Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 12, 2018 Guest: Ruth Marcus, Indira Lakshmanan
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And that sounds really optimistic for infrastructure when you refer to this as infrastructure week.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Because I have a funny feeling it`s infrastructure day and we`re never going to hear it again for the rest of the week.
MADDOW: Yes. At the White House press briefing, one question about infrastructure. All the rest was about the White House secretary who left under domestic violence allegations and their handling of his security clearance.
O`DONNELL: And, you know, Donald Trump said today, by the way, and I really thank him for this. He said infrastructure is sexy to him. I thank him not just for that little psychiatric peek into the brain of Donald Trump, but to get people to pay attention to infrastructure if that`s what it takes is a valuable contribution because we`re going to be talking about it later in this hour. Ezra Klein is going to come on, we`re going to analyze what we can of this very thin Trump infrastructure bill, but to try to get the public`s attention and government attention to infrastructure is a multi-decade challenge we have failed.
MADDOW: Absolutely. And having the president pronounced the word "sexy" while talking about it, maybe you`re right and it`s going to help but part of me thinks that`s going to hurt.
O`DONNELL: I might just put the word sexy on the wall behind me for the whole hour. It`s infrastructure day, it`s the only day I can do it. You can only do that on infrastructure day.
MADDOW: Good night, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good night.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, in tonight`s what -- an op-ed posted in tonight in "The Washington Post" tonight, it says telling others about abuse takes strength. Telling others about abuse takes strength. That`s what Rob Porter`s first wife says in that op-ed piece published by "The Washington Post" tonight.
Colbie Holderness felt she had to say that because of something Kellyanne Conway said yesterday when she was asked on CNN if she was worried about the White House communications director Hope Hicks, now that Hope Hicks is the current girlfriend of Rob Porter whose most recent girlfriend, along with his two former wives, says was physically abusive to her.
Kellyanne Conway said there was no reason at all to worry about what Rob Porter might do to Hope Hicks because Hope Hicks is so strong. Kellyanne Conway said: In the case of Hope, I have rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent, excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts. Smarts.
Rod Porter`s former girlfriend just wasn`t strong enough that`s why he physically abused her. His two former wives just weren`t strong enough, that`s why Rob Porter physically abused them. That`s why he punched Colbie Holderness and gave her that black eye because she wasn`t strong enough. That`s the Trump White House position on why no one has to worry about Hope Hicks because she`s stronger than the women Rob Porter victimized.
Here`s Colbie Holderness`s answer to Kellyanne Conway and the Trump White House, the people who believed she just wasn`t strong enough, and that`s why Rob Porter punched her.
She wrote: Being strong with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn`t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn`t manifest itself early on. Only later when you`re in deep and behind closed doors the really ugly side of Rob`s abuse only came out after we married following three years of dating.
Hope Hicks has always gotten very special treatment from Donald Trump and the Trump family and from the Trump campaign press and from the Trump White House press corps. Watch this very unusual moment in the White House press briefing room in the first week of the Trump presidency with Hope.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: You`ve never seen that happen with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In fact, I have never seen social kissing like that in the White House. I`ve never seen it in the Senate. I have never seen it in any professional setting in Washington.
That was a Hope Hicks inspired moment. That`s the kind of special attention and special treatment that Hope Hicks is used to, and that`s part of why she`s been mostly protected up to now in the news media even though she is without question the most incompetent White House communications director in history.
In the new book "Fire and Fury", Steve Bannon calls Hope Hicks -- these are his words -- dumb as a stone. Because Hope Hicks is both incompetent and unprofessional, it became public information that she chose to have an affair with the married Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during. The campaign that affair burst into public view when they had a lover`s shouting match on the streets of New York City near Trump Tower which was captured and reported in the news media.
How incompetent is that for a campaign communications person and the campaign manager?
Hope Hicks was the co-author of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly`s defense of her boyfriend Rob Porter after the first news reports that her boyfriend had been violent with both of his former wives emerged. That statement that Hope Hicks co-wrote takes its place as one of the most false and most stupid written statements ever issued in the Trump White House.
It says: Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can`t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.
Hope Hicks has demonstrated in every way possible in her personal and professional life in the last two years that she is an utterly incompetent professional who would never be employed in a White House -- could only be employed by the most incompetent president in history. And that the judgment in the conduct of her personal romantic life is, to put it mildly, questionable.
First, a married man, then a wife beater. But it is this Hope Hicks who the Trump White House holds up to the world as being immune to the possibility of physical abuse by a man she is dating because, you know, strong women are immune from this, because the Trump White House and Donald Trump personally believed that bad things only happen to weak people.
Eric Trump believes that. He said his sister Ivanka is, quote, a strong powerful woman, she wouldn`t allow herself to be subjected to sexual harassment.
But, of course, Trump`s and Trump world cannot think consistently about anything. They insist that the only reason Donald Trump himself has had to endure the bad thing of having over 20 women accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment is not because he is weak, but because he is powerful. Those women accused Donald Trump because he is powerful and famous, that`s the only reason they accused him according to everyone named Trump, including Melania Trump -- none of whom publicly at least believe a single Trump accuser, and so no one in Trump world is ever allowed to believe any woman who claims to have been assaulted.
That`s why on Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted: People`s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true. Some are false. Some are old. Some are new. There is no reason for someone -- there is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?
That is the only sympathy Donald Trump has ever expressed in the case of someone being accused of violence against a woman, sympathy for the accused.
Donald Trump obviously had help with that tweet because he doesn`t use legal phrases like due process and he doesn`t know what they mean. Donald Trump could not bring himself to say a word of sympathy about Rob Porter`s former wives, and there is no reason to think that he feels anything for the victims of violent men. He has never condemned domestic violence.
The White House press secretary was asked about that today and she said that she was condemning domestic violence and so that`s the same thing as Donald Trump condemning domestic violence because she speaks for Donald Trump except when she gives those answers saying I have no idea what President Trump thinks about that because I haven`t spoken to him, therefore I cannot speak for him.
NBC`s Peter Alexander who was in that press briefing room today tweeted this: Trump has 47 million followers and has tweeted 37,000 times. If he wanted to condemn domestic violence post-Porter allegations, seems there would be a simple way to deliver that message without sending Sarah Sanders to do it for him.
Joining us now, Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter and columnist for "The Boston Herald". She`s an MSNBC contributor. Also with us, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post".
And, Ruth, and to Kimberly also, you both have the floor to comment in whatever way you want. But, Ruth, I wanted to start with the striking phrase from Donald Trump of all people, due process in that tweet. Your reaction to that?
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: In a word, galling. Of all the people who do not have standing to complain about people not getting due process, Donald Trump would be first among equals. He only cares about due process it would seem when it goes to friends of his or political allies of his who have been accused in particular of assaults on or abuse of women.
But when I came to the Central Park 5, when it came to locking up Hillary Clinton, when it comes to accusing President Obama of criminal wiretapping of him in Trump Tower, where was the due process then? Where was his concern about due process then? I want to listen to something that the White House press secretary said today, not because it`s true. And I don`t usually show what she says because it`s always just a pack of lies. There`s a bunch of lies in here especially about the sequence of how the White House handled it.
But this is the official statement that was written for her possibly co- written by her to read out there today and I want -- I want us to consider what this means for how the White House will handle this issue going forward. Let`s listen to that written statement that she read today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening and within 24 hours, his resignation had been accepted and announced. We announced a transition was going to happen, within hours it did. The president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.
Above all, the president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process. We`ve addressed this situation extensively and we have nothing more at this time on that topic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Kimberly, one of the true lines -- true sentences in that statement was the last one when she said we have nothing more to add at this time on that topic and she didn`t no matter how the report has tried to go at it.
I read that statement as simply the White House saying we are going to say absolutely nothing about this and we are going to trust that the White House press corps will lose interest in this because the White House press corps always does.
KIMBERLY ATKINS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and it was essentially a denial to. I mean, the idea that it was only last week that they got any idea that there was a problem with reporters just regardless of what set of facts you believe is just wrong we know that there was a problem with Rob Porter is just regardless of what set of facts you believe is just wrong. We know that there was a problem with his permanent security clearance. He didn`t have it more than a year in and we knew that months beforehand, the White House was notified of this fact.
We know that the FBI notified Don McGahn about problems with that security clearance. We know that an ex-girlfriend contacted the White House when she found out that Hope Hicks was dating Rob Porter to inform them of the abuse allegations. There were -- there was a protective order issue. There were blog posts.
I mean, if the White House was unaware of this situation, it was because it would be a case of the most willful blindness in history. So, the idea that you know they can say, OK, it was just last week and as soon as we found out we moved within hours, it just isn`t true. It`s another denial and even though Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that domestic violence should be taken seriously and is taken seriously by this White House, the facts belie that.
And so does the fact that the president still at this point has not acknowledged these women, not acknowledged these accusations, has only given statements and tweets and in person and defending Rob Porter.
O`DONNELL: Ruth, one of the reasons that previous White House`s respond more fully in these situations is that they believe the questions will never stop if we don`t get out there and respond to a certain amount at least of the information. This White House believes the questions will always stop on any given particular of any controversy because they always have. You remember when John Kelly, for example, got caught lying about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, the White House press corps did not ask about that for more than a day and a half they stopped, never asked about it again.
And so, it seems like this White House is relying on the pattern that they have been able to rely on up to now.
MARCUS: Well, that`s the real challenge of covering this White House because one reason that the questions stopped isn`t just that my colleagues in the briefing room run out of steam and asking them, is that there`s another issue, another scandal or potential scandal to be turning your attention to another set of tweets or other things that need to be explored.
So, they`re so good at distracting us by kind of tripping on their own messages that`s infrastructure days last week, that you do get distracted and you do forget to keep banging at them and they`re really -- it`s a pretty effective strategy of stonewalling as I was looking at their effort to try to just shut down the questioning and provide no more in the way of tick-tock than that oh it was 40 minutes and it was all over thing, which is just completely ridiculous as Kimberly so well explained.
I was thinking back to what it was like with and with the Hill actually participating in this very eagerly, looking into the firing of the travel office at the Clinton White House, and you would have thought that was, you know, the unbelievably huge scandal for all the effort that was put into it. But one reason and one thing that`s different between then and now is not just the energy of the press corps, because I think the press corps has been pretty energetic here, but also a willingness to do some congressional oversight or in that case it was a little bit of hostile oversight.
But, you know, it helps to have two one branch of government looking at the other branch of government as well.
O`DONNELL: Kimberly, we had experts on the program last week -- saying that -- who are familiar with the White House clearance process, security clearance process. They said they firmly believed that the FBI would have shown the photographs of the black eye to White House chief of staff or White House counsel just about as early as they obtained to them. They believed there would be next to no real delay in showing that to the White House.
We don`t know whether that actually happened. That was supposition on their part. But what are the chances that we will actually learn any more information from the White House than what we know now about how they handle this and what we know now completely contradicts every single thing that Sarah Sanders said publicly today.
ATKINS: Well, if past is prologue, the chances are high that we will continue to find out information from this White House. But to the point about the FBI giving the details and the evidence in this case, it also stands to reason that a chief of staff and a White House counsel when they are -- when they find out that someone is having difficulty obtaining a permanent security clearance and certainly once the FBI flags them, if it was someone like Rob Porter who was working so closely with the president and handling such sensitive information, it would be incumbent upon the chief of staff in the White House council to find out exactly what is up with these allegations and what they are.
So, if they didn`t do that, and at that point, certainly, they would have seen this evidence. They would have seen the pictures they would have found out about the protective order and much more. So, this idea that, oh, well they just didn`t know and once they found out last week they acted quickly -- again, it just doesn`t make a lot of sense it was either negligence or again willful blindness.
O`DONNELL: Kimberly Atkins, thank you very much for joining this first discussion of the hour. Really appreciate it.
ATKINS: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: can John Kelly survive his own handling of the Rob Porter story in this White House?
And Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand is quitting her job reportedly because of the Mueller investigation.
O`DONNELL: -- became the White House chief of staff, the news media gushed with praise. "The New York Times" called him, quote, a beacon of discipline. His hometown newspaper, "The Boston Globe" was lavish in its praise.
But now, his hometown newspaper has turned on him and has hitting him harder than any other newspaper in the country. On Friday, columnist Michael Cohen said John Kelly is the perfect Donald Trump staffer. He`s a bad person who is bad at his job.
Today, "Boston Globe" columnist Kevin Cullen (ph) who has praised Kelly in the past, wrote: since he went to work for Donald Trump, Kelly has squandered so much of his honor, so much of his integrity and so much of his identity that, frankly, I don`t recognize him anymore.
Also today, another "Globe" columnist Indira Lakshmanan wrote: John Kelly has violated the cardinal rule of being White House chief of staff: advance the president`s agenda and don`t become the news. It`s past time for him to go.
But will he go?
Joining us now, Indira Lakshmanan, columnist for "The Boston Globe" and chair of journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, and back with us is Ruth Marcus.
Indira, it seems Boston`s familiarity with John Kelly has produced some of the strongest pros against him in the columns there and your piece today saying it`s time for John Kelly to go, that`s being echoed by others -- other commentators. Do you think this could do it, that this could drive John Kelly out?
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, I don`t think that our columns are going to be what drives him out. If anything, it`s possible that the more the so-called mainstream media rails against him, that Donald Trump may sort of to spite us keep him in a little longer, although I do personally think that he`s tiring of him from the reports that I`ve gotten inside. He is looking at other candidates for this job, including Mick Mulvaney, the OMB director and others.
But I want to say that not all journalists in Boston supported him last year when he was made chief of staff. In July, I wrote a column basically saying this guy is terrible for the job, he`s going to fail, he can`t do it and I don`t think he`s a good choice.
I do think you`re right though that most of the media jumped on this bandwagon of what I think was sort of groupthink and wishful thinking, hoping that this military former marine general was going to discipline this president. But I think, number one, this is a president who doesn`t want to be disciplined. Number two, John Kelly, far from being a moderating force, has shown in the six months that he was homeland security secretary that he actually shares the nativist views and buys into all of the worst sort of extremist views that Donald Trump has.
So I think he`s been encouraging those and enabling them not reining them in. And it goes from being untruthful about crime statistics and terrorism statistics to as we talked about earlier, you know, lying about a congresswoman from Florida refusing to apologize for it, you know, calling Dreamers too lazy to get off their asses, it goes on and on. And it`s not just the domestic violence thing, but I think it may have finally come to a head at this point.
O`DONNELL: Ruth, I`m going to read one more piece of Kevin Cullen`s column and the reason I do is because Kevin Cullen was praising of John Kelly especially before any of these controversies.
He said last week: Kelly sounded like any number of vaguely racist callers to any number of radio talk shows dismissing immigrants as lazy. Kelly is the chief of staff, not Rush Limbaugh. It was unseemly undignified to talk about anybody in that fashion.
And, Ruth, this is such a turn for John Kelly in the media, but is it a turn for him in the White House? Do you see the possibility of this ending the John Kelly`s time in the White House?
MARCUS: I think it`s possible. I think the irony is his time in the White House would probably end for the wrong reason. That is, you know, some of us have looked at his conduct as chief of staff and been both surprised and appalled. He`s -- instead of being the grown-up in the room, he`s kind of the mini Trump in the room, echoing a lot of the president`s worst habits.
But I think if the president decides to get rid of John Kelly, it probably won`t be for those reasons of offensive behavior that have bothered us but because he chafed under Kelly`s efforts, which have been semi successful at least to impose some control on Trump and Trump`s access of not to his Twitter feed, at least to talking to outsiders and reaching out to outsiders. So, he`s been chafing under that for a while. If this may be the straw that broke Kelly`s back.
But the main reason I think would be that Donald Trump just doesn`t like anybody telling him what to do.
O`DONNELL: Indira, Chris Christie who might himself want John Kelly`s job said yesterday that John Kelly, we haven`t heard from him directly yet and I think the president needs to hear from Kelly directly before he can make an evaluation of competence. So, Chris Christie is not trying to help John Kelly there. But the question of where pressure comes from on John Kelly`s job is a complicated one.
In any other White House, there would be a need for the White House chief of staff in the middle of a controversy to step up to that microphone himself today and when I say that, it`s hard to think of another White House where the chief of staff was ever the center of a controversy. The last one I can think of was John Sununu under -- in the 1980s, it`s a very rare circumstance.
LAKSHAMAN: Well, I mean, I talked to Chris Whipple who`s written this extraordinary book where he interviewed the 17 living former chiefs of staff, not including Reince Priebus and the truth of the matter is that he regards John Kelly as the worst chief of staff in modern history, even worse than Don Regan who as we all remember you know was ousted by Nancy Reagan when he couldn`t control the Iran-Contra crisis.
Look, I think by any objective measure, John Kelly has failed at his job. It`s his number-one job is to control any crisis, advance the president`s agenda and stay out of the spotlight. He has failed on all three measures.
I mean, it is he from the reporting I have done who helped derail the president`s own DACA deal that he had pretty much agreed to. So, that right there is disqualifying and insubordination I would say.
O`DONNELL: Indira Lakshmanan and Ruth Marcus, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, why President Trump says and he really does say this he said it today, you`ll hear him say it, why he says infrastructure is sexy. That was his word, "sexy".
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Trump`s Obstruction of Justice is far more extensive than Nixon`s. Those are not my words. That is the headline of a new op-ed piece in the Washington Post by our next guest Harry Litman. Tonight NBC News has learned the reason Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the number three official at the Justice Department is quitting. NBC News reports that, Rachel Brand "had been unhappy with her job for months before the Department announced her departure on Friday."
According to multiple sources Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the Department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia Investigation the sources said. Rachel Brand would only take over Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller`s Russia Investigation if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was fired or quit. According to NBC News, public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by President Donald Trump worried Brand that Rosenstein`s job could be in danger.
Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter. Joining us now, Ben Wittis, Editor and Chief of Law Fair. Senior Fellow at the Berkin`s Institution and MSNBC Legal Analyst. Also with us Harry Litman, former Federal Prosecutor and Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Clinton. He is now Law Professor at the University of California, San Diego. And Professor Litman, you`re comparing the Obstruction of Justice case against Donald Trump to be the case against Richard Nixon. What do you see?
HARRY LITMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well look on the actual legal charge, I made the point and I think it`s straightforward, that Nixon, we kind of forget, did his sort of awkward halting efforts to suppress the probe. Trump, by contrast, has been all-in and much more crass and open about trying to tell the Director of the FBI to smother things and then trying to fire him after. That`s half the point.
But the other half that I tried to make is and this is another real contrast with Nixon is the way Trump has what you could call kind of high crimes. The wanton lying, the trashing of the FBI, the contempt for the judiciary, the sort of thousand points of arrogance and lawlessness, the way in which he`s advanced us toward an autocracy. All of that seems to be completely a matter of indifference to Congressional Republicans who I argue are thinking about short term political gain over duty to country.
O`DONNELLL: Benjamin Wittes how would you compare the two on Obstruction of Justice, Nixon and Trump, at this stage of the evidence?
BENJAMIN WITTES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well so of course the comparison is a little bit difficult because we have all the evidence about Nixon and we are mid investigation about Donald Trump. And so, I guess anything you would say now would be a little bit tentative. But look, I think there`s one major difference that may cut in President Trump`s favor, actually which is that with Nixon`s case, and actually, also with Bill Clinton`s, you know, some of the activity that he was accused of and, in fact, did, involves activity that has simply nothing to do with the being President of the United States, coaching witnesses, in Nixon`s case arranging -- helping arrange payments to witnesses.
You know, whereas with Trump there is this question as to whether all of the activity that is potentially obstructive is activity that is encompassed within his duties as President of the United States, which if that is the case, that would make a criminal case against him quite difficult, irrespective of whether you think as I do that the activity is really, really bad and should be grounds for impeachment or whether you think it`s more anadem than that.
O`DONNELL: Benjamin Wittes I want to go back to you on this development with Rachel Brand and her quitting her job. It seems to me the two words in the background of that story are the words Robert Bork. Meaning if you are a Republican in the Justice Department with high hopes of the future, possibilities of your career, those possibilities always include Senate confirmation, including the ultimate seat on the Supreme Court, which was denied to Robert Bork when he was nominated because of his involvement in an investigation like this. It seems there is no real way, when you look at the past, to come out of one of these investigations and go on to a higher position in the government confirmed by the senate.
WITTES: So, look, I -- I read the story that you guys ran. And, you know, look, the atmosphere in the Justice Department, in the government, is prettying to be I toxic. So if people were fleeing for the hills to avoid the oncoming apocalypse, I could hardly blame them.
That said, I talked to Rachel last week when this broke, and that was not the impression that I got. To be candid, my impression of what happened with Rachel you know she was there. Wal-Mart came along and offered -- made her a really tremendous offer. And frankly, the -- you know, I -- I think what`s going on in the government is not a pull to stay is the way I would read it. But I -- I was a little bit skeptical at this idea that she`s sort of fleeing for not wanting to take over for Rod when he gets fired.
O`DONNELL: Harry, Litman, your reaction to this?
LITMAN: Yeah, I mean I see it differently. I know Rachel as well. And I know that was the story. I think certainly she`s been up close with Rod over the last year. I was just struck by seeing a picture of him.
He`s like you know aging like a President, as the saying goes. There`s just been tremendous unwarranted pressure on him. But I also think the point you made in the story about the essentially un-staffed vacancies underneath, very hard to do her job. And then, finally, this public trashing of the Department of Justice with no push back from Sessions.
I take Ben`s point but these jobs come along with some frequency. nine months is short. And if she hadn`t been miserable there, there wouldn`t have been the sort of siren song of Wal-Mart.
O`DONNELL: Harry Litman and Ben Wittes, thank you both joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
LITMAN: Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And in our next segment, President Trump makes history. He is the first President of the United States to call infrastructure sexy
O`DONNELL: One of candidate Donald Trump`s most repeated campaign promises was that he would stop the crumbling of America`s infrastructure which a much needed massive Federal investment,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We will build the greatest infrastructure on the planet earth, the roads and railways and airports of tomorrow. We can have plenty of money left over for infrastructure, you know the infrastructure of our country -- it`s also great jobs but the roads, the airports, the hospitals, the tunnels, the bridges. Wouldn`t it be great if we could rebuild our infrastructure, under budget and ahead of schedule? We can do it. We can do it but I know how to build.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today President Trump released what he is calling an infrastructure plan that does not actually guarantee the building or repairing of any infrastructure at all anywhere in the country. At best the plan suggests that the Federal Government would be willing to pay as much as 20 percent of the cost of an infrastructure project where cities and states would have to be willing to cover the other 80 percent or more of that project. Of course, the reason the Federal Government is in the infrastructure business is because the states cannot afford to cover that much of their infrastructure costs and much of our infrastructure is, by its nature, interstate, like for example the Interstate Highway System.
The Federal Government has always covered a much higher share of Federal Infrastructure costs than 20 percent, usually around 80 percent. Offering 20 percent is like someone making you the offer of paying 20 percent of a $500,000 Rolls Royce for you. But you still cannot afford the other $400,000 for that car. And so there`s not going to be a new Rolls Royce in your driveway anytime soon.
The most likely outcome for the Trump infrastructure plan is nothing. Meaning that no infrastructure bill is likely to pass this Congress. If the trump Infrastructure Bill did pass the Congress, the outcome is still likely to be nothing or next to nothing. There actually might be no cities and states that take up the Federal Government`s offer to cover 20 percent of a new infrastructure project that the states and cities are not already planning to pay for on their own.
When we come back from this break, you will hear Donald Trump telling you what he finds sexy about infrastructure. And it`s worth waiting for. He is the first President ever to call infrastructure sexy. He did that today
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: To me this is a very, very sexy subject. The media doesn`t find it sexy. I find it sexy, because I was always a builder. I always knew how to build on time, on budget. That`s what we want here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Let`s see if Ezra Klein finds it sexy. Joining us Ezra Klein, the Editor at Large at Vox and host of the podcast the Ezra Klein show. Ezra, In that meeting today with mayors and governors in the Whitehouse about infrastructure, the President promised during the campaign he`s going to be the greatest builder ever in the Whitehouse. He actually said to them, after he made them this offer to pay a small amount of some of these projects he actually said to them, if you don`t want it, that`s OK with me, too. That`s how hard he was actually pushing it today. If you don`t want it, that`s OK.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know what I find sexy, not that I expected to find this my conversation.
O`DONNELL: This might not be the moment Ezra. It might not.
KLEIN: A fully funded infrastructure bill might work.
O`DONNELL: Yes, me too. Me too.
O`DONNELL: So what I think is interesting about this bill the white house says it`s a $1.5 trillion bill. And to my deep frustration the media keeps repeating. This is a $200 billion bill. It has 200 billion of actual funding in it. But they say they will pay for, but now how they will pay for.
Of that 100 billion takes the Normal state Federal match where the FEDS give $4 for $1 state put towards highway contruction. And reverses so it`s a $1 federal match to $4 the states kick in. The rest of it is a hodgepodge of like rural slush fund and tax breaks to private infrastructure projects are already going to happen anyway.
And so they`re saying it`s going to elicit all of this money coming from other people because they`re going to want to spend it so badly that it goes up to 1.5 trillion. That isn`t how this works. I didn`t understand why they didn`t go big on an infrastructure bill. It would have been good politics. And clearly it`s what Donald Trump actually believes. But they didn`t and this thing is not what they promised in the campaign and it wouldn`t do what they`re saying and hoping it would do.
O`DONNELL: Well I mean one political reason is that the people who actually write this stuff, the Congressional Republicans, are opposed to this kind of spending. They`ve been opposed to it for some time. And so trying to get them to take money and apply it this way was an unlikely prospect from the start.
And so they`ve come up with this thing that Chuck Schumer is calling a mirage. I mean it is possible that none of those mayors and governors sitting there with the President today will take any of this 20 percent funded money.
KLEIN: Sure. You know this. This is part of the lowering of the bar for Donald Trump. I mean you`re historian of this stuff.
And presidents do, they lead their parties in places they necessarily intend to go. Donald Trump -- I`m sorry. George w. Bush on Medicare part D and no child left behind. I mean you can go through example by example of Presidents pushing their party to embrace parts of agenda that the party wasn`t there on before or going to work with another party. Donald Trump could more than get some Republicans and a lot of Democrats together on an infrastructure bill.
The fact that he`s decided to make no usual deals, no creative deals that`s isn`t baked in to this. That`s him not having the interest or intention to dig in on the details of governance, plush his vision to an actual agenda and then plush those who recalcitrant in his party behind that agenda. There`s a very deep lack of leadership. He only does what`s easy to do with Republicans, not what was meant to be a disruptive force about his campaigns and his presidency. And it`s one of the real disappointments of his administration.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, if they could get some of the media to believe this is a $1.5 trillion bill, surely Donald Trump is one of the people they could convince this is a $1.5 trillion bill.
KLEIN: That`s probably right. I`m sure that`s correct actually. That`s been a big problem. You never know when Donald Trump is spitting out these lines if he`s trying to fool you, if he`s fooled or he has fooled himself. It makes it very, very difficult. I would often think, covering the Trump Administration I would much prefer that the President is lying more than that he actually doesn`t know what`s going on. But I am never sure that is the case.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, please come back on another night because we do have crumbling infrastructure in this country. This is an urgent subject and we didn`t get to some of the whacky ideas like selling your favorite airport or your most frequently used airports. The President would like to sell those to private interests.
O`DONNELL: We need to cover all of this. We`re going to do it on another night. Ezra Klein, thank you for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s good news. The weapons company that made the AR-15 assault rifle used in the Sandy Hook Massacre of those children is filing for bankruptcy. The company that controls Remington is trying to get out of $700 million in debt, get some relief from debt. Gun sales have slowed significantly. Possibly because of reduced fears of -- by gun owners that President Obama will take all of their guns away. Remington sales fell by 27 percent in 2017.
After their gun was used to kill 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut the company struggled to attract investors to their war machines and killing machines. That is tonight`s Last Word. Still ahead, are the Democrats going to try to get their memo response to the Devin Nunes memo released. Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley, who is on the House Intelligence Committee will join Brian Williams and that is in the 11th Hour with Brian Williams which starts now.