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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 2/24/2017

Guests: Malcolm Nance, Nicholas Kristof, Indira Lakshmanan, Nancy Giles, Erin Gloria Ryan, Christina Grier

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 24, 2017 Guest: Malcolm Nance, Nicholas Kristof, Indira Lakshmanan, Nancy Giles, Erin Gloria Ryan, Christina Grier RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  The only people allowed to cast votes in that election tomorrow for Democratic chair are the members of the Democratic National Committee.  477 people who are members of the DNC.  Right now nobody really seems to know who`s going to win.  "The Hill" did a whip count that says that Ellison is leading with 105 votes, the AP says Democratic strategists have Tom Perez ahead with 205 votes.  But either way that means that neither of them have the 224 votes you need to win this thing.  So we`ll see.  Election Day tomorrow in a small but serious way. 

That does it for us tonight.  I`ll see you again tomorrow -- no, see you again Monday.  Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." 

Good evening, Ari. 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.  I didn`t know Election Day was tomorrow.  I always learn something watching your show. 

MADDOW:  You know, it`s like it`s always 5:00 somewhere?  It`s always Election Day somewhere. 

MELBER:  That`s true.  Awesome.  Have a great weekend.  Thank you. 

There are two big storylines tonight.  What Trump wants everyone to focus on, another dramatic battle with the press, and the story he is trying to bury.  Some of the worst news to hit his administration on national security this year. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   We are fighting the fake news.  It`s fake.  Phony.  Fake. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is an administration that understands how important having enemies is.  And if it`s not the media, it`s going to be some other group.  So expect to hear this a lot. 

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR:  If I were doing fake news, I would have been fired a long time ago. 

TRUMP:  They`re the enemy of the people. 

DAN RATHER:  It is an effort to divide and conquer, to divide the press from the people and to divide the press among themself.  I don`t think in the long run, I honestly don`t think even in the short run it`s going to work. 

TRUMP:  They shouldn`t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody`s name. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  His aides were giving an unnamed background briefing at the White House just this morning. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just hours after President Trump called fake news an enemy of the people, his administration refused to allow several reporters into an off-camera, on the record session with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. 

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, " THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT":  This staff would use FOX and Breitbart to plant news that is fake.  Gosh.  I wish there was a term for that. 


MELBER:  Good evening to you.  We have some important breaking news tonight and it comes as President Trump wants people to focus on his latest rounds of attacks on opposing views, whether they are coming today from government officials leaking dissent or what Trump officials view as the permanent opposition in the free press as he literally called journalists the enemy of the American people before that big conservative conference this morning. 

That rhetoric was the context for the controversial moment at the White House today when the press secretary excluded reporters from outlets the administration has slammed like "The New York Times."  This was from that briefing in Sean Spicer`s office.  So those are the actions taken by the Trump White House to evoke a response.  And sure, some response may be necessary given the stakes on those issues.  But seeing the entire factual picture tonight requires more than just reacting to what the government wants the headlines to be. 

Here`s what President Trump apparently did not want people to focus on.  A devastating indictment of the president`s signature travel ban by his own national security experts.  Trump said his travel ban is designed to prevent terror attacks.  But a new report from his own DHS basically says it won`t do that. 

This is, I think, one of the more important developments of Trump`s first month in office.  It`s not about Trump versus the media or Trump versus the Democrats.  This is about Trump versus Trump and Trump versus facts.  And it sets a collision course.  What will President Trump do when his own national security experts present him with facts he doesn`t like? 

White House aides are still working on that new revised travel ban.  Will they listen to DHS explain why the seven countries in their old ban are not top threats for immigrant attacks.  And let`s remember Trump says he likes his new head of DHS. 


TRUMP:  Our new and brilliant leader at DHS, General John Kelly.  General Kelly, by the way, has done a fantastic job.  Fantastic.  General Kelly, we have great, great people.  General Kelly now Secretary Kelly.  He`s really doing the job.  You`re seeing it. 


MELBER:  Doing the job.  Well, this is part of the job.  Here are the facts.  Breaking news tonight from General Kelly`s DHS, a memo that was leaked to the AP.  Fact number one.  Restricting immigration solely by citizenship unlikely to predict terror attacks.  Fact two.  The largest source of terror attacks in the U.S. are American citizens, not foreign immigrants.  Three, most of the countries that have sent terror attackers are not in Trump`s travel ban at all.  Fact four, most of the countries that are in Trump`s travel ban have never, never sent a deadly terror attacker to the United States. 

And fact five, most countries in Trump`s ban are dangerous to visit and pose a threat to neighboring countries regionally, but they are not a threat of sending attackers all the way to the U.S.  The way countries like Saudi Arabia did on 9/11. 

The DHS is basically telling Donald Trump this isn`t even a close call.  His travel ban not even in the ballpark of targeting actual immigrant threats. 

Now will the White House listen?  The aide in charge of this policy, Stephen Miller, recently pledged that the new ban will be just like the old one. 


STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Those are mostly minor technical differences.  Fundamentally you`re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you`re getting a response to a lot of technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. 


MELBER:  Mr. Miller must be new at this because by admitting that they`re bringing out basically the same policy he makes it more likely judges will just block the new ban just like they blocked the old one. 

Challengers barely need the ACLU when they have Stephen Miller speaking off the cuff on live TV.  And that whole fight is about whether the ban is blocked while it`s ultimately tested in court.  And let`s be clear.  The Supreme Court could uphold the ban. 

But legal or not, the big news tonight is about this White House reaction which does suggest something more troubling for national security.  An administration that appears at this hour uninterested in the facts even when gathered by their own national security experts at DHS. 

Joining me now on this important story, Indira Lakshamanan, Washington columnist for the "Boston Globe," Nicholas Kristof, of course Pulitzer Prize winner from "The New York Times," and Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism and intelligence expert and an MSNBC analyst. 

Malcolm, what is, in your view, the context of these facts now being presented formally by the DHS to President Trump? 

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST:  Well, the context is very simple.  You have intelligence professionals who have done a very hard core analysis using all empirical evidence based on the best available information that comes from not just DHS but multisource, many agencies contribute to the report.  And that division, which is called the I & A division, right, Intelligence and Analysis at Department of Homeland Security, have stated facts as they exist. 

The question is, will the White House resist those facts or just call those fake news?  But if they do, they run the risk of actually, you know, discrediting their own department which will have to give them information where they may have to be protect American lives. 

MELBER:  You put your finger on it. 

NANCE:  And the Trump administration -- yes. 

MELBER:  And to your point I`m going to read the White House response here about how do they deal with this.  They said they don`t dispute the authenticity but telling NBC News it was incomplete and based on open sources which are, of course, publicly available facts.

  Indira, I`ll give you one item from public sources and get your response.  Cato looked at this, who are the victims of people, Americans and others, in the U.S. who died from these foreign-born tacks.  Well, 98 percent were killed in 9/11, which is mostly Saudi and UAE.  All other attack, 1.4 percent, Indira. 

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, BOSTON GLOBE WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  Right.  And not only has Cato looked at the victims of those foreign-born terror attacks, Cato, which I would like to point out, is funded by the Koch brothers famously, quite conservative but libertarians.  Cato also looked at the study who all was responsible for terror attacks dating back to the 1970s all the way through the end of 2015.  Of course the vast majority of the terrorism deaths in that period were all on one day on 9/11. 

MELBER:  Right. 

LAKSHMANAN:  But if you separate out all the rest, your chance of being killed by a foreign terrorist on U.S. soil is -- it`s like 1.3 -- 1 in 3.64 billion a year is a chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is just one example.  And the numbers are even more striking if you want to look at the chances of being killed by an illegal immigrant.  So if you actually look at the numbers, it is quite clear that, you know, they don`t add up to these seven countries being particularly dangerous. 

MELBER:  Well, they don`t add up because, Nicholas Kristof, zero plus zero is still zero.  And that`s the most devastating number in this report.  You talk about open sources.  We can put up on the screen, deadly attacks from the seven countries from those seven countries.  Zero.  It`s not always this simple.  But it is on this issue. 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES:  Yes.  And I mean, this particular DHS memo is simply restating what we really already know in that since 1975, as you say, there have been zero lethal attacks by anybody connected to any of these seven countries. 

And while there -- and in that same period there are then 3.2 million American gun deaths, for example.  So if one wanted to try to reduce American vulnerability to murder, there are a lot of things we could do.  Keeping out all refugees from Syria is maybe not the number one on the list. 

MELBER:  I wonder, Nicholas, if you could speak to Malcolm`s point, then we`ll go back to Malcolm on how is the government then deal with this strife over the facts? 

KRISTOF:  I think it will ignore it.  I mean, you know, these facts have been out for a while.  There have been nobody associated with these countries who has killed a single person in a terrorist incident in the U.S. since 1975.  Well, there have been a number of countries that have been involved.  And indeed there have been Americans involved.  As you know, a few days ago in Kansas we had a 51-year-old American white guy who shoots two Indian engineers in what sure looks like a terrorist attack even though we tend not to think of it in those terms. 

And -- but I think the -- you know, the White House will continue to ignore the fact that these seven countries aren`t the center of the problem and it will go ahead and issue a revised executive order keeping them out. 

MELBER:  Malcolm? 

NANCE:  He`s absolutely right.  And if I can just be frank, I mean, looking at it from the intelligence perspective, White House response to this is not going to be respect for intelligence.  The White House is working on stoking emotion, stoking xenophobia, and, just quite frankly, racism, by pointing out seven, although seemingly random Arab countries.  I mean, although you could argue Syria and Iraq are dangerous countries, as is Yemen with a, you know, lack of government stability and virtually all of those countries, but again the issue is the president is saying we are stopping terrorists from coming into America.  And that is not what`s happening.  And our intelligence community can`t help you if you don`t want to listen. 

MELBER:  Right.  And -- 

NANCE:  And this is where we`re going to have all the trouble with this president. 

MELBER:  And Indira, these are certainly powerful metaphors and rhetoric.  You can go back to the Great Wall of China, if you want, or Matt Damon`s Hollywood version of it, right?.  Walls are powerful, but we expect more from the president and DHS on the facts.  And that doesn`t, by the way, mean that you can`t have tighter immigration policy.  That`s been debated a lot in our country and there`s people goodwill on both sides of that.  I want to be clear about that.  But on the fact piece, take a listen to what President Trump is about to say and I wonder if you could fact check him on the -- on the return. 


TRUMP:  We fully understand that national security begins with border security.  Foreign terrorists will not be able to strike America if they cannot get into our country.  We will not be deterred from this course.  And in a matter of days we will be taking brand-new action to protect our people and keep America safe. 


MELBER:  Indira? 

LAKSHMANAN:  Yes, I want to say a couple of things about this.  I`m holding the three-page DHS memo in my hand.  And it specifically says DHS assesses that country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.  And it goes on to talk about how no one from Syria has committed any of these attacks.  You know, we can go on and on about this but that doesn`t seem to make a difference here. 

Nobody is suggesting, as you just said, that there shouldn`t be vetting.  This vetting already goes on as we`ve talked about on this show before.  There`s two years worth of vetting before a refugee can come into this country, for example.  And as Nicholas points out, you know, there`s a greater chance of being killed not only by gun violence in this country but by a toddler wielding a gun. 

There`s a greater chance of being killed by falling out of your bed.  And I`m not just making that up.  Those are actual statistics.  Than being killed by a refugee or illegal immigrant in this country.  So, you know, we`ll see whether the facts and the numbers actually come out or whether this is going to be more about ideology at the end of the day. 

MELBER:  Well, and Malcolm, I mean, this idea of oh, well, the facts may or may not matter, of course, they don`t matter with this administration until they do.  The facts surrounding General Flynn we were told didn`t matter because he had the trust and loyalty of the president.  And that was certainly what was said for a while, then all of a sudden he was gone. 

A final thought from you on whether these facts will make any difference potentially.

NANCE:  Well, they`ll make a difference to General Kelly and they`ll certainly make a difference to General McMasters.  These are two gentlemen that do not suffer fools gladly.  They are empirical war fighters.  And they know what that intelligence means and how it will actually protect the American public. 

What you`re going to get is you`re going to get a clash of ideologies between the Steve Bannons and the -- you know, the -- you know, terror fraud Sebastian Gorkas of the world and they`re going to run smack into a wall of defense -- you know, defense led generals who will not tolerate this.  And it will be very fascinating to watch, but it`s not going to help keep this country safe. 

MELBER:  Malcolm Nance, as always, thank you for your expertise. 

The panel stays.  Coming up, the Trump administration versus the press, what I was mentioning earlier.  But is this a distraction from other chaos in the White House? 

And the president making several more big claims at that CPAC conference.  We have an important fact check on it coming up. 


MELBER:  At 10:00 a.m. this morning President Trump called journalists the enemy of the American people.  About two hours later the president was tweeting out a link to an AP story quoting the AP`s headline.  Then by the end of the day the White House had kicked up another controversy.  If it all sounds dizzying maybe that`s because it`s supposed to, but there is no need to live in a dizzy spell.  We have an antidote for your weekend clarity.  That`s next. 



TRUMP:  Now I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news.  It`s fake.  Phony.  Fake.  A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people.  And they are.  They are the enemy of the people. 


MELBER:  Donald Trump speaking to supporters at CPAC today, the country`s top conservative conference which is so politically important Steve Bannon appeared on stage.  That`s a role he rarely takes willingly. 

Trump has so aggressively co-opted this term fake news.  It`d be easy to forget it began as an indictment of largely pro-Trump phony articles that ran during the campaign and were some of the most shared items on Facebook if you count true and false items. 

That is the context for Trump`s rhetorical aerobics.  The candidate who benefited from fake news now playing national ombudsman and lamenting anonymous sources. 


TRUMP:  I`m against the people that make up stories and make up sources.  They shouldn`t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody`s name.  Let their name be put out there.  Let their name be put out.  A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.  Let them say it to my face. 


MELBER:  Now that would be a fair point in some circumstances, but it`s worth considering the source.  The White House required anonymous sourcing just today when pushing back on stories it opposed.  A reporter also noted Reince Priebus asked today to be referred to not only anonymously but requested reporters cite something he said as the product of multiple sources.  In other words, adding a, yes, fake source. 

And these complaints come as a new controversy hit the White House press area when Sean Spicer held a type of pool briefing for some reporters while excluding several specific outlets including "The L.A. Times," Politico, CNN and "The New York Times."  Now that decision drew very strong rebukes from top names in the news.  Take "The New York Times" executive editor Dean Baquet.  "Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House," he said, "in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties." 

He went on to say, "We strongly protest the exclusion of the `Times` and other news organizations.  Free media access to a transparent government is of crucial national interest," end quote.  And while we should be clear it`s not totally unprecedented in history to restrict access to a briefing when there is a pool of reporter present because the idea of being well content will still be publicly available, this is drawing very serious consternation from some of the most senior people in the nonpartisan press. 

So back with me we have Nicholas Kristof as well as Indira Lakshmanan.  This involves your paper, your boss.  What do you think? 

KRISTOF:  Well, look, I mean, I think there is some risk that we sound a little self-indulgent talking about the press being bullied.  But what`s important here is not what`s happening to these particular organizations but the fact that Trump is trying to fight back at an institutional check on his power, on an institution that`s limiting his ability for corruption, limiting his capacity to break the law, and to suppress whatever happened vis-a-vis Russia.  And I think it`s also a distraction from these larger issues. 

MELBER:  Right.  It is both potentially corrosive depending on how it is -- how it`s affecting how people do their jobs but it also, yes, becomes a big part of stories other than what was our lead story which was look at these other facts brought to you by the AP the press. 


MELBER:  From DHS that undermines some of the administration`s claims.  Take a listen to Sean Spicer bringing up the D word, dictatorship, to talk about what they won`t do. 


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We have a respect for the press when it comes to the government.  That that is something that you can`t ban an entity from.  You know, conservative, liberal or otherwise, I think that`s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship. 


KRISTOF:  Well, it`s a funny way of expressing respect for the press by declaring that we are an enemy of the people, then by barring critical organizations from a press briefing and, you know, that is an attack more broadly not just on these news organizations but on civil society, on institutional structure that we have in this country.  But I`ve also got to say, you know, look, I`ve covered a lot of tin pot dictators around the world bullying reporters, and I`ve also covered their demise.  And in the long run I look forward to covering the demise of Putin and of Trump because this does not succeed in the long run. 

MELBER:  And Indira, on that point we have actually something brand-new from the president tweeting tonight, "Fake news media knowingly doesn`t tell the truth.  A great danger to our country.  The failing `New York Times` has become a joke.  Likewise CNN.  Sad." 

You can say he`s baiting the press on the one hand.  On the other hand that word danger as we respond to Sean Spicer`s notion of dictatorships, that word danger really does stick out. 

LAKSHMANAN:  Right.  Well, I`d like to point, first of all, that the "New York Times" subscriptions are at a new high, that CNN viewership is at a new high.  So, you know, these institutions that he`s calling fake have actually gained listenership, viewership, readership, as people are turning to them for facts amid a very confusing time. 

On the one hand, I completely agree with Nick when he says that we`re not the story, the story is the story, and we shouldn`t be distracted and focus too much attention on these attacks on the press as long as we`re still able to do our job. 

We need to focus on the big stories like DHS, what we were talking about, the migrant ban, Russia, all these other important things.  Like Nick I`ve covered authoritarian regimes all over the world.  I spent seven years based in China and was, you know, detained by authorities six times.  I -- you know, what I hear from Trump reminds me a lot of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. 


MELBER:  Is that fair?  I mean, is that really fair as compared to this abuse of the -- 

LAKSHMANAN:  Yes.  I think -- 

MELBER:  Abuse of the justice system? 

LAKSHMANAN:  Well, what I was going to say about Chavez is that Chavez came to power, democratically elected, and he then used democratic institutions -- he used democracy to subvert democratic institutions. 


MELBER:  But you`re not alleging -- you`re not -- I just want to be -- 

LAKSHMANAN:  Obviously President Trump has not done that. 

MELBER:  I`m not trying to cut you off. 

LAKSHMANAN:  I`m saying that clearly.  He`s not done that.  And that`s why -- 

MELBER:  You`re not -- yes, you`re not alleging that level.  Go ahead. 

LAKSHMANAN:  Absolutely not.  And that`s why I`m saying we should focus on doing our job and doing it correctly.  Nobody is being locked up in this country.  Nobody is being prevented from doing journalism. 

MELBER:  Right. 

LAKSHMANAN:  So I`m trying to say, you know, let`s -- like, let`s calm down for a moment here. 

MELBER:  Got it. 

LAKSHMANAN:  If it gets to the point where, you know, something more serious is happening, then we`re talking about something that`s a whole different ball game.  At this point I think we can focus on the story and not try to get distracted so much about navel gazing about the media.  Because we really should be paying attention to the federal registry, and the facts and what`s happening under this administration. 

MELBER:  Right.  I think your point is very well taken.  I want to read, David, on that -- excuse me, from David (INAUDIBLE), the CEO of Foreign Policy Magazine, to you, Nicholas.  He says, "The Russia cover-up story and the media lockout story are the same story.  Administration hunkering down for the scandal that will end it." 

I want to be clear.  You know, that is speculative what he`s saying but it`s also fascinating because what he`s arguing is the rigor, the almost panicked tone is not that of a strong bully but much more of someone worried about who will call them out and what evidence might be piling up. 

KRISTOF:  I mean, in my experience, a good signal for reporters is that if a government is desperate to suppress a story and is busy denouncing it or trying to block reporters from covering it, then one`s journalistic instinct should be to go uncover that.  And if they try to bully you, then that`s the signal to charge ahead.  And so I hope that we in the media will do -- I mean, they`ve been trying to kill this -- the Russia connection story.  They tried to politicize the CIA and get CIA officials to criticize the story.  And that should be our red flag to march on ahead and dig up what they don`t want covered. 

MELBER:  Two journalists with a lot of experience here, Nicholas Kristof and Indira Lakshmanan.  I really appreciate you joining us. 

And coming up next, I`m going to break down the rest of Donald Trump`s political speech at CPAC and some facts that he might not have included.  Plus later tonight, do you know whether the protests are working?  A Republican lawmaker conceding today, I don`t know if we`ll be able to repeal Obamacare now.  We`ll explain that later tonight. 


MELBER:  Now to some politics news.  Donald Trump declared the empty talk era was over today at CPAC.  A year ago he was booed for pulling out of that conference amid complaints he wasn`t a true conservative.  The CPAC Twitter account even tweeted last year his absence sent a clear message to conservatives. 

Well, there was plenty of conservative talk today. 


TRUMP:  We`re going to build a wall.  Don`t worry about it.  We`re building the wall.  We`re building the wall.  In fact, it`s going to start soon way ahead of schedule.  Way ahead of schedule.  Way, way, way ahead of schedule.  It`s going to start very soon. 


MELBER:  It`s ahead of schedule, we`re going to start soon.  Well, critics did ask if Trump hasn`t started building wall, how far ahead of schedule can he really be?  Now you could take a more charitable view.  Maybe Trump is like Nas who once rapped he`s never on schedule but always on time.  Either way Trump quickly moved on to promise that miners are going back to work. 


TRUMP:  We`re preparing bold action to lift the restrictions on American energy.  And we`re going to put our miners back to work.  Miners are going back to work. 


MELBER:  Here are the facts.  Since 2007 the number of mining jobs has dropped from about 220,000 to 184,000.  There has been a slight uptick of about 2,000 mining jobs since Trump took office.  That`s if you count January, although he was only there for the last 10 days.  February numbers are not out yet. 

President Trump also touted a big endorsement he received during the campaign. 


TRUMP:  Our Border Patrol, I`ll tell you what they do.  They came and endorsed me.  ICE came and endorsed me.  They never endorsed a presidential candidate before.  They might not even be allowed to. 


MELBER:  Yes, they might not.  That one is completely false.  And Trump is lucky that it was false because a federal government endorsement would be illegal.  A union that repped some of those agents did endorse Trump.  That is a huge difference.  And then there was this dig at the Affordable Care Act. 


TRUMP:  Obamacare covers very few people.  And remember, deduct from the number all of the people that had great health care that they loved that was taken away from them. 


MELBER:  Oh, the problem there, well, "The New York Times" reports 16 million people have gained coverage under the ACA.  The uninsured rate has dropped to a record low in modern American history at 10.9 percent and we couldn`t go without covering this gem from Trump`s speech. 


TRUMP:  I took a lot of heat on Sweden. 


TRUMP:  And then a day later I said, has anybody reported what`s going on?  And it turned out that they didn`t.  Not too many of them did.  Take a look.  Take a look at what happened in Sweden. 


MELBER:  Yes.  Take a look.  The president apparently seeming to still maintain some kind of imaginary attack in Sweden occurred and that the media wouldn`t cover.  That`s not true and Sweden has not seen an uptick in its overall crime rate since taking in some refugees.  That was the apparent reference.  The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention found no significant increase in the overall crime rate from 2015 to 2016.  Those are the facts. 

lawmaker admitting the town hall protests are working.  A panel so special they`re standing in our studio. 

See you guys soon. 



TRUMP:  The era of empty talk is over.  It`s over.  Now is the time for action. 


MELBER:  And now is the time for Nancy Giles, contributor, CBS News Sunday Morning and the host of "Giles Podcast." Also Erin Gloria Ryan, senior editor of the "Daily Beast" and the host of "The Girl Friday Podcast," plus Christina Grier, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.  Christina -- 



MELBER:  You`ve got to get one. 


MELBER:  You hear -- you hear President Trump there talking about the era of empty talk is over. 

GRIER:  Right. 

MELBER:  As Rihanna would say, talk that talk.  What do you think of this message? 

GRIER:  What I think a lot of Americans should do, something they started doing under the presidency of Obama, which is when Obama would give speeches because he was such a great orator, I would read the transcript just so I could really see the policy that was, you know, in there and not get distracted by sort of the great way that he presented his message. 

With Donald Trump, it`s the exact opposite.  I mean, the way he presents himself is not presidential and many people are struggling with hearing his message.  But reading the transcript really shows that he actually did not mention policy hardly at all.  There was nothing buried in there.  He is still on the campaign trail.  He hasn`t made the transition from campaigning to governance. 

He`s still talking about his opponent from November.  He`s still talking about what he`s going to do.  He uses lots of empty adjectives to kind of talk about the framing.  He loves the jokes and there`s lots of laughter in there to break it up.  So he clearly likes the attention and the sort of stand-up routine of playing presidential. 

But when I read the transcript multiple times, there`s early -- it`s I`m going to do a lot of big things and these things, but what? 

MELBER:  To that point, I spoke to a reality show executive who had insight into how Donald Trump got here, who said so far he looks much more focused on playing the role of president than doing the rest of the job. 

GILES:  Well, here`s what`s interesting that you bring that up.  I always thought he was very good on his reality show playing the part of the businessman because the bottom line is we`ve never seen his tax returns.  What little we know about that part and the real part, the not fake facts, but the real part is that he`s gone bankrupt and his business practices which are what sold him to many people as a presidential candidate might not be that great. 

And I always was interested in him sitting in his office set in a leather chair set, looking very, sort of, you know, serious, you`re fired, you`re fired, and all the trappings of someone who knows what he`s doing but really didn`t.  And I`m totally with you.  When I read his transcript there was no there-there.  Absolutely none. 

ERIN GLORIA RYAN, THE DAILY BEAST:  Yes, I mean, I -- but I listened to the whole thing twice because I hate myself. 

GILES:  Wow. 

RYAN:  I listened to the whole thing twice.  And what struck me wasn`t what impression it`s going to leave with people like us.  What struck me was what kind of impression it will leave with his people.  Like it was half -- the newsroom like, we got in half Groundhog Day, like he`s stuck in the election day, he`s stuck on the campaign trail. 

GILES:  He can`t let go. 

RYAN:  But at the same time he sounded like a storyteller.  He was a storyteller telling his favorite story like -- 

GILES:  Over and over. 

RYAN:  To his favorite friends over at dinner. 


MELBER:  Well, I love Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor, all the kids are above average. 


GILES:  Right.  Yes.  And all the women are beautiful. 

MELBER:  And all the women are beautiful. 

GILES:  And the men are good looking. 


MELBER:  Go ahead. 

GRIER:  I thought that he was going to practice for February 28th when he actually has to address his colleagues.  And I thought that this would actually be a space where he would try out certain policy positions and really start planting the seeds for the conversation that he`s hopefully going to have on Tuesday. 

MELBER:  You`re talking about what`s going to be -- yes, the biggest address of the presidency.  Let me read from -- 

GRIER:  That`s right.  So why didn`t he use this as an opportunity? 

MELBER:  And one of his top advisers said, quote, on that address, "President Trump is determined to capture the sunny optimism of Reagan." 

RYAN:  Oh gosh. 

MELBER:  To temper the populist anger reflected in his core policies. 

Nancy, I would like you to come in and --


MELBER:  Could you annotate all of the -- 


GILES:  Lucy, we got a problem.  No.  Number one, don`t compare yourself to Reagan.  He might not have the greatest policies but he knew how to communicate.  And even if people made fun of his acting in "Bedtime for Bonzo," he was very good in "Dark Victory."  He knew what he was doing and one thing you could say about Trump except for that fake businessman setting he -- this presidential jazz just doesn`t sit well on him. 

MELBER:  Right. 

GILES:  And it keeps going off script.  That`s where I think he`s really going to have a danger in this next address.  Even if there`s stuff right in front of him, he kind of trails off into the polls. 

MELBER:  Right. 

GILES:  And abyss.  You know. 

MELBER:  That makes me want to ask you something else.  We have to fit in a break.  So sit tight.  When we come back, something that did get blown out of the coverage at CPAC today.  What Kellyanne Conway said about women.  Our panel may have something to say about that. 



KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR:  Donald Trump is someone who is not fully understood for how compassionate and what a great boss he is to women.  He has been promoting -- he`s been promoting and elevating women in the Trump Corporation, in the Trump campaign, in the Trump Cabinet, certainly in the Trump White House.  It`s just a very natural affinity for him. 


MELBER:  The panel`s back.  Erin Gloria Ryan, that was Kellyanne Conway who spoke a lot about women at CPAC. 

RYAN:  Yes, she did.  She sure did speak a lot about women at CPAC.  And I have some thoughts about what she said.  So to her first point that Donald Trump -- or to the first point that we all saw just now that Donald Trump is somebody that has elevated women.  I believe he`s appointed five women to Cabinet level positions out of 22.  Now five over 22 is significantly less than 50 percent.  And this country is fast with -- 

MELBER:  Sounds like fake math but well. 

RYAN:  Right.  I mean, it could be fake math.  You know, and also, I am a woman so you never know how good the math is going to be. 

MELBER:  You`re saying it could be lady math.  OK. 

RYAN:  Right.  Right.  It`s lady math.  But you know, he has -- maybe there are women who have worked in the Trump administration that have had good experiences with him. 

MELBER:  Sure. 

GILES:  His daughter.  Anyway, go ahead. 

RYAN:  Right.  But there`s also plenty of women who have had bad experiences with him. 

GILES:  Right. 

RYAN:  And I believe we saw several press conferences involving several of those women in the weeks leading up to the election. 

MELBER:  Christina, take a listen to Kellyanne Conway talking about the word "feminist." 


CONWAY:  For me it`s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-now and it certainly is very pro-abortion in this context, and I`m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. 


GRIER:  My goodness.  What trip to gravyville are we taking right now?  I think I would tell everyone to please read Erin`s piece in "The New York Times" which contextualizes this nonsense.  But also when did becoming a -- feminism is about equity.  Right?  And so when did this become about not being for abortion?  I mean, this is clearly her attempt to play to the crowd.  But also we have to recognize that Kellyanne Conway knows that she`s also in the weeds and she`s possibly on her way out. 

So I think she`s just trying to have that last grasp of relevance from the past weeks, and possibly -- and she`s a smart woman, to set herself up for possibly the next gig because I can`t see this gig lasting very long. 

RYAN:  Right. 

GRIER:  When multiple networks and media agencies recognize that she`s just not credible and she`s almost doubled down a little bit too much, the same way Giuliani and Christie sort of double down for Trump, Trump doesn`t respect that.  So to a certain extent she`s overplayed her hand. 


MELBER:  Let me play one more, Nancy, I wanted to get you on.  Her talking about whether women have a problem with women in power. 


CONWAY:  It turns out that a lot of women just have a problem with women in power.  You know, this whole sisterhood, this whole let`s go march for women`s rights, and you know, just constantly talking about what women look like or what they wear or making fun of their choices or presuming that they`re not as powerful as the men around, this presumptive negativity about women and power I think is very unfortunate. 


GILES:  What?  Number one, what?  Number two, what?  I mean, she does make one interesting point, though, because white women did vote -- 

GRIER:  52 percent. 

RYAN:  I`ll never understand why they voted for Trump and some women do have problems with women in power.  But I just have problems with dopey people in power.  And also just to go back to that point about feminism meaning anti-male and pro-abortion, no woman that I`ve ever known including myself is pro-abortion.  All we are is pro-women having choices.  No one wakes up in the morning and you go, hey, let`s get an abortion.  It doesn`t happen.  And I hate hearing that.  I really resent that. 

RYAN:  I mean, that`s like -- that`s one of the greatest hits of the right trying to disparage feminism. 

GILES:  Yes. 

RYAN:  And there`s also -- I wanted to point out really quickly, there`s a difference with being empowered and being a feminist.  Kellyanne Conway is an extremely empowered person.  She`s working in the White House, she ran the first ever -- she`s the first ever woman to run a successful major party presidential campaign.  So she`s empowered but she`s not someone who is doing feminist things with her power.  What she`s doing is furthering -- she`s working for a man who is furthering policies that hurt immigrant women. 

GILES:  Absolutely. 

RYAN:  Women who are workers.  Women who are -- 

GILES:  Women of color. 

RYAN:  Yes, absolutely. 

GRIER:  And anyone not his daughter or one of his wives. 

RYAN:  Right. 

GRIER:  But, Nancy, back to your point, though.  I think we do know why 53 percent of white women voted.  And I think historically, if we historicize it, we`ve seen white women choose patriarchy over their own self-interests.  And I think that -- 

GILES:  White women. 

GRIER:  White women. 


RYAN:  It protects white women. 

GRIER:  Exactly.  Well, I mean, this whole exercise of American democracy is set up to protect white women. 

GILES:  Yes. 

GRIER:  So I mean, I think this is -- she`s problematic on a host of levels.  I wonder how long she`ll last. 

MELBER:  Well -- look, we`ve given her a lot of air time quite frankly in the news so we`ve heard from her, we`ve played her and now we`ve played some responses and that`s how it works. 

Stay with us.  Up next, a Republican congressman worrying the protests are impacting the courage of the Republican caucus. 



GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  I don`t think there`s a danger listening to the loud voices, and they are loud and they should be loud.  My citizens, they are being impaired and endangered by these chaotic, unprincipled, unplanned tweeted policies. 



MELBER:  And now an update on the resistance, protests at Republican town halls over Obamacare may be striking a nerve.  Here`s a congressman, Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama. 


REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA:  There are, in my opinion, a significant number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests.  I don`t know if we`re going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because those folks who support Obamacare are very active, they`re putting pressure on congressmen and there`s not a counter-effort to steal the spine of some of these congressmen in toss-up districts around the country. 


MELBER:  Our panel is here, Nancy Giles, Christina Grier, and Erin Gloria Ryan. 

GRIER:  Yes.  Well, I don`t think it`s just about toss-up districts.  I think some of these Republicans are realizing even if they`re in super red safe districts, you know, Republican safe districts, they could still be primaried.  You know, there are a lot of Republicans who have been benefiting from Obamacare over the past several years and the fact that the Republicans had eight years to think of an alternative and they just wanted to be the party of no.  And now they`re just saying, we`ll repeal it, we`ll replace it, we`ll do something with alliteration and it`s not going to be enough.  And so they can`t put a vote up because they don`t have anything to give their constituents. 

MELBER:  Right.  But, Erin, credit where it`s due, if that was a candid statement that this Republican is listening to his constituents and feels that the intensity, which sometimes matters more than numbers in politics. 

RYAN:  Right. 

MELBER:  If the intensity we`re seeing is going to change policy, then you can give the Republicans some credit there. 

RYAN:  Yes.  I think that that`s good to see them acknowledging that their constituents` wishes actually have an impact on them because that`s literally what their jobs are. 

GILES:  Thank you. 

RYAN:  But I also think that what -- there might be something else going on here with the Alabama -- that we just heard.  He`s calling his colleagues like chicken basically. 

GILES:  Spineless. 

RYAN:  Yes, yes.  And it`s almost as if these trying to goad them into action. 

MELBER:  So you think there`s more than one thing going on here. 

RYAN:  There might be more than one thing going on here as there usually is with this sort of thing. 

MELBER:  Well, Nancy. 

GILES:  Yes. 

MELBER:  Is it also just, to Erin`s point, he`s saying they don`t have the spine so drink more milk and be more conservative?  Let`s calcify the backbone of the Republican caucus. 

GILES:  But what a minute.  What spine?  If you`re constituents are saying we want these protections and you`re supposed to be representing them?  I believe it`s called the House of Representatives, then you`re supposed to do what they`re asking you to do.  So what is he talking about?  What I love about what`s going on is that people are -- I don`t care whether they`re Republican or Democrat, I really don`t.  They`re getting engaged.  Because the bigger story in this election was the almost 100 million people didn`t even bother to vote.  And maybe now they`re getting the connection that the local races are as important if not in this case more important than the president. 

MELBER:  Well, that`s such a deeper point that goes beyond folks who are super into politics.  The old saying, Christina, used to be if you don`t vote, you don`t get to complain. 

GRIER:  Yes. 

MELBER:  I always thought that was totally ridiculous.  There are many ways to engage.  Not everyone is up on every election.  Sometimes you wake up and you realize, oh, that`s the superintendent of public schools? 

GRIER:  Right. 

MELBER:  Oh, that`s where they`re building the garbage dump and outside my kid`s school?  And now you want to get involved, that`s a good thing. 

GRIER:  Right.  And I mean, we have to also recognize that this was the first election that we went to the polls without the full protection of Voting Rights Act because there are many people who wanted to participate, either they were intimidated from doing so or they were actually thrown off the polls for very strategic reasons because of what`s happening on state levels.  So we have to remember that piece. 

But I think, Nancy, your point is completely correct.  These are our representatives. 

GILES:  That`s right. 

GRIER:  But we do have attention between representatives who vote for their own interests because they read the policy and they know better than their constituents and then other representatives who feel like, well, if you send me forward, even if it`s not possibly the best thing for you maybe I should do it because that`s what the group wants.  At least explain to them what`s going on.  And that`s what I also find between the theatrics. 

MELBER:  Right. 


MELBER:  As Kellyanne Conway would say, preach, sisters.  And thank you for being here.  I really enjoyed this.  Now I want to thank all of you. 

We also have some MSNBC programming news here for you.  Full disclosure.  It does involve me.  This Sunday MSNBC is launching "The Point," a two-hour show on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.  It`s part of our expanded coverage of the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  The news outlet, The Wrap, reported on the show today noting it will air throughout the remainder of the first 100 days of Donald Trump`s presidency with the final episode April 30th. 

The article also adds, quote, that I`m known for slipping random hip-hop references into my coverage.  You know, I don`t really consider them random.  They`re always supposed to be on point. 

Anyway, I do hope at home you will all tune in on Sunday.  Lawrence will be back Monday at this show.  And up next "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes.