Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 21, 2018 Guest: Maya Wiley, Mickey Edwards, Frank Figliuzzi, Jennifer Rubin, Harry Litman, Nancy Gertner, Joaquin Castro, Paul Ryan, Ben Wittes, Elizabeth De La Vega
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" HOST: Tonight on "All In".
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel badly for both. I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. Had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President what about Michael Cohen?
HAYES: Michael Cohen guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?
HAYES: Paul Manafort, guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Manafort is disappointed.
HAYES: On eight felony counts each. Tonight the implication for the President.
TRUMP: I did nothing wrong. You have to understand.
HAYES: As Michael Cohen claims Trump directed his hush money crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
HAYES: Plus, what's next for the President's former lawyer and fixer now facing years in prison.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump.
HAYES: What's next for the President's former campaign chair now facing years in prison.
KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL MANAFORT: He is evaluating all of his options at this point.
HAYES: And the possibilities of pardons for both of them.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I can't think of what Mr. Manafort has done to deserve a pardon.
HAYES: "All In" starts right now.
TRUMP: I love loyalty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. On a day of extraordinary news, there is one big headline above all the rest, and that is this. The news of the President of the United States who is identified in court documents today has quote, individual-1, directed his personal attorney to break the law in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. To quote in to Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to his part on those crimes.
And for the next hour, we're going to examine the implications for individual one, Donald J. Trump. It was a historically bad day for the President as two close associates. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman were simultaneously appearing in different federal courtrooms. Cohen in New York, Manafort in Virginia, both determined to be guilty of multiple federal crimes within the space of just a few minutes this afternoon.
Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, tax evasion, lying to financial institution, and crucially campaign finance violations. And Manafort was convicted by a jury on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud. At the same time, the President was leaving for a campaign rally in West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, any reaction on the Manafort trial?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That rally is now ongoing. The President has yet to mention either Cohen or Manafort, though, he did open with a riff on NFL players yelling. And even today of all days, the crowd gotten a few locker-up chance. Both Manafort and Cohen played crucial roles in getting the President to where he is now, in the White House, getting him elected.
Manafort, of course, is the campaign chairman and Cohen as the guy who made problems go away. And, of course, they just barely pulled it off. Trump losing the part to revote overall, winning the Electoral College by just 77,000 votes across three states. And now both of those people who were instrumental, two of this President's victory had been determined by the federal government to be felons to committed multiple federal crimes.
Remarkably, they are not the first felons among the President's circle. The man charged by the Constitution with ensuring our laws or faithfully executed had surrounded himself with criminals. His longtime lawyer and fixer, his campaign chairman, his deputy campaign chairman, his campaign foreign policy aide, his national security advisor inside the White House. And that may not be the end of it.
It's also worth noting the first congressman to endorse the President's campaign, New York Republican Chris Collins, was just indicted for insider trading. And today, in a story we don't even have time for tonight, the second Congress then to endorse him, California Republican Duncan Hunter was also indicted for campaign finance violations. The President himself did respond eventually to today's news upon landing in West Virginia though he noticeably did not mention Michael Cohen by name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes, it's too bad. I feel badly for both. I must tell you that Paul Manafort is a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years. And I feel very sad about that.
It doesn't involve me, but I still feel -- you know, it's a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. Had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what about Michael Cohen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any comment on Michael Cohen?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It doesn't involve me, the President says. And has, of course, been has refrained about all the crimes committed by his associates. But he cannot say that anymore about Michael Cohen. Was released today on a $500,000 bond. Because the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to do involve the President, who was identified in those court documents as individual one. That's the current President of the United States right there in Cohen's criminal information.
According to Cohen, he illegally conducted payments in 2016 to two women whom we know to be Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, specifically for the purpose of influencing the U.S. presidential election. Cohen says he did it in coordination with and at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.
NBC News Investigative Reporter Tom Winter was in the courtroom when Michael Cohen made his plea deal this afternoon. He joins me here tonight. What did you see in there?
TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, it was totally different experience at the courthouse today, Chris. The first couple of hearings because there was these arguments over several months about who should look at the evidence that was seized from Michael Cohen and how should that process go through and there was a tremendous amount of media attention. Stormy Daniels was in line, the security line, with the rest of us reporters, there were (INAUDIBLE).
It felt more like a New York City nightclub, frankly, than a hearing in the Southern District of New York. Today, completely different. A very somber scene today. And I think as soon as Michael Cohen entered that courtroom, the entire courtroom calm down, quieted down. There really no gasps or any sort of outburst from the crowd at all.
I think the thing that was so interesting is as soon as he started to argue (ph), he's under oath at that point and he starts to talk about the actual campaign. He starts talking about the President and I think everybody at that moment had this kind of stunning sense of wait a minute, Michael Cohen, the President's former personal attorney is directly implicating him in the crimes that he is pleading guilty to today. That was a significant moment in that courtroom. And frankly something I haven't experience in the trial in a very long time.
HAYES: I mean, under oath, this man says -- I mean, there was always this question about what's he going to plead to and there's been so many different stories, bank fraud, tax fraud, this and that.
HAYES: These charges today sort of run the gamut, right? There are some that are sort of in the bucket of Michael Cohen's, this is something nothing to do with the President --
HAYES: -- and then stuff that's directly implicates the President.
WINTER: That's exactly right. So we've got the first five counts, that's tax evasion. That's for the first five years and they say that's up to a little bit over $4 million in tax evasion.
HAYES: Just to be clear, I just want to hang a lantern on that.
HAYES: He pleaded today to stealing $4 million from the U.S. government.
WINTER: Yes. Stealing -- yes, what would the taxes have been on that $4 million.
WINTER: That's exactly what he did.
WINTER: Yes. And so then you've got another count where he says that, and he has pled guilty to, where he lied about his liabilities to a bank in order to get a home equity loan. So, if you came to me for a loan and I'm the bank and you said, well, I'm not going to tell Tom about that car loan I have, that vacation house I have --
WINTER: -- all these liabilities. So he pled guilty to that. And then count seven and eight are the ones that directly deal with the Trump campaign. In count seven, that kind of specific to $150,000 payment that's made to Karen McDougal. In count eight is $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, which according to Michael Cohen, he eventually was paid back for at he direction of the President.
So, you have the President directly involved. You know, there's been a lot of statements made about how the cases have been brought so far that are either tied to Robert Mueller specifically or have come out of Robert Mueller's investigation. This is one of those cases that don't have anything to do with the President. But today, the President is directly implicated on two counts as you laid up before.
HAYES: Yes, and we should also note the timing here is, this is going on in late October of 2016.
WINTER: Exactly. Just two weeks before the election.
HAYES: Right. The payments that he made, the question always was the sort of position taken by people around this sort of defending the President, defending Michael Cohen, well, this is nothing to do with the campaign. Today in federal court he says, explicitly, this was all about the campaign. That's what he's pleading.
WINTER: Exactly. And as Manafort with count seven, he says that it was done to influence the campaign. So this is something that's very specific to the campaign. It involves American media, it involves the National Enquirer. We've reported about this before, the presence (ph) of that company. So, you've got a lot of different players that have been talked about in press reports before.
To your point, we've been hearing about this now for six months or longer. And everything that everybody said wasn't true. You played the clip of the President saying, no, I never paid -- I didn't know about that payment. And today you have his personal attorney saying, yes -- no, the President was directly involved with the payment. Now, some folks may say, well, OK, so you have Michael Cohen versus President Trump. It's like he said he said except for the differences that appears that they have the bank statements. We have other corroborating evidence that can back that up.
HAYES: I see.
WINTER: And I think that's an important thing for people to recognize --
HAYES: Corroborating evidence that it wasn't coordinated with individual one as named in that --
WINTER: Exactly, because they can trace the payments and they also have quotations of things that people said and described in those court paper.
HAYES: Including text messages.
WINTER: Including tax messages that you see in the documents that you just showed on the screen. So yes, there's a lot there.
HAYES: You are a veteran reporter on sort of crime and punishment here in the Southern District and you know a lot of investigators, you're very well sourced. If individual one were Joe Blow, just a guy from New York --
HAYES: -- having covered this kind of thing.
HAYES: Not the President of the United States. If not -- I mean, individual one would be worried right now that they were in the cross hairs of the same indictment and federal investigation.
WINTER: I think so, because -- and I'd have to do a little bit more digging around the U.S. criminal code on this. But if you direct somebody to make these payments, you might have some criminal liability. So I think that's something that we're going to have to watch in the coming days and weeks. I think the other thing is where there other people that were involved in this in the campaign, another thing that we're going to have to watch.
HAYES: Tom Winter, thank you very much.
WINTER: Thank you.
HAYES: To evaluate the legal implications of the seismic event of the presidency, I'm joined by Retired Federal Court Judge Nancy Gertner and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. Before we get into details, let's just take a step back today. Am I wrong, Harry, that we now have a credible allegation of -- direct criminal conduct that President of the United States under sworn testimony about Michael Cohen in federal court today?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Right, so not just credible, but sworn and corroborated. And as you've said, not of just criminal activity, not of some financial misdeed in 2014, but have trying to influence the election. I mean, if you'd stopped to think about what exactly would, the framers or anyone be talking about when they talk about high crimes or misdemeanors, actually monkeying with -- it's similar in some ways to the collusion charges actually trying to influence the election. So it's more than credible, it's sworn, it's corroborated. And, yes, I think you have to go back to Nixon or before to have, as you say, such a seismic event anybody in the history of the presidency as far as crime and justice go.
HAYES: And Nancy, you of course presided over federal district court. You had people in there for all occasions all the time. What did you make of today?
NANCY GERTNER, RETIRED FEDERAL COURT JUDGE: Well, this was pretty elaborate. There are a couple of things about it. First, it's not usual for someone to walk into court not ever having, you know, been confronted with the charges and essentially plead guilty all at the same time. So, the government basically avoids an indictment, they bring what's called an information and he then pleads guilty to the information.
The plea agreement notes what the federal guidelines would be which is upwards around five years. Notably, there's no cooperation agreement here. There's no indication that he's going to cooperate, but as Harry knows, it's clear that he will. There's no question about it. It's just not part of this agreement, but I think we will see another agreement making it clear that he is going to cooperate in exchange for some deal here.
HAYES: OK. Wait, I want to stop there, because this has been a big question all day. The news breaks that he's pleading. And there is battling reports. He's going to cooperate. He is not going to cooperate. And then he comes out and there is no cooperation agreement. You are saying that the nature of the sort of strangeness of the process where things are kind of truncated, you don't think that's necessarily this positive today that we're going to see something possible further.
GERTNER: I think that we will be seeing additional cooperation. In other words, what was the incentive for the government to come forward now given the nature of the evidence that according to the court proceedings, they had against Michael Cohen. Why do they agree to an information and for him to plead guilty. If not that there is an ongoing conversation about the nature of his cooperation, it would be astonishing to me if that weren't. So, and why would Michael Cohen go into court and fall on his sword for a five-year, essentially, a five-year sentence, unless there is a cooperation agreement.
HAYES: I see. So that made no sense to me, Harry, today that it seems like you walk in, you -- there is 65 years of, you know, if you tally all up in the books, like I'm asking myself what Michael Cohen is doing, do you agree with Nancy, Harry?
LITMAN: Yes, and five-year is real time. So here is my take. That's been the question mark all day long and all I can do is speculate. But I think they were having discussions that the SDNY became very dissatisfied with last week, and they said forget it, we're just going to change you. And at that point, Cohen and his attorney who was Guy Petrillo, the former Criminal Chief of the SDNY, very well respected and has a lot of credibility quickly said, OK, OK, we'll play.
And then they wanted to try to stitch it up quickly perhaps because he had said so and possibly, possibly, this is a kind of a wild card, Chris, to avoid any inference of bringing a charge after September 1st, the supposed magic date. So they do that, but with the understanding and good faith that you couldn't have reach with an attorney that they couldn't trust --
HAYES: I see.
LITMAN: -- that he is going to be talking to Mueller and giving it all up and that will affect his sentence going forward. And there may be a separate agreement or just maybe an understanding among people who know each other well enough to trust each other. But I agree it makes no sense for -- and it's very anomalous to have simply done this without some understanding of what the cooperation facts will be.
HAYES: That is very illuminating. Thank you both for that, because it makes a lot more sense of what we saw there. Nancy Gertner --
HAYES: -- and Harry Litman, tank you both.
I want to bring in the member of the House Intelligence Committee Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. What do you make of what happen today?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTE: You know, for years Michael Cohen was Donald Trump's fixer, and today he became America's fixer by letting us know in court that we have an unindicted co-conspirator of a federal crime sitting in the Oval Office. And now the question is, what will U.S. Congress do about that? I believe that the Judiciary Committee in both the House and the Senate should open an investigation tomorrow morning.
HAYES: What would be the nature of that investigation into the crime -- into the possibility of criminal action taken by the President as sworn in federal court today by Michael Cohen?
CASTRO: It would be absolutely that. There would be the allegations made, sworn testimony by Michael Cohen in court.
HAYES: There was some reporting today that people inside the White House were telling reporters that, well, you can't indict a President. What's your response to that?
CASTRO: Well, I think the law is unclear about that. I don't think that there's a definitive answer to that. But putting that aside, the Congress has an obligation to act. Now, I realize that for good reason, millions of Americans have basically lost faith in the Republican Majority taking any kind of action against this President. But we have to do everything that we can to press them to take action.
HAYES: There's a question here now, seems to be a profound one, which is that if individual one has named in this indictment were just a citizen, they would be exposed to real criminal threat. And can it be the case that just happening to be the person who did those things having one office and sitting the White House insulates you from any possible recrimination for those actions?
CASTRO: I think that that is a very important question, Chris. Do you become basically immune from prosecution simply because you won the election? You committed a crime that helped you win the election. You've now become President and so now you have basically won immunity as well as an election. That's why I say that the issue of prosecution is not necessarily off the table. I don't know that with something like this, a crime like this that you should be able to cheat, win the election because you cheat and therefore have immunity.
HAYES: Have you been in -- you know, today there are so many stories that come out of the Trump White House, Trump administration. We follow this, of course, at the end of the day (ph). Today it struck me when someone who follows us for a living is a remarkably significant day, I mean, a different kind of category of thing happen today. Are you talking with other members of your caucus, other people about what happened today and do they have seemed either that sense?
CASTRO: I have had some conversations and I think you kind of felt this momentum growing throughout the day that started with the question of whether there would be a verdict in the Manafort trial and then of course moving on to the news of Michael Cohen. So, yes, folks are having more conversations about it. I think, in a sense, the President has lucked out that you have one chamber of Congress, the House of Representative that is out of session until September 4th.
So that's what allows Paul Ryan to basically give an answer in part, give an answer saying, well, I need more information before I do anything. And, you know, and basically, by the way, my folks aren't here anywhere. The Senate, I think is in session so they should act immediately.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you.
HAYES: Here to talk to in Michael Cohen's guilty plea for violating campaign finance laws and illegal implications with President, WNBC Chief Executive Reporter Jonathan Dienst and NBC News Contributing Correspondent and Paul S. Ryan, Vice President for Policy & Litigation at Common Cause who wrote and filed complaints early this year alleging at the hush money payments for a violation of campaign finance law, which proves to be a key part of the story.
I want to start with what the Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said today about the nature of these charges and then get both of your reactions to what happened here. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KHUZAMI, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Mr. Cohen plead guilty to two campaign finance charges, one for causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and a second one, for personally making an excessive personal contribution, both for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election. In addition, what he did was he worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Why are these crimes?
JONATHAN DIENST, NBC NEW CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT: First of all, they're saying that he is a lawyer, he knew better. And that he absolutely knew what he was doing. So that's part one.
DIENST: Two, his involvement with the Trump campaign coordinating the -- tonight in the in the indictment, I just want you to --
DIENST: -- bring out the criminal information is that he coordinated with other members of this campaign. And the question is who are they? Who else was in touched with one or more members? So that is also part of the still to come questions that need to be.
HAYES: That's a great point. So, aside from individual one as the President, there's other -- there's the possibility of other people in the campaign who knew about this.
DIENST: And in the campaign who is communicating with by touch, by phone, in meetings about the payments that were made to silence these women. Who else were they and it goes to the question of conspiracy.
HAYES: Paul, you work from an organization that is devoted to campaign finance and sort of campaign finance regulation. You filed the complaint. Why did you file the complaint when the news first broke about these payments?
PAUL S. RYAN, COMMON CAUSE, V.P. OF POLICY & LITIGATION: It was pretty obvious to Common Cause that there were serious -- potentially very serious campaign finance law violations here. Back in January, we filed the complaint alleging violations regarding the payment to Stormy Daniels. In February we filed another complaint regarding the payment by American Media Inc. to Karen McDougal. And then in March, we amended our first complaint regarding to Stormy Daniels matter to add Michael Cohen when additional information trickled out about bills violations.
It was pretty clear to us that illegal contributions had been made. That's also I think important to note that President Trump has now been implicated not only receiving those illegal contributions, illegally large contribution from Michael Cohen, illegal corporate contribution from AMI. But also additional violations of federal campaign finance law. His failure and his committees' failure to disclose the receive of these contributions --
RYAN: -- as well as additional criminal code violations. It's illegal to lie to the federal government and the Department of Justice has historically interpreted those statutes as applying to campaign finance reports that are incomplete or contain misinformation filed with the FEC. So, you know, President Trump and his campaign are potentially in violation of even more statutes than Michael Cohen pled guilty to today.
HAYES: Wait, I want to zero within that. What you're saying is when you file FEC reports, if you lie in FEC reports it has been and could be interpreted as that's unlawfully lying in federal government.
RYAN: Yes. There are several statutes within the criminal code outside of the campaign finance laws that the Department of Justice regularly includes when it prosecutes people for violating campaign finance disclose requirements.
HAYES: Where do you see the sort of tentacles of this case going next?
DIENST: I think it goes down to D.C. and Mr. Mueller's report and where he's going to go next. What led up to today which one of your previous guest touched upon is exactly right? He was not prepared to take a plea. And then the federal government said, look, we're moving forward. We are going to charge him this week.
And some of these counts carried 30 years plus. And then you start to add that up and you're talking decades of potential prison time and that brought him and his lawyers to the table this weekend saying, OK, we want to take a plea. We want to take a deal.
And again, it doesn't spell out cooperation here. But if you read between the lines here, there seems there have already been cooperation, admissions and you might expect to see future cooperations moving forward, which is where the problem --
HAYES: For the President.
DIENST: -- for the President.
HAYES: So, I just want to make clear, you're endorsing what the previous guest had said about there's no formal cooperation agreement but what happen today makes no sense if there isn't at least an understanding with that we're talking.
DIENST: There's either an understanding or there's a sealed agreement that we just don't know about.
HAYES: That's a possibility.
DIESNT: That is certainly a possibility. We don't know that. I would probably go with what your previous guest says, that there's an understanding among these attorneys who know each other who say we're going to work forward. And again they have something called a five K letter.
So, Mr. Manafort's length prison time is going to dependent on perhaps his cooperation moving forward. He faces what three to six years, three to five and a half years under this plea deal. If he cooperates, he deal what's called a five K letter or recommendation from prosecutors, end up to a judge and said, hey, look, your honor, look how helpful this guy was.
HAYES: I see.
DIENST: Within a break you get zero jail time, you get one year instead of three or five years. So that's a possibility moving forward. The question is how much jail time is Mr. Cohen is willing to serve.
HAYES: Paul, quickly, I want to get your reaction to the significance of the tape that we have of the President and Michael Cohen discussing this payment, given the sort of legal landscape as we've seen now. Take a listen.
COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --
TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?
COHEN: Well, I'll have to pay him something.
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) pay with cash.
COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it. No, no, no.
HAYES: Is that significant in terms of the legal exposure to the President of the United States in this case?
RYAN: Yes. I think it definitely tells us, it's evidence that the President knew about these payments very early on in the process despite his denial of that fact. And his knowledge is what puts him on the hook for potential criminal violations of law. They require knowing and willful conducting or the criminal violations of campaign finance code. Now it's up to the Department of Justice to hold power accountability. And to, you know, make sure that everyone involved in this is punished.
HAYES: Jonathan Dienst and Paul S. Ryan, thanks to you both.
DIENST: Thank you.
RYAN: Thank you.
HAYES: To examine what today's guilty verdict for Paul Manafort and guilty plea by Michael Cohen means for the Mueller probe, I'm joined by Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow at Brookings and Editor-in-Chief for the Lawfare Blog, and Elizabeth de la Vega, a former Federal Prosecutor.
Ben, let me start with you. We haven't even talk about Manafort, the President's campaign manager who was found guilty in eight counts today and were at 826, I've not gotten to it today. But before we do get to that, the significance for the Mueller investigation of what happened in federal court today. What do you think?
BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LAWFARE BLOG: Well, which federal court? I think actually the answer in both cases is that we don't know. Because we don't know, a, how much Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen really knows about the matters that are core to the Mueller investigation. We kind of suspect that they may know something important. And we don't know -- we kind of know in Cohen's case that he's going to end up cooperating, but we don't know what Paul Manafort who has made some very peculiar strategic judgments about how to proceed in his own case will interpret eight counts of conviction today from a jury, and whether that will perhaps light a fire under his chair to, you know, to talk in a serious way to the prosecutors for the first time.
So, I think we don't know. I think it's reasonable to hypothesize that it could provide a significant incentive and a moment for Mr. Manafort to take a deep breath and come to a different judgment.
HAYES: Elizabeth, what do you think?
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think regarding Manafort, I think he's a pretty hardcore international plutocrat at this point. And I think he has many reasons not to cooperate that have nothing to do with worries about Trump or even U.S. law. He's got problems with Ukraine, and he's got problems with people with whom he's been dealing for so many years.
So, I think Paul Manafort is in just about the worst situation of any criminal defendant I've ever encountered. He really has no good options. And I can't predict one way or the other what he would do. But with regard to Michael Cohen, I don't think we need to even go as far as speculating. I think it's almost a certainty that he is going to cooperate and he knows a great deal about Trump's activities in every sphere for decades now.
And I'm not just saying that based on public knowledge regarding the cooperation, I'm not just speculating about that. I'm saying it based on the plea agreement itself. It's a very elegantly drawn plea agreement that charges probably was just a fraction of the criminal charges that could have been brought against Cohen and just enough to tie him to Donald Trump but not so much that it reveals more than the Mueller team or the Southern District could want to reveal at this time. And it specifically says he won't be charged for anything based on the facts in that plea agreement, but it says also that it means nothing about possible additional charges. So his incentive isn't in the form of a cooperation clause within that agreement itself, but rather to avoid future charges.
HAYES: Ben, you know, it struck me today as when we talk about the investigation of collusion. We know that there were -- there's alleged criminal activity, criminal sabotage by the Russian government agents, the GRU to interfere in the U.S. election. The effect it had is, you know, a sort of arguing point.
Today, we got in other interference in the American election by the Trump campaign in violation of federal law that is significant. I mean, quashing those two stories when they did, that is not a small thing. Two weeks after the Access Hollywood, that's a pretty big deal.
WITTES: Yeah, I agree with that. I think if you go back to the circumstances when the Access Hollywood tape was released, and you say what would have happened if a porn star had come forward at that point and talked about what Stormy Daniels has subsequently come forward and talked about? I think it is reasonable to hypothesize that a certain number of votes might have been different, or a certain number of people might have stayed home and not voted.
There is no way to know that.
HAYES: Of course.
WITTES: But I do think if you say was it a rational judgment on the part of Donald Trump according to Michael Cohen, and Michael Cohen that this was a story that was worth breaking the law and spending a lot of money to suppress in the two weeks before the election, yeah, that is a rational judgment. And I think they probably did it for a reason. And you know, without condoning the criminality of it, which I certainly don't condone, I have to say, I totally understand why they didn't want that story to come out.
HAYES: I'll note this is a guy who like wouldn't pay painting contractors $9,000 for like five years.
WITTES: He sure paid this one on time.
HAYES: Right. Exactly. Like this is someone who has left a trail of people unpaid in the many years.
Elizabeth, the line from supporters of the president today, you know, and even the president himself a little bit is the witch hunt continues, no collusion, they still haven't found the smoking gun linking us to the Russian crime and so really this continues to be much ado about nothing. You are shaking your head.
DE LA VEGA: Yes, I am. Well, it is getting to be a very old song. But what he keeps doing is continuing to try to undermine the investigation in the minds of the public and hoping I guess against all hope, I believe, that he can somehow stop this train that is very far away from the station right now, and it is moving quickly towards him.
So who can say why Donald Trump keeps doing what he is doing, but I think he can't help himself actually.
HAYES: All right, Benjamin Wittes and Elizabeth De La Vega, thanks for joining us.
Still to come, we have much more, much more to talk about on this monumental news day so far, including a jury finding the president's campaign chairman guilty on eight felony counts. We are going to dive into that. We'll talk about what it means for the Meuller investigation, whether the president will pardon Manafort, and how congress should handle the agenda of a president surrounded now by criminals. A lot of ground to cover tonight. Do not go anywhere.
HAYES: Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, was found guilty today on eight felony counts, five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report a foreign bank account. The jury deadlocked on the remaing 10 counts, but remember Manafort has another trial coming up just in September in Washington, D.C., a trial that could now be significantly more complicated for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comment about the D.C. trial?
KEVIN DOWNING, MANAFORT ATTORNEY: We have a lot to evaluate in terms of the outcome today. We will do it in a thoughtful manner.
Thank you everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Daniel Goldman, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York and an MSNBC legal analyst was in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and NBC News intelligence and national security reporter Ken Dilanian who has been following the Manafort trial every step of the way. They both join me tonight.
Ken, there was some drama today. What is the takeaway from what that jury found?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS: The take away was that there were three tranches of charges. There was the tax fraud, the failure to report foreign bank accounts, and the bank fraud, and the jury conficted at least one count of each traunch. They convicted all of the tax fraud charges, two of the bank fraud charges, and one mysteriously to us, I think, one failure to file a foreign bank account, even though all those charges seem to be the same. We're really not sure why they did that.
On the bank fraud charges, I think we can intuit from that they really didn't want to touch -- anything that Rick Gates touched the jury stayed away from, the jury had trouble reaching a verdict on. Rick Gates, who is the star witness, Paul Manafort's former employee, seemed to be thoroughly discredited. The defense did a really good job muddying him up. The jury didn't believe what he had to say apparently, or some jurors didn't. And so the conspiracy counts on the bank fraud, they did not convict.
But look, the bottom line is Paul Manafort is now -- he is guilty of felonies. He is facing seven to nine years in prison under the guidelines, and he's got another trial coming up in D.C. where the penalties are even greater.
And so now he's facing a choice of either cooperating or continuing to mount this defense. And I guess the third option would be if he believes that the president is going to pardon him, and Trump is certainly not in that direction in recent days.
HAYES: Dan, you were in the courtroom. What was it like?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I was -- I've been through -- sat through a lot of jury verdicts in federal criminal trials and it was as sort of silent and staid and stone-faced as any defendent and the defendent's wife that I have ever seen.
Paul Manafort gave almost no -- made almost no expression, no response at all when he stood and listened to the courtroom deputy read guilty eight times. His wife didn't move or make much reaction or show any emotion.
So to that extent, it was a little surprising, particularly because in a partial verdict like this, you are not really sure which way it is going to go. There is definitely a greater chance of an acquittal in a partial verdict than there is in a clean verdict.
HAYES: That's interesting.
What do you -- I mean, you did this job, you prosecuted folks in the southern district in New York. Everyone else has pleaded, except for Paul Manafort, right. We got another set of a plea deal today from Michael Cohen, what is your understanding of Manafort's strategy here -- Dan?
GOLDMAN: Well, my understanding of Manafort's strategy, the only thing I can think of -- and I think you and I have talked about this a little bit, Chris, is that somehow, some way he is playing for a pardon. He is 69- years old. These are pretty strong charges. I know that the defense lawyers think that the charges in the D.C. case are not as strong as the tax fraud charges in this case, but that case also includes some of the similar conduct related to tax fraud.
So it doesn't help a defendent to have two trials. The government gets two bites at the apple. The defendent does not get two bites at the apple. And Paul Manafort chose to have two cases.
HAYES: Which never made any sense.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and the only thing I can think, because it is not a posture that you want to be in if you are trying to to cooperate. And I just don't think that's going to happen. Nothing that we've seen from Paul Manafort is that he's going to happen. I know he is convicted now and it is possible, and I may be wrong, but I really don't think it is going to happen.
You know, notwithstanding the fact that some of the defense lawyers language today leaves that open a little bit. Ye was s not saying we are going to appeal. He said we are going to evaluate our options, which is a little bit different.
But it just seems to me that he is trying to angle for some rationale that the president has used in the past to say he was treated unfairly. There are two trials. The government brought two cases against him. And this is -- even he said, he's a good man. It's terrible what they have done to him today. You know, I don't know if that was always what he was planning, but I think at some point that became the strategy.
HAYES: Meanwhile, Ken, the Mueller team is full steam ahead with another big trial to prepare for just a few miles away in just a few weeks.
DILANIAN: That's right. And that trial is going to go into some different areas, including the unregistered -- or allegedly unregistered foreign lobbying that Manafort did on behalf of Ukraine. And there's also this episode of allegedly witness tampering, when even while he was out on bail on these charges he allegedly tried to influence witnesses.
And so the volume of evidence in that case is larger. And the judge I think it's universarlly believed that the judge is not going to be as friendly to the defense as Judge T.S. Ellis was in Alexandria. And the jury pool may be a little less friendly as well.
And so I am in a little different place than Dan. I think -- look, Paul Manafort is spending his nights in jail right now. He's looking down the barrel of a long prison sentence. You know, it is possible that he was angling for a pardon, but if that is not the case, and he was just being bullheaded like you see some white collar defendents do, he may be having a wake up call at this moment.
HAYES: Well, I will say this, this applies to Michael Cohen as well. As far as we can tell, Paul Manafort has been doing this stuff for years and getting away with it. I mean -- so, there's some part of him that's got to think, really, you are going to pinch me for this? I have been doing this for 12 years.
And I do wonder, Ken, is this, you know, if this makes him realize that that time is up?
GOLDMAN: Oh, sorry. The FBI interviewed him in 2014. There was no prosecution. He must have thought he was okay. And now this happens, because he joined the Donald Trump campaign.
HAYES: All right, Daniel Goldman, Ken Dilanian, thank you both for your time.
GOLDMAN: You bet.
HAYES: Could Donald Trump pardon Paul Manafort, as you just saw Dan Goldman suggest, and maybe Michael Cohen, although that seems less likely. That question has swirled for months as the Mueller probe closed in on a president and some of his closest associates. And as recently as last Friday, the president refused pointedly to rule out a pardon for Manafort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?
TRUMP: I don't talk about that now. I don't talk about that now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Question became much more immediate today for longtime Trump attorney and confidante Michael Cohen and the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as they both find themselves guilty of eight federal felony counts.
Here to examine the pardon prospect, NBC news national security contributor Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI; and Washington Post opinion writer and MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin.
Jennifer, I'll start with you. The boundaries on the president's pardon power are essentially entirely political with maybe some exceptions. We don't think he can pardon himself, but he can pardon Paul Manafort. I think we agree that would be constitutional.
The boundary would be political. And I think what would stop him from doing that is the same reason he hasn't gotten rid of Mueller. Do you think those political boundaries exist. Basically were he to do it, what would happen on Capitol Hill?
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, if you ask me after the election be a different answer than before the election. Remember, he is in the final months of a Republican majority. For all intents and purposes, he is most likely not going to enjoy that come January, so it's not only this congress he has to think about, but the next congress he has to think about, and the effect his behavior would have on the election, whether, for example, a pardon for Manafort would just open up a gusher for the Republicans and they might lose the Senate as well.
I think there are two problems for Trump. One is the reaction that might happen either with the public or on Capitol Hill that he really is now is trying to cover something up, and the second is, he has been acting all along like this has nothing to do with me. Eh, some guy I knew briefly.
So, why is he bending over backwards to extend the pardon power? What is the connection to Donald Trump? It does sort of emesh himself more with Paul Manafort if he goes ahead and pardons him.
HAYES: Ah, that's a good point.
RUBIN: And it also makes it more difficult, because he's been convicted once. And now, before we get to the trial that's much more related to Russia, that's when he's going to step forward? I don't think so.
By the way, that's I think why they have the two trials is that Manafort wanted Trump to think about really hard if he got convicted on the tax stuff what lay ahead. And the next trial is going to be a lot about Russia and Ukraine.
HAYES: Frank, from your perch as someone who was in the FBI for years, particularly imagining what it would be like to sort of work on a case to see someone pardoned in this circumstance, what do you think?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, knowing Mueller and how he operates and thinks and how his team runs, I have got to think that there is a prosecutorial parachute here, and I've been saying that for a while. And by that I mean some insurance against the potential of a pardon in the form of state charges, so do not be surprised if we find out, and maybe we will find out only when it is necessary, that there is a package presented to state prosecutors to handle Manafort and/or Cohen in the event that the president pardons them on federal charges. That's number one.
Number two, I would be pretty angry if the Pardon occurred, and I'd be thinking about whether or not the president's absolute pardon powers have a limit. And by that I mean the president has to faithfully execute his duties. And if he is actually witness tampering, if he's actually trying to issue a pardon to prevent somebody from cooperating, I would be looking at every angle of that as a potential for witness tampering, even if it is another notch in a report for articles of impeachment. It still looks really bad.
I also think, Chris, there is a very narrow window for the president to do this, because we have the second trial coming up, the Foreign Agent Registration Act trial is going to be ugly. And as has just been said, this is juicy stuff. This is going to talk about Manafort as a foreign agent and the realization is going to sink in to the American people that the guy running the president's campaign was a foreign agent.
And then Cohen, Cohen is about to fully cooperate, or maybe not, and maybe Mueller has everything he needs in the form of the search warrant or the raid on his offices, in which case the president needs to act very fast either way. We'll find out soon.
HAYES: Jennifer, what was the significance, do you think, today in a broader sense? We have talked about this, we have traced it. We have talked about Republicans in congress who have obviously been sort of willfully blind or even kind of worked on thepresident's behalf to sabotage parts of the investigation. What does today mean?
RUBIN: I think today means they can no longer take the position that the president is not implicated in a crime. He is implicated in a crime. Michael Cohen, under oath, with a lot of other evidence out there said, yes, he told me to go violate campaign finance reform.
And if we are talking about the legitimacy of the election, we are now saying, we are now positing that he won the election because he was able to illegally hush up two women who combined with the Access Hollywood may have spelled the end of his presidency.
So in a political sense, we are talking about the legitimacy of his election. In the legal sense we are talking about the commission of a crime. This just got a whole lot worse for Republicans and for Trump personally.
HAYES: Final question, Frank, what do you think of the pace at which Mueller is running this?
FIGLIUZZI: It is impressive. As much as everybody on other side says this is taking way too long, the reality is this number of convictions with this level of complexity, and today's timing, by the way, the timing of doing the -- getting the Cohen agreement -- the plea in the day that Manafort verdict comes in.
Look, they were staging this for this week. They knew this was a possibility. It is masterful. It is very impressive.
HAYES: All right, Frank Figliuzzi and Jennifer Rubin, thank you both.
Coming up, on the same day the president is implicated in paying off an adult film actress in an attempt to influence the election, Republicans are ready to push through his next pick for the next Supreme Court Justice. We will talk about that next.
HAYES: Today, there's an argument that the very legitimacy of Donald Trump's presidency has been called into question. Michael Cohen asserted in federal court that the president, then candidate Trump, directed him, colluded with him to orchestrate illegal payments in violation have federal law to two women who said they had had affairs with the president. Cohen saying he made those payments, and I quote him here, for the principle purpose of influencing the election. And he did influence the election.
The payoff to Stormy Daniels came less than three weeks after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, which was a low pointed for the Trump campaign, low point in polling, yet voters didn't know about the payoff and barely heard about Stormy Daniels's allegations.
Had the news come out against the back drop of the Access Hollywood tape just a few weeks before the election, a candidate whose victory, let's recall, came down to less than 78,000 votes across three states, may well have lost.
In other words, according to Cohen allocution in federal court, Trump is directly implicated in a crime that may have helped make him president. And yet Senate Republicans right now are rushing towards a vote on that very same man, Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as though the president who tapped him was not now facing a legitimacy crisis.
I'm joined now by former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Maya Wiley, and former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.
You know, the argument -- I sort of talked about this a bit on Twitter today, and conservatives were incensed, what does one have to do with the other? It has nothing to do with Brett Kavanaugh. Evaluate Brett Kavanaugh on the merits. He's either qualified or he's not. And why does it matter that the president was implicated in a federal crime today in federal court?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER. U.S. ATTORNEY: So, there are several legal questions that may arise as a result both of what we saw today in court and the ongoing Mueller investigation which is did Donald Trump commit campaign finance crimes? And to what extent was he directly involved in potential conspiracy to defraud the United States with a foreign govenrment, Russia?
The Supreme Court may be asked to actually determine whether or not you can subpoena for a grand jury testimony a sitting president. They have never decide that before. This may raise that, because as we know from Rudy Giuliani, right now, he thinks a conversation with Mueller is a perjury trap. That may raise this question may go straight to the Supreme Court.
The other is whether you can criminally indict a sitting president. The Supreme Court actually hasn't ruled on that. Put aside the Department of Justice's memorandum, that is not legally binding. The only thing that will be legally binding is what the Supreme Court decides.
So to have a sitting president facing these types of legal challenges that have not been decide by the Supreme Court actually deciding who gets to sit on that court and potentially make those decisions seems the me to be in and of itself to be something that requires slowing this process down and seeing how this plays out.
HAYES: What do you think, Mickey?
MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN, OKLAHOMA: Oh, I agree with that.
You know, I don't see it as an iffy question, there's nothing in the constitution whatsoever that supports the idea that a president cannot be indicted. The argument is being made, and this is only an opinion of lawyers in the Justice Department, this policy. It's not law. And their the argument is that it distracts the president from his duties.
Well, the constitution allows impeachment. That's pretty distracting. So, you know, I think it is clear that this is a nonsense idea. The president, if he commits a crime, can be indicted. I'm convinced of that. I think the court would hold that.
So the Kavanaugh decision now is a really big issue. And I think this has to -- it's not about Roe V. Wade, it's not about all these other things which do come into it, but I think right now the idea of how much power the president has is really critical to the Kavanaugh decision.
HAYES: The president did tout his nominee tonight when he was in West Virginia. Take a listen to what he had to say about Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Justice Kavanaugh is doing great. Looks like -- I don't know, very tough. Central casting. How do you vote against him? But the Democrats may find a way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: He's not a justice yet. And I don't know, central casting. He's a white man, and that has been the central casting for most of the court.
WILEY: Well, and not to mention let's just go back to Merrick Garland. So, if President Barack Obama, a duly elected sitting president, has a Supreme Court vacancy to fill and is denied even a hearing for his nominee simply because there's going to be an election within a year, how on god's green earth do we have a conversation that says that President Trump in his current situation that his candidate should not..
HAYES: I'll give you the answer, because it's not all principals or argument, it is about will. Because they have a majority and they have the majority now, so they're going to do what they want to do.
WILEY: Well, this is now happening within a few months of the mid-term elections, and the question that citizens have to ask themselves is not about partisan politics, it is about the constitution and the rule of law in this country.
HAYES: Well, there's a bigger question, too, I think which pertains to that which is this question of a legitimacy crisis. I mean, I still feel like we haven't quite digested what happened today.
Like, the president was implicated in a crime. And I just want to say, a deeply relevant crime, the crime of covering something up for his own benefit in an election he won by a narrow victory. And, Mickey, it just -- there's something about just everyone going to work tomorrow on Capitol Hill tomorrow, like, well, that just strikes me as wrong.
EDWARDS: I am really bothered, Chris, by the fact that people think, well, the solution will be if Democrats take the House in 2018.
Well, I think they might. But the fact is the Republicans need to step up to the plate. The Republicans have just seen that the president's lawyer said that he was ordered by the president of the United States to do an illegal act by the man who is now president when he was campaigning -- an illegal act.
And at some point, the people who are in congress today, the Republicans, you know, not after the next election, but right now need to say, wait a minute. We have constitutional obligations and we can't follow this path.
WILEY: And we also have the fact that if Bill Clinton could be taken through an impeachment process for perjury and obstruction of justice, there is no way we can credibly as a country say to any Republicans that this shouldn't happen for Donald Trump.
HAYES: And not only that, there are many people serving in congress now who voted to impeach Bill Clinton on precisely those items. There's a whole bunch of them in the senate -- Lindsey Graham is one of them, for instance. So, it's not a completely theoretical question.
WILEY: And yet Lindsey Graham actually suggested that what happened today is not so relevant for them from an impeachment standpoint.
HAYES: That I think you'll hear more of as time goes on. Maya Wiley and Mickey Edwards, thank you both.
All right, I would be truly remiss not to tell you we have a new episode of our podcast Why is This Happening? out today, because it happens to be an indepth discussion about Trump and corruption. Talk about timing. My guest is Zephyr Teachout wrote the book about the corruption in America, also running for New York attorney general. She made an announcement today about how she would deal with a Manafort pardon were she elected. And in light of today's news, I recommend you check it out.
That is All In for this evening. Wow, Rachel Maddow Show starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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