Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: July 11, 2018 Guest: Tim O'Brien; Austan Goolsbee
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And, you know, we have seen the president at the G-7 meetings sign a document and then refute everything that was in the document after he left. And, so, one of the suspense issues for people involved in the NATO summit is when will it actually end for President Trump? It will end at a certain hour or a certain moment. It will end perhaps with a signature or whatever.
But is that the end of it? Will there be something from Air Force One that changes everything that was said here?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, when he takes a bold or controversial step, he tends to likes to have other people do that. Or he likes to do it from a distance. So, he makes nice with everybody at the G- 7 and then gets on a plane and then phones in his displeasure.
He decides that he wants Robert Mueller fired or he wants Jeff Sessions fired. He dispatches other people to go do that firing. I mean, when it comes down to really being a tough guy, he likes to work through proxies, shall we say. So, we'll be watching this well into tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: The wide angle lens challenge that's coming up in London is trying to get the president in the same frame as that blimp that's going to be floating.
MADDOW: The blimp is upset baby Trump? Is that what it is?
O'DONNELL: It's something like that.
MADDOW: It's a diaper and --
O'DONNELL: I haven't seen it yet. That's why I'm hoping for a wide angle.
MADDOW: I think it's an upset baby but I reserve the right to be wrong on that.
O'DONNELL: All right. We will find out.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, on this day in Congress, we saw things that we have never seen before. In the Senate, we saw a 51-48 vote to confirm an assistant attorney general to head the criminal division of the Justice Department, which supervises all of the federal prosecutors in the country and votes to confirm assistant attorneys general to that post are usually not that close. They are usually overwhelmingly bipartisan because the nominee is usually a recognized professional, the significant experience as a federal prosecutor.
But this was the first time we saw the Senate confirm someone to that job who has never been a federal prosecutor or a local prosecutor and, in fact, has never appeared as a lawyer in federal court, has never tried a case in federal court. That was a uniquely Trumpian appointment, the likes of which we have not seen before. And the House of Representatives today, we saw something with elements of something that we have seen before, something disturbing.
Former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert got in trouble late in his career because of his days as a high school wrestling coach. He was caught paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the silence of a man who said he was sexually abused by Dennis Hastert in those days when he was a coach.
And today, another wrestling coach is in trouble in the House of Representatives. Congressman Jim Jordan is trying to convince the House of Representatives and his constituents in Ohio that the wrestlers that he used to coach are now lying about him. Eight former wrestlers from Congressman Jordan's days as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University say that they complained directly to him about sexually aggressive behavior and in some cases molestation by the wrestling team's doctor, Richard Strauss.
Republican House members who remembered what happened to Dennis Hastert have to be worried tonight about what the future might hold for Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. But also today in Congress, there were glimmers of sanity. And these days, glimmers are about the most we're going to get. Glimmers in both the House and the Senate, and it is the second day in a row that we have seen a demonstration of sanity in the United States Senate.
Yesterday's 97-2 Senate vote to essentially rebuke President Trump's rhetoric about NATO was led by the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, who will be our first guest here tonight. Today, another vote to rebuke the president's policy, this time on tariffs, was led in the United States by Republicans, and it was supported by all Democrats in an 88-11 vote against the president's policies on tariffs.
Now, the House of Representatives tends to work in stranger and often more invisible ways than the relatively open proceedings that you can watch on the Senate floor. And, so, there isn't much to show you in the way that the House rebuked the president today for his reckless and false language about NATO. Last night, at this hour, we showed you Jack Reed's speech on the Senate floor, specifically attacking what President Trump has said about Vladimir Putin and arguing in favor of what was Senator Reed's resolution to, quote, reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, as a community of freedom, peace, security and shared values, including liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Senator Reed's resolution got only two opposing votes from Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee who sometimes call themselves libertarians. A similar resolution in the House of Representatives today was actually passed unanimously, not one vote cast in support of the president's rhetoric in the House of Representatives today. And like the resolution in the Senate yesterday, the House resolution was sponsored by a member of the seemingly powerless Democratic minority, Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
But you would never know that, even if you are watching the House floor very closely today, because as I said, as you will see in a moment, the House acts in mysterious ways. Steve Cohen expresses support. The resolution says that the House of Representatives, one, condemns any threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and democracy over the Baltic States. Two, condemns the clear, gross, uncorrected, ongoing violation of the Helsinki principles by the Russian Federation with respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Three, supports keeping United States sanctions imposed against Russia, relating to Crimea, in effect until Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea has been restored.
But you didn't hear any of that in the House of Representatives today because the Republican floor manager of what was going on in the House today, Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced the resolution as a unanimous Foreign Affairs Committee voted resolution this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what purpose does the gentleman from California seek recognition?
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I have unanimous consent that the committee on foreign affairs be discharged from further consideration of House Resolution 256 and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerk will report the title of the resolution.
CLERK: House Resolution 256, resolution expressing support for the countries of Eastern Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there objection to consideration of the resolution?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And there was no objection. And I told you there wasn't going to be much to see here. And because there was no objection, that means that that resolution passed the House of Representatives unanimously. That happened after the president engaged in a public argument about NATO in which in his desperate attempt to win the argument he did what he always does when he's desperate. He lied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Germany as far as I'm concerned is captive to Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: As "The New York Times" correctly pointed out immediately after that, President Trump is wrong. The Germans only get about 9 percent of their energy from Russia, not the 70 percent that Mr. Trump claimed.
And joining us now is Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. He is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And, Senator Reed, I wanted to ask you about how easy and how hard was it for you to achieve what you did yesterday on the Senate floor, getting 97 votes on the Senate floor in what was essentially a rebuke of president Trump's rhetoric about NATO?
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, we had the opportunity on the Senate floor to speak. And we were able to do that. I think it was the argument.
But more than that, beyond the rebuke, it was an affirmation of our support for NATO, our recognition of its role in defending the United States over many, many decades. Also recognition of the rule of law as a guiding principle of international relationships and, finally, asking a president to do what we asked last year in the defense bill, give us a report on the online activities of Russia that's going on today.
And what we got was a bipartisan response, but it really wasn't about party. It was about this country, about representing our constituents and about standing up for what we stood up for decades. So, it was a very satisfying and I think it started a chain reaction as you point out today where the House felt they had to also do something like that. And, hopefully, it will be a good counterpoint to what the president is doing in NATO and we can move forward rather than retreat.
O'DONNELL: I saw that Senator McConnell actually voted on your side yesterday. But I wondered, did he put up any kind of roadblocks for you ahead of time in trying to do this?
REED: No. We have had a very, very cooperative debate and process with the defense bill. That's tradition. And part of it, as I think, goes back to Senator John McCain, his inspiration and even today, he is inspiring us with his conduct. And even before John, with John Warner, Carl Levin, and many, many people.
But this has been a very bipartisan process. And so, when we indicated that we would bring the resolution to the floor, the instruction of the confreres, there was no opposition. In fact, Senator Inhofe, my counterpart, the chairman or acting chairman was supportive. So, again, I think you saw yesterday people not talking about party but talking about principle and making sure that the world understands we support NATO. We affirm our support for NATO.
O'DONNELL: And, Senator Reed, your reaction to the way you saw the president representing the United States today at the NATO summit?
REED: I think it's not helpful at all. In fact, I think it is ironically or perhaps merely coincidentally doing what Vladimir Putin has been doing for many years now, which is trying to undermine NATO, trying to disparage NATO and trying to disparage one of its principal members, Germany. Also trying, Putin has been, to lower the prestige and the moral influence of the United States in Europe and from around the world.
So, this is not helpful, particularly as he approaches his meeting with President Putin. I think a unified NATO, one that is committed to the shared values of freedom, of opportunity for its citizens and a peaceful world is much more effective than the disparaging country, one member or all the members of NATO.
O'DONNELL: I was looking at comments by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today talking about the things Donald Trump was saying about NATO two years ago and condemning that language two years ago. As this continues and as the rhetoric seems to increase, do you or other senators fear that the president might be trying to get the United States to actually leave NATO?
REED: Well, that would be a catastrophic situation. NATO has been our frontline of defense. We're there for our protection. This is not something gratuitous activity on behalf of the Europeans. They're the front lines.
I would rather, frankly, be confronting Russia with forces there than not be there and have Russia influencing Europe. That would be detrimental, not only detrimental, but catastrophic.
So, again, I think these proposals to withdraw troops, et cetera, it not only would hurt us, but it just ignores the commitment and the contribution that NATO is making. For the first time, Article Five was invoked when we were attacked on 9/11. That was the European community coming to our assistance.
European forces, NATO forces have been with us in Afghanistan. They have lost personnel there. They have died along with our soldiers there and sailors and marines and airmen. They are with us in Iraq helping to train Iraqi forces. They are in the Baltic countries as a tripwire to prevent another Crimea happening in the Baltic where a hybrid operation by the Russians takes out one of our NATO members.
This is a real commitment. And their increased spending after 2014 in particular is significant, about $87 billion. So, disparaging NATO is, I think, is mistake. Leaving it would be a catastrophe.
O'DONNELL: Senator Reed, quickly before you go, did you hear any grumblings in the cloak room, or anything from Republicans that would have been on their microphones about being afraid of voting as they did yesterday in the Senate in what was essentially a rebuke of the president's rhetoric?
REED: Not at all. No. Again, I think they approached it as senators, as representatives of their constituents as what was the right thing to do, rather than what was the most convenient thing to do. And that I think accounts to the 97-2 vote. In fact, I think both Senators Paul and Lee have a consistent record of not being supportive of international organizations. So, I think they felt, too, in principle, they were taking a vote that they should take.
O'DONNELL: Senator Reed, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
And joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
And, Congressman Schiff, the House of Representatives did almost exactly the same thing today. They didn't want to talk about it out loud. And we showed that video of the way the House floors that you're so familiar with it. It seems like the House members were willing to allow this kind of resolution to go through. They just didn't want to get up and say very much about it.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that's exactly right. And, you know, kudos to Steve Cohen for introducing the legislation. But this was, in terms of the floor procedure, the closest thing to a legislative whisper. This was a majority deciding, OK, we're going to pass this, but, please, nobody tell the White House that we did this. That was the legislative equivalent of what we saw today.
O'DONNELL: And what were you hearing from House members about this and about the president's rhetoric? I just asked Senator Reed if he detected that any of the Republican senators were in any way afraid of voting for what was essentially a rebuke of the president. It seems like as we see in the style of it, the House members didn't want to attract attention to it. But if some of them wanted to be on record as not supporting, they could have had a roll call vote and voted against it.
SCHIFF: They could have. You know, I don't think they were prepared to go that far. A lot of them want to try to have their cake and eat, too. They wan to be able to say, hey, I supported resolution in favor of NATO, but they don't want to say it too loudly, less the president hears.
You know, this is unfortunately the history in the last year and a half, which is almost complete capitulation by the GOP, certainly in the House and by most in the Senate as well. And this comes I think as one of the most painful realizations of the Trump administration. And that is not what a terrible President Donald Trump would turn out to be, which was all too predictable, but how complicit the GOP would be. How infrequently they would speak out on what ostensibly had been their core principles, or really on any principles when they conflicted with the president.
And I think that has put our democracy at real risk because in the face of repeated assaults on our Democratic institutions, the Republican reaction has been largely to either run away or remain mute.
O'DONNELL: And, Congressman, I want to get your reaction to what the president had to say, publicly, what we know he has said publicly, including his attack on a NATO member Germany saying that they basically were completely dominated and under the control of Russia.
SCHIFF: Well, you know what it reminded me of, frankly, is that debate exchange with Hillary Clinton where Hillary Clinton said, you know, voters don't want a puppet for Vladimir Putin and Trump's reaction was, you're the puppet. I know you are but what am I kind of grade school response.
We see that here with him attacking Merkel and Germany for basically bowing before Russia when, if there is any leader around the globe that has bowed before Putin, it's Donald Trump. But this is very much the kind of Trumpian strategy, which is whatever is accused of you, you level that accusation against others.
The other thing that leapt out at me about the president's participation and comments on NATO is his pushing the idea of not a 2 percent contribution of defense spending but doubling it to 4 percent, basically signaling to our NATO allies that he is not going to be satisfied with anything they do. In fact, he doesn't want to be satisfied. He wants a fight with NATO. That's just where he's coming from, and it is destructive to our collective security for all the reasons that Jack Reed pointed out.
O'DONNELL: And, Congressman, after you spent so much time studying the Trump campaign's relationship and interactions with Russia and Russians, we see the president on his way in effect now to a meeting with Vladimir Putin, a summit with him. And we are told there will be a one-on-one meeting where it will simply be Putin, Trump and the translators.
Do you have concerns about that?
SCHIFF: I certainly do. And I think there is clearly a reason why the president wants to meet alone with Putin, and that is, he wants to be able to leave that meeting and be able to make any claim, no matter how at odds with the facts about what took place, knowing that Putin will not challenge him on it, knowing that he could represent whatever is in his interests, even though he isn't going to be willing to confront Putin on our elections, he's not going to be willing to confront Putin on Russia's invasion of its neighbor or the support of war criminals in Syria, but Trump can claim whatever he wants.
That is certainly dangerous, I think, to our interests. We don't know what representations he will make to Putin, what understanding they may arrive at, that they keep secret. But it is very much in Russia's interest.
And I can only say and much as I appreciate the kind of lukewarm gesture we saw out of the House and Senate on NATO, Republicans need to speak out. I'm reminded of the title of Churchill's book "While England Slept", the GOP is sleeping right now. As we see, authoritarianism rise around the world, and they need to wake up because both parties in America need to confront this challenge.
O'DONNELL: And, Congressman Schiff, before you go, I just want to get any comment you might have if any, about your colleague, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan's reaction to the reports of wrestlers that he used to be the coach of, what they are saying what transpired on that team and what they are saying about your colleague, Congressman Jordan.
SCHIFF: Well, I clearly don't know anything about the facts there, so I don't want to weigh into it. Obviously, it is a serious allegation, but in terms of whether there is merit to the allegation, I'm really not in a position to say.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: And coming up, we will have one of those rare episodes of Republican senators I agree with. We will show you the video of every word those Republican senators had to say.
And later, the Trump administration is still proving it does not know where the babies are and where their parents are.
O'DONNELL: Here is Nicholas Burns, former ambassador to NATO in the George W. Bush administration, this morning on "MORNING JOE".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: What is the point of this? It's all about politics, and the president's base is not about the power of the United States, this incredible alliance that we built, every president from Truman. It is infuriating to see this happen. It's diplomatic malpractice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Today, John Brennan, the former CIA director said, it is in the interest if NATO leaders push back against the reckless behavior of Donald Trump, who is dangerously naive and grossly ignorant of how the world works. History inevitably will regard Trump as one of the most disastrous figures of the 21st century.
The former ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration, Michael McFaul, tweeted, hey, Republicans, do you ever notice that almost none of the former senior officials who served previous Republican presidents speak out on the record in support of Trump foreign policy? Notice their silence?
But many of them did speak out two years ago when Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for president.
Fifty Republican national security officials signed on to a statement during the Trump presidential campaign saying: From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be president and commander- in-chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country's national security and well-being. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless president in American history.
Joining our discussion now, Rick Stengel, former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration. He's now an MSNBC political analyst. And Tim O'Brien, executive director of "Bloomberg View", author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald", and he is an MSNBC contributor.
And, Rick, those 50 Republican foreign policy officials who two years ago said that they expect Donald Trump to be an absolute disaster, every word of what they said he delivered on today.
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely.
He did more damage to NATO in one morning than 70 years of Russian troops and tanks and missiles were able to do. It's just horrifying what he did. It is the fantasy of Vladimir Putin that an American president would berate the head of Germany at a NATO meeting. That was in a spy novel. You would think it was too far pitch to believe it and you throw it. I mean, it's just incredible.
O'DONNELL: And, Tim O'Brien, is there -- do you see in this what Donald Trump thinks is some kind of method and it's some kind of method that he has used in his past business dealings?
TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": Well, I mean, I think first and foremost Trump is always an agent of chaos. He sort of revels in being the person who disrupts the cocktail party or business deal or NATO. I don't think he sees any proportionality among those three things. He likes being a force of chaos.
I think he does have a goal here, which he is perversely interested in breaking up the E.U. as an entity, and NATO because he's got these designs on trade agreements. We have already seen this Mexico, Canada and China where he is willing to play into sort of a diplomatic disruption in the interest of sort of forcing people to be weak players around trade agreements. And he's willing, you know, in the service of that to say erroneous things about Germany's energy dependence on Russia, et cetera, et cetera. And I think we're going to see more of that.
O'DONNELL: And, Rick, your former boss, former Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public statement. He doesn't make many public statements about what was going on since he left office. He said: What was on display in Brussels today was not the behavior of a strong, principled and wise leader. This isn't good for the United States and there are people across the aisle as the Senate vote clearly showed who know it and need to say it.
STENGEL: What -- yes, I completely agree. What Trump did today is repositioned the U.S. as part of this access of unreliable nations. Once upon a time --
O'DONNELL: That include what countries?
STENGEL: That include Russia, China, North Korea, Iran. These are all the unstable players in the world. We were once the rock of stability that people depended on us. It was boring. It was dull. We were predictable. And Donald Trump wants to be unpredictable.
We needed to be predictable. Now, we are this unpredictable force for chaos in the world, which is a really scary thing. And the secretary was talking about that.
This is the world order the United States put together after World War II. And, by the way, it's not perfect. There are lots of things that don't work about it. I would reform NATO, too. But the way you do that is not by attacking your most loyal ally at the opening day of the summit.
O'DONNELL: And, Tim, Mike Pompeo put out a tweet today in complete contradiction of everything Donald Trump said, in complete support of the resolutions that went through the Senate and the House of Representatives and it is classic American support of NATO and American loyalty to NATO.
And it's clearly -- it seems to clearly be that Twitter is the spot where people like Mike Pompeo say the things they are afraid to say to the boss.
O'BRIEN: Yet, at the end of the day, if the Trump era is going to be reigned in or we get back to a place where our allies believe that we are reliable and predictable, the institutions that surround Trump have to stand up for certain principles. And there's this deep schizophrenia right now within the GOP and the Congress about how to deal with him.
Certainly, the GOP just passed a resolution saying that we support NATO. At the same moment on the 4th of July, you had a group of GOP senators go to Moscow and meet with Lavrov and other soviet diplomats, Russian diplomat diplomats. And it makes no sense for that party and that Congress to be sort of trying to do this balancing act of appeasing Trump but assuring our allies. At some point, people are going to have to take sides.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Gary (INAUDIBLE) tweeted today, Trump doesn't really care about how much NATO countries spend on defense. He wants to destroy NATO and weaken the EU. And I'm sure only Robert Mueller can tell us why.
RICHARD STENGEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I hope Robert Mueller can tell us why. I mean, I actually think he is perversely wants to destroy it because he thinks bilateral agreements are somehow easier to negotiate than multilateral wings (ph). It is really wrong.
I'm going to tell you a secret now. The U.S. benefits from these multilateral deals by a big margin and we lose in those bilateral deals. So he is completely wrong about that, as he was wrong about what he said about Ms. Merkel using Russian oil.
O'BRIEN: And in the idea that Germany is uniquely dependent on Russia, we are in a global economy where every country is interdependent. Whether or not the President knows it, the U.S. is dependent on Chinese investment. We are dependent on the import of goods from other countries. The United States is not independent from interdependence.
O'DONNELL: He is sitting in that meeting with the Chinese holding almost $2 trillion of American debt, more debt than any of other country in the world. And everyone on that meeting could have said to him, well, does China own you?
STENGEL: Are you a captive?
O'DONNELL: We are going to have to leave it there.
Rich Stengel and Tim O'Brien, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
And coming up, 11 Republican senators are apparently fine with the President taking congressional power away from them. But the rest of the Republicans in the Senate are not and I agree with every word those Republicans said in the Senate today. That's coming up.
O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's episode of, I agree with every word these Republican senators said today.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We have to reign in an abuse of Presidential authority and restore Congress' constitutional authority in this regard. Canada has been our ally, our partner and our friend and now they are told that their steel and aluminum exports to us represent a national security threat. That is an abuse of section 232 of the trade act. And I'm so glad that Congress is finally, finally pushing back on this. We have neglected our constitutional role.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: This is an abuse of Presidential authority. It's never been used in this manner by any President ever.
SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I have to say, this is a misuse of section 232 of our trade law. Section 232 is supposed to be invoked when there is a specific threat to America's national security. Well, let's consider the case of steel. The United States produces domestically 75 percent of all the steel we consume. Our defense needs consume three percent of total steel consumption. How could one possibly make the case that we don't have a plentiful abundance of domestically produced steel to satisfy our defense needs?
FLAKE: Canada is the United States largest consumer. It buys more goods from the United States than China, Japan and the U.K. combined. Canadian companies operating in United States directly employ 500,000 Americans.
TOOMEY: Since NAFTA was enacted in 1994, Pennsylvanians have seen exports to Mexico increase by more than 500 percent.
FLAKE: Let's be clear. This is a rebuke of the President's abuse of trade authority. The President has abused section 232 to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum impacting our allies like Canada, Mexico, countries in the EU. Can you imagine being in Canada and being told that your steel and aluminum exports to the United States represent a national security threat?
O'DONNELL: And the Senate then voted on what Republican senator Jeff Flake called a rebuke of the President. They voted 88-11 to add language to a bill saying that Congress should change the law that the President is abusing, section 232 of the trade act. The constitution gives the Congress the authority to raise or lower or eliminate tariffs.
And in 1962, Congress created a tiny loophole, just a tiny loophole in that authority that allows the President to change tariffs only in response to a national security threat to the United States. And today's vote in the Senate was bipartisan to close that loophole. All Democrats voted for what Jeff Flake called that rebuke of the President and most Republicans voted for it with only 11 Republicans voting to support President Trump's tariffs. So sanity in the Senate? Will we see more of this? That's next.
O'DONNELL: Here is what Republican senator Bob Corker said today about the Trump tariffs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORKER: What worries me is the fact that I know that no one at the White House can articulate what it is they are hoping to accomplish. I mean, there is numbers of senators that have been over to talk with them. They come back over. Not a single one of them has, to my knowledge, any idea where this is going. That's what's concerning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining tonight's international economics class is our tonight's lecturer, Austin Goolsbee, former chairman of the council of economic adviser for President Obama and a professor now of economics at the University of Chicago.
And professor Goolsbee, what does Donald Trump not understand about what he is doing with these tariffs?
AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER COUNCIL OFFICIAL ADVISER: Every single thing. I mean, what does he not understand? What does he understand? Look, I was in the government under President Obama for a number of years. I have been to a lot of Presidential events, a lot of statements.
Something happened today that I have never seen in my life, which is when Donald Trump was speaking about NATO and of course it bled into his discussion about the economy, his own staff were looking at each other like, whoa, you know, we can't believe what the President is saying.
I have never seen that before. I think if you go down to the Republicans in the Senate, you may very well see some signs up in the window of their offices that say, I'm being held against my will. They just don't want to -- they don't want to publically bring the attacks from the base.
You saw Senator Corker, a person who has been independent minded. But he was punished for that. He's leaving the Senate, and he is being driven out by the very forces that are leading to this kind of craziness on tariffs, on trade wars with China, with Canada, with the European Union. We are going to rip up NATO. We are going to ask Europe to spend more on defense as a share of GDP than we spend. I just don't get it. I mean, there is no evidence he understands any of those.
O'DONNELL: When Donald Trump was a candidate, he used to say that he would raise tariffs. And I would say here on television that he absolutely cannot do that. Congress has the sole authority to raise or lower or change tariffs in any way. Because of course that section 232 was such an obscure loophole, it had only to do with national defense, it was inconceivable that could be applied to in addition Donald Trump was saying. And I just assumed as soon as Donald Trump would try to do that, that Congress would come to life and they would use their jurisdiction and their power and strike this down. And they have been very slow. But we are seeing movement finally. Do you think the vote we saw in the Senate today is the beginning of what will be a real separation between the President and at least Republican senators on tariffs?
GOOLSBEE: You know, I hope so. But what we have seen from the administration is kind of a dangerous disregard of law. You know, and in this case the constitution can say that Congress is in charge of the tariffs and all precedent and law can say Congress is in charge of the tariffs. And the President and the administration can get up and literally say he wants to put tariffs on Canada because he feels it is a threat to national security. And it is so obviously not legal under section 232. And, yet, even if Congress does what they did today and said, well, that's not what the law means, how would you enforce it, you know?
So I hope to start seeing a little more independence, a little more check and balance coming from that side of the government. That's the system that I think was designed to do that. But I am not at all confident that the President would even respect what is Congress' constitutional prerogative, which is to set those tariffs.
O'DONNELL: And it's sure, it is obvious that the President doesn't understand that Americans pay the tariffs. It is the American consumer, the American business that buys the foreign product that ends up paying the tariff. It is really just a sales tax on Americans.
GOOLSBEE: Yes. And it's even worse than a sales tax on Americans because a whole bunch if they release this 200 page list of all the things they are going to put tariffs on and scores and scores of those products are actually intermediate goods. That is to say, things that are inputs into the manufactured other products, so steel, for example, used by auto manufactures, you don't want to put sales taxes on things that are inputs. That makes no economic sense.
O'DONNELL: Austan Goolsbee, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
GOOLSBEE: Great to see you again.
O'DONNELL: Up next, the Trump's administration's failure, complete failure to meet a court ordered deadline for reuniting children, reuniting the babies with their parents.
O'DONNELL: Where are the babies and where are their parents? Yesterday, was the original deadline impose by a court orders for reuniting 102 migrant children ages four and under with their families. That deadline came and went and only four children, four of the 102 had been reunited after yesterday's court sessions.
There has been no confirmation from the Trump administration immigration and customs enforcement or court officials that more children were reunited with their families today as the administration promised would happen. The government has kept details of separation and detainment procedures hidden in secrecy. But we are starting to hear firsthand accounts from families about how devastating the separations have been.
The "New York Times" is reporting that some of the youngest children reuniting with their families do not recognize their mother. Nikka Pablo and her 3-year-old daughter, Darly were in Phoenix on Tuesday after the 3- year-old girl have been in federal custody for four full months. Darly screamed and tried to wiggle free from her mother's embrace, I want Miss, I want Miss. Daly cried calling for the social worker at the shelter where she had been living since mother and daughter were separated by federal agents at the southwestern border for months earlier.
MSNBC's Mariana Atencio joins us now from McAllen, Texas.
Mariana, what have you been learning today?
MARIANA ATENCIO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, yesterday you mentioned it -- I mean, we saw this administration struggle to be able to reunify all of the kids under five. And that was just a preview. They have another daunting deadline in two-week's time to unify 2,000 children.
So I came on the round here to south Texas and I have been reporting in the front of Port Isabel (ph) detention facility to try to find out if there is actually any progress being made towards these reunifications. And I want to explain to your audience sort of the significance of this facility.
We know there are around 400 mostly mothers that have been separated from their children in there which makes it one of the largest sort of concentrations of separated parents in the country. We are not allowed inside. But we spoke to Jodi Goodwin, one of these volunteer lawyers that goes in there to try to get a sense of the mental state of many of the mothers in there. Some of whom have not seen their kids in over two months. And this is what she had to say about the emotional toll and the entrepreneur separation and not knowing when they are going to get reunify is taken on these camps. Let's hear it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODI GOODWIN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: They are completely emotionally spent. Every day when I visit with them, they have blood-shed eyes and puffy eyes because they do nothing but cry. And they want to know where their children are. They want to know if they are safe. They want to know when they are going to see their children again. And those are answers that we can't really tell them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATENCIO: She says that the worse thing is that there is no apparent plan in her view. There is no progress that's being made towards these reunifications. There is actually, Lawrence, transfers of mothers into this facility in the middle of the night and she does not understand why. Because this place at one point was deemed by DHS as the quote "family reunification and removal hub." But it turns out that these kids cannot be housed there because this place is like a prison. So it is hard for us to reconcile how these reunifications are actually going to happen in there if the kids and the parents can't be there together.
Also, keep in mind that in there, these mothers, they are not knowing where their kids. They are trying to get reunified with them and they are also processing their own asylum cases in parallel. This is again Jodi Goodwin of the status of those asylum processes inside the facility. Let's hear it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOODWIN: The government puts every obstacle that you can imagine in front of these individual asylum seekers so that they will give up. They want them to take a deport. They tell them. If you give up your asylum claim, we will reunify with the child. And that's extortion. Extortion for a body of a child. That's in-humane, inconceivable, but that's what our government is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATENCIO: So Lawrence, you have hundreds of mothers in there, in the dark basically and then you have these thousands of kids scattered all over the country. And the clock is ticking for the Trump administration -- Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Mariana Atencio, thank you once again for your reporting and valuable reporting tonight and staying with this story for us.
Really appreciate it, Mariana.
Tonight's LAST WORD is next.
O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: My chief takeaway from working in the White House for five-and-a-half years, is that the job of the President is far more difficult than any other civilian position in government? So he thinks the President should be above the law because his job is hard? Well, in that case, I say moms of three or more kids ought to be able to murder at will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Steven Colbert gets tonight's LAST WORD.
And today, former Republican strategist, Steve Schmidt in reaction to the President's performance at the NATO summit, tweeted this. He said I really miss the good old days when everybody no matter their politics could agree that a whack job was a whack job. The every diplomatic Steve Schmidt joins Brian tonight in the 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS which starts now.
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