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Trump voters blame Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 1/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Evan McMullin, Tim O`Brien, Norm Ornstein, Ron Klain, Matt Viser

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

Extraordinary reporting you have last night on this case.  And what do you expect at this press conference tomorrow? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  You know, we`ve been, you know, translating everything ourselves, which is not ideal.  And we`ve been trying to monitor Russian language media and it is hard to tell.  It was definitely a surprise when she got arrested.  It was a surprise when she turned up in court, when she was allowed to make those remarks to reporters, and it was a surprise when she was released today. 

So I think what I`m looking forward to hearing her speak in her own words about what she`s been through.  Obviously, she`s been in a very sort of scarily precarious place right in the middle of this gigantic international scandal up against some very scary people.  And so, I`ll be interested in hearing from her, and I`m hoping it`s not just lawyers talking about her.  I hope it`s her. 

O`DONNELL:  We will be watching.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.  I appreciate it.

O`DONNELL:  Are you exasperated with Rudy Giuliani?  If you are, you`re not alone. 

"Politico" is reporting tonight that President Trump agrees with you.  In a story headlined, Trump exasperated by gaffe-prone Giuliani. 

"Politico" reports Rudy Giuliani has a growing list of enemies in the White House which now includes his boss, President Donald Trump.  Trump was apoplectic after a pair of weekend interviews by his personal lawyer in which Giuliani said that the president had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign, a statement that enraged Trump because it contradicted his own public position according to two sources close to the president. 

"The New York Times" is reporting several people close to Mr. Trump had grown exasperated with Mr. Giuliani`s public appearances.  They also expressed concern he is increasing prosecutors` anger with the president and possibly creating a misimpression about the Trump Tower project in Moscow, a misimpression.  That is "The New York Times" at its most polite. 

Rudy Giuliani has made several statements about just how long Donald Trump and his son and daughter and Michael Cohen worked on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.  Since "BuzzFeed" reported last week that those negotiations went on longer than previously reported and involved more meetings than previously reported, Rudy Giuliani made the rounds of Sunday morning shows last weekend whereas usual, he left his audience mostly confused about what he was trying to say. 

But later on Sunday, he gave a very clear interview to "The New York Times."  Just could not have been more clear.  It was so clear that he actually quoted President Trump, telling him that the Moscow deal was the subject of ongoing discussions, quote, from the day I announced to the day I won. 

Rudy Giuliani quoted those words from the president`s mouth, saying that.  The Trump Tower deal in Moscow was being pushed by Donald Trump and his family and Michael Cohen every single day of the presidential campaign.  That was much worse than what Michael Cohen has publicly admitted to, which is that the discussions continued up until at least June of the election year.  And now, "The New Yorker" has released an interview with Rudy Giuliani conducted yesterday in which Rudy Giuliani changes his story again and sometimes changes his story from one sentence to the next sentence within that same interview. 

When asked by "The New Yorker`s" Isaac Chotiner about that quote to "The New York Times" in which Donald Trump says were, quote, going on from the day I announced to the day I won, Rudy Giuliani said, I did not say that.  He was asked if "The New York times" just made up that quote, and Rudy Giuliani said I don`t know if they made it up. 

"The New York Times" has not released a recording of their interview with Rudy Giuliani.  But "The Times" stands by its reporting.  Giuliani told "The New Yorker" that as soon as he read the "BuzzFeed" story last week which also claimed that Michael Cohen will testify president Trump told him to lie under oath to Congress, that Rudy Giuliani knew that that was false.  Because asked "The New Yorker," because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the e-mails and I knew none existed.  And basically when the special counsel said that just in case there are any others I might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same thing. 

"Wait, what tapes have you gone through?" asked "The New Yorker".  "I shouldn`t have said tapes."

In this same interview, Rudy Giuliani brags about his skills as a lawyer, especially as a criminal defense lawyer which is the role he now sees himself playing for the president.  And I`ve got to say one thing I have never heard a great or even good, even OK criminal defense lawyer say is, I shouldn`t have said tapes.  In fact, with good lawyers, you never hear them say I shouldn`t have said -- anything. 

Rudy Giuliani finished his answer to the question about what tapes he has listened to by saying, "BuzzFeed" alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the president told him to lie.  There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the president never told him to lie. 

In "The New Yorker" interview, Rudy Giuliani said, "The New York Times" wants to crucify the president and the president had no conversations.  I shouldn`t say he had no conversations.  These are his words.  OK, this is what he actually said. 

And then Rudy Giuliani said once again that the president did have conversations during the presidential campaign about building a Trump Tower in Moscow. 

At the close of that interview, Isaac Chotiner turned to Rudy Giuliani`s legacy, saying things for Trump not always being truthful about it, do you ever worry this will be your legacy?  Does that ever worry you in any way? 

Absolutely.  I am afraid it will be on my gravestone, Rudy Giuliani, he lied for Trump.  Somehow, I don`t think that will be it.  But if it is, so what do I care?  I`ll be dead.  I figure I can explain it to Saint Peter.  He`ll be on my side because so far -- I don`t think as a lawyer, I ever said anything that`s untruthful. 

We have no comment yet from Saint Peter. 

Michael Cohen will testify in public to a House committee on February 7th, and it will definitely be the hearing of the year so far.  But that might last only a day because the very next day, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, is bringing in acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker to testify to the Judiciary Committee about his conversations with President Trump.  Chairman Nadler sent a letter to Whitaker today, telling him exactly what the most important questions will be, and every question is a heavily loaded question. 

For example, on January 18th, the special counsel issued a rare statement describing some aspects of the "BuzzFeed" story as inaccurate.  Did you have any communication with the White House about the "BuzzFeed" report or the decision of the special counsel`s office to issue its subsequent statement?  If so, with whom?  What was discussed? 

Leading off our discussion now, Tim O`Brien, executive director of "Bloomberg Opinion", and Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor.  They`re both MSNBC contributors. 

And, Mimi, I want to start at the end there, with these just amazing questions that Jerry Nadler has already put in writing publicly to Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general.  What he seems to be getting at there with the "BuzzFeed" question is, it`s pretty unusual for the special prosecutor`s office to put out any statement at all.  Did you, Matthew Whitaker, order them to do that?  Did Donald Trump order you to order them to do that? 

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right, and look, that is an important, important question to be asked.  And we need truthful answers to that.  And I`m glad that there`s somebody now in Washington that has the power to ask those questions and get those answers.  And in fact, this does tie back to Rudy Giuliani, because in one of his many interviews over the weekend, he said that he had reached out to Mueller about the "BuzzFeed" story. 

Now, that is different from Whitaker reaching out, but was there any coordination?  You know, well, first of all, did Rudy really reach out, it seems he wrote a letter but you never know for sure with Rudy that what he`s saying to be true.  But I think that all of the questions that are listed in that letter to Whitaker are about the conflict that we`ve all been so worried about with Whitaker.

And they`re really well-drafted questions because they`re really trying to get at the heart, is Whitaker compromised?  Was he compromised before he became the attorney general in some way?  Did the acting attorney general, did he make any promises to Trump about trying to curtail both the Mueller investigation, and there`s two very questions about the Southern District of New York?  And specifically saying, were you in any way made to promise that you would try to interfere with the Southern District of New York, that you would reassign people of the Southern District of New York? 

I mean, these are extreme questions that in any other world would have been shocking to even hear asked, but they make a lot of sense in this presidency. 

O`DONNELL:  And Jerry Nadler made it clear to the acting attorney general that he was putting these questions in writing ahead of time because he expects him to possibly try to invoke executive privilege.  Jerry Nadler doesn`t think executive privilege applies.  But he said that I found so interesting in the letters is what I don`t want you to do is come into this hearing room and say that might be a matter of executive privilege so I`m going to consult with the White House to see if I can exert executive privilege over this. 

Nadler wants to know ahead of time.  Are you going to try to exert executive privilege over any of these questions?  And if they do, Nadler is prepared to get into that battle. 

ROCAH:  Right.  I mean, again, I think this is smart tactic, because instead of, you know, he sort of got away the positive and negative of giving the questions in advance so he can prepare his answers and also being able to see, you know, what executive privilege arguments they`re going to make.  Because there will be some legitimate executive privilege claims, but not all.  There`s no way that they can get around really answering the substance of these questions, at least most of them. 

And so, I think they`re right to want to go in and fight back if that`s going to be the answer. 

O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, what Rudy Giuliani did do today in his interview with "The New Yorker" is he did write one line that was immediately typed into his on-file obituaries, which "The New York Times" already has for many of us.  They`re kind of -- they`re ready for this.  It`s definitely going to say -- it`s going to quote Rudy Giuliani saying, Rudy Giuliani, he lied for Trump.  That`s going to be in any summation of Rudy Giuliani`s life. 

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION":  It`s really jaw dropping.  This is Rudy Giuliani who built his initial reputation in the public sphere as being a, you know, prosecutor with the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan, following the rule of law, not lying, and upholding the justice system.  And now, he`s openly admitting that he`s wearing the mantle of throwing around smoke screens for the president and lying on behalf of the president. 

The other thing about Rudy that I think is fascinating in this context is Trump supporters in the White House routinely call the media or Trump critics or people who are suffering from Trump derangement syndrome.  But there`s no one in the media that even comes close to acting in this deranged a fashion as Rudy has over the last six months.  He doesn`t follow the fact pattern.  He`s unfamiliar with the chronology.  He`s unfamiliar with the basic facts, that some of the core events prosecutors are looking at that affect the president.

O`DONNELL:  So why would Trump be bothered by this now?  There was nothing different in the Rudy performances this week than there always have been. 

O`BRIEN:  But this has come up before.  You know, when Rudy said that the Cohen tapes weren`t going to be a problem for the president, or when he`s done various reveals on television of facts we didn`t know about before, supposedly Trump was furious about this.  But I think the reality is to a certain extent, Rudy runs interference around some of the most damaging information that`s coming out.  I don`t think he does long debriefs with the president about any of this. 

And most of them are thinking about immediate strategy, unfortunately, most of the time.  Not a legal strategy and it really serves all of them poorly in the end. 

O`DONNELL:  Mimi, to go back to the hearings we`re going to have back-to- back and that is Michael Cohen followed the next day by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, in different meetings, but this is going to be an extraordinary two day event.  And at this point, if Matthew Whitaker -- I mean, look, there`s a whole set of answers to these questions from Jerry Nadler for Matthew Whitaker, which is just says no, no, no, in which case his testimony is non-controversial. 

One of the big questions in there is have you been briefed on Robert Mueller`s investigation?  They asked him to what extent, what role he`s played in Mueller`s investigation.  If he answers basically all of these questions with noes, that becomes kind of a nonevent.  But any one of those questions could create a bigger explosion possibly than even Michael Cohen`s testimony. 

ROCAH:  Exactly.  And, you know, this actually does again tie back to Giuliani in the sense that, look, Giuliani is clearly in my view willing to go out there and lie for Trump.  And I agree that I`m not really buying that Trump is, you know, so upset about this.  I think that is a more calculated strategy.  We`re talking about Giuliani, not about Trump.  The lies are to front some of the information in ways that desensitize us to it. 

Is Matthew Whitaker willing to lie for Trump?  You know, I think a lot of people would sort of reflexively say yes, but that`s a big deal.  And again, we don`t know all the facts.  We have to get them.  But my sense is there is no way he can answer all of those questions truthfully and not implicate Trump in some at least unethical behavior because I don`t think this is president that thought about that or cared about that. 

And so they probably did overstep the line.  I mean, I will wait and see, you know, the facts.  And also Whitaker hopefully understands now what other members of the Trump, you know, circle are seeing, that when you go and you testify in Congress under oath just because they may not have a piece of evidence right there and then to refute what you`re saying if you`re lying, it`s going to come out later and, you know, you`re under oath.  So, you know, Whitaker should take that seriously. 

O`DONNELL:  And Jerry Nadler asks him about his own recusal and refusal to recuse supervision of the Mueller investigation, and I don`t see any privilege that will get him out of answering those questions. 

ROCAH:  Yes, I think that`s right.  I mean, these weren`t his personal lawyers.  Those were discussions with, you know, the office of the Department of Justice, and he should have to answer for that, because he went -- he sidestepped the normal process and we should know what the process was that he made up. 

O`DONNELL:  Mimi Rocah, Tim O`Brien, thank you for starting us off tonight. 

And when we come back, Mitch McConnell is finally admitting that, yes, the Senate can help solve the government shutdown after a month of Mitch McConnell doing nothing and the Senate doing nothing.  Senator McConnell is now going to bring two bills to a vote in the Senate.  One is supported by Donald Trump.  The other is supported by Nancy Pelosi. 

And the producer of "The Apprentice", the TV show in which Donald Trump pretended to fire people reportedly has connections to a banker with close ties to Vladimir Putin.  Is Putin somehow connected to everything Donald Trump has ever done?  Is that possible? 


O`DONNELL:  Today, the FBI Agents Association issued a report saying the partial shutdown of the federal government which includes a shutdown of the FBI is hampering the FBI`s ability to investigate terrorism, drug trafficking, child sex predators, and Donald Trump`s favorite target, the gang MS-13.  President Trump has told the country that we need to build a wall to defend against all of is hampering the FBI`s ability to investigate terrorism, drug trafficking, child sex predators, and Donald Trump`s favorite target, the gang ms-13. 

President Trump has told the country that we need to build a wall to defend against all of those things especially the invasion of MS-13 gang members across the southern border, and in order to get that wall now, President Trump has shutdown the government and some of the operations of the FBI, and that has now made life easier on that very same gang, according to the FBI. 

One FBI agent who oversees FBI SWAT teams says they have no means of purchasing critical equipment, gear or ammo for either training or operations. 

TSA is now pleading for back up officers to help with staffing shortages as the number of unpaid TSA agents who did not show up for work on Sunday hit a record high of 10 percent.  With polls showing the blame for the shutdown rests decisively on Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has finally decided to do what he could have done weeks or ago but always claimed he would not do.  He is going to bring one of the bills Nancy Pelosi passed through to the House of Representatives to a vote in the Senate.  That bill would reopen the government with temporary funding until February 8th.  If that bill passes the Senate, it will be immediately sent to the White House for the president`s signature. 

And because the president is Donald Trump, we have no idea whether the president will or wouldn`t sign that bill.  The vote on the Pelosi funding bill and the McConnell controlled Senate will come after Senator McConnell gives President Trump the pleasure of watching the president`s latest proposal come to a vote in the Senate.  That bill would include the president`s current request of $5.7 billion for border wall funding. 

The reason Mitch McConnell has a second bill ready to come to a vote after the Trump bill is that Senator McConnell knows the Trump bill will be defeated in the Senate.  The votes are currently scheduled for Thursday. 

Joining us now, Ron Klain, former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and former senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama.  Also wit us, Matt Viser, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Matt, I want to start with you because you had reporting especially from Michigan from areas -- you visited areas where Donald Trump has had pretty good support.  And even in those places, at crucial Electoral College areas for Donald Trump, they -- according to your reporting, they`re blaming the shutdown on Donald Trump. 

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  That`s right.  I spent a couple of days in Macomb County, Michigan, and suburban Detroit.  This is an area when we think of blue collar voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump, these are the voters we`re talking about.  And many that I spoke to have concerns about President Trump. 

Republicans or Democrats who swung and voted for President Trump are concerned about him, and the shutdown is adding to that.  They`re worried about things it might do to an economy they so far felt pretty good about.  And I think that is causing more anxiety, and they`re saying it would take something miraculous for them to support President Trump again. 

So, it illustrates a little bit of the challenges that he faces right now as he deals with the shutdown and gets a lot of the blame for it. 

O`DONNELL:  Speaking of something miraculous, Ron Klain, Mitch McConnell has risen from a version of the dead in the Senate.  And here he is now doing what he said he wouldn`t do, and he`s actually trying to move some bills on the Senate floor. 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Yes, only in the U.S. Senate of Mitch McConnell could putting up proposals that will lose be considered actual legislation.  And, you know, that`s what`s going to happen.  They`re going to put this Trump proposal, which is no compromise at all, which is a threat to take the Dreamers hostage and then partially released them as hostages, in exchange releasing the wall as a hostage, they`re going to put that up for a vote and it`s going to lose. 

And then we`ll see the second bill is a vote that passed unanimously in December.  Will they be able to get the votes to pass it again?  We`re going to have to see what change since then.  The only thing that`s changed since then is after two years of Republicans controlling the Congress and refusing to fund the wall for those two years.  Now, they expect a Democratic House to fund the wall instead of having either Republicans fund it or Mexico fund it as the president promised.  So, I don`t really know that anything productive is going to happen in the Senate on Thursday, but at least they`re open for business and they`re going to cast some votes. 

O`DONNELL:  And yet, Matt, Ron points out something really interesting about the Pelosi bill when it comes to a vote after the Trump bill.  And, look, Mitch McConnell wouldn`t be talking about voting on a second bill if he wasn`t 100 percent confident the first one, the Trump bill will fail.  But the fact that this United States Senate in effect voted unanimously for this bill already puts an interesting kind of pressure on Republicans in the Senate. 

And then there`s also the question of what their constituents are telling them and what their constituents want not so much tonight but by Thursday when their voting on these things.  Because in the United States Senate, everything that a senator thinks he`s going to do on a vote like this can change when the moment actually comes. 

VISER:  It does.  And they need 13.  You know, if all the Democrats support it, they need 13 Republicans to join in to pass this legislation.  Given this is the grip that President Trump seems to have on his party and on Senate Republicans, it seems like a tall order.  But as you point out, they`ve been on record supporting this kind of thing in the past. 

So I think you will see a lot of pressure on Senate Republicans to try and join probably a unanimous Democratic Senate to pass the bill. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ron Klain, I just want to have to say for the audience in the United States Senate you and I worked in, this kind of situation would not even be suspenseful because the entire Senate would be working against a president who said he was proud to shutdown the government.  They -- you would get easily two thirds agreement to move something over presidential veto to open the government in a situation like this. 

KLAIN:  Well, absolutely, Lawrence.  And I think, look, Trump appears to be willing to go down with the ship to save his wall.  And the question is, are Republican senators willing to take their own careers down for the cause of Trump`s wall? 

I mean, a match reporting polls that are coming up show that even Republican leaning independence, even some Trump voters say what`s happening now is wrong, working class people are losing their jobs.  We`re seeing working class people who work for the government lining up in food kitchens to get food supplies.  FBI agents have turned a field office into a food bank. 

I mean, this is something that no politician on either party should want a part of.  And to get a wall they never paid for before, that Mexico was not paying for, that`s Trump`s decision.  The question is will Republican lash themselves to that horrible judgment? 

O`DONNELL:  And Matt Viser, we know political polling has different ways of measuring the strength of feeling in a voter.  We have recent polling indicating that 57 percent of voters say they definitely will not vote for Donald Trump.  And that decision by a voter to definitely not vote for someone tends to be one that holds more strongly than other decisions voters make about who they might vote for not vote for.  But when they`re saying definitely won`t vote for is pretty intense. 

Is that the kind of intensity you were finding in Michigan when you were talking to voters? 

VISER:  It was, yes.  I mean -- and this is again among people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.  There are some I talked to already there definitely aren`t voting for him again.  So, that illustrates I think a lot of the challenge that he has.  And the way we are now, you know, people may forget about this government shutdown by then, but it`s causing some kind of lasting opinions of people, particularly in blue collar areas who see themselves in some of these government workers. 

You know, let`s do a blue collar middle class government employees who are going without a paycheck, people in areas like Detroit see themselves in those people and feel for them.  So, I think they`re identifying with them a little bit in the government shutdown in an unusual way. 

O`DONNELL:  I think this time, it`s going to be hard for voters to forget about the government shutdown because campaign commercials are going to be filled with Donald Trump promising to shutdown the government and saying he would be proud to shutdown the government.  That`s going to be running on a loop in the campaign. 

Ron Klain, Matt Viser, thank you both for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

VISER:  Thank you.

KLAIN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett has made a surprise entry in the investigation of Donald Trump`s ties to Russia.


O`DONNELL:  Since the Trump presidential campaign began, all eyes in Hollywood have been trained on Mark Burnett who was the producer and owner of the NBC show in which Donald Trump played the part of a successful businessman who pretended to fire people.

  Mark Burnett is the owner and custodian of all of the video shot for that show including all of the video of Donald Trump that they did not use and could not use on the show.  Sources involved with the show have suggested that Donald Trump said things on video that would be politically harmful to him if revealed but his friend Mark Burnett has so far successfully blocked access to that video.

And now Mark Burnett has made a surprise entry in the investigation of Donald Trump`s ties to Russia.  "ABC News" is reporting tonight, nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of the "Apprentice", Mark Burnett reached out to one of Trump`s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long-held ties to Russia.

That banker was Robert Foresman, a vice-chairman at UBS who has claimed connections to Putin`s inner circle and who previously ran a $3 billion Russian investment fund.  "ABC" reports, in mid-November 2016, Foresman sought contacts inside Trump`s orbit and with Burnett`s help, he found his way onto the daily calendar of Thomas Barrack, who at the time was chairing what would become Trump`s $100 million inaugural funds.

Foresman name appears without a scheduled time and a notation, "Mark Burnett contact" next to it.  Barrack`s meetings with Foresman was ultimately canceled but sources say Foresman continued to pursue a role with the Trump team.  In January, he secured a meeting with Michael Flynn, who according to two sources, familiar with Foresman`s contacts.

"ABC" also reports that Foresman recently attracted attention from congressional investigators and prosecutors in New York examining the Trump transition and inauguration.  Also this week, "The New York Times" is reporting details on the Trump administration`s deal to lift sanctions on companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

"The Times" reports a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with companies controlled by the oligarch may have been less punitive than advertised.  The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars of debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company.

Joining us now, Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and former independent presidential candidate.  And back with us is Tim O`Brien.

And, Evan McMullin, the Oleg Deripaska sanctions seems to have been not something that with the Trump administration`s help, he has to suffer much longer.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  Yes, that`s right.  And the administration is making statements basically trying to move attention on this story to the point that they`re disrupting Oleg Deripaska`s finances.  They`re making him sacrifice some of his ownership.  They`re trying to limit his ability to exercise control over that aluminum company`s operations, thereby making it more difficult as they say for him on behalf of the Putin regime to use that company`s operations to carry out illicit activities around the world.

But in reality, though, they`re giving a gift to Putin.  They`re giving a gift to this oligarch.  What`s important is not just sanctioning these oligarchs, and that is important, but it`s also sanctioning the assets that the regime uses to enrich and control these oligarchs and to empower the regime.

And so if you simply say, look, Oleg Deripaska, as long as you remove your ownership and control from this company, we`re not going to sanction the company.  Then the regime simply adjusts and it makes sure that Oleg Deripaska is still taken care of, but it still has this company that is operating on behalf of really the regime still generating profits, still generating value and still capable of serving Putin`s interests in whichever way he wants.

So it is important that we continue to have sanctions on this and other companies that Putin uses as this kind of vehicle.  And unfortunately, we`re not.  And I think the administration knows that very well.

O`DONNELL:  Tim O`Brien, big surprise.  Mark Burnett connected to a banker who`s close to Vladimir Putin.  This becomes a little bit of an echo of reporting in "The New Yorker" earlier this month that Mark Burnett turns out tried to do a reality TV show involving Vladimir Putin, wanted to be in business with Vladimir Putin in the TV business.

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  Yes.  You know, it`s -- this is a moment when it`s worth remembering that prior to "The Apprentice", Donald Trump was a punchline in jokes about the accesses in the 1980s.  And "The Apprentice" almost --

O`DONNELL:  And he still was during "The Apprentice" except for people out there beyond Manhattan didn`t know the truth about Donald Trump.

O`BRIEN:  Well, and I think a lot of people who voted for him, "The Apprentice" really fixed in the imagination of middle America Donald Trump is a guru to aspiring entrepreneurs.  And Mark Burnett play an architectural role in building that.

And now, to some extent, it`s come full circle because there`s always been this question about why wouldn`t Mark Burnett release tapes that supposedly existed or authorized at least someone to look into whether there were tapes of Donald Trump saying untoward things on all fair segments of "The Apprentice".  And why didn`t he come out more vocally against the president during the election and after he won?

And we now know that apparently, he was acting as a broker for an investment banker with ties to Russia to Tom Barrack and the rest of the Trump administration during the inauguration.  And the inauguration was a sort of almost bank heist of people trying to pour money into Trump`s inauguration to get access.  We don`t know what Burnett was doing, but he probably now becomes a candidate for congressional inquiry.

O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin, the Trump Tower Moscow now seems to be possibly a serious center of Russian influence in terms of the president, the president`s family.  Ivanka Trump eagerly making plans about the spa she wanted to run in that building.  Donald Trump, Jr. actively involved in discussions with Michael Cohen and others about this possible building.  In your experience in intelligence, what did you see in the Trump Tower Moscow story?

MCMULLIN:  Well, I see a president or a presidential candidate who was carrying a lot of the water for Russia in its attack against the country.  I mean I say this over and over.  I still don`t think we`ve fully come to terms with it here in this country.

  But Russia -- but Trump was the biggest asset, the biggest weapon in Russia`s attack on the country.  I mean he repeated their propaganda and their disinformation the whole way through.  And you couldn`t have avoided it if you lived in America during the campaign.

And, you know, that was on everything from sanctions to Russia`s invasion of Ukraine to all kinds of issues, but especially sanctions and NATO.  And then the divisive rhetoric, trying to divide Americans and turn us against each other.

So all the while, Trump is carrying this water.  And I think he knew it.  I think he understood exactly what he was doing.  And I think he then, therefore, saw an opportunity to advance his business interests in Moscow, in Russia.

He saw that because -- I believe because he was doing this essentially work for Russia in the United States by carrying Russia`s message, et cetera, by covering for their attacks on the United States, that he had an opportunity and he was trying to strike while the iron was hot in my view in Moscow, trying to benefit from what he was doing here in the United States to benefit Russia`s attack on our country.

And so that`s why he was doing it and that`s why also he didn`t want to admit it.  That`s why he concealed it even after the campaign, continued to deny that he had any business interests in Russia.  Well, that`s because he understood the illicit nature of that transaction, whether it was explicit or implicit.

O`DONNELL:  Evan McMullin and Tim O`Brien, thank you both for joining us.

And when we come back, why has Mitch McConnell redefined the Senate majority leader`s job as being essentially a servant of the president?  Does that make him the worst majority leader in history?


O`DONNELL:  After President Trump`s unforgettable tantrum in the oval office with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in which the president promised to shut down the government and said he would be proud to shut down the government if he didn`t get funding for a border wall that he used to promise Mexico would pay for, the adult not in that room promised us that there would be no shutdown.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNEL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  I think a government shutdown is not a good option.  In my view, the American people don`t like it, we`ve been down this path before.  And I don`t believe we`ll go down this path again.

KASIE HUNT, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  To put a finer point on that, are you convinced that we will not be shut down over Christmas?

MCCONNELL:  Yes, I am.


O`DONNELL:  That`s how a strong majority leader of the Senate talks, they tell you what`s really going to happen and they tell you what`s not going to happen.  But Mitch McConnell is not a strong leader of the United States Senate.  He could not stop Donald Trump from shutting down the government because he would not stand up to the president of the United States as majority leaders have done many, many times in history including standing up against presidents of their own party.

And then once the shutdown started, Mitch McConnell did nothing to solve the problem.  When the Democrats then took over the House of Representatives 12 days into the shutdown, Nancy Pelosi immediately went to work to reopen the government and passed a variety of funding bills that would reopen the government.

And Mitch McConnell was afraid, just afraid to bring up those bills when they were sent to the Senate.  Because unlike any previous majority leader of the Senate, he seems to live in fear of the president.  And so the 800,000 federal workers who have missed their paychecks have missed them because of Donald Trump and very much because of Mitch McConnell.

The former Democratic leader of the Senate Harry Reid said this about Mitch McConnell to "The New York Times."  "I believe that Mitch McConnell has ruined the Senate."  Reid who retired in 2017 now says, "I do not believe the Senate for the next generation or two will be the Senate I was there for.  It`s gone.  The old Senate is gone."

When we come back, we will be joined by someone who remembers the old Senate, congressional scholar Norm Ornstein and he will discuss where Mitch McConnell fits in the history of this job called Senate majority leader, which is only about 100-years-old.

The Senate went quite a while without ever having a majority leader and so there`s not that many people to compare him to.  But it is hard to find anyone in that history who has been as weak in confronting a president of the United States than Mitch McConnell.

We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL:  When "The New York Times" asked Mitch McConnell`s wife Elaine Chao who is Donald Trump`s secretary of transportation, if President Trump and Mitch McConnell like each other, "The Times" reports she was silent for a full four seconds before replying you`ll have to ask the president that and you`ll have to ask the leader that.

Joining our discussion now, Norm Ornstein, a congressional historian and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  Norm, you`ve known most of these Senate majority leaders.  I think there`s general agreement that Mike Mansfield was probably the best and the longest serving.

The majority leader who I watched up close when I was working in the Senate, George Mitchell, absolutely brilliant, fearless, brilliant strategist and had to many times explain to President Clinton, I saw him do it, that what the president wanted to do couldn`t be done and here`s what we`re going to have to do instead, and here`s why ultimately that`s going to work.

That seems like that kind of moment has never happened with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN:  Oh, I think that`s absolutely right.  And if you look at the history of this office, as you said it goes back to 1920.  And if you go through the whole series of leaders from Oscar Underwood on, the ones that you mentioned, people like Robert Bird, Republican leaders like Howard Baker and Hugh Scott, even Trent Lot, all the way up, they believed in a certain level of integrity for the Senate.

And what we`ve seen from McConnell in the last two years is exactly the opposite, protecting Trump, kowtowing to Trump.  But, of course, before that, we have to add that he destroyed the rules of the Senate as Harry Reid Said.  He almost single-handedly destroyed the norms of the institution and the way it had operated and there`s a lot to answer for there.

O`DONNELL:  And Norm, when I was working in the Senate, Bob Dole was the Republican leader and Mitch McConnell was one of the most reasonable members of the Republican side of the Senate at that time.  He was the chairman of the Ethics Committee and he, at that time, recommended the expulsion of the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the chairman of Finance had to resign as a result of that.

If you had told me in the early 1990s Mitch McConnell is going to be the Republican leader of the Senate in the 21st century, I would have said good.  I mean there has to be a Republican leader and that`s one of the people who I think would have been reasonable.  What happened to him?  What has happened to the senator he used to be?

You know, his mentor, the person he first worked for when he came to the Senate was John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, somebody I knew who was a man of just sterling integrity and who venerated the Senate.  And I think if John Sherman Cooper were around today, he would be horrified of what became of Mitch McConnell.

It may have started when he chaired the Senatorial Committee, went out and raised a lot of money and his ambitions got greater.  It may have gone to his growing antipathy towards any regulation of the campaign finance system and his belief that he would do anything necessary to deal with it.

And that led to what he did to destroy the confirmation process for judges as well as justices of the Supreme Court.  And then it goes to believing that the ends justify the means on just about everything.  This has been a change.  And the McConnell that I knew, even when we were trying to get foreign aid done when he was chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee on that front was a reasonable moderate conservative and he`s turned into something entirely different.

It`s a sad thing for the country and a tragic thing as we look at what he`s done and what he`s now doing on the policy front and on protecting Trump and let`s not forget that he blocked from consideration a bill that would have protected Robert Mueller that would have gotten overwhelming bipartisan support.  So this goes to a lot more than just being weak at this moment on a shutdown.

O`DONNELL:  So, Norm, just quickly in our 100 years of Senate majority leaders, where does Mitch McConnell rank?

ORNSTEIN:  Dead last.

O`DONNELL:  Dead last.

ORNSTEIN:  By acclimation.

O`DONNELL:  There it is.  Norm Ornstein, thank you for joining us.  Really appreciate it.

ORNSTEIN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

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


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

"Politico" reports that within 24 hours of announcing her campaign for president, California Senator Kamala Harris raised $1.5 million, which tied Senator Bernie Sanders record-breaking one-day total from his 2016 presidential campaign.  Kamala Harris got that support from 38,000 donors, which is 3,000 more than Senator Sanders got in one day.

Now, take a look at this 2020 primary schedule.  These are tentative dates at this point.  But February 3 is when it all begins in Iowa.  A month later, what you`re looking at is one month after those first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses on February 3, if the candidates who hang on until March 3 make it to that date.

Look at the important states that are voting.