these reports. But it`s becoming clearer that officials around the president were indeed quite concerned about General Flynn.

"The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates "informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

And warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail."

Current and former U.S. officials said the "Post" goes on to report that in the final days of the Obama administration, James Clapper who was the director of national intelligence and John Brennan; the CIA director at the time shared Sally Yates` concerns about Flynn.

And there`s more. New reporting tonight from "Politico" that the Trump White House is reportedly searching for potential replacements for General Flynn.

According to their reporting, Trump`s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is leading the search.

The potential list of candidates includes names like retired General David Petraeus who`s scheduled to meet with the president this week.

But Donald Trump`s senior advisers are publicly sending mixed signals about the fate of the national security adviser. Late this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released this statement.

"The president is evaluating the situation. He`s speaking to Vice President Pence, relative to the conversation the Vice President had with General Flynn.

And also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single-most important subject they`re in, our national security." So, that sounds like the president has some doubts about his national security adviser.

However, just an hour before that statement was released, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Msnbc that Trump has complete confidence in General Flynn.


CONWAY: General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.

KORNACKI: By saying he enjoys the full confidence of the president, are you saying you`re satisfied that he did not have those conversations, that he did not mislead the vice president?

CONWAY: No, those are two different questions you asked me, and I`ll repeat the answer is, does he have the full confidence of the president? Yes, he does.

Then you`re asking me, what did he talk about with people when I wasn`t on the phone? So, the only way for me to answer that is to tell you what he has said, which is that he can`t recall.


REID: A senior administration official tells Nbc News that General Flynn called Vice President Pence to apologize for misleading him about his communications with Russian ambassador.

Even though Flynn`s most recent statement on that matter was that he couldn`t recall if sanctions were discussed.

This afternoon, Donald Trump held a press conference after hosting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House where he -- wait for it, wasn`t asked about this issue.

The president took questions from a conservative website, "The Daily Caller", and a local outlet owned by a media group that White House adviser Jared Kushner reportedly negotiated with, in an effort to secure better media coverage.

That`s according to a political report from back in December. A White House official tells Nbc News, several aides have been encouraging Trump to fire General Flynn.

Although multiple White House sources say a move is "not imminent".

An administration official told "The Washington Post" there`s a broad consensus inside Trump`s White House that Flynn lied to the White House about conversations he had with Russia.

And developing tonight, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has sent a letter to the committee`s Chairman Republican Jason Chaffetz requesting an investigation of Flynn in light of these new reports.

And joining us now are Indira Lakshmanan; a Washington columnist for the "Boston Globe", John Schindler; national security columnist for the "New York Observer".

His new piece in the paper is called "The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins".

And John Harwood; chief Washington correspondent for "Cnbc". And John, I`m going to start with you because it seems to me there are sort of different compartments of questions that need to be asked.

Because the most obvious one, and I`m going to throw it to you is, do we have any clarity as to whether Michael Flynn is on thin ice or has the confidence of the president?

Because Kellyanne Conway is either misled, misinformed or not being honest when she said that he does.



HARWOOD: Say, Joy, he`s clearly on thin ice. The question is, is that survivable? And I would say based on what we saw today that it might be survivable.

When you look at the statements that were delivered back-to-back by Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, remember, Kellyanne Conway is closer to the president of the United States than Sean Spicer is.

Sean Spicer is closer to the Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. But remember, in this White House which is riven by factions, there`s been speculation that Kellyanne Conway might succeed Reince Priebus as chief of staff.

And so, I would take her statement of full confidence of the president as meaning something.

And I also think finally that when you look at the president and how he would think about firing General Flynn, and how that would be giving into critics including critics in the media.

I think his distaste for the media, distaste for giving critics what they want, probably exceeds his desire to try to make up with Mike Pence for whatever General Flynn told the vice president.

REID: Yes, and let`s go to the other John, John Schindler on this because I think --


REID: The other sort of big question here because everyone that`s, you know, reported on this story and they`re discussing this story, is presuming that Michael Flynn had conversations with the Russian ambassador, obviously they didn`t tell Mike Pence about.

But the implication is that he also didn`t tell necessarily the president about it.

But what do we know about whether or not Donald Trump had knowledge, foreknowledge of Michael Flynn having these kinds of conversations with the Russian ambassador?

Can you imagine that Michael Flynn who was destined to be in the administration would have gone out on that kind of a limb with the ambassador without Donald Trump knowing he was going to do it?

SCHINDLER: No, I can`t. And let me say upfront that Donald Trump has taken a very casual attitude toward intelligence and security matters, blowing off top-secret briefings, that sort of thing.

But as you indicated, the notion that Mike Flynn was deputized on his own to say whatever he wanted.

To cut whatever deal he wanted with the Russian ambassador in multiple conversations which preceded even the election is very hard to swallow no matter how hands off Trump might be about details.

Given the fact that the campaign was under scrutiny for months over its ties to Russia and what they really might be.

It`s difficult to imagine even a would-be administration as sort of oddly disorganized as this one not having some control over something as sensitive as talking to the Russian ambassador.

Which by the way, Mike Flynn, a career intelligence officer, unless he is unimaginably stupid, had to be aware it was going to be intercepted and there`d be transcripts of it somewhere.

So, there`s several layers of -- back here, none of which looks very good for the White House right now.

REID: Yes, exactly, and Jared, I mean, these are calls that are obviously monitored. He used to be the head of the defense intelligence agency, Michael --


REID: Flynn. This isn`t somebody who doesn`t know that if you make a call to the Russian ambassador, it`s going to be monitored. And so, I think -- I wonder if we`re not asking the -- really the most important question here.

If there was a concern by Sally Yates; the former acting AG, that Michael Flynn was compromised by his various relationships with the Russians, shouldn`t we also be asking whether he was having these conversations with the Russian ambassador?

Making assurance that he shouldn`t have been making with the full knowledge of the president of the United States?


REID: Yes --

LAKSHMANAN: It`s completely inconceivable that any ambassador from Russia in the United States is not constantly being surveilled.

Just as American ambassadors in Russia or in China or in any adversarial state assume that all of their conversations are being listened to.

Likewise here in Washington, similar ambassadors should always assume that their conversations are being tapped.

And so, for the former head of, you know, defense intelligence to not know that, it just -- it -- you know, stretches credulity. It doesn`t make any sense that he wouldn`t know he was being listened to.

And what I thought was most interesting about that "Washington Post" story was that it wasn`t just Sally Yates who, of course, became famous to all of us who didn`t know her before.

Or at least to members of the general public because of being fired by Donald Trump over her refusal to enforce his migrant ban.

But it was also, as you said, John Brennan, Obama`s head of the CIA and James Clapper, the DNI, who all wanted to go to someone in the White House, perhaps even Trump himself to report this.

And it wasn`t just a violation of the Logan Act which they realized maybe we can`t prosecute him on that.

You know, these kinds of contacts with a foreign, you know, agent, during an election. But also just this very peculiar thing of undermining sanctions policy. I find it completely bizarre.

REID: Yes, and John Schindler, you know, your piece --


REID: Is titled "The Spy`s Revolt Begins". You had Donald Trump really going after the intelligence community throughout the campaign and showing this incredible (INAUDIBLE), this incredible affinity for Russia and for Vladimir Putin.

He never criticizes Putin. He seems to be, you know, sort of very positive toward everything that he does.

And then you have Michael Flynn that`s got this relationship going back to the time he was expelled from DIA.

The "New York Times" has this report that the army is investigating whether Michael Flynn took money from the Russian government in 2015.

Says "the army is investigating whether Flynn received money from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015 according to defense officials." Such a payment would violate the emoluments clause which we`ve heard a lot about.

Which prohibits former military officers from receiving money. We know, it says a defense official said there`s no record of Mr. Flynn filing the required paperwork --


REID: For the trip. And we know he was paid as a -- as a commentator for RT. Is this -- are we starting to see the intelligence services rebel against what somebody that they fundamentally don`t trust?

SCHINDLER: Yes, and they`re sickened by this. And they understand that Mike Flynn used to be one of us. This is a career military intelligence officer, a cold war veteran. This is not some guy off the street.

He had a DIA. He knew exactly what he was doing when he took trips to Moscow, when he talked to Russian military intelligence, addressed them at their headquarters.

When he sat famously at a table alongside Vladimir Putin for RT`s tenth anniversary party. When he took money from RT which he understood RT is the Kremlin.

No matter what he says now, Michael Flynn is not dumb. He is a career intelligence guy, he knows exactly what he was doing.

And this is just a tip of an iceberg. There are persistent reports that there were other payments that other members of his family were receiving Russian payments.

I have a feeling this is all going to start coming out soon and it`s not going to be pretty. And here`s where Congress really needs to get involved, perhaps --

REID: Yes --

SCHINDLER: With a special prosecutor because this is going to get very tricky, very fast politically speaking.

REID: And very quickly, John Harwood, you know, you have John Schindler reporting that you`re starting to have a sensitive information withheld from the White House because they don`t necessarily trust Michael Flynn, et cetera.

Could the White House possibly be trying to solve this problem by putting General Petraeus in instead.

That`s one of the reports that`s floating around, when he has a conviction for passing classified data to his former girlfriend.

HARWOOD: Well, look, I think David Petraeus would be a fine choice as national security adviser, notwithstanding that mistake that he made.

He`s got a lot of respect in the military community. I think the question is whether we get there and how quickly we get there.

And the larger question that John is reporting raises is what sort of congressional inquiry are we going to have into not just Michael Flynn`s ties with the Russians, but also the president of the United States ties.

And what is the meaning of those? We don`t know the answer. A lot of smoke, a lot of -- you know, we had the intelligence community reports saying that they purposely intervened in the election to help the election of Donald Trump.

Why did that happen? There are a lot of things that we don`t know the answers to, and the biggest question is whether a Congress controlled by the president`s party is going to oversee investigations that give us those answers.

REID: Yes, especially since as you said it has to go all the way to the president of the United States because that is who hired (INAUDIBLE) Michael Flynn.

John Schindler and John Harwood, thanks to both of you and Lakshmanan --

SCHINDLER: Thanks --

REID: Will be back later in the show. Coming up, Donald Trump and Republicans were extremely concerned about protecting classified information when it came to Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

Not so much with Donald Trump and his open-air situation room at Mar-a- Lago. And do Republicans have a breaking point when it comes to Donald Trump`s actions? A Republican who thinks they should have already gotten there will join me.


REID: We have breaking news tonight about Donald Trump`s travel ban. A federal judge in Virginia has just ruled against President Donald Trump`s travel ban and sided with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The state argued the ban violated the First Amendment`s establishment clause which pertains to government and religion.

Judge Leonie Brinkema who was appointed by President Clinton issued a preliminary injunction tonight halting the ban for anyone with connections to the state of Virginia.

Judge Brinkema wrote, "there is a likelihood that the Commonwealth will prevail on the merits in court and that stopping "unconstitutional action" by the executive branch is always in the public`s interest."

Unlike the Seattle case which halted the ban nationwide, this ruling only applies to people connected to the state of Virginia.

And up next, how Donald Trump`s team is handling secret information.


REID: Pictures posted on social media are raising questions about whether Donald Trump may have mishandled sensitive national security information.

The pictures appear to show the reaction of Trump and his aides on Saturday night moments after North Korea tested a ballistic missile.

They show Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holding a meeting with their aides in the outdoor restaurant of Trump`s private club, Mar-a-Lago, where club members were dining.

One photo appears to show an aide using the light from a cellphone camera to help the leaders view documents.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer today denied the sensitive information was discussed during the dinner meeting, telling Nbc News the two leaders only discussed an upcoming press conference.

And the president was briefed on the missile launch separately. That wasn`t the end of Donald Trump`s night, however.

After a brief press conference on the missile launch, he dropped in on a wedding reception at the club.


TRUMP: And I said to the Prime Minister (INAUDIBLE), and I said -- Prime Minister of Japan, I said, come on, Shinzo, let`s go over and say hello.

And I hope everybody (INAUDIBLE).


REID: Questions about Donald Trump`s handling of classified material could prove awkward for Republicans who made Hillary Clinton`s handling of classified information a central issue in the presidential election.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: So, I really believe that if we have someone who is so recklessly mishandled sensitive classified information, the kind of stuff I get as speaker of the house because I`m in the transition in continuity of government, I think that we should think this through.

And I think the DNI has an obligation especially given what we just learned from what the FBI has said that she should not get that classified information.


REID: And joining me now is Colin Kahl; a professor at Georgetown University and a former national security adviser to Vice President Biden.

And also joining us is Yashar Ali; contributing writer for "New York Magazine" and "The Daily Beast".

All right, gentlemen, thank you guys for being here. Let`s start with you, Colin, on this question of a bit of hypocrisy it seems on the part of Republicans.

We just played Paul Ryan; the speaker of the house questioning whether or not Hillary Clinton ought to be able to handle classified information or be given classified briefings as president because she had a private e-mail server.

That by the way has not been found or been hacked. After the DNI denied that request, denied Paul Ryan`s request, actually blocked Hillary Clinton from receiving classified briefings, Paul Ryan actually put out another statement on it.

And this is what he said, he said "I renew my call for the director of national intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved."

So, Colin, have you seen any evidence that Paul Ryan or any Republicans are looking to do the same thing regarding Donald Trump?

COLIN KAHL, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: No, of course not. As I -- as I tell my students at Georgetown in foreign affairs and politics, it`s the constant management of hypocrisy.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, what we`re talking about here, Yashar, your report showed that Donald Trump had a very interesting night at Mar-a-Lago at his private club.

Which people paid $200,000 to be members. Walk us through a little bit about what happened.

Because we know he was at a wedding that perhaps he was invited to, perhaps not. Explain if you could.

YASHAR ALI, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: So, he held a joint -- the -- hastily put together a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Japan where he spoke for about 17 seconds.

And then left that press conference and went to this wedding which I don`t have a problem with in any other situation except for the fact that we were facing a difficult situation.

And, you know, we don`t know a lot about North Korea, even our intelligence agencies don`t know a lot about North Korea.

And the fact that he was willing to take the time to go to that wedding reception for someone who contributed at least a $100,000 to his election efforts was odd to say the least.

The facts of the matter is that Donald Trump spent a number of years poking fun at Hillary Clinton for Benghazi and attacking her for Benghazi. But he was sort of doing the same thing and not paying attention.

REID: And you know -- and Colin, one of the other things he was doing apparently was holding a meeting in open situation with cellphone cameras to light the documents with other people around.

Let me play you what the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee had to say on "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" today about what a lot of people are calling his open-air situation room.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that concern you, the idea of an open-air situation room where citizens, private citizens could watch?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Of course, it does, as well as we don`t know what documents they were examining with cellphones that may or may not have been compromised.

And it`s all the more appalling when you consider that this is a crowd that castigated Secretary Clinton for how she handled classified or confidential information.


REID: Colin Kahl, have you ever seen a situation where a president of the United States held a high level, I suppose, meeting with the Prime Minister of an allied country in essentially an open-air restaurant that he owns?

KAHL: No, it`s very strange. I mean, typically in a meeting like this, you`d have a private room, even if it was at a resort or something.

Something away from the cameras. I mean, there`s no bigger intelligence target on planet earth than the president of the United States.

So, you certainly wouldn`t want to have a serious conversation with a foreign leader with a bunch of strange ears around or waiters who could be intelligence officers from some foreign country.

So, that`s very odd. And then of course, when the crisis broke out at the very least, the president should have, you know -- he and Prime Minister Abe should have gotten up and gone into a private room where they could be assured that their conversations would be secure.

REID: Yes, and you know, Yashar, last week, Senator Martin Heinrich, the Democrat from New Mexico.

He actually tweeted out a photo and it appeared to show a key that`s left in a lock bag that contains classified information and it`s in the Oval Office.

And this was during a meeting with the CEO of Intel, of Intel Corporation. And he tweeted "never leave a key in a classified lock bag in the presence of non-cleared people."

I mean, the treatment of classified information by this White House to say nothing of the fact that Donald Trump still tweets from a phone.

And is there any evidence, you know, in your reporting that this is a secured phone that he`s tweeting from? I mean, what do you make of their handling in general of classified info?

ALI: No, he`s using -- he`s using his old Android phone to tweet.

And the "Ap" and a number of other outlets reported that people call that non-secure phone. He sees that they`re calling and he calls them from a secure phone.

But the key with all of this, and I just want to jump back to something that Colin just said, the facts of the matter is that Donald Trump uses temporary foreign workers for his resort.

This was an -- this was an issue that was brought up during the campaign. And something that just occurred to me, and the question that I have is, is the FBI vetting these workers now? Because --

REID: Yes --

ALI: They are on the same property all the time with the president of the United States.

They`re serving him, they`re around him. I know the Secret Service does some vets on folks that are serving the president or another protectee.

But is the FBI doing a deep vet on these folks? Because they can do anything.

REID: Yes, good question especially if they`re having their meetings in the middle of a restaurant.

ALI: Yes --

REID: Yashar Ali and Colin Kahl, thank you very much --

KAHL: You bet --

REID: With you. And coming up, Donald Trump made a big deal about promoting women at the White House today. But do Trump`s words match his actions? That`s next.



STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: The bottom line is that a district judge, a district judge in Seattle, cannot make immigration law for the United States, cannot give foreign nationals in foreign countries rights they do not have and cannot prevent the president of the United States from suspending the admission of refugees from Syria.


JOY REID, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MNSBC: That was senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller on "meet the press." The 31-year-old who despite having no presidential level policy experience was a key architect of the travel ban that prevented tens of thousands of Muslim tourists and students and even green card holders from entering the United States before it was slapped down by two federal courts. Miller and Trump`s chief strategist, Breitbart`s Steve Bannon, have been the driving forces behind the president`s national security and immigration agenda which is unironically titled "America First."

Well, yesterday on CBS`s Face the Nation Miller took his defense of that agenda one step further.


MILLER: Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.


REID: And joining us now, former Florida Congressman, republican Congressman, David Jolly. Mr. Jolly, thank you very much for being here.


REID: Let me play you -- thank you, sir. Let me play you what democratic Senator Chris Coonss of Delaware had to say about that on Morning Joe. Take a listen.

JOLLY: Sure.


CHRIS COONS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: That is a simply stunning statement. The idea that a senior adviser to the president would go on camera and say the president`s authority will not be questioned, shows both a striking lack of understanding of the structure of our government.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, TELEVISION HOST: That`s a nice way of putting it.

COONS: A complete lack of respect for judicial independence. It`s going to make confirmation of Judge Gorsuch harder. If the president doesn`t walk that back, I think he will have more and more problems on a bipartisan basis.


REID: And legal scholar Laurence Tribe had an even stronger reaction to it. This is the tweet that he sent out. He said Stephen Miller chillingly said the powers of the president will not be questioned. All that was missing was the heil Trump salute.

JOLLY: Sure.

REID: Pretty strong reactions from democrats, from legal scholars, where are the republicans?

JOLLY: Look the first month of the Trump administration has been this J.V. moment. Get that 31 year old sweaty kid off the TV and bring in the senior steady hand. Look Bush 43 came in, in a very similar environment, right? People are questioning his fitness, he had lost the popular vote. He surrounded himself by Dick Cheney and Andy Card, people who whether you liked them or not were a steady hand.

Look, Flynn`s next. He`s got to go. And then after that, who goes next? But we will see turnover and frankly this 31-year-old should not have been the voice of the president on Sunday morning TV when we`re at such a pivotal moment.

REID: But Donald Trump, president of the United States, who Stephen Miller worked for, who hired him, he seemed to be quite satisfied with that defense of him. He tweeted out, the way he likes to communicate.

JOLLY: Right.

REID: Congratulations, Stephen Miller on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. He thought he did an absolutely great job. So, if the president likes this defense of him, has no problems with it so far, what would possibly change his mind?

JOLLY: Well because he`s a narcissist who likes the loyalty. Listen, what`s he going to do with Sean Spicer? A press secretary who is eminently qualified, a good person but is being lampooned on Saturday Night Live two weeks in a row. It is a business decision for Donald Trump. If a member of his inner circle is being lampooned or being diminished, he`s going to let them go.

Look, you realize what he did today. He threw Kellyanne Conway under the bus. Somebody who frankly should be like a daughter to him comes out and says Flynn has the loyalty of the president and the moment that happens, Sean Spicer comes out and says something else. This is a president who is a puppet master of his inner circle. We need to hear more from the generals, from the cabinet secretaries, from the steady hands in a typical administration and less from the political operations of a White House who has yet to get their footing in the oval office right now.

REID: But and yet, you know, Donald Trump is entrusting policy to a 31- year-old whose history if you go back, the Daily Beast wrote that when he was in high school, people laughed at him because he was a buffoon but he thrived on spectacle. But he wasn`t taken seriously but that he was attacking things like announcements at the school that were not in English. Somebody who Richard Spencer, the white supremacist, claims that he mentored at duke, although now Stephen Miller denies it.

Why isn`t the Republican Party up in arms with someone like that with that kind of racial history being not just part of the administration but leading the policy shop?

JOLLY: So, let`s go above the racial questions if you will and I think this is the very quiet anxiety of most republicans including congressional republicans is how serious is the president taking this job? He is our president, President Donald Trump, like him or loathe him. But how seriously is he accepting this responsibility? And the anxiety we have is based upon the decisions he made in the first 30 days.

The people he is surrounding himself with. And at some point, Joy and this is very important, I mentioned Bush 43, you know, nine months into bush 43`s administration, he became a war president. Politics can be fun and games, it can be sport during a campaign, but this is real life. This is real life. And gods help us as a country if we end up in a moment of national tragedy.

We`re a broken nation and the president is failing to unite us and he is surrounding himself, frankly by J.V. Personnel who is not up to the job and so we need more from this president, but we as a nation need to also do our part to say, what do we do, how do we come together? Because, look, Lincoln said a house divided shall not stand. We`re not a nation bringing up arms against each other.

REID: Yes.

JOLLY: But we certainly are not a nation united right now. We need to find that. We need leadership to do that.

REID: Absolutely I think it would be quite hard for a lot of Americans to unite around anyone associated with Richard Spencer. I mean that`s one thing your party has to grapple it, Congressman Jolly, thank you very much for being here.

JOLLY: You got it. Thank you. Good to be with you.

REID: All right thank you and thanks. And coming Donald Trump and women and later, President Donald Trump canceled yet another event in a state he won as protests continue around the country.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. Please sit down. Let me help you, very heavy chair. These are seriously - I have to - you have to be strong for these chairs. There you go, yes. Strong people.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strong women are here.

TRUMP: strong women are definitely here. There`s no question.


REID: And thus began the women`s roundtable today hosted by President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. First daughter Ivanka Trump who promised to work on policies that would help women workers and who also helped arrange today`s meeting tweeted, a great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table, exclamation point. So women have just four seats in her father`s cabinet. Barack Obama`s first cabinet had seven.

Justin Trudeau`s cabinet is 50 percent women. And he says his cabinet looks like Canada. Donald Trump`s cabinet is mostly male and white. The least diverse cabinet since Ronald Reagan, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, all three voted against the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act. The first piece of legislation President Obama signed which helped women in pay discrimination cases.

One of Donald Trump`s first executive orders which he signed in a roomful of men was an order reinstating the Mexico City policy or the global gag rule which cuts funding to all international NGO that perform abortions even though no U.S. Dollars would go to paying for those abortions. Most of Donald Trump`s cabinet is against abortion rights but some go even further like Tom Price who co-sponsored a personhood bill that would have given constitutional rights to fertilized eggs basically outlawing birth control like the pill and IUDS.

In 2012 Tom Price was asked what would happen to low-income women if birth control was no longer required to be covered under health insurance and here was his response.


TOM PRICE, FMR CONGRESSMAN OF THE UNITED STATES: Bring me one woman who`s been left behind. Bring me one. There`s not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.


REID: Indira Lakshmanan and Zerlina Maxwell join me next.



TRUMP: Women, as you know, and I can say that from my past life, I have so many women executives that were phenomenal, phenomenal and really helped me a great deal in business. So that was really fantastic. They played a tremendously important role, women, in our economy.


REID: And joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell the director of Progressive programming for SIRIUSXM and back with us Indira Lakshmanan. Well thank you both for being here. Let`s talk about this cabinet. Donald Trump has rolled out Ivanka Trump once again to show that his administration is one that will be positive, particularly for working women. But if you look, Zerlina, at his cabinet secretary, the people he`s chosen, Mike Pence who`s his vice president, Jeff Sessions who`s his attorney general, Tom Price at HHS, and Mike Pompeo, the new CIA Director.

When they were in congress, all voted against reauthorizing the violence against women act when they were in congress. Even one of the few women in the cabinet, Elaine Chao opposed raising the minimum wage when she was labor secretary. As we know the minimum wage disproportionately impacts women. And then you`ve got Andrew Puzder who is Donald Trump`s choice to be the Labor Secretary who`s been sued more times for employment discrimination than any other burger chain, his company, Carl`s Jr.

The Newsweek reports that racil discrimination and sexual harassment claims filed in federal court against the company and its franchises read like stories from the 1940s or `50s before civil rights laws were even ever enacted. Your thoughts, Zerlina.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING FOR SIRIUSXM: Well I mean that goes in line with Donald Trump just to be quite frank. Donald Trump has a long history with making sexist remarks and so it`s not a surprise that he would hire people who don`t have a solid track record on treating women as full human beings and equal in the workplace. I think that, you know, today`s meeting was a great photo op and Ivanka looks great sitting at the desk in the Oval Office.

But she`s not in the seat, right? She`s not the president of the United States. And she`s in that room because she is a familial relation to the president of the United States. So it`s still not really an advancement for all women and working women everywhere.

REID: And you know, Indira, indeed, there were people there from GE Canada, TransAlta, the CEOs that were there from various companies, TNT supermarket, not sure about that company, General Motors. You got the steel industry leader there. So you had all these powerful executives in the room but, you know, I can`t help watching those things unfold and remember, this is still the guy who said what was said on that access Hollywood tape, that doesn`t go away, Donald Trump`s own personal history.

He`s still the guy who according to AXEO`s had a dress code. Wants the women who work for him to dress like women, said a source close to Trump`s campaign. Even if you`re in jeans, the report said, you need to look neat and orderly. We hear that women who worked in Trump`s campaign field office, folks who spent more time knocking on doors than attending glitzy events felt pressured to wear dresses to impress Trump.

I wonder if you had a sense of disconnect watching him sit there with these powerful women knowing that`s who he is.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE: Sure. I mean nothing is going to change who Donald Trump is when it comes to women, anyone who has seen that Access Hollywood tape and listened to it and watched the way he talked about women throughout the campaign, anything that he says sitting at the table talking about I respect women and I had women, you know, executives and they were stupendous.

It`s not going to change what we know he has said about women, the negative things. But all along of course he has held up his daughter, Ivanka Trump who he obviously loves and respects and admires as his sort of bridge to educated women, middle class women. Ivanka Trump, herself, uses as her twitter bio she identifies herself as wife, mother, sister, and daughter, entrepreneur and passionate advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls.

So, it sounds great. You know, she sort of identified herself in much the way as her friend, Chelsea Clinton, Hillary Clinton`s daughter, and wanted to play this role in the campaign as sort of the way to bring in Clintonites into Trump world. And I think she`s still trying to do that sitting around the table doing the kind of roundtable that you could very much imagine Hillary Clinton doing had she been president.

The difference is that Hillary Clinton did that kind of work her entire life and all four years that she was secretary of state, I went on trips with her around the world where she up at around tables with women entrepreneurs. This is not the kind of thing that Donald Trump has done his entire life.

MAXWELL: There would have been a black woman at that table if Hillary Clinton had that meeting just to be clear.

LAKSHMANAN: That`s absolutely true.

REID: That is an important point. You know, it was not exactly (INAUDIBLE). Very quick with you before we go Zerlina, the Washington Post is now reporting four republican senators are currently undecided on Puzder in part because of information that surfaced, allegations of that abuse that his wife - his ex-wife made on the Oprah Winfrey show. He, of course, denied it.

That kind of information, do can you think that could actually make Andrew Puzder the first of these cabinet secretaries to not make it through?

MAXWELL: I think so if these reports that four republicans are going to defect, I think so. Because, you know, this is something that`s very substantial. It`s not just, you know, the regular day to day things that happen in politics. The back and forth, this is a serious allegations and certainly when you`re talking about Donald Trump`s administration, we already talked about the Access Hollywood tape, you don`t want this kind of narrative to hit an administration that already has problems with their relationship to women and how they view women which is, you know, traditionally in their case been as objects.

REID: Yes. Absolutely. All right. Stay with us, up next, are protests keeping Donald Trump from events even in states that he won?


REID: Donald Trump`s new and controversial education secretary can`t seem to catch a break. Secretary Betsy Devos is taking heat for a tweet Sunday morning from the Department Of Education that misspelled W. E. B. Du Bois`s name. After department of education was ridiculed online, the department tweeted an apology that misspelled the word, apologies. You cannot make this stuff up. We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: I kept hearing, you must win Ohio you cannot win the presidency without Ohio. I want to thank Ohio. I want to thank the great people of Ohio. It`s an incredible place, an incredible state.


REID: So Ohio was Donald Trump`s first stop on his victory tour after the election. The president -- was apparently scheduled to return to the state this Thursday to sign a bill that would reverse Obama administration regulations which were designed to prevent coal companies from dumping waste into streams. But now the trip is off. The White House has given no reason for the change, but perhaps the decision has to do with something like this.

The nearly daily protests which have taken place across the country ever since Donald Trump`s inauguration. The Ohio trip appears to be the second one canceled in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a planned visit to a Harley Davidson factory in Milwaukee was also called off, reportedly because of concerns about protests. Zerlina Maxwell and Indira Lakshmanan are back with us.

All right so Zerlina I`ll start with you on this. Donald Trump is facing gallop disapproval rating of 54 percent and approval rating of 40 percent that typically is the high water mark this period of time in a presidency. It can probably only go down from here absent of some other circumstance. Do it you think he is finally maybe realizing that and deciding not to go where there will be protesters?

MAXWELL: I don`t know if President Donald Trump has realized that. But certainly his staff has realized that. I think the optics for him are going to be problematic no matter where he goes. But the problem going forward is that these protests are just going to get bigger because organizers are going to be more strategic and nuanced and target swing districts, town hall meetings, when representatives are in their districts to talk about how they want to dismantle Obamacare.

So, there`s a lot that is going to go on in the next few years and the protests I think are just going to continue to get bigger.

REID: And Indira, I`m wondering if there`s a concern among the White House staff to Zerlina`s point that maybe those protests might just all be, you know, the millions of people that George Soros apparently gives each $5 to go out and protest according to the conspiracy theories on the right. But it might also start to include his own supporters.

There`s a report in Politico by Zachary Karabell. It was posted earlier today that titled President Trump has done almost nothing. It says there`s a wide gap, a chasm between what the administration has said and what it`s done. There have been 45 executive orders or presidential memoranda signed with the notable exception of the travel ban, almost none of them have mandated much action or clear change or current regulations and he still doesn`t have Mexico paying for the wall.

Do you think there`s concern that there might actually be a revolt from his own side?

LAKSHMANAN: Look, I think there are some hard Trump supporters who are still very much supporting Trump. But I think that Trump himself and the aides are still in denial about these protests. They genuinely believe that these people are paid by Soros and his ilk. Trump, himself keeps insisting that when he leaves Florida that there are crowds and crowds of massive supporters and the media is so dishonest that they`re not reporting on all of these supporters.

You know, so I think he`s in his bubble of denial about this. And, you knows, part of this is he`s not going to Ohio, he`s going back to Mar-a- Lago, his private club for the third weekend in a row at a cost to taxpayers of $3 million. And, you know, echo that back with how every time that Barack and Michelle Obama went on vacation, he took to twitter to criticize them and complain about how much it cost U.S. Taxpayers for them to go on vacation.

So it`s sort of ironic when he kept telling America that he wasn`t going to take any vacation because there was so much to do. So much hard work that he wasn`t going to go off on vacation, I mean, one of the things about Mar- a-Lago which I find most distressing is he`s calling it the winter White House but it`s, in fact, a private paid $200,000 per membership club where anybody including Russian Agents, for whatever we know, could buy memberships and can get access to whatever they want, whatever kind of information including someone was putting on Facebook a picture of the guy who carries the president`s nuclear football. I mean, it`s incredible, you know.

REID: And Zerlina -- and Zerlina very quickly, and were Donald Trump also just reduced the pay of all of his foreign national workers because he only hires apparently at Mar-a-Lago foreign nationals.

MAXWELL: I think this is like the biggest security risk I`ve ever heard of. And in some ways it sounds like a television show except we`re living it. And I can`t believe we`re only in week three and I`m very alarmed not just because of the security risks in Mar-a-Lago but also business ties that haven`t fully been investigated in terms of the emoluments clause. And there`s a lot - I think we`re just going to be investigating for the next four years if the republicans actually showed up and do their job.

REID: Well that is the big question Indira because they so far haven`t shown any interest in any of this.

LAKSHMANAN: Well it was really interesting to see in the Jason Chaffetz meeting I think you showed a little bit of video from that.

REID: Yes.

LAKSHMANAN: The Utah congressman, people were shouting do your job, do your job.

REID: Do your job. Yes.


REID: Well let`s see if they do it. Zerlina Maxwell, Indira Lakshmanan, thank you very much. Appreciate it

MAXWELL: Thank you.

REID: And I - thanks ladies. And I am Joy Reid and for Lawrence O`Donnell. You can follow me on twitter @joyannreid and MSNBC`s live coverage continues in to the 11th Hour with Brian Williams, that`s next. END