Flake exit threatens GOP agenda Transcript 10/24/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Evan McMullin, David Jolly

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 24, 2017 Guest: Evan McMullin, David Jolly

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

So, it`s my turn to blush, as I`ve been doing here in the studio.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: There is a very nice lady named Judy who wants you -- who has great taste in diners who definitely wants you to run for president.

O`DONNELL: You had me hooked on the enormous breakfast. That story was good enough. That story was good enough, and I didn`t -- we didn`t -- the other part, wow. Wow.

MADDOW: Just not to throw that in your lap or anything. I`m just saying, that`s how I started my day today. Physical therapy, enormous breakfast, Larry needs to run for president.

O`DONNELL: Well, I actually skipped breakfast this morning, Rachel. So, we have balanced out the 9:00 to 11:00 p.m.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well done.

O`DONNELL: So, Rachel --

MADDOW: Yes?

O`DONNELL: -- imagine my joy, imagine my joy when I was sitting there almost a half an hour ago watching you remind us that Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooke was the first Republican to stand up and say Richard Nixon had to go. I had forgotten he was the first Republican. And now I remember how proud so many of us were in Boston when Ed Brooke did that.

MADDOW: Well, then -- I think that`s -- for me, the Ed Brooke is instructive at a number of levels. Number one, Ed Brooke is an amazing figure in American history who deserves more attention than he gets. Number two, he was an unusual senator in the sense that he was the only African American serving in the Senate. He was an African American Republican from Massachusetts serving two terms, World War II combat veteran, had served in a segregated unit.

He had this -- he had had this very unusual background. He was willing to be iconoclastic and combative in his role in the Senate and do stuff his own way. And it takes sometimes a senator who doesn`t fit in some ways, a senator who is willing to stick out and not go with the flow to be the first to do something very politically difficult on that.

And it took so long after he was the first before any other Republican senators followed him. And even he waded really deep into Watergate before he made those remarks.

O`DONNELL: And, of course, he lived in the day when there was a thing called a liberal Republican.

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And he was one of the last truly liberal Republicans in the Senate. And he in his beginnings with the Nixon presidency, he actually opposed Nixon in `68 in the election that gave Nixon the presidency in the first place, which is the quickest little plug I will ever get in here for my book about the 1968 election, which is coming out in a few weeks, which you know about and have been generous about.

But, Rachel, I have a quick Ed Brooke story for you.

MADDOW: OK.

O`DONNELL: We will -- we will close with those. I heard Tip O`Neill tell this story when Tip O`Neill was the most powerful member of Congress from Massachusetts. And he had these two incredibly famous senators, Ed Brooke and Ted Kennedy. He was at a Massachusetts event in these big banquets.

And he said, you know, at these big events, you know, when it`s over, there is a big line. Everybody is trying to get Ted Kennedy`s autograph. And he said, then there`s another line, it`s almost as big to get Ed Brooke`s autograph. And then there is a line bigger than both of those to come to me to get a favor.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: The perils of being famous in the Senate.

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

MADDOW: Versus being in control.

O`DONNELL: And everybody knew if you really needed something to get done, you go to tip.

MADDOW: Yes, that`s great stuff. Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Good night.

O`DONNELL: Well, Jeff Flake was supposed to be a lifer. That`s what Republicans were hoping for when Jeff Flake won his Senate seat at the age of 50, the same age that John McCain won his Senate seat, the seat Senator McCain still holds at 81 years old. Everyone thought the United States Senate would be Jeff Flake`s last job -- unless he somehow moved up to the presidency or vice presidency. But most senators who run for president or vice president don`t win.

So, Jeff Flake looked like he was going to take his spot in a long line of Arizona senators who serve at least three terms. That`s a short run for an Arizona senator, often longer than three terms.

But today, Jeff Flake did something that no Arizona senator in history has ever done. He announced that he would not run for reelection to a second term.

Senator Flake followed the standard Senate playbook for announcing a retirement. First, most importantly, he tipped off his home state newspaper, as senators always do, so that "The Arizona Republic" could have 15 minutes before the news broke where the "Arizona Republic" had the story before Senator Flake rose on the Senate floor. They had the big scoop and they had the online headline, Arizona`s Jeff Flake announces he will not seek reelection to U.S. Senate.

Jeff Flake will be only the second Arizona senator in history to serve just one single six-year term. The first one to do that was also a Republican, Ralph Cameron. But Senator Cameron didn`t choose to serve only a single term. It was forced on him.

He lost his reelection in 1926, and he was followed in that Senate seat by Democratic Carl Hayden who served 42 years in the Senate for Arizona. Senator Hayden`s most famous junior senator from Arizona was Republican Barry Goldwater who failed in his run for president and served 30 years in the Senate.

In Arizona politics, the United States Senate is a career, not a six-year job. But Trumpism has changed everything, including Arizona politics.

Last summer, after Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, I tweeted: Even if you don`t have children or grandchildren, you will be asked for the rest of your life, what did you do to stop Donald Trump.

Today, Jeff Flake gave this answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I have children and grandchildren to answer to. And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This was an eloquent and very, very carefully written speech. One of the most carefully written speeches I have ever seen on the Senate floor. I have watched hundreds of Senate speeches, most of them while sitting right there on the Senate floor as a staffer. And I have never heard a Senate speech where the phrase "Mr. President" was inserted more definitely and carefully and pointedly than it was in this speech today by Jeff Flake.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit. That was in his written text.

A lot of Senate speeches don`t actually have the phrase "Mr. President" written into the text of the speech that the senator reads. The phrase "Mr. President" is often just randomly inserted by the senator. It can be at the beginning of any sentence they want, beginning of every paragraph if they want, and senators just insert that as a way of catching their breath.

But today, Jeff Flake clearly wanted the words "Mr. President" in the most pointed sentences he spoke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: Mr. President, I rise today to say enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Those exact words have been running on banners in quotation marks, on cable news today. And that`s exactly what Jeff Flake was hoping for. Mr. President, I rise today to say enough.

Technically, the president who Senator Flake was talking to when he spoke that sentence was this guy, the presiding officer of the Senate at the time, technically all Senate speeches are directed to the person who is at that moment sitting in at the president of the Senate, the presiding officer. It is a duty traditionally given to junior senators because it is considered so unbearably boring. So, the "Mr. President" Jeff Flake was technically speaking to today was John Hoeven, a Republican senator from North Dakota, who will never be president.

But no one in the Senate, and no one in the country for one second made the mistake of thinking Jeff Flake was directing his comments at John Hoeven. This was the most powerful anti-Trump speech yet given by a Senate Republican. And, of course, the name "Trump" was never mentioned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time. We must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top. The flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

Jeff Flake was, as always, flawlessly polite today. And so, he didn`t directly blame Arizona Republicans for forcing an end to his Senate career. But he made it very clear he thought he would not be able to win the Republican nomination in his reelection campaign because Republican primary voters would vote against him unless he fully embraced Trumpism. Something he would not do.

Jeff Flake would not be able to live with the man Jeff Flake would become if he said what he would have to say to win his Senate reelection. Here is how he put that to Chuck Todd today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: The path to victory in a Republican primary these days is to agree with the president, not just his policies, but the behavior as well, and not to speak out. And I can`t do that. I don`t think that we as a party should do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today on the Senate floor, Jeff Flake used Teddy Roosevelt`s words to condemn blind loyalty to Donald Trump as morally treasonable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: President Roosevelt continued to announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand bay president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It was already an extraordinary day in the United States Senate before Jeff Flake made it even more extraordinary.

President Trump attended the regularly scheduled Republican Party policy luncheon today to discuss the policy Republicans are hoping to pass. Now, prior to the Trump presidency, the president going to his party`s policy lunch in the Senate would be the huge news story of the Senate that day. Bill Clinton was actually the very first president to do that. It is an extraordinary event. Most presidents never even dreamed of doing it.

And the president in his party in the Senate would normally use that big news coverage that that would attract to push the most important thing on their legislative agenda in the Senate, and that`s not the way it worked today because Trump. The Republican Chairman of the Foreign Senate Relations Committee Bob Corker decided today would be a good day to drive Donald Trump crazy again. Which Senator Corker did by making the rounds of morning TV, knowing the president was watching when he said things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I guess like all Americans, I would have hope that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation, Charlie. Hopefully, what presidents do is to try to bring the country together, to unify around common goals, and not to debase our country, if you will. And that has not happened. And I`m beginning to believe that it`s not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That provoked Donald Trump to start tweeting lies about Bob Corker like Senator Corker supported the Obama Iran deal, which Senator Corker actually opposed, and that Senator Corker decided not to run for reelection when Trump refused to endorse him. In fact, Donald Trump asked Senator Corker to run for reelection.

Senator Corker then responded on Twitter same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. Alert the day care staff.

Senator Corker, of course, knew exactly what he was doing. He was drawing the president into a childish Twitter war in which the president would humiliate himself in the eyes of every senator, Democrat and Republican, reading the president`s lies about Bob Corker. And so, of course, the president obliged Bob Corker and kept humiliating himself with those senators. Just a few hours before the president would go up to the Senate luncheon.

Senate Republican luncheon, to try to persuade Bob Corker to vote for a giant package of Trump tax cuts that will explode the deficit and the debt, Donald Trump tweeted this. Senator Corker is the incompetent head of the foreign relations committee, and look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn`t have a clue as the entire world was laughing and taking advantage of us. People like Liddle Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!

Tonight, "The Washington Post" published an op-ed piece by Jeff Flake that will appear in tomorrow`s newspaper. Senator Flake begins the piece remembering the famous words of Joseph Welch when he reached the breaking point in a Senate hearing with Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy who was the Donald Trump of his day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WELCH: You`ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Jeff Flake quoted Joseph Welch approvingly saying those words in an op-ed piece where Jeff Flake asks: How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced? How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

This summer, Jeff Flake wrote a book entitled "Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle." That book foreshadowed Jeff Flake`s retirement announcement today, because for most of us, it was very hard to read Senator Flake`s thoughtful book and imagine him successfully running for reelection in a party overrun by Trumpism.

The last lines of Jeff Flake`s op-ed piece that will be in "The Washington Post" tomorrow are: For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience. It`s time we all say: enough.

We will be joined by some Republicans in the thick of the Trump versus Flake and Corker battle next.

And later, you will hear extraordinary video from Bill O`Reilly. This is actually something that was on Chris Hayes` show, and I only discovered it seeing it on Chris Hayes` show. It is too important to be seen only once tonight. It needs to be rerun.

It is Bill O`Reilly in full self-pity mode, saying he is mad at God. Those were his words. He is mad at God for where Bill O`Reilly finds himself tonight.

All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, in an impromptu man on the street interview, one Trump voter said he is definitely not going to vote for Trump`s reelection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues.

REPORTER: Do you regret supporting him in the election?

CORKER: Well, let`s just put it this way. I would not do that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. It wasn`t a man on the street interview. It was man in the hallway of the Senate.

Joining us now, Evan McMullin, former independent presidential candidate and co-founder of Stand Up Republic. Also with us, former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida, who served with Senator Flake on Capitol Hill. And Jonathan Alter is here, he`s an MSNBC political analyst and a columnist for "The Daily Beast".

Jonathan, I know you thought you`ve seen it all. But today, today was a day from Jeff Flake to Bob Corker to Donald Trump and back again, that we`ve never seen before.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, Lawrence, you and I write history on the side. And this will be an historic moment, as certain Senate speeches have been over the last couple of hundred years. And the reason is because Jeff Flake laid down a gauntlet. And basically said this is a character test, not just for every senator, but for every member of the Republican Party.

And your other guest, David and Evan have long since passed this character test. But every other Republican must now look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they have the courage to do what Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have done. And he has given them -- you know, a lot of people don`t like to admit they made a mistake. It`s very important that Corker today admitted that he made a mistake in supporting Trump. So this gives people a way to save face a little bit, and to admit they were wrong and supporting him in the past and to move forward to removing him from office.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, you know Jeff Flake. You have worked with Jeff Flake.

FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Sure.

O`DONNELL: You know Bob Corker. But give us your reaction to the Jeff Flake we saw on the Senate floor today.

JOLLY: Yes, look. Jonathan is exactly right and very kind. This was Jeff Flake`s day for history. You and Rachel talked about Senator Brooke. I look back at Margaret Chase Smith and her declaration of conscience in 1950, confronting McCarthyism, calling for independent thought and a unity of a Republican Party.

But tomorrow morning, Jeff Flake wakes up wondering what his role in this Republican Party is. He told his local paper, he is not sure there is a place for him in today`s Republican Party. And for folks like myself and Evan and now Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, the question they face is, do you stay within the party and fight or not?

Because he is going to be confronted by Republicans who say Jeff Flake, how dare you for criticizing our Republican president and Republican colleagues? My answer to that is how dare you. Because just as you`ve been a lifetime Republican, Mr. Trump fan, so have I. And we have a right to fight for the future of the party.

I hope we see Jeff Flake and Bob Corker stay within the party and fight for the future of the party to keep it together so it doesn`t fracture.

O`DONNELL: Evan, you were as inside this party as you get, working for the Republicans, but broke and ran as an independent candidate after Donald Trump got the nomination, trying to give some Republicans anyway, an alternative way to cast their vote. What about it? You`re one who knows people who have stayed in the party. You know people who have broken from the party.

EVAN MCMULLIN, CO-FOUNDER, STAND UP REPUBLIC: Absolutely. And I think Jeff Flake and Corker and McCain have now put the -- forced the question for everyone, for all Republicans. Where are you going to be? They`ve made it harder for people not to have a position.

I think Paul Ryan joked recently that he wakes up and reads the tweets from Trump and tries to figure out what he is going to have to ignore. I think it`s very difficult now for Republicans in Congress to do that. He was joking, but he was also serious.

Now there is a decision to be made. And I think as I think there will be more senators and members of Congress who come out and say similar things in their own ways, and I think there will be a tipping point at which people will rush to say these things. Others won`t.

I actually believe that the party is fracturing, whether it can be put back together any time soon is a question. But it is fracturing. There is a growing movement within the party that is opposed to the basic principles upon which the country was founded, namely the inherent, self-evident equality and liberty of all.

And as long as that`s the case, as long as there is a sizable movement within the party like that, the party will shrink in relative size in the midterm, in the near term, and definitely in the midterm. And it will certainly be unable to lead the country. And that`s a sad thing.

O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, Arizona has a history here that`s relevant. You have both senators from Arizona now standing in opposition to Trumpism.

And it was Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona was one of the Republican senators who actually went up to the White House at a certain point when President Nixon was on the edge, and told him it`s over. You have to leave. You will be impeached by the House of Representatives. You will be convicted by the Senate if you don`t leave.

ALTER: He went out on the White House lawn afterwards and the press said, what are you going to do now? He said, go home and have nine or 10 drinks and go to bed.

O`DONNELL: Because it was very public what his mission was going up there that day. Yes.

ALTER: So the question now is whether this is a tipping point. And Jeff Flake in his op-ed piece mentioned Joseph Welch, the Boston lawyer who in the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings said have you no sense of deans it is. Even though Margaret Chase Smith four years earlier had been speaking to no apparent effect against McCarthy, it took a while.

But then when they reached that tipping point, by the end of 1954, the Senate censured Joe McCarthy, 65-22. It wasn`t even close. Then --

O`DONNELL: You never would have predicted that six months earlier.

ALTER: Never.

O`DONNELL: Right.

ALTER: So, at a certain point, politicians do reflect on what the principles this country was founded on are. And they realize they`re in politics for something more important than the next election.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, talk about that for a moment. We talk about tipping points in various activities and various arenas. But often in the Congress, it doesn`t look like a tipping point when it happens. It looks like a stampede.

JOLLY: Sure. Well, because all of the sudden it becomes politically acceptable to be critical.

Listen, today was not the end point for Flake and Corker. Today was the very beginning of their journey, because just as we focus in on their criticisms of Trump, the reality is the spotlight they turned today is on McConnell and Ryan and other Republicans.

And the reality is this. It will be easy for them to fade away. But we need them as mainstream Republicans to keep the pressure on Republican leadership, because that`s how we get to the tipping point. The reality is the indictment today was yes on Donald Trump, but more so on Flake`s Republican colleagues who have been complicit in going along and empowering a president who continues to create danger for this country.

O`DONNELL: Evan, we had Democratic senators come out today and say they have heard from their Republican colleagues in the Senate exactly the same kinds of things that Bob Corker and Jeff Flake say, but those senators haven`t dared say them publicly. Is that your experience, that actually right under the surface there are a bunch more Jeff Flakes and Bob Corkers in the Republican Senate?

MCMULLIN: There are, and in the House. There are some who are genuine Trump loyalists. But there are others who are not, and who have serious reservations about the president.

The issue is that over time, and David can tell you about this too, over time, it`s become commonplace for many members to prioritize the maintenance of their seat, their place in Congress over all else, over their principles, over the ideals of the -- the core ideals of our country. It`s so common and so acceptable that they say it to each other. I can`t do this or that because I`ll lose my seat. They say to it the public even. It`s accepted as -- it`s acceptable in their minds.

It is not acceptable, though. It is absolutely not acceptable. And we have to change that. And if you give a close reading to Flake`s speech today, he makes that point. He says at some point, you have to put your principles before your careers, and now is such a point.

And he is absolutely right. I believe we reached that point a long time ago -- in fact, when he started speaking out against Trump in the campaign. But at least now we have reached that point. And the time is for them to put the country first.

O`DONNELL: Evan McMullin and David Jolly, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Jonathan, please stick around.

Coming up, what is Jeff Flake going to do, by which I mean, what is he going to do to the Trump agenda in the Senate?

And later, extraordinary video of Bill O`Reilly from his podcast. And I know it`s big news to most people that Bill O`Reilly has a podcast. But on his podcast, he actually says he is mad at God. And you`ve got to see him say it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF FLAKE, UNITED STATES SENATOR: The impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful backward looking people. In the case of the Republican Party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful backward looking minority party. We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorify in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Today on the Breitbart website Steve Bannon greeted Jeff Flake`s retirement announcement with this headline, Winning: Flake Out. A Breitbart Editor quoted Bannon on a tweet as saying our movement will defeat you in primaries or force you to retire. The day of establishment Republicans who oppose the people`s America first agenda are numbered.

Joining us now Josh Barro, Senior Editor for Business Insider, an MSNBC contributor and also joining us Daniel Dale, Washington Correspondent for the Toronto Star. Josh, it turns out that Jeff Flake, when you look, as you pointed out in your piece today about this, that when you look at his governing agenda, the kind of bottom has fallen out on Republican voter support for that.

JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR FOR BUSINESS INSIDER: Yes. No, I mean Flake is in this totally weird position where in very strong terms attacking the President, and attacking him for his personal behavior and his demeanor, and yet out there voting in this very orthodox, Republican way.

O`DONNELL: And voting for trump on virtually everything this year.

BARRO: Right. And I think not out of loyalty to trump, but because the Trump pushing an orthodox Republican agenda. He is pushing things Jeff Flake agrees with. So Jeff Flake has been voting for those things. But that leaves him in a hopeless position in election because nobody is pleased with him. You have liberals and moderates who don`t want to vote for Flake because Flake is very conservative and disagree with them on what the government should do.

O`DONNELL: Right. So he can`t reach over there for votes.

BARRO: And the conservatives - yes and then conservatives 85 percent of whom like Donald Trump. And they feel like Flake is criticizing Trump. And they feel like Flake is blocking Trump`s agenda, though it`s really more some other Republican Senators who are blocking that agenda.

So he is left with no constituency. And there is nobody out there who wants this thing where it`s low taxes and spending and cut government, but also liberal immigration and free trade and also be nice to each other and dignified and don`t do the sort of stuff Donald Trump does there is no constituency for that. So that`s why he can`t win an election

O`DONNELL: Daniel Dale, the problem for Jeff Flake as he was identifying it today is basically the mix of voters who show up in a Republican Primary in Arizona. He seemed to think he wouldn`t be able to get by the primary. He may well survive in the general election against a democrat. But he didn`t think he could get the nomination with those voters.

DANIEL DALE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think he was right. You know, we see that in the poll numbers. I called up a County Chairman in Northern Arizona today who said Jeff Flake is not a conservative. He loves illegal immigrants. And this is a guy with -

O`DONNELL: Can I stop you for a second, Daniel?

DALE: Yes.

O`DONNELL: In those conversations, did they ever rattle off what a conservative is using policy ideas or it is just rhetoric?

DALE: Well, this gentleman, who is a psychiatrist, an educated man said that voters in his community want the wall. They want a hard line on illegal immigration. And they believe that Trump is doing a great job on almost everything. And they want a Senator who will vote with him on almost everything. I didn`t interject to say well, Flake does but as Josh alluded to.

You know there`s -- when flake talks like he talks about Trump, he conveys the impression, you know, to the benefit of his image with liberals but to the detriment of his image with conservatives that he is not standing with Trump when in fact he has been almost always.

O`DONNELL: So Josh, here`s the problem for Republicans. Trump seems to be politically just a wrecking ball. If you vote with him on everything that comes to a vote in the Senate, you still -- he still opposes you. How do you -- how is a Senator supposed to behave?

BARRO: It`s essentially hard because as Donald Trump`s agenda has gotten mired and as his popularity has stagnated, he has had this strategy with attacking the Republican Congress and basically saying I`m doing great. I`m the best president.

And when I`m not, it`s because the Republicans in Congress are not delivering for me. And that he`s going to have to go into a 2018 election where somehow he is going to have to go out and try to convince people to go vote for these people. Some will retire like Jeff Flake, and maybe some of them will be beaten in primaries. But most will be seeking reelection.

It`s going to be really hard to make that argument. It`s going to be really hard for them to work together with the President saying these people, they`re terrible. They don`t stand by me, and you have to reelect them. So I think a lot of even more in the house, where there is more competitive races. But I think both the members of the House and the Senators have to be very nervous about that.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Sean Hannity had to say about today`s developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, AUTHOR: So I have a suggestion. For all you never Trumper Senators who are headed for exits, people like Corker and Flake, you know what? guess what, you guys, take your other colleagues with you. Mitch McConnell, goodbye. Ben Sasse, goodbye. John Cornyn, goodbye. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins. Either get the job done you promised the American people, advance the President`s agenda. What are the conservative values that the President is advocating for that you`re unwilling to support?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Daniel Dale, does the Whitehouse think that`s the way to preserve a governing coalition in the Senate?

DALE: If they do, I think they`re delusional. Like I think there is this Hannity Whitehouse Bannonite belief that there are these magical Trumpite people out there somewhere who would get very unpopular Trump ideas through the house and senate. I don`t think it`s true. I think the problem is the agenda.

Trump keeps saying we were one vote away on health care, you know. We needed one better Senator, we could get it through. But we know there was a whole additional caucus that was keeping quiet about their health care plan, not saying anything because they didn`t want to commit either. So I think they`re much farther away than they think they are. And if they think Mitch McConnell is the problem, I don`t think they`re correct.

O`DONNELL: Josh Barro and Daniel Dale, thank you both for joining us tonight. Thank you.

BARRO: Thank you.

DALE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump`s behavior is now hurting the only thing that Republicans really, truly care about above all else, and if he ruins that for them, look out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: So what does Jeff Flake do now? I don`t mean two years from now when he is not a Senator. I don`t mean the next stop in his career. I mean, what does he do now in the United States Senate?

Jeff Flake has been a reliable Trump vote so far in the Senate vote. But now that he doesn`t have the pressures of a republican primary election in Arizona, what does he do? Jeff Flake is a member of the senate foreign relations committee, where his chairman, Bob Corker, now stands accused by Donald Trump of trying to block the Republican Tax bill, which Senator Corker just might do, because he says he`s not going to vote for tax cuts that increase the deficit.

And the Republican bill, no matter how it is written, is definitely going to increase the deficit. Jeff Flake likes to think of himself as a deficit hawk too. The Trump-McConnell tax bill in the Senate will test just how much Jeff Flake cares about the deficit. What it won`t test is just how much Jeff Flake cares about getting reelected.

And that means Jeff Flake is joining Bob Corker and Jeff Flake`s friend, the Senior Senator from Arizona, John McCain in the group of Republican Senators who are no longer worried about ever having to face Republican voters again for their reelection. Those three conservative Republicans could find common cause with a couple of less conservative republicans, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who along with Senator McCain voted against the Trump-McConnell health care bill.

There is now in the Senate the makings of a five-vote coalition in the Republican Party who are opposed to much of Trumpism. And it takes only three of them on any one bill to kill that bill in the senate. The kids at Breitbart who don`t know anything about the politics of governing might be happy about Jeff Flake`s announcement today. But they don`t realize that the President`s governing agenda in the Senate is in much more trouble today than it was yesterday. Up next, what Jeff Flake will do, and a look at how Bob Corker today confirmed something that I said last night on this program about the tax bill.

O`DONNELL: And later do, not miss. This Bill O`Reilly as you have never seen him before on the verge of tears and on the verge of maybe a breakdown, complaining not about what The New York Times has done to him with their investigative reporting about his massive sexual harassment settlements, but complaining about what God has done to him.

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FLAKE: Resentment is not a governing philosophy. And at some point, you actually have to govern, and you have to have competencies in governing. And you move ahead with certain policies that really have animated the party for generations. And I think until we return to that, we`re going to be -- we`re going to be in trouble electorally.

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O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, E.J. Dionne, Opinion Writer for The Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst and co-author of the new book One Nation after Trump. And Jonathan Alter is back with us. E.J., the question now is what will Jeff Flake do in the Senate? And as the Tax Bill approaches, if it has a massive explosion of the deficit built into it, which it looks like it`s likely to at this point, Jeff Flake will have a choice. Is he a deficit hawk or is he absolutely married to tax cuts?

E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, as you know, Lawrence, tax cuts are the one doctrine that tax cuts are always good is the one doctrine.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

DIONNE: That defines if Republican Party. And I think -- I still think it`s very unlikely very unlikely that Jeff Flake votes against tax cuts. But at this point, as you said, he is free. He doesn`t have to worry about reelection. And it is a powerful way to send a signal that you are not going to be complicit with Trump, which is what the central theme of his speech was that Republicans have to end their complicity with Trump.

It is a powerful way to send the message that that`s over now. So, I think he`s going to be torn between his basic ideology, which is still very conservative and wanting to send a message to trump.

O`DONNELL: Now, I made the point on this program last night that Donald Trump was already messing up the tax bill by giving things away when he Tweeted, for example, there will be no change to your 401K. This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works and it stays. And, of course, the Republicans were thinking about changing the thresholds for 401K contributions, reducing them dramatically so that those funds would go down for people. And that provoked Bob Corker to say this morning on CBS. Let`s listen do it.

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BOB CORKER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I would let the Tax Writing Committees do their work. I think both the House and Senate has done a lot of preliminary work, and stay out of taking things off the table and really negotiating against the process before it even begins.

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O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, Donald Trump correctly interpreted that as a criticism of him.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTIOR: Yes, yes. So, the range on what this tax bill does to the deficit ranges from 1.5 trillion with a T, to 2.2 trillion. We`re talking real money, and this decision on the 401Ks brings it up closer to 2 trillion because it`s hundreds of billions of dollars that they`re talking about. So, I don`t actually think it`s that hard of an idea logical test for Jeff Flake. H

He`s been a deficit hawk. This is an enormously irresponsible bill for any principled republican. Yes, he likes tax cuts, but this is an insane bill if you care at all about the solvency of the United States, which Jeff Flake does. So, I actually think the odds are a little higher than he will Join McCain and corker and maybe a few others and sink this. And if he does, then trump has nothing to show for 2017 and he goes into an election year, a complete failure in terms of getting bills through congress.

O`DONNELL: E.J., it seems if the President does not get his tax bill that explodes the deficit, then his presidency explodes. That seems to be the Washington Republican Republicans` view of this. We have to do this or we all go down.

DIONNE: I think that`s right. And what you had today were and over the last week were cracks in the dam. I mean, you had bush, you had McCain, now you`ve got flake and you`ve got corker. And I think you only need a few more republicans to reach critical mass. And one of the things that would help you reach critical mass is a Republican saying, if this guy can`t even get us a tax cut, they`ve stuck with him because they like all the deregulation he`s doing because they hope to get a tax cut.

And if he can`t deliver that, I think there are more republicans who have stuck with him so far who would be ready to speak out. So, yes, I think the tax cut is do or die, not only for the Republicans in Congress, but for Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Lindsey Graham tonight on fox news trying to give the president some advice because he knows he`s watching, about how not to ruin this tax bill for Republicans.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: There are a lot of barking dogs in Washington, Mr. President. You don`t have to kick every one of them. Sometimes you hurt yourself when you get in these fights and you go, you know, you punch down, you wind up making stories that get in the way of your agenda.

But I`m here to help where I can. I`m not going to abandon Jeff Flake or Bob Corker. I love John McCain, But, Mr. President, I want to help you cut taxes and win a war we can`t afford to lose so, let`s all up our game. How about that?

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O`DONNELL: Let`s up our game, Mr. President. Good luck with that.

ALTER: Yeah, the thing that he doesn`t understand is that Trump isn`t going to change.

O`DONNELL: He`s not going to up his game.

ALTER: He`s not going to up his game. As was once said about Henry Kissinger, you know Hendy doesn`t lie because it`s in his interest. He lies because it`s in his nature. So this is part of who Donald Trump is, and there is this kind of na‹vet‚ that you hear from these Republicans. Suddenly he`s going to get the message and start governing effectively. It`s not going to happen.

O`DONNELL: E.J., let`s remember the President was on his way up to the senate today to lockdown every single republican vote for the tax cut. And on the way he attacks Bob Corker, one of the Republicans whose vote he needs.

DIONNE: Right. What he`s done is he`s created a coalition against him, and he`s created enough people in that coalition that they alone could sink this. But the other striking thing and it`s why his presidency is so empty, the reports of that meeting afterward were that trump really didn`t say much at all about the tax bill. He bragged about his achievements in the early months. So, he wasn`t even doing the work he went up there to do before he blew it up before he got there

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter and E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate the response

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: coming up a very special last word. Bill O`Reilly as you haven`t seen him, without makeup, and very mad at God.

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O`DONNELL: Bill O`Reilly, the fearless warrior to save Christmas from the pagans is now apparently joining the pagans. He is mad at God for allowing The New York Times to tell the truth about his massive sexual harassment settlements including one for one person for $32 million. Here Is Bill O`Reilly on the verge of, we`re not sure what.

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BILL O`REILLY, JOURNALIST: Am I mad at God? Yeah, I`m mad at him. I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn`t happen. I can`t explain it to you.

Yeah, I`m mad at him. If I die tomorrow and I get an opportunity, I`ll say, what did you guys work me over like that?

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O`DONNELL: Bill O`Reilly gets tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

END

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