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"Blue wave" continues to grow. TRANSCRIPT: 11/13/18, The Last Word w Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Adam Schiff, Jennifer Palmieri, Norm Ornstein, Jill Wine-Banks; Glenn Kirschner

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

And it turns out the first lady is now apparently firing people who worked for the president of the United States and the president of the United States is finding that out after the first lady does it publicly.  What level of control is that? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  You know, I mean, the fact that it`s the deputy national security advisor that the first lady is firing sort of puts a little frosting on that cake if you know what I mean.  Like I think that first ladies and White House staffers have clashed in the past, but to the point where you get to fire the number two person at the National Security Council, I think that rises to a level I just -- I didn`t know to expect that. 

O`DONNELL:  OK.  We won`t put a number on it, but it`s new.  We`ve reached a new spot. 



MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, Matthew Whitaker, Matthew Whitaker, we`re watching you.  That is the message that Matthew Whitaker woke up to this morning in the center of "The Washington Post" op-ed page in an article written by our first guest tonight, Congressman Adam Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. 

Adam Schiff will become the chairman of that committee in January.  The Democrats will suddenly then have subpoena power in the House of Representatives and the Trump official who knows he`s going to be number one on the Democrats` subpoena list is Matthew Whitaker, especially if Matthew Whitaker does not soon recuse himself from supervising Robert Mueller`s investigation of the president, now that the president has installed Matthew Whitaker as his so-called acting attorney general. 

Here`s what Adam Schiff told Matthew Whitaker in writing today in "The Washington Post."  Quote: The new Democratic majority will protect the special counsel and the integrity of the Justice Department should Whitaker fail to recuse himself, all indications are that he plans not to and seek to obstruct the investigation, serve as a back channel to the president or his legal team or interfere in the investigations in any way, he will be called to answer.  His actions will be exposed.

If he does not recuse himself, Whitaker could seek access to the special counsel`s plans and evidence including grand jury testimony and would be in a position, not just to funnel information to Trump and his legal defense team, but also to abuse his authority to cripple or end the investigation.  Whitaker could attempt to prevent evidence from reaching Congress and the public or stop the special counsel from subpoenaing important testimony, including from Trump himself. 

So, that is what is at stake. 

The "Wall Street Journal" reported last night that, quote, the Justice Department is expected to publish a legal opinion in support of Matthew Whitaker`s installation as acting attorney general as early as Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter said following questions about whether he can legally serve in the role.  The department`s Office of Legal Counsel is expected to say that President Trump had the ability to appoint Mr. Whitaker, the person said. 

But that did not happen today.  The Office of Legal Counsel did not issue that opinion today.  The head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department is Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, who is a veteran of the George W. Bush Justice Department.  Steven Engel may be asking himself tonight, what could happen to his future Senate confirmation possibilities if he puts his name on a patently absurd legal opinion justifying the installation of the only acting attorney general in history who was not serving in a Senate-confirmed position in the department?

Democratic senators have shown they have long memories about this sort of thing.  Robert Bork served in Richard Nixon`s Justice Department during the Watergate investigation of the president and was the key actor in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon demanded the firing of the special prosecutor Archibald Cox.  The attorney general of the United States, Elliot Richardson, refused the president`s order to fire the special prosecutor and resigned.  The deputy attorney general then did exactly the same thing.  And next in line that night was Robert Bork, who then carried out the president`s order and fired the special prosecutor. 

Fourteen years later, Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court.  The Democrats worked hard to block the Bork nomination, not just because of, but certainly energized by Robert Bork`s dark role on that dark night during the Nixon administration 14 years earlier.  When Bork`s nomination came to a vote, 58 senators voted no, including six Republicans.  Who in the Trump Justice Department wants to be the next Robert Bork? 

In his article today, Adam Schiff issued this warning.  Trump and those who would abet him in undermining the independence of the Justice Department should understand this, the truth will come out. 

Republican Senator Jeff Flake said today that he will introduce a bill tomorrow with Democratic Senator Chris coons to protect the office of the special prosecutor, Rob Mueller, from interference by Matthew Whitaker or anyone else in the Justice Department. 


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA:  This is a difficult thing to object to.  You know, prior -- the leader has always said there`s no need for this because nobody has been fired.  Special counsel is fine.  But I don`t think anybody can say that after Jeff Sessions` forced removal. 

And so, it`s not that easy to object to this.  But if somebody does, we can bring it back again and again.  So, I think we plan to do so. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. 

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Schiff.  Really appreciate it. 


O`DONNELL:  What made you decide that today was the day to put Matt Whitaker on notice in writing in "The Washington Post"? 

SCHIFF:  Well, it`s very important, I think, to get that message out before he does any damage to the Mueller investigation or tries to.  But also if he doesn`t recuse himself and he were to think that any conversations he had with the president, any promises he made to the president in order to get the position about whether he would follow or ignore the advice of the ethics lawyers at the Justice Department, he has to know that this is going to come out.  There`s going to be no hiding this.  And he will be called to answer. 

That, I think, I hope will be an incentive to get an ethics opinion and to follow it.  But as you point out, there are even broader problems with this appointment than this one investigation as serious as that is, and that is that the appointment itself looks like it violates the Constitution`s requirement that the Senate have a role in confirming anyone as a principal officer, and clearly, the attorney general, temporary or not, as a principal officer. 

O`DONNELL:  We have seen a series of op-ed pieces, scholarly legal opinions indicating that this is a completely illegal and unconstitutional opinion - - installation, I should say, of a possible acting attorney general.  And it`s interesting that the Justice Department, which was expected today, reported today to be on the verge of issuing a written opinion saying that it was legitimate, did not do that and they didn`t do it on the very same day that the state of Maryland went to court and filed a legal challenge against Matthew Whitaker occupying the office of acting attorney general.  It seems that maybe the Justice Department has to figure out what its response is in court now. 

SCHIFF:  Well, I think the Justice Department may be looking again at the opinion it`s about to issue.  If they issue an opinion and find that this appointment was unconstitutional, they know the heat they are going to get from the president.  He`s going to try to write this off as revenge of the deep state again. 

Quite the contrary, it would be a sign that our system of checks and balances, that the Justice Department truly is independent.  That would be a healthy sign for our democracy. 

But the Justice Department, I think, is still likely to opine tomorrow that because he is appointed on a temporary basis, that that somehow makes him an inferior officer.  It doesn`t.  It simply makes him a temporary principal officer.  Otherwise, you could avoid the constitutional requirement. 

And you can`t pass a statute like the Vacancy Reform Act that somehow supersedes the Constitution.  It doesn`t.  And what I think the Justice Department really needs to consider is there is language postdating their earlier opinion on this subject in the Supreme Court by Justice Thomas and maybe others that clearly indicate that the reasoning they used back in 2003 when they approved a much lesser appointment, is likely to be flawed and not withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, it seems we are definitely going to see this argument made in court, possibly both sides of the argument made in court, in federal court.  But this is just the first case, the Maryland case.  There could be cases in every federal district in the country making the same argument.  There could be federal judges all around the country being asked to rule on this. 

But in the meantime, talk about Whitaker`s actual qualifications.  If he had been Senate confirmed in a Senate confirmed position in the Justice Department and if he had met the legal requirements to be elevated to acting attorney general, there would still be problems with naming him. 

SCHIFF:  Well, there certainly would be.  But one problem would be obviated and that is you would have the opportunity, under oath, before he assumed this incredible responsibility of being put on the record. 

Did you discuss this case with the president?  Did you make promises to the president?  Will you seek an ethics opinion?  Will you recuse yourself?  All those questions would have been answered. 

Now, I think the president chose this course to appoint someone on an interim basis that had been auditioning for the part on TV, which is how you get a role in the Trump administration, precisely because he could avoid having his choice subjected to scrutiny in the Senate.  But that`s all the more reason to insist on the adherence to these constitutional principles.  This is not some low-level official here.  This is the chief law enforcement officer of the country. 

And as you point out, Lawrence, any decision that he makes, really any decision of the department now, is under a cloud.  And if down the road when this case gets to the Supreme Court, it`s adjudicated against the Justice Department, then it will be an entire mess for the Justice Department because it will mean every decision made in the interim will be subject to question.  And that`s not a road you want to travel down. 

O`DONNELL:  The headline of your piece, "We`re Watching You", could not have been more clear, directly to Matthew Whitaker today.  But surely you Democrats in the House are not the only ones.  Matthew Whitaker spends his day surrounded by experienced FBI agents, experienced federal prosecutors who have every right to be as suspicious of his motivations as you are.  Every one of those people, I imagine, when they leave the room with Matthew Whitaker are going back to their desks and recording as James Comey did, every single word that they just heard him say. 

SCHIFF:  Well, certainly if there is an indication that he is acting unethically, that would be their obligation.  If they see signs that he is conveying information about a particular case to the president or his lawyers, not just any case but a case in which the president himself may be implicated or members of his family may be implicated, yes, they would have to consider whether he is violating the law, whether he is acting as a surrogate of the president in obstructing justice. 

There are already troubling reports out of the Justice Department.  Public reports that even in his tenure as the chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, he was operating as a back channel to the White House, undercutting his boss, the attorney general, and reporting to people on the president`s staff as a way of ingratiating himself.  And, of course, you have the bewildering conduct of the president himself one day saying he doesn`t know Whitaker, and his own staff contradicting him and saying, of course, he knows Whitaker.

O`DONNELL:  Toward the end of your piece you say definitively, the truth will come out.  Is it your ability to guarantee that the truth will come out?  Is that simply the fact that the Democrats won the House of Representatives in this election and that you will be a chairman in the next Congress and Jerry Nadler will be chairman of judiciary in the next Congress and it is through those powers of those chairmanships that the truth will come out? 

SCHIFF:  We are certainly going to move heaven and earth to make sure the truth comes out.  And, you know, for your part in the media, the media has also done an excellent job of making sure that the truth comes out.  The reality is he needs to know that he is not going to be able to conceal any conduct that interferes with this investigation.  And if he acts in any way unethically, that it will be exposed.  And exposure is powerful. 

So, this won`t be easy.  Undoubtedly, any oversight we do will be fought tooth and nail by the Trump administration.  All the attacks we have seen over the last two years on Bob Mueller, we can expect the president to start leveling against people in Congress. 

But we`re going to do our job.  We are going to defend the rule of law.  We are going to do whatever is necessary to defend the independence of the Justice Department.  We took an oath to the same Constitution and we intend to live up to our oath. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman and future chairman, Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

SCHIFF:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, "The L.A. Times" calls it a cocoon of bitterness.  "The Washington Post" calls it five days of fury.  It is the atmosphere around Donald Trump since he lost the midterm election.  And today, while the president was in his cocoon of bitterness, the first lady tried to publicly fire someone who works for the president. 

And a new analysis shows that the Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts is no longer working the way the Republicans designed it to work. 

And later, Jill Wine-Banks will join us with the latest on Robert Mueller`s investigation with reports tonight that President Trump is right now answering questions in writing for the special prosecutor.


O`DONNELL:  During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised that his wife Melania Trump would have a press conference in which she would explain how she legally came to this country and what when she began to work in this country, she was legally authorized to work.  He was lying.  She never had that press conference. 

But there`s nothing she could have said that would have made her eligible to be president of the United States because she is not and has never claimed to be a natural-born citizen of the United States, but she acted as president today when she released a statement firing the deputy national security advisor.  Her husband is known to be very shy about firing people directly in the White House.  And so, Melania Trump tried to force the firing of deputy national security advisor Mira Ricardel with this statement: It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House. 

Earlier today when the president didn`t know that his wife was going to fire Mira Ricardel, Mira Ricardel was in the Roosevelt Room with the president.  Neither one of them knowing she was going to be fired. 

But that was for one of the rare moments today in the Roosevelt Room when the president has even pretended to work since the Republicans had a losing night in last week`s election that continues to get worse as Democrats continue to pick up seats in the House of Representatives as they are doing tonight, as the votes continue to be counted.  The president of the United States has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment.  That`s according to multiple Trump administration sources who spoke with "The Los Angeles Times".  "The L.A. Times" reports the president`s mood apparently changed after Republicans` major election losses last week. 

Behind the scenes, they say the president has lashed out at several aides from junior press assistants to senior officials.  He`s furious said one administration official.  Most staffers are trying to avoid him.  The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity painted a picture of a brooding president trying to decide who to blame for Republicans` election losses. 

"The L.A. Times" reports that President Trump has been increasingly absent from public life in recent days.  No kidding.  He has canceled travel plans.  He`s dispatched cabinet officials and aides to events in his place. 

The president is sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summit there in November that past presidents have almost always attended.  Jordan`s King Abdullah met today in Washington with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, not President Trump.  Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that he will be traveling to the Mexican border to visit with troops, troops who the president deployed against Central American asylum seekers who are walking very slowly toward our southern border. 

According to "The L.A. Times", Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself but decided against it.  Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections after making it a central issue in his lasts weeks of campaigning.  And, of course, the president did not make that short trip, that ten-minute trip from the White House to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day as presidents have done for decades. 

In interviews with 14 senior administration officials, confidants of the president and foreign diplomats, "The Washington Post" details the president`s downward spiral after last week`s election.  "The Post" reports that as President Trump was flying to Paris last Friday, he received a phone call from British Prime Minister Theresa May that set off the president. 

Trump berated May for Great Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran.  He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries.  May has endured Trump`s churlish temper before, but still, her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.

"The Washington Post" reports that as the president stayed in Paris, he, quote, brooded over the Florida recount and sulked over other key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a big victory.  He erupted at his staff over media coverage, of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I. 

Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor at and MSNBC contributor, and Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director for President Obama and former communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

And, Jennifer, I haven`t read Michelle Obama`s book.  But is there a passage where she publicly fires a deputy national security advisor and that the president finds out about it when he reads the paper? 

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:  There`s not.  There is not a chapter on here is how you publicly fire West Wing staff, not in Michelle Obama`s book. 

O`DONNELL:  What is your reaction, as someone who has worked there?  It`s hard to say.  I mean, it`s been a chaotic place since day one.  The madness centers around the mad man in the middle.  It will never change. 

But we saw some new stuff this week. 

PALMIERI:  Yes, and, you know, I worked in -- I worked in the White House between President Clinton and President Obama for nearly 12 years.  What I can tell you is that however chaotic it appears from the outside, it`s actually worse on the inside.  Which I know is a chilling statement to say given how chaotic this seems.  But that`s certainly my experience. 

And it`s so -- what`s happened is so ludicrous, it`s actually a grave situation that the president of the United States seems to be, you know, we`ve seen him in difficult patches before, but this is a spiraling and I`m not sure where it ends.  I mean, just to review what`s happened in the last week, for a president of the United States to not go to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day is extraordinary. 

I know that when I worked for President Clinton, I was a scheduler for President Clinton.  When I came back ten years later and worked for President Obama, the exact same protocols were in place for what the president of the United States did every single Veterans Day from the breakfast he hosts at the West Wing to how -- to the steps that were measured out to go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

This is a very hallowed holiday and it`s tradition is upheld by every president no matter what party.  To not go is extraordinary.  To not meet with King Abdullah is one of our most important allies in the Mideast, is extraordinary as well.  And to not go to APEC, which is the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference that he appears to be skipping, is also unprecedented. 

These are big moments in the president`s calendar, and it`s leaving a vacuum on the world stage.  He did that in Paris this weekend.  He did that -- he`s apparently going to be doing that in Asia.  And there is a big power vacuum in the White House itself where the first lady is remarkably stepping up and firing the deputy national security advisor via statement. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and, of course, this is the Trump White House so we don`t actually know if the deputy national security advisor is fired.  It seems that way --


O`DONNELL:  -- but there will be a stakeout to see what happens there tomorrow. 

The world will be surprised to discover Donald Trump does not think it was his fault that he skipped the ceremony at the American military cemetery in France.  "The Washington Post" is reporting Trump told aides he thought he looked terrible and blamed his chief of staff`s office and deputy White House chief of staff Zachary Fuentes for skipping the cemetery visit would be a public relations nightmare. 

Jason Johnson, no one told him. 

JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM:  He apparently needs to be told to behave properly.  What we`re watching here is not a presidency.  We`re watching an extended temper tantrum. 

He is pouting.  He is pouting because he lost, that he didn`t get what he wanted during the midterm elections, so he`s not going to show up at the cemetery, and he`s not going to honor American troops, and he`s not going to honor marines and he`s not going to honor any other world leaders and he`s basically going to pout until he finds something that he wants under his Christmas tree which might actually turn out to be indictments given what Mueller has been saying. 

This is the problem.  This goes back to what President Obama said two years ago when he said this man does not have the temperament for this job.  And the problem is when you look at the chaos in the White House, it always starts at the top. 

The president, who has an inability to control his mood and behavior, leads to staff who are incapable of controlling their moods and behavior.  I had to look back.  The last time you had a first lady fire or try to push out a member of the staffer, it was like Nancy Reagan trying to get rid of Don Regan in like the `80s or something like this.  This doesn`t happen in a normal White House. 

Melania takes no engagement in the White House and yet is stepping forward to say, I want a deputy security advisor removed from office.  This is an indicator of a dysfunctional White House and, unfortunately, this is what Americans have to deal with for at least the next two years. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I mean, this -- I`m sure there`s plenty of instances from Eleanor Roosevelt and others where they advised a president to fire someone and to move on, but that was always done quietly and back stage, just the way any other member of the administration who is advising that someone be fired.  They would do it quietly and back stage. 

And, Jason, that`s the big difference.  There is no back stage at the Trump White House. 

JOHNSON:  No.  It`s all out on front street.  It is literally the definition of drama.  We play it out on stage. 

And the problem is, of course, this is what -- what was mentioned here is absolutely brilliant, because everything that looks crazy to us on the outside must be worse for people who are there.  It`s not uncommon for there to be a bit of a purge after the first midterm election.  People just voluntarily want to leave.  They want to move on to other jobs.  This has been a chaotic White House. 

But the nonsense that we are hearing now indicates how difficult it is for people to go in and do their jobs every day.  They don`t know what their jobs are.  The president makes commands that they can`t follow.  They could be fired by people who are not in their direct line of command. 

That is not a functional government.  And unfortunately, if he thinks this is something that puts him in a sour and dour mood, what happens when Democrats take office and run these committees in January and they start investigating some of these agencies that he`s got now.  He will have no sleep and no ability to continue what is already a dysfunctional White House. 

O`DONNELL:  Jason Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight. 

And, Jennifer Palmieri, please stay with us for more discussion. 

When we come back, the Democrats won back the House of Representatives and tonight they are continuing to win back even more of the House of Representatives. 

And we`ll have the latest on the Mueller investigation with Jill Wine-Banks later. 


O`DONNELL:  It`s been exactly one week since election night and the Democratic blue wave continues to grow.  Last night, Kyrsten Sinema became the first Arizona Democrat elected to the Senate in 30 years.  And tonight, the "Associated Press" has called the race in California`s 10th Congressional District for Democrat Josh Harter, unseating four-term Republican Incumbent Representative Jeff Denham.

NBC News has not yet called that race.  So far by NBC`s count, Democrats have picked up a net gain of 31 seats.  And analysts expect that as all the votes are eventually counted, Democrats will end up gaining as many as 38 seats, the largest Democratic pickup in a midterm election since the first election after the Watergate scandal in 1974.

After the 2010 census, Republicans did everything they possibly could to gerrymander the House congressional map to make it impossible for Democrats to win control of the House again.  And they did that in part by creating a series of so-called Republican super districts that combined moderate Republican suburbs with more sparsely populated rural conservative areas.

But a new analysis from "Politico" shows that President Trump has effectively torn down the Republican`s congressional gerrymandered wall.  Their analysis finds that Trump altered the two parties` coalitions in ways that specifically undermined conventional wisdom about the House map bringing more rural voters into the GOP tent while driving away college- educated voters.

Joining our discussion now, Norm Ornstein, a leading congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.  And Jennifer Palmieri is back with us.

Norm, the Democrats continuing to rack up House seats.  Where do you see this going?

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE:  I expect they`re going to get close to 40 seats in the end.  Lot of those seats in California, when the late votes come in, are going to go that way.  Don`t you just love the analogy that it was the wall that Trump toward that?

O`DONNELL:  Yes, the wall that Republicans believe they built.  And Norm, it did look impressive.  And still, I have to say still does look impressive because, without the Republican gerrymandering and the creating of those so-called super districts for them, we would be talking about a lot more than 40 seats won by Democrats.

ORNSTEIN:  And, you know, one of the things that we`re seeing here is, of course, the highly educated, college-educated white women were a major force in this, in districts that had all of those suburban areas.  And if the Republicans from Trump on down don`t begin to change some of the policies, the approaches that they`ve used with child separation, some of the thuggery going on, Republicans could lose that group for a generation or more to come.  With the problems they already have with millennials, that`s going to be a real challenge down the road.

I would make one point here just of caution, Lawrence.  We`re seeing at least a number of Democrats I see led by Seth Moulton of Massachusetts trying to find a way to unseat Nancy Pelosi.  And if Democrats take the momentum that they`ve built with this wave moving into a new Congress where they`re trying to show the public a contrast with the craziness in the Trump White House and the disarray in the Republican coalition, that would be a big mistake I believe.

O`DONNELL:  Jennifer Palmieri, it seems the Republicans have found the limits of gerrymandering, of what gerrymandering can accomplish for them.  And while they masterfully gerrymandered, they forgot about policy, they forgot about what they were saying to American voters, and they sure forgot about what it meant to have Donald Trump at the top of their party.

PALMIERI:  Yes.  I think all of these factors are related, you know, with the Republican Party, go back a couple of decades ago started out to have they have a strategy to get into State Houses, controlled the redo maps and make voting harder to do, right.  What does that tell you?  That tells you that we don`t think our ideas are good enough to sell to voters to get them to vote for us.  What we have to do is make it harder for people`s places to be heard.

And, you know, they have -- they -- starting with Gingrich and, you know, Lawrence, you were on the Hill and I worked for President Clinton during that time --

O`DONNELL:  And Jennifer, remember when we --

PALMIERI:  -- to save it --

O`DONNELL:  Jennifer, remember when we thought that was as bad as it could possibly get?

PALMIERI:  We thought that was as bad as it could be.  And we speak of that -- of the Gingrich-Clinton days as the good old days now.  But they started a process there that was about restricting access to voting, restricting people`s voices, and they pursued an economic strategy that didn`t know that was about tax cuts for rich people.  It didn`t help the people that were actually voting for them.  So Donald Trump comes in and hijacks their party.

And then they have a vote in Congress where they`re losing 40 seats.  And then that is, you know, I think that they -- what they are reaping, what they have been selling for about, you know, for a couple of decades now.

O`DONNELL:  Norm, what are you expecting from Republicans in what could be a lame duck session now before they have to surrender power to the Democrats?

ORNSTEIN:  Well, there isn`t much on the agenda for the Republicans in the House, except that we`re going to have a vote in the first week of December on whether to continue to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year into October.  Trump has threatened at least to shut the government down unless he gets full funding for the wall.

Now, they may want to avoid that because they`ll still be in power. But you can imagine if things don`t go well for Trump over the next couple of weeks, including potentially some indictments of people very close to him, he may want to distraction and that may blow up everything else.

In the Senate, we know we`re going to have this attempt to bring up the bill to protect Mueller.  It will almost certainly not go anywhere because one person will object at least.  And what Jeff Flake said was, "Well, we`ll just keep bringing it up" which is a pretty, I think, weak way to go.  But we also know that Mitch McConnell is going to turn the Senate into a judge factory yet again and try and jam through as many as he can.

So it will be mostly missed chips through the remainder of the year until Democrats take over.  And then there`s going to be the challenge of making sure they hit the ground running in a variety of ways.  And, of course, we`re also going to have these leadership battles in the next couple of weeks and questions about what rules they`re going to implement to make the Congress work smoothly.

O`DONNELL:  Jennifer Palmieri, what would you advise the Democrats in taking over the House how to balance the issue of handling legislation actually advancing the legislative agenda versus the enormous investigative responsibility that they are legitimately going to have?

PALMIERI:  Yes, they have a lot in their plate.  And I think that the easiest way to say it is they should do their job which Congress hasn`t done and that means holding -- that means doing oversight and accountability.  That`s not just Russia.  That`s like talking about health care policy and, you know, what`s happened to the management of the ACA under this administration.  That`s about immigration as well.   That`s about the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

So there are a lot of issues that people care about that they could deal with through oversight.  But then I think they also have to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda and they may not have a lot of hope of getting that through the Senate.  But I think the American public needs that (INAUDIBLE) to do its job as the Constitution laid out its duties to do and for the (INAUDIBLE) to see what that looks like even when you face a standoff with United States Senate and an uncooperative president.

O`DONNELL:  And as the votes continued to be counted and Democrats continue to pick up seats, I hope all of us election analysts will remember two years from now that election night does not end on election night.  There`s more to come.  There always is.

Norm Ornstein, Jennifer Palmieri, thank you both for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, reports that the president is doing the homework assignment that Robert Mueller gave him, answering the special prosecutor`s questions in writing.  That apparently is what the president`s doing this week.  That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  We have news tonight on the Mueller investigation.  NBC News is reporting President Trump`s legal team is close to completing written answers to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and might submit them as early as this week.

A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that "The answers will pertain only to matters relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election, not obstruction of justice.  The president`s legal team considers questions about obstruction to be related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and therefore infringe on the president`s power to hire and fire under Article 2 of the Constitution."

According to the source, President Trump met with his legal team yesterday and was expected to do so again today to discuss Robert Mueller`s questions for the president.  Today, former CIA Director John Brennan said this.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  I do believe that Mr. Trump recognizes that the -- it`s getting tighter around him and that the Mueller investigation is now coming to some type of conclusion, whether it is in the coming weeks or coming months but I`m sure he feels quite vulnerable, whether it`s for himself or for his family or for his close associates.


O`DONNELL:  The president`s consideration of answering Robert Mueller`s questions comes as President Trump`s associates including Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi have said they expect to be indicted by Robert Mueller.

After a break, former Watergate Assistance Special Prosecutor Jill Wine- Banks and former Federal Prosecutor Glen Kirsten will join us with their views of what happens when and if the president does give Robert Mueller written answers to some of his questions.


O`DONNELL:  The Jerome Corsi drama or is it dramedy continued today.  Today was just one day after Jerome Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone, announced that he expected to be indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  As today, what he decided to do was cancel at the very last minute an interview with NBC News` Anna Schecter.  She explained exactly what happened today to Chris Hayes tonight.


ANNA SCHECTER, INVESTIGATIVE UNIT, NBC NEWS:  He actually came to Rockefeller Center.  I sent a car for him.  He was out on 49th Street and his lawyer at the exact same time that he arrived got off the phone with special counsel and shut the entire thing down.  Said on an advice of counsel, Dr. Corsi is canceling this interview.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Do we know what happened in that phone call?

SCHECTER:  We don`t but he jumped off -- David Gray, the attorney jumped off the call with me to get back on the call with the investigators.  So something is moving today.  I don`t know what it is.


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion, Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor.  He`s also an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.  And Jill Wine- Banks, former Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor and an MSNBC legal contributor.

And Jill, it`s hard for me to imagine a lawyer allowing a client to get that far to actually be in the NBC car on his way to do an interview when he publicly says that he expects to be indicted.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  Yes, it does seem a little bit strange.  I`m not sure what he was thinking.  I`m not sure what he was thinking in doing his YouTube announcement of his potential indictment.  Because what was he going to gain from that other than he gets it out first before it happens for real.

And so he can put his defense out there.  His defense was, "Oh, I was just confused.  They asked me so many questions that my brain froze up." And so now that defense is out there but that also limits his defense.  He can`t now say that it was actually accurate that the prosecutor is wrong in saying that it`s perjury because it is accurate.  So it`s a strange situation but we have a strange cast of characters in this whole episode.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to that very strange moment yesterday that we`ve all seen before but I want to see it one more time from Jerome Corsi because I then want to play what Roger Stone had to say today about Jerome Corsi.  Let`s start with Jerome Corsi.  And then we will follow that immediately with Roger Stone talking about Jerome Corsi.


JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE:  I fully anticipated the next few days I will be indicted by Mueller for some form or other of giving false information to the special counsel or to one or the other grand jury or however they want to do the indictment.

ROGER STONE, DONALD TRUMP LONG-TIME ALLY:  It appears to me that he`s been heavily pressured to bear false witness against me or perhaps others.  I do know that he met with candidate Trump and with Michael Cohen during the campaign.  I don`t know what that was about.  I don`t even know if this relates to me.  I do know that you could take e-mails and text messages out of context to try to create a false impression that would show that we had advance notice of the content or source of either John Podesta`s e-mails or the e-mails published by WikiLeaks that were allegedly hacked.


O`DONNELL:  So Glenn Kirschner, I`m going to let you take these dueling points of view from Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.  Roger Stone saying that he believes that Jerome Corsi has been, as he put it, heavily pressured to bear false witness against me.

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY:  Yes, Lawrence, and I don`t know that we really want to buy into Roger Stone`s assessment of the credibility of others.  I mean Mr. Stone himself has been caught in lie after lie.  Mr. Stone himself, not unlike Mr. Corsi, said he expects to be indicted.

And, you know, what has been going on here with Mr. Corsi is that he has been meeting hour after hour with the independent counsel and the FBI agents and they have been I`m sure grilling him after they`ve poured through his computers and his cell phone and his text messages, grilling him on what the truth is.  Because it seems like both Mr. Stone and Mr. Corsi had a good bit of information about the timing and the substance of the WikiLeaks drops.

And when, you know, they just try to pawn this off as, I don`t know, insightful speculation when they say they know when the e-mails will drop and they say they know they will be Podesta`s e-mails and, in fact, Roger Stone goes so far as to say I had communications with Julian Assange, and then he tries to back away from that statement.  I mean they are playing games with the special counsel.  And it looks like what those games have now earned them are at minimum prosecutions for perjury or for false statements.  They are playing a dangerous game.

And just like we saw the special counsel go after Rick Gates`, break Rick Gates, and that was a vehicle to help get Paul Manafort charged and ultimately in the stable as a cooperator.  We see the same thing now playing out with Mr. Corsi.  He will break ultimately I predict that will lead to Roger Stone.  He will likely break unless he wants to go to prison.  And then beyond that, we`re going to have to wait and see where the special counsel takes the investigation.

O`DONNELL:  And Jill, the president might or might not be doing his homework assignment from Robert Mueller and might or might not be answering written questions.  I`m sure the lawyers are working on it.  That`s what the reporting is but there are no answers until the day they officially decide to hand those answers over to Robert Mueller.

WINE-BANKS:  Exactly.  I love your image of the president doing his homework, something that he has failed to do for most of his administration.

O`DONNELL:  And his life I believe.

WINE-BANKS:  Maybe true.  But I think that the truth is, it is being very carefully crafted by his lawyers.  So we`re still not getting his version of events and his excuse that it can only be related to the cooperation with Russia and the Russian interference in the election is really a poor excuse for not answering questions about obstruction.

O`DONNELL:  Jill Wine-Banks, Glenn Kirschner, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Tonight`s last word is next


O`DONNELL:  Time for tonight`s last word.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH STEPHEN COLBERT:  There was a brief controversy about what to do about some of the votes because signatures didn`t match exactly on the ballots in the votes but a court resolved the issue this week.  Trump still freaked out tweeting, "Just out in Arizona, signatures don`t match.  Electoral corruption.  Call for a new election?"  Sure.  How about 2016?


O`DONNELL:  Stephen Colbert gets tonight`s last word.  "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.



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