Trump allies concerned Cohen will flip. TRANSCRIPT: 04/19/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 19, 2018
Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Josh Marshall, Ryan Costello
CHRIS HAYES, MSBNBC HOST: Tonight on “ALL IN.”
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I’ve always found
Paul Manafort to be a very decent Man.
HAYES: A rare window into the Mueller probe. Prosecutors say they suspect
Manafort had back-channel talks with Russia.
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It’s absurd and
there’s no basis to it.
HAYES: Tonight new reporting on Trump’s personal lawyer and his alleged
ties to Russian money.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: I’ll do anything to protect Mr.
Trump, the family.
HAYES: Then, why did Michael Cohen just drop his BuzzFeed lawsuit over the
TRUMP: I think they ought to apologize to start with, Michael Cohen.
HAYES: BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith joins me exclusively on Cohen
and what they have verified from the dossier.
TRUMP: I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way.
HAYES: And as Republicans lay the groundwork for obstruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod Rosenstein’s real problem right now is more with
Congress than it is with the President.
HAYES: Guess who’s joining with Trump Legal team?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What difference at this point does it make?
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I’m Chris Hayes. One of the top
lawyers on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team reportedly confirmed a
pretty remarkable bit of information in open court today, that
investigators started looking at Paul Manafort because they suspected the
former Trump Campaign Chairman might have been serving as a back channel to
Russia. The revelation came during a hearing in Washington, D.C, where
Manafort is claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority in the Russia
probe by indicting Manafort for financial fraud and other charges. But
according to a Senior Justice Department Prosecutor, Mueller’s team was
entirely justified in investigating Manafort because of his role in the
campaign. I’m quoting here, he had long-standing ties to Russia backed
politicians. Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will
naturally look at those things. This is the second time Prosecutors have
mentioned the possibility that Manafort was serving as a secret liaison for
the Trump campaign to Russia. Court filing a couple weeks ago noted,
Manafort’s ties to Russian Associated Political Operatives, Russian backed
politicians and Russian oligarchs affirming the investigation would
naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during
the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose
possible channels for surreptitious communication. That was the same court
filing in which we learn that Deputy General Rod Rosenstein had in a memo
last August approved two separate tracks in the Manafort investigation.
Possible financial crimes related to Manafort’s work in Ukraine and
potential collusion with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016
election. The first track, of course, has already resulted in charges.
The second, however, is still very much an open question. Manafort has
repeatedly denied any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you, or your
campaign and put in and his regime?
MANAFORT: No, there are not. That’s absurd. And then there’s no basis to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear Mr. Trump has no financial
relationships with any Russian oligarchs?
MANAFORT: That’s what he said. That’s what I said. That’s obviously what
our position is.
HAYES: Manafort already faces two separate criminal trials later this year
and his circumstances could be a preview of where Michael Cohen ends up. I
say this because to date, Cohen and Manafort are the only two members of
Trump world to be raided by the FBI. And while Cohen has yet to be
charged, reports suggest that like Manafort, he could be on the hook for
possible financial crimes. But their connections do not end there.
According to the infamous Steele Dossier, which remains largely
unconfirmed, it was Cohen who took over secret communications with Russia
after Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign. According to Steele “a
Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican Presidential
candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen in the on-going secret
liaison relationship between the New York tycoons campaign and the Russian
leadership. Cohen’s role had grown following the departure of Paul
Manafort as Trump campaign manager on August 2016. Prior to that, Manafort
had led for the Trump side. Again, none of that has been confirmed but it
is reason to believe that while Cohen is now being examined by prosecutors
in Manhattan on a variety of things, he may still be a subject of Mueller’s
Russia probe. But Cohen has popped up over and over again in stories about
Trump and Russia. He was the point man on efforts during the campaign to
build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He spearheaded other Trump projects in
former Soviet Union countries. He was involved in a proposed peace plan
for Ukraine on terms (INAUDIBLE) Russia and he has personal and
professional ties to Russian organized crime in New York that go by
decades. Now as the Cohen investigation moves forward, the question is,
how far does Cohen’s loyalty go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, could Michael Cohen flip? Are you
worried he’s not loyal?
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. I hope you saw the crowds in KeyWest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Big crowds. The President did not answer that question but
according to the reports, his allies are increasingly worried Cohen will
flip on his long-time boss, the President of the United States. Pretty
telling that just about everyone in the President’s inner circle on and off
the record seems to believe there’s some kind of criminal conduct for Cohen
to spill about. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is a member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. Have you noticed that too that when people
talking about Michael Cohen and the President there’s this question of will
he flip? There’s very little of, well, there’s nothing to flip on.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I can
tell you as a former Prosecutor, I’ve seen a lot of potential witnesses say
they are going to be completely loyal, that they know nothing and Michael
Cohen may be saying that now, and the President’s Allies may be hoping or
counting on him standing firm. But there is nobody who knows more about
Donald Trump than Michael Cohen. And he has the means and motive and
opportunity to cooperate.
HAYES: There are a lot of people – one thing the White House has done
quite effectively is they basically kind of put out this idea that there’s
a Russia investigation, and if there’s, “no collusion,” which obviously the
White House insists there isn’t, that anything else that happens that gets
investigated outside of this sort of narrow question of did the President
and Vladimir Putin, you know, talk to each other or something, isn’t
legitimate, what do you what’s your response to that?
BLUMENTHAL: The scope of the Mueller investigation is very, very broad.
It is appropriately and necessarily broad because what the Special Counsel
is investigating is not only potential collusion between the Russians and
the Trump campaign but also obstruction of justice. In other words,
interference, and intimidation in that investigation and there are
potential links if Michael Cohen is convicted and he faces very serious
potential charges of money laundering and wire fraud. And the information
that he has could be extremely incriminating to the President of the United
HAYES: There is a Bloomberg story today that said that Rod Rosenstein, who
is the number two at justice under Jeff Sessions, a person who is Running
the – sort of supervising the Mueller investigation which Session were
accused, told Trump that Trump is not a target in the Mueller or Cohen
probes, response to that.
BLUMENTHAL: Again, as a former Prosecutor, to be a subject or a target,
the line is very thin. Right now Donald Trump is a subject. But that line
is readily and swiftly often crossed in these investigations.
HAYES: There is news today that Rudy Giuliani will be joining the
President’s legal team, and he says he’s joining the legal team to
negotiate an end to this. What does that mean to you?
BLUMENTHAL: The most significant thing that Rudy Giuliani said is that he
thinks that the Special Prosecutor should be permitted to conclude his
investigation. Rudy Giuliani is a big name with star power. But what the
President needs is a serious litigator with brainpower. And Rudy Giuliani
could provide it if he does and the President listens. And if he does,
what he will tell the President of the United States is, cooperate truly
with this investigation, commit that it will be concluded without your
interference or firing Robert Mueller, and support the legislation that’s
now pending and I’m one of the drafters and sponsors of it that would
protect the Special Counsel and make sure that a court would view any
interference by firing in that investigation.
HAYES: On that legislation, Chuck Grassley said he’s going to bring it to
committee vote, right? Is that going to happen?
BLUMENTHAL: It will happen next week – next week.
HAYES: Next week. Mitch McConnell says it’s not coming to the floor. So
then what happens?
BLUMENTHAL I think Mitch McConnell is going to face a groundswell within
his own caucus.
HAYES: You really think so?
BLUMENTHAL: I think if there are Continuing threats and rants and tirades
from the President, in other words, if he fails to follow what I hope will
be Rudy Giuliani’s advice, that he should state unequivocally and publicly
that he will permit this investigation to finish. I think there will be
that ground as well. You know, there is a growing sense of real alarm
among Republican colleagues. Democracy is not shatter-proof, and our
democracy is under attack. Time is not on our side. The time for wishful
thinking –and I think Mitch McConnell has expressed his wishful thinking
that we have nothing to worry about. That time is over. And I think it
may not be next week, but at some point, if Donald Trump continues these
threats and the danger to our democracy continues as well, I think you will
see a groundswell within that caucus.
HAYES: And finally what do you say to people that say you are putting more
faith in your colleagues’ good faith than maybe has been demonstrating
publicly thus far?
BLUMENTHAL: I have to put good faith in my colleagues because it’s the way
HAYES: You work there every day?
BLUMENTHAL: I work there every day. I work with them every day and I hope
that they will do the right thing. This legislation –
HAYES: Hope is not a plan, Senator.
BLUMENTHAL: This legislation is bipartisan, but let me just be very clear.
Ultimately my colleagues can count and what will really count is the
American people. They have to rise up. They have to express to my
colleagues that kind of pressure.
HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal, it’s always a pleasure to have you here
in studio. Thank you very much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: For more on the mystery of Michael’s Cohen’s tie, I’m joined by
Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher of Talking Point Memo and MSNBC Legal
Analyst Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate Prosecutor. And Josh, let me
start with you. You wrote a great post. You’ve been writing a lot about
Michael Cohen from the beginning. He’s an object of your fascination,
which is now bearing out, I think. What – where do you see him fitting
into this because I think one of the things that happened was that the raid
happens and there’s all this reporting. It’s like, it’s about Stormy
Daniels, taxi medallions, it’s about this or that, it’s not about Russia,
but I’m not convinced that that’s the case.
JOSH MARSHAL: Well, for viewers if you want to go really deep on this, we
did a special episode of the Josh Marshall Podcast today. Again, if you
want to get deep, deep, deep, go download that. I think that the key –
it’s probably something to do with Stormy Daniels, but if you’ve looked
into Michael Cohen’s background, he has been involved his entire life in,
you know, businesses like the taxi business and real estate in New York and
casino cruises. These are all industries, businesses that are heavily
infiltrated by the Mafia. And through his life, he has been associated
with Russian Mafia figures all through his adult life. So if you – if you
look at his history, it’s very obvious if you’ve looked at that past, this
is not someone who would survive first contact with serious prosecutorial
scrutiny. There is – I mean, again, I don’t want to say things that are
not facts and evidence.
HAYE: Yes. He’s saying – he’s saying that of course, he’s not a
criminal. He’s done nothing wrong. I want to be clear on that.
MARSHALL: Exactly, there are – there are a lot of leads that prosecutors
would want to look at about money laundering, about money from abroad,
particularly from Russia and Ukraine. He was brought into Trump’s orbit in
2006-2007 as a conduit for money from that part of the world. He was not
brought in to really be a lawyer. He’s a deal maker, and he had access to
that money. There’s a lot to look at.
HAYES: His wife is Ukrainian, his father-in-law, it seems they were buying
a lot of Trump Tower apartments. Jill, there’s all this back and forth
about cooperation. Again, the premise always seems to be, well, of course,
there’s stuff for him to cooperate on, which I find kind of funny. The
President – one of the President’s former lawyers, Jay Goldberg, has been
doing a lot of interviews, has been talking to a lot of folks. Here he is
talking to Lawrence O’Donnell about his sort of gaming out of Michael
Cohen’s propensity to cooperate. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY GOLDBERG, FORMER LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: I said Michael Cohen is of the
type that he’s interested in protecting himself, and he’ll say whatever he
thinks is necessary to get a deal with the government.
LARRY O’DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It sounds pretty bad. You say Michael Cohen
will turn against the President talking to the special prosecutors.
GOLDBERG: He will turn against Donald Trump if that be his conclusion that
that’s what the prosecutor wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think of that?
JILL WINE-BANK, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It’s impossible for me to predict
because I don’t know Michael Cohen, and I do know that he said, I will take
a bullet for the President, something that Gordon Liddy said during
Watergate. Gordon Liddy lived up to that and never spoke, never flipped.
But this is a person who knows him, and I would possibly think that he has
a reason to say that and that Donald Trump has a reason to be really
worried because Michael Cohen knows a lot of the places where bodies are
buried. He did deals for him. He’s been with him a long time. And so
there’s a lot to be worried about, and we’ll have to wait and see whether
he talks or doesn’t talk.
HAYES: Josh, there’s a question about his finances too which is how liquid
is this guy and he’s got some very serious legal bills piling up.
MARSHALL: Yes. He is – when everybody saw Michael Cohen in the 2016
campaign, probably for the first time kind of as Trump’s sort of bully
lawyer and mouthpiece, they probably didn’t get that this is a very wealthy
man in his own right. It’s sort of a mystery how many of his assets, are
those really his assets, or is the kind of holding on to someone else’s
assets? But he’s just as one example. Just back in 2015, he purchased an
apartment building on the Upper East Side in New York for $58 million. So
this is –
HAYES: That’s a lot of money.
MARSHALL: Yes. This is not just a kind of a salaried lawyer. He’s a
wealthy man. But liquidity and what’s his and what’s not, that’s vague.
HAYES: And it’s – I think he claimed he took a loan out to pay Stormy
Daniels for $130,000, so there’s a little bit of a mismatch of I bought a
$58 million building, but I needed to take a loan out for $130,000.
MARSHALL: I think anybody who is familiar with his finances, something
does not add up about, I’m taking out, you know, a home equity loan on my
house for $130,000. He clearly has access to and seems to possess hundreds
of thousands, millions of dollars. Now, maybe it’s tied up and not liquid,
maybe it’s not really his but something is weird about that. He’s not
someone who needs to take out a home equity loan for $130,000.
HAYES: Jill, I had former Attorney General Eric Holder here at the table
just a few nights ago, and he said from his perspective, he always thought
this was a two-year investigation. Now, those were his words. He actually
thinks that Mueller has been moving at break neck pace. Given the raid on
Michael Cohen just last week, where do you think we are?
BANKS: I think that a two-year investigation would be on the short side
given how many different aspects there are to this case. And the raid on
Cohen came from information developed in the course of this investigation
but wasn’t done by Mueller. It was done in a different office for very
good and valid reasons. And whatever is found there is going to lead to
further investigation so that once you get one piece of information, you
have to follow it up. And so when we talk about Rudy Giuliani saying, I’m
going to negotiate a quick end to this, you don’t negotiate an end to an
investigation. That’s number one. If you want to quickly get it over
with, then you step away, and you let it proceed as it is intended to. Let
it go to its natural conclusion and follow all the leads. That’s the only
way the American people will ever have complete confidence that they know
the truth about whether the President did or didn’t do something. And
that’s what we need is to have a conclusion to this that says, this is the
BANKS: This is the truth.
HAYES: Yes. It’s such a good point. That is the ultimate result here
that matters the most. Whatever those facts end up being, that just we
know what happened. Josh Marshall and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both for
being here. Stay where you are. We have a very big night coming your way
right here on MSNBC, including the story of Michael Cohen dropping his
defamation suit against the Web site that first published the Steele
Dossier. Ben Smith is the Editor in Chief of BuzzFeed, and he will join me
exclusively here tonight. Next, the Republican Congressman trying to
protect Robert Mueller as his colleagues in the House try and soften the
ground for the firing of Rod Rosenstein and as if that were not enough.
We’re minutes away from Rachel Maddow’s interview with the FBI Director
that Donald Trump fired during the middle of the Russia investigation.
James Comey is in the building. He will be on “MADDOW” for the hour. Sit
tight. No flipping. We’ll be right back.
HAYES: 11 House Republicans are demanding the investigation of a long list
of political enemies of the Republican Party, of the President urging the
FBI and Justice Department to prosecute. Hillary Clinton, James Comey,
Loretta Lynch, Sally Yates and others. But six Republicans are doing
something very different, supporting bills to protect Special Counsel
Robert Mueller from the President. One of the Republicans trying to shield
Mueller, Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania joins me now.
Congressman, you’re one of six Republicans who are on this legislation.
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, right now the Department of
Justice regulations lay out the reasons by which a special counsel could be
removed. We’re just looking to codify that because I don’t think – I
think a number of things. Number one, Mueller shouldn’t be fired. Number
two, if that were to happen, it wouldn’t be good for anyone, rule of law in
this country, the President, Republicans, Democrats, everyone. And I think
this is the responsible way to lay it out there. I know obviously your
previous guest, Senator Blumenthal had indicated the Senate is looking at
this. They may get this out of committee. I just think it’s the
appropriate course of action, Chris.
HAYES: Have you had any conversations with leadership about where that
would or would not go?
COSTELLO: I have not had any conversations with leadership. I do think
the genesis of this will come out of the Senate. Speaker Ryan has
indicated he doesn’t think that the President will fire Mueller. He has
not made any points beyond that. So this legislation was just introduced
by my colleagues last week – earlier this week, I think. And so those
conversations have not taken place.
HAYES: There are a number of your colleagues in the Republican caucus who
have been putting a lot of pressure on Rod Rosenstein to hand over memos
that James Comey authored that were part of the initial parts of this
entire investigation. They got those memos today. There are many people
who believe that the House caucus’ moves against Rosenstein and criticisms
of him are grounds for sort of – are ways of softening the ground for the
President to fire Rosenstein. What do you think of that?
COSTELLO: Well, Chris, as with any special counsel – and we can go back
to Whitewater, we can go back to the 1980s with Iran Contra, anytime you
have a President investigated, you’re going to have members of his own
party look to do that. You’re also going to have those among Democrats who
are going to look to turn over every rock and maybe speculate on where an
investigation may be going that ultimately proves to be inaccurate. I
supported the appointment of Mueller before it even happened. The
investigation has to run its course. I would echo what Chris Christie said
a couple weeks ago. There is no way to shorten this investigation.
There’s nothing that anyone can do. There are ways to make it longer or
elongate it. You know, if my colleagues want to see certain memos that Mr.
Rosenstein is ethically able to provide them, have at it. I mean that’s
perfectly fine. I don’t – I don’t take issue with that. What people’s
motivation are for different things, I’m best off not speculating on that.
HAYES: Well, that’s fair enough. But, you know, you’ve got 11 House
Republicans who wrote this letter calling for all these people to be
investigated and possibly prosecuted. And it’s quite a list. It’s Hillary
Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, who did get a criminal referral from
the I.G. today, Loretta Lynch, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Sally Yates, Dana
Boente. What do you think about writing a letter saying that all these
people need to be investigated and possibly prosecuted?
COSTELLO: Well, I think two things. Number one, I suspect that that is a
consequence of the four-page memo that was released in the dossier and how
it came to be funded. That in and of itself, Chris, I don’t see an issue
with, and here’s why. Because ultimately the Attorney General’s Office is
going to have to take the factual predicates and determine whether or not
there’s a legal basis for pursuing it.
COSTELLO: And we have to trust the Department of Justice to be able to do
it. I take issue when Republicans or Democrats attack the FBI or our law
enforcement. It is not good for the long-term credibility of that
institution. The rule of law does matter. And so just to reiterate, if
they want to call – ask the DOJ to investigate, that’s just Members of
Congress putting something on a piece of paper and signing their name to
it. DOJ must operate with integrity and objectivity, and I have faith they
will do so.
HAYES: So I take it when the President describes a warrant being served on
Michael Cohen as the FBI breaking into his residence, you don’t think they
broke into his residence?
COSTELLO: I do not think they did.
HAYES: I guess the final question here is you sound like someone who’s
confident that the Department of Justice, the sort of institutions and
norms of independence can endure here or are enduring as of now.
COSTELLO: Oh, I think actually they – the answer is yes, and they are
enduring. And the interesting thing here, Chris, is a year ago I had a lot
of folks really up in arms saying, Russia, Trump, what’s going on? We need
the Intelligence Committee. We need oversight – we need congressional
hearings on this. And my response was if you think Congressional hearings
are going to get to the bottom of something like this, I would respectfully
suggest the better course of action would be to get an independent counsel
because there would – obviously I think Attorney General Sessions was
correct on the conflict of interest question, and allow Mueller to do his
job. He’s now doing his job. And interestingly, you mentioned earlier on
the Manafort issue, when Manafort took issue with the scope of the
investigation, at that point in time, Mueller, I believe, sought the
referral, got it, and the explanation as to why that investigation is
continuing is a consequence of what the order was in the first instance.
So the justice system is working the way that I believe that it should. It
doesn’t work as quickly. We don’t always know what’s going on from minute
to minute but that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Ryan Costello, thanks for joining me.
COSTELLO: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, so just what exactly is Rudy Giuliani going to do for the
Trump legal team and why does he think he can wrap this whole Mueller probe
up in, “a couple of weeks?”
HAYES: House Republicans who this week threatened to hold Deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein in contempt or possibly even impeach him, those
Republicans have now gotten their way. A less than an hour ago reports
emerging that the Justice Department has sent versions of the Comey memos -
- these are memos written by Comey that are the birth of the investigation
into the Trump/Russia and collusion, that they have sent those memos over
to Congress. According to the DOJ letter obtained by NBC News, the Justice
Department is “providing a requested memorandum in both redacted and
unredacted formats for your convenience.
Well, the decision heads off a subpoena for the memos, which House
Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced he would issue last night. The
capitulation could have long lasting ramifications. According to former
Justice Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, this is an area governed
solely by precedent and DOJ is setting precedent that it is OK for congress
to interfere with and receive documents pertaining to active
With me now, Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official;
and Nancy Gertner, a retired federal district judge, who has an op-ed in
The New York Times today called “Smearing Robert Mueller.”
So this question, Chuck, about whether it’s appropriate, correct to send
these memos over to congress, where do you come down on that?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Bad idea.
HAYES: You think it’s a bad idea?
ROSENBERG: Yeah. So I don’t know that it’s literally unprecedented,
meaning it’s never, ever happened. I can tell you it’s extraordinarily
rare. And the reason is when you have an open investigation, it has to
remain sort of cloistered. You want very few people, except you want the
people working on it to know everything about it, and you don’t want
anything else to know anything about it.
And as we’ve seen many times, Chris, when stuff goes to The Hill, it gets
made public, and that’s not the way you conduct a sensitive criminal
HAYES: They’re almost certainly, I think, either going to leak either
parts of it or all of it.
ROSENBERG: I’m not a betting man. If I were, they’re going to leak it.
HAYES: Well – and Nancy, I thought about this thought experiment with
Senator Robert Menendez, who was on the show last night, who, of course,
has faced federal prosecutors, right, through the DOJ public corruption
unit brought charges against him. You can imagine – I mean, what would
happen if while you were a judge presiding over that case, and it was sort
of working its way through, someone on The Hill subpoenaed a bunch of
investigative documents about the case?
NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGE: Well, by the time I got to
the case, everything had already been out. So in an ordinary criminal
case, I would have been in orbit if
that had happened. But in this particular case, I came at the end of
literally four investigations, which was why I’m so clear that Mueller was
not involved in the case involving the four men wrongfully accused because
his name was literally in not a single report.
So everything had already been leaked and was out virtually by the time I
got the case. So, it wasn’t an issue. But I mean I take Chuck’s point
that you don’t – you know, you don’t leak in the middle of an
investigation, and you certainly don’t leak in the middle of an
investigation as fraught as this one is.
HAYES: I want to clarify just the case you’re talking about, which you
wrote the op-ed about. Tell me about that case and why you wrote the op-ed
GERTNER: Well, there had been statements made by Alan Dershowitz, by
Hannity, by Limbaugh that were that somehow Bob Mueller was responsible for
keeping – was responsible, that he was in the center of the case that kept
four men wrongfully imprisoned in Boston. And this would have been in the
’60s. And they were then imprisoned for 25years. Two died in prison, and
that somehow Mueller was responsible.
And I presided over the case in which those men and their families sued the
FBI under the Federal Tort Claims Act. I presided over that. There were
thousands and thousands of pages of documents, and when I was listening to
these stories, I could say without hesitation that Mueller was not even
mentioned in these materials, that he wasn’t in a position, in fact, to
intervene. He wasn’t in a position of responsibility during some of this
period he wasn’t even in Boston.
So it was the old saw that you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not
your own facts. And I felt like I needed to say, really, these facts are
just very different than what these guys are reporting.
HAYES: You know, you’re making a response to charges that have been
leveled at Mueller that by a certain portion of people that are clearly
sort of attempting to defend the president. It’s a shame…
GERTNER: Right. That was just flat out wrong. That was just flat out
HAYES: It’s a shame, Chuck, that you’re not a betting man because I’m just
hearing in my ear the AP has now acquired the memos. So these are now
going to be…
GERTNER: Oh, good lord.
HAYES: These are now going to be made public.
ROSENBERG: Too late to get a bet down, you’re saying.
HAYES: Yes. That’s exactly. Sorry.
What does this do? I mean, what is this going to do to this investigation?
ROSENBERG: The answer is probably nothing, because the memos are written
by Jim Comey, and Jim Comey is as reliable and consistent and truthful and
honest as they come, right? So he’s going to testify perhaps someday to
precisely what he wrote, and there’s not going to be any real difference or
distinction between those two things – the oral version and the written
version of what Jim Comey saw and heard.
But it’s just a really bad idea. It opens the door to a practice that as a
former federal prosecutor, I would disdain, which is…
GERTNER: But how many doors have already been opened in this case?
ROSENBERG: Oh, well…
GERTNER: I mean, you know – and to some degree Comey hitting the airwaves
as he has is also unusual and certainly arguably undermines the
ROSENBERG: Well, yeah, so it’s rare for me to disagree with a federal
judge. But I…
HAYES: Well, that I’m not sure I buy but…
ROSENBERG: When I do it, I always try to do it politely.
GERTNER: I have no power. Don’t worry about it.
ROSENBERG: Nor do I anymore, but I think in this case, Chris, the fact
that Jim is out promoting a book is fine because Jim’s a private citizen.
He wrote a book, and he’s going to talk about it, and that’s what private
citizens get to do.
Jim, as a witness, is a little bit different. And the prosecutors really
control that process, or at least would like to. And that’s precisely why
they don’t want this stuff floating around, particularly on the Hill. As
you said, it’s already out.
HAYES: I wonder, Nancy, how you think about how this process – it’s a
very unique process, now. You’ve got the special prosecutor. You’ve got
the Hill sort of trying to nose in on it. You’ve got the president in
front of everyone pressuring his Department of Justice to prosecute his
political enemies. I mean how can a process like this have a fair, just
GERTNER: Well, it’s going to be complicated, there’s no question about it,
that so much of this is going to be in the public. But when you talk about
the process, you’ve got to sort of step back and say there’s a criminal
process on the one hand.
GERTNER: The people who are purportedly prosecuted in court. And it’s
going to be – whoever presides over those criminal trials is going to have
a hard time picking a fair jury, trying to disentangle what the press has
been from what the story that comes out in the court.
But on the other hand, if there is an impeachment here, if there’s a
Mueller report as opposed to a Mueller prosecution, that is already a
GERTNER: And so to some degree, it’s not a surprise that all of this is
fleshed out as it is.
HAYES: Chuck Rosenberg and Nancy Gertner, that was really illuminating.
Thank you both for making the time tonight.
GERTNER: Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come, why did President Trump’s attorney suddenly drop his
suit against BuzzFeed for publishing the Steele dossier? BuzzFeed editor-
in-chief Ben Smith joins me exclusively ahead. I think I have the biggest
exclusive on the network tonight.
Plus, a new level of humiliation in tonight’s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Time magazine revealed its 100 most influential
people of 2018. Somehow your humble host was not on the list. But no
surprise that as President Donald Trump would be among them. Then the
magazine chooses interesting people to write tributes for each person, sort
of a pairing thing, for its Time 100. And so we got this full-throated
defense of the Trump presidency. Get ready for some very purple prose.
“President Trump is a flash bang grenade thrown into Washington by the
forgotten men and women of America, the same cultural safe spaces that
blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered
them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary
Americans.” I love ordinary Americans, they’re my favorite kind.
And the man who wrote that was someone who candidate Trump once lavished
with his own unique kind of recognition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It’s L-y-i-n, apostrophe. Lyin’ Ted. The Bible held high. He
puts it down and then he lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And the relationship between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, at least
one of them changed. That’s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz wrote a fawning
President Trump in the Time 100 issue. And yet it seems like Cruz wasn’t
always quite so fond
of Donald Trump. I could have sworn there was some kind of a rift, perhaps
that time during the primaries that Trump used that classic campaign attack
in which you say your political opponent’s father is actually an assassin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in
assassinating JFK. I’ll tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.
This man is a pathological liar. The man is utterly amoral. Morality does
not exist for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. But Cruz got over that. A month before the election, he even
phone banked for Trump. And yet I feel I could swear that we’re forgetting
something. Oh, right. That’s right. That would be the time that Trump
attacked and insulted Ted Cruz’s wife, including tweeting this from his
personal account. And after that, well, you could see not only Cruz’s
fury, but the spine that would carry him through to this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: It’s not easy to tick me off. I don’t get angry often. But you
mess with my wife, you
mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you’re a sniveling
coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will you support him as the nominee?
CRUZ: I’m going to beat him for the nomination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s not…
CRUZ: I am answering the question. Donald Trump will not be the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: History was made on the Senate floor today by this very young
woman, Miley Pearl Bowlsby, the first baby allowed on the Senate floor
during a vote. Miley’s mom is Senator Tammy
Duckworth of Illinois, someone who is not unfamiliar with firsts. She’s
the first disabled woman elected to congress; she lost her legs while
serving as an army helicopter pilot in Iraq. She is the first U.S. Senator
to give birth while in office less than two weeks ago. And today she
became the first
Senator to bring her baby to the floor during a vote.
It did require a rule change. Duckworth’s colleagues voting just yesterday
to allow Senators
to bring a child under 1-year-old on the Senate floor and to breast-feed
during votes, which is important.
Senator Duckworth thanked her colleagues for, quote, helping bring the
Senate into the 21st
Century. And when it looked likely she would have to cast a vote today,
Senator Duckworth sent out this adorable tweet, writing “Miley’s outfit is
prepped. I made sure she has a jacket, so she doesn’t violate the Senate
floor dress code, which requires blazers. I’m not sure what the policy is
on duckling onesies, but I think we’re ready.”
Be ready, too, for Miley and Senator Duckworth and all the women out there
breaking down barriers and making history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP))
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D) ILLINOIS: It meant so much to be able to able to
cast a vote as a new mom and be able to do my job and take care of my baby
at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Michael Cohen of the Trump organization was in Prague. It turned
out to be a different Michael Cohen. It’s a disgrace what took place.
It’s a disgrace. And I think they ought to apologize, to start with,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The they there would be BuzzFeed. They took a ton of flak last
January for publishing the so-called Steele dossier, which laid out
explosive and unverified allegations compiled by former British spy
Christopher Steele concerning President Trump, his campaign, and Russia.
And to undercut the dossier, Trump seized on this passage, which alleged
that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had a secret meeting with Kremlin officials
in August 2016 in Prague. Cohen quickly claimed he had never been to
Prague, and he sued BuzzFeed and the firm that employed Steele, Fusion GPS,
claiming his reputation had been damaged by the, quote, “entirely and
totally false accusations.”
Then, last week, McClatchy reported that Robert Mueller has evidence that
Cohen was, in fact, in Prague in 2016.
Now, NBC has not confirmed this report, nor has anyone else as far as we
can tell. We don’t know if it’s true. But today in the wake of the FBI
raid on Cohen’s office, Trump’s embattled lawyer dropped his lawsuit
against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS.
And joining me now, the man who made the decision to publish the dossier,
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith.
What’s your understanding of the timing?
BEN SMITH, CEO, BUZZFEED: Of the timing of his – you know…
HAYES: Of dropping the lawsuit.
SMITH: I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Michael about it, though he
loves to talk to the press, and we’re always happy to talk to him. Easier
now that he’s not suing us. But one thing that is clear in the context
here is that when we published the dossier, there was obviously a lot of
criticism, certainly, including from Michael Cohen, and questions, I think
reasonable questions I think people believe over whether was this an
important public document, was publishing this in the public interest? I
think it has been incredibly clear over the course of the last year, and it
seems to me clear to Michael Cohen’s lawyers that that question has been
HAYES: Was that the question that the sort of case would ultimately turn
SMITH: Yeah. I mean, I think the question of whether this was an
important government document and whether publishing it was in the public
interest or important journalistic and legal questions.
HAYES: You know, I was one of those people who thought you shouldn’t have
published it at the time.
SMITH: Do you still think that?
HAYES: No, no, I don’t actually. I think you made the right call.
But at the time I thought that, because, precisely for this reason, right.
I mean, are there were people who were alleged to have done things in there
that they may not be guilty of and now you’ve got this thing floating out
there with their name attached, and that’s basically the grounds on which
Michael Cohen sued you.
SMITH: Yeah. I think what was clear to us at the time, and I think has
become clear, is this wasn’t any document with some allegations, this
document had been briefed to two presidents of the United States by the top
national security officials. And what’s become really clear over the last
year, and, you know, it’s one thing that Jim Comey and Devin Nunes agree
on, is this document was really
important to the investigation. It was involved in a FISA warrant, all
sorts of things like that.
So, as you said, some of these – you know, these are – like the Prague
trip. I mean, we also have not been able to confirm that. Lots of
reporters chasing it, has not been knocked down, hasn’t been stood up. The
fact that the document was at the center of a lot of what’s been happening
last year is very clear.
HAYES: Have you guys been trying to confirm parts of the document?
SMITH: Yeah, I think, you know, starting when we got it before we
published, we had reporters in Prague, elsewhere, running around, trying to
HAYES: What is your assessment of it now?
SMITH: There are obviously elements of the dossier that have been
confirmed – and there are a few specifics, including – and I think as
well as the big picture, which – you know, when Steele was writing the
dossier was less clear than it is now that there was obviously an organized
Russian campaign, a lot of it happening, you know, in like Facebook groups
and things to feed support for Donald Trump.
That wasn’t an obvious thing to say when Steele wrote the dossier. It’s
obviously – I think a consensus now.
HAYES: Were you able – Michael Cohen is a notorious like the president,
he speaks very
insultingly of the press often in public, but he really likes talking to
reporters. As far as I can tell, he does that essentially all day. Were
you guys talking to him while this was happening? Was he a source while he
was suing you?
SMITH: This is something that our lawyers were not necessarily thrilled
about, but yes. Michael Cohen – I think something to understand about
Trump and about Cohen is they come out
of this New York tabloid world, It’s possible they don’t always exactly
mean what they say. And so, yes, I think our reporter – Michael Cohen has
always talked to reporters. He, in fact, while the lawsuit was going on,
he told my colleague Anthony Cormier to tell me that he thought I was doing
a good job and that when he owned BuzzFeed as a result of this lawsuit he
would consider keeping me employed.
HAYES: It’s – there’s a certain milieu that is just hard – you grew up
in New York City. YOu grew up around New York journalism. I grew up in
New York City. You know, there’s a certain milieu of like New York hustler
tabloid figures who are both like suing everyone, but also trying to make
deal with the same people they’re suing, and then also talking to the press
about it that is such a specific type and so what Michael Cohen and Donald
SMITH: Yeah, although when some of the things that Donald Trump says about
the press, which are – which is easy, I think for me or for you to see as
kind of New York tabloid gamesmanship. When you say it from, you know, the
Rose Garden, I think a lot of that audience – your audience is not in on
HAYES: You think it a joke? Like when he gets up there and he talks about
BuzzFeed being garbage, which he did at that press conference, of course,
after you published the dossier. You think he doesn’t actually mean it?
SMITH: I have no idea what he means, and it’s definitely not a joke when
the president of the United States says it.
HAYES: There were a lot of people that were angry at you. You got
incoming about publishing the dossier from a bunch of different directions,
right. So, it has been used very cynically by defenders of the president
to show that the whole thing is ridiculous, because it’s on its face
manifestly absurd that the president hired two sex workers to urinate on
each other in a Ritz Carlton bed.
But there were other people who other fellow reporters who were not happy
with that decision.
SMITH: Yeah, but I think there’s a tradition in journalism that really
comes from the notion that, well, we control the printing presses, we
control the broadcast pipes. The only information you’re
getting is information that we broadcaster, newspaper printers, decide to
HAYES: And have verified, I mean crucially.
SMITH: For sure. I mean, that is in the higher parts of the press, that
is – it’s not the universal tradition. But there’s a kind of judgment you
make of this is something everybody on the inside knows
but do we really want to share it with our audience? Maybe we should
protect them from this information.
I think that is broadly true that for better or for worse people – the
audience, your audience has to deal with sources of – with sources of
information that you can’t control. deals with sources of
information you can’t control.
Now, this document was something different. I think in the old days, this
same argument, which is this documented has been briefed to two presidents
of the United States, this is not some random scrap of paper, still holds.
HAYES: I have – I have said before on the show there are two people in
the world. There are people who believe the Kompromat tape is real, the
Steele dossier alleges, that there there is compromising tape of the
president with two sex workers in a Ritz Carlton hotel room, and people who
think it’s not. Which are you?
SMITH: I am the third kind. I am just waiting on the reporting.
HAYES: I don’t believe that. You have a hunch.
SMITH: No, actually, I think with a claim like that.
HAYES: You’re being careful and lawerely, Ben Smith.
SMITH: Journalistic is the word.
HAYES: Journalistic, I guess. But there’s a – we’ll see. I mean,
there’s a lot of stuff in that
document that if it proves to be true would be one of the most remarkable
stories in the history of the republic, I think it’s fair to say.
SMITH: I mean, I think we’ve already seen many of the most remarkable
stories in the history of the Republic play out in the last couple of
HAYES: Ben Smith, who is editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, great to have you,
SMITH: All right. That’s All In for this evening. You were waiting for
it to end, I know. Although Ben was very entertaining.
The Rachel Maddow Show starts now with special guest James Comey. Good
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