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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 2/20/2017

Guests: Laurence Tribe, Eugene Joseph Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Rick Wilson, Rick Wilson, E.J. Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Susan Glasser

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 20, 2017 Guest: Laurence Tribe, Eugene Joseph Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Rick Wilson, Rick Wilson, E.J. Dionne, Ana Marie Cox, Susan Glasser RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC:  But right now, Congress is home, people are going to -- all this week while Congress is home, there are more than 150 town halls and constituent events like this all over the country.

For a lot of people, D.C. is inaccessible, right? Phone lines in Congress have been jammed. 

But right now, Congress is home, people are getting a chance for the first time in a while to talk to their representatives face-to-face.  This is day one of something that`s going to go on all week.  People apparently have a lot to say.

That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell and I am very happy to say that Lawrence O`Donnell himself is back.

Lawrence, good evening --

(CROSSTALK)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD:  Yes --

MADDOW:  Welcome back. 

O`DONNELL:  Finally, back, Rachel.  And listen, gone for two weeks, thank you very much for making the world stand still while I was gone.

MADDOW:  Yes, nothing happened. 

O`DONNELL:  Nothing happened as I understand it. 

(LAUGHTER)

Like, nothing, right?

MADDOW:  We missed you terribly.  That`s the only --

O`DONNELL:  I -- you know --

MADDOW:  Thing that happened --

O`DONNELL:  I just --

MADDOW:  While you were gone. 

O`DONNELL:  I just needed some follow-up surgery on some broken bones from a few years ago.

And I hobbled in here on a cane tonight, but Rachel, we are but weeks away from you and me back on the dance floor Saturday nights like we always do in this town.  You know -- 

MADDOW:  It`s true.

O`DONNELL:  Doing that, you know, Jennifer Grey-Patrick Swayze thing that we do every Saturday night. 

MADDOW:  The thing that I like is that we get to switch off who gets to be Jennifer.  I know. 

O`DONNELL:  That was our little secret until now.

(LAUGHTER)

Thanks, Rachel, thanks a lot.  I got some serious work to do here now. 

MADDOW:  Welcome back, honey, thanks. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.  Well, enemy of the American people.  That`s what Donald Trump says I am now.

But he`s said a lot worse about me in the past and I`ll have a few words to say about that tonight.  But first, why is Mike Pence the most dangerous person in Donald Trump`s world?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I was disappointed to learn the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate. 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  General H.R. McMaster will become the national security adviser.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS:  Can he say definitively that nobody in his campaign had any contacts with any Russian agents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  First of all, the answer is no.

TRUMP:  We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA:  When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. 

TRUMP:  Here`s the bottom line, we got to keep our country safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president behaving like a petulant child. 

TRUMP:  Many of the countries in NATO, they`re not paying their bills.

PENCE:  The United States is expressing strong support for NATO. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or President Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So-called not my Presidents` Day marches were staged in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Members of Congress were met with protests at constituent town halls over the weekend.

(CHANTING)

CROWD:  Trump taxes! Trump taxes! Trump taxes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ever since the election, I have felt like a passenger in a car that is being driven by a drunk driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes --

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  We are now a month into the most incompetent and the most overtly corrupt presidency in history.

And I know that sounds like editorial comment, but it is simply fact.  It would be impossible for an honest Trump supporter to point to a more incompetent and chaotic first month of any other presidency.

And it would be impossible to point to a more overtly corrupt first month of a presidency.  Overtly corrupt. 

The Nixon presidency ended in flames of corruption, but none of that corruption was overt in the first month of the Nixon presidency.

President Nixon was not obtaining copyrights for his businesses from foreign governments while changing his foreign policy for that country that granted him a copyright, as Donald Trump has done with China.

President Nixon did not have a lease on a federal building in Washington where he ran a hotel business in direct violation of the government`s terms of that lease which forbids an elected official from holding that lease.

No president has ever spent his weekends selling access to himself through a private club in Florida that the president owns.

No president has ever done anything like those things, and Donald Trump has done all of that overtly, publicly.

It may be years before we know all the Nixonian behind the scenes corruption that President Trump might have a hand in.  But as of now, he is the most overtly corrupt presidency in history.  And it`s only been a month.

The month that feels like a year.  How long can this go on? That`s what everyone is asking themselves.

How long? Four years? A presidency defined by incompetence and corruption spinning out of control, four years of that?

We`ve never seen that before.  The lesson of the Nixon presidency is that when the trouble starts and when the corruption starts to go public, the end can come quickly.

On this day in 1973, one month into the second term of President Nixon, no one in America was using the word "impeachment".  No one in America was thinking that Richard Nixon wasn`t going to get four more years. 

On this very day in 1973, a month into President Nixon`s second term, the "New York Times" front page did not have a single corruption story about President Nixon.

Nixon hated the "New York Times", but on this day there was nothing for him to complain about, February 20th, 1973.

And there he was on the front page with his Labor Secretary and the president of the AFL-CIO talking about international trade.

And on the editorial page, "The Times" was editorializing about the International Monetary Fund, the draconian sentencing for drug crime that Governor Rockefeller was advocating.  And amnesty for draft evaders and deserters during the Vietnam war.

The kind of amnesty "The Times" pointed out, that was supported by Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Jackson and Lincoln. 

Scandal in the White House was so far from the minds of anyone at the "New York Times" that day that they even found space for a short editorial entitled "The Romantics".

Which contains my favorite "New York Times" sentence ever in a sense, "squirrels are romantics".  That editorial was an ambitious poetic turn about the coming of spring. 

That`s where we were on this very day in the second term of the Nixon presidency when no one in America knew that in the next year, the president would be facing impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives and would resign the presidency.

Eighteen months after taking the oath of office.  Eighteen months after "New York Times" editorial about how romantic squirrels are.

Today, the "New York Times" has no room for an editorial about the romance of squirrels.

Every day, the "New York Times`" reporting is adding to the corruption file of the Trump administration and they`re not the only news organization doing that.

All of which makes Mike Pence, Mike Pence, the most dangerous man in Donald Trump`s life and at some point even Donald Trump will realize that.

While Donald Trump was at home in Florida today, Mike Pence was in Brussels looking and sounding presidential in the Republican sense, at least.

And Mike Pence was asked a question that no other vice president has been asked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or President Trump?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Imagine how a question like that drives Donald Trump crazy.  Who should we listen to? Who is the real president of the United States? Is it Mike Pence?

And that question is not going away.  What makes Mike Pence the most dangerous man in the world for Donald Trump is that Mike Pence is a standard issue Republican president.

A no drama Republican president.  Someone who world leaders would be completely comfortable with.  They`ve all dealt with a version of Mike Pence in the presidency before.

And Mike Pence would be a president that most Republicans in the House and the Senate would be more comfortable with.

He`s one of them.  What an incompetent, incoherent president needs most is a vice president who scares people even more than the president does so that no one starts to think getting rid of the president would make anything better.

But Donald Trump has Mike Pence who would be better received around the world and would be better liked and respected by congressional Republicans.  And here is something the president does not know about his vice president.

Something that should make Donald Trump fear Mike Pence more than anyone else in the world.  It is uniquely within Mike Pence`s power to take the presidency away from Donald Trump.

The vice president has the constitutional power to do that, thanks to the wisdom of the 25th Amendment enacted in 1967.

The 25th Amendment provided for some situations that the founding fathers had not foreseen like the vacancy of the vice presidency which tragically occurred in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated.

And in the age of modern medicine, it became clear by the 1960s that we could have a president who was on some kind of protracted life support leaving no one with the constitutional authority to act as president.

And so, section 4 of the 25th Amendment says "the vice president shall become acting president."

That`s the title, acting president.  Whenever the vice president and a majority of the cabinet decide that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.  People have always assumed that that provision is to be invoked only in health situations. 

But there is nothing in the language of the amendment that defines what it means to be unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.

That is entirely up to the vice president and a majority of the cabinet.  They don`t need Donald Trump to become medically unable to do the job.  They don`t need a written opinion from a psychiatrist that Donald Trump is insane. 

If the president objects to such an action taken by the vice president and the majority of the cabinet, then the amendment provides that, "Congress shall decide the issue."

And that will be determined by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.  And when those votes are counted, Mike Pence could become acting president.

That would be that title, acting president.  And no one, no one but Mike Pence has the individual power to start that whole process that leads to Mike Pence becoming acting president.

Imagine how Donald Trump is going to feel about Mike Pence when he finds out about section 4 of the 25th Amendment.

When I first started talking about the 25th Amendment on Twitter weeks ago, and now the subject has gained a bit of momentum.

When I first mentioned the 25th Amendment, no one in Congress was then questioning the mental health of the president of the United States.

As at least one senator and a couple of members of Congress have now done with President Trump.

We now know that President Nixon`s mental stability became fragile toward the end of his presidency as he was facing impeachment hearings.

But at this point in the Nixon presidency, no senator would have gone on television as Al Franken did recently and wonder aloud about the president`s sanity.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are increasingly going public, most recently in the "New York Times" with their concerns about the president`s mental stability.

We can expect more and more of them to be going public with those concerns as Donald Trump press conferences continue to exhibit the symptoms that mental health professionals are most concerned about.  One month.

We are one month in.  At this point in the presidency, it is supposed to be impossible to imagine impeachment.

It is supposed to be impossible to imagine a vice president invoking the 25th Amendment and taking over the presidency.  But in the age of Trump, the impossible to imagine has become history right before our eyes.

It was impossible to imagine the reality TV buffoon becoming the Republican nominee for president.  It was impossible to imagine ever having to say the words, "President Trump".

That was once impossible.  It may be impossible for Mike Pence to imagine tonight using his constitutional power to invoke the 25th Amendment against his president, but who knows what another month will bring.

Another two months.  Who knows what another year will bring.  A year of this is now unimaginable.

How low can a president`s poll numbers go? Donald Trump seems to be on his way to finding out, and as those poll numbers sink every day, Mike Pence becomes more dangerous to Donald Trump.

Because Donald Trump made the mistake of choosing a vice president who is more acceptable to the world and far more acceptable to the congressional leadership for the Republican Party than Donald Trump has ever been or can ever be.

How long can this go on? Four years? Impeachment? The 25th Amendment in the age of Trump, anything is possible.

Coming up, Ana Marie Cox, E.J. Dionne and Rick Wilson will join us on much of the news of the day.

Also with us, Harvard Law School`s Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe will give us his reading of the 25th Amendment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  We are joined now by Harvard Law School`s Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe.  Also with us, E.J. Dionne, Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post".

Professor Tribe, I`m eager to hear you on the 25th Amendment because there`s so many things I find striking about it including the lack of specificity of what -- of the reasons that can be used to invoke the 25th.

It reads as anything that Mike Pence and a majority of the cabinet define as basically "unfit to serve".

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL:  It comes close to that.  It talks about inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office.

There`s no doubt that somebody who`s conscious can discharge the power.  An autocrat can discharge the power.

But discharging the duties of the office of president in a representative democracy requires at least some connection with truth and falsity.

Some sense of obligation to the Republic.  And it`s clear from the deliberate use of that loose language that the framers were not thinking simply of the comatose president or the temporarily disabled president in a physical sense.

They wanted -- because they set this high bar, you would need two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate.

Even higher than for impeachment where a mere majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate will do.  They wanted that high bar because they were unwilling to require a medical diagnosis.

They really wanted a broad idea of whether someone can be trusted to discharge the obligations of the presidency as opposed to being, perhaps, indebted to other countries or unconnected to reality. 

O`DONNELL:  And professor, what`s clear in that appeals process that they wrote into the amendment was you can appeal this to the president who`s being basically removed from power in favor of an acting president can appeal this to the House of Representatives and the Congress, and then the Congress votes.

But there`s no provision for any appeal beyond that in this amendment. 

TRIBE:  Right. 

O`DONNELL:  I don`t see how you ever, after a vote of the Congress, get to take this out to a court, to the Supreme Court, to try to get the upcoming Congress overturned. 

TRIBE:  That`s clear.  There`s no role for the court here.  Just as the court said that it had no role when the Senate is given the sole power to try impeachments.

This is something that is left entirely to the political process.  And it would not be politically realistic to have a declaration of presidential inability unless and until the whole country -- it doesn`t mean everybody, but including some of Trump`s own supporters conclude that they have not only buyer`s remorse.

But a sense of tragedy that they put the power in the hands of someone who just doesn`t understand what it means to obey the constitution.

O`DONNELL:  And E.J., politically what you see in the 25th Amendment is if it gets bad enough and they want to act quick enough, they have a short- circuit system which is much quicker than the impeachment process. 

EUGENE JOSEPH DIONNE, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Right, and I -- that is precisely why it`s there.

I mean, initially as you said in the opener, in case somebody were on life support or something like that.  But the language does not specifically say anything about health or define any circumstances.

And I think it`s a well-done amendment, if you can call an amendment that because they do have the high bar where Congress can overturn it because they don`t want a cabinet pulling a political coup.

They don`t want a cabinet using the power of the 25th Amendment to throw someone out just because they don`t like him.

And so, I think what you need is something approaching a political consensus in the country that the person in office, in this case we`re talking about Donald Trump, is actually unfit to serve.

And what you`ve seen in the wildness of this first month is enormous interest in the 25th Amendment.

Lee Drutman at the New America Foundation discovered that searches on the 25th Amendment passed searches on the 2nd Amendment for the first time ever.  That tells us something. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I started searching the 25th Amendment about four weeks ago, maybe about three weeks ago.

So -- and the last time I`d done that was when the West Wing was working on an episode working, and using the 25th Amendment.

But -- and Professor Tribe, one of the things you start to do as you look at it, as you realize, OK, this is in a sense a legal process described by the amendment.

But it is -- it is written very much with the understanding that there`s the possibility for political process to go to work here.  And --  

TRIBE:  Right --  

O`DONNELL:  And that`s why you don`t see some very specific standard that must be found.

Not even that phrase that exists in the impeachment language of high crime and misdemeanor, just no specificity --

TRIBE:  Exactly --  

O`DONNELL:  At all about what it could take for the vice president or the cabinet to act.  It`s left to their judgment.

TRIBE:  Right.  And if it were meant to be a specific medical term, then it would be kind of crazy to say that two-thirds of the House or two-thirds of the Senate --

O`DONNELL:  Yes --

TRIBE:  Would vote --

O`DONNELL:  Yes --

TRIBE:  On it. 

O`DONNELL:  Right. 

TRIBE:  I mean, they`re not shrinks.  They`re not --

O`DONNELL:  Right --

TRIBE:  Doctors.  It is understood to be bound up in the idea of whether someone can be trusted with power rather than regarded as potential dictator or autocrat.

O`DONNELL:  And E.J., you start to pull out the list of heads of departments because the language is actually heads of departments.  So that does not include every name that people commonly consider a member of the cabinet.

And you start to look at votes and you can imagine a crisis situation in which somebody like, say, James Mattis, John Kelly, Elaine Chao, Rex Tillerson, I think Wilbur Ross would be willing to vote this way if the day came.

Rick Perry who started off as a hater of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign.  Getting to five right off the bat isn`t hard, three more gets you to eight and that gets you an acting president.

DIONNE:  Right, you know, I went through this exercise recently myself, and it`s honestly hard to get there any time soon. 

O`DONNELL:  Right. 

DIONNE:  But there are people -- it tends to be the people in the cabinet who get the most universal approval in the country.

People like Mattis who gets praised on both sides.  Those are the people you start to count in here.  But there are other people in that cabinet whom you imagine would be loyalists down to the end.

So you could have a very fierce fight in that cabinet if this ever came up.  And you have the whole question of what will the president do with his cabinet if he ever gets word that something like this is brewing?

O`DONNELL:  Professor Tribe, you remember 1973 well and that feeling -- 

TRIBE:  Yes --  

O`DONNELL:  That you had as we went from 1973 to 1974.  As I say, at this time in 1973, there wasn`t a whiff of a possibility that there could be any impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.

He just won a second term in a landslide.  Four more years were coming, everyone was resigned to that.

And it is -- it`s hard to describe to people today how quickly -- 

TRIBE:  What it felt like -- 

O`DONNELL:  That began to change as soon as the corruption stories began to emerge.

TRIBE:  Right, this time, however, we have a president who is really a master at pulling out so many rabbits from this crazy hat that people might just get used to the insanity of it all.

I mean, he had his Saturday night massacre on one Monday night with Sally Yates, whereas it took Nixon a long time to get there.

So the danger is that there would be a kind of new normal and people will see somebody who, you know, claims to have won a huge electoral college victory when the numbers aren`t there.

Somebody who claims that there was terrorism in Sweden when he gets his information from Alex Jones.

People might get used to it.  But I don`t think the cabinet and the Congress will get used to it.

And I think popular discontent with a presidency gone wild might just overtake his magical capacity to toss bubbles into the wind and keep people off balance.

O`DONNELL:  Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you for your invaluable guidance through this constitutional amendment -- 

TRIBE:  Thank you --  

O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate it, thank you, we`ll be back with the panel next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES:  I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have generally paid for our gas and oil all along.

And I am sure that we will continue to do so in the future.  We`re not in Iraq to seize anybody`s oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, people who pay for their gas and oil, Ana Marie Cox; senior political correspondent for "MTV News" and host of a new podcast with "Friends Like These" which launches this Friday.

Also with us, Rick Wilson; Republican strategist and contributor to "The "Daily Beast".

E.J. Dionne is still with us.  Ana Marie, so, there is the Secretary of Defense saying don`t listen to the president of the United States.

Yet, another don`t listen to the president of the United States day.

ANA MARIE COX, MTV NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, that`s a new one.

(LAUGHTER)

Yes --

COX:  That is quite good, quite understand --

O`DONNELL:  Yes --

COX:  What`s going on here. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes -- 

COX:  I don`t understand, I mean, I guess it does seem to go to your acting president sort of theory.

Like if people are outwardly out there just saying, like don`t pay attention to the president, at what point do they decide, you know what? Maybe we shouldn`t even -- 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, how big a change is this?

COX:  Yes, like why even have like the fiction of someone who`s not even a figure head?

O`DONNELL:  Yes.   

COX:  You know, now this is -- it`s -- I mean, it`s on the one hand, it is good to hear someone say we`re not here to take your oil, I hope that it comforted the Iraqis a bit.

But we`re not going to -- you know, seek to commit war crimes just out of the gate.  On the other hand, yes, I mean, it -- 

O`DONNELL:  Well, it will be interesting to see how many people in the world, and heard the Defense Secretary say that today compared to how many people heard the president now advocate this war crime time and time again.  Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I didn`t want to go there in the first place, but now we take the oil.  We should have kept the oil.

Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil.  I said, keep the oil.  Keep the oil.  Keep the oil.

Don`t let somebody else get it.  You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils.  Now, there was no victor there, believe me, there was no victor.

But I always said, take the oil.  Four years ago, I said, bomb the oil and take the oil.

And if we did that, they wouldn`t have the wealth they have right now.  Now I still say the same thing.

We should have kept the oil, but OK --

(LAUGHTER)

Maybe we`ll have another chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  So, Rick Wilson, there he is at the CIA, he`s actually president of the United States standing there saying, you know, we should have taken the oil.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You know, Lawrence, it seems like there`s a growing conspiracy of grown-ups inside the Trump administration where you saw today General Mattis who understands the situation on the ground in Iraq.

Who he`s forgotten more about it than Donald Trump will ever know.  You had Mike Pence reassuring NATO allies that there`s still some stability and some understanding of the value of the NATO alliance after 70 years almost.

And with the choice of McMaster which I feel like Trump had basically forced upon him, you have somebody who is a war fighter with a brain and a heart in the NSC and a guy who hopefully will be able to excel in that job.

And bring some stability into that organization in the disastrous wake of Mike Flynn and the presence of Steve Bannon on the NSC.

Hopefully, the grown-ups will win a few more of these battles, and the contrast today was so telling.

You saw Mike Pence at the security conference, you know a guy who is -- people may disagree with Mike Pence, but he`s not obviously as crazy as a rat in a septic tank. 

This is a guy who clearly likes, you know, reassuring people and being a steady hand on the tiller as opposed to Donald Trump who revels in this showmanship and this lunacy. 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Yes, Mike Pence is the president from central casting as most republican presidents are.  This is way they sound and look.  He gave -- what I -- what was my favorite moment of the day and I just want to take a longer look at it here -

WILSON:  Sure. 

O`DONNELL:  when he was asked in Europe today, who should we listen to, you or the president of the United States? Let`s listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who should European leaders listen to, you or president Trump?  And can they be certain that what you say, the assurances you give, won`t be contradicted in a tweet or a statement to the press conference tomorrow? 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, thank you for the question.  Let me say, it was my great privilege to serve as vice president for the 45th president of the United States, and the president directed me to go to Munich and to come here to Brussels with a very specific message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  E.J., oddly enough, he did not attack the reporter for asking the question.  He just used the old trick of not answering the question.  That`s the way you`re supposed to do it. 

E.J. DIONNE, OP-ED COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST:  I was watching his face and wondering what the thought balloon really was next to him.  I mean, you really have a situation where the Pence/Mattis administration is trying to reduce Donald Trump to a constitutional monarch.  You know, that Trump handles TV and twitter and they`ll handle everything else.  But this is a real problem because in the end, a vice president or a defense secretary cannot obliterate in the mind of the world everything that the president says. 

And you have other forces inside the Trump administration, one presumes Steve Bannon being one of them, who are not necessarily in the same places that Mattis or Pence are and you`ve had Trump on NATO trying to undermine it pretty much throughout the period since he announced his candidacy for president.  So, you know, this will be reassuring in the short run, but it`s completely untenable in the long run.  They can`t just keep doing this. 

O`DONNELL:  And Ana, my favorite part of that question was actually the second part of it where he said, you know that anything you say, Mike Pence, won`t be contradicted in a tweet or a statement by the president.  Of course, it`s going to be contradicted in a tweet by the president. 

ANA MARIE COX, POLITICAL COLUMNIST:  And as much, you know, as much hope as we might put in or whatever these victories might seem to be, you know, from Pence and Mattis and whatnot, the other side is winning.  I mean, if we look at what the actual policies that have been rolled out, if you look at what the president actually says, it`s the Bannon wing of the White House that has power.  You know, they lost about a battle with Flynn but, you know, we heard what Trump said at the press conferences about Flynn. 

It`s almost like we -- I still suspect he`s going to be calling up Flynn and asking about that strong dollar question. 

O`DONNELL:  Right.  Yes. 

COX:  You know. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  Rick Wilson, one thing we know about white House in turmoil especially a first month of turmoil is the power dynamics will not remain the way they are -

WILSON:  Correct. 

O`DONNELL:  -- in that first chaotic month.  That whoever is on top now in that White House better enjoy it because they`re not going to be on top probably by St. Patrick`s Day. 

WILSON:  The White House has always experiences staff stress generally it takes about 12 to 15 months before it starts to show and the internal fights and dynamics start to become public and ugly.  But in this case, I think we`ve gone so quickly, and the fact that the war between the previous faction and the Bannon faction is so overt and right on the surface.  The fact that Steve Bannon has weaponized his outside allies in the alt right and in the Breitbart world and everything else to go after Priebus and Priebus` staff and that Priebus is now returning the favor.  You know, the ugliness is I would recommend they all get Kevlar and food tasters at this point. 

DIONNE:  They used to say at the BBC that things have gotten so bad that they`re stabbing each other in the front.  That`s kind of what`s happening now. 

O`DONNELL:  E.J. Dionne and Rick Wilson, you share the last word there in that segment.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate it. 

WILSON:  Thanks Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, what does it mean to be an enemy of the people? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROTESTERS:  Hands too small can`t build A Wall. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Oh come on, "Hands too small, cant build a wall."  That`s what they were chanting.  That is so unfair he never said he was going to build the wall with his own hands.  Thousands gathered in cities across America today like people you just saw for what organizers were calling Not My Presidents` Day.  Peaceful protesters and more than two dozen cities including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Washington, showed up to resist Donald Trump`s policies.  Here`s what some of them said today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All this ridiculous things that he -- executive orders, I think it`s time to put a stop to it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I came to the United States 17 years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan and I`m here for the immigrant community, for the Hispanics, for the refugees. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As a retired teacher, I want this country to stand for what I taught my students to stand for.  Decency, civil rights, a welcoming attitude, honesty, facts, I think it has to be resistance to his entire regime. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  So what does it mean to be an enemy of the people?  It used to be lonely.  To be what Donald Trump now calls an enemy of the people, but now, now I a have a lot of company, that`s next. 

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  When the media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don`t get away with it.  They have their own agenda.  And their agenda is not your agenda. 

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O`DONNELL:  But of course, if FOX news and Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart lie to you, Donald Trump will stand firmly on the side of the liars as he has done so many times before.  In a Friday night tweet, Donald Trump said, "the fake news media failing "New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy.  It is the enemy of the American people."  That sparked a weekend of tweets with the #nottheenemy, many of those tweets included photographs of journalists killed in the line of duty. 

Here at NBC News and MSNBC, we think of David Bloom every day because there is a permanent exhibit commemorating his service on the third floor of this building where most of our studios are.  Every time I get off the elevator, I see the helmet David was wearing when he died in the Iraq war.  I will see that helmet again when I leave this studio tonight.  When Donald Trump attacks the news media, he doesn`t exempt the war correspondents. 

He doesn`t limit himself to people like me who express opinions.  He wants to make sure that his supporters don`t believe anything that comes from any of the major news organizations in this country.  It`s as if President Trump fears that if his supporters believe anything that we say, he will be driven out of office.  The president actually said, "when media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it.  I will do whatever I can that they don`t get away with it."  And the funny thing is that that, that, that has been my personal vow about Donald Trump since he began lying about President Obama`s birth. 

I have attacked every lie out of Donald Trump`s mouth since then.  Every lie that I`ve had the time to cover during this hour.  And I did it years before most news organizations would dare to use the word, lie, to describe Trump`s statements and now the crusade against Trump lying is not as lonely as it used to be, six years ago, five years ago, four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, and worst of all, last year when it really mattered.  If Donald Trump was getting the media coverage last year that he is getting this year, we don`t know who would be President now.

In Trump world, enemy of the American people is an enemy of Trump lies.  I have been on Trump`s enemies list since he told his first lie about President Obama`s birth.  It was a pretty short list in those days, and Trump`s media enemies list remained a very short list after he began his presidential campaign, and the news media prized access to Trump.  There was nothing better for your ratings on TV than a Donald Trump interview. An interview that I never got because I was on that enemies list from day one.  And Donald Trump knew. He knew very well how an interview with me would have gone.  It wouldn`t have been one of those interviews that I was conducting in the hope of getting him to agree to come back for another interview.

He attacked me on Twitter every chance he got.  He threatened to sue me on Twitter and I wore every one of those Tweets like a badge of honor.  A badge that said, enemy of Trump lies.  And tonight the good news for America is there are more and more of those enemies of Trump lies in the American news media every day and yes, better late than never. I know exactly where David Bloom would have stood in the face of Trump lies.  Candidate Trump got lucky in more ways than we could count and one of them was never having to face David Bloom.

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JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Consolidation of power, when you look at history, the first thing dictators do is shut down the press.  And I`m not saying that that`s -- that President Trump is trying to be a dictator I`m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.

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O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist for Politico. co-author of the book Kremlin rising: Vladimir Putin`s Russia and the end of the revolution.  And back with us, Ana Marie Cox.  Susan, you covered Vladimir Putin close up.  Did he ever say the press was the enemy of the Russian people?

SUSAN GLASSER, POLITICO EDITOR:  Well, you know, it`s funny, that was really pretty much Vladimir Putin`s very first move in office was to retake power over the media.  The state TV had always been the biggest force in Soviet Russia.  In independent Russia, they had a brief period where people were allowed to say what they wanted on the air and TV was the big important media and the very first thing he did in his first year in office was take over the TV stations.  It`s a pretty good playbook.  Now, of course, you don`t want to go too far in the parallels between Trump`s America and Putin`s Russia, but I think this is something that is a playbook out of almost every authoritarian leader today including in Turkey, for example, where the same thing is happening right now.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what Trump said on Saturday at his rally in Florida about the fake news and ignoring them.

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TRUMP:  We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live or what to believe.  We are free and independent people and we will make our own choices.

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O`DONNELL:  so Ana, this begins, of course, with misstating the case. Lying that the news media is trying to tell us what to do.

COX:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  Nobody -- you`re not going to tell me what to do, right?  So he gets that reflex right away.

COX:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  Tell us how to live.

COX:  Right.

O`DONNELL:  We`re not telling how to live.  No one is doing that.  But that`s one of the elements of whipping up the hysteria against the media.

COX:  Right, he`s stoking resentment, very specifically.  And I was actually going to say with that lead, quote from McCain where he said the first thing dictators do is stop the free press.  The first thing they do is delegitimize it.  The first thing they do is actually what he`s doing now which is turn people against it, make them doubt it.  And again, what`s actually really frustrating is that it`s not in the service of even telling some greater truth.  It`s just to get people confused and have them doubt everything.  A colleague of mine said, you know, confusion is an authoritarian tool.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

COX:  If you can get people confused, if you can get them doubting what`s real, you can tell them anything.  And I feel like is happening right now.

O`DONNELL:  That`s a great description.  Susan, how do you think Vladimir Putin is seeing what`s happening in the United States?  Do you think he imagined what`s happening here now was ever possible, that you could have a President who was declaring the press to be the enemy of the American people?  And telling that it`s all lies, everything the American media says?  That`s something Vladimir Putin has been trying to convince the world of.

GLASSER:  You know, that phrase, enemy of the American people, it just such a stunning phrase to anybody who spent any time in Russia.  Enemy of the people was literally the sentence and the exact term used to contempt people by Stalin to the Gulag and to death. And in fact you can`t utter that phrase in Russia today without having it a very specific connotation.  To see that used in an American context even by the standards of Trump`s over the top rhetoric, I really did a huge double-take the other day and it just -- it`s something that`s so far outside of the pal.  I remember right now this is in a context in Russia wher, you know, of course Putin didn`t expect he`d be living in a world with Donald Trump as President.  None of us expected it.  But I go back to Ana Marie`s word, Confusion.  I think that regardless of what the Russians thought they were doing in the election, one of their things that was their goal was confusion, you know, to the extent they had a program of supporting Donald Trump in the presidential election.

They certainly didn`t expect that it would succeed, but I do think they expected they could successfully confuse us, undermine legitimacy of our institutions.  What`s such a stunner is just the notion that right now it`s Donald Trump who`s undermining the legitimacy of our institutions as much as it is any Russians.  And that, again, you know, again is sort of my point.  You don`t need to look at the conspiracy between Putin and Trump because we don`t really know what that`s about.  Just look at what Trump is actually doing. which is undermining these institutions of our system.

O`DONNELL:  Susan, as soon as you figure out what`s going on with Putin and Trump please come back and let us know what that`s all about.   Susan Glasser, Ana Marie Cox, thank you both for joining us, really appreciate it.

GLASSER:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, thousands of people in the United Kingdom are saying no to Donald Trump.  The resistance to the Trump visit to the United Kingdom is active.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL FLYNN, BRITISH POLITICIAN:  This is of great concern when you have a man who`s the President behaving like a petulant child.  How is he going to behave in a future if conflict might arise?

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Thousands of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside parliament in London today to protest Donald Trump`s state visit scheduled for later this year there.  The crowd was over 7,000 people according to Reuters.  A petition asking the government to take back the state visit invitation "because it would cause embarrassment to the queen."  That got more than 1.8 million signatures since it was started in December, which meant the issue got a symbolic debate in parliament today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLYNN:  We are greatly concerned about the actions that he`s taken.  I mean, extraordinary actions blundering into frozen conflicts around the planet.

PAULA SHERRIFF, POLITICIAN:  To use the expression, grab them by the (BLEEP), describes a sexual assault and, therefore, suggests that he shouldn`t be afforded a visit to our Queen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Entirely agree.

UNIDENFITED MALE:  The American people voted for Donald Trump.  Get over it because he`s

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