Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: July 31, 2017 Guest: Al Hunt; Betsy Woodruff; Mieke Eoyang; Vince Warren; David Jolly
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: The county police on Long Island -- going to bring it up. He ain`t going to bring it up, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC: He`s not going to bring it up --
O`DONNELL: No --
REID: And it was not a joke. I don`t even know how to make a joke like that.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and the -- unfortunately, the police who were present at the time, Suffolk County Police on Long Island, seemed to enjoy the president`s comment. And they --
REID: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Also very much enjoyed his comments about how much he wanted to dismantle Obamacare, and these are all police officers who themselves and their entire families have --
REID: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Government-provided health insurance basically for the rest of their lives through their retirement.
REID: Yes, when I heard that and a lot of people heard it, the first thing that popped in their mind was Freddie Gray.
It was a really sobering thing to see police officers cheering for that. But have a great show.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy, thank you --
REID: Good night --
O`DONNELL: Well, the president brought in the mooch to stop White House leaking, to crack down on Reince Priebus and those White House leakers.
That didn`t work out so well. And so today, the president brought in former Marine Corps General John Kelly to get rid of the mooch first of all and then stop the leaking.
And of course, of course, tonight right on schedule, "The Washington Post" has another massive breaking news story about the Trump White House and the president in particular entirely supplied by Trump leakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: If you want to eat an elephant, you got to eat it one bite at a time. And Sarah and I are going to do that together.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He does not have a role at this time in the Trump administration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was Anthony Scaramucci fired, or did he resign?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I think he was certainly pushed out.
SANDERS: The president certainly felt that Anthony`s comments were inappropriate.
SCARAMUCCI: Reince is an expletive deleted, paranoid schizophrenic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can safely assume that it wasn`t because Donald Trump was shocked and appalled by the language he used.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And said he offended General Kelly.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will do a spectacular job I have no doubt as chief of staff.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: How can any staffer end the chaos if the chaos comes from the top?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump said today there is, quote, "no White House chaos".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are Kleenex to Donald Trump. He uses them and throws them away.
TRUMP: I predict that General Kelly will go down in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the great ever.
EUGENE ROBINSON, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: I`m looking at my watch to see how long this lasts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight another blockbuster breaking news story that it was the president of the United States who dictated the exact wording of Donald Trump Jr`s first statement to the "New York Times" on July 8th about his meeting during the campaign with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin along with several other people in the room that day.
Which included other Russians and the president`s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner who did not disclose that meeting as he was required to do on his application for a security clearance.
It is news that the president dictated every word of that statement, but it is not news that that statement was a lie.
The statement of Donald Trump Jr. as dictated by the president from Air Force One said "it was a short introductory meeting, I ask Jared and Paul to stop by.
We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government.
But it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up, I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand."
Tonight`s "Washington Post" reporting shows that the White House knew that that statement as dictated by the president was a lie.
And we know this because on the very first day of General John Kelly`s service as White House chief of staff. The White House is leaking like crazy.
Which is to say leaking like yesterday and the day before and every other day of the leakiest president in history.
Donald Trump fired Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff on Friday and replaced him with General Kelly, specifically to stop this. To stop what happened tonight.
To stop the leaks to the "Washington Post" and to the "New York Times" that come blasting at us virtually every night.
The sources cited in "The Washington Post" article are all unnamed advisors to the president. And "The Washington Post" has multiple sources when describing the most inexperienced communication staff in White House history whole picks.
And Josh Raphael(ph) quote "advocated for a more transparent approach." "The Washington Post" quotes people with knowledge of the conversations, this is a day one disaster for the new White House chief of staff whose job it is to pluck those leaks.
That`s job one, that`s what the president wants from him the most. And it is another disaster story for the White House, showing the president trying to cover up the truth of what happened in his son and son-in-law`s meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.
An unnamed presidential adviser in "The Washington Post" story said quote "now, someone can claim he is the one who attempted to mislead. Someone can argue the president is saying he doesn`t want you to say the whole truth."
"The Washington Post" article then says, "although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisors to Trump and his family told "The Washington Post" that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from special prosecutor Robert Mueller."
In an example of the public communication`s message that the new White House chief of staff John Kelly seems to be controlling tonight.
The White House is referring all questions about "The Washington Post" article to the outside lawyers who are defending the president and his son and his son-in-law in this special prosecution investigation.
We can only wonder how the White House communication team would have responded if Anthony Scaramucci was still in charge of White House communications even though he had never actually been hired by the White House.
He was the only White House communications director who was in charge of all of the communications without having been hired. Friday night, on this program, I said that the incoming White House chief of staff would face a very clear challenge on Monday today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I think we have a test for General Kelly on day one, and that is exactly how minutes does it take him to yank those White House credentials off the neck of Anthony Scaramucci because if Scaramucci --
ROBINSON: Right --
O`DONNELL: Works in that White House, by definition, General Kelly has failed to control that White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And he passed. General Kelly passed that test today. It was the easiest test that any White House chief of staff has ever been given.
And now he has a Jared test, the Ivanka test. The job of White House chief of staff was called Appointment Secretary until Richard Nixon militarized the title to chief of staff.
The power of the Appointment Secretary was the power of who got to see the president. The Appointment Secretary was supposed to be an honest broker who made sure that the president was hearing all of the relevant information needed for presidential decision-making.
And none of the nonsense that interferes with presidential decision-making. Jared Kushner is one of the horrifically incompetent people in the White House who advised the president to fire FBI Director James Comey.
It is General Kelly`s new job to prevent advice like that making its way to the president. Advice from a person with no authority or expertise who has nothing helpful to say.
There`s a roven band of such people in the White House now with access to the president. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to name -- but the most prominent.
The list goes on to include most other people working in the White House. No other White House chief of staff has ever had the job of keeping most people who work in the White House away from the president.
No other White House chief of staff has ever had the job of deciding whether to revoke the president`s son-in-law`s security clearance which the son-in-law lied to obtain.
That`s John Kelly`s job now. John Kelly is now the commander of a ship of fools, the challenge that he faces now is unlike any challenge he has ever faced.
Tomorrow`s challenge and the challenge for the day after that, on the day after that will be which fool did he control or get rid of that day.
Joining us now, Chris Whipple; the author of "The Gate Keepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Defined Every Presidency".
Max Boot; senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, he`s a former foreign policy adviser to presidential campaigns of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio.
Also with us, Jeremy Bash; Msnbc national security analyst and a former chief of staff at the CIA and Defense Department.
And Jeremy, I want to start with you because you know General Kelly, have worked with him, and I want to get your sense of what he is going to be able to accomplish going forward.
First of all, in this leak patrol that the president very much wants him to be the leader of.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT THE CIA & DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I think General Kelly sees his primary job, not so much as constraining the leaks.
So I think over time, he has seen in the Pentagon and in other jobs really the only way to combat leaks is loyalty, is not by investigation and by trying to chasing down.
It`s really by engender and trust. So I think he sees his primary job is to get rid of the chaos and dysfunction that led to presidential decision- making in a catastrophic manner thus far.
And I think he believes he has to control as you referenced, access to the president, he has had a regular battle of rhythm of meetings, and he has to tee up decisions for the president in an orderly fashion.
And his job is not going to make decisions about policy, but to make sure policy decisions are tee-ed up for the commander-in-chief.
O`DONNELL: So Chris Whipple, he has brought in everyone -- the situation in Syria, should we fire these missiles or not?
He`s brought in everyone who has something to say about it, but before he makes his decision, Ivanka would like a word with him.
What does the chief of staff do in that situation.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR: Well, I think he -- look, his most important, one of his most important duties is to be the so-called honest broker. He`s got to make sure that all of these decisions are tee-ed up with the best information on every side.
He`s got to make sure that only the toughest decisions get in there, and he`s got to make sure that only the people who belong there are in the room.
So if Ivanka Trump doesn`t belong in the room for that kind of decision. So he`s got to enforce that. And you know, I think frankly, he`s also got to in addition to being empowered as first among equals.
He`s got to draw some red lines. You think about this meeting, think about Trump dictating this memo on Air Force One.
You know, it`s White House chief incompetence now practiced that Donald Trump was permitted to even be in that cabin dictating that message.
It`s White House chief malpractice for Donald Trump to be allowed to be in a room with Jim Comey by himself in the context of an investigation into Russia.
I mean, Comey has to find -- I mean, Kelly has got to find a way to prevent those kinds of meetings and that kind of presidential malfeasance.
O`DONNELL: So Max, the scene is, they`re at the G-20 meeting, and the White House staff gets the word that the "New York Times" is on to the meeting that the kids had.
That Jared and Donald Jr. had. So the people working on this for the White House at the G-20 meeting on Air Force One are former fashion operative who worked for Ivanka Trump.
And then a former movie business low-level PR functionary. These are the two people who were working in the White House Press Office that day.
And they actually have better advice than anyone named Trump comes up within the whole story. They actually advised for more disclosure and it`s the president who says no, we`re going to tell them not only less, but we`re not even going to tell them anything close to the truth.
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, respectfully, Lawrence, I`m not sure I agree with you that more disclosure is actually in Trump`s interest because as we surmise, he`s got a lot to hide.
I mean, more disclosure only makes sense --
O`DONNELL: Well, their --
BOOT: If he`s still innocent, right?
O`DONNELL: Their argument --
BOOT: Yes --
O`DONNELL: As naive and inexperience as they were --
BOOT: Yes, it will come out --
O`DONNELL: It`s all going to come out --
BOOT: Yes --
O`DONNELL: So maybe we should put it out --
BOOT: Right --
O`DONNELL: They finally figured that out --
BOOT: Right --
O`DONNELL: And they were right about it all coming out because it did over the course of --
BOOT: But I think President Trump, what we`re seeing now is he understood that they had something serious to hide --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
BOOT: This wasn`t just a PR problem, it`s a real issue, and I think the broader problem here is, you know, you can talk about the staff all you want, and yes, of course he`s surrounded by sycophants and misfits and third graders.
That`s true, but that`s not the problem. The problem is not Sean Spicer, it`s not Reince Priebus, it`s not even Anthony Scaramucci, the problem is Donald J. Trump.
He is not qualified intellectually, morally or ethically to be president of the United States.
And at some level, it doesn`t matter who he is surrounded by because this is not a situation like Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, where you can have a more effective chief of staff come in and rescue a president who is flailing around.
Flailing around is kind of Donald Trump`s nature, I don`t think he`s going to escape this.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy, I want to go to that scene at the G-20 where this information comes in and now, I want to put General Kelly there.
What does he do -- you have -- you have whole picks, you have, you know, Ivanka`s operative there and they have access to the president and they want to tell the president that Donald Jr. has this issue with the "New York Times".
We have Chris Whipple and others in "The Washington Post" saying the president should not be allowed even near this information at this point in time.
He should not be involved in any way in what the statement is. Does General Kelly simply say no, no one is allowed to tell the president this information.
Does he tell the president the information, close the door on Air Force One in the office there and tell him then what not to do?
BASH: I think General Kelly has to lay down some key ground rules at the outset of his tenure here. And I think he will do that. And one of the key -- one of the first ground rules will be anything pertaining to the criminal investigation of the president.
And it`s worth repeating, Lawrence, the president of the United States is under federal criminal investigation. And General Kelly should inform everybody, anything having to do with that should be handled by the president and his council, not by the White House staff.
The moment any member of the White House staff talks to the president about these narratives under investigation, they become a witness, and they basically open the door for Bob Mueller to collect e-mails and to interview witnesses in this case.
So, I would think that, that is one of General Kelly`s principal jobs here, and I think he will do that.
BOOT: Can I just jump in quickly, Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead --
BOOT: And just say, I think the problem that General Kelly has here is he doesn`t actually know what happened with the Russians.
I think President Trump does know what happened with the Russians and John Kelly does not. So he`s really operating in the dark, and I don`t think that Donald Trump is going to tell him what he knows.
O`DONNELL: Yes, but the rule that Jeremy just laid down sounds like the reasonable rule to -- for the chief of staff to try to administer.
Let`s go back now though to one of the president`s lawyers. This is what happen when you consult the president`s lawyers on this.
The "New York Times" was aware that the president was involved in the drafting of the statement. They didn`t know that he actually dictated it, that`s "The Washington Post" contribution.
So let`s listen to George Stephanopoulos discuss with Jay Sekulow about this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, JOURNALIST: So the president signed off on that statement. Does he feel he was this led by his son and by Jared Kushner if indeed they didn`t tell him about these e-mails that they both received.
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER: The president didn`t sign off on anything, he was coming back from the G-20. The statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and I`m sure in consultation with his lawyers.
The president wasn`t involved in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the "New York Times" says that he wasn`t involved in it, that several people on the plane were involved in this. So you`re disputing --
SEKULOW: That`s incorrect --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That account from the "New York Times" --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So Chris, that`s the quality of information we`re getting from the lawyers.
WHIPPLE: Yes, well, you know, they`d be -- they could take a page from the Clinton White House as you know and I mean, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal when Erskine Bowles was the White House chief.
They had Podesta in charge of the Monica scandal. And you know, they were able to isolate it there and Bowles was able to keep Bill Clinton focused on governing every day.
You know, you have to keep the president away from stuff like this. No matter -- no matter how much he may know, you know, you`ve got to keep him away from that in order to have a chance of governing.
And I think that, you know, at this point, this White House is broken, I mean, it can`t do anything right. It can`t issue executive orders that are enforceable and can`t pass legislation, it can`t prioritize the president`s agenda, it can`t get anybody on the same page.
For Kelly, you know, this really is almost mission impossible.
O`DONNELL: So in Kelly leaving it wisely, I think we all agree to the Trump lawyers tonight and not responding from the White House. We now have this statement from Trump lawyer John Dowd, and is statement is quote "fake news, incorrect, and misinformed of no consequence."
So Max --
BOOT: That`s your confirmation --
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s round with --
BOOT: Yes --
O`DONNELL: The Trump lawyers who originally denied that the president had even any sign off on this statement --
BOOT: Right, I mean, I think the fundamental problem here, Lawrence, is I think what we will all agree on is yes, the president could use better damage control, he can use better lawyer, and he can use better PR.
But I think at the end of the day, I think his problems run so deep that none of their stuff is actually going to resolve the issue because this is not a question like Bill Clinton lying about sex.
I think we`re seeing evidence of collusion with the Russians, we`re seeing evidence of obstruction of justice, these are very serious charges and there`s no way to spin your way out of them.
I think that`s the underlining reality and that`s why I don`t think that John Kelly is going to be able to do the job that a lot of people expect him to do.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy Bash, knowing General Kelly as you do, does he as many people in government do, basically have their resignation letters in their pocket, meaning they know exactly what lines they won`t cross -- might not necessarily be able to predict the specific one.
But they know who they are, and they know when that moment comes, they`re not going to bend, they`re not going to compromise, they`re going to go.
BASH: Yes, I suppose, although, I don`t think he`s going to the job with that frame of reference. I think he`s going and thinking that he can add value and can bring some order to presidential decision-making.
But I have to hasten that, John Kelly is a man of very high integrity, possibly the highest integrity with anybody I know, certainly anybody I work with at the Pentagon.
And I know that he -- and I think he`ll be the first person to say to the president`s others that if he feels that he`s been personally compromised, he will not stand idly by.
WHIPPLE: But you know, that`s precisely why I think he needs to go into the Oval Office, close the door and tell Donald Trump there are certain red lines here that you cannot cross.
And one of them would be -- look, if I can`t control the Twitter account, if you`re not going to show me your tweets in advance.
If you tell a demonstrable lie on Twitter, that`s at the end for me. I will resign and you can find a third White House chief of staff.
O`DONNELL: Jeremy, quickly, I would assume that the journal would have covered a certain amount of this ground in discussions with the president already.
We have some reports indicating the job was offered to him weeks ago and that he turned it down. And so, something in the offer might have changed if that`s the case, including these kinds of specifics.
BASH: I don`t know for certain, Lawrence, but I can tell you, obviously, it`s clear now that he went in saying, I cannot be chief of staff if somebody like Anthony Scaramucci does not report to me.
And really, if somebody like Anthony Scaramucci is at all a member of this team, his ousting of Scaramucci today I think speaks volumes on day one about just how much authority the president has destined in him.
O`DONNELL: Yes, he absolutely deserves credit for that, and it`s absolutely stunning. This Scaramucci could have said what he said and stayed on -- not just stayed on the job, got on Air Force One and flew a couple of trips with the president back and forth on Air Force One.
Stayed on the job all Saturday, all Sunday and it took the new White House chief of staff to get rid of him. Jeremy Bash, thank you very much for joining us tonight --
BASH: Thanks, Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Max Boot, Chris Whipple, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
Coming up, John McCain -- I`m sorry, coming up, John Kelly is also taking over a West Wing intent on diminishing the role of Jeff Sessions and the Russia investigation.
How will General Kelly handle that. And the president versus Republicans, he is now increasingly a president without a party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I just want to congratulate him on the great job he`s done with Homeland Security, and I have no doubt that he will be an absolutely superb chief of staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Seated directly across the table from the president in the second meeting, only the second meeting of the Trump cabinet today, was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who the president has publicly attacked and demeaned on Twitter and rolled his eyes about when asked shouted questions by reporters.
After a weekend of some speculation that the president might try to move Jeff Sessions to fill the new opening of Secretary of Homeland Security so that the president could then install a new attorney general who could then fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, the White House Press Secretary was authorized to say this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: There are no conversations about any cabinet members moving in any capacity, and the president has 100 percent confidence in all members of his cabinet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Al Hunt; he is the columnist at "Bloomberg View", and Betsy Woodruff; a politics reporter for the "Daily Beast".
Al, General Kelly has a lot to deal with, not the least of which is this latest maneuver being rumored about the White House seemed ready to spike today, which is moving of Jeff Sessions` new attorney general, firing of Mueller.
It sounds like that was a Kelly-authorized statement today with 100 percent confidence and no one is moving.
AL HUNT, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Yes, it does, Lawrence. Look, the only -- the whole Jeff Sessions brouhaha was about one single thing, that Trump wants to get rid of Bob Mueller.
And the -- in his mind, the question is how does he do it and will he do it? It has nothing to do with Jeff Sessions.
There`s no policy disagreements with Jeff Sessions. He`s furious about Mueller being there. What he`s furious about, we can all speculate.
What he`s trying to hide, we can all speculate. But, you know, it`s remarkable. This should not be on the table.
Bob -- there is no one in law enforcement who can manage the kind of bipartisan respect that Bob Mueller does.
He`s doing a job, he was appointed by Trump`s Justice Department, it`s a serious investigation, and the notion that this president would really be looking for ways to get rid of him is just a travesty.
O`DONNELL: I want to read another passage from tonight`s breaking news report from "The Washington Post" which says Trump -- his advisors now -- his advisors say that these are the leaking unnamed anonymous advisors in "The Washington Post".
They say that Trump is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.
He refuses to sit still. The presidential adviser said he doesn`t think he`s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he`s going to solve by himself.
And Betsy, if he doesn`t think he`s in any legal jeopardy, why hasn`t he been able to follow the advice that any lawyer would give him if he was not in any legal jeopardy, which is just to, you know, step back and let this process take care of itself?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: That`s a good question. I think a big part of the reason for this is that the president just isn`t the kind of person who thinks long and hard about the law and legal culture and the way that lawyers think and the difference between the court of public opinion and actual court of law.
Remember, unlike the prior president, Trump does not have any sort of law background. He`s been a businessman, he`s never been a lawyer and he hasn`t had any sort of formal legal education besides what he`s just seen in his time as a businessman in New York.
And based on my coverage of the Justice Department speaking with current and former officials, one sense that I get is that people who professionally work in the legal world see Trump as someone who just doesn`t whatsoever get it.
They see him as someone who treats lawyers like means to an end, right? Who sees lawyers as tools that he can use to accomplish his larger goals rather than as people who are integral parts of the way that our system of justice works.
And I think that`s part of the reason that the president`s relationship with so many of his lawyers has been so messy and complicated and also part of the reason why he has been his own biggest stumbling block in terms of legal problems both individually and in terms of his administration as a whole.
O`DONNELL: Al Hunt, so we have an Irish guy from Boston, chief of staff of the White House. And I think the last one of those might have been Kenny O`Donnell for President Kennedy, no relation to me.
But he`s not a political guy. This is someone who --
HUNT: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Has been in the military. This is someone who is accustomed to people following orders. He`s accustomed to having a lot of honor and decency around him in the workplace.
What`s your prediction for how General Kelly manages this new White House?
HUNT: Well, as your -- as your guests in your previous segments said, I think it`s an impossible task, and I don`t think he will succeed.
I would just add one thing to what Betsy said that not only does Trump not have respect for the law, he is to be perfectly candid a chronic liar.
It has been enumerated by "The Washington Post", "Politico", he just does it, he`s pathological about it. Any good lawyer really has difficulty with a client who is a pathological liar.
I think General Kelly is going to have an enormous problem here. I also disagree with Jeremy Bash that getting rid of Scaramucci speaks volumes.
If he couldn`t do that --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
HUNT: That was the easiest thing in the world.
O`DONNELL: Right --
HUNT: I mean, from second one. But, Lawrence, just to go quickly to your question, look at those White House Chief of Staffs who succeeded, Jim and Howard Baker, John Podesta, Leon Panetta, Josh Bolton, Rahm Emanuel. What do they share in common, Lawrence? They all know the ways of Washington. They all know politics in the broadest sense of the word.
General Kelly is a very respected marine corps general, but he`s got a very narrow background in that sense. And I think the White House Chief of Staff is not a management job. It`s a political job.
O`DONNELL: And, Betsy, it`s the top political job in Washington, pure political job. And General Kelly does have experience in the pentagon working on defense appropriations bills and lobbying the house and the senate on that, but that`s really the only legislative experience he`s ever had. That tells you nothing about how to handle finance and ways and means on tax bills and all these other forms of legislation that are moving -- the health care legislation, which is behind us now.
So he doesn`t have -- it`s hard to point to people with less experience. I guess Matt McClardy for Bill Clinton at the beginning. In that arena of actual domestic governance in Washington.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR THE DAILY BEAST: For sure. And I think that`s very much by design. Before General Kelly`s name was batted around as someone who potentially could run the Department of Homeland security, there are reports that he actually told some of his confidants that he specifically did not want to be in any administration. He didn`t want to be a creature of the beltway.
He doesn`t see it as you know his natural habitat at all. Of course there`s this perhaps no particular job that puts you closer to the epicenter of the D.C. Beltway than being the president`s chief of staff. My understanding based on conversations with current and former officials, with folks who have worked with him in the past, is this isn`t a gig he was jonesing for. And that how I view it as a big part of the reason that he took this position is that the president asked him too, right?
Secretary Kelly is not a political ladder climber. Obviously you have to have some sort of political background to get to be a four-star general, but this isn`t someone who based on my understanding had any sort of electoral ambitions. But given his time in the military, given his understanding of the importance of authority, hierarchy, chains of command, if the president asked him to do something, which is obviously the case, he wouldn`t say no. And I think the important counterpart to that is in the same way that General Kelly didn`t want to say no to the president, he`ll expect his subordinates not to say no to him.
And that`s why you`re seeing Scaramucci on his way out potentially with others to follow.
O`DONNELL: Al, my experience in politics and government in Washington tells me that General Kelly better have the resignation letter in his pocket at all times, and he better have informed to the president about exactly what will provoke his resignation letter because that`s what his power will come from. His power will come from the basic -- the - the threat of the disruption of his resignation if the president does not follow his advice on x or y.
HUNT: That is a mighty sword he has, Lawrence, if he`s willing to use it. He`s got to start by telling the president, you can`t lie. You just can`t go out there every day and lie. That`s going to be a tough conversation. I would remind you that the last time we brought a general in to really take care of a beleaguered presidency was Alexander Hague for Richard Nixon. That didn`t turn out so well, did it?
O`DONNELL: Well, Alexander Hague ended up being the first chief of staff for President Gerry Ford when he moved up. Al hunt, thank you for that historical perspective very helpful, appreciate it, Betsy Woodruff, thank you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
HUNT: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, who is John Kelly? What do we know about his record and what do we know about his brief record as a civilian in government at the department of homeland security?
O`DONNELL: And so President Trump now has a White House Chief of Staff who was not a part of his campaign and didn`t like his campaign. General John Kelly complained about what he saw as the lack of reality in both the Trump and the Clinton campaigns last year, and he publicly warned any former general like Mike Flynn that getting involved in politics is a mistake, especially what he called, quote, the cesspool of domestic politics.
In his seven months as head of Homeland Security, General Kelly has backed every bit of the president`s immigration policy including every one of Donald Trump`s unconstitutional executive orders banning people from entering the United States from certain Muslim countries. And until the firing of Anthony Scaramucci today, there was no evidence at all that General Kelly had any desire to talk Donald Trump out of any of his terrible ideas.
Joining us now, Mieke Eoyang, a former House Intelligence Committee staff member and now the vice president for National Security Program at the Third Way. Also with us, Vince Warren. He`s the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. And Mieke, I -- I wanted to listen first of all to something that General Kelly said about Jared Kushner`s attempt to set up a secure form of communication with the Russians and Russian governments from - from the Russian embassy in Washington during the transition.
Let`s listen to what the general said about that on "meet the press."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was before the - before government was in place, during the transition. I think anytime you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they`re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Mieke, it seemed he was the only person who had any pentagon experience who thought that was not a terrible, disastrous idea.
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM AT THE THIRD WAY: I think that`s right. And remember, General Kelly also served in the Obama administration, which was for opening up lines of communication with countries that were adversaries. However, it`s really the method that Jared Kushner was suggesting that was really problematic.
And he didn`t say anything about that. That method really looked like Jared Kushner was trying to set up some kind of channel to get around U.S. Government oversight, and that`s really troubling.
O`DONNELL: So, Vince Warren, the president issued an executive order, the first one banning people with green cards, banning people with green cards from entering the country. And this secretary of homeland security says, OK. We`ll go enforce that right away.
VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Well, not only did he do that, after the orders were issued and it was a huge Kerfuffle and a mess, he took responsibility for something that he said that he actually had no idea was going to be coming out. This guy is someone that is willing to sort of take the heat for the president, and for this president, that`s a terrible, terrible idea. We have to remember that he was the head of South Command, The Southern Command of the Army which oversaw Guantanamo.
And he was in charge when the men in Guantanamo were brutalized after a peaceful hunger strike and took no - had nothing - nothing but positive things to say about the way - that the horrible way that the men were treated in Guantanamo. And now he`s overseeing one of the largest push backs with respect to undocumented people in recent American history. And this is the person that we`re now relying on to keep the president in check.
And I think that even if he manages to wrestle the president`s blackberry to the ground, we want to set the bar higher with respect to what we want from our public officials and someone that is overseeing civil rights abuses.
O`DONNELL: Mieke you worked with General Kelly in the past. Have you been surprised by his tenure as the secretary of homeland security for president Trump?
EOYANG: I have been. I always thought of General Kelly as someone with tremendous integrity and respect for Congress, who had always worked very well and had a good sense of what it meant to serve the constitution. I was surprised at some of the things that were coming out of DHS. Though when you look back at what the Trump administration was initially proposing in January, the very beginning and how over broad it was and how overtime it had to whittle it back and whittle it back.
I wonder if General Kelly is quietly actually pushing back on the Trump administration but not talking about his opposition.
O`DONNELL: And - and Vince, the executive orders were extraordinary because they didn`t go through any kind of -- any of the processes that an executive order goes through. Basically these things like written on the back of a napkin. And Secretary Kelly either didn`t seem to recognize that, and that could be understandable. He`d never been involved in an executive order before. He didn`t know what the process was for an executive order.
WARREN: Yeah, that`s -- it`s not shocking in this administration, but it`s extremely problematic. One of the things that you would want to see from someone who is the head of the Department of Homeland Security and what we expect to see with this person as Chief of Staff of the White House is the ability to say, wait a minute. Let`s stop this. We`re not doing these things by the right protocols. I would love it if he would recognize that this was blatantly unconstitutional and didn`t put his weight behind it, but we`re not seeing that from him.
You know one other thing is that generally if human rights groups have to sue you, it`s not a good idea for you to be the White House Chief of Staff. And in fact, my organization and American Immigration Council (INAUDIBLE) filed a lawsuit just a couple of months - couple of weeks ago rather where this administration`s Department of Homeland Security was refusing to let people across the border valid asylum applications in contravention of U.S. Law and international law. It`s a problem.
O`DONNELL: Vince Warren and Mieke Eoyang, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it. Coming up, Donald Trump, now something Rush Limbaugh hates. A republican in name only.
O`DONNELL: President Trump behaves like a man without a party. He attacks Republican Senators when he feels like it. He complains on Twitter about Republican Senators not protecting him.
The President doesn`t seem to realize that most of his Tweets as conservative Peggy Noonan and others have pointed out are demonstrations of utter weakness. They are mostly expressions of his frustrations, about things he`s not powerful enough to change. His Tweets end with the word sad because he doesn`t have the power to do anything. Tweets from the President who tricked voters into believing that he would be the toughest guy whoever occupied the office.
Now he`s just the sad guy. Of course President Trump attacks Democrats too, but the public attacks against members of his own party in Congress are uniquely Trumpian and are producing new power dynamics in the Republican Party. Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to Jeff Sessions` Alabama Senate seat when sessions became Attorney General is running for the seat in a Special Election. So is Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks.
Brooks is a Trump Republican. Senator Strange is now a McConnell Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything he can to deliver financial support to Senator Strange`s campaign. Mitch McConnell knows that his party has the least popular President in the history of polling at this stage of his presidency. Mitch McConnell knows that there really isn`t a Trump agenda in Congress, but Congressman Mo Brooks doesn`t know that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MO BROOKS, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: By golly, maybe they ought to start at the top with Mitch McConnell leaving his position and letting somebody new, somebody bold, somebody conservative take the reins. If Mitch McConnell cannot get the job done on this, how is he going to get the job done on the rest of President Trump`s agenda over the next 3 1/2 years?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And now Mitch McConnell knows that the last thing he wants in the Senate is another Trump-supporting senator like Mo Brooks. Coming up, Senate Republicans slowly turning away from their President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE DENT, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Here we are trying to focus on whatever the issue is at the moment, whether health care or tax reform or infrastructure. But if we`re having to deal with these types of -- whether tweets or inappropriate statements coming from the president, that just completely distracts us. Frankly it`s exhausting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Former Republican Congressman, David Jolly. David, are you seeing the third party develop in front of our eyes, the Trump party in Washington that seems to think it`s not Republican?
DAVID JOLLY, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Of Course. What does the Republican Party do with a Donald Trump party? And listen, you referenced Mitch McConnell. You referenced the Alabama race.
Listen Mitch McConnell in the election con of Twitter is not old enough to remember that after the tea party wave we Sharon Engle in Nevada lost a race she should have won. Kristine O`Donnell in Delaware having to run a ad saying I`m not a witch. And Richard Mourdock in Indiana saying God ordained rape. And the reason Mitch McConnell, the guy that the left the guy loves to hate is actually pushing back against the far right because he a opportunity squandered six years ago in the wave of the tea party. And it will be more squandered in the wave of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: All of those characters emerged before Donald Trump. I want to look at the Tweet he did about Senator Lisa Murkowski voting against the Trump-McConnell health care bill. Senator Lisa Murkowski of the great state of Alaska really let the Republicans of the country down yesterday, too bad.
A Couple of things about that David, when he was running for President he told everyone it was going to be easy to repeal and replace. He never said, unless Lisa Murkowski stands in my way. Then it`s just going to be too bad. When his people read this Tweet, this kind of idea of -- we were going to but Lisa Murkowski got in the way so too bad. When does the deflation of the all powerful Trump appear?
JOLLY: And Lawrence, rhetoric plays fools and only fools play rhetoric. Listen you know this as article 1 cynic guy. Lisa Murkowski controls the Department of the Interior and nothing Donald Trump or Ryan Zinke wants to do will affect anything more than what Lisa Murkowski can do to them. And so what we are seeing right now is frankly a very JV President who has no idea what he is doing inside the beltway. And he likes to cater to the base but that`s 35 percent. We`ve seen that over and over in the polls.
O`DONNELL: And at what point - I mean is General Kelly the guy whose going to say to the President hey, you know, you need more in order to win this thing you need more votes. He is not the political guy. He is not the vote counter the Whitehouse Chief of Staff is supposed to be
JOLLY: He is not. But he was the legislative lee son for the Marine Corps. And here`s what we also know and I hope every viewer will listen to this. General Kelly is a solid guy, a leader`s leader. And here what is we need to hold on Donald Trump right now.
The ultimate fate of John Kelly will be the litmus of the seriousness of Donald Trump`s interest in leading because if John Kelly can`t do it, Lawrence nobody can. And that is the litmus test for in administration.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly thank you for joining us.
JOLLY: You`ve got it. Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word, is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: You got to hand it to him. No one is better than Trump at claiming victories from overwhelming defeats. I could honesty see him at the end of the term saying I didn`t have the ability experience or intelligence to be a successful President. I turned out to be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He might -- he might say it. John Oliver gets tonight`s Last Word. the 11th hour with Brian Williams is next
BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR ANCHOR: The breaking news we`re covering tonight, another bombshell from the Washington Post. Their report that the statement that covered up for Don Junior`s meeting with the Russians, the one that said the meeting was about adoptions, that statement was drafted by his father the President. Meanwhile, the big story all day, the mooch is no more. The spectacular fall of Anthony Scaramucci as communication