Cohen testifies he met with Trump at WH. TRANSCRIPT: 2/27/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`m so glad you played that final word from Michael Cohen today because
there is so much video in this hearing –
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Yes.
O`DONNELL: – that I`m not going to be able to include in the next hour.
That`s one of the things. When I saw it, I thought, oh, we have to use
that. By the time we get this all done, there is no room.
O`DONNELL: It`s one of those days.
MADDOW: What we did for my show today, first of all, there were so many
amazing dramatic, personal and even kinetic funny moments. We`re not doing
any of that. We`re going to create a giant list of concrete, discreet
revelations about stuff that we didn`t know before. There`s about 30 of
those. We`re not going to do any of that.
Now, we need to focus on the serious, you know, multi-variant criminal
allegations this guy is making about this president since he`s been in
office because you have to prioritize that because of its importance. But
this is – this is 30 days worth of material today.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and none of it, not a single thing that we saw today, none
of it would have happened, the hearing would not have occurred if the
Democrats did not win the House of Representatives –
O`DONNELL: – on election night. Tonight`s lesson in your vote really,
MADDOW: Yes. And to hear Elijah Cummings in his emotional roundup at the
end when he talked about – he gave his own closing statement and even when
he spoke to reporters thereafter, talking about what he hopes for this
committee and what he wants in terms of decency and civility on this
committee and what he wants to be able to do with members reaching across
the aisle and pulling in the same patriotic direction on these things was I
think heartfelt in part because of his frustration that none of this stuff
could be pursued at all, at all, at all, at all until the Democrats took
O`DONNELL: And he –
MADDOW: Shouldn`t be that way.
O`DONNELL: He remembers a world in which things actually did run smoothly
in the House of Representatives, and you could have hearings that were
conducted on a bipartisan basis.
O`DONNELL: That`s the dream he has of trying to get back to that.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. It`s so much to get through. I`m going to sit down
and watch you do it.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, we have everyone we need tonight to cover this historic
day. We have one of the members of the committee who questioned Michael
Cohen today, who revealed information we would not have known without his
particular line of questioning.
We have a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Eric Swalwell, who
will be questioning Michael Cohen tomorrow in a closed-door session.
We have former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah, formerly of the U.S.
attorneys` office in the Southern District of New York. You heard a lot
about the southern district of New York today. The legal filings on
Michael Cohen by the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York
became a major component in all of the Republicans` questioning in that
We have Tim O`Brien who wrote a book about Donald Trump and his businesses.
A book that got Tim O`Brien sued by Donald Trump, a lawsuit that Tim
O`Brien won. Tim O`Brien was the first person who said the words “Allen
Weisselberg” to me when he identified Allen Weisselberg, the chief
financial officer of the Trump Organization as a key player in the
investigation of the Trump business. And we heard Michael Cohen making
repeated references today to Allen Weisselberg, who may now be called
before that committee.
And no one can take up inside the Trump business – no one can talk about
the inside of the Trump businesses better than Tim O`Brien. So we`re very
lucky to have him here tonight.
And we have a first guest tonight who has played a very special role in the
Michael Cohen story for me personally. You know, whenever I meet members
of our audience out there in the world walking down the street or in the
airport, you always ask me what`s going to happen, what`s going to happen
next, and I always tell you that I don`t know because I don`t know anything
that I`m not telling you right here, and that has always been true
throughout the Trump presidency, except for one very important
conversations that I had with a friend of Michael Cohen`s last summer when
I was told that the information Michael Cohen would eventually reveal about
Donald Trump would be devastating and that that information could
definitely be developed into articles of impeachment.
That friend of Michael Cohen is also a friend of mine, and he didn`t tell
me any more detail than that at the time. He just gave me that guidance
that somewhere down the road, it would come to this. It would come to what
the Democrats are now calling the smoking gun.
My leadoff guest tonight knew it was going to come. He knew it long before
the rest of us did. He knew that Michael Cohen was going to make the
history that Michael Cohen made today.
We have all the experts assembled who we need for this momentous night, but
for me, I wouldn`t want to do this show tonight without that one mutual
friend who Michael Cohen and I have, and he will join us in a moment.
The Democrats now have the smoking gun. Today, Michael Cohen wrote the
first article of impeachment against President Trump in his testimony in
the House of Representatives, the place where impeachment of a president
begins. Democrats believe Michael Cohen gave them the smoking gun today.
That`s what Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna called this contribute that
Michael Cohen introduced in the all-day hearing in the House Committee on
This check made to Michael Cohen carries the now recognizable signature of
Donald Trump and was signed by the president six months into his
presidency. It marks the first time in American history that we have seen
a check signed by a president for an illegal purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: As exhibit 5A to my testimony shows,
I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally
signed from his personal bank account on August 1st of 2017, when he was
president of the United States, pursuant to the cover-up, which was the
basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The crime as described by federal prosecutors and in Michael
Cohen`s guilty plea testimony took place weeks before the presidential
election when Michael Cohen used his own funds to arrange a payment of
$130,000 to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence. What America learned from
Michael Cohen today is that that criminal scheme extended forward in time
into the presidency of Donald Trump. Because President Trump arranged a
reimbursement schedule for Michael Cohen that included 11 checks delivered
to him during the first year of the Trump presidency. Some of those checks
were signed by President Trump. Some of them were signed by Donald Trump
Jr. and by Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump
The smoking gun check, the one with Donald Trump`s bold signature, will now
take its place in popular culture. You will be seeing it in tweets
forever. You will be seeing it on T-shirts. It will be imprinted on
toilet paper, on coffee mugs and it will take its place in history as the
most important check Donald Trump has ever written because it is the check
that could end his presidency.
And so, the Trump loyalists in that hearing today had one job to do, and
that was attack that check, attack Michael Cohen`s explanation of the crime
that check is part of and not one Republican member of the committee dared
to do that. Not one of them went after that check. Not one Republican
member of the committee tried to defuse that bomb for Donald Trump. They
left the smoking gun untouched in their cross-examination of Michael Cohen.
And instead of attacking that evidence, instead of attacking that check,
they attacked Michael Cohen and they used the words of the attorney in the
Southern District of New York against Michael Cohen.
That is the office of the federal prosecutor who got Michael Cohen`s guilty
plea. And today, it was if those federal prosecutors in the southern
district of New York were sitting right there in the Republican side of the
hearing room as counsel to the Republican members of the committee who put
full faith and confidence in every word that they quoted from those federal
prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Take what the southern district of New York
said, Cohen did crimes that were marked by a pattern of deception and that
permeated his professional life.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: According to the southern
district of New York, you failed to disclose more than $20 million in
REP. MICHAEL CLOUD (R-TX), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Southern District of New
York in their statement, their sentencing memo says this. Cohen`s criminal
violations in the federal election laws were also stirred, like others,
crimes by his own ambition and greed. I ask unanimous consent to submit
the sentencing moment from the Southern District of New York for the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And I ask your unanimous consent to read you portions of the
sentencing memo that the Republicans did not read today.
During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to
purchase the rights to stories, each from women who claimed to have had an
affair with individual one, so as to suppress the stories and thereby
prevent them from influencing the election.
And who was individual one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVEN LYNCH (D-MA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: And who are you referring
to here when we refer to individual one?
COHEN: Donald J. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That part of the sentencing memo that the Republicans did not
read continues. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent
to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions
with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and
phone calls about the fact, nature and timing of the payments, in
particular and as Cohen himself as now admitted with respect to both
payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual
And so, the federal prosecutors in New York who the Republicans repeatedly
quoted today as if they were quoting the bible are the very same
prosecutors who in the very same memo say that the president of the United
States committed crimes with Michael Cohen and that those crimes were
committed at the direction of Donald Trump. Donald Trump was the boss of
the criminal enterprise described by the federal prosecutors who the
Republicans quoted today, but were very careful to never quote the part
where those same prosecutors accused the president of the United States of
having committed crimes.
The Republicans on the committee told America, you cannot believe Michael
Cohen now because he is a convicted criminal and one of his crimes was
lying to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: A guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.
REP. JODY HICE (R), GEORGIA: Lying to Congress.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Lying to Congress.
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Intricate, elaborate lies.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: Liar, liar, pants on fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I`ll never forget, the first convicted criminal who I saw
testify to Congress, and he was guilty of crimes much worse than lying. He
was a murderer. He was a made man in the mafia.
I was a little boy in 1963 watching Joe Valachi testify to Congress about
Italian organized crime in America on black and white TV. And though we
knew Joe Valachi was a criminal and murderer, we also found him very
believable. I don`t mean just the kids. The senators thought his
testimony was believable and worth hearing.
In testimony that I remember to this day, Joe Valachi described to the
Senate and America watching on TV the initiation ritual for the criminal
organization that we learned that day was called the Cosa Nostra by its
members. The ceremony was in Italian and the new member had to take a
piece of paper and burn it in his hands. I`ll never forget the way he said
the word “burned”, in his New York accent, it became boyned (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demonstrate just what you did. What?
JOE VALACHI, MOBSTER: This piece of paper is burned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?
VALACHI: And then you light it and in your hand you say – then they give
you words in Italian, but I know what it meant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In other words, while you were repeating the words, you
were burning the paper.
VALACHI: This is the way I burn if I expose this organization. And then
he pricks your finger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who?
VALACHI: The godfather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He pricks your finger?
VALACHI: Pricks your finger, with a needle. In other words, the blood
relation supposed to be like brothers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And the Senate and America believed every word. Six years
later, Mario Apuzzo published his mafia novel “The Godfather” and three
years after that there were long lines in front of movie theaters all over
the country for audiences to see Marlon Brando playing “The Godfather.”
And America has known since then and probably before that the most hardened
criminals in the world lie, cheat, steal and murder, but sometimes,
sometimes some of them tell the truth. And when criminals like Joe Valachi
tell the truth, their criminal friends turn on them and call them a rat,
which is what Donald Trump now calls his former friend Michael Cohen.
Leading off our discussion now: Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and
MSNBC legal contributor. Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg
opinion, an MSNBC contributor. He has reported on Donald Trump for decades
and, of course, was sued by Donald Trump and won.
And we are joined by MSNBC contributor and friend of Michael Cohen, Donny
Deutsch, the man who told me many, many months ago that this day was
And, Donny, when you told me that in that short but powerful conversation
in that hallway, I thought when the day comes, I need Donny on the show as
the first guest. Tell us what you saw in that hearing room today with your
friend Michael Cohen.
DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: Well, the day hasn`t come yet
because this is a – this is –
O`DONNELL: There`s more?
DEUTSCH: This is an open act. The day that you`ll have me back on is when
the Southern District RICOs the Trump organization, that`s the Racketeering
Influence Corrupt Organization Act, which is introduced when people sit
atop a criminal organization where basically they will go every everything
this criminal organization has done from the charities to the Trump – to
the money laundering to bank fraud to wire fraud to insurance fraud.
They`ll take the empire apart. They`ll take buildings away.
That`s when I`ll come back on the show because that will be the closing
act. This and Mueller will be the opening act. And what you saw today,
and I still think that Russia is going to be a sidebar into this, is a peek
inside this criminal enterprise.
You saw the little pieces coming into play. You saw the word insurance
come up for the first time. You saw him mentioning the children in
different ways. You saw obviously the campaign violation, but that`s not
where this ends.
This ends where if you live in New York City, I ran a big advertising
agency for years. There were bankers and lawyers and real estate
developers. What everybody knows about Donald Trump and his organization,
it is the slimiest of the slime. It is just the way they do business.
It is dishonest. It is unethical. It is criminal. And the Southern
District will take it apart.
So what Michael Cohen did today that I knew was coming, I knew a lot of the
things that Michael knew but I also know a lot of things about how the
Trumps do business, this is the opening act.
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, your old shop, the Southern District of New York,
kept coming up in every Republican question, but they left out the part
where the same prosecutors said Donald Trump directed these crimes.
ROCAH: Exactly. I mean, you hit the nail on the head. What they wanted
to do was paint Cohen as a liar, which really isn`t surprising since the
first thing Cohen did was admitted he`s a liar. He`s lied on behalf of
Trump. And that`s the part that they wanted to just, you know, ignore,
right? Because if you believe Cohen`s testimony today, it`s very, very
damaging for Trump.
And so, that`s why instead of, as you said, going after the facts and
trying to counter some of the actual assertions he made about what Trump
did like direct him in essence to lie, although he was careful not to
overstate it, you know, help concoct this scheme of silencing women and
then reimbursing through this essentially a fraud scheme. If you believe
all of that, that`s very damaging for Trump. And so, the only thing they
can do is to attack him as opposed to going after the facts because to
leave it under attacked, to leave his credibility in tact is just
devastating for Trump.
O`DONNELL: And Tim, Allen Weisselberg came up. He suddenly started to
become a featured player in the hearing because people kept saying, well,
who else can we go to for more information about whether it would be
insurance fraud possibilities or other issues? And that name Allen
Weisselberg kept coming up. And we now are hearing from the committee that
he may be one of the witnesses they call.
TIM O`BRIEN: Right, along with Matthew Calamari and Rhona Graff, all these
names that people didn`t know before, but who have been sitting in the
Trump Organization for decades.
You know, Trump chose people pretty quickly, but there is a core group of
people who have been with him for a long time. They`re not terribly
sophisticated but they buy into the cult of personality around Trump. They
don`t argue and they do what they`re told.
Allen Weisselberg specifically joined the Trump Organization at the same
time Donald did in the 1970s. He was Fred Trump`s accountants. He`s
handled Donald Trump`s personal tax returns. He signs off on every major
deal that Trump does.
Michael Cohen`s only been there since 2006. He`s got a window on some
things, but Trump used him as the pitfall. Allen Weisselberg has deep
institutional knowledge. So, what Donny was saying about, you know, when
the Southern District decides to pounce and start to take apart some of the
pieces of what Trump`s doing, particularly I think around issues like money
O`BRIEN: – Allen Weisselberg is going to be a cog in the middle of that
because he authentically knows where all bodies are buried.
DEUTSCH: You`re not going to have to go through Enron. Tim will know
this. If you`ve been up to the Trump Organization, it`s a dusty office.
Here is Donald. Here are the three kids. Here is the CFO.
O`BRIEN: Stuck in the 1980s.
DEUTSCH: You go back to Valachi, if you went to one of those little, you
know, coffee bars.
DEUTSCH: So you don`t have to pick through a lot of layers. It is a mom
and pop licensing company. So, it is – and it was run that way.
And as you see Donald Trump at – see the way he conducts himself as
president? Just in front of everybody beyond the law, imagine as a private
citizen when nobody`s watching. Imagine in the real estate business, which
is a pretty slimy business even if you`re a straight shooter to begin with.
Imagine the antics that he was up to.
Well, we`re not going to have to imagine. So, I thank you for those nice
things that you said, but I want to extend a future invitation to myself
when the –
O`DONNELL: Permanent invitation.
O`DONNELL: So, Mimi, Donny tells us more – certainly to say this is going
to end up in a RICO prosecution. And my experience with Donny on this
subject is he doesn`t exaggerate anything, anything. Everything is as
solid as you could ask it to be.
How would we get from here to a RICO prosecution?
ROCAH: Well, it`s not crazy, I will say that, in this sense. Look, RICO -
- there is very technical requirements, but it is –
O`DONNELL: And Donny didn`t go to law school, so you can correct him.
DEUTSCH: I barely got – I did go to Wharton with Donald Trump, though.
ROCAH: Interesting. But RICO is meant to capture is when you have all
sorts of different kinds of criminal activity being committed on behalf of
one centralized person and organization and, you know, it`s kind of – I
mean, it`s exactly what you think of. It`s almost like a spider web and
all the different spiders are in it and they`re all doing different kinds
of crimes. It`s to capture it all together, because to charge any one
single crime alone doesn`t capture the essence of the organization.
So that`s why I say, as you`re right, the more different kinds of crimes we
hear, insurance fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, you need crimes that are
considered predicates like specified under the statute, that you can use in
RICO. But I do see the idea that if the Trump organization is being used
as a vehicle to commit many different crimes of state and federal crimes,
it can capture state crimes and become federal under RICO as well. Then,
you know, that`s when RICO becomes useful.
O`DONNELL: Which brings us to one of the scariest answers and questions
that the Trump organization and President Trump had to experience today.
That is when Michael Cohen was asked if there are any other illegal acts
that he`s aware of that he hasn`t mentioned today. Let`s watch this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Is there any other wrongdoing or
illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven`t
yet discussed today?
COHEN: Yes, and, again, those are part of the investigation that`s
currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was one of my jump out of the seat moments, Tim.
O`BRIEN: Well, you know, following upon what Mimi said, I think in
addition, one of the atmospheric things about RICO is there is someone at
the head of the web or in the center of the web orchestrating this. This
has come out. It came out today.
At one point, Michael Cohen was asked, so are you saying that Donald Trump
orchestrated a criminal fraud with Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg?
Yes. At this moment, are there other frauds we don`t know about or other
crimes that were committed? Yes.
Of course that`s going to make Donald Trump jump out of his socks. He`s in
Hanoi. He just got epically trolled by Michael Cohen thousands of miles
away. He did to Trump what Trump has done to everyone else. He has
damning testimony, he`s insulted him personally and Trump`s in a box
halfway around the world and can`t do anything about it.
The next leg of this, I think, is people inside the Trump Organization are
going to start to have to decide do they take care of themselves, do they
take care of Trump or do they try to find a middle ground? I don`t think
they`re going to ultimately be able to have a middle ground.
DEUTSCH: Mimi, how does that work?
O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, it sounds like Allen Weisselberg, for one, has
already made a decision about that. He reportedly has an immunity
agreement with the southern district.
ROCAH: Well, I want to be careful there because I don`t know for sure, but
just based on the reporting that we`re gleaning, maybe you have more
specifics, I think his immunity was pretty limited. So there is
cooperation agreements and then there is immunity agreements. Cooperation
agreements are you tell us everything about everything. Immunity is we`re
going to bring you in on this one day to the grand jury.
O`BRIEN: Which was August of last year.
ROCAH: And you`re going to answer questions and that`s it. And so that
can be very limited.
So I think Allen Weisselberg still has that decision to make that we`re
talking about. Is the going to get on board and cooperate? Which it
sounds like he should or he is in some serious legal jeopardy himself.
O`DONNELL: Donny, talk about the man we saw today in that committee room.
I mean, you over the months have tried to tell me that Michael Cohen is
actually a nice guy in certain ways. I didn`t want to hear it. I focus on
what he has done and what he`s participated in.
But I saw the man today. You couldn`t miss him. We were exposed to him
for hours on end. We saw him cry. We saw him talk about the pain this has
caused his family in very convincing ways. There is no one who can doubt
that part of it.
We saw him stay composed, never fall for the bait that the Republicans were
trying to get him to fall for, never getting angry, never giving more of an
answer than was necessary, and being, you know, as solid a witness in terms
of performance as you can see in those kinds of hearings. What did you see
in that range of emotion in the range of what you saw him go through? I`m
particularly interested in what you felt, what you thought when you saw him
address Donald Trump directly into that camera.
DEUTSCH: I saw what I`ve, seeing over the last couple of years. What the
public has seen is basically the old clips.
O`DONNELL: That`s all I know.
DEUTSCH: Look, Michael Cohen was Trump`s kind of thuggy lawyer and did
dishonest things, and his explanation, which is the real explanation if you
know Michael personal, if you know Donald personally, he was in the glow.
He went from being a taxicab attorney to Trump`s attorney on his lapel pin.
That`s intoxicating. He`s described it as a cult. That doesn`t excuse,
but it explains a lot of his behavior.
What I saw over the last couple of years is a guy who knows he did wrong
things and says, wait a second, I`m the guy taking the fall? Look what`s
happening in the world here. The very thing that we are – our heads
almost explode about every night.
Imagine if you are becoming aware of that, you realized you were a part of
it, a piece of it, you`re paying the consequences while the other guy is
circling in Air Force One. And I saw I guy who would break down every time
we`d talk about his family. I saw a guy, look, if this hadn`t happened,
would he have gotten to this place? Probably not. But it did happen.
And he is in this place and it`s genuine and it`s real and the camera does
not lie. His life is destroyed. He is a family – you know, Congressman,
I can`t remember his name, put out that thing the other day about his wife
potentially, that is the – we`re not even going to dignify it. I`ve
already gone through that, but to see the effect on this man.
I was on the phone the night that Trump went after his father-in-law. He
said, I`m not doing this. I`m not doing this. He`s a family guy. He is a
good man that did some stupid, bad things.
And I would not talk the way I talk about him. I`m a pretty cynical guy
and I`m a street guy, I know people. I`ve known guys like this my entire
life, as I said.
Is he a choir boy? No. Does he deserve to go to jail for what he did?
Yes. But he`s a good guy.
O`DONNELL: Donny Deutsch is not someone who`s going to be fooled by
people. He understands the complexity of people and that they come with
Donny, are you doing “MORNING JOE” tomorrow?
DEUTSCH: I am.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for staying up late.
DEUTSCH: Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Couldn`t get through this hour without you.
Mimi Rocah, thank you for joining us.
Tim O`Brien, I really appreciate it. We needed you here tonight more than
And when we come back, one of the senior Democrats on the committee today,
Gerry Connolly, stunned the room when he got Michael Cohen to reveal he had
a meeting with Donald Trump in 2017 before Michael Cohen falsely testified
to the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Connolly will join us
And Michael Cohen will testify tomorrow to the House Intelligence Committee
in a closed session. Congressman Eric Swalwell will be in that closed
committee meeting and he will join us later in this hour.
O`DONNELL: In today`s hearing, Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly led
Michael Cohen through questioning that revealed that Michael Cohen had a
meeting in the White House with President Trump and the president`s private
lawyer Jay Sekulow before Michael Cohen provided a false statement to the
House Intelligence Committee in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-WA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: You had a conversation
with the president of the United States about your impending testimony
before the House Intelligence Committee, is that correct?
COHEN: That`s correct.
CONNOLLY: What was the nature of that conversation?
COHEN: He wanted me to cooperate. He also wanted just to ensure by making
the statement, and I said it in my testimony, there is no Russia, there is
no collusion, there is no deal. He goes, it`s all a witch hunt. And this
– he goes, this stuff has to end.
CONNOLLY: Did you take those comments to be suggestive of what might
flavor your testimony?
COHEN: Sir, he`s been saying that to me for many, many months. And at the
end of the day, I knew
exactly what he wanted me to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now after a long day in that hearing room,
Congressman Gerry Connolly. Congressman Connolly, really appreciate you
staying with us tonight after that long day of work in that hearing room.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I know what those hearing rooms are like. Really appreciate
it. What do you think is the most important thing that we learned in that
hearing room today?
CONNOLLY: Well, I think we certainly had confirmation that the Trump
Organization headed by Mr. Trump is by any other name a criminal
enterprise. And very much like, you know, the organizations described by
Joe Valachi. You mentioned it earlier in the report. I brought it up this
morning in the hearing reminding my Republican colleagues that Joe Valachi
revolutionized how Congress dealt with organized crime and made a huge
difference in law enforcement`s dealing with organized crime.
And as you pointed out, he was a lot more than a convicted liar, he was a
murderer. But his testimony nonetheless was pivotal to unlocking the keys
to how the Mafia was organized. Mr. Cohen is going to be, I believe, one
of the pivotal figures in unlocking the key – the keyhole to how the Trump
Organization, in fact, operates. And in many ways, it does resemble a
O`DONNELL: You kept making the point to your Republican colleagues that it
is possible to take testimony from convicted criminals and invest belief in
that testimony. This happens in courtrooms around the country every day.
Criminals turn on each other, testify against each other.
But one of the most important things that is an element of those kinds of
cases is something – is any evidence that exists beyond the word of the
criminal. And there was Michael Cohen showing you, submitting to you that
check with the president`s signature on it six months into the Trump
presidency, presumably signed somewhere in the White House, possibly the
oval office. You don`t have to take Michael Cohen`s word for that check.
That check is real.
CONNELLY: That`s right, Lawrence. And if we really just go back a little
bit in time, let`s remember how this began. The president denies any
knowledge whatsoever of an affair with the two women described, let alone
hush money payments to them to keep silent.
And then we evolve to Giuliani, his media attorney, saying, “Well, so what
if he, in fact, paid them? That`s a private matter and so what if he
reimbursed his personal attorney?” Having denied everything up to that
And now we know shades of Spiro Agnew, that in the oval office itself he is
actually signing one of these reimbursement checks to his personal attorney
for hush payments made to these two women with whom he had an affair in
order to circumvent the federal election law so it wouldn`t interfere with
the election results in 2016. That`s against the law.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Chairman Cummings said today when he was
asked after the hearing if he thought that he heard evidence that President
Trump committed a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Based on what you heard, do you believe that the president
committed a crime while in office?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Based on what
– looking at the text and listening to Mr. Cohen, it appears that he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Do you agree with the chairman, that it appears that the
president committed a crime?
CONNOLLY: I do. And I believe that what Cohen did today wasn`t to give us
new evidence to that effect but to confirm what we already knew in one
case. Remember that when the filing documents were unsealed from the
Southern District of New York with respect to Mr. Cohen, he was convicted
of a crime that the Southern District U.S. attorney said was coordinated
and directed by individual number one. Individual number one we know is
Donald J. Trump.
So it`s not news that Mr. Trump, in fact, has exposed himself to criminal
activity by coordinating and directing a criminal act that he helped his
personal attorney commit. And for which that personal attorney is going to
go to jail.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Gerry Connolly, we really appreciate you extending
your workday to include us and –
CONNOLLY: Any time.
O`DONNELL: – please come back. You`re welcome any time you can join us
at this hour. Really appreciate it.
CONNOLLY: I`d love to do it, Lawrence. Big fan.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Congressman.
CONNOLLY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, Michael Cohen will testify
to another congressional committee tomorrow in a closed-door session with
the House Intelligence Committee. The chairman of that committee Adam
Schiff has already said that he wants to follow up on Trump Tower Moscow
and Roger Stone`s conversations with WikiLeaks and other things that he
heard in that hearing today.
Congressman Eric Swalwell is a member of the Intelligence Committee who
will be in that meeting tomorrow. Congressman Swalwell will join us next.
O`DONNELL: Today, Michael Cohen connected Julian Assange, Roger Stone, and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about
the release of the hacked documents of the Democratic National Committee e-
mails ahead of time, and the answer is yes. As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump
knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of e-mails.
In July of 2016, days before the Democratic Convention, I was in Mr.
Trump`s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the
phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr.
Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that
Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a
massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Mr.
Trump responded by stating to the effect, “Wouldn`t that be great.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That will be a point of extreme interest in the House
Intelligence Committee tomorrow when they interview Michael Cohen in a
And joining us now, one of the members of that committee, Congressman Eric
Swalwell, Democrat from California. Congressman Swalwell, I know that in
your hearing tomorrow, some of what gets said in that closed session could
be public. It`s just that there`s enough that will be said that is – that
couldn`t be public that it needs to be closed.
Of the – of what you can share with us, did you hear things in today`s
hearing, in today`s public hearing that you expect to be expanded on in
tomorrow`s closed hearing?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening,
Lawrence. Yes, we did. Particularly around three areas. One, that Donald
Trump had knowledge of WikiLeaks. He was previewed what they were later
released. Two, that he did talk to his son in what appears to be the Trump
Tower meeting that his son had with the Russians as they were about to dump
information about Hillary Clinton. And third, that he would routinely ask
what`s going on with Russia as it related to the Trump Tower project.
But it`s just so disturbing to imagine a candidate for president of the
United States of America from any party, to imagine that that individual
would be told that a U.S. adversary who is working against our interests
every day is helping his campaign or that any adversary would be helping
his campaign and that he doesn`t say, “Stop it.” He doesn`t say, “Don`t do
it.” He doesn`t say, `That`s not what we do. Go to the police.” Instead,
he says, “Wouldn`t that be great.”
And so that`s what we`ll probe further, but, of course, we`ll get into the
Mueller investigation as well.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to two things that were said today about the -
- related to the Trump Tower meeting. One is a question by Congresswoman
Wasserman Schultz about the way the Trump family shares information. Let`s
listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: If Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka and son
Donald Jr. are involved in the Russian Trump ower deal, is it possible the
whole family is conflicted or compromised with a foreign adversary in the
months before the election?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And with that possibility, let`s now also listen to what was
Michael Cohen`s description of Donald Trump Jr. Discussing that Trump Tower
meeting before it happened with his father. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low
voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, “The Meeting is all set.”
And I remember Mr. Trump saying, “OK, good. Let me know.”
So I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower
meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representatives when he
walked behind his dad`s desk that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s the point you`re going to be looking for more detail on,
SWALWELL: Yes. We believe there are more witnesses to what the
candidate`s interest was and what the candidate`s family was doing or not
doing as this information was offered to them. And, Lawrence, also when
you put into perspective what we heard today from Michael Cohen, this is
not Michael Cohen`s word versus Donald Trump`s word.
This is Michael Cohen`s word without Donald Trump ever going under oath,
not going under oath with Mueller, not going under oath after Comey
testified. You now have more and more witnesses raising their right hand,
willing to go under oath, and Donald Trump says nothing under oath.
So the evidence – the state of the evidence is uncontroverted that these
facts exist and that`s why I think the American people should be very
concerned that we have a corrupted president who presided over a corrupted
business and ran a corrupted campaign.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, what`s the most important piece of
evidence you would point to for your constituents today to focus them on
what happened in that hearing?
SWALWELL: Lawrence, to me the most important piece of evidence was the
president`s knowledge of the Trump Tower in Moscow, the Trump Tower in New
York meeting with the Russians and the WikiLeaks work on his behalf. He,
throughout the campaign, invited the Russians to keep hacking, previewed
future dirt coming out on Hillary Clinton.
We always believed in our House Intelligence Committee investigation that
he knew this was going on, but he denied it all the way up to right now as
we sit here today. And so the president has lied to us. And now it`s time
for those chickens to come home to roost and for he and anyone on his
campaign who worked with the Russians or knew what the Russians did to
finally be held accountable.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, we really appreciate your
availability to us tonight, and generally on this program, and please come
back. We really appreciate having you.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez steered
Michael Cohen into territory where no one else went today in a line of
questioning that could lead to many more problems for Donald Trump and the
Trump family business.
O`DONNELL: In a meticulous series of questions, Congresswoman Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez opened up another Trump can of worms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I want to ask a little bit
about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about acid
inflation. To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated
assets to an insurance company?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?
COHEN: Alan Weisselberg, Ron Leibman, and Matthew Calamari.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on
this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax
returns in order to compare them?
COHEN: Yes. And you`d find it at the Trump Org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After a break, our legal team of Rocah and Shugerman will get
the last word on the legal risks to the president and his family that were
exposed in today`s hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the
greatest infomercial in political history. He never expected to win the
primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for
him was always a marketing opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The infomercial has morphed into an investigation, an
investigation of the president, his family, and his businesses.
Joining us now is Jed Shugerman, a professor of law at Fordham University
who`s closely followed these investigations of Donald Trump. Mimi Rocah is
back with us.
And Jed, I want to go to the point raised by Congresswoman Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez. She`s talking about asset inflation. Has Donald Trump ever
engaged in asset inflation to which she got a very quick yes from Michael
Cohen? It seems to be a matter of asset inflation for insurance purposes
which then could lead to insurance fraud and are there other worms in that
JED SHUGERMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right. So let`s say a
couple of things. First, the insurance fraud is implicated here directly.
But that`s both federal and state insurance fraud. The key thing is always
looking whether it`s a state criminal liability because that deals with
which other prosecutors might get involved, New York State prosecutors, and
that prevents the pardon problem.
But that also implicates state tax fraud. And so all of these actors could
be implicated. And the bigger picture, there could be indictments of Trump
Organization, additional indictments of Trump Foundation because it`s
implicated and potentially the dissolution under a New York State law. The
New York State attorney general could bring about an action under Quo
Warranto to dissolve the Trump Organization in New York State.
O`DONNELL: And Mimi, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the third
last member to speak. She`s one of the three junior members who were at
the very end of the panel. And in my experience in congressional hearings,
you don`t learn anything at that point in the hearing. And they don`t
leave anything good for the junior members. It`s all been eaten up and
used by the time you get down there.
And yet there it was, there was all this new territory for Ocasio-Cortez to
cover. Were you as a former prosecutor just sitting there throughout the
hearing taking notes on, oh, there`s a new possibility, there`s a new
ROCAH: I was. I have my list of leads. And I mean it`s interesting
because she approached her questioning like a real investigator. Let me
ask questions where I can find out who should I talk to next, what
documents should I get. I think probably the Southern District and the New
York State Law Enforcement are already down those paths. They`re going to
have to make Sure they de-conflict. But that was smart.
And that is where they should go next. And look, we talked about this
earlier in the show. But Allan Weisselberg is obviously someone who needs
to be questioned in some form. It`s going to be tricky because he`s going
to need some kind of immunity or he`s going to get charged by someone.
I mean there`s sort of two paths here for him. But he is the next central
figure here I think to talk. And, of course, the documents at the end of
the day are really what`s going to tell the case, right. Because whether
you have a Cohen or Weisselberg, they`re going to walk through the
documents. They`re going to be the narrators.
O`DONNELL: To go back to the big picture of this, Jed, you haven`t had a
shot at this. What do you think was the most important evidence in the
SHUGERMAN: Well, first of all, I think that there was more evidence about
suborning perjury or false statements, right. I think there was a big
question out of last night about the allegations that what was Trump doing
and it was I think a shortcoming of the prepared statement. It was really
I was concerned coming in what evidence did Cohen have that Trump was
directly involved, not during the election. That wasn`t significant. That
wasn`t sufficient enough.
I think he laid out more clearly how Trump was directly involved with not
explicitly – suborning perjury or false statement doesn`t require flash
cards saying go perjure. But the signals were clear enough and I think he
laid that out. I thought that was significant.
And I also think the campaign finance felonies. It is beyond a doubt now
that there`s probable cause that Trump engaged in an intentional campaign-
finance felony and now that raises some questions about Southern District
of New York. It`s time to start talking about indicting a sitting
O`DONNELL: And Mimi, the development that – the felony that we thought
occurred three weeks, a couple of weeks before the election, extended into
the first presidential year.
ROCAH: Yes. And look, that`s huge. We`re talking about a scheme here
that helped get Trump into office and continued once he was in office. And
that raises the seriousness of the crime.
O`DONNELL: We need more time tonight that we do not have. Jed Shugerman
and Mimi Rocah, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate
That is tonight`s last word.
“THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS” starts now.
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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