Michael Cohen to testify publicly. TRANSCRIPT: 1/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, you`re going to have to do a show
called Rachel`s commercial greatest hits because that happened during your
commercial and I don`t know what the commercial was, but it was not as good
as what was happening behind that commercial.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: No. You know, it always is. I used to
have a rule for myself when I first started this thing, that as soon as we
were in commercial break if there was a guest on set, I`d be like put on
the horse blinders and don`t let any good stuff happen in the commercial
break. I`m now much less disciplined and stuff like that happens.
O`DONNELL: I`m just not professional enough to talk to anyone during the
commercial break because I`m too worried about what happens after the
commercial break. We could go on and on about this. But I guess I should
do the show.
MADDOW: Do the show. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, on this date, January 10th, 2019, the big lie of the Trump presidency
collapsed. And it collapsed in public. Most big Trump lies collapse
instantaneously, the second Donald Trump says them, to people who are well
informed enough to know it is a lie, people who can process the difference
between truth and falsehood, fact and fiction.
The big lie of the Trump presidency was in Donald Trump`s presidential
campaign announcement, 3 1/2 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would build a great wall.
And nobody builds walls better than me. Believe me. And I build them very
I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have
Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
AUDIENCE: Yes! Yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the paid audience that Donald Trump hired for his
campaign announcement. So they weren`t as enthusiastic. They didn`t know
that the wall was supposed to be a big cheer line.
But you saw what happened to it during the campaign. It got cheers every
time Donald Trump said it. And Mexico will pay for the wall became a
campaign chant, led by Donald Trump. That big lie, Mexico will pay for the
wall, was carried into the Trump presidency, and it immediately became a
problem for President Trump.
In his first conversation as president with the president of Mexico on the
telephone, Donald Trump begged the president of Mexico to stop saying
Mexico would not pay for the wall. And now, Donald Trump himself is
finally saying Mexico will not pay for the wall.
These are the moments that Donald Trump hates more than any others in his
public life. If you ask him if he had sex with a porn star and paid her
off during his third marriage, that`s the kind of thing he can take in
stride. But having to admit that one of his big lies is a lie is as
painful as it gets for Donald Trump. And you can see it. You can see it
when it happens.
Let`s take a look at what might be the single most painful moment of the
presidential campaign for Donald Trump, it was the moment that Donald Trump
believed would never come. When he began his presidential campaign,
because Donald Trump did not expect to be the Republican nominee. He was
just running to try into crease his fame, which was fading then. But then
there he was as the Republican nominee with only seven weeks left in a
presidential campaign, and he had to admit that the foundational lie of his
political career was a lie, the lie that endeared Donald Trump to American
racists was a lie. The lie he began telling five years before the moment
when he had to admit that it was a lie.
The first time Donald Trump told this big lie in 2011, I immediately said
it was a big lie. But sadly, the news media did not then know how to
handle it. Not only did they not call it a lie, they entertained it and
repeated interviews in which they allowed him to tell that lie on national
television and build his political base every time he told that lie.
And it took five years for the news media to finally corner Donald Trump
and force him to admit the foundational lie of the Trump political career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Couldn`t you just see how that felt for Donald Trump? That was
one of those days for Donald Trump, when he had to do that.
Today was one of those days. And so, now, the chants of Mexico will pay
for the wall will never be heard again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When during the campaign I would say Mexico`s going to pay for it,
obviously I never said this and I never meant they`re going to write out a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And it only got worse from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When your –
TRUMP: When I say Mexico – excuse me. When I say Mexico`s going to pay
for the wall, do you think they`re going to write a check for $20 billion
or $10 billion or $5 billion or 2 cents? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Not even 2 cents. Mexico`s not going to pay 2 cents for the
wall. That`s not going to work as the new chant.
The president also said today that Mexico would pay for the wall
indirectly, which is exactly like saying President Barack Obama was born in
Kenya indirectly. And so, is the new chant going to be Mexico will pay for
the wall indirectly?
It is impossible for Mexico to pay for the wall indirectly. Impossible.
President Trump said that the update of NAFTA that his administration has
negotiated with Mexico will indirectly pay for the wall. That is
First of all, the updated deal has not even been approved by Congress. And
if you`ve been watching Congress lately, you might get the feeling that it
might never be approved by Congress. But even if it is approved by
congress, there is nothing in that deal that indirectly pays for the wall.
The only thing that can ever pay for the wall is an American taxpayer
money. Money that is processed in internal revenue processing centers that
are now not processing anything because President Trump has shut down the
government and IRS employees have been sent home.
President Trump visited the state with one of the largest IRS processing
centers in the country, 9,000 Texans work in the IRS processing center in
Austin, Texas, the state that Donald Trump visited today. None of them
will be receiving their paycheck tomorrow because of the Trump shutdown.
And the Texans who are depending on quick processing of their 2018 tax
returns in that processing center so that they can get their refunds that
they desperately need, they will not be getting those refunds because their
tax returns cannot be processed.
And so, did the two Texas senators join in the protests around the country
against the shutdown today and demand that those 9,000 Texans be sent back
to work immediately and get their paychecks immediately? Did the two Texas
senators spend their day with some of those 9,000 Texans whose families are
being harmed by the Trump shutdown? No. They`re Republican senators.
The two Texas Republican senators spent their day in southern Texas near
the border with the president meeting with the Republican president who has
shut down the government and harmed those 9,000 Texans, and they did not
say one word about the Texans who have been harmed by the Trump shutdown.
The president went to the southern border to try to convince Democratic
members of Congress that there`s an invasion at the southern border that
can only be stopped with a wall.
Before he boarded his helicopter at the White House, the president wanted
to clear up something about his negotiating style.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t have temper tantrums. I really don`t. I didn`t pound on
the table. I didn`t raise my voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is the president not having a temper tantrum and not
raising his voice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If we don`t get what we want one way or the other, whether it`s
through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, I will
shut down the government.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: OK. Fair enough. We
disagree. We disagree.
TRUMP: And I am proud. And I`ll tell you what, I am proud to shut down
the government for border security, Chuck. Because the people of this
country don`t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and
drugs pouring into our country.
So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I`m not
going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down it didn`t work.
I will take the mantle of shutting down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought two more bills to a vote
today in the House, one to open the agriculture department, which attracted
10 Republican votes and passed 243-183, and a bill to reopen the
Transportation Department and Housing and Urban Development, which
attracted 12 Republican votes and passed 244-180. Yesterday, Speaker
Pelosi passed a bill to reopen the Treasury Department, which would reopen
the Internal Revenue Service. It got only 8 Republican votes in the House.
Now, think about what that means. Republican members of Congress voted to
deny paychecks to thousands of internal revenue service workers in their
states. The IRS has five big processing centers in the United States.
Four of them are in Republican states: Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, and Utah.
One of them is in California, where six California Republican members of
the House including Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy voted to keep 5,000
Californians out of work without paychecks.
Twenty-two Republican Texas members of Congress voted to keep 9,000 Texans
out of work without paychecks. Six Republican members of Congress from
Missouri voted to keep 6,000 Missouri workers out of work and without
paychecks. And three Republican members of the House from Utah voted to
keep 5,000 Utah voters out of work without paychecks to support their
families. And five House members from Kentucky voted to keep 5,000
Kentuckians out of work without paychecks to support their families.
Those are Mitch McConnell`s constituents, in Kentucky. They are out of
work now not because of Donald Trump. Not anymore. It is Mitch
McConnell`s shutdown now. Mitch McConnell has the power to take up those
House bills that would reopen those government departments and bring them
to a vote. Those bills would easily pass the Senate if Mitch McConnell
would bring them to a vote in the Senate.
So, every federal worker in Kentucky tonight out of work including the
5,000 IRS workers in Kentucky trying to provide for their families have
Mitch McConnell to blame for the financial struggle that they find
themselves in tonight. Now, maybe Mitch McConnell just can`t relate
because like Donald Trump, not as rich as Donald Trump maybe, but Mitch
McConnell is a very, very rich man.
And Mitch McConnell like all Republicans, publicly at least, hates the IRS.
But does he hate the IRS workers who live in Kentucky?
Republicans love to hate the IRS publicly. But on a per dollar basis, IRS
workers are the most valuable workers in America. They return a giant
profit on their salaries to the United States treasury every year. And
they do it in the processing centers in Kentucky, Texas, Missouri,
California, and Utah that Mitch McConnell and Republicans are now keeping
Some Republicans are now voting for every spending bill that Nancy Pelosi
brings to a vote in the House of Representatives, and at least three
Republicans have publicly declared that they would do the same in the
Senate if Mitch McConnell would just bring those bills to a vote in the
Senate. And if those bills came to a vote, there would be many more than
just those three who`ve publicly declared their support. Those bills would
easily pass the United States Senate, because Republicans are not united on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Republicans are extremely united. They all want to see
something happen. But they`re extremely united. And I don`t think I`ve
ever seen unity like this in the Republican Party. We have tremendous
unity of the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There is no unity in the Republican Party. Unity in the
Republican Party was when they were voting for tax cuts and every
Republican voted exactly the same way.
Disunity is breaking out all over in the Republican Congress. Senator
Lindsey Graham, the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said
today that the president should declare an emergency and seize money from
the Defense Department to try to begin work on the Trump wall.
At the same time today, Chuck Grassley, who was the chairman of Judiciary
until this week and is now the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,
said this about declaring an emergency.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-UTAH), SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I would
advise against that as a bad precedent. Even if the president`s got
authority to do it, I`d advise against it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is what the president said today about declaring an
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So we`re either going to have a win, make a compromise, because I
that I compromise is a win for everybody, or I will declare a national
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And with that statement the president gave his opponents
everything they will ever need to stop him in court if he declares an
emergency because what he just said was if we don`t have a legislative
compromise on a budget bill then I will declare a national emergency. That
means that the emergency is we don`t have a legislative compromise.
When a hurricane hits New Orleans or Puerto Rico, that`s a national
emergency and you can`t have a legislative compromise to make that
hurricane go away. Donald Trump admitted today that the emergency would be
about a legislative compromise, not about the conditions at the southern
border. He did not say if the invasion continues at southern border, I
will declare an emergency. He said if we don`t reach a legislative
compromise I will declare an emergency.
And so, as usual, Donald Trump`s public negotiating with himself continues
to negotiate himself into an unwinnable corner.
Congressman Eric Swalwell is a member of the party that is united in
fighting the Trump shutdown. He will join us after a break, along with
Jennifer Rubin and former Republican presidential campaign manager Stuart
O`DONNELL: The president said things today that can and will be used
against him in court if he declares a national emergency at the southern
border, including what he just said to Sean Hannity tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If we don`t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that.
I would actually say I would. I can`t imagine any reason why not, because
I`m allowed to do it. The law`s 100 percent on my side. We have the
absolute right to declare a national emergency. This is security stuff.
This is a national emergency if you look at what`s happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of
California, Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer at the “Washington Post” and an
MSNBC contributor, and Stuart Stevens, Republican political consultant who
was the chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential campaign.
And, Congressman Swalwell, we just heard him say it again, that the
emergency is that there`s a stalemate in Congress. When he describes the
emergency, he doesn`t say anything about the southern border.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Right. Failure to make a deal,
failure to lead is not an emergency. That is a crisis of his own
But I just want to tell you, Lawrence, this shutdown is risking my son`s
life. That`s an e-mail subject line that I saw today from a mother in
Fremont, California, talking about the FDA not being able to work on her
So this really boils down to are we going to govern in this shutdown by
purpose or by circus? When we govern by purpose, we believe that
government should be open and helping people, whether it`s at the FDA or
getting people the IRS tax refunds they deserve or making sure our border
patrol agents are able to stand guard, not worry about financial distress.
And when we govern by purpose, we govern based on facts. The facts that
the real undocumented issue here is the overstaying of visas, not people
coming across the border. When we govern by circus, we get theater and we
get a ground truth that is not based in reality. And, Lawrence, I`ll
submit to you that this president wants border theater. He doesn`t want
anything other than that.
O`DONNELL: And, Jennifer Rubin, we see each time there`s a vote a couple
more Republicans moving over to the Nancy Pelosi side in the House of
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. We start with five, then seven,
eight, ten, twelve. That number I think will continue to go up.
Now, I think unfortunately the Republicans in the Senate are much more
responsible for this catastrophe than they`re commonly assumed to be. Of
course, Mitch McConnell could end this immediately. And moreover, those
Republicans like Susan Collins, like Lisa Murkowski, who have qualms about
this, who say gosh, you know, we really don`t think the president should be
using emergency powers to subvert the Constitution of course, they could
stop this too.
They could stop acting on the president`s agenda. They could demand a
vote. They could join Democrats in any lawsuit to stop the emergency
But they don`t because they are sheep, like they have always been. They
have always been afraid to confront the president and his handlers, Sean
Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who pushed him into this. And so, we have this
ridiculous sight where you see the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in
the United States Senate telling the president of the United States to cook
up an emergency, go to court and take over Congress`s responsibility for
appropriation. That is Lindsey Graham.
I`ve got to think the people of South Carolina, who are going to have a
chance to vote on him in 2020, are smarter and more conservative than that.
That they have more respect for the Constitution than Lindsey Graham does.
O`DONNELL: My own suspicion about that, could be wrong, is that Lindsey
Graham knows that if the president does that he`ll be stopped in court in a
matter of days as quickly as the Muslim ban was stopped in the first week
of the Trump administration.
Stuart Stevens, you know a bunch of these Republican senators including the
junior senator from Utah now, where there is a big IRS processing center,
where 5,000 people can`t go to work, can`t get a paycheck tomorrow, are
going to struggle now, have been struggling, taking care of their families,
trying to figure out how long they`re going to go with this.
How long can the Mitt Romneys of the Senate and others hold on to the
president`s position here?
STUART STEVENS, FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST, ROMNEY 2012: Well, you know, I
look at Donald Trump as sort of like the civil rights moment, it`s a moral
test that the Republican Party is tragically failing. Everybody knows that
Donald Trump isn`t telling the truth, and everybody pretends – not
everybody, but almost everybody pretends that he is telling the truth.
It`s what Donald Trump sort of forces you to choose between your own
dignity and some sort of political allegiance.
And part of this is it makes a rational discussion about border security
impossible because as the congressman said it`s all circus theater. I
think there`s a good argument to be made for more border security. I think
there`s a rational argument to be made for a wall. But none of that sort
of can be discussed and talked about with this cacophony of complete
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Swalwell, let`s consider for a moment what
would happen if the president did declare this emergency. I believe the
courts would stop it as quickly as they stopped the Muslim ban. But let`s
assume for a moment that that – that it just went forward. We are more
than a year away, way more than a year away from any shovel hitting any
piece of dirt anywhere in Texas to even outline where any piece of wall
SWALWELL: That`s right, Lawrence. And the first thing the president would
hear as soon as he did that would be a phrase that he is quite used to:
we`ll see you in court. And the result will also be a result that he`s
quite used to. He will probably lose.
But sadly, right now his proposal as far as how he`s going to pay for at
least the first part of this would also hurt people. It would hurt
hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and Houston and Florida. It would hurt
people in my state who are victims of wildfires where the president
believes that it`s environmentalists causing the problem.
But, Lawrence, I can promise you that even if he was able to begin
construction on the wall, he would never be able to finish it because any
future appropriation, Congress would never allow any money to ever go to
any emergency. We would certainly put a firewall, if you will, around
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, Jennifer, even the best case scenario on the Trump
view of the world, this wall is not going to get built in what is now
basically less than two years left on this presidency and there wouldn`t
even be the first marks in the ground anywhere until Donald Trump had just
months left in office. There`s never going – this wall is never going to
happen. And it`s just a question of what are we going to go through
between now and the final realization that it`s never going to happen.
RUBIN: That`s right. Remember, they are still fighting in Texas over
appropriations made in 2006 for additional fencing in Texas. And as we
speak, Republicans, ranchers, land owners who are along the border are
getting ready. They`re calling up their lawyers. They`re getting ready to
fight the president.
This will – frankly, I don`t think a shovel will ever hit anywhere. We
haven`t even talked about the environmental lawsuits that are going to take
But I want to concentrate on something the congressman just said.
Understand how crazy this is. He is taking money from hurricane victims in
Texas to use that money to forcibly take land from other people in Texas
who don`t want a wall, who don`t have a border crossing, so he can save
face with Sean Hannity. That`s what`s going on.
And I kind of think that there have to be some Republicans out there who
say, you know, stop the madness, this is lunacy, and we`re going to get our
heads handed – all the states you mentioned, Lawrence, all of them except
California voted for Trump for president. Maybe they shouldn`t do that
O`DONNELL: Yes. It will be a struggle next time, no doubt.
Stuart, the Republicans who are watching this in the Senate – I mean, my
experience in dealing with senators is they never really say anything as
long as they can get away with not saying anything. The thing where
they`re forced to say yes or no is on a vote. And it is very hard to
predict how they`re going to vote when they`re on this kind of pressure.
If something like this can somehow get to a vote, if any of the Pelosi
bills ever make it to a vote in the senate, my feeling is they would go
through with more than 60 votes.
STEVENS: Yes, I think you`re right. The majority of Americans think
there`s a pretty reasonable solution to this. It`s part of the whole
absurdity of talking about this as a crisis and why politically I think the
president`s losing on this and I think Republicans are losing.
It`s not a crisis. People look at it and they know it`s not a crisis, and
it`s just completely fraudulent, and people see through it. So, I don`t
know how we get out of this. But it`s not going to end up I think in a way
that Donald Trump wants. It`s a way I`m sure he`ll probably declare
victory in this, but it`s just – it`s such a complete waste of political
capital and poisons the dialogue of our politics.
O`DONNELL: I think, Stuart, you`ve found what is the clearest prediction
of the night, is that we know what Donald Trump`s line is going to be.
However it ends. That he won no matter how it ends. We`re sure of that.
Stuart Stevens, Jennifer Rubin, thank you for joining us. Congressman
Swalwell, please stay with us.
When we come back, the president`s former lawyer and friend Michael Cohen
is going to take his place in history on February 7th by testifying under
oath in public to a congressional committee about the president of the
United States and the crimes that Michael Cohen has said under oath he
committed with the president of the United States.
And former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will tell us what`s going
to happen to Robert Mueller`s report, and he knows because he wrote the
rules of what happens to special counsel reports.
O`DONNELL: There are breaking news on the Mueller investigation. “The New
York Times” is reporting that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is
examining at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who
came to Washington for the Trump inauguration.
“The investigations are playing out against growing indications that some
of the Ukrainians who came to Washington for the inaugural, or their
allies, were promoting grand bargains or peace plans that aligned with
Russia`s interests including by lifting sanctions.”
Before he goes to prison, Donald Trump`s former personal attorney and
friend Michael Cohen will testify publicly before the House Oversight
Committee on February 7, where he will presumably discuss arranging a
payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels for Donald Trump in the final weeks of
the Trump presidential campaign. And who knows what else?
And “CNN” is reporting that Mueller`s team interviewed a Trump campaign
pollster last year who worked with Paul Manafort. That interview holds new
significance after a court filing revealed that Manafort shared polling
data with an associate tied to Russian intelligence during the 2016
campaign. Earlier today, President Trump denied any knowledge of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from
your campaign with the Russians?
TRUMP: No, I didn`t know anything about it. Nothing about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant
Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst and also with us
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.
And Jill, I just want to go to you. And I imagine this February 7 date
with history that Michael Cohen has, you were there during the giant
moments of the Watergate investigation, the public hearings that the
Congress had while you were working as part of the special prosecutor`s
team. What are you expecting to hear on February 7?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think it`s going to be
very interesting. And one difference from John Dean`s testimony during
Watergate is when he testified he did not know that there were any tape
recordings. So his testimony ended up being corroborated by all of that.
The person who`s testifying, in this case, may have a lot of recordings
that already corroborate what he`s about to say. And that will be very
dramatic if that`s true. So we need to look at the motivation of both of
them. And John Dean was motivated by helping himself but also by
recognizing that he had done wrong and he wanted to rectify that.
And I think that we`re seeing the same thing in Michael Cohen. He knows he
did wrong and he wants to make up for that. But he also would like to help
himself. His lawyer admits that part of his motivation is to get a lower
sentence than he`s already gotten. So that will be interesting.
But the most important thing is not the motivation, and it`s really the
education that will come from this. Seeing him testify live so that people
can judge his credibility by his demeanor, by his tone of voice, by the
words he chooses will be very important in getting people to realize what
has happened and what the president has done. So it`s a very important
O`DONNELL: And Congressman Swalwell, Chairman Schiff of the Intelligence
Committee that you`re a member of has also publicly expressed an interest
in possibly your committee obtaining some kind of testimony, cooperation
from Michael Cohen. Do you expect other committees, possibly Judiciary or
Intelligence Committee, will also be hearing from Michael Cohen?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL: I can speak for intelligence. I spoke with Mr. Schiff
today and he expressed just what you said, which is an intent to try and
get Mr. Cohen to come in and talk about the Russia investigation. As I
understand it, his testimony to the Oversight Committee will probably not
include the Russia investigation. And we have a lot of follow-up questions
now that he has admitted to lying to us.
Now, he remembers somebody who lived in all three of Donald Trump`s worlds.
His personal world, his political world, and his professional world. And
he would have more knowledge than probably anyone as to just what Donald
Trump knew about what the Russians were doing, what Mr. Trump`s intent was
to do business with Russia while he was a candidate.
And I always have found, Lawrence, as a former prosecutor, that witnesses
who come clean can be very helpful in first explaining why they protected
the person they were protecting but also to put in perspective why so many
others who are continuing to lie today continue to lie today, which I think
will be illuminating for the American people.
O`DONNELL: And Jill, the committee`s statement about this testimony has
said we don`t want to interfere in any way with the Mueller investigation.
So that means they will prefer to be dealing with stuff that`s already in
some ways public information.
So that brings us to the Michael Cohen guilty plea in the Southern District
of New York, which is a completed case. And that`s his guilty plea to
campaign crimes involving the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and another woman
to buy their silence weeks before the presidential election.
And in that case, that was presented as a conspiracy in effect to defraud
the American voter to not allow the American voter to know this kind of
information about the president and illegally financing that in effect to
the campaign contribution. That`s where Donald Trump was identified as
Individual-1. When Michael Cohen talks about this on February 7 in the
committee, he won`t be calling him Individual-1.
WINE-BANKS: I think that`s a really important point, is that no one has to
guess anymore who Individual-1 is. Although, it`s been pretty apparent.
But I think what`s also important is the coordination that has to take
This was a problem during Watergate where we had the Senate hearings going
on. And, in fact, the Senate actually gave immunity to John Dean that we
were very much opposed to because we felt that he would be a much more
credible witness if he didn`t have any immunity.
And so that was a problem but we worked through that. And it ended up that
the public could get the education it needed in order to be able to follow
and vote according to what they were learning while not having a problem
with the coordination between the special prosecutor and the Senate so it
can be done.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks and Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both
for joining us tonight.
And when we come back, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will
tell us what`s going to happen to Robert Mueller`s report, and he`s the guy
who should know. He wrote the rules about what happens to these reports.
O`DONNELL: I hope you consider yourselves as lucky as I do when I get to
hear Neal Katyal`s legal opinion about any legal case or important
situation involving the law because tonight we are the lucky ones. There
is no higher authority out there on the authority of special prosecutors
like Robert Mueller.
Neal Katyal drafted the Department of Justice rules for special counsels 20
years ago when he was working in the Clinton administration Justice
Department. And he now has no doubt that, because of the rules he wrote,
Robert Mueller`s report will be public.
But that`s not all. In addition, Neal Katyal is also one of the foremost
legal experts in the country in the use of presidential emergency power.
He has argued the biggest cases on emergency powers of the 21st Century at
the Supreme Court. And so who better to ask about what emergency powers
the president has at the southern border?
And so joining us now is Neal Katyal, former U.S. acting solicitor general.
Neal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want to first of all
start with the emergency that the president is thinking about declaring at
the southern border. What happens if he does that?
NEAL KATYAL: Well, it`s going to be challenged. And I think it`s a very
weak argument. So I think there`s two important pieces to it.
One is kind of whether or not the president has any chance of winning this
emergency. And second, what is this really saying about the president that
he`s going to try to assert this.
On the first, on kind of is this an emergency, the only emergency Trump can
point to is the fact he didn`t get his way. That is traditionally not an
emergency. The Supreme Court most famously in the steel seizure case in
1952 rejected these kinds of claims.
And I think Conservatives and Liberals alike have to really worry about the
president`s extravagant claim about emergency here because you can imagine
a future Democratic president, for example, saying you know, gun violence,
gun violence kills a lot of people, unlike these fake statistics that the
Trump administration`s putting together about immigration. So we`re going
to ban guns or something like that. You know, the system our founders left
us with is one in which Congress makes these calls, not the president. So
that`s number one.
And then number two on kind of what does this say about the president? I
mean it is really remarkable that he`s asserting this emergency power
because I think if he asserts it, I don`t think there`s any choice but for
the Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings. And I think indeed joined
by a lot of Republicans too at the end of the day.
I`m beginning to think maybe Trump wants to be impeached. I mean, that`s
the only way to really make sense of what this is about because you`re
dealing with a president who has effectively no agenda left. His agenda
is, as best I can tell, Twitter and the wall. And the wall isn`t working
out for him.
And this is a president who frankly acts like a snowflake. I mean he`s a
guy who claims to be the victim all the time and an impeachment proceeding,
of course, would allow him to make that cry even more. But as a matter of
law, as a matter of policy, this is a very, very damaging thing for the
country and indeed I think to Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: What would invoking the national emergency add to the momentum
for impeachment and why?
KATYAL: Well, I think one of the most important things you do as president
is take an oath to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. That`s
in our constitution. And the idea that the president could bypass, you
know, our most central thing our founders gave us, the separation of
powers, and say “Oh, I`m the president, I can do whatever I want.” You
know, sometimes in a true emergency there are real reasons for that, and
that`s why Congress passes emergency statutes because they recognize
Congress can`t always get every legislation passed.
But once you have a president who starts to abuse that, then it forces
Congress to contract those authorities and means that when the next
president faces a real crisis, not one of the president`s temper tantrum,
that he doesn`t have or she doesn`t have that suite of authorities. And
that is a terrible, terrible result. And that is why the stuff of which
impeachment is all made.
O`DONNELL: Speaking of presidential powers, what can Donald Trump do to
stop us from seeing the Mueller report?
KATYAL: So I don`t think that at the end of the day he can do very much.
The context here, there`s three important pieces. Number one, as you were
discussing earlier, the investigation is starting to bear fruit on Donald
I think most notably, you know, this is remarkable for one of the very few
times in American history over the last 200 years a president has been
fingered as ordering the commission of felonies. That`s what the Southern
District prosecutors did with respect to Michael Cohen and campaign
finance. That is extraordinary. That`s number one.
Number two, the president was reported yesterday to have hired 17 new
lawyers at the White House to try and assert executive privilege to block
information. And then number three, the attorney general, or right now the
fake attorney general Whitaker, or the new one Barr should he get
confirmed, both of these people have campaigned for the job of attorney
general by giving the president memos or talking on TV or stuff about how
Mueller needs to be reined in and all of that.
So basically, I do expect the attorney general or the acting attorney
general to try and suppress pieces of the Mueller report. But the way we
wrote the regulations back 20 years ago, I think it`s going to be virtually
impossible for him to succeed.
O`DONNELL: What specifically in the regulation protects Mueller`s ability
to deliver a report to Congress?
KATYAL: So two things. Number one, whenever the attorney general rejects
something that the Special Counsel Mueller asks for, it triggers an
automatic reporting requirement to Congress in both the majority and
minority parties. So that`s an anti-cover-up provision. So we anticipated
something like this in which you`d have something nefarious that might go
on. And that is one safety check.
And then the second safety check are the limitations on executive privilege
itself. Executive privilege is this idea that the president`s private
communications or government communications about important sensitive
matters not be released. But the Supreme Court in 1974, when Nixon tried
to assert it to protect against his own wrongdoing, unanimously said the
public has a right to know.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
KATYAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Jacob Soboroff will join us from the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOB SOBOROFF, CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC: There are pictures this morning
showing a steel barrier wall being sawed straight through. What good is a
steel wall if they can saw through it?
TRUMP: Well, that`s a wall that was designed by previous administrations.
There is nothing that can`t be penetrated but you fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now by phone from the border, MSNBC correspondent
Jacob Soboroff. Jacob, that was your reporting that the president was
reacting today. He said there are pictures showing that the steel barrier
can just be sawed through. What do you make of the president`s response to
SOBOROFF (via telephone): Well, it wasn`t true, Lawrence, like much of
what the president said about the reality of life along the Southern
border. What you`re looking at on the screen right now is a picture that
we exclusively obtained of those steel slat barrier prototypes down in San
They were tested at the president`s direction by the way and constructed at
the president`s direction all eight of them, all of those different
materials. And that steel that he said that he came to a consensus and
agreed on with the Democrats in order to move forward, this $5.7 billion
and the shutdown, et cetera can be sliced clear through.
So that impenetrable barrier that the president is insistent on, while
800,000 people are sitting at home on furlough, however you want to put it,
turns out is not as strong as the president want you to believe.
O`DONNELL: And Jacob, is this something that – is this information that`s
available to the president now? I mean especially after an exchange like
that, wouldn`t people say to him, well, that actually is the latest stuff.
SOBOROFF: Yes. Not only is it available to the president, Lawrence.
Those tests that were conducted on all of those prototypes were ordered by
the president. Because remember, he had that reality show like contest
where he went down there last March in order to pick the best prototype,
the one that he liked the most.
And so the idea that the president says we might go look and choose another
design. First of all, we know that`s not true. What he said in the oval
office on Tuesday night, they`re going to go with steel.
And the idea that the president has been saying all along that he insisted
is going to be impenetrable, he has known at least since the testing period
last year that these steel barriers can be sliced clear through. And by
the way, the tools that they used, the quick saw, it`s something that you
go and pick up at Home Depot. You and I, after the show tonight, could go
and grab one at a 24-hour location if we wanted to.
That`s a type of technology that can get right through the president`s
border wall, which is why, all along, anybody who lives along the border
has said a border wall is not enough to stop what`s going on down here. It
has to be a comprehensive approach.
And by the way, any crisis the president is talking about in the first
place is largely a crisis of his own making.
O`DONNELL: And so Jacob, in what the president is calling an emergency
situation, he doesn`t have right now, according to your reporting, the
technology that would address the emergency that he is trying to describe.
SOBOROFF: If the wall worked, Lawrence, it wouldn`t address the technology
he`s trying to describe in the first place. Because we know, number one,
that the humanitarian crisis is something that he started.
I mean not he started rather but I should say that he exacerbated by
meeting people at these ports of entry, forcing them through dangerous
journeys and deadly journeys. And the latest example, of course, is these
two young children who tragically and horrifically died in border custody.
O`DONNELL: Jacob Soborrof, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
We`ll be right back.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the