Barr faces second day of grilling. TRANSCRIPT: 4/10/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Twenty years. That`s fantastic.
O`DONNELL: Go home right now. Don`t waste another second.
O`DONNELL: There she goes.
Well, Attorney General William Barr showed once again today that he is the
most reckless public speaker in the attorney general`s job since Jeff
Sessions. We will get to that in a moment.
At the end of this hour, at the end of this hour, we are going to consider
what will happen if Donald Trump is not inaugurated a second time on the
next inauguration day, if a Democrat is inaugurated on the next
inauguration day, why that will be the worst day in Donald Trump`s life.
The things that Donald Trump now has stacked up that can fall on him, the
day he is no longer president. That`s what we`ll considerate the end of
this hour. And there are a bunch of those things now.
But today, William Barr came into his second tour of duty as a Republican
attorney general with a relatively solid reputation in the legal community,
especially the Republican legal community in Washington, D.C. The image
packagers of William Barr were telling the world that they would now see a
more scholarly approach to the work of the attorney general than we saw
under one of the worst and least qualified attorneys general in history,
But as of tonight, William Barr is seeming at least as Trumpian as Jeff
Sessions if not more so. And the reviews from legal scholars are
condemning. The distinguished Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe
tweeted today: Barr has no shame. He`s become a caricature of a lawyer and
a miserable excuse for a public servant. A pathetic porcine puppet for a
Professor Tribe tweeted that after the attorney general with absolutely no
justification used the word “spying” in the today`s hearing. Spying is not
a legal term. It`s a Hollywood term. It`s a word for screen writers, not
It`s a word for wise guy, know it alls, having a beer with their friends,
and not being specially precise about their language. In this case, it`s a
word that the attorney general threw into the Trump propaganda machine
where “Fox & Friends” will now be saying forever that the attorney general
says that the federal government was spying on the Trump campaign. When
the attorney general was pressed on the use of that word, he admitted that
he had absolutely no evidence at all to support that statement. None
And that is why Professor Tribe said that Barr has no shame. That among
other things is why Professor Tribe says that the attorney general has
become a caricature of a lawyer. Once again today, the attorney general
refused to say if anyone in the White House has seen the Mueller report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Who if anyone outside the Justice Department has
seen portions or all of the special counsel`s report? Has anyone in the
White House seen any of the report?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`m going to get – as I say, I`m landing
the plane right now. And you know, I`ve been willing to discuss my letters
and the process going forward. But the report`s going to be out next week.
I`m just not going to get into the details of the process until the plane`s
on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: More than once today, he said he would be delivering the
Mueller report to Congress next week. The attorney general knows Congress
will be in recess next week. So, that might mute congress`s immediate
response to the report.
And once again today, one of the most revealing comments the attorney
general made had nothing to do with the Mueller report and everything to do
with William Barr sounding like the most Trumpian Republican member of
Yesterday, the attorney general`s most shocking moment, his most non-legal
comment came when he was asked about his leadership of a change of legal
position by the Justice Department so that the Attorney General Barr is now
using all of the force and might of the Justice Department to try to
destroy the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit. We`re going to take a look
at some of that exchange yesterday one more time because it shows the
attorney general giving a non-legal response to the question, a purely
political response, a response that has nothing to do with the litigation
that he was asked about that he is now leading against the Affordable Care
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): If you`re successful in this lawsuit that
you`re supporting and the entire patient protection in the Affordable Care
Act is struck down, millions of Americans who currently receive health
insurance coverage under the law are at risk of losing that coverage. Am I
correct in that?
BARR: I think the president has made clear that he favors not only pre-
existing conditions but would like action on a broad health plan. So he is
proposing a substitute for Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is an utterly disgraceful answer by an attorney general.
The answer to the congressman`s question was one word, yes. If William
Barr is successful in destroying the Affordable Care Act in court, millions
of Americans will lose coverage. That is an undeniable fact and an
undeniable legal outcome of the case if William Barr is successful.
Not only did William Barr refuse to answer that question, the words that he
put in the place where the real answer would go are worse than childish.
He tried to suggest to adults in Congress that is President Trump would
immediately get a replacement for Obamacare passed through the Congress.
When? That same day that William Barr wins in court?
No one will lose health insurance because Trump will rush through Congress
in one afternoon, the replacement of Obamacare that will take effect the
same day? That was an offensive Trumpian answer that the attorney gave.
And today, it was about the wall. The attorney general of the United
States once again became a Trump cheerleader in a congressional hearing and
this time, it was about building the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: We have to stop the flow of drugs from Mexico or make a much bigger
dent in it. That`s one of the reasons that I do think that a wall a
Barrier system across the southern border is an important part of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Every expert on the subject reports that most of the illegal
drugs that come into this country from Mexico come through the legal ports
of entry. They are smuggled through in trucks and other vehicles coming
through the legal ports of entry, but the question wasn`t even about that.
The question was about the opioid crisis in America. That`s what the
attorney general was asked about. That`s why he wants a wall.
His answer was build the wall, build the wall for opioids. Opioids are
made in America. They are legally sold in America and the opioids that are
imported into this country come in as regular legal shipments of freight
through our legal ports of entry and those opioids kill people.
And this attorney general`s answer to a Republican senator from Arkansas
who expressed concern about what opioids are doing to his constituents in
Arkansas is build the wall. William Barr knows there is never going to be
a wall. And William Barr should know that will a wall would do nothing
about the opioid crisis in America and what Barr`s answer means today is
that William Barr doesn`t care about the opioid crisis or at least wouldn`t
find any words towards express his real concern about the crisis. Instead
it was build the wall.
William Barr has no idea what to do about the opioid crisis if you judge by
his testimony today. He`s not one bit smarter than Donald Trump about the
opioid crisis. He wasn`t today.
Once again today, the attorney general indicated that after he delivers his
version of the Mueller report, that he considers suitable for release to
the public, he will continue to confer with the chairman of the House and
Senate Judiciary Committees to see if there is any way to release to the
committees more information from the Mueller report that the committees
might want. Republican Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, seems barely interested in seeing the redacted version
of the Mueller report and we`ll ask for nothing more. But the chairman of
the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, has already been granted
subpoena power by the committee to the subpoena the full unredacted Mueller
report and said today that the attorney general still needs to release the
full Mueller report.
We have just are the experts we need to consider the attorney general`s
testimony today. Neal Katyal was acting solicitor general of the United
States in the Obama administration. He also served in the Justice
Department in the Clinton administration. And as many of you know, Neal
Katyal wrote the Justice Department rules governing the Mueller report.
Emily Bazelon has been writing about the Supreme Court and the Justice
Department most of her career and now with the “New York Times” magazine.
Her new book is “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American
Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration.”
And for the political dynamics of what we witnessed today and what is to
come when William Barr`s edition of the Mueller report is released, we have
John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s co-
host and executive producer of Showtime`s “The Circus.”
And, Neal, let me go straight to you with your review of the attorney
general`s testimony today.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, I think the one
success he had is that he made Matt Whitaker look pretty good by
comparison. I mean, I had the privilege of teaching at Georgetown. One of
the things you have to do before you enter law school is you have to take
an LSAT with analogies.
I think the analogy after today is the president is to Trump as the
attorney generalship is to Barr. That is we have, as you just said, a
Trumpian attorney general. And I never thought I`d say those words about
Barr, but we`re really at that point unfortunately now.
I`d isolate three things all of which you`ve kind of hit on. Number one,
his views on the Mueller report, really the hiding of it from the American
people. He`s willing to redact here and there. He`s not even willing to
go and seek a court order to lift grand jury material.
Number two, he in his gutting of the Affordable Care Act. This is a real,
real problem. The Justice Department always takes the view that if there`s
a reasonable argument to defend a statute, you do so. You don`t kind of
waltz into court and attack the statute and try and gut it.
That`s what he`s done here. And he completely switched today the standard
for defense because he said – well, as long as there`s some plausible
argument to abandon defense, that`s enough. That has never been the
And we`re seeing the fruits of this even this afternoon because now it`s
not just the Affordable Care Act. He sent a letter, the Justice
Department, to Congress late this afternoon saying, now, I`m not going to
defend a statute that prevents female genital mutation. He`s calling that
unconstitutional. So, I have no idea what`s next after this.
And then you know, there`s number three, the – he`s joined the tin foil
hat group with this whole thing about spying and the FBI in 2016 being
against Trump and the like. I mean, there`s an ongoing investigation about
that as far as I this everyone knows, this investigation is going nowhere.
And he even admitted that later on.
So, this is a really – this isn`t acting like the attorney general of the
United States. This is acting as Nancy Pelosi said tonight, like the
attorney general of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Emily, we just heard Neal Katyal say he never expected himself
to be saying that Attorney General William Barr is acting in a Trumpian
way. Did you ever can expect to hear Neal Katyal to say he was acting in a
Donald Trumpian way?
And let me just – I just want to, and Neal remember this, when Neal and I
first talked about the attorney general`s first letter about the Mueller
report, we did it with some hope, we did it as optimistic – we greeted as
optimistically as we could. We gave an optimistic reading. We`ve been
struggling to find any since then.
EMILY BAZELON, TRUMAN CAPOTE FELLOW, YALE LAW SCHOOL: You know, if you go
back further in William Barr`s history when he was in the George H.W. Bush
administration, he pushed for a very broad theory of executive power,
including granting pardons to more people under Iran-Contra. So, I think
that this faith that Barr maybe because he was associated with H.W. was
going to be the sort of moderate force, it`s proved to be misguided.
I think if you go back and look at his previous writings, including the
memo he wrote last summer, they just look like they`re setting up more of
the kind of rhetoric you see today than the kind of longed for figure, the
grown-up figure that people imagined.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Adam Schiff said about this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It was deeply disturbing to see the attorney
general make such a cavalier suggestion that there was spying on the Trump
campaign. That may be pleasing to the president who has been pushing this
idea that deep state coup. But it was a deep disservice to the men and
women of the FBI and the intelligence community.
It was yet another indication that the attorney general feels that it`s his
job to do the president`s bidding. That`s not his job. We are certainly
going to want to get to the bottom of what he is referring to, what he was
talking about, whether there`s anything more to this than simply speaking
words the president wanted to hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, it seems every time the attorney general speaks
or now writes something, he gives something to the Fox propaganda machine,
the Trump propaganda machine that they will use.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, well, I think, look,
it`s easy and often correct to mock congressional hearings for their
futility, their uselessness, their posturing, their superficiality. These
two days with Barr have been incredibly edifying and clarifying for
everyone paying attention. If you`re a Democrat in Congress, it is now
clear despite all the questions around Barr that we`ve alluded to here that
a lot of legal scholars some even on the left are said he`s going to be
What we`ve discovered in the last two days, there`s no ambiguity any
longer. He`s a political hack. And that clarifies the battle lines I
think in a useful way for Democrats going forward. Ambiguous attorney
general who seems to me like he`s trying to play the traditional role of
attorney general, try be to be true of the institution, try to be true of
the rule of laws, instead of serving a political function, that`s a
complicated guy to deal with. It`s much simpler once the veils have been
lifted, and once the scales have fallen from people`s eyes and say, OK,
here`s what we`re dealing with, an explicitly political attorney general,
who as Neal suggested worse than Matt Whitaker, but he`s the same as Matt
Whitaker in that he was a purely political instrument.
I think that will set the terms if Democrats are now clear about that.
That leads them to certain kinds of tactical and strategic choices that
they make going forward knowing that I think is helpful in that regard.
O`DONNELL: Neal, the attorney general said today, he said once again today
he`s just using the rules that you wrote for him.
KATYAL: Yes, no, I mean absolutely not. He`s totally distorting those
rules to try and serve his ends of trying to hide information from the
American people. I mean, he said that the rules require Mueller`s report
to be confidential. That`s only when Mueller gives the report to the
attorney general. It says nothing about when the attorney general gives
did the report to Congress or the American people and indeed part of the
regulations provide for a mechanism for public release of this information.
I think John is right to say you know, the politics of this are clarifying.
But I guess to me the big issue isn`t politics. It`s something about the
soul of the country, the soul of the Justice Department. I mean, when I
work there had in two different celebration administrations, attorneys
general did stuff that was against their political instincts. I remember
almost throwing up when we had to defend the “don`t ask, don`t tell”
policy, for example. But we did it because we felt it was our duty.
The Constitution requires the president to faithfully execute the laws.
Not to the gut them. And this attorney general is just wantonly gutting
laws like the Affordable Care Act and female genital mutilation act. And
that is the most antithetical thing to the rule of law imaginable. The
attorney general is trying to tear down law instead of trying to protect
O`DONNELL: This is what Nancy Pelosi said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Let me just say how very, very dismaying and
disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer of our country is
going off the rails yesterday and today. He is attorney general of the
United States of America, not the attorney general of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Emily, that`s what I thought that William Barr would want to
avoid that he would do – you don`t have to do that much to avoid that kind
of comment. You just have to speak much more carefully. He could even
hold to the positions that he`s currently holding to if he would speak more
carefully, more precisely, more legally and not throw around build the wall
and spying and then pretend that when he, if he successfully strikes down
Obamacare in the courts, pretend that no one will lose health insurance.
I mean, these are – these are wild things for an attorney general to say.
BAZELON: So, I have a couple questions. One is, what is the longer play
here in terms of the FBI in terms of law enforcement officials? When you
throw around terms like spying which the Justice Department had previous
said was not the case, what does that do to the people who are doing this
work and trying to do it conscientiously?
And you`re supposed to be the leader of that agency? What dos position
does that leave new vis-a-vis all these folks. You know, we`re used to
thinking of Republicans as the people who are more reflective about
defending the work of law enforcement investigations. And now, we`re all
switching sides in this conversation. I wonder what the consequences are
for Barr in the longer term.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, who made the strongest contribution to the
Trump campaign today? Donald Trump or William Barr?
HEILEMANN: Boy, good question. I mean, I think – I`m not sure that in
the end we`ve talked about this on the show before. If we think that this
is a fool strategy, even if you take the position of what would be the best
way to play this game, to fight this battle from their point of view, if
you think it was foolish for him to do what he`s done all along, these are
all short sighted misguided, not just in terms of his long-term standing at
the Justice Department, but for winning this particular fight over the
Mueller report, then all of this is not making any kind of a contribution
He`s trying to make a contribution to the Trump campaign. I`m not sure
he`s doing it very effectively. And I will say, to what Neal said,
obviously, you can`t but be disheartened bid all this. There are larger
issues at stake.
But what is coming is a war. This is still this Mueller report every day
the stakes of it are rising now rather than having the air let out of the
balloon as people thought for a brief moment when it first was reported
out. This is a war we`re going to be in the middle of right now. I
understand it`s dismaying but if I`m fighting that battle on the Democratic
side, I want to understand my enemy and the kind of what the play is and
what the kinds of mistakes they`re likely to make.
I think Barr revealed a lot about himself, the weaknesses of himself as a
political player over the course of the last two days. In that sense it`s
heartening for Democrats because this is a guy who can be had.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to break there. Neal Katyal, Emily
Bazelon, John Heilemann, thank you all for starting us out tonight. I
really appreciate it.
And when we come back, we have the reply, we got it right here, the reply
from the Trump administration to Chairman Richard Neal`s demand that Donald
Trump turn over his tax returns and the tax returns are not attached to
this reply. Not yet anyway.
We will have a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee joining
us next, someone demanding these tax returns for longer than just this
And at the end of this hour tonight, we`re going to consider what happens
if Donald Trump leaves office on the next inauguration day. There are so
many things that will immediately hit Donald Trump on that day that it
could be the worst day of Donald Trump`s life. That`s when we come back.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight. The Trump administration replied to
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal`s demand for Donald
Trump`s tax returns. And, of course, the Trump administration replied at
the last minute. We got the reply tonight at 7:00 p.m. on the day that
Chairman Neal set as the deadline for the IRS commissioner to reply to the
demand for Donald Trump`s tax returns, the demand from the Ways and Means
These demands are made under a 1924 law that allows the chairman and only
the chairman of the tax writing committees in Congress, the House Ways and
Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to see any tax returns
they choose to examine at anytime. That law is absolute. That law is
simple. That law has never been challenged.
But tonight, instead of the IRS commissioner handing over tax returns,
Chairman Neal got a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury Steven
Mnuchin and the letter underneath a bit of political rhetoric asks for more
time. Secretary Mnuchin`s letter said: Given the seriousness of these
issues which bear no connection to ordinary tax administration, we have
begun consultations with the department of justice to ensure that our
response is fully consistent with the law and the Constitution.
Secretary Mnuchin explained why he is responding to a letter that wasn`t
sent to him that was sent to the IRS commissioner. Secretary said: I
intend to supervise the department`s review of the committee`s request to
ensure that taxpayer protections and applicable laws are scrupulously
observed consistent with my statutory responsibilities.
Chairman Neal issued a statement tonight saying, quote: I will consult with
the counsel and determine the appropriate response to the commissioner in
the coming days.
Chairman Neal is not doing it interviews on this subject. And so, we are
fortunate tonight to have a senior member of the House Ways and Means
Committee who knows Chairman Neil`s thinking. We are joined by Democratic
Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a long-time member of the House Ways
and Means Committee.
And, Congressman Doggett, you had been moving – trying to get the
committee to move to get the president`s tax returns back when it was under
Republican control, which was one of the great Don Quixote exercises I`ve
seen in the House of Representatives. But here we are finally with this
response which you and I have had trouble imagining what the response could
be other than handing over the tax returns because there`s never been a
response like this to any demand by either the chairman of the finance or
chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to see tax returns.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Well, Lawrence, that`s exactly right. And I
really viewed the letter that we got tonight as kind of a fancy repackaging
of the arguments the Republicans made over the last two years in blocking
my six motions, and particularly of the comments that Secretary Mnuchin
made in responding to my questions last month in committee.
You know, I thought you once again broke importance news with your
interview of former Secretary Larry Summers. The real question as to why
Secretary Mnuchin was sending any letter at all because he wasn`t asked on
this. The Internal Revenue Service commissioner according to Secretary
Summers` long-standing delegation where we don`t have the political
official at the top of the Treasury Department dealing with these
individual tax matters.
And so, I see Secretary Mnuchin`s letter as a justification for his
interfering with the important work of the IRS commissioner just as Donald
Trump seems to be interfering. We`ve got his lawyers at the White House,
his personal lawyers, the attorney general, the Justice Department, the IRS
lawyers, the treasury lawyers, more lawyers than you can possibly count all
to advise on whether shall still means shall.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s a simple one-sentence piece of the tax code. It`s
one of the – I mean, Congressman Doggett, you and I have read and you`ve
written a lot of this tax code. Much of it is unintelligible to civilians.
This is not one of those. It simply says that the Section 6103 simply says
that this information shall be furnished to the chairman – any information
about tax returns and underlying documents involving tax returns to the
chairman`s demands. Go ahead.
DOGGETT: Well, exactly. You`ve noted the well-reasoned, well-crafted
letter that Chairman Neal sent. And I think the fact that all these
lawyers are involved and all this delay and dithering that is occurring
raises questions as to why – and if President Trump is being audited,
whether his lawyers are trying to intimidate the Internal Revenue Service
into not doing its job, whether the Internal Revenue Service has in mind a
blessing to Trump of the type decades ago was given to Richard Nixon and
then when the audit actually occurred, it turned out he owed half a million
dollars in additional taxes.
We need as a part of our responsibility to the people of the United States
that our tax system is being administered fairly for all, including the
most powerful person in the country to be able to examine that audit, how
it`s being done and we need those tax returns to effectively do our job of
O`DONNELL: The IRS commissioner was testifying to the Senate Finance
Committee today where ranking member Ron Wyden asked him about this
situation. And he is aware – he referred to what we call the delegation
order, that is what I learned Monday night from former Treasury Secretary
Summers, it`s a formal written delegation in the Treasury Department that
delegates all of this to the IRS commissioner.
Let`s listen to Senator Wyden`s exchange with the IRS commissioner today
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): So, you do agree with me that it is your job and
yours alone to respond to Chairman Neal`s request?
CHARLES RETTIG, IRS COMMISSIONER: I`m aware of the delegation order as is
Treasury, but you must be aware that we`re a Bureau of Treasury. And the
Treasury supervises us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, we know all that. But you could see there clearly,
Congressman, that Commissioner Rettig doesn`t know what to say about this
DOGGETT: Well, that`s right. Senator Wyden did a very effective job of
examining him today. I think the commissioner knows it`s his
responsibility but he has people who are already interfering in that work
and the biggest interference appears to be coming directly from the White
The president views all these lawyers who have a responsibility to address
the public trust as his personal lawyers combined with the personal lawyers
influencing this. It`s all about delaying, obstructing as much as
I think this is just another example of President Trump never feeling that
he is up to the law the way the rest of us are when his chief of staff said
never, yes, never means never. And for Donald Trump, that`s really the
watchword of his administration, never accountable, never willing to comply
with the law the way other people do.
O`DONNELL: And Congressman, we`ve never been in this posture before.
We`ve never seen this law defied or obstructed in any kind of way so –
O`DONNELL: So Chairman Neal`s statement tonight was very careful.
Obviously, I don`t imagine you know what Chairman Neal`s next step is.
DOGGETT: No, I think he has a number of paths that he can follow. I`m
sure that he will take a reasoned approach trying to dot every I, cross
every T, comply fully so that there is no question when this actually goes
to court if the IRS does not comply with the law, that we`re entitled to
get that information.
And as we`ve talked, Lawrence, previously, once we get it, it`s not a
matter of being able to display it on your program or in the news media.
It is a matter of careful examination by the Joint Tax Committee on which I
serve and by the experts there to look at the returns and see what`s there
and whether any of this information should be disclosed publicly.
In the meantime, it will be private and everyone looking at it will be
subject to criminal penalties were it to be disclosed.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Lloyd Doggett –
DOGGETT: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: – senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Thank
you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Doggett. Really
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, a new report about federal investigators
talking to two people close to Donald Trump. Keith Schiller, his former
bodyguard and his former campaign aide and White House aide Hope Hicks.
O`DONNELL: There`s more troubling news for the president tonight in “The
Wall Street Journal” report that the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan
has “gathered more evidence than previously known in this criminal
investigation of hush payments to two women who alleged affairs with Donald
Trump including from members of the president`s inner circle.
The report says prosecutors interviewed former Trump campaign aide and
White House communications director Hope Hicks and former Trump bodyguard
Keith Schiller. Investigators were reportedly interested in Hope Hicks and
Keith Schiller`s communications with David Pecker, the chief executive of
American Media Incorporated which has admitted to paying hush money to
former Playboy model Karen McDougal and Donald Trump – on Donald Trump`s
According to the report, prosecutors also asked at least one other witness
whether Ms. Hicks had coordinated with anyone at American Media concerning
a Journal article on November 4, 2016, that revealed American Media had
paid a $150,000 for the rights to Karen McDougal`s story of an alleged
affair with Mr. Trump.
“The Wall Street Journal” also says investigators possess a recorded phone
call between former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a lawyer who represented
Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. This investigation was begun by Robert
Mueller so much of it will – so how much of it will be in the Mueller
And will there be any comment in the Mueller report about why the president
was not indicted for according to federal prosecutors committing the same
campaign finance crimes that Michael Cohen was charged with?
After a break, we`ll consider how the Trump investigations will apparently
continue to leak troubling information throughout the presidential campaign
about the president. We`ll consider that with Jason Johnson and John
Heilemann who has had some professional dealings with Hope Hicks and Keith
Schiller. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has never claimed that he was exonerated in the
Michael Cohen case in the Southern District of New York where Donald Trump
himself was accused by federal prosecutors of committing exactly the same
campaign finance crimes that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to and is going
to prison for. Here`s the president today showing just how much he really
doesn`t want to talk about that investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Southern District
has spoken to Keith Schiller, Hope Hicks –
TRUMP: I have no idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor at
“Theroot.com” and a professor of politics and media at Morgan State
University. He`s also an MSNBC contributor. And back with us is John
And Jason, the president rarely walks away that fast when they ask him
anything. He always tends to hang in there and throw around as many words
as he can come up with to kind of deflect. But he didn`t even attempt a
deflection when you mention the Southern District and Hope Hicks and Keith
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Well, yes. That`s because
Donald Trump is actually shook when it comes to these issues. These are
people in his very close orbit. These are people who he not only had
personal relationships with but people who he probably spoke to in very
But Lawrence, this is the important thing to remember why this is so key.
One, the president knows that it`s his business dealings in New York that
might ultimately bring him down. He also knows that Hope Hicks has already
agreed and had turned over documentation to the House Judiciary Committee.
He knows that there could probably potentially be investigations into
Schiller`s consulting for the RNC that nobody`s been able to explain,
$250,000 to a former security chief who hasn`t been in the White House
since 2017. So he knows that all of this different sort of New York
associated issues and these people in his close orbit might be the most
dangerous people to his future next to Michael Cohen who is already going
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, when I would see you on your Circus show on
Showtime in the New Hampshire primary for example or other places, get the
microphone to Donald Trump, Keith Schiller was always there. He`s always
O`DONNELL: You always had to deal with Keith Schiller on the campaign
trail if you`re trying to get your microphone near the president. You also
had to deal with –
HEILEMANN: And Hope Hicks.
O`DONNELL: With Hope Hicks a great deal. Talk about how close these two
people are to the president or were.
HEILEMANN: Were were. Extraordinarily close. If you think about even at
the time when Trump first entered the race and you talk about the New
Hampshire primary, that`s relatively late in the evolutionary. We`re
talking about in the period of time when Donald Trump was really a one-man
band with a couple of – with a very small retinue around him, these were
the core of it.
And so you had Cory Lewandowski and Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller. This
was a very small nucleus around Trump with getting around the presidential
campaign at the beginning. Turned out obviously to be a successful
strategy in the sense of winning the Republic nomination and winning the
Now, these were people who – you know, Lawrence, like the proximity to the
principal, is confers power. It also confers knowledge. You spend enough
time in the proximity with a candidate, you get to find out all the dirty
laundry. Sometimes, the laundry is very dirty. Sometimes, the laundry is
not so dirty but you find out exactly how dirty it is.
And those people, including Michael Cohen who sat near Trump, who were near
his office, who were on the bus with him, on the plane with him, everywhere
he went, they saw a lot of stuff. And some of it has been reported and
much of it has not.
And I think you`re going to talk at the end of the show about why Donald
Trump might have a very bad day on the day if he doesn`t get an (INAUDIBLE)
on the day when he leaves office if he leaves office in 2021. These people
are the core to why that day might be so bad and I don`t want to firm on
your secretary but they`re at the core of it.
O`DONNELL: No. And Jason, this is obviously one of the problems the
president has the minute he leaves office. It just may be that the only
reason he hasn`t been indicted is that he`s president of the United States
in the New York case. That statute of limitations runs beyond his first
term as president.
So if he doesn`t win re-election, he could be greeted by this case in a
very formal legal way on his first day as a private citizen.
JOHNSON: Yes, yes. For President Trump, the light at the end of the
tunnel might actually be a police car coming towards his house. Because
he`s clearly – there are people who are going to be lined up to hit this
guy with lawsuits the moment that he leaves.
And the problem is, it`s not just behavior, Lawrence that the president may
have engaged in before he got into office. It`s also behavior that he is
very likely and possibly his family has engaged in while he`s been in
So this is part of sort of the larger problem that we`ve had with this sort
of administration from the beginning. It seems like they are constantly
mired in corrupt behavior.
And I will say this about these two people who are close to them. They
seem so far. When you look at so many people in Trump`s orbit who have
already got in trouble, who may be facing jail time, they have been
So we don`t know if that`s because they have been cooperating with
authorities as we hear in this report from the “Wall Street Journal” or if
it`s because they think he`s going to protect them one day.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson and John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us
in this discussion.
HEILEMANN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, I will explain why it`s all going to
come out. It is all going to come out in what might be the poetic justice
of the end of the Trump presidency.
O`DONNELL: Six hundred fifty days. That`s how many days are left in the
Trump administration. The next presidential inauguration is 651 days from
now. So there are only 650 full days left in Donald Trump`s presidency if
he does not win re-election. A year and a half, that`s it.
We`re well past the halfway mark in the Trump presidency. Only a year and
a half left. If the president doesn`t win re-election, and polling
indicates his re-election prospects are not good, he has converted no new
voters to Trumpism since the night he won the electoral college.
No president has ever had such consistently bad approval ratings. Most of
the country doesn`t approve of anything about Donald Trump. And so what
happens if Donald Trump loses the electoral college this time? If Donald
Trump becomes a private citizen on January 20, 2021, will the U.S. attorney
of the Southern District of New York have an indictment ready to go with
Donald Trump`s name on it?
And that`s not all Donald Trump has to fear if he loses the election. And
there is a new attorney general and a new Treasury secretary and a new
commissioner of the IRS. No one to protect Donald Trump in those jobs.
President Trump`s first day as a former president could be the worst day of
his life. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: On the day President Bill Clinton was inaugurated, some of his
cabinet members were sworn into office on that same day. They already had
Senate confirmation hearings and so the full Senate voted on inauguration
day to confirm a new Secretary of State, a new Secretary of the Treasury.
That`s how fast the transition of power can happen. And just think about
what`s going to happen if we get a new administration, a new cabinet on or
shortly after the next inauguration day. The new attorney general of the
United States is going to give Congress the full unredacted Mueller report.
A year and a half from now, Congress is going to have the full unredacted
Mueller report if they don`t get it before that. Even if House Judiciary
Chairman Jerry Nadler uses his subpoena power for the Mueller report,
fighting that out in court where Attorney General Barr could take a year
and a half, but that fight would be academic by then if there is a new
Jerry Nadler would be handed the full unredacted Mueller report on day one.
So Congress is going to get the full unredacted Mueller report. The only
question is will Donald Trump still be president when they get it.
Same thing with Donald Trump`s tax returns. If we have a new
administration a year and a half from now, the new secretary of the
Treasury and the new commissioner of the IRS will immediately agree to hand
over Donald Trump`s tax returns to Chairman Rich Neal of the House Ways and
Means Committee. Chairman Neal is going to get those tax returns.
If Attorney General Barr starts a legal fight over the very clear and
simple law that allows the Ways and Means Committee chairman to get
anyone`s tax returns, it`s possible that the legal fight could take a year
and a half and then it won`t matter if a new president is sworn in a year
and a half from now.
So the stakes for Donald Trump`s re-election are much higher for Donald
Trump than his first presidential campaign. The stakes for Donald Trump
include staying out of prison, possibly, because with a new administration,
it`s all going to come out.
Every bit of the Trump dirt is going to come out. The Mueller report, the
tax returns, and most importantly, that case in the Southern District of
New York in which federal prosecutors say that Donald Trump directed
Michael Cohen to commit campaign finance crimes in the final weeks of the
presidential campaign so that Donald Trump could defraud the American
voters and win the American presidency.
The federal prosecutors in New York say that was a conspiracy against the
United States of America. And the criminals engaged in that conspiracy
were Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.
And Donald Trump has not been indicted for it simply because of his current
job. But when he no longer has that job, an indictment of Donald Trump
should be ready to go in the Southern District of New York where
prosecutors say he committed exactly the same campaign finance crimes that
Michael Cohen did.
You can be sure that a new president`s first U.S. attorney appointment will
be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. A new
president would want to have her own or his own U.S. attorney in that job
as fast as possible to decide what to do about the United States of America
versus Donald J. Trump.
That`s what the case would be called. The same case against Michael Cohen
is the United States of America versus Michael Cohen.
The phrase poetic justice has never had more meaning than it would have if,
after the voters of the United States of America reject President Trump`s
re-election, the first thing that happens to him as a private citizen is
that he is criminally charged in a case entitled the United States of
America versus Donald J. Trump.
But this is the one thing that we can be virtually certain won`t happen if
Donald Trump becomes a private citizen again on the afternoon of January
20, 2021. And the reason it won`t happen is that on the morning of January
20 or late at night on January 19, Donald Trump will become the first
president of the United States to pardon himself.
The president`s pardon power is absolute. Donald Trump was thrilled when
he discovered that. There is nothing in the Constitution that says the
president cannot pardon himself and so along with pardoning Trump
associates or family members who he feels like pardoning, before he leaves
office, Donald Trump would very specifically pardon himself for the crimes
that the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York say
Donald Trump committed to win the presidency.
And history would read Donald Trump`s pardon of himself for what it would
be, a confession, an admission of guilt. The Supreme Court has actually
held that the acceptance of a pardon is an admission of guilt.
And so President Trump`s pardon of himself on his final day in office would
actually be his confession. And that would be as close as we would come to
That`s tonight`s last word.
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 content.>
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