The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 7/24/2017 Trump considering replacing AG Sessions

Guests: Richard Painter, Josh Barro, Charlie Sykes, David Jolly, Neera Tanden

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: July 24, 2017 Guest: Richard Painter, Josh Barro, Charlie Sykes, David Jolly, Neera Tanden

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And change tea party way of election. And we don`t know if that will result in anything in particular in the mid-term elections.

We don`t know if it means anything at all, but when you see a statistical jump like that, it`s probably going to mean something. 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: Good evening, Rachel, as we`ve become accustomed, "The Washington Post" broke a big story tonight.

Robert Costa is going to join us as our first guest --

MADDOW: Very good --

O`DONNELL: About this scoop about the president really is thinking about getting rid of his attorney general, bringing in a new one.

And the interesting report tonight is how he would do that including the possibility of a recess appointment --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: During the August recess, which skips the entire confirmation process and gives him an attorney general in a day.

MADDOW: Yes, and they`re admitting at the White House -- White House sources are admitting to "The Washington Post" now that the reason they want to do that is basically so it could start the process of getting rid of Bob Mueller.

So they are -- I mean, a recess appointment isn`t the only way to do it, it`s definitely the easiest way to do it. And boy does that put a spotlight on whether or not the Senate is going into recess.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and of course the president has been saying up to now anyway, they shouldn`t go into recess. They should stay here and work on health care. He might have a completely different idea about recess now.

MADDOW: Yes, that`s exactly -- and Mitch McConnell was willing to hold the Senate so that it never technically went into recess the whole time President Obama was president so he could never have a recess appointment.

He totally has the -- not just the president, but the ability to do that now in order to stop Donald Trump from doing something like this.

We shall see if Mitch McConnell has any appetite for doing that same thing.

O`DONNELL: Jeff Sessions will find out who his friends are --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Sooner rather than later. Starting to feel like --

MADDOW: That`s exactly right, my friend --

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, Jared Kushner spoke today, big news, we heard his voice, that little voice in the White House driveway. But he didn`t say much, he will have more to say tomorrow under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: My name is Jared Kushner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kushner spent two hours answering questions posed by staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

KUSHNER: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s still giving himself an out there, saying he wasn`t aware of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of behavior that was going on in that White House that makes me think this is how people would behave if they were guilty of colluding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, should Jeff Sessions resign?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump clearly feels aggrieved that Sessions recused himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he`s very conservative about this Russia investigation, maybe he has reason to be.

KUSHNER: Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists. He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured.

A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. Little Marco. Lying Ted. Low energy, Jeb Bush. You`re going to have such great healthcare, and it`s going to be so easy.

You`re going to get tired of winning.

KUSHNER: And that is why he won.

TRUMP: When you`re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the --

KUSHNER: It is an honor to work with President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We, the people of the United States of America are now the proud owners of the largest aircraft carrier in the world.

The president of the United States went to the commissioning of that aircraft carrier this weekend. It is named the Gerald R. Ford.

President Trump said nothing in his remarks about how Gerald R. Ford became president of the United States. Nothing about Gerald R. Ford never having actually been elected president.

But simply rising to the office after Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment in the House of Representatives and a trial in the United States Senate at which President Nixon would most assuredly have been found guilty and removed from office on the basis of information discovered and developed into a series of criminal cases by a special prosecutor.

That`s how Gerald Ford became president. It was not mentioned at the naming, commissioning of that aircraft carrier in Gerald R. Ford`s name.

It was exactly the kind of special prosecutor that President Trump and his family and campaign associates are facing now.

Donald Trump may be driven to distraction by the special prosecutor. Donald Trump may be provoked into bursts of Twitter madness by the special prosecutor.

But no one in Trump world is taking the special prosecutor more seriously than the president`s son-in-law and completely inexperienced campaign adviser and now completely inexperienced White House adviser Jared Kushner.

We know Jared Kushner is taking it more seriously than the president because Jared Kushner has better lawyers than the president.

Jared Kushner has Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell defending him. No one in the Trump-Russia investigation has a better lawyer than Jared Kushner does.

Abbe Lowell has defended senators and presidential candidates like John Edwards, powerful congressional committee Chairman like Dan Rostenkowski and at least one speaker of the House.

And Abbe Lowell served as counsel to the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee when the committee considered and voted on articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

Alone among the defense lawyers in the Trump-Russia investigation, Abbe Lowell has experience defending a president in an impeachment proceeding.

But he is not defending Donald Trump now. He is defending Donald Trump`s son-in-law who met with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee today to discuss his meetings with Russian government officials and associates of the Russian government during the presidential campaign and during the transition.

And in a written statement to the committee that was made public, Jared Kushner said that he could not recall and could not find any records of two phone calls with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the "Reuters" news service reported occurred during the campaign.

He said he did not disclose a meeting he had with the Russian -- with a Russian lawyer and several other Russians arranged by Donald Trump Jr. on June 9th of last year.

Jared Kushner said he had forgotten about that meeting when he was filling out his application for a security clearance and did not include it as one of the necessary disclosures in that form.

He did apparently did remember the meeting well enough though to tell the committee today that, quote, "the meeting was a waste of our time" end quote.

The e-mails sent to him to schedule the meeting were entitled "Russia- Clinton, private and confidential". In his written statement to the committee today, Jared Kushner did not mention the title of those e-mails, but he did say, "I did not read or record this e-mail exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers."

Today, Jared Kushner described to the committee the December 1st meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador that was also attended by former General Michael Flynn who became President Trump`s first national security adviser before being fired by the president for lying about his contacts with Russian officials.

Jared Kushner told the committee staff today, "I did not request a secret back channel. I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office."

"The Washington Post" has reported that, quote, "Jared Kushner and Russia`s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump`s transition team and the Kremlin using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports."

On December 13th, Jared Kushner had a meeting with a Russian banker who he was told had direct communication with Vladimir Putin. Kushner said that the meeting with that banker Sergey Gorkov lasted 20 to 25 minutes.

And in his written statements today, Jared Kushner said "at no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.

I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since."

Jared Kushner`s explanation for why his security clearance application was submitted without any disclosures of any meetings with any foreign officials was, "my assistant did it."

That`s it. That`s the whole explanation. He actually blamed his assistant for sending in an incomplete version of the form.

But Jared Kushner`s signature is required not just on the last page of the form, but on the last four pages of the form.

His signature is required -- let`s see -- right here and then, let`s see, right here and then again up here, above the signature of the person who examines this form.

And then on the final page right here again. Four times. You sign it four times at the end of this form. In the private questioning of Jared Kushner by the Senate Intelligence Committee staff today, he was no doubt asked about those final four pages of this form in which his signature is required four times.

And this is a form that says right above the very first place where you put your name, "I have read the instructions and I understand that if I withhold, misrepresent, or falsify information on this form, I am subject to the penalties for inaccurate or false statement per U.S. criminal code title 18, section 1001."

Jared Kushner and Jared Kushner`s assistant had never been near a more serious document in their lives than this thing.

The only thing close to this is Jared Kushner`s tax return, which only has to be signed once. But it is also a federal government document that if handled incorrectly can send you to jail.

Jared Kushner`s assistant now will have to testify about all of this. Jared Kushner`s assistant will be asked, did you see those instructions on the first page that warn against withholding information and explains that that is a crime and that your boss, Jared, could go to jail if you get anything wrong in this thing?

Jared Kushner`s assistant may then become the Rosemary Woods of this investigation. Rosemary Woods was President Nixon`s assistant, whose desk was right outside the Oval Office and who explained a crucial 18-minute gap in President Nixon`s secret voice-recording system by saying that she created that erasure of the tape when she was transcribing it, and there she is demonstrating this, tried to answer the phone at the same time.

It was absolutely nothing credible in what Rosemary Woods said about that at that time. Tomorrow, Jared Kushner will be under oath testifying to some members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Joining us now, Jill Wine-Banks; former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an Msnbc contributor. Mieke Eoyang; former House Intelligence Committee`s staff member and the vice president for National Security Program at the Third Way.

And Neera Tanden; president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and a former senior adviser to President Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton.

And Jill, I just want to go to you with that Rosemary Woods reference. Her testimony about how that 18-minute gap occurred, how credible was that and how difficult is it going to be for Jared Kushner`s assistant to explain how this form got sent?

JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: It was really interesting to me to hear blame the assistant because it did remind me of how Nixon let Rosemary Woods take the blame, threw her under the bus, and it was incredible, her testimony was totally unbelievable when she physically demonstrated it.

It became the front page news of the day because you could see from her position I wish I could demonstrate it for you now that it was just not physically possible to do what she said, and I will be very interested in seeing whatever Jared`s assistant has to say.

I would like to be able to question that person.

O`DONNELL: And he is going to be questioned. Mieke, this was a committee staff, and I think a lot of people think, oh, it was just the committee staff.

I think you and I know that the committee staff tends to be sharper and more highly informed about the specifics of these kinds of things than the senators because they`re thinking about nothing else.

This committee staff doesn`t have to worry about tax legislation or healthcare legislation, and so this would be very close questioning today, wouldn`t it?

MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE`S STAFF MEMBER: Yes, it would. And you have a whole team of staff who are focusing on this, who have poured through all the documents, all the articles, put together a very careful list of questions to ask, and then a transcriber who will keep a record of everything that Jared Kushner said, which will be available to investigators.

O`DONNELL: And Neera, I wanted to go to you on something that the president has thrown out there in what has become his wild tweeting of the last -- I don`t know, weekend through today.

He is saying in his tweets, "so why aren`t the committees and investigators and of course, our beleaguered attorney general looking into crooked Hillary`s crimes and Russia relations?"

And that may be one of the more loaded tweets with the beleaguered attorney general. But for the moment, to the president`s question of why isn`t the Justice Department investigating Hillary Clinton and Russia relations, what would they find?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, they would find absolutely nothing. But I would say that the FBI did investigate Hillary Clinton and the server and has stopped that investigation.

It did investigate Donald Trump during the campaign, and that is the investigation that continues today with a special prosecutor appointed again by his Department of Justice, which I know is a thorn in his side and one of the reasons why he`s thinking of firing his own attorney general.

Which just tells you where we are with this entire investigation. I would just like to say one thing about the SF-86 and Jared Kushner`s ludicrous explanation that -- to blame it all on an assistant.

I mean, you just need to be clear that this form which I have filled out multiple times is very clear that the person responsible for reporting it out is the person it covers.

You can`t really just blame the assistant on this. He`s responsible, and it`s very clear. Not telling people that you`ve met with Russian assets is the kind of thing that is a violation of federal law.

It is the reason you have an SF-86. So our intelligence forces will know that people in our White House have relationships with people who are connected to people like Putin.

And the fact that he just forgot all of this, I just find is just -- it`s staggeringly unbelievable.

O`DONNELL: Neera, let`s just stay on that form for a second. When you filled it out, did you have an assistant doing the typing?

Did you -- is that a scenario that`s familiar to you that someone else is doing the typing and eventually sending it in?

TANDEN: When I did -- I did my SF-86 a few times, and I never -- in different jobs. I never had anyone else do it. The idea that you would just like carry that out to somebody else, dole that out when it`s very clearly states it is a crime not to be honest and forthcoming with the information.

And the information is really there to tell the government, tell our security forces, like who has relationships with foreign intelligence or foreigners or foreign countries.

That is the entire purpose of it. The idea that you would forget things when that information could lead you to jail seems just ridiculous to me, and nobody else I know in government has ever had that kind of just blanks.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, this statement, the written statement that Jared Kushner released today was designed to say everything positive that he could possibly get into that statement today.

And you would think that if his assistant had sent in an unsigned form, that Jared Kushner had gotten -- not gotten around to signing it those four times, that he would have included that.

He would have said, you know, he sent in the form prematurely, and the proof of that is that it was never signed. So let`s for the moment just assume that Jared Kushner did sign that form.

Can you conceive of signing that before it was completed?

EOYANG: So it`s a little bit difficult to picture signing it given the way the form is structured. Now, people do turn in incomplete forms, they forget some addresses.

They forget some things that need to be filled in later, it is fairly common to have a back-and-forth on the SF-86 and mistake some things.

But given the scrutiny of this campaign and the jobs that they were taking and the security concerns of the White House, it seems inconceivable that you would forget to list all of the foreign contacts, especially as Neera said, you want to make sure that our government is not unduly influenced by foreign countries so that people are acting in the best interests of Americans and not of foreign nations.

O`DONNELL: Jill, based on your reading of Jared Kushner`s public written statement today, what would be some of the areas that you would want to follow up on, on questioning?

WINE-BANKS: First, I want to say it was a very smoothly-written document. You`ve already pointed out he clearly has a very good lawyer.

But as soon as you start to probe it, it falls apart. The explanations that are offered seem blatantly ridiculous. The explanation for the back channel is not credible to me.

The explanation for forgetting over 100 foreign contacts isn`t believable. There are so many questions, as we`ve already said, you want to ask the assistant who filled it out what`s wrong with it.

But there`s every other part of that question -- of his statement needs to be evaluated in depth. Every witness to those meetings needs to be talked to.

The most incredible to me is, I didn`t know what I was going to that meeting for. I had no idea what it was about.

And when I got there, it was about adoptions, and so I just was bored and wanted to leave. Again, he`s blaming the assistant.

He says, I wrote to my assistant to get me out of the meeting by calling and saying, I had to leave. That`s something that can be checked.

I want to know whether he actually left the meeting, whether he sent such an e-mail or text. There are so many questions, and almost everything when you really probe it, even though it sounds credible when you first read it, when you think about it, you want to tear your hair out and think, these are just lies. They are not believable.

O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks and Mieke Eoyang, thank you for joining us, Neera Tanden, please stay with us. Coming up, new reports tonight that the president is considering replacing the attorney general specifically in order to end the Russia investigation.

Robert Costa, who has been reporting that story for "The Washington Post" will join us, and we have just learned that Senator John McCain is returning to the Senate tomorrow for the healthcare vote.

The latest on the healthcare vote is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As the scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal. We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And guess who wasn`t a scout? That`s right, Donald Trump. We have breaking news tonight. "The Washington Post" reporting that President Trump and his advisors are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"The Post" is also reporting that the president could install a new attorney general as a recess appointment during the August recess. That person would have the full powers of the attorney general until the end of the year.

Joining us now by phone, Robert Costa, one of the reporters on tonight`s new breaking news from "The Washington Post". Robert, there`s also contained in the report the notion that this is all in order to get a new attorney general to fire the special prosecutor and simply end that investigation.

Does the White House and the president believe that that is possible?

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): That`s important context, Lawrence. As I`m told by my top sources around the president in the Republican Party, the president continues to feel vulnerable on the Russia probe because of the recusal by Attorney General Sessions.

And that feeling has prompted some of his closest confidants and associates to start mulling the possibility of replacing the attorney general.

They do not have a clear-cut -- clear-cut plan at this moment about who that would be or what that would look like, whether there would be a recess appointment or not. But the president continues to vent behind the scenes when these discussions are ongoing.

O`DONNELL: Robert, is it your sense that this is a deliberate running this idea up the flagpole as it were through "The Washington Post", see what Washington`s reaction is tomorrow, see what congressional Republicans` reaction is this week?

COSTA: Yes, it`s part of an ongoing process that`s emanating from the White House. You have it in terms of the president`s tweets.

He`s tweeting today about beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He made his comments last week to the "New York Times", now people in the president`s inner circle are telling "The Washington Post" that even though they don`t have an option yet of a replacement, there is active talk of replacing the attorney general because of the president`s frustration.

So we`d see this sentiment continuing to build in the Trump circle.

O`DONNELL: Robert Costa, thank you for joining us with this breaking news report, really appreciate it.

COSTA: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Josh Barro; senior editor for "Business Insider" and an Msnbc contributor. And Richard Painter, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota who was chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.

Mr. Painter is the vice chair of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. And Josh the -- so far, we`re not hearing a big rush of Republicans coming forward, saying this is outrageous, he can`t do this.

JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR, BUSINESS INSIDER: Yes, well, you`ve seen some - - I mean, Susan Collins has said that it would be unacceptable for him to fire the special prosecutor.

I mean, I think, you know, one thing is that Republicans in the Senate are very focused on the healthcare bill today.

But you know, I think -- at this point the names that have been floated, who he might replace him with, Rudy Giuliani and Ted Cruz, neither of those makes a lot of sense.

I have trouble imagining that Ted --

O`DONNELL: Well, they agree that Rudy Giuliani --

BARRO: Right --

O`DONNELL: Because both said they don`t think it`s -- they don`t want to do it?

BARRO: Yes, I mean, if you fire Sessions after six months, why would any other U.S. senator agree to take that --

O`DONNELL: Right --

BARRO: Job and then be at risk of being fired --

O`DONNELL: Right --

BARRO: Again. So what that says to me is that this is not an idea that has gotten really very far off the launching pad yet.

Those are the sorts of names that they are talking about. I`m just a little bit mystified that he`s so publicly focusing on Sessions right now.

He`s been grumbling about this for months. But really, you know, it`s Rod Rosenstein; the deputy attorney general who appointed this special prosecutor.

And if Trump wanted the special prosecutor fired, then the ordinary way for him to do that first, would be to instruct Rosenstein who appointed him and who is in charge of this because of Sessions` recusal, instruct him to fire him.

And while he has complained a little bit about Rod Rosenstein, he really seems to be focusing most of his ire on Sessions.

Which I find weird and it makes me suspect that there is something that has happened between the president and Sessions that is not all the stuff that we`ve seen publicly that we`ve known about for months.

Some other thing that he`s upset about. Yes, maybe, for example, maybe he told Sessions he wants him to un-recuse and fire -- and fire Mueller.

And I would imagine that Sessions would have said no if he was asked to do that. That`s one conceivable reason he`d be so upset.

But weird that he`s so focused on Sessions when really this is Rosenstein`s doing.

O`DONNELL: Richard Painter, one of the things the president is facing is that in the statute enabling the special prosecutor, there is no provision for the president to order the deputy attorney general to fire him.

That`s not an order that the deputy attorney general has to in any way carry out. But the president could fire then the deputy attorney general who doesn`t do it and keep having them go through some cycle.

That would be, at the moment, a kind of unknown. Or how many of them would you have to fire to get to that spot?

But if you just get rid of the attorney general and during the August recess, replace the attorney general with a new attorney general who is already agreed to do this for you, that seems like a way for the president to get it done.

RICHARD PAINTER, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, Nixon tried that too. He had to go through three people until Robert Bork was willing to fire Archie Cox.

But there was enormous backlash against that, and it ended up with another special prosecutor Leon Jaworski being replaced and going on and doing the job that Archie Cox was doing.

This is not going to work. This is a much more dangerous situation than Watergate. We have a foreign power that`s conducted espionage inside the United States.

President Trump has already fired the FBI director in connection with the Russia investigation. He told the Russian ambassador that in the Oval Office, and we have Kellyanne Conway and other White House staff attacking Robert Mueller, really making lots of false statements about Robert Mueller and his staff.

If the president orchestrates the firing of Robert Mueller, he has the power to do it, but he does not have the right to do that.

The Congress is going to have to respond vigorously with its own investigation, demanding the reappointment of another special counsel, a special prosecutor, and if the Republican Party does not get its act together on this -- and I`ve been a Republican for 30 years, but I will say that this will be the end of the Republican Party.

We cannot go down in history as the party that betrayed our country into the hands of Russia simply in order to win an election and then cover up the investigation through multiple firings of the FBI chief and now the special prosecutor.

So I very much hope President Trump does not go down this road. It could be catastrophic for our country and I hope that Congress will hold him accountable.

O`DONNELL: Well, it`s possible that Rush Limbaugh`s audience might. Trump supporter telling Rush Limbaugh today this is anecdotal of course. But telling Rush Limbaugh that this could be a very bad move, getting rid of Jeff Sessions. let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTFIED MALE: You`re saying that trump would lose some luster in your eyes if he gets rid of sessions. Regardless of who he replaces him with. You think that would be a bad move.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: Yes. That would lose some luster. But it`s beginning to look more and more like he`s -- you were saying it real well earlier. when in charge, be in charge. I`m seeing in Trump -- I thought I saw a tough guy supposedly. I`m seeing a wimp beginning to show up, and he`s beginning to bring in -

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let`s just not skate right by that. You`re beginning to see a wimp show up? What do you mean?

LIMBAUGH: Well, you were talking about it earlier. If you`re in charge of something, be in charge of it.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Oh, you mean the bystander comments that I made?

LIMBAUGH: Go in and fire those people like you said early on. Get rid of those imbeds up there. Go into that swamp and start doing some things, not sitting around sending out tweets about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Josh, maybe Donald Trump should listen to RUSH LIMBAUGH instead of watching Fox News.

JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I mean the funny thing here you would think that Trump supporters who cared about, you know, having an anti- immigration policy or some of the other things that Jeff Sessions stands for would be upset about his firing and it would be a signal - Nicki Couse was saying this weekend. It would be a signal that the Trump Administration was becoming all about protecting Donald Trump. And the policy initiatives that Jeff Sessions has, whatever you think about them, he was really out there on immigration restriction.

He`s trying to roll back some of the criminal justice reforms that other Republicans have wanted to do, more aggressive in the drug war, more aggressive in civil forfeitures, the police seizing assets from suspected criminals. You know, all that stuff, those are Jeff Sessions` signature things. If you get rid of him and replace him with someone whose signature is protecting the President from prosecution, that`s useful too if you`re Donald Trump or one of his relatives, but it`s not useful to you if you`re one of his nationalist supporters who care about policy.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Jeff Sessions has been a right-wing conservative for much longer than Donald Trump has been. And Rush Limbaugh`s audience knows that. Richard Painter and Josh Barro thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

BARRO: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Trump is now attacking Congressional Republicans for not defending him because in his copy of the constitution, it is Congress`s duty to defend the President of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I don`t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. We have an investigation in the House, an investigation in the Senate, and a Special Counsel which sort of depoliticizes this stuff and gets it out of the political theater. What we`re not focused on doing is spending all of our time on Russia, spending all of our time on this intrigue. That`s not what we were elected to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Paul Ryan today. joining us now, former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida and Charlie Sykes, Msnbc Political Analyst. Charlie, you know Paul Ryan. What is he going to say if Donald Trump does get Robert Mueller fired?

We just heard him say that I don`t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. There he is defending Bob Mueller. But when the day comes, whenever Donald Trump does something Paul Ryan doesn`t think he should do, Paul Ryan always seems to get in line.

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s the interesting question. So there`s the question of what will he say, and what will he do because if Donald Trump were to do that, he would really be provoking a constitutional crisis. We need to understand this. there`s a real whiff of panic about all this, you know, particularly as the reports indicate that the Special Prosecutor is looking at the finances, money laundering, family business deals, and there`s something about this that is leading Donald Trump to, you know, begin pressing all of these buttons. You know so quite frankly, I don`t know what Paul Ryan is going to do.

You know, he`s obviously been willing to make a lot of sacrifices in order to get the health care through and tax reform through. So would this be the bridge too far? I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: Yesterday the President Tweeted, it`s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President. Sorry, David Jolly. I couldn`t get through it with a straight face as usual on Trump Tweets. How is something like that received in the Republican cloak room in the House of Representatives?

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Lawrence, I was one of those guys who ended up under his feet come November of last year. Listen, let`s not look past the fact that the American people today, a lot of the American people are wondering if this President frankly is well, right?

He engaged in 72 hours of a tweet storm of hate and then gave a policy talk to 12-year-olds today. And I think what we are seeing is his motivation is not one of victory. It`s one of blame.

It is he has to have the enemy. Even when it comes to health care, major initiatives, right? He does want a health care bill passed, but even if it passes. He`ll do to the Senate what he did to the House, which is turn around and call it a mean bill.

And so Republicans have not figured out on the hill how to deal with this President. But it will quietly erode as long as he continues to push away establishment Republicans like Spicer and Sessions and others.

O`DONNELL: And, Charlie, there`s always a question of does Donald Trump understand what he`s even thinking about, meaning does he understand the scale of this project that the Washington Post is reporting on tonight, the project to fire Mueller by getting rid of an Attorney General, doing a recess appointment of a new Attorney General, have a pre-wired firing that that attorney general executes against the special prosecutor, and just declares that whole investigation an end? We have a sense of how big an explosion that would be based on our experience in these matters. But it`s not clear that the President understands how big an event that would be.

SYKES: No. we continue to plumb the depths of this president`s historical ignorance and his indifference to policy or the consequence of his behavior. I mean think about where we`re at right now. He is asking the Congress of the United States to move ahead and pass a toxically unpopular and incredibly complicated piece of legislation at the moment when he is about perhaps to trigger this constitutional crisis.

So you have to wonder, you know, the President talks about loyalty a lot but David makes an outstanding point. Members of Congress know that at the slightest hint of trouble, Donald Trump will abandon them, will throw them under the bus because he doesn`t really care about the policy. He doesn`t understand the policy and, you know, this presidency is all about Donald Trump and they`re just along for the ride.

O`DONNELL: The very first Senator who endorsed Donald Trump for President is now apparently Donald Trump`s enemy according to Donald Trump. And that was a lot bigger deal, endorsing Donald Trump, than a Senator simply voting or giving his party or his President a vote, one vote on a piece of legislation.

SYKES: It`s huge.

O`DONNELL: It`s an amazing situation. David, that model of Trump turning on Jeff Sessions has to be, in everyone`s view in the house and the Senate, as I could be next.

JOLLY: Right. It is. And understand, Lawrence, how he -- and you know this. how he got across the finish line, right? He has his base of 30 to 35 percent, and they`re not going anywhere. They are stronger when Trump`s back is against the corner. But a lot of establishment Republicans held their nose and went along with him in the last go-around.

So if you say that`s 15 percent, that`s the 15 percent that he is pushing away right now and bringing in his Wall Street swamp crowd, if you will, to protect him. But you can win one election by losing the popular vote. You can`t lose two, and that`s what Trump doesn`t realize right now by pushing away people like Sessions and others.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly and Charlie Sykes, thank you both for joining us tonight, appreciate it.

JOLLY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, dramatic news tonight. John McCain will return to the senate tomorrow to vote on the health care bill. But how will John McCain vote now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: At 9:02 p.m. tonight, the dramatic news came that Senator John McCain will return to the Senate tomorrow after his recent diagnosis of brain cancer. There are reports tonight indicating that Senator McCain will vote with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to proceed to debate on a yet unknown piece of health care legislation that will repeal and maybe or maybe not replace Obamacare. If Senator McCain does vote for whatever it is Mitch McConnell tries to do tomorrow, it will be in direct contradiction to Senator McCain last statement on the situation in the Senate. A week ago, when Mitch McConnell`s latest health care bill collapsed in the Senate, Senator McCain said, the Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation`s governors.

So that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care. After that statement, to vote for anything that Mitch McConnell brings to the Senate floor without hearings and input from both parties and the governors is a violation of the principles that senator McCain emphasized just a week ago. According to the latest vote counts for all of the potential variations that Mitch McConnell could bring to the senate floor tomorrow, there seemed to be enough Republican votes against each of them to defeat each of them.

But what Mitch McConnell might, just might win tomorrow is just enough Republican votes to allow debate on health care legislation to begin on the Senate floor. But that would still leave any bill a long way from passage and possibly enough Republican opponents to defeat whatever Mitch McConnell actually brings up for a vote on final passage in the Senate.

So what will john McCain do? Is he really -- is John McCain really flying across the country right now in the midst of his own grave health crisis with government-funded health care paying for every treatment he gets so that he can vote to violate his own principles that he announced last week about regular order in the Senate.

And allow the Majority Leader to begin debate without hearings on a bill to take away health coverage for tens of millions of people? Would john McCain really do that? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senate Republicans, this is their chance to keep their promise. Over and over again they said repeal and replace, repeal and replace. But they can now keep their promise to the American people, to the American people have waited long enough. There`s been enough talk and no action. Now is the time for action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Neera Tanden is back with us. She`s the President and CEO of the Center for American progress and the former Senior Adviser to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Neera, we see who the President is going to blame if his promise about how easy it was to repeal and replace Obamacare turns out not to be true. He is of course going to blame the Senate Republicans.

NEERA TANDEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And you know he made a lot of health care promise attention. One was he was going to lower are premiums another one that no one was going to lose coverage. That it was a great deal for everyone.

Each of those promises have been violated. I just need to say the Senate is on the verge of voting for a bill, to proceed to a bill that no American has actually seen the language of. A bill that would affect one sixth of the economy and while Senators and have seen maybe some draft language and we don`t know about that, the American people haven`t seen anything. It is a process that makes the senate`s deliberation a sham. And the idea that -- sorry.

O`DONNELL: Sorry. And Neera, Senator John McCain also has not seen anything. There`s a presumption tonight among a lot of the reports that he is coming back to Washington that he is coming back to a support the leader Mitch McConnell which he does. But exactly a week ago Senator McCain said regular order which you and I know means a process of minimum of six to nine months to get any bill out hearings Democrats and Republicans involved, the Governors involved, everything john McCain said we should be doing now would -- would be completely destroyed if he voted with Mitch McConnell tomorrow.

TANDEN: Absolutely if he votes for the mission to proceed he has violated his own words, not from years ago, from last week. This -- he also talked about how this bill shouldn`t hurt Arizona. And this bill does hurt Arizona. And so you know there are a number of Senators who have still expressed discomfort with in legislation.

They are Senators leading states who face massive amounts of coverage loss, massive premium increases from this legislation. From what we think is in the legislation. And so the reality here is that we have just a few hours tomorrow to jam the phone, to call into Congress to call Senator Collins, call Senator Murkowski.

Senator Capito, Senator Murkowski have both said that they have deep concerns about in bill, that they don`t want to see people lose coverage. They don`t want to see people hurt. Senator Capito just said last week she didn`t come to Congress to hurt people.

There is no bill that they are considering that would not hurt people. So that`s what`s at stake here. Whether millions -- whether 20 million people lose coverage or 30 million that`s what they`re debating.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Rush Limbaugh said about this today and Donald Trump`s noninvolvement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: The President`s the author of the art of the deal. Getting things done, supreme negotiator. Why has he writing of this stuff as though he is a bystander why is he writing of this stuff as he is a observer not bystander. He was not elected to be a bystander.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: But it seems like he is a bystander. Neera Tanden we`re out of time. Sorry , we got to go to a break. Neera Tanden thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it

TANDEN: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next.

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O`DONNELL: OK. For all of you observers who have been saying that the new guy is smoother than the old guy. I don`t know what you are talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, SENIOR ADVISOR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to do everything I can to make her better at the podium. I think she is phenomenal there now. But like every athlete training for the Olympics every day we got to make ourselves incrementally better. The only thing I ask Sarah. Sarah if you`re watching I`d love the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday. So I`d like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Will he still be in the job by the time the Trump Whitehouse has the first Christmas party? Well that`s the Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.

END