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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 8/21/17 Trump speech



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And that`s next. Our coverage of the president`s announcement about Afghanistan continues on this network with Lawrence O`Donnell in the next hour and then we`re going to have Brian Williams here live in the "11TH HOUR" and then I`ll be back with a special live edition of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" at midnight on the East Coast, 9:00p.m. if you`re joining us on the West Coast.

I will see you then, our coverage continues now with Lawrence O`Donnell.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: A very big news night, Rachel. This speech was something we`ve been waiting for all weekend.

We expected to hear a number and we didn`t hear a number.

MADDOW: That`s right.

O`DONNELL: It`s supposed to be the troop strength increase speech and if it was that, you have to kind of find it between the lines somewhere.

MADDOW: We heard from the president tonight, an argument with his old self.


MADDOW: Who was very --


MADDOW: Much against the war in Afghanistan and wanted us to be out not just today, but yesterday and constantly called it a waste, including a waste of American lives.

Which is a very dicey thing to say about a world where people are still dying. So we heard the president basically dismiss his previous self in those previous arguments and explain why we need a more George W. Bush approach to this war going forward.

I mean, we`ll see what this -- what this meant. I still don`t understand exactly why he made this announcement now.

And I don`t know exactly what this means except for the threat to Pakistan and my worries about what`s going to happen because of that next.

O`DONNELL: And it does seem that on the timing, Rachel, that it may have been rushed or speeded up because Mike Pence was on a scheduled trip in South America that he had to come back for.

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: In order to be in these meetings leading up to this speech. Now, the vice president`s schedule was known well in advance.

If this speech was supposed to be scheduled for tonight, then the trip could have been adjusted quite a while ago.

MADDOW: And it doesn`t -- yes, you`re totally right about Pence that Pence was on this overseas trip, it was scheduled to go through Friday.

He had to come back early in order to go to that camp base meeting on Afghanistan, the day after that on Saturday, they announced that they were going to do this speech tonight.

But this speech tonight comes at a weird time. I mean, not to be too -- like granular about this, but the whole country spent the day staring at the sun being awed by the majesty of the solar system and then were finished -- so then at the end of that night, including a White House event to highlight the fact that the president was also watching the eclipse, sometimes without glasses.

We get this speech on Afghanistan on -- and tonight is the eve of his big campaign-style rally tomorrow in Phoenix where he may be issuing the first presidential pardon of his term to disgrace former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

So if he`s trying to do this for political effects and it doesn`t seem to be driven by circumstances on the ground, the political effect here is kaleidoscopic.

O`DONNELL: And interestingly, he seems to have no one on board at the moment to back up what he said tonight.

Defense secretary is out of the country that want you to expect as the next stage of discussion of this from the administration we might not be getting.

MADDOW: And there aren`t people at the State Department who work on this stuff.

O`DONNELL: Right --

MADDOW: In place as confirmed positions and the -- you know, the main civilian position in U.S. government to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan together is a person who just finished in June, wasn`t replaced.

They quietly closed the office the day that she left and never told any of the staff who worked in that office that they were closing the office until it was closed.

Never a press release, no statement about doing that whatsoever. So if something has changed, we`ve just started a new fight with Pakistan, OK, who is going to follow through on that?

I mean, maybe it will be on Jared`s plate.

O`DONNELL: Great job covering the live speech, Rachel, really appreciate it --

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence, appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Well, it was a speech like no other. Trump administration sources had indicated that the president was going to announce a 50 percent increase in troop strength in Afghanistan by sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Tonight, the president announced that he will not announce an increase in troop strength.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.

I`ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.


O`DONNELL: We will not talk about numbers of troops. That is new for the American presidency. At no point tonight did the president clarify anything about what would actually change militarily for the United States in Afghanistan.

If this speech is meant to be interpreted as an increase in troop strength in Afghanistan, it is the first time a president has announced an increase in troop strength without actually announcing an increase in troop strength.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As commander-in- chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.


O`DONNELL: And here is how President George W. Bush described the military surge that he ordered in Iraq.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them, five brigades, will be deployed to Baghdad.


O`DONNELL: Here is President Lyndon Johnson announcing increased deployments to Vietnam.


LYNDON JOHNSON, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have today ordered to Vietnam the air mobile division and certain other forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men almost immediately.

Additional forces will be needed later, and they will be sent as requested.


O`DONNELL: We, of course, lost the Vietnam war, which is a piece of our history which seems to be lost to President Trump.


TRUMP: In every generation, we have faced down evil and we have always prevailed. We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for.


O`DONNELL: Here`s the future of Afghanistan that the president predicted tonight.


TRUMP: With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Evan McMullin; a former CIA operative, he is the co-founder of Stand-Up Republic. Also with us, David Rothkopf; columnist for "The Washington Post", he`s a visiting professor at Columbia University and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Environment for International Peace.

David, at the arrival of peace.

DAVID ROTHKOPF, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, this was the illusion of action. This was the president taking one of the gravest things that the president can do, which is order troops into battle or oversee a war.

And essentially use it as a cloak for changing the political discussion in the United States. You know, it was a cloak because, as you said, there was no announcement of numbers and in fact he talked about a strategy but there was no strategy there.

He talked about a commitment but there was no commitment there. He talked about a change but there was no real change in what he was talking about.

And he talked about principled realism without principles or without a realistic view towards what would be necessary to achieve what he talked about, which was victory.

We`re not going to achieve any kind of victory in Afghanistan. As it happens, Trump was probably right on the campaign trail.

This is not a place where we are going to succeed and we should probably try to figure out how to get out of there as quickly as we can.

But he brought this up tonight and, as you say, he did so in a way that rushed Pence in. We have to ask, why did he do it?

He did it to change the conversation. He did it to get away from his disaster of last week. And he did it in a way that brought that up because if you listened to the first part of the speech, what did you hear?

We want to fight against bigotry. We are one people, we must be tolerant, we are fighting for each other.

He ignored the fact that he wants to kick LGBT troops out of the military. And he ignored the fact that the principle agitator for divisions in the United States of America right now is the president of the United States.

O`DONNELL: Evan, on this point of troop numbers, as we just saw in that quick review of presidential announcements, there`s always been two reasons for it.

One, in a democracy, it is believed that the public has a right to know how many lives are being put at risk and, two, part of this announcement -- these announcements historically have been intended to scare the enemy.

They expect the enemy to be scared with this -- by this new commitment, by the new number of troops that are coming.

If the president is afraid to mention the number, it would seem the president doesn`t believe he has a number that can scare anyone on the other end.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE & CO-FOUNDER, STAND UP REPUBLIC: Well, unfortunately, I think you`re right about that.

And so by not naming a number, it may have been the right thing to do if you`re just optimizing for impact on the ground in Afghanistan vis-a-vis the enemy.

But I agree, it makes it very difficult then for the American people to understand what their government is doing in a war and been to -- therefore, hold their leaders accountable.

I do think though that -- I will try not to be too cynical about this. I understand how the president certainly may have been motivated to change the topic.

All the other topics these days are pretty bad for him. But the truth is, the president, whoever it is, did need to come out and make a statement on Afghanistan and give some sort of direction as to where we`re headed even if the details are slim.

And I think the speech, while good, it was scripted Trump, it was very slim on details. I do support the idea that, you know, we`ve got to move towards a condition-based approach, not a time-based approach.

I don`t think it`s necessary therefore though that we don`t articulate the numbers that we`re actually sending to Afghanistan.

Those will become known over time whether it`s a large number or if it`s just a few thousand. But yes, I think we should avoid being too cynical.

There was a need for the president, whoever it is, to articulate some sort of direction here.

O`DONNELL: David, in the avoidance of being cynical, let`s just point out some facts here. The president did say in the end, we will win.

So that`s a marker for us. He said that the arrival of peace, the arrival of peace in Afghanistan will be the definition of us winning and then to the complexity of adding India into this speech.

Which -- if you try to figure out why India is there, it might have something to do with justifying the title of the speech being about Afghanistan and South Asia.

Part of what he said about India was that he would -- he would get India to help us more with Pakistan on economic development and assistance.

He`s going to get India to help Pakistan on economic development and assistance.

ROTHKOPF: Well, certainly if there was something big in the speech in a foreign policy sense, it was the sense that he said, look, I`m going to bring India into it.

We`re going to try to get India involved in this stuff. Obviously, as you say -- and I can see the hint of the smile there on your lips.

You know, the notion that somehow we`re going to get India to help Pakistan much with economic development or that we`re going to get India more involved in Afghanistan without inflaming Pakistan is, you know, ludicrous.

It`s made more ludicrous by the fact that there used to be an office in the State Department that dealt with this that he shut down unceremoniously.

It`s made more ludicrous by the fact that when he talked about economic development in this speech and he talked about political solutions, he hasn`t staffed the top people in the State Department who are supposed to achieve those things and he has talked about cutting back on development and other budgets that are necessary to achieve those things.

So on the one hand, he`s changing U.S. foreign policy in a way it can`t and probably shouldn`t be changed.

And then on the other hand, he`s promising to do things that he himself is the principle agitator against in terms of cutting staff or cutting funding.

O`DONNELL: The notion of India helping Pakistan is a new presidential -- no, every previous president has understood that the presidential mission is to prevent them from going to war with each other.

Let`s listen to what David you referred to what the president had said during the campaign. Let`s listen to some of that.


TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do. So a general gets on, sent obviously by Obama and he says Mr. Trump doesn`t understand, he knows nothing about defense.

I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand, believe me, believe me. I know a lot of --




O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin, he didn`t sound tonight like someone who knows more about offense and defense militarily than the generals.

MCMULLIN: Well, no, instead, he looks like he`s taking his generals` advice and I think that`s a good thing. I think we should be pleased that he`s doing that rather than coming up with his own plan, which, in my view, it would have been disastrous because his plan would have been a sudden withdrawal -- a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I agree that we`re not looking at anything here that seems like a happy victory any time soon, but an abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan would put us at risk.

Al Qaeda is still there planning and plotting. The Taliban controls 30 percent to 40 percent of Afghanistan more than they`ve controlled in years.

We -- I wouldn`t advocate for a wholesale occupation of Afghanistan, something that large scale, but we`ve got to have a presence there that`s capable of pushing back against the rise of international terrorists groups who are still plotting against our country and against our allies.

O`DONNELL: But David, did the president threaten an abrupt withdrawal or a withdrawal or a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan when he said to Afghanistan tonight, "our commitment is not unlimited, our patience is not unlimited."

ROTHKOPF: Well, he said that could happen at any time. In fact, he said it`s condition-based and if the conditions turn bad, you know, Trump might cut and run, and of course that`s traditional for Trump.

I think one of the things that`s striking and picking up on what Evan said, the generals had a different view from Trump, but he didn`t exactly take the advice of the generals.

He said we may increase, we may not increase, we may be there for a while, we may not be there for a while.

He didn`t actually embrace anything in this speech except the notion that we will continue to be in this situation that he said we wouldn`t be in any more.

O`DONNELL: Well, the second stage of reporting on this, which I`m sure will start late tonight or tomorrow, it will be leaks from inside the Trump administration about exactly what the troop increase is going to be and when it`s going to happen, all of that.

That alone have to come through leaks because it wasn`t in the presidential speech. David Rothkopf and Evan McMullin, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

ROTHKOPF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, tonight`s announcement just might help President Trump move past his disastrous week last week.



TRUMP: America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check.

The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress and real results.


O`DONNELL: Or what? What if they don`t see real results? It might be impossible to pick a day in the Trump presidency when a speech like the one he gave tonight would not be changing the subject from a crisis in the Trump presidency created by what Republican Senator Bob Corker calls Donald Trump`s lack of stability and competence.

We are always in the midst of a Trump crisis of some sort caused by Donald Trump. And so speeches like this will always be suspect as devices for changing the subject.

It does seem the scheduling for this speech was speeded up when Mike Pence was summoned back from a scheduled trip in South America to participate in the discussions leading up to this speech.

And last week, the president got rave reviews from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists for his comments about a Nazi white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in which Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who drove his car into a group of anti- Nazi, anti-white supremacist protesters.

The president got howled of protests for those comments from both Democrat and Republican politicians.

This weekend, another group of Nazis and white supremacists failed to show the strength they were hoping for when they could muster just a tiny group of about 20 Nazi white supremacists in the middle of Boston common where they were surrounded by 40,000 people protesting against Nazi white supremacists.

The president of the United States got a look at those 40,000 people on television, protesting for goodness over evil and he immediately said this about them on Twitter.

"Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart. Thank you."

The president lied, of course. He didn`t see anti-police agitators in Boston. The new White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, who is from Boston, obviously seized control of the rest of the president`s tweeting.

The president then tweeted, "I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate.

Our country will soon come together as one." There is no word yet tonight on how many of General John Kelly`s relatives and friends might have participated in Saturday`s protest.

But this time, at least none of the protesters are being blamed for violence by the president.


TRUMP: Oh, I do think there`s blame, yes. I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides, I think there`s blame on both sides.

And I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama.

Also with us, Betsy Woodruff; a politics reporter for the "Daily Beast". Ron, your assessment of the speech tonight and to that question of, was the timing of this do we think designed to change the subject?

But as I said at the outset, there`s always a subject to change in the Trump administration.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes, I have no doubt, Lawrence, they sped this up to try to change the subject.

More days of the president talking about the moral equivalency between protesters and white supremacists were doing him no favor.

But I also think that tonight`s speech may turn out in the long run to do him more harm than what he did last week about Charlottesville.

He made three huge mistakes tonight. He said we`d have an unlimited number of troops in Afghanistan.

They`d be there for an unlimited period and with an uncertain objective, victory, a win, an enduring result.

And so, I think they thought they were changing the topic, they were changing the topic, they thought that would help him.

But I don`t think what he laid out tonight is really going to wear well over time when the American people see how the president`s words aren`t really matched by results in Afghanistan.

O`DONNELL: And Betsy, one of the things that the president obviously provoked tonight was another round of leaking in his administration, which will now be leaking about, OK, what is going to happen to the troop strength? What are the real numbers?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: Right, exactly. That said, of course, we know there`s one less alleged leaker --


WOODRUFF: Steve Bannon.


WOODRUFF: I thought the biggest takeaway from tonight was a very specific undercurrent of the speech was Steve Bannon doesn`t work here anymore.

You`ll notice over the course of that entire address he read from the teleprompter and didn`t once use the phrase radical Islamic terrorism even though whenever he had a chance to on the campaign trail, he said, unless you use those three magic words, the terrorists will win.

He didn`t use those three words tonight. Instead, he spoke in a tone that sounded a lot more like Mattis and a lot more like McMaster than it sounded like Bannon and Stephen Miller.

Of course, he was reading off the teleprompter and whoever writes the words that go in the teleprompter has a lot of sway.

That said, though, I could really feel Bannon`s absence in this speech. Remains to be seen how that plays out over the coming months.

There`s a really important shift that definitely came through.

O`DONNELL: Betsy, that is such a great point about the radical Islamic terrorism, and Ron, that was missing.

And this approach to Afghanistan is something, if it is a troop increase, which it probably is, this is something that Steve Bannon opposed.

KLAIN: Yes, look, I think tonight was the speech written for him by Kelly, McMaster and Mattis. Tomorrow, he`s going to Arizona to talk about the wall and immigration and perhaps give a pardon to Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

And so, you know, I think Steve Bannon may be gone, but I`m afraid that the politics and policies of Steve Bannon may well be hanging around the Trump White House and may be on display as soon as tomorrow.

So, I don`t think we`re seeing a new president. I think any of this whole pivot nonsense needs to be put to rest.

Donald Trump will read what his military advisors put on a teleprompter, but tomorrow morning he will wake up, he will still be Donald J. Trump.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something he said tonight which is a very different tone from what we were hearing last week.

This is the president talking about patriotism and prejudice and bigotry and tolerance. Let`s listen to this.


TRUMP: When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.

We cannot remain a force for peace in the world but we are not at peace with each other.


O`DONNELL: Now Betsy, unless that`s in a teleprompter for him tomorrow in Arizona, we may be hearing something very different there.

WOODRUFF: Right, exactly. This is a president who isn`t always at peace with his own White House senior staff.

This is a president who has been very comfortable having a bellicose tone, taking towards other Republicans.

Look, he`s going to be in Arizona tomorrow, which is the state that Jeff Flake represents in the Senate.

Previously on Twitter, you might have noticed him criticizing Flake, calling him Flake, Jeff Flake, I`m not exactly sure the back story of that -- of that nickname, but it`s an interesting one.

And showing very little restraint and going after an incumbent Republican who voted for his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The fact that the president can read from a teleprompter, that people need to get along and have a kumbaya moment means absolutely nothing for what he is going to say when he`s in front of a crowd of thousands of enthusiastic fans and he feels comfortable ignoring the teleprompter and potentially reverting to full Trump.

O`DONNELL: Betsy Woodruff, thank you very much for joining us tonight, Ron, we`re going to talk to you in another segment.

Coming up, Steve Bannon`s "Breitbart" says that it is ready to rally votes for Donald Trump`s impeachment if the president defects from the Steve Bannon policy playbook. That`s coming up.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My original instinct was to pull out and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I`ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office in other words, when you`re President of the United States.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTER: And the first review from the right wing is in. Here`s the headline on Breitbart tonight. Trump reverses course. Will send more troops to Afghanistan, defends flip-flop in somber speech.

We are prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment. That was not said by Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat. That was said by a high-level unnamed staffer at Breitbart, the right-wing hate spewing website ran by Steve Bannon before he joined the Trump campaign and now once again officially run by Steve Bannon now that he`s been fired by the Whitehouse by President Trump. Everyone in the Whitehouse, of course, assumed Bannon was running Breitbart while he was working in the Whitehouse

And so it`s not that big of a change. But Breitbart staffers delivering the message of we`re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment, that is new. While he was in the Whitehouse Steve Bannon opposed an increase America troops strength in Afghanistan. An argument which he may have lost depending on what the President was really saying to night. Steve Bannon also fought with Jared Kushner over the direction of the Trump Presidency and one Bannon ally told Vanity Fair, "he said Jared is a dope." if he continues to find himself on losing end of Whitehouse arguments, will Bannon really lead the impeachment from the right wing of the Republican Party?

Joining us now is former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida and with us, Ron Klain. David, how do you suppose the President`s speech will be received by Republicans? It did not mention a specific troop number. That might be something that John McCain and Lindsey Graham will want to hear more about. But what`s your general assessment about how it is received by fellow republicans?

DAVID JOLLY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s was rather forgettable and bizarre moment, to be honest, if you`re a mainstream Republicans, a president. And Lawrence you`ve nailed it from the opening of the show tonight. Past Presidents would have spoken from the Oval Office and announced specific troop increases. This President really said nothing. The mainstream Republicans will say, good, we have a plan. Let`s disrupt terror.

But honestly it`s the Breitbart Republicans that you were just talking about that will be enraged because Donald Trump tonight just gave Barack Obama a big hug on afghan policy. And I know there`s nuances but the bottom line is, Donald Trump said I was wrong in my campaign promises, I lied to my supporters.

We will not be engaged in nation building but we`ll go after terrorists and stay in Afghanistan. Well guess what that was Barack Obama`s policy as well. We`re not going to pursue nation building. We`re going to catch terrorists like Osama Bin Laden.

Donald trump tonight recognized the power of the office. That he cannot honor the promises he made on the campaign trail. The Breitbart world will be enraged by this but it`s the reality we face. The problem though is we are still faced with a President with no credibility and the American people cannot believe his delivery tonight.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Steve Bannon has inside information. His website is now saying that is a send more troops to Afghanistan policy that was announced tonight even though the President refused to specifically do that. Bannon calling it a flip-flop and so this is really our first moment. This is really our first day, full day of business, Whitehouse business in which Steve Bannon`s running Breitbart and right away flip-flop by President Trump.

RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes Lawrence. I think most Americans also sleep better tonight knowing Steve Bannon is not in the Whitehouse, not at the right hand of the man with the nuclear button but Donald Trump may sleep worse. You know he has this person who was his confidant, his closest adviser for the first several months of his Presidency now out on the outside with a powerful media weapon and a lot of venom and that will be aimed at him.

But I don`t think in the end he`s going to be joining with Paul Ryan to impeach Donald Trump mostly because I don`t think Paul Ryan will ever impeach Donald Trump. I think we`re stuck with the Trump Presidency for the foreseeable future. But Donald Trump has a powerful enemy and he will wreck havoc on Trump`s supporters, no question about it.

O`DONNELL: We have a tweet from John McCain with his reaction, a statement saying, I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan. So David Jolly, apparently John McCain heard something in there that I`m not sure what exactly it was. Maybe he`ll be getting more information during Senate hearings.

JOLLY: I think what John McCain probably heard tonight -- and there was a nuance in the change of policy from this President and was this. That he would change the rules of engagement to allow our service members to offensively go after terror. But I don`t know that that`s so much of a change because when President Obama knew there was a threat, he authorized the use of force against terrorists.

We also have to recognize, at the height of the Afghan War, we had 100,000 troops. We`re talking about moving from 8,000 to maybe 12,000. He didn`t indicate an exact number tonight. We need to root out terror cells wherever they are. Afghanistan tonight is not different than the Horn of Africa, than Syria and then other hot spots around the globe.

The President tonight I think made more of the speech because he is a President that plays to optics. But he did burn the Breitbart crowd pretty hard. And he did burn Steve Bannon pretty hard with this

O`DONNELL: And Ron Klain, also from Breitbart tonight, they`re using the phrase unlimited war, saying that this policy announcement is an announcement of unlimited war.

KLAIN: Yes, You know what I guess with Breitbart on that. That is I do think that what John McCain agrees with, with all due respect to John McCain, in 2008 we had an election and John McCain said he would leave troops in Afghanistan for an unlimited period of time. President Obama said we would bring the troops home.

And now Donald Trump is embracing that McCain position. He said they would be there with no time limit, with no limit on the number of troops and Senator McCain may support that. But I don`t think most Americans, Democrats or Republicans really do after 16 years of war I think most Americans want to see us fight the terrorists, limit our commitment and get our troops home

O`DONNELL: David, what do you make of where Bannon stands tonight in regards to this presidency? I mean, here`s their first real night of covering a major trump event.

JOLLY: His comments about impeachment and Paul Ryan are truly bizarre, Lawrence. Maybe he`s trying to get more leadership for Breitbart now that he`s back there talking about impeaching Trump and people like myself might actually read it. Here`s the bottom like.

There`s no redemption to Donald Trump because Steve Bannon is gone. Who hired Steve Bannon? Donald Trump. Who listened to him on Charlottesville and the Paris Accord? Donald trump.

Who 48 hours ago to Steve Bannon say he was going to weaponize his media defend Donald Trump? This is a bizarre comment by Steve Bannon about the impeachment of - of Donald Trump. But I will tell you this, there are no undecided voters that read Breitbart. I was a Republican for 20 plus years. I got elected to Congress. I have never once read Breitbart nor will I.

He`s not speaking to undecided voters. He speaking to the trump base and may steal that base from the President in the next year.

O`DONNELL: I just want to clarify. it wasn`t Steve Bannon who is quoted as saying that they would round up votes for impeachment but it was a Steve Bannon lieutenant, a high-placed staffer at Breitbart, unnamed saying that they would round up votes for impeachment for Paul Ryan, as if Paul Ryan was eager to do that at some point. Ron Klain, David Jolly, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence. ...

JOLLY: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming Up, elected Republicans don`t seem to think that the Trump problem is going to be solved by the firing of Steve Bannon.



TRUMP: Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition.

Attacking our enemies, obliterating is, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.


O`DONNELL: Judging by John McCain`s positive reaction to the speech tonight, it may well be that most Republicans are supportive of the President`s comments tonight. But not enough Republicans are supportive of the President himself at this point and possibly not enough republicans supportive of the President`s re-election campaign. No Democratic member of the House or Senate was ever asked if they would support President Barack Obama for renomination for president in his re-election campaign.

No one was asked that because it was inconceivable that any Democrat would challenge President Obama for the nomination in his re-election campaign and no democrat did just as no Republican challenged George W. Bush for his not renomination and his re-election campaign. That`s the way it`s supposed to be. But already there is talk in Republican circles of a Republican challenge to Donald Trump in the primaries for his part Donald Trump is already campaigning for re-election.

That`s what he`s going to be doing tomorrow night in a rally in Phoenix. That was maybe some of what he was doing tonight. The President is already eagerly raising money for his re-election campaign. It should also be noted that money raised for re-election campaign can be used to pay his criminal defense lawyers who are representing him in this special prosecutor`s investigation.

In Maine today, Hallie Jackson asked Senator Susan Collins about the president`s re-election campaign.


HALLIE JACKSON, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: He`s already running for re-election. What happens next?

SUSAN COLLINS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Well, it`s far too early to tell now. There`s a long race between now and that point.

JACKSON: Do you think he will end up the party`s nominee in 2020?

COLLINS: It`s too difficult to say.


O`DONNELL: In 2009, if you would ask any Democratic Member of the House of Senate do you think President Obama will end up as the nominee in 2012? 100 percent would have given you a one-word answer, yes. Senator Collins is one of the Republicans who would be eager to find someone else to support for the Republican nomination. She went out of her way today to remind Maine and America that she did not vote For Donald Trump for President.


COLLINS: I didn`t support the President when he was our party`s nominee. That was a very difficult position for me to take. I`d never taken it before. Instead, I wrote in the name of Paul Ryan. And that was very hard for me to do as a lifelong Republican.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Allen said he sent a note to Senator Corker`s office asking if he would support a renomination in 2020. The response was, I don`t have anything to add to the senator`s comments yesterday. And here is another look at those comments, at what Senator Bob Corker said on Thursday that provoked Jonathan Allen`s question on Friday.


BOB CORKER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.


O`DONNELL: Senator Corker is up for re-election next year. He won his last campaign with two-thirds of the vote in Tennessee. If he does that again, Senator Corker will be perfectly positioned to challenge Donald Trump in the presidential primaries and he would be the perfect champion for anti- Trump Republicans.

Bob Corker has the universal respect of thoughtful Republicans and Conservatives. If he lost in the Presidential Primaries Senator Corker would still have four more years in the Senate. Donald Trump should worry about Senators like Bob Corker who have nothing to lose in running for President and Senators who are worried about the President`s stability and competence and the President should be worried about Ohio Governor John Kasich.


JAKE TAPPER, JOURNALIST: Does a Republican need to step forward to challenge PRESIDENT TRUMP in three years?

JOHN KASICH, OHIO GOVERNOR: Well, Jake, as you said, I don`t have any plans to do anything like that. I`m rooting for him to get it together. We all are. We`re only seven months into this presidency.


O`DONNELL: I don`t have any plans. No, you did not hear John Kasich say a simple no. He will not challenge Donald Trump for the nomination. Our own Willie Geist reported last week, sources close to John Kasich tell me after Charlottesville there is growing sense of moral imperative to primary Trump in 2020. It seems the question is not will the Republican challenge Donald Trump for the nomination, the question is how many Republicans will challenge Donald Trump for the nomination. We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: What are we doing there? These people hate us. as soon as we leave it`s all going to blowup anyway. What are we doing there we`re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on trillions of dollars on this nonsense.

What are we doing? We don`t have money. We`re a debtor nation.

We can`t build our own schools. And yet we build schools in Afghanistan. I`ll tell our think something so far off. It just shows the leadership of this country -- I mean we just don`t have it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Tim O`Brien executive editor of Bloomberg view and the author of Trump Nation, the art of being the Donald and Tim we always want a Tim biographer here when we get to the big moments. So - so that was Donald Trump of 2012. Imagine if Donald Trump were a private citizen today listening to this Presidential speech tonight.

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG: He`d be criticizing himself of course because he has done this epic flip flop. I think you know as we`ve seen with the President his past sometimes rolls up to him like a freight train. And I think we`re seeing that tonight.

He repeatedly criticized Obama for the very policies he seems to be adopting. Although in the speech tonight it was long on absolutes and short on specifics. We saw him saying he would go in and win. He is going to forgery a new relationship with Pakistan.

He is going to insert the United States in between India and Pakistan. Getting us into a region that`s bee deviled every great power for hundreds of years without any real specific bona fide to back any of that up. What is the absolute troop commitment going to be? What`s the time frame?

He`s got from the right and left criticizing him already on this. Laura Ingram on Twitter of all people wanted to know about the costs and commitments. And I think right now what you have is somebody who is has never been a student of foreign policy and I don`t think that he could probably eight or nine months ago located Afghanistan on a map.

Now trying to I think use this moment to recapture all of the momentum and good will that he has blown out the door the last seven months.

O`DONNELL: I wonder if Trump voters will see this as a flip flop that they care about if they see it as flip flop? It`s hard to believe that there were many Trump voters when he was up there saying I know more than the generals actually thought he knew more than the generals.

O`BRIEN: Right or deeply cared. I never know how much foreign policy from any party matters to average voters. I think that`s what`s interesting in the whole debate around whether or not people are trying to sidestep him within the GOP for 2020. I don`t think we`ll really know whether any of that stuff will get traction until the 2018 returns come in. That will be the litmus test on what`s happened with Trump`s base until then it`s noise.

O`DONNELL: Talk about tomorrow night in Phoenix when we goes there because presumably in a rally environment he will be off teleprompter. And always seems like if he gets locked on a prompter that he stays on throughout a whole speech it seems the next time he speaks he can`t wait to be free of the teleprompter.

O`BRIEN: And letting himself let Trump be Trump. And I think the real danger in tomorrow night is that he revisits some of the racially charged sentiment that aren`t showmanship with him. Trump has been a race baiter for decades.

You know this is the same man who took out full page ads against black and Latino teenagers in the late 1980s during the Central Park jogger case, inserted himself into a midst of racially charged event because he could get publicity for himself from it but also because he is used to fomenting these kinds of divisions. And I think the real risk he runs tomorrow night after everything he has done in the last few day he revisits some of the problems that sort of his last week in the wake of Charlottesville.

O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien thank you very much joining us tonight, really app it. Tonight`s last word is next


O`DONNELL: Dick Gregory took his last breath this weekend at age 84. He was surrounded by his loved ones and family. Dick Gregory was the greatest comedienne of his era before he joined the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dick Gregory explained to Joy Reid how the civil rights movement helped many more people than most people realize let`s listen to what he said then.


DICK GREGORY, AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We took on the mightiest nation in the world in the history of the planet and we won not with guns, not with being nasty. We won with a spirit of nonviolence. We brought it to its knees.

And firstly let me say before the civil rights movement a white woman couldn`t be on nothing on the plane but a stewardess And she had to look like something out the of play boy magazine. Back then a woman couldn`t be a firefighter. A woman couldn`t be a cop. And today all of those have changed. That comes out of not our military. It comes out of handful of humble people that was willing to and not kill.

O`DONNELL: The great Dick Gregory gets tonight`s Last Word.



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