Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 21, 2017 Guest: Eric Boehlert, David Cay Johnston
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hello, Rachel. I`m not sure which I`m more disturbed by. The Ron Wyden/Adam Schiff questions which an excellent catch on your part, these questions of money laundering is being sort of shoved under the table, or these sort of handmaiden`s tale of what they`re doing, essentially seizing control of pregnant teenagers and young women and bodily trying to force them to give birth. It`s pretty scary.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Reading the legal rational, I mean, kudos to the ACLU for getting that memo into public circulation to see the rational by which they explain what they`re doing and they`re basically saying we`re stopping these young women from getting the abortions that they want and that they`re legally entitled because we think we can and because we think we ought to.
MADDOW: And, you know, when you have power over people you can compel them and in this case, this HHS office does. Trump put somebody in charge of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who never worked on refugees or resettlements, but he is anti-abortion zealot, and this is now how he`s using the power.
REID: Yes, amazing. The small ways at the Trump administration`s managing to change this country little by little and the direction of, you know, really fundamentalism and extremism and we`re so busy paying attention to the big ways that they`re trying to change it with Russia that people are letting go under the radar.
MADDOW: Appreciate it, my friend. Have a great night.
REID: Thank you. Have a great night. OK. Thank you.
The walls, meanwhile, are closing in on the president of the United States and Donald Trump`s Party`s reacting to that reality with hysteria. It`s increasingly clear that congressional Republicans including members of key investigative committees will do literally anything to save Donald Trump from Robert Mueller`s investigation, including attempting to smear and delegitimize the special counsel, and even federal law enforcement, an extraordinary position for the supposedly law and order Republican Party.
Consider the Trump defense that we have heard from Republicans and their partners in state media just this week. There`s the baseless charge of the Russia probe is in fact a coup. There are complaints of Mueller`s team are out to get the president. There`s even a Fox News contributor suggesting that the FBI may have been planning to a assassinate Trump.
Now, Republicans know the president is in trouble and he must be defended at all costs. We have even seen the creation of a modern day committee to protect the president, a vestige of the Nixon Watergate era. "Politico" reports that California Congressman Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and a man supposedly recused from the Russia investigation because of his role in the Trump campaign and transition, is leading a covert group of Republicans investigating Justice Department officials.
According to "Politico", a group of House Republicans has gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly and perhaps criminally mishandled the contents of a dossier that described alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.
The people familiar with the plan said the goal to highlight what some committee Republicans see as corruption and conspiracy in the upper ranks of federal law enforcement. Republican lawmakers have called Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to Capitol Hill twice this week for closed door interviews about his interactions with former FBI Director James Comey regarding both the Russia probe and the long dead investigation into Hillary Clinton`s private email server.
The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings said Republicans were trying to cast doubt on the impartiality of the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Cummings, are you concerned about this hearing today?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We have less than 48 hours notice. As a matter of fact, at the same time that Mr. Gowdy was grilling McCabe and the Intelligence Committee, they sent the notice out for this.
Certainly, this is an effort to discredit the FBI. We have a situation here where whenever it seems as if Mueller`s getting closer and closer to the White House, seem that we are distracted to something else. So, now, they`re reached into their book of -- playbook of tricks and now they`re pulling this out today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Indeed. When in doubt, Republicans play the hits, taking a page from the Trey Gowdy playbook, NBC News is reporting that the Trump Justice Department is once again looking into Hillary Clinton. This time, over her role in the right`s favorite conspiracy theory, the Uranium One deal. On the orders of Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Now, I did debunk the Uranium One story a couple of months ago on my show, "A.M. JOY". Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: What you are talking about is a deal that nine members of CFIUS approved unanimously. None of whom was Hillary Clinton. You have a donor who separately gave Hillary Clinton donation at a time when she was not secretary of state. The two things cross in the night. They have no relation to each other. The members of CFIUS have been very clear that Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with approving that deal. She would have had to strong arm eight other people in order to get them to unanimously approve the deal and ultimately the president of the United States would intervene if they saw any problem.
The CFIUS people say now, if that deal came before them today, they would still approve it unanimously. There`s actually nothing about the deal that`s controversial. The only reason we are talking about it is because per your admission which I think is very honest, the RNC would like us to talk about this now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, here`s what this comes down to. Uranium One, the controversy, was the exclusive product of the book "Clinton Cash", a supposed Clinton expose published by a Breitbart senior editor allied with Steve Bannon and founded by the Mercer family. That "Breitbart" editor Peter Schweizer claimed that there was a quid pro quo that fact checkers say simply doesn`t exist.
The Uranium One deal was a completely lawful transaction that was approved by eight federal agencies besides the Clinton State Department. Hillary Clinton`s role was minimal. Plus, the deal also had the approval of the Republican then governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, who is now Trump`s ambassador to Russia. Awkward.
So, this is about protecting the president, sensing trouble and trying to throw people off. Democrats however are not taking this Republican gambit lightly. Today, 171 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter in support of Robert Mueller`s investigation, saying they won`t stand by if Republicans try to interfere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We have decided we will not stand by and allow Fox News and right wing Republicans to defy of rule of law and create their own rules to interfere with the legitimate investigation under the Constitution of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Joining us now are Eric Boehlert, senior writer for "Shareblue Media" and Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Eric, I`m going to start with you. You were at the table not getting in a word edgewise when I did that Uranium One thing before, but this Uranium One deal keeps coming back as a favorite of Republicans.
ERIC BOEHLERT, SENIOR WRITER, SHAREBLUE MEDIA: Right.
REID: Is there evidence that there`s coordination, that Republican lawmakers are coordinating with Republican members of -- what you could call state media to bring it back up?
BOEHLERT: Absolutely. This is the playbook. This is what they always do. Uranium One, as you said, was produced by Breitbart. Unfortunately, "The New York Times" also got a chunk out of it. They thought they`d do a deal with Bannon during the campaign. Not a good idea.
You know, I was joking on Twitter 10 days ago, who remembers Uranium One? Because that was the hysteria of November and then we moved on to the FBI.
Look, if you take a couple steps back, what you`re talking about here is jaw-dropping and breathtaking. This is a palace guard essentially, the Republican Party has now decided to construct wall after wall after wall around Trump.
It`s not just Uranium One that`s distracted people at the Uranium One. It`s deputy McCabe. It`s Mueller. It`s Comey. They just building wall after wall.
And as Elijah Cummings also said today, this is the Benghazi approach, right? Elijah Cummings counts six committees investigating the FBI, investigating the investigators. This is not by chance. There`s nothing there. They haven`t proven anything.
This is a corrupt and dangerous and kind of treasonous way to deal with law enforcement. No one says FBI is above reproach. Nobody says DOJ can`t be criticized. This is party that will smear anyone to protect Trump.
And again, it`s the Benghazi kitchen sink approach. If it`s Uranium One today, fine. People forget about that. Then we`re going to go to the dossier, then we`re going to go to Mueller. It`s endless.
BOEHLERT: And they`re using the gears of the federal government to try to stop another investigation. It`s unprecedented. Richard Nixon never had anything like this.
REID: He wished he did but he couldn`t pull it off.
BOEHLERT: He wished he did.
REID: Right, this is sort of what Nixon would have dreamed of having.
And, Jonathan, you also have Donald Trump signaling, he signals what he wants Republicans to do and then they do it. Donald Trump back in early November calling for an investigation of his political rivals, something that they do usually in tin pot dictatorships is what they do --
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
REID: -- prosecute their rivals. Everyone`s asking by the Justice Department and FBI isn`t looking into the dishonesty going on with crooked Hillary and the Dems. People are angry, I don`t know who those people are. At some point, the Justice Department and the FBI must do what`s right and proper. Americans deserve it.
We know that Jeff Sessions on the outs with Donald Trump and there is evidence at least circumstantial evidence that the pressure on Sessions to be in the good graces prompting him to undo the recusal. Sessions said he would recuse himself not just from Russia-gate but from any investigation of Hillary Clinton. I believe the proper thing for me to do he says would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton.
Well, now, it appears that he`s doing just that.
CAPEHART: Right, I think, Eric, you have a column pointing out the fact that sessions has done that, gone back on what he told Congress he wouldn`t do. The he would undertake any investigation into Hillary Clinton. You know, when I interviewed Hillary -- Secretary Clinton for my podcast, "Cape Up," she said, whenever the president gets into trouble with Russia, he always attacks President Obama, me, meaning her, Secretary Clinton, and African-Americans.
And what we see right now is President Trump going after Hillary Clinton consistently to throw smoke up to distract the American people from what`s going on. But I`m going to take issue -- just a little issue with what Eric said. This is not the Republican Party, just the Republican Party creating obstacles in the way. We have to be very focused on what`s happening here. It`s the Republican Party writ large but it`s the Republican-controlled Congress.
CAPEHART: Nixon couldn`t get away with what he got away with because Congress took its job as a check on the executive seriously and what makes this situation so dangerous is that Congress is working -- seems to be working hand in glove with the executive. If Congress is not going to be a check on the executive, then Republicans who constantly talk about unchecked executive power are giving unchecked executive power to the executive right now as we speak.
REID: And sort of making Donald Trump above the law. I want to play Jeff Sessions. This was Jeff Sessions at his confirmation hearing saying that he would recuse himself from Clinton investigations. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: You intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton e-mail investigation and any matters involving the Clinton Foundation if there are any?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. And then here is Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Donald Trump saying that Trump did not push Jeff Sessions to investigate this Uranium One deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you know if he directed Jeff Sessions to do that or encouraged him in any way?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wouldn`t have directed him to do that, that I`m sure of. Whether or not they have talked about it, I`m not sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, but even, Eric, if Donald Trump didn`t directly say to Jeff Sessions, I want you to investigate this --
REID: -- isn`t it a clear signal that Sessions is getting from Republican members of Congress --
REID: -- you need to do this?
BOEHLERT: His department is under complete siege and he will not stick up for the DOJ, he will not stick up for the FBI. No one there will go to Congress and read them the Riot Act when they spend every judiciary hearing smearing the FBI.
So -- he`s not going to stand up to him so I think what he`s going to do is say, I`ll do this. I`m playing your game. In January, you know, Sessions was trying to come across as a magnanimous I`m a legitimate -- I`ll be your attorney general. He couldn`t imagine in January where Trump and this investigation would be in December. He couldn`t imagine that Michael Flynn would have pleaded guilty to a felony.
So, he`s throwing all of the rules out the window.
BOEHLERT: This is interesting.
So, Uranium One was big in November. Flynn pleaded guilty. They were quiet for two or three days. White House didn`t know what to do. Fox News didn`t know what to do. House radicals didn`t know what to do.
They quickly formulated after that this FBI, you know, we are going to portray the FBI as the biggest danger to the democracy since Khrushchev. I mean, that`s literally where they are now. And so, this is all -- this is all this palace guard defense.
REID: And then the question is, is this all leading up, Jonathan Capehart, and what is the buzz in Washington to an opening the door for Donald Trump to either fire Bob Mueller, fire Rod Rosenstein, who`s the only thing keeping Bob Mueller from being fired or otherwise attempting to end the Mueller investigation?
CAPEHART: I have to tell you. Last weekend, in Washington, the chatter about Mueller being fired was at fever pitch. People were wondering and trying to -- hashing out all the various scenarios. Two of them you just talked about. Saturday Night Massacre option which is fire Rosenstein until you get somebody who will do your bidding to fire Mueller or wondering whether the president has the legal authority to actually fire Mueller himself. That`s being talked about.
And then, you know, between what we`re talking about now and what Rachel talked about in -- during her show, it seems like the fever pitch is still there. And people are just wondering and waiting to see when it`s going to happen. We have a president who a normal president would wait until Friday at 4:00 to do something like this. But we`ve got a president who makes news every day.
CAPEHART: It doesn`t matter about the weekend.
One thing I want to add. I know I was being very apocalyptic about Congress not being a check on the executive. But there is one -- one sort of institution that can have a check on both the executive and Congress and that`s the American people. If something like this happens, it is incumbent upon the American people to make this displeasure known.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And we didn`t talk about the plan C, which is show trial, DOJ is something to literally prosecute Donald Trump`s political opponent Hillary Clinton. That seems like Congress or someone could try that gambit, as well.
Jonathan Capehart, Eric Boehlert, thank you very much.
And coming up, Donald Trump swore he was going to have to pay so much more under the Republican tax cut bill. Well, surprise. It turns out that was not true.
And Republicans who once warned Americans about the dangers of giving Trump presidential power are now dutifully singing his praises. The Putinization of the American presidency coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, I don`t benefit. I don`t benefit. Very, very strongly as you see there`s no -- I think there`s very little benefit for people of wealth.
I`m doing the right thing and it`s not good for me. Believe me.
This is going to cost me a fortune this thing. Believe me. Believe. This is not good for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Donald Trump repeated that talking point over and over as he sold the Republican tax cut bill to the American people, despite every independent analysis of the bill showing it was not true, and despite refusing to prove it releasing the tax returns like every other president.
For her part, the White House press secretary dutifully repeated Trump`s claim over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The president did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?
SANDERS: No, because on the personal side, this actually could impact the president in a large way. There are a number of provisions that would negatively impact the president personally and the comments are consistent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. That was two days ago. So, if that was the administration`s position on Tuesday before the tax bill passed, surely it must still have been operative today, right? Sarah Huckabee Sanders was on Fox News today and asked again if the tax cut bill would cost the president a fortune. But today, her answer changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Look. The bottom line is a lot of people are going to do really well under this. The president`s an American. This was a tax plan that was meant to benefit all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, the White House finally seems to have admitted that Trump was lying when he said he wouldn`t benefit from the Republican tax cut bill. So, just how much will the president of the United States benefit from the bill his party passed and that he`s about to sign?
Trump will pocket between $11 million and $15 million per year, once the tax bill is enacted, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress. In addition, his son-in-law Jared Kushner will bank between $5 million and $12 million per year under the tax bill. And Trump`s education secretary Betsy DeVos, an heiress to the Amway fortune, will pocket approximately $2.7 million per year.
And there are more goodies for Donald Trump and the platinum plated cabinet in the Republican tax bill because with the reduction of the estate tax under the legislation Donald Trump, Wilbur Ross, Linda McMahon, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin and Rex Tillerson will each be able to pass on additional $4.5 million to their heirs tax-free.
Meanwhile, for the average American making less than $75,000 a year, which, of course, is most Americans, you will get around $18 a week in tax cuts next year. Don`t spend it all in one place.
And since your tax cuts are temporary while the corporate tax cuts are permanent after 2025, you will get a tax increase. You`re welcome.
And joining us now is David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who founded DCReport.org, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com and an MSNBC contributor.
David, I`m going to go to you first.
Republicans are insisting that the $18 a week for Americans is real tax relief that is for the middle class. Is this a middle class tax cut bill?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, majority of people in the middle class will get a few crumbs. Wealthy people are going to get a cake and people like Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross and Betsy DeVos are getting the most fantastic, delicious layered tax cut cake you have ever seen.
And the idea that Donald Trump pays more taxes under this as big of a nonsense as the other things that he says. So, on an individual level, and for people who own businesses like me, boy, this tax bill`s terrific. But for working people, not at all.
And remember, what you are going to see happen soon. Orrin Hatch said there just isn`t money there for CHIP.
JOHNSTON: Well, if there isn`t money for CHIP, pretty soon, there`s not money for Social Security, all sorts of other things because it`s clear the Republicans` agenda is the rich don`t have enough and we have to get them more.
REID: Yes. And, you know, Jason, if you just look at the Tax Center Policy put together a chart to explain who gets what, look at that. Look at the left, hard to understand but on the left-hand side of your screen is the average benefit from the tax bill. They`re actually dollar amount that people get.
And as you can see, it starts for people making $10,000 or $20,000 a year, where you can`t even see it because get about 10 bucks and all the way up to people with more than $1 million and they get about $39,000 a piece, right?
So, you see, it`s bigger and bigger and bigger as you make more money and then look at the percent change and Republicans have been pushing back saying no, no, no. As a percentage, everybody gets the same. Well, as you can see a bulge over $500,000. The more money you make, percentage-wise you get, as well.
How do Republicans possibly justify that as a middle class tax cut?
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, they don`t, Joy, because they`re not overly concerned about that. Remember, we have a president in the White House right now who told the American people during a debate, hey, I`m smart. I don`t pay taxes, right?
So, I mean, if this is a guy that never paid taxes, we can`t believe anything he would say about this policy one way or another. The Republicans gave up an attempt to claiming that this is a middle class tax cut. They`re saying it will stimulate business and the real problem is for your average American, this is not going to give them enough extra income to start a business.
For small business owners in America, Joy, I think this is really important to say because the GOP says it helps small businesses. As far as the federal government is concerned, a small business with less than 500 employees. So, the guy owning a tow truck company is not getting that much. He`s only got five or six employees.
So, this is an absolute boondoggle for 2018. It is not going to help regular people unless you`re real, really rich and you can hide that money, unless you happened to be on a blue state, in which case you`re going to get punished.
REID: Right, absolutely. Just to put up for 2027 when the normal people tax cuts expire and the change in the after tax income for everybody who makes less than $75,000 a year, the income is going to go down while look at the rich. Just keep on gaining.
You know, David Cay Johnston, the way that the Republicans have been selling this bill is that they`re saying look at the companies now giving largest to the little guy. AT&T, Boeing, Comcast, which is the parent company of MSNBC, Fifth Third Bank Corp and Wells Fargo now saying they`re going to either give bonuses or increase minimum wage as a result of this bill. Is that the wonderful boon it seems to be?
JOHNSTON: No. It`s not at all. First of all, most of these are one-time bonuses and they`re catching up to a market where they`re having trouble getting people.
And the corporate tax cuts, let me tell you how damaging they`re going to be. We just put up at DCReport a very important story that everybody else missed, the benefit of the corporate tax cut is going to disappear because all around the world other major countries and we list about a dozen of them, already are moving to cut their tax rates. That makes it a zero sum game in which the only winners are the executives and major investors in big companies.
And how everybody missed this and we broke the story, thanks to Jim Henry of DCReport tonight, tells you a lot about how we`re not properly covering this massive upward redistribution plan of the Republicans.
REID: Yes, meaning when we cut our corporate tax rate, other countries aren`t going to take it lying down. They`re going to cut theirs and a race to the bottom.
Last word to you, on this, Jason Johnson. Wells Fargo who`s gotten a lot of good PR out of the gambit to raise minimum wages, they did the exact same thing in January. Noticed this online. They did the exact same thing where they said, we`re going to raise the minimum wages in January when the scandal about them doing fake accounts came out.
So, you do have companies having a history of using these marginal increases in wages for good PR.
JOHNSON: Yes. Well, what Wells Fargo is doing is akin to me saying, hey, Joy, David, I have a gift, oh, wait, it happens to be Christmas. This was something people were going to do anyway. Wells Fargo was going to make the increases anyway. They`re not a fundamental change in how the company operates, and at the end of the day corporations don`t hire more people paying less taxes. They only hire more people when more people are big and if the middle class doesn`t get a real tax cut and they don`t get one with this bill, they`re not going to buy anymore, and it`s not going to end with more hiring at Wells Fargo, Amazon or anybody else.
REID: There we go. AT&T`s helping themselves out, too, because they got some Justice Department issues and it`s all good PR.
David Cay Johnston and Jason Johnson, Johnston and Johnson, thank you very much. We appreciate you coming on.
And coming up next, the majority of the countries in the United Nations turned their backs on the United States today in a ground-breaking vote. Nikki Haley decided the way to deal with that to invite the well-behaved ambassadors to a party. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED NATIONS, AMBASSADOR: The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the general assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. WE will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world`s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us as they so often do to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: That was the threat from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley about an hour before the U.N. General Assembly voted on a resolution rejecting the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel`s capital. In short, Nikki Haley and Donald Trump would be they would be taking names. And we can sum up the response to that threat in two words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye, Felicia.
REID: Yes. Bye, Felicia. For those who don`t know, that is of course the two-line classic disk from "Friday" denoting when your threats are meaningless because people are done with you. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelming they passed the resolution Nikki Haley`s threats essentially issuing a sound Bye, Felicia to Donald Trump. Here`s the vote breakdown, 128 in favor of the resolution condemning the move, 9, including the U.S. and Israel voting against, 35 abstention and 21 countries who didn`t vote at all.
Seven of those that defied the Trump Administration by supporting the resolution Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Ethiopia, Syria and Pakistan are among the top ten recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid. So, will Trump cut them off? Well here`s what the U.S. President said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PRESIDENT: We`re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We`ll save a lot. We don`t care.
(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: OK. Cue the countries apparent response, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye, Felicia.
REID: Joining us now, Steve Clemens, Editor at large for the Atlantic and an MSNBC Contributor and Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for the Boston Globe. And she`s also the pointer -- with the pointer institute for Media Study.
So Steve, it doesn`t appear that 128 countries wee very afraid of the United States having issued that kind of a threat. What does that do to the United States position now that they don`t seem to be willing to enact it or stand behind it?
STEVE CLEMENS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This just makes us looks silly. It was pretentious. It was Hubertus (ph). You can hear the air coming out of the balloon, the gas bag that Nikki Haley put out there today and it just makes America look like the incredibly shrinking power in the United Nations. And you know, the bottom line here is that there`s a lot of drama over many, many years and presidential administrations about Israel.
What I`ve never seen before is that the ambassador, our ambassador to the U.N. would threaten other countries over this vote. This vote is complicated and Donald Trump is trying to insinuate himself between the Arab street, not just the Arab Street, the German Street, the French Street. Most of the streets in the world and their leaders that just can`t abide by what the Trump Administration did.
REID: Yes. And already the State Department has pulled back on the idea that there`s going to be any threats in terms of the money that we give to these very important countries in the sphere of influence. So in (INAUDIBLE) you had John Brennan, the Former Director of the CIA is you`re pretty strong condemnation of Nikki Haley`s behaviors in the Trump Administration threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right and U.N. to oppose U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows real Donald Trump -- Donald Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everybody.
Quality is usually found in narcissistic vengeful autocrat. Have you ever heard of CIA Director talked like that about of an American President?
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, BOSTON GLOBE, COLUMNIST: Yes. It`s pretty harsh but it`s also in keeping Donald Trump`s words with the same things he said on the campaign trail. Remember, Joy, that he was at the time threatening to cut off aid to our allies, key treaty allies, in Nato, Japan and South Korea, for whom we give a nuclear umbrella to protect them against North Korea. I mean, so this is not the first time that he`s threatened to cut off our friends. I think it`s unlikely as you say that he`ll be able to do that in practice because think about it. Egypt is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid getting $1.43 billion in military aid alone from the U.S. every year and Israel would be the first ones squawking if the U.S. tried to cut off Egypt.
Because remember, they`re one of only two Arab countries along with Jordan that recognizes Israel`s right to exist and, you know, they were key at Camp David. They would be key in leading a movement to have peace between Israel and the Palestinians. So it`s really unlikely that he`ll be able to carry through on the threat. This whole thing of taking names is not new.
Nikki Haley on her very first day at the U.N. said, we will be watching those who don`t have our backs and we`ll be taking names and figuring out how to respond accordingly. So this is the rhetoric they used, that the administration uses at the U.N. and I don`t think it`s winning them more friends.
REID: Yes. I remember the coalition of the willing rhetoric was somewhat similar, Steve, by the George W. Bush administration. They are trying to assemble the Iraq coalition. It didn`t exactly work and people didn`t want to be involved didn`t get involved. The other thing that they`re doing Steve is that they`re using this carrot approach along with the stick.
Apparently, there`s a tweet in the Voice of America, U.N. Correspondent, Margaret Besheer with a picture of a `save the date` invitation. Nikki Haley has invited all 64 countries that voted against or abstained, or didn`t show up to vote. But they could come to a party in January 3rd, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday.
So among those partying with the United States as a reward for being obedient, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia gets to come to the party. Nauru, Palau, Togo. So they`re going to throw a party for the people who voted our way. Is that a way to influence people in the world?
CLEMENS: No. It`s ridiculous. I mean, look who won`t be there. We need China to deal with it, to help on North Korea. We need Russia to work with us. Neither of them were going to be there. France and Germany will not be there. Jordan and Egypt, you know, the President has allegedly good relationship with General Cisi in Egypt. They will not be there.
No nation that matters on issues of vital importance to us will be there. So, it will be a party. And all for parties as anyone knows but this is going to be one without, you know, all of the big players.
REID: Yes. Great Britain not there. France not there. Lebanon not there. You know, Iraq not there.
REID: And you know, one other group of people who didn`t quite earn the anger of the administration but didn`t vote our way either, were Canada and Mexico, Ontario. And obviously, there are a lot of issues with trade. They`re still in the table including NAFTA. But both of those countries talked about why they were abstaining Canada, the representative from Canada saying the resolution one sided. So not saying they were on our side just they thought the resolution was written poorly. And then you have delegation of Mexico making it very clear that they did not find the U.S. position positive or useful. What do you make of the fact that Canada and Mexico are too physically closest to allies also were not with us? LAKSHMANAN: Well, I mean, obviously, they have do get along with the United States. They`re right here sharing a continent with us and as you say the NAFTA issues are unresolved. Australia is another country who abstained. You know, as did some of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid including Haiti.
Look. I think the important thing that we shouldn`t lose sight of here is the reason for this vote in the first place. And the reason, of course, is the Trump Administration`s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy there. The problem with this is that it really inflames a 50-year-old dispute going back to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war since which time Israel is occupying east Jerusalem which is what the Palestinians hope that the future capital will be and U.S. policy for the last 50 years has been to support this notion of a two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as a shared capital. East Jerusalem being the Palestinian capital.
So, you know, this was supposed to be something that both Republicans and Democrats have agreed on and, you know, I could see a different way of doing it would be to say, we want, you know, Jerusalem to be the capital of these future two states and maybe try to light a fire under the peace process. But just recognizing it only as an Israeli capital does not help that peace process.
REID: Yes, indeed. Steven Clemens and Indira Lakshmanan on. Thank you both. Appreciate it.
CLEMENS: Thank you.
REID: Thank you. And coming up, the effusive of (INAUDIBLE) praise Republicans and Trump Administration officials are lavishing on Donald Trump have been jarring for many Americans but they`re not unusual for particular kind of government. Can any of these people tell Trump hard truths when they talk to him like this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, VICE PRESIDENT: I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say congratulations and thank you. I`m deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to here.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ORRIN HATCH, REPUBLICAN PARTY, UTAH SENIOR SENATOR: Mr. President, I have to say that you`re living up to every -- everything I thought you would. This is one of the great privileges of my life to stand here on the Whitehouse lawn, with the President of the United States who I love and appreciate so much. We`re going to make this the greatest presidency that we have seen not only in generations but maybe ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: The greatest presidency ever. Utah Senior Senator Orrin Hatch isn`t the only Republican speaking in obsequious hyperbole about Donald Trump. Growing number of establishment Republicans have taken to the lavishing over the top supine, exaggerated praise on the famously needy president including some who not so long ago had a completely different take on the man who would become -- who would cometo lead the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN PAUL, HOUSE SPEAKER: It`s time to set aside bullying, to set aside belittlement and appeal to higher aspirations. Something this profound could not have been done with out exquisite presidential leadership.
MITCHELL MCCONNELL JR., UNITED STATES SENATOR: Our new President had of course had been this line of work before. And I think had entrusted expectations about how quickly things happen.
It`s been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump Administration. Thank you, Mr. President, for all you`re doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you said in October if you still believe that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look. You know, I know you`re having a great time with this interview. And I`m happy for you in doing so. But look. Well, I`ve said what I`ve said. And I`m doing what I`m doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he`s a kook. I think he`s crazy. I think he`s unfit for office. You know, what concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook, not fit to be president.
REID: One journalist who studied authoritarian states says this kind of abusive, sycophantic praise isn`t just in it`s flattery. She said, that can be done like dangerous. The journalist Sarah Kendzior joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PENCE: The entire cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say congratulations and thank you. You`re restored American credibility on the world stage. I`m deeply humbled as your Vice President to be able to be here. I`ll end where I began. And just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Joining us now is Sarah Kendzior, journalist and scholar on authoritarian states. And Sarah, you know, peephole I think are at this point accustomed to the obsequiousness of the Vice President of the United States. Mike Pence talk that way all the time.
But I personally was struck even more in a lot of ways by Orrin Hatch. I mean Orrin Hatch is the fourth in line to the president of the United States. He`s the President (INAUDIBLE) at the Senate. He`s the longest serving Republican Senator in -- you know, in the body. He`s not a man of no stature. And so for him to prostrate himself the way he has in the last few days to Donald Trump, is weird and jarring, what does it say to you?
SARAH KENDZIOR, JOURNALIST: I think it`s in line with what the GOP is doing in general in regard to Donald Trump which is they start out with a moral condemnation or an evaluation of his cognitive abilities. This ability of the sub-leader. They find him lacking.
And then you know, as time goes on, they join the fray. You see this. I think the most explosive example is actually Lindsey Graham, you know, who you played a clip of in the previous segment. You know, it`s really egregious the way they`ve turned around. And I think it`s very bad sign for democracy.
REID: And Lindsey Graham to your point, not only has Lindsey Graham turned around from calling Trump a kook, to be upset, people are calling him a kook. To golfing with Donald Trump and even praising one of his golf courses which I`m not even sure that that doesn`t violate some ethics rules. Trump International Golf Club, spectacular golf or -- of course some great day upon playing with (INAUDIBLE).
You wrote about Lindsey Graham explicitly. He`s somebody who was admitted he was attacked by the Russians, who used to have strong opinions about Russia Gate. What -- there are innocent explanations for why the careerism -- what are the not so innocent explanation for why he`s changed?
KENDZIOR: Yes. I mean, there`s always the explanation of, you know, careerism, opportunism, that`s an aspect of politics and we shouldn`t rule that out because that can go hand in hand.
KENDZIOR: The other explanation, but we do know that the RNC was hacked. We don`t know what happened with those e-mails. We know that Lindsey Graham`s personal e-mails were also hacked. And we know that Trump has a long track record of blackmailing and threatening who he sees as his political opponents. That goes back throughout his entire career especially in terms of his lawyers whether Roy Cohn in the 1980s or Michael Cohen during the election. And I think it`s possible that some of these GOP players, well they might be greedy and opportunistic are also being blackmailed or threatened.
There`s also the issue I think of, you know, contamination in the sense of the Russia investigation. We know that there are a number of shady donors, a lot of dirty money, some of it stemming from Russian oligarch`s who donated to the GOP campaign. And that certain individuals may not want to be investigated, you know, for their role in taking that kind of money.
Lindsey Graham is one of those people, and I think a number in the GOP are worried about that. So yes. That`s an issue of great concern. But I think what concerns me most, is that they seem afraid. They seem unable to stand up for themselves. They lack all dignity.
You know, Trump has abraded them. He`s insulted them. He`s often gone after you know, their wives and their family members saying terrible things, and yet they prostrate themselves to them. It`s like what kind of leader are you? What kind of man are you? I mean that -- that`s something that does have me concerned.
REID: Yes. Absolutely. Sarah Kendzior, thank you so much. We really appreciate your time.
REID: Thank you. And up next, Senator Al Franken will get tonight`s Last Word.
REID: Time for tonight`s Last Word. Senator Al Franken said farewell to Congress Thursday, in his final speech on the senate floor. Senator Franken will formally resign his seat to Minnesota`s current Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith on January 2nd, after allegations of inappropriate conduct surfaced just weeks earlier. In his speech, Senator Franken criticized the Trump Administration`s policies, saying they are at odds with what`s best for the American people.
Here`s Senator Franken in his farewell address to the senate.
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AL FRANKEN, UNITED STATES SENATOR: You know, before I came to the senate, I was known as something of an obsessive -- on the subject of honesty in public discourse. But as I leave the senate, I feel -- I have to admit it feels like we`re losing the war for truth. And maybe it`s already lost. And if that`s the case, if that`s what happens, then we`ve lost the ability to have the kinds of arguments that help build consensus.
So what is to be done? Who will stand up and fight for more honest debate? To insist that even though we have a different set of opinions, we cannot honorably advance our competing agendas, unless we use the same set of facts. But I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will stand up for truth. The thing is, I have spent enough time with my Republican friends over the last 8 and 1/2 years to know that you are motivated by values just like democrats.
I just hope that you will fight for those values forthrightly. But at the end of the day, it`s going to be up to the American people, just like it`s always been. We will always have the democracy we deserve, if not the government we want. It`s going to take ordinary Americans deciding to become more informed consumers of political news and opinion, and deciding that they`re willing to be part of the argument themselves instead of simply tuning out all the noise.
And if they do, I know we will get this country back on track. Politics is about the improvement of people`s lives. The American people know that to be true. And they film me with hope for our future.
Thank you, Madam President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Losing the war for truth, Senator Al Franken gets tonight`s Last Word. Thank you for joining me tonight. Be sure to join me weekend mornings beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for my show, AM Joy and coming up. The House and Senate may have avoided a government shutdown until January, but that`s when the real fight for children`s health care and the dreamers begins. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams is next.
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