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Internal White House Chaos. TRANSCRIPT: 03/01/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ron Klain, Paul Fishman, David Frum

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 1, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, Paul Fishman, David Frum

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, and the word congratulations doesn`t sound big enough. It`s just -- for this moment, this is just extraordinary. This is history-making. I couldn`t be more thrilled for you.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Thank you very much.

I actually -- you know, I`m a childless, middle-aged, pot-bellied lesbian and I don`t have much to be excited about in my life other than having a great job. This is kind of it, like there will never be a baby, but there`s this freaking crossword puzzle. And I am very, very excited about it.

O`DONNELL: I am -- I`m so glad to know that you have all the time in the world to do something like that, a little extracurricular.

MADDOW: It`s really all I want, it`s the only thing I wanted and I got it. I`m very happy.

O`DONNELL: Congratulations. We`ll be studying it. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well, from the start of the special prosecutor`s investigation, the most important question has been what did Trump know and when did he know it? And that is always the most important question in any investigation of a president. Since it was first asked in the investigation of President Richard Nixon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president know, and when did he know it?


O`DONNELL: But in the current special prosecutor investigation, that question is being asked about two presidents, President Trump and President Putin. What did Vladimir Putin know and when did he know it?

And tonight, we have reason to believe that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is closer than ever to the answer to that Putin question.

We have exclusive new reporting tonight that Robert Mueller and his team are preparing new charges against the Russians responsible for hacking and leaking the e-mails of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta. Sources were not specific about the timetable of these charges, when they might come. But they have told NBC News that they could come in the next few weeks or months and the indictments could include counts of conspiracy, violations of election law and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The NBC News report says it is unlikely that the United States would be able to extradite alleged Russian hackers or their paymasters but an indictment would send a signal both to Russian and to any Americans who may have participated, a government official said. It is unclear whether any Americans could be charged in this indictment or whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will be included in the indictments.

U.S. intelligence has evidence of Putin`s involvement but for Robert Mueller, the evidence has to amount to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And there is no clear precedent for the United States indicting the elected p of another country.

In 1988, General Manuel Noriega, the military dictator of Panama, was indicted in the United States for drug trafficking to the United States. He was then convicted in a trial in 1992 and served a federal prison sentence. New charges against Russians would be a second set of charges by the Mueller team against Russians. The first set came last month when Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 election through social media. Today`s report on potential charges against the Russian hackers follows yesterday`s NBC News report that Mueller`s team is honing in on what Donald Trump knew and when he knew it about the Democratic Party e-mails that Russia stole and whether Donald Trump was advised by someone outside of his campaign to urge the Russians to steal Hillary Clinton`s State Department e-mails.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to the find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC News, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama. He`s also a former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Also with us, Paul Fishman, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey.

And, Julia, I want to start with you. This is your reporting. You`re part of the team at NBC News who discovered this, this fascinating prosecutorial approach. What more do we know about it?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Lawrence, on the one hand, it seems obvious. We know that just two weeks ago, special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a scathing indictment of 13 Russian hackers because -- not just hackers but influencers. Those were people who were able to get into social media and influence the way the election was being talked about to sow some distrust in the electoral process.

So, it would seem obvious that he would now be focusing on the hackers. But what we have that`s really significant here is that a lot of information has recently been turned over to Robert Mueller from the intelligence community. This is information that includes the electronic signatures, malware, the methods that they used to launch phishing attacks on the Democratic Party and on John Podesta. Of course, those really embarrassing emails that did damage the Hillary Clinton`s campaign.

And so, what we`re looking at now is when Mueller may be able to go forward with these criminal charges and how he might use this as kind of an ace in his hand. People we spoke to said that it maybe that there are unnamed American co-conspirators that he is using these criminal charges for to kind of pressure them to come forward and cooperate. There`s a lot of information he knows now so the question is when he does unroll that and for what reason. So, that will be the next thing that we`re watching for.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, on this one, we have to wonder how high can it go and we have discussed before, we`ve been discussing for a while the question of, can you -- can the United States president be indicted? What about the Russian president? What about Vladimir Putin? Is there any precedent in the Noriega case here?

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I don`t think so, Lawrence. There`s never been a precedent for the United States indicting an elected leader of a foreign country, even a country we dislike as much as we dislike Russia. So, I`m not really sure that we`re going to see that. It would be a very provocative act. But I do think it`s important focus on the significance of this development.

These WikiLeaks, these e-mails were the centerpiece of Donald Trump`s fall campaign. There were 66 days in the fall campaign. He talked about them 146 times, more than he talked about infrastructure. These were core Trump campaign weapons built in Russia, deployed in the United States. They hurt the Clinton campaign. There were -- a lot of them were released the day the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, as an effort to distract from that.

So, I mean, if this Mueller investigation is a witch hunt, getting the people with the e-mails is capturing the broomstick. We are finally getting close to the real heart of the matter here.

O`DONNELL: Paul Fishman, I think I learned the phrase unindicted co- conspirator in the Watergate investigation. It was applied to President Nixon I believe on one of the indictments, that he appeared as an unindicted co-conspirator, which is one way of dealing with someone who you don`t feel you can indict for one reason or another. Is it possible that we could see Vladimir Putin`s name as an unindicted co-conspirator if these indictments come out?

PAUL FISHMAN: So, it`s certainly possible he could be an un-indicted co- conspirator if an indictment is brought. You know, but it`s no longer Justice Department policy to name unindicted coconspirator as a general rule. So, I don`t think you would necessarily see that. What I think is an interesting question here, Lawrence, is that there`s a certain category of cases that the Justice Department investigators which it`s clear for there to be any political involvement whatsoever -- a bank robbery, a political corruption case, that we see all the time across the country, an insider trading case.

But in cases in which the Justice Department is contemplating bringing charges involving national security, in cases in which there are going to be implications for our foreign relations with other countries, cases in which there would be implications for intelligence gathering message and sources and the intelligence community will have real interest in what comes out and how it`s presented. Ordinarily, the Justice Department might consult with the State Department, the CIA, other organizations in government and ultimately maybe the White House to determine whether a particular course of action should be pursued in a criminal case.

Here, of course, because of the context which we`re operating in which the president himself is the subject of an investigation, it creates a difficult situation to figure out a platform for having those kinds of conversations.

O`DONNELL: Julia, your reporting has some information about the complexities that Paul Fishman was just talking about. Tell us what you learned about how the special prosecutor is approaching what is really a complex decision whether to indict or not, no matter -- in this situation, no matter what the evidence is.

AINSLEY: That`s right, Lawrence. There are a lot of complexities. It`s not just whether or not to indict, but also whether or not to unseal that indictment. It could be he decides to go forward with the charges and place them under seal in a way we would never know about them.

It could be because a lot of the information that leads to these charges, especially if they involve someone like Vladimir Putin himself, they would have gathered through such sensitive methods that to disclose that information would actually damage a lot of the capabilities of U.S. national security and the U.S. intelligence community.

Another thing that when we`re talking about the president, in order to do this kind of indictment that would have national security implications, one important one to the look at is an indictment against Chinese hackers that the Justice Department filed in 2014, these were Chinese hackers that they knew they`d never be able to bring to the United States to put through our courts. But they did it in a way to be able to say, look, we see these countries, we know the governments may be behind this and we want to make a stand here and show all the information that we`re able to bring.

It`s really more of a statement. And they found in 2014, that it was important to do that even aside from all of the diplomatic repercussions and that is exactly what they may do in this case, that there are diplomatic repercussions for an indictment like this but they would do it in order to show Russia that they can see everything they`re doing and it`s not going unnoticed and they think that might protect them going forward in future elections.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, one of the considerations you can imagine in some other administration is that other administration would have taken some sort of action against Russia for doing this and, therefore, not welcome the indictments because they have another way of dealing with this. We have pretty clear public information at this point that this administration has done absolutely nothing about it and is determined to do nothing about it.

So, it could be that Robert Mueller`s indictments might be the only thing that actually hit Russians on this.

KLAIN: I think that`s right, Lawrence. I mean, I think, notwithstanding what Julia said, what Paul said, the usual practice, this is a very unusual case. Congress has passed sanctions against Russia. The president refuses to impose them. The head of the National Security Agency was before Capitol Hill this week, exasperated, saying basically, I don`t have any orders to do something to clamp down on Russia. Congressmen on both -- senators on both sides of the aisle were perplexed by the lack of those orders.

And so, I think if America is going to make a statement that this kind of conduct by the Russians is unacceptable, is an effort to hijack the elections, that statement is going to have to come from the special counsel, it puts him in a difficult and almost -- and certainly unprecedented situation, but -- I mean, he is the person who`s going to have to stand up for America if our president won`t.

O`DONNELL: Paul Fishman, I want to get your perspective on this as someone who`s made that decision, about whether to pursue a federal prosecution or not. This is fascinating because if you do indict these Russian hackers, in particular -- indict them individually, very high likelihood that you`ll never have to go to prosecution, they`ll never submit themselves to the jurisdiction, never come to this country so they`re never prosecuted.

So, therefore, do you use a lower standard for indictment because in the back of your mind you`re thinking, I`m never going to have to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt?


O`DONNELL: Or given the visibility of a case like this and the importance of it, do you use a higher standard for indictment?

FISHMAN: So, I think the Justice Department`s practice is the right one and it`s the ethical norm to which all federal prosecutors are sworn to subscribe, which is that the only time you can bring a criminal case is if you are confident you can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. That`s the constitutional standard.

That`s not what you need to get an indictment. To get an indictment, you need only need probable cause. But that`s not the way the Justice Department practices law. That`s not the way Bob Mueller was trained. That`s the kind of prosecutor he was and has been for his entire career. So, I would be surprised if that happened.

I do think that there is -- as Julia, some real reason to bring an indictment like that in a case like this. I mean, if you think back to when this investigation started back -- way before Bob Mueller was appointed, the one crime that everyone knew had been committed before this all started was the hacking of the DNC. And so, it`s not surprising at all I think that Bob Mueller`s charter has included trying to figure out who`s responsible for that hack, who`s responsible for it in Russia and whether anybody in America was a either a co-conspirator before or became a co- conspirator after that hack occurred.

O`DONNELL: Julia Ainsley, thank you very much for your latest round of important reporting. Ron Klain, Paul Fishman, thank you for joining the discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

KLAIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, today`s episode of White House chaos, the president surprised his own staff by declaring he is going to take executive action that could start a trade war and create a worldwide recession.

And the president might be dumping his national security advisor while still threatening his attorney general. The chaos continues.


O`DONNELL: Today, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was President Trump`s first secretary of homeland security, attended an event for the Department of Homeland Security, to join a panel discussion of former secretaries celebrating the 15th anniversary of Washington`s youngest gigantic bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I would just open by saying I have almost no right to be up here on this stage. I was in the department --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have every right to be here. Thank you.

KELLY: And I miss every one of you every day.


KELLY: Truly, at six months the last thing I wanted to do is walk away from one of the great honors of my life being the secretary of homeland security, but I did something wrong and god punished me I guess.


O`DONNELL: John Kelly became White House chief of staff after Reince Priebus failed in that job to contain the chaos over the White House. Since John Kelly took over that job, the chaos at the White House has only gotten much, much worse. "Axios" report sources close to President Trump say he is in a bad place, mad as hell about the internal chaos and the sense that things are unraveling.

NBC News is reporting today that another top White House official may be leaving. Quote, the White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security advisor as early as next month, in a move orchestrated by Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to five people familiar with the discussion. And "Politico" reports economic adviser Gary Cohn, former head of the investment bank Goldman Sachs could also be headed for the exit after the president defied Cohn`s advice and announced today that he intends to impose tariffs on imported steel and imported aluminum.


TRUMP: We`re going to be instituted tariffs. Next week, we`ll be signing -- perhaps some of you folks will be here.

REPORTER: How long, do you think, on the tariffs?

TRUMP: Unlimited period.

REPORTER: Twenty-five percent, sir?

TRUMP: It will be 25 percent for steel. It will be 10 percent for aluminum. And it will be for a long period of time.

REPORTER: Twenty-five for steel and 10 for aluminum?

TRUMP: Twenty-five for steel, 10 for aluminum. It`s being written now.


O`DONNELL: If that looked to you like the president was making up on the spot, that`s the way it looked to some White House staffers who were surprised by that. The plan was not to announce that today, according to some reports.

The only way the president can raise tariffs by executive order is to cite a national need to do so. Otherwise, Congress has complete jurisdiction over tariffs and Congress could pass legislation that blocks the president`s action if the president actually does take this action that he`s spontaneously announced today.

The stock market reacted badly to it today, dropping 420 points because Wall Street knows that tariffs are taxes. Those taxes are not paid by countries, they`re actually paid by American consumers, in effect. Wall Street knows that tariffs increase the cost of imported goods and also increase the cost of goods produced in the United States.

The president got zero support, not surprisingly, for this idea in Congress today. Here is the reaction of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade and tariffs.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: This could turn everything the other way. That`s going to turn around and bite the American citizens with much higher taxes, much higher costs, and it`s going to discombobulate our whole international trading system. So, I`m very upset about it as you can see.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter and columnist for the "Boston Herald" and an MSNBC contributor. Also, joining us, David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic" and author of "New York Times" bestseller, "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic".

And, Kimberly, this report from inside the White House that the president is quite angry about the situation -- the chaos situation as it exists today and actually has the feeling that things was unraveling, which was a feeling I think was available to him on day one of his presidency.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, look, this is a chaos president. It was a term I believe coined by Jeb Bush.

In a way, the president likes that. He likes doing things differently, keeping everybody and everything on their toes. He even likes some of the internal push and pull that can happen.

But I think what we`ve seen over the last week really exceeded that. And if the announcement of this tariff was meant to sort of change the subject, it actually has done quite the opposite. It seems to have caused a lot more consternation both within the White House -- with Gary Cohn, someone who contemplated leaving and was urged by a lot of Republicans to stay in there because they didn`t know who else would come in and they wanted him to stay on and be some sort of stabilizing force. You know, possibly leaving over this again because of the impact that it`s likely to have on a lot of U.S. companies and potentially cost U.S. jobs in that sense.

So, it doesn`t seem to be getting any better. It does -- it`s also worth noting that the ultimate decision and the announcement -- the very hasty announcement was made while General Kelly was at the Homeland Security Department participating in this event. He sort of was out of the office and all of a sudden, this came down while he wasn`t there to sort of oversee and keep things in order.

So, it`s just -- every day, it seems to be a new series of crises within this White House that is keeping the president from sticking to the agenda that he wants to stick to.

O`DONNELL: And, David Frum, there`s two ways to talk about the tariff announcement today. One is the actual policy of it, which hasn`t been thought through by the president. But the other is the chaos, the chaotic way which it all tumbled out and no one in the White House was planning to do it that way today, coupled with the chaos of the churning of personnel, Hope Hicks`s departure, now national security advisor seems to be on his way out.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, the president likes surprising but there will be nothing less surprising than the outcome of what he`s done. The last time the United States experimented with steel tariffs back in the first Bush administration, in 2002, they lasted 30 months.

The best estimate of the impact of those tariffs on Americans and users of steel, automobiles, the construction industry, was a loss of 200,000 jobs, which was greater than the total employment in the steel industry at that time. At this point, steel, of course, employs fewer people.

The impact of aluminum, maybe even worse. It`s going to hit beverages. It hits aviation. It hits cars. As we make cars fuel efficient, cars are made more and more out of aluminum. And it hits, too.

The consequences of this inside the United States are going to be tough. The consequences for the world are going to be the tougher.

The president, I think, imagines that he`s hitting China. But China exports relatively little steel to the United States. The biggest exporter of steel to the United States is Canada.

And third place, by the way, is South Korea. And just to think about this, yesterday on the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal", one of the leading candidates to replace H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, proposed a plan for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, today -- which has to weird people in South Korea out. That`s the last thing they want.

But the second last thing they want is what they got today, which is a trade war attack on a South Korean industry by their supposed friend and protector, the United States.

O`DONNELL: Kimberly, on the national security advisor front this is a position when filled does not require Senate confirmations. So, it really is one of those jobs that can go to anyone, and, of course, we all remember that President Trump`s first choice for that job, Michael Flynn, has now pled guilty to federal crimes of lying to the FBI.

ATKINS: Yes. I mean, it`s a job that doesn`t require Senate confirmation, but as we`ve seen from that, it certainly should require some vetting because it is an important position and you don`t want to get a warning from the Justice Department that your national security advisor is susceptible to blackmail the way that President Trump did and you don`t want him getting indicted. But this is just another example the president putting someone in who he thought would be good, a general, but that seemingly not working out and General McMaster sort of seeking an exit and the White House sort of helping facilitate that.

What`s coming now is the rapid departures. I mean, look in any presidential administration, there is some turnover, particularly at the beginning. But this is exceeding what is normal by any standard. And it`s becoming really difficult to think about who is going to replace the people in these positions who are people who can -- who can be vetted enough, who are people who can pass security clearances.

We`ve seen that be a problem, who are people who want to do the job and who are people who won`t be rejected because in the past at some point they have said something not nice about president Trump when he was a candidate. They`re really running out of folks to run the White House and it`s reaching a critical point here.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, we saw President Trump rebuke H.R. McMaster recently in a tweet, which is welcome to the Trump cabinet, that happens to a lot of them. But it`s not clear at all what his status is now. We have a -- tonight, National Security Council spokesman that says any reports that McMaster is on the way out is fake news. The president, quote -- this is someone quoting the president says that McMaster is doing a great job.

FRUM: "The Washington Post" reported a few minutes ago, in the second appearance of the Oval Office today, why are you here you were here already today. The national security advisor, of course, pops in and out whenever there`s news to tell the president.

So, people the president is not on speaking terms with, his attorney general, his national security advisor, his chief of staff, what is this, middle school?

The president can`t get along with people, then these are all his appointees he can remove him. Not so much the attorney general but certainly the chief of staff and the national security advisor. I don`t get this mean girls approach to management where he said, well, let`s just communicate to them they`re unpopular and hope they`ll go away.

O`DONNELL: David Frum and Kimberly Atkins, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate it.

FRUM: Thank you.

ATKINS: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Vladimir Putin announces a scary sounding weapons system today that might just be a video game, and to make his point, he targeted Florida. And the president of the United States, of course, spends considerable time on Florida golf courses but he had absolutely nothing to say about that threat from Vladimir Putin today.


LAWRENE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: When is the last time a President called a member of his cabinet disgraceful? The answer is, yesterday and before that, never. The Whitehouse Press Secretary was asked today about the President calling his Attorney General in this tweet yesterday, why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power is already late with reports on Comey et cetera isn`t the IG an Obama guy? Why noy just Justice Department Lawyers? Disgraceful! So that of course led to these questions today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President want to get rid of his Attorney General.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As it relates to the tweet could you elaborate on the relationship between the President and the Attorney General. Does President Trump believe his Attorney Genera is disgraceful?

SANDERS: Look the President has made his frustrations very clear. I don`t have anything else to add.


O`DONNELL: As usual she doesn`t have anything else to add. She may be forced to add something if questioned about it by the Special Prosecutor. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has reportedly taken an interest in the President attacks on the Attorney General which began last year after Jeff Sessions properly recused himself from the investigation of the Trump campaign. A campaign that he was a part of.

According to the Washington Post Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump the attacks against Sessions constitute an effort to obstruct justice by trying to force the Attorney General to resign. The Post reports in recent months, Mueller`s team has questioned witnesses in detail about Trump`s private comments and state of mind in late July and early August of last year around the time he issued a series of Tweets belittling his beleaguered Attorney General these people said.

The thrust of the questions was to determine whether the President`s goal was to oust Sessions in order to pick a replacement who would exercise control over the investigation. Back with us Ron Klain and David Frum. And Ron, you`ve been in this position working in the Justice Department. Your reaction to where this investigation might lead in terms of obstruction of justice with the President`s attack s on his own Attorney General.

RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, Lawrence, it`s now clear that the President fired Jim Comey as part of an effort to obstruct justice. But obstructing justice wasn`t enough for this President. He was set on obliterating justice and taking out the Attorney General, taking control of the investigation in a way that really does [INAUDIBLE] back to Watergate.

The horrible thing, Lawrence, is we have an Attorney General who when I worked at the judiciary committee was rejected for a job because he was so racist, rejected over Federal Judgeship, who lied to the committee twice and has to be out of the Russia Investigation, who was the god father of Trump`s anti-immigration thing. And the horrible thing is not that he`s our Attorney General. The horrible thing is we`re rooting for the guy in a battle against Donald Trump. I mean it`s like watching Godzilla versus Megalon and trying to figure out which creature we`re rooting for. And you know that`s the circumstance we`re in where this investigation is right now.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, the President has given new meaning to the word disgraceful calling his Attorney General disgraceful.

DAVID FRUM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is so beyond imaging. But it is part of this is sort of melt down that you`re seeing. One of the -- there`s a story today that Hope Hicks is now floating a memoir. And she`s claiming that she`s floating the memoir based on a diary she kept inside the Whitehouse. I hope for her sake that is a false report because if the President`s Communications Adviser, the President closest aide, the President`s surrogate daughter has been keeping a diary, that`s not something she`s able to sell. That is something that has to be subpoenaed.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, Ron Klain talk about that point. It`s one of the interesting developments when you`re working in a world that`s subject to things like investigations by Special Prosecutors. They have a right to obtain everyone`s notes about basically anything they demand to see their notes on.

KLAIN: Yeah, they do. I mean there could be claims of executive privilege, although executive privilege in Hope Hicks diary would be an interesting claim for sure. But if that diary exists, as David said, it`s going to be exhibit 1 in a lot of this that`s going on. And you know I think this is the problem we have. We have a President who seems to be dedicate today obstructing justice, a President where the most compelling evidence of his guilt in this Russia matter is his own conduct in trying to end the investigation into the Russian matter.

I mean, an innocent person would want the investigation to complete and exonerate him. And this effort where he attacks the Justice Department, attacks his attorney general, fires the FBI Director, you know, attacks the Deputy Attorney General who`s overseeing this. You know these are all signs points that really point to the man`s guilt.

FRUM: Let me pick also Lawrence on a point that you and Ron were making about executive privilege because it`s a particularly tangled area of laws as you know well. And it is possible that executive privilege can be waived. The point of executive privilege is to protect internal deliberations. But if the President is communicating with his Attorney General in the open, in plain air, on twitter, there`s a real question as to whether he`s already not waived his executive privilege claim. That is something that I think we`re going to hearing a lot more about in the months ahead.

O`DONNELL: That is such a great point. Let`s listen to what Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had to say today about the President attacking Jeff Sessions.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Let me make it real clear to the President about this. Jeff sessions cannot conduct an investigation of anything related to the 2016 election. The attack on Attorney General sessions was unwarranted. I think he`s doing his job honorably with integrity. These attacks on Attorney General Sessions are inappropriate and unwarranted because he had a conflict. He did the right thing by stepping aside.


O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, it`s so strange, we heard it all before. It feels like we could have done this same segment months ago.

KLAIN: Yes, maybe, in fact, we did, Lawrence. But look I think that -- but I think I got to correct something that senator graham said. Jeff Sessions is recused not just because he was part of the 2016 campaign. But because he lied twice, two different times at the Senate Judiciary Committee, about contacts he personally had with Russians during the campaign.

This tie between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, between now the Russians and the NRA you know and the Trump Campaign. The evidence of this is getting stronger and stronger every day. And the threads are unraveling. That`s what Bob Mueller is onto, that`s what this new report by Julia is about. I mean I think that we can really see the evidence really coming together in a powerful way in which the Russians influenced the Trump Campaign, influenced our election.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain gets the last word on the President`s attack on his Attorney General. But gentlemen I assume we`ll reconvene on this same subject in the not too distance future. Ron Klain, David Frum thanks for joining us.

KLAIN: Thank you.

FRUM: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Vladimir Putin issues a nuclear threat -- a nuclear threat to the United States today and the President of the United States does not say one word about it.


O`DONNELL: Now they`re both doing it, first Donald Trump then Vladimir Putin fighting about which one of them has the biggest missile. Here is Donald Trump at the State of the Union Address


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal. Hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.


O`DONNELL: And so, of course, the other insecure man with the weaker military and the weaker economy has to do it too. Today in the Russian equivalent of a State of the Union address Vladimir Putin said Russia has developed a new generation nuclear weapons. He described some of them as invincible. One is an intercontinental cruise missile and the other is a nuclear torpedo.

In his speech today President Putin promised a giant increase in social spending including doubling spending health care and at the same time announced this massive new spending on nuclear weapons. Putin insisted that these weapons already exist but instead of showing the weapons, he showed an animation video of what the new nuclear cruise missiles could do with the route of the missile ending over Florida where the President of the United States is known to spend so many of his weekends on golf courses.

Moscow has not come close to such an overt rhetorical threat against the United States since the darkest days of the Soviet Union. All previous Presidents have stood publicly against threats from Moscow but not the current President of the United States. But, of course, Donald Trump continues to behave as if he is owned by Vladimir Putin. He did not say a single word about the Putin threats today. Here is some of an interview NBC`s Megyn Kelly conducted with Vladimir Putin in Moscow today after Putin`s announcement of those weapons.


MEGYN KELLY, REPORTER, NBC NEW: Several analysts in the west have said this is the declaration of a new cold war. Are we in a new arm`s race right now?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: My point of view is the individual who said that a new cold war have started are not really analysts they do propaganda. If you were to speak about arm`s race, then an arm`s race began at the time and moment when the U.S. opted out of the ballistic missile treaty

KELLY: Some are suggesting you tested it and failed and that`s why you only showed animations of it today and have not yet produced any actual videos.

PUTIN: Are you talking about ICBM`s.


PUTIN: As a matter of fact every weapons system discussed today surpasses and avoids an anti-missile defense system

KELLY: But you`ve tested it?

PUTIN: The test was excellent. Some of them still have to be fine tuned and worked on, others are available to the troops and already are battle ready.

KELLY: For the record right now do you have a workable ICBM that`s powered by nukes that you tested successfully?

PUTIN: All of the tests were successful. It`s each of the weapons systems is at a different stage of readiness, one of them is on combat duty, it`s with troops.


O`DONNELL: NBC News says that Megyn Kelly will have more reporting from Russia in the next few days. When we come back, Malcolm Nance will asses whether the United States faces a new nuclear threat from Russia or whether Vladimir Putin is just playing video games.



RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Russia is threatening us in a myriad of ways and so far this administration has been utterly lacking in effective action. We are missing an opportunity and an obligation to do better against Russia and what they have on the President so far remains a mystery.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Malcolm Nance an MSNBC Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Analyst. And Malcolm, Senator Blumenthal just said that Russia is threatening us in a myriad of ways. We all knew about the cyber attacks that President Trump has refused to respond to in any way. Today this nuclear threat that President Trump also refuses to respond to in any way. What is your assessment of what Vladimir Putin revealed today?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Vladimir Putin revealed a brilliant example of theater. What this is, is a component of Russia`s hybrid war strategy which to amp up propaganda, political warfare, and everything just short of an actual military operation. But by doing that, what he did was propaganda. And it was really not for our consumption.

It was for the consumption of the Russian people. You a did he was spell out that Russia has nuclear weapons and they have nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States which they have had since the 1950s. There`s nothing that he showed even with the nuclear cruise missile coming around that would be any new capability that we don`t know about.

We know about the SS18 Satan Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. We knew about the nuclear powered cruise missile they want to use which would dive around these air defenses. But any of these weapon systems, even if they were moved into an operational position works show the United States and Russia are in the same status quo since the beginning of the Cold War.

O`DONNELL: And so how would you rank the nuclear capability of the two countries? The United States and Russia?

NANCE: one to one. You have to understand, we have an arsenal of 4,000 active atomic weapons. And Russia has a few less than we have but it doesn`t matter. This is what the basis and dynamic of nuclear deterrence is all about. At one point in my career I had to work a short tour at a nuclear command post. And the first thing that they do is they bring you in, they suit you down and they show a full scale simulated attack on the United States with everything in the Russian nuclear arsenal.

It is the end of the world. So deterrence is that mission. Neither President is going to be talking seriously about breaking nuclear deterrence and creating systems which will give an advantage in a dr. Strange Lovian way that they can beat the other side in a nuclear war. It is never going to happen. It is just show.

O`DONNELL: what about the cyber internet Vladimir Putin doesn`t talk about? The fakes actually carries out, are the ones he does not talk about?

NANCE: That`s Russia`s real capacity that we know they have. It is not just their cyber capability. They have a 70-year, now 80 plus year history of political and propaganda warfare in which cyber systems have just managed to weaponize our democratic norms and use them against us.

What happened in the 2016 election was not so much the United States being affected Russian cyber warfare. It was that the United States has free and fair system in which those systems can infiltrate us and use our own opinions against us. That`s what they`ve really harnessed. Democratic countries don`t do that. Evil dictatorial regimes do that and Russia has just proven they`re an evil dictatorial regime.

O`DONNELL: And we`re back to Senator Blumenthal. He said what do they have on the President? That`s what he`s wondering. What do they have on President Trump that leaves President Trump silent in moments like this?

NANCE: You know I`ve just completed a new book. It`ll be coming out in a few months. And I say that Donald Trump is in debt in some way to Vladimir Putin. There is no way that anyone would insult literally all of our allies, NATO, the European Union, and leave Vladimir Putin, former KGB Director, unscathed. Something has to be there.

O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance. Thank you for joining us tonight, really, appreciate it.

NANCE: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL: The Last Word good aboutguns. We`ve just learned the President and Vice President had dinner with the NRA. They did that tonight. Another meeting with the NRA after meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressman yesterday. The President tweeted, good, great meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA. Meanwhile today pro-gun Republicans in the Georgia legislature removed a tax break for Delta Airlines to punish Delta for ending a discount for the NRA.

Delta is based in Atlanta but the Republican Governor said he will sign the bill. And Kroger which owns Fred Meyer Department Stores announced it will stop selling guns and ammunition to anyone under the age of 21 and outdoor equipment retailer and R.E.I. doesn`t sell guns but the company said it is halting orders of camel back water bottles, camp shelf stoves and Bally sun glasses because their parent company Vista also makes the AR-15 rifle. That is tonight`s Last Word. Up next, the Whitehouse is gripped by tumult and turbulence. And that`s according to 16 White officials. Congressional