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GOP fearing midterm "shipwreck." TRANSCRIPT: 09/12/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Ron Klain, Jeff Merkley

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 12, 2018 Guest: Eric Swalwell, Ron Klain, Jeff Merkley


And I`m so glad you highlighted Senator Hirono`s questions for Brett Kavanaugh because we watched a lot of it live, but for some of us we couldn`t watch all of it live and we caught up at different times. I caught up with Senator Hirono`s comments after the fact and tweeted them as soon as I could.

For me, it was really possibly was the most stunning exchange in the entire hearing. What Brett Kavanaugh said about the Native Hawaiian peoples was just stunning. And just the blithe ignorance he demonstrated about that was just an amazing thing to see exposed.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": And Mazie Hirono is meticulous. I mean, all senators have their skills and their talents and what their known for. Mazie Hirono is really, really meticulous and specific in the way that she approaches everything that she works on in the Senate. And so, when she was going so hard in that language on the issue, I think people were trying to figure out is this just a Hawaii thing for Senator Hirono? Is this something that she where is this all going?

And when she was able to turn her own language, her own knowledge of constitutional law to say, yes, this is problem for my constituents who are Native Hawaiians, but for native Alaskans, this is even worse and Alaska needs to know about it. She singlehandedly, I think, opened the country`s eyes to that being real problem in Kavanaugh`s nomination, and a real political problem for confirming him.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and I didn`t see it coming. As it was unfolding, exactly the way you described, and then when she makes that turn to Alaska, that was the great aha moment, like yes, now I know, now I get it. It was really amazing.

Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, with just 55 days until the congressional elections, new polling tonight indicates that the situation is much, much worse than anyone thought for the president of the United States and the Republican Party. One Republican strategist told "The Washington Post" that the Republican congressional campaign is now a shipwreck. It`s a shipwreck now. And Republicans are not only on their way to losing the House of Representatives but they are now panicking, that they could lose the United States Senate.

That means it`s all up for grabs now, the whole thing, the whole Congress. If the Democrats get the House and they get the Senate, that means the Trump presidency will effectively be ended. Not one Republican piece of legislation would make it to the president`s desk again, and the Democrats on the Senate could stop all Trump nominations for every office from even coming to a vote, including a nomination for attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions or possibly another nomination to Supreme Court.

Donald Trump, of course, could not care less about being able to sign a Republican infrastructure bill, which they would never get passed anyway or any other piece of legislation. But Donald Trump does care desperately about the possibility that he would be impeached by a Democratic House of Representatives and then face an impeachment trial in a Democratic- controlled Senate. New polling on impeachment is turning against the president.

At the beginning of the summer in June, 42 percent said President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, and 51 percent said he should not. And now in that very same poll 47 percent say president Trump should be impeached and removed from office and 48 percent think that he should not. Those numbers are going in the wrong direction for the president.

The latest impeachment polls come after an anonymous op-ed piece from inside the Trump administration says there is a resistance to Donald Trump within the Trump administration, an anonymous team of Trump administration officials who are resistors, who work against the president`s wishes to prevent his most dangerous impulses from turning into action. The new impeachment polling comes after the arrival of Bob Woodward`s stunning new book on the Trump presidency called "Fear", a title that captures most Americans` feeling about the Trump presidency according to the new poll.

Forty-seven percent of the country is ready to impeach and remove Donald Trump from office right now, right now. And they have not heard one word yet about Donald Trump from special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Imagine what will happen to that number with the country does know everything that Robert Mueller knows. What are the chances of that 47 percent going down?

President Trump doesn`t think it will go down, and new reporting indicates he is in full panic over the prospect of being impeached by a Democratic House and now possibly tried by a Democratic senator. "Axios" reports tonight, a few months ago, he was scoffing at midterm consequences for him, but now Trump has heard the dire warnings for enough advisers that he`s shifting into salvation mode, sharpening his campaign rhetoric and privately contemplating life under subpoena and the threat and reality of impeachment.

Here`s Donald Trump back in May talking about the upcoming congressional election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016, although I`m not sure I really believe that. But you know? I don`t know who the hell wrote that line. I`m not sure.


O`DONNELL: The line was written, of course, by the people who fill his teleprompter with words like that, which he is always discovering for the first time when he reads the teleprompter. And here is the same person last week.


TRUMP: They`ll say we want to impeach him, and you`ll impeach him. It`s so ridiculous. But we`ll worry about that if it ever happens. But if it does happen, it`s your fault because you didn`t go out to vote, OK? You didn`t go out to vote.

I`ll be the only president in history, they`ll say, what a job he`s done, by the way, we`re impeaching him.


O`DONNELL: Sounds like he gets it now. Now, Donald Trump knows it`s real. Now, the Republican strategists who are saying that the Republican campaign is a shipwreck have finally gotten through Donald Trump because the polls are delivering a message that even Donald Trump cannot ignore.

Today`s Quinnipiac poll shows that if the election were held today, 52 percent would vote for a Democratic congressional candidate and 38 percent would vote for a Republican. A Marist poll today shows similar results, 50 percent saying they would vote for Democrat, 38 percent saying they would vote for Republican. The biggest polling reversal for Republicans is in the Midwest where the Trump tariffs have done more damage to the agricultural sector of the economy than any other.

The Marist poll shows in July, Democrats and Republicans were statistically tied in the Midwest, and now, the Midwest favors Democratic candidates by 51 percent to 37 percent. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell can no longer pretend that he`s confident Republicans will hold onto the Senate.

Here`s what he said yesterday about the suddenly close Senate races that Republicans were supposed to win like Texas where Ted Cruz is now running scared against Democrat Beto O`Rourke.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: All of them too close to call and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley, I mean, just a brawl, and every one of those places. I hope when the smoke clears, we`ll still have a majority in the Senate.


O`DONNELL: There`s a historical perspective that I for one always go back to when I look at congressional election polling and what looks like a wave, and it`s the 1994 congressional election two years into Bill Clinton`s presidency. I was working in the Senate then on the Democrat side, so I had a strong professional interest in the outcome. We had 57 Democrats in the Senate going into that election, and we thought we might lose a couple or maybe even pick up a couple of Democratic seats. No big deal, no big change.

The House of Representatives had actually been under Democratic control for my entire life at that point. There was no possibility of losing the House of Representatives, and there wasn`t a single pundit in Washington who ever predicted that the Democrats were ever going to lose the House of Representatives. And at 2:00 p.m. on that election day in 1994, I got a call from Sheila Burke (ph) who was then known as the 101st senator because she was Bob Dole`s very powerful chief of staff and Sheila Burke told me that Bob Dole was going to be the next majority leader of the United States because their exit polling was telling them the Republicans were going to win the Senate and win the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

And that right there on Election Day was the very first clue that I had that the Democrats were in trouble, when it was way, way too late. There wasn`t a single campaign strategist in Washington being quoted "the Washington Post" in those days saying that the Democrats were shipwrecked, that they were going to lose everything. No one saw it coming. And the congressional polling showed the two parties were basically tied with the voters.

And so, after watching the Democrats get shipwrecked in 1994 by a wave that no one saw coming, when you look at this polling that already looks like a shipwreck for Republicans, one thing to keep in mind is that basically tied with the voters. So after watching the Democrats get shipwrecked in 1994 by a wave that no one saw coming, when you look at this polling that already looks like a shipwreck for Republicans, one thing to keep in mind is that the polling could be wrong. And it could be wrong, meaning the Republicans might not do so badly.

But the other thing -- the other thing to keep in mind is that the polling could easily be wrong in another way. It could be underestimating just how shipwrecked the Republicans are going to be on election night.

Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California, a member of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Also joining us, Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama, and Jennifer Rubin is with us. She`s a conservative opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor writer.

And, Congressman Swalwell, you don`t remember those days when it was inconceivable for Democrats to lose the House of Representatives. It just wasn`t in anyone`s formula, it couldn`t happen. And then suddenly, it happened from out of nowhere with polls indicating that everything was A- okay and steady.

These polls indicate something truly terrible is headed toward the Republicans, and at least Donald Trump finally, according to these inside reports in the White House, seems to finally understand that.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Lawrence.

You`re absolutely right, but I won`t even address the polls. I`ll go right to the energy I see on the ground. I was just in Alabama last week. We`re competing in the Deep South, and we filled a Presbyterian Church at 2:00 on a Monday with 400 people for a town hall with one of our candidates, Peter Joffrion, there.

And so, I see the energy, the backdrops in the different parts of the country are different. But the energy of the base is the same. But I also look at the caliber of the candidates. Most of our candidates 18 months ago did not imagine themselves as running for Congress. But they felt this call to service because of this president.

And tomorrow, we are rolling out, and I`ll tell you this first here tonight on THE LAST WORD, Future 40. It`s 40 candidates in their 40s or under who are running in the most competitive seats across the country. And they look and talk like the best of their generation. They`re veterans, small business owners, community activists, and they I think are going to be refreshing faces for the future of the party and, you know, what`s ahead for this next Congress.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, I know you were working in the Senate in 1994 when that wave hit that no one saw us coming, and we can all remember exactly where we were on election day when we realized that not only were the Democrats losing the Senate, they were losing the House of Representatives.

And for me, the important lesson always was there was no warning, that no one saw it coming. And that can happen in congressional elections. There are waves, there are things that can develop that no one sees coming. But when you actually do see something coming, there`s a powerful message that should be pushing the parties towards some kind of reality.

But the Republicans seem lost. Their strategist saying we`re shipwrecked.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, look, Republicans made a decision here. And you can`t blame this all on Donald Trump. Republican congressional leaders made a decision.

I think Democrats are going to do well not just in the districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 but in districts Trump carried, because I think some of those voters voted for Trump in 2016 and said, but I`m counting on Republicans to put a check on this. I`m counting on House and Senate Republicans to be the adults. I`m counting on them doing things like stop Trump from doing horrible things like separating families, or taking away preexisting conditions, or turning the government to his own private piggybank, and Republicans have instead signed up to be the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders of the Trump administration.

And, you know, as a result voters are saying, look, if they`re not going to put a check on Trump, we need someone who will. And I think that`s why Congressman Swalwell will be wielding a gavel in the next session of the Congress.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, we saw President-elect Trump do something that we`ve never seen a president-elect do before, and that is not think for one second how to convert people who did not vote for him. And with most presidents-elect, the day after election day, they start talking to the possible swing voters who did not vote for them. They start trying to add to their support base, and Donald Trump has never spent one day or directed one sentence towards the people who did not -- who did not vote for him last time around.

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s exactly right. He`s a narcissist and he`s a guy who`s in the moment. In other words, whoever is in front of him, whatever crazy crowd he can throw together, that is his only concern. He is phobic about criticism. He`s phobic about people who have doubts about him, and therefore he goes back again and again and again, getting crazier and crazier and crazier with that narrow base.

And you see it in the polls. Group after group is flipping from Republican to Democrat. We`ve seen it overwhelmingly with women. We`ve seen it with college educated voters. We`re seeing it now even with white college educated voters, which is crucially a Republican group.

So, slowly, he is slicing down his own electoral base to a thin, thin strip. And you cannot govern and you cannot hold out that way. And I think to Ron`s point, part of the problem here is that Republicans have been saying, OK, we`ll wait on the economy and now we`ll scare them into thinking that impeachment will be coming.

That`s becoming frankly a feature and not a bug of a Democratic majority. If you have enough people who are beginning to think this guy is number one a lunatic, number two really crooked, and number three has really gotten in bed with a lot of people we don`t want to deal with, at some point that sentiment is going to flip and those ads the Republicans are running are going to look awful funny. Gosh, wouldn`t it be horrible if we had somebody who actually perused the president, actually checked his corruption got harsh?

O`DONNELL: Yes, running against impeachment isn`t easy when 47 percent are in favor of impeachment.

I want to look at two elements of a new poll tonight. The question of, do you approve of Robert Mueller`s handling of the Russia investigation, 50 percent approved, 38 percent disapproved. A kind of other side of that coin, do you approve of Donald Trump`s handling of the Russia investigation? Thirty percent approve, 58 percent disapprove.

And, Congressman Swalwell, as the president contemplates his options, including his possibility of how he might go about firing Jeff Sessions and then possibly firing Robert Mueller, when you look at those polls of huge approval for Robert Mueller, disapproval for Donald Trump on that investigation, an action like that, trying to fire Robert Mueller, would certainly push that impeachment number up into even more people in favor.

SWALWELL: Lawrence, I think that`d be the end if he fired Bob Mueller and the American people would support that. But I can promise the president and the American people that the president will get in Congress fairer investigations than he probably deserves considering how he`s attacked the independents of the Department of Justice and the rule of law. I don`t think this is going to be a rush to impeach. This will be thorough examination of all of the alarming conduct that he has engaged in.

But also, Lawrence, one other part of that poll you`re referring to. I believe 72 percent of the American people want the president to raise his right hand and go under oath and sit in the witness chair and answer Bob Mueller`s questions, so he can come clean with the American people, and allow us to understand just exactly what happened.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, Ron Klain, Jennifer Rubin, thank you for starting our conversation this evening.

And coming up, with Hurricane Florence heading towards the Carolinas, the Trump administration has now been caught transferring money from FEMA to their procedures at the southern border where they are still separating children from their parents. Senator Jeff Merkley discovered what was going on there. Senator Jeff Merkley reported that on Rachel Maddow`s show last night. He will join us next.

And Bob Woodward`s book reveals that not only can the president not trust his advisers but Trump advisers surely do not trust Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: With the terrifying hurricane bearing down on the Carolinas at a time when FEMA needs all the resources it can get, our next guest, Senator Jeff Merkley, has revealed on Rachel Maddow`s show last night that the Trump administration has been shifting resources away from FEMA within the Homeland Security Department to support the policy of separating families at our southern border where 416 children remain separated from their parents.

Hurricane Florence is expected to possibly make landfall in North and South Carolina some time early on Friday. Federal, state and local officials are working together to coordinate what is now the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history.

Joining us now is Senator Jeff Merkley, Democratic senator from Oregon, who`s on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Merkley, we`ve heard some response today from FEMA, from the Trump administration saying the resources that you`re talking about, the movement of that money, won`t have any effect on the hurricane response. What is your reaction to that?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, it`s striking that they can take $10 million away and say it has no impact. Certainly, what we have seen, if you can take this money and preposition supplies, if you can have more communications equipment, if you can have more boats ready to assist in the aftermath of the flooding, in every possible way $10 million makes a difference.

And in the first month of the hurricane season to take those funds and basically take those funds away in order to build prison camps, that`s -- that`s certainly not a -- not the best use as we face the storms that a near miss in Hawaii, a major tropical storm hitting Mississippi, now a category 3 hurricane bearing down on the Carolinas. You want every possible way for FEMA to do its job, save lives, save structures, support the American people when disaster looms.

O`DONNELL: And a former FEMA official just appeared on Rachel`s show in the last hour and she was confirming exactly what you`re saying about this. That that`s real money leaving FEMA. That is money they do in fact need on a daily basis to stay prepared and to be ready for these kinds of events.

But this is one of the problems of the Homeland Security Department, it took some operation that were out there in the government including the Coast Guard and put them inside homeland security, so that that money can now move from something like the Coast Guard where we have reports that they`re moving money out of that. Also and since the security issues are also in that department, that`s where they could end up using the money.

MERKLEY: Yes, it moves some $200 million, including actually taking away some funding from the border wall, which I found absolutely fascinating.

But in this issue regarding FEMA, here`s what happened last year. FEMA didn`t do the best possible job in Texas. They did a horrific job in Puerto Rico. They did a terrible job in the Virgin Islands.

And what we`d like to hear from them is after those storms, we did a thorough evaluation. These are all things we can do better.

We don`t want to have a situation where like we had in Puerto Rico, nine months later, there were thousands of homes covered in blue tarps because people hadn`t gotten funds to repair their roofs. There were hospitals completely knocked out of action or almost completely knocked out of action. You had thousands of families that didn`t have power, electric power.

And that was the sort of response and recovery that you would expect in a developing country, a very poor country, not in the United States of America. So did they take those experiences and say here`s how we can improve our operations in a massive way so that if storms strike in 2018, we`ll do a far better job? And so far, there`s no evidence that they have taken that as their mission.

O`DONNELL: And, Senator Merkley, isn`t one of the big differences in what we`re going to see this week in the Carolinas and what we saw in Puerto Rico is Puerto Rico has no electoral votes and that the Carolinas have the electoral votes that President Trump wants?

MERKLEY: Well, that is a great point because I came back from that trip thinking if Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands had a vote in the U.S. Senate they would have recovered because they would have gotten the resources to recover three or four times faster. And that`s -- that`s something we should all ponder, that these folks are being neglected in particular.

But let me just mention there are still folks down in the Houston area who feel they haven`t gotten the service that they need to recover either.

O`DONNELL: And, Senator, when we get through this hurricane as we surely will, will there be any attempt by Congress to oversee exactly how our hurricane response has been working?

MERKLEY: We just did not see the hearings under Republican control of the House and Senate to really get to the bottom of what went wrong last year, and suspect they will try not to shine a light on what goes wrong this year. I think we`ll only see those hearings if Democrats take the House and the Senate. In that case, I think you`ll see an honest effort to look into what went wrong and say we can do better.

And we, Congress, in a bipartisan way stand ready to help. Is it resources? Is it flexibility? Is it design of the programs?

Let`s work together to do the best possible job for the American people.

O`DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much for bringing this news to "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" last night and for joining us again tonight. Appreciate it.

And when we come back, President Trump wants to replace his top White House lawyer Don McGahn after basically firing him on Twitter, and he thinks he knows who his next White House lawyer should be.


O`DONNELL: "Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that President Trump is considering Attorney Emmet Flood to replace Don McGahn as White House Counsel Attorney. Mr. Trump has privately told associates that he wants tough-minded lawyers who are attentive to his interests. Emmet Flood is already a member of the White House Counsel`s team where he is in charge of the White House Counsel`s responses to the special prosecutor`s investigation of the Trump administration.

The problem for President Trump in promoting Emmet Flood to be the head of the White House Counsel`s office means that Emmitt Flood would have to spend a significant amount of his time on other matters other than the investigation. And the Mueller investigation is the very reason that Emmet Flood was hired in the White House Counsel`s office in the first place.

Emmet Flood has experience defending presidents in trouble. He was on the legal defense team for President Bill Clinton during the Clinton impeachment process. Bob Woodward`s new book reveals President Trump`s complete lack of comprehension of the president`s relationship to the White House Counsel`s office. The president`s former criminal defense lawyer John Dowd recommended Ty Cobb to serve in what is now the Emmet Flood position in the White House Counsel`s office in charge of dealing with the Mueller investigation.

The Woodward book reveals that John Dowd disagreed with Ty Cobb on several things, including whether the president should submit to an interview with Robert Mueller. Ty Cobb was in favor of President Trump submitting to an interview with Robert Mueller. And John Dowd felt he was undermined by Ty Cobb when he discovered that Ty Cobb was disagreeing with his advice to the president.

In Bob Woodward`s book, John Dowd tells the president I regret the day I ever recommended Ty Cobb and I can`t believe that he undermined me. Well, Trump said, I asked him to speak out and show the president was not afraid to testify. He should have declined, he`s a government employee. And by the way, they can call him as a witness. He has no privilege with you. Jesus, Trump said, sounding worried, I`ve talked a lot with him.

Joining our discussion now, Maya Wiley, a former assistant U.S. attorney of Southern District New York. She`s also an MSNBC legal analyst and Jennifer Rubin is back with us.

And Maya, there is that moment which makes perfect sense because a lot of people are confused about the idea that the White House Counsel and attorney-client privilege with the president. But a president is never supposed to be confused about that. That`s something the president supposed to know on day one.

MAYA WILEY, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: Well, the president isn`t supposed to be confused about it but certainly his lawyer is not supposed to be confused about it either. It is Ty Cobb that should say, you know, there`s a boundary here that we have. Certainly, they might be able to assert executive privilege, but that`s a much weaker privilege obviously than attorney-client.

It`s a little astounding though because really what we`re seeing is a pattern that is consistent with Donald Trump, which is he forgets that he`s got the public trust and public confidence of the government, that he should be responsible for. He thinks everything revolves around him, and therefore everyone should be working for him and in his personal interest rather than the interest of the country. And that`s his biggest problem.

O`DONNELL: And Jennifer, there`s no example of any lawyer around Donald Trump in the record at this point doing a good job for Donald Trump including John Dowd, who you see in that scene is telling his client that he is exposed in relation to Ty Cobb in a way that he should have told his client on his very first day of representing his client. John Dowd should have spoken to the president about exactly who he has attorney-client privilege with and who he does not have attorney-client privilege with. And John Dowd clearly did not do that.

JENNIFER RUBIN, JOURNALIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Or he did and Donald Trump forgot, which is very possible too. But I would add one thing, John Dowd is apparently talking to a lot of people, and he does have an attorney-client privilege with Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he does.

RUBIN: He`s his personal lawyer, and what is he doing talking to all of these people? I mean listen, there is a professional obligation here to maintain your client`s competencies, so that`s a little peculiar. But this point about him not understanding what lawyers do around him and what his role in the grand scheme of things is exactly right. From day one, he has treated the entire Justice Department as if it were the Trump Justice Department out to prosecute his enemies, out to defend his own interests.

And of course that`s what`s gotten him in trouble and that is what is leading the special prosecutor down the road to an obstruction of justice charge. Donald Trump thinks he can simply cut investigations off, he can close investigations into his friends, and it doesn`t work that way. And strangely enough, who has said recently it doesn`t work that way? Ken Starr.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And Emmet Flood, Maya, is someone who is apparently pretty tough on executive privilege, on protecting a president under investigation. But the problem is when you take Emmet Flood`s focus off of that and say OK, now you`re in charge of everything, which means he`s in charge of Senate confirmations, he`s in charge of all sorts of legal matters that pass through the White House Counsel`s office, the question becomes who`s going to be the next Emmet Flood?

WILEY: And who knows and who wants that job?


WILEY: I think there`s a real question about how many lawyers Trump has run through, actually not even just as president. I mean as we know that he has trouble getting private counsel sometimes because he didn`t always pay his bills. So it is a tough time to recruit someone into a job like that. It`s also true that you know, Emmet Flood has probably done a lot of very good work in preparing the arguments that he would use to assert, to protect Trump from a subpoena.

So I wouldn`t underestimate what he has built in term of the preparedness. But I think you`re absolutely right in some of what we`ve heard, which makes sense to me, is that there are folks within the White House who are very concerned about him being removed from that role in terms of exerting executive privilege. Although, I find it very hard to imagine him winning that, but who knows if he gets Brett Kavanaugh confirmed.

But that really is a significant issue for the president. It`s another example of the fact that he`s not really thinking strategically about how best to have and deploy his legal expertise.

O`DONNELL: And Jennifer, we now have a right to ponder who might be among the resistance within Trump world. And I have to say as I watched Ty Cobb publically in his role as so-called defender of Donald Trump, I always used to wonder, is he really working for Donald Trump or is he interested in actually getting the truth out?

I mean to advise the president to go into an interview with the special prosecutor is to basically advise the president to surrender his presidency. And Ty Cobb was advising the president to do that. I just wonder now that we`ve seen the op-ed piece that says there`s a bunch of anonymous resistors inside Trump world working against the president, Ty Cobb could have been one of them.

RUBIN: Well, either that or he`s just insane. I mean we`ve all seen now the notion of putting Donald Trump under oath, and we now have the John Dowd story who`s blabbing, of course, to the press and to book authors. When they tried a trial run of an interview, it was just a train wreck. So the notion that he would be sent out under oath to talk to the special prosecutor is really absurd.

But what is so interesting, of course, about the anonymous op-ed writer is there were so many candidates, there were so many people who may be disloyal to Donald Trump. And at this point, he really doesn`t know who that person is. He`s probably meeting with that person sometime during the day, could be a family member perhaps. He really doesn`t know.

O`DONNELL: And Maya, the idea of joining the White House Counsel`s office becomes a completely different question the day after election day if the Democrats have won the House of Representatives. Because at that point you have to know if I take this job, I am probably going to be an impeachment lawyer.

WILEY: You`re probably going to be an impeachment lawyer, then you`re probably on the wrong side of history. And I think people are thinking about what`s their legacy. These are really, really important career opportunity jobs for lawyers. It`s not the Supreme Court, but it`s one of the best jobs you can get as a lawyer in terms of creating your career. You have to be thinking about what it does to your career and what role you want to play in this democracy and what side of history you want to be on.

O`DONNELL: Yes. There used to be no greater honor than representing the president of the United States. That`s long behind us. Maya Wiley, Jennifer Rubin, thank you for joining our discussion.

And coming up, long-time New York Social Observer Fran Lebowitz once said, "You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump." And Bob Woodward`s new book has proof that Fran Lebowitz was absolutely right, especially when you hear Donald Trump talking about why he wanted to government to print more money.

And later, Bill Karins is going to join us with the latest update on hurricane Florence.


O`DONNELL: President Trump obviously knows by now that he cannot trust anyone in the White House, and Bob Woodward reveals in his new book that the people in the White House do not trust Donald Trump.


BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: One way to connect the dots on this is there`s a war on truth, that the president watches and he just will not accept -- it`s not a matter of alternative data but the information in the data and the conclusions of particularly national security experts in his own government and economic and financial experts. So in the course of this, people closest to him do not trust him. And the impulse-driven presidency is something the more people know, the more they realize we`re at risk.


O`DONNELL: Another example of the impulse-driven presidency that Bob Woodward was talking about was given by former NSA Director Mike Rogers this week. Rogers said that he gave Trump detailed briefings on Russian hacking efforts, though Trump would tell him, "Mike, you know I`m in a different place." Rogers wouldn`t expand on what he thought Trump meant by that but added that he would reply, "Sir, this isn`t about politics. It isn`t about party. It`s about a foreign state that is attempting to subvert the very tenants of our structure."

But Donald Trump did have an alternative fact about the deficit before he became president. During the transition when economic advisor Gary Cohn raised concerns about the deficit and the debt, according to Bob Woodward`s book, Donald Trump said, "What do you mean?" Trump asked. "Just run the presses, print money." "You can`t just print money," Cohn said. "Why not? Why not?" It was clear that Trump did not understand the way the U.S. government debt cycle balance sheet worked, Bob Woodward wrote.

Of course, only the Federal Reserve can instruct the Bureau of Engraving and the U.S. Mint to print more money and printing more money does not change how much money the government is actually spending, which actually is how the government`s deficit and debt is created by government spending. During the first weeks of the administration, Bob Woodward writes, several times Cohn just asked the president, "Why do you have these views?" "I just do," Trump replied. "I`ve had these views for 30 years." "That doesn`t mean they`re right," Cohn said. "I`ve had the view for 15 years that I could play professional football. It doesn`t mean I was right."

Up next, we`ll find out how Ron Klain believed he could play professional football. Ron Klain will join us with more on Donald Trump`s war on the truth.



WOODWARD: What matters to people is the performance as president. And when you dig into this and excavate it, again, you find people are worried about the performance, the inability to grow, the inability to listen, the inability to change his mind.


O`DONNELL: And back with us is Ron Klain. And Ron, what you see throughout the book is the president`s inability to process fact, to understand what a fact is.

RON KLAIN, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. You know, Lawrence, I think even more than fooling himself about being a football player, Gary Cohn fooled himself in believing President Trump could take advice. But look, Trump told us during the campaign, we forget some of the old crazy things because of the new crazy things. But during the campaign, he said "I`m my own top adviser because I have, `a very good brain.`" So that was the premise under which Donald Trump became president, and that`s I think the reality, that anyone who tries to advise Donald Trump has to run into.

O`DONNELL: There`s repeated scenes in the book where the president is told that Iran was not in violation of the Iran deal at any point, and then there`s this Woodward passage. "They`re in violation," Trump said in a meeting before the July 17 deadline, "and you need to figure out how the argument is going to be made to declare that." One day Tillerson came to the dining room next to the Oval office to see Trump and Priebus and explain to the president again that there was no violation. "They are in violation," Trump insisted, "and you should make the case that this agreement is done and finished."

KLAIN: Yes. Obviously, you know, the biggest non-secret in Washington is that President Trump has a very detached relationship with the truth. And look, I worked for two presidents, and sometimes the facts don`t fit your political reality and you have to adjust your position to fit the facts.

And this is a president that absolutely refuses to do that, whether it`s on climate change or other kinds of scientific matters or matters of national security. He simply goes with his constructs, his political crazy constructs, and disregards the facts. That`s why he can`t keep good advisers. That`s why he makes so many horrible decisions as president.

O`DONNELL: According to the Woodward book, there was the worst day of the Trump presidency and that, of course, was the day that special prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed. In the Woodward book, it goes this way, Trump`s mood deteriorated overnight, and the next day May 18th was the worst. The president erupted into uncontrollable anger, visibly agitated to a degree that no one in his inner circle had witnessed before. It was a harrowing experience. "We barely got by," Rob Porter said to an associate. Porter had never seen Trump so visibly disturbed.

So, Ron, it seems he had something to be disturbed about when a special prosecutor was named.

KLAIN: Yes, worst day for who, Lawrence? I mean, definitely not the worst day for the American people when Robert Mueller was appointed. The worst day for the Trump presidency is always the day after tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.

But you`re right. I mean, an innocent person -- I mean no one likes to be investigated. That`s fair but an innocent person wouldn`t be thrown into a tailspin by an inquiry into what happened in the 2016 election. The fact that Trump was so, so distraught about that is a big tell to what he knows and what hopefully Robert Mueller`s finding out.

O`DONNELL: And at the outset of the special prosecutor`s investigation, it was not specifically investigation of Donald Trump himself. So what did he have to be so upset about?

KLAIN: Right. You`d think again if he were innocent if there was no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, he would have been helping Mueller to run that to the ground to prove Bob Mueller`s a very fair man, to prove that in fact nothing bad happened in 2016. If he was concerned about this investigation from day one, that`s because he had something to be concerned about.

O`DONNELL: And Ron Klain, before you go, America wants to know, when did you give up your dream of being a professional football player like Gary Cohn did? Gary Cohn says when he was 15 years old.

KLAIN: Yes. You know, Lawrence, I grew up in Indianapolis. We don`t want to be basketball players. When you`re 5`9" and Jewish, you give up that dream very very early. I assure you.

O`DONNELL: Dreams die early. Ron Klain, thank you very much for joining us.

And the latest on hurricane Florence is next. Bill Karins will be here.


O`DONNELL: For the latest on hurricane Florence, we go to NBC News Meteorologist Bill Karins with the latest update from the National Weather Service. Bill, what`s the latest?

BILL KARINS: Well, we`re just finding out that we now no longer have a major hurricane on our hands. Florence has continued to do internal things that have weakened it in its eye. So that`s a little piece of good news. Remember, the wind is just one piece of this puzzle and that`s only the max winds. That doesn`t describe the whole wind field of the storm. So just because the max winds have weakened, actually the expansion of the hurricane force gusts went from 70 miles to 80 miles wide. And we still have a wind field of tropical storm force winds that can knock down trees and knock out power that`s 200 miles wide.

So just because you`re going to hear it`s no longer a 4 or a 3, it`s a 2, does not mean we`re out of the woods. It doesn`t mean that we`re still not looking at a potentially life-threatening and life-altering storm in areas like Wilmington, North Carolina, Newbern, North Carolina, Jacksonville, North Carolina and possibly even for our friends in Myrtle Beach.

So here`s the new advisory, 110 mile-per-hour winds, still nothing to sneeze at. That`s as strong as you can get for a category 2. It`s about 385 miles from Wilmington. You can see the eye kind of lost its structure a little bit here and that`s why we`ve seen the weakening. But the wind field is still expansive.

Here`s the new forecast path from the hurricane center. We still are watching a slowdown. There`s no loop. It doesn`t look like it`s going to completely stall. It`s definitely going to hit the brakes. So this is Thursday night. This is tomorrow night. At 8:00 P.M., this is when the hurricane force winds and that northern eye wall should be close to our friends at Carteret County here from Morehead City all the way through Atlantic Beach, the Emerald Isle area, Carolina Beach and heading into Wrightsville Beach. And then it could be over the top of Wilmington, who knows, maybe even going through the eye as the sun comes up Friday morning.

Notice as a category 1, a couple days ago, even 24 to 36 hours ago, that was a category 3 over the top of Wilmington. So that would mean less wind damage and less structural damage with the wind, and then we`re going to drift it and weaken it significantly into Saturday into central portions of South Carolina. So that`s 200 miles it`s going to travel in about 48 hours.

That`s still a very slow crawl at about four to five miles per hour. That`s why we still have huge flooding concerns. We`re now seeing the storm coming on to -- this is the outer rain bands. So we`ve still got a ways to go before we see the effects. And as far as the hurricane force winds, we`re still timing it out. 5:00 P.M. Thursday, that`s when they begin in Eastern North Carolina.



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