Trump attorneys send Bannon Cease and desist Transcript 1/3/18 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: January 3, 2018
Guest: Ron Klain, David Frum
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And as you can see, the beard is gone. I know you voted for the beard but
let me just tell you. As I told you, the vote out there in Twitter
universe was kind of equal for and against.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Yes.
O`DONNELL: But the voters voting against it frequently used two words that
were very disturbing to me. One of the words was older.
O`DONNELL: It was very disturbing. And the other even more disturbing was
the word Bannon.
O`DONNELL: And this is no night to look like Steve Bannon. No, not
tonight, Rachel. No. This is not the night.
MADDOW: You know what? Even if you put on three shirts and you rose (ph)
the end of your nose, and you grew your hair weird, you couldn`t look like
Steve Bannon beard or not no matter what you ever did, Lawrence O`Donnell.
Don`t let anybody scare you into that.
O`DONNELL: I don`t think anyone can.
And, Rachel, I want to go back to what you were reporting earlier in the
show about Rod Rosenstein going up to the speaker of the House today. This
is fascinating. We know very little about it but you framed it as fully as
we can understand it. Here, he faced this request, subpoena, demand from
Devin Nunes to produce documents basically the full FBI investigation as we
MADDOW: At least very sensitive parts of it, yes.
O`DONNELL: Yes, very much so. And they apparently it seems like the FBI
director and Rod Rosenstein were simply going over Nunes head to the
speaker apparently making the case about why they shouldn`t comply.
MADDOW: That`s what it seems like from a distance. I mean, there`s a
number of really unusual things about this.
Number one, we didn`t know in advance at all that this was going to happen.
Number two, our reporting is until that meeting happened the DOJ really was
planning on handing over information to Nunes in response to that request,
which – and we know what he requested. We requested very, very sensitive
stuff in the middle of the investigation and we know that the Department of
Justice didn`t then hand that information over after that meeting happened.
So, again, we don`t know what happened inside that room. Source familiar
with the meeting tells us that the topic of conversation was the Russia
investigation for sure. So, I don`t know what – I mean, we`ll have to
see. Devin Nunes is the head of the intelligence committee. He could not
be a more controversial figure in that role given this Russia
But Paul Ryan has really been able to stay out of the fray on everything
related to Russia. If he has just been prevailed upon by the FBI director
and the de facto attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation to
get in Nunes way and instead do this by some other means, that`s a – just
a very big development. Very big deal in terms of who the personnel are
involved in this and who`s in charge.
O`DONNELL: And early in this story, last year, Devin Nunes was consulting
with Paul Ryan on various steps that he is going to take as they went along
and see what happens with this one.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel, very much.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Appreciate it.
Well, the president of the United States is a weak man with an enfeebled
mind, incapable of reading, incapable of listening, controlled by vanity
that compels him to create an elaborate hairdo with the perimeter hairs of
his surgically reduced skull, a hairdo whose mission is to cover the shiny
bald dome on the top of his head. He does not allow the White House
housekeeping staff to change the sheets on his bed until he has himself
stripped the bed of the used sheets, perhaps in fear of anyone working in
the White House discovering that he might suffer from what? Incontinence?
It is common for the president to be in bed eating hamburgers at 6:30 p.m.
than calling people who he thinks are his friends and acquaintances to
complain about these White House advisers, including son-in-law, none of
whom think that – none of whom does the president think are as smart as he
thinks he is himself. But in a briefing about the United States
Constitution, the briefer had to give up by the time he got to the Fourth
Amendment because Donald Trump`s attention span was spent.
Unfortunately for the president, it is the Fifth Amendment that has now
become the most important part of the Constitution to many of his staff
under investigation by a special prosecutor. Such is the picture of the
president of the United States delivered in a new book today by Michael
Wolff called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
The president`s reaction today to what Steve Bannon says about him in that
book came down to this. He lost his mind. The president whose mental
health has received a negative diagnosis from 27 psychiatrists and mental
health professionals in a book published last year is now defending himself
against this new book by offering a mental health diagnosis of Steve
Bannon. He lost his mind.
But this is just day one of the publicity generated by this explosive book
which also shows Rupert Murdoch hanging up the phone after a conversation
with President Trump and saying, what an f-ing idiot.
No word on Donald Trump`s reaction to that yet. Has Rupert Murdoch lost
his mind? Has Ivanka Trump lost her mind? Is that why she`s described in
the book making fun of the way her father painstakingly arranges what`s
left of his hair? To cover what she says is an enormous bald spot on the
top of his head made somewhat smaller by surgical scalp reduction. Is he
going to say that his daughter lost her mind by telling that story?
If everyone in this book who says something negative about Donald Trump is
out of his mind, then they are all out of their minds, all the president`s
men and all the president`s women. The president`s wife who still has not
held that press conference that the president promised during the campaign
in which she would explain the legal records of her immigration history
criticized the book today through a spokesperson, calling it trashy tabloid
fiction because it reports that Melania Trump was distraught and in tears
when Donald Trump won the Electoral College on election night, something no
one in Trump world expected to happen and something no one in Trump world
apparently wanted to happen, very much including Melania Trump.
Michael Flynn is quoted in the book as telling friends that the $45,000 he
took from Russians for a speech was nothing to worry about because, quote,
it would only be a problem if we won. The book insists that everyone in
Trump world on Election Day was planning the lives and the incomes they
believed they would earn by coming in second. Donald Trump Jr. is quoted
in the book as saying that when his father had realized he`d won the
Electoral College, he looked as if he had seen a ghost.
This book is the story of incompetence, running an incompetent presidential
campaign for an incompetent candidate who then becomes an incompetent and
dangerous president. The book quotes Steve Bannon as calling the meeting
that Donald Trump Jr. arranged during the campaign in Trump Tower a group
of Russians that was attended by Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort as
Bannon says they`re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV. One
of the sources for the book is Katie Walsh who served as the White House
deputy chief of staff in the first couple of months of the Trump White
House. Here`s how Michael Wolff delivers Katie Walsh`s view of the
He didn`t process information in any conventional sense. He didn`t read.
He didn`t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes,
he was no more than semi-literate.
He trusted his own expertise no matter how paltry or irrelevant, more than
anyone else`s, he was often confident but he was just as often paralyzed,
less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities whose
response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was,
in fact, in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was,
said Walsh, like trying to figure out what a child wants.
Joining us now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and
MSNBC, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for “The Washington Post” and
MSNBC contributor. Also with us, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice
Presidents Joe Biden, Al Gore, former senior aide to President Obama.
And, John Heilemann, you`ve had some very good sources overtime in Trump
world during the campaign. Is what you`re reading in Michael Wolff`s
reporting an echo of what you were hearing with the same kind of access?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS & MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that
there`s a couple different things going on in the book. One of which is
that I think the broad picture he paints of where they were on election
night, what their expectations were for how election night was going to
turn out and what people were planning for, which was to say not winning
and how they were going to go on and try to capitalize, in particular, the
insight that Trump saw losing as being in some ways better than winning, is
HEILEMANN: I think that there is also an extraordinary number of – an
extraordinary amount of delicious score settling going on in the book and
you can`t read much of what Bannon says in the book, fascinating as meta
news as much as news because it is a measure of someone who has decided
where this presidency`s headed, what its limits are and has decided that
he`s ready to cut his losses and so, he`s making various distinctions,
taking various shots at – some deserved shots – but at people like Don
Jr., people like Jared Kushner, people he`s never liked, respected he`s
But all with a sense that the presidency is likely is imperiled for sure.
And that history is now on the side of those bailing on Donald Trump rather
than sticking with him and that`s an interesting thing because Steve Bannon
for all of the maladies is not a dumb guy.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, obviously, once again, something we have never
seen anything like this, former White House adviser leaving the White House
like this and then giving this kind of information about the inside of the
White House but it`s not just Steve Bannon. I mean, Steve Bannon is the
headline today. It is every single person working in that White House that
Michael Wolff had access to has something negative to say about this
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, it`s
incredible, Lawrence. I mean, you know, there`s the old (INAUDIBLE) of
Eskimos who are so exposed to winter, they have 23 words for snow. And the
thing that strikes you in this book is, that whether it`s Mnuchin or
McMaster, or Cohn, everyone around Trump either calls him dumb or stupid or
an idiot. It`s like they have 23 different words for moron.
I mean, it is astonishing portrait of the president as an idiot, as an
incompetent. Not by his political foes, not by enemies, not by people like
me, but by the people who are closest to him who worked with him every
single day in the White House. And that`s what you see when you read the
excerpts from this book.
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan Capehart, Maggie Haberman is reporting in “The
New York Times” tonight new rule for the White House. As of next week,
West Wing staffers have been told they can`t use personal cell phones
anymore per multiple aides. They were told this early in the term but it`s
now being enforced with security concerns being cited. And, Jonathan, no
doubt with leaking concerns being cited.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, I mean, at the end of “The
New York” magazine adaptation of Michael Wolff`s book, he put in there that
he talked to more than 200 interviews including the president and in some
of these – in the stories about the book and in the adaptation of the book
is made clear that probably the biggest leaker of all was the president of
the United States. And in regard to the new rule that`s come down at the
White House about the use of personal cell phones, it seems like that that
rule has come a little too late.
And also what is cell phone use going to matter when we all know now that
Michael Wolff basically set up a card table, a little desk there in the
West Wing lobby because he had such access to the West Wing, to the
administration in order to write what we`re all talking about now and
that`s his book?
O`DONNELL: And, John, there`s one passage in here about a phone call that
Michael Wolff does not identify who`s on the receiving end of this
presidential phone call from Donald Trump but he know that is it`s 26
minutes and he reports it as if line by line. It reads as if it was
Michael Wolff on the other end of the phone call and we know that he had
access to President Trump. He did a profile of him during the campaign, in
the middle of the campaign.
And so, it could well be that Donald Trump is one of the major sources of
HEILEMANN: It does. Look, one of the realities that Michael Wolff
captures in this book is this picture of the president in a separate
bedroom from Melania Trump, unusual arrangement that we haven`t seen I
believe since the days of John Kennedy, sitting in his bed, eating those
cheeseburgers. I have no problem with eating cheeseburgers in the bed, by
the way. It`s one thing I approve of the Donald Trump`s behavior as
reported in the book but – and making these endless phone calls.
Again, we saw that. Bill Clinton used to do this, too. Not the bed thing
but the late night calls, calling people to stay connected to the world.
Trump does that. There are probably a lot of people who he had 26-minute
phone calls with.
The question and when Michael Wolff starts doing interviews for the book
that people will have to ask is, are the quotation marks around that
interview, are those real, or not? Because if they`re real, one of two
things is true, either the phone call was with Michael Wolff or someone
else recorded the telephone call.
HEILEMANN: Or, as I say, the quotation marks are improperly used. If
they`re probably used, though, there`s got to be an answer to that
question. We`re not going to have – no one is going to maybe – kind of
to force him to say who the person was, but there are some questions about
But my guess is that that call is similar to 100 other calls that Trump
made in that time frame. It has the ring of truth to it whether or not the
words are precisely right or not. It feels very much like the kind of
ventings and there`s kind of grievances that Trump was expressing to a lot
of people that I have heard about from many sources over the course of the
O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, a lot of it is about how he criticizes his own
staff, including Jared Kushner. He`s got either an adjective or something
negative to say about every one of them in these kinds of phone calls that
we`re reading about in this book. And so, this is an unusual form of late
night presidential phone call to put it mildly.
KLAIN: Yes. I mean, obviously, if one theme of the book is that the
president`s senior staff thinks he`s an idiot, another theme of the book is
that the president thinks his senior staff is full of idiots. And so,
that`s not a very pretty picture either way.
O`DONNELL: It is possible they can both be right.
KLAIN: It is possible.
O`DONNELL: They can both be right.
KLAIN: Definitely. We could be backing the same rule of it takes one to
know one and that could be what we`re seeing in this book.
But, look, I do think – I mean, I agree with what John Heilemann said
earlier. There`s a lot of Bannon score-settling here and it has to be
taken with a grain of salt, but it is stunning. I mean, really stunning
that the president`s chief strategist says that the president`s campaign
engaged in act of treason. And we have never seen anything like that
And again, that`s not what Hillary Clinton`s chief strategist said today.
That`s not what Barack Obama`s chief strategist said today. Donald Trump`s
chief strategist who helped direct this campaign said that the campaign was
engaged in treason. And that is something that really can`t be brushed
away very lightly at all.
O`DONNELL: And, Jonathan Capehart, we have the video ready to go, but we
all remember it, so we won`t bother showing it. Donald Trump during the
campaign telling everyone, I have the best people. I have the best people.
I hire the best people.
This book “Fire and Fury” is the first story about the operation of the
best people inside of this White House.
CAPEHART: Yes. And those best people as we`ve known from the very
beginning and it`s been great to see it in print were stabbing each other
in the back, in the front, in print, on air. The picture that Michael
Wolff paints is so chaotic. It`s so disturbing, that you just wonder how
have we made it a year without the wheels completely flying off this bus?
I`m – I`m not sure.
And I can`t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book because if “The New
York Magazine” adaptation is just a taste of what`s in the overall book, it
could be – the probables that I see for the White House in this, they`re
personal problems, political problems, and legal problems that come out
from this book. I just wonder how much deeper do those problems go when
you get the full picture, when you get a chance to read the entire book.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, I`ve got the entire book right here in my hands. If
you`re here in New York, I`d let you have it overnight.
CAPEHART: You`d give it to me?
O`DONNELL: We`re going to be talking about a lot of this throughout the
hour. And I just want to point out within thing to the audience in
reaction to what you just said, Jonathan, about the portrait that Michael
Wolff paints. As a painter, what he is doing is handing the paint brush to
everyone in the Trump White House to do their own painting of each other.
And so, it is – what we know about these people in this book is from other
Trump people in this book talking about them. So, it really isn`t Michael
Wolff inserting a view of what`s happening there. I`m going to take a
Jonathan Capehart, Jon Heilemann, thank you both for joining us. Really
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Steve Bannon has a lot to say, a lot more to say in
this book about special prosecutor`s investigation.
And also later, a Trump biographer will join us to take a look inside the
mind of Donald Trump. Tonight, as he reacts to this new book that`s
ripping the roof off of his White House.
O`DONNELL: The first major book from inside the Trump White House exploded
today and went to number one on the Amazon bestseller list a week before
it`s scheduled to be published. Some of us in the news media have obtained
copies of the book in which the president is described as an idiot, a dope
and dumb as – a shirt.
And not one Republican in Washington stood up today and said that`s not
true. That`s not the Donald Trump I know. The Donald Trump I know is not
an idiot, not a dope and not dumb as –
And not one Republican stepped forward to defend Donald Trump against the
labels, all of which applied to Donald Trump in the book by members of
Donald Trump`s own staff.
Michael Wolff`s book “Fire and Fury” says this about how the Trump staff
views the president. For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an
idiot. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as. For H.R. McMaster, he was a dope.
The list went on.
An e-mail that the book describes as purportedly representing the views of
Gary Cohn, White House economic adviser, said Trump won`t read anything.
Not one page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up
halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his
staff is no better.
Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant –
who thinks he is smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a
collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his
family. I hate the work. But feel I need to stay because I`m the only
person there with a clue what he`s doing. I am in a constant state of
shock and horror.
Republicans continued to hide under their blankets in their cribs today as
the president tweets us ever closer to nuclear war with North Korea. Here
is a sample of the Republican reaction to the president`s demented tweet
last night about his nuclear button being bigger than North Korea`s nuclear
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Well, I don`t have a comment on the
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I have a standard rule of thumb which is I don`t
comment on tweets.
SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, it`s – it`s a style I have never
seen before. But it`s a way of communicating back and forth and he is the
president. He`s chose to do that. So that`s – I don`t prejudge it. I
just – hopefully, it has good results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us in the discussion now, David Frum, senior editor for
David, so the first inside the White House report in depth on Donald Trump
and his staff has pretty much unanimous view inside the White House that
Donald Trump is an idiot, a dope or some other word like that.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I`m so glad you linked it
to the Korea tweet because the question I think everyone needs to think
about tonight is, is this a government under which you are comfortable
going to war? Because it does seem that we are moving toward a preventive
war in the Korean peninsula. And a preventive war, by the way, without
even the support of South Korea which has been driven steadily away from
the Trump presidency.
And it is so important to understand that when Donald Trump says these
things, you know, for us they`re the second story after the latest news
from inside the White House. But in Asia, they`re the tweet is the top
story and in South Korea, of course, tens of millions of people live within
cannon range of North Korea`s weaponry, it must be an utterly dominant and
O`DONNELL: Inside the book, there`s all sorts of reports about how Donald
Trump reacted to different people and different personnel. He absolutely
detested H.R. McMaster in first meeting, saying that he was incredibly
boring and didn`t want to see him again.
And then, when eventually went along with appointing him, he saw H.R.
McMaster on “MORNING JOE”, where H.R. McMaster apparently to Trump`s taste
did a good job and at that point he thought, oh, this guy`s OK because he
was good on TV. And that was the ultimate performance place for Donald –
in Donald Trump`s mind for national security adviser.
FRUM: Well, congratulations. You may have a new job.
The president in this book, David, is as we said – is the president who`s
tweeting us ever closer to a nuclear exchange with North Korea. And if
Republicans as they weren`t clearly concerned about the president prior to
today, do you see anything in this book that should change the Republican
attitude toward the president on Capitol Hill?
FRUM: Well, they`re like – they`re like handcuffed men or men in a chain
gang that are being dragged in directions they don`t want to go. I just
want to clarify. I don`t think we`re moving toward nuclear war in the
Korean peninsula because it`s not going to be possible even to contemplate
without the support of allies in South Korea and Japan, and we are losing
What Donald Trump`s policy is really doing is convincing people in South
Korea that the United States is unreliable and dangerous. And what Donald
Trump is every day telling the people of South Korea, every time he tweets,
hey, China can solve this problem. If you`re a thinking South Korean you
have to wonder, then why are we looking to you for protection? We don`t
want to fight a war with North Korea. We want someone to restrain North
Korea and Donald Trump daily tells the people of South Korea, look to China
Well, China is closer, China is bigger, and they make end up taking the
president`s advice and there collapses the whole American-led alliance
structure in northeast Asia.
O`DONNELL: But Donald Trump still has what he calls the nuclear button.
FRUM: Well, there is that.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming, Trump biographer will join us to discuss what`s going
through Donald Trump`s mind tonight, as his life inside the White House,
including how he does his hair has been exposed in this new book. Exposed
by his staff and exposed by his own family members.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Today Deputy Attorney General Rod
Rosenstein met with Speaker Paul Ryan and FBI Director Christopher Wray
about the House Intelligence Committees Russia investigation. The meeting
was held at Rod Rosenstein`s request in the Speaker`s office according to
Politico. The meeting was related to a document request issued over the
summer by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
Today was the deadline that Congressman Nunes gave Deputy Attorney General
Rosenstein to comply with subpoenas and documents request related to the
Justice Department and FBI`s handling of the Steele Dossier and the
resulting investigation. We just learned that Congressman Nunes says his
committee has an agreement now with the Department of Justice to get the
information that he wants. The Hill reports an a letter to Rosenstein last
week Nunes blasted the department`s initial response says disingenuous at
best claiming at this point it seems the DOJ and FBI need to be
In Michael Wolff`s book, Steve Bannon focuses on another point for
Congressional investigators looking into Russia`s interference in the 2016
election. The meeting the Trump campaign officials had with a Russian
lawyer at Trump Tower in June of 2016. In the book Bannon calls that
meeting treasonous and unpatriotic. He says Donald Trump Jr. And Jared
Kushner and Paul Manafort “should have called the FBI immediately even if
you didn`t think to do that, and you`re totally amoral, and you wanted that
information, you do it in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with
your lawyers and then you figure out how to dump it down to Breitbart or
something like that or maybe some other more legitimate publication” Then
it goes on to say the chance that Don Jr. didn`t walk these people up to
his father`s office on the 26th floor is zero.
The Russian lawyer involved in that meeting at Trump Tower told NBC News
today that she and her Russian colleagues did not meet with Donald Trump
that day in Trump Tower. Joining us now, Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney
for the Northern District of Alabama and a Professor of University of
Alabama Law School and also back with us, Ron Klain. And, Joyce, one of
the things about all of the reporting in this book involving Steve Bannon
and others, I think one of the things that`s going to be contested in the
coming weeks, is how much of it is on tape, how much of it is clearly
reliable reporting because in these kinds of situations if it`s not on tape
I would imagine everyone in the Trump side of the world will just claim
they didn`t say the things that are attributed to them.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that`s absolutely true, Lawrence.
And the book starts with the very interesting disclaimer where the author
says that he`s not really sure how much of what`s being told in the book is
credible. In some cases there were conflicting opinions and other cases he
says that he was able to reach what he thought was more reliable version of
events. So it`s important to remember that although this is, you know,
journalism and this is reporting, it is not admissible evidence in the
court of law and the big inquiry for Bob Mueller is whether it`s credible,
whether it`s reliable. He`ll use it more as a way of finding new leads and
new sources to chase down rather than as reliable information.
O`DONNELL: Joyce, I would imagine that the prosecutor`s office wants a
copy of the book immediately and would be reading it an studying it for any
possible interviews they might be doing with people like Bannon and others
mentioned in the book in the future.
VANCE: Absolutely. It is – you know, one thing that prosecutors really
like is to have as much information as possible about people before they
talk to them because that way you can really – the whole prosecutorial
function to try to get to the truth of matters. So the more you know the
more you ask people questions and ultimately get to what went on in a
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, it is starting to sound like Devin Nunes came to
agreement tonight or Paul Ryan came to some agreement with Rod Rosenstein
and the FBI Director on exactly how they should respond and how much they
should respond to what Devin Nunes wants to know about that dossier.
RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. I mean it would be curious to see the
next few days how it plays out. what Nunes asked for was essentially the
most confrontation and internal working documents of the Mueller
prosecution and if Rosenstein and Wray had turned those over really would
have sabotaged Mueller`s prosecution because we know that Nunes basically
would walk that material down to Donald Trump and just give it a way to the
people being investigated.
We need to see what exactly Rosenstein and Wray agreed to tonight, what`s
going to be provided in the days ahead to understand how much damage has or
hasn`t been done to this investigation. You know, in the end as Joyce said,
it is not fire or fury that`s going to be the heart of Mueller`s
investigation. It going to be facts. And there are interesting facts in
that book. There`s interesting facts coming out and I think that`s what we
should see play out in the next few days.
O`DONNELL: Joyce, I want to go to some of Steve Bannon`s comments in the
book about the special prosecutor`s investigation. He says this according
to Michael Wolff. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose
Weissman first and he is a money laundering guy. Their path to Trump goes
right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner.
It`s as plain as the hair on your face. it Goes through Deutsche Bank and
all the Kushner. They`re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or
trade me. What do you make of Bannon`s reading of the investigation?
VANCE: We`ve always known that Mueller had a heavy focus in this area.
And it`s important to remember that the public doesn`t know everything
that`s going on in this investigation. It`s sort of like a duck swimming
across a pond and all you see of said before is the top of the duck`s body
when in fact what prosecutors are doing are the feet frantically paddling
beneath the surface of the water.
There`s a lot going on here that we don`t know about it. Money laundering
has always seemed like a very likely prospect for Bob Mueller both because
he hired folks on to his team like Andrew Weissmann, people with a lot of
expertise in the area but also because we heard these little tidbits along
Real estate sales in Florida that appeared to take on large profit margins
in very small periods of time. Some other interesting tidbits that led
you to believe that there might be a money laundering line to the story
and, of course, more recently, the Deutsch Bank subpoena story that we are
hearing that Deutsch Bank has received subpoenas either for Trump`s
personal records or records of people close to him. That seems to give more
heft to that, as well.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain I want to you to put your political hat on for a
second. There is a Trump versus Bannon war that is now under way. This is
something that Mitch McConnell`s been dreaming about, he`s been hoping
Donald Trump would break with Mitch McConnell. You couldn`t ask for a
bigger break than today.
Donald Trump saying that Steve Bannon has lost his mind. What are the
politics of this for Republicans in Washington?
KLAIN: Well, I think it`s a disaster for Republicans for a couple reasons.
One, Steve Bannon still has the powerful Breitbart machine at the disposal
and if he turns that from being Trump`s mouthpiece to really going at war
with Trump, that`s a problem and it`s going to divide even some of the more
conservative people. And obviously we know that the President who has the
attention span of a gnat or whatever, you know, for him to be distracted by
a war with someone who knows a lot of his secrets, who was the Chief
Strategist of the campaign, that`s just got to be an enormous distraction
for a person who can ill afford any distractions at all. So I think, you
know, you see this potentially cataclysmic battle of the President and the
former Chief Strategist, a nightmare of Trump and all Republicans in
O`DONNELL: Ron, we know according to this book the President`s attention
span when briefed on the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments of the
constitution extended all the way to the beginning of the fourth amendment
and not beyond that.
KLAIN: Yes and I Even doubt that because I doubt they briefed him on the
first amendment the way Donald Trump acts as president.
O`DONNELL: That`s right. It doesn`t sound like they did. Ron Klain thank
you very much for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, how Steve Bannon says he saved Robert Mueller`s job
when Donald Trump wanted to fire him.
O`DONNELL: In Michael Wolff`s book Fire and Fury Steve Bannon is reported
to have said this is how he talked President Trump out of trying to fire
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. If he fires Mueller it just brings the
impeachment quicker. Why not? Let`s do it. Let`s get it on. why not?
What am going to do? Am I going to go in and save him. He`s Donald Trump.
He`s always going to do things. He wants an un-recues Attorney General. I
told him if Jeff Sessions goes, Rod Rosenstein goes, and then Rachel Brand
goes, we`ll be digging down into Obama career guys and Obama guy will be
acting Attorney General. I said you`re not going to get Rudy because he was
on the campaign and we`ll have to recues himself and Chris Christie, too,
those are emasculatory fantasies.
Get those out of your brain. Back with us is former U.S. Attorney Joyce
Vance. And Joyce no one confirmed the content of the book and I think the
next week or so there`s going to be discussions of exactly what is
confirmable about what is in this book. But that account of Steve Bannon`s
explaining to Donald Trump what would happen seems like a pretty accurate
sequence of what would happen if he tried to fire the Special Prosecutor.
VANCE: I think that that`s fair enough. Firing Bob Mueller would not have
a good outcome in terms of the longstanding value of this presidency.
O`DONNELL: And I want to go to something – another development in the
case today that could be an obstruction to the Special Prosecutor and that
is Paul Manafort actually suing the Department of Justice, suing Rod
Rosenstein and suing the Special Prosecutor saying that the investigation
has veered in an unconstitutional direction.
Their civil complaint says that the Special Prosecutor was granted the
authority to pursue any matter that is arose or may arise directly from the
investigation. But that that grant exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein`s
authority to appoint a Special Counsel as well as the specific restrictions
on the scope of such appointments. And so, Joyce, they are looking for an
injunction basically to stop the investigation from going in certain
directions. What do you think of the legal prospects of this?
VANCE: So to be polite I would call this lawsuit an absolute and total
loser. It`s not going anyplace. Not only does Manafort likely not have
standing to sue, the lawsuit itself is really pretty silly in light of Rod
Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General`s testimony last week that he stays
in consultation with Mueller. That Mueller has maintained really strict
compliance with the grant of authority given to him when he was appointed
as Special Counsel. And so once you have Rosenstein saying that he is
comfortable, that his assessment is that Mueller within the grant of
authority, this lawsuit can`t really go anywhere.
What`s a little bit curious about it is that it should have been filed if
at all if there was any substance to it you would have expected to see it
filed as a motion to dismiss the criminal case. But this was filed as a
second separate civil action looks a little bit like Manafort wanted a
second bite at the apple here but it is not going anywhere.
O`DONNELL: And, Joyce, what are the odds – I mean, I think you make it
clear but a civil judge in a civil courtroom with this civil complaint
reaching over to interfere with – through injunctive authority a criminal
VANCE: Extremely unlikely and given the local rules in this court, both
cases are filed in the District of Columbia, the Federal District Court,
the trial level court, one would expect to see the civil case potentially
reassigned to the same judge who has the criminal case so that they can be
disposed of together.
O`DONNELL: Apparently we have some breaking news tonight. Trump`s
attorneys have sent Steve Bannon a cease and desist letter saying that the
letter sent Wednesday night demands that he refrain from making disparaging
comments against the President and his family. What conceivable legal
grounds would they have for a cease and desist letter like that?
VANCE: Tough to figure. The President is a public figure. That means that
he can`t sue people for libel. People who are public figures are called
libel proof so nothing in that area. There`s perhaps some other torts that
is he might want to pursue. But ultimately, this looks a lot more like
posturing than actual lawyering.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break. We`ll be back with more right
O`DONNELL: We`re back with more on this breaking news development. ABC
News is reporting tonight that warriors on behalf of President Trump have
sent a letter to former Whitehouse Chief Strategist Steven Bannon demanding
he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his
family. The letter seems to indicate that Steve Bannon has breached a
confidentiality agreement. It says having breached the agreement among
other things about President Trump, his family members and the company,
meaning the campaign, disclosing confidential information to Mr. Wolff and
making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory
statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump and his family members, saying all
of that is a violation of a confidentiality agreement that Steve Bannon,
according to this letter, signed with the Trump campaign.
We are joined by Tim O`Brien, the Executive Editor of Bloomberg view and
author of Trump Nation, the art of being the Donald. One of Donald Trump`s
biographies. Joyce Vance, former Federal Prosecutor is back with us. And
Joyce I just wanted go to the legal points here. This is fascinating thing
because they`re saying that he signed a confidentiality agreement, non
disparaging agreement for the campaign. So there`s the legal question of
how much of this interviewing was done after the campaign.
And then there`s also the problem of you might have this signed agreement
with him, but for practical purposes you don`t really have a legal remedy
because the only way to stop him from violating this agreement is to take
him into court and sue him, in which case all of this stuff becomes public.
VANCE: Absolutely. And the devil is the in the details on these
agreements. As you point out it could be that it only applied during the
campaign. Hard to imagine that it would apply during the actual run of the
administration, because everything that happened, of course, during an
administration is public record is fair game, in some sense.
So there`ll be that issue of what did the details look like even if the
President did want to try to pursue this. And then we hear that Mr. Wolff
had a great deal of access, the President himself gave him permission to
have these conversations. So it may be Bannon may have an argument he was
having these conversations pursuant to the President`s agreement and that
would make it difficult to maintain he violated a nondisclosure agreement.
O`DONNELL: And Tim O`brien, we`ve been saying all night no one has
confirmed the contents of Michael Wolff`s book. NBC News has not confirmed
any the contents. We`ve been discussing it on that unconfirmed basis. This
letter tonight from the Trump lawyers is as much confirmation as they could
possibly supply, they are saying to Steven Bannon you have indeed supplied
all these disparaging statements in this book and that you`ve done it in
violation of this nondisclosure agreement that you had with the campaign.
TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And Bannon himself hasn`t pushed back on
any of this stuff all day.
O`DONNELL: Bannon had all day to say I didn`t say it.
O`BRIEN: And there were other members of the Trump orbit who did stand up
today and say they were misquoted, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn`t a
peep from Bannon in the most damaging claims in Micheal`s book come from
Bannon himself. Go ahead.
O`DONNELL: And I was going to say sue is always the first thought of
Donald Trump. Well I expect that you detect Donald Trump in this cease and
desist order tonight.
O`BRIEN: Right and I think the President often forgets as his life has
progressed he`s increasingly become the most public of public figures. The
free speech standards around him are deep and powerful. I don`t know what
legal ground he has to stand onto try to issue a cease and desist to Bannon
and in fact it`s counter productive because you know earlier it only gives
more gravitas to Bannon`s claims.
O`DONNELL: And joyce, there`s no such thing, of course, in the Federal
Government this notion of working in the Whitehouse and signing some sort
of personal nondisclosure, civil kind of agreement like this that they were
VANCE: In fact, you know, we`ve heard this controversy about the
President`s Tweets when early on he was deleting tweets. And the reason we
heard that controversy is because these are all public record documents,
written communications are preserved in many cases, even oral conversations
will be noted and preserved. Part of the foundational principles of our
government is all of these conversations except within the scope of
executive privilege which is narrow is available but for historians and
also citizens can fully understand and appreciate what`s going on in their
O`DONNELL: And here`s an example of some of the disparaging comments in
the book that the President and his lawyers are trying to stop. Steve
Bannon already said this and it`s already in the book, talking about
Ivanka, Trump, and Jared Kushner. She was a non event on the campaign.
She became a Whitehouse staffer and that`s when people suddenly realized
she`s dumb as a brick, a little marketing savvy and has look.
But as far as understanding actually how the world works and what politics
is and what it means, nothing. Once you expose that you lose such
credibility. Jared just kind of flips in and does the Arab stuff. And Tim
that certainly sounds like Steve Bannon speaking in the Whitehouse pass the
jurisdiction of any civil non disclosure form that he have signed for the
O`BRIEN: You know, it`s never been hard to get close to Donald Trump. He
has given carte blanche to reporters over the years endlessly. This is not
a new phenomenon. And I think Bannon essentially has been given the get out
of jail free card by the President because it would seem the President
empowered every one in this Whitehouse to talk to Micheal Wolff at willy-
O`DONNELL: Let`s see. We got a new lawyers statement saying legal action
is imminent. This is from Charles Harder, saying the law firm represents
President Donald J. Trump and Donad J. Trump for President Inc. On behalf
of our clients, legal notice were issued today to Steven K. Bannon that his
actions communicating to author Michael Wolff regarding the upcoming book
give rise to numeroud legal claims including defamation by libel and
slander and breach of his written confidentiality and non disparagement
agreement with our client.
Legal action is imminent. And Joyce Vance, I think we can be sure legal
action is not imminent. This is as empty a lawyer threat as I have ever
held in my hands. These words are out there. They`re in the book and now
what Donald Trump seems to be doing through his lawyers is confirming his
own personal belief that Steve Bannon did indeed say all of these words to
VANCE: It`s Seems like a safe bet legal action is not imminent here.
O`DONNELL: And again, Joyce, just to go through it, one of the reasons for
that is the damage is all done to them. It`s all in the book. There is
nothing they`ll be able to do through civil action to get that book
removed, and to engage in a lawsuit with Steve Bannon allows Steve Bannon
to immediately subpoena Donald Trump as a witness, to subpoena Ivanka Trump
as a witness, Jared Kushner as a witness for depositions and all this sort
of stuff for years on end.
VANCE: Yeah, that`s absolutely right. You know I remember many years ago
when Pat Robertson was running for the presidency, and he sued a couple of
sitting Congressmen and a former Congressmen for liable over his Vietnam
War record. And that became a process for him because everybody was able to
depose him. He was deposed at length. Some unpleasant truths came out and
ultimately he terminated that lawsuit saying that it was inconsistent with
continuing to run his campaign. That experience would only be magnified
for President Trump who would see everyone around him subpoenaed for
O`DONNELL. And Tim the last time Donald Trump threatened a lawsuit he say
lying. He said he would sue all the women who alleged of sexual assault and
sexual harassment during the campaign. He of course was lying about that
and did not dare sue any one.
O`BRIEN: And he also threatened the New York Times. I think one of the
things to remember is that a threat of a lawsuit from Donald Trump usually
doesn`t amount to much of saber rattling. He rarely follows through. Thanks
O`DONNELL. We`re going to have to leave it there. Tim O`Brien and Joyce
Vance thank you both for sticking with us tonight, really appreciate it.
That`s it. That is Tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour starts now.
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