Interview with Chairman Schiff. TRANSCRIPT: 4/3/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Adam Schiff, Lloyd Doggett, Tim O`Brien, David Cay Johnston, David Corn
Transcript:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

 

And do you know how we know you live in western Massachusetts? 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Hmm? 

 

O`DONNELL:  It`s not your California accent, which is actually no accent at

all, is that you call him Richie Neal.  You call the chairman of the Ways

and Means Committee, House of Representatives, Richie Neal, because he is

the local congressman up there in Massachusetts. 

 

MADDOW:  He is my congressman, he is.  He has a very large congressional

district in a fairly small state because there aren`t that many of us in

western Massachusetts.  He is Richard E. Neal, but forever, I thought he

was just Richie Neal because that`s what everybody calls him.

 

O`DONNELL:  And that`s the way I`ve known him for many years, decades I

guess at this point.  And he is a meticulous chairman.  There was a certain

amount of impatience, especially among the freshman Democrats.

 

But what is Chairman Neal doing?  He has the power to request these –

demand these tax returns and he hadn`t done it yet.  But you can see I

think in that letter tonight, Rachel, that it is just a meticulously

crafted piece.  He has found exactly what tax returns and tax return

information he wants, especially beyond the personal returns from the Trump

businesses. 

 

And that surely took quite a while to figure out exactly which Trump

businesses to go after. 

 

MADDOW:  And what do you make, Lawrence, of the fact – especially because

you`ve known him for a long time – what do you make of the fact that he`s

not doing any interviews at all about this strategy or about this request

he`s now made of the IRS?  I mean, not only did he not do any interviews

leading up to it, but he`s not doing any interviews tonight.  He`s not

appearing anywhere on TV, doesn`t appear to be doing any print interviews,

either. 

 

O`DONNELL:  He is the Robert Mueller of House chairman.  I think he

understands the position he`s in, I think he understands that he has a

unique power.  He has a superpower.  He has a power that no other chairman

in the House has. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  So I think he`s respecting his power, and I think he`s treating

it as something that shouldn`t be – shouldn`t appear to be a way that he`s

trying to get attention to himself.  What is very, very clear is that the

chairman of the ways and means committee is not guilty of trying to get

attention for himself this year. 

 

MADDOW:  No, exactly.  And I would follow him around with a microphone at

home or abroad, but we know he`s not talking.  It`s a fascinating day in

the news, Lawrence. 

 

O`DONNELL:  It certainly is.  Thank you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks, my friend.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, we have two senior members of Congress joining us tonight

after a day of cascading breaking news on top of breaking news, as you just

heard Rachel described, from the president`s tax returns to the Mueller

report. 

 

Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,

will be our first guest tonight. 

 

Also tonight, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, he is the most-senior member of

the House Ways and Means Committee who is available to do an interview

tonight about the committee chairman`s decision to demand copies of Donald

Trump`s tax returns from the IRS. 

 

The word “powerful” almost always comes before the word chairman in

Congress, but the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the

chairman of the Senate Finance Committee each have a superpower that no

other chairmen have as leaders of the tax-writing committees.  They have

the unique power to demand any tax return they want to see from the IRS. 

 

And Chairman Richard Neal of the House Ways and Means Committee is now

exercising that unique power.  He has demanded, in writing, President

Trump`s personal and business tax returns for the last six years, and this

may be the single biggest development yet in the congressional

investigations of the president this year.  And it is also a really

important moment in the presidential campaign. 

 

And that`s what I`m going to talk about at the end of this hour, what the

demand for the Trump tax returns means for the Democratic presidential

candidates and how only a few of them were actually ready for this to

happen today.  And the way for a candidate to have been ready for this was

to have released the candidates` own tax returns already and most – most

of the Democratic candidates for president have not done that yet.  Maybe

we shouldn`t be surprised that the women have done a much, much better job

than the men on this issue, the women candidates.  And it tells us a lot

about who is really ready for this presidential campaign. 

 

And I mean ready today.  Ready today to deal with whatever was going to

happen today.  If you`re a presidential candidate and you haven`t already

released 10 years of your own tax returns, then you were not ready for what

happens today.  We will get to that at the end of this hour, the effect of

the Trump`s tax returns on the presidential campaign. 

 

But, first, in tonight`s breaking news, “The New York Times” is reporting

that some of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigators believe that

Attorney General William Barr misrepresented the Mueller report in the

letter the attorney general wrote to Congress that summarized what the

attorney general says are the main findings of the Mueller report. 

 

“The New York Times” put it this way: Some of Robert S. Mueller`s

investigators have told associates that Attorney General William Barr

failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they

were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated. 

 

Now, many of us reading the attorney general`s letter inferred that the

findings of the Mueller report were probably more troubling for the

president.  But “The Times” has new details tonight about the Mueller

report in their story, details we`ve never known before.  Quote: The

special counsel`s investigators had already written multiple summaries of

the report and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included

more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24th

laying out their main conclusions. 

 

Tonight`s report on “The New York Times” adds to the pressure for the full

release of the Mueller report.  And this morning, the House Judiciary

Committee voted to authorize the committee`s chairman, Jerry Nadler, to use

subpoena power to obtain the full, unredacted Mueller report. 

 

Here`s Chairman Nadler this morning in that Judiciary Committee meeting. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The Constitution

charges Congress with holding the president accountable for alleged

official misconduct.  That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for

ourselves, not the attorney general`s summary, not the substantially

redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence. 

 

The attorney general proposes to redact four categories of information from

the Mueller report.  Congress is entitled to all of the evidence.  This

isn`t just my opinion.  It is also a matter of law. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Chairman Nadler has now been empowered a party line vote in the

committee to issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report when and if

Chairman Nadler decides that that is necessary. 

 

Chairman Nadler was asked if there was any room for compromise. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Are you willing to negotiate any middle ground in terms of

redactions of the –

 

NADLER:  No. 

 

REPORTER:  You`re not?

 

NADLER:  No.  The committee must see everything. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  This morning on this network, Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman

of the House Intelligence Committee, said he expects Robert Mueller to have

to testify to Congress. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you going to call Bob Mueller to testify? 

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  I think

it`s inevitable bob Mueller is going to have to testify before Congress.  I

would think that he will probably be needed before more than one committee. 

 

(EN VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Earlier today, “The New York Times” reported the House

Intelligence Committee has asked one of the top contractors to President

Trump`s inaugural to provide it with documents about the event, a person

familiar with the situation said on Wednesday, opening up a new line of

inquiry into the planning and financing of the ceremonies.  The committee

asked for documents from an interview with Stephanie Winston Wolkoff who

had been a close friend of the first lady, Melania Trump, and who had

helped plan the celebrations and parties around the inaugural, the person

said. 

 

And leading off our discussion tonight is the chairman of the House

Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. 

 

Chairman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us on this important

night.  I know this is not an easy night to make time for this. 

 

Can we work backwards from what I just referred to in the “New York Times”

– 

 

SCHIFF:  Sure.

 

O`DONNELL:  – about your committee`s interest in the Trump inaugural

committee?  What can you tell us about that? 

 

SCHIFF:  Again, our interest is really from a counter-intelligence point of

view, and that is we`re foreign parties trying to use the inauguration

committee as a way of exerting influence over the incoming administration. 

We know already that foreign contributions which are prohibited were

funneled in part to this committee through a straw man.  Sam Patton has

already pled guilty to an offense related to that, a $50,000 contribution

to buy tickets to the inauguration on behalf of a Russian and a Ukrainian. 

 

And so, we`re deeply interested to know whether this committee, which

raised unprecedented sums, also received that money or any of that money

from foreign sources, trying to exert influence. 

 

So, that`s our predominant interests.  There are other committees like the

Oversight Committee, I think, that may be interested in other issues such

as whether the Trump family organization used the inaugural committee to

enrich itself by charging above-market rate for hotel rentals or ballroom

rentals or whatnot during the inauguration, but our interest is the

counterintelligence concern. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And let me take you to the breaking news report of the night in

the “New York Times” which seems to be saying that there are at least some

members of the Mueller team who are telling associates that they believe

that Attorney General Barr and what he has written to Congress about the

report has, in effect, misrepresented the weight of the report. 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, it`s been my assumption, and we won`t know until we get it

and I find it remarkable here we are almost two weeks out and Barr is still

keeping this report buried.  It`s been my assumption that a 400-page report

has an executive summary already.  So, of course, it begged the question

why did Barr feel the need to release his own summary? 

 

Now, this is obviously someone who was hired for the purpose of squelching

an obstruction of justice that upset the president.  But nonetheless, why

didn`t he release a summary produced by Bob Mueller himself, instead of

trying to shape it in his own words? 

 

So, I don`t know what to make of “The New York Times” report.  It is

concerning.  The best remedy, of course, is transparency.  Let the American

people see all of it, and ultimately, that`s what`s going to happen.  We`re

going to fight this in any way we can, in any way we need to, to make sure

that the American people get to see the product of Bob Mueller`s work

without the filter of Mr. Trump`s hand-picked attorney general. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Will your committee – you also have an interest in seeing the

full Mueller report within your committee.  Will your committee also

subpoena the report, if necessary? 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, there are two investigations that were going on

simultaneously, the counterintelligence investigation, which is how this

all began.  That is an investigation into whether the president or people

around him were witting or unwitting agents of Russian influence, and then

the criminal investigation.  It looks like the Mueller report is

predominantly focused on the criminal investigation.  Here is who we

charged, here is who we didn`t charge and here`s why. 

 

It may not discuss the counterintelligence findings.  If it doesn`t, of

course, that`s what we`re going to be pursuing in the Intelligence

Committee, and we`ll use whatever means necessary.  Very analogous to

Chairman Neal who is a statutory power to get the tax returns.  We have a

statutory power in the Intelligence Committee to gain access to any

significant counterintelligence activity and findings, and we`re going to

expect the intelligence community and the FBI to live up to that statutory

requirement. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let me ask you something about Chairman Neal that Rachel asked

me about, and that is why has the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee

remained so publicly quiet and like yourself not doing any interviews about

any of the work he`s doing in this committee, particularly this work about

trying to obtain the president`s tax returns?  Have you had any

conversation with Chairman Neal about why he`s avoiding interview

situations about this? 

 

SCHIFF:  You know, I certainly had conversations with Chairman Neal on the

subject of the tax returns, but I`m not going to go into those

conversations.  I haven`t talked with him about how public facing he wants

to be. 

 

But I will tell you this looking at the chairman`s letter and knowing

something about the chairman.  This letter, this request, is very carefully

written.  It presents the strongest possible grounds to obtain those

returns, and I think he wants to rely on what that letter says, because he

knows that`s on the strongest legal footing.  And he knows the president is

likely to fight this tooth and nail. 

 

But this leaves no wiggle room, no discretion for the IRS.  They`re going

to have to comply.  It is squarely within the chairman`s authority to ask

for these returns, and I think that out of abundance of caution and mindful

that the president will seek to litigate this, the chairman is probably

working conservatively with the advice of the House general counsel to

maximize our chances of success. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Do you want to see the president – these same tax returns in

your committee? 

 

SCHIFF:  You know, I`m deeply concerned with, you know, what the tax

returns might shed light on in terms of any conflict of interest,

particularly vis-a-vis foreign parties.  So if the president has

investments abroad that are tilting U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia or

against other countries or towards Turkey because he`s got a Moscow Trump

Tower there, or any other elicit or financial purpose, then that is a

counter-intelligence concern for our committee. 

 

But that is a different issue than the one that Chairman Neal is raising,

and I will defer to Chairman Neal on the basis he is seeking the returns,

but, of course, that is the concern that we have in our committee. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And Chairman Neal has specified in his public statement,

written statement about this that he has no intention of sharing the tax

returns with any other committees.  But there is, within the law, a House

process for that if the House passed a resolution authorizing your

committee to obtain the tax returns, which is to say, authorizing you.  You

then could see these tax returns. 

 

Is that something you would anticipate asking Speaker Pelosi to put

resolutions you would be asking her to pass so you could get a look at

these tax returns? 

 

SCHIFF:  You know, I`m going to defer to Chairman Neal on that question

because I think he`s in the best position to be able to respond to what

latitude he may have in terms of release of the tax returns beyond his

committee.  I`ll defer to him on that.  I can only speak for the interests

of my committee, which is to make sure that U.S. policy is not driven by

some elicit foreign purpose. 

 

Now, I do want to say also that what Chairman Neal is doing is helping to

reinforce what had been an enviable norm for decades, and that is that

presidential candidates release their returns so the American people can

understand whether there are conflicts of interest, and I think the

American people have every right to know, for example, did the president

push certain provisions for real estate developers in the tax cut bill

because it would earn him tens of millions of dollars on his taxes?  Or any

other issue that is pertinent to the American people`s interest in a

transparent government and knowing that the president is working for them

and not on behalf of his own narrow financial interest.

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Chairman, we now have a whistleblower telling us about the

way the security clearance process was overruled within the Trump White

House, and apparently now, specifically to the benefit of Jared Kushner. 

What`s your reaction to those reports? 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, we are supporting the work that Chairman Cummings is doing

to try to get to the bottom of this and find out why there was so many

aberrations here, why there was so many overrulings of the professionals in

terms of the security clearance process.  We also have our own deep

interest in this.  Jared Kushner has probably the broadest possible

portfolio of anyone connected to the administration.  He`s supposed to

develop a Mideast peace plan.  He`s got jurisdiction over criminal justice

reform and god knows what else. 

 

And he`s also entered this administration with buildings that were deeply

in debt, like that 666 property.  And if he was seeking foreign financing,

if foreign parties or sovereign wealth funds or other countries felt like

he could be levered because of his financial indebtedness or other reasons,

that`s of deep concern to us.  So, if those were the considerations that

went into the denial or the attempt to deny him a security clearance, then

they were overruled because of nepotistic interests of the president, then

we want to know about that in the Intelligence Committee. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Chairman, we also saw this security breach of sorts, I`m not

sure how you would describe it, this weekend with the arrest in Florida of

someone who gets into the president`s – basically his weekend home which

he also runs as a business.  And she gets in there using two Chinese

passports as her identification.  It turns out the Secret Service, on

second thought, ends up arresting her because they believed she was there

with malicious intent and, in fact, was in possession of malicious software

and some of the computer hardware that she had with her. 

 

Your reaction to that and what we know about it so far?

 

SCHIFF:  Well, a couple reactions.  First is a concern over the security

protocols that she got as far as she did.  Second is the concern over the

number of cell phones over the thumb drive.  We don`t know what kind of

malware this is.  Was there an intention to place the malware in a system

in Mar-a-Lago?

 

But, frankly, the far brother concern because this person looks like they

were an amateur for whatever reason.  The broader concern, though, is she

was a guest or she was somebody attempting to pose as a guest.  People can

buy a membership.  They`re eager to sell memberships at Mar-a-Lago which

means that if a foreign intelligence service did want to penetrate, the far

better way to do it would be to buy a membership and have a right to be

there. 

 

That compound, that country club, Mar-a-Lago, what the president calls his

southern White House, second only to the White House itself, is going to be

an intelligence target for every foreign intelligence agency worth their

salt.  So we know that those agencies are going to be deeply interested in

Mar-a-Lago, and the fact that you can buy your way in and avoid what

happened to this woman is of paramount concern.  But even as someone not on

a guest list, able to get as far as they did, waves a lot of red flags. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us

tonight with your invaluable expertise about this.  We really appreciate

it. 

 

SCHIFF:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. 

 

Well, there is no way up.  Donald Trump has finally been cornered on his

tax returns because “shall” means “shall.”  When people who write laws with

the word “shall”, that means they are leaving no wiggle room.  Everyone in

Congress knows that.  I knew that when I was a staff on the Senate Finance

Committee. 

 

And that`s what the law says about the unique power that the chairmen of

the congressional tax-writing committees have the power to demand to see

any tax returns they want to see.  The law says if the chairman of any of

those committees requests a tax return or any information about a tax

return, then the secretary of the treasury has no choice but to order the

IRS to turn over that tax return. 

 

Here`s what the law actually says.  The secretary shall furnish such

committee with any return or return information specified in such request. 

 

And so, tonight at 6:00 p.m., Chairman Richard Neal of the House Ways and

Means Committee sent this letter demanding six years of President Trump`s

personal tax returns and his business tax returns and all information about

those tax returns in possession of the IRS, including whether any of those

tax returns have been audited, something the president has always claimed

as his reason for not releasing his tax returns.  Chairman Richard Neal and

his staff have been working for months on this letter to make sure they

were asking for exactly what they need to get a full picture of Donald

Trump`s tax compliance and to make sure they were following the letter of

the law in making this request. 

 

Every member of the House Ways and Means Committee knew that at some point,

this day was coming.  And so our next guest, senior member of the

committee, Lloyd Doggett, asked the treasury secretary about this last

month. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE:  Have you

received any instruction or guidance of any kind about how to handle

congressional requests for President Trump`s tax returns? 

 

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  Based upon the request, we`ll examine

it and we will follow the law.  We will protect the president as we would

protect any individual taxpayer under their rights. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, member of the House Ways and Means Committee,

Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas.  Congressman Doggett is the senior-most

member of the committee who is available for interviews tonight. 

 

And, Congressman, I want you to look back at the exchange we just showed

with the treasury secretary and reflect back on what you think his answer

means now that Chairman Neal has sent the letter. 

 

DOGGETT:  Well, Lawrence, thank you.  Finally, after two years, six motions

that I made that the Republicans covered up for Trump, and now three months

into the session, we have the beginning of the beginning.  I think what the

treasury secretary was saying in a bit of double talk, mumbo-jumbo was the

emphasis on the word “protect.”  The emphasis should be on the word “shall”

and performing his ministerial duty to provide these returns as required by

a near 100-year-old statute of which you`re very permanently familiar and

you`ve described it so well tonight. 

 

The secretary, it would appear, and President Trump tonight in his initial

comments, he obviously continues to think he`s above the law here as

everywhere else, and if he chooses to obstruct the secretary and the IRS

from performing their ministerial duty, we need to move forward immediately

to seek legal action to get these returns. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman, some reports have referred to the law that

controls this as an obscure law.  Which I guess it is to most members of

the news media, but for you, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, any

member of the Finance Committee, any member of the staff of those

committees knows this power exists.  They`ve seen versions of this power

used.  When I was in the Senate Finance Committee, service not actually

used for any individual the way it is now, any targeted individual, but

more for a kind of tax return that the committee was interested in seeing

for compliance reasons. 

 

DOGGETT:  Exactly.

 

O`DONNELL:  How does it work? 

 

We would sometimes ask the IRS just for tax returns that are taking a

certain kind of deduction, and we didn`t even have to see the names on

them, necessarily.  But that power has always been there.  This is the

first time we`ve seen it used basically in an aggressive way against a

sitting president who is probably very likely to try to resist this in

court. 

 

DOGGETT:  Well, this is a president, of course, with a history of

questionable tax activities, a president who deviated from other candidates

in refusing to disclose his returns.  You have described the statute and

the practice and the frequent use of Article 6103 very particularly.  I

would bring to your attention, and I know you`re familiar with it, the role

that it played with Richard Nixon. 

 

The IRS appraised him in their initial public audit.  Then when we actually

got the returns, my predecessors on the committee and yours in finance, it

turned out the IRS did a pretty sorry job and Richard Nixon ended up having

to pay almost half a million dollars in additional taxes in order to

demonstrate that he was not a crook. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And one of the things Chairman Neal pointed out in the

informational handout that he gave to the media today along with the letter

was that the Senate Finance Committee on confirmations demands tax returns

for the people who get confirmed to positions of treasury.  It`s routine

that the committee staff there and chairman take a look at tax returns for

lower ranking people than the president. 

 

DOGGETT:  Absolutely.  Secretary Mnuchin, other people within the Treasury

Department and elsewhere, had to produce tax returns.  Now, while I differ

with the chairman about the scope as to time and the breadth of the returns

that are requested, I think he`s prepared a very informed request that

there is no legal justification in denying this narrow request in producing

this six years of returns.  We`ve really, after all this time, just reached

the beginning of the beginning. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And we all remember Donald Trump saying on the campaign trail

that he would release his tax returns, but there was an audit going on.  We

have no evidence that there was actually an audit going on.  Chairman Neal

is going find out whether there was an audit. 

 

DOGGETT:  Exactly. 

 

O`DONNELL:  It is traditionally, as you know, for the president and the

vice president, to automatically be audited by the IRS, that`s a point the

chairman makes in his letter, and one of the things we want to find out is,

is that audit actually happening?  Or has he ordered the IRS not to audit

him? 

 

DOGGETT:  Well, that`s exactly right.  We need to know about that audit. 

We need to know like the Nixon case how well did the IRS do its job?  This

is all about confidence in our tax system.  It`s essential Americans have

that confidence and part of that is assuring that the most powerful person

in the country is complying with our tax laws. 

 

So, I think we should at least hold him to the Nixon standard.  As you

know, earlier this year, we approved the For the People Act here in the

House.  We want to require this for ten years and all principal businesses

of everyone who runs for president.  It`s not aimed at any person or any

party, it is designed to ensure integrity in our highest office, something

that we`re really short of in the Trump administration. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman, talk about what it would mean to turn a

tradition, the tradition of voluntary disclosure for presidential

candidates and presidents of their tax returns, turn that into a law. 

 

DOGGETT:  Well, I think it confirms the best practice of people of

candidates of both parties.  And all we`ve had from President Trump lies

and deceits.  We have to get the facts.  I know he`s not a fact-based

president or reality-based president, but on this issue, on the

administration of our tax laws, how he`s benefited in changes of the tax

laws and rulings by his administration, how the IRS is performing its

function, those are vital things for the operation of our government and

particularly in the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Doggett, thank you very much for joining us

tonight. 

 

DOGGETT:  Thank you, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  I know you`ve been pushing for the issue of the Trump tax

returns longer than anyone else on the committee.  You were doing it in

that lonely position of the minority and the Republicans were shutting you

up every time you brought it up. 

 

DOGGETT:  Indeed. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And this is a very important night.  We really appreciate you

joining us.

 

DOGGETT:  Thank you.  Thank you, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  When we come back later in this hour, I`m going to talk to you

about what Lloyd Doggett was just talking about, which is the Democrats`

attempt to make it a law that all presidential candidates release 10 years

of tax returns, and just how important that is for the presidential

campaign tonight.  We`ll tell you who has already complied with that among

the Democratic candidates, and we`ll talk about some of the people who have

not and why it has become more important than ever now that Chairman

Richard Neal of the House Ways and Means Committee has demanded to see

Donald Trump`s tax returns. 

 

Also, when we come back, we`re going to have the experts that we need

tonight that experts on Donald Trump taxes, Donald Trump businesses, the

people who know more about it than anyone else, they will join us to cover

this breaking news about the Trump tax returns and more.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If I decide to run for

office, I`ll produce my tax returns, absolutely.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Big surprise.  He wasn`t telling the truth.  But now he`s

president of the United States and the chairman of the House Ways and Means

Committee, Richard Neal, is exercising his legal right under the law to

demand Donald Trump`s tax returns from the IRS.

 

Joining us now is Tim O`Brien.  He`s the executive editor of “Bloomberg

Opinion”, an MSNBC contributor.  He`s author of the book, “Trump Nation”. 

Tim O`Brien is one of the very few people who has actually seen a Donald

Trump tax return.  He`ll tell us about that in a minute.

 

And David Cay Johnson was a Pulitzer-Prize winning tax reporter for “The

New York Times”.  He`s the founder of Dcreport.org, and he`s the author of

” It`s Even Worse Than You Think, What the Trump Administration is Doing to

America.”  And David Corn, Washington Bureau chief from “Mother Jones”, an

MSNBC political analyst.  He`s the co-author of the book “Russian

Roulette.”

 

All three of our guests have written books about the Trump businesses, both

foreign and domestic.  Tim O`Brien, let me start with you.  You`re the one

we`re all jealous of.  You had a chance to see a Trump tax return within a

lawsuit where he was suing you.

 

He was failing in his lawsuit against you, which you won because he didn`t

like that you wrote a book saying he`s not as rich as he says he is, which

I think everyone is not surprised to have discovered.  Knowing what you

know about the Trump businesses and how inside you were able to get them

using the discovery and subpoena power within your lawsuit that Donald

Trump made the mistake of starting, what does Donald Trump have to fear in

what Chairman Richie Neal is going to be reading in his tax returns?

 

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  You know I think there

is four broad areas he`s worried about.  And for him, it`s sort of the

financial equivalent of getting open heart surgery.  I think he`d love to

avoid this at any cost.

 

Two of the things, how authentically philanthropic he is.  I think we

already know the answer to that one, but that`s going to come out in his

returns, and how absolutely robust his business is.  That`s a thing he`s

always protected.  Some of that would come out in returns.

 

But I think the thing that`s really germane right now that`s in there is

that you would see what kind of income he`s getting overseas and whether or

not the sources of those income compromise his decision making in the White

House.

 

If he`s getting money from places like China or the Middle East or Russia

that he`s used to finance his business activities, that raises obvious

questions about whether or not he`s making independent calls on all sorts

of issues that involve both governments and banks and active players in all

of those regions.  And I think he`s going to do everything he can to keep

that information from coming out.

 

O`DONNELL:  David Cay Johnston, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter,

of course, you know what all of us have to fear with people looking at our

tax returns no matter how we file.  But you also attained a portion of a

Trump tax return that we all remember that I believe was the two summary

pages of the return.

 

I`m going to put up on the screen everything that Chairman Neal is asking

for on the business side.  He`s asking for eight different entities and all

of both – not just their returns, but all underlying documents the IRS

might have in terms of auditing any of these entities, the Donald J. Trump

Revocable trust, the DJT Holdings LLC, DJT Holdings Managing Member LLC,

DTTM Operations LLC, DTTM Operations Managing Member Corp, LFB Acquisition

Member Corp, LFB Acquisition LLC, Lamington Farm Club LLC, doing business

as Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster.

 

And David, I`m pretty impressed with Chairman Neal and the staff of the

Ways and Means Committee putting that together.  That includes business

entities that I`ve never heard of.  So they had to do an awful lot of

research to find out where they believe the real Trump money is.

 

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP:  Well, it tells me

that the staff of Ways and Means or the Joint Committee on Taxation has

been doing serious work at what they want to look at.

 

Now, interestingly they didn`t ask for any gift tax returns if Trump made

gifts to his children and grandchildren.  If they did, I`m sure those will

come up.  But everything that Tim said is exactly spot on.

 

And in Addition, once they have the returns, they can look at things like

was he consistent in his application of accounting rules?  Did he take

reductions he was not entitled to?  Did he misstate the value of assets to

game the tax system?  Was there self-dealing among his various entities to

deflate his taxes?

 

O`DONNELL:  And David Corn, you`ve studied Donald Trump`s businesses and

his interests – business interest in Russia.  Presumably, that will be an

area where the Ways and Means Committee staff will be trying to find what

secrets might lurk in that area of Donald Trump`s life.

 

DAVID CORN:  Well, as Tim said, there are all sorts of overseas actions

that he`s been engaged with over the years.  Many of them we may not even

know about, that may turn up in the tax returns.

 

There are all sorts of clever ways to use LLCs in offshore companies to

keep that out of your personal returns, which is why it`s very interesting

that they`re going after some of those businesses.  Donald Trump, if you

look at his financial disclosure forms, has hundreds of LLCs and we don`t

have all of their paperwork.  A lot of them are incorporated in Delaware

and other places.

 

So his business empire, if it is an empire, his business network would

still need a good team of forensic accountants to go through, but you`ve

got to start with the tax returns.  That`s where you have to start, which

is why every candidate has handed out their tax returns, every presidential

candidate since Nixon, and it`s a violation of this norm.

 

I think it`s so highly symbolic of Trump literally giving a middle finger

to the way we do business in politics in this country.  And I think it`s

going to be – could be a fight over whether the Democrats and Congress

actually get their hands on this.  We`ll see what happens.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Tim O`Brien, during the campaign when the news media was

asking for tax returns, tax returns, tax returns, there was never any real

specificity in it, and I was always sitting here thinking the personal tax

returns for Donald Trump will be the least interesting tax documents you

can get from him.

 

You want to see where the money was coming from before it went to the

personal return because all of those business entities that the Ways and

Means Committee has listed, they are all presumably obtaining external

sources of income that they are then delivering to the Trump personal tax

return.  And the Trump personal tax return won`t show you where the money

originated.

 

O`BRIEN:  That`s correct.  That`s correct.  And you know, as David pointed

out, he has hundreds, literally hundreds of LLCs.

 

He parks debt in the LLCs.  He uses them to make payments.  We saw some of

that with the Stormy Daniels payment.

 

I also think that the Congress really has to be vigilant about the years

that they request.  I think if you go, I think the middle of the 2000s,

2003 to around 2007, a lot of cash came into Trump`s business that wasn`t

coming into the business before, and it wasn`t his inheritance from his

father.

 

And I think those very germane questions asked about during that period

when he went on a shopping spree when he bought one golf course in Scotland

and funded the development of another one when he was deeply involved with

the development of the Trump Soho Hotel.

 

There is a lot to wander about, about where the money came from that

financed those things.  And that`s going back at this point 14 years or so. 

So I would hope that the Congress actually get more aggressive about the

time frame they`re looking at here.

 

O`DONNELL:  And David Cay Johnston, I think tax experts all know why

Chairman Neal picked six years as the window.  It`s a very conservative way

of forming the request.  It`s generally the amount of time that the IRS

recommends that we all hold on to our tax information because we`re subject

to possible audit and review of returns.

 

But we aren`t subject to the review of returns by the IRS that are 15 years

old.  And so it seems to me that Chairman Neal is trying to stay within

what is the kind of statutory zone that`s considered reasonable in current

tax law.

 

JOHNSTON:  Well, normally the IRS keeps tax returns for six years.  And

when we had paper returns, they then had them pulped.  Donald has probably

been filing electronic returns since the period mentioned by Tim.  And if

he has, one of the questions that will rise as they down the road is what

additional information do you have?

 

And you`ve been very careful, Lawrence to point out something I think will

turn out to be very important.  The law doesn`t just say tax returns.  It

says tax information.  That means any books or records they have.  It could

mean the tax returns of other people that interact with Donald Trump or

other businesses that interact with Donald Trump, which will tell you

whether the other party and Trump reported a transaction the same way.

 

O`DONNELL:  And David Corn, Chairman Neal in his letter was careful to

phrase this in a way that vacuums out of the IRS basically every document

in the last six years that has anything to do with Donald Trump or these

businesses.

 

CORN:  And I like to start with something very simple.  And I think his

letter does address this.  Donald Trump, as you pointed out in the video

clip at the beginning, said he would release his taxes if he ran for

president.  Of course, he didn`t.  His reason, his excuse, he`s under

audit.

 

Now, I don`t think that really makes a difference, because the tax returns

are filed, the IRS has them.  Why would that be a reason not to?  But we

don`t know.

 

Trump has made it a steadfast point to refuse to release even information

indicating he was under audit.  And he doesn`t say what years are under

audit.  His returns from 10 years ago, eight years ago, seven years ago,

are they still under audit?  Five years ago?

 

We don`t know so I think it would be very interesting just to see to what

degree that excuse has any truth to it whatsoever, if any truth.  So there

is a lot here, a lot we can learn.

 

And I think, as I said a moment ago, that`s really going to not be good for

Donald Trump, so it will lead to this big fight that could take us all the

way up to the next election.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Tim O`Brien, the first round of this has a deadline of

April 10.  That`s what Richie Neal put in his letter saying he needs to

have this information by April 10.

 

It`s easy for the IRS if they`re going to comply.  They could comply with

this in a matter of a few days.  And so April 10 is a perfectly reasonable

deadline but April 10 might be the beginning of what becomes a legal fight

over this.

 

O`BRIEM:  I think there absolutely is going to be a legal fight.  They`re

not going to hit that deadline.  And it reminds me that we`re in a very

different era.

 

When Nelson Rockefeller was getting approved to be vice president, he sat

for the Congress for two days, and they went through all of his finances,

including his tax returns.  And he had vastly more complex holdings than

Donald Trump has.

 

And he was expected to sit in front of Congress and answer questions about

whether he was financially conflicted.  And Trump is just flouting that

process.

 

It`s a good government issue.  This isn`t partisan politics or ideologies,

whether or not the people running the company are or are not financially

conflicted.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, the law is on the side of Richie Neal and the Ways and

Means Committee.  And there`s no law on the side of Donald Trump on this

one.  Tim O`Brien, David Corn, David Cay Johnston, the people we needed to

talk to.  Thank you very much.  Really appreciate you joining us tonight.

 

And when we come back, every Democrat running for president now needs to be

able to speak up about Donald Trump`s tax returns and Donald Trump`s need

to get out of the way of the IRS complying with Richie Neal`s demand for

those tax returns.

 

But how many Democrats have actually already released their tax returns in

their campaign for president?  A disappointing few.  That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  The women are doing a better job than the men.  That`s never

really surprising, is it?  In this case, it`s the women presidential

candidates who are doing a much better job than the men on one very

important point in the presidential campaign, and that point became all the

more important today.

 

That point, of course, has to do with the release of the presidential

candidate`s tax returns.  Now, I got a lot of replies today from my tweet

this when I said why don`t presidential candidates release their tax

returns as quickly as they release their fund raising totals?

 

Judith said “So true.  I don`t really care how much they`ve raised.  I want

to know how much they`ve paid.”  Randy Murphy said, “Fundraising is

quarterly reporting.  Taxes aren`t due until April 15.  Most of these

candidates have full-time jobs.  Also, consider some slack maybe?  No.  No

slack on this.”

 

That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump is the only person elected-president since the

1970s who did not release any tax returns.  This is a major issue for the

Democratic candidates for president and that issue became an even more

important issue today after the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee

Richard Neal issued his legal demand for the Trump tax returns.

 

Many of the democratic presidential candidates have been planning their

presidential campaigns since the day after Donald Trump was elected.  They

have had time to get ready for this moment.

 

And most of them have completely failed when it comes to releasing their

tax returns and showing that contrast with Donald Trump.  Senator Elizabeth

Warren released 10 years of tax returns last year.  Senator Amy Klobuchar

has now released 12 years of tax returns.

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has released 12 years of tax returns and she was

the first candidate to release this year`s tax returns.  The tax returns

that are due on April 15.  Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington is the

only man running for president who has released 12 years of tax returns.

 

Now, I`m willing to cut every candidate some slack to not release this

year`s tax return until April 15 when it is due 12 days from now.  That`s

how much slack you get for that one tax return.

 

But President Obama released his tax return publicly every year that he was

president by the filing deadline of April 15.  It was very important to him

to show tax filers that he was going through exactly what they were going

through and to prove it by releasing his return.

 

Voters should accept no excuse on this.  Pete Buttigieg is one of the

newest entries in the campaign field.  And so maybe, maybe, it`s

understandable that he hasn`t released his tax returns yet but he should

have anticipated this and he should have been ready to do it.  Here`s what

he said about it Monday night.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  So will you be releasing 10 years of tax returns?

 

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes.  It

might take a work for me to dig up the last 10 years but it`s not very

complicated.  They`re all pretty thin file so I`ll be prepared to do that.

 

O`DONNELL:  How about your 2018 tax return?  Would you be ready to file

that by April 15 this year?

 

BUTTIGIEG:  I will be.  I got to admit, I haven`t got around to putting it

in just yet but again, I believe in this kind of transparency and

obviously, I want to practice what I preach.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Good.  Practice what I preach.  So how much time do you want to

give to your candidate to practice what he preaches?

 

Five weeks ago, Bernie Sanders said he would be releasing his tax returns

soon.  That`s the word he used.  When you heard him say soon, did you think

that meant more than five weeks?

 

On Sunday, Bernie Sanders said something strange about releasing his tax

returns.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D):  We have it all done and it`s just the question of

dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.  Yes, we will, absolutely.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That only makes sense if Bernie Sanders is talking only about

his current tax return that has to be filed in the next 12 days.  But it is

the officials position of the Democratic Party as expressed in the very

first bill in the House of Representatives this year that presidential

candidates should release 10 years of tax returns.

 

And you are not allowed to go back and dot the Is and cross the Ts in your

tax return from 10 years ago or nine years ago or eight years ago or seven

years ago.  Like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders should have had

10 years of tax returns ready to be released last year.

 

The one tax return we`ve seen from Senator Sanders, his 2014 tax return, is

an incredibly simple, non-controversial tax return.  A typical tax return

for a United States senator who is not rich.  I would assume that all of

his tax returns are equally simple.

 

This seems like a completely unnecessary political error being made by the

Sanders campaign.  But that very campaign like all of the campaigns has

released exactly how much money they have raised in the first three months

of this year and the campaigns all did that because there is a law that

requires them to do it.

 

That`s why we need a law requiring them to release their tax returns.  The

Sanders campaign raised more money than any other campaign.  $18.2 million

in the first quarter of this year.  That money came from 525,000

contributors.

 

Accounting for that money and filing the FEC report on that money is much

more complicated and time consuming than Bernie Sanders` tax return.  It`s

like filing a tax return where you have 525,000 different sources of

income, each of which has to be specified and added into a total income,

which in this case is over $18 million.

 

The Sanders campaign approached that with the highest degree of competence

and professionalism and honor in accounting for every penny of the $18

million and every person who contributed.  And that same presidential

campaign, those campaigns who do that are all capable of doing that.  They

should be able to make sure that their candidate`s tax returns are filed on

time and publicly released as quickly as possible.

 

The campaigns can`t pay do that.  But they can make sure the candidates are

getting that done, that the candidate`s accountants are getting that done,

even though there is no law that yet forces them to do that.

 

On Sunday Bernie Sanders added something about President Trump after he

said that he would – that Bernie Sanders said that he would be releasing

his tax returns after dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDER (I), VERMONT:  And by the way, let me challenge

President Trump to do the same. Trust me we do not have investments in

Russia or Saudi Arabia or anyplace else.  Yes, we will be releasing them.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  But no Democratic candidate for President can challenge

President Trump about releasing his tax returns until that candidate has

released 10 years of his own tax returns.  The time for excuses for this is

over.  In fact t was over a long time ago.  That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. 

“THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts right now.

 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END

 

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