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The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 4/17/2017

Guests: Stephen Noerper, Richard Painter, David Nir

Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Date: April 17, 2017 Guest: Stephen Noerper, Richard Painter, David Nir

JOY REID, MSNBC: On my show "AM JOY" -- tomorrow, and I will see you next week and on my show "AM JOY", and now it is time for THE LAST WORD with the one and only Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence!

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Hey, Joy, you know, speaking of performance artists, that is actually my excuse for everything that`s gone wrong on this show.


And there have been many moments over the last whatever it is, six or seven years --

REID: Lawrence, you are --


O`DONNELL: I chalk it up to performance art. Performance art gone wrong.

REID: We love you just the way you are.

O`DONNELL: And don`t make me say that phrase again because with a Boston accent, it is wicked hard to say performance art, and so, don`t make me say it again.

REID: Excellent point, have a great show.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Joy. Well, the verdict is in, and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee agree that Susan Rice did nothing wrong.

And the president now says he is not going to be tough on China because China is helping with North Korea.

And Republicans who thought the day after Easter would be a safe day for town halls, they had a pretty rough time today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up!

TRUMP: You see what`s happening and we are right on track.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know what you Republicans are going to do to try to control our crazy president who thinks he can just shoot off bombs.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of strategic patience is over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president going to release his 2016 tax returns given that we can assume maybe those are not themselves under audit?



CROWD: No more secrets! No more lies! No more (INAUDIBLE), no more lies!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m wondering if you will take the initiative to have him release those returns.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I`m aware, the president says he`s still under audit. And he says --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it time to say once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns?

SPICER: We`ll have to get back to you on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want -- I mean, you see -- I mean, really?

SPICER: Really.


SPICER: No, I said I`d have to get back to you on that.


O`DONNELL: This weekend, President Trump said he is not labeling China a currency manipulator because China is helping to solve the North Korea problem.

This weekend, the president held out hope for a peaceful solution to the North Korea problem and that hope was that China would do the job.

China would solve the problem. Yesterday, the president tweeted this. "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We`ll see what happens."

Well, one reason why you would call China a currency manipulator is that you said you were going to do it on day one of your presidency.


TRUMP: I`m going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator, the greatest in the world.


O`DONNELL: That was a broken promise of Donald Trump`s. And last week, Donald Trump actually said to the "Wall Street Journal" China is not a currency manipulator.

Those are his exact words. "China is not a currency manipulator." He didn`t say anything about I`m not calling them a currency manipulator because they`re helping out with North Korea.

Just China is not a currency manipulator, and that`s true. Most experts believe that China has not been manipulating its currency for some time now.

So there really is no justifiable reason for trying to label China a currency manipulator. But yesterday, the president felt the need to link his acceptance of the truth about China`s currency to China`s efforts with North Korea.

Now, if you`re a Trump voter, and you want to believe that, what you have to believe is that the promise Donald Trump made to you to bring back American jobs from China by forcing China to stop manipulating its currency is being abandoned so that China will help stop the madness in North Korea.

By Trump logic, the president then is giving up American jobs to China, just letting them keep those jobs to get help on North Korea.

In the campaign, Donald Trump promised voters that he would force China to control North Korea, and he would get American jobs back from China.

It was not either or the strong man would do both.


TRUMP: You look at North Korea, we`re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us.

China should go into North Korea, China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, the Trump administration is threatening action in North Korea.


PENCE: The era of strategic patience is over.


O`DONNELL: Now, this kind of talk is costing the president in the polls. A new Gallup poll shows that 45 percent believe that Donald Trump keeps his promises.

That`s down from 62 percent in February. The resistance took to the streets this weekend over a violated promise by Donald Trump.


TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I`ll produce my tax returns, absolutely.


O`DONNELL: He of course went from saying he would release his tax returns to then as a candidate saying he would release his tax returns after an audit was complete, even though he has never provided any proof that he was being audited.

And then he stopped saying that he would release his tax returns under any circumstances. And it has now come to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president going to release his 2016 tax returns, given that we can assume maybe that those are not themselves under audit?

SPICER: No, you can`t, they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always talk about under audit. The president says under audit. Is it time to say once and for all the president is never going to release his tax returns?

SPICER: We`ll have to get back to you on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want -- I mean, you see -- I mean, really?

SPICER: Really.


SPICER: No, I said I`d have to get back to you on that, I think that he is still under audit, the statement still stands.


O`DONNELL: Of course, every president who has released their tax returns has also been under audit because it`s IRS automatic policy to audit the president and the vice president.

We`ll have more on that later in this hour. In over 150 cities this weekend, the resistance to the Trump presidency marched to the demand that the president do what Barack Obama did this time last year and release his tax returns.

The president along with Vice President Biden released their complete tax returns showing all of their income, all of their charitable donations.

It was nothing unusual, it`s what every president and vice president has done since Richard Nixon.

This weekend`s marchers did not expect Donald Trump to release his tax returns today. But they refuse to allow Donald Trump`s abnormalities as president to become normal.

And the resistance continues to show up at Republican town halls held by senators and members of Congress.

And they`re not just talking about the Affordable Care Act. Here is Republican Dean Heller in Nevada today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support doing away with funding to Planned Parenthood?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you committed to women and to the people of Nevada that you will protect the funding at the federal level?

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: At the federal level?


HELLER: Yes, we`ll continue. We`ll continue to look at this issue --


HELLER: We`ll continue to look at this issue --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many Russian spies do we have to have in the White House before you`ll investigate it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I hear that Donald Trump wants to severely cut the EPA budget, I`m angry, this is not acceptable, we cannot go backwards, OK?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a native Nevadan. I`m one of your constituents and quite frankly, you don`t really represent me.


O`DONNELL: Here is Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton today in Little Rock.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you read "The Art of the Deal" because you got more contributions from the telecommunications industry.


Therefore, you sold us out when you canceled the FCC regulations that ensured my privacy, keeping my ISP from selling my browsing history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s time to repeal and replace you in 2020.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m wondering if you could kind of define where you think our president`s foreign policy is going?

And I realize -- I mean, I realize it`s difficult. And I realize there has been some changes. But some of his decisions have been a little concerning to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does it take to get you all to vote across the people lines and not party lines?



COTTON: We`ll have no doubt that somehow Kansas benefitted from Obamacare, many more were hurt by Obamacare though.

In the form of higher -- in the form of higher premiums.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, do your job! Do your job!


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Maya Harris; attorney and civil rights advocate, she is a former senior policy adviser for the Clinton 2016 campaign.

Also with us David Corn; Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst.

And Maya, those Republican town halls are not getting any easier. And it`s fascinating to see the issues expand now that the threat to the Affordable Care Act has softened, it doesn`t seem like it`s over.

But it seems like that legislative chapter is behind, but the turnout is still there.

MAYA HARRIS, ATTORNEY & CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE: There is no shortage of energy and intensity among the -- you know, progressive base around any number of issues. I mean, we saw that just last weekend.

And as you said, dozens of rallies, you know, tens of thousands of people turned out, you know, to really hold Trump accountable for, you know, breaking his promise to release his tax returns, which -- you know, he did repeatedly.

He promised in 2014 and then throughout the campaign, you know, failed to deliver.

And it`s something that, you know, presidents have done for the last 40 years. We still don`t really know the full extent of his business ties of, you know, his conflicts of interests.

And it`s -- you know, a real problem with transparency, you know, in this White House where they most recently have said that they`re not going to, you know, release the visitor`s logs.

And so it`s an ironic turn of events given the fact that he -- you know, was trolling President Obama for any number of months and years on this very issue of transparency.

It really begs the question of what does he have to hide? But I don`t think that we`re going to see this issue go away any time soon and certainly not see any diminishing of the energy and enthusiasm among the base to really turn out and you know, call him on the carpet on issues both that he, you know, talked about during the campaign and the things that he is rolling out now as president.

O`DONNELL: David, one of the things I found so striking about this weekend`s marches is I don`t think there is a marcher out there who believes they will probably ever see a Donald Trump tax return unless more pages get leaked and end up on Rachel`s show, which we can all wait for.

But they`re there to make the point that this is abnormal, and we have not forgotten.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, that`s true. And I think that`s something that needs to be remembered, if not every hour, certainly every day.

And I think the tax return issue is sort of a stand-in for the larger issue of his financial conflicts and his -- you know, his claim that he was going to drain the swamp when indeed what we`d seem to have is nepotism in the White House.

Now you have kleptocracy, but that`s close to that. And we don`t see the most basic element of transparency, financial transparency which is the release of the tax returns.

And so we had story after story, we`ve been doing this at "Mother Jones" for over a year. Other people have been doing it too.

His financial conflicts of interest, whether it`s with Deutsche Bank or the biggest bank in China, you know, some unsavory characters around the world that his family and he has had financial contacts with.

Now the tax returns won`t answer a lot of these questions. But if you`re not going to get that basic document, you`re certainly not going to get the answers to those other questions as well.

O`DONNELL: There is a very troubling information in the new polls, including that his approval rating continues to be the lowest of any new president, 39 percent, 54 percent disapprove.

But there is a particular question here that was asked of Republicans in a poll. And that is do Republicans in Congress have an obligation to support Trump`s policies?

Forty three percent of them say yes. A big majority of Republicans say no. Fifty five percent of Republicans, this is a Republicans only poll.

Fifty five percent of Republicans saying no, Republicans in Congress have absolutely no obligation to support Donald Trump`s policies.

And Maya, that has to be very reassuring to the freedom caucus, who apparently already knew that when they stood in front of Donald Trump and stopped his health care plan.

HARRIS: Yes, I mean, I think you really have to look at these issues not just through the lens of how are they going to impact or not impact Donald Trump.

You know, the voters are actually going to hold a Republican Congress accountable for what they do and they don`t do.

You saw that in today`s town hall with Tom Cotton who was called on the carpet over this very issue around the tax returns.

And you know, the voters who are there, his constituents who were there, they weren`t having any of this -- oh, he`s under an audit, he`ll do it after an audit.

They`re not, you know, going for that. And so, you know, in addition to Republican voters who are going to, you know, hold Republican and Democratic voters who are going to hold the congressman available, I think we`re going to really see this kind of issue continue to animate the progressive base and animate in a way that`s not just around these policy issues.

But we`re seeing that it is, you know, powering the resistance and it`s translating into quite a bit of intensity and enthusiasm and activism around electoral individual elections.

We saw that last week in Kansas, you know, we`re seeing that in Georgia. So I don`t think, you know, that these issues are going to go away any time soon, let alone the way that it, you know, animates voters either who voted for him and feel that he is, you know, not needing the ideals that they thought that he would but as well as a progressive base.

And I think that we`re going see that, you know, have some consequences in 2018.

O`DONNELL: David, there is a Republican resistance in that poll number, 55 percent of Republicans saying that Congress does not have an obligation to support Trump`s policies.

Those are Republican voters saying in some ways they are part of the resistance to Donald Trump.

CORN: Perhaps, it depends whether they want him to be more conservative or less conservative.

And a lot of voters out there like to think of themselves as far more independent than I think they actually are.

You know, if a lot of Republicans still ended up voting for Donald Trump, even if they didn`t like him because they saw him as the leader of the Republican tribe.

I do think it`s going to be interesting to see, not just through these town hall meetings, but as his approval numbers stay in the 30s, and maybe get to, you know, mid 30s or they drop lower.

Will there come a point in time when Republicans in the Congress do take a more oppositional stance and rather than the freedom caucus and health care, we haven`t seen a lot of that yet.

And I think Republicans are still weighing their future and the future of their relationship with Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, Maya Harris, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

CORN: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Up next, the president accused Susan Rice of committing a crime, and now Republicans say that President Trump is wrong.

And the many stories, the many stories that Donald Trump has told about his tax returns.



PENCE: The United States commitment to South Korea is iron-clad and immutable. All options are on the table. We will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response.




TRUMP: I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think she might have committed a crime?

TRUMP: Do I think?


TRUMP: Yes, I think.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: She said she didn`t do it for political reasons, Susan Rice told --

TRUMP: Does anybody really believe that? Nobody believes that.


O`DONNELL: It turns out everybody believes that. Everybody who has seen the intelligence documents that President Trump says involved criminal behavior by President Obama`s national security adviser Susan Rice.

A new Nbc News report says there is bipartisan agreement that Susan Rice did nothing wrong.

"A review of the surveillance material flagged by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes shows no inappropriate action by Susan Rice or any other Obama administration official, Republican and Democratic congressional aides who have been briefed on the matter told Nbc News."

One U.S. official who reviewed the documents in question told Nbc News, "I saw no evidence of any wrong-doing, it was all completely normal." A senior Republican aide who declined to speak on the record agreed with that assessment.

Joining us now, Michael Isikoff; chief investigative reporter for Yahoo News. Also joining us Ned Price; former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council.

He resigned from the CIA because of President Trump taking over, and he is an Msnbc contributor.

Ned Price, I just want to get your reaction. This is basically -- sounds like it`s coming from a House Intelligence Committee staff, possibly members, a Democrat and Republican.

They`ve all now had access to the information that sent Devin Nunes on his trip to the White House a couple of times we now know.

Information that he in effect claims shocked him, Susan Rice looking at intelligence reports involving American persons and wanting to know the names of those American persons.

By the way, Susan Rice of course has not confirmed any of that. But what we`re hearing from staff looking at all of this is they certainly have seen nothing wrong in anything Susan Rice was described as doing by anyone.

NED PRICE, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR & SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, look, Lawrence, the fact of the matter is that we knew how this movie would end because --


PRICE: We`ve seen it before, in fact twice. You know, we`ve been watching what is essentially has been a trilogy unfold over the past couple of months.

In the premiere, you had Donald Trump issue this baseless wiretapping claim against his predecessor that was roundly debunked by both Democrats and Republicans.

In the sequel starring the hapless Devin Nunes, you have either White House attempting to launder intelligence through him until they were caught and this whole ruse was exposed for what it was.

And then in what I hope is the final installment of all this, you have Republicans in the White House now turning their ire to Susan Rice, who as you know has been their favorite antagonist in recent years and they`re going back to their playbook.

Look, when this story first came out, we heard from both Democrats and Republicans, national security veterans of all stripes who were familiar with unmasking and its procedures, including the rigorous checks that are imposed by the intelligence community.

All of them said that there was no there, there. And now that we`re hearing from both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that people that have actually seen what Devin Nunes got so excited about a couple of weeks ago and ran to the White House in between two press conferences to brief the president on.

Everyone, including his congressional staffers are saying there is no story. So, once again, these wild accusations, baseless accusations have been entirely debunked.

O`DONNELL: And Michael Isikoff, we know that if the Republicans could find anything in there to be used against Susan Rice in any way, that would be their goal.

They would love to be out there kind of leaking opposite bits of information.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, YAHOO NEWS: Sure, yes, but look, in some sense, this has already served its purpose for the White House. If you go back to when this all began, February 4th, Saturday morning, early Saturday morning tweet storm by the president, that was a moment when there was a lot of controversy and attention on Jeff Sessions.

And whether he misrepresented or lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

And there was a furor about that. And you know, look, I spoke to a White House official not long after who sort of, you know, mentioned, look, at least people aren`t talking about Jeff Sessions anymore.

This was a diversionary tactic that got people off what a lot of people were excited about at the time on to a side issue.

And you know, it derailed the House Intelligence Committee, it led to Devin Nunes having to step down.

It -- you know, we spent weeks talking about it. So from -- as a purely political matter, this was quite effective diversionary tactic by the Trump White House with the cooperation of Devin Nunes.

It didn`t advance the ball on the core investigation of the Russian interference in the election, but if the goal of the White House is to keep us off that ball, I think they -- you know, played it, it served their purposes.

O`DONNELL: Ned, the diversionary tactics do not serve the White House or the president well in terms of the public`s view of him.

We have a new poll saying that 36 percent now, 36 percent say that Donald Trump is honest and trustworthy.

And in February, before all of this stuff started, 42 percent said he was honest and trustworthy. So whatever he`s been up to in the -- over the last month or more has only taken that honest and trustworthy number down.

And that would include accusing President Obama of having committed that crime of wiretapping.

PRICE: Well, that`s right. And look, those numbers are important in a couple of different regards. One of course politically, domestically they`re especially important and we`re going to see how that plays out in places like Georgia`s sixth congressional district and elsewhere over the coming months and even a couple of years.

But I think we need to be more concerned with the president`s credibility in the international community, how he is viewed by his counterparts on the world stage.

If the president is viewed as someone who cannot keep a promise or does not know what he is talking about on a regular basis, that has dire national security implications for our country.

And I think we are now getting to a point where we have seen the president make statements, even in terms of national security, with this wiretapping claim and elsewhere that we`ll start to have those implications.

And I think we`ll start to see world leaders question even more the extent to which they can press -- they can trust President Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And Michael, China discovered it takes all of ten minutes to completely reverse Donald Trump`s thinking on issues involving China and North Korea.

And that was a message heard around the world.

ISIKOFF: Sure, but, look, I mean, there were issues that the president was dealing with, with China because he was focused on North Korea and trying to get Chinese cooperation in dealing with the very pressing issue of North Korea`s nuclear program.

So I don`t know that we should be too harsh on the president for not pushing his China agenda as articulated during the campaign right now when there are --

O`DONNELL: No, it`s not, Michael, it`s about --

ISIKOFF: More pressing issues --

O`DONNELL: It`s not a matter of being --


O`DONNELL: Harsh, it`s a matter of what are world leaders and what are other countries learning about President Trump on a daily basis?

And one of them is he is --

ISIKOFF: Right --

O`DONNELL: Willing to openly confess to rank ignorance involving the dynamics of China and North Korea.

And say that in ten minutes, he can be told by the head of state of another country some things that completely reverse his thinking.

And the details of that aren`t really what is an issue here. Other leaders in other countries can think about how they would use their ten minutes with Donald Trump.

ISIKOFF: Fair enough, fair enough. But I don`t think we should like minimize just how pressing that North Korean issue is.

And if that`s what General McMaster was telling him, he needed to focus on -- I`d give him some slack on that.

O`DONNELL: Michael Isikoff and Ned Price, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

PRICE: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mike Pence was in South Korea on Monday talking tough while the president`s national security adviser was sounding like every other national security adviser, talking to every other president who has dealt with North Korea.

So who should we believe? Donald Trump, Mike Pence, H.R. McMaster? This could be life or death for millions of South Koreans.



REPORTER: Any message for North Korea?


REPORTER: On north Korea, what`s your next move?

TRUMP: You`ll see.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The vice president was in South Korea on Monday visiting the DMZ and meeting with South Korea`s acting president, other officials. While in South Korea, the vice president delivered this message from president Trump.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president. In actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve. Strategic patience has been the approach of the last American administration and beyond. Over the past 18 months, North Korea has conducted two unlawful nuclear tests and an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests even conducting a failed missile launch as I traveled here for this visit.

The era of strategic patience is over.


O`DONNELL: Vice President Pence is now headed to Japan where the prime minister is urging North Korea to abandon nuclear missile development and refrain from taking any further provocative actions. Here is what national security adviser H.R. McMaster said yesterday about U.S. Allies` role in reducing the threat of military action.


H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It`s time for us to undertake all actions we can short of a military option to try to resolve this peacefully. And so we`re going to rely on our allies, like we always do. But we`re also going to have to rely on -- on Chinese leadership. So in the coming weeks, months, I think there is a great opportunity for all of us, all of us who are really under the threat now of this unpredictable regime to take action short of armed conflict.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Stephen Noerper Senior Director of the Korea Society and an adjunct professor of Korean politics at Columbia University. Professor, when I hear H.R. McMaster saying in the coming weeks or months, it sounds like he knows nothing is going to happen any time soon.

STEPHEN NOERPER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE KOREA SOCIETY: Let`s hope that`s the case, because certainly with the level of tensions right now, we need to find a way to de-escalate. So he has opened the window there. And hopefully that will guide us forward, especially allowing time for coordination with the allies as he suggests.

O`DONNELL: Now the presumption in the past has been strategic patience was the only option because any military strike on North Korea would instantaneously produce massive casualties in South Korea. Is there any reason to doubt that?

NOERPER: No. There is no reason to doubt that.

O`DONNELL: Would North Korea take a military hit from the United States and not retaliate towards South Korea in any way?

NOERPER: No. That`s unlikely because they have a large disposition of artillery, tens of thousands of artillery that are pointed towards Seoul. So, that`s a population of about 25 million people. Furthermore, we don`t know in the event of a military strike if they`re able to take out all of the facilities because many of those are under ground. So that`s one of the reasons that you`ve seen South Korea and Japan show some opposition.

O`DONNELL: What did Mike Pence learn in South Korea today? What did the South Korean tell him?

NOERPER: They told him they needed a message of reinforcement. And that`s what I think he was trying to deliver. His father is a Korean War veteran. And he was signaling something about the U.S.-Korea relationship, the strength of that and the resolve. But he took that a step further and talked about the resolve of his boss and President Trump`s inclination and suggested don`t challenge that.

O`DONNELL: Did the South Koreans tell him don`t risk our lives?

NOERPER: They said that in - in so many words. It`s a time of political transition. They have an election on May 9th. And they want to stem any type of concern there is large scale public concern this last weekend that the U.S. Could go at alone. So it was meant to signal that, that`s not going to be the case.

O`DONNELL: Is there any - is there any faction in South Korea that says yes, do a military strike of North Korea?

NOERPER: Oh, there is a very small, small minority. A small rightwing faction.

O`DONNELL: Willing to take that risk?

NOERPER: They would be willing. But that`s a minuscule number. And the vast number of Koreans have lived with the North Korean threat and are used to it. But they`re concerned about the escalation. They know an unpredictable Kim Jong Un. But they`re not certain now about the United States.

O`DONNELL: What does it feel like now to have an unpredictable president of the United States?

NOERPER: Well that`s - that`s what really caused them some worry. And so they need to hear the message reinforced that the U.S.-Korea alliance still stand strong. That the U.S. is there to back them but that the U.S. will consult the South Korea and Japan, its other ally.

O`DONNELL: So, when we were hearing what sounded like combative sounds from Mike Pence today, you were hearing something else. You - you were hearing something more traditional, in fact?

NOERPER: I heard something traditional in terms of the reassurance to South Korea. And that is what his visit to the DMZ also signals. But he was clearly trying to say strategic patience is over as did Rex Tillerson earlier. And was trying to say don`t mess with Donald Trump on this. So he was signaling a harder line, a stronger line than we heard from any other administration.

O`DONNELL: Professor, Stephen Noerper thank you very much for joining us tonight.

NOERPER: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yes. It`s Donald Trump versus Donald Trump on Donald Trump`s tax returns. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: President Trump wants to do the biggest tax cut in history involving personal tax provisions, corporate tax provisions, and commercial real estate tax provisions that might or might not affect him as a taxpayer. We of course have no idea which of the tax laws affect him because we`re not allowed to see his tax returns. Here is Donald Trump versus Donald Trump on Donald Trump`s tax return.


TRUMP: Maybe I`m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate. If I decide to run for office, I`ll produce my tax returns, absolutely. Maybe when we find out the true story on Hillary`s emails - I will absolutely give my return but I`m being audited now for two or three years.

So I can`t do it until the audit is finished. At the appropriate time I will release them. But right now I`m under routine audit. Nobody cares. You know the only one who cares about my tax returns are the reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t think the American public is concerned about that.

TRUMP: At least I won. I mean I became president. No. I don`t think they care at all.


O`DONNELL: Of course, all presidents since Richard Nixon have released their tax returns every year of the presidency. So has the vice president. And all of those presidents` tax returns have been under audit when they release them because it has been IRS policy for decades now to automatically audit the tax returns of the president and the vice president. No president or vice president have ever seen that mandatory audit as a reason not to release their tax returns.

Joining us now, Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, he is now the vice chair of the citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington. Richard I want to go to this point about the automatic audits of the president and vice president`s returns. That`s a policy that has been in place for a while. And partially it was to protect the president so that there wouldn`t be any embarrassing mistakes in the returns.

And then there was also the notion that the president`s returns should be held to a high standard.

RICHARD PAINTER, VICE CHAIR OF THE CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well absolutely yes. You don`t want to have the president of the United States filing a tax return that is incorrect and underpaying his tax that would be a terrible source of embarrassment. So the president`s returns are audited every year, and also every president has released his tax return. And President Trump is the first president that has refused to release his tax returns.

And I think that`s going have very serious consequences. There is no way he is going to be able to get this so-called tax reform bill through congress. First of all, most of the proposals I`ve seen don`t provide bumpus for the middle class anyway. And that problem is complicated if you have a billionaire president who won`t release his tax returns so you don`t know which loop holes he is benefitting from.

And it could be very well be a situation where the so-called tax reform bill just opens up more loopholes for people like Donald Trump and at least the rest of us paying more tax. And that`s not exactly what we elected him to do.

O`DONNELL: I want to good back to the automatic audit for a moment because this is something that has gotten really no public attention. Donald Trump presumably will be filing his tax return or an extension for his tax return in the next 24 hours if he hasn`t already. Is it within the president`s power to say to the IRS no more automatic audits of the president and vice president`s tax return?

PAINTER: Oh, I think he could do that and say no more automatic audits. It`s there to protect him. If he doesn`t want it I guess he doesn`t want it.

But he is getting audited anyway because he`s had very complex business operations. He could very well have had some tax problems in earlier years. Of course, we don`t know that because he won`t release his returns. What he cannot do is protect himself or any other individual from the routine audits that the IRS and sometimes not so routine audits that the IRS has to detect tax fraud.

He has to pay his taxes like everybody else. And he is subject to audit like everybody else. But if he wants to dispense with the automatic audit of the President, well, fine so be it. He has dispensed with almost everything else with respect to taxes and transparency that has been by previous Presidents. And they may want to dispense with that too.

O`DONNELL: And would that necessarily become public if Donald Trump were to communicate to the IRS Director I don`t want the President and Vice President`s returns automatically audited anymore? Would that -- would there be a public record left of that?

PAINTER: Probably, yes, I think they`d be making a change in the regulations. They would probably have to do that through a public change or that could be obtained through Freedom of Information Act, that type of a change because that`s been a policy. It`s been in place for a long time to protect the President, to assure the American people that the President is paying his fair share of taxes.

And if President Trump doesn`t want to do that, I wouldn`t be surprised that he says he doesn`t want that type of audit. But I think he is going to get audited any way because he has been audited as a private citizen and probably for good reason.

O`DONNELL: Richard Painter, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

PAINTER: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: Democrats hoping to embarrass President Trump and Republicans tomorrow in that special election in Georgia where the Democrat is way, way, way ahead in a Republican Congressional district. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: We have Breaking Twitter news tonight. Breaking Donald Trump, Twitter news tonight moments ago, he just Tweeted with 11 Republican candidates running in Georgia on Tuesday for Congress a run off will be a win. Vote R for lower taxes and safety. Talk about lowering expectations.

That was President Trump`s his second Tweet today about tomorrow`s special election In Georgia to fill a seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. President Trump also recorded this robocall that`s going out there.


TRUMP: Hello, this is President Donald Trump. Liberal Democrats from outside of Georgia are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to take your Republican Congressional seat away from you. Don`t let them do it. Tomorrow there`s a special election for congress in Georgia.

Only you can stop the super liberal democrats and Nancy Pelosi`s group and in particular Jon Ossoff. If you don`t vote tomorrow Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants.


O`DONNELL: So if you don`t vote tomorrow, Jon Ossoff apparently become king of the United States and he alone will raise your taxes according to Donald Trump, destroy your health care and flood the country with illegal immigrants. There are 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives tonight. If Jon Ossoff wins it will be a 194.

There are 237 Republicans in the House of Represenatives tonight Jon Ossoff is a 30 year old first time candidate. He`s raised $8.3 million and leading in the poles by 28 points. Georgia`s sixth district represents the suburbs of North Atlanta. It`s the same seat once held by Newt Gingrich.

And it`s been held by Republicans for the last 38 years. Donald Trump is not the best Republican to help get out the vote in that district. He won the district by only one vote in that election in November. Here`s how Jon Ossoff reacted to President Trump today.


JON OSSOFF, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I appreciate his interest in the race. I think he`s misinformed about my views and my priorities. I`m focused on local economic development in Metro Atlanta. Focused on how we can cut wasteful spending to prioritize infrastructure and higher education, to develop Metro Atlanta into a Silicon Valley of the south and reach our full economic potential.


O`DONNELL: That doesn`t sound like Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare and flood our country with illegal immigrants. My next guest explains how he helped Jon Ossoff raise 1 million -- at least one of the $8 million that he raised getting this campaign started. That`s next.



MELISSA MCCARTHY, AMERICAN ACTRESS: Happy Easter, everybody. Oh, and by the way, the President`s probably going to bomb North Korea tonight. OK, Spicey`s gotta hippity hop and deliver these eggs and everybody just eat as much candy as you want because this is probably our last Easter on earth,




SAMUEL L. JACKSON, AMERICAN ACTOR: Remember what happened the last time people stayed at home, we got stuck with Trump. We have to channel the great vengeance and fury saying that we have for this administration into votes at the ballot box. Do your friends and family a favor hell do yourself a favor and vote on April 18th and make sure to vote for the Democratic Party.


O`DONNELL: That was Samuel L. Jackson actually doing a commercial for free. Using his powers for good urging Democrats in Georgia`s sixth district to get out and vote in tomorrow`s special election. Joining us now, David Nir. He`s the Political Director of Daily Coast and you guys were there from the start on this candidacy getting his funding super charged? you delivered about a million to this campaign?

DAVID NIR, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, DAILY KOS: That`s right, we did. We endorsed Jon Ossoff very early on. We were impressed by the fact that Congressman John Lewis endorsed him. And our community responded, a grass root responded like gangbusters. We raised over $400,000 for him in our first week. It broke all records. And yes, it`s a sign of just the enormous enthusiasm for his campaign.

O`DONNELL: How do you account for the other $7 million that poured in?

NIR: I think there was this positive feedback loop that our initial injection of money help earn Ossoff media attention and that helped him raise more money and so on.

O`DONNELL: There`s a crowd of Republicans. There`s four Republicans polling there, and they poll up around 40 percent to his 45. What`s surprising is, we don`t see a little crowd of Democrats creating a problem to have one of the Democrats emerged. Did other Democrats just get out of the way and let him go?

NIR: You know there are a few other Democrats running but the party really united around Ossoff. He presented a compelling figure and the grassroots really just felt he was the perfect guy to channel their feelings about what`s going wrong in this country and the party`s united from top to bottom behind him.

O`DONNELL: And Donald Trump has jumping in robocalls, tweets -- multiple Tweets on this today. Surely there will be TWEETS tomorrow?

NIR: Oh yes, I mean he was trying to set expectations like you said, I think it`s amazing he`s trying to do that, the fact that we`re talking about a runoff is amazing, the notion that that`s the upside for Republicans. This shouldn`t even be competitive -

O`DONNELL: The Republicans desperately trying to just get to a runoff in a district that they`ve owned for 38 years.

NIR: Yes, it`s truly remarkable like the Kansas race that we saw last week where they desperately had to jump in at the last minute. Republicans should not be having to sweat these slam dunks and yet here we are.

O`DONNELL: The Ossoff as a candidate, you`ve been watching him more than the rest of us have. How is he performing?

NIR: I think he`s done a stellar job, an amazing job both of channeling this energy from the grassroots and also delivering a message that really resonates with his district. I have no complaints, particularly for a first time candidate. I think he`s great.

O`DONNELL: you watch that response to Trump today. You can`t shake him?

NIR: Yes, absolutely not. He definitely has tremendous poise.

O`DONNELL: David Nir, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. David Nir gets tonight`s last word. The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR ANCHOR: Tonight the man still new on the job comes to grips with the dangerous force and limits of U.S. power as North Korea warns of nuclear war at any moment.


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