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Senator Schumer calls for Intel. TRANSCRIPT: 1/30/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Ron Klain; Eugene Robinson; Cal Perry

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

That is such an important public service announcement, and I have to say that when I was living on tips as a parking attendant in Boston parking cars, the tips were so rare, I have to tell you any amount, any amount was fine with us.  We would take any amount.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  On a subzero night, if someone gives you a nickel, you`re going to be like, where`s the right, right?  I mean, like this is a time when it is -- tipping is no kidding. 

O`DONNELL:  They were almost all subzero nights in Boston in winter, but when we were parking cars for the Celtics and the Bruins and stuff, and if you -- whatever you gave us, we were very grateful for.  We really appreciated it. 

MADDOW:  You know, my first -- my first -- my first service job, meaning like waiting tables job was minimum wage, no tips and I had to wear pantyhose.  And at that point had anybody illegally --

O`DONNELL:  What was the worst part -- Rachel, of those three things, what was the most difficult for you to bear? 

MADDOW:  For me, the most difficult was actually just waiting tables, even if I had been well-paid and didn`t have to wear pantyhose because I`m so terrible at it.  Yes, the tips thing is for real on a night this bad. 

O`DONNELL:  Rachel, this is the kind of night where I could go on and on, especially where this has already been.  It`s been pretty great.  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Pantyhose later.  Talk to you later, my friend.  Bye, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  OK.  News time. 

We do have breaking news tonight, and it is breaking news from Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.  He has written a letter to President Trump`s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats telling him to educate the president.  Chuck Schumer is siding with Dan Coats and the other leaders of intelligence agencies who were criticized by the president today for completely disagreeing with him in their public testimony to the Senate yesterday, giving their assessment of the worldwide threats that the United States faces. 

Senator Schumer`s letter to Director Coats says: President Trump`s criticisms of the testimony you and the other intelligence leaders provided to Congress yesterday was extraordinarily inappropriate and will undermine public confidence in the U.S. government`s efforts to protect our national security and preserve U.S. power and influence abroad.  I believe it is incumbent on you, Director Wray, and Director Haspel to insist on an immediate meeting with the president to educate him about the facts and raw intelligence underlying the intelligence community assessments and to impress upon him how critically important it is for him to join you and the leadership of our intelligence community in speaking with a unified accurate voice about national security threats.  He is putting your colleagues in an untenable position and hurting the national interest in the process.  You must find a way to make that clear to him. 

Educate him.  In other words, do the impossible, do what no one has ever been able to do. 

No previous president has ever publicly attacked all of the heads of America`s intelligence gathering agencies and all of the people working in those agencies.  That is what Donald Trump did today because the 42-page report of the worldwide threat assessment presented to the Senate yesterday by the heads of those agencies is actually the worked product of everyone working in those agencies. 

The title of the document is: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The work of thousands of people went into that document, including thousands of people who were not being paid for some of the time that that document was being produced because of the Trump shutdown of the government. 

This is one of those days where we try to reach for the language that will place this event in history.  We try to find the words to convey the enormity of the abhorrent behavior the president displayed, and when we try to find those words now, we fail because the language has been exhausted by Donald Trump.  The word "unprecedented" has no power anymore.  The word "outrageous" has no power. 

The word "irresponsible" means nothing anymore in the same sentence with the words Donald Trump, but some of us will still try and some of us have apparently given up.  "The New York Times" initial reporting of what the president said today made no attempt at all to convey the profound presidential perversity of Donald Trump issuing a tweet this morning in which he screamed, they are wrong!  At what he called the intelligence people. 

"The New York Times" report on that and other tweets attacking the intelligence people said: it is unusual for the president to pick a fight with his intelligence chiefs.  That kind of reporting is total victory for Donald Trump.  The brainwashing is working.  The outrage fatigue is working. 

"The New York Times" is completely wrong.  It is not unusual.  What the president did today was not unusual, it has never happened.  To be unusual it has to have happened before, but not very often.  Never, never.

  Unusual is not the word for what happened today.  The heads of our intelligence agencies have been routinely appearing before the Senate to present the worldwide threat assessment of the intelligence community year in and year out and never before has a president of the United States written a public statement saying they are wrong, they are all wrong. 

In his second tweet about their testimony, the president said: Perhaps intelligence should go back to school.  What school? 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I went to the best schools.  I`m like a very smart person. 

I went to an Ivy League school.  I`m very highly educated.  I know words.  I have the best words. 

I went to the Wharton School of Finance, maybe the hardest school to get into in the country.  The Wharton School of Finance.  And I was very good.  Really good. 


O`DONNELL:  One thing we know they did not teach Donald Trump at the Wharton School was intelligence.  No president has ever publicly insulted the heads of all American intelligence gathering agencies and everyone working in those agencies the way President Trump did today.  Perhaps intelligence should go back to school. 

All of them, everyone working at the CIA, everyone working on counterintelligence at the FBI, everyone at the NSA, thousands and thousands of people, they should all go back to school? 

Now, I am not one to police typos on Twitter, but in a tweet where you`re telling thousands of people to go back to school, you should not have mistakes like, there economy is now crashing.  That, of course, should be T-H-E-I-R, and there seems to be no one named Trump who knows that.  Their schools did not teach that apparently. 

Donald Trump is now telling us that the people he appointed, he appointed, he put in charge of intelligence gathering for the defense of the United States of America should go back to school.  He`s telling us his choices for those jobs are incompetent. 


TRUMP:  We`ve got the best people. 

I know the best people. 

We`re going to use our best people. 

The best people. 

The best people. 

I know guys that are so good. 


O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump promised his voters that he would hire the best people, and two years into his presidency, what has happened to those best people?  What has happened includes being indicted, pleading guilty to federal crimes, being fired, resigning and, of course, being publicly attacked by Donald Trump, the person who hired them. 

Donald Trump is telling his true believers today and only his true believers because no one else believes this.  He`s telling them that this government`s intelligence gathering agencies are wrong.  They are failing in their mission to help defend the United States of America.  Donald Trump is telling his followers that after two full years of the Trump presidency, the intelligence community as run by Donald Trump`s appointees is a complete failure. 

It is Donald Trump`s latest insult to the intelligence of his followers and his latest insult to the people he has appointed.  Now, if you`re Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and the president directly insults you publicly today, how and why do you stay in your job?  The only reason for the director of national intelligence or the director of the CIA or the director of the FBI or the director of the national security agency to stay in their jobs after being publicly insulted by the president of the United States today is that they all recognize that the unstated threat to this country that did not appear in their written report is actually the president of the United States himself, and they are staying in those jobs to defend this country against the threat of the Donald Trump presidency. 

Dan Coats served as a member of the house of representatives.  He served as a Republican member of the United States Senate and was never once insulted by any member of the house or any senator the way he was insulted by Donald Trump today.  And like everyone who worked in the Senate when Dan Coats was a member, I am absolutely confident that if Senator Coats had ever been insulted like this, he would have immediately taken to the floor of the United States Senate and responded to that insult with righteous indignation. 

The only thing that I can think of that keeps Dan Coats in that job tonight after President Trump has made that job much more difficult to do, and after President Donald Trump specifically and directly insulted Dan Coats today, the only reason I can think of that Dan Coats is staying in that job is to help defend this country against the threat of Donald Trump, which was actually something that Dan Coats in effect yesterday promised to discuss with senators in private. 


SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  According to press reports, Donald Trump met privately with Vladimir Putin and no one in the U.S. government has the full story about what was discussed.  Director coats, would this put you in a disadvantaged position in terms of understanding Russia`s efforts to advance its agenda against the United States? 

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  Senator, clearly this is a sensitive issue and it`s an issue we ought to talk about this afternoon.  I look forward to discussing that in a closed session. 


O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion now, Nick Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an NBC News and MSNBC national security and intelligence analyst.  Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post."  He`s an MSNBC political analyst.  And Ron Klain, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden and President Obama and a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

And, Ron, I want to start with you because I know you served on the Senate staff when Dan Coats was there.  Your reaction to this direct insult from the president to Dan Coats, and then this move with Chuck Schumer tonight with a letter directly to Dan Coats telling him, as he put it, educate him.  I mean, in effect asking Dan Coats to do the impossible, educate Donald Trump. 

RON KLAIN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL:  Yes, look, I not only worked in the senate.  I`m from Indiana.  I worked on campaigns against Dan Coats.  In Indiana politics, even his opponents wouldn`t say something 1/10 of what his boss said about him today.  That`s outrageous. 

And as for Senator Schumer`s letter, I mean, look, I think it may be missing the point.  This may not be an issue of Donald Trump being educated or Donald Trump just being a stubborn old real estate developer who still thinks that gold plating is the solution to all problems.  Donald Trump, this may be the product of compromise, kompromat, corruption and collusion. 

Donald Trump may not be mistaken about these things.  He may be taking direction from his friends in Russia telling him what to do about these things.  You know, education may not fix that, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Eugene, your reaction to this back and forth today, the president`s attacks on his own appointees.  These are all people he appointed, he chose and when he told us he told us they were the best. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Unprecedented, shocking, disgraceful, those are words that could have been used instead of unusual. 

O`DONNELL:  Listen, I don`t mean to pick on "the New York Times."  I understand the language fatigue here.  I`m sure as they develop their reporting on this, they`re not going to leave it as unusual. 

ROBINSON:  No, they`re not.  Look, as an old newspaper man, it has taken us awhile to learn the language we need to use to describe Donald Trump.  And sometimes we backslide.  But so, "The Times" will be back.  Let`s not pick on them. 

You know, one of the things that is true, and Ron`s absolutely right, this could reflect a compromised president, the likes of which we have never had.  And, you know, a huge national security crisis for the country. 

The other thing it reflects, too, on the list of things, the long list of things that make Donald Trump unfit to be president of the United States, pretty high on the list is the fact that once he gets an idea in his mind and states it and says this is the way reality is, even though it isn`t, he is impervious to fact and argument.  His mind cannot be changed.  You can show him that, no, 2 plus 2 does not equal 5, Mr. President, it equals 4. 

And here -- but he won`t listen.  And he gets mad at anyplace who tries to correct him.  This is what`s reported again and again and again on -- by people who attempt to brief him and to educate him.  So Chuck Schumer`s letter really is, you know, this is a --

O`DONNELL:  I`m assuming that Chuck Schumer is aware of everything you just said and he`s using these words like "educate him" and convince him and make it clear to him, because he knows when he sees the words written, oh, that`s impossible.  He can`t be educated. 

Nick Rasmussen, talk about the effect that this -- what the president did today has on the intelligence community, the thousands of people whose work was gathered into that report that was presented yesterday. 

NICK RASMUSSEN, NATIONAL COUNTERTERORRISM CENTER FORMER DIRECTOR:  Well, thanks, Lawrence.  Let me come at this from the perspective of Director Coats.  He has been someone who has stood up for the intelligence community publicly and with the president on any number of occasions that we know about, and certainly probably on occasions we don`t know about.  And that`s something that is noticed and appreciated by the intelligence officers across all of the 17 different intelligence agencies. 

That said, it can`t help this kind of spat, this kind of disrespect shown to the intelligence community, expressed contempt and for the capability and competence of intelligence professionals, it can`t help but undermine kind of morale in the workforce and kind of the feeling of -- what the intelligence community is providing to the president is first-class work and the intelligence community knows that, but to hear that from their president has to be troubling and it certainly isn`t reassuring. 

You know, if you`re Dan Coats, though, from my perspective, he is not a normal cabinet member.  Most cabinet members are there to advance the political objectives of the president.  Dan Coats is there to speak for the intelligence community and bring intelligence the best possible intelligence to the table.  So from my perspective, I do hope he stays.  I do hope he continues to do that.  I do hope he continues to stand up and speak on behalf of the community. 

O`DONNELL:  Nick, the fact that the president just says they are wrong, it`s just a blanket they are wrong.  Nothing like that, of course, has ever occurred before, but is the intelligence community -- is it your sense that the intelligence community has somehow internalized this kind of thing?  They`re sort of ready for it and they`re just determined to continue to do their work in the face of it? 

RASMUSSEN:  I think that`s a great way of thinking about it because I have a tremendous amount of fact and confidence in the professionalism in intelligence officers all across our community.  And if -- I used to tell the folks that worked with me at the National Counterterrorism Center, if the reaction of a president or anyone individual to your work throws you off your stride then there is something wrong with the way you`re approaching your work. 

You`ve got a mission.  Your job is to do the best possible job of protecting the security of the national -- of the United States of America and our fellow citizens, and what the president says on a given day shouldn`t -- shouldn`t necessarily throw you off the beam. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, my one notion of this, I mean, you raised the possibility that the president does this is that he is compromised.  So that actually involves a form of logic.  It`s criminal logic, but there is a logic to it. 

There is also just the completely empty-headed version of this.  People talk about, where does he get his information?  I think it`s entirely possible there is no information, there is nothing inside that brain and he just asserts something, and then when someone says something counter to it, they are wrong is what he`s been saying since he was 3 years old. 

KLAIN:  Yes. 

O`DONNELL:  So he has no thought.  He has nothing but reflex.  And that`s the most innocent explanation of what we saw today. 

KLAIN:  Yes, I mean, that is the most innocent, but horrify explanation. 

O`DONNELL:  Oh, yes. 

KLAIN:  That the president --

O`DONNELL:  And unfit to serve. 

KLAIN:  Unfit to serve, who goes with his gut, who rejects, as you said, the work of thousands of people. 

I think the thing that people out there watch should understand is it`s not just the five or six heads of these agencies sitting at the table who are Trump appointees, people he picked who say he`s wrong, it`s the thousands of career people who have devoted their lives and billions of dollars of U.S. technology that generates all of information that the president says on a whim, on a gut or because he`s been influenced by other people, I`m just rejecting all that. 

That makes us all unsafe, and, you know, it just puts the country and this intelligence community in a horrible situation.  Presidents can debate intelligence findings.  Presidents can disagree.  But just to stand out there and say, hey, these people are all wrong, that`s crazy. 

O`DONNELL:  Gene, Dan Coats` response to Chuck Schumer`s letter, will there be one? 

ROBINSON:  I cannot imagine that he will respond.  Maybe he`d want to respond in a private session. 

O`DONNELL:  Dear Chuck, had a great session with the president.  He was taking notes. 

ROBINSON:  Dear Chuck, I`ll meet you at the bar.  We`ll have a discussion. 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to take a break here.  Nick Rasmussen, Eugene Robinson, Ron Klain, thank you for starting us off tonight. 

And when we come back, Lindsey Graham has decided he`s mad as hell about oppressive American law enforcement, especially when they`re arresting Donald Trump`s friends. 

And later, the amazing story of the little church versus the big wall.  President Trump is trying to seize land in Texas so he can build a wall where a Catholic Church has stood for 120 years. 


O`DONNELL:  Lindsey Graham is mad as hell and he`s not going to take it anymore.  He has reached the breaking point with American law enforcement.  He`s had enough of the heavy hand of law enforcement coming down way too hard on American citizens.

And it took a lot to get Lindsey Graham this mad.  He never said a word about what happened to Rodney King when he got arrested.  And he has never demanded a hearing on use of police practices in the Senate Judiciary Committee, of abusive police practices. 

But his breaking point came today when he wrote a letter to the FBI to complain about the way Roger Stone was arrested and to demand answers from the FBI by next week about why they arrested him at all.  Why didn`t they just call his lawyer and tell him to come down to the courthouse? 

Tonight, Donald Trump told a right-wing media outlet that he too was bothered by the way Roger Stone was arrested, but he`s always bothered about the style of an arrest when it involves his political associates and friends like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort.  President Trump doesn`t think the FBI should ever bang on their doors in the predawn hours if they are arresting a Trump team member for Robert Mueller. 

Today, Robert Mueller`s office filed a motion to restrict a Russian defendant`s access to the prosecutors` information in the case.  Standard criminal procedure allows defendants to file discovery motions to see the evidence that the prosecution has on them, but Robert Mueller`s motion today revealed that discovery material already delivered to this defendant has been altered and used to try to discredit Robert Mueller`s investigation.  The special counsel`s motion says, subsequent investigation has revealed that certain nonsensitive discovery materials in the defense`s possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed apparently at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system.

Joining our discussion now, Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News.  And Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law.  She`s an MSNBC legal contributor. 

And, Ken, tell us about this discovery motion today. 

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  So what this motion did, Lawrence, is it was a reminder that when it comes to discrediting the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have a mutual interest --

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  They`re both at it. 

DILANIAN:  Absolutely.  These defendants are related to that Russian troll farm case where Robert Mueller indicted a bunch of Russians, accusing them of manipulating the election through social media through fake accounts.  This is Concord Management connected to Putin`s chef, a guy Prigozhin, who also ran mercenaries in Syria.

And none of these defendants are in court, but they sent some American lawyers to represent the organization for the sole purpose it seemed of getting discovery from Mueller, which according to Mueller, they sent to some fake twitter account and put it online in a place people can find it along with fake material designed to discredit the investigation and make it look like Mueller didn`t have any evidence against this troll farm. 

So, a classic Russian disinformation technique.  A reminder that Mueller is still doing battle with a foreign adversary, even as he`s investigating people around the president of the United States. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, Joyce Vance, what do you see in Robert Mueller`s motion today? 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, it`s a really fascinating motion because for so long I think people assumed that Mueller did not anticipate having anyone show up in court to respond to this indictment.  No individual defendant would subject themselves to possibly going to prison, but Concord showed up and there was obviously a lot of fighting going on about discovery.  Mueller didn`t want them to get away with it. 

And it looked like maybe the Russians had the upper hand until today, when we learned that Mueller was able to get a very strict protective order.  They can only look at the information inside of their lawyers` offices.  It`s all kept offline.  They can`t take it out of country. 

So, now, if Prigozhin, who is one of the principals in Concord, if he wants to see this evidence and participate in the company`s defense, he will have to come to the United States, sit in his lawyer`s office and subject himself to the jurisdiction of the United States courts.  Otherwise he has to stay in the dark, and it might look like maybe they could get away with something funny here, but Mueller has also signaled he is very cyber literate and when there are problems, when evidence is abused or discovery is sent out improperly, odds are he`s going to figure it out. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ken, the defendant we`re talking about here is very close to Vladimir Putin.  He`s the character who is referred to as Putin`s chef. 

DILANIAN:  Yes, that`s right.  He was funding this internet troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was manipulating American public opinion in a very pernicious way.  Some argue this was actually more impactful than the hacking of the Democrats and leaking of the e-mails because it was actually having real impacts in the election.  And as I mentioned, he has also -- he has a thing called Wagner Group, which is running mercenaries in Syria, attacking American forces, and 200 of them were killed in a battle in Syria, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Joyce Vance, in what is Chairman Lindsey Graham`s - one of his first official actions as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he`s writing a letter complaining to the FBI about the way roger stone was arrested. 

Let`s listen to what Roger Stone said about the way he was arrested by the FBI. 


ROGER STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE:  This morning at the crack of dawn, 29 FBI agents arrived at my home.  They terrorized my wife, my dogs.  I was taken to the FBI facility, although I must say the FBI agents were extraordinarily courteous. 


O`DONNELL:  So, Joyce Vance, they terrorized my wife, my dogs and they were extraordinarily courteous.  I don`t know what that means. 

VANCE:  I thought you were dead on the money when you raised this. 

Look, there are issues in our criminal justice system, and we should sometimes review policy.  There might be good reason to talk about how the FBI conduct these sort of arrests, but Stone wasn`t just arrested, there was also a search warrant executed at his home.  FBI had information that he might try to destroy evidence so they went in I think with an appropriate level of apprehension, both for their personal safety but also to ensure that evidence could be properly collected. 

And we heard it from Stone`s own mouth.  There is really nothing here to look at.  Graham is just showboating. 

O`DONNELL:  Ken Dilanian, Joyce Vance, thank you both for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

DILANIAN:  You bet. 

O`DONNELL:  And coming up, shut out of the shutdown talks.  Donald Trump is being shut out of the negotiations about how to avoid another government shutdown.  And a new poll shows that the Democrats are now trusted on border security much more than President Trump. 


O`DONNELL:  Shutdown.  And a new poll shows that the Democrats are now trusted on border security much more than President Trump.


O`DONNELL:  President Trump has been locked out of the negotiations about how to fund the government after the current temporary funding runs out on February 15.  The president complained about that tonight to a right-wing website saying, "Without our involvement, a deal is not going to get done".

At this point, it seems no one in the Congress, Democrat or Republican, cares what the president thinks about funding the government.  Reports indicate that at least 70 senators were ready to vote to re-open the government last week when President Trump was forced then to re-open the government on Friday.

Seventy senators is enough to override a presidential veto.  That leaves the president clinging to the wreckage of his shutdown, desperately trying to pretend he is relevant to the current negotiations to keep the government funded.  The president is pretending to threaten another shutdown if he doesn`t get wall funding in the next congressional budget agreement, but no one in Congress believes the president will actually try to shut down the government again.

And now, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly trust Democrats on the issue of border security.  Fifty percent trust Democrats on border security versus 41 percent who trust President Trump.

The Bipartisan Conference Committee of members of the House and Senate who are meeting to work out a funding deal officially met today for the first time.  And today President Trump tweeted, "If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on border security is not discussing or contemplating a wall or physical barrier, they are wasting their time."

As Nancy Pelosi has proven, the president of the United States is wasting his time by trying to tweet his wall into existence.  One of the leaders of that bipartisan committee, Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey made a point of emphasizing today that the president is not part of this process.


REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK:  The president wasn`t here today.  We heard from Democrats, Republicans, House, and Senate about their real commitment to try and resolve this issue.


O`DONNELL:  The president is shut out of the shutdown talks.  Ron Klain and Eugene Robinson will join us next with what happens now.



REPORTER:  Senator, is the best way to get a deal to make it as narrow as possible?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIRMAN APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  The best way to get a deal is let the grown-ups get together and do what`s best for the country.


O`DONNELL:  Back with us, Ron Klain and Eugene Robinson.

And Eugene, new polling from Quinnipiac on would you support or oppose a bill to fund a new border security -- new border security but no wall?  Sixty-one percent support no wall.  Thirty-three percent want the wall.  With polling like that, there`s only one outcome in politics.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes.  I mean Donald Trump watches the polls.  He sees what`s happened to his approval numbers and the wrong track, right track numbers.  He clearly understands on some level that the shutdown was a disaster.  Yet he wants to pander to his base.

So I don`t see how this results in anything but some sort of unconstitutional emergency declaration in the end.  I mean maybe Ron has a different idea, but I don`t see how we get around that.  And then it gets tied up in the courts and nothing happens and he declares victory.

O`DONNELL:  What happens next?

ROBINSON:  The country goes on.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENTS AL GORE & JOE BIDEN:  Look, they just have to fund the government to golf season.  Once we get Trump back out on the links, he`ll stop caring about any of this again.  I mean the amazing thing here, Lawrence, is it`s not just that the wall is as unpopular as what you said.

The Republicans control the House and the Senate for two years.


KLAIN:  Any day no those two years, they could have passed a vote.  They had the votes to fund the wall if they wanted to.  They didn`t want to.  Now all the sudden, Trump`s like, oh, yes, Democrats, you should fund the wall.  It`s not going to happen.

And either he will blink again or he`ll do what Eugene suggested, some kind of illegal emergency thing.  Bt one thing that`s not going to happen is that Congress is not going to pay for a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for in the first place.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And Eugene, Nita Lowey said today that they`re willing to add some more funding for border security above the $1.6 billion that they`ve already -- but none of it, zero of it can be for wall.

ROBINSON:  Zero for wall, right.  The people gathered in that bipartisan group, they`re appropriators.


ROBINSON:  They know how to do the math.  They know how to come up with something, call it border security, whatever.  They will give President Trump if he chooses to take it, an excuse to falsely claim victory, to say I got money for border security, look, I`ve made you safe.  Look, he already claims to have built the wall, right, in some of his tweets.


ROBINSON:  So they will allow him to do that if he will take yes for an answer.  But he won`t, I don`t think on this.  I mean he seems really dug in and they`re not going to give him a wall.

O`DONNELL:  So, Ron, if we have cave part two, February 15comes, this group comes together with a funding bill that is ready to sail through both the House and the Senate with zero funding for the wall, Donald Trump signs it and then he issues his illegal executive order, ordering the military somehow to start building a wall or something like that, the next day or the same day that`s challenged in court, right?

KLAIN:  Absolutely.  If that`s what President Trump does, if he really goes down this path, he will be challenged in court.  And he will not only be challenged in court, he`ll lose in court because the one thing that we know that is not going on at the border is a national emergency, OK?

O`DONNELL:  Right.

KLAIN:  So Donald -- maybe -- the only way he wins that case is if it`s litigated in the court of "Fox & Friends," OK?  If it`s litigated in a federal court, he is going to lose that case.  He is not going to get this wall.

O`DONNELL:  But if he gets it into court, Eugene, then it`s off the news cycle.

ROBINSON:  Exactly, it`s off the news cycle.

O`DONNELL:  I`m fighting it.  I`m fighting it in court.

ROBINSON:  He`s fought as hard as he could possibly fight and, you know, he issued the order.  He`s building the wall in his mind.  And that should be good enough for him, one hopes, and it will be golf season and he`ll be out on the links.

O`DONNELL:  And as long as he keeps this issue in the news, the things like what "The Washington Post" is reporting now about employees at the Bedminster, New Jersey Trump Golf Club who were working there, undocumented status.

"The Washington Post" has reported an undocumented worker who recently worked for Trump National Golf Club and left after she publicly disclosed her immigration status will attend President Trump`s State of the Union address next week.

Victorina Morales who was born in Guatemala will be a guest of Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat.  The choice to invite Morales follows news stories about the Trump Organization`s failure to fully check the work status of all its employees.

KLAIN:  Yes.  I mean, really this is just new levels of crazy.  And I think that, you know, President Trump obviously talks rhetorically, but his own properties, employed people who do not have legal status to work here and did nothing about it.

And so, you know, we have a lot of rhetoric.  We have a fake wall and we definitely don`t have a national emergency.  And, again, we just have to get to golf season.  That`s my answer.

ROBINSON:  But there are consequences, though.  Democrats are in charge of the House, you know.


ROBINSON: So now they will have a story to tell.


ROBINSON:  In addition, of course, to Stacey Abrams delivering the rebuttal or the prebuttal.  But they`ll have that story to tell to counter what Donald Trump says about the wall.

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to leave it there.

Ron Klain, Eugene Robinson, thank you both for joining us.

And when we come back, the little church versus the big wall.  This is an amazing story.  The Catholic church that has stood for 120 years is fighting Donald Trump`s attempt to seize the church`s land and build a wall right through it.


O`DONNELL:  The Trump administration is using eminent domain to try to seize land along the southern border to build the wall that will actually never be built, but they are still trying to seize the land.  President Trump is trying to seize the land of La Lomita, a small 120-year-old Catholic church on the Texas side of the border.

This is what Democratic Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado was talking about last week in the very best speech ever delivered on the Senate floor on this subject.


SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO:  If a president said he was going to use eminent domain to erect a barrier across the State of Colorado, across the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, he was going to steal the property of our farmers and ranchers to build his medieval wall, there wouldn`t be an elected leader from our state that would support that idea.


O`DONNELL:  NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry has done years of reporting from the southern border and has visited La Lomita Chapel.  He joins us next on his reporting on the church versus the wall.


O`DONNELL:  It`s the church versus the wall on the southern border.  La Lomita Chapel is in a legal fight right now with President Trump to prevent the Trump administration from seizing their land to build the Trump wall.  That legal process to seize that land is already underway, even though Congress refuses to authorize building the wall.

Joining us now is NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry, who has visited the church that is fighting the wall.  Cal, what do we have to know?

CAL PERRY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Well, you have to know that the funding for this was an appropriations bill from last year for border protection, so here we go with the wall in Texas.  Take a look at how Customs and Border Protection is advertising what they call RGV3, that`s Rio Grande Valley Section number 3.  There`s a lot of wall going in and it`s going to start next month.

How does the U.S. government actually seize land?  Well, take a look.  We`ve got the court documents.  The U.S. government saying this church`s land is going to be condemned and seized.  But Lawrence, there will be holes in this wall for all of the obvious reasons.  And unless a judge steps in, this church will likely end up on the Mexico side of the border wall.


PERRY:  Bells before dawn, praying before the light in La Lomita Chapel, built in 1899.  The government wants to seize this frontier land for its wall.

What does it mean to be a priest at a small historic chapel along the Rio Grande River?

ROY SNIPES, FATHER, LA LOMITA CHAPEL:  It`s sweet.  It is sweet.

PERRY:  Does it feel like a frontier?

SNIPES:  Well, it keeps us in touch with the frontier, I guess.

PERRY:  This tiny chapel is at the heart of the Trump administration`s bid to potentially seize land, securing the border in this section of Texas.  Now, when you look at that map, on paper, it makes sense.  Put the wall along the levee, right?

SNIPES:  The problem is once that wall is in, everything south of the wall to the river, including La Lomita Chapel, becomes isolated.

PERRY:  You must interact with migrants.  You must see migrants come through here.

SNIPES:  Sure.  Sure.

PERRY:  The church, the father, the community in the middle of a national debate.

SNIPES:  I looked around in the dark, back in the back was a whole bunch of young fellas from Guatemala just scared to death.  And then they asked me if I could take them to town.  I said I would love to take you to town but if we get caught, I`ll be in more trouble than you will.

PERRY:  The Catholic church believes they have a responsibility to protect migrants.

SNIPES:  I had a fellow tell me a few years ago, he said, "Well, if that`s what the church teaches, I don`t want to be a Catholic."  I said, well, that is what the church teaches.  If you were that poor guy trying to help his family survive, what do you think you`d be doing?  If you had the balls, you`d be doing what he`s doing.

PERRY:  With more apprehensions here in the Rio Grande Valley than anywhere else along the border, Customs and Border Protection is constantly on the lookout.

Border Patrol helicopter went overhead.  That must be a unique position to be in with members of the Congregation --

SNIPES:  Oh, yes.  You can imagine there are people who live in fear already of the border patrol.  Look at those guys.  You think they`re looking at us?  It`s only me.  And they`re right here, right behind the church.

PERRY:  Yes.

SNIPES:  Yes, they`re everywhere.

PERRY:  Border patrol agents along with local law enforcement were here with President Trump on January the 10th.  Like many of his trips to the border, it was quick.  A photo op, a listening session.  The sheriff of Hidalgo County had a blunt assessment of the visit.

EDDIE GUERRA, SHERIFF, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS:  He didn`t meet with me.  He hasn`t met with any border sheriff.  And I`m talking about from San Diego to Brownsville.

PERRY:  Like Father Roy, Sheriff Guerra is tasked with protecting the church, a job made all the more complicated by the proposition of a wall.

GUERRA:  When they need services from law enforcement, they need services from fire department, medical emergency, it just adds more time, and that`s just not fair.

PERRY:  What do you make of the La Lomita Chapel?

GUERRA:  It`s very peaceful.  And so to build a wall on that chapel is just not the right thing to do.

PERRY:  What`s it like living here?  I mean people say we need a wall for safety.

DAVID MORENO, PARISHIONER:  I really don`t think so.  We`ve lived here so many years and it`s nice and peaceful.

PERRY:  You hear the president say it`s unsafe without a wall.

RACHEL WELLIVER, PARISHIONER:  That`s not true.  I come here.  I bring my grandchildren.  You see a lot of people that come and walk their dogs.  I`ve never had any fear that somebody`s going to pop out and hurt me.

PERRY:  Is this a safe place to live here?

MADDY MADDEN, PARISHIONER:  There are a lot of misconceptions but we are.  Are we ranked one of the safest cities?  We are.  So it`s really nice.

GUERRA:  And then they want to have an enforcement zone, which would mean there would be a big 150-foot Caliche Road where they could go up and down with a military vehicle.  So the whole peaceful, serene silence of La Lomita, the spiritual atmosphere would be spoiled.


PERRY:  And so here`s what the court will hear on February the 6th from lawyers for the church, would not be minimally intrusive but would in fact greatly intrude upon the defendant`s property and first amendment right of freedom of religion.

Lawrence, I can hear it now, all those with business in front of the Supreme Court, the Honorable, the Supreme Court.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And this freedom of religion coming up against this attempt to build this wall.  And Cal, it seems as though they`re going forward with these attempts at eminent domain even though they don`t have actual funding to do the project.

PERRY:  Yes.  There`s federal land on either side of this church.  There`s a butterfly sanctuary as well.  They`re going to try to put in as much of that wall as they can so that when they go in front of the court, they can argue eminent domain.

One of the other interesting things happening, though, is as you talk to ranchers, and I know Senator Bennett hears this in Colorado just like we hear in Texas, a lot of people are uncomfortable with really ceding land on the other side of that wall.  We had somebody say to us, you know, if the president gets this done, he`ll be making parts of Texas Mexico again.

O`DONNELL:  And Cal, what`s the timetable on this?  When are we going to find out what the court thinks?

PERRY:  February the 6th, the court will rule on whether or not there can be a survey.  That`s not going to be challenged.  The church actually wants that survey to happen.  There are all kinds of things that could then derail the wall.  We`re looking at a lengthy court battle.  But again, big sections of this wall in and around McAllen and places like Mission are going in next month.

O`DONNELL:  Cal Perry, thank you for your invaluable reporting from the border as usual.  Really appreciate it.

That`s tonight`s last word.