Sessions' changing story on Russia Transcript 11/14/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Cornell Belcher, Elise Jordan, William Barber, Tony Swartz

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: November 14, 2017 Guest: Cornell Belcher, Elise Jordan, William Barber, Tony Swartz

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Rachel Maddow, listen, I am a forgettable soul. I forget my keys. I can`t find half my stuff. Have I lost my wallet. How can you forget your teeth?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: I know, I know. I mean, if you popped your teeth out, you would remember them, right? Even if I don`t didn`t remember them right then, you would remember them at breakfast.

REID: Maybe they had scrambled eggs and they didn`t feel it. But at some point, you might want some bacon with the eggs.

MADDOW: The rules of fiber actually prove that you would some time in the next week require your teeth. So, it`s possible that somebody had them in their pocket, or maybe they were a dental prosthetic technician who was bringing work home.

REID: Maybe they were somebody else`s teeth and they were holding them for the person. So they`re not personally missing them because they`re not they`re teeth.

MADDOW: A tooth mugger.

REID: Stolen teeth!

MADDOW: It`s stolen teeth. And the victim is not aware. I don`t know.

REID: But there had to be a police report because somebody is missing those teeth.

MADDOW: I know. I know. I`m telling you, it`s now global news.

REID: This is actually a bigger mystery than Russia-gate at this point.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Exactly! We`re quite clear the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. But these freakin` teeth.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: I`m on it. Special counsel.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Thanks, Rachel. Bye. I don`t get it. I thought we had the best forgetfulness story. Rachel clearly did.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

Roy Moore, somebody else who doesn`t remember things. He doesn`t remember any of the things he is accused of.

And Jefferson Sessions can`t remember anything about Russia.

But people are trying really, really hard to jog both of their memories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was a book about Jeff Session and his contacts regarding Russia, we would be in the third revised edition.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied. That is a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff Sessions has made it a lot easier for a prosecutor. He has lied three times.

SESSIONS: I don`t recall that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people are becoming desensitized to the concept of truth.

SESSIONS: I don`t recall it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party of Bible-waving and Bible-thumping, including Steve Bannon, is getting religion a little late in this church service.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m the only one that can unite Democrats and Republicans, because I seem to be opposed by both.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If he cares about the values and the people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Roy Moore should step aside. The women who come forward are entirely credible. He is obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cool story, bro. You still shill for a sexual predator. Donald Trump has been accused by 17 different women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

REID: Well, this has been an interesting couple of weeks for men from Alabama who have been experiencing some pretty significant memory problems.

Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who is now running for the United States Senate, says he doesn`t remember the five women who have now accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. But Roy Moore`s memory apparently isn`t so bad that he doesn`t remember that he never, ever acted inappropriately with any of them, whoever they may be.

Other Alabamans are having memory problems as well. There is Brett Talley, the 36-year-old Alabama blogger Donald Trump wants to give a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, who forgot to disclose that his wife worked as a lawyer for the Trump White House.

And then there is the man whose Senate race Roy Moore is running for, former Alabama senator and current attorney general, Jefferson Session. Today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Session`s year-long memory lapse about his knowledge of Trump campaign contacts and communications with Russians continued to bewilder legislators.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: In your testimony today, you have stated, I don`t recall at least 20 times. Is that fair to say?

SESSIONS: I have no idea.

JEFFRIES: You criticized Hillary Clinton for telling FBI investigators I can`t remember approximately 35 times. You also stated during that Lou Dobbs interview that the intentional failure to remember can constitute perjury. Do you still believe that the intentional failure to remember can constitute a criminal act?

SESSIONS: If it`s an act to deceive, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: So, Sessions has forgotten and remembered so many times, you have to go all the way back to January to try to make sense of what he said today. At his confirmation hearing, Sessions made this statement to Senator Al Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I`m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign. And I did not have communications with the Russians. And I`m unable to comment on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Senator Patrick Leahy followed up with questions the following week, asking in a letter, have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election either before or after Election Day? No, Senator Sessions replied. He did not elaborate.

Well, it turns out that wasn`t true. It`s since been reported that Session met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the campaign, including a meeting during the Republican convention in July of 2016, and meeting in his Senate office in September of that year.

Fast forward to last month when during his testimony in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee, Jefferson Sessions was pressed by Senator Franken about that discrepancy. On the question of surrogate, communicating with Russian, Sessions again denied any knowledge of those contacts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: You don`t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you`re saying?

SESSIONS: I did not. And I`m not aware of anyone else that did. And I don`t believe it happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Not surprisingly, that was also revealed to be untrue.

Just 12 days later, on October 30th, a charging document was unsealed showing that a campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos had engaged in ongoing conversations with people linked to the Russian government with the aid of setting up meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And what`s more, Papadopoulos mentioned those efforts during a March 31, 2016 meeting that included both Trump, and wait for it, Jefferson Session.

Today, Attorney General Sessions revised his testimony again, appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, he addressed the discrepancy between his denial of surrogate contacts with Russia and the Papadopoulos revelation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. After reading his account and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government for that matter. But I did not recall this event which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: So, Jeff Sessions didn`t remember a meeting where he discussed Russian communications. But now that his memory has been refreshed, not only does he remember the meeting, but he also specifically remembers the substance of the meeting, and that he pushed back on suggestions of Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Congressman Jerry Nadler asked for more details about this March 2016 meeting. But all of the sudden, just like that, the attorney general`s memory went all foggy again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Did anyone else at that meeting, including then candidate Trump react in any way to what Mr. Papadopoulos had presented?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall.

NADLER: OK. So, your testimony is that neither Donald Trump nor anyone else at the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the Russian president or had any concerns about communications between the campaign and the Russians?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Now, remember, all of Jeff Sessions` testimony before Congress has been under oath. His confirmation hearing was under oath. The Senate judiciary hearing last month was under oath. Today`s House committee testimony also under oath.

Congressman Eric Swalwell of California pushed Attorney General Sessions to explain why his statements had changed so many times throughout those hearings, when he could be under penalty of perjury for not telling the truth in his clearly contradictory statements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You stated in your opening statement that my story has never changed. But, Mr. Attorney General, it`s changed three times.

SESSIONS: Fairly three. The exchange I had with Senator Franken, I think you can understand where when I answered the question, I felt like I was answering it properly.

SWALWELL: But you would agree today it should be answered differently if it was asked in the same form today, considering your recollection that you just gave us?

SESSIONS: I believe that -- when I was -- you`re asking me today explicitly did you meet with any other Russians, I am prepared to say I did. I met with the ambassador in my office with at least two of my staff, senior respected patriots, colonels, retired in the army. And nothing improper occurred at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Joining us now is Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC contributor, Kyle Cheney, politics reporter for "Politico", and Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and questioned Jeff Sessions today.

And, Congressman Swalwell, I`m going to go to you first. It does seem that Jeff Sessions has a very tricky memory. He can`t remember the details of any of his meetings that involve Russians. But he does remember that he definitely didn`t -- in those meetings, he doesn`t encourage anyone from the campaign to talk with Russians or Vladimir Putin. Did you believe him today to be honest with you?

SWALWELL: I still don`t believe he has been forthcoming, joy. And if past is prologue, today`s I don`t recalls will be, you know, next month`s hearing`s I do now recall. That seems to be the trend here with Attorney General Sessions.

But what`s interesting is that only after the Papadopoulos guilty plea came forward does General Sessions acknowledge the one part of the exchange with Papadopoulos that he claims makes him look good, that he told Papadopoulos not to have those contacts with Russia.

Also interestingly, Joy, he acknowledged that Carter Page told him he was going to Russia. He said I can`t dispute that occurred. But he has no idea why he didn`t tell Carter Page not to go. I asked him, well, within three months you have Papadopoulos and Carter Page both on your national security team. Both are invoking Russia. At that point, did you think that you had a Russia problem on your hands? And do you think maybe you should have told someone else on the campaign team or the FBI?

REID: And let`s actually play what his answer was, because that exchange you`re talking about, we do have a clip of that. Let`s just play that now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SWALWELL: With respect to Carter Page, he told you as you just acknowledged that he was going to Russia. He was also on the national security team. And that is the second person within about three months now that is bringing up Russian contacts. And you did not tell him to not go to Russia. Is that correct?

SESSIONS: No, I didn`t tell him not to go to Russia.

SWALWELL: And you didn`t tell anyone else on the campaign?

SESSIONS: I didn`t recall him saying that. But -- so, am I supposed to stop him from taking a trip?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: You know, Congressman, there he is making light of what is the central question in this scandal, whether or not members of the Trump campaign team were having meaningful contacts with Russian operatives and with members of the Russian government. He seemed to be laughing that off.

Did you get the sense that the attorney general understands the seriousness of the situation that he finds himself in?

SWALWELL: No, I don`t believe he understands it. He also didn`t express any -- he didn`t give us any assurances that they`re doing anything to stop Russia in the next interference campaign that they want to run in.

And finally, Joy, I also am deeply concerned that if this was only Jeff Sessions who failed to recall contacts with the Russians, maybe there might be innocent explanations.

But he is the ninth individual in this Trump campaign team who has failed to recall interaction was the Russians, and only because of press reporting or investigations has had to minimally acknowledge them.

REID: Kyle Cheney, I want to play a little more. I know you sat through testimony today. I want to play a little more. This is Jefferson Sessions, the attorney general of the United States being questioned by California Congressman Ted Lieu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: You did have communications with the Russians last year, isn`t that right? Just yes or no.

SESSIONS: I had a meeting with the Russian ambassador, yes.

LIEU: Great. That is exactly the opposite answer you gave under oath the U.S. Senate. So again, either you`re lying to the U.S. Senate or lying to the U.S. House of Representatives.

SESSIONS: Well, I hope the congressman knows, and I hope all of you know that my answer to that question I did not meet with the Russians was explicitly responding to the shocking suggestion that I as a surrogate was meeting on a continuing basis with Russian officials. And the implication was to impact the campaign in some sort of nefarious way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Just from your recollection in terms of the reporting, Kyle, was in fact the question that was asked of sessions when he was a United States senator to do with whether or not he was having on a continuing basis contacts with Russian officials or whether he just plain met with Russian officials?

KYLE CHENEY, POLITICS REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. The question was clearly about whether he had met with Russian officials during the course of the campaign. So, it was not -- clearly not qualified quite like that, quite like he claimed in his answer.

REID: And so, today, did you get the sense that Jeff Session, the attorney general of the United States, because we saw him being flippant in some of the answers, is that sort of the way it went throughout the day? Did he seem to be taking it seriously?

CHENEY: Yes, that was actually within of the questions was his stamina and endurance for a hearing like this. You have 41 members of the Judiciary Committee, Democrats in particular really peppering him hard on these questions, trying to push on some of those points about what was his recollection, why can`t he recall all of these very specific points in which he seemed to sort of shift his testimony over the previous few months. And so, that was sort of -- you saw him get a little chippier as the hearing went on and get a little frustrated I think at the lines of questioning.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And Jeff Sessions is, of course, an attorney. He used to be the chief attorney in Alabama.

And, Paul Butler, as a prosecutor, if you have a person in January saying I did not have meetings with Russians, and then fast forward to November, say I did, and qualify it by saying, well, the tenor of the question that was asked me in January is something that offended me. It was an offensive line of questioning. And that`s why gave a completely contradictory answer. Would that be enough to keep them out of a charge of perjury?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, it sounds like he is being cagey. It sounds like he is being evasive. It also sounds like he is being lawyerly in the sense he is saying, well, I didn`t recall.

But a Senator Sessions said about Hillary Clinton intentional failure to recall is a crime. That`s right. It`s false statements. It`s perjury if it`s under oath.

And so, when the attorney general says, you know, I vaguely remember reaching out, the Russians reaching out, hearing about that, but I absolutely remember I pushed back against that, we get it. He`s trying to play Congress. He is trying to play the American people. The hope for our democracy and the rule of law is that special counsel Mueller will not be played.

REID: In your opinion, in terms of your legal opinion, do you think that the ingredients for perjury are there? I mean, you have completely contradictory testimony. Both sides of the testimony were under oath what Session said in January, what he is saying now, what he said to the House versus what he said to the Senate.

Are those the ingredients for the legal definition of perjury?

BUTLER: Yes, so, again, it`s intentionally trying to misrepresent. So, the standard is what`s going on in his mind? Do we believe that he actually is just the most forgetful person in Washington history with a very loose understanding of what the truth, or is he intentionally covering up the truth?

And that`s when prosecutors look for a pattern, because the congressman is right. It`s not just session. It`s all of these Trump campaign operatives when they`re asked about Russia conveniently forgetting. So it`s Michael Flynn. It`s Carter Page. It`s George Papadopoulos. It`s Trump Jr.

And prosecutors look for patterns. They`ll start to wonder can all these people really be that forgetful, or is this a conspiracy to obstruct justice?

REID: Yes. And, you know, that brings me back to you, Congressman, because then what is the remedy? This is the attorney general of the United States. If, in fact, Congress believed that he has perjured himself before either the House or the Senate, then what happens after that? What is the remedy here?

SWALWELL: It`s really a decision for Bob Mueller and his team. And I`ll leave it to them. I just -- joy, I think it`s now on Congress to do something about the multitude of contacts that the Trump team had with Russia that they failed to disclose and the amount of evidence that they were working and that they were willing and eager to receive information from the Russians.

We`re not helpless in Congress. And we showed today that when we push forward with evidence, that we can make progress and expose failures to disclose in the past. So, that`s our job in Congress. And if the curiosity exists on the other side of the aisle, I`m confident that we can restore some checks and balances in our government.

REID: Any concern that if Jeff Sessions were in let`s say a theoretical world were pushed to resign, that that would open the door to firing Bob Mueller? Because that is one of the concerns that people are expressing about the idea that he might eventually at some point have to step down.

SWALWELL: We can`t allow a discredited attorney general to continue to preside and have his name on top of every charging document in the United States. If he is discredited, he should resign. And it`s on the Senate to confirm somebody who gives assurances that they would not fire Bob Mueller. I just don`t accept that we keep him in place to protect Mueller. I think the Senate has to show some courage themselves.

REID: All right. Congressman Eric Swalwell, Paul Butler, and Kyle Cheney, thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

REID: Thank you.

And coming up tonight, Roy Moore disappointed every Republican that hoped and indeed parade he would quit the race. But more Republicans are now belatedly quitting him. That`s next.

And later, senators openly question the mental stability of the president of the United States today in a Senate committee hearing about the use of nuclear weapons. Let that sink in. We`ll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: (AUDIO GAP) trouble? Why do you think I`m being harassed by media and by people pushing forward allegation as in the last 28 days of this election? Last 30 days it began. After 40- something years of fighting this battle, I`m now facing allegations. And that`s all the press want to talk about.

But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about where this country is going. And if we don`t come back to God, we`re not going anywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Roy Moore is not quitting. That was Moore at the God Save America Revival Conference in Jackson, Alabama, tonight, where he shed was being harassed by the media over the sexual misconduct allegations against him.

This afternoon, the RNC cut off funding for Moore`s campaign and canceled its field operations for Moore. But inexplicably, more than a week after allegations that normally would have ended a political career, some Republicans are still agonizing over what to do about Roy Moore.

Here is Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you believe Roy Moore over the women?

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country.

REPORTER: So, you will still believe Roy Moore?

BROOKS: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country on a myriad of issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: He is literally running away.

That`s after five women accused Moore of committing sexual misconduct against them about 40 years ago when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers, as young as 14. And after more than a dozen people told "The New Yorker" they heard that Moore was banned from an Alabama mall because he repeatedly badgered teenaged girls. Roy Moore has called the abuse allegations absolutely false.

And here is Fox News`s Sean Hannity just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: For me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If you can`t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Ah, change of heart.

Joining us now is Elise Jordan. She is a Republican strategist and a contributor to Time.com. She is also an MSNBC political analyst. And also joining us is Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies, and also an MSNBC political analyst.

Elise, I`m going to start with you first.

Now, the bail. It`s taken Republicans over a week to figure out how they felt about Roy Moore after five women accused him of sexual misconduct, suddenly, Republicans seem to be catching on this might not be such a good thing.

What do you think has caused this belated change of heart?

ELISE JORDAN, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME.COM: It`s amazing how we always want to give these men who were accused of grave sexual misconduct the benefit of the doubt. It`s funny how the women who are brave enough to come forward with their stories, people -- you know, "Breitbart" might send people to Alabama to harass the women who told their stories. People immediately want to try to say what is wrong with their story. But we always come up with a reason to give the men a little bit more time to explain.

REID: Yes. You`ve had Sean Hannity who came out sort of swinging, right, you know, and really in defense of Roy Moore and then came out swinging again when people said he was excusing sexual misconduct. And then you had Jeanine Pirro, very much on the side of Roy Moore, Andrew Breitbart, very interesting, I mean, sorry, Steve Bannon. I`m quoting the late Andrew Breitbart`s new guy running his operations. Steve Bannon.

This was Steve Bannon on "Breitbart Radio" just this past weekend. This is not long ago. And he was coming out and talking about the accusations against Roy Moore. Here he is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is about destroying Roy Moore. You know why they want to destroy Roy Moore? They want to destroy anybody that will step up and speak in your behalf. You know what our response is? Bring it. Bring it.

You have not seen anything yet. You think we`re going to back down one inch? You are dead wrong, folks.

Paul Singer, write this down. And you and these Republican scumbag, and that`s what you are, you operatives. And here is the good news, folks. We know your names. And more importantly, folks, we know your clients.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

REID: Yes, we`re not going the back down one inch. And, Elise, you know what happened today? Somebody close to Steve Bannon leaked to "The Daily Beast", he is having a change of heart maybe about Roy Moore and leaked out an equally tough guy statement, I`ll put him in a grave myself if he determines that Moore was lying to him. Numerous accusations, a source close to Bannon told "The Daily Beast".

JORDAN: Still, Bannon had better look the first go-around he was with a conduct accused of grave sexual misconduct, Donald Trump. But by that point, so many people really disliked Donald Trump that it wasn`t necessarily unsurprising, the "Access Hollywood" video.

Roy Moore was supposed to be the pinnacle of piousness, a good Christian servant. And he is showing the chip in the armor that, hey, maybe this has all been one big fa‡ade, his holier-than-thou attitude covering up some very grave sins.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Cornell, I`m not going back down one inch. Tough guy Steve Bannon claiming he was going to fight to the finish for Roy Moore. Fight to the -- oh, let me get a statement out and try to get one of my close friends to go and tell "The Daily Beast" I`m backing down one inch.

Could it be because you now have "The Cook Political Report" saying this race, in Alabama no less, is a toss-up? Is that really what`s behind the sudden bail?

CORNELL BELCHER, PRESIDENT, BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH & STRATEGIES: Well, it is interesting. And all this is going on, Joy. But I want us to really realize that you`re still talking about a state that in any other place you wouldn`t be turning it to a toss-up. You would be turning it to a lean Democrat.

You`re talking about a state that is demographically, and geographically, you`re not talking about a lot of swing voters. You`re talking about a state that is 18 points more white and evangelical than the nation as a whole. You`re talking about a state that is 20-some points more rural than the nation as a whole. You`re talking about a state that is less college- educated than voters overall.

So, when you look at the demographics there in Alabama, particularly the white evangelicals, well, remember this, right? The same white evangelicals were among Trump`s strongest supporters, even after the allegations that had happened.

So, given all this, you`re still going to see probably a very close race there in Alabama. But for me, I think there is two pictures here. There is the Alabama sort of small picture where quite frankly, I think Moore is in trouble, toss-up. But he still very well could win, right?

But there is also the big picture. And when you look at the "Politico" put out a poll today shows 60 percent of Americans think the women`s allegations thankfully are credible, and that Moore should drop out. For Republicans, and I think Mitch McConnell gets this, for Republicans, there is the small war in Alabama. But there is a bigger picture.

And I point that back to the 22-point Democratic advantage with women in Virginia last time around. I mean, spread that nationally for Republicans. It becomes real problematic.

REID: Do you believe that poll, the poll that came out recently showing it being a Roy Moore up 49, Doug Jones, 43? That`s a new poll that shows Roy Moore still ahead. There have been some polls that showed it the other way around.

Do you believe that Doug Jones has a realistic chance?

BELCHER: I have not seen the internals of that poll. I mean, most of the polling has it at real tossup, a toss-up is here, where you`re seeing him getting -- the Democrat getting 35, 36, 37 percent of the white vote. I think Barack Obama last time around got 16, 17 percent of the white vote and Hillary Clinton did even worse.

So, he is being a lot more competitive. But I also think for you to win in Alabama, for a Democrat to win in Alabama, a Democrat to win in Alabama. We do have to see some of what we saw in Virginia the last time around. Look, Democratic - so Virginia was a lot more Democratic. This time around than it was when McAuliffe won. And I think the turnout difference between Democrats and Republicans will go a long way in deciding who wins.

JOY REID, MSNBC, ANCHOR: And Elise, I`ll give you the last word on this. Because one of the key questions that has been asked for really since the Hillary Clinton campaigns will white Republican women, you know, ever cross the aisle? It generally does not happen. Do you see this being one instance where white Republican women in Alabama switch sides?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think Doug Jones is playing it well by trying to keep it an Alabama race, trying to show how Roy Moore will embarrass the men and women of Alabama. I think he is doing a good job of keeping it local and not letting it become some referendum on the Democratic Party. Whether that`s going to make a huge difference, who knows. But I do know that Roy Moore is never that popular in his general elections, and he only eked out his last one by about three points. And I think that Doug Jones has a good chance.

REID: All right. We shall see. Elise Jordan, Cornell Belcher, thank you very much.

And coming up next, a third of evangelical voters in Alabama say that they are more likely to vote for Roy Moore after learning about the sexual abuse allegations against him more. Bishop William Barber will try and help us make sense of that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROY MOORE, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE, ALAMABA: If you take a stand, you`re going to come under persecution. It`s nice in churches to talk about your persecution I guess in some churches. But I`m going to tell you, its part of it. It says that`s your reward. That`s your reward. Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute and say all men of evil are against you falsely from I say, rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Wow. That was Roy Moore tonight speaking to a group of his core supporters at a god save America revival conference in Jackson, Alabama. The religious right is at the core of Roy Moore`s base.

In a recent poll, 55 percent of Alabama evangelical voters say they support Roy Moore. Just 34 percent say they support Democrat Doug Jones. And since the allegations against Moore came out, 37 percent of Alabama self- described evangelicals say they more likely to vote for him. 28 percent say they are less likely. And 34 percent say their opinion on Moore hasn`t changed. One of Moore`s supporters defended him tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID WEBB: Reporters say allegations, accusations. I told him a while ago that`s exactly what they are. All I can look and see a man that for 20 years has stood for right. And if I said that about them, they`d be on the defense. I thank god for a man that stands for truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Joining us now is Bishop William Barber, President and Senior Lecture for Repairers of the Breach. Always great to see you in person, bishop barbers. And when I heard -- when I hear Roy Moore saying if you take a stand, you`ll come under persecution and those blessed are you when men revile and persecute and say all manner of evil against you and falsity my name. I hope he is not talk about himself and that he is actually talking about Jesus.

WILLIAM BARBER, REPAIRS OF THE BREACH, BISHOP: Yes. That is such a misinterpretation of the text. It is heretical. This is not Christianity. This is, I`d say another day an extreme form of religionism. That text actually refers to the prophets who stood up for poor, who stood up for the least of these. Who stood against power, who stood against those who hurt children. And they were persecuted for that, as was Jesus.

If you step back a second and look at Alabama, Alabama denied Medicaid expansion, right. Alabama is the 12th lowest per pupil spending in education. It is one of the poorest states in the union. I think it rates 47th in family income. Has the sixth highest child poverty. And most of these are white.

Nothing that Roy Moore has ever done has sought to deal with those issues. Instead, what has he done? He has supported segregation laws. He supported the lies about birtherism. He violated his oath of office. And now, Joy, he wants to be given the power to go to the Senate so he can block people from having health care. That`s not Christian. So that he can write laws against Muslims, gay people, and work on a tax reform that will hurt the poor and the working poor.

This so such a form of heresy that it is troubling. And it`s troubling to see themselves who call themselves white evangelicals be engaged in supporting this.

REID: And you know, if when reporters will go down and ask people why they support Roy Moore, they`ll generally talk about his Christian beliefs. So this is Roy Moore a little bit more of him tonight. And this is an issue that I do hear a lot. When you hear back from people who are white evangelical Christians about why they are such staunch Republicans. And here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MOORE: By 1962, the United States Supreme Court took prayer out of the school. Bible reading followed in Navington versus shift. They started to create new rights in 1965. And today we got a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: They started to create new rights in 1965. I wonder what new rights he was talking about. That`s why he maintain support.

BARBER: Right. And notice that what he`s - tats` code word, `60s, Civil Rights. Civil Rights act of `64. White religionists who were segregations were against civil rights of `64. They were against the voting rights act of `65. They were against Dr. King.

He says they took prayer out of the school. But we have segregation in the school. So this is so crazy. It`s so heretical. It`s so wrong. This has nothing to do with Christian policies. This is about a form of greed, not a form of grace. It`s about lies and racism and not redemption and love. There is no scriptural basis. This is not Christian.

And that is why that the church is making a bad mistake. Those who claimed they represent Christ to support this kind of foolishness. Even before the claims.

REID: Yes.

BARBER: Now, I`m saying he wasn`t supporting Christian policies before. Now the claim and the accusation, the true accusations about what he has done to these young girls. This is not Christianity. It is a strange form of religionism. And Joy, somebody said today, we ought to stay out of Alabama. Let me tell you, when has the civil rights movement stayed out of Alabama?

No. We need to be calling everybody, white, black, brown, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, Christian and Muslim and Jew who want our politics to have a certain level of truth to actually be engaging in Alabama and calling everybody we know to get out the vote. This is very troubling.

And there is going to have to be a reckoning with these people who have hijacked the Christian faith. If he just said these are my Republican values, then OK. But when you try this claim that what he is supporting and what the people supporting him are also Christian values, they are contrary. There is no scriptural basis that you can find for these supported to policies he is promoting.

REID: Bishop William Barber, thank you. It`s always a pleasure to speak to you. Thank you very much.

All right. And coming up for the first time in decades, the Senate wants to know how easy it is for the President to launch a nuclear attack. Seriously. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MURPHY, SENATOR, CONNECTICUT: We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: For the first time in more than 41 years, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today on the President`s authority to launch nuclear weapons because Donald Trump is President and several Senators are frankly concerned about his mental stability. Senator Bob Corker, the Chairman of the committee, and a man who has called the Trump White House an adult day-care center said this to reporters today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this hearing a rebuke on President Trump?

BOB CORKER, SENATOR: Not in any way, no. We, you know, are going to a series of hearings that we start with the AUM map and we have some momentum around developing something that I think we might be able to build consensus around. We`re doing this. We`re going to be doing one just on the North Korea issue itself and some of the issues that come into play.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: But in the new book, the dangerous case of Donald Trump, Dr. Henry J. Freedman writes, `A paranoid hypersensitive grandiose ill-informed leader such as Donald Trump who had surrounded himself with a cabinet and set of advisers who are either unable to bring him out of his paranoid suspicions and instances or worse, identify with his positions, represents a multidimensional threat to our country and the world,` unquote.

The President probably didn`t calm anyone`s nerves when he tweeted this. `NoKo meaning North Korea, has interpreted America`s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. Do not underestimate us. In all caps, do not try us.` Behavior like that is why Bob Corker held that hearing today on the President`s authority to use nuclear weapons. His demurrals or reporters not withstanding.

Tony Schwartz contributed to the book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." He knows trump as well as anyone, having written "The Art of the Deal "with Trump and he joins us after the break.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN CARDIN, SENATOR: -- and the American people we have a system in place that prevents an impulsive and irrational decision to use nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, I cannot make that assurance today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Joining us now is Tony Swartz, Co-author of Donald Trump`s best selling book, "The Art of the Deal." And a contributor to "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump". Twenty-seven psychiatrist and mental health experts if assess a President. And Tony, you know, the subject of its hearing today was whether or not the President should have the unfettered access that he does under the constitution to launch nuclear war.

This is Bob Corker talking about Trump potentially risking World War III with the way he behaves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CORKER: He doesn`t realize that, you know, that we could be heading towards World War III with the kind of comments that he`s making.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Do you feel like Donald Trump doesn`t realize he could start World War III or he doesn`t care?

TONY SWARTZ, THE ART OF THE DEAL, CO-AUTHOR: I actually think it`s that -- it kind of -- it excites him. I mean it`s a horrible thing to have to think but I think, you know, domination is his thing and as far back as 15 months ago, I said to the "New Yorker" that I was deeply concerned that if he got elected, he would potentially get irritated by Kim Jong Un and set off the nuclear codes or punch them in and people laughed, said what are you talking about? Nnow it`s a very, very real possibility.

REID: Yes. This is Donald Trump talking about North Korea and threatening fire and fury against them. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN, PRESIDENT: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: And, first of all, American Presidents don`t typically talk like that. But this is Senator Ben Cardin today at the hearing responding to those comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARDIN: Quoting the President, all these interview, `North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.` Or the President`s comments, `we`ll have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.`

Now, many interpret that to mean that the President is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea. That is frightening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Based on the man you know, is Donald Trump when he says things like fire and fury, is he imitating sort of, I don`t know, sort of an autocrat or does he actually mean it?

SWARTZ: Well it actually look like he was reading that which is interesting. But it`s very evident he deeply would like to be a dictator, and the idea that Senator Cardin says people have and it interpreted it to mean he might mean nuclear war, no. He has said it five days from Sunday and that is the case.

REID: I want to read a little bit from the book, from "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump". And this Lance Dodis, I don`t know if I`m pronouncing his name right, MG (INAUDIBLE) and he says, the following on page 91.

He says ,"Mr. Trump`s sociopathic characteristics are undeniable. They create a profound danger for America`s democracy and safety. Over time these characteristics will only become worse either become Mr. Trump will succeed in gaining more power and more grandiosity with less grasp on reality. Or because he will in general more criticism producing more paranoia, more lies and more enraged distruction.`

When I hear that, I think about the Russia gate investigation and him getting boxed in more and more and more in those issues and lashing out. Do you share the Dr. Dodi`s view?

SWARTZ: I do. And again, going back to July of 16, I said, I could rename "The Art of the Deal," I would rename it "The Sociopath." A sociopath is a person who`s somebody what`s more important is a person who doesn`t have a conscience. Who doesn`t have ordinary emotions beyond anger, rage and so on.

So the idea of destroying an entire country, millions of people, doesn`t fire up his sense of guilt and the feeling of being appalled. Again, I think he finds that kind of exciting. And it`s some blend of, you know, a very young child`s idea of fighting with guns or fighting with nuclear weapons and a very demented older person potentially putting us at great peril.

REID: And you write in the book page 72 that beneath his bluff exterior at the same time, you write, `I always sensed a hurt and incredibly vulnerable little boy that just wants to be loved.` What is there about sort of the, I don`t know, the unconstructed man in Donald Trump, a boy in Donald Trump?

SWARTZ: Well, then we`re seeing it everywhere, Joy. I mean we`re seeing it across you know, 25, 30 men, a powerful men who have now been accused of sexual harassment in pretty persuasive ways. And I think men it`s, we`re - you know, men are imprisoned by this need to seem tough and invulnerable and to compete and dominate and they end up doing pretty terrible -- pretty terrible things in the name of masculinity and in the name of being men.

I think we`re seeing a reckoning here. And it`s interesting to kind of see the dichotomy between this extreme kind of man represented by Harvey Weinstein or a Donald Trump, probably makes Harvey Weinstein cringe to think he`s now in the same game as Donald Trump. And on the other hand, these women who are coming forward in a courageous way and I think a growing number of men who are supporting them. You know, men are running from the feeling of vulnerability, weakness and the possibility that they`ll lose.

You know, Trump how he always explains things in terms of win and lose. Why win and lose? Because lose is the equivalent of death. And if you`re going to be faced with death, you sure are going to be obsessed with winning.

REID: Very interesting. Tony Schwartz and really knows Donald Trump very well. Thank you for being with us. Really appreciate it.

And up next, a prediction about Donald Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: On "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert, Former Vice President, Joe Biden said this about the Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think this has changed the presidency with him being President? How will this influence future presidencies?

JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I think god willing it will go down as the single exception in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Well, that`s the show. I`m Joy Reid and you can catch me Saturday and Sunday morning on AM Joy right here on MSNBC. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.

END

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