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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 2/14/2017

Guests: Mark Mazzetti, Nick Confessore, David Corn, Eli Stokols, Elijah Cummings, Nada Bacos, Malcolm Nance, Joan Walsh, Catherine Rampell

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 14, 2017 Guest: Mark Mazzetti, Nick Confessore, David Corn, Eli Stokols, Elijah Cummings, Nada Bacos, Malcolm Nance, Joan Walsh, Catherine Rampell

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC:  What are you going to do? -- Here`s is what the recruitment director for the VCCC is saying about those races.

"We all have to acknowledge that those seats are held by Republicans and they`ve been held by Republicans for quite some time."

And so, what are you going to do? Yes, things are moving.  Races are in motion.  That district, Tom Price`s district, Trump won it by one and a half points.

Democratic Party really isn`t going to contest that? Really? Democrats, if you`re not moving forward right now, you are losing ground.

That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD, Joy Reid sitting in for Lawrence tonight, good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC:  Good evening Rachel.  You know, you almost wish it was like -- I don`t know, an opposition party that knew how to do politics or something --


MADDOW:  I think the Democratic Party is about to find that their base is their own opposition party --

REID:  Yes -- 

MADDOW:  Which is going to make them do politics here.

REID:  Isn`t that amazing? Yes, they`re --

MADDOW:  Exactly --

REID:  Being driven, literally dragged by their voters to do the right thing.

And they`re going -- oh, you want us to fight? Got it, we`ll get on that.


MADDOW:  Yes, that`s a good idea --

REID:  Thanks a lot --

MADDOW:  That --


Thanks Joy --

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

  We have breaking news tonight about reports that Trump campaign officials had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials.

And one of the reporters who broke that story joins me.  And Donald Trump had at least two weeks.

Meanwhile, two weeks warning about Michael Flynn and the potential that he could be compromised by Russia.

But he decided to keep him as national security adviser anyway.

But Donald Trump was also warned about Michael Flynn last year.  Warned by generals and intelligence experts that Michael Flynn was not suited for the job.

But it was Donald Trump who ignored those warnings.  And so who should take the blame for the crisis in the White House?


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  General Flynn`s resignation is not the end of the story. 

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA:  This is a fight for the soul of our democracy.

LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST:  The president was warned that Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC:  How can you not tell the vice president for two weeks?

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS:  It looks like he was deliberately kept in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just have a hundred more questions.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (D), SOUTH CAROLINA:  I`d like to know did he just do this as a rogue General Flynn?

MATTHEWS:  Was Trump in cahoots with Flynn?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (D), ARIZONA:  The whole environment is one of dysfunction in the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The White House knew about this weeks ago and did nothing to remove him.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP:  General Flynn continued in that position and was in the presidential daily briefings --



CONWAY:  General Flynn, that makes no sense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Even last weekend, in charge of the wildly criticized Mar-a-Lago dinner table conference. 

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST:  Trump spent the whole campaign freaking out that Hillary used a private e-mail server.


KIMMEL:  Now, he`s holding national security meetings over shrimp cocktails surrounded by camera phones.



REID:  Breaking news tonight.  The "New York Times" is reporting that "phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

According to four current and former American officials.  Now, it`s already been reported that some Trump campaign aides had contact with Russian government officials during the election.

But what`s new about this report is that the "Times" is specifically saying that Trump associates had contact with Russian intelligence officials during the election.

The American officials that are quoted in this piece said that one of the advisors picked up on intercepted calls was Paul Manafort who was Donald Trump`s campaign chairman for several months last year.

The officials interview said that so far they had no evidence of such cooperation between the Trump associates and Russian intelligence officials.

Now, this news comes nearly 24 hours after Donald Trump`s national security adviser General Michael Flynn resigned.

But this morning, Donald Trump didn`t seem too concerned about the chaos and the confusion surrounding Flynn`s resignation or the chaos in his White House generally.

Tweeting this complaint instead.  "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington.  Will these leaks be happening as I deal on North Korea, et cetera?"

For President Trump, the cause of his problems wasn`t the fact that the Justice Department and intelligence officials were worried that his national security adviser was subject to blackmail by the Russians and discuss the easing sanctions and undermining U.S. foreign policy.

No, it was the fact that it had been leaked to the press.  But as "Vox`s" Dillon Matthews(ph) points out, "before damaging news is leaked, damaging events have to actually occur.

And even a cursory examination of the leaks about which Trump is complaining reveals that the real problem isn`t leakers or hostile bureaucrats, it`s Donald Trump."

In other words, Donald Trump brought this drama on himself.  It should have been obvious long before Trump won the presidency that General Flynn was not the acceptable choice for a national security position.

General Flynn must be fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.  Amid reports that his views and management style were disruptive and chaotic. 

Perhaps more trouble in given recent developments, General Flynn has been - - repeatedly -- has repeatedly taken a sympathetic line toward Russia.

In December of 2015, he spoke at a gala in Moscow for Russia`s state- sponsored propaganda arm "Russia Today".

He was even photographed with Vladimir Putin at that event sitting at Putin`s table and participating in giving him a standing ovation.

And of course, Flynn became a leading conservative activist and conspiracy theorist on the campaign trail.


FLYNN:  Lock her up! Lock her up!

AUDIENCE:  Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

FLYNN:  You guys are good.  And damn right! You`re exactly right.  There`s nothing wrong with that!


REID:  Well, nearly, all of this information was public at the time that Donald Trump was forming his administration.

And none of it was enough to dissuade him from hiring General Flynn as his national security adviser.

Now, the White House is observed with damage control as Flynn`s resignation overshadows the administration`s agenda.

But the president was right in one sense, the real story isn`t General Flynn, but it isn`t government leaks either.

The real story is the attempted cover-up by the Trump White House about General Flynn and how complicit Donald Trump was in the underlying act.

Now, the White House would have you believe that when Flynn discussed easing U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador, he was just a rogue operator who went freelance and then lied to the president and the vice president.

But in reality, there is likely only two options here.  One, Donald Trump either authorized Flynn to make those calls to the Russian ambassador or, two, Donald Trump let a rogue, potentially compromised Russian asset into the national security inner sanctum of the United States.

Joining us now is Mark Mazzetti; one of the reporters who broke the "New York Times" story tonight.

And Mark, thank you for being here.  What was remarkable to me in reading this story was just recalling the fact that you have the former campaign chairman of the Trump administration -- Trump campaign, Paul Manafort.

You have Carter Page, who is believed to have changed actual RNC policy toward Crimea and Russia during the campaign.

Roger Stone, a long-time crony of Donald Trump, but also Michael Flynn who becomes national security adviser all under investigation.  FBI investigation.  Remarkable.  Tell us what else is remarkable and new in your story?

MARK MAZZETTI, NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, we focused on in this story, it was these contacts that went on apparently during the past year before the campaign between Trump campaign aides and associates of Donald Trump and Russian intelligence officials.

American intelligence and law enforcement officials have identified people in Russian intelligence.

Now, we have to be careful about what we know and we don`t know, and we say that these contacts happened, there were phone logs and intercepted communications between the aides and people that the Americans have identified as Russian intelligence.

And -- but it does just show that the FBI investigation is still ongoing. They are still trying to get information about exactly what these ties were all about.

And whether this was business, whether this was campaign business.  That we still don`t know.  But I think that the connections, at least the contacts with Russian intelligence is significant.

REID:  Well, one of the things that was pretty extraordinary, and a pretty extraordinary story is that Paul Manafort`s reaction to your reporting was to say it`s absurd, he has no idea what you`re referring to.

He`s never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers.  And then he says it`s not like these people wear badges that say "I am a Russian intelligence officer."

This is a guy that`s done business in Ukraine and with Russian aficionados in the Ukraine for years.  And did it seem credible to you that he wouldn`t -- have had any idea who he was talking to?

MAZZETTI:  Well, it is hard to know.  I mean, it`s -- you know, he`s a person who knows the region very well.

At the same time, you know, as we say in our story that the intelligence services in those countries are deeply embedded in the society.  Sometimes you may or may not know who`s in fact Russian intelligence.

Some, he is right, don`t actually wear badges or uniforms.  However, there -- I think the amount of the contacts that was going on during this period of time was enough to raise some alarms.

At least just think that this did bear more investigation.  So, Manafort is the only person in the story who we name as having been on these intercepted communications.

But as you pointed out, this is part of a broader investigation going on that has include other individuals, Page, Stone, et cetera, Flynn, that is still ongoing.

REID:  All right, Mark Mazzetti, thank you very much for your reporting.

MAZZETTI:  Thank you very much. 

REID:  Thank you, and joining me now Nick Confessore; political reporter for the "New York Times" and an Msnbc contributor. 

David Corn; Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst.  And Eli Stokols; White House correspondent for "Politico".  Thank you all for being here.

Nick, I`m going to start with you.  I mean, I personally cannot think of any of the situation where the former campaign chairman, a campaign operative and the incoming and national security adviser to the president of the United States were under FBI investigation.

For anything let alone this.

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES:  We are 25 days into a new White House, and the Trump administration is under FBI investigation.

Just stop and think about that --

REID:  Yes --

CONFESSORE:  For a second.  It is astonishing.  Twenty five days in, and this began over the Summer of course.  And now potentially, it can implicate the now former NSA --

REID:  Yes --

CONFESSORE:  Quit being in contact with the Russian intelligence or you know, possibly other members of Trump`s team in contact with the Russian intelligence. 

That`s amazing. 

REID:  It is amazing.  And, David Corn, you know, because I have been talking to you about the Trump campaign`s sort of affinity to Russia and the various contacts for months literally since the campaign was still ongoing. 


REID:  In your view, just sort of explain to people who feel like they`ve been inundated with Trump Russia information over the last year.  What is actually new that we`ve discovered as of today?

CORN:  The key thing that is coming out of the "New York Times" story, market is -- co-authors for a great piece. 

Is gets to what I think big issue is.  We can talk about Michael Flynn`s conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition period.

And whether they weren`t improper, whether he lied to them.  It`s a big deal, it is a legitimate scandal.

But to me, the bigger possible scandal is the notion that Trump associates were talking to the Putin regime, at the same time the Putin regime was trying to subvert the U.S. election in order to help Trump.

Now, we learned just a few days ago in "The Washington Post" piece that the conversations that Flynn was having with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak actually began during the campaign.

So, here, you have Trump`s top national security person during the campaign talking to Putin`s guy.  While Putin is trying to destroy the election to help Trump.  Now, what were they talking about?

Were they sending signals? And tonight`s story with the "New York Times" shows that there were a greater range of contacts between people in Trump`s camp and Russians.

And it goes back to those Trump-Russian memos, and I need to say, you know, I hate to blow my own horn that I reported them first in October.

The main point of them was not all the salacious stuff.  It was that the Trump team was communicating with Russian officials during the campaign.

And that there was an exchange of information, there were some degree of collusion.  And tonight, we see more evidence of that, and we see that too in the Flynn story.

That`s the big thing that the Trump people work with signal, deal with Putin as Putin was undermining American democracy.

REID:  Yes, absolutely, and I should add that in the "New York Times" story tonight, as part of the inquiry, the FBI is also trying to assess the credibility of the information in that dossier, sort of called the dossier. 

So, that is still being run down.  Eli Stokols, meanwhile, the White House today tried to turn the story into one of a rogue operator than General Michael Flynn just went off on his own and saying it was a trust issue. 

This is my -- this is Sean Spicer trying to sort of make the White House account align with reality today at the press briefing.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House counsel of the situation, the White House counsel briefed the president and a small group of the senior advisors.

The White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is not a legal issue but rather a trust issue.


REID:  So, Eli, they`re trying to make it sound as if even though they were warned by the then acting Attorney General, by intelligence officials weeks ago about Flynn, that somehow a break-down in trust happened in what, the last 24 hours?

It doesn`t really make a lot of sense.

ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO:  Well, it only makes sense when you figure out what else happened in the last 24 hours.  And that was some really extensive reporting laying bare what they knew and when they knew it.

And forced the White House to take some action finally.  I mean, if not for the reporting and for the leaks that the Trump administration is maligning, General Flynn would probably still be in this position as NSA.

And so, you know, that`s what has moved the White House, they can turn this around and complain about the leaks and everything else.

They can say that this is some sort of conspiracy from the people left over from the Obama administration running these agencies.

But you can just look at Donald Trump`s poll numbers and all of the things that are coming out now and know that, that is not going to pass muster with the public.

REID:  Yes, and you had Roger Stone, Nick, come out and attempt to defend and sort of also launch another story line.

Which is, this is certainly -- this is just simply palace intrigue between the Priebus-Pence swing and the sort of the base of the Trump world.

And he tweeted today that "Reince`s purge of Flynn is a Pearl Harbor for Trump loyalists.  Hope the midget is ready to rumble."  And Roger --


REID:  Stone is somebody who is also potentially under investigation for contacts with the Russians. 

CONFESSORE:  Look, it`s a clear effort to ship the conversation away from the actual substance of the leaks.  I should note that in our reporting, you know, Bannon also pushed at the very end for the -- Flynn.

So, although Flynn and Bannon seemed on the same page on some of the issues on Islam, another issues at the very end, it was pretty much, you know, all hands were against Flynn.

So, it was not exactly a conspiracy of --

REID:  Yes --

CONFESSORE:  The establishment.

REID:  Well, one hand that was not against Flynn, David Corn with the Russian lawmakers who were out defending Michael Flynn today.

Russian lawmakers rushed to his defense saying "he was pushed out not because of his mistake but because of the unfolding campaign of aggression."

Russians with the exit was one of the newspapers saying "paranoia and a witch-hunt."  What do you make of that?

CORN:  You know, I don`t think we can take any of that seriously.  We have a long record now of Trump talking positively about Putin and Russia.

You have the spectacle today of Sean Spicer coming out at the press briefing, and saying no one has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.

I mean, talk about alternative facts, that sort of like drug-induced hallucinogenic of alternative facts.  So, you know, there -- you know, Russia has not played straight except after the election.

You know, the deputy prime minister said of course we had contacts, of course we had contacts with the Trump campaign.

Whole picks -- Trump spokeswoman at the time said not true, Trump has said not true, Pence says it`s not true.

They`ve all been proven false by Flynn`s pre-election contacts and now by the "New York Times" story. 

REID:  Yes, and Eli, you know, on the FBI has been much maligned in all of this. 

You had Democrats really screaming bloody murder that they came out and dropped that bomb on the election 11 days before and Hillary Clinton.

You now had Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton coming out today and saying I`d like the FBI to explain why they sent a letter about Clinton but not about this.

I mean, this is something that Democrats including Harry Reid, the outgoing senate minority leader were saying there was explosive information that wasn`t coming out.  Is it possible it was this?

STOKOLS:  Yes, I mean, the FBI director will have to answer for that.  But that`s a matter for history.

Right now, we have a new administration and the administration really is sort of losing credibility faster than we can even keep up with.

I mean, at this point, you know, they`ve lied about everything from crowd sizes, you know, you name it, down the list.

And so, now, when they`re changing their story almost on hourly basis about this, it`s hard to really take much of what they`re saying at face value.

And it really is adding to the pressure now I think on Congressional Republicans who have really tried to look the other way at a lot of the controversies coming from the White House.

There is going to be pressure now, mounting pressure to investigate this, perhaps to have an independent investigation of the administration and its ties to Russia. 

And I think it`s going to be very hard.  You already are starting to hear Republicans joining Democrats in Congress, saying that they may need to pursue such an investigation.

I think stories like this, more misdirection and conflicting statements from the White House just sort of guarantee that it`s going to go that route.

REID:  Yes, this is -- there will be no turning the page on this, this is just going to continue.  Nick Confessore, Eli Stokols and David Corn, thank you, guys.

CORN:  Sure --

CONFESSORE:  Thank you --

STOKOLS:  Thank you --

REID:  And coming up, more on the breaking news with the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings.

How long can Republicans slow down investigations of Donald Trump?


REID:  In response to the breaking reports from the "New York Times" tonight, former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted, "everything we suspected during the campaign is proven true.

This is a colossal scandal."  Congressman Elijah Cummings is next. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I will tell you this, Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.  Let`s see if that happens, that will be next.


REID:  We are continuing to follow the breaking news tonight from the "New York Times" that members of Donald Trump`s presidential campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

Despite all of this interaction, U.S. officials tell the "Times" that so far there`s no evidence that the Trump team worked with Russia to influence the election.

And joining me now is Maryland Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings; the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Congressman, I want to start by getting your reaction to the breaking news about these apparent contacts between the Trump campaign at the time and Russian intelligence officials.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  Well, I must tell you, Joy, that I wasn`t completely surprised.

I`ve been pushing very hard for more information about what may have been going on with campaign officials in the Trump campaign and the Russians literally for months.

And I have not been able to get our Chairman, Mr. Chaffetz to cooperate with me.  But this does not surprise me, but I must tell you, Joy, it is very alarming. 

REID:  Yes, let me actually play you what Chairman Chaffetz had to say today about the question of whether there should be a bigger investigation.  Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Should there be a broader bipartisan independent investigation into the administration`s ties to Russia?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM:  I think that situation has taken care of itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is your committee going to take any action on this?

CHAFFETZ:  Well, indicating the sources and methods, it really is the purview of the Intel committee.

They really are the only ones that can look at that type of information, particularly when you`re talking about interactions with a nation state like that.


REID:  You know, I`ve got to tell you, Congressman, this is the same Jason Chaffetz who seemed ready to hound Hillary Clinton even onto impeachment over her e-mail server.    

Here he seems quite mild about his attitude toward Donald Trump and the Russian contacts.

CUMMINGS:  Oh, he doesn`t want to touch Donald Trump.  And one of the things he is not failing to say, Joy, is something that I have asked him to do.

And that is to join Congressman Swalwell and mine with regard to a bill that we have that would create an independent commission.

No senators, no members of the house, but an independent 9/11-type commission to have findings to research this issue with regard to Russia and our elections.

To come up with findings and then present recommendations to make sure it doesn`t happen again.

And that would be an independent equal number of Democrats, equal number of Republicans and would have subpoena power.

That`s the only way you`re going to get to this.  Because by doing it through the committee system, Joy, what you end up with is a Benghazi-type commission.

And then you get caught up in the politics.  This is too important to get caught up in politics.

REID:  Yes, absolutely, and you know, Congressman Chaffetz did mention the intelligence committee.

Well, let`s take a listen to what Congressman Devin Nunes who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, what he thinks his committee ought to be looking into.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Here`s what I know, General Flynn didn`t break the law, talking to the Russian Ambassador, in fact that`s his job.

Who did break the law is whoever recorded this -- whoever recorded his phone call unmasked it and leaked it.  That is clearly multiple violations.


REID:  Clearly, we face extraordinary situation, congressman.  Where we could have the House Intelligence Committee more interested in investigating the leaks than investigating potential contacts with Russian intelligence services.

CUMMINGS:  Joy, that`s not unusual.  They -- when they get caught in a situation, they switch the subject.

But what Nunes did not tell you that he was a part of the Trump transition team.  So, I don`t know that we would get a fair hearing out of the intelligence committee.

Now, I must tell you that one of my most respected colleagues, Congressman Schiff, he is the ranking member and I know he`ll do his best.

But even he will tell you that maybe we can have a dual effort.  They can do their intelligence work within the Congress, but you need to have this independent commission.

Let me tell you something, Joy, I think there`s more that`s going to come out and the question becomes what did the president know and when did he know it?

Whether he went along with Flynn having these contacts and then this "New York Times" story tonight just shows us that there is a connection between -- and was a connection between the campaign and the Russians.

And all Americans should be upset about this.

REID:  Yes, absolutely.  And have you in your time in politics and in public life, sir, ever heard of a situation where an incoming national security adviser or any high official of an incoming administration went on their own without permission from the principal to have contact with foreign leaders and essentially make policy?

CUMMINGS:  Never.  And I can tell you when I think about a man like Donald Trump, who tweets at 4:00 in the morning, who is all over the top of the news.

As a matter of fact, I`ve actually talked to him from morning -- from the "MORNING JOE" show in the mornings.

A man like that, you would think that he would have all the information, particularly something of this significance, he would be aware of all of it.

And if he didn`t have it, and that is, if he didn`t know that Flynn was talking to the Russian ambassador, you have to wonder what kind of shop he`s running.

REID:  Yes, and I guess the big question a lot of Americans are also asking is, do you have any sense of what the breaking point is for Republicans?

Is there some limit? Because this is extraordinary.  We`re talking about at least three members of the Trump campaign, including the campaign chairman, being under investigation by the FBI and the national security adviser being under FBI investigation.

Have you detected any limit that would cause your colleagues on the other side of the aisle to be willing to investigate this president? 

CUMMINGS:  Not yet, but I think we`re slowly getting there.  Today, Joy, I had several members of the Republican Party for the first time to come to me to tell me that they were looking at getting on this independent bill, this bill to have the independent commission.

And I was shocked about that.  So, I think they`re slowly getting there.  Because the evidence is becoming overwhelming that something is awfully wrong with this picture.

Joy, this is an instance where we have to put country above party, and this is a fight for our democracy.

And it`s bigger than Trump, and it`s bigger than this one election, this is about generations yet unborn.

REID:  Yes, indeed, Congressman Elijah Cummings, thank you so much for your time, really appreciate it. 

CUMMINGS:  Thank you.

REID:  Thank you.  And coming up next, the Trump campaign reportedly had contact with Russian intelligence.

North Korea fired off a new missile and Donald Trump`s National Security Council is in complete and utter disarray.  That`s next.





JOY REID, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well Donald Trump may think that, but this is what republican Senator John McCain said today about trump.


JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  I think there is significant dysfunction in the National Security apparatus of the Trump Administration.  When you see that you don`t know who`s in charge, this Flynn situation, the whole environment is one of dysfunction in the Trump Administration.


REID:  General Tony Thomas, meanwhile, head of the Military Special Operation Command echoed that sentiment today saying this. "Our government continues to be at unbelievable turmoil.  I hope they sort it out soon because we`re a nation at war.  As a Commander, I`m concerned our government be as stable as possible."

And all that was before tonight`s New York Times report that people inside the Trump Campaign had contact with members of Russian intelligence.  Not just the Russian Government as had been previously reported but Russian Intelligence.  Joining us now Malcolm Nance, MSNBC Counterterrorism and Intelligence Analyst and Nada Bacos, former CIA Analyst and she was a member of the team charged with analyzing the relationship between Iraq, Al Qaeda and 9/11. 

So thank you to both of you   so thank you to both of you.  And Nada, I`ll start with you on this.  That is the sort of change in the story now is that we`re finding out the contacts with not just with Russian government officials but with Russian intelligence. one of the clip in the New York Times story on what it is that alarmed the people in the intelligence service is the intercept alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies in part because the amount of contact that was occurring while MR. TRUMP was speaking glowingly about Russian president Vladimir Putin.  Does it seem to you that Donald Trump himself is a subject of this probe?

NADA BACOS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I think it`s still to be determined. I think that`s what an independent investigation would actually help us with, which I think I agree with your previous guess that this is not to be left to the political theater.  This is something that we actually need to have a non-partisan effort for it.

REID:  And Malcolm, one little clip from the New York Times story so that the National Security Agency which monitors the foreign intelligence services that got picked up initially captured the communication between Mr. Trump associates and Russians as part of routine operations.  After that the FBO asked the NSA to collect as much info as possible about the Russian operatives on the phone call and to search through troves of previously intercepted communications that had not been analyzed.  My question to you Malcolm how could it be possible that Michael Flynn, former head of DIA, would not know his conversations with the Russian Ambassador were being monitored?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:   Well I think with regard to the telephone call to Ambassador Kislyak, it was a matter of arrogance. I think they as -- when they took control of, you know, the Whitehouse through the transition, they didn`t feel that anyone was going to do anything about, you know, their decision making capacity.  He just made these calls and thought he was cutting the deals that he was cutting.  But stepping back to the New York Times article really quickly here because as you know, I predicted all of this was going to happen seven months ago and that this is what NSA and the FBI were doing all of this time.  And it comes out to play because I know I worked at NSA and, you know, this is not just our effort. 

We have allied intelligence agencies that give us cues and tips as to criminality or potential problems that are going on with American citizens and that manifested itself as early as last August and September.  This is very, very serious stuff. T he Pfizer Ward authorized the NSA to turn on the full collection power of the United States and there is nothing that will escape that.  These people need to start getting lawyers and cutting deals because when we have both sides of the conversation, you are going to get caught.

REID:  And, Nada, Dan Rather, Legendary Journalist Dan Rather Tweeted -- put on his Facebook that Watergate was the biggest political scandal of my lifetime he says until maybe now with the closest we came to (INAUDIBLE) constitutional crisis until maybe now.   The Trump Administration believes that the crisis is that intelligence officials are leaking to the Washington Post and the New York Times.  But would they be doing that if they didn`t think there was some sort of a constitutional crisis or a grave national security crisis?

BACOS:  Well look I think we can`t say where the leaks are coming from.  We haven`t determined if these anonymous sources are coming from the intelligence community, if they`re coming from the Whitehouse or where.  So at this point it`s a little premature to be able to say this is National Security Intelligence officials actually doing the leaks.  I would also say that at this point I think President Trump should put out a statement and clarify some of these issues in addition to the FBI.  If there is an active investigation going on, I think that`s where an independent commission can come in and help clarify some of this for American public.

REID:  Yes and I know Democrats are pushing for that now. And we just heard Elijah Cummings -- Congressman Cummings say there may be a few Republicans getting on board.   There always something strange going on at our House Malcolm Nance.  And right now off the coast, East Coast of the United States, CBS and FOX news reporting there is a ship off the Coast of Delaware, well in international water.  It`s expected to continue north until it gets to the sub base at New London, Connecticut and turnaround and head south toward Cuba, a Russian spy ship apparently patrolling off the East Coast. Alarming?

NANCE:  No.  I wouldn`t say it`s alarming. Russian Intelligence collection vessels are often off the coast of the United States.  They often go to places look the ballistic missile submarine bases down in, you know, down in Kings Bay, Georgia and go all the way up to Groton, Connecticut.  However, there`s something that should be known here. The deployment of the vessel happens to coincide with a period of time right after U.S. Intelligence kicked out 35 signals intelligence collectors from the United States last December, which involved General Flynn`s phone call. 

There appears that the Russians either advertently or inadvertently may have a collections gap that they felt was critical and collect it off the United States Coast and to collect directly from satellite uplinks or whichever former communications that their going after or the Russians may be just making a ploy to make it appear that way.   We take that seriously either way.  So by the deployment of this SSV, this Russia surface Intelligence Collector Moscow was making their presence known and perhaps even getting information that they lost.

REID:  And is there a concern, a legitimate concern, Nada, that during the time that he was National Security Adviser, if General Flynn was a compromised person, is there a reason to be concerned about the information he was given?  He had access and was privy to potentially top secret national security information.

BACOS:  Well, I mean, until we know what his actual nature of the relationship is, I`m hoping that he continues to be the true intelligence professional that he used to be and that he wouldn`t put himself in that type of situation, even inadvertently to hand over any kind of information, just to be able to secure any kind of information and assure the Russians.

REID:  Yes, all right.  Well that is what I think most Americans are hoping.  Thank you very much Malcolm Nance and Nada Bacos, appreciate you both.  And coming up next, new reports say the Republicans have the Obamacare appeal but the replace that continues to allude them.


REID:  In fighting among Republicans has left the Republican GOP repeal effort on life support according to Politico. Tonight Senator Lamar Alexander tells Politico "it`s hard to see how this gets done unless the President says OK, let`s do it this way.  And the only thing Republicans got from President Trump today was --


TRUMP:  Repeal of Obamacare is going to be very soon, right?



REID:  Meanwhile the Freedom Caucus is frustrated by the slow pace of repeal.  And it`s demanding an immediate repeal of the law even if there is no replacement ready but passing the bill that Republicans sent to President Obama back in 2015.


JIM JORDAN, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN:  If you think about the context we`re in now.  There are people talking about keeping some of the taxes.  There`s talk of actually repairing the bill, not repealing and replacing, repairing as if, you know, implying that there`s something worth fixing there, something work keeping. So in that frame week, we said let`s at least keep what we put on Pre Trump`s desk what we put on President Obama`s desk just a year and half ago after all every one`s already voted for that.


REID:  But Republicans in the Senate are likely to go along with that plan.  Republican Senator Jeff Flake told Politico today "it`s not realistic. The imperative is to do it right."  I don`t think you`ll find much currency for that approach in the Senate. So what is all these disagreements among Republicans mean for Obamacare`s future?  Joan Walsh and Catherine Rampell will join us next.



JIM JORDAN, CONGRESSMAN OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let`s at least put on President Trump`s desk what we put on President Obama`s desk just a year and a half ago.  After all, everyone`s already voted for that. 


REID:  And joining us now Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist for the Washington Post and Joan Walsh the National Affairs Correspondent for the Nation and an MSNBC political analyst.  All right ladies, listen.  Let`s keep it real Joan.  When the republicans put that repeal on President Obama`s desk they didn`t know that they would never have to actually (INAUDIBLE) it, right? 

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  They would never have -- it would never pass, it would never -- it would pass, he wouldn`t sign it. 

REID:  Right. 

WALSH:  They would never have to deal with implications of the chaos and the terror that would it cause.  So, for him to suggest that is I mean -- God bless the freedom caucus, they`re doing what they do but they`re going to cause so much chaos for the rest of the party. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  If they keep this up. 

REID:  And if it just a thought experiment, Catherine, if they were to go ahead and do the amount of repeal they could, you can`t repeal the whole law without 60 votes, democrats aren`t going to give them the eight votes, Let`s say they just repealed the taxes and the subsidies.  Do they -- have they though through the republicans what would actually happen if millions of people lost their insurance. 

CATHERINE RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST:  Yes, if they have they`ll realize they might be out of jobs is what it comes down to.  I mean 20 million people have gotten insurance since the affordable care act was passed. 

REID:  Yes. 

RAMPELL:  Those people are happy to be insured for the most part. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  Right. 

RAMPELL:  And, you know, one could imagine that they might exact their revenge at the ballot box.  There`s some interesting parallels here with these town halls that we`ve seen recently, right?  That in 2010 there were a lot of angry voters who came out and said keep your government hands off my Medicare, don`t you dare mess with the health care system, and I think a lot of democrats to their peril dismissed all of that and said --

  REID:  Right. 

RAMPELL:  And said, it`s all Astroturf, none of its real, none of these people will come and show up to vote.  And look what happened.  And I think that you`re seeing the same kinds of offhand dismissals today that are very dangerous. 

REID:  Yes.  And speaking of those town halls, let`s listen to Paul Ryan, the speaker of the house attempting to address the protest that we`ve seen over Obamacare, take a look at this. 


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I fully recognize and respect the strong feelings that people have about this issue.  We should be passionate about this issue.  It is about people`s lives.  This affects every person and every family in America. That is why we are taking a step-by-step approach, so people can see the changes that we are making so that they can see how they will help. 


REID:  Joan, maybe I`m a cynic.  Are they taking a step-by-step approach so people can see the changes they`re making so they (INAUDIBLE) or because they don`t have any other steps other than repeal? 

WALSH:  I don`t know what they think they`re doing.  They put up these plans, we got a plan, go to our web site, you go their website it`s just problem.  They can`t take a step-by-step approach.  The reason this is so hard is that it really does involve a lot of steps.  And they`re not willing -- if they pull away the tax credits, the subsidies, expanding Medicaid --

RAMPELL:  The mandate. 

WALSH:  The mandate. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  It crushes the three legged -- the famous three legged stool falls apart. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  I don`t know what they think they`re doing.  They put up these plans, we got a plan, go to our web site, you go their website it`s just problem.  They can`t take a step-by-step approach.  The reason this is so hard is that it really does involve a lot of steps.  And they`re not willing -- if they pull away the tax credits, the subsidies, expanding Medicaid --

RAMPELL:  The mandate. 

WALSH:  The mandate. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  It crushes the three legged -- the famous three legged stool falls apart. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  So, I don`t know what he`s talking about that we`re going to do with step by step with transparency.  They`re fighting amongst themselves and then, you know, you saw Trump kind of needle him but Trump has been an obstacle, too.  Remember when he came out early on and said, whoa now don`t do anything rash and then don`t repeal without replacing or this becomes our problem. 

It`s sort of like, duh, the light bulb went off over his head he`s like wow.  This becomes Trump care. 

REID:  Right. 

WALSH:  And it could be a real disaster. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  So, he`s giving them mixed messages --

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  -- go for it, be cautious.  He doesn`t tell them detail because he doesn`t -- obviously he`s not going to do that. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  But this is a mess for them. 

REID:  And mean while you have Chris Sununu the governor of New Hampshire suddenly deciding that he maybe likes the Medicaid expansion a lot more than he thought he did.  Let`s take a listen. 


CHRIS SUNUNU, GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE:  There`s no doubt it`s been helpful.  It has a price tag of somewhere between $400 -- and $500 million.  We`ve been able to do it today without a single New Hampshire tax payer dollar, no state taxes go in to it. 


REID:  You know, Catherine I had a prediction back in the day when people were screaming about the affordable care act and the Medicaid expansion.  But as soon as there was no Barack Obama, republicans would learn to really love all of that money coming in to their states. 

RAMPELL:  Absolutely.  I mean at its very core the issue with Obamacare is the branding.  It`s not the actual policies.  Down the line almost to a single provision most of the core things that the law actually does are quite popular.  They`re somewhere between like popular and beloved by the American people. 

WALSH:  Yes. 

REID:  Right. 

RAMPELL:  Things like letting you know letting your children stay on your health care plan until they`re --

REID:  Beloved. 

RAMPELL:  -- yes, until they`re age 26, not being able to deny people insurance based on pre-existing conditions. 

REID:  Yes. 

RAMPELL:  Free money also quite popular for the state at the very least if not the voters that they don`t exactly understand where the money is coming from. So the issue for the law was always just that it had -- it had a marketing problem. 

WALSH:  It had an Obama problem. 

RAMPELL:  It had an Obama problem. 

REID:  It was been a lot of people who were like we don`t like Obama, we don`t like something with his name on it that`s (INAUDIBLE).  All right we have much more just coming up after the break. 



KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Go buy Ivanka`s stuff is what I would tell you.  I hate shopping and I`ll get some on myself today.  It`s a wonderful line, I own some of it.  I fully -- I`m going to just give a -- I`m going to give free commercial here.  Go buy it today, everybody.  You can find it online. 

REID:  So the office of government ethics said that the White House should take disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway for those comments that she made last Thursday on Fox News.  Here`s part of the letter that the OGE sent to the White House.  Under the present circumstances there were strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the standards of conduct and a disciplinary action is warranted.  We`ll be right back. 


REID:  Joan Walsh and Catherine Rampell are back with us.  And I`ll start with you Catherine on this.  You know, you have now Kellyanne Conway who has a credibility problem I guess you could say.  She had a rough morning on the morning shows, including the Today Show.  How difficult does the White House`s sort of theatrics make life for republicans on the hill? 

RAMPELL:  I think very difficult not only for republicans on the hill but within the White House.  There seems to be a lot of jockeying for power within the White House.  Nobody can quite determine who is in charge.  You know, there was a piece recently about how Paul Ryan went and met with a number of staffers at the Whitehouse to talk about tax policy and said who`s in charge and crickets, right? 

They couldn`t find out who the point person was.  Who was going to be orienting strategy and that makes it much more difficult for people on the hill, for their allies, their political allies to actually figure out what the priorities should be, what tax reform should look like, you know?  And a lot of other fronts as well what the actual priorities will be and what the policies will shape up to look like. 

REID:  Well, you know, I am amazed by the extent -- is there a tolerance for pain of republicans like Paul Ryan who are willing to put up with almost anything, any amount of chaos just to be able to get rid of people`s health care and privatize Medicare.  It seems that -- that`s all that they`re interested in. 

WALSH:  In fact only two days ago the New York Times had this story about despite everything they`ve seen, it hadn`t quite gotten as crazy as it has been for the last two days.  But they are just hanging in there and they are happy with him.  And maybe he doesn`t say some things that well, but he`s with our program.  But at this point they`re never going to get -- I shouldn`t say never but they`re not going to get to their program for a while. 

And they`re showing such incredible cowardice when it comes to standing up.  You talked about it earlier in the show but, you know, Paul Ryan today says, you know, he did the right thing, I don`t see any need for us to look further. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  Mitch McConnell says the intelligence committee has it.  They got subpoena power, we don`t need anything more than that.  They are stepping away from it like its garbage fire --

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  -- on their doorstep. 

REID:  Yes. 

WALSH:  But it`s on their doorstep and it`s starting to catch the front door too. 

REID:  Do think that republicans will come to regret the fact that you now have Flynn having resigned with no republicans having called for him to be fired or pushed out? 

RAMPELL:  Well it depends on whether cutting off that limb is enough to sort of -- I`m trying to draw out this metaphor is enough to save the rest of the body, you know, in a sense.  That maybe Flynn as scapegoat gives the rest White House some plausible deniability, he acted without our knowledge, he was the bad actor, it`s not our fault, Trump is not the one who ordered this conversation about sanctions, et cetera, et cetera.  And maybe republicans can say look, you know, the disease has been expelled essentially. 

REID:  Yes.  Right. 

WALSH:  Well they could say that, Catherine, if it was true. 

RAMPELL:  Right, right. 

WALSH:  But I don`t think it`s true. 

RAMPELL:  Yes.  That`s the -- but. 

WALSH:  The good news for them is I think they`ll have more opportunities to step up and call for people`s firings but I don`t know if they have the courage to do that. 

REID:  Yes, and that`s the thing.  Is that because it`s a political issue?  Is that because they`re districts strictly in the house side are very Trumpy or is it -- what is it?  What do you think it is? 

WALSH:  I think they`re afraid to get rid of him because I think that they know that his base is energized.  I think it`s awfully early to talk about getting rid of him maybe not for me but for them. 

REID:  Not for you and Maxine Waters? 

WALSH:  No, they`re together. 

RAMPELL:  I think the other issue here is that they find that this is the one opportunity that republicans have --

WALSH:  Right.  All three. 

RAMPELL:  where they have -- yes, they have alignment between both houses of congress --

WALSH:  Yes. 

RAMPELL:  -- and the presidency and that may be tenuous. 

WALSH:  They just have to sign the bill. 

RAMPELL:  They may have a congressional election and --

WALSH:  How much came off (INAUDIBLE) to sign the bills, to sign the bills. 

REID:  Catherine Rampell and Joan Walsh, thank you very much.  I`m Joy Reid in for LAWRENCE O`Donnell.  MSNBC`s live coverage continues in to the 11th Hour with Brian Williams that`s next. END