Mueller’s day before the cameras. TRANSCRIPT: 5/16/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
Well, it was unredacted day a little bit.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Yes.
O`DONNELL: I mean, and really powerfully interesting new information to
put it mildly that was unredacted in that court filing.
MADDOW: Oh, yes. I mean, the Flynn stuff about what Flynn cooperated on
and then just like the follow-up rulings from the judge, oh, and by the
way, I want the recordings of the intimidating phone call from the
president`s lawyer when he called you in the middle of the night and told
you not to cooperate, and I want the recording of you talking to the
Russian. And, oh, by the way, I`m ordering the Justice Department to
publicly release an unredacted Mueller report, right? Wow.
O`DONNELL: So, the thing about wanting to hear the recording makes perfect
sense to me because when you read the transcript of the reporting in the
Mueller report as I`m about to do on TV, there are what appear to be edits
in it. There`s these little ellipses throughout. So, they seem to be
taking words out for whatever reason and so it makes perfect sense that the
judges want to know, OK, what`s that – I need everything that`s in that,
especially since that call is taken to be in the Mueller report a piece of
the obstruction of justice case.
MADDOW: That`s right. And you know, the ellipses when you have a block
quote like that and it`s got ellipses and it`s about what one person in a
conversation was saying, it`s often because they`re taking a recording of a
conversation between two people or whatever. But that was a recording of a
MADDOW: So the ellipses in the edited pieces or whatever you really want
to know what`s in there. But, apparently, we the public are going to get
the transcript. The judge is it going to get the recording. I wouldn`t be
surprised if we ultimately get the recording, too.
O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, before you go, one little note that struck me that
was part of what was unredacted today. It says Michael Flynn was subject
to potential interference in his testimony by people connected with the
administration and then Congress.
MADDOW: And Congress.
O`DONNELL: Does that mean members of Congress? Does that mean
congressional staff? Does that mean Devin Nunes best friend? What is
That “Congress” word jumped out at me like the most enormous possibility in
MADDOW: Exactly. Who connected to Congress, or like – you know, who has
– with congressional reference is contacting Michael Flynn about his
cooperation? I mean, you know, there`s been some intriguing stuff about
members of Congress in the Manafort prosecution, there was redacted stuff
that seemed to indicate beside with congressional connections may have done
bad stuff, that Manafort got in trouble with. There`s this reference in
terms of somebody related to Congress having taken part in what appears to
be an obstructive effort in getting Flynn not to cooperate.
I mean, I don`t know, there`s 14 redacted cases that – or 12 of the 14
cases that derive from Mueller`s prosecution that were referred to other
prosecutors are ones we haven`t seen, the possibility that zoom of that has
something to do with people in Congress is mind bending. I`ve got a
suspects list in my head right now. We`re going to save that for later.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, the Trump trade wars are really hurting the American
farmer. The American farmer is the biggest loser in the Trump trade war
and so, Donald Trump is just taking taxpayer money and handing it to
American farmers and many of them really need it because they`ve lost so
many billions of dollars in trade with China and other countries.
And the biggest winner, one of two of the biggest winners in the Trump
handouts of money to American farmers turn out to be two Brazilian
criminals who are not allowed to leave the country of Brazil by their own
government. They also happen to be brothers and they are collecting $62
million in that cash to compensate farmers. They`re collecting $62 million
of it. We`re going to have that story for you later in this hour, and the
congresswoman who is fighting exactly that and has introduced legislation
to fight exactly that. Rosa DeLauro will join us.
But, first, as I was just discussing with Rachel, the situation that has
happened today in federal court because of these new unredacted elements in
the Mueller investigation, Attorney General William Barr is refusing to
provide Congress with an unredacted version of the Mueller report, but
Robert Mueller has apparently decided to unredact some court filings today
that reveal more about the obstruction of justice case against the
president and how that obstruction of justice case includes the president`s
Robert Mueller also revealed more today about Trump campaign officials`
interest in WikiLeaks` delivery of stolen e mails from Hillary Clinton`s
Today`s revelations are part of the sentencing process for President
Trump`s first national security adviser Michael Flynn who has not yet been
sentenced. Apparently, now, that the Mueller report has been released, the
special counsel`s office has decided they can remove some of the redactions
in a sentencing memo about Michael Flynn that they filed last December. In
December, half of a sentence in the middle of page 3 was redacted.
That sentence reads now: The defendant assisted the special counsel`s
office investigation on a range of issues including interactions between
individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia.
And today, the redaction of the rest of that sentence was lifted and we see
it says: The defendant assisted the special counsel`s office investigation
on a range of issues including interactions between individuals in the
presidential transition team and Russia, discussions within the campaign
about WikiLeaks release of e mails and potential efforts to interfere with
the special counsel`s office investigation.
More details were unredacted on page four of that document today. There is
the redacted version of page four. Here is the unredacted version of page
four. The unredacted materials include this line, the defendant recalled
conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the
Podesta e-mails during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was
On page 52 volume one of the Mueller report details with the Trump campaign
about WikiLeaks. It includes several redactions because of what the
Mueller report calls an ongoing matter, meaning an ongoing case or
investigation. That probably in this instance refers to the Roger Stone
case, in which Roger Stone is accused of lying about WikiLeaks.
What Rick Gates told the special counsel`s office is redacted except for
the final sentence saying: Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally
frustrated at the Clinton emails had not been found.
On page 54 of volume 1 of the Mueller report, there is more from Rick Gates
about WikiLeaks, including a partially redacted conversation he had with
candidate Trump. According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump
campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, a
messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by which can
WikiLeaks and then you see there is a redaction and the next words are:
while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia airport.
Another redaction, then, quote, shortly after the call, candidate Trump
told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.
Those redactions about what was said to candidate Trump about WikiLeaks and
what candidate Trump said to Rick Gates about WikiLeaks are crucial to any
investigation of the presidency by Congress. That is why the Democrats in
the House Judiciary Committee are demanding the unredacted Mueller report.
Another newly unredacted portion of the court filing today shows another
element of the obstruction of justice investigation of the president and
this one includes the president`s lawyer.
The newly unredacted sentences in the court filing today about obstruction
of justice say the defendant assisted the special counsel`s office
investigation into potential efforts to interfere with or otherwise
obstruct its investigation, the defendant informed the government of
multiple instances both before and after his guilty plea where he either he
or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the
administration or Congress that is could have affected both his willingness
to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even
provided a voice mail recording of one, such communication income some of
those instances, the special counsel`s office was unaware of the outreach
until being alerted to it by the defendant.
That new little unredacted material links up with page 128, 121 of volume
two of the Mueller report which includes what appears to be a partial
transcript of a voice mail that one of Michael Flynn`s lawyers received
after Michael Flynn began cooperating with the prosecutors.
In late November, 2017, Flynn began to cooperate with this office. On
November 22nd, 2017, Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement he had
with the president. Flynn`s counsel told the president`s personal counsel
and counsel for the White House that is Flynn could no longer have
confidential communications with the White House or the president.
Later that night, the president`s personal counsel left a voice mail for
Flynn`s counsel that said, I understand your situation but let me see if I
can state it in starker terms. It wouldn`t surprise me if you`ve gone on
to make a deal with the government, if there`s information that implicates
the president, then we`ve got a national security issue, so you know, we
need some kind of heads-up. Just for the sake of protecting all our
interests if we can, remember what we`ve always said about the president
and his feelings toward Flynn, and that still remains.
On November 23rd, 2017, Flynn`s attorneys returned the call from the
president`s personal counsel to acknowledge repeat of the voice mail.
Flynn`s attorneys reiterated that they were no longer in a position to
share information under any sort of privilege. According to Flynn`s
attorneys, the president`s personal counsel was indignant and vocal in his
The president`s personal counsel said that he interpreted what they said to
him as a reflection of Flynn`s hostility towards the president and that he
planned to inform his client of that interpretation. Flynn`s attorneys
understood that statement to be an attempt to make them reconsider their
position because the president`s personal counsel believed that Flynn would
be disturbed to know that such a message would be conveyed to the
A footnote to that passage in the Mueller report says, because of
attorney/client privilege issues, we did not seek to interview the
president`s personal counsel about the extent to which he discussed his
statements to Flynn`s attorneys with the president. That section of the
Mueller report does not identify the president`s personal counsel by name
but at that time, Washington attorney John Dowd was acting as the
president`s personal counsel before he quit because as John Dowd told Bob
Woodward in Bob Woodward`s bestselling book “Fear,” John Dowd believed that
his client, the president of the United States, was, quote, an f-ing liar.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Mimi Rocah, former federal
prosecutor and MSNBC legal contributor, and Walter Dellinger, he`s a former
assistant attorney general and the head of the Office of Legal Counsel
under President Clinton. He`s also acting solicitor general in the Clinton
And, Walter, I`d like to start with you tonight. You wrote an op-ed piece
in the “Washington Post” saying that Congress doesn`t need the unredacted
Mueller report at this stage. They have enough to proceed to impeachment
if that`s what they`re going to do.
What does tonight`s information add to that?
WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, what tonight`s
information showed is that we`re just learning more and more about the
massive efforts to obstruct justice on the part of the president. It`s not
that the unredacted materials wouldn`t be useful. It`s not that the
Congress isn`t fully entitled to them. They certainly are.
It`s just the emphasis on seeking out the redacted materials obscures the
fact we have massive bases for finding that the president obstructed
justice in the worst of high crimes and misdemeanors in multiple ways and
what Attorney General Barr did has obscured that, the facts that led more
than 900 former federal prosecutors to say that these are indictable
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, I want to get your reaction to this voice mail from
John Dowd. Again, it doesn`t identify John Dowd in particular but John
Dowd was the president`s personal attorney at the time and when attorneys
are communicating, it`s very clear who they would be communicating with
this had situation.
When Michael Flynn`s lawyers tell John Dowd, we can no longer participate
in a joint defense agreement, they say that John Dowd was indignant and
vocal in his disagreement. He`s disagreeing with Michael Flynn`s lawyers
saying, yes you can, you can still tell me everything.
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I mean, he`s wrong as a
matter of law when he says that because once there is no longer a joint
defense agreement, which happens automatically when someone is cooperating
which by this point they well knew that Flynn was cooperating, once the
joint defense agreement goes away, there`s no basis for him to be sharing -
- for Flynn`s lawyer to be sharing information anymore with Trump`s lawyer.
I mean, it`s not only that he can`t. He shouldn`t be, right? Because now
we have attorney/client privilege basically in effect again. That`s how it
sort of comes back to cloak the communications.
So, I mean, this was sounds to me like he didn`t like the answer he was
getting because he didn`t like the fact that Flynn was cooperating. That`s
what he was – that`s what Dowd or whoever it was who was communicating was
getting angry at, right? It was the fact that Flynn was actually
cooperating. And to get angry at a witness for cooperating is trying to
dissuade them from cooperating. So, that is an obstructive act in my mind.
Now, it`s very interesting as you pointed out. I mean, you immediately
think why is this not yet another obstructive act that Trump should be
responsible for. Let`s put the lawyer`s awful conduct aside for a second.
And it just seems that Mueller wasn`t able to get to the bottom of was this
is something that was directed by Trump, did he have discussions with Trump
about doing this when he communicated it to Flynn`s counsel.
I mean, I think that we can all assume that it was something that Trump
understood was happening even if it wasn`t explicit but he wasn`t able to
get the facts that you see Mueller have elsewhere so detailed in the
O`DONNELL: Walter Dellinger, this conversation, the voice mail and the
conversation from John Dowd from the president`s personal lawyer strike me
as a disbarable material for an attorney. It appears to be the special
counsel reported it in the context of the obstruction of justice mosaic
that he assembled involving the president and now the president`s lawyer.
But what do you make of Robert Mueller`s decision not to attempt to
interview the president`s personal lawyer on the grounds of attorney/client
privilege which, of course, does not extend to violations of law by the
DELLINGER: Right. I think that`s an instance one of many in which Mueller
has leaned over backwards to be fair to the president and his team. But
the other large reason I think he did not, Lawrence, is that look at what
we already know that the president himself had done. We have multiple
senior officials who testified under pain of false statement that the
president ordered the firing of Mueller, that he ordered the White House
counsel to leave a false memorandum to the file denying that. That he
tried to get the attorney general to unrecuse and to preclude the
investigation from going into the 2016 campaign.
All of that the president was personally involved in and should have
spawned a reaction as soon as the Mueller report was released that this is
a high crimes and misdemeanors of the highest order.
O`DONNELL: Mimi, the Mueller report we`ve been concentrating so much on
volume two because that`s where all the obstruction of justice framing is,
but this filing in court today sent us back to volume one and back to
WikiLeaks. And there you see these redacted paragraphs with Rick Gates who
is in a car going to LaGuardia airport with candidate Donald Trump and they
are talking about WikiLeaks and that is almost entirely redacted.
ROCAH: Yes. There`s no questions that what this highlights I think these
unredacted redactions tonight that we don`t know the full extent even now,
even sitting here of Trump and the – Trump personally and his campaign but
him personally, the extent of his involvement in – you know, the contacts
with Russia and trying to get information about Hillary Clinton`s e mails.
Whether or not they constitute a crime that they are behavior that we would
all be quite – that would be relevant to impeachment hearings. We just
don`t know the full extent of it yet.
That`s part of why we need this to be a full unredacted report. But it
reminds us that we`re so caught up in the legal battles that are going on
every day because they`re compelling and they`re important. But the
substance of this report and what we still don`t even know yet is just,
it`s mind blowing how corrupt his behavior was both in with respect to
Russia and with respect to obstruction. We need to get the focus back on
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to take a break here. Walter Dellinger and
Mimi Rocah, thank you both very much for starting us off tonight on this
new legal material. Very much appreciate it. Thank you.
DELLINGER: You`re welcome, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: When we come back, what will Congress do about the president?
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Congressman Jamie Raskin will join us
And later, the president releases his annual financial disclosure forms
which tell us absolutely nothing about his real financial condition, but we
did discover some very interesting things about the third Mrs. Donald Trump
in the financial disclosure forms. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Attorney General Barr says it`s Bob`s call. He told “The Wall
Street Journal” this about Robert Mueller testifying to the House Judiciary
Committee. It`s Bob`s call whether he wants to testify.
Well, that surprised Chairman Jerry Nadler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Attorney General Barr says he has no objection
to Mueller appearing. We`ve been negotiating with the Department of
Justice and they simply are dragging their feet at fixing a date. So we`ll
continue trying to fix a date. If it goes too long, we`ll have to consider
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, at this point you think –
NADLER: Right now, they`re saying, fix a date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Former Attorney General Eric Holder told NBC Congress already
has the information it needs for impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are grounds for impeachment. I said,
if you look at the second part of the Mueller report, there`s no question
that obstruction of justice does exist in the findings that Bob Mueller
reported. And in painstaking detail and that in and of itself would be the
basis for impeachment.
I think the House needs to gather evidence, need to hear from Bob Mueller.
They need to get the entirety of the report and then make a reasoned
decision whether or not they`re going to go forward with the impeachment
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, two Democratic members of Congress who
represent the big three – the big three investigative committees in the
House of Representatives. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois is a
member of the House Oversight Committee and the House Intelligence
Committee. And Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland is a member of the
House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
You – I have to assume are you feeling increasing pressure about the issue
of impeachment. Congressman, you just heard the former attorney general,
you just heard in our first segment tonight, Walter Dellinger, former
Justice Department official himself, his op-ed piece today in the
“Washington Post” saying the Judiciary Committee already has more than
enough for impeachment.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Yes, it`s like water behind a dam. The pressure
is just building every day for impeachment. And you know, we got more
evidence today leaked out from the redacted portions of the report which
confirm everybody`s sense that there was presidential obstruction of
justice. We knew of 10 or 11 episodes of it that were invoked in the
unredacted portions by special counsel Mueller. Now we know about you
know, more evidence of it coming from Michael Flynn.
It just seems overwhelming. You know, I think there were more than 800
federal prosecutors, that his former colleagues of the attorney general,
who came out and said when they read the redacted version of the report,
they are convinced that this would be brought as an obstruction of justice
prosecution and an indictment in federal court against anybody other than
the president and the special counsel says out of deference to the rule
that the DOJ doesn`t indict the president, we`ll kick it over to the House
So what is an impeachment, an impeachment is an indict by the House of
Representatives that goes over to the Senate and then there`s a trial over
there. So, I think the pressure is building. You know, we understand that
it`s not an up or down vote. A lot of people say are you for or against
impeachment. That`s not what it`s about it.
The question is: are you for an impeachment inquiry? Do you think there`s
enough evidence to suggest there were high crimes and misdemeanors against
the United States. And there were three articles in the Nixon articles of
So, one of them was – the first was obstruction of justice. The second
was abuse of power and the third was contempt of Congress. Sound familiar?
O`DONNELL: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, we see in the new unredacted
elements of the court filings today the potential for what`s actually in
the Mueller report in what is still redacted. We see references to Rick
Gates, Donald Trump in a car on the way to LaGuardia airport, they are
talking about WikiLeaks. We know that from the beginning of the paragraph
and from the little hints at the end of the paragraph but we don`t know
what`s in the middle.
And that it`s what your chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman
Schiff, is trying to obtain. That speaks directly to the interests of the
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Absolutely.
In a bipartisan request with Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Devin
Nunes, they asked for the counterintelligence findings that we`re
statutorily obligated to receive from the special counsel`s office and the
Department of Justice. We haven`t seen them yet.
O`DONNELL: I want to stop you there for a second to underline this for the
audience. Your committee, the Intelligence Committee, operates under
different rules from the rest of the committee and there are actually
provisions made specifically for your committee to receive some of the
material that is specifically redacted in the Mueller report currently.
Just for your viewers background, there was actually members of the FBI who
were embedded in the special counsel`s office who were collecting
counterintelligence information, and that was collected in presumably some
kind of repository. We are obligated to receive that by statute.
And so, that`s what we`re in bipartisan way trying to attempt to receive
right now. The reason is very plain. Even if the 140 plus contacts
between Trump and Russian officials did not possibly amount to criminal
conspiracy, they may have involved incredibly embarrassing information,
information that the Russians could use to manipulate current Trump
officials to endanger national security.
Just one other observation you mentioned that perhaps someone connected to
Congress may have obstructed the probe or influence the probe. I can tell
you tonight, it wasn`t me. I don`t think it was Jamie either.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and that was for me one of the stunning things we learned
today by unredacting some of these lines in the filing is that the special
counsel is saying that people close to the president, people close to the
administration, and people close to Congress including possibly members of
Congressman Raskin, what was your reaction to that?
RASKIN: Well, first of all, I appreciate being absolved of that particular
offense by my colleague.
No, it`s alarming but to me it`s not surprising because in fact, we know
that there are key members of the Republican caucus who have been acting in
very close coordination with the White House from the beginning. The whole
phony deep state conspiracy theory where they decided to go after Peter
Strzok and Lisa Page is something that was closely coordinated between the
White House and the Republicans in Congress. They`re trying to revive it
now. They say let`s get back to the real business of Congress which is
going after Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, you know, avoid all of the
corruption, avoid all of the obstruction, avoid the emoluments clause,
let`s talk about the deep state conspiracy theory.
And they`re also the ones who`ve been advancing this extreme absolutist
interpretation of the Constitution which is the unitary executive theory,
the president can do whatever he wants with respect to the executive
branch. He can fire people, he can end criminal investigations. I mean,
ultimately, that`s where their argument is going even if all of this is
true, it could not be obstruction of justice.
That`s why Attorney General Barr was hired because he wrote this 18-page
single space memo which said the president literally cannot be found guilty
of obstructing justice because he sits atop the law enforcement machinery
like a king.
And now, our colleagues in Congress, unfortunately, are going along with
that on the Republican side. So they`re forcing a very dramatic
constitutional confrontation about the powers of Congress, the Article I
branch, the lawmaking branch which has the political sovereignty of the
people versus the power of the president.
And we say he`s got one core job which is to take care of the laws that
they`re faithfully executed, not flouted, not circumvented, and not
violated. And if you trample the rule of law, we`ve got the power to
impeach you. You don`t have the power to impeach us.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, quickly before we go. Is your
Intelligence Committee going to get testimony from Michael Flynn to find
out who were those people close to Congress or in Congress who tried to
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good question. I don`t know that our committee has
actually taken up this matter yet. Obviously, Chairman Schiff is probably
reviewing his options right now and will then take appropriate measures.
But I think this all the more supports the conclusion that a lot of us have
had for several days, if not weeks at this point, which is we need the full
unredacted report, we need all the underlying documents, and we need Mr.
Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill.
No filters. No more filters. We need to hear directly from Mr. Mueller.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Congressman Jamie Raskin,
thank you both for joining us tonight. We really appreciate that.
RASKIN: Thanks for having us.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, President Trump`s new financial
disclosure form doesn`t tell us very much about his income but it tells us
everything about Melania Trump`s income and a very interesting real estate
asset that Melania Trump has.
O`DONNELL: As a federal elected official, President Trump is required to
file a financial disclosure form. He did that today but it doesn`t really
tell us what we need to know about Donald Trump`s income or his wealth or
Donald Trump could have debts greater than his assets or his income or he
could be taking home much more money as president of the United States than
he was as a private citizen. He could have debts to foreign countries. We
The financial disclosure forms only show approximations of how much total
cash, total revenue Donald Trump`s businesses took in. They do not show
how much those businesses had to then pay out in expenses and whether those
businesses had any profits at all, that Donald Trump was able to take home
Only Donald Trump`s tax returns would tell the truth. Unless, of course,
Donald Trump is filing false tax returns.
The only thing that is starkly clear in the Trump financial disclosure form
is that Donald Trump`s third wife Melania is completely financially
dependent on him. The disclosure form shows that she has an income of zero
but that she does own her own apartment in New York City.
For more of the gems in the Trump financial disclosure form, we are very
lucky tonight to have two experts in Trump finances. They have both
written books about Trump finances. David Kay Johnston won his Pulitzer
Prize for tax reporting at “The New York Times” and is exactly who we want
to hear from tonight on the Trump financial disclosure form.
And Tim O`Brien`s book about Donald Trump`s finances got Tim O`Brien sued
by Donald Trump, a lawsuit that Donald Trump lost but not before Tim
O`Brien through the subpoena power of that lawsuit was allowed to see
Donald Trump`s tax returns, the only reporter who has ever held one of
those big things in his hands.
After this break, David Cay Johnston and Tim O`Brien will join us.
O`DONNELL: There are only two real numbers about Donald Trump`s actual
income in the financial disclosure forms that he filed today and those are
his two pensions. He receives a pension from the Screen Actors Guild of
$90,776 a year and he receives a pension from the American Federation of
Television and Radio Artists of $8,724 a year. Everything else about
Donald Trump`s finances comes down to guesswork.
We are now joined by two of the best-educated guessers about Donald Trump`s
finances. David Kay Johnston is the founder of dcreport.org and the author
of “It`s Even Worse Than You Think, What the Trump Administration is Doing
to America. And Tim O`Brien is the executive editor of “Bloomberg Opinion”
and an MSNBC contributor. He has reported on Donald Trump for decades and
was sued by Donald Trump and won.
And Tim, before that case was over, you got to look at several years of
Trump tax returns. The judge then limited, swore you all to no comment.
You can make no public comment about what`s in there. But having seen
Trump`s tax returns, having seen this financial disclosure form, what`s the
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, the difference
is hundreds of millions of dollars. That financial disclosure form is what
his businesses are making. He`s quite happy to sort of go along with the
charade that that`s his income.
O`DONNELL: But we don`t even know profit though.
O`BRIEN: We don`t know. We don`t know.
O`DONNELL: (CROSSTALK) much money. We don`t know what that means.
O`BRIEN: And we know from good recent reporting, for example, “The
Washington Oost” that Doral which is his golf course in Miami and one of
his biggest holdings has been sucking wind for a couple of years. We know
from a recent report in “Bloomberg News” that Trump Tower is down on its
The common bond between both of those properties is they have the Trump
brand in them and people are starting to get turned off by that. I think
the larger thing to think about in terms of all of this is if Trump is
hurting financially and he went into the presidency thinking it was going
to help him financially, it only makes him more vulnerable to outside
And I think this comes back to the whole confrontation between the Congress
and the White House right now. When Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell are
saying the Mueller report is over, let`s move on, we don`t need to examine
this again, the Congress is looking at the kinds of things buried in that
financial disclosure report.
Where is Trump`s money hidden and what sources has he used to finance his
operations? And that goes way beyond Mueller`s mandate and that`s still a
very fresh level of inquiry and it gets back on the things that haunted
this White House since Trump first became president which is financial
conflicts of interest.
O`DONNELL: David Kay Johnston, you got your hands on one page, I guess it
was, as I recall.
DAVID KAY JOHNSTON: Two pages.
O`DONNELL: The first page of one year of Trump tax returns that shows the
basic summary data. It doesn`t show all the sourcing and all of that but
very, very useful to see. And much more useful to see from my experience
than what I was able to find in the financial disclosure forms. What did
you find in the financial disclosure form?
JOHNSTON: Well, we should keep in mind that almost four years ago, Donald
put out a statement saying that the financial disclosure form required a
president was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump`s great wealth.
JOHNSTON: Absolutely right. Absolutely right. One of the things we don`t
know is of the more than $300 million of debts, what are the terms of those
Are there covenants that he has to keep up or he could have balloon
payments put upon him? Who actually owns those debts and can call them in?
And if he`s paying on average five percent on the debts that he has and
he`s making five percent of the total revenue, that means that he`s got
about $5 million to $7 million a year to play with.
And given Donald Trump`s lifestyle, that may not be enough. He may be
under serious financial pressure. We really need to have a much better
understanding of who has leverage over him, what he is dependent on and we
need to take a good hard look at the revenues at the Trump Washington Hotel
right down the street from the White House.
O`DONNELL: Tim, David mentioned lifestyle. I`m glad he did because the
fact of the matter is Donald Trump`s lifestyle has never been cheaper to
maintain. He`s no longer paying for the jet fuel. It`s Air Force One.
O`BRIEN: Free rent.
O`DONNELL: Right. And he`s getting actually big infusions of revenue
because the Secret Service has to rent space in Trump Tower in Manhattan,
space that no one else wants to rent by the way, and a variety of other
things. The Secret Service spends a lot of money on golf cart rentals at
his places. And so his actual – his personal cost of living has probably
dropped dramatically in the White House.
O`BRIEN: It has. And you know, he`s actually been an expert at living off
the till even before he got to the White House. His father kept him afloat
during years when he was on the verge of personal bankruptcy. When he ran
a public company, the public company paid for his jet and gave him other
perks that he was able to take advantage of. And he`s brought that into
the White House.
I think, again, regardless of how low his cost of living is, which I think
right now is the lowest it`s probably ever been, he remains this obscure
piggy bank that no one really has a handle on. David talked about the
hotel in Washington. That remains one of the biggest sources of financial
conflicts for him.
O`DONNELL: And David, going forward, the House Ways and Means Committee,
they`ve got their response to their subpoena tomorrow. We know that Trump
administration is not going to hand over those tax returns. They`re going
to continue to violate that law.
What do you see as the final legal route on getting those tax returns for
the House Ways and Means Committee?
JOHNSTON: Well, for starters, the New York State law that I think Governor
Cuomo will sign shortly will be very important to getting at this.
O`DONNELL: Because that law says that New York State will provide to –
basically, it`s a mirror of the federal law, they`ll provide to the
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee the state tax returns and
they basically reveal the basic data that`s in a federal tax return.
JOHNSTON: That`s right. And it`s important that Cuomo sign that bill when
it reaches his desk and doesn`t come up with some excuse not to do so. If
we`re going to learn what we need to know about who has leverage over
Trump, who is he obligated to.
O`DONNELL: Well, the governor says he`s going to sign that. David Cay
Johnston, Tim O`Brien, thank you both for joining us tonight.
And when we come back, the Trump bailout for American farmers isn`t all
going to American farmers. Two criminals in Brazil have taken $62 million
of the money that Donald Trump has been handing out to the farmers who have
been losing in his trade war.
O`DONNELL: American farmers continue to be the biggest losers in the Trump
trade wars. The United States is the world`s largest exporter of
agricultural products but China and other countries that the president has
gone to war with have cut their purchases of American agricultural exports.
And American farmers are now in such a financial depression that President
Trump has now promised to simply hand American farmers $15 billion of your
taxpayer money instead of the money that those farmers could be earning and
would be earning in the export market that Donald Trump has now ruined.
The very biggest winners in the federal government`s handouts to farmers
that the Trump administration has already delivered at taxpayer expense are
not all Americans. Two of them are Brazilian. They are criminals living
in Brazil who own massive agricultural companies in the United States.
“The New York Daily News” is reporting the Trump administration has forked
over more than $62 million in taxpayer cash that was supposed to be
earmarked for struggling American farmers to a massive meatpacking company
owned by a couple of corrupt Brazilian brothers.
That Brazilian company, JBSSA, is currently the largest meatpacker in the
world. It`s owned by two brothers, Joesley and Wesley Batista, who have
both spent time in Brazilian jail for bribing elected officials and are
currently not allowed to leave the country of Brazil.
Last year, “Reuters” reported that the company owned by the two brothers is
being investigated by the Justice Department for violations of the Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act. And even though the company employs Americans
through its Colorado-based subsidiary, it does not appear to be struggling
as a result of the trade war. In fact, it may be benefitting greatly from
the trade war.
According to “The Daily News,” the company`s exports to China ballooned to
more than 24 percent in 2018, compared to less than 21 percent the previous
year. Democratic Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has introduced a
bill to keep foreign-owned companies from receiving any of the Trump trade
war bailout money. She told “The Daily News,” “it is clear the president
is not the least bit knowledgeable about trade policy or aware of the chaos
his failed approach has caused.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro will join us next.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa
DeLauro of Connecticut. Congresswoman, you saw this coming before “The
Daily News” ever wrote a story about two Brazilian criminals getting $62
million from American taxpayers for bailout money for American farmers.
You introduced a bill to prevent exactly this.
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): That`s right. And you know, it really is
outrageous. We believed that the president said that this was a trade aid
package that was going to help American businesses, American farmers. And
lo and behold, we`re looking at $62 million-plus that is going to two very
corrupt brothers who have admitted manipulating the markets, who have
admitted that they have bribed federal food inspectors and government
They have served jail time. As you pointed out, they are subjected of
concern at the Department of Justice for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
And, by the way, I might add that in their first quarter, they made $273
million. They do not need to be bailed out.
It is American businesses, American farmers who are getting the short end
of this stick. They are hurting, not JBS and the Batista brothers.
O`DONNELL: And there is not a farmer out there who wants to be getting
this bailout money, they want to be selling their soybeans and their other
products on the world market.
DELAURO: That`s right. They are indeed. That`s – the tremendous pride
that they have in selling the product and what we have here is a failed
And we all know that we have to have a different approach on a bipartisan
basis. We believe we need a different approach to China. But the
president is really almost willfully ignorant about trade policy and
understanding the nuances of it.
And what`s happened, because of his trade policy and the failed policy that
the collateral damage are American farmers and American businesses. What
we need to do is to be working with our allies.
If you – you can be tough on China and look at industrial espionage and
the subsidies that they provide, the prison camps that they`re engaged in,
but we also need to be working with our allies in taking on China. Taking
a look at workers` rights and human rights and some of these other efforts,
which are off the table.
But this view that you can create policy through a tweet and that because
of some petulance or because you are annoyed is not a trade policy that
will benefit American businesses and American farmers and that is
outrageous. And we need to provide what we do in the legislation to say no
to foreign companies and buy from American companies and American farmers.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, thank you
very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
DELAURO: Thank you.
O`DONELL: Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro gets “Tonight`s Last Word.” “The
11th Hour” with Brian Williams starts now.
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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