Cohen to testify to Intelligence Committee. TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
Michael Cohen testifies again tomorrow, closed doors, to the Intelligence
Committee. We have a member of the committee who will be questioning
tomorrow joining us. And his lawyer Lanny Davis is going to be joining us.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Very good. Lanny Davis made some news on our
show earlier this week and what he has within the past week and he tends to
have his finger on the pulse here. Good luck with that.
O`DONNELL: He`s very good at that. And that`s why he`s the lead guest
tonight and he might make some news tonight. We will see.
MADDOW: On the edge of my seat. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, as I said, Michael Cohen will be testifying once again tomorrow at a
closed session of the House Intelligence Committee and Michael Cohen`s
lawyer Lanny Davis will be our first guest tonight. When Michael Cohen
speaks investigators, around the country take notes and go to work.
“The New York Times” is reporting tonight that New York state insurance
regulators are investigating President Trump and his company because of
Michael Cohen`s answers to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Did the president ever
provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: Yes.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: “The New York Times” is reporting, quote, New York state
regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the Trump Organization`s
longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance
policies and claims involving President Trump`s family business, according
to a person briefed on the matter.
“The New York Times” also reports that the nine-page subpoena demands a
broad range of materials dating back to 2009. The subpoena demands copies
of all communications between an insurance broker and Donald Trump and the
State and federal investigators are not the only ones who found Michael
Cohen`s testimony credible enough to require further investigation, a new
Quinnipiac poll shows that 50 percent of voters believe Michael Cohen now
more than they believe President Trump with only 35 percent believe
President Trump more than they believe Michael Cohen. That same Quinnipiac
poll shows that 64 percent of voters believe that President Trump committed
crimes before he took office. Only 24 percent do not believe the president
committed crimes before he took office.
Forty-five percent of voters believe that the president has committed
crimes while in office. Forty-three percent do not believe that the
president has committed crimes while in office.
Michael Cohen provided the House Oversight Committee evidence that
President Trump has indeed committed crimes both before he took office
during his presidential campaign and while in office as president. That
evidence came in the form of checks delivered to Michael Cohen from
President Trump, including one that was signed in the White House by the
Michael Cohen testified that those checks were part of an illegal pay off
scheme to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about her affair with Donald
Trump during the presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: In February of 2017, one month into his presidency, I`m visiting
President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time and he says to me
something to the effect of don`t worry Michael, your January and February
reimbursement checks are coming. They were FedExed from New York and it
takes awhile for that to get through the White House system. As he
promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here is that February check for $70,000 which covered two
months of the agreed upon payment of $35,000 a month to Michael Cohen to
reimburse him for the money that he paid to Stormy Daniels.
Note that this check came from the Donald J. Trump trust account. The
trust account. That check is signed by the Trump chief financial officer
Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. Michael Cohen received another
check with the same signatures from the same trust account a month later
for his monthly payment of $35,000.
And the check that Michael Cohen produced in last week`s hearing with
Donald Trump`s signature was written six months into the Trump presidency
and came from a different account, what appears to be a personal checking
account of Donald J. Trump. The accounts used to pay these checks are an
important element of this story, which we will explore in a moment with
Michael Cohen`s lawyer Lanny Davis.
One of the least important manners Michael Cohen testified to was Donald
Trump`s desperate concern to keep his academic records from high school and
college hidden from public view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: When I say con man, I`m talking about a man who declares himself
brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and
the college board to never release his grades or SAT scores. As I
mentioned, I`m giving the committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr.
Trump`s direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions
if Mr. Trump`s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Fordham University confirmed they were threatened to keep
Donald Trump`s college transcript hidden. The University of Pennsylvania
where Donald Trump transferred after Fordham has made no public comment.
And “The Washington Post” is reporting tonight that friends of Donald Trump
tried to seize his high school records in 2011 right after Donald Trump
said that he wanted President Obama to, quote, show his records because
Donald Trump believed that Barack Obama was, quote, a terrible student.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: The word is, according to what I`ve read, that
he was a terrible student when he went to Occidental. Now, maybe that`s
right or maybe it`s wrong, but I don`t know why he doesn`t release his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It`s against the law for schools to publicly release student`s
transcripts but Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania
where Donald Trump graduated and Harvard where Barack Obama graduated from
law school do make public records of the students who graduate with honors
and then Ivy League schools most students actually graduate with honors,
not graduating with honors is unusual in Ivy League schools.
There are three levels, of course. Cum laude, the lowest, magna cum laude
and summa cum laude, the highest honors. Donald Trump did not graduate
with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. That is public
And that puts him somewhere in the bottom half of his class academically
even though the president once claimed to have graduated as the number one
student in his class. Barack Obama did graduate from Harvard Law School
magna cum laude.
Last night, at this hour, we have the breaking news report by the “Wall
Street Journal” that Michael Cohen`s lawyers discussed the possibility of a
pardon with President Trump`s lawyers. “The Wall Street Journal” reported
that Rudy Giuliani, quote, left open the possibility that the president
could grant Mr. Cohen one in the future.
Here is what Michael Cohen said about a pardon last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: My testimony certainly does not diminish the pain that I have
caused my family and my friends. Nothing can do that. And I have never
asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And leading off our discussion tonight is Lanny Davis, an
attorney for Michael Cohen.
Lanny Davis, thank you for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
I want to start with the pardon which we just introduced here. “The Wall
Street Journal” reporting was not that Michael Cohen personally requested a
pardon but his lawyers at some point discussed the possibility of a pardon
with President Trump`s lawyers and that Rudy Giuliani for one left open the
possibility. Is that accurate reporting?
LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: Yes, the time period is what
needs to be stressed. Michael Cohen lied for Donald Trump for ten years
and is going to prison in part because of a lie to Congress as well as the
cover-up scheme that Donald Trump is still paying for or was paying for
when you showed those checks.
The statement that Michael made was after he made a decision, and I think I
was part of that, when he decided to express his shame for his prior lies
when he was certainly looking at the option of pardon when they were
dangling that as a way of I think luring people to stay within the tent.
And then when he decided on July 2nd, 2018, I will not lie anymore, and he
asked me to help him tell the truth. So that sentence, which I helped
write was about the time period after he decided as we decided to call it
his turn to the truth.
And at that point, he said to me, I want you to publicly say, I wouldn`t
accept a pardon if he begged me to take it. And I said, are you sure? And
he said, yes. And I went out publicly and I said he would never accept a
pardon and that was the reference intended by that sentence.
O`DONNELL: But why wouldn`t he accept a pardon? Who has not accepted a
DAVIS: Well, I was doubtful when he said it to me. He was in a great,
stressful situation with a wife and two kids and looking at a prison
sentence potentially. And he had lied for ten years and was expressing
shame to me.
And I said, are you willing to say that publicly? And you have a deep hole
and you are a good man, and a good father but in order to win credibility
which I see from the polls he has won, you need to be willing to tell the
truth and all the truth and part of that is would you accept a pardon to
get out of this fixture and from this man that you describe as having done
dirty deeds for ten years. And he said to me, yes, and then he said, I
want you to say that publicly, maybe people will believe me, and I did.
O`DONNELL: And I want to get your reaction also to what we`re seeing as
the expanding investigations. Michael Cohen speaks and the requests for
documents fly. It`s hard to remember a congressional reaction like this to
congressional testimony over 80 requests for documents from the White House
from Trump businesses, from other government entities, all almost all of
them coming out of Michael Cohen`s testimony, which is continuing as we
know there will be more Michael Cohen testimony tomorrow morning.
Is that what you expected knowing, you knew in advance what Michael Cohen`s
testimony was going to be, did you expect it to provoke this follow up?
DAVIS: I honestly did but it`s still more to come because we had a list of
subjects that was basically Michael Cohen`s confession of him facilitating
these subjects or his memory of them. And one of them for example, you
mentioned the grades. He threatened a major educational institution with
criminal sanctions if they released Donald Trump`s grades.
On another occasion, Michael said to the American people and to every
serviceman and every rural American who considers themselves to be
patriots, listen to this, if you voted for Donald Trump, he said to Michael
Cohen, don`t say anything if people ask for proof of my bone spur that
allowed me to not go to Vietnam, and then he said, quote, you got to be
stupid to go to Vietnam.
And so, Michael was forbidden to respond to reporter`s questions what turns
out to be a fake assertion by him that he had a bone spur to get out of
serving. At that point, Michael looked at the television camera, and right
at that moment, he said, Mr. President, isn`t it ironic, you said people
have to be stupid to serve in Vietnam, you`re now in Vietnam. Of course,
in a failed negotiation with the North Korean leader.
But that`s the kind of thing that is going to encourage more
investigations. He lied to the Secret Service – excuse me, the selective
service on his draft deferments and almost everything in his testimony, if
you read it is a subject area that will be grounds for further
O`DONNELL: I want to go to what one member of the committee called the
smoking gun and that was the check that Michael Cohen produced with the
president`s signature on it written in August, so that`s about six months
into the Trump presidency, possibly signed on that desk in the Oval Office
because according to Michael Cohen`s testimony, these checks had to be
FedExed, you hear him say FedExed, to the White House so that the president
himself could sign them, that is what the president told Michael Cohen in
the Oval Office, according to Michael Cohen.
I noticed, Lanny, that the one the president signed is not from a business
account. It is not from a Trump company account. It simply has the name
Donald J. Trump on it. That looks to me like a personal check. That would
be a very odd source for a business payment, for if Michael Cohen is being
retained by the business in a retainer agreement, it strikes me as odd that
the Trump business isn`t paying for those legal services.
DAVIS: Well, first of all, I`m a lawyer and I always try to use the word
“alleged” if we`re talking about crime because everyone is entitled to due
process, including Donald Trump. But there is literally no way to dispute
that he committed a crime. He not only wrote a personal check but they
invented a cover-up story that it was a retainer check.
The word “invented” and “fictional” or “bogus” was not my opinion, it is a
fact there was no retainer agreement. It was a scheme concocted by
Michael, by Donald Trump and by Mr. Weisselberg as a way of avoiding
tracing the pay off money, the hush money to Stormy Daniels. The
prosecutors and the U.S. government said that in the information statement
on Michael`s plea of guilt.
There is no doubt that the word reimbursement was the reimbursement of
Michael Cohen advancing the hush money and who said the word reimbursement
after Donald Trump denied knowing anything about the Stormy Daniels payment
at all? Rudy Giuliani on television called it a reimbursement to Michael
So there were no facts in dispute that the president of the United States
as president committed a felony. Literally, there is no way to dispute
that statement and I say that with a caution that alleged is a word you
should always try to use when you`re accusing somebody of a crime. I can`t
find the ability to use the word alleged because everything I said to you,
Lawrence, is an undisputed or undisputable fact. That shows a felony, a
conspiracy to pay hush money and to cover it up.
O`DONNELL: Well, two of the checks that we`ve seen so far apparently there
are going to be more available for public inspection, but were signed by
Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. and those were taken from the trust
account, the accounts set up that Donald Trump is not supposed to touch,
it`s supposed to be the separation of the Trump businesses from the Trump
But Allen Weisselberg presumably has testified or been questioned by the
FBI about this in New York City since that`s the office that has been
prosecuting the Michael Cohen case and Allen Weisselberg, do you know if
he`s taken the position there was indeed a retainer agreement for Michael
Cohen`s legal services that this was payment for that had nothing to do
with Stormy Daniels?
DAVIS: Well, that was the cover story I know because Mr. Weisselberg and
Michael and Mr. Trump together decided that Michael needed to do it to
avoid it being traced because two or three days before an election that
turned out to be very close and won by Mr. Trump. They did not want after
“Access Hollywood”, they did not want the story about an adult film star
being subject to a hush money payment.
So, Mr. Weisselberg said, well, I can`t afford it and why don`t you do it
from your line of credit, Michael, but we don`t want it traceable to the
Trump Organization. To answer your question, Lawrence, Mr. Weisselberg was
given limited immunity by the federal prosecutors in the Southern District
for the testimony about this hush money scheme. Michael had to plead
guilty. Mr. Weisselberg was given immunity but it`s limited immunity.
And I don`t know the answer to whether he told the prosecutors about this
scheme and told the truth that there was never a retainer. This was a
cover-up but now the question is his signing that check as implementing
this hush money illegal scheme is a crime. And the question is did he tell
the federal prosecutors about the signing of these checks at the time he
was granted limited immunity, that`s something between him and his lawyer,
but I`m sure there`s a concern about that.
O`DONNELL: And, Lanny, we all saw on television that there wasn`t a single
Republican who went anywhere near the smoking gun. They would not touch
the smoking gun of the check signed by Donald Trump and the other check
signed by Allen Weisselberg and I know that there has been testimony behind
closed doors. And can you tell us if any Republicans have at any point
challenged or questioned Michael Cohen at any point about these checks?
DAVIS: No. And I sat there not necessarily surprised that the Republicans
on the House Oversight Committee, many of them people that I respect and
descent people, descent friends, descent parents and descent human beings
never once mentioned Donald Trump throughout the entire hearing. They
pounded away at what Michael had already admitted to in shame that he had
lied for ten years for Donald Trump, that he had lied to Congress and he
was going to prison paying the price.
Now, one member of the House Oversight Committee on the Republican side had
the decency to at least give him credit for taking the responsibility and
paying the price and never once asked about those checks, about the
president of their party that I`m sure they genuinely believe in.
So, it`s a remarkable hypocrisy that I wish I could have seen more from
good people who are Republicans supporting Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Lanny, I have a quick question unrelated to this that goes back
to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That`s when you became one of the most
prominent lawyers in America in your defense of President Clinton and
that`s when the country met Lindsey Graham for the first time. He was a
member of the House Judiciary Committee, who was a prosecutor of the case
against Bill Clinton in the Senate impeachment trial.
And today, I`m not sure you`re aware of this. Lindsey Graham had a meeting
with the president and which he told the president to follow the Bill
Clinton model in handling himself in the presidency while under
investigation and just do the business of the president and stay away from
the investigation. And he said to the president according to Lindsey
Graham himself, that Bill Clinton is a good model for the president to
Did you ever think you`d live to see the day where Bill Clinton impeachment
prosecutor would tell a Republican president to follow the model of Bill
Clinton when under investigation?
DAVIS: Let me think about this – no. I got to know Lindsey Graham after
debating many times on television and friendship with Senator McCain and a
good friend of mine, Joe Lieberman, is another way I got to know him. And
all I can say about Senator Graham, there is much about him I like, but the
disappointment is that in honor of John McCain, he is supporting a
president who disparaged John McCain as not being a hero because he got
captured as missing in action and as a prisoner of war, excuse me.
So I just find a great disappointment in Lindsey Graham even though we
still have a friendship. I`m just utterly baffled that he would after all
that he said about Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and his
close friendship with John McCain, that he would still be that supportive
of President Trump.
O`DONNELL: Well, I have much more to say about what Lindsey Graham said
today at the end of the show tonight.
Lanny Davis, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DAVIS: Thank you for having me, Lawrence. For all the time, thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, one of the members of the House Intelligence Committee who will
question Michael Cohen again tomorrow will join us next.
And new reports tonight that President Trump also pressured government
officials to give his daughter Ivanka Trump access to national secrets in
spite of concerns from intelligence officials. Former CIA Director John
Brennan will join us.
And at the end of this hour, as I said, we will show you how no one has
humiliated Senator Lindsey Graham more than Lindsey Graham has humiliated
Lindsey Graham, including today.
O`DONNELL: There is apparently a big difference between what Michael Cohen
can say in public testimony and what he can say on closed door testimony.
One of the most important answers, if not the most important answer that
Michael Cohen gave in his public testimony last week was 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: Joining our discussion now, the congressman who asked that
question, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who will also be in the closed
door hearing with Michael Cohen tomorrow in the House Intelligence
And Eugene Robinson, who has watched more congressional investigations from
the press gallery than any of us is with us. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist and associate editor for “The Washington Post”. He`s also an
MSNBC political analyst.
And, Congressman, I want to ask you about what the difference is if you can
tell us between the public testimony and issues that Michael Cohen can get
into and private testimony and have you learned more in the closed door
testimony than you did in the public testimony?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thanks for having me on, Lawrence. Yes, you do learn a
little more in a closed setting because you can get into a lot more detail.
You can talk about classified information. This is down in this SCIF where
the under ground bunker beneath the Capitol, and there are no cameras.
And I think that the fact that there are no cameras means there aren`t the
same theatrics that you saw, for instance, with Republicans in the
oversight hearing. So, you do get to learn a little more and the
discussion or the Q and A is a little more sober.
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, it seems that the public is in support of what the
House Democrats are doing. We have a poll tonight asking the question
should Congress do more to investigate Michael Cohen`s claims about Donald
Trump`s behavior? Yes, 58 percent. That is pretty solid support, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALSYT: Yes, that`s pretty solid
support. All that polling was fascinating about how people view President
Trump`s truthfulness versus Michael Cohen`s, and it`s fascinating that
people think Congress ought to do its job.
I mean, this is Congress` job. We shouldn`t forget that. It`s not just an
option for Congress to investigate possible potential criminal wrongdoing
by the president. Congress has a responsibility to do that and can`t and
shouldn`t and must not just sort of sit back and let it pass as was done in
the past two years.
So, Republicans wouldn`t mention the name of President Trump in that
oversight hearing, but Democrats will, I hope, Republicans ultimately will,
too, because these investigations have to be done.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, why did you ask Michael Cohen that question about
any other possible illegal acts? Did you have reason to believe that there
KRISHNAMOORTHI: In part, yes but I was also trying to close out the
questioning and just, you know, make sure that we weren`t leaving anything
on the table, that there wasn`t something that we forgot to ask him about
that he wanted to talk about. In this particular case, he said that he
could not talk about it because the Southern District of New York was
I was just pointing out the previous question I asked was perhaps related
to this, he said that his last communication with the Trump administration
or President Trump himself was two months after the raid but couldn`t go
into that because it was under investigation by the Southern District of
O`DONNELL: And, Gene, “The New York Times” is out tonight with more on
these checks that have been – that were written by Donald Trump to pay
reimburse Michael Cohen according to Michael Cohen, and it`s a fascinating
collection now of these checks because they change accounts. We see in
“The Times” reporting what we already knew that there were checks written
by Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. But we saw that one in the
hearing written in August signed by Donald Trump.
Now we`re seeing that starting in may according to the checks reproduced in
the “New York Times” tonight, all of the checks came from Donald Trump`s
what appears to be his personal checking account. There is no indication
of any business on that particular check and signed by Donald Trump
starting in May the rest of the checks that are revealed by “The New York
Times” tonight are from that Donald J. Trump account signed by Donald Trump
going right through November into December.
And, Gene, for some reason, they changed accounts where that money was
coming from, switched it out of a Trump business account and moved it into
what appears to be a Donald Trump personal account. And that may be
because Alan Weisselberg started to get very nervous about what this was.
ROBINSON: It could be. Maybe that`s the reason because just stepping back
from it, you would – it looks as if they just abandoned the cover story,
right? If it was coming out of the trust account that that was consistent
at least with the false cover story that this was some sort of retainer
If it`s going to be just Donald Trump writing a personal check to Michael
Cohen, it can`t be business attorney relationship retainer. It is just
Trump reimbursing him for the money that he shelled out for Stormy Daniels.
I mean it`s – so the only thing that makes sense since it`s unlikely I
think that Donald Trump Jr. would get nervous and would say wait a minute,
perhaps it is Weisselberg said hold on a minute, this isn`t right. We`ll
just have to see. I suspect the Southern District of New York has an
opinion on this.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, we didn`t hear any questions about that in the
hearing about why they switched accounts but now that we`ve seen so many
more of these checks as of tonight with “The New York Times” reporting, is
that something you expect follow-up on in the committee and do you expect
to hear in the committee from Alan Weisselberg about why the accounts
changed in making these payments?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Quite possibly, yes. I think that following the hearing,
Chairman Cummings was asked who are the next witnesses that he would want
to see before the committee. And he just simply said follow the
As you know, Mr. Weisselberg appeared in the transcript multiple times.
Can I just point out one thing? And perhaps you alluded to this earlier.
But not once, not once did the Republicans question the veracity of those
They didn`t question the signature on those checks or the fact that it came
from Donald Trump`s bank account and some of the checks and from other bank
accounts and the others. And in fact, they didn`t impugn or attack the
credibility of any of those checks. And so in my humble opinion, that was
a tacit admission of that evidence.
O`DONNELL: And Eugene, the only mumblings that we`ve heard from any
Republican about the check is actually Lindsey Graham offering his own
opinion that it`s unusual to pay for crimes with checks. That`s the best
the Republicans have come up with.
ROBINSON: It is unusual. It`s kind of lame. And it`s really dumb. But
that – none of those adjectives rules out this, having been a check used
to pay for a crime.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break there. Congressman Raja
Krishnamoorthi and Eugene Robinson, thank you both very much for joining
our discussion tonight.
And when we come back, new reports that President Trump also pressured
White House staff to authorize a security clearance for Ivanka Trump. He
was resisted in that according to the new reports and he just ordered the
security clearance himself.
Former director to the CIA John Brennan will be our next guest. And at the
end of the hour, more on Lindsey Graham, more about how Lindsey Graham
humiliates Lindsey Graham including what he had to say today.
O`DONNELL: Today, the White House refused to hand over any documents to
Congress about how Donald Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner received his
security clearance after “The New York Times” reported this week that
Donald Trump ordered a top secret clearance for Jared Kushner despite
objections from intelligence officials and White House Chief of Staff John
Tonight`s “CNN” is reporting that the president`s daughter, Ivanka, was
also denied a security clearance through the normal process. According to
that report, Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on his
daughter and son-in-law`s clearances so it did not appear as if he was
tainting the process to favor his family.
Sources told “CNN” after both refused, Trump granted them their security
clearances. Here is what Ivanka Trump said last month about her security
clearance and her husband Jared Kushner`s security clearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP`S DAUGHTER: There were anonymous leaks about
there being issues but the president had no involvement pertaining to my
clearance or my husband`s clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After this break, we`re going to hear from someone who knows
more about security clearances than anyone we could possibly be discussing
this with tonight. Former CIA Director John Brennan will join us next.
O`DONNELL: In a letter to the chairman of the House Oversight Committee
Elijah Cummings tonight refusing to turn over any documents related to
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump`s security clearances, the White House
counsel wrote, “The Committee has failed to point to any authority
establishing a legitimate legislative purpose for the Committee`s
unprecedented and extraordinary intrusive demands, including the demand to
examine the entire investigative files of numerous individuals whom the
president has chosen as his senior advisors. As I have explained in
multiple previous letters, it is clearly established as a matter of law
that the decision to grant or deny a security clearance is a discretionary
function that belongs exclusively to the Executive Branch.”
Joining us now, John Brennan, former CIA director. He is now a senior
national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.
What is at stake in this security clearance controversy between the House
and the White House?
JOHN BRENNAN, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, MSNBC AND
NBC NEWS: Well, I think the integrity of the system of the security
clearance process is at stake. If the reports are true, it sounds that
Donald Trump overruled the determination that was made by the intelligence
community that neither Ivanka Trump nor Jared Kushner should receive a
It`s unheard of a president of the United States would intervene in that
O`DONNELL: Can I just interrupt? When you say unheard of, in your decades
of government service, you`re saying you personally have never heard of a
president doing this?
BRENNAN: I`ve never heard of a president talking about the security
clearance of an individual, much less overruling the determination that was
made. So this is something that is unprecedented.
And the fact that he did that, Donald Trump, I think the Congress has
legitimate concerns about how he is, in fact, exercising a legal authority
but doing it in a manner that really undermines again the integrity and the
purpose of security clearances.
O`DONNELL: What are the reasons that security clearances for someone like
Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump would be held up? What would be the kind of
objections that would be raised?
BRENNAN: It could be any number of things. And I don`t know the facts
here. But there could be some unresolved issues about foreign
entanglements, specifically financial entanglements. Or episodes where an
individual is not deemed to be trustworthy with information or
relationships, foreign relationships that were not revealed in the security
clearance process in terms of interviews.
It`s not surprising given the nature of their financial and business
relationships that are ongoing, in fact, that they were denied. Quite
frankly, I don`t believe that Donald Trump would have, except for getting
more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, would have been approved for a
security clearance given those foreign entanglements and cavalier treatment
of classified information.
O`DONNELL: So what are the kinds of things that hold up a security
clearance at this level? How nit-picky is it? Can it be something like,
you know, we think he didn`t tell us the exact truth about the last time he
smoked marijuana in college or is it – does it have to rise to a certain
level to be a problem?
BRENNAN: I think especially for somebody who is going to be in the White
House as – at the level of assistance to the president, you want to make
sure that you do everything possible to try to resolve any outstanding
issues. But something like that, you know, in terms of not acknowledging
smoking marijuana or something, it`s not going to hold up that clearance.
It would have to be something substantial and something that the CIA, the
investigators really were concerned about because it could potentially
compromise an individual. Either because a foreign person or entity might
try to use that relationship inappropriately or that the person who is
being granted the security clearance or being in consideration might, in
fact, be mindful of those personal interests that they might pursue
contrary to U.S. National Security.
So the investigators take their jobs very very seriously. I have worked
closely with them over the years and they will do everything possible to
get to the bottom of an issue. And if they deny it, if they outright deny
it as opposed to continuing to try to resolve the issue, there must be
something substantial and significant.
O`DONNELL: Based on what you`ve seen of Michael Cohen`s public testimony,
knowing that he`s going into the House Intelligence Committee again
tomorrow for yet another closed-door session, did you – in listening to
Michael Cohen`s public testimony, did you hear of things that you would
want to be explored in the private hearings with the Intelligence
BRENNAN: Well, absolutely. As the congressman just said, in the private
meetings without the glare of the cameras, there is much more substantive
discussion and there`s not the theatrics that takes place in the open
hearings. And so there were a lot of very tantalizing tidbits of
discussion that came up in the open hearing.
O`DONNELL: What tantalized the former CIA director the most?
BRENNAN: Well, I think the private things that couldn`t be discussed even
in the closed hearing, which is that these are matters under investigation
by the Southern District of New York. Clearly, there are other
investigative threads being pulled out of concern that there was criminal
activity taking place.
And so I`d want to hear more from Michael Cohen about some of his personal
interactions with Donald Trump during the campaign and even subsequent to
the election and find out exactly what was the nature of those discussions.
But again, I think the special counsel`s team has counseled Michael Cohen
not to get involved in issues that are still very much a matter of criminal
O`DONNELL: Are you one of those willing to, at this stage of the game,
venture a guess about where Robert Mueller is in his process and how close
he is to filing a report? And beyond that, what you would expect from such
BRENNAN: Well, I think Robert Mueller wants to be able to conclude his
work and turn over the investigative threads to the Southern District of
New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, and other jurisdictions as
appropriate as we`re coming up to two years. So I think he does want to
I wouldn`t be surprised if, for example, this week on Friday, not knowing
anything about it, but Friday is the day that the grand jury indictments
come down. And also this Friday is better than next Friday because next
Friday is the 15th of March which is the Ides of March.
And I don`t think Robert Mueller will want to have that dramatic flair of
the Ides of March when he is going to be delivering what I think are going
to be his indictments, the final indictments, as well as the report that he
gives the attorney general.
O`DONNELL: What makes you believe that he has more indictments?
BRENNAN: Because he hasn`t addressed the issues related to criminal
conspiracy, as well as any individual –
O`DONNELL: Criminal conspiracy involving the Russian –
BRENNAN: The Russians, yes. I think it was very –
O`DONNELL: And that`s an area –
BRENNAN: – person – U. S. personnel`s.
O`DONNELL: That is an area you know something about. That investigation
was developing while you were still on the job.
BRENNAN: Well, it was in terms of looking at what was going on with the
Russians and whether or not U.S persons were actively collaborating,
colluding, cooperating, and involved in a conspiracy with them or not but
also if there is going to be any member of –
O`DONNELL: Did you see enough at that stage to believe that there would
now – that that would result in indictments once investigated?
BRENNAN: I thought at the time that there was going to be individuals who
were going to have issues with the Department of Justice. Yes. And I
think we`ve already seen a number of individuals who have been indicted.
They either have pled guilty or have been convicted now.
So again, I don`t have any inside knowledge. And I`m not talking with
anybody in special counsel`s –
O`DONNELL: Yes, you do. You have the inside knowledge of what began –
BRENNAN: But not (CROSSTALK) of the investigation right now. But I do
think also if anybody from the Trump family, extended family, is going to
be indicted, it would be in the final act of Mueller`s investigation.
Because Bob Mueller, and I think his team knows, that if he were to do
something, indicting a Trump family member, or if he were to go forward
with indictment on criminal conspiracy involving U.S. persons, that would
basically be the death now of the special counsel`s office because I don`t
believe that Donald Trump would allow Bob Mueller to continue in the
aftermath of those types of actions.
O`DONNELL: John Brennan, thank you very much. You have to listen to every
word in the John Brennan answer. Thank you very much for joining us, sir.
I really appreciate it.
And coming up, the humiliation of Lindsey Graham by Lindsey Graham
O`DONNELL: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tried to warn voters about
what he called the world`s biggest jackass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Just stop being a jackass. You
don`t have to run for president and be the world`s biggest jackass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was 2015. And he was talking, of course, about Donald
Trump. Lindsey Graham is a changed man. He now worships at the altar of
Donald Trump more fervently than most Republican senators. And to do that,
Lindsey Graham had to change in more ways than one and publicly humiliate
himself which he has done repeatedly for Donald Trump.
After this break, we will show you Lindsey Graham`s latest humiliation of
O`DONNELL: Remember when Lindsey Graham couldn`t stop saying jackass? It
was when Donald Trump was running for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: You know, run for president but don`t be the world`s biggest
What`s the reaction you`re getting to calling him jackass now repeatedly?
GRAHAM: A lot of people are offended. The jackasses are offended. So all
I can say is that I`ve had it. I`ve had it. I`ve had it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Lindsey Graham was telling the truth about the jackass thing,
but he wasn`t telling the truth when he said I`ve had it. In fact, Lindsey
Graham was ready to take a lot more from the jackass that turns out the
jackass phase was just something Lindsey Graham had to go through on his
way to worshipping Donald Trump and humiliating himself in the process
because before Lindsey Graham became a Trump worshiper, he said things like
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: He`s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn`t
represent my party. He doesn`t represent the values that the men and women
who wear the uniform are fighting for.
He`s an opportunist. He`s not yet to be the president of the United
States. I don`t think he has the temperament of judgment to be commander-
I think he`s a kook. I think he`s crazy. I think he`s unfit for office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here`s what Lindsey Graham had to say about Donald Trump
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I`m all in. To the extent that I can help this president, I will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So Lindsey Graham effortly goes from “I`ve had it with Donald
Trump” to “I`m all in with Donald Trump.” Lindsey Graham goes from he`s a
race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot, not fit to be president of the
United States. I think he`s a kook. I think he`s crazy” to “I`m all in.”
So who is the world`s biggest jackass now? Today, Lindsey Graham met with
the president who he said is crazy and not fit to be the president of the
United States. And according to Lindsey Graham, he gave the president some
advice about how to handle the now multiple investigations into the
A “Bloomberg” report says Graham said he told Trump to “listen to his
lawyers, fight back appropriately, but just keep your head down and keep
doing your job. Challenge them to fix problems. President Clinton was a
pretty good model. Clinton kept his focus on being the president.”
So now, Clinton was a pretty good model when he was under investigation.
It turns out if you`re patient, Lindsey Graham will refute just about
everything Lindsey Graham has ever said. As a member of the House
Judiciary Committee at the time, Lindsey Graham served as one of the
prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
This is what he said the standard should be for removing a president from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: So the point I`m trying to make is you don`t even have to be
convicted of a crime to lose your job in this Constitutional Republic if
this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out
of bounds in your role. Thank God you did that, because impeachment is not
about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment
is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Unfortunately for Lindsey Graham, there is no Senate process
for restoring the honor and integrity of Lindsey Graham. That`s tonight`s
LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian William starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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