Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 21, 2019
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And that explains Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell both talking about the possibility of this moving to the Senate around Thanksgiving.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Uh-huh. Yes. Because the calendar doesn`t make sense unless there`s a crunch factor in there that we haven`t been able to see from the initial scheduling. I mean, there`s -- I think there`s still a little wiggle room in terms of who`s going to show up for their depositions. If they`re going to work straight through the weekends, they`ll be more likely to hit that deadline.
O`DONNELL: And when they say work through the weekends on the depositions, that mostly means the staff working for the weekends on the depositions. We`ll see how many members actually show up for the weekend depositions.
MADDOW: Fair point. Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, the operating principle of Donald Trump`s presidency is to govern by lie, and so he lied today when explaining why he surrendered to the resistance once again. This weekend, Donald Trump surrendered to the resistance that rose up after he announced his illegal and unconstitutional plan to bring the next G7 meeting to a Trump hotel so that the American government and foreign governments would be paying Donald Trump directly at the same time. We`ll get to that later in this hour.
Trump lies and stupidity go hand in hand. Donald Trump depends on a sort of collective stupidity for people to believe his lies and Sunday morning, he issued a deeply disturbing tweet about the situation in Syria and the Kurds and in the tweet, he lied about bringing our soldiers home. He also got the secretary of defense`s name wrong. And that`s what makes it a classic Trump presidential tweet -- the combination of deceit and stupidity with carelessness.
Calling Defense Secretary Mark Esper "Mark Esperanto" got Trump a lot of ridicule on Twitter yesterday and a lot of laughs but I couldn`t laugh this time. Sometimes I do, sometimes I laugh at Trump nonsense and sometimes I just can`t. And I`m sure you all have those moments, can`t quite tell when they`re going to come. Kind of a mood thing. Times when you laugh about Trump and times when you just can`t.
For whatever reason, this one was one of those moments for me where I couldn`t laugh, and the Mark Esperanto tweet did not strike me as funny. It actually felt deadly serious.
Normally typos on Twitter mean nothing, but a typo is when you type something by mistake that you know is wrong and you usually go correct it pretty quickly. There`s no reason for anyone in the world to be confident that the president of the United States actually knew the real name of his defense secretary when he typed it as Esperanto. But if we just limit ourselves to the typos, just the typos in Trump tweets and in official White House statements written by the least competent White House staff in White House history, the number of written mistakes by Donald Trump and the people working for him in the White House is now something close to the number of stars in the sky and in a typical presidency, you can spend a year looking for a typo in an official White House document and not find one.
These mistakes mean a lot from Donald Trump and the people working for him. They just don`t care about details. They don`t know how to care about details. And that explains his constant refusal to care about details. He doesn`t know how.
Explains everything about Donald Trump`s presidency, from his deadly decision about the Kurds in Syria, to his alleged criminal conduct described in the Mueller report and revealed in his own words in his phone call with the president of Ukraine. He does not know how to care about details.
And so, we`ll take some time at the end of the hour tonight to consider in all seriousness the clear and present danger of having a president of the United States who might or might not have thought for a few hours yesterday before the White House corrected his tweet that his defense secretary is Mark Esperanto. Donald Trump`s lifelong inability to care about details including details like the law is what has him on the verge of impeachment by the House of Representatives, where the House Democrats are now working on an outline of what will become the impeachment case against the president.
In an exclusive report tonight, NBC News says, House Democrats are zeroing in on a framework for their impeachment case against President Donald Trump that will center on a simple abuse of power narrative involving the president`s actions regarding Ukraine, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations. Democratic House committee chairs and leaders are still debating the need for possible additional articles of impeachment or charges that extend beyond the president`s dealing with Ukraine, but according to NBC News: Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been adamant that the case against Trump must be targeted and easy to communicate in order to build public support, according to those familiar with discussions.
Tomorrow morning, Ambassador Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who sent a text message calling a quid pro quo over military assistance to Ukraine crazy, that was his word, which is very easy to understand, he is scheduled to be deposed tomorrow morning. Now, now that it appears absolutely certain that there are more than enough Democratic votes for impeachment in the House of Representatives, there is also a crack in the Republican wall in the House of Representatives. On Friday, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney said he is open to the possibility of voting for impeachment. Telling reporters, "I`ve been real mindful of the fact that during Watergate, all the people I knew said, oh, they`re just abusing Nixon and it`s a witch hunt, it turns out, it wasn`t a witch hunt. It was really bad.
When asked if the president`s dealings with Ukraine amount to an impeachable offense, Congressman Rooney said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANCIS ROONEYT (R-FL): I don`t know. I want to study it some more. I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple more ambassadors, but it`s certainly very, very serious and troubling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then the very next day on Saturday, Congressman Rooney`s boldness came into clearer perspective when he announced that he is not going to run for re-election to his house seat.
In the Senate, Mitt Romney is becoming increasingly comfortable with the role of Republican senator who might vote to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial in the Senate. In an interview with "The Atlantic`s" McKay Coppins, Senator Romney said he`ll make up his mind about the impeachment case when he hears all the evidence at the impeachment trial. Senator Romney told McKay Coppins, at this stage, I am strenuously avoiding trying to make any judgment.
And Mitt Romney did another interview this weekend with Axios on HBO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Going on TV and saying, China, will you investigate my political opponent, is wrong. It`s a mistake. It was shocking for the, in my opinion, for the president to do so and a mistake for him to do so.
I can`t imagine coming to a different point of view. We certainly don`t have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are: NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla. Heidi broke the report about Democrats focusing on the abuse of power in their articles of impeachment.
Mieke Eoyang is with us, former member of the House -- staff member of the House Intelligence Committee. She`s the vice president of national security program at the Third Way.
And Jonathan Alter, columnist for the "Daily Beast" and MSNBC political analyst is with us.
Heidi, let me start with you, your breaking news reporting about what the Democrats are considering. Do we know now whether Nancy Pelosi or -- whether Nancy Pelosi wants, let`s start with Nancy Pelosi, a single article of impeachment that is simply about the phone call with the president of Ukraine or the possibility of including, say, elements of the Mueller report, obstruction of justice, in separate articles of impeachment?
HEIDI PRZYBLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPODENT: We do know, Lawrence, that right now, she wants a simple article with an umbrella being abuse of power and underneath that, everything that happened with regards to Ukraine which includes that phone call. It includes the reports about a quid pro quo about the military aid. It includes pushing aside the former ambassador to Ukraine in order to install the president`s handpicked confidants who referred to themselves as the three amigos which helped push the Ukrainians to try to cook up charges against the Bidens. It includes all of those things. But it is narrowly focused in the sense that it does just focus on Ukraine, Lawrence.
Still under debate is the second wave of charges, which would be related to obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress. Believe it or not, there`s a much more difficult and contentious one to decide on. Whether that is going to be just Ukraine, where they think they have a really strong case given the October 8th White House letter from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, basically telling Congress to go you know where and, they`re just not comply with anything, going to include anything on Mueller on obstruction.
Lawrence, I`m told there it`s a little more difficult because Congress never did get the chief witness in the obstruction charges, Don McGahn to testify before Congress and they don`t want to give any excuses for anybody to not support what they believe is a clear-cut case of an impeachable offense when it comes as well to obstruction.
O`DONNELL: Heidi, is there -- is there any indication in your reporting of what the process will be? How will the Democrats arrive at a consensus of what the shape of the article should be?
PRZYBYLA: That`s still really early, Lawrence, and I must stress that in my reporting that while there is this big umbrella focus on the narrative of abuse of power, the speaker`s office did caution me that the actual legal drafting of articles has not begun because they haven`t collected all of the evidence yet and all the information.
But historically, what would happen is that all of the committees would send in their best information. Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has called on all committees to send their best information to Judiciary which would then be tasked with drawing up specific articles.
But make no mistake, the speaker is going to be the one who drives this all and who makes all of these decisions as to specifically how many articles there are going to be and right now, again, we`re a snapshot in time. But according to my reporting, the thing that has been decided is the abuse of power narrative that they will hammer out something on obstruction/contempt of Congress, but that addition articles at this time are unlikely.
Now, that could change with pushback from various stakeholders and committee chair people who`ve been doing months of investigative work on issues like emoluments who believe that the president is clearly violating the Constitution by being -- continuing to, you know, own his companies and benefit from the presidency with the Trump Hotel in Washington and foreign governments there taking up in order to curry favor with him. But right now, we`re just looking at abuse of power in Ukraine and then something separate on obstruction in Ukraine and maybe something from the Mueller report.
O`DONNELL: Mieke, with your experience working in the House and the Democratic staff side, how does that sound to you? And do you think that the House general -- Democrats in the House would agree to that approach?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: Look, I think it`s always a challenge to manage a caucus as diverse as one that`s in the majority. You have people with competing political interests here, a lot of different kinds of concerns, but one thing we`ve learned is that Nancy Pelosi is a master politician and her ability to understand exactly where the caucus is and what they can support and what the political implications are of that is unmatched and she`s going to be able to marry that with what`s the legal case for impeachment of this president.
I think that her instinct, make it as simple as possible to understand with this umbrella of abuse of power is really helpful. All too often, Democrats can get bogged down in process arguments and making it a very simple, clear, this is about how Trump has abused his office and used his power for his own personal benefit, that can help cut through all the legalese.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, there is -- there`s a risk to history in a very narrow drafting of articles and that is does it leave the implication, if you leave out the emoluments violations, that that`s OK, does it somehow certify what Donald Trump has done running a hotel business in Washington, for example, taking income from foreign governments that way? Does it certify his refusal to obey the law and hand over a very clear law that says Treasury Department must hand over any tax return that the House Ways and Means and demands, they`re violating that law and a string of other things.
And does it -- is it a concern to leave out this long string of things might leave them as certified acceptable action for the future president?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess it is a concern, but it`s a balancing test because you want to be politically disciplined, and Nancy Pelosi`s a boss. Remember what Will Rogers said about the Democrats, you know, I`m a member of no organized political party, I`m a Democrat.
Nancy Pelosi is disproving this. She`s running a really disciplined effort. So, today, she released a fact sheet which I would urge everybody to review. It`s just four pages.
First page is On the shakedown, it`s called. Second page is on the pressure campaign. Third page is on a cover-up. So, it lays out in very bold colors exactly what the impeachable offense was.
Now, given what Mick Mulvaney did this week, the argument that there was no quid pro quo is -- I know you don`t like that expression, but it`s now in tatters.
ALTER: So when we get into the trial, and there`s going to be a trial, that`s now clear, Chief Justice Roberts presiding, we may not even be arguing about whether there was abuse of power. The Republicans are now on the way to admitting that there was abuse of power. Then the only argument will be, does it rise to the level of impeachment? That is a very, very bad state of affairs for Donald Trump where all you`re arguing about is not whether he did something really wrong but just whether it rises to the level of impeachment.
And that`s a case that Democrats can make in front of the whole country in that trial.
O`DONNELL: Heidi, does your reporting -- in your reporting, are you finding any kind of lines of defense forming for the president in the House of Representatives?
PRZYBYLA: Not really. I`ve been speaking with some Republicans who the Democrats would be targeting in order to get votes from some Republicans and they`ve said that they really just want proof positive that this is a quid pro quo. Well, those meetings were prior to Mick Mulvaney`s confession, essentially, that it was a quid pro quo.
And so, I think they`re just kind of laying low for right now. There`s definitely the majority of Republicans who will never vote for this but they don`t need the majority. They just need some Republicans to vote for it and in my discussion with Democrats, you know, there`s a specific framing of this. It`s not just abuse of power because he was withholding a White House meeting.
It`s abuse of power because reportedly, and if the facts bear out, he was withholding federally appropriated tax dollars endangering our national security because just to remind people, this military aid was to be used by Ukraine which is a buffer country against Russian aggression and Russian expansion. And, therefore, it becomes a danger and a risk to our national security and that is the framing that Democrats are going to use with the public and with these Republicans that they`re hoping to bring over.
O`DONNELL: Mieke, I want to check with you on Rachel`s reporting at the top of the hour that they`re now going to schedule depositions on weekends going forward. Does that sound to you like they are trying to make some kind of, at least, penciled in deadline at this point?
EOYANG: Yes, I think they are. And what typically happens is when you have something that`s of an urgent national concern, the schedule goes out the window. You wind up working around the clock. You work weekends. As you pointed out, it`s usually the staff who does that. The members will pop in, but you will press really hard toward a deadline.
So, the staff and the members working on these issues have a lot of sleepless nights ahead of them because it`s not just the depositions, themselves, it`s going through them. It`s fact checking. It`s pulling in all the documents that they`ve asked for. There`s a lot to go through here.
But what they are doing with all that information is filling in the details. We know the basic outlines of this. We know that the president was using his office to put pressure on Ukrainians for his own personal benefit. It`s just the question of how.
And then the real issue will be once we have all that evidence and they lay that all out there before the American people, does that convince some of the Republicans and some of these people who are on the fence that this was, in fact, the quid pro quo, the kind of real abuse of power, that a lot of people think that it was?
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, thank you for joining us to start the discussion tonight.
And, Heidi Przybyla, thank you for joining us with your breaking news reporting. Really important for getting us start tonight. Thank you very much.
And, Jonathan, please stick around with us.
And when we come back, two friends of Rudy Giuliani who have worked with Rudy Giuliani were described by their lawyer as members of Donald Trump`s legal team. They have also been described as alleged criminals working for Russian gangsters, and they are actually currently indicted.
Former Justice Department official Matt Miller will join us to connect those dots along with former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah, next.
O`DONNELL: The Trump Justice Department is closing the door to Rudy Giuliani. He is not welcome there anymore now that he is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an investigation that some members of the William Barr Justice Department did not know about when they had a meeting with Rudy Giuliani recently. It was a kind of routine meeting that defense lawyers have with prosecutors all the time. Rudy Giuliani was there as a member of the defense team on an unrelated case.
And now that everyone in the Justice Department knows that Rudy Giuliani is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York after that story broke publicly, the Justice Department had to issue a formal statement of regret that they allowed Rudy Giuliani in the door while he was under investigation.
When Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani`s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known.
Donald Trump has claimed that he doesn`t know the Giuliani friends and associates who had been indicted in the investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney but the lawyer for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman told the House of Representatives his clients could not testify to the impeachment investigation because among other reasons they were part of the Trump legal defense team through their work with Rudy Giuliani. "The Wall Street Journal" obtained access to Lev Parnas` private Instagram account which shows he had regular access to President Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
On March 25th, just 1 day after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page memo of the Mueller report, Parnas posted this victory photo with Rudy Giuliani and Trump`s personal attorney Jay Sekulow at a celebratory dinner.
Joining our discussion now, Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, and Matt Miller, a former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder. They are both MSNBC contributors.
Mimi, I am fascinated by the compartmentalization apparently of the knowledge that Rudy Giuliani and his friends were under investigation. So, we have -- it`s since been revealed that, yes, William Barr knew about it, was known about it at the highest levels because it`s normal to report those kinds of things from U.S. attorneys, but apparently not enough people in the Justice Department knew about it so that some of them were granting meetings with Rudy Giuliani.
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, it`s possible that, I mean, that that`s true. Sometimes the right hand/left hand, you know, don`t know what the other one is doing. It`s also possible that there was a very deliberate effort by the Southern district of New York not to let other people in the Department of Justice know about it given the sensitivity of, you know, who Rudy Giuliani is and who he`s close to and who he might hear things from.
I`m not saying the Southern District doesn`t trust other people in the Department of Justice, but, you know, you could just decide this -- we`re putting a lid on this.
I think what`s interesting, though, one thing that`s interesting about this statement that was put out by the Department of Justice, is they say had we known that Giuliani`s associates were under investigation, we wouldn`t have met with Giuliani. Those two things don`t necessarily follow. If associates of mine, and I`m a defense attorney, are under investigation, but I, you know, have nothing to do with that investigation, that doesn`t - - there`s no reason why I couldn`t get a meeting with the Department of Justice.
It`s only if that investigation has to do with me. And, remember, the Southern District, the Department of Justice, has never officially confirmed that Rudy Giuliani is under investigation. So this seems to me like an implicit confirmation of that by the statement.
O`DONNELL: Matt, your reaction to this statement that Rudy Giuliani`s not welcome here anymore.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, first of all, Mimi`s exactly right. It was the Justice Department implicitly confirming what they can`t explicitly say which is that Rudy Giuliani is the subject of an investigation. They can`t say that because their rules prohibit them from saying that, but they`re letting everyone know that`s why they wouldn`t have taken this meeting.
I think the problem for the department in taking this meeting in the first place, Rudy is kind of a walking conflict of interest. When he comes and meets with the Justice Department, you don`t know who he`s speaking for. Is he speaking on the behalf of the client he`s there ostensibly representing or is he speaking on behalf of his other client, the president of the United States?
We`ve already where he tried to -- where he basically took over the State Department, war running the off the books foreign policy for the president, where State Department employees were expected to report to Rudy Giuliani and take direction from Giuliani. So, if you`re at the Justice Department taking a meeting with him, you have to wonder if you give him an answer that he doesn`t like about his client, is he going to go report you to your boss, the president of the United States? It`s a very problematic situation.
I think that the thing I take away from the statement, though, is less about the underlying substance of the meeting and more about what`s happening at the Justice Department. That was a very unusual statement for DOJ to make and the thing that was so unusual, it was just about the head of the criminal division. The A.G. did know, the deputy attorney general did know that Rudy was under investigation.
But the statement reads to me like the head of the criminal division trying to distance himself from it. And I think what it says is there`s something that we don`t yet know about the department`s involvement in the Ukraine scandal. It probably has to do with those early days when they squashed a full investigation. It was the head of the criminal investigation who`s taking the heat for squashing that investigation.
There`s something I think we don`t know that`s still to come out and because of that, everyone at the department is running as far and as fast as they can from Rudy Giuliani and anything touching Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: And, Mimi, president saying he doesn`t know who these Giuliani pals are who got indicted and now more pictures come being made public of them with the president, himself, getting notes from the president, thank- you notes from the president. And their lawyers saying they were part of the Trump defense team.
ROCAH: Yes, it`s incredible. We have talked so much about, you know, how the Trump presidency, the administration, you know, walks like the mob, talks like the mob, looks like the mob. Literally, now, we have a straight line to Russian organized crime through Parnas and Fruman and Giuliani.
I mean, they are connected to Dmytro Firtash who is Russian organized crime, who is under indictment, himself, here who is fighting that and now that is a direct line to Giuliani. We have his own lawyers saying that these men were aiding in his defense. His case. It`s not real legal work so I don`t like using those terms.
I mean, this is -- this is really, you know, you couldn`t make this up because no one would believe you, and those photographs are so incriminating. They are a prosecutor`s dream come true because they show what you can`t explain.
There`s no way he can say he didn`t know them. I mean, sure, the president takes a lot of pictures maybe with people he doesn`t know, but there`s a whole series of them here. They look very intimate with Giuliani.
I mean, Giuliani, if and when he is under indictment, is going to have, you know, a strong case against him and exhibit 1 is going to be these pictures.
O`DONNELL: And, Matt, if they are closely connected with kind of deadly Russian gangsters, that might make them very inhibited if the federal prosecutors are trying to get some cooperation out of them.
MILLER: Yes, it certainly might. Look, I think the story that is going to start to emerge here is if they were working for Rudy Giuliani, for Donald Trump, they weren`t being paid because we know Donald Trump wasn`t paying Rudy Giuliani. He`s working on his behalf for free.
And what I think they were really doing is they were then trying to monetize their access to the president and their access to Rudy Giuliani by going out and signing up separately this Ukrainian oligarch with ties to the Russian mob. And so, they were, I think, trying to effectuate this really corrupt trade where they would get information from this Ukrainian oligarch, manufactured dirt about Joe Biden that`s not true, supply it to Rudy Giuliani who would supply it to the president of the United States, and in return, they were going to try to deliver for this Ukrainian oligarch who is under indictment some kind of dismissal from the Justice Department or some kind of way for him to get out of his case.
It is as corrupt as you can be and now you have both of them under indictment and Rudy Giuliani under investigation. You know, look, these aren`t the first members of Donald Trump`s legal team to go to jail. Obviously, his Former Personal Attorney went to jail. And I think you`re right, if I were them, though, I would be much more scared of offending this Ukrainian oligarch with ties to the Russian mob than I would be federal prosecutors.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller and Mimi Rocah, thank you both for your expertise tonight. Really appreciate it. And when we come back, Tim O`Brien has expertise in Donald Trump`s taxes because he`s actually seen Trump tax returns in the middle of litigation when Donald Trump was suing him. And now Donald Trump is saying that giving up having the G-7 at one of his hotels is just another Trump act of sacrifice in the presidency. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The resistance won again. The resistance crushed Donald Trump again. This time it was Trump`s dream which also happened to be an illegal conspiracy to have the next G-7 meeting at a Trump hotel in Florida. And this time, the resistance was bipartisan.
This weekend, Republican members of Congress let Donald Trump and his White House staffs know that trying to defend his illegal scheme to enrich himself by having the federal government and foreign governments pay him at the same time for the privilege of staying at a Trump hotel was just too much to bear even for Republican members of Congress.
When asked today about why he changed his mind about trying to get away with the obviously illegal scheme, the President blamed the Democrats only for complaining too much about it. And while he was at it, he mentioned, "This phony emoluments clause". The emoluments clause in the constitution like everything else in the constitution is not phony. For a better or worse, the words of the constitution are the words we have to live by in this country.
There are things in the constitution that people have disliked from the start, like slavery and a number of other things that were changed through amendments to the constitution, but one thing that no one has ever complained about before Donald Trump is the emoluments clause.
Donald Trump is the only President in history to be locked in litigation about the emoluments clause because of his unyielding determination to make money from the presidency including from foreign governments at his hotels especially the hotel in Washington and the hotel he lives at in Florida and, of course, Donald Trump is now blaming his failure to pull off his illegal scheme on the man who publicly announced the illegal scheme, current Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, whose thin ice surely got much thinner after his appearance on Fox News yesterday. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: It was poor Mick Mulvaney who got the job last week of announcing Donald Trump`s illegal scheme to hold the G-7 summit at one of his Florida hotels and yesterday it, of course, fell to Mick Mulvaney to explain why Donald Trump planned the illegal scheme in the first place and then why Donald Trump gave up on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: At the end of the day, you know, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say he considers himself in the hospitality business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he`s - that his background. He wanted to put on a show. He wanted to take care of folks. That`s the - he`s in the hotel business. At least he was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, an expert on trump business Tim O`Brien, he`s the Executive Editor of "Bloomberg Opinion" and MSNBC Contributor. He is a longtime student of the workings of the businesses of Donald Trump. Jonathan Alter is also back with us. Tim, the Trump plan launched last week by Mick Mulvaney was going along smoothly until this weekend and then it hit the rocks.
TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": I`m so glad that the White House hasn`t learned yet they need to keep Mick Mulvaney under lock and key because he put out there what the President has put out there, this has been about the money from day one. When Donald Trump ran for President, I don`t think he thought he was going to win. I think he saw it as a marketing event.
We`ve seen time and time again when people have tried to explain what motivates Donald Trump and gone to these sorts of elaborate locutions or back flips around strategy or political jujitsu jujitsu. It`s always about the money. The reason he has an interest in Turkey is he sees at some point now or in the future, he can get a deal done there.
I think that informed everything around his attitude towards Vladimir Putin. When he wanted the G-7 to be at Doral, it wasn`t just because he was in the hospitality business. It wasn`t because he thought he was the best place on earth to have the summit. It`s because he could direct a lot of money into his own wallet quickly and efficiently. That`s exactly what he was trying to do.
O`DONNELL: And so, Jonathan, now reports in "The New York Times" that the White House is looking for another Chief of Staff because, of course, Donald Trump`s crazy scheme is Mick Mulvaney`s fault.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, of course, he has to always throw somebody under the bus, but, you know, the Doral was losing money.
ALTER: And, you know, this idea that this wasn`t a scheme to try to put them back into the black again is ridiculous, and Trump today, he talked about the phony emoluments clause. The guy has never read the constitution of the United States. The thing that he was taking an oath to uphold, you would think that he might have read it once to find out what was in it.
There`s nothing phony about it. The founders were very, very clear about this. Then he tried to say, well, George Washington, he had a business desk and then he had a President`s desk. Well, George Washington wasn`t inviting foreigners to give him money because he knew that that was a violation of the constitution.
His business was domestic. It`s true. There have been other Presidents who`ve had domestic business. But there`s a bright line that the constitution draws between doing business with people overseas and doing business at home.
O`DONNELL: And, Tim, you earned a lot of credit today for not taking the presidential salary, $400,000. JFK didn`t take it. Herbert Hoover didn`t take it. This wasn`t Donald Trump`s idea. I want to listen to something else Donald Trump said today about his finances. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When you see my financials, which I`ll give at the right time, you`ll say, man, he was much better than we even thought. This guy knows right here, Mnuchin, because he was in the private sector. He knows very much what I have. He would tell you. Someday, maybe he`ll tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Someday, maybe he`ll tell you.
O`BRIEN: Which means let`s translate that has never, I will never, ever tell you and Steve Mnuchin knows nothing about how much money I have. That`s how we should translate that. In that same tape he also said at some point--
O`DONNELL: It begins with - he`s talking to reporters. "When you see my financials"
O`DONNELL: Which they know they`re never going to see.
O`BRIEN: --which he`s been saying since 2016, his taxes and financials. During the course of that same conversation, he said I`ve taken a huge hit being President. Its cost me somewhere between $2 billion and $5 billion in lost revenue being President, which is also completely bonkers and untrue.
Donald Trump does not have $5 billion to lose. Donald Trump has never been close to deal flow worth $2 billion to $5 billion. At any point in his career except in the late 1980s when he almost went broke. Right now, between 2015 and 2019, he didn`t give up that much money. All of this is obviously the same charade he`s been engaging with since he entered the Oval Office which is this smoke and mirrors around his wealth because it matters more to him than it matters to anybody else.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, what does it say to you that Republicans told Trump and the White House, we cannot carry this one for you?
ALTER: It`s very important moment because it could be a prelude. Now, I wouldn`t bet on Republicans turning on him because we`ve seen so much that has not led them to do so, and, you know, we have Trump fatigue but we also have Trump amnesia and all of us, I think, have forgotten all the times that Republicans failed the character test of their generation and they will again before this is done, but this suggested that there`s a possibility that the dam could break and, you know, you have to develop some muscle memory of standing up to the President and it might be possible for them to do it in a more significant way a little bit down the road.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter and Tim O`Brien, thank you, both, for joining us tonight.
O`BREIN: Thanks Lawrence.
ALTER: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, the clear and present danger of Mark Esperanto.
O`DONNELL: I have to remind myself not to laugh at Donald Trump sometimes. Laughing is a natural reaction because Donald Trump is so relentlessly buffoonish. But he is the President of the United States for another 15 months or so and because he`s President, Donald Trump`s buffoonery, ignorance, publicly revealed stupidity, are both funny and dangerous.
We all need to laugh and the late night comedians have been doing a great job for years now of gathering us together to laugh about Donald Trump and the goofier Donald Trump gets, the better their comedy casts. But the goofier Donald Trump gets the more dangerous he becomes because he`s President.
It is well documented that Donald Trump is the laziest President in history. He is also most ignorant President in history. And he absolutely doesn`t care about details. To compound the danger, all of that is also true of his White House staff. That`s why Donald Trump and his White House staff produce an endless stream of typos and incorrect statements like no other White House in history.
I`m not talking about their deliberate lies here I`m only talking about their mistakes, things they wish they hadn`t said. Donald Trump is in the trouble he`s in tonight because he does not know how to care about details, even when he`s trying to obstruct justice during the Mueller investigation and even when he`s trying to force Ukraine to help him in his re-election campaign.
Donald Trump does not know how to care about details. Just ask Mark Esperanto. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Yesterday Donald Trump tweeted this. Mark Esperanto, Secretary of Defense, "The cease-fire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have end quickly. New areas being resettled with the Kurds and USA soldiers are not in combat or cease-fire zones. We have secured the oil bringing the soldiers home".
We are not bringing the soldiers home. We have not secured any oil. And Mark Esperanto did not say that because Mark Esperanto doesn`t exist. But Donald Trump`s Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, also did not say that. Donald Trump apparently is attributing a quotation to the Secretary of Defense that he supposedly said to the media, but not true.
The Mark Esperanto part of that tweet was actually the part I took most seriously because we have secured the oil is a standard Trump lie. That was a deliberate lie. We`re bringing the troops home, deliberate lie.
But Mark Esperanto, that was a mistake. Does Donald Trump know his Defense Secretary`s name? It took over two hours for the White House to correct it, to correct that tweet. We live in a condition now where we don`t know whether the President of the United States actually does know the name of the Defense Secretary.
And we don`t know if he cares, and we don`t know if he cares about anything involving any kind of detail. What as a generic problem could be more dangerous in a President than not knowing how to care about detail?
Joining our discussion now is Norm Ornstein he is a Congressional Historian and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. And Matt Miller is back with us. And Norm, I`m sorry but I got fixated on Mark Esperanto. I just couldn`t laugh it off yesterday. And I think this is the mood thing.
I think we all laugh at some of this stuff and then there is other stuff when we see it, we just look at it and realize how far we`ve fallen and how dangerous a place we are in now.
NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: So, Lawrence, when I first saw this, I went to Twitter and typed in Esper to see if maybe this was auto correct, which has happened to all of us. It wasn`t. This is what he typed in. And what we know is and the word I`ve used since the beginning is kakistocracy, government by the least and most unscrupulous among us, the worst kind of government.
This reflects sloppiness as you say, a lack of concern, not even knowing the names of his own cabinet members besides making up quotes from them. That is unlike anything we have ever seen in American history.
O`DONNELL: And Matt, the staff, the staff lets this sit out there for over two hours yesterday. And apparently no one knows there`s a problem.
MILLER: Yes. It`s really incredible. I mean, look, I was a staffer on the Hill for years, like you were. I worked in the Executive Branch. If I ever put out a press release with an error, I was modified and would try to correct it instantly. The way that they do this reminds me of little bit about the story of the Brown M&Ms with Van Halen.
Van Halen was famous for in their green rooms demanding that M&Ms to be delivered with no ground M&Ms. And people thought they were - for it and they explained later that they did that because they had these expensive shows with pyrotechnics and heavy equipments that could fall on their heads and kill them when they`re in their own show and they wanted to know that the crew was paying attention to detail.
If you couldn`t get the M&M`s right in the green room, it meant that you couldn`t pay attention to the stage and the band wouldn`t safe while they were working. It is the same thing in this administration. Look, if the President can`t get little details right, he`s not pay attention. You have to look at the debacle in Syria right now is the perfect example.
The President made the decision he didn`t want troops there, fine. A President that paid attention to details wouldn`t have just done things willingly. He would have worried about how do we make sure that we get out without seeing hundreds of ISIS prisoners escape? How do we get out in a way that doesn`t leave to bloodshed of the Kurds? How do we get out in a way that doesn`t give license to Iran and Russia to run wild?
But he doesn`t pay attention to the little details or the big details. I think that`s one of the problems you see come up over and over again in the administration.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Norm, in an imaginary world where Donald Trump didn`t have criminal impulses or any inclinations to cross legal lines at all. This would be the central problem of the Trump White House and Donald Trump himself, is that he cannot comprehend detail, never mind master detail. He can`t even begin to get a grip on it.
ORNSTEIN: It`s true across the administration, though. He set the tone for everybody else. When you lose hundreds if not thousands of children in a child separation policy and can`t keep track of them despite court orders, when you don`t file with renters their ability to keep their housing when the shutdown occurred as the Department of Housing and Urban Development did.
All of this, the lack of interest in governing, the sadistic quality to it, the corruption that goes along with it, they`re all part and parcel of the same thing. It`s kakistocracy, it`s autocracy and it`s kleptocracy all combined into one.
You`re right, you can make humor out of Esperanto, we could have done our segment in the language of Esperanto, I suppose. But it`s not a laughing matter because it`s all tied together with the corruption that we have and that horrible governance that this country`s been put through for the last almost three years.
O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein gets tonight`s "Last Word". Norm Ornstein and Matt Miller, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks Lawrence.
MILLER: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. The "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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