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GOP releases final tax reform bill Transcript 12/15/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Bruce Bartlett, Joshua Barro, Barney Frank, Harry Litman, Asawin Suebsaeng, Joan Walsh

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 15, 2017 Guest: Bruce Bartlett, Joshua Barro, Barney Frank, Harry Litman, Asawin Suebsaeng, Joan Walsh


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And my advice for the President would be, watch "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" every night if you want to know where this thing is going.

MADDOW: Or on the night that she`s got four really, really intimidating prosecutors on who are telling you where you`re screwing up.

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

MADDOW: At least then.

O`DONNELL: Yes. They are -- they seem like they`re way ahead of the President`s lawyers, but we will find out.

MADDOW: I have that feeling. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, here it is. Get the whole thing in here. Here it is. This is the Republican tax bill, all 1,100 pages of it.

And if you`re rich, there is very, very, very good news in these pages, pages of this bill for you. The richer you are, actually, the better the news is.

As long as you don`t care at all about the federal government running up massive deficits and debt that future generations will have to pay, these 1,100 pages have already done something really amazing. They changed Bob Corker`s mind!

Even before Republican Senator Bob Corker got a chance to read these thousand pages, this bill made Bob Corker do the thing that politicians never want to do. They never want to get caught doing this: flip-flop. A huge, a huge flip-flop.

Bob Corker voted against the bill in the Senate before he changed his mind today and decided to vote for it. For this version of the bill. This version of the bill changed his mind. Or did it?

It was a pretty stunning announcement. A senator changing his mind, a complete reversal. What Bob Corker really announced today, though, is that he is not retiring from politics after all.

Senator Corker had already announced that he will not run for re-election in the Senate next year, but, today, he announced, in effect, that he continues to have hopes of reaching higher office like maybe Secretary of State and definitely has hopes of reaching the presidency.

He didn`t put it in exactly those words. Instead, he issued a written statement. And that`s what senators do when they don`t want to leave embarrassing video evidence of them flip-flopping.

That`s why instead of saying this in his own voice in front of cameras, Senator Corker said this in a written statement: I have decided to support the tax reform package we will vote on next week.

Senator Corker decided that only after the tax reform package that he voted against in the Senate became even more favorable to the rich. The top income tax rate on incomes over $500,000 is now lower in this bill than what the bill Senator Corker decided to vote against, the original bill.

So Bob Corker changed his mind about the tax bill after the tax bill made sure that the rich get even richer. Senator Corker has been against this tax legislation until now because it will add at least a trillion dollars to the deficit. And here is what Bob Corker promised about that just two and a half months ago.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: If it looks like to me, Chuck, we`re adding one penny to the deficit, I am not going to be for it. OK? I`m sorry. It is the greatest threat to our nation. The greatest threat to our nation.


O`DONNELL: The greatest threat to our nation. One penny. And today, Senator Corker has decided to vote for the greatest threat to our nation. And it doesn`t add one penny to the deficit. It adds a hundred trillion pennies to the deficit.

Now, you can see why Bob Corker doesn`t want new video today of him saying he is voting for a bill that increases the deficit after saying on "MEET THE PRESS" that he wouldn`t vote for anything that increases the deficit by a penny.

Those two pieces of video would be stuck together right now tonight, and we`d be showing them to you. And we`d show them to you for the rest of Bob Corker`s political life, video of him saying I won`t vote for a bill that increases the deficit by a penny and then video of him saying, today, I guess I will.

And so there is no video of Bob Corker proudly owning the decision that he made today. The only thing that could prevent Bob Corker from being consistent is ambition.

For politicians, ambition always trumps consistency. Like Marco Rubio who skillfully played the role of the last Senate holdout before he announced today that he is voting for the bill, Bob Corker is obviously thinking about running for president. How could he not?

The current Republican president could not be more unpopular, and Donald Trump might exhaust Republican voters to the point that they are desperate for an alternative when the Trump re-election campaign starts up.

If he`s going to be president, Bob Corker definitely has to be ready to run in 2024 when the Trump era will definitely be over, but he also has to be ready to run in 2020 if Donald Trump by then is so weak a candidate that Republicans need someone else.

And no one can be sure that Donald Trump will actually run for re-election. We`ve seen this before.

Lyndon Johnson was elected in a landslide in 1964. But by 1968, when he was supposed to be gliding to re-election, he was challenged in primaries by two Democrats. First, Eugene McCarthy, then Bobby Kennedy. And Lyndon Johnson just dropped out of the race.

Lyndon Johnson was a far more powerful and effective and calculating politician than Donald Trump, and far more determined. And he dropped out of his own re-election campaign.

Donald Trump deciding not to run for re-election for a bunch of reasons is not out of the question, so Bob Corker has to be ready. And Bob Corker or Marco Rubio or any Republican seriously trying to win a Republican nomination for president knows that he can`t be the guy who voted against tax cuts.

There`s something else Bob Corker might want. It`s the job first held by Thomas Jefferson and now held by Rex Tillerson. Like every chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate before him, Bob Corker would like to be Secretary of State.

And with Donald Trump in public conflict with his Secretary of State over just how eager we should be for nuclear war with North Korea, as well as other subjects, Bob Corker knows what everyone else in the world knows. That Rex Tillerson could be out the door any day.

Donald Trump could need a new Secretary of State any day. Tomorrow, next month. And by now, Bob Corker has observed that Donald Trump forgets the insult game. He forgets what he has said when he insults people like Ted Cruz or Little Marco as he called him.

He also seems to forget the insults that Marco Rubio and others like Ted Cruz and Bob Corker have visited upon Donald Trump. But Bob Corker seems right to calculate that Donald Trump would not ever get over Bob Corker not voting for what Donald Trump calls a monumental tax cut bill.

Donald Trump is one of the rich people who will get richer because of this legislation if it is passed. Everyone in the Trump family will get richer, but don`t expect Donald Trump to admit that anytime soon.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tax reform will protect low- income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well connected. I`m doing the right thing. And it`s not good for me, believe me.

No, I don`t benefit. I don`t benefit. In fact --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t think rich people benefit?

TRUMP: In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, there`s no -- there`s -- I think there`s very little benefit for people of wealth.

In all fairness, it`s going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me. Believe -- this is not good for me.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Josh Barro, senior editor for "Business Insider" and an MSNBC contributor.

Also joining us, Bruce Bartlett, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush and the author of the book, "The Truth Matters."

Bruce Bartlett, so here we have the conference report, this combination -- this compromise between the House and Senate. And lo and behold, it`s even better for rich taxpayers.

BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Yes, well, there really wasn`t much doubt about that. The only question was how much.

The -- but the idea that this is going to jump-start growth is just complete nonsense. And Josh`s father thinks that it will. I`d be interested in hearing how he squares that, but I think the likelihood that we`re going to get anything positive out of this legislation is just rank nonsense.

O`DONNELL: Mike Bloomberg had this to say about it today.

CEOs aren`t waiting on a tax cut to jump-start the economy, a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company or had -- or hand out raises. It`s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.

Josh, they are placing their public bet on the idea that the economy will grow at such a high rate, that this massive increase to the deficit will be answered through economic growth.

JOSHUA BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, it reminds me. There was that moment a few weeks ago where Gary Cohn, who chairs the National Economic Council inside the White House, former Goldman Sachs executive, was speaking to a number of chief executives and said to them -- who`s preparing to invest more if we pass this corporate tax cut? And almost nobody in the audience raised their hands.

O`DONNELL: Right, right.

BARRO: And Gary Cohn was like, well, but why aren`t you raising your hands?

I mean, if you look at -- in the different models that you see from various economists, from various groups, they all tend to say that a lower corporate tax rate is positive for growth and investment to some degree.

Even, you know, the Tax Policy Center, widely respected joint project of two left of center think tanks, it does say that this bill will cause the economy to grow a little bit faster than if the bill wasn`t passed at all.

Now, it won`t cause the economy to grow anywhere near fast enough to pay for itself. The bill will still add a little more than a trillion dollars to the debt over a decade.

But when you lower the corporate tax rate, it increases after-tax returns to investors and makes it a little bit more attractive at the margin to invest. So I don`t think those CEOs are sitting there, waiting on the sidelines, and going, tomorrow?

It will cause a little bit more business investment. The problem is -- and I talked with Paul Krugman about this earlier this week -- that, basically, eventually, some of that does trickle down to workers, but it takes a long time.

It can`t trickle down to workers until the business investments have actually been made. There`s the expansion, such as the companies need to hire more people. They need to compete more for workers. They need to pay higher wages for that.

That takes time. You have to get the factories built. You have to get the machines on the floor. So on the first year, it`s not likely that you`re going to see any effects at all on wages from this.

You will see, probably, a little bit in the long run, but then the thing offsetting that is that we`ll have all this extra government debt and somebody needs to pay the interest on that. And, eventually, somebody needs to pay taxes in order to serve that interest, and a lot of those taxes are likely to be levied on the broad public.

O`DONNELL: Bruce Bartlett, Marco Rubio brilliantly played the last holdout role, which senators always vie for if the vote is this close so that they can claim a public victory of some sort.

And he chose the child tax credit, which I think is politically very smart for him. He got a more generous child tax credit than was going to be in the bill, or at least that`s the argument that he achieved.

But, of course, it`s temporary. It will expire. And so, like all of the so-called benefits on the personal side or personal income side of it, it`s temporary.

BARTLETT: Oh, that`s right. Now, I think the child credit is a good idea because it reproves the maldistribution of this legislation and throws a few crumbs off the plates of the billionaires who will get the main benefits.

But it`s completely contrary to the idea that you`re going to get growth out of this because it`s really just a giveaway. And maybe it`s justified but it`s not going to create growth.

And I think that Secretary Munchin (ph) -- Mnuchin of the Treasury really kind of gave away the whole game when he promised, over and over again, he was going to have a detailed analysis and forecast that will show exactly how the legislation is going to raise growth, and he came out with a one- page document that just assumed higher growth.

And so it assumed its own conclusion. And this is just completely ridiculous.

O`DONNELL: Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee, recalled how this was done when it was done right -- when tax reform was done right. The last time that was done was 1986. Let`s listen to what he described.


REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA), MINORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS: You want to recall the following. In 1986, there were 450 witnesses who offered testimony. There were 30 public hearings on the Tax Reform Act of `86.

We have had no public hearings on this legislation. We sought no witness testimony on this legislation and the entire revenue structure of the country.

In about 3-1/2 weeks from the time that this bill was put before the Ways and Means Committee until the time that they`re going to sign this conference report, and then perhaps vote on it early next week, there has been no input from Democrats.


O`DONNELL: And, Josh Barro, the public is no more happy with it than Democrats are.

BARRO: Yes. I mean, it`s really remarkable. I mean, they`re going to get this thing to the President`s desk, you know, probably in, what, a week or two? And then, we will all start paying taxes under this new law on January 1st of 2018.

So, I mean, it`s not enough time for employers to change withholding right away. They`re going to have to do it a little bit after the start of the year.

And then some of the stuff in this bill is really complicated, particularly the business provisions, some of the stuff about so-called pass-through companies like the companies that Donald Trump and his family own.

There`s a tax break for those companies but only some of them. And there`s going to be tests about whether your company qualifies or not. They`re going to have to write rules about that.

There are very complex rules about how multi-national corporations will be taxed, which parts of their income will be attributed to the United States and which parts will be considered foreign and not taxed.

And so it`s going to take time to write all those rules. All the tax accountants and the tax lawyers are going to get together with their clients and try to figure out how to exploit those rules to maximum effect.

And, you know, I mean, we saw when ObamaCare got passed. And it was a fairly long process with a lot of hearings, and then they had three years to implement the law. And it still kind of wasn`t enough time and various aspects of the rollout were a mess, and the rules were extremely complicated to write.

You`re going to see some of that here. And so a lot of that stuff is going to have to get done in a matter of weeks instead of years, so I think you`re likely to see errors. I think you`re likely to see drafting errors in the legislation they`re going to have to come back and try to fix.

And I think you`re likely to see parts of the legislation to give tax breaks the Congress didn`t even intend to give because they haven`t had the time to fully vet the legislation. And once the tax lawyers and accountants get their hands on it, they`ll figure out how to exploit it.

O`DONNELL: Yes. This stack of 1,100 pages has more unintended consequences in it, I`m sure, than any tax legislation ever written. When you write it this far that fast, that`s what happens.

Bruce Bartlett, Josh Barro, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

BARRO: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a very special LAST WORD tonight about a little girl who wants to be a doctor. You can help her. You`re going to want to hear her story.

And today, President Trump tried to get a message, it seems, directly to Michael Flynn about, of all things, pardons.

And Barney Frank will join us next with his reaction to these 1,100 pages of tax legislation.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (R-NY), MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: The Republican leader and others claim that this bill would not add to the deficit. We know now that even under the dynamic scoring method the Republican Party asked for and received, this bill would add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

All of the claims that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will pay for themselves were not correct. It`s time for my Republican friends to admit the error and come clean with the American people.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Barney Frank, former Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts and former Chairman of the House Financial Services.

Barney, it`s 1,100 pages. Believe it or not, I haven`t finished reading it yet since we just got it today. I`m sure that leaves me alone among those who haven`t read it yet. But what do you make about this bill and Bob Corker`s turn today, someone who said that he wouldn`t vote for a bill that added one penny to the deficit?

BARNEY FRANK, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES: Well, the Corker performance is the most appalling example of politics at its absolute worst.

And, look, I`ve always -- I`ve felt for a long time that both he and Jeff Flake were kind of fakers on this, that they were standing up to Donald Trump verbally while giving him everything he wanted. But this, this performance by Corker, is just bizarre.

Beyond that, though, I do think -- and I heard Chuck Schumer and, obviously, he is correct. I think what we see here is the Republicans have adopted a Marxist approach to this. But the Marx in question is not Karl, it`s Chico.

And people will remember the line in the movie where he says to someone when he is caught at something, when he`s blatantly denying the truth -- who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

Well, that`s the Republicans saying there`s no deficit. But in fact, I believe they do know there`s a deficit. And they like that because this is a throwback to David Stockman, starve the beast.

There are people like Paul Ryan who would like to cut Social Security and Medicare. He`s explicit about this. They know that, on the merits, they can`t do that. They know that if you put that to the American people, there will be resistance to many of the cutbacks they want to institute.

So what they plan to do is a two-step. First of all, you create a larger deficit. And I`ve always felt people exaggerated the deficit, but at a time when the economy is doing well, this is more deficit than is a good idea. Not that you have to get the balance.

So what they then plan to do is, having created this deficit, they will use that as an argument against programs which would otherwise be popular.

And that also, I believe -- and by the way in terms of this, oh, it`s going to produce more revenue and we`ll be better off, Alan Greenspan was asked, when I was on the committee a few years ago, by a Republican congressman -- isn`t it true, Mr. Chairman, that if you cut taxes right, you wind up with even more revenue?

Greenspan said, Congressman, I`ve heard that theory, but it`s never worked out in my lifetime. Alan was about 75.



FRANK: But what you have here is a -- it`s how we`re going to have a negative on economic growth and productivity because I am very certain the passage of this tax bill, which apparently with Corker`s flip-flop-flip now locks very much like it will pass, that will be the end to any potential infrastructure bill.

People should understand that. And there was an assumption, when Trump got elected, one of the things people were looking for is a boost to the economy.

Not just short term but long term because if you`re trying to do things that really improve productivity, improving the physical infrastructure is one of the few things that you can say generally will make us more productive. People will move faster. People will spend less time getting to work, et cetera.

Well, I don`t think there`s any question. Once this bill passes, given the magnitude of the resulting deficit, that will be the end of any realistic chance for infrastructure. And so even from the standpoint of all overall economic growth even in the near term, that`s a pretty bad deal.

O`DONNELL: And it always also serves this kind of tax cut, their longer- term presidential plans, which is, they know that the next time taxes will be raised, it will be done by a Democratic president. The way Bill Clinton did in 1993 after the deficit skyrocketed under Republican presidents, the way Barack Obama had to after the deficit skyrocketed under George W. Bush.

And so then after a Democratic president raises taxes, the next Republican candidate for president will get to run against the Democratic president for raising taxes.

FRANK: Well, I think that that should be more realistic, too. I do think Paul Ryan -- and I find Paul a perfectly amiable former colleague, but I think he really does believe that he can use this as a way to cut Social Security and Medicare.

So that they will tell you, oh, no, if the Democrats listened to us, they won`t have to cut taxes -- they won`t have to raise taxes because we will have cut aids to education and healthcare and health research and Medicare and Social Security. And we won`t have an infrastructure plan and we need to.

Can I make another point, Lawrence, about how specifically anti-middle class this is? There`s something I watched that will affect me personally now that I`m out of Congress and making a lot more money than I used to.

So I`m affected as a tax paying Massachusetts citizen by two things. First of all, the reduction, substantial reduction, in the tax deduction I get for state and local taxes. And by the way, that`s clearly -- that`s motivated by their anti-government policy.

They want to penalize if a state wants to do more, it wants to tax itself, the citizens of the state to do more in terms of improving the quality of their lives effectively, they want it to be penalized. But the point is that they`re going to get rid of that, so they`re going to compensate for that how? By reducing the very top tax rate.

So if you`re making hundreds of thousands, if you`re making a half a million dollars, you`ll get a reduction in the rate from 39.6 to 37 to offset losing the state income tax deduction. But if you`re making $100,000 and you`re not in that 39.6 bracket, you get no relief.

So even there where they say they`re going to offset the negative effect of doing away with the state and local tax deduction, they give it only to the only very rich.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that is a stunning piece of it.

Barney Frank, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, President Trump had a message today for Michael Flynn, and it was a message about pardons.


O`DONNELL: Today, President Trump talked about pardoning Michael Flynn while pretending he doesn`t want to talk about pardoning Michael Flynn.


TRUMP: I don`t want to talk about pardons of Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens. Let`s see.

I can say this. When you look at when`s going on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.


O`DONNELL: So if you`re Michael Flynn and heard that today, what you heard is the President is thinking about pardoning you, and he is thinking about justifying it by claiming that the FBI and Justice Department are somehow corrupt, and everyone in the country is very, very angry about the corrupt FBI and Justice Department.

Now that Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a plea agreement with the Special Prosecutor, Michael Flynn no longer listens to what Donald Trump tells him to do. He has to listen to what his own criminal defense lawyers tell him to do and what the Special Prosecutor tells him to do.

And the only way for Donald Trump to communicate with Michael Flynn now is the way he did today, through the news media. And even though Michael Flynn has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, the investigation of Michael Flynn apparently continues today.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports Deutsche Bank A.G. has been asked by investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to hand over information about transactions that could be linked to former national security adviser Michael Flynn or entities connected to him according to people familiar with the matter.

Also tonight, "The Washington Post" has a new report about Jared Kushner`s criminal defense team. Senior White House official Jared Kushner and his legal team are searching for a crisis public relations firm according to four people familiar with the matter.

Kushner`s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has quietly called at least two firms, these people said. The inquiries have occurred in the past two weeks, and officials at the firms were asked not to discuss the conversations with others.

Joining us now are Asawin Suebsaeng, who`s a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast," and Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General. He is now professor of constitutional law at UCLA.

And, Harry Litman, when the President spoke today about pardons for Michael Flynn, if you were Michael Flynn`s lawyer and he turned to you and said, what does that mean, what would you have said?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Well, you might try to draw some hope from it, wouldn`t you? There was that big word "yet." I haven`t thought about it yet.

This is dangerous stuff for Trump, by the way. This is a little reminiscent of when Clinton was accused of wearing a particular tie to do - - to have a signal to Monica Lewinski. It`s politically, if not legally, problematic for him.

But the big part of that diatribe by Trump, the onslaught against the FBI and the DOJ, you know, represented a new low. There was no buffoonery to it. It was just basically despicable to be coming after the law enforcement like that.

And for the President of the United States to be trying to incite disrespect and contempt for law enforcement, this is the President of the United States come completely unhinged.

O`DONNELL: And, Asawin Suebsaeng, what do you make of Jared Kushner trying to add a crisis public relations firm? It seems a little late for that. This is all up to the criminal lawyers, isn`t it?

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it`s a little bit of an issue where they are, whether they want to admit it or not, in and outside of the White House preparing for the worst. And that is obviously way beyond surface matters and public relations, but that`s the mood they`re going into at the moment.

But I want to go back to something you were saying earlier regarding the President of the United States perhaps trying to telegraph a message to Michael Flynn through all of our T.V. screens. If that is something the President of the United States was trying to do, it`s certainly wouldn`t be the first time he`s attempted to do something like that ever since he fired Michael Flynn.

As we reported at "The Daily Beast" several months ago, back in April and May, the President had to be waved off of contacting Michael Flynn repeatedly by his White House lawyers. To the point where they informed him and those around him that doing so might be construed by some critics as potential witness tampering.

And as was reported later on after we ran that story, the President didn`t care. He disregarded the advice of his in-house White House lawyers and did so anyway and got a message to Mike Flynn, who was under fire then as he is now, saying to, quote, stay strong.

So if the President is trying to tell Michael Flynn something through the T.V. screen, it certainly would be on brand for President Donald J. Trump to do so.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Harry Litman, as a former federal prosecutor yourself, you see this happen today. You see the President publicly talk about pardons and say he doesn`t want to talk about it yet with Michael Flynn.

You`ve already made a plea deal with Michael Flynn. What do you do if you`re a Special Prosecutor and you`ve got someone you`ve made a plea deal with, and you start -- and the President starts talking about pardons about that person?

LITMAN: Well, you`re incensed. The entire team along with, of course, Trump`s pillorying of the FBI, has to -- nothing could be more calculated to really enflame them. But you think, also, maybe he`s planning some pyrotechnic move, pardoning Flynn and trying to fire Mueller and the whole kind of political and legal Armageddon that people have written about.

If you`re Mueller, I know what you do, which is you put one in foot in front of the other. You continue to do the professional job of investigation you`ve done to date, and you shore things up a little with Flynn as they`ve done.

You have the provision that says he`s going to, in any event, have to cooperate with state authorities. You know -- you try to get some statements of his down and recorded, so they`re in the bank in the event Trump tries something. But obviously, it augurs an absolute high noon showdown.

O`DONNELL: And, Asawin, there is, of course, the problem for the President, which is if he did pardon Michael Flynn or anyone else, they immediately lose their Fifth Amendment rights with congressional committees and elsewhere because they cannot incriminate themselves for something they`ve been pardoned for.

SUEBSAENG: Right, absolutely. And it`s very, very, very unclear, based on the people I have talked to in and outside of the White House who are close to President Trump, if it is something he is even strongly considering.

I mean, he is leaving the door open to it, but the President of the United States will say words like "yet" or "I`ll keep you in suspense" or "we`ll see in a couple of weeks" all the time. It`s sort of a part of a, shall we say, tune in next week in reality T.V. habit of the President. But in terms of if the "yet" is actually meant to mean much, we really do have yet to see.

O`DONNELL: Asawin Suebsaeng and Harry Litman, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

LITMAN: Thank you.

SUEBSAENG: Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Fox News and Republicans are upset about 10,000 FBI text messages that, it turns out, never existed.


O`DONNELL: On his way to make a speech at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia today, the President said this.


TRUMP: Well, it`s a shame what`s happened with the FBI, but we`re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever.

But it is very sad when you look at those documents. And how they`ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it.


O`DONNELL: But of course, he didn`t say anything like that, didn`t insult the FBI when he actually spoke to the FBI at the FBI training facility to some local law enforcement officers who were graduating from a training program there.

Instead, the President went off script to announce that he now thinks prisoners in the United States who are not United States citizens should be set free.


TRUMP: To any member of MS-13 listening, I have a message for you. We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you. We will throw you the hell out of the country.


TRUMP: I mean, somehow I like it better than jail. Jail, we have to take care of. Who the hell wants to take care of them?



O`DONNELL: Boy, that sounded great to those gang members the President was trying to threaten.

The President doesn`t understand, of course, that if he throws them out of the country instead of serving prison time here for crimes committed in this country, they will not be charged with those crimes in another country.

And they will, of course, be free. Free to roam the streets of that other country or, of course, free to sneak back into this country and possibly commit those same crimes once again.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department released some 375 text messages between former Robert Mueller investigator Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the senior FBI lawyer. Here`s how Fox News reported that story.


KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Shannon, Fox News has just obtained those 10,000 text messages that you were talking about between Strzok and Page, and this is a big deal.


O`DONNELL: Wow. They just obtained the 10,000 text messages. Fox News is only off by about 9,600 text messages. Fox News was lying about the 10,000 text messages, and they have not actually issued a correction about that lie.

The text messages were between an FBI investigator and a senior White House lawyer. They both worked on Robert Mueller`s investigative team. As soon as Robert Mueller discovered the existence of the texts, he separated the FBI investigator from the team. The lawyer had already left the team.

The existence of these text messages is what Republicans are now using to condemn everyone working on the Mueller investigation, including every FBI agent and by the sound of it, every FBI agent in the country.

The text messages were written during the presidential campaign. They included sentiments shared by the majority of Americans. Like, quote, I am worried about what Trump is encouraging in our behavior. The things that made me proud about our tolerance for dissent.

FBI agents vote. They all have the right to vote. They all have opinions about our politics. Some of them, no doubt, voted for Donald Trump. Some voted for Hillary Clinton.

The Republican argument now seems to be that the only FBI agents and prosecutors who voted for Donald Trump and still support Donald Trump, only they -- only those can be allowed to investigate Donald Trump.

In fact, one of the longstanding traditions in the appointment of special prosecutors is that they come from the opposite party of the president that they are investigating. The appointment of Robert Mueller is a violation of that old tradition.

Robert Mueller is a Republican investigating a Republican president and is now being attacked by Republicans only, including some Republicans who want him fired immediately. That`s next.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: -- the people. The Congress have an obligation to expose this bias, to expose what I believe is a corrupt investigation. And I call on my Republican colleagues to join me in calling for the firing of Bob Mueller.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" and an MSNBC political analyst.

And, of course, it falls to a freshman Republican House member, Joan, to be the leader of the fire the special prosecutor movement.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Well, and he --you know, he might get some support.

I think -- I feel like with both the tax bill and also these attacks on Mueller, they are political arsonists, Lawrence. They are trying to blow the place up. The discrediting --

O`DONNELL: Are they trying to blow themselves up, though?

WALSH: Well, I think that could be --

O`DONNELL: Do they see it that way?

WALSH: Yes. I don`t know if they know that.


WALSH: I think with Congress, I actually really do think that a lot of them are going to leave.


WALSH: And that there is a kind of we got to reward our donors and then maybe we could get the hell out of here and get good jobs and, you know, rich people will reward us. It seems like political suicide.

What is the bill down to, 26 percent support --


WALSH: -- in the latest polls?


WALSH: So it doesn`t make any political sense to me. And they`re -- you know, in the parallel world of Fox, they`re really preparing for Donald Trump to make a move on Mueller. And they think that they have prepared their people to rise up in support of this.

But I think that would be a devastating thing, and I think you would see the resistance that we`ve seen so strong in so many of these election results. People would be in the streets.

I mean, I don`t know what comes next, but I think if you want to see energized voters for 2018 if we have elections, fire Robert Mueller.

O`DONNELL: Yes. So here is where they are in the polls. A.P. poll, do you think Trump`s ties to Russia are illegal? Forty percent say yes to that question. Forty percent is a very substantial number. Majority of Democrats, 62 percent. Only five percent of Republicans say that.

Another one, do you think Trump has tried to impede or obstruct the Russia investigation? Sixty-three percent -- 63 percent -- of Americans think that the President has tried to obstruct or impede that investigation. And that`s 63 percent saying he may have committed a crime or obstruction of justice.

WALSH: A crime or -- right. Right. I think a lot of people think that. I don`t think it`s a fringe, you know, lefty sentiment at this point.


WALSH: I don`t think they`re paying attention to the fact. And there are some people on the left who are like, this is a distraction, stop talking about Russia.

That`s crazy. The American people very much care what happened last November and the -- you know, the year before that. And this fomenting of grievance is scary to watch, but I don`t think they`ll get away with it.

O`DONNELL: Yes. It`s going to be fascinating to see if there is a move on Mueller, who -- so many Republican senators earlier in the year said don`t you dare. They`re all pretty quiet right now.

WALSH: Yes. Lindsey Graham was one of them, and now he`s like, I don`t know if that`s really necessary.


WALSH: When the rhetoric from the White House and their friends is actually more inflammatory than it was when he stepped forward and said, well, we`re going to come up with legislation to protect -- to make sure, you know, there`s got to be due whatever. They`re going to -- we`re going to define something and protect him.

Now he`s like, I don`t -- you know, I don`t really think we need that --

O`DONNELL: Yes. Yes.

WALSH: -- right now.

O`DONNELL: Joan Walsh, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WALSH: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a very special last word about a girl in second grade who wants to be a doctor. And with your help, she can get there.


O`DONNELL: I have no idea how many elementary schools and high schools I`ve visited and worked at, first as a substitute teacher being sent to different schools every day in Boston and now when I help deliver desks to schools in Malawi where the kids have never seen desks.

But it`s not all a blur. There are faces and voices I`ll never forget, kids indelibly etched in my memory.

Like the seventh grader in Roxbury one day who took one look at me when I walked into his classroom in the early 1980s with a full beard and long hair, and he called me Grizzly Adams, an homage, I guess, to the character Dan Haggerty played in the "Grizzly Adams" T.V. series.

That kid got a big laugh with the Grizzly Adams line, including from me, because, you know, one of my many weaknesses as a substitute teacher was that I thought most of the jokes about me were pretty funny.

And I often think about the Grizzly Adams kid. And I`m sure that wherever he works today, he`s the funniest guy in that job and probably the smartest. I`ll just never forget him.

And I`ll never forget Maureen. There she is on the day that I met her last year. That green dress, the Irish name that was so easy for me to remember, and that face made Maureen instantly memorable.

But what locked her in my memory was how hard she worked in class. Her concentration never wavered, even when she was sitting on the floor and when she was writing on the floor when her -- with her work paper on the floor.

That`s what teachers remember. How hard a student works. When we delivered desks to Maureen`s school last year, Maureen was the first student to get right to work on her new desk.

That green dress was her only outfit then. Like most of the kids in her class, Maureen had no shoes.

Now, Maureen is in second grade. She grew out of the green dress, but she used pieces of it to give her new school dress some style. And now, Maureen has her first pair of shoes.

Math is one of her favorite subjects. And, yes, the pointer that you see she`s using there is a branch. Just a branch that her teacher found and whittled into shape for use in class. That`s the way classroom life is in Malawi.

Maureen is shy. She speaks very softly. Here she is last month telling us what she wants to be when she grows up.


O`DONNELL: Maureen Bester wants to be a doctor. And you`re helping her get there with your contributions to the KIND Fund.

Kids In Need of Desks is a partnership I created with UNICEF to provide desks to schools in Malawi. You can contribute at The desks are made in Malawi by workers who have those jobs, thanks to your kindness.

In Malawi, public education is free for primary school but not for high school. The high school graduation rate for boys is double the graduation rate for girls. That`s why the KIND Fund provides scholarships for girls to attend high school. We`ll be there for Maureen when she goes to high school.

You can contribute any amount toward a desk or a scholarship in the name of anyone on your holiday gift list, and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgement of your gift.

Thanks to your generosity, we now have 3,181 girls attending high school, and we have delivered over 200,000 desks.

We`re enabled to do this because you have supported KIND since I announced it on this program seven years ago. This week, we crossed a milestone that I could not have imagined when we began.

Since we began Kids In Need of Desks, you have now contributed more than $15 million. Our total as of tonight is $15,101,109.

The workers who now have jobs building the desks thank you. The teachers who have desks in their classrooms for the first time thank you. The students thank you. I thank you. And Maureen thanks you.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Maureen Bester. I love the sound of that. Maybe someday, with your help, she will be Dr. Maureen Bester.

Maureen Bester gets tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.


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