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Michael Wolff interview Transcript 1/8/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Michael Wolff

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 8, 2018 Guest: Michael Wolff

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And you know how when we get a kind of big guest, we try to do everything we can to let the world know that we have a big guest?


O`DONNELL: Everywhere I went this weekend, people knew that I had Michael Wolff as a first guest on the show tonight. His book, of course, "Fire and Fury" disappearing from book stands -- bookstores, unprecedented sales.

And the word got out he would be here and people were just after me -- I actually was on two flights, one on Friday, one this morning, to/from Los Angeles, people were trying to grab the book out of hi hands.

MADDOW: Really?

O`DONNELL: There`s nothing like it. It`s nothing -- I mean, do not, do not get caught walking the streets carrying this book anywhere. People are just going to try to grab it.

MADDOW: I will tell you, I`m a subway reader and --

O`DONNELL: Don`t, don`t.

MADDOW: I took the dust jacket off because I didn`t want to be like, you know --


MADDOW: You know? Muggings are real. That can happen. I didn`t want to make it too juicy a target.

O`DONNELL: It is right now the most valuable book in America so who knows what people might do to grab one.

MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much.

Well, the Trump White House is reeling tonight from the impact of something that has never caused a full-scale crisis in a White House still in its first year -- a book. A book that portrays the president as someone incapable of reading a book, incapable of reading anything of significance. The book represents the president as semi-literate, someone who could not begin to comprehend the significance of a chemical weapons attack in Syria and did not want to discuss it until he was shown large pictures of Syrian children literally foaming at the mouth.

The book has many new and important insights like that about how policy, important policy, is shaped in the Trump White House. But the news created by the book is not about domestic policy and how the most right wing president in history could sit in the White House and ask Republicans and Republican staff determined to repeal Obamacare and determined to then cut Medicare, why they couldn`t just expand Medicare for everyone, single- payer, the single most liberal health care proposal in American history, the idea supported by Ted Kennedy before he died and the idea supported by Bernie Sanders now.

That would be the most shocking policy gem in any other book like this about any other presidency, including all of the books written like this written by Bob Woodward using that same inside the White House methodology and reporting.

On foreign policy, the book reports that the president believed by making a quick trip to Saudi Arabia, he could achieve, quote, and these are the president`s words, the biggest breakthrough in Israel-Palestine negotiations ever. That alone is the single most delusional statement ever attributed to a president about the Middle East peace process. That delusion alone would be a page one headline about any other book, about any other presidency.

But in this book, in this presidency, the story that overshadows all other stories is the story of the man now occupying the Oval Office and as reported in this bill, in this book, using the Oval Office as a clubhouse, in the center of a maze of disorganization, back-stabbing and leaking to the press. This is not the story of governing by policy, and with an organized political approach to implementing that policy. This is the story of governing by family, a dysfunctional family headed by a deeply dysfunctional man.

This book provoked the question that no previous book about a current presidency has ever provoked. Is the president fit to serve? Is the president of the United States capable of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the office?

This is the first, the first book in the history of White House literature that`s provoked that question and that is why it`s already the most sought after book in the history of White House literature.

It`s sold out. It`s completely sold out in America. Sold out in bookstores, sold out online. A million copies have been sold, already.

That is the highest selling, possibly highest selling nonfiction book in American history and to judge by that response, this then is the most important book in the history of White House literature.

That`s what book buyers are in effect saying by their stampede to buy this book. That`s what voters are saying by their stampede to buy this book. No such book has ever had such an instantaneous pull on American readers and no such book has raised a more important question about the American presidency -- is the president a danger to sensible governance. Is the president a danger to the country? Is the president who casually tweets threats of nuclear war a danger to the world?

Joining us know, the author of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," Michael Wolff.

Michael, thank you very much for being here. I know it`s been a long day, a long weekend.


O`DONNELL: A weekend unlike any in your life.

You knew that this pressure was coming. You knew what you were writing. You knew how this White House operates. You know how this president operates.

You might not have specifically known there would be a cease and desist letter from lawyers, but the attacks that you have faced from the White House, from the Trump machine, since this book came out, is that what you expected?

WOLFF: No. I expected some response.

Did I expect the president to basically drop everything? I had heard from a source who still speaks to me that he wanted my media schedule for today. He`s probably watched -- spent the whole day just watching me on television.

This is -- the man is -- among other things, the man is an obsessive. That`s how he responds to things.

So, he responded to this. I mean, this is -- it`s literally crazy to write a cease and desist, a president has never done that. A prior restraint of a book to say that his privacy is invaded, that he`s been defamed. This has never happened before.

Also, let`s remember the effect is just to sell more books, so he shoots himself in the foot in this instance as in many other instances. And then to go on days of tweeting and then obviously to culminate in this -- in going for the -- in front of the American people and saying, I`m sane. I`m actually a very stable guy.

O`DONNELL: Very stable genius.

WOLFF: A very stable genius. I am a genius and I`m stable.

Nobody could have predicted this, even of Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: One of the things he said since the book came out is he doesn`t know you. He doesn`t know this guy.

How long have you known him?

WOLFF: Since the 1990s. So I was at "New York Magazine" and he used to -- I was one of the people he used to call up to complain about what was said. Actually usually about what was -- what articles he was not in that he wanted to be in.

I used to see him on -- you know, cocktail parties. I have literally known -- I mean, we`re hardly friends but I have known him for a good long time. When I interviewed him in June 2016, just before the convention, it was like old homecoming week. Michael Wolff, oh my God, I cannot believe --

O`DONNELL: He welcomed you into his home in Los Angeles during the campaign. Sat there eating vanilla ice cream with you?

WOLFF: Even where -- I actually -- it was sort of set up and then I met him at the Kimmel show. And went in and then he said to an aide, how long do we have? And they said, 45 minutes.

I can see the look that came over his face. He said, you don`t give Michael Wolff 45 minutes. And then the said, why don`t after the show come back to the house and we`ll hang out. That was interesting because nobody knew he had a house in the middle of Beverly Hills.

O`DONNELL: I learned it through your article. Yes.

WOLFF: Amazing.

O`DONNELL: Let me go to something that Tony Blair has said because this goes to the contesting elements of the book and this is the most significant one I`ve seen. Some of the others are literally about how many Ls in Hilary and Hilary Rosen and I learned through the correction of your book there`s only one. I have known Hilary for decades. I didn`t know that.

Tony Blair in the book, this passage, page 157 -- in February, Blair visited Kushner in the White House on this trip, the now freelance diplomat seeking to prove his usefulness to this new White House imparted a juicy nugget of information. There was, he suggested, the possibility that the British had had the Trump campaign staff under the surveillance, monitoring the telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself.

Now, Tony Blair said about this, the story is a complete fabrication literally from beginning to end. I never had such a conversation in the White House, outside the White House, with Jared Kushner, with anyone else.

WOLFF: What I know about this is that this was -- this was reported to me by -- by two different sources. And then I do know that shortly after this -- this conversation, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon jumped into a car, they went out to Langley, had a meeting with the director of the CIA and the deputy director who reported that this was a miscommunication. And then --

O`DONNELL: And you fully recount that in the book. The follow-up, that they go out to the CIA and the CIA says, there`s nothing there.

WOLFF: Right. So -- so, if you`re in the position of the reporter you think, that sounds pretty much like something happened there. And I`m very careful and I don`t know how Tony Blair reported this. I hear maybe a suggestion. Have you thought of -- et cetera, et cetera.

But I would be overwhelmingly certain that something related to Tony Blair`s suggestion that the Brits might have wiretapped happened.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And, by the way, we`re not able to get to the detail and just refer to it. One of the reasons the book is fascinating and necessary reading is just how does Tony Blair know Jared Kushner? And that is a fascinating little piece in and of itself that we`ll have to save for another time, or just buy the book.

WOLFF: As a little -- I was -- when that happened, so much happened, I`m sitting on the couch in the West Wing, and there is Jared Kushner and Tony Blair coming out.

O`DONNELL: So, you see them together.

WOLFF: Totally. And I actually overheard, I`m overhearing the discussion of which I obviously immediately take a note on and they`re talking about the difficulties of the Middle East situation and Jared says to Tony Blair, damn it, we can solve this problem.

O`DONNELL: And that`s in the lobby of the West Wing?


O`DONNELL: That is kind of like, for people that don`t know. It`s kind of a like a hotel lobby and people pass through from each of it, and that kind of moment can occur. I remember working in the Senate in the finance committee, going up there for a tax meeting and then there`s the CIA director sitting over there in the next chair, and you have these encounters that can only happen in that lobby.

WOLFF: And it`s very interesting, because you go over there. You get the appointment. Say, they pass you in, you go there and then, of course, the appointment, you know, it drifts.


WOLFF: It drifts.

O`DONNELL: And you wait.

WOLFF: Sometimes --

O`DONNELL: And you wait and you wait.

WOLFF: -- for hours. You think, this is really annoying and how can they do this to me? But then you realize, oh my God, it`s all going --


WOLFF: You just see it all.

O`DONNELL: Right. And the less organized the White House, the more valuable it is to hang out in the lobby.

I want do go to an important and possibly Shakespearian-style quote from what seems to be your principal source in the book, Steve Bannon. He said: The daughter will take down the father.

What did he mean?

WOLFF: He meant -- in his -- as he puts it, every piece of advice they have given has been bad advice.

O`DONNELL: Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.

WOLFF: Yes. And in the end, he believed that they would protect themselves over the president, that the advice that they gave him was advice fundamentally to protect them that would ultimately damage him -- Comey obviously, the prime example.

O`DONNELL: Comey firing was their idea, urged by then?

WOLFF: Certainly pushed, pushed by them.

O`DONNELL: Opposed by Steve Bannon in this account?

WOLFF: Steve Bannon said, you know, I spent a lot of time. You come to actually like Steve Bannon. Even if you don`t --


O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I`m not sure you pulled off that magic trick.

WOLFF: The insights -- so anyway, so in this regard, he said, when Donald Trump is worked up, it means somebody has been working him up.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And you detail exactly how they work that and you -- you are expressing Jared Kushner`s concerns to be quite a range of concerns, everything from possible investigations of Trump family business, but also to Kushner family business, including his father Charlie Kushner who`s already been convicted of federal crimes.

WOLFF: And gone to jail.

O`DONNELL: Gone to jail. Yes.


I mean, one of the issues here is, is Charlie Kushner, Bannon obviously believes, is he imperiled? If he is imperiled, who would -- who would Jared Kushner choose between his father or father-in-law?

O`DONNELL: The -- in the book Steve Bannon calls Don Jr. Fredo, referenced to "The Godfather", and the weak son in "The Godfather". We have seen Steve Bannon come out with a statement in which he says that his comments in the book, now famous comments about the Don Jr. meeting at Trump Tower during the campaign of Russians being treasonous, that was not aimed at Don Jr. He says that was aimed at Paul Manafort, but let`s also acknowledge that in that statement, he does not dispute, he has an opportunity to, he does not dispute a single word in this book attributed to Steve Bannon.

WOLFF: No. I think he tries to triangulate the least -- the least revision he can and that`s to say it`s about Manafort. But trust me. It was about -- it was about Don Jr. It was about Fredo. It was about as he says Don Jr. will be cracked like an egg on national television.

O`DONNELL: And Don Jr.`s not the only one. He says that Donald Trump`s long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, will also be cracked like an egg, that he has these complicated relationships.

But a lot of the Bannon stuff sounds -- people speculate about, why would he say these things to you? Why would he say these things to you? Is he as uncontrollable a conversationist, self control I mean, as Donald Trump?

WOLFF: You know, it`s within of two things. Either -- either Steve has the most remarkable big mouth in history or he has a strategy. And I tend to think that it`s a strategy. And I tend to think that his strategy was Roy Moore would win.

That would mean Steve Bannon would win. Donald Trump would lose. That means Steve Bannon would hold the leverage going into 2018. And Steve Bannon in part using this book would break with Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: How much of your interviewing with Steve Bannon occurred after he was fired from the White House?

WOLFF: Very little.

O`DONNELL: So, most of this is while he`s in the White House and what we read is a roller coaster ride for Bannon. There are days when he feels up and he feels like he`s the one in control of all the factions in the White House. There`s other days where he feels like this could be my last day. I don`t know.

WOLFF: Totally.

O`DONNELL: How did that affect what you were getting out of him as a source? I mean, the guess of the reader sometimes is, well, this must be a really bad day for Bannon. He thinks he`s going to be fired, therefore he`s telling Michael Wolff all the worst stuff.

WOLFF: Absolutely. When he was riding high, it was -- those were the days that I would sit in the White House waiting for him and the whole day would pass and then somebody come out and say we got to put it off until Thursday. When he was in the nadir, then hours and hours and hours of conversation.

O`DONNELL: What is there to say about policy-making in the Trump White House? I have tried to figure out at the end of the book, tried to figure a way of describing it, and what -- and whatever way you would describe it, the president is kind of like the hub cap that gets put on the automobile at the end of the assembly line. He`s kind of the last component to policy. He`s just the person who`s OK is needed at some point but he`s never generating anything in the story.

WOLFF: He wants to have, as little to do with this as possible. He wants someone else to do it. He wants Mitch McConnell to do it. Or he wanted Steve Bannon to do it. Or sometimes he wanted Jared -- anyone else to do it but Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And Steve Bannon was the one who came up with what he believed was the right defense for the White House as a special prosecutor started to surround the White House and that was to wall it off and create what he considered to be this wall, leave any comment about the investigation to the Trump legal team outside of the White House, to the spokesperson for the Trump legal team outside of the White House.

What went wrong with that strategy?

WOLFF: Donald Trump went wrong with that strategy. I mean, this was -- Steve would go over this. He`s saying this was -- this was not only the perfect strategy, but the only strategy. That in order to survive this kind of investigation, which he would then point out the Clintons endured and survived --

O`DONNELL: Because they handled it that way.

WOLFF: To do this, you had to be incredibly disciplined. And, of course, his boss or client was -- is the most undisciplined man in certainly ever to occupy the presidency and maybe -- he may the most undisciplined man in America.

O`DONNELL: There were several days in the course of the last year when Steve Bannon firmly believed that he was winning in these faction fights in the White House and that Ivanka Trump and her husband would be back in Manhattan by now. There were plenty of times when he thought that. Turns out he`s the one that`s out.

We`re going to have to take a break here. Michael, we`re going to come back more if you can please stay.

Michael Wolff`s book "Fire and Fury". When will people be able to buy this? That`s all like -- everywhere they -- whenever people see me with this, they want to know when they can get their copies.

WOLFF: All I do is hear from the relatives all day, because they can`t get copies.

O`DONNELL: Is it this week? Do you know when?

WOLFF: It`s -- yes.

O`DONNELL: We`ll see.

WOLFF: I mean, they`re rolling them out.

O`DONNELL: All right.

That`s -- and later, we`re going to have more information about Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation, the president of the United States is now the -- one of the next interview subjects Robert Mueller wants to talk to.


O`DONNELL: -- Twitter news from the White House tonight. And it is about the Golden Globes and you will recall that last year, the president tweeted about the Golden Globes, rather hatefully about Meryl Streep. Nothing from the president.

But Ivanka Trump has tweeted this. She says: Just saw Oprah`s empowering and inspiring speech at last night`s Golden Globes. Let`s all come together, women and men, and say, time`s up.

Michael Wolff, there are more than 20 women who want to say time`s up directly to Donald Trump.

WOLFF: I was just thinking.

O`DONNELL: The self confessed sexual assaulter in the White House. What`s your reaction to that?

WOLFF: Yes. You know, a couple of things. Number one, it`s so -- who does she think her father is? What does she think this White House is about?

Why does she think her father was, in fact, elected?

She doesn`t get this in some phenomenal way. Head in the clouds. Just denial.

Or, it just goes to the heart of the White House. It doesn`t matter. She and Jared are New York Democrats and that doesn`t seem like a contradiction to Donald Trump. And in fact, it apparently doesn`t.

O`DONNELL: I want to go to page 23 of the book because we have been discussing a little bit about governing by family. I now want to talk about who this man is, the president of the United States, and this is the book where we learned things that we have never learned anywhere else.

It says: Trump liked to say that one of the things that made life worth living was getting the friends` wives into bed and pursuing a friend`s wife, he would try to persuade the wife that her husband was perhaps not what she thought. And then he`d have his secretary ask the friend into his office. Once the friend arrived, Trump would engage in what was, for him, more or less constant sexual banter.

Do you like having sex with your wife? How often? You must have had better sex than wife. Tell me about it.

I have girls coming in from Los Angeles at 3:00. We can go upstairs and have a great time. I promise.

And all the while Trump would have his friend`s wife on the speakerphone listening in. Who is this man who is president of the United States?

WOLFF: Just a man.

O`DONNELL: Who is that man? Who is the man that does that?

WOLFF: Just a man without any scruples, a man who`s only interest is his own instant gratification. A man who doesn`t care about you or anybody else.

O`DONNELL: And these are his friends we are talking about? This is how he deals with his friends?

WOLFF: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: What -- by the way, what did the lawyers of the publishing house have to say about that paragraph? How much time do they spend on that?

WOLFF: They were confident the source was good on this.

O`DONNELL: You had to -- there isn`t any sourcing indicated on the page. The lawyers had to have a conversation about that?

WOLFF: Oh yes. Oh yes.

O`DONNELL: I want to get to more about this family dynamic, page 252. Donald Trump`s sons Don Jr., 39, and Eric, 33, existed in an enforced infantile relationship to their father, their father took some regular pleasure in pointing out that they were in the back of the room when god handed out brains.

Why would he be entrusting his businesses to two kids who doesn`t think have the brains?

WOLFF: Well, he -- Trump is in his heart of heart -- he`s a naysayer. Everybody is a bad person. Everybody has disappointed him. Nobody is --

O`DONNELL: Ivanka disappointed him?

WOLFF: -- as smart as him.

Less so. She`s the one who gets more credit than anyone else. But having said that, you know, she will -- you know, he`s never going to yield to her and yield the stage to her.

Everybody has done something wrong. Everybody has disappointed him. Everybody is -- everybody is bad at what they do.

I mean, everybody who works for him in the White House has to put up with this. And he spreads this. You know, he puts -- he puts this out. He calls his billionaire friends at night and says, you know, you know, Steve is -- Steve is disloyal or Kellyanne Conway is whatever she is.

All of this kind of stuff and then he goes back to them and he says, whoever he was talking to, who he`s told this, he then reports they told him that.

O`DONNELL: You have one of those phone calls almost word for word and it specified that it`s 26 minutes long and as a reader, you get the feeling that it`s you on the other end of the phone.

Question. Was that --

WOLFF: You can assume whatever you think.

O`DONNELL: OK. And when you get to that passage the readers can decide.

And that struck me as -- part of what I was reacting to when I was hearing him saying I don`t know Michael Wolff and I`m looking at the material and he says he never met you in the Oval Office. This wouldn`t be the Oval Office. It could have been 26 minutes on the phone and might be that no one in the White House knows he made that kind of phone call.

WOLFF: Yes. I`m sure they don`t. I mean, he makes -- the phone calls are constant. Everybody is actually calling their sources in this kind of Trump coterie to find out who he has called and what he has said, what`s going on. I mean, say when`s going on in New York? Because he`s talking to the New York people.

O`DONNELL: In the White House, you described Ivanka as actually being treated and regarded sort of functionally as the president`s wife, and as the president`s daughter, you describe Hope Hicks who is one of those many people in this White House who has -- there`s no counterpart like her in any previous White House.

There`s this passage about Hope Hicks. Shortly after Lewandowski with whom Hicks had an on and off romantic relationship was fired in June 2016 for clashing with Trump family members, Hicks sat in Trump Tower with Trump and his sons and worrying about Lewandowski`s treatment in the press and wondering aloud about how she might help him.

Trump, who otherwise seemed to treat Hicks in a protective and even paternal way, looked up and said, why? You`ve already done enough for him.

You`re the best piece of -- he`s ever -- going to have sending hicks running from the room. But, Michael, as we know, she keeps coming back into the room But Michael according as we know she`s still keeps coming back into that room. And she apparently is basically running Donald Trump`s press separately and part from the actual press office.

MICHAEL WOLFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And she was but she`s even taken a step up now, And I would now argue that she is the central -- his central adviser in the Whitehouse.

O`DONNELLL: 29-year-old now? she is now 29?

WOLFF: Yeah. I mean her experience before this as a fashion, you know, PR person

O`DONNELL: And she is part of the -- she was brought in by Ivanka Trump.

WOLFF: Exactly.

O`DONNELL: And she`s part of Jared/Ivanka factions as the factions line up in this book. WOLFF: Yes. Yes.

O`DONNELL: There comes a point where Steve Bannon is just screaming at her in the halls of the West Wing and in the end calling her dumb as stone. And this is after he suspects her of having tried to leak information that he supported the Comey firing.

WOLFF: Exactly. I mean, it was a brutal fight. It was a fight that kind of shook everybody. In a brutal, in a brutal whit house where there`s fights every day. This was -- this was a legendary fight. As a matter of fact, in the Jarvanka side actually went and complained to the Whitehouse Counsel about Bannon, that this was essentially accusing him of harassment.

O`DONNELL: And Jarvanka is the short hand in the Whitehouse for Jared and Ivanka.


O`DONNELL: Can we take a quick commercial break and come back and talk about when`s become the central issue of discussion of the book and that`s the President`s fitness to serve?

WOLFF: of course.

O`DONNELL: And we`ll right back. We`ll be right back with more from Michael Wolff.


O`DONNELL: Were back with Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury, inside the Trump Whitehouse. Soon to be available at your local book store once they get restocked after being sold out. I want to go to a passage you have here. Early in the book Michael and it`s comes back. This concept comes back from time to time throughout the book.

You talk about Trump`s friends who knew him for a long time very concerned that he was "wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main requirement of the job. What neuroscientist would call executive function.

WOLFF: The ability to distinguish cause and effect, the ability to adjust your behavior to different situations, the ability to organize and be orderly in the way you think.

O`DONNELL: Neurologists tell patients make sure you have your will and all that stuff done in your 60s at your latest because for all of us executive function is going to decline if we live long enough. It`s the ability to make choices, make rational choices and so forth. In his case, there is much concern now about his general mental health, his general ability to actually keep himself composed and function.

WOLFF: it`s -- And it came up again and again in really descriptions of the interactions with him and I would say the thing that bothers --

O`DONELL: This is staff talking to you?


O`DONNELL: Saying it`s changing and changing over time?

WOLFF: Yes and I would say the thing that bothered them most and justbecause you didn`t know how to deal with it. What`s so weird is the repetitions. He just repeats and repeats and repeats and hammers on -- it`s not even hammering on a point. It`s the same story.

He tells and you know? Always has an anecdote. And then he will repeat it and he`ll repeat it in the same words, the same expressions, the same tone and you think, well now wait a minute. I mean when you -- And I`ve heard this and originally -- you start to think, oh, no. I guess this is -- I`m just imaging this.

And then you hear it a third time. And then everybody -- and then a running theme was to chart this. OK. It use to be three stories in 25 or 30 minutes. And it was three stories in 10 or 15 minutes, the same three stories. And if you`re working with the guy you come away and -- I mean, what do you think about this? How do you, you know -- none of these people, you can`t diagnose. You can even -- it`s even hard to discuss it among one another.

O`DONELL: There`s a moment in the book where Roger Aels suggests John Boehner as the Whitehouse Chief of Staff and Trump says who`s that and Trump used to know him and could be if it`s true, a failure of that kind of memory which is how this kind of decline --

WOLFF: It could or it could also be, in fairness, his utter inattention


WOLFF: Because he`s not thinking about anything but what he wants to think about. When I interviewed him in June, that was two weeks I think before the Brexit vote. And I asked him about that and, you know, I asked him, using the word Brexit. he said, what? And I said, Brexit and he repeated, what? And then I said, you know, the U.K.`s exit from the EU. And then he said, oh yeah, yeah, that. I`m going to favor that.

O`DONNELL: Everything -- almost everything they`re doing can be done by another government. Tax rates can go back up. We`ve seen that happen. The one thing that cannot be fixed after the fact is a nuclear exchange with North Korea. How worried are you about the possibility of a nuclear exchange with North Korea?

WOLFF: You know, maybe naively not too worried. Not too worried because this a guy that doesn`t want -- going to war, you know, I think George Bush decided he wanted to go to war. I think Donald Trump sees that, gets nothing out of that. It`s like what do we get for that?

You know? And that may be a good thing in this utter transactional understanding of the world. Do I really care about that? Now, on the other hand, if this -- if the configuration starts and he has to analyze this in a particular, nuanced way, you know, I would be awfully worried.

O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff, thank you very much for giving us some extra time tonight, really appreciate you joining us.

WOLFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And were glad to have you here. Coming up, how President Trump is reacting to this book that has gone inside his Whitehouse and shown us a picture of the inside of, operations of the West Wing like we have never seen before, not in fiction, not anywhere.


O`DONNELL: In a Tweet this weekend defending himself against Michael Wolff`s charge that he is mentally unfit to carry out the duties of the presidency, Donald Trump tweeted that he is a very stable genius. Joining us now, my favorite very stable genius, Joy Reid, MSNBC National Correspondent and host of AM Joy Weekends. On MSNBC Also with us Ezra Klein, an Editor at large at Vox and the host of the Ezra Klein Show podcast. Joy, you reaction to where we stand tonight with this book.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I feel particularly qualified to react because I went to very school, Lawrence, very good schools. So its interesting so, you know, as you were talking with Michael Wolff, I was making notes about some of the things I found interesting about it.

This idea of him describing Donald Trump as an obsessive that`s it`s literally crazy, the way he tried to stop the books and the lengths he went to which only sold more of the book really kind of reinforces what you and I have both talked with Donald Trump`s bi biographers about the fact that he doesn`t understand cause and effect. That he does become obsessed. And he doesn`t understand that he is bringing about more of the thing he doesn`t want. The more he talks about this book the more people want to read the book.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That`s -- Ezra, that is an important element Joy was talking about, that very basic doesn`t understand cause and effect. And Michael Wolff has passages specifically about that in here. And we -- it`s almost having read the book, I feel like I can write now the current chapters of it like we know that there were people in the Trump Whitehouse desperately trying to get him not to comment on it, not to say let`s have a cease and desist letter and all that sort of stuff.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: But this is the strange about the book. It`s created a huge controversy. This huge hubbub and yet virtually everything major in it we have confirmed elsewhere. We see every day. It`s almost strange to be having this debate over, you know, whether or not so and so-called him an idiot when we know what Rex Tillerson called him when Rex Tillerson never actually denied on television.

Were in this world where I report on Trump Administration. I know you all have too. And you talked to his staffers and they are more seering about him than his liberal critics are. Actually serving the guy is a very depressing and for many of them very scary experience.

It`s I`ve never had an experience of reporting quite like this. People aren`t really defending what their doing. So much as defeending that somebody needs to be doing there doing it to keep it from going entirely off the rails. And so there`s a lot in the book i think that can be questioned. And there are some misstatements of fact and there are things that people denied.

But this overall story that were watching a President without executive function or basically the mental competence for the job act within it. It`s not -- you don`t even need the book to tell you that. It`s playing out before our eyes every single day.

O`DONNELL: Joy, you know, during the commercial break I asked Michael if he had anticipated that the story about this book would be the President`s mental competence. And he said, no, I didn`t really anticipate that`s where it would be. But I think in reaction to what Ezra just said since all of us had been questioning it. I mean I did the first 25th amendment segment on this show about I don`t know 30 days into this presidency when he looked stark raving mad already. And so with a year of that building that has seems to have become the burning question even before the book emerged.

REID: Absolutely. JUST to show everybody just how I`m reading this book. OK, this is how I marked it all up with --

O`DONNELL: Such a good student.

REID: Such a good student but a lot -- and the reason I`m showing this, a lot of this is because it`s a story of a progression of self interest. It`s not so much just a story about Donald Trump. There are people around him, just as Ezra said who worked throughout from the very beginning, from inauguration night, from the campaign who know this man is inadequate, who know he`s child like, who know he can be used and manipulated and making calculations as read throughout this book.

They`re making calculation. What can I get? How can I succeed from this? How can I use him? How can I manipulate him? That`s pretty scary.

O`DONNELL: And one of the important calculations we see them making in the book is how do I make the exit? We`re going to have to squeeze in a quick break here. Joy and Ezra, please stay with us when we come back, more about the book


O`DONNELL: We are back with Ezra Klein. And Ezra NBC News broke the news today that the President`s lawyer were in negotiation with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller about having the President to submit to an interview. Last year the President said absolutely, no problem, I will do that. It is hard to believe this President where he is tonight would be willing to submit an interview with Robert Mueller.

KLEIN: Yes. This is going to be a tough question for them. And this actually goes to some interesting things in the book and also in Trump`s public performance. It is very difficult to imagine anything potentially more disastrous than the President who walked out and turned to Lester Holt and just to be extremely clear, the reason I fired James Comey was not over Clinton but in order to obstruct justice on the Russia investigation. Letting him go into an interview with Robert Mueller and wonder around and repeat himself and sort of go down the blind alley as he tend to go towards. Showing discipline and being on message on the times when he really needs to be is not this President`s strong suite.

And on the other hand refusing to have that interview with Mueller will look potential to his base, potentially to the country like he`s maybe got something to hide.

O`DONNELL: Joy, in the book we read Steve Bannon`s happy proclamation, I don`t know any Russians. I got nothing to do with any Russians. He talks about everybody who got involved with the Russians as being crazy and treasonous in this book. But Steve Bannon has created -- his contribution to this book is something that the Special Prosecutors have to studying.

REID: Absolutely, when he called Don Jr. `s actions treasonous and saying that any -- he should have known that you don`t go yourself into these meetings with Russian operatives. And then you just -- when you just spoke with Michael Wolff, he said that the son Eric and Don Jr. had an forced relationship with their father. That begged the question if they`re taking meeting -- that Donald Jr. is taking meeting with some lawyer whose probably got dirt on Hillary Clinton. The idea that he did not run upstairs to Trump Tower in 26th floor where ever the father lived and tell him about the meeting that goes against everything that we have now learned about the son.

O`DONNELL: And Ezra we discovered about in Michael Wolff`s book about that famous meeting that Donald Trump Jr.`s motivation for running that meeting was he actually wanted to move up and take over the campaign. He wanted to -- with Lewandowski out he wanted to be the next guy in charge and is trying to show his father how good he could be at this. That`s where Steve Bannon offers the idea of course, Don Jr. would want to run upstairs and tell his father.

KLEIN: You know maybe. I mean I read that part of the book. And I thought it was plausible but I didn`t think it was proven. I think that what we saw in the book is that the Trump`s Campaign it`s a reverse of the old line that every cause begins as a movement becomes a business and ends a racket.

The Trump Campaign begins as a racket, becomes a business and ends somehow astonishingly as presidency. But in it`s racket phase a lot of dumb people are doing by dumb things. And why they did it I think might be as straight forward as Donald Trump Jr. looking for anyway to be important or looking for some kind of leg up when it had that meeting.

Well, it seems clear and what I think Wolff`s reporting on is pretty strong on is that when it came down to it, it was Donald Trump on the plain trying to figure out the statement that was potentially going to be a very, very significant piece of the obstruction of justice charge because he`s pretty clearly misleading around what Donald Trump Jr. is doing and what the extent of know the relations and why the relations were there with the Russians happened.

O`DONNELL: Joy, back to the impact of this book which is where I began. We have never seen something like this. Bob Woodward has a comparable book. It was about the first year of the Clinton Presidency. It`s called the Agenda. And it`s something about what was going on inside the Clinton`s Whitehouse in the first year. T

Here is always dysfunction but there is no crazy people and there is no question of competence among any of the people involved in that book. The methodology is the same. The people in the Woodward book are sane. The people in the Wolff`s book are something else.

RIED: Yes, absolutely. I mean people need to understand that is the way these books are written. They`re written because you get insiders in the Whitehouse who will talk to you on background. In this case, he had people talking to him on the record, giving quotes that were damming about their boss, the President of the United States, admitting that he should not be there.

And this book is selling out in Lubbock, Texas. It`s selling out in North Dakota and it is selling out in Red States and Blue States. You know the Hill was reporting that Wikileaks attempting to steal the content of the book and post it to try to under mind the sale. This book is selling to people who like Donald Trump and people are going to learn that the word Ezra Klein just used is the word that describes this presidency, it is a racket. The risk to Donald Trump are immeasurable. It is content and (INAUDIBLE) for Bob Mueller. It`s content and (INAUDIBLE) for the Democrats. It`s devastating for the reputation that was already pre- stained of Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Ezra, I really don`t know how to calculate the impact of this book because we really truly have never seen anything like it. There is nothing on this scale of this magnitude with the first year Whitehouse, possibly any year of a Whitehouse. What is your estimation as we sit here tonight, the impact of this book going forward?

KLEIN: Everyday the Trump`s Presidency brings something that any Presidency would have been an apocalyptic. My ability to judge the impact of any one given how much happens a week after every single one of these events is hard. But the constant drum beat of this, the constant chaos, the constant understanding that this is unqualified President amidst a dysfunctional presidency. I think the cumulative impact of that is really bad. I think you`d be looking polling he`s lost a lot of strong supporters. I think people are moving away. You`re seeing big backlash election.

It is no one thing. it is everything. The sense that the country is being run terribly by people who are not qualified to run it permeates everything now. And then I think the big long term question is under this kind of pressure which Trump is not hold up under when and how and under what circumstances does he crack? When you have him Tweeting out he`s a very stable genius, if he`s going to be having his fake news awards. But it`s going to take a little bit longer to choose the final awardees.

Something is going there. This is very, very hard on anybody`s psyche. The President sees enough to break any normal human being. And Donald Trump wanted to with maybe fewer resources than many. And I think that the big way this book might affect the american politics, is it increases his feeling of shelteredness and threat. He could do something very, very unusual.

O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein gets the Last Word on Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White, Michael Wolff`s book, We will be right back


O`DONNELL: Page 279, if he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker. Those are the words of Steve Bannon in fire and fury, Michael Wolff`s book. And that`s tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts right now.


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