Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 2, 2017 Guest: David Cay Johnston, Tim O`Brien, Brian Klaas, Ron Klain
JOY REID, MSNBC: Donald, good evening, Lawrence -- meeting at the hearing tomorrow and whether we learn more about it.
That does it for us tonight, we will see you tomorrow, again, same time, same channel, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Joy, and thank you very much for last night, for delivering a huge audience to 10:00 p.m. because once again, once again, Joy, you were the highest rated show on cable news, and that just hands me exactly what I want --
REID: What did you do?
O`DONNELL: Which is a lot of Joy Reid viewers right here --
REID: I love it --
O`DONNELL: Right now.
REID: We love it because you do so well and it`s so smashing that it just makes all of the other networks sad. Not that we want them to be actually sad, it`s just a little sad.
O`DONNELL: Joy, thank you once again.
REID: Have a great show.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We have some breaking news stories tonight, Jeff Sessions` job as attorney general is safe, not because the president says he won`t fire him, but because the president`s new boss says that he won`t fire him.
And Nbc News is reporting an extraordinary meeting tonight in which Donald Trump blew up in anger at his generals because they have not done what Donald Trump told his voters would be easy to do -- execute the secret Trump war plan in Afghanistan.
And you will meet a new candidate for Congress tonight, the woman who is the first female Marine to fly an F-18 in combat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump has signed a bill punishing Russia for its interference in the 2016 election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a defeat for this administration that did not want this to happen.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He signed it in the interest of national unity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m struck that he did so not making a strong statement against Russia, and made a strong statement against the Congress.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Putin`s done something nobody in America could do, bring us all together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the topic of Russia and when the president speaks, most of us are not listening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems from the moment Sean Spicer went out, in the first hours of the administration to mislead the public about crowd size, that truth was not going to be a priority, and that was almost discouraged.
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You have to have a presumption that every statement that`s made from the White House at this point is a dishonest one.
CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST: These are not just lies, these are -- these are like diarrheas of lies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s contributing to this onset of Trump fatigue that we`re seeing here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump campaigned for president as the tough guy. The only tough guy, the tough guy running against low-energy Jeb Bush, little Marco, lying Ted.
The tough guy running against all those weak presidents that we`ve had up to now, and now Donald Trump turns out to be the weakest president in the history of the American presidency and one of the weakest presidents in the world today.
He told his voters that he would push other presidents around, around the world. He would tell the Chinese president to immediately send us back all those jobs that China stole.
He would order the president of Mexico to pay for a Trump wall on the southern border. When we would point out back in the campaign to Trump voters that that was impossible, Donald Trump would not get the Mexican president to pay for that wall, Donald Trump would fail at that.
The Trump voters thought, we just didn`t understand how tough Donald Trump is. And the president of Mexico was going to find out just how tough Donald Trump is, and leaders around the world were going to find out how tough Donald Trump is and America would finally be respected around the world because of how tough Donald Trump is.
And now Vladimir Putin expels 755 Americans working in the American Embassy in Moscow, and tough guy Donald Trump is afraid to utter a single word about it.
Can it be anything else? Is there any other explanation other than fear? Donald Trump is just terrified of Vladimir Putin.
No one can seriously dispute that now. Donald Trump has personally lavished praise on Vladimir Putin more than he has on any other foreign head of state.
Donald Trump paid slavish attention to Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit, more attention than he paid to anyone else there, including all the other countries with much bigger, more important economies than Russia.
And when Vladimir Putin expels 755 Americans from our embassy in Moscow, Donald Trump is now afraid to say a word about it.
No United States president in history would remain silent in the face of expulsion of American diplomats from any country, least of all, Russia.
What would Donald Trump say if Mexico expelled one person from the United States Embassy -- one? How many tweets would Donald Trump fire off for that?
The president of the United States fired off angry tweets when he got the feeling that Meryl Streep doesn`t like him.
And not one word when Vladimir Putin expelled 755 Americans from our embassy. Nothing explains this Trump behavior other than fear, and the question is, what is he afraid of?
What is Donald Trump afraid of? What does Vladimir Putin have that creates so much fear in Donald Trump? It can`t be nuclear weapons because no previous American president has been afraid of Vladimir Putin.
And Vladimir Putin had nuclear weapons then. The reason Donald Trump is afraid of Vladimir Putin is the central investigative question that the special prosecutor is studying tonight in the investigation of a Trump campaign`s relationship to Russia.
Is it something Vladimir Putin knows about Donald Trump, and Donald Trump knows that Vladimir Putin knows it?
Is that why Donald Trump is so obviously and publicly terrified of Vladimir Putin? So afraid that when he had the first major bill-signing of his presidency today, President Trump did it in secret.
No cameras allowed, no senators, no members of Congress allowed, no senators handed pens from the bill-signing ceremony because the bill provided more sanctions on Russia.
And Donald Trump was afraid of letting Vladimir Putin see him sign that on television. This is the same president who had no problem letting the world see him sign unconstitutional executive orders trying to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
This is the same president who invited cameras to show him signing basically meaningless memos to his own staff that have no force of law, that mean absolutely nothing.
That was worth the cameras. In the Trump White House, those meaningless, so-called signing ceremonies were worthy of being televised.
The Trump presidency has famously been defeated in what it intended to be its first major piece of legislation, the health care bill.
Donald Trump is the first president in as long as we can remember who failed to pass his first priority piece of legislation.
And so the first major piece of legislation that the president got to sign turned out to be something that he didn`t want, something that he was opposed to.
It was something forced on him by the Congress, passed by gigantic majorities of Democrats and Republicans in both parties, the kind of congressional vote we haven`t seen in a long time.
The bill did something that no sanctions bill before it felt the need to do. It included provisions to forbid the president of the United States from softening or removing the sanctions if in the president`s judgment, those sanctions are no longer necessary.
In the past, Congress always gave the president the free hand to negotiate those sanctions away if the sanctioned country is willing to change the behavior that provoked the sanctions.
The bill that the Congress passed and that the president was forced to sign today was a bill that in effect says we do not trust that this president of the United States has the interest of the United States as a top priority over the interests of Vladimir Putin and Russia.
This sanctions bill is, in effect, a sanction of President Trump, Congress` way of saying, we fear that Donald Trump may be more loyal to Vladimir Putin than he is to the United States.
President Trump is now clearly being bossed around by the new boss of the Trump White House. Former Marine Corps General John Kelly, who has so far prevented the president from doing his customary share of utterly insane tweets.
And John Kelly has obviously ordered the president to stop attacking his own attorney general. Now, you may think it a good thing that the president is now -- is not attacking his attorney general, but we know that he wants to.
But now he`s afraid to because he`s weak and because General Kelly ordered him not to do it. And so in the president`s obedience to his new White House chief of staff, we once again see just how weak Donald Trump is.
The president has a new boss to whom he weakly submits. The "Associated Press" is reporting tonight that John Kelly in one of his first acts in his new post called Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reassure him that his position was safe despite the recent onslaught of criticism he has taken from President Donald Trump.
Even before John Kelly was sworn into his new job, he called Jeff Sessions to tell him, you don`t have to worry about Donald Trump anymore.
I`m in charge. That was the message. The "Associated Press" reports, Kelly called Sessions on Saturday to stress that the White House was supportive of his work and wanted him to continue his job according to two people familiar with the call.
Kelly, who was appointed to the post the day before, described the president as still miffed at Sessions but did not plan to fire him or hope he would resign.
So the president is still miffed, but that doesn`t matter because John Kelly isn`t miffed, and John Kelly is the boss now, not the president.
The information about the call from John Kelly to Jeff Sessions was provided to the "Associated Press" by quote "two people familiar with the call.
The people demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about a private conversation, and that is the standard definition of leaking."
So two people in the Trump administration leaked a call between the new White House chief of staff and the attorney general.
Those two people could actually be John Kelly and Jeff Sessions, or they could be two people that heard Jeff Sessions` end of the call or one person on the Kelly end of the call, another one on the Sessions end of the call.
There`s a bunch of possibilities and combinations there, but they`re all Trump administration people, and this is a leaked story from the Trump administration about the new White House chief of staff who was brought in to end the leaking in the White House.
The leaking will never end. The utterly insane tweeting by the president has ended, at least for a couple of days.
But even General John Kelly cannot get the president of the United States to behave like a president when it comes to Vladimir Putin and Russia.
Even General John Kelly cannot get a word out of the president of the United States about the expulsion of 755 people from the American Embassy in Moscow, and even General John Kelly could not get the president of the United States to sign the Russia sanctions legislation today with the members of Congress who passed that legislation in full view of the voters of the United States of America, whose last presidential election was hacked and undermined by Vladimir Putin.
And whose new president, for reasons we do not yet know, seems to live in fear of Vladimir Putin. Joining us now, Sam Stein; politics editor for "The Daily Beast" and an Msnbc contributor.
Also with us, Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama.
He`s also a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was the chief of staff to Attorney General -- you know, and Ron, I want to start with you on the matter of Jeff Sessions` job security, which has been assured to him now by the White House chief of staff and the president has been silenced on the subject by the White House chief of staff.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes, I mean, as you said, there`s a new sheriff in town and it`s General Kelly.
We`ll just see how shiny that star is for long. I mean, I think that Donald Trump -- if you don`t think that Donald Trump is still sitting in the White House sweating the Mueller investigation.
For all the reasons you said at the outset, Lawrence, because of anxiety about what Putin has, what Putin knows and what Mueller will find out about it, you know, that`s still the fundamental reality of the Trump presidency.
And while Jeff Sessions` job may be safe now, ultimately, the day will come when Donald Trump wants to fire Bob Mueller, and he will give the orders and tear up the Justice Department to make that happen.
And I don`t think anything that`s happened in the past 24 or 48 hours with John Kelly in the White House changes that core reality.
O`DONNELL: And Sam Stein, the -- Senator John McCain and others in Congress noticed that the president`s behavior today and his accompanying signing statement indicating that he was displeased with what the Congress had done.
Senator McCain said "the framers of our constitution made the Congress and the president co-equal branches of government.
This bill has already proven the wisdom of that choice. And Sam, it proved the wisdom of the choice in the senator`s view because this president cannot be trusted to --
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, DAILY BEAST: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Advance United States interests against Russian interests.
STEIN: Yes, and I think Congress has come to that conclusion as well. What struck me is how in this past week we`ve seen a real divergence between a Republican-controlled Senate and House somewhat and this White House.
For instance, even before this, Trump was encouraging senators, and still is, according to our reporting, to take another whack at Obamacare repeal and replace efforts.
And what you`ve seen from Mitch McConnell on the floor and in his agenda is that he has just no interest or time to do it, and he`s not even going to flirt with the idea.
He`s moving on to different things. That`s an amazing sentiment from the majority leader in the Senate to turn his back on the president`s stated prerogative.
So that`s one thing. And the Russia sanctions is quite another. I mean, there was an intense lobbying effort by this administration to try to get these sanctions watered down, precisely on the congressional (INAUDIBLE) which you noticed in your monologue, Lawrence.
And Congress just said no! And not only did they say no, they said no overwhelmingly to the point that Trump`s hands are effectively tied.
So in addition to the whole Mueller thing, the Russia stuff, I think a big story that`s happening before our eyes is that the Republican Congress is beginning to inch, if not step away from this White House and ignore its directives.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and it`s a very important point, Ron, and what we have seen in the Senate is the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee going forward with a set of hearings scheduled for beginning in September about basically how insurance is working under Obamacare and what we can do to shore it up.
And those hearings in the normal process of things, that will take a minimum of six to eight months for legislation to ever make it to the Senate floor out of hearings like that, if it ever does.
But this is, in the face of a president who said, don`t do another thing in Congress until you have another vote in the Senate on healthcare, completely being ignored by the Senate.
KLAIN: Yes, Lawrence, as you noted at the outset, most presidents sign major legislation in their first 100 days, Trump didn`t.
In the first six months, Trump didn`t. He finally signed a major bill. It`s a bill he didn`t --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
KLAIN: Want. And the level of this repudiation has to be seen in historic standards.
O`DONNELL: Yes --
KLAIN: You know, last time a president was hammed in like this was when Congress came after Richard Nixon`s war powers in 1973.
And when they passed the war powers resolution in 1973, there were still 135 congressmen who voted with Nixon.
Three congressmen voted with Donald Trump on this Russia sanctions bill. And that shows you how confidence in this president has just collapsed on - -
O`DONNELL: Yes --
KLAIN: Capitol Hill.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham said about the way Donald Trump signed the bill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: The fact he does this kind of quietly I think reinforces the narrative that the Trump administration is not really serious about pushing back on Russia, and I think that is a mistake too because Putin will see this as a sign of weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Sam, the word weakness can be used in sentences with Donald Trump on every single front of this presidency that we discussed.
STEIN: Yes, and Lindsey Graham was proven right. Dmitry Medvedev; close Putin associate, former president actually tweeted out today, I believe, that Trump looked weak, having his hands tied like this by Congress.
There is one other thing that you -- that was not mentioned in this, which is that the State Department has rejected funds to counteract a Russian propaganda program under the stated reason that they don`t want to offend Moscow.
I mean, that`s just another data point going on here that all suggests that Trump has either a desire to have a cozy relationship with Putin or more likely that Putin has something over Russia.
But just to get back to the congressional element of this, you know, it`s hard to overstate just how boxed in Trump is.
The sanctions are one thing, the healthcare thing is one thing. But today, Trump comes out and does a big push for an immigration bill with Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue.
We talked to people on the Hill all day today for the "Daily Beast". There is zero chance this thing gets -- becomes law.
The fact that the president is wasting his time doing this type of thing when there`s basically no shot of it ever getting ratified through the Senate to his desk shows you just how little his agenda has shrunk -- how much his agenda has shrunk and how little he`s probably going to get done.
O`DONNELL: Ron, such a good point brought up by Sam. As I was watching that today, that announcement today about this, I was just sitting there thinking, OK, so the judiciary committees are going to immediately go to work on this thing --
STEIN: No --
O`DONNELL: That they know is helpless, that they know could never get through the Senate because of the amendment process.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, look, obviously as Sam said, this is -- you know, the president -- you know, who should be working on tax reform, should be working on an infrastructure bill that`s been promised for many months, child care that`s been promised for many months.
Job creation that`s been promised for many months. He is now throwing out these nuggets for his base, banning transgender service in the military, which the military commanders immediately ignored, arguing that police should rough up suspects which the head of the DEA today said he would ignore.
And pushing legislation, immigration legislation which both sides in Congress are going to ignore.
And so he`s a president really who has given up on his agenda, is trying just to appeal and stroke and fire up his base, and is not going to get much done that way for sure.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to squeeze in a break here, Sam Stein, thank you very much for joining us --
STEIN: Thanks --
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Ron Klain, we`re going to need you in another segment, please stick around.
Coming up, Nbc News exclusive reporting tonight about President Trump`s angry outburst in a meeting with his top generals, the people who he believes are going to solve all of his problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have a plan. I don`t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is --
MATT LAUER, JOURNALIST: But you`re going to --
TRUMP: Let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the general`s plan or the general`s plan, if I like their plan, Matt, I`m not going to call you up and say, Matt, we have a great plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Big surprise, Trump voters, he had no plan. And he doesn`t think his generals have a plan either. Tonight, Nbc News reports exclusively that President Donald Trump, quote, "has become increasingly frustrated with his advisors tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war`s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House according to senior administration officials.
At one point, the president directed his frustration at Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying he had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan, and yet the U.S. was continuing to lose ground.
The president`s advisors went into the mid-July meeting hoping he would sign off on an Afghanistan strategy after months of delays, official said.
Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s.
Trump told his advisors that the restaurant, Manhattan`s Elite 21 Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for renovation.
After a year, Trump said, the consultant`s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.
Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant`s waiters instead might have yielded a better result.
He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn`t a three-star general, he doesn`t know what he`s talking about, and that, in his own experience in business, talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcome."
Joining us now, people who know Donald Trump, Tim O`Brien; executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald".
Also with us, David Cay Johnston; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who founded D.C. Report.Org; a non-profit news organization that covers the Trump administration.
You both have written books about Donald Trump. Tim O`Brien, I want to go to you first on this matter of his frustration with the generals.
Here he lied his way through the campaign saying, I have a secret plan, you know, don`t worry about it. And then I`ll listen to the generals` plan, if I like their plan better and it turns out he had no plan.
The generals have a plan that he doesn`t like because it didn`t work in, what? A week or two.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: And because he can recall this long-ago incident at a local restaurant --
O`DONNELL: At a restaurant --
O`BRIEN: In New York that gave him all of the experience and authority he needed to have to weigh in on military policy. We don`t even know if the anecdote about the 21 Club is true. That`s the --
O`DONNELL: Well, what we know is that the 21 Club wasn`t closed as long as they said, and --
O`BRIEN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: So he exaggerates all the parts of that story, too --
O`BRIEN: Yes, right, to make his point, which is that he should be -- he should be listening to troops on the ground in Afghanistan rather than the military brass and that that gives him the authority to go after Nicholson(ph) and to question Nicholson`s(ph) leadership in Afghanistan and to apparently take Mattis to task in front of the joint chiefs.
And again shows him out of his depth without a clear plan of his own and sort of grasping for straws of his own past.
To say I have the authority to weigh in here.
O`DONNELL: And David, of course, Donald Trump got some great ideas from all the troops in Afghanistan when he visited there -- oh, but wait, I`m sorry, he`s never been to Afghanistan.
He`s never talked to anyone who has served in --
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST: Right --
O`DONNELL: Afghanistan. And of course, he didn`t talk to the waiters at the 21 Club either. We know that.
JOHNSTON: Right. And Donald has no idea about what`s actually going on in Afghanistan, about the cultural differences in that country that go back hundreds of years that we`ve interfered in.
What we do know is Donald has said, hey, they`ve got a lot of mineral wealth and like the oil in Iraq, he thinks we should grab it, which isn`t surprising since Donald has spent a lot of his life cheating people out of their property.
Why would he not think the same thing about Afghanistan? This is just an absolute farce.
O`DONNELL: Tim, there`s a passage in here in the Nbc reporting about Donald Trump`s kind of wild dissatisfaction with generals.
These are his -- this week is the week where we`re seeing all of his public worship of generals and he hires a general to be his White House chief of staff.
It turns out he`s got a limited amount of respect going in their direction too. And so if he`s turning on them, you know, how long before General Kelly discovers that Donald Trump doesn`t think his judgment is so great?
O`BRIEN: Possibly minutes. I think, you know, the issue here is that he acts and thinks episodically, and the main thing driving, I think, his lashing out on Afghanistan is he said he would figure it out.
He said he would go in there and solve a problem no one else can solve. And now I think we`ve been in Afghanistan for 16 years.
It`s traveled as an issue across two administrations, and he`s not going to find it any easier to solve than his predecessors.
And so the first thing he`ll do is say the reason I can`t solve it is because I have bad generals.
O`DONNELL: Yes, you know, I mean, David --
JOHNSTON: Right --
O`DONNELL: That was kind of the essence of the Trump critique over the course of the campaign is the Obama administration uses bad generals, I`m going to use the good generals.
I can`t give you any of their names because I don`t actually know any. But he has General Kelly. He has John Kelly sitting there, basically right outside of his office all day.
The White House chief of staff, who is a general. At some point, if not already, he`s turning to him and saying, what do we do in Afghanistan?
And if General Kelly is saying the same thing he`s hearing from the other generals, how long does Donald Trump rely on General Kelly?
JOHNSTON: You know, I think it will be very interesting to see how long General Kelly lasts. But let`s keep in mind, Lawrence, those are our generals.
They`re not Donald`s generals. And Donald is our employee, who we put in there through the electoral college.
Donald continues in all of this to act like, you know, he is this dictator, and if you`re not doing what he wants, off with your head.
O`DONNELL: And, Tim, talk about where Donald Trump had to get in his fear of what was coming to the point where he gets rid of Reince Priebus, he brings in a new White House chief of staff, who he doesn`t know, who he never knew during the campaign, this is not anything like what we`ve seen him and do before.
He doesn`t necessarily feel he can dominate him, that`s uncharacteristic of Trump. And here he has this new regime in the White House where, you know, John Kelly is basically putting out the word publicly through the press secretary, yes, the president`s daughter and his son-in-law can only speak to him if they go through me.
What would Donald Trump have to have gotten to, to accept that as the public view of his White House?
O`BRIEN: A raging concern that his image and reputation were at stake because of the momentary crazy around Scaramucci and his call to Ryan Lizza, everything would fall around that.
But I would -- again, I don`t think this is going to last. Ivanka Trump tweeted yesterday that she`s looking forward to serving alongside Kelly.
She didn`t say reporting in to him.
O`DONNELL: Yes --
O`BRIEN: And --
JOHNSTON: Tim is -- I agree with Tim --
O`BRIEN: And he said --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
O`BRIEN: And you know, and he said tonight, or it was reported tonight that Sessions is safe now because Kelly says he`s safe.
I don`t think that will last for a second. If Donald Trump wants to get rid of Sessions, he`ll continue to pursue it.
O`DONNELL: David, one of the other -- Michael D`Antonio; one of the other Trump biographers has written a fascinating piece saying that he believes for Donald Trump to get to this point.
He had to believe that the entire administration was on the brink of disaster, the sinking poll numbers, the failure of the healthcare bill, the crazy outbursts from Scaramucci and all of that. That he had to be in a state of real fear in order to make a move that`s so uncharacteristic of bringing someone in who he doesn`t know and cannot necessarily control.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Right and I think that`s exactly right. I think Michael`s right about that. But Donald`s fear and his inner recognition that he doesn`t know what he`s doing here and these virtually delusional statements where Donald just makes things up and creates his own reality, phone calls from boy scouts and Mexican presidents and the like. All of those are still brewing inside him.
Just because we`re not seeing his crazy twitter storms doesn`t mean anything has changed about who he is. And at some point, you know, a tea kettle that is stopped up will explode. We`re going to see something happen in the near future, and this is not a stable environment, and it can`t be as long as Donald trump is in the White House.
O`DONNELL: Tim, an interesting point that David just made. You guys have both written books about Donald Trump, studied him closely. Let`s just assume that General Kelly has contained him on twitter. No utterly, provably insane tweets. There is an insanity in him that we have seen come out through twitter. If the general is bottling all that up, at what point and how does it manifest itself?
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOR BLOOMBERG VIEW: You know I think one of the key things why - why he`s been a survivor for decades and why he plows ahead in these kinds of situations is he creates his own realities. He`s very good at saying, if the fact pattern out in the real world collides with my sense of myself, I`ll just make up a new story.
I`ll invent a fable to allow me to say they`re wrong and I`m right. I think he can continue on that path a lot longer than most of his observers can probably stomach watching it.
O`DONNELL: David, quickly before we go, is this like Donald Trump on the verge of bankruptcy and how he behaves with bank officials when he`s trying to get them to just relax and give him a little bit of a break on the loan? He`s a really - he goes in there and he`s a really good boy talking to those bank officials. That`s the way he is with John Kelly right now.
JOHNSTON: Actually, the bankers - yes the bankers and the bank lawyers banned him from the room. They didn`t want him there. What he did in that case was he got allies, the politicians in the New Jersey state government, to take his side against his bankers. Here he has ticked off and sent away the people that could be his allies.
Mitch McConnell, the republicans, many of them on - on Capitol Hill. And he doesn`t have these allies to do this. That`s part of the problem. I don`t know how he get -- digs himself out of this.
O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien and David Cay Johnston, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Coming up, today the White House admitted that the president lied, but the White House thought the lie -- that the word "lie" is too strong of a word to use for a Trump lie.
O`DONNELL: The only president in history to be rebuked by the Boy Scouts for delivering a highly inappropriate speech to the Boy Scouts is now lying about the Boy Scouts leader. He told "The Wall Street Journal," I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful. The Boy Scouts of America say that no such call ever happened.
The president lies about phone calls with ease. Here`s another one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Even the president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border a very few people are coming because they know they`re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s the pathological liar at work in the cabinet room. The president of Mexico told the world that the president of the United States was lying to his cabinet about that, that that phone call never happened. And today the White House press secretary lied about the president`s lies about the phone calls because that`s what she thinks the taxpayers are paying her to do, lie for the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: He lied. He didn`t -
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I wouldn`t say it was a lie. That`s a pretty bold accusation.
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O`DONNELL: So if a lie isn`t a lie, what is a lie? And, yes, it`s a pretty bold accusation for a pretty bold lie. The American people aren`t falling for the president`s lies or his staff`s lies. According to the new Quinnipiac poll, 62 percent of Americans believe the president is not honest. Only 33 percent say they approve of the job the president is doing. Joining us now, Brian Klass a fellow at the London School of Economics and the author of the Despot`s Accomplice, how the West is aiding and abetting the decline of democracy.
And back with us, Ron Klain. And Brian, how is this regarded around the world when the president of the United States lies about getting a phone call from the president of Mexico, and now we see this week lies about getting a phone call about the boy scouts. I don`t imagine the boy scouts is playing much internationally. But this routine story that we have every day in the United States about what the president lied about today, how is that seen around the world?
BRIAN KLAAS, FELLOW AT THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, unfortunately Trump has become a global punchline, and it`s the least funny joke imaginable. You have a situation where allies can no longer trust the United States, and so aside from all the amusements of this, there`s a serious situation where during a crisis, allies have to question whether or not the president of the United States is telling the truth.
And that`s bad for American interests. It`s also bad for our relationships around the world. And so I think you know when you have these demonstrable falsehoods, lies, whatever you want to call them -- I think we should call them lies personally because when he`s caught, he doesn`t correct them. And I think people who are genuinely acting in good faith would do that. You know, this is a pattern. It`s not something where this simply one outlier.
It is a pattern of dishonesty, and it matters because it`s coming from the most powerful office in the world that we must trust to tell the truth, and we can no longer do that.
O`DONNELL: We have more polling information about how things are looking for the president out there. President Trump`s job approval rating is now, on republicans anyway, it`s at 76 percent. It is of course down around 39 percent overall. I don`t have the right set of numbers in front of me right now. But on this point of republican job approval, when you see that 76 percent Ron, I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking, well, that`s like half the country, you know republicans.
No, no, no. Republicans are only 25 percent of the country. So when 76 percent of them approve Donald Trump, that`s about 18 percent are approving of Donald Trump.
RON KLAIN, FMR CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Look, Lawrence, there`s no getting around the fact it`s not a lie to say that Donald Trump is setting new records for voter disapproval. You know, he likes to say that he wants to run the white house like a business. But if you were a CEO of any business just hated by your customers, failing to deliver every day, lying to your customers every day, you`d lose your job.
And you know that`s what would happen if he was actually a CEO. And the fact of the matter is that voters are turning on him. Even some republicans now are turning on him. He`s lost credibility with the voters, and he isn`t delivering on the core promises he made of focusing on jobs, passing an infrastructure bill, fixing the health care system.
He`s not delivering on this stuff. He can`t get his approval rating back up if he doesn`t deliver, and he`s not doing it.
O`DONNELL: And the - the poll has really harmful information to the president. The question of would you say Donald Trump is level-headed? 26 percent say yes. 71 percent of Americans say their president, the president of the United States, is not level-headed. Something they would probably say about most of the high school principals in their town, they`re level- headed.
Do you feel proud ore embarrassed to have Donald Trump as president? 54 percent of Americans are embarrassed to have Donald Trump as president. And it goes on, including, Brian, some numbers that are very bad for the president in terms of the investigation. Do you think Trump thinks he is above the law? 60 percent say that they believe the president thinks that he`s above the law. And then on the issue the special prosecutor, do you think Robert Mueller will run a fair investigation?
64 percent say they believe Robert Mueller will run a fair investigation. And - and Brian, this is a president who has been relatively public in making noises within the White House about wanting to fire that special prosecutor, who just about two-thirds of the country believes is fair.
KLAAS: That`s right. You know, he basically attacked Jeff Sessions for not obstructing justice, for properly following recusal procedures by not being involved in investigation of a campaign that he was involved in. So I think rule of law is under question under Trump`s presidency. And these poll numbers are altogether astonishing for a president who has overseeing a generally healthy economy and not a massive wartime debacle like we had in Iraq.
We`re at 60 percent disapproval in the Gallup Poll for president Trump. And to put that in to context, Carter never reached that. Reagan never reached that. George H.W. Bush hit that after 1,288 days as President. Clinton never reached that. George W. Bush hit that after 1,700 days as president. Obama never reached it.
So this is after six months, Trump hit it for the first time after 144 days. He`s again there today. And by any metric, this is the most historically unpopular president at this point in his presidency.
O`DONNELL: And 69 percent say that he should not tweet from his personal account. And a majority of republicans actually think he should not tweet from his personal account. Brian Klaas, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Coming up, the first female marine to fly an F-18 in combat is now running for congress, and she`s running as a democrat. She will be our next guest.
O`DONELL: The first female marine to fly in an F18 in combat has a personal history of trying to do the impossible and succeeding. And now having just retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel, Amy McGrath is ready for her next mission impossible, running for Congress at a Democrat in Kentucky. She is running against Republican Representative Andy Barr, who voted for the Trump/Ryan Republican Health care bill in the House of Representatives that would take health care coverage away from 23 million Americans including a quarter of a million people in Kentucky. Lieutenant Colonel McGrath will join us in a moment. But first here is her campaign announcement video.
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AMY MCGRATH, RETIRED FIGHTER PILOT: When I was 12 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to fly fighter jets and land on aircraft carriers because that`s the toughest flying you can do. When I was 13, my Congressman told me I couldn`t fly in combat.
He said Congress thought women ought to be protected and not allowed to serve in combat. I never got a letter back from my Senator Mitch McConnell. I then wrote every member of the House and Senate Arms Services Committees asking them to change the law. I said they just hadn`t met me yet, and I knew I could do it. But most of them told me I couldn`t.
Then i got into the Naval Academy, and wouldn`t you know, that`s when they changed the law. I`m Amy McGrath, and i love our country. I spent 20 years as a U.S. Marine, flew 89 combat missions bombing Al Qaeda and the Taliban. I was the first woman marine to fly in an F18 in combat, and I got to land on aircraft carriers.
Now I`m running for congress against Andy Barr in my home state of Kentucky. He`s Mitch McConnell`s hand picked Congressman who said he would vote enthusiastically to take healthcare away from over a quarter million Kentuckians. Mr. Barr, my mom say polio survivor who became one of the first women to graduate from UK medical school.
A lot of people told her she couldn`t achieve her dreams either. But she persevered and ended up treating many of the same kinds of people whose health care you and Mr. McConnell would take away. This is my new mission, to take on a Congress full of career politicians who treat the people of Kentucky like their disposable.
Some are telling me a Democrat can`t win that battle in Kentucky, that we can`t take back our country for my kids and yours. We`ll see about that.
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O`DONELL: Amy McGrath joins us next.
O`DONELL: We`re joined now by I`m a McGrath, retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps running for Congress in Kentucky Sixth Congressional District against incumbent Andy Barr in the 2018 mid term elections. Colonel, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What is your number one issue in this campaign?
MCGRATH: Well, good evening, Lawrence. It`s nice to be here tonight. My number one issue with the Sixth District of Kentucky when I talk to people here, its health care. I mean, Kentuckians have benefited from the affordable care act. A
And we have an incumbent Republican who wants to enthusiastically and did vote enthusiastically for a bill that was just terrible and is going to hurt Kentuckians. That`s definitely our number one issue, my number one issue.
O`DONELL: And Kentucky is one of the more successful states in implementing the Affordable Care Act. But it isn`t called that down there. And do you run into the problem of there are beneficiaries in Kentucky who don`t actually realize that what they have is Obamacare?
MCGRATH: Sure. We definitely run into that. And here`s what this, you know, at least the Republican repeal and replace idea that`s happening right now is making a lot of Kentuckians start to learn that the Affordable Care Act isn`t in a death spiral. It isn`t that bad for many Kentuckians. In fact, it`s very, very good. And so I think it`s a learning process right now
O`DONELL: We`re going to squeeze in a break here and when we come back, I want to ask you, we just reported on this angry meeting that President had with Generals about the campaign. Afghanistan.
If you were in the room with the President and those Generals what would you have told the President we need to do in Afghanistan? You can give us an answer when we come back after this break. Please stay with us.
O`DONELL: We`re back with Congressional candidate Amy McGrath. And as I asked before the break with your experience as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines flying combat missions, if you had been in that meeting where Donald Trump started yelling at the Generals about their failure in Afghanistan, what would you have told the President we need to do in Afghanistan?
MCGRATH: Well, you know, I`ve been to Afghanistan twice. I did two combat tours. And one thing I would tell him is you need to not only just listen to your generals,. But listen to people, the diplomats, the experts in the area who aren`t necessarily part of the military, that you can`t solve every problem with a hammer.
And I think that he really needs to listen to those other people, those experts because it`s a very complex war. And it`s not going to be won just by the military alone.
O`DONELL: Former marine lieutenant colonel, Amy McGrath now a candidate for Congress gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.