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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 8/30/17 Trump's do over on

Guests: Jed Shugerman, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson


Guest: Jed Shugerman, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Has something going on that the --

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: It`s something that presidents tend to mention once every four years when they`re running for president and it never comes up again.

MADDOW: Or conceivably if the senator from Iowa has something going on that the president really has strong feelings about.

The president`s son getting called before Grassley`s committee less than one day before this call to Grassley about -- we have a hard -- you know, heartfelt feelings about Ethanol.

It`s a little unsubtle even for this White House. Even for the conservative media that isn`t buying it, but we have to adjust our subtlety meter in this era.

O`DONNELL: So it may be that this is the first time in history that Donald Trump picked up the phone for something other than self-interest. Just to praise Ethanol.

MADDOW: Just to praise Ethanol. He was just thinking warm thoughts about corn --


MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Yes, thank you, Rachel --

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, today the president went to Missouri to give a teleprompter speech about tax cuts, and apparently just to try to prove that he does have empathy.

He read every word that his speechwriters gave him about thoughts and prayers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what we`re seeing is really how unnatural empathy is to President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collective criticism from some circles is that he met no victims, saw no rain, and demonstrated no empathy.

TRUMP: Can I say Missouri or should I say Missoura, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president hasn`t demonstrated over a period of a week or two weeks that there`s any consistency in his speech making in front of a crowd and his law making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polling, it shows that there is no doubt a bleeding in his support among conservatives and Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to be his own worst enemy. He couldn`t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s embarrassed them as a president. This is not what they want, and this is not what they expect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not even professional, let alone presidential. If he could at least just become professional, it would be --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little -- it will be a little better.

TRUMP: We`ll have it both ways.


O`DONNELL: Some of the people that you saw in the open there were part of a focus group -- all of the people you saw in the open there speaking from that focus group.

A focus group last night in Pennsylvania that included five Trump voters, none of whom had good things to say about the president.

We`re going to see more of that focus group later in this hour. The president went to Springfield, Missouri, today to give one of those speeches where he is locked on a teleprompter and obviously reading it for the first time, discovering facts in it for the first time, like this one.


TRUMP: I`m especially pleased to be here in Springfield; the birthplace of a great American icon, the legendary Route 66.


Who would have known that?


TRUMP: Yes, who would have known that? Well, pretty much everyone in that room in Springfield, Missouri, today would have known that.

The people who wrote that speech for you and put it in the teleprompter knew that, but Donald Trump obviously didn`t know that until he read it in his teleprompter today.

And I`m sure there`s absolutely no chance that Donald Trump knows where Route 66 ends, and I`m not going to tell him, he`s going to have to learn that someday in his teleprompter.

But actually that will probably never be in Donald Trump`s teleprompter because Route 66 doesn`t end in Trump country.

I`ll give them just a little hint end of the Pacific Ocean in a place that used to be Mexico and still retains its Mexican place name in honor of Saint Monica.

I don`t expect Donald Trump to be able to figure out where that is because he doesn`t speak Spanish, and the name of the place is in Spanish as are most of the place names in that part of America that used to be Mexico.

The part of America that Donald Trump and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio want to cleanse of anyone who they think looks to them like they belong in Mexico.

During these speeches, these teleprompter speeches, you can tell that Donald Trump`s teleprompter is filled with things that he does not know, including, in many cases, the names of the United States senators from the state that he`s speaking in.

He made mention of both of Missouri`s senators today, Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill.

What are the odds that Donald Trump walks around with Claire McCaskill`s name in his head?

What are the odds that he actually knows the name of the Democratic senator from Missouri?

Here`s is how Senator McCaskill`s name came up while Donald Trump was closely reading his teleprompter today.


TRUMP: We must -- we have no choice. We must lower our taxes, and your Senator Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you.

And if she doesn`t do it for you, you have to vote her out of office.




O`DONNELL: He was very clearly reading the teleprompter when he said her name. It was right there in the prompter.

His speechwriters working in the White House on the government payroll wrote that completely political campaign passage in the president`s speech in violation of the law.

It`s against the law for White House speechwriters to write lines like that. Federal government workers are not allowed to use their jobs in campaigning for or against a candidate.

Watch what happens when Donald Trump ad-libs off the teleprompter about Claire McCaskill right after saying that.


TRUMP: She`s got to make that commitment. She`s got to make that commitment. If she doesn`t do it, we just can`t do this anymore with the obstruction and the obstructionists.


O`DONNELL: She -- when he was ad-libbing, when he was off the teleprompter, he couldn`t remember her name, or that`s the way it looked anyway.

Claire McCaskill is the reason Donald Trump went to Missouri today. The president of the United States fueled up Air Force One, loaded up the Secret Service on the plane, got another contingent of Secret Service active on the ground in Missouri to meet the plane at a time when the Secret Service has already run out of its travel budget for the entire year because of the excessive travel and golfing that Donald Trump and his family do.

And the president did all of that today with an over budget Secret Service simply to attack Claire McCaskill and issue a political threat that she`d better vote for the Trump tax cut bill or he will urge those people to vote her out of office.

President Trump took Air Force One to Missouri today in pursuit of exactly one vote in the Senate. One vote.

That was a one-vote plane ride. Of course, Donald Trump is going to urge Missouri voters to vote Claire McCaskill out of office next year whether she votes for Donald Trump`s tax cuts or not. She`s a Democrat.

He`s going to be campaigning against her. So his threat is not as scary as he thinks, but it was a political campaign threat issued to a named United States senator during an official White House trip paid for entirely by the taxpayer on what was supposed to be an official visit by the president of the United States to a company in Springfield, Missouri, to talk to the country about tax policy.

And specifically to build support for the Trump tax cuts, a bill that has yet to be written and was described by the president today only in the vaguest terms.

The president spoke today at the Loren Cook Company; a factory that makes industrial fans. When the president talked about possibly eliminating some deductions in the tax code, he said that that might be harmful to rich tax filers like the owner of the factory, Mr. Cook and Donald Trump.


TRUMP: That is why tax reform must dramatically simplify the tax code, eliminate special interest loop holes -- and I`m speaking against myself when I do this, I have to tell you.

And I might be speaking against Mr. Cook, and we`re both OK with it, is that right?


It`s crazy. We`re speaking -- maybe we shouldn`t be doing this, you know?


But we`re doing the right thing.





O`DONNELL: Last word he said there was "true", is it true? We have no idea. Everything Donald Trump says about taxes, we have no idea whether it affects him or not.

His taxes are a secret. We have no idea what deductions he takes on his corporate tax returns or on his partnership tax returns or on any of his business tax returns or on his personal income tax returns, state and federal, we have no idea.

So when the tax debate gets to specifics and we discover that Donald Trump is in favor or opposed to the elimination of certain tax deductions, we will have no idea whether Donald Trump actually uses that tax deduction.

We will have no idea whether he is, as he puts it, speaking against himself. When has Donald Trump ever taken a position against his own self- interest? Let`s ask a Trump voter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is almost totally lacking in empathy. So that`s why he scores so poorly on all these issues just about.

He cannot put himself in the other person`s Moccasins, whether it be racial or international or socio-economic. He`s incredibly obtuse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a great word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I voted for him.


O`DONNELL: That was a Trump voter in that focus group of Pennsylvania voters that we told you about. We`re going to be hearing more from them later in the program.

At this hour last night, there were eight confirmed deaths from Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Tonight, there are 21, and as I said last night, that number will probably go up.

President Trump was clearly stunned by the criticism he received here and elsewhere for the way he made his visit to Texas yesterday all about him and not about the victims of the hurricane and the destruction of their lives and those 21 deaths.

The White House staff typed words into the president`s teleprompter today that he could not find in his heart yesterday.


TRUMP: To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is grieving with you, and our hearts are joined with yours forever.

The citizens of Texas and the Gulf Coast need all the prayers, support, and resources our communities have to offer.

Recovery will be tough, but I have seen the resilience of the American spirit first-hand all over this country.


O`DONNELL: And here was the mandatory thoughts and prayers section.


TRUMP: Our thoughts and prayers remain firmly with the citizens and our fellow people, great people all affected by this tragedy.

We`re also glad to be back in the heartland with the very fine folks of Missouri.




O`DONNELL: And that was it. Not another word about Texas. Not another word about death and destruction and tragedy mounting, increasing tragedy.

Now, it was time for the birthplace of Route 66, tax cuts, and campaigning against Senator Claire McCaskill.

The president didn`t say another word about Texas today. Joining us now, Nicholas Kristof; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the "New York Times".

Also with us, Brian Klaas; a fellow of Comparative Politics at London School of Economics and the author of "The Despot`s Accomplice".

Nick, so the president got a lot of criticism yesterday for the way he handled himself. And today he goes off on what is basically a political rally.

You could call it a policy rally, I suppose, if you want to. But it was -- once he got past that very short, mandatory thoughts and prayers section, he was on into, you know, Trump rally territory, getting applause, having fun, and having fun with Claire McCaskill in his way.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I must say I thought his comments about hurricane were perfectly unobjectionable.

But that`s a pretty low bar. And at the end of the day, of course, a president`s response to a hurricane isn`t about his words on date -- on the following day after recovering, but it`s about policies.

And you know, at the end that seems to me what we need to focus on. You can`t have a serious discussion about the response to a hurricane unless you begin to talk about climate change, and you can`t have that conversation without talking about Paris.

And you also need to talk about adaptation so that coastal communities around the country are prepared for the next big event.

And so I thought his words today were perfectly fine as words, but you know, that`s not a response that we need as a country to what happened.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Brian, there`s no one in politics who would have thought this is a good idea.

This is what you do the day after you visited Texas, and the situation in Texas is so bad that you can`t really visit where the trouble is.

You can just go to the edges out there in Corpus Christi. And the death toll is still mounting. No one in politics would say, OK, go give one of those kind of rally speeches about tax cuts.

That`s what to do while this crisis is still going on in Texas. So it seems like the White House staff, if there`s anyone there who has any ideas about what`s appropriate for a president, that they`ve all just given up.

They`ve just given up, and they get, well, better that he`s doing this today, that it`s an hour when he won`t be able to tweet.

BRIAN KLAAS, FELLOW, COMPARATIVE POLITICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, we`ve lowered the bar so much for Trump that we`re thinking about him as a president and not as just a normal person.

Everyone looking at those images thinks, you just hug someone. You look at them and you say, you`re suffering.

This person, Donald Trump has lived in a gilded penthouse that`s impossible to have floodwaters come to it.

He doesn`t understand what could ever happen to someone. He didn`t go there to try to comfort people.

It`s the easiest slam dunk a president has, almost as easy by the way as condemning neo-Nazis forcefully.

And on all these things that are not about presidentialism, they`re about basic humanity, he`s failing the test.

And I think that`s where we need to think, OK, this person is lacking empathy. And I agree with you completely that we need policy focus, but we also need somebody -- I mean, we have a president that is both head of government and head of state in the United States.

And the head of state role is really important to unify the country. And we have somebody who is dividing the country on things that are absolutely the easiest part of comforting the nation.

To say the same things that President Bush and Obama have said in tragedies before him. And he cannot do it.

He gets four or five attempts, and finally the teleprompter comes through. And that`s what I think we continue to see every time with President Trump.

O`DONNELL: And Nick, when we`re talking about empathy this week and we`re talking about it in terms of those moments that we`ve seen with other presidents in situations like this, including specifically hugging people who are there, making comments and public statements about the situation that feel empathetic.

But empathy is a factor throughout government, including the subject the president was talking about today in the tax structure of this country.

And there was not one empathetic word in what he had to say today about the people who live at the bottom end of the tax bracket, the people who -- some of whom get the earned income tax credit.

Is there any consideration that they might get a larger earned income tax credit, for example.

KRISTOF: Right --

O`DONNELL: There`s not a hint of any thought to anyone who lives anywhere in that tax code that`s a different neighborhood from Donald Trump`s position in that tax code --

KRISTOF: But Lawrence, you missed all the empathy in that speech for corporations.

O`DONNELL: Yes, oh, yes --

KRISTOF: It was full of discussion about --


KRISTOF: Lowering the corporate tax rate. And of course, I mean, there are legitimate reasons to lower the marginal corporate tax rate.

But you do that by broadening the base and taking away deductions like those that go to the real estate world, like the deductibility of interest by people exactly like Trump.

And so, you know, I found Trump on tax reform kind of as scary as I find him on North Korea. And also in a sense as misleading.

I mean, one of the main points he made today in Missouri was that the U.S. has a higher corporate tax burden than other countries.

And it`s true that the marginal 35 percent rate is higher than in other countries, but nobody pays that.

O`DONNELL: Right --

KRISTOF: And so indeed the -- as a percentage of GDP in the U.S., it`s about 2 percent which is lower than in France, lower than in Canada, lower than in Japan.

And so I thought the central message of his speech today was fundamentally misleading.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Brian, he`s making this case to these workers assembled in front of him at this plant that it`s really good for them if he can cut the taxes of their bosses and of the owners of these factories.

And he wasn`t getting a lot of applause in that section of the speech.

KLAAS: And I don`t think anyone is -- around the country is thinking that corporations are the ones who need a break right now in America.

And I think the people who are going through these flood waters in Houston and around Texas, watching him in Missouri talk about how we need to talk about corporations, it couldn`t be more tone deaf at the exact wrong moment.

And it`s just a complete lie that it`s going to have this trickledown effect and massively create jobs.

It just does not happen. There`s no evidence to suggest it happens. And so, you know, they`re being sold on this package that already doesn`t have a contour because there`s no bill.

And then he`s touting this thing as though it`s going to solve all the problems of inequality, which is growing rapidly in America.

A lot of people are still looking to see if their homes are standing, right? I mean, it`s an incredible moment of juxtaposition between inequality and the lack of wealth that so many people in this country have, and Donald Trump`s priorities, which seem to always be driven by people like him.

And I think that`s something that`s really an astonishing fact for this presidency seven months into it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, say something today, Nick, about the home mortgage deduction. Are you going to put a ceiling on it?

And, oh, by the way, what happens to the home mortgage deduction of the people whose homes floated --

KRISTOF: Right --

O`DONNELL: Away --

KRISTOF: Right --

O`DONNELL: In Texas, who will not have jobs or a home and still have the liability to pay that mortgage note? What is Donald Trump`s government going to do with them?

KRISTOF: I mean, Trump talked a lot about creating jobs, and the one thing we know that won`t create jobs is his efforts to give a huge break to corporations to bring back $3 trillion or more that is packed overseas.

We can try that, and it`s used to buy back stock, for example. If you want to help create jobs, you lower payroll taxes. And you know, that is something that is clearly not on his agenda.

O`DONNELL: Yes, we`re going to have to leave it there for tonight. Nick Kristof and Brian Klaas, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

Coming up, we have breaking news on the Trump-Russia investigation. Robert Mueller is working with the New York State Attorney General, and this is a big and important breakthrough because the president does not have pardon power over state crimes.


O`DONNELL: It might now be all up to the State Attorneys General, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller seems to know that.

The president`s pardon power is limited to federal cases. The president cannot pardon anyone charged or convicted of a state crime like murder or money laundering.

And now that we have spent considerable time here discussing the president`s ability to pardon away the Mueller investigation, the case has reportedly taken an important turn beyond the scope of presidential pardon power.

If the president pardons Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Flynn and Ivanka Trump and anyone touched by Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation, then the Mueller investigation would essentially collapse.

But what if New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also on the case? "Politico" is reporting exactly that tonight.

Special counsel Robert Mueller`s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump`s campaign as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

This is what Joe Biden would call a big deal. Federal Prosecutors normally have nothing to do with state prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors have a bit of a superiority complex over state and local prosecutors, but not this time.

"Politico" also reports the two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said.

One of the people familiar with the progress on the case said both Mueller`s team and Schneiderman`s have collected evidence on financial crimes including potential money laundering.

People close to Manafort say the team has pressured him by approaching family members and former business partners, a number of other firms and people who have worked with him have received subpoenas.

Also tonight, we have new information on who has testified before Robert Mueller`s grand jury. The financial times reports "Rinat Ahkmetshin, the lobbyist and former Soviet army officer who met senior Trump campaign aides at a controversial meeting last year has given evidence before a grand jury investigation according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Akhmetshin gave testimony under oath for several hours on Friday, August 11th, in a sign that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at the 2016 meeting as part of his investigation into links between Donald Trump`s election campaign and Russia.

Rinat Akhmetshin is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence and is one of several Russians who were present at a June 9th, 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort at Trump Tower."

And the "New York Times" is reporting that President Trump`s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen sent an e-mail to a spokesman for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That spokesman, Mr. Peskoff(ph) on Wednesday confirmed to reporters that the Kremlin had received the e-mail, but he said he did not respond to it and that his office did not get involved in such matters.

Joining us now, the co-author of that "New York Times" article, investigative reporter Matt Apuzzo.

Also with us, Jed Shugerman; professor of law at Fordham University. And Matt, your article about Michael Cohen touched a lot of bases including his very direct attempt to make contact with Vladimir Putin through a spokesman.

MATT APUZZO, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Right, and what we know because Michael Cohen has turned over a lot of e-mails to Congress.

What we know is that there was obviously a great outreach by people around Donald Trump in an effort in 2015 to try to build a Trump Tower Moscow.

And as that deal fizzled, Michael Cohen sort of in this last-ditch effort sent an e-mail to the general mailbox of the Russian press secretary, I mean, the kind of the Russian equivalent of, saying, hey, can you help me resurrect this deal?

But you know, look, Michael Cohen is really -- is putting his cards on the table. He has gone through the dossier, as it`s been called, point-by- point and is issuing, you know, a pretty serious categorical denials that there was any sort of Russian collusion.

And he`s trying to follow in the Jared Kushner mold and say this is all -- this is all bogus, there`s nothing to this, kind of put up or shut up.

O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, your reaction to these developments in the case tonight and to Matt`s point about Michael Cohen`s push-back.

JED SHUGERMAN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, let me address the significance of connecting with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

This is a very significant development particularly because we`re hearing increasingly that there is discussion behind closed doors about Trump and pardons for the circle.

This is a very important point to make, which is that the president cannot affect state prosecutions and state crimes through the pardon power.

It -- there are some complicated procedures, but let`s say the question is if Trump then tells Manafort or Flynn, hold on, just toward the party line, and I`ll make sure to pardon you.

If there are New York or other attorneys general and other state prosecutors who are stepping forward, they cannot count on that pardon to save them.

They will have to face the pressure and will face state pressure to cooperate and turn state`s witness.

And so it`s important to -- for Schneiderman and Mueller to coordinate to figure out what`s going on behind the scenes.

O`DONNELL: And Matt, the coordination with Schneiderman has to be an extreme irritant to the president.

It was Eric Schneiderman who fought the president to a $25 million settlement on the Trump University case.

That was $25 million that President Trump vowed he would never pay but was forced to pay as a result of Attorney General Schneiderman`s pursuit of that case.

And so Schneiderman has been on the Trump case before.

APUZZO: Sure, I mean, look, if you are Bob Mueller, of course you`re going to want to make sure you know the -- who is in what lane in New York.

When you`re looking at banking stuff, New York is the center of the universe. But the long and the short of it, at least the political reality in the short term is none of these guys, whether it`s Manafort or Flynn can be playing in the short term for pardons.

I mean, they`ve got to be playing to win. And you know, they`ve got powerful lawyers, and you don`t want to hold out your hope for a pardon.

That frankly opens up a whole host of problems for the president, not the least of which is that once you`ve been pardoned, Congress can haul you in front of an open session and demand you testify publicly because you don`t have the right to the Fifth Amendment protections anymore.

So I mean that`s interesting in the theoretical, but right now where the rubber meets the road, this is a very live federal investigation with a lot of real consequences hanging over everyone.

O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, to that Fifth Amendment protections point, it`s a bit complicated now, isn`t it?

When we consider the possibility of state charges because if Paul Manafort, say, was pardoned by President Trump and then he was pulled into these Congressional Committees to testify and he -- and he tried to invoke the Fifth Amendment, he might make the claim that the Fifth Amendment he`s invoking is in protection of himself against state charges, not the federal charges that the President has pardoned him for.

JED SHUGERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: that`s correct. I think there was a misimpression from the point that was just made before because they could still invoke the Fifth Amendment precisely because they could still face state prosecution. So the question is not whether by accepting a pardon they can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment. It`s the other pressure, the pressure precisely because they could face state prosecution.

But keep in mind just because someone might be pardoned for a past crime but then later on they perjure themselves, and you have documents or other witnesses come forward, you can`t pardon someone for a future crime. So the possibility that they are forced to testify either in court or in Congress or in state court, pardons don`t affect a future perjury. There is an important point in New York and in other states about the double jeopardy question. If and there are some states that extend a statute to protect against a second prosecution if the federal prosecutors have started a prosecution and not just an indictment.

But if there are witnesses that have testified or juries have been sworn in, then New York has a state statute that sometimes prevents a state prosecution. So this timing gets complicated. And that`s another reason why it`s so important that Mueller and Schneiderman are talking and coordinating so that they can figure out the timing of when to bring indictments.

Ordinarily there`s a policy where you defer -- where a state prosecutor waits and defers to a federal prosecutor. But it`s only a policy of deference and waiting for federal prosecutors. if they`re talking behind the scenes and realize that maybe it`s better for Schneiderman to go first because of the threat of Trump`s pardons and because of this complicated rule that New York has, this is what`s significant about those conversations.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s why this could truly be historic, that a federal special prosecutor basically assigned to investigate the President of the United States might make the choice to, in effect, step aside for a state attorney general to make that case and some of the elements of the case against some of the people involved in the case might step aside in favor of that state Attorney General. We`ve never seen that before. Matt Apuzzo thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

APUZZO: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: And Jed Shugerman thank you too for joining us, really appreciate.

SHUGERMAN: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: We`ll have much more of the breaking news on this Russia investigation, and there is more. We`ll have that right after this break. And what is the one word you would use to describe Donald Trump. We will show you how some Trump voters answered that question and none of them were complementary.


O`DONNELL: And so we now know that the President was indeed pursuing a very big business deal in Russia during the Presidential Campaign, a deal to build a giant Trump Tower in Moscow. A deal that Donald Trump knew would require Vladimir Putin`s approval and likely involvement and possibly secret financial participation. Vladimir Putin is widely rumored to seek a personal piece of the action in deals like a giant office tower being built by Americans in Moscow.

With the new revelations about what the President and his lawyer Michael Cohen were up to in the Presidential Campaign on the trump Tower Moscow project, Jennifer Rubin`s column in the Washington Post today is headlined, what more proof of a secret Russian connection do we need? Joining us now, Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at the Washington Post and Eugene Robinson a Pulitzer Prize winning opinion writer for the Washington Post and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Jennifer, this is the story that finally lets us make sense of what we were seeing in Donald Trump every time Vladimir Putin`s name came up during the campaign or every time Russia was mentioned and how at every possible turn in this, he could never bring himself to say anything negative in the direction of Vladimir Putin or Russia.

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. He says negative things about everyone and he`s continued to except for Vladimir Putin. And I think the lay of the land is the following. Donald Trump has always been trying to do business in Russia since the days when he had the beauty pageant there. He has tried and failed at various times.

During the Presidential Campaign as he was engaged in debates where he was being asked questions about Russia, he was still trying to get a deal done in Russia. And his intermediaries were, as you`ve just reported, trying to get the attention of even the private secretary of Vladimir Putin to help facilitate this. He said, I have nothing to do with Russia. He not only said, I don`t have deals in Russia, as in the present tense. But I have nothing to do with Russia.

That was a lie. And so it makes sense then that as Mueller would begin to investigate collusion as to the campaign. That he would come across this information. And Donald Trump would feel like this is not a safe place to be. And, hence, we go down the road then of obstruction, of trying to get rid of, for example, James Comey, of trying to get other officials to weigh in on, for example, Michael Flynn`s behalf so it`s a tangled knot, but it really does begin and end -- doesn`t it always with Donald Trump with his money and his financial interests in Russia.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, real estate deals never die. It may have been that this deal collapsed at a certain point in time. But if you`re Donald Trump and you`re running for President and you don`t expect to win, you expect to be a real estate developer after the next Presidential Inauguration.


O`DONNELL: You would never lose that dream of building Trump Tower in Moscow. You`d always want to be able to go back and try to rekindle the real estate romance with Vladimir Putin.

ROBINSON: Yes, and you would know that the way to put the tie bars on that deal permanently would be to say something bad about Vladimir Putin, who would be the ultimate decider, right? If he doesn`t want a Trump Tower in Moscow, there`s not going to be a Trump Tower in Moscow. On the other -- conversely, if he does want one, there`s going to be one.

And as you alluded to, he probably would have a piece of it. It could be financed, for example, through Russian state-owned banks, say, and there`s some weird connections there. This whole story has a cast of characters around it with shady pasts and byzantine connections that seem to lead into the Kremlin.

O`DONNELL: And, Jennifer, so you believe we are there. Your column today is the declaration, you know, we are there. We have the evidence that you need.

RUBIN: Well, I think we have the connection at any rate. As you said, we`ve all been wondering why was Donald Trump so upset about this investigation by Mueller? Why was he so nice to Putin? Was there psychological reason?

Was there personality reason? This is the beginning of putting pieces together. listen, Bob Mueller and the New York Prosecutor are going to get all of the nitty-gritty bits they`re going to get from people like Michael Cohen, the content of e-mails and phone calls.

They`re going to get the conversations probably between Michael Cohen and now President Trump. And they`re going to be able to lay out the evidence bit by bit, showing a financial interest and a financial connection to Russia. In a way, that then helps the obstruction charge because although you could have obstruction when there`s no underlying crime, it sure gives you a lot of motive and a lot of incentive and makes a lot more sense if you have something to hide.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin and Gene Robinson, please stay with us while we sneak off to this break. We`ll be right back. Coming up, how would you describe Donald Trump in one word? And you have to keep it clean, or at least the people you`re going to hear from had to keep it clean because they were in a focus group.

And you`re going to hear what they had to say, and you`re going to hear what Trump Voters had to say in one word to describe Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: Here`s a focus group in Pennsylvania last night that includes five Trump voters. Now see if you could pick out which five were the Trump voters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to ask you for a word or a feeling about Donald Trump.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abject disappointment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not ready to be president.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Completely unfit to be president.




O`DONNELL: Okay. The Trump voters were the ones who said outrageous, abject disappointment, unique, off the scale, and crazy. So if you call Donald Trump crazy, you might be a Trump voter. Here`s more of what the Trump voters had to say last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to be his own worst enemy. He couldn`t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything he does is outrageous. He just doesn`t have that soft touch to sell you on what he wants to accomplish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thing that drives me crazy is all the tweeting he does. Why doesn`t he just quit that tweeting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just -- he`s let me down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know he`s a nut. Everybody knew he`s a nut. He`s not even professional, let alone presidential.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I question what he`s trying to do and don`t fully understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s such a flawed individual. He makes a travesty of the office.


O`DONNELL: There are now signs in polling that some - some of Donald Trump`s base is turning on him. Tonight a new Fox News Poll shows Donald Trump with his highest disapproval yet in their poll. 55 percent disapprove while just 41 percent approve. Donald trump has lost the most support in the Fox poll among conservatives, republican men, and white voters without a college degree.

The fox poll also shows 56 percent of Americans say Donald Trump is tearing the country apart while 33 percent say he is drawing the country together. We`ll hear more of what Trump voters don`t like about President Trump next.


O`DONNELL: Here`s a Trump voter in last night`s focus group in Pennsylvania who agrees with Donald Trump`s policies but wishes Donald Trump was not on his side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What most disappoints me is he`s such an incredibly flawed individual that has articulated many of the values that I hold dear and the messenger is overwhelming the message. I wish he was on the opposite side of where I hold dear because it would be better for the causes that I like.


O`DONNELL: Back with us, "Washington Post" columnist Jennifer Rubin and Eugene Robinson. And Eugene what did we learn from that focus group?

ROBINSON: The first thing was the use of the word disappointment which we heard a couple of times. And you have Donald Trump is paying a political price with his voters for not achieving anything, not getting stuff done. And - and for his antics. And -- and so I think that`s an important word. The other thing I heard was the woman who said, called him crazy and said, well we knew he was a nut, right?

O`DONNELL: Yes, yes. Explain that to me. She voted for him.

ROBINSON: You know -- well, you know, look, elections are contests, right? And they`re choices. And so she made a choice to vote for a guy who was a nut. Now, it could be that she didn`t like Hillary Clinton. It could be that she just thought the whole, the political establishment was spent and had no answers and she wanted to sort of knock down -- knock things over and start again.

But that - that sort of urge that caused people who knew he was a nut to vote for him I think it`s a mistake to think that`s all dissipated and all gone away just because people see indeed he is a nut. So that`s the one sort of cautionary note I think for democrats and other who`s oppose Donald Trump. You know, you can`t beat somebody with nobody. And they`d better have somebody to beat him with.

O`DONNELL: Well I know more than one Trump voter with that same attitude that that woman had of we knew he was a nut and the ones I know were sure he was not going to win. And they cast the vote only as a protest vote. And so Jennifer, there will be no -- it seems to me, the Trump protest vote of people who don`t expect him to win probably won`t be present the next time.

RUBIN: No, they won`t. And the -- I can`t stand Hillary vote so I`ll vote for this crazy person won`t be there I would hope that the democrats don`t nominate Hillary Clinton all over again. But I am struck by the sense that were they not watching you Lawrence? Were they not reading Eugene and me during the campaign? We could have told them exactly what was going to happen.

And we were right. He is so imbalanced, so unprofessional, so crazy that whatever you would hope to get out of him was going to be impossible from the get go. You can`t elect someone like this president and have it hope to work out. And I got to say she`s in some pretty good company because Paul Ryan said much the same thing during the campaign and look where he is right now.

O`DONNELL: And Gene, the truth of it is that most voters do not watch this kind of television at all on any network. They don`t read your columns ever. In fact, at least half of the people in that focus group did not the know who Robert Mueller is. And so they have at least an average and some of them obviously a better than average command of the news about Donald Trump but that`s who - that`s who voted for him, and you can`t get a positive word out of them about him now.

ROBINSON: No, you can`t. And - and look, on election day, I`ll bet they had the image of him that he was a successful businessman and despite all of the nonsense, he must be -- he must be a smart guy. He must be able to get stuff done because look, you know he was -- look at him on the "Apprentice" and - and lo and behold, you know he wasn`t a great businessman.

And he can`t get anything done. And not only that, he works against himself so you know, they`re disappointed.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That point about expected the businessman in Trump to come out and make everything work in the White House, that very point was made by the man in the focus group who voted for Donald Trump and now calls him outrageous, called him that repeatedly. Jennifer Rubin, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, California`s Junior Senator Kamala Harris made news during a town hall in Oakland.


KAMALA HARRIS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I`ll break some news. I intend to co-sponsor the Medicaid for all bill and because it`s just the right thing to do. It`s just the right thing to do.



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