Trump’s low approval rating unchanged. TRANSCRIPT: 4/4/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Kristan Peters-Hamlin, John Koskinen
Transcript:

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

 

And it`s Thursday.  It`s only Thursday, I should say, in what has become

leak week.

 

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

report. 

 

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

this hour. 

 

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

investigation.

 

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

fashion. 

 

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

inconceivable. 

 

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

all. 

 

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

prosecution. 

 

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

concerns exist. 

 

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

one spoke. 

 

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

come. 

 

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. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes. 

 

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

country. 

 

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

report. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

vice president. 

 

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

general. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  My exclusive interview with former IRS commissioner John

Koskinen is next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(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

intimidation.

 

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

commissioner?

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

contributor.

 

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

years.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(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

completely illegal.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

correct?

 

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

fair characterization?

 

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

the opinion.

 

(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

about it.

 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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