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Democrats excluded from DOJ briefing. TRANSCRIPT: 05/22/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Robert Kelley

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: May 22, 2018 Guest: Robert Kelley

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I don't know but high school math teacher sounds like an upgrade to me in just about any job, actually. If a high school math teacher comes in and takes it, I think we've upgraded.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes. You know what? As far as I'm concerned, if I know nothing else about you, if you can legitimately append the word teacher or librarian to your name, you already have got my vote.

O'DONNELL: That is absolutely true. I spent my morning at PS-208 which is on my new favorite cup right here on the set. There it is. There it is. Right there in the shot.

And so to start your day with teachers and start your day with students means nothing can go wrong after that. And nothing has, right? I haven't been paying that much attention to the news, right?

MADDOW: Oh, no it's been a totally, totally normal day.

O'DONNELL: OK, great. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Well, today, Donald Trump looked like a president who really, really wanted to be and maybe even was planning to be a president who was appointing a new deputy attorney general. But he didn't get to do that today because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not resign when Donald Trump made the unprecedented demand that the Justice Department conduct an investigation, quote, into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes.

Instead of resigning, Rod Rosenstein handed off the Trump tweet to the Justice Department's inspector general for a routine low-level investigation. So Rod Rosenstein did not resign over the principle of keeping the Justice Department independent of the political influences of the White House, and the president did not fire Rod Rosenstein for refusing to obey his demand because Rod Rosenstein sort of obeyed his demand.

And so instead of announcing the appointment of a new deputy attorney general today, Donald Trump was asked if he has confidence in Rod Rosenstein.


REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's your next question, please?


O'DONNELL: You don't have to be an expert in Trump speak to realize what the answer was to that question. And so, the president stated very clearly right there that he does not have confidence in the deputy attorney general, and he really looked like a president who wishes he was being asked if he had confidence in his new deputy attorney general, who the president had just chosen to go into the Justice Department and fire the special prosecutor and end Robert Mueller's investigation.

The lead editorial today in "The New York Times" entitled Trump versus the Department of Justice is outraged that the president is launching a self- interested assault on the Justice Department. "The Times" editorial says it's up to those people who have devoted their lives to the nation and to the rule of law like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the FBI Director Christopher Wray, both Republicans and Trump appointees, don't forget, to stand up to the president and defend these institutions.

That is exactly what Rod Rosenstein has said he will do.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. Any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.


O'DONNELL: If Rod Rosenstein was telling the truth then three weeks ago, it means he decided that he could agree to an inspector general's investigation of whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes without affecting, quote, how we're going to do our job.

But the question everyone is asking now is, where is the line? Where is the line that Donald Trump will eventually cross that will force Rod Rosenstein to openly resist what the president is trying to do, either by refusing to comply with a presidential order delivered in a tweet or otherwise or by resigning rather than carry out a presidential order.

It may be that Rod Rosenstein can't say for sure right now exactly where that line is. It may be that Rod Rosenstein will only know where that line is when he sees it, when Donald Trump presents it to him. And it seems very clear that Donald Trump is trying very hard to find that line so that he can force Rod Rosenstein's resignation and replace him with a deputy attorney general who will in effect take an oath to serve and protect Trumpism against Trumpism's most powerful enemy, the Constitution of the United States.

Joining our discussion now, Jesse Wegman, "New York Times" editorial board who wrote today's editorial entitled "Trump Versus the Department of Justice." Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder is with us. He is an MSNBC contributor now. And John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC and MSNBC is with us. He is the co-host and executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus."

And, John Heilemann, you've been studying Donald Trump for years now as a politician, and I've gotten closer to him than the rest of us in that study. Is Donald Trump trying to find that line? Is he trying to find the spot where Rod Rosenstein has to stand up and say I resign?

JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: Yes, I think so. And I think he is doing it in in a not particularly subtle way. I think he is also doing it in a not particularly clever way.

He gave Rosenstein this out. You talked about this I thought very insightfully last night, not just to praise you needlessly, although it's hardly ever needless when I praise you, Lawrence. But you caught the drama of it last night when you were discussing this in the program.

I think, you know, f him to send that tweet on Sunday and put Rosenstein in the position where -- and I hate the focus on the high human drama of this -- but, you know, this guy, not a politician, not someone whoever thought he would find himself in this position sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon trying to figure out in a relatively short clock what do I do here because if I show up tomorrow morning, this circumstance could be different. The president could issue an official order that could be different from this tweet. And this tweet gives me some latitude because of the way it's constructed, sloppily somewhat, overbroad-way.

Maybe I can find a path to be able to do what you said a second ago which is to buy myself some time, not do something that violates where I think the line is and put off what is I am sure an inevitable reckoning, inevitable confrontation with Donald Trump that he and Wray will have to have. I think none of us can make a good jump about whether he did the right thing or not. He knows things we do not know. He knows where Robert Mueller's investigation is more than anyone except for Robert Mueller himself about what they have, what kind of timeline they're on.

We can't judge the rightness of his decision, but we can look at it and say he is playing checkers and chess and canasta, or whatever the game metaphor is at a very high level against Donald Trump right now, and he has made a move. I think there are a lot of value judgments in play that we can all air out over whether he made the right move as opposed to confronting Trump on Monday, whether it makes sense to have waited.

But that is I think what this is all about. I think the president knows it, and I think Rosenstein knows it. The only question now is what the next move is, and the next move now is back in Donald Trump's hands.

O'DONNELL: Jesse, the reports from inside the White House that there were White House staffers who believed Rosenstein would have to resign. He would have to resign on that principle of political separation of the Justice Department from the White House, and they were pretty confident that they would get that resignation on Sunday or Monday. They didn't.

And so, we await the next attempt, I guess, from Donald Trump to provoke this resignation.

JESSE WEGMAN, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: These are the same White House staffers who thought that Democrats would praise Donald Trump for firing Jim Comey.

O'DONNELL: Some of them interest same. But a lot of those people have been fired a long time ago.

WEGMAN: I mean, you know, Rod Rosenstein -- Donald Trump, you know, put Rod Rosenstein in the Justice Department at a time when I think he didn't understand quite so much about how the law enforcement apparatus of the nation works and the federal law enforcement officers especially, someone like Rod Rosenstein who has devoted his entire professional career to this work.

And I think he has been shocked again and again that Mr. Rosenstein is not doing his bidding. And, you know, we talk a lot about constitutional crisis. Are we in a constitutional crisis? Are we not?

I think we can answer that however we want. Rod Rosenstein has been in one himself since about 5:00 p.m. on May 9th of last year, right? He has had to make countless decision, some of which we know about, like appointing Robert Mueller, and many of which has John has just pointed out we don't know about, to keep this investigation protected and to keep Donald Trump at bay.

And I think, you know, if Trump thinks that Rosenstein is going to step down over something like this, I think he is wrong and I think his staffers are wrong. I think Rosenstein knows, as well as we all do, that resigning or doing something such as refusing to, you know, obey an order from the president that would effectively result in his dismissal would be the end of the -- could be the beginning of the end of the investigation because of who Trump would replace him with. And I think he knows very well that that is something that he doesn't want to happen.

O'DONNELL: Matt Miller, the ground is moving under this story as we've been talking about it these last couple of days, because this issue is all about protecting or has been about protecting the identity of someone who informed to the FBI on conversations that that person had with some people affiliated with the Trump campaign, and these were considerations that were had in England.

That person's name has now been out there. "The Washington Post" has written a profile of him. "Wall Street Journal" reported the name on Sunday. And so, the idea that there is something sacred here for Rod Rosenstein to be standing in defense of, given the fact that the president wants to dig up has already been dug up by journalists, what does that do to the nature of the story we're watching?

MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR A.G. HOLDER: You know, the name very much is not secret anymore. It's already been publicly identified, as you said. So it's probably not a lot of harm to any ongoing investigations by turning that name over to Congress.

The problem is with the entire principle of the independence and the Justice Department, and what I worry about is that Rosenstein, by not standing up, not saying no to Donald Trump, or, you know, not ignoring the illegitimate orders as we've seen other people in the administration do. Don't forget Don McGahn twice was ordered to go and get Mueller remove and basically ignored it until the president went away.

I worry that the president is learning the wrong messages here. He is learning -- he sent an illegitimate order to the Justice Department on Sunday. And the message he got back not was that he should stop interfering with the Justice Department, but that he would be rewarded.

And he got an inspector general investigation. It's not the same thing as a full-blown criminal investigation, but it's still serious. I suspect we will see members of Congress interfere with that investigation as they interfered with the other investigation, the I.G. has conducted, demanding e-mails and text messages from FBI agents be turned over to Congress in the middle of the investigation.

So, there are costs to this. And I think, you know, as John said, we won't know if Rod has made the right decision until this is over. If he is just trying to buy another month, another two months so Comey can finish his work, then maybe he made the right decision. But if he is giving up this big amount of the Justice Department's independence just to placate Trump, he may find at some point that he has really nothing left to fight for.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Donald Trump tweeted tonight in which he tries to take advantage of the secrecy that the Justice Department has been trying to protect, even though this person's name is out there, he says if the person placed very early into my campaign wasn't a spy, put there by the previous administration for political purpose, how come such a seemingly massive amount of money was paid for services rendered, many times higher than normal, follow the money.

The spy was there early in the campaign and yet never reported collusion with Russia because there was no collusion. He was only there to spy for political reasons and to help crooked Hillary win, just like they did to Bernie Sanders who got duped.

And so, John Heilemann, it's just lie after lie after lie. There was no spy who was inserted into the campaign. No one was inserted into the campaign.

It was not early in the campaign. The money that this professor has received over time from the federal government is almost entirely from the Defense Department for studies he has done for the Defense Department, starting in 2012, long before Donald Trump was a candidate.

HEILEMANN: And no information was handed over to crooked Hillary Clinton as we know of. Just the fact that Trump invoking "follow the money" in this moment is just --

O'DONNELL: But it feels like he is trying to get that tweet out --


O'DONNELL: -- before the entire story about this guy is very well-known --


O'DONNELL: -- and doesn't fit any of those elements.

HEILEMANN: I think that's right. And look, I don't know that any of it -- this tweet, you know, conforms perfectly with Trump's tendency to try to do whatever it is he is doing and add all this filigree around it that is often maddening to those of us who care about rationality and truth but does adhere to a certain set of rules and a certain kind of consistent message discipline that appeals to what he has ultimately tried to do in a larger sense, which is to drive a narrative about this all being a political exercise, all being a conspiracy, a hoax, a witch-hunt in order to try to litigate this in the court of public opinion so that he has his 42 percent or his 41 percent or whatever that number is that when he finally gets to judgment day, he can turn to the people and say these charges Bob Mueller has brought, they pale beside your belief in me.

And that is to take this out of the legal realm and make it purely a matter of politics. This is consistent with what all of that is about. I just want to say, I read Matt Miller's op-ed. I think he expressed the point of view of those who think Rosenstein may have gotten this wrong as well as anybody did. And he may be right.

And the reality is there is a profound principle, even though we know the name of this person that is being violated by turning over that name to these congressional committees who are partisan who will likely leak it. And what does that say to confidential informant around the world? I've heard many experienced law enforcement people in just the last 24 hours say they don't mind the I.G. investigation because that's ridiculous because we already know what there is going to find, which is that there was no spy inserted, et cetera, et cetera, and Rosenstein knows that.

What they mind is this concession of going up to Capitol Hill and putting a confidential informant's name in front of partisan congressional committee and partisan members who are only doing this for political purposes. It may turn out that Rod Rosenstein was wrong. But it may also turn out that Rod Rosenstein turns out to be right. Again, it's almost impossible to judge at this moment on the limited information that we all have.

O'DONNELL: And, Jesse, on this meeting that the White House is now brokering through John Kelly where they will as they put it review the information that these Republicans in the House want to see about this informant, there is the issue of -- well, the Democrats, the lead Democrats on the committee traditionally would always join a discussion like that. And no one in the House of Representatives seems to remember any of that.

Let's listen to Senator John Kennedy today who does seem to remember that, Republican senator.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: The House leadership is allowed to see certain documents -- I think that it's perfectly appropriate. Indeed, I would recommend it, that our Democratic colleagues in the House be allowed to send representatives as well. I think that's only fair.


O'DONNELL: He is such a crazy lefty, that guy. You can't get a House Republican to say the same thing.

WEGMAN: I mean, this is -- I think the House Republicans should remember that nobody holds power forever, and this sort of behavior is really right up at the edge of, you know, acceptability. I mean, actually, it's well over the line.

I think -- I just want to go back for a minute, though, to something John was saying. You know, Rod Rosenstein, I think you could probably find some right and some wrong in all of the decisions he is making. He has impossible choices that he is facing at every step of the way, and none of them have a clean answer.

So this isn't to defend him. It's more just to put it into the broader context. And I also think to bring in the obvious psychology here is that we can't really talk about any of this without talking about the projection that's at the heart of Donald Trump's personality and now his White House, which is anything wrong or bad that he either has done or wants to do, he blames on somebody else, you know?

So, we kind of -- we have a sort of a map to his behavior and to his own desires through how he accuses other people. And I think that's what we're seeing right now. We've seen it many times obviously over the last couple of years, and we're seeing it again with this latest sort of attempt to politicize justice, attempt to say, you know, Barack Obama was spying on me, or Justice Department is full of all these deep staters who want me -- who want me out.

That's not how -- that's not how the Justice Department operates, but it's how Donald Trump wants it to operate.


WEGMAN: So, he figures if he talks about it in that way, it will eventually become that. And I think we have to keep in mind that's how he processes things. And it's different from the reality that the rest of us experience.

O'DONNELL: Matt Miller, is this a line that perhaps Rod Rosenstein should hold to, that he will not participate in that briefing unless the lead Democrats on the committees are allowed to participate?

MILLER: It's an important principle. He ought to stick up for it. I mean, that's the way the Justice Department and other intelligence agencies have operated in this sphere, the principle that if you're conducting oversight, then should it be bipartisan and both sides should get -- should get access to the information. That's not what we've seen here.

I think, you know, to the point -- you know, the Republicans in Congress don't even try to hide what they're doing now. We've seen reports that Mark Meadows, one of the people who was out calling for a second special counsel today coordinates with Donald Trump, gets on the phone with Donald Trump, and they coordinate their attacks on the Justice Department.

And so, when you look at where Rosenstein is -- I mean, I really worry, as I wrote in the piece that he's giving up too much, he is in a tough spot. But the fault doesn't really rest with him. The fault really rests with everyone else who is not defending him and leaving him in this situation.

There ought to be people in Congress, Republicans especially who are standing up and saying, you know what? Stop politicizing this investigation. Mr. President, stop trying to move the line, stop trying to redefine the norm of what's appropriate you.

You shouldn't be sitting in meetings yourself with the FBI director and the acting attorney general deciding what they turn over to Congress when it's an investigation that pertains to you. That's inappropriate. And instead what we get are two types of Republicans. The Republicans who are joining the president, attacking the Justice Department, and the Republicans that are cowering in the corner. There is no one standing up and backing Rosenstein up.

I think that's why you see him kind of isolated in this really tough tricky position where he is having to surrender pieces of the department's independence that we won't know for some time whether it was worth it or not.

O'DONNELL: Matt Miller, John Heilemann, Jesse Wegman, thanks for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, we have breaking news. Michael Cohen's Russian-born business partner in the New York City taxi business pleaded guilty today and is cooperating with prosecutors. What that could mean for Robert Mueller's investigation? That's next.


O'DONNELL: A dear, dear personal friend of Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen is insisting tonight that his guilty plea today in New York state court has nothing to do with his dear, dear friend Michael Cohen, even though it has everything to do with the business they were in together, and that business was the taxi cab business in New York City, which has attracted shady operators since the day it was invented.

Evgeny Freidman, a Russian-born immigrant, who was known as the taxi king pleaded guilty today to stealing through his taxi business. And even though Michael Cohen began partnering with Friedman in the taxi business in 2007, Friedman insisted in a text through "The New York Daily News tonight that Michael Cohen has absolutely nothing to do his crimes.

The text said: Michael is a dear, dear personal friend and passive client, exclamation point. That's it, exclamation point. That is me taking responsibility for my actions and has nothing to do with Michael Cohen. This is a very difficult day for myself and my family. I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years, and now, I am a felon, exclamation point.

Live Michael Cohen, Mr. Freidman is an attorney who is also a taxi medallion owner. Michael Cohen hired Mr. Freidman to run his taxis and manage his taxi medallions for him at some point, and that is what Mr. Freidman means by a passive client.

"The New York Times" is now cooperating that Mr. Freidman is now cooperating with investigators who will no doubt be questioning just how passive Michael Cohen was in their taxi business. "The New York Times" reports the charges against Mr. Freidman stem from accusations that he pocketed a 50 cent surcharge known as the metropolitan transportation authority tax which is used to pay for mass transit improvements. When he was charged last year, Nonie Manion, then the acting commissioner of the State Department of Taxation and Finance said this indictment exposes a blatant scheme to shortchange the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the transportation infrastructure relied on by millions of New Yorkers.

New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Freidman pocketed money that should have provided much needed investment in our transit system and he'll now have to pay back every cent. And here is the part Michael Cohen is worried about. Our office will continue to hold accountable those who cheat the system.

Joining our discussion now, Michael Daly, columnist for "The Daily Beast", who has been covering New York City for decades. He is a long-time columnist for "The New York Daily News".

Also with us, Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and a professor after the University of Alabama Law School. She is an MSNBC contributor.

And, Michael, it's hard to be surprised at corruption and tax cheating among taxi operators in New York City.

MICHAEL DALY, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, you know, it's -- I mean, you got this guy Gene, they call him, Freidman. He starts out -- his father had a fleet of like 60 cabs. The next thing you know, Gene's got a thousand cabs and the medallions.

And all that is like moving money back and forth. You borrow against this to get this medallion and that goes up in money and you borrow more money and get this. And the next you know, all of the sudden, you can walk around saying I'm worth half a billion dollars.

And meanwhile, he is going to Chicago. He's going to Philadelphia. He's going the New Orleans. Cabs everywhere.

And then, he's there with Mr. Cohen. And Mr. Cohen is -- he's got a bunch of medallions. Still trying to figure out how he got that amount of money in medallions. And he gives them to Gene to actually make money with.

And while Michael is borrowing off this and he is taking this and he's buying apartments and he's buying apartment buildings and then there are a couple other ex-cabdrivers who started in another part of Manhattan with an electronics store in the early days before the Soviet Union fell, they were selling VCRs that people would take back to Moscow. And all of the sudden, one of their customers turned out to be the head of oil in Russia. So, he starts talking to them.

So the only thing they knew about oil was that you put premium in the cab when it's your cab and regular when it's not. And the next thing you know, they're worth a billion dollars.


DALY: They're buying real estate everywhere. And you got this. So, it's like you took that TV show "Taxi" made it Russian and put a billion dollars in it, all in cash.

O'DONNELL: Joyce Vance, that's the simple explanation. But what do you see, what do you think federal authorities will see in this guilty plea? Here is a guilty plea where he is saying I stole the 50 cents, the 50 cents surcharge that was on the taxi meter which meant he had to somehow jimmy the meter which they've been doing forever, since the meters were invented.

But that also suggests to me that he did not declare that 50 cents, very likely did not declare that 50 cents times a million on his federal tax returns.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think that that's a likely assumption. You know, this is a state case that he's pled guilty in.

We're told that he was looking at about $5 million in tax fraud, but the state in perhaps brand-new New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood's first significant case permitted him to plead to one count of tax evasion to the tune of about $50,000. He will serve no time in jail. The state will recommend a sentence of five years of probation as opposed to what they could have charged him with which was four count, each of which came with a 25-year maximum sentence.

So, it looks like he's got something significant to offer. You know, it's an interesting question, Lawrence, and we don't know. We haven't seen the plea agreement. Decide he resolve any pending federal charges like the tax charges that you're hinting at. It seems like his lawyer would have tried to get a global resolution which would have said no one else would charge him and in exchange he would be available to cooperate with either federal or state authorities on any pending cases that they're interested in. But we don't quite know the answer to that yet, although it seems very likely.

O'DONNELL: Michael, let's go two steps away from Mr. Freidman to Mr. Trump because Mr. Trump is at the other end of Michael Cohen on this. If Freidman turns on Michael Cohen, delivers Michael Cohen in some way in the form of a criminal liability to the feds at some point, Michael Cohen then if not sooner starts getting crushed by the feds, how strong is Michael Cohen to resist any temptation to give the feds something they might want to know about Donald Trump?

MICHAEL DALY, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: I think the new book would be called the art of the squeal. And Michael Cohen when he was young, his uncle owned a catering hall in Brooklyn called the El Caribe. And it was - - it became like the gym there became like the Ravenite (ph) social club, the headquarters of the Russian mafia in America. And there were a lot of Italian gangsters that would hang out there. A couple of Genovese guys, (INAUDIBLE), from the Lucase family, they all ended up become rats (ph). All of them. Every one of them.

O'DONNELL: Much tougher eye (ph) than Michael Cohen.

DALY: And there was one guy, you know, everybody thought nobody would ever -- Joe Messino (INAUDIBLE) never become a rat. You know, he like took singing lessons before he had done it.

So the only thing I can think is that Michael Cohen may be so -- may be the only guy in Brooklyn deluded enough not be a rat. Now, he may be so -- when you see him walk into court, he just doesn't even know where he is. He walked into court the first time and he turned to all the reporters were in the jury box, because there is no jury there, and he starts mouthing good morning to them like they want to talk to him. And then, you know, the prosecutor came over to talk to his lawyer, Michael stood up and held out his hand as if the prosecutor was going to say how are you doing? Good morning.


DALY: I mean, he just doesn't know where he is. But I can't believe if you think how much probable cause was needed to get a search warrant for the President's lawyer, I mean, that they said, you know, your honor, we only have the eight truck-loads of evidence here. The other 12 are coming in about 15 minutes, you know.

And the other -- there is two words in the search warrant application, many crimes, many crimes. This is in federal court, many crimes. And he is being prosecuted by the public corruption unit, which means that there is some kind of public official involved there somewhere. And that's not Michael Cohen.

O'DONNELL: Joyce, a quick word on what Michael just outlined. And we have all seen this language in those documents. But that phrase many crimes, this is federal prosecutors typing in the words many crimes, submitting it to a federal judge. I assume they don't do that lightly.

VANCE: They don't do it lightly. And there was also some specificity. They talked about bank fraud. They talked about campaign finance fraud. This many crimes language indicates that when you are committing crimes that involve these big frauds, often you commit other crimes along the way. And it's up to prosecutors ultimately to determine what charges they will bring, but they are entitled to investigate that full range of conduct along the road to those charges.

O'DONNELL: Joyce Vance, thank you very much for joining us. And Michael Daly, the title of his next book is "the art of the squeal." Don't anybody steal that title. That's Michael's title. Michael, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, why the Trump-North Korea summit is now in doubt.


O'DONNELL: And now Donald Trump is no longer quite so sure that he is going to be a front-runner for the Nobel peace prize by denuclearizing North Korea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance that it will work out. There is a chance, a very substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waste a lot of time. And I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So there is a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's OK. That doesn't mean that it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12th. But there is a good chance that we will have the meeting.


O'DONNELL: Got that? Was that clear? OK.

"The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that the summit has been thrown into doubt by President Trump's new national security adviser John Bolton. When John Bolton appeared on television three weeks ago and said the Trump administration thought the Libya model of denuclearization was the ideal for North Korea. Since that ended in the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, it is not surprising that Kim Jong-un doesn't see it as a reasonable objective for himself.

Joining our discussion now, Robert Kelley, a professor of political science and diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea.

Professor Kelly, where do you believe the summit stands at this point? Is it likely to happen?

ROBERT KELLY, PROFESSOR, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: I still think it, but it's a lot closer to 50 percent than I think it was a few days ago because it's pretty clear now that the President and Kim Jong-un are really, really far apart on nuclear weapons, and Moon has not been able to bridge that. I still think there are high incentives for both of them to have this thing. I think Donald Trump particularly would like it to the pageantry and the television and a chance to have a win to market at home because of all the scandals and stuff like that. But yes, it's a lot closer to failure than a few days ago.

O'DONNELL: And is President Moon supportive of the summit no matter what the agenda is?

KELLY: It seems like it. The Moon administration has been really pushing this hard. I think there is a sense of momentum here, right. That they got the ball rolling, especially after last year. I mean, last year, the war threats of last year really scared the South Korean population a lot. And I think the Moon people want to keep this going. I think they want to tie down Donald Trump to a diplomatic track, and that's why they are pushing this so hard, yes.

O'DONNELL: And the President today refused to answer the question about whether or not he has actually spoken directly to Kim Jong-un. Is there any -- is there any sense in South Korea at this point whether there has been direct communication from President Trump to Kim?

KELLY: Yes, that's actually a really good question. I don't know. I mean, there is rumors all over the place. And it is my sense is that maybe there is something brief because of the way the President has spoken. We know the President likes the sort of drama of this kind of stuff. But that would be extraordinary, right? I mean, no American President has ever done that before. But I mean, Trump likes that sort of thing, I suppose.

O'DONNELL: And President Trump has already gone farther than any other American President and certainly in stepping toward North Korea in recognizing and saying very, very favorable things about the North Korean leader, the likes of which we have never heard from an American President.

KELLY: Yes, it's kind of curious, actually, the President has done this. Because he is not actually got a whole lot for it. I think one of the things that people are worried about in the analyst community, especially among hawks if you will is that the President gave Kim the summit without really getting anything in return for it, right.

I mean, meeting the American President with North Korean dictator is an important moment of legitimation. It proves that North Korea is a real state. It has distinct from South Korea. It's independent. It's a real country and not sort of a failed socialist cul-de-sac or something like that. And this is why no American President has ever met a North Korean leader. And Trump gave that up for nothing which was in my opinion an enormous error, a huge missed opportunity.

O'DONNELL: Professor Robert Kelly joining us from Pusan National University in South Korea, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, what are the big winners in some of the big primary races tonight? Steve Kornacki has it all for you, as you know he always does.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, we are watching primary results in Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia. In the most closely watched race, Stacey Abrams faced Stacey Evans in Georgia's Democratic primary for governor. Stacey Abrams won that race and made history tonight by becoming the first African-American woman to be a major party's nominee for governor anywhere in the United States.

Joining us now with the latest on tonight's races is Steve Kornacki.

Steve, what should we be watching now?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC REPORTER: Yes. I mean, look. This is interesting, Lawrence, for a couple of reasons. You give the historic aspect of it there. There is also as we thought Abrams was the favorite coming in today. Nobody expected it was going to be 76-24. So what does this mean for the fall for Democrats?

Well, this is going to be a very interesting test because by nominating Abrams and the strategy that she has sort of been touting, Democrats are going in a direction we haven't seen them go in the past, especially in a state like Georgia. The theory behind the Abrams campaign is basically that Georgia is changing. The demographics of Georgia are changing. It's a fast-growing state. You have had an influx of folks over the last generation in the Atlanta area.

What we have here are nonwhite people, Latinos in particular who have been coming in. You have got younger people. You have got women. You have got single women. This is what Democrats have been saying is the future of their party in Georgia. Abrams is saying that future is now. Let's motive those folks. Let's use the energy generated by the Trump era to motive those folks to get them to turn out, to change the map of Georgia.

Can that be done in the year 2018 or is she a little bit ahead of the demographic change there? That's what we're going to find out this fall. Who will she run against? That's the open question here. This is lieutenant governor, Republican Casey Cagle. You see he is leading by a couple margins.

Georgia though is a runoff state. He is short of 50 percent. So there is going to be a runoff here in July. Cagle versus the secretary of state, Brian Kemp. Winner goes on to the general election.

The over big story here tonight, though, Lawrence, this was the surprise tonight. This was a heck of a story. In Kentucky, the sixth district, the only congressional district in Kentucky where Democrats think they could maybe pick off a Republican seat this year, this was the candidate Democrats recruited, Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington. They said get in the race. You are the one who can win the district.

And then this woman, Amy McGrath, she is a marine veteran, former fighter pilot. She put a video up. She talked about being a girl, wanting to be a pilot, being told she couldn't do it. The video caught fire online. Millions of dollars poured into their campaign. And lo and behold, she has pulled off the upset, won this primary, defeated the candidate recruited by the DCCC.

And more than that, what happened here, she is going to face Andy Barr, a Republican this fall. The way she won this is fascinating because the anchor of this district is the city of Lexington, University of Kentucky where McGrath excelled was outside of Lexington. It was in the rural parts of this district.

She not only was winning by 20 points in the rural parts of this district, usually very Republican, turnout in the Democratic primary here tonight in those parts of the district, double what it was when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were running in the Presidential primary two years ago. So it looks like Amy McGrath has potentially excited voters who don't normally vote in Democratic primaries. This is one to watch in the fall, Lawrence. Kentucky could actually be a battleground.

O'DONNELL: Steve, do you credit the candidate with that record turnout or was there some other dynamic?

KORNACKI: Yes. No, I think you have to look at the facts she has this sort of outsider credential. She has the military credentials. She has a message you don't normally hear necessarily in politics. I'm looking at this. It's a testament in November to see if this stands up. But I'm looking at Amy McGrath as sort of a unique candidate here who maybe has some unique appeal for a Democrat.

O'DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, thank you for joining us. You make it exciting even when it's already over.

KORNACKI: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Steve.

Coming up, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia delivered a powerful victory speech tonight and we have that for you next.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, Stacey Abrams became the first African-American woman to be a major party nominee for governor anywhere in the United States. She is a graduate of Yale law school. She was the first woman to lead the Democrats in the Georgia general assembly. She was the first African- American to lead the Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives. Here is some of her victory speech tonight.


STACEY ABRAMS, GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running because I want every Georgia family to have the freedom and opportunity to thrive. You deserve nothing less. And I know Georgia can deliver a whole lot more. But here's the thing. To claim our victory to write that next chapter, and live those best lives, we have a lot of work to do.

We have to reach out to those who do not believe their voices matter, who have been disappointed again and again by promises made and never kept, who live by counties crushed by poverty and neglect. In suburbs isolated from jobs and opportunity and sometimes from each other. In cities where lack of affordability makes it harder and harder to stay. And in the next six months we are going to have to work together to remake our Georgia.

With your help, we will register every last person we know. And we are going to search out those we don't know yet and prove they matter to us too. Because our campaign will be a coalition that reaches across backgrounds, sharing our constant belief in our capacity to win. And with your hands knocking and your feet walking and your voices speaking out, every Georgian we touch will understand the value and the immense power of our vote.

Inaction can be contagious, but so can a passion for change. From our campuses to our neighborhood blocks, from our senior centers, outwards, a wave is coming. And I know Georgians won't stand on the sidelines. Because you see, in the book of Esther, in the book of Esther, there is a verse that reminds us that we were born for such a time as this.


ADAMS: And now is the time to defend our values and protect the vulnerable, to stand in the gap and to lead the way. A time to know that this democracy only works when we work for it. And that's what we have done tonight. And that is what we will continue to do all the way to victory in November.


ADAMS: I ask for your votes. I'm really asking you to vote for yourself. To vote for the people you know and love, for the ones you work beside and worship with, for the Georgians you may never know but whose fate is undeniably tied to our own. These are the people on my mind tonight. And that's who will be on my mind every single day as I go to work for you as your next governor.




O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's LAST WORD.

Remember when Donald Trump was campaigning for President and openly asking Russia to help right there in the middle of his rallies, right into the microphone, on TV? Well, Seth Meyers remembers that. And that's why he's a little surprised that Donald Trump is pretending that anyone needed a spy in the Trump campaign to find out what the Trump campaign was up to.


SETH MYERS, COMEDIAN: The FBI did have an informant working with them. But that is not a spy. I mean, seriously, you think they needed a spy to catch you colluding with Russia? All they need --.




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