IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trumpism's very bad year Transcript 12/20/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: David Frum, Max Boot

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 20, 2017 Guest: David Frum, Max Boot

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. It`s doable stuff and it`s so inspiring to watch them do that. I could watch that video you were showing of them just passing the box from one to another of that chain.


O`DONNELL: That`s just amazing to watch.

MADDOW: Yes. And, you know, there was a guy who was filming it on Facebook Live who just walked down the line and asked each of those people, where are you from, where are you from, where you`re from, it was from every town imaginable, all over Michigan.

People doing this, it was an entirely volunteer effort, a totally nonpartisan thing and they want a nonpartisan outcome. They just want it to be a technocratic good government thing.

I find it very inspiring. I find all good government stuff inspiring, but they`re really making it work in Michigan.

O`DONNELL: Yes, there`s something about the power of that shot, just watching that cooperation just from one hand to the next hand just moving it along. You can`t tell those people that their effort doesn`t matter.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly, and they`re going to win. Watch this space. They`re going to win.

O`DONNELL: I am watching this space. I agree with you in that. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, if he`s going to do it, he`s going to do it now, any day now.

If President Trump is going to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, he is going to do it when Congress is out of town over the Christmas holidays. And if he does it now, it will probably be known forever as the Christmas massacre or something like that.

When Richard Nixon fired his special prosecutor, he did it on a Saturday night and it became forever known as the Saturday Night Massacre. The next firing of a special prosecutor is sure to get a massacre label of some sort, the Christmas massacre, the New Year`s massacre. If it happens and we have reason to believe that it won`t happen, because the special prosecutor still has bipartisan support.

It could happen, it surely could happen and that is what many supporters the special prosecutor in Washington are worried about. But tonight, there is at least some hope -- at least some hope that it won`t happen, because decency still lives in the United States Senate. Decency is not the dominant force in the United States Senate these days, but there were some glowing examples of it last night and again today.

The richest senators voted against a tax cut for themselves last night, the three richest senators are all Democrats and the third richest senator is worth more than twice as much as the fourth richest senator. So, those top three are really quite apart from all the rest of them. A net worth of about $52 million makes Dianne Feinstein the third richest member of the United States Senate. Connecticut`s Richard Blumenthal is number two at $66 million.

And when the votes were counted last night, they voted against their own self-interests. Not one Republican senator voted against his own or her own self-interest. They all -- all those Republicans voted to cut their own personal income taxes. Not one stood in this -- not one in the Senate stood to profit more from the tax cuts than the very richest senator, who is the mild-mannered gentleman from Virginia, Senator Mark Warner, who is worth at least $90 million. He is a self-made millionaire, having struck at rich in the cell phone business.

Last night, Mark Warner, who personally had the most to gain of any senator from the tax bill, voted against his own self-interest. He voted against increasing his own fortune while wildly increasing the deficit and the national debt. It was a modest act of decency on the Senate floor, is the kind of thing that makes Senate staffers who worked for senators like Mark Warner so very proud of what they do, so very proud of their senator.

Mark Warner actually began his life in the Senate as one of those Senate staffers. His first job in the Senate was working for Democratic Senator Abraham Ribicoff. Senator Ribicoff was a mild-mannered man from Connecticut who first grabbed Mark Warner`s attention in 1968 when Mark Warner was in eighth grade.

Mark Warner has said that that was the year that he decided he wanted a career in public service after witnessing moments like this on television during the 1968 Democratic convention when Senator Abraham Ribicoff threw away his prepared speech to comment on the brutality that the Chicago police were then raining down on protesters in the streets of Chicago. The mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, shouted anti-Semitic profanities at Abe Ribicoff when he made those remarks.


THEN-SEN. ABRAHAM RIBICOFF (D), CONNECTICUT: With George McGovern as president of the United States, we wouldn`t have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago.




O`DONNELL: What we saw in 1968 and what we saw in the Senate floor last night is that even in troubling times, even in dark times, even while losing a big vote on the Senate floor, sometimes when you look closely enough, there is inspiration, there is hope, there is decency, there is something and someone to be proud of.

Here`s what Senator Mark Warner did on the Senate floor today.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Mr. President, I rise today concerned about the threats the special counsel`s critical investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.


O`DONNELL: Senator Warner clearly believes that if it`s going to happen it`s going to happen now. If the president is going to fire the special prosecutor, it`ll happen during the holidays. No senator knows more about the special prosecutor`s investigation than Mark Warner who is the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation of the same activities that the special prosecutors investigating, and no senator knows better than Mark Warner what is that stake tonight in the special prosecutors investigation.


WARNER: I believe it is up to every member of this institution, Republican or Democrat, to make a clear and unambiguous statement that any attempt by this president to remove special counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them for from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities. These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.


O`DONNELL: Senator Warner pointed out that Fox News has suggested the possibility that Robert Mueller could actually be involved in a coup against the president. A coup, that was the word used on Fox News.

Mark Warner pointed out that many of the people who are attacking Robert Mueller today were praising him months ago, and then Senator Warner reminded Washington who Robert Mueller really is.


WARNER: Mr. Mueller is a dedicated Vietnam War veteran, and a lifelong Republican, appointed to his current role by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, also a Republican. In fact, all of the major players to date in this investigation, former Director Comey, current FBI Director Wray, Rosenstein, and even Attorney General Sessions who has had to recuse himself are all Republicans.


O`DONNELL: Senator Warner took on the Fox News argument, which is echoed by many House Republicans that the Mueller investigation was corrupted by an FBI agent who texted critical things about Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.


WARNER: In recent weeks, much has been made of some political opinions expressed by an FBI agent during the election last year. This specious line of argument conveniently ignores the fact that as soon as Mr. Muller learned about these comments he`ll immediately remove that agent in question from the investigation.

If anything, this incident only adds to Mr. Mueller`s credibility as a fair and independent investigator.


O`DONNELL: Senator Warner said there was no reason to be reassured by the president recently saying that he was not thinking about firing Robert Mueller.


WARNER: In recent days, the president said he is not considering removing special counsel Mueller, but the president`s track record on this front is a source of concern. I`m certain that most of my colleagues believe that he wouldn`t fire Jim Comey either.


O`DONNELL: New reporting tonight by Murray Waas in "Foreign Policy" indicates that President Trump knew that his national security advisor Michael Flynn had committed a crime or crimes or at the very least might have committed crimes when Donald Trump famously asked James Comey to let Flynn go.

Murray Waas reports the White House turned over records this fall to special counsel Robert Mueller, revealing that in the very first days of the Trump presidency, Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, according to three people with direct knowledge of the confidential government documents.

The records show that Don McGahn clearly raised issues as to whether Flynn possibly violated federal law related to making false statements and also whether he violated the Logan Act and that McGahn voiced these concerns to Trump.

Joining us now are David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic", and Barbara McQuade, professor of law at the University of Michigan and a former federal prosecutor. She`s an NBC News and MSNBC legal contributor.

And, Barbara, first to you on this final point made tonight in this report in "Foreign Policy" that that the White House counsel was aware that Michael Flynn committed crimes, lying to the FBI, violating the Logan Act, and that he communicated that to the president before the president tried to get James Comey in the FBI to stop investigating Michael Flynn.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, this could be very significant information. As we`ve been discussing previously, one of the hardest parts to prove and the obstruction of justice charge is the corrupt intent, to know what was in a person`s mind at the time they made the statement, at the time Trump asked call me to let Flynn go.

And if he knew that Flynn had violated the law by lying to the FBI and potentially by violating the Logan Act, by negotiating with foreign governments, then that certainly bolsters the argument that there is evidence of a corrupt intent there to support a claim for obstruction of justice.

O`DONNELL: And, David, on a day where we have that kind of reporting, you have Mark Warner, vice chair of the intelligence committee, wanting his last word in the United States Senate this year to simply be: do not fire Robert Mueller. He has to be very worried that if it`s going to happen, it`s going to happen during the holidays.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: What we have seen over the past few weeks what whatever is in the president`s mind and who knows does he even know, but whatever is happening in the president`s mind, what we can see is a coordinated effort from conservative media, from the White House, from the House Republicans to shape the battle space. Not in the Senate, the Senate is Donald Trump`s worst place to fight, but in public opinion and the House of Representatives.

You can`t act decisively against the president with 55 percent or 58 percent of public opinion when if you move against the president on legal grounds, it`s got to be with an overwhelming majority. So, the president just needs to hold his minority and the whole project of throwing dirt on Robert Mueller, throwing dirt on his investigation, attacking the FBI, attacking the Department of Justice is to shape that battle space.

That`s what Senator Warner sees. He`s right to see it. He`s right to be alarmed because the harm -- the pollution from that of besmirching doesn`t stop just with this holiday, it continues to affect all the institutions of the United States. And let`s listen to what Chris Christie said yesterday about Jared Kushner being a obviously legitimate target of investigation because this is the kind of thing that has to worry Donald Trump and possibly push him toward firing the special prosecutor.

Let`s listen to this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`m telling you that he deserves to screw do you know why because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role.


O`DONNELL: And Barbara McQuade there`s a long bitter history between Jared Kushner and Chris Christie but there he is, he`s Republican former federal prosecutor like you saying, of course this is a legitimate target of investigation.

MCQUADE: Well, just based on what we know, you know aside from the history that Chris Christie has with Jared Kushner. If you look at the facts, we`ve got Jared Kushner present at that meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians to potentially obtain disparaging about Hillary Clinton. We have him requesting a back-channel of communications with the Russians. All of those things I think make him a person of great interest for Robert Mueller, no doubt they`re looking at him, maybe he`s done nothing wrong, but no doubt he is somebody who is at least the subject of this investigation.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen what House Democrat Jackie Speier said about this feeling, this rumor that`s out there about the special prosecutor being fired. Obviously, this is part of what pushed Mark Warner to go to the Senate floor and make that statement today. Let`s listen to this.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So, it was a rumor that I had heard last week and I was very troubled by it because it all sort of fit in two pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. It sort of made sense to me in that we would probably be out of session. It would be the kind of thing that was very similar to what happened when then President Nixon had the Saturday Night Massacre.


O`DONNELL: David Frum, you can certainly understand why the Democrats are concerned.

FRUM: You can certainly understand it. You can see the effect of this on the on Republican opinion. Just in over the past four months, Bob Mueller`s negatives have been driven up have nearly doubled among Republicans in the country.

But does the president want to remove Mueller and have that fight or does he want to make -- does he want to turn Bob Mueller into a demon figure to Republicans so as to consolidate their support for him. It`s that latter possibility that may be more lucrative for him.

O`DONNELL: And, Barbara McQuade, as you as you see the Mueller investigation proceeding and with this new report tonight indicating that they have had notes from the White House counsel for months now describing what was going on in the White House, what was happening at an advisory level what they were researching in terms of the criminal liabilities of Michael Flynn, we continue to discover that the special prosecutor knows and has access to a lot more than we`re aware he has access to.

MCQUADE: Yes, I think that`s something that we forget a lot. You know, we know so much, which is really extraordinary. There`s been tremendous reporting so that the public does know a lot. But it is just likely just a fraction of what Robert Mueller knows, in terms of the interviews he`s conducted, any grand jury testimony he`s obtained documents emails other things he`s looked at and the other thing he has access to FISA, you know foreign intelligence surveillance that was collected from conversations that the public may never see.

So, he knows a lot more than we do and so we`ll have to watch it unfold in the coming months.

O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, thank you very much for joining us tonight. David, please stick around.

Coming up, the man sitting beside the president in today`s cabinet meeting has called the president a moron. So, who`s going to be the new secretary of state in the New Year and who else is on Donald Trump`s firing list?

And later, the Democrats now have a huge polling advantage over Republicans in the next congressional election.


O`DONNELL: (AUDIO GAP) ninth and final cabinet meeting of the year although the president seemed to leave open the possibility of squeezing in one more cabinet meeting and the eleven days remaining in the year.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I appreciate everybody being here cabinet meeting. And this looks like it will probably be our last cabinet meeting until the New Year, but who knows? You never know what happens with cabinet meetings.


O`DONNELL: And in the Trump cabinet, you never know who will show up at the next cabinet meeting because you never know who`s going to be fired next in the Trump administration.

Here`s a former assistant to the president who attended the last cabinet meeting on December, but she was reportedly dragged and/or escorted from the White House after her White House pass was suddenly deactivated. And the man sitting at the president`s right hands today has been quoted calling the president a moron when the president wasn`t in the room and people have been wondering ever since just how long the secretary of state will continue to be allowed in the room for cabinet meetings.

Rex Tillerson is high on everyone`s list of the next big firing in the Trump administration, which could explain why the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee has been desperately trying to change his tune on President Trump. Here`s Bob Corker two months ago.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues.


O`DONNELL: And here was Bob Corker yesterday when he was asked about that quote.


CORKER: I know you`re having a great time of this interview and I`m happy for you in doing so. But look, Wolf, I`ve said what I`ve said and I`m doing what I`m doing, and for me, to sort of rehash all that gives you an opportunity over the next week just to replay and replay and replay.


O`DONNELL: I have never seen a senator more lost than Bob Corker when he was asked about his previous comments about the president the United States. Every chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee always wants to move up to secretary of state and Senator Bob Corker`s inexplicable reversal on the Trump tax cuts might be in part explained by his desire to climb to the top of the Trump list of replacements for Rex Tillerson.

There is no one President Trump could nominate to that position who would have an easier time being confirmed by his own committee than the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker.

Joining us now, Max Boot, senior fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations with former foreign policy adviser for McCain-Romney and Rubio presidential campaigns. And also with us, Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary for President Obama. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

And, Josh, I always look for ambition in explanations of otherwise hard to explain behavior and I`m looking at Rex Tillerson still somehow sitting there beside the president, how long can that last and who`s next in secretary of state.

JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you get a sense with Tillerson that it`s just a point of pride for him, that he`s -- it`s always like the miles on the odometer. He wants --


EARNEST: He wants that calendar reaching to reach a year before he acknowledges failure and steps away.

This is -- he is a man without a friend in Washington, D.C. He has alienated people who should be his allies in Congress. His -- you walked through some of the highlights of his relationship with President Trump. It seems pretty clear that nobody in Foggy Bottom seems to appreciate his leadership.

So, the other question I think you`d asked about Rex Tillerson is, why would he want to stay? If he -- if he has lost all influence in the administration and it appears that he has, why would he want to stick around past a year? And, yes, it does appear that the chucking has begun and whether it`s Mike Pompeo or Bob Corker, it seems like people are lining up for that fancy office in Foggy Bottom.


And, Max, we saw a brief period there where Bob Corker seemed to be finding his way to clear statements and understandings of who Donald Trump really is publicly. Now, he`s running away from that like we`ve never seen it.

MAX BOOT, AUTHOR, "THE ROAD NOT TAKEN": Well, he`s not the only one. I mean, the other one is Lindsey Graham who used to be a scathing critic of the president and lately has become a golf buddy and infrequent flatterer of Trump. And again that lead --

O`DONNELL: He wouldn`t mind being secretary of state either.

BOOT: Again, that`s -- I mean that leads to speculation that he has an ulterior motive. So, along with Mike Pompeo at CIA, there seems to be this jockeying game going on with maybe Nikki Haley`s an outside chance and generally a sense that I think that Rex Tillerson is a dead man walking and everybody is basically measuring his office for the drapes right now.

O`DONNELL: So in that sense, Josh, Rex Tillerson has created more favorable comment for Donald Trump from Republican senators who want to be secretary of state.

Trump should keep him there so that Lindsey Graham`s and the Corkers can still hope to be next secretary of state.

EARNEST: Well, 11 months into his tenure, it might be his most significant accomplishment as secretary of state at this point.

O`DONNELL: It has been.

BOOT: But it`s hard to keep up with the level of praise that Trump wants because I noticed today at the cabinet meeting, Mike Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight. So, that`s a high standard for any cabinet officer to aspire to well.

O`DONNELL: Well, Mike Pence can`t get promoted or can`t be --


BOOT: Bob Mueller might help him with that.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Josh, talked about though the operations of the cabinet and how it is supposed to work and the kind of commitment that everyone is supposed to bring to that group.

EARNEST: Well, you know, Lawrence, you know these are these are essentially the people who are responsible for running the greatest enterprise on earth, which is the federal government of the United States of America, and that`s how President Obama often convened his cabinet meetings in that room, was to help people recognize the remarkable opportunity that they are given with the responsibility that they that they have. So, you know, it`s not apparent that the Trump administration has run with Swiss watch like efficiency at the federal government. And, you know, it`s possible that the President Trump was alluding to convening another cabinet meeting to actually discuss a government shutdown. That that was sort of the first thing that popped in my mind, what he may have been referring to there.

But the truth is there has not been a lot of cohesion among this cabinet. There been a lot of people -- Tom Price obviously gets summarily dumped after stepping in scandal, a lot of questions swirling around Ryan Zinke and his conduct is the interior secretary, about the way that he`s handled to himself in office.

So, there are there are people other than Rex Tillerson publicly criticizing the president who have served as a source of embarrassment to the president, and that is a problem and I do think it has had a material impact on their ability to operate the United States government.

O`DONNELL: And, Max, if the -- if the firing pace keeps up in the Trump administration, half of those chairs in that room could be occupied by different people in six months.

BOOT: That`s true, although I think some a lot of the firing in the first year has been kind of weeding out some of the flakes and outliers who drift it in with the Trump campaign. So, you saw, you know, the departure of Mike Flynn, you know, the arrival and departure of Scaramucci in about 10 seconds, you know, Reince Priebus, et cetera, et cetera.

I mean, there is kind of a sense that it`s shaking out and I don`t think there`s going to be -- I can`t imagine is going to be a radical upheaval of the minor cabinet officers. I think Tillerson is the one who`s in the biggest hot seat right now and then, of course, White House staff which in many ways is much more important than the members of the cabinet.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to get a break here. Please stay with us.

Coming up, Republicans made campaigns easier for Democrats in next year`s midterm elections.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: A new poll shows Democrats with their biggest advantage in Congressional Elections in 20 years. 56 percent would vote for the Democrat now while just 38 percent would vote for the Republican according to a new CNN Poll. That 18-point lead is the biggest lead Democrats have had at this point in the last six midterm elections. The Republican Tax Bill is helping drive support to democrats with polls showing 24 percent think the bill is a good idea while 41 percent think it`s a bad idea. Joining us now, Ezra Levin, the Executive Director of the Indivisible Project. And back with us, Josh Earnest. And Ezra Levin, how much do you think the Republicans Tax Bill will be part of the Congressional Elections next year?

EZRA LEVIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, there`s no doubt about it. The Republicans Tax Bill is awful. It`s going to cause a lot of pain and suffering for years to come but, you know, Lawrence, I know you were on Capitol Hill. You get this.

This is not how American politics normally works. Normally with an incredibly unpopular bill where your constituents showing up at the district offices saying, please do not vote for this bill, it will raise my health insurance premiums. It`s going to raise my own taxes. You`re just giving away money to your donors, why are you doing this? Usually members of Congress care about staying members of Congress and to do that you normally don`t vote for those types of bills.

So this is a really unusual turn in American politics. And that`s why you are seeing historic level turns away from the GOP that is pushing this kind of legislation.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how Elizabeth Warren intends to argue this case.


ELIZABETH WARREN, UNITED STATES SENATOR: To me, when I watched it, it had a quality of whistling past the graveyard. This tax bill is deeply unpopular. And here`s the part that`s really going to drive it home.

Donald Trump announced during all this celebration that he had effectively repealed the Affordable Care Act. I really want to understand here how many Americans clamoring to say, hey, listen. Drive up the cost of the health insurance so that you can do a big giveaway to billionaires and giant corporations. That`s not where America is.


O`DONNELL: Josh Earnest, clearly the polls are showing that Democrats won the argument. They lost the vote in the Congress but they won the argument on this.

JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They did win the argument and the challenge facing Congressional Republicans right now is that they`re hoping that by passing this corporate tax bill, corporate tax cut, what will happen is the corporations that fund their campaigns are going to fuel the engine of their elections. The problem is the bill is so unpopular it`s almost like at the same time filling gas tank, they poked holes in the tires. So it`s really hard -- how they reconcile the fact that their base is looking for people in Washington, D.C. who are looking out for working people but the benefactors of the campaign looking for them to look out for the biggest corporations in the world.

So that`s the challenge that Republicans have to reconcile and why the bill is so unpopular. That the people who were part of Trump`s base are people not helped by the bill and how they explain that over the course of the next year is not going to get easier as the bill goes to effect. In some ways this is the easiest part of that argument, right, where it`s all a piece of legislation not gone in to effect yet. Once it goes into effect and people looking at the paychecks at the end of the month then it`s even harder for Republicans to explain than it already is.

O`DONNELL: That`s exactly the point. Ezra, normally the way you explain a tax cut is you have people look at their paychecks and this is going to be a very complicated way of trying to convey this to people. There won`t be a change in January. Then eventually some kind of change that will vary and will not be seen as much and then when you get to the end of the year and do your tax returns, it is very complex because you`re going to have two different rates that you`re going to have to reconcile. It`s going to be - it`s going to cost you maybe more at H&R block because it`s going to take an extra hour to get it done with the way they`ve rushed this through.

LEVIN: Yeah. You`re absolutely right. Look he proof is in the pudding next year and it`s not there. They didn`t do anything to actually meaningfully help the vast majority of working Americans and that`s going to hurt them next year. They listened to a handful of their donors and takes more than a handful of people to be re-elected. Money doesn`t vote.

People vote and the people know that this is a bad bill and they`re mobilizing all over the country. When we see a 18-point swing in Democrats` favor, that doesn`t mean maybe to retake the House, maybe the Republicans are going to suffer a few losses. We;`re going to see incredibly unexpected losses for the GOP all over the country.

We`ve seen that already in Virginia and in Alabama of all places. They lost the Senate seat. Something they haven`t done in around a quarter of a century. So, we`re not just looking at retaking the House next year. This is historic. There`s a huge blue wave building and the GOP by passing this tax bill is contributing to that wave.

O`DONNELL: And, Josh, of course, the tax code is always temporary law. In fact, they`ve made it temporary because they`ve put so called the sunset on the personal tax rate. So we are going to see that tax rate go back up. The top tax rate to where it was under President Obama and under President Clinton. And so, this is one of those things where what they have done is by its very nature temporary, a new Democratic Congress will rewrite this stuff.

EARNEST: No. This definitely is malleable. That`s what we have seen over years and in some ways I think what Republicans are doing here is they`re making a very short term calculation. They saw that the calendar had turned to December.

They didn`t have anything to show for the fact they`ve been in control of the U.S. Government for a year now. And so they figured to themselves it`s better to pass an unpopular bill than nothing.

Now the truth is, Lawrence, they`re probably right because we did see not just that Democrats were energized in the last elections. We saw that Republicans were very dispirited both in the Virginia and Alabama elections. So I do think that there`s some subset of Republicans who will be rallied by seeing this legislative victory on the part of Republicans.

So I think that they are right that this is probably better than nothing for them politicall. But that`s going to be a really tough case to make and they`re not able to rely on the President of the United States to make that case in part, because he is so undisciplined and unreliable but in part because he`s so unpopular. They`re not going to persuade anybody who is currently opposed to the tax bill, oh, turns out it was a good idea and no success in doing that and in a position of 18-point disadvantage of Democrats that`s a real problem.

O`DONNELL: And Ezra, the other factor here, unrelated to any legislative activity, is we have no idea how many members of the Trump Administration, the Trump family, the Trump transition team, the Trump campaign might be indicted or have pled guilty by the time you get to the next Congressional Election.

LEVIN: It`s a huge x-factor. There`s a lot -- many more shoes will drop in the coming weeks and months. But you know I got to say when we talk to indivisible groups across the country we see them fired up already. The one thing that I fear is that Democrats in Congress are not going to stand up for progressive values this week and in the coming weeks.

For instance, standing up for the Dreamers who are under threat by this administration. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have both said they were going to stand up for the Dreamers. They have an opportunity this week. And if they don`t, I think you will see progressives across the country wondering who they`re voting for voting for if they`re voting for Democrats.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Levin and josh Earnest, thank you both very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

EARNEST: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And we have an update to a story that we did last night that one vote story. Shelly Simonds was on this program last night. A recount in her Virginia State House Delegates District declared her the winner by exactly one vote out of about 23,000 votes. But today, a three-judge panel reexamined that calculation and found the race to be a tie after one of the votes was deemed invalid. Under Virginia Law, a tie is broken by lot which means, by chance which means, candidates` names drawn from a hat or a bowl or a coin toss or something like that, a game of chance to determine the winner. The outcome will then determine control of the Virginia State House. Every vote counts.

Coming up, Steve Bannon`s very, very bad year.


O`DONNELL: With Donald Trump now the most unpopular first-year President in the history of polling it`s been a very, very bad year for Trumpism and a very bad year for Trumpism`s so-called master mind Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was banished from the Whitehouse by the second Whitehouse Chief of Staff John Kelly. And then Steve Bannon then foolishly backed the losing candidate in the Alabama Special Senate Election, accused child molester Roy Moore and Steve Bannon tricked Donald Trump into also supporting the accused child molester after Trump supported the loser of the Republican Primary Election in the Senate Campaign in Alabama, Luther Strange.

Steve Bannon`s advice then managed to turn President Trump into a two-time loser in the Alabama Senate Race. First Trump`s candidate lost the Republican Primary for the nomination and then Trump`s candidate Roy Moore lost the general election to Doug Jones.

Even Anthony Scaramucci attacking Steve Bannon. Scaramucci was fired even before he officially got on the Whitehouse payroll this year setting a record for fast firings. This weekend, Scaramucci told a group in New York City that Steve Bannon is -- was dramatically and incredibly divisive in the Whitehouse. He was leaking on everybody. You don`t leak on the President if you`re the President`s Senior Adviser so, the guy`s a loser.

Up next, more on the Trump/Bannon loser political suicide mission



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bannon, this is a huge defeat for you.


O`DONNELL: And, of course, that was Steve Bannon`s reaction the night Roy Moore lost the Alabama Special Election last week. Joining us now Kurt Bardella, a political commentator and a former Breitbart spokesperson. He recently left the Republican Party and joined the Democratic Party. Max Boot is also back with us. And, Max, Bannonism, Trumpism, it`s been a very bad year.

MAX BOOT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it has. And the only thing that I would dissent from, in terms of the attacks on Bannon I mean I have no love lost for Steve Bannon, believe me. I think he`s a loathsome, horrible figure in American politics and too much of a tendency in the Republican Party to scapegoat Steve Bannon for the sins of Donald Trump. You saw that especially after the defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama where a lot of Republicans said, oh, it`s all Steve Bannon`s fault.

This is a repudiation of Steve Bannon. Well, Bannon did not force Trump to endorse Roy Moore. Bannon did not force Donald Trump to pardon sheriff Arpaio. Bannon did not for Trump to say that there are good beam on both sides in Charlottesville. Bannon did not force Trump to post that anti- Muslim video on his Twitter feed and on and on and on. So, you know, I think there`s no question that Bannon is a maligned influence. But let`s remember he`s not the guy who calls the shots that the true malign influence has not left the Whitehouse. He`s still in the oval office every single day.

O`DONNELL: Lloyd Grove in the Daily Beast is reporting on the frictions within the Bannon World and Trump World. It says while Bannon reportedly speaks regularly to Trump, Steve constantly goes a bridge too far and usually the bridge falls apart, says Chris Ruddy, a friend of the President`s and Chief Executive of the Conservative Learning News Max cable television, an online outlet.

I hope the President continues to listen to Steve`s advice and then does the opposite. Kurt, it doesn`t seem that Steve Bannon has a lot of allies outlet there now.

KURT BARDELLA, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well one thing we`ve learned this year is that Steve Bannon doesn`t play well with others. He`s not meant to serve at the pleasure of anybody which is why it didn`t work for him at the Whitehouse. He`s not meant to answer to the President or have a boss.

He likes to do his own way. It`s kind of my way or the highway and if you don`t like it, he`ll try to run you down with a bus. That`s just Steve Bannon style. I think we`re seeing now the consequences of if you follow the Bannon model, it`s a losing model for Republicans, for the President.

This guy was the chief strategiest. Started the year as high as he could possibly be as "Political Operative", plump possession in the Whitehouse, huge influence with the President, on the cover of Time Magazine and look what happened. Look how long it took for this Whitehouse have a "accomplishment."

It took getting rid of Bannon the better part of the first year. And you have to ask yourself is President Trump stronger or weaker than he was on the day that he got elected. At this point he`s far weaker.

He has the most unpopular first term President in recent memory perhaps in history. And it`s because he went down the Bannon Model for so long.

O`DONNELL: And Max as you pointed out its certainly appears in instinctually Trump is Bannon. There really isn`t a different between them.

BOOT: Absolutely. I don`t think it`s correct to deposit you know Donald Trump is this good natured fellow and he`s been led to the dark side by Steve Bannon. I mean the reason why the Bannon-Trump partnership worked in the first place is they were largely simpatico. They`re both at the core I think essentially white nationalists and who have this xenophobic and I think largely racist agenda they`re pursuing.

Now you know Bannon is somewhat more consist in pursuing that. I think he`s a more systematic thinker. He more of a theoretician and he`s more committed whereas Trump as we know is an incredibly erratic. And for Trump it`s mainly About trump himself rather than ideology. But to the extent Trump does have an ideology, I think it`s safe to say it`s Bannonism.

But of course at the same time he can also be led in other directions. And you saw that for example with the early release of the National Security Strategy this week, which was in many ways kind of a conventional internationalists document, even though it`s completely at odds with Trump`s own you know protectionist high in his instincts. But sometimes Trump acts in that way.

Other times he acts in the Bannon. I mean he`s all over the map. But I think to the extent he has any core beyond serving Donald Trump himself, which I think is the real core, but beyond that I think his core is basically the kind of believes Bannon represents.

O`DONNELL: Kurt, can you imagine Steve Bannon turning on Donald Trump, breaking with him, turning against him next year?

BARDELLA: OH my gosh, absolutely. I mean if you look at - you know Bannon, he`s a parasite. And he`d been looking for so long for a vehicle to attach himself to hitch his wagon to. People don`t remember this but before there was Donald Trump, Steve was a cheerleader for Sarah Palin. He had thought that she was going to be the chosen one.

When that didn`t pan out he moved over to B, for Rand Paul then for Ted Cruz. At one point he was with Ben Carson. And so what we`ve seen with Steve over the course of the last few years is when someone`s riding high, he`s all about them. And the minute he thinks it might go south, he disregards them, dumps them, begins attacking them. At some point if Steve believes that the best interest he has and the best interest to maintain relevancy and power is to throw Trump overboard and start attacking him and align himself with someone else, he won`t hesitate to do that because Steve there`s no ideology. And that`s biggest thing is Steve is about hatred and spreading divisiveness. It doesn`t matter what the ideology is.

O`DONNELL: Max Boot and Kurt Bardella Thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. Tonight`s Last Word is next.


O`DONNELL: Only three shopping days until Christmas and all the last minute gifts on my list are going to be from the K.I.N.D fund, kids in need of desks. You can give a desk in the name of anyone on your gift list. You can give tuition for a girl to attend high school in Malawi. You can contribute any amount toward her desk or towards high school tuition at

Here are a few of your Tweets just overnight. Joseph Chucheli tweeted Lawrence, I have retired after 42 years as an educator. I paid it forward to K.I.N.D with a donation for two desks. I touch the future I teach. I love hearing from teachers and their being moved by this and wanting to contribute. Another Tweet from Susan. Lawrence, I know my teen daughter`s favorite Christmas gift under the tree will be the wrapped donation notification we made to send a girl to high school in Malawi through K.I.N.D and Unicef. Thank you for making me aware of this poignant present and one more from another educator.

Lawrence, i just donate today the kind fund for one girl`s scholarship and a Christmas gift to my own grandchildren and granddaughter. I`m an educator and so are my son and daughter in law. We don`t need stuff. These girls in Malawi need an education. Thanks.

And thank you very much to you just overnight in the last 24 hours we`ve raised $80,995. That brings the total raised just this year to $1,079,343. Please keep your gifts coming. Three more shopping days and of course you can continue to give after that, after Christmas as I will. Thank you very much for helping the K.I.N.D fund once again this year. That`s tonight`s Last Word. The 11th hour" with Brian Williams is next.



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.