Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: April 9, 2018 Guest: Carol Leonnig, Harry Litman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Which can be used against Mr. Trump. And that means today matters. And not too far down the road could matter big. And that`s HARDBALL today. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man.
HAYES: The FBI raids the President`s closest associate.
TRUMP: And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning. And I think it`s a disgrace.
HAYES: Multiple raids at the office and residence of the President`s long- time attorney Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I`m obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.
HAYES: Tonight, what we know about this explosive development, what it means for the Mueller investigation, and what it means for Donald Trump.
TRUMP: This is a pure and simple witch-hunt.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today, the personal attorney to the President of the United States, one of his closest and longest serving associates was raided by the FBI and the President in response appears to be coming unglued to a degree we have not seen even from him. Agents executed multiple search warrants against Michael Cohen today, confiscating documents from various locations here in Manhattan, according to report, including Cohen`s residence, his law office right here at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, I learned that today. According to The New York Times, which first broke the news of the raids, the FBI seized e-mails, tax documents, and business records. They also took his computer and his phone, according to other reports. The seized records reportedly relate to several different topics, including Cohen`s now infamous payment to Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election. According to Vanity Fair, FBI agents arrived early this morning at the Loews Regency Hotel where Cohen has reportedly been staying during repairs to his own apartment. Around 4:00 p.m. this afternoon a doorman at the hotel told NBC News, "they are still here." And a call to Cohen`s room was answer bade woman claiming to be his wife who hung up when asked if the FBI was in the room. The raid suggest that Cohen, who is already a central figure in the Russia probe is facing yet another criminal inquiry. The Washington Post reporting he is being investigated for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations according to a person familiar with the case. The warrants were executed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, crucially, acting in part on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller who appears to have passed the matter on to them after apparently finding evidence of a crime that lay outside the scope of the Russia probe. According to multiple reports, the records seized by FBI agents today include communications between Cohen and his client, the President of the United States of America. Tonight at the top of a meeting on Syria, the President unprompted weighed in on the raid at length, sounding trapped, aggrieved, and frankly more than a little panicked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man. And it`s a disgraceful situation. It`s a total witch-hunt. I`ve been saying it for a long time. I`ve wanted to keep it down. We`ve given I believe over a million pages worth of documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward and here we are talking about Syria. We`re talking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever and I have this witch-hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now and actually, much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination it started. And it`s a disgrace. It`s frankly a real disgrace. It`s an attack on our country in a true sense. It`s an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did. I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness. This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I`ve ever seen. Democrats all, or just about all, either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that work for President Obama, they`re not looking at the other side. They`re not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They`re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about. The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. Deputy Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, he wrote the letter very critical of Comey. But he signed -- as you know, he also signed the FISA warrant. So Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of this, signed a FISA warrant, and he also, he also signed a letter that was essentially saying to fire James Comey. And he was right about that, he was absolutely right. So we`ll see what happens. I think it`s disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt. Thank you very much
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Carol Leonnig is an Investigative Reporter for Washington Post who broke the story that Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud and other possible crimes and what have you learned today about how we got this point?
CAROL LEONNIG, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: So we`ve been burning up the phones talking to everyone that we know with some knowledge about this search, this raid, this unusual seizure of pretty much everything that Michael Cohen had in his office and in two residences, a hotel, and a home. We have learned a lot. One, that the search warrant that sought these records indicated that prosecutors and investigators are examining Michael Cohen, the President`s personal lawyer and confidante for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations. We know that the search warrant asked specifically for information that had to do with payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film or porn star that was about to during the campaign allege that the President and she had had an affair in a public interview. We understand that the search also sought records that had to do with Michael Cohen`s personal finances, his bank records, his tax information. And there is more. We`re also learning that investigators have been working on this for many, many, many, many weeks. And that while this may look very dramatic and like the start of something, it may actually be the culmination of something much deeper looking at Michael Cohen. I want to add one more thing, which is Michael Cohen`s lawyer, Stephen Ryan told us today that he found this raid inappropriate because it gathered up materials that were attorney-client communications and privileged, and that this was not necessary because Michael Cohen was totally cooperative with investigators and would have shared information with them if requested.
HAYES: Do we know -- the point you just made on the timing seems crucial to me when you say this is something investigators have been looking at for many weeks. I guess the reason that seems crucial to me is a lot of what`s happened publicly with the Stormy Daniels back and forth seems like it`s happened the last few weeks. It sounds like there was stuff in the works prior to that.
LEONNIG: I can`t give you an exact date, Chris, but I`m told that this is something that has been looming for a while. And also, you know, a raid is not -- typically, if we just go on experience, a raid of this kind, three different homes does not happen overnight or over the course of a week. Investigators are gathering information. They have to show some evidence to a judge. And in this case, they have to show some evidence to their own bosses at the Department of Justice to suggest what they find inside these premises will be evidence of a crime. So they had do a lot of homework and a lot of reporting and -- forgive me, a lot of investigating before they got to this point.
HAYES: You know, one crucial aspect here, we watched the President talk about Robert Mueller. This was not a Robert Mueller operation, correct?
LEONNIG: Absolutely correct. The information from Mr. Ryan, again, Michael Cohen`s lawyer, in this case, is that Mueller`s office referred this to the Southern District of New York, you know, the premier U.S. Attorney`s Office in the country and that they are proceeding with this investigation. Mueller`s office follows some pretty strict rules in that if they come across information that is not within their mandate, they go to the Deputy Attorney General and they refer it to the relevant U.S. Attorney and that appears to be what happened here.
HAYES: I should note that that U.S. attorney if I`m not mistaken of the Southern District is a gentleman by the name of Geoffrey Berman who I believe is an appointee of President Trump, correct?
HAYES: So I mean, the President -- I just want to put that in context because we played a lot of that tape of the President talking about Mueller, the constitution of the Mueller office, the Democrats. I mean, that individual you`re seeing right there, a former Rudy Giuliani law partner, someone who donated to the President`s campaign, that is an individual that signed off, his office signed off on this raid, right?
LEONNIG: I would have to think that he would be aware of the raid, yes, as the U.S. Attorney. You know, what`s interesting to me about this is keep in mind the context of the President`s ire and frustration. For more than a year, he has believed that this probe, which you know, Mueller inherited an FBI investigation that was looking at Russian interference. And the president`s view is I`m not involved in any collusion. I didn`t collude with any Russians. Why is my presidency forever under this cloud? Well, now his view is the provenance of this Michael Cohen probe began with Mueller. He believes that this is sort of the fruit of this poisoned tree, so to speak. Of course, I`m butchering that metaphor.
HAYES: Right. No, you`re right. I mean, I will -- I will just interject the President`s stated feeling about this is that he didn`t collude with Russia and feels like he`s innocent. I just have to interject that. Amazing reporting today, Carol, amazing reporting. Really, I just learned a ton from that interview, thank you. Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post.
LEONNIG: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Emily Jean Fox is an MSNBC Contributor, a Senior Reporter of Vanity Fair. She did some incredible reporting today. She broke the story that FBI agents were raiding Cohen`s hotel room. What -- how did Michael Cohen learn of this?
EMILY JEAN FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`m not exactly sure how Michael Cohen learned of this but I learned of this morning from a very early morning phone call from a source saying there are FBI agents at the Regency hotel, which is a hotel on Park Avenue here in Manhattan where Michael Cohen has been staying for some time while there are renovations done to his apartment that is actually very close by to the Regency. So I made my way up to the Regency to see if I could myself spot any FBI agents in which I did not. There were some paparazzi outside there to snap photos of Conor McGregor, the UFC fighter who was in town, but all was quiet and normal. I tried to peek around this as best as I could but Michael Cohen was there. There were FBI agent there for hours, according to the source of mine. I had tried to call Michael Cohen`s cell phone number. I`ve interviewed Michael Cohen a number of times. And it went straight to voicemail and for anyone who knows Michael Cohen who has ever been with him in person or has interviewed him, his phone rings off the hook all the time and in most times he answers it. So the fact that it went straight to voicemail was a sign to me that there was something real happening here.
HAYES: Now, there`s three locations. There`s his home near the Loews Regency in Manhattan.
FOX: Permanent apartment, yes.
HAYES: Permanent apartment and he`s got -- he is in the hotel and then this office at 30 Rock. And they raid them all three at the same time?
FOX: I`m not sure exactly the timeline but it was all today I believe. But I don`t know exactly what order if it was done at the same time. But I know that it began very early morning at the Regency.
HAYES: Is your -- were they -- was he expecting this? I mean, did you think this come as a surprise to Michael Cohen?
FOX: From my reporting, I do not believe that he saw this coming this morning. I have interviewed him again, a number of times and I think his focus recently has been on the Stormy Daniels lawsuit and what`s to come in that. There is a pretty timely deadline and I think that that is where his main focus has been. Every time I`ve talked to him recently, that is where our conversations have gone. They have not gone in this direction.
HAYES: I mean, that`s an important point, right? He`s dealing with a civil suit, you know, a fight over whether something is going to be in arbitration or not. The stakes of that and what that means for one`s personal life trajectory and freedom are quite different than FBI showing up in your office and your home and your hotel room.
FOX: There is the difference between a massive legal headache and a possible jail sentence down the line. So this is something, you know, a lawsuit over an NDA is something that is within the realm of someone Michael Cohen might have dealt with. What happened today is earth- shattering for him and his family and for anyone who knows him.
HAYES: This is a man whose very loyalty to -- who`s loyalty to Donald Trump strike me as sort of his defining feature as a professional adult in the world.
FOX: Sure. He has worked for President for more than a decade. Any time I have ever interviewed him on the record, one of the things that comes through all the time, and he is very careful it comes through is just how loyal he is to the President and to the President`s family. He told me in August that he would take a bullet for the President. So he`s someone who is not only incredibly loyal but who likes to make that point publicly.
HAYES: I don`t know if you know the answer to this, but is he a practicing attorney in any sense other than his relationship to the President and Trump work?
FOX: He has other clients.
HAYES: He does?
FOX: He does have other clients. I can`t tell you who they are, but he does have other clients.
HAYES: So there is some kind of legal practice more broadly than just the fact that he has a law degree and his barred and works for Trump Org and for the President?
FOX: Sure. He has not worked for Trump Organization since he left right after -- right around the inauguration and he has had other clients in the mix since then. And he has until today had an office in this building, a very nice corner office with a Captain America shield on his desk and two bobbleheads of Don Jr. and Eric. And so, he has worked out of there since the inauguration.
HAYES: I wondered if the FBI carted those away in boxes today. Emily Jane Fox, it`s great to have you.
FOX: Thank you.
HAYES: Frank Figliuzzi is a former Assistant FBI Director for Counterintelligence, now an MSNBC Intelligence Analyst, Harry Litman is a former Federal Prosecutor. OK, Carol alluded to this, but I want to just walk through how extraordinary a step it is, and the bars that had to be cleared for the FBI to raid the attorney of the President of the United States.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Yes, so at the risk of stating the obvious, Michael Cohen is in really big trouble tonight. And why is that? It is something that Carol alluded to. You don`t do these raids overnight. You develop probable cause. For an attorney office to be searched, you go to Department of Justice at the highest level and get approval for that because of attorney-client privilege. Then you refer this to the Southern District of New York. Now, let`s talk a little bit about what probable cause means. You`ve got to convince a magistrate not just that Cohen is staying in this hotel, your honor, but rather that there is evidence of a crime there, and that what I`m asking to seize, the laptop, papers, telephones, contains evidence of those crimes. And the magistrate is going to look at you and go how do you know that? How do you know it`s not his kid`s computer? And you`re going to have to explain that to him. So that means, there has been an investigation for weeks here at least.
HAYES: You also got to imagine, the magistrate judge evaluating a search warrant to raid the home, hotel, and offices of an associate of the President is going to scrutinize that pretty hard.
FIGLIUZZI: It will be flyspecked to death. And that`s why I`m saying, this takes time to develop and it smacks of physical surveillance. Your honor, we saw him carrying the very computer we`re talking about into the hotel ten times this month. You know, it`s in this room number. It contains evidence of this very specific probable cause.
HAYES: Harry, you worked for the Department of Justice, and I got to imagine this is something that -- this is -- this is going -- there a bunch of people in the Department of Justice who would have to I think sign off on something like that -- like this?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. This is seismic. It doesn`t have to be a bunch. It could be the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General or the Head of the Criminal Division. That is way, way up there and they don`t do it often because of the very principles and policies that Frank mentioned. A couple things to add here. You may not do this as an end-around to try to get information about clients so they have -- what they had to show the magistrate is there`s probable cause to believe almost certainly Cohen himself was -- is the person who is guilty of a crime. They also had to have concluded and shown the magistrate that they couldn`t have gotten the information through a subpoena.
LITMAN: Which is what Cohen`s lawyer and your up top was saying why didn`t they just do that. And that what that means is they basically had concluded and they needed some concrete reason to do so, that as with Manafort, as you may remember, Cohen wasn`t likely to be cooperative. They needed to come in with the huge show of federal force, a double-team by the way. Every single one of those three raids had two teams, a tape team that was there to make sure that none of -- nobody in the normal investigation would by chance see privileged material. This is a huge coordinated operation.
HAYES: Yes, just to explain that. My understanding is they call it a clean and dirty team in these cases where -- because it does happen sometimes that you`re getting privileged information from a lawyer`s office. And you got to essentially keep a firewall between the two, right? Is that how it works?
LITMAN: That`s exactly how it works and it`s very hard in practice. There have been prosecutions, the Oliver North one that was thrown out for that reason. Judges take it very, very seriously. And therefore so does the department. If a lawyer happens to see something privileged, he may have to be disqualified from the entire investigation. So, yes, as of now, there is this huge process that`s being put into place. And only when things have been cleansed and given the approval, the seal of approval --
LITMAN: -- of a whole different bunch will the team even be able to look at it.
HAYES: So there`s this team that`s going to go through these documents and say privileged communication, privileged communication, him writing to his client, him writing to his client, that`s in column A, and column B is relevant to the investigation, relevant to the matter as the search warrant, then that gets turned over someone internal to the FBI and DOJ to look at? Frank?
FIGLIUZZI: That`s absolutely correct. And there will be supervisory review of those decisions before anything is finalized that this is pertinent, this isn`t. This is something that privileged, this is not.
HAYES: Am I wrong as a layperson to look at this and think my God, what must they have that they would take the series of steps that they have taken today?
FIGLIUZZI: They`ve got probable cause to convince a magistrate and high- ranking DOJ officials that crimes have occurred and that Cohen is behind it.
HAYES: I want to read this from NBC about this sort of high legal standard at issue here. A person familiar of the matter told NBC News this is not a subpoena requesting documents from Cohen, Harry has alluded to, instead it was a court authorized search which means there`s a sufficient probable cause for a federal judge to agree a search involving the President`s personal attorney could occur without any advance notice to Cohen. So there`s two bars clearing here, right? You`re not just subpoenaing and you`re not just going at a lawyer, you are raiding a lawyer.
FIGLIUZZI: Right, because you have -- you have reason to believe that he might destroy evidence if he gets tipped off. And there`s lots of leakage, right? So you`ve got to do this in the morning. You`ve got to do it so he doesn`t know about.
HAYES: Now, Harry, I want to talk about the kind of chain of custody which I find fascinating of this of this out of the Mueller investigation into SDNY, right? So Mueller is turning over a bunch of rocks. I`m reconstructing this but this is what it appears. Mueller is turning over a bunch of rocks and he says, that doesn`t look very good, not about Russia, not in the purview, and passes it along. I mean, is that how it works?
LITMAN: Yes, that`s how it works. You might remember, this is how Ken Starr got a hold of the whole Clinton impeachment. He went to Janet Reno and said we have this new thing involving Monica Lewinsky and she assigned it to him. Mueller would have taken this --I don`t think it`s new. I think the main thing that he brought, by the way, is the possible election law violation, which we can get to. But he brings to it Rosenstein, Rosenstein makes a decision, Rosenstein decides to refer to it the Southern District. And by the way, this wouldn`t have been the reason, but notice, all this worry about Mueller`s being fired if Mueller gets canned, it doesn`t affect this Southern District of New York investigation. Cohen`s in for the long ride.
HAYES: This is what is so remarkable to me because if you pay attention to Trump T.V., which we know the President, for instance, White House officials has said President Trump has been watching T.V. reports of the FBI raiding the office of Michael Cohen, his long-time lawyer, and confidante. So we know the President, of course, sitting there watching cable news as we are led to believe he does quite often, stewing, that on Trump T.V. and in this sort of pro-Trump media, you know, this is all a witch-hunt. It`s all cooked up by Mueller, this is -- this guy is a Giuliani law partner, former Giuliani law partner, max donor whose office just did this remarkable thing which makes you think that you know, whatever case you want to make against Mueller, it`s a little hard to taint them with this.
FIGLIUZZI: So we heard the President today say this --
LITMAN: I agree but I want to make one point about it --
HAYES: Yes, go ahead.
LITMAN: Sorry, Frank. May I?
HAYES: Yes, go ahead.
LITMAN: Which is -- which is this, you know, two years ago, we would never have thought about this. It happened all the time. U.S. Attorneys investigate people of their own party. People have faith in that. It`s the fact that Trump is railing away at counting as if it`s significant the number of Democrats on Mueller`s team --
HAYES: It`s a great point.
LITMAN: -- that this whole inference can be raised. Any professional U.S. Attorney will, of course, investigate people of his own party.
FIGLIUZZI: You know, the President today said --
LITMAN: Sorry, Frank. Go ahead.
FIGLIUZZI: -- that this is an attack on all that we stand for, right? So let`s brake that down. What do we stand for? We stand for rule of law. Search warrants, magistrates, prosecutors, the department of justice, U.S. Attorneys, they`re our system that we stand for and somehow he`s viewing this as a disgrace and an attack on our system. He`s got it wrong.
HAYES: In some ways I mean, it`s -- what I find amazing about it is it`s a remarkable demonstration of the efficacy of the rule of law. If the President`s personal lawyer can get raided by the FBI --
FIGLIUZZI: That`s a country you want to live in, right?
LITMAN: That`s right.
FIGLIUZZI: Where the rule of law, it doesn`t matter who is the president or whether it`s the Mayor`s kid being pulled over by the cop in town because law is going to rule the day.
HAYES: And that`s -- I mean, in some ways, I have to say that it is often in my career as a reporter, it`s often the absence of that that I marvel at that. I mean, it`s often the fact that very powerful people find ways out. And in some ways, as I look at this, I think to myself, everything that is being done here is being done in a truly sort of historic fashion.
FIGLIUZZI: It`s unprecedented.
HAYES: Harry --
LITMAN: (INAUDIBLE) Trump is saying. Yes, go ahead.
HAYES: Yes, that`s exactly right. I mean, his attack today --
LITMAN: This is an attack on the country. Well, you know, amazing.
HAYES: Do you think -- you reference something that I want to come back to. There is this real question, right? We know from Carol Leonnig`s reporting to the extent that is correct that campaign finance violations are part of what is being investigated. Given, I have reported on campaign finance violations in the past. Usually, you get a slap on the wrist and a fine about nine years later. So the idea of this kind of raid over that seems a bit of a mismatch in terms of what they`re looking at and what the supposed infraction is. What do you think?
LITMAN: Well, not really. Yes, historically the FEC has not been very vigorous in its enforcement. But what they`re looking at here is the thing they did unsuccessfully with John Edwards. But it`s possible to conspire in a way that violates federal law to break campaign finance laws. And here, if in fact, Cohen was looking to insulate Trump from an electoral problem and maybe was working with other people, that states a crime. That said, it`s a little bit aggressive because the one time they tried to do it against John Edwards, they did wind up with egg on their face. But not because of the theory, it was more about the facts. With Edwards, it was - - it had long since passed. Here we`re two weeks before the election. The U.S., if they choose to go that way, will have an easier time.
HAYES: Yes, the reference there to John Edwards being prosecuted by U.S. attorneys for campaign finance violation for a payment to a mistress to cover that up as essentially an improper and unrecorded donation to the campaign. Harry is saying the theory of that case was fine, the facts were what led to his acquittal. A lot of people think that case was a dog on both the facts and the theory, not to dispute Harry`s legal acumen but there are -- there are critics of both.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, so look, this is not just about an election violation. I`m telling you right now. There`s more to it than that and it there is reporting tonight, it`s early yet, but there`s still -- there is reporting that this involved Stormy Daniels and communications related to that, that`s where this is probably headed.
HAYES: All right, Frank Figliuzzi and Harry Littman, that was really illuminating on all accounts. Thank you both for taking some time with us tonight. Lawmakers in Capitol Hill already responding to the FBI raid and the President`s response. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement with a clear warning at the President, do not use this raid to fire Special Counsel Mueller or anyone to interfere with the chain of command with the Russia probe. That came after President Trump said this about Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.
Why don`t I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fire the guy.
TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on. We`ll see what happens. But I think it`s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, MSNBC Legal Analyst and former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman. And I thought of Nixon a lot as I watched that tonight. A lot of parallels to the sort of line winter cornered Nixon.
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you certainly have a cornered Trump. I mean, this evidence that they`re going to come up with in these - - in these search warrants could be absolutely devastating. You`ve got communications between Cohen and Trump, you`ve got documents relating to their effort to try and build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign, you`ve got who knows what other women Michael Cohen was out there trying to make deals with.
HAYES: But here`s my question about that. What is the -- what are the rules here for -- what of that gets sorted? Right? The idea of like, to me the thing the search warrant was executed about cannot possibly be about Moscow, Trump Tower because Mueller would have kept it, right?
AKERMAN: No, not at all. The search warrant is to be executed in the Southern District of New York. It has to be brought to the court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District of New York. That`s why they call it the Sovereign District of New York. They guard their territory very jealously.
AKERMAN: Yes. So the idea that this somehow doesn`t relate to the Russian probe is --
HAYES: That`s interesting.
AKERMAN: -- I don`t know where they`re getting that from.
HAYES: So you think that`s a mistake in apprehension that people have come to that that it necessarily must be outside of the purview of what Mueller is looking in?
AKERMAN: Oh, I think it`s a big mistake. I think they`re looking at things much broader than Stormy Daniels. I mean, they-- Cohen would like to make you believe that this is just about minor stuff like a little campaign contribution or Stormy Daniels. I think this is going for the whole enchilada. We`re talking Russia, we`re talking all of the involvement in the Trump Organization into Russia. You have to understand, the only thing that`s immune here is legal advice. Anything that Cohen did in his capacity as a business adviser or as a political adviser is not covered by the attorney-client privilege. I would think most of what Cohen does has nothing to do with the attorney-client privilege.
HAYES: Well, and there`s been this sort of studied ambiguity on his part about his roles. I mean --
HAYES: Which may come up to bite him because he`s been saying things like well, I just paid for Stormy Daniels because -- as a buddy, as a friend, as a loyal admirer of the President.
AKERMAN: And none of that is going to be covered by the attorney-client privilege.
HAYES: So, let me ask you this. This is Robert Costa talking about the mood at the White House. I mean, you saw that statement by the President.
HAYES: A scene now at 1500, Ty Cobb spotted, a big dinner with military leaders starts in a few minutes. The President has been grousing about the Cohen raid and keeping a close eye on T.V., (INAUDIBLE) widely seen inside his necessary event in session. No one is ruling out late tweets. We`re sort of cracking up. You know, the President sort of vented his spleen at all three, Mueller, Rosenstein, and Sessions. You know, what does that mean to you in terms of this sort of Saturday night massacre possibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I mean it`s certainly a possibility, I think if Trump had his druthers he would fire all three of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he feels constrained because he knows what happened when he fired Comey, and the fire storm that ensued. He also knows that many of these crimes can also be brought by the state attorney general of New York.
ACKERMAN: And there`s also - there`s also the lesson that I have learned from Watergate, from sort of looking back into it, which is investigators and the evidence they`ve accumulated doesn`t go away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all.
ACKERMAN: If you get rid of Robert Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The invest in him (ph), the evidence is still going to be there, I mean the Saturday night massacre, we all assumed that when Cox was going to be fired that we would preserve the evidence, I walked out with papers underneath my clothing.
ACKERMAN: Did you really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we all did. Today you could just use thumb drive, it`d be a lot easier to do this.
ACKERMAN: But you were one of those people that went down to that head quarters, racing against the possibility the President`s sending his, sort of, preferred henchmen and took documents out of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly, because the evidence is the most important thing. If there`s one thing we wanted to preserve it was the evidence. And of course with Mueller`s team it`s much easier doing the digital age, you can simply take a couple thumb drives, put them in a shoe and walk out.
ACKERMAN: He could - he could of, am I correct, that the way this sort of chain of succession works here is, he could get - he could have fired Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, and replace him with an acting who then got back control of the investigation from the recused sessions without having to fire Rosenstein or Mueller and would plausible give him a more direct line into it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could do that, or he could fire Rosenstein and then he could ask that the next person in line, who would be the solicitor general, fire Mueller. I mean he could do that, that`s exactly what.
ACKERMAN: That`s precisely what it makes it. Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Nick Ackerman, thanks for being with me tonight.
ACKERMAN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still to come just how much does Michael Cohen know? More on the breaking news the FBI has raided the home and office of the Presidents personal attorney. An astonishing turn of events, we`ll have more next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today`s FBI raids on the office, home, and hotel room of Trump`s personal attorney Michael Cohen, were related to an investigation, as we just noted, referred by special counsel Robert Mueller. But this is not the first time Mueller has reportedly found something of interest involving one, Michael Cohen.
Just last month the Washington Post reported Mueller requested documents and interviewed witnesses about negotiation`s Cohen undertook during the campaign to help the Trump organization build a tower in Moscow. As well as a Russia friendly peace proposal for Ukraine that was delivered to Cohen by a Ukrainian law maker one week after Trump took office.
With me now Andrea Bernstein, co-host of the podcast Trump, Inc., and David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author of "It`s Even Worse Than You Think: What The Trump Administration Is Doing To America."
Talk a little bit about, Andrea, about Michael Cohen and his role in Trump Org (ph) in Trump World.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN: So he was not - he describes himself as the president`s personal attorney, but he was not a litigator. He did deals for, well, then-businessman Donald Trump.
So, for example, he did a number of licensing deals in the former Soviet Union. As we famously know, he was prospecting a Trump Tower in Moscow before that deal fell through.
And, as we`ve come to learn, he was keeping people quiet. Most people first heard of Michael Cohen when we learned of the dossier, which he denies up and down.
But what the dossier said sounds like what we`re learning about Michael Cohen, which is that he went to keep something quiet that happened during the Trump Campaign.
Now, I want to emphasize again, he has sued several people. He said that didn`t happen, he was never in Prague. But from what`s in the public record, we know that`s what he was - we know what he was doing was making sure that people didn`t tell tales about his boss, Donald Trump.
HAYES: Yes, Michael Cohen is alleged, in the dossier, to have gone to Prague to do what?
BERNSTEIN: To clean up the mess that Paul Manafort had left, and to make sure that no one talked about it. And that was alleged to have happened sometime in August of 2016.
Again, he denies (inaudible) .
HAYES: He denies that (ph) he`s posted his passport, he says I was never in Prague, the whole thing. He sued BuzzFeed over publishing the dossier.
But, David, you get the - this is a classic sort of fixer, right? This is the role that he has had, and when you think about someone`s fixer, and then the thought of the FBI getting a hold of the fixer`s files, that would seem to me to be utterly chilling and terrifying for the person for whom he was fixing.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Oh, absolutely, for both of them. And as your other guests have pointed out, they didn`t get these search warrants without a compelling case that there was a crime, and that they needed to preserve evidence, and very careful, diligent work.
But from Donald`s perspective, remember now, he has beaten, in the past, four Grand Jury investigations into himself when he was young.
He compromised the New Jersey casino regulators repeatedly as a casino owner in Atlantic City and got them to either look the other way, or ignore evidence of wrongdoing that should have cost him his license.
When he got caught in sales tax fraud, he went to the authorities and ratted out other people to protect himself. He had two income tax fraud trials that he lost, which hardly anybody know about.
And his history has always been that he could use his political connections and pressure to shut things down. With Robert Mueller`s team, and now his own appointee in Manhattan, he`s discovering that he isn`t able to do that.
HAYES: Yes, you`ve got to be imagining, Andrea, that a lot of the Trump Org`s (ph) business, and a lot of the president`s business, are now in the hands of the FBI.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it certainly looks like that. And, you know, what we - the last time I was here, we were talking about the subpoenas into the Trump Organization. This is something that has (ph) clearly caught the attention of the special prosecutor.
Were there crimes committed? Was there something in the relationship with Russia, something about the way the money worked that was illegal?
And these were the deals that Michael Cohen was working on, so it does seem an extraordinary move. I mean, we`ve seen Mueller be very aggressive.
He executed a search warrant on Paul Manafort, and then indicted him a few months later. He`s still doing - he`s still looking for records with Paul Manafort and others.
So we know that his is exceedingly aggressive, and just from court documents that have been filed, we know he is watching very, very closely that - at one point, he released the track changes (ph) that Paul Manafort had made to an op-ed (ph) in Ukrainian newspaper.
So he has a very high level of detail with the people that he`s watching, and that apparently now includes the president`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
HAYES: You know, David, I thought of this story, and I want to get Andrea`s response to it as well.
You know, I remember this McClatchy story that was just talking about some of Michael Cohen`s real estate dealings. And this - I remember reading this and thinking to myself at the time, "Well, that looks a little odd."
In 2014, a mysterious buyer, using a limited liability company that hid the purchaser`s identity, paid 10 million in (ph) cash for a small apartment building on New York`s Lower East Side Cohen had purchased just three years before for 2 million.
Now, the New York real estate market is quite intense, but that`s quite a turnaround, and 10 million, all cash, an (ph) LLC. And there a bunch of real estate transactions Michael Cohen has made that - you know, they`re not necessarily anything wrong with them, but they have detail that would make one scratch one`s head a little.
JOHNSTON: Well, and we know that Donald has a long history of doing business with Russians in deals that are, to minimalist about it, squirrely, and seem to be money laundering.
And there are a whole variety of crimes that could be an issue here. You know, we talked about the Federal Election Commission. There`s a potential income tax fraud issue or gift tax fraud issue in the Stormy Daniel`s matter.
There`s wire fraud, we know that the bank which is cooperating that did the wire transfer for the Stormy Daniel`s pay off, flagged it, and presumably they flagged other transactions in all this notice one thing however, none of the search warrents applied to the Trump organization where Cohen worked in the office and had a Trump business card.
They applied it Cohen and his property, his places, that he would have had papers and books not to the Trump organization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Andrea, you guys did amazing reporting on Manafort`s real estate transactions. And I remember reading your work and just thinking to myself, well that looks like a prima facia case based on public records that he was up to money laundering with his real estate transactions. But then was like, "well I don`t know." And then low and behold a year later what shows up in the Mueller indictment.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR FOR WNYC NEWS: Now Robert Gates has actually pleaded guilty to that. So, but I mean I think one of the things that is incredibly interesting about the Cohen real estate transactions, is that he has, per his own account, he came to the attention of Donald Trump by buying apartments in his building and his family bought apartments in his buildings. And one of the thing`s we`re trying to figure out now on our Trumping podcast and our open investigation is, how he did that. How he came into a position to buy all that real estate and we are trying to figure that out because it is a job application thing that you put on your application. Manafort did it, Cohen, did it, Trump likes it when people buy apartments in his buildings and move in to his properties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Cohen comes to the attention of Donald Trump, if I`m not mistaken, for being a kind of bulk buyer. Sort of a collector buyer.
BERNSTEIN: Right, he and his family bought five apartments in Trump buildings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he`s not making a ton of money at that time.
BERNSTEIN: No, he had been prior to that. He`d been a not very big time lawyer. He worked in the tax industry, he worked in the personal injury industry, and then he bought a lot of apartments on 845 UN Plaza and in other Trump properties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We might learn more about that. Andrea Bernstein and David Cay-Johnston, thanks for joining us. Coming up in the wake of today`s big news, of the FBI raid on this personal attorney`s office, the President was on camera openly mulling the fate of the special counsel and also at the same meeting military (options) in Syria, Senator Jeff Merkley on all that ahead.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Here we are talking about Syria. We`re talking about a lot of serious things with greatest fighting force ever. And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. And we`re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attak that was made near Damascus. And it will be met, and it will be met forcefully and when I will not say because I don`t like talking about timing. So, we`re going to make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter and you`ll be hearing the decision.
CHRISTOPHER HAYS, MSNBC: President Trump is poised to respond to the suspected chemical attack in Syria, on a day when he is rattled, to say the least, by the FBI raid on his personal attorney. And he making this crucial decision with a brand new national security advisor, that man you see there, John Bolton at his side. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is a member of the senate foreign relations committee, he joins me now. Are you confident the President is talking to the right people, has the right judgment and is in the right frame of mind to make these kinds of decisions right now?
SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY: Chris that would be none of the above. I`m not confident that this President is getting a thorough counsel from the right sources. Certainly he is - he is conveying that he`s preparing an assault on Syria, but of what extent and at what risk for the possible impact upon Russian troops who are actually detonating chemical weapon depots. But also recognize that a year ago when the President responded and bombed a runway on April 7th, so almost exactly a year ago, it had little military effect. The situation here is that Russian is the force that has the leverage in Syria. All roads lead back to Russia.
HAYS: And so what does that mean?
MERKLEY: Well, what the means is that we not have Russia, which worked with the Obama administration to eliminate a thousand metric tons of VX gas and sarin gas, but clearly didn`t complete the job. We have Russia that has provided the critical support to keep Bashar Al Assad in power, but hasn`t used that leverage to stop these chemical attacks. This is not the first chemical attack since a year ago. There`s been a number of chemical attacks recorded and confirmed. It`s Russia that used chemical agents in U.K. just recently to assassinate or - not they didn`t succeed in killing, but to attempt to kill a Russian national and his daughter. It`s Russia that`s been vetoing the U.N. action related to Assad`s use of chemical weapons. It means international action, forceful international action to completely isolate Russia in regard to this issue.
HAYS: And do you see those steps being taken?
MERKLEY: Absolutely not, the President has not been a watch dog on Russia. He has found every excuse to be as soft as possible in every possible circumstance. It took enormous congressional pressure just to get him to enact some of the sanctions that congress approved by a ratio of 500 to 5, if you combine the two houses of Congress. When do you get anything done on 100 to one ratio with democrats and republicans working together. But the President absolutely refused for a period of time to implement any of it and has - still hasn`t done so forcefully.
HAYS: Are you, you know there`s this wag the dog expression, right? That the idea of Presidents using foreign military intervention as essentially a distraction from domestic political troubles. Do you have concerns about that given the news today about the Presidents own personal attorney, close associate, and confidant being raided by the FBI.
MERKLEY: Yes. I have a lot of concern. The President is assembling a war cabinet with John Bolton and his effort to Michael Pompeo to be secretary of state. They share views that are very aggressive seeing military force as a response to anything going on in the world. They propose military force in so many situations that it was certainly not the right answer. And so then you add in his personal concern about the information that continues to be compiled by the special prosecutor about the extent of his teams involvement and contact with Russia during the election and also potentially his personal business enterprises that intermingle with Russian funds.
So the president`s, I think, feeling tremendous personal pressure, tremendous political pressure, and he would like to distract from that.
So this is a terrible moment to have this particular man making key decisions, not just about a - if you will, bombing a runway, but possibly a much more aggressive campaign in Syria.
HAYES: Should there be congressional authorization?
MERKLEY: So the Constitution gives war-making powers to the Article I branch of government, that`s Congress, and we have not enforced that strictly.
In fact, we had a debate just three weeks ago about this in regards to the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a war on the Houthi and Yemen.
And I joined many others - not the majority, but well into the 40s, if you will, out of the 100 senators who said we should have that debate on the floor of the Senate, and that they (ph) were very concerned that the president has exceeded our - our Constitutional powers there.
Here, again, it raises similar issues. If something is a single-strike, it`s generally seen in a different category than if it`s a campaign. A campaign, then, means you`re at war. That certainly invokes a requirement to have come to Congress.
Now the president could have come to Congress and asked for authorization to respond to Syria`s use of chemical weapons throughout this entire last year, but has failed to do so.
And I think anything beyond just a very limited strike, I think you`ll see strong and powerful calls for Congress to say that this is - is breaking the Constitutional boundary.
HAYES: All right. Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you.
MERKLEY: You`re welcome. Thanks.
HAYES: Here to help make sense of tonight`s extraordinary presidential meltdown, Natasha Bertrand follows (ph) the Russian investigation closely for the Atlantic, Democratic strategist, former Apprentice contestant Tara Dowdell, and MSNBC contributor Sam Seder, host of The Majority Report with Sam Seeder.
And I`ll start here today. The president - we played about two minutes of what was, I think, a seven, eight minute rant - rant by the president. And I just thought, "Wow. I don`t - I haven`t quite seen this level of pinned, caged, cornered, panicked," - you`re nodding your head, Sam.
SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT WITH SAM SEDER: Yes. I mean, he was almost, like, regurgitating a day`s worth of Fox news talking points, and there was no real cohesion to it.
I mean, he started off by saying that the FBI broke into the hotel rooms, the house, the office .
HAYES: That`s (ph) the phrase he used, is the FBI "broke into".
SEDER: . broke into. That`s not what the FBI did. They had a warrant, and they went in with a court order. He seems a little bit panicked, and frankly I share the Senator`s concern about him being in a position to decide right now that he may launch military strikes against Syria.
I mean, frankly, I would always be concerned with that, but .
HAYES: Right. I mean - right, yes. That`s sort of - yes. That (ph) he`s (ph) the president .
SEDER: . yes. But he has another agenda too, today.
HAYES: Your reaction to today?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think this is a very dangerous moment. I am deeply concerned. Because we look for, in moments like this, cooler head to prevail, but the cooler head around him is a hothead, and that`s John Bolton. Right?
So President Trump, Donald Trump - he is notorious for lashing out, and he is notorious for only caring about himself at a moment when we need him to care about the republic.
And I don`t think people have a full grasp of the moment that we`re in and the implications of this moment, given who the man is.
HAYES: I think there`s something else that`d dangerous on the table, and I have long sort of subscribed to the theory, Natasha, and I want to hear your thoughts on it, which is that the president`s posture towards Russia could very quickly tip from this sort of solicitousness - bending over backwards, to something very quickly escalatory.
And that, essentially, he`s been sort of - he`s got this domestic pressure, he looks very guilty in the way that he acts, and he`s also incredibly unpredictable in the moves he makes in extremely fraught situation in Syria, and that essentially to the degree there ever a deal between Trump and Putin, that it falling apart could lead to something very ugly, very quickly.
NATASHA BERTRAND, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: Right. I mean, this is something that we`ve seen throughout history, which is that president`s who are feeling domestic pressure often want to shift the attention to an international conflict.
I mean, that`s not something that I would exactly put past the president at this point, but also, I mean, if there was ever a moment where it would be more catastrophic for the president to try to fire the Special Counsel and then perhaps create a new conflict or escalate the conflict in Syria because he wanted to distract, this would - it would be the worst possible moment to do that right now, because, of course, his personal attorney is in the crosshairs in a way that we have not seen before.
So if he tried to make a move on Mueller, if he tried to do something major in Syria at this moment - which I am not exactly arguing against. I mean the atrocities they we`ve seen there have been horrible, and they deserve some kind of response, but it would be much more under the microscope and much more obvious than they would have been in the past.
HAYES: Everything, I feel like - and this is true about so many things the president does - it`s tainted by his intent. It`s tainted - you know, all sorts of things he does.
Like, you can fire the FBI director, sure. In a general, abstract sense you can do that. But if you say you`re doing it for this corrupt purpose, you can`t do it, right?
DACA, yes. You can rescind DACA. You have the presidential power. You can issue an executive order about vetting procedures, but if you say you`re trying to do it to ban Muslims - and at this point, this is like the crux of it.
It`s all here on the table. The president meeting with his war cabinet, deciding this extremely fraught issue of international relations, against the backdrop of this.
SEDER: Right. Well, and think Tara has a point that`s well taken (ph). The last time that there was an attack on Syria launched by this country, there were people sitting around this table.
We were here that night - who were arguing, well, the generals - I trust the generals to do, to - to come up with a plan afterwards.
HAYES: I remember that conversation.
SEDER: And as ridiculous as I may find that to have been, there`s no more generals. McMaster is now gone.
SEDER: We`re talking about .
HAYES: Mattis is there and Kelly is there.
SEDER: Mattis is there and Kelly is there, and they are - every day we read another story about how they`re being basically, completely stifled by Trump. He`s no longer listening to them. For all we know, Sean Hannity carries more weight in that White House than they do.
And so that - the theoretical constraints on him that were there a year ago - and, like I say, theoretical - are not there, and he is facing much more pressure, whether or not - we don`t know why he`s feeling this pressure.
It could just be he`s got a lot of money laundering issues, or it could be some other issue that has nothing to do with the supposed (ph) Russia investigation.
But he`s feeling pressure (inaudible) .
HAYES: Can you imagine - can you imagine thinking about Michael Cohen`s records in the hands of the FBI right now?
DOWELL: Right. Right. No, I mean, and this is when - and this is when Trump is at his most dangerous. This is when he`s at his most unpredictable, and erratic, is when he`s feeling extreme pressure.
And, look, I agree with Natasha. I don`t argue that we shouldn`t do something in Syria. The issue is more that he is reactionary, is there is not any thinking behind a strategy, it is, "How do I protect me, Donald Trump. How do I change the subject? How I help myself?"
That is the - that is the bigger issue. It`s not that we shouldn`t help - there`s a tremendous humanitarian crisis going on, it`s that .
HAYES: Right (ph). Or - or it`s .
DOWELL: . the judgment of the man who`s choosing - who`s - who makes the decisions.
HAYES: . right. Or - or it`s a reaction to the previous day`s programming on Fox, which is also a totally plausible account for any given day.
I mean, I also think, Natasha, to return to sort of this prevue question about the Mueller investigation, because there`s a sort of interesting back and forth about - do we think this was referred to the Southern District because it fell outside of what he thought was (ph) his prevue, and so it`s unrelated to Russia, and this is a kind of, like, demonstrable declaration of that?
Or, what Nick Ackerman said, that for political and territorial reasons, that you would move this over into the Southern District.
BERTRAND: It might have been - it could be either, right? So what Nick was saying is that this does not necessarily mean that this has nothing to do with the Russia investigation. It might have just been a way that the Southern District could have kind of taken the heat off of the Mueller investigation .
BERTRAND: . in order to kind of calm Trump down, and not - which we`ve seen did not work, because of his reaction today. He`s - he said that he might actually fire Mueller, which we don`t know yet.
But we just don`t know. I mean, Michael Cohen has been involved in so many aspects of this investigation, and different facets of this investigation, whether it be potential money laundering, whether it be deals with regard to Trump Tower and Russia, whether it be with Stormy Daniels.
I mean, he`s just at the center of so much of this that it`s really difficult to say what Mueller and the Southern District are looking into, and what they`re actually homing in on.
Of course, we will - we will see once Mueller comes out with his report, but as of right now, Michael Cohen is the lynchpin of all this, he`s essentially the vault. And that`s why it`s so dangerous for the president right now.
SEDER: Well, you know, Marcy Wheeler, who blogs @emptywheel, who`s (ph) very good on stuff like this .
HAYES: Right. Right. Right.
SEDER: . made a point of pointing out that in the Mueller filing regarding the Manafort Case, Mueller argues that his jurisdiction included charging a subject who could ultimately flip and become a witness .
HAYES: Cooperate, yes.
SEDER: . against someone in the main investigation. So according to, at least, what Mueller has argued in a filing with Manafort, he - his investigation would have had jurisdiction, here. So I am in .
HAYES: That`s interesting.
SEDER: . that camp that says this is more political than jurisdictional.
HAYES: We`re going to learn a lot more in the next few days, and it`s going to be remarkable to watch. Natasha Bertrand, Tara Dowdell, and Sam Seder, thank you all.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good even, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.