Trump disputes Gold Star Widow Transcript 10/25/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Bruce Barlett, David Cay Johnston, Chris Murphy, Max Boot

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: October 25, 2017 Guest: Bruce Barlett, David Cay Johnston, Chris Murphy, Max Boot


You know, I watched the president today explaining to people that he's so smart and he's one of the reasons -- one of the proofs of being so smart is he went to an Ivy League college. I was wondering why you never seem to feel compelled to tell your audience how smart you are and where you went to school, because you're asking people to believe a lot of research that you do and that you present, a lot of stuff that they have never heard before.

How are they supposed to believe it if you don't tell them how smart you are?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: It's called showing your work. That's how it works. You don't actually have to tell people to trust your unbelievable assertion because you're a smart person if you just show people what it is that you're showing them, if you just prove things along the way. It's easier that way and you don't have to remember your grades from seventh grade or whatever in case you count on that.

O'DONNELL: OK. You're just going to leave out any claims of great educational achievement or -- you just leave that out?

MADDOW: Show your work.

O'DONNELL: Just go with the work?

MADDOW: Everybody. We can all do it together no matter where you went to school.

O'DONNELL: OK, that's one way of doing it. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, man.

O'DONNELL: Well, the president has more than one super power. The president insisted today that his memory of his condolence call to the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson is perfectly accurate. And Sergeant Johnson's widow's memory of that call is completely wrong.

And Donald Trump claims to have a super power to prove that he is right.


STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: Internal strife is tearing the Republican Party apart at the seams.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have actually great unity in the Republican Party. Great unity, tremendous unity.


TRUMP: Pretty good unity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump might think he had a love fest with the Republican senators yesterday.

TRUMP: I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually spoke with a few last night. They were rolling their eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president by some counts has personally insulted one in five Republican senators in his conference.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We can't continue to just remain silent when the president keeps going on like this.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETT: I'm really glad to see someone like Jeff Flake speak up, but what really matters are not words, it's the actions.

TRUMP: You know, people don't understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I'm like very intelligent person.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We have had too many of these "emperor has no clothes" moments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that there's a real lack of imagination among all of those senators who were cheering like sycophants yesterday about the possibility for a real tragedy caused by reckless actions by this president of the United States.


O'DONNELL: Intelligence is hard to measure. It might be impossible to measure. IQ tests were an attempt to evaluate students' intelligence when Donald Trump was a kid, but they've been largely abandoned because intelligence is a multidimensional, dynamic, fluid brain function that cannot be reliably and consistently captured for everyone in any test.

SAT tests are really just tests of knowledge, not intelligence. You can memorize your very high scores on SATs, but the capacity of memorization is not intelligence. Machines can memorize.

Once you begin to try to describe what intelligence is, you see the difficulty of trying to measure it.

But Donald Trump, of course, knows none of this. Donald Trump firmly believes that intelligence is measurable and describable, especially his own.


TRUMP: I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person.


O'DONNELL: There are murderers who went to Ivy League colleges. There are rapists who went to those schools, tax criminals. Ivy League colleges have produced just about every kind of criminal you can think of since the first one opened the doors 381 years ago.

And since Donald Trump seems to believe that Ivy League colleges use measurable intelligence in their admissions process, he must then believe that the Ivy League colleges that have always and forever been regarded as better than the one he went to require even more intelligence to get into than Donald Trump has. For people who keep score about this sort of thing, which is to say, the Trumps of this world, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia have always ranked so far above Wharton, the school Donald Trump is so proud to claim but is not so proud to claim him.

Now, that he tries to use his college as the proof of his intelligence, it is very, very hard, if not impossible to prove intelligence. But proving a lack of intelligence is much, much easier. Here's a perfect example.


TRUMP: I'm a very intelligent person.


O'DONNELL: That functions as a proof of the opposite. No intelligent person says I'm a very intelligent person. Bill Gates who went to Harvard and has made astronomically more money than Donald Trump, which Donald Trump also seems to consider a measure of intelligence, has never said I'm a very intelligent person.

Einstein didn't say, I'm a very intelligent person. Einstein certainly heard a lot of other people say that about him.

Barack Obama who went to Columbia and Harvard Law School never said, I'm a very intelligent person. Bill Clinton, who is a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale Law School graduate never said, I'm a very intelligent person.

The only president who's ever said I'm a very intelligent person is the president with the least fluency in the English language and the provably smallest vocabulary.


TRUMP: I had the best words.


O'DONNELL: A few minutes after saying, I am a very intelligent person, before boarding a helicopter on the White House lawn, Donald Trump once again disputed what Myeshia Johnson said about his condolence call for the loss of her husband La David Johnson in combat.


MYESHIA JOHNSON, WIDOW OF SGT. LA DAVID JOHNSON: It made me cry because I was very angry about the tone of his voice and how he said. He couldn't remember my husband name.


O'DONNELL: And after listening to her say that, here is what the president said about that today.


TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, he -- who I by the way called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand -- they put a chart in front, La David, says La David Johnson.

So, right from the beginning, there's no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time. No hesitation.

I think she's a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her. Extremely respectful.


O'DONNELL: So his defense on remembering the name is that they put a chart in front of him with the name. So, how could he possibly have failed to mention the name La David Johnson?


TRUMP: So, I thought right from the beginning no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time. There was no hesitation.

I think she's a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her. Extremely respectful.


O'DONNELL: One of the great memories of all time. What does that mean?

For Donald Trump, a condolence call to a grieving widow who's lost her husband in combat whose body could not be recovered for two days, for Donald Trump, that's one of the great memories of all time? That call for Donald Trump was like a little kid watching his favorite team win the World Series? One of the great memories of all time.

That's what that sentence actually means in the flow of those sentences. But because Donald Trump is such a lazy and incompetent user of the English language, it could mean something else. Donald Trump speaks quickly in order to prevent interruptions but he is very, very lazy about including every word that a sentence or a paragraph needs to make sense or every word that a sentence needs to convey what he actually might mean.

And so, some Trump scholars looking at that line -- one of the great memories of all time -- jammed in the middle of his description of that phone call, might read that to be a disjointed Trump boast about how great his memory is. Therefore, Donald Trump is right. Myeshia Johnson is wrong because it's impossible for the widow of the army sergeant to have a better memory than someone that went to an Ivy League college, someone who has high intelligence and has the greatest memory of all time.

Now, I have no doubt that people who are still tonight Trump supporters believe that there is absolutely no comparison between Myeshia Johnson's memory and one of the great memories of all time -- the memory that belongs to Donald Trump.

People who are still Trump supporters seem to believe in Donald Trump's personal superiority over everyone including themselves -- in all things, wealth, intelligence, memory.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake was never a believer in Donald Trump. He boldly refused to endorse Donald Trump in the campaign last year, even after Trump was the Republican nominee and Senator Flake publicly disclosed that he did not vote for Donald Trump on Election Day.

In response to Senator Flake's eloquent speech against the president in the Senate yesterday when the senator announced that he would not be running for re-election, Donald Trump decided that the best way to handle Jeff Flake today was the classic Trumpian way. It was to simply lie about him.


TRUMP: He wrote a book about me before I ever met, before I heard his name. I mean, he came out with a horrible book, and I said, who is this guy?


O'DONNELL: That is a lie. Jeff Flake's book "Conscience of a Conservative" came out seven months into the Trump presidency. Came out this summer, 2017.

You just heard Donald Trump say he wrote a book about me before I ever met him. Donald Trump met Jeff Flake a year before Jeff Flake's book came out. It was in a meeting with Senate Republicans before the Republican Convention last summer in order to try to build party unity.

Here's part of "The Washington post" the account of this meeting. Trump's most intense exchange was with Senator Jeff Flake when Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, you've been very critical of me. Yes, I'm the other senator from Arizona, the one who didn't get captured. And I want to talk to you about statements like that, Flake responded, according to two Republican officials.


TRUMP: He wrote a book about me before I ever met him, before I ever heard his name.


O'DONNELL: That is what Donald Trump looks like when he's lying. He knew exactly who Senator Jeff Flake was by the time Jeff Flake's book came out.

Here is the other lie that criticism from other Republican senators like Bob Corker and McCain provoked today.


TRUMP: We have a very good relationship. Honestly, when you look at -- when you take a look at when's happened with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the hatred and the division and the animosity, I'll tell you what, honestly, the Republicans are very, very well united.


O'DONNELL: Oh, yes. It is vicious these days between Hillary and Bernie. Hillary Clinton called bounce lying Bernie today and Bernie Sanders called Hillary Clinton little Hillary -- only in the fevered madness of the brain of Donald Trump.

Of course, they didn't do that. They never did that. They would never do that.

There is only one politician on the national stage so utterly uncouth as to have launched personal attacks that Donald Trump has launched at Democrats and Republicans. In fact, he has personally attacked, ridiculed and given condescending nicknames to more Republicans than Democrats. No president in history ever behaved this way and no president in history ever failed as completely as Donald Trump has so far failed in pushing his legislative agenda through a Congress whose Republican leadership he has attacked repeatedly.

And he has now been rewarded with an all-time low in a new Fox News poll tonight: 38 percent approve of Donald Trump's job performance, 57 percent disapprove.

Joining us now, Indira Lakshmanan, columnist for "The Boston Globe". She's with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Eli Stokols is White House correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Indira, this -- this childishness with which he approaches his self- aggrandizement publicly, it is -- it is indescribably indecent and foolish. But then to try to use that same boastful stance against Myeshia Johnson and to claim a superiority over her, with it comes to the recollection of this phone call, and never, ever once saying, if she misinterpreted my intention, I'm sorry. That's the thing he can never bring himself to say.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, COLUMNIST, BOSTON GLOBE: You're right. Donald Trump never apologizes. This, of course, is not new. This is just another Wednesday in the Trump administration.

The fact is we have seen this over the years. Donald Trump is obsessed with IQ. He's talked about it repeatedly. He's obsessed with standing ovations and with praise for himself. Ultimately, it's always about him.

This is what it comes down to. This call with Myeshia Johnson, it always has to reflect back on him. And, of course, it's incredibly denigrating and insulting not only to her but to all the people who voted for him to say, I went to an Ivy League school. I'm so smart.

It reminds me of the other week when he was telling Rex Tillerson, you know, let's go head to head on an IQ contest after hearing that Rex Tillerson privately called him a moron.

The problem here is when someone is so self-obsessed, when the job he has is to take care of the American nation, the democracy and the American people, it's incredibly disturbing that someone would be so focused on himself.

You mentioned the Fox News poll. So negative for him. But also, the "Morning Consult" poll in which majorities of the American public find him reckless, untrustworthy, thin-skinned and uncompassionate.

These are not good numbers for Donald Trump and yet we have three quarters of Republicans siding with him. So, that hasn't really moved and these things are not really moving the needle on that either.

O'DONNELL: And, Eli, there's a lot of ways to handle questions about that phone call, including the possibility that two people in a phone call remember it differently. And he could acknowledge that she remembers it differently and say he doesn't want to disagree with her and then offer the apology for any misunderstanding about it. It's an easy thing to do. It's hard to find an adult who not know how to do that.

But that is who we have as president of the United States.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's right. And it's probably the thing that made Jeff Flake feel compelled to come forward at this point and deciding to not run again and feeling sort of liberated to speak freely. But what he spoke about, what Bob Corker spoke about yesterday, at its core, those were comments about the president's unfitness for office, as Corker said his debasing of our country.

Donald Trump very nonchalantly shrugged this off as kind of personal feud. He said, oh, it's obvious that the politics he wasn't going to win. It's just about politics.

And Republicans were happy to go along with that narrative because none of them want to confront the fact that this is a president who cannot acknowledge a grieving widow's pain who refuses to accept her view of the phone call and to grand her that dignity. And instead of addressing the question of whether or not this president is fit for office and debasing the country, all the senators, the Republican senators that I saw speak today on this matter, said that, wow, we just got to pass tax reform. We got to keep the feuds private. You know, Rand Paul said something about -- well, I get along with the president because I respect the office, as if it matters whether you have a personal relationship with the president.

That's not what we're talking about. I think everything has gotten so personality driven that the White House and the Republican senators on the Hill, they don't want to be called out as complicit, so it's much easier to shield themselves from all of that and from talking about the crux of this matter by just painting it as a personal melodrama of two people that don't like each other.

And that is not why Jeff Flake and Bob Corker said the things that they said yesterday. They didn't say them because they don't get along with the president. They said them because they're concerned about the country and none of their Republican colleagues in the 24 hours since acknowledged that.

O'DONNELL: I just want to come back to the point of the phone call to Myeshia Johnson. If we must choose between the two different accounts of the phone call, to choose Donald Trump's account, Indira, is to choose a proven liar's account. And I just showed you a lie he told within minutes of his description of the phone call about Jeff Flake, just outright rank lying about when he knew about Jeff Flake.

So, he's been caught in more lies than anyone can count. The poll you mentioned, the "Politico"/"Morning Consult" poll, not trustworthy, 53 percent. Not honest, 51 percent. Reckless, 56 percent. Not compassionate, 54 percent.

And so, this is someone who the public is studying for a long time. Myeshia Johnson is new to all of us, but what Myeshia Johnson doesn't have is a long, multi-year, in fact, in Donald Trump's case, lifetime, public record of lying.

LAKSHMANAN: Here's the problem: Donald Trump has been proven to make false and misleading statements every single day, just since his presidency started. "The Washington Post" has been keeping a running tally. They're now up to an average of five false and misleading statements that he makes every day. You know, whether he's intentionally, knowingly lying or just doesn't have the greatest memory of all time, you know, whether he thinks that he actually didn't meet Jeff Flake at the time that Jeff Flake wrote the book, I can't speak to that.

O'DONNELL: I can! I can!

I am telling you. The man is lying outright. He knows when he had the first run-in with Jeff Flake because Jeff Flake stood up to him in the Senate last year in the campaign face to face like no Republican would dare.

LAKSHMANAN: Absolutely he did, but here's the problem -- Jeff Flake has stood up to him on a moral compass way and but he still voted with the president almost across the board. So, you can say Bob Corker spoke out. Jeff Flake spoke out. They did, but they've also supported the president's agenda in Congress.

And the thing is, if we keep wondering when's the next domino going to fall, when are all the Republicans who find him offensive and appalling and immoral going to finally step up to the plate, they're not doing so as you say because they value their agenda over decency, and I keep waiting, who stands up and says, have you no decency, sir? You know, going back to the McCarthy era.

O'DONNELL: You know, Jeff Flake's "Washington Post" op-ed piece today he cited that exact quote. And these -- Jeff Flake, Bob Corker standing up as they are, are doing it at a much faster pace than we saw happened with President Nixon and Republicans, and President Nixon was ultimately driven out of town.

We're out of time for this segment. Eli Stokols and Indira Lakshmanan, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, the very worst, very worst negotiator to have involved in any kind of complex, piece of legislation is, of course, Donald Trump. And Republicans know it now. They've always known it but, boy, is he scaring them now.

And Senators Flake and Corker say many more senators, many more Republican senators say they believe Donald Trump is as dangerous as they said that he is. Senator Chris Murphy joins us with his report from inside the Senate.


O'DONNELL: The Republican tax plan is a bit like having a baby to save a failing marriage. That's not me saying that. That was the first line of a "New York Times" report today on the chaos in the Republican Party as it tries unify around tax cuts -- the one thing that's always unified the Republican Party more easily than anything else.

The problem for Republicans having a tax plan to save their failing marriage with Donald Trump is that having a baby never saved one of Donald Trump's failing marriages because Donald Trump has always been the most difficult part of any marriage that he has been in, and congressional Republicans married to Trump now fully realize that. The president is ruining the congressional tax-writing committee's ability to write a tax cut bill because he is suddenly taking things off the table in tweet that surprise the Republicans who are trying to write that bill.

The most amazing of example of that yet is the president's suddenly tweeting two days ago that 401(k)s are off the table. He did that after it was leaked that Republicans were considering cutting the amounts you would be allowed to put into your retirement accounts. That would amount to a tax increase for people with 401(k) accounts. The president wanted to get all the credit for killing that bad idea so he announced on Twitter that he had killed it.

That created a big problem for Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who has the job of writing the first draft of the Republican tax bill. Kevin Brady is still insisting he needs the 401(k)s to be on the table in order to come up with a package. And I'll explain why he's insisting on that in a moment.

The important thing for now is just the demonstration we saw this afternoon of how out of his depth Donald Trump is when it comes to negotiating a tax bill with Congress.


TRUMP: 401(k)s to me are very important and they're important because that's one of the great benefits to the middle class. I didn't want that to go too far. That's why I ended it very quickly.

REPORTER: Chairman Brady, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said this morning it could be on the table.

TRUMP: Well, maybe it is and maybe we'll use it as a negotiating but I -- trust me. That's within of the great things. You know, there are certain elements of deals you don't want to negotiate with. 401(k)s and Kevin knows it, and I think Kevin Brady is fantastic. He knows how important 401(k)s are.


O'DONNELL: I am sitting here with a veteran of Republican tax legislation in the past who's helped put these things together. We were both laughing during that. We'll explain why in a moment.

There's Donald Trump saying absolutely, quote, I ended it very quickly, meaning that he ended the possibility of 401(k)s being changed in any way and then a reporter mentioned that Kevin Brady wants to do it and the president says, OK, well, maybe, maybe as a negotiating device and then say that is you shouldn't use it as a negotiating device because it's so important.

So, there's Donald Trump publicly throwing away what could have been at least a negotiating device to pick up some Republican votes that might be worried about other provisions in the bill. You could say to them, look, we're going to have to do that thing you don't like and help you on the 401(k) thing and get rid of that. That's all gone now. Donald Trump threw that negotiating device away with reporters today.

And he got nothing back for it in the negotiation because you can't negotiate a tax bill with reporters -- something everyone in Washington knows except, of course, the man who constantly says, I'm a very intelligent person.

Joining us, Bruce Bartlett, former deputy assistant secretary of the treasury under President George H.W. Bush, and he's the author of new book "The Truth Matters". Also with us is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, the author of "The Making of Donald Trump."

Bruce, we watched something no other president has done. He takes an important possible moving part of a tax bill, and when I say moving parts, you and I know this part might just move right out of the bill and get thrown away but if it does we'll get something in return. He does it in the driveway with reporters.

BRUCE BARTLETT, ECONOMIST: Well, plus, I don't think he really has any clue as to what he's talking about.

O'DONNELL: There's that, too.

BARTLETT: I seriously doubt he tells you what the 401(k) limit is, contribution limit is, the rules for putting money in or taking it out. He's grossly ignorant about all of these things. I mean, his own tax accountant has said he doesn't understand anything about taxes and any -- and then big deals, some of which as you know saved him millions of millions of dollars of taxes were apparently not motivated by tax considerations at all.

He -- the accountant, you know, out in the little office in Queens figured this stuff out. But it's right. I mean, just as a matter of negotiating strategy, what he is doing is utterly ridiculous from his own point of view.

O'DONNELL: David, you made your name as a tax reporter covering the tax bills. Tell us how you think this one's going.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, we may not see a tax bill. I mean, I earlier some months ago thought, well, the one thing the Republicans will do is they'll pull off something they will call tax reform. It will just be a tax cut giveaway to the best off in America.

But the way these things are going and the divisions within the Republicans between the deficit hawks and the people who are corporate America needs a tax cut maybe we won't see one, especially with Donald in there throwing, you know, himself around and giving away things and demonstrating as Bruce put it, you know, he doesn't know anything about taxes.

O'DONNELL: Here's what --

JOHNSTON: He claims, however, to be the world's greatest expert on it.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And I agree with David completely. The one thing I was sure they were going to do is the tax cut bill. They know how to do that.

Here's Republican Chris Collins from New York state is telling "Bloomberg" today: We don't know the brackets. We don't know where we are on the estate taxes. We don't know where we are on the state and local deduction. We don't know where we were on and the size of the child tax credit. We don't know, we don't know, we don't know.

And, Bruce, they are trying to do sol things in there things tried to do for generations like limit or eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes, better legislators than them tried and failed with that.

BRUCE BARLETT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think that what we got here is really a replay of the Obamacare repeal business. Trump had absolutely no -

O'DONNELL: Wait. Do you think they're going to pass a bill? Do you think they might not?

BARLETT: Well that's where I'm getting at because I think it could end up the same way.


BARLETT: Because Trump apparently thinks that all the stuff is thought through and that there's a bill pretty much ready to introduce and be passed by the House tomorrow. And he doesn't realize they've been working on this for years and not able to come up with anything on their own. And talking about ignorance, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin seems to be as ignorant as Trump on the issues. He's not giving them much in the way of guidance that I can see. And I think it's because he doesn't really know anymore than Trump does.

O'DONNELL: And one thing, David, we know Mnuchin doesn't know the politics of tax legislation, how it affects different states, different me believes of Congress, different members of a delegation within the same state can have a different view of a same provision and a level of complex he has no comprehension of.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Republicans from relatively high tax states, New York, New Jersey, California are going to have a tough time voting to say you can't deduct your state and local taxes even though they're Republicans. And so, putting together a coalition that works here is very, very difficult. They're making a big point of a $2,000 tax credit.

The current credit is nonrefundable and most people even if they have four kids let less than $1,000 as a result of it. And they're also proposing that the bottom bracket go up from 10 percent to 12 percent. And they would eliminate the 15 percent bracket.

The largest share of Federal Income Tax comes from the 15 percent bracket. And yet, they would replace it with a 25 percent bracket. That's two thirds higher. And I don't suspect many voters will be happy discovering money to be taxed at 15 percent is going to be taxed at 25 even if it's only sliver of it

O'DONNELL: Breaking news, two of our most experienced tax legislation experts believe tonight that the Republicans might actually fail to do something they have never failed to do before, pass a tax cut bill. David Cay Johnston and Bruce Barlett, the author of the new book, the Truth Matters. Thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, at least half of the Senate now is in rebellion against the President. Senator Chris Murphy joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Here's Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Morning Joe this morning continuing his criticism of President Trump.


JEFF FLAKE, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think we ought to say this is speech that's reckless and it's undignified. And until we do we are complicit in normalizing that kind of behavior.


O'DONNELL: Yesterday on the Senate floor in his dramatic speech against Trumpism Senator Flake said there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time. And this morning Senate Chaplain Barry Black, a former Navy Admiral who was chosen to be the Senate Chaplain by Republicans began today's Senate session with this echo of Jeff Flake.


BARRY BLACK, UNITED STATES SENATE CHAPLAIN: Lord, provide us with more patriots who will stand for right regardless of the consequences. We pray in your sovereign name, amen.


O'DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy joins us next of



DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: That's very, very minor. We have great unity. I was with the Senate yesterday, the entire Republican Senate. And other than two people I tell you there was a lot of love in that room.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. Senator Murphy the I -- from my distance I have never seen anything like this Republican disunity and chaos in the United States Senate. Is it as bad as it looked?

CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Well, you know, sort of imagine who - - what Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would have imagined they would have gotten done by October of the election year if they were sitting around on the night of the President's inauguration. Probably the answer would not have been nothing. I mean, it is extraordinary that we are almost a year in and not a single Republican priority has been passed in part because all of it is deeply unpopular and they're at war with themselves.

So, you know, they're abiding Trump, most of them and his recklessness because they have one last shot here to get their sacred trickle down tax cut for the wealthy through the Senate, And they're going to pretend that Trump doesn't lie five times a day in order to get it done. We'll see if they'll be successful.

O'DONNELL: Now you served in the Foreign Relations Committee with both Senator Flake and Chairman Bob Corker. They both insist that there are many other Republican Senators who share their thinking about the President. But those Senators are not yet willing to go public. Is that your sense of the way things are in the Republican cloak room?

MURPHY: Yeah. They have a better sense of their members than I do. But I certainly talk to Republican Senators who share with me privately the things that Jeff Flake and Bob Corker said publicly. But, you know, they're very scared of primaries. They also want to operationalize Trump for their tax cut.

And so, you know, they're I think very willing right now to let a few of them speak on behalf of the rest of them but rhetoric is one thing. The question is, are these Republicans starting to break away from Trump rhetorically actually going to do something with their vote? Are they going to support the health care reform bill that was worked out between Republicans and Democrats that takes away from Trump the power to destroy the health care system?

Are they going to work to pass an authorization of military force in the Middle East which checks the President's war making powers? You know talking about how reckless is President is one thing, passing legislation to restrain him is another

O'DONNELL: There's also the gun violence issue which you have been more active on than most senators. We've had 896 Americans killed by guns since what happened in Las Vegas. What is the next step or any possible step legislatively on this?

MURPHY: Well, you know we introduced today a new universal background check bill that's supported by 90 percent of the American public. There's really no issue like this out there today in which you have 9 out of 10 Americans who want something to happen and Congress won't do it. But I understand that the NRA largely has a vice grip on the Republican House and Senate and Whitehouse so we've got to go and organize outside of this place.

We're starting to beat Republicans who vote against their constituents and with the NRA. We beat Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. We won a Senate seat on this issue in Nevada. So we'll continue to get stronger. We'll continue to plan more races in 2018.

Republicans can look at this background check bill, sign on to it or stand on the sidelines and oppose it. If they do that, ultimately I think that they're going to lose. They're going to pay at the ballot box.

O'DONNELL: And the rules of the Senate being what they are you might find an opportunity to basically introduce this on the Senate Floor as an amendment to some other moving vehicle and possibly get a recorded vote on it on who actually is for and against what 94 percent of the public is for.

MURPHY: Yeah. Although, the senate really doesn't work like that anymore.


MURPHY: That's the Senate of 20 years ago when you add votes. We actually don't have the opportunity under leader McConnell to bring the measures up and so who knows whether we're going to actually get a vote on background checks? Who knows if we get a vote on banning bump stocks?

You know we've got to get the Senate back to regular order where we got the chance to say yes or no to big policy proposals. So I hope you're right. But that doesn't seem to be the Senate that we're operating in today.

O'DONNELL: We just had to my surprise on these show two experts on tax legislation, one Republican, both saying that they have strong doubts that the Republicans are going to be able to pass the tax cut bill. I am stunned to be at this point in the conversation because the one thing I believed they could do from the beginning was their tax cut bill.

That's what they know how to do. They have never failed at that. Where do you think it is?

MURPHY: Well, I listened to their analysis. I may be not as optimistic as they are that this is going to fall by the wayside because I think Republicans are desperate. They thought that the wall would be funded. They thought that the the health care bill would be repealed. They thought that the tax cut was already going to be passed.

And so, you know, they have stirred up their electorate to the point where they've got to deliver something. Of course very few of Trump's based was looking for a big tax cut for the rich. But do think they feel like they have to deliver something. The problem is this bill when it finally emerges is going to frankly easier to message against than the health care bill because all this is - is a big tax cut for the rich paid for by cuts to Medicare.

This is going to end up being less popular than the health care bill and might see the cold feet you saw surrounding the health care bill reproduce itself on the tax bill. But I think there's a different sense of desperation in the caucus now than you even saw at the end of the health care debate.

O'DONNELL: You remind we have not spent enough time concentrating on the Medicare cuts part of that package. And we will do that. Senator Chris Murphy thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MURPHY: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, the cowardice of the Republicans. That is the quote from an article written by a Republican, will join us coming up.


O'DONNELL: NBC News is reporting today diplomatic efforts between the United States and North Korea are in peril with North Korea shunning talks in response to President Donald Trump's increased public attacks on Kim Jong-Un according to multiple U.S. Government and Congressional officials. Here is what Jeff Flake said about that yesterday in the Senate.


FLAKE: As a matter and duty of conscience the notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined. And as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters, the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior, is A, historic, and believe profoundly misguided.


O'DONNELL: Max Boot who has served recently wrote in Foreign Policy Adviser to Presidential campaigns in the Republican side recently wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine, Corker says that virtually all his fellow Republican Senators agree with hi. But instead of saying in public what they say in private these invertebrate office holders try to change the subject or simply refuse to comment.

They are a profile in cowardice, these Republicans. And they are making a mockery of their oaths to support and defend the constitution. If they truly believe that Trump is not fit for office then they have an obligation to impeach and remove him. Instead they choose to act as if Trump is their partner in governing. Max Boot will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Here's what Paul Ryan had to say today about Republicans Senator's Jeff Flake's and Bob Corker's public comments about President Trump's fitness to serve as President.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Do I wish these differences wouldn't be happening out in the public, yeah. I think people should settle their differences personally. I think its better that way. I think it's in our interest to have party unity so that we can continue to work forward on an agenda.

I'm not that worried about this because I know Jeff. I know Bob and these guys. I know they want what's right for their constituents. And I know they're for tax reform, And I know they wanted to get these things done. But I would - it'll be nicer to see people just settle their differences in private than in public.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former foreign policy advisor for the McCain-Romney and Rubio Presidential campaigns. And Max, tonight the New York Times we have former Republican Senator Tom Coldburn quoted as saying "we have a leader who has a personality disorder."

That is the kind of thing along with what Bob Corker and Jeff Flake has been saying that the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, firmly believes should be kept private. If you think the President is unfit to serve as a Republican you should never say that publicly in the interest of party unity. Paul Ryan actually said that publicly.

BOOT: I mean this is, you know, the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of a once great party. And it keeps getting worse and worse. I mean the mantra you hear from people like Paul Ryan is you know say nothing about the behavior of the naked emperor in the Whitehouse. Pretend everything is normal because we're going to get this wonderful policy agenda through, you know, the very same agenda which is not actually being enacted and yet is always an excuse not to say anything.

I mean this dereliction of duty on the part of our elected representatives is truly shocking. And it's why I'm very glad that I quit the Republican Party after nearly 30 years because I can't stand to be a part of this. And you see Flake, Corker and McCain and others cannot stand to be a party to this either. But unfortunately you seems to be happy to go along with it.

O'DONNELL: Did you see this coming? I have to say I did not know Paul Ryan could be this compliant with a character like Donald Trump.

BOOT: I didn't see it coming. You remember last summer he made a big show of hesitation before embracing Trump. But you saw the same thing, everybody, you know, Rubio, Ted Cruz, everything else who called Donald Trump every name under the sun and said he was unfit to have nuclear weapons et cetera, et cetera and then they endorse him anyway even though they say that his unfit.

And now they're ignoring the fact that he's behavior seems to be getting worse as Bob Corker has pointed. And that he's basically in adult day care. And they're pretending as if everything is normal. I mean this to me is again, it's a truly shocking and shocking dereliction of their duty as our elected leaders.

O'DONNELL: You say in your piece that the Stockholm syndrome should really be renamed Republican Syndrome.

BOOT: Exactly. I mean they've basically come to identify with their abuser. I mean there's no other way to describe it. And what you see now is that even supposedly main stream normal moderate Republicans like Ed Gillespie in Virginia whose a professional lobbyist is basically sounding like a born again Trumpian.

I mean excoriating his opponent for supposedly favoring immigration and defending confederate monuments. The entire Republican Party is embracing this white nationalist populous agenda which is in anathema to everything that it has stood for - for many decades

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to one republican who isn't. This is Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.


CHARLIE DENT, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: We've had too many of these emperors has no clothed moments. And I said to my colleagues it's important to state when you agree with the President, say publicly when you support him.

But you shouldn't be afraid to check him when he moves in a bad direction or call him out if he does something inappropriate or offensive. We shouldn't be afraid to do that. And you know I think people are afraid of their bases in too many cases.


O'DONNELL: And Max, that is considered heresy among most Republicans in Congress.

BOOT: You know I mean I think it's a very cowardly group of lawmakers because they don't want to see happen to them what happened to Jeff Flake where his approval ratings in Arizona plummeted. He got a primary challenger.

They're all petrified of doing the same thing. And so they're allowing Trump to basically get away with murder. And that, you know, I think is something history will look upon very poorly.

O'DONNELL: Max Boot gets tonight's Last Word. Thank you Max.

BOOT: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.


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