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Trump objects to Mueller testifying. TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Gene Rossi, Hank Johnson, Dahlia Lithwick, Katie Porter, BrianKlaas

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  That`s called early, Rachel.  Five seconds.  Rachel, come on. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That`s (INAUDIBLE) low expectations right there.

O`DONNELL:  Just take your time.  Just let it, just whatever you need.  You know what the space is for.  This is for whatever you need. 

MADDOW:  You`re very welcoming at the threshold idea.  Appreciate it. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Well, dues for membership in the National Rifle Association are $45 a year and the dues payers of the NRA have been getting abused by corruption at the top of the NRA and that is according to the officials at the top of the NRA.  Wayne LaPierre accused Oliver North of financial corruption and Oliver North accused Wayne LaPierre of financial corruption, including using $200,000 of NRA dues money to pay for Wayne LaPierre`s Italian suits at a Beverly Hills boutique. 

Now, if you`re having trouble picking whose side you`re on in this corruption story, I`ll show you at the end of this hour why you might not have to pick a side, why they both might be right about all this corruption but one of them is definitely way, way more corrupt than the other and we`ll show you why at the end of the hour. 

Also tonight, Congresswoman Katie Porter is back.  This time, she`ll be discussing the Trump administration`s refusal tonight to comply with a law that no one has ever refused to compile with before, a law that has never been challenged.  It`s the law that requires the IRS to hand over Donald Trump`s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But, first, today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler in writing for the first time made the consideration of articles of impeachment against President Trump, the official business of the House Judiciary Committee.  He did that in a 27-page report to the House Judiciary Committee that the committee will use on Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. as the basis for a vote on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to meet the deadline this morning for turning over the full, unredacted Mueller report to the Judiciary Committee. 

Jerry Nadler`s report to the committee says the reason the committee needs the full, unredacted Mueller report is to conduct, quote, an investigation into alleged obstruction of justice public corruption and other abuses of power by President Donald Trump, his associates and members of his administration. 

The purposes of this investigation include: one, investigating and exposing any possible malfeasance, abuse of power, corruption, obstruction of justice or other misconduct on the part of the president or other members of his administration.  Two, considering whether the conduct uncovered my warrant amending or creating federal authorities, including among other things relating to election security, campaign finance, misuse of electronic data and the types of obstructive conduct that the Mueller report describes.   And three, considering whether any of the conduct described in the special counsel`s report warrants the committee in taking any further steps under Congress Article I powers. 

That includes whether to approve articles of impeachment with respect to the president, or any other administration official, as well as the consideration of other steps such as censure or issuing a criminal, civil or administrative referrals.  There it is.  That is the first document entered into the congressional record by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee referring to the possibility of, quote, articles of impeachment with respect to the president, President Donald J. Trump. 

But that reference is not limited to articles of impeachment against the president, it includes the possibility of articles of impeachment against members of his administration.  That is clearly a veiled reference to the Attorney General William Barr who has been defying Chairman Nadler.  Tonight, there might be the beginnings of a crack in the wall of defiance that the attorney general has built.  Jerry Nadler announced tonight that the attorney general`s staff is suddenly eager to meet with Chairman Nadler`s staff tomorrow. 

Chairman Nadler said in a statement, quote" I`m pleased that the Department of Justice agreed to meet with my staff tomorrow.  It remains vital that the committee obtained access to the full, unredacted report and the under lying materials.  At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand. 

My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow`s meeting towards resolving this dispute.  The committee remains committed to finding a reasonable accommodation. 

If they don`t find a reasonable accommodation tomorrow, Chairman Nadler will go ahead with the 10:00 a.m. Wednesday committee vote on contempt of Congress by the attorney general. 

The House Judiciary Committee is trying to schedule a hearing with Robert Mueller as the witness to guide them through the Mueller report.  Reports this weekend indicated that the committee was trying to lock in Wednesday of next week, March -- May 15th but that has not yet been confirmed as the hearing date. 

In a historic demonstration that we have never seen before, 536 former federal prosecutors signed a statement today about the Mueller report.  It begins: We served under both Republican and Democratic administrations at different levels of the federal system as line attorneys, supervisors, United States attorneys and senior officials at the Department of Justice.  The offices we served were small, medium and large, urban, suburban and rural, and located in all parts of our country. 

Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in special counsel Robert Mueller`s report would in the case of any other person not covered by the office of legal counsel policy against indicting a sitting president result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice, the Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge, conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth finding process as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming.  These include the president`s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort, the president`s effort to limit the scope of the investigation to exclude his conduct and the president`s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign. 

And we are joined now by one of the signers of that statement, Gene Rossi.  He`s a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. 

Also joining us, Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia.  He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  He will have to decide whether to vote to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. 

And Dahlia Lithwick is with us.  She`s a senior editor and legal correspondent for  She`s the host of the podcast amicus and one of the great legal authorities we have on this program.

And, Gene Rossi, let me start with you on this document unlike anything I held in my hands with all of these federal prosecutors.  What brought you to sign this document? 

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I have a moral compass and I am embarrassed by the antics of the people who are running the Department of Justice.  Lawrence, what is important about this document, this letter is it`s Republicans and Democrats, but there is one significant signatory that people have sort of ignored.  Don Ayer was deputy attorney general of the United States Department of Justice under George H.W. Bush.  `89 and `91 or `90, the same time that Bill Barr was head of the Office of Legal Counsel and Bill Barr replaced Mr. Ayer. 

So, for Mr. Ayer to sign this document is not only a courageous act, he is saying that Bill Barr`s analysis of obstruction of justice is insane. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman Johnson, let me go to you on this.  I want to get your reaction to the prosecutor`s letter and then also where it stands tonight as far as you know between Chairman Nadler and the attorney general. 

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA):  Well, it`s actually an extraordinary letter.  It a development that gives me confidence about the fact that we`ll be able to protect our republic, preserve the rule of law and ensure that we get down to the bottom of any attempts by the Trump administration to obstruct the Mueller investigation. 

O`DONNELL:  And what about -- what do you know about Chairman Nadler`s negotiations at this stage with the attorney general or the attorney general`s staff?  Do you think there is any chance of coming to what the chairman calls an accommodation before the 10:00 a.m. vote scheduled for Wednesday morning is this? 

JOHNSON:  Yes, the chairman and staff of the Judiciary Committee have been almost daily in talks, oral communications with the Department of Justice staff about reaching a reasonable accommodation.  We realize that the Department of Justice has certain interests in protecting information that they have, but we also insist upon being able to carry out our prerogatives as the third or as the first co-equal branch of government, legislative branch.  We got oversight.  We`ve got legislative and we`ve got constitutional prerogatives that ensue as a result of this investigation and we are hell-bent on making sure that we carry it out and get to the bottom of everything that happened and air it out to the American people so that we can take appropriate action from this point. 

O`DONNELL:  Dahlia, this is one of those big days for historians.  It will be that document, that first document that the House Judiciary Committee has generated with the words articles of impeachment regarding President Trump.  But I want to go to you first about this letter that Gene Rossi, and so many of these prosecutors, many of whom you know and have covered, whose work you covered over the years, who have signed on to this letter.  What do you make of the legal presentation, the legal scholarship presented in the letter? 

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM:  All I can say is the same thing I said a week ago about the note that Bob Mueller sent to William Barr that shocked all of us because it looks as though it`s lawyerly and careful but if you read what lawyers write, that was explosive.  That was almost excoriating Barr for his conclusions. 

This is the same thing.  This is talking about multiple felony charges of obstruction that are for which he`s eligible.  This is not mincing words. 

So I think one thing is that they are not, you know, in any way being cagey in the letter about their conclusions of law and they`re not being cagey about I think, as you pointed out, saying that Barr`s findings and legal analysis is straight up wrong. 

To me, I see this as a way of saying, look, Congress has an independent constitutional obligation to look at these obstruction claims because Barr punted it.  In fact, he did more than punt it.  He papered over it and obstruction is an impeachable offense.  I see this as Congress saying it your turn. 

O`DONNELL:  Gene, let me go back to you.  What do you see as the most important element of obstruction of justice that you see in this case against the president? 

ROSSI:  It`s the corrupt motive.  And to me, the corrupt motive is entirely obvious.  He`s asking the White House counsel to not only lie to other people and to get the White House counsel to make a representation to the attorney general, but he`s asking the White House counsel to create a false document that history will look at, that is incredibly disgraceful and that satisfies corrupt motive. 

The president obviously knows there is an on going investigation and it did attempt to impede, and that`s the key, Lawrence.  You don`t have to succeed with obstruction, you have to attempt.  When you swing at a fastball and you miss, the swing is the crime even though you missed the fastball. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman, what do you think a letter like this would mean to your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee with it`s specificity about what -- these are experienced prosecutors and we keep hear Chairman Nadler and others saying we need to see the full, unredacted Mueller report.  These experienced prosecutors without seeing the full, unredacted Mueller report have seen enough to in effect bring their own in effect public indictment against the president. 

JOHNSON:  Well, I think sensible Americans can see the redacted report, see the broad outlines and the conclusions that are made by the Mueller investigators and they can see that although Mueller did not accuse the president himself of obstruction, he did leave it up to Congress and he left it up to the American people to make a judgment about the evidence that he laid out.  He laid out a road map towards constitutional action against the president in light of the Department of Justice opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

So what Mueller did was laid it out without commentary to the American people.  I think most people can see that yes, there certainly is probable cause to believe that the president obstructed justice, not once, not twice, not three times but over too hand folds of times and it`s pretty clear. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman, what can you tell us about the possible date for Robert Mueller`s testimony to your committee? 

JOHNSON:  Well, that is still under investigation or -- excuse me, still under negotiation.  May 15th is a target date but if that date is not the actual date that is arrived at, I think it should be at some point very soon thereafter.  So I`m optimistic that the committee will be able to reach an agreement with Mueller`s representatives and Mueller will testify and if the president tries to keep him from testifying, then we`ll go back through this process of subpoenaing Mueller and I don`t think he`ll take the same attitude as Barr has taken, which has been to be flippant this their response to legislative oversight. 

I believe that Mueller will respond and it should be pretty easy to get him into the witness chair, and I`m looking forward to it and I know the American people are looking forward to it. 

O`DONNELL:  Dahlia, what will you be looking for?  Would you want him to be asked and what would you hope he would answer? 

JOHNSON:  I think I want to know some of the places where he didn`t reach conclusions, some of the places where he enlighted hard questions and said the nature of the constitutional question means I can`t address obstruction. 

So, I would want to press on essentially on the places where we thought he would do more than he did and he opted not to and in many instances we know why.  We know for instance that the guidance, the OLC guidance played a huge part in his making a decision, that he couldn`t indict a sitting president.  But there are a lot of sections of the report where there is a lot of merc and I would like to know what he would have done absent the constraints that he felt he was under and I think that`s a place I would want to press. 

O`DONNELL:  Gene Rossi, one of the distinctions between the attorney general and Robert Mueller is the attorney general went out of his way to say when he was discussing the obstruction of justice components of the report to say there was no underlying offense, there was no underlying crime that the -- and the attorney general`s view that the president was trying to cover up and Robert Mueller makes it clear that legally an underlying crime is not a necessary component of an obstruction of justice charge. 

Could you explain to viewers who I think would have trouble understanding how can you be guilty of obstruction of justice if there was no crime that you were trying to cover up? 

ROSSI:  I`ll give you an example.  If the FBI serves me with a subpoena for my tax records and they feel that I`m a tax cheater and the IRS serves me a subpoena, and I`m an honest taxpayer but I`m just mad that they serve me with a subpoena and then I instruct my accountant to burn my records, I have obstructed justice even though I didn`t cheat on my taxes. 

But I want to say this, Lawrence -- there are underlying crimes.  We had two indictments, the GRU, the IRA, we had Michael Flynn, we had Manafort, we had Papadopoulos, there are crimes all over the place, more than Baskin- Robbins has flavors. 

So, the canard that there is no underlying crime is false. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Dahlia, as the Judiciary Committee goes forward, do you think William Barr`s attitude, anything that can happen that can change his attitude to the processes? 

LITHWICK:  I think he`s pretty dug in, Lawrence.  I think he has now gotten cut out in being not entirely honest in the rollout and less than honest in his summary.  Every time he gets cut out instead of copping to it, he seems to dig in more.  And I think just the posture he`s taken testify in front of the House for pretty pretextual reasons about the questioning and refusing to provide the unredacted report, I think he keeps making claims that things are unprecedented, they are actually quite precedent. 

O`DONNELL:  Right.

LITHWICK:  We call them oversight. 

So I think he`s digging in and I don`t know he`s doing himself any favors because courts don`t like it when you don`t attempt to accommodate. 

O`DONNELL:  We have to squeeze in a break here. 

Congressman Hank Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight. 

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Gene Rossi and Dahlia Lithwick, thank you for joining us.  We really appreciate you-all starting us off tonight.

And when we come back, the breaking news of the night, Steven Mnuchin has refused to obey the law and hand over Donald Trump`s tax returns as required by law to Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal.  This is a law that`s never been defied.  It has never been challenged.  Congressman Katie Porter will join us next on that.


O`DONNELL:  The breaking news of the night is this letter from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  Steven Mnuchin saying that the Treasury and the IRS will not as required by law turnover Donald Trump`s tax returns to the chairman.  And treasure secretary says: I have determined that the committee`s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. 

Two things, he has no legal right to determine that and the other is, the committee does not need a legislative purpose.  The law specifies that the chairman can have these returns for any reason.  There is absolutely no limiting reason on the chairman getting these returns.

And so, secretary of the treasury rejected the House Democrats` demand, Chairman Neal`s demand for six years to the president`s person personal tax returns and failed to comply with he deadline, or compiled to the deadline by sending this letter defying the law.  And now we have what is going to be a battle between the White House and Congress that we`ve never seen before, a legal battle.

In the letter, the treasury secretary said: In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the committee`s request lacks a legislative purpose and the department therefore is not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information. 

Every single word of the secretary`s letter is not true and is legally false.  Every word of it.  Secretary Mnuchin refused, could not explain his rational for not compiling.  Couldn`t explain it because he said the Justice Department is working on a legal reason.  And the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr will publish a legal opinion as if that legal opinion has any legal weight. 

Chairman Richard Neal issued a statement saying that he will consider what action to take, what legal action to take but if this is a legally unprecedented territory that we have entered tonight.  The chairman said, I`ll consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response, that response is something that no chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has ever, ever had to come up with in a situation like this.  Every single time the chairman of the Finance Committee demanded to see tax returns under that law, those tax returns have been immediately delivered by the IRS.  That is the way the law is supposed to work. 

We`re joined now but freshman Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter from California.  She`s a member of the House Financial Services Committee. 

Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

I want to get your reaction to this -- this is a very simple law as you know and you`re a law professor, you know how to read these things.  There is not much in the tax code that is simple but this is.  And it simply says that the secretary shall hand over those tax returns. 

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Yes, and the use of the word shall is important.  So this is not a discretionary option, this is not, there is not a list of exceptions, there is not a bunch of defenses here.  This is a very simple law passed back in 1924, it`s not new.  It`s been long part of our country`s history and it simply obligates the treasury secretary to turnover the taxpayer`s tax returns, in this case, President Trump`s tax returns.

And, you know, Mr. Neal asked for six years of business and personal returns in order to allow Congress to do it job which is oversight. 

O`DONNELL:  And it seems legally -- what do you see here as legally the next potential step? 

PORTER:  I think this is going to result in litigation.  I think there are two choices Chairman Neal and Congress could use.  Both will be protracted and delay from the important other work that Congress should be doing. 

So one option is to subpoena the tax returns and the other option is to sue under the statute itself in federal court.  Either way, this will have the House`s lawyers, the House`s counsel office is going to have to bring these lawsuits, and meanwhile, the president is throwing plenty of other work at the House counsel office, suing, for example, to overturn the Affordable Care Act. 

So, this is just another stall tactic.  This president doesn`t want to provide anything.  He doesn`t want to provide the underlying documents that Mr. Mueller used.  He doesn`t want to provide the tax returns.  He doesn`t want to provide this and that. 

This is one constitutional crisis after another.  All of which is avoidable if the president will simply understand that in the United States of America, nobody is above the law. 

O`DONNELL:  And we are about 18 months away of these tax returns being handed over if there is a new president after the next inauguration day because there would be a new IRS commissioner and treasury secretary who would not defy this law. 

PORTER:  Correct.  I mean, these tax returns are very likely to become public at some point if Congress continues to pursue them and I think my view for President Trump is if there is nothing to see here, then allow the American people to see them. 

So you either did something wrong, you did something you`re embarrassed of, maybe you`re not as rich as you told everybody you were, you know, this is a valid congressional purpose, and the law itself doesn`t require a purpose.  So, here we see Chairman Neal going out of his way to set forth a purpose that`s to do oversight and the president is continuing to obstruct that purpose.  So, it`s extremely unproductive what the president is doing and I fear it`s ultimately causing to continue to weaken the American public`s confidence in the president and Congress. 

And so, this kind of bipartisan -- this kind of bickering back and forth -- just turnover your tax returns.  It`s what the rest of us have to do to the IRS.  We`re not in public life like President Trump is. 

O`DONNELL:  And to the extent you could divine a purpose to this law since it was passed in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal, it was actually a law passed specifically in response to corruption, perceived corruption at the presidential and administration level.  And so, the committee actually, the chairman of the committee wanting to see anyone in the administration`s tax returns for possible corrupt purposes, corrupt investigations of corruption is exactly what it was designed to do. 

PORTER:  Correct.  This is the purpose of the law.  The purpose of the law is to allow Congress to make sure there isn`t corruption going on.  It was passed in the 20s in the wake of scandals including Teapot Dome at the time there was a law to allow the president to obtain anyone`s tax returns for any reason upon the president`s request and this law was designed to empower Congress to have the co-equal power. 

So this is really a balance about powers between Congress and the president.  And now, as a result of this, Secretary Mnuchin`s flat out refusal to follow a clear law, we`re going to now see it go to the courts. 

O`DONNELL:  And one of the reasons this hasn`t come up before is that presidents publicly released their tax returns.  That has become the modern traditional.

Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you once again for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate your coming back. 

PORTER:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, the president has had a very strange weekend of tweeting.  It has scared a lot of people about what`s going to happen on the next inauguration day.  When we come back, I`ll tell you why you have nothing to worry about.


O`DONNELL:  One of the easiest things for the news media and for voters to do is to overreact, to inane tweets by the president of the United States.  This weekend provided another opportunity for that when the president retweeted a ridiculous tweet from Jerry Falwell Jr. saying that President Trump should have two years added to his first term as president.

That is as silly as saying that Donald Trump should have two inches added to his height.  But many took that to be the president`s launch of an unconstitutional power grab to add two years to a presidential term but then the president himself tweeted that the Mueller investigation stole two years of his presidency "that we will never be able to get back."

So that`s the president himself acknowledging that it`s impossible to add two years to a presidential term but a "New York Times" interview with Nancy Pelosi then inadvertently added fuel to this nutty fire when people misinterpreted her comment that the Democrats need to win big in the presidential election so that Donald Trump cannot challenge the legitimacy of the election.

A close reading of what the speaker actually said shows that she simply means that the Democrats have to win big so that Donald Trump can`t get away with saying that it wasn`t an illegitimate election.  She was simply referring to Donald Trump`s rhetoric after the election, not his actions after the election if the Democrats win the electoral college.

She did not say or suggested in any way that Donald Trump would not be forced to leave the White House on or before inauguration day if he loses the electoral college vote.  In fact, the inauguration of the next president has nothing to do with the current president and it never does.

Donald Trump does not have to show up at the inauguration of the next president.  He doesn`t ever have to concede the election.  Three presidents refused to show up at the inauguration of their successors because they were so bitter.

John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson were all so disappointed in the election result that they did not show up at the inauguration to hand off the presidency to their successors.  Donald Trump has absolutely no power to prevent the transfer of power to the next president and he knows that as his tweets suggest.

But Donald Trump is happy to let the world think that he does have that magic power to extend the years of his presidency.  Political Scientist Brian Klaas has studied Donald Trump`s similarities and his rhetoric and actions to authoritarian leaders and has called the president "a want to be despond".  Brian Kloss will join us after this break.


O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump really seems to admire the heads of state who do not have term limits.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):  This president is totally dazzled by Vladimir Putin, by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, by authoritarian leaders in countries like Brazil.  He gets on the phone with them and he loses it, gets all googly-eyed.


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Brian Klaas, a columnist for "The Washington Post" and an assistant professor of Global Politics at the University College London.  Brian, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

I want to get your reaction to, first of all, Donald Trump`s attempt to create for himself a persona that resembles the Putin persona in Russia and leaders like him around the world.

BRIAN KLAAS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON:  Well, he has a serious case of dictator envy I`d say.  Donald Trump is somebody who admires dictators, wants to emulate them, wishes he was free to democratic constraints.

He spent the last two years doing his best to try to chorine through the norms and guardrails of democracy in America with Banana Republicans in Congress driving a getaway car.  And it`s been a car crash for the last couple of years but there`s still some damage to American democracy and I think that`s something we need to pay attention to.

He`s conditioning the American public also to accept authoritarian style politics that previously was unthinkable and that is where he actually can do some serious damage despite the fact that are we still a country of rule of law and that he can`t simply prolong his term by two years.

O`DONNELL:  I want to read a tweet by Lawrence Tribe that I found very powerful in relation to all of this.  He said, "Can you believe the world isn`t screaming about the fact that Trump talked to Putin about Mueller but refused to talk to Mueller about Putin?  Which country is 45 loyal to?  What oath did 45 take?  Your reaction to that?

KLAAS:  Well, it`s one of the main things that the president is supposed to put at the center of their presidency is to protect the United States.  And at every turn, when it came to Russian information warfare attacks on the United Stated directed by the Kremlin, Trump has sided against law enforcement trying to protect the United States.

To talk on the phone with Vladimir Putin and agree with him that it was a hoax when it was clearly not and it was directed, perpetrated by Vladimir Putin himself and then to continue to praise him despite the fact that he`s an authoritarian dictator or to say that he`s in love with Kim Jong-Un who murders people for sport and froze hundreds and thousands of people in Gulag.  And just a few days ago, Trump said, "I`m with him."

So I think this is a pattern of authoritarian style behavior that over time does condition the Republican Party and Trump`s base to accept unthinkable actions.  And I think that`s what is going to outlast Trump.

He might lose in 2020.  He might leave the White House in 2020 but that aspect of his presidency will linger on and will take root in the Republican Party after Donald Trump leaves the Republican Party or leaves the White House.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And Brian, one reason I want to talk to you about this is Donald Trump is absolutely no power to extend his term one minute beyond what the Constitution allows.  But he does clearly have an attraction to the people who do, who are allowed to be able to go on as long as they want.

Not the least of which the North Korean dictator who once again tweeted this weekend, the president tweeted about, "He`s my guy, I am close to him."  And the president seems to have the belief that his personal relationship with Kim Jong Un is more important than any actions that Kim Jong Un takes, including firing off some new test missiles.

KLAAS:  Yes.  I mean it`s just astonishing what we have grown used to because he`s saying I`m with somebody who as I said murders people for sport, murdered an American, a young American, and threatens to incinerate American cities.

I mean if any other president did this, it would be the scandal that defined their presidency.  And for Donald Trump, it`s another Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday and it`s becoming more frequent.

And in terms of his admiration for those who do not have to abide by term limits, when President Xi in China declared himself president for life effectively, Trump praised that decision and then said I might have to try that.

Now, of course, he can`t but the fact that he`s trying to instill in his supporters the notion that maybe actually democracy is not so great, that`s I think the toxin that`s been injected into the American political bloodstream that talks of authoritarianism and that`s going to be hard to find an antidote for because between 30 and 40 percent of the public is cheering somebody who is behaving like this.  And that`s what I`m really worried about when we look at the future of American democracy.

O`DONNELL:  Well, luckily for that future, the vast majority are opposed to this and Donald Trump has the highest disapproval rating consistently of any president in the history of polling.  And so his attachment is only to this minority that can`t control an outcome like that.

KLAAS:  That`s right.  And that`s why I think that the appropriate response here is not just for congressional oversight, which is essential but also for voters to say, you know what, it doesn`t matter whether you`re a Democrat or Republican, we believe in democracy.  And if you believe in democracy, you need to vote out the person that`s the greatest menace to it in the country`s modern history.  And I think that is Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL:  Brian Klaas, thank you for your perspective on this tonight.  Really appreciate it.

KLAAS:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, the Democratic candidates for president are running not just against Donald Trump but also against Donald Trump`s most important enabler.  That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  The Democrats running for president are not just trying to defeat Donald Trump.  They`re also hoping to defeat or at least demote President Trump`s most important ally and enabler in Washington.  Here is Beto O`Rourke today in Iowa.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You asked specifically about Mitch McConnell, someone who when Barack Obama was elected to be our president of the United States of America, the president of everyone Republican, Independent, Democrat, alike, Mitch McConnell said his number one job was not to find common ground with him, not to work on issues of common cause or concern but was to defeat him at the ballot box, to make him an unsuccessful president.

Mitch McConnell kept President Obama from fulfilling his constitutional obligation of nominating a Supreme Court justice a year out from the end of his administration, cutting a year arbitrarily off of his duly elected term of office.

This guy is a bad actor.  He does not believe or live the democracy that you just described right now.  The best and surest path to addressing Mitch McConnell is to ensure that he is the minority leader of the Senate in 2020.  And we all have an opportunity to do that.


O`DONNELL:  Mitch McConnell is running for reelection in Kentucky which should be easy for a Republican senator, but Mitch McConnell`s polling in Kentucky could not be worse.  The latest poll shows his approval rating is only 33 percent which is unbelievably bad for a Republican senator in Kentucky.  No Democrat has yet announced a challenge to McConnell in Kentucky.

Up next, the National Rifle Association, the leadership of the National Rifle Association is a cesspool of corruption according to the leadership of the National Rifle Association.  That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  The National Rifle Association`s long-time CEO Wayne LaPierre has accused the president of the National Rifle Association of corruption.  And the president of the National Rifle Association, Colonel Oliver North has accused Wayne LaPierre of corruption.

And any fair reading of the evidence indicates that they`re both right.  Wayne LaPierre won the power struggle with Oliver North recently in which they both accused the other of corruption, but Wayne LaPierre is the one who faces the biggest legal risk now.

The board of the National Rifle Association sided with Wayne LaPierre against Oliver North and forced Oliver North out of the NRA presidency last week.  They each accuse the other of using the NRA`s advertising agency for corrupt purposes.

Wayne LaPierre says that the advertising firm that the NRA has been using for decades paid Oliver North millions of dollars for 12 episodes of a series called "Oliver North`s American Heroes," but only three episodes have been actually produced.

Oliver North accused Wayne LaPierre of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses through the advertising firm without providing documentation of those expenses and what those travel expenses were actually for.  The travel included Wayne LaPierre`s trips to Europe and the Bahamas, which Wayne LaPierre charged directly on one of the advertising company`s credit cards.

The NRA, a federally recognized nonprofit organization, recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit, then reimbursed the advertising firm for Wayne LaPierre`s travel, using the dues money of NRA members who have absolutely no way of finding out what good work Wayne LaPierre was doing for them at their expense in the Bahamas.

As bad as that sounds, Wayne LaPierre has been up to something much worse and much more clearly corrupt, and much more likely to involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax evasion, criminal tax evasion.

Oliver North has accused Wayne LaPierre of charging over $200,000 in clothing to the NRA`s advertising firm, and the NRA is completely admitting to that one.  The NRA has publicly told "The Wall Street Journal" that they are completely cool with $200,000 in NRA members` dues money being used for suits, Italian suits, Xenia suits for Wayne LaPierre.

"The Wall Street Journal" report "NRA officials have said the spending was justified because of his numerous speaking and T.V. appearances.  Unfortunately, for Wayne LaPierre, the Internal Revenue Service doesn`t see it that way.

Tax law takes the common sense approach that if your employer gives you $200,000 in clothes, that is $200,000 in taxable income to you.

And so ask yourselves, what are the odds that Wayne LaPierre, who is paid millions of dollars a year in salary by the NRA declared the $200,000 in suits as income on his tax returns?  You can all make your own judgments about that.

My personal calculation is that there is a 99.9 percent chance that Wayne LaPierre did not declare the $200,000 in Italian suits purchased in a Beverly Hills store as income to him.  And so he surely did not pay the approximately $80,000 in income taxes that a top tax bracket earner like Wayne LaPierre would owe to the IRS on those Italian suits.

So Wayne LaPierre may be guilty of at least $200,000 in tax evasion, and that he and the NRA have in effect confessed to that publicly when they admitted that the NRA and the NRA`s Advertising company had been paying $200,000 for Wayne LaPierre`s suits.

And Wayne LaPierre could be guilty of much more tax evasion than that, depending on whether all of his expense paid trips to the Bahamas were really personal trips or business trips.  Here is what those NRA dues payers get for their money.  A suit that looks really good holding a rifle and a suit that looks even better, especially good beside a guy who wears ill-fitting jumbo-sized suits that he can`t even button.

And so Wayne LaPierre is definitely the winner of the corruption competition and the NRA leadership between Oliver North and Wayne LaPierre.  And the losers are, of course, all those NRA members who pay $45 a year for their membership cards that now clearly identify them as the people who pay Wayne LaPierre`s millions of dollars in salary and hundreds of thousands of dollars in Italian suits from a Beverly Hills store.




O`DONNELL:  And by the elite he means of course the leadership of the National Rifle Association.  That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END