Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Date: April 11, 2017 Guest: Spencer Ackerman, David Corn, David Filipov, John McLaughlin, Malcolm Nance, Rick Wilson, Gabriel Sherman, Lisa Bloom
SPENCER ACKERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN: Terms, and this is about -- Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; the head of central command, General Votel come out and define this strike, this whole policy in the most minimal terms.
That this is about re-establishing a deterrent and a cost for Assad using chemical weapons in the future.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And meanwhile hundreds of U.S. troops laboring and risking their lives in Syria in the middle of this, not knowing what the policy is or what missile strikes into the country in which they're serving are designed to do.
Spencer Ackerman; national security editor for "The Guardian". This is a mess, thank you for helping us to try to untangle it. Good to see you my friend --
ACKERMAN: Thank you Rachel, always.
MADDOW: All right, that does it for us tonight, we'll see you again tomorrow, now it's time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O'Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Rachel, wouldn't it be nice if we could be absolutely sure that the policy isn't Donald Trump will fire missiles at the end of very bad weeks involving tremendous amount of scandal reporting around his White House.
MADDOW: Yes -- no surety on anything at this point, even the worst stuff?
O'DONNELL: But finally, people are getting to this question of, did -- did Russia know about this attack before the attack? Which is an absolutely crucial building block one in figuring out what really happened last week.
MADDOW: Yes, although, trying to figure it out based on this Microsoft Word-produced document --
O'DONNELL: Yes --
MADDOW: From the White House, which is unsigned, attributed to nobody, purports to be a declassified summary of what the intelligence community thinks, and then it shopped to reporters with nobody confirming it.
If that's how we're suppose to track that down, I'd rather -- I mean, that wouldn't pass Master(ph) and Nancy Drew(ph) plot, let alone something that we're actually trying to discern about active U.S. policy.
O'DONNELL: No, it's -- but what we're hearing from both Sean Spicer; defense secretary over comments on it, they're saying, we don't yet know is their basic stance. We don't yet know what Russia knew ahead of time.
MADDOW: Yes, but check the five paragraph essay that --
O'DONNELL: Yes --
MADDOW: Somebody has leaked for the "Times" to see --
O'DONNELL: All right --
MADDOW: It's amazing stuff, thank you --
O'DONNELL: Thank you Rachel --
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: Oh, our breaking news tonight is from "The Washington Post" saying that on the clearest evidence so far, that they have -- the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had a reason to believe that the Trump campaign was in touch with Russian agents.
We'll have more on that. And a new report tonight saying that Donald Trump is turning on Steve Bannon, but first Sean Spicer.
Sean Spicer proved once again today why he is the absolutely perfect spokesman for the Trump White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hitler didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.
GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Mr. Spicer is a gift that keeps on giving.
SPICER: He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. He brought them into the holocaust center.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: We had to clarify it not once, not twice, not three times, four times.
SPICER: Yes, I'm absolutely sorry especially during a week like this to make the comparison that's inappropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meanwhile, President Trump himself seemed to make a similar point tonight, saying, even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases the Syrians use.
JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: If they used chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very stiff price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the administration believe that Russia had any advance knowledge that (INAUDIBLE) that material?
SPICER: At this time, there's no consensus in the intelligence community that that's the case.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia, it's very bad for this world.
WILL: Mr. Putin has picked a side in a civil war and he wants his side to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: We have breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post", a report that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was the subject of a foreign intelligence surveillance court warrant last Summer because there was probable cause to believe that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case, Russia.
This news about Carter Page comes at the end of a day where Eric Trump used his father's harmless missile strike on Syria as the perfect proof that there could be no connection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
And that is exactly what I said we would be hearing from Trump world in my first comments about the Trump missile attack last week.
If like Eric Trump, you now believe that the missile attack proves there's no connection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, you could have easily thought before the missile strike that the missile strike would prove that and then decided to do the missile strike.
So that you could say exactly that. So that Eric Trump or Donald Trump could say that the missile attack proves that Donald Trump is independent of Vladimir Putin.
He could have advised Donald Trump to do the missile attack because he would then be able to say that or have one of his sons say that.
We don't know the real motivation of that missile attack by the United States. We only know what Donald Trump says, and Donald Trump is a repeated proven pathological liar, so we don't know why that missile strike occurred.
Here is a bit of an interview with "Fox News" that the network released tonight before showing it in its entirety tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But when I see people using horrible chemical weapons, which they agreed not to use under the Obama administration, but they violated it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said they got rid of them.
TRUMP: Hey, look, what I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it.
And you would have had a much better -- I think, Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Makes sense. If you think that makes sense, remember that the same Donald Trump saw chemical weapons used in Syria before in much worse chemical weapons attacks.
And he said then that President Obama should do absolutely nothing about it. So we don't know why Donald Trump changed his mind about that.
What we do know is that a president mire deepen scandal involving Russian influence in his election, fired off some harmless missiles at the end of a very bad scandal week for him.
And we also know that President Assad has killed many more people in much worse attacks that did not involve chemical weapons.
Today, Defense Secretary Mattis was asked why the death of innocent men, women, and children from a chemical weapon warrants a U.S. military response, but the deaths of many more men, women and children and yes, babies from barrel bombs does not warrant a military response.
And that's when Secretary Mattis said what they've all been saying that it's all about chemical weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTIS: Even in World War II, chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. Even in the Korean war, they were not used on battlefield.
Since World War I, there's been an international convention on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: He didn't mention Vietnam for a reason. He knows how much napalm was used in the Vietnam war by the United States of America.
The use of napalm was chemical warfare. Napalm was the product of the Dow Chemical Company.
The United States burned men, women, and children and babies to death in Vietnam, dropping fire from the sky, thanks to the wonders of chemical warfare.
Napalm was not a nerve agent, so it didn't act on the human body the same way that sarin does. Napalm just burned the skin off your body.
Napalm burned the roof off your house, burned entire villages to the ground, with the babies sleeping in those villages when they were burnt to the ground.
That's what napalm did. The world was watching our conduct in Vietnam, they remembered these things that the United States conveniently does not remember at moments like this.
Nancy Pelosi wants Sean Spicer fired for what he said about chemical warfare today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a -- you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.
So you have to, if you're Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: So I, for one, don't think Sean Spicer should be fired for that. It would be a terrible disservice to the country and to the world to have a smarter, more articulate press secretary in this White House.
Sean Spicer is the perfect spokesman for Donald Trump. You know -- you know that Donald Trump thought that that was a great line when he heard it and he thought this was a great line, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons, what did you mean by that?
SPICER: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.
I mean, there was clearly -- I understand the point -- thank you, thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the --in the -- he brought them into the -- to the holocaust center and I understand that.
But I'm saying the way that Assad used them, where he went into town, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns.
It was brought -- and so the use of it -- and I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: He brought them into the holocaust center. Do you think Donald Trump thought that that's what they're called, holocaust centers before Sean Spicer got corrected on cable news and on Twitter.
Only when Twitter and cable news went wild about what Sean Spicer said, only then did Donald Trump realize that there was a problem.
And surely because there was so much agreement in the White House about the brilliance of Sean Spicer's reference to the holocaust center, it only took the White House four full hours to realize that Sean Spicer had to do something that Donald Trump does not know how to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made the clarifications before you wanted to make it clear exactly what the message was you were trying to deliver. What do you have to say?
SPICER: Well, obviously, I was really trying to make sure that we talked about Assad's actions in some people using chemical weapons to draw any kind of comparison to the holocaust was inappropriate and insensitive, and obviously, especially during a week like this, regret that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Sean Spicer proved himself today to be a profoundly stupid liar, working for a profoundly stupid liar.
The president of the United States has the spokesman he deserves. Joining us now, David Corn; Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst.
And David Filipov, Moscow Bureau chief for "The Washington Post". David Corn, I for one, as they say, I just want to deal with the Spicer thing and then move on to the rest of the subjects.
But he strikes me as the perfect spokesman for Trump. I wouldn't want anyone smarter or more articulate, it would be a false presentation of the intelligence level of the president.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: It's hard to argue with you about that point, Lawrence. I mean, I give Sean Spicer credit for pronouncing Hitler correctly today which he couldn't do in the name of the person ruling the country that we just bombed.
But his -- you know, this is not the first time that he's gotten lost trying to justify the unjustifiable in terms of what his boss is doing.
Started the very first time he came out and tried to convince everybody that yes there was 1.5 million people out there at the inauguration.
And here, he got to Hitler really fast because he was trying to justify the military action, which is really not connected to any true policy about what to do in Syria or the larger Middle East.
And so you just go right to Hitler, it's terrible, it's bad, we had to do something. So, you don't talk about the real issues at hand.
And that's what he's been doing from the get go and I don't know, if he survives this, I think he'll survive almost anything going forward.
It's hard to think of any other thing that would -- that could get someone fired that won't get him fired.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Donald Trump said in this "Fox" interview that we'll be seeing in full tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Frankly, Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia.
I think it's very bad for mankind, it's very bad for this world. But when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs and to have these massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people.
And in all fairness, you see the same kids with no arms, no legs, no face - - this is an animal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: David Filipov, Moscow probably has not yet had a chance to digest this particular interview, they'll see it in its entirety tomorrow.
But that is one of those very rare references Donald Trump actually mentioning Vladimir Putin in connection to Syria, maybe the first time he's done it since this crisis developed.
And all he's saying is that Vladimir Putin is backing a very bad person, an evil person. He thinks it's bad for Russia.
But it seems as though the president of the United States doesn't understand just how long Vladimir Putin has been backing Assad or why he backs Assad.
What is the -- what do you expect the reaction in Moscow to be tomorrow to those comments from Donald Trump?
DAVID FILIPOV, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, David was speaking about the survivability of Sean Spicer. Putin has been doing survivability for 17 years and he --
CORN: Yes --
FILIPOV: Does it by setting his own agenda and then not like, you know, when was the last time you saw Vladimir Putin say, oh, you know what? You're right, I was wrong about that about any issue.
So tomorrow, we'll see a continuation of what we saw today, which is Putin going on the offensive.
What did he say today? I had information that there will be a provocation, somebody is going to put chemical weapons and set them off and then blame the Assad government.
He's starting from the point of not acknowledging that Assad made the attacks or that Assad is the evil one. Assad in Moscow's parliament is a democratically elected leader of Syria and everybody is attacking him is illegal, not anything that Donald Trump is saying or anything that anybody is saying.
Assad from the point of view of Putin is the guy to back because he is the only legitimate leader.
CORN: You know, Lawrence --
O'DONNELL: Go ahead David Corn --
CORN: David makes a good point --
FILIPOV: That's tough to take, isn't it?
CORN: Yes, David makes a great point and that Trump -- and you made this point earlier, too, has never acknowledged the true nature of Vladimir Putin.
You know, he's someone I can do business with. He's a strong leader, he's brilliant, he likes me, so he obviously has good taste.
And so he's never really thought about what Putin means, what he's about. You know, Putin has popularity rating in the '70s and '80s there.
And he's distinctly said I'm not going to be part of the west, I'm going to take down the west. And one way of doing that is backing Assad.
So, David is right here when he says that, you know, the remarks from Trump while easy and sort of hallmarkian to say this guy is evil show he doesn't understand what he's dealing with.
And he never once indicated he did during the campaign and now he decries, you know, what's going to happen with these poor innocent children and others who have been bombed and hurt who he still won't let into the country, our country as refugees and we call terrorists.
So there's no coherence, sense or logic or depth of understanding and the most -- any aspect of this, and you're right, that's why Sean Spicer is great spokesperson for this position.
O'DONNELL: David Filipov, Rex Tillerson seems to be indicating that he's going to tell the Russians that they have to choose between their relationship with Assad or a relationship with the United States.
If he puts it that way, what's he going to hear back?
FILIPOV: Again, he'll hear an offensive back, that's because Vladimir Putin has staked his entire policy on the idea that he's going to be the peacemaker in the region and he's going to support legitimate governments and Assad is the legitimate government.
You're not going to hear, at least publicly, Vladimir Putin go back on that. So he will respond, does the United States want a cooperative relationship with us or is the United States looking for more trouble and we're ready to respond to trouble with trouble.
Now behind closed doors, is there any give in what Vladimir Putin and his administration is -- I can't believe I just called it that, the Kremlin is going to, you know, allow.
Is there any give at all. And, you know, I don't see it. I don't see where Putin is going to back down on any of this stuff except possibly softening -- something to do, for example, we'll allow you and inspectors in there to say let's see who really set off these bombs.
Let's see who really, you know, dropped chemical weapons. Was it really a strike or was it rebels, you know, setting off their own bombs and factories that they themselves had.
Yesterday, we heard the defense ministry of Russia saying that there are two stock piles of chemical weapons that we can't get to because the rebels control that territory.
So basically they're allowing for the fact that there are weapons out there that they don't know anything about. And that's it, that's all they're giving you.
O'DONNELL: David --
CORN: And Lawrence --
O'DONNELL: David, let me just get to one point before we go --
CORN: Sure --
O'DONNELL: And that is the linkage between Carter Page in today's news and Eric Trump. Eric Trump using the missile attack in Syria by President Trump, using that as absolute proof that obviously Donald Trump is innocent and his campaign is innocent --
CORN: Yes --
O'DONNELL: His transition is innocent of any kind of undue influence from Russia because obviously, it was against Russian interest to send off those missiles and that comes on the very same day that we learn about this FISA warrant on Carter Page.
CORN: Well, you know, the worst thing that Eric Trump could have done was to say that out loud. It shows that maybe he's on the same level of strategic of skills as Sean Spicer.
But you know, to sort of tip it off just a little bit, Lawrence, it strikes me if Russia is going to, you know, get into any sort of conflict with the Trump administration about this or any other matter.
Why don't they start putting out more information about what they did do during the election, and how much they did try to help Trump.
When we know our intelligence community believes that. But it seems to me the Trump administration is really at the mercy.
They could be -- they could be even further tainted and delegitimize as more information comes out about what Russia did here and why it did it.
O'DONNELL: David Corn, David Filipov, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
CORN: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, new comments from Donald Trump tonight about Steve Bannon that looks like Steve Bannon has some real problems continuing in the White House.
Also, we have breaking news tonight about the Bill O'Reilly crisis at "Fox News".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I hope that what the Russian government concludes is that they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar Al Assad.
Assad has made the Russians look not so good under these circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Today, Secretary of Defense General James Mattis was asked if the U.S. responds to the chemical weapons attack in Syria could lead to a confrontation with Russia?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point is there a danger that's spiraling out of control in the conflict between two nuclear power countries?
MATTIS: It will not spiral out of control. As you know, Secretary of State Tillerson is in Moscow, we maintain communications with the Russian military and with the diplomatic channels.
I'm confident the Russians will act in their own best interest, and there's nothing in their best interest to say they want this situation to go out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: In addition to the situation with Russia and Syria, the White House is also facing a threat from North Korea, which today warned of a nuclear attack on the United States.
Any sign of United States aggression, the U.S. Navy strike group is now on its way towards the Korean Peninsula.
And this is what President Trump tweeted this morning. "I explained to the president of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem."
So there is the president of the United States saying, according to his own logic on international trade, that he will sacrifice American jobs to China in negotiations with the Chinese if the Chinese can help with North Korea.
Donald Trump, according to his own economic principles would be paying a jobs ransom to China and North Korea in order to reduce North Korea's threatening posture in the world.
Joining us now, John McLaughlin; former acting director of the CIA. John, I want to go through a bunch of things, starting with what we were just talking about.
Which is the president's most recent meeting with President of China and now saying publicly today, that he will introduce trade discussions with China while trying to talk to China about North Korea.
Trying to persuade China on North Korea. Is that how you conduct a negotiation like that?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: I don't think that's the right way to deal with China. China does not respond well to anything that feels like a threat or sounds like a threat.
It doesn't mean that we don't be firm with them. They, of course, are both a partner and an adversary at times, but that is not the way to go about it.
We will need Chinese assistance in anything that we attempt to do to reduce the North Korean threat. And as many people have noted, 90 percent of North Korea's trade comes from China.
China bails out North Korea on things like food and energy. And on trade, I think the President has a steep hill to climb here because by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his -- actually on his very first day in office, he has essentially ceded the field to China and Asia.
And this is what I hear from most of our allies who have large proportions of their trade with China. Take Australia for example, about 30 percent of its trade is with China.
Other countries are in the range of 19 percent, 25 percent and the pull back by the United States leaves them feeling like they're going to get sucked into China's economic orbit.
So president has a lot of work to do with China on trade and he will need their help on North Korea.
O'DONNELL: The first question I asked about the Syrian gas attack has become the question of the day now.
Which is did Russia -- did Vladimir Putin know about the attack before it occurred? We don't have definitive information on that.
But knowing the relationship as you do between Vladimir Putin and Assad, is it conceivable that Assad would have used chemical weapons, knowing that they'd be exposed immediately as soon as he used them.
And knowing that in effect, Putin would be exposed as not having actually gotten rid of those weapons the way he had promised to.
That, that would all occur without Vladimir Putin knowing it.
MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think that Assad would be so clever as to put that altogether into a package. But what I do have some confidence in is given the long relationship and the deep involvement that Russia has in Syria and the interweaving of their forces with Syrian forces, both the Air Force and the conventional forces, I'm pretty confident that Russia would certainly know they still had chemical weapons.
I don't have a view on whether Russia knew in advance that they were going to use them. I find that a bit of a stretch.
O'DONNELL: Quickly, Secretary Tillerson said today, here he is about to start discussions with Russia today, and he said, "why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?"
Could you --
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes --
O'DONNELL: Give him an answer to that?
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I mean, actually, I see when you're thinking about Russian policy and the threat it presents, I see Ukraine as kind of the canary in the mine shaft.
In other words, watch Ukraine very closely. I was in Ukraine back in October and a parliamentarian there said something to me that I thought was very revealing.
She said that Ukraine is the only country among the former countries of the Soviet Union that can actually change Russia.
And what she meant by that was, if we in Ukraine succeed in moving closer to the west, closer to the EU, closer to the United States.
If we have a pluralistic, democratic society here, a prosperous one which particularly the younger people in Ukraine are striving to achieve, this will be a threat to Putin because Russians tend to look at Ukraine as their little brothers, little sisters.
And given that they put up with an autocratic government, the absence of a free press and a political contract that says basically, stay out of politics and you can have a nice life. If they saw a much different situation in neighboring Ukraine, actually, the heart land of the Slavic nation, this will be a threat to Putin. And so that's why I think he is insisting on establishing his presence in Eastern Ukraine, encouraging autonomy there. That's why he went into Crimea.
For him, one of the biggest threats on his horizon is that Ukraine succeeds. So in a way, just to finish this comment, maybe the most important thing we can do if we want to put a crimp in Putin style is to help Ukraine succeed because it would drive him crazy.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: John, let's hope you can get that message To Rex Tillerson, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it
MCLAUGHLIN: You bet.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump has some new things to say about Steve Bannon, not a good day for Steve Bannon and Bill O'Reilly, breaking news tonight, about Bill O'Reilly and the crisis at Fox News. You won't be seeing Bill O'Reilly on Fox News for a while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: At what point is there a danger of this spiraling out of control and the conflict between two mutually powered countries.
JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It will not spiral out of control. We maintain communications with the Russian military and with the diplomatic challenge? I trust they'll act in their own best interest and there's nothing to say they want this situation to go out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now Malcolm Nance, an MSNBC Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Analyst. Malcolm, I want everyone to hear General Mattis say that again because the part that interest me the most is him saying that he is confident Russia will act in its self interest. If Russia is acting in its self interest is operative of what it does. When we see the chemical attack in Syria with -- from Russia's client, as you said last night, it's inconceivable that Vladimir Putin did not know about that beforehand, what would be Russia's self interest in having that attack occur?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTER TERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the only thing that I can define by allowing Al Assad to carry out that attack or being aware is that if Russia want today see what the reaction of the United States would be. If they could, you know, if the United States would be push to a point where they violate Syria's serenity and carry out a strike. I think that there was almost no risk for them certainly in the immediate moments when the United States called on the de-confliction hotline.
And told Russia, we're going to attack your base. Get your personnel out of there which allowed them of course to get the Syrians out there and essentially allowed us to blow a few revetments and maybe as many as nine, ten aircraft. That is all I can see that can be Russia's interest to let that happen. Because as we said yesterday, there was no tactical value in dropping those chemical weapons, accept to see what Washington D.C. would do. It was a strike for audience of one and that one being Donald Trump.
O'DONNELL: And we now have two other elements that come into this that sit right out at the edge of the discussion. One is Eric Trump saying that this attack, this missile attack proves that Donald Trump and the Trump World, of course, have no connection to Russia because obviously wouldn't fire off the missiles if you did. And was the firing of those missiles something that Vladimir Putin could have anticipated a week ago and thinking he would -- Putin would like that Eric Trump line being pushed out there that Trump response shows there is no connection.
NANCE: That response who has no idea of geo politics, just goes to show that everything that they do, has a political bent to it. It's not ludicrous, it's stupid. This does not mean that Donald Trump himself does not have a link to Russia.
He could still owe money to Russia. He could do -- he could have, you know, 100 different invisible and visible streams to Russia and still have to act within the parameters of safety for the United States and carry out that strike. But again, all of the intelligence indicators that we see on this strike, with the way the strike was carried out. They didn't use weapon systems that would destroy the chemicals.
They allowed the Russians to make sure they weren't there -- anywhere near the strike. We killed virtually no one in the Syrian Armed Forces. And generally, when you carry out an air strike, that's what you want to do, you want to kill and destroy resources in order to make that inoperative for them to carry out further actions against the civilian population. Russia is going to act in Russia's interest, and Syria is Russia's interest.
O'DONNELL: Before we go, your reaction to the news tonight about the FISA warrant on Carter Page?
NANCE: Well I just think that's fascinating. I predicted in my book which I wrote last September, there had to be FISA warrants out there. You know I know some people had projected there were warrants that were applied for and turned down. But this shows the FBI got it the minute they asked for it which means that must have had some significant intelligence about Carter Page and his links to Russian intelligence, which have been 100 percent, you know, high confidence, like a telephone call or some intelligence report which they could corroborate with other special intelligence or human intelligence. Either that or Carter Page works for the FBI, you know, and he's just being dangled out there to look as if he's still part of the cabal. I don't know.
I certainly hope that's the case. But Carter Page having that warrant out there means that we know a lot more about this plot than people are letting on because if that FISA was out there, that man -- I mean, you know, when he did his interview with Chris Hayes, I said very early on, he essentially has no rights.
We can collect anything on him within the scope of that warrant, especially if he is in communications or contact with foreign intelligence agencies.
O'DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, thank you very much for joining us again tonight, appreciate it.
NANCE: My pleasure.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump's new comments about Steve Bannon and the breaking news tonight about the crisis at Fox News involving Bill O'Reilly and the sexual harassment cases against him.
O'DONNELL: We have breaking news tonight from the New York Post on the Whitehouse personnel crisis. Donald Trump's Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, the New York Post has published a new interview with Donald Trump tonight in which the New York Post says that the President would not definitively say he still has confidence in Steve Bannon. Donald Trump said I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the Senators and all the Governors. And I didn't know Steve.
I'm my own strategist it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary. Donald Trump also told the New York Post "Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will." Joining us now is Rick Wilson, Republican Strategist and contributor to the Daily Beast. And, Rick, it seems to me if Donald Trump is going to straighten out; his only choice would be to fire Steve Bannon.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Looked we've talked about this before. If he fires Steve Bannon, you know he's got Steve Bannon out there in the wind with his weaponized infrastructure of Trump Bart and Mercers and everything else ready to go back at Trump and turn it around on him. If he keeps him, he's got a white nationalist, you know, the -- the secret sell leader of the (INAUDIBLE) army inside the White House.
So, Trump's in a tough spot here, but it -- he's certainly sending every signal to Steve Bannon not let the door hit him on his ample ass on the way out.
O'DONNELL: And the -- apparently one of the big problems he has with Steve Bannon is the notion that Bannon is Trump's brain, that imagery they had for Karl Rove being Bush's brain and -- and of course, Trump can't stand that.
WILSON: You know the funny thing about Karl is he -- he never went out and said that himself, Bannon did. And Bannon has -- he believes he is this masterful strategist and this -- this Zen like figure that is you know -- this deeply educated and deeply effective strategic thinker. And basically he's led Trump into a bunch of box canyons so far, politically, wrecked his relationships with congress by going down there and -- and basically doing this -- this you know, comic villain act in front of members of congress, they must do what Trump wants.
And so he -- he ran out the thread too far. He's part of an ecosystem of this far right, you know Trump, Trumbart Facebook driven, you know, right wing echo chamber that they've developed that's great when it's talking just to their own people. But he started to believe it's not BS, and now obviously, Trump is very much wanting to -- wanting to find a path for this guy to be out of the picture.
O'DONNELL: And -- and Rick let's remember that -- that Steve Bannon came into the campaign because Paul Manafort got kicked out because of his connections to Ukraine and Russia and -- and now is the very beginning of this Russia crisis that Trump world finds itself in with the update tonight being Carter Page's FISA warrant.
WILSON: You know there were -- there we're a lot of us who were talking about the fact that there were FISA warrants applied for in the summer of last year. My friend Louise Mensch reported on it. Confirmed in November of last year and we certainly knew this was out there and knew Page was one of the players in this thing but you know, obviously, Page is -- is now -- he's now dead to rights. This combined with the revelations tonight that Nu¤es was essentially completely making up his accusations by both republican, democratic and staff members of the house intelligence committee saying that.
This is a bad night for Donald Trump, the Syria bubble is -- is going to pop and we're going to be back at this Russia question because he was hip deep in advisers, friends, counselors and business partners who were tied to Russian oligarchs, who are tied to the Russian mob and they were tied to Vladimir Putin. This is a guy who -- who -- he's not past this problem and -- and jettisoning Steve Bannon won't solve it.
O'DONNELL: And Rick your reaction to Eric Trump today saying what I think Trumps have been dying to say since the missiles were fired, this proves dad doesn't have any real connection to Vladimir Putin because he just fired missiles at Vladimir Putin's client, president Assad?
WILSON: Look, if I wanted to advice on hair gel, I'll call Eric Trump. This is a guy who knows absolutely nothing about anything in this world. He knows nothing about the -- the relationships of his dad with the -- with the Russians except some sort of tangential way. He doesn't understand the -- the geopolitics of this and what -- what the three or four different layers that could explain this would be. So I sort of write off things that Eric Trump has to say.
He's you know, he's -- he's the less bright of an unbright crowd.
O'DONNELL: But does --
WILSON: You know Eric's defense of his dad is a pretty weak -- it's pretty weak sauce.
O'DONNELL: But isn't he speaking for Trump supporters and Trump followers there.
WILSON: Oh, of course he is.
O'DONNELL: Who are looking for the proof that Donald Trump is not influenced by Vladimir Putin. Those missiles will now be their proof.
WILSON: They're looking for any thin reed to hold on to. They're looking for anything to -- to deny and spin away from the fact that the emerging picture never gets better for them about Russia, it always gets worse.
O'DONNELL: Rick Wilson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
WILSON: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, breaking news about the Bill O'Reilly crisis at Fox News. Gabe Sherman's going to join us with the latest breaking news tonight.
O'DONNELL: Tonight's breaking news on Bill O'Reilly is that he is going on vacation which is not normally breaking news but when you're at the center of a scandal that's getting worse by the way with advertisers fleeing your show, going on vacation is a major and important sign of real weakness for O'Reilly within the Fox News company. Questions are already being raised tonight about whether Bill O'Reilly will ever come back from that vacation, tonight Bill O'Reilly spoke what might be his last words on Fox News. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS TELEVISION HOST: This time of year. I grab some vacation, because it's spring and Easter time. Last fall I booked a trip that should be terrific, not going to tell you where it is, but we have a contest on Bill O'Reilly.com, guess where Bill is going. I'll have a full report when I return.I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: He'll tell us where it is as soon as he figures out where it is, joining us now New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman. Gabe I'm reading your report on this tonight. Joining us by phone and you're -- you're reporting that there's talk inside Fox News that tonight's show could be his last. What do we know about this Gabe?
GABRIEL SHERMAN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE REPORTER: Yes, well thanks Lawrence. I was working the phones all night. This has been a subject that's become increasingly talked about inside Fox News. You know really whether Bill O'Reilly will be able to hold on to his job. The power of that decision will be decided by the Murdoch family specifically Rupert Murdoch and his two sons.
And his son James Murdoch the CEO of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News wants Bill O'Reilly off the air. That's what my sources say. He feels the sexual harassment scandal is really a stain on the company and wants to turn the page after the Roger Ailes resignation. James Murdoch really drove the company to try to become a more modern open and forgiving place.
And this Bill O'Reilly scandal is just a sign that not much has changed. James is pushing that, his father, Rupert is resisting. And now what I'm hearing is that well Bill O'Reilly is on vacation. All of these discussions are going to come to a head and a decision will be made.
O'DONNELL: Gabe, 13 years ago when the first big case broke against Bill O'Reilly, and that included audiotapes of him on the phone with a woman who had worked at Fox News was complaining -- she is the one who got $9 million. When that crisis broke, I -- I had a -- a highly placed friend within that company who I spoke to that day. And he said it's all about the ratings. And what he meant was, it's about what happens on the ratings when Bill O'Reilly comes back on his show after the scandal broke.
And the ratings were strong when he returned. And so Fox did nothing. His ratings have been strong since this scandal broke. Do the ratings no longer rule the outcome here?
SHERMAN: That's right. That's right. The ratings in the Andrea Mackris scandal went off and they -- they've held steady and in some cases got off in this scandal. The difference this time is that as you pointed out at the top of the segment. Advertisers are fleeing Bill O'Reilly's show. They can't monetize his show at this point. You know the -- the show still a direct response and you know much lower cost ads.
So, the Murdochs are going to have to look at the prospect of having Bill O'Reilly having good ratings but they can't make any money off of it. Now there's other reasons to keep him. You know Fox News has a very loyal audience and able companies pay hefty subscriber fees. Fox I believe earns $2 per subscriber, that's in large part driven by O'Reilly's popularity.
But there is going to be a growing chorus in the company saying listen we could put another host in there, they keep it do just as almost as low as Bill O'Reilly and then we could start selling ads again.
O'DONNELL: Well they saw, the ratings go up after Megyn Kelly was replaced by -- by Tucker Carlson. No one saw that coming. And that might be one of the weaknesses for O'Reilly now just how strong Tucker Carlson's ratings are, Sean Hannity's. He may not look irreplaceable in that line up.
SHERMAN: Well you have to Lawrence -- you'll have to imagine that over the next two weeks the Murdoch's are going to be scrutinizing the ratings --
SHERMAN: for the substitute host that they put in there.
O'DONNELL: Let's get -- let's get Lisa Bloom in here. We are joined now by Lisa Bloom, she is the attorney for Wendy Walsh. Wendy Walsh broke this case, the O'Reilly story wide open. And Lisa, that's because your client was one of the people who could speak to the "New York Times" when they did their massive story on this two weeks ago because she was not bound by a legal agreement not to speak about Bill O'Reilly.
I would like to get your reaction to the sudden announcement that Bill O'Reilly is going on vacation.
LISA BLOOM, LAWYER: You know it's such a coincidence, Lawrence, because tomorrow I'm going on vacation as well. But the difference is I for sure am coming back to work on Monday. And Bill O'Reilly should not be coming back to work on Monday, because he has sexually harassed so many women. Wendy Walsh has been so brave the come out like anybody else she was scared. I told her I would be at her side if she chose to do this.
She has done it. She hasn't asked for a dime, simply told her story over and over again. We have taken a new step just about every day as this story has progressed. Today I sent a letter to the state division of human rights in New York with all the information that's publicly available. And there is a lot of it. It's about 15 pages long about sexual harassment at Fox News generally and about Bill O'Reilly in particular.
And I asked them to initiate their own investigation of Fox News. Tomorrow we have another step. I have more women calling me. So I have a message for the Murdochs. This is not going away. If you think this is going to blow over, it's not.
O'DONNELL: Lisa is one of your messages for the Murdochs that there will be more women coming out publicly against Bill O'Reilly either filing lawsuits or doing interviews as Wendy Walsh has done.
BLOOM: I think that that is highly likely Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Gabe, what does that do to the Murdoch's calculus, that Lisa Bloom pretty much promising us that there will be more?
SHERMAN: Well clearly that will give more ammunition to James Murdoch and others to say this is going to be a never ending scandal unless we rip the band-aid off and try to turn the page.
O'DONNELL: Lisa what do you say to a company that -- that is looking at the O'Reilly ratings and going look, this is -- he's -- he's good for our business. We can ride this out?
BLOOM: I say that women's rights mean something, that our careers mean something because these stories aren't just about sexual harassment. I do these cases every day. Most women say, you know I don't care about a comment now and then. I don't care about a guy asking me out or propositioning me. What I care about is my career and Bill O'Reilly is accused over and over again not just of propositioning women but of going after their careers when they say no, of driving them out not only of Fox News but of television industry entirely.
And look at Wendy Walsh my client. She alleges she had a job promised to her, a job that she was good at it, she was entitled to. And when she didn't go back to his hotel room she didn't get that job. I think Fox News has a chance to turn this thing around. Apparently they tried to do it last summer by getting rid of Roger Ailes. That didn't work, there is still more housecleaning to do.
And Bill O'Reilly, you know he needs to go. Lisa Bloom thank you very much for joining us again tonight on this important night and this story and Wendy Walsh will be joining us tomorrow night on the show.
SHERMAN: Gabe Sherman thank you for your breaking news insight on what's going on over there at Fox News tonight during this crisis. Really, really important to have your input on this Gabe, thank you very much. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts right now.
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