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The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 3/9/2017

Guests: Max Boot, David Corn, Jeremy Bash, Bob Ferguson

Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Date: March 9, 2017 Guest: Max Boot, David Corn, Jeremy Bash, Bob Ferguson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Policy, you can hear -- Bob Ferguson says he believes that, that same ruling that stopped the first version of the ban should still apply to the second version of the ban because it is basically the same ban.

It is basically the same policy. You can hear that argument from him in person right now because he`s about to be a guest on THE LAST WORD with Ari Melber.

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

ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Good evening Rachel, thank you so much for that --

MADDOW: Appreciate it --

MELBER: Donald Trump facing three lawsuits today on the travel ban and one of his most controversial hotels.

Plus, as Rachel just mentioned, the attorney general who -- yes, dealt with the administration its first big loss is going up against the administration again -- he is here.

And first Republicans worried that Donald Trump who said he loves WikiLeaks isn`t showing any love for the CIA after it was hacked by WikiLeaks.




JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: Welcome to the WikiLeaks press conference on the Central Intelligence Agency.

TRUMP: This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.

ASSANGE: The Central Intelligence Agency lost control, all of its entire cyber weapons arsenal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love WikiLeaks, any thoughts? Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Well, I love reading those WikiLeaks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you have to assume that this is purposely timed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cloud of Russia continues to darken over this White House.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: FBI Director Jim Comey met with lawmakers today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were there any legal wiretaps at Trump Tower?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER, SENATE: There`s no evidence of that.

REP. RAND PAUL (R-WI), SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill as written today simply would not pass the Senate.

TRUMP: Wonderful deals, great deals, that`s what I do.

RYAN: The time is here, the time is now.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Health care plan two, repeal and revenge.



MELBER: Good evening. Sometimes the most important story is not what Donald Trump is saying, it`s what he`s not saying.

Tonight, we can report President Trump specifically refusing to do something every other president has considered a constitutional duty and a no-brainer, confront those who attack the CIA or steal from it.

Consider that as you hear this remarkable ducking from the president today when he refused to say anything critical of the alleged criminal theft of CIA materials by that increasingly influential player in American politics -- WikiLeaks.


TRUMP: OK, thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Documents dumped -- documents dumped from WikiLeaks, any thought? Thank you Mr. President.


MELBER: To be clear, that was not a random moment. It`s now been over two and a half days since WikiLeaks posted thousands of documents that allegedly reveal some of the CIA`s most secret methods.

So while national security experts in both parties have condemned the alleged hack, the president remains oddly silent about WikiLeaks, an organization of course he openly praised back when its leaks were helping him in the campaign.

And that`s not all. Consider that President Trump, a man who relishes a fight and says he always punches back harder than he`s hit, President Trump not punching back against attacks from WikiLeaks` founder in exile, Julian Assange.


ASSANGE: The Central Intelligence Agency lost control, all of its entire cyber weapons arsenal. This is a historic act of devastating incompetence to have created such an arsenal and stored it all in one place and not secured it.


MELBER: Now, if the president`s biding his time to make a formal statement, perhaps his staff would confront Assange and WikiLeaks.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are not commenting on the current situation. The CIA put out a statement regarding the current situation, I would refer you to that.


MELBER: So that is what the Trump White House will not discuss. But we do know that the circles of inquiries into the Trump world and their activities before and after the election with Russia are yielding new information.

Now, we`re not prejudging the outcome. As always an investigation isn`t an indictment and interviews not across examinations and suspicious behavior isn`t always a crime.

But consider how notable it is that the Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking Trump`s top aides` testimony on Russia.

Former Chairman Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Now, that`s a congressional inquiry.

Then the executive branch inquiries include reportedly Manafort associate with links to Russian Intel from a "Politico" report.

And as Rachel was documenting in that Russia report last night, something has Trump officials now publicly changing their story.

Maybe it`s the investigations, maybe it`s second thoughts. But we have new public accounts of how Trump aides rewrote the GOP platform to help Russia.

Former Trump aide J.D. Gordon used to say he had no role in it. Now he says he did change the platform, warming it towards Russia because of Donald Trump.

This is a change worth tracking and as all these shifts unfold, we don`t know how they track with these investigations.

Honestly, it`s hard for the public to ever learn about investigations in real time because they`re secret. Legislators can get some information about them and some legislators get more than others.

Take the gang of eight. Under federal law, these are the eight congressional leaders who get special briefings on intelligence, which can include investigations.

And it was those leaders who FBI Director James Comey was briefing today. Now, we have no idea what they talked about.

But we can infer from that RSVP list it was not about a drug raid. It was at least about some kind of intelligence, maybe Russian, maybe somewhere else.

Now, here is a senator on the intelligence committee saying, yes, if it looks like a duck, it`s probably a duck. And if the timing of all these leaks seems to coincide with this growing understanding of this Russia connection, maybe that`s not a coincidence.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: I think you have to assume that this is purposefully timed, coming at a moment in which we seem to be getting closer and closer to understanding the true nature of the connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A moment when investigations are stepping up inside Congress and pressure building for investigations outside Congress.

You know, if you look at everything that the Russians did during the campaign, they were all times according to moments of weakness in the Trump operation.


MELBER: If you look at everything the Russians did during the campaign. That`s a pretty important phrase.

It is also about timing. We called it during the campaign as the part of the investigation, the Attorney General has recused himself from. He did that just one week ago today.

Lots have been happening. He also later confirmed to "Fox News" that if there are inquiries about things after the campaign, he`d decide later whether to step aside on those inquiries.

Things after the campaign. Well, that could include the FBI interviewing Michael Flynn about his conversations on Russia sanctions or those transition meetings between Flynn and Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador.

Or it could include our top story tonight. Donald Trump`s ineffable refusal to so much as of object to the apparent national security theft by WikiLeaks.

Jeff Sessions hasn`t recused himself from those issues. Should he? Well, the Congress has not yet spoken with one voice about whether an independent special prosecutor is needed to end the speculation and get to the bottom of all of this.

We have a special panel on this right now, Max Boot; senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A former foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and he has a new piece in foreign policy we`re going to get to, it`s called "WikiLeaks has Joined the Trump Administration".

Also our friend David Corn; Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an analyst here as well as Jeremy Bash; former Chief of Staff to Leon Panetta at the CIA and the Defense Department and an analyst for us as well.

I could start with any one of you, I`m very eager to hear what you have to say because you wrote the piece, what did you mean by it?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES AT THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I just think that the timing really reeks to high heaven because last week you had Jeff Sessions recusing himself after having lied about his connections with the Russians.

And then Donald Trump went into a meltdown on Saturday in which he accused President Obama of wiretapping him without evidence.

And he got pummeled over the weekend for making these baseless allegations, which even the White House could not possibly support.

And then what happens on Tuesday, lo and behold WikiLeaks, which has been established by our intelligence community to be essentially a front for Russian intelligence.

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks comes out with this giant treasure trove of CIA documents all about CIA hacking capabilities and CIA wiretapping capabilities, which on its face which seem to -- doesn`t really.

But it gives the impression of supporting the Trump narrative --

MELBER: Right, and that --

BOOT: Yes --

MELBER: And that timing as you know is similar to what we saw during the campaign where these were not just random leaks the way --

BOOT: Right --

MELBER: Say a traditional news organization gathers information and publishes it as they verify, they seem very politically timed.

You`re saying in your view here, and you come from a background of foreign policy and advising Mitt Romney. But your view is that suspicious political timing is at play again?

BOOT: Absolutely. I mean, what you`ve seen Putin do in the past as he has waponized information and WikiLeaks has certainly been one of the weapons that he has fired time and time again.

And my concern is right now, if Putin is firing WikiLeaks again, and he makes -- that the CIA -- and even if there is not complicity here between Trump and Putin, it`s -- what`s striking to me is how they have a congruence of interest.

Because both Trump and Putin see the CIA as being obstacle to their designs.

MELBER: And David, let me bring you. David Corn, that comes at a time when we have never seen in the modern era a president declined to so much as object to this kind of national security problem in this kind of leak.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, you know, it`s hard to think back just a few weeks ago the way, you know, the pace of the news in the last month or two.

But in December-January, Donald Trump was comparing the intelligence community of the United States to Nazi, Germany.

You know, he spent months and months basically dismissing or ducking the intelligence community assessment that Russia had meddled in our elections and it had done so to benefit him.

And when he finally got around to agreeing that, that was probably the case, he downplayed it and said, well, everybody, you know, hacks sometimes.

So he again and again has denigrated or dismissed the work of the intelligence community because it does put him in a very uncomfortable position.

And I have to say to Max, maybe the piece you had today was perhaps the first article and commentary in 35 years that I agreed with.

I mean, because what we`re dealing with now is no longer anything ideological. This is not left, this is not right, this is not liberal, this is not conservative.

This is about the honesty and integrity of the electoral system. And whether we have a person in charge of the national security community who understands how it works, who is competent to lead it and who will work with it.

BOOT: I agree, David, and I commend your work in uncovering some of the scandal. I totally agree that this should be a nonpartisan issue and sadly it`s not.

You know, it`s really revolting to me to see Republicans reflexively rushing to defend for example, not just Donald Trump but also WikiLeaks; which is an anti-American organization affiliated with Russian intelligence.

And you have people like Sean Hannity furthering this Russian propaganda line by suggesting falsely that the evidence of the Russian interference in our election was somehow a false flag operation by the CIA.

I mean, that`s nuts. But that is the message that Putin and WikiLeaks are trying to send to benefit Donald Trump. And unfortunately all too many Republicans are biting on this.

MELBER: And Jeremy, to put it in a sentence, David Frum said today, "the Trump administration has treated WikiLeaks as an ally, the CIA as an adversary." Does that get it about right?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: It certainly does, Ari. And let me just add one more detail, which is go back to December 29th, that`s the day that the Obama administration enacted sanctions on two Russian intelligence organizations.

The FSB and the GRU. It declared persona non grata 35 Russian intelligence officers and closed two of Russian intelligence facilities in the United States.

And what did the Russians do? They told Mike Flynn we`re not going to respond. They held their fire, they bided their time and now they`ve responded.

The intelligence community expected the response and here it`s come.

MELBER: And so, Jeremy, take us inside the CIA or DOD where you`ve worked. I mean, how serious are the questions here about whether a good faith, evidence-based National Security Council will even be heard or is there a fear, however uncomfortable it is, I think to really get into.

That somehow at least with regard to one country out there, there`s a total block on doing what might be broadly regarded as in the U.S. interest.

BASH: Yes, I mean, there`s just been abiding concern -- particularly inside the intelligence community that their warnings about Russian interference were not being heeded by the president and his new team.

I think people generally believe that the leadership of the intelligence community, the leadership of the Pentagon, and now the leadership of the National Security Council gets it, that they will be tough on Russia.

They`ve said so in their confirmation hearings and in their public statements, they are worried about the commander-in-chief.

MELBER: David, take a listen to Mitch McConnell who again was asked about this overhang where Max Boot was talking about.

This totally wild, frankly libelous set of false, criminal accusations that the current president leveled against the former president. Mitch McConnell struck this note in his answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower?

MCCONNELL: There`s no evidence of that, I`ve not heard of it before. But that`s an appropriate subject for the Senate Intelligence Committee to take a look at, and they are looking at whatever the Russians were doing during the election.


MELBER: And David, does that sleight of hand concern you? Because of course if you take investigation seriously -- something --

CORN: Yes --

MELBER: I was talking about at the top of the hour here, the Senate Intelligence investigation should deal with serious lines of inquiry and not waste its time on other things or by investigating --

CORN: Yes --

MELBER: A false claim, give it somehow some little slice of life.

CORN: Well, yesterday, I said you can`t fact-check crazy, and you also can`t really investigate crazy. I mean, you make a good point.

If the intelligence communities -- committees used Donald Trump`s remarks as an excuse to extend time and resources on investigating a conspiracy theory that has absolutely no basis and fact, well, that will be to the detriment of an investigation on the serious matters.

And I -- you know, I can`t say I quite feel for Mitch McConnell, but this is a problem the Republicans have to face.

They have a leader of their party and of the country now who says things that are just factually bonkers. And they can`t really say that in public because once you concede that the president of the United States is not tethered to reality in one regard, it throws everything out the window.

But what he did last weekend I think was pretty good evidence that this is a guy whose assessments of reality cannot be trusted.


BOOT: Well, I completely agree. I mean, this is truly unprecedented. We kind of take it with a grain of salt to some extent because, hey, it`s just Donald Trump and we`re used to him saying crazy things.

But this is not normal for a president to accuse his predecessor of being engaged in a Watergate-like conspiracy and not provide an iota of evidence.

I mean, this is seriously deranged behavior that should bother anybody who worries about the person who occupies the Oval Office.

And it`s -- and I am truly worried that Republicans are really his enablers. They`re afraid to challenge him.

I mean, they realize how crazy this is, but they are afraid to come out and say so. And so, as David said, they`re going to investigate these crazy charges while at the same time not giving serious consideration to the much better grounded charges about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

That`s what really needs to be investigated very aggressively. And unfortunately, I see no evidence that`s going to happen unless the Justice Department appoints a special counsel.

Because I don`t think there`s any chance that Republicans on the Hill are going to do the kind of aggressive investigation that this charge would warrant.

Or the kind that they would do if this was Hillary Clinton who was president. I mean, just imagine --

MELBER: Right --

BOOT: What kind of meltdown would be happening? --

MELBER: Right, well --

BOOT: If this were accusations leveled against Hillary Clinton --

MELBER: Right, and put politics aside, a special prosecutor is one of the only ways to actually have it be independent and give the public some sense of closure they`ve been -- a special prosecutor is appointed for less for sure.

Max Boot and Jeremy Bash, thanks so much for joining. David stays. Coming up, as mentioned, the man who arguably handled Donald Trump the biggest defeat of his presidency, he says he can do it again and he`s here to explain later.

Donald Trump has made a career of (INAUDIBLE) hotels, steaks, clothes and some things made in China and Mexico.

Well, now, he might be selling Trumpcare. Can he close the deal with skeptical Republicans and the voters, the majority of whom -- don`t forget didn`t vote for him.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president in the past has put his name on buildings, different products --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My game is Trump, the game.

TRUMP: When it comes to great steaks, I`ve just raised the stakes. At Trump University, we teach success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the White House feel that the bill that`ll be presented today should be known as Trumpcare from --

SPICER: I think we`re less concerned with labels right now and more in terms of action and results.


MELBER: You know, most presidents get sued but not like this. In less than 24 hours, President Trump was hit with an ethics complaint over preferential trademarks.

A lawsuit about his new travel ban, a lawsuit about his old travel ban, and a suit against the Trump International Hotel in D.C. for abusing the president`s power to compete with other companies.

And the hotel lawsuit especially unusual, it was made legally possible of course by the president`s decision to maintain ownership of his companies while in office.

If you remember the movie "Scarface", they said first you get the money, then you get the power.

Well, this new suit argues that Trump organization is doing the opposite. You get the power first and then you start getting money from people seeking to curry favor with power.


KHALID PITTS, NATIONAL POLITICAL DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB: In Washington D.C., people and (INAUDIBLE) and organizations are constantly seeking ways to curry favor with elected officials.

And now there is a Trump International Hotel -- you know, front and center as a direct means to do so. President Trump`s name well known, his ownership and presence give his hotel a big leg up in winning the competition for this business.

We have all seen the president and members of his team encourage people to go there, using the power of his office to influence people, to patronize his establishments, which brings him unfair financial gain.


MELBER: Now, this dispute is in a local D.C. court. So, as the saying goes, they`re not making a federal case out of it.

But one attorney argued today the issues are bigger than just a business squabble. They go to the heart of federal corruption.


STEVEN SCHOONER, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT LAW: Whether you are a foreign government, a lobbyist or a special interest group, there is no easier way to funnel money directly to the president of the United States with no transparency whatsoever than by spending money in the president`s hotel or his restaurants or through an event hosted in that facility.


MELBER: Now that`s more of an allegation than evidence. But the new suit does quote an anonymous lobbyist who says "Trump staff hang out at the lobby bar to see who spends time and money there.

Someone is paying attention to the person who orders a $1,000 bottle of wine." Gosh, I don`t know, that sounds like a lot of money for wine.

But we checked, the wine list at the Trump hotel does top out with a French wine, a 2010 Chertau Haut-Brion at $2,500.

For its part, the Trump Organization`s executive Vice President Eric Trump said the suit is a publicity stunt, and called the people who have nothing better to do, they harass and harass, the court will throw it out.

Trump also facing new legal challenges to his travel ban. Hawaii`s Attorney General arguing that policy is a Muslim ban that should be blocked.


DOUGLAS CHIN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF HAWAII: When the -- President Trump and the administration changed the executive order from the first one to the second, first of all, they didn`t take away the same discrimination based upon national origin and religion that is so problematic.

Now what the administration has done is they`ve set up a new immigration system that has no standards.

That is something -- and also is invading the province of Congress.


MELBER: Then there`s the third suit. This afternoon, the man who`s had more success blocking President Trump in court than any other person in this country, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson came out with an aggressive move.

That he won the block on the original travel ban. Today, he didn`t just file a new lawsuit, he used a maneuver to put the ball back in Trump`s court.

Going to a judge to argue that if the new ban is basically the same as the old ban, which Trump`s own aides have sometimes said, then the victory that was won against that last ban should just apply and block the new one.

And he argues if it doesn`t, it`s actually up to Trump`s lawyers to explain why not? In law that`s called shifting the burden.

In politics, it called taking no prisoners. If this strategy works, Ferguson will distinguish himself again as an effective inside player leading the Trump resistance.

If it fails, critics may say he really overplayed his hand. Who`s right? Well, Bob Ferguson is here to explain the strategy.

Again the Attorney General for the state of Washington. Good evening. Why are you challenging the ban this way?

BOB FERGUSON, ATTORNEY GENERAL, WASHINGTON D.C.: Well, it`s unconstitutional and it`s pretty straight forward. While there have been some changes with the revised order that narrows the scope, Ari, of the executive order.

The bottom line is that two key provisions that we challenged originally, the ban on the six -- now six nations and the refugee ban, those are virtually unchanged.

The language is virtually identical. So, our view is really as you mentioned the outset that we have a temporary restraining order already in place, the language hasn`t changed, therefore quite simply it still applies.

MELBER: But what if the judge says to you, OK, maybe it does but this is a big deal, we would have to have another normal hearing like the last one, you don`t get a short cut.

FERGUSON: Yes, we would welcome a hearing. If Judge Robart decides he wants to have an oral argument about this issue, we of course welcome that.

Because each time we`ve had an oral argument against the Department of Justice and the Trump administration, frankly, we`ve won.

So, we welcome a chance to have a conversation with Judge Robart about this temporary restraining order.

But the bottom line is, you don`t get to evade a temporary restraining order just by, you know, making a few changes to the executive order.

If it`s fundamentally, essentially a Muslim ban, it is what it is and the court should uphold and maintain that temporary restraining order.

MELBER: Well, that`s important. Are you saying this is kind of a trick the Trump administration pulled to try to just protect the same policy?

FERGUSON: What I`m saying is that it can`t be a game of whack-a-mole for a court. In order words when a temporary restraining order is put in place and as you know, Ari, it`s a tough burden to get that temporary --

MELBER: Yes --

FERGUSON: Restraining order put in place. Once you have it, the target, the defendant cannot simply evade the effect of that restraining order by issuing a new order.

That maybe makes changes to A and B, but still leaves problem C and D in effect. If you do that, the temporary restrain order, the injunction should remain in place.

So, yes, we acknowledge there have been some changes, some important ones. But at the end of the day, two key provisions -- if you just compare the language, they are virtually identical.

Therefore the president cannot evade the restraining order that`s already in place from Judge Robart and he has not moved from that so far.

MELBER: You called it a Muslim ban, that gets to the heart of it and that goes of course to intent because as you know and as I think most viewers have heard by now, this order doesn`t use the word Muslim, right?

So you`re making a larger argument about what`s really going on, what`s behind maybe just the PC language.

I want to play Judge Robart in the original hearing which is as you mentioned, you did win. But he was skeptical of the idea that you could just take any old campaign rhetoric and use that as sort of the intent standard. Take a listen.


JAMES ROBART, FEDERAL JUDGE: It seems to me that it`s a bit of a reach to say the president`s clearly anti-Muslim or anti-Islam based on what he said in New Hampshire in June.


MELBER: The argument there is, well, there`s been a shift. And the administration as you know is going to argue that shift has continued.

Whatever he said in June evolved into the administration, and now in response partly to your litigation, they`ve tried to evolve again.

They`re going to say, look, we`re making the changes. This is what you asked of us, and you can`t read the president`s mind. What`s your response?

FERGUSON: Well, first Judge Robart asked tough questions of both parties, the trial court, and that`s a judge`s job, right?

So, we appreciate those questions. But the bottom line is the intent is the intent. It did not change by removing Iraq and tweaking a few words, right?

The intent is the intent, and Judge Robart and the 9th Circuit actually agreed that we were more likely than not to succeed on the merits of our actual claim.

And that`s why they granted the rather extreme recourse of a temporary restraining order. That`s why we remain confident.

Those two key provisions, Ari, you just compared them side-by-side, the language is virtually identical, therefore we`re confident that Judge Robart will not change that temporary restraining order.

MELBER: And what other evidence do you need on the folks basically who worked on the ban?

We showed Steven Miller who said there were about the same as party argument. Here`s Rudy Giuliani in a widely quoted moment where he talked about the goal here. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: When he first announced it, he said Muslim ban. He called me up and he said put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.

And what we did was we focused on instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal.


MELBER: Do you want to try to get Rudy Giuliani to testify?

FERGUSON: I -- there`s a debate amongst my team on who gets the opportunity to do that. So, yes, our intention is to obtain documents, e- mails and take depositions of administration officials. And to your point the individual from the administration you mentioned, Mr. Miller he has said publicly in the last couple of weeks that really the policy of this ban is not going to change.

That, again, will be something we use in court to go back to Judge Robart to show, look your honor, the administration really has not changed the underlying policy here and you issued a restraining order and injunction on that policy. Nothing has changed, the burden is on the federal government to demonstrate why he should lift that injunction.

MELBER: Yes. It`s very interesting. Look you`ve got a record here of 1- 0, which is better than a lot of other folks in this field but you`ve taking a very big swing with this strategy. So, we`re going to keep an eye on it. I know it`s a very busy day Washington. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, I appreciate you making time.

FERGUSON: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: All right. Have a good night. Now coming up, the 45th president with the 41 percent approval rating says he can help sell Trumpcare to the skeptics. Also later we`re going to update you, we`ve got some exclusive breaking news about the time that Kellyanne Conway apparently broke federal ethics rules on, where else, national TV.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our plan will be much better health care at a much lower cost. OK? Nothing to complain about.


MELBER: Donald trump will head back to the campaign trail holding a rally Wednesday in Tennessee. The Whitehouse wouldn`t say what the president plans to discuss. But the announcement comes a day after Sean Spicer said this.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re going to be aggressively going after -- talking about the solution that we have for health care. I think you will see a lot of travel and a lot of activity by the president and all of the administration.


MELBER: Meanwhile, Vice President Pence will travel to Kentucky Saturday for the republican health care bill. Republicans, though, slamming their party`s bill, senator Tom Cotton tweeting "house health care bill can`t pass senate without major changes to my friends in the house pause, start over, get it right, don`t get it fast." And President Trump may face a bigger challenge in selling his healthcare bill to lawmakers and skeptical public than even President Obama faced originally in 2009.

Consider this, Trump has a 41 percent approval rating, Obama at the time, 62 percent. That`s when he first went on the road to promote Obamacare so he could actually say this.


BARACK OBAMA, FMR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the American Nurses Associations, we have the American Medical Association on board because America`s doctors and nurses know how badly we need reform. The AARP supports this policy and agrees with us that reform must happen this year.


MELBER: That doesn`t settle the debate but those kind of groups are helpful and we can report for you that they all currently oppose this new republican health care proposal. The chief medical officer for the centers for Medicare and Medicaid saying he also opposes the bill. The opposition has led some officials who worked on Obamacare to say to republicans, yes, this is hard.

We told you so. Healthcare reform of any kind, any direction, more coverage, more rules, more subsidies, more state control, whatever you want to do, it`s difficult. We told you so. That was the message. Well one of those people who knows a lot about this Neera Tanden, joins us next.



TRUMP: What my plan is that I want to take care of everybody. I`m not going to leave the lower 20 percent that can`t afford insurance.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So no one who has this health insurance through Obamacare will lose it or end up with -- we want no one. We want the answer to be no one.


MELBER: And joining us now is Neera Tanden, she`s the center for American Progress president and one of the authors of the ACA, as well as back with us Mother Jones` David Corn. Neera, what do you make of all this?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT: You know, if I were to design a healthcare plan to hurt the sick and hurt people who need it and help the people who don`t need it, I would have come up with this healthcare plan. It is upside down. Paul Ryan and now Donald Trump have developed a plan that if you`re young and healthy, it`s great for you.

If you`re 27 and make $75,000 a year, it`s great. If you`re 40 to 65 years old, live in a rural part of the country, you know, make 25,000, $30,000 of income you get walloped. It`s not just that you get an increase, you get walloped. And I think that`s why nurses, doctors, hospitals have all opposed this. And I have to say it`s, you know, I think we have to be honest here.

When Donald Trump said no one would lose coverage, it would be a better health care system, he wasn`t telling the truth. This is just totally false. This plan achieves none of those promises.

MELBER: Right David and this is the plan on the table that Paul Ryan says is the train that can leave the station. Obviously these numbers move around. But according from early estimates from Brookings and others, we could put up on the screen, 20 million enrolled under Obamacare. The red part, 15 million, is the people who would lose coverage over a decade according to estimates.

So, potentially a huge majority, a bulk share of those who got coverage.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR MOTHER JONES: Donald Trump said repeatedly though the campaign that under his plan costs would go down, everybody would be covered and you`d have more choice and more doctors to go to. None of that is true. It`s like many other things he said unfortunately.

I don`t think he cares about the details. I think he cares about selling and selling means often saying things that aren`t quite true. You also have with this plan pressures on the system that could end up completely destroying the individual market for a health care. So that 15 million number could get even higher. But why don`t we have a good number now?

Because the republicans refuse to submit this to CBO, Congressional Budge Office for what we call in Washington scoring. They would tell us how much it would cost, who would win, who would lose and how many people would gain coverage and how many people would lose coverage and they don`t want those numbers while they`re trying to get those bills rushed through committees in the house.

MELBER: Right Neera. It`s sort of like trying to, you know, plan a vacation without looking at what anything costs. It`s not something most people would do with their own money or at least responsible people. Neera, take a listen to Paul Ryan, note as I alluded to basically saying, hey, you might hate this, he says to some of the conservatives but this is all you get. Take a listen.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAK OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here, the time is now, this is the moment and this is the closest this will ever happen. It really comes down to a binary choice.

We now have the ability through the budget rules that we have in the senate with our three-pronged approach to actually make good on our word.


TRUMP: And Neera, this is dramatic talk. I don`t know if you`re in to Rabii Hillel who said, you know, "if not me, who, if not now, when?" But this is some real big pitch he`s making on the politics. Do you think folks in congress are going to buy that?

TANDEN: You know, I mean, what`s so interesting about the debate we`re having and the pitch he`s making is he`s saying these things while Donald Trump is telling conservatives to their face that they can negotiate something different and he`s -- this isn`t really his plan and he`s going to make changes, et cetera, to make it even more conservative and make it hurt even more people.

I mean, the reality is that if you really want to listen to people`s promises, the promise Donald Trump made was that no one would lose their coverage and that is turning out to be false. And who are the victims of that going to be? It going to be a lot of people, but it`s going to be a lot of people who (INAUDIBLE) in this election to Donald Trump. People who live in rural communities, people who are older between 50 and 64-year-olds are going to have the greatest increase.

In fact, many estimates have it that half of people who have gained coverage who are over 50 and under 65 will lose their coverage. That`s a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump in places like Arkansas and Kentucky and even Tennessee and I wonder why Paul Ryan doesn`t care about the promises that Donald Trump made or other Republicans made to make the system better, not worse.

MELBER: David, by one count five of the top states that are going to lose the most coverage were all Trump states.

CORN: Well we know that the big picture is that red states tend to get more federal aid than blue states. And so the Trump voters seem to populate in those state are getting a better deal but somehow they feel shafted on the way the government works now. You know what Ryan said today is so absurd that is the best we`re going to do. So we have to get behind this.

(INAUDIBLE) is like saying if you have to take your appendix out, you can`t take a good surgery, just take a gun and blow it, that`s the closest you`re going to get. I mean that`s kind of what he`s saying. And, you know, at least -- and people in the middle and on the left who want to preserve Obamacare aren`t going for this. And a lot of Conservatives and Republicans in the senate are saying, no, we don`t have to go with something that`s crap if we don`t want to.

And you know we`re not going to go for this being bum rushed here. And so I think right now the politics look really bad and as the guy who is always touted in Washington for being a thinker, a policy wonk, who says he cares about the poor, Paul Ryan is showing under the emperor`s clothes, there`s nothing there.

MELBER: Go ahead, Neera.

TANDEN: I mean there`s -- there`s no reason they have to do this now. I mean we have -- we took months and months, people testified. They had experts testified years ago. They could do the same thing now. There`s no reason. This is an artificial time deadline he just created because he knows the more people see it, the less popular it will be.

MELBER: Well right there`s a question about the confidence. (David) its not literally like shooting yourself in the stomach.

CORN: No, but, you know, don`t take me literally Ari. Come on. Why would you do that?

MELBER: If you`ve learned nothing from the election, David Corn is a figurative --

TANDEN: We`ll take you seriously, just not literally.

MELBER: We`ll take you seriously. Neera Tanden and David Corn --

CORN: I`ll take that.

MELBER: Thank you very much and good evening. Coming up, we have a breaking news exclusive you may not have heard about it yet. Kellyanne Conway remember was pushing Ivanka Trump`s clothing during an interview. We`ll show you the secret ethics e-mails for the first time about that incident next.



KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go buy yank`s stuff. It`s a wonderful line, I own some of it. I fully -- I`m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody.


MELBER: That was Kellyanne Conway`s free commercial plugging Trump`s clothing line on television. MSNBC sent a freedom of information request to dig into that incident We could tell you in breaking news tonight we have obtained the e-mails which show the President`s lawyers scrambling after that incident to reassure The Ethics Office that he was, quote, taking appropriate action to address Kellyanne`s conduct. The e-mail also show that Government Ethics Office told the Trump Whitehouse the President should follow ethics rules to not misuse his office and uncovered by the stators of conduct which would mean not sending out that Tweet he did to attack Nordstrom.

We also found out the Whitehouse they said should consider disciplining Conway. Now these newly disclosed e-mails round out a picture of a Whitehouse is getting advice to avoid blurring government and business and apparently often declining it. In addition to those e-mail`s that we obtained this evening there`s a new public letter from that same ethics office that revisits this incident.

It expresses concern about Conway`s misuse of position, lack of discipline and more broadly what it calls the Trump Whitehouse`s incorrect and baseless claims that they`re other employees don`t have to follow ethics rules. They say that had no legal basis.

Now we tracked down these e-mails because it didn`t feel like this story was over and it looks like the Ethics Office doesn`t think so either. Now coming up, one democratic lawmaker wants to protect your tax dollars from Donald Trump`s campaign pledges.


MELBER: A Democratic lawmaker wants to make sure your tax dollars aren`t going to help Donald Trump keep his campaign promises. And she`s here to explain next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICAWe`re building the wall. We`re building the wall. In fact, it going to start soon, way ahead of schedule, way ahead of schedule.


MELBER: Way ahead of schedule. After Donald Trump made that promise, the D.H.S. did post a notice I should say looking for bids to help the President build that border wall. But the process could mean a lot of resistance in congress, which is going to have to pay for it. Here`s senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority leader asking when he was asked about democrats potentially filibustering any money for the wall?


CHUCK SCHUMER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: The wall is both impractical and unpopular and we would say to the President why don`t you get Mexico to pay for it?


MELBER: And his counterpart Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the wall today.


MITCH MCCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I`m in favor of border security. There are some places along the border where that`s probably not the best way to secure the border.

MELBER: Do you believe that Mexico will pay for it?


MELBER: It`s a punch line. That brings us to our next guest, Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore. She`s introduced legislation that would bar tax money for paying for the wall. Your thoughts on what we just heard from Senator Mcconnell and what your bill would do.

GWEN MOORE, UNITED STATES CONGRESSWOMAN: Well I certainly agree with MITCH MCCONNELL that Mexico has indicated very stridently that they won`t pay for the wall. And my taxpayers don`t want to pay for the wall either. Even those folks interested in paying for the wall don`t want to contribute to the deficit.

And so Mitch Mcconnell has estimated it will cost about $12 billion, $15 billion to build the wall. And of course M.I.T. has said it`s going to cost closer to $40 billion. That`s real money. And so when we start talking about zeroing out funding for the Violence Against Women Act or cutting snap food stamps and Medicaid, I`m concerned about the cost of this as well.

MELBER: Right and not to over simplify, but anyone who has had a contract to do work on their home knows construction adds up. Here is the budget director talking about the price per mile.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MICK MULVANEY, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: The President wants a little bit of money to start the wall. So we`re going to look at ways to save money elsewhere so we can get him that money.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: So what`s the range of the cost?

MULVANEY: Starts at 8 million per mile, goes up to about 25 million pr mile. So again it just depends on when you`re talking about 2,000 miles or so.


MELBER: Yes, so when you put that in context, 25 million per mile versus what?

MOORE You`re talking to me, Ari?

MELBER: Yes, back to you. I`m asking 25 million per mile versus what else would you want that money to go to?

MOORE: Exactly. They`re talking about zeroing out the Violence Against Women Act funding, which is so critical. They`re talking about block granting Medicaid. They are constantly cutting food stamps.

You have 50 million people in this country that rely on it during economic downturns. And it`s not just the deficit money. It`s bad for the environment, this concrete wall. Many Republicans have said that it is the least effective way to do border security. Technology, border agents, other things might be more effective.

MELBER: Congresswoman Moore, we will keep an eye on your bill. Thanks for telling us about it.

MOORE: Thank You.

MELBER: Absolutely, I am Ari Melber, appreciate you watching. And you can catch my show for the first time in your day. The Point, it`s 5:00 p.m. Eastern this Sunday on MSNBC. We`ll have a report on the outlook for these Russia inquiries, the travel ban fight and a special segment on Trump officials who have now allegedly lied before Congress. What should happen.


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