Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 22, 2017 Guest: Charlie Cook, Neera Tanden, Betsy Woodruff, Julie Rovner, Norman Orenstein, Brian Klaas, Paul Butler
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: No it`s all good, I was riveted by it. I mean, these are times of change. I guess there are also times of staff change, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, that`s very well put, thank you my friend.
VELSHI: Rachel, we`ve got a fun thing coming up tonight. I know you`d get out soon but you should watch this or get home in time to watch it. Just in time for the holidays, The Last Word staff has put together a look back at the best moments from these very conversations that you have every night with Lawrence.
MADDOW: Oh god.
VELSHI: Spoiler alert, there`s going to be some blushing, so you may not want to be in public.
MADDOW: You guys super cut the me and Lawrence Crossovers?
MADDOW: Oh Jesus.
VELSHI: And this is only part one tonight.
VELSHI: So get home fast and have a great weekend, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: All right. It looked like all smiles at the Trump White House this week. But behind the scenes, we know that tension and frustration boiled over as those closest to Donald Trump gave them a warning. The 2018 midterms are shaping up to be a blood bath for Republicans and that threatens the Trump agenda.
According to the Washington Post just hours after Wednesday`s celebration with the Republicans at the White House, Trump aides and outside advisers held a spirited and at times, tense discussion with the President. "The gathering saw tempers flare as aids vented the frustrations with electoral defeats this year and concerns about the 2018 political map. Complaints about the President`s political operation and the Republican National Committee boiled over, playing out in front of the President as an inner circle drama."
The New York Times reports the meeting devolved into a heated argument between former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, on the left and White House Political Director Bill Stepien. Lewandowski, "Told the President that his government staff and political advisers at the party committee were doing little to help him."
Here`s how POLITICO described the mood of Trump`s inner circle. "Those closest to Trump are bracing for a possible blood bath in the 2018 midterms which could obliterate the Republican Congressional majorities and paralyze the President`s legislative agenda. POLITICO also reports that Mitch McConnell has said privately that both chambers could be lost in November.
Mitch McConnell is just two last Senate seats away from losing the majority in the Senate after Roy Moore`s loss in Alabama last week. Today McConnell sarcastically praised the man that some see as responsible for that Alabama loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you blame Steve Bannon for Doug Jones being elected in Alabama?
MITCH MCCONNELL, : Well, let me just say this. The political genius on display, throwing away a seat in a red state in America is hard to ignore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: With the 2018 prospects looking increasingly bad for Republicans, Mitch McConnell and President Trump said today they want to work with Democrats, something they chose not to do when passing their tax bill and trying to pass their healthcare bills, without a single democratic vote. Here`s what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really do believe and I said on social media today, I really do believe we`re going to have a lot of bipartisan work done and maybe we`ll start with infrastructure because I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan.
MCCONNELL: I don`t think most of our democratic colleagues want to do nothing and there are areas I think where we can get bipartisan agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, joining us now is Charlie Cook, the editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and a columnist for a national journal. Also joining us Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, and Norm Orenstein, a Congressional Scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and the co-author of the book, "One Nation After Trump."
Welcome to all three of you. Norm, I`m going to start with you. You wrote a book 11 years ago and the subtitle was, "How Congress is failing America." And you actually want to revise some of the conclusions you came to in that.
NORMAN ORENSTEIN, RESIDENT SCHOLAR, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Yes. That book really cast a lot of blame on both parties for the decline of Congress as a deliberative body, as a body that really debated and worked together and used its rules in an appropriate fashion to allow all the members to have a say and a buy-in and now it`s pretty clear that we have is asymmetric and we`ve seen it on display this year with an all-Republican Congress.
The idea of now turning to bipartisanship after a tax bill that is unlike anything that I have seen ever in almost 50 years in Washington in terms of giving a middle finger to the normal process, shutting out democrats who wanted to be involved like Joe Manchin, it`s almost absurd that they`re now stretching out a hand for help and it`s help, Ali, just because they`re scared to death that they could lose bigly next year.
VELSHI: Neera, is it true what Mitch Mcconnell said that at some point, if the hand of bipartisanship is extended that the democrats would be wrong to bite that hand?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I don`t think democrats are going to bite any hand. I think the reality is that the President has been not just hyper partisan. He`s viciously attacked one Democrat after another. He`s not only attacked Schumer and Pelosi, he just -- just last week had vicious, disgusting attack against Kirsten Gillibrand.
You know, the modus operandi of Donald Trump is to maybe spend one half of 1 percent of his time talking about bipartisanship and 99 percent of the time attacking different groups of people, mostly Democrats. I don`t find it credible but I also think he`s really burned a lot of bridges. It is really going to be hard for democrats to actually work with him when he`s been -- when he`s gone after immigrants, when he`s gone after people of color.
I mean, he`s just really been so divisive and it`s going to be hard for democrats to meet him halfway.
VELSHI: Charlie, if you take all the politics out of this, let`s just look at the way this tax bill was done. It was not deliberative. It was not -- certainly not in the interest that Republicans sold it as being -- a middle class tax cut and it was not popular. It was all the things you wouldn`t think Congress would do about a bill. It was just, without looking at the merits of the bill, it was a bad legislative process.
CHARLIE COOK, AMERICAN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s a sort of theology that just as democrats believe in a strong social safety net and generous entitlements and beefing up Social Security and Medicare to the extent possible, any time you can. Republicans believe that taxes are evil, that they should be cut whenever you have a chance and under any circumstances. And it`s just a matter of the theology of the Republican Party.
And I think they got sort of captivated by that and then a little bit of desperation since they were 0-3 in the other big top priority areas of border wall, infrastructure and repealing and replacing Obamacare .
So I think it`s a little bit of desperation came that if we don`t pass something big, we are going to lose our majority in the House and maybe even the Senate. So that this thing became a locomotive that nobody could really stop. And yes, I was surprised that this went this far and that they got it. Because, frankly, the politics of it don`t make a lot of sense as you said.
VELSHI: No. And, Neera, I guess, I mean, it is sort of a Washington insight thing to think that, "Oh, we better get a piece of legislation." Like magically Americans are going to think this is functional as an Administration, as a Congress, soon enough. And by the way, maybe it`s not soon enough, it but might be 2019 or the end of 2019 before middle class Americans start to figure out that this was a teaser rate. Lots of people got a little tax cut for little a little while, while companies got the biggest tax cut that we have seen in modern history.
At what point and how do Democrats capitalize on this? Because the President has come out day after day championing this as a middle class tax cut.
TANDEN: Yes, I think what`s fascinating is that Donald Trump has been, I mean, just to say it, lying about this legislation for months and the American people saw through this. He said it was a middle class tax cut, 66 percent of Americans do not believe this is a middle class tax cut. They believe it for what it is, which is a massive tax cut for corporations and the super wealthy and mostly corporations. And the reality is, in my view, Barack Obama passed middle class tax cuts in 2009. People didn`t really feel it. George Bush passed tax cuts in the early 2000s, people didn`t really feel it. Those were far larger than the pittance that are in the first couple of years of this tax thing.
VELSHI: But Neera, President Trump said just today -- this is the biggest tax cut in history, and said it repeatedly.
TANDEN: Once again, once again, he was wrong. Obviously, Reagan had a bigger tax cut. This is a pretty large tax cut for corporations.
VELSHI: The Obama extension of the tax cuts -- the Bush tax cuts in 2013 were numerically bigger. The Bush tax cuts, there are all sorts of things that were bigger.
Norm, it is kind of fascinating though because in all the time that you and Neera and Charlie have been watching politics, never -- maybe -- I don`t remember a time when people could lie with this sort of impunity when the facts -- I mean, you see me every single day and multiple times of the day, I try to explain to people what`s really going on in this tax bill and then the President just comes out and says something entirely different.
At some point, Norm, either the 66 percent that Neera was talking about are going to just stick to the fact that the President is wrong or his base is just going to continue to believe he`s right. Where does it end?
ORENSTEIN: So I want to give you props to you and Stephanie Ruhle because you were really -- almost the only ones who track this and showed what was actually in the bill as it went along but, you know, we live in an era where the authoritarian and autocratic notion that you turn truth on its head and try to simply obscure what reality is, it`s an era that`s upon us and it`s being pushed by the Administration.
Before we go, though, Ali, I think there`s one other factor we have to bring into this that also ties into the elections. Lindsey Graham said before this bill passed, if we don`t do this, the checkbooks will be closed and big money and dark money is a major factor here.
Now we see a huge sum put in by the billionaires and others that benefit from this tax bill to try and convince the American people that this was the greatest thing that ever happened to them and there will be a huge amount of money going in through dark money into these campaigns as they try desperately to hold on to the House and the Senate.
I don`t think it will succeed for the reasons that Neera suggested and this is a deeply unpopular bill. We have never seen a bill of this magnitude, this unpopular. But that`s a key factor here.
VELSHI: Charlie, let`s talk about how this all plays out in 2018 on the congressional map, the latest polling on the congressional midterm ballot from CNN shows the biggest democratic lead in 20 years among registered voters. Democrats 56 percent, Republicans at 38 percent, I think it would be foolish to predict the 2018 election in December of 2017.
But for Mitch McConnell to reportedly be conceding that they could lose both houses, what do you think?
COOK: Well, I mean, yes you have to do the caveat if it`s 10 months away.
COOK: But President -- you know, midterm elections are referendum on the incumbent President and you have got a President with the lowest job approval rating of any newly elected President in history.
This -- we`re standing on a beach, looking out at the ocean and we`re seeing what looks like a really, really, really big wave. Now, waves of the magnitude that this appears to be in the past would be 40 to 60, 65 seats in the House.
Now, given where congressional district boundaries are drawn and population patterns, a wave that use to do 40 to 65 seats might be 20 to 30, but the odds of this going 24 or more, which is what Democrats did, they`re pretty good, and given the states that are up, this is not likely to be a six, seven, eight-seat gain for Democrats in the Senate, but the chances of it being two seats and tipping the Senate are a whole lot better than they were two or three months ago.
So, both -- it is absolutely legitimate to say that both chambers are up in the air and if you had to bet this moment on the House, you`d say right now, "Well, it sure looks like it`s going to tip and the Senate is plausible for the first time.
COOK: I don`t know if in this political environment, I`d bet anything more than ten hours out let alone ten months.
VELSHI: I don`t bet on politics but this is what waves look like.
TANDEN: The tax bill will still be unpopular.
VELSHI: This is what waves look like. I hear you. I hear you and that`s why we count on you for your expertise. Charlie Cook, thank you so much. Neera, always great to see you. Norm, thanks very much for being with us tonight and a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to all of you.
Coming up, Donald Trump versus Robert Mueller. The President had been promised by his lawyers it would be all over soon, but nothing could be further from the truth. Another busy day of developments in the various Russia probes and as promised later, we`re going to have the best of the cross talks between Rachel and Lawrence in 2017.
VELSHI: 2017 may be winding down, but that is certainly not the case for the Russia investigation. Bloomberg is reporting that President Trump`s former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon and his former Campaign Manager, Corey Lewandowski have been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.
Both men were sent letters this week requesting interviews for sometime early next month. According to Bloomberg, the invitation which didn`t come in the form of a subpoena compelling them to testify was for a voluntary interview in the Committee`s offices which means it would be behind closed doors, an official familiar with the panel schedule said.
NBC News is reporting that the Intelligence Committee questioned the President`s long-time assistant Rhona Graft in New York. The Committee`s closed door meeting with Graft who was Trump`s gatekeeper at Trump Tower for more than three decades is the second one involving a Trump associate this week.
Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman and former Trump associate was also questioned; both Graft and Sater met with the Committee at an undisclosed location in New York over the objections of Democrats who wanted their interviews held in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi concerned that Republicans are pushing to end the House Intelligence investigation has written Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to keep the probe open.
Ryan`s spokeswoman responded in part, "To suit her political agenda, Leader Pelosi would like to see this investigation go on forever."
And all of these developments with the Congressional investigations are happening as we`re still awaiting details of the highly anticipated meeting between President Trump`s lawyers and Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigators.
According to several reports, the two teams were supposed to meet at some point this week.
Joining me now are Betsy Woodruff, the politics reporter for the Daily Beast and Paul Butler, Law Professor at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor. They`re both MSNBC contributors.
Betsy, let me start with you. This back and forth between Pelosi and Ryan about the House Intelligence Committee investigation, I think it would strike most laypeople as strange because we know that this investigation is still ongoing. We know from Robert Mueller. We even know from the Senate side, which seemed -- the Republicans and Democrats seem to play better on the Senate side than they do on the House side, so the idea that Republicans on the House side want to wrap this up quickly does smell a little of politics.
BETSY WOODRUFF, REPORTER, MSNBC: Certainly. Without a doubt and the fact that Paul Ryan`s office would suggest that Democrats are the only ones who could potentially be charged with allegations of playing politics when it comes to this investigation is on its face a little goofy.
That said, of course, one thing that we know for sure about the House Intelligence Committee`s Russia probe is that they`re getting a lot of really interesting information. And it`s an interesting dynamic with this particular committee because on the one hand, it`s the investigation that`s had the most major, major hiccups, right? Devin Nunes`s controversial trip -- midnight to the White House. We have had lots and lots of rolling skirmishes between Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Committee and Nunes who is the top Republican on the Committee.
Lots of very public airing of grievances, lots of leaks to media; at the same time, though, this committee is finding out lots of interesting stuff. They`re getting tons of documents. They`re interviewing very high profile witnesses. They`re releasing transcripts of those interviews. A lot of what we know is based on this investigation and that may be why Republicans are a little bit nervous about the prospect of it continuing much longer.
VELSHI: Notably, the House -- the Senate Intelligence Chairman, Richard Burr did not go to the White House earlier this week for the celebration about the tax bill saying that while this investigation is undergoing, he`s keeping his distance.
Paul, Mike Pence talked to CBS today about Michael Flynn and I thought this was notable. Let`s listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just clarify how you understand what happened with Mike Flynn. When he was fired, did you know, he had lied to the FBI?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I can tell you is that I knew that lied to me and I know the President made the right decision with regard to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Paul, you`re a former prosecutor. That answer wouldn`t work in court.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It is not responsive. Objection, your honor. Tell the witness to answer the question.
BUTLER: Did you know that Flynn lied to the FBI? Up to now, Pence`s defense has been, "I don`t know nothing about nothing." He didn`t know about the Wikileaks. He didn`t know about Trump Jr.`s meeting with the Russian lawyer and he didn`t know about Flynn`s discussions about the sanctions.
Again, that`s starting to look a little thin especially now that Mueller is talking to Flynn. So Flynn apparently has told Mueller stuff that makes him want to have a little sit-down with the Vice President.
VELSHI: Where does that tell you this is going? Just -- with respect to the conversation we were just having about the House Intel Committee wanting to wrap it up. Others wanting to keep it going, on the Mueller side, this got really interesting with the Flynn deal.
BUTLER: Indeed. So the Hill investigators are political explicitly so that means they are more transparent. We don`t know how long Mueller is going to continue the investigation. We know he`s got two people under indictment, so it`s at least another year.
Again, Trump`s lawyers have floated this beautiful twisted fantasy that the investigation`s going to be over, first they said Thanksgiving and then they said, Christmas. Now, they`re saying the New Year. It`s very unlikely. This is going to go on well into 2019.
VELSHI: Senator Warner, Betsy, on Thursday was at an event that was hosted by Axios and he said that the Senate investigation into this is the most important thing he`s ever done in his life. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WARNER, US SENATOR, VIRGINIA: We have not reached any conclusions, but the importance of what we`re doing I said a year ago, this is the most important thing I`ll ever work on. I feel that more strongly today than even a year ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Betsy, make sense of this for us because for a lot of Americans, this has been going on for a while. They haven`t -- they have seen things happen in the Mueller investigation and in the other investigations, but a lot of people haven`t seen exactly what they`re looking for. So how do Warner and the Democrats continue to keep the interest in this going and the support for their investigations going?
WOODRUFF: I don`t think there`s much dearth of interest, but I think an important thing for people to understand is that there`s a whole lot about the nature of the connections between the Kremlin and the American political process that we just don`t know.
Now, we do know that Capitol Hill has been much leakier than the Mueller probe when it comes to sort of telegraphing what they`re working on and what they found out. At the same time, though, there`s a lot of interesting information that has not been leaked and Elijah Cummings indicated that a couple of weeks ago when his Committee, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee basically said that they`d known about a really controversial conversation Mike Flynn had had, I believe, from the dais of the capitol during the inauguration that related to business dealings.
Cumming`s Committee sat on the information for months. It did not leak because they were deferring to Mueller and to his team. We can say with a lot of confidence that Warner and Democrats are doing the same thing.
In fact, I believe in that same Axios interview, Warner actually said that he expects there to be more indictments out of Mueller`s team. That means that Warner probably knows a significant amount about the trajectory of where Mueller is going, what information he might have and additional criminal liabilities for folks in Trump`s orbit. It`s not going anywhere.
VELSHI: And from an investigative perspective, Paul, while there`s some disarray on the House side and there`s partisanship in Congress, they do seem to be working the right way with Mueller`s investigation.
BUTLER: Yes, so they are cooperating. Reportedly, every document that the Senate and the House Committees get, they also share with the Mueller Special Counsel so that`s what you want to happen. You don`t want there to be competition. You don`t want it to be explicitly political, so hearing it now and hearing it forward seems like the system is working well.
VELSHI: Paul, I want to ask you quickly. The Washington Post reporting on a ruling tonight by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the President Trump travel ban. This has just come in. A Federal Appeals Court panel on Friday ruled President Trump`s third entry ban violates the law.
The three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Trump had again exceeded his lawful authority in issuing the latest ban and that they`d not made a legally sufficient finding that the entry of those blocked would be detrimental to the interest of the United States. Interesting ruling. Limited effect at the moment.
BUTLER: The Ninth Circuit`s three-panel judge -- three judges on the panel, they go in for the Trump Administration. Procedurally, they say he exceeded his powers with this ban. He doesn`t have that right to do all of that as President and substantively, they say it`s discrimination on the basis of national origin, that`s unconstitutional, but you`re right, practically the Supreme Court is already reviewing this so we have to wait and see what the court decides.
VELSHI: Paul, thank you very much for joining us. Betsy, you too. Best of the season for you and a Merry Christmas to both of you.
BUTLER: Merry Christmas.
WOODRUFF: You, too.
VELSHI: Coming up, the race to erase America`s democratic norms. How President Trump is following the despot play book and later, the year in review during the Rachel Maddow -- Lawrence O`Donnell cross talks. You`re going to have to see this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering firing Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: No, I am not. No. What else? What? Are you surprised?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Despite that denial, a number of former federal prosecutors wrote a letter to the President today warning him against firing Robert Mueller. Writing -- seeking Mueller`s removal would have severe repercussions for Americans` sense of justice here at home and for our reputations for fairness around the world. And in a separate letter today, some 20 former Republican officials including former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended Robert Mueller and his investigation writing, "We reject recent efforts to discredit Mueller. These efforts undermine the institutions that protect the rule of law and so our nation. Mueller must be allowed to complete his investigation without interference. We hope that the country will give the special counsel`s findings the respect they deserve, whatever they may be."
At today`s tax bill signing, the President didn`t answer questions about Russia but he did find a way to take a jab at the media. In the middle of thanking the companies that plan to give their workers bonuses after the tax bill`s passage, President Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to thank AT&T who actually was the first out of the box and Boeing and Sinclair and Wells Fargo and Comcast, even though they own NBC, which is not so nice to the Presidency or the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, joining us now is Brian Klaas, a fellow of comparative politics of politics at the London School Economics and the author of the, "Despot`s Apprentice", Donald Trump`s attack on America. Brian, good to see you, thank you for being with us.
Here`s a little bit more of what Donald Trump had to say a little bit earlier. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Legislative approvals for which I`ve given no credit in the mainstream media, we have, I believe it`s 88, which is number one in the history of our country. Second now is Harry Truman. Harry Truman had more legislative approvals than any other President and a record long held and we beat him on legislative approvals for which I get no credit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s worth noting that President Trump is behind other Presidents in the first year when it comes to signing legislation into law. Bill Clinton at this point, by December 22nd had 208 pieces. George Bush 102. Barack Obama 121. Donald trump 96.
It`s gotten to the point, Brian, where we don`t even really know when the President says something or what he`s referring to because he said it was the biggest tax cut in history, it is not. But putting the lies aside, the delegitimization of the media, the delegitimization institutions and most recently the attack on the FBI, this is out of a handbook. This has all been done before with disastrous results following.
BRIAN KLAAS, FELLOW, COMPARATIVE POLITICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: That`s exactly right and it`s clear that Donald Trump is a wannabe despot or as I call in the book, "The Despot`s Apprentice," because he wishes he had a system where there was no independent fact checkers, where there was no independent media, where there was no checks and balances that functioned or challenged him and that`s why he`s constantly trying to attack and demonize press, calling them the enemy of the people, which Mullen used in the past.
He called them a stain on America. He uses divide and rule tactics we see elsewhere in the world by demonizing minority groups and now he`s trying to wield the weapon of the rule of law as a weapon against his enemies, challenging those who are investigating him and pardoning political allies. And you look at this and you see around the world, there`s people like Adaland in Turkey, Putin in Russia, who eroded any sort of constraints on their power and became the despots that they wanted to become.
So, I think the question here is how does America respond? Because this is not a drill and there`s a real threat to American democracy.
VELSHI: But you know, you talk about (Mullen Stallen), you could talk about Franco, you could talk about Mussolini, you can talk about Hitler, you can talk more recently about Yugoslavia and Rwanda and in all of those cases, every single one of them, the institutions of government and the press could not withstand the momentum of the despot.
KLAAS: That`s right. So when you have to separate these two things out, you have the person, right, whether they have authoritarian instincts and you have the system. The system of the United States is the most robust that any sort of wannabe despot has gone up against. So, that`s on our side, that`s a good thing but that doesn`t mean that Trump is any less dangerous because he has the same instincts and impulses of some of those leaders.
He`s not Mussolini but the reason he`s not is primarily because there are huge constraints on him. He wishes to have more power, fewer checks, and fewer balances to challenge any of his whims or impulses. So, you know, this is where we have to determine how we respond to the country. And it`s not about partisanship at all. It`s something that, you know, why it`s always talked about is, two years ago, my comments were nonpartisan and the rule of law should be apolitical, that you shouldn`t have family members in general surrounding the President, that you shouldn`t delegitimatize the press but cherish them as a democratic institution.
All of these things are things that that we used to all agree on and I think if you describe what`s happening in America in 2017 to somebody in 2014 or 2015, they would think you`re talking about Turkey or Russia, not the United States, and that is where we need to have a serious wake-up call as a country and brush aside partisan differences to defend democracy.
VELSHI: Brian, well said. Thank you for joining us tonight. Brian Klaas, the book is, "The Despot`s Apprentice: Donald Trump`s Attack on Democracy." Thank you for joining us tonight.
KLAAS: Thanks for having me.
VELSHI: Coming up later, President Trump is trying to drown Obamacare but the American public isn`t letting him. That`s coming up. But first, we have been teasing you all night. The best of Lawrence and Rachel`s crosstalks, your wait is over after the break.
Now that the war and Christmas is over, what do you give someone who has everything? How about a few minutes of joy, smiles and laughs?
Many of the MSNBC prime time viewers are big fans of the handoff between Rachel and Lawrence. Michael writes, "My favorite part of Maddow-Lawrence show is where they banter for a few minutes. They should do a half hour together between shows."
Kenya writes, "Seriously, I would watch an hour of Maddow and Lawrence just talking to each other. I love them."
And Rosy gets more specific, "I would love a whole hour of just watching Lawrence make Maddow blush."
Well, it is not an entire hour, but just in time for the holidays, here now is a look back at a year of Rachel and Lawrence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now time for "The Last Word", with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Hey Rachel, do you pay attention to American Politics.
MADDOW: Sort of, yes. For Danica Roem to have beaten Bob Marshall, the guy who authored the Virginia bathroom trans ban, it shows you that sometimes history is written with a caps lock key on, right. It tells you that sometimes history is not subtle.
O`DONNELL: Feels like tonight`s history is being written by movie writers. It is so dramatic.
MADDOW: Yes, unsubtle movie writers.
O`DONNELL: And anywhere in that process that, did someone teach the President what Medicaid is?
MADDOW: What is teach?
O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I don`t know what -- what works now. I don`t know.
MADDOW: If this goes on at this pace for another 18 months, I`m going to need to drop some doppelgangers from the parallel dimension because I can`t work this hard every day.
O`DONNELL: You know what you might need; maybe you might want more commercials for a change.
MADDOW: We`ll sell more pills.
O`DONNELL: The audience loves that suggestion -- the more commercials. Sorry about that she.
MADDOW: Do you know why I still wanted -- to get Harris to talk to me.
MADDOW: I bow down before thee.
O`DONNELL: Come on Rachel this is a first. I think it`s a television first, that someone is appearing on this program instead of the number one rated cable news show with the biggest audience in the all of cable news "The Rachel Maddow Show."
MADDOW: I see what you did there Lawrence. I see what you did; now you`ve got me blushing, so I have to turn away.
O`DONNELL: It`s that time of year and so, I have your present. It`s right here. It`s actually the one Donald Trump promised you. It is -- it is the wicked big Republican tax bill.
MADDOW: Thank you for one. Also, I didn`t get you anything yet, so.
O`DONNELL: I`m used to that by now.
You are going to have to make more room at home for another Emmy that you won tonight while you were working here on the show.
MADDOW: Somebody yelled something to me as I was running out on to the set from the hallway.
MADDOW: But I haven`t talked to anybody about it yet, that`s very nice of you to say. Thank you very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good bye.
O`DONNELL: I did it again, that`s so easy, embarrassing Rachel.
Rachel, I know you have to run out of the building because it`s Friday night and by 10: 15 Friday night you are deep in New York night life I know and I got to let you go. But this is a special Russian night for "The Last Word" because we have coming up in the show, Vladimir Putin`s worst nightmare, pussy riot is here.
MADDOW: Oh my God.
O`DONNELL: In New York live in studio, here.
O`DONNELL: Here tonight, yes.
MADDOW: Are you serious?
O`DONNELL: Yes, yes say hello before you leave the building.
O`DONNELL: Right there on your floor.
MADDOW: Bye. I`ll be right there.
O`DONNELL: Okay -- bye Rachel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Here`s the irony, what you saw wasn`t even the best of the best moments. You can see that one week from tonight in "The Last Word, Holiday Special." All right, up next, "Why is President Trump lying about the fate of Obamacare ?
VELSHI: President Trump declared on Friday that Obamacare is over, as he signed into law the Republican tax bill that repeals Obamacare`s individual mandate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The individual mandate, which is a very unfair and very unpopular provision, as you know in Obamacare. Essentially I think it ultimately leads to the end of Obamacare. It`s essentially -- I think Obamacare is over because of that. Many people thought, it should have been overturned in the Supreme Court. It didn`t quite make it. Almost, but didn`t make it. But now, we are overturning the individual mandate, the most unpopular thing in Obamacare -- very, very unfair.
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VELSHI: Even though President Trump claims Obamacare is dead, it`s still very much the law. During the open enrollment period for 2018 coverage, nearly 9 million Americans signed up for health insurance. That numbers down from last year`s 9.2 million sign-ups but exceeded expectations despite an enrollment period that was half as long and a 90 percent cut to advertising made by the Trump Administration. While the tax bill does repeal the individual mandate, other important provisions of the Affordable Care Act are in place including subsidies of individual policies, Medicaid expansion and protections for people with preexisting conditions.
President Trump kept the focus on the individual mandate repeal tweeting later in the day, "Remember, the most hated part of Obamacare is the individual mandate, which is being terminated under our just signed tax cut bill."
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell didn`t say Obamacare is dead today. Here he is calling on Senators to work together on healthcare legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: The Graham-Cassidy proposal -- they intend to obviously continue to work on and my view of that is, as soon as we have the votes to achieve it, I`d like to do that, 51-49 is a pretty tight majority. But I`d love to be able to make more substantial changes to Obamacare than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining us now is, Julie Rovner, the Chief Washington Correspondent at Kaiser Health News, and somebody who understands this stuff better than almost anyone.
Julie, the failing of American healthcare compared to other wealthy countries around the world is that we do not have an adequately large and diverse risk pool for people who wish to buy insurance outside of their workplace. That`s what the individual mandate was supposed to achieve, getting more and more people to buy insurance so that you`ve got young and healthy people along with the sick. By taking the mandate out, do we not end up once again with a shrunken risk pool of older and sicker people whose healthcare costs more?
JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AT KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, that`s certainly possible but, you know, a lot of experts are sort of coming around to the conclusion that there`s at least a possibility that the subsidies you talked about that are still there, that help people afford coverage, that those might be just as important if not more important than the mandate.
There`s a lot of discussion about how -- how much of an impact the mandates actually had. The penalties were not all that large.
ROVNER: The congressional budget office has been actually scaling back its estimates about how much of an impact the mandate itself has had and it`s possible, particularly, looking at the numbers for this year, the surprisingly large numbers, and I should point out that enrollment`s not closed in all the places that are doing healthcare.gov and the numbers that we got yesterday didn`t cover the people who signed up even at the very last minute, those people who couldn`t get through and they took their phone numbers and said they called them back.
So, it`s entirely possible that those numbers will actually meet or surpass last year`s. So, it`s not at all clear how much of an impact taking away the mandate will be. Although everybody assumes we`ll see higher premiums, there may be bare spots, places where insurers just don`t want to offer coverage. Those are more likely to be in rural areas. So, there will be some impact but there might not be as much impact as perhaps people thought back in 2012 when the Supreme Court was looking at this.
VELSHI: Let`s talk about rural areas, 7.3, right now the number is 8.8, as you said, it may go up. But 7.3 million of the 8.8 million consumers signed up so far for next year come from states that Trump won, this is from the Associated Press, come from states that Trump won in the 2016 Presidential Election.
The four states with the highest number of sign-ups, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia, accounting for nearly 3.9 million customers, were all Trump states. What`s Donald Trump missing about this?
ROVNER: Well, I think he doesn`t realize that the people who are being hurt by the parts of the law that he`s taking apart, are his voters. The people who are being hurt right now, when he got rid of the subsidies for low-income people, weren`t the low-income people, the insurers just raised rates to cover that. People who are being hurt are the people buying their own coverage, who aren`t getting help with their premiums; those are by and large Republicans.
As I mentioned, the biggest difficulties are in rural areas where it`s harder for insurers to make money. Again, areas which are largely Trump supporting. So, he`s ending up hurting his own supporters in what he`s doing to the health law.
VELSHI: Julie, you said there are other components of Obamacare that might prove more valuable and this doesn`t signal the end of Obamacare.
Medicaid expansion, this is something that a lot of people didn`t think about, because they thought about the mandates and they thought about the mandatory coverage, but there are a lot of experts who tell me that they feel Medicaid expansion was actually more impactful.
ROVNER: Medicaid expansion has covered more people and there was always an expectation that Medicaid expansion was going to be a big part of the coverage expansion. The two populations that have not traditionally been able to get their own coverage are people who are poor and in some states, poor enough to get Medicaid, but don`t meet one of the other categories.
They`re not disabled, they are not elderly, they are not pregnant women, or they are not children. So, there were those people and then there were sick people who couldn`t buy insurance even though they could afford it because insurers wouldn`t sell to them and what the Affordable Care Act did, more than anyone else, was it let those people into the health insurance system.
VELSHI: Julie, a number of Senators have come out and said, "This isn`t over," they are going to revisit a real repeal and maybe a replacement of Obamacare in 2018. Any sense of what that looks like?
ROVNER: Well, I think one of the things that surprised a lot of people this year is how surprisingly popular Medicaid is. Medicaid was always sort of the poor stepchild. Medicare was the program that policy makers/lawmakers were afraid to touch. And yet, the efforts to really pare back Medicaid, not just take away this expansion, but really cap the Medicaid program overall, were met with enormous resistance from Republicans as well as Democrats.
So, I think they may be surprised at how difficult it is to scale back Medicaid.
VELSHI: Julie, good to see you, as always. Thank you for joining us and best of the seasons to you, Julie Rovner.
ROVNER: Thank you, you too.
VELSHI: Okay up next, "The Most Dangerous Man In America."
VELSHI: Today, the highly anticipated movie, "The Post" opened in selected theaters, it stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The movie is at the center of much Oscar buzz. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and focuses on the publication of the pentagon papers, thousands of pages of top secret documents that exposed lies about America`s role in the Vietnam War.
This weekend, MSNBC is presenting a special documentary, "The Most Dangerous Man In America." It`s a real-life thriller about Daniel Ellsberg, the man to leaked the classified documents and changed history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL ELLSBERG, AMERICAN ACTIVIST, FORMER UNITED STATES MILITARY ANALYST: I began Xeroxing the (Mcnamara) Study in the fall of 1969. At the end of the day working at RAND, I would put several volumes into my briefcase to take with me. Walking past the security guards, I would feel my heart beating. I couldn`t help thinking about the dozen or so secrecy agreements I had signed over the course of my career in government.
The task seemed endless. I often worked through the night. Early in the morning, I returned the papers to my safe at RAND and headed home. I get back to my house on a little narrow beach in Malibu. I loved to body surf, and I would go in every morning before I went to bed, and I remember at some point during this, being in the waves, in the sunlight, and looking back at the hills of Malibu and thinking, "How can I be doing this? How can I be giving all this up?"
ROBERT ELLSBERG, SON OF DANIEL ELLSBERG: I was 13 at the time. He said there was a secret history of the Vietnam War that he`d been reading and he had a copy of this. And he had decided that he wanted to make a copy of it and make it available to Congress. He described it in terms of civil disobedience, would I help him? I don`t suppose he literally needed my help, but that this was something risky and very important to him, and it was important to him that I be a part of it in some way and I think that very afternoon began copying the pentagon papers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Okay, you`re not going to want to miss this, "The Most Dangerous Man In America," the special presentation, right here, on MSNBC, Saturday night, 9: 00 Eastern. I`m Ali Velshi, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Up next, Jon Meacham and Peggy Noonan, look ahead to 2018. That`s next on "The 11th Hour" with my friend, Brian Williams.
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