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Trump gives interview to NYT Transcript 12/28/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Wendy Sherman, David Frum

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 28, 2017 Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Wendy Sherman, David Frum

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I was thinking you know how to lay down a beat.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: Yes, yes, indeed.

MELBER: That`s what I was thinking and a big shout out to all the people that put the show on.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: A couple of things, Joy. Number one, watching your coverage of what is a remarkable and dare I use the word "ineffable" interview, and indescribable interview in certain ways that broke in your hour. And since you have been breaking the story, we obtained the entire transcript, 18 pages of the rest of the interview.

REID: I have it, too.

MELBER: You have it now. Would you be willing to review and join me later this hour? I want to know what you think.

REID: Oh, absolutely, I am -- I am marking it up and I will be right there.

MELBER: I will only add this was not planned because I didn`t know the president was going to sit down and do an interview without a lawyer or aide and talk to "The Times" and I didn`t know I would need Joy Reid, which I do.

REID: Me neither.

MELBER: So, I will see you soon.

REID: Excellent. See you in a bit.

MELBER: Thank you, Joy.

REID: Bye.

MELBER: As she mentioned, I`m Ari Melber in for -- Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell here in New York on a breaking news night.

In addition to Joy, Lawrence will be joining this show live later this hour.

But the breaking news is as discussed, the president sitting down for what appears to be a completely unplanned impromptu interview. No aide present. No lawyer present. Nobody on team Trump present, which is not how presidents usually do any interview.

And this was about half an hour of grilling as we mentioned by "The New York Times." It took place at Trump`s golf club in West Palm Beach and a story, as I mentioned, it crossed the wire 9:00 p.m. Joy Reid reporting those key parts.

Moments ago, we got this longer transcript coming up for "The New York Times" and there is a lot in it. It`s quite the interview.

More details here on the Russia probe, Trump`s views of Attorney General Sessions, including more criticism of him, his views of Eric Holder who he says was protecting Barack Obama, his views of Tony Podesta, a Democrat who Mueller has been investigating and, of course, going back to Hillary Clinton.

The first big takeaway I think is that you see a legally strategic Donald Trump in this interview. He knows what he is doing and he strikes a canny balance. He is not in partisan overdrive tonight attacking Mueller by name like so many Trump allies, instead Donald Trump claims he is on some kind of higher ground and he says, he predicts Bob Mueller will be fair to him.

Quote, "The Times" writing, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigation but insisted 16 times there`s been no collusion discovered by the inquiry. It makes the country look very bad, it puts the country in a very bad position. So, the sooner it`s worked out, the better for the country, the president claims.

Trump also telling "The Times" that he is apparently he says not bothered by the fact that he has no idea when this Russia probe will be completed. That may be hard to swallow because we know Donald Trump`s own lawyers have publicly proclaimed it would be over by Thanksgiving. If you`re keeping track, if you have a calendar, you know that holiday came and went and the probe continues.

Trump also telling "The Times" in this new interview tonight, Democrats invented the Russia allegations as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election, he said. Quote, everybody knows his associates didn`t collude with the Russians and insisted that the real stories are about Democrats who worked with the Russians in the 2016 campaign.

President then turned his attention as I mentioned to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This is important when you consider that this is the individual recused from an ongoing probe of potential obstruction among other things. Donald Trump is saying it was, quote, too bad that Sessions recused and then "The Times" asked a pretty intelligent question. The reporter asked Donald Trump to compare Jeff Sessions to the previous administration`s Attorney General Eric Holder under Obama.

And Donald Trump said this: I don`t want to get into loyalty but I will tell you that I will say this. Holder protected president Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder the president and I have great respect for that. I`ll be honest. I have a little more on that in a moment.

Trump also asked here in this very newsy interview whether he would order the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, something that he has talked publicly about. And he said that he will, quote, stay uninvolved with this particular matter and then he said something that you could take quite ominously. He told "The New York Times" tonight: I have the absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.

The fairest way I can tell you what that really means is that claim under our Constitution is not necessarily true. It does depend, of course, on what the president wants to do.

Let`s get right to it with David Frum, senior editor from "The Atlantic", Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent with "Business Insider", who`s been following the Russia probe, and Wendy Sherman, a former under secretary of state of political affairs and a former special advisor to President Clinton on North Korea.

David, your view of what is important about this interview and the portrait of the president we see tonight.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Right. President Trump`s motives I`ve come to understand can be seen as a triangle with three points. Point one is authoritarianism. You did a magnificent job of highlighting the quotes that are worrying on that front. The second is his desire to make as much money as he can out of the presidency. And the third and the one that may be we have not paid enough attention to is psychic neediness.

Now, what I was -- that was very much on display in the interview. The need to present himself as somebody powerful, people need to come to me and his responsive to flattery and his comments about the president of China. How big a smile is on the President Xi tonight as he thinks that little show on the tarmac, what dividends paid off in manipulating this president`s ego.

MELBER: Ambassador Sherman, you are well-positioned to build on the point David makes. And, you know, this is an interview with so much in it, at one point when asked if he`s willing to make deals, he says, yes. Then the reporter follows up and says you would move to the center on some of these issues. And he says, no, I`m not being center, I`m just being practical. I don`t think I`m changing.

And then he says, I`m always moving. I`m moving in both directions. Which would seem to be -- maybe perhaps admission but, again, to David`s point on the neediness, he says in the interview, ambassador, that he is knows the tax deal better than the greatest CPA with regard to Republican congressmen and senators, he says, quote, I love them and they love me.

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Yes. It`s quite an interview as you say, Ari. And building on David`s point, this -- the other piece of this is a very transactional approach. And another interview tomorrow in "The New York Times" tomorrow, in an interview with General McMaster, the national security adviser who says he has been taken out of his comfort zone with the Trump foreign policy, but in general, it`s all to the good.

It is a very transactional foreign policy. He said that he eased up on trade with China because he thought he`d get what he needed on North Korea. He hasn`t gotten what he needed on trade, he hasn`t gotten what he needed on North Korea.

So, his transactional approach to things in that neediness to always be in charge, always talking about the need for bilateral trade agreements, not multilateral trade agreements, even in another article talking about how Angela Merkel said that, yes, he could have a bilateral trade deal with the Europe and he`s not understanding Europe is made up of 28, soon to be 27 countries after Brexit, after the U.K. leaves the European Union, but the entire article is I think as you said part of the pragmatic realism that McMaster also speaks about.

That pragmatic realism can head in any direction as the need arises and as it shines a light on the president of the United States.

MELBER: And, Natasha, on the Russia probe, we saw a very canny president as I mentioned in my introduction to this news. This is president who tweets a lot of things for reaction. Just today he was clearly trolling and tweeting silly things about global warming to get outrage responses. That`s sort of very simplistic Trump.

But here we see a canny individual who is experimenting with different defenses here in the Russia probe, floating a new defense to his relationship with Paul Manafort, which was Joy Reid was also covering tonight and then saying this about Alan Dershowitz, who is a figure that I think many viewers, of course, know from years of different legal controversies. But he says, I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day who, by the way, says this is ridiculous. "The Times" reporter says, well, he has been very good to you.

Trump goes on, he`s been amazing and he`s a liberal Democrat. I don`t know him. He`s a liberal Democrat. I watched him the other day. He said, number one, there`s no collusion. Number two, collusion`s not a crime.

I want to signal out for the audience and get your analysis on the four key words that I see that are false. He said I don`t know him. "The Washington Post" reporting just this month that the two men have spoken recently at Mar-a-Lago.

Your view of why it`s important to the strategy to invoke Alan Dershowitz as a punitively independent person and then falsely claim and easily rebuttal false claim that he doesn`t know him?

NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, he feels the need to get some kind of legitimacy for his argument that there has been no collusion and even if there was it wouldn`t necessarily be against the law. Now, Alan Dershowitz is not the most reliable person to make that kind of an analysis these days. He`s been making the living going on Fox News to be a commentator and kind of being very, very good to Donald Trump, being very one sided in his analysis and being critiqued constantly by outside legal experts who view this and say, well, actually, it really depends. If there was some kind of conspiracy to collude with the Russians, and that would, in fact, be a crime. But there was something really --

MELBER: But what about the misleading part? I mean, by the way, he`s been a lot on conservative media but I invited Professor Dershowitz on our air multiple times and talked to him about the Russia probe. He has a view in all this.

Why does the president in your view and then, David, follow on this, say so falsely and so easily provable falsely I don`t know Alan Dershowitz?

BERTRAND: Because he wants to maybe distract from the fact that he has been talking to Alan Dershowitz on a regular basis, perhaps. We don`t really know how often they have spoken, and make it seem like an outside observer who has no stake in the game.

MELBER: So, a fake third party validation.


FRUM: Well, there`s a part of Donald Trump that is as you say canny and a part that is not. If Donald Trump is not going to fire Bob Mueller, then his next strategy is to rev up Republican animosity to Mueller, to make this a tribal badge, to discredit the investigation so that whatever it does find, even harmful, that you have prepared the minds of the supporters to reject whatever the facts are.

That means he needs to join that message. I`m not sure that his assurances that he believes Mueller will be fair, I think that may be something where he is talking to himself, and patting himself on the back, and reassuring himself how great he is and how beloved and how everybody will like him and meets that psychic need.

As for Alan`s legal analysis, look, Alan Dershowitz is a great advocate. If you have committed a serious crime and you`re trying to persuade the jury not to convict you, you`ll do well with Alan Dershowitz. But Alan Dershowitz is not a great constitutional theorist. He`s not a great legal analyst. He`s a courtroom lawyer.

And so, when he says things -- what he`s saying is facially untrue when he says things like, if the president is acting in the course of the duties he can`t obstruct justice. Well, what if the president gives the order to the national archivist to burn the national archives, to cover up his misdeeds? The national archivist reports to the president of the United States. Is that in the court -- can he do that?

And Alan said that`s an example of something the president can`t do. I don`t think Dershowitz`s arguments are meant to be convincing but they`re reassuring to the president.

MELBER: Yes. On the -- what I think you put well, which is the non-canny side, going back to the ambassador on the foreign policy. I don`t mean to be doing presidential fan fiction and jumping around as much as he does in the interview but I have such great experts and wanted you more deeply on the Asia points you raised, but he talks about this with regard to China and I`ll read the quote.

He says, you know, he likes the president. He treated me better than anybody`s ever been treated in the history of China. You know that. China is hurting us very badly on trade and I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. OK?

And it goes to the point David mentions is that`s not very canny to blatantly admit what`s most important to him about that very complex foreign policy socio economic political military relationship is how he was personally treated.

SHERMAN: Indeed. It`s quite extraordinary.

I think what we see is such grandiosity in the interview, your point earlier, Ari, when you said that the president said he could do anything he wanted to with the Justice Department, that sends a signal all over the world that he is an autocrat just like the autocrats all over the word. In our system, as you pointed out, he cannot do anything he wants to do with the Justice Department any time he wants to do it.

And we are in a world where we have got the rise of autocrats, whether that`s Putin up for re-election in March, which he, of course, is going to win either with 98 percent or 99 percent of the vote, because he doesn`t need even though his spokesman said we`re trying to meddle in his election, he doesn`t need us meddling in the election. He`s got total control over it. The same is true for a number of leaders around the world and President Xi has just put himself in the Chinese constitution up with Mao.

So, this is a guy filled with the grandiosity of what he thinks he accomplished in the world when the accomplishments in diplomacy and peace and security for the United States are not all that much.

MELBER: Well, I mean, that`s heavy. That`s a lot of heavy stuff.

Natasha, I`ll go to you on a lighter point. "The New York Times" reporter Josh Dacy (ph) talking about the immediate fallout of this, breaking news right now. He says, as senior fairly senior Trump adviser for thoughts on NYT interview a few minute ago, this person responded, what interview? Today?

BERTRAND: Right. So, that it was very clear in this interview that Trump was not surrounded by aides and an impromptu meeting that Mike Schmidt has happened to encountered him having lunch.

But I think that just kind of going back to what Ambassador Sherman was saying about the Justice Department for one second. I think Trump made an astonishing admission in the interview which is that, you know, he was saying that Mueller, you know, he expected Mueller to treat him fairly but he also said that the controversy is really revving up his base. And he said that in particular congressmen coming up to defend him and pointing out that this is, in fact, a witch hunt.

And that`s a really big indication that Trump himself may not move to fire Mueller because he`s expecting his base and certain members of Congress to do the dirty work for him.

MELBER: I think you have -- you I`m going through it. You make a very incisive point, Natasha, and perhaps that`s one where we`ll take a pause and Joy Reid`s coming on and Lawrence is coming on. It`s a party.

But I want to read the exact quote in the interest for the viewers to understand what you just referenced. Donald Trump says the Mueller investigation, quote, has really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it`s ever been. Congressmen, some of the congressmen unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it`s been proven there`s no collusion as you mentioned.

To look through all of this something that many compared to a potential Watergate as only a thing that somehow like a muscle makes his core base support stronger. A debatable proposition as is and an ethically dubious one. An important point to pause on.

Natasha Bertrand, Wendy Sherman, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and David Frum, thank you each of you. I appreciate it.

BERTRAND: Thanks, Ari.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, Joy Reid has been pouring over the transcript. I`m actually watching her in the hallway at MSNBC and see her doing it. She`s going to come back in and give us her breaking thoughts on what else she found in there.

And later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitting 2018 not looking so good for the GOP.


MELBER: -- breaking coverage. Another excerpt in Donald Trump`s surprise interview breaking tonight from "The New York Times." He says there was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats, a lot of collusion. "The New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt says dossier, and Trump response, starting with the dossier, but going to so many other elements and Podesta`s firm.

Let`s get right to it with as promised, Joy Reid, host of "A.M. JOY" and MSNBC national correspondent and the woman holding down the anchor chair when this came across.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: I have so many questions for you, but first on the collusion.

REID: Yes. We wiped -- our whole plan out the window. Donald Trump wanting to do and sort of a news editor that tries to scramble our plan and I love that we are the highlight pen twins today. We have this going on.

All right. So, just to go through it quickly, Donald Trump, I`m on page of 18 of the transcript, which is remarkable when you read Donald Trump outside of the edited once they put it together "New York Times". Just reading the transcript and the number of directions his mind goes, I think of a bird in "Peanuts" and friend of Snoopy that walks all over the place and he`s all over the place. But he keeps saying over and over, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion.

MELBER: Right.

REID: Even to a relevant question. He keeps coming back to it. I have already counted 15 times, sometimes two or three times within 3 sentences. So, he seems to be fixated on that.

He seems to be fixated on going back his election, which he does, no matter who he`s talking to, whether he`s at the FBI or whether he`s, you know, I don`t know, dedicating a ship, he back to, I won the election because I am just the master of the Electoral College, I know how to win, and he goes on and on and on, and that the collusion idea is just the Democrats making excuses. His mind is almost -- as if he`s sort of stuck in time.

MELBER: Right.

REID: And he can`t get passed the night of the election and he keeps coming back to it over and over again.

MELBER: Well, and that goes to, again, I don`t do a ton of emotional analysis. But it does seem to be a happy place for him.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: And he says in here that he understood the Electoral College. That he understood where to go. He was going to Maine five times and the way it works while he says Hillary Clinton was running like she was pursuing the popular vote.

REID: And that is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, anybody who watched the campaign, he was going wherever he thought he could get a big rally and make it back home to Trump Tower by bedtime.

The idea that this strategy all along was to do what he did and win the way he did, well, then why were so many of the campaign team chatting with Russians who are promising Hillary Clinton`s e-mails? I think it`s pretty clear what they thought would be the winning strategy was to prove that Hillary Clinton committed some crime that she hidden in the e-mails she didn`t turn over when she turned over the State Department e-mails. They thought the e-mails were the key to their strategy, not this, whatever he is talking about, with the Electoral College.

MELBER: And then something we have not touched on at all and I think will get a lot of attention which seems to be revealing into how he sees his role in this world we`re all living in and I was just speaking to Ambassador Sherman of the threats in China and North Korea, because he is the president of the United States, because he is a man, who, like it or not, is overseeing the largest nuclear arsenal in the history of the world.

REID: Yes.

MELBER: But this is how he sees the path to re-election. Quote, we`re going to win another four years, for a lot of reasons, but most importantly -- this is most important, because our country`s starting to do well. Another reason that I`m going to win another four years is because newspaper, TV, all forms of media will tank, the president says tonight, if I`m not there because without me their ratings, he`s talking about our ratings and others --

REID: Yes.

MELBER: -- are going down the news. And he says, the print media, without me "The New York Times" will not be the failing "The New York Times" but the failed "The New York Times" and they have to let me win. And eventually he says, probably six months before the election, they`ll be loving me saying please, please don`t lose, Donald Trump.

What does this tell us about how he sees himself and his role as president?

REID: It`s remarkable. Donald Trump, you know, came to prominence for most Americans either as real estate tycoon or the host of "The Apprentice," a TV show. When he was a real estate tycoon, he spent as much time trying to get page six and other tabloids to put his name in the tabloid press, to tell people who he was dating, to tell people who he was marrying, to talk about his sex life, his love life, to make Donald Trump famous.

Then he becomes a head of "The Apprentice", in which he pretends to be a business mogul, which he`s actually failed at business. "The Apprentice" is sort of one of the things that saved his finances. But he still seems to think he`s in a TV show.

Donald Trump is one of the most least opaque, most transparent people we have ever had as president. He does exactly what he thinks. When he just said there is he believes himself to be the lead character in a television show. And that without this television show`s ratings, America itself will tank, all of the media will tank without Donald Trump as the star of his own TV show.

That is not the job of the president of the United States. It is not a TV show. As you said, it is the person with the nuclear codes.

And I don`t think Donald Trump has yet understood the gravity of the office and he thinks it`s a show and people are watching the TV show rather than if people are watching more TV and more cable news and reading more "New York Times" because they`re terrified of Donald Trump! They despise him and he alarms them and they want to know what he`s going to do next.

MELBER: Right. And so, we hear this term transaction a lot, a transactional way of thinking. He is presupposing a national transaction where he is the product, the media content being sold. I mean, I think more than anything I have seen this year, this is the most direct statement he doesn`t see himself as the chief executive officer. He actually in his own mind sees him as the chief content officer.

REID: But he`s the content officer and he also doesn`t understand the server/leader model of the president. The president of the United States is the employee --

MELBER: Servant, yes.

REID: -- of 326 million people. He is not a television product that`s being sold by "The New York Times" and MSNBC and CNN. This is not a show.

And I don`t think he understands the gravity of the role he`s taken on. Being president is a burden. Being a president is a responsibility.


REID: You are the -- you are the servant leader of the United States. You are not a product on TV.

MELBER: Right. If all you care about is money and people who do and they shouldn`t be in public service, we can go back to the famous Jay-Z maxim. I`m not a businessman. I`m a business, man. But here you want to say, no, you`re not a business anymore, you`re the president, man.

REID: Exactly. And if Jay-Z said that, it`s because he is an entertainer. Donald Trump is an ex-entertainer. I don`t think he understood.

Look, Ronald Reagan was an entertainer. I don`t think he got --

MELBER: He graduated, though.


REID: Right. Donald Trump might as well have props and a jingle to go along with the presidency because he thinks that to succeed, he must rate.

No, to succeed, sir, you`re supposed to lead, you`re supposed to make the country more respected in the world. He`s made it less respected.

You`re supposed to advance the economy. It`s the same economy that Obama left him. He`s not materially improved the lives of Americans.

He`s terrified immigrants. He has rolled back protections for LGBT people. He`s rolled back any thought that we`re going to do criminal justice reform. He`s put communities vulnerable in fear. He`s allowed neo-Nazis to openly march in the streets. They`ve taken off the hoods, put on Brooks Brothers suits and declared themselves to be allies of the president of the United States.

Dude, this is not a TV show. He`s not an entertainer and he does not understand that.

MELBER: Joy Reid --

REID: My friend.

MELBER: -- thank you very much.

REID: Thank you and happy New Year.

MELBER: And thank you for staying up late and happy New Year.

REID: Happy New Year.

MELBER: A lot to process there and we`re thinking about. We thank Joy Reid for her time.

Now, I have a special guest coming up. Lawrence O`Donnell with a big announcement. And next, the GOP tax bill punishing states that didn`t vote for the president? One governor says it`s got to stop. We`ll explain.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Donald Trump just told "The New York Times" tonight and contrary reports that he does not have a nuance understanding of big bills. He said quote, "I know the details of taxes better than anybody, better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. I know more about the big bills than any president that`s ever been in office." President really wants you to know he knows a lot about the tax bill which means he must know that under this tax bill, many people in the middle class and the working class actually will see their taxes rise.

And according to the "New York Times," he would save about $11 million on his taxes. That`s a 30 percent cut and save another $4 million plus on the estate tax bill eventually. I`m joined now by David Kay Johnson, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who founded He`s the author of the Making of Donald Trump. Also joining me, John Harwood from CNBC and a veteran of many call interviews with politicians as I`m curious what John thinks from that perspective.

Going first to you, David. Your thoughts on this interview? DAVID KAY JOHNSON, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST: Well, I think this is an extraordinary interview that shows you a lot of things about Donald. The reason he speaks in word salad is that his mind is salad. There`s no focusing on any issue and knowing anything in depth. It thoroughly establishes how Donald makes things up. He doesn`t know jack about taxes. His own accountant Jack Mitnick told me that. I have lunch with Donald and he couldn`t follow the tax advice I was essentially giving him. He just makes stuff up.

We did get one interesting detail out of this. Donald throughout the campaign used what were massively inflated numbers to describe the trade deficit with china. And - are imbalance and in this interview, he mentions $300 billion a year of intellectual property theft so that seems to explain the made-up number he had. And finally, we get this notion that he is an absolute ruler. Donald has always thought of himself of president as a dictator. You have to do what he says.

The Supreme Court has made it clear even in first and second amendment cases that no right is absolute, no power is absolute. That is the fundamental principle of our constitution with the system of checks and balances. MELBER: John? JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Look, Ari. I think this interview is profoundly disturbing. If you read it and think about it, the way the President speaks in such grandiose terms about himself suggests a level of delusion. I save coal. I was treated better than anyone in the history of China. I did things that Ronald Reagan couldn`t do. The news media has going to keep me president because the entire media system would fall apart without me.

This suggests a level of mental functioning which is not particularly acute. And when he starts talking about the Russia investigation and he says 16 times, there`s been no collusion, absolutely no collusion, everyone agrees there`s no collusion and some point you`re just kind of babbling. And this is the President of the United States and it cannot be reassuring to even people who support his policies to hear him speak in this way. MELBER: Is this in format, John, not in substance but in format is this a sort of end of year quota to the remarks he made to as many business leaders and people across the spectrum said to the great shame of Charlottesville in that these were both times where his staff and his team and the professionals around him from General John Kelly on down to his family did not want, did not plan, did not orchestrate for him to do this. And he just breaks out of all rules and convention against any strategy to speak, to do what he feels he must do and in doing so offer some revelations about as you put it his state of mind but also a total lack of protecting his own self interest? HARWOOD: Precisely. He doesn`t seem to be aware of what he is revealing in these interviews. And the -- anyone who speaks about himself in the kind of terms that he does, absolute right to control the justice department. I know more than the greatest CPA. These are statements that are obviously cartoonishly ridiculous. And the fact that the president would feel free to say them to "The New York Times" suggests that he is not perceiving his own best interests or the interests of the white house. MELBER: David, no offense to CPAs. It`s not even a brag I`m -- that familiar with. That people who have ascended to high office or being president would feel the need to go there. It seems that in the China remarks, in being the center of the media capitalist universe, in the CPA remarks, in his claim that he has a better mastery of health care than most presidents and when he said no one knew it would be this complex. There`s seems to be something deeper going on. I mean, any individual claim sounds silly when you quote it, but together, what`s the over-organizing principle here? JOHNSON: Well, Donald lives in this world where he creates his own reality and if he says it that means it`s true. And he`s delusional. John is exactly right about this. Donald is delusional. And I know, you know, I`ve been attacked by all sorts of people for saying this but he is. He is delusional and you are seeing his, you know, this manifestation of his belief. Donald, remember, believes and he`s actually said at times he`s superior to the rest of us that, of course, he should be president.

And you`re seeing in this interview ridiculous and John had the right phrase. Cartoonish statements about himself. The interview also shows by the way that he`s scared. The comments as I read them knowing Donald now for almost 30 years, his comments about Mueller and the implication that if I don`t think he`s fair to me I`ll get rid of Mueller one way or another, go to the heart notion that, although he doesn`t power unto himself.

MELBER: He doesn`t ever say he`ll get rid of him. He simply says more broadly, vaguely that he can do anything with DOJ. JOHNSON: That`s right. And that`s a clear implication to -- of what he is thinking about doing here. And if he`s threatened and put in the box, he`ll do whatever he thinks he needs to did. MELBER: And John, I want to go to John on a final point. From your reporting on many administrations, what would be going on in the inner circle of the White House right now as we`re getting reports of "The New York Times" that they`re just learning about this with the rest of the nation? HARWOOD: Well, they`re trying to figure out what toe say tomorrow and you know, it sort of reminiscent of the moment when the President sent out the tweet on the Twitter account saying that Michael Flynn have lied and suggesting - seeming to suggest that he knew that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and not just the Vice President. And then the President`s lawyer coming up the next day and said, "Oh, oh. That wasn`t him. I wrote that." They`re trying to come up with some sort of a -- a way of talking about this interview that is reminiscent of that kind of cleanup.

You know, the other thing - the other point to make, Ari, is when the president talking about my base is stronger than ever, I knew what was happening in Alabama. I provided so much help to the republican candidate but he fell short and I knew the other guy was going to -- Roy Moore was going to lose, these statements are crazy. He`s been below 40 percent for months. His base is smaller than it was. There is a profound national reaction to him that produced some electoral results in the state of Virginia that caused republicans to or helped republicans lose a race in Alabama that they shouldn`t have -- that no one dreamed they could have lost. If he doesn`t understand the reaction against him that shows he`s not in touch with what`s going on. MELBER: David Kay Johnson and John Harwood, with some perspective on that unsual interview. Thank you both. Coming up, President Trump tweeting today that because it`s cold outside, that made him think about climate change. More than 2,000 tweets from the President.

How was all of these affecting his ability to get things done? That`s ahead.


MELBER: Tonight might be one of those nights where you might be wondering does it feel like the campaign never stopped and why. Well, we have something to show you.

The (inaudible) news is a new report about from Echelon Insights about Donald Trump tweeting more than 2,000 times since inauguration alone and Trump mentioned on Twitter 901 million times and counting. You know, it will be more after tonight`s "New York Times" interview, of course. So with three years left in the year, Donald Trump was the top news story on twitter for 348 days so far of 2017. Here are some of the most talked about moments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. SEAN SPICER, TRUMP`S PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period. TRUMP: I`m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States. But regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire Comey. UNIDENTIFIED FEMMALE: The White House dodging, deflecting but not denying the president shared classified information with Russia and neither is he. TRUMP: We had actually a great meeting. I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. When somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a (bleep) off the field right now. Get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: And right now, yes, Donald Trump is also trending on twitter thanks to that impromptu "New York Times" interview that surprised his staff. I`ll talk about this and whether it is what he says so essential to the entire country he stay President Karine Jean-Pierre and Daniel Dale next.



TRUMP: And say, oh, don`t use social media. See I don`t call it tweets. Tweeting is like a typewriter. When I put it out, you put it immediately on your show. They`re well crafted. I was always a good student. I`m like a person that does well with that kind of thing and I doubt I`d be here without social media. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Social media Donald Trump says got him there and as we said tonight earlier before the break, Donald Trump again trending on Twitter because of this impromptu interview and joined by Washington Correspondent with the Toronto, Daniel Dale and Karine Jean-Pierre, Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for

Karine, your take on the interview? KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR AND NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: I think it`s a - it`s outright scary, Ari. I mean it continues to show that Donald Trump refuses to either acknowledge, understand, and combat Russia`s interference in our election which proves that he is a clear and present danger to our country. And then the part with the justice department, it`s like he wants them to have loyalty to him, not to the constitution or the rule of law. It`s incredibly troubling. MELBER: Yes. You say troubling. I mean this goes to a point that`s fairly obvious but either he is unaware of or deliberately pretending not to be aware of which is there are all sorts of things that will gather attention because they are scary and it`s certainly easier to pull the lever when you`re the President. I mean Daniel, one of the items that`s trending on Twitter is one if quote is that the claim he could do anything about the DOJ.

There`s plenty in here about foreign policy in those threats. And then there`s the other things that are bizarre which we have been discussing, you know, we the media give Donald Trump a lot of attention. We the media existed before him and would presumably exist after him and yet let`s read another point. He says, why he`s going to win in 2020.

The reason I`m going to win is because newspapers, TV, all forms of media will tank if I`m not there. Without me, their ratings go down the tubes. Without me, "The New York Times" will be the failed "New York Times." They basically have to let me win, Donald Trump argues tonight.

Eventually, six months before the election, they`ll be loving me saying, please, please, don`t lose, Donald Trump. Daniel? DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So let`s - let`s get this straight. The media is the fake media because it`s so mean to Trump but come election time, the media is going to be begging for Trump victory and therefore going to be nice to him to save itself. It just doesn`t make sense. It`s - you know, what -- MELBER: Do you think he believes it? DALE: I don`t know, Ari. It`s so hard to get into his head. I think what we know is see in the interview is this combination of narcissism and insecurity. You know, he has to be the rightist, the smartest, the best, the most popular on social media, the true winner of the popular vote. It`s, you know, he`s been the most powerful man in the world a year now and he still can`t get over anything that might suggest that he is not the best and coolest in ever possible way. It`s really is astonishing. MELBER: Yes. And Karine, the claims he makes suggests that he wants to jump from the campaign promises to when it`s all done. You really get the feeling the middle has no interest to him and so the other claims that we have been discussing with reporters tonight he says, I save coal, I save the economy, it`s like, even presidents with great legislative records don`t usually like plant the full victory flag 11 months in. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. It`s all about me, me, me, I, I, I. It`s this petulant child who`s unfortunately in the oval offices sitting behind the resolute desk making decisions and he just hasn`t grown into the position of presidency, into that office, and he won`t and I think that`s the place that we have come to and we have to understand that it`s just never going to happen. He never grew into being the republican nominee, candidate, and he`s certainly not done it as president.

Look. Donald Trump spends more time live tweeting about Fox news, about cable news than he does seemingly to be spent - to be spending time in national security briefings and it`s just -- it`s just completely insane. And here`s a thing. It`s not just us the progressives or the news media or whoever that believe that he`s doing - he`s unpresidential. It`s also his own base.

They have complained about it. They have said, they have asked that he stop doing it. But once again, he just is all about himself and it`s this kind of me, me, me complex. MELBER: And Daniel, a point we visited earlier, what does it tell you that he didn`t involve anyone from a criminal defense lawyer, which is in his own interest to aides which is in the propaganda or communications interest to be president for this? DALE: You know, he doesn`t think more of beyond the moment. I think we`ve come to learn that he operates on his gut. We don`t know why he did this interview. We don`t know why he said the things he said. He thinks about, you know, the moments ahead of him without concern for the long term ramifications and we seen that in the media strategy. We seen that in his foreign policy. We seen that in the way approaches legislation.

We have learned that there`s no grand plan here. There is what`s in Donald Trump`s head on a given day. MELBER: Right. Your theory there that this is sort of a goldfish presidency. Daniel Dale, Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you both. Happy new year. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks Ari.

DALE: Thank you. MELBER: Yup next, Lawrence O`Donnell back live on "The Last Word."


MELBER: And now, there`s something I have been happily mentioning all night. It has been an exceptional year for MSNBC. I made a lot of different developments including coverage of the Trump Administration. An exceptional year right here at this desk, at the Last Word especially for the kind fund.

Joining me on the phone now to explain the latest is host of "The Last Word," Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence. What is your news? LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ari. And first all thank you very much for holding the show together this week. MELBER: sure. O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. And the last time I was on was last Wednesday night and since then, the kind fund has raised $600,000 over the Christmas holiday. That`s actually bringing our total for this year, which was really just this month. We have only been talking about it for this month to $1.7 million and pushes our total since we began this at the beginning of the program seven years ago, now across the $16 million mark.

So as of tonight, we have collected through the generosity of the audience, a total of $16,050,816 and Ari, it still with all of that that we`ve been able to provide desks for hundreds of thousands of kids in Malawi, still most of the kids in the schools do not have desks. We have a long way do go and the audience knows that is. And they have been wonderfully committed to this.

And this month as you know, we have been so crushed with the news that this year we have actually been able to speak about the kind fund on show less than any other year but the audience hung in there with us and has made it a giving habit and they`ve really done another amazing generous year for us. MELBER: Well, as you`re speaking, we are looking at some of the extraordinary footage. As a final question to you, Lawrence, what do you learn from this? What have you seen out there working with the people who are benefiting from the audience`s generosity? O`DONNELL: Well what we, you know, we keep going back and some of the same schools and seeing the same kids and watching that progress and this year revisited with Maureen Vester who we met last year in first grade. This year she`s in second grade. And she`s - she`s just doing fabulously well. She hopes to become a doctor which means she`s going to need our help to get through high school, through the girls tuition fund that we also have constructed within the kind fund.

And so, it`s the stories of the individual kids that I think the audience appreciates the most and connects to the most and so much of the comment that I get about specific kids the audience met on the show through our video that we manage to bring back from Malawi. And those personal stories tell the real story. MELBER: It`s extraordinary. It`s uplifting. It reminds me of something you told me once. When you and I are talking, when you came back after accident you had where you said you wanted to focus more on good news. I feel (INAUDIBLE) to say it, I think you and the audience have been a part of making some good news and the pictures tell part of that story. So, thank you to everybody and thank you for joining yours show. Happy New Year, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. Happy New Year to you. Really appreciate everything you do for the show and thank you Ari.



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