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WH refuses to apologize for aide joke. TRANSCRIPT: 05/11/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Malcolm Nance, Susan Del Percio, Jonathan Alter, Jill Wine-Banks, Zerlina Maxwell, Maria Teresa Kumar, Theda Skocpol

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: May 11, 2018 Guest: Malcolm Nance, Susan Del Percio, Jonathan Alter, Jill Wine-Banks, Zerlina Maxwell, Maria Teresa Kumar, Theda Skocpol

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC HOST: -- out of your hair and let you sleep. Sleep tight, sir.

Or was it like that other scene in "Ferris Bueller" where he, quick, hangs up the phone and runs from his office to his house to slip into his PJ`s and into the bed before they break down the door?

Now, we have no idea who made that phone call from Scott Pruitt`s desk phone. For all we know, maybe the EPA doesn`t have enough phones and they all share a phone.

We reached out to the EPA to ask who made that phone call from Scott Pruitt`s personal desk phone, and we did not hear back.

But for now, we have very conflicting evidence about whether or not Scott Pruitt was actually missing in the hours before his security detail took a hatchet to his front door. He was either vanished or he wasn`t vanished.

And that does it for us tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. for "A.M. JOY." And now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD. Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, MSALI!


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That was a great tale, my friend. Great to see you.

REID: Yes, great to see you too.

VELSHI: You have a great evening, Joy. Thank you.

REID: You too. Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. See you tomorrow morning. I`m Ali Velshi in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

The Trump White House has, once again, showed us something we`ve never seen before from any White House.

Today, it was the deafening silence from Donald Trump and his administration after a White House official, Kelly Sadler, mocked Senator John McCain`s brain cancer, saying that McCain`s opposition to the Trump`s nominee to lead the CIA, quote, doesn`t matter. He is dying anyway.

There was strong rejection of Kelly Sadler`s comments but not a single word of it came from Donald Trump or the Trump White House.

In a normal White House, mocking a veteran over a cancer diagnosis might get you fired. At the very least, there would be a public apology.

But the Trump White House is not a normal White House. So, instead, we got this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the White House not think that you need to condemn these remarks or comments --

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I`m not going to validate a leak, one way or the other, out of an internal staff meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying that she didn`t say this?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not going to validate a leak out of an internal staff meeting, one way or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not apologize to Senator McCain?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not --


SANDERS: I`m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meeting.


SANDERS: Yes, she does.

WELKER: She does, OK. And to follow up on that, more broadly, does the President set the tone? Does he bear responsibility for the tone set here at the White House and all of the staffers who work here frankly?

SANDERS: He certainly does, and I think he has done a good job of laying out what the priorities of the administration are.


VELSHI: So the Trump White House isn`t denying the widely reported comments, and it`s not apologizing. Instead, it`s attacking the leak of the story to the media.

Former Vice President Joe Biden had one of the strongest reactions to all of these. He released this statement.

Quote, people have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday. Given this White House`s trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule. She`s the epitome of it. End quote.

John McCain`s daughter, Meghan McCain, fired back at Kelly Sadler`s statements this morning on "The View."


MEGHAN MCCAIN, HOST OF "THE VIEW," AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANY: Kelly, here is a little news flash. And this may be a bit intense for 11:00 in the morning on a Friday, but we`re all dying. I`m dying. You`re dying. We`re all dying.



MCCAIN: And I want to say that, well, since my dad has been diagnosed, the past -- it`s almost a year, July 19th -- I really feel like I understand the meaning of life. And it is not how you die, it is how you live.



MCCAIN: And whatever you want to say in this kind of environment, the thing that surprises me most is -- I was talking about this with you, Joy, that we -- I don`t understand what kind of environment you`re working in when that would be acceptable.


MCCAIN: And then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.


VELSHI: Well, apparently, it`s an environment set by Donald Trump. It`s no secret that Donald Trump and John McCain have a history of conflict.

Donald Trump said that John McCain, a man who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam where he was tortured regularly, is not a war hero. The President who got five deferments from Vietnam still has not fully apologized for that statement.

John McCain has stood up to Donald Trump more than perhaps any other Republican. He turned over the infamous Trump dossier to the FBI, a decision he reportedly describes in his upcoming book, saying, quote, I did what duty demanded I do.

And last summer, John McCain cast the deciding vote to defeat the Trump bill to repeal ObamaCare with that famous hand gesture. Donald Trump apparently hasn`t forgotten about that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And except for one senator who came into a room at 3:00 in the morning and went like that, we would have had healthcare too. We would have had healthcare too. Think of that.


VELSHI: Steve Schmidt, whom you see a lot on this network, ran Senator John McCain`s 2008 presidential campaign. He knows the senator well.

Today, on MSNBC, he described what he sees as the difference between John McCain and Donald Trump.


STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Meghan McCain had it exactly right. It`s about how you live your life. And Kelly Sadler and all the people in that White House that are tearing down our institutions, pitting American against American, they`re exactly the opposite of John McCain.

He is the type of man that I would aspire and I think any parent in this country would aspire for their son to be like. And I don`t think there is a lot of parents out in this country today who are saying, I want my kid to grow up like Donald Trump.

And one thing I know for sure, there will never be a person on television, not now and not for a thousand eons, that ever says what I just said about John McCain of Donald Trump. That he is a great man. He is a small, vile man, and that`s the difference between the two men.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Jonathan Alter, MSNBC political analyst and a columnist for "The Daily Beast."

Malcolm Nance, a 20-year veteran of the Navy who taught members of the Navy and the Marines how to survive if captured. He`s also an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence analyst.

And Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist.

Welcome to all three of you. Thank you for being here.

Malcolm, I`m going to start with you because I started with you this morning when this was fresher news.


VELSHI: And I had people tweeting me, saying I haven`t seen Malcolm that angry.

NANCE: Yes. Well, the last time you saw me that angry was somebody insulting the Khizr Khan and his gold-star parent.

VELSHI: Right.

NANCE: And his mother in front of me. Listen, you know, I`m an old Navy chief. You know, I had a long career and I come from a very, very old military family. Every father and son from the Civil War until today.


NANCE: Including my niece who was just in combat off of Yemen. I`m a chief. My job as a chief is to make sure that when I see something that`s wrong, that it`s recalibrated. That`s the phrase we use here.

And I will not stand -- I won`t have it -- for what I heard about John McCain. I have met John McCain. I have taught students about his captivity. I read his official classified debrief when he came out of the Hanoi Hilton.

I met people, including Admiral Stockdale, who, every day, would come over to our SERE school, and he would talk about what it was like being in the Hanoi Hilton. And he loved John McCain.

Doug Hegdahl, our SERE adviser, who memorized his name amongst all the hundreds of others, also said that this man served with honor.

And to have them smear him, to come and actually use -- people who didn`t serve, people who think it`s a joke that he is dying. There will be buildings named after John McCain. There will be monuments after John McCain. But there won`t be for any of these people and perhaps not even Donald Trump.

VELSHI: Susan, Steve Schmidt also tweeted today. He has been obviously very vocal about this. He knows John McCain.


VELSHI: People who don`t know John McCain are vocal about this.

But Steve said, why have no Republican U.S. senators stepped forward and expressed their absolute effing outrage about these attacks on an American hero, John McCain, by a White House staffer? It`s despicable, and the cowardice is nauseating.

His point is interesting because this is an easy one.

DEL PERCIO: Oh, yes.

VELSHI: Everybody talks about John McCain. You don`t have to like him. People say everybody likes John McCain. That`s not true.

John McCain engaged in debates with people very willingly. I have debated him, others have debated him. But his honor is not to be questioned. And this idea that you say that John McCain doesn`t matter.

DEL PERCIO: And let`s -- and what kind of spurred this was John McCain saying he had a policy difference --

VELSHI: Right.

DEL PERCIO: -- and did not want to support the current nominee for CIA Director. He is entitled to that. He backed it up. It was policy. It wasn`t personal.

VELSHI: He wasn`t personal. He made a point of.

DEL PERCIO: At all. He made a point of, exactly right.


DEL PERCIO: What I find amazing is how Kelly Sadler still has a job, and I don`t think it should have made its way up to the President. She is a mid- level staffer. General Kelly should have called her in, dismissed her.

And if he didn`t this morning, she should have walked in and handed in her resignation. She is becoming -- on top of all of her ignorance and her poor judgment, she is actually becoming a problem for this administration. So she should have been gone.

But you know what? Donald Trump said he was going to hire the best out there. This is what he considers the best. This is a disgrace.

VELSHI: Jonathan, to use Malcolm`s word, recalibrate. I don`t know if this required a resignation. It may have required, if dealt with earlier, a recalibration.

We`re now into this place where they`re not acknowledging it was said, let alone not apologizing. Unforced error, you could actually, perhaps, gotten away with an apology.

JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they`re not defying it. So if they`re not going to deny it, then they need to issue a statement defending it.

VELSHI: Right, in support. This White House denies a lot of things that are reported.

ALTER: Right. Right, right.

VELSHI: That often turn out to be true.

ALTER: Maybe because they know the denial is not convincing and there are too many witnesses.


ALTER: The thing you have to understand is that this White House has elevated and validated shamelessness. And it started during the campaign when Donald Trump said, you know, I like people who weren`t captured.

VELSHI: Right.

ALTER: And basically, really dissed John McCain. John McCain did not respond, and Trump got away with it. At a time when people thought he would at least take a big hit in the polls, he didn`t suffer at all. The Republican electorate didn`t care.

And so that then emboldened the shamelessness. So then he realized he could attack McCain, despite his being a war hero. And because that worked, then he could attack him despite his dying of cancer.

So, you know, there is almost no point at which this man will have any shred of decency or convey any shred of decency in his White House.

The fish rots from the head. Everybody in that White House takes their cues in the way they treat people and the disrespect with which they treat people from the President of the United States.

VELSHI: Susan, it`s interesting because it wouldn`t be a nice thing to say about anybody, right, it doesn`t matter because they`re dying.


VELSHI: It`s uniquely unusual because of the disrespect this President has shown John McCain. Nicolle Wallace always points out that, you know, what a lot of Republicans have learned is that John McCain can be a thorn in people`s side.

DEL PERCIO: Absolutely.

VELSHI: He has a lot of people who respect him for taking a stand on things and standing on his principles. It`s, generally speaking, not a winning strategy. But Donald Trump has never followed that rule. He picks fights with John McCain a lot.

DEL PERCIO: He does. And, again, I think Jonathan was right, he doesn`t suffer for it. I mean, Donald Trump -- he sided with White supremacists, for crying out loud, and didn`t take a hit for it.

VELSHI: Right.

DEL PERCIO: And John McCain, you know, he will have his dignity. I don`t -- I would say that Donald Trump wouldn`t have any, but I don`t even think he -- you know, or he lost it, but I don`t think he`s ever had it.

And for him not to -- for him to continually go after Senator McCain, especially knowing he was sick -- this isn`t the first time he did it. It`s not the first time this White House did it. Last night at the rally, that wasn`t the first time he did it. He`s been doing it ever since.

VELSHI: That`s right.

DEL PERCIO: As a matter of fact, Meghan McCain called him out on it, and he kind of said, I`ll hold back. But this is just -- again, it`s gone too far.

VELSHI: There is a danger to normalizing this, right?


VELSHI: We haven`t all served in the military. We generally think it`s something we should respect, but there are people who say, look, over time, people don`t have the respect for it.

Our wars go on for a long time, and we don`t really -- you see the names of the fallen published in the newspaper from time to time. This really normalizes disrespect for the very few things that you shouldn`t disrespect.

NANCE: It does. It absolutely normalizes disrespect. And you know, to the points that they have both made, there is a reason that we`re seeing this mobbed-up attitude from Sarah Huckabee Sanders talking about this is an internal meeting and we`re not talking about leaks.

VELSHI: Right. Right, the leak is not really the biggest problem.

NANCE: I mean --

VELSHI: It`s a problem but it`s --

NANCE: Yes. No, it`s not a problem at all. It`s a cover for what they`re doing.

These are people who think that they`re playing the restaurant scene in "Goodfellas," right, with Joe Pesci and everybody. And that they`re the gang who are sitting around the table who can do what they want, say what they want, insult who they want.


NANCE: And public ritual humiliation or a beat down, or in their case, which is, you know, using Congress or using their allies to do that, is the way that they do it.

This is the bottom line. They cannot cross this line again. If there is a military person in that building, especially -- you know, all their meals are served by Navy chiefs.

And let me tell you, if I had been in that room or near that room, I would have called a dressing down, a one-way conversation straight to their face. I don`t care who else is in there.

Because this line of honor -- look, the building has already been desecrated by these people. All right? But for them to go after the honor of a man who is not just a dying veteran, he is a real hero. Read his record. Read the things that he did.

From a five-time draft dodger? I`m sorry, I wouldn`t have any of it.

VELSHI: Jonathan, there are things that this administration would like us to follow up on and like to report. And then Donald Trump endlessly tweets that we don`t report on things. That`s not true, we report on, I think, everything. But these are the kind of things that take up the headlines because they do it to themselves.

ALTER: And it goes to character. You know, I spent a lot of time with John McCain in 2000. And he -- day after day, those of us on what they call the straight talk express, a small group of reporters, you know, it was really, honestly, the most fun I`ve ever had covering politics. Not just because he was hugely entertaining -- and by the way, he did take shots at people, you know.

VELSHI: I`m sure he does.

ALTER: But there was a sense of character and decency. This is a guy who got together -- when one of his big critics from the Vietnam War, an anti- war activist who was broadcasting against him from Hanoi, when this man, 70 years later, was dying, John McCain went to his bedside, held his hand, reconciled with him.

Just the opposite of what, you know, Donald Trump is doing now. If Donald Trump had a shred of character, he would say, you know, John McCain and I, we`ve had our innings, we`ve been on opposite sides of issues. I got upset with him over healthcare. But this is a great American.

It would help Trump politically to do that. But he is constitutionally --


ALTER: -- in terms of his own constitution, incapable --

VELSHI: Right, his constitution.

ALTER: -- incapable of it because he is a person of poor character up against a person of fine character.

DEL PERCIO: And if you don`t respect the White House -- like he doesn`t respect that Oval Office, how do you expect everyone else around you to show that same respect when the President doesn`t?

VELSHI: You know, John Kasich, tonight, had some comments on this. Let`s listen to them for a second.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: The comments by a White House staffer in regard to John McCain were just outrageous, totally out of line. And frankly, I think it`s incumbent on the White House to apologize not just for that staffer but for all the administration because John McCain is an American hero. And we need to recognize that he served his country well and paid a very high price.


VELSHI: Susan, John Kasich is not running as a senator any time soon, so it doesn`t cost him anything to say it. He is a man of character, so I`m not surprised. Why is it -- to Steve Schmidt`s earlier point, why is it difficult for Republican senators to come out and be really clear about these? There are his colleagues.

DEL PERCIO: Yes, the only ones who tend to speak up are the ones going out the door. And that`s a real shame because --

VELSHI: Jeff Flake commented today. There are a few who have made some comments, but --

DEL PERCIO: Correct. Yes, there are. There are.


DEL PERCIO: But they`re out the door. And I, as a Republican, am so frustrated because I want people to fight for Republican values.

VELSHI: Correct.

DEL PERCIO: That`s how they ran. They`re not standing up to this president because of politics. That`s not why you`re there. Go do -- be bold.

VELSHI: Right.

DEL PERCIO: Lose an election to -- but do the right thing. And they`re not. And that`s what`s really -- when people say what`s happening to the Republican Party? We don`t have leaders anymore.

VELSHI: Because losing support for the military -- of the military for Republicans is just -- it doesn`t make any sense.

NANCE: Yes, but, you know, the military is not a Praetorian Guard. We do not protect the emperor. We swear an oath to the constitution of the United States.

I have put my life on the line for every person in this country. Republican, Democrat, independent, I don`t care who you are. All right?

But you have a right to free speech. You have a right to say what you want. But to sit in that room, either -- whether in the executive office building or the White House, and to make a joke about that?


NANCE: Right there, she should have either been, as you said, been fired on the spot -- I would have. If anybody was of senior rank, they should have said, I`m sorry, you can`t work in this building. A building with Washington, Lincoln, all of our honors heroes, who were real heroes, who did not avoid their duty to this country in war, all right?

But she is still there. And if she is there tomorrow, this is going to remain a subject.

ALTER: It`s the Republican members of Congress that I can`t get over.


ALTER: They look so weak and craven by taking this position. They think they`re going to lose votes if they say this was wrong to say this about a dying man? They really think that? They are failing a character test of their own.

VELSHI: Thank you to all of you, Jonathan Alter, Malcolm Nance, Susan Del Percio.

Coming up, as team Trump are in damage control over Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani loses his cool over Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti. And Avenatti responds by tweeting another big breadcrumb about Cohen`s financial dealings.

And Donald Trump isn`t going to like what John Kelly said about him in the Mueller investigation.


VELSHI: Rudy Giuliani is escalating his war of words with Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. This week, Avenatti challenged President Trump`s new lawyer to a debate, tweeting, quote, it would be helpful for the public to witness a discussion between Mr. Giuliani and me.

After several days of near silence from Giuliani, he is now going on the attack. During a phone call with "Business Insider," Giuliani said he wouldn`t debate Michael Avenatti because Avenatti is, quote, pimping for money.

This is what he said -- I don`t get involved with pimps. The media loves to give him room because he makes these roundabout charges and they turn out to mean nothing. I think he is going to get himself in serious trouble.

Mr. Giuliani goes on to tell "Business Insider" that, quote, it wouldn`t be fair to debate Avenatti. I debate like really intelligent skilled people, he added, pointing to famed attorney and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. I know Alan Dershowitz, Giuliani said. He is no Alan Dershowitz.

Giuliani`s attack comes hours after Michael Avenatti tweeted this warning.

Quote, let this serve as formal notice there is more evidence and facts to come relating to Mr. Cohen`s dealings and Mr. Trump`s knowledge and involvement. You can come clean now or wait to be outed. Your choice. We have only just begun.

Well, some of that information may already be coming to light. The "Wall Street Journal" reports that Michael Cohen made an overture to provide consulting services to Ford Motor Company in January of 2017 but was quickly rebuffed.

The "Journal" reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has taken an interest in Cohen`s approach. Mr. Mueller`s team has since requested information from Ford about the outreach, including emails and records and has interviewed Ford`s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli, people familiar with the mattered said.

And "The Daily Beast" is reporting tonight that AT&T met with another group of the President`s allies around the time that it hired Michael Cohen. The company spoke with the Washington lobbying firm, Avenue Strategies, in early 2017 which was cofounded and staffed by Trump campaign veterans and marketed its insight into and favor with the Trump White House.

AT&T confirmed on Friday Avenue was founded by former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and Barry Bennett, a senior adviser on the campaign.

One source familiar with the discussion tells "The Daily Beast" that AT&T and Avenue discussed a political consulting arrangement that would not entail official lobbying and would cost the company in the range of $40,000 per month, but no agreement was ever reached.

Joining us now is Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor.

Back with us is Jonathan Alter.

Jill, let`s start with you. I`m not a lawyer. I depend on you for these things. It is unclear as yet what part of any of these transactions were illegal. But from what you know right now, what do you make of it?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I`m going to put my money on Avenatti and not on Giuliani and say that we need to finish the investigation.

We can`t tell whether there is something illegal unless the investigation goes forward, but where there is as much smoke as there is here, there is probably a fire. And there is certainly a swamp. I`ve never seen a burning swamp, but this might be the one that is.


VELSHI: Jonathan, what do you make of this? Do you think Michael Cohen was up to no good, or do you think Michael Cohen is actually up to the American dream?

ALTER: Well --

VELSHI: Cashing in on his relationship with -- because it does sound like he was reaching out to Ford. We know, for AT&T, he made the call. He seemed to be selling his services around town.

ALTER: If that`s the American dream, the American dream is in a lot of trouble. I mean, speaking of the swamp, these guys are creatures from the black lagoon. You know, they define swampish behavior.

You can`t blame AT&T. They have a $108 billion merger on the line. And they were paying Michael Cohen one hundred thousandth of one percent of that merger for influence that might help the merger go through, you know. So you can understand why they wanted to hire him.

And you can understand why Michael Cohen wanted to take that lobbying money, but he didn`t register as a lobbyist. And there might be other ways in which he violated campaign finance rules.

Now, that`s not the biggest thing in the world, but it does give Mueller leverage -- more leverage -- over him. It gives Mueller something else to push him for information on other parts of his relationship with Trump.

So even though this is not necessarily, on its face, criminal behavior, it stinks a lot. And it might indicate that Mueller has other information, yes.

VELSHI: So, Jill, take Novartis out of this and take AT&T out of it because, to Jonathan`s point, they both had business they wanted to achieve in the public, right? Novartis worried about healthcare reform. AT&T worried about its merger with Time Warner.

There`s a Korean company involved that was worried about -- or trying to get a defense contract. And they said they were paying him for accounting and legal services, which is weird. But let`s go to this Russian company.

It`s not a Russian company, they say. It`s an American company whose CEO is a cousin of a Viktor Vekselberg, an oligarch with ties to Oleg Deripaska. And, of course, you don`t get to be an oligarch if you don`t have ties to Vladimir Putin. That is the one that seems most interesting to me.

WINE-BANKS: You know, I worked in Russia for Motorola. And you`re right, nobody does business in Russia, on the Russian side, if they don`t have connections to Putin.

And so while you may say, you know, these all could be legal and they had business interests, it`s true they did, but then why would you hire someone who has no skills unless you`re planning to pass the money along to the President to influence him.

So there is suspicion, no matter what. But it`s only suspicion.

VELSHI: Right.

WINE-BANKS: This is only conjecture. We need the investigation to take it. The Russian company is clearly strange. We don`t know what their business was or why they were paying Cohen.

VELSHI: Right, we don`t. We have no idea, yes.

WINE-BANKS: Exactly. So you have to say, why were they paying Cohen? He had nothing to offer them that we know of, but we don`t know what their business is. So we just have to --

ALTER: So I guess I would just --

WINE-BANKS: Go ahead, Jonathan.

VELSHI: Go ahead, Jonathan.

ALTER: Yes, I would just -- I disagree with that a little bit, Ali. It is pretty obvious why they were paying Cohen. He is an influence peddler at this point, or he was until this latest trouble. You know, they were paying Cohen so that they had a line into the President.

I don`t think it`s reasonable, even with this smelly Vekselberg connection, to assume right now that that money went from those big companies to Donald Trump. In other words, no --

VELSHI: So it becomes relevant to find out where it went.

ALTER: Right.

VELSHI: We were --

ALTER: Right, because --

VELSHI: I was --

ALTER: -- we don`t know, but I don`t think that`s a proper assumption right now.

VELSHI: But Jill --

ALTER: Right now. But, you know, I think Cohen pocketed that money from these corporations. I don`t --

VELSHI: He needed to cut a mortgage with his in-laws -- you know, on his in-laws` property.

ALTER: Yes. But that was --

VELSHI: So Jill --

ALTER: That was for the slush fund. So the question is --


ALTER: The question is less whether --

VELSHI: Of course, thanks for the distinction.

ALTER: The question is less whether the money want to Trump direct.


ALTER: It might have gone to Stormy Daniels and other people like --

VELSHI: So let me ask you this, Jill --

ALTER: -- like it had gone with the slush fund.

VELSHI: -- everybody we talked to has said that the Mueller investigation has already spoken to them. Ford has said it, Novartis has said it, AT&T has said it. So -- this Korean company has said it.

So the bottom line is Robert Mueller knows much more than we`re talking about here tonight. So he must know about the obvious question that Jonathan is getting to, and that is, where is the money? Where did it go? That would actually speak to this, right?

WINE-BANKS: Exactly, and that`s what I was saying earlier, is that we have to let the investigation go because we know where the money came from. We know that Cohen was asking for it.

He supposedly had been unhappy to have been left behind, but it sounds like he was financially quite happy to have been left behind where he could just collect money to sell influence. But the important question is, let`s follow the bank records and find out where that money went.


WINE-BANKS: What was it for? Those documents are probably in Mueller`s possession right now.


WINE-BANKS: And I think we have to let Mueller do his job. And that`s why Congress has to protect him so that he doesn`t get fired, so that Rosenstein don`t get fired. That`s what we need to do, is to make sure that this goes forward. Americans have a right to know and a need to know before the election. So let`s get it done.

VELSHI: Well --

WINE-BANKS: Let`s let him do his job.

VELSHI: In the last 24 hours, the Vice President of the United States and the Chief of Staff to the President have said that they disagree with that. They think it`s run its course. It`s about time to shut it down.

Thanks to both of you, Jill Wine-Banks and Jonathan Alter.

Coming up, what John Kelly had to say about Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, including what I just mentioned.


VELSHI: Donald Trump is not somebody who most of us would believe is embarrassed by much, if anything.

But according to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the President is, quote, somewhat embarrassed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation. Kelly suggested the investigation is the elephant in the room when Trump meets with foreign leaders.

Here is part of Kelly`s interview that aired today on NPR`s "Morning Edition."


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: From what I read in the newspaper, something that has gone on this long without any real meat on the bone suggests to me that there is nothing there relative to our president.

JOHN BURNETT, HOST OF "MORNING EDITION," NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Is there a cloud because of it hanging over this White House?

KELLY: Well, yes, you know, it`s -- there may not be a cloud but certainly, the President is somewhat embarrassed, frankly, when world leaders come in.

You know Bibi Netanyahu was here and he -- who is under investigation himself. And it`s like, you walk in and, you know, the first couple of minutes of every conversation might revolve around that kind of thing.


VELSHI: When John Kelly was asked to elaborate on the kind of thing he was referring to, he described the Russia investigation as a distraction. Here is what he said about that in a part of the interview that was posted on NPR`s website.

It`s just a distraction for him. He has -- you know, he has said this himself in the press or publicly that he really wants to reach out and have a good relationship with, say, Russia in the same way he does with Xi from China and hopefully Kim from North Korea. But he is -- but he is a little hesitant to do that right now because of what you say is a cloud.

Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive programming for SiriusXM Radio. Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

Which makes me the only person on the screen not wearing some red right now. Welcome to both of you.


VELSHI: Zerlina, I`m -- wow! I don`t know what to make of this. We`re embarrassed -- the President is a little bit embarrassed because when he meets foreign leaders --


VELSHI: -- like Netanyahu, by the way, who is under investigation in his own country, that`s the problem.

MAXWELL: Well, I think, in a week where we learned that there is a financial connection between the Kremlin potentially and the Trump campaign and his associates, I just find this completely out of touch.

I think John Kelly, for all of the credit and his military career that he rightly deserves, and the thought that he was going to reign in Donald Trump, he hasn`t really done that. He has essentially bought into the thinking of the Trump administration.

And thinking that the Russia investigation is a distraction in a moment, like I said, when we learned that there is even deeper connection than we previously thought, I think is just completely out of touch.

And it demonstrates that all the integrity that he built up in his military career is essentially washed away.

VELSHI: Yes. Well, the day he lied about a Congresswoman and what she said. I think the --

MAXWELL: Attacked a Congresswoman for her intelligence.

VELSHI: And then was proved to be lying.

MAXWELL: And proved to be lying about her when he called her a liar.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

MAXWELL: I`m sorry.

VELSHI: Maria, I want to just play something else that he said today in -- that John Kelly said today in the NPR interview. This time about immigration. Let`s listen.


KELLY: Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They`re not criminals. They`re not MS-13.

But they`re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States. They are overwhelmingly rural people. And the countries they come from, fourth, fifth, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.


VELSHI: So the disclaimer here, Maria, is that I`m a double immigrant. I`m an immigrant to Canada and then I`m an immigrant to the United States. And I`m kind of glad that we didn`t use his rules when we built this great country that we built from people who sometimes came here with zero education and no language skills.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: Well, under those rules, his parents who -- his grandparents who basically immigrated from Ireland, basically poverty-stricken and without a penny in his pocket, John Kelly, he himself would not be here.

He forgets our history, and I think that is the danger of this administration. What makes America great is that the moment that you literally touch your finger -- your toe on this great land is that you are American by definition. And that is what the danger is.

This idea, though, is completely xenophobic, unfortunately. It`s leading with bigotry. And those bigotries, unfortunately, because he has at the White House, at the ear of President Trump, and also in cahoots with Steve Miller, it`s translating into a very slippery slope dangerous policy, unfortunately.

This idea of separating a family, a mother and a child and basically him shrugging his shoulders and saying they could end up in foster care or whatever, really demonstrates how callous this administration is. That they really have looked at this community coming from Central America and dehumanized them.


KUMAR: They don`t even have values, and that`s not acceptable.

VELSHI: You know, the type of xenophobia, Zerlina, that Maria Teresa Kumar is talking about is common in other countries where there is an ethnicity from which that country has grown or, you know, there sects and tribes. That`s not actually our history in any way.


VELSHI: We`d be reinventing something to suggest that that is our American history.

MAXWELL: Right. We sit here in New York City where the city would literally fall apart without immigrants.


MAXWELL: I mean to quote Hamilton, immigrants get the job done.

VELSHI: Right, in this city, they absolutely do.

MAXWELL: They literally make it function.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

MAXWELL: And I think that -- you know, I`m an African-American, and so, you know, my family is not part of the immigrant experience, but it would be the same thing to deny the experience of African-Americans.

VELSHI: Right.

MAXWELL: To just completely re-write history and pretend that Irish- Americans and Italian-Americans -- they were able to assimilate because they`re White, right? And so they were able to essentially join the ranks of White society in the United States. In a different way than Latinos and Black people have never been able to do that, right?

And so I think that this -- I agree with Maria Teresa when she says that it`s xenophobia. It`s essentially just racism.


MAXWELL: And we used to use dog whistles for this.

KUMAR: That`s right.

MAXWELL: And this administration has done away with the dog whistles and they just essentially say exactly what they mean.

VELSHI: They just say it.

MAXWELL: Which is they want people who are not from s-hole countries.

VELSHI: Right.

KUMAR: Right.

MAXWELL: They want people from White countries like Norway, and they also want the immigrants who come here to be White as well and to speak English. And they`re dehumanizing and demeaning people who are not from those backgrounds.

KUMAR: Well, and I think --

MAXWELL: Yes, go ahead.

KUMAR: And I think the challenge there is that it`s not just that they`re saying it. They`re actually implementing the policy.

MAXWELL: They`re implementing policy, correct.


KUMAR: And that policy, all of a sudden, if you look at what`s happening with Secretary Nielsen today.

She basically said that her feelings were hurt and she was about to resign. She wasn`t going to resign because what the community -- what ICE is doing right now is tearing families apart. She was upset because she didn`t like the tone of what the President said to her.

I encourage Secretary Nielsen to say imagine if that tone was an ICE agent knocking down your door, without a warrant, saying I`m going to take you away from your child. Then you should be -- then that`s when you should really be afraid.

VELSHI: OK. Stay with us, both.

Coming up, this weekend revealed some remarkable news about Democrats and the midterm elections. We`ll talk about that on the other side.



TRUMP: We got to go out and we got to fight like hell and we got to win the House and we got to win the Senate. And I think we`re going to do great in the Senate. And I think we`re going to do great in the House.


VELSHI: President Trump is ready for the midterm elections, but who is really getting fired up?

This year, a record number of women running for U.S. House of Representatives! Three hundred and nine women filed candidacy papers, surpassing the previous record of 298 women in 2012.

And Tuesday`s primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia proved that the wave is showing no signs of slowing down. Women made up 19 percent of House candidates on primary ballots on Tuesday night.

And once the votes were tallied, the results showed that women aren`t just running for office. They are winning, especially Democratic female candidates.

More than two-thirds of female House candidates won their primary on Tuesday. Twenty-two were Democrats and five were Republicans.

In the general election, women will account for 55 percent of Democratic House nominees from these states, only about 12 percent of Republican nominees. And it`s important to note that, on average, Democrats lead the generic ballot by 7.1 points over the past year. Democratic women in 2018 are running for all levels of government from local to federal.

Why are all these women running? Well, it likely has to do with domestic issues that Trump is ignoring.

According to "The Washington Post," just this week alone, President Trump is separating immigrant parents from their children. Rolling back anti- segregation rules at HUD, clawing back funding for the Children`s Health Insurance Program, contributing to rising premiums for sick people, and gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Many of the female candidates running this year focused their campaign messages on healthcare, education, early childhood development, nutrition assistance programs, family leave, and workplace equality. All policies that the President is radically changing.

Will the success of Democratic female candidates in the primaries translate into general election wins? That`s next.



TRUMP: The Democrats, they fight against the borders. They fight to raise your taxes. They want to raise your taxes. They fight for all of the things that we don`t stand for. And we`re going to have great victory in `18. You watch. We`re going to have a great victory.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology at Harvard University, who studies American politics.

Maria Teresa Kumar and Zerlina Maxwell are back.

Thank you to all of you.

Zerlina, let`s start with you because we were chatting in the commercial break about the fact that you thought this would happen. You thought more women would become involved, but it`s exciting to you that it`s happening.

MAXWELL: Yes. I think that when we saw the Women`s March take place the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, you saw an energy that you had never seen before. That`s why that was the largest protest in American history.

And I think women understood something post-election, that they can`t stay out of politics and just focused on their lives. Because politics is impacting their lives, whether or not they are involved in it or participating or doing any kind of activism.

And so it`s important for women -- everyone really -- to understand that politics is thinking about you, even if you`re not thinking about politics. And so 36,000 women have contacted Emily`s List. That helps elect pro- choice Democratic women.

VELSHI: Right.

MAXWELL: And it`s important to donate and engage and go out and volunteer for candidates, no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on. Because I think that engaged citizens make for a better country.

VELSHI: Theda, you have studied this. I`ve been reading the report that you and your colleagues have written. You`ve gone out and figured out who these women are. I want to just read an excerpt from the article you published.

At the current pace, it seems likely that the pop-up leaders and grassroots groups of 2017 will, by 2019, have repopulated the local layer of the Democratic Party in much of the country. National media misperceptions to the contrary, this will not look like a far-left reinvention of tea partiers or a continuation of Bernie 2016. It will look like retired librarians rolling their eyes at the present state of affairs and then taking charge.

Tell us a little about the demographics of the women that you have studied around the country who are not just running for office but motivating others and supporting those candidacies.

THEDA SKOCPOL, VICTOR S. THOMAS PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT AND SOCIOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you, Ali. The article that you quoted from, I wrote in partnership with Laura Putnam.

Laura has been a participant as well as an observer. She`s a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. And she was involved with many of the women`s groups that were knocking on doors for months leading into the election of Conor Lamb in the special election in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, while she was doing that, I`ve been visiting eight counties, two apiece in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all counties that voted for Trump in the 2016 election.

And in my visits where I`m talking to people across the political spectrum, I discovered in every one of them that there were one or more grassroots citizens groups that are actually led by women who were disappointed and shocked at the results of the 2016 election and organized themselves to speak out to their local representatives, to run for office in many cases themselves, and support other people, and to fight, over the course of the last year and a half, to preserve the healthcare law and to raise issues about immigration, education, all of the issues you mentioned at the start of this segment.

VELSHI: This is --

SKOCPOL: With their neighbors and friends in these local areas.

VELSHI: And, Maria Teresa, this is an important point. These domestic policies are something that women in this country understand the ways in which they affect them. And by the way, some of it is childcare and CHIP and things like that, but some of it is what we were just talking about in the last segment, and that is the treatment of women and families at the southern border.

There are things that women are standing up, saying, I`m not letting people (INAUDIBLE).

KUMAR: Well, and this is where the Republicans (INAUDIBLE) that vote are women. And disproportionately, the largest group of growing women are single women who -- these are basically bread and butter, whether they are heads of households or not. It`s something that they think about.

But let`s -- you know, I want to drill down where Theda talked about this idea that it was the grassroots mobilization of women that helped bring Conor Lamb to the -- to Congress. The reason that is unique and special is that that is the district that Trump won by 20 points.

VELSHI: Right.

KUMAR: That basically was found by the Justice -- by the courts that had been highly gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. So if that is happening in basically an outlier of a highly Republican-held, gerrymandered district, there is going to be a wave.

And if you were to ask me what would I look for towards, it`s that once these women get into office, what we want to make sure is that they are getting the support and they`re getting the training they need when it comes to politicking, when it comes to policy.

Because we want to make sure that it`s not just a wave but that is not -- and it`s not just a pendulum, but that we`re actually cementing a progressive agenda that actually allows for women and children to be at the forefront of these policies.

VELSHI: However, Theda, I just want to read you something that was on NPR, and the title is "The Wave of Female Candidates Is Set for a Wave of Losses Come November."

And it says 49 percent of the Democratic women running for the House, Senate, and Governor are in likely or safe Republican races. Thirty-four percent of Republican women are running in likely or safe Democratic House, Senate, or Governors` races.

Which means a whole lot of women are running in districts which are not obvious supporters of the party for which they are running.

SKOCPOL: Well, you know, you have to run to have a chance to win. People don`t always win when they do run, and I don`t think that`s something that we should be worried about.

So many are running -- so many women are running. And so many women, along with many men working with them, are knocking on doors, talking to their neighbors, contacting their local representatives.

That`s going to change the political conversation not just in the big cities or the liberal states, but in the conservative areas like the ones I`ve been visiting over the last year and a half. That will change the lay of the land for whoever gets elected. And some will lose --

KUMAR: And I think to really -- to underscore Theda`s point, is by contrast -- full disclosure, I`m on the board of Emily`s List.

In 2016, we were having a hard time trying to recruit women. And at the top of that 2016, we had 900 women throwing their hands to be candidates. We are now trying to struggle because there`s 36,000.


KUMAR: So this is not just about a one-time wave. If anything, it`s a cultural shift. Women are now seeing that they too can hold public office, even if they are the older librarian or if they are the single mother. And that is what makes it special.

If you look at what happened in Virginia, the whole wave of what happened in Virginia was really representative of what was -- what America represents, right? Not just based on gender or diversity but, more importantly, on truly a progressive -- a progressive map of what the future of America looks like.

VELSHI: Right. Well, thank you for this hearty discussion. We will see how this all plays out.

Theda Skocpol, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Zerlina Maxwell, thanks to all three of you for joining us.

Tonight`s last word is next.


VELSHI: Time for tonight`s last word.

Today, Robert Mueller`s boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, delivered the commencement speech at Campbell University Law School. He offered this advice.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Never compromise your personal integrity. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, on matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock.


VELSHI: And that`s tonight`s last word.

Coming up, Steve Schmidt joins Brian to discuss John McCain. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.


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