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New Parnas info TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Josh Lederman, Jim Himes, Bill Weld, Fred Hochberg

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I want beer. It took almost 14 years with prohibition was finally gotten rid off, finally overturned in 1933. And that leads me to the best new thing in the world.

The anniversary of the centennial of prohibition I feel is a timely reminder that sometimes our country makes terrible, terrible decisions. Decisions that cause terrible harm to this country and to our -- to its inhabitants.

But when we do that, we should remember that we can change our minds. We can undo those things. We can get smarter and resolve to never do those things again. We are capable of growth and learning as a country.

And that is the best new thing in the world today. Cheers. That does it for us tonight. I will see you again very soon. Actually, see you tomorrow morning when I will be a guest on "A.M. Joy" at 10:00 a.m. eastern time. That`s tomorrow morning.

I will also tell you on Sunday night starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, MSNBC is going to re-air both of the parts of my interview with Lev Parnas. Again, Sunday night 10:00 p.m. See you there. Now, it`s time for the "Last Word" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: We can undo the things we`ve done wrong. We can undo our mistakes. That`s a great way to leave us, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: Cheers, Ali. Thanks.

VELSHI: We`ll see you Sunday night and we`ll see you Monday again. Thank you friend -- and tomorrow. We are seeing one reason why Senate Republicans want to rush an impeachment trial. The material keeps coming and none of it is good for Donald Trump.

At this rate, what will we know by Tuesday, day one of the impeachment trial? We`ll get to all the new texts, documents, and audio that have just come out this evening including new documents related to the House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes.

House Intelligence Committee member Congressman Jim Himes will join us. Governor Bill Weld, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination against Donald Trump, is here to put his Republican Party on notice.

It is now or never to do their constitutional duty. And if all of that news isn`t bad enough for the White House, there are not one but two stunning stories out today from the new book "A Very Stable Genius," which is also on sale on Tuesday.

Including a new story about just how early Nancy Pelosi started standing up to President Trump, and just how afraid some in the Trump orbit were of her even before she became speaker.

But first, we`ve got breaking news tonight. The House Judiciary Committee has released new impeachment documents against President Trump. The documents contain text messages from Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani about the alleged surveillance of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

The text messages include a series of exchanges between Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut and an unknown phone number discussing what appears to be the whereabouts of Ambassador Yovanovitch, "She has been there since Thursday. Never left the embassy."

An audio file, which was also released was sent from an unknown account to Robert Hyde and forwarded to Lev Parnas.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s confirmed. She`s in Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The documents also show that Lev Parnas has frequent communication with Derek Harvey, an aide to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes. Text messages put Harvey in contact with Parnas throughout the spring of 2019.

The very same time Parnas was working with Giuliani and other Trump associates to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Harvey mentioned the topic of foreign assistance to Ukraine in late march 2019, sending Parnas a text message saying, "Can we get materials?"

Within just four days or with just four days to go until the start of the Senate impeachment trial, it remains to be seen how these new documents, these texts, these recordings will impact proceedings, along with an undisclosed file that has been transmitted to the House Judiciary Committee with even more evidence.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News and Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder and MSNBC contributor.

Jonathan -- I`m sorry, Josh, let`s start with you. You have been doing a lot of the research. You`ve been to Kiev as part of your reporting on the story. You have been looking through this -- this new trove of documents, texts, and audio that`s come out tonight. What stands out to you?

JOSH LEDERMAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yes. Another night and another document dump showing that as much as we thought that we knew about what happened behind the scenes over the past year or so with Ukraine.

There is so much more that we did not know and still have yet to uncover. All of that, obviously, ramping up pressure for there to be witnesses, new evidence entered as the impeachment moves into the Senate trial.

And in these new documents that were released just in the past couple of hours, Ali, we have two buckets of information that are both pretty troubling. One, as you were just mentioning, has to do with this guy Derek Harvey.

He actually used to work for Trump at the White House on Iran and some other issues. Now, works for the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes.

And what it shows is that House Republicans on the intelligence committee were deeply involved in their own investigation into Ukraine matters and trying to move forward the same kinds of things that President Trump, through Rudy Giuliani and his associates, were.

You have all of these conversations between Lev Parnas and Derek Harvey trying to actually set up Skype interviews with former prosecutors from Ukraine who have made allegations about Joe Biden. Those are the same prosecutors that Rudy Giuliani ultimately did interview.

And the other piece of this being these text messages showing that this character, Robert Hyde, who purportedly had a surveillance operation on Ambassador Yovanovitch was actually kind of copying and pasting information that he had gotten from another Trump supporter who he, Robert Hyde, identified today as Robert de Caluwe through our own reporting in NBC News lining up phone numbers and photos. We believe that was the person who provided this information about -- purported whereabouts of Ambassador Yovanovitch.

VELSHI: This is kind of remarkable, this Robert Hyde character. Just when you thought you`d met all the characters that your brain can handle in this caper, Matt Miller, guys like this show up. What does tonight`s document dump tell you, Matt? What picture does it paint for you that wasn`t already painted? What part of the portrait does it complete?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, a couple things. First of all, I think it show us that Lev Parnas, someone who is under indictment for multiple felony counts in New York and has a long history of fraudulent activity in his business life, is more honest than the leading Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee.

You kow, he has been saying for months through his lawyer and then most recently this week to Rachel Maddow, that he was working with Devin Nunes and Nunes` staff. And Nunes when asked about it initially said -- he pretended he didn`t really know Parnas at all. And it turns out he wasn`t telling truth, Lev Parnas was.

And I think, you know, these messages really do corroborate the story that Parnas has been telling about how he was working, you know, with Rudy Giuliani and others and with Devin Nunes.

And I think the picture, if I could add one thing to what Josh said that these messages show is, it really paints a picture of how Trump was able to take some of the most unethical and dishonest people from all different spheres of Washington, D.C.

From inside his administration, from Capitol Hill, their private attorneys that show up on Fox News all the time who he used in this plot that show up in these text messages, as well as journalists- like for example, John Solomon.

Able to take all of these people and use them in this plot to discredit and smear and ultimately remove a U.S. ambassador and to manufacture dirt on ones political opponents.

It`s the type of thing you might expect to see in a non-democratic country where there is, you know, not really separation of powers and where the state really controls the media. It`s not what you expect to see in the United States.

VELSHI: Josh, let me ask you about some reporting from our investigative reporter, Tom Winter, talking about some of this material that was handed over that came from the FBI and the Southern District of New York.

The House Judiciary Committee released excerpts that they say are from Lev Parnas` electronic calendar. Now, I don`t know that we`ve been able to verify any of the information in here, but the calendar includes excerpts of an appointment for breakfast with President Trump in New York City on September 26th, 2019.

It gives a time -- this is it on the screen. It`s very hard to read -- it gives a time of 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., but that is in universal time, which would be 7:00 a.m. eastern at the time.

That`s, the FBI typically when they recover data from a phone, it comes out in universal time. So you have to make that translation. What does that mean to us? Does that mean that the president and -- and Lev Parnas might have had breakfast together?

LEDERMAN: We don`t know if they actually went ahead and had that breakfast, but it does appear from these documents that at least the breakfast was scheduled. And it really raises the question, Ali, of how is it possible that as President Trump has continued to say, including today, that he didn`t know Lev Parnas?

You don`t usually schedule breakfast with somebody that you don`t know. And the evidence has continued to pile up, be it the multiple photographs, some of which you`re looking at right now, that show Parnas meeting with the president on several occasions

As well as Parnas` comments to Rachel Maddow last night saying that he had been at a lot of small events, round tables, with the president that Trump knew exactly who he was. It`s really calling into question the president`s attempts to try to distance himself from Lev Parnas and these other characters by suggesting that, you know, it might have been a photo at a fundraiser but then he didn`t know who they were.

VELSHI: Matt Miller, what do you make of Lev Parnas` degree of cooperation, the length of the interview with Rachel, the idea that he`s talking a lot? Obviously, this is a guy in trouble who is trying to get himself into less trouble.

But the bottom line is he does seem to have come with receipts and texts and recordings and photographs and things that, in theory, could be corroborated because he`s stating dates and times and places.

MILLER: I`m very much glad, happy that he`s talking to Rachel Maddow because he is shedding a lot of new light on this scandal. But with all due respect to Rachel who we all love, he`s talking to the wrong people.

I suspect that what he`s after, he`s trying to -- you know, people who come under indictment, if you ever know anyone who`s been indicted, they feel just beaten down. They feel isolated. They feel like all the world`s turned against them.

And I suspect he`s trying to clear his name a little bit in the only form he feels like he can right now. But what he really ought to be doing is talking to the Southern District of New York.

And I suspect that thing that`s preventing that from happening is he probably wants to come in and talk to them all about this scandal and all about what he did with Rudy Giuliani and we know the Department of Justice has said they don`t want to investigate that. That was a ruling from main justice in Washington.

And what SDNY wants him to talk about are the actions for which he`s under indictment and I suspect that`s where the disconnect is. As important as the information he`s been able to share has been for, I think, for House prosecutors. I think we`ll see it come up in the Senate trial,

As important it`s been for shedding light on the president`s misconduct, I don`t know that it`s going to do a lot to help his legal case. He really ought to be talking to the prosecutors who`ve indicted him.

VELSHI: Josh, talk to me about this person you said -- Robert Hyde, who he was getting his information from.

LEDERMAN: Yes, Anthony de Caluwe. So we spoke to a friend of his who said that he`s Belgian. He spends a lot of time in Belgium, which explains why the phone number is a Belgian phone number.

And if you look at his online social media, it`s just replete with pro- Trump slogans, photographs of him at all kinds of Trump events and other types of comments that makes clear that he is someone whose identity is largely wrapped up around support for the president and make America great again.

And you see this as a kind of a pattern with a lot of these folks, including Robert Hyde himself, where they ingratiate themselves in Trump`s orbit by donating, showing up to these events, and trying to draw proximity to the president and his aides.

VELSHI: It`s remarkable story. Thank you for your continued reporting on it. Josh Lederman and Matt Miller, thanks to both of you. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Sir, is your head spinning from the last 72 hours of information that has come to light that I think largely corroborates a lot of the information you already had but it`s just more detail, more flesh on the bones, if you will.

REP. JIME HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, it does and I`ve sort of reflecting on this, Ali. You know, I mean, it`s a revelation a day or a revelation a week. I mean, remember it was just, you know, four weeks ago or so that Sondland came before us and told the story only because he was forced to of the phone call that he had with the president in which the president asked him about the investigation.

You know, there`s just revelation after revelation, but it gets mixed up in all of these characters like Rob Hyde and, you know, all these sort of colorful characters that we sort of lose the line.

And the line that we can`t lose here, Ali, is that just every single fact - - every single fact and believe me I`m acquainted with all of them having been on the investigation from the beginning -- points to some really serious misbehavior that the Senate cannot possibly say we have all the facts.

Without talking to Mike Pompeo, without talking to the chief of staff, without talking to Rudy Giuliani, if the Senate says, gosh, we`ve heard enough, we don`t need to talk to those people. It will be one of the most irresponsible moments in American history because as you point out, every single day, there is new and incriminating evidence.

VELSHI: But the senators are not blind to this information. Whether or not they hear it in the Senate, whether or not it`s -- these witnesses are called or the documents are subpoenaed, the Senate is not blind to the conversation that is going on around us, which indicate that the president has been involved in some serious misdeeds. At what point does the chicken come home to roost? At what point do they have to say we cannot avoid this any longer?

HIMES: Well, I mean, it`s -- there`s a really disappointing answer to that question that just reflects the extent to which the country has become tribal in its politics.

But more importantly than that, the extent to which Donald Trump and the Republican Party have really become a cult. You know, you`re going to hear about the same three or four senators who are in, you know, non-Trumpy areas who will, you know, occasionally show flashes of impartiality.

But every other senator is going to consider the fact that if they turn against Donald Trump, chiefly amongst them by the way, Mitch McConnell, who is up for re-election in November, if they turn against Donald Trump regardless of the fact, you know, we go back to shooting somebody an Fifth Avenue and there being no consequences.

That if they turn against Donald Trump, they lose a primary. And very, very sadly, despite the overwhelming evidence and, Ali, you`ve been watching this, too. You know that at no point really have the Republicans engaged with the body of evidence.

What they do is they say, well, Adam Schiff is a bad guy. The government accounting office, which yesterday said -- we haven`t even talked about this -- yesterday said that the administration broke the law. Well, the government accounting office, it probably has Democrats in it.

VELSHI: Right.

HIMES: I mean, it`s just -- sadly, it`s reflective of the fact that the Republicans now are completely enthrall almost in a religious way to Donald Trump.

VELSHI: It`s the first time Lev Parnas called it a cult. When you say it`s tribal, I mean, tribes change their leaders. This doesn`t do away with the tribe of Republicans to say that Donald Trump has done things incorrectly. I`m a little puzzled by that.

But let`s talk about Devin Nunes for a second because you were just talking about Adam Schiff. What do you make of this communication that puts Lev Parnas in proximity to Devin Nunes?

HIMES: Yes. Well, sadly, it`s not a surprise, you know. And I`ve watched Devin Nunes since the day that Jim Comey came before our committee a year and a half, two years ago and announced the investigation into the president.

From that moment on, Devin Nunes became attorney, advocate, private investigator on behalf of the president. And this goes way back to when Devin Nunes was trying to run a sort of one-man investigative campaign of trying to hunt down the Steele dossier sources and this sort of thing.

And big picture here, you know, and look, he embarrassed himself, right. I mean, as you know, a couple of weeks ago when he was asked about this, he denied really having any memory of Lev Parnas. It turns out, of course, he did. He had an eight-minute conversation with the guy.

So, you know, he`s damaged his own credibility. And what he`s done to the country is rather than being what the Constitution would have him be, which is a check and a balance on the president, he of course has become an advocate and a fighter for the president.

And that`s a huge problem and further evidence of the extent to which the Republican Party has become a cult in support of Donald Trump.

VELSHI: Well let`s see what happens in the next few weeks, congressman, whether or not this piling on of evidence moves anybody to do the thing that the constitution calls upon them to do. Congressman, good to see you. Thank you for joining me.

HIMES: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Coming up, as new material comes as some Republican senators are no doubt considering this weekend how to proceed. This is a time of choosing. Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: The impeachment of Donald Trump is the moment of truth for Republican senators. The Constitution asks them to put their country, the rule of law, and the weight of the evidence ahead of their political party or ambitions.

And history, as it is being written right now, is holding Republican senators accountable. Accountable to the oath they signed into history yesterday, promising to do impartial justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE/FEMALE: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The question, which the world will soon have an answer to, is whether Republican senators will render that oath meaningless by ignoring overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump has done wrong, or will they, "do impartial justice" by considering the totality of the evidence that they need to fulfill their constitutional duty as impartial jurors.

That totality of records and documents now include information emerging in the last 72 hours, including just tonight, from documents handed over by this man, Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Republican senators now know that a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency concluded that the Trump administration broke the law in withholding congressionally approved aid to Ukraine. He just wasn`t allowed to do that.

And evidence indicates that people inside the White House knew that in real-time. Republican senators also have heard directly from Lev Parnas in his astonishing interviews with Rachel Maddow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all of my movements. He -- I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.

MADDOW: The president was aware that you and Mr. Giuliani were working on this effort in Ukraine to basically try to hurt Joe Biden`s political career. He was -- he knew about that.

PARNAS: Yes, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden. It was never about corruption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: These revelations show that the American public does not have the full truth about the extent to which President Trump abused his power. As even more evidence and reporting could emerge, will Republican senators give that truth the full consideration that it deserves in the Senate or will they empower and enable President Trump by giving him an acquittal without considering the necessary documents and witnesses?

Republican senators ought to consider this. What will Donald Trump do after being vindicated when he feels he has escaped impeachment unscathed? Remember the last time Donald Trump declared victory against our nation`s checks and balances?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller had just testified before Congress about Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. The day after Mueller`s testimony, President Trump picked up the phone and asked the newly elected Ukrainian president to meddle in our upcoming election by telling him to, "do us a favor, though and to look into Joe Biden and his son Hunter."

Joining me now is Bill Weld, former Republican governor of Massachusetts. He is running for the Republican presidential nomination against President Trump. And he has tweeted yesterday, Governor, good to see you again.

You`ve tweeted yesterday, "Worth noting that the oath administered to our senators by Chief Justice Roberts requires fealty to the Constitution and laws. It says nothing about loyalty to a political party or to Donald Trump." Your views are clear on this, Bill Weld, but this is the party you are fighting to try to save.

BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Ali, I think the point is that the Constitution requires the senators to hold a trial by jury in all cases of impeachment. And in order to have a trial, you need evidence.

A charge is not evidence. It`s not even admissible as evidence. The charge is the thing you have to prove. And when I worked on the Nixon impeachment, I had to read the transcript of all cases of impeachment in the Senate, and there were always witnesses.

They never said, oh, thank you, managers, for coming over with your charge. We don`t want to hear any witnesses. We vote to acquit the accused in this case. There`s a word for that and it would be cover-up.

VELSHI: Governor, you know, Lev Parnas has described this orbit around Donald Trump as a cult. Jim Himes and I were just speaking about people are tribal politically. But none of this speaks to who you are as a Republican.

Why are there not more Republicans like you out there saying we`re Republicans? We`re not Democrats. We`re not changing our views to be Democrats. But there`s something wrong with the way this guy has acted according to our constitution.

WELD: Well, I think there are at least half a dozen Republicans who are going to be tempted to follow the evidence, but the vast majority, so far, have not given any indication of that. Their defense seems to be silence.

And as I`ve said in the past, I think if they stick with that, there`s going to be a blood bath in the 2020 election and the Republicans will suffer heavy losses in the Senate and lose control of the Senate and may not be, in time, recognizable as the same party. I think they`re playing a very risky game.

VELSHI: What does it do for them, sir because they are elected officials, in some cases, in many cases? Why is that worth more than doing the right thing?

WELD: Well, I think it`s an obsession with being re-elected. And I don`t understand that having been the national chair of term limits when I was in office. But it`s part of the poisonous atmosphere in Washington that we need to get rid of.

There`s just too much hyper-partisanhood and no cooperation between the two parties and, you know, I see state capitals like Boston where I was governor for two terms, we absolutely did everything together and everyone felt much better about it and they felt much better about the government.

And that`s exactly what we need in Washington, D.C. And if these senators sit on their hands and say we don`t want to hear any evidence, I mean, that`ll be a new low for Washington, D.C.

VELSHI: You`re not entirely alone in the wilderness. You and I sometimes talk about this, what it feels like to be Bill Weld in a Republican Party that`s shutting you out of a lot of primaries. But there is a group called Republicans for the Rule of Law, and they are going to air some ads on "Fox and Friends" and "Lou Dobbs Tonight" next week. Let`s just listen to what one of them says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Ambassador John Bolton. He was National Security advisor to President Trump. He was in all the meetings in which the president`s National Security team discussed withholding aid from Ukraine in exchange for announcing investigations into the Bidens.

Now, Ambassador Bolton has agreed to testify before Congress. He`s willing to do his duty to tell the truth. Are Senate Republicans willing to do their duty to listen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: And it has some Senate Republicans in that image who are the ones who are, as you said, the half a dozen or so who might be susceptible to the message. Is that message effective?

WELD: Well, yes, I think so. I`ll tell you, I encountered that on the (inaudible) all the time. I may not encounter it too much in the halls of the Republicans in the Senate and the House in Washington, but out in the field, I mean, my wife and I were just in Iowa for five days last week. We`re in New Hampshire three or four days most weeks.

And people say, you know, can`t you change what`s going on in Washington? Can`t you get rid of this guy? They don`t even want to say his name. They`re just exhausted. And they want to move past all this.

And I think for the Republicans to sit on it and say we`re going to preserve the status quo by simply smothering anything that might suggest we should move on, I think that`s a recipe for disaster for the Republican Party.

VELSHI: Governor, good to talk to you. Thank you for joining us. Republican presidential candidate, Bill Weld.

WELD: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Coming up, a provocative new book about our self- described stable genius in the White House provides the full picture of what Donald Trump did and said to make former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson describe him as an effing moron. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Remember, when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Donald Trump and effing moron? Well, today excerpts from the new books - the new book, "A Very Stable Genius," reveals stunning new details from the briefing between Trump and his generals that prompted Rex Tillerson to say that.

The book recounts how six months into his presidency, Rex Tillerson, along with the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the Director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, were concerned by Trump`s lack of knowledge of history, and even basic geography.

So they organized a tutorial to help educate Trump about the value of key alliances, trade deals, and strategic deployment of U.S. troops. They used visual aids maps, charts, even dollar signs to get his attention. Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post" right in the book, quote. "Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe, but also allergic to the dynamic of his advisors talking at him. His ricocheting attention span led him to repeatedly interrupt the lesson."

Now, according to the book, Trump raged about how the United States has been ripped off when certain words like base or NATO were mentioned. He fumed about wanting to get out of the Iran nuclear agreement before quote, "Trump unleashed his disdain," calling Afghanistan a quote, "loser war." That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table, but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall.

"You are all losers. I wouldn`t go to war with you people." Trump told the assembled brass. Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, "you`re a bunch of dopes, and babies." You`re a bunch of dopes, and babies.

Joining us now, Zerlina Maxwell, Senior Director of Progressive Programming at SiriusXM Radio and an MSNBC Political Analyst; Jennifer Rubin, Opinion Writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC Contributor.

Zerlina, we`re getting a little more information about what led a guy of great composure like Rex Tillerson to say the kind of thing that we don`t generally say in company, about Donald Trump. And the book just seems to have example after example of the type of thing that would cause the people around Donald Trump at the time to be outraged.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the book is particularly disturbing. The excerpts that are out today are terrifying. You have Donald Trump seemingly completely ill-equipped to do the job as President.

And one of the things that`s really frustrating about this is the fact that, he ran against somebody who was prepared to be president on day one, who did have the experience, and we picked the businessman who doesn`t have any experience.

So I think, as we`re heading into the next election, I think that`s a question the American people should be thinking about. Do they want a president who is prepared to take on these really tough challenges when you have so many foreign policy hotspots in the world, and he has no understanding of any of the underlying policy or any of the strategy that would go into making life and death decisions.

VELSHI: Jennifer, one of our producers pointed out today that we are heading into this election and there are examples in this book that would provide cover to some of Donald Trump`s former cabinet secretaries and others to come out and tell the American public that they cannot vote for this man. That he is dangerous to national security, and yet, we haven`t really seen that happen.

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s exactly right. It is, I think, great moral cowardice, frankly, that these people are sort of hiding in the shadows that you will get, occasionally in daily news reports, a former official, or you get a scene that is painted, obviously, by these very same people who were in the room, but they`re unwilling to go on the record for the protection of the country, for the protection of the Republic, for the protection of the troops.

There`s one interesting little tidbit in there where Tillerson watches essentially, Mattis, just being very passive in front of Trump. And he realizes this guy`s a military man, he`s never got a buck the president. Yes, well, first of all, that`s an indictment of putting military people in the cabinet, because civilian leaders are supposed to speak up when they think something is going wrong.

But it`s also very telling about Mattis. And people keep waiting for him to be the hero, waiting for him to come forward and tell us, some deep dark secret. But I don`t think these people are ever going to do it. And I think the lesson here is that we need to pick presidents, not because we think that they`ll have smart people around him, but that we picked smart presidents because they get rid of the smart people around him or they ignore him.

VELSHI: You know, you paraphrase that - that section of the book well. I want to read it, because, I think, it deserves being read to our audience. "Tillerson, in particular, was stunned by Trump`s diatribe and began visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had been staring straight dumbfounded at Mattis who was speechless. His head bowed down toward the table.

Tillerson thought to himself, Gosh, darn it, Jim say something. Why aren`t you saying something? But as he would later tell close aides, Tillerson realized in that moment that Mattis was genetically a Marine, unable to talk back to his Commander in Chief, no matter what nonsense came out of his mouth.

Zerlina, we hoped in those days that these people were performing a public service because the nation`s interests were at heart and that they were the adults in the room - we used to use that term if you recall. What does it tell you that went countered on to speak, they didn`t, and now when they are, they`re still not speaking?

MAXWELL: It`s terrifying. And I think it`s been ongoing national security threat. Donald Trump is a bully. And I think one of the things that we`re learning is that, you don`t have a lot of folks in this administration that are willing to stand up to the bully in the room.

And, unfortunately in this case, is the President who has all of the power that goes along with his office. But you don`t - you wouldn`t even allow somebody who has this level of experience, and this history of behavior and lack of experience to be the assistant manager at a Starbucks.

I don`t understand why we`re in a moment where we are allowing this person to continue on as the President of the United States with the nuclear launch codes. And I think that, you know, when I first started mentioning the launch codes in the first year of the administration, people on set would be like, you`re overreacting, you`re going too far.

But I think that those are the stakes that we`re talking about. And until we actually grasp just how much danger we are in as long as Donald Trump is in charge, I think it`s going to be a very anxiety inducing year here as we head into this election that, hopefully, will result in the American people making a different choice.

VELSHI: Jennifer Rubin I invoked you without saying your name when I was talking to Governor Weld a little while ago, in asking that in this moment of truth, because that`s where we are. This next week is going to be a moment of truth. Republican members of the Senate - but Republicans in general, are going to have to send a message that their fealty is to their constitution and their country, rather than their party.

The greatest cost that you have pointed out many times in your writing and on the show. The great cost to Republicans who do the right thing in coming weeks and months will be losing their seat.

RUBIN: Yes, this is - they don`t go to Senator jail for saying something out of school. They don`t suffer great financial ruin. Many of these people are wealthy or they have jobs in the private sector. The only thing that might happen to them is that they might lose their seat.

But for so many of these people, that`s the only thing that matters. Their entire sense of self-worth, their place in society, all of their ego stems from holding on to that seat and so they will do anything. They will humiliate themselves, they will knowingly avoid - willfully avoid evidence of gross misconduct and they will say things that they know are patently untrue, because they so badly want to hang on to power.

And this is cravenness. This is cowardice of the first order. And, I think, voters have got to be able to say to these people, listen, we expect you to at some point, Buck your party, buck your own personal interest and do what`s right. And the only remedy for this is at the ballot box.

And you`ve seen a lot - it came out yesterday in the Morning Consult polls, all of the senators who are up for reelection, none of them have a approval rating that`s over 45%. These people are very unpopular already. So I don`t know how they think they`re going to kind of get away with this, and they`re going to pretend that they don`t know what`s going on, or they`re going to pretend there`s not enough evidence, or they`re going to hide from the evidence.

But it is really a sad, sad scene. And I think the level of public cowardice from people in the administration who used to be in the administration, in the Congress and in the Senate is really quite sobering and quite disturbing. We do not expect our public servants to be angels, but we do expect them to be decent human beings. And right now you have to be very depressed that one party has decided to sell their souls to the devil.

VELSHI: Stay with us both of you. We`re going to take a quick break. When we come back, what happened in the room when Donald Trump met Nancy Pelosi days after the Women`s March, protesting Trump`s inauguration?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: We`ve seen House Speaker Nancy Pelosi take on Donald Trump, but today we`re learning about another showdown that surprised even Steve Bannon. The new book, "A Very Stable Genius," details how Nancy Pelosi challenged Donald Trump at a reception, the Monday after his inauguration.

Quote, "Pelosi assumed Trump would open the conversation on a unifying note, such as by quoting the founding fathers or the Bible. Instead, the new president began with a lie. You know, I won the popular vote. He claimed that there had been widespread fraud with 3 to 5 million illegal votes for Clinton.

Pelosi interjected, Well, Mr. President, that`s not true," she said. There`s no ever evidence to support what you just said, and if we`re going to work together, we have to stipulate to a certain set of facts."

According to the book, the White House Chief Strategist at the time, Steve Bannon, whispered to his colleagues, quote, "She`s going to get us. Total assassin. She`s an assassin. Zerlina Maxwell and Jennifer Rubin are back with us.

Zerlina this is a constantly interesting topic, Nancy Pelosi standing up to and being a thorn in the sight of the President. What we didn`t know, until this book, is how early that started.

MAXWELL: It`s not surprising to me at all. I`ve interviewed Nancy Pelosi a few times in my career, and every single time I`m always impressed with how tough she is. She is no nonsense. She literally does not flinch. One time I asked her, how does she deal with all the criticism and hatred she receives from the right wing. And she leaned in and basically said, I do not care. I`m just doing my job.

And so, I think when you`re focused on what you`re trying to achieve for the Democratic Caucus, and when you`re implementing your strategy and executing it properly, I don`t think that you do flinch, especially when you`re up against an adversary who has no idea what they are doing.

And Donald Trump is completely out of his depth in this particular position. And she`s somebody who has such years of experience and successes in different aspects of leadership throughout the House, and also in her former tenure year as Speaker where she never lost a floor vote. So she`s just somebody who is in a - on a different level then Donald Trump, and I`m not surprised it started immediately in the administration.

VELSHI: Jen your take?

RUBIN: Yes, I think she has two superpowers over Donald Trump. First of all, she treats him like a spoiled child. I think your experience as a mother and a grandmother is absolutely relevant here. She doesn`t put up with temper tantrums. She calls him out when he is projecting, as she often does. She tells him to basically be quiet or you`re not telling the truth. She`s fearless in that regard.

And her other superpower is that she is absolutely exquisitely in touch with her caucus. She knows what they need. She knows what parts of her caucus need some help, what others don`t. She doesn`t get too far out ahead or too far behind.

The way she has slowly brought them all together to a degree of unanimity that we thought was probably impossible a year ago on impeachment, the way she held back the articles, allowing the to build, this was masterful. This was a Maestro - a symphony conductor, really bringing the orchestra along. And Donald Trump has never experienced someone with that level of control either personal or his profession.

VELSHI: It`s kind of the opposite of the way he rolls with things. Thank you to both of you this evening. Zerlina Maxwell and Jennifer Rubin.

Coming up, one thing we shouldn`t lose sight of amid all the news about impeachment, is that Donald Trump is bad at deals. That`s next.

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VELSHI: Today, Donald Trump was mad about impeachment, but he`s also mad about something else. Not enough praise for his China announcement. Years from now, when we look back at this day, nobody`s going to remember Nancy`s cheap theatrics. They will remember though, how President Trump brought the Chinese to the bargaining table and delivered achievements, few ever thought were possible.

But it turns out by many metrics, the deal isn`t worth celebrating. According to Fred Hochberg, the Former President and Chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, "The truth is that the negative effects of Trump`s trade war with China linger on and the success of the USMCA is mostly due to the hard work of Democrats in Congress." Fred Hochberg will join us when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just did our great two deals. We just made the two largest trade deals in history - one with China and the other one with Mexico, Canada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Joining us now Fred Hochberg, the Former President and Chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. He`s also the author of the brand new book, "Trade is Not a Four Letter Word."

Fred, in a normal world, these two deals, if they really were deals, and they`re not necessarily the deals we think they are. But two major trade deals like that would be all we`d be talking about in a - for a lucky President that might be all you talk about for a year.

FRED HOCHBERG, FORMER CHAIRMAN, U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK: Right? You`re absolutely right, but not in this case.

VELSHI: Because these deals are not exactly what the President represents them to be. The China deal in the first place is more of a celebration of a fire that`s been extinguished that you set while playing with matches next to the curtains.

HOCHBERG: You said it perfectly. Exactly. We - you set a fire. You put it on, you say, see how good I am? I put the fire out. This is - people have called this a truce, a ceasefire. And part of the problem is, President Trump is obsessed with trade deficits - bilateral trade deficits. You cannot find - the only economist who believes in that is Peter Navarro in the White House. So that`s part of the problem.

VELSHI: But who can he argue as better off as a result of where we are today then before he started this? He definitely captured a sentiment across America of people who feel that they have been - they`ve been done wrongly by these trade deals. There`s some legitimacy and some validity to that. But he hasn`t actually improved the stage for them.

HOCHBERG: No, he is - he pictures Americans as sort of crouching victims, and he`s going to save everybody. And he has set that up, and that`s how his presidency is premised on. So he sets that up, and therefore says, see, he I`m the hero, I took care of everything for you. I`m dad.

VELSHI: Who`s better off because of Donald Trump`s China deal?

HOCHBERG: Well, in some ways - listen, not fighting, not having an active cold war is better than having one. So it is better that we have ceased this nonsense that we`ve gone through for the last two years, that`s been very damaging - damaging to farmers, damaging to workers, damaging to our status in the world. And looking at America as someone who`s providing leadership globally.

VELSHI: And damaging even to the one constituency that has benefited from trade for the last 50 or 60 years, and that is consumers. This year, we`ve even seen damage to that.

HOCHBERG: Right consumers is damaged. And the real people he seems to worry about are farmers, and frankly, I`m not sure that these farmers are going to want to sell all - try and sell all those goods to China for one or two years. And then what? And then they`re going to lose that sale again.

So whether they`re going to really plant more fields and to try and do all that to capture a market for a year or two is not clear to me that China will put our American farmers or put all their quote unquote, "soybeans in one basket" and sell to the Chinese.

VELSHI: Well, we`ve learned that last, right? Because we were selling something our two-thirds of our soybeans to China. When this trade deal started, China started nurturing relationships with other countries that could provide them with large quantities of soybeans. And a lot of farmers, who I`ve spoken to, and soybean farmers in particular, who say, we`re not expecting to get all that market back anyway.

HOCHBERG: Right. And you have to remember, there`s been this horrible - about the pigs in China, where almost 50 percent of the pigs in China have died from this horrible virus. So their need for soybeans and animal feed is drastically reduced right now. So that`s another question that is hanging over this deal.

VELSHI: Does he get rewarded for this? Because he talks a lot about the fact that the stock market is at record high, unemployment is very low. He`s tying it all together like he`s this remarkable economic success.

HOCHBERG: Well, I think - listen, people like a little more stability. So this is more stable than more threats of tariffs and more instability that he`s been fostering and festering in the global economy for a long time.

So in some ways, yes. I think the market is trying to say we need a little more stability. China, I think, needs more stability more than anything, because Is the uncertainty that the tariffs have placed has really put them at a great risk.

VELSHI: Fred, good to see you again. Thank you so much. Fred Hochberg, joining us tonight.

HOCHBERG: Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: And that is tonight`s "Last Word." I`m Ali Velshi. "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts right now.

END