Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 23, 2018 Guest: Glenn Kirschner, Denny Heck, Chris Lu, Elliot Williams, Leah Wright Rigeur, Josh Barro, David Farenthold
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It`s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.
HAYES: The President rails against flipping.
TRUMP: I know all about flipping for 30, 40 years I`ve been watching flippers.
HAYES: As his former fixer tries to cooperate with the Mueller probe. Then --
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend David.
HAYES: Our friend, David who publishes the National Enquirer granted immunity in the Cohen case. Plus --
TRUMP: I don`t know how you can impeach somebody who`s done a great job.
HAYES: Donald openly addressing impeachment.
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I think impeachment would be totally horrible.
HAYES: And the President redoubles his attacks on his own attorney general.
TRUMPP: I put an Attorney General that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. He never took control of the Justice Department.
HAYES: With new support from certain Republican Senators.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: After the election, I think we will handle some serious discussions about a new Attorney General.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today Donald Trump sounding more like some sort of mafia capo than the President of the United States went on national television and railed against the rats, suspects who flipped to cooperate with law enforcement. He said the whole practice should perhaps itself be illegal and tonight we are reminded again just why it is the president feels so strongly about this matter.
Breaking news from The Associated Press that executives at National Enquirer, the Trump aligned supermarket tabloid kept in their offices a safe vault filled with documents on hush money payments it made for and damaging stories it killed about one, Donald J Trump. The man quarterly kept that safe was just granted immunity for cooperating with law enforcement. A source telling NBC News that David Pecker CEO of the Inquirer`s parent company America Media Inc. was granted immunity for providing information in the probe of Michael Cohen.
According to other outlets, the editor chief of The Inquirer Dylan Howard got a similar deal. The A.P. reports the two men fearful that the Trump documents might be used against AMI, removed I`m from the safe in the weeks before the President`s inauguration. It is unclear whether the documents have been destroyed or simply moved to a location known to fewer people. According to prosecutors, Pecker and -- Pecker and Howard both played a role in the campaign finance violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty this week, crimes that he, of course, says that the President of the United States directed him to carry out.
It was Pecker and Howard who paid off Karen McDougal to cover up her allegation of an affair with then-Candidate Trump and who tipped off Cohen when Stormy Daniels were preparing to go public with her allegation just before the election. Allegedly, AMI first made an arrangement with the President long before that. According to the charging documents all the way back in August 2015, just in the beginning of the Trump campaign in coordination with Cohen and one or more members of the campaign, Pecker identified as chairman one offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual One`s relationships with women by among other things assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.
Individual One of course is Donald J Trump. It was almost a full year before the first deal we know about the one with Karen McDougal. And on that secret audiotape of Cohen and the President discussing that deal was made public last month, they refer to Pecker directly calling him our friend David.
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COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all that info regarding our friend David you know, so that -- I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up with --
TRUMP: Give it to me.
COHEN: I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: So what are we going to pay, funding?
COHEN: Yes. And it`s -- all the stuff, all the stuff because here you never know that company -- you`ll never know what --
COHEN: Correct. So, I`m all over that.
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HAYES: It may not be the only audio evidence of the President`s role in this game. According to the New York Times, Dylan Howard, the editor of The Enquirer was known to have a recording device in his office. Now, Michael Cohen has now directly implicated the President in one of the two separate investigations currently underway into two separate criminal conspiracies to help get him elected. Cohen joins a growing number of the President`s associates whom prosecutors have flipped.
There`s, of course, Rick Gates deputy campaign chairman, George Papadopoulos, foreign policy advisor, Michael Flynn the National Security Adviser both on the campaign trail and inside the White House. It`s no wonder the President doesn`t think too highly of "flippers."
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TRUMP: This whole thing about flipping they call it, I know all about flipping for 30, 40 years I`ve been watching flippers. Everything`s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go. It almost sort of be outlawed. It`s not fair. If somebody`s going to give -- spend five years like Michael Cohen or ten years or 15 years than jail because of a taxicab industry because defrauded some bank, if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you`ll go down to two years or three years which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him most people are going to do that. And I`ve seen it many times. I`ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It`s old flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.
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HAYES: NBC News Investigative Reporter Tom Winter joins me now. I want to start with actually something the President said there because he`s not actually factually correct. Cohen didn`t -- we don`t know what they would have recommended beforehand in terms of his sentence and what they will recommend now. There`s no tangible reduction in his prison time based on his play.
TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Exactly right. I mean, ultimately it could have been sixty-five years of the judge sentence him consecutively to all the charges but Chris that just wouldn`t happen. I mean, we`re not talking about violent charges. We`re not talking about somebody who has a history of criminal behavior that he`s been charged with so yes -- no, we don`t know what it would have been that ultimately Michael Cohen could have been sentenced with if this went to trial to your point.
HAYES: You were one of the reports today that that got this story that Pecker has a has immunity for cooperation what do we know about that? What`s that mean, what`s the context?
WINTER: So I think in this particular context, we have to remember what was going on right up until the moment that Michael Cohen and his attorney said they wanted to cooperate. This was an investigation that was heading toward indictment and if Michael Cohen didn`t cooperate, they would have to go to trial. So when you preparing a case and you`re getting ready to go to trial, you want to line up your witnesses. We just saw it in the Manafort trial where there were a number of people that had use immunity testimony that may be a little bit different than what we`re dealing with here but basically it`s somebody who can say you know, I can give you 100 percent of the story of what happened but one percent of that might lead to me getting into trouble or incriminating myself I want immunity from that.
And so I think when you look at this particular instance, if David Pecker was able to provide them or fill in some of the gaps of things that they didn`t know or explain some of the evidence that they seized from Michael Cohen. That would be a situation here where he -- it wouldn`t be flipping because he`s not been charged with anything. It just would have been that his testimony would be useful to them.
HAYES: Do we know what -- if Pecker has spent time with investigators in Southern District New York talking to them?
WINTER: Presumably he has spent time talking with them. What we don`t know is whether or not that was in front of a grand jury. It may not be necessarily applicable. We don`t know how often he may have been in talking with them so right now tonight some of the details as far as his interaction with federal investigators and federal prosecutors were really missing out on a big part of the story. And part of that is because he`s plead guilty. We`re not going to hear or see any of this in court filings.
HAYES: What about Michael Cohen? I mean it`s very strange. Everyone still trying to piece -- piece together what happened. He comes into federal court, he pleads guilty, he doesn`t have a sort of existing cooperation agreement, right?
HAYES: We don`t know what he`s -- if for -- he`s not talking to Mueller. His lawyer -- one of his lawyers is out talking to everyone. Look, what do you know about the Michael Cohen?
WINTER: Sure. So a couple things I think that we can safely say at this point based on conversations that I`ve had. As it relates to Michael Cohen getting charged with further crimes within the Southern District of New York, a specific federal jurisdiction here in New York, I think that`s done. Now, if Michael Cohen goes out tonight and commits a federal crime, that`s a different story entirely.
HAYES: Sure. Right.
WINTER: But I think as far as other districts say that special council Mueller wants to bring charges against him in the Washington D.C. district or the Eastern District of Virginia as we just saw with Paul Manafort, that`s something that`s definitely on the table. There`s nothing in the plea agreement that precludes any future charges in other jurisdictions. The other thing is there is no operation agreement here and people are saying well, why would prosecutors do that? Why would people do that? Because the next person in line that he could testify against would be the President and that office right now --
HAYES: It`s not going to indict him.
WINTER: You don`t indict the President.
HAYES: So they got this case -- if Individual One was someone else, that`s the obvious next thing that would happen, the indictment of Individual One because that person managed to win the presidential election. He will not be indicted.
WINTER: Exactly. It has nothing to do. It could be Donald Trump, you, me, anybody racking on our set. It`s just --
HAYES: Right. If you just happen to win the presidency.
WINTER: If you hold the title of president, you`re not getting indicted and that would have been where his cooperation and they would have likely have secured that cooperation because they would want to tie it to his plea agreement.
HAYES: All right, Tom Winter, thank you very much. For more on the possible legal implication let`s bring in MSNBC Legal Analyst Joyce Vance, former Federal Prosecutor and former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner a 30-year veteran of the District of Columbia`s U.S. Attorney`s Office. Joyce, let me start with you with the President and some feelings about flipping. We -- it`s just -- it`s remarkable to hear the president the United States speak that way and as a former U.S. Attorney what do you think?
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the President talks about flipping and he says it would be so easy to get someone to say something bad about Trump, but that`s not what the process involves. The process involves people who have committed crimes, could come in and talk to prosecutors and make a decision that admittedly in exchange for leniency in their own case they`re going, to tell the truth. And prosecutors don`t take don`t take the world of these criminals at face value. They corroborate it every step of the way because they know ultimately they know they may have to put that person in front of the jury and convince the jury that they`re telling the truth.
So far from accepting anyone who comes in at face value who will say anything bad about someone else, in this case, Trump, anything that any of these witnesses have to say will be fully tested, it`ll be taken with a grain of salt at the start. They`ll look all along the way to see if that person is being truthful before anything is made of it, any use is made of it for purposes of an indictment or any other usage.
HAYES: Glenn, what do you make of what Tom Winter just said that basically, the SDNY built this case thinking they might have to take you to trial. They gave immunity to David Pecker, they may have given immunity to other people. They may have all sorts of evidence and testimony collected and now it`s all just sort of sitting there because one person pleaded guilty and the person, the other person that would be charged is the President of the United States.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, Chris, I actually believe that there is a narrow pathway to indicting a sitting president even though the OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel memo as a policy matter has announced that the Department of Justice will not do that. You know, the individual who actually participated in drafting that memo Neal Katyal who was the Acting Solicitor General himself has opined that an exception could be applied for to the Deputy Attorney General if Bob Mueller saw fit to apply for that exception and then the Deputy Attorney General would have to make a decision.
But to answer your question, you know, Mr. Pecker being granted immunity I think is another very bad sign for the President because immunity is being granted for really one of three reasons. Either David pecker having a privilege against self-incrimination can perhaps provide incriminating information about the President or he can provide corroborating information about the story Michael Cohen has provided or my money`s on number three which is both. So again I think this is another sort of difficult development for the President.
HAYES: We should say that Pecker ran AMI is essentially a sort of adjunct almost of the Trump campaign. I mean, these are some of their covers political magazine put together in 2016 about Hillary Clinton. You can see what they`re you know, where their perspective was. I mean, they were very, very, very strongly in the Trump camp. Do you see, Joyce, what do you see next in this SDNY part of this story?
VANCE: The SDN why part of this story still has a lot of room left to grow because one of the most interesting aspects of this story now that it involves David Pecker is this vault full of information he had. Hard to believe he had a vault full of information that didn`t come into play in other areas and so we`ll see whether this story branches out. You know it`s interesting to remember that the original John Edwards stories were tabloid stories and that grew of course into that prosecution there could be a lot more here interesting to speculate, we just don`t know yet.
HAYES: Glenn, do you think we will inevitably see any of this information, will it see the light of day given what Tom Winter just said about essentially the kind of pause on the basic building of that case around Michael Cohen?
KIRSCHNER: You know, it may see the light of day and I know we`ve all observed that Michael Cohen entered into a noncooperation agreement. But you know, Chris, it`s not at all unusual that just as prosecutors will return a series of indictments and the second one is called a superseding indictment, we also not infrequently enter into superseding plea agreements.
So you know, Michael Cohen`s first plea agreement as we`ve seen is a noncooperation agreement but I suspect that you may see another plea agreement with Michael Cohen that broadens his sort of crimes or offenses and that may very well be a cooperation agreement.
HAYES: All right, Joyce Vance and Glenn Kirschner, thanks to you both. Let`s turn to Congressman Denny Heck of Washington, a Member of the House Intelligence Committee. I`ll start with you Congressman on this. Are you confident that Michael Cohen told you the truth when he was before your committee?
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: No, not at all. He was not in his candid face when he came before us, I don`t think. I think he is now. It would be instructive and fascinating to have him back and I would like to think that we would be able to do that at some point.
HAYES: The president gave an interview in which he said many things one. Of the things he talked about was impeachment. I think it`s the first time I`ve heard him speculate about that eventuality. I want to play what he said and get a reaction. Take a listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the Democrats take back power, do you believe they will try to impeach you?
TRUMP: Well you know, I guess it says something like high crimes and all. I don`t -- I don`t know how you can impeach somebody who`s done a great job. I`ll tell you what if I ever got impeached I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking you would see you would see numbers that you wouldn`t believe in reversing.
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HAYES: What do you think of that?
HECK: Well, I`m going to take offense on Vice-President Pence`s behalf, Chris. He would ascend to the presidency and I have more confidence in him evidently than his own president does.
HAYES: That`s well played, Congressman.
HECK: Thank you. There are way more Republicans talking about impeachment than there are Democrats and the reason is they lack a policy agenda. So they want they want to have this conversation out there because I`ve yet to hear their plan for lowering prescription drug prices or protecting people at pre-existing conditions or increasing our investment in infrastructure or getting Americans a real wage increase which non-salary and employees are not getting so they would rather talk about impeachment.
Most of us believe that we ought to allow Director Mueller to conclude his work before that even becomes a serious conversation. But I`ll tell you this, Chris, I think the walls are closing in on President Trump and as of Tuesday, August 21st, I think we can officially market is the most corrupt administration in modern history. I think that`s a matter of fact. I don`t think that`s a subjective evaluation or interpretation of the number of criminal indictments and convictions at the felony level. I actually think the President ought to start having a conversation with his god and his family and himself about resigning.
HAYES: Do you think there are other people who think that way?
HECK: In this country, other people think that he ought to be having conversations.
HAYES: There are millions, tens of millions who think that way but is there anyone on Capitol Hill not -- who`s not a Democrat who thinks that privately?
HECK: So a year ago, April, I said on this network that I believe that there were people going to go to jail and there were a lot of people that looked askance at me and they aren`t anymore. And I actually first made this statement on this network in April of this year that he ought to start having that conversation. And the truth is if you compare where we`re then with where we are now, we are doing nothing but heading in that direction.
So as of today, probably not, as of two, three, four, six months from now, yes, I think there`ll be a lot of people having that conversation.
HAYES: Final question. You sit on the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Devin Nunez, what are you guys going to be getting up to counter-program what`s happening in the news once you`re back in session after Labor Day.
HECK: I don`t understand the question, Chris, you mean as it relates to the continuing Russian investigation?
HAYES: What I mean is that Devin Nunez has very sort of expertly guided a kind of counter investigation via your committee often as a means of essentially counter-programming the news that`s coming out of the Russia investigation. I just wonder what you think about what is going to be on the slate for you in that committee when you`re back in September?
HECK: Well, we have continued our investigation where we have been able to. You can find open sources for example that we have interviewed several people notably George Papadopoulos` wife and others. We had Christopher Wylie back, the gentleman who was at Cambridge Analytica. But the truth of the matter is what I think Congress ought to be focused on when we get back is passing a budget and not closing down the federal government as the President has now threatened to do over a failure for Congress to appropriate the funds to build the border wall which he campaigned on in 2016 would be 100 percent paid for by the government of Mexico.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Denny Heck, thank you. Coming up with guilty verdicts and guilty pleas closing in, the President lashes out at the DOJ, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions is having none of it. The latest step in their public feud and what happens if the President fires the A.G. Those stories in two minutes.
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TRUMP: As I`ve said, I wanted to stay uninvolved but when everybody sees what`s going on in the Justice Department, he was for justice now with quotes. It`s a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself which he shouldn`t have done, or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn`t have put him in. He took the job and then he said I`m going to recuse myself. I said what kind of a man is this? And by the way, he was on the campaign. You know, the only reason I gave him the job because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.
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HAYES: That interview from this morning is just the latest example of the President complaining about his Attorney General, almost from the moment Jeff Sessions recused himself which he did we should say under some pressure after he had told some untruths under oath to the Senate. And the moment he recused himself from DOJ`s investigation into Trump and Russia, the President began questioning his loyalty. And according to reports he even discussed the possibility of replacing him.
But that was last summer when sessions had the support of his former Senate colleagues. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley tweeted at the time that there was quote no way he would have time to confirm another Attorney General. And Lindsey Graham famously said there would be "holy hell to pay if Trump fired Sessions." Well, what a difference a year makes because today Chuck Grassley told Bloomberg that I do have the time for hearings on nominees and Lindsey Graham said this.
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GRAHAM: The president`s entitled to Attorney General he has faith in, somebody that`s qualified for the job and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. And there -- after the election I think there will be some serious discussions about a new Attorney General.
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HAYES: Jeff Sessions then snapped back at his colleagues and his boss in a rare public statement basically issued out of nowhere quoting, "While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. To talk about what exactly would happen as the Presidents did fire Sessions I`m joined by Elliot Williams, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs at the Justice Department and Chris Lu, former White House Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to President Obama.
First, let me start with you, Chris, on this relationship between these two men which is just obviously abysmal. What is going on here?
CHRIS LU, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: I don`t know what`s going on. This was a remarkable statement by Sessions today, a statement of independence as well as a defense of career prosecutors. It`s remarkable that only Donald Trump could make us feel sorry for Jeff Sessions. And the irony of all this is that Sessions is in lockstep with him on things like immigration criminal justice reform, civil rights, but sessions has committed the mortal sin of being disloyal in the eyes of the president. And the disloyalty comes down to not protecting Trump and that`s not the role the Attorney General. He`s the Attorney General of the United States, he`s not the President`s personal attorney.
And what is remarkable is the statements that you played from people like Lindsey Graham or Chuck Grassley who really are not coming to Sessions defense and that`s troubling on a lot of levels.
HAYES: Well, to me that`s -- I mean, Elliott that`s the green light right? I mean, that makes me think it`s going to happen at some point in the next few months and I guess the question to you is OK, so let`s say tomorrow he fire Sessions. What happens next?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS. Well -- so certainly Rod Rosenstein is the number two at the Justice Department and under the succession would necessarily be the Attorney General. But it`s complicated.
HAYES: That`s not going to happen, yes.
WILLAMS: That`s not going to happen because the President, you know, there`s House members calling for the impeachment of Rosenstein and so on. So the President has the authority under the Vacancy Reform Act which is the law that governs all of this to install an Acting Attorney General and that person just can be anyone who`s been confirmed by the Senate for something else. So that could be one of the current U.S. Attorneys, it could be one of the current you know, Assistant Attorneys General the Justice Department. Frankly, it could even be another cabinet member so you could have Attorney General Betsy DeVos, God help us if that happens.
So it`s -- and after that it creates a whole cascade of potentially legal problems of does the individual who`s been nominated have a potential conflict of interest. For instance if someone has worked for or with a bank that`s under investigation did they have a conflict of interest right? Does the President -- the President has ready said he wants to end a major investigation of you know him and his dealings is that a conflict right there and all kinds of stuff.
I remember when I was when we worked for Sally Yates at the time when she was acting there`s only a few positions in the government that can sign FISA warrants. So when you put an acting individual in you know, you actually take some of the power away from that individual to do to do their job, you know, if it`s not someone like Rod Rosenstein so it`s just -- it just creates a mess and it`s of the President`s own doing.
HAYES: Well, but also, just to follow quickly right, that person would then have -- because Sessions is recused, that person would then be the person that Robert Mueller would then start reporting to whoever was put in an interim basis Betsy DeVos or some U.S. Attorney that people widely trusted.
WILLIAMS: Right, exactly. Like so as you know right now Rod Rosenstein has authority over the investigation just because Jeff Sessions recused himself which caused this whole mess in the first place. The -- you know, as the new Attorney General would most likely take that over which again if it`s -- if it`s some that the President wants who presumably is someone who`s going to do the President`s bidding because of the loyalty point you were making, it`s just going to you know, cause even further trouble.
HAYES: Well, that`s a big -- that`ll be a big deal.
HAYES: Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked yesterday about a pardon for Manafort and said that has not been discussed and then, of course, the President`s own criminal attorney Rudy Giuliani said yes we have discussed it today and said we told him just wait -- basically wait until the Mueller investigation is over. What does it mean to have the President dangling this essentially, Chris?
LU: Well, look, I think it`s troubling from the rule of law perspective and what we`ve seen is that when the president does this, he is contemplating it and fortunately there are apparently some guardrails still left in the White House. But the more important guardrail has to be on Capitol Hill. Look, we saw this play out with the revocation of security clearances with John Brennan. You had Paul Ryan basically saying, no, no, no, the President would never do this. These half-hearted denials these half-hearted disapprovals aren`t enough and so unless people on the Hill forcefully say a pardon for Manafort or anyone else who might be a potential witness would be out of bounds. You`re going to continue to have the speculation and the president is going to continue to think about it.
HAYES: Please, Elliot.
WILLIAMS: Yes, you know, Senate Republicans haven`t -- say for Jeff Flake and one or two other people whose careers are over, Senate Republicans have not bucked the President and even now if you see you know, two of Jeff Sessions former colleagues in the Senate are now you know, coming for his head pretty much. So it`s -- you know, until we start seeing some desire or some appetite you know, in the United States Congress, Republicans for going after the President you know, no one`s really put anyone accountable here.
HAYES: Well, they have kept -- they have kept sessions in his job to be clear. Like Grassley and his colleagues have kept Sessions in the job. They have now appeared to give him the green light to go forward so we will see what happens. On the pardon questions, it`s interesting the President didn`t talk to the pardon attorney or White House Counsel but to his own personal criminal attorney about that matter. Elliot Williams and Chris Lu, thanks for making the time.
WILLIAMS: Thanks a lot.
LU: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, does Michael Cohen`s plea agreement jeopardize the Trump Organization? The legal exposure for President`s business and the Trump kids right after this.
HAYES: In the wake of Michael Cohen`s plea deal, there`s been a lot of discussion about President Trump`s possible personal legal jeopardy and whether a sitting president is insulated from indictment or prosecution by the fact that he is the president.
We do know with some certainty who would not be so insulated, officers and employees of the president`s company, the Trump Organization if it had participated in any illegal scheme.
If you listen carefully, the prosecutor describing how Michael Cohen sought reimbursement for his illegal hush money payments, that prosecutor is talking about the Trump Organization which he refers to simply as the candidate`s company.
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ROBERT KHUZAMI, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement for that money by submitting invoices to the candidate`s company which were untrue and false. They indicated that the reimbursement was for services rendered for the year 2017 when in fact, those inadvices were a sham.
He provided no legal services for the year 2017 and it was simply a means to obtain reimbursement for the unlawful campaign contribution.
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HAYES: A court document detailing Michael Cohen`s plea deal repeatedly refers to the company and executives of the company. The company is the Trump Organization. It is unclear exactly who the executives are but among the top tier executives at the Trump Org, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are executive vice presidents.
MSNBC political analyst David Farenthold is a Washington Post reporter covering President Trump`s businesses and conflicts of interest. His latest piece details how much Michael Cohen`s apparent interest in cooperating could implicate both the Trump Org and the Trump Foundation.
David let`s start with the Trump Org. They show up in a filing, a plea deal in federal court which is not a great thing to happen to a company.
DAVID FARENTHOLD, WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. As you said, we don`t know who the two executives are. The top of the Trump Organization is a pretty narrow band. There are the two brothers and a guy named Alan Weisselberg who is effectively the CFO of the company. Those are the three people that run the company, the only people with any real authority over its money.
We don`t know who the two the executives are, but presumably the Southern District of New York knows and Michael Cohen knows. And there`s indications in the plea agreement that there`s quotes from e-mails within the Trump organization. They`ve interviewed Trump Organization people and have gotten Trump Organization documents.
The question for me is what they do with those things. Is the Michael Cohen plea the end of this or are they going to push this further and try to prove the Trump organization knew it was participating in something illegal.
HAYES: Alan Weisselberg is a key figure. There was reporting that he had been called in to testify before a grand jury. We don`t have independent confirmation of that, but he is a central figure. He shows up in the Michael Cohen, Donald Trump conversation where they say, he says I`ll talk to Alan Weisselberg.
FARENTHOLD: That`s right. There`s a couple figures. One of the things about Donald Trump that we now know is that he liked to commingle all the parts of his empire, his family, his business, his charity and then when he got into politics, he added his campaign. And there were just a couple figures that were central to all of those commingled parts.
Alan Weisselberg is probably the most important, more important than Eric or Don Junior because they didn`t have a lot of the executive responsibilities, their father had all the power. Alan Weisselberg was the man through whom all the money orders flowed, and that included things for the Trump Foundation, the charity. Weisselberg was the one who cut those checks, and obviously he cut all the big checks for the company.
He`s the person that if you want to understand what Donald Trump had done in business, nobody knows it better than Alan Weisselberg.
HAYES: So there`s this other investigation that is being headed up by the State Attorney General of New Work, a woman by the name of Barbara Underwoodm and yesterday the state had subpoenaed Michael Cohen in the Trump Foundation probe.
You report that Cohen immediantly responded by personally calling the agency to see how he could help according to an official in the Cuomo administration familiar with the call.
What`s the subject of that investigation.
FARENTHOLD: So as viewers might know, the Trump Foundation, this charity was the subject of a long running investigation by the New York attorney general, which produced in June a lawsuit, a civil lawsuit by the state against Donald Trump, his children and the Trump Foundation alleging that basically the foundation had been breaking the law persistently for years and years.
That was just a civil suit. The point of this investigation by the Cuomo administration in sort of in concert with the state A.G. is to see if there could be state criminal charges. At this point there haven`t been any.
There seem to be more bureaucratic hoops to get over. It seems a case better made on the federal level. But that`s the idea, is there a criminal violation at the state level related to the Trump Foundation.
HAYES: Alright. David Farenthold, thanks for your time tonight.
Still ahead, the Republicans scramble to avoid talking or even acknowledging the Manafort and Cohen news. How Democrats could seize on that moment coming up.
Plus tonight`s Thing 1, Thing 2 starts next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HAYES: Thing 1 tonight, there`s a congressional district in California, the 50th district, that is unlike the vast majority of districts in that big blue state because it is very red. The most red district in Southern California rated R plus 11 by the Cook Political Report. Not quite Mississippi red, but quite quite red.
And there is a Democrat running for that congressional seat. His name is Ammar Campa-Najjar, and he is a 29 year old Palestinian Mexican-American who has never run for office before and he`s campaigning on Medicare for all and against income inequality.
Okay, well, good luck with that you might say except that for some reason, the Cook Political Report this week changed that race rating from solid Republican to lean Republican.
And why would that be you might ask? Because California`s 50th is Congressman Duncan Hunter`s district, and Duncan Hunter is having a really bad week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up.
DUNCAN HUNTER, CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You disgraced the U.S. military and veterans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And that`s Thing 2 in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Since 1980, California`s 50th district has had a Duncan Hunter as its congressman. First it was Duncan Hunter Senior and then Duncan Hunter Junior. Now, you may remember Duncan Hunter Junior as the vaping congressman, or as the offended by art congressman who pulled down a high schooler`s award winning painting from a wall on Capitol Hill.
But this week, Duncan Hunter Junior is the indicted congressman, one of a couple, actually we should note.
Hunter and his wife allegedly used campaign funds for personal expenses including $600 to buy an airline seat for the family`s pet rabbit.
Today, the Hunters had to appear in federal court in San Diego. And there was a welcome committee waiting for them outside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up. Lock him up. You`re lying. You disgraced the U.S. military and veterans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a disgrace!
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) CALIFORNIA: Good morning, good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: how do you feel today?
HUNTER: I feel good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today, Duncan Hunter stepped down from his congressional committees, but he says he`s still running for re-election. Meanwhile, his challenger is positioning himself as the candidate who has not been indicted.
Crucially, quote, "I don`t like rabbits that much."
HAYES: On the day Donald Trump`s former campaign manager was found guilty on eight felony counts and his personal attorney/fixer pled guilty to eight criminal charges, the channel we call Trump TV ran a live Trump rally in its entirety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Tammy, tell me what you thought of the president`s remarks in light of everything that`s happened today in the news?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he was on his game, frankly more than I`ve even seen him. He clearly loves what he`s doing still.
This is an unflappable man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Crushing it!
It`s been a weird week over at Trump TV. Faced with unquestionably awful headlines for the president, the network has veered from furiously trying to spin the bad news away to trying to distract viewers with stories about things like, get this, a school in San Francisco dropping its dress code.
Meanwhile, attempts at damage control, like this morning`s interview with the president have gone hilariously array like when the president explicitly admitted that he did, in fact, pay off two women to keep their stories of affairs with him secret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know about the payments?
TRUMP: Later on I knew.
They weren`t taken out of campaign finance. That`s the big thing. That`s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn`t come out of the campaign. They came from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s him corroborating what Michael Cohen basically said in federal court about the crime.
Last night, Trump TV`s efforts took a gross and ugly turn with a fearmongering, quote unquote, exclusive segment about efforts by the South African government attempting to reddress historical racial inequity, and continuing racial inequity, ex- appropriating the land of some white farmers.
Now, the issue itself is complicated and thorny in a million different ways, but it has been seized on by white nationalists and neo-nazis and the international alt-right who have taken the railing against what they call white genocide.
And yesterday, their message about white genocide travelled from white nationalists and white supremacists to Alex Jones, who hysterially warned of whites being wiped out in Africa, to you`ll never guess where, Trump TV where the network`s fearmongering coverage was being watched by the president who tweeted about what he claimed was the large scale killing of South African farmers.
It was the first time Trump had tweeted the word Africa as president, and it promptly earned praise from none other than David Duke.
When we come back, as Trump TV tries to change the subject, GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell are trying to ignore it. The deafening silence of the right, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Do you have any reaction to the Cohen/Manafort news from yesterday?
Do you think it will affect the mid-terms?
You still support Mueller, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Because that`s on tape, you can see he was miming the whole time. I`m kidding.
Mitch McConnelll`s silence there is pretty representative of how Republicans are responding to Donald Trump`s no good, very bad week. Paul Ryan refused to answer questions from an NBC reporter yesterday about Michael Cohen`s the guilty plea. All we`ve gotten is a statement from his spokesperson that, quote, we will need more information than is currently available at this point.
There`s quite a lot in the 22 page information that was in federal court.
Now, some Republicans have been trying to distance themselves -- distance the president from the news. Senator John Cornyn saying I don`t think it implicates him at all. Orrin Hatch saying the president should not be held responsible for the actions of the people he`s trusted. And Chuck Grassley dismissing Trump being named as Cohen`s co-conspirator as mere speculation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about him naming President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator and saying he directed payments to...
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: Oh, all we know about it is that he`s pled guilty and everything else that you`re asking me is speculation. And I don`t think I should be speculating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The president is in the indictment.
Well, joining me now, Leah Wright Rigeur, she`s assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University`s Kennedy School of Government; and MSNBC Contributor Josh Barro, senior editor at Business Insider.
So, here is my thesis on this. If you are asking me to give advice to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Republican Party, morality aside, ethics aside, history aside, all of that aside, just pure amoral Macchiavellian, I think you`ve just got to -- there`s just no choice. The political incentives are you stick with Trump no matter what. It doesn`t matter if they find way more criminal wrongdoing.
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: And not only that, but you would do it in this way. You don`t want to break with him, because then you just make the president mad and you get infighting in the party. But whatever embarrassing statements you make to actually like explicitly talk about why this is not a problem end up looking stupid.
So I think Mitch McConnell -- you know, Mitch McConnell has been good at his job in terms of leading the Republican conference in a way that has been politically strategic. The strategic thing in that conversation was to say nothing and he did it.
HAYES: The problem for everyone else, Leah, is that McConnell can do that, but there`s a bunch of -- everyone in the House has to run for re-election and it is much harder for them to do that.
LEAH WRIGHT RIGEUR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Right. And I think they`re towing the line right now between trying to figure out what is that it Trump wants, what the base wants, and then what their own constituents want. And oftentimes that kind of falls somewhere smack dab in the middle or oftentimes you`ll see representatives say, well, it doesn`t matter because my constituents support Donald Trump, therefore, I have to do what my constitutents need me to do, as opposed to, well, I`m going to go the path that, you know, the right path or the moral path, it`s the path of least resistance.
Or in some cases, as we`re seeing with Mitch McConnell this week silence may be the best medicine.
HAYES: Well, there`s the fact that like for those sort of -- for the House Republicans in running like Hillary districts, right, so for like the top 20 targeted, this was reported in the New York Times that they`ve been urged, Republicans have been urged, embattled incumbents, to speak out on Trump.
You know, come in free, do whatever you want. Nancy Pelosi used to say this all the time, if you want to bash me, bash me all you want. If that helps you win a seat in Nebraska, I`m all for it. But I don`t think that`s good advice actually.
BARRO: Well, I mean, I think -- to some extent I think it matters very little what a lot of these people say at any given time. And I think you can see that in the way the polls have moved over the last year-and-a-half.
The president`s poll numbers barely move a point or two higher than they were at the trough about six months -- or about eight months ago. The congressional generic ballot has Democrats up, you know, about eight. It moves up. It moves down. There`s no clear trend.
And it sort of makes sense, right, because how could you not have a strong opinion already about Donald Trump? Even though this is like bombshell information, how -- you know, how could you -- if this is something you care about, how could you not had already formed a negative view about him, and similarly on the other side?
And so in a large way, this election, and people`s attitudes going into the election, are baked into the cake. Now, I think one the thing for Democrats is that the very worst poll numbers for Republicans were during the efforts by Republicans to repeal the health care law, and so that`s a good thing to remind people about.
But everyone is very aware of what Donald Trump`s like extremely crooked connections and this gives us more detail about it. But did you really learn something that would change your views at the margins? So I think, you know, this is a thing that voters -- they`re going to hear a lot about. They already have an opinion about it. And I think these members of congress -- you know, it`s like in 2010, you know, Democrats really tried to customize themselves for their districts, separate themselves from President Obama if they thought that was useful. It didn`t help at all. Democrats lost 60-some seats.
HAYES: Increasingly, what we see is a politics that has been nationalized in every way, along the sort of two major political coalitions in the country. It becomes harder and harder to distinguish yourself away from what`s happening from the White House.
RIGEUR: Right. But I do think that at some point -- you now, Donald Trump does have -- he has a floor and he has a ceiling. And so there`s a certain, you know, crosssection of the country that is just going to support him no matter what, no matter he says, no matter what he does. And, you know, like Josh said as well, we know who he is at this point, so there`s no real shocking information that is going to break, that is going to cause people to rip their hair out and say reconsider.
But what we do have to think about is what will motivate people, especially motivating people at the polls and getting people to turn out. And one thing don`t want to do is be associated with somebody who is, you know, retweeting white supremacist talking points or tropes or myths or things like that, or who is associated with corruption, particularly when he ran on a platform of draining the swamp and getting corruption out of Washington. Those are the kinds of things that motivate people to turn out in sponsor or in anger, and that`s the kind of thing that, you know, as particularly as mid-terms come up, and as these special elections come up, people want to distance themselves from as, you know, going forward.
HAYES: And Leah I think points to something that`s precisely a problem for exactly those House Republicans, which is that the president clearly thinks his best bet to ride through this is increased emphasis on sort of like white racial grievance politics, like the tropes of a white nationalist about South Africa and the criminality of immigrants, that`s probably the worst thing for the people in those districts.
BARRO: Well, I think it depends, but I mean, I think, you know, in the Virginia and New Jersey governors races last year, you saw a pivot to immigration at the end by Republican candidates sort of in that same vein. And they lost, but maybe that was their best available strategy.
This is -- the problem for Republicans, you know, the menu they`re choosing from is not necessarily very good. So those might be their best issues and still not be good.
HAYES: Yeah, and the fear angle, if you`re someone like Leonard Lancing (ph) in New Jersey, right, who is in a district I think Hillary won or very narrowly -- if you tick off the Trump people and they don`t come out and then you`re nowhere anyway. And like there are some of those people in your district.
Leah Wright Rigeur and Josh Barro, thank you both for being with me.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END