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New evidence of contact between Trump and Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 05/25/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Adam Davidson, Michael Avenatti, Laura St. John, Lee Gelernt, Wyatt Cenac, Megan Twohey, Mimi Rocah, Daniel Goldman, Harry Litman

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 25, 2018 Guest: Adam Davidson, Michael Avenatti, Laura St. John, Lee Gelernt, Wyatt Cenac, Megan Twohey, Mimi Rocah, Daniel Goldman, Harry Litman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. Tonight once again we have new evidence of contact between Trump world and Russia that the Trump folks did not want you to know about.

Now you remember a Essential Consultants, the hush money slush fund that Michael Cohen set up to pay off Stormy Daniels and who knows who else, we learned earlier this month that a bunch of companies had funneled millions of dollars to Cohen through Essential Consultants, among them an investment firm called Columbus Nova.

Now, Columbus Nova`s biggest client is a Kremlin-linked Russian billionaire named Victor Vekselberg, one of the world`s richest men which is always nice and a guy who`s already been questioned by Robert Mueller`s investigators.

In fact, they questioned him when he flew into the country. Now, there`s evidence that Vekselberg may have used his holdings to do Russia`s bidding, the Kremlin`s bidding in the past. Four years ago the FBI had warned that a foundation controlled by Vekselberg might have been acting on behalf of Russia`s intelligence services. So all this led to speculation that Vekselberg perhaps acting on behalf the Russian government or not was funneling money to Cohen through Columbus Nova, righ1t? And that would be a huge deal. But here`s the thing the company, Columbus Nova, they insisted otherwise. Columbus Nova stressed no, it is an American company run by American businessman named Andrew Intrater.

Now, Vekselberg is Intrater`s cousin and his biggest client but the company said Vekselberg was not involved in the decision to pay Cohen. And I quote them here, "the claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova`s engagement on Michael Cohen is patently untrue." In other words, how dare you. Columbus Nova just wanted to pay Michael Cohen a million dollars for some totally unknown reason which had nothing to do with the firms biggest client who also happens to be a Russian oligarch.

OK, so that gets us to today. Well, guess what. You`ll never guess what. It turns out that Michael Cohen and none other than Viktor Vekselberg aren`t exactly strangers. The New York Times reporting today that shortly before Trump`s inauguration, Vekselberg and Cohen met at Trump Tower where they "discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia`s relations with the United States under President Trump and arrange to see one another during the inauguration festivities." It was shortly after that secret meeting that Columbus Nova lo and behold decided to pay a million dollars into the Michael Cohen-Trump mistress slush fund.

Joining me now to explore what exactly is going on here, MSNBC Contributor Emily Jane Fox, Senior Reporter at Vanity Fair and someone who is frequently in touch with Michael Cohen and Adam Davidson, Staff Writer at The New Yorker who has been reporting on Trump world`s financial ties. Let me start with you. I am really obsessed with that transition period.

ADAM DAVIDSON, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It`s an amazing time. And the fact that this all happened with C-SPAN with its live camera of every person who`s going in and so many people went in who should not be on camera going into that building.

HAYES: I mean, you`ve got -- it really feels like it was bizarre. Like it was like come on in. We just won the Presidency. Come on in. Let`s talk.

DAVIDSON: Let`s do some business.

HAYES: Let`s do some business. We got the guy who runs the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, we`ve got a Russian banker, we`ve got the Russian Ambassador, we`ll sneak them in through the back door. We got Viktor Vekselberg.

DAVIDSON: Yes. And if I can correct you, it is not that he`s the client of Columbus Nova. I talked to several people work at Columbus Nova, it -- they refer to it as the Vekselberg family office. That`s a term to refer to a private hedge fund that`s primary or sole job is to invest the money of one person in their family. That`s what Columbus Nova is. He technically maybe possibly wasn`t an owner on their registration but he owned the assets that they used. He -- it is his piggy bank.

HAYES: What`s your reaction on the story?

Emily Jane Fox, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I actually got a no comment from Michael Cohen when I went to him asking what the details of the meeting were about and asking for more specifics but I talked to someone who`s a long-time friend of his and he made the point that I thought was really interesting to me today that the biggest mistake that Michael Cohen is made and I don`t know that this is the biggest mistake but according to this person, the biggest mistake that he made is that he used the title personal attorney to President Trump. That if he had just registered as a foreign agent, registered as a lobbyist, maybe joined the law firm officially that he worked out of for a year, that these meetings would perhaps be optically bad and not a great look for Michael Cohen and not a great look for President Trump but now it`s not just optics that look bad. These things may turn out to be shadier and dirtier than we actually know.

HAYES: Well, and to that point right, right? I mean look, I think the point about that is it all goes to his intention right? So the best-case scenario for Michael Cohen is that he was sloppy and didn`t know the rules and just thought that he was going to kind of essentially peddle influence as a sort of side hustle without kind of jumping through the regulatory hoops. But that`s -- and there`s another interpretation which is that he`s up to something shady which is why all this stuff is hidden in secret.

DAVIDSON: Look, this is a guy whose entire career has been on the shady side of the New York and Chicago taxi business which is already a pretty shady industry. This is a guy who has -- he worked out of the back of a taxi cab office, the analogies to better call Saul are enormous. This is not somebody who has anything in his background that would suggest he`d be an appropriate point of contact for the president other than A, he knows the President and be he`s willing to do the shadiest of business. So I don`t think this was some technical regulatory thing. This is who this guy is.

HAYES: There`s also the fact that Columbus Nova works very hard. I mean, that statement now looks really bad, the big eight.

FOX: This is another example of a company coming out and saying look, we kind of made a mistake here in dealing with Michael Cohen and I will tell you that according to my reporting people close to him around him as these things pile up and they look worse and he`s not -- his legal strategy is to not come out and defend them or say what he believes these meetings were about. They are wearing on him and he`s getting increasingly more frustrated and feeling increasingly more isolated and that is a dangerous place for him to be right now especially for President Trump.

DAVIDSON: Another interesting thing that happened this week. The BBC reported that Michael Cohen received $400,000 four from Victor Poroshenko, the premiere of Ukraine. Michael Cohen and his team and friends of his aggressively pushed back. That`s a lie. That`s not true. That`s not true. And they have not done that with these other allegations including some very disturbing allegations about Michael Cohen`s relationship with other oligarchs. It makes me think this is --

HAYES: That`s an interesting point I also wonder about that Ukraine story too which is not been confirmed by any other outlets, we should note and we`ve sort of talked about here. I want to bring in someone you may know, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, you will recall was the first person to disclose the financial records relating to the oligarch who we now know met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower during the transition. Michael, welcome. What did you think -- I mean, you immediately highlighted the Columbus Nova part of that transaction. What did -- what is your understanding of its significance?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: Well there were a series of payments that began in approximately January of 2017. So it would have coincided with this meeting that took place at Trump Tower and that those payments continued for some time. My understanding, our understanding is consistent with the New York Times piece but I think what you`re seeing here, Chris, is that the news on Michael Cohen to the extent it can get any tighter and I don`t think it can but just when I think it can`t it certainly does get tighter is getting tighter by the day.

HAYES: Isn`t it bad for your client if it gets tighter because what that means is a long drawn-out criminal process in which what you are trying to get is essentially paused?

AVENATTI: I don`t think so. I mean, we filed a motion yesterday to lift the stay in the case in California arguing that because of Rudy Giuliani statements and those of Mr. Trump as well as tweets etcetera, that we should be able to proceed with the case and have the state lifted. I think that motion is well-founded and I think it may very well be granted. I do not think the courts going to agree to a multi-year stay of the proceeding in California, pending Michael Cohen`s criminal proceedings. I think we`re going to be able to proceed with discovery and we wanted to pose the President because with each passing day there`s another story or version of events that emerges that is inconsistent with the last.

DAVIDSON: Chris, this is for me the key thing to keep in mind. Michael Cohen, for at least a decade, his entire career shifted from outer-borough sort of bottom of the barrel bottom feeding to hooking himself up with Donald Trump. And so in this period between the election and the inauguration we have Michael Cohen in Trump Tower meeting with Vekselberg, meeting with the Qataris, meeting with others, selling his wares, and either he was going against the man that he was most loyal to who he at his moment of peak power right under his nose to get money and not share it with the President or he was doing it in full awareness of President-Elect Trump.

FOX: This was a period of a little bit of discord between the two men and for much of the first part of his first term -- first year in office. There wasn`t a tremendous amount of communication between Michael Cohen and President Trump. There was some communication, his daughter intern at the White House that summer, they actually started really speaking again once Mr. Avenatti`s client came out and shared her story. That`s when the President started calling him again. So there was a cooling period but it heat up again once Stormy Daniels --

AVENATTI: Well, let`s talk about the timeline here for a minute because I think this is important. We filed our case in the beginning of March and that was only after Michael Cohen decided to volunteer some information in response to inquiries by The Wall Street Journal who broke the story on the NDA and the payment and the SAR which I think was in late February or early March.

HAYES: It was a suspicious activity report the bank had filed flagging some transactions.

AVENATTI: Correct. So I mean, I`m sure what you`re saying is true Emily, but I find it hard to believe that around that the publishing of that Wall Street Journal article which hit like a bombshell at the time that there was no communication between the President and Michael Cohen. I think that -- I think --

HAYES: But that`s 2018, right?

FOX: That`s exactly when they started communicating.

AVENATTI: OK, so in 2017, the best of your knowledge they didn`t have any communication?

FOX: No, it`s not that there`s no communication but they were not speaking -- you know, when they worked in Trump Tower pre-inauguration there were thick as thieves. They were next to each other.

DAVID: And that`s actually the moment when Michael Cohen --

HAYES: Can I ask you a question -- can I ask a question for the table?

FOX: Yes.

HAYES: OK, so you got essential consultants. And my understanding -- I`m not a lawyer, my wife`s a lawyer, other people I talked to setting up an LLC is not that hard. It`s like a half day at work maybe. You set up an - -

DAVIDSON: It`s an e-mail.

HAYES: Yes, you set up an LLC. But he`s got one LLC and this LLC it`s a fascinating LLC. It`s the pay to Stormy Daniels LLC, it`s the pay -- I think get payment or arranging for a payment for Elliott Broidy who`s an RNC fundraiser for his affair and a woman who became pregnant by him and terminate that pregnancy, it`s the pay -- the receivables for Novartis and AT&T, and a Korean jet maker and also Viktor Vekselberg, like why, why is there one LLC that`s doing all this?

AVENATTI: Well, I mean I think -- I think the answer to that is that you know, Michael Cohen was lazy at the time and he wanted to establish this single LLC. And when he established the LLC for the purpose of making the payment to my client, there`s no question that`s at least the initial purpose --

HAYES: That is -- that is why it`s created, right?

AVENATTI: Because of the timing, yes. It`s created within a couple weeks of making that payment in late October of 2016. I mean, what`s amazing to me is or it`s not that amazing to me because I have some insight now into Michael Cohen`s ability as a lawyer which I don`t have any respect for but he actually signed the LLC incorporation papers in the State of Delaware and that`s what tied Essential Consultants LLC to Michael Cohen and that`s what the Wall Street Journal relied upon.

HAYES: Right. It`s how they trace it back.

AVENATTI: That`s how they trace it back.

DAVIDSON: We won`t be sitting here talking about it.

HAYES: So he made a crucial error?

AVENATTI: Well, he made it --

HAYES: He did not anonymize essentially his is his LLC which he could have had he not sign that document.

AVENATTI: Correct. He made a series of crucial errors. That was one, the second one was lying to the bank about the purpose of the establishment of the accounts and what the accounts were going to look like. The third one was utilizing the same LLC on a go-forward basis and not making it basically a single purpose --

HAYES: Right, and terminating it once it done that.

AVENATTI: Right, he could have just as easily spent another five or seven hundred dollars and established another LLC to use in connection with receiving payments from Russian oligarchs and the like, but he decided not to do that for some reason.

DAVIDSON: Yes, I`ve done a lot of investigating of -- people are pretty good at money laundering and hiding their money and you create nested LLC`s with various and complex ownership usually designated nominee owners, meaning just some random person in some law firm somewhere is the official owner, and it`s actually not that hard to hide this stuff but this whole period speaks of this desperate manic -- I`m finally -- I`m finally winning, I`m finally getting it and I`m just going for it as quickly as I can.

HAYES: And to me, the ultimate question here and I think that we`ll know because I think the facts will be out is whether that franticness, right, the sort of bizarre selling the wares in Trump Tower, whether that all ends up being sort of exculpatory or inculpatory, right? Which is, is this a kind of clueless and somewhat chaotic operation that`s happening? One possibility or is it with the coordination of the man who would ultimately be the President United States which is the question --

DAVIDSON: Or it clearly -- or highly likely to be both. And I also think by the way, you see a desperation on the other side because in a certain sense Viktor Vekselberg paying off Cohen to get access to Trump is exculpatory of collusion --

HAYES: Right, it`s -- that`s the best you can do is you`re sending money to Michael Cohen.

DAVIDSON: We see a lot of evidence of people around the Kremlin, people around the Saudis and the Qataris, around the Israelis, people discounting Trump-like all of us did and then suddenly after November desperately trying to go in.

HAYES: Adam Davidson, Emily Jane Fox, Michael Avenatti, thank you all for being with me. Have a great weekend. Coming up the Trump Administration goes right back at the DOJ for -- asking for another briefing. The latest in the plot to stop Mueller ahead. And next, the government is now taking children away from their parents when they try to cross the border. The truly horrific stories of what`s now unfolding in our country in two minutes.


HAYES: In what appears to be four or for what appears to be the first time ever, this country is now systematically taking children from their parents at the border thanks to new directives issued by the Trump Administration. Immigrants arriving at the border often seeking asylum so not trying to sneak in, they`re there to tell Border Patrol that are there are having their children ripped away from them. Immigrants and civil rights groups are saying they have never seen anything like this. Kids as young as nine years old or seven years old, cases of children as young as 18 months, OK, ripped out of the arms of their mother and putting those children into government-run shelters for a very specific reason. To punish the immigrants to serve as what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called "a tough deterrent" in an NPR interview this month. And when confronted with the idea that separating families and mothers from children is cruel, he added, "the children will be taken care of, put into foster care or whatever." That`s a verbatim quote, or whatever.

And if Kelly`s words "or whatever" about the fate of an 18-month-old don`t exactly fill you with confidence then the federal government has the wherewithal the capacity or the intention to take care of these children, their track record makes it clear that your doubts are warranted. Because last month a New York Times reported that HHS lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children placed with sponsors of more than 7,000 unaccompanied minors, those are minors who come without parents who cross the border. That`s 1,500 children lost by the government. Here to help me understand what this administration is doing to these children and their families, Lee Gelernt the Deputy Director for the National Immigrant Rights Project of ACLU who was recently in El Paso and Laura St. John, a Legal Director at the Florence Project, a non-profit in Arizona, provides free legal services to people in immigration custody. Let me start with you, Laura. I just want to start in a sort of factual basis which is the government`s doing something they haven`t been doing before which is to separate children from parents right?

LAURA ST. JOHN, LEGAL DIRECTOR, THE FLORENCE PROJECT: That`s correct, Chris. I mean, what`s happening right now is really unprecedented. What we`ve seen here in Arizona is actually since January over 200 cases of parents being separated from their children and some of these children are extremely young as you mentioned. We`ve actually seen children who are two years old regularly. And just last week we saw a 53-week old infant in court without a parent.

HAYES: I don`t -- I`m sorry, I`m having a really hard time thinking about this. So a 53-week old infant comes with presumably his or her mother and they`re apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol and then they`re processed in some way and at some point, someone from the government in a uniform comes and physically takes a 53-week old baby away from the mother?

ST. JOHN: That`s correct. Yes. What happens oftentimes at the border is that the parents are separated and taken into separate custody and the children are brought into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and brought into shelters that are run by the government.

HAYES: There are shelters and then who -- like it`s hard to run a child care system. Like who`s watching the 53-week old infant?

ST. JOHN: So again it`s the Office of Refugee Resettlement is tasked with housing children who are unaccompanied minors. And in the past, that`s always referred to children who cross the border sort of on their own and wasn`t really involving young children like what we`re seeing now.

HAYES: I see.

ST. JOHN: But what we`re seeing now is that because the government is separating the children from the parents, the government is actually you know, rendering these children as unaccompanied minors and making them unaccompanied and bringing them into these shelters.

HAYES: So you`ve -- OK, so that makes them -- now I understand. So you`ve got a situation where there are unaccompanied minors across the border by themselves --

There are --

HAYE: And they tend to be 14, 15 like it.

LEE GELERNT, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR, THE NATIONAL IMMIGRANT RIGHTS PROJECT: You know, and that`s unfortunate that they`re here by themselves and they need somewhere to go. That`s one situation but why create that situation. That`s what`s happening now.

HAYES: So we are -- OK, so -- but I just want to be clear. We didn`t do that before. The policy used to be you show up with an 18-month-old in your arms, you`re not going to be given -- you`re not going to be told hey you can come to the U.S. you will be processed with that child.

GELERNT: This is unprecedented. This is the worst thing I`ve seen in 25 plus years of doing the civil rights work. I mean, I am talking to these mothers and they`re describing their kids screaming mommy, mommy, don`t let them take me away. Five years old, six years old and they`re just being ripped away.

HAYES: Did they see them?

GELERNT: I really -- they don`t see them. They get to speak to them once in a while, but of course, if you`re talking about an 18-month old, two years old, they can`t even speak on the phone. I really feel like these policy debates are becoming so abstract. If the policymakers could sit in those ICE offices down there at the border for a day and watch these little kids begging not to be taken away, they`re already traumatized from having to flee their countries and then they`re taken away. The medical evidence is overwhelming that we may be doing permanent trauma to these kids. And yet the government is trying every way they can to try and justify it. And let me make two points about the statements that the Secretary has been putting out, Secretary Nielsen. She`s saying you don`t want your child taken away, go to a port of entry and present yourself and say you want asylum. People who were presenting themselves including the Congolese mom who`s the leaf minorities presented themselves at a border still had their child taken away.

HAYES: I want to talk about that story for a second. A woman fleeing the Congo, she comes the United States, not sneaking in. She`s showing up at a port of entry to say I am here seeking asylum in America, the beacon of liberty with my child. I throw myself on your mercy and the US government does what?

GELERNT: They put her in a makeshift hotel with the daughter for four days and then they say to them we want the daughter to come in another room for a second. The daughter goes in the other room, the mother then hears the child screaming please, please don`t take me away from my mommy. The mother wasn`t told for four days where the child was going. She went to Chicago, the mothers in San Diego. Chicago was might as well be the moon for us someone from a little village in the Congo, gets to speak to the daughter once every few weeks for a few minutes. When we file the lawsuit, then the government says, well, by the time she made it to the Congo, she no longer had her papers. Well, of course not. And they said maybe she wasn`t really the mother. The judge says, well why don`t you do a DNA test? They do the DNA test which takes two seconds --

HAYES: And of course, she`s the mother.

GELERNT: She`s the mother.

HAYES: I want to read -- I want to read to you, Laura, from one of the declarations from a Honduran mother named Miriam who is separated from an 18-month-old son, just about that at that moment that happens. The immigration officers made me walk out my son to a government vehicle and place my son in a car seat in the vehicle. My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to try to comfort my son because the officer slammed the door shut as soon as he was in the seat. I was crying too. I cry even now when I think about that moment when the border officer took my son away. Is that -- is that a common -- is that happening a lot?

ST. JOHN: You know, I think what our clients report in terms of the devastation that they feel having been separated from their children, I hear stories of that nature pretty regularly unfortunately, and the type of devastation that we`re talking about, you know, what Lee mentioned we`re a family -- separated mother doesn`t know where her child is for four days, that`s entirely common right now in this administration, is that children and parents who are separated sometimes don`t have any way to communicate with each other for days, for weeks, I`ve seen months where a parent had no idea where their child was after the U.S. Government took the child away.

HAYES: You`re suing?

GELERNT: We are.

HAYES: Can they do this?

GELERNT: We don`t believe they can. We are waiting for the decision. We think it will come any day. We are hoping the judge says this can`t happen any longer. And I want to make one other point. Even the women who and fathers across the border, they`re being prosecuted, we don`t think asylum seekers should be prosecuted, but we`ve said to the government when we said in court is you want to prosecute them for this misdemeanor and they get a few days in jail, they take the kid away for those few days, give the child back after. We have a client the named plaintiff in our case, one of the named plaintiffs, he did time serve for a few days for the prosecution. It`s been seven months, they haven`t returned her child.

HAYES: Where`s the kid?

GELERNT: He`s in a facility in Chicago and they told her --

HAYES: In Chicago?

GELERNT: And she is in Texas and they told her your son is in Chicago and she said to us, I don`t know whether Chicago is a man, a place, a facility, that`s all they said to her. Your son is in Chicago.

HAYES: You`re -- what is a lawsuit contend about why they do not have the power to do this? I mean it`s morally odious, it`s obviously despicable. I`m sorry I`m editorializing, why is it not permissible?

GELERNT: So we say the due process clause prevents a family from being separated, parents (INAUDIBLE) unless there`s a compelling reason. What that`s traditionally meant is the parent is a danger to the child. Of course, you separate if the parent is beating the child or neglectful or are unfit but you don`t just separate for no reason. And we -- and so now the government won`t in court admit that they`re doing it to punish and deter even though that`s what they were saying publicly. So they`re trying to come up with these --

HAYES: Really, they`re not being clear about that?

GELERNT: Nope. And so they`re coming up these retroactive justifications like --

HAYES: So they`re saying they`re doing it for a reason not as a blanket policy but stop people from coming?

GELERNT: When the judge pressed and said well what`s the reason, they said, well, maybe it`s not really the parent, and the judge said well, what about DNA? And you know it just went like that one after another. They are not -- they are saying ---

HAYES: They won`t admit what the policy is.

GELERNT: They won`t admit the rationale for the policy. But when you go through their rationales and none of them makes sense, it`s clear why they`re doing it. They`re doing it to deter asylum.

HAYES: And just to be clear, Laura, like, I just want to be clear on this because I know that there`s a lot of things about the way that immigration policy works in this country that have been broken and terrible for a long time. And sometimes people find them in the Trump Administration. It turns out that there`s been stuff like this happening for a long time. But this is not that, right? I mean you`ve been doing this work. This is new.

ST. JOHN: Yes, absolutely. Again, this is -- this is unprecedented. The number of people that we are seeing being separated is like nothing I`ve seen, and I`ve been here for nearly a decade in Arizona doing immigration work.

HAYES: Does it take a toll on the -- I keep thinking about having that job of taking a screaming child away, does it take a toll on the people who are doing this?

ST. JOHN: You know, I can`t speak for anybody who works for Border Patrol but I will say that I think what is happening is absolutely inhumane. I think you mentioned that a lot of things about immigration law are complicated and can get -- and can be confusing and I would say this is not that situation. You know, taking parents and children and separating them for no good reason, there is no reason to do that. There -- it`s just unjustifiable frankly and inhumane.

HAYES: If you`re watching this and you feel like it is unjustifiable and inhumane, I would really urge you to contact people that represent you in the United States government to tell them that you feel that way. Lee Gelernt and Laura St. John, thank you both.

ST. JOHN: Thank you.

HAYES: We`ll be right back after this.


HAYES: Today, President Trump unleashed yet another series of somewhat absurd conspiratorial tweets asserting his unfounded allegations that a, quote, spy was placed in his campaign. It cannot be said enough when you think about all this that there were two investigations by the FBI during the 2016 presidential election: the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her emails, which was conducted in excruciating public detail, and yet we heard nothing of the investigation to the Trump campaign even as a foreign adversary sabotaged his rival with the distinct possibility the Trump campaign was colluding to bring about that sabotage.

For more on a week in which we witnessed a great deal of Trump administration encroachment on the Mueller investigation, let`s bring in MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah, former Daniel Goldman, also former federal prosecutor in the southern district of New York -- we have sort of reunion party here -- and Harry Litman, a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.

I want to sort of look at where we are at the end of this week, but let`s start with the most recent news, which is the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani saying a day after this highly irregular and unusual briefing happened about a confidential, you know, classified, confidential information about an informant, that this information should be briefed to the White House now, which is -- you know, part of the investigation. What do you make of that?

MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think it shows that the pretext for the meeting that happened, this supposed congressional oversight, was just a complete lie.

HAYES: Yeah, they didn`t even wait 24 hours.

ROCAH: Exactly, you know. And, I mean, Giuliani, you know, you can think what you will about his strategy, but he certainly comes out and says what the rest of us see as implied in what they`re doing. And he`s admitted it.

This was really about the president and his -- you know, legal team subjects and targets. And I think he`s a target or a subject. I don`t know which one, but he`s part of this investigation -- them getting information about that very investigation. And that is just preposterous. I mean, no other American, or person in the world, would be entitled to that, nor should they.

HAYES: You agree?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I absolutely agree. And either there were some rumblings that, you know, Emmett Flood (ph) and John Kelly were going just to sort of broker this thing. And that was -- that was bad enough. The meeting itself was bad enough, but now for Giuliani to sort of spout these incoherent and nonsensible (ph) rationales as to why the president should get information about a confidential informant under the guise of this newfound interest in transparency. I mean they`re called confidential informants for a reason.

HAYES: CIs, that`s what they`re called.

GOLDMAN: They are confidential. And the FBI does not operate in a transparent world, set aside Hillary Clinton.

But, you know, this is a fallacious rationale to even be, as Mimi says, the pretext for it.

HAYES: You know, Harry, I wonder -- I mean, to me there`s also -- this seems like a red line, right. So, the question at the beginning of the week was Nunes and his crew and the White House are leaning on Rosenstein to give them this meeting and to show him this information and to start an investigation at the Department of Justice. And Rosenstein sort of boots it over to the IG, and he gives this meeting. And the thought is like, OK, well he`s threading the needle there. He`s trying to kind of keep his job. If the White House demands something like this, that seems to me something you can`t brook compromise on.

HARRY LITMAN, FRM. DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I mean, a red line for two reasons. Everything that Mimi and Dan said spot on. You don`t play an open hand with a defendant or the subject in a criminal investigation which, of course, is what Trump is. But in some ways even more seriously as the reddest of red lines, you don`t give information about a longstanding confidential informant who we`re now reading all about in the newspapers what all it means for him and future FBI recruits.

So, yes, it was stunning. And as a matter of principle, of the real sort of DNA of what the department does. I agree with you, that second one, that giving up of a confidential informant seemed awfully close to a point where you have to say enough already. Every sort of appeasement has brought an encroachment in short order and a more serious one.

But look, we also know that Rosenstein and Wray are doing the highest of high wire acts with principle on one hand, but really practical concerns about Mueller on the other, and winds coming in in every direction. There are things we don`t know about what they`re trying to safeguard with Mueller.

But if you look at resignations as reserved for the point of sort of high principle, this more than anything that`s happened I think all year, crossed a clear line of the DOJ mission and life blood.

HAYES: Would you -- I mean, think about the advice that you would be giving to Rosenstein and Wray right now, if they called you up and said what`s the move here. I think I`m sympathetic to the position they`re in some ways, and I also sense that Rosenstein, there`s two things that make me think that Rosenstein is committed to protecting this investigation. One, that he said the Justice Department won`t be extorted. And he used the word extorted, which is a word associated with organized crime, and made it sound like he was talking about a mafia secret group that was trying to extort them. And, b, the fact that he signed off on that search warrant on Michael Cohen.

And I don`t know what he saw that he signed off on that, but that makes me think that he`s seen stuff that indicates that, yeah, there`s some real probable cause of criminal activity here.

ROCAH: Yeah, you talked a lot about this last night in your show. I thought it was really informative. I learned a lot about Mueller`s filing most recently. And the nuggets that are in there about how much more there is going on and that`s why when Giuliani, part of his rationale for saying why the White House should be briefed is, well, you know, the informant didn`t find anything, because if he did, we would know about it. No, we wouldn`t. That`s the point.

This is an ongoing investigation. There`s a lot that Mueller knows. There`s a lot that Rosenstein has seen. And that is what gives me faith. And this is -- I think how much more they know than we do.

HAYES: Right, but if that`s the case, right, so if you think that Rosenstein is a sort of good faith guarantor of the integrity of the investigation, which by the way, I just want to be clear, if the investigation finds that the president is totally blameless and innocent, it would be a good thing for that to be found by someone with integrity to then be able to go to the country and say, look, right? That if we think that -- or if you think he is a guarantor of that and the question becomes, don`t you think it`s dangerous if he quits if he`s being bayed into quitting?

GOLDMAN: I absolutely think that`s what his rationale was. I think this is -- Harry`s right, it`s a red line that no one has crossed since Watergate. But I think Rosenstein wanted to live to fight another day. This was not the hill that he wanted to die on, this was somewhat of a secondary incidental issue in the broader picture of what this investigation is. And I don`t think that Rod Rosenstein felt like this is what I`m going to resign about.

And if that really are the two, if those are the two options, I mean we`ve been talking months and months and months about Rosenstein getting fired, Mueller getting fired. And he has held on to this point. He`s not ready to give this up unless there`s just something that he cannot in good conscience deal with.

HAYES: Well, that seems to me -- I mean, as I understand the strategy, right, watching this, Harry, the strategy seems to be this kind of, there sort of alley-oop of where Devin Nunes throws it up for the White House to dunk, right? Where the idea is, congress is -- congress is going to keep escalating the asks and they`re going to escalate the asks until they get a no basically. And that`s going to be the predicate for firing Rosenstein. That seems to be, at least to me, what the strategy is. What do you think?

LITMAN: I think it`s spot on, right. And you do think at each stage when he gives them a little bit more, ah, maybe this will satisfy him, but they are insatiable. And there`s no issue of principle here or no sort of limit based on outrage.

So yes, I think Dan has exactly what`s in Rosenstein`s mind, but there has to be some kind of limit if Trump said shoot this guy or resign.

HAYES: Or turn over all the files like we`re going to go through them.

LITMAN: That`s right. So -- but it`s an incredibly difficult calculation for him with everything else he knows, because he doesn`t know how Trump`s going to react. He doesn`t know who the new person would be. But surely, you know, people who have been in this position in the past have thought there are lines that can`t be crossed.

We haven`t seen those lines yet. There may not be any, because he maybe have his eye exclusively on the ball of safeguarding Mueller who, after all, we expect to be coming out with at least the first part of his report within weeks. And that will change the whole complexion of everything.

HAYES: All right, Mimi Rocah, Daniel Goldman, and Harry Litman, that was really illuminating. Thank you for your time.

Still to come, Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs as he makes his first appearance in court. I`ll talk to one of the reporters who broke the Weinstein story next.

Plus, Wyatt Cenac dives deep into policing in America for his new show problem areas. He`ll join me live on set to talk about what he has witnessed ahead.


HAYES: Former media mogul Harvey Weinstein was arrested and arraigned today for two separate forcible sexual assaults against two different women including first degree rape. After surrendering to the police in the first precinct station houses in Tribeca here in Manhattan for his former arrest, Weinstein departed in handcuffs. He was taken down to Manhattan criminal court and charged with first degree rape and third degree rape for an incident at the Doubletree Hotel in 2013 with an accuser whose name has not been made public and charged with a first degree criminal sex act in relation to another accuser for an incident in 2004.


JOAN ILLUZZI, LEAD PROSECUTOR, WEINSTEIN ARRAIGNMENT: That investigation revealed that this defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.


HAYES: Weinstein, through his lawyer, continues to deny having engaged in non-consensual sex. In that courtroom today was Megan Twohey, the investigative journalist for The New York Times, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting help expose the Weinstein accusations, along with Jodi Kantor, and who joins me now. Great to have you here.


HAYES: What was that scene like?

TWOHEY: It was surreal. I mean, when Jodi and I started our reporting in the spring -- summer of 2017, we were continually coming up across women who were terrified to go on the record and share their stories. There was the sense that what we now understand to be decades of sexual abuse allegations and sexual assault allegations against him, there was just this sense that it was never going to catch up with him, that he was going to be able to escape untouched, and today that came to an end.

I mean, today, to see him in handcuff brought in to the court room, he looked terrified. He looked out at us in the -- you know, there were reporters in the rows of seats there, and to have him step out and look around and look terrified, you could tell that it felt like something was finally shifting in this power dynamic that he had been able to abuse for so long.

HAYES: How did this come about?

TWOHEY: How did the charges come about?

HAYES: Yeah, in terms of the charges.

TWOHEY: Right, so there was -- so we broke our story and Ronan Farrow broke his story shortly after in October of 2017. And that really once that sort of unsealed all of these allegations that came spilling out of sexual assault, of rape.

HAYES: Dozens and dozens.

TWOHEY: Dozens and dozens and dozens. And at that point, the New York Police Department launched an investigation. They`ve been working with the district attorney`s office. There`s a separate federal investigation here in New York. There`s one in L.A. There`s one in London. And so you`ve had these simultaneous criminal investigations that had been under way and these are the first charges.

HAYES: And this is being prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance who quite famously declined to prosecute, or whose office declined to prosecute him in the past.

TWOHEY: Right, it`s worth noting that it wasn`t starting -- just starting in the fall of 2017 that women started to come forward with allegations. I mean, what we saw in 2017 was an avalanche of allegations that spilled out.

But there were women who stepped forward in previous years with allegations of abuse by him. And in 2015, there was an Italian model who showed up at his Tribeca office for a work meeting and within hours went to the New York police and said that he had grouped her and tried to sexually abuse her.

She wore a wire. She worked with the New York police and wore a wire, and was able to obtain what, you know, the recording certainly sounds like a taped confession by Weinstein. And the district attorney`s office chose not to prosecute that case and has come under a lot of criticism for that.

And so in some ways, you know, it certainly was under a lot of pressure here in the last eight months to execute criminal charges, I think, if they found that they were warranted.

HAYES: There are two women who are accusers here, one is anonymous. Tell me about the other one.

TWOHEY: Right, so the other one is a woman who was a college student, an aspiring actress in 2004 when she also showed up for a work meeting at Harvey Weinstein`s office here in New York. And as she has described it, he proceeded to force her into performing oral sex on him.

HAYES: Have you talked to your sources today about how they`re feeling watching all this happen?

TWOHEY: So, when the news alert went out yesterday evening, late afternoon, yesterday evening with the news that he was going to turn himself in today and that there were going to be criminal charges, and the first thing I did was to send that out to many of the women that we have worked with who say they have suffered sexual assault and rape by him and other misconduct. And it was immediately started working the phones and talking to these women. And it was something that you could just feel the relief, the pent up fear many of these women have been carrying around for months and months.

I mean, one of the things that`s happened in the last eight months is this global reckoning over sexual harassment and assault. His company has crumbled, Weinstein`s company, has crumbled, but there still is this major question of whether or not the criminal law was going to catch up with him or whether or not this alleged predator was going to continue to basically walk streets.

HAYES: All right, Megan Twohey, thank you.

TWOHEY: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: After the break, Wyatt Cenac joins me here in studio. Don`t go anywhere.



WYATT CENAC, COMEDIAN: You`re living here on the street and you need to use the bathroom or you need to wash up, what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let`s say we live right here. Man, we`ve got a tent right here. This is our tent, right? So it`s 2:00 in the morning.

CENAC: Do we have a nice tent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is a big one right here. We got bicycles too.

CENAC: Oh, nice. All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let`s say we`re right here. Let`s say 12:00 at night you`ve got to use the bathroom. Where do you go? Look around you. Where do you go?

CENAC: In somebody else`s tent?


HAYES: Comedian Wyatt Cenac`s new show on HBO is called "Wyatt Cenac`s Problem Areas." Each half hour episode cuts back and forth between Cenac on the set and him doing some feature reporting in the field.

The show devotes most of its first season looking at issues of policing. And even though some of these stories can be distressing to watch, Cenac doesn`t seem inclined to righteous indignation. Perhaps that is because as The New Yorker writes he is black, he lacks the luxury of venting anger through your television set without risking being profiled as a threat.

With me now Wyatt Cenac, host of "Wyatt Cenac`s Problem Areas," which has just been renewed for a second season by HBO. Congratulations. It`s a really, really, really good show.

CENAC: Thank you.

HAYES: What do you think about that description?

CENAC: That`s an interesting description. I mean, I do think to some degree as a person of color in this country you are taught from a young age how you engage with law enforcement is different than perhaps white people can engage with law enforcement, and especially how affluent people can engage with law enforcement. And so there is a real guard that you have to kind of walk into the world with. And anything that is, you know -- that seems untoward or seems emotional all of a sudden does seem like a threat.

And I think that`s -- you know, we hear that as it seems like a threat to law enforcement, but I think it`s also a threat as how people perceive you even being critical of law enforcement or anything in this society.

HAYES: You did a lot of reporting in the first season on policing, looking at attempts to sort of do community policing, you know, the kind of iconic like the police play basketball with the kids. And what sort of surprised you most? What did you learn? What did you come away with from the law enforcement policing reporting you did?

CENAC: I think one of the biggest things was just wherever we went from city to city it felt like the places where there was actual real substantive change were the places where law enforcement and community actually had a real dialogue and real conversation. And you know, with something like community policing, oftentimes what it can wind up looking like is law enforcement saying, OK, we`re going to -- we know what you need without actually talking to community members and saying like, right, we work for you, the taxpayer, what is it you want us to do?

HAYES: A so that`s--

CENAC: A service model, if you will.

HAYES: Yeah. And so I think that`s one of the sort of most interesting things just traveling from city to city and also just recognizing how localized everything is, that, you know, we kind of talk about policing in this sort of national, very polarized conversation. And then as you drill down and you get into communities it becomes, well, what does it look like for this community? You know, going to a place like skid row, their interaction with law enforcement in L.A. is so different than someone -- you know, the interaction that law enforcement has in New York with people or even just in other parts of L.A.

HAYES: I mean, it`s the crazy thing about the American criminal justice system is that it`s not one system, it`s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of systems. You`ve got police departments with 12 cops. You`ve got--

CENAC: Yeah. And you have police departments with 12 cops that have like full SWAT--

HAYES: Tanks. Exactly.

CENAC: And you have police departments with two cops that have that. And it`s like why do you have that?

HAYES: You know, it`s interesting right now because I think in the last three or four years there`s been so much focus on police and police equity and civil rights and dealing with the police and people shot by the police. We`re having an interesting moment right now. There`s a lot of occasion -- attention being paid to people calling the police, right, like the barbecue in Oakland, the Starbucks incident.

What do you think we`re learning right now as people start to talk about -- particularly people of color -- talk about the experience and record the experience of having the cops called on them?

CENAC: Right. I mean, I think there`s a couple things that exist there. On the one hand, there`s this thing of like what is it that we actually want law enforcement to do?

HAYES: Exactly.

CENAC: Why is -- you know, you see someone using charcoal at a grill in a park, why does that somehow rise to the level of having to bring out armed people who have authority by the state to take a life? Why is that the level of force that is needed to deal with briquettes?

HAYES: Or like two people sitting in a Starbucks for two minutes.

CENAC: Right, yeah. That where is -- on some level it seems like the way that people look at law enforcement, it has become like a television remote control inasmuch as OK, I remember the days when you had to get up and walk to the television and turn and say like OK, I`m going to turn it to channel 39 and then it`s like I don`t have to do that, I can just pick this thing up and cops in this weird way for a lot of people in this society have become a remote control, because I don`t want the awkwardness as Starbucks manager to have to go say to these people, hey, excuse me, you know, I have my own personal bias where I see you and you haven`t bought anything and I think there`s something wrong with you because I don`t want to deal with the fact that there`s something wrong with me that I see a threat that doesn`t actually exist.

HAYES: You`re exactly -- it`s so much of this is, yeah, calling in the people with guns and the authorities to kill to avoid awkwardness or to avoid vulnerability or to avoid seeming -- I mean, I think also there`s a kind of funny white liberal guilt thing happening with like avoid seeming racist.

CENAC: Right. So I`ll just call these people and they`ll seem racist for me.

HAYES: I don`t want to go up to you, because like, that looks a little weird and bad. And instead of that being the thing that checks you in your head instead I`ll call the cops so they do it.

CENAC: Yeah, let them -- they`ll stand on the front lines, being the racist that I don`t want to be.

HAYES: Wyatt Cenac, the show`s called Problem Areas. It`s on HBO. It`s really, really good. I hope you check it out.

CENAC: Thank you very much. Yeah.

HAYES: Congrats on the second season.

CENAC: Thank you, yes.

HAYES: Glad you`re here.

Be sure to watch Wyatt Cenac`s Problem Areas every -- night Friday at 11:30 on HBO. Also, on Tuesday Joy Reid and I will be hosting a town hall where we`ll dive into some of these very same themes and issues and a whole lot more. It`s next Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

Also happening next Tuesday, a new episode of my podcast, "Why is This Happening?" Make sure you`re subscribed now. Be the first to listen to the new episode. It`s a really, really fun one. I`ll tell you about my teenage years.

That is ALL IN for this evening.


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