Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: January 24, 2018 Guest: Maria Theresa Kumar, Neera Tanden, Evan Osnos, Benjamin Wittes
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, from Chicago, where I have spent much of the day with David Axelrod at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. And so, I pretty much just ran in here and I hope nothing big has happened in the news in the last few hours anyway.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": People are still mad about the shutdown, you know what it's like.
O'DONNELL: OK, I can just do a shutdown down and shutdown analysis. OK, great.
MADDOW: Pretty much. You need update s on anything, you can call me or whatever. But you're pretty much, you're good, you're fine.
O'DONNELL: Actually, Rachel, it's the 21st century, so we have radio in the car. And I have a wicked smart phone so I am completely up to date.
MADDOW: Very good. Well done, my friend. Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Thanks a lot.
Well, the president is on Air Force One tonight, heading to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. But just before the president left the White House, he surprised reporters by stopping to talk with them at the entrance to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's office.
And, after a few questions about international trade and immigration, the president was asked about the special prosecutor's investigation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it, actually. Here's the story --
REPORTER: Do you have a date set?
TRUMP: Just so you understand, there's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.
I do worry when I look at all the things you people don't report about with what's happening, if you look at, you know, the five month's worth of missing texts, that's a lot of missing texts. As I said yesterday, that's primetime.
So, you do sort of look at that and say, what's going on. You do look at certain texts where they talk about insurance policies or insurance where they say the kind of things they're saying, you have to be concerned. But I would love to do that. I like to do it as soon as possible.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The president then tried to pull away since one question about Robert Mueller is more than enough for Donald Trump. But NBC's Kristen Welker and other reporters quickly followed up and the president kept talking.
Kristen Welker asked when, when is the president going to talk to the special prosecutor.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: You have a date set, Mr. President?
TRUMP: I don't know. No. I guess you're talking about two or three weeks. But I would love to do it.
REPORTER: In person?
TRUMP: You know, again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all that, but I'd love to do it.
REPORTER: Would you do it under oath, Mr. President?
TRUMP: You mean like Hillary did it under oath? Who said that?
REPORTER: I said that. Would you do it under oath?
TRUMP: You did say it. You say a lot. Did Hillary do it under oath?
REPORTER: I have no idea --
TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Don't you have an idea?
Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait, do you not have an idea? Do you really not have an idea?
I'll give you an idea. She didn't do it under oath. But I will do it under oath. Listen, I would do it.
TRUMP: You know she didn't do it under oath, right?
REPORTER: But you would do it under oath, sir?
TRUMP: If you didn't know about Hillary, then you're not much of a reporter.
TRUMP: Say it?
REPORTER: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely. No, I would do it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And, of course, the president's lawyer, Ty Cobb almost immediately took all of that back saying the president was speaking hurriedly, that was his word, hurriedly, and only intended to say that he was willing to meet with the special prosecutor if that can be negotiated by the lawyers.
Joining us now, Tim O'Brien, the executive editor of "Bloomberg View". He's the author of `TrumpNation", and MSNBC contributor. Also with us, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor. And Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at "The Atlantic".
And, Tim, I just want to start with you because you were sued by Donald Trump. So, you know Donald Trump as a real estate businessman in New York, who you wrote a book, you know him now as a politician, you know him as the president, but you know him as the litigant, you know him as Donald Trump under oath in depositions in your case.
What did you hear tonight when you were listening to Donald Trump say, sure, I'm happy to do it, I'm happy to do it under oath.
TIM O'BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think he said, I'll also do the whole lawyer thing. And then at some point tonight, Ty Cobb said, and, of course, he won't do anything without the advice of his counsel, which, of course, isn't true. Donald Trump does everything without the advice of his counsel, which is why he is such a nightmare client for attorneys.
And our experience of him during litigation, we deposed him for two days, my attorneys were former federal prosecutors of the Mueller school. And they destroyed him during that deposition, Lawrence. He wasn't prepared. He went off message.
During the course of two days, they caught him, you know, admitting to 30 lies around everything involving his wealth, his debt, how much his condominium sold for.
He is about the worst person you can sit down under oath, because he is congenitally unable to tell the truth often, he's prone to hyperbole. And he doesn't really think strategically. He thinks about self-aggrandizement rather than thinking about the truth or arriving at a goal in litigation.
O'DONNELL: Natasha Bertrand, surely, the White House lawyers -- the Trump lawyers know about his case with Tim O'Brien and how terrible he was as a witness, and they must be impressing upon him that this is different, this is not a civil matter, this is criminal. These are the best lawyers you've ever faced in your life and the stakes have never been higher. And therefore you, our client, Donald Trump, must -- must behave differently than you did in the Tim O'Brien case.
Any indication that's getting through to Donald Trump?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: No. It's clearly not working. I mean, he's still tweeting.
If he's this easily baited by reporters to talk about an ongoing investigation for which he's going to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller within the next two to three weeks, then what's it going to be like when he's sitting in front of Mueller, who's an extremely experienced prosecutor, extremely experienced in criminal prosecutions when he has to -- when he's presented with questions that Robert Mueller already knows the answers to. Is he going to be tricked by Mueller into incriminating himself?
These are all questions that I'm sure the White House is really they're really worried about, because Donald Trump has approached this entire investigation with a degree of carelessness that would make any lawyer kind of shiver.
O'DONNELL: And, Jill Wine-Banks, the president was correct when he said that Hillary Clinton was not under oath. She wasn't given an oath when she was interviewed by the FBI. But a couple things, my understanding is that's standard procedure for that kind of interview, they don't put them under oath.
But lying to an FBI agent is a federal crime. So is this an academic distinction whether you're under oath or not in those interviews?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is a difference without distinction. It's a felony to lie to the FBI just as much as it is to lie to the grand jury. One is perjury, one is a false statement. They're different statutes, but they have criminal consequences. So, it doesn't matter whether he's under oath. It's just a PR stunt on his behalf.
O'DONNELL: And, Jill, in your experience, when you deal with people under oath whose experience, is limited to civil cases like Donald Trump, do you feel sometimes that they believe they -- they have enough experience because they've been in civil cases to deal with prosecutor's questions?
WINE-BANKS: I think it is different in a criminal case than in a civil case. But in his case, every lawyer I've ever talked to who has had him in a deposition says that he is really a bad witness.
And just judging from how I've seen him on public media, he is a nightmare for a lawyer. He would be a very bad client. He does not listen to lawyers' advice and I think he will get himself into a lot of trouble.
I think he may underestimate how much Mueller already knows, what documents, what e-mails, what phone calls he's been told about, and he may get trapped into saying something that he wants to be true, but that is inconsistent with all the evidence that is already in the possession of the Mueller investigators.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what the president said tonight when he was asked, do you trust the FBI?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORETER: Do you trust the FBI?
TRUMP: Well, we're going to see. I mean, I'm very disturbed, as is the general and everybody else that is intelligent, when you look at five months, this is the late great Rose Mary Woods, right? It's a large scale version.
REPORTER: Eighteen minutes.
TRUMP: That was 18 months, this is five months. They say it's 50,000 texts, and it's prime time. That's disturbing.
REPORTER: Should McCabe go, Mr. President? Should McCabe go?
TRUMP: Well, McCabe got more than $500,000 from essentially Hillary Clinton and is he investigating Hillary Clinton?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Natasha, do you want to try decoding that?
BERTRAND: Well, there were a number of really important factual inaccuracies in what he said. It wasn't 50,000 text messages that went missing. It was text messages that went missing from many -- several thousand cell phones across federal agencies because of a switch from iPhone to Samsung, it was a glitch that affected several agencies so not just the FBI. So, it's not some grand conspiracy theory that the bureau was trying to hide these from the public.
And the second mistake obviously is that Andrew McCabe was not the one to receive $500,000 from Terry McAuliffe. It was his wife who was running for Virginia state Senate seat. And his wife, of course, ended her campaign months before McCabe was even appointed deputy director of the FBI, months before he even assumed an oversight roll on the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. So, this is more of Trump trying to kind of discredit the FBI and nearby discredit the entire investigation into his campaign and whether he obstructed justice.
O'DONNELL: And, Tim, of course, there was a reach back to the Nixon administration to the famous 18-minute gap on the Nixon tapes and Rose Mary Woods, the president's secretary at the time, was considered the prime suspect for that. And that's the kind of footnoting you have to do when the president is on a rant about Andrew McCabe and the question there of should McCabe go, the president ducked it, but he did try to sign this political contribution to McCabe when, in fact, it was to his wife and happened long before any of this.
O'BRIEN: One of the things going on here, Lawrence, is that you got the president of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, willy-nilly trying to impugn the reputations of career law enforcement officials who I think regard themselves as straight arrow civil servants who are part of institutions that we have valued for a long time in this country about upholding the rule of law.
And throughout the Mueller investigation, at almost every turn, you had the president trying to undermine the reputation of almost everybody who's touched the investigation, from Bob Mueller to Jim Comey now to Andrew McCabe, solely because I think he's worried and he's aware of the gravitas of the situation that he's in and he will pull out all the stops he can to try to impugn the credibility of everybody involved in it.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to the president's answer to did he ask Andrew McCabe who he voted for?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you ask McCabe who he voted for? Did you ask him that?
TRUMP: I don't think so, no.
REPORTER: You don't think so?
TRUMP: No, I don't think I did.
REPORTER: You did not?
TRUMP: I don't know what's the big deal with that. I would ask you, who did you vote for? Huh? I don't think it's a big deal, but I don't remember that -- I saw that this morning, but I don't remember asking him that question.
REPORTER: Is it possible you did? Is it a possibility?
TRUMP: I don't remember asking the question. I think it's also a very unimportant question. But I don't remember asking the question.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Jill, if Andrew McCabe tells the special prosecutor that the president asked him that question and then the president gives this answer you just heard him give to the special prosecutor, how do you think that will fly?
WINE-BANKS: I think anybody listening is going to believe Andrew McCabe's version that he was asked it. And the denial is a pretty weak denial, it's -- well, I don't remember asking it. He's not saying he didn't.
But I also want to make one reference to Rose Mary Woods because as the prosecutor who questioned her, I want to point out, that there was a deliberate erasure of 18 minutes. There was not something that happened because of a switch from iPhones to Samsung. That's an accident.
This was, there were eight separate erasures, we know that for sure. That is a deliberate erasure of evidence. This was an accident that affected that affected many agencies and it's despicable that the president is demeaning the FBI who are hardworking serious people who take their job seriously and seek to do justice and get the facts out regardless of their own perspective. So I'm sad that's happening.
O'DONNELL: Tim, since you know Trump better than anyone here, I want to go back to this issue of Trump's lawyers trying to prepare him for what he's really in for here. Did you hear in the president's manner tonight or his tone anything that indicates he understands the seriousness of what he's involved?
O'BRIEN: No, no, I don't think he understands it at all, Lawrence. There's a freight train headed towards him right now. When you prepare a witness to sit down with someone like Bob Mueller, you have binders full of documents that you are expecting your client to go through to prepare for an event like that.
It requires a lot of patience and discipline. It requires someone who's actually active and engaged reader, who can retain information and can think about achieving a strategic goal.
None of that applies to President Trump. He's not a reader, he's impatient, he won't be well prepared for this. The other thing they don't understand is it's ultimately not up to him and Ty Cobb to decide the terms of engagement on this one.
If they won't comply, ultimately, Bob Mueller can subpoena Trump and put him in front of a grand jury. I don't think anyone wants it to go there. But most of the leverage of how this goes down is in Bob Mueller's hands.
O'DONNELL: Tim O'Brien gets the last word in this segment. Tim O'Brien, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Coming up, we have more on the breaking news in the Mueller investigation. And last night on this program, Angelica Villalobos told us that that she is making plans for what would to her young daughters if she is deported when DACA expires on March 5th. And tonight, President Trump promised she won't have to worry about that. But Republicans have promised have promised her that before.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: -- do you think Robert Mueller will be fair to you in this larger investigation?
TRUMP: We're going to find out.
REPORTER: Are you concerned about --
TRUMP: Because here's what we'll say, and everybody says, no collusion, there's no collusion. Now they're saying, oh, well did he fight back? You fight back. John, you fight back, oh, it's obstruction. So, here's the thing. I hope so.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Exactly one year ago today, Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was interviewed by the FBI in his office in the White House.
Today, NBC News is reporting that Michael Flynn did not have a lawyer present when the FBI questioned him and that he concealed that from other White House officials, including the president, according to NBC News. A lawyer for the National Security Council typically would be informed of such a meeting and be present for it, one person familiar with the procedure said. But that didn't happen in this instance and Flynn didn't include his own personal lawyer. Two people said he met with the two federal agents alone, according to these people.
Also according to NBC News, White House counsel Don McGahn was the first Trump official to learn about Michael Flynn's two days after the interview took place. The very next day, after the president was told about that interview, the very next day, on January 27th, according to former FBI Director James Comey, President Trump asked James Comey for a loyalty pledge.
NBC News has confirmed that several Trump intelligence officials have spoken with the special prosecutor. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Director of National Security Agency Mike Rogers, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, former FBI Director James Comey, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
And back with us, Natasha Bertrand and Jill Wine-Banks.
And, Jill, I just want to go back to what we heard the president say, this was that n that impromptu meeting with reporters tonight before getting on Air Force One. But what he said about -- did he think Robert Mueller's investigation would be fair, what was your reaction to how he answered that question?
WINE-BANKS: It's typical Trump. He said we'll see. That's what he says about everything.
But there was one other thing that he said in that dialogue. And that was, for the first time he said, no obstruction. He has said hundreds of times no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. But tonight was the first time I heard him say and there's no obstruction.
The obstruction case is, of course, quite clear and pretty strong. So that's an interesting thing that he is now adding that. And also the timing of his telling Flynn he wanted loyalty, the day after he learns that Flynn has talked to the FBI is extremely suspicious and makes it look very bad. It's another step that looks like more obstruction to me.
And, Natasha, this NBC reporting is the first specifying of when the president learned about Michael Flynn both being interviewed by the FBI and perhaps lying to the FBI. And as Jill just pointed out, that's very important sequentially because of what happened the next day with James Comey.
BERTRAND: Right, and it's really, really hard to believe even that Michael Flynn didn't tell anybody about this meeting he had with the FBI agents at the time that he had it. I mean, just the level of hubris that really has affected not only Trump but also those around them that has put them in such legal jeopardy is really astonishing. It's also kind of astonishing to think about the fact that FBI agents could have visit Flynn in his office in the White House and nobody could have noticed. And the only reason why Don McGahn found out about it is because Sally Yates came and warned him.
And then you have to ask the question, well, if McGahn briefed Trump, briefed Reince Priebus, briefed, you know, all of these top White House officials about Yates' warning, indicating to all of them that Flynn had told the FBI the same thing he told Vice President Mike Pence, which is he did not discuss anything of substance with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, then you have to wonder, if everyone knew that perhaps misleading federal agents and misleading Vice President Mike Pence, why was he kept in the White House for another 18 days? Why did it take almost three weeks for Trump to decide, hey, this guy has to get out?
The question that Mueller will want to ask is was there a reason for that? Was it because they didn't want Flynn to be outside of the White House orbit because that would make him more susceptible to cooperate with federal investigators, for example.
O'DONNELL: Rick, we have news report tonight about Rick Gates. He is Paul Manafort's associate, who has been charged and has not pled guilty, just as Paul Manafort has not pled guilty. But Rick Gates apparently has not pled guilty.
But rick Gates apparently has obtained a new lawyer, according to NBC News reports. It says that he's hiring a lawyer Thomas Green who is an expert white collar defense attorney with a long time track record of negotiating plea deals with federal prosecutors. And Jill, of course, defense lawyers negotiate plea deals all the time, but a development like this is making people wonder, does this mean Rick Gates will be joining the Mueller side of this investigation?
WINE-BANKS: Well, first of all, it's also reported that Tom Green has been seen at Mueller's offices twice recently, which would be further evidence that he is possibility negotiating. I know Tom Green. He represented one of the Watergate obstruction of justice case and he's also a lawyer that will go to trial rather than take a plea for his client.
So, he's a very excellent choice for someone. I hope he is cooperating. That would be a very good sign. We'll have to see what happens, but Tom Green is a good lawyer.
O'DONNELL: Jill, just on this point of adding counsel or changing counsel at this point, does that say something to you about something changing on Rick Gates' side of this equation?
WINE-BANKS: I don't know his other lawyer, so I don't know what their capabilities are. But it could mean that he has a change of heart and he's decided to cooperate. That could be why he's changing lawyers. It could be some disagreement that he has with his existing lawyers. It's hard to say.
But I think it'll be a good thing overall for everybody, especially if he's working with Mueller.
O'DONNELL: And, Natasha, we have reports -- the NBC News report indicates that Steve Bannon will be meeting with the special prosecutor and answering questions by the end of this month.
BERTRAND: Steve Bannon is going to be a very important witness for Robert Mueller, as we saw, the White House was loathe to allow Steve Bannon to testify freely before Congress. There was this whole episode where Steve Bannon kept saying, the White House asked me not to answer these questions because they were covered by some kind of privilege. So, it's going to be interesting once we find out why, well, what does Steve Bannon know that the White House was so afraid of him telling not only Congress but now potentially Mueller?
And that's perhaps why we saw Mueller actually subpoena Steve Bannon to give him cover so that he could testify freely to the special counsel without it being perceived as him turning his back on Trump and Trump's orbit and the White House in general.
O'DONNELL: Jill, there's an interesting element to NBC News reporting, some background information on the FBI's questioning of Michael Flynn. It said no one knew that any of this was happening. It said another senior White House official who was there at the time, apparently, it was not clear to Flynn that this was about his personal conduct, another White House official said. So, he didn't think of bringing his own lawyer.
And, Jill, that makes perfect sense to me that when you're the national security adviser, the FBI might want to talk to you about an issue that has just come up so you can imagine Flynn sitting there being surprised when they start questioning him about his own behavior.
WINE-BANKS: Absolutely. But you have to say once it became clear why they were questioning him, why didn't he say, hold it. I think I need to have a lawyer present. I need to tell the national security staff. I need to have somebody else here with me.
It's a stupid mistake to make. It's the same thing as why did he lie about saying he discussed sanctions? Didn't he know enough to know that his conversation would have been overheard? That it's quite typical that he would be overheard on a conversation with a Russian national?
So, these are stupid mistakes. He should have never continued the investigation because you're right, he might have thought in the beginning I'm the new security person so the FBI is coming to talk to me. That's fine. But then he quickly realized what it was, he should have stopped the interview.
O'DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks and Natasha Bertrand, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
BERTRAND: Thanks, Lawrence.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, before he got on Air Force One tonight, President Trump made another promise to the DREAMers. But it's a Trump promise.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Last night on this program, Angelica Villalobos told us she would be force today plan what would happen to her daughters if she is deported when DACA expires March 5th. A year ago we saw that she asked Paul Ryan about that at a CNN Town Hall and Paul Ryan promised her she had nothing to worry about. That she would not be deported. Today in his impromptu discussion with reporters, the President also said she has nothing to worry about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should these Dreamers be concerned they could be deported on March 5th if a deal is not reached.
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I tell them not to be concerned. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have nothing to be concerned about.
TRUMP: Tell them not to worry about it. We're going to solve the problem. It's up to the Democrats. But we -- they should not be concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now Maria Theresa Kumar, there's the President and CEO of Voto Latino and MSNBC Contributor. Also with us Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress. And Maria Theresa there's the President telling the Dreamers they have nothing to worry about.
MARIA THERESA KUMAR, CEO, VOTO LATINO: And he said that around November as well that he was going to intervene and fix the problem if they couldn't pass legislation in Congress. But he keeps changing the rules every single time. Let's not forget the President outlined exactly what he needed from Congress in order to make a deal.
He had two bipartisan proposals on Thursday and literally the next one on Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown, and it was no deal. It was dead on arrival. So he basically likes to play with the cameras. He like sound bites.
He appreciates and I think has a really hard time looking like the bad guy on live TV. So this is unfortunately really up to Congress to act and the Republicans need to find a spine and come out and recognize that right now what they are doing is manipulating people's lives and creating trauma and unnecessary upheaval and what they need to do is act.
O'DONNELL: And Neera when we had Angelica and her daughter Destiny on the show last night her daughter said that they try not to talk about what's going to happen on March 5th. But they always end up talking about it and figuring out a plan. These families are desperately worried and this president telling them not to worry is probably not what's going to make them stop worrying.
NEERA TANDEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know if you had a President who said something and when he said something it actually meant something and actually held for more than an hour or two hours, that would maybe address some people's anxieties but we have a worse situation, which is the President created this entire problem by rescinding DACA unnecessarily and now he said he wants a DACA deal. He's scuttle the deals. He says it's all going to be OK. Let's scuttle it again.
And what literally happened on Friday it's going to happen again. what happened on Friday, is Schumer offered him exactly what's he's asked for. You know many of us didn't like it. They offered Donald Trump a wall for DACA and the President said he liked it. And then what seemed like the actual President, John Kelly a couple of hours later called back. And were also hearing reports tonight that administration officials are saying this is just a discussion point, already partially walking back what the President has said.
O'DONNELL: And let's listen to what the President said tonight about possible citizenship for Dreamers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want citizenship for our Dreamers
TRUMP: We're going to -- we're going to morph into it. It's going to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean morph into it?
TRUMP: Over a period of 10 to 12 years, somebody does a great job and worked hard. It gives incentive to do a great job. If they've worked hard. They've done terrifically whether they have a little company or whether they work or whether or whatever they're doing if they do a great job I think it's a nice thing to have an incentive of after a period of years being able to become a citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And so on citizenship, the President says it's going to happen. And of course the right wing media goes nuts with that tonight. Breitbart headline saying immigration shock, amnesty dawn suggests citizenship for illegal aliens. And Maria Theresa, the Dreamers are illegal aliens on Breitbart and tonight the President is amnesty dawn.
KUMAR: He's so benevolent that's he's going to give Dreamers a shot at citizenship. And what I mean by that is that these Dreamers have basically been able to pass background checks, many serve in our military. If March 5th, if DACA expires you can see 20,000 teachers that are DACA recipients basically no longer able to be in the classroom, Lawrence.
That's a half a million kids in school that are not going to have an educator. This is serious and the President unfortunately doesn't seem understand the whole scope of what these young people have gone through or what they've actually had to achieve to demonstrate they are good standing citizens. Again, every one, in order to receive DACA has to pass a rigorous background check.
O'DONNELL: And Neera we can expect the President to reverse himself on this citizenship now that the right wing media has spoken, can't we?
TANDEN: Absolutely. I mean the truth is Schumer is right about this. It's President Jell-O. I mean he'll say something tonight, his handlers will walk it back later today. He'll say something else completely different tomorrow. And a third thing on Friday.
I mean it's impossible to make policy. And I think that's why it's up to the Congress to do this. But at the end of the day, I'm glad you started with Paul Ryan, because it's really up to Paul Ryan to buck the freedom caucus and hold his word to what he gave -- to what he said in that town hall that really moving town hall earlier this year or last year.
KUMAR: And Lawrence, just for that -- most Americans don't understand. Paul actually has two or three pieces of legislation that if he called it to the floor tomorrow for a vote, they could actually find out who is on which side. But he doesn't have -- he claims right now he doesn't have legislation. There's actually legislation. All he needs to do, he who controls the calendar is place it into a vote before Congressional members.
O'DONNELL: And Maria the President also said he might extend the March 5th Deadline. This is a deadline that he created. He says he has the power to extend it and he just might. So he left that possibility open for Dreamers too. How does that change the calculations and fears the Dreamers are facing tonight?
KUMAR: Lawrence I think the anguish that Dreamers are facing is it's cruel. It's inhumane. We have 122 Dreamers losing their status every single day. The President on September declared that basically DACA was not going to be able to be renewed.
You had 15,000 young people lose their status to date, 15,000 people. My heart hurt the day he announced it because there were young people that basically been getting up in the morning saying next year, when I turn 15 I too will be able to apply for DACA. His cruelty and basically rescinding it also basically punish and tarnish their dreams even though they were being told and doing exactly what's being promised by the government.
They came out of the shadows. They passed background checks. They're contributing to society. They are our teachers, our military, our physicians.
And yet we keep trying to figure out what this President's want. And it's very clear he has a very clear agenda, John Kelly does, Steve Miller does of the type of America they believe should be here, the type of immigrant that should be here.
These young people have demonstrated that they are incredibly patriotic because they are going through our system of government, through protest, through allies, trying to re recognize, to have Americans see a face. What we need right now is the American people just as they basically flooded the town halls during recess for healthcare. We need our allies to come and do the same thing.
O'DONNELL: Marie Theresa Kumas --
TANDEN: can I just --
O'DONNELL: Go ahead, Neera quickly.
TANDEN: I'll just say you know I think the problem here is that Donald Trump is treating these people's lives like a reality TV show.
KUMAR: That's right.
TANDEN: And it's like up and down, week by week people have to know where they stand. That is ridiculous. People shouldn't have to live at the whims at the words of a President. People just need to live their lives and that Congress needs to act and Donald Trump needs to solve this problem he created.
O'DONNELL: Neera Tanden and Maria Theresa Kumar thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
KUMAR: Thank you Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
TANDEN: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up more on what the President had to say tonight about Russian involvement in his Presidential campaign. And also, why Chinese officials believe Jared Kushner is their lucky charm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No collusion. There's no collusion. I can tell you, there's no collusion. I couldn't have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: When Jared Kushner first submitted his security clearance application he left off key meetings with foreign contacts, including meetings with Russian and Chinese officials. In a new piece in the New Yorker co-written by Evan Osnos about Jared Kusher's contacts with Chinese officials, a former National Security member said the Chinese Ambassador to the United States believed that Jared Kushner was their lucky charm.
The former NSC member said it was a dream come true. They couldn't believe he was so compliant. According to the New Yorker, last March the FBI's Chief of Counterintelligence Bill Priestap told Kushner that he was among the top intelligence targets worldwide and was being targeted not only by China but by every other major intelligence service as well, including those of the Russians and the Israelis. Joining us now, Evan Osnos whose new report for New Yorker is entitled Jared Kushner is China's Trump Card. Evan tell us why the Chinese at least believe that Jared Kushner is their Trump Card.
EVAN OSNOS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well they were initially worried about the Trump Administration. They after all had heard words from people like Steve Bannon and of course from the President himself who said that China was, as he put it, raping the United States. But what they found in Jared Kushner, to their surprise a very receptive and attentive (INAUDIBLE).
Jared Kushner during the campaigns and the during the transition met with the Chinese Ambassador four times. And then met again with him immediately after the Oath of Office and then met with him a number of times beyond that. So many times that Mr. Kushner can't recall how many times they met. And during the meetings he was often without the assistance of China Specialists in the U.S. Government.
He didn't want them to be part of those meeting. And from the Chinese perspective they were able to get their key objective done early which was they wanted a summit as early as possible in Mara Lago in which the two sides would not talk about sensitive issues but would on chemistry. And that's what they achieved.
O'DONNELL: Evan, I know people are thinking it so Jared Kushner had a meeting with some Chinese with the Chinese Ambassador. He was alone in the room with the Ambassador, what's the big deal? What could happen as a result of not having China experts present?
OSNOS: Well, this is sort of National Security 101. As many people will tell you in government, when you meet with a foreign country, particularly someone that's not an allied country, you always want to have a lineup of officials with you, area specialist, subject matter experts and of course note takers for two reasons. One, they help you negotiate better so that you don't get manhandled by your counterpart.
But more importantly also they can provide a definitive record of what happened in the room. So if the Chinese side ever goes back and says that you agreed to something or you raised a subject that you have a position to be able to defend. And part of the challenge here is that Chinese side has come away from the meetings saying that according to current and former U.S. officials, that Jared Kushner discussed his private businesses in association also with talking about policy.
Mr. Kushner's denied that. But this is a classic example of what happens if you go into a room without the full (INAUDIBLE) of people with you.
O'DONNELL: And how does what you discovered about Jared Kushner's Chinese contacts and other foreign contacts, how has that affected the security clearance process for Jared Kushner?
OSNOS: Well there is at the moment a question mark hanging over Jared Kushner's Security Clearance. Look most people who go in at his level into Whitehouse, Senior Adviser to the President, they are as one official put it to us expedited. It's usually a pro form of process is how it was described. Meaning they go to the front of the queue when it comes to evaluating whether their able and equipped to take on the highest level of National Security Secrets.
Jared Kushner has been waiting over a year. He received an interim clearance in the beginning. But he has yet to receive a full permanent clearance. It hasn't been fully adjudicated is the way they describe it.
What that means is that there is something. And his lawyers and aides have not been told what it is. But there's something in the process slowing it down. And so it's become an interest in the National Security Community. Was it his failure to list his contacts initially? Was it perhaps his dealings with the Russians or was it in fact perhaps his relationship with Chinese officials. These are the questions that are under consideration now.
O'DONNELL: Evan, I have never heard of a year delay in a security clearance for someone in that position, or, in fact, any position. What are your sources telling you about that? Is there any other precedence for a one-year delay in someone in Jared Kushner's position?
OSNOS: Well there's been delays. I can't say there's been one that's this long. Most importantly nobody has ever been in the position that he's in now is what experts say, which is that he is both waiting for more than a year and also a recipient of the Presidential Daily Brief. He's been included in this very exclusive list which is now 14 members of the Whitehouse including the President, who receive the most compartmentalize, the most secret intelligence that the government has available to it. And that's done at the authority of the President. That puts him into a unique status. So there are people who are saying this is unusual for him to be receiving the PDB and also not have a permanent clearance.
O'DONNELL: And Evan the President saying tonight to reporters I could have cared less about Russia's having to do with my campaign. Now that could be interpreted as if the Russians had something to do with my campaign, I couldn't have cared less.
OSNOS: Well this adds to the sense of confusion and haze surrounding the transition and campaign contacts with foreign governments. One of the things that came through with this reporting that was very important was that actually campaign had a plan. During the transition they were going to be very vigilant with how they dealt with foreign contacts.
They had a memo they wrote. But when the transition team was chucked out on November 11, when Chris Christy was fired, they really threw out those plans. And it meant that during the transition especially they were operating really without a plan. They were making it up as they went along. Jared Kushner's aides have told us he didn't read the plan about what the rules were about dealing with foreign officials. And so if he made mistakes, they say, no one told them at the time that they were making them.
O'DONNELL: And Evan, I was reading your description of this -- the plans being laid out in consultation with the State Department about how does President-Elect Trump, if he becomes President-Elect Trump, deal with foreign countries and the incoming phone calls that he will get. the idea that Jared Kushner didn't read it, you get the feeling that has a little something to do with no one in Trump Tower believed this was ever going to be relevant. They never believed they were going to win.
OSNOS: I think they did wake up on that first day suddenly facing these incredibly complex and now they know, sensitive problems of how you deal with foreign powers, what you say, what you don't say, how you make sure you're going in there equipped. And in the sense you know this was a campaign that believed that they had defied all the experts, defied all the conventional wisdom of how you get elected as President. And they brought that confidence one could say into a diplomacy. The problem is a diplomacy is a business that is built on the shoulders of giants.
You stand on the expertise and on the accomplishments of the people that have come before you, whether or not they're in your party or not. By going into the room with Chinese Ambassador, somebody who had served for decades in the Chinese Foreign Service without the benefit of all of America's expertise, put them at a distinct disadvantage. And it's really - - it took several months before American China experts to figure out why it was that we were in a sense a step behind the Chinese on this relationship. And a lot of the answers led back to the subject of Jared Kushner's central role in the relationship.
O'DONNELL: Evan Osnos thank you once again for your detailed reporting and for joining us again tonight, really appreciate it.
OSNOS: My pleasure. Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: We have more on tonight's breaking news. Donald Trump telling reporters that there was no Obstruction of Justice. That is a new line for the President. We'll be joined by Benjamin Wood. He is a friend and associate of James Comey. He'll join us next..
O'DONNELL: Breaking news tonight, the president added a new line to his public defense in the Special Prosecutor's Investigation when he told reporters there was no Obstruction of Justice whatsoever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever talked to Mueller?
TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually. There's been no collusion whatsoever. There is no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: We're joined now by phone by Benjamin Wittes. He's the Editor in Chief of Law Fare. He's a senior fellow at the (INAUDIBLE) institution and an MSNBC Legal Analyst. Benjamin what is your reaction to the President now adding that line, no obstruction whatsoever. We've heard him say many times no collusion, but now he's adding the obstruction line.
BENJAMIN WITTES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I guess it's because this week everybody is talking about obstruction. So you know when they talk about collusion, he says there's no collusion, and when people talk about obstruction, he says there's no obstruction. He also says he's looking forward to meeting with Mueller. So you know I think he -- you know getting inside the head of the President is always difficult and it's probably a dangerous place to spend a lot of time. But my impression is he's kind of reacting against the tenor of this week's news cycle.
O'DONNELL: And there is a moment where he's talking to reporter tonight about something that happened shortly after he fired your friend James Comey as FBI Director. Andrew McCabe becomes the acting FBI Director, and in his first conversation with the President it has been reported that the President asked Andrew McCabe who he voted for -- for President. And then tonight the President said this, when he was asked about that tonight, he said, I don't remember asking him that question, and then he said to reporters, I don't think it's a big deal. Is it a big deal?
WITTES: Well, yes, it's a very big deal, and the fact that he does not think it's a big deal and is willing to say that actually shows how little he knows or understands about Federal Law Enforcement. So, you know, a primer for the President and anybody else who might not think it's a big deal. You know we have this idea that law enforcement is supposed to not be political.
It's supposed to be -- if you commit a murder, it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, and it doesn't matter if the law enforcement officer who is investigating it is in your same political party or not in your same political party, right? And so when you ask a law enforcement officer, are you -- did you vote for me, what you're really asking is, can I count on you to go after my political enemies and to protect me from my political enemies?
That's what you're actually asking whether you understand that you're asking that or not. Are you going to inflect your job with politics that are like mine or opposite mine? For the honest law enforcement officer who has sworn an oath to preserve and protect the constitution not to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, that's a deeply, deeply offensive question because it's asking, you know, can I count on you to be corrupt?
O'DONNELL: Benjamin (INAUDIBLE) gets tonight's Last Word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it. That's tonight's Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.
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