Trump to McCain: "I will fight back" Transcript 10/17/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ron Klain, Max Boot, Norm Ornstein

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 17, 2017 Guest: Ron Klain, Max Boot, Norm Ornstein

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Now I have my assignment at 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow, which I did not know until you just gave it to me. But that`s -- that`s why we have to get our homework assignments from Rachel every night.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: You know from your time in the Senate that if there is one thing that senators never forget, it`s being lied to.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: Especially by a witness under oath. And the way that Jeff Sessions handled -- that he never apologized, never retracted it, never corrected the record. He just tried to make it better with this little recusal thing. I have a feeling that`s going to be a very hot seat for him tomorrow.

O`DONNELL: It is. It is. And like you, he will be watching.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, the president of the United States today promised to attack the United States senator, a member of his own party. And the president warned us about it, told us something about it -- about the attack that he hasn`t yet launched. That we already know. It won`t be pretty.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It`s the system that`s broken. It`s the system that`s working. He`s the elected president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re past the hour where you would hope that someone in this country of stature would say, sir, at long last, have you no sense of decency?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m being very nice. I`m being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won`t be pretty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he have any idea how idiotic he sounds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He creates his own diversions. He freelances constantly. He picks fight he doesn`t need to fight. He loses fights that he has to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is he going to do to John McCain? Is he going to send a mean tweet to John McCain?

MCCAIN: I have faced some pretty tough adversaries in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a fight that I think McCain is prepared to take to the president. I don`t think the president knows that this is one he doesn`t want to take.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Last night at this hour, we brought you the first report of John McCain`s speech in Philadelphia, in which he attacked Trumpism last night without ever mentioning President Trump`s name. And, of course, Donald Trump reacted to that today in his small-minded and always ugly way. And Trump himself described his reaction as ugly.

Before we show you the Trump reaction, let`s take another look at the portion of Senator McCain`s speech in which he defined the essence of Trumpism while railing against it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is how the president of the United States responded to that today in a radio interview.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RADIO HOST: You heard what he said yesterday, Senator McCain.

TRUMP: Yes, well, I hear it. And people have to be careful because at some point, I fight back, you know. I`m being very nice. I`m being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won`t be pretty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It won`t be pretty.

It is a comment like that that will always bring to mind the Trump cabinet member, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been quoted as calling the president a moron. And the wonder of the moron story, the most amazing thing about the moron story is that at 270 days into the Trump presidency, only one cabinet member has been quoted as calling the president a moron. Only one.

The president who says when he fights back against John McCain, it won`t be pretty. Only one. The five and a half years John McCain spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam were not pretty.

And every day that John McCain was in that prison in North Vietnam, Donald Trump was evading service in the military and possible assignment to Vietnam with the kind of note from a doctor that rich kids in those days were obtaining to claim physical disabilities that made them unfit for service.

And now, we have a president of the United States, a commander-in-chief, who psychiatrists are saying are unfit for service. They have a note about this president now.

In Donald Trump`s case, his doctor`s note to keep him out of Vietnam was about a sore foot. He doesn`t have to tell us that it won`t be pretty. He never has to tell us that it won`t be pretty when he next attacks John McCain because nothing Donald Trump ever does is pretty. And we`ve seen him attack John McCain before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He`s not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a war hero.

TRUMP: He is a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five and a half years in POW camp.

TRUMP: He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I have to tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It won`t be pretty.

Kasie Hunt caught up with John McCain today and got his reaction to the president`s threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Trump said on the radio, I heard and people have to be careful because at some point I fight back. At some point, I will fight back, and it won`t be pretty. He`s talking about you.

MCCAIN: I don`t comment on what the president says. I comment on what he does. And I will say that I have faced some pretty tough adversaries in the past.

I`m not interested in confronting the president. I`m interested in working with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is what dignity sounds like. That is what professionalism sounds like in someone serving in government. Those are alien concepts to Donald Trump -- dignity and professionalism.

And so, Donald Trump continues to damage his White House, damage his presidency, damage his legislative agenda by attacking and threatening senators like John McCain, whose votes he will need in order to achieve anything in Congress.

John McCain just won reelection to a six-year term. He is 81 years old. He will not be running for another term at 87 years old.

And now that John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer, he may not complete his term. And so, John McCain is not playing the kind of games that Republican senators usually have to play with FOX News.

Watch what happened today. After Kasie Hunt asked her question that you just saw and got the answer that you just saw, and then the FOX News correspondent asked a question that completely ignored what Senator McCain had just said. We`re going back up this video a little bit so that you can hear senator McCain say once again in a calm and sane, professional tone: I am interested in working with the president. Those are the last words Senator McCain says, before the FOX News question, and you really, really have to watch this answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I`m not interested in confronting the president. I`m interested in working with the president.

HUNT: Thank you very much for your time, sir. I really appreciate it.

REPORTER: Senator McCain, just a quick question. Has your relationship with the president frayed to the point that you are not going to support anything that he comes to you and asks for?

MCCAIN: Why would you say something that stupid? Why would you ask something that dumb, huh? My job as a United States senator is a senator from Arizona, which I was just reelected to. You mean that I am somehow going to behave in a way that I`m going block everything because of some personal disagreement? That`s a dumb question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, guys. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That`s a dumb question. I could just watch John McCain walk away after saying that`s a dumb question all night. I could just watch that video all night, because what you see there, what you see there is a senator who is not playing FOX News` game anymore. Not playing the Trump news network`s game any more. That`s a dumb question.

If you`re a student of the senate, there are few things more exquisite to watch than the senator who knows he has nothing to lose. John McCain is not the only one.

The Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker is not running for reelection. And he said today that he stands by every negative word that he has said about the president in the last couple of weeks, including the line about the White House being an adult day-care center and that the president has us, quote, on the path toward World War III.

Senator Corker says: My thoughts were well thought out. Look, I didn`t just blurt them out. And that includes Senator Corker`s comment about the castration of the secretary of state. Last week, Senator Corker told "The Washington Post," you cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state. And that provoked this exchange with the secretary of state on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You don`t want to say anything about the senator calling -- suggesting you`ve been gelded before the world, it`s not anything that bothers you?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I checked. I`m fully intact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The secretary of state is prepared to answer that question to say that he has checked about his castration.

But in that very same interview, as we showed you last night, despite Jake Tapper`s repeated attempts, Rex Tillerson refused to deny that he called the president a moron. And Rex Tillerson knows that every time he refuses to deny calling the president a moron, he is once again in effect calling the president a moron, as he did repeatedly in that interview yesterday -- on Sunday.

This castration thing, this is Republican talk. Republican men are now on record in the last year or so talking about male genitalia more than is normal in American politics because normal in American politics is exactly zero references to male genitalia. That is what is normal. But the age of Trump has changed everything in Republican politics, and like Donald Trump says, it`s not pretty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Te referred to my hands. If they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there is no problem. I guarantee you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The one thing, the one thing that Donald Trump never has to tell us is that the next thing he`s going to do won`t be pretty.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: At some point I fight back, and I won`t be pretty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Norm Ornstein. He is with the American Enterprise Institute. He is a leading congressional scholar. He is also the co-author of the new book, "One Nation After Trump." Also with us Max Boot, senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former foreign policy adviser for the McCain, Romney and Rubio campaigns. And Ron Klain is joining us, a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, former senior aide to President Obama.

And, Ron, you worked many years in the Senate, as I did. And I have to ask you. I think you and I between us have seen hundreds of interviews of senators in the hallways of the Senate office buildings. Have you ever heard a senator say to a question, to a question why did you ask me such a stupid question? That`s a dumb question? Because I`ve heard a lot of those interviews out there. I`ve never heard that.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, could you just play it again four or five more times.

O`DONNELL: You know, FOX News viewers are probably missing this clip. I don`t watch FOX News all day. But I doubt they`ve been showing their hero correspondent being called the dumb questioner by John McCain.

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, look, I think it just illustrates kind of where we are right now in the craziness that President Trump is causing, and the reaction to that. And the spectacle of one of the senior most members of his party, John McCain, a respected senator, a respected war hero, won the Liberty Medal last night, you know, having to basically shout down his house organ at FOX News for suggesting he won`t do his job as a senator.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee saying the president has us on the brink of chaos and he is an adult day care.

And so -- he is at war with the other senator from Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake. He said he is a bad senator and should -- he has almost endorsed his opponent.

So, I mean, this is just Trumpism gone amok. We`re seeing this in unprecedented ways. And that`s why -- bottom line, Lawrence, this is the reason why this week we`ll celebrate the nine-month mark of Trump`s presidency. And he`s the first president ever to go nine months without a single major bill passing the Congress. Nine months, O for nine months. That`s because of how Donald Trump is handling all these relations with Congress.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Bob Corker today in his way trying to explain to the president that these senators are all elected. They`re elected in their own right. And Bob Corker didn`t get there with any help from Donald Trump. And Donald Trump can expect Bob Corker to continue to speak his mind.

Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Last week was obviously provided a lot of entertainment for all of you. But I`m back up here this week. I`ve got issues to deal with Iran and issues to deal with North Korea.

And then we have the budget issue, which prepares us for tax reform. So, I`m up here on a policy basis. You know, I`m not here leading some group to do certain things. I`m one senator. Each of us has an election certificate, and I speak my mind, and I`ll continue to. So --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Norm, I`ve never heard an answer like that because it`s kind of like explaining how -- a senator explaining how I got here to an elementary school student.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL EXPERT: You know, when it comes to understanding anything about government, I would say that even elementary school students do better than Donald Trump does.

But, you know, it`s just bizarre, Lawrence, to be talking the way we`re talking instead of discussing what we would normally do on a show like this. And the level of sociopathy that we see from a president that`s going to go beyond fighting with John McCain and Bob Corker, but will get to despite the sort of makeup appearance yesterday with Mitch McConnell to the Senate Republican leader to the speaker of the house and to others.

And remember that yesterday at his press conference, Trump said, I don`t blame myself for any of the things that have gone wrong. The narcissism there and the willingness to turn on his own partisans, not to mention Democrats, immigrants, and a whole host of others makes, this a unique presidency as it is in so many other ways.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Joe Biden said about President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We have a president who does not understand governance. Forget his policies for a minute. He doesn`t understand how the government functions.

There are certain basic norms. And he doesn`t understand them. And the ones he understands, he tries to break down.

And secondly, this penchant for self-aggrandizement and this penchant for tweeting, this penchant to focus so specifically and eternally on what he does or doesn`t do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And, Max Boot, it`s not as if this is working for the president. He has record high disapproval numbers.

MAX BOOT, FORMER RUBIO FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: But it`s a -- you know, Lawrence, it`s a psychological compulsion for him. Look at what`s happened the last couple of days. You highlighted his sniping at Senator McCain.

But, of course, he`s also spent the last couple of days in a war of words with members of the Obama administration because when he was criticized for not having called the families of the four Green Berets who were killed in Niger after 12 days, his instinct was not to apologize or to say that he was busy or offer some excuse. His instinct was to falsely attack President Obama by claiming that President Obama never called and never spoke to the families of fallen warriors, which is flat-out untrue. And, of course, the more pushback he gets, the harder he pushes.

And, you know, it`s hard to avoid the conclusion at the end of the day that he thrives on this kind of reality TV show atmosphere of constant conflict. And his supporters like to say, you know, that he fights that is certainly true. He fights each and every single day.

But the question is, what does he fight for?

O`DONNELL: Yes.

BOOT: He is not fighting for a policy agenda because he doesn`t have a policy agenda. He doesn`t have any ideas. He is fighting basically for his wounded ego, for his pride. And maybe just for the fun of it, because he enjoys the combat and is bored by actual policy details. That`s the reality of the Trump presidency.

O`DONNELL: And, Ron, you have a legislative agenda that has gotten nowhere. It has a big mountain to climb with a tax bill. And this president is the worst legislative leader any party has ever had in the White House.

KLAIN: No question. I mean, look at what`s gone on in our country in the past couple of weeks.

Puerto Rico is drowning. California is burning. North Korea is menacing. Jobs are hemorrhaging for the first time in seven years. Las Vegas is still grieving.

And the president has done none of those -- focused on none of those things. As Max says, he has been obsessed with these fights. He spent this period of time in an obsessive Twitter battle with professional athletes who are protesting police practices in America. And instead of tackling all these big challenges, he just seems to tweet every day about this protest issue.

And it`s kind of a maniacal managerial malfeasance on his part. He is like Captain Queeg looking for the strawberries. I mean, he is obsessed with these petty battles and is not really solving the huge crises and challenges our country faces right now.

O`DONNELL: And, Max, we have seen presidents alienate members of their own party before. But it tended to be one or two here and there. It wasn`t a kind of widespread phenomenon, the likes of what we`re seeing now.

BOOT: Well, you know, Lawrence, I wish it were more widespread. I think you`re certainly hearing from a few Republicans like Senator McCain, Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Bob Corker. But what they say, the statements I think are ones that pretty much every Republican member of Congress would agree with.

In fact, Senator Corker himself said that when he said that Trump was out of control, possibly leading us to World War III, in need of adult day care. He said all of his colleagues would agree with that.

But notice how few of his colleagues actually have the courage to say in public what they believe in private. And beyond that, they don`t have the courage to act upon their convictions because clearly what we are seeing is that this is a guy who is not fit for office.

As Senator Corker mentioned, we are running the danger of a war because we have a guy who is not qualified to be in command of our nuclear arsenal. And yet, what you`re seeing is the leadership of both houses trying to paper that over, like to way that Senator McConnell was when he was at the White House yesterday, trying to pretend that everything is normal, that we have to ignore these daily outbursts of craziness from Trump because we need to get tax reform through, we need to get some policy items through.

This is not realistic. This is not responsible. And at the end of the day, these lawmakers on the Republican side are violating their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. They`re not doing that because of the danger that we face to the Constitution and to the entire world from the president of their own party in the White House.

O`DONNELL: Max Boot and Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein, please stay with us.

Coming up, Andrew Sullivan will join us. In his new column, he refers to the president as having the unhinged fantasies of a 71-year-old FOX News viewer. And he is a 71-year-old FOX News viewer. He really is.

And Ari Melber`s MSNBC exclusive interview with a rival of Vladimir Putin`s, who has much to say on the Russia investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, the chaos president created new confusion on the future of health care accessibility in the United States when he seemed to support a plan to reinstate the Obamacare payments that he himself suddenly ended last week.

Here is how the president described those payments today in the Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The politicians I must tell you that wanted me to continue to pay this, I said I`m not going to do it. This is money that goes to the insurance companies to line their pockets, to raise up their stock prices and they`ve had a record run. They`ve had an incredible run. And it`s not appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. You get that? This is money that goes to the insurance companies to line their pockets, to raise their stock prices. OK.

Now, a full 10 minutes later, still in that very same Rose Garden, the president was asked if he supported the new bipartisan compromise in the Senate to restore those very payments that he just condemned.

And here is what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Apparently, Lamar Alexander has said he has made a deal with Senator Patty Murray to stabilize Obamacare. Has the White House been involved in those negotiations, and will you support that deal?

TRUMP: Yes, we have been involved. And that is a short-term deal, but it is a short-term solution so that we don`t have this very dangerous little period, including dangerous period for insurance companies by the way, for a period of one year, two years. We will have a very good solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, yes, he supports it. He is in favor of it.

Ten minutes after condemning the insurance companies, the president was suddenly worried about the insurance companies, worried about the dangerous period for the insurance companies, the dangerous period for the insurance companies that he created last week.

Add as is customary in the Trump White House, whenever the president announces any form of agreement involving Democrats in any way, the White House had to spread the word that the president does not know what he is talking about. The word quickly came from the White House that the president was absolutely not -- that was the phrase -- absolutely not endorsing the deal struck by Senator Alexander and Senator Murray.

So, will you support the deal went from a yes in the Rose Garden to an absolutely not by the White House staff. And then, tonight, in a written teleprompter speech, the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray, and I do commend it, I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so, the question tonight is in Trump speak, does I do commend mean I do endorse?

Joining us now, Ezra Klein, editor at large at "Vox" and host of the podcast "The Ezra Klein Show". And back with us, Norm Ornstein, who is the co-author of the new book "One Nation After Trump."

Ezra, do we -- do we now tonight after this series of statements have any idea whether the White House is endorsing this compromise?

EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, VOX: Who knew health care could be so complicated? I think it`s the only thing to say.

ORNSTEIN: Nobody knew.

O`DONNELL: Right.

KLEIN: The thing that has been at the core of all of the White House`s health care policy, all of Donald Trump`s health care statements is that he does not know anything about health care policy. He is not interested in health care policy. And as such, he is not in any way yoked to what he said 10 minutes ago, 20 minutes from now, 50 minutes from now, three days ago.

And so, trying to chart what is going to happen by listening to what he has said in the past and using that to predict future actions, it`s a fool`s game.

It is strange to be here talking about this deal, though. This is actually Congress considering doing something that makes some actual amount of sense. This deal is not my preferred health care policy per se, but it would extend the cost sharing reduction payments for three years.

It would give states more flexibility to experiment, which is something conservatives have wanted. It would bring back some money to do enrollment publicity. It would make it easier for the insurance to sell catastrophic plans which is again something Republicans have wanted.

It`s a deal that would look like you would imagine a bipartisan deal would look like on Obamacare. It makes sense which sort of conversely is in an era where nothing makes sense, probably a bad sign for whether or not it`s actually going the pass.

O`DONNELL: And it didn`t pick up endorsements from the Republican senators who voted against the Republican bill on the Senate floor. Senator McCain issued a statement and said that this is exactly what he wanted to talk about when he wanted to return to regular order because he said this is a committee process. He said: It`s my hope that this is a sign of increased partisanship moving forward. I look forward to voting in support of this bill.

And, Norm, this is the way you have seen legislation of this kind done for decades in the United States Senate.

ORNSTEIN: Yes, it`s a model that you saw very often, Lawrence, that the great Pat Moynihan managed to achieve with many of his Republican colleagues on the Finance Committee. It`s something we saw with Patty Murray and Speaker Paul Ryan back when we got a reasonable budget deal.

But notice that absent from the endorsements or warm words or even with the president, warm words followed by cold words followed by utter ignorance, we haven`t seen anything coming from the leaders in Congress. And here we`ve been talking about the incompetence and failures of the president. We also have to talk about another reality.

What Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have done, and as Ezra said, it`s just the kind of compromise we would hope we would get in these circumstances, the Republican Congress has been utterly inept. They haven`t sent bills of significance to the president. He hasn`t helped any. But they haven`t been able to do it.

And there is no possibility here that we`re going to get a strong endorsement from Speaker Paul Ryan or anything more than tepid support from Mitch McConnell because they promise for years that they would blow up Obamacare. And that is a deal that has a balance that gives a lot to Democrats. That is going to be a non-starter for many of them. And all Trump wants is a victory, and he may not get it with this.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And Ezra, as you look at it and you see the Republican Senate endorsements coming in, this very clearly could pass the United States Senate. And would probably pick up more than just those dissenting Republicans who voted against the Republican Bill, could pick up a good handful of more Republicans than that. But there is the house as norm points out. And there is no real crack in the wall in the house on this kind of legislation.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: well, we don`t know yet. But I think the way I would think about this legislation`s path forward is what stands in its way is not votes. It`s procedure. And more than procedure, it`s norms. So there`s this idea in the house called the Hastert Rule named for Denny Hastert, the former Speaker, now disgraced former speaker.

And the idea was that you cannot bring a bill to the floor unless the majority of your own party supported it. Under Boehner and Ryan that almost became, although not when they really needed votes to pass something that had to be passed. But conceptually it often became you couldn`t bring a bill to the floor unless it could pass with only Republican votes so at least on bills again that are not sort of must pass, have to do pieces of business.

So this is clearly a bill if you brought to it the floor, it could get some coalition of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate. But we do not know if it`s a bill that could pass with only Republicans in the House and the Senate. And it probably cannot in the end.

So the question is, and this is something that Donald Trump would be able to do if he were playing this sort of role of semi independent that he often said without being in hock to either party. But so far if they decided just to try govern this just on a Republican votes, it`s going to go nowhere and they`re going to end up in 2018 holding the collapse of Obamacare in their hands and be blamed for it whereas if they`re willing to open this up as they have on certain budgets, on certain bills to keep the government rung and let`s Democrats be a part of the coalition to pass it, it would probably face a relatively easy path forward.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein and Norm Ornstein, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you. O`DONNELL: Coming up, NBC exclusive one of Vladimir Putin`s one of biggest rivals believes that Putin had every intention of trying to help the Trump campaign. And next, Andrew Sullivan joins us in his latest essay. He said that the President of the United States behaves like a 71-year-old Fox News viewer, which of course the President of the United States actually is

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The worst legislative salesman in the history of the presidency gave a speech tonight intended to sell his legislative agenda, and he sounded as if he would prefer being President of a department store to being President of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s give our country the best Christmas present of all, massive tax relief. And speaking of Christmas, yes, you want to hear it? Speaking, I just you know I`m talking about Christmas present.

I`ll give you a bigger Christmas present. You`re going to be saying Merry Christmas again, OK? You`re going to say Merry Christmas. You know, you go to the stores and they have the red wall, and they have the snow, and they even have the sleigh and the whole thing.

They don`t have Merry Christmas. They don`t have Merry Christmas. I want them to say Merry Christmas, everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In his latest essay for New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan writes the reason we have a President increasingly isolated, ever more deranged, legislatively impotent, diplomatically catastrophic and constitutionally dangerous is not just because he is a f`ing moron requiring an adult day-care center to avoid catastrophe daily. It`s because he is a reactionary fantasist whose policies stilled the emotions but are stalled in the headwinds of reality. They are the unhinged fantasies of a 71-year-old Fox News viewer. Andrew Sullivan joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Andrew Sullivan, writer at large for New York Magazine. Andrew, welcome to the Last Word. And your essay about our 71- year-old Fox News viewing President is one of those essays where you`re saying things that are in our heads we know. But we haven`t laid them out that way in that kind of flawless logic that you present about this. And we`re living in this chaotic environment that the President seems to be the only one oblivious to the chaos.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, AUTHOR: Yes. I mean, I think if you have ever lived in a family with mental illness, you`ll understand what is going on. This man is not really in control of himself. I think if you try and think there is a strategy to this or that he is lying or that he is behaving in some sort of strategic or intelligent way, you`re missing the fact that he can`t help any of this. That he is living in a fantasy world. And that fantasy world is one of profound reactionaryism.

And reactionaryism is really a wish that we were living 50 years ago. It`s not actually a program that you can implement. So if you`re running on a program to deport 11 million people, to throw up to 20 million people off their health insurance, to erect a giant wall across the entire southern border, to withdraw from a trade agreement in NAFTA, which would destroy the economies of Mexico and Canada and create huge disruption across the world, or to leave the Iran deal, which is endorsed by every other major power and would violate the United States` credibility in any international relationship, you can`t actually do it.

And if you want to do it, you`re going to risk such damage that you`re always going to pull back at the very end. It`s partly his platform that has rendered him so impotent. And it`s also of course his psychological illness.

O`DONNELL: And Presidents overpromising during campaigns is a phenomenon that we`re used to, and it`s a phenomenon that politicians are used to. And once in office when they realized if they didn`t already the limitations, the kind of reality zone that`s left to them in the shape of whatever is left of their promise, that`s what they aim for.

And they practice rephrasing success as the achievement of that lesser goal. This is something that this president, that no one seems to be able to drill into this presidency. That victory has to be defined in terms differently than you described it during the campaign.

SULLIVAN: It would require his walking back some things. It would require, for example, saying I`m not going to build this wall. But let`s try e- verify. Let`s try a deal with the Democrats where we can exchange say DACA for e-verify.

Actually being in charge of the minutia of policy, understanding where the country is. You can`t start from 1960 if you are president in 2017. And that fantasy of his impedes his ability to do and get anything done. And the trouble is that his response to that is rage.

It`s not an attempt to wind it down or to come up with something actually systematic that you could actually achieve legislatively. It is simply to lash out wildly at anybody that dares point out to him that this is the world we actually live in. And you can`t actually do these things without massive disruption. And I think you see that elsewhere in the world.

I mean, you see it in Britain where the idea of actually getting out of the European Union sounds fantastic until actually trying to do it. And we`re year on from the vote on Brexit. And the Prime Minister has no idea how she is going to pull this off. And the cabinet is tearing itself apart.

This is a function of not conservatism properly understood. It`s not done with the logic and rationale and political sense of a Thatcher or Reagan. This is a kind of thrashing around wildly in response to a world you simply don`t understand and also can`t live in. And that`s why we`re in this incredibly weird period with this incredibly dangerous man is also incapable of doing anything. And that`s a very strange position for us to be in. But that`s what happens when you have someone this unfit for office actually attempting to do anything.

O`DONNELL: Do you see a transatlantic contagion of fantasy that has given us Brexit and Trump?

SULLIVAN: Yes. And I think it`s in part deep down a panic at the modern world. It`s a panic that we live in a multiracial, multicultural society. And they just don`t want to live in that world. But there is no alternative.

That`s the world we live in. You`re not going to turn this country into 80 percent white again. It`s just not going to happen.

You`re not going to undo 40 years of integration in Europe overnight. And so you elect these fantasy figures who tell you somehow we`re going to make Austria white again, for example or these things are -- these things are profound in emotions.

But the job of real politicians is to sure, acknowledge those emotions, understand the problems. But then to come up with actual policies from where we now are to mitigate, not abolish, but to mitigate and make things a little better. That is the art of politics.

O`DONNELL: Sorry. We`re out of time for the block. Andrew, thank you very, very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate. Mandatory reading in New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan`s latest essay. Thank you, Andrew.

SULLIVAN: Thank you, Lawrence. Lovely to be here.

O`DONNELL: thank you. Coming up, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller interviews Sean Spicer and Sean Spicer`s notebook. That`s next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Sean Spicer who kept copious notes while working in the Whitehouse, is the latest Trump player to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller`s team. According to Politico Sean Spicer was grilled about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and statements regarding the firing as well as about Trump`s meetings with Russian officials including one with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. On Friday, Reince Priebus sat down with the special counsel team. And according Vanity Fair he was chomping at the bit to testify.

Tonight, MSNBC`s Ari Melber spoke exclusively with former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky who is also one of Vladimir Putin`s Chief Critics. Khodorkovsky who was at one time said to be the richest person in Russia, spent a decade in jail for what some say was political retribution by Putin. He is now exiled from Russia and living in Europe. Here is what he had to say about Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, FMR. RUSSIAN OLIGARCH: I am almost convinced that Putin`s people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way.

ARI MELBER: MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: On the scale of zero to 10. What number in your view do you give the theory that Putin did seek to collaborate and collude with the Trump campaign?

KHODORKOVSKY: I would say 9 out of 10, that he personally, and his inner circle attempted to cooperate whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating that matter, answer the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And it turns out that one of the meetings that Jared Kushner left off of his security clearance application form was with a Russian who used to work for Khodorkovsky. We`ll here about his interpretation of that meeting next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KHODORKOVSKY: Putin is a strong tactician, no doubt. And he`s more experienced than Trump. If they were to face off, I wouldn`t bet on Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In his interview with Ari Melber today, Mikhail Khodorkovsky said this about a Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner during the transition period, a meeting that Jared Kushner did not disclose on his application for a security clearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KHODORKOVSKY: When he worked for me Gorkov was a fine employee who dealt with HR. I have no doubt he wouldn`t do anything on his own behalf. He`s a man who carries out orders. If there were any instructions, they came from the level of question, the Chairman of the board of VBT bank or from the level of Mr. Gref which isn`t nearly as likely despite the two of them being close.

MELBER: How do you interpret the Russian Bank says this was for business, and the Trump Administration and the U.S. Government say it was for government.

KHODORKOVSKY: It`s difficult for me to interpret such a contradiction. However, it`s very possible that what you`re administration regards as a governmental issue, Russia representative views as purely business. Although in my experience it`s typically the opposite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Evelyn Farkas, a Russia Specialist and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. She is now an MSNBC`s National Security Analyst and Evelyn your reaction to Ari`s interview?

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I thought it was fantastic first of all because he had a lot of tidbits in there. I mean he asserted that basically the Russian government was behind meddling, that they clearly wanted to meddle in our elections, although, what he said was basically that they wanted to weaken us. They wanted to confuse us. They wanted to weaken American democracy.

He had a great sentence in there I can`t quote verbatim because otherwise I`d have to look down at my phone here. But it was basically saying, I believe - he basically said you Americans you know democracy. You know you may be having troubles now. But we count on you to get it right.

And his last sentence was that is your mission, which I thought was so great, because he still believes in American democracy. But he also believes in the Russian people. He was really clear in that interview to say, this is not about Russia and Russian people.

This is the Kremlin and it`s basically Vladimir Putin and a group of people around him. And that this isn`t going to last forever.

O`DONNELL: But he did say he doesn`t believe there will be a fair election in Russia.

FARKAS: Right.

O`DONNELL: That Vladimir Putin will if necessary cheat his way to retain power.

FARKAS: Yes, he actually -- it`s very interesting, because as you said, you know, in the preview, he was in prison for a decade. While he was in prison of course -- before he went into prison, the Russian government stripped him of most of his assets. But he managed to hold on to several hundred millions of dollars.

And now what he`s done is he`s created actually I should say he created this organization, before he went to prison, before he got into trouble with Putin, an organization called Open Russia. And he`s using the money that he has left over to funnel it into that organization and help people in Russia run for office because you know in russia, it`s not a complete totalitarian state.

You can do things like try to run for office. It`s just because the system is rigged you won`t win. So he`s doing these little things to train people to be ready for democracy when it comes. I`m using different words than he uses. But that`s basically it.

But he doesn`t think that Putin`s going to let himself and Putin`s cronies aren`t going to let him lose the election. So he`ll win.

O`DONNELL: Evelyn Farkas gets Tonight`s Last Word. Thank you Evelyn.

FARKAS: Thanks very much Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR ANCHOR: Tonight the President doubles down on something that used to be and should be sacred, gold star families, this time invoking his chief of staff`s own son. Plus Trump lashing out at John McCain after McCain spoke out against

END

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