Manafort sentencing tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 3/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I`d like to see those numbers from anyone who`s
keeping that about what`s going on at the port of entry.
Congresswoman Annette Paragon and Jacob Soboroff, thank you both.
And that is ALL IN this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
John Gotti, John Gotti died in prison in the year 2002 after serving about
ten years of a life sentence for, among other things, his convictions for
five different murders. John Gotti was the boss of the Gambino crime
family in the mafia.
But before he died, while he was still in federal prison, one of the things
that John Gotti got to enjoy as a feature of life in federal prison was
that he had fairly regular visits with members from his family and because
those conversations were monitored by prison authorities, in his case they
were not just audiotaped, they were videotaped.
We can now for the ages see in living color, or at least in blurry washed
out used to be color, not just the movie idea or comic book idea of what
gangsters are like. With the Gotti prison tapes, you could see the real
And he`s exactly as charming as you might check. Not just in dealing with
his peers in crime but dealing with his immediate family members, too.
For example, this is how he spoke to his 10-year-old grandson who had come
to visit him. During that visit, the grandson told him his career plans
were become a professional athlete.
This is how his grandfather responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GOTTI, MOB BOSS: There`s a good chance that you might go to school
and become a lawyer, John, I hope.
VICTORIA GOTTI: No, daddy, he is going to become a lawyer.
GRANDSON: No, I`m not.
V. GOTTI: Really?
GRANDSON: No, I`m not. I`m going to be a basketball player.
J. GOTTI: You`re not going to be a basketball player.
J. GOTTI: You ain`t going to be a baseball player or a basketball player.
GRANDSON: Of course I am!
J. GOTTI: Let me tell you something –
V. GOTTI: He`s being smart today. There`s something in him today.
J. GOTTI: Let me tell you something about that.
GRANDSON: You`re telling me what I want to be? I never said I wanted to
J. GOTTI: Let me tell you something about basketball and baseball players.
To be a good basketball player or a baseball player, first of all, you`ve
got to be a good liar, a good low-life and an imbecile.
V. GOTTI: And take a lot of drugs.
J. GOTTI: You`ve got to take steroids. You must take steroids. And
anybody who takes steroids is a garbage pail.
GRANDSON: All right, then I`ll be a cook.
J. GOTTI: I don`t care if you are nothing. You ain`t – you think you`re
being selfish with me, and spiteful with me. You`ll get an (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) kicking from me. I ain`t your father (INAUDIBLE)
V. GRANDSON: He`s being a smart alec right now.
J. GOTTI: You`ll get an (EXPLETIVE DELETED) kickin, you`ll get an
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) kickin you`ll never want. You`ll never forget the
(EXPLETIVE DELETED kick you`d get from me.
You understand? I got too many friends right now and I don`t need you for
a friend. I got a million friends right now. I got a million people who
if they can come here to see me now, they would cry just to be able to see
So you ain`t doing no favor coming to see me or talking sass to me. You
save that for your father, you save that sass. I`ll put my foot up your
(EXPLETIVE DELETED), you hear me? Don`t you look at me. I`m more serious
than cancer, boy.
The truth of the matter is with you guys, you`re spoiled god (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) rotten. There`s people who don`t even have a god (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) good meal wouldn`t gave the answers you just gave to me.
You can look as sad as you want to look. Now get that phone to your uncle
and get the hell out of here.
That (EXPLETIVE DELETED) comes from your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mother, not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was John Gotti in prison in 1998, swearing at his grandson
and sending his grandson away for having temerity to say he wanted to be an
athlete. A grandson who had dressed up in a suit and tie to come see him,
along with his mother and his uncle.
In those same visits which we have tapes of and transcripts of, we also
know that John Gotti shared a vote of confidence in his daughter`s husband.
His own son-in-law a guy named Carmine Agnello.
Carmine Agnello himself was reportedly not able to visit John Gotti in
person because of his own troubles with the criminal law, but that did not
stop Gotti from telling his daughter what he thought about her husband, on
the same prison tapes. I will spare you more of the tapes, in part because
the bleeping gets exhausting. But on the same tapes, Gotti told his
daughter about her husband, quote, he`s going to get indicted any day, this
moron. Look, you want a prediction, by June, your husband`s going to get
indicted and every two, three cents he`s got is going to be all tied up.
Gotti told his daughter about her husband, quote, he`s an imbecile. Then
Gotti pretended to read a list of imaginary charges against his daughter`s
husband. Quote: You got to see the charges. Malicious mopery. Possession
of brain with intent to use. Stolen bumper. Hubcap.
That was a reference to the fact that his daughter`s husband was in the
auto salvage and scrap metal business. So, that was John Gotti saying in
essence he`d get in trouble for a stolen bumper or a stolen hubcap.
Gotti also referenced the fact his son-in-law was thought to have some sort
of mood disorder that resulted in violent rages and for which he took
medication. Gotti said to his daughter in that prison visit in 1988 about
her husband. He said, quote, is he feeling good? Is he not feeling good?
Is his medication increased, decreased, is it up, down, does he get into
the back seat of the car and think someone has stolen the steering wheel?
Nice. Nice guy. Must be nice for the whole family.
That was 1998, John Gotti, before he died a few years later in prison,
berating his daughter about her then husband, his own son-in-law.
But, you know, in some ways John Gotti was a little bit right, at least on
one of those points because those prison tapes were from 1998. The
following year in 1999, a new business opened up in queens, New York. A
new business called Stadium Scrap. It was called Stadium Scrap because it
was right up near Shea Stadium where the New York Mets used to play.
Stadium Scrap opened its doors in 1999 and they started buying up dead cars
and putting them in the crusher, smashing them into hunks of metal and then
selling that metal to shredders and scrap dealers. And when stadium scrap
opened up in 1999, it seemed like every other business of that kind in that
part of Queens, New York. But if you looked super, super closely at
Stadium Scrap, there was something about that business that was very
different compared to other businesses of that type. Stadium Scrap, it
turns out, had cameras everywhere and microphones.
Quote: A pan and tilt microwave camera was positioned on a pole
approximately 100 yards from the entrance to the business. It viewed – it
viewed the front of the yard and most of the street. Additionally, a
recording device was installed on the yard telephone and a listening device
was installed in the trailer that was used as an office there. They
installed two video cameras inside the trailer and one outside the trailer
overlooking the salvage yard.
These were not just the kinds of cameras that regular businesses set up for
security purposes. These were cameras and microphones that were hidden and
they were monitored for surveillance purposes because Stadium Scrap, that
business that opened up in queens in 1999, Stadium Scrap was fake. It was
a big long-running undercover law enforcement operation.
Multiple law enforcement authorities got together and they hatched this
plan that they would open up a fake business in Queens, a fake scrap metal
and auto salvage business in that part of Queens and they would do that
basically as a sting operation because that business sector in that part of
New York was generally believed by law enforcement to be all mobbed up. So
they thought they could use a fake business of that kind to try to crack
open the organized crime infiltration of those businesses.
So undercover law enforcement officers learned to, I mean, drive wreckers
and car crushers and forklifts and flatbed trucks and all the other stuff.
They learned how to do this type of business. They opened up this fake
business in early `99, and they started doing the work. They were buying
and selling scrapped autos and scrapped metal. They were doing auto
But, bingo, as soon as they opened that thing up, instant results. Within
a month of them opening up this fake business, Stadium Scrap, within a
month of them opening it, in walked, as predicted by John Gotti, in walked
John Gotti`s son-in-law, Carmine Agnello, the guy that Gotti said was
destined to be indicted any day now.
According to state and federal prosecutors, this is what happened next.
This is from “The New York Daily News” coverage at the time. Quote, Mr.
Agnello and Joe Burger, a 390-pound childhood pal known as Jumbo visited
Stadium Scrap and told the undercover cops working there that Agnello
wanted them to bring the metal to his business instead.
This is from that “New York Times” coverage at the same time. Quote: Law
enforcement authorities said Agnello gave the officers a simple message,
sell him the crushed cars at artificially low prices or suffer the
consequences. Law enforcement officials said that when the undercover
officers refused, Mr. Agnello had his associates fire bomb the business.
And, of course, because Stadium Scrap was fake, because it was an
undercover law enforcement operation set up specifically to catch
criminals, there were cameras and microphones everywhere that caught all of
that. So, they were able to lay it all out in the indictment and in the
press releases they were very proudly able to soon put out about the
indictments that derived from that case.
Quote: On the night of June 10th at the direction of Agnello, the lock on
Stadium Scrap`s gate was cut. On June 15th, Agnello directed the fire
bombing of Stadium Scrap`s office trailer and flatbed truck. At 2:00 a.m.
on June 17th, at Agnello`s express direction, Stadium Scrap`s gate lock was
cut, its yard was entered, glass bottles filled with gasoline were thrown
and a flat bed truck and the gasoline was ignited with road flares.
On June 29th, at 1:00 a.m., at Agnello`s express diction, Stadium`s gate
lock was again cut. Gasoline was thrown on the steps of the trailer office
and on the trailer itself and the gasoline was ignited.
On June 30th, Agnello had Burger, remember, Jumbo`s last name was Burger,
so technically he`s Jumbo Burger. Agnello had Jumbo, Mr. Burger, inspect
the damage caused by the fire the night before, which Mr. Burger shortly
thereafter was observed doing.
So this bust, this longtime undercover sting operation involving the cops
running a fake scrap metal and auto salvage business in Queens, they got a
bunch of press, I think in part because of the cinematic nature of this law
enforcement operation honestly, but also because it did not take them long
to catch a big fish. I mean, they got Gotti`s son-in-law, who it turns out
was not a guy just looked upon with disfavor by his famous father-in-law in
According to “The Daily News” at the time, Agnello was viewed as a, quote,
real life Tony Soprano, a ruthless 250-pound mobster who also controlled
highly profitable legitimate businesses. Over the years, Agnello has
scuffled with cops writing him traffic tickets. He`s accused of beating an
ex-employee with a telephone. Prosecutors say he threatened to break the
fingers of a debt collector and put him into the trunk of a car.
The indictment says Agnello threatened to hit a stockbroker with a hammer.
But when they snapped the trap shut on this sting operation, this Agnello
guy, for all his charms, he was not the only guy they caught. In the
initial indictment, Agnello and three other guys were charged under the
state`s Organized Crime Control Act.
But by the time they wrapped up the operation the following year, it wasn`t
just him and a handful of guys who were in his crew. By the time they
wrapped this up the following year, there were 49 people who got arrested
in this sting. So, yes, this got a bunch of press coverage. There were
definitely bragging rights involved for the prosecutors here when these
indictments came down.
But looking back on it now, what seems particularly interesting for us now
is that it wasn`t only the prosecutors who had bragging rights about that
sting. Now, as I mentioned, this was a joint law enforcement operation,
and it involved a whole bunch of different law enforcement entities,
including NYPD and prosecutors in Queens.
It also involved another agency whose annual report that year actually
contained some of the juiciest details we got about this whole operation,
and that entity, which was a key part of this sting operation, was the
fraud squad at the New York State Insurance Department. And the New York
State Insurance Department doesn`t have that name anymore. That Insurance
Department has now been incorporated into an agency called the New York
Department of Financial Services. But it still does the same work and
they`ve still got the same law enforcement responsibilities.
And I`m sure because they do criminal insurance enforcement, I`m sure a
bunch of that is as boring as it sounds, but sometimes in the relatively
recent history of that agency, it has been the opposite of boring. It`s
been front page news for many days running. It`s been dudes learning to
run auto crushes, opening up fake scrap metal businesses in Queens next to
Shea Stadium and then getting fire bombed by dudes named Jumbo who threaten
to snap off people`s fingers and shove them into trunks.
I mean, it has involved operations that wrap up 50 suspected gangsters at a
time including proving John Gotti right about the propensity of his son-in-
law and crime family associate for getting indicted in part because of his
volcanic and uncontrollably violent temper.
And that is the same agency, the exact same agency that has now subpoenaed
the insurance broker that has done business for years with the president of
the United States and his business. That is the agency that has sent that
company, what is reported to be an expansive nine-page subpoena, demanding
that that insurance broker hand over more than 10 years of internal company
documents that mention Donald Trump or the Trump Organization, plus all
policies that were issued to the president or to his business, plus any
applications or supporting materials that were submitted by the president
or his business in order to obtain those insurance policies.
And, no, that is not opening up a mob honey pot scrap yard up by the Mets`
old stadium. But the ball on this one is now rolling with that same
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: To your knowledge, did the
president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: Yes.
REP. LACY CLAY (D), MISSOURI: Can you explain why you had these financial
statements and what you used them for.
COHEN: When we were dealing later on with insurance companies, we would
provide them with these copies so that they would understand that the
premium, which is based sometimes upon the individual`s capabilities to
pay, would be reduced.
CLAY: And all of this was done at the president`s direction and with his
CLAY: And did this information provided to us inflate the president`s
COHEN: I believe these numbers are inflated.
CLAY: And to your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated
assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman`s time has expired, but you may answer
COHEN: These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one
occasion where I was with them in our attempt to obtain money so that we
can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.
CLAY: Thank you for your answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, for the fourth time in nine days, the president`s longtime
attorney Michael Cohen gave testimony to Congress. For the second time,
today, he testified behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee in
the House. That committee had initially only intended to speak with him
once, Thursday of last week, but Cohen`s lawyers and members of that
committee say a decision was made to bring him back for a second round of
testimony today, only because Cohen brought that committee substantial new
information last week.
Committee members decided they wanted to ask him more about that new
information and crucially they wanted to ask him to provide any supporting
documentation that he could show them that might be able to back up these
claims. And, again, we don`t know what has happened behind closed doors.
But even just the stuff, the physical stuff that Cohen provided during his
public testimony looks like it may be real trouble. I mean, those
financial statements you just heard Cohen being questioned about, those
financial statements were three years of statements of financial condition
that Cohen says were submitted by the president and his business to at
least one bank to try to obtain a bank loan and two insurance companies.
And what Cohen described about what the content of those financial
statements and what they were used for looks very much like a reasonably
substantiated allegation of felony bank fraud and felony insurance fraud.
I mean, Cohen stated that the assets on those financial statements appeared
to him to be inflated. That is not a wild claim.
One Trump property that`s listed on those statements, the property in
Westchester County, was bought by Trump for under $8 million, since 2012,
it has twice been assessed of being worth less than $20 million. “Forbes”
just yesterday reported the net worth of that property right now is about
$24 million. The president himself and his federal ethics declaration said
he believed that property to between $25 million and $50 million.
Nevertheless, despite those assessed values and the president`s own
declaration of the worth of that property this past year, on those
financial statements, he listed the worth of that property as $291 million.
And, again, he reportedly used these statements with banks and insurance
companies. And $291 million is not a rounding error for a property like
In addition to that, “The Washington Post” further reports that upon
reviewing these financial statements, it appears that Trump not only
inflated the value of some of his assets, he also, quote, exaggerated his
wealth by leaving things out. In 2011 and 2012, for instance, the
statements of financial condition omitted his hotel in Chicago, which at
the time was carrying a high debt load. The likely result of Trump`s
overall debt seemed smaller.
And, you know, this isn`t a moral story, right? I mean, it says something
about your character, but that`s beside the point, right? I mean, it`s one
thing to, you know, tell somebody you met at a bar that you`re worth a lot
more than you are. It`s like lying about your height or lying about being
first in your class at Wharton and lying about how much money you inherited
from your dad and whether or not you`re self-made.
Lying about whether or not you won the popular vote. Lying about your
inaugural crowd. Lying about whether or not you ever actually built one
inch of the wall. Lying is lying is lying.
Lying can be a whole way of life, it turns out, but it`s different when you
lie in your written financial statements that you have submitted to firearm
institutions in an effort to try to get bank loans or defraud insurance
companies. When you lie in financial statements like that, those
industries are tightly regulated, at least against that kind of fraud. And
when you lie to those kinds of financial institutions for those kinds of
purposes and there is documentation of it, you`re telling the kinds of lies
that get chased down and prosecuted by among others the types of people who
are willing to open up a fake scrap yard in Queens and film themselves
getting fire bombed multiple times to lock up 50 mobsters at a go.
And to the extent that Michael Cohen`s testimony and supporting
documentation bolsters claims of felony bank fraud, it`s important to know
that the entity Cohen described as the target of that attempted bank fraud,
Deutsche Bank, they are now reportedly cooperating with congressional
investigators. When it comes to the insurance side of that alleged fraud
by Cohen, it`s important to note that upon receiving that expansive
subpoena from the agency that invented Stadium Scrap and faced off with
Jumbo, that large insurance agency is also reportedly fully cooperating
with law enforcement and investigating authorities. So, those balls are
And speaking of rolling, today Michael Cohen was back before the
Intelligence Committee again, and this time in what must have been an
ominous sign for the White House, Michael Cohen and his legal team walked
into that testimony rolling a bunch of suitcases – one suitcase, two
suitcases, three suitcases. Plus, all the file folders and the briefcases
all full of documents.
Among materials that Michael Cohen is said to have handed over to the
Intelligence Committee today were additional documents about the
preparation of his previous testimony to Congress, for which he has now
pled guilty to lying about certain aspects of Trump Organization`s secret
efforts during the campaign to build a big, rich Moscow real estate project
with help from the Russian government and at least one sanctioned Russian
Think about those lies, why did Cohen lie that way to Congress the first
time he testified before them? There`s no reason those lies about the
Trump Tower Moscow project would have benefitted Michael Cohen in any way
himself. The lies that he told in that testimony, which, again, he`s pled
guilty for, those lies appear to have been designed not to help himself at
all, but instead to offer political cover to President Trump.
According to reports from Emily Jane Fox at “Vanity Fair” and CNN and
others, today`s new documents from Cohen about that testimony were intended
to bolster the claims from Cohen that lawyers acting on behalf of President
Trump helped concoct his false testimony about Trump tower Moscow. Again,
false testimony that did not benefit Cohen. It specifically benefitted
And soliciting false testimony before Congress is usually described as
obstruction of justice. It was described that way in the articles of
impeachment, both against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Just as a matter
of criminal law, it`s also just potentially surface suborning perjury,
which is a felony in its own right, although, of course, that would depend
on the exact facts of the case.
But today was the day that Michael Cohen was initially supposed to be
reporting to federal prison to start serving his federal prison sentence
for lying to Congress and campaign finance felonies and other crimes.
After being given a few weeks` extension by the federal judge overseeing
his case, it is just remarkable to see him spending his last weeks of
liberty rolling in suitcases full of documents that may ultimately stand to
bury the president.
Emily Jane Fox joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Mark your calendars. Two months from today, on May 6th, the
president`s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen is due to report to
federal prison to begin serving a three-year sentence for multiple federal
felony charges. Last week on this program, Michael Cohen`s attorney Lanny
Davis told us that during Cohen`s closed-door testimony before the
Intelligence Committee in the House, Cohen, quote, developed new
information. That basically necessitated ripping up the original plan and
calling Michael Cohen back for a return appearance before the same
committee this week.
Davis told us the new information developed by Cohen in that closed-door
session was, quote, quite explosive. Well, Michael Cohen`s encore
performance before the House Intelligence Committee was today. This time
to I think everyone`s surprise, it involved enough checked bags for a
family of five flying on an international flight to Bangkok.
We don`t know for sure, but we believe that inside all of that luggage that
was trucked into the committee hearing room today, we believe that in that
luggage was a lot of documents, documents that Cohen had promised to bring
with him today to support the allegations that he has made against the
president and the president`s business. What was in those suitcases?
Joining us now is the only person I can think to ask who might actually
tell me anything about it. Emily Jane Fox, national correspondent at
Emily, thank you for being here.
EMILY JANE FOX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So do you know what was in the suitcases?
FOX: So I don`t. Maybe it was a change of clothes. He was there a long
MADDOW: Lots of suitcases.
FOX: Lots of suitcases.
But I did recognize something from that footage, and I recognize that brown
FOX: That was a file folder that came with him or a very similar one that
came with him last week to Washington. The way that Michael Cohen came
into his public hearing last week was he had spent the week before going
through these nine boxes in his storage unit in the Trump building where he
MADDOW: Boxes that had been returned to him –
FOX: From the Southern District –
FOX: – of New York.
Seized from him from his part when they went to his apartment, hotel rooms
and office with search warrants last April. And he had done so to provide
evidence to Congress members who were going to ding his credibility,
rightfully, and question whether or not what he was saying was true.
So he wanted to come with documents. And what he found was a way to jog
his memory about the bank checks that we now know that the president signed
and the president`s son-in-law – son signed and his CFO of the Trump
Now, that file folder also contained a number of personal notes from the
president on articles saying, Michael C. contact this reporter, threaten to
sue him, this is wrong and other articles that he was not happy with. So,
it was full of all of these things that he had taken from his storage unit.
Now, I know from my reporting that after last Thursday`s closed-door
hearing with the House Intel Committee where he went back today, there were
specific things he asked for in that hearing room that they wanted to have
him look again to see if he had documentary evidence. And he did that over
the weekend. And I think – I would imagine that some of what we found is
what he brought in those suitcases.
MADDOW: And in addition to the things that House Intel asked him for after
that closed-door testimony last week which, again, we have limited
information about because it wasn`t in public, we did see in his public
testimony requests things he said he would go look for. He said he would
hand over 100 audio recordings, voice notes, first draft – the first draft
of his congressional testimony, which he pled guilty for it being false.
Red line edits made by the president`s attorneys to those remarks.
Additional bank checks for those reimbursement payments.
Do you know from your own reporting whether or not any of that stuff he
said he would hand over to Congress was something that he overpromised and
now can`t deliver? Do we believe he`s been able to provide all this stuff?
FOX: I don`t know if he`s provided all of it. I do know from my reporting
that he brought some of it with him today. I particularly know that there
was material related to the edits made in his initial congressional
testimony brought today. And along with I believe drafts that he found.
There is also communication with the lawyers involved that he found that he
brought to the committee today.
FOX: I have no idea what kinds of edits were made on these drafts. You
know, sometimes you could have a draft that doesn`t necessarily have red
line edits. It just had changes where no one explains the changes. Here
is a draft on one day and here is another draft with changes but you don`t
know what happened in between.
There is communication amongst the lawyers about what was changed. And I
think that that communication is almost more valuable than a red line edit
MADDOW: Well, is there a clear contention from Mr. Cohen that his
testimony was false in part because he was advised how to falsely testimony
– how to falsely testify in a way that would benefit the president? I
mean, is he – is that the nut of the contention about the president`s
FOX: Well, he said publicly last week, I was advised by the president`s
attorneys to make certain changes in order to stay on message with the
president`s message. And he said the president didn`t directly told me to
change it, but he had this code and I understood the code.
I don`t think that lawyers speak in code, and certainly lawyers who Cohen
doesn`t know – a lawyer who Cohen doesn`t know, he wouldn`t know how to
speak that code, so I would imagine it would have to be more explicit than
some sort of Trumpian code that Cohen had spent a decade trying to figure
out. I will say I talked to people who are in the room today, and the
feedback I got from the people in the room today was Cohen was able to
provide things that were damaging to the Trump presidency, matched only by
the things that he was able to provide that were damaging on the Trump
Organization. That was the only rundown I got from the hearing room today.
MADDOW: As damaging as his statements and allegations have been thus far
to the Trump Organization, he has today been able to make statements or
allegations or provided evidence that`s as damaging to the presidency?
“Washington Post” has just come out with a new piece of information with
some somewhat – an explosive report about something Mr. Cohen said behind
closed doors. I`d like to ask you about that when we come back if you can
stay with us.
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox from “Vanity Fair” is our guest. We`ll be right
MADDOW: Back with us again is national correspondent for “Vanity Fair”,
Emily Jane Fox.
Emily, there is a piece of reporting tonight that I need to ask you about
that has just come out from “The Washington Post.” The headline is:
Michael Cohen discussed pardons with a second Trump lawyer. He tells
So, this is about his closed door testimony before House Intel today. The
lead is: Michael Cohen has claimed to the House Intelligence Committee that
he discussed the subject of a pardon with President Trump`s attorney Jay
Sekulow. Under penalty of perjury, Cohen alleged to lawmakers that he
discussed pardons with Sekulow, in addition to Rudy Giuliani, another of
Trump`s lawyers, and “The Post” is citing four people with Cohen`s
Now, I know you know, right, the importance of this. The president can
pardon anybody he wants. He can talk to anybody about a pardon in any
context except in the context of the president`s own criminal defense.
FOX: Particularly because we know how damaging what Cohen was going to
tell investigators has been to obviously Cohen, but to the Trump
presidency, to the Trump Organization, to his family.
And so, if there were conversations with multiple lawyers who are
representing the president about the possibility of a pardon, “A,” and,
“B,” a pardon used to prevent Cohen from cooperating with investigators,
that is explosive and it seems like “The Post” reporting is rock solid.
Now, there has been so much pardon news in the last couple of days. And I
– it kicked off with a report in “The Wall Street Journal” that said that
an attorney representing Cohen at the time after the feds had searched and
seized items from his apartment, that the attorney approached Rudy Giuliani
and that the attorney said, would you be interested in talking about
pardons? Something that to that effect.
When I read that, I didn`t doubt the reporting, but immediately thought
back to the summer when Rudy Giuliani had been talking about a story about
the recordings that were seized from Cohen`s apartments. And in the story,
it initially characterized the recordings as Cohen saying you have to pay
off a woman alleging an affair in cash not a check and that the president
said, no, no, no, you have to pay her by a check.
Then we heard the recording two days later and it was actually the
opposite, where Cohen suggested to the president you cannot pay her with
FOX: And so when I read that story, I thought to myself, is this the
president`s legal team getting out ahead of what they know could be an
incredibly – another incredibly damaging story?
FOX: And it seems like since that initial report broke there have been, in
fact, incredibly damaging reports related to pardons that paint the
situation in a very different light.
MADDOW: Right. And the one thing that can`t happen is that the
president`s defense lawyers, personal defense lawyers can`t be discussing
pardons with people who could potentially offer witness testimony against
FOX: Certainly not dangling them. In my reporting about this, a lot is
vague and a lot is unclear. And a lot of the language is opaque and there
are so many things on different sides that are not necessarily lining up.
But what I do know is that Cohen has been privately saying that a pardon
was dangled to him in some sort of oblique fashion. Language was vague.
And this is something that he has been discussing with the Southern
District of New York.
MADDOW: Wow. Again, if the person he was discussing that with was
representing the president in a defense capacity, that`s lights out, I mean
FOX: That is explosive.
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox, national correspondent with “Vanity Fair” – thank
you, my friend.
FOX: Thanks for having me.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The FBI headquarters building is just a few blocks from the White
House on Pennsylvania Avenue and it is a mess. For years now, they`ve had
nets up on the outside of the building to catch bits of that building as
they fall off.
When President Trump took office, the plan for the crumbling FBI building
was to do a kind of swap with a private developer. The government, the
General Services Administration, would hire a private developer to build a
brand-new campus for the FBI somewhere in the suburbs and then essentially
as part of the payment for doing that work, the private developer would get
that terrible falling down FBI building, which the developer would be
allowed to tear down and replace with a big new development of his or her
choice, right there on prime real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few
blocks from the White House.
And everybody involved in this plan knew to expect that the result of it
would be that any new high-dollar development at that Pennsylvania Avenue
site, it would almost inevitability include a fancy new high-dollar luxury
hotel. And the problem with that is that that site is only about a block
away from what is already the newest big luxury hotel in that part of D.C.,
which is the new Trump Hotel. So that plan would give the president`s
brand-new hotel in D.C. top tier luxury competition right across the
So, a few months into the Trump administration, the administration
announced, hey, a new plan, an unexpected change in plan. That old plan
will be scrapped. Now there will not be a new hotel, a big new development
on the site of the FBI building. In fact, they`ve decided to change
directions 180 degrees. They`re going to keep the FBI headquarters right
where it is and build them a new building right there on the same site.
The White House said this would save the taxpayers money, but, in fact, it
will cost more. Also, the new headquarters will hold fewer agents than the
original plan had called for. The White House said the president had
nothing to do with this dramatic change in plans that would so impact his
own personal bottom line. They said it was totally the FBI`s call.
The head of the GSA, General Services Administration, the part of the
administration that is overseeing the project, she was called before
Congress. She also repeatedly said this man is what the FBI wanted.
Nobody else was involved.
But then several Democratic lawmakers wrote to the head of the GSA and
essentially said, hold on here. First of all, here is a photo of you
meeting with the president about this project. That`s the GSA director
sitting there in the middle there, the one woman in the photo.
And second of all, those Democratic lawmakers got ahold of the actual e-
mails that were sent by the GSA – by the head of the agency and her staff
recounting what happened at that meeting and putting the decisions made at
that meeting into action, and those e-mails include an official from the
GSA sending an e-mail a few days after that meeting referring to what POTUS
directed everyone to do, and, quote, POTUS` orders. Another official from
the agency writes about delivering, quote, the project the president wants
on the timetable he wants it done.
What that meeting was about, what those presidential orders were about,
what the president wanted done was a U-turn on that big multibillion dollar
federal project so the FBI building would not be redeveloped into a new
luxury hotel that would compete with his hotel across the street, and he
was directly involved in the decision to make that change.
When those Democrats released that basically smoking gun evidence of the
president`s intervention in that project, that he stood to benefit from
financially, when they demanded that the GSA hand over all documents
showing how and why the original plan got turned upside down, that was not
that long ago, it was October of last year.
Elijah Cummings was then the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee.
We had him here on the show that night and we asked him, hey, this seems
pretty open and shut, what`s going to happen here in terms of
accountability? This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I don`t think much will happen with
regard – if things continue the way they`ve been with regard to our
committee. As you probably know, Chairman Gowdy has refused to issue any
subpoenas and basically the Republicans have acted more or less as defense
counsel for this administration. So, it may be, Rachel, that before we can
truly get into this and hold hearings, it may be when the Democrats take
over, hopefully in January, that we`ll have hearings and then we`ll get to
the bottom line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congressman Cummings speaking before the midterm
elections. That was October. As you might recall, Democrats actually did
quite well in the elections the following month and they did indeed take
over the House as of January.
And now, today, the Democrats have started making good on their promise to
get to the bottom of what looks like a clear-cut second grade textbook case
of American government corruption coming directly from the president of the
United States. That`s next.
MADDOW: After the Trump administration, surprise, cancelled a long-planned
project to build a new FBI headquarters, House Democrats got their hands on
evidence that the president was personally involved in that decision. That
got them worried that maybe President Trump kyboshed the plan because it
might have involved putting up a new luxury hotel basically right next to
his own existing luxury hotel in downtown D.C.
The president, among all things, doesn`t like competition. Democrats at
the time were in the minority in the Congress. They did send a request to
the Trump administration for documents and explanations. The
administration blew its proverbial nose on that request, but that was last
year and now the Democrats are in charge, and now as of today it is five
Democratic-controlled committees who are writing back to the administration
telling them that time`s up, basically. And this time if there isn`t a
response, expect subpoenas to follow.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Dina Titus. She is one of the authors of
today`s letters. She`s the chair of a key subcommittee that oversees the
General Services Administration, the part of the Trump administration that
seems implicated here.
Congresswoman Titus, thank you so much for being here.
REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV), CHAIRWOMAN OF SUBCOMMITTEE THAT OVERSEES GSA:
Well, thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, when we first talked about this scandal, I said I would have
you back as this progressed, particularly if you were able to take over in
an oversight role and really start pushing here.
What do you think you`re going to be able to get now with control in
Congress that you weren`t able to get in the minority?
TITUS: Well, they virtually blew us off, as you said, when we asked for
the requests last fall, but now we`ve put the letter in again. We have
written to the justice department, the FBI and the GSA asking for
documentation. We`ve given them until the end of March.
We`ll see if they take us more seriously. And if they don`t, well, we have
other tools we can use to force them to give us that information.
MADDOW: And by other tools, you presumably mean subpoena power?
MADDOW: If the president did intervene in this project, obviously that
would contradict earlier denials that he had nothing to do with this
TITUS: That`s right.
MADDOW: But if the president did make that kind of intervention, is there
any way for you and your other committee and subcommittee chairs to pursue
the prospect that the president made that intervention specifically to line
his own pockets, specifically to benefit himself financially?
TITUS: Well, we believe so, and we believe it`s pretty clear from the
evidence that we`ve seen. You remember Al Capone, who committed so many
spectacular crimes, but what they got him on was income tax evasion. You
hear a lot about other investigations into collusion or paying off women.
We`re being very deliberative. We`re going after something very specific,
getting all the facts. And I believe in the end, it will be very clear
that he used public money to get private profit.
MADDOW: If he did use public money to get private profit, if he is using
his office to financially benefit himself and his company, is that a – is
that a crime? And if so, who prosecutes it?
TITUS: Well, we`re going to talk to the Justice Department. That`s why we
want to be deliberative. That`s what we want to have hearings. But you
need the information in advance of that.
Also, as you pointed out, they`ve lied about it. Ms. Murphy from the GSA
said, no, no, there weren`t really any meetings. It was the FBI that
wanted to do it, but I think the evidence will show that he was very much a
part of this, and it will depend on how you want to define corruption. I
think the public can look at that and see that that`s just not the way
government`s supposed to run.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Dina Titus, chair of the economic development public
buildings and emergency management subcommittee, which in this case is a
key oversight role because you oversee the GSA. Congresswoman, I will say
it again like I said it last time, as this progresses, please keep us
apprised. I`m super interested in this story and I think you`ve got the
tiger by the tail here.
TITUS: Thank you. We`ll stay in touch.
MADDOW: Thanks. Thank you for your time tonight.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: He is old, he has gout, he has been very unhappy in jail, not to
mention lonely. Lawyers for the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort
has cited his health, his age, his conditions of confinement, his previous
status as an altar boy – you name it, all as part of their case that Mr.
Manafort should not be given too long a prison sentence for his multiple
Tomorrow afternoon, 3:30 Eastern Time, we`ll find out for his lawyers have
persuaded the judge in his case in Virginia, 3:30 in the afternoon, Eastern
Time. That`s when Manafort is set to be sentenced in federal court in
Virginia. The sentencing guidelines in his case range from 19 to 24 years.
Again, that hearing is 3:30 p.m. No cameras in court. So don`t expect
actual live footage of it. But we hope we will have the transcript of that
sentencing hearing for you here tomorrow night.
See you then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the