DeVos visits Parkland School. TRANSCRIPT: 03/07/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: March 7, 2018
Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Michael Avenatti
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari.
You`re going to have to text me your questions for Stormy Daniels`s lawyer.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, “THE BEAT”: I`ll do it.
O`DONNELL: I mean, I`ve got a bunch, but I need more from you.
MELBER: I`ll do. I`ll do it right now.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Ari.
We will get to that. We will get to the Stormy Daniels` lawyer`s story,
what he has to tell us.
But first, the big question of the night is, has the president been trying
to obstruct justice by interfering with witnesses in the special
prosecutor`s investigation? President Trump, we all remember, was turned
down by all of the best Washington lawyers when he went shopping for a
criminal defense lawyer to deal with the special prosecutor`s investigation
and congressional investigations. The best lawyers turned Donald Trump
down because of his public reputation of not doing what his lawyers tell
him to do and not paying his bills.
And tonight, we have more evidence of just how right those Washington
lawyers were about Donald Trump when they turned him down. The president
keeps doing things that lawyers normally don`t have to advise their clients
not to do, like attacking the federal prosecutor who is investigating him
and attacking the Justice Department and the entire FBI because they are
investigating him. It wouldn`t occur to Washington lawyers to tell their
clients do not attack the prosecutors or the lawyers or the FBI or the
But it does occur to every lawyer, every lawyer, to tell their clients not
to talk about the case with anyone, especially not to talk about the case
with other potential witnesses and people involved in the case. But Donald
Trump has done that, and he has done that repeatedly and that is tonight`s
breaking news story in the “New York Times”, which carries the headline,
Trump spoke to witnesses about matters they discussed with special counsel.
“The New York Times” reports on the president`s reaction after “The Times”
published an article in January which revealed for the first time that
White House counsel Don McGahn told special prosecutor that the president
had asked him to fire the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. After that
story became public, “The Times” reports, the president told an aide that
the White House council, Donald F. McGahn II should issue a statement
denying “The New York Times” article.
“The Times” also reports the president asked his former chief of staff
Reince Priebus how his interview was with the special counsel`s
investigators. “The Times” report contains an extraordinary and detailed
description of how the president tried to get Don McGahn to change his
story. This would amount to changing his testimony. It shows how the
president deliberately involved other White House staff, including White
House Chief of Staff John Kelly, in the president`s attempt to get Don
McGahn to change his testimony.
One of the staff members who did the president`s bidding in this episode
was John Kelly`s favorite staff member and Hope Hicks boyfriend, Rob
Porter, who has since left the White House after it was revealed that his
two former wives both accused him of domestic abuse. “The New York Times”
reports Rob Porter told Mr. McGahn that the president wanted him to release
a statement saying that the story was not true. Mr. Porter who resigned
last month amid a domestic abuse scandal told Mr. McGahn that the president
had suggested that he might get rid of Mr. McGahn if he chose not to
challenge the article the people briefed on the conversation said.
Mr. McGahn did not publicly deny the article and the president later
confronted him in the Oval Office, in front of the chief of staff, John F.
Kelly, according to the people, the president said he never ordered Mr.
McGahn to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn replied that the president
was wrong and that he had, in fact, asked Mr. McGahn in June to call the
deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell him that the special
counsel had a series of conflicts that disqualified him from overseeing the
investigation and he had to be dismissed.
The president told Mr. McGahn that he did not remember the discussion that
way. And so, there you have the president of the United States, in the
Oval Office, using White House chief of staff as a witness to that
conversation where the president told Don McGahn that he did not remember
ordering the firing of the special prosecutor. John Kelly was not yet what
the White House chief of staff when the president ordered the firing of the
special prosecutor. And so, Donald Trump was trying to turn John Kelly
into a witness after the fact.
And John Kelly willingly participated in that conversation where Don McGahn
reminded the president of the president`s order to fire the special
prosecutor, and the president said, I don`t remember it that way. John
Kelly willingly stood there, according to this account, without objection
as the president tried to change the testimony of a witness in the special
prosecutor`s investigation. The president tried to convince Don McGahn
that the president did not say what Don McGahn says the president said.
For this and so many other moments of failure in the role of White House
Chief of Staff John Kelly`s only defense is that he is unfit for the job,
completely unqualified to be a White House chief of staff. If John Kelly
knew how to do his job and knew how to do it with honor, he would not have
allowed that conversation to take place or participated in it. If John
Kelly knew how to do his job and knew how to do it with honor, he would not
have allowed his favorite staffer, Rob Porter, to convey the president`s
wish that Don McGahn change his story and accompany it with a threat.
Convey the president`s threat that Don McGahn might get fired, that the
president might get rid of Don McGahn if Don McGahn did not change his
story about the president ordering the firing of the special prosecutor.
And so, tonight, John Kelly sinks to a new low, taking his spot now in the
thick of the special prosecutor`s investigation of obstruction of justice
in the White House. And Rob Porter is now in the thick of it, too,
reportedly passing along the president`s threat to the White House counsel.
Also tonight, “The Washington Post” has the breaking news that the special
prosecutor has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in the Seychelles
just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a
back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin apparently
contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of the participants,
according to people familiar with the matter. A witness cooperating with
Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a
representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from
Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries.
Joining us our discussion, Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown
University, and former federal prosecutor and MSNBC contributor. Also with
us, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at “The Atlantic”, covering national
security and the Russia investigation. And Sam Stein is with us, politics
editor of “The Daily Beast”. He`s also an MSNBC contributor.
And, Paul Butler, I want to go to this scene in the Oval Office where you
hear the president of the United States talking to Don McGahn about a story
that`s emerged in the “New York Times” about what Don McGahn has told the
special prosecutor. And there we see in that moment the president trying
to get Don McGahn to change his story.
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. So, the impression is that the
president is trying to coach witnesses to relay the president`s version of
events, even if the president`s version of events is a lie. So, there`s a
crime called witness tampering. What we`ve heard so far probably doesn`t
rise to that level because witness tampering requires some kind of threat
What the president did though is more evidence of obstruction of justice.
Like he tried to – or did fire James Comey, if he`s trying to get
witnesses to come around to his version, that counts as trying to impede a
investigation, trying to derail the investigation, and it also creates the
impression that the president is hiding something. So it`s what lawyers
call consciousness of guilt.
And finally, Lawrence, as you said at the outset, his lawyers have to be
saying, Mr. President, please don`t talk about the case with anybody. And
so, he`s the world`s worst client for a lawyer because he does not listen
and that`s not in his best interests.
O`DONNELL: And, Natasha Bertrand, we now know that John Kelly is a person
of interest to the special prosecutor, who`s going to want to know exactly
what he heard the president say in that conversation that was just
described in “The New York Times” and what he heard Don McGahn say, rob
porter also now has to be a witness, telling the special prosecutor
everything that the president said to him to convey to Don McGahn,
including the possible threat of getting fired.
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Right. And one of the
biggest reasons why it`s such a big problem for the president to be kind of
venting about the Russia investigation to his aides in the Oval Office is
that it creates more legal exposure for him because these are just more
witnesses that can then tell Mueller if they`re called in to be interviewed
by him about what the president has been saying and about his state of mind
when he did all of these things, and state of mind, of course, is the most
important thing when you`re trying to figure out whether someone has
attempted to obstruct justice.
Now, if this entire episode had happened in a vacuum, say, and Donald Trump
was just, you know, complaining about, you know, something that he thought
he remembered differently in terms of McGahn`s testimony to Mueller, then
perhaps you could give him the benefit of the doubt. But when you take
this in conjunction with everything else we`ve seen from this president,
you know, asking his CIA director, the director of national intelligence,
to put pressure on the intelligence community to drop the case into Michael
Flynn, venting and erupting at his attorney general for recusing himself in
the Russia investigation and firing FBI Director James Comey back in May,
then it really starts to create a pattern that you can`t ignore.
O`DONNELL: And, Sam Stein, the – as the Mueller witness list expands
almost daily when we get accounts like this, of course, this adds to this
legal jeopardy that every member of the White House staff seems to be
experiencing every day, and that is the possibility of Donald Trump can
send you on an errand across the hall to go tell Don McGahn this and
suddenly that`s going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars, at minimum,
in legal fees dealing with this investigation.
SAM STEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: And we sort of had the
real life illustration of the emotional, psychological toll that can take a
few nights ago, when Sam Nunberg went on a cable news bonanza rant and said
he wasn`t going to produce e-mails. And part of that was the cost, it`s
prohibitive. We`re talking about tens of thousands of dollars, and for
aides who aren`t making a lot of money already by the fact they`re in
public service, that is a costly, costly endeavor. It`s part of the reason
why Trump is having so much trouble hiring people is they don`t want to
expose themselves legally.
I would like to add one thing that it may seem sort of simple and a non-
sophisticated analysis here, but what struck me about this story and the
Seychelles story in “The Washington Post” is just how easy and simply these
people lie. What Donald Trump did, essentially, was he told Don McGahn go
lie. Go lie. Either that or Donald Trump had lost his memory about their
And what Erik Prince did to members of Congress is he lied. He basically
said, no, the meeting wasn`t for a back channel, I happened to be having a
beer and there was an Russia emissary there, and I got to talk and that was
that. Well, it turns, a separate witness for the Mueller probe says, no,
that`s a lie.
Maybe I`m naive to think that this shouldn`t be normal, but it is
remarkable to me how cavalier these people are about the truth.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Paul, I want to go about the ease with which they lie in
situations where it can involve legal jeopardy. But first, I want to listen
to what Erik Prince actually said. This is in a sense a version of what he
told the House Committee, that these new reports tonight are disproving.
Let`s listen to Erik Prince`s description of what happened in the
Seychelles in those meetings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK PRINCE, FOUNDER OF BLACKWATER: I met him in a bar, chatted for 20 or
30 minutes and that was that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why should you meet him? So, you were in the
Seychelles, why should you meet that Russian guy? What was the reason to
PRINCE: The Emirati said it`s someone they done business with before and
it would be an interesting guy for you to know. So I had a beer with him.
I don`t know if he had a beer. He probably had vodka. But –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that meeting –
PRINCE: And after that, I had no contact with him or any of his colleagues
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Paul Butler, the reports tonight indicate no this meeting
that Erik Prince participated in was deliberately set up and scheduled
exactly as it unfolded before he got there.
BUTLER: So, Prince lied about the purpose of the meeting, he lied about
who set it up and he lied about who else was there. So, what Robert
Mueller is doing now is subpoenaing e-mail travel records, if he can prove,
which he can that George Nader was also at the meeting, Mr. Nader is
cooperating with him, then he`s caught Prince in a lie.
And we know that special prosecutor Mueller has a bad attitude about people
lying to federal investigators. We look at people who`s already charged
with crimes, people who pled guilty, we`ve got Flynn, Papadopoulos, and
Gates all pled guilty to lying to the government. So, Prince might very
well be next.
O`DONNELL: Natasha, the new details about this meeting, where does that
lead now in this investigation?
BERTRAND: Well, it`s going to help Mueller establish even in a stronger
sense whether or not and to what extent, the Trump transition team and
later the administration and, of course, earlier the campaign was trying to
create back channels to Russia. We still don`t know necessarily why that
is, but this meeting in the Seychelles is very, very important.
And the fact that George Nader, who`s this, you know, Lebanese-American
businessman with extensive ties in the Middle East, a fixture in
Washington, D.C., for the last couple of decade, the fact he was there and
representing the Emiratis really is very, very telling, because George
Nader and Erik Prince have known each other since at least 2003, well over
a decade. And the fact that Erik Prince felt the need to fly all the way
to that island just to meet with someone and people that he was with,
Emirati officials he was with, who he could have easily met with in the UAE
where Erik Prince lives just stretches all credulity. I mean, there must
have been another reason for him to fly to the Seychelles, you know, apart
from just meeting with someone who he has a very close relationship with
O`DONNELL: Natasha Bertrand gets the last word on this round of the
Paul Butler and Natasha Bertrand, thank you for joining us.
Sam Stein, please stick around.
Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump and President Trump and his lawyer
are doing everything they can to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. And strangely
enough, Donald Trump has never denied what Stormy Daniels has had to say
about him. Donald Trump attacks anyone who gets in his way, including the
special prosecutor, but he is afraid of attacking Stormy Daniels.
We will see if Stormy Daniels` lawyer knows why. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The two people who the president of the United States seems to
fear the most are Vladimir Putin and Stormy Daniels. And it may be that
Stormy Daniels is one of the reasons that Donald Trump fears Vladimir Putin
so much if Putin`s agents have been searching for information with which to
blackmail Donald Trump for some years now, there would be no reason to
limit their interest to what Donald Trump might or might not have done in
Moscow hotel rooms.
So, it may be that Vladimir Putin knew much more about Donald Trump and
Stormy Daniels and knew it before the rest of us did. Tonight, we all know
a lot more about Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, thanks to Stormy Daniels`
lawsuit against Donald J. Trump, aka David Dennison and that is actually
how the lawsuit reads, and that has Donald Trump and his lawyers all the
NBC News reported today Donald Trump`s lawyer Michael Cohen is trying to
silence adult film star Stormy Daniels obtaining a secret restraining order
and a private arbitration proceeding and warning that she faces penalties
if she discusses her relationship with the president. Stormy Daniels is
suing Donald Trump to void an agreement – an agreement that she signed
with Donald Trump`s lawyers to prevent her from ever revealing any
information about her relationship with Donald Trump.
Stormy Daniels signed that agreement 11 days before the presidential
election in 2016. In 2011, Stormy Daniels gave an interview to “In Touch
Weekly” which they did not then publish in which she described some of the
details of having sex with Donald Trump in a hotel suite at Lake Tahoe that
occurred a few months after Donald Trump`s third wife Melania gave birth to
Stormy Daniels told “In Touch” that she asked Donald Trump that night about
his wife and he said, oh, don`t worry about her. She also said this, the
sex was nothing crazy. He wasn`t like chain me to a bed or anything. It
was one position. I can definitely describe his junk perfectly if I ever
have to. He definitely seemed smitten after that. He was like I want to
see you again, when can I see you again.
Stormy Daniels`s lawsuit claims that her confidentiality agreement has been
breached by Michael Cohen when Cohen told the “New York Times”, quote, in a
private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a
payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford, that`s Stormy Daniels real
name. Neither the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign was party to
this transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the
payment, either directly or indirectly.
The lawsuit also claims that the confidentiality of the agreement is void
because Donald Trump never signed it in the space provided for the
signature of David Dennison, his alias for that agreement.
Today, the White House press secretary said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has
addressed this directly and made very well clear that none of these
allegations are true. This case has already been won in arbitration and
anything beyond that I would refer you to the president`s outside counsel.
REPORTER: You said there`s arbitration that`s already been won by whom and
SANDERS: By the president`s personal attorneys for details on that I would
refer you to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And for details on that, we now turn to Stormy Daniels` lawyer,
attorney Michael Avenatti.
Mr. Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I want to get your reaction first of all to what the White House press
secretary just said there.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: How do I say this kindly?
Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
You know, I personally like Ms. Sanders. I think she has a near impossible
job but the fact of the matter is – I`m confident she didn`t know that it
was nonsense when she effectively told that to the world.
But it`s absolutely bogus. It`s nonsense. Any claim by the administration
that Donald Trump won in arbitration is no different than me claiming I won
the Super Bowl a few weeks ago. It`s complete hooey.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I read the arbitration order today. It`s a temporary
order that is superseded as far as I can tell by your lawsuit which simply
includes that as one of the things that your lawsuit is being brought
against. I want to talk about –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
AVENATTI: Well, let me just interrupt you if I could. I mean, it`s even
more simple than that. If you look at the temporary restraining order,
there`s one party adverse to PP, which is my client, which is EC. That`s
the entity that Mr. Cohen set up to facilitate the payment – to hide the
payment, at least that`s our position.
Donald Trump is not even a party to the arbitration. How can you win an
arbitration that you`re not even a party to? It`s impossible.
And if there`s one thing we know from the last five or six weeks, it`s that
– and if there`s one thing that Mr. Cohen has made absolutely clear in his
statements to “The Wall Street Journal” and “The New York Times” and anyone
who would listen is that supposedly EC is different than Donald Trump.
Well, if EC is different than Donald Trump for the purposes of the payment,
then EC is different than Donald Trump for purposes of the arbitration.
You can`t win something you`re not a party to.
O`DONNELL: Did Stormy Daniels tell the truth to “In Touch” magazine the
details of her relationship with Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. And I think ultimately, if she`s provided a forum
to tell the complete story, I think the American people are going to
conclude that she`s telling the truth. And really, Lawrence, that`s what
this is about.
This is about my client being able to tell her story, tell her version of
the events and let the chips fall where they may. Let the American people
decide who`s telling the truth. Let the American people decide, is it
Stormy Daniels shooting straight with them or is it Donald Trump? Is it
Stormy Daniels or Michael Cohen? Is it Stormy Daniels or Ms. Sanders?
And we`re confident in the outcome were that to take place.
O`DONNELL: So, Stormy Daniels`s story is she had sex with Donald Trump,
she described that in some detail in the “In Touch” interview. Donald
Trump, to my knowledge, has never contradicted Stormy Daniels. He`s never
This is the one person, the one woman who has come out and stood in Donald
Trump`s way, for some reason Donald Trump seems to be afraid of her. Can
you give us any insight as to why Donald Trump remains absolutely silent
about Stormy Daniels? This is the one woman he refuses to attack.
AVENATTI: The truth hurts. And I think really that`s what it comes down
to. I mean, this is a search for the truth. And quite honestly, if he
doesn`t have anything to hide, I don`t understand what the issue is.
You know, that old saying that people that have nothing to hide, hide
nothing. And here –
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s talk about – let`s talk about some of the things
the agreement – signed agreement was trying to hide. One of the things it
specifies is that Stormy Daniels was agreeing to completely divest herself
and it lists a bunch of things, including video images, still images or any
other type of creation by David Dennison, meaning any video images or still
images created by Donald Trump.
Did she have any video images or still images created by Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: That`s a question I`m not going to answer. That`s a question my
client will answer at the appropriate time if she`s ever permitted to talk
and give her side of the story.
O`DONNELL: And it also says at another point in the agreement that Stormy
Daniels represents that she has actually turned over such things. There`s
a line where it says she represents that the only copy of the images and
property that has ever existed at any time has been turned over to Donald
Trump`s counsel. Are you aware of her having turned over anything like
that, images, to Donald Trump`s counsel?
AVENATTI: Again, Lawrence, this is a question that`s going to have to be
addressed to my client at the appropriate time and she`s going to be fully
prepared to answer.
O`DONNELL: OK, there`s just one other detail of what they were trying to
hide in this confidentiality agreement that I`d like to go over with you
and tell us what you can about it if anything. I just want to read it for
the audience. This is something that`s their definition of confidential
information. It includes all intangible private information relating to or
pertaining to Donald Trump, including business information, familial
information, any of his alleged sexual partners, alleged sexual actions, or
alleged sexual conduct related matters or paternity information.
Do – are you aware of your client having anything to say about paternity
information involving Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: Again, Lawrence, when my client is provided the opportunity to
speak freely and honestly and openly to the American people, I don`t think
she`s going to hold back. I think she`s going to tell the truth and
nothing but the truth and we`re going to let the American people decide
who`s telling the truth.
O`DONNELL: Can you give us an outline of what you`re expecting with the
next legal steps here?
AVENATTI: Well, quite honestly, I wasn`t expecting Ms. Sanders` statement
at the White House, which is patently false. So, it`s always an
interesting ride I guess when you`re dealing with the administration. So,
we don`t know what to anticipate.
But here`s what we`d like to anticipate. Here`s what we`d like to see. A
few very basic questions, this case really boils down to a few basic
questions, and it really is this simple.
Number one, did the president know of the negotiation, the agreement, the
payment of the $130,000, and the issues relating to our client. That`s
number one. That can be answered in less than 140 characters. It`s either
yes or no. It`s very straightforward.
Second question. Did Donald Trump sign the agreement, yes or no?
Answers to those two questions is really going to frame this lawsuit and
it`s really going to decide a lot in connection with this case. This
doesn`t have to drag on for a significant period of time. Our position is
clear. He never signed the agreement, even though he knew all about it,
and therefore, she`s free to speak.
If the White House or Mr. Cohen has any evidence that he actually signed
the agreement, they should be disseminating it not tomorrow morning,
tonight. Let`s get it out there. Let`s find out if he actually signed the
And at some point – at some point, Lawrence, the president of the United
States needs to answer the very basic questions relating to his
relationship with Ms. Daniels. He needs to do so just like Bill Clinton
did, just like Gary Hart did, just like countless other politicians have
done over the last 30 years, period.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Michael Abbenante, I guarantee you
that years of this program at this moment are tweeting your questions to
Donald Trump right now. We`ll see if you get the answers that way. Michael
ABBENANTE: Lawrence, it`s been a long day, and suffice it to say I`m not
going to be holding my breath.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate you
sticking with us tonight. And staying with us this late, really appreciate
ABBENANTE: thank you. Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well Donald trump has set a record. He has fired more people
and had more people quit on him in his first year than any other President.
And now there are reports that Rachel`s big board is going to have to get
way bigger. That`s next
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Ned Price, former Senior Director
and spokesperson for the National Security Council, former CIA Analyst and
an MSNBC Contributor and Sam Stein is still with us. And Ned, I want to
talk about what we just heard in terms of the security clearance circus
that we`ve seen in this White House. And just imagine Donald Trump having
been selected say to be Secretary of Commerce in another Republican
Administration and he went through the security clearance, the background
check that the FBI would go through. And we know now the kinds of things
they would have come across, but let`s just talk about this. Let`s just
talk about they come across this confidentiality agreement with Stormy
Daniels about the existence of all this possible imagery and video and
questions of paternity all of these things buried into a confidentiality
agreement, what would be the FBI`S reaction with that background check?
NED PRICE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well Lawrence quite frankly I don`t think
Donald Trump would have made it that far. First of all he would have had
to turn over his tax returns, something he would have been loathe to do.
So that would have eliminated him right there. But were he to make it past
that step, Lawrence, what investigators look for when they`re determining
suitability for a security clearance more than anything is leverage,
whether there`s any party that could have leverage over that individual in
a high level government job. Typically that is leverage on the part of a
foreign government, has someone done something embarrassing in foreign
country, does someone own foreign assets, does someone have foreign
interest that would make him or her susceptible to influence on the part of
that foreign party.
But leverage need not to be exclusive foreign. And clearly Donald Trump, if
these allegations are true, there are people who clearly have what seem to
be a lot of leverage over him. We may not know the full extent given some
of the details that you read from that gag order that leave more questions
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, it seems in this one case that Donald Trump and the
White House are using the classic play book of scandal management which is
don`t say anything about it, hope that other news will overtake it and
don`t say anything that keeps it alive. So that`s one theory by which
Donald Trump has refused to say a single word about Stormy Daniels. But
this is the very same guy who attacks every other woman who comes out and
says anything about him.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I`m glad you came to me. My major in
journalism school was the legal machinations of nondisclosure agreements
involving porn actresses so this is right up my alley. I think what`s
happening is there`s not much for him to say. If you step back and say
would your lawyer, your personal attorney in this case Michael Cohen, sign
a nondisclosure agreement of $130,000, without tell you, just forking over
his money, the answer of course is no.
I mean if were just about thinking about this soberly and practically, it
seems very evident that Donald Trump knew about this, helped orchestrate
it. And the reason he`s not saying anything about it is that if he were to
say something inevitably something bad would happen. So he`s showing a
little bit of discipline. I supposed that news because because he usually
can`t help himself.
But I do think the alternative options are all bad. And also there are
other things overtaking this, as juicing and target as the story is, there
are a lot of other more – even more legitimate scandals here that the
President is dealing with.
O`DONNELL: But Ned, that is the tricky thing about these situations. It
seemed, at various points that the whitewater investigation was about what
the media perceived to be more serious things that Paula Jones` accusations
against Bill Clinton but it was her accusation that is did the most damage.
PRICE: Well that`s right. And I think there are certainly parallels to
what we see in the Mueller probe. You have to remember that this started –
this investigation was predicated on the allegation there may have been
collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. But
there`s a little clause in the directive that Rod Rosenstein gave to Bob
Mueller and it said he has the authority to investigator any ancillary
matters. Matters attendant to the core investigation here. and while we
don`t know a lot of what Bob Mueller is doing, we`ve certainly seen a lot
of reporting that seems credible about his investigation into Donald
Trump`s finances, into Donald Trump`s overseas business deals into those of
So this investigation is moving in any number of direction and of course
layered on top of that you have Donald Trump`s own efforts to obstruct Bob
Mueller`s investigation which in turn be one of the straws that breaks this
O`DONNELL: Sam, I think as you know as you`ve seen other interviews with
Michael Avenatti that I wasn`t the first one to ask him does Stormy Daniels
have videos, does she have photographs, you know, what does she have, so
he`s not in a position to answer that now. But that`s a question that
could be put to the White House, because in this confidentiality agreement,
it says that she is ordered to hand over what they call video images and
still images and then it says she has already handed over some images.
And so a very simple question to the trump side of this, to Michael Cohen,
to the White House, what images did you get from Stormy Daniels? What
videos did you get from Stormy Daniels?
STEIN: I mean my – if the question were to be asked, my theory would be
that the White House would punt all of this off to Cohen or just assume
they are not going to say anything about it because there are some legal
prohibitions from him talking about it, but it`s a totally legitimate
question to ask. And I think it`s fair to say, at least tonight, that
we`re heading to a place where there`s going to be enough political
pressure and perhaps enough legal room to maneuver for those images, texts,
whatever they are, to actually be made public.
I`ve no idea what`s in those texts, I don`t know, I can`t even message
what`s in those texts, I`m curious. But it was only a couple weeks ago we
assumed the story would die and then the Washington Post broke it open. So
I assume there`s going to be a couple more chapters.
O`DONNELL: You know and Ned there`s another about this story. I didn`t
say much or anything about the Stormy Daniels story as it started to break
in the last – I don`t know, it feel like first couple weeks now. That`s
unusual that we would be this far down the road of a Trump scandal and it`s
only now getting a significant amount of coverage in this hour because
usually these things are overtaken by the next Trump scandal. And that`s
apparently what they were betting on. This one has a life to it that is a
PRICE: Well, it has a life to it that`s surprising. And when you take a
step back and look from affair where we are, this is a scandal involving
the President of the United States with a massive payoff – or what appears
to be a payoff, I should say to a prostitute with whom he allegedly had an
affair. The payoff was orchestrated and facilitated by his attorney. And
this is now just starting to percolate, just now weeks later after some of
these details first started to came out.
This is just starting to gain traction. Look I cannot imagine that being
the case in any other administration, and I think you`re right in some ways
the administration has benefitted from the fact that there`s a scandal
dajour in most cases. They benefitted from the fact that if you wait long
enough the next shiny object will come. Unfortunately for them this shiny
object has not gone away and it seems like it`s starting to heat up.
O`DONNELL: And Sam, Michael Cohen is in his own kind of trouble in the New
York State Bar. In the lawsuit Avenatti points out that it is a violation
of 1.4 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to not
pass on offers of settlement to a client or to reach a settlement without
informing the client, without the client`s consent, without the client`s
direction. All of that is specified in here and Michael Cohen is claiming
he was doing all of that in what would be the violation of lawyers` rules
in these cases.
STEIN: Well and this gets to your last question which why has this thing
persisted as a story to the fact we`re talking about it three weeks or a
month later. And the truth is it`s the handling of it by Michael Cohen. I
mean Michael Cohen came out at first refused to say, deny anything, deny
anything happened, denied the story. Then casually admitted that you know
he may have set up an entity in Delaware to pay this. But certainly Donald
Trump didn`t know about this. And now we`re actually starting to see
primary documents that call into question the entire merit from start to
finish. And until Michael Cohen gets his story straight I imagine we`ll
still be asking questions.
O`DONNELL: Well we didn`t get to talk about all those people being fired
or quitting from the White House.
STEIN: You have a porn star scandal. You can only do so much.
O`DONNELL: I have a feeling if Michael Cohen was a White House staffer he
might be on Rachel`s big board by now as being getting kicked out of there.
We`re going to have to covering that one another night. Ned Price, Sam
Stein, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks Lawrence.
PRICE: Thanks very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well they said it couldn`t be done. But the kids
have done it. The kids have moved the mountain. On their first day back to
regular classes. The student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school won a
big legislative victory on the guns in the overwhelmingly Republican
Florida legislature. That story is next.
O`DONNELL: The kids are moving the mountain. Today on the first full day
of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since the Valentine`s
Day Mass Murder there, the Florida House of Representatives actually did
something today on gun safety. They did something. The overwhelming
Republican Florida House overwhelming Republican Florida House of
Representatives by a vote of 67 to 50 passed a bill that imposes a three-
day waiting period for most purchases of long guns and raises that minimum
age for purchasing those weapons in Florida from 18 to 21.
It also provides $100 million to improve school security. None of that.
None of it would have happened without the protests led by the students of
Stoneman Douglas High and also today, the Trump Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos visited the Stoneman Douglas High School but did not allow
reporters to cover her visit to the school.
Many of the student had reactions to her visit on Twitter. Ally tweeted, do
something unexpected, answer our questions. You came to our school just
for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minute you were here.
How do you do your job? Never again. Do your job? Secretary DeVos finally
spoke to reporters after leaving the high school when she stopped at a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETSY DEVOS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Let`s be clear. I
think to say arming teachers is an over simplification and a
mischaracterization really. I think the – the concept is to for those
schools and those communities that opt to do this as they have in Texas and
as they have Polk County and other places around the country, to have
people who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of
training in order to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is David Hogg. He is a survivor of the attack at
the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school. David, thank you very how much
for joining us Once again. I first of all wanted to get your reaction to
what you actually accomplished today, and you get the credit for it, the
legislation that passed the House of Representatives in Florida.
DAVID HOGG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think my reaction – my reaction to
that is, it`s a small step in a much bigger movement. I`m glad to see we`ve
finally seen some movement. But the fact is that until Governor Scott
signs off on this bill nothing – none of this really matters unless it`s
signed into law. And along with that, it`s just the fact that everything
that we`ve been doing – I shouldn`t be taking credit for this, it`s
everybody that`s been there, everybody that was there in Tallahassee from
the beginning, and everybody that stood up, spoken out on twitter, spoken
to their local legislators, and really gotten this action to be pushed
through because we`ve seen time and time again these bills have failed for
the assault weapons ban and different things that are around gun control.
Now we`re starting to see this action because we`re showing our
persistence. These politicians know they should be scared because we are
the future voters and we are the future.
O`DONNELL: David I got tell you I`ve been watching this legislatively for
a very long time and I can`t think of a tougher place to pass that bill
than the Florida House of Representatives. And that – especially that
issue of raising that age from 18 to 21. That was something you people
made happen. some of those representatives who voted to did that today were
arguing against it even after the shooting, as you know, in Tallahassee,
you heard them arguing against raising that age. But you got them there.
And I also want to get your reaction to Betsy DeVos have a do is` visit to
the school today.
HOGG: My reaction to Betsy Devos` visit to the school, she was talking
about a bunch of different things while she was there. But one of the main
things I think people need to realize is she didn`t go to a public school.
She basically has no experience in public school. She donated $200 million
to the Republican Party and that`s how she got into this place, pay to play
politics, it`s disgusting. She has no previous experience in this area.
She`s on from corporate America that`s working on behalf of the Trump
Administration and really isn`t doing anything. Because if she was going
to do things, she would have done that before she got in this position. And
one of my friends asked her, how are you going to increase spending, like
for schools and stuff like that? She didn`t have an answer.
She was honestly like, I don`t know. That`s the disgusting state of
politics this country is in. She went too a school that was in an active
shooting, where 17 people died, just to make herself look better. She
didn`t actually do anything, she hasn`t done anything, and she probably
won`t. I`d love for her to prove me wrong. But at this point, will she?
O`DONNELL: David, I think you might know that the president`s next
scheduled meeting about what he says is about school safety, the subject is
going to be video games. What do you think the President will learn from
HOGG: has he ever even played a video game? I don`t think that`s what we
need to be focusing on in this situation. Schools are important. And what
I would love to see is perhaps a 5 percent to 10 percent tax on all
firearms sales that goes specifically as a categorical grant from the
Federal Government to state governments where they spend all this money to
The way they can push these things through, put in bullet-proof glass, they
could diversify it to every congressional and state legislative district so
every person gets jobs in the district. the price is high right new are now
but when more schools start implementing these methods of hardening their
schools with bullet proof glass, bullet proof doors and different locks, we
will see the price going down and lives being saved. But it`s also
important to focus on the fact that this isn`t about video games. This
isn`t just about schools,
This is about lives. That is what we need to be focusing on. It`s not just
about schools. It`s important to focus on hardening schools because that`s
where a lot of the these atrocities happen. That`s like at pulse, Las
Vegas. so many concerts, so many amazing people have died in these
incidents now we`re only starting to see action. When is it going to stop?
that`s my question.
O`DONNELL: David Hogg, thank you for joining us again tonight. I`ve been
admiring how you`ve conducted yourself since this shooting brought you to
our attention. I`m only sorry that you and I have had to meet the way that
we have. I wish we could be talking about something else. Thank you very
much again for joining us tonight.
HOGG: Thank You.
O`DONNELL: Well we have some breaking news from the White House that`s
just in. we`re going to have that for you next
O`DONNELL: breaking news tonight about what the president is not going to
do tomorrow. We are now joined by phone by Stephanie Ruhle, who has some
reporting on this. Stephanie, what have you learned?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Indeed I do. President Trump spent his
day being lobbied by men against moving forward on these tariffs, or at
least working on carve-outs. Those trying to convince the president to pull
back had gotten him to carve out ally nations, Canada and Mexico. But the
President, though it was never on the official schedule, had plans to have
a signing meeting, a ceremony tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. at the White House.
And there they were inviting some steel executives, some steel workers.
Based on my reporting, that is no longer going to happen. It appears that
President Trump, though he`s got a lot to say, is now not quite ready to
sign this tariff.
O`DONNELL: So the schedule shows that he is going to have his meeting
about video games tomorrow. But he is not going to launch a trade war
RUHLE: And remember, the meeting about video games is far more in line
with President Trump and his listening tours. You know how he likes those.
He nods and says yes to whatever group or whatever stakeholders are in the
room. And then when that meeting`s over, he changes his tune. So on
tariffs, this is where the rubber meets the road. You sign that agreement,
it`s a go. It seems he`s not quite ready to do that.
O`DONNELL: Stephanie, the understanding is that Gary Cohn is kind of out
of the debate in the white house, but he`s still technically working there.
Has he been influential in what`s happened today?
RUHLE: Definitely I would not say Gary`s out of the debate. Gary out of
the White House in a little over a week but he`s definitely engaged in
this. I mean it was Kevin Brady, though, today who had over 100 signatures,
from what I understand, of other Republicans urging the President to think
again. And while Gary is leaving the administration, he and others are
definitely lobbying the President to really think about this. And not as a
policy idea. They know what the President`s policy ideas are. But if the
President wants to make an America first plan to help the American worker
and help the American economy, it`s not America alone. And a 10% and 25%
tariff, that`s not going to do anything but hurt us.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: Very important reporting,
Stephanie. Thank you very much for joining us with that important
reporting tonight. Stephanie Ruhle gets tonight`s “Last Word.”
RUHLE: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: “The 11th Hour With Brian Williams” starts now.
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