Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 31, 2018 Guest: Daniel Dale; Jack Bryan; Jonathan Alter, Michael Tomasky, Neera Tanden, Harry Litman, David Corn
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Now it is time for "The Last Word" with Ali Velshi sitting in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC SHOW HOST: Good evening Rachel. You know, the day that Aretha Franklin passed away was right before my 11:00 a.m. show started, and we managed to get through the entire hour celebrating her life and not talking about that other guy we talk about everyday.
And I have to say, it felt like a parting gift from Aretha Franklin, that possibly the best hour I`ve had in the last two years, was because she passed away and we got to talk about her for an hour.
MADDOW: You got to talk about her for an hour and then the memorial service today --
VELSHI: Had me dancing and shaking and jimmying.
MADDOW: It needs to be preserved for all time in terms of that cultural moment of that memorial. It was just incredible thing. Thanks my friend. Much appreciated.
VELSHI: Have a great weekend. See you next wek. All right, I`m Ali Velshi in for Lawrence O`Donnell. The president of the United States loves to talk about breaking records, but he will not be bragging about the record that he broke today.
President Trump`s disapproval is now the highest it has ever been in the Washington Post/ABC News poll. For the first time, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the job that Donald Trump is doing as president and more than half of Americans, 53 percent, strongly disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing. Meanwhile, less than a quarter strongly approve of the president.
It was just yesterday that the president told Bloomberg that Democrats can`t impeach him because he`s doing a, quote, "great job." The poll shows Americans not only don`t think Donald Trump is doing a great job. It shows that nearly half, 49 percent, want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against him.
Also while Trump calls Robert Mueller`s probe a witch hunt, Americans apparently disagree -- 63 percent support the Mueller probe. Just 29 percent oppose it. Those numbers coming a day after the president threatened to get involved in the Department of Justice, which is overseeing Robert Mueller`s probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. What`s happening is a disgrace. And at some point, I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn`t straighten out properly, I want them to do their job. I will get involved, and I will get in there if I have to. Disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: At some point -- listen to that. At some point if it doesn`t straighten out possibly, if the probe into me doesn`t straighten out in a way I want, I will have to get involved. Number after number after number in the new "Washington Post" poll shows a warning to the president about his unpopularity.
It comes on the same day that the president of the United States found himself excluded from the ceremonies to remember Senator John McCain. The president is not invited, pointedly not invited to Senator McCain`s funeral on Saturday.
But even in his absence, there were reminders of Donald Trump`s legal jeopardy as his chief of staff, John Kelly, stood alongside Rod Rosenstein, the man overseeing the Russia investigation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has faced so much pressure from the president to recuse himself in the Mueller -- to un-recuse himself in the Mueller probe.
Well, they were all on hand to honor the former senate colleague, John McCain. The president spent the day dealing with new fallout in his trade war with Canada after his disparaging remarks about the United States ally leaked out. The "Toronto Star`s" Daniel Dale who will join us later this hour, reported that in an off the record portion of the president`s interview with "Bloomberg," Donald Trump said that he`s not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada. But he cannot say this publically because, "it`s going to be so insulting that they are not going to be able to make a deal."
Canadian officials saw that as proof that the president is not negotiating in good faith as he threatens to exclude Canada from a new trade deal. They reportedly confronted the U.S. delegation over that report today. Here was the president`s response at an event in Charlotte.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you say off the record, that`s a very -- it`s not a legal term, but it is a term of honor. They said, President Trump said off the record, and then they go on to this -- I said this is a first. These are very dishonorable people. But I said in the end, it`s OK because at least Canada knows how I feel. So it`s fine. It`s fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s true. Well, at least Canada knows how he feels, and the president made this threat to Canada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And if we don`t make a deal with Canada, that`s just fine. But we`ll see how it all works out. I say affectionately, we`ll just have to tariff those cars coming in. It`s a lot of money coming into the coffers of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Tariff the cars that are made by American car companies with factories in Canada. And a Republican appointed federal judge in Texas dealt the president a blow today on immigration, declining to order an immediate halt to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. Texas and seven other states had sued to stop DACA, which is the Obama-era initiative that has allowed more than 700,000 young people known as Dreamers to avoid deportation.
Joining us now is Jonathan Alter, the columnist for "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC political analyst. Also joining us is Michael Tomasky, a special correspondent for "The Daily Beast" and Neera Tanden, president of the Center of American Progress. She was Hillary Clinton`s policy director during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Welcome to all of you. Thank you for being with us, not just on a Friday night, but a holiday Friday night. There`s a lot to deal with here. Neera, let`s start with this, the DACA decision. Things are not going the president`s way in terms of Daca. The president -- this judge put out a long report in which he agreed that the Obama administration may not have had the authority to implement DACA, but he did not agree to suspend this, as was requested.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Absolutely. And I think that the news here really is that the White House has really tried to use immigration issues across the board as part of really a campaign strategy. I think they saw overturning DACA at this point in time, a judge overturning DACA as an opportunity to make this another issue in the campaign, just like they tried to have their failed family separation policy as something that was helping them.
And honestly, I think the federal judge has really taken that away from them. And despite the fact that they`re running -- the GOP is running basically anti-immigrant ads everywhere, I think that is going to fail when a fuel like this is taken away from them.
VELSHI: Jonathan, of the assembled crowd, you and I are old enough to remember when NAFTA came to be and before that the Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the fact that that came off the auto pact between Canada and the United States which is a very active decision to create assembly in Canada for American company cars at the time.
The president is treading on dangerous water here. He torpedoes the talks with the Canadians and then says the answer will be to tax cars coming in from Canada. That ultimately shows a poor understanding of basic economics.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It does and Canada is our biggest trading partner. A big chunk of the U.S. economy depends on that relationship. So, he`s playing with dynamite here. He`s got Jared Kushner negotiating against Chrystia Freeland, who some viewers might remember from when she appeared often on MSNBC and CNBC.
VELSHI: Correct. She`s a colleague of ours.
ALTER: Tremendously bright and talented foreign minister of Canada. And, you know, she got handed a real advantageous use of information today. So, she has a lot of leverage over Trump. And one thing that nobody has even mentioned is that the deal requires Canada`s participation. In other words, by law, the United States cannot make a separate deal with Mexico and leave Canada out, which has not been mentioned.
VELSHI: Michael, I think most surprising was what the president said where he said if this thing doesn`t straighten itself out, referring to the Russia probe, he will have to get involved with the Justice Department. That`s more than he said. He`s made that kind of comment before. But that`s more serious than this is a witch hunt, I don`t like it, it`s unfair. There is no collusion.
The I have to get involved in the -- Justice Department is not the commerce department. It`s not the Department of Labor. It`s different from the executive branches. The president threatening to get involved is dangerous.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it is very dangerous and it`s not going to work very well for him. I have news for him. So, to return to the poll numbers, Ali, that you started the segment with, this poll is, you know, perhaps -- perhaps it is an outlier because the numbers are much worse than other recent polls. On the other hand, perhaps it is the first poll to take in the full sort of psychic response to Americans to everything that has happened in the last couple of weeks.
The Cohen plea, the Manafort verdict and a subsequent development since then. Americans don`t pay attention to the specifics the way the four of us do, but they pay attention to broad things. They pay attention to the big things that happened. The stunning number in that poll is that 53 percent strong disapproval. I don`t think that I have ever seen in my adult lifetime and John and Neera can check me.
I don`t think I`ve ever seen a strong disapproval of the president above 50 percent in my adult lifetime. And if he were to try something along the lines you are suggesting, Ali, especially with those numbers in the poll that show the 63 percent support for the Mueller investigation. There is another number that you didn`t cite, 53 percent believe that Trump probably obstructed justice.
VELSHI: Let`s put that up because I think this is important. That`s another 53 there, 53 percent. The question was do you think Trump has tried to interfere with the Mueller probe in a way that constitutes obstructing justice. It is a very specific question, Michael. It is not a random, do you think he meddled in it.
Fifty-three percent said yes. Thirty-five percent said no. That 35 percent continues to be a base that the president enjoys. Until the, you know, he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and he`s probably got that 35 percent.
TOMASKY: Yes, but the 53 stuck out to me, Ali, and that was higher than I would have expected it to be by seven, eight, maybe even 10 points. And that shows that if he were to try something like you suggested, that would have been trouble for him.
VELSHI: Neera, go ahead.
TANDEN: Yes, I think what`s really interesting about this poll is, you know, basically Donald Trump has been attacking the Mueller probe and undermining the probe and attacking the honesty and veracity of both Mueller and himself as well as the whole process. He`s obviously trying to make the American people think there is something wrong here.
And what`s really happened that this poll demonstrates, and I think Michael is right, that this may just really be the beginning of a hardening of public opinion post Manafort and post Cohen.
VELSHI: Yes. Post Manafort. That`s right.
TANDEN: But what I think is happening here is this entire strategy of Donald Trump has backfired. You can look at a person, a common criminal who attacks the prosecutor all the time, who tries to undermine and say that person looks guilty. And if you see this 53 percent number, it`s basically the American people saying, you know, his behavior is confirming in front of our eyes that he`s guilty.
A lot of pundits have said this is a smart strategy to kind of undermine the investigation because his base is hard. That`s true. But with independents it has truly backfired. And I have news for the Republican Party. It is not just Republicans who are going to be voting this November. Democrats, but a lot of independents as well. And they are turning against the party.
VELSHI: Well, this is interesting because this starts to reflect -- in fact, when you look back at 1973, this starts to reflect something --
VELSHI: -- that people are really turning. And Republicans back then only decided that they were turning on Richard Nixon when they realized the public was turning on them. Let`s look at another piece of this poll. This is after the Manafort verdict, the question of whether Trump should pardon Manafort, 66 percent oppose and 18 percent support -- 118 percent.
That`s almost half as much as he typically gets. So, even people in his base. Even people who turn away from Donald Trump for nothing that he does are saying, come on. This is actually a bridge too far. It is hard to know, Jonathan, what the bridge too far is with Donald Trump. But for some people this is it.
ALTER: Eighteen percent believe the world is flat. You know? I mean, you can get 18 percent for anything. So that is a really, really low number. And I think there are a number of other things that have happened in the last few weeks. I mean, we haven`t mentioned John McCain. You know, he just beat Donald Trump in a landslide, even though he was -- you know, he had died.
And the contrast there I think was very, very powerful in the last 10 days when they were in the field with that -- with that poll. And so you had a lot of Republicans and independents who outnumbered Democrats and Republicans in this poll. They are now the number one political force in this country by about seven or eight points where people identify themselves as independents, than Democrats, than Republicans bringing up the rear.
And the various things that they`re trying to do on the Republican side to rally their base, are not working. For instance, they thought that they were going to turn a young woman who was tragically killed in Iowa, Mollie Tibbetts. They thought they were going to turn her into a household word.
And before, you know, she had even been buried, Newt Gingrich was politicizing this. Then Mollie Tibbetts` father comes out at the funeral and says we don`t blame the Latinos in Iowa. They`re part of our family and part of our community and it completely took that issue away from them, what they were expecting to run on this fall.
VELSHI: Michael, watching the services for John McCain, now, this is a guy -- let`s not kid ourselves, as we continue to venerate him as I have done. He`s a man who has had his failings. And by the way, he was a conservative. He absolutely was.
And yet it showed us in this last few days what an independent spirit brings to whatever your political persuasion is and what this country can be if we are prepared to listen to each other or prepared to make compromises. It has been sort of a celebration of the fact that maybe that is not dead in our political spirit.
TOMASKY: That`s right. And it doesn`t have that much to do with politics or it transcends politics. He lived an honorable life. Whether you agree with his politics or not, he lived an honorable life. And then there are those that didn`t live, haven`t lived such an honorable life. I bet you they are hiding Donald Trump`s smartphone tonight at the White House because he is going to be watching that tomorrow and he`s going to be boiling and he`s going to want to be tweeting and they`re going to want to keep him well away from that phone of his so he doesn`t tweet anything.
VELSHI: I think that would be an interesting thing if it were to happen. Thank you for joining me on this Friday night. Jonathan Alter, Michael Tomasky, Neera Tanden. I appreciate it.
Coming up, in a meeting more than two years ago, the author of the Trump- Russia dossier reportedly told a Justice Department lawyer that the Russians had Trump, quote, "over a barrel."
And another associate of Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to a federal crime. He has agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller`s team. That`s up next.
VELSHI: Another guilty plea from a lobbyist with ties to Russia threatens to bring Robert Mueller`s probe closer to Donald Trump. Sam Patton, there`s a name you haven`t heard before -- an associate of Paul Manafort pleaded guilty today for failing to register as a foreign agent while lobbying on behalf of a Ukrainian political party that was launched by Manafort. Patton is cooperating with the special counsel as part of his plea deal.
He also admits to helping two foreign nationals, one from Ukraine and one from Russia make an illegal $50,000 donation to President Trump`s inauguration. As the "Washington Post" reports, Mueller has been probing whether foreign money flowed into the coffers of Trump`s inaugural committee which raised more than $100 million. And Patton`s plea offers the first evidence that it occurred.
This revelation comes on the last business day before Labor Day as many in Washington braced for the possibility of more indictments stemming from the Russia probe. This is the deadline that Donald Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani set for Mueller to be finished with his investigation or wait until the midterm elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think if it isn`t over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules that you shouldn`t be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: With the midterms only 67 days away, it is possible we may not hear from Mueller until November. But Giuliani says the Trump legal team is already working on a report to refute Mueller`s conclusions. I may have them, by the way. And a new report by "Axios" breaks down the list of possible evidence that Mueller may have on Trump that has not yet been made public, including -- you get a pen for this. You may want to write this down.
Trump`s tax returns, Trump`s bank records, internal Trump organization records, more recordings from Michael Cohen, cell phone records related to the Trump Tower meeting, White House and campaign e-mails and text messages, contemporaneous notes if White House staffers from meetings with Trump.
A full reconstruction by former National Security adviser Michael Flynn of his conversations about Russia and subsequent lies, hours of testimony from Trump insiders about his private dealings and decades of salacious files that the "National Enquirer" collected on Trump.
Joining us now is Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under president Clinton and David Corn, Washington Bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and co-author of the book, "Russian Roulette." He`s an MSNBC political analyst, and that`s a book you need to read.
Guys, I`m glad I have you here to close out this week before Labor Day because so much has happened. Harry, let`s just tell people who weren`t sure why Rudy Giuliani said that September 1st -- he was also talking about September 7th -- why these are deadlines. They are two months away, depending on how you look at it from the election. September 1st is -- no, September 7th is 60 days exactly.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. Well, Giuliani was asserting that there is a DOJ policy that, as he put it, you don`t conduct investigations of this sort near an election. He was, if not 100 percent wrong, 99 percent wrong. The policy, which is more of a guideline, is that you don`t take certain overt acts that would directly influence a particular campaign.
Nothing about an investigation. You expect Mueller to completely continue with his work. And indeed Donald Trump isn`t on the ticket, so really it is not even clear if any of it would apply. But that`s what he was saying. And of course it may have backfired because now, by his own terms, it may give rise to an expectation that Mueller won`t do anything for these 60 days. Sixty days from now, the landscape looks very different. We know whether or not the Democrats have taken over the House, and that would be potential seat change.
VELSHI: And legally, as we have discussed this week, that would be a seat change for the White House. David Corn, let`s talk about this guy Sam Patton. It`s a name nobody has heard before, and on the surface, why do we care? Some guy made a donation on behalf of some Ukrainian or some Russians to the inauguration committee. What`s that all about anyway?
But dig a little bit deeper and you find out this guy, Sam Patton, was a contractor for Cambridge Analitica. This guy worked for a political party that Manafort help found, This is a Russian backed political party in Ukraine. Tell me how you think this fits into the bigger picture.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, if we had Carrie Mathison from "Homeland" on, she`d have a tremendous wire chart just on this guy alone. Cambridge Analitica, Paul Manafort, Ukrainian party that Manafort lobbied for that`s close to Russia, a Ukrainian oligarch and, best of all, a former Russian military intelligence officer in Konstantin Kilimnik, who is also a partner of Paul Manafort.
This guy is connected to all these folks. They are all mentioned in some way or another in this agreement. And, you know, it is a discreet case. He didn`t register as a lobbyist for Ukraine, but I think the two key things here are the donations that he admitted to making through, you know, straw men, sort of phony donors from Ukrainian sources.
We know that federal prosecutors have been looking at the Trump inauguration committee for perhaps taking in foreign money, which is not supposed to. It is illegal to do that. And here is the first evidence that it happened. "Mother Jones" reported a long time ago that the cousin, an American cousin, but a cousin of Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, gave $100,000 to the inauguration, too.
So, there is a lot of things to examine. The other key thing is, and it hasn`t gotten a lot of attention, Sam Patton as part of his agreement admitted to lying when he testified privately to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why is that a big deal? Well for one, it is against the law to lie to Congress.
CORN: But if we`re now going to start investigating witnesses who lie to Congress, there have been questions raised about the testimony of Donald Trump, Jr.
VELSHI: Right. That list could be long.
CORN: Michael Cohen and the likes of others. That could be a whole new horizon for Mueller.
VELSHI: So, Harry, as expected, Rudy Giuliani was asked to comment on this by our own Garrett Haake. Let`s listen to that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: It`s nothing to do with the president. Nothing to do with collusion. Everything to do with a lobbyist who acted improperly, who the president doesn`t know. I mean, so far every indictment is unrelated to the president. We went through an entire Manafort trial and there wasn`t a single mention of the president.
GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well this is related directly to the inauguration.
GIULIANI: Well, not to the president. I mean, millions of people donated to the president, the inauguration. If they get caught violating something, that`s connected to the president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Harry, it is an interesting P.R. strategy. It`s the same one that Giuliani employs every single day. It is not actually a legal strategy. It is not legally sound what he`s talking about.
LITMAN: No, it really isn`t. Look, and it`s not the president, it`s all the president`s men. Sam Patton, you`re right, is a new name. But you dig a half inch and you all of a sudden get a second mention of names we have heard before.
LITMAN: Some of them David just mentioned, but it begins to tie together very closely. And let`s just talk about the inaugural committee. That`s what Trump put together with his biggest money men, names we have heard before like Elliot and Sam (inaudible). Even the famous Anthony Scaramucci. Rick Gates runs the operation and they take in record amounts of money and don`t seem to have spent it on very much at all. That`s a whole problem. But in general, we are now zeroing in on the money people who are closest to Trump. So that`s big in itself.
VELSHI: Guys, thanks very much for your company tonight and your analysis. Harry Litman, David, stick around because I have another comment to talk to get your analysis on after this break.
Coming up next, trade negotiations between the United States and Canada have broken off after inflammatory off the record remarks made by President Trump emerged in a Canadian newspaper.
Also, digging into the complex Trump-Russia relationship, a new documentary out today lays out all of the connections between team Trump and oligarchs, mobsters and Putin allies going back decades. The director joins us. But first here is a preview of "Active Measures".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is who do you believe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin has worked to undermine democracies across the globe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made his way up through the KGB.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He learned how to maneuver politically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian mafia is an adjunct of the Russian government.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they helped maintain Mr. Putin`s power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the point where Putin may well be the wealthiest man on the face of the planet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does Russia launder money into America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything I know that`s interesting I can`t tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russians have a particular type of mark. They go after somebody who has business resources, shady morals and political connections or aspirations. I have just described Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin realizes that if we are divided as a nation, we cannot protect ourselves from threats within and without.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what you have is probably the biggest intelligence breach in the history of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crown jewel for any intelligence agency is to recruit an asset inside you adversary`s intelligence agency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They seem to have premonitions of things that were going to happen that in fact did happen.
CLINTON: The question is who helped guide the decision that the Russians were making?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump Tower was a money laundering paradise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who was anybody in Russian organized crime bought a condo unit at Trump Tower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a serious intelligence operation in the home of the man that becomes president of the United States. I think this is the tip of the iceberg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s at stake is truth and it`s the cause of liberty at the most profound level possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I gave an interview yesterday to "Bloomberg Business" and I said off the record and I made a statement about Canada, which is fine because I love Canada, but they have taken advantage of our country for many years. They say, "Oh Canada, we love Canada. I do too. I even love their national anthem. It`s called, very appropriately, Oh, Canada.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was President Donald Trump this afternoon complaining that disparaging off the record comments that he made about the Nation of Canada were reported this morning. Contrary to what the president said, "Bloomberg" did not violate its off the record agreement about those comments, instead another outlook, "The Toronto Star" obtained the president`s comments independently and were not bound by the same off the record agreement.
The result of all of this is that those disparaging comments are now part of the public record. And because of that, we know that despite the president`s claim that he loves Canada and its national anthem, Trump was prepared to concede absolutely nothing to Canada during the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
The president told "Bloomberg" that if Canada knew what his position was, it would be "So insulting" they`re not going to be able to make a deal. Well, those comments appeared to have sullied the president`s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. According to "The Toronto Star", Canadian officials confronted Trump`s negotiators with those comments at a meeting today and then talks broke down.
Now, Canada and the U.S. have officially missed the president`s self- imposed deadline to strike a deal that would bring Canada into the preliminary agreement that Trump made with Mexico. Negotiations between the two countries will continue into next week. For more on what this means for both the United States and Canada, I turn to the reporter who broke this story, a fellow Toronto, Daniel Dale, the Washington Bureau Chief at The Toronto Star.
Daniel, this is a remarkable story. There was nobody who really thought that negotiations between the United States and Canada were going particularly well but it`s a real turn from the relationship that Canada and the United States have had over the long term and what it looked like might be working out between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau at the beginning of his administration.
DANIEL DALE, THE TORONTO STAR: Yes, they started off on very warm terms for whatever reason. The president seemed to like the liberal, very different multilateral charismatic, you know, inclusive prime minister, very different from him. But things soured and they seem to sour in the wake of Trump`s decision to impose steel tariffs.
Trudeau criticized him. Trump didn`t like that, took strong exception and has seemed to go out of his way at every available opportunity, whether it`s a rally or other event to belittle him as Justin, never using his last name and taking pot shots at Canada`s dairy policy, which is very criticizable. You know, there are issues there but Trump has made this a personal hobby horse seemingly out of the blue.
VELSHI: Daniel, I want you to put this into context for us. I want to put up a poll from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It was taken in late July once we were well into this trade war with the world. The question was, is NAFTA good or bad for the economy? It was a question of Americans. Overall, 63 percent say good, 32 percent say bad. Republicans, a smaller percentage say good and bad. Democrats, a larger percentage say good and bad. And with independents, it breaks two-thirds in favor of NAFTA.
Even in Canada, not everybody likes NAFTA. Not everybody thought it was a great deal but in the end, it is kind of imperative for these two countries, which now have the second largest trade relationship after China and America, it is imperative for these two countries to figure something out. Is it going to happen?
DALE: I can`t say, Ali. I mean we don`t know for sure. I think, you know, Canada`s ideal outcome might be just dragging this on as long as possible and then having Trump not terminate the existing NAFTA. Just keeping the status quo is I think privately what Canada would want. But the risk therein not making a deal is that the longer you don`t make a deal, the longer you risk this president who we know is impulsive or erratic, acts on impulse terminating it.
You know, following through on his threats, which is deliberate since 2015 and saying, you know, to heck with all this. We`re not doing a free trade agreement at all. And that I think would be a very damaging outcome for the Canadian government.
VELSHI: And it`s not just that. The president has said, "We`ll just slap tariffs on cars made in Canada coming into the United States." Again, there is a lot of contexts there because Canada and the United States have been exchanging cars and car parts for 70 years now or 60 years, something like that. Starting with the auto pack and into the free trade agreement. It is a serious threat. It may not be economically viable for the United States but it`s serious.
DALE: It`s a very serious threat. You know, we have this big up over the steel and aluminum tariffs. Automotive tariffs would worse the economic impact of that and certainly not to the Canadian economy but, you know, it`s many times the size and it would damage, you know, states and provinces on both sides of the border and Trump seems to be inclined to impose tariffs. He seems to enjoy his ability to impose tariffs, you know, at his will and he`s not letting up on this threat.
So Canada, in addition to wanting to safeguard this trade deal overall, it really really wants to avoid automotive tariffs.
VELSHI: Daniel, good strong reporting. Thank you for joining us tonight. Daniel Dale with "The Toronto Star".
DALE: Thank you.
VELSHI: This just in. President Trump still has his smartphone. He just tweeted that Rasmussen has his approval at 48 percent and he tweets about The Washington Post ABC poll that shows him at 60 percent disapproval. "I call it a suppression poll."
Coming up next, if you want to understand the allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia, do not focus on the 2016 election. At least, that`s the message from a new documentary claiming that collusion goes back decades.
VELSHI: The FBI and the Justice Department are looking into connections between President Trump, the Trump campaign, and Russia. Bruce Ohr, a former senior justice department lawyer, revealed new information about the Trump-Russia relationship in a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees this week.
According to the "Associated Press", Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Trump dossier, this man told Bruce Ohr that a former Russian official believed Russian intelligence, "Had trump over a barrel." Had trump over a barrel. This meeting between Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele took place on July 30 of 2016, just one week after the first batch of hacked DNC e-mails were released by WikiLeaks and exactly three days after then-candidate Trump asked Russia for some help.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you are listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
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VELSHI: OK. There is no disputing the fact that Russians were caught working to hurt Hillary Clinton`s campaign and help Donald Trump`s campaign in the 2016 presidential election. That`s not really up for dispute. And Donald Trump still never criticizes Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has surely left Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wondering whether Vladimir Putin has something on Donald Trump.
It looked that way in Helsinki, didn`t it? It`s a question the entire world has been wondering about, especially after Helsinki. Now, all of this, not Helsinki, everything that came before it, years before it, decades before it, is explored in Jack Brian`s new documentary called "Active Measures" which takes viewers through a multi-decade plot to get Donald Trump under the Kremlin`s control as a conduit for money and influence at the highest levels of American authority.
Active Measures outlines Russian efforts to manipulate world events, particularly the 2016 American presidential election. Here is a clip from "Active Measures" about how Russians interfered in the election that put Donald Trump inside the White House.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were seeing this dangerous, troubling activity coming from the Russians that was actually in our electoral system.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government officials learn that they`re actually going into state voter databases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may have been 26 different states where there were efforts made to penetrate. That`s disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The key to flipping the election without leaving a trace is the voter rolls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would only take a small digital switch to make that happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really spooked officials in the White House, and that`s the moment, I think, that the enormity of the Russian influence campaign really started to hit home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that there was that attack on the fundamental, the absolute fundamental of free and fair election should alarm all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Russians didn`t care if we found out. This is pretty new.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They stole the data. Let`s be clear about that. I don`t like this word hacking. This is theft. If the Russians walked into my house and took something out, this is exactly the same thing. And I think the problem that a lot of Americans have with it is that they don`t see it, they don`t think of it that way.
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VELSHI: Active Measures opens today in theaters and on digital platforms. The director of the film, Jack Bryan, joins me next.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, do you, does the Russian government had any compromising material on President Trump or his family?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he visited Moscow. A distinguished colleague -- let me tell you this. When President Trump was in Moscow back then, I didn`t even know that he was in Moscow. Please just disregard these issues and don`t think about this anymore again.
TRUMP: And I have to say, if they had it, it would have been out long ago.
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VELSHI: All right. Joining us now is Jack Bryan. He`s the director, writer, and producer of the new documentary "Active Measures." David Corn is back with us as well because he`s a real expert on these things.
Jack, let`s just talk about this film. Active Measures refers to -- I think our friend Clint Watts of the FBI used that term in his testimony before Congress, the idea that Russian influence campaigns were becoming very active in getting an outcome in politics and business in the United States.
JACK BRYAN, DIRECTOR OF ACTIVE MEASURES: Yes, Active Measures is an old Soviet term that refers to political warfare by non-RECMINs (ph), usually intelligence operations. And they`ve been doing this since the 1930s to America, social media and having access to people in America made it much easier for them to do but it is an old technique and it`s no playbook.
VELSHI: So your thesis in here, and then it`s very interesting that you don`t really narrate this here. Your voice is I think heard once in the entire film. Your thesis here, you`ve used evidence and numbers and interviews to say that this effort, these Active Measures that the Russians took were in some cases very specific to Donald Trump and go back decades.
BRYAN: Indeed. And, in fact, they didn`t start as presidential aspirations. Initially, it just started off as money laundering in a kind of casual way. Trump Tower was only the second building in New York that allowed shell corporations to purchase units, so it became this perfect vehicle for laundering money.
Then in the 2000s, 2004 and really I should start in the early `90s but going up to 2004, Trump starts having a series of bankruptcies and he finds it incredibly difficult to get money for C capital for projects. And that`s where the Russian mafia sees an opportunity and that`s when they actually entered the Trump Organization and start leasing space in Trump Tower and actually working directly for Trump.
VELSHI: So it`s opportunistic. Now, David Corn, I want to bring you in on this because you`ve written a book about the circumstances surrounding. But in the week, there`s a review of Active Measures written by Noah Millman in which he writes this about the film.
"Russia has shown a willingness and ability to involve itself in the politics of other nations, not only with a view to promoting its interest directly, something plenty of countries love before, but to fracturing their societies and weakening their political systems, spreading suspicion and animosity between social groups and political actions keeps those nations from posing a coherent challenge to Russia and its oligarchic elite."
That`s an interesting thesis, that this is work to break up others, weaken others so that by reference, Russia remains strong.
DAVID CORN: And Jack`s right, there are decades of evidence of Soviet and then Russian active measures. And when the KGB was doing this, a lot of times they really took aim at divisions in American Society, how to, you know, make America seem more racist during the civil rights struggle when southern whites were beating up blacks. They would really look for these points of wedge issues and try to figure out how to get in there to embarrass America across the world and also cause political conflict here.
And we saw with the social media campaign, you know, the Facebook ads, and groups, and the phony tweets and the Russian bots, a lot of what they did was not directly aimed at the election. Some of it was.
CORN: But a lot of it was just sort of fueling divisions that already exist in our society. It`s part of their asymmetrical warfare strategy against us.
VELSHI: This is important. Jack, because in the movie, you show election machines and things like that. But when people come on our air and say, "Well, prove to me that one vote was changed," your argument is much bigger than that, that it`s not the ballot box, it`s the minds that were changed because of influence by Russians.
BRYAN: Well, it`s a multifaceted attack. I think that`s the most important thing to remember that it wasn`t just one intelligence operation that was let loose in America. It was several. And some of them have been going on for over a decade beforehand and then turned towards this. So a lot of it was absolutely just trolling but they absolutely did hack the voter databases, not the machine themselves.
VELSHI: Voter databases, we know that. Yes.
BRYAN: Yes. And so there were definitely different legs to it, that there was the hacking, there was the disinformation, there were the agents of influence. But certainly, I would say that the trolling and that aspect of it was a massive, massive part of the operation.
VELSHI: In July, Quinnipiac University took a poll and asked people does the Russian government have compromising information on Trump, 51 percent said yes, 35 percent said no. Again, that 35 percent represents a base that won`t be shattered even if, as Donald Trump says, he`s going to shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.
But Jack, you`ve come to the same conclusion, when someone told an investigator that they`ve got Donald Trump over a barrel, you seemed to agree with that.
BRYAN: Yes. And I think that everybody focuses on the sex tapes, which I think to an extent is appropriate. I think there is a lot of smoke there. But I think that we can be simpler than that. What they know he has done is they know he has committed financial impropriety. And because he lives in a rule of law country and they don`t, they have him over the barrel.
VELSHI: Jack Bryan, thanks very much for making the film. David Corn, thanks very much for reading your book, for writing your book. Tonight`s last word is next.
VELSHI: Time for tonight`s last word, which is fit for a queen.
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BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She lived with courage. Not without fear, but overcoming her fears.
CLINTON: She lived with faith. Not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power. Not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses. I just love her.
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VELSHI: Bill Clinton gets tonight`s last word. Tomorrow morning, we`ll say a final goodbye to John McCain. Barack Obama and George W. Bush will be giving eulogies at McCain`s funeral in Washington, D.C. Special coverage starts tomorrow morning on MSNBC at 8:30 A.M. Eastern.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.
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