House intel GOP ends Russia probe. TRANSCRIPT: 03/12/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Jenny Willoughby, Malcolm Nance

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL March 12, 2018 Guest: Jenny Willoughby, Malcolm Nance

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

And today`s episode of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is going straight to the museum of broadcasting, not -- not just because we heard you say golden showers four times in the first 15 minutes, but because it is the perfect kind of mid-course summary of where we are on the Russia investigation which you have been teaching us every night and leading us and watching you lead this discussion with David and Michael Isikoff about their new book really was that kind of, OK, everyone, let`s stop, collect our thoughts and catch up to where we are, really, really you summarized everything really powerfully.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, thanks. I mean, they -- it`s -- I`m just reporting on what`s in their book. But I do think that there is something useful because -- this scandals been going on for more than a year now, the investigations have been going on for a year now, and that -- you know, the intensive pace of reporting on this stuff has been going on for so long that it`s changed our feelings about what counts as a scoop anymore, or how frequently we expect them.

That one of the things I think they`ve done which is this which I think is going to make the book very successful is that they really have synthesized a ton of information, putting it both in chronological order but also sort of an order of importance -- in terms of recognizing what were the important moments, when did people come along who are unexpected characters, that we should probably get some sort of explanation as to why they ended up there.

Synthesis and connecting the dots is more valuable than almost any individual piece of information at this point. And it`s hard to do on a daily basis, but I think they`ve done the first book that actually and it takes a crack at it.

O`DONNELL: And we have 2018 cast of characters, 2017 cast of characters. But there`s a 2016 cast that`s fascinating, which is the Obama administration and --

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: -- and listening to you read the passages where you`re inside the Obama administration`s reaction to what`s coming through in intelligence reports and is that dramatic moment that you read -- because you have the book and I don`t, and so you`re ahead of me on this book. No, but no, but Friday -- I was learning about this from your reading of it.

When you have that moment where Joe Biden hear -- as vice president is hearing about what the intelligence is gathering and he says, if this is true, it`s treason -- it was so chilling for me because it goes right back to the 1968 presidential campaign where Lyndon Johnson says this is treason when he hears what the intelligence reports are coming in on what Richard Nixon`s doing in colluding with South Vietnam to delay peace talks so that the war is going badly so that`s good for his campaign.

It`s those kinds of inside the Oval Office moments that are quite striking here.

MADDOW: Yes, and in the timing about it, I think the thing I didn`t really wrap my head around until seeing it in this context is that the Obama administration knew some of what was going on. Obviously, we saw the -- in October before the election in 2016, we saw homeland security and the intelligence -- some of the intelligence agencies come out and say, hey, we see what you`re doing, we see what Russia is doing with messing with some of the electoral rolls, looking at to these -- or at least hacking into state election infrastructure.

We see what`s going on there. They outed that. They published that long document, all that technical information about how the states could recognize that.

So, we know they knew that was going on. We also knew -- because we all knew it from public source reporting that it was Russia who was behind the attack and hacking that went after the Clinton campaign and the DNC. What we didn`t realize though is that the counterintelligence investigation part of it, the part where the intelligence agencies did have this incredible reporting about these contacts between the Trump campaign, Trump associates and the Russian government in all sorts of different iterations, that information wasn`t given to even President Obama until after the election.

He and Vice President Biden are learning that for the first time after Trump has already been elected, oh by the way, the FBI`s counterintelligence investigation has been tracking really weird contacts between them and Russia while these attacks were going on.

I understand why that happened, why that was walled off, because FBI investigation should be kept separate from the executive branch except to the extent that they need to know about this stuff. But I just can`t imagine what it must have been like to be the president and vice president learning this stuff after the damage was done.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it really, really stunning. And also tonight, Rachel, we hope Jennie Willoughby joining us in the program. She is Rob Porter`s second wife, who was the first one to tell her story publicly. And it was her story that was out there when John Kelly and the rest of the people in the White House were just ignoring what she had to say and still praising Rob Porter, even though they had heard what she had to say.

So, we`re going to get her reaction to what it`s like a month later now to having gone through this and the White House`s reaction to what she revealed.

MADDOW: Well done.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, tonight, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee actually released a draft report without the consultation of the committee Democrats that in effect ends the committee`s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. Republican Congressman Mike Conaway who is leading the investigation said the committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of the American intelligence agency that that Russians had interfered with the election.

But according to "The New York Times", the committee Republicans, quote, broke with the agencies on one crucial point that the Russians had favored Mr. Trump`s candidacy. The bottom line, the Russians did commit active measures against our election in 2016, and we think they will do that in the future, Mr. Conaway said. But he added we disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.

The committee`s final interview took place last Thursday, with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, but several witnesses thought to be central to the investigation never came before the panel. According to "The Times", including Mr. Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Mr. Manafort`s deputy Rick Gates, Mr. Trump`s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and Mr. Trump`s former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos all of whom are under indictment by the special counsel.

The ranking Democrat, leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, said this tonight on Rachel`s program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Not a surprise, Rachel, but a grave disservice to the country. Essentially, it`s the intelligence committee majority saying we just rather not know if it`s going to be bad news and that is I think a betrayal of the promise that was made that we would follow the facts wherever they lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Trump tweeted: The House Intelligence Committee has after a 14-month-long in-depth investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

"Bloomberg" reports that special prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion but, quote, he may he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats according to current and former U.S. officials.

That`s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case the part that may hit closest to Trump personally witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

According to "Bloomberg", the obstruction portion of the investigation could likely be completed after key outstanding interviews, including with President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

Joining discussion now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic", and author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic".

And Congressman Swalwell, how surprised were you to discover today that the investigation is over, the one you`ve been working on?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I`m not very surprised considering what we`ve seen in the past from House Republicans.

O`DONNELL: But just technically, did you know this was going to happen today?

SWALWELL: I didn`t know.

O`DONNELL: OK.

SWALWELL: No, I read about it on the news. We weren`t told.

It invites another attack.

O`DONNELL: And let`s just stop there for a second. This is not the way congressional investigations end. Committees do not preemptively on one side of a committee, one partisan side of a committee simply say it`s over without even telling the minority side.

SWALWELL: It`s something we`ve never seen after an attack, right?

O`DONNELL: Yes.

SWALWELL: After Pearl Harbor, September 11th, the weapons of mass destruction debacle, we came together, we unified. This invites another attack, this incomplete report. They claimed they weren`t looking for collusion or they claimed there was no collusion. They were never looking for collusion. That`s the problem.

They didn`t use the subpoena power that they had. They didn`t allow us to bring in third-party witnesses who could verify through communication logs or hotel records or bank records whether what we were being told was the truth. You know, we are charged with protecting the ballot box and this report shows that they were more interested in protecting Donald Trump.

They can`t even admit after looking at all the social media posts that were out there that the Russians had a preference for Donald Trump. That is as clear as day when you look at what they were putting up.

O`DONNELL: And, David Frum, the Republicans on the committee have a 150- page report ready to go, and that`s basically you know a day or two after the last witnesses testified. So, this clearly looks like something they were aiming at shutting down and as Congressman Swalwell says, it`s not surprising in that we were hearing from Democrats on the committee that it felt like this was what they were going to do.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: But what amazing bad luck in their timing that they would release the statements day on the very day -- the very day when the United States the spokesmen -- the spokesperson for the president of the United States will not name Russia hours after the prime minister of Great Britain did name Russia as the author of a nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom.

I spoke today to two people would served in senior national security roles. One in a Democratic and one in a Republican administration, and both of them said in any normal administration that the after attack of such severity happened in the United Kingdom, the prime minister of Britain and the president of the United States would have coordinated their statements so there was no daylight on them. And if the United States thought that Britain was leaning too far, that would all be sorted out in private between the two so there would be an expression of solidarity.

There`s no secret -- it may be many secrets here, there`s no mystery. We see it happening in plain sight. Britain will name Russia. The secretary of state of the United States will name Russia. The spokesperson for the president of the United States will not. And that happens on the day when the House Intelligence Committee releases its report saying nothing to see, there`s the whole world to see.

O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, it also happens the day before a very important special election in Pennsylvania. And so, I`m sitting here wondering with the Republican in what is supposed to be a safe Republican district falling behind in the polls did the Republicans -- and this is the House who needs this guy to get elected did they decide and the president decide, we need to be able to tweet tonight that it`s over.

Here`s this presidential tweet tonight saying, 14-month-long in-depth investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordinated -- the coordination between Trump campaign in Russia.

Did Donald Trump need to get that out as an election eve tweet in Pennsylvania? Is that part of what we`re watching?

SWALWELL: His numbers are in the tank, they`re already putting out the talking points as to why they may lose that seat. He did that in all caps, also.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

SWALWELL: Right? Innocent people don`t, you know, send out all caps. It looks coordinated. It feels coordinated and this is what we`ve seen before where the Republicans will make a move on the committee and then Donald Trump will parrot it and it all seems like it`s intended to undermine Bob Mueller`s investigation.

O`DONNELL: But, David, we do have Bob Mueller`s investigation, and there`s nothing that the Republicans in the House can do about that.

SWALWELL: Right. Well, that`s sort of the baffling thing about president nailing on his wall this Trump University diploma of vindications, because what happens when there are indictments? How does that make the House Intelligence Committee look?

Devon Nunes is from California. I mean, he`s from a very safe district but from a very Democratic state where -- and we`ve seen, you`re not safe at R plus 11, his district is a little more than R plus 11, none of these people are safe.

And they are about to be confronted and confronted again with evidence that they didn`t do their jobs properly to safeguard the national security of the country. And this is not like failing on ag or failing on a highway. This is failing on intelligence in the national security of the United States.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, in my experience on committees like this, even though when there`s a very sharp partisan divide, there are those private moments and there are those people on the other side of the partisan divide who win private moments, share feelings that are similar to yours, even though the party is controlling the overall outcome.

Is that one of the conditions that isn`t working the intelligence committee? Are there Republican members of that committee who actually have sympathies that leaned in your direction?

SWALWELL: I wish I could tell you that, Lawrence, I always thought because we`re underground that you know they would be more forthcoming because it`s not on camera.

O`DONNELL: Right.

SWALWELL: It`s not going to get out to the press.

I was clearing out my text messages from last year trying to put more memory in my phone yesterday on the train ride, and I saw some text I sent back in February 2017 to Republican friends, some of them on the committee. I was asking them to support my bill for a independent bipartisan commission.

And reading those texts, I just couldn`t help but think how naive was I to think that these guys would do the right thing, that they would unify and to think about where we`re at right now where they showed a complete unwillingness to protect the ballot box.

O`DONNELL: But is this a command decision? I mean, is it that they never got to make that decision, this was a Paul Ryan and down decision?

SWALWELL: You know, I don`t give them that out. They were sent by their constituents to protect our country and, you know, and we should have seen more courage.

O`DONNELL: They didn`t take an oath to Paul Ryan.

SWALWELL: They didn`t take an oath to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan or the Russians.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, a quick last word here.

FRUM: I think we are going to see more and more evidence of how untrue all of this is and it`s going to get harder and harder to contain. What they have done, it`s like those scenes in a horror movie where the teenagers slam the door shut, hoping that that means the skeleton behind the door isn`t there, but the skeletons still there.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate.

FRUM: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump is now desperately trying to save a Republican House seat in Pennsylvania that is only at risk for Republicans because of the Trump effect. That`s coming up.

And also, Rob Porter`s former wife Jennie Willoughby will join us to tell us what it was like to have the White House disregard what she had to say about Rob Porter and what she would like to hear from the White House and from John Kelly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: If you have a life, you were not home on Saturday night watching this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s 1999, I`m on "Meet the Press", a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd. He`s a sleeping son- of-a-bitch I`ll tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, what was that? Does that sound like a campaign speech for a Republican in a special election for a House of Representatives seat in Pennsylvania? Of course, it doesn`t. But that`s what it was supposed to be.

Yu just heard some of the president`s campaign speech for Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania`s 18th congressional district, which is why Rick Saccone is now running second in the polls to Democrat Conor Lamb in a district which candidate Donald Trump won by 20 points, in the district that presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by 17 points. It takes something very special for a Republican to fall behind in the polls in that district, and that special thing is obviously the Trump effect.

Donald Trump delivered in the campaign speech with racist comments about California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represents a district a couple of thousand miles away from Pennsylvania`s 18th, and I`m not going to show you what Donald Trump said about Maxine Waters because it is simply too vile, too poisonous, too hateful to fully Trumpian.

But in that same campaign speech in which he attacked a congresswoman, Donald Trump defended North Korea`s dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: South Korea came to my office after having gone to North Korea and seeing Kim Jong-un. And no, it`s very positive. No. After the meeting you may do that but now we have to be very nice because let`s see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The people in that crowd cheering on that man represents a minority of voters in Pennsylvania`s 18th, and a minority of voters in the United States of America. And as long as Donald Trump plays only to them, only to that minority, the Trump effect is going to mean losing. Republicans losing elections and Republicans losing big leads over Democrats in districts like Pennsylvania`s 18th.

Joining our discussion now, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and also joining us is former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida.

Neera, I hope I`m sure that your life does not include watching Trump campaign speeches for special house elections on Saturday nights, but it was impossible not to consume some of this in the video that circulated afterward. I`d like to get your reaction to how this just as a political matter, not -- forget the morality and the evil ugly stuff immorality that`s on display there, but as a political matter, who thinks this is helping?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think the lesson here is that Donald Trump campaigning for in the midterms will be all about Donald Trump. And I think the lesson of this race tomorrow which is in a district that Donald Trump won by 20 points. It`s a district that has a plus Republican district of plus 11.

So, they have a strong majority a Democrat hasn`t won here in decades. This is a neck-and-neck race, and I think that`s because Conor Lamb is a great candidate. Rick Saccone is a bad candidate, but Donald Trump cannot deliver a House district in a part of the country where he won by 20 points, which should tell Republicans there are few places in the country he can campaign for them and deliver. And that should really scare Devin Nunes and everyone else working to overtime to cover up for his misdeeds.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, the Monmouth poll here uses a couple of different -- it uses three different models. One is a surge model with a surge vote. Conor Lamb wins that 51-45. A high turnout, Conor Lamb is ahead in that one, 49-47. A low turnout, Conor Lamb, the Democrat is ahead by his biggest margin there on the low turnout, 51-44.

So -- and every one of these versions the Democrat is in the lead right now and whatever the outcome -- unless somehow the polls are wildly wrong and the Republican comes back and wins this thing by 15, this is a big loss of yardage for Republicans.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is. Look, one thing that we`ve seen in every special election is the GOP has underperformed under Donald Trump. As Neera said, there`s not a down ballot impact on a congressional candidate from Donald Trump.

And, Lawrence, look, this is a great paradox it is emblematic of where the Republican Party is today. You have a congressional seat vacated by a Republican member of Congress who left under disgrace for trying to compel his mistress have an abortion and that seat is trying to be saved by president who just paid hush money to a porn star.

Donald Trump`s -- his currency if you will does not translate down ballot. So, while we have seen Republicans underperform what that means in this race is it`s going to be very tight. The one thing we learned in the Ossoff race in particular though is this -- even Republicans who are upset with the president who don`t want to turnout for the president, they do turnout for their party and I do think that`s where the Republican candidate might have a small chance tomorrow night is to turn out the vote operation by the GOP.

O`DONNELL: Neera, to David`s point, I mean, this is supposed to be -- I don`t know what you`d call it, sort of a morally cleansing election given that the vacancy occurred out of this scandal involving the Republican who held the seat and abortion for his mistress all that stuff, and there`s Donald Trump taking his stance in the middle of this kind of moral cleansing campaign.

TANDEN: I mean, I agree, it`s probably not the best messenger in the district at the moment, but we should remember, this is a very Republican district. Again, a Democrat didn`t even -- there wasn`t even a Democrat who ran and some of the races recently because it`s been such a tried and true Democrat -- I mean, sorry, Republican district.

And so, in a district that`s plus Republican registration by 11 points, that is -- that is quite a district. If Democrats can be competitive here, not win even, competitive here, that should be a lesson to Republicans, and that is why they are dumping the kitchen sink. They have outspent Conor Lamb ten to one. There`s they just put $11 million into this race.

Rick Saccone has done a poor job, but he`s had to be bailed out by the Republican establishment in Washington because this race which should be a shoo-in is a very, very tight competitive district.

O`DONNELL: Now, David, what does that mean for the Republicans when they suddenly have to spend all sorts of money in a place they really weren`t budgeting for.

JOLLY: Well, it means the party is going to spend all their money to defend seats not try to pick up seats. And it also says that for some members who may be vulnerable who still have a few weeks to go to make a decision for reelection, you may see some retirements depending on the turnout tomorrow. You`re also going to see recruiting efforts be dampened.

Listen, candidates like myself at one point who might consider being on the ballot, you`re going to look at Pennsylvania and say, not a chance are you going to be a Republican on the ballot under this administration. Look, Donald Trump and we saw this in Pennsylvania, he continues to behave if you will like a carnival barker, a two-bit huckster and that doesn`t translate to candidates down ballot. It only hurts them.

It`s not only an embarrassing time to be a Republican when you see moments like that, it`s exhausting to be an American. We`ve seen -- we saw on Saturday night this trifecta of Donald Trump`s regular act, which is to insult people by calling them names, to attack the media, attack the press and to simply lie, only Donald Trump can get away with that in this environment.

O`DONNELL: David Jolly, Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate.

JOLLY: You got it. Thank you, Lawrence.

TANDEN: Thanks. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: Rob Porter`s former wife Jennie Willoughby will explain John Kelly does not understand about abuse. She wrote an op-ed piece about this last week. She will be our next guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Our next guest is Jennie Willoughby. She published an op-ed piece in "The Washington Post" entitled: I was married to Rob Porter, here`s what John Kelly doesn`t get about abuse.

She wrote: It has been one month since the story became public of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and along with accusations from his first wife, Colbie Holderness. Yet the White House has still not acknowledged our names or apologized to us for mishandling the situation. In fact, just this month White House Chief of Staff John Kelly added insult to injury when he explained that he had discounted the allegations against Rob as "just the accusations of a messy divorce" including "some level of emotional abuse." Kelly said he came out with a strong statement defending Rob because "I made no mention of any type of physical abuse. I can barely contain my indignation."

In fact, Jenny Willoughby described a violent encounter that occurred when after an argument she decided to take a shower and Rob Porter followed her into the bathroom and dragged her out of that shower by her shoulders. John Kelly didn`t think that was serious abuse. John Kelly didn`t think it was serious when Jenny Willoughby obtained a protective order after Rob Porter punched through the glass on their front door.

After those facts and other details of verbal and emotional abuse became public John Kelly actually said this about rob porter. 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 confidant and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.

John Kelly said all of that after Jenny Willoughby told her story of the marriage to Rob Porter and now a month later, John Kelly is insisting that Jenny Willoughby`s story amounts to nothing more than "the accusations of a messy divorce." If it were up to John Kelly, rob Porter would be still working in the White House after everything Jenny Willoughby had to say about him. But the black eye photograph of Rob Porter`s first wife was something that John Kelly couldn`t dismiss as just "some level of emotional abuse."

As if emotional abuse isn`t abuse. As if a wife living in constant fear is just one of the possible conditions of marriage. It seems John Kelly is living in constant fear now of being asked, what did he know about Rob Porter and exactly when did he know it? That is what Congressman Trey Growdy asked John Kelly in a letter last month, writing in his capacity as Chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform., Trey Gowdy asked Kelly "what derogatory information was subsequently made available to the White House on Porter, when and to whom?"

When we reported on that letter and question last month, it seemed we were going to get an answer to what John Kelly and everyone else in the White House knew and when they knew it. But this is the Trump White House after all, so John Kelly has simply ignored Trey Gowdy`s letter and had an assistant to the President, named Mark Short, write a reply letter to Trey Gowdy last week that completely ignores the questions about Rob Porter.

And so we still don`t know what John Kelly knew and when he knew it. The top Democrat on the Committee, Elijah Cummings has asked Chairman Gowdy to subpoena the White House for the answers that John Kelly is refusing to give about Rob Porter. The Rob Porter scandal in the Trump White House has once again exposed John Kelly to what has become his greatest challenge as White House Chief of Staff, telling the truth.

When John Kelly was caught telling a completely false story about Congressman Fredericka Wilson and President Obama, he didn`t apologize to either one of them and didn`t apologized to the country for lying about them. And so it is sadly consistent that he has not apologized to Jenny Willoughby for not taking her story seriously. John Kelly has not apologized to Jenny Willoughby for actually fighting back is what he did.

He actually fought back against what she had to say by defiantly saying, Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor. And I can`t say enough good things about him. Joining us now Jenny Willoughby the former second ex-wife of former White House Secretary Rob Porter. She`s also a writer and speaker. Jenny Willoughby thank you very for joining us tonight.

I`m very sorry that the discussion we`re going to have and the reason you`re hear is because of the difficulties you experienced in your marriage. But I think we`re all learning a lot from it. So thank you for joining us and sharing your feelings about this.

JENNY WILLOUGHBY, MSNBNC CONTRINUTOR: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you for the opportunity to hopefully educate and shed light on the conversation of domestic violence.

O`DONNELL: So you`re a month into this experience of it being public. And I want to give you a forum here to expand on your op-ed piece that you really directed to John Kelly because of the way John Kelly dismissed your revelations when they became public. And then continues to now say that all he -- all he got from what you said was what he called, the stuff that happens in a messy divorce.

WILLOUGHBY: So I wrote the op-ed because I did have righteous indignation after he held the press conference saying it was only a messy divorce, emotional abuse. And my reaction was wow, people can still live -- in 2018 live in the denial of the severity of domestic violence. And so while I addressed the op-ed to General Kelly himself personally, really I think it`s to the nation as a whole that we live in a place, that we live in a moment where even after you know, the Me Too Movement, even after all this exposure of women`s issues and empowerment of women, we still have people in power who tend to side with their colleagues, who tend to side with the professional image they`re given. And this is the reason why victims, male or female, reluctant to speak out because this is how society accepts our accounts when we do find the bravery to say the truth.

O`DONNELL: What was the reaction to the white house`s reaction to your revelations? There was a period there before the second set of revelations came out from Rob Porter`s first wife where you were alone in this and apparently being dismissed.

WILLOUGHBY: So I wish that my account would have been enough. I wish that the FBI delaying the security clearance would have been enough. In those first days as the story was breaking, it was just so overwhelming. I didn`t really have the time to stop and contemplate the import of what that means, they weren`t believing my story.

Now I`m a couple weeks removed from it, again it speaks to the greater problem we have of denial, plausible deniability, right? Well if we can`t see it then we can like it`s not happening. And that`s so damaging to anyone in a domestic violence situation that the White House would portray it that way because that`s what happens when people speak out.

O`DONNELL: It seems that when I look at John Kelly`s comments about this if I`m to believe them or give them credibility to actually be revealing of what`s going through his mind. It seems he has some kind of standard and by the way, we`re using John Kelly I think here in this discussion, to represent literally millions of people in America --

WILLOUGHBY: Yes, thank you.

O`DONNELL: Certainly millions and millions of men and possibly some women, whose experience of this leaves them thinking that the proof is in the choices that the wife makes. The proof is in the choices that you make. And what they see is the choice that you were making continuously to stay in this relationship, and stay in it even after some of the troubles occurred.

WILLOUGHBY: Right. And the more that I understand about domestic violence and certainly from my own experience, that is not uncommon because you are with someone who you love or loved at one point. You chose to enter a relationship with this person. And the contrition after the violent episodes is very sincere and very believable.

And because it`s a cyclical pattern, it`s not as though you are living with someone who is constantly abusive. What you are living in is this state of not knowing, walking on eggshells. Am I going to get the loving, caring, public persona or am I going to get the person I need to be afraid of.

O`DONNELL: And you wrote something as this was coming out about why you stayed. And it actually created this hashtag and this chorus of quoting you, and so I stayed. I read it on this program in the first coverage of this. I have to say it`s the most eloquent and illuminating set of explanations and reasons about why someone stays.

And I think in the broader subject it might be your most important contribution is putting us in that position of the person who`s choosing to stay in these situations. And this is -- normally as the host when I have this kind of material, I read it. But I -- I would love the audience to hear this again -- or hear it from -- could you read this for us? Would you prefer me to read it?

WILLOUGHBY: No, I -- I would love to read it. I haven`t read it out loud ever. And it is certainly something that`s very emotional, impactful and does summarize all the emotional up and downs that I was going through over the course of those four years.

O`DONNELL: Please read it because I think this is where the lesson really needs to be taught.

WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. I kept my mouth shut and stayed. I was told yes, he was deeply flawed. But then again, so was I. and so I worked on myself and stayed. If he was a monster all the time, perhaps it would have been easier to leave. But he could be kind and sensitive.

And so I stayed. He cried and apologized, and so I stayed. He offered to get help, and even went to a few counseling sessions and therapy groups, and so I stayed. He belittled my intelligence, destroyed my confidence, and so I stayed. I felt ashamed and trapped, and so I stayed. Friends and clergy didn`t believe me. And so I stayed. I was pregnant, and so I stayed. I lost the pregnancy and became depressed, and so I stayed.

O`DONNELL: And Jenny, I think when we all read that, we could feel the loneliness in the corner that you were in. and when I think back to the neighborhood that I grew up in and women in similar predicaments it was a different set of reasons why they stayed, including in our case in my community, that they would be excommunicated from the catholic church if they left their marriage. The enormity of these kinds of pressures but everything you identify in there I think puts us in your position and in the position of these victims, and I think you`ve uniquely conveyed that for us. I think that`s an invaluable lesson.

WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. I hope, as you said, that it sheds light on the fact that it`s not just a weak woman or a woman who doesn`t have financial security or a woman who feels compelled to stay there for other religious or personal reasons. There are numerous reasons that go into it. Perhaps the biggest one for me and other people who have shared their stories is shame because you have stayed. After the first incident for whatever reason you chose to stay.

And then the shame builds. And to tell someone you`re in the situation when it`s not something talked about openly, when there are myths and misconceptions about what an abusive situation looks like, it`s shameful to have to say that`s me, I`m in one. When you`re educated, when you come from a family of upstanding Harvard graduates,when you`re in a church community where people don`t get divorced, they work on their marriage. it is shameful to have to admit you find yourself in that situation and it keeps so many people to be victims, afraid they won`t be believed and afraid people will think less of them for having been in that situation.

O`DONNELL: Jenny, I want to go back to one word you used there, which is the word weak which is an image people might have of people who stay. that`s why I find your explanation for staying as long as you did so powerful but there`s also -- in that decision to stay, there is it seems to me in the way you describe it, this incredible definition of strength, is strength staying and fighting for this marriage, is that how to express strength? Or is it strength is best expressed in leaving? I think people think this is some clear picture of weakness versus strength don`t get it.

WILLOUGHBY: I`ve had a lot of people write to me in comments and in personal e-mails telling me well I wouldn`t have stayed. You obviously chose this. You wanted to be abused if you didn`t leave.

And you`re right I don`t think they understand the magnitude and nuances of what happens in an abusive relationship. It`s not about weakness of character or physical weakness or emotional strength. It`s about what you value in your life and what you value is your sense of self and your self image and that is your first thing to go in your relationship. So how can you possibly assess the situation clearly?

O`DONNELL: Jenny Willoughby thank you very much for spending some time with us tonight. And again I`m very sorry this is the subject that`s brought us together. But I believe what you`re letting people understand is extremely helpful and may be opening the eyes of people like John Kelly who have some judgments about this that aren`t including all the factors they should. So again, jenny, thank you for joining us.

WILLOUGHBY: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military grade nerve agent of a type by Russia. The government has concluded it was highly likely that the Russian government was responsible for the attack.

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O`DONNELL: And, of course, any other President of the United States other than Donald Trump would express support of our British ally. But we`re not dealing with any other President of the United States. We`re dealing with the Trump presidency. And in Trump Administration style, his team cannot get their story straight on the U.S. response to Prime Minister May`s statement. Next Counter Terrorism Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance will tell us what the United States should be doing.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAY: So therefore only two plausible explanations to what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of march. Either this was a direct act against the Russian State against our country or the Russian Government lost control of it`s potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now Malcolm Nance an MSNBC Counterterrorism and Intelligence Analyst. So Malcolm, which is it? A direct attack by the Russian State or Russia lost control of its weapon of mass destruction?

Malcolm Nance, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This was without a doubt a direct attack by Russian Federation on the United Kingdom. Let me go one step further. This is a state sponsored terrorist attack using class one terrorist.

That`s a state intelligence organization, North Korea that would go out and carry out a weapon of mass destruction attack on a NATO Member. This is a very serious event and no one should be taking it lightly because they went after two individuals. They contaminated over 21 and again, this is a state terrorist attack.

O`DONNELL: And speaking of taking it lightly, that seems to be the White House Press Secretary today refusing to make any kind of real statement about this.

NANCE: Well, yeah. This is insane. Look, Britain was attacked. They could if they want to, if they determine the scope of this spread of this weapon of mass destruction of the mythical Novichok Nerve Gas which, you know, I took chemical weapons training. This stuff was never even known.

We knew about VX-type nerve gases. This is more virulent. The United States should be on a maximum alert that this stuff isn`t used in this country. Britain could invoke article five of the NATO charter saying that they were attacked and that all NATO nations would have to come to its aid in this instance. I don`t believe this White House would honor that.

O`DONNELL: Malcolm, if it can happen there, can it happen here?

NANCE: Absolutely. Let me tell you, the United States has taken in dozens of former Soviet and Russian Intelligence officers who have worked for the CIA or other agencies or who have just retired in the United States. I know some personally. And let me tell you, Vladimir Putin believes right now and he said it on state television just two or three nights ago that the one thing that he will not tolerate, this is, by the way, this is an ex-KGB officer.

He will not tolerate betrayal. The next day Russian State Television came out and said this is what happens to traitors. They are going after all ex Soviet and Russian agents that ever worked for the United States, Great Britain, Nato and are attempting to kill them. This could easily happen in the United States. It could easily kill more than just the intended victims, which is, of course, the definition of terrorism.

O`DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, thank you for your invaluable expertise on this tonight. We really needed it tonight. Thank you, malcolm.

NANC: My pleasure

O`DONNELL: The Last Word is next.

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O`DONNELL: Time for Tonight`s Last Word.

COLIN JOST, HOLLYWOOD ACTOR: in January of 2017 a secret meeting took place in the Seychelles between a Trump associate, an official from the United Emirates and a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin. So sounds innocent.

At least with all this Mueller stuff we`re learning a lot about geography, you know. I mean Trump at this point is basically Carmen San Diego, only he wants to deport anyone with a name like Carmen San Diego.

O`DONNELL: Staten Islands local hero Colin Jost gets tonight`s Last Word. One of Florida`s members of congress who met with President Trump after the Parkland Mass Murder will give her reaction to new school safety proposal next in the 11th hour with Brian Williams, which starts now.

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