Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 26, 2017 Guest: David Frum, Jason Johnson, Dave Wasserman
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hello, Joy. I don`t know if you heard -- first of all, merry Christmas to your and your family. I don`t know if you heard, the war on Christmas is officially over.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "A.M. JOY": You know, and thank goodness, just having gotten out of the gulag for saying merry Christmas last year. It`s good to be free.
MELBER: It is good to be free. Merry Christmas.
REID: Thank you. Happy holidays.
MELBER: Happy holidays.
I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
And let`s start here. It was just five days before the 2016 election, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who, of course, would go on to be White House press secretary, tweeted this: When you`re attacking FBI agents because you`re under criminal investigation, you`re losing. What a difference a year makes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR: It was far from a silent night or a holiday weekend for President Trump on Twitter. A new round of tweets have him facing off against the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FBI cannot after all of this time verify claims in dossier of Russia-Trump collusion. FBI tainted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is trying systematically to discredit the FBI. The president hates the investigation. He fears it. And he wants to shut it down or curb it as much as he can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the news today. And the president personally singled out the number two person at the FBI, Andy McCabe, accusing his wife of taking money from what Trump called Clinton puppets, suggesting he`s racing to retire. All of this follows reports that the FBI`s top lawyer, James Baker, will be reassigned.
Both moves are seen as agency responses to what is very clear now in the light of day a growing strategy by some on the right to undermine the FBI as a way to try to muddy up special counsel Bob Mueller.
Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert said today, Mueller is, quote, out for a scalp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: He can`t go fast enough. Anybody that has that much disrespect for the Republican Party, for the president of the United States, this goes way beyond just having a political opinion like everybody does.
So, Mueller, I have said since day one, since he was appointed, he is bad news. He is out for a scalp. He would love to get Trump`s scalp. He would love to be the hero of the left to take out Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have faith in Mueller?
GOHMERT: No, I have no faith in Mueller. I haven`t from day one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Hard-hitting question there, by the way.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney making news, calling today for a, quote, purge of the FBI on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I`m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails. People need a good clean government. I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it and say, look, we`ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here. Those interest people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not the people who are kind of the deep state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The deep state. You need to see that, because that is the partisan fever in parts of the Republican Party calling for, in their words, a purge of the FBI.
But that`s not all that`s going on. Take a look at some nonpartisan experts striking a different note. Intel veteran Mike Morell, who served the Bush and Obama administrations and rose to the top of the CIA, you may recall back before Trump`s election, he was one of the clearest voices on the danger that Putin posed through Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MORELL, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: Donald Trump didn`t even understand, right, that Putin was playing him. So in Putin`s mind, I have no doubt that Putin thinks that he is an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation, although Putin would never say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: An unwitting agent. He might have been on to something. Remember, that was before a lot of the attention on Russia that came after the election.
Well, Mike Morell is back with something you have to see. This is in today`s "Washington Post." And he co-authors a very serious article sounding a blunt alarm arguing Putin is still aggressively disseminating propaganda to weaken our nation.
And he argues that this perception that Russia ended its social media operations following last year`s election exist, but that perception is wrong, writing: Russia`s information operations in the U.S. continued after the election, and they continue to this day. Two very different views of the same scene.
Joining me now, David Frum, a senior editor for "The Atlantic", Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder and MSNBC analyst, and Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC analyst as well.
David Frum, two views. One based in reality. The other based in what I think is fair to say has grown over the last several weeks into a full- throated attack on the FBI.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: But it`s working. It does work.
The FBI needs to be seen as above suspicion. This is an agency, remember, that has a dark past. And a dark past where it has participated in American politics in a way that it should not have done.
So, it`s very important to culture of the FBI to be seen to be above suspicion. So, if you have the president of the United States and a party in Congress endlessly saying that the most routine things are indicative of fatal bias and improper bias, you can change the behavior of the FBI. And so, normal communications that people would have about their political views, that FBI agents are allowed to have, that occur in the ordinary -- that becomes something impermissible, a sign of bias. And you -- step by step, the agency is changed.
Donald Trump and his supporters are saying, unless you have people investigating him who begin with what nobody would have, which is total ignorance, total detachment from the events of the past year, then therefore, they`re out to get him. You know, cops are often out to get people they think are kind of guilty. And that is not different here.
But it is working. It is working.
MELBER: Matt, do you agree that it`s working? I mean, this is a bureau that very recently was seen under Comey and others to basically operate a highly independently, almost to a fault. And now, David argues, and this is concerning for the nation, that in a relatively short period of time, Donald Trump, aided by this outside effort, has kneecapped it.
I will read one piece of evidence as example. "The New York Times" reporting both people in the bureau today and former FBI officials say Trump`s criticism and those of normally supportive Republican members of Congress have damaged morale, senior agents expressed fear if their names appear in the media, they`ll be singled out for attacks by politicians.
MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR A.G. ERIC HOLDER: Yes. Look, I think the attacks on the FBI have demoralized the bureau, and they started back during the campaign. Let`s remember. The FBI has had a really rocky year and a half going back all the way to James Comey`s handling of the Clinton investigation. Not the decision not to bring charges, but his highly unusual decision to give a public statement, which we know really rankled a lot of people inside the bureau and led to a great deal of controversy.
And so, for them to come out of that tough year in the election, and now be under attack constantly by the president of the United States, it does have an effect inside the bureau. But I think the worst effect is what you see inside the Republican Party.
You know, you showed that clip from Louie Gohmert. I sat through a number -- you know, countless -- dozens of Judiciary Committee hearings during the Obama administration where he was spouting, you know, really what were then fringe conspiracy theories about the Department of Justice. Those theories are no longer fringe. They`re now the mainstream view of the Republican Party because the party is led by someone who has kind of equal disdain for institutions and equal disdain for objective truth.
That has now become the mainstream -- these attacks on law enforcement, on anyone who will question the president have become the mainstream view of the Republican Party now. And that will have consequences when Bob Mueller finishes his investigation.
MELBER: Yes, and, Jill, there is something really sad, weak, and pathetic about that. That people who have public service careers, who spent decades saying the opposite are brought to heel within what, within a year of joining this effort?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC ANALYST: It`s more than just that. And I agree, Ari, completely with what you said. But it is also a possible obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and it`s obstructing justice by saying to agents, you better not dig too deep. You better not find anything because I will attack you.
And this is the president of the United States. It is congressmen who have a national audience and can make people`s lives miserable. So, if you`re interfering with an investigation by doing that, that`s obstruction of justice. And I think it`s a serious threat to the investigation and to democracy.
MELBER: Well, isn`t that what makes this a scarier staring contest, Jill? I mean, to build on your point, what`s under investigation is the president`s efforts to end or impact the Russia probe by potentially obstructing it. I mean, that`s part of the whole deal with Comey, right?
And so, now, the response to that is to say, in your view, or your theory here is to, what, out-obstruct the obstruction that`s under investigation?
WINE-BANKS: It is. I think what is getting confused is this started out as an investigation into Russian meddling in our election. And then in connection with that, was whether anyone in America, anyone in the Trump team was conspiring with the Russians to do that. So that was the first investigation.
But then very quickly, it evolved into I`m looking at an obstruction of that investigation of whether the Russians interfered and whether anyone in my team helped them. So, when you get to the obstruction, you have the obstruction evidence is starting to get clearer and clearer and clearer.
You have the firing of Comey. You have the threat to the FBI. You have the moving of Baker to another position.
You have the possible firing or pushing out of McCabe. So -- and at the same time, you have 18 days of Flynn staying in office, even though everybody knew that he was guilty and that he had done something that he shouldn`t have done. He had lied to the vice president. And they may have even known that he lied to the FBI and was under investigation for that.
So, it really has become full circle. And the venom coming out of the White House to the FBI is a dangerous and harmful thing.
MELBER: Well, and, David, as Jill walks through those names, I think it serves to underscore what a mismatch this can be. Because Mr. Baker, for those of White House have been around this like Jill and Matt and yourself may be a known quantity. But to most of America, he is not.
So having the president, you know, throw these rhetorical bombs at him does have an impact. This is what James Comey was moved to say. This is a rare public statement from Comey since leaving government. Sadly, we`re now at a point in our political life when anyone can be attacked for partisan gain. James Baker, who is stepping down as FBI general counsel, served our country incredibly well for 25 years and deserves better. He is what we should all want our public servants to be.
FRUM: Yes, let --
MELBER: Go ahead, David.
FRUM: Let me clarify what I mean when I said this is working. So, the very fact that the president has been able to accelerate retirements from the FBI or accelerate movements of personnel, and maybe these were things that were going to happen anyway, but they weren`t going to happen this month. They have happened.
The message that has been sent inside the agency is if you start discovering the truth, your career may be in danger. So don`t look too hard.
Meanwhile, it`s one thing when -- I mean, Louie Gohmert, even within the Republican world, is not a highly respected or credible force. But what -- there is no counter-balance. What he has been saying is picked up. It`s printed on "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, by scholars from the Hoover Institution.
And you can see in Congress many reputable people, or ambitious people, Ron DeSantis, who wants to be governor of Florida, who was -- used to be a fairly moderate kind of Republican, he is signing up for this, because the governorship beckons. And meanwhile, you see no one, even the Republicans who say let this play out, the investigation go to its termination, no one is willing to take the risk and stand up to the president and say, please stop interfering with the FBI.
The incentives for the agency, the incentives for the president, the opportunities for him, those are all blinking ever clearer.
MELBER: Matt, do you want to cosign David Frum`s dark warning on this holiday evening? Or do you have anything brighter for us?
MILLER: I will. And I`ll say I think for career agents, you know, what they ought to do is do their job and not worry about that. But it`s very tough when you see things like people`s -- you know, the director of the FBI, Chris Wray, being asked about agents by name in a recent -- by name at a recent congressional hearing, and asked whether they had any political bias. That`s very intimidating for career agents.
But what needs to happen in these situations is that the leaders of these documents, the director of the FBI, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general need to stand up for the career people that work for them and defend their honor and integrity. That doesn`t mean Chris Wray has to come out and have a press conference every time the president says something off the wall on Twitter. But he does need to pick his moments where he tells the general public, they need to hear this not from Democrats, but from Republicans, and Republicans who have been appointed by President Trump, that this agency, the FBI is going to follow the facts, follow the law wherever it leads, attacks on them in this manner are inappropriate and the FBI will do its job, no matter what the president think thinks.
MELBER: I think that`s well put. And it goes to the larger arc here for those patriotic Americans who are in government where patriotism and self- interest probably combine. Because you can look at the examples of Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein trying to go along with Donald Trump`s first plan to fire Comey, and really beginning to ruin in a day or two careers that were built over decades. The idea that if you`re Chris Wray or someone else, you`re going to bob and weave and sit this out in a way that maintains your integrity or helps the FBI is unlikely. And that is all the more of a call for action.
Matt Miller and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much.
And I want to say coming up, President Trump may be helping Democrats achieve a key goal when they hope to take back the House. This is a big one. Stay with us.
And up ahead, the truth about President Trump`s tax plan is revealed, and it was by Donald Trump himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- were in the White House, I don`t think I`d ever see Turnberry again. I don`t think I`d ever see Doral again. I own Doral in Miami. I don`t think I`d ever see many of the places that I have.
I don`t ever think I`d see anything. I just want the stay in the White House and work by ass off, make great deals, right? Who is going to leave? Who is going to leave?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Who`s going to leave?
Well, new reporting shows Donald Trump spent -- get this -- a third of his entire presidency so far at Trump properties. Last night he said it was back to work in order to make America great again tomorrow. Well, tomorrow came today, and Trump was on the golf course. This is the 85th time he has gone golfing since taking office.
The country club vibes are clearly shining through, because Trump is also telling wealthy supporters at Mar-a-Lago, you all just got a lot richer, contradicting his claims that his tax bill would hurt him and other rich people. That quote is from an account by CBS News. It`s based on two direct anonymous sources.
Here is what President Trump said about the tax bill when he wasn`t speaking privately to rich friends at his private club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan.
Very, very strongly, as you see. There is no -- I think there is very little benefit for people of wealth.
Tax reform will protect low income and middle income households, not the wealthy and well-connected.
This is not good for me. Me, it`s not -- I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me. But that`s okay. I keep hearing Schumer. This is for the wealthy. Well, if it is, my friends don`t know about it.
You know, they have their typical for the rich. They know that`s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for "The Toronto Star", and Jason Johnson, politics editor at TheRoot.com, and MSNBC contributor.
Jason, the difference between a traditional falsehood and a lie is whether the speaker knows that they`re speaking a falsehood. Donald Trump, according to CBS, telling his wealthy benefactors this helps them proves that he was lying.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari. He was lying. It was pretty clear that he was lying from the beginning.
And, you know, we go back to the 2016 election. This is a man who bragged in the debate that he was too smart to pay taxes. So, why would anyone believe that when he got into office and was pushing through tax reform that he wouldn`t be making money moves?
And that`s what he did. He pushed the Republicans to pass a tax bill that will benefit people like him and other millionaires. And the catch is this, Ari -- making sure that millionaires keep their money isn`t inherently bad. But making that money and improving the wealth of somebody like Donald Trump on the backs of regular working class people is the real problem.
MELBER: Well, Jason, I think you`re putting your finger on it. The idea to extend your phrase was that he would make those money moves on behalf of all these other people who supported him. And if he was going to do that, if he was going to apply that proverbial businessman`s hustle for them and their tax bracket, as he claimed, that might have been a good thing.
Is your political analysis, first you and then Daniel, that this is going to catch up to him as people figure out the moves are not being made for them, that you really do have to be a millionaire to do well or do best under this plan?
JOHNSON: Oh, most definitely. You have a state like Maryland where you you`ve have a Republican governor who says look, everybody, don`t worry. I`m going to try to redo state taxes so you don`t get hit by this. This is going to have serious consequences in 2018. Most of these Republicans know it already. Out here in California, you have a level of Republicans who voted for this bill who already think they`re not going to have jobs next year.
Trump may be bragging about the money in his pocket, that he is not going to have nearly as many Republicans in his pocket after next fall`s election.
DANIEL DALE, THE TORONTO STAR: Yes, the Republican theory here is that people are going to see the amount of money they have in their pocket next year and say whoa, Trump has helped me. But I think what they`re missing is people won`t feel helped if they feel that the money they are getting back is exceeded by the money that people unlike them, wealthy people are getting back. And that according to polling and according to interviews around the country, that is how people feel about this.
So, they understand for the most part that they will get some sort of benefit. But their sense, their feeling, and it`s justified by the facts is that the tax cut is not designed for them, but it`s designed by -- it`s designed for people like Trump and his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago.
So, I think the political analysis that Republicans are offering is flawed at best.
MELBER: Yes. And according to this CBS report, there is almost a kind of perfect narrative closure to this, because the statement is made literally in a country club that he owns that he is promoting, that he is profiting from. But if you pulled the statement out of hat, one out of three days, the odds would be 33 percent give or take, we`ll put it up on the screen that he would be on vacation, because here he is 111 days out of this year, he is vacationing, and most of those at Trump properties and the golf courses.
Compare that here to other presidents. It is just galling. It is just beyond any other historical proportion, Jason, that this president does not spend -- I want to be accurate and fair about this. He does not spend much time doing the job.
JOHNSON: And, Ari, it`s even worse than that. Like, look, we all knew that President Trump or candidate Trump was lying when he says Obama vacations all the time. And you can actually work. I mean, there were times that Bush was maybe actually working at Crawford ranch when he wasn`t clearing brush.
But we see Trump only golfing. And then he is golfing at resorts that the taxpayers are paying for. But on top of that, he is engaging in the very same behavior that he said he was going to go to Washington. You know, the average American who works a full-time job all year, they get 22 days of vacation. Most people only take 16 of them because they don`t want to lose the extra time.
So, he has four times what the average American`s vacation is, and he is still bragging about how hard he has to work.
MELBER: Well, Jason, I`ve actually never played golf. So I`m getting out beyond my area of personal expertise. But my understanding as a journalist who reads things is that golf takes a long time.
MELBER: Right? It takes hours.
JOHNSON: Exactly. He has a lot of work to do. Since, you know, you`ve got to go from the golf truck, from here to there and have those conversations. Look, if he was out there doing business, I`d be happy. I don`t think that`s happening.
MELBER: Daniel, try to keep up with Jason and I. We`re doing some very heavy analysis here. Golf.
DALE: Serious holiday stuff.
MELBER: One more thing I want to show you. I want to get this in, because it`s important on health care. This is Americans in states that Trump carried on the way to the White House. More than four in five of those states have people who signed up under the new health care law, that`s Obamacare.
The four states with the highest number of Obamacare enrollments: Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, account for nearly 4 million Obamacare customers, Trump states.
So, again, Daniel, this wider thing, because the tax bill also tries to gut the individual mandate in Obamacare is also going to hit people in his core states.
DALE: Sure. Trump, you know, for almost a year now, he has declared -- well, for six months, he has declared Obamacare dead, essentially dead, imploding, exploding. And every time he says, that his own voters pop back up and say, hello, we`re still using this. We`re still benefitting from this.
And so, you know, over and over, we see that Obamacare is alive and kicking. I think Trump has undoubtedly by repealing the individual mandate, he`s dealt it a severe blow. It will have problems because of that. But it`s so far from dead. And I think the more, you know, Trump says that it`s dead and gone, the more detached from reality he seems.
MELBER: Yes. Well, look, I got to keep one person for something else I want to get in to the show that is pretty important. I`m going to say because Jason knew more about golf, he stays. He wins this round, Daniel.
DALE: I`m so sad.
MELBER: You seem sad.
Thank you both for your time, though. And, Jason, I`ll be seeing you in a moment.
JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
MELBER: Coming up next, Donald Trump winning a fake war that he created and apparently only he is fighting. I`m going explain some of its hateful roots.
Also, later, President Trump`s behavior has Democrats looking to win back the House and state houses all over the nation for a big reason you may not have heard about yet. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Other people can have their holidays. But Christmas is Christmas. I want to see merry Christmas.
Remember the expression merry Christmas? You don`t see it anymore. You`re going see it if I get elected, I can tell you right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Merry Christmas.
That was Donald Trump in 2015 doing what he does, parroting someone else`s slogan or grievance to just promote himself. Ronald Reagan`s campaign slogan was make America great again. Drain the swamp dates back to a liberal Wisconsin politician Winfield Gaylord who said socialists wanted to drain the swamp.
And claims of a war on Christmas have been ricocheting around Fox News for many years. But Fox is just one more stop in a long chain of custody that gets uglier the farther back you go, because the first rumblings about a war on Christmas stem back to the fringe John Birch Society, an anti- Semitic pamphlets from the 1920s called the "International Jew: The World`s Foremost Problem".
The cliche that we must know our history to avoid repeating it certainly applies here. The nicest thing you can hope for with today`s war on Christmas crowd is that they`re ignorant of the dark road they`ve wandered down. President Trump, though, is now declaring this particular war over. People are saying they`re proud to be saying merry Christmas again, he writes. I`m proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase, merry Christmas.
Now, Fox News cheered this victory right on cue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA WHITE, SPIRITUAL ADVISER OF DONALD TRUMP: Trump just hasn`t put Christ back in Christmas, but he has also put prayer back into the Whitehouse. He has put justice back into and religious freedom back into our courts. He has done so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is Fox News basically thanking Trump for winning a long running rhetorical war that at best is an ignorant misunderstanding, and to be clear, at worst is a nod to decades of anti-Semitic hate. But this is a season of thanks, and that thank you was apparently not enough for Donald Trump, a President who rebuked U.S. basketball players for not thanking him sufficiently for their release from China, who was or the reportedly angry with his Supreme Court nominee for insufficient gratitude for his lifetime appointment.
And who bizarrely reported to thanking himself in the third person for macroeconomic trends, tweeting famously, quote, thanks, Donald. You`ll notice Donald Trump showing a real deep neediness for those thank you`s. It kind of reminds me of the emotional Rapper Drake who said you can thank me now. Go ahead. Thank me later.
Yeah, I know what I said. But later doesn`t always come. So instead it`s OK. You could thank me now. Now, of course in that son, the point is that Drake desperately needs gratitude so that he feels recognized and because the future is uncertain, he wants to be thanked right now.
Does Trump need these thank you`s that badly? Well, a political action committee aligned with Trump is, get this, this is for real, they are spending a $1 million to blanket the airwaves with this bizarre ad thanking Trump for, among other things, restoring Christmas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Thank you, president Trump for letting us say Merry Christmas again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Maybe Donald Trump really does need those thank you`s. Maybe without that effusive purchased praise, he gets emotional or hurt or even offended. And maybe that`s how he is really defending Christmas, embracing the season by being the biggest snowflake in America. Back with me is Jason Johnson and David Frum. David, how does this whole thing work? And why won`t it go away?
DAVID FRUM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I`m a double target in the war on Christmas because not only am I Jewish and not a Christian and not an observer of the Christmas holiday, but I grew up in Canada where people are as likely to say happy Christmas as Merry Christmas. So it`s a two-front war. Your point about the President`s need for congratulations is very powerful.
The ugliest manifestation that of is what the President Tweeted after the terrible slaughter in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where the president gave himself a pat on the back and said he appreciated all the congratulations he was getting from people after that terrible, terrible slaughter. There is -- there is something terribly wrong with him. And in this case, I think it`s not just a psychological need.
It is, as you said, a political awareness that he rules by dividing, by insinuating that some of his predecessors like President Obama, maybe they were not as imbued with the Christmas Spirit as he is. And he also works by quoting the woman on Fox News by suggesting that he, probably the least President of the 20th and 21st century is somehow a paladin of Christian faith.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Look, to go back to that brilliant philosopher is Sage Drake, Trump is always on his worse behavior. And knows the public doesn`t love it. And so his obsession with Christmas and having people praise him is based on the fact that with a 39 percent approval rating and dropping approval ratings even amongst his core people.
He knows that not only is he only going to get coal in his stocking. But he recognizes he doesn`t have much to show for it. So he`s got to say hey I`ve saved this. I fixed that. I saved Christmas.
He`s got to go to war with something and somebody because that`s the only way that he can get people to appreciate him. And I`ll be honest, you know, I think a better holiday for Trump would be festivous. I mean Rand Paul has been airing grievances for the last couple of years. I think Trump would be much better with that holiday because he doesn`t have the Christmas spirit in his heart.
MELBER: Well and David, I`m going to play more from this ad, and you have been a really useful, a tonic and an arbiter in this era of what is worth getting upset about and how much. This ad strikes me as both bizarre and thus in a certain way laughable that they`re spending a $1 million on to it say thank you. But also cuts to a larger political strategy and what some have called this authoritarian or strong-man instinct to get the whole party and then the culture and then the country reshaped in this Trumpian image. Here is this ineffable ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, President Trump.
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: Thank you, President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: Everyday Americans are standing up to thank President Trump.
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: Thank you so much, sir
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: For making America great again.
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: Thank you for cutting my taxes.
UNIDENTIFILED MALE: Thank you for fixing our economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for keeping my family safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for putting America first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for supporting Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As veterans, thank you for reminding us to stand for our national anthem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Thank you, president trump, for letting us say Merry Christmas again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, David, before you answer, I`m going to now replay the ad just five more times. Is that OK with everyone at home? Your thoughts on this ad.
FRUM: Well my ears of course went up when the woman with the Hudson accent thanked the President for supporting Israel. When I first saw this ad, I noted that. The message to American Jews in this ad is hey, we`re not talking about you. It`s somebody else.
And one of the things -- you open by talking about the anti-Semitic origins of this, one of the things that is sort of uncomfortable for American Jews, and in the Trump Campaign is what if you had a President who used racial provocation and didn`t put Jews at the head of the list? Normally Jews expect to be there. What if you said no, no, we`re leaving you out? It`s other people we`re going after.
Where do you as a community fit in? And how do you respond to that? and that`s really a challenging thing. I think it`s a little bit of a test for American Jews to say this time we`re not included in what is intended to be divisive. Are we going to volunteer anyway?
MELBER: Well you remind me of something I saw at a church recently in Seattle, Jason, what David says which is a Bible verse that says you shall love the stranger, which is a line Jews and Christians know but it said you shall love the stranger, and then in parenthesis afterwards, it put the word Muslim. With the idea that`s one - and again, people can interpret is scripture however they want.
This is one church`s way of saying the stranger right now, the groups that are marginalized right now in the American political context, the groups may change, but the notion that you shall love and take care of stranger, if you want to get into a notion of acceptance and religion would seem to be important. And yet it is this leaning on a version of religion and divisiveness that trump is clearly using to divide.
JOHNSON: Well, and it can go even further. this whole idea that during a season of giving, during a season that is supposed to be about the birth of a very important religious figure, that a conservative political action committee would create an ad praising the President. Honoring and praising the president during a time of year where the focus is supposed to be on the least of these. I`m pretty sure you`re not going to have people from Flint and Puerto Rico praising President Trump. But I completely agree with you also.
This idea of othering people because the whole idea that there was a war on Christmas suggests that there was somebody in America, large groups of people who aren`t American enough who somehow want the take something away. And I`ll be honest with you. The most people thaT i happen to know, and you look at polls across the country, you look at Walmart on a Friday night, Saturday night, lots of people celebrate Christmas whether or not they`re religious or not. So the idea of that war was just something else the President created and promoted, even though it was started at Fox News to divide the American people.
MELBER: Yes, and that`s really -- to bring it full circle, that goes to informing friends and neighbors and people. There maybe plenty of people who have no idea that this seemingly overblown "war" hails from the roots of anti Semitism in the United States. And hey, it`s Christmas Spirit. it`s time to talk to each other, listen to each other, but share that so people know what they`re quoting. Jason Johnson and David Frum indebted to both of you for your analysis tonight.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, Democrats getting this big boost in their hopes to get competitive going into the House races next year, and it`s not just about Trump. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG JONES, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Dr. King liked to, "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Tonight, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, tonight, tonight in this time, in this place, you helped bend that moral arc a little closer to that justice, and you did it. That moral arc, not only was it bent more, not only was its aim truer, but you sent it right through the heart of the great State of Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Before a Democrat could win that great State of Alabama, a Democrat had to be on the ballot in Alabama. even in Alabama, a state that hadn`t elected a Democratic senator since 1990 where Donald Trump won 62 percent of the vote, it is easy to forget that Senator-Elect Doug Jones jumped in that long shot race back in May.
Now think about it. That was before the incumbent Republican Senator lost his primary which slightly upped the Democrats` chances. It was also before the allegations against Roy Moore were meticulously detailed in the Washington Post and in other papers. If Democrats had been running a symbolic candidate or waited for that race to tighten, they probably would not have won.
The New York Times reports the lesson from Alabama run everywhere you can now appears to be spreading. Democratic candidates have filed in all but 20 House Districts held by Republicans the paper reports. Dems not just filling to run in districts where Mrs. Clinton performed well. They`re also running for conservative seats that were uncontested in 2016 where Republicans do remain heavy favorites like Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska. The Times notes that by comparison, Democrats in 80 districts do not have a Republican opponent for their seat. And if you follow internal party debates you, may recall that fielding candidates across all 50 states was a core theme of Howard Dean`s run for party chair back in 2004.
Now all of this could pay off next year. Look at these polls. You have Democrats showing an 18-point advantage in the mid terms. That`s for CNN or 15 points for Quinnipiac or a narrower 11 points, that`s our NBC News Wall Street Journal poll.
Dave Wasserman is the non partisan expert who covers house races for the Cook Political Report. He just crunched his numbers. When he saw those polls and those numbers, he wrote, in all caps, Tsunami Alert like these numbers don`t look like a wave. They look like a full-on tsunami that could wipe out Republicans in next year`s election.
That`s his take on the math. And he is on the Last Word next.
MELBER: Welcome back. And here is what Congressional Expert Dave Wasserman wrote precisely about this tsunami. He wrote "Tsunami Alert." Only problem for Dems, elections still 10-plus months away. David Wasserman is a political analyst for the cook political report and NBC News Contributor. David, talk numbers to me.
DAVE WASSERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Ari, we`re seeing some horrific polling numbers for Republicans. Democrats have leads in excess of 12, 13 points on a lot of generic Congressional Ballot Polls. Our expectation is that democrats need to win the National House popular vote by somewhere around 7 percent to 8 percent to win the barest possible majority in the November mid terms. And so they`re above where they need to be. And again, the only problem for democrats, the election is still 10 months away.
MELBER: Do you think Democrats look at this and think, gosh, do we want to stick with the same leaders with have? i mean, Nancy Pelosi has done this a few times, and she`s got a lot of love in the party. But there is also a lot of other voices who want a turn. I mean what`s your political analysis on how the taste or prospect of victory affects who they`re going to put out front as leaders over the next 11 months?
WASSERMAN: Look, I think Democrats would be better served if they were to install a blank slate or at least replace Nancy Pelosi who Republicans do well running against. I don`t think that will happen before the mid terms.
But look Democrats have no identifiable leader in the eyes of the voting public. And that`s the best thing going for them in the midterm elections because Republicans had no leader in 2010. And he it turned out the face of their party in those mid terms was the individual Republican running in every state and district that year. They went on to pick up 63 house seats in control so no leader, no message, no problem for democrats in 2018.
MELBER: I think that will be good news to people who think they struggle with message of they`re rooting for the dems. Let me read what Donald Trump said Christmas Eve. No rest for the weary. He wrote tax cut reform bill and massively Alaska drilling and revealed by the mutual mandate brought it together as to what incredible (INAUDIBLE) you had. Done let the fake news convince you otherwise. And our insider polls are strong which raises the question what are insider polls or is he trying to refer to internal polling? And is that done? What is he referring to?
WASSERMAN: Yes, that`s very unclear. Look, the tax bill is not helping. And the ink is still moist on this piece of legislation. And it`s deeply unpopular with the public including broad swaths of the Trump base which believes it favors the corporate, corporations and the wealthy over average Americans. And, there weren`t very many stocking stuffers for vulnerable Republicans in the House in this bill.
In fact more like a lump of coal for Republicans and high tax states like California, New York, and New Jersey, which are home to more than half of the seats the Democrats would need to retake the House. And, keep in mind that the salt deduction is going to hand Democratic candidates running against Senior Republicans in the states a big issue come mid terms.
MELBER: So you got in stocking stuffers and coal. Who is Santa in your, in your House Political analogy here?
WASSERMAN: Well, look, I think the voters who are, are unlikely to show up in this midterm election are the voters who are happiest with the status quo and those are Trump voters. That a big problem for Republicans. Their Santa its the Trump base and right now, democrats are doing well by running not against President Trump but against congressional republican because that drives a wedge between the Trump base and the Republicans who are actually on the ballot and Donald Trump its not on the ballot.
MELBER: Right. They always say what key to Santa is turnout, turnout, turnout. No, nobody says that. It`s just a terrible joke. The last thing I`m going to ask you is gerrymandering, how does that play in? And we`ve heard so many warnings about that from Barack Obama and Eric Holder, on down?
WASSERMAN: Sure, well look gerrymandering is a big structural reason why Republicans hold 55 percent of house seats despite having only one - 51 percent of the vote in the last election (INAUDIBLE). Well look a lot of it is Democrats simply clustering in urban areas, in urban districts where votes are wasted. So there are twin geographic advantages for the Republican Party here.
A good rule of thumb its Republicans under the lines are winning 4 percent greater share of seats than they are of the vote. That`s been true in 2012, 2014, 2016. So Democrats need to win about 54 percent of the major party vote for House in November of 2018 to win back control.
MELBER: So many numbers you know.
WASSERMAN: That`s the tough news for democrats.
MELBER: You know we are not math major majors around here. What you`re saying is the 4 percent edge means that republicans have rigged the districts in such way that they do 4 percent better?
WASSSERMAN: No, Ari. Come on, that`s not true?
MELBER: What does the 4 percent edge mean briefly?
WASSERMAN: Yes. Republicans got to draw four times as many districts as Democrats and so that`s a part of it. But the bigger effect here is look Democrats are simply clustered in their own universe in their own bubbles in urban America, in inner suburbs and that cost them when it`s comes to the GOP.
MELBER: So it`s not just the way the lines are drawn. It`s also where people happen to be living in today`s world.
MELBER: Got it.
WASSERMAN: The Democratic voters in terms of residential patterns have fallen into the Republican trap.
MELBER: Got it. I told you the math is hard for me. But that`s why we have you. Dave Wasserman, thank you very much.
WASSERMAN: Thanks so much Ari.
MELBER: Tonight`s Last Word is next
MELBER: And here`s a weird one. The Virginia State Board of Elections has now postponed the drawing that would have determined the winner of an exactly tied State House Seat which would also determine control over the entire State House. This recount found Democrat Shelly Simonds, Republican Yancey by one vote But After the recount. Yancey challenged a few ballots in court at the last minute a panel of judges ruled in his favor on one of the ballots which turned the race into a literal tie. Here its how Shelly Simonds reacted to that on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened?
SHELLY SIMONDS, VIRGINIA DELEGATE: My opponent really pulled a stunt the next day. They came and kind of said in front of the judges that they wanted a redo on one ballot. If we were going to be pulling out individual ballots you can believe me we would have had a few we wanted the judges to look at as well. So it was really very unfair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Simonds legal team filed suit asking a judge to reconsider the decision. They ague the original recount should stand because the court`s decision declared a tie and then decided by board to draw the winner "was unprecedented in Virginia Election Law history." The drawing now postponed until a judge rules on that new motion. There are still two seats being contested.
But as the it stand now, Republicans hold 50 seats, Democrats, 49. If Simonds is successful the State House will be tied and Republicans would lose their majority and share power with the Democrats. That`s really something to watch. Now that is our show tonight.
I do have one more thing before signing off. I want to tell you about former independent Counsel Ken Starr and Dave Chappell. Those two men may seen to have little in common. But they both subjects of special reports on my show tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I have a breakdown why Ken Starr new attack on Bob Mueller displays a key legal error and also an amazing amount of chutzpah.
I also have new reporting on Dave Chappell thought Trump would win if the special piece we are doing on the breakout year in political comedy. All that on the Beat tomorrow which air week nights at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. As always you can also get in touch with me by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That`s our show. The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.
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