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Federal workers could miss first paycheck. TRANSCRIPT: 1/7/2019, The Last Word w. Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: David Frum, Adam Reilly

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 7, 2019 Guest: David Frum, Adam Reilly

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

And we now know exactly how far behind you I am. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN":  What do you mean? 

O`DONNELL:  I mean six years.  I mean you were on "The Simpsons" in 2013, and I was on "The Simpson`s" last night. 

MADDOW:  Yay. 

O`DONNELL:  And that is -- that is how far behind Rachel Maddow I am, six full years. 

Hey, Rachel, tomorrow night. 

MADDOW:  That was so good. 

O`DONNELL:  Tomorrow night -- we`re going to leave that picture up later in the hour. 

Tomorrow night, how much time do you want?  Because apparently the president`s going to steal about eight minutes of your show, maybe a little more. 

MADDOW:  And Democratic rebuttal maybe. 

O`DONNELL:  And Democratic rebuttal.  They want equal time, which I hope they get.  So I want you to have as much time as you need and I got some space here at 10:00. 

MADDOW:  I`ll be fine. 

O`DONNELL:  Don`t worry about the bell going off at 10:00 tomorrow night. 

MADDOW:  I`ll be fine.  I`ll be fine. 

O`DONNELL:  OK.  Totally up to you. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, we are here tonight because of the failing memory of an old man.  Seventy years old is old for a presidential candidate, at least we always thought it was, and Donald Trump`s ability to retain information was never good and obviously was getting much worse when he was contemplating his run for president, and so, according to a "New York Times" report this weekend, the wall, the wall was just a way to help Donald Trump`s failing memory. 

"The Times" reports as Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a pneumonic device of sorts as a way to make sure their candidate would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue of his nascent campaign. 

How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?  Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump`s early political advisers recalled telling Roger Stone, another adviser.  We`re going to get him to talk about he`s going to build a wall. 

And so, the 70-year-old builder running for president was able to remember that there was something he wanted to build, and his supporters turned that into a chant, and he told them who would pay for it.  Mexico will pay for the wall, and because of that lie from that man with that failing memory, we are now in the 17th day of a partial shutdown of the American government because the Mexican government will not pay for the wall that president Trump now wants American taxpayers to pay for. 

Today, the president of the United States requested time on all major broadcast television networks tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. to lie to the American people and the world. 

The White House requested about eight minutes of time from the entertainment networks to invade their primetime schedules with an address by President Trump from the oval office.  The networks thought about it, was not an easy decision, and they granted that time to the president, and now, the Democratic congressional leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have requested equal time to respond to the president. 

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, expects one thing from the president`s speech.  I expect the president to lie to the American people.  Why do I expect this?  Because he has been lying to the American people. 

Kind of logical, the president is going to lie.  The president intends to tell the world why we need a Trump wall on the southern border and why the government must remain partially shutdown and unfunded until Congress agrees to pay for the wall that Donald Trump promised Mexico would pay for.  Donald Trump will lie tomorrow night about terrorists entering this country across the southern border.  We just don`t know yet exactly which version of that big lie he will tell. 

The official Trump White House lie as told by the White House press secretary is that 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally at the southern border.  That is an invented number.  NBC News has reported today that U.S. customs and border protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018 and obtained by NBC News.  Six. 

The total number of people encountered at our borders in a typical year whose names appear on the federal government`s list of so-called known or suspected terrorists is about 2,000.  In 2017, there were 2,554, and almost all of them are being encountered at airports.  Airports are by far the most vulnerable point of entry in the United States for known or suspected terrorists, and President Trump has not done one thing in response to that known threat and has not said one thing in response to that known threat. 

The president will lie about that tomorrow and pretend that there is a much bigger terrorist threat at our southern border.  The president will probably drop his lie that former presidents have told him they wished they had built a wall on the southern border.  Every living former president has now publicly denied any such conversation with Donald Trump, and today, Jimmy Carter joined that group in a written statement saying, I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump and do not support him on the issue. 

Here`s a lie that the president might tell tomorrow night. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I may declare a national emergency dependent on what`s going to happen over the next few days. 

REPORTER:  So you don`t need congressional approval to build the wall? 

TRUMP:  No, we could use -- absolutely, we can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely.  We can do it. 


O`DONNELL:  That is absolutely a lie, the president does not have that power in this situation, and if he issued an order like that, it would be challenged in court immediately, the way his Muslim ban was challenged in the first week of his presidency, and federal judges would stop the president`s illegal order as quickly as they stop his Muslim ban. 

The president got very good legal advice on that matter this morning from Fox News senior legal analyst, former judge, Andrew Napolitano. 


MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN HOST:  The president said he`s threatening he will declare a national emergency to build that wall.  Can he do that? 

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FORMER JUDGE:  In a word, no.  That`s not me saying no because the Supreme Court said no when Harry Truman attempted to do that, when he -- there was a steel strike during the Korean War.  He asked the Congress to authorize him to seize the steel mills and operate them against the strikers` wishes, and produce steel for our troops who desperately needed it in the Korean War.  The Supreme Court said no, you can`t do that. 

Congress can do it.  Congress can pay for the steel mills and operate them, but the president can`t do it on his own.  Stated differently, the Supreme Court has made it very clear even in times of emergency, the president of the United States of America cannot spend money unless it`s been authorized by the Congress. 


O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion now, Maria Teresa Kumar, the president and CEO of Voto Latino.  Also joining us, Jason Johnson, politics editor at, and Tim O`Brien, the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion.  All three are MSNBC contributors.

And, Maria Teresa, we have a report from "Politico" tonight indicating that the president and the White House are worried about Republican members of the House now peeling off and voting for the Democratic bill if Nancy Pelosi, if and when Nancy Pelosi brings it to a vote again.  I shouldn`t call it the Democratic bill.  This is a bill that passed the United States Senate unanimously in a voice vote, no senators challenging it, Democrats and Republicans supporting it. 

"Politico" is reporting that a senior House GOP aide said that Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader and his top lieutenants believe 15 to 25 Republicans will vote with Democrats this week, possibly even more, and, Maria Teresa, starting to calculate what is the number at which that could grow to override a possible presidential veto? 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO:  Well, you just hit the nail on the head.  We just elected a whole new Congress that came into the House that were sworn in because the American people said I don`t care what your shenanigans are, Mr. President.  I don`t care that you keep trying to basically make these individuals, these caravan of individuals coming to our southern border and trying to scare us and making the midterm elections all about building a wall and about refugees and seeking asylum.  Instead, what the American people said is that they were going to vote in a new Congress for new blood. 

Behind closed doors, a lot of the Republicans are basically making calculations not only for their immediate future but for their future in 2020, and they want to continue having these positions of power.  They also, what I`m hearing bind closed doors, also folks are saying that they are finally feeling that they are free to actually do the governing that they`ve chosen as public servants, and that`s one of the things I think that is going to be very difficult for McCarthy, because McCarthy has been trying to keep the Freedom Caucus alive as much as possible. 

And if Nancy Pelosi is able to bring in so many Republicans, not only (INAUDIBLE) the Republican leadership and Trump are far much more troubled than they could have imagined. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Jason, on that first test vote, seven Republicans moved over to the Democratic side.  The Republicans now fearing as many as 25, possibly more.  The magic number is 55.  If 55 Republicans move over, then you can override the veto, and, of course, if that kind of number -- if that kind of movement is happening in the House, Mitch McConnell will not be able to block a vote in the Senate or already there were a couple of Republican senators saying we should vote on this. 

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM:  Right.  Lawrence in a couple of weeks, the Republicans are going to have to fold.  They don`t really have a choice.  Not every agency has run out of money yet, but you`re going to have several more agencies running out of money over the next three or four days.  You`re going to have small towns in Midwestern and western states where the only employer is the department of interior or forestry or federal marshals, as more and more people start missing paychecks, as we start going into later parts of January or early parts of February, I don`t think it will take that long, the Republicans are going to fold. 

And so, the question is not going to be if this eventually is going to get stopped.  The government shutdown is going to end.  The question is going to be, how do the Republicans prepare to explain their betrayal to President Trump? 

Because all of this, most Republicans don`t think this is a good idea.  It`s impractical.  The wall has -- there`s no functional historical or economic justification for having this kind of a wall, ask they`ve only done it out of loyalty to this president.  When they stab him in the back and vote for what`s right, they`re going to have some explaining to do. 

O`DONNELL:  All reporting is indicating the Trump White House had no plan, no strategic plan for a government shutdown and Donald Trump certainly didn`t have one. 

And, Tim O`Brien, you are the least surprised person in the world to hear that. 

KUMAR:  Shocking. 

O`DONNELL:  Because you, many reasons, you know Donald Trump better than any of us, you`ve been sued by him for your book about him.  You crushed him in that lawsuit about your book, and your piece today is headlined "Trump was never a great deal maker and the shutdown proves it."  And that is one of the great ironies of the guy who had his phony best selling book entitled "The Art of the Deal".  Every business person I know in New York says that no one knows less about the deal than Donald Trump. 

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION":  Yes, Lawrence, are we surprised at this point that the White House had no plan, had no plan for how to deal with this?  There`s not a crisis on the southern border.  There`s a crisis in the Trump presidency, and the crisis is that he is inept.  He has boxed himself into a corner around the budget negotiation, and he`s constantly pushing the limits of how extreme he can get to try to claw back federal funds so he can build a wall that nobody in his party supports, and no one in the opposition supports, and everyone else holds all the cards. 

He made a very crucial mistake early on in December when he said to Schumer and Pelosi that he`d be happy to take on responsibility for the shutdown, and anybody who`s been in Washington, any politician who`s been in Washington for any length of time knows that voters grow very weary very quickly of government shutdowns, and the person who has that saddled around their neck doesn`t come off very well.  Newt Gingrich learned this in 1995 and `96 at the hands of Bill Clinton. 

Donald Trump because he is not a student of that history, because he is not steeped in policy, and because he`s inept went out on his own and said, I`ll take on responsibility for the shutdown.  He`s left himself without any negotiating leverage, and the Democrats can just sit by and watch this spin for a certain period of time while the effects of the shutdown land at his feet.  And as you noted, this is not a new problem.  During his business career, he was a serial bankruptcy artist, he was routinely taken to the cleaners by other deal makers who were more informed, more patient, and more mature than he is, and those sort of things have come home to roost in this negotiation. 

O`DONNELL:  And no one in the history of American government shutdowns has gotten the language of the situation worse than Donald Trump.  We saw him say in the Oval Office, I will do the shutdown.  I`ll take responsibility for it.  I won`t blame you.  He couldn`t have gotten that worse. 

Now he`s out there actually pretending that he understands something about the federal government workers who are on their way to missing their first paycheck at the end of the week, and this is where he`s going to -- there`s not a single Trump supporter out there who thinks Donald Trump has any idea what it`s like to be a government worker missing a government paycheck.  Let`s listen to the way Donald Trump talked about that. 


TRUMP:  I can relate, and I`m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments.  They always do, and they`ll make adjustments.  People understand exactly what`s going on, but many of those people that won`t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I`m doing. 


O`DONNELL:  Maria Teresa, he can relate to TSA agents not receiving their paychecks? 

KUMAR:  Let`s be absolutely clear.  A trust fund baby president has no idea what the average American has when it comes to trying to put food on the table, getting up in the morning, trying to make ends meet, having to make sure not only they`re paying their bills but they`re also meeting their medical obligations.  It`s nonsense.

And for every single federal employee right now who is furloughed or for those individuals that are working to keep us safe, whether it`s the TSA agents or those meat inspectors in rural America so that we can have safe meat to eat at our table, I want to thank you because you`re doing above and beyond the call of duty, something that this president not only has neglected to do but has demured his own service for them. 

O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, my favorite line in there after I can relate, the absurdity of that, Donald Trump says they will make arrangements.  They`ll just make arrangements.  Government workers whose living from paycheck to paycheck who are running out of money. 

Donald Trump`s arrangement was always to just go to his father and say, hey, my casinos are going bankrupt, could you please pay millions of dollars into my casinos?

O`BRIEN:  Please show up with a lawyer and give me $3 million because everyone can do that. 

And what does he mean by making arrangements, that they won`t pay their rent?  That they won`t get medical treatment for their kids?  That they won`t buy groceries.  Those aren`t things people make arrangements for.  Those are hardcore sacrifices that imperiled people financially.

And he`s absolutely not in touch with any of that, and he`s never been particularly sympathetic to the plight of working class people when he ran his casinos in Atlantic City, he stiffed his vendors.  He has plowed willy- nilly through his blue collar work force at his casinos.  He is not someone who has any kind of personal or professional knowledge of the challenges that working class folks face. 

O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Jason Johnson, thank you all for starting us off tonight. 

And when we come back, Americans are feeling the effects of the Trump shutdown.  There is much more to come including the first missing paycheck for federal workers this Friday.

And a presidential candidate went to Iowa this weekend and took questions from reporters and from voters, and guess who asked the best questions?  That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump being Donald Trump means that Donald Trump will want to set the record for government shutdowns, even if his shutdown is only a partial shutdown of government departments and agencies that have not already been fully funded for the year by Congress.  And to set that record, Donald Trump has to keep the shutdown going until Saturday, which will be the 22nd day of the Trump shutdown. 

The shutdown that Donald Trump told Democrats he would never blame them for because he would take full responsibility for the shutdown.  President Trump has scheduled a trip to the southern border on Thursday with the full expectation and probably the desire that the shutdown is still a shutdown, but the big problem looming for President Trump and Republicans in Congress if they do set a record with this shutdown is that 800,000 federal workers will miss their first payday on Friday.  Federal workers get their paychecks twice a month and Friday is their first payday of the shutdown. 

In government shutdowns, nonessential workers are not allowed to report for work because it is illegal for the government to force them to work for no pay, but the government is forcing TSA agents to do that because their work is considered essential.  There have been multiple reports of TSA agents calling in sick, in effect refusing to work for no pay. 

Joining our discussion now, David Frum, senior editor for "The Atlantic", and Jason Johnson is back with us. 

And, David, this shutdown as it approaches the first missing paycheck payday on Friday is already seeing reports of increasing defections among House Republicans.  "Politico" report tonight indicating easily as many as 25 could vote for the bill if Nancy Pelosi brings it back up. 

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  Well, Jason said in the last segment, what the president must now be looking for is an exit, some kind of face saving exit.  Some way he can blame this on somebody else.  And one of the things Republicans in Congress need to be very careful of is that they will do in a pinch, the president would prefer to blame Democrats but he`s ready to blame them.  If this national emergency project is exposed as illegal, it doesn`t have to work, it just has to create enough of a facade that the president can later say I was ready to fight until the end, but Mitch McConnell, he sold out and move the blame to him. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Jason Johnson, maybe the national emergency ploy that he tries would -- it would immediately be stopped by federal courts. 

JOHNSON:  Right. 

O`DONNELL:  Maybe that`s his way out, as David`s saying, he`s got to find a thing where he says I tried and somebody else stopped me. 

JOHNSON:  One thing we know about Donald Trump, Lawrence, is he never lacks for people to blame.  It could be the Democrats, it could be the liberals on the court, even though those happen to be people who are appointed by Republicans. 

It can be anyone he wants to blame.  I suspect at one point, once we start hearing more stories about people missing paychecks and possibly be evicted from their homes, he`ll blame landowners, he`ll say, hey, your landlord should have been more reasonable.  There`s never going to be a point in any of this crisis where Donald Trump will take responsibility for anything, but I think that the problem is this.  At some point, he can only beat on his own party so many times.  The Democrats don`t care.  They control the House.

But at some point the Republicans will revolt.  They don`t like the idea that they`re going to be taking this from both sides.  They`re getting angry calls from their constituents and they`re going to get angry calls from President Trump.  That`s not going to work, and he`s going to destroy whatever kind of loyalty he still has. 

O`DONNELL:  David -- 

FRUM:  Here`s the pressure that`s going to be on Republicans.  The money, if this crazy scheme does somehow go forward, the president has to take his emergency funds for the wall from another military project.  What project would that be?  Something in somebody`s district, and Republicans are much more likely to have military facilities in their districts than Democrats are. 

O`DONNELL:  But it`s my suspicion, David, just legally that the whole thing would be shut down before one dollar of the defense budget was spent in this direction, that the courts would step in and shut it down that quickly? 

FRUM:  As Jason said, that gives the president then, well, these liberal judges.  I would have loved to do it.  He needs to look tough in his own mind, and he needs to cover his retreat.  He got himself into a predicament. 

Remember earlier, he was saying I want Nancy Pelosi to get me out of the predicament.  Who does he think Nancy Pelosi is, his dad?  That`s not her job.  That`s his dad`s job.

O`DONNELL:  And, Jason, we see the president.  We see Nancy Pelosi that`s doing something that`s very simple.  She`s just saying the word no.  That`s all she`s giving the president. 

Meantime, the president is publicly negotiating with himself in all sorts of ways, including what is this wall?  Is it concrete, is it not concrete?  He publicly negotiated a way concrete with himself without Nancy Pelosi saying another word. 

JOHNSON:  Yes, the president`s negotiation skills are terrible.  He`s going to be left naked at the poker table every time he goes up against Nancy Pelosi.  She doesn`t have to give him anything anymore.  Watching the president negotiating with himself, it`s like arguing with somebody over a text message and they don`t respond and they just keep going and going and going. 

The president keeps changing, first the wall was brick, now it`s stone and that was Styrofoam, I don`t know what it`s going to be made up next.  At the end of the day, he`s not going to get a wall.  Something I think that`s important to think about, not just those Republicans, not when doing by the president, getting calls from their constituents. 

You`ve got to look at Republicans who have seats on the border.  They know, they saw this during the Bush administration when a fence was built, the kind of lawsuits that are going to come from trying to build this wall, the eminent domain fights.  You thought the Bundy Ranch was bad?  You will have a revolution at the border if the president tries to get this done. 

And Republicans in Texas and Arizona, they know that, and they`re privately trying to tell the president or at least Mitch McConnell, you`ve got to get him away from this.  We can`t take this kind of fight. 

O`DONNELL:  And, David, the problems are more than Donald Trump ever imagined.  Normally as we understand it, in a shutdown like this, the Internal Revenue Service is not allowed to process tax returns and mail out refund checks, and so, the Trump administration apparently has been trying to figure out how do we mail out the refund checks even though we have a shutdown, and there`s no agency of government more condemned as nonessential than the IRS by Donald Trump and Republicans generally, and so they would have to deem all IRS workers essential, bring them all back to work, and somehow get them working on refunds. 

FRUM:  And he`s going to have a problem, an immigration problem, which is, look, the immigration surge that has bothered the president a lot of the president`s supporters, are these tens of thousands of Central American border crossers who seek asylum, who present themselves at the U.S. border and say I want to be released into the country pending a hearing, and I`m coming with a minor so I can`t be detained. 

That problem won`t change, because what the wall does not do is change the rules about asylum.  The border crossers and Central Americans don`t come to deserted places.  What they want to do is turn themselves into an authority to get their asylum hearing they maybe will never show up for.  So, they`re going to -- even if there`s a wall, assuming the wall has a gate of some kind and crossings, that`s where the border crossers are going to go and the asylum problem will reproduce itself just encased in a lot of expensive concrete. 

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, Jason Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Elizabeth Warren went to Iowa this weekend and finally got a chance to talk to voters instead of just reporters about her presidential campaign, and it seems voters liked what they heard.  You`ll hear Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail, and the voters who questioned her. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you be willing to roll back the tax cuts that Donald Trump gave --

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  For the billionaires and the big corporations?  You bet.


O`DONNELL:  Senator Elizabeth Warren is still technically in the exploratory stage of her presidential candidacy.  But in Iowa this weekend, she ran like a full-on presidential candidate in the thick of the campaign.  She took questions from Iowa voters and she took questions from reporters.

Guess who asked the best questions?  Reporters asked questions about the process of campaigning and not about the policies she would pursue as president.  Here is a sample of political reporters` questions for Elizabeth Warren in Iowa this weekend.

What`s been your reaction to the very quick jump that you make comparisons between your campaign and Hillary Clinton`s?  How important is this jumpstart here in Iowa for you?  Can you just talk us through how and whether you talk, think to yourself about the fact that you`re a female candidate, how you plan on talking about that on the trail, or is it just not an issue?

Here`s another question.  Congresswoman Talib used some profanity and suggested the president used some profanity, suggested the president should be impeached, a lot of people think that`s not appropriate discourse for elected leaders.  What`s your opinion on that?  Do Democrats need to condemn it?

Those are the reporters` questions.  Not one, not one about what would you do as president of the United States.  Now, here`s a typical question a voter asked Senator Warren.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m wondering how you feel about Title 10 funding being taken away from certain family planning clinics such as planned parenthood?

WARREN:  Bad.  I believe that women should have access to the full range of health care services.  This is health care.  OK?  Health care for everyone.  And that means we have to make the resources available.


O`DONNELL:  When a voter named Molly asked a question, it wasn`t about likability.


MOLLY:  I would like you to tell us a little bit about your -- what you have done in the Senate that would make you a good president.

WARREN:  Oh, what a great question, Molly.


O`DONNELL:  And it was a great question.  And one of the stories that Senator Warren told in her long response to that question was how she has helped lower the cost of hearing aids for the 44 million people in America who suffer hearing loss.

And it`s a bipartisan story about how she first engaged the help of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and worked, as she put it under the radar to get more Republican support for her bill to change federal regulations that have helped keep the cost of hearing aids much too expensive for most people with hearing difficulty.


WARREN:  So I talk to a lot of people.  I get the bill written up that it would take to do this.  And then I called Chuck Grassley.  And Chuck said, "Huh, that sounds like a fine idea."

I called another Republican and another Republican and another Republican.  Kept this all under the radar screen.  No headlines on it.  And we found a bill that was moving.  Hooked our Hearing Aid Bill onto it, and starting next year hearing aids are going to be available over the counter.


O`DONNELL:  Now, that`s a story about how things really do get done in the United States Senate.  The most uncomfortable question Senator Warren faced did not come from a reporter but from an old friend of hers and a former student of hers.

A woman named Katherine who won one of the lottery slots to ask Senator Warren a question was actually a student of Professor Warren 35 years ago at the University of Texas Law School.  She asked the kind of question that tests a candidate`s ability to handle a crowd and to handle disagreement.


KATHERINE:  You really have an important message.  You support the families and you support health care having just had a son die from cancer.

WARREN:  I know.

KATHERINE:  And in January alone of this year, the hospital bill was $200,000, but he passed away in September.  I truly see the need for health care for all.  It`s just ridiculous otherwise.


KATHERINE:  I am in favor of your antitrust enforcement, giving people greater voices in the corporations.  But I feel if you support abortion, your entire message is lost.  Something I don`t want to see happen.

WARREN:  No, no, no, no, no.  So I think we`re there.  OK on the question?  Is that OK, Katherine?

So Katherine and I have had this conversation off and on for a very long time.  And it`s kind of amazing that you got the card to come up here and ask a question because it is an ongoing conversation.

Katherine and I knew each other in law school.  And for me, this is a question about the role of law.  I know that these are very hard personal family decisions.

I think the role of government here is to back out.  I think a woman makes a decision with her family, her priest, her doctor, the people the woman chooses.  And I think that`s what respects all of us the most.

And thank you, Katherine.  It`s good to see you again.


O`DONNELL:  Up next, more on Senator Warren`s first weekend campaigning with someone who was there and got voters` reactions.


O`DONNELL:  Boston Reporter Adam Reilly has seen Elizabeth Warren campaign many times in Massachusetts.  But this weekend was the first time he saw her campaign for president in Iowa and he got these reactions from Iowa voters.


EMILIANO MARTINEZ, IOWA CITY:  I think the room was full of chills.  And I think that was something that was pretty special.

JOANNE WILKINSON, URBANDALE:  I loved her, everything I think she said.

MARY SLATTERY, DES MONES:  To me, she didn`t come off as being extreme right.  To me, she came out as being pragmatic for the people, for the regular people.


O`DONNELL:  And joining our discussion now, Adam Reilley, a reporter for "WGBH News" covering Senator Warren`s presidential campaign.  He followed her to Iowa this weekend.

Adam, you`ve seen Elizabeth Warren, I assume, campaign many times in Massachusetts.  What was different, if anything, about seeing her campaign in Iowa?

ADAM REILLY, REPORTER, WGBH NEWS:  I think the level of enthusiasm that she generated.  Going back to her first run against Scott Brown, people were very excited about her but there`s, I think, an intensity that comes when you`ve got your eye on the presidency that ratchets everything up.

I recall positive responses in that race against Brown.  For example, I do not recall people talking about having chills when they watched her speak or how Warren had mysteriously obtained a mind meld with them.

Now, maybe some of that is just because she happens to be the first big- name candidate out of the gate in Iowa.  But I think some of it is part of, you know, linked to her growth as a campaigner and her rise in prominence nationally.

O`DONNELL:  You know, Adam, I saw her early in her Senate campaign, her Senate career, make an appearance in California before the California Democratic Party.  And it was a rock star reception.  And I saw a performance on that stage that I was really struck by.

And it seems to be something that the Washington Media either hasn`t seen or ignores, and that is that Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail has been elected to the Senate twice because she is a very good campaigner.

REILLY:  She is an outstanding campaigner.  As you know from having watched a lot of people seek the presidency, not everyone who goes for that job feeds off their interactions with the public.  She definitely does.

She draws energy from them.  She also energizes them and it creates a sort of virtuous cycle that leaves everyone feeling exhilarated afterwards.

She did something which I think is worth describing just briefly.  In Iowa, at these five stops in three days, every time she had an event more people wanted to attend than were able to get into the venue.

So every time, she would go and greet the overflow crowd first.  She would tell them how happy she was that they were there, how sorry she was that they couldn`t get in.  Then she`d give a mini stump speech and take unscripted, unvetted questions.  And if she had time, she would take pictures with them.

It sounds like something of a no-brainer when you describe it, but not every candidate who seeks the presidency does that.  I recall Hillary Clinton at the last election cycle walking at a distance from the masses of people who turned out to cheer her on and sort of waving to them from afar, and that was that.

And I think Warren`s approach is going to play incredibly well in venues like Iowa, in New Hampshire that put a premium on retail politicking.

O`DONNELL:  And Adam, it seems to me when I see her in Iowa that she`s got two big advantages going for her.  One is that she`s from Oklahoma.  This is not alien territory for her.  This is not the typical Massachusetts politician going out to Iowa.

And you can feel that Midwest, that Oklahoma kind of connection that she makes.  And also, it turns out this being a teacher, this being a professor for all this time makes -- seems to make her very comfortable in interactions with questions audience which is to say in her previous experience, student questions in the middle of her lectures.

REILLY:  I think you`re right on both counts.  And she brought up her Oklahoma roots at every stop.  That`s a key part of her stump speech.  It`s one of the ways that she`s trying to convince people that she is able to or will be able if she is in the field to appeal to Moderate and even Conservative voters.

She also makes a point of saying that she has three brothers.  And then she pauses for effect and says one of them is a Democrat.  When the audience figures out what she means, they all laugh.  And she talked again and again about how Republicans and Democrats are united around fundamental values when it comes to things like education and health care.

So she`s clearly working on that part of her pitch as I think a way of reassuring people that she can get the voters the Democrats feel they didn`t get in 2016.

O`DONNELL:  Adam, are you going to be following the Warren campaign around the country?

REILLY:  Possibly not every step of the way but I think I`ll be checking in with her frequently, yes.  And certainly, when she`s up here in New Hampshire, I`ll be keeping tabs on her.  And my hunch is after this weekend that I`ll be seeing her in other spots as well.

And as you pointed out, it sounds like this campaign, it`s not official yet, but it sounds like a done deal when you watch her.

O`DONNELL:  It sure does.  Adam Reilly, I need to hear from you more.  Adam Reilly who`s been watching Elizabeth Warren campaign for a long time and saw her doing it this weekend.  Thank you for joining us tonight.

And when we come back, where is President Trump getting Vladimir Putin`s talking points?  David Frum has an idea.  That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  Historians have more than enough evidence to conclude that Donald Trump is buy in order of magnitude the most ignorant person ever to occupy the presidency of the United States and the least intelligent.  And that combination means that when new information is inserted into the Trump brain, the Trump brain has very little processing power to analyze that information.

And so the Trump brain tends to do one of two things.  Reject that new information or accept that new information.  One of the most fascinating falsehoods now apparently residing comfortably in the Trump brain is the big lie inserted there by someone about the Soviet Union`s invasion of Afghanistan and the defeat of the Soviet Union suffered in its 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

Vladimir Putin wants the world to believe a lie about that chapter of Soviet history.  And that lie is now best recited for American audiences by possibly the only American who believes it, Donald Trump.


TRUMP:  The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.  They were right to be there.  The problem is it was a tough fight and literally they went bankrupt.


O`DONNELL:  Literally, they did not go bankrupt.  They lost a war and were driven out of Afghanistan.  But in the process essentially created Al Qaeda and Donald Trump is now saying that the Soviet Union was right to do that.

There has been much speculation by David Frum and by Rachel Maddow about how the president came to believe this extremely dangerous fairytale.  Vladimir Putin told an Austrian news agency last June that he and president Trump "regularly talk over the phone."  Surely, Vladimir Putin has all of those phone calls recorded and transcribed.

It is standard procedure for the president of the United States to have all of his phone calls with foreign leaders transcribed.  If those transcripts exist, will they show Vladimir Putin planting this big lie into the mind of the most ignorant president in history?

Back with us, David Frum.  David, there is some possibility that the special prosecutor might try to subpoena transcripts of the president`s phone calls with Vladimir Putin.  And if those subpoenas succeed, we might learn some answers about this?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  We might.  Apparently, there`s something like a dozen officially recorded phone calls between President Trump and President Putin over the past two years.  And there may be some kind of transcript there.

But remember the casual approach the president`s had to telephone security.  He`s had at many points in the past his own smartphone, which he has used without any particular security to it.  We don`t know whether he`s got that phone right now.

John Kelly made it a real project to take the phone away from him but those projects tend not to succeed.  So there may be many phone calls we don`t know about.

O`DONNELL:  And Mick Mulvaney was asked about this, the new acting White House Chief of Staff, Jake Tapper asked him yesterday where did he get that idea from?  And Mulvaney`s answer was, "I think that idea is born out of frustration."

Mulvaney made no attempt to defend the truthfulness of the idea at all.  Just saying that the president is frustrated, therefore, he`s telling this big lie.

FRUM:  Right.  And it is a lie that Vladimir Putin in recent days has been particularly anxious to affirm.  The Russians are now trying to re-identify more and more with the Soviet Union and even to defend the Afghanistan War which is a very unpopular war inside the former Soviet Union.

Now, of course, not all those who fought in Afghanistan were Russians.  Many belonged to the other Soviet Republics.  And Vladimir Putin is also, who has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.  He has -- he is very anxious to blame that war for a failure that was much more inherent in the evil of the Soviet system itself.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what Chuck Rosenberg said about this.


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER FBI SENIOR OFFICIAL:  The president of the United States is echoing directly the line of the Kremlin on a whole bunch of things.  And so whether or not it results in an indictment, whether or not it`s something we ultimately can see, touch, feel, and hear, this is something that U.S. intelligence officials have to understand.  Why is the president saying what he`s saying?


O`DONNELL:  And David, U.S. Intelligence officials have different methods than the special prosecutor about how to find this out.

FRUM:  Well, Rachel Maddow made a fabulous point in her presentation on this where she reminded everyone that in the very beginning of the Trump administration that the Trump administration was accepting crazy Soviet propaganda, Russian propaganda I should say, accusing Poland, our NATO ally, of meddling inside Belarus.  That was completely false.

But, again, that somehow got into the president`s head.  And there are other examples, too, where he says things that no one except an RT viewer and the president of Russia would believe.

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, thank you for joining us tonight.

FRUM:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Tonight`s last word is next.


O`DONNELL:  If you were watching Jeff Bridges get his lifetime achievement award last night at the Golden Globes, then you missed my lifetime achievement award last night which occurred on "The Simpsons" where I appeared as an animated character with my voice.  There I am.

And that occurred exactly, what did we say?  2013, six years, six years after Rachel Maddow appeared on "The Simpsons."  And I think there`s Rachel.  There`s Rachel six years ago on "The Simpsons."

There I am last night.  I was brilliantly written by Michael Price who got the animated version of me.