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Trump's rhetoric on Iran. TRANSCRIPT: 5/9/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Ron Klain, David Frum, Eric Swalwell, Wendy Sherman

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

You know, Washington needs Screen Actor Guilds rules, because in the Screen Actor Guilds, for example, there would only be one James Baker, and if another James Baker tries to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he can but he`s going to have to be James W. Baker or something.  He can`t use his own name because someone already did in that occupation. 

And there`s one too many James Bakers in my head now in Washington from, you know --

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  In SAG rules here, he would be officially former FBI general counsel James Baker, and you`d never be able to describe him in anything.  That would be his first name. 

O`DONNELL:  There`s no limit to how long a SAG name can be. 


O`DONNELL:  And, of course, some people lengthen then just to take up screen space.  People are known to do that.  Some people have been known to use Jr. in their screen names to take up screen space.  I think we know who we`re talking about. 


O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  We`re off to another big hour here. 

MADDOW:  Appreciate it. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. 

What is a joke?  At the end of this hour, we are going to consider that existential question because President Trump did something last night that was reported by most people as a joke.  And I think most of that reporting was based on the fact that the people in his audience laughed.  Now, laughing is not proof that something is funny.  And we have many grim examples of that, including the way Americans gleefully used to watch lynchings in this country. 

So, at the end of this hour, we`re going to consider what the president said last night.  We`re going to watch him say it.  I`m going to ask you to explain the joke to me because I for one don`t see the joke.  And we will consider what it means when Donald Trump talks that way with those audiences.  Why he does it.  What that is about, what he wants them to know about him. 

But, first, with a new poll showing increased public support for impeachment of the president, some Democrats in the leadership of the House of Representatives are now debating whether they are facing a constitutional crisis or a constitutional confrontation or something else.  A new "Reuters" poll shows 45 percent now support impeachment, 42 percent oppose impeachment. 

Today, Craig Melvin asked Congressman James Clyburn how he would describe the current situation that the House of Representatives is facing. 


CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC HOST:  You`ve got Senator Mark Warner from Virginia today, ranking member of the Senate Intel Committee, he says it`s not a crisis, it`s more of a constitutional confrontation.  How would Congressman Clyburn define it? 

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (R-SC):  I would define it as a confrontational crisis, so that`s exactly what it is. 


O`DONNELL:  So there`s your multiple choice, constitutional crisis or constitutional confrontation or the newest option, confrontational crisis.  So far, we have not had a moment of true constitutional crisis.  So far, we`ve had confrontations that have been followed by legal processes. 

For example, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, demands the full, unredacted Mueller report.  The attorney general still refuses to give it to him.  And then the chairman subpoenas the report.  The attorney general still refuses to give the report to the chairman and then the committee votes to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. 

The House can also go to court to try to have that subpoena enforced, and we would only reach the point of constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court ordered the attorney general to comply with the chairman`s subpoena and then the attorney general refused.  The Constitution doesn`t tell us what happens next.  It makes no provision for what happens after that. 

And that is the zone that can legitimately be called constitutional crisis.  In the investigation of President Richard Nixon many feared a constitutional crisis when the Supreme Court ordered the president to comply with the subpoena and hand over audio recordings of these conversations.  If the president refused to comply with that subpoena, we would have had a constitutional crisis. 

But President Nixon did comply with the subpoena, and so we never found ourselves in a constitutional crisis then.  But Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon.  Donald Trump has much less respect for the law than even Richard Nixon did.  And so, it is easy now to feel a constitutional crisis approaching in Washington. 

There is another crisis presented by the Trump presidency that has been with us and been very visible every day of the Trump presidency.  It was described by 27 mental health professionals who contributed to the bestselling book, the dangerous case of Donald Trump.  The book describes Donald Trump`s psychological weaknesses in ways that make him unfit for the presidency. 

Three coauthors of that book have written an op-ed piece for the "Boston Globe" based on their reading of the Mueller report.  And they say: The pattern that emerges of the president is one of rash shortsighted decision making without consideration of consequences.  He is protected only by actions on the part of former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn, and former campaign manager Cory Lewandowski who in effect shields the president from himself by refusing or failing to follow his directions.  Reckless, impulsive moves that are self-destructive despite the intention of self-protection are characteristic of dangerous impairment. 

They impede Trump`s capacity to prioritize national security.  There is no room for consideration of national plans or policy or his own role in bringing about his predicament and how he might change, but instead a singular focus on how he is a victim of circumstance and his familiar whining about unfairness. 

That is the real every day crisis of the Trump presidency. 

Leading off our discussion tonight: Ron Klain, former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama.  He was a former chief counsel at the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

David Frum is with us.  He`s a senior editor from "The Atlantic" and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. 

And Chuck Rosenberg is joining us.  He`s a former senior FBI official and former U.S. attorney.  He was also former counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI and is now an MSNBC legal analyst. 

And, Chuck, let me start with you.  Do you have a preferred description of where Washington stands tonight from constitutional crisis to crisis in confrontation and all of these options? 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, I certainly have, Lawrence, a way of thinking about it that is quite at odds with the description of this as a constitutional crisis.  I think it`s anything but at this point. 

It`s a mess.  It`s disheartening, but it`s not a constitutional crisis.  And here`s why and, you know, I think back to something I remember from history. 

When William Henry Harrison was president and died in office about a month into his term, and there was an ambiguity in the Constitution about whether his successor Vice President Tyler became the actual president or the acting president or whether he would just assume the duties of the office.  That ambiguity leads to a constitutional crisis. 

Here, we don`t have that.  We have the legislative branch and executive branch at odds.  That happens frequently, and we have a path that may not be a great one, but we have a path to resolve it through the courts of the United States, which by the way is provided for in the Constitution.  So, whatever this thing is, and it`s not pretty, it`s not a crisis. 

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, what is this thing? 

DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC:  This thing is an accelerating situation.  Nancy Pelosi has again and again said she doesn`t want to be precipitate on the path to impeachment and that`s very wise.  Except Donald Trump also gets a vote and he`s determined to goad. 

Just this evening, just this evening, "The New York Times" reported that Rudy Giuliani for whom I volunteered in 2007 and 2008, Rudy Giuliani is on his way to Ukraine to try to induce the Ukrainian government interfere in the 2020 American election, on the theory, as was last Sunday, well, everyone was so angry that Russia -- we got Russia to intervene in a clandestine way, if we do it publicly, is that OK?  Can we make that OK? 

And I`m telling "The New York Times" about all this.  There`s no secrecy about it.  This is all happening in plain sight. 

And people absorb this and think, now, you want to stay off the impeachment track.  It goes nowhere good.  But if people insist on doing things that are attacks on the sovereignty and independents of the United States, at some point, we can`t stop you. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, how do you see it? 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF VP BIDEN:  Look, I think it`s asymmetrical constitutional warfare in the sense --

O`DONNELL:  OK, add that to the list. 

KLAIN:  In the sense the Democrats are going through a legal process, a process that Chuck described, of issuing subpoenas, of holding contempt votes, all these things and the Trump White House is just saying we don`t care.  We don`t care what the law requires, we`re not giving you anything pound of sand. 

Now, Chuck`s point which I agree with, we`re going to go to the courts, we`re going to see what happens and maybe that`s just a bluff.  But to David`s point, Trump is heading towards impeachment.  As some of his people say, that`s what he wants. 

But whether he is bluffing or blustering or blundering towards impeachment, he is putting himself on the path to being impeached. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Chuck Rosenberg, it does seem that Nancy Pelosi who has been trying to mute talk of impeachment herself now every time she talks to the press and answers questions, she finds herself drawn into it.  Does it look to you as if the Trump White House is actually trying to force an impeachment process? 

ROSENBERG:  Well, I think Ron`s characterization is accurate.  Again, whether it`s bluffing or blustering or blundering, they seem to be pushing the House in that direction.  By the way, of course, that process, the impeachment process is also provided for in the Constitution. 

So in partial answer to your first question, also not a crisis but it is a mess.  And I am struck by the fact that leader -- I`m sorry, Speaker Pelosi and the leadership of the house seems to be moving down that path with the president.  Whether or not he wants that, whether or not it benefits him politically, time will tell.  But she certainly seems to be moving down that path. 

O`DONNELL:  And, David, I`ve just been handed the article you were talking about.  It just broke as this show began.  And it seems according to "The New York Times" reporting, Rudy Giuliani is going to Ukraine to try to see if he can dig up something about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son`s possible involvement in some kind of business activity there.  And as you say doing it publicly, talking to "The New York Times" about it because the lesson of the Mueller report, in effect, seems to be if you do it publicly, if you ask Russia to hack and steal e-mails publicly then that`s OK. 

FRUM:  Rudy Giuliani is not going to Ukraine with his reading glasses to go to the Ukrainian national archives to see what he can find in the paperwork.  He`s going to Ukraine with political muscle to try to pressure the Ukrainian government, which is very beholden to the United States which it`s under invasion from Russia, to try to pressure them into saying and doing things that the Trump people would think would be to their advantage.  And as Rudy Giuliani told "The New York Times," he`s doing this with the full knowledge and approval of the president. 

One thing we all ought to consider, the courts may not be as quick to enter into this domain as we`ve been suggesting in the earlier part of the discussion.  The Bush v. Gore precedent in the background, the court said and at the center of that story and they said someone has to resolve this, we don`t see a good way to resolve it, I guess it`s going to be us. 

It is possible for the courts either for good faith reasons or perhaps this time for opposite bad faith reasons to say we will not do it.  We are stepping out, and the president and Congress has to sort this out between themselves. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, what`s your confidence level in the current Supreme Court? 

KLAIN:  Low to zero.  Look, I think it`s hard 15 years ago and the court`s in an even worse place today in terms of partisanship and whatnot.  In fact, the president brags openly about taking issues that couldn`t even go to the Supreme Court to the Supreme Court on the idea he`s kind of got the game rigged there, I think that`s really unfortunate. 

I think on this Giuliani, obviously, I`m a Biden supporter and it obviously upsets me, but the Trump campaign slogan ought to be winning elections with foreign involvement since 2016.  This is just the same play over and over again.  And, you know, it doesn`t surprise me Rudy Giuliani`s doing it. 

He`s still stung over the fact in that 2008 campaign, Vice President Biden in a debate said his whole campaign was a noun, verb of 9/11.  And that stick at Giuliani, really hurt him then, he`s looking for revenge for a long time. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to what the president said today about Robert Mueller.  There`s no agreement yet when Mueller will testify to the House Judiciary Committee.  And that apparently leaves Mueller out there as someone he can attack with impunity.  Let`s listen to this. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Bob Mueller is no friend of mine.  I have conflicts with him.  We had a business dispute. 

We had somebody that is in love with James Comey.  They liked James Comey, they were very good friends.  They were supposedly best friends, maybe not, but supposedly best friends.  You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey. 

And with all of that -- and other things -- he wanted the FBI job.  I don`t know if anybody knows that, but he was considered for the FBI job, wanted it and the day after he didn`t get it, he became the special counsel.  That`s a conflict. 


O`DONNELL:  Chuck Rosenberg, your reaction to that. 

ROSENBERG:  Yes, it`s not a good one, Lawrence.  I had the privilege and the pleasure of working for Bob Mueller at the FBI -- remarkable man, remarkable public servant and patriot and a man of tremendous integrity.  It`s almost hard to know where the start of what the president said because almost no word out of his mouth other than the pronunciation of Mueller`s last time is accurate. 

And so, you know, I could take it apart piece by piece.  He and Comey are not close personal friends.  Of course there are pictures together because they served in the Justice Department at the same time.  But the notion Bob Mueller did anything than walk a straight path and call it like you saw it is deeply offensive to me. 

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, here`s -- we don`t have yet an agreement for Robert Mueller to testify.  Some Republicans saying there`s no reason for him to testify, he shouldn`t be testifying.  The more the president publicly attacks him, the more you build the reason for him to testify. 

There`s plenty of things for him to answer to in there, for example his relationship with James Comey.  The president of the United States says you are in love with James Comey.  Mr. Mueller, are you in love with James Comey? 

FRUM:  Yes.  Well, a normal healthy man would of course be in love with Kim Jong-un. 


FRUM:  So obviously there`s already something distorted there. 


FRUM:  But the president cannot avoid -- he has this tell where he indicates the closet in which the skeleton is hidden.  And this maybe goes to your very first point about the "Boston Globe" people, that Donald Trump could be in so much better shape if he had just pocketed the Mueller report, let his spin people spin it and say I`m moving on.  I`ve got people in it. 

And then come up with three other ideas Americans might actually like and spend your time talking about that.  Instead, he keeps pointing.  It`s over there, it`s over there.  It`s like one of the less competent villains in a "Columbo" episode, I just made a reference. 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, to this point, the president out there attacking by name Robert Mueller, Republicans trying to stand in the way of Robert Mueller testifying.

KLAIN:  Yes, as you said, Lawrence, I think the president`s building the case for Mueller to testify, and his conducts overall, it`s just a guilty person.  I mean, if this report really exonerated him, why is he asserting a ridiculous executive privilege claim over the entirety of the report that will not stand up?  If this report really exonerates him, why doesn`t he want Mueller up there to testify?  I mean, he`s just going to put himself in the situation.

As David said, it`s an obvious tell me that he knows, he did wrong things and he really is just screaming don`t look in the closet and, of course, everyone`s going to.  And so, I think he is actually raising the stakes for Mueller`s testimony, which is going to come sooner or later. 

FRUM:  There`s a key sentence in the Mueller report where Mueller refers to Donald Trump, be conscious of things that Donald Trump may believe were crimes even though they were not. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, and Donald Trump keeps basically creating a situation where Mueller`s testimony is more and more necessary by each one of these comments he makes about Mueller. 

We`re going to have to take a break here.  Ron Klain, David Frum, Chuck Rosenberg, thank you all for starting us off tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

Chuck Rosenberg, by the way, before he goes you should know is the new host of the new MSNBC podcast "The Oath."  Must listen podcast. 

Coming up, Congressman Eric Swalwell will join us on whether impeachment is becoming inevitable.  Is Donald Trump, as Nancy Pelosi puts it, self- impeaching?  Does anyone in the House know what that means?  We`ll find out from Congressman Swalwell.  That`s next. 


O`DONNELL:  Here is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this morning. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  The president is almost self-impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress` legitimate role subpoena.  This administration wants to have a constitutional crisis because they do not respect the oath of office that they take to protect and defend the Constitution -- support the Constitution of the United States. 


O`DONNELL:  Speaker Pelosi has not yet scheduled a full House vote on the resolution passed by the Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.  And Democrats warn more contempt citations could be coming. 

Chairman Nadler has already threatened former White House Counsel Don McGahn with contempt if he refuses to testify.  The confrontational stonewalling from the White House is energizing House Democrats and shifting the mood about impeachment according to "The New York Times."  Some who previously urged caution are now saying impeachment may be inevitable. 

Today, a coalition of national advocacy groups delivered a petition with 10 million signatures calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.  The petition was delivered to freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who introduced a resolution in March that would direct the house committee whether Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses. 

Joining us now is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.  He is also candidate for president of the United States. 

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Of course.  Good evening, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  I want to get to your reaction to what the speaker said today and where you think it stands in the multiple fronts now of confrontation between the House of Representatives and the Trump administration? 

SWALWELL:  We`re on the road to impeachment.  There`s no question about that.  I don`t think it`s a road any of us want to go down. 

We`re trying to demonstrate as we did today that we`re also going to protect people with pre-existing conditions.  We already passed background checks on gun violence, but we`ve got to hold this guy accountable. 

Right now, there`s a wall of obstructers who stand between us and the evidence you need to hold them accountable.  So, I`m suggesting that the best way to hold the president accountable is start getting rid of brick by brick those obstructers.  That starts with Bill Barr, now, we`re going to hold him in contempt in the full house.  I think we should move to impeach him. 

I think Steve Mnuchin`s probably next.  He won`t give us the tax returns of the president when it`s pretty clear that he should.  But we`re going to get it right.  It`s not going to happen as fast as it probably needs to, but I think we want to make sure we`re on solid ground as we go to the courts to seek this evidence and show we`ve exhausted all the remedies and the president left us with no other choice. 

O`DONNELL:  You`re a member of the House Intelligence Committee and Chairman Schiff was here last night talking about the latest developments there.  In the Senate Intelligence Committee, we had the revelation yesterday that committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr. 

What was your reaction to that? 

SWALWELL:  Case not closed is my reaction to that, and the case shouldn`t be closed.  Donald Trump, Jr., the candidate`s son at the time, took a meeting with Russians offering dirt and then it looks like they lied about it.  And no one believes that his father did not know about.  There`s just no way knowing everything I know from interviewing dozens of witnesses about this relationship. 

So he still has to the Senate at least some explaining to do, and he should have to explain that.  And, Lawrence, what is so frustrating about the way the Trump family has conducted themselves and the way the president is conducting themselves is we have this report from the Mueller team that our country was attacked, that the intelligence community says this attack is ongoing and they`re probably going to do it again. 

And the president has a victory toast with Vladimir Putin last week when he calls him.  That is just nutty, and that`s why we need to hold him accountable to make sure it never happens again. 

O`DONNELL:  I want you to listen to Senator Blumenthal`s reaction today to the subpoena for Donald Trump, Jr. 


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  He truly misled the judiciary committee.  And now he needs to be held accountable.  Those answers about the Moscow Trump Tower meeting, the meeting with Russian agents -- he ought to be held in contempt, and there is no question with Donald Trump, Jr. about any sort of privilege to avoid this kind of questioning.  If he fails to answer, he ought to be put in jail. 


O`DONNELL:  Congressman, one of the mysteries of the Mueller report is that Donald Trump, Jr. refused an invitation to be interviewed by the Mueller team.  But they never subpoenaed him. 

Do you have any theory about why he was not subpoenaed? 

SWALWELL:  No.  And what Senator Blumenthal I think is referring to just for your viewers` sake by saying that he has no privilege, typically you can assert the Fifth Amendment, that is almost absolute.  But if you were told by a prosecutor you`re not going to be charged for your conduct, then you don`t have anything to protect yourself from. 

And that`s why I think he thinks he can come forward because the Mueller said that he was not savvy enough to understand why he was committing a crime and that was one of the elements.  And so, I do think they should press him.  This family, this administration only understands force and consequence, and until we show force and consequence that we`re not going to just let them continue to dictate the terms, they`re going to continue to stone wall, and they`re going to continue to work with the Russians and there was never anything by the way, Lawrence, in the Mueller report that said all these contacts and 200 pages of working with the Russians, stopped.  We`ve every reason to believe they think it`s OK to do this and they`d be willing to do it again. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman, doesn`t Donald Trump, Jr. still have an exposure of possibility on perjury and therefore he might invoke the Fifth Amendment to protect himself on perjury? 

SWALWELL:  Yes.  I mean, he -- on perjury, he could still be indicted from that.  I think the Mueller said at least from their perspective he did not commit any crimes and they were not going to indict him.  So, if they want to ask questions about that, again, if you`re afraid to commit perjury that means you`re telegraphing that you`re not going to tell the truth. 

Again, if these guys are 100 percent exonerated, they would be 100 percent cooperators.  Instead, they are 100 percent obstructers.  They know one trick, Lawrence.  In fact, they know two tricks.  Work with the Russians, obstruct the Americans. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

SWALWELL:  My pleasure.  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, President Trump is learning that love isn`t enough especially when it comes to North Korea`s murderous dictator.  Former Ambassador Wendy Sherman will join us tonight on Donald Trump`s failed international relations. 


O`DONNELL:  Sometimes love isn`t enough as Donald Trump found out today with Kim Jong-Un.


DONALD TRUMP:  Chairman Kim would like to have another meeting.  And, you know, the interesting -- when I did it and I was really being tough and so was he, and we would go back and forth, and then we fell in love, OK?

No, really.  He wrote me beautiful letters and they`re great letters.  We fell in love.


O`DONNELL:  And then today, North Korea conducted another missile launch, the second in less than a week.  Also today, the president threatened to escalate his trade war with China by increasing his illegal tariffs on China.

Also today, the president said there is a possibility of a U.S. military attack on Iran.


TRUMP:  Yes?

REPORTER:  What did Iran do to prompt you to send an aircraft carrier to the region?  Is there a risk --

TRUMP:  We have information that you don`t want to know about.  They were very threatening and we just want to have -- we have to have great security for this country and for a lot of other places.

REPORTER:  Is there a risk of military confrontation, sir?

TRUMP:  I guess you could say that always, right?  Isn`t it?  I mean, you know, always.  I don`t want to say, no, but hopefully, that won`t happen.  We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that`s loaded up and we don`t want to have to do anything.


O`DONNELL:  The president made it very clear that he would just like Iran to pay attention to him.


TRUMP:  What I`d like to see with Iran, I`d like to see them call me.


O`DONNELL:  Just call him.  And Donald Trump also made it very clear that he is very jealous of the respect that former Secretary of State John Kerry still gets around the world.  And in the president`s jealous rant, he lied repeatedly and said that John Kerry breaks the law when he talks to people in other countries.  Let`s listen to this.


TRUMP:  You know, John Kerry, he speaks to him a lot.  John Kerry tells him not to call.  That`s a violation of the Logan Act.  And frankly, he should be prosecuted on that but my people don`t want to do anything that`s -- only the Democrats do that kind of stuff, you know?

If it were the opposite way, they`d prosecute him under the Logan Act.  But John Kerry violated the Logan Act.  He`s talking to Iran and has been, has many meetings and many phone calls, and he`s telling them what to do.  That is a total violation of the Logan Act.


O`DONNELL:  And that is a total violation of the truth.  A spokesperson for John Kerry issued a statement saying everything President Trump said today is simply wrong, end of story.  He`s wrong about the facts, wrong about the law, and sadly he`s been wrong about how to use diplomacy to keep America safe.  Secretary Kerry helped negotiate a nuclear agreement that worked to solve an intractable problem.  The world supported it then and supports it still.  We`d hope the president would focus on solving foreign problems for America instead of attacking his predecessors for theater.

Joining our discussion now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman.  She`s a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration.  She was the lead U.S. negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal.  And she is now an MSNBC global affairs contributor.

Ambassador Sherman, your reaction first of all to what the president said about Iran today.

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE:  The president clearly doesn`t know what he wants to do.  He`s asked for --

O`DONNELL:  He does know he wants a phone call.

SHERMAN:  He wants a phone call today.  Yesterday, he wanted unrelenting pressure on Iran.  He wanted them to meet all of the 12 conditions that Secretary Pompeo set down for Iran to come to a negotiation.  None of this is going to happen.

The president`s not going to get a call from Iran.  They`re not going to love him up.

It was very interesting today.  Not only has he had this bromance with Kim Jong-Un where he said the other day, after the first missile launch, I`m with him.  And I said to him, President Trump, Kim Jong-Un is not with you.  He seems to not understand that.

Then today, he said President Xi sent him a beautiful letter.  So for Donald Trump, it`s all about give me some love.  It`s sort of like show me the money.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  And even with China, he gets the beautiful letter.  And then within the same 24-hour period, he`s still threatening on tariffs.

And China is threatening, well, if you do that, then we will retaliate on tariffs.  And not to mention the fact that he needs China in dealings with North Korea, which he still doesn`t seem to grasp.

O`DONNELL:  Right.  The problem with the Trump administration is there is no policy process and there is no strategy.

It`s transactional.  It is about show me the money.  I meant that quite literally, not just in the movie sense.

And the president sort of goes about these things on a one-off basis trying to drive to what is also not clear.  And exactly your point, he doesn`t have a 360-degree view.

So, yes, China steals our intellectual property.  Yes, we have to bear down on China for good trade practices and good business practices but we also need them on North Korea.  We also need them on Iran.  We also need them as a major power in the world.  And so you have to have a broad strategy for how you`re going to go about this and I don`t see any.

O`DONNELL:  So we saw Senator Kamala Harris ask the attorney general if the president has ever asked or anyone in the White House asked or suggested that the attorney general prosecute anyone.  We saw the attorney general fail to answer the question, stumble all over the room with that question.

And then we see the president today ask the attorney general to prosecute someone but he does it on T.V.  He does it in the way that he did so many things in the Mueller report, he does it on T.V. asking the attorney general basically to prosecute former Secretary of State John Kerry.

SHERMAN:  Indeed.  There`s no greater patriot for this country than John Kerry.  He loves this country.  He went to war for this country during Vietnam.

He came back to protest the very war in which he got a purple heart.  And when we came to the end of the Iran negotiation, we sat in a small room with all the other foreign ministers in the deal and the political directors, people like me.

And after John Kerry read the talking points that we had given him, he dropped the paper to the table and he talked about going to Vietnam and coming back to protest even after his purple heart.  And he said, "For me, this deal is about no more war."

This is a man who feels very deeply about this country and wanting peace and security for this country.  And he negotiated tougher with Iran than anyone could possibly have done.  So quite frankly, if the president wants to prosecute John Kerry, he`s going to have to prosecute me and a number of other people who have talked to people around the world because we care about our country.

O`DONNELL:  They`ve been trying to get me to go a break which we`re going to do.  But can you please stay with us because we want to talk more about this?


O`DONNELL:  We`ll be right back with Ambassador Wendy Sherman.


O`DONNELL:  Today, "Time Magazine" made Senator Elizabeth Warren the first woman in the presidential campaign to appear on the cover of a major magazine after announcing her candidacy.  The new cover comes just one day after "The New York Times" Frank Bruni noted that another one of the candidates, Senator Kamala Harris, has not received the same kind of star treatment of her -- than her white male competitors have in the race.

Frank Bruni writes, "Harris has not yet received the sort of gushing star treatment from the media than Beto O`Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, two handsome and clean-cut Ivy League grads, have, a discrepancy that I think says as much about us as it does about her.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman is back with us.  You`ve had some experience in politics and working with senators and people with presidential aspirations.  What is your reaction to the way the women candidates have been treated so far in this campaign?

SHERMAN:  I think Frank Bruni is exactly right.  There`s data that shows that most of the bylines are men.  Most of the analysts who get quoted --

O`DONNELL:  Most of the reporters doing these stories.

SHERMAN:  Most of the reporters doing these stories.  Most of the analysts or the commentators that are quoted in these stories are overwhelmingly men.

And we`re human beings.  We go to the club and the contacts and the networks that we have, and as a result, those men who talk to men cover men.  And this has always been a challenge.

There is, in fact, a website called Gender Avengers that keeps track of how many women are on panels, how many women get quoted, how many women are on television.  MSNBC I think tries to really acknowledge this.  And so I think there is an internal inherent bias against women in giving them coverage.

In addition, I don`t think people know how to deal with women candidates in spite of the fact that Hillary Clinton actually won the last election on the popular vote.  She was seen as someone who`d be president of the United States.  We`re really behind the times.

When I became undersecretary for political affairs, I was the first woman undersecretary ever.  That was 2011.  How absurd is that?

So we still have a ways to go and I think it`s incumbent upon the press to give these women the coverage they deserve and have earned.

O`DONNELL:  We see Elizabeth Warren coming out more -- with more policy proposals than I think I`ve ever seen from a presidential candidate in rapid succession.  We have seen the men generally at the top of the polls tend to hang back.


O`DONNELL:  What`s going on with that where Elizabeth Warren needs to be so specific and these other candidates seem to be able to get away with a much softer approach?

SHERMAN:  So, you know, there`s a Hewlett-Packard study that says that when men think they have 60 percent of the qualifications for a job, they know they can get the job.  Women believe they have to have a hundred percent of the qualifications for the job.

And a hundred percent means showing that you`re really up to it.  You need every qualification necessary including showing you`ve got the plans, you`ve got the stuff, you have the information.

I generally tell young women -- and I`m teaching up at Harvard Kennedy School now.  I tell young women if you`ve got 60 percent, go for it and do what the guys do.  Either learn the other 40 percent on the job or never learn the other 40 percent and define the job as the 60 percent for which you feel you`re qualified.

I think these women candidates are as, if not more qualified, than every man who is running and they are quite extraordinary.

O`DONNELL:  I completely agree with that.  And Wendy Sherman, who knows 100 percent of what she`s talking about, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight.

SHERMAN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, no one disagrees with Mitch McConnell on the Mueller investigation than 20th century Mitch McConnell.  We have the video.


O`DONNELL:  With the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee still pursuing the unredacted Mueller report and voting to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress, while talk of impeachment grows louder by the day in Washington, Mitch McConnell tried to put an end to all of that by going to the Senate floor and saying case closed.

That was not Mitch McConnell`s reaction when Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr delivered his report to Congress of his investigation of President Bill Clinton.  No one disagrees with Mitch McConnell`s attempt this week to close the congressional investigation of the president more than 20th century Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  The special counsel`s finding is clear.  Case closed.

Our nation is indeed at a crossroads.  Will we pursue the search for truth or will we dodge, weave, and evade the truth?  I`m, of course, referring to the investigation into serious allegations of illegal conduct by the president of the United States, that the president has engaged in a persistent pattern and practice of obstruction of justice.

The crisis in the White House is a crisis for our entire country.  The crisis will only be resolved by a fair and sober search for the truth.

We can finally end this groundhog day spectacle.  Stop endlessly re- litigating a two and a half-year-old election result and move forward for the American people.

The search for truth is being led by a highly capable former solicitor general of the United States and a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Kenneth Starr.

TRUMP:  Bob Mueller`s no friend of mine.

MCCONNELL:  The assaults on Judge Starr, the character assassination against the court-appointed independent prosecutor is authorized and approved by the president of the United States and it should stop.

In some corners, special Counsel Mueller came to be regarded as a kind of secular saint destined to rescue the country from the inconvenient truth that the American people actually elected Donald Trump.

The attacks on Kenneth Starr are unfounded and unproductive.  The attacks are, in fact, unconscionable.

TRUMP:  I call it a witch hunt.  It is a witch hunt.

MCCONNELL:  Laughable threats of impeachment?

TRUMP:  It`s a disgraceful situation.


O`DONNELL:  It really is a disgraceful situation.

Up next, in tonight`s LAST WORD, what is a joke and is it a joke if Donald Trump says it?


TRUMP:  Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


O`DONNELL:  Was that a joke?  Donald Trump wasn`t laughing when he said it.  No one in the audience laughed when he said that.

His defense was that that was a joke.  But the Russians didn`t think it was a joke according to the Mueller report.  They immediately went to work doing exactly what Donald Trump asked them to do.

It was a joke, is one of Donald Trump`s favorite defenses in the news media usually falls for that defense.  Especially when the people in Donald Trump`s audience laugh at what he says.  As they did last night when the president responded to one of his enthusiastic supporters in his Florida audience who suggested that the United States should just shoot people who cross our southern border.

Most of the news media characterized the president`s response to that as a joke.  Probably because people laughed.  But people laughing is not proof that something is a joke.

White people laughed at Lynchings.  Here are some people having a good time in 1930 in Indiana while watching a double lynching.  That was just about 30 years before Mike Pence was born in Indiana.

Here`s a little girl five years later in Fort Lauderdale, Florida having a really good time.  She`s probably about 58-years-old now if she`s still with us.  On that day in Fort Lauderdale, she was amused by a lynching.

Smiles and laughter are not proof that something is a joke or something is funny.  So with that in mind, let`s watch what the president said in Florida last night.


TRUMP:  When you have 15,000 people marching up and you have hundreds and hundreds of people and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great and don`t forget, we don`t let them, and we can`t let them use weapons.

We can`t.  Other countries do.  We can`t.  I would never do that.  But how do you stop these people?  You can`t.

There`s -- that`s only in the panhandle you can get away with that stuff.  Only in the panhandle.  So it`s a tough situation.


O`DONNELL:  So what`s the joke?  No one has explained the joke.  He got the big laugh on that`s only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement.

If that`s a joke, what does it mean, that in the Florida panhandle where the president was last night, it`s OK to talk about shooting immigrants? Is that what the president was saying?  Does the president agree with that?

Was that the joke?  Does the president agree that it is OK in the Florida panhandle to say you want to shoot immigrants or to actually shoot immigrants?  Which is it?

It seems like he does think it`s perfectly OK to say that.  The president has had a lot of hecklers thrown out of his rallies, a lot but he didn`t throw out the guy who said shoot them.  And he didn`t tell that guy that he was wrong to say shoot them.

He didn`t bring any moral indignation to that.  He didn`t treat that guy as if he would, say a federal prosecutor.  He did not tell the audience that there was nothing to laugh about when someone yells shoot them.

Instead, what Donald Trump did was make it very, very clear to his audience that he`s perfectly okay with anyone in his audience shouting that they want to shoot people at the southern border. That is what the president of the United States did last night, and that is not a joke.

That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. 

"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams, starts now.