Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 24, 2018 Guest: Ned Price; Ken Dilanian; Andy Slavitt; Jerry Bernstein
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Of course it`s the number one podcast. There`s nothing to be nervous about because it`s fantastic. I`m going to sign up for it because, A, I love podcasting, and B, I love listening you.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You`re very nice.
VELSHI: I have one disappointing piece of news, though.
MADDOW: Oh, what?
VELSHI: As a result of some reporting you had in the last hour from "The New York Times," I would love to talk to you about the podcast, but I`m no longer going to call you from my non-secure phone for fear that the Chinese and Russians will then try to imitate your podcast.
MADDOW: Well, we should just make sure we provide full documentation to support any Chinese interpretation of what we`re doing. That`s all --
VELSHI: I think that is a good idea. Best of luck on this. I look forward to listening your podcast, Rachel.
MADDOW: Much appreciated, Ali.
VELSHI: Have a great evening.
MADDOW: Thanks, man.
VELSHI: I`m Ali Velshi, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Tonight, we begin with the explosive devices sent to a number of Democratic leaders and public servants who`ve been critical of President Trump. The president spoke about the threats tonight at a rally in Wisconsin. Trump promised to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Then without naming a party, he seemed to pivot to condemning Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Trump has recently started labeling Democrat as evil. He went on --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often. It`s done all the time. Got to stop. We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s pretty rich coming from the president who`s been describing Democratic supporters as a mob. Trump then not surprisingly pointed his finger directly at the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it. Have to do it. They`ve got to stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Today could have been a turning point for the president. Explosives sent to politicians, public servants and journalists. There was only one right answer today. Unqualified condemnation of terrorist acts, acts designed to instill fear in people, particularly the sort of people exercising their First Amendment obligations to hold power to account.
One of those pipe bombs was sent to CNN, made it into CNN`s New York offices, right into the mailroom. There was only one correct response to this. Chastising the media wasn`t it.
It may have been hard to hear there but some in the audience at Trump`s rally in Wisconsin were yelling CNN sucks. It`s okay to think so or to think MSNBC sucks or Fox sucks. That`s what you have a remote control for. It`s not okay to imply that because a media organization doesn`t share your views its employees should face possible death from a bomb.
Here`s what we know at this hour about today`s events. Between Monday and today, suspicious packages were received at multiple locations in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, Florida, and now possibly Los Angeles. The packages all similar in appearance contained possibly destructive devices. The packages were in manila envelopes and affixed with computer printed address labels and six stamps.
All of the packages had the same return address of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman in Florida. A package that contain one of these devices was intercepted near the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton in Chappaqua, New York, late last night. This morning, another package addressed to former President Obama was intercepted in Washington. We`ll talk about why they were intercepted in a moment.
Former CIA Director John Brennan was also targeted. The package addressed to him was sent to CNN`s New York City studio. That package also included white powder.
Another package targeting former Attorney General Eric Holder ended up being marked return to sender by the postal service. The return address was we mentioned was Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. So, the package meant for Holder got sent back, but it went to her office in Florida where it was intercepted by Secret Service.
All of these bombs apparently related to an incident on Monday when an explosive device was discovered in the mailbox of prominent Democratic George Soros. Additionally, Capitol police have confirmed that a suspicious package addressed to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters was intercepted this morning at a facility which handles mail that goes to the U.S. Capitol.
And breaking late tonight, police are investigating two more possible suspicious packages. Jonathan Dienst of WNBC reports that federal authorities are looking into the possibility that there`s another package possibly addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden. No such package has been intercepted. But officials are looking into the possibility that a package addressed to Biden was spotted moving through the Postal Service.
Multiple law enforcement sources tell NBC News they are on scene at a south Los Angeles postal facility to investigate another package addressed to Congresswoman Maxine Waters. That facility has been evacuated.
Tonight, we`re learning details about the bombs in many of these packages. Three senior law enforcement officials who have direct knowledge of the matter tell NBC News that the bombs were made from PVC pipe. The bombs contained a timer to setoff a detonator. The powder contained in the bombs comes from a pyrotechnic. And X-rays show there was likely shrapnel inside the PVC pipe.
Right now, investigators are trying to piece together who is doing this and why they`re doing it.
According to the FBI, the packages have been sent for analysis to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. Every person targeted so far, plus CNN, has been singled out by President Trump.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the act, quote, clearly an act of terror. I spoke with de Blasio earlier this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: There`s an atmosphere of hate in this country. It wasn`t here a few years ago. It`s obviously been bubbling underneath the surface. It`s not like it was created out of whole cloth. But unfortunately it`s become easier for folks filled with hate to come out in the open and express it and act on it. Unfortunately, in this case, we`re hearing voices literally at the top suggesting that violence is somehow acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining us now, Jim Cavanaugh, MSNBC law enforcement analyst and retired ATF special agent in charge, and Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.
Matt, have you had a chance to speak to your old boss who was one of the targets of these pipe bombs?
MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR A.G. ERIC HOLDER: I have. He`s fine. Obviously, as you reported, the package never made it to him. It was returned to Debbie Wasserman Congresswoman Schultz where it was intercepted by law enforcement.
You know, his reaction was, first of all, concern for the postal workers and law enforcement officials who really are on the front lines here, who are charged with finding these packages and ultimately disarming them. And his concern, his biggest concern was about the level of rhetoric in this country, particularly on the right and the consequences that has if someone who is mentally unbalanced decides to take an action like that that we saw today.
I would say talking to him reminded me when we were in office in 2010 when the Tea Party movement the first revolution was in full swing, and there was a lot of anger and everyone sitting around the Justice Department was concerned it would lead to violence. It didn`t, I should point out.
The difference between then and today is that today, you have some of the angriest rhetoric, the worst demonization being led by the president of the United States himself.
VELSHI: That is in fact the difference.
Jim, let`s talk about these devices. The information we`re getting is they were real. They could actually have exploded. What about what we know about this is going to help us figure out who and why?
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You`ve got to look at the make-up of the bomb. You look at the bomb carefully to see if we can discern who the bomber is. You know, you talked about a timer, it`s been reported the bomb has a timer. Timers aren`t normally used in mail bombs. A digital timer here is most likely a safe arms switch. A safe arms switch is used by the bomber so he can carry the package, manipulate the package, put it into the mail stream, get it out of his car and it won`t detonate.
But after a certain amount of time, an hour or two, the safe arm switch will make the circuit live. A timer doesn`t work in a mail parcel to get a victim because you don`t whether the package will get to the victim. It usually is a booby-trap mechanism, and that`s what I suspect here is that the timer was a safe arm switch and packages was -- these packages set to detonate when opened or the package was manipulated.
I don`t know, Ali, of any one of these that was opened by a citizen or victim. They were all opened as far as I can tell by the bomb squad. That would mean they were -- the bomb squad can open these in what we call render safe procedure, RSP, render safe without them detonating.
So, these devices can be fully functional. They`re totally bombs under federal law. They have all the components to make a bomb. They`re intended as a weapon. They`re a bomb even if the circuits aren`t so great.
It can be the bombs were never detonated because no victim ever opened them, or could be there was some problem in the fusing and firing system. It`s also possible he did not intend to it to go off. That`s possible as well.
But it sure looks like he did. There`s a lot of work in putting these together, each and every one of these six or seven or more devices. And the bomber took a lot of time to do this, a lot of effort. And he has his targeting.
And he probably has a message. You know, after these were he hoped were to say go off, you know, he might have some message. You know, you better stop the immigration caravan or you better do something like this or there`ll be more, you know, some kind of threat.
So, it`s likely we haven`t heard all we`re going to hear from him, and it`s also likely things are going to change now. The bombs you`re talking about might be going to the former vice president or Maxine Waters, if therapy put in the mail stream, they would look like these others.
VELSHI: So, authorities know what to look for now. We heard from New York police that they have sent out, that the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in concert with NYPD have sent out the pictures and the specs on these things to 20,000-plus security companies and people across the country. So, everybody`s on the lookout.
So, we may discover of these tomorrow because everybody in America knows what to look for. But, Matt, it didn`t get to the former president because they got Secret Service who check their stuff before they get there. It didn`t get too far in CNN because it`s got, you know, security in places like these that check these things.
But according to what Jim is telling me, this could have had a very different circumstance. If there are six or more of these bombs out there in the country that could have detonated tonight, October 24th, 2018, could have been a very different night for America.
MILLER: Yes, that`s right. Look, assuming these were fully operational bombs intended to go off, and that seems to be the case right now, I think we got very lucky. And we have to say that this was, you know, this was a major crisis averted at least so far. There could be more bombs in the mail, and we could not have averted this crisis yet.
And I think what this moment really calls out, it`s a time for everyone in politics but particularly the president of the United States to stop and ask themselves if the rhetoric they`re using is right, if it`s correct, if they need to tone it down, you know? And this is moment where you would see any president of the United States decide to leave the country, and unfortunately we saw the president come out today and his words were fine, the words he read from the script were fine.
And we`ve seen him do that before. It`s like when he delivered his first address after the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville. The first script was fine. The problem is he doesn`t have the credibility to deliver this message, so when you hear the words you know they ring hollow and you know he can`t stick with it because he doesn`t really mean it and we already see him turning trying to blame it on Democrats tonight. And I`m sure we`ll see even worse from him tomorrow.
VELSHI: Jim, I have a lot to say and we`ve all got a lot to say about the rhetoric that Matt is talking about, and the mood that has been set up in the country that may lead to this. But in the end, if someone commits a crime like this, a potential act of terror, they will be held responsible for it, and at the some point, you know, you can`t blame everybody else for it.
To what degree do investigators like you think about the fact that people who may be motivated to be violent do get influenced by the rhetoric that`s out there?
CAVANAUGH: Well, you want a motive. As an investigator, you want to try to discern the motive because you might lead you to the actor, the bomber. So, motive is usually not necessarily to prove a federal criminal case, a bombing case for example.
We don`t have to -- if we catch the bomber with the fingerprints on the bomb, his picture of him mailing the bomb, his DNA in the bomb, we found all those things, his fingerprints on the tape. ATF has found fingerprints on exploded pipe bombs.
So, we go through great lengths. FBI does as well. Postal inspectors as well, to find a minutia. But that`s what we`re trying to find.
Now, if we can also explain to a jury, you know, through the U.S. attorney why the person did this, it makes a much clearer picture to prove they did the criminal act. They did this because here`s all their writings on the computer that were anti- this or that, and then the targets were going along with all their writings, this or that. So it shows that this really is the person motivated to do it, talk about those things and here`s the physical evidence they did it, you know? So that`s why it`s important.
VELSHI: Matt Miller, Jim Cavanaugh, thanks to both of you.
Special thanks to you, Jim, this always happens when we have these breaking news events. I spend much of my day with you learning from you. So thanks for being available to us throughout the course of this day.
Coming up, more on Donald Trump`s reaction tonight to today`s bomb threats and Donald Trump`s rhetoric in all the days before today.
And later, breaking news on who is really tapping Donald Trump`s wires. "The New York Times" reports tonight Russia and China are listening in on Donald Trump`s personal cellphone calls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: His radical far left opponent is Tammy Baldwin, who wants a socialist takeover of health care. You know, I`m trying to say that very nicely. See, normally I`d scream they want a socialist takeover. Now I say they want a socialist takeover. I`m trying to be nice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Kind of has the opposite affect if you point it out. That was President Trump earlier tonight Wisconsin, toning down otherwise normally vitriolic language and pointing it out to the audience. He joked about the fact that he could not fully attack the Democrats after several explosive devices were mailed to prominent liberals today.
He called for Americans to put aside their political differences while then blaming liberals and the media for creating a hostile political climate. But the recipients of the pipe bombs are all frequent targets of Donald Trump`s heated rhetoric, insulting political rivals like Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama and the fake news media have become red meat zingers for cheering crowds at his almost daily rallies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: President Obama, along with Brennan and Clapper, they knew about Russia`s attempt to interfere in the election in September, and they totally buried it. The radical Democrats held hostage by left wing haters, angry mobs, socialist fanatics, deep state bureaucrats.
You don`t give power to an angry left wing mob.
A very dishonest person, crooked Hillary Clinton.
The legendary Maxine Waters, a low I.Q. individual. They`ll go to the person holding a sign who gets paid by Soros or somebody. That`s what happens.
These are just dishonest terrible people, fake news, enemy of the people.
CNN`s the worst.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining me now, Jennifer Rubin and Jonathan Capehart, both are opinion writers for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributors. Jonathan is also host of WNYC radio`s national political call in show, "America On the Line".
Welcome to both of you.
Jennifer, I`ve been talking about this all day and I don`t even know where to start at this point other than to say words do matter, and the job of journalists, and we`ll just start there where he attacked journalists -- the job of journalists is -- are to be critical, to speak truth to power, to call out inaccuracies and falsehoods and lies and to bear witness. And if result of that work is negative, that`s something politicians have to suck up and accept.
JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. Listen, I think we need to avoid any kind of false equivalence here. It`s not simply the political environment is bad, and it`s certainly not it case that both sides are responsible. There is only one party here who has called for physical violence either in rallies. or cheered at congressmen who body slammed a reporter. There is only one party that is making xenophobia and bigotry, really the core argument going down the stretch, there`s only one candidate, one political figure who has used the Stalinist term, enemy of the people.
So, although it`s tempting because everyone wants to be fair, we should be accurate above all. This is the rhetoric Donald Trump perfected. This is the rhetoric he used to get himself elected. This is the rhetoric he`s returned to as an election is coming forward, and he should accept responsibility for what he has done. Now, no one is saying he has instructed or told or there`s any evidence that a bomber --
RUBIN: -- directly acted on his words, but we should at least at this point pause and say that he has contributed to this atrocious climate. And that when these things people who are a little bit off, who are more than a little bit off will take matters into their own hands.
VELSHI: Jonathan Capehart, at some point the fear of having that blood on your hands, six bombs that we now may have been potentially bombs. They could have exploded, they weren`t fakes.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.
VELSHI: People could have died, it could have been that moment, that day in America we look back at for 10 or 20 years. Jennifer says there`s no place for false equivalency. As you and I were talking before the show, there was only one right response today. And Donald Trump almost got there, and then he became Donald Trump again --
VELSHI: -- and said but the media, but the critics, but the liberals, but the mob.
CAPEHART: This was a day for presidential leadership. This was a day for the leader of the free world to stand up and say that what happened today is not only an attack on our nation and an attack on our values but is also an attack on democracy itself, when you target elected officials for assassination.
The president -- we talked about this many times -- lacks that core element that`s needed for the occupant of the Oval Office, and that is empathy. He is an empathetic void. In order for him to do what you just suggested any president should do, it would require him to know not just intellectually but intuitively, humanly that people`s lives were put at risks, political opponent`s lives were put at risk, and that it was incumbent upon him to put the self aside and put the nation first.
But this is not the first time.
VELSHI: No, it`s not.
CAPEHART: This is not the first time we`ve seen this happen. And, exactly, that is the exact example that comes to mind, and when President Trump reads nice words, I start a stopwatch, because it`s only a matter of time because he reverts back to type.
Now, he did in the first half of what he said was still reading, saying the right words, but he couldn`t help himself. And we might see another Charlottesville situation where tomorrow or somewhere in a couple of days he goes full on --
VELSHI: Jennifer Rubin, Maxine Waters, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Bill Clinton, George Soros, exercise what I call their First Amendment obligations, not just rights. I think it`s an obligation, the people who believe in the First Amendment like I do believe you test it, you push it. So do the Koch brothers, so do a whole lot of people with whom these people may have disagreements.
At no point does exercising that First Amendment obligation call there to be a qualification that perhaps you should be subject to a mail bomb, a potential attack. Somehow the president is not understanding -- that maybe he`s fully understanding, that he`s conflating these two things. Critics of who you are or what you stand for do not qualify for death in America.
RUBIN: Yes, that would sort of be a basic premise of democracy. But you`re right, there`s a disconnect. And that`s because words and facts don`t mean anything to this president. He uses them indiscriminately. He weaponizes language.
And so, he really doesn`t care whether they wound physically or otherwise. He doesn`t care whether they have an effect on people who will then be mocked or ridiculed or discriminated against. So, he uses his language to stir his own base and reaffirm the bond he has with this very fringe element in his base.
But I want to emphasize something Jonathan said. It`s very easy to simply say, well, there were bombs put in the mail. I think we should call this what it was, a coordinated attempt at mass assassination.
VELSHI: That`s right. They were meant to kill people.
RUBIN: They were meant to kill people, a whole set of public officials and former public officials for most likely their political views and ideas. And that is an assassination attempt that we have never seen on this scale with this many people in a single day. And I think it`s worth noting, and the fact that the president didn`t understand the magnitude of the crime here, the magnitude of the domestic terrorism, and it is domestic terrorism, is somewhat concerning. And that`s because of course for Trump --
VELSHI: It really is.
RUBIN: For Trump terrorism isn`t terrorism unless there`s an Arab he can blame for it. So he doesn`t recognize right wing domestic terrorism as terrorism.
But in fact I went back and read the definition of domestic terrorism, which is defined. And this does meet it, does meet that definition. So I think we at least in the media should be very clear in the use of language.
Trump is infamous for conflating language and misusing language, but we should be very clear. We should really call things what they are, and this was a massive attempt at assassination.
VELSHI: This is chilling what you`re saying, Jennifer. I`ve been thinking about this all day because I headed out the first we heard of these bombs and I was covering it all day. Had they succeeded, and there`s lots of reasons why they didn`t, because the Secret Service intercept people`s mail, but had they succeed there could have been lots of people dead in America tonight. There`s just no space for taking this lightly.
CAPEHART: No, there isn`t. And, you know, just your saying that way, imagine if they had been successful. Just one would have been a tragedy.
But two or three, or four, at some point someone -- or actually it shouldn`t be just one person. It should be a group of people who stand up and say enough is enough. We`ve had enough of this. It is time to change direction.
Under normal circumstances you could easily look to the president of the United States to be that moral exemplar to push us in a moral direction.
CAPEHART: We don`t have that. So, now, it is incumbent upon Speaker Paul Ryan for the remaining weeks he`s speaker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to join with other Americans and say this is unacceptable. Not just because pipe bombs were sent but the next time he goes off the deep end with his rhetoric.
VELSHI: I don`t know if that`s going to happen. That`s wishful thinking, but the first part at least some of them lived up today. We did hear from Paul Ryan and others who didn`t qualify their condemnation of this thing in any fashion and I for one am appreciative of that.
And I`m appreciative for both of you tonight. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart, and Jennifer Rubin, for doing what you`re doing, for being committed journalists who speak truth to power, who do challenge inaccuracies and who do bear witness. It`s important.
Coming up, another breaking news story about national security. "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that China and Russia are spying on Donald Trump via his unsecured cellphone, which he has been warned about. That story, next.
VELSHI: We`ve got breaking news tonight. "The New York Times" is reporting that Chinese spies are listening to President Trump`s cellphone calls in an attempt to use that information to influence the administration`s policy. According to "The New York Times", officials say they have determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls, how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him, and to whom he`s inclined to listen to keep the trade war with the United States from escalating further.
And what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of people whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president. China isn`t the only country listening in on President Trump`s cellphone calls.
"The New York Times" reports Russia is also spying on Trump`s calls but not to the extent China is because "Mr. Trump`s apparent affinity for President Vladimir v. Putin." And despite warning from his aide, the president is still using his cell phone to call friends, to gossip and seek advice all while the Chinese are listening.
Joining us now, Ned Price, former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama administration. He`s also a former CIA analyst and an MSNBC national security contributor. And Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News.
Ken, give us a little more on this story. How is it we know this and why is it the president is still doing this?
KEN DILANIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Ali, the situation described in this story is one of the most outrageous examples of negligence I have seen in my years covering intelligence and national security. And it`s not about hating Donald Trump. It`s not about partisan politics. It`s about the national security of the United States.
People need to understand that no president was allowed to use a smartphone until Barack Obama got one in the middle of his second term, and he got a modified iPhone that he joked had very little functionality. He couldn`t text. He couldn`t take pictures. And the reason for that is unsecure, unmodified smartphones can easily be turned into bugs and tracking devices.
And yet here you have President Trump continuing to use his unsecured iPhone to make calls to associate that he didn`t want listed in White House records. And that would be bad enough but now we learn from the story that the U.S. Intelligence Community has confirmed that China and Russia are listening. And even worse than that, they`ve confirmed that China is using it to manipulate Trump bypassing messages to him through some of his advisers who have investments in China.
Ali, I cannot tell you how dispiriting this can be to the rank and file members of the Intelligence Community because we spend billions of dollars to protect these secrets.
DILANIAN: And the idea that Donald Trump is giving it away is outrageous.
VELSHI: Right. We spend billions of dollars to protect these secrets for people who are lower ranking than the president and then the president is giving them away.
Ned Price, the NSC, apparently Donald Trump has according to this article, three phones, two of which are modified by the NSC to make them more secure. But I guess to Ken`s point, like Barack Obama, he finds that a little limiting.
NED PRICE: Well, he finds it limiting, Ali. And if you read "The New York Times" account, he also finds it too intrusive. He finds it too intrusive the fact that if he goes through the White House switchboard if he goes through other channels that Chief of Staff Kelly, that others within the reporting chain will find out who he`s talking to.
This account suggests that Donald Trump is putting our national security at risk in order to skirt the supervision of his own staff, to skirt the babysitters who have been assigned to ensure that he doesn`t talk to people who are too far in left field that will give him ideas that are too extreme. I`m not sure they`ve been successful in that. And, in fact, this account really suggest that they haven`t been.
He sounds like he goes back to the residence at night. He gets his personal unsecured iPhone that has all of his contacts and he speaks to contacts to his heart`s content. The real danger, though, is that he`s not just talking about conspiracy theories. He`s not just issuing bombast. But that either wittingly or not, he is spilling sensitive and potentially even classified information. That is precisely why the Chinese and the Russians are pursuing this.
VELSHI: So that`s big fear number one. Ken, big fear number two is Donald Trump is a guy who`s prone to getting himself into trouble. And if somebody is listening in on your conversations, it could be held over him. It could be blackmail potential.
DILANIAN: You`re absolutely right, Ali. The story said that some intelligence officials are mollified by the fact that Donald Trump doesn`t actually retain very much of the top-secret intelligence that is given to him and so they`re not so worried that he would disclose in one of these phone calls. But he has a track record. He gave away highly classified intelligence to Russians when they were in the oval office that had the potential to compromise and is really operation (INAUDIBLE).
So there is a potential for risk here. One of the most mind-boggling things about why we know this story, Ali that "The Times" tells us is because current intelligence officials were so frustrated that Donald Trump wasn`t heeding their warnings that they decided to leak it to the news media. That`s just incredible.
VELSHI: Right. So this brings me to the next question is that we`re all talking about this. We know it`s happening. Certainly "The New York Times" knows it`s happening. It`s outrageous. It`s kind of indefensible. Can anybody do anything about this?
PRICE: If you have a president who is unwilling to listen to his staff, there is very little that can be done. It sounds like this story was leaked to "The New York Times" in an effort to send a flare, to send a warning shot. It sounds like a last resort on the part of a desperate White House staff.
But at the same time, the White House staff seems to be divided about this. You have some people that seem to be lighting their hair on fire if you accept the fact that this was leaked out of desperation. But then you have others who are trying to explain this tendency away saying that you know what, the president is paranoid. He`s not going to divulge any classified information.
And I think most unbelievably, the fact the president doesn`t retain information that he reads in his intelligence and military briefings, and so really what`s the danger, Ali? The president isn`t well steeped in his briefings papers.
VELSHI: So he can`t leak that much of importance.
Guys, thanks very much. Ned Price and Ken Dilanian.
All right. Coming up. Republicans around the country are running on Obamacare, believe it or not, after Republicans in Congress voted to repeal it more than 50 times. A little fact checking on this tough issue for voters is next.
VELSHI: With 13 days to go until the midterms, President Trump basically asked Americans to forget the last eight years of the health care debate today. The president tweeted, "Republicans will totally protect people of pre-existing conditions. Democrats will not. Vote Republican." That was the central tenant of Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act that was central to Trump and fellow Republicans campaigns, that they were going to dismantle it. Republicans in Congress voted 70 times to repeal the protections for people with pre-existing conditions that were created in Obamacare, the law that was passed by Democrats. When that failed, they tried to pass their own health care law that would have gutted those protections.
Then Donald Trump`s own administration argued in court that Obamacare`s pre-existing condition protections were unconstitutional. And just this week, it announced the policy, making it easier for states to allow plans with fewer of those protections for people with pre-existing conditions. I hope people remember what it was like before Obamacare if you weren`t working at a company like this one that provides remarkable health care. If you didn`t have Cobra which maybe you couldn`t even afford and you had a pre-existing condition, there was no health insurance for you or no health insurance you could afford.
The president`s claim is totally at odds with what Republicans have actually done more than 70 times. But this is more than your typical Trump falsehood because it`s not just Donald Trump making this argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Everyone agrees we`re going to protect pre-existing conditions.
SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: In Wisconsin, pre- existing conditions are covered. And as long as I`m governor, they always will be.
JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: I`M Josh Hawley. I support forcing companies to cover all pre-existing condition.
WALKER: I support forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s the truth. Kevin Cramer voted for guaranteed covers for pre-existing conditions.
MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA SENATE CANDIDATE: I want the voters to know I`m committed to protecting people with pre-existing conditions. I`m fighting for it, I fought for it, and I voted for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I`m Ali Velshi and I`m a full thick head of hair. Every one of those Republican candidates have tried to weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But now, everyone one of them is running in a close election, and it seems they know that voters like Obamacare. Look at that.
The health care law was the most popular item in the latest "Fox News" poll. More than the Republican party, more popular than the Republican party, 53 to 44. It`s more popular than the Republican tax cut bill, 53 to 44.
Voters also chose health care as their most important issue in the new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That poll shows that by more than two to one, voters trust Democrats to protect pre-existing conditions more than they trust Republicans. I don`t even know how 26 percent of Americans trust Republicans to protect pre-existing conditions given that they`ve very clearly said and voted 70 times to take them away.
So tonight in Wisconsin, the president who campaigned on terminating all parts of Obamacare is making this argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Republicans will always protect, as Lea said, Americans with pre- existing conditions, 100 percent. One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The former chief of Medicare and Medicaid, Andy Slavitt and Economist Jared Bernstein react to that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Mr. President, I want to thank you. You said it again today, earlier today and I want to reinforce it to everyone here in this state and across the country, we will always cover people like my wife with pre- existing medical conditions. Don`t believe the lies. Don`t believe the lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was Governor Scott Walker at a rally with President Trump in Wisconsin earlier this evening. Walker`s lying. Walker is the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit that would effectively end pre-existing condition protections under the Affordable Care Act. But don`t listen to me on this stuff.
Joining me now, Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He was a former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services from 2015 to 2017. Guys, thanks very much for joining me tonight.
Andy, let`s start with you. I was sarcastically saying that I have a full head of hair to illustrate the degree to which this is absurd, that Republicans like Scott Walker and all those others we showed have suddenly -- I don`t know. They found religion or they`re telling us that we were all wrong in assuming that they were working toward ending pre-existing condition coverage?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Yes. I think Republicans care about ending pre-existing conditions about as much as Democrats care about cutting taxes for the wealthy. And really they are two ends of the same coin.
You know, we`ve spent the last how many, eight, nine years with Democrats fighting to try to make sure that Americans are protected and get better health care. Republicans have spent their time both as you said voting but not only voting, suing and regulating to try to find every way they can to cut those things. Why? Because that`s how -- that goes towards paying for their tax cuts.
The difference is I think as we`ve talked about is now we`re at an even year. In an odd year, it`s all well and good to promote your policies. But now we`re in an even year and the public, as the numbers you`ve shown, have said, the public is pretty clear that they don`t want to lose those protections.
VELSHI: Jared, try and make sense of this for me because the argument about -- against Obamacare on which Donald Trump and Republicans campaigned, Republicans by the way in Congress in two elections, not just one, have campaigned about this was based on principle. It was based on ideology. And to some degree, it was based on money and budgeting because some people are not convinced that universal health coverage is actually more effective and cheaper than the way we do it here in the United States. What`s with the switch? Why would anybody believe this and what do you think`s behind it?
JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, first of all, let me just agree with Scott Walker. Don`t believe the lies. The problem is they`re the ones who are, of course, telling them. And, in fact, the logic of health care and particularly the protection of pre- existing conditions against insurers who would not cover them and didn`t cover them before the ACA is shown in the kinds of numbers that you`ve been touting tonight.
This is a very popular program. So the Republicans have to flip and pretend all of the sudden that they`re for it when, of course, if you just watch their actions over these past three or four years, they`ve been just on a tear to try get rid of it. And I don`t think it`s working with voters.
And I think the core, to get to your question, is that the logic of health care is such that as long as insurers can take away your health care when you need it the most, there is an obvious role for public policy to come into that mix and prevent that from happening. That`s what Obamacare did. We can have arguments about how effective it was in doing that.
VELSHI: Sure, we can.
BERNSTEIN: But when it comes to the pre-existing condition, it`s widely agreed that that was particularly effective in having its intended impact.
VELSHI: But I actually respected the arguments. We have all three been involved in them. But when the debate to end Obamacare was going on, Andy, I had many of those arguments. Stephanie and I had lots of people on, lots of Republicans on, lots of healthcare experts and we did argue about and I respected people who didn`t agree with my perspective.
I`m Canadian and I have a particular affinity for a single payer system. I know a lot of people don`t. I`m not respecting people who suddenly change because they`re able to read polls. Take a look at support for Medicare among Republicans, 52 percent of Republicans support Medicare, 48 percent oppose, which is kind of a funny poll because lots of people depend on Medicare.
So whether you support it or oppose it is a different question than whether or not you`re going to rely on it at some point in your life. But even amongst Republicans, the support is there. It`s the most important issue for most Americans.
SLAVITT: Right. Think about health care as the ultimate kitchen table issue. It`s actually a bigger issue, far bigger issue relative to people`s own personal economy than anything else. Because if you can`t afford to take care of your family, your kid, your spouse, yourself, if someone gets sick in your household, then that is an existential crisis.
And so when you see one party who effectively says all of these protections which are the things that keep us in the middle class --
SLAVITT: -- and keep us from slipping through and God forbid something bad happens, and I`ll give you one example. There was a study that came out this week which said that 42 percent of Americans who get cancer deplete their life savings within two years and that`s with insurance. So Americans don`t need another thumb on the scale. And so right now, I think Republicans are trying to run on something that`s good for people and good for their pocketbook, they`re finding that the pocket issue, the care -- people care about the most --
VELSHI: Is this.
SLAVITT: Is this.
VELSHI: Jared Bernstein, America is the only developed country in which bankruptcy -- the leading cause of bankruptcy is -- are health issues. Probably in 70 years, we haven`t seen the middle-class globally under the pressure they`re under now, which may be leading to some of these nativist, populist, nationalist themes. But this is one of those things. The healthcare --
BERNSTEIN: No question.
VELSHI: -- in America is remarkably expensive. And whether you liked Obamacare or not, we need a solution, not the absence of a solution.
BERNSTEIN: You raise a great point. I think that the economic insecurity that middle-class families face in this country has really ramped up over the past 30 years. Globalization is certainly part of that. Just much more exposure to those kinds of risks.
And one thing that the Affordable Care Act tried to do is to take that risk at least somewhat out of the equation. And as you suggested, in every other advanced economy, that`s precisely what the government -- the role that the government plays. We`re the ones that spend twice as much as they do with actually worse outcomes. So we were on the right track pushing back on Republicans and their lies is the only way we`ll stay on the right track.
VELSHI: It is just remarkable when you look at the figures on health care to understand that we are not working toward a better solution.
Jared Bernstein and Andy Slavitt, thanks for joining us tonight.
We`ll be right back with a final thought about today`s news.
VELSHI: Tonight the president said the media has a responsibility to stop what he called constant negative false attacks. Trump considers it to be negative when reporters reveal things that the president says aren`t true. My fellow Torontonian Daniel Dale of the "Toronto Star" reports that President Donald Trump made 170 false claims in the second week of October, obliterating his previous record of 133 which he set in August.
That`s actually a negative. It`s also a fact. That`s just reporting. That is a central tenet of journalism. Journalism exists to bear witness, speak truth to power and challenge inaccuracy. It is not about positive or negative coverage.