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McGahn leaving the White House. TRANSCRIPT: 08/29/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ron Klain, Andrew Gillum

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 29, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, Andrew Gillum


And if you`re looking to me for some Senate insight as to why Chuck Schumer did that, I`m sorry. He`s going to have to come on your show or my show and explain it.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Here is 15 nominees free for nothing. We don`t want to take up any time. We want to make sure there is nothing on the calendar, nothing taking up anybody`s time so that we can therefore ask for a delay for Brett Kavanaugh.

O`DONNELL: Taking up time and running out the clock is the major tool that the minority in the Senate has used for generations now.

MADDOW: Only tool, yes.

O`DONNELL: So don`t ask me.

Rachel, I loved your coverage of Andrew Gillum`s win last night in Florida. He is going to join us here in this hour.

MADDOW: That`s very exciting.

O`DONNELL: Tell us how he did it and tell us what he thinks the strategy is for going all the way in that.

But we`re also going to cover this breaking news from "The Washington Post" tonight about impeachment and last week really became the week where everyone was talking about impeachment. The president was talking about impeachment, if I ever got impeached, as he said on Fox News. Now we know tonight that that`s what they`re talking about inside the White House.

MADDOW: Talking about bringing on whole new squadrons of lawyers who have never been in this White House before to try to take up the slack, almost simultaneous worries that the president may not get how much danger he`s in legally.

O`DONNELL: And, of course, the president being very jealous of Jared Kushner`s lawyer, a real lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who has actually been involved in impeachment proceedings in the past. Wishes he -- now wishes he had Abbe Lowell instead of the former mayor of New York who --


O`DONNELL: OK. I won`t even finish that line.

MADDOW: Yes, you know, I forget that technically he`s supposed to be his lawyer. I forget. I forget. O`DONNELL: Technically, yes.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

As I said, we have breaking news tonight about the president and impeachment. "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight, quote: Trump recently has consulted his personal attorneys about the likelihood of impeachment proceedings. "The Washington Post" reporting from inside the White House is based on interviews with 26 White House officials, presidential advisers and lawyers and strategists close to the administration, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

Now, let`s just remember that John Kelly was brought in to be the White House chief of staff who would stop the leaking and tonight, we have 26 leakers -- 26 in Trump world who are talking to "The Washington Post" about impeachment. Rudy Giuliani told "The Washington Post" and allowed them to use his name on this quote: We have talked a lot about impeachment at different times.

Because this is the Trump White House, the impeachment discussion is not happening in a rational and professional way. Of course, it isn`t. "The Post" reports, quote, although Trump sometimes talks about impeachment with his advisers, in other moments, he gets mad that the I-word as he calls it is raised, according to his associates, according to his leakers.

No one in the Trump White House believes that they have the right lawyers to handle an impeachment defense. The White House counsel`s office is down to 25 lawyers now. That is ten less than the White House had last year, and less than half the number of lawyers in the White House counsel`s office in the Clinton White House during the last impeachment battle.

President Trump made service in the White House counsel`s office even more undesirable today by adding a new twist to his practice of firing people on Twitter, which he did to his first secretary of state and his first White House chief of staff. Rex Tillerson and Reince Priebus both you will recall discovered on Twitter that they were fired effective immediately. Today, White House counsel Don McGahn discovered that he is fired effective some time this fall, discovered that on Twitter.

Today, Trump`s tweet firing of Don McGahn comes 11 days after "The New York Times" broke the story that Don McGahn had spent 30 hours being interviewed as a cooperative witness in special prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigation of the president of the United States. That "New York Times" headline was especially troubling to everyone named Trump on the White House payroll. Within hours of today`s tweet firing of Don McGahn, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" both had full reports from leakers inside the Trump White House about exactly how and why today`s tweet firing occurred.

According to "The New York Times," Mr. McGahn, who had been a frequent target of Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner believed the story was planted by his critics to force the president`s hand and hasten the timeline of announcing his departure.

Ms. Trump complained bitterly to her father about "The Times" report this month. And, of course, Don McGahn had no idea today`s tweet firing was coming. He was not aware that Trump planned to send the tweet before it posted, according to a person close to McGahn who is not authorized to speak publicly. McGahn, who has told many friends that he has wearily endured countless political and legal battles, saw Trump`s tweet as abrupt but typical of how the president acts and it did not make him angry, according to two people familiar with his reaction.

His reaction was, of course, it happened this way, one person said. The president`s tweet firing of Don McGahn said this: White House counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall shortly after the confirmation hopefully of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!

"The Washington Post" reports that Donald Trump and Donald McGahn have had spectacular fights. McGahn especially during the beginning of Trump`s term cautioned the president about contacting Justice Department officials. And even told associates he was concerned that Trump was doing so without his knowledge.

The two men would have spectacular fights, according to a person who witnessed some of them and leaked to the press about them. In today`s breaking news report of the discussions of impeachment in the Trump White House, "The Washington Post" reports McGahn and other aides have invoked the prospect of impeachment to convince the president not to take actions or behave in ways that they believe would hurt him. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller probably already knows exactly when and why Don McGahn has had to use the threat of impeachment to convince Donald Trump not to do something. Don McGahn`s cooperation is crucial to the special prosecutor`s investigation and possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Don McGahn was involved in all of President Trump`s suspicious activities and decisions, including the president`s firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, the firing of FBI Director James Comey after the president asked James Comey to back off the investigation of Michael Flynn, the president`s attempted firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the president`s attempted firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The attempted firings of Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller were both strongly opposed by Don McGahn, according to multiple reports.

For each of those incidents, McGahn is an important witness for the special prosecutor in his investigation of obstruction of justice. "The New York Times" original report about Don McGahn`s cooperation, 11 days ago, says Mr. McGahn gave to Mr. Mueller`s investigators, people said, a sense of the president`s mind set.

Joining us now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama. And Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Jill, I want to go on this issue with the White House counsel. We`re seeing that the president is getting rid of his White House counsel at a time when the White House counsel`s office is already dramatically understaffed, especially when you consider they are now consciously ramping up for an impeachment battle. How does this compare to the way President Nixon was represented both in the White House counsel`s office at the time of your investigation and with private attorneys?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: He had very good private attorneys, and he had a full staff in the White House counsel`s office. He fired John Dean after the investigation was well under way in the House. But before the Watergate prosecutor was appointed. So, he got fired in April, John Dean. And then Cox was appointed in May.

But he replaced the person, and there was a full staff. And so, there was no problem with that. But his timing here seems to be something that McGahn maybe is thinking was a setup that some of his enemies, his McGahn`s enemies, leaked a story to "Axios", and that that`s what led to Trump calling the bluff and saying, OK, you have been talking about resigning in the fall. Now you resigned. I`m telling you, you are out in the fall.

So, it sounds like he was pushed out in that way, even though he intended to leave.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, there is a report also within that "Washington Post" story tonight about the president being very jealous of Jared Kushner`s lawyer, Abbe Lowell. A lawyer I`m sure you know well. Abbe Lowell is maybe the single most experienced or one of certainly the most experienced lawyers in Washington for handling a situation like this. He actually represented the Democrats` position in the House of Representatives in the impeachment action against President Clinton. So, he was in effect defending President Clinton within the House of Representatives.

And, of course, Jared Kushner had no trouble going out and hiring the most professional, most competent lawyer available in Washington. Donald Trump is now looking at Abbe Lowell wishing he had him. He is quoted in "The Washington Post" as saying, another leaker, another Trump adviser said Trump remark this year, I need a lawyer like Abbe.

And, Ron Klain, he certainly does.

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, he does. I mean, he needs to stop hiring his lawyers out of the ranks of Fox News commentators, which is not really a good source for quality legal representation. Look, Lawrence, what`s happening in the White House right now is that the latest episode of White House "Apprentice" is ending like every other episode ended so far. He fired an incompetent member of the staff for all the wrong reasons.

I mean, he should have fired Don McGahn a year and a half ago for botching the Flynn thing, for ignoring the warning from the acting attorney general that Mike was vulnerable to foreign influence while he`s national security adviser. He should have fired Don McGahn any number of times for being the chief ethics officer in the White House with the very worst ethics record of any White House in history.

But instead he fired Don McGahn for the one firing offense in the Trump White House, Don McGahn told the truth. He told the truth to Robert Mueller. He told the truth about what Trump has been doing to obstruct justice. And, of course, that`s the one thing you can`t do in the Trump White House. You can`t be honest, and Don McGahn is out.

O`DONNELL: And so, Mimi Rocah, here they are in the middle of an attempt to confirm a Supreme Court justice. Don McGahn is the key player in that, in the Trump administration, and the president decides to publicly fire him on Twitter today.

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Right. But he made a point on Twitter of saying not until after that Supreme Court justice is confirmed because that`s going to be -- that`s McGahn`s legacy from Trump`s point of view. That`s why so many people stay with Trump, right, that they put up with all this nonsense that we`re talking about because they`re going to get him from their point of view the Supreme Court justice that they want.

So, you know, it`s going to make the confirmations hearings which were already going to be interesting, to say the least, more interesting. But, you know, he`s not going to let the game go until that happens.

O`DONNELL: And, Jill, we have a report about in this same report that talks about the president wishing he had Abbe Lowell as his personal defense lawyer, criminal defense lawyer, he has such a terrible eye for legal talent and legal capabilities. "The New York Times" is reporting in a separate report that he actually asked Rob Porter at a certain point to replace Don McGahn.

"The Times" reports the president asked Rob Porter, then the staff secretary, several times last year if he would be willing to take over for Mr. McGahn, an idea supported by several of his aides and his children. But Mr. Porter told the president he did not believe he was qualified for the role, felt it was the wrong fit for him. He has since left the White House amid accusations of spousal abuse.

And, Jill, Rob Porter never really worked as an attorney. No one has ever had a discussion in the history of the White House with a potentially less qualified White House counsel than Rob Porter.

WINE-BANKS: There is no question about it. And what it shows, again, is the president as a CEO is really bad because hiring good people is one of the most important things a CEO can do. And for a man who promised us the best, he has certainly not delivered on that. We`re in a bigger swamp than we`ve ever been in.

And McGahn, despite all the problems and Ron is correct, he should have done things differently in the very beginning and he`s been at the center of a lot of the problems that Mueller is now looking into. But he did at least stop firing by the president of Mueller, and he didn`t succeed but tried to stop him from firing Comey. So, he has done some things. He shouldn`t have approached Sessions about not recuing because that was clearly legally and politically required.

But he has stopped the firing of Mueller. So, the next person who is hired as White House counsel and I can`t even imagine what lawyer will take that job given the circumstances will have to face that issue of whether or not to fire. And remember that the person who fired special prosecutor Cox ended up not being appointed to the Supreme Court or being not confirmed because in large part he had fired Cox.

O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, in the president`s tweet just parenthetically, he refers to trying to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed as if that`s not as important as firing his White House counsel. That`s the important thing.

And what does this do to the point man trying to run the confirmation process? This is a job you have had.


O`DONNELL: -- in other administrations, Democratic administrations. The point man trying to do that, gets publicly humiliated, fired by the president on Twitter today. And yet, he has to try to keep the Supreme Court confirmation process going.

KLAIN: Yes. I don`t know what it`s like to be fired on Twitter because that`s never happened to me, but I doubt it is a big moral booster. I doubt this really sends Don McGahn back to work tomorrow really super psyche for tackling this problem.

Look, I do think that McGahn is focused on getting Kavanaugh confirmed. It is the big enchilada as Mimi said earlier. It is why a lot of Trump supporters or Trump allies stick with him, notwithstanding all the reasons to run away. So I do think McGahn will work very hard to get Kavanaugh confirmed.

I think it`s going to be very hard fight. Look, Kavanaugh is a controversial nominee. Democrats are feeling their oats on the side a bit. I think, you know, Trump is an unpopular president and there are a lot of issues about it.

And, you know, McGahn really has run point on the strategy of denying documents to the Democrats and trying to get Kavanaugh confirmed is a stealth nominee, hundreds of thousands of pages, he`d be the first modern Supreme Court nominee where an extensive part of his record will be denied to the Senate for its review. That`s a decision that McGahn, you know, point on and I think that`s going to be a significant one in the confirmation process.

O`DONNELL: Mimi, key line in "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that Don McGahn repeatedly used the threat of impeachment to talk the president out of doing certain things. That surely has to be a very specific angle of inquiry by Robert Mueller of Don McGahn. What were those things that the president was trying to do where you had to say the word impeachment to stop him?

ROCAH: Right, that`s exactly right. I mean, what was the underlying conduct, behavior? You know, if you scold your child, you know, what does the scolding tell you about how bad the behavior was they were doing? And, you know, as many people have said, you don`t spend 30 hours with Robert Mueller just to talk about sports.

So, you know, my guess is they were really getting into the details of that behavior. I`m sure a lot of it had to do with Trump`s -- we know about many of them and there may be some we still don`t know about consistent, you know, deliberate efforts to make this investigation either go away or get off-track. And that has just been the story from day one. And that seems like McGahn, you know, he has clearly made a lot of mistakes, and there are things you can say, good and bad about him, but he has tried to let this investigation stay on track.

So, it sounds like he`s told Mueller the truth about Trump`s, again, persistent effort to make this go away. And that is obstruction.

O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, Jill Wine-Banks, Ron Klain, thank you for starting us off this evening.

And coming up, Paul Manafort doesn`t want to go to trial in Washington, D.C., because he doesn`t like who lives in Washington, D.C. He wants the trial moved to a place dominated by Trump voters.

But before we get to that, we will be joined by the big winner in last night`s primary elections, the surprise victory by Andrew Gillum. He went from third place in the polls to making history as Florida`s first African- American nominee for governor in a major party. Andrew Gillum is our next guest.


O`DONNELL: Our next guest was the winner of the biggest upset victory in last night`s elections. Andrew Gillum who had been consistently polling in third place won Florida`s Democratic primary for governor. Andrew Gillum is the mayor of Tallahassee and he is now Florida`s first African-American nominee for governor in a major party.

He`s also now running against the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate, Congressman Ron DeSantis, who won the Republican nomination last night.

Today, Ron DeSantis said this about his opponent, Mayor Andrew Gillum.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far left views and he is a charismatic candidate. And, you know, I watch those Democrat debates, and none of that was my cup of tea, but I mean, he performed better than the other people there. So, we`ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let`s build off the success we`ve had on Governor Scott.

The last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Mayor Andrew Gillum, Democratic nominee for governor of Florida.

Mayor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for having me, Lawrence. I hope you`re well.

O`DONNELL: I am. I want to get your reaction to what we just heard Congressman DeSantis say about you.

GILLUM: Well, I`ll tell you, the congressman clearly plans on campaigning out of the Trump manual. But I think he`s going to have a real big surprise on November 6th. I think people in this state are so sick of those kinds of politics of division, racialized politics, which I think, you know, Trump tried to capitalize on in his election. I think people have learned their lesson. In this state, we`re going to send them a message on November 6th when they elect me governor of the state of Florida, coincidentally the first black governor of this state.

O`DONNELL: Were you personally offended by those comments? And are these -- are those comments an example of his racialized politics?

GILLUM: Well, I tell you, I try not to take too much of what these folks say seriously when they caricature themselves. They`re an embarrassment to themselves. I think that DeSantis can be better than this. I know our state is better than this.

And I think it`s just left to the voters to make sure that we send a very clear and convincing message that racialized politics and politics of division are not who we are. Truth be told, it`s not even what the voters want to talk about. They want to know how to get access to affordable health care, a job that pays them a wage that allows them to live on, and maybe take a vacation once a year, an education system that can educate their kids and pay teachers what they`re worth for doing the most difficult job that exists on earth which is the shaping, the molding and the cultivating of the minds of our kids.

This stuff is simply off the rocker. But I guess when you don`t have anything positive to put out there and you don`t have a vision for the future of this state, you would result to Trumpian politics.

O`DONNELL: Now, everyone has noticed that Bernie Sanders endorsed your candidacy and you were grateful to him for that. But you endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the 2016 campaign and so, it seems in your own experience, you personally have bridged what are the two most clearly identifiable camps in the Democratic Party.

GILLUM: Yes. I mean, that`s exactly how we look at it. And I`ll tell you, today, Lawrence, I had a great conversation this morning with Senator Sanders. I got a call this morning also from Secretary Clinton. We had a great conversation as well.

I think what our campaign demonstrated is that we have the ability to pull -- should you believe that it exists -- the Bernie Sanders wing as well as the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party together. And the truth is, is that we`re going to need all of the constituencies of our party to win back this state this November. In fact, I even want to bring over those Republicans who feel duped by this president who frankly wanted to see their lives improve, their job conditions improve, their health conditions improve and all we`ve gotten under this president is -- are charades and shows and insults.

We`re tired of it. We want a government and a governor who`s going to be responsive to the needs of every day working people and that`s why I believe we`re going to prevail on November 6th.

O`DONNELL: You say you`d like to reach over to Republican voters turned off by the Trump administration. If you are trying to appeal to Republican voters in Florida, you are out there on the campaign trail and a Republican voter says to you, you are a nice man or whatever they want to say about your personally, but they say I`m worried because you`re a socialist. The DeSantis message that you are a socialist.

How would you respond to a Republican voter who`s worried about you as a socialist?

GILLUM: Yes, well, first of all, I`d tell them I`m a Democrat. Have been one so long as I have been registered to vote. And then I will reflect on them.

And I say, listen, if you work your multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, you can`t be satisfied with the way things are going in this state. And right now in Florida, 44 percent of people in the state, nearly half the population is saying they can`t meet ends meet at the end of the month. If you are worried about your kids being tested to death due to high stakes tests, which don`t tell us what they know but how well they take a test, you are probably frustrated, too.

If you live in the southwestern corner of this state where we`ve got algae blooms flowing out of the east and the west side of guacamole content, then you can`t be happy with the environmental regulation undertaken under this Republican leadership these last 20 years. You got to be frustrated by that.

So, I would simply say vote your own interest. Vote your own conscience. Vote your own household. And if you vote that way, I have no doubt that you will choose me over Congressman DeSantis in the race for governor.

O`DONNELL: Congressman DeSantis says you want to get into office so that you can raise taxes in Florida.

GILLUM: Yes. Well, Congressman DeSantis is wrong on this account. I don`t want to raise taxes on every day Floridians. What we have said is that everybody ought to pay their fair share.

In the state of Florida, the corporate tax rate is lower than that of the states of Alabama and Georgia. We`re the third larger state in America. And by being a cheap date (ph), we have cheapened and been a back of the pack state on almost everything that matters.

What I want people to understand is that good corporations, good companies, good businesses, good people don`t locate to states where your education system is 40th out of 40th, where your mental health funding is 50th out of 50th, where your environment is being so harmed that you can`t even go into the ocean, that you have to be conscious about the air that you breathe or the water you drink. That impacts people`s quality of life.

And so, if we are serious about creating a state desired by everybody, which I can`t imagine why anybody wouldn`t want to choose Florida, we got to make our state the kind of state deserving the talent of our children, but it requires a governor interested in doing the right things, taking the right steps and making sure that everybody pays their fair share. Corporations have to pay their fair share too in this state which is why I advocate for a corporate tax rate increase.

O`DONNELL: Florida is a scene of two of the worst mass murders in recent American history, the most recent one being Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Your first appearance on this program was in reaction to that shooting. As a candidate for governor now, what policies do you believe Florida needs to enact as a result of that shooting?

GILLUM: Well, you`re right. And, in fact, we just had a shooting incident, in fact, two that took place in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida. One at the landing and before that, a high school football game. We know that gun violence ravages not only our communities when it comes to mass shooting incidences but there are communities that have to deal with this issue on a daily basis.

And what we simply said is that we ought to instruct and enforce common sense gun laws. If you want to own the power of God at your waist belt, you at least have a background check. I believe that if you want to shoot a gun that can fire all 60 bullets in 60 seconds, you ought to join the military, that those guns have no place on our city streets.

And I think that there are people who are common and decent in this state who really do want to see us take common sense and logical steps and we just refuse to do it. Lawrence, I think I shared it with you before, I mean I was literally sued, dragged through court for two years by the NRA and the gun lobby all because of my city, we refused to repeal an ordinance which said you couldn`t shoot guns in city parks.

I mean how ridiculous is that notion. We got to return to some sense of common and decency and safety and security for all people. And right now, the NRA has run rushed to out of the state and we got to bring it back to a more common and decent place.

O`DONNELL: Mayor Andrew Gillum, thank you very much for joining us once again and please come back and join us during the campaign. We`d like to hear more.

GILLUM: Indeed. Thanks for having me, Lawrence. Take care.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Coming up, what does Andrew Gillum`s victory mean for Democrats in Florida and Democrats throughout the country and why are voters supporting Andrew Gillum? We will hear directly from some of those Florida voters.

And later Paul Manafort really doesn`t want to go to trial in Washington, D.C. He wants to move the trial to a location that is dominated by Trump voters so the jury box can be filled with Trump voters.


O`DONNELL: We are 69 days away from the showdown between congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans in the midterm elections. And that means we are also 69 days away from what is now the historic governor`s race in the important swing State of Florida where Bernie Sanders endorsed democratic candidate Mayor Andrew Gillum who we just heard from. The first African-American major party nominee for governor is running against the Trump endorsed Republican and Trump sounding Ron DeSantis.

There was little surprise that the Donald Trump endorsed Republican won the nomination in the state that Donald Trump won. But President Barack Obama also won the state of Florida twice. So can Andrew Gillim inspire the voter turnout that delivered the two Obama wins in Florida? Here is why some Florida voters turned out for Andrew Gillum yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems to be caring about the people, instead of himself and the money that they`re putting in their pockets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was backed by Bernie Sanders and I`m a really big Bernie Sanders supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote everything against what Trump is doing with the immigrants and, you know, the poor people that got separated from their families. I think it`s disastrous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for a people who are a little more moderate in the past. But now I think we should need to go progressive and get rid of some of these old ideas.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor and Ron Klain is back with us.

And Jonathan, it looks like Andrew Gillum might be able to mobilize a turnout that other Democratic nominees for governor who are much more establishment-type candidates in the past in Florida have not been able to do.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Andrew Gillum did a few things that those candidates didn`t do before. One, he got out there early. Two, he got out there and actually asked for Democrats` votes. One thing he told me when I interviewed him for my podcast at "The Washington Post" back in June, he said the problem in Florida is that Democrats have been running Republican-like candidates and also wondering why the Republican actually won in November.

He said in Florida if Republicans had to choose between a Republican-like on the democratic side and the actual Republican, they`d go in and they vote for the Republican. And so what Andrew Gillum has done or is doing is he`s running as an unabashed Democrat and he`s going after democratic votes that have been sitting on the sidelines for several election cycles because no one has talked to them.

We talked a lot in the 2016 election, Lawrence, about the forgotten voter, those voters who came seemingly from out of nowhere to vote for Donald Trump and make him president. Well, Andrew Gillum is doing the same thing, and also Stacy Abrams in Georgia. They are running races where they are unabashedly Democrat.

They are going to democratic voters and going to them with a message that has universal appeal, healthcare, education, gun violence, gun safety. These are all issues that Democrats and Republicans care about. I think what Andrew Gillum was able to do was to show people in Florida that he genuinely believed in what he was doing and was unafraid to run as a Democrat in espousing those issues.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, the magic word in Republican campaigns used to be liberal. All they had to do was say liberal and they believed they were beating the Democrat just with that one word. They`re not confident in that word anymore, so they have upped it to socialist. It sounds like that`s going to be the word we hear thrown around in this campaign for the rest of the run.

RON KLAIN, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right, Lawrence. They`re certainly out there, socialist (INAUDIBLE racism today from Congressman DeSantis for boot. You know, I think that I agree with everything that Jonathan just said. But I have one other thing, I think Andrew Gillum is running on idealism, the idealistic idea that someone from his background can be governor of one of our nation`s largest states, the idealistic idea that, you know, people can have health care and decent jobs and decent wages and all the things.

And in some ways, he reminds me a lot of one political heroes you and I share, Lawrence, you know Robert F. Kennedy where he`s trying to bring together a coalition of working white voters and working black voters and talking about real concerns of working people, shooing corporate money, shooing the special interests and really fighting for working people in a way that is authentic. That is who he is and what he stands for. And I think that kind of authentic fight for working people is really resonating with voters in Florida

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, I want to get your personal reaction to what DeSantis said about him today and how you think he handled his own reaction to it.

CAPEHART: Well, we`re all focusing on the monkey line that he --

O`DONNELL: Monkey it up.

CAPEHART: Monkey it up, we`re all focused on that. And the thing about that particular line is the emphasis he put on monkey. But that was the third of three things that he said that I, as an African-American, picked up right away. Ask any of your black friends if they like to be called articulate in any context, and I guarantee you 9 out of 10 of them would say they really can`t stand it. DeSantis used the word he is an articulate spokesperson for X, Y, Z.

The second word he used that the more I hear it, the more angry I get about it. He said that he watched the Democratic debates. DeSantis said he watched the Democratic debates and that Gillum performed well. Not that he had good ideas that he disagreed with but he performed well. So you have an African-American who is articulate, who performs and is, you know, monkeying things up.

Someone said earlier on our air, Lawrence, that this was the equivalent of Donald Trump when he announced on June 16th, 2015 his run for president where he said Mexicans were rapists. Right out there, in the beginning, he just went there with xenophobia and racism and DeSantis has done the same thing. His campaign put out a saying, oh, no, no, no, that`s now what he meant.

But any decent person in 2018 who has any sense of empathy or understanding of where the country is right now would acknowledge the fact that what he said was something that was not just hurtful but was also offensive and has no place in American politics. But that kind of thinking is sort of pre- Trump. We`re in a post-Trump world now.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart and Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, Paul Manafort doesn`t want to go to trial in Washington, D.C. He wants the trial moved deep into Trump country. He has filed the most political change of venue motion maybe in history. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from "Politico" at this hour explaining possibly why some Republican Senators have softened the idea of Donald Trump firing Jeff Sessions or forcing Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general. Last year, so many Republican Senators were strong supporters of Jeff Sessions.

"Politico" is reporting that Donald Trump has personally been lobbying GOP Senators to flip on Jeff Sessions. "Politico" reports the willingness of Republican Senators to turn on Jeff Sessions is the result of a furious lobbying campaign from President Donald Trump who, for the past 10 days, has been venting his anger at Sessions to any senator who will listen as one GOP Senate aid put it.

Donald Trump, according to "Politico", raised the prospect of firing Sessions last week in a phone conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham and Lindsey Graham simply pressed the president to hold off on that until after the midterm elections. Lindsey Graham last year said there would be holy hell to pay if the president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Politico" goes on to report that the president is, "Seized by paroxysms of anger about Jeff Sessions."

Again, reading from the "Politico" report, it says if Sessions` recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aids and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn`t have the ivy league pedigree the president prefers, that he can`t stand his southern accent and that Sessions isn`t a capable defender of the president on television in part because he, "Talks like he has marbles in his mouth." The president has told aids.

We are joined now by Jonathan Capehart and Jill Wine-Banks.

And Jonathan Capehart, I guess we can just skip over Donald Trump`s Queens accent that some people in Alabama might be occasionally uncomfortable with but this is one attempt to explain the flipping that we have seen this week. Most recently, Lindsey Graham, most dramatically Lindsey Graham going from there`s holy hell to pay to it`s OK with me, just do it after voters cast their votes in November.

CAPEHART: You know, wasn`t it just last week, Lawrence, that the president said he didn`t like flippers? He`s known flippers for 30, 40 years and he doesn`t like flippers. It was in a completely different context, but the fact that he is, as reported, personally lobbying Senators to flip on Senator Sessions speaks to a larger issue here.

Senator Sessions, to his mind, to President Trump`s mind, should never have recused himself from oversight of the Mueller probe, which would not have been necessary had the president not fired the FBI Director Jim Comey. And in what you read about the president`s not only anger about that but about the accent and his non-ivy league pedigree just speaks to how petty and small the president is.

And then this idea that Jeff Sessions isn`t a, you know, vocal defender of the president on television speaks to, after 18 months or so in office, his willful ignorance of the role of the attorney general of the United States. Again, the attorney general of the United States is not the president`s personal lawyer. It seems as though he is still looking for his Roy Cohn.

In any department where there is a lawyer, he`s hoping someone in his direct employ will be somebody within the government who will go out there and defend him. Not the presidency, but him. And that`s not what Jeff Sessions, that`s not what the attorney general is supposed to do or was meant to do when the framers put this together.

O`DONNELL: I would love to get Lindsey Graham`s honest reaction to reading this passage in "Politico" that the president hates his attorney general`s southern accent. But Jill Wine-Banks, it`s now impossible to get an honest reaction from Lindsey Graham about anything involving Donald Trump or the attorney general. But you can see they understand, everyone except possibly Donald Trump understands that it would be disastrous for Republicans if the president were to fire the attorney general before election day this year.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think everyone should see that, and I think -- although I agree 100 percent with everything Jonathan said and could not have said it better, but I would add that it is also part of his attack on the rule of law, on the institutions of justice and democracy, it seems like it`s out of the playbook of a fascist dictator wannabe.

And it is very scary to me who believes in our democracy and our freedoms that we are being threatened by this, his attacks on the free press, his attacks on the FBI, the Department of Justice, his attack on Sessions. This is all part of his plan to take over in a way that no American should want to live under. And we have to take action to make sure it doesn`t happen. And we clearly cannot count on anyone in Congress.

As you said, the things that people said a year ago sound ridiculous in comparison to what they`re saying now. It`s a total reversal. And as Jonathan said, he didn`t like flipping. He thought it should be almost illegal. And now he wants people to flip. It`s the same thing. I believe that the kind of people who flipped to testify to the truth are the ones I want to count on.

O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, included in "Politico`s" report about this tonight, it says that Jeff Sessions has also alienated presidential son-in- law and adviser Jared Kushner. Now, Jared Kushner is a subject at minimum of the special prosecutor`s investigation, an investigation that Jeff Sessions has recused himself from. And so here we have Donald Trump and his son-in-law both being investigated by the special prosecutor, both want to get rid of the attorney general so they can get someone new in there controlling the special prosecutor.

CAPEHART: Lawrence, aren`t these the same two people who thought it would be a great idea to fire James Comey as FBI director? I seem to recall that it was Jared Kushner who was in the fire Comey camp. And if I`m wrong about that, I will come back and apologize for it. But if it was a bad idea to fire Comey, it should dawn on them, as Jill said, that it would be an incredibly bad idea to fire Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

And if the president does do it, because at this point it seems like it`s a matter of time, will that be the moment that folks on Capitol Hill find their spies? According to this "Politico" report, that might not be it but if you`re not going to stand up for the rule of law and democracy in defending Attorney General Sessions, then will the spine grow in place if the president does indeed find a way to fire Mueller or Rod Rosenstein?

At this point, and I can`t believe I`m saying this as an American, at this point I have no faith in the Republican majority on Capitol Hill. These are the same people when I was growing up who were all about the rule of law, all about standing up for our institutions, and yet when both are threatened, they`re nowhere to be found.

O`DONNELL: Jill, I want to squeeze in a mention about the change of venue motion in the Paul Manafort trial which is the strangest change of venue motion I have ever seen. Purely political. They`re saying they want basically more Trump voters on the jury or all Trump voters on the jury. They fear how many Clinton voters would be on the jury in the District of Columbia.

And it is an arguably racist change of venue motion. They clearly are saying, "Please take it out of an area where we would get black jurors and move it specifically to Southwestern Virginia in avoidance of both Democrats on the jury and black people on the jury.

WINE-BANKS: That is exactly what it is. It is a racist, awful thing to do. But it also makes no sense because I want to point out that the juror who has come forward from the current trial, from the Eastern District of Virginia, is a loyal Trump voter. She thinks that this is a witch hunt and that it`s a hoax, but she would have voted for all 18 counts against Paul Manafort based on the evidence.

And in the end, jurors vote on the evidence. They look at the facts. And whether they are Democrats or blacks in D.C. or whites in Roanoke who are Republican Trump voters, they will vote to convict if the evidence is there. So it`s a useless motion and it should be denied.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan, I got to give you a quick last word on this change of venue motion, Manafort wanting to get out of the D.C. court down to Southwest Virginia, and we`re just about out of time, so I`m sorry but go ahead.

CAPEHART: Good luck with that, and also remember that part of Virginia, there are black people there too. My family is down there.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: And that is tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.


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