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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 9/6/17 Trump vs. Putin on world stage

Guests: George F. Will, Keir Simmons, Evelyn Farkas

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 6, 2017 Guest: George f. Will, Keir Simmons, Evelyn Farkas

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: We actually have news about Hillary Clinton -- some news to share about Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin of all people.

Not that we have news about Hillary Clinton and news about Vladimir Putin. We actually have news about Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin. We`ll have that for you tomorrow, but 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. And one of the news developments during your hour to add to what you were reporting earlier in your hour is that -- is that Facebook is now cooperating with the special prosecutor on the information that they have on the advertising that you were laying out, this possibly $100,000 in Russian-based advertising about the presidential campaign.

MADDOW: And that it`s an interesting -- it`s an important development in the story because earlier tonight, Facebook was saying that they were cooperating with all investigations and that they were in communication with congressional investigators.

Facebook had briefed congressional investigators on this. But they weren`t commenting at all on whether or not they were working with the Mueller investigation.

Obviously, there`s a criminal component to Russian money being spent on the U.S. election here. So if they`ve handed this stuff over to Mueller`s investigation, that`s a big deal.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and just to double underline how important your reporting is on this tonight, yes, the special prosecutor has exactly the same concerns as everything you were outlining during the first half hour.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.


O`DONNELL: So Donald Trump walked into the Oval Office today ready to show off his art of the deal moves to congressional leaders, and he immediately -- and I mean immediately accepted the first thing that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi offer to the horror of the Republicans watching their legislative agenda collapse as they watched the weakest negotiator they have ever seen in the Oval Office.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We`ve avoided default. We`ve avoided government shutdown. The nation can breathe a sigh of relief.



TRUMP: Not too happy because you can never be too happy.


TRUMP: But they were happy enough.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I thought the debt ceiling should be raised for a longer period of time. So most likely we`re negotiating against ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t make comments without thinking about them.

TRUMP: I don`t think about it -- and by the way, Ivanka Trump.



TRUMP: She actually said, daddy, can I go with you? I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do Republicans continue to stand by him?

TRUMP: I do what`s right, that`s all.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter summed up the core ideology of the modern GOP best, quote, "he`s an ass -- but he`s our ass --


Now, I`m not a licensed proctologist, but Congressman, there`s something seriously wrong with your ass --


TRUMP: Sometimes, they`ll say, you know, he can`t be that bad a guy. Look at Ivanka.


O`DONNELL: So the resistance walked into the Oval Office today, sat down on a sofa, and trumped Trump. The two members of the resistance in the Oval Office today who outsmarted the president were Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Watching the president make the worst deal he could possibly have made in that room today was a group of stunned Republicans including the congressional leadership, the president`s own Treasury Secretary and his vice president.

White House staffers apologized to the Republicans as they were leaving for the truly horrible deal for Republicans that Donald Trump accepted.

He did not negotiate the deal. He simply accepted the first offer made by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Remember all those campaign speeches when Donald Trump told his supporters he wouldn`t even try to negotiate with his opponents in Congress because it was easier just to sit there and accept whatever his opponents wanted.

No, I don`t remember those speeches either, I remember this.


TRUMP: So I`ve watched the politicians, I`ve dealt with them all my life. If you can`t make a good deal with a politician, then there`s something wrong with you, you`re certainly not very good.

We need a leader that wrote "The Art of the Deal".


O`DONNELL: We tried to tell you. We tried to tell you he didn`t know what he was talking about. The Republican leaders were told before the meeting today that the president would support their proposal, which was for an $8 billion Hurricane Harvey relief package coupled with an 18-month extension of the debt ceiling.

Chuck Schumer`s counter offer was, OK, on the $8 billion hurricane relief package, which is something Democrats always favor in these situations.

And a three-month -- only a three-month extension of the debt ceiling to which Donald Trump said, OK, just like that, no negotiating.

In Washington negotiations, when one side says 18 months and the other side says three months, you`re going to end up somewhere around nine months unless Donald Trump is in the room, the weakest negotiator in the history of the presidency.

Donald Trump now empowered the resistance in Congress to stand in the way of everything the Republicans will be trying to do three months from now, including the most important thing that Republicans need to do -- cut taxes.

That is what congressional Republicans live for. It is the one -- it`s one of the very few things they actually know how to do legislatively, cut taxes.

They`re calling it tax reform, but -- this time -- but it isn`t. It`s just a giant tax cut. That`s what Republicans want to do, and they`re not close to being ready to do it.

That`s why the Republicans needed 18 months of breathing room on the debt ceiling so they could work among themselves on their favorite thing, cutting taxes.

Republicans` least favorite thing to do is raise the debt ceiling. One unnamed House Republican said today, that`s the most toxic vote you could have around here.

Donald Trump made sure today that Republicans are going to have that toxic vote twice within 90 days.

Raising the debt ceiling is always the responsible thing to do, so Republicans prefer to leave that responsibility to Democrats.

And Democrats will vote for an increase in the debt ceiling even with a Republican Congress and a Republican president but only, only if the Republican president agrees to whatever the Democratic list of demands is when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling.

And assuming the debt deal struck today goes through, that time is coming again in just three months. Republicans were shocked.

That is an understatement. Senator Ben Sasse released a one-sentence statement, "the Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad."

"Politico" reports that Republican representative Mike Simpson said, a three-month debt ceiling? Why not do a daily debt ceiling?

The most important lesson of the day for Republicans was delivered by an unnamed House Republican in "Politico".

It doesn`t help our leadership to try to hold us Republicans together on anything when they know the president will chop them off at the knees on anything.

That means the entire Republican legislative agenda is now in serious danger. Democrats have the Republicans and the president exactly where they want them now, and they can`t believe it was this easy.

Chuck Schumer may be the first minority leader in history to have his first offer to the president of an opposing party accepted without a word of negotiation.

What do you think that`s going to do to Chuck Schumer`s next first offer? He`s going to push Trump even harder the next time he has a first offer to make in the Oval Office.

He`s going to ask for much more. That`s what happens when you cave as easily and immediately and completely as Donald Trump did today in the negotiation that never was.

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi made their offer public before the meeting began, and here`s what Paul Ryan had to say about it before he had to sit there on the sofa across from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and watch Donald Trump just accept it.


RYAN: I think that`s a ridiculous idea. I hope that they don`t mean that. Let`s just think about this.

We`ve got all this devastation in Texas. We`ve got another unprecedented hurricane hitting -- about to hit Florida, and they want to play politics with the debt ceiling?

That will strand the aid that we need to bring to these victims of these storms that have occurred or are about to occur and that they also want to threaten and default on our debt.

I think that`s ridiculous and disgraceful.


O`DONNELL: Play politics with the debt ceiling. Republicans invented playing politics with the debt ceiling, and the Democrats were not threatening default.

They were simply saying in order to get our votes, this is what you have to agree to. Of course, there would be absolutely no need to get a single Democratic vote if the Republicans could get all of their members to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling.

The only reason Paul Ryan needs Nancy Pelosi`s votes to pass a debt ceiling increase in the House is that Paul Ryan`s own Republican members always play politics with the debt ceiling. Always.

After the meeting, Mitch McConnell made it clear he had nothing to do with this deal.


MCCONNELL: It`s the president and the Senate and the House Democratic leadership agreed to a three-month continued resolution and a debt ceiling into December.

I will be adding that as an amendment to the Flood Relief bill that`s come over from the House on the floor, and I`ll be supporting it.


O`DONNELL: And that, that was Mitch McConnell`s formal public surrender today to Chuck Schumer in the Senate.

And the most ignorant man in the Oval Office when the deal was made today had this to say.


TRUMP: We had a great meeting with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the whole Republican leadership group.

And I`ll tell you what, we walked out of there, Mitch and Paul and everybody, Kevin, and we walked out and everybody was happy.

Not too happy because you can never be too happy. But they were happy enough.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Adam Jentleson; a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid. Also joining us, "New York Times" columnist David Leonhardt.

And Adam, your boss, Harry Reid, when he was the Democratic leader in the Senate, I don`t think he ever had as easy a meeting in the Oval Office as that.

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATOR HARRY REID: No, he never did. I mean, these negotiations usually go on for weeks if not months.

And, you know, this meeting today was supposed to be the opening salvo of what was going to be a long series of meetings where you know, each side would pressure each other.

But you know, I must have missed the part in "The Art of the Deal" where Trump said to take your opponent`s first offer because that`s what happened today, and I`ve never seen anything like it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, here`s how "Breitbart" greeted the deal today. Here`s their headline, "Meet the Swamp. Trump sides with Democrats after leadership confab. Jacks up debt, punts agenda, snubs GOP".

And David, jacks up the debt, that of course refers to raising the debt ceiling, which is something Congress has to do based on what the spending Congress has already authorized.

But punts agenda. This really could just knock the whole Republican congressional agenda completely out of whack.

DAVID LEONHARDT, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, they have a lot they need to get done over this period, and the idea that they`re now going to re- inject this whole debt ceiling debate into the end of the year creates problems for them.

I still think there`s a good chance they`re going to get a tax cut done because Republicans like to cut taxes, and I think it will be easier for them to find an agreement.

But at this point you have to look at what they`ve done, which is they have a majority. They haven`t done what they`ve promised for seven years on health care.

There`s this really gobsmacking event today, and I think at this point we shouldn`t assume that they`re going to get anything done even though tax cuts are usually so easy for them.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Adam, to that point, tax cuts are usually so easy for them. The one thing I was completely confident that they could accomplish was the tax cuts idea.

Now, I`m not so sure, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that they will not have reconciliation protection for a tax cut bill.

And so they need at this point 60 votes in the Senate and that`s not whatever that tax bill is going to look like is not something Republicans would want to vote for.

JENTLESON: That`s right, and you know, on another level, this is -- the deal today was just such a gut punch because if you are a Hill Republican and you`ve been working very hard to come up with a plan to pass the tax cut that they want, you have to look at what happened today and wonder what`s the point.

What`s the point in even trying to come up with a plan when your president, your supposedly and greatest ally in this effort will just turn around and cut you off at the knees as they said.

So I think it`s a gut punch on a lot of levels and does put everything they want to do, including the tax cuts in real danger.

O`DONNELL: And the way Donald Trump conducts business in the Oval Office, including today, has that crazy sitcom-feel to it like a scene out of "Veep".

The "New York Times" reporting that Mr. Trump often invites his daughter, Ivanka Trump into meetings to signal their conclusion or to keep his interlocutors off balance.

When she entered the Oval Office toward the end of the discussion on Wednesday, the Republicans in the room reacted with expressions that two people president described as astonishment.

And so, David, here`s Ivanka Trump making her entrance into the room to break up the meeting. A meeting the Republicans didn`t want to end because they were trying no doubt to kind of put the toothpaste back in the tube and somehow come out of there with some kind of deal they could live with after what the president said.

But there was that crazy sitcom-ending to the meeting that only Ivanka Trump could provide.

LEONHARDT: I mean, as you pointed out, there are just multiple ways in which Trump is -- seems to be struggling at the basics of the job of president.

And today, gives us a really big example. I do think it`s important to point out that this isn`t just about Trump`s weakness.

Now, a lot of it is about Trump`s weakness, but it isn`t just about that. It`s also about the dysfunction of the Republican caucus in Congress.

As you pointed out, they wouldn`t need Democrats for this if they were willing to vote for the debt ceiling increase.

The debt ceiling increase isn`t really a meaningful piece of legislation. It`s just saying let`s pay the bills on the stuff we`ve already agreed to pay for.

And so if the Republicans in Congress were a functioning, conservative governing party, even if they were a conservative governing party that I might not agree with a lot, that you might -- and Adam might not agree with a lot.

If they were a functioning party, they would be in a much stronger position to get what they wanted. But on so many issues, on healthcare, on the debt ceiling, they just aren`t really in touch with reality at this point, which in a funny way makes their own lives really difficult.

O`DONNELL: And Adam, we know now that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi will be under tremendous pressure from their Democratic colleagues to load up the next debt ceiling 90 days from now with Democratic Party agenda items, including a Dream Act.

JENTLESON: That`s right. I mean, one of the ways in which Trump really screwed over Republican leaders is by setting up what will probably be a much more difficult showdown for Republicans in December.

He also took the Harvey aid package off the table, which was probably the biggest leverage point the Republican leaders had for corralling fellow Republicans to vote for the debt ceiling.

So that`s off the table as leverage for Republicans to corral their own votes. So he really cut them off at the knees. He basically set them up for a massive showdown that they go into now with a lot more -- a lot less leverage than they had at the beginning of the meeting today.

O`DONNELL: This is one that I never could have predicted. I didn`t see this one coming. Adam Jentleson and David Leonhardt, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

JENTLESON: Thank you, Lawrence.

LEONHARDT: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, with breaking news tonight, Facebook gives special prosecutor Robert Mueller information on Russian ad buys during the 2016 presidential campaign as Donald Trump Jr. prepares to be questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors tomorrow to answer questions about his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer and three other Russians including a man with ties to Russian intelligence.

Also attending the meeting at Donald Trump Junior`s invitation were his sister`s husband, Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.

Community aides told the "New York Times" that quote, "the interview with Mr. Trump`s first with congressional investigators will be transcribed and could last for much of the day.

Senator Dianne Feinstein told reporters today that she expects Donald Trump Jr. to also testify in a public hearing.

Tomorrow`s session will be conducted mostly by the committee`s staff. Some senators are planning to attend the meeting to ask questions, including Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: There are plenty of questions about the involvement of the Trump corporation as well as the Trump campaign with the Russians and other foreigners, and I just want to hear what Mr. Trump has to say.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: His knowledge about financial dealings between the Trump organization and the Russians, whether it`s hotels or office buildings or other investment is going to be very important. Plus what was said at that meeting.


O`DONNELL: There are new details tonight about the subpoenas the House Intelligence Committee issued to the Justice Department and FBI regarding the so-called Trump dossier.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, who stepped aside from directing the committee`s Russia investigation still sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week about the subpoenas, threatening Jeff Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray with a public hearing if Jeff Sessions did not produce the subpoenaed documents to the committee.

And tonight`s breaking news on the investigation is the "Washington Post" report that, quote, "representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it has discovered it sold ads during the U.S. presidential election to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters.

According to several people familiar with the company`s findings." And "Reuters" is reporting tonight that Facebook has turned over all information about those Russian ads to special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

That includes copies of the ads and the identity of the buyers. Joining us now, Mieke Eoyang; former House Intelligence Committee staff member.

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

And Mieke, first to the activities on your old committee, the House Intelligence Committee, translate for us what`s going on here with Devin Nunes, who we thought had nothing to do with the investigation, threatening the attorney general about subpoenas that the attorney general has not responded to.

MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY: So what you see here is a chairman of the Intelligence Committee going rogue.

He had promised that he wouldn`t be involved in this Russia investigation because his behavior earlier had been so bizarre.

Also he had been involved in the Trump administration`s transition for national security, so setting up their national security policies.

So he really is very conflicted, and now he`s trying to get involved in the Russia investigation again. He had sent one of his investigators to London to try and meet with people, to meet with a very important group that has provided information to the -- to Mueller and others.

And now these subpoenas and threatening the attorney general, he`s really throwing a lot of sand in the gears in this investigation.

O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, I`d like you to react to tonight`s breaking news about Facebook and about these ads, these Russian purchased ads.

Facebook cooperating with the special prosecutor now.

JILL WINE-BANKS, LAWYER: It seems to me that it`s just one more piece of evidence in the big puzzle of all the things that Russia did to interfere with the election.

It is an act that was intended to communicate fake news, not fake news as Donald Trump knows it, but fake news as anybody else would define it.

And it`s a very bad thing. I hope that the focus of the investigation will stay on the fake news and the Russian wrongdoing and not focus on Facebook that just happened to be the purveyor of the information.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, take us inside what will be the closed doors of the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow when primarily the staff, the committee staff, some of those people you know, will be questioning Donald Trump Jr., at least a few senators will also be there.

And tell people why that questioning is expected to go on all day, why it could take eight hours. What could take that long?

EOYANG: Yes, so the staff extensively prepares for these kind of interviews, and you have a large number of lawyers, lawyers from both sides, Republicans and Democrats who will question the witness.

The witness, whether or not he`s sworn in, has an obligation to tell the truth here. False statements to Congress can be a crime.

So they have a lot to go over. It`s not just Don Junior`s insights into the Trump organization`s financial dealings with Russia, which the Russians have been trying to cultivate for many years.

It`s also the particular meeting with Paul Manafort and this Russian lobbyist at Trump Tower that they`ve claimed was part of this conversation about adoptions but may not be that, may have been actually about how to hack into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

And then finally, about his statement on that meeting where it`s been alleged that the president himself dictated what that statement would be.

So there are a lot of different pieces of this where they need to get Don Junior`s side of the story.

They`ll compare that to information they have from other witnesses to try and figure out who`s telling the truth here.

O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, if you`re in there tomorrow as Donald Trump Junior`s lawyer, what are you most worried about?

WINE-BANKS: I`m worried about him contradicting himself from what he has said. He`s changed his mind and his testimony so often that it`s hard to know which version he might take tomorrow, which is going to be the truth.

It`s going to be hard for the investigators to find out which is the true version, and there`s no reason to believe that he is inclined to tell the truth.

But there are, as Mieke has pointed out, there are so many questions including about the story that was put out from Air Force One about the reason for the meeting and excusing him from his role in it.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, obviously, they`re going to go line-by-line through Donald Trump Junior`s e-mail that was arranging this meeting and his reaction to how much he loved the idea of getting some information about Hillary Clinton from Russians.

EOYANG: That`s right. They`ll go through that. They`ll go through how this relationship developed between him and this child of a Russian oligarch which helped the Trumps set up this Miss Universe pageant.

How is it that he came to know them? How many Russian oligarchs does he know and has he worked with?

Have they in fact been investing in Trump Tower? Are they trying to do so now? There`s potential that there`s ongoing efforts to influence the Trump family financially.

And so there are many questions that they need to get through, some of which are financial.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, let me just ask you quickly since you`ve been involved in these kinds of discussions.

If there`s a question that Donald Trump Jr. doesn`t want to answer, does he need to invoke the Fifth Amendment since this is a less than official committee proceeding or can he just decline to answer?

EOYANG: He could try and decline to answer, and the question is whether or not the members will direct the witness to answer.

At that point he`d have to invoke the Fifth. He doesn`t have the ability to invoke executive privilege because we`re talking about things that happened before the president became the president, and they`re not given in that context.

And many of these things, there`s no other privilege that would apply. So he either has to answer or he`d have to take the Fifth.

O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both for joining us tonight.

EOYANG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, more breaking news tonight. A report that Steve Bannon is now trying to find someone to replace Paul Ryan as speaker of the House.

George Will joins us next on Republicans versus Republicans.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Trump flew to North Dakota today to give a speech that was supposed to be about taxes, but there wasn`t much tax policy in the speech. As usual, it was all about Donald Trump getting out of the house and having fun with a microphone.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I have to say that you are all in favor of tax cuts, aren`t you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

TRUMP: Huh? And by the way, Ivanka Trump, everybody loves Ivanka. Come up. Should I bring Ivanka up? Come on. Sometimes they`ll say, you know, he can`t be that bad a guy. Look at Ivanka. No, come on up, honey. She`s so good.

She wanted to make the trip. She said, dad, can I go with you? She actually said, daddy, can I go with you? I like that. Daddy, can I go with you? I said, yes, you can. Where you going? North Dakota. Oh, I like North Dakota. Hi, honey. Say something.



O`DONNELL: The president promised great detail about tax cuts in the next two weeks.


TRUMP: My administration is working with congress to develop a plan that will deliver more jobs, higher pay, lower taxes for businesses of all sizes and middle-class families all across the nation. We`re going to get into great detail over the next two weeks, but we`re working on it with congress now and coming up with very exacting numbers.


O`DONNELL: Please don`t expect to see those numbers in two weeks. Whenever Donald Trump says two weeks, he might mean two months or two years, and usually he means never.


TRUMP: They said my wife, Melania, might have come in illegally. Let me tell you one thing, she has got it so documented. So she`s going to have a little news conference over the next couple of weeks. Lowering the overall tax burden on American business is big league. That`s coming along very well.

We`re way ahead of schedule, I believe, and we`re going to be announcing something, I would say, over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax. We`re going to do infrastructure very quickly. We`ve got the plan largely completed, and we`ll be filing over the next two or three weeks, maybe sooner.


O`DONNELL: For those of you keeping score at home, the president has not delivered on a single thing that you just heard him promise in two weeks. Joining us now, George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC Political Analyst. George, what`s your analysis, understanding of what happened in the oval office today? The president seems to have pulled the rug out from any legislative agenda plans that the congressional republicans have.

GEORGE F. WILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Lawrence, Winston Churchill used to tell a story about a negotiation within the British government around the time of World War I. The admiralty wanted to fund four battleships. Sorry, the treasury wanted to fund four battleships. The admiralty wanted six battleships. So Churchill said, we compromised on eight battleships.

That`s the sort of deal that we got done today. This is not surprising. Mr. Trump has no intellectual ballast in the form of traditional republican beliefs. He is to apply a phrase, all sail and no anchor. This upsets the conservatives in the house.

They say, gee, we`re going to use the debt ceiling as a leverage point to cut spending. Mr. Trump has no interest in cutting spending. He ran on a promise not to touch the entitlement programs that are the great drivers of federal spending. So this is really not surprising, and it is in a way condign punishment for a party that has allowed itself to be rented by him.

O`DONNELL: And today Senator Bob Corker on this very day, when this strangest of oval office meetings occurs, Bob Corker was asked does he still hold to that position about Donald Trump`s stability. Let`s listen to that.


REPORTER: |Do you stand by what you said about the president about how he hasn`t demonstrated the stability or competence --

BOB CORKER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: You know, I don`t -- I don`t make comments without thinking about them.

REPORTER: But did you talk to the president after --

CORKER: I`ve had multiple interactions with the White House.


O`DONNELL: George Will, I think we know that Bob Corker knows how to say nothing, and he did not pass up the opportunity to, in effect, double underline his comment about the president not having the stability he needs to be president.

WILL: Well, there`s a sense in which Mr. Trump is a model of stability. That is, he`s in this for Mr. Trump. And when he sees an opening to deal with other people, he will do so. He`s not a stable republican, but to give Mr. Trump his due, he`s never pretended to be.

I think there`s at least a 30 percent chance that if Mr. Trump runs again, he would run as an independent. That could be where the action is.

O`DONNELL: There`s the breaking news report tonight that Steve Bannon was on Capitol Hill today meeting with Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative group of republicans in the house, talking about someone to replace Paul Ryan as speaker, and Mark Meadows has not foresworn this report. It says several people close to Bannon and Meadows said on Wednesday that the two men, who met on Monday on Capitol Hill, have begun to discuss who could replace Ryan as speaker.

Should conservatives rebel against him? But they stressed that those discussions remain speculative and informal with no plan yet for action. George, I can remember a short time ago in Washington where no one could ever be caught even thinking about replacing a speaker, and that was easy because no one was ever thinking about it.

WILL: Well, I believe Mr. Bannon is thinking about it. I would want to hear from Mark Meadows to know that he`s thinking about it. He`s an experienced and sober man who also knows two things. Mr. Ryan is very popular with the rank and file. And, second, you can`t beat something with nothing, and I don`t see another candidate out there.

I mean there are obviously good people, Jeb Hensarling, the Dallas congressman and all the others, but whether or not they want the job that, remember, Paul Ryan did not want when it was thrust upon him by the resignation of Speaker Boehner. So I`d want to hear from Mark Meadows` side of this first.

O`DONNELL: The president has, in the republican speaker of the house, perhaps the most expert republican speaker of the house in history in relation to taxes. He used to be chairman of the ways and means committee. He has them ready to go on a tax cut, ready to work on that. Here`s what he had to say in North Dakota today describing how that tax cut would work.


TRUMP: It will be the greatest tax reduction in the history of our country, greater than ever before. So that`s going to be something. You`ll see a rocket ship. You will see something happen like you`ve never seen.


O`DONNELL: It sure sounds like something we`ve never seen.

WILL: You know, a few -- was it months ago? He announced next week we`re going to have the details. Well, this somewhat flummoxed the treasury department so they put out one page, 200 words with seven numbers on it and called it a tax plan. You notice that in his statement today, you are talking and I am talking about tax reform.

He talks about tax reductions, and that`s what`s going to happen. Your former boss and my former friend, Pat Moynihan put into our political lexicon the phrase, defining deviancy down, we`re about to watch the republicans define tax reform down it`s going to be tax reduction. Not paid for. It will be just another increase in the deficit. They will therefore declare victory and go home.

O`DONNELL: George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. Coming up, President Obama warned Donald Trump not to lose America`s position as a world leader. Tonight President Putin is showing why President Obama gave Donald Trump that warning.



TRUMP: I just went to the oval office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama. It was really very nice of him to do that, and we will cherish that. We will keep that, and we won`t even tell the press what`s in that letter.


O`DONNELL: We, of course, now know what it is in that letter now that the leakiest White House in history and the leakiest president in history has ended up leaking it this weekend. In it, President Obama says, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It`s up to us through action and example to sustain the international order that`s expanded steadily since the end of the cold war and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.

Today President Trump spoke with china`s president in the aftermath of Sunday`s North Korean nuclear test. Here`s what President Trump said about that call during his discussion with reporters on air force one earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very good conversation with President Xi of China. It lasted for about 45 minutes.

He`s very much in favor of the de-nuke of North Korea. And we`re talking about different things. We have some things we`re going to be talking again soon. And we`ll see how that works out.


O`DONNELL: The de-nuke. The Whitehouse is pushing for a global oil embargo against North Korea, something both China and Russia are against. Vladimir Putin met with South Korea today and will meet with Japan tomorrow at an economic forum in Russia where he is pushing for his own solution, a deal that would get North Korea to stop its nuclear tests as long as the United States and South Korea stopped their joint military exercises, an option both the United States and South Korea have ruled out.

Yesterday Putin said that North Korea would rather "eat grass than give up the nuclear program." And in his meeting with South Korea`s President today, Putin said, we should not act out of emotions and push North Korea into a dead end. We must act with calm and avoid steps that could raise tensions.

Should not act out of emotions, I wonder who Putin is talking about. More on Vladimir Putin`s moves to take control of the North Korea negotiations next.

(Commercial break)


REPORTER: Mr. President, are you considering military action against North Korea?

TRUMP: We`ll see what happens. We`ll see what happens. Thank you very much.


O`DONNELL: Today, Russian President Vladamir Putin said without political and diplomatic tools it is impossible to make headway in the current situation. To be more precise it is impossible. Joining us now NBC`s

Joining us now, NBC`S Keir Simmons in Vladivostok, Russia. Also with us Evelyn Farkas, an MSNBC National Security Analyst and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense responsible for policy toward Russia. Keir Simmons, Vladamir Putin sounding like the reasonable broker attempting to be the reasonable broker of some kind of deal with North Korea.

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC JOURNALIST: Yes, sounding like it, Lawrence. We are here in Vladivostok on the Russian Pacific Coast, 14 time zones away from you. So while it`s evening here, it`s after midday on Thursday here. And there is a President here posing as a peacemaker and his name is Vladamir Putin.

He met with the leader of South Korea. He is now here on Thursday, right now meeting with the leader of Japan, Prime Minister Abe, a man who just nine days ago saw a North Korean missile fired over his territory. But Vladamir Putin is on a side. He`s taking sides.

We already know that he told the South Korean leader that he would not agree to an oil embargo on North Korea. He is pushing a Chinese-Russian plan that, for example, suggests that South Korea and the U.S. should freeze their military exercises in exchange for North Korea stopping its nuclear program. We don`t even know whether North Korea will agree to that.

But what we do know is that this old historic, long-standing alliance between these communist and post communist countries, China, Russia, North Korea in this region runs very, very deep. And Vladamir Putin, as we know, understands one thing at least, and many things in international diplomacy. You have to make friends and then stay friends and show that you`re a loyal ally.

And that is what he`s doing again here. While at the same time, this is the stunning thing, here in Vladivostok meeting with U.S. Ally after U.S. Ally.

O`DONNELL: And Evelyn, President Trump not meeting with U.S. Ally after U.S. Ally over this and leaving kind of a blank space here. He -- every once in a while says something provocative but nothing substantive.

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No. And the important thing to mention Lawrence is, I think our President, unfortunately, has manufactured this crisis. It was a problem before. But he`s raised it to our consciousness and made a bigger deal out of it internationally with his rhetoric. Second, he hasn`t come up --

O`DONNELL: But so that North Korea, right, with firing these missiles over Japan. I mean this -- they`ve been raising --

FARKAS: Yes, although that`s nothing new. They did that under Obama and -- President Obama and under President Bush they were also provocative and going back further. Of course President Clinton froze their activities for about eight years. But I think it`s important to note that our President has raised the international attention, has raised the pressure through his rhetoric. And then he hasn`t come up with a plan.

And I think, you know, to what you and Keir just said, there`s no diplomatic effort. You can`t just use the military tool as a threat and economic sanctions and then leave it at that. You have to have a diplomatic endgame.

And I have to give -- I have to be fair here. Previous administrations also have not done a good job simultaneously using all of these elements together. But I would say that all the other administrations have done a much better job diplomatically. We should have our Secretary of State out there laying out and the President of course laying out what our end game is, rallying our allies.

And while Russia may be working, you know, Putin may be showing that he`s a peacemaker. Russia has no allies. They only have interests.

And everybody knows that. They`re only standing with North Korea and with Assad for example because they`re firmly against regime change. And for them, that`s the most important point here. That`s why they`re with North Korea.

O`DONNELL: Keir Simmons, what might we interpret as Vladamir Putin`s endgame here?

SIMMONS: Well, there`s a good point. One of his endgames is to establish and maintain the principle that leaders should not be deposed. And you can see why Vladamir Putin would want to maintain that. Kim himself facing another election next year that may be as questionable as other previous Russian elections have been.

I think there`s something else here, which is really interesting, though Lawrence, about this all and that`s the relationship between President Trump and President Putin. You still see the two of them not prepared to personally attack each other, not directly. You heard that in the words of President Putin where he talked about not going with your emotions but didn`t name President Trump directly. But at the same time, the slower you can see President Trump and Putin moving apart finding themselves on different sides.

O`DONNELL: And before we go, Evelyn, I wanted to read this Putin quote about Trump. Yesterday Vladamir Putin was in China. He was asked whether he considered President Trump might be impeached and Putin`s reply was, the American leader "is not my bride. I am not his groom."

FARKAS: Yes, he`s just making fun of our coverage of their relationship and the fact that, you know, Trump has been characterized as overly enamored with him. it`s interesting though his press folks woman. She made a comment and said on a Russian news program that well, not every President serves out his term. I think she said this. So that`s pretty striking.

O`DONNELL: So they`ve heard the word impeachment there. Keir Simmons in Russia, Evelyn Farkas, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next.


O`DONNELL: Here`s more of the President`s speech today in North Dakota, which is -- was supposed to be about tax cuts.


TRUMP: Believe me, we haven`t given up on health care. We haven`t given up on health care. We never give up. One vote.


O`DONNELL: Except today, in the Oval Office, when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi made their first demand on the President. And he immediately


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