Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: August 6, 2018 Guest: Baron McCaffrey
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: I just want you to know, Nicolle, every Rachel fan I have spoken to over the weekend is very happy with having you sitting in that chair.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DATELINE: WHITE HOUSE": Thank you.
O'DONNELL: But, you're right, they're going to be very, very happy tomorrow night at 9:00.
WALLACE: I think we should make t-shirts. I survived Maddow 2018 summer vacation. I'll make it. I'll bring you one.
O'DONNELL: More than survived.
WALLACE: I'll bring you one.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Nicolle.
WALLACE: Have a good show.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, yesterday, on the 44th anniversary of the day that President Richard Nixon obeyed a ruling of the Supreme Court and handed over the tapes that contained the proof that President Nixon was guilty of obstruction of justice, the 45th president of the United States, who is currently being investigated by a special prosecutor for obstruction of justice and other crimes woke up and tweeted something very, very strange. Strange even for Donald Trump.
It wasn't one of his many hate-filled tweets about black professional athletes or other black people. Those tweets are poisonous, but they are not strange. The president's racist tweets are actually in Trump world logical and easily explained. But the tweet that the president sent yesterday morning that appears to create more legal jeopardy for his son, Donald Trump Jr., is a genuine mystery when it comes to the question of motivation. Why did the president send that tweet yesterday about his son's meeting with Russians at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign? Why?
We never ask that question about the racist tweets. By comparison, the president's racist tweets make perfect sense in Trump world. It is Trump's way of saying to racist voters, I am one of you. I am with you. I am with you all the way. I, too, hate these black people.
From Barack Obama, whose birth Donald Trump started lying about in 2011, to his latest target LeBron James. It is Donald Trump's willingness and eagerness to express those racist thoughts publicly for all of us to see that so thrills Donald Trump's most racist supporters like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
The fact that Donald Trump has been attacked his racist comments on programs like this for seven years is part of the thrill for the hard-core racists who do support this president. In the past, the most extreme racist voters had to listen to political code language to find the candidate who was closest to their views, but not Donald Trump. The racists have loved him from the day he first started lying about Barack Obama's birth.
And Donald Trump is president today because he squeaked out a win in the Electoral College that is an embarrassment to democracy. Donald Trump knows that narrow victory he cannot afford to lose a single one of the voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. He knows he could not have been elected president without that bloc of voters in his support base that includes the racist vote.
Donald Trump needs the racist vote. And so, Donald Trump speaks directly to the racist vote in every way he can. And now, the full venom of Donald Trump's racism has landed on LeBron James in a way that is poisonously logical for Donald Trump, the politician.
But there is nothing obviously logical in the tweet that Donald Trump sent out on the 44th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon handed over his audiotapes in response to a special prosecutor's subpoena. The audiotapes that forced the resignation of President Nixon exactly three days later.
There is no obvious motivation for that very strange tweet yesterday morning. Fake news reporting a complete fabrication that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son Donald had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
The tweet was sent at 8:35 a.m. And one of the most accepted theories of Trump tweeting is that the early morning tweets, especially the early morning tweets on weekends are the president's own handiwork and some straight from the heart and mind of the president of the United States.
But there is a clue that the president may have had help with this strange tweet. The word fabrication is not a Donald Trump word. That's an 11- letter word that could easily be used the word, the three-letter word lie instead.
So maybe the president had help with this tweet, which would make it more strange which would indicate that there was a motivation for the tweet that made enough sense to someone who might have been helping with that tweet. The last sentence of the tweet, I did not know about it, is President Trump's own legal defense. It's his way of saying this meeting poses no criminal risk to me. I am guilty of nothing in relation to this meeting.
He could have been more specific and said I did not know about the meeting before the meeting occurred as Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, now insists that Donald Trump did know about the meeting before the meeting occurred and knew that the meeting was to get information from Russians about Hillary Clinton. What everyone has been buzzing -- puzzling over about this tweet since it went out was why did President Trump say, quote, this was a meeting to get information on an opponent? With that sentence, the president of the United States admitted the purpose of the meeting was exactly what the president's harshest critics have always said the purpose of the meeting was, to get information on Hillary Clinton.
The original Trump lie about this meeting was that the meeting was about Russian adoptions. But the president's lawyers were forced to admit in a letter to the special prosecutor that president Trump actually dictated a false statement to "The New York Times" about that meeting, knowing that it was false, a statement saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions.
The legal implications of the president's tweet are gravely threatening to the president's son. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics. But it's not done all the time in politics, and it's totally, totally illegal, if it is a meeting with foreign citizens trying to help the Trump campaign. Federal law makes it a crime for a foreign national to, quote, directly or indirectly help an American campaign with financial contributions or, quote, and other thing of value.
Federal election law recognizes opposition research as, quote, a thing of value. Federal election law makes it a crime to, quote, solicit, accept or receive a thing of value to a campaign for foreign national.
The e-mail traffic setting up the meeting in Trump Tower during the campaign with Russian nationals shows Donald Trump Jr. eagerly soliciting what they emails dirt on Hillary Clinton after he was told the Russian government officials had Clinton dirt to contribute to the Trump campaign. The president's tweet yesterday said that the meeting, quote, went nowhere. The Trump line of defense about the meeting was that the Russians didn't hand over any dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And as we sit here tonight, we don't know if that's true. We don't know what happened in the meeting. We don't really know what happened after the meeting. We don't know whether the Russians directly handed over dirt to the Trump campaign about Hillary Clinton directly to Donald Trump Jr. or to anyone else in the campaign.
But there are three ways to violate federal election law on contributions from foreign nationals. The Trump line of defense says the Trump campaign did not actually receive any dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians, and, so, there was no crime. They are now insisting that the meeting was legal because they did not receive any dirt on Hillary Clinton. And so, if that is true, Donald Trump Jr. is not guilty of having received a thing of value from the Trump campaign from Russians.
But he did solicit it. It is illegal, quote, to solicit, accept or receive a thing of value from a Russian national. The email traffic shows that when Donald Trump was told that Russian officials had dirt on Hillary Clinton, he said I love it. Other e-mails show Donald Trump Jr. eagerly setting up the meeting in which he hoped to accept and receive help from the Russians. All Donald Trump's eager maneuvers to set up the meeting could fit the legal definition of solicit.
President Trump reportedly knows that, and according to one report has expressed worries about Donald Trump Jr.'s legal jeopardy, which brings us back to why. Why would the president write a tweet yesterday morning that might put his son in even more legal jeopardy?
Leading off our discussion now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst. And Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor. She's now a fellow at Pace University Law School and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Jill, it was a quick 44 years ago that Richard Nixon yesterday was handing over those tapes and three days later was gone. On the anniversary of that moment, of the handing over of the tapes, we get this extraordinarily strange tweet from the president. And since I read that tweet, all I have been wondering about is why.
Can you make any sense of the why that tweet would go out?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I have long since given up trying to figure out why the president does anything because almost none of it makes any sense. That was very harmful, not just to his son who he was throwing under the bus by admitting the real purpose of the meeting, but to him as well because he drafted a fake report about why the meeting happened. So, now, he's admitting to obstruction of justice, not just to working with the Russians.
And you clearly defined what the law is. You cannot accept anything. And if you tried to get it but failed, you have attempted to violate the law. And that's just as much a crime as actually taking it. If I go into a bank and say, give me your money and you refused, I still tried to rob your bank, and I can be tried for a crime.
So, the fact that he didn't succeed or at least says he didn't and as you pointed out, we don't know whether he actually got dirt or not. We certainly know that there was an announcement that there would be dirt and then there was a leak of the e-mails. So did they know that that's what was going to happen? That would be conspiring with the Russian government to hurt the election. And that's a crime.
O'DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, we don't know if the president had help with this tweet. We don't know if someone else gave him that big, fancy word "fabrication", instead of the word "lie". But if he did have help with this tweet or a lawyer looking over his shoulder on this tweet, can you find any conceivable legal theory that would suggest this tweet could be somehow helpful?
MIMI ROCAH, form: I don't think he had a good lawyer helping him, if he had a lawyer helping him.
ROCAH: But, so no. I don't see a great legal theory.
I -- the best I can make of it are two things. One, he sees the writing on the wall about his son and that, you know, all arrows point to his son is going to likely be charged with something in relation to this meeting and he's trying to engender some part of sympathy. You know, poor -- my poor son who just kind of fell into this because he was trying to help me become president, and you know, woe is him.
I don't know -- and, look, there are some people out there, some Trump supporters who may go along with that and feel that. This is part of the witch hunt without using the word witch hunt.
And then, of course, there is a second part of the tweet as -- you know, I mean, what he's done in the tweet is after 100 tweets of no collusion, no collusion. He now has basically said without using the words in this tweet, yes, collusion. But it was my son and I feel bad for him and I didn't know about it.
So, he's trying to distance himself. It's just -- it's a total what we call false exculpatory, what he says about his knowledge. And it looks false because it is. And so, I think, you know, again, if he had a lawyer advising him, it was not a good lawyer.
O'DONNELL: And, Jill, the idea that this is helpful to the president himself alone saying this is a way of saying that the president isn't guilty of anything, I still can't think of any reason to put that in a tweet, even if that's what the president believed, that he wasn't guilty of anything.
WINE-BANKS: I think Mimi hit on the head, which is he's not getting very good legal advice. And something she said also reminded me of why, for example, Rosemary Woods was never indicted for perjury. She testified she erased 18-1/2 minutes and described how she did the erasure, and the testimony showed that that did not happen. But we didn't indict her because it would have been a distraction.
I don't think the same is true with Donald Trump Jr. Donald Trump Jr. played a pivotal role in the campaign and he is not just some assistant to the president who shouldn't be indicted. If he did as his e-mail said, please give me the dirt, I love it, especially release it later in the summer when it will do maximum damage -- that's an indictable crime and he should be tried for it.
O'DONNELL: Mimi, if Donald Trump Jr. solicited this information from Russian nationals without knowing that that was a crime, how does that factor into charging this crime or defending against this charge?
ROCAH: He doesn't have to know that it is a crime. What he has to have is a sort of general intent here that he knew, you know, what he was doing. So here, he knew he was accepting information. Whether it'd be, you know, actual documents.
I mean, when we talk about dirt, as you mentioned, it could just be that they told him they were going to do something or that they had access to information, and that's why, you know, Trump made that announcement. So, he does not have to know. Ignorance of the law is no defense and people are familiar with that.
There are some crimes when you have to have a more specific intent. But I think here, it would have to be general knowledge about the conduct that he was doing, not the specific law that he was violating. And in particular, if we're talking about conspiracy law, you know, he could be liable for joining a conspiracy that the Russians already had underway when they hacked into the Democratic e-mails and had them in their possession.
You can join a conspiracy at any time. You don't have to be there from the beginning, as long as you are aware of the general object of the conspiracy and you knowingly join it and then do something in furtherance, which again all arrows point to Trump Jr. did that.
O'DONNELL: Mimi Rocah and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, the prosecution's star witness took the stand today in the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and immediately implicated Paul Manafort in several crimes.
And new reports from White House sources indicate the president is more worried than ever about the special prosecutors investigation, especially the investigation of Donald Trump Jr.
O'DONNELL: Today, Rick Gates, the star witness for the prosecution in the case of the United States of America versus Paul Manafort, testified that he committed crimes with the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The prosecution asked did you commit any times with Mr. Manafort. Gates again answered yes. Did you commit any crimes with Mr. Manafort, Gates again responded yes.
Gates is Manafort's long-time business associate, who is cooperating with special prosecutor Mueller in exchange for a reduced sentence. He's pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to commit fraud and lying to the FBI.
Gates spent his first hour on the stand admitting to the jury most of the bad things and crimes that he has done. Gates admitted to helping Paul Manafort commit bank and tax fraud, holding money in foreign bank accounts, hidden from the federal government, money that was used to fund Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle. Gates also testified that they knew that what they were doing was illegal, but said he lied because Paul Manafort directed him to lie.
But he also admitted to crimes of his own, such as embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Paul Manafort and also lying to the FBI. This long list of confessions is a crucial element in the Manafort defense team's approach, which is to try to blame Rick Gates for these financial crimes, insisting that Paul Manafort was taken advantage of by Rick Gates. Paul Manafort sat in the courtroom staring down his former aid just at the beginning of this showdown and the jury will, in the end, have to pick who to believe, Rick Gates or Paul Manafort.
Joining us now, Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News. He was inside the courtroom today. Mimi Rocah is still with us.
And, Ken, we still don't know if Paul Manafort is actually going to take the witness stand in his own defense. Although, it's hard to imagine a real defense in this case that doesn't include Paul Manafort.
So what do you think at this stage the jury is seeing in the Rick Gates testimony?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, they're seeing a kind of an unattractive character on the one hand, Lawrence, an admitted criminal, a guy who got up there and talked about essentially a crime spree that he and Paul Manafort were involved in by his story. But then also admitted, as you said, to all these other crimes, that some of which the prosecution said they didn't even know about until Mr. Gates brought it to his attention as part of his plea agreement where they sort of say, look, you need to confess all your bad acts because it's going to come out at trial anyway.
So, Barbara McQuade, our legal contributor, noticed that she thought the jury's body language, they were sort of leaning back in their seats after having been leaning forward and tentatively taking notes, as if to express some skepticism about Gates. Now, that doesn't mean they won't eventually believe what he's saying, because I thought he was an effective and compelling witness even as he was admitting to all these crimes because he is sort of a man with nothing left to lose. I mean, his whole goal right now is to minimize his prison term and to cooperate with prosecutors and he made it very clear that -- the prosecution made it very clear that if he lies on the stand, his agreement, his deal, is null and void, but his guilty plea would stand, and you'd be looking at a very long prison sentence.
So, you know, he's only sort of started part way down the road of admitting to all these various charges in the specifics that he acknowledges up front that he's guilty of. Remember, he was indicted alongside Mr. Manafort of the same bank and tax fraud charges. And right up front, he said, yes, I was guilty of those charges. I only pled guilty to this one charge of lying to the FBI, but I was guilty of all this other stuff, and here's what else I was guilty of.
And it was a pretty compelling tableau today, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, as a prosecutor, you have dealt with this many times. You put on the stand your star witness for the prosecution is a person who committed crimes with the defendant. So you have the admitted criminal on the witness stand in exchange for a reduced sentence saying, that guy over there, that defendant, is a criminal.
ROCAH: Absolutely. And, you know, I put on the stand witnesses who have been committed just horrible crimes, murders, you know, drug trafficking, liars, fraudsters. And as Ken noted, the jury does -- they get it. They don't like those cooperators and they probably don't like Rick Gates and they may be leaning back in their seat, but as Ken said, that doesn't mean they won't believe them. And that's the key.
Prosecutors tell jurors all the time, you don't have to like him. You have to believe him. If -- you don't have to, but you should. And here's why.
And then they give the jury reasons to believe the cooperator. The government prosecution is never going to ask a jury to solely rely on a cooperating witness like Rick Gates. They're going to back their case up with corroboration, with evidence, with other witnesses and they're going to ask, you know, does this make sense, does it fit in with the other evidence?
They're also going to point to the cooperation agreement and it's very important because the cooperation agreement is designed, the government cooperation agreement that all U.S. attorneys offices use and the one that was used here to incentivize truth telling. Basically, the way a cooperator can mess himself up is to plead guilty under a cooperation agreement and then lie on the stand or to prosecutors.
Then they're going to end up probably getting a higher sentence than they would have gotten if they had just walked in the door and pled guilty to some crimes. The cooperation agreement incentivizes them to tell the truth. That's how they get a reduction in the sentence.
So, there is all these different tools that prosecutors will point to to a jury to explain why they can believe the cooperator. They don't have to like him and they probably won't, but here is why you should believe him. And they'll also remind the jury that we, the government, we didn't pick this guy. Paul Manafort did.
And of course he committed crimes. That's what Paul Manafort was doing. And Gates took responsibility for it, and that's why he's here today.
O'DONNELL: And, Ken, to Mimi's point that prosecution is never relying on any one witness, the gates testimony follows one of the shortest witnesses in the case so far, federal official simply pointing out the fact that they never reported any of the, what, 15, 14 or so foreign bank accounts that they were legally required to report, Gates and Manafort. And this -- that's just fact at this point.
DILANIAN: Yes, Lawrence. Absolutely right. That's why I have been saying tonight that even if Gates totally collapsed under cross-examination and the jury discounts everything he says, there is still a pretty strong case against Paul Manafort on exactly the point that you just made. There was a Treasury agent who testified about the requirements to report foreign bank accounts. Paul Manafort didn't report any of him.
And his tax preparer said the reason is because she never disclosed them to her. She was totally unaware of them and that is a felony if it is proven that it was willful. The Manafort -- the only Manafort defense there is he didn't know it was a crime. Maybe it should have been a civil penalty. So, there is a lot of evidence to contradict that, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Ken Dilanian, Mimi Rocah, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
DILANIAN: You bet.
O'DONNELL: When we come back, a former head of the CIA said that the president has deep, twisted and irrational impulses. And a former four- star general is now saying the president has outright separation from the truth. Donald Trump is starting to sound even more dangerous to those former government officials.
And later, why are Republicans in danger of losing what is supposed to be a very safe Republican seat? There is a one-point lead in the latest poll by the Democrats in that very dramatic race where the voters will go to the polls tomorrow in Ohio.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: In our history, there is only one President of the United States who has provoked a group of 27 mental health professionals to co-author a book about the President's mental health. The book is entitled "the dangerous case of Donald Trump" and it is a best- seller.
Yesterday, the President who many psychiatrists have publically said they believe is sick and dangerous tweeted this. The fake news hates me saying that they are the enemy of the people, only because they know it's true. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American people. They purposely cause great division and distrust. They can also cause war! They are very dangerous and sick!
The former acting director of the CIA John McLaughlin responded to that tweet saying, we pay way too much attention to these whacky Trump tweets that shouldn't drive news cycles, but the more I stare at this one, the more it seems like some genuinely, deep, twisted and irrational impulse that, alarmingly, he can't control. It's beyond "un-Presidential."
Here is a sampling of the President's recent public musings that could be labeled delusional and sick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember when I did, I hate to say it, coming down the escalator in the white dress, the beautiful first lady of the White dress coming down that escalator that big fake beautiful thing, when everybody said, oh, he is just doing this for fun. He doesn't really mean it. Man, if I don't mean it, I hope you tell me soon because it's a lot of work.
But coming down the escalator and you remember what I said? (INAUDIBLE), you remember that? And I mentioned words I won't even mention them tonight because there is a lot of young people here. But I mention words and everybody thought it was wonderful. But then about two days later, they said, did he say this? Did he say that? Guess what? What I said is peanuts compared to what turns out to be the truth, it is peanuts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: So there is the President of the United States telling his audience last week that what he said in the speech announcing his candidacy was unfit for the ears of young people and children.
Tonight retired four-star army general Barry McCaffrey said, President Trump behavior becoming more alarming and illogical. In 55 years of service in the armed service, civil government and business, I have never encountered this level of anger, insulting behavior and outright separation from the truth.
And joining us now general McCaffrey. Also with us, Professor Jason Johnson, politics editor at "The Root."
General McCaffrey, I want to get more of your reaction from what you are seeing from the President. I know you have been alarmed for a long time about what you hear from Donald Trump. But is this a new level of alarmed for you?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, look. I'm not qualified to talk about the President's mental state. I'm just talking about his behavior. You know, I have been decades-long levels serving at the highest levels of armed forces, civil government, the business community. I personally have never encountered this kind of behavior, the insulting nature dealing with his clients or us. I mean, the business community does that. The armed forces, we would sack a commander who dealt that way with his soldiers.
So I think it's of great concern. We have got a couple of more years, at least, with President Trump as the chief executive. And it's looking very worrisome the way he is dealing with his domestic audience as well as the international community.
O'DONNELL: And there is a "Washington Post" report from White House sources indicating that some of the President's behavior might be linked to his increased anxiety about the special prosecutor's work. It says, "The Washington Post" says in private President Trump spent much of the past week brooding. Yet in public, Trump is a man roaring. The President more than ever is channeling his internal frustration and fear into a ravenous maw of grievance and I invective. He is turning out false statements with greater frequency and attacking his perceived enemies with intensifying fury.
And Jason Johnson, if that fury intensifies as the investigation intensifies, we can expect that it will intensify some more.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Right. And Lawrence, here's the thing. All of this fury is at his enemies. Who appears to be Donald Trump's enemies? The press, you know, which are supposed to hero which are sort written into the constitution are free press and black people who do nice things, whether it happens to be a reporter on another network or ti happens to be an African-American from Akron who opened up a school.
Part of what makes Donald Trump so dangerous as a President is that his rage in his frustration is not at injustice. It is not at the problems that plague our country. It is not how the United States is viewed against the world. His anger is always focused on things that don't reflect well on him. And that's what makes him dangerous.
I have always said, look, constitutionally, we have the rules in place to keep bad Presidents in check. We do not have rules in place to take narcissistic Presidents in check. We do not have rules in place to take care of what happens if our government is sort of taken over by one party that advocates its responsibility to engage in checks and balances. That's why this Presidency is so dangerous.
And we have seen it in national security. We have seen it domestically. And if we get some fundamental change this is fall, I suspect he will become even more unhinged if he has to face a democratic House of Representatives.
O'DONNELL: general McCaffrey, to Jason's point that the chain of command designed does not really have any provisions for dealing with a President who people within that chain of command might suspect of being irrational and out of control.
MCCAFFREY: Well, they are reminders of the chain of command, I have been after the media on this last year. The commander in-chief title only deals with the U.S. armed forces. Nobody else. He's not the commander in-chief of the country. And within that chain of command, I think we are very fortunate, look, the Pentagon, secretary Jim Mattis is an intellectual. He is worshipped by the armed forces. He is a law-based person. Fortunately, we got service secretaries who are absolutely the best I have seen in 25 years. So I don't think we have got a problem. As Secretary Mike Pompeo, very smart, capable person.
But what we are now seeing is a complete separation between the facts on the ground in national security and foreign policy and what the President is saying. His team makes a lot of sense dealing with alliances, dealing with the real threat in North Korea and Iran. But the President's utterances, for example, coming home from Singapore and saying, the new clear threat is gone. Where did he come up with that? It is just hard to fathom what is going on.
O'DONNELL: And, Jason Johnson, has I said earlier in the program, it seems one of the areas of Trump tweeting that does have a logic is the racist component of Trump tweeting, which is in effect a kind of an open form of direct mail to the members of his support group who are racist.
JOHNSON: Right. And here's the thing, Lawrence. I think this is very important. And I'm sure your other guest will agree with me. Racism and white nationals is a national security issue. It is a national security issue when the President of the United States demonizes certain working segments of the U.S. population as somehow being let fit, less trustworthy or less capable.
This is what our enemies exploit. This is what Russia exploits. This is what China exploits. You look throughout history when other countries have attempted propaganda or attack United States. What they talk about is how the U.S. treats blacks, how the U.S. treats Chinese people, how the U.S. treats Native Americans. So when you have a President that exacerbates that kind of tension, that basically attacks any and all black people who are not (INAUDIBLE) on a regular bases at the White House, it makes the United States a weaker country. It makes us less capable of protecting ourselves or projecting the kind of strength we need to project abroad.
O'DONNELL: General Baron McCaffrey and Professor Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
And up next, the President showed up at a rally in Ohio for the Republican candidate in a congressional district and now the Democrat is in the lead.
O'DONNELL: One more. There is just one more special election for a congressional seat, and this one is now down to a one-point race. That election is tomorrow in Ohio where the Republican should have a very strong lead and where tonight we seem to be headed for another very dramatic finish to that race with the Democrat, Danny O'Connor, pulling one point ahead of Republican Troy Balderson.
Donald Trump won this congressional district by 11 points. President Trump went to the district an Saturday night, but that appearance might have been more helpful to the Democratic candidate.
According to Ohio governor's John Kasich, the President was not invited to campaign in this race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I asked him. I said -- I said, Troy, why -- did you invite Trump in here, the President? He said, no, I didn't. So, you know, I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go and I think they think they're firing up the base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: President Trump's approval rating in the district is only 46 percent. A Democrat has not held the seat since 1982. But the district has trended away from the Republican Party during the Trump presidency.
Here's what a Republican woman said about her decision to not only vote for the Democrat, Danny O'Connor, but to actually go help his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is not a lot to be proud of about his behavior or his leadership. And when Balderson said that he can't -- I don't know. I believe there was a debate where he said he can't think of a single thing where he would disagree with Trump on. And I thought, really? There is kind of a lot to disagree with Trump on. Maybe not everything. But he's done a lot of pretty questionable remarks just even since he's been in office. I don't think he's grown into the presidency. If anything he's gotten worse on what he says and does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: In the last congressional election in this district, the Republican won by 37 points in 2016. Charlie Cook will join us next to explain why that 37-point lead has disappeared and become a one-point lead for the democrat and what all this might mean for the big election night in November of this year.
O'DONNELL: Today, NBC's Garrett Haake spoke to Democrat Danny O'Connor, who now has a one-point lead in tomorrow's special congressional election in Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The Democrats can watch what you do here and do it in other places in November?
DANNY O'CONNOR (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I hope they do because I hope people go out and talk about bread and butter issues that matter to working class families. Because working families don't have anyone who is fighting for them right now in Washington D.C. Right now it is all, you know, people get in the middle. They fight it out in the ring and then they go back to their partisan corners. So that's a problem. We need people to go to Washington D.C. who are going to be focused on delivering actual solutions for working families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook. He is the editor and publisher of the `Cook Political Report," a columnist for "National Journal." And viewers of this program know he is the person I defer to on all matters involving congressional elections.
Charlie, how did this happen? How did the Democrat not only close this thing, but now sit with a one-point lead on election eve?
CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as long as Pat Teaberry had this seat, he has, as you noted earlier, no problems whatsoever. But this is a Republican district, but it's not a Donald Trump district. And this is the old congressional district that John Kasich used to represent the House.
But it has got, you know, suburbs, well educated, and so it's not a Trump specific kind of district. And I think the President's causing Republicans just a lot of problems in this district.
O'DONNELL: What lessons are there out of this campaign that Democrats and Republicans need to think about in November?
COOK: Well, you know, this special elections, we watch them in the odd- numbers years and the first part of election years to give us a sign of what direction is the wind blowing and roughly the velocity. But the thing is, we knew a year ago that the Republican majority in the House was going to be in danger and we have known that for some time. That's why this isn't maybe quote as instruct as perhaps the Pennsylvania '18 or the Georgia special election last year.
We know that the Republican majority in the House is just teetering right on the edge. And so this would be sort of less illustrative of what's going on, say, than Pennsylvania was earlier this year. But it's -- look, you know, they are in trouble. They are in real trouble.
O'DONNELL: Yes. And for the Democrat to win, he has to change the minds of voters who voted for Donald Trump in the Presidential campaign. Can't win without getting Trump voters. Is there something in the way this candidate that has spoken to them that can be helpful to Democrats strategically?
COOK: Well, I don't know that it's the messaging as much because neither of these are particularly memorable candidates. I don't think it's a message as much as voters saying, maybe it's time for a little check and balance, putting a check on President Trump. I think it's more that kind of thing that a lot of voters are just -- have real misgivings about what's going on and this is a way to send a signal that they're not all in for President Trump or where the Republican Congress is going right now.
But Pat Teaberry was a very, very moderate Republican, and that kind of Republican can do well, but they have got their hands full tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: There is that fear among Democrats that all they need to do is run against Donald Trump.
COOK: You know, I think -- I'm not sure that would be my messaging but that would be in effect what's going on, is that for the voters that are really upset with President Trump, they just need to have an opportunity to vote against him. But a Democratic candidate would be well-advised not to focus too much on President Trump but to come up with a positive message, an economic message, and be the vehicle for that discontent toward President Trump.
O'DONNELL: Charlie Cook, thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
Tonight's LAST WORD is next. And viewer warning, there will be Boston accents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL HALSTEAD, RETIRED BOSTON POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: I know on today that Dr. Martin Luther King is looking down and smiling because he is seeing the realization of one of his dreams in which a man is not judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That was retired Boston police superintendent Randall Halstead at the swearing in ceremony today if Boston's first African-American police commissioner, William Gross. The ceremony took place at The Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan where commissioner Gross' mother, Diana, has been a parishioner for 35 years. Mayor Marty Walsh administered the oath of office.
MARTY WALSH, BOSTON MAYOR: Raise your right hand and repeat after me. I - -.
WILLIAM GROSS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: I.
WALSH: William Gross.
GROSS: William Gross.
WALSH: Do solemnly swear.
GROSS: Do solemnly swear.
WALSH: That I will faithfully and impartially.
GROSS: That I will faithfully and impartially.
WALSH: Perform all duties.
GROSS: Perform all duties.
WALSH: Incumbent on me.
GROSS: Incumbent on me.
WALSH: As police commissioner of the city of Boston.
GROSS: As police commissioner of the city of Boston.
WALSH: According to the best of my abilities
GROSS: According to the best of my abilities.
WALSH: And understanding.
GROSS: And understanding.
WALSH: Agreeably to the constitution of the United States of America.
GROSS: Agreeably to the constitution of the United States of America.
WALSH: The constitution and laws of this commonwealth.
GROSS: The constitution and laws of this commonwealth.
WALSH: The ordnances of the city of Boston.
GROSS: The ordnances of the city of Boston.
WALSH: And the rules and regulations.
GROSS: And the rules and regulations.
WALSH: Of the Boston police department.
GROSS: Of the Boston police department.
WALSH: So help me God.
GROSS: So help me God.
WALSH: Congratulations, commissioner.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: Boston police commissioner William Gross gets tonight's LAST WORD.
Philip Rutgers and Ashley Parker are the reporters whose story apparently drove President Trump into a tweet storm this weekend. They will join Brian in THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS which starts now.
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