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Trump team readies attacks on Flynn Transxcript 12/27/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Noah Shachtman

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 27, 2017 Guest: Noah Shachtman

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Joy, are you having too much fun?


MELBER: Oh, I want to wish the best to Rachel. I can`t give her what you gave her.

REID: Nope!

MELBER: You know, do you know this expression? More life?

REID: I do.

MELBER: I want to have more life and -- and more joy.


MELBER: Would you be willing to come on this show because there`s a thing I want to talk to you about.


MELBER: Who is the most admired person in America according to Americans? Would you be willing to come over to this set?

REID: I`ll be right upstairs. I`ll head up.

MELBER: This is not a joke, Americans. This is a real thing.

Joy, I`ll see you in a minute.

REID: Fly. See you soon.


MELBER: She has more fun and better at it than me. What can I say? It looks fun over there.

But Joy Reid will be on THE LAST WORD tonight in a couple of minutes.

As for the first story we begin with, a real news story, indications that the Donald Trump legal team is now bracing for something more, something apparently worse coming out of the mouth of Michael Flynn. That is the key takeaway in a report that`s making waves even on what might be a quiet weekend in Washington from "The Washington Post." Trump lawyers saying they`re looking at plans to depict Flynn as a, quote, liar, seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or senior aides of any wrongdoing.

One person helping craft the strategy bluntly describing Flynn as follows, quote, he said it himself. He`s a liar. The strategy apparently been in the works since Flynn`s news first broke that he would be cooperating. He signed a legal cooperation agreement with special counsel Mueller and that, of course, has been public for sometime.

Why is this breaking now? "The Post" reporting the administration has spent time here strategizing how to neutralize Flynn in case Flynn makes any claims.

Now, this is very clearly a shift for President Trump. If you watch the news and you probably do if you`re watching this, you will note that he has publicly and repeatedly done something very different from "The Washington Post" report of this new legal strategy. Donald Trump was praising Mike Flynn even after firing him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael Flynn, General Flynn, is a wonderful man. I think he`s been treated very, very unfairly by the media. I think it`s very, very unfair what`s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated and the documents and papers that were illegally, I stress that, illegally leaked.

I do feel badly for him. He served the country. He was a general. This man has served for many years. He`s a general. He`s -- in my opinion, a very good person.

Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He`s led a very strong life and I feel very badly.


MELBER: He may not be feeling badly tonight. Donald Trump turning on Mike Flynn would be a significant change in the probe and I say regardless of where this probe heads. We don`t know what Mueller has. We don`t know what he`ll find.

But recall "The Daily Beast" in May, reporting that even months after Flynn`s firing, White House lawyers were warning Trump about reaching out to Flynn and a couple weeks ago, Trump wasn`t even ruling out a possible pardon for Flynn.


REPORTER: About Michael Flynn, would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens. Let`s see.


MELBER: You don`t have to be a lawyer to know there is a long way from publicly saying you`ll see that you might pardon someone and having your lawyers tell "The Washington Post" someone is a terrible liar.

Now, some of Flynn`s family members thinking about that clip I just showed you, because they`re saying Donald Trump should pardon Flynn. This was a tweet that was taken down, but posted by one of Flynn`s brothers calling for just that.

Meanwhile, new indications from an interesting report from Yahoo News reporter Michael Isikoff that Mueller`s probe is deepening. He reports that in just the last few weeks, Mueller`s investigators have begun questioning RNC staff about the party digital operation that worked with the Trump campaign to target voters in key states. He goes on to write: They`re seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of the Russian trolls and bots.

Joining me now is Noah Shachtman. He`s executive editor of "The Daily Beast". Tim O`Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg View", the author of "Trump Nation" and an MSNBC contributor.

Noah, the saying used to be, are you bot or not? The bots on the one hand can seem like a relatively trivial thing although they have certainly had impact in various countries and yet, Bob Mueller doesn`t look at this as trivial at all. Why not?

NOAH SHACHTMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: It`s not trivial because there`s a lot of evidence that what happened digitally both on Twitter and on Facebook, one of the decisive moves in the campaign and who controlled those bots? Who bought those bots? And how if at all they were coordinated with the sort of central part of the campaign is really the key issue. It may be the key issue that unlocks how much the Russian activity and the Trump campaign activity proper were interlinked.

MELBER: You think about the way that the digital world has exploded through this campaign. And you have a large background in that as well as politics. There are digital footprints to things that are different. Watergate was a physical break-in and fingerprints and then it led to something. The idea here is that there could be, what? Records, flash drives, targeting data that would basically pinpoint who may have been in on this operation?

SHACHTMAN: Yes. Look. I don`t want to speculate too much about exactly what kind of data may or may not have been there but it`s true that, you know, there`s no place to hide on the Internet and, you know, everything does leave a kind of footprint.

MELBER: And, Tim, there`s no place to hide and as "The New Yorker" magazine famously put it on the Internet, no one knows you`re a dog if you`re a dog. But it goes to the point that all of these fake accounts, these so-called trolls, these all fake identities, these were all ideas where there`s something behind the veil.

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, and I think I think it`s part of a fact pattern that Bob Mueller is trying to assemble that`s going to be I think parts of a three-legged stool here. The first is collusion, the sort of foundational reason for his investigation. The second part and I think the more dangerous part is obstruction of justice. And the third part of this would be any kind of financial quid pro quos that would exist between the Kremlin and Trump.

And I think those are driving forces behind anything that Mueller`s going to look at. And in that context bots and rigging Facebook or at least fine tuning Facebook to aid the Trump campaign is part and parcel of all of that.

MELBER: So, here`s the question we can`t answer that I think anyone interested in this desperately wants to answer and that is, why does it seem like everyone close to Trump is freaking out this week?

SHACHTMAN: I don`t think that they`re necessarily freaking out this week. I think they`ve been freaking out all along. I just don`t think they`re been on message together.

Donald Trump is probably the worst client you could have if you`re an attorney because he`s never on message and he doesn`t do what he`s told. And if the lawyers themselves are gearing up to smear Mike Flynn, I don`t think that means that the president`s on board with that strategy necessarily.

MELBER: Well, and he could undercut it. Let me show something about Kushner and then go to you, Noah. Lawyer for Jared Kushner, in charge of the campaign`s digital operations, which is why he has potentially more exposure recently began searching for a crisis PR firm to handle press inquiries, a step frequently taken by people who believe they could be facing criminal charges. Now, that lawyer Abbe Lowell and who I have spoken to insists nothing to see here and yet again, I would disagree slightly with Tim`s analysis.

I have spent months covering this case, where people are in the White House were on the same note, which is we`re cooperating.


MELBER: And a lot of Republicans, outside of what you might call the extra fever fringe, a lot of Republicans were holding their fire. Now you`ve got everyone from Ken Starr to "Breitbart" to members of Congress digging in and taking on the FBI.

SHACHTMAN: Yes, clearly, there`s been a strategy shift and the shift is now to smear the FBI and to smear the Mueller operation. And I do think that if you`re seeing some extra concern, I think it`s because of the financial front more than the digital front perhaps. You know, Kushner`s not just facing problems in the Mueller probe itself but is also facing additional legal pressure about us, loans that you took from Deutsch Bank, which is sort of famously Russia-friendly on a property basically to buy the old "The New York Times" building and prosecutors here in Brooklyn looking into that, too.

MELBER: Right.

SHACHTMAN: So, there`s both -- he`s not just --

O`BRIEN: Particularly because of the timing of that loan, too.

SHACHTMAN: Right, which a month before the election.

O`BRIEN: Right.

SHACHTMAN: So it`s -- not just facing sort of Mueller pressure. He`s also facing pressure in Brooklyn and who knows where else?

MELBER: Well, and this goes to something I want to play now which is Congressman Francis Rooney. You know, in our jobs here, we go on TV. We talk about people and sometimes we talk about what they say on TV. And I`m not a big fan of, you know, taking shots at someone for a poorly chosen word. I think that happens to all of us if we`re being honest.

But you have Congressman Rooney here coming back on. He said this about the purge of the FBI yesterday, which is really Stalin-ness language. And then today, he`s asked about it on CNN and he tried to thread it, but he didn`t really walk it back, and we have to question. You know, Trump is Trump. We have to question, though, if other members of Congress, if other leaders taking us down a road of purges of our nonpartisan law enforcement.

So, for viewers, I will play it. Take a listen to Francis Rooney.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Are you sure you want to be throwing a word like purge around?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, it might be a pretty strong word. I`m not maybe the most nuanced political person in the world coming from a career in business, but I`m pretty frustrated that all the things that have come out by the Strzok and Ohr and may or may not have taken place in the deputy general`s McCabe --

KEILAR: Let me stop you there.


MELBER: Tim, your view on that?

O`BRIEN: Well, I think -- I think it`s very disturbing that we`re at a point in time when the law and order party in the United States, the GOP, is fairly flagrantly both undermining and taking pot shots at law enforcement official who are in the midst of a very well-heeled and logical investigation, something that law enforcement should be undertaking. Bob Mueller`s doing what he`s charged with doing. They`re proceeding by the books.

MELBER: Here`s what I don`t get and I throw this out to both of you for a final thought here. Part of our job as journalists is to really listen to all sides and then figure out what`s logical and fair versus what is just rank lies. So, not false equivalency but to take all theories seriously.

There are theories in the Trump campaign defense world that I think are valid. One of the theories is that some people may have done something wrong, but the president didn`t do it and didn`t know about it, and will ultimately be exonerated. I think that`s a reasonable theory.

What doesn`t strike me that`s reasonable, that`s been happening here through this Christmas break is the theory that the FBI which very publicly announced all of its thoughts and suppositions about Hillary Clinton during a presidential campaign and then had a Trump investigation that it kept completely secret to the point that no one knew about it and nothing leaked until after the election, that that same FBI is now in the tank against Donald Trump, I can`t as a fair journalist get my head around why that`s a reasonable theory.

O`BRIEN: Well, remember, it`s not just the FBI that Trump has taken on over the course of the last year. He`s attacked the federal judiciary, he`s attacked the media, he`s attacked any institutions, including the intelligence.

MELBER: I know that, but I`m asking you, does this theory hold up in any way for you?

O`BRIEN: No. I don`t think it holds up at all. I don`t think it holds up at all. I think t reason that they`re attacking these agencies is because there`s something there.

SHACHTMAN: Yes, look, if you remember in the closing days of the campaign, Comey felt the need to sort of reopen the Hillary Clinton investigation because of pressure of he felt from agents within the FBI. If anything, I mean, from what I know of bureau guys, they tend to be more Republican, more --

O`BRIEN: That`s right.

SHACHTMAN: You know, more inclined to an administration, not less to it. So I think the theory`s just kind of nuts.

MELBER: Noah, thank you for joining us and being part of our coverage. I`ll be talking to you in a second.

Coming up, President Trump losing to President Obama in a big national survey that could make Donald Trump`s Obama derangement issues even more pronounced.

And later, what is Trump exhaustion? Do you have it and could it have midterm implications? Larry Sabato with an important breakdown.



TRUMP: We have more legislation passed including the record of Harry Truman, a long time ago. We broke that record so we have a lot to thank.


MELBER: Hard to hear a little bit, but it`s not true what president said just there. Historians and fact checkers have been rebutting that false claim from President Trump. He said it today. He also made the same claim last week when he signed the tax bill.

Here is the actual deal, Mr. President. A lie is still a lie no matter how many times you tell it and we`ll show you why you should know this is a lie. According to GovTrack, Donald Trump has signed 94 bills since taking office, that is historic low compared to his nine predecessors.

When it comes to Trump`s claim that he topped Harry Truman`s specific record, also untrue. In fact, take it from the Truman Library which said, we don`t have a figure, but around 240 to 250, according to statutes at large. Congress passed 292 bills in that whole session. You could subtract from January to April, minus a few vetoes, which gets you to that figure.

They are as we say, in the weeds. The weeds showing Donald Trump was not telling the truth.

What about his other achievement as the most unpopular president in the history of national polling? Well, according to a new Gallup poll, there`s insult on top of injury because Americans in a separate question apart from approval have also separately named President Barack Obama today as the most admired man. This is the tenth time he`s gotten that honor.

Obama also won all eight years president and 2008, of course, when it was coming into the office. This also marks the first time since 2008, ouch, Donald Trump, a sitting president didn`t top the list.

And here`s another little factoid. Americans voted Hillary Clinton the most admired woman for the 16th year in a row, because maybe people and not the Electoral College are involved in this particular poll.

I`m joined now as promised, more life, more joy, Joy Reid, working late.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: And back with me, Tim O`Brien.

Joy, I want all the feelings, all of your analysis --

REID: All the feeling.

MELBER: -- of this.

REID: Yes, yes.

MELBER: But these polls are funny because as you know, they often just follow the president.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: It`s like Billy on the street when he puts a mike in people`s face on camera and he says name a person. The president.

REID: Right.

MELBER: But that tendency has run into a brick wall for some reason this year.

REID: It`s interesting. No matter which way you look at the poll, as true admiration or just name ID, it is going to drive Donald Trump insane either way. Tim`s a better expert on Donald`s psyche, but the reality is Donald Trump is either less popular and loved by -- than Barack Obama, which drives him crazy because he`s obsessed, negatively obsessed with Obama or less well-known than Barack Obama.

MELBER: Well, that hurts. That also would hurt.

REID: Painful.

MELBER: And on the women, because the way Gallup asked this, most admired men, most admired women, you have Hillary Clinton up there. Michelle Obama right behind her. Behind her, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Warren and then Angela Merkel.

You think about Alabama where women, specifically African-American women, were so key to changing the state red to blue. What does it say that so many of the women on this list, this question to both of you, seem to be of the left or center left persuasion?

O`BRIEN: Well, I mean, I think we`ll find out what that means when the midterms roll around. You can set your watch right now to how long it will take for Donald Trump to start tweeting about this poll, because I agree with Joy. I do think it drives him nuts and he is ranked below a woman he lost -- or a woman he defeated in a presidential election, and the president he succeeded. This kind of stuff grates at him. And it`s right where he lives.

And he`ll dismiss the polls as lacking credibility. He tends to cite polls that favor him as being more credible than those that don`t but the reality is this is going to drive him nuts.

REID: And Gallup is, you know, sort of the gold standard. It`s a slightly Republican-leaning poll. It`s a very sort of Middle America poll. It`s not lefty public policy poll.


REID: So, I think it`s going to hurt. I got to acknowledge Beyonce, you know, Bae got on the poll. She got in the poll. She`s on number 10. Melania did make it, too. She was tied with Beyonce.

I mean, the reality is the fact that there were three women of color on the poll, three African-American women. I think it`s significant. The admiration that people have for people like -- more than three, Condoleezza Rice is on there as well. You also have Nikki Haley, who`s a woman of color. Beyonce Knowles.

So, it does show that there`s a greater diversity in terms of people -- who people know and who people care about.

O`BRIEN: And admire.

REID: And who people admire. And that is not a good -- that is not good news for the Republican Party which is still essentially the party of older white America.

MELBER: Right, and in terms of the people that they`re putting forward.

I want to play President Obama`s interview here, Joy. You`re big online. I mean, you`re big on TV and online, but he actually did something that Barack Obama often does, which is not just cater to what people might want to hear or come up with a bumper sticker.

He kind of here at the end of the year. He used this discussion with Prince Harry and you know and covered and spent time around the Obamas, I think he`s very thoughtful when he does do an address or a speech or an interview. He clearly wanted to make a point about the polarizing and anti-reality elements of the Internet.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: One of the dangers of the Internet is, is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.

A good way of fighting against that is making sure that online communities don`t just stay online, that they move offline.

You find areas of common ground because you see that things aren`t as simple as have been portrayed in whatever chat room you`ve been in.

It`s also, by the way, harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the Internet.


REID: You know, Barack Obama`s a candid individual. I mean, he`s both like disdainful of what social media and the Internet can do, but he also ran the most Internet and tech savvy campaign that we`ve seen in modern history and he wound up once again in the top 10 tweets of the year because he`s really savvy about the way he uses social media. He uses it to try to bring people together, to put forth this message of belief in the country and institutions. He uses it basically opposite way that Donald Trump does, and he`s more successful at Twitter than Trump, which also drives Trump crazy.

O`BRIEN: Also, we are reminded yet again that Barack Obama is rational, classy, sophisticated and well-spoken. And it`s how we want presidents to be. Whether you agree with him politically, ideologically or of the same party, there`s a marked difference between the way the ex-president rolls and the way the current one rolls both online and offline.

REID: You know, there`s a way, Ari, in which Barack Obama is in a sense if you think of the presidency as a national avatar, Obama is who we hope we are and Donald Trump is who we fear we are, right? That there`s something sort of guttural about Trumpism where it`s like playing to all of your base fears of other people, your anger, your rage, your neediness, like core of the need and black hole inside himself is kind of what America fears like the crass part of ourselves is becoming. Whereas Barack Obama is the emblem of what presidencies used to be, the Eisenhower model, the sort of, you know, model of the presidency as aspirational.

O`BRIEN: And above the fray.

REID: And above the fray.

O`BRIEN: Yes. You know, Barack Obama is not a guy when`s going to freak out about where he stands in the Gallup poll. He`s very comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is, and he`s very well aware of what his talents are. And that`s not Donald Trump.

MELBER: Well, and, Joy, you make a deeper point as you so often do that politics is not only about what we want to do with our resources, our country, right? But it`s really who we want to be.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: And there is -- there is a superficial appeal to Trumpism because it reminds me of the Joker in "Batman" when he says, you know, you`re only allowed as good as you`re allowed to be and maybe we should all be worse.

REID: Right.

MELBER: And that can be appealing at least for a moment until you say, wait a minute, does everyone want to live in that environment? What some would call lowest common denominator?

REID: Well, in that sense, Donald Trump is a lot like the president he seems to most admire, Andrew Jackson, who had that similar, sort of, you know, I`m a populist, although he actually did fight in the war when he was available to do so, and he got bone spurs, et cetera. But, you know, Andrew Jackson was a horrible figure, venal, you know, quasi-populist, but who`s also violent, sort of genocidal and indulged a sort of desire for violence in the American public at that time.

Whereas as you had other models for the presidency, Teddy Roosevelt swashbuckling model, of fighting the big trust and busting them up, or, you know, again, I think about Eisenhower. You think about FDR, the sort of national dad who`s going to bring us back from, you know, the depths of the depression. Donald Trump doesn`t want to be any of those kind of models. He wants to be Andrew Jackson. He wants to indulge our sense of violence, and that to me is not healthy in a presidency.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to why, as you put it, we think about 2017, we reflect on this year, so much menacing language, so much aggressive language. Picking fights with individuals that before this presidency were considered off limits for good reason. Gold Star families and say at the end of the year, let`s think as a country who we want to be off-limits and not have at all be normalized.

Joy Reid, I`m going to say it again -- it`s what we do on TV, Tim. We drive things into the ground.

REID: Yes.


MELBER: Joy just said, so everyone heard under her breath, yes, you do, Ari.

More life, more joy. Joy Reid, Tim O`Brien, thank you both, very interesting discussion.

REID: Thank you, friend.

MELBER: Coming up, even some Trump supporters experiencing something that is called, yes, technically, Trump exhaustion. Democrats think it could help next year.



TRUMP: Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn`t lose any voters, OK? It`s like incredible.


MELBER: Who can forget that bizarre claim from Donald Trump about his popularity in 2016? Recent elections, though, in Virginia and Alabama suggest some of even his voters in red America have had enough.

In a new interview, Joe Trippi who helped lead Democrat Doug Jones to that improbable victory in Alabama earlier this month talks about what voters, including Republicans were saying about Trump exhaustion.


JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think what`s going on is Trump, even with his own supporters who like him, he`s created enough hostility and chaos that they don`t want more of it. They can tolerate it with him but they don`t want more. They really want people to work together.

MELBER: And that feeling of potential exhaustion or fed up with the chaos also evident not just in Joe Trippi`s theory but in an actual group of Trump voter who`s spoke to Emery University Researchers in August. Take a listen. Now remember, everything you`re hearing from people who voted for Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to be his own worst enemy. He -- he -- he couldn`t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything he does is outrageous. He just doesn`t have that soft touch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To sell you on what he wants to accomplish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just -- he`s let me down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s such a flawed individual. He makes a travesty of the office. He`s incredibly obtuse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a great word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I voted for him.


MELBER: now back to democratic strategist Joe Trippi saying the energy could backfire.

TRIPPI: Republican women started to move to us, younger republicans started to move to us, and the intensity among democrats didn`t diminish. In fact, over time, kept building and building. Trump`s creating all of it, right? He`s creating that energy among the base. At the same time, he`s creating enough chaos and divisiveness that republicans who would never ordinarily vote for a democrat, I`ll vote for somebody who wants to try to find common ground and get things done for me even if they`re a democrat. And trust me, a lot of people in Alabama had to do that, right?

That`s the -- that`s, i think, a winning message in a lot of these swing, you know, districts. I mean you know, there aren`t that many swing districts that are plus 28 Trump out there.

MELBER: I`m joined now by Larry Sabato, director with University Of Virginia Center For Politics and James Peterson director of African Studies at Lehigh University and host of the White Podcast, the Remix and a MSNBC contributor. James Peterson, remix the facts for us. So, do you think this Trump exhaustion actually can win people over?

JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it`s clearly that`s part of what took place in Alabama, Ari, that, you know, folks are exhausted with the chaotic sort of coverage of the Trump presidency but also, the chaotic actions of this administration. That`s everything from the Russia investigation to the ways in which he interacts with the media, to the ways in which he tries to generate and/or create policy. But we also have to remember that a part of the big story in Alabama is African Americans coming out to vote. So it`s actually, it`s both of those things that I think are really, really important for 2018 midterm election that there`s a strong African-American base. A lot of them are African-American men and women, who come out and vote 98, 99 percent numbers are voting for democratic candidates. It`s got to be a combination of that paired with trying to appeal to folk who is are absolutely exhausted with the Trump administration at this time.

MELBER: Larry?

LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. Alabama was an extreme case because of an extreme candidate. I don`t think how much of what we learned in Alabama will really apply to other races in 2018. But, air, I`ll tell you one thing --

MELBER: Well let me -- let me give --


MELBER: Let me give you one and then go back to you.

SABATO: All right.

MELBER: One of the most interesting things for Alabama as you know is the numbers guy was that to James` point African-American turnout was higher than in an Obama presidential year. Is that something that democrats can mobilize? And then please go on to your point on Virginia.

SABATO: Yes. Well, I think they can. Whether they will depends on the candidates and how good the campaign is and every one will be different. What I was starting to say was while Alabama`s an extreme case, Virginia was not extreme in any way. Contrary to Roy Moore and in contrast to Roy Moore, you had a mainstream republican candidate who at one time had been a bush moderate more or less, Ed Gillespie.

He tried to run at least to some degree as the person he once was. He kept Trump away. It was pretty obvious he didn`t want to connect to Trump and what happened? He lost in a near landslide. It was supposed to be a close race. What I think is more likely to happen in 2018 is not what my friend Joe Trippi said.

Joe was describing Alabama. It isn`t that you will have a lot of republicans, Ari, who are going to end up voting democratic. What you`re going to have or a fair number of republican who are fed up, who are turned off, who have had enough and they will not vote.

MELBER: Right.

SABATO: That`s where they`re going to be.

MELBER: Yes. I mean James, we talk so much about turnout because turnout wins elections just like defense wins championships. Ask your dad. That`s what dads always say. But when you look at what Larry is talking about which is disaffected republicans who may not love the democratic option but after two years of Trump chaos, they are just not in the mood.

PETERSON: You know, we should -- we should distinguish of swing districts versus heavily republicans versus heavily democratic. So in the swing, remember, Alabama is not a swing state because what a Trump won Alabama by 28 points? But if you -- so Virginia is very, very different.

I mean, the reality is, is that the democrats have an opportunity to galvanize a base that`s interested in making change politically and changing seats in the house and changing senatorial positions. And so if you can harness that, and I think the way you harness that through black women and people of color, not playing identity politics, attaching it to the issues intersectional with the folks that vote most strongly democratic most regularly.

When you combine that with the co-panelist talking about which is republican disaffected with the Trump administration that really in many ways is destroyed the GOP brand. I think if you talk to republican insiders, none of them are happy with the ways in which Trump represented the GOP brand from the presidential office and so I think the combination of those things are with the democrats have an opportunity to make up some seats in the house and in the congress in the midterms.

MELBER: Well and James, I think you`re make in out a point, particularly about what unites people and intersectional I mean in Alabama, Jones ran a lot on C.H.I.P. which is health care for kids that affects poor kids.

PETERSON: Yes. That`s a winner Ari.

MELBER: And working class families.

PETERSON: That`s a winner.

MELBER: And regardless of race, although there`s overlap there. Larry, let me read to you something from the AP. I don`t know if you have friends like this where they`re always blaming everyone else. As certain point, you`re like you know, you might be a --

PETERSON: I`m on a faculty. I`m on a faculty.

MELBER: Yes. That happens there. Well, I thought this was a telling -- it`s a small detail but a telling one from the AP that might be bad news from Trump if he can`t recognized his own problems going into the midterms. Recently Trump bemoaning the republicans` loss in the special electorate in Alabama blaming Jeff Sessions whose departure of the senate to head DOJ necessitated the election.

Whether one likes or dislikes Jeff Sessions, I could tell you he had zero role in that race. Attorneys general keep a wide berth from elections. But Donald Trump seems to think that the fact that Jeff Sessions went to DOJ created this issue and then I would point to -- I`m not telling you anything you don`t know, Larry. The reason Jeff Sessions went to DOJ is Donald Trump offered him the job.

SABATO: Well Ari, we know one thing about Donald Trump. He always starts with the premise that nothing is his fault. Now if it`s not his fault, then whose fault is it? And you know, he`s pretty catholic, small "C" catholic about that. He will -- he will attack almost anyone in or out of his party. But that`s -- that`s utterly absurd. But I`ll tell you. That kind of attitude is what turns off, again, moderate republicans, but it really energizes democrats and the one group we haven`t mentioned, millennials.

Yes, they have a lower turnout generally than other age groups but that`s been changing. Trump is energizing them to vote.

PETERSON: Younger people.

SABATO: And they`re about as -- there is anti-Trump as any other age group, any other age cohort that we have.

PETERSON: But they`re always on the phones.

SABATO: Well, that`s how they communicate.

PETERSON: Which is why they see what`s going on.

SABATO: That they need to go to the polls.

MELBER: It`s hard to get their attention. you know? It`s a side point.

SABATO: Tell me about it.

MELBER: Larry Sabato and James Peterson, thank you for your insights tonight. I greatly appreciate them.

Coming up, there`s a world leader. The President Trump refuses to criticize and it looks like he`s strong-arming his way to another term in charge of Russia. What Donald Trump could be learning from Vladimir Putin`s domestic politics.


MELBER: Vladimir Putin officially running for a fourth term at Russia`s president. Today he submitted paper work in Moscow to declare the candidacy. His victory though is a foregone conclusion because he`s banned all serious opposition. Everyone knows, Putin`s Russia is not anything approaching a democracy. But if Putin needs someone to defend the leadership, here is someone who`s been willing to do it before.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PRESIDENT: Putin likes Trump and he said nice things about me. He called may genius. Do you think he says great things about me? I`m going to say great things about him. I`ve already said. He is really very much of a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you respect Putin?

TRUMP: I do respect him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin`s a killer?

TRUMP: A lot of killers, got a lot of killers what you think our country is so innocent? In al fairness to Putin, you`re saying he killed people. I haven`t seen that. I don`t know that he has and you`ve been able to prove it. Putting is a nicer person than I am.


MELBER: This week the person, Vladimir Putin, took extraordinary steps to bar his only really truly well-known and serious opposition challenge Alexei Navalny from running against him for this upcoming presidential election in March. Now, you`ve probably heard of Navalny and his opposition to Putin and the consequences he`s already been facing. Here is Rachel Maddow on this in February.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Alexei Navalny, he`s a smart, charismatic opposition leader. He is funny and very uncompromising in the way he stands up against Putin. Alexei Navalny did unexpectedly well when he run for mayor of Moscow recently and he had declared the intention this year that he was going to run for president next year against Vladimir Putin. Obviously, that can`t stand.

Two weeks ago, in obscure court in Russia convicted him on random embezzlement charges involving timber futures. And that hammer fell on Alexei Navalny , one of our nation`s smartest Russia watchers said this. Quote, "The Trump Administration notably said nothing. The Russian see friendly faces in this administration."

(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Rachel was on that as soon as it happened so we`re Russia watchers who understood what the implication was. Tonight, I can report that Russia Central Election Commission is now using that saying Navalny cannot run against Putin under the rules because of that conviction Rachel was reporting on. That should be clear, human rights experts and watchers of the region say this is clearly a politically motivated move to block his candidacy, not an actual real legal situation.

I can show you, as well, where Navalny calls Putin horribly afraid and calls for protests across Russia on January 28th as well as a boycott of what is now a very one sided presidential election. And what does all this mean for Donald Trump`s strongman, the man he said the nice things about?

We`re going to go next to someone on the ground in Moscow, "The Washington Post`s" Moscow Bureau Chief, David Filipov next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Believes that and that`s very important for somebody to believe. I believe that President Putin really feels and he feels strongly that he did not meddle in our election.


MELBER: There you have it. Joining me is David Filipov, the Moscow Bureau Chief of "The Washington Post" and I`m joined by Evelyn Farkas, who`s the Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, Former Deputy Assistant Defense and a MSNBC Analysis.

David, we go to you first because you are there in the action. How expected was this? Because folks in Russian may not think Putin is going to allow a fair election where you`re hearing. What comes next.

DAVID FILIPOV, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: OK, well, so remember that Putin is saying it`s a fair election. Everyone who wants to can run as long as they don`t have a criminal conviction, which Navalny does which he says is politically motivated and the European code as court of rights says it was politically motivated. But that notwithstanding the Government here, the Kremlin is saying this is a free and fair election. Anybody who wants to gets the petitions can do it.

Now, the fact is the Kremlin doesn`t want Navalny would run because he`s the one person calling for a lot of change. He`s not the most popular guy here. But he`s got a lot of name recognition. And by the way, you and me talking about it like this, Russians are already saying we`re meddling in their elections just by commenting on how they`re allowing people run in them.

MELBER: Well, I appreciate all the context. Evelyn, they can say what they want. We`re reporting on it. We`re not interceding, obviously. But it goes to the larger way Vladimir Putin does something that is also reminiscent of what Donald Trump does which is a constant kind of what about is and referring things around. Walk us through what we`re witnessing because Putin obviously has to balance what we might call the appearance of impropriety with stopping someone early who he clearly sees as some kind of threat.

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC ANALYSIS: Right. Well there are these charges which as David said are considered Trumped up charges against Navalny. The reason Navalny has a treat to Putin I think is because his crusade against the Kremlin has actually hinged upon fighting corruption, and it`s resonated. And not only that but it`s sort of link to youth in Russia, the people who have grown up under Putin. So 18-year-olds and around that age group who know-nothing more than their lifestyle increasing until recently.

And so, those two things together have made Navalny actually pretty effective. So the demonstrations that he called for earlier this year, that people came out in about 180 localities, I believe which was a lot more than in the 2011-2012 demonstrations which were very elite driven. Navalny is not as interested in courting just the elites. He`s trying to get more regular people out there.

So Putin won`t even call him by name, and he says, you know, he`s guilty of these, you know, fraud -- this fraud charges. He`s allowed Ksenia Sobchak who is the daughter of the former mayor of st. Petersburg of Moskow, rather, his former colleague to run. She is probably -- there`s a question about whether she`s really in an adversarial relationship with him, but she certainly knows she`s not strong enough to beat him.

MELBER: So David, why is it important to Putin to try to engineer the appearance of a fair election, and how do folks in Russia view the Putin- Trump relationship now?

FILIPOV: Well, exactly. The appearance of democracy is very important to Putin. He thinks he`s going to lead the legacy as the man who brought Russia, you know, into the stable modern democratic world.

Now, when you ask people in the country do you believe that, they kind of shake their heads and roll their eyes but they say, you know, he`s the only person now ready to govern Russian. And when you ask people in the Kremlin why do you let Navalny run, they say, well he`s got no experience running. He`s got no program. All he does is criticize people in power.

And I`m like oh, yes. Nobody one like that ever wins a democratic election in a country, right? But you know, it`s very important for Putin to give the impression. This is a stable system. This is a stable country. Now what those chaotic Americans are doing over there, those meddling Americans. We actually have the real thing, everybody. Do it like we`re doing it, and you know, Russians buy into the idea stability.

MELBER: Right.

FILIPOV: They also agree that Navalny is talking about corruption and they don`t buy in for that.

MELBER: And Evelyn, this of course bring us to the island Binomo, obviously.

FARKAS: The fake island of Binomo.

MELBER: Which does not exist. But there were pranksters affiliated allegedly with Russia who tricked Nikki Haley, Donald Trump`s U.N. Ambassador into this phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more matter is Island Binomo, it`s not far from Vietnam in the South China sea, you know.



HALEY: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had elections and we suppose the Russian had it`s interaction.

HALEY: Yes of course they did. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now this Binomo land makes the situation in the south china sea even more intense.

HALEY: And we`re aware of that and we`ve been watching that very closely, and I think we`ll continue to watch that.


FARKAS: Yes. So first of all, lesson number one, if you don`t know about something, just say you don`t know about it and you`ll like into it. She actually handled herself very well during most of the call. So just to back up a little bit though, you know, Ari, the call was conducted by these two Russian guys. For years they`ve been doing these prank calls. It`s sort of like Howard Stern accept not as dirty and there`s a political kind of angle to it.

Because what they do is ask questions and they either want the person on the other end to embarrass themselves and embarrass their country. So a lot of people they`ve called are actually Ukrainians or they`ve called in order to try to embarrass Ukraine or their country.

MELBER: What is the core purpose of their satire?

FARKAS: And then -- and then sorry, they also illicit information. So -- so a number --

MELBER: But what are they getting at?

FARKAS: What are they getting at? They`re getting -- they`re showing that Americans are ignorant. They`re showing that we have a stereotype of Russia where Russia is always trying to overthrow every government. You know, that we`re always blaming Russia for everything. They`re showing that we in fact are pulling strings with making our partner countries do things at our bidding.

So they were pretending in that call to be the prime minister of Poland.

MELBER: Well, we`re out of time but I feel we gave Binomo enough time. I want to thank David Filipov for getting up early with us up there in Moscow on an important story. And Evelyn Farkas, thank you.

Up next tonight`s "Last Word."


MELBER: Finally tonight, the big questions Prince Harry asked President Obama.



HARRY: Lebron James or Michael Jordan?

OBAMA: Jordan, though where love Lebron, but I`m a Chicago guy.

HARRY: Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner?

OBAMA: Aretha is the best.


OBAMA: This one I have to -- I have to defer on.

HARRY: OK. Harry or William?

OBAMA: William right now.


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