Deputy AG Rosenstein ready to be fired. TRANSCRIPT: 04/13/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 13, 2018
Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Mazie Hirono, Jerrold Nadler, David Jolly, Michael Rothfeld, Lisa Green, Adam Davidson, Barbara Lee, Jack Jacobs,
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. On
this Friday the 13th, the republic is feeling somewhat pre-apocalyptic I
think it`s fair to say, amid an absolute torrent of news. The country now
stands on brink of both a military attack on Syria and the Syrian
government currently allied with Russia and others as well as a
constitutional crisis provoked by what many expect to be the firing of
Deputy Attorney General overseeing is the Russia probe. And according to
multiple reports, the man responsible for those decisions appears to be in
the midst of a total meltdown. According to one report, the President is
“pissed, flailing and upset, more upset than ever. His anger is beyond
what anyone can imagine.” Another report, “this is about as personally
cornered as Trump has been since Access Hollywood weekend.” That is
reported current state of the mind of the President of the United States,
the man who`s currently weighing whether to attack another country and
expand war there as soon as tonight.
The Wall Street Journal, an unhappy Trump is prodding military advisers to
agree to a more sweeping retaliatory strike in Syria than they consider
prudent. That possible attack is just one part of an absolute avalanche of
huge stories today. A day that began with clips of James Comey, former FBI
Director all over television, telling ABC News that he cannot rule out that
the infamous pee tape mentioned in the Steele dossier is real. And it
ended today at least so far with report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller
has evidence confirming another absolutely crucial detail of that dossier.
We`re going to get to all of that here tonight. But first, days after
being raided by the FBI, the President`s personal attorney confidante,
close associate, and fixer Michael Cohen went to court today to try and
block federal prosecutors from reading the materials they seized.
Prosecutors revealed in that hearing that Cohen has been under criminal
investigation in New York for months related to his personal business
dealings. Meanwhile, we learned of a third hush money payment facilitated
by that same Michael Cohen top cover up yet another extramarital affair, in
this case, $1.6 million paid to a former Playboy Playmate on behalf of the
Republican fund-raiser who got her pregnant.
She ultimately got an abortion. And something tells me there`s a lot more
to that story than we know right now and we`ll cover more of it. Today,
the President and his allies also launched an absolute full-fledged
counterattack against James Comey, the fired FBI Director who in a new book
paints a devastating portrait of the President`s character and actions.
Comey also appears to give credence to the most salacious and infamous
claim in the infamous Steele Dossier, the one that most gets under the
President`s skin apparently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I honestly never thought these words
would come out of my mouth but I don`t know whether the current President
of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow
2013. It`s possible but I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: After waking up to that this morning, the President unleashed a
tirade on Twitter calling Comey a leaker and a liar and weak and untruthful
slime ball. His press secretary trashing Comey from the White House
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: This is nothing more
than a poorly executed P.R. stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his
tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account by peddling a book that
belongs in a bargain bin of the fiction section. Comey will be forever he
forever known as a disgrace partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with
the President of the United States, the dedicated agents of the FBI and the
American people he vowed to faithfully serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: On the same day, the White House blasted Comey as a leaker and
liar, the President out of nowhere seemingly pardoned Scooter Libby. That
would be of course, the former Bush administration official who was
convicted of lying about a leak of classified information to the press.
Also today, the Inspector General for the Justice Department released a
report criticizing Comey`s former number two, Andrew McCabe, the Deputy FBI
Director whom the President abruptly fired last month. Interestingly, the
report looks pretty favorably on Comey`s conduct.
But the President who again according to multiple reports is raging posted
this. DOJ just issued the McCabe report which is a total disaster. He
lied, lied, lied. McCabe was totally controlled by Comey. McCabe is
Comey. No collusion all made up by this den of thieves and low lives. On
top of all that, reports that the President is about to move to fire his
Deputy Attorney General. That would be of course Rod Rosenstein. Those
reports seem to be accelerating the moves against him seem to be
accelerating. It has reached the point that according to exclusive
reporting from NBC News, Rosenstein is now actively telling confidants he`s
prepared to be fired.
When you get to all of that, I`ve got U.S. Senator, I`ve got the Minority
Chair of the Judiciary Committee with me here. But first, I want to go to
the news that broke the latest. And that`s about Michael Cohen and a trip
that he appears to have taken. Before I bring you that note, I want to set
it up. In the infamous Steele Dossier, there`s an allegation that in
August of 2016, Michael Cohen travelled to Prague. When the dossier was
published, OK, Michael Cohen was alleged to have travelled to Prague to
meet with Kremlin officials for a back channel to clean up the mess made by
the fact that Manafort and Page were being reported about.
When that dossier was published, Michael Cohen put out a tweet with his
passport saying I`ve never even been to Prague and he sued BuzzFeed for
publishing the dossier. Well, tonight McClatchy reporting there is
evidence he was in fact in Prague. Mueller has evidence Cohen was in
Prague in 2016 confirming that key part of the dossier. I bring in now
Greg Gordon of McClatchy. Greg, what have you found out.
GREG GORDON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, MCCLATCHY D.C.: Hi Chris! Well, what
we`ve learned from a couple of sources is that the FBI, the Mueller team
now have evidence that Michael Cohen was indeed in Prague despite his
vehement denials that have gone on for more than a year now.
HAYES: And how do you – what are we – what are we to make of that? Do
we know how he got there, who he met with?
GORDON: We`re told that he went in through Germany. Now, that`s part of
the so-called Schengen zone which is the 26 countries of Europe that have
open borders. And so he wouldn`t need a passport to go in and out. There
wouldn`t be a record necessarily of him going across the border to the
Czech Republic. What we haven`t been able to determine is how he got into
Europe if indeed he did go to Prague.
He did make three other trips to Europe that year but they were not around
the August and early September time frame that was identified in the
dossier by the former British Intelligence agent, Christopher Steele for
this meeting. And what`s really important about this meeting compared to
some of the other meetings that have gotten a lot of attention between
Russians and the Trump campaign is that at this meeting, there were
allegedly hackers present which would put Michael Cohen if he did go to the
meeting, in the presence of hackers and Russians at the peak of the – or
right at the height of the campaign.
HAYES: Do you know – do we know how investigators might have been able to
track down this information?
GORDON: I wish we did, but we don`t know that. We`ve worked on this for
months. We had one source early on, and in fact, you may recall that it
was reported early, early in 2017 that the FBI could not place Cohen in
Prague and it kind of died for a while. And then after an interval, we
learned that that investigation had been reenergized. We`ve got some other
unconfirmed reports but I`m not going to go into those because they`re
unconfirmed. What we have now is just that he was allegedly in Prague.
But what it does is puncture a huge denial and raises the question why, if
it`s true that he was in Prague, why was Michael Cohen denying it, and as
one expert former Watergate Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said to us today, if
this proves to be false, why would anybody believe anything he says.
HAYES: And we should say that he lavishly and proactively denied this
specific allegation, right?
GORDON: Yes, he offered his passport to BuzzFeed which I believe put a
photo op of every single page in his passport on the internet. But as one
former senior law enforcement official told us this summer while we were
pursuing this, there are a lot of ways for somebody to get into Europe if
need be, top slip in and out of Europe. We – again, this is based on
sources familiar with the inquiry and we`ll have to see how far it goes.
HAYES: All right. Greg Gordon, incredible reporting for McClatchy on this
GORDON: Chris, can I mention my colleague Peter Stone who is – who is a
lead author on the story and has done some great reporting on this story
HAYES: Absolutely. And that`s very – that`s mentee of you. You guys
both did a great job on this story. Thanks for joining me. For more on
the stakes of the stakes of this insane news day, I`m joined by Natasha
Bertrand who covers the Mueller investigation for the Atlantic, Matt
Miller, MSNBC Justice Analyst and former Chief Spokesperson for the Justice
Department under President Obama and MSNBC Legal Analyst Benjamin Wittes,
Editor In Chief of the Lawfare Blog and a personal friend of James Comey.
Natasha, let me start with you. Just on the implications of what we just
heard and what this means.
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it`s absolutely
massive. I mean, this is a rumor that`s been swirling around Washington
for months now. The idea was that Cohen had flown into Germany in early
September of 2016 and then had made his way by a bus or by a train down to
the Czech Republic down to Prague. It was never something that anyone has
really been able to confirm. But now we know that Mueller has evidence
that it did happen. It changes as significant because as we saw both
Mueller and the President kind of displayed – both Cohen and the President
displayed Cohen`s passport to prove that he was not in Prague meeting with
And I think that the important pattern to note here why was Cohen there to
pay hush money allegedly to kind of sweep everything under the rug which of
course we`ve seen him do over and over again with multiple women that Trump
has allegedly been involved with. So this establishes that perhaps there
was – there was serious collusion going on between the Trump campaign and
Russia and there was an attempt to kind of clean up the dirt that the Paul
Manafort, former Trump Campaign Chairman had left in his wake. And also of
course, that it was an attempt to kind of pay off the hackers, some of whom
were allegedly at this meeting that Cohen attended in Prague in order to
keep them quiet, as well.
HAYES: OK. So I just have got to be clear here because the context of
this is this dossier. The Steele Dossier, it is the infamous dossier. It
is called the dodgy dossier. It is called fake news by the people who
support the President of the United States. It`s something that those of
us who have watched the develop – don`t – kind of make what you can of it
unconfirmed. Lots of parts have been confirmed, some parts have been
definitively shown not to be true or names have gotten wrong. But this is
a crucial part of this. I mean, the allegation on page 18 of this dossier
is that Michael Cohen flies there on purpose undercover essentially to go
to Prague, originally was going to go to Moscow to essentially like sweep
things up as you said, to make sure that all this is sort of taken care of
because things were getting out about Manafort and Page, right?
BERTRAND: And that`s always been Michael Cohen`s role in Trump world. So
it`s not implausible in the least. It also raises serious questions about
why the President and Michael Cohen have been fixated on this portion of
the dossier as the portion of the dossier that undermines the entire thing.
This has always been the talking point that Michael Cohen was never in
Prague, therefore the entire dossier cannot be true, that it undermined the
credibility of the entire thing. Now that we know that Mueller has
actually reopened his investigation, it was closed, now he reopened his
investigation into whether or not Cohen was there because he has evidence
that he was there, it really starts to – it starts to make sense why they
have been so adamant about denying this particular aspect of the dossier.
HAYES: All right, Natasha, I want to pause you there, and Matt and Ben,
I`m going to come back to you but I want to first go to Senator Mazie
Hirono. I`m joined by two Democratic Lawmakers who have oversight at the
Justice Department. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, Member of the Senate
Judiciary Committee and New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler who joins me
here. He`s the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. And
Senator, let me start with you.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Yes.
HAYES: We have – there`s a flurry of news and activities suggesting the
President might move against Rod Rosenstein including a report that they
are essentially trying to create a pretext for firing him, that members of
Congress are sort of asking for documents. They know he can`t give because
they want to create a sort of paper trail pretext for the President to fire
Rod Rosenstein. What`s your reaction to that?
HIRONO: My reaction to this is that the President is under assault on all
fronts and this is a very bad situation because, in the best of times, he
has a very hard time staying to a course and even thinking through a
course. So here we are. He`s lashing out at everything and everybody and
a lot of us have been concerned about the Mueller investigation and the
President`s attempts to try and derail it. And it seems to be coming to a
head which is one of the reasons that we feel a sense of urgency for Senate
to act on a bill that would prevent the President from firing either Rod
Rosenstein or Mueller because by doing that, he thinks that he is going to
end this investigation which he continues to call a witch hunt. Obviously,
it isn`t, otherwise, he wouldn`t be so worked up about it.
HAYES: Your colleague Mark Warner called for a cooling off period. He
discussed – told a meeting of Democrats they should take a one-or-two-day
cooling off period. If Trump fires Rosenstein, take that time to reach out
to Republicans, push back against the White House. It will mean more if
it`s bipartisan. What do you think of that strategy?
HIRONO: My hope is that the Senate, especially the Senate Judiciary
Committee will do its job. We see signs – I hear signs of hope among some
of my Senate colleagues on the Republican side that they want this Mueller
investigation to continue. And should President act irresponsibly and
precipitously, my hope is at least in the Senate, we will enact very
quickly a legislation even after the fact to prevent the President from
going through with any firing of either Mueller or Rosenstein? My hope is
that that is what the Senate will do.
HAYES: The President is also considering at this moment with the National
Security Council, with the Department of Defense strikes on Syria. Do you
support those strikes?
HIRONO: If he`s going to strike against Syria, he needs to come to
Congress and get approval, you know. He needs to come and ask us to do
that because we are no longer fighting Syria because of ISIS. We would be
going after Syria because of their use of chemical weapons. And that
should be done – that kind of action should be done in collaboration with
our allies. It should not be done by a President whose under fire at all
fronts and he`s going to do something rash and it will have major
consequences, negative for our country as well as the people of Syria.
HAYES: All right, Senator Mazie Hirono, thanks for joining us tonight.
HIRONO: Thank you.
HAYES: Congressman Jerry Nadler, thanks for sticking with me. You are a
crucial player in all this. What do you make of what`s happened?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think the President is
desperate and flailing about. I think he is considering apparently firing
Rosenstein in order to either fire Mueller or put the brakes on Mueller.
That would be an absolute act of obstruction of justice. And in fact, the
President, if he did that, would have pre-convicted himself out of his own
mouth by what he`s been saying and tweeting in the last few days as to his
corrupt motive which is to stop a criminal investigation. That`s the
definition of obstruction of justice. I hope we can prevent this. I know
the New York Times story tonight that says he`s more – the people around
him are more afraid of what the Southern District in New York may find
about Mr. Cohen and so forth than this.
And if they`re rational in the White House, that would argue don`t fire
Comey and don`t fire Rosenstein and Mueller because you got – that`s not
the main threat. But I don`t know if they`re rational in the White House.
I would also say I agree with Senator Hirono about the Syrian strike and I
would say that striking Syria at this point would be illegal without
Congressional authorization because Congress has the war-declaring power
and there`s no excuse. You cannot pretend that an attack on Syria has
anything to do with the attack on the World Trade Center which is the only
existing or on the people who perpetrated that which is the only existing
HAYES: You`re talking about the authorization to use military force which
– shortly after 9/11 which has been used to justify military activity as
many as nine countries including the bombing in Syria.
NADLER: That there would be no shred of justification. You can`t connect
that to Syria.
HAYES: Well, also, what do you make of the – I mean, when you think about
the President of the United States right now and the way he has acted today
on Twitter, the pressure he`s under, the fact he apparently called Michael
Cohen today in violation one would think of any sound legal counsel
simultaneously making decisions about how to Marshall the forces of the
most powerful military that has ever existed in human history.
NADLER: I think this is very, very dangerous. And I`m frankly very
worried. I don`t trust the President`s judgment on military affairs now.
He`s gotten rid of most of the people around him who might give sounder
judgment. It`s frightening to think what stands between us and the new war
in Syria is John Bolton.
HAYES: Well, it sounds like he is advocating for that very wide threat.
NADLER: Well, that`s the point. That`s the point. He`s not – he`s the
biggest war hawk. But coming back to the whole question of obstruction of
justice, this country was attacked. We were attacked by the Russians who
tried to subvert our election and our democratic system. Comey now reveals
that when the President was apprised of this, his reaction was political.
His reaction was how does this affect me, how does this affect my
legitimacy. It had nothing to do with how do we stop the Russians from
attacking again and how do we protect the country? And he`s been behaving
ever since then purely on a defensive personal level and as if he is above
the law. And we must establish that no man is above the law.
HAYES: Three colleagues on your committee, Bob Goodlatte, Trey Gowdy and
Devin Nunes, these are House GOP lawyers –
NADLER: Lawmakers –
HAYES: Lawmakers, Goodlatte of course, the Chair of your Committee.
They`re calling on Rosenstein to release the Comey memos that triggered the
Special Counsel. Are they acting in good faith?
NADLER: I don`t think so. I think it`s the latest in a series of
HAYES: Was that news to you, by the way, they`re doing that?
NADLER: Yes, it was news to me. It`s the latest in a series of diversions
that calls for information about the investigation of Hillary Clinton which
is past tense and of interest to historians at this point but not really of
current interest. No, they have been following a consistent strategy of
diversion, of trying to discredit the Special Counsel and in advance and
you know, like a game of Three-Card Monte, don`t watch what`s important.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you for making some time
on this Friday night.
NADLER: Thank you.
HAYES: I want to bring in former Republican Congressman David Jolly.
Still with me Natasha Bertrand, Matt Miller, and Ben Wittes. And Matt,
what is your reaction to what we`re watching unfold today?
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE ANALYST: It feels like the President is sitting
in the White House, the walls are closing around him and he doesn`t know
what to do to get himself out of the situation he`s in. You mentioned Mark
Warner a minute ago. You know, his speech back last December, he laid out
two red lines for the President. One would be firing Bob Mueller or in any
way attempting to end that investigation and the other would be pardoning
people involved in it. And you see the President flirting with both of
them. You see him threatening a prosecutor, Rod Rosenstein. And I think
let`s be honest. He`s not threatening Rod Rosenstein because he thinks Rod
Rosenstein has done a bad job or has any cause removing. He`s threatening
because he`s trying to get at the investigation. And on the other hand,
you see him dangling pardons in front of people. Maybe explicitly but if
not explicitly, certainly implicitly. He had a call with Michael Cohen
today, something that`s very inadvisable when two people who are subjects
of the investigation, any lawyer would tell you not to do that for no other
reason. And it`s quite possible that Michael Cohen is under on-going
surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And at the same time,
you know, pardoning Scooter Libby I think sending a very clear message to
people like Michael Cohen, to the people like Paul Manafort, hold strong,
don`t cooperate, don`t flip and I will be here for you at the end.
HAYES: I should note that Senator Mark Warner I referred to the cooling
off period reporting from earlier, his office denies that he said that of
course, that was in a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting. Ben, what do
you make of the way the White House is talking about James Comey?
BEN WITTES, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it`s a full-court press of personal
defamation. And it`s not just the White House. You know, the Republican
Party set up a Web site devoted to sliming Jim Comey. I you know, can`t
think of a time that a major party apparatus has done something like that
in a – you know, in an overt way. And you know, I think the President has
made a decision. I don`t know how self-an aware he is about this or
anything else but he`s you know, made a decision that rather than confront
any of the many disturbing allegations in that book about his own conduct,
he`s just going to lie about the author.
And, of course, the lie about the other central lie about the author is
that Jim Comey is a liar. And you know, Jim Comey is a lot of things. And
you know, Matt Miller who is on with us has been really critical of him for
a lot of things. One thing he isn`t is a liar. And you know – and so I
think you know, it`s a really interesting question whether a campaign of
defamation organized by the President of the United States and his
political party apparatus can work whether he it is completely divorced
from anything like the truth.
HAYES: David, you`re a former Republican member of Congress. Ben mentions
the fact that the GOP has a lying Comey site. That is being pushed out on
the same day that the one Deputy National Finance Chair stands accused of
using his ability, Michael Cohen, to pay off hush money for the other
Deputy National Finance Chair, $1.6 million for an affair he had that
rutted in a child. What is going on?
DAVID JOLLY FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN FROM FLORIDA: Look, these are
disgusting actions by leaders of a party that frankly today I don`t believe
deserve to lead either politically or through public office. And it is a
failure of leadership in Donald Trump`s party. He has rebranded this party
and made it OK that we now accept actions like this. It`s wrong. It`s
disgusting in many levels for Republicans. It`s embarrassing for
Republicans. Chris, this week though, Republicans I think are pretty
terrified. The President`s legal and political exposure increased
dramatically with what we saw in New York. The New York Times reported one
of Trump`s attorneys was in the courtroom today in New York trying to quash
the evidence that was taken from Cohen`s office. Evidence that prosecutors
believe could rise to the level of criminal activity. I do think the
likelihood of either indictment or impeachment did increased incrementally
this week for the President of the United States.
HAYES: Ben Wittes, do you agree with that.
WITTES: I do. I think the situation is very clearly grave for Michael
Cohen. And Michael Cohen, you know, the President tweeted today that Andy
McCabe is Jim Comey. You know, that`s clearly not true. But what is true
is that Michael Cohen`s business is Donald Trump. And you know, so when
the Justice Department says that they are investigating Michael Cohen`s
business activities, that is a way of saying that they are investigating
HAYES: Matt, I want to talk about McCabe because that was one of the
pieces of news that happened today which is the I.G. issues a report that`s
quite critical of Andy McCabe. It says that he was unforthcoming in
interviews with investigators about a leak he authorized about the FBI
opening investigation into Hillary Clinton. Just to be clear. And that
was the reason, that`s the sort of predicate for him being terminated. Do
you trust it?
MILLER: I do. I trust the Inspector General that prepared that report.
And I thought look, there were two pieces of it. One I found compelling,
one I found not very compelling. The piece that I found very compelling is
that Andy McCabe didn`t tell the truth when confronted with evidence of
this conversation he had a reporter. I think the report lays out a pretty
damning series of events. The piece I didn`t find so compelling, the
underlying leak. You know, what they criticize him for is essentially
confirming this investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
And when you read what happens – what happened, what it looks like to me
is the thing that often happens inside the government where there`s finger
pointing back and forth, there`s people trying to lay the blame elsewhere
and it looks like the reporter already had the investigation confirmed.
What McCabe did is just kind of you know, try to share a piece of
information that made himself look better. At least made himself not look
culpable and he`s criticized for that. It is the type of thing that
happens inside the government and honestly happens inside the Justice
Department all the time. But when you step back for the big picture, you
know, I do think it was – you can make a case that he should have been
I do still have the hard time believing that without the pressure from the
President of the United States and the pressure from the Attorney General
who wanted to retaliate against him not because he leaked something about
Hillary Clinton, obviously, not because he was not candid with the
investigators but because he was a thorn in the President`s side. I think
there`s no way he gets fired two days before his retirement absent those
HAYES: David, do you – are you confident there are people on the House
side – people talk about the Senate. Is there anyone on the House side
who were he to move against Rosenstein, is going to speak up and try to
JOLLY: Only if they see their own political future going down the toilet.
And that`s unfortunate. I think Donald Trump has convinced the base that
it is OK to fire Rosenstein and that Mueller is corrupt and should go, as
well. I think he`s wrongly convinced the base. That is the base that also
elects Republican members of Congress. I don`t see a lot of leadership
coming out of the House right now. Frankly, that Nunes, Goodlatte letter
saying they want to see more evidence again is not the actions of leaders
that are truly interested in finding justice in this matter. My fear is
Republicans do nothing. And if this is what informs your conscience going
into the November, it takes flipping the House to have true oversight of
HAYES: David Jolly, Natasha Bertrand, Matt Miller and Ben Wittes, thank
you all. Much more to come on yet another massive news night. Still more
major updates in the Michael Cohen story. We haven`t even had a chance to
get to that and much more in two minutes.
HAYES: Donald Trump`s long time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was
spotted today enjoying the fine weather in New York City with some friends
and a cigar on the same day federal prosecutors disclosed that Cohen has
been the subject of a months` long criminal investigation.
ABC News reported today that federal agents seized recordings in their raid
on Cohen earlier
this week. New York Times reported that cohen got a phone call from the
president earlier today reportedly just to check in.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports Cohen was involved in another
payment to cover up a sexual encounter. And breaking late tonight, sources
say Mueller has, as we mentioned, evidence confirming a portion of the
Steele dossier that involves Cohen.
Joining me now to break all this down, attorney Lisa Green, New Yorker
staff writer Adam Davidson, and Wall Street Journal reporter Michael
Rothfeld, one of the two reporters who`s broke the story of Cohen brokering
that $1.6 million payout.
And let`s start with that. What did you report today?
MICHAEL ROTHFELD, WALL STREET JOURNAL: We reported that Elliot Broidy, who
was until today when he resigned an RNC fundraising official, had paid –
agreed to pay $1.6 million to a woman with whom he was having a sexual
relationship for more than a year. In fact, she was a former
playmate and he had been paying her to have an exclusive sexual
relationship outside his marriage.
And she told him that she became pregnant and he was the father. And so
Michael Cohen stepped in and told Elliott Broidy, hey, I can fix this for
you. And they negotiated a non-disclosure agreement in which he would pay
her and she would not disclose any details of the affair.
HAYES: The best detail, and there are many excellent details in your
reporting, is that in the contract of the NDA, what are the – what
relationship to those aliases bear to the alias in the infamous Stormy
ROTHFELD: Right. Michael Cohen also negotiated the porn star NDA. And
in that agreement was known as David Dennison. In this agreement, Elliott
Broidy is known as David Dennison. Stormy Daniels was known as Peggy
Peterson. In this agreement, the former playmate was known as Peggy
Peterson, so they used the exact same pseudonyms.
HAYES: Like he`s got a Word template for like a hush money NDA and he just
doesn`t even bother to change the –
LISA GREEN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It`s like a multiple choice test for fourth
graders. Do you remember those tests? It`s about the level. And, you
know, we heard today that federal prosecutors said that Michael Cohen
apparently could do that much lawyering, which begs the question what does
he do all day?
HAYES: What does he do?
GREEN: And new reporting seems to provide an answer. It`s like like an
HAYES: OK, here`s the other part of this – we`re going to work our way
back to Trump, but here is the other thing about this that I found really
sketchy, and you`re a straight reporter so I don`t know if you can use that
adjective. The lawyer on the other side of this is a guy by the name of
Keith Davidson. Can we show Keith Davidson. Keith Davidson represented
some other people. He represented Stormy Daniels, he represented Karen
McDougal and the woman in this affair. And in all three cases Keith
Davidson, the adversarial lawyer, hammers out an NDA with Michael Cohen.
Lisa Green, it begins to look like maybe Keith Davidson is actually working
in concert with Michael Cohen.
GREEN: Yeah, and Broidy issued a statement in response to the article that
had a curious distance saying I was approached by Michael Cohen after I
heard from Davidson. And that`s not how these usually play out.
HAYES: He says – let me read it – “Mr. Cohen reached out to me after
being contacted by this
woman`s attorney, Keith Davidson. Although I had not previously hired Mr.
Cohen, I retained Mr. Cohen after he informed me about his prior
relationship with Mr. Davidson.” It almost feels like they`re just –
GREEN: It`s a shrinking world of participants in what seems like an NDA
industrial complex. I mean, how many more of these agreements can we
expect to see?
HAYES: And an NDA industrial complex that federal prosecutors are looking
ADAM DAVIDSON, NEW YORKER: And to me, if we want to understand, I think
when we hear Michael Cohen, we have to think Ivanka Trump and Don Jr.
Michael Cohen and Don Jr. and Ivanka were the team that handled all the
international deals with people we know to be money launders, sanctions
violators, all sorts of financial criminals. And the key criminal question
for Ivanka, Don Junior and possibly Don, the president, is what did they
know, when did they know it, how exposed were they to this. And Michael
Cohen is now the highest ranking person who knows all of that, and he`s
under this kind of scrutiny.
HAYES: Are you confident that this is – we know what we will know about
this Broidy payment?
ROTHFELD: No, not necessarily. I mean, Broidy has had tremendous access
to the president. He`s been to the White House. He`s been to Mar-a-Lago.
There have been other matters in which he`s tried to exert influence with
the White House, made recommendations for ambassadorships. So I don`t
think we necessarily know all of the ins and outs. I mean, there could be
other potential issues that will come up.
HAYES: He`s also individual who has been courted by someone named George
Nader, right. George Nader, who is this strange fixer character who can
shows up in the meeting in the Seychelles with Erik Prince and the
Russians, who has several child pornography charges against him on two
different continents, but who was trying to work over Broidy a bit.
ROTHFELD: That`s right. Yeah, Broidy is basically trying to advance his
interests with the
UAE, and against Qatar, and you know, then his emails were hacked. So you
know, there are issues
there, as well.
HAYES: OK, so here is what we got today in federal court. We got this,
Mike Cohen, we now know the federal prosecutors got his emails months ago.
What`s that mean?
DAVIDSON: I`ve communicated with Michael Cohen quite a bit. This is not
the kind of reserved tempered lawyer who in his communications. This is a
guy who most of his activity as far as I can tell is either this NDA stuff
or business deals often with very unsavory people around the world. He`s a
very direct person. He`s a very –
HAYES: My favorite quote in The Daily Beast story about a rape allegation
that was withdrawn by Donald Trump`s former wife was, what I`m going to do
to you is disgusting – .
DAVIDSON: Yes, and to the reporter.
HAYES: He uses extreme language, and he contradicts himself. Within an
email exchange, he`ll call something a lie that he just asserted himself.
So, I can only imagine this is going to be a treasure trove of both – if
you`re trying to make a network of the relationships that the Trump
organization had with oligarchs all around the world, Michael Cohen is
going to be the key – his email correspondence, if all you had was the
addresses, the email addresses, that would enough to build a map of who –
how Trump was getting money, who was giving him money. And then once you
can read the text of the email, you can find out who knew what, what did
the president know, what did his kids know.
ROTHFELD: And we know he`s not been the most careful. I mean, in the
Stormy Daniels agreement, he puts his name on the limited liability company
that he was using to try to conceal
HAYES: Right, so he`s like left a big thumb print on the legal document.
ROTHFELD: Because maybe he didn`t want to pay somebody else to put their
name on it, so, you know, there`s been a little bit of sloppiness.
GREEN: You know, and what we`re coming down to is an epic battle over
attorney/client privilege. But I`m not aware of fixer/client privilege.
So in that way, prosecutors really previewed that they basically see little
or no evidence.
HAYES: They said that today in this hearing.
GREEN: – that what Michael Cohen was doing falls under the practice of
law. That`s a severe problem for him going forward.
HAYES: The biggest problem I think for him is this Prague news. I want to
come back to that, because we talked about in the A block. This is the
infamous Michael Cohen tweet, “I have never been to Prague in my life
#fakenews.” Picture of his passport.
Dossier says he met in Prague with Kremlin insiders basically on a clean-up
fixer job. Today we`ve got news that Mueller might evidence – has
evidence that he did.
DAVIDSON: So, first of all, this shows that Trump`s personal consigliere,
this is not Manafort, a guy who he hired recently and was only on his
campaign for five minutes. I think, Manafort was an intern or something, I
forget what his title was on the campaign, but Michael Cohen is Trump`s
closest business associate, his consigliere. I he, himself, is found to
have colluded with the Russians, it starts becoming vanishingly impossible
for Trump to argue he wasn`t.
Also, crucially, it bolsters this dossier, the Christopher Steele
reporting. And it`s not the first thing that does. And that reporting is
devastating for the president. We talk a lot about the pee-pee
HAYES: We do? I don`t. I never –
DAVIDSON: You`ve never mentioned it.
HAYES: That`s the first reference.
HAYES: but continue.
DAVIDSON: But you know, for me, I don`t – all this sex stuff is one
thing. I get excited about money laundering. I get excited about
financial frauds, and have always assumed that is the connection. And the
dossier is filled with that stuff.
HAYES: Yeah, final point on the dossier, which is why the dossier being
confirmed is such a big deal. It`s not the tape. It is the fact that the
allegations in that dossier are a systemic collusion between the Trump
campaign and Russia to tip the election from Trump`s favor with money
changing hands left and right and lots of meetings.
If that is true, you know that`s an enormous, incomprehensibly big deal.
DAVIDSON: Game over.
HAYES: Yeah, game over, and to the extent that it`s being confirmed, that
is one imagines making a lot of people very nervous.
Lisa Green, Adam Davidson and Michael Rothfeld, thank you all for your time
Still to come, the president makes it clear he hates leakers and liars.
So, today he gave his presidential pardon to a man convict of leaking and
lying. That story ahead.
HAYES: On the same day the president called former FBI Director James
Comey a, quote, “proven leaker and liar,” he pardoned Lewis “Scooter”
Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney`s chief of staff who was convicted
in 2007 for perjury, lying to federal investigators in connection with the
leaking of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.
In a statement today, the president said, quote, “I don`t know Mr. Libby,
but for years I have
heard that he`s been treated unfairly.”
With me now Peter Zeidenberg who served as an assistant special counsel in
the prosecution of Scooter Libby; Renato Mariotti, former federal
prosecutor; and Elie Mystal, editor of the legal website Above the Law.
Peter, as someone who worked for the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald –
Peter Fitzgerald, what do you make of this?
PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, I was very
disturbed to hear this news today. I think it was entirely inappropriate
and particularly for the reasons stated, which was the claim that this was
somehow an unjust prosecution. There`s no basis for that claim.
HAYES: Did it catch can you by surprise?
ZEIDENBERG: Yeah. I had no idea. I mean, I saw this when everyone else
did. We were never consulted, that`s for sure.
HAYES: Renato, this – this seems to be – what do you take away from this
in terms of what message it`s sending?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it seems there`s a
pretty clear message, Chris. Pat Fitzgerald was the last special counsel,
and Kellyanne Conway, the president`s spokeswoman, said today that Mr.
Libby was mistreated by the prior special counsel.
And so I think what this is, this is a message that he`s trying to send to
his allies saying hey, you know, special counsels can mistreat people. If
you – if you`re investigated by the special counsel, I might of give you a
pardon. I`ll help you out. I`ll do – you know, I will make sure this
works out for you in the end. I think that was the message he was trying
HAYES: I want to play that is exchange of Kellyanne Conway today and get
your reaction to it, Elie. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I say about Scooter Libby quickly? There`s some
that say – critics would suggest that this is sending a message that it`s
OK to lie under oath and to obstruct justice. Is the president sending
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: No, the president`s not sending
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What message is he sending, I guess?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he pardoning Scooter Libby?
CONWAY: Well, I can`t confirm that, but I`m not going to confirm that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president maintains he was right.
CONWAY: But you know many people think that Scooter Libby was a victim of
a special counsel gone amok.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Many people think that Scooter Libby was a victim of special
counsel gone amok. Very subtle.
ELIE MYSTAL, ABOVE THE LAW: What a coincidence.
No, I think what happened is that Michael Cohen got off the phone with
Donald Trump today and said to his people, so you`re telling me there`s a
chance, right? I mean, this is a clear signal to Cohen, to Manafort, to
anybody else who might be wavering with all the heat that`s being put on
them that, hey, there might be a way out of this.
But the thing that I don`t know that Trump world has fully figured out
here, if you pardon Michael Cohen, that means he cannot take the fifth
amendment. And so if Michael Cohen can`t take the fifth amendment, then
that means that Michael Cohen is going to have to say.
HAYES: His testimony is completely compelled.
MYSTAL: Which is even worse for Trump.
So, I don`t know if Trump has really fully thinking this through. I think
he`s trying to signal to
his people that like, hey, I might be there for you. But I don`t think
he`s thought through what removing their – at this point, the threat of
prosecuting Michael Cohen is the only way michael Cohen can keep
HAYES: And Peter, there`s aso the commonality here which is that was Libby
was convicted of was lying to investigators and perjury. And right now
we`ve got several people in the president`s inner
circle who have pleaded to similar crimes.
ZEIDENBERG: Yeah, I mean, obviously the irony has been pointed out by
others. But just today, the president and his spokespeople were
complaining about James Comey saying that he`s a leaker, that he`s leaked
classified information, and that he`s a liar. I mean, that`s literally
what Scooter Libby was convicted of. He leaked information and then lied
about it to the FBI and to the grand jury.
So you know, it`s almost mind bending to think that that`s the complaint
from the president and
yet, what does he do? He pardons someone charged with what he considers to
be such a terrible offense.
MYSTAL: It`s because the entire theory is like I`m rubber, you`re glue,
right, like whatever you throw at him his whole legal theory is just to
throw it back out at them.
HAYES: Right. Right. Right.
And there`s also the degree, Renato, of the statement accompanying this –
walk us through the normal process for pardons in the federal government,
because it doesn`t look like this.
MARIOTTI: That`s right, Chris. In fact, there`s a complicated procedure
within the Justice Department. There`s actually a pardon attorney who runs
an office that examines pardons. There`s a petition that is made by the
person who is seeking the pardon and then an extensive review process. The
prosecutors who worked on that case, on this case Pat Fitzgerald, would
have been consulted
as part of that process. None of that happened here, which suggests to me
that this was for political purposes.
And of course my former boss Pat Fitzgerald made a statement today talking
about that, because frankly along the way he was accused of misconduct by
the president of the United States. And I will tell you, Chris, Pat
Fitzgerald here in Illinois has got about as sterling of a reputation as
you possibly could have.
HAYES: I was covering politics in the city of Chicago in the state of
Illinois while he was doing his work there, and that is absolutely true.
OK, Peter Zeidenberg, Renato Mariotti, Elie Mystal, thanks for making the
time. Next, the man currently fuming inside the White House about James
Comey`s book and Rod Rosenstein is also apparently demanding his military
deploy a sweeping attack on Syria. The life and death stakes right now of
an enraged commander-in-chief when we come right back.
HAYES: All right, some breaking news on this Friday night, multiple
outlets, including the AP and the New York Times now reporting the
president intends to address the nation about Syria tonight in just about
eight, nine minutes from now, at 9:00. There are assumptions, of course,
that this will involve strikes on Syria, strikes that have been discussed
and debated in the White House, strikes which the president himself
promised and taunted about on Twitter.
Joining me now are democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and
Nayyera Haq, former senior adviser and spokesman for the State Department
under President Obama, and MSNBC military analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs.
And Colonel Jack, let me start with you. What do you foresee?
COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, he waited a long time to make
some kind of announcement that they`re going to conduct strikes. The last
time in April when the strikes were conducted, it was shortly after the gas
attacks. And when you wait a long time and what you`re after is
punishment, the longer the distance is between the crime and the punishment
the less impact it really has.
But the White House has been trying to get support for this among allies,
and the emir of Qatar was in town recently to talk about it. I don`t think
that the president wants to do it alone, would really like to have – I
mean, his military advisers would like to have some support.
But at the end of the day, he promised an attack and he`s going to have to
deliver. So he`s probably going to say that he`s going to attack and not
that he`s going to wait some more and decide later.
HAYES: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, you were the lone vote in the House
against the authorization to use military force, which of course has been
used to justify American military action in
about nine, ten countries. What is your position on strikes on Syria on
the Assad side of the equation?
REP. BARBARA LEE, (D) CALIFORNIA: Yeah, first, Chris, this is very
dangerous. I suspect they`re going to use, if they strike, the 2001
authorization that I voted against, because it was a blank check and any
president has used this blank check, all presidents have since then, to use
force and to conduct military operations.
But I tell you, this president, if he`s going to conduct a military strike
should come to congress. We should debate the costs and consequences of
it, and we should have a vote. In no way should he conduct this because
this certainly would be an illegal strike and it would be very dangerous
and tragic if this happens.
HAYES: Now, Nayyera, the U.S. has been involved on multiple sides of this
conflict for years. It has armed and trained some of the rebels. It has
also relentlessly bombed Syria in part of the ISIS campaign. It has killed
many civilians in that campaign as well. It has also struck Assad. Of
course the president ordering those strikes last year. It has tangled with
What do you say to people that think this is an absolute mess that the U.S.
cannot possibly make better?
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, you can accuse
the Obama administration of overthinking the engagement in Syria and the
problem now we have with Donald Trump is there seems to be no thinking
about what the goal is in Syria. If you bomb Assad any further, who are
you doing it for? There is no negotiation process in which different
parties are coming to the table. There is no discussion about what happens
if Assad goes. Really all we have is Iran and Russia engaged every single
day in support of the Iran regime – Assad regime. We have Israel also
targeting strikes there in Syria. And you have the United States, as of
last week, saying that the fight against ISIS is over.
That is the technical reason the United States has been engaged there, is
to defeat ISIS. When Donald Trump said that was over, he gave a full
signal to Assad that he could unleash chemical weapons on whoever he wanted
with impunity in his own country.
So now we have a problem. What is the goal of the United States? Will we
hear that from the president tonight? Is it punitive? Is it
humanitarian? Is it because we want to be playing a long game in the
Middle East? We do not understand what the purpose would be behind any
attacks at this point.
HAYES: all right. We now have confirmed the president will be speaking
tonight at 9:00. He`ll be addressing the nation in a brief address. We
expect it to be about five minutes.
Colonel Jack, obviously there are many U.S. service members in Syria right
now and in Iraq as
well and close to the border. What are your concerns about blowback?
JACOBS: Well, of course, Assad doesn`t need any excuse to go after our
people. We have relatively few people there. They`ve been there a long
time, and they can be withdrawn fairly quickly. The question earlier about
what the objective is is a very important one. We should start at the end
and work backwards. Any attack that the United States unleashes on Syria
right now will only be punitive. There`s no way that we can change the
course of the war. There`s no doubt about the fact that Syria, that
Damascus has won. The chemical attack that took place was on pretty much
the last bastion of rebel-held territory in Damascus, and they gave up
right away. Any attack we unleash will only be punitive, and there`s no
way that we`re going to be able to denigrate his capability.
I think a lot of times – we`ve left enough time so that the Russians can
move their aircraft to safe areas and so on so it`s only a punitive attack.
And I`m not very much concerned about American safety there.
HAYES: Briefly, Congresswoman, will there be opposition to this in
congress on both sides of the aisle?
LEE: There will be opposition on both sides of the aisle. I lead a
letter, a bipartisan letter, of over 100 members asking for the speaker to
bring forth an authorization to use force. It was bipartisan, over 100
members. There will be opposition. And I have to just say, there`s no
military solution or option to what has taken place. The president bombed
last year Syria. We`re there again. It`s really very tragic.
HAYES: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Nayyera Haq, and Colonel Jack Jacobs.
That is ALL IN for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the