Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 3, 2018 Guest: Neera Tanden, David Jolly, Tom Friedman
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening and welcome to our special Labor Day edition of THE LAST WORD.
We are now 64 days away from Election Day and the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows 50 percent of voters want Democrats to take control of Congress, 42 percent want Republicans to keep control. Enthusiasm for Democratic candidates in special elections helped Democrat Conor Lamb take a House seat away from Republicans in Pennsylvania and Doug Jones win a Senate seat in Alabama, which hasn`t elected a Democratic senator since 1992.
Voters are telling pollsters that they are more enthusiastic about voting in this midterm election than previous midterms. A Quinnipiac poll shows that the majority of voters want a check on the president of the United States. Fifty-one percent of voters say the next Congress should be a check on Trump. Forty-three percent say the next Congress should do more to help Trump.
Democrats need to win 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives. There are 25 House Republicans in districts that Donald Trump lost in 2016. And eight of those 25 Republicans have already given up and are not running for re-election.
If Democrats win control of the House, Adam Schiff would become chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Elijah Cummings would become chair of the House Oversight Committee, with the authority to investigate the many scandals of the Trump administration, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross`s business conflicts of interest, as well as the president`s business conflicts, and his possible violations of the emoluments clause of the constitution.
And the New York Congressman Jerry Nadler would be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee where impeachment proceedings originate. A Fox News poll asked voters how likely do you think it is that the special counsel Robert Mueller will find Donald Trump committed crimes or impeachable offenses? Fifty-nine percent think it`s likely Robert Mueller will find Donald Trump committed crimes or impeachable offenses. Thirty-four percent say not at all.
But impeachment is not the number one issue on voter`s minds. Voters named health care as their top issue in the midterm election. Fifty-one percent of voters have a favorable view of Obamacare, and the Fox News poll asked voters about the United States moving to the most socialistic option for health care financing, Medicare for all. And the poll found that more people favor Medicare for all than oppose it, 46 percent favor Medicare for all, 31 percent oppose it, 23 percent are undecided.
Almost a third of Republicans actually support Medicare for all. But not a single Republican member of Congress supports it. Only one Republican has flirted with Medicare for all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody`s got to be covered.
INTERVIEWER: Universal health care?
TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody. I don`t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody is going to be taken care of, much better than they`re taking care of now.
INTERVIEWER: The uninsured person --
INTERVIEWER: -- is going to be taken care of, how?
TRUMP: They`re going to be taken care of. How? I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And you know what? This is probably --
INTERVIEWER: Make a deal? Who pays for it?
TRUMP: The government is going to pay for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now: Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, Professor Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com and an MSNBC contributor, and David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida.
And, Neera, when you look at these issues that are important to voters to discover, the sleeping giant in there is health care is something that it`s easy to be surprised by given that that`s not where our news coverage is every night.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: No. But obviously, over the last couple of years and particularly over the last year and a half, voters have seen a rise in premiums. They, you know, even though it doesn`t dominate the news every day, Donald Trump has tried and worked very hard to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Republicans voted to undo the individual mandate, which has actually increased the premiums.
So, I think people look at health care issue as an economic issue and, you know, most importantly in the races that are up in these congressional races, these Republicans almost to a T voted to gut the Affordable Care Act, to deprive, you know, 20, 21, 23 million Americans of health care. And those votes are going to haunt Republicans this fall.
O`DONNELL: And, Jason Johnson, one of the big questions for Democrats has been in the campaigns for Congress, how much do they emphasize or how much do they avoid the subject of impeachment? And that`s in a country where a huge majority, according to this fall, believes that Robert Mueller will find that Donald Trump committed crimes or impeachable offenses.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: You know, what`s interesting, Lawrence, is the Republican image of the Democrat running this fall is saying we`re going to impeach Donald Trump, we`re going to investigate and grind Washington to a halt, we`re going to force your kids into gay marriage and we`re going to raise your taxes, right? That`s the Democrat they`re running against.
But that`s not how Democrats are running. They`re running on health care. They`re running on checks and balances on the government. They`re running on cleaning up corruption.
And so, impeachment I`ve always argued, that`s -- that`s a long-term goal. That`s after you have already made the playoffs. That`s only if the Democrats re-take the House by probably 30 or maybe 40 seats and then possible re-take the Senate.
So, I think impeachment is way, way down the road. Democrats are very smart to not be running on impeachment unless it works in your particular district. And I think Republicans are trying to use that as a red herring, but it`s not working because Democrats are keeping these locally based campaigns on the issues that really matter to people.
O`DONNELL: David Jolly, another part of this poll indicating it`s all about Trump. Quinnipiac poll question, is it important that a House candidate shares your view of Trump? Fifty-eight percent yes, 39 percent no, and it`s 66 percent of Republicans say yes, 63 percent of Democrats say yes. That`s basically same within the margin of error.
And so, that certainly tells you that Donald Trump is an issue.
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN: Donald Trump is the number one issue. And as much as we like to have debates over policy issues and we should, if you look at just the Republican primaries and special elections, we know among Republican voters, the singular issue, the singular litmus test is a loyalty to the cult of personality that is Donald Trump. And, frankly, for Democrats, there is a lot of currency in suggesting that we oppose Donald Trump, we oppose his leadership, we oppose and what he stands for.
I want to go to Jason`s comment a little bit, because I do think it`s been smart for Democrats to pivot to talking about corruption and, frankly, releasing a list of items they would investigate. But I do think Democrats have to be careful not to be too cute by half here. We do have a president who confessed to participating in an action that a federal judge entered into a judgment as a crime in the Michael Cohen case.
And it is important that Democrats at least recognize that and be willing to talk about how they might approach impeachment in January should they take control, because that is a legitimate issue. Will Democrats really focus on corruption or will they open an investigation into whether this corruption rises to the level of impeachment? I think they`re right to focus on corruption, but we can`t ignore the impeachment conversation altogether.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Neera. It seems to David`s point, this -- the impeachment question changed in federal court when Michael Cohen not only pleaded guilty, but he described his conduct in that courtroom, as did the prosecutor, and they included, they both included Donald Trump as a co- conspiring criminal in that very same action that Michael Cohen was describing, about paying off these women during the campaign to affect the result of the election.
It seems very difficult to try to steer away from what do we do about the president of the United States being accused of a crime when you`re running for Congress after that happened?
TANDEN: Yes. No, I think David is 100 percent right. Look, we do have situation where the president of the United States is essentially an unindicted co-conspirator as determined by a judge. And so, that is very serious. And I think the Mueller investigation is very serious.
And I think -- look, I think candidates should be really honest about this. But the point is, impeachment is at the end of the process of investigation. Robert Mueller has not issued his report. I think people should say, I think candidates should be honest and frank and say we have to go where the law and facts are.
The fact of the matter, though, is that we have evidence already in front of our eyes of corruption not only by the Trump administration but by several members of Congress, several Republican members of Congress and there is no investigation of that. There is no investigation. The Republican Congress is not lifting a finger to hold anyone in their party accountable. And that is number one -- the number one thing that has to change.
So, obviously, Democrats should hold the president accountable. They should members of Congress accountable. And if Robert Mueller reports indictable offenses, they should definitely take up those proceedings.
O`DONNELL: And, Jason, a couple of months ago, it was clear that the Republicans believed that if they accused the Democrats of wanting impeachment, that`s good for the Republicans in the midterms. It`s no longer clear to me that that is good and for the Republicans in the midterms, if it ever was, but they`re not doing it.
They`re not really out there actively accusing the Democrats constantly of being for impeachment. They`re not sending activists into Democrat`s campaign events and saying, you know, raising the issue of impeachment as an embarrassing thing for the Democrat. I don`t see Republicans any longer running with confidence that impeachment works for them and not for the Democrats.
JOHNSON: Yes. It`s hard to say I`m running in favor of a corrupt president that pays off prostitutes and insults women.
JOHNSON: Like, you know, it doesn`t work for the Republicans, just like their tax plan didn`t work out the way they thought it was going to work out. And I think this -- Lawrence, this is sort of also the larger issue here. Every single campaign is a slick, dynamic experience, right? The candidate has to be able to pat their head and rub their tummy.
So, if talking about impeachment works in your district, great. That may not work for Conor Lamb. It may work for Lucy McBath, you know, down in Georgia. I think the smart thing that I have seen the Democrats do is keep their races local and understand what matters to those particular voters to get them to the polls in that district, regardless of what anybody else does nationally.
O`DONNELL: And what worked in August doesn`t necessarily in September, or October. And we have no idea what the case against the president will be by October. We will find out in October.
We`re going to leave it there. Neera Tanden, David Jolly, Jason Johnson, thank you all for joining us.
Coming up, the day Donald Trump stood beside Vladimir Putin and said he trusted Vladimir Putin more than his own CIA director and the American intelligence community. And the most surprising moment yet in the White House press briefing room.
And later, some highlights of my favorite moment of my workday, which, of course, is when I get to chat with my dear friend Rachel Maddow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you want President Trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to do that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a summer of stunning headlines, that statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin was the most important. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. That was Vladimir Putin admitting he wanted Donald Trump to beat Hillary Clinton in the election and that he directed Russian officials to help Donald Trump do that.
And then as if reading a script handed to him by Putin, Donald Trump said this about Russia`s attack on our democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others. They said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia.
I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be. So, I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That provoked former CIA Director John Brennan to say Donald Trump`s press conference in Helsinki rises and exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. It was not short of treasonous. Not only were Trump`s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots, where are you?
Here is more of our coverage of that extraordinary day on the world stage and how members of the Republican Party reacted, including the late Senator John McCain.
O`DONNELL: History was made today and many observers tried to place this moment in history, including Republicans. Newt Gingrich said today that Donald Trump made, quote, the most serious mistake of his presidency.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: Let`s not mince words. Today was a terrible day for the American brand, for the American people and for all of our allies. We did not negotiate from a position of strength. We acted from a position of weakness.
As a result, one of the world`s worst despots walked away today from Helsinki with a win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Arizona`s retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I thought it was shameful and I never thought I`d see an American president throw the intelligence community under the bus like that, and agree with a dictator authoritarian like he did. So, it`s not a good day for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But no Republican was more forceful in criticism of the president today than Senator John McCain who issued a written statement saying: Today`s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump`s naivete, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.
Joining us now, Jon Meacham, presidential historian and author of the best- selling book "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels". He is also an MSNBC contributor.
And Richard Stengel is with us. He`s a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and a former managing editor of "Time" magazine where he once had the opportunity to interview Vladimir Putin. He is now an MSNBC political analyst.
And, Jon Meacham, placed this day in history for us. John McCain has issued language about it that is as forceful as what any as any condemning language that we`ve heard all day from anyone.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The only thing I would have said to Senator McCain`s statement is I don`t think it`s in memory. I think it might be in history. I think it goes far beyond the living memory of the country.
Just two points, looking -- one looking back, one looking forward. This is what many Americans feared in the 1790s, one of the great divisions in our as -- when we set out on the national experiment in the Constitution was that the federalists would be captives of Britain and the democratic republicans might be captives of France. And so, there was a fevered kind of conspiracism that shaped the first decade of our political history.
What`s different now is that it may not be a conspiracy theory at this point, it`s becoming evermore evident, that if the president is not an asset of a foreign power, then he really is -- the onus is now on him to explain why he continues to act this way. And so, sometimes when a duck quacks like a duck it`s a duck.
The other point in looking forward is seems to me that the unfolding narrative here is one in which this day will be at an incredibly important moment on a timeline and that to me that`s what`s scariest, because what is it that Putin really wants from this relationship. And I don`t think we`ve yet seen him try to cash the check that he clearly has in his pocket.
O`DONNELL: And, Rick, John McCain went on to say, coming close on the heels of President Trump`s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today`s press conference marks a recent low in the history of the American presidency.
RICHARD STENGEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we have a national security crisis going on as some people have said. You have an American president. The Constitution says he must take care that the laws are faithfully executed.
He went to Helsinki, stood next to a foreign dictator and sided with the dictator over our own intelligence establishment and law enforcement and Justice Department. Why is that? It`s very strange.
What happens now to all those people? You`re talking about Dan Coats before. The tens of thousands of men and women who were serving in these agencies in Washington. You have the titular head of it who has betrayed all of your interests for a reasons that nobody knows.
O`DONNELL: Just give us a quick insight into what it is like to be sitting in the room with Vladimir Putin. I think we have a photograph of you doing it. What is it that Donald Trump is falling for?
STENGEL: Well, I don`t know that he`s fallen for anything. I mean, he does -- he just seemed to admire autocrats. I mean, if you were Vladimir Putin, there will be a chill cold air coming and hitting you right now.
O`DONNELL: That`s the way it felt when you (INAUDIBLE)?
STENGEL: Absolutely. I mean, Henry Kissinger said to me beforehand, you will be surprised how little he tries to charm you. There is no affect that he has at all.
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, I want to give you another line from John McCain because I think John McCain was trying to place this in our history. He said not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary, but our President failed to defend all that makes us who we are, a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.
MEACHAM: Well, that`s the great American -- insofar as we are an exceptional country, that is where our exceptionalism has been. General Powell once said that we have gone a broad, we projected force and all we ever asked for is the ground on which to bury our dead.
And there is a lot to that. I`m not saying we`re a blameless country. Far from it. But we have, in fact, defined ourselves as what Lincoln`s called us the last best hope and President Reagan, who, Lord, God knows what he is thinking at this point, saying the last best home of man on earth.
And I think that we have reached a point where there is a significant -- it`s not irreparable, but it is a hugely significant breach in our ongoing faith with the global community. And what worries me most is the known and unknown, as Don Rumsfeld might put it, of what happens next.
Let`s say Putin -- just look at this whole week, about the last five, six days in total. What happens if Putin launches military action against, say, the Baltics? What is it that President Trump -- what about his comments at NATO suggested that he would follow an invocation of article five and actually project American force in defense of the values that not only do we have an intellectual and moral assent to, but a contractual one, a treaty one? I think that`s a great question going forward.
O`DONNELL: John Meacham and Rick Stengel, we really appreciate your invaluable perspectives on this tonight. Thank you very much for joining us both. We really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what President Trump did that led Tom Friedman to declare it is code red on America.
And later, what was Rachel Maddow`s happiest moment when chatting with me this year? The answer to that is coming up.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has attacked everyone in the world, very much including me, but never Vladimir Putin. In February, Robert Mueller`s staff announced the indictment of more than a dozen Russians accused of conspiring to hack the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign. President Trump did not attack the Russians who were indicted. Instead, President Trump attacked the investigation that led to the indictment of those Russians. And he never attacked Vladimir Putin who ordered those Russian military officers who were indicted to attack our democracy.
That stunned "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. He gave up his weekend and wrote an unscheduled column that "The Times" posted immediately. It was one of his most widely circulated columns ever and he joined us to talk about what he called Code Red in America.
O`DONNELL: Our democracy is in serious danger. That was the first sentence of an extraordinary column by "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. It almost instantly became the most viewed article on "The New York Times" Website. It describes the Trump presidency in truly threatening terms, threatening to the United States of America.
Tom Friedman was not scheduled to publish a column Sunday night, when this column was posted on "The Times" Website, but at the end of an extraordinary weekend of presidential misbehavior, Tom Friedman found himself compelled to say something. The Friedman column is one of "The New York Times" nonpartisan columns and one of the most instructive in the history of "New York Times" columns. Tom Freidman travels the world, trying to translate everything that`s happening into clear concepts that readers around the world need to know.
And now, you might not agree with everything you read in Friedman columns, but you will also learn something important in a Friedman column. The Friedman columns at their best are a continuing nonpartisan search for the world`s best ideas, and that is a search that is usually optimistic in the Friedman view. Those columns are read closely by leaders around the world, but it is entirely possible that the president of the United States has never read a Tom Friedman column. He certainly sounds like someone who has never read a Tom Friedman column.
But if -- if he reads just one, we should all hope it`s this one which ends this way: This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.
And joining us now, Tom Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The New York Times".
Tom, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
And, you know, my internal Friedman clock told me when I saw this column, this is out of sequence. He`s not scheduled to write right now, is he? This isn`t his day.
Tell us why you were moved to do this one.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIME: Well, Lawrence, it was the holiday. And I picked up the paper like everybody else and saw that Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russians and several Russian organizations for basically intervening in our last election, both to poison our politics and to tilt the election toward Donald Trump.
And I waited to see what the president would have to say about this. And he had nothing to say about it. And that struck me as not only appalling but actually frightening because up to now, Donald Trump, he`s violated the norms that we expect in a president. His tweeting, his incessant lying, his general, you know, what he speaks about people, his diminishing of others in different countries. He`s violated the norms of the presidency.
But when the president of the United States does not react to a clear and present danger, then he`s violating his oath of office. Then he is not protecting and defending the Constitution and the country. And that struck me, as I said, not only appalling but extremely dangerous. And it needed to be called out. And I think judging from the reaction of readers, a lot of people felt exactly that.
O`DONNELL: I want to read something that the president tweeted this morning. He said, "I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama. Just look at the facts. Total fake news." What`s your reaction to that tweet?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, it is probably lie number 2,342. Fact is that the Congress has imposed sanctions that he has not imposed. What would it look like? I think, Lawrence, we have to step back and say what would a real president do in this situation? He would do three things.
Now, let`s remember. This came after a week of our three leading intelligence agencies, the head of the FBI, CIA, and NSA all testifying to Congress that not only did Russia intervene in our election, they were still doing it and they plan to continue to do it in the next round of elections. And when asked the FBI director what had the president instructed him to do, therefore, he said nothing. So what would it actually look like if we had a real president, not someone who is running the Trump Organization and seems to moonlight as president of the United States?
Here`s what a real president would do. First of all, he`d give a speech to the country explaining the problem to people in a language and way that would be both compelling and illuminating for people so they understand the nature of the threat.
Secondly, he would call together all the stakeholders, state and local election authorities, all the social networks, all the people who run our federal elections, leaders of the two parties and basically lay out a plan of defense for how we are going to prevent this intervention in the future.
And the third thing he would do would call in his national security team and lay out an offense. Why are we sitting here every day reading about Russian intervention in our election, how Putin is basically using lies to divide us and poison our democracy. Why are we not selling the truth about him, all the money he`s stolen, all the people he`s basically made disappear from Russian politics? Why are we not using the truth to undermine his autocracy while he is using lies and poison to undermine our democracy?
That`s what a real president would look like. Donald Trump did none of these and it is appalling. He should be ashamed of himself.
O`DONNELL: Tom, I always look to Friedman columns for something that is hard for me to find in my own view of things and that is at least a glimmer of optimism. I am very bad at finding that when I look at things. And this is the Friedman column I would say where I can`t find the optimism. I don`t think it is in this column. But do you see something here for which we should be optimistic or can hope to be optimistic?
FRIEDMAN: No, I don`t, Lawrence, because many readers pointed this out was for me just a space issue. Why am I the one raising this? Why are you the one raising this? Where is the Republican Party? Where is his own party which claimed to, for so many years, be the daddy party, the national security party, the adults in the room? That not one of them has come out, none of their leadership, and basically called the president out on this. That`s disgusting and it`s deeply troubling. I wish I could find a glimmer of hope in this, you know.
An Israeli general once said to me, "Tom, we know why you`re an optimist is because you`re short." I said what do you mean I`m short? He said, "Yes, it`s because you can only see that part of the glass that`s half full." Well, that`s usually the case, Lawrence, but this time I cannot see any of the glass half full. We have a president that`s either compromised by Russia or is such a tolerant fool, he actually believes what he told us he believes that he asked Vladimir Putin if he did this and Putin told him no and he believes him.
That is the president who said he`s done more than Barack Obama?
O`DONNELL: Tom Friedman, thank you very much for joining us to expand on your extraordinary column at this extraordinary point in our history. Can`t thank you enough. Thank you, Tom.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Up next, my favorite moment of every workday is when Rachel Maddow says good evening to me and she`s going to do that after this break.
O`DONNELL: Viewers of this program know by now that my favorite part of the workday is saying good evening to Rachel every night. And we never know where it`s going. It`s just a kind of conversation that happens naturally from something she has just said or something that I`m going to talk about on my show. And sometimes it`s just this thing that happens. And here are some highlights of what we have had to chat about this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL. Good evening, Lawrence. Good evening, Lawrence. Good evening, Lawrence. Good evening, Lawrence and Happy New Year.
O`DONNELL: Good evening, Rachel. And as you can see and as I think you know, when a guy takes too many days off from work, this beard thing happens.
MADDOW: I am 98 percent in favor of the beard but I am 2 percent curious as to how it would look if it was just here, just this, just the mustache down to the jawline.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, you are never going to know. As you can see, the beard is gone. I know you voted for the beard but let me just tell you, the voters who were voting against it frequently used two words that were very disturbing. One of it was that Lawrence was older. It was very disturbing. And the other, even more disturbing, was the word "Bannon."
O`DONNELL: So norme (ph).
O`DONNELL: It should be a norme. When you think of all the country names in the world, it`s --
O`DONNELL: Norway, Norme. What`s wrong with the Norme? And Norm McDonalds should be the prime minister of Norme or something such.
MADDOW: The Secretary of Health and Human Services, White House Chief of Staff, a Deputy White House Chief of Staff.
O`DONNELL: You know, when we talk about TV, talking heads, most of us expect to see the talking side of the head when we`re looking at our TVs. And instead, we get that beautiful, thick head of hair back there.
MADDOW: Yes. We have this list, I got to make sure --
O`DONNELL: I get it. I get it completely.
MADDOW: I mean at some point, we`re going to come to the natural end of this cycle because Fox News is a big organization, but they only employ so many people. Once they get through the interns and stuff, they will have to either start cycling people through for a second time or will have to come up with a new strategy for how to bring new people in.
O`DONNELL: At this rate, that will be by the next Christmas party at the White House.
MADDOW: Oh. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thinking about a little bit the president and the porn star story but haven`t even mentioned it on this show. And then listening to your analysis of it, you raised a point that I hadn`t considered, which is a very important point about who paid the money?
MADDOW: Yes, I put on like a little a nosebag and glasses with those little aviator sides on it anytime I read this story. No distractions.
O`DONNELL: You`ve read more of it than I have.
MADDOW: I don`t want to talk about it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: So all the people who Donald Trump has found the time to attack and Stormy Daniels`name is not up there. Another name that`s not up there, Rachel Maddow.
MADDOW: That`s OK.
O`DONNELL: The stormy Daniels of MSNBC. Apparently, he`s so afraid of you. That`s what it means. If he hasn`t attacked you, he`s so afraid of you. He doesn`t want people to know you exist. That`s how afraid of you he is.
MADDOW: Also, there was that shark week thing between us.
O`DONNELL: That`s exactly right. Donald Trump said today, by the way -- and I really thank him for this. He said infrastructure is sexy to him. I might just put the word sexy like up on the wall behind me for the whole hour. It`s Infrastructure Day. It`s the only day I can do it. I can only do that on Infrastructure Day.
MADDOW: Good night, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tomorrow it is, it will be my first ever "New York Times" crossword.
O`DONNELL: The word congratulations doesn`t sound big enough. For this moment, this is just extraordinary. This is history making. I couldn`t be more thrilled for you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. I`m a childless, middle-aged, pot-bellied lesbian. I don`t have that much to be excited about in my life other than having a great job. This is kind of it. Like there will never be a baby but there`s this freaking crossword puzzle, and I am very very excited about it.
O`DONNELL: This is the day we`re all always going to remember where we were when we first heard Sam Nunberg speaking to Ari Melber.
SAM NUNBERG: Roger and I were treated like crap by Donald Trump.
MADDOW: Was this sort of thing where you watched and you`re very engrossed and you think you know what`s happening and then you look up, and several hours have past and the lights aren`t on, and you understand less than you did before you started watching?
NUNBERG: Actually, I`m not going to jail. Come on.
MADDOW: It was bizarre.
O`DONNELL: You are in on my secret that my workday does not begin at 8:00 A.M. but today it did.
DONAL TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`d talk to you all day, but it looks like you have a million things to do.
MADDOW: I know you are neither an early riser, nor a drinker, but part of me imagines you like in a bathrobe with a glass of red wine and watching that all happening. It`s so perfectly built for you.
O`DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani went on the other network, went on Fox News and he stayed on longer than he should have because that`s when he got to the Stormy Daniels admission.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY: And the president repaid it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I didn`t know that he did.
MADDOW: This is a very weird time. This really does feel to me like in the movie the plot is over. Like we know what happened, bad guys got caught. We have transparency now. We get how it all ends up. And so usually in the movie, we`re getting ready for the credits. At this point, I still think the credits are a long way off. Good evening, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Oh. Good evening, Rachel. I was reading the end because I want to see how the investigation turns out.
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
O`DONNELL: So toward the end of this book, James Comey says, "I am writing in a time of great anxiety in my country. I understand the anxiety, but also believe America is going to be fine." So there`s that.
MADDOW: Sleep tight, everybody.
O`DONNELL: Someone believes America is going to be fine, someone who knows an awful lot about exactly where America is right now.
MADDOW: Well, and we all have a part in making sure that that`s true. So yes, thanks very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you, Rachel. Thanks, Rachel. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Up next, the moment in the White House briefing room that surprised me the most and why I hope it happens more often.
O`DONNELL: The Trump White House press briefing has become an ugly and uninformative ritual that is almost never worth watching. And then suddenly on July 18th this summer, something finally happened in a press briefing that a lot of us have been waiting for. Here`s our coverage of that very special moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was another challenging day in the White House press briefing room because, of course, the president had again lied today by saying that no, the Russians were not currently trying to attack or continuing to attack the electoral system in the United States or any other kind of cyber attack on the United States.
And so when White House Press Secretary tried to escape a very sharp line of questioning from Hallie Jackson by calling on Jordan Fabian, the most perfect moment of White House press corps teamwork unfolded and Jordan Fabian no doubt to the cheers of millions at home who have been waiting for this kind of moment, showed us how it`s done.
HALLIE JACKSON, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Why should this credit have any credibility to Americans in what he said, if in fact, 24 hours later or in this case 3 hours later, the White House comes out and says just kidding?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, that`s not what I said. I was interpreting what the president`s intention was and stating the administration`s policy. It`s not exactly what you just explained. We never said just kidding. And I think that you can take fact that the president has credibility because he saw that he had misspoken and he wanted to clarify that yesterday which he did. So when he sees that he`s misspoken, he comes out and he says it.
JACKSON: Just to follow up on my second question. You told us the president has been --
SANDERS: Moving on to Jordan. Jordan, go ahead.
JORDAN FABIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sorry. Hallie, go ahead if you want.
JACKSON: Thanks, Jordan. You said -
SANDERS: Actually, I`m going on take a question from Jordan.
JACKSON: I don`t think any of us, at least I don`t remember, a time when the president has publicly called up Vladimir Putin.
SANDERS: I think by stating the fact that the president said that Russia interfered with our election, that`s a pretty bold callout of another world leader. Jordan, go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then Jordan Fabian did ask his question about possible future sanctions against Russia interference in our elections and Rosie Gray, White House Correspondent for "The Atlantic" tweeted, "This was a nice moment of press corps solidarity", to which Hallie Jackson tweeted, "Classic move by Jordan Fabian and big a thanks to him from our team and NBC News follow-up questions are a part of our jobs and it is helpful to be able to ask them."
And I just can`t tell you how shocked and delighted I was by the Jordan Fabian moment in today`s press briefing. And so joining us now is Jordan Fabian, White House Correspondent for "The Hill".
And Jordan, you got a standing ovation from me watching it alone at home but I`m sure you got it from around the country. Because we have watched these things, watched the core yell over each other and the precious moment of being able to ask that question is so important that no one seems to care what has just been asked or no one seems to care that Sarah Sanders is using the next question to evade the last question.
How did you decide that this was the moment? This was the moment where you weren`t going to play the game and you were going to hand it back to Hallie Jackson and let her have your opportunity?
FABIAN: Thanks, Lawrence. And look, a lot of us in the White House press corps have been talking for a long time about press corps unity and sticking together and making sure all of us can do our jobs and get the questions that were asked and answered. And I thought that was an opportunity to sort of step aside and let Hallie get her question answered because, you know, Sarah Sanders was dodging a little bit and I thought that she deserves the chance to have her question answered.
So look, we all have our questions but the briefings have been few and far between so it`s tougher to get questions in now but look, I think if we`re talking about unity, it is important that we practice what we preach and really hand the mike over if someone isn`t getting their question answered.
O`DONNELL: There was another extraordinary moment that followed your question where April Ryan was trying to fight her way in and normally there`s all this kind of yelling over each other. But there was a moment where it is like the seas parted. Everyone stops talking so that April Ryan could actually get through and, of course, Sarah Sanders refused to answer her question but I`ve never seen that happen before where people just got out of the way, just everyone just got out of the way and let April Ryan try to have her moment.
So is this a kind of recent decision that`s happening among the group?
FABIAN: You know, Lawrence, I don`t think it`s really a conscious decision where we all get together in a big group and decide this is the time that we`re going to do it. But I think a lot of reporters have seen how the briefings are going and have seen times when, like you said, people shouting over each other, people not getting their questions answered.
And I think a lot of us have taken just internally, ourselves personally, the attitude that we`re all in this together and that we all have a job to do. I know the briefings can sort of seem like a televised circus sometimes but in reality, it is a group of 49 reporters who are just trying to get their questions answered and do their job. So in order for that to happen, I think a lot of us have taken the attitude that, look, we all have our jobs to do. And everyone needs the opportunity to do it.
O`DONNELL: Jordan, it`s very clear for people watching at home that Sarah Sanders has been exploiting the process and trying to use reporters against each other to evade the pressures of what goes on in that room. And the way you handled it today is the way so many of us have been waiting to see it handled for so long. And I hope that you are treated tomorrow and in the future as the leader that you were in that room today and people follow your example. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Jordan. Really appreciate it.
FABIAN: All right. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: With just 64 days left to election day in November, campaign season kicks into high gear starting tomorrow, the day after Labor Day. MSNBC will have complete coverage of the battle for control of Congress from here on in.
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