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16 states sue Trump's declaration. TRANSCRIPT: 2/18/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Xavier Becerra, Adam Jentleson, David Frum

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

And we have one of the leaders of the lawsuit that was filed tonight, the leader, in effect, Attorney general of the state of California, Xavier Becerra, was going to be our leadoff guest tonight to bring us right up to date on it.  I`ve got the lawsuit here, I`ve been reading it.  And it, of course, cites the Constitution. 

And as everyone predicted, everyone talking about this last week, it cites the words of Donald Trump himself. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  I didn`t have to do this.  Oh, doh!  I didn`t mean to say that! 

O`DONNELL:  That`s in here.  That`s in the lawsuit. 

MADDOW:  That helps. 


MADDOW:  It`s actually sort of sporting to afford your opponents in the courts.  That sort of an advantage by using those sorts of words to announce your emergency. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, they`re all in there.  All of those transcripts. 

We`re going to have Senator Claire McCaskill is going to join us with her reaction to all of this and to what -- and she has served in that Senate, watching this transformation of the Republican side of the Senate into basically the Trump Senate, where they are allowing this to happen. 

You don`t see a lot of enthusiasm from Republican senators.  Lindsey Graham is the only one who is enthusiastic but I want to get Senator McCaskill`s reaction as to how the rest of the Republican senators are really privately thinking about what Donald Trump is doing with this so-called emergency. 

MADDOW:  Excellent.  Well done, my friend. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, we have breaking news tonight from California and 15 other states that have filed a federal lawsuit to block what they call President Trump`s illegal and unconstitutional attempt to start building a wall on the southern border using a presidential emergency declaration.  The first sentence of the lawsuit filed in federal court in California by the attorney general of California and 15 other states attorney general says that the 16 states, quote, bring this action to protect their residents national resources and economic interests from president Donald J. Trump`s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers, principles engrained in the United States Constitution. 

As predicted by many legal scholars, the president`s own words appear in this lawsuit, being used against him by these 16 attorneys general.  The lawsuit quotes the president saying this on Friday. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I could do the wall over a longer period of time.  I didn`t need to do this.  But I would rather do it much faster. 


O`DONNELL:  The lawsuit also quotes the president saying that the Congress has already appropriated, quote, so much money we don`t know what to do with it. 


TRUMP:  We have so much money, we don`t know what to do with it.  I don`t know what to do with all the money they`re giving us.  It`s crazy.


O`DONNELL:  It is crazy. 

The lawsuit quotes the president`s appointed heads of the administration`s intelligence agencies saying there is no national security threat at the southern border, as they did in their testimony in the Senate on January 29th.  The lawsuit cites damages that the states will suffer if the president is allowed to divert money appropriated by Congress for the Defense Department to then be used for the construction of a wall on the southern border. 

And the constitutional linchpin of the lawsuit is Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution of the United States, which is quoted in the lawsuit saying: No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law. 

In the budget law that the Congress just passed, it specifically refused to put into that law the appropriation that the president asked for to build his wall.  Most Republicans have avoided voicing support for the president`s emergency declaration after he announced it on Friday, but one Republican senator who is up for re-election in 2020 is now contradicting his own past statements about Donald Trump and about presidents abusing the federal budget process. 

In 1206, during the presidential campaign, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, if we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed and we will deserve it.  Yesterday, the man who predicted his own deserved destruction said he is happy now to watch Donald Trump take money away from school kids to pay for his wall. 


INTERVIEWER:  There`s about $3.6 billion of it that could come from military construction efforts, including construction of a middle school in Kentucky, housing for military families, improvements for bases, like Camp Pendleton and Hanscom Air Force Base.  Aren`t you concerned that some of these projects that were part of legislation that you helped approve in Congress are now going to possibly be cut out? 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Well, the president will have to make a decision where to get the money.  Let`s just say for a moment that he took some money out of the military construction budget.  I would say it`s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border.  We`ll get them the school they need, but right now, we`ve got a national emergency on our hands.  So, unfortunately, he`s got to do it on his own and I support his decision to go that route. 


O`DONNELL:  We are joined now by the leading newsmaker of the night, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

Attorney General Becerra, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate you reaching us by phone to talk about this lawsuit. 

How long did it take you to assemble the particulars of this lawsuit from the time the president announced it?  Were you working on the lawsuit before the president made his announcement? 

XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL (via telephone):  Lawrence, thanks for having me. 

And absolutely, we started preparing this lawsuit last year, knowing that the president was signaling that he might try to do something like this.  And so, we`ve been preparing.  We`ve been working with our sister states, and as you mentioned, there are 15 other states, I believe there will actually be more who ultimately are part of litigation. 

We`ve been working on this, because no one wants to watch our taxpayer dollars be misspent.  And so, we are, as you just mentioned, now in court. 

O`DONNELL:  You have 129 million Americans who are represented by the attorneys general already in this lawsuit.  And you say there might be more states joining it. 

Is that -- is that because those states are, in effect, taking their time or they need more time to study the particulars of this? 

BECERRA:  That`s correct, Lawrence.  Some states are looking a little closer at this and how it impacts their particular state.  Other states might be preparing to file separately or with others and so I think before this is done, you will see several other states who enter the fray. 

O`DONNELL: Now, General, you brought this case in federal court in San Francisco.  That means that on appeal, it will be heard by the Ninth Circuit and then presumably would go on to the Supreme Court.  That`s actually the route that Donald Trump predicted on Friday. 

Let`s listen to what the president predicted the legal process would be.  Let`s listen to this. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn`t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we`ll get another bad ruling, and then we`ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully, we`ll get a fair shake, and we`ll win in the Supreme Court. 


O`DONNELL:  Attorney General Becerra, what`s your reaction to that? 

BECERRA:  Well, I`m glad the president understands the course that this will take, except for the last part, where I think you`re going to find that conservative justices along with liberal justices are going to want to protect the Constitution, not protect Donald Trump from his abuses of the Constitution.  So, we`re feeling pretty good that we`ve got a strong case. 

Separation of powers has been around for a long time.  A first-year law student could argue this case for us.  And so, we`re just preparing for it. 

O`DONNELL:  I noticed that in the line item veto case in the late 1990s, Clarence Thomas actually voted with the majority, saying that a line item veto for the president is unconstitutional, citing the same clause in the Constitution that you cite in your complaint, which says that really that Congress has complete control, utter and complete control over all spending and the president`s only option with legislation is to sign the legislation or to veto the legislation.  There is no other option. 

And this case strikes me as a cousin of that, which would presumably have Clarence Thomas` support on your side, just as he, to be consistent with what he was ruling on the line item veto. 

BECERRA:  Well, Lawrence, it`s a good example that you raise, because that was a case where there was actually a law that was passed by Congress to give the president line item veto powers.  So, you actually had Congress passing a measure that would give the president this power.  And still the Supreme Court said, no, you can`t do that, because the constitution doesn`t give the president that power.  The power of the purse is vested only in Congress. 

And so, in this case, where Donald Trump has no measure that he can point to that Congress has passed to give him that ability to redirect, to divert dollars, it`s an even clearer case.  And his fabricated claim of a crisis at the border, a national emergency is, as he, himself, admitted, something he didn`t need to do.  And so, for a guy who declares a national emergency on Friday and on Saturday, less than 24 hours later, he`s already down in Florida at his resort, I`m not sure how well it`s going to play that this is a national emergency in his eyes, as he`s vacationing down in Florida. 

O`DONNELL:  And as you mentioned, the line item veto was passed by Congress, and I can remember on the floor of the Senate at the time, the senators who opposed it said that this is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court is going to find it unconstitutional.  And they weren`t even that worried about it, actually, when it passed the Senate, they were so confident it was going to be found unconstitutional.  And I have to say, they sounded then a lot like you sound now. 

BECERRA:  And my concern is that we`re not hearing enough voices of the bipartisan members of Congress and the senators saying that it`s important to protect the constitutional prerogatives that each branch of government has and it`s becoming a case where the Party of Lincoln, the proud Party of Lincoln, and today, we celebrated Presidents` Day is perilously close to become hook, line, and sinker the party of Trump. 

And it appears, unfortunately, that too many Republicans may be complicit in Donald Trump`s efforts to actually circumvent the Constitution. 

But as I said, if Congress can`t get a measure passed that would halt what he`s trying to do, then that`s why we`re in court and we`ll, I hope, work with an institution that my belief is still strong in it, will stand up for what 240 years of democracy has made very clear.  There is a separation of powers in this country. 

O`DONNELL:  The newsmaker of the night, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra -- thank you very much for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate you taking the time. 

And Claire McCaskill served in the United States Senate and watched Senator Lindsey Graham grow from Trump attacker to now the most fervent Trump supporter in the United States Senate.  Earlier this month on "MORNING JOE," former Senator McCaskill said, quote, Lindsey Graham has lost his mind.  But it could just be Lindsey Graham is running for re-election.  Last year, Lindsey Graham was surely terrified by a South Carolina poll that showed him with only a 51 percent approval rating among Republicans in his state. 

That`s the kind of number that could invite a Republican primary challenge from an avid Trump supporter, but then Lindsey Graham decided to become that avid Trump supporter and now his approval ratings among Republicans in South Carolina is 72 percent and so, Lindsey Graham is now a lot less likely to face a primary challenge in his reelection campaign in South Carolina next year.  And Lindsey Graham is the most emphatic supporter of President Trump`s emergency declaration to build his wall. 

Joining our discussion now is former Senator Claire McCaskill and former Senate staffer, Adam Jentleson, whose op-ed piece in "The New York Times" says that Mitch McConnell has surrendered the Republican Senate to Donald Trump. 

Senator McCaskill, I want to give you an opportunity to revise and extend your remarks about Senator Graham, as they say in the Senate. 

Is he crazy or is he running for re-election and what`s the difference? 

FORMER SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKIL (D), MISSOURI:  Well, you know, the old Lindsey was brave and courageous.  And he took some positions that maybe should have disqualified him in his last election as a Republican in South Carolina.  But that didn`t seem to bother him in those days when he was willing to try to find common ground, when he was willing to speak truth to power when the occasion called for it, when he was willing to stand up to an overreach of executive power, particularly when it was going after his beloved military. 

So, this is -- and you know, the thing that is really bizarre about this is that if Lindsey Graham believed this was an emergency, if any of my former colleagues believed this was an emergency, I was in the Senate the last two years.  Under President Donald Trump, I never heard any of them give an impassioned plea on the floor of the Senate about this emergency.  I never saw Mitch McConnell, you know, putting the hammer on everyone to appropriate more money for the president`s wall. 

I never saw any of that until the Democrats took the House.  And now, it is a manufactured emergency for political purposes, for the president and obviously, Lindsey Graham has hopped on that train. 

O`DONNELL:  Senator, you`re a lawyer, former prosecutor, what`s your legal view of this lawsuit filed tonight by the state of California and 15 other states? 

MCCASKILL:  Well, ironically, I think it could be a 5-4 decision with the Democrats being the one -- the ones that are considered more liberal on the court being the ones dissenting.  Because this is a case made for a constitutional conservative.  It`s a gut check moment for the Senate.  And for all of my friends who have waved those Constitutions away in my face, in the face of voters, for years, people who run as constitutional conservatives -- this is a gut check moment for anyone who is proud of the checks and balances in the Constitution. 

Our democracy is very simple.  If Congress -- if there`s not enough votes in Congress to appropriate money, the president has to deal with it.  He doesn`t get to go find the money.  That`s not what our Constitution says.  So I think this lawsuit will be successful and I think this motion of disapproval that the Senate is going to have to vote on in a few weeks or maybe even sooner, that`s going to be a moment where many senators are going to be worrying about history and how history will talk about them and how much they`re willing to protect the institution of Congress as it relates to this grand and glorious democracy that`s served us so well all these years. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to the president`s top adviser on immigration and border issues, Stephen Miller yesterday on Fox News, trying -- who apparently has not been able to find any precedent, even, no matter how hard he tried, for what the president has done here. 


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Can you name one case where a president has asked Congress for money, Congress has refused, and the president has then invoked national powers to get the money anyway? 

STEPHEN MILLER, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER:  Well, this current situation --

WALLACE:  Just yes or no, sir? 

MILLER:  The current situation pertains specifically to the military construction authority. 

WALLACE:  I`m just asking, has there been a -- has Congress asked for money for military construction, Congress said no and he then --

MILLER:  The meaning of the statute, Chris, is clear on its own terms.  If you don`t like the statute or members of Congress don`t like the statute --


WALLACE:  You agree the answer is no, there hasn`t been a case like this? 


O`DONNELL:  Adam Jentleson, it doesn`t seem like they did a lot of homework on this. 

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER SENIOR ADIDE TO SEN. HARRY REID:  No.  You know, if the president could just go get some other money when Congress didn`t give him the money he wanted, this would happen all the time, but as you laid out in your opening, there`s this one minor inconvenience called Article I, Section IX, that says that Congress controls the power of the purse.  So there`s a reason this doesn`t happen. 

And President Trump can`t just ignore that and try to grab the money himself because Congress didn`t appropriate it. 

O`DONNELL:  Adam, you worked in the United States Senate with Lindsey Graham there.  Do you have a theory from how he went to Trump attacker to now the most rabid Trump supporter in the senate?  The one who`s willing, as he just said on video, to take money away from school kids on military bases in order to pay for the Trump wall? 

JENTLESON:  I think only Senator Graham can know for sure why he`s doing what he`s doing, but it seems very clear that he`s lost his moral compass.  I mean, Senator McCaskill alluded to this, but I remember him working with Democrats on the immigration bill in 2013 and being a man of principle.  It wasn`t that long ago, but that seems to have changed.  And you can`t find a more rabid, obedient Trump supporter than senator graham right now and it`s really sad to watch. 

O`DONNELL:  Senator McCaskill, I noticed that there were no other Republican senators who were eager or as eager as Lindsey Graham to get out there and talk about this.  I saw some on television trying to swerve away from it as much as they can.  Mitch McConnell said that he supported the idea before the Senate cast their votes on the bill that kept the government open.  It seemed like Senator McConnell was saying that on the Senate floor just to make sure he`d get all of those Republican votes. 

McConnell`s not out there defending this thing. 

JENTLESON:  No, in fact, I think McConnell was trapped.  I think in order to secure the assurance from the president that he would sign the bill that would keep the government open, I think McConnell had to tell him that he would go to the floor and say he`d support this fake emergency, because he knew the damage that shutting down the government was going to do to the Republican senators that were up for election in 2020.  Mitch McConnell is focused on how best to protect those Republican senators.  Now, he knows he`s got this really difficult situation, where they`re all going to have to vote. 

Now, I`ve noticed a number of them have said they won`t vote for it.  Lamar Alexander has spoken out.  And don`t underestimate how much respect Lamar Alexander has in the Republican caucus.  That`s a big "no" vote. 

You`ve obviously got the more moderate senators who have spoken out.  You`ve got some of the more conservative senator who was indicated they`re troubled by this.  So, what`s really going to be interesting to see here, these guys all know that this is wrong.  They all know it.  They all know this is not the way this is supposed to work, that when you can`t get the votes for appropriation, you declare a phony national emergency.  They all know it.

So, it will be very interesting to see, especially those who are in tough states.  If they stick with Trumps because they`re afraid of the politics of Trump supporters or whether they vote against Trump because they`re worried about independent voters in their state that are going to look down their nose at this kind of shenanigan. 

O`DONNELL:  Former Senator Claire McCaskill and former Senate staffer, Adam Jentleson, thank you both for joining us with your insight tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

And when we come back, we have more breaking news.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is reportedly going to leave the Justice Department next month.  This comes as former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who will join us here tomorrow night, says that Rod Rosenstein participated in very serious discussions at the Justice Department about removing President Trump from office by using the 25th Amendment. 

And one of those strange confidants of Donald Trump`s who could never have access to any other president of the United States revealed who the next Jeff Sessions is, the president`s bunching bag in the Trump cabinet.  That will be revealed at the end of the hour in tonight`s LAST WORD.


O`DONNELL:  We have breaking news about the Justice Department tonight.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is reportedly poised to leave the Justice Department next month.  This comes immediately after former acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who will join us here tomorrow night, revealed on "60 Minutes" that Rod Rosenstein participated in very serious discussion at the Justice Department about removing President Trump in office by using the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove the president and make the vice president the acting president, a decision that can then be overruled by Congress. 

It is a constitutional process that was put in place in the 25th Amendment in 1967 and has never been used. 


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI ACTING DIRECTOR:  It was really something that he kind of threw out in a very frenzied, chaotic conversation about where we were and what we need to do next.  The deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity, and about his intent at that point in time. 


O`DONNELL:  In his interview with "60 Minutes" this weekend, Andrew McCabe revealed he has provided evidence to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigation. 


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  You seem to have a very clear memory of your conversations with the president.  Why so? 

MCCABE:  I made memorandums with myself to make sure that I preserve my contemporaneous recollections of those interactions. 

PELLEY:  That`s what FBI agents are trained to do, write memos to the file after they speak to witnesses?  

MCCABE:  That`s what we`re trained to do. 

PELLEY:  Where are those memos today? 

MCCABE:  Those memos are in the custody of the special counsel`s team. 

PELLEY:  Robert Mueller`s team has your memos. 

MCCABE:  That`s correct.  He does. 


O`DONNELL:  Before Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI, the president spent a couple of years publicly attacking him and his wife who ran as a Democrat for state Senate in Virginia in 2015. 


PELLEY:  Did you expect to be fired 26 hours before you were able to collect your pension? 

MCCABE:  I guess I should, because the president spoke about it publicly.  He made it quite clear that he wanted me gone before I could retire.  I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States. 


O`DONNELL:  Andrew McCabe says he thought the president`s firing of FBI Director James Comey could be obstruction of justice and should be investigated. 


MCCABE:  There were a number of things that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate reason and facts to open the investigation.  The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn, which was a part of our Russia case.  The president then fired the director.  These circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed.  The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey. 

All of those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder, is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia? 


O`DONNELL:  David Frum was the first.  Seven days after Donald Trump won the Electoral College, David Frum first mentioned the 25th Amendment in a tweet and said that we would all be talking about it in the months to come and we started talking about it on this program a month into this presidency. 

The prescient David Frum joins us tonight.  He is a senior editor for "The Atlantic".  Also joining us with his reaction to Andrew McCabe`s revelation is Jason Johnson, politics editor at and an MSNBC contributor. 

David Frum, let`s start with you on both what we heard from Andrew McCabe, and as if in perfect sequence here, we are hearing that Rod Rosenstein will be leaving the Justice Department in a few weeks. 

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  Well, thanks for your good memory.  I appreciate it. 

Since this "60 Minutes" interview, you have seen a lot in conservative media, describing the concerns that Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe had as some kind of secret, stealthy coup against the president, because the argument is, hey, all of these senior officials appointed by the president himself thought he was crazy.  That reflects really badly on those senior officials. 

And, in fact, if you join this, too, comments by President Trump`s first secretary of state and other officials, that worries about the president`s mental state were rife within the president`s most inner circle. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Jason Johnson, we seem to have a divided politics here and people who are encouraged and reassured that there was at least some discussion of the 25th Amendment and how it might work in this case within the Trump government, and those who look at that as some kind of coup. 

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, you know, it`s not a coup, because it`s in the rules.  You may not like it, but it`s right there in the rules.  There is a process put in place to remove the president. 

Now, the notes I want to see, as interesting as I found McCabe`s interview, I want to see Rod Rosenstein`s notes, because I don`t believe for one second that he didn`t have a head count, when he said, Rod Rosenstein was suggesting how many different officials might be willing to go along with this, he had already thought about it.  He obviously knows that there were enough people in the administration that this could be a real discussion. 

So, the idea that so early in this presidency, that again, Lawrence, as you mentioned, that people that Trump had brought in himself were already saying, this man is a danger to the future of this country, and they had already done a head count on it, at least on the back of some envelope somewhere, stuffed in someone`s pocket, is indicative of how dysfunctional this government has been for the last two years. 

O`DONNELL:  And of course the president is back at his job of tweeting attacks on Andrew McCabe since that interview.  Let`s listen to more of what Andrew McCabe had to say about the president possibly being in league with the Russians.


PELLEY:  Are you saying that the president is in league with the Russians?

MCCABE:  I`m saying that the FBI had reason to investigate that.  The existence of an investigation doesn`t mean someone is guilty.  I would say, Scott if we failed to open an investigation, under those circumstances, we wouldn`t be doing our jobs.

PELLEY:  When you decided to launch these two investigations, was the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on board with that?

MCCABE:  Absolutely.


O`DONNELL:  Absolutely onboard, David Frum?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR GEORGE W. BUSH:  Yes.  Well, people remember the 25th amendment was prodded by the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  But the authors of the 25th Amendment in the middle-1960s were closer to the Wilson administration of the 1910s than they are in time to us.

They remember that there had been, within 40 years, a president who was mentally incapacitated for a year, with results that were catastrophic for the stability of the United States and the peace of the world.  They remembered Woodrow Wilson and they also had that example in mind.  Woodrow Wilson, even with a stroke, was sharper than Donald Trump is today.

O`DONNELL:  Jason Johnson, quickly before we go, when we have Andrew McCabe here tomorrow night, what more would you like to hear from him?

JOHNSON:  I would like to hear how many other people does he believe may have been interested in what Rod Rosenstein did.  I mean look, we had Omarosa pretty much walking around the White House with a GoPro on her head, recording every conversation she could.

I wonder if Rosenstein or other people had said, "Look, can we record him?  What should we record from the president?" because I don`t think that he`s the only person who had that idea.  That`s what I would like to know.

O`DONNELL:  All right.  I`m getting all of my questions from Jason Johnson for tomorrow night.

David Frum, Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us.

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

FRUM:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  And as I mentioned earlier, Andrew McCabe will join us in the studio here tomorrow night on this program.  And when Andrew McCabe joins us, we will ask him about the time Donald Trump said, "I believe Putin."  You`ll hear that, next.


O`DONNELL:  Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who will join us here tomorrow night told "60 Minutes" that President Trump gets his intelligence about North Korea from Vladimir Putin.


MCCABE:  President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don`t actually have those missiles.

PELLEY:  And U.S. intelligence was telling the president what?

MCCABE:  Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses, to which the president replied, "I don`t care, I believe Putin."


O`DONNELL:  President Trump`s decision to trust Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community is a crisis not just for the United States, but also for our European allies.  This weekend, as the president was golfing in Florida, world leaders were gathered in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, an annual event founded in 1963 with the express purpose of preventing another world war.

Each year, the conference releases a report on the state of global security.  This year, that report openly disparaged President Trump for his irritating enthusiasm for strong men across the globe and disdain for international institutions and agreements.  The president`s daughter and Vice President Pence attended the conference and the vice president tried and failed to get a round of applause for his boss.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I bring greetings from a great champion of freedom and a strong national defense who has worked with these members of Congress to strengthen America`s military mightiness and to strengthen the leadership of the free world.  I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL:  No applause in the room but not surprisingly, the Trump White House transcript of the vice president`s remarks inserts the applause, despite the absolute silence in that room.  The president`s daughter was humiliated along with her father by Germany`s Angela Merkel, who explained something about German cars that no one named Trump seems to understand.  They are made in America.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY:  We`re proud of our cars and so we should be.  And these cars are being built in the United States of America.  In South Carolina, there`s one of the biggest factories -- no, they are the biggest factory for BMW.  Not Bavaria, South Carolina.  And South Carolina supplies China.

And these cars aren`t less of a threat because they`re built in South Carolina as opposed to Bavaria.  Now, all of the sudden, they`re viewed as a national security threat to the United States of America.  That shocks us.


O`DONNELL:  Does Lindsey Graham know BMWs are made in South Carolina?  After our break, we`ll be joined by two people who attended the Munich Conference, former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin.



JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our allies, our closest allies.  And I promise you, I promise you, as my mother would say, this, too, shall pass.  We will be back.  We will be back.  Don`t have any doubt about that.


O`DONNELL:  That was the former vice president getting the applause at the Munich Conference on Global Security this weekend that the current vice president tried and failed to get.

Joining our discussion now, two people who were at that Munich Conference, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State in the Obama administration, she was the United States lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal and is now an MSNBC global affairs contributor.  And John McLaughlin is with us.  He`s a former acting director of the CIA and an MSNBC national security analyst.

Ambassador Sherman, Nancy Pelosi -- Speaker Pelosi was also there in Munich this weekend along with Joe Biden as we just saw.  Do the world leaders gathered there and others in the global community of interest gathered there, do they understand what has changed in Washington now that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House?

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  Well, I think they understand what has changed, but in many ways, they`ve already moved on.  I think the plus of the 50 members who did come, bipartisan Republicans and Democrats really was to send a signal that we haven`t just disappeared, it isn`t just all about President Trump, it`s about us, too.

But at the same time, as you`ve said in your earlier block, you have leaders like Lindsey Graham who was at the conference who marched in line with the president.  I would say that Speaker Pelosi was radiant at this.  She was much sought after throughout the conference.

And what was the most extraordinary, quite frankly, was the strength of the women leaders led by Speaker Pelosi and, of course, Chancellor Merkel who is clearly liberated from being party chair spoke without notes and had everybody on their feet.

O`DONNELL:  John McLaughlin, what do you tell the others at a conference like this about how they should view the United States now and who they should be watching?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR:  Well, I think what you have to say to them is a little bit like what Vice President Biden said which is that you try and reassure them that there is a feeling in Washington that we are still tightly allied with them, that we support the alliance, that some of the things they`ve heard such as the Vice President Pence`s speech here and the speech that Secretary Pompeo gave in Brussels a couple of weeks ago, that these are not representative when they criticize the E.U. and the European Union.

So these are not representative of the mainline view in Washington.  I think it was important as Ambassador Sherman said that that -- the Congressional delegation was there to make that point, a bipartisan congressional delegation.

O`DONNELL:  And Ambassador Sherman, to Lindsey Graham, did anyone happen to catch his reaction to Angela Merkel up there talking about the BMWs that are manufactured in his state, that Donald Trump is threatening?

SHERMAN:  I didn`t so I don`t know how he reacted, but he`s got to know that not only are those BMWs the largest BMW plant, Munich is in Bavaria which is the home of BMW but quite frankly, as the chancellor said what happens in South Carolina provides more jobs, is larger, and 60 percent of those cars are exported, some of them to China.

So it is quite important.  There`s also a huge supply chain for cars that come from Germany and a supply chain of American parts in German cars.  So we live in a global community and the president simply doesn`t understand that.

O`DONNELL:  John McLaughlin, could you have imagined prior to the Trump era that we would reach the point where the vice president of the United States at a meeting like that brings the regards from the president of the United States to that crowd and that is met with silence?

MCLAUGHLIN:  No, that was just an astonishing moment.  I was in the room for that and it was embarrassing.  It was more like a funeral than anything else.

And I think part of the problem here for the vice president was Chancellor Merkel had spoken before him and I`m sure she had no copy of his speech, but inadvertently, really did the rebuttal of his speech before he gave it, so so many of his lines fell flat.

For example, she talked about the fact that they were being instructed by the vice president or by the United States to leave the Iran nuclear agreement, which had occurred in a speech given a couple of days before in Warsaw.  And she made the point that Iran does a lot of bad things but you have some means to influence them by staying in that agreement.  So for him to simply say, leave the agreement, just fell completely flat.

O`DONNELL:  Wendy Sherman, John McLaughlin, thank you for joining us with these reports from Munich.  Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, with Jeff Sessions gone, Donald Trump has found a new punching bag in the cabinet according to a Trump confidant.  That is tonight`s last word.


O`DONNELL:  Someone close to Donald Trump let it be known today who might be the next cabinet member fired by President Trump.  And this cabinet member won`t be fired because of abusive spending on office decorations or private planes, as other exiled Trump cabinet members have done.

This cabinet member will be fired for telling the truth, telling the truth in the worst way, by which we mean, of course, telling the truth publicly.  We know President Trump isn`t really bothered by people who tell him the truth privately.  He just doesn`t want the world to hear it.

He made that very clear in a phone call with the president of Mexico seven days into the Trump presidency.  A transcript of which was then leaked from the Trump White House six months later.  In that transcript, the President of Mexico tells President Trump, "We find this completely unacceptable for Mexicans to pay for the wall that you were thinking of building."

President Trump, of course, knew that.  He knew they were never going to pay for it.  And then he repeatedly tries to get the president of Mexico to simply stop talking about the wall publicly.

President Trump said, "If you`re going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.  I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash, and that is OK, but you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall.  I am just going to say that we are working it out.  Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, politically it might be the most important thing."

The president of Mexico then says "My position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall."  To which Donald Trump immediately said, "But you cannot say that to the press.  The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that."

Donald Trump cannot live with the truth publicly.  And that is why a Trump confidante said today that the president might soon be getting rid of another cabinet member.  After our break, we will show you what that cabinet member said publicly that has moved him to the front of the line of cabinet members who might be fired next by Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL:  President Trump`s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is reportedly in trouble with President Trump because he said this.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.


O`DONNELL:  In an interview today, one of those Trump confidantes who could never be a confidante of any other president of the United States said this.


CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA:  I`m hearing from sources around the White House that there is just general disappointment of the president with Director Coats.  There is a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position coming up.


O`DONNELL:  And here is why the president`s friend says the president is thinking about getting rid of Dan Coats.


RUDDY:  I have talked to various people, not him, that are very close in the White House with the security positions the president is taking.  And I think generally there is a deep concern that on the eve of the North Korea to have your director of National Intelligence in open hearings undercutting your position was very bad form.


O`DONNELL:  Suddenly, the Trump White House is concerned with very bad form.  OK.  Dan Coats did not testify to Congress on the eve of the North Korea Summit, which is scheduled for nine days from now.  Dan Coats testified one week before the president tweeted the announcement that there would be a summit with North Korea.

And, yes, Dan Coats undercut the president`s position in his testimony to the Senate and he did that by telling the truth.  That`s how Dan Coats undercut the president`s position on North Korea, the truth.  Dan Coats said it`s the unanimous feel of the American intelligence community that North Korea will try to retain nuclear weapons "because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival."

Kim Jong-Un has nuclear weapons not to defend the North Korean people from attack.  Kim Jong-Un has nuclear weapons to defend himself.  Donald Trump has Twitter to defend himself.  And so the chances of Kim Jong-Un denuclearizing are exactly the same as the chances of Donald Trump detwitterizing.

Dan Coats simply said that Kim Jong-Un is unlikely to give up his nuclear weapons, unlikely.  And no one on the Senate Intelligence Committee disagreed with that.  No Republican disagreed with that.  But Donald Trump was outraged.

And two days later, Donald Trump summoned Dan Coats and the intelligence leaders to the oval office for a photo op in which the president could pretend that what the leaders of the intelligence agencies told the Senate was somehow manipulated by us, in the news media, even though we showed you then, as we just did, the actual words being spoken by the intelligence leaders in that hearing.

And so tonight, Dan Coats may be on the verge of filling the Jeff Sessions role in the Trump Cabinet as the President`s Cabinet punching bag.  But firing Dan Coats is not going to make Kim Jong-un give up his nuclear weapons.  And that`s because President Trump can fire Cabinet members but he cannot fire the truth.  That`s "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.