Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 4, 2017 Guest: David Corn, David Frum, Jim Himes, Daniel Dale
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: See you tomorrow on my show "THE BEAT" which is -- especially watch this space. That does it for us tonight, Rachel will be back tomorrow, hope to see you tomorrow on my show, "THE BEAT", which is every night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, and now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening Ari, I just want to get that clear, every night at 6:00 p.m. right? "THE BEAT", every night at 6:00 p.m.
MELBER: And I lost you for a second, I don`t know what you said, I hope it was --
O`DONNELL: I`m trying to do a promo for your show. But so -- you don`t have to be involved at all. They can -- it doesn`t matter what you hear.
I just told the world -- I just double underlined the every night at 6:00 p.m. thing.
MELBER: OK, thank goodness, I just got really embarrassed because you know what? It went quiet. Thank you Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: I understand --
MELBER: Thank you Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Thank you Ari --
MELBER: I`ll be watching.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well, the news day began with an Nbc exclusive report about the Secretary of State possibly calling the president a moron.
And it now seems clear that Trump cabinet members memoirs are going to be the best ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nbc reporting that Rex Tillerson called Donald Trump a, quote "moron".
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I`m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn`t deny calling the president a moron. The secretary did not use that type of language. He did not say that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s made up by Nbc. They just made it up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the record, Nbc has total confidence in its reporting.
TRUMP: So it was fake news, it was a totally phony story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president can call this fake news, but he himself has made it very clear that he`s broken with his own Secretary of State on a whole host of policy issues.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: He ends up not being supported in the way that I would hope a Secretary of State would be supported.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think anyone in the world thinks that Rex Tillerson speaks with the full backing and authority of this president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A president undermining cabinet, cabinet members undermining the president, this is the most bizarre thing I`ve ever watched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In an exclusive report this morning, Nbc News revealed that Secretary of State referred to the president as a moron in a room full of witnesses at the Pentagon.
The president`s response to that report today was that it was fake news. The Nbc News report said "Tillerson stunned a handful of senior administration officials when he called the president a moron after a tense two-hour long meeting in a secure room at the Pentagon called the tank according to three officials who were present or briefed on the incident.
The July 20th meeting came a day after a meeting in the White House situation room on Afghanistan policy where Trump rattled his national security advisors by suggesting he might fire the top U.S. commander of the war and comparing the decision-making process on troop levels to the renovation of a high-end New York restaurant according to participants in the meeting.
Multiple senior administration officials told Nbc News the Secretary Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House.
Officials tell Nbc News that Vice President Mike Pence counseled Tillerson on ways to ease tensions with Trump and other top administration officials urged him to remain in the job at least until the end of the year.
Officials said that the administration beset then by a series of high level firings and resignation would have struggled to manage the fallout from a cabinet secretary of his stature departing within the first year.
The vice president`s office denied that Mike Pence and Rex Tillerson discussed a possible resignation." Today, Secretary Tillerson held a rare press conference, it`s a very rare thing for him to do.
He did it specifically to respond to the Nbc News report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as Secretary of State because I have never considered leaving this post.
I serve at the appointment of the president and I`m here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then, of course, came the question about referring to the president as a moron.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you address the main headline of this story that you called the president a moron? And if not, where do you think these reports are --
TILLERSON: I mean, I`m not going to deal with petty stuff like that. I mean, this is -- this is what I don`t understand about Washington.
Again, you know, I`m not from this place. But the places I come from, we don`t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And the world noticed that the Secretary of State did not deny calling the president a moron. But President Trump apparently heard something no one else did.
He tweeted "the Nbc News story has just been totally refuted by Secretary Tillerson and VP Pence. It is fake news, they should issue an apology to America.
Today in Las Vegas, the president was asked about Secretary Tillerson`s comments, the question did not clearly refer to the moron comment and so the president seemed to be responding to Secretary Tillerson`s comments at his press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m very honored by his comments. It was fake news, it was a totally phony story, thank you very much -- it was made up -- it was made up by Nbc.
They just made it up, thank you all --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have confidence in him?
TRUMP: Total confidence in Rex, I have total confidence. Thank you very much everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the "Daily Beast" reports that some aides in the White House held out hope that Secretary Tillerson would offer his resignation following Nbc`s reporting.
Three White House officials speaking as unnamed sources to the "Daily Beast" spoke about, quote, "how they wished he would just leave as one put it, `in a perfect world he would have quit right then and there, another said.`"
"BuzzFeed" is reporting tonight that one U.S. official expressed confidence in Tillerson`s status due to a so-called suicide pact.
Forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Tillerson whereby all three cabinet secretaries vowed to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.
During the transition, when President-elect Trump was holding virtual public auditions for Secretary of State including this one with Mitt Romney, Republican Senator Bob Corker publicly took his name out of consideration for Secretary of State.
Today, Senator Corker said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORKER: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos. And I support them very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Eli Stokols; White House correspondent for the "Wall Street Journal" and Msnbc political analyst.
Also with us Max Boot; a senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former foreign policy adviser for the presidential campaigns of McCain, Romney and Rubio.
And also with us, Betsy Woodruff; politics reporter for the "Daily Beast". And so Max, did I just hear the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refer to the president as chaos after his Secretary of State has apparently referred to him as a moron?
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: That`s a pretty -- I`m sorry on the day, Lawrence.
I would have to say, I mean, what can you do except kind of laugh? I mean, this is kind of like a bad reality TV show, it`s like what the heck is going to happen tomorrow?
I mean, it`s -- any other administration this would be unbelievable. For the Trump administration, it`s -- you know, more of the same basically.
O`DONNELL: It is. Eli, the one reference in the Nbc News reporting about this that I don`t quite get is the part where it reports the people in the room to have been stunned when Tillerson used the word "moron".
We live in a country where the -- one of the least stunning things you can say about the current president of the United States is moron.
It`s something that`s said throughout the country by millions of people every day. What`s to be stunned about in that room?
ELI STOKOLS, WALL STREET JOURNAL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that may be so but this is the Secretary of State after a meeting with the president.
Somebody who agreed to go take this job and work for this president whose flaws were all but -- all known already.
So, you know, obviously there`s a reason why he`s yet to resign, why he continues to stay in this job and subject himself to the ongoing humiliation of basically having no clout of meeting with diplomats who know that he does not speak for this president.
And being humiliated by the president on Twitter at the president`s whim or as he was over the weekend on the North Korea stuff.
This is sort of a bad reality show and we`re past the scene in the reality show where both of these characters have sort of talked to the producer off camera and explained how they really feel through their tweets and other comments.
And yet that`s -- there`s still out there sort of, you know, the scene continues and they act like they like each other.
Rex acts like he wants to be there even though he continues through our reporting -- I understand he does sort of look at this, he`ll be lucky to last a year.
And so the idea that he`s going to be there forever, you know, the whole performance today just wasn`t really all that believable nor was the president`s statement that he has full confidence in Rex as he said before he left Vegas.
O`DONNELL: And Betsy, this is a president who has publicly attacked his attorney general. He has publicly in effect attacked Rex Tillerson saying that it`s useless for Rex Tillerson to try to do anything diplomatically with North Korea.
And so, in a way, there`s an unsurprising component of this much friction between the president and his cabinet.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: Exactly, and this friction is nothing new. Remember Secretary Tillerson refusing to disavow the reports that he called the president a moron, that`s not the first time he`s opted out of going on the record defending the president.
Back when the Charlottesville events happened, Secretary Tillerson refused to defend the way the president responded to the death there and the ensuing chaos, that`s something that was very much noted in the White House.
Additionally, some of Secretary Tillerson`s closest allies, his spokesman R.C. Hammond and his Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin have built up significant groups of enemies in the White House.
They are not well loved there. And Secretary Tillerson himself hasn`t necessarily done the work that you would expect from a Washington outsider to develop allies in Congress.
Which is why you aren`t hearing many folks on the Hill with the exception of Corker sort of surge to his defense.
Instead, we`re seeing a Secretary of State under siege, and of course, the challenge for him is that he is jeopardized, he has put his entire professional reputation on the line to head to the State Department and he`s forced to watch state be just diminished day-by-day.
It`s a really tough position for him to be in, that said, I think the reports are correct that it`s unlikely he`s going to step down or the president will force him out if anything because Secretary Price was the guy who had to get out of dodge this week so that seems to give Tillerson a bit of time.
O`DONNELL: But Max, to most observers, no one has done more damage to the State Department than Rex Tillerson himself.
BOOT: Absolutely, I mean, when I think about who`s been a worse Secretary of State, I kind of scratch my head, I can`t actually think about anybody, Lawrence.
I mean, he is pretty much the worst I`ve ever seen, probably the worst of the last century. The way he`s approached that job is just been very curious because he`s been really focused on this minutia like reforming the State Department organization, getting the e-mail system working.
And meanwhile, he doesn`t have undersecretaries, he doesn`t have assistant secretaries, he`s not speaking to the press, he`s not -- you know, taking a high profile policy stance.
I mean, it`s almost like his mindset is, he needs to shed underperforming division so he can get the State Department stock price up.
He doesn`t seem to have much conception of what a Secretary of State actually does. Now that said, I mean, Donald Trump is also to blame because he is not a guy who believes in diplomacy clearly, and he undercuts Tillerson at every step.
But you know, if I blame Tillerson for anything, it`s the fact that he has not done a good job of managing Trump in the way that Jim Mattis for example has done a pretty good job of not getting on his bad side, but managing to steer him along and not getting implicated in some of the craziness around the White House.
And Tillerson has not figured out how to do that, and I think it`s pretty clear that everybody understands we`re headed for a Rex-it pretty soon.
That you know, Rex wants to probably stick around at least a year, so it won`t seem like he was forced out too fast, but he is not going to be long for this job.
O`DONNELL: But Eli, as to the difference that Trump has -- the different regard he has for the people around him, it seems if the only way you get any kind of reasonable or possibly respectful dealings with Donald Trump is if you have the title general.
Without the title general, which Rex Tillerson does not have, he seems to be treated differently than this defense secretary.
STOKOLS: Yes, title general or perhaps the last name Trump. But you know, you`re right, and Rex, this is sort of an interesting pairing.
He was sort of -- he entered the game late in the Secretary of State`s sweepstakes. He was sort of brought in in an unlikely pick sort of a dark horse.
But he and Trump supposedly sort of hit it off. But just personalities, they are so different. It`s not just that he is not a general.
It`s -- you know, this is a sort of under-spoken Texan who likes to sort of navigate things behind the scenes, spent much of his career at Exxon doing things behind closed doors.
And now he`s obviously very uncomfortable with the public component of this job. And you have Trump who is nothing if not a public figure, who just lives his entire life in the media, the presidency is televised and tweeted and that`s really the presidency.
They just don`t really get each other. There`s a lot of friction on a lot of policy debates, pretty much every foreign policy debate that we`ve seen.
And it is interesting that Rex has been -- he`s certainly not the only one to feel frustrated. Sources tell me that even John Kelly has threatened to resign numerous times, yet he`s still there, has yet to really -- to our knowledge incur the president`s wrath whereas Secretary Tillerson for whatever reason sort of been in the doghouse it seems like for quite a long time.
O`DONNELL: And Betsy, there seems to be an adult versus the children component to this. You have some people in the White House saying they were hoping Rex Tillerson would leave.
You have others in the administration saying that, you know, without the Secretary of State, without the Secretary of Defense, this administration would be unthinkable.
You have the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee saying that Rex Tillerson is one of the people who saves us from chaos.
The chaos presumably that would be visited upon us if Donald Trump was given kind of an unfettered, you know, framework within which to work.
And so these cheerleaders -- these anti-Tillerson cheerleaders in the White House, we don`t know how many there are, there`s only a handful of them quoted tonight without their names versus the adults.
What do you make of the size of those factions?
WOODRUFF: There is a substantial dislike and criticism of Tillerson, not only in the White House, but also on Capitol Hill.
I would say of all the "adults" that we`ve referred to, Secretary Mattis is really the only member of Trump`s cabinet who thus far has managed to preserve his reputation.
And the rest of the president`s cabinet members to varying degrees have taken significant and in many cases self-imposed hits to their reputations.
That said, look, it`s important to remember how much criticism, how much dislike, how much venom even is directed at Secretary of State Tillerson and in turn how much his own staff are sort of scratching back in a way that sometimes proves incredibly counterproductive.
In the Nbc story that ran this morning, R.C. Hammond, who was Tillerson`s top spokesman gave a quote essentially trying to throw Nikki Haley under the bus.
Saying that the only time Pence and Tillerson had a challenging conversation was when they were talking about whether or not Haley was doing a good job.
Hammond later had to walk that quote back. It`s just another example of the way Secretary Tillerson and some of his closest staffers have appeared to have been working overtime just to make enemies.
And I think that`s why there really are some claws out for Tillerson this evening.
O`DONNELL: Max, these two things can be simultaneously true. Rex Tillerson can be the worst Secretary of State in history and he can be right about Donald Trump.
BOOT: Yes, let`s not lose sight of the elephant in the room here which is that, you know, this was a gaffe in the Michael Kinsley sense which is that a gaffe in Washington is when a politician tells the truth and this is an obvious truth that everybody acknowledges, but nobody says in public, Rex Tillerson went and said of him, you know, if you have to look at Donald Trump`s job performance just the last few days and the way that he`s handled Hurricane Maria, I mean, does anybody think that anything he`s done at all refutes the notion that he`s mentally challenged?
I mean, who would advise a president with a wit of common sense to go out and attack hurricane survivors or to attack a mayor whose town is inundated with floodwaters?
And yet this is the second time this year that Trump has attacked a mayor after a major disaster because previously he attacked the mayor of London after a terrorist attack.
And then, of course, you had that inadvertently comedic Trump visit to Puerto Rico where the lasting image from that is him throwing paper towels at the hurricane survivors like a trainer throwing fish at a trained seal.
I mean, it`s just one gaffe after another or you know, him going to a golf club and presiding over a golf tournament instead of working on hurricane relief and then dedicating the hurricane -- the golf trophy to the hurricane survivors, you know?
Which is a little bit like, you know, Marie Antoinette(ph) saying let him eat nine irons. I mean, it`s one gaffe after another and any president who was -- who had it all upstairs would not be doing this.
He would not be getting, you know, approval ratings in the mid-30s.
O`DONNELL: And the striking thing about the day is the only mutterings you get out of the White House and the unnamed sources group is that, you know, is that we wish Tillerson quit.
What you didn`t get from any of the unnamed sources is here`s the affirmative defense against the charge that Donald Trump is a moron.
Here is the case that proves Donald Trump is not a moron. We got silence on that front today. Eli Stokols, Max Boot and Betsy Woodruff, thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to know about that dossier that a former British spy created about the Trump - - about Donald Trump and the Trump campaign involving Russia.
David Corn who first reported the very existence of that dossier will join us next. And today, the White House pulled back from the one good thing that Donald Trump actually did say in Puerto Rico yesterday.
It was the most important thing he said in Puerto Rico yesterday, and it`s getting no support from his administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The issue of collusion is still open that we continue to investigate both intelligence and witnesses and that we`re not in a position where we will come to any type of temporary finding on that until we`ve completed the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Republican Senator Richard Burr giving an update on the intelligence committee`s investigation into Russia`s influence on the election and whether it -- whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during that campaign.
The bottom line, Russia did interfere, that`s the committee`s conclusion. But whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign is still under investigation.
Today, "Reuters" reports that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating the dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele, the 35-page dossier makes some personal allegations about Donald Trump and also accuses him of having a compromised relationship with the Kremlin.
Senator Burr says the intelligence committee`s review of the dossier has hit a roadblock.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately the committee has hit a wall. Though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point has been somewhat impossible.
And I say this because I don`t think we`re going to find any intelligence products that unlock that key to pre-June of `16.
My hope is that Mr. Steele will make a decision to meet with either Mark and I or the committee or both so that we can hear his side of it versus for us to depict in our findings what his intent or what his actions were.
And I say that to you but I also say it to Chris Steele.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, David Corn; an Msnbc political analyst, a Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones" was the first to report on the existence of the dossier in October 2016.
And also with us, David Frum; a senior editor for "The Atlantic". David Corn, you were at that press conference today.
What do you make of this update that we got today?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, Richard Burr was trying to, you know, straddle very fine line.
He wanted to make it seem like the committee is doing a lot of digging and he gave us a lot of stats, how many documents they`ve looked at, how many people they`ve interviewed to show that it`s really a serious effort perhaps unlike the house effort which hasn`t done anything like this, the House Intelligence Committee.
But at the same time, you know, politics still crept into this. He was asked what about the intelligence community`s assessment that Trump was the beneficiary purposefully of the Kremlin operation that they did this to help Trump?
And he said that`s still an open question, although another time he said they had confidence in the intelligence community`s assessment.
So he wouldn`t really get out there and accept that fully. And on the question of collusion, he said collusion is an open question.
Wait a second. We have Donald Trump Jr. e-mails showing collusion, at least that one act of collusion that Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner got together with a Russian emissary who they were told was coming from the Kremlin to share with them information dirt on Hillary as part of the Russian government operation to help Donald Trump.
So he`s really staying away from -- you know, from basically giving his seal of approval to some of the most explosive elements of this scandal that have already been proven to a large degree.
And that was kind of interesting and -- but you know, we still have to see what happens with this investigation in the months ahead.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, I can -- I can understand why the chairman might want to take that position today during this public discussion.
I mean, he might see himself and I think the chairman in this situation would see himself as in effect a judge in the middle of a trial, a juror in the middle of a trial.
And the jurors and judges in the middle of trials do have opinions about the evidence and they do have conclusions about the evidence during trials.
But they just never say anything about that until all of the evidence is in. And is that possibly the way you see the Burr position today?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, you can`t unsay something that you`ve said, which I think is the point you`re making.
But look, throughout all this, this is a story with many secrets but no mysteries. The broad outline of what has happened has been apparent to everybody.
And on this matter, the Steele dossier, I have always been inclined to view that the way to understand Donald Trump`s behavior and the psychology is not to look backward but to look forward.
Because all of this is happening at the same time as he and his team are mesmerized by the process of building the tallest hotel in the world in Moscow.
And in order to understand -- I think the way to understand what Donald Trump was thinking and doing during those months is, if anyone has ever had a Labrador Retriever or any other hungry animal, and you held a dog biscuit in front of its nose, the look of fixed concentration and devotion that comes into its face as it watches the dog biscuit, that`s what`s going on in the Trump organization as the Russians hold out this hotel prospect and they cannot think about anything else.
And that is -- that`s not a secret but it is kind of mysterious.
FRUM: But you know, and if I can, Lawrence, in the first memo that Christopher David Steele sent in in June 2016, he made the point that David Frum just made.
That the Russians in order to co-opt and cultivate Donald Trump had for years dangled business deals in front of him.
And he writes that in June of 2016 just after months earlier, Donald Trump had come close to sealing a deal to build a tower in Moscow.
He was close again in 2014. He was -- he did it in 2008. So time and time again, he sought these deals and the Russians kept saying let`s see if we can work this out.
Nothing came to fruition but certainly during that period of time, when he was running for president, he`s not telling the American voters that at the same time he`s running for president on an American first platform he`s also trying to get a deal in Russia that can only go forward with the permission of a Putin regime.
O`DONNELL: And David Corn, let me keep you on something that the chairman --
CORN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Said today. When he said this thing about the dossier that you know so well, he said, "our ability to rebuild backwards --
CORN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: The Steele dossier up to a certain date, it has stopped. Meaning he seems to be saying we cannot unlock the pre-June 2016 information in that dossier.
So is that suggesting that this committee doesn`t -- isn`t able to find out what the Steele dossier reports prior to 2016?
CORN: Well, the first memo is June 2016, June 20th to be precise. What he`s saying there and he`s speaking a little bit in code, is that we can`t find out who was the ultimate source of the money that was paid to Fusion GPS, a consulting firm that hired Steele to do that.
And unless we can do that, we can`t really suss out what`s happening here because we don`t know what Christopher David Steele`s motives were or who the motives of people paying him.
Now, I understand that point. You want to try to figure out that part of the story. But at the same time, it`s very apparent what happened.
We know who Christopher Steele was, we know his background, he`s one of the top MI-6 intelligence officers on the Russian beat.
We see the reports that he sent in, we know that the FBI at a certain point in time and he seems to have information on this, too.
Asked Steele for more information and he was sending them those reports. So he`s just basically saying, you know, we need to know more about the motives.
Well, actually, to some degree you do, some degree you don`t. And ultimately what was in the Steele dossier is not important in terms of the committee reaching conclusions about interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials or anyone representing the Russian government. you can do that regardless of whether the material in the Steele memos are accurate or not
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: David Frum, go ahead.
DAVID FRUM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And the answer to that question may be hidden not at all in Moscow and the Steele dossier but in the Trump data operation. That`s where this will all -- that`s where the evidence really is, in the trump data operation implicates or involves very senior people in Trump world including Jared Kushner who is person at least nominally at least in charge of it.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to talk about that Trump data operation next in the next segment. David Corn, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
CORN: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming Up, Congressman Jim Himes, a member of the house Intelligence Committee, will join us and later, the President`s trip to Las Vegas today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF MERKLEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Well we now know thanks to information released today that very carefully crafted targeting was done in Michigan and in Wisconsin. Michigan, which had a vote difference of 10,000 votes, Wisconsin 22,000 votes in both cases less than 1 percent and how did this sophisticated targeting occur? who provided the insight to Russia on how to target -
ARI MELBER, MSNBC REPORTER: Are you saying, senator, are you saying that the circumstantial evidence suggests they would have needed American expertise to do that?
MERKLEY: Yes. That is certainly the likely result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: that was Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley speaking with Ari Melber today making the point that David Frum was making in the previous segment. Joining us is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee which is also investigating the election act. And Congressman Himes, your reaction to what Senator Merkley said today?
JIM HIMES, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: Well, the Senator raises all the right questions and it`s a remarkable thing because as the days go by and as groups like Facebook and Twitter and social media companies you know really begin to look and report the incredible breadth of the Russian effort to influence our election in every realm, the questions just keep mounting, including the question that the Senator was dealing with which is, you know, and again, you don`t assume up front there was necessarily a U.S. person assisting in the very sophisticated targeting of those key swing states but it sure raises the question.
O`DONNELL: And -- and this is the part that really hasn`t been focused on until fairly recently. There`s been a general notion, well, OK, whatever the interference was, it didn`t reach into votes.
HIMES: Well, yes. And, you know, we will probably never know the answer to the question which comes up all the time which is did it all make a difference? You know, there`s no way to go out and poll the sample size you would need to know and find out. look, which ad made the difference for your vote. But we know one thing, very close election in which the Popular Vote one direction, Electoral College the other way and in certain very, very critical areas, then candidate Trump won and, you know, we should dismantle and pull it apart and understand exactly why that happened.
O`DONNELL: And we know that the parties and the presidential campaigns spend enormous amounts of money and use vast range of expertise to target the voters that might be able to tip a state and tip the Electoral College for them in a particular state. And that there are very few of us sitting at the distance from a presidential campaign who have that kind of information. and that -- and so, Senator Merkley`s point today of how did the Russians figure out how to target the states with so few votes, flip the states and there by flipping the Electoral College and the suspicion that that would be the point of collusion with the Trump campaign is what David Frum was identifying in our last segment.
HIMES: Yes, look. there`s a couple of big leaps there that are not yet substantiated by the conclusions of the investigations that are out there that it was somebody in the Trump campaign. That, of course, is the question, one of the central questions of the investigation. But it is true that we live in a world where this has become immensely sophisticated just in the last decade or so.
You know it use to be that you knew a neighborhood Irish-Catholic and do this or that in the election and the thinking used to be. Today, you can buy data on individual voters, what kind of car they drive, what kind of magazines they read and draw correlation, somebody who drives a Subaru and lives in this neighborhood of Massachusetts is almost certainly going to vote in this way. And then of course because we spend our lives online you can target ads to that individual`s, you know, proclivities or ways of thinking. and so, yeah, it is immensely sophisticated. And, you know, whether it`s a Russian or American, really driving these targeting vehicles, I run for re-election for myself and I have an inside view of how that happens requires people with huge amounts of sophistication of American behavior, about how American consumers make their choices. This is not something that`s left to amateurs.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, I want to take you to another subject. You wrote a provocative op-ed piece in the Washington Post this week in which you said last year after the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando I decided in desperation that I would not participate in anymore empty moments of silence, prayer or sympathy in the only body that could slow the carnage. And so, you once again refused to participate in that moment of silence on Monday about what happened in Las Vegas. What do you think now might be the prospects of some kind of legislation moving in the House of Representatives?
HIMES: You know, Lawrence, I hate to say it but I guess my answer is one simple word which is Nil. You know, I don`t know. I suppose there`s some outside possibility that there may be action on these kits that apparently can simulate fully automatic fire in a semiautomatic weapon, you know, I don`t know. Maybe that would make us feel good. It would certainly have at least been relevant to what happened in Las Vegas.
But look you see all the tools coming out again. You know first is way too early to talk about this. This is not something we say about any other policy issue. When we were attacked on 9/11, we didn`t say, wait, wait. It`s too early to figure out who did this and what our response should be. When a hurricane hits, we don`t say we shouldn`t think about a response to this.
This is a deliberate tool to stop us from acting. Of course, you get the argument that`s made that wouldn`t have stopped this shooter or background checks to stop the San Bernardino shooter. It is throwing mud in the water in order to try to prevent actions which collectively would dramatically reduce gun violence in the country and not impinge on 2nd amendment rights and supported by a vast majority of the American public.
So to stop all that you bring out the tools time and time again and, you know, two weeks from now we will be on tax reform and budget and, you know, the minds of the legislators in the towns will have turned in a different direction and exactly what the NRA is counting on.
O`DONNELL: Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for joining us tonight
HIMES: Thank You, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the most important thing and he did say something important, the most important thing that President Trump said in Puerto Rico.
O`DONNELL: Yesterday the President was in Puerto Rico where he made a promise that would go a long way to restoring the viability of life in Puerto Rico. It was a promise that no one on the island asked him to make but it turned out to be the single most important thing the President said about Puerto Rico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We have to look at their whole debt structure. You know, they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we have to wipe that out. That`s going to have to be -- you know, you can say good-bye to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wiping out Puerto Rico`s debt is the single most important thing the Federal Government could do to support the economic viability of Puerto Rico. But today, no one in the Trump Administration supported the President`s idea of wiping out Puerto Rico`s debt and Trump`s Budget Director Mulvaney said that, of course, no one should believe the President`s words. No one should believe what the President actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I wouldn`t take it word for word, at least $72 billion in debt, 120 if you by other accounts before the storm. We are not going to deal right now with those fundamental difficulties that Puerto Rico Had before the storm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I wouldn`t take it word for word. We will have more on the President`s trips to Puerto Rico and Las Vegas this week. We`ll be joined by Daniel Dale, a White House Correspondent who got blocked on Twitter by the President of the United States for the offense of fact checking the President of the United States. You can follow Daniel Dale on twitter @ddale8. You can follow him just like I do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you`ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we`ve spent a lot of on Puerto Rico, and that`s fine. We saved a lot of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The President didn`t have a script written for him in Puerto Rico yesterday. So he ended up insulting and demeaning the people of Puerto Rico according to many observers. The President limited his visit to a relatively affluent area where the homes suffered relatively limited damage after resounding criticism of the President visit to Puerto Rico. In Las Vegas today the President`s staff provided him a written speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our souls are stricken with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter. We know that your sorrow feels endless.
We stand together to help you carry your pain. You`re not alone. We will never leave your side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Daniel Dale, Washington Correspondent for the Toronto Star, who the President has blocked on Twitter. And David Frum is back with us. And Daniel I want to you - I want to read this - again this is a Tweet you put out about Puerto Rico. Its part of the reason the President has banned you from Twitter. it says -- and this is you`re quoting someone in your reporting about it, someone in Puerto Rico telling you he takes two weeks to visit a disaster zone where 3.5 million American citizens live.
He arrives with a smile on his face, makes fun of the situation, shows no empathy. Lies and lies on camera as he does 24/7 and then throws paper towels to people in need as if he was playing go fetch with dogs. And Daniel, that wasn`t the only observer who saw it that way.
DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT,TORONTO STAR: No, it wasn`t. You know it`s hard for me here in D.C. to reach people on the island. But Puerto Ricans on the mainland I spoke to were flabbergasted, astonished, insulted even though their expectations going into this visit were low.
You know he`d already spent a week demeaning them. And then he demeaned them even further in what I think you know by any - any astonishing standards - by any conventional standard. You know that was just an astonishing four hours he spent. We`re use to it by now but it was quite remarkable.
O`DONNELL: Darvid Frum, there`s a line from the Washington Post report tonight about the Tillerson matter, which is relevant to this. it says and as Tillerson has traveled the globe, Trump leaves his top diplomat often seems with what the world is concerned with the United States than attending to the President`s personal image. And so the President apparently believes the Secretary of state`s job is to enhance the President`s personal image. But of course the President is the person who does the most damage to that image.
FRUM: Yeah. Look, everything Daniel said is, of course, completely right. And yet I have to say I found Las Vegas Trump more unnerving than the Puerto Rican Trump. During the second debate Hillary Clinton was asked is there anything you can positively say about Trump? And she praised his children which turned out to be a little premature.
They turn out to have some major law abiding problems. But there is one positive thing you could have said about the pre-presidential Trump which was that he was not no a hypocrite.
He didn`t pretend to be a good man. He didn`t pretend to be a good fearing man. He didn`t pretend to be a compassionate or a loving man. He was just Donald Trump. And it`s kind of unnerving when the Presidential Trump goes into this hypocrisy and adopts and all of us who are believers. I mean it has to be unnerving to us to hear someone take words like that that are so meaningful to people for whom take it as important and use them so cynically and so incompetently because he can`t mouth the words correctly because it`s so not in his nature.
O`DONNELL: It`s a very interesting point. Would people have preferred that Donald Trump go to Puerto Rico with scripted remarks, or would they have preferred to see how he really feels about this?
DALE: You know I think they would have preferred scripted remarks. I completely agree with David there`s an over tendency to fawn over the scripted somber Trump even when he`s mouthing platitudes that are so insincere. I think the message he conveyed to Puerto Ricans is they were not even worth the gift of insincerity.
You know he would not even go through the motions for them. He would not arrive with a prepared text. He would not you know even pretend to meet the bear minimal standard for a normal President. So I don`t think you know people would have fallen over themselves to compliment him in Puerto Rico had he come more prepared and more friendly, less insulting. But I think it would have been more superior to what we saw from him.
O`DONNELL: David, that`s such an interesting point that the Puerto Ricans people can fell that they didn`t even deserve -- didn`t feel the effort that Trump has to make when he`s delivering the fake version of himself.
FRUM: That as I said is of course right. It`s of course right. It`s a idiosyncratic reaction. But from his first remarks from the White House after the Las Vegas shooting, that also is very false. And maybe the thing we`re saying whereby, look if you`re going to be insincere then maybe can you work hard at it? Can you fake sincerity a little more?
O`DONNELL: David Frum and Daniel Dale thank you both for joining us tonight, right, appreciate it.
DALE: Thank you.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word Is Next.
O`DONNELL: Every Day around the world people of all ages, men, women, children, babies are saved from dehydration by purified water. Lives are saved. The President of the United States doesn`t seem to know that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: And Trump learned a lesson about water purification tablets.
TRUMP: Well you put it in dirty and then -
REPORTER: And then you can drink it.
TRUMP: Would you do it?
COLBERT Yes, she`d drink it because it`s the only water she has just like she`s only talking to you because you`re the only President we got. She doesn`t have a choice. She wishes the President wasn`t so dirty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert.
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