tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC March 21, 2018 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
month. already he and rick saccone are campaigning for already what will come next in a newly drawn district in pennsylvania. this has been the race of the year thus far in the house, and we might get a rematch. that does it for us tonight we'll see you tomorrow now it's they're just so impressive. >> they're very impressive. and they know what they're doing. >> they're very impress and i've -- impress and i've they know what they're doing.
and they're being decent to the each other and creative. it kind of gives you hope. >> they are an amazing combination of good soldiers and leaders at the same time. thanks, rachel. "vanity fair's" contributing editor has been watching donald trump's moves for decades she knows more about donald trump than most of the political reporters who have only covered him a couple years. she said something this week, we should keep in mind about every trump story, in an interview with the british paper she said, everyone says he is crazy, which maybe he is, but the scarier thing about him is that he is stupid. you do not know anyone as stupid as donald trump. you just don't. and donald trump proves that every time he says this. >> i'm like a really smart person.
i have a very high aptitude and intelligence. i have the best words. >> i went to the wharton school of finance. trust me, i'm a smart person. >> no smart person has ever said any one of those things. so when donald trump gets caught doing something very, very stupid, he always has to publically pretend that it's the right thing to do. even when he privately realizes that it wasn't the right thing to do. so today the "los angeles times" reports that president trump was privately furious today, all day, just furious, that his white house leaked the fact that he was specifically told, warned do to the congratulate before he made a phone call to vladimir putin yesterday and congratulated vladimir putin for winning the rigged election of russia. putin himself of course rigged the election by jailing his toughest opponent.
something no doubt donald trump would like to do. the white house leaked in the briefing materials given to donald trump before the phone call, it said in capital letters, do not congratulate. there's more than one reason why donald trump then congratulated vladimir putin. but one of the reasons that's always present in what donald trump does, is what fran lieberman said about him, the scary thing about him is that he is stupid. that is deeply scary because that would mean even a well intentioned version of donald trump could make deadly mistakes as president of the united states. the associated press is reporting he has told confidants the leak was meant to embarrass and undermine him said white house officials. so donald trump thinks the leak
was meant to embarrass him. how could it embarrass him if congratulating vladimir putin was the right thing to do, the smart thing to do. unless after the fact donald trump realized how wrong it was to congratulate vladimir putin for winning an election rigged by vladimir putin. unless he realized it made donald trump look stupid and incompetent and possibly a partner of vladimir putin or a servant of vladimir putin, a colluder with vladimir putin. so while he spent the day furious and embarrassed by the leak to not congratulate. we had to publically be proud of the thing that we know embarrasses him. so he tweeted i called president
putin of russia to congratulate him on his election victory. the l.a. times is reporting one person who speaks regularly with white house officials said the most recent leak seemed more geared toward infantilizing trump who has ignored numerous suggestions that he rebuke putin. i'm sure there's going to be a scalping over this. how is the leakiest white house in history going to catch the person or persons responsible for this particular leak? we now know that all of the white house leakers have signed a completely ridiculous and unenforceable confidentiality agreement that they violate every time they leak something. it was the trump family's idea
to force them to sign the nondisclosure agreements. ivanka trump was a cheerleader of the idea. it was a stupid idea. in all of the reporting today, every account stresses, as the l.a. times put it, white house chief of staff john kelly also is said to be infuriated, on a warpath according to the person in close contact with national security officials. john kelly is, of course, on the suspect list for this leak. if not suspect number one. he does leak to the press. john kelly does speak off the record to the press. john kelly is unprofessional and incompetent when he speaks to the press. john kelly has lied to the press and been caught in those lies. john kelly has told reporters completely inappropriate things like exactly where in the bathroom rex tillerson was sitting when john kelly told him on the phone he was fired.
the president is probably not entirely right when he tells people that the leak was meant to embarrass him. the leak was also meant to remove the embarrassment from the white house staff. the embarrassment that the president of the united states congratulated vladimir putin for winning the election he won. most people have no idea how wrong it is for donald trump to congratulate vladimir putin for winning the election that vladimir putin rigged. >> does the white house believe the election in russia was free and fair? >> in terms of the election, they were focussed on our elections. we don't get to dictate how other countries operate. what we do know is that putin has been elected in their country. and that's not something that we can dictate to them how they operate.
we can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections. >> there is no publically available evidence that she is even 1% smarter than that answer. but some other people in the white house are, and they were no doubt embarrassed and infuriated that donald trump did congratulate vladimir putin after he was told not to. so they probably wanted to put the stain of that embarrassment where it belongs, which is entirely on donald trump. and they wanted to send the signal to the rest of us, and to the world, that not everyone in the white house thinks that vladimir putin should be congratulated for winning a fraudulent election. that's a good thing to know. we are better off tonight knowing that not everyone in the white house is in putin's pocket. there was only one way to communicate that, through this leak. now in my experience in government i found that people who leak are often the ones who
pretend to be the most infuriated about the leak. so john kelly, trying to get the word out to every reporter in every newspaper, that he's infuriated about the leak makes him no less a suspect. and another likely suspect is, of course, donald trump himself. who we know is constantly complaining to people outside the white house, on the phone about his white house staff. and it's entirely possible that donald trump himself told several people that they actually wrote do not congratulate on his notes. and that one of those people, or many of those people, might be among the leakers of this information. the weakness of that theory, of course, is that donald trump actually read any of the words that were written for him in his briefing materials before getting on the phone with vladimir putin because donald trump famously does not read. the president made the call to vladimir putin, not from the oval office where they're made surrounded by experts, he made
it from the residence. it's not clear who was present during the phone call. for those details we might have to wait for the next michael wolff book or the next michael wolff like book that will be supplied by all those people who signed all those nondisclosure agreements in the white house. joining us john hileman and ted price. >> so john hileman, there's going to be a scalp, according to the "l.a. times" they're going to find the leaker and fire the leaker. >> how many leakers so far have been fired? there have been a lot of people fired. some of them have been leakers. but how many have been fired for a specified leak.
i believe that number -- >> had to be zero. >> -- close to zero if not zero. i think there's a leaker might be h.r. mcmaster, at some point kelly is going to get fired. the only person not fired by donald trump is donald trump. i don't think anything is going to happen in terms of personnel changes. i think there are interesting theories about what generated the leak. >> go ahead. >> the two main competing theories, if it's not donald trump, seem to be one the national security establishment is upset about the fact that trump cozies up to putin at every opportunity. and the other is people's vanity has been wounded by the notion they put this briefing paper in front of donald trump, they told him do not congratulate and then he disregarded his advise. again, like you said, the people who complain about leaks are usually leakers.
and it's the argument on principle that he's too upset about putin, or the argument on vanity for ignoring my advice, it's usually vanity. >> or it can be both. upset the advice wasn't followed but also believe it was good advice and they want to get the message out that there are people in the white house that don't think like donald trump. >> as we know this white house is a snake pit. it's hard to disentangle one leak from the next, especially when you look to motivation. some days it's vanity, fewer days i think it's principle. this is interesting, though, because i think this may be one of those leaks of principles. when you look "the washington post" description, it describes them as two officials familiar with the note card. there was no den graduation of other officials.
it was just a very simple leak that the president failed to heed the headline of that note card. when you read the headline, it doesn't seem they leaked any classified information. do not congratulate is not classified. there's no classified information there, especially when president trump himself said he had spoken with vladimir putin before the story came out. i think like most leaks in the white house, there is a compelling case that maybe this was done on principle, people seeking to do right, to remember the oath they took, to protect against all enemies foreign and domestic. >> let me go back to one point. there have been comments this is classified material, the president's briefing material for a call with the president of russia. so any leak of that could even be illegal.
but were you making the point -- did i hear you make the point that there can be material within those files that is not classified? especially if it's a separate card that says do not congratulate. and since that's not classified material, that would not be a violation? >> it's a little bit complicated. you have a briefing package for the president and that package, the entire package is classified secret or top secret. but individual discreet snip ets within that packet can be unclassified. to me that headline seems unclassified. if they wanted this call secret, if they wanted the call between donald trump and vladimir putin to never see the light of day. that's not the case. the kremlin, as it always does, went to the press immediately. donald trump later gloated to
the white house press he had this conversation with putin. so they're not trying to keep the call secret. so there seems nothing secret to me in the headline of that note card. >> let's look at the reaction to this, which was stronger than usual. >> i don't agree with congratulating putin. you don't congratulate with someone for a fake election. >> every
time you talk to putin and give him a pass, that emboldens him. >> i see a lack of credibility, calling him now -- >> i don't know why the president felt like calling vladimir putin on a fake election. >> poisoning people with nerve gas is a criminal activity, i wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal. >> mitch mcconnell never criticizes the president.
and the way he put it calling him wouldn't have been high on my list but for mitch mcconnell that's the anger equivalent of grassley saying i wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal. >> or calling the president an idiot. the chorus of republicans here outspokenly saying it was a mistake for the president to call vladimir putin to congratulate him and to not raise any issues of contention, race the 2016 election meddling, the poisoning in the uk, that very chorus points back to the question of the leak. which is that there is such a giant bipartisan establishment consensus on it being a bad idea for trump to have done these thing so you can imagine john kelly or h.r. mcmaster or any other white house official wanting to broadcast to the world we're with you, we know this was a bad idea. don't blame us. there's one culprit here, the
guy in the big chair who couldn't read the big block letters that said do not congratulate. i'm washing my hands on him. >> ned price thank you very much, really appreciate it. >> thank you so much. >> coming up, he is afraid of the president of russia. and we already know, just by saying that sentence, we know who we're talking about. but you might not know who said it this time. a lot of people have said it. and we now know that the man who jeff sessions fired last friday night had authorized an investigation of jeff sessions. what does it take to make digital transformation actually happen? it takes dell technologies, a family of seven technology leaders working behind the scenes to make the impossible... reality. we're helping to give cars the power to read your mind from anywhere... and we're helping up to 40% of the nation's donated blood
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uh huh, sure. still yes! xfinity delivers gig speed to more homes than anyone. now you can get it, too. welcome to the party. i think he's afraid of the president of russia. >> so what's the most amazing thing about that statement by president obama's cia director? i think the most amazing thing about it is we all know who he's talking about even though john brennan didn't say a name. he said i think he's afraid of the president of russia. the entire knows who the he is. because the entire world for the last year has listened to the president talk like he's afraid of the president of russia. the first president of the united states in history to appear to be afraid of russia. as a former director of the cia
john berman knows a lot more than he is saying all the time. it's one thing for you or me to say i think the president is afraid of the president of russia, which i've said many times, but that's nothing compared to the former director of the cia saying that. >> i think he's afraid of the president of russia. >> why? >> i think one can speculate as to why. that the russians may have something on him personally that they can roll out and make his life more difficult. clearly it's important to improve relations with russia. but the fact he has this fawning attitude toward mr. putin, has not said anything negative about him, continues to say to me that he does have nothing is fear. he's acting more and more like a corn erred animal lashing out whatever he can and who knows what that corn erred animal can do.
>> he began speaking on morning joe at 7:03, he was interpreted by the special break at 7:18, and then in the middle of what he had to said, president trump tweeted a quote, special counsel is told to find crimes, whether a crime exists or not. i was posed to the selection of mueller to be special counsel. i am still opposed to it. i think president trump was right when he said there never should have been a special counsel appointed because -- so stated by alan dershowitz. the misspelling of the council is not the fault of alan dershowitz, but is fault of the president.
the editorial tomorrow is based on what john brennan said today in the "new york times." the headline is why is trump so afraid of russia. it goes on to catalog a list of weaknesses in the face of putin's aggression. the last line of the editorial is, if mr. trump isn't mr. putin's lacky, it's past time for him to prove it. this afternoon, four star general barry mccaffrey said this. >> why is this president of the united states acting this way? do they have something on him? i'd say there's a significant they do. putin is going to stick it to him for sure sooner or later. he has a rope around his neck if there's actually incriminating, embarrassing evidence. >> joining us now is jim macina
and john hileman is still with us. jim, i wanted to get your reaction to what john brennan had to say, having worked in the same administration as he has. this is the former director of the cia talking about the president being afraid of putin. >> it's unprecedented. lawrence, there's an old country song that says you got to dance with the one who brung you. and donald trump is dancing with vladimir putin. there's no question that he is refusing to criticize him every single moment. i think the interesting thing about what trump did yesterday wasn't what he said in the congratulations, although that's unprecedented, it's more what he didn't say. i've been with president obama when he made these calls. and typically a president would say here's where we want to work together and here's our issues we have real problems with you that we want to get done in the second or third term.
didn't talk about the fact that donald trump was the only president who hasn't condemned vladimir putin for allegedly poisoning a spy in the uk. didn't talk about the fact that russia is still attempting to affect our elections in the united states. he didn't talk about any of this. all he did with his moment with vladimir putin was say, hey, buddy, congratulations. that's what you do when you are someone's lacky. >> jim, can you take us inside what would have been the obama phone call to putin in what is just weeks after the -- this case of a russian being murdered, attacked in england? how would the president of the united states talk about that to the president of russia when the president is suspect number one in this case. >> these things are carefully negotiated across agencies and there would be a discussion with the president beforehand saying
do not congratulate him. we do not congratulate people who have rigged elections, where there's no opposition. it would have been i understand you've been re-elected, here's what we want to do to work together. he would have mentioned the disarmament thing. and he would have had issues to walk the leader through that they wanted to fix. and would have had had in those things our biggest concerns. no question any other single leader in the world the first thing would have been the british poisoning and our own elections. the fact he didn't mention either one of those in that call and thanks to the unbelievable leaking in the white house we know exactly what was said. it's not only unprecedented, it's inexplicable. the only thing you can conclude he doesn't want to screw with vladimir putin, that john brennan, who i worked with for
two years, one of the single most nonpartisan people i ever worked with. the fact he's saying this has to be a siren call to the rest of the country to wake up. >> john, john brennan knows how we are all going to react to him saying these like things. he knows the importance of his words publically. he spent years weighing them as a cia director. we also know when a former cia director is speaking, it's the tip of the iceberg of what he knows, he's suppressing most of what he knows. and you wonder when you hear a statement like that, what he knows that he can't tell us. >> i think there's a vast amount. one of the most interesting questions would be who knows more about the dark side of donald trump, vladimir putin or john brennan? they probably both know a lot of
things. think about the largest events of our time in the trump administration, the earliest inception of them. it was john brennan in 2016 started to get wind through intelligence channels there were funny things happening between people in donald trump's orbit and the russians. he knows about donald trump's complex financial history, most of which is under scrutiny by bob mueller. he had enough intelligence to go to jim comey and say we need to open a counterintelligence investigation into the trump campaign and its ties to russia. that's where it all started and brennan was there throughout the fall. he was there at the first briefings for donald trump at the highest level. he was there when jim comey had to walk in the room alone and brief donald trump on the steele dossier. he knows christopher steele and
has probably known him for decades. knows of his reputation. if not the early phases of the dossier, we know he knows what was in the dossier. that leads to the funnel of what john brennan knows. so when he decides as he has, not just yesterday but the last couple weeks, to escalate his attack on donald trump the way he has on twitter, television, and today to say he thinks vladimir putin has something personally on donald trump. that doesn't mean his personal life, sexually, but it could. it could very well mean his personal finances, business. it is a matter of an enormous significance and a huge tell. a huge, i can't tell you what i know, but trust me, this is just a little tiny sliver of what's really there. >> go ahead, jim.
>> here's the crazy thing, any other politician you and i have ever worked with, would go out of their way if donald trump to prove they weren't beholden to the russian government. they would be the toughest person on the russian government, unless to john's point, they couldn't. the fact he's not pushing on the british assassination, the election stuff, is proof he can't and he can't because he's worried about what they know and what they have. it's unprecedented. every other politician i've ever worked with, would go overtime to prove they're not putin's lacky. and all donald trump does is say great job, congratulations. >> jim gets the last word on this. thank you both for joining us. coming up we know andrew mccabe was investigating jeff sessions for perjury. but jeff sessions said he didn't know that when he fired andrew mccabe last friday.
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three sources tell nbc news tonight that fired fbi deputy director andrew mccabe had previously authorized an investigation into whether attorney general jeff sessions lied to congress about russia. democratic senators referred a perjury inquiry to the fbi last year after information surfaced to the senate judiciary committee.
>> if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians. >> after he said that, it was reported he met with the russian ambassador several times during the company and jeff sessions recused himself from the russian investigation for that reason. it's possible that it was referred to robert mueller. the mccabe authorized investigation of jeff sessions was not something that jeff sessions knew about last week when he decided to fire andrew mccabe.
tonight, jeff sessions' private attorney released this statement, the special counsel's office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to congress. joining us now is jill wine-banks. jill working backwards through what i just talked about. what do you make of the statement by jeff sessions' private attorney tonight saying the attorney general now is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to congress. >> it's possible it's correct. he quotes the mueller office and that's dangerous to do because they might contradict it if they
didn't say that. so for now i guess we have to assume that mr. cooper was repeating accurately what he heard. >> we have reason to believe now that jeff sessions was investigated for that or there was some investigation of it and andrew mccabe authorized that investigation. >> that's an interesting thing. and whether he is currently under investigation or not, it is much more doubtful that he didn't know that he was under investigation. so if his lawyer could say today that he had already found out that it was over, it seems quite unlikely that last friday, a few days ago, he didn't know that there had been an investigation. so that part doesn't seem as likely to be true to me. >> and interestingly there, jill, it's two different sources. so the private attorney is releasing that public statement tonight and it's a justice
department official who told nbc news that jeff sessions just didn't know about that, that andrew mccabe had authorized an investigation of jeff sessions when jeff sessions fired him. >> but they both work for jeff sessions, one in his government capacity and one in a private capacity. so they're both likely to be saying something that jeff sessions wants conveyed. >> this includes -- the lawyer's statement tonight includes the fact that jeff sessions has been interviewed by the special prosecutor. so as this investigation continues, is it possible that jeff sessions' status in that investigation could change? >> well, he's always been a likely witness, not necessarily a target. but he certainly is someone who had dealings with the russians that were undisclosed. and that made him part of an investigation of who worked with
russia and what did they do and what did they know and when did they know it? so his status stays important to me as a potential witness, possibly against the president. >> jill wine-banks thank you for joining us tonight. up next mark zuckerberg speaks finally. he's sounding very surprised that anyone could use facebook to try to manipulate voters. mercedes-benz glc...
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if you told me in 2004 when i was getting started in facebook that a big part of my responsibility today would be to help protect the integrity of elections by interference by other governments i wouldn't have believed that would be something i would have to work on 14 years later. >> that was mark zuckerberg finally breaking his silence days after reports that the trump campaign's firm cambridge analytica harvested the information of 50 million facebook users. >> this was a major breach of trust, and i'm really sorry that this happened. we have a basic responsibility to protect people's data. and if we can't do that, we don't deserve to have the opportunity to serve people. >> he said facebook will investigate apps that have access to user data and restrict developer's access to that
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i'm used to, when people legally certify that they're going to do something they do it. i think this was clearly a mistake in retrospect. >> joining me now, roger macnamee and kevin ruse, a writer for new york magazine. some of what he said in his television interview is word for word things that he said to you. one of them from your article is this, i feel a lot better about the systems now, at the same time i think russia and other governments are going to get more sophisticated in what they do to. we need to up our game. this is a massive focus for us to make sure we're dialled in for the 2018 in the u.s. and a number of other elections that are going on this year that are really important. what does that mean "dialled in".
>> he said they're taking steps to identify people behaving badly on their platform. so for example he revealed for the first time today that facebook had caught some accounts trying to interfere in the alabama special election last year by pushing false news on facebook. he uses the example of those kind of tools but he's talking about getting ready for all the way a foreign government, bad actor might try to gain facebook and its platform to tip an election. >> he said something tonight
i mean, i've known mark since he was 22 years old. and the one thing i can tell you is that the issues he's talking about today have been on the table since 2011 when they signed the consent decree with the federal trade commission. they have essentially pretended as though that consent decree did not exist, they have not put in the keep of infrastructure necessary to protect consumer data, they've not done anything to vet the people who have been grabbing the stuff. and this notion that somehow they should be allowed to have time now to figure out this out i think is laughable. and i look at the election stuff. and let's get real. all of these problems exist because of an advertising business model that creates perverse incentives and gives them the incentive essentially to create these bubbles around people where people person has their own set of facts and where they're easily manipulated by backed actors. >> roger, to stay on that, you're saying the consent decree required facebook to protect all
of this kind of data that cambridge analytica obtained? >> well, actually, it required them to have clear notification and customer approval for any use of the data. and they clearly did not do that. they buried things deep into their terms of service, which are buried deep in the site. they made no constructive efforts. they didn't have anybody on the team, as far as i can tell, to go out there and actually audit the people who were getting all of this data. and so if you look at this, the company was growing really rapidly. they viewed all of that kind of regulatory stuff as friction. and their strategy was just to ignore all friction and just assume none of it was going to be a problem. the only reason they feel sorry about it now is because they got caught. >> kevin, mark zuckerberg has said repeatedly today, he keeps using they word certify, that cambridge analytica certified that they weren't doing these things. what does he mean by certified? >> it's unclear, but there's been some reporting that what he
means is that they sent a letter and said, check this box if you haven't been done anything untoward with our data, and they sent it back, and that was the end of it. and i think that's sort of the approach they've taken is they've given away now data through millions of apps. millions of apps have been built on top of facebook. i checked my open facebook to see how many apps i had been given permission to, 98 apps, some of which i haven't used in many years. so everyone has been doing this for so long, giving permission for their data to be used by these apps that this is now trying to put something back in the bottle that escaped a long time ago. there's so much data out there. and facebook has no real way of clawing most of it back. >> and roger, go ahead. >> lawrence, the real problem here is remember that when cambridge analytica took this content from facebook, facebook should have had people monitoring at the time. it took them a year to find out. they found out because "the guardian" reported it.
worse than that less than a year later, facebook had embedded people in the trump campaign, working side by side with cambridge analytica people, who were trying to get trump elected, working together using the exact same data. you cannot convince me for a minute that the people in facebook headquarters did not realize that this is the same cambridge analytica that had -- they had punished less than a year before. i mean, all of this is just completely unbelievable. >> and kevin, you know, i'm no visionary in these matters. i never could have foreseen how facebook was used. but mark zuckerberg, he's thinking about facebook and its capacities and the potentials and theoretical potentials, he's been thinking about them since he was in college. and he's now going to act very, very surprised that this kind of thing was possible? >> he's not wrong that facebook is a very different thing than it was in 2004 when it was a social network for college kids. facebook is now this global platform for information and communication. they haven't changed their
approach entirely since they were that social network for college kids. and sometimes i think facebook is like the -- in old cartoons where the guy's on the train, it's going down the tracks, he's laying the tracks right in front of the train? it feels like that sometimes. new problems are hitting them every day, whether it's foreign interference in elections or fake and false news or macedonians trying to interfere in alabama. and they're just trying as hard as they can to catch up. and i don't know that they'll ever get there. i think it might be an insurmountable problem. >> is there an instant angle here that would go along the lines of, yeah, they knew they should try to protect this data, but if they failed to protect this data, what's the worst that could happen? >> you could lose democracy in western europe and north america. i think the fundamental problem we're dealing with here is if i use kevin's things, they were going too fast, they need to slow down and do it right the first time.
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has contemplated resigning because he has concluded he has no control over trump's behavior. you just figured that out? come on, man. trump doesn't even have control over trump's behavior. cadbury meat egg. stephen colbert gets the "last word." there will be more about what mark zuckerberg has to say. dara swisher will join brian on "the 11th hour with brian williams" which starts now.
as you may recall, just yesterday president trump tossed off the fact that he white house advisor have not been instructed to prepare for any such meeting. further, they say there were no plans to mention anything of the sort. quote, trump's briefing materials for the putin call did not include any reference to a meeting. tonight the president is defending that congratulatory phone call to putin and the white housis