Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 4, 2018 Guest: Renato Mariotti, Asawin Suebsaeng, Natasha Bertrand, Evan McMullin, Jane Coaston, Sarah
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JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight.
REID: The Trump and Rudy show continues.
TRUMP: We're not changing any stories.
REID: Tonight as the president and his new attorney attempt to get on the same page.
TRUMP: Excuse me, you take a look what I said.
REID: How Rudy Giuliani keeps making things worse.
TRUMP: We love Rudy. He's a special guy.
REID: Then, why the President was praising Paul Manafort on stage today.
TRUMP: He's there for a short while but he's a good person.
REID: And what happened when the man who said he would get tough on the NRA spoke at their convention today.
TRUMP: Some of you people are petrified NRA. You can't be petrified.
REID: When ALL IN starts now.
TRUMP: Thank you, Kanye.
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REID: Good evening from New York, I'm Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Donald Trump's efforts to clean up the mess made by his new personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have only managed to make things worse. Speaking to reporters this morning, the President suggested that Giuliani didn't know what he was talking about when he said Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen for his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.
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TRUMP: I'll tell you what, Rudy is a great guy but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He's working hard. He's learning the subject matter. And he's going to be issuing a statement, too. But he is a great guy. He knows it's a witch hunt. That's what he knows. He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight. He's a great guy.
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REID: Well, that flies in the face of what Giuliani told NBC News just last night. "You're not going to see daylight between the President and me." Trump today distanced himself from that Giuliani media blitz that was while designed to clear the President of potential campaign finance violations seems to have increased his legal exposure.
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RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: That was money that was paid by his lawyer the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn't matter. The President reimbursed that over a period of several months.$
Imagine if that came out October 15th, 2016 in the middle of you know, the last debate with Hillary Clinton. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.
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REID: Despite having previously denied knowing anything about the Stormy Daniels payment, Trump today insisted there's no contradiction between his and Giuliani's accounts.
TRUMP: We're not changing any stories. To be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that's all you want to talk about. You're going to see --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said on Air Force One you did not know anything about the payments.
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You take a look what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said no when I asked you --
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.
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REID: OK. Let's take a look what he said.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know.
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REID: Well, Giuliani put out a statement today walking back his earlier comments. But it does nothing to clarify the President's role in paying off Stormy Daniels. Here's what that statement said. First, "There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President's family. It would have been done in any event whether he was a candidate or not." Second, "My reference to timing were not describing my understanding of the President's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters." OK. So Giuliani also tried to clear up remarks that according to some observers might have strengthened the obstruction of justice case against his client.
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GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target of the investigation. So he fired him and he said I'm free of this guy.
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REID: Well, Giuliani said in his statement today it is undisputed that the President's dismissal of former Director Comey and inferior executive officer was clearly within his Article II power. Recent revelations about former director Comey further confirmed the wisdom of the President's decision which was plainly in the best interests of our nation." Trump also had something to say today on the topic of obstruction of justice.
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TRUMP: Very funny. If you fight back because you people say something wrong or they say something wrong or they leak which they've been doing, if you fight back, they say oh, that's obstruction of justice. Somebody says something wrong, you fight back, they say that's obstruction of justice. It's nonsense.
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REID: All right, for more on what's going on with the Trump legal team, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell joins me live from the White House. OK, Kelly, one question, who on the Donald Trump legal team prepped Rudy Giuliani for his media tour?
KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Joy, I think two words, the President. What we are reporting is from talking with Giuliani and others is that he and the President had gone over the strategy in advance of Giuliani doing television and print interviews and what we are told is they agreed that the main point that Giuliani was to get out was to release in some form the idea that Trump had in fact paid Stormy Daniels' fees to Michael Cohen, that reimbursement that because they believe that in investigators already possessed that information, it would be important for the President and his team to get that out first. However, that didn't play quite the way the President and others expected. Giuliani also talked with people in his own circle, legal and political circles to get advice on whether that was a good move to put that information out before it came out either through a newspaper or television report or from investigators. So there's still some agreement on that. But what we saw today, joy, is the president wants to reclaim the absence of knowledge on when he began paying that fee. He did acknowledge it on Twitter saying it was a reimbursement but the timing, the "when he knew" is now a question once again. Joy?
REID: All right, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, thank you for joining me. I appreciate it. Well, to help understand what is going on with Rudy Giuliani, I'm joined by Michael Daly, Special Correspondent from the Daily Beast whose latest piece is titled "Rudy Giuliani The Mob Buster Now Sounds Like a Mob Mouthpiece." Ouch. OK, Michael Daly, let's talk about Rudy Giuliani. I lived here when he was mayor. He is a singular figure who leaks when he wants to leak, right? You talked in your piece about --
MICHAEL DALY, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: He's famous for that.
REID: Yes. I mean, the Patrick Dorismond leak, the juvenile records --
DALY: Yes. That is when he held up the guy's criminal record. He leaked a juvenile record. He said there is no choir boy. Guess what, it turns out actually he was a choir boy.
REID: Yes, this was a kid who have been shot by -- a young man who have been shot by a police. So let's talk about the behavior of him now versus then. Rudy Guiliani is famous for being very, very pro-police, pro-law enforcement and having a special relationship with the New York FBI. How odd was it for you as a reporter who's covered him to hear him refer to the FBI as Storm Troopers
DALY: Well, it's shocking particularly in the circumstances because I mean, he's done many search warrants and he knows that to get a search warrant like the bug that they put in the Jaguar, the mafia capo's Jaguar that made the commission case, he knows you have to go to a judge and you have to show probable cause. Well, if you've got to show probable cause for a mafia capo, imagine how much probable cause you have you to show the judge to search the office of the personal attorney of the President of the United States. I mean, he knows that. I mean, he knows that they must have said, well, we've got four truckloads of probable cause here, we got another five coming here on but then -- I mean.
REID: Right. was he considered a good lawyer when he was the U.S. Attorney here in New York?
DALY: Yes, I mean, he's a smart guy and I mean, everybody considered him like Mr. Law and Order. But he's not like a Robert Mueller who is you know -- he's just doing his work. You know, we're all saying what's this? Who says this, who says that? You know, they're saying this, he's saying that. And meanwhile, we're kind of like on a which hunt, a W-H-I-C-H thing, like which thing do we want to believe. Mueller is on a what hunt, what is the truth. And I'm not sure that the what hunt was out of Rudy's primary thing. I mean, I think it was the who hunt, who am I? And I think it's not for nothing that he became very well-known.
DALY: Personally, I have a hard time because we have mutual friends who were murdered at the Trade Center and Trump long before he ran for president starred telling everybody I lost hundreds of friends at the trade center, did nothing for anybody. He said he saw this that never happened you. He saw this, he saw that that never happened. So you have a guy who's had repeatedly lied about 9/11 and he got Rudy Giuliani standing next to him. On the 15th anniversary of the attack, Rudy and Chris Christie are on either side of Trump-like two little lap Pekingese lapdogs. When he went walking off, they went skipping after him. I'm like.
REID: What's going on?
DALY: Christie, you can understand because I mean, he shows who he was but the -- because I've seen him at another observance yanking it up with his pal who shut down the bridge. Giuliani, some part of me thought that you know, as crazy as he may get at the core, he's kind of a decent guy. But I've got to say when I -- when I saw him with Trump and if you watched the other night when he's twisting and turning and calling FBI agencies storm troopers, it's almost like these guys enter a zone where the truth just doesn't matter, the truth is whatever you decide it is.
REID: Could he and Trump just share a mutual grievance that might be named Jim Comey? I mean, we know that Comey, before he was fired, wanted what launched an investigation into Rudy Giuliani and into whether or not he had knowledge he shouldn't have had regarding the reopening of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.
DALY: I thought I turned that off.
REID: Somebody wants to get in touch with you. Maybe they want to --
DALY: No, that was (INAUDIBLE), I'll talk to him later
REID: But could it be just the grievance, the mutual grievance that they share potentially against Comey?
DALY: I don't think -- you know, I think Comey is just something for them to smack around. You know, for Trump to be so aggressively going after Comey tells me that he's afraid. I mean, if he's not afraid of something, why is he going after this guy like that? Why is he saying, well, Comey should go to jail, Comey is a leaker? Comey is this. I mean, come on. And Rudy joins him in that and I don't think Rudy is afraid of Comey because Rudy kind of says, well, Comey is my friend. You know, I knew him.
REID: Right, they worked together.
DALY: You know, we're colleagues and all this stuff. But when it comes down to it, Rudy will do whatever will ingratiate him with Donald Trump.
REID: With Donald Trump. Well, we have to figure out why. Michael Daly on the (INAUDIBLE) thank you very much. We appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you. And for more on Giuliani's relationship with the President and what this all means for Michael Cohen, I'm joined by Pulitzer Prize Winning Investigative Reporter David Cay Johnston, Author of It's Even Worse Than You Think; What The Trump Administration is Doing to America and MSNBC Contributor Emily Jane Fox, Senior Reporter at Vanity Fair who's got a new book coming out in a couple of months, Born Trump: Inside America's First Family. Thank you both for being here. Emily, I'm going to come to you first because it sort of it is you know, perplexing what it is that attracts Rudy Giuliani to Donald Trump and makes him so loyal. He wanted to be Secretary of State, he didn't get that. He -- you know, people thought maybe he'll get Attorney General, he didn't. They have a long friendship and a relationship but let's talk about the other way around. You just you know, did a biography that's coming out about Donald Trump. Why would he turn to somebody like Rudy Giuliani? Why specifically Giuliani to help him in this moment?
EMILY JANE FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, he likes people who are public attack dogs. This is why -- it's the same psychology of why he had someone like Michael Cohen in his orbit for a long time. These are people who will go on television and defend the President to the end. Maybe things are not necessarily true or fully accurate but they will be aggressive and they will you know, punch when Donald Trump needs to be punching or feels he needs to be punching. And I think that that's what we see with both of this men with actually a lot of men in Donald Trump's orbit. But that's why he's looking for, that's why he brought Rudy in and that's why he kept Michael around for so long.
REID: Well, you know, and David, you -- Robert Costa at the Washington Post was tweeting out and I was asking Michael Daly about the shared grievances, the sort of sense of grievance that they both share. Anybody who experienced Giuliani as president -- as mayor knows that he is that kind of person, but White House Aides are bewilders according (INAUDIBLE) this morning by Giuliani but many on staff now feel like they're not in control of the situation. Aides say POTUS and Giuliani are running their own strategy and have a generational rapport and shared grievances and perspectives. You heard Kelly O'Donnell say that the only person briefing Giuliani for this appearances is Donald Trump. What shared grievances could they possibly be talking about?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, both of them want to shut down and make sure that there is no real examination of Donald Trump's conduct. And this is something that's been an issue with Giuliani. Anybody who has read Wayne Barrett and Danny Collins' book Grand Illusion, knows that a lot of what America thinks about Rudy Guiliani at 9/11 is absolute nonsense and myth-making including the fact that his father was a robber in Sing Sing. And his comments, Rudy's comments on T.V. indicate that even though he's a lawyer and former U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecute a lot of serious gangsters, some of whom were in business with Donald Trump in various ways, he doesn't understand the Constitution at a level he should or else he has absolutely no problem lying about it. And you know, you mentioned that Rudy wanted to be Secretary of State, I'm frankly not sure he could pass the background test for a cabinet-level appointment. Two words should make that clear, Bernard Kerik.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Just stay with me just for one second. I want to play Donny Deutsch who was on "MORNING JOE" this morning talking about what Giuliani knows from what he doesn't. Take a listen.
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DONNY DEUTSCH, AMERICAN ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE: I spoke with Michael Cohen yesterday and his quote about Giuliani was he doesn't know what he's talking about. He also said that look, there are two people that know exactly what happened, myself and the President and you'll be hearing my side of the story. And he was obviously very frustrated at what had come out yesterday.
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REID: And David, how dangerous for Donald Trump is what does feel in a lot of ways like a break with Michael Cohen even if he has Giuliani on his side?
JOHNSTON: Well, if Cohen were to turn on Trump and Trump himself has raised this issue of flipping on him, he probably could be a very serious danger to him. The warrant that was issued had to come after so much solid evidence that the most anti-Mueller investigation judge in the world had to approve that warrant on the basis that it was issued. And one of the things to keep in mind here, you know, there are two attack dog lawyers really at work here beyond Rudy Giuliani and that's Michael Avenatti and Michael Cohen. The difference between them is one of them really knows what he's doing and has a track record of proving it in very tough litigation that's Avenatti.
REID: Absolutely. And Emily, you had Giuliani also come out and basically say Robert Mueller better not come for Ivanka. So exhibiting sort of the same you know, over loyalty to Ivanka even throwing Jared under the bus. What do you make of that?
FOX: Well, I thought that the comment about Jared was the most revealing thing. You know, his sycophantic comment about Ivanka was kind of typical for the Trump world. But saying that men are all disposable referring to Jared Kushner not only sent shock waves through the White House but it was a statement that someone who had been preparing with the President for days for this interview would say something like that It was definitely revealing but I will say in all of my reporting for the book and for Vanity Fair, one thing that has come up over and over again is that it comes to a point where the President may have to choose between himself and his son- in-law, there is no question that he will throw Jared under the bus faster than you could really say, Jared,.
REID: Wow. The plot thickens. David Cay Johnston and Emily Jane Fox, thank you both. Great to have you here. And next, why the President spent part of his speech to the NRA today praising Paul Manafort and the judge ruling over his case in the Mueller probe. I'll tell you what happened in two minutes.
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TRUMP: Judge T.S. Ellis who is really something very special I hear from many standpoints. He's a respected person, suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team's designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or others in the campaign. I've been saying that for a long time. It's a witch hunt.
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REID: Well, if you're wondering how closely Donald Trump is following the impending criminal trial of his one-time Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, wonder no more. That was Trump reading from a news report that had been handed him just before his NRA speech. During a hearing in the case today, a federal judge in Virginia expressed skepticism about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller had the authority to bring charges against Manafort that were not directly related to collusion. Of course, Trump loved that the judge was tough on the prosecutors. But the judge did not issue his ruling today on whether any of those charges will actually be dismissed. And the question is, what does today's hearing mean for the Mueller probe. To help us answer that question and more, I'm joined by MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor and Harry Sandick, former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division for the Southern District of New York. Thank you both for being here. And Harry, I'm going to come to you first, needless to show. Tell me about this judge because Donald Trump seems to like him.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY IN THE CRIMINAL DIVISION, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Sure. So Judge Ellis is a Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia which is right outside Washington, D.C. He's been on the bench for about 30 years. He was appointed by President Reagan in the late 1980s. He had the Johnnie Walker Lindh case which he achieved some notoriety in the years after.
REID: The American Taliban case.
SANDICK: Exactly, the American Taliban. So he's had some high profile cases. And when you -- when you're dealing with a judge who's been on the bench as long as he has, it's not surprising that they're very outspoken in their kind of gut-level views about a case. And they, as judge Ellis did today, will not hesitate to share those views with the government. It doesn't necessarily tell you where he's coming out.
SANDICK: Judges need to make it look good. They need to show that they're fair.
REID: So when you hear Judge Ellis say that he believes, this according to NBC News that the Special Counsel is only interested in Manafort to squeeze him for information "that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his impeachment" and when he went -- goes on to say that prosecutors wanted the former Trump Campaign official, Mr. Manafort to "sing" but he worried that Manafort might also compose, that does not as a former prosecutor tell you this guy is going to dismiss this case.
SANDICK: Well, I would rather -- if I were the prosecutor, I would certainly rather him not have said these things but I wouldn't necessarily jump to that conclusion. He's going to have to base his decision on the law and we already saw that a judge in the District of Columbia expressed concern about this very similar type of argument. And we also know that the regulations that we're talking about here all say right at the front these don't give individuals rights. These are meant to talk about how the Department of Justice divides up its work. So the worst case scenario for the government is that prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia bring this case against Paul Manafort.
REID: Absolutely. So let's go into that for a minute. Jill Wine-Banks because there are two different case, right, that Manafort is facing, one in D.C., one the Eastern District of Virginia. Why would that be? Why would there be two different courts, two different judges looking at this case?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: There are two different cases because the crimes that he is charged with in the Eastern District of Virginia are based in Virginia. So for example, he files his tax returns from his home in Virginia and he didn't report the income he got from his work in the Ukraine. So he failed to pay federal taxes on that money and that is a crime that occurred when he filed in Virginia. So that's why that is there. And it can be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia or it can be prosecuted by the Special Counsel depending on how the jurisdictional statement is written. And I am pretty sure that Mr. Mueller would not have brought those charges if they weren't within what he had been assigned by Mr. Rosenstein. But it won't help Mr. Manafort if for some reason the judge decides that Mueller cannot charge him with these crimes, then the Eastern District can. Crimes have been committed, the grand jury found enough evidence to say that he should stand trial and he should stand trial.
REID: And Jill, are judges allowed to consider the likelihood that charges will lead to potential impeachment in a case like this?
BANKS: Absolutely not. This is a charge of a criminal act in the state of Virginia that violates federal law and that's all he should be looking at. It is outrageous that he is questioning the motive of prosecutors. He should be looking at whether there is a crime which there seems to be clear evidence of. Once the grand jury indicts, I once had a case where I questioned whether the evidence was strong enough and I conferred with my boss who was one of the best lawyers you've ever known, Chuck Ruff, and he said it's not for you to make this judgment. The grand jury found enough evidence. You have to present it to the court, and that's what I did. And that's what has to happen here.
REID: Let me come to you on this. We have, Harry, a piece of news that has come across the (INAUDIBLE). This just coming from the Wall Street Journal. I read a little bit of it. And this is the Wall Street Journal reporting tonight that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, gained access to as much as $774,000 through two financial transactions through -- during the 2016 presidential campaign as he sought to fix problems for his boss according to public records. Those transactions could factor into a broad investigation of Mr. Cohen's business affairs being conducted by Manhattan Federal Prosecutors at the FBI who are examining whether Mr. Cohen violated any laws in his efforts to raise cash and conceal negative information about Mr. Trump including transactions tied to his credit line and his ownership of real estate and taxi medallions. How does this complicate the case? If he gained access to these funds but he's saying that the source of the $130,000 hush money to Stormy Daniels was a home equity line of credit, as a former prosecutor, what, does this say to you?
SANDICK: It's very disturbing because if you say false things in order to get a bank loan, that is a violation of law and you're not supposed to do that. And what is he doing with the $700,000 just sort of floating around? Did he get asked questions by financial institutions? Did he answer those questions truthfully? When the search warrant litigation was proceeding, there were all of these black boxes in the government's pages that were redacted. And through stories like this, it seems like we're beginning to get a sense as to the seriousness of that investigation. The Southern District is composed of people who are relentless investigators and they will track down every lead. And this sounds like a lead that they're definitely going to track down.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And last one, I'll get to you, Jill. If in fact, Michael Cohen gained access to a sum of money that could be used, in theory maybe, to do some of these reimbursements, then what does it say to you that Rudy Giuliani is out there saying that Donald Trump paid him back? Why would he need to pay him back if Cohen had access to money with which to make these kinds of payments?
BANKS: Well, I think the important thing here is that the President and Rudy Giuliani need to get their story straight. They need to be telling the truth. They need to be speaking facts. And clearly, Rudy and the president have not agreed on what the facts are here. There's no question that we don't know yet, did the President pay him back? How many women were paid off? How many other people with negative information were paid off? $700,000 goes a long way to paying a lot of people. And so there's just a lot of questions about it. And Harry is right about all the potential banking crimes that could have been committed by false statements to the bank.
REID: And those would have been in New York.
BANKS: As well as to the public.
REID: Yes, those would have been in New York. You already got D.C. and Virginia dealing with this case. Well, hello, New York with Jill Wine- Banks and Harry Sandick, thank you both very much. Have a good night.
SANDICK: Thank you.
REID: And still ahead, will a newly emboldened Trump be more open to sitting down for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? What the President said today after this.
REID: All right, we have breaking news tonight from the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal reporting that Michael Cohen had access to as much as $774,000 in lines of credit through two financial transactions during the 2016 presidential campaign
In February of 2016, Mr. Cohen nearly doubled the amount that he could use on a bank credit line tied to his Manhattan apartment, increasing his ability to borrow by $245,000. Three months earlier, according to "The Wall Street Journal", he gains potential access to another $529,000 through a new mortgage he and his wife cosigned on a condominium owned by her parents in Trump World Tower in New York, according to real estate records.
I want to bring in my panel, Asawin Suebsaeng is the Daily Beast's political reporter, Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at The Atlantic and an MSNBC contributor, and Renato Mariotti is a former U.S. attorney in the northern district of Illinois.
And Renato, I'm going to you on this first for your reaction to this news that it appears that in two transactions, one cosigned by his wife, Michael Cohen was taking out a lot of credit before the campaign.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it's interesting -- why does Cohen suddenly need access to all this cash. It certainly suggests that there may be more transaction that we don't know about, but that the federal prosecutors in New York do know about.
Obviously, they're investigating Michael Cohen for, you know, transactions in addition to the Stormy Daniels transaction that we already know about. Why would he need access to $700,000 -- over $700,000 for $130,000 transaction?
And I think the other question really is, Joy, why is Cohen the one making these transactions out of his personal accounts? You know, if he represents a billionaire, why isn't the billionaire putting the money in himself? It's very odd. I represent a lot of companies and people. I don't use my personal funds to fund their settlements. And frankly the rules of professional conduct would prevent me from doing so.
REID: And, you know, Natasha, that is a very good point, because Rudy Guiliani was making it sound when he was on Fox News like this was part of the normal process of a retainer in the course of a retainer this that is the thing that he did as Donald Trump's attorney. But we're now hearing a lot of different things. He's taking out a lot of credit.
He's using his own money to do these payments to at least one woman, Stormy Daniels, but then Rudy Guiliani is saying no, no, he was reimbursed. The story is a little bit convoluted.
NATASHA BERTRAND, THE ATLANTIC: I's almost like Donald Trump knew the types of things that had he hired Michael Cohen to fix for him, things like perhaps women coming forward alleging that he had assaulted them or that he had affairs with them while he was married. And he was trying to maintain a distance between himself and any knowledge of what these payments actually were for in case of a situation like this in which he would be questioned about what he did know and when.
And of course, this is going to be really important for the special counsel because he, of course, is wondering what else did the president pay Michael Cohen for? Did he perhaps pay Russian hackers to keep things quiet during the election? I mean, things that were alleged in the dossier, for example.
So, this is all part of a pattern. And of course it's going to be really important as part of the federal investigation.
REID: And Asawin, I asked Kelly O'Donnell, our NBC News Capital Hill correspondent, who was involved in briefing Rudy Guiliani before he went on this media blitz where in theory he's supposed to be throwing cold water on the idea there was any sort of nefarious motive behind the payment to Stormy Daniels. Instead, of course, he raised more questions by making it pretty clear that Donald Trump knew about the transactions.
So, I'll ask you the same question, in the White House, is there a concern that Giuliani and Trump are doing their own thing and that maybe Donald Trump is telling Rudy Guiliani everything and then Rudy Guiliani is telling that to Fox & Friends?
ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, just to give you an example of how much senior staffers in the Trump White House were kept completely in the dark on this until the moment it actually happened on Sean Hannity's show on Wednesday evening, there were at least two White House officials who were messaging me as the episode was going on, one of whom very bluntly asked, is he supposed to be doing this?
There were so many people at the senior ranks kept in the dark that they were genuinely surprised and caught off guard that Rudy was going out there and saying all these things. They didn't know if it was even sanctioned by the president at the time. And we quickly found out afterwards that it was.
But this is a bit of a fly by the seat of your pants legal strategy that oftentimes keeps people, including Don McGahn and Emmet Flood (ph), out of the loop. And it begs the question, is that the wisest legal strategy for a president of the United States who is in such a legal multifaceted mine field?
REID: Well, let's ask the former prosecutor. Renato Mariotti, how dangerous is this strategy? Because is it the case that anything Rudy Guiliani says publicly on television binds his client?
MARIOTTI: You know, it is a very dangerous strategy, Joy. And I'll tell you, when I handle sort of routine investigations that aren't on the front pages of the newspaper or aren't discussed on national television, you know, when we take any public action or make any statement, we carefully discuss it. Everyone on the team is part of it.
The client, and everyone on the legal team, very carefully vets those statements. So the idea that you would have statements that are just being made off the cuff that not everyone on the team knows about is really shocking and really reflects a disarray in their team.
And so we have here, Natasha, a couple of new pieces of information. CNBC reporting that Robert Mueller is now focusing anew on Roger Stone and Rick Gates. And Roger Stone being a long-time crony of Donald Trump. Special Counsel Mueller focusing intensely on alleged interactions between Rick Gates and political operative Roger Stone. Of course, Rick Gates having worked for Manafort. The new developments indicate they're interested in Stone beyond his interactions with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
Thing Two, a Russian billionaire named Victor Vecklesburg, who has also been questioned by Mueller's investigators, no indication suspecting him of wrongdoing, but Veckelsburg attended the inauguration. Interest in him suggests the special counsel is focused on potential Russian oligarchs' transactions with Trump.
Under those circumstances, is Team Trump willing to let all of these different people potentially talk to Mueller, but not Donald Trump talk to Mueller?
BERTRAND: Right, well, at this point it's become less of a legal strategy and more of a PR strategy. He's banking on the idea that if he can go out, and if Rudy Guiliani can go out on national television and undermine the investigation as much as possible and say there's no way that Donald Trump is going to sit for an interview without these parameters, it's going to last two hours max, he can't ask about this, then they'll get the American people on their side. And if Mueller crosses a line by asking Trump about his business ties to Russians or anything in the past like that, then they'll be able to say, look, this was not a legitimate investigation. And they've been building up to this point for months and months and months.
And now they think that because they have the American people on their side, which of course is not necessarily true. I think that most Americans want this investigation to conclude and they want Trump to sit down for an interview. They believe that this gives them upper hand.
And of course, now that we know that Robert Mueller is still focusing on the collusion angle, I mean, that's another talking point that's emerged from the right, which is that he's no longer focusing on collusion, there's nothing happening with collusion, it's all about obstruction now, well that is just not true. Collusion has always been the number one priority of Robert Mueller, because, of course, that was why he was hired in the first place was to investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The obstruction just came out of that because the president fired his FBI director.
REID: Yes, indeed. And then there's the question, of course, of whether he can be compelled to testify or if he doesn't want to do it willingly. Asawan Suebsaeng, Natasha Bertrand, and Renato Mariotti, thank you all very much.
And coming up, the president fawns over the NRA today just months after saying he wasn't afraid to take them on. His speech to the Trump base is ahead.
Plus, the political ad you have to see to believe in tonight's Thing One, Thing Two next.
REID: Thing One tonight, coal baron and convicted felon Don Blankenship, who spent a year in federal prison for his role in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 people and who is still on probation, has been trying to get Republican votes in the West Virginia Senate primary by going after his own party senate leader Mitch McConnell, nicknaming him Cocaine Mitch, and referring to McConnell's father-in-law as a quote, China person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON BLANKENSHIP, REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm an American person. I don't see this insinuation by the press that there's something racist about saying a China person. Some people are Korean persons and some of them are African persons. It's not any slander there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Oh, oh, but he wasn't done there. Behold Blakenship's new campaign ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLANKENSHIP: Swamp Captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch he has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars Mitch's swamp people are now running false negative ads against me. They are also childishly calling me despicable and mentally ill. The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch Cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: It's for the kids.
And for the sake of the kids, Don Blackenship has a new defense against charges of racism. And that's Thing Two in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLANKENSHIP: Swamp Captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Republican Senate candidate Don Blackenship has tried to explain away his China people comments, telling a Roll Call reporter, quote, "they've always said about me West Virginia people. Is West Virginia people racist? We're confused on our own staff as to how it can be racist when there's no mention of a race. There's no race. Races are negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asia. There's no mention of a race. I've never used a race word."
So, I'm not entirely sure that that cleared anything up.
So, let's give Mr. Blankenship one more shot.
(BEIGN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The phrase China person, people are offended still.
BLANKENSHIP: Well, they shouldn't be. I'm a West Virginia person. You're an NBC person. You know, in order to have a racist statement, you have to mention a race or derogatory comment about a race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Some people see public service as a way to give back, others as a duty to their country. EPA chief Scott Pruitt, however, apparently sees it as a way to tick through his world travel bucket list. The Washington Post reports that Pruitt wanted to add an international flair to his penchant for publicly funded travel, and for leaning on his lobbyist friends, quote, "after taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel. Pruitt then enlisted well connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen."
That wish list included Israel, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Panama, Poland, Japan, India, and Canada, according to former staff members.
Pruitt wanted to schedule one trip per month, they said. So far he's also been to Italy and Morocco.
Now, this, of course, is hardly the first scandal we've seen from Scott Pruitt like buying a house with a lobbyist at a steep discount from yet another lobbyist. And then there's the $43,000 top security phone booth he insisted be installed in his office, breaking the law in the process, a congressional watchdog said.
And we're not even mentioning the bloated security detail that costs millions, the fondness for first class travel on the taxpayer dime, or, as reported by CNN today, the way he reimbursed himself $65,000 from his two campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general.
Truly, there's something almost impressive about Scott Pruitt's ability to be so corrupt in so many ways. In the swamp Olympics, in the swamp Olympics that is the Trump administration, Pruitt is clearly going for the gold.
HAYES: Just over two months ago after meeting with Parkland survivors, Donald Trump talked tough about the NRA. Today, he gave the keynote address at the NRA convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So let's talk about guns, shall we? I love you too. Thank you.
Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president.
Mental health. Mental health is a big one. They don't like to talk about mental health. Mental health.
We want armed guards.
We strongly believe in allowing highly trained teachers to carry concealed weapons.
They said, you know, going to the NRA convention and speaking today, that will be very controversial. It might not be popular. You know what I said? Bye-bye. Got to get on the plane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: To talk about that prime red meat the president threw to his base today, I'm joined by Sarah Rumph, contributor to the conservative website Red State; Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox; and Evan McMullin, former 2016 independent presidential candidate.
I'm going to come to you first on the table, Evan. This is Donald Trump saying one more sound bite. Much of his speech was the usual I won the election, you know, electoral college, et cetera, et cetera, but he did talk a little bit about guns and we showed that little clip. And and here's donald Trump talking about gun-free zones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tragically, as we've seen, there's no sign more inviting to a mass killer than a sign that declares "this school is a gun-free zone." Come in and take us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, of course he was speaking at a gun-free zone, because there was no guns allowed because the president of the United States is there and to keep him safe, you can't have guns in that NRA convention. So, that was a bit ironic.
But does that -- are those talking points that you just heard streamed off by Donald Trump, do those still working on Republican voters? Without Barack Obama there and the fear of the black helicopters coming to seize their weapons, does that kind of talk still work?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FRM. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think among some voters that fear is still there. It wasn't only driven by Barack Obama's presidency. And certainly the president continues to stoke it. Even in the speech he said our gun rights, or whatever he said, are under siege, and then he went on to say but they won't be under siege as long as I'm president.
Look, clearly there are times when allowing guns into situations is inappropriate and the president and his presence at the NRA convention illustrated that. He continues to push I think a ridiculous idea about arming teachers in schools. I'm supportive of armed guards at schools in addition to other reforms, but the idea that we would depend on teachers, even if you give them a lot of training, is I think ridiculous. They're there to teach and nurture the kids, they don't need to be packing heat while they do it.
REID: And you know, Sarah, the NRA was very successful, even if it was not just about Obama, but about President Obama, in stoking this fear that people needed to buy more guns, stockpile guns, that President Obama was coming for their guns, the same thing was done when Bill Clinton was president.
You know, we've seen a marked decline in the profitability of gun manufacturers who -- you know, they bought up a lost inventory thinking Hillary Clinton was going to win. Without fearing the president of the United States, how does Donald Trump and the NRA manage to keep primary gun voters in enough state of intensity to make sure they come out in the midterms?
SARAH RUMPF, CONTRIBUTOR REDSTATE: Well, the reality is that there are still Democratic politicians and candidates who are talking about things that Second Amendment supporters are very much against. And I would ask people to think about there's a very interesting plot line in the Black Panther movie, and I'll try not to spoil it for the three people who haven't seen it, but they talk about how if they could take the Wakandan technology and weapons and give it to oppressed people around the world, then that would help them throw off their colonizer and oppressors.
The idea that weapons give people an insurance policy against oppression is something that is very near and dear to the heart of Second Amendment supporters like NRA members.
Now, I know a lot of NRA members, a lot of gun owners. I don't know any of them that are talking about overthrowing the United States government, but still the idea that you have the ability to protect yourself is a real concern. And on a more micro level, the idea that as a woman, even a teenage boy is physically stronger than I am, but if I have a gun I have a Second Amendment right to defend myself, now I'm on parity with an attacker. And that's something that people are concerned about.
REID: Let me go to you, Miss Jane Coaston, because first of all of course Wakanda forever, of course. We love the movie. But I'm not sure that people fear a Wakanda style -- I'm not sure what that means.
But there is this sort of sense of siege that has driven gun sales and driven people who vote on this basis as their primary issue. That sense of siege, can it possibly survive a president who is 100 percent on their side, who is pandering to this audience, who is showing up with the vice president at their conventions?
JANE COASTON, VOX, : Well, it's especially interesting because you'll notice that throughout the convention, I'm glad that you played those clips, because he didn't talk about a lot of actual gun issues. He didn't talk about concealed weapon reciprocity, going across states. And he didn't talk about issues that are extremely important to actual gun owners, including gun owners who are people of color, which is a rising number of black women and black Americans who are buying guns.
So I think that siege mentality, it's really interesting because a lot of times, you know, the NRA is one of the biggest defenders of Second Amendment rights, but then you see time and time again that when African-Americans -- we think about Philando Castile and in some recent cases that I've been covering, you think about how when they have guns it's a little bit of a different story. That siege mentality doesn't seem to work for all Americans.
REID: Well, and to that point, Sarah, a lot of what NRA TV has been doing is stoking fears against new groups of people to be afraid of -- liberals, the media, and people of color feels like that's the new Obama and Clinton.
RUMPF: You know, I don't belong to the NRA and I don't work for the NRA. I have expressed before some concerns about their messaging strategy. I do think that some of the discussion they've had recently, you know, again, with some of the discussion about if you have a -- if you are a lawful gun owner then you have the ability to protect your family, that's absolutely a vital discussion. You know, whether -- who you're targeting as far as what you're supposed to be afraid of, you know, that's something that you have to -- you do have to be careful in how you message that.
And Evan, the new threat really is economic. You have David Hogg who is a leader of the never again movement from Parkland tweeted out today "Florida retirement system pension fund holds shares valued at $520,000 in American Outdoor Brands Company, formerly known as Smith & Wesson which manufacturers the AR-15." You're seeing economic boycotts that are tied to the gun industry, really the threat to the industry now is economic, because especially young people are not in their camp.
So, electorally I'm not sure how they can message to people like David Hogg.
MCMULLIN: Yeah, well, look I think that this movement that David Hogg and others are leading is going to have an impact on the midterms. Now, some of these students aren't old enough to vote themselves, but I think their parents and other voting age people are seeing this, seeing this energy, and I sort of -- I view it as in part in a similar way that I view the women's movement where you have these different movements that are civic movements that are gaining a lot of force. Republicans aren't providing answers, and that's going to have an impact on the midterms.
Now, as far as their strategy, I still think they that should propose solutions, which they have, policy changes, and go after policy makers. I think going after the economics can be effective too. But they've got to turn it back to the policy makers.
REID: Yep, Sarah Rumpf, thank you very much. Jane Coaston, Evan McMullin, thank you for joining us.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
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