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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 8/23/17 Trump's speeches

Guests: Ron Klain, John Mclaughlin, Peter Wehner, Adam Jentleson


Guest: Ron Klain, John Mclaughlin, Peter Wehner, Adam Jentleson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: The Defense Secretary James -- Pentagon on implementing that ban. Guidance spells out that openly transgender people won`t be allowed to join the military anymore and it spells out that the discretion that Defense Secretary James Mattis will apparently have for throwing out currently serving transgender troops one by one.

There are thousands of transgender Americans who are serving in every conceivable role in the U.S. military right now in all branches.

The "Wall Street Journal" is describing this planned guidance for the Pentagon but we have not seen it directly yet.

We`ll let you know more when we learn more. Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evenings, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Rachel, and more breaking news, Rachel Maddow has a new boyfriend.

MADDOW: I do --

O`DONNELL: And we learned that in the last hour --

MADDOW: I don`t know his name, is the sad thing.

O`DONNELL: We have his picture, I want to put his picture --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Back up because there he is, he`s the guy who`s not Chuck Grassley --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Standing up there with the hat and he asked the question of Chuck Grassley at the town hall in Iowa tonight that Rachel Maddow would have asked if she was there.

MADDOW: He knew exactly what he was talking about. He asked it perfectly. He asked it way more concisely than I ever could have and he had all the right follow-up questions and he wouldn`t let Grassley get away without committing to it.

It was just beautiful. I love him.

O`DONNELL: And the great thing is, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is going to rerun tonight as it does every night.

So you can -- you can see America, you got one more chance to see --

MADDOW: You can see me --

O`DONNELL: To see Rachel announce her new boyfriend, introduce her --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: New boyfriend here --

MADDOW: Now, I have to go home and have a big fight with Susan.

O`DONNELL: And we`re working --

MADDOW: You know --

O`DONNELL: Very hard on trying to get his name. I`ve been checking local Iowa media, I haven`t been able to find it.

We`re going to get you two together.

MADDOW: Susan will kill me, but thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel --

MADDOW: And you too, actually, good to make it up, thanks Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Well, the Jekyll and Hyde presidency went to Reno, Nevada today to give us speech at the American Legion Convention.

It was one of those locked-on-the teleprompter speeches where every word Donald Trump said was written for him and he robotically turned from one teleprompter to the other teleprompter and said nothing.

Nothing controversial, nothing that could get him in trouble.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American Legion embodies the spirit of patriotism that is the true source of our strength and the best hope for our future.


O`DONNELL: That was such a great prompter shift from one to the other. The only slightly interesting moment came in his very first lines when the president was thanking some of the dignitaries for being there and he said this about Nevada Senator Dean Heller.


TRUMP: Dean Heller is here someplace or will shortly be here. He`s caught the first flight out, so I want to thank Dean Heller, senator, for being here.


O`DONNELL: That`s what you`re supposed to say about the senator from Nevada when you`re in Nevada, especially when that senator is in your own party.

But in last night`s performance by the Jekyll and Hyde presidency in Arizona, the Republican president of the United States attacked both Republican senators from Arizona, both of whom boycotted the Trump event.

One of whom is up for re-election next year and the other is suffering from brain cancer. Here`s how Donald Trump attacked Arizona`s Senator John McCain last night in Arizona.


TRUMP: Think of it, seven years, the Republicans -- and again, you have some great senators. But we are one vote away from repealing.

CROWD: Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!

TRUMP: But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, Mr. President, don`t mention any names.

So I won`t. I won`t. No, I won`t vote -- one vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn`t it? Very presidential.


O`DONNELL: No, it was not very presidential. It was deplorable. It was strategically stupid for a president who is going to be begging for John McCain`s vote on other bills and it was utterly indecent.

John McCain is suffering from a glioblastoma tumor in his brain. Googling glioblastoma could tell someone in the White House just how darkly serious that is.

But no decent human being would have to know the details of glioblastoma to simply, publicly wish John McCain well in his battle with brain cancer.

As you`re standing there in front of a crowd in John McCain`s home state in Phoenix, Arizona, but Donald Trump has no sense of decency.

He never has, he never will. And he could go into a public rally in Arizona and attack the Arizona senator in his own party who is suffering from brain cancer.

And he could ignore and never even mention the ten Navy sailors who lost their lives on the USS John McCain; the Navy ship named for Senator McCain`s father and grandfather who both served as admirals in the United States Navy.

Donald Trump is the only president to have lost 17 Navy sailors in two accidents at sea in two months.

And Donald Trump can stand on a stage before the grieving families of those sailors have even been able to have the funerals and he can completely ignore those dead Navy sailors, completely ignore them.

Not say one word about them, not mention one name. That is something no other president would ever have done.

But it is because Donald Trump has no decency, absolutely none, and he is increasingly despised by senators in his own party because of his public attacks on Senator John McCain, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and also last night the junior Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who has written a recently published book about how harmful Trumpism is to the Republican Party.


TRUMP: And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who`s weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won`t talk about him.


Nobody wants me to talk about him.


O`DONNELL: Jeff Flake voted for the Trump-McConnell healthcare bill in the Senate. And so what Republican senators know tonight is Donald Trump will attack you if you vote against his legislation as John McCain did, and Donald Trump will attack you if you vote for his legislation, as Jeff Flake did.

There are indications that the Trump crowd isn`t really buying it anymore. Jenna Johnson of the "Washington Post" who was there in Arizona last night filed this report.

"Many in the crowd lost interest in what the president was saying. Hundreds left early while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up conversation with their neighbors after waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally hall where their water bottles were confiscated by security people, were tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn`t keeping their attention."

The president`s most important lie last night was about himself. He lied about what he said on the day Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville when she was participating in a demonstration against Nazis and white supremacists.

The president pulled out of his pocket what he said were his comments on that Saturday and he read them to the crowd and then he accused all of us in the news media of lying about what he had said that day and in that moment the president lied to his audience and to the country about what he said on that Saturday.

It is a provable lie, but because the president is a pathological liar, he tells lies that can be instantly proved to be lies and that`s what we did last night during this hour.

We interrupted the Trump speech to point out that he was lying about what he said himself. Here is how he quoted himself last night.


TRUMP: So here`s what I said -- really fast, here`s what I said on Saturday. "We`re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia." This is me speaking.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence." That`s me speaking on Saturday.


O`DONNELL: And he was lying, of course, because he left out the part where he said "on many sides, on many sides."


TRUMP: We`re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.


O`DONNELL: On many sides. Donald Trump willfully left out the words "on many sides" last night when he was quoting himself because he knew that those were the words that were criticized in most of the media and by politicians in both parties.

And Donald Trump was afraid to say the words "on many sides" last night when he was quoting himself because he knows those are the words that got him in trouble.

His deliberate refusal to quote himself saying those words is his own admission that he knows he should not have said those words, that those words are indefensible.

His refusal to say those words last night is Trump`s confession. That he knows that the people who criticized those words were right.

And if he said it again, he would be attacked for saying it again and the people attacking him would be right again.

And so Donald Trump very consciously did not say those words. He very consciously did not quote himself when he was pretending to his audience to be quoting himself.

Here were the choices that the president had last night in that -- in that part of his speech. Don`t bring up that subject at all, leave it all behind him.

That is no doubt what his new Chief of Staff General Kelly recommended that he do. That would have been the smart, political choice after having made the horribly stupid and awful and egregious and immoral political choice of having said those words in the first place.

Or the other thing the president could do, the president could defend what he said about Charlottesville after the murder of Heather Heyer.

But to defend what he said, he was going to have to misquote what he said to defend what he said the president was going to have to lie about what he said.

That is the choice that no politician would make. Only a very sick mind would make that choice publicly defend what I said by lying about what I said in a way that will be immediately caught and on Msnbc, at least immediately contradicted in the middle of the speech so that the audience will know that I`m lying as I`m saying it.

And that is the choice that Donald Trump made last night. It is the kind of choice he will make again and again because Donald Trump is a pathological liar and his pathology will be flooding the news media, and for the most part overwhelming the news media for as long as his presidency lasts.

No White House chief of staff will ever be able to cure what ails Donald Trump. Joining us now, Eugene Robinson; Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an Msnbc political analyst.

Also with us, Christina Greer; professor of political science at Fordham University. And Gene, the president quoting himself lies about what the president said, which to me shows what they call consciousness of guilt. He knows --


O`DONNELL: That those words were wrong.

ROBINSON: Yes, I noticed that omission, that deliberate omission, as did everybody else. And, you know, at some point, you have to ask, does he not know that this was all on videotape, that this was going to be played back immediately?

And of course he knows, perhaps he doesn`t care, perhaps he just can`t help himself. Perhaps this is just who he is and he will never -- you know, given any given situation, he will never default to just plain telling the truth.

O`DONNELL: Christina, I think one of the things is work is he knows, at least up until last night, that when he`s doing this, the cameras just stay on him and there are no live contradictions going on.

And so he can attack us all, specifically attack "Cnn" as he did last night, knowing that "Cnn" is just going to keep the camera on him, and his people think that`s a demonstration of power.

Look, he`s attacking "Cnn" and "Cnn" just keeps the camera rolling for the whole hour and a half.

CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Even with the lies, but the difference is, nowadays we have people like Lawrence O`Donnell who will say like, let`s stop the tape.

Because we now know there`re few things we know. One, he`s an embarrassment and the people in his party are seeing it and they recognize that they are in bed with a mad man and they`re trying to figure out a way out of this.

As you said, if he`s going to attack someone who agrees with him, and attack someone who doesn`t agree with him.

No one is safe because he really doesn`t care, he only cares about Donald Trump. Two, he`s a liar.

We have to call him a liar, he lies constantly. It`s not about just being in New York and a real estate agent, it`s beyond that.

It`s deeper than that. It`s filled with hatred and evil and he`s throwing red meat to his supporters because he knows that they don`t really care that he`s lying to them.

And then three, he traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism and as he traffics in it, we have to finally recognize this is who he is.

He believes in it. He believes in superior genes. He believes in the stereotypes of racial groups. He went to Arizona specifically to sort of make these racialized nods and barks that he`s been doing since day one of the campaign.

So that`s part of the problem. And until the people as (INAUDIBLE) change that on this show.

Until his enablers start to speak up, we know we`re dealing with a 71-year- old baby, a child, who if we opened him up, he`d be filled with old VCR tapes and hatred, right? That`s all that`s inside of him.

And that`s part of a problem because the Republicans are not doing their jobs even as they fall one by one.

O`DONNELL: Gene, the reports that Steve Bannon was absolutely thrilled with last night`s rally which had come as no surprise to anyone.

He certainly had more influence over it last night than the new White House chief of staff did. But any other president -- can you imagine any other president in the aftermath of two stunning accidental collisions by the Navy in open sea, losing 17 lives overall, 10 lives very recently.

Any other president would have at some point gone into an emergency meeting about what`s going on in the Navy --

ROBINSON: Of course --

O`DONNELL: And gotten involved in this and maybe canceled a raucous celebratory public event indifference to those sailors who have been lost.

ROBINSON: Of course. And you know, in two months, we`ve had two Navy ships involved in collisions in the open sea with good visibility.

I mean, there`s no -- so what is going on? And, look, this hope that some expressed at the beginning of the Trump presidency that he would somehow grow into the job or that the weight of the job would have some sort of magical transformative effect.

You know, that was always the longest of long shots. I didn`t quite understand believing in it then, but it`s obviously never going to happen.

And so he doesn`t understand that that`s what a president should feel. He doesn`t feel the weight of responsibility for what happened to those 17 soldiers in those two incidents.

He doesn`t feel that responsibility and so he doesn`t react to it in the way that we would expect any president to react and he won`t. He simply won`t.

O`DONNELL: We had a new low in a Quinnipiac poll of his approval rating down to 35, the same poll shows that 62 percent of the country believe that the president is dividing the country.

And Christina, once again, after another Trump speech, the white supremacists are thrilled. Richard Spencer, white supremacist who was involved in the Charlottesville, organizing all of that, said after last night, "Trump has never denounced the alt-right nor will he."

They notice that they are protected in --

GREER: Right --

O`DONNELL: Every Trump speech.

GREER: They are protected. I mean, it is very clear, we know that this president`s vocabulary is incredibly limited.

So we have to -- you know, look at the few words that we`re given. He loves pronouns. He loves us versus them.

He`s very clear that he`s part of the odds, and the rest of the people I`m assuming -- myself, yourself, those are the enemies.

And so the alt-right knows that they`re part of the odds. They`re part of the in-crowd, they`re part of the people that this country is -- that this president is working for.

He can`t be any more clear. I mean, that`s part of the problem where the people -- the senators and members of the house in his party have to recognize he has no allegiance to them, right?

He only has allegiance to himself and the people who come to his rallies who cheer for him. And as a side note, when those soldiers -- when -- you know, when it was announced that those 10 soldiers had perished at sea, we still don`t know why?

Was it radar? Was it weather? Was it something else? We have no idea. His first response was, that`s too bad.

This is a man who has no moral compass, no moral core. If people are waiting for it, you`ll be waiting for ever.

He has no idea about public service, he has no idea about the office. George Bush actually grew into the office, George Bush 43, because he`s from two generations of public servants.

I don`t think he was ready when he first came in, but something about the weight of the office pushed him into it, slowly but surely.

And I had a lot of issues with George Bush. But Donald Trump will never get there. He has no empathy. He does not understand anyone else`s plight except for his own.

O`DONNELL: Professor Christina Greer, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining us tonight.

And if there`s anything in this short amount of time, you didn`t get to say, be assured, sadly, we will be back to this subject because the president will continue to be giving speeches like this.

We know this is going to happen again. Christina --

ROBINSON: Right check --

O`DONNELL: Eugene, thank you both very much for joining us, really appreciate it.

Coming up, Republican senator told reporters that the president is, quote, "consumed with the Russia investigation", and now we know that the president has been threatening senators, calling senators, trying to get it to stop.


O`DONNELL: Tonight`s breaking news from "Politico" says "Donald Trump privately vented his frustration over Russia-related matters with at least two other Republican senators this month according to people familiar with the conversations.

Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker that it wasn`t good policy.

Trump argued that the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his presidency. Corker was unrelenting and told Trump the bill was going to pass both houses with bipartisan support."

Just last week, Senator Corker said this about Donald Trump.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS: The president has not yet -- 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: "Politico" is also reporting that the president quote "dialed up Republican Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina on August 7th.

Tillis is working with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller.

The independent counsel investigating the president`s Russia connections from any attempt by Trump to fire him, the Mueller bill came up during the Tillis-Trump conversation.

According to a source briefed on the call, "Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn`t want it to pass."

A senior Republican aide said this about the president to "Politico", "it seems he is just always focused on Russia."

Tonight`s "Politico" report follows a "New York Times" report about an August 9th phone call the president initiated with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, the "Times" report says that the president was quote "animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader`s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation."

Joining us now, Adam Jentleson; former deputy chief of staff for Senator Harry Reid, he`s currently at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a senior adviser for the Moscow Project.

Also with us, Ron Klain, former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.

And Ron, as you know, we just picked some of your resume for each introduction each night --


O`DONNELL: We read about --

KLAIN: Appreciate that --

O`DONNELL: The Vice President Joe Biden and other things --

KLAIN: Yes --

O`DONNELL: And Ron, I wanted to go to you on what you`re hearing in these reports. the sourcing is clearly Republicans.

It`s -- all of the sourcing on these recalls to Republican senators have to be Republicans, and they are kind of opening their kind of phone logs on what`s going on here --

KLAIN: Yes, you know, the White House says that President Trump is making these calls as part of his legislative agenda pursuit.

But it`s pretty clear the only infrastructure project Donald Trump cares about is trying to pave over the Russian investigation.

When you hear Republican senators, Republican senators, the Republican Senate leader and his closest allies in that "New York Times" piece.

Republican senators in the "Politico" piece and their allies, basically dimming out Donald Trump is being obsessed with the Russia investigation, not really working on healthcare, not really working on infrastructure, not really working on taxes, just trying to shut down the Russia investigation.

That tells you how much it bothers Trump and how much Republican senators are not going to be partners in his effort to obstruct justice.

O`DONNELL: And Adam, it also tells Republican senators how to play Donald Trump. I mean, we have this aide -- the Republican aide telling "Politico" it seems he is just always focused on Russia.

And so I have noticed certain senators at certain times, Rand Paul among them, in effect kind of poo-pooing the Russia investigation just sort of indicating it`s not something that they`re terribly concerned about.

That buys them enormous credits with Donald Trump. I think with President Trump, you could vote against any bill that he was pushing as long as at the same time you said you weren`t terribly concerned about the Russia investigation.

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR HARRY REID: Yes, that`s a good point. And I mean, you know, Bob Corker and Thom Tillis are not exactly, you know, squishy moderates.

I mean, those are the two of the hardest core Republicans in the Senate. And the fact that they are dimming him out as Ron said tells you a lot about where Republicans minds are on the president at the moment.

And for -- I`m Trump, I would be very worried about that.

O`DONNELL: And Ron, to the issue we first started to talk about last night, the issue of obstruction of justice when it comes to congressional investigative committees, in this case, Senate Investigative Committees.

There`s the president on the phone complaining to Mitch McConnell about what the investigative committees are doing in the Senate and why isn`t Mitch McConnell shutting that down.

First of all, the Majority leader as we know doesn`t technically have the power to shut down those committees.

But it does raise this interesting issue about is that obstruction of justice?

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, it is a twofer because it looks like Trump is pursuing a criminal conspiracy and he`s doing a really poor job --


KLAIN: Of it. You know, so -- yes, you know, the call to McConnell is the wrong call and McConnell is obviously calling him out on that.

The effort with Tillis to try to stop legislation to protect Mueller is in some ways even more telling because that`s trying to block a path that will prevent Trump from shutting down the criminal investigation of the Russian activities.

But you know, I think you`re right. He is obsessed with the Russia investigation, he`s doing everything he can to stop it, and you know, you also have to factor in the firing of Comey, the firing of Yates, the firing of Barra(ph), you know, all of these acts.

One after the other after the other shows someone who is just ravenously trying to stop this investigation.

If there`s nothing there really, it`s almost impossible to understand what Donald Trump is doing.

O`DONNELL: So the staff of Ron`s old committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee took 10 hours of testimony yesterday from Glenn Simpson from fusion GPS.

This was about that dossier that we`ve all heard about that was kind of got -- this investigation started on Trump and Russia.

And Chuck Grassley, the chairman of that committee was asked about this tonight at a town hall in Iowa and the questioner who asked Chuck Grassley about it has become Rachel Maddow`s new boyfriend and you will see why.

That`s what she said on her show. You will see why? We`re going to show you this question and answer right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate Judiciary Committee, staff members met for 10 hours, and I would like to know what they discovered in that meeting and I would like the transcripts released. Will you do that?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: The answer is it will take a vote of the committee to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will you do that?

GRASSLEY: Of course, we`ll put it to a vote of the committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you personally vote --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the release of the transcripts?

GRASSLEY: I don`t know why I wouldn`t.


O`DONNELL: And Adam, then Chairman Grassley tried to hide behind the idea of, well, we have to let the witness study the transcript to make sure it`s all accurate.

And then Rachel Maddow broke the news tonight that the witness, Glenn Simpson has given his public permission through Rachel actually tonight in that announcement that they can release that transcript today as far as he`s concerned.

JENTLESON: Yes, and you know, this is just another example of Republicans trying to cover for Trump when it comes to the Russia investigation.

You may not expect this coming from me, but I`d like to defend Mitch McConnell for a second against the president`s attacks on him.

You know, the president reportedly was attacking Mitch McConnell for not doing enough to defend him on Russia.

I would actually argue that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have done a tremendous amount to defend Trump from the Russian investigation.

So Grassley is just the latest example of that.

O`DONNELL: Ron, a quick last word on that transcript. Do you expect to see it released from the committee you used to work for?

KLAIN: I do. I mean, I think Chuck Grassley, maybe unknowingly, very cleverly by that gentleman put himself in a box.

He has to take a vote and I think he`s going to have to explain why he doesn`t vote "yes". If he votes "yes", the Democrats vote "yes", that transcript will come out.

And really that will -- I can only imagine what the tweet storm from President Trump tomorrow morning about that is going to look like.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain`s predictions about the Senate Judiciary Committee, you can all write them down --


KLAIN: Yes --

O`DONNELL: They are very solid, Ron, thank you very much for joining us tonight --

KLAIN: Great, Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: Adam, we`re going to talk to you in another segment coming up. Coming up, after last night`s speech, the president`s fitness to serve is once again an issue with one intelligence professional worried about the president having the nuclear codes.


O`DONNELL: At the end of President Trump speech last night which was widely greeted in the media as an hinged and full of lies. The Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said this.


JAMES CLAPPER, FMR. UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I really question his ability to be, his fitness to be in this office having some understanding of the levers that a President can exercise. I worry about frankly you know the access the nuclear codes. The in feat peak, he decides to do something about Kim Yoo-jung. There is actually very little to stop him.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA, a 32-year veteran of the CIA and is now an MSNBC National Security Analyst. And John, your reaction to what Jim Clapper said.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I understand where Jim Clapper is coming from. People like Jim Clapper and myself who have worked for a lot of Presidents and there`s qualities that you see in a President that I see in every President that are lacking in this one. Presidents that I`ve known have been calm and controlled in a crisis. They have been able to unite the country, even when their personal popularity has been down, and they have taken responsibility for things even when something that`s happened is not directly their fault.

On the nuclear codes -- and I don`t see those qualities in the way this President behaves in that rant, sort of self-pitying rant that we heard last night. What Director Clapper is referring to on the nuclear codes is that there is a two-person rule that is if the President gives an order for a nuclear attack, the Secretary of Defense is in the loop and has the opportunity to concur but does not have the legal authority to veto a presidential decision. But thankfully, there is a second person in the loop and he would have the opportunity to counsel but he does not have the legal authority to veto.

O`DONNELL: Talk about how tense the decision can be if what we`re talking about is a retaliatory nuclear strike. And so if there is something detected coming our way from North Korea or elsewhere, how many minutes does the President have to make a decision about what to do?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it varies, of course, with the range of an incoming missile and the circumstances completely. There have been instances in which Secretaries of Defense have been awakened in the middle of the night with 1979, Secretary Perry talks about this, being awakened in the middle of the night with a report that 200 soviet missiles were heading towards the United States. It turns out to have been a computer glitch of some sort and a false report.

But he had only minutes to figure that out. If there are missiles coming from as far away as the Soviet Union, they take about 35 minutes to reach us and I suspect in the case of North Korea, although this is not yet established. But I`m guessing that the time would be about 35 minutes and you would have, I think, warning time of, I`m going to guess now, maybe 20 minutes of that time. But you would detect their launch rather quickly.

O`DONNELL: In Secretary Perry`s and other`s memories of the false alarms, one thing that they were concerned about is they were down to a window of about six minutes to have to make the decision of launching a retaliatory strike because it is the question.


O`DONNELL: so it`s not that you can just wait as those things are flying. You`ve got to decide exactly how to retaliate and that`s where all the pressure is. And they could have retaliated and discovered after the fact that it was a false alarm. That`s the ultimate danger of the false alarm.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it is. It`s the ultimate danger of it and you don`t have -- there`s only certain times in that sequence when your retaliation can be meaningful and you also have, of course, in the mix of things here, missile defense, which is not elaborately tested or proven for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It`s not a situation you ever want to get into, technically with someone who is not particularly calmed and controlled and common crisis.

O`DONNELL: It is the most super human test of human judgment that we could possible imagine. And that judgment would now rest with Donald Trump. John McLaughlin, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank You, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, guess who is paying for the Wall now. Hint, Trump threatened last night to shut down the government to pay for it and he did not mean the Mexican government.


O`DONNELL: You remember the wall. of course you remember the wall, the Trump Wall. Of course you remember who was going to pay for it. And strangely, there was no chanting about the wall at the Trump rally last night because the Trump audience is going to have to figure out a new chant.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words. The greatest wall that you`ve ever seen, see that ceiling up there, higher. Mexico`s going to pay for the wall, believe me.

When you have Trump negotiating for you on your behalf, they will pay. We give Mexico billions of dollars. Who couldn`t get that money? They are going to pay it so gladly. Who?


TRUMP: You better believe it. The Great Wall of China is 13,000 miles, folks, and they didn`t have caterpillar tractors. We need a thousand miles. Build that wall! Build that wall! Who`s going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: Who`s going to pay for it?


TRUMP: we`re going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me. That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin. We`re building the wall. In fact, it`s going to start soon, way ahead of schedule. Some of the fake news said, I don`t think Donald Trump wants to build the wall. He just had some fun during the campaign on the wall. That wasn`t fun, folks. We`re building that wall.


O`DONNELL: And who`s going to pay for it? Mexico. Actually, last night Donald Trump told the people of Arizona that they`re going to pay for it and every taxpayer in America is going to pay for it.


TRUMP: Now, the obstructionist Democrats would not like us to do it but if we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall


O`DONNELL: And who`s going to pay for it? We are. That`s the new chant that the Trump crowds are going to have to learn. Who`s going to pay for it? We are. because Donald Trump Has completely given up on getting Mexico to pay for the wall, as we all knew he would except for maybe some

Trump voters and now he wants American tax dollars to pay for the wall and it seems someone has explained to him that will require 60 votes in the senate which means Democratic votes which means it`s not going to happen. And so Donald Trump threatens to shut down the government to pay for the wall to which the Speaker of the House today said this


PAU RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t think anyone`s interested in having a shutdown. I don`t think it`s in our interest to do so.


O`DONNELL: And so it`s Donald Trump versus the Republicans on the wall. I don`t mean the Mexican Republicans. I mean the American Republican Party, the one that he`s a member of. More on Donald Trump versus the Republicans next.



TOM COLE, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: I would strongly advise against any threat to shut down the government of the United States.


O`DONNELL: That`s Republican Congressman Tom Cole today answering the President`s threat last night that he made to shut down the government to force Congress to pay for the Trump wall. The wall that he promised his voters Mexico would pay for. Joining us now, Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He worked in the last three Republican administrations, including as a senior aide to George W. Bush. Also back with us is Adam Jentleson. He worked for Senator Harry Reid in the Senate. Peter, this is the President running into immediate resistance, obvious public resistance. Paul Ryan, Tom Cole, saying no we`re not going to shut down the government or come close to shutting down the government over paying for the wall that you said Mexico would pay for.

PETER WEHNER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and Ryan and Cole and all the rest are right. This is an insane strategy to try and shut down the government for a wall that 60 percent of the public doesn`t want. But this is part of a growing phenomenon and really a growing collision between Trump and the Republicans. You can just see it and feel it over the last three or four weeks. Trump is going after Republicans.

They`re starting to go back after him. And I have thought for a long time, as you know, that the Republican Party has to break with Trump. That`s becoming more urgent not only because of his mental instability which is so obvious. But I also think what`s going to happen if they don`t break with Trump. Trump is going to break with them.

I think Trump is showing he has no institutional loyalty to the Republican Party and positioning himself something of an independent figure now. So this is going to get uglier and more intense. as he New York Times reported there is tremendous and moss at this time between Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Trump. That`s not good for Trump

O`DONNELL: And Adam, you know a lot of these Republicans. You worked with them in the senate. They`re looking at a president with a 35 percent approval rating. If we were talking about a president with a 65 percent approval rating, I`d understand where we are. But what is holding back Republicans in Congress, Republicans in the Senate, in breaking with the President who has a 35 percent approval rating?

ADAM JENTLESON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there`re two things. First of all, 35 percent is historically extraordinarily low. The problem for Republicans is that if you`re a Republican, that 35 percent comes directly out of your half of the electorate. If you`re trying to get 51 percent you can`t afford to lose 35 percent if that translates to Trump supporters in their own states for their re-election prospects.

The other I would say is as long as the prospect of achieving something like tax reform is still hanging out there, a lot of Republicans are going to tell themselves that it`s worth it to endure whatever they have to endure with the President on a daily basis in some cases just to achieve the goal of tax reform. I think if tax reform falls away and it becomes parent it`s not going to be achieved, you`ll see a lot more Republicans breaking with the President.

O`DONNELL: And Peter, this is going to be a tax cut bill they`re going to offer. . It`s not going to be reform as we`ve defined it in the past. They`ll try to use that word. But what we know is many of the provisions in this bill will be of a benefit to Donald Trump. We just won`t know exactly which ones they are because he`s never released those tax returns and so we won`t know how he`s enriching himself in that legislation

WEHNER: That`s right. And the legislation itself is not going to be popular. But the legislation isn`t go to go anywhere. His legislation is dead in the water. And this is going to be a first year without any significant legislative accomplishments.

O`DONNELL: But Peter, Republicans have never failed to pass a tax cut. It`s the thing they know how to do.

WEHNER: I understand that, but they`ve never had Donald Trump as President before either. And the ineptness of this group is extraordinary. And the kind of reform that they were talking about, they`re not going to get. But look, I think your point here is right.

Donald Trump is radioactive. He`s at 35 percent. And at some point, Republicans are going to have to figure out that the interests of the party and the interests of Donald Trump no longer align. And once they understand that, they`ve got to make a break.

And it has to be a comprehensive and full throated break and it has to be not just in terms of substance and policy but morally because this guy is contaminating the party. It`s gone on way too long. And he`s not going to change. And on some level, they know it`s not going to change so they`ve got to get on with this task. It`s not easy but there`s no alternative.

O`DONNELL: Adam, there are a lot of things Senators can do for a President that don`t become public moves that they can make behalf of the President behind closed doors. It`s hard to imagine Republicans being incentivized to do things like that for this President.

JENTLESON: Yeah, I think that`s right. No Republican in the Senate is going to lift a finger to help this President at this point. But I also want to say one other thing. there`s this woes me act going on with Republicans right now where they`re all saying look at the damage, the tough position that we`re in. I wanted to say that you know, everything that`s happening right now to them and everything happening with Trump was completely knowable last year.

All the signs were there. Mitch McConnell in 2016 led the way to unite Republicans behind Trump. He was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, sorry, Usa Today in may of 2016 saying to Republicans, relax. Trump is going to be fine. So you know, this is something they brought on themselves.

O`DONNELL: And Peter he ever, this is something you`ve been saying basically what Adam has been saying for over a year.

WEHNER: That`s absolutely right. This is the most predictable thing I`ve ever seen in American politics. This notion Trump was going to grow in the office, he would be responsible, that was a delusion. Obviously it was a delusion during the campaign and obviously during his presidency.

It`s going to get worse because as the walls close in on Donald Trump, as the pressure gets greater, As the Mueller Investigation gets closer to him and his family, he`s going to lash out more. This thing is going to blow apart and it`s going to destroy the Trump Presidency and a lot of Republicans in the process. They aided and abetted him. And this is going to be the cost to them.

O`DONNELL: Peter Wehner, a long time frustrated Republican now in the age of Trump gets tonight`s last word. Peter, thanks for joining us. Adam Jentleson, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. We`ll be right back.



CONAN O`BRIEN, TELEVISION HOST: A lot of protesters at a rally today in phoenix attended by President Trump and Vice President Pence yeah, a lot of protesters there. Things got awkward when it turned out that the impeach Trump chants were being led by Mike Pence. They were trying to -


O`DONNELL: Conan O`Brien gets tonight`s last word. And I`m going to continue laughing about that after I say the 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.

Brian Williams 11th HOUR ANCHOR: tonight, another day and a very different President, a scripted version of Donald Trump before Veterans Today after letting it fly at rapid rally in Phoenix last night. Plus Russia rises again



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