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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 8/24/17 Trump vs. GOP on the Wall

Guests: Eli Stokols, Charlie Sykes,Christian Petrili

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 24, 2017

Guest: Eli Stokols, Charlie Sykes,Christian Petrili

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Remains. Today, the Navy released the name -- from the USS John McCain, they`re no longer treating that mission as a rescue mission.

Instead, it is a recovery mission to try to find those sailors` remains. Today, the Navy released the name of one sailor whose body was recovered and the nine others who are still missing.

They also removed the commander of the 7th fleet, incidentally, relieved him from duty. Meanwhile though, in the Philippines sea, CA-35, the USS Indianapolis is found all these years later.

You know, it`s interesting the ship`s exact location remains classified. They`re continuing to survey the site, but there are no plans to excavate it or to disturb what`s there.

It`s being treated as a war grave, as a final resting place. But now, it is one that has finally been found.

That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Rachel. One thing that the president hasn`t found time for in his schedule is any kind of emergency meeting about what`s going on with the Pacific fleet --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: These two accidents, extraordinary accidents within a month of each other, 17 lost Navy sailors.

MADDOW: That`s exactly right. And, you know, the John McCain is named for the father and grandfather of Senator John McCain.

The president gave that speech this week in Arizona, no mention of those sailors or the connection to -- it`s hard to take.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it -- obvious opportunity to do that was --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: In Arizona. But to take it seriously as an issue, there`s been no indication that he`s had even a meeting about it --

MADDOW: Yes, I know, and the Navy, you know, relieving the commander of the 7th fleet is no small thing.

O`DONNELL: Right --

MADDOW: But in terms of involvement from the president or attention from the president, we haven`t heard anything.

O`DONNELL: None.

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, with some Republican members of Congress now not willing to say that they will support Donald Trump for re-nomination as the party`s presidential candidate in 2020, it sure looked today like the Republican presidential primary was already under way in Seattle where a Republican with presidential ambitions held a presidential campaign-style event.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who has had his tensions, to put it mildly, with Donald Trump, both publicly and privately, went to Seattle today to hold a town hall-style event at the factory of America`s largest exporter, Boeing.

A company that is opposed to virtually everything that Donald Trump has said about international trade.

A company that depends on the sales of Boeing aircraft to airlines around the world. Today, Paul Ryan spoke in the same place the Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the best speech anyone ever gave in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It was also the best and clearest and most explanatory speech any American politician has ever given on international trade.

Boeing supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Donald Trump in one of his first acts as president destroyed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, making Boeing`s work as an exporter of aircraft all the more difficult.

Boeing is one of the perfect political settings for challenging Donald Trump right from the heart of American capitalism.

The way a Republican would want to challenge Donald Trump for the next presidential nomination.

Speakers of the House do not do what Paul Ryan did today. This is not in the job description. They don`t go around making presidential campaign- style appearances at factories around the country.

They make public appearances in their district and they tend to make private appearances everywhere else.

The way Paul Ryan did the last time that he visited Seattle, which was when he was the Republican vice presidential candidate for president.

And even as a vice presidential candidate for president, Paul Ryan did not make a public appearance in Seattle.

He appeared at two private fund-raisers in private homes. What Paul Ryan did today is what Donald Trump likes to call very presidential.

Paul Ryan is clearly delivering the image of an alternative to Donald Trump to the future Republican delegates of the next Republican convention.

Listen to his answer to a Boeing employee asking him about respect and communication and ethical behavior and Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boeing prides itself on respect and communicating transparency to employees and also expects ethical behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know that every person sees that from our president right now, so my question for you, Speaker Ryan is how do you see yourself personally influencing, and are you confident that you can influence the president?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Yes, it`s a day-by-day deal. I`m kind of joking.

First, you control your own actions and you lead by example.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What did you hear in that answer? I heard Paul Ryan say Donald Trump is wildly erratic. That`s what he meant by "it`s a day-to-day deal". And then to soften it to humanize the moment, he said, "I`m kind of joking" but everyone knew he was more kind of telling the truth than kind of joking.

And then he said, "first, you control your own actions and you lead by example." Paul Ryan was claiming that behavior for himself.

Saying that he controls his own actions and leads by example and saying, saying that was exactly the same thing in that moment as saying Donald Trump does not control his own actions and does not lead by example.

That is the subtext that everyone heard when Paul Ryan said that. Paul Ryan knew he was going to be asked politically uncomfortable questions about Donald Trump today.

When a politician goes into a situation knowing what`s going to happen, it means the politician wants it to happen.

That is a fundamental rule of politicians` behavior. If Paul Ryan wanted to avoid public questions from voters around the country about Donald Trump, that`s really easy.

He could have gone to Seattle today if he wanted to, the way he`s done it in the past and just gone to private fund-raisers for the Republican members of Congress in the state of Washington.

Paul Ryan might not run for president against Donald Trump if Trump`s poll numbers somehow rally and his presidency somehow solidifies.

Maybe no major national Republican will challenge Trump for the nomination. But if Trump is as vulnerable as he is now to a primary challenge, why wouldn`t Paul Ryan run?

Today, he was laying the groundwork for what would be the ideal situation for him, a demand that he run, a draft Paul Ryan movement.

Republicans seeing him in the -- as the salvation from the disaster that is Donald Trump. Paul Ryan has two huge jobs right now.

One is speaker of the House. The other is parent, father to three kids. His speaker of the House job is in Washington.

His children are in Wisconsin, it is a huge personal sacrifice for Paul Ryan to leave either one of those places for anything.

He could have been home with his three kids today, instead, he was in Seattle, warming up the apparatus of a presidential campaign that he might or might not decide to make official depending entirely upon the continued collapse of the Trump presidency.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the White House Press Secretary today was doing a terrible job of fending off questions about the president`s lies.

These are the kinds of questions that a Trump re-election campaign Press Secretary will face every day, why did the president lie about that?

In this historic sequence that you are about to see from the White House press briefing room, the White House Press Secretary does not dispute for a second that the president has repeatedly told a horrible lie.

The Trump lie that goes undisputed here is the Trump lie that the White House Press Secretary essentially confirms is a lie about a U.S. Army General John Pershing having bullets dipped in pig`s blood before using them to execute Muslim prisoners in the Philippines a 100 years ago.

It is a complete lie. The Trump story about that has been told repeatedly by Donald Trump and it is a lie.

Even as new White House chief of staff, former General John Kelly, cannot stop the president from telling a lie about a U.S. Army General a 100 years ago.

Let`s watch how matter of factually the White House Press Secretary accepts that the president is a liar and there`s nothing anyone in the White House can do about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About a week ago on August 17th, the president again referenced a fictitious story about General Pershing committing a mass execution in the Philippines.

A couple of questions on that. Does the president know that the story is false? And if so, why does he keep repeating it?

And why does the White House think it`s appropriate for the president to perpetuate this false story, if he hasn`t been informed that it`s --

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I haven`t had a chance to ask him about that, so I can`t speak to it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then on the broader point, so the president is spreading false information via his Twitter account that seems to encourage war-time atrocities.

No one in the White House has thought to inform him that --

SANDERS: I didn`t say no one had, I said I hadn`t had that conversation, so I wasn`t going to speak to something I wasn`t aware of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Joel Connelly; staff columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Charlie Sykes; conservative, former talk-show radio host in Wisconsin.

He`s also an Msnbc contributor, and Jonathan Capehart; opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an Msnbc contributor.

And Joel, I just want to make sure I get -- I label the newspaper correctly since you`re no longer a print edition. It`s the Seattle PI.com, is that how we find it?

JOEL CONNELLY, COLUMNIST, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER: That is correct, sir, we were the first to switch.

O`DONNELL: OK, and Joel, you were there today. What I am seeing as Paul Ryan warm up the presidential campaign machinery.

Is that how it felt in the room today?

CONNELLY: What it felt like was that Ryan was saying, we are competent to govern, we have an agenda, we are moving forward with this agenda.

Obviously, it was left to everybody to assume who is not moving forward --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

CONNELLY: Who is gumming up the works. And of course, Trump obliged by denouncing both McConnell and Ryan in a tweet shortly before Ryan went on to Seattle.

So Ryan was essentially drawing the distinction and getting some help from the other Washington.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Capehart, Paul Ryan ran for vice president, losing vice presidential candidates always, always are looking for when is that next moment when I run.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Right.

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan is watching this presidency collapse. And this time could be the time.

CAPEHART: This could be the time, and what we saw there in Seattle is a Republican leader, he`s the speaker of the House, filling a vacuum.

O`DONNELL: Yes --

CAPEHART: Usually, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader are usually following the lead from the White House.

So, usually following the lead, especially when the person in the Oval Office is from your party, you take orders from him and he tells you what he needs you to do.

What votes he needs you to wrangle so that you can pass X, Y, Z legislation. That is not happening in the Trump White House.

And so what Paul Ryan sees is this opening, an opening to show that he is the polar opposite to the president of the United States.

He is someone through his own actions shows by example how one, how a leader is supposed to lead.

Be an example for the American people, and particularly for children. And he`s also sitting there talking about tax reform or tax cuts, however you want to talk about it.

But usually it`s the president of the United States who goes before a town hall audiences like that and talks about policies, specific things that he wants to do.

President Trump isn`t doing that, Speaker Paul Ryan is.

O`DONNELL: And Charlie Sykes, you know Paul Ryan well, and I want to get to what he`s up to here. I`m trying to think of previous speakers of the House doing events like this and I can count them on one hand and I don`t think I use all my fingers.

And most speakers of the House never did events like this. He`s got three kids at home as you know and Wisconsin that he --

CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST: Right --

O`DONNELL: Presumably wants to spend as much time with as he possibly can and he`s out there doing a campaign-like events.

SYKES: Lawrence, you`re really messing with me, aren`t you? Because, of course, I would love to see Paul Ryan step up as the anti-Trump.

I would love to see him be able to break and say, here is the alternative vision. I don`t see that happening in part because Jonathan Capehart is absolutely right.

Paul Ryan is going to have to prove that Republicans govern. Which means he`s going to have to do the heavy lifting.

He`s going to have to do the dirty work, and you know -- and obviously knowing that Donald Trump will throw him under the bus whenever possible.

But the contrast is rather dramatic. On this issue of tax reform, which is basically the only thing the Republicans have left.

The president of the United States is absolutely absent on the issue, he is not interested in the details, he`s not using his bully pulpit.

Every single day, Paul Ryan is out there pushing this agenda, making the case, doing the kinds of things that presidents would normally do if you had a major item on your agenda that you actually wanted to enact.

So, yes, the contrast in leadership is very dramatic. Is Paul Ryan running for president? No, Paul Ryan is trying to salvage his speakership.

He`s trying to salvage, you know, a decade`s worth of policy wonky on this particular issue. I mean, I wish, in fact, Paul Ryan was going to say, look, you know, it`s now time for the Republican Party to say we need to move past Donald Trump.

I don`t think he`s there yet, but the contrast was dramatic.

O`DONNELL: Charlie, I agree that he wants his speakership to work, but I don`t see how he defines that as going out to Boeing and having that event there today.

And Joel, there`s plenty of ways of running for president, especially when you`re not supposed to be. When your party occupies the White House.

Here`s a president who is under special prosecutor investigation. There may well come a time in the next couple of years, as we approach the Republican presidential nomination, that there`s been enough movement in that investigation for Republicans to think that they`ve got to do something else.

And someone like Paul Ryan doesn`t want to step forward and declare himself, but I think he really wants you to see him as often as possible in the kind of setting where it`s really easy to imagine him as your candidate.

CONNELLY: He was -- he was in the world`s largest building. He was being a policy wonk, sure open.

Beyond that, he was setting the bar for himself pretty high, basically saying that we`re going to have a major tax reform plan that will pass Congress this year.

In addition to, of course, the debt ceiling, in addition to, of course, keeping the government. So he set a very ambitious goal for himself, but he kept emphasizing House Republican plans, or as they`re called, a better way.

They`ve of course taken the slogan from the famous 1970 movie with Robert Redford running as Bill McKay, the better way.

But they`re recycling this 45, 47 years later. But he was emphasizing the House Republicans` plan, the House Republicans` tax reform proposals, this sort of thing.

Trump did not come into the discussion of what he was talking about that they hope to do.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Capehart, the way you actually do a tax bill in the House of Representatives is, you have hearings in the Ways & Means Committee, you don`t go out to Seattle factories.

They`re having no hearings on it. You then have to have hearings in the Senate Finance Committee.

You then have to move to a markup in both committees. There`s a way to do this, that`s not what they`re doing.

CAPEHART: Right, well, no, and what you`re describing is I guess what they call regular order, but these are irregular times --

O`DONNELL: Yes.

CAPEHART: And so I think what -- to my mind, just listening to what was just said by Joel, we`re seeing a parallel universe here where, yes, Speaker Ryan has all these plans.

He wants to get all these things done. He has a president who couldn`t care less about the details, all he wants is a win.

So if all -- if you know the president -- all the president wants is a win. You come up with your tax proposal, you get it, so you ram it through the House, you get it through the Senate and you put it on and say, Mr. President, look, here you go.

You can now have your big signing ceremony in the Rose Garden. You got tax cuts done. But when it comes time to run for president, Paul Ryan would be able to say, that`s my bill.

I got that done, and be able to say that legitimately and truthfully.

O`DONNELL: Joel Connelly, thank very much for being our eyes and ears in Seattle today, really appreciate it.

Jonathan Capehart, thank you for joining us. Charlie, please stick around with us. Coming up next, one of the Democratic senators investigating the possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia says that the controversial dossier could hold the key evidence in the case, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question is on pardons if I could, on Sheriff Arpaio. Is the president seeking a recommendation from the pardon attorney, the deputy Attorney General or is he asking for an FBI background check in his consideration of the pardon?

SANDERS: I would imagine they go through the thorough and standard process, and when we have an announcement on what that decision is after that`s completed, we`ll let you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was actually a very important question about the Russia investigation at the White House press briefing today.

I know it didn`t sound like one, but it was about a former local sheriff in Arizona who was found guilty of federal contempt of court for defying orders to seize detaining undocumented immigrants.

But it is essentially all but promising Sheriff Joe Arpaio a pardon. The president is getting America ready for the pardoner-in-chief who might soon find himself pardoning people named Trump like Donald Jr. or Ivanka or her husband, Jared Kushner in the Russia investigation.

So the next question today at the White House briefing was even more important. What is the president`s pardon philosophy?

The Press Secretary`s answer to that was, of course, as is her answer to almost everything, in effect, I have no idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beyond Arpaio, there are 2,200 other pardon applications pending. Does the president have any pardon policy, pardon philosophy, any particular way that he would like to use his pardon power during his term in office?

SANDERS: I haven`t had a specific conversation with him about that, but I know his -- the White House counsel plays a big role in that and would certainly be involved in that process and any deliberations on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There are reports tonight that the paperwork on the Arpaio pardon is making its way to the president`s desk for signature and that talking points are being readied within the White House to defend the pardon.

This could become something of a routine for the Trump White House as the special prosecutor continues to investigate the president, his family and his campaign associates.

Joining us now, Jill Wine-Banks; former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an Msnbc contributor.

And Jill, to the question of pardons, past the Joe Arpaio pardon. What would you expect to see the president if he was trying to use the pardon power to protect his family. How would he do that?

JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: The pardon power interestingly is quite unlimited. As we know from Watergate, you can pardon someone before they`re indicted.

You can forgive them for all crimes they may have committed without saying what they are. That`s what President Gerald Ford did as soon as he took office. He pardoned Richard Nixon.

Before there was even an opportunity for him to be indicted. So it`s pretty unlimited and he could do it.

But I would remind the president, President Trump, that when President Ford did that, he suffered political consequences.

He lost the re-election in large part because of having pardoned President Nixon. So, while it is legally possible for him to do that, and while I`m sure that he would feel compelled to do it for his own family, and for his closest advisors and for those whom he cannot say anything bad about for some reason, it might be a politically unwise move.

O`DONNELL: It`s worth noting that President Nixon did not issue any of these pardons as his advisors were getting indicted and on their way to trial, many of whom went to prison.

The risk of the pardon process for the president is once you`ve pardoned, let`s say, Jared Kushner, Jared Kushner has no more 5th Amendment Rights because the 5th Amendment is about preventing self-incrimination.

You can`t incriminate yourself for things you`ve been pardoned for.

WINE-BANKS: That`s exactly right. I wrote an op-ed for the "Chicago Tribune" on the subject of pardons, and I was surprised by how many people were shocked to learn two things.

One, that when you accept a pardon, you are admitting guilt, and that`s something that is hard for some people to do.

It was a very sad day when Betten Becker(ph) went to President Nixon to explain to him that if he explained -- if he accepted the pardon from President Ford, he would be admitting guilt, and he agreed to do that.

So that`s number one. But you are right on the second point is, once you`re pardoned, you cannot protect yourself through the 5th Amendment and that means that all of those people that have the most knowledge of what President Trump may have done would have to testify.

They would have no way, or they would face prison for either perjury or for obstruction by not answering questions.

O`DONNELL: Yes --

WINE-BANKS: So you --

O`DONNELL: They`re still --

WINE-BANKS: A great point.

O`DONNELL: They`d still have to testify and they would risk perjury charges when under oath. I want to listen to something that Senator Richard Blumenthal just said tonight to Chris Hayes on his program about the testimony just given to the staff of the Judiciary Committee.

Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The public has the right to know what Glenn Simpson said to our committee and, in fact, in my view, he should be coming before the committee in public under oath.

This dossier has some allegations that could be very relevant to the question of whether there has been obstruction of justice.

There`s also this special counsel investigation, separate and apart. Where that dossier and the interviews with Glenn Simpson may be relevant as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And, of course, Glenn Simpson runs the company that put together that dossier that eventually found its way into the special prosecutor`s office and others, outlining the extent of Trump connections to Russia.

And Glenn Simpson has said that he`s happy to have the full transcript of his ten hours of testimony to the staff released immediately.

WINE-BANKS: There are a couple of things. One, of course, I`d really like to hear from Mr. Steele directly, not from the person who hired Mr. Steele(ph).

But I would also like to hear from Mr. Simpson as well. And there is a fine line that has to be balanced which is between interfering with an investigation of the special counsel and the public right to know.

And, of course, as a member of the public, I want to know and I would like to know soon enough that it can be public before the 2018 elections.

I think that`s very important. I think they need to cooperate with Mr. Mueller so that they don`t do anything.

For example, you don`t want them releasing information that is not already public and that could give a clue to someone else who`s being investigated that might change how they answer questions.

So you want to be careful of that and work with the special prosecutor.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and in criminal process, they frequently sequester witnesses so one witness can`t know what another witness has said even during trials so that it won`t enable them to adjust their testimony.

That could be at work here. Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

WINE-BANKS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, as President Trump`s wall on the southern border collapses before Mexico has built it, the president`s promises to his voters are collapsing.

What will that mean in a Republican -- a possible Republican challenge to this president in 2020 Republican primaries?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Ohio`s Republican Governor, John Kasich finds himself in a Republican Presidential Primary once again with Donald Trump. He will be able to humiliate Donald Trump about the wall, the way he tried to last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KASICH, OHIO`S GOVERNOR: The Mexicans aren`t going to build a wall that they`re going to -- are you kidding me? The Mexicans are going to build a wall and pay for it? That`s not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: The headline on Steve Bannon`s Breitbart for most of the day was that Donald Trump is reportedly embarrassed by the lack of progress on the border wall. In today`s utterly pointless White House press briefing, reporters played the game of asking questions to the person who doesn`t know any answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, the President promised over and over again during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall. So why is he now threatening a government shutdown if congress won`t pay for it?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY: The President`s committed to making sure this gets done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: why --

SANDERS: Matthew?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is he threatening a shutdown over paying for it? I mean, again, he said over and over again, he talked about the campaign, over and over again, he said Mexico`s going to pay for the wall. He asked people -- crowds chanted back at him, Mexico`s going to pay for it. Now he`s pushing, threatening a shutdown of the government.

SANDERS: Now, once again, the President is committed to making sure this happens and we`re going to push forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: And once again, the press secretary could not answer the question of why is the President threatening a government shutdown over the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for? Now that the President has switched from threatening Mexico about paying for the wall to threatening the United States Congress about paying for the wall, threatening the American people about paying for the wall, naturally, the White House got this question today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since the President is going full-court pressure the threatening a shutdown over the wall, does that mean he`s abandoning efforts of negotiating with Mexico?

SANDERS: I certainly don`t think any efforts have been abandoned.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Yes. OK. But the President did abandon it in a phone call with the President of Mexico, the transcript of which was leaked by the Trump White House. That was the phone call in which the President begged the President of Mexico to simply please stop talking about the wall. To simply say he`s not -- please stop saying that you`re not going to pay for it. to which the President of Mexico said to Donald Trump, "My position has been and will continue to be very firm," saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.

Everyone in the world now knows that Donald Trump has completely given up on getting Mexico to pay for the wall and Mexico is not going to pay one penny for that wall and so the White House Press Secretary today instead of the truth today, chose the most childish response she possibly could have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the threat of government shutdown if congress doesn`t secure funding for the wall, how is that not a concession from the White House That Mexico actually isn`t going to pay for this wall and American taxpayers will?

SANDERS: Again, this is something the President is committed to, committed to protecting American lives and doing that is through the border wall. We`re moving Forward. Noah?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he`s not saying Mexico is going to pay for it.

SANDERS: Yes. he hasn`t said they`re not, either.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: He hasn`t said they`re not. Your average first grader could not do better than that, your average first grader could not do worse than that. That`s the average you`re watching now, first grade.

Here`s the final entry in the wall discussion today in the very silly game of asking he questions to the person who does not know the answer to the questions and does not even know what an answer is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump said if we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall? Does he stand by that statement?

SANDERS: Look, I think the President`s been clear that this is a priority, protecting American citizens is a priority. Something he`s committed to and we`re going to -- as I`ve said multiple times today, he`s committed to seeing that through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he going to enforce a government shutdown to get the wall built?

SANDERS: I think I`ve answered this question several times.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: No. You haven`t answered the question. Not once. You haven`t come close to answering the question, will the President try to shut down the government in order to get the wall paid for? It is just a bold-faced lie to stand up there at the end of that sequence and say, I think I`ve answered this question several times. Try that in court sometime when you never answer a question. That is a lie.

And the years of Trump lying about the wall might be in the next Presidential campaign the single, clearest, simplest, most effective way of showing Republican voters in the primaries the two most important things about Donald Trump, one, he tells gigantic lies, like nothing we`ve ever seen before in American politics, and, two, he is the most ineffective President of the United States that we have ever had. Seven months into the Trump presidency, the President is eagerly raising money for his re- election campaign, and Republicans increasingly believe the President is vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge. And I have more on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you back the President when he says I`d rather shut the government down than build this wall?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we don`t need a government shutdown, that never ends well. We don`t save money doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Eli Stokols, White House correspondent for the "Wall Street Journal" and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Back with us, Charlie Sykes.

Eli, tonight`s headline coming out of the "Wall Street Journal" editorial is Trump divorces the GOP Congress. And the lesson is when Trump divorces you, you`re never going to get back with him.

ELI STOKOLS, WALL STREET JOURNAL CORRESPONDENT: History does seem to show that.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

STOKOLS: I mean, this -- you know, you go back to January, I remember all the optimism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, even those who were skeptical about Donald Trump, took a long time embraces him, they thought this was going to be this brand new era of Republican dominance, Republican governance. They thought they were going to pass a lot of things and he was going to sign them and everything was going to be great.

Obviously, it`s taken six months. That`s deteriorated. Now that they`re with them, they`re criticizing the President publicly. And he feels back into a corner and this border wall, may sound like a quixotic pursuit for the President to take, at this point. But it matters to him. It matters to his base. And he is the kind of person, hear it over and over again from people who spend time with him, work with him, you tell this guy, you can`t do something, he`s going to go out and do it.

He`s clearly trying to create leverage threatening this congress about a shutdown, talking about possibly getting rid of Daca as if he thinks that`s going to bring democratic votes his way. He`s sort of throwing everything at the wall trying to see if he can get ome movement to get some money for that wall.

STOKOLS: charlie sykes, the President has Wall Street worried now that he might get in the way of the debt ceiling and try to attach the wall to the debt ceiling or shut down the government. And that`s one of the things Paul Ryan was talking about today in his, what looks like a campaign stop today, saying there will be a clean debt ceiling, we`re going to get the debt ceiling done. He was assuring everyone at Boeing that it depends on a stable economy, we`re going to get the debt ceiling done.

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: well, first of all, the Republicans in congress should have learned from history if you`re going to get into bed with Donald Trump, you need a prenup before the divorce. But, you know, on this issue of the wall, I mean, you have to ask yourself, was this one of the issues that the base took him seriously but not literally? Did people really believe that Mexico is going to pay for the wall? I think a lot of people kind of knew that he was kind of making that up and they voted for him, anyway. But this -- this is clearly, you know, the issue that plays so strongly to the base for Donald Trump. And I think that we`ve really moved past any plausible governing scenario for the Trump administration. So now we`re moving into the grievance phase. The stab in the back phase.

Donald Trump is the fighter and if he fails, it`s not because he didn`t -- not because he failed, but because -- but because he was betrayed, because he was stabbed in the back by democrats, by Paul Ryan, by Mitch McConnell. There`s always somebody else to blame. And I think Donald Trump is going to be comfortable fighting this. How was he going to shut down the federal government? I don`t know. I`m very skeptical he`ll go that far.

But keep in mind that this whole notion that Donald Trump is fighting against an establishment that wants to undermine him appeals deeply to his base. He`s been playing that card for a very, very long time. I think he`ll be comfortable continuing to do so on he wall.

O`DONNELL: I think, Eli, Charlie makes a great point that his base heard all that, Mexico`s going to pay for the wall, they love the chant. They`ll take what they can get. What they`re sure of is there will never be another politician who`s going to be tougher on the southern border than Donald Trump no matter how much wall gets built or gets repaired or whatever is done with that wall. And the way for him to shut down the government is the house and the senate have to pass a budget bill which means pass it with some democratic votes. The bill has to be presented to the President.

He has to veto it, actually veto it. He ask to actually veto it and say it them I`m vetoing it because the wall is not in here, there`s not enough money for the wall in here. Why would he do that, if Charlie`s point is right, that his voters know, or believe, he`s trying his best on the wall, it`s just those other guys that are stopping him?

STOKOLS: Yes. It seems farfetched that even this President would go that far and shut down the government almost unilaterally, but, you know, you never know. I di think the politics of this, this President and the people at the White House think about politics, they believe as far as Republican primaries go and pressuring some of these moderate senators, they think that the politics are on their side and they might be right, that there`s more Republican primary voters who support this President who like the way that he talks tough, the way that he goes after the media, the way he goes after the sort of squish Republican lawmakers as they perceive them to be on the hill.

They like that. So even if he doesn`t get anything done or actually follow through on any of these promises, they kind of like the attitude and they`re making a bet right now that at the end of the day, the Republican primary voters, more of them are going to be with this President than with Mitch McConnell and his Republican senate.

O`DONNELL: The -- the -- there`s no bigger --

SYKES: I agree.

O`DONNELL: -- dent in the superman armor of Donald Trump and his voters than not getting the wall. He -- they may stick with him but they`re going to know next time, they`re not voting for superman this time. Eli Stokols, Charlie Sykes, thank you for joining us tonight.

STOKOLS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: really appreciate it. Coming up, white -- what do white supremacists hear when President Trump speaks? We`re going to have an unusual discussion tonight with a former white supremacist who now tries to pull people away from the white supremacist movement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O`DONNELL: Nothing has separated President Trump from Republicans in congress as sharply as this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We`re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious this play display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: On many sides. What the President had to say about what happened in Charlottesville got rave reviews from David Duke and White Supremacist Richard Spencer who organized the Nazi demonstration that the led to the murder of Heather Hire.

Spencer said that Trump has never denounced the alt right more will he. Wwhat are the White Supremacists and Nazi`s hearing from Donald Trump. My next guess used to subscribe o scribe to white supremacists he founded an organization that pulse people away from that organization. He tells us what they hear when they listen to Donald Trump. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: When you say the alt right, define alt right to me you go ahead. No define it for me come on let`s go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain defined them as the sand.

TRUMP: What about the -- discuss me what about the alt left that came charging at the -- as you say the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Joining us now Christian Petrili. He`s the co-founder of Life After Hate exit USA and non-profit organization and created after renouncing ties to the White`s Supremacist movement. He is also the author of Romantic Violence, memoirs of an American skinhead.

Christian, what do White Supremacists hear when they hear Donald Trump we just heard the challenge to the reporter to define that alt right and then throwing the -- what he calls the alt left back at the reporter.

CHRISTIAN PETRILI, CO-FOUNDER OF LIFE AFTER HATE: You know, Lawrence, it`s a common tactic for folks to shift the blame to other people. It`s always about blaming the other. But more importantly what we -- from what we heard is what we didn`t hear, that was his denunciation of the alt right specifically. A group that is at the tip of everybody`s tongue these days associated with neo-Nazis with the KKK and White Nationalists. Though he specifically omitted mentioning them as part of the sentence when he denounced the groups.

So I think to me for somebody a member of these groups and espoused the same types of ideology it`s not a dog whistle to me it`s a bull horn that speaks loud and clear.

O`DONNELL: I want to go to a clip of a conversation you had with Richard Spencer, the organizer -- one of the organizers of the White Supremacist march in Charlottesville. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you put up propaganda?

RICHARD SPENCER: Propaganda in the true sense of the word, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you put out miss information.

SPENCER: Absolutely not. sometimes I`m a thinker, sometimes an organizer, sometimes an entertainer, yes. Sure. To be ideologicl and also entertaining that`s the trick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Christian what do we make of that? What does he mean of ideological versus entertaining? What`s the entertaining part on his end of this and what`s the ideological part in?

PETRILI: You know, I had the opportunity when I spoke in White Fish, Montana which is Richard Spencer`s homestead part-time. It was also a town that had been attacked by neo-Nazis online and terrorized. But I spent two hours with him. And you know I really was able to reach kind of his -- his human side without debating ideologically with him every time he tried to start a debate about politics I would shift and ask a question about his personal life and his family.

And I think you know my take on Richard Spencer is that in front of the camera he is very much a performer. He is very much an entertainer where he amplifies his message. Because he realizes this is his 15 minutes of fame. That`s not to say he doesn`t believe what he says. But the intention there is to -- is to really amplify this hateful message because of the attention he is getting and to rile people up to commit acts of violence and you know certainly he is responsible for the action as of many of the people committing violence.

O`DONNELL: Christian, how did you get into this movement and how did you get out of it?

PETRILI: You know, I`m a firm believer that ideology is not the form of radicalization it`s a human search for identity community and purpose. If there is broken underneath, if there`s a void being filled and people are desperate enough and haven`t been able to find that identity community and purpose they tend to find that in negative pathways. So for me I felt abandoned as a young kid my parents were Italian immigrants who came in the sixth. I didn`t understand why they were away from home all the time working. Of course now as a parent I do understand that. But I felt really abandoned and marginalized. And every time I was looking for an unit to fulfill my passions, I couldn`t find it.

And the only people that spoke to me that accepted me at that point were some of America`s first neo-Nazi skin heads. I raid traded in my antiracism and growing up without prejudice annual just wasn`t in my family DNA to accept this lifestyle just to belong. I suspect that`s the case for many of these folks who are on the alt right is that they`re doing this to get attention and to belong to something.

O`DONNELL: And what`s your approach to trying to pull people out of it?

PETRILI: You know, I listen to people. I don`t ever battle ideologically with them because I know that polarize us further and doesn`t accomplish much. But until I listen for pot holes that may have deviated the path from the intended path could be trauma abuse abandonment in my case. Mental illness addiction whatever the case may be peen a perceived grievance. I listen and fill the pot holes in because what I`m trying to do is billed the resilience of the human being to make them self-confident and move competitive they don`t have to blame the other they feel is taken away from them. But the way I challenge the doctrine is introducing them to people they think they hate whether a holocaust denier with a holocaust survivor or Islamophobes spending a day with a Muslim family.

And the point is to try to get them to humanize tease people that for their whole lives they`ve never had a meaningful international was with because have hatred for because they feel they`ve taken something away. My goal it so really dispel the myth of the demon.

O`DONNELL: Christian Petrili gets ton`s Last Word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight we appreciate it.

PETRILI: Thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.

END

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