Mueller reveals Russia probe indicments Transcript 10/30/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 30, 2017
Guest: Joy Vance, David Frum, Ron Klain
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Rachel, good evening,
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Hi.
O`DONNELL: I think we have known since, like, Friday what I was going to
be discussing in this hour, what you`re going to be discussing in this
hour. What we did not know was that there was a guilty plea, there was no
hint that there was a guilty plea and that was for me the stunner to wake
up to today.
MADDOW: And what the fact that there is a secret guilty plea means in
terms of what didn`t get leaked and what we didn`t know about, the day
after the FBI raid. That guy was getting arrested at Dulles. Nobody knew.
He was getting criminally charged, nobody knew. He was pleading guilty.
Nobody knew. He was cooperating with the Mueller investigation. Nobody
All of these things about the Papadopoulos side of this had been completely
out of the news in a way that, you know, makes me feel like people who`d
been complaining about leaks all this time missing the point. But that was
a total blindside story today.
O`DONNELL: Let`s just think about how difficult it is to get arrested in
and around Washington without anyone noticing.
O`DONNELL: Just let`s start there. Everyone has a camera in the pockets.
It is stunning, the – all the procedure that is the Papadopoulos case has
gone through in this case in utter secrecy.
MADDOW: Yes. Arrested in a public place and then kind of un-arrested.
And arrest kept secret while being criminally charged, while actively,
proactively cooperating with the investigation for months, doing multiple
FBI interviews, represented in person himself at the district court in
order to enter his guilty plea. I mean, all of this stuff happened without
anybody peeping about it.
It`s just – I mean, not only does it show that the Mueller side of things
isn`t leaking. It shows that there aren`t enough reporters on this story.
O`DONNELL: And, you know, just courthouse elevators are wonderful sources
of gossip in this world. Just the ability to move him in and out of that
federal court without anyone seeing, without anyone picking up a hint that
this is going on, it – so the leaking of the Mueller investigation so far
is zero. There are plenty of ways that it could have been leaked outside
of the Mueller team of what was going to happen today on these Manafort
indictments. That leak did occur but there`s plenty of ways other than the
Mueller team that could have come from.
MADDOW: Yes. But even with the indictment, when we knew there`s an
indictment as of Friday night. We know now that Manafort and Gates both
had to hand over the passports yesterday. But even after they handed over
the passports, still, nobody knew that the indictment was them until they
were in motion this morning.
So, I just feel like our conception that everything will come to be known
before it`s publicly announced has been absolutely rocked by this news
today in a way that makes me feel like we really need to reset our
expectations about how leaky this investigation is, the most important
stuff, they`re not leaking at all.
O`DONNELL: Well, Rachel, you have been your guide through all of this and
I think so many including me in your audience were up to speed on this.
Thanks to your just relentless, concentrated guiding. No matter what else
was going on in the news, never losing sight of this, following the money
as you have said and as you said in the opening of your show tonight and it
has led to where we are today which feels like a beginning.
MADDOW: Well, that`s nice of you to say. Some people would call it
fixation but I call it focus.
O`DONNELL: Fixation on the truth.
MADDOW: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, dear.
O`DONNELL: Guilty. That is the most important word in this day of
historical developments in the special prosecutor`s investigation. Guilty.
In the very first case that special prosecutor Robert Mueller brought in
his investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,
Robert Mueller got a guilty and that happened weeks ago.
But we learned about it today, on the same day that Robert Mueller indicted
Manafort and his associate Rick Gates on 12 counts including conspiracy
against the United States.
Today, the president of the United States tried to pretend that Paul
Manafort`s conspiracy against the United States was something that happened
long before Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort to run his presidential
campaign. And that is just another Trump lie. Paul Manafort`s alleged
crimes against the United States occurred before he joined the Trump
campaign and continued while he was on the Trump campaign and after he left
the Trump campaign and continued right into this year, right into 2017.
Paul Manafort was charged with crimes today that he committed this year, as
well as years past. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates pleaded not guilty today
which is what everyone was anticipating would be the big news of the day
until Robert Mueller revealed this morning that he already had a guilty in
a secret federal court arraignment on October 5th. Thirty-year-old Trump
campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was charged with lying
to the FBI and he was asked, how do you wish to plead? And he said
immediately, I plead guilty.
And with those three words, George Papadopoulos stepped into history. He
is the very first defendant charged by Robert Mueller and he is the first
to plead guilty. The question tonight rattling the Trump White House and
no doubt making Donald Trump`s insomnia all the more acute tonight is, has
George Papadopoulos just become the E. Howard Hunt of this investigation.
E. Howard Hunt was the first to plead guilty in the Watergate investigation
that brought down the Nixon presidency.
After Hunt pled guilty, 55 people were found guilty or pled guilty in that
special prosecutor`s investigation of Watergate which culminating in
president Nixon being forced to resign the presidency. George Papadopoulos
pled guilty to lying to the FBI in answer to several questions about
multiple contacts that he had with Russians and people he believed to be
agents of the Russian government and one person he believed to be Vladimir
Putin`s niece. In other words, he lied to the FBI about collusion with
Russians and his own attempted collusion with the Russian government
continued attempted collusion.
The guilty that Robert Mueller got on October 5th and was revealed today
was a guilty about collusion. George Papadopoulos admitted in the guilty
plea a Russian source, quote, told him about the Russians possessing dirt
on then candidate Hillary Clinton and the form of thousands of e-mails.
Papadopoulos lied multiple times about that and lied multiple times about
when he learned that information, lied to the FBI about that.
Special prosecutor discovered that Papadopoulos tried to arrange a meeting
between candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. In a brief outlining
Papadopoulos` offenses submitted to the judge at the arraignment in
writing, the special prosecutor detailed many of Papadopoulos` written
communications, but avoided identifying who he was communicating with. At
one point, the person identified only as campaign supervisor, says this
about Papadopoulos` collusion with Russians: Great work.
George Papadopoulos had a choice when he submitted to a voluntary interview
with the FBI. Admit to his collusion with Russians which he knew was the
very heart of the matter that the FBI was investigating, admit to all that,
give it all up, or lie. It wasn`t like Papadopoulos was one of those sad
sacks who got tripped up by the FBI and lied about some minor thing for
which he now has to plead guilty. George Papadopoulos was lying about
collusion with Russians. He was lying about the very essence of the
special prosecutor`s investigation is all about.
In that secret arrangement, the judge asked George Papadopoulos` lawyer, do
you concur that the government would be able to prove each of the necessary
elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Yes, your honor, said
George Papadopoulos` defense lawyer.
The judge then asked Papadopoulos, if he read the special prosecutor`s
statement of offense, detailing all of the lies that George Papadopoulos
told the FBI. The judge said, did you read the document carefully?
Papadopoulos said, yes, I did, your honor. The judge said, is everything
in that document true? Yes, it is, your honor.
The bad news for President Trump is that George Papadopoulos secretly pled
guilty three weeks ago and the even worse news for Donald Trump is that
George Papadopoulos is cooperating with the special prosecutor, telling the
special prosecutor everything he knows and George Papadopoulos knows that
his future depends on him telling the truth. His sentence depends on him
telling the truth.
He pled guilty three weeks ago to a federal felony that carries a maximum
sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. At his
secret arrangement, the judge told George Papadopoulos that if he continued
to fully cooperate with the special prosecutor, his prison sentence could
be, quote, between zero to six months. And that his fine could be, quote,
between $500 and $9,500.
The judge then told George Papadopoulos that it was completely within the
judge`s discretion to impose a sentence that is either higher or lower than
those guidelines that he just explained to him. And so, even though George
Papadopoulos had already said that he wanted to plead guilty, the judge
following standard procedure in an arraignment like this took all the time
necessary to explain to the defendant all of his rights and then said, so,
Mr. Papadopoulos, are you ready to make a decision about whether you want
to enter a plea of guilty or whether you wish to go to trial in this case?
Yes, your honor, said Papadopoulos.
And what`s your decision, asked the judge. I`d like to plead guilty, your
honor. And are you entering this plea of guilty voluntarily and of your
own free will because you are guilty and for no other reason? Yes, your
Joining us now: David Frum, senior editor of “The Atlantic”. Also with us,
Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for northern district of Alabama and a
professor at University of Alabama Law School. She announced on the
evening before President Trump`s inauguration that she was retiring from
the Justice Department after 25 years.
Joyce Vance, I wanted to go to the particulars of the Papadopoulos case.
It seems to me this is the dead center of the investigation. This is
someone who`s been charged with lying to the FBI about the essence of what
the special prosecutor`s investigating.
JOY VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He has been. The lie he`s told, in fact,
relates to the Russians interest in him stemming from his involvement in
And that I think attests to Mueller`s genius in leading with this charge
because not only does it signify that he won`t tolerate being lied to in
the course of this investigation, it puts everyone who`s involved in this
circle of events, I think, in a state of high fear because we don`t know
who else has been arrested, who else is cooperating like Papadopoulos. And
so, each of them has to be concerned about conversation that is they may
have had with Papadopoulos since his arrest in late July.
O`DONNELL: And the day that Papadopoulos lied to the FBI was before there
was even a special prosecutor named. It was back at the end of the first
week of the Trump presidency on January 27th. And that Friday, January
27th, turns out to be the very same day that FBI Director James Comey
invited by the president surprisingly and suddenly to the White House for a
one on one dinner and here`s how James Comey described what happened at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Let me move to the January 27th dinner
where you said, quote, the president began by asking me whether I wanted to
stay on as FBI director. He also indicated that lots of people, again,
your words, wanted the job. What was your impression and what did you mean
by this notion of a patronage relationship?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Well, my impression, and again, it`s my
impression. I could also be wrong, but my common sense told me that what
was going on was either he concluded or someone had told him that you
didn`t – you`ve already asked Comey to stay and you didn`t get anything
for it. And that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship, in
fact, he asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: David Frum, I have the feeling when the history of this is
written there will be many days like this, many days on January 27th where
one dramatic scene is happening in the White House and dining room with the
president and James Comey and another fateful scene is happening where
someone like George Papadopoulos decides on that day to lie to the FBI.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, you`re not the only one who
has that impression. To my mind, one of the most interesting things about
tonight following today is something that`s not happening.
If you have been watching FOX, and I assume you have and other networks,
too, I think one – it`s striking there are no Republican lawmakers on TV.
And at “The Atlantic”, I assume many other organizations, we spent time
trying to get them on the phone and they seemed to have lost knowledge of
how to make that instrument work either.
This is a moment where a president rallies or tries rally his friends and
there`s Newt Gingrich and there`s Sean Hannity and there`s Laura Ingraham
and there are a lot of other people who don`t face electors. But what is
not – what we`re not seeing tonight – now, they`re not taking the
courageous route or the proper route, and standing up for the integrity of
the judicial process and saying, don`t fire Robert Mueller, but not either
accounted for the president. This is a moment when a lot of people
wavering as to what their future is going to look like.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce Vance, a lot of expectations surrounded Mike Flynn
today because he seems to be one of the most easily charged people in this
story, and leading up to all of this. What do you suppose is happening on
the Flynn side of this case?
VANCE: Right. You have to wonder after today`s events whether or not
Flynn is already cooperating with Mueller. Many people thought that he
would be the subject of today`s announced indictments. I frankly thought
Manafort was a little bit more likely because we knew that the FBI had been
investigating him prior to the establishment of the special counsel.
But the fact that Flynn was not included in the indictments today leads you
to believe that either that will be coming in the near future or that
perhaps it`s unnecessary because he`s already cooperating.
O`DONNELL: And, of course, the White House tried to suggest that Dan
Papadopoulos was not a serious player in the Trump foreign policy team in
Let`s listen to how Donald Trump himself described Dan Papadopoulos to “The
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WASHINGTON POST: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy
advisory team soon.
DONALD TRUMP, THEN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want, I could give you
some of the names. I wouldn`t mind.
WASHINGTON POST: I`d be delighted.
TRUMP: Carter Page, PhD, George Papadopoulos. He`s an oil and energy
consultant, excellent guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I want to apologize to Dan Papadopoulos, who`s a friend of mine
who I misspoke, when I should have said George Papadopoulos.
But, David Frum, there`s the president when he`s running saying George
Papadopoulos is one of the people he relies on.
FRUM: That`s when the president had very few foreign policy skills. It is
striking how many of them had some kind of improper relationship with
Russia. I mean, there`s – that`s the giant, magnetic force. And all of
this – there`s a second track which we have to keep in mind as we follow
this story, which is – this is the same time when Trump and the Trump
organization are trying to get a hotel deal in Russia. That is happening
concurrently with all of this hunting for Hillary, access to Hillary
So, Moscow is exercising this magnetic attraction on different parts of the
Trump brain. The – I want to dumb down the political opponents brain. I
want to make money in Moscow brain.
O`DONNELL: And, David, I just want to stress the point about the
Papadopoulos interview with the FBI. This is happening very, very early in
this investigation. Before people knew that the kind of massive power and
pressure of a special prosecutor was going to be on them, and so, it seems
to be that Papadopoulos made the guess that he might – that this might be
a low voltage investigation, that he could just talk his way through at
FRUM: Well, I think a lot of people around Trump just made bad
calculations. I mean, one of the – whatever you think about Donald Trump
personally, I – that he seems not to attract super masterminds in
secondary positions. And so, a lot of people are doing wrong things but
because they`re so much especially in foreign policy the C and D and E team
they don`t take things that you would think of as basic precautions if you
had an awareness of how risky and improper your actions were.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, quickly, does it before we go, does it repeatedly
shock you that people think they can get away with lying to the FBI like
this, because it always just stuns me they sit there and they make that
calculation and decide to lie?
VANCE: It`s absolutely incredible. And, of course, nothing angers agents
more than being lied to. It makes them double down on their investigation.
We saw that here today and it certainly gives new vitality to James Comey`s
statement, lordy, I hope there`s tapes. I think that the FBI was angry
enough to be lied to that there will be more tapes now.
O`DONNELL: Joy Vance, please stay with us.
David Frum, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, Donald Trump spent the day fuming according to tonight`s
reports, fuming about the charges today. One insider told “The Washington
Post” the walls are closing in. That`s next.
And we`ll look back at how candidate Trump talked about how he had all of
the best people, how Paul Manafort was one of those best people while
according to special prosecutor, Paul Manafort was committing crimes
against the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: Mr. President, anything on Paul Manafort, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Trump tonight at the White House Halloween
celebration. Multiple reports tonight say that the president is fuming
over today`s developments in the Mueller investigation.
One senior Republican told “The Washington Post”: The walls are closing in.
Everyone is freaking out.
“The Post” reports: Trump`s anger Monday was visible to those who
interacted with him and the mood in the corridors of the White House was
one of wariness and fear of the unknown. Trump is also increasingly
agitated by the expansion of Mueller`s probe into financial issues beyond
the 2016 campaign and about the potential to him and his family.
Joining us now, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Biden
and Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. Also with us, Steve Schmidt,
Republican strategist, and an MSNBC political analyst.
Ron, your reading of the three indictments that we discovered today, three
with one guilty plea already?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, it`s a day
that we will remember for a long time. I don`t think it`s the moment of
truth. But it is finally a moment of truth. We found now for sure that
the Russians had the e-mails, they knew about this months before it became
public. They tried to traffic those to the Trump campaign. Through Mr.
Papadopoulos and we know what they were doing in Trump Tower two months
And clearly, there`s now no question about the fact that there was a
concerted Russian effort to influence the campaign through the Trump
campaign directly. One conviction so far and probably more to come.
O`DONNELL: I just want to read more reports of what we have today from the
– what`s going on in the White House. Throughout the day, the president
spoke to his attorneys, multiple times. In response to press inquiries and
questions about the process and never revealed any anger, any angst or
anger, this is according to Ty Cobb, the president`s lawyer and the White
House response to this.
He says the president was focused on diplomatic preparations ahead of his
trip to Asia. He wanted the country to understand he`s fully committed to
continuing the course of the special counsel, which is one of full
Steve Schmidt, so Ty Cobb trying to strike the note of full cooperation.
SCHMIDT: He is, indeed. But at the end of the day, here`s the central
fact today is that Paul Manafort indicted and charged amongst other things
for conspiracy against the United States was one of the participants in a
meeting in a room with Donald Trump Jr., with the president`s son-in-law
Jared Kushner, with the officials and unofficial representatives of the
Russian government who were there to deliver negative information, dirt,
about the Democratic nominee to the Republican nominee`s campaign.
So, today, this took a giant leap closer to the White House and I think it
bears mentioning something that we`ve never really seen before, the
intensity of the public misinformation campaign that`s deliberate, that`s
premeditated, that`s coming from the podium of the White House. From the
press secretary and is being echoed across the conservative media complex,
including in the editorials of some of this nation`s historically leading
newspapers, and, of course, across the conservative television media
networks, as well.
O`DONNELL: Steve, I`m so glad you mentioned that because I – I don`t show
clips from the White House briefing. I was – considered a bunch of them
to show here tonight. But it is just propagandistic lies. It is a waste
of whatever number of seconds I put those up on the screen. And, Ron
Klain, we have never reached that point in the coverage before where what`s
coming out of the White House press briefing room is arguably a disservice
KLAIN: Yes. I mean, oddly enough, it makes you nostalgic for Richard
Nixon because at least he never sent Rob Ziegler out to say that it was
George McGovern`s fault that Watergate happened.
KLAIN: Or that George McGovern was trying to pass (ph) the plumbers. I
mean, that`s what this is. And what`s crazy about it, Lawrence, is
obviously untrue, it`s obviously despicable and craziest of all, it`s not
really a defense.
No matter what Hillary Clinton did, and she didn`t do anything they said,
it doesn`t lessen Donald Trump`s guilt and his campaign`s guilt for the
things that happened. So, it`s a completely false, completely despicable
and completely irrelevant defense of the Trump campaign.
O`DONNELL: Steve, I know we have covered this kind of ground before, but I
just want you as a campaign professional and, especially a campaign
professional on the Republican side, to talk about how – how extraordinary
this material is when you read it in this indictment and the statements of
evidence in the guilty plea about what these people were up to inside this
campaign, what Papadopoulos was up to inside the campaign. The Trump
campaign and the Trump world has tried to present all the interactions as
perfectly normal kinds of things that happen in every campaign.
SCHMIDT: I`ve worked at the highest level, Lawrence, of two campaigns for
president. We won one. We lost one. I have many good friends, Ron
included amongst them, who`ve worked on Democratic campaigns.
There is no person I know on either Republican campaigns or Democratic
campaigns had they gotten a call and approach from an official of the
Russian intelligence services or the Russian government who offered to give
dirt on the opponent wouldn`t have immediately, immediately reported it up
the chain of command inside the campaign and gone immediately to the FBI.
It is extraordinary, the lack of understanding or the blindness from so
many in the Republican Party as this issue`s been covered over the year.
This was never an attack on the Democratic Party. This is an attack on our
elections process, thus it`s an attack on the United States by a foreign
adversary. And the Republican response to this has been appalling. And
the complicity and the echoing of the misinformation campaign and the type
of misinformation that takes place in no healthy democracy anywhere in the
world deserves to be commented on and deserves to be recriminated.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron, you have worked in campaigns you might be someone`s
campaign supervisor which is the term used in one of the evidence documents
O`DONNELL: In the Papadopoulos case, where that campaign supervisor says
to Papadopoulos, great work – when the work that Papadopoulos is
describing is, in fact, collusion with Russians.
KLAIN: That`s right. I mean, you know, agree with what Steve said about
any responsible campaign officer, aide reporting this up the chain. What
happened here was that George Papadopoulos did report it up the chain and
Sam Clovis, one of those senior officials, told him, he should go to
Russia, told him he should go meet with Russians in Russia.
So, I mean, the problem is the rot here goes all the way to the top. And
how far up the top it goes beyond Paul Manafort we`ll see but this was a
campaign that was actively working with and willing to seek out information
from a foreign adversary of the United States. Steve said, that`s just
something that neither Democrats or Republicans should ever consider.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, thank you for joining us.
Steve, please stay with us.
KLAIN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, which Republican said today – take your time –
which Republican said today there would be holy hell, those are his words,
holy hell if the president tried to fire Robert Mueller?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, President, United States: I have the most dedicated people.
i have the best people. I have the best people. I have the best people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Three of Donald Trump`s best people have surrendered their
passports to the Special Prosecutor, George Papadopoulos is awaiting
sentencing after pleading guilty. Paul Manafort and his associate Rick
Gates are out on $10 million and $5 million bail respectively awaiting
trial for their conspiracy against the United States. Today, the President
dismissed Manafort`s alleged crimes as something that happened long before
he was hired on the Trump campaign which, of course, is not true.
Here is how Candidate Trump talked about Paul Manafort while Paul Manafort
was actually committing crimes against the United States, according to the
special prosecutor`s indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And Paul Manafort has done an amazing job. He`s here come place.
Where`s Paul? Paul Manafort. Oh good, you made it. Paul Manafort has done a
fantastic – and all of Paul`s people, Paul brought on a staff and we
really do – we have a great staff of talented people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Paul Manafort and Rick Gates pled not guilty to all 12 charges
brought against them today by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. the
charges include conspiracy, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts,
making false statements, laundering tens of millions of dollars that they
earned, you could say, if you think it was earned, while working as
unregistered agents of a pro Russian political party in Ukraine. The
indictment says in order to hide Ukraine payments from United States
authorities Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United
States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.
Manafort laundered more than $18 million he concealed from the United
States Treasury, the Department of Justice and others. The indictment says
that Paul Manafort did not report his foreign financial accounts as
required by law on his tax returns. Right there at the bottom of that form
it asks at any time during the year did you have a financial interest in or
signature authority over a financial account such as a bank account,
securities account or brokerage account located in a foreign country?
On Paul Manafort`s Tax Returns, that is checked no. The Special
Prosecutor`s indictment that says that Paul Manafort`s tax preparer asked
Manafort in writing, Manafort`s Tax Preparer asked Manafort in writing at
any time during 2010 did you or your wife or children have an interest in
or a signature or other authority over a financial account in a foreign
country such as a bank account, securities account or other financial
account and on the very same day asked that in writing Manafort answered,
That simple no could be the single most difficult part of this indictment
for Paul Manafort. Joining us now, Ari Melber, Chief Legal Correspondent
for MSNBC and host of The Beat week nights at 6:00 p.m. here on MSNBC and
back with us, former Prosecutor Joyce Vance and Ari, it`s a stunning
indictment to look at. But that little thing about checking that box on the
tax return, that`s a simple yes or no matter of law. Only one of those
answers could be true and legal.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: One answer is true, the other answer is a
lie and a lie to the Federal Government becomes a crime. This is
significant for the future of Paul Manafort because people, cases, based on
testimony can always be argued and if you get the best lawyers, there are
things that can be done. Ask Robert Durst. Paper cases that come back to
what you just outlined there in your reporting, what we know from the wire
transfers, this is a 31-page indictment, about eights pages of it is just
wire after wire after wire. That`s a paper case, very hard to overcome.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, Manafort`s lawyer said the charges are ridiculous
today. He offered no substance to that criticism but this one I`m
isolating it because it`s so simple. You admit under the pains and
penalties of perjury on the tax return that you do or you do not have
foreign accounts of any kind and Manafort`s tax return says that he
doesn`t. And we have established exactly what the accounts are, what
countries they`re in and how much money is in them.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRINUTOR: Prosecutors love charging this kind of
count. It`s called a thousand one, making a false statement to the Federal
Government. Really the only issue is that the government has to prove that
the false statement is material.
Here it clearly is. This is going to be a very difficult part of this
indictment for Manafort to slip out from underneath.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, as we go through the indictment you`re as stunned as
I was when we opened up in the middle of it and find out how this money,
moving the money out of the foreign accounts and paying bills directly in
the United States. That`s pure tax evasion because he`s not declaring any
of this income. And one of the entries, just one of them, men`s clothing
store in New York, $849,000 in one men`s clothing store over a number of
years. And, Ari, I have a feeling in your lifetime you have not spent
$849,000 on that very dapper wardrobe.
MELBER: It`s got to be one heck of a suit or one heck of a thousand suits.
I think what is striking about it is not only the quote lavish life style,
what Special Counsel Mueller used there and a preview of how they make the
case to a jury about not only what`s on paper as we discussed as the
evidence. But also really making out how disgusting and objectionable the
But there`s another piece to it, which you understand. it is also evidence
of how orchestrated the money laundering was. You know, if you had one
thing and you said, you know what, it was a weird day. We paid a lot in
Who knows? But this is very clearly record evidence of all the different
ways they kept moving the money around and what is hanging over this and
you were covering this earlier in the broadcast is whether this is the end
of it, possible and still could carry a very long prison term or only part
of it because the other guilty plea today, information there, seems to
refer to Manafort and other potential criminal liability and raises the
question is why was so much money moving around and maybe things of
oligarchs that weren`t just about being greedy and not wanting to pay the
tax bill. Maybe there were other reasons he had to be extra careful.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, it seems to be – the indictment seems to be a
case study in money laundering. You see the money spent on clothes,
including that men`s clothing store, one year was $200,000. But also,
hundreds of thousands of dollars in a given year on range rovers, cars,
Mercedes Benz. This is classic kind of gangster drug dealer money
laundering is going to the Mercedes Benz dealership and they basically try
to pay cash for pay in various instruments that won`t be traced and so –
and here is Manafort paying these car dealers, buying real estate in
Manhattan, buying real estate around the country. paying gardeners,
hundreds of thousands of dollars on the mansions in the Hamptons. All
direct payments from these foreign accounts. wire transfers from foreign
VANCE: It`s a remarkable looking scheme. It looks – I think, Lawrence,
like you said, a lot more like you expect from a drug dealing operation
than from a white collar criminal sort of an operation. This indictment has
something for everyone. It has the high substance charges, the real estate
transactions that allow Manafort and Gates to extract a lot of their ill-
gotten gains in the form of loans guaranteed by the real estate.
It also some jury appeal if the case goes to trial because with all due
respect to Ari`s ties, juries hate this kind of extravagant expenditure,
what Mueller called the lavish life style and juries seeing these
allegations like to convict defendants.
MELBER: I didn`t know Bob Mueller big news date. Someone`s going to take
a shot at my ties again. I`ll just add -
O`DONNELL: Your clothing has never looked more modest when we compare it
to the Mueller indictment.
MELBER: Clearly. That`s one other brilliant thing Bob Mueller did in the
way he structured this which is if this remains only a case about pre-
campaign activity more or less, that`s actually a good thing for Bob
Mueller because he is putting everyone on notice he has that authority. He
presumably gave Rod Rosenstein the heads up. He also has Russia related
guilty plea as you covered but he can add to this and it could become more
Russia related or he could leave it right here. And what he is saying to
every one touched by this probe today is I can go after Russia and I can
also go after old stuff back to 2007 and Rod Rosenstein is not stopping me.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance and Ari Melber thank you both for joining us
MELBER: Thank You, Lawrence.
VANCE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what will Republicans in Congress do if the
President tries to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller? There were some
good clues about that today including the phrase holy hell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I have zero concern that Mr. Mueller
is in jeopardy of losing his job. I see no reason for him to be dismissed
and the only reason you could do is for cause and if there were some effort
to do it without a good reason there would be holy hell to pay. So I`m not
REPORTER: But what makes you -
GRAHAM: I`m not worried about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Senator Lindsey Graham this evening in the basement of
the Russell Senate Office Building. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller
received more muted support from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck
Grassley who issue a written statement saying “as always it`s important to
let our legal system run its course. While we don`t have anymore
information regarding the current status of the special counsel`s
investigation, other than what has already been made public, it`s good to
see the justice department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce
the foreign agent`s registration act.”
Of course enforcing that act is a special interest that Senator Grassley`s
always had but this is these two indictments and a guilty plea that
revealed today had much more involved with them than the foreign agent`s
registration act. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, the former chair of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, who`s still a member of the committee, released
this written statement. These are serious charges and I believe that it`s
in the best interest for all parties involved to allow Bob Mueller to
conduct a full and vigorous investigation.
Most republicans, of course, avoided comment on the developments in the
investigation today but no republicans echoed the Wall Street Journal`s
editorial today said the president should issue a blanket pardon to
everyone and anyone who might ever be investigated by the special
prosecutor. Up next, we`ll get Paul Ryan`s reaction today to the
You will not be surprised by Paul Ryan`s reaction but you will be surprised
to see Stuart Stevens back with us for the first time since the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I have
no – nothing to add to the indictments because I haven`t even read the
indictments. It is big news. It`s - it`s big news but this is what you get
from a special counsel. I`m not going to speculate on something I haven`t
read. So there is no point of doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What did you expect from Paul Ryan? Joining us now, Stuart
Stevens, columnist for “The Daily Beast.” Republican strategist, he was
the senior strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential run. Stuart,
welcome back from your almost a year-long hibernation. We haven`t seen you
since the inauguration. You`ve come back on possibly one of the most
eventful days since the inauguration.
It`s not every day that you see campaign operatives indicted, which I know
you`re very happy about being a campaign operative yourself. But I think
we`re at the point where people might be to a certain extent taking a
certain amount of this in stride, that all campaigning is dirty. That`s the
image that the Trump Campaign wants to get out there. The Trump operation
want you to think that this is the kind of thing that you were dealing with
at your desk in campaigns all the time.
STUART STEVENS, COLUMNIST FOR THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think that Paul is
the first head of a presidential campaign since along with Haldeman, the
only two that have been indicted. I don`t – what I keep going back to, is
I don`t understand why Paul Manafort wanted to come back to do the Trump
campaign. And I`m sure he wishes every day that he hadn`t. But he`s a –
he`s an intelligent guy and there had to be some reason that he thought
that he would get something out of doing the Trump campaign greater than
the risk of upping his profile.
And I expect that that will come out in these investigations.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And if you`re - if you`re kind of looking for that now,
it would seem to be all of his dealings involving Russians and - and - and
his attempts we`ve seen in some of the reporting his attempts to extract
what he believed was owed billing to him -
O`DONNELL: – from some of those clients, that maybe this position of
power with the Trump campaign would help with that.
STEVENS: You know, everybody in - in politics knew that Ukraine was just
the Wild West and the crazy stuff was going on and there was crazy money
going around. A lot of us had an opportunity to work there and just passed
on it because it just seemed too, well, what it was, crazy. It`s going to
be very interesting to see how it unfolds.
I mean, those – everyone who likes Paul Manafort, and – and I`ve always
kind of liked Paul Manafort. He was always very kind to me when I was
coming up. You know, would think, though, that Paul was a buccaneer. He was
a pirate. That was his style.
And he sort of took great pleasure in that. And the idea that he really
hadn`t worked in politics in America this century and for him to come back,
it was just sort of a shocking thing that it will be interesting to see
O`DONNELL: When you see this Papadopoulos one of this 30 year old guy and
like in a campaign – he`s no way 30 years old pleading guilty. Thinking
that in his first questioning with the FBI he might be able to get by just
lying straight up about his own contacts with Russians. How do people put
themselves in those kinds of positions?
STEVENS: Well, you know, you`ve been around campaigns. And there is a
tendency to – and particularly in a presidential campaign to think that
you`re a lot bigger deal than you are. The first lesson ought to be
humility. And the realization that whenever you speak you`re really
speaking for the campaign, not just for yourself. But this stuff, it just
goes to a campaign culture. And the Trump campaign had a very different
campaign culture where this sort of self-glorification was apparently
something that was – helped you move up in their hierarchy.
O`DONNELL: It seems to go to that old organizational theory, Stuart, that
every organization resembles its head.
STEVENS: Well, you know, Trump has had this chaotic management style
apparently when he was in business. And I think that works well when you`re
running a relatively small operation like the Trump organization. But
presidential campaigns are billion-dollar start-ups and it`s always
difficult to have control over everything that`s happening. But in - in
every campaign I`ve ever worked in - presidential campaign I`ve done I
guess five of them now.
Some point early on a very serious lawyer set you down and said this is
what you do, this is what you don`t do and this is what happens when you do
this stuff that you shouldn`t do and it`s bad. And that`s just never
seemed have happened here with any of this stuff. The – the sort of
inexplicable reason that when they were contacted for that meeting that
they had in Trump tower that – with the Russians that a lawyer didn`t
intervene in that and head this off.
O`DONNELL: Well, very serious lawyers are sitting them all down now.
Stuart Stevens, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
STEVENS: Good to see you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Welcome back. Thank you, Stuart. Tonight`s last word is next.
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