Democrats call for Kavanaugh impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 9/16/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And we are starting off tonight with the authors of the new book about the
investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Oh, very good.
O`DONNELL: We heard what Senator Harris had to say about it in your hour
and we`re basically beginning where she left off.
MADDOW: I`m glad you got him. Thanks, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
“New York Times” reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly will be our first
guests tonight to discuss new reporting in their book “The Education of
Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation” which will be published tomorrow. This
is their first cable news interview about their investigations.
They wrote an article in Sunday`s “New York Times” about the book which
became the issue of the day in the Democratic presidential campaign, with
several candidates on the basis of that article calling for Supreme Court
Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be impeached.
We also have complete coverage tonight of the breaking news regarding the
Trump administration`s possible response to an attack on a major Saudi
Arabia oil facility. Former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman will
join us with her analysis of the situation.
And there`s a new subpoena for Donald Trump`s tax returns, eight years of
tax returns. And this one might be enforced quicker than the congressional
subpoena for Donald Trump`s tax returns.
And at the end of the hour, it`s tonight`s episode of “Meet the Freshman”.
You will meet Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin from Michigan who has
two General Motors plants in her district that are on strike.
And this is the perfect night for her to join us not just to get her
reaction to the first day of the auto workers strike that could be
devastating to her district and to her state and to the country eventually
if it continues, but also because Congresswoman Slotkin is a former CIA
analyst and expert in Iran-backed militias who worked alongside the U.S.
military during three tours in Iraq. And she has been warning for months
that the Trump administration has been building a case to pursue war with
Iran without the approval of Congress as required by the Constitution. We
will see what she has to say about Donald Trump`s locked and loaded
response to the drone strike on the Saudi oil facility.
We begin with the new impeachment question that has entered the
presidential campaign this weekend, should Supreme Court Justice Brett
Kavanaugh be impeached? At least six Democratic presidential candidates
say yes. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden say there should be an investigation
of Brett Kavanaugh, with Biden saying, quote: We must follow to evidence to
wherever it leads.
And presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, who was one of the Democrats who
questioned Brett Kavanaugh in his Senate confirmation hearing, is now
demanding that the White House and Attorney General William Barr hand over
materials from the FBI background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.
In a letter to the White House and attorney general, Senator Klobuchar
says: Recent reports have again cast doubts on the completeness of the
investigating process, raising additional questions as to whether certain
information was followed up on, and whether potential witnesses were
The recent reports Senator Klobuchar refers to are the work of our first
guests tonight, “New York Times” reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly
who published an article in “The New York Times” Sunday edition that was
posted online Saturday night, which is an edited excerpt of their new book
that will be published tomorrow, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An
The article in “The New York Times” was apparently enough for some of the
presidential candidates to call for impeachment. The article on “The
Times” concentrates on what Deborah Ramirez says happened to her when she
was a student at Yale College with Brett Kavanaugh and what happened to her
when she told her story to the FBI during the Brett Kavanaugh background
investigation. Deborah Ramirez` story first appeared in “The New Yorker”
during the Kavanaugh confirmation process.
Here is her Brett Kavanaugh story, as it appears in the new book that will
be published tomorrow.
During the drinking game, Ramirez said the guys kept picking her to drink
more, and she became inebriated. At one point, someone strapped on a fake
penis and pointed it at her. Then, later, Ramirez said she had a penis
thrust in her face. She remembered pushing it away and saying that`s not a
real penis, but this penis was real and she would recall she had
accidentally touched one for the first time. It was something she hadn`t
planned to do until she was married.
She remembered Genda and Todd laughing at her confusion that evening and
Kavanaugh pulling up his pants looking puffed up like he just did something
really, really great and tilting his head back also laughing. She
remembered hearing David White yell down the hall, Brett Kavanaugh just put
his penis in Debbie`s face.
After that story first became public in “The New Yorker,” the Judiciary
Committee did not ask Deborah Ramirez to testify. And then the chairman of
the committee, Chuck Grassley said: There is no corroboration of the
allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez. He was referring to, of
course, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who did tell her story to the committee
under oath on a nationally televised hearing.
In their new reporting, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly say Ms. Ramirez`s
legal team gave the FBI a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had
corroborating evidence but the bureau in its supplemental background
investigation interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these
potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the FBI on their own, two FBI
agents interviewed Ms. Ramirez telling her they found her credible, but the
Republican-controlled Senate had imposed strict limits on the
We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else, Bill Pittard, one
of Ms. Ramirez`s lawyers, recalled the agents saying it was almost a little
This weekend`s “New York Times” article and the book contained a new
revelation about another story that came to the attention of some of the
members of the Judiciary Committee at the time, but it was never made
public during the confirmation process. This story occupies less than one
page of the book, and only one paragraph of this weekend`s “New York Times”
article. Here is that paragraph from “The Times.”
We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his
freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez`s allegation. A classmate, Max
Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm
party where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.
Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified
senators and the FBI about this account, but the FBI did not investigate
and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly.
We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr.
NBC News has confirmed that members of the Judiciary Committee were aware
of Max Stier`s allegations at the time of the confirmation process.
The new book makes one more important point about that story. The book
gives the name of the woman involved in that story and then specifies that
she, quote, has also refused to discuss the incident, though several of her
friends said she does not recall it.
“The Times” later on Sunday added that line to the end of the paragraph
about Max Stier`s accusation. That line in “The Times” now reads: the
female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not
recall the episode.
Leading off our discussion tonight, are Robin Pogrebin, culture reporter
for “The New York Times”, and Kate Kelly, who writes about Wall Street fro
“The New York Times.” They`re the authors of the new book, “The Education
of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation”, which will be out tomorrow.
First of all, let`s start with what happened at “The New York Times.” What
happened with that omission that “The Times” later felt belonged in the
KATE KELLY, WALL STREET REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, first of all,
Lawrence, there was zero intent to mislead anybody about the details of the
incident. That excerpt we ran in “The Times” was an adaptation of what`s
in our book that you just described so aptly.
It really focuses on the experience of Deborah Ramirez as we understand it,
after Robin spending quite a bit of time with her, why the incident she
alleged to have occurred with Kavanaugh hit so hard for her. She was
feeling like a fish out of water that first year at Yale to begin with for
any number of reasons – socioeconomic, cultural and so on. And this
incident was deeply traumatizing for her.
That was the focus of the piece. We included the additional detail about
this other as yet unreported allegation because it seemed germane to the
type of thing we were talking about. It was a somewhat similar incident.
O`DONNELL: In your draft of the article, did it include those words that
have since been added to the article?
KELLY: It did.
O`DONNELL: It did.
KELLY: It did.
So somewhere in the editing process, those wonders were there?
ROBIN POGREBIN, CO-AUTHOR, “THE EDUCATION OF BRETT KAVANAUGH”: Yes. I
mean, I think what happened actually was that, you know, we had her name
and, you know, “The Times” doesn`t usually include the name of the victim.
POGREBIN: And so I think in this case the editors felt like maybe it was
probably better to remove it. In removing her name, they removed the other
reference to the fact that she didn`t remember it.
O`DONNELL: So, the way in your draft for “The Times,” you used basically
the exact words –
O`DONNELL: – that were in the book, that I deliberately left off the name
because that passage begins with the name.
O`DONNELL: And so, in their removal of the name, they ended up removing
the whole –
POGREBIN: The whole sentence. Yes. And I think it was just sort of an
editing, you know, done in haste in the editing process as you know for
closing the section.
O`DONNELL: Were you involved in the decision to amend this and do the
correction – the addition online to the piece?
POGREBIN: We discussed it. Yes. I mean, we think felt like there was so
much heat, you know, there`s so much – everyone has been kind of seizing
on various aspects of this that we certainly didn`t want this to be an
issue anymore. And we certainly never intended to mislead in any way. We
wanted to give as full a story as possible.
KELLY: And the key point this was a piece of our book we were sharing
through “The Times.” And the hope was that people will look at the book
which has a much fuller context, not only about this allegation, about,
frankly, which not a whole lot is known, we`re sharing what we do know.
But also about all the context around these allegations in general, the
situation at Yale when Justice Kavanaugh was a student there, and Robin was
a student there, all the corroboration around the Ramirez account that you
spoke of, it`s all in there. And we really tried to look at things from a
O`DONNELL: Let me just do one more point on this amendment in the online
version of the article. When they were working on what they were going to
add to it and the editors note they put in, did anyone consider including
that – the fact that it was in your original draft of the article? That
would have been clarifying for people who are wondering how this happened.
Did they at any point consider including what you just told us in that
KELLY: I`m not sure if they did or not, honestly, but I think the desire
was just to get the information out there to the readers, not of focus too
much on the progress, because obviously, there had been an error of
judgment that was being addressed, and just to move on to give people the
information they needed, but also to remind people that this is an
adaptation of a much longer work that`s forthcoming.
O`DONNELL: Do you know why Max Stier did not talk to you, refused to do
interviews with you about that story?
POGREBIN: My sense is that he feels as if he did his duty, which was he
brought the information that he had to the Senate – to senators and to the
FBI. He made them all very aware that he had this experience that he had
witnessed firsthand in a dorm room during his freshman year at Yale. What
they did with the information was up to them. It never materialized and
became part of the process.
Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed and he was done. His work had been done. He
had done his part. And he had no interest in revisiting it.
O`DONNELL: In the article, you say that Brett Kavanaugh didn`t agree to an
interview because you couldn`t agree to terms for the interview. What
terms did he want?
KELLY: We had some back-and-forth with the Supreme Court spokesperson
about this. And ultimately, he wanted to be able to have a say that he
declined to comment for the book and we weren`t comfortable doing that if
we were going to find a meeting with him.
O`DONNELL: And to Deborah Ramirez, this story is a cultural story. It`s
kids from different backgrounds who found themselves at Yale. And she felt
disconnected from the start, and then this experience, as she tells it in
the book, completely changes her sense of her position at Yale with these
POGREBIN: And I think what`s important is that, it was important for us to
flesh out her story because, one, it was never fully told or explored. She
never testified. We never had the chance to hear from people who were
trying to reach the FBI, who had corroborating evidence to the extent that
they had heard about this event contemporaneously.
As well as – you know, she had told her mother. We never learned that,
and her mother thought she`d been raped. She was so upset about the
experience, although Debbie didn`t tell her the details at the time. So,
we wanted to do that.
But I think it was also important to say that it`s easy to minimize these
allegations and also to look at them as piling on with Kavanaugh when you
had a lot of allegations coming fast and furious. And to really sort of
say that you have to contextualize this woman`s experience in order to
understand why this was formative.
You know, for some people, it would not have been necessarily a big deal at
the party. For her, it was because it confirmed a sense of inadequacy she
had coming into Yale in the first place. Socioeconomically, she was at a
disadvantage. She was a person of color, she didn`t necessarily – it was
not a seamless transition for her the way it was for others.
Frankly, it was easier for me I think coming from a private school in New
York than it was for – you know, a lot of other kids coming to Yale from
O`DONNELL: Kate, having worked in the Senate as I did and as the staff
director of a committee. As soon as they announced that they were going to
reopen the FBI investigation and that the FBI investigation was time-
limited to a very few number of days, that was a very clear expression to
everyone in the Senate, this is going to be an extremely limited
investigation. There was not announcement they could have made, which is
we`re delaying the hearing until the FBI investigation is completed, which
would be the normal process for a committee.
But once they time-limited it, what I`m discovering in your book though
shocking, is not – isn`t really surprising to me. The FBI didn`t
investigate all sorts of obvious people and question all sorts of all these
people they should have questioned.
KELLY: Right. I mean, part of the consensus that was struck – or rather
the compromise that was struck between Senator Flake at the time, Senator
Coons, and also with the support of Senators Collins and Murkowski, who, of
course, are the sort of moderate Republicans, was that it would be time-
limited, it would be focused.
The four of them actually did the walk together about how many witnesses
and ideas of which witnesses perhaps ought to be talked to. One person we
talked to for the book said that number might be as high as 50. Another
said not 50, but double digits. But in any case, it appeared that the
White House, which was essentially the client in this FBI investigation,
had mandated just four interviews with key parties from the alleged Ford
Ultimately, that list grew to ten, but we both spoke to numerous people
from Justice Kavanaugh`s high school as well as Yale and other parts of his
life as well who contacted the FBI. There was a school teacher who was in
his class at Georgetown prep in San Francisco, took a day off, prepared a
letter, worked with a lawyer, went to the FBI office there and was turned
away, was told to call the tip line, was told to file an online form. He
did all these things and there was no follow-up, he felt that he was never
heard. He was extremely frustrated.
And he heard this story over and over again from people. This is also a
version of what happened to Max Stier, although perhaps because of his
stature in Washington, he had more direct contact with lawmakers.
O`DONNELL: Yes, we now have reports that he had direct contact with
Senator Coons and others. He knew them. They knew him. They had a sense
of his credibility.
I want to talk about one of the most surprising things that I read here,
which is literally the last line of “The New York times” article. And this
is Deborah Ramirez. Because after what you just talked about, this very
frustrating experience with the FBI, you talked to a lot of people who are
bitter and angry about the way this investigation went and didn`t include
And she says: You can`t look at justice as just the confirmation vote.
Deborah Ramirez said: There is so much good that came out of it. There is
so much more good to come.
What did she mean by the good?
POGREBIN: I think – I mean, I think in the case of Christine Blasey Ford,
this experience is one she may have regretted coming forward given what
she`s been through personally and continues to go through in terms of just
her family and how this has upended her life. I think perhaps because
Deborah Ramirez didn`t effective testify and wasn`t sort of publicly
vilified, she got same outpouring of support that Christine Blasey Ford got
but kind of without the downside quite as much.
I mean, certainly, there were threatening emails and texts, but generally,
she – you know, was very much buoyed by people coming out of woodwork
saying you made me feel validated in my experience. I went through what
you went through, you`re a hero nowhere coming forward, men who are talking
to their sons in a different way, said they were – you know, she made them
newly sensitive to this experience. And so, I think that`s been her
takeaway, is that people have started to talk about these issues and
started to be more sensitive to them in a way that hopefully will be
O`DONNELL: And, Kate, it reads as if she felt more connected to her Yale
classmates in their full of support toward her than she did when she was
there as a student.
KELLY: Right. It`s so interesting. This is part of the beauty of Robin`s
reporting and writing because she dug down on the Ramirez situation. I
mean, she went from feeling rejected by one group of students at Yale in
your class, to feeling really supported by another even larger group beyond
just the class of `87 and encompassing many more people.
And so, she does have this sense of optimism that`s really buoying for
other people, too, because on the whole, this has been a very sad chapter.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for joining us. This is very personal
book. There`s a lot of material that I didn`t get to. The book ends with
your own personal reactions to everything that you`ve learned, and I hope
people read it. It really is an impressive piece of work.
Thank you very much –
POGREBIN: Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: – Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, we have to go to breaking news. The latest in the
situation after a drone strike on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Donald Trump claimed today that he doesn`t want war with anyone, that`s
after tweeting that the United States is locked and loaded in defense of
Saudi Arabia`s oil supply. That`s next with Ambassador Wendy Sherman and
Congressman Tom Malinowski.
O`DONNELL: Now to the breaking news situation unfolding in the Middle
East. A key oil field in Saudi Arabia was bombed on Saturday by unmanned
drones affecting half of Saudi Arabia`s oil capacity. Rebels in
neighboring Yemen who are fighting Saudi intervention in Yemen took credit
for the attack. Saudi Arabia is claiming that the weapons used in the
attack are Iranian weapons.
NBC News is reporting that U.S. intelligence indicates that the attack
originated from Iran. Donald Trump`s reaction could not have been more
unpresidential. President Trump seems to be surrendering U.S. sovereignty
on how the United States would react, tweeting: Saudi Arabia oil supply was
attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked
and loaded depending on verification but are waiting to hear from the
Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack and under what
terms we would proceed, exclamation point.
President Trump has gone from willing to meet with Iran with no
preconditions to locked and loaded. He is now saying that he was never
willing to meet with Iran. He says: The fake news is saying that I am
willing to meet with Iran, no conditions. That is an incorrect statement,
as usual, exclamation point.
And, of course, there`s video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would certainly meet with
Iran if they wanted to meet.
REPORTER: Do you have preconditions for that meeting?
TRUMP: No preconditions, no. They want to meet, I`ll meet.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Is it one on one talks, you and the
ayatollah? Or you and the president?
TRUMP: It doesn`t matter to me.
TRUMP: – three years.
TODD: No preconditions.
TRUMP: Not as far as I`m concerned, no preconditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of
state in the Obama administration. She was the led negotiator on the Iran
nuclear deal. She`s now an MSNBC global affairs contributor.
And Tom Malinowski, freshman Democratic congressman from New Jersey, as
well. He`s a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And under President
Obama, he was assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and
And, Congressman, let me start with you. First of all, your reaction to
the president`s reaction so far?
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): It`s bad enough that he would think that we
should wait to hear from Saudi Arabia before deciding what to do in our own
interest. But that he would announce this to the world, not understanding
just how submissive this makes him look to the Saudis.
And you notice, he didn`t even say Saudi Arabia. He said the Kingdom, as
if that`s something that impresses him. Just extraordinary.
Obviously, we do what is in our own national interest. We do not wait for
Saudi Arabia to tell us what happened here, to tell us what to do. If
they`re allies we should be consulting with, it should be our true allies
in the world, our NATO allies, our allies in Europe and the Security
Council. That`s what we should be doing.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, if you were advising a president on this
situation tonight, what would you be telling the president to focus on?
WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: I`d tell him to focus on
really making sure that he has a case, that we have the intelligence, that
we are holding a classified briefing with members of Congress, to share
what information we have.
That as Congressman Malinowski suggested, that we are consulting with our
allies. You know, as the Pentagon has reportedly said in a just-posted
“Washington Post” report, we have 70,000 troops between Egypt and Pakistan
under Central Command. And so, any action that anyone`s going to take is
putting all those personnel at risk when none of our personnel, none of our
facilities were hit.
And it`s quite serious if the Saudi oil facilities were hit, no doubt, for
the entire world, but this is an issue for the entire world, not just for
the United States of America. So we should be consulting, taking our time,
not making big announcements. If action is going to be taken, sometimes
it`s better if it`s taken quietly.
O`DONNELL: When the president was asked later today, do you want war with
Iran? He said, do I want war? I don`t want war with anybody. I am
somebody who would like not to have war.
Let`s watch Senator Kamala Harris` reaction to this with Rachel in the last
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apparently, he`s
tweeting out, you know, this bravado about, you know, locked and loaded.
What the – what does that mean? OK? And also –
MADDOW: Well, it`s an implicit military threat.
HARRIS: Yes, it is.
MADDOW: That the U.S. is going to be using – we`re going to use U.S.
HARRIS: Yes, it is, yes, it is, yes, it is.
And, again, you know, listen, as far as I`m concerned, this president is
motivated by his personal insecurities more than he is our national
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman, what authority does the president need in order to
launch any kind of military response to this?
MALINOWSKI: Well, there`s a long history of ignoring the Congress and
frankly, if Congress ceding its responsibility to authorize military
action. We have stated clearly in the House of Representatives, we voted
on a resolution that says the president does not have the authority to
start a war with Iran under the AUMF that has been used to conduct the
fight against terrorism. So, we`ve made that very, very clear.
Look, I agree with Wendy. That is serious matter. It`s certainly a
product of a very failed policy by this administration. If they attacked
oil fields, we may need to respond, but we need to respond, I think, on the
quiet side of the dark side.
I think I would – I would also be very, very clear with the Saudis, do
nothing. Do nothing. We do not want a shooting war. We do not want them
getting into a shooting war.
And above all, do not hit some poor, innocent people in Yemen in order to
show your toughness against Iran under these circumstances if you`re afraid
to hit Iran, which they probably are directly.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sherman, what do you expect next from Saudi Arabia?
SHERMAN: Well, it`s interesting. Saudi Arabia has asked the United
Nations and Saudi Arabia is no fan of the United Nations to come in and do
an investigation about who is culpable here. That actually slows down the
process. It may be a moment of wisdom from the Saudis.
But I quite agree with Tom that there should be no rush here. We should be
thoughtful about this. And there are many tools that can be used and
military force should be the last one, not the first resort.
Even in this instance where there`s a lot at stake here because if Saudi
Arabia`s oil capacity was taken out altogether, it would affect the entire
world, including the world`s economy. So, this is in everybody`s interest,
but not just ours, not just Saudi Arabia`s, and we ought to be working on a
united response to this.
I think the other thing that Tom points out is we all have to remember that
Saudi Arabia has been persecuting just a horrific war in Yemen where many
have died. The United Arab Emirates, which was a partner ion this, has
effectively pulled out because they understand that this is not an
effective way forward.
There`s a lot going on in the Middle East tomorrow, including an election
in Israel tomorrow, which is very consequential to how we respond here.
So, we all need to be thoughtful about this, not rush to judgment.
And, finally I`d say, Lawrence, we did not have to be here.
Many of us said that if Trump pulled out of the Iran deal which he was
committed to doing rather than build on it or find ways to address the
concerns that he and others had, we would not be here if he had not pulled
out of the Iran deal. We certainly wouldn`t be here now.
O`DONNELL: Professor Wendy Sherman, Congressman Tom Malinowski, thank you
both very much for your expertise on this subject tonight. We really needed
to hear from you. Thank you for joining us.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back two words might turn out to be the worst
thing that happened to Donald Trump today and those words are. No comment.
It`s all about who said them, that`s next.
O`DONNELL: Well, it took less than a week for the Bolton book to get its
first headline on Tuesday of last week at this hour the big news of the
night was John Bolton`s departure that day from the Trump administration
with John Bolton saying he quit down and Donald Trump saying he was fired.
The first thing that occurred to me about John Bolton`s Southern free
agency was just how much damage John Bolton`s next book could do to Donald
Trump in the Trump re-election campaign if it were to come out say about a
year from now in the thick of the Presidential campaign.
And then today, comes the first headline about the Bolton book in the Daily
Beast. John Bolton already talking with book agents. He has a lot to dish
and there`s the sub-headline of, He penned one after leaving the Bush
administration. Now the President`s former top national security aide is
exploring another book.
Not just another book. A book that could be the best selling political book
of all time. A book that could make so many millions of dollars for John
Bolton, that he doesn`t have to go back to being a Fox news commentator
where he presumably wouldn`t be welcome anyway if he tells the whole truth
about Donald Trump in a book.
One of the Daily Beast`s unnamed sources seem to be promising exactly that
when he said he has a lot to dish. When he was reached for comment by the
Daily Beast today, John Bolton said the most threatening thing that a
political professional could say under these circumstances. “No comment.”
He did not say your source was wrong, I do not have a lot to dish. He did
not say, I am not writing a book. And last week John Bolton promised I will
have my say in due course. Those were his exact words and at that time, I
said the book publishers will want John Bolton to remain absolutely silent
until his book comes out to build suspense and sales of the book.
And so those two words, no comment might turn out to be the worst thing
that happened to Donald Trump today. When come back after this break Donald
Trump is facing a new subpoena tonight for his tax returns. This one is
from a local grand jury in Manhattan where Donald Trump`s companies are
already complying with subpoenas and where Donald Trump`s Attorney General
William Barr cannot help him escape the reach of the subpoenas.
O`DONNELL: NBC news has confirmed that the Manhattan district attorney`s
office has issued a subpoena to Donald Trump`s accounting firm demanding
eight years of the presence personal tax returns and business tax returns
of the Trump organization. The subpoena stems from the criminal
investigation into the hush money payments made to two women alleging
affairs with Donald Trump before the 2016 election.
The Wall Street journal reports that “The probe is examining whether a
payment to former adult film star Stormy Daniels and the way the Trump
organization recorded the reimbursement of that payment violated a state
law that bars falsifying business records.”
Joining our discussion now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the
Northern district of Alabama and MSNBC legal analyst and Joyce, I am so
eager to talk to you about this here, who we have to hear from here. What
do you make of these new subpoenas being reported today?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY & MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s an
interesting development especially because we know that the Manhattan DA
apparently opened his investigation shortly after the Southern District of
New York federal prosecutors closed their investigation into campaign
finance violations and irregularities with the Trump organization.
So looking at those two back to back and now this subpoena, Lawrence, it`s
very interesting to see it happening.
O`DONNELL: The New York Times reports this about filing false business
records in New York. It says, “Filing false business records can be a crime
but it becomes a felony only if prosecutors can prove that the false filing
was made to commit or conceal another crime such as tax violations or bank
So the other crime here could for example be a tax evasion crime if they
deducted the Trump business deducted the so called Michael Cohen legal fees
as a business deductions because they in fact as Michael Cohen says it were
not legal fees.
VANCE: I think that that`s right. I think that you know, if you`re
prosecuting this case, you`re not going into it with the conclusion about
what you`ll be charging but I don`t think the Manhattan DA is looking here
to get a misdemeanor. Certainly they`re looking for a felony which means
proving that false business records were filed and that filing was made in
order to conceal another crime.
Tax fraud looks very likely here and with this news of the subpoenas, I
think we have to do at least for the moment it seemed that that`s one of
the theories that they`re pursuing.
O`DONNELL: Now, this is New York state tax law and New York City, there`s a
New York City - there are New York City taxes that could also have been
underpaid because of this so in federal tax evasion cases, this is not that
but they tend to be guided by the same principles. Who`s liable? If Donald
Trump signs - when he signs his personal tax return, he takes on all the
legal liability for whatever is in it.
But what about the preparers of those tax returns or other people involved
who might know that the so called legal fees to Michael Cohen were not
legal fees? Is just knowledge of something being false in the tax return,
does that create a liability for someone?
VANCE: So I think the answer as you know, is going to be it depends. In a
typical situation if your tax preparer makes a mistake based on accurate
information that you`ve provided to him or her then you`re probably not
going to be on the hook for that professional`s error but in a situation
where someone say here someone involved in the Trump organization provided
allegedly, we don`t know that this is true but for the sake of argument
provided false information to a tax preparer.
Then the criminal liability I think would it be attributable, if that whole
chain could be proven to the person who provided the bad information but
particularly here the government has to be able to prove that the intent is
to conceal another crime, another felony.
O`DONNELL: What can President Trump do to fight this subpoena?
VANCE: You know, this is a much more difficult than having the Attorney
General willing to quash or having witnesses for instance like witnesses
who were supposed to testify tomorrow in Congress who are already in the
Here we`ve got a state, a local DA in Manhattan using his own grand jury,
not using federal grand jury and so the best the President can do here is
that his attorneys could file a motion to quash the subpoenas, that would
be litigated but typically you know we worry about litigation taking a long
When it`s litigation involving a witness appearing in front of the grand
jury or documents being turned over to a grand jury, those sorts of
questions tend to be resolved relatively quickly by judges that are
supervising grand juries so that that work can move forward.
I think that we`ll get quick turn around here and the President is missing
some of the special benefits that he`s had in the federal system or at
least that he`s appeared to have had.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, thank you very much for your expertise on this one
tonight. Really appreciate it.
VANCE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, tonight`s episode of Meet the Freshman.
You will meet Freshman Democratic Congressman who is a former CIA officer
who now says that the Trump administration has been building a case to go
to war with Iran without the approval of Congress.
O`DONNELL: Today nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers union
went on strike at General Motors factories across the country. United Auto
workers union and General Motors failed to reach agreement on key issues
like wages, health care, job security and profit sharing.
On Sunday, GM made public what it had last offered at the bargaining table
including $7 billion of new U.S. factory investments and a proposal for
idled plants in Michigan and Ohio. In a letter to General Motors the United
Auto Workers Vice President Terry Dittes wrote, “We are disappointed that
the company waited until just two hours before the contract expired to make
what we regard as its first serious offer. Had we receive this proposal
earlier in the process, it may have been possible to reach a tentative
agreement and avoid a strike.”
The last General Motors strike occurred during contract negotiations in
2007. The strike lasted three days and cost General Motors $600 million.
Today a spokesperson for the United Auto Workers told NPR that only 2
percent of the contract terms have actually been agreed upon. “When you
have 98 percent of the agreement to go, it`s going to take a while.” Today
the President refused to say whether he supports the auto workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you stand with the Auto Workers in the strike against GM?
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have a great
relationship with the Auto Workers. I get tremendous numbers of votes from
the Auto Workers. I don`t want General Motors to be building plants outside
of this country as you know they built many plants in China and Mexico and
I don`t like that at all. My relationship has been very powerful with the
auto workers, not necessarily the top person or two but the people that
work doing automobiles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Doing automobiles. In tonight`s episode of Meet the Freshman,
you will meet freshman Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin who has two
General Motors auto plants in her congressional district in Michigan. She
is also a member of the Homeland Security Committee and a former CIA
We`ll get her take on the drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities and find
out if she supports the Auto Workers who are now on strike in her
congressional district. That`ll all happen next after this final commercial
O`DONNELL: Here is James Cotton, one of the striking auto workers in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COTTON, GM WORKER ON STRIKE: We just want what`s fair to us. Few
years back we gave up a lot t keep this house open and all the house–
And now that they`re making more money than they ever have, we feel like we
should get some of that stuff back like cost of living and things of that
And the company doesn`t want to do that. You know fair day`s pays goes with
a fair day`s work. And we just want to recoup some of the stuff that we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is freshman Democrat Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin
from Michigan. She is a member of the Armed Services Committee and the
Homeland Security Committee. She was the Acting Assistant Secretary of
defense for International Security Affairs under President Obama and is a
former CIA Middle East analyst.
Perfect night to have you here. Let`s start with the Auto Workers. Do you
support the Auto Workers?
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I mean of course. I mean, I`m from Michigan so-
O`DONNELL: Wait. Didn`t you see what President Trump said about - he said a
lot of words but he never said yes, of course.
SLOTKIN: Well, I mean, I think it–
O`DONNELL: Don`t you want to be more careful in your answer?
SLOTKIN: No, it`s just - it`s not a hard one for me. I have two GM plants
in my districts. We have a huge number of auto workers in my district and
you know the UAW built itself up in my state. We were the most unionized
state in the country for a long time. So we`re used to standing with labor
and we stand with them now.
And I just - I urgently hope all sides are going to get back to the table
tomorrow morning and work this out.
O`DONNELL: I mean these things can be solved quickly but in a business as
giant as GM, there are massive losses for basically every hour of a strike
SLOTKIN: For everybody. I mean, the workers are losing money too, right?
They`re living on $250 a week now as we - as they strike. So everyone
suffers. No one wants this to go on but there is a point where you know,
folks have to push for what they believe in and that`s what they`re doing
right now so.
O`DONNELL: What would you say to General Motors if you got a chance - if
you could tell them what they - what they should be considering when they
think about the Union`s position?
SLOTKIN: I just think it`s important that we all remember the ark of the
story and the ark of the story is when GM went through - was really
suffering, the workers took it and absorbed some of the pain in order to
keep GM`s doors open, in order to keep that kind that company solvent.
So now that they`re doing better and we`re thrilled that they`re doing
better, we want them to do better. You know it`s time that they give their
workers what they deserve so I think it`s just putting it into context, I
think it`s - that`s important.
O`DONNELL: And the company was a big beneficiary of the Obama
administration`s intervention which they paid back. It`s not - it`s not
like they took something from the government but they did have a support
system from the government when they needed it. Let`s turn to what`s going
on the drone strike in Saudi Arabia.
You`re an expert on the region. Former CIA analyst, what do you see there?
What do you see in the administration`s reaction to it?
SLOTKIN: Well, I mean I think you`ve had guest on who have talked about it
in similar ways but I just think it`s a strong step by the Iranians and you
know they`re going to deny it but you know we need to do a full analysis of
what actually happened but more than just a tactical moment, I think we
have to realize that this is - this is kind of how warfare is going to be
fought in the future.
This is not I think a one off incident. What folks have been able to do
with drones obviously has been really significant over the past couple of
years. So more than just this one strike, I think we`re looking at
something that`s going to be part of our future. The Iranians listen,
they`ve taken an aggressive step.
Obviously an attack on Saudi Arabia oil fields, it`s going to prompt a lot
of questions about a response. I just think we need to be level headed,
take a breath, make sure we understand where these strong came from, who
operated them and why and then taken the next move without kind of just you
know, Yosemite Sam shooting off–
O`DONNELL: How long do you think it will take to get a real assessment of
what has happened?
SLOTKIN: Well, I can just go from my prior life as a CIA officer. If we had
what we thought would be it you know, an Iranian rocket or an Iranian
mortar, we would have a proper weapons team come in, take a look at it, do
the forensics, understand where it was manufactured, compare it to other
examples we have and we do an analysis.
We do it thoroughly and we bring in the right expertise so that`s what I
want the Saudis to be doing. I think they`ve invited the U.N. in to help do
that and I think that that`s a good positive step but there`s no way an
hour or two after an incident like this we should be claiming we know
exactly what happened.
O`DONNELL: The President tweeted, he was locked and loaded just
SLOTKIN: Yes, I just - it`s just not language that`s helpful and you know,
the President goes back and forth–
O`DONNELL: But how does the region see that, that language from the
President? How do they react?
SLOTKIN: I think the problem is if we don`t know here in the United States
kind of where the President is at any given moment, what does the region
think is going on? And I don`t think this President wants war with Iran. I
think he and Bolton came to blows or not blows but came to you know argue
But you can get in an inadvertent war without meaning to and when you use
language like that and you escalate and you risk kind of knee jerk
reactions, you can find yourself in a conflict that you maybe didn`t want
to be in but you`re in it because everyone gets their backs up and they
don`t back down.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, thank you very much–
SLOTKIN: Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: – for joining us tonight`s episode of Meet the Freshman. Great
to have you here. Please come back. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH
HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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