On Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” anchor Lawrence O’Donnell stated that “if Vladimir Putin masterminded the last week in Syria, he has gotten everything he could have asked for.” O’Donnell then floated a theory that Putin told Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to launch a small chemical attack that was big enough to attract media attention and prompt President Trump into launching a missile strike, which would then change the subject from Russian influence.
O’Donnell said, “[W]ouldn’t it be nice if it was just completely, totally, absolutely impossible to suspect that Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week so that his friend in the White House could have a big night, with missiles, and all of the praise he’s picked up over the last 24 hours? Wouldn’t it be so nice if you couldn’t even in your wildest dreams imagine a scenario like that?”
He added, “I don’t know what it is. Is it a 2% chance? Is it a 50% chance? Is — I don’t know. But what — I don’t think it’s a 0% chance, and it used to be, with every other president prior to Donald Trump.”
O’Donnell further stated, “Well, when Bill Clinton fired missiles during his presidency, Republicans questioned that. They questioned whether that was to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and that was a legitimate question.”
O’Donnell later added, “It’s perfect, just perfect. I wish it wasn’t. If Vladimir Putin, if, if, if Vladimir Putin masterminded the last week in Syria, he has gotten everything he could have asked for. Vladimir Putin was essentially the man in charge of making sure that Syria got rid of all of its chemical weapons under a deal with the Obama administration. And so it makes perfect sense to question whether President Bashar al-Assad would have checked with his most important patron, Vladimir Putin, before using chemical weapons that Vladimir Putin was supposed to have helped get rid of. It would be terribly embarrassing to Vladimir Putin if President Assad had exposed Vladimir Putin as having completely failed to get rid of those chemical weapons. You wouldn’t want to be Bashar al-Assad in a conversation with Vladimir Putin after that, unless you had a conversation with him before that. Unless Vladimir Putin said, ‘I have an idea. go ahead, do a small chemical attack, nothing like the big ones you’ve done in the past, just big enough to attract media attention. So that my friend in the White House will see it on TV. And then, Donald Trump can fire some missiles at Syria, that’ll do no real damage, and then the American news media will change the subject from Russian influence in the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and the Trump White House.’ It’s perfect.”
He continued, “For most of the news media, it changes the conventional wisdom about the dynamic between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. President Trump has finally dared to do something that Vladimir Putin doesn’t like. It changes everything. As long as you never, never question whether Vladimir Putin wanted all of this to happen this week. And when you question that and you look at what has happened, it’s always worth remembering that if Vladimir Putin really does have ways, known or unknown to Donald Trump, to influence Donald Trump, then every day that is a good day for President Trump is a good day for President Putin. Now not one word that I’ve just said could possibly have been said about any president prior to Donald Trump.”
O’Donnell further said, “you will hear opinion in this hour that is counter to the possible scenario that I have just outlined, but what you won’t hear is proof that that scenario that I’ve just outlined is impossible.”
O’Donnell did say that he raised this scenario “without assigning a statistical probability to it. I don’t know what it is. I just know that it’s not zero, and it should be zero. It has been zero with every previous president. But when you look at the way the events have unfolded this week, Donald Trump could not have asked for a better end of the week, for his presidency as he sees it.”
During the panel discussion that took place after O’Donnell’s monologue, he did concede that it did make sense to notify Russia in advance of the strike to avoid further escalation.