Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: January 18, 2018 Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Barbara McQuade, Steven Buser, Frank Thorp
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, do we know in the reporting tonight that whether the president is going to Florida at the request of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the belief that this can only work with him out of town?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You know, Mitch McConnell, as this gets to be longer and longer days and they keep talking and talking about this and it's not getting resolved and they keep trying to get the Democrats to cave on the Dreamers, Mitch McConnell keeps speaking more and more openly about he has no idea what the president wants. And so, if he's supposed to pass something that the president will sign, it would be helpful if he could figure out what the president wants, but he has no clue.
O'DONNELL: Yes. And, of course, the president doesn't understand the significance of the majority leader saying that. It is -- one fact is, no Republican leader in history has ever stood on the Senate floor and said, I don't know what the Republican president wants. You won't find that in the congressional record anywhere.
MADDOW: You know, and the reason they use the shutdown willy-nilly, I think recklessly and irresponsibly as a political tactic is because they always hope when the government shutdowns happen, there will be somebody clear to blame and it will be happening for a clear reason, right? They think they'll make a hero and goat out of this.
In this case, they're planning on shutting down the government, while they control all branches of governance for something they can't explain that they don't know if they agree with the president about.
O'DONNELL: And they'll make history doing that. We never had the one party control model on a government shut down.
MADDOW: That's right. Thanks, my friend.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: Well, the United States government is on the verge of a shutdown tonight because the president of the United States did not get what he wanted from Mexico.
The president has said that if there is a shutdown he will, of course, blame it on the Democrats for not giving the president what he wanted, but the truth is, the president would be shutting down the government because he surrendered the power to shut down the American government to the Mexican government. The deal that the president wanted to avoid a shutdown included $20 billion of American taxpayer money to pay for the Trump wall on our southern border. The wall the president always promised Mexico would pay for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a real wall and who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: You better believe it, 100 percent, 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That was Donald Trump during the campaign, nothing about a wall that you could see through, nothing about allowing hundreds of miles of the border not to have a wall because the terrain there is too rough, just we're going to have a real wall.
And here he is two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have there been any more efforts to get Mexico to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: I believe Mexico will pay for the wall. I have a good relationship with Mexico. As you know, we're negotiating NAFTA. We'll see how that goes. Yes, but Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: But Mexico will not pay for the wall and that is why the American government is on the verge of a shutdown. Donald Trump humiliated himself to everyone with a high school level understanding of government when he first said Mexico will pay for the wall.
And then he got personally humiliated on the telephone with the president of Mexico when the president of Mexico told him in very empathic terms, he would not pay for the wall, to which the president of the United States said, you cannot say that to the press. If you are going to say that, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore, because I cannot live with that.
There was the great negotiator the Trump voters put in the White House. The great tough guy the Trump voters believed they put in the White House. When the president of Mexico got tough with him, he had no idea what to do or say next. He had no idea what to say, and so, that was it.
Donald Trump was beaten in that phone call by the president of Mexico, humiliated by the president of Mexico. So, now, Donald Trump is going to shut down the American government because the president of Mexico shut him down.
We now know the real truth of what Donald Trump was saying on the campaign trail was, Mexico will pay for the wall, if Mexico doesn't pay for the wall, I will shut down the government to try to get Congress to pay for the wall with your taxpayer money.
The president is ceding our sovereignty to Mexico. The president is willing to allow the government to be shutdown because Mexico did not pay for the wall.
No president of the United States has ever given a foreign country that kind of power. What if Donald Trump's campaign speech had been, we will build a wall and I will force the Democrats in Congress to pay for that wall with your tax dollars or I will shut down the government.
Today, the president tweeted this. We need the wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no wall, there is no deal. And here we are tonight because the president failed to get Mexico to pay for the wall.
The Senate began debating tonight a bill passed by the House today that would continue funding the government until February 16th. It would extend the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years, something that Democrats want. That provision was obviously attached to the bill in the hope of attracting Democratic votes, but only six Democrats in the House of Representatives voted for the bill today.
Joining us, Adam Jentleson, former deputy of chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid and current director for public affairs for Democracy Forward. Also, joining us, Sam Stein, politics editor of "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC contributor. Daniel Dale is also with us. He's the Washington correspondent for "The Toronto Star".
Adam, how do you see this play unfolding on the Senate floor tonight?
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, one of the things you're seeing tonight is more manipulation by Mitch McConnell because, you know, one of the secrets of the Senate is it can move very fast when it wants to. And the bill that came over from the House could be voted on tonight, Senator Schumer tried to. Democrats could show that they're going to defeat it and actually leave an entire another day for negotiation and a day in negotiation terms, especially this close to a deadline is eons.
So, one of the many ways in which Mitch McConnell is manufacturing shutdown is he's preventing a vote that could happen tonight from happening, so they could move on and try to cut a last minute deal or something like that. He's trying to hold the vote open until tomorrow because he thinks it will put more pressure on them. But this is purely a manufactured shutdown by the Republicans.
O'DONNELL: And here is the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard a Senate leader say in a situation like this. Here's Mitch McConnell saying tonight on the Senate floor that he does not know what the president wants. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The presidency, under our constitutional system is not irrelevant. He's the person who signs things into law. And for most of us in the house and Senate on the Republican side, we're interested in what his views are. And those have not been made fully apparent yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Sam Stein, that's a moment we have never seen in a situation like this before.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and we've never seen a president have an affair with a porn star either. So, these are weeks and days of firsts, I suppose.
But it is presenting a few interesting and difficult quandaries for lawmakers on the Hill. This morning, the president tweeted, as he's prone to do, that he didn't want a six year CHIP extension attached to a short- term government funding bill, which was news to basically everyone in Washington, D.C. because that's what the Republican strategy has been and is for funding the government. What we were reporting today is that it threw things momentarily into utter chaos on the Hill. Where Republicans are to check if the bill they were attaching the entire government funding operation to would end up being vetoed by the president. That's a peculiar thing to have to inquire about 48 hours before the government shuts down.
So he's creating a lot of problems for the process and it doesn't make Mitch McConnell's life easier or Chuck Schumer's life easier, whether he -- he met with Nancy Pelosi and President Trump and had a DACA deal, but that DACA a deal was rescinded shortly thereafter.
O'DONNELL: Daniel Dale, does the White House really believe that Donald Trump flying to Florida tomorrow, just getting out of town, will somehow absolve him of any blame for the government shutdown.
DANIEL DALE, TORONTO STARR: I think the White House knows Donald Trump wants to go to Florida, and they let him do what he wants, they let him have his two scoops of ice cream and let him go to Florida when he wants to do that. I think it's clear regardless of who's to blame for this issue, the president will be blamed. He has unified control of the government. The president gets blamed when it's not really his fault. Voters hold him accountable for making congress run.
And I think what's interesting here, is Trump has surrendered some of his leverage in making the case himself for specialness of Dreamers. So, the Republican line is, do Democrats want to shut down the government for illegal immigration? How is that going to work for you? Well, Trump has made it that Dreamers are a special case, that they deserve to be treated with heart, as the president said, they deserve to be protected.
So I don't know if the primary argument is going to work for them the way the president thinks it is.
O'DONNELL: And, Adam, going back to the Senate, Lindsey Graham, Republican who's been trying to maintain a relationship with the president so that he can influence the president in these matters. He's hit a point of exasperation telling "The Washington Post" today we don't have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with t. Graham said that Thursday morning this has turned into an s-show for no good reason.
And, Adam, he clearly is aiming that at both the president and John Kelly because he has talked specifically about Kelly's attempts to go up to the hill and try to negotiate something because he thinks he's a better negotiator than Lindsey Graham.
JENTLESON: Yes, that's right. I've never seen a more dysfunctional set of negotiations in my life. It's really something. But, yet, another thing interesting about Lindsey Graham, is that Lindsey Graham also said he would not vote for the House-passed CR, which tells you something. Which is that Mitch McConnell may not have 50 Republican votes for the partisan House- passed CR bill to keep the government open.
So, part of the reason McConnell is leaning on Democrats so heavily is that he probably has failed to manufacture a majority of Republicans to vote for his own bill. There's a bipartisan that will pass easily, which he's blocking. But he can't get the votes for the House-passed CR, the one Republicans need to keep the government open. And so, he's leaning on Democrats to cover for his own failure.
O'DONNELL: Well, Adam, let's pause for that for a second, because I've been wondering about that myself, and I've been wondering about whether the Democrats and Chuck Schumer should drop any 60-vote threshold and watch this thing actually go to a vote, a straight ahead vote on the Senate floor, a majority vote and see if it fails on the majority vote.
JENTLESON: Well, you need unanimous consent to do that. You need cooperation of all 100 senators. Although Republicans would look silly if they tried to block Democrats from letting them have majority threshold on a bill they claim is important to have the government open. So --
O'DONNELL: Yes. Well, it is -- it is one of the tactics that is available.
Sam Stein, I want to go back to the president flying out of town and if the vice president flies out of town, then you know that they don't think there's anything that they can do here. But the president going to Florida just completely leaving the scene of the shutdown, how do you expect that will play?
STEIN: Well, it's not so much that he's at his own property probably playing golf while tens, if not hundreds of thousands of government workers are furloughed, which is fairly bad optics, I would surmise. But it's also a wasted opportunity.
I remember after the 2013 shutdown, one of the things that Obama White House did frantically was they had Obama in settings like going to Lincoln Memorial, or walking down the street to get, you know, sandwich and stuff that showed he was still working, even though the government wasn't and that also putting a spotlight on the government functions that weren't working that the tax-paying public wouldn't be able to take advantage of.
And to be brutally frank about shutdowns, they're really tedious blame games, right? It's really about which side can endure the most political pressure before blinking. And one of the great tools the president has is the bully pulpit. It's the fact that you can't get cameras following you everywhere.
So I don't really see this as so much a dumb PR move, although it probably is one, it's really a wasted opportunity for Trump to stay in D.C. and hammer home the message that he's still working even if the government is not.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Paul Ryan says about this as he tried to play the blame game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I ask the American people to understand this. The only people in the way of keeping the government open are Senate Democrats. Whether there is a government a shut down or not is now entirely up to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Daniel Dale, Paul Ryan seems to have forgotten about the president of Mexico who was the first person who stood in the way of paying for the wall.
DALE: Sure. I mean, you know, he's omitting the president of the United States who rejected a bipartisan deal after saying that he would sign anything brought to him. So, you know, I agree with Sam.
This is -- we've seen this movie before, you know? They're going to blame each other. Some of the arguments are going to be rational, and some of them are not going to be. But I think it's clear to everyone, Democrats cannot be solely blamed at least for what we're seeing tonight.
O'DONNELL: We're going to have to squeeze in a break here. Sam Stein, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the FBI is investigating whether Russia funneled money to the National Rifle Association which then helped fund Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
And, predictably, President Trump is reportedly livid at John Kelly after John Kelly called him uninformed.
O'DONNELL: -- now adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. And that is, of course, to try to put more pressure on Democrats who somehow find a way to join Republicans in voting for a bill that passed the House of Representatives today to keep the government funded until February 16th.
Tonight, John Kelly might be learning the hard way that Donald Trump doesn't believe in evolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: "The New York Times" reports that President Trump was livid when John Kelly described him as evolving in his immigration position. Throughout the evening on Wednesday, Mr. Trump fielded calls from allies who described Mr. Kelly's comments to Congress as undermining the president, stoking Mr. Trump's fury before John Kelly talked about Trump evolution on Fox News, he had been quoted by some Democrats telling them that Donald Trump had been uninformed about some immigration issues when campaigning for president, and has evolved since then.
The president tried to kill the theory of evolution saying in tweets the wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day icon received of it. If there is no wall, there is no deal.
Here's what the president had to say when he was asked about John Kelly today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He's great. I think he's doing a great job. I think General Kelly has done a really great job. He is a very special guy.
REPORTER: Did you mind him calling you uninformed about immigration.
REPORTER: Did you mind that he told members of Congress that you were not fully informed about immigration?
TRUMP: No, he didn't say that. Well, I don't think -- he didn't say it the way you would like him to say it. He didn't say that. He's doing a terrific job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail", and back with us, Adam Jentleson.
And as we just heard the president say what a great job and great guy John Kelly is, I just want to remind us what the president had to stay about Steve Bannon four days before he was fired. Let's take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have confident in Steve?
TRUMP: Well, let's see. And, look, look, I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. And I like him. He's a good man. He's not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And, Francesca, four days later, he's fired. So where do we stand tonight on John Kelly's status in the White House?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: But this is the first sort of dispute like this that you've seen between John Kelly and the president. And at the point in which Steve Bannon was fired, we all knew that was coming. That wasn't a surprise to a lot of us who are at the White House every day, but even viewers of the show.
And the same goes for Reince Priebus, John Kelly's predecessor. At the point in which Mr. Priebus was fired, we had thought for months that Priebus was on the ropes. I mean, almost since day one, there was a lot of talk about how long Priebus would stay in that role.
And so, John Kelly has now been in this position since the end of July. So, the fact that this is the first real dispute that we've seen between these two men play out, considering everything else you've seen in this administration between President Trump and some of his senior officials, that's actually kind of remarkable.
O'DONNELL: And, Adam, we saw John Kelly go up to the Hill to try and negotiate a legislative package here that could save the day. This is the least experienced White House chief of staff in history who has ever had such meetings on legislation, especially crisis meetings, trying to get something done at the last minute.
JENTLESON: Yes, least experienced and also the least interested in learning some of the critical parts of the job about how Congress works, how the different bodies work. You know, there are stories about him refusing to talk to former chief of staffs who reached out to him to try to help him learn the ropes, both Democrats and Republicans.
So, I think this is a man who believes he knows everything he needs to know, doesn't have a lot to learn, but that's nothing can be further from the truth. He actually has very little idea how the legislative process works. And it's a shame he's not go doing more to learn what he doesn't know.
O'DONNELL: And, Francesca, the president, of course, is always looking to assign blame. Is he at this point assigning blame inside the White House that we are at the government shutdown threshold?
CHAMBERS: Well, so far, President Trump is blaming Democrats for the fact that there might be a government shutdown and specifically the fact that they want to see the pathway for citizenship for Dreamers in a bill, a DREAM Act essentially pass here. However, if you look at what the president said this morning, it was the president who undermined his own strategy by sending out that tweet about the children's health insurance program, which really muddied the waters on whether or not he supported the short term resolution.
And then, of course, you had Paul Ryan come out and say before the House vote, yes, of course, he supports it, I talked to him on the phone, he tells me he's behind it the way it is currently. But even the White House statement that came out said he supports a short term resolution, but it wasn't 100 percent clear as Mitch McConnell ends up bringing up on the Senate floor exactly what he wanted to happen here. And so, if you're looking tomorrow to assign blame, there's going to be a lot of talk about what the president could have done differently in the situation as well.
O'DONNELL: Adam, we have an update on the president's plans in Florida this weekend. On Saturday, they have scheduled an anniversary event for the president's inauguration, which starts -- tickets for the event start at $100,000 a couple, $250,000 a couple will get you a seat at the dinner and a photograph with the president.
And so, with the government possibly shutdown on Saturday, the president plans to be in Florida, raising money and having pictures taken for $250,000 a shot.
JENTLESON: Yes, I think that shows the fundamental lack of seriousness about his approach to this shutdown. He's tried, you know, very little to actually make it -- to prevent it from happening. He has undermined Republican strategy, and this weekend he's going to be cavorting with very rich people down in Florida, miles away from where negotiations are actually happening.
I think the significance of Mike Pence not being there is also significant because that's one vote that Republicans might need in a pinch. But he seems to also not think it's serious enough to stick around town and try to prevent the shutdown from happening. So, it's a fundamental lack of seriousness.
O'DONNELL: Francesca Chambers and Adam Jentleson, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, the FBI is investigating whether Russia funneled illegal campaign money to the National Rifle Association which then used that money to support the Trump presidential campaign. That would be a crime.
O'DONNELL: Special prosecutor Robert Mueller's team is reportedly investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association, which in turn used that money to help Donald Trump win the presidential election. The McClatchy news agency reports FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections. The NRA spent $30 million in support of the Trump for president campaign. That is triple what the NRA spent in the last presidential election in support of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012.
McClatchy notes: At the NRA's meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Aleksandr Torshin's spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group's national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016 when his father won an earlier than usual NRA Presidential endorsement. In December the New York Times reported on an e-mail sent from a conservative operative named Rick Clay in May 2016, to Jeff Sessions and campaign adviser Rick Dearborn who is now a Whitehouse Deputy Chief of Staff. Russia, Rick Clay wrote was quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. and would attempt to use the NRA's Annual Convention in Louisville, Kentucky to make first contact.
Rick Dearborn testified to the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. Members said he answered all the questions and never claimed executive privilege. Today the House Intelligence Committee released their transcript of the testimonu of Glenn Simpson, the Founder of Fusion GPS. His testimony was consistent with what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. And we know that only because Senator Diane Feinstein in violation of the Judiciary Committee's customs took it upon herself to release the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Testimony taken by Glenn Simpson.
And she did that without the approval of the committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. One new point that Simpson discussed in his testimony with the House Intelligence Committee is the Russian connection to the National Rifle Association. Glenn Simpson told the committee, it appeared the Russians you know infiltrated the NRA. It appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations.
And they targeted conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA. In Simpson's testimony, he identifies Aleksandr Torshin'as, "a Russian banker/duma member/mafia leader, who is a life member of the NRA." Joining us now, Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent at Business Insider and Barbara McQuade, former Federal Prosecutor and a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. She's also an NBC News and MSNBC Legal Contributor.
And Natasha, this Russia connection to the NRA, what was it that the Russians believed they could accomplish, other than just funding for the Trump campaign?
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's interesting. And this is just another example of how the Russians were really trying to exploit the divisions that existed in American society in order to ingratiate themselves in the political culture. It happened with Facebook. It happened when they were trying to sow division based on race.
They were infiltrating these organizations, such as the NRA to cozy up to the right wing or the Republican political leaders during the election. Now Maria Botina who of course is one of the Russian associates who was Aleksandr Torshin assistant and is very close to him. She actually wrote way back in 2015 that what we need now, the United States needs in order to ferment better ties with Russia is a Republican President.
So she was kind of on that train even before Trump was considered a serious candidate. She then went on to pursue him and, you know, she went to a few of his rallies. She asked him questions. So this was a long term effort that lasted on behalf of the Russians to use the NRA to get to the Trump campaign whether or not that panned out, whether or not that Russian money went to the NRA, we don't know. And whether or not that money came from the Russians and was then used by the NRA to give to the Trump campaign. That is something that will need further investigating.
O'DONNELL: Barbara, what does the Special Prosecutor have by way of tools to find out what the NRA was up to? Does he immediately start subpoenaing the records?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTIOR: I think he does. The Grand Jury subpeona is such a powerful tool So the first thing he can get are their campaign finance filings you know were they so blatant as to list Aleksandr Torshin as the person who made donations, probably not. Perhaps there are intermediaries there. So I think the first step is to look at the filings and see who made contributions to the NRA.
But the next step is to use a subpoena to get their contributions, to get those records and to pour over them to see if you can make those connection. Now again there maybe intermediaries involved and so it can take several steps to identify who the true donors are, but the first step is getting records through grand jury subpoenas.
O'DONNELL: And Natasha it's fascinating to see a Putin-inspired operation funding the concept of the right to bear arms that every person in America has a right to a gun. That's something Vladimir Putin would never allow in Russia.
BERTRAND: He's completely opposed to that idea. You have a bunch of fringe groups in Russia such as Maria Botina, Aleksandr Torshin citizen who are pushing this right to bear arms movement that isn't popular in Russian society. The average Russian says that they don't want looser gun controls. So this is something very unusual would have gotten Russian government funding and if it did, if the Republican government in anyway gave money to Maria Botina or to Aleksandr Torshin to then give to the NRA then that would be extremely telling.
O'DONNELL: And Barbara were the negotiations continue between the committee and Steve Bannon about testimony, they've decided to delay his testimony to figure out exactly what they can agree he's willing to talk about. But we have a report indicating that Donald Trump, the President of the United States, personally made the decision and read from policies report, personally made the decision to curtail the testimony of former Chief Whitehouse Political Strategist Steve Bannon before the House Intelligence Committee. Barbara, there's the President of the United States in the Whitehouse making the legal calls, the lawyer calls, on what Steve Bannon should or should not say in that committee.
MCQUADE: Yes, it's really astonishing because especially in light of how complicated the idea of executive privilege can be. It applies only to deliberative processes. It only is during the duration of the administration, for example. It's difficult for lawyers to figure out how it applies.
The idea that Donald Trump is back there calling the shots is problematic. I think it also feeds into the notion of obstruction of justice. Is he asserting it for proper reasons to preserve the power of the presidency or for some improper purpose to prevent disclosure of facts that could embarrassing to him? I did note that they did not assert executive privilege with respect to the testimony of Rick Dearborn. So these statements that Sarah Huckabee Sanders's is making that were just doing this to preserve the power of the Presidency seem disingenuous when you apply it to some witnesses but not other.
O'DONNELL: And Natasha you have to imagine that some of the Trump lawyers anyway are horrified by this. They have a client who is under investigation for obstruction of justice. They would not want him near this kind of maneuvering and trying to control what someone says in a committee hearing.
BERTRAND: Absolutely, this is another thing for Bob Mueller to look at, frankly. I mean already building a very strong obstruction of justice case against the President, you know from what we've seen from numerous reports and just from the public behavior I mean on his twitter account, he basically incriminated himself when he said that he fired michael flynn because you know he spoke to the FBI. So it's just things like this that are really getting Trump in deeper trouble than he needs to be in.
O'DONNELL: And Barbara the reports specify that the President talked to the Deputy Whitehouse Council not the Whitehouse Counsel which were all wondering about because Don McGahn is actually a client of the same lawyer who represents Steve Bannon. And so we all imagine Steve Bannon's lawyer on the phone with his other client at the Whitehouse. Apparently that's not how it works.
MCQUADE: Yes. It is you know complicated when you've got one lawyer representing people who are involved in different capacities. There is a potential conflict of interest there. But clients are allowed to waive those conflicts. So I'm not sure why the President Trump chose to rely on the deputy in this instance for legal advice. But it's a cast of characters who share the lawyers. So it's an interesting cast of characters.
O'DONNELL: And Natasha Hope Hicks' Testimony has been delayed. Hope Hicks is one of the people who Michael Wolff in his book describes as someone who will crack like an egg under this kind of questioning.
BERTRAND: It's her. It's Donald Trump Jr.. It's Steve Bannon. These are players that have really, really deep knowledge in the Whitehouse's inner workings. No matter what President likes to say about how close Steve Bannon was or wasn't to his presidency. He came out with a statement saying well Steve Bannon really was never --- he had nothing to do with me. He had nothing to do with my Presidency.
Well if that's the case, why are they trying so hard to prevent him from testifying freely?: Why did they say to him right after that misleading statement was drafted aboard Air Force One about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians? Why was Steve Bannon looped on that decision. It's really clear from everything that we've been seeing that Bannon was really a key player in the Whitehouse. And now the Trump Administration, as they do whenever anything comes out about any of these players, they're trying to distance themselves from him.
O'DONNELL: Natasha Bertrand and Barbara McQuade thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
MCQUADE: Thanks Lawrence.
BERTRAND: Thanks Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, it's time to get a second opinion about Donald Trump's health and his mental health. In fact, we're going to get a bunch of second opinions. Including one from a former Air Force physician, whose job it was to certify personnel to work in the nuclear weapons program. We will ask him if Donald Trump would qualify to work in the nuclear weapons program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNY JACKSON, WHITEHOUSE DOCTOR: In summary, the President's overall health is excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The New York Times decided to get a second opinion. In fact, they got three second opinions. The Times consulted three cardiologists. The first cardiologist interviewed by the times said God, no, when he was asked if the President is in excellent health. The cardiologist pointed to the President's very high cholesterol levels even though the President is on a daily dose of a powerful drug that lowers cholesterol levels. Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripts Research Institute found that public discussion about whether the President is technically obese to be irrelevant.
Here the question is does he have abdominal obesity Dr. Topel said. I don't care what his height is. All you have to do is look at his abdomen. Abdominal Obesity, that's the machinery for inflammation for the heart. The President was proud of passing the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, in which he was able to name these three animals.
There they are. Luckily for the President, the cognitive assessment did not ask him to identify three countries in Africa, any three countries. Take your time, Mr. President. In yesterday New York Times another doctor said we need to know much more about the President's mental state than his ability to tell the difference between a lion and a camel. Dr. Steven Buser was a physician in the Air Force for 12 years and is a trained clinical psychologist.
One of his responsibilities was e evaluating the mental stability of the personal who handled nuclear weapons following standards described in the Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program. In yesterday's Times Dr. Buser said personnel who handle nuclear weapons are held to higher standards of physical and mental readiness than other personnel. The Department of Defense specifies "only those personnel who have demonstrated the highest degree of individual reliability for allegiance, trustworthiness, conduct, behavior and responsibility shall be allowed to perform duties associated with nuclear weapons. And they shall be continuously evaluated for adherence to P.R.P. standards.
Dr. Buser wrote, the Commander in Chief the one who would decide and when how to use those weapons is the only individual in the chain who is not subject to the ongoing certification under the program. In his op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday Dr. Buser asked this question, what if President Trump were instead Airman Trump and was to be assessed under the program's guide lines, would I certify him as P.R.P. ready to work in the vicinity of nuclear weapons?
Dr. Steven Buser will answer that question after the break.
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DONALD TRUMP, United States President: Fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.
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O'DONNELL: That's the way the President imagines nuclear war. joining us now is former air force major and clinical psychologist. Steven Rooser. He is the is the co-author of a clear and present danger, narcissism in the era of President Trump. Dr. ..._ would Donald trump pass the Air Force test for personnel working with weapons?
STEVEN BUSER, UNITED STATES AIRFORCE DOCTOR: Well that's the real question. Somebody in that level of power with not only access to nuclear weapons or the ability to launch them you know within you know minutes, would he be certified around nuclear weapons? I have to start by saying absolutely not without further evaluation. Looking at somebody of Airman Trump were he to be in the Air Force or the military, we would look at past behaviors, sexually abusive behavior to women. We might look at the cyber bullying through twitter.
We look at paranoia of being persecuted by others or surveilled. We look at untruthful comments or at least highly distorted comments and somebody like that you know we would be suspect of giving authorization to be around nuclear weapons unless we did a thorough psychiatric evaluation to probably determine what was going on in the case.
O'DONNELL: There is concern about this for many years. And it hasn't ever been as prominent as it is now. You actually quote something Jimmy Carter said. Jimmy Carter wrote about this in the mid 1990s, and he was writing about the 25th amendment and how it needs clarification.
He said consider the medical histories of the 18 presidents who have sat in the Oval Office during the 20th century. One half of the 18 had cardiac disease, five had serious hypertension and four suffered strokes while in office. Given that the 25th amendment at the moment is the only thing we have that in any way concerns it self-with the President's fitness including mental fitness. What else do you think we need to have in place?
BUSER: That's a wonderful question. We really need some safeguards and when you're talking about nuclear war, global nuclear war which could in effect eliminate the species from the planet or at least get pretty close to it. There needs to be safeguards in place, One that is in Congress right now, House Bill 669 forbids any President, not just the current President but any President from launching a first strike nuclear attack against any country without the express and - without the OK from Congress with that which is a common sense you know bill.
Why would anybody not want Congress to at least approve an attack of that nature? That's one thing. The missiles are currently on a hair trigger wire and we need to somehow make a safer system you know with that. There is also House Bill 1987 which allows Congress to insist that the President get an evaluation, psychological or physical if there is ever any concern he's incapacitated or and duly affected by that.
Again both these pieces of legislation are common sense ones that in this day in age with older Presidents that could be suffering from either medical or cognitive impairment, why would we not want the safeguards in place to keep the American people safe?
O'DONNELL: Dr. Steve Buser thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
BUSER: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Tonight's Last Word is next.
O'DONNELL: For more in tonight's breaking news in the United States Senate we're joined now by phone by NBC News Capitol Hill Report Frank Thorp. Frank, Senate opens for business at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. What happens then?
FRANK THORP, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well were going to figure out whether or not or were going to figure out who blinks first, to be honest. We're in a situation now where Senate Democrats are hoping to bring republicans to the table, are hoping to bring President Trump to the table to negotiate something on DACA. But this is something Senator McConnell said repeatedly doesn't need to be addressed until March. Senator McConnell doesn't believe that this deadline is tomorrow. But that's what Democrats had been saying.
So we expected there to be a vote tonight. We expected actually there to be a vote tonight where were going to find out that this bill was going to fail. That this short term continuing resolution that includes this funding for the CHIP Program for the children health insurance program but doesn't include anything for the D.R.E.A.M.E.R.S., anything DACA recipients. ... We expected a vote on that and for it to fail. But McConnell has pushed it until tomorrow. he wants to put as much pressure on the democrats that plan on voting against the bill. He wants to put as much pressure as possible on these Democrats who are planning on voting against this bill. He wants to put as much pressure as possible on these Democrat in an effort to make them flip and in effort to make them look responsible for what could and looks like could be a potentially inevitable shut down if they don't get anything done by end of tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: Is there any indication Chuck Schumer is considering allowing this to go to a vote, in other words dropping the 60-vote threshold, letting it go to a majority vote and then on the bet that possibly the Republicans can't even have those votes for the majority?
THORP: So there hasn't been any indication that was going to happen. It sure seems to advocating now for the idea of actually passing a shorter term DR, something that would get them four or five more days to negotiate some kind of compromise on DACA. He doesn't want to do - he doesn't want to actually extend this another month.
He wants to have these negotiations happen as soon as possible. To be perfectly honest they don't know where Trump stands on this. And they're worried that the longer the debate drags on that they are going to have President Trump change his mind over and over and over again. They think a shorter period of time is better and they can get them a little bit more leverage if they could actually just extend this for five days instead of a whole month.
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