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Senate to vote soon on tax cut bill Transcript 12/18/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Chris Van Hollen, David Sirota, Gene Sperling, Neera Tanden, Daniel Dale

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 19, 2017 Guest: Chris Van Hollen, David Sirota, Gene Sperling, Neera Tanden, Daniel Dale


And when I was sitting here taking my notes and I heard "hasn`t been seen since", I thought whoa, this is the Hollywood version of this.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Well, you know, heading into this testimony today, a bunch of Republicans, Trey Gowdy in particular had said, oh, I don`t expect McCabe to be testifying because I don`t think he`ll still be working for the FBI by then.

Today, he was asked about McCabe`s forthcoming testimony. He said well, it`s not 2:00 yet. Are you sure he still works for the FBI?

As far as we know, Andrew McCabe still works for the FBI and he has now been behind doors with those guys for more than eight hours. So, we`ll see.

O`DONNELL: That is going to be -- if we get any of the leaks about that, that`s going to be among the most fascinating leaks.

MADDOW: I hope they`ve all got Gatorade and power bars.

O`DONNELL: We will see.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, the biggest danger, and there are many dangers. But every day, the biggest danger of the Trump presidency is that we are always just a Trump whim away from nuclear war with North Korea. A nuclear exchange cannot be undone. What is happening tonight in the United States Senate can be undone, and it will be undone by the next Democratic president and Democratic Congress.

And so, it is not the worst thing that is happening in the Trump world. The Democrats will repair the damage to tax law that is being done tonight. And it is damage unlike anything we have ever seen before.

As many of you know, I used to have a hand in writing tax legislation in the Senate when I was chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee. So I know the history of big corporate special interests in tax legislation. And it is not a pretty history. And it is a bipartisan history for decades when Democrats from Texas and Louisiana controlled the Senate Finance Committee.

The oil and gas industry had easy access to plead their cases, but there was still senators from northern states who were there and ready to withhold their votes when oil and oil state Democrats tried to make the tax code too embarrassingly generous to their states` industrial giants. And you could embarrass the senator in those days by saying he was pushing a provision for special interests.

When my boss became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, New York`s senior Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, everything changed for the oil and gas industry very suddenly in the Finance Committee, and they knew it. But as a New York senator, Senator Moynihan, represented Wall Street, and he represented the biggest concentration of high value commercial real estate in the country, New York City.

The exposure to corrupt influences of a New York senator in control of tax legislation in the Senate could not be greater. And there was never the slightest accusation made by anyone that Chairman Moynihan was in service to Goldman Sachs or any other Wall Street firm, all of whom were constituents of his, or any of the huge commercial New York real estate interests and the big New York real estate families, all of whom were constituents of his. And one day, we were considering a tax provision that would affect commercial real estate.

Our chief tax counsel reviewed the policy issues, and it was a close call. You can make an argument for it in favor of it. You can make an argument against it.

I couldn`t tell if Senator Moynihan was leaning one way or the other when toward the end of our chat, our tax counsel mentioned that this tax provision would do Lew Rudin a lot of good. Lew Rudin was one of the biggest commercial real estate owners in New York City and a friend of Senator Moynihan for four decades, and a reliable contributor to Moynihan campaigns and Democratic Party campaigns. The senator and I were not surprised to discover that Lew Rudin had a big interest in this legislation, but had never called either one of us about it.

Years later, when I read Lew Rudin`s obituary, "The New York Times" quoted Lew Rudin as saying: The secret of my relationship with the political world is I never asked them for anything.

And as far as I know, that was true. And so, there was Senator Moynihan, considering what to do about a tax provision that would help a very rich friend of his get richer, and perhaps or perhaps not be good for the economy of New York City. Senator Moynihan didn`t say a word about the merits of the case. Without looking up, he just said Lew Rudin has given me too much money for me to vote for this.

Senator Moynihan wasn`t going to run the risk that someone would be able to say he voted for a tax break for his friend Lew Rudin. So, he voted against it. He voted against what Lew Rudin wanted because he voted for his campaigning. He voted against it because of the possible, just the possible appearance of Senator Moynihan being in service to a special interest.

And in this case, it was a special interest who didn`t even mention it to Senator Moynihan because Lew Rudin knew exactly what his favorite senator`s reaction would have been. Senator Moynihan would have told Lew Rudin personally, sorry, I can`t vote for it because you have given me too much money.

And after Senator Moynihan voted against that provision, Lew Rudin continued to contribute to Pat Moynihan`s campaigns because Pat Moynihan was the kind of senator that Lew Rudin the citizen, the citizen of New York City, the citizen of New York state, the citizen of the United States of America wanted to have in the United States Senate.

And so, yes, America once had big business owners, including big New York real estate moguls who weren`t always out for themselves. And yes, America had United States senators who could be embarrassed by doing the bidding of special interests. And we still have some senators like that. We still have senators who would react the way Pat Moynihan did. But none of them are in the Republican Party.

What you are seeing in the United States Senate on the Republican side of the aisle with this tax legislation is the ugliest display of pigs at the trough that I have ever seen in Congress. And I mean ever. What`s happening is best exemplified by what has become known as the Corker kickback. Thanks to the extraordinary reporting of David Sirota who discovered and exposed the provision slipped into the tax bill that personally benefits real estate investors and commercial real estate owners like Bob Corker and Donald Trump.

David Sirota will join us in a moment.

But first, here is Bob Corker earlier today on CNN where he was pressed repeatedly by Wolf Blitzer on the question of exactly how much money that tax provision is worth to him. And because the bill is now written in legislative language, Bob Corker`s accountant could have already read it and given him an exact figure of how much of that provision is worth to him next year on his tax returns.

He could know that. That`s something Bob Corker could already know, and might know already. But he repeatedly refused to answer that very simple question, how much is this worth to you.

Here is the last thing that Bob Corker said about it after Wolf Blitzer`s repeated attempts to get a real answer.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Let me just put it this way, Wolf. My salary each year goes to charity. And it will take many, many, many years for this little nominal thing to even account for one year`s worth of salary. This has no impact on me that matters. It is absolutely nominal, based on what -- based on a preliminary look. And we`re not even sure that it has that nominal impact.

So for somebody to say this has something that has big impact on me is a total stretch. You know, it just does not.


O`DONNELL: And that is the face of shame tonight in the United States Senate. Bob Corker has no shame about standing up there and voting for a provision that benefits him. And he claims that he had nothing to do with that provision getting in the legislation, and that does not matter. It is in it.

And now, the question -- the question of decency and honor turns on, are you going to vote for that provision that benefits you? And nothing has changed in this bill on the issue that Bob Corker cares about the most, according to him, which is the deficit. This bill explodes the deficit. And Bob Corker said he would never vote for a bill that would increase the deficit by one penny.

This bill increases the deficit by a trillion and a half dollars. Nothing has changed. But Bob Corker is not afraid of the appearance of impropriety.

David Sirota has now identified 13 Republican senators who will benefit from this provision. David Sirota has also identified other provisions in the bill that will benefit other Republican senators directly, senators all of whom are voting for bill. And we will get into those provisions in a moment.

But first, joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He is a member of the Budget Committee and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Senator Van Hollen, I`m simply looking at this. I`ve never seen anything like it. I`ve never seen this kind of personal gain, this personal plunder by senators themselves.

But what I`m not hearing on the Senate floor, and correct me if this has happened. But I`m not hearing people talk about the Corker kickback, not using that language. That politeness of the Senate in which the tradition is you never specifically go after another senator that way.

Is this an instance in which that should change?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Lawrence, you`re absolutely right. This is a scandalous piece of legislation. It`s probably the biggest legislative heist in American history. And I have spoken out about this provision that popped up during the conference committee.

And I think every member who is voting for this bill should tell his and her constituents exactly how it`s going to benefit them personally. We know this is going to benefit Donald Trump even before that real estate provision was put in there. Now, it`s going benefit him even more.

But I think when people go back to their constituents, many of them who are going to see tax increases, middle class families in this country are going to see tax increases, their senators should tell them what`s in this tax bill for them.

O`DONNELL: And, Senator, as a former member of the House, and I know you`ve been in Conference Committee, I don`t want to get into too much detail for the audience on this. But when a senator says this provision was put in the conference report by the House, the reason the House puts things in a conference report is to try to get senators to vote for it. It`s to try to attract senators to vote for this new product, because the House already got the house members to vote for it. So any of the changes they`re making from the House are being made specifically to attract Bob Corker.

VAN HOLLEN: Look, there are lots of provision, Lawrence, as you said, that are not in the Senate bill, that are now put in the Senate bill. We also know that this bill is going to give millionaires a big tax break. On average, a millionaire is going to get over $50,000 a year in tax breaks.

There are a lot of millionaires in the United States Senate who are going to be giving themselves a tax break on this bill. At the same time, you`re going to be seeing millions of folks in the middle class paying more. So, you`re going to have millions of folks in the middle class paying more so that some of these senators can pay less.

I really think this is a moment where the public already understands what`s in this bill. And unlike what Paul Ryan said today, which is when they see the results, they`re going to like it more, the more they see the results, the more they`re going to hate this piece of legislation.

I`ve been focusing on another fact as well, which is that 35 percent of the stockholders in our corporations are foreign owners of stock. And that means in the year 2019, $48 billion in 2019 alone is going to be transferred to foreign stockholders. So, out of the pockets of millions of middle class taxpayers, into the pockets of foreign stockholders, that is not America first. And that is a total betrayal of all that populist rhetoric that Donald Trump gave people in the last election.

I think the public is going to be really furious when they figure this one out. And they already are.

O`DONNELL: And, Senator, there are some other very rich senators on the Senate floor who can benefit enormously from this bill, including the real estate provisions who are voting against it. And every rich senator who can benefit from this bill, who is voting against it is a Democrat. That is the difference, between the Democrats and Republicans on this.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s right. And that`s why I say that those folks who are voting for this piece of legislation have an obligation to tell the public what exactly in it for them, because the public should have some confidence that the vote of members of Congress is in the public interest and not in their personal-private interests.

We already know Donald Trump refuses to disclose his own tax returns because he doesn`t want the public to know that he is going to get a huge windfall from this. And senators should have that kind of obligation to tell their public, tell their constituents, again, what`s in it for them when you`ve got a bill that millions of middle class folks are going to be paying more. And where, by the way, the tax cuts for corporations are large and permanent. And to the extent that folks in the middle are getting some tax cuts, they`re relatively small and temporary.

So, this is a scandalous piece of legislation. And I`m glad the public has already caught on a lot. But we need the finish telling them the story. For example, we had Republican senators on the floor saying that they`re going to get a $4,000 increase in their wages from this trickle down corporate tax cut. Six months from now, let`s all go ask everybody in America whether they got their $4,000 pay raise they were promised. You and I know it`s not going to be there.

O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much for joining us on this important night. I really appreciate.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton, also joining us, David Sirota, senior editor for investigations at "The International Business Times".

And, David Sirota, thank you very much for doing the digging on this tax bill for all of us. I know how hard it is to isolate these provisions, interpret them, figure out who they affect. And your reaction tonight and what you`ve heard Bob Corker say in defense of him voting for what now been called the Corker kickback.

DAVID SIROTA, SENIOR EDITOR, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Well, I think his explanation doesn`t make much sense because he hasn`t really explained why he was voting against the bill that on the grounds of the deficit, and now is voting for a bill that would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

The fact pattern that we know is very clear. Bob Corker voted against a bill, a Senate bill that didn`t include a special provision that helps the real estate industry of which Bob Corker has substantial investments. He did not vote for a bill that included restrictions on how much of a tax benefit he, Bob Corker, could get. Then, a special provision was put into the bill in the conference committee, dropped into that bill, crafted by Orrin Hatch, which gives most of its benefits, the primary beneficiary of that are real estate holdings. Then, Bob Corker suddenly after that provision is put in the bill, suddenly Bob Corker is voting for the final bill.

Did that motive Bob Corker? We can`t get into Bob Corker`s head. But what we do know is the fact pattern I just laid out.

And we also know there are 13 Republican senators who also have those kinds of investments that will benefit. And I think what this shows is that we need more reporting in this country where we actually contextualize what people are voting on, what bills are being voted on, both parties big, the way, what they are voting on, what their financials are, who their campaign donors are, and how those campaign donors and how those lawmakers and their personal finances benefit from public policy that is spending the public`s money.

O`DONNELL: And, Gene Sperling, David Sirota has found other provisions, corporate provisions that benefit other members of the Republican Senate who are voting for this. I`ve never seen this kind of thing happening so openly, so wantonly on the Senate floor.

GENE SPERLING, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, you know, Lawrence, let`s just remember, I mean, this is part of the DNA of this entire tax bill. We`re a country right now where Americans are struggling. People are worried about the hollowing out of the middle class.

Even when the economy is getting stronger, they`re worried about basic financial economic security. And here a political party controls the whole government and has a chance to try to address middle income families. And what do they do? They have a tax cut.

You know, Senator Van Hollen was saying gives more money to foreign investors than to the middle class of the 30 states Donald Trump won. It goes to estates making over $11 million.

There are a lot of facts out there. I`ll give you just one. In the final year of this bill, 60 percent of the tax cut goes to the 1 out of a thousand people who makes over $5 million. That means in the last year of their tax plan, more money goes to people making over $5 million than the 99.9 percent of the rest of us combined. That`s part of the DNA.

And then the process -- I don`t want to bore on process. But I think the reason why David`s reporting was so important is that Donald Trump came in saying he was going to drain the swamp. I mean, this is all swamp all the time. If you were trying to find out what was going on in this bill, you wanted to know, did you know a lobbyist? Because this is being run through lobbyists.

So, it`s not just what got added at the end. The provisions -- I`ve written about this. The provisions for major corporations are actually going to encourage more profit shifting overseas, more job shifting overseas because that was built in at the beginning there is no hearings. Those are the people they`re working on.

There is a reason why your poll today, the NBC poll said 63 percent of Americans think this is for corporations and the wealthy, and 7 percent think it`s for the middle class. Americans are understanding already what is in this bill and what motivated it.

O`DONNELL: Gene Sperling, thank you for joining us tonight.

And, David Sirota, thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you for your extraordinary reporting. It has really helped me understand what`s in this legislation, more than any other reporting I`ve seen. Thank you very much.

SIROTA: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, it is at times like this that you would really like to get a look at the president`s tax return. But the White House continued to lie about the president`s tax returns today.

And President Trump has the worst lawyers who have ever worked for a president both inside and outside the White House and in his criminal defense team. And they are having a meeting with some of the best lawyers in Washington this week, the special prosecutor`s team.


O`DONNELL: Here`s the worst liar in the history of the American presidency talking about how the giant Christmas present, the giant tax cuts is good for everyone in America except him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me. Believe. This is not good for me. Me, it`s not.

I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me. But that`s OK.

You know, I keep hearing Schumer. This is for the wealthy. Well, if it is, my friends don`t know about it.


O`DONNELL: Believe me. Believe me.

Donald Trump`s accountant sure knows it. Donald Trump`s accountant surely approves of the provisions favoring commercial real estate. And Donald Trump`s friends on Wall Street know about it. They know that Donald Trump broke his promise to end the carried interest provision that allows Wall Street investment bankers to pay a lower income tax rate on hundreds of millions of dollars of income than their assistants pay on their salaries.

It is the policy of this program not to allow the White House press secretary to spew her propagandistic lies in video clips. We do allow the president to lie in video on this program and then discuss those guys. But he is the president of the United States. And the words of the president always matter, even though Donald Trump doesn`t seem to understand that.

But the president`s daily backup liar is an entirely different matter. So, here is video of her today lying about why the president has not released his tax returns. She once again told the lie that the president`s taxes are under audit and therefore cannot be released until the audit is complete.

But as viewers of this program have known for years, an audit does not prohibit you from releasing your tax returns. And every president`s tax return is automatically audited every year. And every president`s tax return is released while the president is being audited until Donald Trump.

And, of course, that history of presidential audits of tax returns while the tax returns are being released proved that Donald Trump and his supporting cast of liars are lying about his tax returns today. The White House press secretary actually extended her lying to the point of saying that the tax legislation might actually cost Donald Trump some money. But she has never seen a Trump tax return, and obviously has no idea what she is talking about.

So, it would be a disservice to you, for me, to burden you with the actual sound of her lying. But it should come as no surprise that the presidential campaign that was run on the big lie that Donald Trump`s tax returns were under audit and therefore could not be released has now allowed that big lie to take up residence in the White House. The first White House in the modern era that has not released the president`s tax returns.

Joining us now, Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for "The Toronto Star", and Neera Tanden, the president for the Center for American Progress.

And, Neera, there are so many reasons why presidents release their tax returns, presidential candidates release their tax returns. And today is the prime example. We want to know what your personal interest is in legislation like this. And that`s something America is never going to know when it comes to Donald Trump.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. I mean the fact of the matter is what we are seeing in the Congress today is a public policy that was written by the Trump administration and lobbyists. And it is benefitting the people who are voting for it. It is the worst venal graft I`ve seen in public policy in my entire career.

I`ve never seen people so unashamedly basically enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class and working class Americans, people -- everyday Americans who send them to Washington. They`ve basically constructed a bill to make sure that they get money at the expense of the people who sent them to Washington. And Donald Trump is effectively hiding what his benefit is from this -- as you pointed out, lie he has now told for years.

And I think maybe one of the reasons why he told this lie is because he knew he`d be in this situation where he`d go into the presidency or suspect it might happen where he go into the presidency, pass a major bill that he profits from. His family profits from. His friends profit from. The senators profit from. But we don`t profit from at all.

O`DONNELL: And, Daniel Dale, what we`re seeing is the most open looting that I`ve ever seen. It`s just become a free-for-all. And it seems to be when everyone is doing it, the Republican feeling must be when everyone is doing it, none of us can really be blamed for it. That seems to be the Corker approach, Ted Cruz who benefits from provisions in this tax bill. And they all know the biggest winner of all of them in Washington is Donald Trump.

And so, under the incredible corrupt auspices of the Trump White House, they are all taking their personal piece of this.

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE TORONTO STAR: Well, I think they`ve decided with this bill they decided with the health bill as well that if they do things quickly, they can just do them without consequence to them. I don`t know if that`s correct. I mean, this is a massively unpopular bill, like their Obamacare replacement plans were.

You know, it`s very much underwater. The public is angry about this. We`ve had protests around the country.

And so, we do have provisions that benefit Trump certainly, and certainly members of the Senate and members of the House. And the calculation seems to be that these provisions are worth the possible consequences, or that they can convince the public over time that these consequences were -- that the bill was beneficial for members of the public, rather than for members of the House and Senate.

And I don`t think Democrats agree, and I don`t think a lot of political analysts agree. I think it`s clear that this bill could very well be much more of a political liability to them than a political benefit.

O`DONNELL: Neera, I have seen tax legislation rushed in the past. Once it gets into the legislative process -- not at the hearing stage, when people are examining it, examining the issues in hearings in the Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee.

But once you get into the committee actually voting and moving on the floor, I`ve seen them move fast in the past for one reason. And that was to stay ahead of the lobbyists.

They would move fast because they had provisions in there that they knew the corporate lobbyists would not like, closing of certain loopholes that corporate lobbyists would not like. And the reason they were rushing it was so that the corporate lobbyists would not then get their claws into it. This is the opposite. This is rushing it so that the bad stuff will survive. And not we`re rushing it so that the good stuff will survive, which is what I used to see.

NEERA TANDEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This bill is getting worse and worse. Let`s just be clear. At this point, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent over the lifetime of the bill. It`s getting worse and worse. It`s going more to corporations, more to the super rich at the expense of the middle class. That`s maybe -- they`re rushing it because they`re trying to buy off more members with more provisions like the Corker kickback.

I think what`s really happening here, honestly, is Republicans have been waiting for unified government control. And more importantly, Republican donors who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers year in and year out are finally getting their return on investment.

Barack Obama vetoed their plans in the past. Now they have the moment where all that investment is being paid back to them with a massive tax cut. This is going to be a massive tax cut for everyone who is giving money to the Republican Party. All their rich donors and it is a payoff.

That is what it is, plain and simple. The Senators themselves say are going to get enriched and then their donors are going to get enriched. That`s the only explanation for coming up with a plan that isn`t going to create any jobs, is going to send jobs overseas. It hurts the very people who voted for Trump in the first place.

O`DONNELL: Daniel Dale, quickly what`s going on in the Whitehouse Press Briefing room with your colleagues and their attempts to make it even worthwhile to attend those press briefings? I rarely see a question asked that is going to have any impact at all. And certainly there is never an answer that is given that is worth taking note of.

DANIEL DALE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Lawrence, I`m loathe to be too critical of them. They have a tough job with this administration. I often wish that the questioning was more pointed, that there was more follow-up, that there was more challenging of the obvious lies, you know, when Sarah Sanders says something like Trump is not going to benefit from this tax bill.

It`s going to cost him money. It`s abject nonsense. And when she says stuff like that, people should just keep asking and asking and asking, challenging and challenging, not moving on to other topics. Unfortunately, the issue is there are dozens of reporters with dozens of different agendas.

Some of them from right wing outlets that don`t want to challenge sanders at all. And so it`s hard to get team work going in that room, as you know. But I do wish that the group as a whole was a bit tougher sometimes.

O`DONNELL: But I have to say Daniel even if they were, even if they followed your direction, if you could mastermind the whole thing, I don`t think it would make any difference. And I think she would just leave the podium a little quicker than she does now.

And there would be absolutely no useful information that`s even worth quoting in any of the answers no matter how they approach it. But they will continue to do it. Daniel Dale and Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us, really appreciate it.

DALE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Tonight`s episode of every vote counts. A Democrat just won a crucial recount in Virginia by one vote. And that one vote shifts the power in the state legislature. The winner of that one-vote landslide in Virginia will join us.


O`DONNELL: President Trump has the worst lawyers that Washington has ever seen. He has the worst criminal defense lawyers, one of whom claimed to be the author of an incriminating Tweet that seemed to have been written by Donald Trump himself some weeks ago. And inside the Whitehouse, President Trump has the worst white house counsel since John Dean confessed to committing crimes as the Whitehouse counsel to President Nixon. It is white house counsel Don McGahn, who chose the most embarrassing nominee ever sent to a senate confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship.


JOHN KENNEDY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: have you tried a jury trial?




KENNEDY: Criminal?




KENNEDY: State or federal court?

PETERSEN: I have not.


O`DONNELL: That was a Republican Senator questioning a Republican Nominee to be a Federal Judge, a republican nominee chosen by Donald Trump`s Whitehouse counsel Don McGahn. That nominee has since withdrawn his candidacy for the Federal Judgeship.

And if you`re Donald Trump tonight, you should be asking yourself just how bad are my lawyers. And you should have been asking yourself that for a long time, especially for the lawyers who have told President Trump that the Special Prosecutor`s Investigation will be over soon. The President`s lawyers have now scheduled a meeting with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller`s team.

And the Washington Post reports the President`s lawyers actually plan to ask the Special Prosecutor`s team when they will end their investigation of their client, Donald Trump. This is the single most childish question Donald Trump`s lawyers could possibly ask. the Washington Post reports Whitehouse Lawyers have told the President he could be exonerated as early as the beginning of the year after previously reassuring him that he would be cleared by Thanksgiving and Christmas.

One source predicted to the Washington Post that Trump would erupt at some point in 2018 if the probe continued to drag on. Joining us now is Harry Litman, former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General. He`s now a law professor at UCLA. And Professor Litman, what is your expectation from this big meeting with the lawyers next week?

HARRY LITMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s pretty straight forward. The script has already been written. They will ask, as you said, is the probe about done. are you going to wrap up soon. Mueller`s team will of course say we can`t tell you. But no, it`s not going to wrap up soon as it isn`t.

But Lawrence, it might be that that`s the real purpose of the meeting, for the President, because then he can emerge with a kind of talking point returning to the witch-hunt mantra and say this has gone on too long. From Mueller`s point of view, there is something else to do, though, potentially in this meeting. And that is to begin to negotiate the terms of Trump`s interview, which hasn`t happened yet, and has to before things can wrap up. And from a prosecutor`s standpoint, a blowhard like Trump is a dream.

They will fillet him hen they get a chance. He said four different things about every topic. Mr. President, when you told the American people that you fired Flynn because he lied to Vice President Pence, that was a lie, wasn`t it? Mr. President, when you told Lester Holt that you fired him because of Russia, that was the truth, wasn`t it? Essentially making him cop to obstruction.

That`s a big part still to come. And I think the Whitehouse will be desperate to have that off. He will be, will Trump, one of the worst witnesses of all time.

O`DONNELL: You know I just want to -- these Whitehouse lawyers have the most difficult President who has ever had to deal with Whitehouse Lawyers. Let`s grant them that. and it may be that some of this babying of Donald Trump, telling him don`t worry, it will be over by thanksgiving, don`t worry, it will be over by Christmas, as silly as that sounds to us, history might show some time that this was actually incredibly valuable. I began the show with a reference to the greatest danger the Trump Presidency possesses which is the possibility on a whim of having war with North Korea.

Some of those lawyers who are trying to humor him, calm him down, telling him it will be over by thanksgiving, might have the same worry I do. And they might be treating him in such a way as the Secretary of State tries to treat him, you would think, the Secretary of State who call himself a moron that this is what we have to do. And they might be telling their grandchildren some day, these Whitehouse lawyers, we prevented a nuclear exchange with North Korea by lying to the President about what to expect from the special prosecutor.

LITMAN: Right, like trying to calm down a little baby. But they could be strategic here. Another thing that he gains if he tries to shut things down quickly, there is very strong indication that Jared Kushner is next to fall in Mueller`s investigation. That`s another disaster for Trump. If Kushner is indicted, either he goes to prison, his son-in-law, or he gives the mother load of information against trump.

O`DONNELL: And on this network today, Chris Christie, a rival of Jared Kushner`s to put it mildly, former federal prosecutor himself, saying of course Jared Kushner should be investigated. We`re going have to leave it there for tonight. Harry Litman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

LITMAN: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Election Day in Virginia was November 7th. But one of the races was decided in a recount today. And the democrat won by one vote. And that one vote changed the balance of power in the state legislature. Talk about one vote counting. The winner of that one vote landslide will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s episode of every vote counts. You always hear that when people are trying to get you to go out and vote. Every vote counts. But in a country with millions of voter, it`s hard to feel that every vote counts. And in the big states, it`s hard to feel that every vote counts. But somewhere on your ballot, even in the big states, you can find the spot where every vote counts, especially when you get down to the state legislatures.

And tonight we have the astonishing story of one vote. One vote changing the outcome of a legislative election in the State of Virginia. and that one vote has changed the balance of power in the legislature. Election Day in Virginia was November 7th. And Republican member of the House of Delegates David Yancy came out ahead of his Democratic challenger by exactly 10 votes. David Yancy got 11,601 vote and Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds got 11,001.

Shelly Simonds requested a recount and today the recount became official. David Yancy ended up with 11,607. And Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds ended up with a one-vote margin, 11,608 votes, a one vote margin. 23,215 people cast their votes in that election.

And every single vote counted. if just one of Shelly Simonds voters stayed home or got stuck in traffic and gave up then we`d have a different outcome tonight. The Republicans have now lost their majority in the State House of Delegates. And so that one vote has changed everything in the Virginia House of Delegates.

The Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates do not have the power today that they had yesterday all thanks to that one vote. The power of one elected Shelly Simonds and has changed everything in v house of delegates. Shelly Simonds joins us next.


O`DONNELL: Virginia made history by electing the state`s first transgender member of the State Legislature, Danica Rome, but the election didn`t end on election night in Virginia on November 7th because some close races that triggered a recount, one of those races was decided today by exactly one vote and the winner of that election to the Virginia House of delegates Shelly Simonds joins us now.

Thank you very much for joining us. That one vote has had enormous power. You shifted the bans lance of power in the state legislature. So now as I understand it is a tie Republicans and Democrats in the House? Shelly, can you hear me?


O`DONNELL: OK. Shelly, is it now a tie between democrats and republicans in the house?

SIMONDS: Yes. I believe we`re going to be going into a power-sharing arrangement

O`DONNELL: And so that means that the Republican leaders of the legislature no longer have that power where they had yesterday, really, where they could decide what that body was going to do.

SIMONDS: Yes, what a difference a day makes in Virginia.

O`DONNELL: And the -- you had run before in 2015 and you were beaten by about 2,000 votes at that time, but the vote count was much lower. Turnout of about 14,000, this time your turnout was 23,000. It seems like turnout made the difference.

SIMONDS: It really did make the difference. Last time I ran, it felt like we had a matter and nobody showed up. This time, everybody came out to vote, and we really rocked it. And it`s because of the voters and their participation made all the difference.

O`DONNELL: And you didn`t even get started in this race until august, which I find shockingly late, especially for what is a come-from-behind win. Did it feel as you were getting close to Election Day just how close this race was?

SIMONDS: Yes. I could definitely feel it on the ground. How close it was. But, you know, we had a lot of groups from not even just Virginia, outside Virginia, really involved this time. so it felt very different than 2015.

O`DONNELL: And when will we get the final makeup of the Virginia Legislature? Are there more recounts under way now?

SIMONDS: yes. There are a few recounts happening. I -- I know that we have one tomorrow, and also there is the Joshua Cole recount which may actually go to Federal Court.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be following it all. Shelly Simonds learned the lesson of the power of one. You`re going to be the story we`re telling for a very long time about how your vote counts. Shelly Simonds thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. And tonight`s "last word" is next.


O`DONNELL: And tonight`s Last Word we have time for a couple of tweets from you about the K.I.N.D. Fund, kids in need of desks, and your support of what we`re doing here at where you can contribute to the K.I.N.D. Fund.

Nea wrote Lawrence I bought two desks through K.I.N.D. Fund for my birthday today. I dedicate this to my late dad and late uncle who did not have desks growing up and yet they pursued and did so much for others in loving memory and gratitude to them. Hope some lovely children are blessed as I am.

And then also we got this tweet from Half Life saying, Lawrence thanks for bringing awareness to the girls of Malawi. It always touches my heart. I tell myself I am going to give but I get busy and forget. This time I didn`t and there`s her - the successful donation confirmation there that you get online when you contribute.

And we do include a scholarship fund for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free. And girls have a -- have half the graduation rate that boys do. It`s a struggle for girls to stay in high school in it Malawi. That`s all part of our program at the K.I.N.D. Fund and that you can continue to help us at, really appreciate everything you`ve done this year. That is tonight`s Last Word.

Up next, coverage of the republican tax vote in the Senate continues on MSNBC on the 11th hour with Brian Williams. That starts now.


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