tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC January 30, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
beevthat there has to be one body of law in this country, and we do our best to all agree on what it is, then i think the course correction doesn't come from the top down anymore, it comes from the bottom up. >> dahlia lithwick, senior editor at slat e. thank you for joining us as we cover this remarkable event, president trump firing the acting attorney general of the united states, this just happened within the last hour. our continuing coverage now goes on with lawrence o'donnell. "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> rachel, it was a historic night before we got to this firing. we had an acting attorney general stand up to the president of the united states and say no, say no, i will not, in court, make any attempt to enforce our defend your executive order, and then the suspense was under way. the president had a choice. he could fire her, of course, it's within his power, but now that leaves the justice department with no one who is
legally authorized to issue surveillance warrants in these international espionage cases that where the nsa desperately wants to obtain these warrants, these fisa warrants. she was the only one authorized to do it. there will be no one in there now for how many days it takes to get a new attorney general in there. >> they're telling us, again, this is another weird thing about this administration, they're telling us dana boente has been sworn in as acting attorney general, telling us he was sworn in at 9:00 but we h e hahave no reports from anybody who witnessed that. we have no reports about who might have sworn him in. weave no reports on when that was. we do have a reported statement from him saying that he is honored to serve. a o as acting attorney general. what you just said there, lawrence thir lawrence, this timing, firing sally yates, bring some new guy on from the eastern district of
virginia, this timing was entirely within the control of the trump administration. there didn't need to be chaos here. they made this happen. again, like everything, it's happening with this herky jerky chaotic not to be believed unless you see it rollout which is the characteristic both of their policies and now their personnel changes even when they're at their own direction. it's very strange. >> yeah, one thing they're not afraid of in the trump white house is chaos. >> yeah. >> something every other white house doesn't want to be anywhere near. they've never seen chaos pay off for a white house. >> yeah, that's exactly right. yua you know, the question is whether or not the chaos is deliberate or not deliberate, they're going to try to move it in their own direction, anyway. destabilizing institutions like the federal agencies who would normally oversee immigration and diplomacy, right, leaving the department of homeland security, leaving the department of state out of the planning for this executive order and springing it on them with no notice, it's
destabilizing to those institution and destabilizing to the department of justice to be throwing the acting attorney ra out. all of these things are destabilizing to the institutions of the government and the question is whether or not that's a feature or a bug as far as they're concerned. maybe that's what they're after. >> there are so many questions that come out of this, rachel. i'd love to have you come across the hall and join us. there's a political consideration now about how this affects the confirmation process for jeff sessions. does it put more pressure on the democrats to actually get him confirmed? because we leave the justice department right now without anyone who's authorized to do fisa warrants, all of that stuff. we've got a lot to talk about. love to have you come over if you can. >> i'll be right there. >> thank you. thank you very much. well, here we are. the monday night massacre. that's where america is tonight. with the president of the united states firing the acting attorney general of the united states after she refused to
defend his executive order on immigration. the firing leaves the justice department, as i said, without anyone, now, who is legally authorized to issue foreign surveillance warrants. and this, of course, puts the national security intelligence gathering at risk, something that the president has just chosen to do. he knew that was the reason not to fire her but he did it. he must feel defending his executive order in court is more important even though every federal judge who considered the executive order so far has ruled against it. sally yates is the mother of two from atlanta, georgia, married to comber yates, career justice department prosecutor who president obama elevated to deputy attorney general two years ago and president trump asked her, he asked her to remain at the justice department until a trump attorney general could be sworn in. if donald trump had chosen a
less controversial attorney general nominee, that nominee would already be sworn in as his attorney general, already be in place. sally kulian yates would not have had a chance to make history tonight. as she did. first, when she stood up to the president tonight and then later when the president fired her. the president has now elevated the u.s. attorney from the eastern district of virginia, dana boente, to be the acting attorney general. he is a career justice department lawyer. appointed to that position by president obama in 2015. nbc news has confirmed dana boente was sworn in as rachel mentioned tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern. dana boente said "i am honored to serve president trump in this role until senator sessions is confi confirmed. i'll defend aen enforce the laws of our country to ensure our people and our nation are protected." we have been here once before. sally yates now takes her place in history beside elliot
richardson, the last attorney general who directly defied the president of the united states. on a saturday 44 years ago in 1973, attorney general richardson refused president nixon's order to fire the special prosecutor archibald cox investigating crimes in the nixon administration and an investigation that had already led to the indictment of nixon's first attorney general, john mitchell. the pace of resistance and defiance to the president by judges and the attorney general now was much, much faster than it was in the nixon presidency. elliot richardson resigned on that saturday night when he refused the president's -- to execute the president's order. the acting attorney general who carried out the president's order to fire archibald cox the next day, the newspapers call ld it the saturday night massacre. there is in the history of the presidency no worse sign for the
future of a presidency than an attorney general defying the president. so the nixon presidency lasted only ten months after elliot richardson refused to carry out president nixon's order. sally kulian yates was confirmed by the senate as deputy attorney general in the spring of 2015 and one week, one week before that, ann marie donnely had her confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, usually chosen by senators of the president's party in the state where the judge will serve. as tradition has it, that senator introduces the nominee to the judiciary committee as chuck schumer did for ann marie donnelly. fully qualified with a resume that reads like most federal judges, 25 years as a prosecutor then a state court judge. it was also obvious to the committee in this case senathat senator schumer knew the nominee well, both lived in brooklyn and both had daughters on the same
basketball team. we have over 1,700 federal judges, most serve their entire careers without making history. when you're a judge, you don't get to pick your fa-- it walks your door. ann marie donnelly, jurisdiction over -- just before 9:00 p.m. in her brooklyn courtroom, judge donnelly became the first judge to issue an order saying no to donald trump. she stopped deportations. not just for everyone being held at jfk airport, but everyone being held at every airport in america. imagine saturday night at the white house when donald trump got a word a judge in brooklyn shut him down, a woman judge. imagine what he said about her in private that night. that is all we have is our imaginations because donald trump has yet to tweet a word about judge ann marie donnelly. the world whole was watching when ann marie donnelly shut
down donald trump and donald trump said and did nothing. minutes after judge donnelly's ruling another woman, federal judge brinkema in virginia, jurisdiction over dulles airport, issued a narrower temporary restraining order blocking for seven days the removal of green card holders held at dulles airport. later that night in boston, two federal judges, allison barrows and judith dean, a seven-day restraining o order against the president's executive order. what the attorney general's action means tonight, what she intended it to mean, the end of those zempb days when those hearings are resumed on those cases that the government lawyers representing the government in those cases would simply report to the courtroom but not argue against the cases being brought by the people who were trying to, in effect, get the president's executive order thrown out.
the government now will have the orders coming from the attorney general telling, presumably, these u.s. attorneys around the country, exactly how to do this. exactly how to defend this order that the acting attorney general tonight said was not lawful. and so tonight, the mt. rushmore of resistance to the policies of this presidency is now all women, ann marie donnelly, allison barrows, judith dean, sally yates. . four of those women, the presidency of barack obama lives on in them. me appointed them to their judgeships and deputy attorney general spot. one of them was appointed by bill clinton. a presidency is only four years or eight years. a federal judgeship is a livetime appointment. there are 3 329 federal judges appointed by president obama, appointed for life. two of them on the supreme court.
ann marie donnelly the first of them to stand up and say no to donald trump. she will not be the last. we don't know who will be next. the trump administration's legal recklessness will surely continue. hastily written executive orders drafted by amateurs will continue to end up in court and if the recklessness reaches nixonian levels, then members of the trump administration, themselves, may end up in court. the trump administration has been out of control since its first day of lying about crowd size at the inauguration. lying about millions of illegal voters in the presidential election and now dashing off what the acting attorney general thought was an unlawful order that has thrown the country into chaos. thrown our airports into chaos. and broke this country's word to people around the world who had been granted the legal right to enter and live in the united states. the good news tonight is that the constitution is holding.
that a federal judge in brooklyn can still tell the president of the united states what to do and what not to do. and the president of the united states must obey her and has been forced to obey her. there was a fear on saturday night in america that we would hit constitutional crisis, that judge donelly's order would be defied by the president, the president would order the ex executive branch to overrule the judicial branch. something the president has absolutely no right to do and at that point, the constitution would have broken. it would be as if the president stood before the country and simply ripped the constitution apart with his own hands. people feared saturday night that that was the presidency that we have, that that's where we were going to be saturday night. that's what was going to happen. but judge ann marie donnelly ruled and the president of the united states bowed to that rules.
and so at the end of the first week of the trump presidency, a constitutional crisis loomed and the constitution won. constitution survived. but we now know it will continue to be threatened every day of the trump presidency. and we can thank the founding fathers for their wisdom in guaranteeing that the president of the united states cannot fire federal judges. we're joined by rachel maddow, also with us jonathan alter, s msnbc political analyst and columnist for the daily beast. and director of the aclu's immigrants rights projects. he was one of the attorneys who was able to get a stay on the executive order on saturday in new york. also with us, richard benveniste, former assistant attorney for the southern district -- u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york, former assistant watergate prosecu prosecutor, and richard, obviously we go to you on this
historic night. it feels chilly to me. i'm feeling something very similar to what the country felt 44 years ago. what's your reaction to it? >> well, obviously there are similarities and differences but the similarity that i see is that so early in the administration, mr. trump is putting himself at risk and the risk is that people in the united states will react harshly to what he is doing. he is impulsive and he has taken steps which federal judges and now the deputy attorney general who is very highly respected and is a career prosecutor, deemed to be unenforceable for constitutional reasons, one presumes, and he now is risking
that -- everything he does is undermined by this spotlight on his impulsiveness. so as the saturday night mass kerr marked a turning point in the nixon presidency, where people began to say, well, why has he done something as extraordinary as fire archibald cox, the special prosecutor, for doing his job? here, again, the president of the united states is taking action that appears to be outside the bounds of the law and has fired an important executive of our department of justice. >> and rachel, the lawyers in court on saturday night for the government were struggling. they were asked very simple questions by judge donnelly, the judges in boston, that they could not answer. they simply couldn't do it. they asked for more time.
to be able to come back. so we're going to see if dana boente can somehow figure out if there's a way to defend hthis orderer in court. >> you've seen it, too, in the political side, having administration officials and republican members of congress who are supporters of the administration, just seeing them have political conversations and, you know, conversations on news shows about what it is that this order is designed to do and why this is happening and what it has to do with attacks that have happened in our country committed by people who are not from any of these seven countries and are not refugees. they don't have a basic level political explanation for what they've done. when sally yates came out and said she's not convinced this is lu lawful, that was not an unusual or out there position for her to have taken. this order has had five appearances in court. it's 0 for 5. plus all of the law -- the
lawsuits that are filed against it today including one by the state of washington, another by the biggest muslim civil rights group in the country, cair. so, i mean, they've got a very hard time defending it. political terms and in legal terms. the question is whether they will be able to defend this and all of their policies by force. by political force. because that's really all they've got left. if they can't get anybody in the justice department, i mean, the way sally yates' statement ended was "unless and until i become convinced that it is appropriate to do so." she's inviting her, please convince me i can defend this. you're fired, you're out. >> the next step, you send stephen miller attorney to make the case, here's what we drafted, here's what we thought. that's the next step. >> if they still said no, thank you, we'll be happy to see you go when senator sessions becomes attorney general sessions. meanwhile, we're going to appoint a special -- not special counsel is not the exact right term, but appoint counsel to
come in and defend these things because you can't. to throw the department of justice into the gaping law here and say no, you'll get in line with this administration, they're inviting a wholesale revolt from the justice department. and they may have to replace it all the way down to the studs. you know, they may have to take it -- may have to gut that department entirely. if so, that will be one of the only things they can accomplish in their first year in office. and that's a fight that they didn't need to pick and they picked it as a show of force. the question is what happeneds after they throw that punch? >> what does it do for jeff sessions' confirmation scheduled for tomorrow? >> i think it will slow it down because the democrats aren't going to be in any hurry -- >> if they slow it down, donald trump is going to say they're risking the nation's security because we need someone who can issue fisa warrants. >> they can get somebody else to issue those fisa warrants, that's a solvable problem. look, to me, this reminds me of a sports metaphor, unforced errors. you hear that in sports. this is an unforced crisis. we have had presidents in the
past, franklin roosevelt, ronald reagan, barack obama, who came to office when we had genuine national crisis. and they had to move very quickly on many fronts. in evach of those cases, they made elaborate and careful preparations for confronting the crisis. in this case, we have a president coming to office during a time of peace and prosperity. there is no crisis. he brought this on himself and on our country in an extraordinarily reckless way that is at odds with american ideals. i think history will judge him harshly on this. the good news, lawrence, is that in our system of checks and balances, we've discovered a new check. not just congress, which is not checking in very much, not just the judiciary, which is checking in quite a bit, but the executive branch of the government.
lower levels of the executive branch which are fulfilling what i believe are constitutional and moral responsibilities to stand up for what's right. and we will see that throughout this administration because these are civil servants, most of whom cannot be fired unlike sally yates, and they will resist and they will prevent him from trashing our constitution. >> omar, you were in judge donnelly's courtroom saturday night. you heard the u.s. attorneys trying to mount a defense of an order that they had about the same amount of time to read as you did. not like they had it the day before even. >> right. >> they'd never been put in this position trying to defend the piece of law that was -- the ink was wet on it. no one had read it. couldn't come up with an argument that impressed judge donnelly. what do you suppose the new acting attorney general can find t for them to say, here's your argument, u.s. attorneys in
boston, in new york, virginia, seattle, here's your argument in the next hearing. >> it's going it be a very difficult task for him because there's the paper, itself, which as many people have pointed out, very confusing, very happhazardy written, very clear it's trying to single out muslims for a ban. very clear that christians are supposed to be favored under the way it works. otherwise not clear on important issues whether green card holders will be affected by it, whether dual nationals of other countries. what you've seen since then have made it worse. all the facts surrounding the document, itself, really put the government in the hole here. >> isn't the courts just supposed to look at the document -- >> no, not at all. there's a big question about how do we interpret, how do we understand what the government's done here, right? and so how do we understand this executive order? you have to look at how thaw ey implemented it and -- >> in the legislative arena
they'd call legislative intent. you go to go with public comment -- >> to be clearer in this context, discriminatory intent and the question is look at what donald trump has said, look at what giuliani said about how this thing came to pass. they're very consistent. there's a clear narrative. he wanted a muslim ban. he tried to figure out a way to put it into place that might slide through a couple of legal loopholes. then he announced it, unfortunately, for the justice department, while announcing it, said it was a christian-favoring law. and then after he announced it, the government has made a series of decisions that the only thing -- the only consistent thing that the government has done -- the only consistent purpose that you can discern across all the actions of the government is we want to communicate hostility to islam, we want to favor christianity. otherwise, things like excluding lprs in the first place, green card holders who -- there's no
question about who they are. there's no question about their documents. they've been living in the united states and many cases for decades. you know, making the decision to brand them security threats really underlines the fact you have no interest in this fig leaf you put on top of the law. >> richard ben-veniste, on these historic nights, we always try to find, try to grab for the handrails of where we are in history. and 44 years ago, none of us knew where we were. we'd never seen anything like it before. never had a moment like it. and obviously everything about the nixon presidency was unique. they paved their own way through scandal and ultimately to the demise of the presidency. are there any lessons in that that guide you in the moments that this country's gone through since that in any way resemble that period? is there anything tonight you can kind of hold onto and say i
think this might be where we are in the history of this story? >> well, there are a lot of things that are sort of cockeyed echos of the saturday night massacre. here you have an attorney general who has not yet been confirmed. attorney general richardson was confirmed on the promise that he would have an independent special prosecutor. there are a number of crazy analogies here, but the idea that i take from this, and i think it was very astute of mr. alter to say unforced error. nixon was fighting for his survival at this point because he knew the evidence existed on those tapes that would doom him if they ever came to light and they did, ultimately. the organs of government, the judiciary and the legislative
branch, operated as they were designed to in that case. here, what you may see is the public and then congress now becoming more and more unsettled by the way in which decisions are being made in the trump administration and an ad hoc basis, seemingly without any preplanning, certainly without consultation, and here there's another dimension besides the legal dimension of what appears to be an unconstitutional act that discriminates against an entire religious group and that is our national security. the national security implications of this are exactly counterproductive to what the president announces as his
intention because this move is viewed throughout the muslim world as an affront, as an insult, to muslims throughout the world whom we depend upon for cooperation. one of the main things that we talked about in the 9/11 commission report was our need to find allies within the muslim world who would reject the violence that characterized the 9/11 tragedy. and here all we are doing through these kinds of activities are to fire up and enflame further other elements. >> rachel, there are two big presidential firing stories that struck me tonight. one, the nixon, which has the closest parallels to the elements of this story. politically, there's another one, and that is reagan firing the air traffic controllers.
>> yeah. >> which many -- everyone who wasn't a reagan supporter thought was a crazy thing to do. you have just endangered the flying public, who's doing to like this, this is -- and it turned out reagan supporters loved it because it was the strongman being strong. that was the only thing that mattered to them. which one of those -- which note plays here? the chaos of a sinking presidency with nixon, or the strongman act strong? >> well, we don't know yet. i do think, though, we were talking in the transition between our two shows about there's an element that feels like deliberate destabilization. right? that there is -- there's something to be said for involving the agencies who have to implement and executive order and involving lawyer ahead of time so when you make an executive order, it is something that will stand up in court and it is also something that will roll out and that will happen and that will be articulated and exchanged and enforced by the administration. if you choose not to do that, you are destabilizing the federal agencies that you've just screwed over by dumping
this on them with no warning. they made the department of homeland security not look authoritative, made the department of justice, department of state look like they didn't know what they were talking about. destabilizing for those agencies to be called upon to do something they haven't been involved in shaping whatsoever. it's also destabilizing to the justice department for it to be treated in such a raw, partisan way like this. so, i mean, it may be that reagan just needed somebody to punch and the air traffic controllers were there. may also be that that was a target, that unions were a target that he wanted to strike a blow against that would not only scare people about union rights but that would essentially portray them as weak and unreliable in terms of being able to defend their own folks. we don't exactly know what that is but i will say, the one thing that i think is at work here that wasn't at work with reagan, wasn't at work with nixon, is that there is apparently a huge, organic, spontaneous, anti-trump movement that will take to the streets in a moment's notice and one thing donald trump gave that
movement is a hero named sally yates. >> nixon had a massive protest movement inherented from lbj about the vietnam war. this is different. this is about everything about this -- >> it's about trump. >> -- presidency, jonathan. the one thing, i just want to say as we go out of this, is that you know that every trump voter has been dying to hear him say, "you're fired." dying to hear him say "you're fired." but has anyone else? let's remember, trump voters are a minority among voters in america. >> can we just go to this intentional destabilization for a second? i want to read a quote. lennon, not john lennon, vladimir lennon, wanted to destroy the state and that's my goal, too. i want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment. that's steve bannon, 2013, in the daily beast. he's just been empowered to essentially run the national security council. so you have a man at the president's elbow, a very smart man, who wants to destabilize the establishment.
>> rachel, thank you very much for running across the hall and joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> what's now become an emergency session over "the last word." constitutional crisis episode. >> we're all sworn? >> thanks for joining us. omar jadwat, thanks for coming over. richard ben-veniste. thank you. i have a feeling, richard, this is not the last echo of the nixon presidency. we're going to need you back. thanks for joining us tonight. coming up, what does this mean for the senate confirmation of jeff sessions which is scheduled for tomorrow? (burke) at farmers, we've seen almost everything, so we know how to cover almost anything. even a "truck-cicle." [second man] how you doing? [ice cracking] [second man] ah,ah, ah. oh no! [first man] saves us some drilling. [burke] and we covered it, february fourteenth, twenty-fifteen. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because
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built for business. we have now new breaking news. president trump has just now fired the head of immigration and customs enforcement, and appointed a new man to run that particular position. he is now appointing thomas d. holman to be the acting director of u.s. immigration and custom enforcement. mr. holman has served since 2013 as the executive associate director of i.c.e. enforcement and removal operations. daniel regsdale was serving as the head of immigration customs enforcement. we're rejoined now by jonathan alter, also john feiner, former chief of staff of secretary of state john kerry, and david jolly, former republican member of congress from florida. and mr. jolly, first of all i want to get your reaction to the
events of tonight including your understanding, your reaction to the executive order that the acting attorney general tonight, the first acting attorney general of the night, thought was unlawful and a new acting attorney general has now been put in to try to fight to defend that order in court. your reaction to the order and to what we've seen happen tonight. >> yeah, lawrence, look, you nailed it with the monday night massacre. i think if this is week one of the trump administration, it indicates that within the first year, we might find our president drifting toward an impeachable moment. at the very least, this is his j.v. moment. he's failed to articulate a security test. he has articulated an ethnic test, a religious test but he's failed to articulate a security test. he even tweeted out that they stopped 109 or delay eed 109 ou of 350,000 passengers. that was a moment of weakness for trump, let's be realistic. those 109s also got through.
he blamed delta. this is not a security test by the president. he is blaming others and now he is firing somebody with credentials at the department of justice because they failed to execute what was, i believe, an unawful order. >> john feiner, obviously he's firing someone whose performance he didn't like saturday, trying to enforce an order they couldn't make sense of with the administration, itself, changing the order verbally saying, well, yes, green card holders are not allowed back in the country and then no, wait, okay, green card holders are allowed back in the country and in order i guess to say it wasn't donald trump's personal fault what happened at the airports on saturday and sunday. he wants to fire the guy in charge. >> yeah, that's exactly right, and i think it's worth pointing out this is not the first time that a career professional with a degree of expertise has been relieved of their duties by the trump administration in its
early tenure. at the state department, a number of career professionals were serving in positions that are traditionally not associated with politics or political influence that do bread and butter work the state department does to protect and serve americans overseas, printing passports, issuing voe inissuei. three, four of those people were relieved of their duties without explanation and that was last week. this is rapidly becoming a pattern. i know bureaucracy in some places has negative connotations but i think if you replace the word, bureaucracy, with experts, which is what these people really are on things that actually matter to americans, it becomes a much more troubling set of actionses >> so jonathan alter, the president is firing the head of immigration and customs enforcement and he's taking someone who is currently serving as the executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations.
executive associate director is not a very high rank within that kind of bureaucracy but his concentration is on enforcement and removal. that would be the deportation arm of i.c.e. >> well, we don't know what kind of job he will do. we don't know what kind of professional he is. what we do know is that we have a breathtakingly incompetent administration that has taken over. everybody has training wheels at the beginning, so there are going to be mistakes that any administration makes at the start. but you try to minimize those mistakes and when you make one, you should admit it. it feels to me like donald trump is constitutionally incapable of admitting any error, any miscue, but the errors are beginning do build up in a very rapid pace and i think if he's not careful, whatever one's other objections to his administration may be, incompetence might set in as a characterization of where they
are and that's not where you want to be if you're at 45% and trying to get above water in your popularity ratings. >> and david jolly, this is what a transition is all about. this is why a careful transition matters. it matters to pick people to nominate for offices who you believe can get confirmed very quickly. >> that's it. >> so you won't have to live with acting directors of. but all of these act -- the acting attorney general, in fact, sally yates, was someone chosen by the trump transition team because -- >> that's it. >> -- she was a career justice department employee who had worked for republican and democratic presidents and they specifically asked her to remain as the acting attorney general until they could get a confirmation of jeff sessions. so she was the trump team's choice to do this job and that's who he's firing tonight. >> that's it. lawrence, listen, you made the saturday night massacre analogy. i'd make another. what did general kelly know? what did tillerson know? what did mattis know?
what did the acting attorney general know? the fact is the test of leadership, this is something that president trump, he's our president, should take seriously, is to rely on the subject matter experts around you. it is clear he didn't do that. you know, the historic nature of this is trump has made cabinet secretaries and other agency officials irrelevant in this process. you saw in the early years of the obama administration particularly in national security area, several agency officials leave. i think you will see that in the trump administration and lawrence, you're a congressional guy, an article 1 guy. this is the time in 2017 for a strong congress, a strong article 1 and frankly a strong judiciary. >> we've seen the strong judiciary so far. we'll see what congress rises to. >> that's right. >> we're going to have to squeeze in a quick break here of our live coverage of this breaking news night. president of the united states firing the acting attorney general and then firing the head of immigration and custom enforcement. we're going to take a quick break. we'll be right back. runs on intel?
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this is our breaking news coverage now of what has become a night of firings by president trump. first firing the acting attorney general of the united states, sally yates, who was an appointee by president obama to the justice department position of deputy attorney general. the trump administration asked her specifically to stay on as the acting attorney general. president has now fired her tonight. he then fired the head of the immigration and customs enforcement agency and chuck schumer has reacted first of all with a tweet saying, "firing of sally yates underscores how important it is to have an attorney general who will stand up to the white house when they violate the law." in a longer written statement, senator schumer said, "many people have doubts about whether jeff sessions can be that person and the full senate and the american people should at the very least know exactly how independent he plans to be
before voting on him." went on to say "the attorney general should be loyal and pledge fidelity to the law, not the white house. the fact that this administration doesn't understand that is chilling." back with jonathan alter, the committee, judiciary committee is scheduled to vote basically first thing tomorrow morning on jeff sessions. that's the committee. it's hard to imagine any republicans' mind being changed about what happens tonight in front of the sessions nomination is concerned. but the democrats do have tools on the senate floor to drag out his vote on the floor for days if chuck schumer wants to do that. >> yeah, and i think he's suggesting that he will do that. he's hinting that he will do that. you know, the republicans over the last eight years have proven that you pay no penalty for slowing things down even obstructing. >> right. >> there is no real political penalty that you pay, only in washington do people think that anybody cares if you slow things
down. so, yes, they will take their sweet time on that nomination, but mitch mcconnell's holding a lot of cards, too, and he has some ways of ramming it through, so you can expect to see the republicans try to get sessions confirmed as quickly as possible and they have the votes to do it. >> john feiner, i wanted to get your perspective on this especially on the immigration customs and enforcement firing tonight, presumably for what happened at the airports on saturday. it seemed donald trump has publicly said, oh, look, you can look at the airports, it's going great, it's going very nicely. that was his comment about what was happening at those airports, but now he's fired someone over something he publicly said was going very nicely. >> right. that may well be the explanation they end up coming back to, but i think one thing that's important to point out is all of this was avoidable if they wanted to avoid it and could have been avoided by imposing some degree of a process on
drafting and implementing this. now process is important for two reasons. one, because when you bring people together in a room that have a lot of experience and expertise you end up with a better product in the first place by drawing on that. it takes a little longer but ends up better. second, the people you bring together from the different departments and agencies that are going to have to implement the executive order in the aftermath of producing it and while it seems like someone at one of these agencies tonight has paid a price, you wonder had they been incorporated on the front end, had people with legal expertise from places like the state department and department of homeland security and the justice department been incorporated on the front end if they could have avoided this. didn't seem like that was the priority. >> senator marco rubio put out a statement today saying his staff trying to communicate with the state department about the travel ban, it's the state department that administers ultimately visas and issuance of visas and all of that and his
staff was told that they were ordered not to talk to congress, that the white house ordered state department staff not to talk to members of congress or their staff. you know -- >> look -- >> we keep wearing out this word, "unprecedented." >> sure, it's authoritarianism by any other name. listen, each executive branch official, each president from bush 43 to obama now to trump tries to seize more executive authority. trump has indicated he has no interest in working with congress. understand when he ran for congress, i was a sitting member of congress, he called all members of congress idiots. i know a lot of viewers might agree with that, but that's not a way a president works with the congress. listen, lawrence, the test for congress right now is you're seeing a lot of silent members on the right refusing to speak up. and on the left, you're seeing members raise money off of this. we need a congress to step up and do the right thing and push back and say, listen, we should have a security test, we should,
we should make sure vetting it as thorough as possible, but that doesn't mean having an ethnicity or religious test. i say that as somebody who is a born again christian and i can say that hopefully in a trump america, but it worries people whether you can do that. >> we're going to squeeze in a quick break, but david jolly, when we come back, i really want to ask you about this, you just left the congress serving as a republican member of congress. >> sure. >> charlie crist beat you as a democrat in that campaign. if you were still there, i'm wondering if you'd be saying these same things because i'm not hearing these same things from any republican who's in congress. >> let's talk about it. >> just please stay with us. we're going to -- >> you got it. >> -- take a quick break. we're going to come back with that. >> you got it. >> thank you very much. the c, the friends, the independence. and since we planned for it, that student debt is the one experience, i'm glad she'll miss
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attorney general by president obama, but she was a career employee of the justice department serving both republican and democratic presidents. she was fired tonight after she refused to try to defend the president's executive order on immigration in federal courts. we're back with david jolly, a former republican member of congress from florida, and david, you were just making these principled arguments against donald trump. >> sure. >> i can tell you that there is a place waiting in american history tonight for the republican member of congress, senate or house -- >> that's right. >> -- who steps forward while a member and says the things you were just saying about principled opposition to the president's policies. >> that's it. >> do you expect that role in history to be filled? >> i hope so. listen, we're seeing it from lindsey graham, john mccain, and so forth, but you asked the question at the break, why not? and here's why. lawrence, very simply, this is
2017. the president of the united states could destroy a member of congress with a single tweet. and that's why no member of congress wants to speak out too much. i took to the house floor about 14 months ago when he called for a muslim ban and as i mentioned, as a born again christian, said i thought that disqualified trump to be a candidate for the office. people are fearful to speak out. you mentioned the opponent who beat me in november, charlie crist, republican turned democrat. listen, on sunday when the entire left, progressive america, was marching and protesting at the airports, he took a photo of he and his wife pat a yacht club, that was his social media post that day because he's scared as well. the right and the left is scared of a president in 2017 that can destroy you with a tweet. >> so i guess, david, once his popularity, or if the president's popularity collapses to some low below the mid 30s where it seems to be now, if he gets way down there, then some brave republican member of congress might step forward. >> yeah, brave, right?
it's not surprising he's doing what he said he would do. it's surprising republicans are capitulating and following along. i'd rather do what i think is right and let the politics take care of itself. we need to see leadership in congress right now on the right and the left. >> former republican congressman david jolly, thank you very much for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. >> thanks, lawrence. >> we'll be right back. >> you bet. ou drink ensure. ou drink ensure. with 9 grams of protein and 26 vitamins and minerals. for the strength and energy to get back to doing... ...what you love. ensure. always be you. but...my doctor recommended prilosec otc 7 years ago, 5 years ago, last week. just 1 pill each morning. 24 hours and zero heartburn, it's been the number 1 doctor recommended brand for 10 straight years, and it's still recommended today. use as directed it helps put some distance.. between you and temptation. clinically proven to help reduce hunger between meals. from metamucil, the #1 doctor recommended brand.
we're back with jonathan alter and john feiner, former chief of staff to secretary of state john kerry at the state department. john feiner, i wanted to get your reaction to another big news item of the weekend and that is steve bannon being given a permanent seat on the national security council and bumping out chairman of the joints chief, intelligence director. your reaction to that. >> well, i mean, i think it's emblematic of some bigger national security implications that we're seeing in a number of the issues that we talked about tonight. i think the real question with steve bannon's role in the nse
is what real the nse is going to play in making policy. so far there have been a lot of big decisions made by this white house that have national security implications and doesn't seem like the nsc as an entity and staff according to my former colleagues working on it have been directly very much involved in those decisions. begs the question of whether he will use, the new president will use this body that has such expertise to make policy. it's important to think about, what we're seeing really is the president, this is, i think, very much mr. bannon's influence, no longer really trying to win the argument with his opponents. he had a big argument with the press. he's not really trying to make his case to the press. he's attacking the press as an entity. mr. bannon is telling them to shut up. he had an argument with the intelligence community and rather than offer an alternative view of what might have happened in various instances, he's attacking the intelligence community as a sort of professional entity. now you're seeing them going after the career of bureaucracy
including, you know, very senior people at the justice department and at i.c.e. who lost their jobs tonight. and increasingly some antagonistic steps toward the courts. these are things we see, frankly, not those of us who have spent time overseas, not as often in the united states as we do other countries that have much less historical political stability than we have which is concerning. then the last point i think is important to make is there are four or five other big things that happened in the world today. increasing violence in ukraine. reports of a missile test by iran. some americans who were killed in a raid in yemen. just to name a few of them. and not only are we not talking about that, you have to wonder how much the white house is able to focus on those things as opposed to this crisis that it's manufactured for itself. >> jonathan alter, steve bannon says he wants the press to shut up, kellyanne conway comes out and says she wants us all fired and apparently they're getng their way certainly at fox news, george will has been let go for
his being an opponent of donald trump. i'm sure they will get their way, they will succeed at some of these firings. >> you know, i think they might at fox which is very much on the team, but i don't think they're going to do so at this network or cnn. it's just not going to happen. the press is not going to be manipulated. >> that is it for tonight's breaking news session of the "the last word." jonathan alter, john feiner, thanks for joining us. really appreciate it. breaking news coverage continues now into "the 11th hour" with brian williams. there is breaking news tonight, the president fires the acting attorney general hours after she said the justice department would not defend president trump's immigration ban. "the 11th hour begins now. good evening once again from our headquarters here in new york, the trump administration is only eight days old, and already tonight, there has been a showdown between the president and the justice de