Michael Cohen faces criminal investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 04/18/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 18, 2018
Guest: Peter Stris, Karen Weaver
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Final data point. A poll out of Texas showed Ted
Cruz only up three points on Beto O’Rourke who’s challenging, which is very
interesting. That’s going Interesting race to watch as it unfolds.
Michelle Goldberg, Josh Earnest, Christina Greer, thank you all.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Wednesday.
We lead tonight with an exclusive interview, an exclusive interview with
the lawyer we have never talked to on the show before. Someone who will
likely be new to you as a character in this ongoing national drama, we are
all living through as Americans. But our exclusive guest tonight, is
somebody who is right in the middle of what appear to be the president’s
legal troubles right now, or at least used to be in the middle of the
president’s legal troubles until this story took a sharp, surprise turn
this evening, one that I will admit to you right now, I don’t get. I do
not yet totally understand it.
But, I’m hoping that the one guy on earth, who can actually explain it,
because he did it. I am hoping he will explain it to me and to you. Live
on this show in just a minute.
OK. Here’s the story. All right. As you know, federal prosecutors in the
Southern District of New York, have announced in open court, the
president’s long time personal attorney former Trump Organization
executive, Michael Cohen is under federal criminal investigation right now.
This in itself is an interesting to know, interesting thing to know in the
life and fate of Michael Cohen who has been associated with this president
for a very long time.
But even though we the public have not seen all that much detail about the
criminal case that prosecutors are pursuing against Michael Cohen, the
exact charges that he is being investigated for, for example, are redacted
in the court filings thus far. Prosecutors have explained in publicly
available court filings that they obtained previously secret search
warrants, months ago, to start reading and searching all of the
communications that Michael Cohen engaged in on multiple e-mail accounts.
But most of the information about, what they learned from that
surveillance, and, what, what in that surveillance helped them obtain
another search warrant that sent federal agents to go physically raid
Michael Cohen’s home and office and safe deposit box last week, all the
specifics are redacted. So, we know that he is under investigation. We
know something about what the criminal investigation is about. But a lot
of it we are not allowed to see.
We haven’t seen for example, the search warrants themselves that allowed
the raid on Michael Cohen or that surveillance of his e-mail accounts. We
haven’t seen law enforcement affidavits that may have been used to persuade
a judge to sign off on one or both warrants.
But just because that stuff is secret to us doesn’t mean secret to
everybody. The judge and the lawyers involved in Michael Cohen’s criminal
case, they have seen all that stuff. Nothing is redacted for them. They
have seen all of the supporting documents that have been put to the court
thus far. And as we reported last night, in what appeared to be a moment
of maybe confusion, definitely a moment where, where some of Michael Cohen
lawyers seemed flustered in court. There was a moment in, in open court,
couple days ago, when, when one of Mike Cohen’s attorneys said that, in a
nonpublic document, which we the public haven’t seen, the lawyers involved
in the case and judge have seen it, in something called attachment A
related to Michael Cohen’s case.
According to one of Michael Cohen’s lawyers, quote, there are five
paragraphs within that attachment A that deal directly with seeking the
papers of the president of the United States, papers that are in possession
of my client. So, that’s the – that’s the basis of why this is a national
story, right? The president’s personal lawyer had his home and office
raided by the FBI the president’s personal lawyer is the subject of act of
criminal investigation, and the president’s personal lawyer has lawyers,
who have admit the in open court, that that criminal case involving Michael
Cohen is directly related to the president.
When the FBI came in to seize documents from Michael Cohen, they were
specifically looking for documents related to President Trump. We got that
from open court. Now, since the FBI raid on Cohen, since the criminal case
against Cohen became matter of public record, there have also been a whole
bunch of news organizations who have reported on what federal agents were
Bunch of different news agencies have reported that among documents and
materials that FBI agents were looking for, among the stuff that was
spelled out in the search warrant for them to go grab, from Cohen, were
materials related to the “Access Hollywood” tape – a tape that was made
public in October 2016, right before the election, a tape in which the
president, future president, bragged in crude terms about what he was able
to get away with in terms of man handling and assaulting women without
getting in trouble for it.
It’s also been reported that, as spelled out in the search warrant related
to Michael Cohen, federal agents were also looking for material in his
office, in his home, related to – a payment. Money that was paid to adult
film actress, Stormy Daniel, right before the election to keep her from
talking about her alleged sexual affair with Donald Trump. Also reportedly
spelled out in the search warrant, and therefore a target for FBI agents
when they raided Michael Cohen last week was information related to money
that was paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The payment
effectively to keep her from telling her story what was an ongoing, 10
months long, sexual relationship with Donald Trump.
So, again to be perfectly clear about this and to be – to be honest about
what we know what we don’t know, what has been reported versus what we have
seen, we the public haven’t seen the search warrants. Only some of these
cases is public to us. A lot its opaque.
But a bunch of news sources have reported that the documents that the
prosecutors were seeking and building the case against the president’s
lawyer, include stuff that relates to basically how Trump and his lawyer
might have reacted to women claiming sexual contact or sexual interactions
with the president. Even with all of that reporting though, what none of
us know is why that would be the basis for a criminal investigation into
I mean, I believe whole heartedly in the sacred nature of our campaign
finance laws in the country. It may be that making a large payment to a
woman so she won’t talk about an affair, so as to help the dude she
allegedly was having the affair with win an upcoming election – I concede
that might be a violation of America’s campaign finance laws. But it is
still hard to imagine that being the basis for a federal judge signing out
a search warrant for FBI agents to go raid a lawyer’s office to obtain
evidence of a campaign finance violation, for which the ultimate remedy,
worst case scenario, might be, maybe a fine in alternate universe where we
actually enforce campaign finance laws in this country? Huh? I don’t, it
doesn’t seem –
So, we know what we know, we know what we don’t know, right? We’ve got
this sort of mix of information, this mix of ingredients doesn’t quite bake
into a single cake. We’ve got the president’s lawyer being raided. We’ve
got an admission in open court that the raid definitely relates to the
president. We’ve got multiple sourced, apparently solid reporting the raid
in part relates to these payoffs to women. We’ve got a blunt assertion
from the government that this is a federal criminal investigation, and all
of the details are fascinating. And I have no idea how they all fit
And now, we can add to that, this, whether or not the payoffs to women
before the 2016 presidential election are being construed by prosecutors as
criminal matters. Those payoffs have been the subject of some civil
lawsuits, right? A criminal case is when the government is bringing a case
against a person, it is, the people versus defendant. Civil lawsuit is a
lawsuit between two parties. There are civil lawsuits about these
payments. The most high profile one relates to Stormy Daniels, and
$130,000 payment to her before the election. This one is being pursued in
most high profile way.
Ms. Daniels herself and attorney have been physically, personally in court
this week in the Michael Cohen case. Stormy Daniels and her lawyer have
done a ton of media appearances around their lawsuit, around Ms. Daniels’
alleged affair with the president. Their lawsuit against the president
about this agreement has produced a side bar, separate lawsuit, a
defamation suit. Another civil lawsuit brought by Ms. Daniels and lawyer
against Michael Cohen. That separate lawsuit against Cohen said he defamed
Stormy Daniels in the way that he has talked about the payment and scandal.
Even just today, the Stormy Daniels matter led to the president making
online statement attempting to undercut Stormy Daniels’ credibility,
related to her claim she was once threatened by a man who told her to leave
Trump alone. The president’s online statement attacking Stormy Daniels on
the matter led to Stormy Daniels and her attorney threatening yet another
lawsuit in this case. Now, they’re threatening to sue the president again
not just over the initial agreement, but now for defaming Stormy Daniels
today based on the president’s online tweet.
So, the Stormy Daniels part of this is like very, very high profile. Lots
of new stuff happening in that every day, tons of media coverage, lots of -
- you know, lawsuits, spawning lawsuits. The president himself being sued
already once in that matter, maybe soon it will be twice.
But if you look at that, sort of step back from all of the, media noise
around that, when you drill down and look at that substantively, the basis
of that civil lawsuit on the Stormy Daniels matter is actually very small
Stormy Daniels sued President Trump over that $130,000 payment,
specifically because of this. Because, see where that is highlighted? See
her signature there. But that’s highlighted line there, see, there’s no
signature? The president didn’t sign the agreement.
That’s the basis for the whole Stormy Daniels civil lawsuit. The conflict
between Stormy Daniels and the president is that he didn’t sign on the
yellow highlighted line there. So, therefore, the deal is not valid. So,
that’s the Stormy Daniels lawsuit.
A lot of noise boils down to a very small matter. Didn’t sign it.
There’s also been a civil case about the other payment that happened right
before the election, and even though this one has been much lower profile,
it’s actually a much more substantive legal case. It’s the case involving
Karen McDougal, who’s the Playboy model, who says she had a ten-month long
relationship with the president.
She sued – she brought a civil law suit. She didn’t sue the president
directly. She sued the business that paid her for her story, the business
that effectively paid her to not talk about her alleged affair with the
president. That business is American Media Incorporated, publisher of “The
The basis for Karen McDougal’s civil lawsuit against that media company was
not just like somebody forgot to sign somewhere, there was some technical
problem with some legal document along the way. No, Karen McDougal’s
lawsuit claimed fraud, serious – claimed serious fraud, claimed that
American Media entered into this agreement with her basically under false
pretenses. The lawsuit said AMI promised to feature her in their
publications, publish all sorts of stuff by her. She says they never made
good and sort of seemed like they never intended to.
More importantly, and, of way more interest, sort of way more or national
interest of those who now have Donald Trump as our president, Karen
McDougal’s civil case said this agreement was basically a scam by Trump’s
lawyer. She said the legal representation that she had that led to her
signing that deal in the first place, that was a fraudulent arrangement.
She alleged in her lawsuit that she basically believed she was working with
an attorney, who had her best interest at heart, who was working at the
deal on her behalf.
But her lawsuit says, in fact, the guy who she thought was her lawyer was
secretly working on the Trump side of the deal. That Michael Cohen, the
president’s lawyer, was secretly involved in the arrangements about this
deal and basically secretly in cahoots with Karen McDougal’s lawyer, thus
depriving her of real legal representation. She didn’t really have anybody
looking after her interests at all. She got tricked.
When that same lawyer who allegedly tricked Karen McDougal turned up in
other payment deals, where he appeared to be on the opposite from Michael
Cohen. It started to look like there might be a pattern here of Michael
Cohen essentially rigging the legal representation for people who had
claims to bring against the president. It’s a very interesting case,
serious contention, serious case.
Just days ago, AMI, publisher of “The Enquirer” was on a tear about
fighting this case. They went to court and demanded that the case be
thrown out on First Amendment grounds, signaling that they were going to
fight this very aggressively. But now, a couple things have changed and a
couple of things have surprised everybody.
In recent days, prosecutors, of course, have announced that Michael Cohen
is under federal criminal investigation. Again, we don’t know how the
payoffs to these women may factor into the criminal investigation. But we
believe that they are related, that this was part of what the search
warrant authorized federal agents to seize from Michael Cohen’s home and
And, we have learned in the past few days that federal prosecutors picked
Michael Cohen clean. They got everything in his office, everything at his
home, everything at the hotel room he was staying, stuff in the safety
deposit box, everything on all his electronic devices, they got everything
out of his multiple email accounts. For months, while Cohen was presumably
still using the accounts. Not knowing they were being surveilled by
“The New York Times” reports tonight that among the materials seized by the
FBI, are, quote, e-mail communications, audio recordings and other
documentation, related to AMI, and Karen McDougal’s civil lawsuit.
Well, it appears – I may be wrong – but it appears that that news may
have had a salutary effect on AMI, because they appear to have changed
legal course over the last few days. They appear to have changed their
mind about how hard they’re going to fight this civil lawsuit by Karen
McDougal. And tonight, both sides announced they settled it. It’s over.
Stormy Daniels civil stuff goes on. The criminal case presumably goes on.
But the civil lawsuit about Karen McDougal and AMI, it poofed tonight.
Why is that? That’s my first question. Why is that? Second question, why
now? Why did this case get settled now when it is right in the middle of
what we are just learning is an ongoing active criminal investigation being
carried out by federal prosecutors who are as serious as a heart attack?
How does it affect the criminal case against the president’s lawyer? And
indeed the president’s own legal jeopardy that may attend to that case now
that the civil case at the heart of the matter has gone away?
But also satisfy my curiosity here. According to reporter, Jim Rittenberg
at “The New York Times”, who is first to report this settlement tonight,
had this case not been settled this evening, Karen McDougal’s lawyer says
he was prepared to start pretrial discovery.
Pretrial discovery sounds like a ride at Disneyland. In law, it is a very
scary roller coaster. Pretrial discovery in this case might conceivably
have forced AMI to hand over e-mails, communications, any records they’ve
got that relate to this case.
The FBI has got Michael Cohen’s stuff. They don’t have AMI stuff. Not
that we know of.
According to Karen McDougal’s lawyer, pretrial discovery in this case would
have also included submission of written questions to President Trump and a
request to him that he should hand over any internal documents related to
this matter. So, the president being forced by the discovery process in
this lawsuit to answer questions about and hand over materials related to
this settlement. That might have happened. But now, this lawsuit has been
suddenly settled this evening, and so that discovery process will not go
Now, one might expect in a case like this that that discovery process would
be a freaking nightmare scenario for American Media, for AMI, but also for
the White House itself. Because of that, if you are Karen McDougal, and
that tool is available in your very substantive ongoing lawsuit about this
matter that relates to the president, which is now in the middle of what
you know is a criminal investigation, you would think you have got all the
leverage in the world, right? You would think you can get the world in
exchange for making that threat of discovery going away. You could
probably get anything to make your lawsuit go away at this point.
But they have published the settlement tonight, and it does not look like
Karen McDougal the world. AMI isn’t covering her legal fees. She does get
the rights to tell her story about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
You might remember a recent hour of CNN in which she has done that
fulsomely already. Presumably, she now can also do it for money. But even
if she does that, the first 75 grand she gets paid, she has to pay to AMI.
So, why did this case get settled now? Why did she get what she got at
what looks from the outside like a point of maximum leverage, at least a
point of maximum concern from the president, whose lawyer is under federal
criminal investigation on matters related to this?
I am not a lawyer. What am I not seeing here?
Joining us now exclusively is Peter Stris, the attorney representing Karen
McDougal in the case.
Thank you so much for being here.
PETER STRIS, ATTORNEY FOR KAREN MCDOUGAL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I have explained with every word available to me what is
interesting to me and also what doesn’t make sense to me about this.
I look at this from the outside and see your client having leverage to get
anything at this point, because of the threat that this civil case posed to
the president and his lawyer in the middle of this investigation. I don’t
feel like she got that much.
STRIS: This is probably the most rewarding result I have ever gotten in my
career. And, you know, we are a firm that does serious cases. I came this
morning from D.C., there because my partner was arguing a case before the
U.S. Supreme Court. And what’s so rewarding about this case is it shows
what makes this system great.
One brave woman with competent counsel can get a quarter billion dollar
company to do the right thing. We said from day one. You started your
piece by saying, people haven’t seen us on TV. That’s deliberate. We’ve
said from day one, our mantra has been, they’re going to void this contract
or they’re going to face the music.
And as far as I’m concerned, I was indifferent. You know, I studied
composition. I was a music major before I went to law school. So, I like
But what Karen McDougal wants, and what she always wanted was to get out of
this contract. Now, let me tell you why because this is critical to what
happened. This contract was being used by AMI, to control what she did.
When reporters contacted her, and they wanted to do a story, they wrote
information about what she was supposed to say.
She doesn’t want to be on a reality show. She doesn’t want to make a
movie. She wanted to do what she did recently, which was go on CNN and
tell her story.
MADDOW: That’s the thing that is hard for me to understand because Ronan
Farrow had a long piece in “New Yorker” publishing her handwritten notes
about her alleged affair with Donald Trump and getting her to comment on
those. She did this long, long interview on CNN talking about it.
If this agreement was so restrictive to her, then why, and, she wants to be
able to do things like that, clearly under the agreement before you came to
the settlement tonight, she was able to do that sort of media.
STRIS: So, that’s actually not true. I think – so, Karen is kind of
standing on the shoulders of other people. It’s because of reporting by
Ronan Farrow and Jim, it’s because people like Stormy have come forward
that she actually had the strength to file this lawsuit. Before we filed
this lawsuit, Ami was telling her, if you give information, if you do
things like this, you’re going to be sued to the tune of millions of
dollars. She was unbelievably frightened.
So, she wanted to get out of the contract.
MADDOW: But wait, she was still under the contract when sheep did the CNN
STRIS: That’s right.
MADDOW: So, how was the contract preventing her from doing the CNN
STRIS: Because the things AMI was saying privately are very different than
what they said publicly. Make no mistake, if we hadn’t filed this lawsuit,
she wouldn’t have been able to do that interview. They took this contract
for a year and they basically said, if you provide information, if you tell
your story in your words, your reputation is going to be destroyed or you
are going to be sued.
This is all she’s wanted. You say maximum leverage.
STRIS: We were prepared to take the deposition of David Pecker, to take
the deposition of executives, to get these documents, these recordings that
you mentioned, this correspondence. Nothing would have made me personally
But that’s not what Karen wanted. What Karen wanted was to not be beholden
to this company. She doesn’t want to be on their magazine. She doesn’t
want to work with them. She was tricked into a catch and kill contract and
that’s her right.
MADDOW: The settlement that she’s got, though, actually – it’s been
reported that the settlement will include her getting a magazine cover from
AMI. It’s been reported but it’s not accurate?
STRIS: It’s not accurate.
STRIS: It actually makes me upset because we worked hard to negotiate
this. And we made it clear she didn’t want money. She just didn’t want to
deal with these people.
MADDOW: Does she want to get columns –
MADDOW: So, she’s not getting any material from herself published in any
of their publications.
STRIS: Hear me out on this because it’s so to understand what happened.
AMI insisted that they have the right to repurpose old pictures and
articles because they want to save face. They want to put her on their
magazine, and say, oh, there’s nothing going on here, this is a commercial
It’s a fraud. She was tricked into a deal so that her lawyer who was
working with Michael Cohen, and AMI could kill a story. That’s what
happened. They can spin it any way they want.
MADDOW: The thing that is difficult for me to understand is that she was
able to tell the story while still under contract even if it was under
dispute because of the lawsuit. When she gets out of this now, she is not
getting her legal fees paid. She’s got to come up with money to pay you.
STRIS: No, no, no. We donated hundreds of thousands of dollars –
MADDOW: OK. But AMI isn’t paying your fees?
STRIS: No, that’s right.
MADDOW: And if she does sell her story to anybody else, if somebody wants
to pay her money to publish her story, she still has to pay 75 grand to AMI
out of whatever she’s get paid, right?
STRIS: But this is a total victory if –
MADDOW: It doesn’t feel like a total victory I have to say.
STRIS: Well, answer me this then. If this contract had been voided, she
would have to pay them $150,000, give the money back and she’d be done.
Here, she got out of every obligation under the contract. She doesn’t have
to do articles. She doesn’t have to take pictures. They gave her her life
rights back immediately.
MADDOW: Minus 75 grand.
STRIS: Well, minus 75 grand if she happens to sell it, which she doesn’t
want to. And that’s the maximum they get. They get 10 percent up to 75
grand. That’s basically the best that we could have gotten had we
litigated this to the end.
MADDOW: Do you – did you get any pressure from anybody in political
circles that this should be settled rather than getting – moving forward
alongside the criminal matter and the president’s lawyer?
STRIS: No, the opposite. What made this so difficult is people want to
see a fight. People want to see this used to essentially expose the things
that are going on.
And, you know, Rachel, I think the most important thing is, when you’re a
lawyer and you represent a client, the reason people like Michael Cohen and
Keith Davidson are creating all of this mischief is because they’re not
faithfully representing people. We have a client who had an objective.
And that objective, and if people can’t understand this, I don’t care
frankly, because I’ve never been as proud as anything as I am of this.
Karen came to us and she said, I want out of this contract. I’ve don’t
care what people are going to say. I don’t want money. I want to be able
to correct the lies that people are telling. I don’t want to be affiliated
with that company.
She was panicked when I said we could sue. She said, well, they’re going
to sue me. And with Stormy Daniels, $20 million lawsuit, that’s what she
thought was going to happen to her.
MADDOW: She wanted this to go away.
STRIS: She wanted this to go away. And, you know, she has the right. And
we see a pattern of powerful men, and often happens to be the same ones
here, Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson doing these deals. If people can’t
appreciate the fact that someone who is caught up in that has the right to
have their voice and to have someone represent them to get them out of it,
then I really have no tolerance for that. I mean, that’s how the system
MADDOW: Well, certainly having an advocate gets you what you want. The
thing is hard to see bringing the lawsuit in the first place and then
ending it this way at this point of maximum leverage. I hear you she is
getting what she wants out of this. And I – you are her representative.
I would love off to speak to her about this. I realize she was not
available tonight. So, I’m only talking to you about it.
I leave you with one last question. The serious allegation that was raised
here I thought was substantive matter in the civil lawsuit was this case
that – the case that you made that Michael Cohen and Mr. Davidson, Keith
Davidson, were basically colluding to create a legal fraud here. Do you
think they did that in other cases?
STRIS: Yes. And let me be clear: Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen are
carved out of this lawsuit. So, we’ll see where things. Right now –
MADDOW: That matter of it may still be live?
STRIS: Yes. I mean, Karen wants to enjoy her privacy. But, you know,
we’ll see where things go. There is a lot of information that I have
learned over time and I am very confident that Michael Cohen and Keith
Davidson and others will have to account for the things that they have
MADDOW: Peter Stris, attorney for Karen McDougal, thank you for fighting
with me about this tonight. I appreciate you being here in person.
Please tell Ms. McDougal, if she wants to ever talk to me about it in
person, I do not pay, but I’d be happy to have a really fulsome
conversation with her about it.
All right. Thanks a lot. We’ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, I’m still baffled. There was a surprise settlement today of a
civil lawsuit brought by one woman who says she was paid off before the
election to not talk about her affair with Donald Trump. Karen McDougal
says she has – had a ten-month long affair with the president. She was
paid 150 grand right before the election by a Trump friendly media company
to effectively not tell her story about Mr. Trump.
That media company and Karen McDougal just, surprise, tonight settled their
civil lawsuit. Lawsuit has gone away. It’s interesting on its own terms.
But then there’s also the fact that the terms of that payoff to her are
also now part of the criminal investigation into the president’s lawyer by
prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
So, I have – we heard from the lawyer involved in settling this case.
We’ve heard his take on it. I have heard his argument about it.
I have legal questions that remain, though. If the criminal investigation
and this civil lawsuit were about the same thing – is it important that
the civil lawsuit just went away? Is that a strange thing? Does it matter
for the criminal investigation here? Particularly because it looks like
the criminal investigation here is a serious thing both for the president’s
lawyer and potentially for the president himself.
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg. He’s former U.S. attorney, former
senior FBI official.
Chuck, thank you very much for being here. Much appreciated.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You saw my interview there with Mr. Stris.
ROSENBERG: I did.
MADDOW: So, the FBI has raided Michael Cohen’s home and office. AMI said
that it would fight Karen McDougal’s lawsuit right up until today when they
settled. This follows the raid. This follows threats that there would be
– they would start to enter into discovery in this civil suit.
What do you make of the timing and this dynamic between the two cases?
ROSENBERG: Can I answer you in the abstract?
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
ROSENBERG: A bank gets robbed and you find a guy down the street holding a
bag of money and covered in dye pack ink. Coincidence? Maybe, but
probably not. It’s probably the bank robber.
So, is this a coincidence that they would dismiss the suit or settle the
suit right after Cohen’s office got raided? I don’t think so. I’m not a
big believer in coincidences.
MADDOW: And so, what about the raid would have pushed this to settlement?
ROSENBERG: Well, a couple of things. But probably first and foremost,
whatever is going to come out in the civil suit is going to be influenced
by the fact that there is a parallel ongoing criminal investigation.
ROSENBERG: And so, folks who might have been deposed or might have been
inclined to speak in connection with the civil suit may now be taking the
Fifth for instance, plead the Fifth so they don’t face exposure in the
other thing that matters a lot more. That’s ongoing.
It also just complicates the lives of attorneys in the civil matter. I
don’t blame – I don’t know what Ms. McDougal’s goals were. I take Mr.
Stris, her lawyer.
MADDOW: Me too.
ROSENBERG: Good enough, right? Not for us I guess to decide.
But from Mr. Cohen’s vantage point, from the folks at AMI, boy, they just
want this whole thing to go away. They can’t do that. They can’t make the
federal prosecutors go away.
ROSENBERG: But they can at least make this piece of it go away.
MADDOW: When – I was thinking just about what, you know, what might be
the explosive evidence in this case? It’s a worst case scenario for the
people involved. And there is this prospect that with discovery in the
civil lawsuit, that could have resulted, and it would have been litigated
by, but it would have resulted in the media company and AMI having to hand
over their own communications and documents that led to this agreement with
MADDOW: If this payment to Ms. McDougal is of interest to prosecutors who
are pursuing this as a criminal matter, is there any reason why they can’t
get that stuff from AMI too?
ROSENBERG: No reason at all. In fact, Rachel, they’re going to get all
the stuff and probably more than would have come out in civil discovery.
So nothing about this settlement undermines or undercuts the work that the
federal agents and federal prosecutors are going to do.
ROSENBERG: They get this stuff. They get to put people on the grand jury.
We have seen from other indictments in the Mueller case, for instance, how
good federal prosecutors are at following the money. They’re going to
follow the money.
MADDOW: OK, that’s the key issue here I guess for me. On this issue then
of the criminal case, I haven’t had a chance yet to ask you what you make
of the jurisdiction issues here. Obviously, this is described as – this
matter with involving Cohen, described as something that started with a
referral from the special counsel’s office to the prosecutors in New York.
I am not – I get that is how it happened. Still not quite sure how
unusual that is or important that is. What’s your take on that dynamic?
ROSENBERG: Not that unusual. So, there is 94 U.S. attorney’s offices
around the country. But we are all part of the same system, right? We all
rely on the FBI, or the ATF or the DEA to bring us cases.
And so, when we’re re working well, we’re working together. And if I see
something that happened in the district of Minnesota or in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
me sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia, as a federal prosecutor
would hand the piece off. By the way, that doesn’t preclude it from coming
ROSENBERG: Right? If folks in Southern District of New York say, hey, you
know what, we found three things. Two seem to be ours. But one seems like
it would fit with Bob Mueller is doing.
MADDOW: They can kick it back.
ROSENBERG: They can kick it back.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official,
invaluable asset to us here. Thank you, Chuck.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Totally appreciate it.
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, now we’ve learned that CIA director, the outgoing CIA
director, Mike Pompeo, had a secret meeting over the Easter weekend with
the dictator of North Korea.
Hey, Director Pompeo, how did it go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Director Pompeo, what did you learn from your conversations with
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I’m just here today, working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just here today, working.
It turns out, that answer was actually directly related to that question.
Sounded like a non sequitur, it was not a non sequitur. I will explain
ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been all most four years now, exactly, since, Flint,
Michigan, switched from clean, predictable, Detroit water, to drinking from
the Flint River instead. That decision was not made by locally elected
officials in Flint. Locally elected officials in Flint has been stripped
of their power by the state government who game in and installed state
appointed emergency managers to run the town and instead of local people.
Those state appointed emergency managers, put in place not by the people of
Flint, but directly by the governor, that’s who made that fatal terrible
decision in Flint, which became an unforgettable national disaster four
years ago. The state switched the water without proper precautions or,
proper treatment of the new supply. The new not properly treated water ate
the pipes. The pipes leached toxic lead into the water. The people of
Flint drank the toxic lead filled water for months and months and months
and months. And they were poisoned by it.
And now, the name Flint has become shorthand for that city’s water
disaster. But the whodunit here doesn’t even really need shorthand. It’s
Under Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, the state of Michigan
made an overt, dumb, terrible decision that resulted in the poisoning of
the population of the city of Flint with lead, from the very oldest people
in Flint to the very youngest. Anyone who drank the water was exposed to
the potent neurotoxin, irreversibly.
Now over the years we have spent following what happened in Flint,
Michigan, few things have stood out. For starters, it’s the obvious,
visceral suffering and fear and trauma and displacement of the people who
live in Flint, the loss of faith in government, the sheer epic ongoing
hassle and expense and inconvenience that goes along with living in Flint
Thousands of people faced search for clean water, for water they can trust
without second guessing. Meanwhile, their city is going through a serial
construction job. Flint is halfway done replacing thousand of lead pipes
after this crisis. New pipes will be an improvement. But in the meantime,
the construction itself raises fears that old lead scale will get dislodged
and, and sent down the pipes, and into household faucets.
The city started the construction work up again today after a break for the
winter weather. They expect to be at this through at least 2019. That’s
one thing that stands out in Flint. How difficult this lead crisis has
been for the people who live there.
Also, standing out in Flint, is the way that the governor, Governor Snyder,
has sometimes need to be dragged into dealing with it, whether it was
admitting that there was a crisis at all, or acknowledging the extent of
it, or deciding how much help he should offer. I mean, despite being the
governor who was in charge when Flint got poisoned, the governor whose
appointees made the decision that did it, or maybe because of all of that,
Governor Snyder has not had the smoothest relationship to the recovery
And now, Governor Snyder has just announced, no more bottled water for
Flint. Governor Snyder says it’s time for the state to stop sending
bottled water to Flint. That things are better enough now.
So, he turned off the shipments of bottled water. Let the water
distribution centers run dry. And then last week, closed them. The
reaction in Flint to the governor’s decision was immediate. From Dr. Mona
Hanna-Attisha, a hero pediatrician in Flint, quote, this is wrong. Until
all lead pipes are replaced the state should make available bottled water
and filters to Flint residents.
From the state attorney general who has been prosecuting Snyder
administration officials over the lead poisoning. Quote: bottled water
distribution in Flint should continue until lead pipes have been replaced
and trust in government has been restored.
And from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, an allegation that the governor laid on
an extra layer of callousness in telling her that Flint needs to get over
it. And move on.
Also, an announcement that she is ready to take the government there to
court to sue him for what happened to her town and for what she says needs
to happen there now.
Joining us now is the mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver.
Madam Mayor, it is nice to see you again. Thank you very much for being
KAREN WEAVER (D), MAYOR OF FLINT, MICHIGAN: Thank you. I’m still
MADDOW: I know. I know. Well, did you – did you know this was going to
be the next fight? Did you know the governor was about to shut off the
water supplies for Flint?
WEAVER: You know what, I’m not surprised, because he has been trying to
shut it off since September. And we have been fight since September to
keep the water pods in place. September, when he tried to do that, we
said, no. You know, we’re not there yet.
We are still removing the lead service lines. That was the word that it
had been given to us was we will see you through the lead service line
replacement and water pods will stay in place, so people could get – you
know, have the access to clean water that they needed and deserved.
MADDOW: That’s not an infinite timeline. I mean, when you say that you
were told, that until the lead service line replacement project is done,
you’ll still be able to get bottled water. I mean, that’s a project that
you have been working on fast that as far as I understand it, there’s a
possibility that that will take you into next year, possibly into the year
after. But this is not something that has an infinite time horizon.
WEAVER: That’s exactly right. It was supposed to be done over three
years. And you got the numbers exactly right, Rachel.
We are, you know, we have, gone ahead of schedule. We have looked at or
changed almost 9,000 lead service lines. We started back up today. So, we
had this year next year to complete the project. We are ahead of schedule.
So, to take that from the residents, you know, like, pulling the scab off
of a healing wound.
MADDOW: When the governor says that as far as he is concerned, as far as
the state is concerned, the city’s water system has recovered enough to not
need this continued support from the state. What do you say to that? I
mean, in a way, he tried to make it sound look, a compliment, like Flint
has come so far. We are no longer need.
WEAVER: And you know what? It’s not true. We have – what is true is we
have come a long way. But we’re not where we need to be. That’s why the
fight is continuing.
We know that with all of this construction going on in our city, we still
have a public health issue and we have to protect ourselves while the lead
service lines are being replaced. We had concerns about testing in the
And the other thing was it’s an issue of trust. You gave your word that
these would stay in place. And then you take it from us.
MADDOW: Madam Mayor, last question for you. I know it is not an easy
decision to, to, threaten a lawsuit against the state. Obviously, you need
to work cooperatively with the state in a way that almost no other city has
in U.S. history, because of what happened here, because of whodunit, and
who caused this crisis in the first place – what are you hoping from this
WEAVER: You know what, this lawsuit is about more than water pods staying
open. In addition to that, we talked about things we need. We need
fixtures in the homes. We need in home plumbing. We need hot water
heaters, these things have been damaged.
We talked about the reputation and how this has impacted the reputation of
our city. During the switch, there was a loss in property values, they
went down. You know, we’ve had civil liabilities that have happened as a
result of this and the list continues.
We’ve had permanent loss of residents and so, the money we would have been
collecting is gone. So, this is about much more than water pods. It’s
about justice for the city of Flint.
MADDOW: Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint, Michigan – thank you for
talking to us tonight, Madam Mayor. Please as always –
WEAVER: Thank you.
MADDOW: – keep us apprised. You’re welcome back any time, Mayor.
WEAVER: Thank you so much.
All right. We’ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Director Pompeo, what did you learn from your conversations with
POMPEO: I’m just here, today.
REPORTER: Director, can you say anything about what you learned from your
meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea?
Director, do you think they’re committed to denuclearization?
REPORTER: How did your meeting with Senator Warner go?
POMPEO: Great day. I’m enjoying my time here. I have to earn every vote
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Capitol Hill today chased by reporters
asking about his recent trip to North Korea, where he met the dictator
there. Also being asked about his currently shaky chances of being
confirmed as secretary of state. Those things as it turns out are related.
This is fascinating. Politico.com reporting that last night when it leaked
that Mike Pompeo had gone to North Korea and met the North Korean dictator,
that leak was deliberately timed by the White House to, quote, shore up
Pompeo’s image as a diplomat capable of executing sensitive negotiations on
the president’s behalf.
Basically, they’re trying to shore him up so we can get confirmed as
secretary of state. Pompeo is nominated to succeed fired Rex Tillerson as
secretary of state, he’s due for a committee vote, very soon, as soon as
Monday perhaps, but doesn’t appear to have the votes. It looks like Mike
Pompeo will be the first nominee for secretary of state to not be able to
get a vote out of committee in over 90 years. If he does fail that vote in
committee, Senate Republicans say they plan to just put his nomination on
the floor any way, but they do that, nobody knows if he will have the votes
to get him confirmed.
Pompeo in trouble – and it’s not just him. This afternoon, the Trump
nominee to lead NASA barely advanced, following an unexpectedly dramatic
vote. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake initially voted against NASA nominee Jim
Bridenstine, which resulted in a 49-49 tie. That would have usually
brought in Mike Pence to break the tie, but Mike Pence was nowhere to be
found, so everybody leaned on Flake to switch his original no vote to a
yes, which allowed the nomination to proceed, if not Jeff Flake’s dignity.
Today, we also learned that the confirmation hearing for Trump’s next CIA
director, Gina Haspel, that has been pushed off until next month at least,
amid bipartisan questions about her record on torture. A confirmation
hearing for Trump’s nominee to lead the V.A., White House Dr. Ronny
Jackson, that will take place next week, but he faces lots and lots of
skepticism in the Senate, including by Republicans about whether he has
anything near the management experience to oversee that agency.
So, a whole bunch of the president’s cabinet picks are having trouble right
now, but none more so than the highest profile job of all, Mike Pompeo for
secretary of state, working senators furiously on Capitol Hill today and
he’s had the White House leaked details of this North Korea trip to try to
save his flailing nomination, but he still has a real mountain to climb.
More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, former FBI Director James Comey was a guest on “The
Late Show with Stephen Colbert”. He’s talking about his book and his
experience being fired by President Trump while overseeing the Russia
investigation into President Trump.
At the Colbert show, Mr. Comey was fortunate enough to run into two members
of the Wu-Tang Clan backstage. That was him last night smooching in the
colder green room with Method Man and Ghostface Killah. That was last
Tomorrow night, James Comey will be here live with me. We have no members
of the Wu-Tang Clan booked at all, which is an unfortunate oversight on my
part. I do however have a lot of questions and tomorrow night, James Comey
will be right here live.
That does it for us tonight. I’ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it’s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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