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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 4/18/2017

Guests: Latetia James, Wendy Sherman, John Mclaughlin, Karine Jean-Pierre, Josh Barro, Peter Wehner, Letitia James, Angelo Carusone

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 18, 2017 Guest: Latetia James, Wendy Sherman, John Mclaughlin, Karine Jean-Pierre, Josh Barro, Peter Wehner, Letitia James, Angelo Carusone RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC:  On which we learned boring things about presidents - - in years past started in scandal with the Nixon administration in the early 1970s.

And once again, this is yet another thing for which something that was a scandal in the Nixon White House now seems quaint in comparison to what we are living through right now just as day-to-day Trump news.

That does it for us tonight, we will 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, what about the tax cut -- I -- by the way, I refuse to use the phrase tax reform.

That is not what the Republicans are talking about.  They`re talking about a massive tax cut.

What about legislating the massive tax cut when we don`t know which of these provisions will mean how many millions to Donald Trump personally?

MADDOW:  Exactly, and the little bit of taxes that we have seen, the two pieces -- two pages of federal tax return that we got and premiered on this show and that you and I talked about show that already, just with those little bits of tax information that we got from him, his tax cut, tax reform proposals would benefit him to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, even just in that one year.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, one of the many reasons of the modern tradition has become what it is, is that these people are legislating in the tax area and everyone wants to know, OK, how does it affect the president?

MADDOW:  The question is now that he`s broken that tradition, how do we get it back?

O`DONNELL:  I think just by having another president.  I think that`s all it takes to get almost all of these traditions back, just --


Another president --


Thanks, Rachel, thank you --

MADDOW:  Thanks Lawrence --

O`DONNELL:  Well, we are watching the special election in Georgia tonight to see if the Democrats can win a Republican seat.

It has been Republican for 38 years in Georgia.  That Republican district is now being led tonight in the returns by the Democrat.

We`re joined now by Kasie Hunt who is there at the campaign headquarters.  Kasie, what is the latest that we have on this?

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC:  Well, Lawrence, I have to tell you there has been a little bit of a shift just in the course of the last 90 minutes or so.

When the first votes came in, those were the early votes people who had voted before election day.

It was trending very much for Jon Ossoff, they were getting numbers that both my Republican and Democratic sources were saying would lead him to potentially break that 50 percent ceiling that would have him win this seat outright instead of facing a run-off in June with a top Republican finisher.

That has all changed over the course of the last hour and a half as more returns have come in, and those are election day returns.

Of course, Republican voters here having to decide among 11 candidates instead of having one person consolidate their field.

So the Republican thinking was, OK, that`s going to break later.  And look, so far it`s looking like it has.

And this is trending towards a run-off at this point, Lawrence, although we do not know that yet definitively.

A lot of this vote is still out, historically these counties have counted their vote rather slowly.

Although, we are expecting -- we may get some in here before the end of the next hour or so that will let us feel a little bit more definitive about this race.

It`s still looking like Ossoff will get very close to 50 percent at this point if there is still a run-off.

So Democrats at this point are trying to call that a win.  But the expectations at this point were really -- the true victory here was going to mean breaking 50 percent.

That was the expectation, I would say Republicans on background were trying to set for this race.

And it`s one that I think Ossoff has gotten a little bit locked into.  So he isn`t able to crack that, and I think this is going to be viewed as less of a significant sign for Democrats going forward as they try to push forward against Donald Trump, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Kasie, any time estimate about when this might -- this election might be called?

HUNT:  So I`m relying on our crack political unit team, they have just set the latest update that we have here, says that they are counting these votes a little bit faster than has happened traditionally.

And so we should know more within the hour about the outcome of this race, so we will certainly keep you posted.

But again, this is just guidance at this point, Lawrence, so we can`t report anything definitively here.

O`DONNELL:  All right, Kasie, we`ll be back to you when we know more.  Kasie Hunt, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it.

HUNT:  Thanks.

O`DONNELL:  Well, Donald Trump, it turns out, in Iowa anyway is indefensible.  That`s what it came down to today for Republican Senator Joni Ernst at a town hall in Iowa.

She finds Donald Trump completely indefensible as a person, and she has a very serious policy disagreement with President Trump.

They were in the opposite sides of of that policy today.  Here is some of Joni Ernst`s very long answer today when she was asked how she could support a man who treats women the way Donald Trump does.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA:  I think I support a majority of the policies versus the actual person.  But I decry, you know, I would decry any time -- any time a person is ugly towards another person, I don`t think that`s appropriate. 

So how did I feel about him? Again, policy-wise, we disagreed on policies.

But he treated me -- he was very nice to me when I met him face-to-face.  So going back to actual policies, if we agree on policies, I`m going to be supportive.

If we disagree on policies, we`re going to disagree, period.  But I think I am a strong woman, and I think I`m a strong woman, and I think there are a lot of strong women out there that will come out and any time he makes comments, you know, we`re going to say that`s not appropriate, it`s not appropriate.


O`DONNELL:  The only thing that Donald Trump has won so far in his presidency is the championship for weekend travel spending by a president.

And when Joni Ernst was asked about that today, she sounded like a very polite Democrat.


ERNST:  With the trips to Florida, I do wish that he would spend more time in Washington D.C., that`s what we have the White House for.

And we would love to see more of those State Department visits in Washington D.C.  I think it`s smart that he does business in Washington D.C.  So I`ve had those same concerns myself, so I agree.


O`DONNELL:  When she was asked why Donald Trump and his daughter still manufacture goods that they sell overseas, she said this.


ERNST:  Maybe he puts his money where his mouth is and brings some of those jobs here.


O`DONNELL:  Maybe -- indefensible.  Joni Ernst will not defend anything about Donald Trump the person, Donald Trump the businessman.

She said last month that Donald Trump should release his tax returns.  She said basically what Elizabeth Warren said about that today.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  He promised during the campaign that he would reveal his taxes.  In fact, how many clips have you got here?

He would reveal them after this, he would reveal them after that -- oh, then he`d put it off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think he ever will?

WARREN:  I don`t know, but I`ll tell you this.  I think that people are going to keep demanding it and they`re going to keep demanding it and making their voices heard on this.


O`DONNELL:  Joni Ernst is one of the Republicans in the Senate who is demanding that, who wants Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Senate Republicans like Joni Ernst know that passing the big tax cut that they want to pass is going to be much more difficult with voters wondering which of the tax cuts are a gold mine for Donald Trump and his family.

And on policy, Joni Ernst could not have disagreed more with what Donald Trump had to say today in Wisconsin.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  NAFTA has been very bad for our country.  It`s been very bad for our companies and for our workers.

And we`re going to make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all.  Cannot continue like this, believe me.


O`DONNELL:  Joni Ernst and most people in Iowa want NAFTA to continue exactly like this.  Why? In Iowa, the answer is always corn.  Corn is king and Mexico loves Iowa corn.

Mexico imported 13.8 million tons of American corn last year.  And Mexico was planning on importing at least that much, maybe more this year and then Donald Trump happened.

And now Mexico is trying to make deals to import its corn from Argentina and other countries.

Agricultural officials from Argentina are very excited about this.  They`ve been having meetings with Mexican government officials.

Meetings to which Donald Trump is of course completely oblivious.  Those meetings are scaring people in Iowa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My concerns is with NAFTA and what`s your feelings with that and how to continue with that.

ERNST:  For NAFTA, actually, Iowa has benefited a lot because of our commodities.  Perhaps we could do some tweaks and renegotiation with NAFTA, but we certainly want to protect our Iowa interests and make sure that we are exporting the commodities that we are raising on our farms.


O`DONNELL:  It turns out there`s someone working in the White House who knows exactly what Joni Ernst is talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As the nation`s sixth largest corn producer, Indiana benefited directly under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Additionally under NAFTA, Mexico eliminated import licensing and is phasing out tariffs for wheat altogether.

Wheat exports to Mexico have doubled from Indiana since 1994.  So you can see that our existing trade agreements have truly benefited Indiana and the entire United States.


O`DONNELL:  So what is Donald Trump going to do about NAFTA? Exactly what he did to Obamacare -- nothing.        

Because what Donald Trump wants to do to NAFTA is indefensible in Iowa and California and all the other big agricultural states -- nothing.

That`s what`s going to happen on NAFTA.  Joining us now, Peter Wehner; senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He worked in the last three Republican administrations and was a senior aide to President George W. Bush.

Also with us Josh Barro; senior editor for "Business Insider" and an Msnbc contributor.  Josh, Joni Ernst in that town hall today, whenever they were talking about Donald Trump the person, not a single positive thing to say.

And it was more than a struggle to find policy agreements for her with Donald Trump, especially when you consider just how important NAFTA has been in the Trump world of promises that we heard him remake today.

JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR, BUSINESS INSIDER:  On the personal stuff, I don`t understand why more Republicans don`t take this strategy.

You see them going these blind alleys defending his decisions not to release his tax returns.  I don`t think you need to defend that in order to retain the support of Trump supporters.

People didn`t vote for Donald Trump because they love that he didn`t release his tax returns.

I understand why Republicans don`t want to go out and attack him viciously for that, but it seems easy enough to say, yes, I think he should release his taxes.

But I agree with him on this and I disagree with him on this.  So I think that`s smart, and it also reflects, you know, she`s had a longstanding practice of keeping the president at arm`s length.

You know, remember she was being considered for a possible running mate for him, she then withdrew herself from consideration --

O`DONNELL:  She -- when they were looking at vice presidential possibilities, she was one of the people who said no, thank you.

BARRO:  Yes, she was the only woman on that list.

O`DONNELL:  Yes --

BARRO:  So I think that -- I think she has realized that, you know, Trump did well in Iowa, she shouldn`t be attacking Trump, but she`s able to keep him at arm`s length.

On trade, I think -- you know, I think there`s a split in this -- in the Midwest.  Trump did very well in the Midwest, but the Midwest sort of breaks down into two economic regions.

You have the Rust Belt places where you can really make a strong argument that trade has hurt labor markets.

You have blue collar workers in places like Ohio and Michigan who might well have been better off without NAFTA.

But in places like Iowa --

O`DONNELL:  Right --

BARRO:  Where agriculture is such a dominant industry, it`s really clear that trade has been good for them, also unemployment is low in those areas.

So it`s not as much of a concern about whether jobs are being shipped overseas.  So I think it makes a lot of sense that she`s breaking with him on that.

O`DONNELL:  Peter, on the Trump tax returns, we`ve seen Republicans in town halls where they try to say something defensive about it.

We saw Tom Cotton saying to his audience the other day -- well, I understand they`re under audit.

Of course, every president who has submitted -- who`s made his tax returns public has been under audit at a time because it`s an automatic IRS policy --


O`DONNELL:  To audit the president`s tax returns.  And you see Tom Cotton get booed when he does that.  What I have not seen is whenever a Republican says, yes, he should release his tax returns.

I`ve never heard any boos.  I`ve never heard --

WEHNER:  Yes --

O`DONNELL:  The point Josh was just making.  I`ve never heard any Republicans in the audience boo in protection of hiding Donald Trump`s tax returns.

WEHNER:  Yes, I think that`s right.  I actually think that Joni Ernst is a preview of coming attractions.

I think you`re going to see more and more Republicans taking her posture.  And over time, as Trump`s failures mount up and his successes diminish, they are going to create more and more distance from him.

I saw Tom Cotton with that town hall, and then he looked silly trying to defend what he knew was indefensible.

So Republicans are in a box, and they`re also going to find out that it`s going to be in their self-interest to distance themselves from him.

He`s an extremely in fact an unprecedentedly unpopular president.  We`ve got these town halls where the crowds are really juiced up and jacked up against the Republicans.

You`ve got this race in the Georgia sixth a couple of weeks ago with Mike Pompeo`s seat in Kansas, it was much closer than it should have been.

So, look, this is an administration that is in trouble and the Republican Party is in trouble.  And I think the important thing to bear in mind is this is in trouble in the first 90 days of his presidency.

This is supposed to be the apex of popularity.  So this is -- this is a lot of trouble early on.

O`DONNELL:  First president in modern history to have failed on his first big legislative effort which was the Obamacare repeal and replace.

WEHNER:  That`s right.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what he said about that today.


TRUMP:  I think we are going to have a big win soon because we`re going to have healthcare, and I believe that`s going to happen.

And, you know, there was no like loss with healthcare.  This is just a constant negotiation and the plan is getting better and better all the time.

We`re going to have some great legislative victories in the very near future.  And I think one of them is going to be healthcare and I think the other one is going to be tax reform.


O`DONNELL:  Josh, healthcare is never coming back, this is just talk, obviously.  I don`t -- I`m not going to waste the little limited time we have on it.

NAFTA, much more serious problem because they`re not going to do anything on it.  The only thing more complex legislatively than healthcare is trade, is international trade.

To reopen a NAFTA negotiation is something that this Congress is totally incapable of doing.  Takes years to do and has a complexity level that nobody there can handle, so that`s going to be a zero.

And they don`t even have a tax cut plan available to even look at yet.

BARRO:  Well, and then before any of this, the next thing that has to come on the legislative calendar is a bill to keep the government open.

O`DONNELL:  Yes --

BARRO:  A government shutdown if they don`t pass a bill by April 28th to do that.  And the president sent down the sort of ridiculous budget about deeply cutting the State Department and the National Institutes of Health to pay for a wall, to pay for military expansion.

And people in Congress have basically been ignoring this document.  The spending bill that comes through is going to have to get 60 votes in the Senate which means Democrats will have to agree to it.

Which means any increase in military spending will have to come with increases in domestic spending, not cuts in domestic spending.

So the bill that comes out there is going to be a total defeat for the president on policy assuming that Paul Ryan is able to get any bill at all out of the House of Representatives.

So, you know, the president could veto that bill if it gets to his desk and shut down the government.  But I think coming off healthcare fight, the White House is not eager to cause a government shutdown.

So in addition to those things being stalled, the next big legislative event is going to be a defeat for President Trump.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and Peter, we had the Treasury Secretary this week publicly admitting there`s no chance to get to a tax bill before --

WEHNER:  Right --

O`DONNELL:  Labor Day.  And so we -- we may get through a first year --

WEHNER:  Right --

O`DONNELL:  Of zero legislative achievements in the Trump White House.

WEHNER:  Yes, and that underscores what I think is the most serious problem with the Trump administration so far which is, it is just stunningly inept and incompetent.

I mean, we`ve never seen anything like this.  These guys can`t govern their way out of a -- out of a paper bag.

We`ve really gone from reality television to reality.  You know, and Trump got away with a lot of promises and a lot of words during the campaign.

But in the end, when you`re president, you can`t do that.  In the end, reality matters.  You can`t escape, but you can try and outrun it for a while, but sooner or later, it catches up to you.

And reality is catching up to Donald Trump and it will catch up to the Republicans as well.  They are in a real jam.

And they have no idea, I don`t think how to get out of this.  They`ve -- as you said, their main is really marquee legislation was a belly flop.

And tax reform is tougher than repealing Obamacare and replacing it.

O`DONNELL:  Josh Barro, Peter Wehner, Peter, you tried to warn your fellow Republicans about this during the campaign.

You tried to describe reality, but here we are.  Thank you very much --

WEHNER:  Yes --

O`DONNELL:  For joining us again tonight, Peter, really appreciate it. 

WEHNER:  Thanks so much.

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, new reports tonight indicating that Bill O`Reilly may not be coming back to "Fox News".

It sounds like he is on the verge of being pushed out.  We will have all the latest details on that coming up.

And later, the Trump administration`s mixed signals to put it mildly on North Korea. 


O`DONNELL:  We`re waiting for results tonight in that special congressional election in Atlanta.  That`s the scene at Jon Ossoff`s headquarters in Atlanta.

That`s where everyone is concentrating.  There may be the possibility of a victory by Jon Ossoff tonight, if he gets 50 percent of the vote.

Then that would be it, if he doesn`t, then it will go to a run-off with the highest scoring Republican who would come in second.

We will be going back to Kasie Hunt there as the situation develops.  As of now, we think it is possible we`ll have a final call on this within this hour.


O`DONNELL:  We have breaking news at this hour in the Bill O`Reilly situation at "Fox News".

The Rupert Murdoch-owned "Wall Street Journal", and remember Rupert Murdoch also owns "Fox News".

Rupert Murdoch`s newspaper reporting ""Fox News" is preparing to cut ties with its biggest star Bill O`Reilly, according to people close to the situation."

I`m going to continue reading from this "Wall Street Journal" report saying "a final decision on Mr. O`Reilly`s fate could come as early as the next several days", the people said.

We have other reports tonight, one from "New York Magazine`s" Gabe Sherman saying "three sources with knowledge of the discussions said that while no final decision has been made, the Murdochs are leaning toward announcing that O`Reilly will not return to the air.

Sons James and Lachlan have been arguing that O`Reilly needs to go", say these sources.  "Though their father Rupert has resisted that outcome."

Also Brian Stelter at "Cnn" reporting tonight "21st Century "Fox" will hold a board meeting on Thursday.

One of the sources said O`Reilly will be a primary topic."  Nbc News has not confirmed that "Cnn" reporting.

This comes as yet another woman today alleged that Bill O`Reilly sexually harassed her.  Here`s what her lawyer Lisa Bloom told Msnbc`s Chris Hayes.


LISA BLOOM, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  She alleges that she was a clerical worker at "Fox News" in 2008.  She did not work directly for Bill O`Reilly but for a different broadcaster who she says was a great boss.

But she says that Bill O`Reilly would come by her desk on a regular basis and make offensive comments and sounds to her.

She said he would grunt like an animal.  He would call her hot chocolate.  She`s African-American.  He would say -- when they were alone in an elevator together and she got off first, he`d say looking good, girl.

And while any of these comments taken alone might not be all that bad, she said he never spoke to her otherwise.

He never even said hello or how are you? And she was really quite frightened of him. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Letitia James; New York City public advocate.  Also with us Angelo Carusone; he`s a president of media matters.

And Letitia, I just want to get your reaction to what Lisa Bloom just described.

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE:  It`s really offensive as an African-American woman.

But representing all women in the city of New York, it`s really offensive to all women to create a hostile climate where you demean women and when you basically sexually harass them each and every day.

When you create this climate, women are afraid to go to work, it`s really unacceptable.  And so I`m hoping that they do put Bill O`Reilly on a permanent vacation.

But more important than that, that they change the culture and reform the culture at "Fox News".

O`DONNELL:  Now as the public advocate in New York City, what powers do you have or what powers does the city of New York have to investigate this?

JAMES:  I serve as a trustee in one of the largest pension boards in this country.  We invest in "Fox News" and because "Fox News" failed to materially disclose that, in fact, that the settlements that they were in fact settlements, they reported the settlements as income.

And that I believe is in violation of the SEC rules in addition to the -- 

O`DONNELL:  Income to the recipients of the settlements? -- 

JAMES:  Correct, as opposed to settlements which in my mind represent hush money.

O`DONNELL:  And so in the bookkeeping of the corporation, a shareholder would see -- oh, this is all in the salary category --

JAMES:  Correct.  And those filings, they were made to SEC and in violation of SEC because you`re supposed to report accurate information and in fact, their filings are inaccurate.

And they deceive shareholders, and the shareholders that I represent who are retirees in the city of New York.

O`DONNELL:  Angelo, this latest reporting, we`ve had a series of reports tonight.  Gabe Sherman for first and then Brian Stelter second.

Third, and I think most importantly the "Wall Street Journal".  This is -- this newspaper is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

This newspaper -- there`s not a person there who would dare type a word about "Fox News" without taking the utmost care in checking sources.

And for them to be saying in the headline ""Fox" is preparing to cut ties with Bill O`Reilly".

It`s hard to imagine the Murdochs letting their own newspaper print a headline like that if it wasn`t true.

ANGELO CARUSONE, PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  Indeed, and that`s just not reflected on the insider side at "Fox News".  It`s also reflected on the opposite side because they`re hearing an awful lot right now from not just their advertisers.

All those that have dropped O`Reilly, all those that have refused to ever buy ads on O`Reilly going forward.

But they`re also hearing from the media buyers as they move into their up fronts next month, which is when they actually sell all their 2018 inventory.

And what they`re hearing is that it`s not just about Bill O`Reilly.  The advertisers are deeply concerned that this is reflective of a much bigger epidemic at "Fox News".

And rightfully so, given that one of the co-presidents was very much involved in the cover-ups against the people that came forward against Roger Ailes, as well as the women that have come forward against Bill O`Reilly and they re-signed a contract with Bill O`Reilly knowing full well.

And so the advertising community is not just saying this is about O`Reilly, they are gearing up to drop "Fox".  And so that`s what the executives at "Fox News" are dealing with.

I mean, they need -- they`re dealing with a long-term and a short-term business crisis.  And so they don`t really have a choice anymore.

This is not them acting responsive to something that they should have taken care of a long time ago.

This is because of really hard work.  Like groups like Ultra Violet that have put survivors out there to actually tell their stories.

Organizations like Sleeping Giants -- I mean, this had to be forced. "Fox News" needed to be forced to do this by their own business associates.

O`DONNELL:  One of Bill O`Reilly`s lawyers tonight issuing a statement saying "Bill O`Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America."

This apparently, Letitia is a lawyer who hasn`t seen all the character assassination done by President Trump on a daily basis, which is much wilder, has no basis in fact whatsoever.

And of course, O`Reilly has palled around with Trump as much as possible.  Trump supporting O`Reilly in this situation.

Can you imagine now, where this story stands tonight with this new accusation that we`ve just heard Lisa Bloom describe, which is as I believe as anything else we`ve heard about O`Reilly, to put it mildly.

Can you imagine him coming back from this two-week vacation in the middle of next week without some kind of full revelation by "Fox News" that we`ve investigated and there`s absolutely no substance to any of these things?

JAMES:  No, he should be put on a permanent vacation.  He should be fired and women all across this country should raise their voices and open up their pocketbooks and book with their money and tell all of the advertisers that they should not advertise with "Fox News" and that network as a whole.

They put the interest of Bill O`Reilly over the interest of victims who have been victimized at "Fox News" over the interest of women.

What kind of message are you sending to little girls and to women overall? We need a climate which is not hostile to women and to people of color.

And we need to send a strong and powerful message to "Fox News" that it is totally unacceptable and the same message needs to be sent to the president of these United States that women should be respected at the work place.

O`DONNELL:  Knowing what you know about investigations like this, is it conceivable that the law firm could in two weeks conduct a satisfactory investigation of Bill O`Reilly`s 15 years of accusations in this -- in this territory?

JAMES:  No, because the law firm again is being retained by "Fox News", it`s their inherent conflict.  We need an independently --

O`DONNELL:  Law firm represents Fox News and they`re investigating Bill O`Reilly at Fox News?

JAMES:  At the same time.  It is an inherent conflict.  And so as a result of that we need an independent investigation.  I have also called on division for human rights in the New York City to engage in an independent investigation to investigate allegations of sexual harassment as well as racial discrimination. 

O`DONNELL:  And they have jurisdictional powers to do that? 

JAMES:  They have jurisdiction because Fox News is located in New York City.  And as a New York City public advocate I have long asked them to launch that investigation. 

O`DONNELL:  Letitia James thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. 

JAMES:  Thank you so much. 

O`DONNELL:  Angelo thank you for joining us tonight on this breaking news.  I really appreciate it, thank you.  Coming up the situation with North Korea`s leader is perplexing to put it mildly.  And the Trump administration has been perplexing to follow on this. 



CHARLES BENSON, AMERICAN TV REPORTER:  How concerned and worried should Americans be about a thermo nuclear war with North Korea? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, you always have to be concerned.  You don`t know exactly who you`re dealing with.  I had a great, great meeting with the president of China and that meeting tells me a lot.  It`s a very, very tricky situation. 

This should have been done by President Obama.  It should have been done by previous presidents all the way back to Clinton, and everybody pushed it off.  Now I`m put in a position where he actually has nuclear and we`re going to have to do something about it.  Hopefully he wants peace and we want peace, and that`s going to be the end determination. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Wendy Sherman, former U.S. Under Secretary of State Political Affairs, Ambassador Sherman is also a senior counselor at Albright Stone Bridge Group.  Also with us John McLaughlin Former Acting Director of the CIA, Ambassador Sherman, what is your reaction to what you just heard the president say? 

WENDY SHERMAN, FMR UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  I think that the president is trying to have it always and he`s not clear about what he`s doing.  I think probably the most disturbing news for me today was that the Carl Vinson and the aircraft carriers weren`t really headed to North Korea, as both secretary Mattis and the president said and Sean Spicer. 

And that although it has long been the case that administrations have used the threat of force in service of diplomacy, I`m not sure exactly what the president is doing and I`m not sure he knows what he`s doing.  Tactics, important as they are, are not a policy.  And I`m not sure where the president`s headed. 

O`DONNELL:  John McLaughlin, what about the president`s insistence that it`s good that he does not say what he`s thinking or what he is intending to do? 

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FMR ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CIA:  Well, I think that is not a bad thing, but on the other hand, I do believe that it`s time that the United States through whatever channels we have, principally through the Chinese and as directly as we can, communicate to the North Koreans.  What our preferences are and where we stand.  This is a time when we should make our view clear. 

But I think steer clear of a military confrontation with what is really an unpredictable dictator here. 

O`DONNELL:  Ambassador Sherman, the -- the vice-president that was very clear in saying that the era of strategic patience is over.  What is the new era? 

SHERMAN:  Well, I think that`s exactly the point, Lawrence.  We`re not sure what the new era is.  It`s quite clear to me that what we need to do to try to take on North Korea is use all of the tools at our disposal.  It is right to show that we have the military option, but it is also right as John has just said that it is an option of last resort.  We ought to be using our public diplomacy. 

We ought to be using our diplomacy.  We ought to be using much tougher sanctions, work with China in the way perhaps the president has begun, but it`s not clear to me where that relationship is headed.  You know, unpredictability is good as a tactical matter, but credibility matters a great deal.  And given the stakes here, and that it could lead to either a conventional war or a god for bid, a nuclear war, the president`s credibility is critical and it`s not clear that our allies trust that the South Koreans are very nervous at the moment. 

And I think it was good that Vice-President Pence went to the region to reassure, but I`m not sure that anybody is quite reassured yet. 

O`DONNELL:  John McLaughlin, the CIA is known to work up psychological profiles to the extent that they can of foreign leaders, in certain ways foreign regimes to try to anticipate their reactions to certain things.  What do we know about North Korea`s reaction to the kind of talk we`ve been hearing from President Trump?  Clearly President Trump is trying to sound more threatening than his predecessors. 

How does that land in North Korea? 

MCLAUGHLIN:  Well, one of the difficult things right now is that this new leader has never been met by an American official.  So, we don`t know a lot about how he reacts.  My sense is that he is not as disciplined, not as informed, perhaps not as rational as his father, Kim Jong-Il was.  And so, I think when they hear the kind of things that they`re hearing they`re a little confused by it. 

I think that`s a bad thing because here`s the main point I would make.  There are eight countries in the world with nuclear weapons.  This is the only one with which we don`t have some means of communication one way or another, negotiations or informal communications.  And, so, I think anything that leaves them confused is a bad thing. 

O`DONNELL:  Could you just go back to his father for a moment?  And -- and imagine for --


O`DONNELL:  Kim Jong-Il being on the other end --


O`DONNELL:  Of these -- of what President Trump is saying these days.  How would he have reacted to this? 

MCLAUGHLIN:  Well, I think he was much better informed about the world.  He would know in great detail a lot about President Trump, and he would probably at this point be saying to himself, this is a new president who is still feeling his way.  We shouldn`t overreact to him.  Let`s see how he goes. 

Let`s play this by ear until we know him better.  The new guy is I think not reliably in the same category.  And, so, I think we have to be very careful how we deal with him.  You don`t want to get in a game of nuclear chicken with this fellow.  That would be -- doing that would make the Cuban Missile Crisis look like pin apple (ph). 

O`DONNELL:  Ambassador Sherman, it now seems that the President in -- in one moment is trying to sound as threatening as possible.  In the next moment he is saying he has outsourced the solution of this to China, talking about his great new relationship he now calls the President of China a terrific person.  And that he`s relying on the Chinese now to solve this problem. 

What`s your reaction to that part of the Trump approach? 

SHERMAN:  Well, my first reaction is when, in fact, the six-party talks were begun by President Obama with China sitting in the chair, the Republican Congress was quite furious because they thought we had outsourced the American National Security to China.  Of course, we had not.  It is really America that Kim Jong-Un and his father whom I spent some time with -- I don`t know whether that`s a privilege and honor or just a moment in history but also was about regime survival. 

This is really what motivates all of this dynasty in North Korea.  Anything to stay surviving and they see the United States as really the existential threat against them.  So working with China is absolutely critical.  They`re the ones who have the economic leverage here.  The President always talks about how good he is at the deal.  Well in fact the leverage here really is in our hands in terms of our military power and some of our economic power. 

But the real leverage here is China.  They are very worried about the consequence of any instability on the Korean peninsula.  Not only refugees coming across their borders but nuclear weapons with nobody in charge, no one in control, concerns about a reunified Korea that would be unified by the United States.  They`d lose their buffer and their geopolitical chip.  So, we need a lot of very close conversation with China so they use their leverage. 

And it is true that talking a little bit tough is helpful but that tough talk has to be backed up by very good sanctions, very good intelligence, very good military planning and very good diplomacy.  And right now President Trump doesn`t have the bench to support all that needs to be done to have any shot at success with North Korea and it`s not sure we can. 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to take a break here.  John McLaughlin, thank you for joining us again tonight, really appreciate it.  Coming up, the Whitehouse was left trying to explain the President`s congratulations to Turkey`s -- on Turkey`s vote to basically create a dictatorship there. 


O`DONNELL:  President Trump called the President of Turkey yesterday to, "congratulate him on his recent referendum victory." Back with us, ambassador Wendy Sherman.  Ambassador Sherman, this referendum, very close call and there`s questions about the legitimacy of the vote.  Also, this was a very strong consolidation of power in the President in Turkey such that people are saying this brings Turkey to the verge of dictatorship.  What was your reaction to the President`s call?

SHERMAN:  Well I was surprised that the President called so quickly.  We do have a complicated and important relationship with Turkey. They`re a NATO ally. We rely on Incirlik Air Bas for some of the bombing runs we make into Syria.

They border Syria, Iran and Iraq.  They are consequential.  They are the bridge between Europe and Asia.  All of that said, this concentration of power is of immense concern and it is quite clear that a commission is investigating whether, in fact, this was a free and fair referendum with a lot of concern that it was not.  I don`t think that most Turks believe it will get overturned but there is great concern.

No European leader called Erdogan.  People like Hamas called Erdogan to congratulate him.  If the President was going to call him, it seems to me he should have called and said, I have concerns about what`s happened here.  I know there is a commission that is going to take a look at it. I think that`s important.

I hope you will support them to do so.  Meanwhile, we want to continue our strong relationship where we need to work together. but to just out and out say, congratulations for grabbing this power is of great concern and should be to all of us throughout the world

O`DONNELL:  How common is it for Presidents to call about a referendum vote in another country?

SHERMAN:  It is quite unusual.  As I said, no European leader called, and there is great concern today as he`s gotten greater power, has much more power where judges and prosecutors are concerned, that he is in fact going to reinstate the death penalty in Turkey. In terms of Europe, that is a literal dead end.  Any chance that Turkey would ever be part of Europe which has always been a very, very tough road, will be at an end.

O`DONNELL:  Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you very much for joining us tonight, appreciate it.

SHERMAN:  Thank You

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, we`re going to go back to Georgia for the latest on that special Congressional Election In Atlanta tonight.


O`DONNELL:  That is a live shot of Jon Ossoff`s campaign headquarters in Atlanta during tonight`s vote counting now of that special congressional election there. Casey Hunt has reported to us that we will probably not have an outcome, it turns out, during this hour. we will not have a final result in that race.

Joining us now Karine Jean-Pierre, President Obama`s 2012 election campaign and former spokesperson for  It looks like Jon Ossoff is going to come close, may not get the 50 percent but a very powerful showing for a Democrat in a Republican district.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER:  that is absolutely right, Lawrence.  He over performed. If we look at the polling leading up to this election, he was in the low 40s.

It looks like he`s, you know, going to maybe make 50 plus one, probably not, but still be winning this election that Gingrich, a district Gingrich held, you know, a district that a Democrat hasn`t won in 37 years.  So, this is pretty surprising that we would be in this place six months after Tom Price won this district by 23 points.

O`DONNELL:  If this goes to a runoff versus a Republican, what changes in the dynamics?

JEAN-PIERRE:  I think -- I think that it will be a little tougher for Ossoff, even though he`ll probably get the most votes tonight and have a pretty significant win because what`s going to happen is Republicans are going to coalesce behind the number two.  And it`s going to be basically Ossoff dealing with a pretty much, I would assume, Republican message that`s directed at him solely.

So it will be tough.  The general election for this race will be in June. So, he would have to deal with this for a little bit longer.  But, you know, as we have seen, the momentum, the resistance is certainly on the Democratic side, and Democrats have taken this and turned this into an electoral win, if you will, or electoral -- to the ballot box, if you will.

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump put it all on the line in this Congressional District today, doing everything he could, tweeting constantly about it, and really trying to stop Jon Ossoff.  And here he is right now up at 50 percent, just over 50 percent of the vote. I think it`s about 67 percent reporting at this point.  So, this is not what Donald Trump wanted to see tonight.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, my guess -- my guess is if you asked the Republican locally in Georgia 6th, they probably would have said, not too helpful for Donald Trump to be tweeting or even doing robocalls because what they wanted to do was to keep this to local issues and not about Donald Trump.  And as we know, Democrats have been trying to make this a referendum on Donald Trump because of his, you know, failed policies and less than 100 days that have been pretty lackluster.

O`DONNELL:  Well, of course, if Ossoff doesn`t make it tonight, if he comes up short, then Trump will claim complete credit for having stopped him short.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, and the irony of that is he is the reason why Republicans are in this position.  As we know, Donald Trump won this district by 1.5 percent, which is, you know, which is a drag for Republicans absolutely since Tom Price, as we mentioned, won this pretty handedly six months ago. So yes so I think Donald Trump could say that, but he is the reason why republicans are having problems in many of these red districts.

O`DONNELL:  Karine Jean-Pierre thanks for joining us tonight.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to keep watching those returns.  We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL:  Here is what Jon Ossoff said about President Trump campaigning against him.


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.


O`DONNELL:  It looks like Brian Williams is going to get the chance to make the call in this race.  The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR HOST:  Tonight the breaking news out of Georgia, can the political newcomer, an upstart Democrat