Rep. Nadler responds to McGahn. TRANSCRIPT: 5/20/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: You mean, so I own 30 Rock now?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: OK. I`ll take that.
MADDOW: Unfortunately, it needs a plumbing upgrade and some new
O`DONNELL: It`s perfectly OK with me.
Rachel, we have breaking news tonight from Chairman Jerry Nadler. He`s
just written a letter to Don McGahn in response to be Don McGahn`s lawyer
as you know, of course, saying that Don McGahn won`t show up tomorrow
because the president told him not to and the Justice Department said
that`s OK because he has complete immunity from any kind of congressional
subpoena. Chairman Nadler points out that memo from the Justice Department
isn`t really citing case law so much as citing itself, citing memos from
that legal office over the decades.
And Chairman Nadler points out that one of the Justice Department rules
that is completely ignored in that memo is he says the Justice Department`s
own be long-standing policy is that, quote, executive privilege should not
be invoked to conceal evidence of wrongdoing or criminality on the part of
Amazing how that would have been left out of that memo today.
MADDOW: Well, and you know, for the White House to be asserting that
people should defy subpoenas in the abstract because the White House
believes or they can get the Office of Legal Counsel to state or the
president`s lawyers aver something is true is one thing. But when the
subpoena goes to an individual who is no longer a government official and
that individual is going to be the one who`s held liable for all the
consequences that come from defying a subpoena, just putting exclamation
points on your orders doesn`t necessarily make it any more likely that
person is going to decide it`s in their interest to get themselves in legal
trouble and legal jeopardy specifically because the president wants them
I mean, Don McGahn has his own interests at this point. And the president
has dried to drag Don McGahn through the mud behind him at this point and
McGahn`s got to do what he`s got to do for himself in addition to listening
to what the White House is yelling at him.
O`DONNELL: But it really is astonishing that the Justice Department would
produce this memo today and completely ignore that and several other points
raised by Jerry Nadler, but that particular point which is the Justice
Department`s own policy that is executive privilege should not be invoked
in any matters involving possible, how do they put it, wrongdoing or
criminality on the part of executive officers.
MADDOW: Right, and you know, where was that forged? That was forged in
the heat of Watergate when Nixon was trying to claim privilege over stuff
where what he was doing when that stuff was finally exposed was plotting
crimes. It turned out, that can never be a privileged discussion. Yes. I
mean, these fights are – these fights are louder than they are saying at
this point on the part of the White House, but I think they`re just hoping
to stretch it out –
O`DONNELL: So far, the president is only winning legal points inside the
William Barr Justice Department.
O`DONNELL: Nowhere outside of that, like say, a courtroom.
MADDOW: That is a very good point especially tonight with the Mazars
ruling, especially, yes.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Cheers.
O`DONNELL: Well, today saw a huge victory. I mean huge and historic and
important. A huge victory for the House of Representatives and a crushing
defeat and I mean historic, crushing defeat for President Trump in a ruling
by a federal judge in Washington, a judge who wrote: This court is not
prepared to roll back the tide of history.
The case is Donald J. Trump versus Committee on Oversight and Reform of the
House of Representative. The president is suing to block Elijah Cummings
subpoena of Trump financial documents from an accounting firm that did
several years of work for Donald Trump and Trump businesses. The judge
ruled that the subpoena must be obeyed and the judge refused to grant a
delay in the execution of his order because the judge said that Donald
Trump`s lawsuit does not present, quote, serious legal questions about the
The judge said this is not a serious case. The president doesn`t have a
chance of prevailing.
The president`s private attorney arguing the case told the court last week
that Congress did not have a legitimate investigative reason for obtaining
the Trump financial documents, the judge traced the committee`s interest in
those documents in detail beginning with, who else, Stormy Daniels. The
judge noted that the committee was seeking, quote, documents related to
Trump`s reporting of debts and payments to his personal attorney Michael
Cohen to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with the president
before the election. The judge went on to list several other financial
matters of legitimate interest to the committee and stressed, quote,
Congress`s power to investigate is broad.
Judge Amit Mehta wrote: It is not the court`s role to decipher whether
Congress`s true purpose in pursuing an investigation is to aid legislation
or something more sinister such as exacting political retribution.
Congress`s motives are off limits.
The president`s lawyer argued to the judge last week that Congress is not
allowed to conduct criminal investigations. It is only authorized to
conduct investigations for legislative purposes. To that, the judge said
today, it is simply not fathomable that a constitution that grants Congress
the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior
would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct past
or present, even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.
Judge Mehta reminded us of the most historic investigations of presidents
that began before impeachment proceedings.
Quote: Twice in the last 50 years, Congress has investigated a sitting
president for alleged law violations before initiating impeachment
proceedings. It did so in 1973 by establishing the Senate Select Committee
on presidential campaign activities better known as the Watergate Committee
and then did so again in 1995 by establishing the special committee to
investigate Whitewater Development Corporation and related matters. The
former investigation included within its scope potential corruption by
President Nixon while in office while the latter concerned alleged illegal
misconduct by President Clinton before his time in office.
Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate
illegal conduct of a president before and after taking office. This court
is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.
Leading off our discussion now is Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from
Connecticut and a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the House
Financial Services Committee.
Glenn Kirschner is with us. He`s a former assistant U.S. attorney who has
worked with special counsel Robert Mueller. Glenn Kirschner was in the
courtroom last week when that case was argued.
And Jill Wine-Banks is with us, a former assistant Watergate special
prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst, who is surprised by none of these
developments because she`s seen it all before.
Congressman Himes, I want to start with you and what this ruling means on
enforcing this subpoena against a White House that is trying to block every
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes, well, it`s not surprising. I mean, you read
Judge Mehta`s opinion well. Look, two things are coming out tonight and
this is not the end of the story, of course, because the Trump
administration, Trump will appeal the judge`s decision.
But two things are coming out tonight. Number one, Congress is the Article
1 authority in this country with the power to investigate whatever it
chooses. And you know, that stems from something as basic as the notion
that Congress is the one part of our government of the three parts of our
government that is actually elected by the people.
And that`s why it`s Article 1 and that`s why no matter who you are, whether
you`re Don McGahn or Mazars or the Justice Department, you don`t get to say
no to Congress except under Fifth Amendment privileges in the Constitution.
And, you know, that is the underlying theory under which the decision came
The other thing, by the way, you know, Mnuchin producing tax returns. The
law could not be more clear that those returns must be produced. So, the
administration is saying, well, the motives of Congress are not to our
liking. You can imagine where the country goes if the question before a
court is what the presumably undiscoverable motives of the Congress might
or might not be.
But, of course, the judge dispensed with that today in his decision.
O`DONNELL: Well, Congressman Himes, that`s so important because on the
Ways and Means Committee case in which Chairman Richard Neal is demanding
to see the Trump tax returns which the chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee is legally empowered to do very specific law written that gives
him that power and that law in writing does not require him to ever after
announce what his actual motivation is and there`s the Trump administration
saying we don`t like your motivation.
HIMES: Well, I mean, that`s exactly right. You don`t need to be a lawyer
to read that law and the law says that the IRS shall with no conditions no
ways out shall provide this. By the way, we can have a debate whether
that`s a smart law or not. That`s, of course, what a democracy does.
But today, the law says shall and so it`s just another example of the
administration using process, using the courts which are designed to
protect the innocent and to make sure our liberties aren`t stamped on to in
this case protect a president whose behavior has been corrupt. And, you
know, we will win in the end but make no mistake, the strategy of the White
House here is to draw this out for as long as possible to keep as much
averse information as possible from emerging before the 2020 election.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, the judge cited your work in the Watergate
investigation today and other investigations and it – if this ruling
holds, the Trump delay by blocking every subpoena strategy collapses.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It does. And it`s about time because
I think he`s really gone way too far now with the total stonewalling. It`s
one thing to stonewall on the Mueller investigation. But now, he`s
stonewalling on everything.
He would totally defeat purpose of congressional oversight if the
witnesses, for example, about the security clearance process can`t testify,
witnesses about the immigration and children in cages can`t testify. If
Don McGahn can`t testify. These are all things that cannot happen.
The judge wrote a very thorough and very well thought out opinion, and I
think if anything is clear from Watergate, it`s that you cannot just thumb
your nose at Congress and you can`t thumb your nose at a Justice Department
subpoena. And that`s what the president is setting himself up to do is to
be above the law and just say, I`ll do what I want to do and our whole
constitution is based on the fact that people will follow the law.
O`DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, you were in the courtroom when this case was
argued and here you have an opinion by the judge in your hands today saying
he actually didn`t hear any serious issues raised by President Trump`s
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, Lawrence, I want to
borrow a phrase from the Mueller report. Judge Mehta`s ruling was a
sweeping and systemic rebuke of the president`s claims that he, one, is
above the law and, two, is not susceptible to congressional oversight.
When I sat in that courtroom, I was shaking my head because I heard the
president`s lawyer William Consovoy say things like Congress can`t
investigate a president who violates criminal statutes and Congress can`t
investigate a president who violates the Constitution, for example, the
emoluments clause, and Congress can`t investigate a president who may have
a financial interest, a conflict of interest in legislation he supports or
executive orders he authors.
And Judge Mehta was shaking his head. He was being polite, but you could
see he was buying into none of it. So when I see him use a word like your
arguments were unfathomable, I was fully expecting this kind of an opinion
to be handed down. What I wasn`t expecting necessarily, Lawrence, is that
it would be handed down so quickly.
Let me tell you, after 30 years in courts, including decades in the courts
of Washington, D.C., rarely do things happen quickly. But the fact that
Judge Mehta handed down this decision in six days is pretty remarkable and
now just two days from now on Wednesday, we`re going to see Judge Ramos in
New York get to handle the exact same issue with respect to congressional
subpoenas for the president`s Deutsche Bank records and his Capital One
And, you know, Judge Mehta`s ruling is not binding authority or precedent
for what Judge Ramos will do, but it is extremely persuasive and I fully
expect Judge Ramos to rule the same way and hopefully, just as promptly. I
do think the sort of dam is breaking at this point. And this is a great
day for transparency, and for accountability but a really bad day for the
president`s seemingly endless attempts to cover up his own misconduct.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Himes to the two points that Glenn made, one an
opinion issued with remarkable speed especially when you read it and you
see the depths of the scholarship, the legal scholarship going back to
1860. This is the kind of opinion that even though it`s written by a
district court judge, you can tell this judge is hoping that other judges
are going to read this opinion before they have to rule on what will be
other Trump subpoena blocking attempts.
HIMES: Yes, no, and that`s right. And look, I guess account speed can
probably be attributed to at least two things. Number one, a consciousness
of the fact that process is being used here to block the constitutional
prerogatives and authorities of the Congress. I would like to believe that
most members of the judiciary would be opposed to that.
But, look, if you`re not a lawyer at some level you can understand the
absurdity of the arguments that were made before this judge. Remember – I
mean, all of four or five weeks ago when the Mueller report came out, the
Mueller report said it showed deference to the Office of Legal Counsel`s
opinion that the sitting president cannot be indicted.
Now, again, we can have a long legal debate over that, but let`s just
assume that they`re right. I`m not sure they`re right. If that is true,
if the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel is true, then the one
other body on the planet that can hold the president accountable and
there`s no question that our Founding Fathers in the Constitution want to
have a mechanism to hold the president accountable. At some level, that`s
kind of what our country is about, it is Congress that will do that.
And then to turn around and say that Congress does not have the right to
execute the very authorities that create the OLC opinion that the president
can`t be indicted is, I mean, again, to a non-lawyer, it`s absurd on the
face of it.
O`DONNELL: Glenn, to go back to your point about the next subpoena case
being in New York City. It`s inconceivable to me that any judge sitting on
any of the other Trump subpoena cases that come along, including this next
one, would not read this opinion because they`re going to having to, if
they`re going to rule in other way, they`re going to have to take on this
KIRSCHNER: Yes, it`s unconceivable to me, as well, Lawrence. I`m
confident that other judges will read it. And it`s also inconceivable to
me they will depart from the reasoning in Judge Mehta`s opinion.
Listen, I was in the court for Judge Sullivan when he took General Flynn to
task for basically selling out his country. And then being in court
watching Judge Mehta take the president`s lawyers to task for making
unfathomable, unsupportable arguments, it leads me to conclude as I have
believed for 30-plus years now, the state of our judiciary is strong. And
I think now that these matters are moving into the courts, the courts will
not endure or endorse the games that the president and his administration
and his underlings and his enablers like Barr have been playing for so long
trying to keep these matters under wraps.
I think we`re going to begin to see what it is the president has been so
deathly afraid of the public seeing.
O`DONNELL: Jill, quickly, is this an indicator with your experience in
Watergate and delay tactics by a president and eventually getting where you
had to go, is this an indicator for Democrats in the House that they should
move to court quicker?
WINE-BANKS: Yes, I think it probably is. I want to point out to follow on
something Glenn said, that speed of decision frequently happens when there
is a huge public interest and public need. In Watergate, we tried this
Rule 6 exception to give the information to Congress and we did that on
March 1st. And by March 26th, Congress had all of the evidence, all of the
grand jury information, the tape recording and the transcripts. It only
took that short a time, and even when we went to the Supreme Court on the
tapes themselves, it only took three months.
So it can happen in a very speedy way when there is a need and there is
definitely a need here. And I don`t think you need to declare impeachment.
It certainly strengthens the case but as you were pointing out, for
example, on the tax returns, there doesn`t even have to be a legislative
purpose. That law was created so the Congress would look at conflicts of
interest without any legislative purpose other than seeing whether this was
such a conflict.
And we need to get acting on this and I think Representative Nadler has
taken a very strong stance against the McGahn subpoena denial. And I think
it`s time for Congress to really do it. Yes.
O`DONNELL: As we go to a quick break here, I just want to thank Glenn
Kirschner very much for joining us. Glenn, invaluable to have you here
after having been in the courtroom. Really appreciate it.
Congressman Himes, Jill Wine-Banks, please stay with us, because when we
come back, we have to talk about the breaking news at this hour.
And this is Chairman Jerry Nadler`s letter about Don McGahn`s testimony.
This is new at this hour.
Jerry Nadler`s letter to Don McGahn saying even if the president is telling
you that you don`t have to testify to our committee tomorrow, you most
certainly do. Chairman Nadler is citing law that the Justice Department
ignored today in their memo about excepting Don McGahn, declaring that Don
McGahn had an absolute immunity from the congressional subpoenas. That`s
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news upon breaking news in this segment
tonight. The most recent breaking news, the letter from the Chairman Jerry
Nadler about Don McGahn`s testimony tomorrow to the Judiciary Committee.
But first, the breaking news today of the release of transcripts of Michael
Cohen`s closed door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.
And in that testimony, Michael Cohen says that one of President Trump`s
private criminal defense lawyers Jay Sekulow told Michael Cohen to not tell
the truth about Trump negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. It
was all about the Iowa caucus. According to Michael Cohen, Jay Sekulow
told him to testify falsely to Congress by saying the last discussions of a
Trump Tower in Moscow were in January of 2016 before the Iowa caucus.
Michael Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that Jay Sekulow knew
that was not true. Michael Cohen now admits the discussions about the
possible Trump Tower in Moscow continued into the summer of 2016 after the
Republican primaries were completed. The president`s criminal defense
lawyer now has criminal defense lawyers who issued a statement today in
response to the newly revealed Michael Cohen testimony and they did not
deny the accusation of criminal witness tampering against Jay Sekulow made
by Michael Cohen in that testimony.
Here is the lawyers` entire response which does not actually include one
word of denial of Michael Cohen`s accusation. Listen to this carefully.
Michael Cohen`s alleged statements are more of the same from him and
confirm the observations of prosecutors in the Southern District of New
York that Cohen`s instinct to blame others is strong.
That this or any committee would rely on the word of Michael Cohen for any
purpose much less to try and pierce the attorney/client privilege and
discover confidential communications of four respected lawyers defies logic
well established law and common sense.
That`s their whole statement. And the president`s lawyer was accused of
witness tampering and he did not dare deny it, in that statement, for
Also tonight, former White House counsel Don McGahn told the House
Judiciary Committee he will not responds to their subpoena and appear to
testify tomorrow. He did that in a letter from his lawyers to Chairman
Jerry Nadler responded with a letter tonight to Don McGahn that we just
have received in the last few minutes and it is really striking in what it
has to say to Don McGahn. It points out that the opinion he is relying on
from the Justice Department`s Office of Legal Counsel, quote, has produced
an opinion as an excuse for you from testifying but that opinion has no
support in relevant case law and its arguments have been flatly rejected by
Jerry Nadler goes on to say the Justice Department`s own long-standing
policy is that executive privilege should not be invoked to conceal
evidence of wrongdoing or criminality on the part of executive offices,
tellingly, the department`s opinion ignores that policy entirely. Now,
Chairman Nadler`s letter goes on to say this about Don McGahn`s position
now in relation to the president.
The president himself has already called your credibility into question.
He tweeted less than ten days ago that he was, quote, not going to fire Bob
Mueller. Denying a central event that you described to special counsel
Mueller under penalty of felony. In other words, under penalty of perjury.
Jerry Nadler goes on to say. In attacking your credibility and asking you
to make public comments about these events, the president has not only
further waived any possible privilege with regard to your testimony, he has
also created substantial concerns about acts of witness intimidation and
further obstruction of Congress`s ongoing investigations.
And back with us are Congressman Jim Himes and Jill Wine-Banks.
Congressman, I know you`re not a member of Jerry Nadler`s Judiciary
Committee. But this situation with Don McGahn affects all of the
committees, the Intelligence Committee that you`re on where you released
the Michael Cohen testimony today.
I want to first get your reaction to Chairman Nadler`s letter and then
we`ll talk a little bit about Michael Cohen`s testimony.
HIMES: Right. Well, Chairman Nadler is right. People need to understand
how completely unprecedented Donald Trump`s strategy here is. You said at
the close of the last segment he is claiming an absolute right to say no to
the Congress, no president in 240 years of history has ever claimed that.
Richard Nixon when ordered to turn over the tapes of the conversations in
the Oval Office turned over the tapes of the conversations in the Oval
Office. Bill Clinton didn`t imagine that he would say I`m not going to be
interviewed by the Starr investigation team. He was interviewed. There
was negotiation but he was interviewed.
So, look, just as in the case that we`re talking about earlier, the
president is not on any way, shape, or form on legal ground. And you know,
so McGahn must show up. That is what the law will say.
Now, look, we can have a conversation about executive privilege. Executive
privilege is important in the sense that any president should have the
right to believe that the private conversations he has with advisers about
policy will be protected.
But remember, bottom line when it comes to the law, Congress need not
recognize executive privilege. Now, that`s not where we are. We will
recognize that but when you assert executive privilege, you come before the
Congress and you say, look, I`ll talk about everything other than that
which the White House wants to the assert executive privilege on.
And so, that`s the right way to do this. But you know, look at the end of
the day, this is going to be just another example of the White House
offering up a completely novel and absurd legal strategy to protect the
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, on Michael Cohen`s testimony released today,
here is very clearly, you were in the room when he gave that closed door
testimony he`s very clearly saying, Jay Sekulow, the president`s lawyer,
told me to say things that were not true to Congress. And that`s
ultimately what the accusation that he pled guilty to lying to Congress was
about that testimony.
HIMES: Yes. And look, let`s stipulate that a man who is now in prison for
lying to Congress is, in fact, not your very best witness but Michael Cohen
as is his habit, showed up with receipts. Just as he had canceled checks
signed by the president to reimburse the payments for Stormy Daniels, he
has and I believe they either are or will be released the e-mails that went
back and forth with all of these attorneys as they were crafting his
Now, remember, it`s his statement and that in and of itself is sort of
interesting, right. Michael Cohen is in jail because he was inaccurate.
He lied about his statement.
His statement was whatever else you think of Michael Cohen was created by
all sorts of attorneys coming together and offering comments and when you
see the transcript as I suspect you have, you will see that Abbe Lowell is
offering up comments about whether he should be talking about Ivanka Trump.
I mean, again remember, this is Michael Cohen`s statement and it was
drafted by a collection of lawyers on his behalf acting not on Michael
Cohen`s behalf but acting in the defense of Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, I want to get your response to Jerry Nadler`s
letter which is the new entry in what is a triple document day, first a
memo from the Justice Department saying that Don McGahn has complete
immunity from congressional subpoenas, doesn`t have to testify, then the
president ordering Don McGahn not to testify, Don McGahn`s lawyer.
Then, letter to Jerry Nadler saying he`s not going to testify. The
president says he doesn`t have to. Justice Department says he doesn`t have
to. Then Jerry Nadler comes back tonight with this very powerful letter
filled with legal citation beyond the Justice Department`s citations.
WINE-BANKS: First of all, the office of legal counsel opinion – in my
opinion is extremely weak. It is built on one thing and one thing only and
that is prior office of legal counsel opinions.
There`s only reference to one district court opinion and that one said
there is no such thing as absolute immunity. So there is no absolute
Jerry Nadler`s response, Chairman Nadler`s response is very well crafted
and points out all the defects in the office of legal counsel opinion.
Except for possibly one which is that one act of obstruction between Trump
and McGahn happened after McGahn was no longer a White House employee. He
was just a private citizen.
So there can be no immunity for that one. And that`s what happened when he
asked him to lie after he was out of the White House and to say that he had
never obstructed justice. So that piece can`t be.
And also, it`s very clear that there is no privilege attached to anything
that has been submitted to the public. They argue that there`s a privilege
because when he allowed him to testify before Mueller, it was all within
the executive branch.
But when he let it be made public in the Mueller report to all of us, that
waived the privilege. So anything on those points certainly can be
testified to tomorrow without a question.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks and Congressman Jim Himes, thank you for
guiding us through all of this breaking news tonight. Really appreciate
WINE-BANKS: Thank you.
HIMES: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, “The New York Times” reports that
Deutsche Bank saw suspicious activity in the president of the United
States` bank accounts and wanted that suspicious activity reported. And
Deutsche Bank didn`t report it. David Kay Johnston joins us next.
O`DONNELL: It has come to this. The president of the United States is
suspected of possible money laundering by people working at the bank where
the money laundering might have occurred.
“The New York Times” reported yesterday that anti-money laundering
specialists at Deutsche Bank found multiple suspicious transactions
involving accounts tied to Donald Trump and Jared Kushner during the
presidential campaign and during the first year of the president in office.
The “Times” reports the transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump`s
now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to
detect illicit activity according to five current and former bank
employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions
prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be
sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.
But executives at Deutsche Bank which has lent billions of dollars to the
Trump and Kushner Companies rejected their employees` advice. One of the
Deutsche Bank employees who reviewed the transactions involving Kushner
Companies in the summer of 2016 says she found that money had moved from
Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She recommended the transactions
be reported to the government but was overruled by bank managers.
She told the “Times” that she was then fired after raising concerns that
the bank was not properly vetting the accounts of dozens of politically
exposed clients of the private banking division including Mr. Trump and
members of his family.
Joining us now is David Cay Johnston, 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 David, no reporter has studied Trump finances more extensively and over
more years than you have. Your reaction to these Deutsche Bank reports,
I`m sure did not include surprise, but this is news that five people from
inside Deutsche Bank are telling “The New York Times” about possible money
laundering by the president.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP: Well, and one of
those is someone who was named and photographed by “The Times”. What I was
surprised by was the gullibility of a whole bunch of news organizations
that took a non-denial denial by Deutsche Bank as a denial that anything
had happened and a statement by the Trump Organization that we didn`t know
anything about the money laundering issues.
Of course, they wouldn`t know about it as knocking down the story. This is
a very troublesome story, Lawrence for Donald and for Jared Kushner because
it continues into the time period when they were both our employees in the
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Congressman Adam Schiff said about this in
the last hour with Rachel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This suggests
that what we have feared all along may have taken place and that is if the
president is claiming no business dealings with Russia while he`s trying to
make this Trump tower deal take place, has he also been concealing money
laundering with Russians?
If these whistleblower allegations are correct, that they were essentially
discovering transactions that looked like money laundering with Russians
that should have been reported to Treasury but were not reported to
Treasury, that`s some serious business that we need to look into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And this is part of the subpoena flow that`s been coming out of
the House of Representatives trying to get at this.
JOHNSTON: Well, and there would be extensive documentation within Deutsche
Bank about what went on here that Congress needs to see because if the
president of the United States was laundering money, that`s a crime and you
cannot serve as president under our Constitution if you`ve committed a
So it is very important that Congress get these records. And if it turns
out those records are missing, that in itself I think should be taken as an
indication that somebody is covering up.
O`DONNELL: And also, David, at Deutsche Bank, there would be various loan
documents that would indicate possible backers that Donald Trump has. And
if you were to discover that some of these big loans were cosigned by say
one or more Russian oligarchs, that would be part of the discovery of all
of this that the Congress would be very interested in.
JOHNSTON: Yes. That was something I brought up on your show some months
ago, the possibility that there are backers or guarantors and other
transactions in the background that we don`t see directly. The bank should
have records of those.
Now, Deutsche Bank, of course, is a privilege. Corporations don`t have a
right to live as you and I do. And they say they are cooperating with
investigators both from the State of New York and from the federal
And we should hope that there is a thorough inquiry into this. And exactly
what was going on with Trump`s relationship with Deutsche Bank, which by
the way has paid over $600 million in fines just for laundering money for
Russian oligarchs in Cyprus, Germany, and America.
O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, history was made this weekend when a
member of Congress became the very first Republican to support the
impeachment of President Trump. That Republican was, of course,
immediately attacked by Donald Trump and already has a Republican opponent
– pro-Trump Republican opponent now in his next re-election campaign.
O`DONNELL: We now have the single most clear, concise, and eloquent
statement in favor of impeachment of President Trump by a member of the
House of Representatives and that member is a Republican. Michigan
Congressman Justin Amash made history on Saturday afternoon when he became
the first Republican member of Congress to advocate impeachment of
President Trump in a series of flawlessly composed tweets.
Congressman Amash wrote, “Here are my principal conclusions. One, Attorney
General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller`s report. Two,
President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. Three, partisanship
has eroded our system of checks and balances. Four, few members of
Congress have read the report.
Under our Constitution, the president shall be removed from office on
impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes
and misdemeanors while high crimes and misdemeanors is not defined, the
context implies conduct that violates the public trust.
Contrary to Barr`s portrayal, Mueller`s report reveals that President Trump
engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meets the
threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller`s report satisfies all the
elements of obstruction of justice and undoubtedly any person who is not
the president of the United States would be indicted based on such
Impeachment which is a special form of indictment does not even require
probable cause that a crime, obstruction of justice, has been committed.
It simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless,
abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.
While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances,
the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that
Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will
employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.
America`s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and
spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally
inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome. Our Constitution
is brilliant and awesome. It deserves a government to match it.”
Those tweets were politically unfavorable enough for Congressman Amash that
he suddenly has a Republican challenger now who announced his candidacy
within 24 hours of those tweets. And President Trump, of course, attacked
Congressman Amash on Twitter calling the congressman a lightweight and a
In other words, the president did not in any way address any of the
important points made by Congressman Amash. To analyze this David and
Goliath battle in the Republican Party, we will be joined after this break
by Republican Strategist Rick Wilson and Jason Johnson.
O`DONNELL: Here`s Republican Congressman Larry Hogan announcing his
support for impeaching Republican President Richard Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LAWRENCE HOGAN (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE DURING NIXON IMPEACHMENT
HEARINGS: Prime Republican, prime loyalty and personal affection and
precedence of the past must fall, I think, before the arbiter of men`s
action, the law itself. No man, not even the president of the United
States, is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Those words were echoed this weekend when Republican
Congressman Justin Amash became the first Republican member of Congress to
support impeaching President Trump.
Joining our discussion now, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and a
contributor to “The Daily Beast”. He`s the author of the book “Everything
Trump Touches Dies.” And Jason Johnson is the politics editor at
“Theroot.com” and a professor of politics and media at Morgan State
University. Jason is also an MSNBC contributor.
And Rick Wilson, here we have the Republican David and Goliath and I
thought we`re all supposed to root for David in that story, right?
RICK WILSON, Republican STRATEGIST: Well, you know, this is the new
Republican mode and it`s always going to be that anyone who opposes Trump
must be destroyed. That`s why the caucus is going after him and that`s why
the NRCC is floating this guy in the primary.
It reminds me that in 1973 when the impeachment articles were brought to
the Judiciary Committee, Republicans voted with the majority on three of
the charges, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of
And as Justin laid out in those tweets, as we`ve seen from the evidence,
those three cases could be made. But I promise you not one member, except
for him right now, would vote for them no matter whether or not they
believe them to be true or not or whether the evidence is overwhelming or
not. They will protect Donald Trump until the last dog dies.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, I can remember during the first year of the
Trump presidency sitting here as many were waiting, just waiting for that
Republican to stand up against Trumpism in the United States Senate or in
the House of Representatives, and then waiting through the second year for
that to happen., waiting through the third year.
Here we are into the third year of the Trump presidency and finally,
someone has stood up on the most important possible position you can take
against this president, saying that, yes, he should be impeached.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Well, Lawrence, I always say
this when it comes to votes in the House, votes in the Senate, nobody wants
to be the 60th vote but everybody is happy with being 56, 57 and 58. We`re
basically seeing that in reverse in the House.
I really doubt Justin Amash did this completely in a vacuum. I think one
of the more compelling things about reading his tweets is when he talked
about the fact that, number one, no one in the House has even bothered to
read their homework yet. And two, that he actually discussed this with his
staff and that they had a back and forth as to whether or not he would make
That suggests to me that there are other people involved in this. There
are other people who are sort of putting their finger to the wind and
saying, “All right. Can he survive this? Is this OK? I mean is the
person running against him a real challenge, I don`t think so.”
And let`s also make this very, very clear. Justin Amash is not like some
sort of wishy-washy moderate. The guy was part of the freedom caucus.
He came in with the Tea Party. He`s still sort of learning. He had the
audacity to suggest in that recent interview, he said, yes, I think
actually a lot of Tea Party people just didn`t like Obama for some
reason, it wasn`t about policies.
So he is under no circumstance as somebody that would be considered an ally
of the left or Democrats. So it`s compelling he made this decision. I
don`t think he`ll be the last one.
O`DONNELL: And Rick, what about the – I think if people were waiting for
this kind of person to emerge, they would have predicted it would have come
from one of the Republicans who stopped to think in more moderate
directions like possibly someone like Mitt Romney. Here it is coming from
someone who`s on the far right in most policy issues.
WILSON: You know, Lawrence, I sort of – I sympathize with Justin here
because I wrote my book about Trump as a critique from the right. And all
these people were – all the Trump guys are shocked by that but there`s a
critique of him from the right.
And I think Amash made it very eloquently in this case. And look, most of
the people that would have been from the center, those suburban districts
because Donald Trump is political cancer, he destroyed all of their
political careers. They either quit or lost in 2018. They left.
We`re 40 seats down because of Donald Trump. And most of those people were
the suburban moderates. They were the people in the suburbs of Virginia
and Charlotte and other places. They`re gone now.
So the safe seat guys in the R-plus 27 districts are still there and
they`re all in. And so I think there`s a little bit of shell shock right
now from a lot that Amash dared to open the gate here.
O`DONNELL: And Jason, the Republican Party official this weekend accused
him of parroting democratic talking points. He wasn`t. He was
contradicting democratic talking points.
Democratic talking points are we`re not ready for impeachment, we need the
unredacted Mueller report. Here`s somebody who says you do not need the
unredacted Mueller report. It`s all there in the publicly available
JOHNSON: Right. I`m shocked, Lawrence, and disgusted that we`re getting
more bravery from a Republican and a Conservative Republican than House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was asked right after Amash made this speech,
“Hey, do you think this is enough bipartisanship to move forward an
impeachment?” And she basically punted the ball again and said, “No, no,
no. The bipartisanship that we actually need is in the Senate.”
Look, leave that to Senator Kamala Harris. She`s very good. Leave that to
Cory Booker. They can handle this. The fact that you now have Republicans
who are setting alight – who are setting a fire to Democrats` feats in the
House to actually engage in impeachment when we have Don McGahn who`s
basically flipping his finger at the Constitution and saying I`m not going
to come in and testify, this is an example of the leadership that was
lacking in the Democratic Party.
The people were asking for in 2018, I hope Amash, is the beginning of a
change in attitude for the Democratic leadership, but it doesn`t seem like
that`s happening right now.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Professor Jason Johnson gets tonight`s
LAST WORD. Rick Wilson, Jason Johnson, thank you both for joining us,
really appreciate it. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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