Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 17, 2018 Guest: John McLaughlin
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I have to say about Barbara Bush, from anything I`ve ever heard from her children, her grandchildren, everything you hear from them about her is just wonderful stuff, just ideal comments about a mother and a grandmother.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes. You know, always described unfailingly always described as strong, as the rock of that family, as the spine of that family. And somebody who was seen as unshakeable, even in extreme circumstances. And obviously, the Bush family is like none other in American history and politics. And she was by all accounts the absolute center and heart of it.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, I know you have commented on the president hiring new lawyers to represent him in what is now the Michael Cohen case in the Southern District of New York. I`ve got a little scoop about them that I`m going to be talking about in my first segment. And don`t tell Donald Trump, because he -- I don`t think he knows this about the lawyers that he hired in New York. And it could really push him over whatever edge is left for him to go over.
MADDOW: Well, we know anything said on cable news is a secret to him.
O`DONNELL: Yes, how will he find out?
MADDOW: How will he find out? So, I won`t tell him.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, multiple reports indicate that President Trump and the Trump family members and Trump team members are more worried what is happening in Judge Kimba Woods` courtroom in the courthouse in Manhattan than anything that is happening in Robert Mueller`s grand jury investigation in Washington, D.C. Judge Kimba Woods` courtroom is where the president is fighting to suppress evidence obtained in FBI raids of his former lawyer Michael Cohen`s home and office and hotel room and safety deposit box.
According to the "Associated Press", Trump and his allies have hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorneys` office, fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle, and his adult children, and more than concerned that they don`t know exactly what is in those records and electronic devices seized last week. A former Trump campaign official told "Axios" the guys that know Trump best are most worried. People are very, very worried because it`s Michael effing Cohen. Who knows what he has done?
The clearest indication of just how worried Donald Trump is about this federal criminal case in the Southern District of New York appears on the second page of the transcript of yesterday`s hearing. It lists the lawyers present. And there you see Spears and Imes LLP, attorneys for Donald Trump, president. The lead counsel for Spears and Imes on this case is Joanna C. Hendon. She spoke for the president in court.
Below that, you see an attorney for the Trump Organization and also an attorney representing the "New York Times" and other news organizations who successfully argued for the release of Sean Hannity`s name in court yesterday. And at the bottom of the page is Michael Avenatti, attorney for interested parties, Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels.
So, the president of the United States once again has the honor of being the very first president in history to have his name appear in legal filings with a porn star. And you`ll remember that Michael Avenatti went from the courtroom yesterday to right here at THE LAST WORD last night where he described for us the drama and legal incompetence of Michael Cohen`s lawyers that led to Sean Hannity`s name being revealed in court as one of Michael Cohen`s three and only three law clients. But Michael Avenatti had no criticism last night for President Trump`s lawyers, the law firm of Spears & Imes.
The Spears & Imes team is the best legal hire that Donald Trump has made in his life. Donald Trump is in trouble in federal court in the southern district of New York largely because he has been unwilling to pay top dollar for top lawyers throughout his life. Donald Trump is cheap. That`s why Michael Cohen is in his life. And that`s why Michael Cohen may have ruined Donald Trump`s life.
Donald Trump has been represented by a varying cast of lawyers in the Robert Mueller investigation. None of them top tier lawyers. But Donald Trump is not fooling around in the southern district of New York, oh. No Donald Trump hired the best criminal defense lawyers he could find.
Spears & Imes is a law firm founded by two former assistant attorneys in the Southern District of New York. You cannot get better criminal defense lawyers than this Spears & Imes team. That`s the good news for Donald Trump.
The other good news is he won`t pay for it. Donald Trump will continue to use campaign contributions to pay for his lawyers. He has spent almost $100,000 already for his lawyer in the Stormy Daniels civil lawsuit brought by Michael Avenatti in a California court. So, Donald Trump is getting the best criminal lawyers he can get in New York City, and he is making his campaign contributors pay for it.
But here is the news about his new criminal defense law firm that Donald Trump does not know and it is going to drive him crazier than he has already been driven by what`s happening in Judge Woods` courtroom. The president has been ranting repeatedly about what he believes are the political leanings of Robert Mueller`s team of prosecutors.
Here is a recent example. The fake and corrupt Russia investigation headed up by all Democrat loyalists. The president`s lead defense lawyer in court yesterday from the firm of Spears & Imes was Joanna Hendon. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, hired by the first woman U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, Mary Jo White, who was selected for the job by liberal Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and officially nominated by President Bill Clinton.
If Joanna Hendon were on Robert Mueller`s team, Donald Trump would be calling her a Democrat loyalist, instead of paying her to defend him tonight, which is what he is doing. But that`s not the best part. The most maddening thing for Donald Trump about the law firm he has hired, Spears & Imes, the founders of that law firm, Spears & Imes, David Spears and Linda Imes, were assistant U.S. attorneys serving with Assistant U.S. Attorney James B. Comey. Spears and Imes and Comey all worked in the criminal division of the United States Attorneys Office for Southern District of New York, the same unit that Donald Trump is now fighting in court. Spears and Imes are friends of James Comey`s.
And this is, as bad as it already is, this is the part that no one, really no one should tell Donald Trump. This is the part that will produce one of the leaks from inside the White House about the president raging at his team and at James Comey who continues to drive the president crazy with his book tour. Three days after President Trump fired James Comey, Spears and Imes, David Spears and Linda Imes, wrote a letter with the salutation: Dear Mr. Deputy Attorney General. It was to Rod J. Rosenstein, deputy attorney general of the United States. The first line was, we the undersigned, are former United States attorneys and assistant United States attorneys for the Southern District of New York.
The letter referred to the firing of James Comey and mentioned the authors` personal relationship with James Comey. Many of us know him personally. All of us respect him as a highly professional and ethical person who has devoted more than 20 years of his life to public service.
The letter addressed the publicly stated reason that President Trump fired James Comey. While we do not all necessarily agree with the manner in which he dealt with the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, we sincerely believe that his abrupt and belated termination for this conduct occurring months later and on the heels of his public testimony about his oversight of the investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election has the appearance, if not the reality of interfering with that investigation. We are Republicans, Democrats, and independents. The letter was signed by 180 former assistant United States attorneys and United States attorneys in the Southern District of New York.
The final sentence says: as former prosecutors, we believe the only solution in the present circumstances would be to appoint a special counsel, and we urge you to take that course. Respectfully submitted and there on the first page of signatories is Linda Imes. And on the second page is David W. Spears, the leaders of the law firm that Donald Trump has hired and is paying to defend him in federal court in Manhattan right now.
Donald Trump`s own lawyers called for a special prosecutor because Donald Trump fired James Comey. And Donald Trump does not know that. And will not know that unless some brave soul working in the White House watching MSNBC right now dares to tell Donald Trump.
Spears and Imes are consummate professionals. They will fairly and fully and responsibly defend their client, Donald Trump`s interests without any regard to their own political leanings or the fact that they previously worked with James Comey. Just like special prosecutor Robert Mueller has conducted himself with the utmost in professionalism, without any apparent bias being shown in favor of James Comey, simply because they once worked together. That`s the way the best, most professional lawyers always operate.
And for once, Donald Trump has the best and most professional lawyers in the Southern District of New York. And he has them because he is absolutely terrified of what`s happening in that courtroom.
Michael Cohen, on the other hand, is represented by a lawyer who has been lied to or -- or even worse, did not tell the truth himself in court to Federal Judge Kimba Wood. Before Sean Hannity`s name was revealed in court yesterday, one of Michael Cohen`s lawyer, Steven Ryan stood up in court and told the judge this. The client was contacted over the weekend and asked that we not disclose their name and further that we take an appeal if the court was going to make that name is public.
In the next few minutes, we learned that that name was Sean Hannity. And then last night, Sean Hannity said that Michael Cohen`s lawyer did not tell the truth in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Here`s the truth: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never received an invoice. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees. I did have occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen. He is a great attorney about legal questions I had or I was looking for input and perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: And here is the part that could get Michael Cohen`s lawyer in very, very serious trouble for representing something to the court that is not true. Now remember, Michael Cohen`s lawyer Stephen Ryan stood up in court and said to the judge: The client was contacted over the weekend and asked that we not disclose their name, and further that we take an appeal if the court was going to make that name public. Sean Hannity says that that is absolutely not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: I never asked Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf. I have no personal interest in this legal matter. That`s all there is. Nothing more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s not all there is for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. And now, Michael Cohen`s lawyer, who was either lied to or lied to the court.
Joining our discussion now, Harry Litman, former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. Also with us, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post." And Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Harry, I want to go to the last point first, which is you have a lawyer standing up in court representing to a federal judge that they`ve had communication with Sean Hannity over the weekend. And Sean Hannity said to them that he does not want his name revealed, and said to them that he will appeal a judge`s ruling to reveal his name.
And Sean Hannity last night goes on television and says everything that lawyer said about him in court was a lie.
What happens next in Judge Kimba Woods` courtroom with that lawyer who told her that about Sean Hannity?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, you do not want to play poker and bluff with any judge, but especially Judge Wood. And notice, Lawrence, it doesn`t even matter exactly what Hannity told him. He stood up in front of the court and made a representation.
The representation was if she revealed it, he would immediately appeal, which you can do. You can right away stop the music and try to bring it up to the Second Circuit. And it turned out he just folded. And of course it ruins his credibility with her. But much more given the stakes of this case and what`s overall going on. It is something she could -- if she doesn`t sanction him for, nevertheless, she will be very, very out of sorts with having received a misrepresentation like that.
O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, let`s discuss the president`s new team of criminal lawyers from the firm of Spears & Imes. These are people who Donald Trump would attack as Democratic partisan hacks if they were working for the special prosecutor. And tonight they`re working for him.
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And you know what? He is lucky that they`re working for him because he has gotten at least while it lasts what he has long needed, which is serious criminal representation from lawyers who have experience in the criminal defense field, not just some folks who wandered in who have a Supreme Court practice like Jay Sekulow or spend a lot of time on Fox News or something else.
You need -- he is -- I don`t know if he is in serious criminal trouble, but he is in the middle of a serious criminal investigation, and you don`t want to be hiring lawyers from TV to that. You want to be hiring these kind of lawyers.
O`DONNELL: So, Jonathan Capehart, when Donald Trump recognizes that he is in very serious legal trouble, and he has a very serious legal matter on his hands, he seems to behave the same way Robert Mueller does with a serious legal matter on his hand and reach out to hire the same kinds of people.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, the best, most qualified people who will as Ruth said, give him the best representation that he needs and he could possibly have and hasn`t had since we`ve been talking about the special counsel Mueller and this investigation.
O`DONNELL: And, Harry, the president, of course, I`m sure does not know that the leaders of the law firm that he has hired wrote that letter to Rod Rosenstein calling for a special prosecutor. What do you imagine his reaction will be to that? And what should his reaction be to that?
LITMAN: His reaction should be exactly what Ruth said. That it doesn`t matter that he -- and what you said at the top, Lawrence. It doesn`t matter. He has solid professional counsel. They will represent him absolutely vigorously without regard.
What will his response be? You know, I think possibly his head will turn around 360 degrees. One can just imagine what he`s thinking given his world view and way of approaching these things.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth Marcus, Fox News has said they`ve discussed this situation with Sean Hannity about Michael Cohen, and that they see no problem going forward. They didn`t know anything about it before. They learned about it when everyone else learned about it in court.
MARCUS: Of course, they don`t see a problem. What problem could there possibly be? I am being sarcastic here.
Of course, there is a problem. It`s unbelievable. When you get on television and you rail about this raid of a lawyer`s office and you don`t mention your own continuing relationship with him. This is a problem. It will be a problem in my office, and it would be a problem I think at MSNBC in your office. It`s simply not a problem for Fox News, but there is something different about Fox News.
I want to go back and say one thing if I might about the president`s potential response to this letter calling for the appointment of special counsel. This is -- we know from Donald Trump`s tweets and everything else the way he thinks. He is just a tribalist. You are on his team or you`re on the other team. You are a friend or you are an enemy.
So, he doesn`t understand that lawyers can compartmentalize. That first of all, just because your law partners have signed this letter, the heads of your law firm have signed this letter, he doesn`t understand that you might not necessarily agree with that. He doesn`t understand that you might be a Democrat, somebody who has given to Democratic candidates and also be a lawyer who could go after Democrats as well as Republicans because that`s what prosecutors do. They want scalps. They don`t want to go for their team.
This is just completely inconsistent with the way Donald Trump thinks. And that is why Harry said his head might spin around 360 degrees. I think it might just explode.
O`DONNELL: John Capehart --
MARCUS: Either one would be fun.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, there is a report tonight saying the president is apoplectic about this investigation in the Southern District and one he absolutely does not believe is that the professional prosecutors involved will use the division of labor that is set up for this to make sure that the prosecutors handling the Cohen case do not see any of the privileged communication that might exist in some of the harvest of the raid. The president does not believe that those lawyers will ethically carry that out.
He is employing tonight as his defense counsel lawyers who have been involved in the southern district of New York in that very same unit doing that very same thing.
CAPEHART: Yes, Lawrence. What`s the big deal?
O`DONNELL: Sorry. It`s inconsistent, I guess.
CAPEHART: This is what is so ridiculous about this. Look, there are a couple of things about Donald Trump. And I want to make a bet with you right now, Lawrence. How much you want to bet that even if he -- so when brave soul goes up to the residence or Mar-a-Lago and tells him what you just reported, I bet you he doesn`t say anything, for two reasons.
One, Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. He will defend himself. The presidency doesn`t matter. His own livelihood and well-being is what matters. One.
Two, as you reported in your opening monologue there, the RNC, and correct me if I am wrong, the RNC are campaign donations are paying for these lawyers. So when the president finds himself and feels personally in trouble and can finally get excellent legal representation that is paid for by someone else, not by him, that this is why we see Spears and Imes at the table here, and why he is probably not going to say word boo about those two people signing that letter of former prosecutors who called for special counsel.
That`s my bet to you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: All right. I will bet you one cup of coffee on that.
Harry Litman, Jonathan Capehart, Ruth Marcus, thanks for joining our first round of discussion tonight.
And we have breaking news. The Trump administration has met face-to-face with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. CIA director Mike Pompeo met with him. Former CIA Director John McLaughlin will join our discussion.
And lawyers are now getting a very, very big cut of campaign contributions because Donald Trump and his friends are in so much deep legal trouble.
O`DONNELL: Historic breaking news tonight. "The Washington Post" is reporting CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a top secret visit to North Korea over Easter weekend as an envoy for President Trump to meet with that country`s leader Kim Jong-un. The extraordinary meeting was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea`s nuclear weapons program.
This afternoon during press conference with the Japanese prime minister, the president admitted that the White House has had talks with North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve also started talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA and an MSNBC national security analyst.
John, what is the precedent here for American high level government contact with North Korea?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We haven`t had this kind of high-level contact, Lawrence. I think Director Pompeo is the first senior American to meet with this particular North Korean leader.
Presidents have always used the intelligence channel and frequently used CIA directors to carry messages privately, secretly to individuals where they`re trying to work out a problem. So, it`s not unusual in that sense. The intelligence channel is quite frequently used.
In this case, you know, it makes a certain sense that this has happened. You think about it. There really is no State Department to function to do this right now there is no secretary of state.
There is no ambassador in South Korea. Senior levels people working on Korea are gone from the State Department. And it was announced some time ago that the CIA would have a larger role than usual in these negotiations.
And it`s no secret to the world that Pompeo has a close relationship with the president. So it makes a certain amount of sense in that respect that Kim Jong-un can assume that when he sits down with Mike Pompeo, he is talking to someone who talks to the president and reflects the president`s view.
O`DONNELL: What do you think should be the next step?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, obviously, Mike Pompeo may have set in motion a whole series of steps as a result of this meeting. But clearly, the next step is for him to sit down with the president. And hopefully, he`s had some insight here into the thing we know least about, and that would be Kim Jong-un`s actual intentions.
He is not a career intelligence officer, Mike Pompeo, but he is a politician, presumably pretty good at reading people. So I would think that would be the next step here for him to formulate that. And the next step in terms of actually going ahead if we really intend to work for denuclearization. At some point an early stage of these talks will have to be to get from the North Koreans something they play not have thought of yet, and that is a declaration of what they`ve got, but that`s usually the first step to compare that with what you think based on intelligence, they actually have.
And intelligence is going to be right at the heart of this negotiation because it has been such a secretive, closed society.
O`DONNELL: How do you evaluate a discussion with someone like Kim who know November one has had a discussion with? You know, how do we know if what he says in a meeting with Mike Pompeo is real or he means it or there will be any follow-up?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you don`t is the honest answer. We`re starting from ground zero with this guy. With any other world leader, even someone like Putin we know a lot. Books have been written about him. He has been interviewed. He is out front. Many Americans have talked to him.
With this guy we`re starting at ground zero. So I think one step at a time. I`m sure that Pompeo had an opportunity here to sort of engage the individual.
You know, when Madeleine Albright -- I worked with Madeleine Albright at the time she went to see Kim`s father. And when she came back, we hadn`t met with Kim Jong-il, his father either.
But Secretary Albright was able to say a couple of things. First, he is informed about the world. He`s not cut off. He knows what`s going on.
Two, he is rational in terms of the world he lives in. And three, words to the effect that if we`re careful and go step by step, we can probably do business with this person.
So, we don`t know that about the son. But those are the kinds of I were Mike Pompeo that I would be looking for in meeting with him. Probably first is he informed about the world? Does he understand his situation? Does he understand? Because he has made a few missteps and a few misjudgments as well.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: John McLaughlin, thank you for joining us on this important night. I really appreciate it.
MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, how much Trump campaign money is going to pay legal fees? And not just for Donald Trump. It is a big, big drain of money on that campaign.
O`DONNELL: If you are making political contributions to Donald Trump, OK, I know most of you aren`t doing that. But if you know anyone, if you love anyone who is contributing to the Trump campaign, you should tell them that there is a big, big lawyer tax on their contribution, 20 cents of every dollar they give to advance the political future of Donald Trump is spent on lawyers.
NBC News reports that some of the spending on legal fee may have itself been illegal. In one instance, Donald Trump`s campaign paid more than $66,000 to the law firm that represents Keith Schiller, his former longtime bodyguard. That payment may violate federal election law because it appears to be related to testimony Keith Schiller gave to Congress in the Russia investigation where he was questioned about events that happened in 2013, long before the Trump campaign existed.
In that testimony, Schiller reportedly told Congress in November quote "that someone made an offer to send five women to Trump`s hotel room in Moscow in the lead-up to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, saying he turned down the offer on Trump`s behalf."
Schiller also testify that he could not be certain that no one actually visited Trump`s hotel room. That wasn`t the only unusual spending revealed in the new federal election file the big Trump campaign.
Joining us now Christina Wilkie, a White House reporter for CNBC.com and she has studied it all.
Christina, what else is in that FEC report?
CHRISTINA WILKIE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNBC.COM: Well, the Schiller legal expenses are fascinating, but we also have new expenses on a lawyer named Charles Harder who attacked the author Michael Wolff, the author of "Fire and Fury," and Steve Bannon earlier this year. And we have a payment, a new payment to President Donald Trump`s former personal assistant in the White House John McAtee. So those are just three that jumped out.
O`DONNELL: And Charles Harder, he is the lawyer who has handled what was really just a letter they wrote to the publisher of Michael Wolff`s book saying, you know, this crazy letter that didn`t go anywhere. It was a complete and utter and total waste of lawyer money. But Charles harder is also the lawyer on the civil side of the Stormy Daniels suit. So he conceivably will be seeing more payments to him in the future in these reports.
WILKIE: Right. And what we understand from the Trump campaign is that so far the $93,000 that has been paid to Harder was entirely for the "Fire and Fury" Michael Wolff-Bannon situation and does not reflect the spending they have done on stormy Daniels or anything. We will probably see that in a future FEC report in the next quarter.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Well, the Stormy Daniels bill is going to be much higher than the one day or day and a half that he spent on the "Fire and Fury" book and accomplished nothing for $93,000.
What about the -- what is -- what are some of the payments that are being legally questioned like the Keith Schiller payments? Are other payments being questioned as legitimate campaign expenses?
WILKIE: Well, this "Fire and Fury" payment to Harder to fight what is a book about President Trump, a book that takes place not during the campaign, that was not written by a campaign employee, that does not, you know, that`s not connected in any way to the way the campaign was run. The fact that Harder could charge $100,000 to attack a piece of journalistic work to try to prevent, to kill a story, which is what he tried and failed to do. Definitely raises questions about whether this spending was personal or political. And it can get very fuzzy. And what from what we understand, the Trump campaign is ready to push the envelope here.
O`DONNELL: Christina Wilkie, thank you very much for your reporting. We really appreciate it.
WILKIE: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: President Trump wants James Comey in jail now. And James Comey has something to say about that.
O`DONNELL: There is a reason Presidents never say that anyone should be locked up the way Donald Trump led chants of "lock her up" during the Presidential campaign. And it is a legal reason.
Prejudicial pretrial publicity, a legal concept established in the 1960s. Donald Trump knows none of this. So he has no problems with chants of "lock her up." And he has no problem saying in tweets now that James Comey should go to jail.
Hillary Clinton and James Comey have committed no crimes and Hillary Clinton and James Comey have never been accused of crimes. But if Donald Trump said that about someone who is formally accused of a crime, that person can use Trump`s comment as legal leverage on an appeal of a conviction or possibly to get a change of venue, or even to get charges dismissed.
And so Presidents do not comment on legal cases or potential legal cases, not just because they have all been much more dignified than Donald Trump can ever dream of being. But because they were observing the law. And they did not want their comments to interfere with the prosecution.
Today James Comey reacted to the President`s new habit of tweeting that James Comey should go to jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That is not normal. That is not OK. First of all, he is just making stuff up. But most importantly, the President of the United States is calling for the imprisonment of a private citizen as he has done for a whole lot of people who criticize him. That is not acceptable in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In our next discussion, imagine the Trump world reaction if a Democrat said today "lock him up" about Donald Trump, who unlike James Comey actually is a subject of a criminal investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We wake up in the morning and see the President of the United States is accusing people of crimes without evidence and pronouncing them guilty and saying they should be in jail. That should wake all of us up with a start. But there has been so much of it that we are a little bit numb, and that`s dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us Ruth Marcus and Jonathan Capehart.
And Ruth, the numb factor is endless and constant. And he has been doing this, "lock her up" and now "jail James Comey" for literally years now. And we do every once in a while have to be reminded about how, to put it mildly, abnormal it is.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s absolutely right. I have been talking for some time about how we are suffering outrage overload. There are so many things to be concerned about. And you really do lose that numbness is exactly the right word. You cannot respond to it with the same ferocity every time.
But when we stop being outraged about this, when we stop being alarmed by the President of the United States calling for jailing individuals, somehow those concerns that he expressed about due process when it came to Rob Porter. We don`t hear about that very much anymore.
We should all really stop and remind ourselves, as you have, as Comey just did, all stop and remind ourselves, this is not right. This is not normal. I would say this has to stop. We can`t make it stop. But that doesn`t mean we have to accept it.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, the last time I can think of a President saying anything about someone who was not yet convicted of a crime was Richard Nixon talking about Charles Manson, and he let it slip that he thought Manson was guilty, and he had to immediately issue a written corrective statement retracting any notion that he was prejudging the Charles Manson case. And that was Richard Nixon, who was a well-schooled lawyer, who knew right away that that was a mistake, and he had to clean that up.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: And there was another well-schooled lawyer, constitutional law professor who became President of the United States, Barack Obama, in the early years of his administration who was asked during a press conference for just his reaction to what happened to professor Gates up at Harvard when he was arrested in his own home. And he said that he thought, you know, the police acted stupidly in the way they handled the situation with professor Gates. Remember, he caught hell for months if not years over what he said, just those two words, acted stupidly.
And now fast forward to a President a President of the United States who, as a candidate, as the President-elect, and now as President of the United States, is constantly harping that his former opponent should be locked up.
You know, look, congressman Maxine Waters has been given a lot of grief by Republicans and some Democrats for her consistent calls for President Trump to be impeached. You know, quite frankly, she needs to keep saying it, and I actually would love it if Democrats were to start hurling the "lock him up" chant back at President Trump, not be afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and that is the rule of law. And a President who actually represents them and the goodness of the American people instead of, you know, the sort of crime family nature that we`re dealing with now coming out of the oval office.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, James Comey is also fighting back against Donald Trump`s characterization of the FBI breaking into Michael Cohen`s home or breaking into his office. James Comey explaining a search warrant, a legal process. And there are countries where there is no search warrant and there is no legal process. In Vladimir Putin`s Moscow the other day, one of the associates of pussy riot was arrested for throwing a participate plane. This is not that country.
MARCUS: This is not that country certainly. The FBI, rogue FBI agents have conducted black-bag break-in jobs in the past in the 1970s, that President that you were talking about. But this is a warrant that was conducted pursuant not just to approval at the highest levels of the justice department but pursuant to the approval of a federal magistrate who I`m absolutely certain did not casually toss off approval of this because you don`t do that with a lawyer`s office in general. That`s a very serious search, or a lawyer`s residence. And you certainly don`t do it with a lawyer who`s representing the President of the United States.
So once again, the President just -- he likes to talk about the department of justice and put it in scare quotes. He just is constantly reviling our own legal system, which really is a beacon to the world. He should stop.
O`DONNELL: All right. Please stay with us. Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: A LAST WORD tonight about former first lady Barbara Bush, who has died at the age of 92.
Ruth Marcus and Jonathan Capehart are still with us.
And Ruth, I wanted to get your reflections on the passing of Barbara Bush.
MARCUS: Well, Barbara Bush was a formidable, as we all know, formidable woman. But also a gracious woman. We have an op-ed up on our site right now by a former Bush speechwriter, Mary Kate Carey, and it opened with an unusual line. The first time I met Barbara Bush, I was wearing her bathing suit. And it`s a story about how she was summoned up to Kennebunkport to help then former President Bush write speeches. And he announced they were all going to take a dip, as Bush would say, in the chilly ocean in June in Kennebunkport. She said, well, Mr. President, I don`t have a bathing suit. And he said, no problem. And he pulled out swim trunks of his own for the guys and Barbara Bush`s bathing suit. She came out to the pool, saw Barbara Bush with some friends.
You might think that Barbara Bush might be none too pleased to see this 20- something in her one piece skirted bathing suit. And Mrs. Bush just said, I`m so glad we found something for you, and that was the beginning of a nice relationship for them.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, after three terms of Presidents Bush, the name Bush has become a politically controversial name in our culture except when it is preceded by the name Barbara.
CAPEHART: Yes. I mean she was the backbone and the spine and the foundation of that family. And really the greatness of that family comes into high relief given who is in the White House now.
And, you know, Lawrence, when I heard that she had passed, my first thought was a picture that`s actually been going around the internet, and it was from the early days of President H. W. Bush`s term. It was in 1989. And Barbara Bush went to an aids hospice where there were children who were born with AIDS. And she`s sitting in a rocking chair, holding a black infant at this AIDS hospice.
In that one picture, she sent an incredible message to the country about compassion and about knowledge because the previous administration did so much to ignore the AIDS epidemic and the AIDS crisis. And that woman, Barbara Bush, then the first lady of the United States, took it upon herself to send a signal to the country that there is a new day in the White House, a new compassion in the White House, a new sensitivity and new knowledge in the White House.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, it would be hard to explain to younger people who didn`t experience that just how controversial that was in its day in 1989, what Jonathan was just describing.
MARCUS: Absolutely. The Reagan administration had been very reluctant to deal with AIDS. People were convinced, despite even the facts available at the time, that it was a disease that could be contagious by that kind of minimal contact. So that was a very, very fine thing that she did. And she also worked not just on that issue but on issues of children`s literacy, on issues of -- partly spurred by her own child`s difficulty learning to read, on issues of children`s health partly spurred by her daughter`s tragic death at the age of three from leukemia. So the word I started with was formidable, and I think that`s probably the most apt word for her.
And so formidable is tonight`s LAST WORD.
Jonathan Capehart, Ruth Marcus, thank you both for joining us.
That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.
"The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.
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