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Mueller speaks to Stone associate. TRANSCRIPT: 08/03/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Harry Litman; Rosaline Helderman; Glenn Kirshner, Neera Tanden, Evan McMullen

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 3, 2018 Guest: Harry Litman; Rosaline Helderman; Glenn Kirshner, Neera Tanden, Evan McMullen

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: They want you to be exhausted. They want you to feel like nothing matters so you drop out of the debate. But this is no time to tune in and drop out. This is a time for game on.

And that does it for us tonight. If you want the find me on Monday, you can always find THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m. eastern. I will be joined by the creator of the famous internet video, honey badger don`t care. Have you ever seen this one? There was a giant legal copy right fight over it. And we have the news and the exclusive, maybe because no one else wants it but we do have it on Monday. I have run a little bit over on time, but I want to hand the baton over to Katy Tur who is filling in, I`m told on THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Can you do the honey badger voice?

MELBER: Can I do the voice?

TUR: Yes.

MELBER: Well, that`s an impression of a thing that have at love people haven`t heard.

TUR: All right. All right. I`m disappointed.

MELBER: But the voice --

TUR: I`m disappointed.

MELBER: I just want to lower expectations. It shows this honey badger and it gives personality to him. And (INAUDIBLE) as he moves through his day. And it says, this guest we are going to have it on Monday does it much better than I ever could. But he says, honey badger don`t care. Honey badger don`t care. And it shows him moving about the natural world, Katy. And I did that for you.

TUR: It is one of my favorite internet videos of all time.

MELBER: I didn`t know that.

TUR: So Ari, thank you. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Thank you, Katy Tur.

TUR: And also including those goats on the loose. Earlier today I tweeted that in the perfect world, that would be the lead story. It wasn`t your lead story but clearly trying to make one of my dreams come true. And appreciate that.

MELBER: Katy, I will leave you with a compliment for your weekend. As far as we are concerned, you are the goat, the greatest of all time, when it comes to anchors.

TUR: Or the goat in the goat rodeo. Who knows? Ari Melber.

MELBER: Who knows?

TUR: Thank you very much.

MELBER: Thank you, Katy.

TUR: I`m Katy Tur I`m in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Tonight, we begin with the Russia could hanging over Donald Trump as he starts his vacation at his Bedminster resort. Some of the most controversial moments of the Trump administration have happened while the President was staying at Bedminster. And this trip may be no different.

The decision to fire James Comey as FBI director was made at Bedminster. It was there that Trump failed to call out white supremacists in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. And now Trump`s TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the President will likely decide whether to sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller while he is at Bedminster.

But Giuliani admits to NBC News that it might not be Donald Trump`s decision to make, admitting that Trump might be quote "forced to testify, on matters that occurred before he took office." And that might mean real legal jeopardy for the President.

That admission come as we are learning new details about the Trump-Mueller relationship. "Bloomberg" reports that the day after he interviewed Robert Mueller to be the director of the FBI, Trump was in an oval office meeting when an aid announced that Mueller had been appointed the special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign. Trump and attorney general Jeff Sessions, who attended both meetings were blind sided according to a person familiar with both meetings.

The President immediately blasted Sessions for not knowing the announcement was coming and challenged how the person he just interviewed for the FBI job and who Trump had said he had a past dispute with over golf club fees could now be investigating him, the person said.

Now, we don`t know if Trump had turned down Mueller for the FBI job at this point. But we do know that Christopher Wray wasn`t named to be the next director until almost month after Mueller`s appointment as special counsel. So it is likely that Mueller was still in the running, maybe to head the FBI when he was named to investigate the Trump team, "Bloomberg" knows.

From that moment on, Trump has complained to aids about a perceived grudge. Of course, that grudge has likely been exacerbated after the first week of the criminal trial of the President`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Today we heard from the first five witnesses who were granted immunity by Mueller`s prosecutors. In remarkable testimony, accountant Cindy Laporta described how Manafort`s business partner Rick Gates asked tax preparers in 2015 to modify the amount of a loan so Manafort would have to pay less in taxes.

He was trying to reduce income and therefore taxes, Laporta told jurors. It was inappropriate. Laporta took responsibility for the changing of the amount on the loan, essentially admitting that she went along with tax fraud by Manafort and Rick Gates. Laporta testified that Manafort asked her as late as August 2016, his last month as chair of the Trump campaign, to falsify numbers related to his company`s profits.

Rick Gates, Mueller`s star witness, is set to testify any day now. And remember he has already pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

NBC News also learned today that Kristin Davis, the infamous Manhattan Madame met with a member of Robert Mueller`s team. It is believed that Davis met with Mueller because of her close ties to another Trump confidant, Roger Stone.

Only time will tell what, if anything, will happen during this Trump trip to Bedminster. But if history is any indication, we could be in for an unexpectedly eventful summer vacation.

Joining us now Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC News. She was in the courtroom today for the Manafort trial. Harry Litman, former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton and Glenn Kirshner, former federal prosecutor.

Julia, I`m going to have you play a few roles for me tonight because you do also cover the justice department. Jeff Sessions in the room with the President when he is told that Robert Mueller is going to be special counsel, according to "Bloomberg News." Jeff Sessions offered his resignation in that moment.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. I mean, I think for Jeff Sessions, the idea that Robert Mueller had been appointed was pretty obvious right there. He saw the writing on the wall, that it was because he had recused himself from this investigation that this had been allowed to happen, that Rod Rosenstein was allowed to appoint this special counsel.

But of course, the way we all see it and the logical way to see it is the appointment of Robert Mueller was because of the firing of Jim Comey. It was actually the President`s decision to fire Jim Comey, not Jeff Sessions` decision to recuse himself that trigger this. But knowing Donald Trump and I think that Jeff Sessions has a pretty good read on the man, he knew that he would also be in trouble. And we look back the last summer, the number of times that we were on sessions watch, thinking he was about to lose his job.

And the people I talked to at the justice department said he will hang on by his fingernails for this job, Katy. He thought this was his last role in politics. It is one he wanted to get to for a long time. We know his former law enforcement days are some of the days he holds most dearly., more so than his 20-plus years on the senate. And he saw this as his last big role and really his place to be able to push through a lot of the decisions that we have seen, a lot of these policies on immigration and the like. And he was going to hold on to it for as long as he could. But he did see that this would be the thing that would fracture the relationship. And it has for some time. We saw the President attack Jeff Sessions just this week.

TUR: Harry, the President obviously doesn`t like Robert Mueller. We have known that for some time. He tweets about him. But he does keep bringing up what he perceives as a bias that he almost offered him the FBI director job, that he had some sort of dispute over fees at one of his clubs. Could either of those things be considered bias?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So no. We already know they are not considered because the DOJ gave him a clean bill of health. But it is interesting because, as Julia said, it is the second Mueller is appointed that Sessions realizes, uh-oh. And that`s before all these make way charges of 13 angry Democrats, et cetera.

Who is Bob Mueller in that second that you just have the revelation that he`s been appointed? He is the best, most dogged, most methodical, most honest prosecutor of his generation. That`s who he is then. And right away, the problem with him is not bias. It is effectiveness. Which has turned out, in fact, to be the problem.

TUR: Let`s talk about Manafort for a second and go back to Julia one more time.

Julia, Manafort`s trial has just now ended its first week. It focused a lot around what we heard from the accountant today talking about how she knew she was filing incorrect taxes. But also around Manafort spending there was that $15,000 ostrich coat, I should say, that bomber jacket. The prosecution is very clearly trying to paint Manafort as a big spender that didn`t care about cheating the government and the American people in order to furnish his very lavish lifestyle. How is the defense doing?

AINSLEY: Not as well, Katy. I mean, right now, we are seeing a list of prosecution witnesses. We have all been tick for a very particular reason. And they lay out a pattern in the narrative of who Paul Manafort is. He is someone who spent a lot of money on his lifestyle and is so desperate to hang on to that lifestyle that he was willing to exaggerate his income in order to get bank loans and then deflate his income in order to get a deal on taxes. And he didn`t care who he took down in the process and he didn`t care what kind of dirty characters he had to work with in order to get there.

But I think we are going to see now going forward is the defense is going to try again and again to discredit witnesses, particularly Rick Gates. And we now know that he will testify. The prosecution said yesterday they have ever reason to bring him forward. And they plan on doing so.

They want to paint Rick Gates as the lynch pin in the prosecution`s argument and they want to show that he is not someone who can be trusted. For those reasons we actually believed that the prosecution won`t wait until the end to bring up Rick Gates. May bring him up early next week so that he isn`t the last thing in jurors minds when they go to deliberate.

Another argument they make today, Katy, that I don`t think went over very well just judging by how brief their questions were in the cross examination, is they wanted to show that Paul Manafort had left plenty of bread crumbs for anyone who might want to look into this. And that with his first accountant Phil Ayliff who has not gotten immunity because he didn`t do anything wrong. He refused to lie for Paul Manafort. Phil Ayliff basically was able to say, yes, I knew that they were working with foreign people, but I didn`t know he had foreign bank accounts.

The defense wants to say there were plenty of bread crumbs if his accountant didn`t know it, and this is important because they could come up later, if the IRS didn`t want to do an audit and bring a civil case against Paul Manafort, why all these years later is a justice department bringing a serious criminal case?

But it doesn`t seem to be holding up as well as they would like, particularly because bread crumbs don`t leave you directly to 34 foreign bank accounts around the world. It`s harder to get there.

TUR: That`s a good point.

Vox report that even a pardon from President Trump to Paul Manafort might not be enough to keep him out of jail. Even a pardon may not entirely be a get out of jail free card. There are a host of complications involved including potential state charges against Manafort. The President cannot pardon state charges.

Glenn, there is a lot of talk. And we talked about this earlier today, about why in the world Manafort hasn`t made a plea deal. And you posture that maybe a plea deal wasn`t offered.

GLENN KIRSHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I have to say, Katy, that it wouldn`t surprise me if Bob Mueller never extended a plea offer to Paul Manafort. Why would that be?

Well, for two reasons. First of all, Rick Gates is already a cooperating witness. And we know that Rick Gates` information is somewhat duplicative of the information that Paul Manafort could provide to the prosecutors.

And then the other factor that I think weighs into the calculus when we look at whether we want to actually do business with a defendant and bring him into our stable of cooperators, who is that person and how long has he been engaged in illegality?

Paul Manafort really seems to have lived a very long life of at least financial illegality. And then as we all came to learn in the run-up to these trials, he actually also reached out and touched, so to speak, some witnesses and tried to tamper with their testimony.

Now, if you play that out, if we as prosecutors decided to bring Manafort into the cooperator`s stable and then we put him on the stand, he would be cross examined up and down on things like, well, wait a minute, Mr. Manafort, you tried to get witnesses to lie for you to get you out of trouble. You tried to pervert and subvert the criminal justice system. And now you want the jury to believe you are not going to sit up there and lie to try to save your own skin?

You know, the cooperator`s stink tends to rub off on the prosecutors when you bring somebody on board that has engaged in that kind of conduct that really strikes at the very heart of the criminal justice system.

And then the other reason, Katy, that I would suggest might impact Paul Manafort`s thinking about whether he wants to flip and provide information to Bob Mueller, he would also be providing information about Russian oligarchs. We know the judge Ellis doesn`t like that word. But, and what have we seen Russia do when somebody crosses them? We have seen poisoning in the U.K. And I think Paul Manafort could legitimately have some concerns for his safety or the safety of his family members if he decided to flip against Russia.

TUR: So Manafort`s trial is really just about financial crimes, but it is part of a larger Russia investigation. And there is a lot of tentacles. And one of the more ridiculous seeming tentacles we have news on today, the Manhattan Madame, Kristin Davis, the woman that was charged with the -- in the Elliot Spitzer scandal many years ago was subpoenaed by Mueller`s team. We have now learned today that she has spoken to Mueller`s team.

Roger Stone issued the statement about this.

Kristin Davis is a long-time friend and associate of mine. I am the godfather to her two-year-old son. She knows nothing about alleged Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other impropriety related to the 2016 election, which I thought was the subject of this probe. I understand she appeared voluntarily. I am highly confident she will testify truthfully if called upon to do so.

Also this news, "Washington Post" report that another Stone aid has been ordered to speak with Robert Mueller. This man was trying to not speak with him. One of his aids was trying to say Andrew Miller, is this man`s name which trying to say that the special counsel`s probe was too wide and he shouldn`t have to follow a subpoena. Well, a court has testified or has ruled that he should have to talk to Robert Mueller and he should do so quickly.

Harry, what are these two people -- how do they have anything to do with this? And what does this mean for Roger Stone?

LITMAN: Yes. It is all about Stone. Look, the madam is a - they are a colorful couple. But it is because of their long-standing friendship they are zeroing in on Stone and she is one of many people who they would want to talk to but the other people haven`t been met him.

Miller is kind of two-stone as gates was to Manafort. He is the real right-hand man. He offered this constitutional argument which is a real loser basically saying Mueller has o authority to do anything, the same thing Manafort tried EDVA. He lost. He is going to have some real information to provide. But the main thing it shows is that the sights are really locked in on Stone, which should come as no surprise because this recent indictment of the GRU folks in Russia actually didn`t name him because DOJ policy but identified him in paragraph 44 as someone who had consorted with him. So Mueller is obviously in trying to stitch up Russia and the U.S. looking very hard at stone.

TUR: And whether or not Stone was a potential back channel.

Julia, I know from reporting have I done with Caroline and with others here that the witnesses that Robert Mueller is so far spoken to, they have been asked by Mueller`s team pretty pointed questions about Roger Stone. And what did Roger Stone know? What was he doing? Did he really leave the campaign in 2015? Stone says he quit. The Trump team said he was fired. But did he really leave or was there some sort of unofficial role that he was playing behind the scenes? Was he potential in contact with Russia or WikiLeaks and feeding that material to Donald Trump? Why did Donald Trump say in July 27th 2016, Russia, if you are listening, find Hillary Clinton`s emails. It seems like and Sam Nunberg will tell you this, he is one of the people who sat in front of those special counsel, it seems like they are targeting Roger Stone and he could potentially be a lynch pin. Is that saying to much? Is that making too broad an assumption?

AINSLEY: Katy, this is why I love your reporting on this and I love chasing down these threats with you. But it doesn`t seem that hard to connect that we know from indictments that have already been brought forward by the special counsel that Robert Mueller is interested in and very much honing in on this network of Russians that wanted to influence our campaign through social media. And then they wanted to hack into the DNC, Hillary Clinton e-mails and use that information to also influence our election.

And a huge piece of this is social media and the work that they did through Cambridge Analytica, as well as the leaks of those hacks they just talked about through WikiLeaks. And we know that Roger Stone has a lot of tentacles in those different worlds. He has down a lot of work in England. He was very closely tied to the Trump campaign. And I mean, we have to look across the way they are painting these characters, the same way they are talking about Paul Manafort and trial. These are people who have been in Republican politics for some time.

But these aren`t the people who are kind of carrying this moral backbone of the party. They are really in it. They believe that the ends justify the means. And I think just by the pointed questions that you have reported on, the interviews you have done with Sam Nunberg, it is so obvious that Mueller isn`t just beating around the Bush and seeing what might come out here, he is really targeting those essential questions.

TUR: Roger Stone was not in mainstream politics. Neither was Sam Nunberg. Neither was Paul Manafort for that matter. Yet, they all somehow managed to find Donald Trump`s team. Wasn`t just a nobody else who is available or was there something more there. Robert Mueller is looking.

Julia Ainsley, Harry Litman, Glenn Kirshner, thanks for starting us off tonight, guys.

AINSLEY: Thanks, Katy.


TUR: And coming up, "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that the alleged Russian agent cozied up to a Trump adviser the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. The reporter who broke that story, Rosalind Helderman will join us right after this.

And later, a federal judge says he will order the Trump administration to take a drastic step to reunite those children with their parents. That`s coming up.


TUR: We have breaking news from "The Washington Post," which is reporting tonight that the alleged Russian Maria Butina agent was in closer contact with President Trump`s orbit than previously known. Butina is the Russian gun rights activist who was in jail awaiting trial after she was charged with illegally trying to influence U.S. politics for the Kremlin.

Tonight, "The Washington Post" reports that Butina sought out interactions with J.D. Gordon who served for six months as the Trump campaign`s director of national security before leaving in August 2016 and being offered a role in the Mason (ph) Trump transition effort.

The two exchanged several emails in September and October 2016 culminating in an invitation from Gordon to attend a concert by the rock band Styx in Washington. I can`t make that up. Gordon also invited Butina to attend his birthday party in late October that year.

Joining us know is Rosalind Helderman, political investigative reporter who broke this story - the political investigative reporter who broke the story for "The Washington Post." Also back with us is Harry Litman.

Rosalind, I`m sorry I am laughing but inviting her to a Styx concert and his birthday party is pretty funny.


TUR: Yes, I didn`t know that. But then again I`m a fan of (INAUDIBLE) who has been touring for 20-somethings year or more. So I should pass judgment.

Here is what J.D. Gordon told you tonight. Let me read it. From everything I have seen or read, everything I have read since her arrest last month, it seems that Maria Butina saga is basically a sensationized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encounters over the past few years. Since she networks so extensively among those groups at conference and social events, I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she has not come across.

I got to tell you from the photos I have seen, she has been standing next to some prominent political figures, including former Presidential candidates long before Donald Trump got the nomination and prominent NRA members. What makes the interaction with J.D. Gordon so significant?

HELDERMAN: Well, I think part of it is his connection to the Trump campaign. And it`s clear from emails that were described to us that that was a key part of why she sort of sought out this interaction. She apparently met J.D. Gordon at an event at the Swiss embassy. She was with Paul Erickson, the Republican operative she was apparently dating.

And Paul then sent an email both to J.D. and to Ms. Butina after the event, reconnecting them and describing them to one another. And what Paul, the way he described J.D. was to say this is a person who is very important in the Trump transition. He is the kind of person that all the right people listen to his advice on international policy. So it did seem that the Trump connection was part of why she was making contact with him.

TUR: Let me ask you more about the Trump campaign foreign policy advisers. They were not visible on the campaign, not really. People like George Papadopoulos, not around much. I never saw him actually on the campaign. Carter Page, (INAUDIBLE). J.D. Gordon was somebody who was name didn`t see him on the campaign.

These names seem to come out of -- not come out of nowhere. The Trump campaign was pressured to release a list of who was advising him. And at the time, considering that nobody was answering the phone and nobody made appearances, it kind of felt like these people were just random people they put on a list and sent to reporters.

Now it looks like there is something more there. Io mean, given that Carter was somebody that the intelligence community had their eye on because of the interactions he was having with Russians. The one who it`s reported started this whole investigation because he was bragging to an Australian diplomat in a London bar that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. And now J.D. Gordon linking these two seemingly separate investigations on a Russian influence campaign.

HELDERMAN: Yes. I have done quite a bit of reporting on Carter Page and George Papadopoulos in particular. And one of the things that struck me about the two of them was that they really aggressively sought out the connection with the Trump campaign at a time when, as you mentioned, the campaign was really having a devil of a time finding sort of figures they could taut as foreign policy advisers. We did a story once quoting Trump adviser at the time saying, basically, anybody with a pulse was what they were looking for.

TUR: Yes.

HELDERMAN: And people like George and Carter were people with a pulse that stepped forward and said choose us.

TUR: Yes. I got to tell you. The day I saw George Papadopoulos` picture, I was taken aback. I did not expect to see somebody so young.

Harry Litman, what stands out to you about this?

LITMAN: Speaking of so young, she`s 29. He`s 50. So we have again the sort of vanity of older man. For historians of political scandal scandals, this is the exact ages, it occurred to me, of Gary Heart and Donna rice in "Monkey Business Time."

TUR: Yes.

LITMAN: And, you know, the whole kind of younger woman, you know, using older guys to get political influence. But what stands out to me is you said it, you know, what is the defense of J.D. Gordon?

I don`t know if there is a prominent Republican political official she hasn`t met with. It all goes a very effective several months where she is penetrating anywhere and everybody she can with the help of this Republican operative and, as you say, a lover of Keith Erickson. And it just seem like this is not a sort of one week little story and episode. But she really got around.

TUR: And Harry, just really quickly, could this new information, they know about most things, but say they didn`t know about it, is this the sort of thing that could prompt them to call her in for questioning?

LITMAN: Well, she`s arrested, so yes.

TUR: Ultimately.

LITMAN: And she is going to have enormous pressure on her. But yes, they will talk to her. But also there is some figures in the campaign in her wide circle, and they will zero in like Gordon. But we already knew of a couple others. So that`s what will really interest them. The couple people from the campaign, the mascaraed party just after the election, et cetera.

TUR: Got it.

Harry Litman. Rosalind Helderman, guys, thank you very much.

HELDERMAN: Thanks, Katy.

LITMAN: Thank you, Katy.

TUR: And coming up, a federal judge gave the Trump administration the sharp reminder about the separation of the children separated from their parents and who is to blame for it. Maria Teresa Kuma and Neera Tanden joins us next.


KATY TUR, MSNBC SHOW HOST: It has been over a week since the court ordered deadline for the Trump to reunite all of the 2,551 migrant children separated from their parents at the border under the zero tolerance immigration policy. But 572 remain in government custody. The parents of most of these children have already been deported.

On Thursday, the Trump administration proposed that the ACLU take responsibility for identifying and locating these hundreds of missing parents, saying they have more resources to track them down. More resources than the federal government. But today a federal judge rejected that proposal and blasted the government`s efforts to reunite these families as, quote, "unacceptable."

Judge Dana Sabraw, telling NBC News, "Many of these parents were removed from the country without their child. All of this is the result of the government separation and then inability and failure to track and reunite. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child. And that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration."

That same judge is now ordering the White House to designate a person or team within the administration to take control of the reunification process. Joining us now is Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor and Neera Tanden president of the Center for American Progress.

She was also Hillary Clinton`s policy director during the 2008 presidential campaign. Neera, there still isn`t somebody in charge of this. The court is ordering them to get somebody in charge of the reuniting.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. I mean, we have been going through this saga for months and more importantly, these children have been going through this pain and misery at the hands of the Trump administration for months. And every night that these children do not know where their parents are is an unacceptable atrocity. And the reality is, Ivanka Trump said yesterday the family separation policy was a true low point for her.

She is a senior adviser to the president of the United States. She works in the White House. I suggest if this is a low point for her and she actually cares about this, she figures out, along with the White House chief of staff and everybody in the White House, how to address this problem.

I mean, the reality that the government did not track the parents along with their children and have no simple way of identifying the parents even though they may have already been deported is an outrage and needs to be addressed not next week, not tomorrow. It needs to be addressed now.

TUR: Consider this, Maria. There is new analysis of immigration data that finds parents were targeted. Parents were targeted under the zero tolerance policy. This is from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. And they found that U.S. border authorities chose to prosecute adults with kids coming across the border by themselves.

That same analysis found that only 32 percent of all immigrants caught crossing the border were charged with entering the U.S. illegally that month, an indication that it was not a blanket policy, but a targeted effort directed at parents with kids. Let me repeat that, that they`re finding from this analysis that the adults coming over alone were treated differently and better, it seems, than the adults coming over with kids.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: OK. This demonstrates that the Trump administration was trying to exact maximum pain to the most vulnerable. The people that were fleeing, the families that were fleeing traversed three to four countries to come here with mostly just on the clothes on their back to give their children a better shot.

And the Trump administration, when they said that they were going to do zero tolerance, it wasn`t blanketed, it was phony. It was targeted at children. It was targeted at families. And what they did is that they turned around and then they put these children and these babies in cages.

And there is not going to be a remedy in the near future to make sure that these children are not only unified with their families, but they are also receiving the medical attention because the trauma that we`re starting to hear that is happening to these children, some of the children don`t want to speak out loud, some of them follow their parents from room to room once they are unified.

Some of them just basically curl up because they are so afraid that they are not going to see their parents once they do. And then there are others that are just plain angry. But the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions staring to the camera, to the American people and said that he was going to establish a zero tolerance deterrence policy, now only to find that it wasn`t zero tolerance, that it was only aimed at the most vulnerable, at parents and children.

It should really be a wrenching reminder to the American people and the cruelty of this administration. When Ivanka Trump looks at the American people and says that this is something that she is painfully aware and believes that we should not be doing family separation, I agree 100 percent with Neera.

She should be looking into the president`s eyes and saying that they are actually going to do something to stop it. I encourage her to visit the border. I encourage her to go visit those children in cages that she actually sees the cruelty that they are exacting --

TUR: Hold on, though.

KUMAR: -- and those nonsense -- and this nonsense that they`re telling that the ACLU and that (inaudible) reunifying these parents and children, shame on them because it`s the federal government`s responsibility.

TUR: Hold on. I just want to zero in on one point. Jeff Sessions announced this policy in the spring.

KUMAR: That`s right.

TUR: And then when the policy was backfiring and they were getting all of the negative headlines and the pictures looks bad, but you know, the lives were actually much worse.

KUMAR: Right.

TUR: They said over and over again this administration, Kirstjen Nielsen, others in the administration said this was not a policy. This was not a policy -- this was not a policy. And now to see this analysis, not only was it a policy, but it was a policy that was aimed at parents, not just at anybody crossing the border but parents specifically.

KUMAR: Cruel intentions.

TUR: That`s right.

KUMAR: And there is actually one of the -- and what`s really curious is that one of the largest security companies that basically provided security guards in Afghanistan for the different government detentions they had in that country under U.S. control, they received a government contract two weeks before this policy of family separation were announced.

They were the ones that were basically housing children not in accommodating facilities. Basically, they have discovered that they were in the middle of Phoenix. They were actually housing them in just regular office buildings that didn`t have kitchens, that didn`t have -- that only had one bathroom that basically held these toddlers for a close to three and a half weeks without having them go outside.

It was the neighbors who broke the story. These individuals ended up getting over $200 million contract two weeks prior to this family separation policy. It is outrageous.

TUR: Remarkable. Neera, you are going to stay with us. Hold on. Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you very much.

Coming up, if you don`t fully understand what happened in the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, you`re not alone. Neither does the director of National Intelligence. Stay with us.


TUR: The president of the United States is at odds with his top intelligence officials. Yesterday, in a rare White House briefing room appearance, DNI Director Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, National Security Adviser John Bolton and NSA Director General Paul Nakasone, addressed Russian interference in the U.S. political system.

Their message was clear. Russian attempts to interfere in the 2018 elections are real and ongoing. But just six hours later, six hours, Donald Trump contradicted his own intelligence officials at a rally in Pennsylvania.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything. I had a great meeting.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENC: The Russians are looking for every opportunity to continue their persuasive efforts to undermine our values.

TRUMP: Russia`s very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you. But I got along great with Putin.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: As I have said consistently, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage and malign influence operations to this day.

TRUMP: Now, we`re being hindered by the Russian hoax. It is a hoax.

COATS: We acknowledge the threat is real. It is continuing and we`re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in.


TUR: It is almost as if there are two administrations. One led by grown ups who are trying to protect our nation and our democracy. The other led by a man who wants to be best buds with our attacker or as Jennifer Rubin writes in the "Washington Post," "No matter how hard Coats, Wray, Bolton and others sidestep or try to put words in Donald Trump`s mouth, Trump never fails to embarrass them and communicate his true feelings. He has never accepted that he got elected with Russian help and he is not about to make a personal all-out push to stop it in 2018."

There are only 95 days until the midterm elections. Can the intelligence community work together to ensure fair elections without the help of the commander-in-chief, without the help of the president? We`ll discuss that next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re saying today that the president has directed you to make the issue of election meddling a priority. How do you explain the disconnect between what you are saying as advisers and what the president has said about this issue.

COATS: I`m not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened at Helsinki.


TUR: Welcome back. Joining us now is Evan McMullen, a former CIA operative and former independent presidential candidate. And Neera Tanden is back with us. Evan, let`s start with you. What does it take for that sort of scene to happen on Thursday for all of those national security heads to come out to the press briefing room and address not just the reporters there but the general public? What does it take to get them to do that?

EVAN MCMULLEN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I think, first of all you have these national security leaders who generally understand this kind of things needs to be communicated to the American people. The American people need to understand what kind of threat we`re facing so that they can support our leaders as they hopefully do the right thing or elect leaders in Congress specifically who will do the right thing, who will support sanctions that are strong enough to deter Russia.

But I think what`s also happening, my read of it anyway, is that as we get closer to the midterms and as it becomes clear to the American people that the Russians did attack our election and did use the Republican Party especially through its candidate, Donald Trump, to make that attack. And that now the Republican Party is sort of lying down on the job or at least its elected leaders.

I think there`s got to be increasing pressure to show the American people that the administration on some level is trying to do the right thing. And that`s why I think those national security leaders end up on that podium in the pressroom, even though six hours later the president gets up on stage and says the whole thing is a hoax.

He`s talking to his base, his most fervent, loyal base. That`s the message they want to hear. He`s keeping them in the dark and brainwashed, whereas the Republicans who are concerned by Donald Trump`s open betrayal of the country in Helsinki are saying, OK, well maybe part of the administration is doing the right thing, maybe I can still vote Republican.

TUR: Do you (inaudible) in the dark and brainwashed?

MCMULLEN: I think it`s time for us to start thinking about some of the base being brainwashed. There is this (inaudible), this conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theories on the far right are growing and spreading and becoming less -- a part of just the fringe discourse and working their way into the main stream.

And actually that`s been the case for a while, but is becoming more of the case. And in my mind that`s a piece of brainwashing. I mean, we`re talking about people existing in alternative information environments that have no bearing on fact or reality or reason. And that`s where some of his base is.

TUR: And Neera, it is almost like there are two administrations. One, led with grown-ups, led by grown-ups like those national security advisers you just saw, and the other one led by Donald Trump, a man who wants to hug the guy, bear hug the guy who attacked our democracy.

TANDENL: Yeah, I mean, just think about the fact that we had all those leaders of our intelligence community, leader of the FBI, the DNI, all walk out and make the statements they did. And of course, it`s not just their work. They are basing this on the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of intelligence people, you know, working under the CIA, the FBI, et cetera, gathering intelligence about the threat our country faces right now.

And then hours later, Donald Trump continues with the language of a Russian hoax. Just weeks after Vladimir Putin said that he wanted Trump to win and Donald Trump said that he basically believed Vladimir Putin over the people arrayed at the White House podium yesterday.

And I think the reality of this is that if you are concerned about the threat that exists from Russia, not just what they`ve done in the past but what they are doing today and what they will do in the future, you cannot count on the president of the United States when we have an extraordinary moment where there is really two administrations.

There`s the President Trump himself and then the intelligence community and they have really lined up as opposed to him on this fundamental issue.

TUR: So the question needs to be asked, is the administration concerned about sending mixed messages to Russia? Here`s what one of the strategic communications director told Kristen Walker.


KRISEN WELKER, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump last night at his rally said this Russia investigation is a hoax. Doesn`t that undercut the government`s --

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Not at all. I think that we made it very clear the president last May, May in 2017, directed the administration to be tough and strengthen and review cyber security measures.

WELKER: Are you concerned, though that it sends a mixed message to Russia?

SCHLAPP: No, not at all. Not at all. The only one who is making and sending mixed messages are the media.


TUR: It`s only the media, Neera.

TANDEN: I mean, this is the talking point every single day, which is that we are all supposed to just basically ignore what Donald Trump says. I mean, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says this on occasion, the White House strategy, communications strategy, is to just actually -- the broad public, except for their base, is supposed to ignore what the president says.

TUR: Yes.

TANDEN: But his base is supposed to take everything he says literally. I mean, it`s ridiculous and outrageous that we have this kind of thing happening about, you know, not a partisan battle or just two sides of the debate on taxes or something. This is about America`s national security.

TUR: Exactly.

TANDEN: This is about our elections and democracy. And the fact that the White House -- the president of the United States just cannot make the statement about the threat that exists from Russia is ridiculous and shows that he`s got -- it makes people think they have something on him.

TUR: Let me ask this question of you, Evan. Can the intelligence community, can our agencies effectively push back and protect us against Russian interference, the cyber warfare if the president`s not onboard?

MCMULLEN: They can do a lot, but they can`t do enough. What really needs to happen here is deterrence because we`re never going to be able to block every cyber intrusion and disinformation campaign. I mean, you just can`t do it so you have to deter. And deterrence, the best vehicle for that is through sanctions. That has to be done by Congress, which is why the midterms are so critical.

TUR: Evan McMullen, always good to see you. My Friday night date. And Neera Tanden, thank you as well. Tonight`s "Last Word" is next.



RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I mean, I guess if we were playing poker (inaudible), you could put up or shut up. What do you got?

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: Oh, you better hope you`re not playing poker because your client can`t keep a casino running.


TUR: That`s tonight`s "Last Word." I`m Katy Tur. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts right now.


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