tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC January 3, 2018 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
group. it is the presidential advisory commission on election integri y integrity. members of the commission didn't know they were being cut loose and all dissolving of their group. the commissioners were simply e-mails the white house statement with a short and important addendum. quote, today the president dissolved the commission by executive order. due to pending litigation, you should continue to preserve records. it's basically been a fun year. that's as good of microcosm i've seen anywhere. it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. as you can see, the beard is gone. i know you voted for the beard but let me just tell you. as i told you the vote in twitter universe kind of equal for and against. >> yeah. >> but the voters voting against it frequently used two words
that were very disturbing to me. one of the words was older. >> oh. >> it was very disturbing and the other even more disturbing was the word bannon. >> oh! >> this is no night to look like steve bannon. no, not tonight, rachel. no. this is not the night. >> you know what? even if you put on three shirts and you rounlged the end of your nose, you could not look like steve bannon. >> i don't think anyone can. and, rachel, i want to go back to what you were reporting earlier in the show about rod rosenstein going up to the speaker of the house today. this is fascinating. we know very little about it but you framed it as fully as we can understand it. faced a request, subpoena to produce documents basically the full fbi investigation as we know it.
>> at least very sensitive parts of it, yeah. >> very much so. they apparently it seems like the fbi director and rod rosen steen going over nunez head to the speaker apparently making case about why they shouldn't comply. >> that's what it seems like from a distance. there's a number of really unusual things about this. number one, we didn't know in advance this was going to happen. our reporting is until that meeting happened the doj really was planning on handing over information in response to that request. which -- we know what he requested. very, very sensitive stuff in the middle of the information and we know that the department of justice didn't then hand that information over after that meeting happened. so again, we don't know what happened inside that room. source familiar with the meeting tells us that the topic of conversation was the russia investigation for sure. so, i don't know what -- i mean, we'll have to see. nunez head of the intelligence committee and could not be a more controversial figure in that role given that russia
investigation and paul ryan really been able to stay out of the fray on everything related to russia. if he has just been prevailed upon by the fbi director and the defacto attorney general overseeing the russia investigation to get in his way and do this by some other means, this's -- just a very big development. very big deal in terms of who the personnel are involved in this and who's in charge. >> and early in this story, last year, nunez consulting with paul ryan on various steps to take as they went along and see what happens with that one. thank you. >> thank you, lawrence. >> appreciate it. the president of the united states is a weak man with an enfabled mind, controlled by vanity that compels him to create a hair do with the skull. a hair do whose mission to cover the shiny bald dome on the top of his head. he does not allow the white house house keeping staff to
change the sheets on his bed until he has himself stripped the bed of the used sheets. perhaps in fear of anyone working in the white house discovering that he might suffer from what? incontinue innocence? it is common for the president to be in bed eating hamburgers at 6:30 and calling people who he thinks are his friends and acquaintances to complain about the white house advisers including son-in-law. none of whom think that -- none of whom does the president think as smart as he thinks he is himself. but in a briefing about the united states constitution, the briefer had to give up by the time he got to the fourth amendment because donald trump's attention span was spent. unfortunately for the president, it is the fifth amendment that has now become the most important part of the constitution to many of his staff under investigation by a special prosecutor. such is the picture of the president of the united states
delivered in a new book today. by michael wolf called "fire and fury,: inside the trump white house." the president's reaction today to what steve bannon says about him in that book came down to this. he lost his mind. the president whose mental health received a negative diagnosis from 27 psychiatrists and mental health professionals in a book published last year is defending himself against this new book by offering a mental health diagnosis of steve bannon. he lost his mind. but this is just day one of the publicity generated by this explosive book which also shows rupert murdoch hanging up the phone after a conversation with president trump and saying, what an f'g idiot. no word on donald trump's reaction to that yet.
has rupert murdoch lost his mind? has ivanka trump lost her mind? is that why she's described in the bookmaking fun of the way her father arranges when's left of his hair? to cover what she says is an enormous bald spot on the top of his head made somewhat smaller by surgical scalp reduction. is he going to say that his daughter lost her mind by telling that story? if everyone in this book who says something negative about donald trump is out of his mind, then they are all out of their minds. all the president's men and all the president's women. the president's wife who still has not held that press conference that the president promised during the campaign in which she would explain the legal records of her immigration history criticized the book today through a spokesperson calling it trashy tabloid fiction because it reports that melania trump was distraught and
in tears when donald trump won the electoral college on election night. something no one in trump world expected to happen and something no one in trump world apparently wanted to happen very much including melania trump. michael flynn is quoted in the book as telling friends that the $45,000 he took from russians for a speech was nothing to worry about because, quote, it would only be a problem if we won. the book insists that everyone in trump world on election day was planning the lives and the incomes they believed they would earn by coming in second. donald trump jr. is quoted in the book as saying that when his father had realized he'd won the electoral college he looked as if he had seen a ghost. this book is the story of incompetence running an incompetent presidential campaign for an incompetent
candidate who's a dangerous and incompetent president and quotes steve bannon as calling the meeting that donald trump jr. arranged during the campaign in trump tower a group of russians attended by jared kushner and paul manafort as treasonist. bannon says they're going to crack don junior like an egg on national tv. one of the sources for the book is katie walsh who served as the white house deputy chief of staff in the first couple of months of the trump white house. here's how michael wol off delivers her view of the commander in chief. he didn't process information in any conventional sense. he didn't read. he didn't really even skim. some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. he trusted his own expertise no matter how irrelevant and confident but he was just as often paralyzed less a salve saint than putting and dangerous insecurities whose response was to lash out and behave as if his
gut however confused was, in fact, in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. it was said walsh like trying to figure out what a child wants. joining us now, john heilman, analyst for nbc news and jonathan capehart from "the washington post" and also with us, ron klain, former chief of staff to joe biden, al gore, former senior aide to president obama. jon heilman, you have good sources in trump world during the campaign. is what you're reading in michael wolff's reporting an echo of what you were hearing with the same kind of access? >> i think that there's a couple different things going on in the book. one of which is that i think the broad picture he paints of where they were on election night, what their expectations were for how election night was going to turn out and planning for, not winning and how to go on and try to capitalize, in particular, the insight that trump saw
losing as being in some ways better than winning, is spot on. >> yes. >> i think that there is also an extraordinary number of -- amount of delicious score settling going on in the book and you can't read much of what bannon says in the book, fascinating as meta news as news because it is a measure of someone who has decided where this presidency's headed, what its limits are and decided that he's ready to cut his losses and so he's making various distinctions, taking various shots at some deserved shots but at people like don jr., jared kushner, people he never liked and respected but with a sense that the presidency is likely is imperilled for sure. and that history is now on the side of those bailing on donald trump rather than sticking with him and that's an interesting thing because steve bannon for all of the maladies is not a dumb guy. >> and, ron klain, obviously, once again, something we have
never seen anything like this, former white house adviser leaving the white house like this and then giving this kind of information about the inside of the white house but it's not just steve bannon. i mean, steve bannon is the headline today. it is every single person working in that white house that michael wolff has access to with something negative to say about this president. >> it is incredible, lawrence. there's a bit of eskimos so exposed to winter they have 23 words for snow. the thing that strikes you in the book n whether it's mnuchin or mcmaster, everyone around trump either calls him dumb or stupid or an idiot. it is like they have 23 different words for moron. i mean, it is astonishing portrait of the president as an idiot, as an incompetent. not by his political foes, not by enemies or people but those closest to him in the white house. and that's what you see when you read the excerpts from this
book. >> jonathan, maggie is reporting in "the washington post" new rule for the white house. as of next week, west wing staffers have been told they can't use personal cell phones anymore per multiple aides. they were told this early in the term but it's now being enforced with security concerns being cited. and, jonathan, no doubt with leaking concerns being cited. >> lawrence, i mean, at the end of the new york magazine adaptation of michael wolff's book, he had more than 200 interviews including the president and in some of these -- in the stories about the book and in the adaptation of the book is made clear that probably the biggest leaker of all was the president of the united states. and in regard to the new rule that's come down at the white house about the use of personal cell phones, it seems like that that rule has come a little too
late and also what is cell phone use going to matter when we all know now that michael wolff basically set up a card table, a little desk there in the west wing lobby because he had such access to the west wing, to the administration in order to write what we're all talking about now and that's his book? >> and, jon, there's one passage in here about a phone call that michael wolff does not identify who's on the receiving end of this presidential phone call from donald trump but he know that is it's 26 minutes and he reports it as if line by line. it reads as if it was michael wolff on the other end of the phone call and we know that he had access to president trump. he did a profile of him during the campaign in the middle of the campaign. and so, it could well be that donald trump is one of the major sourszs of this book. >> look.
one of the realities that michael wolff captures in the book is the picture of the president in a separate bedroom from melania trump, unusual arrangement. sitting in his bed eating the cheeseburgerers. i have no problem with cheeseburgers in the bed and one thing i approve of the behavior as reported in the book and endless phone calls. again, we saw that. bill clinton used to do that, too. not the bed thing but the late night calls and trump does that. probably a lot of people who he had 26-minute phone calls with. the question and when michael wolff does interviews, are the quotation marks around that interview, are those real? or not. if they're real, either the phone call was with michael wolff or someone else recorded the telephone call. >> yes. >> or, as i say, the quotation marks are improperly used. there's got to be an answer to that question. no one to force him to say who the person was but there are some questions about that. but my guess is that that call is similar to 100 other calls
that trump made in that time frame. it has the ring of truth to it whether or not the words are precisely right or not. it feels like the kind of ventings and grievances a trump expressing to people that i heard about over the course of the last year. >> ron klain, a lot of it is about how he criticizes his own staff, including jared kushner. he's got either an adjective or something negative to say about every one of them in these kinds of phone calls that we're reading about in this book. and so, this is an unusual form of late night presidential phone call to put it mildly. >> yeah. i mean, obviously, if one theme of the book is that the president's senior staff thinks he's an idiot, another theme of the book is that the president thinks the senior staff is full of idiots. >> it is possible they can both be right. >> it is possible. >> they can both be right. >> definitely. we could be backing the same
rule of it takes one to know one and could be what we're seeing in the book. look. i do think -- i agree with what jon heilman said earlier. there's bannon score settling here and taken with a grain of salt but it is stunning. i mean, really stunning that the president's chief strategist says that the president's campaign engaged in act of treason. and we have never seen anything like that before. and again, that's not what hillary clinton's chief strategist said today. that's not what barack obama's chief strategist said. donald trump's chief strategist who helped direct this campaign said that the campaign was engaged in treason. and that is something that really can't be brushled away lightly at all. >> jonathan capehart, we have the video ready to go and we all remember it and won't show it. donald trump during the campaign telling everyone i have the best people. i have the best people. i hire the best people. this book "fire and fury" is the first story of the operation of the best people inside of this white house.
>> yeah. and those best people as we've known from the very beginning and it's been great to see it in print were stabbing each other in the back, in the front, in print, on air. the picture that michael wolff paints is so chaotic, it's so disturbing, that you just wonder how have we made it a year without the wheels completely flying off the bus? i'm -- i'm not sure. and i can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book because if the new york magazine adaptation is just a taste of what's in the overall book, it could be -- the probables that i see for the white house in this, they're personal problems, political problems, and legal problems that come out from this book. i just wonder how much deeper do those problems go when you get
the full picture reading the entire book. >> i have the entire book right here in my hands. if you're here in new york drk. >> you'd give it to me. >> overnight. i want to point out within thing to the audience in reaction to what you just said, jonathan, about the portrait that michael wolff paints. as a painter what he is doing is handing the paint brush to everyone in the trump white house to do their own painting of each other. and so, it is -- what we know about these people in this book is from other trump people in this book talking about them so it really isn't michael wolff inserting a view of what's happening there. i'm going to take a break here. jonathan, jon, thank you for joining us. coming up, steve bannon has a lot to say, a lot more to say in this book about special prosecutor's investigation and also later a trump biographer will join us to look in the mind of donald trump.
tonight as he reacts to this new book that's ripping the roof off of his white house. hi, i'm the internet! you know what's difficult? armless bowling. ahhhhhhhh! you know what's easy? building your website with godaddy. get your domain today and get a free trial of gocentral. build a better website in under an hour.
and not one republican in washington stood up today and said that's not true. that's not the donald trump i know. the donald trump i know is not an idiot, not a dope and not dumb as -- not one republican stepped forward to defend donald trump against the labels all of which applied to donald trump in the book by members of donald trump's own staff. michael wolff book "fire and fury" says this about how the trump staff views the president. for steve mnuchin and reince priebus, he was an idiot. for gary cohn, he was dumb as -- for h.r. mcmaster, he was a dope. the list went on. and an e-mail that the book describes as purportedly representing the views of gary cohn, white house economic adviser, said trump won't read anything. not the brief policy papers.
nothing. he gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. and his staff is no better. kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. bannon is an arrogant -- who thinks he is smarter than he is. trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. no one will survive the first year. but his family. i hate the work. but feel i need to stay because i'm the only person there with a clue what he's going. i am in a constant state of shock and horror. republicans continued to hide under their blankets in their cribs today as the president tweets us ever closer to nuclear war with north korea. here is a sample of the republican reaction to the president's demented tweet last night about the nuclear button being bigger than north korea's nuclear button. >> well, i don't have a comment
on the president's tweets. >> i have a standard rule of thumb which is i don't comment on tweets. >> well, it's -- it's a style i have never seen before. but it's a way of communicating back and forth and he is the president. he's chose on the do that. so that's -- i don't prejudge it. i just -- hopefully it has good results. >> joining us in the discussion, david frum for "the atlantic." the first inside the white house report in depth on donald trump and his staff has pretty much unanimous view inside the white house that donald trump is an idiot, a dope or some other word like that. >> well, i'm so glad you linked it to the korea tweet because the question i think everyone needs to think about tonight is is this a government under which you are comfortable going to war? it does seem toward we're going to a war in the korean peninsula
and without even the support of south korea which has been driven steadily away from the trump presidency. and it is so important to understand that when donald trump says these things, you know, for us they're the second story after the latest news from inside the white house. but in asia, they're the tweet is the top story and in south korea, of course, tens of millions of people live within cannon range of north korea's weaponry, it must be a terrifying story. >> there's reports of donald trump reacting to different people and personnel. he absolutely detested h.r. mcmaster in first meeting saying that he was incredibly boring and didn't want to see him again. and then, when eventually went along with appointing him he saw h.r. mcmaster on "morning joe" and he apparently did a good job and at that point he thought, oh, this guy's okay because he was good on tv. and that was the ultimate performance place for donald
trump, in donald trump's mind for national security adviser. >> well, congratulations. you may have a new job. >> the president in this book, david, is as we said is the president who's tweeting us ever closer to a nuclear exchange with north korea. and if republicans as they weren't clearly concerned about the president prior to today, do you see anything in this book that should change the republican attitude toward the president on capitol hill? >> well, they're like -- they're like handcuffed men or men in a chain gang that are being dragged in directions they don't want to go. i want to clarify. i don't think we're moving toward nuclear war in the korean peninsula because it is not possible to contemplate without the support of allies and we are losing them. donald trump's policy really doing is convincing people in south korea that the united states is unreliable and dangerous.
and what donald trump is every day telling the people of south korea, every time he tweets, china can solve this problem, if you're a thinking south korean you have to wonder, then why are we looking to you for protection? we don't want to fight a war with north korea. we want someone to restrain north korea and he daily tells people in south korea to look the china. china is closer, bigger, and they make take the advice and collapses the alliance structure in northeast asia. >> donald trump has what he calls the nuclear button. >> there is that. >> thank you very much for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you. coming including how he does his hair has been exposed in this new book. exposed by his staff and exposed by his own family members.
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that gives you coverage here, here and here. and it even let's you take a timeout. nooooooo! yes! amazing speed, coverage and control. all with an xfi gateway. today deputy attorney general rod roerzen stein met with speaker paul ryan and fbi director christopher wray about the russia investigation. the meeting was held at rod rosenstein's request in the speaker's office according to politico and related to a document request issued over the summer by house intelligence committee chairman devin nunez. today was the deadline he gave deputy attorney general rosenstein to comply with requests related to the justice department and fbi's handling of the steele dossier and the resulting investigation. we just learned that congressman nunez say it is committee has an
agreement now with the justice department to get the information that he wants. the hill reports an n a letter to rosenstein last week he blasted the initial response claiming it seems the doj and fbi need to be investigating themselves. in michael wolff's book, steve bannon focuses on another point for congressional investigators looking into russia's interference in the 2016 election. the meeting the trump campaign officials had with a russian lawyer at trump tower in june of 2016 in the book bannon calls that meeting treasonous and unpatriot saying they, quote, should have called the fbi immediately even if you didn't think to do that, and you're totally amoirl, and you wanted
that information, you do it in a holiday inn in manchester, new hampshire, with your lawyers and then you figure out how to dump it down to breitbart or more legitimate publication and saying don jr. didn't walk them up to the father's office on the 26th floor is zero. the russian lawyer involved in that meeting at trump tower told nbc news today that she and her russian colleagues did not meet with donald trump that day in trump tower. joining us now, joyce vance, former u.s. attorney for the northern district of alabama and professor of university of alabama law school and also back with us, ron klain. and, joyce, one of the things about all of the reporting in this book involving steve bannon and others, i think one of the thing this is's contested in the coming weeks, is how much of it is on tape, how much of it is clearly reliable reporting because in these kinds of situations if it's not on tape i would imagine everyone in the trump side of the world will
just claim they didn't say the things that are attributed to them. >> i think that's absolutely true, lawrence. and the book starts with the very interesting disclaimer where the author says that he's not really sure how much of what's being told in the book is credible. in some cases there were conflicting opinions and other cases he says that he was able to reach what he thought was more reliable version of events so it's important to remember that although this is, you know, journalism and this is reporting, it is not admissible evidence in the court of law and the big inquiry for bob mueller is whether it's credible, reliable. he'll use it more as a way of finding new leads and new sources to chase down rather than as reliable information. >> joyce, i would imagine that the prosecutor's office wants a copy of the book immediately and would be reading it an studying it for any possible interviews they might be doing with people like bannon and others mentioned in the book in the future. >> absolutely.
it is -- you know, one thing that prosecutors really like is to have as much information as possible about people before they talk to them. because that way you can really -- the whole prosecutorial function to try to get to the truth of matters and the more you know the more you ask people questions and ultimately get to what went on in a certain situation. >> ron klain, it is starting to sound like nunez came to agreement tonight or paul ryan came to some agreement with rod rosenstein and the fbi director on exactly how they should respond and how much they should respond to what devin nunez wants to know about that dossier. >> yeah. i mean, i'm curious to see the next few days how it plays out. what nunez asked for was essentially the most confrontation and internal working documents of the mueller prosecution and if they had turned those over would have really sabotaged the investigation and nunes to give it to donald trump and give it
to the people being investigated. we need to see what rosenstein and wray agreed to tonight and what's provided to understand how much damage has or hasn't been done to this investigation. you know, in the end as joyce said, it is not fire or fury to be the heart of mueller's investigation. it is facts. and there are interesting facts in the book and coming out and i think that's what we should see play out in the next few days. >> joyce, i want to go to some of steve bannon's comments in the book about the special prosecutor's investigation. he says this. this is all about money landering. mueller chose weissman first. their path to trump goes right through paul manafort, don jr. and jared kushner. it's as plain as the hair on your face. it goes through deutsche banc and all the curer in. they're going to roll them up and say play me or trade me.
what do you make of bannon's reading of the investigation? >> we have always known that mueller had a heavy focus in this area and it's important to remember that the public doesn't know everything that's going on in this investigation. it's sort of like a duck swimming across a pond and all you see of said before is the top of the duck's body and in fact what prosecutors are doing are the feet frantically paddling beneath the surface of the water. money laundering has always seemed like a very likely prospect of bob mueller both because he hired people on the team with expertise in the area but also because we heard these little tidbits along the way. real estate sales in florida that appeared to take on large profit margins in very small periods of time. some other interesting tidbits that led you to believe that there might be a money laundering line to the story and, of course, more recently, the deutsch bank subpoena story
we are hearing that deutsch bank received subpoenas either for trump's personal records or records of people close to him. that seems to give more heft to that, as well. >> ron klain, put your political hat on for a second. there is a trump versus bannon war that is now under way. this is something that mitch mcconnell's been dreaming about, he's been hoping donald trump would break with mitch mcconnell. you couldn't ask for a bigger break than today. donald trump saying that steve bannon has lost his mind. what are the politics of this for republicans in washington? >> well, i think it's a disaster for republicans for a couple reasons. one, steve bannon still has the powerful breitbart machine at the disposal and if he goes at war with trump, that's a problem and divide and even some of the more conservative people and we know that the president who has the attention span of a gnat or whatever, you know, for him to
be distracted by a war with someone who knows a lot of his secrets, who was the chief strategist of the campaign, that's just got to be an enormous distraction for a person who can ill afford any distractions at all and i think, you know, you see this potentially cataclysmic battle of the president and the former chief strategist, a nightmare of trump and all republicans in washington. >> ron, we know according to this book the president's attention span when briefed on the bill of rights extended all the way to the beginning of the fourth amendment and not beyond that. >> yeah. i even doubt that because i doubt they briefed him on the first amendment the way he acts as president. >> doesn't sound like it. thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, how steve bannon says he saved robert mueller's job when donald trump wanted to fire him. how do you chase what you love
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guys and obama guy will be acting attorney general. i said you're not going to get rudy because he was on the campaign and we'll have to recuse himself and chris christie, too, those are fantasies. get those out of your brain. back with us is former u.s. attorney joyce vance. no one confirmed the content of the book and i think the next week or so there's going to be discussions of exactly what is confirmable about what is in this book but that account of steve bannon's explaining to donald trump what would happen seems like a pretty accurate sequence of what would happen if he tried to fire the special prosecutor. >> i think that that's fair enough. firing bob mueller would not have a good outcome in terms of the longstanding value of this presidency. >> i want to go to something -- another development in the case today that could be an obstruction to the special prosecutor and that is paul manafort actually suing the department of justice, rod rosenstein and the special prosecutor saying that the
investigation veered in an unconstitutional direction and civil complaint says that the special prosecutor was granted the authority to pursue any matter that is arose or may arise directly from the investigation but that that grant exceeds the scope of mr. rosenstein's authority to appoint a special counsel as well as the specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments and so, joyce, they are looking for an injunction basically to stop the investigation from going in certain directions. what do you think of the legal prospects of this? >> to be polite i call the lawsuit an absolute and total loser. it's not going anyplace. not only does manafort likely not have standing to sue, the lawsuit itself is really pretty silly in light of rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general's testimony last week that he stays in consultation with mueller, that mueller has
maintained really strict compliance with the grant of authority given to him when he was appointed as special counsel and so once you have rosenstein saying that he is comfortable, that his assess systematic that mueller within the grant of authority, this lawsuit can't really go anywhere. when's a little bit curious about it is that it should have been filed if at all with substance as a motion to dismiss the criminal case but this was filed as a separate civil action. looks a little bit like manafort wanted a second bite at the apple here but it is not going anywhere. >> and, joyce, what are the odds -- i mean, i think you make it clear but a civil judge in a civil courtroom with this civil complaint reaching over to interfere with -- through an injuktive authority a criminal case. >> extremely unlikely and given the local rules in this court,
both cases are filed in the district of columbia, the federal district court, the trial level courts, one would expect to see the civil case potentially reassigned to the same judge who has the criminal case so that they can be disposed of together. >> apparently we have some breaking news tonight. trump's toernls have sent steve bannon a cease and desist letter saying that the letter sent wednesday night demands that he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his family. what conceivable legal grounds would they have for a cease and desist letter like that? >> tough to figure. the president is a public figure. that means that he can't sue people for libel. people who are public figures are called libel proof so nothing in that area. there's perhaps some other tort that is he might want to pursue. but ultimately, this looks a lot more like posturing than actual lawyering.
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we're back with more on this breaking news development. abc news is reporting tonight that warriors on behalf of president trump have sent a letter to form white house chief strategist steven bannon demanding he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his family. the letter seems to indicate that steve bannon has breached a confidentiality agreement. it says having breached the agreement among other things about president trump, his family members and the company, meaning the campaign, disclosing confidential information to mr. wolf and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to mr. wolf about mr. trump and his family members, saying all of that is a violation of a confidentiality agreement that steve bannon, according to this letter, signed with the trump campaign. we are joined by tim o'brien, the executive editor of bloomberg view and author of trump nation. joyce vance, former federal prosecutor is back with us. i want to go over the legal points here. this is fascinating thing because they're saying that he signed a confidentiality agreement, nondisparaging agreement for the campaign. so there's the legal question of how much of this interviewing was done after the campaign. and then there's also the problem of you might have this signed agreement with him, but for practical purposes you don't
really have a legal remedy because the only way to stop him from violating this agreement is to take him into court and sue him, in which case all of this stuff becomes public. >> absolutely. and the devil is the in the details on these agreements. as you point out it could be that it only applied during the campaign. hard to imagine that it would apply during the actual run of the administration, because everything that happened, of course, during an administration is public record is fair game, in some sense. so there'll be that issue of what did the details look like even if the president did want to try to pursue this. and then we hear that mr. wolf had a great deal of access, the president himself gave him permission to have these conversations. so it may be bannon may have an
argument he was having these conversations pursuant to the president's agreement and that would make it difficult to maintain he violated a nondisclosure agreement. >> tim o'brien, we've been saying all night no one has confirmed the contents of michael wolf's book. nbc news has not confirmed any the contents. we've been discussing it on that unconfirmed basis. this letter tonight from the trump lawyers is as much confirmation as they could possibly supply, they are saying to steve bannon you have indeed supplied all these disparaging statements in this book and that you've done it in violation of this nondisclosure agreement that you had with the campaign. >> and bannon himself hasn't pushed back on any of this stuff all day. >> bannon had all day to say -- >> there wasn't a peep from bannon in the most damaging claims in mike was book come from bannon himself. and i was going to say sue is
always the first thought of donald trump. >> i think the president often forgets as his life as progressed he's increasingly become the most public of public figures. the free speech standards around him are deep and powerful. i don't know what legal ground he has to stand onto try to issue a cease and desist to bannon because it's counter productive. it only gives more gravitas to bannon's claims. >> and joyce, there's no such thing, of course, in the federal government this notion of working in the white house and signing some sort of personal nondisclosure, civil kind of agreement like this that they were talking about. >> in fact, you know, we've heard this controversy about the president's tweets. when early on he was deleting tweets. and the reason we heard that
controversy is because these are all public record documents, written communications are provided in many cases, even oral conversations are preserved. part of the principle of our government is all of these conversations except within the scope of executive privilege which is narrow is available for citizens can fully appreciate what's going on in their government. >> and here's an example of some of the disparaging comments in the book that the president and his lawyers are trying to stop. steve bannon already said this and it's already in the book, talking about ivanka, trump, and jared kushner. she was a non event on the campaign. she became a white house staffer and that's when people suddenly realized she's dumb as a brick, a little marketing savvy, but as far as understanding actually how the world works and what politics is and what it means, nothing. once you expose that you lose
such credibility. jared just kind of flips in and does the arab stuff. and that certainly sounds like steve bannon peeking in the white house. >> you know, it's never been hard to get close to donald trump. he has given carte blanche to reporters over the years endlessly. this is not a few phenomenon. and i think bannon has been given the get out of jail free card by the president. >> we got a new lawyers statement saying legal action is imminent. this is from charles harder, saying the law firm represents president donald j. trump on behalf of our clients, legal notice were issued today to steven k. bannon that his actions communicating to author michael wolf regarding the upcoming book involve claims. legal action is imminent.
and joyce vance, i think we can be sure legal action is not imminent. this is as empty a lawyer threat as i have ever held in my hands. these words are out there, in the book and now what donald trump seems to be doing through his lawyers is confirming his own personal belief that steve bannon did indeed say all of these words to michael wolf. >> seems like a safe bet legal action is not imminent here. >> and again, joyce, just to go through it, one of the reasons for that is the damage is all done to them. it's all in the book. there is nothing they'll be able to do through civil action to get that book removed, and to engage in a lawsuit with steve bannon allows steve bannon to immediately subpoena donald trump as a witness and subpoena ivanka trump as a witness, jared kushner as a witness for depositions and all this sort of stuff for years on end. >> yeah, that's absolutely right.
i remember many years ago when pat robertson was running for the presidency, and he sued a couple of sitting congressmen and a former congressmen for liable over his record. and that became a process for him because everybody was able to depose him, and some truths came out and ultimately he terminated that lawsuit. that experience would only be magnified for president trump who would see everyone around him subpoenaed for deposition. >> and the last time donald trump threatened a lawsuit he say lying. he said he would sue all the women who alleged of sexual assault. >> a threat of a lawsuit from donald trump usually doesn't amount to much of saber rattling. he rarely follows through. >> we're going to have to leave it there. that's it.
that is tonight's "last word." "the 11th hour" starts now. breaking tonight, fire and fury. open warfare. president trump versus steve bannon. trump says his one-time strategist lost his mind. bannon calling don jr. and jared's meeting with russians treasonous. an explosive new account of what's happening inside the west wing, and the reaction, total meltdown. "the 11th hour" begins right now. good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. i'm nicolle wallace sitting in for brian williams. day 349 of the trump administration. a day in which donald trump and