Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: February 28, 2018
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And that`s why there`s another hour of TV.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": That`s right. Several more.
O`DONNELL: And the reason that photograph was taken is one of the things we`re going to be examining in this hour. Photographs like that are not innocent coincidences in Washington.
MADDOW: No. And I`ve never seen Noel Francisco and Rod Rosenstein in the same place before. So, for them to be out there with Jeff Sessions, like corner table, take our picture, can somebody turn the lights up so you get my good side -- I just doubt it`s a coincidence.
O`DONNELL: And right in the middle of one of the moments where Donald Trump is once again attacking his own attorney general.
MADDOW: Yes, a little show of force here on the part of the Justice Department. We`re all surmising, although who knows? Maybe they do this every Wednesday.
O`DONNELL: That is what it looks like.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, the white liar is out. Hope Hicks, who told the House Intelligence Committee that she has told white lies for the president of the United States, is leaving her job at the White House. It`s not clear when her last day in the White House will be.
She joined the White House staff as a press aide and has spent the last 196 days as the White House communications director after Sean Spicer failed spectacularly in that job as the first communications director. Hope Hicks has now made Sean Spicer look like a master by comparison. She takes her place in history now as both the youngest and the worst White House communications director in history.
She`s 29 years old, and demonstrated the colossally bad judgment and utter lack of professionalism in becoming romantically involved with White House aide Rob Porter who was accused by two ex-wives of domestic violence. Hope Hicks co-authored statements for the White House, including a statement by John Kelly, praising Rob Porter, her boyfriend, after those accusations of domestic violence became public. She fought to save her boyfriend`s job inside the White House.
And because the Trump White House is filled with bad judgment, John Kelly joined her in that fight to save Rob Porter`s job. It is a fight that they lost. And Hope Hicks whose job it is to make the White House look good, made the Trump White House look completely out of control and completely unsympathetic to the two abused ex-wives of Rob Porter.
And, of course, that was an accurate description of the White House. They did not care about the ex-wives of Rob Porter. Hope Hicks, John Kelly, Donald Trump, did not care about them, and Hope Hicks helped them to accurately communicate all of that to the country, through here incompetence.
No White House communications director has ever had a worse episode in the job than that. That came after Hope Hicks` demonstration of colossally bad judgment and utter lack of professionalism during the Trump campaign, when she got caught being publicly engaged in a romantic affair with a married man who had the title of campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. She actually got caught by reporters on the streets of Manhattan having a lover`s quarrel with the married man she was having an affair with.
Donald Trump had the good sense to fire Corey Lewandowski during the campaign, but he never had the good sense to fire Hope Hicks. Part of why Hope Hicks survived as long as he did as the most incompetent White House communications director in history is that to a great extent, the press corps interacting with the Trump White House fell for her and fell for her in a way that they have not fallen for members of the White House press team.
Here`s a moment from the first week of the Trump administration. You will not see this kind of moment with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In my years of working in government and Washington, I never saw members of the press corps socially kissing members of the White House press team or any other press secretaries around town. Hope Hicks cast a spell on reporters and she controlled their potential access to the president and other players in the White House and she controlled access to herself.
Just yesterday, Josh Raffel, the deputy communications director, announced that he planned to resign. In his book "Fire and Fury", Michael Wolff reports that Josh Raffel and Hope Hicks were working together on Air Force One with President Trump when they drafted Donald Trump Jr.`s response to the "New York Times" initial reporting that he had a meeting at Trump Tower with a group of Russians. The special prosecutor has been investigating how that response to the "New York Times" was drafted, exactly what the president`s input was, exactly what Hope Hicks`s input was.
"The New York Times" is reporting tonight her resignation came a day after she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee telling the panel that in her job, she had occasionally been required to tell white lies, but had never lied about anything connected to the investigation into Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. NBC News` Kristen Welker confirmed in a phone interview with Republican Congressman Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, that Hope Hicks said that she told white lies during her testimony to the committee.
According to Congressman King, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell asked her if she was ever told to lie. Congressman King says that Hope Hicks asked to speak with her lawyers. Hope Hicks went out to speak with her lawyers and came back in and said, roughly, I have told white lies and gave the example of saying that the president is out of the office when he`s really not or that the president is delayed in traffic or that he can`t make a meeting when he doesn`t want to go to that meeting.
White House officials speaking on background offered the usual spin in situations like this saying that Hope Hicks`s decision to leave the administration had been in the works for several weeks and had absolutely nothing to do with the Russia investigation or her appearance in front of the committee yesterday. There is, of course, no way of knowing right now if that`s true.
One problem that Hope Hicks might have with the special prosecutor involves Mark Corallo who resigned last year as the spokesperson for the Trump legal team, "The New York Times" has reported Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call, that e-mails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians will never get out. That left concerns that Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.
Joining us now, Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary for President Obama, and an MSNBC political analyst. Also with us, 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 Eugene Robertson with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.
And, Josh, I want to go to you on managing stories like this. I have known of situations in government where someone was actually planning to leave, and then some kind of cloudy situation developed involving a hint of scandal of some sort and those people decided to stay a decent interval extending their stay a matter of months if necessary in order to make it clear that their leaving had nothing to do with that controversy that had suddenly erupted.
When you see this departure today after her testimony yesterday and -- with the special prosecutor investigating -- is it easy for you to believe that this is something that had been long planned and there`s nothing sudden about it?
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I think it`s probably -- it`s at least possible, maybe even likely that both things are true, that she had been contemplating and thinking about for several months the prospect of leaving the White House. But that after her experience before the committee yesterday, and the way her testimony was reported publicly, that that was essentially the straw that broke the camel`s back, that she wrote, that she reached her breaking point.
And, you know, one of the things about Hope that I think is interesting is of all of the characters in -- on planet Trump, in many ways I think she`s probably -- with the exception of Melania and Baron, probably the most sympathetic. She is somebody -- I actually give her a little bit of credit. She`s the only one that I remember, I can recall, admitting that she lies to cover up the president`s faults, even though we know they all do it.
She is somebody who has not displayed the unseemly habit of promoting herself publicly that so many other people -- so many other figures in the Trump administration, the Trump White House seem to do.
My own personal experience with her dates back to President-elect Trump`s visit to the White House two days after the election in November of 2016. She was one of the few staffers to travel with Mr. Trump to the White House at that time. She met with our staff in the White House to begin planning the transition process and she engaged in that process seriously.
So, she is somebody who I think did understand -- she`s one of the few in the Trump administration who I do think understands how important and how special of an opportunity it is to serve in the White House, but I do think it`s fair to describe her as somebody who is loyal to a fault.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, she was testifying under oath when she said she told lies for the president. So, she was faced with a choice of committing a crime in that answer or telling her version of that truth.
I want to get your lawyerly view of what you`re seeing here. If you`re representing Hope Hicks, if you`re her lawyer, is this the point or would - - might it even be sooner where you`re advising her to quit that job? That it is actually legally dangerous for her to remain in that job?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there`s a lot we don`t know. I think his advice to her to answer to that question by admitting to white lives was a really shrewd answer, because it was truthful, and she took the break to consult with him, and no doubt he gave her the advice. So, that was very good advice, I think.
But it`s hard to know -- she has already met with Robert Mueller, was she forthcoming to him in answering his questions? Or as we heard from Mark Corallo, was she someone who was trying to conceal the truth, at least at one stage by talking about concealing e-mails? Or has she come clean with Robert Mueller?
So I think a lot depends on how forthcoming she has been there. It does strike me, though, that she resigns the very day after. Josh Raffel resigns, it does seem to be almost too much of a perfect coincidence they`re leaving on the very day after her testimony. But without knowing the facts, it`s very difficult to know what`s going on, whether she`s been truthful and forthcoming to Robert Mueller or whether she has conduct of her own that she`s trying to conceal.
O`DONNELL: Barbara, but just as a defense lawyer, if your client is working in a place where other suspects in an investigation are working, isn`t an ideal outcome being that the client gets out of there, assuming the client can quit the job?
MCQUADE: Sure. I think that surrounding yourself with others who might have a motive to get their stories straight, to obstruct justice, to continue to conspire against the special counsel is a dangerous predicament to be in. So, if that is happening, then getting her out of that situation where she could just potentially expose herself to additional critical misconduct is probably a wise strategy.
O`DONNELL: All right. Eugene Robinson, make sense of it all for us. What does it mean in the Trump White House?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Lawrence, I do believe in coincidences, but not -- but not when informed free will is involved, right? She knew if she announced her resignation the day after this testimony in which she had acknowledged telling lies for Donald Trump, that people would put two and two together and, by the way, they would also think of the whole Rob Porter scandal.
So -- and there hasn`t been a decent interval from that either. So, I can`t think this is totally coincidence. She could have chosen to stick around for a while longer if she wanted. In fact, she`s not planning to leave for several weeks yet she announced it today for whatever reason.
I think this could have a significant impact on the administration, simply because she was -- I`m going to use a sort of sexist term from an earlier era -- but she was Donald Trump`s gal Friday, essentially. She was his assistant, she believed in him, she understood and tolerated his moods and had license to speak to him at times in a way that others don`t.
And so, that`s a kind of key piece of this administration. To the extent that it functions, one has to worry that, you know, she was a cog that allowed it to function even this well. We`ll see. You know, it might turn out not to be a huge deal. But I think that would be a concern.
O`DONNELL: Josh Earnest, Gene`s point, she is a Trump translator, and there used to be more of those around, people who seems to get him and understand what he actually wanted, but now, there are few of them left. It seems the only Trump translators left are related to him.
EARNEST: It does seem that way. And, you know, traditionally, Lawrence, and this is certainly true in the Obama administration, that the presidents often like to bring some of their loyalist from the campaign with them into government, to sort of ensure that they are gatekeepers and that they impose some discipline, to make sure that the administration continues to fulfill the vision the candidate laid out in the course of the campaign.
And I think that candidate Trump didn`t actually spend a whole lot of time laying out a clear vision as what he wanted to do as president of the United States, but nonetheless, there don`t seem to be those people around Donald Trump anymore, other than those who are related to him either by blood or by marriage. And I do think that is something that President Trump will find frustrating moving forward.
I think the other thing that is also got to be frustrating to him is it was pretty unique situation to have your communications director sitting in an office right outside the Oval Office. I think that`s an indication of the kind of relationship that he had with them. President Obama had personal staffers who sat in the offices. These were typically travel aides and other people who are responsible for managing his logistics. He was very close with them personally. And, you know, I think hope had the same kind of relationship with him and for him -- for President Trump lose both Keith Schiller, his long time bodyguard and friend, and Hope Hicks in the first year or so of his presidency means that he`s got at least another -- a pretty long and isolating three to seven years ahead of him.
O`DONNELL: Gene, quickly before we go, this is the kind of thing you might expect a Trump twitter explosion over? Is this something to watch over tomorrow morning?
ROBINSON: Well, of course. I mean, there`s been a lot of news today, Lawrence. So you can sort of pick your story I think. But, yes, we`ll probably get some tweets. He might have something to say about that little dinner party that we saw earlier in the intro and the show of force by the Justice Department. So, I`ll be up early and checking the feed.
O`DONNELL: All right. We all will.
Josh Earnest, Barbara McQuade, Gene Robinson, thanks. Thanks for joining us.
EARNEST: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, we have more breaking news tonight. The special prosecutor is asking exactly what Donald Trump knew about emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
And "The New York Times" has breaking news tonight about Jared Kushner obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from executives he met with in the White House. "The New York Times" reporter who broke that story will join us.
And later, another televised meeting with senators and congressmen at the White House today, this time about guns. We`ll explain what the Democrats were trying to accomplish with that meeting with the president today.
O`DONNELL: We have important new developments in the special prosecutor`s investigation tonight. A new NBC News exclusive report gives details about the kinds of questions that Robert Mueller`s team is asking some of the witnesses.
According to multiple people familiar with the investigation, Mueller`s team wants to know what Donald Trump knew when he said this.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this, Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
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O`DONNELL: Why did candidate-Trump say that? People familiar with the matter tell NBC News, witnesses have been asked whether Trump himself knew then that Clinton`s campaign chairman, John Podesta, whose emails were released several months later, had already been targeted. Witnesses were also asked if Trump was advised to make the statement about Clinton`s e- mails from someone outside his campaign, and if the witnesses had reason to believe that Trump tried to coordinate the release of the Democratic National Committee e-mails to do the most damage to Clinton.
According to multiple people familiar with the investigation, the special counsel is looking into possible coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates in disseminating the e-mails. The counsel wants to know the role Republican operative and long time Donald Trump associate Roger Stone played and Stone`s relationship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Quote: They wanted to see if there was a scheme. Was Stone working on the side for Trump? after e officially left the campaign, one person interviewed by the special counsel`s office said. Adding that it seemed investigators wanted to know was this a big plot?
For his plot, Donald Trump mentioned WikiLeaks 145 times in the last month of the campaign.
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TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
This WikiLeaks stuff is it unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You`ve got to read it.
It`s been amazing what`s coming out on WikiLeaks.
Another one came in today, this WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.
Getting off the plane they were announcing new WikiLeaks and I wanted to stay there, but I didn`t want to keep you waiting.
Well, I love reading those WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Also tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Mueller`s team is investigating Donald Trump`s efforts to oust his Attorney General Jeff Sessions last summer and whether those efforts were part of a months- long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice.
Joining the discussion now, Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder, and Betsy Woodruff, a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast". Both are MSNBC contributors.
And, Matt, I just want to go to the last item first about the possible obstruction of justice with the president trying to fire Jeff Sessions and we saw the president attacking Jeff Sessions today in a tweet once again, seeming to resume that.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, if you look at the tweet today and you look at the story about Mueller looking at his interactions with Sessions dating back to the last year, I think it all -- you have to think about it in this pattern of activity of the president`s inappropriate interactions with the Justice Department. His inappropriate interactions with Jim Comey, his inappropriate interactions with Andrew McCabe, with Jeff Sessions, with Rod Rosenstein, and I think Robert Mueller is most likely looking at all of those and trying to figure out what was the president`s motive.
We know sometimes he was trying to shut down the investigation, that was clear in his conversations with Jim Comey. That seems to be why he fired Jim Comey, at least if you believe his own words. And so, I think Muller will try to connect that earlier behavior, with what he was doing over last summer when he was trying to push Jeff Sessions out the door, as well as don`t forget, a few weeks ago, it was reported that he`s also investigating the question of whether the president tried to fire Mueller himself as another way to obstruct the investigation.
You put all of this together and it starts to look like a pattern of the president repeatedly interfering with the Department of Justice.
O`DONNELL: Betsy Woodruff, some of the things the president said publicly during the campaign, if they were obtained on wiretaps would sound pretty incriminating about WikiLeaks, about Russia, about hoping Russia could get Hillary Clinton`s emails?
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Without a doubt. The president`s fixation on WikiLeaks was extremely telling in that last month of the campaign which I covered. It came at the time where it coincided with the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape that showed himself making appalling statements about the way that he considered appropriate to treat women.
The WikiLeaks story was very useful to the Trump campaign because it let him try to equate some sort of moral equivalency, even though there weren`t any major bombshells in those emails, which I followed, while I was covering the campaign. That said, one piece of this that`s really important when we look at the connections and conversations between Trump world and Julian Assange world is the fact that Alexander Nicks (ph), who was the head of a data analytics firm that worked on the Trump campaign actually reached out to Assange during the campaign and offered that firm`s services if Assange wanted to disburse and organized stolen e-mails that WikiLeaks gotten from Hillary Clinton.
So, this wasn`t just something that Trump was saying publicly to try to rile up his base. Behind the scenes, close Trump allies were thinking seriously actively about how they could sort of accelerate efforts that Assange appeared to be engaged in, which they thought were unquestionably to their campaign.
O`DONNELL: Betsy, I want to go back and double underline the timing of the release of WikiLeaks which occurred on the same day that the "Access Hollywood" video emerged showing Donald Trump bragging about his favorite methods of sexual assault.
Talk about that timing. You were on the campaign when that happened.
WOODRUFF: It was -- I remember -- I remember that day. It was wild and it was impossible to view the timing of the release of those e-mails as anything even remotely coincidental. The "Access Hollywood" tape was probably -- or at least could have been the most damaging video clip ever for a presidential candidate, but instead of it turning the tide in the campaign, WikiLeaks started this not so much drip, drip, drip as gush, gush, gush of e-mails that were stolen from Clinton allies. And those e- mails, you know, first started being released the day that astounding tape came out and kept being released every day to election day since then.
The funny thing about that, of course, is that those e-mails were released on election day and I believe kept being released afterwards. So, it felt something as a chaos project essentially. Not just sort of an elaborately, sophisticatedly orchestrated way to actually seriously tip the scales.
Remember at this point in time, all the polls showed that Hillary Clinton was winning by a significant amount. Everyone assumed Clinton was going to win at that point, basically everyone. But then within hours, within a short period of time after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, WikiLeaks just sort of materialized and clearly, Trump recognized immediately what they were doing was incredibly politically useful to his campaign.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, a picture is worth a thousand words. I`m going to show you the picture and see if you can tell us what the words are that this picture is trying to say. This is the picture of Rod Rosenstein tonight, Jeff Sessions, and the solicitor general, Noel Francisco having dinner in a spot in Washington where they knew they would be photographed like this, and that by this time on cable news, we would be talking about that photograph and what it means.
What`s your interpretation?
MILLER: Yes, that`s a restaurant, I know it well. It`s a block from the Justice Department. People often refer to it as a DOJ cafeteria. It`s a place where if you show up, it`s filled with lawyers, IT`S filed with former DOJ officials and it is a place where you go to be seen.
I think it`s obvious they were trying to send a message of solidarity there. Trump has taken shots both at Sessions and at Rosenstein, he probably doesn`t know who the solicitor general is, but may someday if Rod Rosenstein ever leaves his position and Francisco assumes control of the probe.
The thing that I found myself thinking when I saw it is, boy, that picture is going to really make Trump angry. He`s going to know exactly the purpose of that picture after Sessions put out that statement, kind of pushing back and standing up to the president a little bit today. It wouldn`t surprise me if we see a tweet about it tomorrow morning.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, Betsy Woodruff, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
So, if you`re wondering why Jared Kushner has failed to get a security clearance, how about this? Jared Kushner had White House meetings with executives and then got more than $100 million in loans from those executives. That`s a breaking news report tonight in the "New York Times." The reporter who broke that story which is no doubt of huge interest to the special prosecutor will join us next.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The New York Times is reporting tonight that after executives visited Jared Kushner at the Whitehouse they helped arrange hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Jared Kushner`s company. "Early last year private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the Whitehouse. Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management was advising Trump Administration officials on infrastructure policies. During that period he met on many occasions with Jared Kushner. Among other things the two men discussed a possible Whitehouse job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized. But in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner`s family real estate firm Kushner Companies. The loan which was used to refinance the mortgage on a skyscraper in Chicago was triple the size of the average real estate loan made by Apollo." According to the Times shortly after Kushner`s Companies received the loan from Apollo the private equity firm emerged as a beneficiary of the tax cut package that the Whitehouse championed.
The Jared Kushner`s family company got an even larger loan from Citi Group last sprig this time for $325 million. According to the Times that loan was made shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the Whitehouse with Citi Group`s Chief Executive Michael L. Corbat. New York Times reporter Kate Kelly who help break this story will join us next.
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DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, Jared`s done an outstanding job. I think he`s been treated very unfairly. He`s a high quality person. He works for nothing just so you know nobody ever reports that but he gets zero. He doesn`t get a salary
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`ll now put that working for nothing in perspective. Joining us now is Kate Kelly, Wall Street Reporter for the New York Times. The headline of her story tonight is Kushner`s business got loans from companies after Whitehouse meetings. And Kate I can`t tell you how stunning that headline is. I mean that is just precisely what no one in government is supposed to do. How easy was it to track this down?
KATE KELLY, MSNBC CONTRINBUTOR: Not easy. And I have to give a great deal of credit to my colleagues, especially Jesse Drucker, who was the driving force behind this and brought Ben and I along. It was not easy to figure out and then just piecing together what the meetings were, what the nature of them was, finding about the job discussion was kind of a surprise and something unexpected along the way.
So it definitely took some leg work. And, of course, you want to be bullet proof on a story like this. So you want to have multiple sources. We got to that point but it took some leg work
O`DONNELL: And -- and so here is example -- this is exactly what Donald Trump promised that when he goes into the presidency he will have nothing to do with his businesses. Jared Kushner made the same promise. Clearly Jared Kushner is violating that promise
KELLY: Well right so it`s the family real estate company, Kushner Companies and he still owns a portion of the entity that`s involved in this Apollo loan. He is -- has not divested himself of that as you know and nor has the President divested himself of certain interests. You know he obviously is trying to distance himself from this situation. But there`s no question that the Kushner Companies is benefiting from these loans and they`ve been in need of them.
O`DONNELL: If the Special Prosecutor was not already investigating this part of Jared Kushner`s life, they are tonight. They will stay at the office late tonight reading your article, and they will begin investigating this tomorrow if they haven`t already. Did you pick up any indications that the Special Prosecutor is already investigating Jared Kushner getting loans for his companies while working in the white house?
KELLY: I have not heard that. Obviously at the Times we`ve done some reporting on the eastern district of New York and inquiries they made into records at Deutsche Bank involving some transactions. So there`s some reporting out there about as to whether the Special Counsel is involved. I don`t know.
I have heard that it would be unusual or surprising for a division like EDNY to share information with the Special Counsel that might happen on a regular basis in cases like this. In answer to your question, no, I have not heard that. It`s interesting though how you see a mix of interest and business backgrounds here.
There were very understandable meetings at the Whitehouse on infrastructure policy much of last year until the Charlottesville situation where a lot of these panels disbanded. And you know reasonable to bring in private industry and have discussions about how to rebuild the infrastructure and how to the have a public/private because after all the budget set aside for this is not large. And that said it seems there were relationships that grew out of those discussions that led to the situations we`re reporting on.
O`DONNELL: Yes and in a typical Whitehouse, the people having those meetings are not in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of loans.
KELLY: Right, right. No, precisely, precisely. So then it becomes very interesting the multiple layers here, right? The brainstorming on infrastructure which makes sense, but at the same -- during the same year where you have tax cuts that could benefit that person or those people in that industry, infrastructure programs that they could take part in, a possible job that somebody who`s interested in government might be able to get as some sort of outgrowth of that relationship. So there are many layers and many sort two-way potential benefits involved.
O`DONNELL: Special Prosecutor staff reading Kate Kelly`s reporting right now tonight in their office or home. Thank you very much you guys, really appreciate it.
KELLY: Thank you. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the students are moving the mountain. Walmart announced the company will no longer sell guns or ammunition to anyone under 21. Walmart says it is removing anything resembling an assault rifle from the company website including toys. Walmart actually stopped selling riffles like the AR-15 in 2015.
And there was a meeting at the Whitehouse that President Trump never expected to have because they were talking about gun legislation. The Democrats who attended that meeting had to make a choice publicly attack Donald Trump on the gun issue or deal with him as the man whose signature they need in order to pass legislation. We`ll show you what happened next.
O`DONNELL: And the rewrite tonight is President Trump rewriting his position on guns.
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TRUMP: Believe me, you put me in there, we`re going to save that second amendment, we`re going to save your guns. They`re not going to take away your bullets. They`re not going to shorten up your magazines. They`re not going to do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: They`re not going to do anything. The presidential candidate who said he would do absolutely nothing about gun laws had a meeting at the Whitehouse today about changing gun laws. It was a televised Trump meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressman invited to the Whitehouse. And because it was a Trump meeting it was filled with ridiculous Trump moments like when he said he wanted to seize guns from some people before there was any proof those people should have one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Number one you can take the guns away immediately from people who you can judge easily are mentally ill like this guy. You know the police that he was a problem. They didn`t take any guns away. Now that could have been policing. I think they should have taken them away anyway, whether they had the right or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Take away the guns. Everyone in the room, Republicans and Democrats knows the President is an ignoramus. They know he does not comprehend a single sentence of the constitution. But none of them tried to correct the President on that point, including the Democrats. The democrats acknowledged leaders on Gun Legislation Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
The Democrats clearly made a calculation before the meeting started to approach the meeting professionally in the hope of actually getting something done. Any one of the Democrats could have become a big media star tonight by repeatedly explaining to the President how wrong he is, how ignorant he is and how much of a problem he and his party have been for gun legislation.
So every Democrat in the room resisted the urge to attack the President for his own position on gun policy after all previous mass murders because it was a meeting in which there was cause for some hope of strengthening background checks, which everyone in the meeting, including the President, seemed to be in favor of. And maybe there`s hope for something more than that.
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TRUMP: I just like to ask Joe and Pat in your bill what are you doing about the 18 to 21?
PAT TOOMEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: We didn`t address that
TRUMP: Okay, are you going to leave that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: To everyone`s surprise it was the President who brought up banning the sale of assault weapons to buyers under the age of 21. He said it didn`t make sense to selling assault weapons to people under the age of 21. He did not say he was actually opposed to it and was going to support legislation outlawing it.
He mentioned that the NRA is opposed to that kind of legislation. But he said "it`s something you have to think about." Now most Trump watchers are probably betting the NRA will keep Donald Trump in line and not allow him or the Republicans do much more than a minor strengthening of background checks system if that. But the Democrats in that room today had a responsibility to spend their time in that room working as legislatures and not critics because if they can help push through legislation no matter how minor it is, it will be something where previously there has been absolutely nothing.
And when they finish with that, those Democrats can go back to attacking the President for not doing more and go back to trying to do more. But today was the day for Democrats to the try to soften the ground for compromise and to teach the President things he does not know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, UNITED STATES SENATE: The assault weapons legislation, this is the number of incidents before and -- of incidents and of deaths.
FEINSTEIN: This is when the 10-year assault weapon ban was in, how incidents and deaths dropped, when it ended, you see it going up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The President did declare his support today for a couple of bipartisan Senate bills that strengthen the background check system. And that is a huge step for someone who campaigned on the idea of doing absolutely nothing. Of course, we will believe it only when we see him sign the legislation.
But in the meantime, Senate Democrats have to behave as if that is possible. That didn`t mean giving up on what they really want to achieve and so senator Dianne Feinstein asked the President to consider her new bill, banning assault weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: Senator Murphy and 26 of us have cosponsored a new bill. I would be most honored if you would take a look at it.
TRUMP: I will, I will
FEINSTEIN: And we will get it to you, and let us know what you think of it.
TRUMP: I will.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Feinstein knows that the President isn`t going to support that bill. She was just letting him know that if they do legislate something on background checks, if they do legislate something to prohibit the sale of bump stocks for converting assault rifles into the equivalent of automatic weapons that she will be back. That this is the cause of her life as a Senator and a politician since the day she had to announce in San Francisco as a city council member that mayor George Moscone and City Councilor member Harvey Milk had been assassinated because Donald Trump cannot keep track of what was he is saying or keep track of what he is in favor of or what he is opposed to. There was this moment where he actually appeared to endorse Senator Feinstein`s Bill and suggested combining it with the background checks bills that he is in favor of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Diane, if you could add what you have also, and I think you can, into the bill --
FEINSTEIN: Joe, are you ready?
TRUMP: Can you do that? Joe, can you do that? Pat, can you add some of the things -- you`re not going to agree with -
FEINSTEIN: If you help.
TRUMP: No i`ll help. But can you add what Amy and what Dianne have? Can we add them in? I know you can add what john has --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Feinstein`s asking for the President`s help because she knows that all successful legislation needs the President`s help. Dianne Feinstein has been through this before. In a similar televised-style meeting in the Whitehouse, she got the President to agree to a standalone DACA Bill before Republicans and John Kelly pulled Donald Trump away from that Democratic position. Senator Feinstein is not naive. She knows what is likely to happen. But she also knows it is a senator`s job to never give up, to never give up hope that there can be some progress, even minor progress. Even in the age of Trump.
The job of Senator done well is never easy. But in the age of Trump, the job of being a Democratic Senator has never been more difficult. Never. The easiest thing for Democratic Senators to do in the room with the President today would be to attack him, to show how much smarter they are than he is. But the Democrats didn`t do that, they chose professionalism over grandstanding. in the very slim hope that they might actually get Donald Trump to sign something, the slim hope that Donald Trump might force the Republicans in the House and the Senate to take a baby step in the right direction.
And so Democratic Congressman Ted Deutsch, who represents Parkland, Florida, where our most recent mass murder took place, gave the President a wrist band that memorializes the 17 dead. And he asked the President for his help getting a bill passed. Congressman Deutsch surely has as much doubt about Donald Trump`s ability to empathize as the rest of us do. But today was the day for Ted Deutsch to try to think of ways to pull Donald Trump In his direction, to get the president`s signature on legislation.
For people who hate Donald Trump and wanted to see him attacked by those democrats today, it was probably a difficult meeting to watch. But if you know what professionalism looks like in the Senate and in the House, you know that what you saw today was Democrats whose oath of office obliges them to never give up hope. And so Representatives Ted Deutsch, Elizabeth Esty, Stephanie Murphy, Senators Joe Manchin, Amy Klobuchar Chris Murphy and Dianne Feinstein, went into that being meeting with the political momentum created by the high school kids in Parkland, Florida, to try to get something done for them, to try to get something done for the country.
The kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School haven`t given up hope. And those House members and those Senators haven`t given up hope either.
O`DONNELL: time for tonight`s Last word. Today Dick`s Sporting Good Stores announced the company will stop selling assault-style firearms and high- capacity magazines and will not sell any guns to those under age 21 at any of its stores. Also today, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are returning to class for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people. Students walked to school Wednesday morning with heavy police presence. Many of them were not sure what to expect when they got back. Just hoped to see their friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel better that we`re all going back to school, because like there`s no right time to go back to school, but like if wear all with our friends, community, it feels better to be back in the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s definitely going to take a little while, but if we`re all here for each other, it will be much easier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The students get tonight`s Last Word. There`s a lot of breaking news tonight about the president, especially prosecutor`s investigation, Jared Kushner`s businesses, and the loans that he obtained And of course the departure of Hope Hicks. All of that is now going to be covered in the 11th hour with Brian Williams which starts now.