Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 10, 2018 Guest: James Lee Witt
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We`re going to have hurricane coverage and covering the latest from Washington on other issues. We`re going to go straight to it.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Great. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Our breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post" is that "The Post" is reporting that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, quote, ordered an operation to lure "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan. The U.S. intelligence intercepts of the Saudi officials` plan raised the question of whether the Trump administration was obligated to warn Jamal Khashoggi that he was in danger from the Saudi regime.
There is no doubt now just how much danger Khashoggi faced. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey last week and he never came out. He has not been seen since. Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi Arabian dissident who has been living in the United States in self-imposed exile and writing opinion columns for "The Washington Post." He has applied for U.S. citizenship and was visiting Turkey last week in order to prepare all the necessary paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his fiancee who lives in Istanbul. They planned to be married and split their time between Washington and Istanbul.
Jamal Khashoggi needed some Saudi documents for his upcoming marriage and so he made an appointment to visit the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd. His fiancee waited outside the consulate when he went inside. They were going to go shopping for appliances for their new home after what they thought would be a short visit to the consulate.
After three hours and no sign of Jamal Khashoggi leaving the consulate, his fiancee got worried and checked with some people inside who told her he left already and she must have missed him, which would mean standing there outside the consulate waiting there anxiously for her fiance to come out, she simply missed him walking out the door, and for some reason, he decided to walk right past her.
He has been missing ever since, and there`s now a report from unnamed Turkish officials saying that he was murdered inside that consulate by a team of 15 Saudis who flew to Istanbul on two different private planes. A video camera recorded Khashoggi entering the consulate at 1:14 p.m. But there is no video of him exiting the consulate.
This is the kind of thing that any past president of the United States would be actively pressuring Saudi Arabia on, but Donald Trump`s son-in-law has a new best friend in Saudi Arabia, the Jared Kushner of Saudi Arabia, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Like all dictators around the world who have heard the president of the United States called the press the enemy of the people, the Saudi dictatorial regime, of course, believes that such enemies of the people should be executed. And as far as they can tell, the president of the United States has absolutely no objection to that.
Tonight, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a letter to the president signed by every member of the committee except, of course, Rand Paul, demanding an investigation of the disappearance and possible murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Joining our discussion now, Ned Price, former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama administration, and former CIA analyst. And Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and host of WNYC Radio`s "America On The Line". They are both MSNBC contributors.
And, Ned, your reaction to this latest reporting from "The Washington Post" saying American intelligence intercepts have captured Saudi officials discussing a plan to detain Khashoggi.
NED PRICE, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Well, in some ways, Lawrence, this underscores our worst fear. In the intelligence community, there`s something known as intelligence community directive 191. And it requires that the intelligence community provides as you said a duty to warn to both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike in three scenarios. In the threat of murder, in the threat of bodily harm, and in a threat of yes, kidnapping.
So, the fact that Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, seemingly unafraid, seemingly unconcerned with his own safety suggests that did not happen. I can tell you when I was at CIA, that was pretty automatic, this provision of duty to warn to potential victims of such crimes. In this case, if that did not happen, it raises profound questions.
And I think a lot of those questions center on this administration`s extraordinarily close if not airtight relationship with Saudi Arabia that has centered around Jared Kushner. It reminds me of reporting we saw earlier this year, Lawrence, that Jared in his travel, in his discussions with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, late last year provided the crown prince with U.S. intelligence about targets for a forthcoming Saudi purge that was then carried out a week after Jared left Saudi Arabia.
If Jared was willing to provide intelligence to the Saudi crown prince, I think we have reason at least to be suspicious of the possibility that the administration prohibited the intelligence community from fulfilling its solemn duty in this case.
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan, this is "The Washington Post" story. This is one of the people who works -- has a relationship with your newspaper, an opinion writer for your newspaper. What has "The Post" been able to do?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: "The Post" has been able to, at least as an institution, raise hell in all quarters where we can raise hell. Whether it`s to the administration, the Saudis, the Turks, anyone who will listen, because --
O`DONNELL: And this is normally a thing where "The Washington Post" would have a receptive ear at the State Department and at the White House.
CAPEHART: Right. And in fact, you wouldn`t have to demand that the president of the United States say something, that the administration would say something about not just the disappearance and possible murder of someone who was living in the United States but also a journalist.
Freedom is like the bedrock of American democracy. Freedom of it press is essential. Journalists are the only people -- journalism is the only profession protected in the Constitution. We are a beacon for other nations around the world because of freedom of the press, the governed willing to be held accountable -- the governing willing to be held accountable by the people through the press.
And the fact that a journalist, an opinion writer for a major American newspaper has gone missing and possibly murdered and there is relative silence from the president of the United States and the administration is chilling. And, you know, the fact that we`re talking about Jamal Khashoggi should remind everyone about the perils of being a journalist.
As Americans, we`re not used to this. Journalists cover stories and cover politicians and cover the powerful all the time. And the fact that we`re talking about Jamal Khashoggi right now shows the perils of holding the powerful accountable.
O`DONNELL: And he`s not the only one. I want to raise another issue here because the president has talked about the press as being the n the enemy of the people. And we`ve been saying how that must sound to other countries around the world, especially the more dictatorial regimes.
And Shahidul Alam is being held by Bangladeshi authorities who grabbed him in August. He`s still in detention. He has been jailed now for several weeks. And he`s a photographer there. There are British protests trying to bring attention to his case.
But, Ned, this is one of the things that we have seen. We`ve actually been kind of anticipating. What are these kinds of countries with these sort of police state apparatuses going to do in an atmosphere where Donald Trump unleashes this license that these people are the enemy of the people?
PRICE: Well, that`s right, Lawrence. As Americans we like to brag and crow that our president is the leader of the free world. He`s an object of emulation and a source of inspiration.
But in this case, he is playing that role for some of the most egregious despots around the world. And we`ve seen the results of that before our very eyes and in public. Look at Bashar al Assad. He has used the term fake news within his own country, within his own context.
Viktor Orban, the increasingly autocratic leader of Hungary, has called the main Hungarian opposition paper a fake news factory.
The Kremlin -- excuse me, the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, has a site dedicated on its website where it takes primarily Western press reports and puts a big red fake label on top of them.
These countries and these leaders are emulating President Trump. And they see he is giving him and them license. It`s not only his rhetoric, Lawrence, but also his failure to act. It`s his failure to act to call out civil rights and civil liberties and human rights around the globe, just as he cozies up with autocrats and despots.
Just look at Kim Jong-un, just look at his lovefest with Duterte, with al- Sisi of Egypt, and the list goes on, and we end with Mohammed bin Salman. Perhaps there`s no greater friend of Jared Kushner and Donald Trump than Mohammed bin Salman, who according to this "Washington Post" piece may be behind what sounds like it could be an egregious and horrific crime.
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan Capehart, if there is to be an investigation that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is demanding, it may well be that the name Jared Kushner comes up in that investigation, because Jared has had phone calls with the crown prince that are not monitored, that are not -- that don`t go through the normal security checks, and there may be some discoveries there that could be very uncomfortable for Jared Kushner.
CAPEHART: Right, that`s assuming that -- assuming the administration goes along, assuming the administration hands over the information that`s needed to carry out a real investigation. Up until this moment, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been unbelievably compliant with any of the wishes from the administration. It`d be very interesting to see how the administration responds to this.
And one other thing -- there are two reporters from "Reuters" who have been arrested in Myanmar who have been in jail for 303 days since December of 2017. So, journalists are being arrested around the world. This case of Jamal Khashoggi hits close to home because he was a global opinions writer at "The Washington Post."
O`DONNELL: Yes, and just go back to Shahidul Alam, the reason he was arrested in Bangladesh is that he criticized the government`s reaction and handling of protests. This is exactly what you would want the media and press to be able to do in any country.
And, Ned, this is -- this is the thing that they have every right to believe Donald Trump would encourage, just go ahead, shut these people down if they criticize the government.
PRICE: Well, that`s absolutely right. And in fact, he has. In some cases, it`s been explicit as with the -- as when he tells Duterte that he loves the way he`s handling the crime problem and drug problem in his country. And in some cases, it`s implicit, the fact that the U.S. government does not weigh in when these things happen.
Look, Lawrence, it is even broader than freedom of the press and our standing up for human rights and civil liberties around the globe. I think what we have seen is an abdication of leadership from this administration that has given rise to some of the worst impulses and regimes around the world. We talked about the Saudis potential, even apparent murder of this U.S. resident and "Washington Post" journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. But we can also cite Moscow`s use of chemical weapons on British soil.
We can talk about a whole number of examples of regimes acting on these worst impulses to include the Chinese, arresting the head of Interpol just in recent days. They do this I think at least in part knowing they have impunity because America is no longer willing to stand up, no longer willing to criticize, and no longer willing to act on the side of human rights and civil liberties and the values that we`ve always stood for.
O`DONNELL: And, Jon Capehart, it`s just so heart breaking to read Khashoggi fiancee`s op-ed piece, describing standing out there on the sidewalk waiting for him to come out. And now, she`s pleading for President Trump for his intervention here. That`s going to be a tough plea to make to this president.
CAPEHART: Yes, because it requires him to feel empathy.
CAPEHART: And over the last almost two years, we have seen time and time again that the president of the United States lacks empathy. The idea that he could possibly be a consoler in chief potentially for Jamal Khashoggi`s fiancee is something that I can`t even contemplate.
And while she put this plea in print, and it was important that she put it in print, it is my sincerest hope and prayer that her words are heeded by someone in the administration, someone in that West Wing that can get it through to the president of the United States, that damn it, he should care about this.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, Jonathan Capehart, thank you for starting our discussion tonight.
And when we come back, we`re going to have the latest on Hurricane Michael, and the president`s decision to go to a rally tonight instead of concentrating on the government`s response to this devastating hurricane.
And later, new reports that the president is actually talking to Jeff Sessions` chief of staff about replacing Jeff Sessions.
O`DONNELL: That was the scene in Panama City, Florida, earlier today where one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the United States mainland made landfall this afternoon. Hurricane Michael was the first category 4 storm ever to hit the Florida panhandle, bringing sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, only 2 miles per hour less than a category 5 storm.
Michael is also the fourth strongest hurricane ever to strike anywhere in the U.S. mainland. Tonight, officials in Florida say they have turned their focus to search and rescue. At least one person has died from the hurricane after a tree fell on a home in Greensborough, Florida. More than 380,000 people are without power in the state, according to Florida`s Division of Emergency Management. Thousands more are without power in Georgia tonight where Michael is still bringing powerful winds.
Joining us now from Georgia is NBC News correspondent Tammy Leitner.
Tammy, what is the latest where you are tonight?
TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Lawrence, we`re getting the back end of the storm, which means it`s weakened to a cat 1.
But let me give you an idea how powerful that is and what 90 mile an hour winds can do. Take a look at the trees here and the roots. This is how powerful it is. We`ve spoken to people tonight who said they`ve actually had trees crashing through their home.
A woman we spoke with just about three hours go said a tree came through and cut her home in half. Luckily, there was no injuries, but that shows you the power of this storm.
Now, they`ve had reported power outages in counties all across Georgia. About 125,000 people with no power. We actually have no power where we`re at here at the hotel. So, a lot of people aren`t going to have power for days to come.
Now a major concern also is flooding. We`re inland and they`re saying just because you`re inland, you`re not out of the woods here. They`re still going to be keeping an eye on this through the night. A big concern where we are, it`s very flat and so, the flooding can happen very fast here, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Tammy Leitner, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
We now go to Bill Karins for the latest on hurricane, NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.
Bill, what`s the latest?
BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Lawrence, nine hours after landfall, it`s still a hurricane. The next update, we should have it down to finally a tropical storm.
We`re still getting damage and trees down, that`s what we expected at this point in this storm. And I`m starting to hear from a lot of storm chasers that were down at the impact, at landfall, and they are saying that Panama City is lot worse than the video we`ve seen so far, and they`re saying that area around Tyndall Air Force Base is very bad and that Mexico Beach area is horrendous. They say that some of them have never seen wind damage that extensive, and these are people that chased storms across the globe.
So, when we see it -- don`t even think the video we`ve shown you is by far the worst, because that will come tomorrow during sunup and we got helicopters out there and all the video from the ground.
So, right now, the storm is just heading into central portions of Georgia. There`s Macon right here, there`s Interstate 75. Still a category 1. We`ve got winds 40 to 50. So, we`re starting to minimize our damage once you get below 50.
But right near the center, right near the center, which just existed the Albany, Georgia area, that`s where we still have the potential at least to get some gusts up there to 60, 80 miles per hour, and that`s where we still have a chance to losing some power. We still have a tornado watch for this entire region. We haven`t had a lot of tornados with this system.
Occasionally, we get these systems that come in especially during the afternoon, like we did this one. And you can get numerous, dozens of tornados. We only had one reported today, so that was good with that.
So, here`s the latest from the hurricane center. It is moving in a brisk pace, 17 miles an hour. Remember every storm is different. Florence we couldn`t get rid of life of us. It was like a turtle sitting there crawling. This one s going to move rapidly, that`s why we`re not talking too much about the rainfall and problems with that.
I mean, as far as the forecast path, at 2:00 a.m. here just past Macon, still with winds about 70 miles per hour, and then by the time we wake up near Augusta and then over the top of Columbia and through the areas of North Carolina, as we go throughout the day tomorrow, and it`s actually going to combine into a new storm just off the coast of Norfolk. That`s why the winds go from 45 to 60.
So, we have pretty decent storm up the mid-Atlantic. We have flood watches from southern New England, right down the coast. So, not going to be a pretty travel day on the eastern seaboard as we go throughout your Thursday. And here`s just some of the numbers. This was so record breaking, I can you a list of like 10 different records.
But this is the list of U.S. landfalls that we have on record from the late 1800s, the strongest winds we`ve ever had. Camille off the charts, that was in the northern gulf near Mississippi. So we can get horrific storms in the northern gulf, and this was one of them here with Michael. The strongest storm we`ve seen since Andrew, that was in 1992. That`s what happened.
And on top of that, before this storm, the strongest ever in October was only 130 mile per hour winds at landfall. This was 155. I mean, this was well above anything that we`ve seen.
And we measure the pressure with these storms because that gives a representation of how strong they are. Typically the lower the pressure, the stronger the winds. Well, you see where Camille is here on the list. Look where Michael went -- Michael was ahead of Andrew and Michael had a lower pressure than Katrina.
I mean, this wasn`t just your average every day storm. If it had hit a huge population center like New Orleans, we`d be talking about incredible problems and rescues needing to take place. This storm hit down here in between Apalachicola and Panama City. It`s one of those unpopulated areas, some of those rural areas in all of Florida. We still feel horrible for all the people down there that have to rebuild their lives.
But it just goes to show you, it really depends on where these storms make landfall. And finally, was getting into the impacts we`re due to expect. This is the area of possible power outages with the gusty winds as we go through tonight and tomorrow.
As we said, Columbia, Charlotte, Raleigh, possibly in there, too. And then the rainfall impacts, which would cause problems to I-95 tomorrow, maybe 3 to 6 inches of rain likely right along the center path. Anywhere from Raleigh up here to Richmond and Norfolk and southern portions of the Chesapeake Bay could further the worst of it.
So, Lawrence, it`s now heading into the second week of October. The peak of the hurricane season was back in September 10th. We can`t get October storms. We had Wilma before, but this one was a head scratcher for all of us. It wasn`t supposed to get this strong and it put on just an incredible show during the day today.
O`DONNELL: Bill Karins, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
And we`re joined now from Little Rock, Arkansas, by James Lee Witt. He`s the former FEMA director under President Bill Clinton.
And, Mr. Witt, your reaction to what you`ve seen tonight and what you think it means for the federal government response tomorrow.
JAMES LEE WITT, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I`ve seen many of these storms over the years. I was at FEMA for eight years, and everything from Opal to Gustav, Ike, and every one of them is different, but they also leave a lot of devastation, and they really absolutely destroys families and homes and businesses that they worked all their life for to accumulate. And so it`s very devastating to them.
O`DONNELL: Are you surprised that the president chose to have a political rally in Pennsylvania tonight at the peak of the storm rather than be at the White House with -- being in a position to oversee what`s happening?
WITT: Well, you know, that`s his choice. You know, I would not have made that choice. I would have been more concerned about the people in the path of Michael and the devastation that it`s caused, because, you know, these people are going to be suffering for several weeks and months before they can recover.
And, you know, it`s a catastrophic event. And for them that`s lost everything. And in these counties and cities and the recovery efforts are going to take some time. And it will not happen overnight. You know, Brock Long and FEMA, they do a great job, but they`re there to support the state and local governments and resources they may need to recover.
And I talked to the mayor of Tallahassee two days ago, Mayor Gillum, and he was very comfortable about what they had put in place to making sure they can protect the city and the people there. So, a lot of the local officials have done a tremendous job as well as the state of Florida, and, you know, the state of Florida has been through this many times. And they have the capability to respond to this.
And I`m just glad so many people evacuated and hope that there`s not anymore deaths than the one that`s been reported.
O`DONNELL: What would you say to people of Florida and Georgia that are going to need FEMA`s help? How quick of a response can they expect, and how soon will they actually be able to speak to speak to someone in a position to help?
WITT: Well, you know, of course as soon as the storm gets out of the way, and I know it`s pretty much out of Florida with the exception of the debris and downed power lines and so forth, that they`re going to have to get out of the way to get teams in there to not only restore power but also just to do damage assessments.
And all the way into Georgia, you know, and even South Carolina and North Carolina possibly, some help there as well. It`s going to take some time. I mean, they cannot get in there with downed power lines and debris and stuff that`s in the way.
So, between FEMA and SBA and HUD and the other federal agencies getting in there and supporting the state on damage assessment and see what the requirements are and see what the needs are. But I`m sure FEMA is going to come up with the 1-800 registration number so people can start applying for assistance as well as SBA, and for small businesses.
But, you know, it`s complicated in the sense you have to be safe and you have to make sure that people do their work without being in harm`s way.
O`DONNELL: And is it a different 800 number for each one of these events people call? When will they be able to make contact through that 800 number?
WITT: I`m sure the government and FEMA will be putting up that number very soon. I know when was director of FEMA, we had a 1-800 number you could call for FEMA RSBA, and it was transferred to either one. And I`m sure they`re still doing that today, but I`m sure they`ll have the numbers up shortly.
O`DONNELL: James Lee Witt, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.
LEE: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, instead of working with FEMA officials tonight, the president decided to have a rally in Pennsylvania.
O`DONNELL: With a deadly hurricane rampaging through Florida tonight, the president decided not to cancel a political rally in Pennsylvania where he could bask in the adoration of his fans. After a mandatory opening line about thoughts and prayers for Florida, which the president read in his teleprompter at the beginning of his speech, he later spoke from the heart about what really matters to him about Florida.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember, we won Florida? Remember early -- it was early and we won by a lot. We won Florida by a lot. Remember the red, right? The red, beautiful red. I never liked red so much.
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O`DONNELL: When President Barack Obama held a campaign rally six days after a hurricane hit the East Coast, Donald Trump then tweeted yesterday Obama campaigned with Jay-Z & Springsteen while hurricane Sandy victims across New York and New Jersey are still decimated by Sandy. Wrong, exclamation point.
American citizens living in Puerto Rico are still decimated by last year`s hurricanes but tonight the president pretended that his government faithfully takes care of all Americans after hurricane damage.
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TRUMP: We know when Americans face hardship, we support each other. We stand with each other. We care for each other, and we will always pull through. It will be successful.
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O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for "PBS Newshour" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Jonathan Capehart is back with us. He`s an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and the host of "WNYC Radio`s America on the Line". He`s also an MSNBC contributor.
And Yamiche, was there -- are you aware of any reporting from the White House today indicating that anyone considered canceling the rally in Pennsylvania?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: No. In fact, the president said that because there were people lining up and waiting for him at this rally, he felt that he had to go do this. When really, in fact, the president loves rallies because this is a place where he can feel safe, this is a place where people can shout his name. And this is a place where, even though you care for him for an hour and a half, he`s not all saying that much news.
In fact, "Fox News" which has covered the president`s rallies live has actually decided that they`d rather just have regular programming and will say they will come back to the rally if he makes news, which they didn`t. So, in fact, the president was really just using this as a moment to again gloat about the fact that he got Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Also to tell people that he won the women`s vote when, of course, in fact, he did not. He won the white women vote. Hillary Clinton won most women votes.
O`DONNELL: And, of course, Jonathan, he`s lying about people -- he said were lining up last night 24 hours in advance. There`s absolutely no evidence of that. No one has been able to find a person who did that. There were no people doing that.
Let`s take a look at the Senate race in Pennsylvania, the state Donald Trump decided to go to tonight to campaign. And we see Democrat Bob Casey at 50 percent in Pennsylvania. And the Republican Lou Barletta who President Trump has campaigned for repeatedly is all the way up to 33 percent in the latest poll. And so it`s not easy to come up with a justification for being in Pennsylvania tonight.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think, Yamiche, with her finger on it, the president likes rallies. It`s the equivalent of, you know, recharging his batteries, all the adulation, and the applause and the cheering. He trots out his greatest hits, you know. Gets the crowd to chant about the wall, and lock her up, still two years after the election. Although last night, they chanted lock her up over Senator Diane Feinstein.
But, anyway, this is I think less to do with the race in Pennsylvania than it has to do with the overall effort of the president trying to gin up -- keep the base wound up, keep the base energized after the Kavanaugh confirmation fight and to remind them that he`s out there, he`s fighting for them. He`s throwing so much red meat out there. It`s not just Kavanaugh.
He`s trotted back out Democrats are the party of crime. Telling the people in the arena and whoever might be watching, either online or on television, that the Democrats, if you elect them, they`re going to open up the borders, they`re going to blow up the deficits, they`re going to let criminals into the country. And that plays well to the fear and loathing crowd.
But for a whole lot of people in the country, this greatest hits mantra of the president I think is becoming tiresome. We`ll know for sure come election night.
O`DONNELL: And Yamiche, are Republicans on Capitol Hill in leadership positions who are really trying to calculate how to hold onto the Senate or possibly how to hold onto the House, would they prefer that Donald Trump stay home on a night like this or stay home generally?
ALCINDOR: Well, really, it comes down to where he`s going to go. If you`re in a place where a Republican needs a boost, there are -- there is some thinking that President Trump`s endorsement helps Republicans and help people talk about the fact that he does have a lot of popularity with his base.
But if you`re looking at a place like let`s say Nevada where there`s a very clear line and Hillary Clinton won that state, you don`t want Donald Trump anywhere near there. You don`t want him talking about the wall. You don`t want him talking about social issues.
The same is true in California where the governor debate this week and the gubernatorial candidate would not say President Trump`s name because he didn`t want to be associated with him. And it took 47 minutes for President Trump`s name to even be mentioned in the debate and it was a Democrat doing it. So there you have a Republican saying, "I don`t want any parts of that."
O`DONNELL: But, Jonathan, the problem for these candidates who would prefer that Donald Trump not come to their state or not come to their district, Republicans, is this thing called television. So when Donald Trump is on television with his completely out of control fans and they`re screaming, "Lock her up," about someone new, lock her up about Senator Diane Feinstein, you can`t keep that television out of your state where you`re hoping Donald Trump doesn`t come.
CAPEHART: Right. No, you can`t. The president, no matter where he is, is a constant reminder of, to Yamiche`s point, if you`re in a district where they love the president and he won it by a lot, great, they love to hear it. But for a vast swath of the country constantly being reminded that this person, in tone, in temperament, is contrary to everything that you stand for and believe in.
If you`re running for Congress, if you are a Republican in a purple state or a purple district, you might want to run around your district and like do something to the power grid so that people don`t hear anything from this guy until November 6 or through November 6.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Because, Yamiche, there is that question of, is Donald Trump stimulating his base for turn out or is he stimulating the opposition for even greater turn out every time he has one of these rallies.
ALCINDOR: Well, I`ll say that having gone to several Trump rallies in the past couple of months, there`s this interesting thing when you ask Trump supporters who are women whether or not they actually support the president, whether or not they agree with some of the stuff that he`s been saying about the Me Too movement or mocking Dr. Ford, there are Republican women who go to Trump rallies who then cringe.
And I`ve seen some reporting on Twitter today that "NBC NEWS" interviewed a couple Trump supporters who said they`re not sure they`re going to vote for him in 2020. And again, these are people that would go to a Trump rally. So that doesn`t look good for the president.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And a lot of the small towns that the president goes to, the Trump rally is the biggest show that`s going to come by. So some of that audience might not be as enthusiastic as the president thinks.
Yamiche Alcindor and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining our discussion.
And when we come back, a new report that the president talked to Jeff Sessions` chief of staff and offered Jeff Sessions` chief of staff Jeff Sessions` job.
O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that President Trump spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions` chief of staff about replacing his boss as attorney general. According to "The Washington Post," the conversation between Donald Trump and Matthew G. Whittaker was vague. It was not clear for example whether Whittaker would take over on an interim basis or be nominated in a more permanent capacity or how definitive the president`s intentions were.
In September of 2017, one month after he wrote an op-ed piece saying that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller should not investigate the Trump family finances, the op-ed piece urged Rod Rosenstein to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation. Matthew Whittaker, after writing that op- ed piece, a month later became the attorney general`s chief of staff.
If Matthew Whittaker becomes the next attorney general, he would be able to issue that order to Robert Mueller himself. Republican senators are no longer voicing any support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remain in his job. And the only part of this that Mitch McConnell says he cares About is that he does not want the president to choose a current Republican Senator to be the next attorney general.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president may fire Jeff Sessions after the midterms. Would you be OK with that? And also, do you think a replacement might come from somewhere within your own caucus?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it`s not going to come from our caucus. I can tell you that, 51-49, you can do the math. We`re not doing that. Who the attorney general is up to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: With the congressional elections what, 27 days away, does that mean we are 28 days away from Donald Trump firing his attorney general, and what does that mean for Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller?
That discussion`s next.
O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that President Trump recently talked with Jeff Sessions` own chief of staff about replacing Jeff Sessions himself as attorney general.
Joining us now, Maya Wiley, former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, an MSNBC legal analyst and Jonathan Capehart is back with us.
And Maya, so the president talks to your chief of staff about replacing you while you`re in the president`s cabinet. This is one of those unique Trumpian moments.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It is a unique Trumpian moment. Really interesting in the context of this conversation about whether or not he would be firing Rod Rosenstein or asking for his resignation. Because, of course, Rod Rosenstein would be the next in line if he were simply filling the vacancy, waiting for an opportunity to have the advice and consent of the Senate.
So to go to Sessions` chief of staff, who by the way is not next in line, but, of course, we know he would probably, I`m guessing love to fire Rod Rosenstein, and it`s the guy that Sessions brings in, so it`s a slap in Sessions` face in every way imaginable. But, you know, the reality here is he`s not looking for an attorney general to be the highest law enforcement officer of the land. He`s looking for the attorney general who will be loyal to Donald Trump, not the nation. And that`s really the story here.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan, Matthew Whitaker, Jeff Sessions` chief of staff, a month before he becomes Jeff Sessions` chief of staff, he writes an op-ed sharply critical of Robert Mueller, sharply critical of Rod Rosenstein, saying Rod Rosenstein must order Robert Mueller to limit his investigation, and a month later he`s Jeff Sessions` chief of staff. And now the president must have at some point read some of the lines in that article.
O`DONNELL: He must have found that article at some point.
CAPEHART: He`s literally shopping for an attorney general, to Maya`s point, someone who will be loyal to him. Remember, we`ve seen stories where he apparently, you know, thundered in the oval office, "Where`s my -- who`s my Roy Cohn?" The president still, two years in, does not understand that the attorney general is not his lawyer, that the White House Counsel is not his lawyer, that these people give an oath to the Constitution, they have institutions to run. They are not about running the personality of the president.
O`DONNELL: And Maya, I think the president`s going to discover if his plan is I fire Jeff Sessions and Matthew Whitaker immediately takes over, that can`t happen because Matthew Whitaker is not in a Senate-confirmed job. His job was not subject to Senate confirmation. So he would just have to wait the months and months it would take to get Senate confirmation if he could get Senate confirmation.
WILEY: If he could. And this is exactly the conundrum that Donald Trump faces, right? So he doesn`t want Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein is next in line. So he really would be the person who would become the interim attorney general, unless he then takes the step of firing Rod Rosenstein. But either way, he`s not going to have a quick pick.
As we know, you know, Republican senators were having this conversation a few weeks ago about which one of them might be willing to take the job because maybe they would be willing to confirm quickly if it was one of them. And we had Lindsey Graham this past weekend talking about his golfing, joking with Donald Trump about whether he would be willing to take the job.
I mean we`re talking about a job that senators don`t want and that Trump is trying to fill with just about whomever he can who will be either loyal to him or plan B. Plan B seems to be or just really taking care of himself, which either way has nothing to do with the country. Nothing.
O`DONNELL: In "New York Magazine", Olivia Lizzie went to the White House to study the question of what`s going on with John Kelly and the rumors about the president wanting to fire John Kelly. And it became this extraordinary piece of reporting because the president invited her eventually into the oval office and paraded everyone in the building in front of her, from John Kelly to the vice president to the Secretary of State.
And at a certain point, she determined that one of the reasons John Kelly is still there is that even when the president has seemed to try to fire him, he just doesn`t leave. She reports in this must-read in "New York Magazine," when the president says I need you to leave, Kelly just ignores him. An administration official said, "I think the president just doesn`t know who to call to fire him. Normally, if the president wanted to fire somebody, he would call Kelly to do it. But there`s nobody else to call." So John Kelly`s still there.
CAPEHART: That`s the incredible thing. We have seen -- the president doesn`t fire anybody. And I would think that General Kelly would demand that the president of the United States fire him face to face, the way that we were hearing that Rod Rosenstein would want the president to do for him.
Well, if he can`t fire him by Twitter and he has no one else to call, well, why wouldn`t John Kelly just keep showing up at the White House? Because the boss, the leader of the free world, doesn`t have the guts to do what the president of the United States has every power to do, and that is to fire his chief of staff.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And the technical truth of the matter, Maya, is if you get a phone call from the White House chief of staff saying the president is firing you and you`re a cabinet official, you are not fired. You don`t have to consider that fired. If you hear it directly from the president or you get it in writing directly from the president, then you`re fired.
WILEY: That`s exactly right. I just have to say, we`re talking about probably the world`s worst job right now is being chief of staff to this president because he`s not programmable, right? You can`t help advise him. Your job as chief of staff is to help organize his mission, his agenda, ensure that his staff is carrying it out, ensure that he`s where he`s supposed to be when he`s supposed to be, with whom he`s supposed to be.
This article demonstrates that John Kelly is not able to do his job because this conversation with this reporter should have never happened. Particularly with the news cycle, the seriousness of the news cycle we were in. This is the strongest argument I`ve seen yet that John Kelly is anonymous because that`s the only reason he`d still be there.
O`DONNELL: Maya Wiley, Jonathan Capehart, thank you for joining us.
The last word is next.
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s last word.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.