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McMaster out, Bolton in. TRANSCRIPT:03/22/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ron Klain, Chris Whipple, Wendy Sherman, Mieke Eoyang

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL March 22, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, Chris Whipple, Wendy Sherman, Mieke Eoyang


And I hope you`re ready for Stormy Daniels Sunday because she`s going to be on "60 Minutes" Sunday night. So, something will have to be done to kind of cloud that. There will have to be some news out of the White House to compete with that.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You think there will be a human generated news storm to try to occlude that?

O`DONNELL: Well, how many firings would it take on Sunday or late Sunday afternoon, how many firings would it take? I guess that`s the calculation that the president has to make now.

MADDOW: I mean, at some point, we`re going to come to the end of the cycle, because Fox News is a big organization, but they only employ so many people. And so, eventually, they`re going to, I mean, presumably, they`ll go through all the on-air talent. They`ll go the hosts, they`ll go through the correspondents, they`ll go through people who have contributor gigs with them. Once they get through the interns and stuff, they`ll have to cycle through again or come up with a new strategy for how to bring new people in.

O`DONNELL: At this rate, that will be by the next Christmas Party at the White House.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.


O`DONNELL: On April 9th, the United States will take one big step closer to nuclear war. On April 9th, John Bolton will become national security advisor to the president of the United States.

We don`t know who else will still be working in the White House by April 9th. John Kelly could be fired from the White House by then. We don`t know what lawyers will be defending Donald Trump in the special prosecutor`s investigation of the Russia investigation. The president`s legal criminal attorney, John Dowd, left the case today. Dowd publicly claims that he resigned, but he might have been fired. There`s no way of knowing, because everyone in Trump world is willing to lie about everything.

For an always chaotic White House, today was an unusually chaotic day. The dumping of the criminal defense lawyer was followed by the dumping of the president`s national security advisor H.R. McMaster and the naming of the next national security advisor John Bolton, and a report that the president is thinking about firing John Kelly and not replacing him.

The president is wondering aloud whether he actually needs a White House chief of staff and it`s a reasonable question. He has had two White House chiefs of staff and neither one of them managed to get a single day`s work done by the Trump White House that was not chaotic every minute of the day.

And so, as we saw in the Nixon White House as the prosecutor gets closer and closer to the president, the president gets more and more desperate, more and more unhinged. And that means in the Trump White House we get days like today.

And the other thing we got today, amidst the big shakeup of personnel, is the guarantee that things will get worse in the Trump White House on April 9th. And that guarantee comes in the person of John Bolton, who will be the president`s closest adviser on national security issues. The national security advisor has an advantage over the secretary of state, secretary of defense, director of the CIA, that is that the national security advisor`s office is located in the West Wing of the White House, always steps away from the president.

The national security advisor always gets the last word with the president. After the cabinet members have left a meeting and are in their cars on the way back to their departments, the national security advisor is still there and still has the president`s ear.

And on April 9th, Donald Trump will have a national security advisor who just five weeks earlier publicly called for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea. In an op-ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal", John Bolton made what he called the legal case for striking North Korea first. He compared it to other unilateral actions taken by the president of the United States, including, quote, in 1988, President Reagan unilaterally extended U.S. territorial waters from three to 12 miles.

What kind of strategic mind would see, in a nine-mile extension of United States territorial waters -- would see that in the same terms as a pre- emptive military attack on North Korean. That`s who`s going to be advising Donald Trump on North Korea on April 9th. The weakest mind that has ever occupied the presidency of the United States will be advised by the second weakest mind that has ever occupied the position of national security advisor, second, of course, to Michael Flynn`s 24 days as national security advisor to Donald Trump.

On April 9th, the only person left in the Trump administration with the stature to possibly stand between John Bolton and a nuclear war with North Korea is probably going to be Secretary of Defense James Mattis. It will once again fall to James Mattis to explain to the president that if we launch a pre-emptive strike to destroy North Korea`s nuclear weapons, it is likely they will launch a nuclear weapon immediately against South Korea, and it is absolutely guaranteed that if North Korea does not launch a nuclear weapon, it will use conventional weapons to kill tens of millions of people in South Korea in the first minutes of such a conflict.

Remember when James Mattis was Donald Trump`s favorite cabinet pick? It was during the transition before Donald Trump really knew any of his cabinet members.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense.

Mad Dog Mattis. He doesn`t lose. He doesn`t lose.


O`DONNELL: It was all about the nickname for Donald Trump. He didn`t know anything about General James Mattis, just the nickname. But now, Donald Trump knows that General Mattis is not mad dog enough for him. But on April 9th, there will be a mad dog working in the White House and the world will be less safe because of it. And the president will be that many days closer to whatever his ultimate showdown with the special prosecutor turns out to be, an interview with the special prosecutor, a subpoena to testify to a grand jury, under oath questioning in front of a grand jury.

With his lead defense attorney now off the case, Donald Trump has a legal mad dog to handle all of that now.


JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and if she didn`t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime. Everything that we have seen from these texts and from all the facts developing shows that the FBI and senior DOJ officials conspired to violate the law and to deny Donald Trump his civil rights.


O`DONNELL: That`s not a criminal lawyer talking. That`s a rodeo clown who went to law school talking. That`s the president`s new criminal defense lawyer.

If John Bolton was a criminal defense lawyer, he would sound a lot like Joseph diGenova just did. The pattern we have seen is that every day that Donald Trump comes closer to a showdown with the special prosecutor, every day that Jared Kushner comes closer to what will be his own showdown with the special prosecutor, which might or might not result in the president`s son-in-law being indicted, every day that we move closer and closer to whatever the special prosecutor`s confrontation with Trump world turns out to be, Trump world gets crazier and crazier and more and more chaotic and every containment strategy devised by the White House staff or by the Trump family or by the Trump lawyers -- every containment strategy designed to try to contain the madness of Donald Trump does not work and the madness mushrooms.

And so, it will be into that White House where all of the systems of containment of Donald Trump that have been tried and have already failed and failed completely -- it will be into that ever more chaotic White House that John Bolton officially reports for duty for the first time on April 9th. And on April 9th, we will be that much closer to the mushrooming madness of the Trump White House creating a mushroom cloud over the Korean peninsula.

Joining us now, Chris Whipple, the author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency", Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary for President Obama. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst. And Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama.

And, Josh Earnest, I just want to go to your reading of today. This has been as we say a chaotic White House, I`m not sure which day was more chaotic than today with the loss -- the removal, firing, resignation, whatever it was, of the president`s criminal defense lawyer, clearly the firing of the national security advisor and his quickly named replacement?

JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Lawrence, President Trump likes to shake things up and today was the day in which he succeeded in shaking a lot of things up. You know, my -- you know, in the news, it seems to me that the more significant move for the country is this change to replace H.R. McMaster with John Bolton. You know, my tenure in the White House, Lawrence, gave me a front row seat to seeing how presidents and their national security advisors work so closely together to formulate the national security of the country.

I flew around the world on Air Force One with Susan Rice. She sat in the chair next to me for many of those trips. She was the person who prepared the briefing materials for the president of the United States. She signed off of them at least. She was the person who is flying on the plane. Oftentimes, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the CIA director flying on their plane. She was the last person to speak to the president of the United States before he`d walk into a meeting with a foreign leader and she was the person who is sitting next to President Obama when he sat down across the table from other world leaders.

You will remember that famous photo of President Obama interacting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 a couple of years ago. It was not a previously planned meeting. It was a still photo of the meeting. And the only other person that`s pictured in that photo other than Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin was Susan Rice.

So, you know, John Bolton didn`t have a stellar during his first go around in the federal government, in the executive branch. But, boy, we as a country have a lot riding on him this time because there are a lot of times where he`s going to be putting his head together with Donald Trump and the two of them are going to be cooking up really important decisions.

So, we`re counting on you, John.

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s a lot to count on.

Ron Klain, I want to get your reaction to both of these moves today. I want to note that in Michael Wolff`s book, "Fire and Fury", the problem -- Steve Bannon was pushing John Bolton to be the national security advisor and the problem that Donald Trump had with John Bolton was his mustache, according to Steve Bannon in "Fire and Fury". The other revelation in "Fire and Fury" was that about H.R. McMaster. Donald Trump said: He bores the crap out of me, and I cleaned that up a little bit.


O`DONNELL: But, Ron, with your experience in the White House, I want you to talk about the change in the White House national security advisor but also this legal change, the top criminal defense lawyer on the Trump team is out today, what does that mean?

KLAIN: Well, you know, the day began with the president threatening to beat up to crying the former vice president.


KLAIN: And it ends without that being one of the top five craziest things that happened today.

O`DONNELL: Ron, I have to say that these comments about Biden, the tweet about beating up Biden is now officially old news.

KLAIN: Officially old news, yes.

O`DONNELL: It happened before noontime, I believe.

KLAIN: So, look, I think we saw two big changes. And while I certainly agree with Josh for the country and national security, this move of putting John Bolton, a man who hasn`t found a country he doesn`t want to start a war against, in as national security advisor is probably scarier.

But I do think this move of pushing out John Dowd and bringing in a TV conspiracist as the president`s chief lawyer is a clear signal of a second front in the Trump White House. They are loading up to fire Bob Mueller or to fight the special counsel in some other kind of way, and instead of handling this as a legal matter, they`re getting ready to handle this as a P.R. matter. They`re getting ready to handle this as a political matter.

They brought in Joe diGenova. They brought in his wife. They are TV lawyers.

And these TV lawyers are expected to do -- I mean, do on a government salary what they used to do for Fox News, which is to go on Fox and explain crazy conspiracies, craziness of Trump and try to sell that to Trump`s base. And that`s what Trump is readying the country for.

O`DONNELL: And, Chris Whipple, you`ve written a book about White House chiefs of staff, and here we have the president today apparently being reported by NBC News, that he is actually thinking about not just getting rid of John Kelly, but also not replacing him because Trump is starting to think he doesn`t need a White House chief of staff.

Imagine for us, the Trump White House without a chief of staff. You`ve spent a long time talking to Reince Priebus about how it works.

CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, "GATEKEEPERS": Try to imagine. The thing is, it`s no surprise that Donald Trump wants to get rid of his chief of staff and be his own because he doesn`t want any grown ups in the room. He`s tired of being told what he can`t do. But history is littered with presidencies that tried to do that, to operate according to a kind of spokes of the wheel, with the president at the center, everybody coming and going. It`s never worked.

John Kennedy tried it until he ran into the Bay of Pigs. Afterwards, he leaned on his brother, Bobby, as the de facto chief. LBJ ran into Vietnam, there was nobody to speak hard truths to him.

So, it`s a model that has failed time and again. And all you have to do is look at the first six months of the Trump`s presidency, where the model of the 26th floor of Trump Tower, with everybody coming and going, and nobody empowered. That will tell you what it`s like to govern without a White House chief of staff.

O`DONNELL: Josh Earnest, the Trump White House without a White House chief of staff, I mean, one thing I`m wondering about, is from our perspective, from sitting out here, would anything at all appear to be different? Could it possibly appear to be more chaotic if the White House chief of staff job was empty?

EARNEST: Well, Lawrence, I don`t know if it would have an impact on President Trump`s public image but it would have a profound impact on the inner workings of the White House. And, you know, one of the challenges that John Kelly has accepted and actually faired relatively well in managing is trying to manage the intense staff level rivalries inside the White House. Remember, there was basically open war in the halls of the West Wing when Reince Priebus was chief of staff and you had the Bannon wing and Kushner wing.

And General Kelly, for all of his faults and he`s got many of them, has actually been able to put a lid on that, in some cases by firing people like Steve Bannon. So, I do fear and think this would be a legitimate fear of everybody who works in the West Wing, that removing him as chief of staff would actually take the lid off those rivalries again. And as difficult a place the White House is to work even under the best of circumstances, it would get far, far worse for the people that have to show up there every day.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, there`s reporting that John Kelly opposed the choice of John Bolton as national security advisor. We know John Kelly blocked John Bolton`s freelance access to the president, that was going on before John Kelly became the chief of staff. And so, it looks like this choice of Bolton could be the beginning of the counting of the days for John Kelly.

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, I think we learned over the past couple days, when Sarah Sanders goes out and says the president thinks you`re doing a great job, it`s time to brush up your LinkedIn profile. And I think that time could be coming for John Kelly.

Look, I have a lot of disagreements with John Kelly on matters of domestic policy in particular. But we got to give him this, he is a military man who understands the huge cost, human cost of war and was not a war hog. I think seeing John Bolton come into the White House with his proposals for a pre-emptive strike with North Korea, for war with Iran, he even wrote recently about the idea of war with Cuba.

I mean, this is a person who`s going to get this country into a military conflict, and I don`t think that`s what John Kelly wants. I do think this is a sign that John Kelly may be on the way out.

O`DONNELL: Chris, on April 9th, John Bolton will be in there as the national security advisor and we know based on the pattern, he`s going to be Donald Trump`s favorite new toy. There`s going to be a favorite in the White House on April 9th and it`s going to be the new guy. The interesting thing is he`s there every day. He`s in a physical position for the president to in effect start leaning on John Bolton as a de facto White House chief of staff and make him be the traffic cop.

WHIPPLE: Here`s the troubling thing about it. Reagan said about his fractious White House that the right wing doesn`t know what the far right wing is doing. Well, this shows the far right wing has won. It`s prevailed.

Bolton is a terrible choice for national security advisor because that person has to be, above all else, the so-called honest broker of information on every side of a national security issue. The model is Brent Scowcroft under Bush 41. You never put your thumb on the scale. Bolton is a hard right ideologue, and quite frankly, we have a White House chief of staff who has also reinforced all of Donald Trump`s most partisan instincts.

So, competent people are headed for the exits, hard right ideologues are coming in and it`s really a recipe for disaster.

O`DONNELL: Chris Whipple, Josh Earnest, Ron Klain, thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Trump`s appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor has people who know John Bolton worried that he shares the president`s worse instincts. David Corn, and Ned Price and Ambassador Wendy Sherman will join us in that discussion.

We have breaking news in the special prosecutor`s investigation. A new report ties the hacking of the DNC to a Russian military officer, one who was in contact with an associate of the Trump campaign.


O`DONNELL: John Bolton has not limited his dangerous thinking to bombing North Korea and bombing Iran after ripping up the Iran deal. He`s full of dangerous ideas. In 2013, John Bolton appeared in a propaganda video in Russia speaking directly to the Russian people. The video was created by a Russian group called the Right to Bear Arms. That group was founded by a close ally of Vladimir Putin who also has a very close relationship with the National Rifle Association.

So, here is John Bolton in that video trying to open up new markets in Russia for American gun manufacturers who fund the National Rifle Association.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Today, you`re engaged in a historic debate about the possible expansion of your freedoms. Should the Russian people have the right to bear arms? I can share with you a word about what this particular freedom has meant to Americans and offer you encouragement as you consider embracing that freedom which so many nations and cultures have found to be the essential defense for all other freedoms.


O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, Ned Price, former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council and a former CIA analyst. He`s an MSNBC contributor. And David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and coauthor of the new bestselling book "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump". David is also an MSNBC contributor.

And, Ned, tell us your reaction of John Bolton going into this position of national security advisor.

NED PRICE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the fact of the matter is, Lawrence, and this is no exaggeration, but there couldn`t be a more dangerous individual at a more dangerous time. You know, we`ve heard all about this individual over the past several hours but it`s all true. He`s a warmonger who has never met a potential conflict that he didn`t want to rush into it, whether it was Iran, whether it was Iraq, whether it`s North Korea, even in the Americas. He took aim at Cuba, cooking up intelligence that Cuba had a biological weapons program that he thought would legitimize the use of military force against Havana.

But we also have to consider the context in which he will be placed in to this role. It will be in the coming weeks when Washington -- when the Trump administration will face key deadlines on at least two key issues, that is North Korea and Iran. Obviously, we have the summit opportunity coming up with Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, and that`s a scary thought in itself without John Bolton in the mix.

But also on Iran where the Iran deal will face a key deadline and President Trump will have to decide whether to keep the deal, which is the only thing that stood in the way of Iran and a nuclear weapon, or to scuttle it. And both of these, these decisions could well spell the difference between war and peace and we have Bolton at the helm of this decision-making process to the same John Bolton who for years, if not more than a decade, has argued for conflict against both countries, which is a very ominous, ominous thought.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at an issue where John Bolton disagrees with the president, at least has disagreed with him publicly very strongly. And that is on the approach to Russia.

Listen to what John Bolton had to say about the ex-spy being attacked in England by -- possibly by Russian agents. Let`s listen to this.


BOLTON: It`s so blatant in a public place. It reminds me of Kim Jong-un, Moscow`s friend, killing his brother-in-law in an airport in Malaysia, by having the women rub the VX nerve agent on his face. It`s an act of defiance. It`s saying the London and to the other Western capitals, what are you going to do about it? Well, I think there should be a strong answer to that.


O`DONNELL: David Corn, how is that particular session going to go with President Trump when he`s advised to have a strong answer to Vladimir Putin about anything?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think this is the scariest day of the Trump presidency since election day. You know, you, me, Ned, we all try to find themes and coherence and positions. I mean, that`s what Bolton said a couple days ago but he also, after Trump congratulated Putin said, oh, that was the right thing to do, that was the polite thing to do.

When Trump ran for president, he pointed to the Iraq war as the opposite of what he wanted to do, as a disaster, sad, bad, whatever, he overplayed his own opposition to it at the time. But it was what he used to say I`m not going to be like that. Well, so now he`s putting in the office next door the guy who`s one of the architects and lead cheerleaders of the Iraq war who at the time said, you know, the American role in the invasion of Iraq is not going to be that big.

I mean, he got everything wrong. He was part of the team that lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. In 2009, we at "Mother Jones" got a copy of a tape of his talk he gave at University of Chicago when he said the only way to get rid of Iran`s nuclear program would be for Israeli to use nuclear weapons against it.

So, I mean, why Trump is bringing him there? I can think of no other reason, other than Trump hates his staff and wants everybody at Fox News to come on in and run the government for him. I think we`re going to see -- who knows, Sean Hannity may be the new chief of staff. Martha MacCallum -- I mean, there`s going to be jobs for everybody. I don`t know how they`re going to get the shows on the air anymore at Fox, but that really seems to be where Trump is heading here.

I don`t even think he`s picking Bolton because he`s a hard liner. I think he`s picking him because he`s on TV.

O`DONNELL: And, Ned, John Bolton could not get confirm bid the Senate when George W. Bush nominated him to be ambassador of the United Nations, so the president then installed him through a recess appointment. But it seems that John Bolton would have similar concerns getting confirmed now, national security advisor does not have to be confirmed. And so, they bypass that completely.

Talk about the national security advisor having the last word with the president the way the job is designed with keeping the national security advisor physically housed in the White House.

PRICE: Well, that`s precisely what gives the national security advisor his or her currency, having that proximity to the president. The national security advisor`s office is just feet from the Oval Office and as Josh was saying on your program earlier, the national security advisor is the first one in and the last one out when the president meets with his foreign counterpart.

The other key point, though, Lawrence is the national security advisor is not supposed to come to the position with firm prominent policy views of his or her own. The person is supposed to be the coordinator, he`s supposed to be the mediator between the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the intelligence community, the Treasury Department and so forth and so on.

That`s not John Bolton. John Bolton is someone who comes to the job with very strong preformed views.

And, Lawrence, I want to go back to the last question to David. This question on Russia. You know, John Bolton is a hawk. He is a warmonger but he has a soft spot and a strange soft spot for Russia.

In that 2013 video that the NRA sponsored, he hailed the new era of freedom in Putin`s Russia. When the reports first started to emerge of Russia`s meddling in our election, he raised the possibility that the Obama administration was doing this as a false flag operation and to blame Russia.

And as David just mentioned he didn`t find President Trump`s congratulations to Vladimir Putin all that surprising. It was the polite thing to do. So it`s quite strange that John Bolton has this seeming similarity to his future boss when it comes to Vladimir Putin`s Moscow.

O`DONNELL: Ned Price and David Corn, thanks for joining us.


O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman is just as worried about the appointment of John Bolton as everyone else we`ve heard from. Ambassador Wendy Sherman who worked on negotiating the Iran deal and worked on negotiations with North Korea will join us next.


O`DONNELL: On April 9th, when John Bolton officially become it is President`s National Security Advisor he will be privately urging the President to do what he`s been publicly urging the President to do, what bomb North Korea, rip up the Obama Iran deal that prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons and then bomb Iran and create a new government in Iran that is friendly to the United States.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this year advocating the forced regime change in Iran, John Bolton offered this fantasy. Recognizing a new Iranian regime in 2019 would reverse the shame of once seeing our diplomats held hostage for 444 days. The former hostages can cut the ribbon to open the new U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Joining us now from the CNBC Bureau in Singapore Ambassador Wendy Sherman former Under Secretary of State and an MSNBC Global Affairs Contributor. Ambassador Sherman I wanted to get your reaction tonight to the selection of John Bolton as the next National Security Advisor?

WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Obviously I agree with your guests this evening, Lawrence. This is really a horrible step by President Trump. And I know people have talked about this really bringing everybody from the FOX News green room. But quite frankly it makes me think of the Godfather someone, President Trump who believes he`s at the center of the universe; there are no rules that apply. He`ll do whatever is necessary to keep his base, to try to win reelection.

There are no principles. And I think none of us can forget, who have watched all the Godfather movies that in the end Michael Corleone the new Godfather even does in his brother Fredo. So there is no loyalty that goes in directions here and that`s not loyalty to staff, but that`s loyalty to allies and partners around the world. And that speaks great concern not only for Iran and North Korea, issues of enormous concern that we have to get right for our National Security but for our transatlantic relationship.

And I`m out here in Asia today where I`m here to talk about North Korea even though I`ve got a bit of a cold. But also what`s happening with China, these tariffs that may start a trade war. Indeed we have issues with China but we also want China`s help to make sure we don`t have a nuclear war with North Korea. So the stakes could not be higher.

O`DONNELL: I want to look at John Bolton`s confirmation hearing when he was nominated to be the Ambassador to the United Nations by George W. Bush. He did not succeed in getting confirmed by the United States senate and part of it was because of the questioning in the Foreign Relations Committee. I want to show one moment of that involving the junior Senator from Illinois at the time, Barack Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: If the record indicate that you were seeking to reject hard facts because they didn`t neatly fit into a speech that you were making on behalf of the United States Government, is it fair to say that would be something that this panel should be concerned about and that that might undermine your capacity to be a credible advocate for the United States in the United Nations?


O`DONNELL: And Ambassador Sherman, the answers were not reassuring to the committee members and that`s one of the questions tonight, is John Bolton`s ability to ignore hard facts, as Senator Obama was pointing out there, when making what`s supposed to be an honest broker presentation to the President?

SHERMAN: There is no doubt John Bolton is not going too be an honest broker here. He has views, and one of my greatest concerns this evening your time, morning my time, is what James Mattis is going to do. James Mattis is in charge of our military. We believe in civilian control of our military. And he believes in the credible threat of force but in service of diplomacy as the first resort, military action as the last resort.

And now we have a National Security Advisor who believes that war is the first resort. He was ready to bomb Iran for a regime change. He believes to this day that the Iraq war was the best thing we did. although we were proud of our troops, the shock and awe, the shock afterwards in our ability to help make Iraq make the changes it needed is played out still today.

He believes we should attack North Korea which is be catastrophic not only to the lives of American service men and women and our allies and partners in Asia, but it will be catastrophic to world economy as well. So we don`t have an honest broker. and if as you reported earlier in the show the President is going to get rid of John Kelly and not put a new Chief of Staff in place, I`m not sure what General James Mattis is going to do because he thought he was in this with his brothers who served in the military and all of those brothers are now gone.

O`DONNELL: Ambassador Wendy Sherman thank you for making an extraordinary accommodation in your schedule to join us from Singapore for this important news, really appreciate it.

SHERMAN: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Trump gets rid of his lead criminal Defense Lawyer, that was his first big move today. But he`s doing that as the special prosecutor is closing in. Who does the Special Prosecutor have to negotiate with now on the scheduling of the questioning of the President? And a new report tonight says that Roger Stone did, in fact have direct contact with a Russian agent during the Presidential Campaign, and that is something Roger Stone has always denied.


O`DONNELL: Did he resign or was he fired? That was the question today about Donald Trump`s lead criminal defense lawyer, John Dowd or we could also ask did he resign because he knew he was going to be fired and it doesn`t make any difference. In Trump World everyone is on the verge of being fired all the time. And if they pull the trigger on themselves first, what difference does that make? But on the day that the President lost his lead criminal defense lawyer, the investigation of Russian interference in our election has taken a new and important return. The Daily Beast reports Guccifer 2.0, the loan hacker who took credit for providing Wikileaks with stolen e-mails from the Democratic National Committee was in fact, an officer in Russia`s Military Intelligence Directorate.

The Russian agent reportedly left a digital trail that allowed U.S. investigators to identify him as a particular GRU Officer working out of agencies headquarters in Moscow. According to the Daily Beast Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI Agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

At least one Trump associate communicated directly with Guccifer 2.0. Roger Stone admitted in a blog post last March he had been in touch with Guccifer 2.0 over Twitter direct messages. Mieke Eoyang and David Corn will join the discussion next about the chaos in the Trump legal team today and this new report about Roger Stone`s contact with a Russian Agent.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump would you still like to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller, sir? You would? You would like to, sir?


O`DONNELL: Remember, that is a pathological liar saying I would like to testify to Robert Mueller. Joining us now Mieke Eoyang. And David Corn is back with us. mieke I want to your reaction to the shake up in the Trump criminal defense team at a critical point in this case. Is this going to slow it down?

MIEKE EOYANG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I don`t think it will slow down the investigation at all. it does show they may be changing direction. It may slow down just because of the chaos who`s involved in the legal team. You went from John Dowd who seemed to know who what he was doing and had experience trying these kind of cases to someone who hasn`t had a lot of criminal defense experience, whose experience is much more limited to speaking about these things on television. so when you`re dealing with real lawyers and real motions, he may have trouble handing these things.

O`DONNELL: David Corn I want to get your reaction to this report tonight about Guccifer 2.0. This puts roger stone in direct contact with a Russian agent.

CORN: It does. You know -- you know how much I hate talking about my book Lawrence but --

O`DONNELL: But David the title of the book as I recall is Russian Roulette.

CORN: Yes. And so it`s quite fortunate how much new there is about it this week. But, you know, in the book, Michael Isikoff and I talk about or describe how Stone, you know, in the summer of 2016, was saying was in touch with Julian Assange, was in touch with Guccifer. And one of the most interesting things was that in August of 2016, when everybody was basically saying you know with seems to be a Russian internet persona, not a real Romanian hacker as he claimed to be, Stone wrote an article for whose else but Breitbart saying everyone was wrong, the hacker was real, he was Romanian. You could trust Roger Stone on this.

And of course, he was blowing smoke. But what he was doing, as we see now clearly he was participating in a cover up to protect a Russian Military Intelligence officer who is part of a plan to attack the United States. I mean, you know, I don`t like to use the words of treason or traitor, although I just mentioned them, but here he was helping somebody engaged in attacking the United States. he has a lot to answer for.

O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang , if we were to give Roger Stone something of a benefit of the doubt that he`s not being completely aware that Guccifer 2.0 is actually a Russian agent, this would at the minimum show that the Trump Campaign and Trump Campaign Associates and Trump Campaign Supporters could have been in touch with, and in some ways, colluding with Russian agents without even knowing it.

EOYANG: That`s right. and what we heard from our Intelligence Officials before and during the campaign was that there may have been people who were either witting or unwitting in their working with the Russians, and the Russian`s intentions were to help get Trump Elected and to see the defeat of Hillary Clinton. I think there`s some real questions about how much knowing there was inside the Trump Campaign, and if it was an innocent mistake. What I don`t understand is why you wouldn`t own up to that and say I didn`t know, and if the Russians were involved, that`s terrible and we shouldn`t have done that.

And we shouldn`t have Russia deciding what`s going on in the elections. But you don`t see that. You see denial after denial. A refusal to even acknowledge what our Intelligence Community has found out and what Mueller has charged in his indictments.

O`DONNELL: David Corn you`ve watched every Special Prosecutors investigation on Washington up close for many years now, for decades now. Here we have a lawyer bailing out, being kicked out by the President, the lead criminal defense lawyer for the President in the middle of the investigation, and we`re approaching a critical showdown point of does the President speak to the Special Prosecutor, under what circumstances, a delicate negotiation. Suddenly the President`s leader of those negotiations is gone.

CORN: You know people ask me where do these lawyers take Trump on in jobs like that? The reason they do it here in Washington is for fame, notoriety, to be at the center of attention, the hottest game in town. That`s why Abbey Low is defending Jared Kushner. A Democrat but defending Jared and so John Dowd, it`s almost inconceivable to me that he would leave on his own, unless he had just reached the conclusion that this is helpless, the situation, Trump just can`t be lawyered. And you know I`ve got to tell you, I know Joe diGenova.

And he`s not a guy I would turn to for legal strategy. If you want some blustering on TV, that`s your man. But to sort of figure out how to deal with this in a legal way, as Mieke just said, he`s not the choice. So the good news is, Mueller`s investigation proceeds independently of who is defending Trump. It has no bearing on anything that Mueller himself is doing. He doesn`t need Trump`s interview to proceed with this case. He probably wants it. But there`s so many other avenues for him to explore.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, Mieke Eoyang , thank you both for joining us, really appreciate it.

EOYANG: thank you.

CORN: Thank you

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next.


O`DONNELL: Let`s take one more look at why John Bolton failed to win senate confirmation when George W. Bush nominated him to be ambassador to the United Nations. Here is some of what John Bolton ran into at his confirmation hearing in the senate foreign relations committee.


OBAMA: You had a particular perspective, you had an Intelligence Analyst who was concerned that your perspective was not quite right, and that in that context, you were interested in shading or shaping the analysis to fit your reasonable hypothesis. That`s the reason, I think, we`re concerned, applying your test. We don`t want our intelligence to be not corroborated by not hard facts.


O`DONNELL: Senator Barack Obama gets tonight`s last word. there`s much more in the changes in the Trump White House and the Trump Criminal Defense team and very important insights from Ali Velchi on the stock market drop today in reaction to a potential trade war being ignited by President Trump`s policies. That`s all in The 11th hour with Brian Williams, and that starts now.