Trump’s low approval rating unchanged. TRANSCRIPT: 4/4/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And it`s Thursday. It`s only Thursday, I should say, in what has become
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Oh!
O`DONNELL: So there could, there could be more leaks about the Mueller
investigation that we`re reporting on at this very hour tomorrow night.
MADDOW: Though this time last night when you and I were talking what was
going on with the “New York Times” story, we were remarking on the fact
that we were finally hearing from people in Mueller`s investigation for the
first time in 22 months. After that, “Washington Post” had their own
version of the story. NBC News had their own version of the story. CNN
had their own version of the story.
That means reporters at all of those news organizations now have sources
connected to Mueller`s team who are willing to talk.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and those stories are all now interacting with Chairman
Jerry Nadler`s approach to getting the Mueller report. We see this letter
today where he`s quoting these news articles and putting it to the attorney
general that this actually increases his rationale for demanding the full
MADDOW: A whole new ball is rolling.
O`DONNELL: It is.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, on a day when Donald Trump announced that he wants to make Herman
Cain, a member of the Federal Reserve board, it seems like a good time to
ask, what is the worst Trump appointment? At the end of this hour, I will
show you video of the current front-runner for worst Trump appointment. He
had to testify to a House committee yesterday where Democratic
Congresswoman Katherine Clark asked him if he committed a crime, she asked
him if he committed a crime to help a billionaire friend of Donald Trump
who is also a sex trafficker and a child rapist.
Now, you expect his answer to be, of course not, of course not, I
absolutely did not commit a crime to help a sex trafficker and child
rapist. But this is the Trump administration we`re talking about, so that
wasn`t his answer. You`re going to want to see every minute of
Congresswoman Katherine Clark going in on the person who as of now is the
front-runner for worst Donald Trump appointee. That will be at the end of
There`s also going to be a small tax law class a little later in this hour.
I have more important tax law to read to you to add to our coverage from
last night about the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal demanding
President Trump`s tax returns. If President Trump has tried to interfere
with that demand, then President Trump could already be guilty of a crime
that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If President Trump
picked up the phone and called the IRS commissioner and said, don`t give
them my tax returns, then president Trump committed a federal crime.
This is an even more obscure law than the not so obscure law that Chairman
Richard Neal is using to demand the president`s tax returns. We will have
former commissioner of the IRS joining us who knows these laws.
But first, the drip, drip, drip of what appear to be leaks from inside the
Mueller investigation are now driving Congress`s demands for the Mueller
report. Today, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler
sent a letter to the attorney general based entirely on those leaks and
used him as further reason to demand the full unredacted release of the
Mueller report to the Judiciary Committee.
There`s something very important that appears in every story that has been
written about these leaks by the reporters who have obtained these leaks.
I`m going to ask one of those reporters about this in a moment.
“The New York Times,” “Washington Post,” and NBC News all attribute the
leaks the same way. They do not attribute the leaks directly to members of
the Mueller investigation team. They all attribute leaks to people who
have spoken to members of the Mueller team. In some reports, they are
identified as associates of the Mueller team.
Here`s what NBC News reporting added to what has now become the leaks beat.
They added this today.
According to a senior law enforcement official who has spoken to members of
Mueller`s team, Mueller team members say the Mueller report includes
detailed accounts of Trump campaign contacts with Russian while Mueller
found no coordination or criminal conspiracy the official said, some on the
special counsel`s team say his findings paint a picture of a campaign whose
members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.
And so when the full Mueller report comes out, will the Trump defense be no
collusion, just manipulation? Russian manipulation of the Trump campaign.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler – his letter to the attorney general
today begins this way: I write to you regarding troubling press reports
relating to your handling of special counsel Mueller`s report and to your
knowledge that you immediately release to the public any summaries
contained in the report that may have been prepared by the special counsel.
“The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” both report that some in the
special counsel`s office have raised concerns about your letter summarizing
the results of the special counsel`s investigation. These reports suggest
that the special counsel prepared his own summaries intended for public
consumption which you chose to withhold in favor your own.
In fact, one unnamed U.S. official is quoted as saying that Mueller`s team
assumed the information was going to be made available to the public and so
they prepared their summaries to be shared in their own words and not in
the attorney general`s summary of their work as turned out to be the case.
The news stories provoked Chairman Nadler to make a new request of the
attorney general. Quote: We also request that you produce to the committee
all communications between the special counsel`s office and the department
regarding the report, including those regarding the disclosure of the
report to Congress, the disclosure of the report to the public and those
regarding your March 24th letter that purports to summarize the principal
conclusions reached by the special counsel and the results of his
So, that`s Jerry Nadler saying he now wants to see every memo, every email,
every text between the special counsel`s office and the attorney general`s
office about the Mueller report and the release of the Mueller report.
Jerry Nadler took note of a Justice Department statement earlier today
about the release of the report.
At the close of his letter, Jerry Nadler said the department`s press
statement today noted that you do not believe the report should be released
in serial or piecemeal fashion. Unfortunately, that selective release has
in effect already occurred, even though the attorney general himself has
now written two public letters in which he described the Mueller report.
He today said he doesn`t believe the report should be released in piecemeal
And Jerry Nadler was factually correct to point out the attorney general
has already done that himself. He`s already releasing tiny pieces of the
report. None of them even complete sentences.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has had it with the piecemeal release of
information about the Mueller report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Release the Mueller report
as soon as possible. And let me just say, the Mueller report will be
released. It`s just a question of – to us, it is inevitable. To them, it
is inconceivable. Shorten the distance between the inevitable and
Show us the report. I think they should release the report. That`s where
the evidence is. The information is. Let`s see the report.
If they don`t have anything to hide, they shouldn`t worry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Simple as that.
We have exactly who we need to sort all of this out. Joining our
discussion now to consider the week of leaks, the possible legal struggle
between the attorney general and special prosecutor and the politics of it
Ken Dilanian is joining us. He`s one of the reporters who broke the NBC
News story today reporting on the Mueller team`s reaction to the attorney
general`s handling of the Mueller report. Ken Dilanian is an intelligence
and national security reporter for NBC News.
Former federal prosecutor Kristan Peters-Hamlin is joining us. She was
assistant U.S. attorney when Robert Mueller was the U.S. attorney, and her
boss. She obviously knows the Mueller methods.
And for a look at the Mueller report`s complicated place in our politics
now, there`s no one better to analyze that for us than John Heilemann.
John Heilemann is a national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is
co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s “The Circus.”
And, Ken Dilanian, let me start with you and your reporting. I`m noticing
that you don`t see in any of these reports anyone quoting directly, and
including your reporting, a member of the Mueller team. It seems to be
people who have spoken with members of the Mueller team.
Is that an accurate representation of the sourcing?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGECE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: It is,
Lawrence. I`ll be honest with you – it`s not the kind of reporting I
normally like to do, quoting anonymous sources speaking to anonymous other
people, you know, relating to second hand information. But in this case,
the demand for the information is such and the investigation is sensitive
enough, that we were all willing to accept information from trusted
sources, people we`ve been dealing with a long time who we know are talking
to members of the Mueller team.
And these are people, by the way, these members of the Mueller team, many
of them work for the justice department. They`re putting their careers at
sensitive enough, that we were all willing to accept information from
trusted sources, people we`ve been dealing with a long time who we know are
talking to members of the Mueller team. And these are people, these
members of the Mueller team, many of them work for the Justice Department.
So, they are putting their careers at risk by discussing out of school
information about a sensitive investigation and speaking off the
reservation as it were.
But they are frustrated and want this information out. They`re talking to
friends, talking to associates. They know – it`s not a plant. I mean,
they`re not doing it with the purpose of it to be passed on to media. But
I think they know by talking that some of this stuff is going to find its
way to the press and it has.
And, look, I mean, the biggest frustration that I heard was the fact that
Barr took it upon himself to clear the president on obstruction. It`s been
a question since the moment he did that. You know, was that coordinated
with the Mueller team? Did the Mueller team know that was going to happen?
What I was told was at least some faction of the Mueller team believes that
was completely inappropriate and not what they envisioned happening. They
wanted to throw that question to Congress. They presented evidence on both
sides of the obstruction question. It is true Mueller did not reach a
legal conclusion as to whether there was a prosecutable case.
But the idea wasn`t that Barr would pronounce the president clean on
obstruction. Then there are objections to the language he used in his
letter where he said there was no criminal intent. Rod Rosenstein and I
looked at this case, and we found that it did not meet the burden of
Well, the Mueller team does not – or at least some members of the Mueller
team does not agree with that. They think there was evidence that
President Trump obstructed justice. There wasn`t enough that Mueller made
the call. We still don`t know the reason for that.
And, you know, full disclosure, Lawrence. We don`t know how many members
of the Mueller team feel this way and don`t know whether Bob Mueller
himself feels this way and whether he knew that Barr was going to do this.
But we felt it was important enough to pass along to viewers that these
O`DONNELL: Kristan, you`re a former colleague of Bob Mueller. You`re
familiar with his methods. Is what we`re learning as we sits here which is
very different what we knew on Monday night about all this, what you would
expect from Mueller this notion that his report contains some summary
material that was instantly ready to be released to the public because he
knew there would be a demand, there might be a need for something to be
released instantly? Are these reports you`re hearing from inside the
Mueller investigation, do they make sense to you in terms of what you know
about the Mueller method?
KRISTAN PETERS-HAMLIN, WORKED WITH ROBERT MUELLER 1994-1996: Mueller is a
man of impeccable integrity and he`s incredibly skilled. I believe that
what is really going on here is that Bob Mueller understands that in the
rare sort of circumstance where you have the president of the United
States, that the prosecutor in those kinds of cases are, is, Congress. So
he will laid out all the evidence and he decided that in this instance, it
should be the United States Congress that makes the decision and that`s
what Leon Jaworski did, as well.
And that would have been an appropriate thing to do. He`s a very by the
book person and he`s not at all afraid to make a decision. He`s a decisive
person once he`s gotten all of the evidence and the facts. I think what we
have here is a pass that was thrown to Congress by the Mueller team with
adequate evidence for Congress to make the decision on obstruction.
And there was an interception by Bill Barr and he ran in the exact opposite
direction. I couldn`t agree more with the problems on the obstruction
analysis. There are serious analytical problems with the summary with
respect to the findings that he suggested regarding obstruction. He has
very serious analytical problems and there are also process problems with
somebody like Rod Rosenstein who said he should be not involved in this.
We need a special prosecutor because he was sort of an accessory after the
fact if it was a crime.
It`s problematic to have him involved along with Barr who basically
telegraphed he thinks there`s no such thing as presidential obstruction
when he was lobbying for the position.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, Chuck Grassley tweeted today with no real
provocation, I support release of the Mueller report. He could have easily
not put that tweet out today. He used to be the chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee which would have had direct jurisdiction. He would
have been receiving these letters from Barr.
So, he`s an important voice among Republicans on this kind of issue.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, look, there are a
couple places where angels appear to tread. One is arguing with you about
Congress, which I`m not going to do tonight. Another is argue with Ken
Dilanian about his reporting.
But I will say this what my sense of this is on the basis of some reporting
of my own. I think Ken is just a little bit off in his assessment of the
motivations of the Mueller team. I don`t think they were thinking that
that they told people about this it might get in the press. They wanted
this in the press. This is a group of people who were buttoned up.
O`DONNELL: You`re saying this is a deliberate indirectly.
HEILEMANN: This is a deliberate – yes.
O`DONNELL: They`ve said it to people who they know are going to say it.
HEILEMANN: And probably in some case have given different benediction to
people and said, you know, if you`re called by a reporter, I`m happy to
have you talk about it, because if you think about, they were so buttoned
up for the entirety of this, this entire investigation, nothing leaked, no
To deviate from that, even though the investigation has now formally ended,
is such an – it`s a left turn for them. And I think it speaks to outrage
as what they see having been done by the attorney general. I think they
feel that this – the notion that they wrote executive summaries intending
to get around all of the problems of – at least in the first instance to
get around all the problems of things that couldn`t come out because of
grand jury testimony or that couldn`t come out because of classification,
that they wanted to speak to the public and put their stamp on it and
denied that possibility.
I think these people who dedicated their lives to this are incredibly
pissed off is the right word. It`s feeding into this political situation
that Grassley is part of, which is that the tide is – Bill Barr was in a
very tenuous situation politically when he got this job. The tide has
turned against him, dramatically. You see that on the Democratic side 100
percent. No benefit of the doubt for him anymore. Republicans are
starting to feel the same way.
O`DONNELL: Ken, I want to get your reaction about the sourcing, because I
think we`re going to have more – my sense is we`ll have more of these
stories. You might have more of these stories tomorrow or the days to
But, Kristan, I want to come back to you for a moment. You`re nodding when
John was talking about the frustrations of the Mueller team. Talk about
the difference of their situation from when they were actually on the job
working on this report to the point where they`re now a couple of weeks out
of the job. How does that change things for them? Why does that make them
more willing to talk to their associates who then talked to Ken Dilanian?
PETERS-HAMLIN: I don`t think that the reason that they`re talking now is
because now they`re out of the position. I think the reason they`re
talking now is the precise reason he just identified. This is a buttoned
up operation. Bob Mueller is a buttoned up guy. And the team was buttoned
up, as well. And now they`re whistleblowers.
PETERS-HAMLIN: That`s what the issue is. I mean, their outrage. I`ve got
to tell you the people that appear to be to me to be the most outraged by
what`s going on are all the former federal prosecutors with whom I speak
because we understand the norms and the guardrails are off.
I mean, this is not the Department of Justice that I recognize. This is
not a presidency that I recognize. And I`m a bit of a presidential history
buff. I`ve never seen anything like this. I can`t even imagine this is my
O`DONNELL: Let me give Ken Dilanian the last word in this segment on the
dynamics of these leaks. Why they`ve been happening and what your
projection is on what you think – what more you think you might be getting
on these kinds of leaks before the Mueller report is released
DILANIAN: Well, I don`t think you can dismiss what John is saying. I
think part of it is these people have left the Mueller orbit, that tight
circle and gone back to their other jobs and they`re clearly more free to
talk at least to associates. Regardless of that, the frustration is that
William Barr set a narrative with a cursory brief document that essentially
absolved the president legally of crimes.
But the people who did this investigation for two years know there`s a lot
more than that, both on the obstruction issue and on the collusion issue.
As you said, there`s a whole narrative about Russian contacts and the
question whether the Trump campaign was manipulated was an unwitting dupe
over Russian intelligence operation. We`ll see more information about
that. A lot depends how quickly William Barr can get this report out.
And, look, we`re getting signals from the Justice Department the intent is
to do that. He`s going to be grilled about this.
O`DONNELL: Let me get a last word from John. John, it seems and seemed to
me at the time that Donald Trump had his very best day with the Mueller
report on the Monday coverage after that Sunday night letter from the
attorney general where the headlines treated as if the Mueller report had
been released. They didn`t say the Barr better, they said the Mueller
Everything else since then has not been positive for the president.
HEILEMANN: Right. And, look, I think that Barr made a gamble in addition
to do this thing that outraged a lot of people and people who thought Bill
Barr, their hope was that Barr would be the institutionalist even though he
wrote a memo begging for the job, even though he put forward his views on
obstruction of justice. But he made a public releases gamble.
It was like I`m going to put the most positive spin on this. We`ll let
first impressions sink in that are positive for Trump and then when we get
to the bad stuff, where it all comes out, because he must know it`s all
going to come out, and Mueller will testify that heal have to testify, that
by then, first impressions will be set.
But that is a dangerous gamble because firsts in there culture, first
impressions don`t hold. First impressions go away. What happens is the
relentless pounding of negative stories that come out later could easily
supplant the positive impression from that Monday. This could make the
situation worse politically for Trump rather than better.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, Kristan Peters-Hamlin and Ken Dilanian, thank
you all for starting us of.
And, Ken Dilanian, I`m going to be here tomorrow night. So, bring your
leaks a little bit earlier.
DILANIAN: I`ll give it my best shot.
O`DONNELL: Can I get them sooner? I`ll be here in your here.
DILANIAN: Thank you. You`ll be first to know.
O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it. Thank you.
And when we come back, former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will join us
about Chairman Richie Neal`s demand for the Trump tax returns and the
possibility that President Trump has already committed a crime in trying to
block the IRS from handing over those tax returns.
And at the end of the hour, we will take a look at the front-runner, the
man who is now the front-runner for worst Trump nominee. He`s the one who
helped a billionaire friend of Donald Trump avoid prison time for sex
trafficking and child rape. You will want to see the video of him being
questioned about that in the House of Representatives.
O`DONNELL: After House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal used
his unique and absolute legal power to demand that the IRS commissioner
give him six years of Donald Trump`s personal and business tax returns,
“The Washington Post” is reporting privately, Trump has told White House
advisers that he does not plan to hand over his tax returns to Congress and
that he would fight the issue to the Supreme Court hoping to stall it until
after the 2020 election, according to two administration officials who
spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the conversation. Treasury
officials will not comply with the request until they are compelled to do
so, the officials said.
Donald Trump has absolutely no legal right to the stop the IRS commissioner
from handing over those tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and
Means Committee. Not only that, it is a crime for Donald Trump
specifically to tell the IRS commissioner not to hand over his tax returns
which brings us to an even more obscure law than the law chairman kneel
used to demand the president`s tax returns.
Internal Revenue Service code Title 26 Section 7217, prohibition on
executive branch influence over taxpayer audits and other investigations.
That phrase “other investigations” applies to the investigation that
Chairman Richard Neal is conducting.
This law uses the phrase applicable person because it`s a law that does not
apply to you and me. It doesn`t apply to everyone. So, who is an
applicable person in for pumps of this section the term applicable person
means the president, the vice president, any employee of the executive
office of the president and any employee of the executive office of the
And here is what the law says about an applicable person meaning the
president. It shall be unlawful for any applicable person to request
directly or indirectly any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue
Service to conduct or terminate an audit or other investigation of any
particular taxpayer with respect to the tax liability of such taxpayer.
Having written sections of the Tax Code when I was on the staff of the
Senate Finance Committee, let me translate that for you. It says it`s a
crime for the president to request that the IRS commissioner or anyone else
at the IRS not cooperate with Chairman Richard Neal`s investigation. And
the law doesn`t stop there.
If the president has made that phone call, if the president has called up
the commissioner of the IRS any time in the last few months when they knew
this was coming and said, don`t give them my tax returns, the IRS
commissioner is under legal obligation to immediately report that phone
call to their treasury`s inspector general and if the commissioner doesn`t
do that, then the commissioner has himself committed a crime by not
reporting the Trump request.
The penalty in this law for the president or anyone in the Trump White
House calling up the IRS commissioner and telling him not to hand over the
tax returns is a maximum of five years in prison. The penalty for the IRS
commissioner himself not reporting that someone made that request is the
same thing – maximum of five years in prison.
So knowing the impulse of Donald Trump as we do, what is the likelihood he
has committed that federal crime already? And knowing the incompetence and
legal illiteracy of Trump appointees, what is the likelihood that Donald
Trump`s IRS commissioner, Charles Reading, has committed the crime of not
reporting the president`s possible crime? The answer to both questions is
we don`t know.
But we know both things are possible because this is the Trump
administration, because we know there is nothing Donald Trump wants to keep
secret more than his tax returns. And Donald Trump saw this coming. His
IRS commissioner saw this coming. They`ve known for months that Chairman
Neal was going to do this, so did Donald Trump at any point say to anyone
in the IRS or tell anyone working in the Trump White House, to tell the IRS
to never hand over the Trump tax returns?
The law allows one specific person in the executive branch to communicate
with the IRS about this. And that person is the attorney general.
The law also allows people not working in the executive branch like, for
example, President Trump`s personal attorneys to communicate with the IRS
about this. And so, the president seemed very well-rehearsed today when he
was asked about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you willing to tell the commissioner of the IRS not to
disclose to the House Ways and Means Committee your tax returns?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ll speak to my lawyers,
they`ll speak to the attorney general.
REPORTER: Will you direct the IRS to do that?
TRUMP: They`ll speak to my lawyers and they`ll speak to the attorney
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: My exclusive interview with former IRS commissioner John
Koskinen is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: There
are a series of other options going forward that we will explore. But
we`ve already begun to think about them.
REPORTER: Are you considering subpoenas?
NEAL: Well, that`s something that we would have to consider down the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the man of few public words. The chairman of the House
Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal who has issued his demand for the
Trump tax returns.
Our next guest is someone who can give us insight into the real workings of
the Internal Revenue Service like no one else can. John Koskinen served as
the IRS commissioner from 2013 to 2017 in the Obama administration.
Commissioner, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s a real
honor to speak to you about this.
I first want to get your reading of Section 6103 of the Tax Code which
gives the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, chairman of the Senate
Finance Committee the right to demand, not request, demand tax returns of
any individual from the IRS commissioner. Do you see it applying in the
way that Chairman Neal has used it?
JOHN KOSKINEN, FORMER IRS COMMISSIONER: Well, the committee has obviously
moved thoughtfully and carefully trying to insure that in this situation we
don`t set a precedent that comes back to haunt everyone which would be to
allow a chairman of committees and the Congress to, for any reasons, start
requesting anyone`s tax returns for any purpose, whether it`s harassment or
And so it is important while the statute is clear, it says shall, to insure
that it`s done in a way that to the extent it`s precedential and it will be
going forward, taxpayers are protected from having their information
produced for something beyond the legitimate operations of the Congress.
So as I say, the committee has worked to have an overall tax oversight
description of what they need the returns for and we`ll see how people
respond to that.
O`DONNELL: And when the Republicans were in control of these committees,
you received some demands under Section 6103, didn`t you?
KOSKINEN: I never received them personally. Before I got there, there was
the issue of whether the IRS was targeting conservative groups.
And so some of the tax returns or applications from those groups were
requested and produced to the oversight – or to the Ways and Means
Committee for a review to see what the IRS operations were. But it never -
- none of those situations rose to this kind of an occasion and in none of
those situations should the committee vote to make any of that information
public as a matter of course.
O`DONNELL: Are you aware of any case where the IRS commissioner, any of
your predecessors, did not comply with the demand from the chairman of
Finance or the chairman of Ways and Means like this?
KOSKINEN: I`m not aware of any situation that had this kind of a
controversy associated with it. And I would say, first, I should remind
everybody, I don`t know anything about the president`s taxes. And if I
did, I wouldn`t be able to talk about it. So this is a general discussion.
But the statute does say the Secretary shall. And so the statute seems to
contemplate that the secretary of the Treasury is going to make this
decision, not the IRS commissioner.
Although there are a lot of cases where one says the Treasury secretary, it
means the IRS commissioner. But technically, this is ultimately a decision
for the treasury secretary.
O`DONNELL: And I just want to mention that other law that I was talking
about is just a post-Watergate law where they were actually trying to
protect the IRS from presidents like Richard Nixon who used to pick up the
phone and tell the IRS who he wanted audited this week.
And so they`ve really created a roadblock of any of that kind of
communication between the president and the IRS commissioner. How much
communication did you have with President Obama directly when you were IRS
KOSKINEN: I met with him once shortly after I was confirmed in which he
thanked me for taking on what appeared at the time to be a thankless job
and then never heard from anyone in the White House, never talked to the
president after that.
Actually, I never talked to President Trump after his inauguration. And
never actually had anyone from the White House ever and neither – I served
for a year in the Trump administration and no one from the White House ever
called about any issue with regard to tax administration.
I always try to make it clear to everyone that the IRS does tax
administration independently without outside influence. Tax policy, on the
other hand, tax legislation, other issues are not the domain of the IRS.
They really are the domain of the Treasury secretary and the political arms
of the administration.
O`DONNELL: Former IRS commissioner John Koskinen, thank you very much for
joining us tonight, Commissioner. Really appreciate it.
KOSKINEN: My pleasure. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, President Trump has not gotten a bump in
the polls after William Barr`s summary of the Mueller report. It seems
nothing can turn things favorably for the president in the polls. Jason
Johnson will join us next.
O`DONNELL: President Trump`s poll numbers did not move at all after
Attorney General William Barr wrote a letter that Donald Trump claimed
exonerated him in the Mueller investigation. If the public believed that
or even if a tiny fraction of the public believed that, Donald Trump`s poll
numbers would have gone up.
They are unchanged. He`s locked in at a 43 percent approval rating and
there is no good news that Donald Trump can look forward to try to change
those poll numbers.
Joining us now for the politics of where the president now stands, Jason
Johnson. He`s the politics editor at theroot.com. He`s an MSNCB
And Jason, you have this active Democratic presidential field and there`s
not much focus on the Republican campaign for the presidency because it is,
of course, President Trump. I`ve never seen a candidate more locked in
cement in polling.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes, there`s absolutely
nothing Donald Trump can do to change anyone`s opinion of him at this
point. Now, if you`re a Republican, you`re enthused, right because you`re
like, look, he won with 47 percent last time. All I need is a four percent
bump. The economy is still going good.
But the other problem is this. If there is no flexibility, Donald Trump is
not running against Hillary Clinton next year. He`s running against
objectively the most qualified field of presidential candidates in about 35
If you look at the experience, if you look at the money raised, if you look
at the number of constituents they represent. If he has no flexibility in
his numbers he can`t win.
He`s not running against Hillary. He`s not running against a hated person.
These numbers are not good when the largest controversy of your presidency
ending doesn`t help.
O`DONNELL: Well, he`s done something that no other first-term president
has ever done. He hasn`t spent one second trying to appeal to a voter who
didn`t already vote for him.
JOHNSON: Well, he`s delusional. That`s part of it. He`s delusional.
And he`s being lied to by Kellyanne Conway and everyone else around him who
would tell him he is doing better than he is. He can`t flip anybody.
So this is an administration and this is a Republican Party that knows that
their success next year is in voter suppression. They will not be able to
change anyone`s minds. They will not be able to bring people out.
And the problem is voter suppression only works if there is no enthusiasm
on the other side. If the Democrats pick someone that people are excited
about, that will overcome voter I.D., polling issues, et cetera, et cetera.
And I don`t think Trump is really prepared for that right now.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, thank you very much for joining us tonight on
the politics of it all.
And when we come back, President Trump wants Herman Cain to be a member of
the Federal Reserve. But even that might not turn out to be President
Trump`s worst appointment. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When they ask me who is
the president of Uz-Becky-Becky-Becky-stan-stan, I`m going to say you know,
I don`t know. Do you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I don`t know. He`s back. Donald Trump wants to add Herman
Cain to his list of worst presidential appointments in history.
Today, the president said he`s going to nominate Herman Cain to be a member
of the Federal Reserve. We already know what Herman Cain thinks interest
rates should be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: Nine, nine, nine. Nine, nine, nine. Nine, nine, nine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Herman Cain dropped out of the 2012 presidential primary
campaign after a brief surge at the top of the Republican primary polls
when he was credibly accused of having had a long-term extra-marital affair
and credibly accused of sexual harassment.
Those were the days when most Republican primary voters actually cared
about things like that. The only reason to want to nominate Herman Cain to
the Federal Reserve Board now is to make the current Trump nominee to the
Federal Reserve look better.
The president has already nominated Steven Moore who is on his way to a lot
of trouble if he ever makes it to his not yet scheduled Senate confirmation
hearing because Steven Moore is not an economist. He has only a Master`s
degree in Economics and you don`t really qualify as a member of the
profession without a P.H.D. in Economics.
But now, that his nomination has provoked a closer look at Steven Moore`s
background, we now know that court records show that he is a deadbeat dad
who failed to pay child support for several months and a tax cheat who,
when he did pay child support, deducted it on his tax return which is
Child support is not tax deductible. Everyone who pays child support knows
that. But Herman Cain and Steven Moore are not Donald Trump`s worst choice
for a presidential appointment.
His worst choice is the guy who let a billionaire sex trafficker and child
rapist get off the hook with no prison time. The man who did that is now a
Trump cabinet member and he was asked in a hearing of the House of
Representatives yesterday if he broke the law to help the billionaire sex
trafficker and child rapist. We`ll show you that video next.
O`DONNELL: The Trump Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is now a front-runner
for worst person appointed by President Trump. He was called to the House
of Representatives yesterday to testify on the president`s budget proposal
for the Labor Department.
And we knew he was going to be asked about his days as a federal prosecutor
in Florida when he made a deal with President Trump`s billionaire friend
Jeffrey Epstein who was facing possible charges of possible sex trafficking
and child rape.
And knowing that was going to happen, you would think that Alex Acosta
would have been a little more careful about the Labor Department`s budget
for stopping child labor and human trafficking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The International Labor Affairs
Bureau, ILAB, within the Department of Labor is responsible for combatting
exploitive child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking. Is that
ALEX ACOSTA, SECRETARY OF LABOR: That is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, the smart move for Alex Acosta would have been to increase
the Labor Department`s spending on the ILAB piece of their budget. It`s a
relatively small item in the Labor Department budget, so a small increase
in a small item in the budget would help the Labor secretary with that
little problem of his.
That when he was a prosecutor he made a deal that allowed a billionaire sex
trafficker and child rapist to avoid prison. That would be a smart move,
but this is the Trump Labor secretary we`re talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: You`ve also proposed a budget cut of almost 80 percent, 79 percent
to ILAB, where this work is done, bringing its budget from $68 million to
just $18.5 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts was just getting
warmed up. What you`re about to see could only happen in the Trump
administration because only Donald Trump would appoint someone like Alex
Acosta to his cabinet. And only the Trump-controlled Republican Senate
would vote to confirm someone who now stands accused by a federal judge of
breaking the law, breaking the law as a prosecutor to help a billionaire
sex trafficker and child rapist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: When you were the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of
Florida, your office investigated Jeffrey Epstein and found – your office
found that there had been a sexual abuse pyramid scheme that involved at
least 36 underage girls, ranging from age from 14 to 17.
This is horrifying and sick stuff. Mr. Epstein raped and assaulted these
girls. He recruited them out of shopping malls. He had employees that
helped with this.
And then he invited his friends to do the same. And there is evidence that
he transported these girls among his mansions throughout the United States
and abroad. Epstein and his friends destroyed these girls` lives.
Senator Ben Sasse called Mr. Epstein a monster. Would you say that`s a
ACOSTA: He engaged in vile crimes, yes.
CLARK: You`re a law professor, besides many of your other jobs that you`ve
had. And I`m sure you know there is no such thing as child prostitution
under federal law, only child sex trafficking, and each offense under
18USC1591 carries a sentence ranging from 10 years to life in prison.
So logically, Mr. Epstein, with the investigation of the Federal U.S.
Attorney`s Office should have been looking at a potential sentence of 360
years, at a minimum, but that`s not what happened because there was a power
dynamic here, wasn`t there?
We had teenage girls with no power who were rape and sexual assault victims
and we had Mr. Epstein and his friends, extremely powerful, wealthy, and
connected people. And in a ruling on February 21, 2019, Judge Mara found
you illegally entered a non-prosecution agreement that allows Mr. Epstein
to serve just 13 months in county jail where he received 12 hours a day on
work release six days out of the week.
The judge found you broke the law, Secretary Acosta, when you chose not to
tell the victims about this deal, and that you gave them the impression
that this investigation was ongoing. And do you disagree with any of the
facts that were found in the opinion that Judge Mara issued?
ACOSTA: Congresswoman, first, let me say that the Southern District of
Florida has prosecuted sex trafficking aggressively in the past and it is
an incredibly important issue and it`s something that needs to be
aggressively pursued. Turning to the – turning to –
CLARK: Do you disagree – I get to ask the questions here. Do you
disagree with any of the facts as presented in the opinion of Judge Mara?
ACOSTA: The Department of Justice, I think rightly so for the past 12
years, has defended the action
CLARK: That is a yes or no question. I ask unanimous consent to submit
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Alex Acosta did not disagree with one word of the judge`s
opinion that Congresswoman Clark was referring to. The judge said that
Alex Acosta broke the law. Alex Acosta had a chance to say, no, I did not
break the law but he didn`t say that.
But at least he did say that what Jeffrey Epstein did were “vile crimes.”
That`s not the way Donald Trump saw his friend, billionaire Jeffrey
Epstein. He thinks Jeffrey Epstein`s a terrific guy. And Donald Trump
seems to have had some idea of what Jeffrey Epstein was up to. He joked
Here`s what Donald Trump said about his friend Jeffrey Epstein in 2002.
Donald Trump said, “I`ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He`s a
lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as
much as I do. And many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about
it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
On the younger side. Terrific guy. Not a monster. Donald Trump doesn`t
think Jeffrey Epstein is a monster. Donald Trump still hasn`t said that
what Jeffrey Epstein did were vile crimes.
In fact, after everything that has been publicly revealed about Jeffrey
Epstein in court, Donald Trump still hasn`t said anything negative about
his friend. We couldn`t find a negative word that Donald Trump has said
about Jeffrey Epstein, right up to this date.
And so no matter how bad the Trump appointees get, no matter how far down
in the barrel Donald Trump reaches for his next nominee to a federal
position , the worst person in the Trump administration is always going to
be Donald Trump. That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian
Williams 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