Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 9, 2018 Guest: Jennifer Palmieri
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
You know what I think perfect timing is? I think it`s leaving the Trump administration after two years if you`re Nikki Haley and you have future political ambitions.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Do you have -- do you have secret, Lawrence, knowledge about why Nikki Haley is leaving and at this moment?
O`DONNELL: No, I have public Lawrence knowledge about this.
O`DONNELL: First of all, two years is a typical run in that particular job that very few of them have done much more than two years. And certainly if you`re a politician with ambition, it`s a longer than necessary run for the resume padding that she`s done and the genuine experience she now has on foreign policy, which every former governor like her needs.
And she needs the money. I mean, that family is living basically on her government salary and they`ve got tuitions to pay and this makes perfect sense for her to get out now, to get on some corporate boards, to get lecture fees, to be able to live a more comfortable life and buildup a little bit of a -- a big financial cushion actually.
MADDOW: Don`t they all always leave right after the election or if they`re going to do poorly in the election it will look like they`re being blamed or something? I mean, I don`t even --
O`DONNELL: So, another thing I think it perfect timing is to put the date October 3rd on your resignation letter so you can prove whatever happened in those midterm elections had nothing to do, nothing to do with your decision. If the Republican Party gets wiped out, had nothing to do with that. So, it makes perfect sense to me all the way through.
But it is also strange the way we learned about it and Mark Sanford, who knows her well from South Carolina, Republican House member, is saying it feels very strange to him. And so, it certainly because it`s Trump world, it has a strange outline to it all.
MADDOW: And because it`s Trump world, I assume if there is anything interesting at all about the timing, somebody will start leaking about it in three, two, one.
O`DONNELL: Exactly, exactly.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, on this Tuesday night, we are now exactly -- and I mean exactly four weeks away on a Tuesday night from an election in which today`s polling news is very, very good news for the Democrats. Now, it`s only today`s polling news so we don`t know how long this is going to hold. But at this hour on election night, four weeks from now, we will begin to see if the Democrats are winning a possible wave election that the latest polling indicates could be developing across the country.
A new report from "Politico" today finds that the number of seats in the House of Representatives that are solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic is now up to 209. If Democrats won all of those seats, they would then need to win only nine of the currently 26 toss-up races in order to win back the House of Representatives. The Democrats` chances of doing that have never looked better than they look tonight.
A new CNN poll finds that Democrats lead Republicans in the generic ballot for Congress by 13 points. That is the widest margin Democrats have held in that poll since 2006 in the midterm elections when Democrats picked up 31 House seats and took back control of the House while they were also picking up six Senate seats to win back control of the United States Senate, the first time that the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate since 1994.
The new polling indicates that the battle over Brett Kavanaugh`s confirmation has made Democrats even more likely to go out and vote in this congressional election to give power back to the Democrats. Today`s polling shows the gap between Democratic and Republican enthusiasm has widened once again, now giving Democrats a ten-point advantage over Republicans, and that change is also accompanied by a widening gender gap that favors Democrats. Women now favor Democratic candidates 63 to 33.
Democrats are competitive in districts that Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in West Virginia, for example. In a congressional district Donald Trump won by 50 points, the poll shows Democrat Richard Ojeda five points ahead of Republican Carol Miller.
Here is the Democrat`s 30-second appeal to West Virginia voters in that district that has him in the lead tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD OJEDA (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I`m Richard Ojeda and I`ve been under fire multiple times in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Tattooed on my back are the names of my brothers who did not come home. Now, my military record and my love of this country has come under fire once again, by Carol Miller. How dare she? A millionaire who has enjoyed a life of privilege under the very freedoms that I have fought for.
I approve this message because I love this country and I`m willing to fight for it. And you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, an MSNBC global affairs contributor and author of the new book, "Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence". Also joining us, Jennifer Palmieri, a former White House communications director for President Obama and former communications director for Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign. Jason Johnson, politics editor at theroot.com and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Jennifer Palmieri, I want to start with you on the politics of this. The poll that I was just citing was taken over this past weekend, incorporating the after effects of the Kavanaugh nomination fight and that poll looks very good for Democrats.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, nevertheless she voted, right? That can be the repercussions that Republicans face.
And, you know, I think women are probably more determined to show up now than ever before when it comes to voting next month. But I also see something different even in my own life experience from women who are not that involved in politics getting in touch with me to really express their confusion even, let alone dismay, at how the Republicans handled the nomination. I think that there`s two prices the Republicans pay. There is what Trump says and does and then there`s the Republicans backing him up.
And I think a lot of women who aren`t that involved in politics don`t pay as much attention as those of us who do this for a living thought that the Republicans would not allow the way Christine Blasey Ford was treated to go forward, would not, after hearing what she had to say, vote to confirm him. And now that they did, I think you see this wave coming through America and how women are waking up to say, wow, this Republican Party really is not -- is really not for me personally.
And I suspect that they`re going to pay a price, not just next month, but they`re going to have a long-term problem with women coming out of this.
O`DONNELL: And apparently, Donald Trump doesn`t know how to read the polling effects of the Kavanaugh confirmation because he was out there tonight -- today in a rally talking about the Kavanaugh nomination and basically leading the crowd in another chant of "lock her up" and this time it meant lock up Dianne Feinstein.
And, Ambassador Sherman, this is the party that claimed that the Kavanaugh confirmation procedure should be all about due process, should be all about the presumption of innocence in the accused, and here is the president going up there -- out there leading the "lock her up" chant that he invented, he and his crowd invented which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what the Republican Party pretended to stand for.
AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN, AUTHOR, "NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART": Yes, Lawrence, you know, one of the things I want to say to everybody who is listening tonight and has friends and relatives and coworkers is that change doesn`t come easily and these numbers are very encouraging for a turnover, at least of the House come the election four weeks from tonight.
But I ran Barbara Mikulski`s campaign in 1986. She was the first Democratic woman ever elected in her own right. She and Nancy Kassebaum were the only two women senators. We now have more.
But I also helped Anita Hill in 1991. I came across an old cartoon of Specter, Simpson and Hatch all sort of in thug outfits with, you know, battering rams and whatnot, with Anita Hill lying on the floor. It was a "Baltimore Sun" cartoon. And the caption was, I don`t understand why she didn`t come forward sooner.
My point here is that this is a story that has repeated itself in many ways and many times. And so, my message to all the viewers tonight who want to see change, who believe there needs to be change, all the voters that Jen just talked about, if you have early voting in your state, go vote. If you got absentee ballot, vote now. If not, get out there and vote. If your registration isn`t finished yet, get ten young people to go out and vote.
Millennials in the Pew data are shown to vote less now than any other similar cohort previously. And so, we really need to get out this vote or these numbers will not matter in four weeks. And you can rest assured whether it`s a summit with the North Korean leader to prove how good Donald Trump is on foreign policy, or ginning up more lock her up messages to try to keep his base enraged, he will pull every trick out of the bag. And so, we must persist.
O`DONNELL: And, Jason, I have the video here of Donald Trump talking about Senator Feinstein and lying about her and attacking her and getting the crowd to chapter lock her up about Dianne Feinstein which I am deliberately not showing because the only point of it, it`s really ugly political pornography. But the point of it is that Donald Trump tonight -- today out there campaigning doesn`t seem to realize that getting his people to scream "lock her up" about yet another woman who has done absolutely nothing wrong, without any due process, is exactly the kind of thing that is stimulating this Democratic enthusiasm.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes, but it didn`t stop Susan Collins, right? I mean, like, Donald Trump knows what he`s doing here. He knows that there is a significant portion of women in America who are going to support him no matter what he`s doing.
But I think what these numbers show is something I anticipated all along. If it took Brett Kavanaugh for you to realize that the Republicans are a party of misogyny and supporting accused and sex abusers, then you were really kind of late to the game. I think most people kind of knew that already, and his confirmation has just emboldened Democrats even more.
But I think it goes deeper that just women being enthusiastic about the party. It goes into the fact that I think Democrats have been beaten down for so long by a candidate they thought should have beaten two years ago, that they become more strategic.
You`ve seen absentee ballots in Georgia, applications go up to levels that haven`t been seen since Obama in 2008. You see an extensive ground game going on in Florida. You see the Ohio governor`s race is at 50/50. This is a race that should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans.
So I think Democrats have seen Kavanaugh as, hey, this is something to gin up our voters more but it hasn`t stopped them from engaging in the kind of on the ground strategy that you actually need to win as opposed to making an a national election.
O`DONNELL: And, Jennifer, we see things like Taylor Swift just suddenly entering social media with a political message about registering to vote and huge surge instantly as a result of that, something that would have been hard to imagine a short time ago.
PALMIERI: Yes, and she`s been famously -- we certainly tried on the Clinton campaign to get her support. She was somebody who stayed out of politics.
And I was surprised at the reaction honestly. I wasn`t sure if -- even with as popular as she is, how much more juice there was to get out from, you know, from women -- from young women to register to vote. But that was phenomenal response. And it is really encouraging because we still have a lot of month left to go. You got to keep the energy up.
You have to actually turnout people to vote. You know, as Wendy lamented, everybody to not be overconfident, but I think you just see this -- you know, I see determination is what I see in how women have responded from the women`s march over a year ago, you know, right at the time of the inaugural until now.
And, you know, I hope everyone does turnout. But I feel like women are not the ones who are going to be the ones to let us down.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the way Senator Elizabeth Warren is talking to campaign rally crowds today in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Those Republicans, they got a lot going their way. Oh, you bet they do. They got the White House. They got the House of Representatives. They got the Senate.
And I`m going to tell you this, I`d rather B.S. than them.
I`ll tell you why. I`ll tell you why. They may have the money. They may have the power right now. But there`s a whole lot more of us than there is of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Wendy Sherman, she is right about the math.
SHERMAN: Indeed. You know, all of the signs are pointing in the right direction. So I don`t want to be a downer here at all.
What I want to do is to encourage people to take that determination, those numbers and turn it out at the voting booth to make real the change that can happen here. This is going to be a tough fight, but courage always comes with a cost. There`s usually a price to pay and the price here may be the contributions you make to a campaign as a volunteer, the time that you give up to register voters, the time you give up to take people to the polls.
But it`s critical that we do everything we possibly can to make sure that the surprises that Jason was talking about don`t occur and that the good things that we`re seeing as he described in Georgia, as Jen described in what she`s seeing out there in determination come real.
O`DONNELL: And, Jason, what`s your sense of how long the enthusiasm can be sustained?
JOHNSON: Well, that`s the beautiful part, Lawrence. Enthusiasm and anger last forever, right? Republicans were mad at Obama for eight years, so Democrats can stay angry.
I`ll give you a perfect example. My class tonight, I was teaching my class at Morgan State, came here to the studio. Every single one of my students are registered to vote.
That wasn`t even the case in 2016. They are registered to vote where Ben Jealous is very far behind. So, I didn`t have to force them to, I didn`t have to offer them extra credit. So, you know, I am seeing both here in Maryland, which a blue state, I am going to be in Georgia this weekend. I have seen a surprising number of people taking care of the practical things and remaining enthusiastic.
For example, you`ve got a website being sent out right now in Georgia helping people make sure they`re registered to vote because Brian Kemp is notorious for erasing the polls and purging people right before the election deadline. So, again, I`ve seen people being more dedicated, being more focused, not just marching and being happy, not just saying, we`re going to listen to black women, but actually getting out there and helping candidates and fighting against voter suppression, which is what the Democrats have to do in order to make sure these close races actually turn into victory.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to come back to all of our guests after we take this break.
And when we come back, why is Nikki Haley leaving the Trump administration now? Is it a case of perfect timing as I suspect it is, for a politician with ambition? Or as one South Carolina Republican who knows her well wonders, is there something really strange about it?
And later, bestselling author Michael Lewis will join us with his look inside the Trump administration which is unlike any other look inside the Trump administration that you have read or will read.
O`DONNELL: Something doesn`t smell right. That`s what South Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Sanford said today after hearing the news that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley submitted a letter of resignation to the president last Wednesday, saying that she would remain in office until the president could find his next U.N. ambassador.
Mark Sanford knows Nikki Haley better than most Washington politicians do. He served as South Carolina governor and then encouraged Nikki Haley to run for governor at the end of his term, which she did, and she won, and was serving as governor when Donald Trump selected her for U.N. ambassador.
Here`s what Mark Sanford said about Nikki Haley`s decision to leave the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Something doesn`t smell right. Something is weird. I can`t put my finger on it. You know, her head political guy, a guy Jon Lerner used to be my lead guy. And that guy keeps his nose to the political winds. He has an acute sense of what`s going on.
And so, either there`s another shoe to drop from the Trump standpoint, something that we don`t know and that she wants to get out of the way of, or alternatively, there was just inquiry, I guess, put in yesterday on private planes and given what she saw happen to Price and what she saw happen to Pruitt, maybe she just doesn`t want to, you know, risk the possibility of blemish or the possibility of being pushed out as both of them were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: On Monday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called for an investigation into seven free flights that Nikki Haley and her husband accepted last year on private planes from three South Carolina business executives. The news of Nikki Haley`s resignation emerged in stages today in Washington. First, "Axios" reported a leak from two sources in the White House saying that the president has accepted Nikki Haley`s resignation and the White House rushed an impromptu announcement by the president and Nikki Haley who made it official.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll be speaking over time, but we will miss you nevertheless and you have done a fantastic job and I want to thank you very much.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. For all of you that are going to ask about 2020, no, I am not running for 20. I can promise you what I`ll be doing is campaigning for this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The White House released Nikki Haley`s resignation letter which included the extraordinary promise she would not be a candidate for office in 2020.
No one has ever left a presidential administration and had to put in writing that that person would not run against the president in the next election. This is another first for the Trump administration. Nikki Haley has several incentives to leave the administration now. First of all, two- year run as U.N. ambassador is a perfectly respectable run. Many U.N. ambassadors have served less time than that, some served more.
But a politician with a future of a politician has no incentive to stay at the U.N. for too long. Nikki Haley has padded her foreign policy long enough to now be a credible candidate for president in 2024. And in the meantime, she will no doubt want to make some serious money. She is not one of the rich people in the Trump administration.
She has been living largely on her government salary and her husband`s income. She has tuitions to pay for her children so she can leave now and make millions of dollars doing speaking engagements, being on corporate boards, and avoid any of the tarnish that she might pick up from another year or so of being associated with Donald Trump. Nikki Haley is doing exactly what she should do exactly when she should do it if she hopes to have a political future. And by dating her resignation letter October 3rd, she`s proving she made this decision before what could be a disastrous election result for Republicans in November.
Back with us, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Jennifer Palmieri and Jason Johnson.
Ambassador Sherman, you have seen people come and go out of the foreign policy establishment of administrations. What`s your reaction to this one?
SHERMAN: I think you got it right, Lawrence. I think this is brilliant timing on her part.
Not only all of the reasons that you said, but this puts her on A-1 not A- 14 in "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" after the midterm elections when people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be leaving and Don McGahn and people who have some real, you know, scrum that are attached to them. She`s not part of that story. She does this on her own time in her own way.
I also think it did two other things, which are fascinating. It has really led the news this evening, not the lock her up, and not Kavanaugh. So the Trump administration`s effort to try to say that the Democrats and women are a mob victimizing him, she now is a woman who has come forward and said, I`m strong, I`m clear, I`m independent, I`m going my own way. So I think that`s useful in the larger meta message.
And the other thing that she`s done is she`s actually really sort of put her finger in the eye of Secretary Pompeo in some ways because she`s leaving him, even though I think he`s probably happy she`s going, she`s leaving him without really having a U.N. ambassador. It will be awhile, a long while to get one put in place.
The deputy perm representative is very competent, but brand-new doesn`t know the U.N. system. There is no assistant secretary eve of international organizations at the State Department. I suspect that John Bolton who hates the U.N., thought when he U.S. ambassador, ten stories of the U.N. building should be lopped off and doesn`t believe in anything multilateral probably doesn`t want the next U.N. ambassador to be a cabinet secretary either.
So, she`s accomplished quite a lot in one fell swoop.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri, it is striking that this announcement came the day after CREW filed this complaint about her use of private planes. Certainly something she knew was coming, but she did have that resignation letter predated to last week.
PALMIERI: Yes, I love this story because there is so much that`s savvy and inside Washington. It`s almost an old school story about the kind of thing you cover during the Obama administration. But, it -- first of all, you have Mark Sanford throwing shade at his South Carolina rival, speculating that she has ethics violations. I will remind for viewers the ethics problems then Governor Sanford had when he ruled that state.
And then you have the Trump White House, which I think probably didn`t want to go from headlines about their victory lap, if you will, in winning the Kavanaugh nomination confirmation to having to answer questions as to whether or not a woman from Donald Trump`s cabinet might run against him. That probably wasn`t the message that they ideally wanted for today. And then you have Haley herself who I think that is very skilled -- and he know her from people in South Carolina this kind of positioning and stage craft.
And while -- I think what we find so weird and sort of suspicious about this is that it was a very gracefully executed roll out from the Trump administration, which never happens, right? There was a leak, you know, that was just maybe an hour before the actual announcement. You had a beautiful announcement in the Oval Office, her remarks were clearly prepared about what she was going to say, all the remarks she was going to hit.
The president was gracious toward her. These are things we don`t normally see, and that`s what we found so puzzling.
O`DONNELL: And the other thing we don`t normally see and haven`t seen, Jason, is someone announcing leaving the administration, sitting beside the president in the Oval Office, and saying out loud, I`m not going to run against him in the next election.
JOHNSON: Yes, Lawrence, don`t you love that these loyalty pledges are not just like in the administration, but everything afterwards, it`s like a lifetime pledge, that you can`t ever do anything. It`s an NDA if you`re part of this administration.
Look, that makes sense to me. I`m sort of in agreement with you, Lawrence. I think it`s just two years, she wanted to go, she wanted to make some money.
I never thought that Nikki Haley was a moderate. I never thought she was reasonable. I will never as a decent American who cares about human beings forgive her for what she did about the Confederate flag and the fact that she didn`t even consider moving it until nine people, nine citizens were murdered in her state by a white nationalist then she eventually relented. I never thought she was going to be a viable candidate in 2020.
I think this is about money. I think this is about getting out now. And if we`re thinking about 2024, who knows what this country could look like then. We might have a woman president. We might have somebody that she can`t beat.
I don`t think this is about 2020. I think it`s just time to go.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, Wendy Sherman, Jennifer Palmieri, thank you all for joining our discussion tonight.
And when we come back, another look inside the Trump administration, but this one from the author of "Moneyball", "The Big Short", and "The Blindside". Michael Lewis takes us inside the administration to places where no one else has bothered to even look at what the Trump administration is doing.
O`DONNELL: His bestselling book Moneyball which was turned into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Michael Lewis told the story of how data-driven analysis could win baseball games.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using this equation in the upper left right here, I`m projecting that you need to win at least 99 games to make it to the postseason. We need to score at least 814 runs in order to win those games, and allow no more than 645 bunts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In Michael Lewis` new book, he focuses on the biggest and most important data collector and analyzer in the world, the United States government, and what has happened to it under a president who says things like this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you read the U.N. report this week warning about climate change requiring drastic action?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was given to me. It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. you know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren`t so good. But I will be looking at it, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, "The New York Times" bestselling author Michael Lewis whose new book is The Fifth Risk.
Michael, with this book, you went where no one ever goes in Washington. You went inside the departments, energy, commerce, agriculture, to look at what`s happening there now under the Trump administration. They are all massive data collectors, which is one of the kind of -- a category of person we see in all of your books really. What did you find in there?
MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR, THE FIFTH RISK: Well, first thing, I was provoked. The Trump administration -- the Obama administration had essentially set up the best course ever created of how the federal government worked. A thousand people had spent the better part of the year doing briefing books for all the departments of the government. And the idea was the Trump administration was to show up the next day --
O`DONNELL: Briefing books for the new -- for whoever it was.
LEWIS: For whoever it was.
O`DONNELL: The transition.
LEWIS: Very ideological thing. I mean a lot that was going on is just technical matters. You know, how to deal with the Zika virus if it reappears or how to manage the nuclear arsenal. I mean these are management problems. And the idea was the day after the election, Trump people were supposed to send hundreds and hundreds of people into the departments.
And Trump fired his transition team right after the election and nobody showed up. So there were these courses to be taken in what was going on in these places that they never took. So that`s the starting point for me. And what you find is he`s electrified this material. I mean the government has its problems already coming into the Trump administration. But a society that appreciated this government will never have elected such a man because he has absolutely no interest in any of it.
And if there is a pattern to like what`s going on in these places is that people would narrow financial interests in what`s going on and have been put in places where they can exert influence and for their own gain. But the other pattern is total neglect. I mean half the positions in the administration have not been filled. Roughly 20 percent of the top 6,000 in civil servants have quit in the first year.
So it`s a crisis. It`s a very slow moving crisis. And it`s like the crisis you don`t pay attention to when you`re paying attention to the day to day stuff. But it is the thing that`s going to bite us.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to what we just heard the president say today, which is what`s his reaction to the U.N. report on climate change that was delivered to him this week. And he says to those reporters, "Oh, I`m absolutely going to read it." Now, your reporting seems to indicate there is very little chance the president is ever going to touch or see that document.
LEWIS: He doesn`t seem to be that interested in the government. So the answer is that would seem unlikely that he`s going to read the thing. But I think there is kind of a reason for it. I think that he has shied away from actually embracing his job which is to run this operation.
O`DONNELL: Yes, right.
LEWIS: It`s not being run. It`s being run in a very haphazard way. He tells himself a very simple story, that it`s basically -- it will run itself or he doesn`t have to think about it. If he were to collide with the actual information that`s inside the government, it would be jarring for his worldview. I mean, I think he would be overwhelmed by how enormous the task he`s neglecting is.
And what we`re talking about here, it`s not just this thing. It`s a tool we have in this society to deal with the biggest problems we have and it`s the only tool. And he`s basically letting it fall apart.
O`DONNELL: When you say there are all these unfilled jobs in the government, there`s a lot of Republicans out there who think, great, a government doesn`t do anything worthwhile anyway in these departments like energy and commerce and agriculture. They don`t do anything we care about. Let`s not fill it up with bureaucrats and save those salaries.
LEWIS: Let`s take a concrete example. All right. So, Rick Perry who`s nominated to run the Energy Department, right. He runs the Energy Department. He`s one of those Republicans who said he`s going to ax the Energy Department.
O`DONNELL: Yes, he wants to get rid of it.
LEWIS: Get rid of it. He couldn`t remember the name. But the minute he actually collides with the Energy Department and asks, what does it do? Well, it manages the nuclear arsenal. You`re going to get rid of that. It`s managing massive nuclear waste cleanups around the country. It is basically a science project. The future of the industry is going to be driven by the investments that they`re making in basic scientific research.
The idea of eliminating this -- what happens to all these people who say, "We`re just going to eliminate this stuff", they don`t know anything about it.
LEWIS: The minute they go see what`s going on, they say two things. One, it`s mission critical. And two, it`s attracted people who are really interested in mission. They`re not there for the money, except some of the Trump people. They`re there because they care about the weather service or they care about the census or they care about maintaining the nuclear arsenal.
And It`s really kind of inspiring. I think that`s what surprised me going into these places. These people are the best among us. I mean, they are - - the civil servants, we treat them like they`re dead weight but they should be respected like the military.
O`DONNELL: That is exactly what I felt in my experience with them when I was working in Washington. We have hurricane Michael named not after you, I hope, approaching tonight. We know that because of a division in the Commerce Department whose job it is to tell us how to prepare for and when to move when a hurricane --
LEWIS: And they`ve gotten better and better at it. They`ve gotten better and better at it. I mean the weather prediction has gotten steadily better. It`s gotten steadily better in part because of the data that`s been collected inside the National Weather Service and made available to a lot of geeks to hack away at it. And these people who are there in the Weather Service, they take their role protecting life and property very seriously.
And I think when you back -- I think what people just kind of lose sight of is that the basic role of the government is to keep us safe. And it manages a portfolio of risks that are absolutely terrifying. And we just assume they`re going to do that, even though all we do is kick them all the time. And if we have been doing that for as long as we`ve been doing it, and then you put a guy in charge of the thing who has no interest in management or asking for something bad to happen.
O`DONNELL: When I think of your readership, I don`t think of politics at all. I mean you`ve written books about Wall Street, you`ve written books that are universal appeal and interest. What do you anticipate in your readership from a Republican reader of your book versus a Democratic reader of your book?
LEWIS: I think the broad message is that I think everybody would yet, if they paid attention, is that if we were to money haul the society, we would invest in the public sector. We have underinvested it. We`ve got workforce that are five times more people over the age of 60 than there are under the age of 30. There`s an equivalent thing going on with the technology in the government. You can`t run an organization like that.
And so I think that -- so what would be the difference between Democrat`s response? Everything is so polarized. I mean I suspect what will happen is Republicans get defensive and Democrats go "Yes". But we need candidates who can actually -- like the government doesn`t sell itself. It is forbidden for selling itself, doesn`t market itself with the exception of NASA and the military.
We need people who can actually go explain to the citizens what this enterprise does, the commerce department, the agricultural department, and make them appreciate what it does so there is political support for what it does. And so when some bozo comes along and says he wants to be president, the first question everybody asks is what are you going to do with this instead of just giving him a pass on that question.
O`DONNELL: Yes. This is an invaluable book, a look at the way the government really works. Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk. I don`t have to hold it up. We`ve got it on the screen.
Michael, thank you very much --
LEWIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: -- for joining us.
LEWIS: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, there are 28 days to the election, which means there are 29 days to what could be a big set of changes in the Trump administration after the election.
O`DONNELL: Twenty-nine days from now, a whole new world opens up for Donald Trump, a world of firings, pardons, who knows. The day after the congressional election, Donald Trump could finally indulge his publicly stated desire to fire his attorney general, something he reportedly promised Republicans he would not do until after the election. Today, the president was asked about his next attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Senator Graham popular enough to be your next attorney general, sir?
TRUMP: He is somebody that never asked me that question. I think he`s very happy where he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But what if Democrats win the Senate? Would the president be able to get a new attorney general confirmed by a Republican lame duck session of Congress fast enough and would that new attorney general immediately take over the supervision of Robert Mueller`s investigation and possibly block Robert Mueller from seriously pursuing that investigation or fire Robert Mueller outright?
Or will the president himself simply fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein the day after the election so that Rod Rosenstein is no longer supervising Robert Mueller`s investigation? And then appoint someone to that supervisory role who would block the Mueller investigation? Election day might turn out to be as important for the future of Robert Mueller`s investigation as it is for the party that ends up in control of Congress.
After our break, Jill Wine-Banks will consider what Robert Mueller might be waking up to the day after the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the special counsel`s office. The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Rod Rosenstein this summer and we may never see anything like that again. After election day, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might never again announce any indictments or other developments in the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigation because Rod Rosenstein could be fired the day after the election. Robert Mueller could be fired the day after the election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions surely could be fired the day after the election. And the Trump pardons could start flying around Washington the day after the election, four weeks from now.
Joining us now is Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor.
And Jill, 29 days from now, Donald Trump is apparently free to fire whoever he feels like firing because the congressional elections will be behind him.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTORS: Yes, he can. And he might, although he did say he had no intention of firing anybody, but that usually is a sign that he`s about to do it. On the other hand, I do think that Mueller will have planned for all this and that he will be ready for it, as will Rosenstein be ready for it.
And it seems to me they have a lot of options. Mueller could have an indictment ready because I do believe the president can be indicted, and that the office of legal counsel opinion can be waived. It can be granted by Rosenstein to allow it or he has his report ready which would go to Congress and could, under certain circumstances, be made public. Or he could be prepared to have the grand jury act on their own inherent authority to take action to return an indictment without his help.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill, now that we`re within the 30-day window of the election, we are probably in a publicly quiet period for the Mueller investigation, isn`t that right?
WINE-BANKS: Yes, I think so. It would be unwise to do anything now. Now, if he does nothing and returns an indictment the day after or issues a report that`s really devastating the day after the election, of course, the Democrats will think that they`ve been had, because if people had known, it might have affected the outcome. But if he does anything now, the Republicans will think that it is a political action, and so it`s sort of a bad timing.
I can tell you that during Watergate, we didn`t really take into account. We investigated until we had the first nine tapes and the testimony that we felt justified indictments. And it was in March, so it was not affecting any election at all. And we acted until we were done investigating. And once we did, we returned the indictments. So I think the timing is very important, and we won`t see anything happen until after the election.
O`DONNELL: What do you imagine it`s like inside the Mueller office with the prosecutors? They`ve got your old job there working on the special prosecutor investigation of a president. When they know that this possibility exists, that there could be something possibly attempted, anyway, devastating to their reservation 29 days from now?
WINE-BANKS: I think that they are planning their activities around that possibility. And they may be doing what we did, which was we took key documentary copies home. No originals but we took copies home just in case we got fired and were not allowed to have our documents ever again. We wanted to take the chance that we might have to violate the law to save the country and so we took them home.
And so maybe they`re thinking of something like that, or maybe they have sealed indictments, maybe they have a draft of the report. I know George Frampton, one of my colleagues, had taken basically the key summary of evidence home with him during Watergate. So I think they hopefully are planning for this horrible possibility, which I hope won`t happen because it would be the ultimate obstruction of justice and would really be a threat to democracy.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much for your unique perspective on this tonight. Really appreciate it.
We have some breaking news on hurricane Michael and that`s next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight hurricane Michael is headed toward the gulf coast of Florida with landfall expected tomorrow. NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins has the latest and joins us now. Bill, what do we need to know?
BILL KARINS, METEOROLOGIST, NBC NEWS: Well, the hurricane enters now with our 11:00 p.m. advisory and there`s one big important thing that has changed. They are now calling for a Category 4 hurricane at landfall tomorrow afternoon. The forecast continues hour by hour to get worse for our friends in the Panama City area, all the way down to Apalachicola. The bottom line is they`ve never seen a storm like this in that region of the country.
Florida has been hit 10 times in the record history by Category 4 storms, twice by Category 5 but never in this potion of Florida. So they`ll have water in areas they have never seen before and there will be towns and communities that will be inhabitable for weeks after the storm goes through. That`s what happens when a Category 4 moves through when you get a landfall.
So here`s the latest, 125 mile per hour winds is now only 220 miles. Here is the eye being picked up on radar and here`s the first band of rain not far away from Apalachicola here right where the big band is. Here is the new update from the hurricane center with the path. They have it going the red center line just barely to the east of Panama City.
If you have interest in Panama City Beach, you`re hoping at this point that you can get this a little further to the east so at least they go through the back side of the storm instead of the right front quadrant with the strongest winds and the worst storm surge which as of now would be down towards Apalachicola and then have extreme storm surge all the way through the big band area here. Not a lot of populated cities but, nonetheless, still a lot of small communities there that will just be swamped.
Here`s, Lawrence, we call this our spaghetti line. They show us where the storm`s going to head. They`re all pinpointing Panama City to Apalachicola. It`s going to be a horrible blow for these people tomorrow afternoon.
O`DONNELL: Bill Karins, thank you for the latest.
And that is tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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