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GOP Senators change story on Trump remarks Transcript 1/15/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Karine Jean-Pierre, Roland Martin, Neera Tanden

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: January 15, 2018 Guest: Karine Jean-Pierre, Roland Martin, Neera Tanden


And so, the president of the United States is in a credibility contest. Just after "The Washington Post" counted over 2,000 lies in his first -- his first year as president. So, who you're going to believe? Who you're going to believe?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well -- you know, yes, punt.


MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, there it is, tonight, it's Donald Trump versus Dick Durbin, on who is telling the truth. Now, most Americans don't really have to hear more than that to decide who is telling the truth, even though most Americans don't know who Dick Durbin is, 63 percent of Americans say Donald Trump does not tell the truth. That poll came out on Thursday, the day Senator Dick Durbin who was the only Democrat in a meeting in the White House with the president revealed that the president referred to Haiti in all 54 countries of Africa as shithole countries in that meeting.

That immediately became the biggest news story in America and the president did not deny saying those words, he had all day Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday to deny saying those words and the president did not deny it.

The White House did not deny it. They did not deny it. They did not put out a statement saying that the president did not say those words. None of the Republicans in the room denied that the president said those words.

And so, on Thursday night, that was in effect confirmation that the president said those words. In fact, reporting quickly emerged on Friday, indicating that the president made the kind of nighttime phone calls to billionaire friends from the White House that Michael Wolff describes in his new book. And the president in those calls boasted about saying those words and how those words would improve his position with his base on immigration because he said those hateful words.

And as the story clearly got worse and worse for the Trump White House on Friday and Saturday, the Trump White House decided it was time to change their story, just completely change their story. It was time to change Donald Trump's story and enlist whatever help they could from other Republicans. And now, Donald Trump is saying that Dick Durbin misrepresented what he said in the Oval Office, and two Republican senators who were in the room have decided to change their stories dramatically.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue on Friday released a very unusual joint statement about that White House meeting, very unusual for two senators to release a joint statement together. It said, we do not recall the president saying these comments specifically. Do not recall -- on the biggest thing that the president has ever said in their presence, according to the way the news media was reacting to it and they do not recall. They very specifically did not then deny that the president said that they simply claimed to not recall.

Now, I have been in work sessions like that in the Oval Office when I was working in the Senate during the Clinton administration. Let me tell you, you come out of that room remembering every word the president says, every word.

So, just based on my own personal experience in the Oval Office, I did not believe a word of Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue's statement about not recalling. And it turns out now, according to them, they were not telling the truth. They now say they lied to you. Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue now claim that they do recall what was said.


JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: You're saying it did not happen or you're having -- or you just don't recall.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Yes, I didn't hear it and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: The gross misrepresentation was that language was used in there that was not used, and also that the tone of that meeting was not contributory and not constructive.


O'DONNELL: So, there you have Tom Cotton and David Perdue calling Tom Cotton and David Perdue liars for their first statement. And they now want to be believed for their second statement.

Senator Durbin is not changing his story.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I know what happened. I stand behind every word that I said. I stick with my original interpretation. I am stunned that this is their defense. That is -- that's their choice.

What the president said in that meeting was so awful and so impactful on so many people that when he denied saying it, I felt duty-bound to clarify what actually happened.


O'DONNELL: Senator Durbin has described Republican Senator Lindsey Graham as very forcefully arguing with the president about the president's description of those countries.

On Friday, a South Carolina's newspaper reported that Tim Scott, South Carolina's junior senator, confirmed that the state's senior senator, Lindsey Graham, told him what Dick Durbin said about the president was basically accurate.

Today, Lindsey Graham told South Carolina's "Post and Courier", quote: My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said.

Here is the president last night denying that he said what Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham now say he said.


REPORTER: Do you think your comments the other day made it harder?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments. They weren't made.

REPORTER: What do you say to all the people who think you're a racist?

TRUMP: No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.


O'DONNELL: That I can tell you, with a nod. That I can tell you.

That is one of Donald Trump's many tells whenever he says, "That I can tell you", he is lying. "Believe me" is another one of his tells. Whenever he says "believe me", you know he's lying. When he's lying, he always reaches for that little something extra and the crazier the lie, the more he needs one of those "believe mes" or "that I can tell yous".

And so, the most overtly racist president since the abolition of slavery says I am the least racist person.

Because he is an out-of-control pathological liar, he could never be content with the sentence no, no, I am not a racist. That what he first said, no, no, I am not a racist. And the reason he is not content with that sentence is because it does not sound believable, even to him.

And so, the twisted mind of the used-car salesman/real-estate salesman/casino operator/hustler is always desperately trying to lay something on top of a simple statement of fact that simply does not sound believable like Donald Trump saying, "no, no, I am not a racist".

And it is because Donald Trump knows that that does not sound believable that he goes to the utterly insane length of adding the utterly insane statements "I am the least racist person". And because he is and has been for decades a deeply dysfunctional pathological liar he has no idea that saying "I am the least racist person" not only does not sound believable it does not sound sane. Would a sane person ever say that? Would someone who is not a racist ever say "I am the least racist person"?

It never makes sense to say you are the most or least anything. If you say you're the most generous person in the world, I'm sure I can find someone who is more generous than you are and if you say you're the least angry person in the world, I'm sure I can find someone who is less angry. But when you're talking about a group of 45 people, which is a little smaller than my class when I was in an elementary school in Boston, you can actually start using words like that.

There was a tallest kid in my class. There was a smartest kid in my class and it wasn't me. It was Michael Trapp (ph). We all knew that, because it was a small group, there's only 50 of us.

There have been only 45 presidents of the United States, and it can be said with absolute certainty that Donald Trump is definitely not the least racist person who has been president, but he is without a doubt the least intelligent, the least believable and obviously the least sane person who has ever been president.

Joining us now: Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. Karine Jean-Pierre is senior advisor and national spokesperson for Also with us, Roland Martin, host and managing editor of TV One cable network.

And, Karine, I'd like to start with you again. You joined us on Thursday night. You are Haitian-American and the president isolated the country that your family came from in his discussions. What's your reaction to the way this story has developed over the weekend to now?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: What I can tell you, Lawrence, is that Donald Trump is a boorish braggart racist, and that is a fact. That is the truth. We have a long laundry list of things that he has done in the `70s with the -- with the racism that he did against black people, with the black tenants. And in the `90s with the Central Park Five, in 2011 with birtherism, being the spokesperson for that, and most recently with Mexicans being called rapists, Muslim ban, you name it, everything that he does is racist.

And with the lying part of it too, it's not surprising that he's lying. He lies all the time. There was a report that came out today that said that he has lied or misled over 2,000 times since he took office, since he took the White House. And so, it is -- it is not surprising.

But the one thing I wanted to make the comparison to is, so, who do you believe, Dick Durbin who's trying to save kids, who's trying to keep kids here, or do you believe a boorish braggart racist who lies constantly?

O'DONNELL: Jonathan, I want to take a look at what Jeff Flake had to say about this because he's indicating that he and other senators shortly after the meeting heard a version of this that was the Dick Durbin version. Let's listen to this.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARKANSAS: I was in a meeting directly afterwards were those who had presented to the president, our proposal, spoke about the meeting, and they used -- those words were used before those words went public. So, that's all I can tell you is I heard that account before the account even went public.


O'DONNELL: Jonathan, your reaction?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That's pretty incredible and it shows that Senator Cotton and the other senator he put the statement out with our lying. You know, I had dinner with friends tonight and we were talking about the fact that one of my friends talked about the fact that President Trump these things happen to him and he's like Teflon, nothing ever happens.

And when he said that, a light switch went off in my head. It's not that President Trump is Teflon. It's that Republicans on the Hill congressional Republicans, those Republicans who were in the meeting, Senator Cotton and others who will not come out and say truthfully what President Trump said in that meeting in the White House, President Trump's not Teflon. They are complicit.

And it is their complicity that makes it possible for Donald Trump time after time after time to say these things that not only denigrate the presidency, strip the moral authority of the Oval Office and humiliate the country, but it's also something that is doing damage to our reputation around the world and could potentially considering what he said about countries of Africa and Haiti and El Salvador and the message that sends to other countries around the world, what does that mean for our troops around the world?

The president of the United States doesn't have enough respect for other countries who are helping the United States maintain not only the global order but U.S. national security. If he's not going to respect them, why on earth should they protect our troops? Why on earth should they even take our national security concerns into account?

O'DONNELL: There's new reporting tonight from "The New York Times" on how the Republican senators story and the White House story evolved. I want to read some of this. It says there was little effort to significantly push back in the story that night because aides knew that Trump had said it, and that the president wasn't even too upset according to people involved in the talks,

Then Friday morning, Trump appeared to suggest in a tweet that he had not used the objection award at all. The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard shit- house rather than shithole, allowing them to deny the president's comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.

Roland Martin, your reaction?

ROLAND MARTIN: Well, first and foremost, Lawrence, my maternal grandfather, his parents migrated from Haiti, and so, I'm a descendant those Haitian immigrants. And so, this is the thing that we have to pay attention to, and that is we can focus on did he say shit-house or shithole did he say this, what if they say? But it's the implications of his strategy.

He is desiring of whiteness. He does not want folks from Africa nations, Haitians, El Salvadorian in this country. He says, why can't we more Norwegians?

Why is that the case? Because in 2043, America will be a majority minority country, already in our public schools, 51 percent of all of our kids are black and brown. What you have here is fear, you have fear in terms of there's a nation changing before the very eyes.

The folks that support Donald Trump, they are scared of what's about to happen. So, when he presses the buttons of immigration, he is speaking to white fear, oh, this is why we're losing our jobs.

1994, remember, in California, I was just there for the NAACP Image Awards, they passed proposition 187. What was it all about? Fear that Mexicans were going to take over California. It's been 23 years since it passed, California is still standing and still thriving.

And you have to understand American history in the late 1800s when they attacked the Chinese because over opioids, because they were angry that the Chinese were taking jobs. Any time in the history of America, white America had an economic anxiety, they began to lash out that those who are non-whites.

That's what this is about and the Republicans are offering cover as Jonathan said. But remember it, this happened in the '60s when you had the segregationist Eastland, Richard Russell and others, they were consumed by power. And so, white supremacy has always provided comfort to those who were bigots because they desire power. Perdue, power, Cotton, power, Speaker Ryan, power, McConnell, power. They don't care about his racism or bigotry. All they care about is maintaining power.

O'DONNELL: On this Martin Luther King holiday, John Lewis was on "The View" today. Let's listen to what he had to say.


JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW: I said that Trump would've won if Dr. King were alive. Do you think that's true?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I agree with you.

BEHAR: You agree.

LEWIS: If Martin Luther King --


LEWIS: -- have been alive, no, Dr. King would have been able to lead us to a different place. And our country will be different, and the world community would be different.


O'DONNELL: Karine, your reaction to that?

JEAN-PIERRE: I agree with John Lewis. I think that if Dr. King were alive, he would be at the front lines of fighting against Trump's divisive policies that we see practically every day coming out of the White House. You know, instead of Donald Trump decided that he was going to be golfing on his exclusive golf course, golf club today, instead of having a day of service like most presidents have had on both sides of the aisle, and I mean, this is just unbelievable, after making racist comments that's what he decided to do.

Today, Lawrence, I was in Michigan, and I spoke at the University of Michigan for the MLK symposium. I had the honor of doing that.

While I was preparing to make that speech about 40 miles away in Detroit, there was a year old man, Jorge Garcia who came to came here from Mexico when he was 10 years old, undocumented. And because of the crackdown of the Trump administration, he was being deported. He hadn't been in his country for 30 years and he was being deported. He was saying goodbye to his wife and his two kids.

That's what was going on while Donald Trump was playing golf, people are being deported all across the country and he doesn't care. He doesn't -- it doesn't faze him at all.

MARTIN: But, Lawrence, I think we're making a mistake we talk about if Dr. King was alive. I was here in San Antonio and given the MLK Day speech. This is the largest MLK parade in the country, and it's not like this is a majority of black city.

This is the mistake this movement and even this birthday that the -- the birthday is about Dr. King's birthday, but really, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he accepted on behalf of the entire movement. But people should be saying, what are we doing? Not if he was alive. He was killed. What are we doing how we mobilizing local, state, national? That should be the challenge for anybody in 2018.

O'DONNELL: Karine Jean-Pierre, Jonathan Capehart, Roland Martin, thank you all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.


MARTIN: Thanks a lot.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: U.S. counterintelligence officials are reportedly concerned that Rupert Murdoch's former wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, might be trying to use Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, her friendship with them to help the Chinese government.

And a special LAST WORD tonight about President Trump, one of the poorest county one of the poorest counties in the United States and one of the poorest countries in Africa.


O'DONNELL: Donald Trump and John Kelly and the other immigration tough guys in the Trump White House celebrated Martin Luther King Day today by among other things deporting Jorge Garcia. Jorge Garcia would have had protected status under DACA if he had just been born a couple of years later. He came to this country at ten years old from Mexico. He's now 39 years old, has a wife and two children, and he has been living and working and providing for his family in Detroit until today when he got deported to Mexico.

President Trump first said he wants to end DACA and now says he wants to continue it. Some Democrats are saying they will not vote for any bill funding the government that does not include new DACA legislation. Here's the president last night.


TRUMP: We're ready willing and able to make a deal on DACA, but I don't think the Democrats want to make a deal. And the folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones that are not going to make a deal.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. Also with us, Maria Teresa Kumar, president of CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Maria Teresa, it is a federal holiday but in this country, you can still get deported, even if you came here when you were 10 years old and it's 29 years later.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And Garcia demonstrates how broken the system actually is. The fact this man came here at 10 years old, he's leaving behind two American citizen children on Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King who fought for justice, for equality, making sure that people had access to the system. And instead, we have a government grossly violating the human rights of individuals and being incredibly cruel.

And the fact that Americans don't realize his story is the tip of the iceberg, At Voto Latino, we're hearing stories where parents are asking if a power of attorney, Lawrence, is enough to grant to their neighbor in the event that ice comes up and swoops them up and they can actually have their child given to a neighbor so that they don't get lost in the foster care system.

It is -- it goes deep. It goes wide. And while people keep saying that he is not deporting, because it's true, the White House is not deporting folks, instead they're holding in deportation detention centers much longer. So, it is cruel, it is long and there's people making money off of this injustice.

O'DONNELL: Neera Tanden, we have more reporting tonight on the details of what's been going on in the White House since that Thursday meeting when the president said those now famous words. And in that reporting, John Kelly is emerging as possibly the president's closest and most important adviser on immigration matters. And in that reporting, John Kelly is emerging as possibly the president's closest and most important adviser on immigration matters. The reporting indicating that this might be the only policy issue that he weighs in on with real force and, of course, he's weighing in on as a very hard line immigration tough guy.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, and I would say you just showed the video of Donald Trump saying last night that he's for a DACA deal. He was presented with a bipartisan deal on Thursday. A deal that -- I didn't present it to him. It wasn't just Dick Durbin, it was Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham.

Three Republican senators had been negotiating that bill, Senators Flake, Senator Gardner and Senator Graham. That bill, that proposal, if Donald Trump had supported it would pass.

The truth is that Donald Trump has said from the beginning said he wants a government shutdown. He's opposing the deal in front of him on DACA. He basically is doing everything he can to hurt immigrants in this country. It's plain as day.

What happened today with Jose Garcia is heart-breaking and should never happen to anyone. He doesn't know Mexico. America is his country, 80 percent of Americans want to do something about DACA that ensures that things like this don't happen. And I think at the end of the day, we're heading towards a shut down at the hands of Donald Trump. Every American should know that.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Democratic Senator Chris Coons said about this.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Majority of my caucus, myself included, we will not fund the government without a DACA deal. The challenge is, to make it clear to the American people, this is not just about immigration.


O'DONNELL: Maria Teresa, how do you see the Democrat strategy going into this?

KUMAR: I think they have to remain strong. There's going to be some Democrats who don't want a government shutdown because they're going to go into a tough election in 2018. But let's be clear. Who right now controls the government? All three branches, it is the Republicans. They are the ones that are going to have on their -- you know, on their watch whether or not 800,000 young people are set up for deportation.

And let's not forget that under this president, he's actually creating a new class of undocumented immigrants by removing temporary protective status to close to 300,000 people. He's trying to remove the HIB1 visa for spouses. So, he is creating an immigration problem because there is an opportunity for folks to again increase detention beds.

And you hit the nail on the head, Lawrence, when you mentioned John Kelly. John Kelly is lock-step with Steve Miller. They are nativists nationalists who unfortunately are trying to create more harm in this country than create an opportunity to do good, to provide a pathway for citizenship, to actually deal with and modernize our immigration system, because yes, the system is broken but by rescinding DACA, rescinding TPS, to individuals who made right by the law, come out of the shadows, paying taxes, who have been vetted with clear background checks is not only an injustice, but it's actually the government breaking their contract with these individuals.

O'DONNELL: Neera Tanden, John Kelly who himself is an American thanks to chain migration, as is true of most of the Irish immigrant families that were in his neighborhood in Boston, he has never apologized to Congressman Wilson for lying about her. Donald Trump was -- Mia Love, Republican congresswoman, demanded President Trump apologize to what he said last week. But this is the never apologize White House with John Kelly and Donald Trump.

TANDEN: Yes. I mean, everyone looks to some kind of reasonable steps. The reality is, if you work for Donald Trump, you agree with his views. After last week, we now have story after story about how the staffers at the White House didn't think it was a big deal because they knew he said it.

And then 24, 48 hours, they're spinning a web of lies about it. The truth is, this is very basic. The president of the United States has created this problem around DACA. He never needed to create this problem. He created it.

He was given a bipartisan deal by a bunch of Republicans and Democrats. It's not everything I like. But it's a bipartisan deal. He rejected it.

If we have a government shutdown, it -- and this is also a president who has said he wants a government shutdown. The reality is for every single Democrat out there, what do we need -- what message do we have to have sent to us? He wants a government shutdown. He wants to put a bullet to our heads to get what he wants, and you have to say no.

At some point, enough is enough. You have to stand up for principle.


O'DONNELL: Go ahead, Maria.

KUMAR: Lawrence, just to underscore what Neera just said, the bipartisan agreement addressed every issue that the president wanted to be addressed. They addressed the visa lottery system. They addressed chain migration. They addressed funding for the wall. They ensured also to look and revisit the lottery system.

So the fact he came back and said dead on arrival, not only was he being unfair, but the American people need to know that bipartisan deal addressed every issue he said he needed in order to pass and propose DACA.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And we saw him on TV a couple days before saying he'd sign whatever they gave him. Maria Teresa Kumar, Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.


Kumar: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, Malcolm Nance will join us on what the false missile alarm in Hawaii tells us about the Trump Administration.


O'DONNELL: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Jared Kushner was given a warning by U.S. Counterintelligence Officials early last year that Wendi Deng Murdoch, a Chinese American businesswoman and are you Rupert Murdoch's ex-wife could be using her friendship with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to further Chinese Government interests in the United States. Officials are reportedly concerned that China wants to use people close ties to the Trump Administration to influence policy.

Ivanka vacationed with Wendi Murdoch in 2016. And both women were seen together at the Trump inauguration. And Wendi Murdoch posted a photo on social media at Jared Kushner's 35th birthday party. The Kushner family company also held talks with a Chinese company last year for a real estate investment up to $1.2 billion, which ultimately did not happen.

In his new book, David Frum explores the dangers of an administration that has rolled back ethical rules and moved towards authoritarianism. David Frum writes Trumpocracy has left Americans less safe against foreign dangers, has diverted their money from its proper purposes to improper pocket, has worked to bias law enforcement in favor of the powerful and has sought to intimidate media lest they report things the public most needs to know. To shrug and say what's it all matter is not only to dismiss the poor and vulnerable but to submit your own interests to the mercy of the greedy and unscrupulous.

It is to submit to live as a subject rather than a citizen. Joining us now David Frum, Senior Editior for the Atlantic and the author of the new book, Trumpocracy: the Corruption of the American Republic. And David the book is published tomorrow, available for purchase online at midnight. David, your reaction to the latest information that the counterintelligence officials are saying to Jared Kushner, look, people are going to try to use you, they're going to try to use you in various ways and here's someone who's trying to do it.

DAVID FRUM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You reminded viewers in your setup of Jared Kushner's attempt to do this giant deal with En Banc Financial group, a Chinese financial company, very close to the Chinese state. Kushner holds this very troubled investment on Fifth Avenue in New York. It looked doomed before the election night miracle. Shortly after the election, almost immediately after the election, he sat down with these Chinese investors over bottles of wine that cost $2,000 each, to figure out where they could get some money to save him.

The Kushner family properties are sustained, their residential properties with investment by Chinese investors looking for visas. You were talking before about the deportation of people who have been in the country for 20 years. But if you buy an apartment in a Kushner Building that visa is yours for a half a million dollars. The biggest problem with this administration in many ways is to remember all of these stories because otherwise they loose their pattern.

O'DONNELL: David, when you think about what was the better part of a decade that Republicans, through what began as the White Water Investigation, went after President Clinton and the first lady Hillary Clinton. That all began because of a possible conflict of interest of some sort, financial conflict of interest of some sort, while he was Governor of Arkansas, all involving numbers that would be less than a month's rent in the world of the Trumps.

FRUM: Well, I think one of the things that's hard for people to keep track of is how new a lot of our ethical standards are in American politics. Most of what you think of as the ethical regime that governs American politics was constructed in the middle 1970s. If you were to ask how were elections paid for in the United States before 1972, nobody knows.

They were paid for in cash. No one knew where the money came from. We built this 50-year structure. But it's already falling apart and that's happened faster and faster. And one of the -- the reason that the Donald Trump presidency is not just an episode, it represents a serious attack on ethical norms that were already in trouble, that had been falling even faster since Donald Trump became President.

O'DONNELL: And one of the things about the confirmation process that has developed since those ethical processes have been put in place, it tended to favor people with government service for a variety of reasons not just the experience but also the fact that they had been living a life necessary above the standards to get through confirmation hearings. All of that was junked in the Trump confirmation hearings.

FRUM: When I began - became interested in this story early that I would ask people who served in the Whitehouse Counsel Office what are the rules that prevent say a President's relatives from cashing in on the President's - on a presidency. And the answer came back well there are no rules.

It just was assumed that nobody do that. Donald Trump is operating a business while being President. That's actually not against any rule. He's not disclosing the business. He's receiving streams of payment worth potentially millions of dollars from the Philippines, from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, from other places where his business partners are under the pressure of authoritarian governments and none of that is disclosed and none of that against the rules. It was just against our expectations of what the President would do. And this administration, this President is smashing those expectations. How do we put them together afterwards?

O'DONNELL: David Frum's new book is Trumpocracy. You will be hearing a lot more about it on this program. David Frum thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

FRUM: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up tonight, a special last word about one of the poorest countries in Africa and one of the poorest states in the United States of America.


O'DONNELL: Saturday morning in Hawaii peoples' phones lit up with this. Warning, ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill. That was a false alarm, luckily. A Senior Administration official involved in the Whitehouse response told Politico all the fresh faces sitting around the table in the situation room have little idea what their roles would be in this scenario. The bottoms line is without a principal's level exercise we shouldn't have any confidence that the cabinet would know what to do in an attack level scenario. Here's the President's response to a reporters questions about the false alarm yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, United States President: Well that was a state thing. But we're going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility.

They took total responsibility. We're going to get involved. Their attitude and what they want to do is terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake. We hope it won't happen again. part of it is people are on edge but maybe we'll solve the problem so they won't have to be on edge.


O'DONNELL: Former Counter Terrorism Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance will join us next with what that false alarm has taught us about the Trump Whitehouse


ERNEST MONIZ, FMR. UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF ENERGY: The possibility of a nuclear weapon being used today is higher than it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the main driver of that is the possibility of miscalculation.


O'DONNELL: That was Obama Administration Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, today. Joining us now Malcolm Nance an MSNBC Counterterrorism and Intelligence Analyst. Malcolm, what have we learn from this false alarm.

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The first thing that we learned is that I'm not particularly sure that we can have confidence that the President of the United States understood what was going on at the time when that alert went out. He has a lot of systems, a lot of literal bells and whistles that will go off in the event of an actual ballistic missile launch, whether it goes up into space, even at the moment of launch. We know that in minutes.

There's a system designed to inform him within minutes. But with the entire state of Hawaii running away from a perceived attack, we didn't see anything about it until today. That does not inspire confidence that he understands the seriousness of what went on and perhaps he thinks that you know we're placing somebody in the seat on the watch standard who won't press the button next time is good time enough.

But this really required presidential leadership. We didn't see much of that.

O'DONNELL: And Malcolm you're Hawaii, your phone goes off like this, one of the things you're wondering is, could this be a false alarm. But that language seemed very certain and it was very certain that said it's not a false alarm. It said, this is not a drill, find shelter.

The next thing you're looking at your phone for is the message that this is a false alarm. That's the next thing you want to know, and I believe that Hawaiians and people around the country assumed there was something in place that was going to tell us very quickly that this was a false alarm.

NANCE: Well, I agree with that. I saw Tulsi Gabbard tweet even as it came out where she said this just came across, you know, the emergency alert system. Now I -- we all assumed it was probably a false alarm. But when you're sitting there and you see the state emergency action message system has come across and is telling you that there's been a ballistic missile launch and it is inbound to Hawaii, if you don't know anything about how the system operates, how the response system should - would detect this, you're just going to assume that it's true.

What happened here is that an entire state and all its visitors were terrorized, and most importantly. And most importantly there was no calming effect until it had already worked its way through the entire state system and finally the news media started reporting in dribs and drabs that there was no actual threat. It should have come right from the Whitehouse that immediately the President or one of his Senior National Security advisers on the National Command Authority Staff should have come out and said, this is not true, it's an error, everybody calm down.

O'DONNELL: On that difference between State and Federal responsibility, incoming missile attack, federal responsibility. Malcolm Nance, thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

NANCE: My pleasure.

O'DONNELL: Up next, a last word about what President Trump says about African countries.


O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's last word, which is, sadly, shithole. That's what Donald Trump calls Africa's 54 countries, most of which he's never heard of. The President's defenders say that his insulting label for those countries is not based on the color of the skin of the people who live there but simply the economics of Africa. They want us to interpret Donald Trump's one-word description of African countries just as economic shorthand and nothing else, a way of describing the economies of African countries compared to the economy of the United States.

If Donald Trump and trump defenders are OK with that, why don't they use that same concept within the United States? Mississippi is the poorest state. West Virginia is the second poorest state. McDowell County in West Virginia is the state's poorest county. Should the rest of West Virginia look down on McDowell County and not want any of those poor people from McDowell County to move into their county?

The median household income in McDowell County, which is overwhelmingly white and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, is $24,921. That's in a country with a median household income of $57,617. The richest state has a median household income of $78,945.

So according to Trump and Trump defenders, people in Maryland have every right to call West Virginia a dump or worse. But that's not the way decent people talk or think. We all understand that different places have different economic advantages and disadvantages and that the landlocked West Virginia with no international port has never been able to provide a good living to everyone in a state that is overly dependent on one industry, coal mining.

So the rich states send their tax dollars to Washington, and Washington redistributes their money to places like West Virginia and Alabama whose economies are incapable of adequately supporting the people who live there. Malawi is the West Virginia of Africa. It has land locked country which produces a coffee crop and a tobacco crop that struggles in the world market against bigger countries that easily produce higher grade coffee and higher grade tobacco.

And so Malawi struggles economically and the people of Malawi bear that struggle with grace and no nobility and they work harder than anyone you've ever seen work in the United States. They walk miles barefoot in the rain to bring their wares to market. They work much harder for less economic reward. No one in the Trump family has ever worked as hard as anyone in Malawi.

Maureen Vester is a second grader who we introduced you to last month on this program. She has a desk in school now because you sent her that desk. The contribution of this audience to K.I.N.D. Fund, kids in need of desks have now sent hundreds of desks to kids in Malawi who have never had desks. When Maureen is ready to go to college, the K.I.N.D. fund will be there to help her with a scholarship for her high school tuition.

You contributed $2.5 million during the holiday season this year and last year bringing our total since we started the program to 16,845, $517. Maureen hopes to become a doctor. If Maureen is lucky, she will come here to the United States at some point during her medical training. And if we're lucky, the people who tonight believe Donald Trump is right and don't want anyone like Maureen to come here will someday change their minds, see the light, and understand how lucky we would be to have her here.

now, I know how naive that can sound, but during most of Martin Luther King Jr.'s years of crusading for civil rights, it seemed impossible that he would not just defeat segregation but change people's mind about segregation, make them stop believing in it. Martin Luther King Jr. never gave up on changing people's minds, even when it seemed hopeless.

To truly honor martin Luther King Jr.'s life and work and the memory of the man, we must never give up. That's what Martin Luther King Jr. taught us. That's what he taught us to do, simply never give up.


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