Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: November 20, 2017 Guest: Norm Ornstein, Josh Barro, Jennifer Rubin, Ron Klain
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. We're going to have Tom Bates on. He's one of the editorial board members who wrote that editorial endorsing Doug Jones, saying it was the only -- he's the only decent person on the ballot qualified for the United States Senate. We'll ask him how it's playing in Alabama, what he thought -- what effect he thinks it might have.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Yes, it's been interesting to watch this scandal both nationally and in Alabama, to have been so Roy Moore-focused for the last week and a half now that this has been brewing, and we're sort of reaching the point where people are realizing, oh, wait, this is not that he was just about to become senator, he's actually running against someone who's a pretty good campaign. And it seems like it's sort of things are taking a turn into in Doug Jones's direction.
O'DONNELL: Yes, and the Alabama voters seem to know that there's another candidate, according to the polls, they're showing quite a surge.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks. Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Today, in an echo of the September report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to President Trump as a moron in a meeting at the Pentagon after the president left that meeting, "BuzzFeed" reported that national security adviser H.R. McMaster referred to Donald Trump as an idiot in private conversation.
And so, today was one of those typical days in Washington when your ally -- if you're allowed to shout just one question in the president's direction, you have to decide, is it going to be about him being an idiot or is it going to be about the thing that Donald Trump fears talking about more than anything else?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Your thoughts on Roy Moore, Mr. President. Do you believe his accusers? Do you believe Roy Moore's accusers, Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The president is now saying exactly what Steve Bannon wants him to say. According to a "Daily Beast" report that says that Bannon has spoken to the president by phone and discouraged, quote, the president from rejecting or criticizing Moore in public statements. And so, Donald Trump says absolutely nothing. Of course, any answer Donald Trump might have given today to a Roy Moore question would have provoked a mandatory follow- up question about Donald Trump's own now public admission that he has himself been guilty of sexual assault.
When "The Washington Post" broke its story about Roy Moore 11 days ago, the most horrifying and criminal aspect of the story reported by "The Washington Post" is what happened to Leigh Corfman when she was 14 years old and Roy Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney.
Today, Leigh Corfman did her first television interview about this with Savannah Guthrie on the "Today" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEIGH CORFMAN, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: He took me to his home after arriving at his home on the second occasion that I went with him. He basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to seduce me, I guess you would say. And during the course of that, he removed my clothing he left the room and came back in wearing his white underwear and he touched me over my clothing, what was left of it, and he tried to get me to touch him as well.
And at that point I pulled back and said that I was not comfortable, and I got dressed and he took me home. But I was the 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world and he was 32 years old.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: How do you think that interaction affected your life?
CORFMAN: Well, it took away a lot of the specialness of, you know, interactions with men. It took some trust away. It allowed me to delve into some things that I would, you know, wouldn't have otherwise. It took years for me to regain a sense of confidence in myself, and I felt guilty. You know, I felt like I was the one that was to blame, and it was decades before I was able to let that go.
GUTHRIE: A couple things. Roy Moore denies these allegations and further says he does not even know you.
CORFMAN: I wonder how many mes he doesn't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Leigh Corfman said that she told family and friends about what happened to her years ago, told them years ago. And that as Roy Moore became more publicly prominent as an elected judge in Alabama she thought about confronting him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORFMAN: My children were small, I was a single parent, and when you're in that situation you do everything you can to protect your own and I sat in the courtroom, in the courthouse parking lot and thought you know I'm going in I'm going to confront him.
GUTHRIE: Years later, you thought about it.
CORFMAN: Two thousand and 2001, and I wanted to walk into this office and say, hey, remember me? You know, you need to knock this stuff off. You know, I need to go public. My children were small so I didn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Savannah Guthrie's last question through Leigh Corfman was political.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTHRIE: The one final question for those who might be watching and thinking, where are your politics?
CORFMAN: My politics -- well, I've voted as a Republican for years and years and years, but this isn't political for me. This is personal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: This weekend, Alabama's three largest newspapers, which are all part of the Alabama Media Group, published an editorial urging voters to reject Roy Moore's candidacy by voting for the Democratic candidate for Senate Doug Jones in the December 12th special election. The editorial said Doug Jones has built a platform around issues that will define Alabama job creation, small business development, child health care, criminal justice reform and perhaps most needed of all, compromise.
For us, his pro-choice stance is not disqualifying. What is disqualifying is the conduct of Roy Moore against women and children.
In an article today, AL.com points out that Roy Moore first had his eye on the woman he eventually married when she was 15 or 16 years old.
Here is how Roy Moore has told that story himself in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: We met well actually when I was just an attorney many years before we got married. I saw her at a dance recital and I was standing the back of the auditorium and I saw her up front and I remember her name is Kayla Tyson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: According to the reporting at AL.com that dance recital occurred when Kayla was 15 or 16 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOORE: It was, oh gosh, eight years later or something I met her in which she told me her name I remember. Hey, haven't I met you before? Of course, where she was younger, she says I don't think. So, it was strange because I remember that many years later when I was saw her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The AL.com reports today points out that what is really so strange about it was that Roy Moore -- is the part that Roy Moore does not seem to understand. Here is a grown man at about 30 years old attending a girls dance recital and doing what exactly?
Joining us now, John Bates, president of Alabama Media Group and an editorial board member for AL.com. Also with us, Jennifer Rubin, conservative opinion writer at "The Washington Post", and Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama.
And, Tom Bates, I want to talk about a couple of things in your newspapers. First of all, this extraordinary editorial. Is this the first time you've endorsed a Democrat in a race like this?
TOM BATES, PRESIDENT, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: You know, Lawrence we have a tradition actually of picking the Republican presidential candidate. We did endorse Hillary Clinton over President Trump. But, frankly, we're not typically in the endorsement business. It's something that we usually stay out of, but our feeling is that this is a unique moment in time and we had to take a stand.
O'DONNELL: And I want to ask you also about the television interviews that we've now seen. Last week, Beverly Young Nelson became the first accuser of Roy Moore to do a television interview. The others had been quoted and told their stories in print in "The Washington Post", and I'm wondering about the different impact that television has and what Leigh Corfman now appearing publicly on the today show this morning what different impact that might have in Alabama.
BATES: It's a great question. You know, I think, Lawrence, it's going to get down to whether this Senate race ends up being about party politics or not. You know, our feeling is it has to transcend that. This is a referendum on what we expect from our leaders and frankly, I don't know how we can expect our children to -- I have faith in the government other institutions if we allow sexual abuse to be something that's pushed to the side.
So, I'm not sure how people will react the Republicans in the state are sticking by Moore. I think a lot of people have soul-searching to do right now between now and the election.
I do think the majority of Alabamians do not hold the same views as Roy Moore but it's very possible some will look the other way.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, you see Roy Moore telling the story of his wife and meeting his wife, and it is more complicated than most stories about how I met my wife and so, he seems so comfortable with the idea that he met her so many years before when she was 15 or 16 years old and in high school and a dance recital.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, if he frankly if he was so candid about that, I'm surprised he wasn't candid about the 14 year old. This is obviously a man who is very much attracted to very young, very defenseless, very innocent young girls with -- as we heard from his victim -- one of his victims with really dire consequences for them.
You know, it was interesting that Tom talks about transcending politics. Today, we also heard from Kellyanne Conway who happens to be a mother, who happens to be a senior advisor to the president United States, and what does she say she says we need Roy Moore's vote for the tax bill. So, imagine that -- imagine that kind of calculus in someone's mind. We need the accused pederast's vote to give tax cuts to millionaires. That's what we're dealing with.
And I would hope that he's right, that the good people of Alabama think twice about this, that they don't want to disgrace themselves and their state, that they say enough, not everything is about partisan politics.
O'DONNELL: Yes, Kellyanne Conway on Fox News this morning and Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts of the show, pressed her on this was she advocating voting for Roy Moore, he did it twice. So, she finally says to her so voice vote for Roy Moore, to which Kellyanne Conway says I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax, this tax bill through.
And, Ron Klain, that this Alabama election could seriously affect that.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It could, Lawrence. I mean, it's a shame as Jennifer alluded to, if corporate tax cuts me more than child molestation, which is kind of what Kellyanne Conway's formula was on Fox today.
And it's amazing that our president who has a view on everything from how we should respond to the national anthem to what restaurant has the best taco salad can't firmly to view on Roy Moore, and whether or not it's appropriate for a child molester to be put in the Senate. And so, you know, it's no surprise as you said that he's trying to hide on that because it leads back to a conversation about Donald Trump. But what we're seeing plainly is just that the Trump White House will stop at nothing to dodge this question and - but try to push quietly for Moore's election to the Senate.
O'DONNELL: And Tom Bates it seemed just a week ago that Kellyanne Conway agreed with you editorial on -- editorially on this.
Let's listen to what she said just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the facts end up being, the premise is, of course, the principle, the incontrovertible principle is that there's no Senate seat that's worth more than a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And Tom Bates, now as the tax bill vote seems to get tighter and more difficult in the Senate, the new position is we really have to get this tax bill.
BATES: You know, I think, Lawrence, fortunately in Alabama, we don't care to be told what to do, even President Trump who is very popular in the state was not able to get a Luther Strange chosen to the candidate in the - - in the, you know, what I'm saying. And so, that makes me look and think you know can we all look inside ourselves and figure out what is the right thing to do.
So, it's more a question of who folks are aligning with as a party more than any specific issues I believe at this time.
O'DONNELL: And, Jennifer, Steve Bannon having the president's ear on this and apparently the agreement of Kellyanne Conway that do not say one public word against Roy Moore.
RUBIN: Yes, I'm reminded of the "Saturday Night Live" routine where it's President Bannon who's actually pulling the strings here. I think, listen, Trump has two problems one his own past where he has even more accusers than Roy Moore does. It's an enviable record.
And, secondly, that if the people of Alabama do the opposite, he will once again be shown to be impotent. They didn't follow his advice on Luther Strange, and if they don't follow his advice here, he is going to be revealed to be less than all-powerful, and I think that frightens him probably as much as the revelations about his own past.
O'DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, here is this crucially important Senate election special election, and the president United States is not in Alabama campaigning for the Republican.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, he's hiding under his desk in the Oval Office trying to avoid questions. It's going to be a long time. December 12th is close but not that close, and I don't know how Trump can dodge these questions for the next two weeks. But he clearly has been taken off the playing field in this critical special action.
It could really decide the outcome of his legislative agenda, Lawrence. I mean, they've lost a couple Republican senators. They have others teetering on the brink. This senator could be the deciding vote on this giant corporate tax cut, this giant giveaway to rich people, and Trump is just unable to talk about it because of his personal problems and because of the horror of having to back a candidate who his own daughter said there was a special place in hell for people like this kind of person.
O'DONNELL: Tom Bates, quickly before we go, is there any kind of tax debate going on in this Senate campaign?
KLAIN: You know, there is an Alabama. I think people are very in touch with the current issues. And again, I -- you know, Trump has a lot of support in Alabama, but I -- you know, this is a special time I think it's we're going above and beyond that and I think we have to remember to in the case of Roy Moore, even before these women stepped forward, he had a number of issues.
He's been thrown off the Alabama bench twice he said some very controversial things about people who are different than himself -- Muslims, gays and so forth. So, that has overwhelmed the debate. It's very much a debate about Roy Moore.
Doug Jones has run a very quiet campaign, very focused on issues I think that are most closely tied to people's daily lives and their pocketbooks. You know, we'll see if he's able to -- we'll see if he's able to fight through the discussion.
O'DONNELL: Tom Bates, thank you very much for joining us tonight from Alabama. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the emails that the special prosecutor Robert Mueller wants and what those emails might tell us about where that investigation is going.
And the report today that national security adviser H.R. McMaster referred to Donald Trump as an idiot and other words, like dope and kindergartener, did that at a private dinner, according to one report. That's coming up.
O'DONNELL: Robert Mueller has asked the Justice Department to turn over a wide array of documents as part of his investigation, according to ABC News. ABC News reports in particular Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter.
Joining us now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor.
Jill, your interpretation of that report?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MNSBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's important to think about the fact that they're asking for documents and emails because I think so many of the witnesses have a loose relationship with the truth. They've accepted alternative facts as the way to proceed and documents don't lie. You can read the words in them and interpret them. The defendant can always argue about what they mean, but the words are there for a jury to understand.
O'DONNELL: Jill, I'm struck by the use of the word request in this report. Is that a legally binding request given that it's within the Justice Department or does the special prosecutor need to subpoena what is technically his own department?
WINE-BANKS: You can always make the request if the request isn't abided by, if they don't get what they're expecting, then they would have to proceed to a subpoena. But it's always -- it's very common for prosecutors to request documents without going to a formal subpoena. That's just an extra step.
But in this case, there may have to be subpoenas. There have been others where they're thinking of subpoenaing Kushner's records because he hasn't provided the ones that they've requested. And he's held them back. We don't know what will happen here but they're promising to cooperate, so maybe a request is enough.
O'DONNELL: And what is this -- what does this suggest to you about where this investigation is in its timeline and it's in its life span, because there's a report in "The Washington Post" from some people inside the White House saying they actually think that this is going to be over soon. There are other people in the article working the administration saying that's impossible. Of course, it's not going to be over soon.
WINE-BANKS: I think it's only wishful thinking that it would be over soon. The timeline so far is really fast. The special prosecutor started in May and he started from really a fresh slate. So, I don't think that we can expect this to be over all that quickly.
In Watergate, we acted really quickly. We already had cooperating witnesses. We had a letter from James McCord saying that there had been hush money paid. We had a pretty good road map to what was wrong and then we had John Dean and Jeb Magruder who were insiders cooperating with us, fully cooperating.
So, even there, we were appointed in May. We returned indictments the following March and we had tapes by then. So, I can't expect that this would happen anywhere near as quickly, and we aren't even at a 10- month time frame yet so I think you have to just think that anybody who's saying it's going to be over by Thanksgiving or by the end of the year is really being engaging in wishful thinking or as delusional. It's not going to happen by then.
And keep in mind that the professional prosecutor has already returned indictments, has a guilty plea and has made significant progress. Now, the question is who of the witnesses is going to flip and start cooperating, who's going to get the best deal by helping to take it to the next step, and to get to higher-level people?
O'DONNELL: And we haven't even gotten to any kind of charging against Michael Flynn. We're on the public phase of the evidence. It seems that there is a very, very high likelihood of some kind of charges there. And so, to suggest that this thing is somewhere near an end of the road when we haven't even gotten on to the Flynn road publicly.
WINE-BANKS: Right, and things have been very quiet about Flynn who I am sure is worried about his son's culpability as well. So, is he already cooperating or is he not? Is there going to be a case against him? We have the new developments with the Iranian Turkish businessman who has disappeared from his own trial and who may be cooperating and who likely knows a lot about Flynn, which could put enough pressure on Flynn that Flynn starts cooperating.
And it's once you start getting cooperating witnesses of that kind that you can start really getting beyond the things we already know. I mean, we already have a lot of evidence of obstruction of the Russia investigation with the firing of Comey, that was confirmed by the president in his interview with Lester Holt, in his conversation with the Russians. We have a lot of evidence. We have the June meeting with Donald Jr. And we know what happened in that meeting.
So, we have a lot of evidence, but once you get other people who are cooperating, you'll really get more details and then there has to be a follow-up to that. So, that's why it can't be over that quickly.
O'DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the very worst legislative strategists in the history of the presidency continues to insult the Republican senator whose vote he desperately needs for his tax cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We're going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas. Hopefully, that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present. With the Democrats giving us no votes for tax cuts for purely political reasons, obstructionists, it will be up to the Republicans to come through for America.
I think they will. I hope they will. It's up to the Senate and if they approve it the House and the Senate will get together, I'll be there right in the middle of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And so, with the fate of the Trump tax cuts now in the hands of Republicans in the United States Senate, where they are still struggling to get 51 Republican Senators to support the bill, Donald Trump decided to attack one of those Republican Senators. And while he was attacking him, confidently predict something that no one else is confidently predicting. President Trump Tweeted, Senator Jeff Flake, when's unelectable in the great State of Arizona, quit the race amid the polls, was caught purposely on mike saying bad things about your favorite President.
He'll be a no on tax cuts because his political career anyway is toast. So far, one Republican Senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said he cannot support the bill. And five other Republicans are undecided, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Senator John McCain, Susan Collins, Senator Bob Corker. Joining us now is business insider senior editor and MSNBC Contributor Josh Barro and Norm Ornstein, co-author of the new book One Nation after Trump. And Norm, this confident prediction that Jeff Flake is going to vote against the Trump Tax Cuts, I mean, maybe you can be a little bit more confident about it after tweeting like that. But no one knows How Jeff Flake will vote.
NORM ORNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, LAWRENCE, it is pretty clear over and over again Donald Trump's not read the art of the deal much less written it and any random kindergartner could negotiate better than he has. But I think the most important here is that Jeff Flake should vote against this bill not because Donald Trump sends out another crazy Tweet but on the merits or demerits of it. And as Gene Sperling one of our favorite people tweeted earlier tonight, it takes some real talent to come up with a bill that adds $1.5 trillion or more to the debt while also increasing taxes on 50 percent of Americans, 75 percent of middle class people.
This is a horror story of a bill and all those people undecided including Bob Corker who of course, said at one point flatly he would not vote for any tax bill to add a dime to the deficit ought to be voting no.
O'DONNELL: Josh Barro, what you see as the pressure points in the bill, the thing that could turn some no votes on Republicans? Get them to vote no. Is the deficit going to do that?
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is different concerns for different Senators. You've heard Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, to some extent John McCain and even James Langford from Oklahoma addressing concerns about the deficit effects. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have been focused on the repeal of the individual mandate. They are concerned about how that will affect the health insurance markets.
Susan Collins also has other concerns. She thinks the Corporate Tax Cut is actually too much of a cut. She wants to protect the deduction for state and local taxes paid and then you've had Marco Rubio and Mike Lee pushing for a more generous child credit especially with people with a lower income.
Now the big political challenge for Republicans is that some of the demands that these members are making are intention with each other. So if you give Marco Rubio and Mike Lee what they want on a more generous child credit that adds more to the deficit. But they have a hard cap on how much they're allowed to grow the deficit under the rule using to move this bill.
So if you give someone what they're asking for. If you give Ron Johnson who said he's a no what he wants on taxes for certain kinds of businesses, a bigger tax cut for them, to give the things away you have to take something away from someone else. And so the question is the things that you have to do to turn a no vote into a yes does that turn another yes vote into a no is I think difficult to please all of these people at the same time in the way that you need to, to get the 50 votes.
O'DONNELL: Let's put that graphic back up on the screen that shows Senator Johnson voting no and the others -- the undecided. And so when we look at that, there's the President today predicting -- predicting that Jeff Flake will move into the no column and basically pushing him there, insulting him, all of that. It leaves the other four there. If any one of the other four slides over to the no column, if Jeff Flake goes over there, then, Norm, it is dead.
And I just want to underline the stunning recklessness of Donald Trump, of doing something like this, tweeting about Jeff Flake like this with the votes like that. If you had 65 Republican Senators, go ahead. go ahead and insult Jeff Flake if you're that kind of guy. But when you hear these reports of HR McMaster calling Donald Trump an idiot, one of the examples you could give is that Tweet about Jeff Flake.
ORNSTEIN: Absolutely, no question. And, of course, you have the other reality which is that he knows nothing about this bill. Nothing about what's in it. One of the laugh moments in his prepared statement was when they get together, if they do, if he doesn't completely screw this up and have integrity with the Senators and they get to a conference committee he said I'll be righted in middle of it. If you want to screw up a conference committee if they get there, the best way to do that is put Donald Trump in the middle of it.
O'DONNELL: Yeah. and that's one of the things, Josh, you wonder with this Congress will there ever be Conference Committees. Will they just take, you know, what the Senate passes and then just run it in identical form through the House because they can't survive a conference committee.
BARRO: I think if they can pass a tax cut bill through the Senate it will almost certainly get to the President's desk. The margin by which they pass the bill through the House is wider than I expected it to be. They have room to a lose a large number of additional votes in the House and still pass it.
So there will be some points of contention in particular. The House Bill preserves a deduction for property taxes paid. That's important to members from upstate New York and certain other areas with high property taxes.
The Senate Bill as it's currently written allows no deduction of any sort for any kind of state or local taxes including property taxes. So if that comes back in the Senate Bill, I think you'll see a few members in the house peeling off saying they can't support it anymore. But they'll probably still a room to pass it. I think the really difficult house is - House of Congress is the Senate on this.
So I don't know whether they'll go a formal conference committee or ping pong the bill back and forth. But my expectation is if the Senate passes something The house will end up basically folding and accepting what the Senate has written.
O'DONNELL: Norm, let's just remember, these things aren't supposed to be close. Republican Tax Cut Bills are the easiest thing you can put through a Congress when the Republicans are in charge and they have a Republican President but not with Donald Trump. He makes it look hard.
ORNSTEIN: You know, I had lunch a couple of weeks with Bill Bradley and we were talking about the 1986 Tax Bill which you know very well and one of the things that made me gag just the other day was when john McCain praised this bill for being a part of the regular order. Lawrence, you know the regular order. And the farce in the Senate Finance Committee was anything but that. And as Josh was saying, they have a hard cap but you look at the ways of which they tried to get around that.
You know first they put in the repeal of the adoption credit. We still have in there taking away the tuition break for graduate school scholarships which is the biggest blow to S.T.E.M. education in primacy in science and technology that you can imagine. Some of these provisions are really horrible ones. And, you know, that you put that together with Trump's ineptitude and if this bill makes it through the Senate I'm afraid it's more of a reflection on Republicans in the Senate than it is even on Donald Trump.
O'DONNELL: Norm Ornstein and Josh Barro, thank you both for joining us tonight.
BARRO: Thanks Lawrence.
ORNSTEIN: Our pleasure and a great book you have, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Norm. Very much appreciate that.
Coming up, new report that HR McMaster, National Security Adviser called his boss Donald Trump, an idiot in a private dinner. What are the odds of that being true? Donald Trump an idiot.
O'DONNELL: In October, which seems like several months ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reported to have referred to his boss the President of the United States as a moron. In a meeting at the Pentagon just after the moron -- I mean, the President left that meeting. And now comes the idiot. Buzzfeed News reported today that National Security Adviser Hr McMaster referred to President Trump as an idiot in a private dinner conversation with Safra Catz the CEO of Oracle.
Buzzfeed sources were four people who say they heard about the conversation directly from Safra Catz. Buzzfeed reports that McMaster, "dismissed the President variously as an idiot and a dope with the intelligence of a kindergartner." the sources said. And fell to Michael Anton today to try to deny that the National Security Adviser believes that the President is an idiot and a dope with the intelligence of a kindergartner.
Michael Anton is the spokesman for the National Security Council and National Security Adviser and he said "actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster's actual views."
Joining us now, Ron Klain back with us and Jennifer Rubin back with us. So I guess the question is Jennifer, what exactly is the diametric opposite of idiot? Is it simply not idiot or is it wicked smart guy?
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRINUTOR: You know, I think this is a sign of disarray. One National Security Adviser says the guy is a moron and the other says he is an idiot. They need to get on the same page here. We have a serious disagreement. you know?
The crime here is not that someone said it. It's that we have someone of this limited intellect who's Commander in Chief, who has control of our armed services, who arguably has the ability to start nuclear war and that you have these two gentlemen, fine gentlemen, though they may be, out there denying that they have said the truth.
It would be nice, frankly, if they could leave the administration and come tell us the truth, come tell Congress, inform the American people that this man is utterly incapable of performing his duties. That way we might be able to do something about it.
O'DONNELL: And let's just consider for a moment if it's leaked that McMaster was trying to convince someone that Donald Trump is really smart. He's really brilliant at government and really brilliant at politics and what kind of credibility that would have. And so, Ron, when the Whitehouse is faced today with this issue of the National Security Adviser calls the President an idiot, they work on a statement of exactly what they're going to say.
And Ron, you've been in the Whitehouse. You know how they work on the statements and the statement comes out as simply those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster's actual views. Now, that is as weak a possible rebuttal statement. They could not have put together a weaker string of words than that.
RON KLAIN: They couldn't have, Lawrence. And you know there's a reason. I worked in the Whitehouse as you said. And people attack the President all the time and then you have to respond to it. What's so different about what were seeing is that people attacking the President are his closest advisers.
His Secretary of State calls him a moron. His National Security adviser calls him an idiot. So it's hard for the Whitehouse to muster a response to the Whitehouse. But look I think it goes back to what Jennifer said. In the end, if it took the National Security Adviser eight months to figure that Donald Trump was an idiot then we need to introduce General McMaster to captain obvious because this is about the plainest fact about the Trump Presidency one could ever imagine.
O'DONNELL: And Jennifer, you cannot dine out in America where more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump and not hear words like moron and idiot when people are talking about the President of the United States. That's one of the reasons these stories come with the credibility level that they have
RUBIIN: Absolutely. And you have to think that members of Congress say the same thing. You know? You have people like wonderful Paul Ryan, man of a jell-o spy who comes out and says the President is terrific. He's a big help.
Don't we think in private he is telling people this guy is an idiot. This guy is a moron. He's going to screw up the tax bill? So I think listen what bothers me not that people say nasty things but lie to the American people saying the opposite.
I would like people to have an outbreak of candor so we can determine whether this guy is a menace to National Security which I happen to think he is.
O'DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, HR McMaster is one of the enemies in Steve Bannon world and so there is speculation that this kind of story is actually being advanced by the Bannon side in the hope to discredit McMaster within the Whitehouse but that doesn't go to the question, the real question of did he really say this?
KLAIN: Yeah. I think all of that speculation suggests that these people are playing six dimensional chess. The record shows that their playing zero dimensional chess, Lawrence.
KLAIN: I mean this is the most disorganized, incompetent people to ever circle a President. Ad so I don't think this is like some clever, like, parlor game. I think this is just the truth slowly leaking out as these people go and have conversations with people and can't obscure the fact that the man they're serving, the man who runs the country right now is just not up to the job any way, shape or form.
O'DONNELL: And, Jennifer, I love the theory that, you know, that we're going to help the President by getting a story out there that says he's an idiot.
RUBIN: Well, in a way it does because it speaks more highly of the advisers to figure this out. There's no really good way of explaining this. I do fear, however, that if they have figured it out our adversaries figured it out.
Our allies figured it out and the opportunities that he is creating for enemies of the United States is really stunning. And we already saw in his Asia trip the Chinese obviously are laughing up their sleeves now about him. Putin pulls a fast one on him. So it's not just domestically so terrible but a national security problem.
O'DONNELL: Yeah. And one of the images in these reports is the idea that HR McMaster is in the Whitehouse trying to prevent Donald Trump from blowing up the world. That's the phrase one person used. And if that's the case, this is a deadly serious matter as we all know. Ron Klain, Jennifer Reuben, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
KLAIN: Thank Lawrence.
RUBIN: You're welcome.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the Republican Politician who really did call Donald Trump an idiot and we have it on video and this politician did it while urging a Republican Senator to run against Donald Trump in 2020. That's coming up.
O'DONNELL: This long and distinguished career in television journalism seems to have come to an abrupt end. But somehow it is no longer shocking that such ends are occurring so suddenly. Today it is no longer shocking when a new day arrives with a new report of sexual harassment,
The Washington Post reported the stories of eight women who say made unwanted sexual advances toward them including laude phone calls, walking around naked in their presence or groping their breast, buttocks or genital areas. The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the Charlie Rose Show from the 1990's to as recently as 2011. They range in age from 21 to 37 at the time of the alleged encounters
Charlie Rose is 75 years old. He was until today the host of his own show on PBS and co-host of CBS this morning as well as correspondent for 60 minutes. He has been suspended from all of those positions by PBS and CBS. NBC's Anne Thompson has more details
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE, REPORTER: Welcome to CBS this morning.
ANNE THOMPSON, REPORTER: America knows him as co-anchor on CBS This Morning and a contributor to 60 minutes. But it's at PBS where Charlie Rose honed his image, verbane and sophisticated. Now eight women say off the air Charlie Rose sexually harassed them. The claims come from women who were 21 to 37 at the time of the encounters spanning the late '90s to 2011, all working for his production company, distributing his show on PBS.
Associate Producer Ray Abravo telling the Washington Post, he was a sexual predator and I was his victim, describing unwanted advances while working with him in cars, hotels, private planes, and at his home. Irin Carmon is one of the story's authors.
IRIN CARMON, AUTHOR: There was often what some people in the office called the shower trick, which would involve Mr. Rose exposing himself, they said, while coming out of the shower. Many of these women describe the initial move being a hand on the leg, often the mid-thigh.
THOMPSON: Kyle Godfrey-Ryan confirmed to NBC that Rose fired her when she told a mutual friend about him walking nude in front of her while working at his home, and late-night phone calls involving his fantasies about her. Several of the women complained to the executive producer Yvette Vega who told The Post I should have stood up for them. I failed. It is crushing.
I deeply regret not helping them. Though he said not all the descriptions were accurate, in a statement, Rose wrote, it is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed.
I have behaved insensitively at times and I respect responsibility for that. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though now I realize, I was mistaken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And so tonight, it feels like there is no end in sight to these kinds of stories, as women continue to come forward, to tell their stories in the hope of protecting other women from having to endure what they have experienced. Courage creates more courage. It always does.
O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's Last Word. Senator Jeff Flake was doing a town hall event in Arizona this weekend, and his microphone was still on when he started talking to the Republican Mayor of Mesa, Arizona.
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