tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC February 13, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PST
one year ago tonight, the trump white house started shedding its first high-ranking officials, just 24 days into the new administration. one year ago tonight, the departure of michael flynn, who has since fled plead guilty to lying to the fbi has has become a cooperating witness into the special counsel investigation into the russia attack. tonight one year on we bookend that achievement with the news in "the new york times" that the president's personal lawyer says when it came time to pay a porn star right before the election to say that she didn't have an affair with donald trump, he found $130,000 in his own pocket and he swears it didn't come out of the campaign or out of the trump organization. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. we have just stepped into john edwards territory. this is a third party making an expenditure for the benefit of the campaign to keep a woman quiet. about her relationship with the candidate. >> yep.
and there was a failed prosecution effort against john edwards for that. they tried to bring a federal prosecution of edwards around the corruption issues around that case. it did not result -- the case fell apart. the prosecution didn't work. but john edwards also is now no longer a political figure for a lot of the same reasons that they brought that prosecution against him. what's remarkable here is that the trump organization and trump campaign may have felt such pressure that they had to make this public statement, trying to blame the whole thing on michael cohen. this feels like -- this reporter from "the new york times" tonight feels like the start of a new chapter in this scandal. certainly nothing that is going to put it to bed. i'm sorry. i just said "bed." sorry. >> we have now an fec investigation. fec must investigate this. the violation is of fec law. that's where we are. >> fec is such a toothless beast at this point. >> exactly. >> it's just been completely, completely neutered.
you know, in any other more normal time in american political history, no matter who was in charge of congress, this would at least lead to congressional hearings and a congressional investigation. and if they found anything, obviously referral to the justice department and all of that. with this republican-led congress in this scandal environment i don't know who picks this up and runs with it. i just don't. >> well, the news media will, and the fec will do whatever it does. we will find out. >> that's right. thanks, lawrence. >> thank you, rachel. a big fat liar. when is the last time you heard that? high school? it doesn't sound like high school to me. that wasn't my high school. it sounds like elementary school. it sounds like first grade. maybe kindergarten. so anyone who has been comparing the trump white house to high school is way, way, way, way off. it is much more childish than that. the words "a big fat liar" appear in quotation marks in "the washington post" tonight describing white house chief of staff john kelly and the person
doing that is a white house official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. and that same anonymous white house official said, quote, to put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty. anthony scaramucci may have left the building, but his childishness lives on in the white house. a childishness that john kelly was brought into change. he was supposed to change all that into a mature, well run professional white house. that same john kelly is now being called a big fat liar by a white house official who is clearly not afraid of having john kelly find out who leaked that, and one excellent candidate for that particular possible leak is gary cohn. he is a known trump white house leaker and one of the president's economic advisers. and gary cohn has reported in the same "washington post"
article tonight as being a possible replacement for john kelly as white house chief of staff. and all the leaking about john kelly that is now pouring out of the white house these days makes it clear that no one, and i mean no one in that white house is afraid of john kelly. not anymore. the inmates are once again clearly openly running the asylum after what was only a brief period when john kelly was apparently pretending to run the asylum. two versions of what john kelly and the white house staff knew about rob porter were offered today in washington. one was offered under oath. >> what i can tell you is that the fbi submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in march. and then a completed background investigation in late july that soon thereafter we received
requests for follow-up inquiry. and we did the follow-up and provided that information in november. and then we administratively closed the file in january. and then earlier this month we received some additional information. and we passed that on as well. >> there is the director of the fbi, appointed by president trump testifying under oath that the fbi submitted a partial report on rob porter to the white house in march. and then the fbi completed the background investigation in late july. here is the white house press secretary giving her version of that story four hours after the fbi director told his story under oath. white house press secretary was not under oath. >> the white house personnel security office staffed by career officials received
information last year. and what they considered fob the final background investigation report in november. but they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the white house because the process was still ongoing when rob porter resigned. in the view of personnel security office, the report required additional significant investigatory work before personnel office could begin to evaluate the information for adjudication. >> notice the word that does not appear anywhere in that written white house statement that she was reading. "march." the month of march. never appears in anything the white house press secretary said today, and the fbi director said this morning under oath that the fbi submitted a partial report in march. and we know that partial report included the accusations from rob porter's two former wives of physical abuse and violence. we know that the fbi obtained the photograph of rob porter's first wife's black eye in
january, and that she says she got that black eye from one punch thrown by her then husband rob porter. "the washington post" has previously reported that white house counsel don mcgahn knew all what the fbi was finding early last year. don mcgahn obviously didn't care. he obviously did nothing about it. white house chief of staff john kelly did nothing about it. the white house story that the fbi director destroyed today is that the white house has been patiently waiting for the completion of the background check for rob porter's security clearance, the security clearance that was never granted. and they were still waiting for that when the black eye photo was made public last week. >> as i said earlier, my understanding is any information would have gone to the personnel security office. that office had not completed their office in order to make a recommendation for adjudication
to the white house that was still ongoing and therefore recommendation had not been made. >> you said the specific papers regarding the completion of the background check had not been received. >> that's part of that process that the white house personnel security office plays, run by career officials. and we hadn't received a recommendation from that office. >> that's the white house press secretary trying to blur the answer of when the white house received the fbi's final background investigation. the fbi says that was in july. the new part of the white house story today is that it was really the white house personnel security office then that was slowing everything down after the fbi did their work. nbc's peter alexander is reporting tonight that a former senior white house official has said that the white house personnel security office, quote, they do not make decisions, end quote, adding that they don't do vetting.
according to that source, once the fbi background checks are completed, the security office might make a recommendation. but it's up to the white house political staff to determine how to proceed. joining us now, peter nicholas, white house reporter for "the wall street journal." and betsy woodruff, a politics reporter for daily beast and an msnbc contributor. peter, you were in the team that reported what john kelly had to say about this on monday where he said -- that's where he has issued the famous quote, "it was all done right." that's what john kelly said in your reporting. in the journal's encounter with john kelly to even get that much out of him, what kind of confidence did he show in the way he dealt with this one when he was asked about it. ? >> well, it was brief interview that my colleague did.
he was pretty clear he didn't think there was any fault on the white house's part. what is strange about that is it's at odds with what deputy press secretary ross shaw has said. ross shaw told reporters last week the white house did make mistake. they could have done things better in this instance. so kelly's sunny verdict on how the white house handled it is really at odds with the white house's own messaging. >> and betsy woodruff, what did the white house know? when did it know? it has all become more crucial, especially in march. what was it that the fbi brought to the white house in march, their preliminary findings? we know from other reporting, but by that time they had the photograph of the black eye. they had all of the reporting that the two former wives gave to the fbi. and they gave that reporting to the fbi under the possible penalties in effect of perjury, speaking of lying to the fbi as a crime.
so this is pretty heavy information that the fbi was in possession of by march. and the fbi director today is say thanksgiving give a preliminary report in march. >> right. remember, the white house is an extremely big place. tons and tons and tons of employees. so the question isn't just what did the white house know and when did they know it, but also who in white house? which individuals were the first people to be made aware of the knack there was a photo of rob porter's former wife with a black eye? and names that we keep hearing sort of pop up as potential folks who could have been aware of this or perhaps should have been aware of it and should have done something, there is two names we hear frequently. don mcgahn, the white house counsel whose job is to be the lawyer for the presidency. an incredibly important role. and also joe hagan, whose title i believe is deputy chief of staff. he is a veteran of the george w. bush white house. he is one of these folks who is always sort of a fuzzy person in the background of photos of people getting on helicopters and such.
he knows the way white houses work. he knows the way white houses are supposed to work. and one big outstanding question tonight is was he familiar? was he aware of these shocking and deeply ugly allegations against rob porter. that's something that we can expect, particularly white house reporters to be digging into in the coming days. >> gabe sherman has been following this closely is tweeting tonight. he says widespread chatter tonight among republicans close to the white house that trump is nearing a decision to name gary cohn as kelly's replacement. peter nicholas, in "the wall street journal's" moments with john kelly, did it seem like the end could be near for him? >> well, replacing john kelly would be a risky thing to do. bear in mind he has only been in the job six months. he is the second chief of staff. if he is replaced that would only add to the perception that this is a white house in turmoil. the question is does trump want that? does he believe whatever
problems have been caused by john kelly, however this mess, however this mess started, is it solved necessarily by replacing him with a new chief of staff? or does that just show there is really so much turnover in this white house it feeds perception of instability. >> and betsy we have reporting tonight that john kelly and others were considering promoting rob porter, and that is long after the fbi completed its investigation in july. >> right. and that's why these questions about the way the information that the fbi had worked through the white house and who had access to that information are so vital. now one piece of this that's really important to remember is that the story beneath the story, or a story adjacent to the story is the fact that the infighting in the white house is just extraordinarily ugly. a cold war has almost become a hot war in terms of different factions going after each other. we know that john kelly has made
a lot of enemies, perhaps justified or not in the six months he has been in the white house. so it's not particularly shocking that there are folks pushing out information saying he was open to giving port area promotion. now, the fact that there are people looking for creative ways to stab each other in the back certainly doesn't mean that any of this reporting is incorrect. that's not my implication here. but the important context to bear in mind is that this extraordinarily ugly scandal related to domestic violence has just sort of muddied the waters and given rise to a lot of very ugly sentiments and infighting that had been percolating for quite some time. and it all points to the extraordinary, extraordinary challenges that this white house has just functioning. >> and peter nicholas, there are also reports tonight that the white house was still defending rob porter even after he -- the announcement was made that he was going to resign, including white house press secretary bringing in four reporters including one "wall street
journal" reporter for an off-the-record session with rob porter himself who apparently offered some kind of defense for the black eye, saying it involved a struggle over something in a hotel in italy, and it was all an accident. >> well, it does seem like the white house wanted to rally behind rob porter who was internally very well regarded, very well respected, a popular person inside the west wing. and their initial instinct despite the evidence was to see if they could weather this early on. eventually that position just became unsustainable. they realize that this was a public relations nightmare that they could not handle, and that the only solution was to get his resignation which is what they did. but early on, there was definitely a sense that maybe they can talk to the press and they can portray this in a way that would make it possible for him to stay on. >> peter nicholas and betsy woodruff, thank you both for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. >> sure.
>> sure thing. coming up, the fbi director ruined the white house story today. what is the fbi director going to say the next time he is asked about the rob porter background check? he knows much more than he said today. and later in this hour, a special rewrite tonight. a guest rewrite. "boston globe" columnist kevin cohen will join us with his painful for him change of heart about john kelly. he praised john kelly when john kelly was named to the trump cabinet. now he says john kelly should resign. liberty mutual stood with me when this guy got a flat tire in the middle of the night. hold on dad... liberty did what? yeah, liberty mutual 24-hour roadside assistance helped him to fix his flat so he could get home safely.
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tonight "the washington post" is reporting on the president's reaction to what has now been a week of crisis since the white house staffer rob porter was publicly accused by both of his former wives and a former girlfriend of being violent toward them, including giving his first wife colby holderness a black eye with one punch. trump has privately expressed frustration with the week-long fallout, peppering aides and confidantes with questions about the media coverage and how the controversy is playing for him personally. of course that's what he is
worried about. how is this playing for him personally? also tonight, cnn is reporting trump has been phoning allies in recent days to get their advice on how to handle the fallout from rob porter. his two main questions, what do we do and when does it end? well, you could try this, mr. president. you could try telling the truth and firing anyone and everyone who lied about it that would end it. but we know that's not going to happen. not in the trump white house. so tomorrow's white house press briefing will surely include more lies about this story. and at this hour tomorrow night, we will be dissecting tomorrow's lies. and one of the big problems for the white house is that the fbi director christopher wray will be asked about all of this again the next time that he testifies to congress or perhaps sooner than that. the fbi director will be drawn back into even more specific
questions about what exactly the fbi told the white house about rob porter in march and then exactly what the fbi told the white house about rob porter in july when they delivered their completed report on rob porter. and as of tonight it seems nothing fbi director christopher wray says about this is going to fit the lies being told by the trump white house. joining us now, william yeomans who spent 26 years at the justice department and was the former chief counsel on the senate judiciary committee. also with us matt miller, former spokesperson for attorney general eric holder and an msnbc contributor. and bill yeomans, what happens next, particularly with the fbi director? surely the next time he is testifying at congress, he is going to be asked about this. reporter mace have access to the director before the next time he testifies to congress. we're going to hear more from him. >> well, i think we will. and i think what you've set up really indicates something that's been missing in this
whole affair which is serious congressional oversight. this is a situation when congress should really step up. and of course under republican leadership, that is not happening. so, yeah, the fbi director will appear before congress. but there need to be serious oversight hears regarding the clearance process and certainly looking into what exactly happened in this white house. >> matt miller, what are the answers to the president's questions of what do we do and what's going to happen next? >> the best thing for him to do would be to come clean, to come out and say exactly when officials in the white house found out about the domestic abuse allegations against rob porter, who knew and what they did about it, and then take corrective action. and anyone that knew and didn't act would be fired and have to leave the white house. the problem for the president is there is no way to end this scandal without addressing this related issue of people having interim security clearances. and there is no way to address that issue without addressing
the interim security clearance for his son-in-law, jared kushner. in a lot of ways i think jared is the tail wagging the dog here. they can't give jared a permanent security clearance because he is the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation, but they can't yank security clearances for everyone else, people like rob porter and leave jared as the only one with an interim problem. so he's got two big scandals. and can't really address the first one and leave the second one out there hanging. >> bill yeomans, would replacing the white house chief of staff be the end of this story? >> no, i don't think so. replacing the after the, which looks increasingly likely would be a start, but, you know, this is a bigger problem. we're hearing stories that there are dozens of staffers in the white house who do not have clearances. and, you know, that's a little bit frightening that we have all these people running around the white house, running the country who can't get security
clearances. so i think there needs to be a large scale accounting as to what's happening. but it does seem that john kelly has sufficiently damaged his credibility, his integrity inside the white house that his departure may be a necessary step. >> matt miller, would that end it? john kelly leaving? >> no, i don't think it would. because i think john kelly, whatever he did know is probably not the only one. he almost certainly wasn't the only one. obviously don mcgahn is right at the white hot center of this kwv. >> yeah. >> you have to think that the deputy chief of staff, joe hagan who is the person don mcgahn typically would come to with information like this, he is in charge of personnel matters. you would think he would know about it. you really have to have a full-scale accounting. it may be that removing john kelly gets a little attention off for a few days. but i think until you have everything aired, you're going to continue to see leaks out of the white house. you're going to see leaks
probably out of the fbi eventually, especially if the white house continues to take shots at them. and just the departure of one official won't end this controversy. >> justice department experts william yeomans and matt miller, thank you both for joining me tonight. really appreciate it. >> pleasure. >> thank you. tonight we're going have a very special rewrite. a couple of guys from boston talking about another guy from boston. john kelly is from boston. and "the boston globe," his hometown newspaper has been tougher on him than any other newspaper in the country. and kevin collin, "boston globe" columnist has changed his mind about john kelly. that's coming up.
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that has been used by previous administrations. >> no, they are not. the processes of the trump administration are unique to the trump administration, including the process of obtaining security clearances for white house personnel like jared kushner. who still does not have a security clearance. some estimates indicate as many as 40 people in the trump white house do not have the security clearance that is required for their jobs. and now the security clearance process has completely undone the trump white house for the last week. we know that white house staffer rob porter was accused of beating both of his former wives and a former girlfriend only because of the fbi background investigation, an investigation that was supposed to clear rob porter for the security clearance that he was never able to obtain. here is what the trump administration's director of national intelligence said about this process today.
>> i think sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot. but i have publicly stated if that is the case, the access has to be limited in terms of the kind of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive. so i think that's something that we have to do as part of our security clearance review. the process is broken. it needs to be reformed. >> joining our squugs ndiscussi john mclaughlin, an msnbc national security analyst. and john, i wanted to get your reaction to today's developments, especially fbi director being in conflict with the white house press secretary about who knew what, when. let's begin there. how do you think this is going to unfold? surely the fbi director knows more and he can tell us more. >> oh, he clearly knows more at this point.
if they have completed the investigation, they have all kinds of details that are germane to the case. and it's kind of astonishing that he would have completed that investigation in july and that we would be where we are today. if the information that they had turn over to the white house was verifiably like anything that has been reported, that would have been an automatic turndown in any other agency that i know about. and so it's kind of astonishing that we're at the point where somehow we're still talking about interim clearances for a person whose background investigation revealed that kind of issue. >> reporter: "the new york times" is reporting that at the center of all of this, including the porter scandal is jared kushner in the following way. people familiar with the security clearance process and mr. trump's white house said it was widely acknowledged among senior aides that raising questions about unresolved vetting issues in a staff member's background would implicitly reflect on mr.
kushner's status as well, a situation made more awkward because mr. kushner is married to the president's daughter ivanka. your reaction to that. >> well, you know, i thought about this today. and i certainly agree with what dan coates said, that this process is fundamentally broken. there are traditional problems. the process has always been hard. it takes too long. it's bottlenecked at various places. but with this administration, there are some problems that are peculiar to it. and the main one is that they've granted enormous access and authority to people who are not yet cleared like jared kushner. so i don't know -- i was listening to your previous discussion. i'm not sure what you do about this except take people out of positions if they cannot get a clearance and they therefore are not entitled to see the information that they're seeing. that's what would have happened in a normal administration. for someone who at this great length, at this great remove had
still not passed the security clearance. >> jared kushner's lawyer is saying that it's not uncommon for the process to take this long with someone who has a lot of foreign entanglements, and there are others, veterans of previous administrations who say they had even more professional foreign contacts than jared kushner and theirs were done in half the time, done in six months, five months. >> well, he is half right. it's not unusual for someone with very complicated financial picture to take a long time to get cleared. i still help people through this process who are, you know, in need of some assistance or advice. but what is unusual is for someone who takes that long to be granted the kind of access that mr. kushner has been granted. i think that's the unusual thing here. so i can grant that it's not illogical that someone with a complicated financial picture might take a long time. what i can't accept is that you go ahead and give them access to
things like the president's daily brief, which i understand mr. kushner sees, and which contains really the most sensitive intelligence that the united states produces. >> john mclaughlin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you. coming up, sarah sanders was not the only woman who spoke in the white house press briefing today. mitch mcconnell's wife made an appearance there. she is the secretary of transportation. the white house press secretary told reporters not to ask the secretary of transportation any questions about the really big story of the day. and unfortunately, the reporters followed that instruction. and that was a mixed opportunity. that is next. mercedes-benz glc
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two women took questions at the white house press briefing today. the first was the secretary of transportational, elaine chao, who also happens to be mitch mcconnell's second wife. unfortunately, elaine chao was not asked the most important questions of the day because the white house press secretary ordered the press corps not to ask her those questions which we'll come to in a second. but first secretary choo did something that they never do. she said it's possible we might have to raise taxes, in this case to pay for infrastructure. >> as you know, the federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.
the u.s. chamber of commerce has advocated an increase in the gas tax of 25 cents per gallon. the truckers, the american trucking associations recommended a 20 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax. what's your view on the subject? >> well, the president has not declared anything out of bounds. so everything is on the table. >> a gasoline tax increase is definitely not on the table in elaine chao and mitch mcconnell's home. >> let me just say we're not going to raise the gas tax. we're not going to raise the gas tax. >> that was mitch mcconnell a couple of years ago. and that remains republican orthodoxy. so he won't have to be the one who publicly shoots down his wife's comment about the gasoline tax increase being on the table there are plenty of other republicans in the house of representatives who can do that for him there is no way that this republican president and this republican congress is
going to raise the gasoline tax, which funds highway construction and repair in this country. and the reason that the truckers who would carry the heaviest burden in a gasoline tax increa increase increase want the increase is because they know american highways will continue to crumble without an increase in the gasoline tax. the gasoline tax goes into the highway trust fund. and the highway trust fund is on its way to bankruptcy in the year 2021. elaine chao's brief turn at the microphone today was the only thing that resembled a substantive policy discussion in any way. but she also demonstrated that stunning trumpian ignorance that is unique in our history to the trump cabinet. >> we all want better infrastructure, but unfortunately, there is just not enough money in the world to pay for all the infrastructure. >> well, first of all, there is
enough money in the world. and there is enough money in the united states. how do you think all this infrastructure got here? we bought it. we paid for it. we own it. now we just have to repair and improve it. and republicans do not have a real plan to do that. when the white house press secretary introduced secretary ch chao today, she said this to the white house press corps. >> i trust that you'll stay on topic and i'll be back up afterwards to answer your questions on the news of the day. that, secretary chao, thank you very much for being here. >> thank you. >> i trust that you'll stay on topic. unfortunately, the white house press corps followed their orders today. and only asked the secretary of transportation about the president's infrastructure proposal. no reporter asked elaine chao what is your policy in the department of transportation and in the secretary's office in particular on the employment of
political appointees who are credibly accused of beating their wives and their girlfriends? elaine chao was not asked what it feels like to work for a man who refuses to say that punching your wife is wrong. she was not asked what it feels like to work for a man who has repeatedly over the course of his life expressed sympathy for men accused of violence against women, including their wives. she was not asked what it feels like to work for man who actually expressed sympathy and support for a friend of his who was convicted of rape. elaine chao was not asked what it feels like to work for a man who could not bring himself to say one word of sympathy for the former wives of rob porter who told their stories to the fbi. elaine chao was not asked what it's like to work for a man who could look at the picture of colbie holderness's black eye. the picture of a tragedy seen
around the world and not be moved to speak one word of sympathy for what he saw in that photograph. elaine chao was not asked what it's like to work for a man who was caught on video bragging about his own favorite methods of sexual assault. elaine chao was not asked what's it like to be in the same room with a man like that. to breathe the same air. she was not asked those questions because the white house press secretary said "i trust that you'll stay on topic." and the reporters turned out to be all too trustworthy. the reporters who got to ask elaine chao questions stayed on topic. and i'm sure there were many other reporters in that room who would have asked the important questions of the day to elaine chao if they got the chance. because this is no ordinary time to be a reporter covering the trump white house. it has been an especially difficult week for one reporter
in john kelly's hometown, "boston globe" columnist kevin cullen. he praised him a modern military general, a soldier-scholar-statesman, way back when john kelly was chosen to be secretary of the trump homeland security organization. this week he rewrote that to this. kelly sounded like any number of vaguely racist callers to any number of radio talk shows dismissing immigrants as lazy. kevin cullen ended his column with what he thinks should be john kelly's next step. he wrote, "john kelly should resign." kevin cullen joins us from boston next as our guest in tonight's rewrite. ♪ one click gives you access to discounts on thousands of hotels, cars and things to do. like the occidental at the xcaret destination for 32% off.
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in tonight's rewrite, a rewrite with "boston globe" columnist kevin cullen who rewrites the image of john kelly and his own understanding of john kelly. kevin cullen titled his column this week "what the hell happened to john kelly?" joining us now from boston, kevin cullen. kevin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. i started to notice days ago that "the boston globe" columnists and now you included were going after john kelly pretty hard. but for you, this was a different road to travel because you had begun with the trump
administration and kelly anyway praising john kelly when he was named to run homeland security. take us back to that moment and what you saw since then that has made you change your mind. >> well, lawrence, i would begin with saying that i do not know john kelly well. i have met him on two previous occasions very briefly. he was very kind to my son when my son was thinking of joining the military. he ended up -- my son did end up joining the coast guard. but i met john kelly on another occasion. i just found him to be warm, engaging guy. most of my perception of john kelly, my knowledge of him was based on the recollections and the knowledge of marines i knew. there is no such -- you would know there is no such thing as a former marine. but i knew people that served with and under him. and they spoke to while hawaiily
of him. they talked about him in terms that i could relate to and understand that john kelly was guy that grew up in oak square in brighton here in boston. and son and the son of a postal worker. regular guy, made himself something in the marine corp and rose to a four-star general and eventually became the commander of the u.s. southern command. and from all accounts served well, served loyally, served honorably. and when he came into the trump administration i think i was alone in the boston globe among columnists saying that he's the right guy. he was the right guy particularly for that job in homeland security. and i gave him -- i thought it was a good thing -- i guess i'm one of those people that thought he would bring some discipline
and sort of military discipline to a white house that seemed from the very get-go a little bit out of control, a little bit not knowing where it should go, and i thought he would whip them into shape. to be honest, lawrence, in the intervening year, in the year that has passed things john kelly has done and said has changed my opinion. it began with when he was the head of homeland security. he more or less criminalized noncriminal immigrants. instead of going after criminals with very limited resources in i.c.e., the immigrations customs enforceme enforceme enforcement agency, they decided to go after people and it seemed cruel and the i.c.e. agency should be locking up real
criminals. and that didn't happen. john kelly at one point condoned and thought it was funny to make fun of the attacks that president trump routinely makes on the press, on a free press in our country, which incidentally separates us from tim bought dictatorships. and john kelly it hit me the wrong way last year. if you recall, he had a sword and he showed it to the president saying you should use this on the press. and i thought it was it's not what he should have said. and the idea that the president of the united states routinely dismisses and degrades a free press, which is in fact one of the great checks on power in this country, and which doesn't
exist in many parts of the world and which should, i found very depressing and very saddening. then next john kelly who sadly knows what it means to be a gold star family, his son robert, a marine corp lieutenant was killed in action in afghanistan in 2010. and yet for all that, i must say that i -- if we go back to that period when la david johnson, the family of the man who was killed in niger, i thought to myself if john kelly said you know what, instead of making a blind phone call, why don't we
have john kelly, a gold star father go down and talk to mrs. johnson, a gold star widow, privately, just the two of them. and in my dreams or in my whatever i think, i could see them embracing, talking to each other, crying with each other. john kelly talking about his son, mrs. johnson talking about her husband. but that didn't happen. instead mr. trump said words that mrs. johnson found offensive. i think if i summarize them, it would have said your husband knew what he was getting into. and the narrative coming out of the white house a congresswoman was in the middle of it and it became a political issue. the congresswoman didn't matter. the only person that mattered,
the only feelings that mattered was mrs. johnson. and the person who should have gotten that right was kelly. >> the story he told about frederica wilson, and you point this out in your column, was completely not true. and i sat there in suspense for 24 hours waiting for the apology that never came. and i was so stunned and disappointed in that moment. that to me was the turning point on john kelly. >> i was too, lawrence, in the sense that i did and do in my gut still now believe john kelly is a man of honor. and a man of honor would admit he was wrong. but this is the difference, john kelly the way i defined him and understood him he was a military man and then he became a political man and he hitched his wagon to a guy named donald trump. and donald trump never admits his wrong, and his chief of
staff apparently never admits he's wrong. i don't think that's good for the country. >> i think it was difficult for both of us to watch the boston irish guy turn out like this in this situation. we could go on and on like this. kevin cullen, thank you for joining us tonight. thank you, kevin very much. >> thanks, lawrence. >> tonight's "last word" is next. die...or become a sparrow. (music) nathaniel: in moscow there's a program, nathaniel: they call them sparrows. trained to seduce and manipulate. nathaniel: that is what she is. she's out of your league. (music) you have a gift. (music) vanya: you see through people. take your life back. (music) i'll find a way. (music) vanya: you're always one step ahead. (music) dominika: you're right. (music) rated r.
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congress that the president has not said one word to him about trying to stop russian interference in our upcoming elections. that story is next on "the 11th hour" with brian williams, which starts now. tonight the trump white house under siege. day 7 contradicted on basic facts by the fbi director and the president avoiding two chances today to side with victims of abuse. plus chief of staff john kelly called a big fat liar by a white house official in the "the washington post" as he and white house counsel don megan face serious questions about what they knew and when they knew it. and there's this, across town on the hill today one of our intelligence chiefs warned us america is under attack. all part of "the 11th hour" as we get under way on a tuesday night. well, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day90