Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 5, 2017
Guest: Josh Earnest, Ron Klain, Jennifer Rubin, David Corn, Tony Schwartz, Mandy Lee, Wendy Sherman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: All right, that does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening Rachel, a very big news night for Christopher Steele, and the most important I guess, being that the special prosecutor has already spoken to Christopher Steele.
MADDOW: And we were able to report tonight to add to that, that there is - - Richard Burr said yesterday that they had hit a brick wall in terms of trying to get Senate investigators to talk to him.
That we were able to report tonight that at least from the Steele side of the equation, he is willing to talk, and so we may yet see him speaking with those investigators as well.
O`DONNEL: Yes, and I read that you provoked a response from Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Senator Warner tonight, and I`ve read their written response.
And I`m wondering if there`s some gray area where it`s sort of true that they haven`t gotten the cooperation so far from Christopher Steele that they were seeking.
The way they put it is they have sought many times over the months they`re open to any credible offer.
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: So they might regard what has been offered as not credible or practical or something.
MADDOW: Right, and they specifically reference that they`ve tried to reach him including through his lawyers --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
MADDOW: They made sure to say that which -- so I mean, what -- I think the bottom line is that they haven`t spoken yet.
That there does not appear to be a lack of will on either side that they should speak, and it`s a matter of them each side recognizing the -- recognizing the desire for that meeting and that interview to happen.
And it -- I think at least from the Steel side they -- it looks like they want that effort to be seen more positively than Burr is publicly characterizing it.
O`DONNEL: Yes, and maybe it should be because he lives beyond the reach of American subpoena power.
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: So for in order to -- for him to have been interviewed by the special prosecutor, that shows a level of cooperation right there.
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: And maybe this is sequential and maybe now that he`s spoken to the special prosecutor, something will happen with the intelligence committee, but your breaking news on this tonight about how hard is that wall that they`ve run into.
MADDOW: Yes --
O`DONNELL: Is kind of fascinating.
MADDOW: Yes, thanks, man, appreciate it --
O`DONNELL: Rachel, before you go, before you go --
MADDOW: OK --
O`DONNELL: You`ve been working here tonight, so you may not be aware that you are going to have to make more room at home for another Emmy that you won tonight while you were working here on the show.
MADDOW: That is very nice of you to say, somebody yelled something to me as I was running out on to the set from the hall way --
O`DONNELL: Oh, OK --
MADDOW: That I haven`t talked to anybody about it yet, that`s very nice of you to say --
O`DONNELL: Because --
MADDOW: I was in very good company in terms of the nominees tonight, my friend --
O`DONNELL: There`s a statue on the way and you have the second nomination that you`re up for tonight, I don`t have the word on that yet, so we`ll have to wait.
MADDOW: You`re killing me, man, thank you very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you Rachel.
O`DONNELL: I did it again. Yes, it`s so easy. Embarrassing Rachel, easiest thing I do. Well, we are now on the second day of the Trump is a moron controversy created not by the tens of millions of Americans who say that to each other every day, but by the Secretary of State being quoted by confidential sources as having referred to the president as a moron during a high level meeting at the Pentagon.
And so far, no one in Washington has tried to make the case that President Trump is not a moron. That part of the story has been skipped over by the White House.
And on day two of this controversy, the Secretary of State continues to refuse to deny that he called the president a moron.
The State Department`s spokesperson has said that the secretary did not call the president a moron, but she was not present during the meeting at the Pentagon.
Where it is said that Rex Tillerson called the president a moron and nothing could be easier for the Secretary of State than to issue a one- sentence written statement saying, I did not call the president a moron.
The Secretary of State very deliberately has not done that. Which is infuriating to the president of the United States according to a new report tonight.
Nbc News reports tonight that four senior administration officials said the president first learned of Rex Tillerson calling him a moron exactly when the rest of us learned it, yesterday morning when Nbc News reported it.
President Trump complained immediately to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Wednesday morning which led to General Kelly canceling his plans to accompany the president to Las Vegas.
And John Kelly`s absence was noted in Las Vegas yesterday and there was some speculation at the time that it could be related to the moron story that broke before the president left for Las Vegas.
Officials told Nbc News that Trump was furious when he saw the Nbc News report which was published shortly before 6:00 a.m. Wednesday.
For the next two hours, the president fumed inside the White House, venting to Kelly, John Kelly summoned Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis to the White House where the three of them huddled to discuss a path forward according to three administration officials.
Vice President Mike Pence meanwhile was fuming in Phoenix where he was traveling, seven officials told Nbc News.
He and Tillerson spoke on the phone before the secretary`s public appearance on Wednesday morning, and after all of that, Rex Tillerson went out and gave a very rare press conference, he doesn`t give press conferences.
That alone was a very rare thing. Rex Tillerson giving a press conference. And after all of that, he went out in that press conference and pointedly and deliberately did not deny calling the president a moron.
Nbc News reports that the secretary`s refusal to deny that he had called the president a moron in his opening statement and in his responses to questions from reporters stoked Trump`s anger and widened the rift between the two men, officials said.
And here is a picture of that rift. Here is the president in Las Vegas yesterday acting as if he wasn`t bothered at all by Rex Tillerson and the president is a moron story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: Still have confidence in Rex?
TRUMP: Thank you, total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence, thank you very much everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After watching the secretary`s response Wednesday, one White House official said "when Tillerson didn`t deny it, I assumed it was true."
Tonight, the president made some of the most bizarre comments he has ever made to the news media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You guys know what this represents?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us, sir.
TRUMP: I don`t know, maybe it`s the calm before the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the storm?
TRUMP: Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you talking about Iran? ISIS?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What storm, Mr. President?
TRUMP: We have the world`s great military people in this room. I will tell you that, and we`re going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming by the way, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What storm, Mr. President?
TRUMP: You`ll find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Josh Earnest; former White House Press Secretary for President Obama and an Msnbc political analyst.
Also with us, Jennifer Rubin; opinion writer at the "Washington Post" and Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama.
And Josh Earnest, I want to give you the first shot at trying to translate what we just heard the president say about a calm before a storm.
JOSH EARNEST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have no idea what he`s referring to, and I have sneaking suspicion that none of the senior military leadership who were in the room with him have much of a clue about what he is referring to.
It is just -- in some ways, Lawrence, this is the kind of thing that he does on Twitter all of the time, and this time he just decided to do it in front of the White House press pool in the state dining room of the White House.
O`DONNELL: And --
EARNEST: And which is to make veiled threats that are destabilizing to our alliances and potentially provocative to our adversaries.
O`DONNELL: And Ron Klain, it immediately provoked questions about -- are you talking about North Korea? Are you talking about firing Rex Tillerson? What is the storm?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes, and ironically, of course, we`ve had a couple of major storms that the president`s botched his response to one in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
And there`s nothing very calm about what`s going on right now. We`ve learned that Secretary Mattis, Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Tillerson have signed the suicide pact.
I`ll resign if any of them is fired. So it doesn`t -- you have to have a very calm president, we`re in the middle of a series of storms that the president can`t handle.
And as Josh said, I think he became a human version of his own Twitter feed. And let`s hope that the only storm that`s left to be launched tomorrow is some kind of tweet storm against the news media as the president does almost every day now.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how the White House handled the question of how upset is the president with Rex Tillerson. Let`s listen to how that went today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Is the president upset that his Secretary of State didn`t deny calling him a moron in his public remarks yesterday?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, as the Secretary of State said, this is a petty, ridiculous accusation and frankly, I think it`s beneath the Secretary of State to weigh in on every rumor out there.
His spokesperson, however, did come out and clarify that the Secretary of State had never used those words.
WELKER: What`s your response --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Indeed the president has undercut the Secretary of State, Sarah, this quickly is for you --
SANDERS: I think it`s -- the premise of that question is absolutely ridiculous. The president can`t undercut his own cabinet.
The president is the leader of the cabinet. He sets the tone. He sets the agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so Jennifer Rubin, Kristen Welker takes her place in White House history as the first reporter in history to ask the question, "is the president upset that his Secretary of State didn`t deny calling him a moron in his public remarks yesterday?"
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, we have come to that. We have come to that. You know, it`s interesting that not even the president`s press secretary would deny that Rex Tillerson called the president a moron.
She just said it was beneath him to comment. You know, I -- this is such a storm to borrow a phrase. The other thing that`s going on is that this Keystone cop group of individuals is thinking of decertifying the Iran deal.
Putting at risk that deal with really no sort of backup plan -- they`re just going to kind of bluff their way through and see if the Iranians come back to the table.
Our allies are not on board with us, the Russians, the Chinese, so is that another storm that`s coming? He`s going to wake up tomorrow and decertify the deal?
Or is he going to decide to go to war with North Korea, we really don`t know. I mean, this is so preposterously destabilizing, so frightening I am sure for our allies that, you know, one wonders, what is Rex Tillerson doing still there.
Why does he still insist upon humiliating himself? And why doesn`t the president who is so upset with him fire him for goodness sakes?
O`DONNELL: And Josh, the president immediately accused Nbc News of practicing fake news. And now we have a reporting tonight from a large group, a large group of unnamed sources in the Trump White House contradicting the president, saying the president is infuriated.
Saying that they believe that Rex Tillerson did call him a moron, especially because Rex Tillerson did not deny calling him a moron.
And so the counter to Donald Trump`s statements come from inside his own White House.
EARNEST: Look, Lawrence, the reporting is true and everybody knows it. And I`m sure that Secretary Tillerson is not the only person to have expressed that sentiment in one form or another in the hushed corridors of either the White House or some other important building here in Washington D.C.
This is an open secret. You know, Lawrence, Harry Truman once referred to the White House as the crown jewel of the federal penal system and to torture that metaphor just a little bit here, it does appear that we have the inmates running the asylum now.
If you`ll recall, the whole reason that people like Secretary Tillerson and General Mattis and General McMaster and even General Kelly were brought on board was because everybody knew that President Trump didn`t know anything about foreign policy.
And he was -- we -- he was going to rely on these individuals and the country was going to rely on these individuals to try to keep things on track.
And I`m not sure that there`s much that they can point to --
KLAIN: Yes --
EARNEST: As evidence that they actually have succeeded in that effort thus far. Whether it`s the Iran deal, pulling out of the climate agreement, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, insulting our allies, our NATO allies at the very first NATO meeting.
Calling into question the normalizing of our relations with Cuba. I`m not really sure exactly what they would point to as evidence of their success in as Senator Corker said, protecting the world and the country from the chaos that is Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: There`s more reporting in the "New York Times" tonight about the Trump-Tillerson relationship. They say "aides and Trump associates who have been in the room with them said Mr. Tillerson`s body language, eye rolling and to his expression left little doubt that he disapproves of Mr. Trump`s approach.
Mr. Trump they said has noticed how Mr. Tillerson slouches in his presence, particularly when he disagrees with a decision.
When overruled, Mr. Tillerson often says, "it`s your deal to the president`s irritation according to two former administration officials."
Ron Klain, does that sound like White House meetings that you`re familiar with?
KLAIN: No, it does not sound like my White House meetings, I am familiar with absolutely not. But I dare you, you played that tape before of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and it reminded me why I wanted to play poker with her.
Because she has a tell. She says the word "ridiculous" when something is true and she can`t deny it. So she says Trump -- you know, Tillerson calling Trump a moron, oh, it`s ridiculous.
And the idea that Trump undercut -- oh, that`s ridiculous. Well, the word she is not using is false and she can`t use that word because it`s not false.
Those things are ridiculously true and that`s a big problem for the Trump White House.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, one thing and I noted this last night also that the White House has not got gotten around to is defending the president against the charge that he is a moron.
RUBIN: You know, even they have limits to what they can do. What can I say? I mean, none of this would have any credence, no one would believe any of this is going on if we had a president who is actually fit to be there and fit to be commander-in-chief.
All of this seems entirely credible because we know he is completely unschooled, he`s unknowledgeable, he`s erratic.
He hasn`t bothered to learn the job, so of course it`s true. What does surprise me, however, is that you have both Tillerson and the president behaving sort of like high school girls.
Don`t roll your eyes at me, I did not roll my eyes at you, and back and forth this goes. This is ridiculous. Listen, for all the criticism I made of the president he does deserve a Secretary of State who respects him to some degree.
And why has Tillerson not quit? Perhaps Condi and Bob Gates and all those people who thought it was a great idea to make him Secretary of State should pull him over to the side and say, you know, tomorrow is a Friday, it`s a good day to quit in Washington.
Maybe it wasn`t the best fit. They could do the country a service and make up for their glaring error and having recommended this guy by telling him it`s time to go.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin and Josh Earnest, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
EARNEST: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Up next, we have breaking news on the Russia investigation, special prosecutor Robert Mueller`s team has interviewed the former British spy who created that dossier on Donald Trump and his Russia connections.
And coming up, in the week when the Secretary of State calls the president a moron, a Yale psychiatrist has published a new book entitled "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump", that psychiatrist will join us as will Tony Schwartz, who was the author of Donald Trump`s first book "The Art of the Deal"
O`DONNELL: As Rachel and I discussed at the beginning of the show, Robert Mueller`s investigators in the Russia probe have interviewed the author of that famous Trump dossier, Christopher Steele.
A source close to Christopher Steele confirmed the news to Nbc tonight. Christopher Steele is a former British spy who worked in Russia. His dossier contains personal allegations about Donald Trump and claims there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Russians and the Trump campaign.
Joining us now David Corn; Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones" and an Msnbc political analyst and Ron Klain is back with us.
And David, you`re our go-to guy on this Christopher Steele and the dossier since you are the reporter who made that dossier public here in the United States.
What do you make of tonight`s developments especially in light of yesterday`s press conference with the intelligence committee and the Senate where you asked the questions and others did about Christopher Steele`s cooperation with the committee?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, it`s important to keep in mind, Lawrence, as I reported last October, that Christopher Steele was already cooperating with the FBI as far back as June 2016.
The work that he was doing for Democratic Financed Research Opposition Project on Trump, he was -- also started sharing with the FBI very early on because he was so concerned about what he was finding about links between Donald Trump and his camp and the Russian government and Russian intelligence.
So if at some point in time in the fall, the FBI, you know, came to him and said we need to know about your sources, we need to know who you -- what other material you have, we want to see everything you have.
And he cooperated fully as he told me, I have no reason to not believe that. So a lot of the information he had from his investigation was already in the hands of the FBI before Robert Mueller came along.
So I`m sure that whatever interview Mueller conducted with Steele, it was reinforcing perhaps expanding a little bit on what Steele gave to him but he already was cooperating because he felt, you know, he is not an American but he felt a patriotic sense to help America and help British intelligence as well, as he thought the Russians were messing in the election and had some bizarre connection with Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, can you help us with something Rachel and I were discussing which is here`s someone who is -- as David said, not only cooperating with the FBI, he went to the FBI --
KLAIN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: To say you should know about this, and then cooperating clearly with the special prosecutor has submitted two interviews with them.
But we seem to get the sense, we did get the sense yesterday from the intelligence committee that they were dissatisfied or frustrated with their attempts at getting Christopher Steele to cooperate with them.
Can you see what might be happening there and less cooperation with the committee than with the special prosecutor?
KLAIN: Well, I think it`s possible that he wanted to make sure he had finished giving whatever he wanted to Mueller before he dealt with the committee, get clearance on that.
It`s also possible the committee wasn`t really ready to make the overseas trip that clearly Christopher Steele is going to require for this cooperation.
But I think there`s -- you know, two big takeaways here, Lawrence. The first is that the evidence against Donald Trump, the evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia somehow is mounting.
And the second thing I think we got to understand is the clock that`s ticking down towards the coming constitutional crisis when President Trump tries to fire Bob Mueller, got that much closer to midnight tonight because we know he hates discussion of this dossier.
It was his first grievance against Jim Comey when he raised a dossier with him, and the news that Mueller went over to interview Steele is going to flame Donald Trump`s hair.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, I want you to go to one point that they mentioned yesterday in that press conference that you were at with the intelligence committee chair and vice chair.
And that is this issue of who paid for the dossier?
CORN: Right --
O`DONNELL: And they seem to be suggesting that they don`t know very much about that. We do know something about that, don`t we?
CORN: We know a little bit about it. We know that Fusion GPS; a research consulting firm based in Washington was first hired by Republicans to come up with research opposition research on Donald Trump.
And then when he turned out that he was heading towards the nomination, the Republican funding phased out and Fusion GPS found a democratic source of funding.
And it was around that point in time that they made contact with Christopher David Steele to do this work.
So the money was being paid technically at that time by democratic source. What Richard Burr seemed to be saying at the press conference yesterday was that until we know who really paid for this, we don`t have the full story.
I don`t understand that to an extent, but you know -- but the FBI, maybe they asked Steele, maybe they didn`t, you know, is probably less concerned with who paid for him to do the work than the work itself.
And who he spoke to, what sources he had and why he had reason to write what he wrote, that in some ways is more important.
What the Republicans are trying to do, some of them -- not saying Richard Burr particularly, but certainly on the House Intelligence side is to try to denounce the Steele dossier, even try to say that it was some type of Russian disinformation.
And to show that that was what triggered the FBI investigation, Trump connections to Russia. And they have -- everything is sort of comes from this poisoned fruit to discredit everything.
It`s a crazy conspiracy theory because really, at the end of the day what Christopher Steele wrote, you know, the FBI will find or not and they were already on to this and on to these investigations before they got all his materials.
So he did not kick this thing off.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Congressman Ted Lieu said to Ari Melber about this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: You can tell a lot about the actions of the special counsel. When special counsel Mueller first came on, he looked at the evidence and what did he did do?
Did he say, oh, I need to hire more investigators and look around? No. He hired a lot of prosecutors. You hire prosecutors in order to prosecute.
And then he convened a grand jury. You convene a grand jury because you want to indict people. So we can tell based on his actions that he sees criminal behavior happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, with your experience in the Justice Department --
KLAIN: Yes --
O`DONNELL: What`s your reaction to that?
KLAIN: Well, I think that`s true. I mean, I do think frankly, he didn`t need to hire investigators because he had the FBI at his disposal.
But there`s no question he has staffed up on the prosecutorial side, he has three grand juries going. And I think if you look statistically, the odds that three grand juries don`t produce an indictment is like a 1,000 to 1 or something like that.
So indictments are coming, clearly, the ring is circling around Manafort, it`s circling around Flynn, and then the question is, how much closer to the president does it get and the president`s family?
You know, just as I said earlier, the facts mount every single day.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain and David Corn, thank you both for joining us tonight, appreciate it.
CORN: Sure thing.
O`DONNELL: Up next, former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman will join us on the Trump versus Tillerson feud and the president`s possible withdrawal from the Iran deal which she helped negotiate.
And coming up, a new book with contributions from 27 psychiatrists entitled "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and we`ll be joined by Tony Schwartz, who was the author of Donald Trump`s first book, "The Art of the Deal".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PRESIDENT: We must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran`s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement and we will be discussing that tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: That was the President before a dinner at the White House tonight with Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Counsel and Senior Military Officials. Today "the Washington Post" reports that the President plan to announce next week to de-certify the deal with Iran saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant congress.
People briefed on an emerging White House strategy for Iran said. The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the Resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran which would blow up the deal limiting the activities that the country reached in 2015 with the United States and five other nations.
Here`s what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said about the Iran deal yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with Secretary Mattis that the United States to stay in the JCPOA?
REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SENATOR: The JCPOA is a small part of the many issues to deal with when it comes to the Iranian relationship so it is an important part of that but it is not the only part and I have said many times we cannot let the Iranian relationship be defined solely by the nuclear agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wendy Sherman is the Former UnderSecretary of State of Political Affairs. She was Special Adviser to President Clinton and Policy Coordinator on North Korea for President Clinton. She is also a NBC news and MSNBC Global Affairs contributor.
Ambassador Sherman, what do you make of Secretary Tillerson`s remarks yesterday? He has previously agreed with Secretary Mattis in support of the Iran deal but it seemed a little vague in his response yesterday.
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think it`s vague because his standing in the administration is pretty vague. He was taken to the wood shed, maybe took himself to the woodshed and I think he is trying to make up and show that he can be a team player. I think what`s so sad about all of this and I`ll get to the Iran deal in a minute, Lawrence, is that all of these men around the President spend all day trying to figure their wake around him. Rex Tillerson knows that the Iran deal that was reached by all five permanent members of the Security Council, Germany, European Union, the entire U.N. Security Council does keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and I quite agree with President Trump.
We should keep them from getting nuclear weapons and only meant to deal with that issue and they could not project power, more power into the Middle East and the world with a nuclear weapon and therefore deter our actions. So yes. There are a whole set of other actions that were not part of the deal for which we have sanctions, we have strategies and we have things we should be doing with people around the world to stop their maligned behavior in the region and the human rights abuses at home and abroad. But that is not the nuclear deal. We should be doing both. But we should enforce this deal and Rex Tillerson knows this.
O`DONNELL: How much time did you spend in this state department with Secretary Kerry trying to figure out how to talk to President Obama?
SHERMAN: Not much. President Obama was very direct person. He was very well schooled in what he was doing. We all always didn`t agree but those disagreements played out in the situation room and then the President reached a decision. Everybody felt they were heard. We knew we were representing the President of the United States. He was the only one along with the vice President who was elected.
But nonetheless, he wanted to hear every point of view and then decide and indeed on the Iran deal he learned every single piece of that deal. He knew every single detail. As did Secretary Kerry, Secretary Munoz and the whole team that worked on this was a whole of government effort and a very disciplined way, and quite frankly, if the Trump Administration scotches this deal, I can`t imagine what team will put it back together again.
O`DONNELL: And talk about what you see as -- in the State Department now with Secretary Tillerson. He`s quoted as calling the President a moron. He doesn`t deny that quote. He`s given the opportunity to deny. He doesn`t deny it. We see the White House`s reaction to this. Basically, confirmation. A more unnamed White House sources confirming that this happened.
Some saying they firmly believe that Tillerson did say this. Even though they with respect in the room. And that`s sort of suggests there`s an atmosphere there in the Trump administration where it`s not surprising and ultimately not surprising that a secretary would call the President a moron.
SHERMAN: I don`t think Rex Tillerson wanted to be Secretary of State from the day he was confirmed and asked by the President to be Secretary of State. I think he thought it was his duty do. He`s made common cause with Secretary Mattis and nonetheless this is a man unhappy. He doesn`t have a staff. He has only a small group of people he holds close to him, a loner and very interesting.
When Senator -- secretary sessions was being humiliated by the President of the United States, you had many people come to his defense. Even democrats who didn`t vote for his confirmation thought it was outrageous. quite frankly, I haven`t seen a whole lot of people come to the defense of Secretary Tillerson because he`s really made himself a loner in Washington and you can`t get things done that way. He goes abroad and he`s not seen as credible. He hasn`t built relations on Capitol Hill. He certainly hasn`t built relations with the press and he hasn`t built relationships with his own team inside of the state department.
O`DONNELL: And when the news came out, when NBC news reported that he had called the President a moron, he was then summoned to a meeting with General Kelly, White House chief of staff, a discussion with Defense Secretary General Mattis. He also had a discussion with Vice President Pence before going in to his public press conference. And surely either one or all of them told him repeatedly that he must deny that he ever said this and he very deliberately did not deny saying it.
SHERMAN: Indeed. He said, I don`t talk about such petty manners. We all understand those of us who have been public people what that means. It means I`m not going to deny it. I`m not going to admit it. I let it hang out there. And, you know, all of this, what`s so dangerous about all of this, Lawrence, is what it does to the National Security of the United States. These are the people that we`re relying on to make sure that families stay safe every day. People are very concerned we`re going to get into a war with North Korea. They don`t think there`s a steady hand in the oval office. They`re relying on people around the President to keep him steady, when it`s nuclear weapons, whether that is Iran or more concerningly North Korea, this is a very dangerous mixture.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Kennedy Sherman, thank you for your perspective tonight. Really appreciate it.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the dangerous case of Donald Trump. 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess a President.
O`DONNELL: The Secretary of State calls the President a moron. The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee then says that the Secretary of State is one of the three people who, quote, separate our country from chaos. This week`s chaos in the Trump Administration is by now unsurprising and was in effect predicted by the new book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." Edited by Mandy Lee, MD, a Psychiatrist. The book includes and validates some of the general news media speculations about Donald Trump`s mental capacity. There is this passage in the book from a David Brooks column in "The New York Times."
"He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms, inflated self-esteem, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about. His speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called flight of ideas. It`s a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth a disordered chain of associations. One word spars another, which sparks another and they`re off to the races. As one trained psychiatrist said to me, compare Donald Trump`s speaking patterns to a Robin Williams monologue but with insults instead of jokes."
And David Brooks wrote that column over a year ago when Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for President. The reported reason that the Secretary of State called the President a moron was because the President compared the Afghanistan war policy to the renovations of the 21 club restaurant in midtown Manhattan. President Trump told the National Security Advisers a story of the 21 club hiring very expensive consultants for a renovation of a year and ended up changing nothing in the restaurant and Trump`s point was that talking to the waiters at the restaurant would have led to a better set of choices than listening to the so-called experts. And so why should he listen to the experts on Afghanistan?
And when that story became public, the 21 club said, not one word of it was true. The owner of the 21 club at the time said `I have no idea what was in his head. I never have.` The editor of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and the author of Donald Trump`s first book "The Art of the Deal" will join us next.
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TRUMP: Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy. I don`t know what I said. I don`t remember. He`s going like, I don`t remember. Maybe that`s what I said.
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O`DONNELL: We`re joined by Dr. Mandy Lee, a Forensic Psychiatrist on the faculty of the Yale School of Medicine and Editor of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess a President. Also joining us, Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump`s best selling book "The Art of the Deal." He was the real author of the deal. His co-author Donald Trump didn`t write a word of it. Tony Schwartz with an entry in this new book edited by Dr. Lee.
Dr. Lee, what brought the group together to produce this book? Because I know a year ago it was very difficult for me to find a psychiatrist to come on TV and talk about Donald Trump because the general rule was, it`s a patient I haven`t diagnosed and how can I talk about it?
MANDY LEE, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, that was my same experience when trying to write to various congress members. Initially I had a letter of concern and then I had organized a conference to speak about the ethics of the duty to warn versus the duty to refrain from commenting on public figures.
O`DONNELL: And so basically is a judgment among the professionals that in this case, the duty to warn ways that the consideration that would normally apply which is I`m not going to offer public diagnosis of a person I have not met?
LEE: Yes. And initially it was very hard to get co-signatories to the letter, letters that I was writing, or to get any co-organizers for the conference. But after the conference hundreds of mental health professionals got in touch with me saying their same concern. The assessment was almost unanimous, that they were all concerned and did not know of a way to speak about it. And now we have about 4,000 members of the coalition that we had named to warn. We have 63,000 signatories to a petition that John Gartner had created.
And when I was compiling this book, we couldn`t include everybody because there were so many people coming forth. And as you can see, this is just a representative sample of the most eminent members of our team.
O`DONNELL: Yes. You have Lance Donaldson here who is former Harvard Medical School Faculty who was one of the first psychiatrist to join us here last year and talk about it.
Tony, I have a question for you that is about policy and the psyche of Donald Trump, and it`s the crucial -- kind of the crucial question of the day or the week for next week, and that is the Iran deal. We have a report coming up tonight saying that the President is going to announce that he is going to pull the United States out of the Iran deal.
Knowing Donald Trump as you do, you know him better than anyone who speaks about him publicly. Would he pull the United States out of the Iran deal just because Rex Tillerson is in favor of staying with the Iran deal? Is that the kind of psyche -
TONY SCHWARTZ, THE ART OF THE DEAL, AUTHOR: Well, I don`t know that that would be the only reason but that would put him over the edge. He`s getting obviously very conflicting advice about whether to do that and there`s still factions in his administration arguing each side. But yes, he is emotionally driven, not obviously intellectually driven. You don`t want to use that word with regard to Trump, and I absolutely believe that any decision he makes is going to be primarily made by the intensity of the emotion he feels about it.
O`DONNELL: Which includes personal feeling about the person he`s dealing with whether he likes the person or not.
SCHWARTZ: You know it isn`t about liking a person. Donald Trump doesn`t like people. What he does is sees them as useful or not useful and he sees them mirroring him and supporting him or opposing him and diminishing him. And there`s certainly no question that right now he sees Tillerson as someone who is an injury to his sense of himself.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to just one entry in the book. This is Henry Freedman, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. On the role of Donald Trump`s cabinet relevant to this weeks television story. He says, `A paranoid, hyper sensitive, grandiose ill-informed leader such as Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with a cabinet and set of advisers who either are able to bring him out of his paranoid suspicions and insistences or, worse, identify with his positions, represents a multi- dimensional threat to our country and the world.`
And Dr. Lee, when a psychiatrist sees us that way, that`s the definition of the duty to warn.
LEE: Exactly. The goldwater rule itself which is the ethical guideline not to diagnose a public figure in the open falls under the ethical principle that we participate in activities that promote public health and public mental health. And so when it is -- when silence contributes to harm to the public health, then we do have a duty to speak out and the duty to warn and the duty to protect is pervasive.
O`DONNELL: And prior to this situation, a duty to warn generally applied individual cases, you -- you have a patient who you believe would commit a violent crime or something like that. Tony, take us inside Donald Trump as you know that man when he gets the news yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m. that NBC news is reporting that rex Tillerson has called him a moron.
SCHWARTZ: I mean, it`s almost unimaginable how enraged he must have been under those circumstances.
O`DONNELL: And that`s what our reporting is now, that he was enraged.
SCHWARTZ: Because the idea that such an authoritative figure in his own administration, by a guy that claims to prize loyalty. He has none of it towards other people but he expects it from other people, and a combination of circumstances had to have put him at a very -- and this is when he moves in with the kind of emotion where he could vastly over react. It`s the very thing as far back as July 16, I was saying made me think that he could in an impulsive, angry moment, you know, punch in the nuclear code.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us. The book is "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and this is an historic work in the history of American Psychiatry. We have never been in this place before. Thank you both very much for joining us.
Tonight`s last word is next
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CONAN O`BRIEN, LAST NIGHT WITH CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST: Our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a moron and then was talked out of resigning by Mike Pence. He called him a moron and then Mike Pence talked him out of resigning. Pence`s exact words were, don`t quit, that moron needs you. That`s kind of an odd. We need that moron.
(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Conan O`Brien gets tonight`s last word and the last word of course is moron. There`s a special programming note. Tony Award Winning creator and start of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda will join his high school classmate Chris Hayes at 8:00 p.m. to talk about the crisis in Puerto Rico and the aftermath of hurricane Maria, that`s 8:00 p.m. Chris Hase, Lin- Manuel Miranda right here on MSNBC.
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