Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 13, 2019 Guest: Ilya Marritz, Richard Blumenthal, Natasha Bertrand, Harry Litman, Michelle Goldberg
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, let`s appreciate the good sense grounding the 737 Max 8 makes sense and in good humanity even if both are too often absent from today`s presidency. 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not even given it a thought as of this moment. It`s not something that`s right now in my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort.
HAYES: The President`s campaign manager gets another three and a half years in prison and a new indictment against him in New York that would thwart any potential pardon.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Pardoning Manafort would be the - - would be seen as a political disaster for the president.
HAYES: Tonight, the new charges against Paul Manafort and new evidence of pardon dangling behind the scene.
KEVIN DOWNING, LAWYER OF PAUL MANAFORT: Two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar! That`s not what she said!
HAYES: Then, new suggestion that Trump might have tried to interfere in a case that directly implicates him.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called in to discuss Michael Cohen -- the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the southern district.
HAYES: Plus, the efforts in the Senate to rein in the President on Yemen and the border. And a look at some of the less covered hearings on Capitol Hill when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. The President`s Campaign Manager who passed polling data to a suspected Russian agent in a Manhattan cigar bar at the height of the presidential race just got another three and a half years added to his federal sentence. And then just moments later another 16 state charges slapped on top of that.
Paul Manafort was back in court in Washington D.C. this morning to be sentenced for the second time in a week this time for two counts of conspiracy to which he pleaded guilty last fall. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to another 43 months in prison for those two counts bringing his total sentence to seven and a half years.
Unlike the judge in Manafort`s Virginia trial who praised what he called Manafort`s "otherwise blameless life," Judge Jackson rebuked Manafort for the magnitude of his crimes, for his lies to investigators ,in violation of his plea deal and for his apparent lack of remorse, saying I`m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency.
She also called out Manafort`s legal team for repeatedly hammering on the same irrelevant message. "The no collusion refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand she said. The no collusion mantra is simply a non sequitur. The no-collusion mantra is also not accurate because the investigation is still ongoing.
In fact, the proceedings in judge Jackson`s court actually turned up evidence of collusion including that meeting in August 2016 in the height of the campaign where Manafort carves some time out to give polling data, why, to Konstantin Kilimnik Constantine Clinic his Russian-Ukrainian henchmen.
Nevertheless, even after the judges rebuke, Manafort`s lawyer went outside to make a public statement for an audience of one.
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DOWNING: Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts -- two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar! That`s not what she said!
DOWNING: Part number two. Very sad --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not what she said!
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HAYES: The hecklers have it absolutely right. Downing is lying. He is lying right there in front of the camera. That`s not what the judge said. She explicitly said that`s wasn`t what she`s saying before Downing walked out to tell the cameras that lie on camera.
But if Manafort`s lawyer hoped to repeating the no collusion refrain might help get his client a pardon, it was already too late before the words left his mouth because moments earlier right after the judge handed down her sentence in that D.C. federal court, before the lawyers even got to exit the courthouse and talk to the audience of one, the Manhattan district attorney announced that a grand jury had indicted Manafort on 16 criminal counts related to an alleged mortgage fraud scheme.
Now, those are state charges so if Manafort is found guilty, the President cannot pardon him. Well, the President claims the idea hasn`t even crossed his mind.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?
TRUMP: I have not even given a thought as of this moment. It`s not something that`s right now in my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Manhattan district attorney filed state charges against him which would seem to be a way to get around the effect of any pardon that might --
TRUMP: I don`t know anything about it. I haven`t heard that. I`ll take a look at it.
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HAYES: For the latest on these new charges I`m joined by NBC News Investigative Reporter Tom Winter and Ilya Marritz Reporter for WNYC here in New York who I should note broke the story of Paul Manafort`s puzzling New York real estate purchases way back in March 2017 that have now become at the center of some of these criminal charges.
Tom, I will start with you. Did you know -- so we got the -- we got that we got the sentencing, what was the timing? The sentencing happens and then Cy Vance, the Manhattan D.A. makes his move.
TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: So I went back and looked at this. It was 29 minutes between we got the note from one of our courthouse reporters Gary Grumbach saying that the judge had announced the sentence for Paul Manafort. And then 29 minutes later we received a notice that this indictment had been unsealed in Manhattan District Court.
So essentially with less than a half hour afterwards, it became public that there was an indictment against Paul Manafort. So this happened really, really quickly afterwards.
HAYES: You know, the charges here center on you know, there was a note that the Cy Vance charges, the Manhattan District Attorney charges, the investigation starts right after you publish a piece about what?
ILYA MARRITZ, REPORTER, WNYC: Right. So I and my co-reporter Andrea Bernstein had been interested in Paul Manafort`s New York real estate purchases. We realized that he owned apartment 43G in Trump Tower and we started looking around to see what else he had bought.
And we found both in this unit in Laura Manhattan but also in Brooklyn, you have this unusual pattern of buying property through LLC`s, through shell companies, then transferring it to his name and then taking out really large loans like larger than the value of the property seemingly.
We couldn`t make sense of it. We talked to a lot of experts who said yes, it could be money laundering and just ran with that story and lo and behold it has taken us to this day.
HAYES: And that -- I just want to be clear here, because one of the stories of Paul Manafort is that he was doing everything out in the open for a long time that you didn`t have some tip from anyone. There was no -- you didn`t get your hands on private e-mails. This was just in the public record of what his purchases.
MARRITZ: Yes. You have to know how to search you know, city databases and read those records and read through mortgage records, but it`s not rocket science. What was puzzling was when we got there and it just sort of didn`t make sense.
What we heard from some people was you know, rich people, they do did things differently from the rest of us. Maybe it`s legal. That wasn`t really satisfying and it turns out that -- it turns out what he was trying to do is he`d fallen on hard times in that period and was trying to extract value from these properties that he bought with ill-gotten gains from Ukraine.
WINTER: Well, I mean, it goes beyond that. Not only was he trying to do it but at the same time he was renting out this particular address in Soho which is -- which is mentioned in today`s indictment. He was renting it out but then realized that somebody was going to call him on it that it was actually a residence and that he wasn`t getting any sort of rental income, so he told his son-in-law hey, you guys need to stay there and by the way, somebody is going to come by and appraisers is going to come by. Make sure to tell them that you live there. And that`s what he`s charged with today.
And one of the reasons why we can say this so definitively is that a lot of what is in this, the facts that are within today`s indictment, the state indictment in Manhattan, he`s already admitted guilty or pleaded guilty to in his federal cases, the cases brought by the special counsel`s office, and faces here -- have convicted of the top-level offense, kind of the overarching offense, 8 1/3 to 25 years in jail in Manhattan.
So if the president were to right now tweet and put out a note and say Paul Manafort is pardoned. He should get out of jail this moment. At that moment an arrest warrant we`re told by people that are familiar with this you know, with the legal process, legal experts that just know how this works say at that point that arrest warrant would be issued. He would be taken into custody in the and he would proceed forward with the state trial like anybody else would be charged by the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office.
HAYES: And what you`re saying is that all -- I mean he -- you know, remember that weird -- the weird secrets he goes in Eastern District where he`s convicted on a bunch of the counts not all of them. He then is awaiting a second trial. He then pleas but he cops to the stuff that he`s -- the first trial --
WINTER: The grand jury on the first trial, yes.
HAYES: So he cops all of it.
WINTER: So he`s in for everything.
HAYES: And what you`re saying is all of that is admissible.
WINTER: It`s totally admissible. I mean, those are public statements.
HAYES: So, he`s --
WINTER: He`s going to sign an agreement. There is no way -- I mean this is a dream for a prosecutor. He`d say, oh, this guy`s already admitted to this entire fact pattern before I even bring him into court.
And on top of that, to the point that you were making before, all of this is -- I mean if you knew New York City real estate databases, we took it a step further and looked at his Long Island property in some loans and this came up a trial involving a Chicago banker, hoping to get a job in the Trump administration. There was a potential quid pro quo there.
I mean, all this was just out in the open and you could ask them about it and there were no good answers that we received as far as why this was the way that it wasn`t. They pleaded guilty to all of it.
HAYES: And this relates a bit to the difference between what Judge Ellis said about the man otherwise blameless life, you know. You kind of caught your -- you ended up here. I don`t know why. Judge Berman Jackson basically saying, look, you`re kind of -- you know you sort been a scam artist.
MARRITZ: I mean, clearly, it`s all -- it`s all laid out right here. I mean, you can read it. It`s a good read. It`s clear that this guy worked for an autocrat in Eastern Europe, found a way to bring the money in through shell companies, spent lavishly on himself, spent so lavishly that by the time the autocrat was deposed in 2014 and he was out of a job, he didn`t really have any money left in any way to access that money.
And what`s fascinating to me rereading this is this is all unfolding during 2016. It`s unfolding immediately before and immediately after the campaign and some of it during the campaign. The man leading the Republican nominees campaign is a desperate man.
HAYES: He`s a desperate man who as soon as he gets his job and this is crucial, he sends an e-mail to Konstantin Kilimnik say does -- has Oleg seen this?
HAYES: Oleg the Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin. How do we use to get whole? How do we use to get whole?
WINTER: I mean, this is a guy who had debt issues that were you know, to a Russian oligarch that you talk about. I mean, he started one of his LLC`s that were involved in one of these property deals -- I`m speaking specifically to the Hamptons deal -- within days after he left the Trump campaigns. There was already an LLC being formed. So it`s really an amazing fact pattern.
And I think today when you look at Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, they had issued some subpoenas in this case. It was really just sitting there for the taking. They took the opportunity for it and there`s going to be -- it appears that there`s going to be a trial coming up.
HAYES: Wow, Tom Winter and Ilya Marritz, thank you both.
MARRITZ: Thank you.
HAYES: For more on where things stand for Paul Manafort after today, I`m driving my Franklin Foer, Staff Writer for the Atlantic who published the definitive profile of Manafort last year and MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine- Banks former Watergate prosecutor. I`ll start with you Jill, you`re right here. There was a lot of sort of surprise and consternation I think about the radical downward departure of Judge Ellis in the sentencing guidelines. This seems much more squarely in the kind of center of the bullseye. Your reaction to Judge Amy Berman Jackson`s sentence today?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think that what she did makes a lot more sense. She acted properly in that holding accountable the defendant for what the judge did in the other case that`s not appropriate. She had a sentence him for what he was charged with in her court. And she did that in a sort of within the range of what is normal for that kind of a crime and she made it partly consecutive and partly concurrent.
And so it didn`t add as much time as she sentenced him. She actually sentenced him to 73 months but 30 of it was to be concurrent with his other sentence. So it seemed like a fair deal but I mean Ilya just mentioned that rich people do things differently and this certainly does show that rich people get sentenced differently. But it was also just a really bad day for rich people, the parents of all those kids, those rich people, that was bad.
HAYES: Yes. It`s been -- it`s been a crazy news cycle on that front, the white-collar crime emporium here in the United States of America. Let me - - let me ask you this, Frank. So we`re at this strange situation right? This guy now has run a bizarre legal strategy throughout.
He seems to have been banking on a pardon as like a last-ditch effort. The president never takes it off the table and then boom he has these charges in Manhattan. What is going through -- as someone who studied Franklin Ford, what do you think is going through his mind right now?
FRANKLIN FOER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: A couple things. One is that he figures himself a great strategist. And I think he`s always thought of the trial and his management of the trial in a strategic sort of way. And so the way that he interacted with the jury, the way that he`s interacting with the President himself, and I think he looks at the situation and he says you know, rationally my best hope of getting off this thing probably at this stage is to play for a pardon.
But I think it`s also important to remember that his strategic thinking is muddled because he`s a desperate man as Ilya described earlier. I mean his financial situation is a mess. His whole life has been engaged in this one long downward spiral beginning with the collapse of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and the collapse of his main client, his finances were a Ponzi scheme.
And so I think that you occasionally see him acting like a desperate man who thinks he`s thinking strategically so he`s willing to throw these Hail Marys. There`s one other interesting biographical fact which is that his father was arrested for perjury in 1981 and he was able to get off by kind of waiting out the system.
And so I think that in Manafort`s mind he has this one example that he`s able to draw on which is that his father was involved in all sorts of dodgy things and he was just able to beat the rap.
HAYES: That is the first time that I guess -- I think that -- what was that in your profile?
HAYES: It was in your profile. So I read that and knew it at some point but I`d forgotten it. That is a sort of remarkable North Star to keep in mind here as we`re trying to make sense of what would otherwise be a kind of nonsensical flailing. What do you think from -- when you think about the President and this issue of pardons which again just lurks over all this, when the president -- you know, when Michael Cohen says he talks in code, the president today saying hasn`t crossed my mind but I feel sorry for the guy. What is that to you?
BANKS: I think that`s code. The code started with his first pardon in office Sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of court. He was saying at that time don`t ever cooperate. I have your back. Don`t worry I`ll take care of you. You can lie and you can cheat and you can do anything you want. I`ll take care of you. That was a clear message and so was today a clear message.
He`s dangling pardons again and he doesn`t have the power to give pardons to protect himself. We can say he has unlimited pardon power but not if he takes a bribe for it, not if he does it to protect himself, not if there`s corrupt intent. And I`d say he`s demonstrated corrupt intent.
HAYES: Is this the end of the story for Paul Manafort in this is? Is there another chapter here given that there`s the Manhattan D.A. and what might ever come next, Frank?
FOER: Well, it might be the end of the story for Paul Manafort. He`s going to be residing in prison for a spell now. But I think that the Paul Manafort narrative lives on. That if we go back and we looked at these those unsealed hearing transcripts, it`s clear that Andrew Weissmann, the Robert Mueller prosecutor was zeroing in on that meeting that you mentioned on August 2nd in the cigar club.
And the handing over of poll data, the discussion of the Ukraine peace plan, and he said that this goes straight to the heart of what we`re investigating. And I think it`s odd that there was nothing in his summation, nothing in Amy Berman Jackson`s sentencing today that referenced August 2nd that really delved into this deeper narrative.
And we should remember that Amy Berman Jackson actually probably knows the Mueller investigation better than anybody outside of Mueller`s team because she`s read all this redacted material, all these sealed briefings about who is Konstantin Kilimnik. She actually knows probably more about this than anyone.
HAYES: You know, that`s a great point. I mean, I keep wanting it to be the case that we just get that information, right? And again, exculpatory, inculpatory, I don`t care, I just want to know the facts. Like maybe they were running a con job on Oleg Deripaska and just printing stuff off the Gallup website or 538 being like Oleg, Nate says we`ve got a chance. Like, I don`t know. But you want to know what exactly was the nexus of what was happening there.
BANKS: Absolutely. That`s why I`ve been calling for public hearings is that I think the people need to know one way or the other what was going on. But whatever is going on for his lawyer today to have stood outside the courthouse and to say no collusion which of course this case had nothing to do with, there was no charge of collusion, there was no charge dealing with Russia.
But knowing the facts that we know, how could his lawyer do that? That is so unethical I can`t believe it.
HAYES: You know, it`s a great point. And Frank, it was particularly audacious because not only does he come out and say no collusion, he says - - so that -- you can say that. You can say fine, there was no collusion. You can make -- he says the judge ruled there was no collusion. And then what made it triply audacious was the judge specifically said don`t you dare say I`m ruling there`s no collusion. That is not what I`m ruling. There`s not sufficient evidence.
FOER: Yes. It seems like if he`s going for the audience of one and just knowing how Trump consumes information, it seems like he`s working through the information processing filters that Trump uses to get that one talking point despite everything else in reality.
HAYES: There`s a question now. Judge Amy Berman Jackson also has Roger Stone tomorrow. Again, Judge Ellis was sort of a strange character throughout the entirety of that Eastern District of Virginia Case, not just in sentencing.
Jackson seems she`s been she`s been pretty frustrated with Roger Stone, though she`s given him a second chance. I don`t know there`s a relationship between day one and day two, but if you`re Roger Stone heading in tomorrow, having seen this today, what`s going through your head?
BANKS: Roger Stone is not thinking like you and I would think so it`s hard to predict what he would do. But she has been very well balanced in how she`s handled everything about this case. And you`re right about Judge Ellis who really demeaned the prosecution throughout the trial. He attacked the prosecutors, he attacked their witnesses, he said to Gates how could you say that he knows everything he, Manafort.
If he knew everything, he would know how much money you had stolen from him. And he said that in front of the jury. So I mean, talk about trying to influence the jury.
HAYES: Truly bizarre. Franklin Foer and Jill Wine-Banks, great to have you both. Next, did the President attempt to interfere in the Michael Cohen investigation? Tonight developments on what former acting Attorney General said behind closed doors in two minutes.
HAYES: While President Trump`s former campaign chairman was learning that he faces 16 additional felony charges that are unpardonable by the President, the President`s former acting Attorney General was telling congressional investigators about conversations he had regarding the Southern District of New York`s Michael Cohen case.
Speaking after closed-door meeting with Matthew Whitaker, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler revealed what else he learned from the nation`s former top law enforcement official.
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NADLER: I think there are three main takeaways that we take away from today. One, unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the President called him to discuss Michael Cohen -- the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District.
Two, while he was Acting Attorney General, Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys. And three, while he was Attorney General, Acting Attorney General, Mr. Whitaker was involved in conversations about the scope of the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Berman`s recusal and whether the Southern District went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case in which the president was listed as Individual Number One.
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HAYES: MSNBC Contributor Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Texas, also served as chief of staff at the FBI under then-Director James Comey.
Chuck, I should note, this was a closed meeting. I think there were about eight people in the room. One of the Republicans in there has said that now there`s mischaracterizing what happened there so I just want to say that there are other people in the room who say differently.
That said, what the chair said also syncs up with some public reporting. What is your reaction to hearing that?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, there`s several things. So let`s assume that Nadler had it right or pretty close to right. You know, the notion that the president could get the Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to get the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York to unrecuse himself strikes me, Chris, as a little bit crazy.
I mean, I understand what the prefix on means. I`ve never seen it in front of the word recused. When you recuse yourself, it`s because you have a conflict or the appearance of a conflict. Those things don`t just go away so you don`t just unrecuse. I can imagine a benign version of that conversation that I could also imagine a nefarious version of that conversation. And that second thing, the nefarious version to me would be deeply troubling.
HAYES: Yes. We`ve had some reporting that there have been some conversations and then Matthew Whitaker appeared to sort of deny that under oath. And I want to play his testimony because it -- there does seem to be some tension between what he said in front everyone under oath and what both the public reporting has indicated and what he apparently said today. Take a listen.
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MATT WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: At no time as the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel`s investigation or any other investigation. Since becoming acting Attorney General, I have run the Department of Justice with fidelity to the law and to the Constitution.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you communicate to the President or any senior White House advisers about investigations from the Southern District of New York related to Trump entities?
WHITAKER: Again, I was very explicit in my opening statement as to that not only about my communications regarding the special counsel`s office and I said other investigations. And the Southern District of New York would be included in other investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, Chuck, you`re a lawyer and a very good one obviously. I can`t help but notice he says that the White House has not asked for nor provided any promises or commitments which is pretty specific language.
ROSENBERG: Yes. And those are exactly the words that I had keyed in on, Chris. And then he refers Nadler back -- or I`m sorry, refers Congress back to his opening statements. So it seems to hinge on promises or commitments.
Now, maybe it`s too cute by half. It seems like there were conversations between the President and Whitaker not just about recusal but also about the scope of the investigation and whether you know, it had gone too far. What we would need at some point is a public hearing or a public deposition of Matt Whitaker to know precisely what he was asked to do and precisely what he did. That`s the key.
I don`t doubt Mr. Nadler. It`s just hard to hear it secondhand and to really understand the conversations that took place between the president and his acting Attorney General.
HAYES: Let me try to -- let me try to offer a version of this and see -- and see what you think of it. Let`s say the President did call over and he says, Matt, you know, what`s going on down the Southern District with Michael Cohen case? I`m afraid they`re doing -- you know, it might be a little far afield of what they should do. Are you sure that the Berman and the bosses they`re on top of things? I want to make sure everything`s squared away down there.
Like how properly to improper would a conversation from the president about an investigation into -- that he`s been named in be?
ROSENBERG: Yes. So that`s sort of the benign version, Chris. You know, Matt, I really like this Berman guy and I trust him and I`m just wondering why he recused and to the extent you can help me understand that. I`d sure appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: To the nefarious version which is I need Berman back in place to protect me and to kill this case. And if you`re talking about the second conversation, the nefarious version, deeply troubling.
But let me point out one thing, Chris. The men and women of the Southern District of New York, the career prosecutors are not going to bend to the will of a corrupt president. That isn`t going to happen. And so even if that was the President`s intent and of course, obstruction turns on intent, he`s not going to get what he wants.
He`s not going to get the career folks in the Southern District of New York to drop cases because he has said pretty please.
HAYES: All right, Chuck Rosenberg, as always, illuminating. Thank you very much.
ROSENBERG: Yes, sir.
HAYES: Still the come, Michael Cohen turns over e-mails from just after his FBI raid that sure do seem like Trump world was dangling or entertaining or maybe being dangled to a pardon to the President`s former attorney. The back-channel e-mails next.
HAYES: In the ongoing saga of whether President Trump ever dangled a pardon before Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors from the United States Attorney`s Office in Manhattan have now requested emails that appear to show a back channel of communication between Michael Cohen and Team Trump about a possible pardon, according to multiple reports.
Cohen has given congress emails from just after the FBI`s raid of his home and office. And in those emails are exchanges between Cohen and a lawyer acting as a conduit to Team Trump. The attorney is Robert Costello, who never actually represented Michael Cohen, and he emailed him after speaking to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, right.
So, Costello is between Giuliani and Cohen, he`s the go between. One email, according to The New York Times, ended with a message, quote, "sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places."
In another email, Costello reportedly wrote to Cohen, quote, "Rudy was thrilled and said this could not be a better situation for the president or you. Mr. Giuliani," he added, "said thank you for opening back channel of communication."
Costello himself did not dispute the emails, but claimed a different context, saying Cohen raised the talk of a possible pardon himself.
Giuliani says the emails weren`t about a pardon.
Now, according to The Times, federal prosecutors had requested the emails and documents from Mr. Costello, according to a copy of the request which sited an investigation to possible violations of federal criminal law. To help make sense of this ongoing mess, I`m joined now by federal prosecutor Harry Litman, contributing columnist for The Washington Post, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at The Atlantic, covering national security and the Russia investigation, and Michelle Goldberg, op-ed columnist for The New York Times and an MSNBC political analyst.
Natasha, I`ll start with you. So we learned something from this, to me, which is when the story first emerged I thought was this person representing himself as a go between just a scammer? Was he actually the go between? And now we have confirmed, like that`s part of the story was correct. There was this guy who was an intermediary between Giuliani and Michael Cohen.
NATSHA BERTRAND, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And it kind of shows that they were trying to keep all of these individual threads at arm`s length not only (inaudible), that`s kind of how Trump has always operated, he`s kind of gotten everyone else to do the dirty work for him. But I think that it`s really important not to lose sight of the main fact here, which is that right after Michael Cohen`s office and home was raided by the FBI, this massive investigation was opened, they were having conversations about a potential pardon.
The president, whether directly or through his subordinates, or whoever was essentially telling Michael Cohen you`re on our team, don`t cooperate and I will -- you know, you have friends in high places. I will fix this for you. And that is extremely significant, because that could be criminal, right, that`s part of what congress and federal prosecutors, apparently now in the Southern District of New York, are investigating.
Now, whether or not the president can actually be indicted is a whole other question, but the fact that he has been caught up in this, in the Michael Cohen case, also raises questions about who else he has potentially dangled pardons for. Paul Manafort, for example, is a really good case study of this. I mean, why has his lawyers taken such great risks with his case throughout this entire process if they do not think that the president wasn`t going to help him out, especially keeping him (inaudible) deal, even while he was cooperating (inaudible) unless you go to the obvious (inaudible) which is that he was expecting a pardon.
HAYES: Harry, what jumps out at me is written communication with a lawyer calling it saying thank you for this back channel, which just sounds sketchy to put in writing.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It does. I don`t know what you guys are being so suspicious about, though. Rudy Giuliani explained it was all a reference to the Garth Brooks song "Friends in Low Places."
HAYES: Costello said that, I think, that he was just trying to keep a suicidal Michael Cohen with his chin up.
LITMAN: Just worried about him. Look, it really is, in fact, the arm`s length part is circumstantial evidence of the crime. And just to explain what`s so dodgy about this dangling idea, look, the president has this plenary power to provide pardons, but there is a check, it`s a political check, where you think of the Mark Rich (ph) pardoned by President Clinton, people can protest. This is nefarious, because you say it on the QT, no one ever knows, and the idea is the quid pro quo down the line.
And it is a potential miscarriage -- obstruction of justice, if that`s in his mind. One other point, it doesn`t matter how many lawyers are in the link, it wouldn`t be privileged because the crime, fraud exception would kick in. This would be all part of a conspiracy to obstruct, and Costello and Giuliani really are going to have to answer in depositions about the exact nature of the communication.
HAYES: That answers a question I had, which is will they be able to cover this with privilege. This is also from The Times, Michelle, "during one of the conversations last April, Mr. Costello said in an interview he, Cohen, asked whether Trump might put a pardon on the table for Mr. Cohen." And it`s -- one of the things that`s always been unclear, like, who is making the offer first, even though they`re clearly sniffing each other out.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: But I also feel like -- you know, I mean, I think there`s been a lot of attention to this question, but it actually shouldn`t matter that much, because even if Michael Cohen kind of made the first move, responding by dangling it out is still not OK. Like, I mean, that`s -- I mean, the bar with these people just keeps getting lower and lower.
You know, so I think maybe Michael Cohen will -- I mean, maybe Rudy Giuliani will be the second one of Donald Trump`s...
HAYES: President`s lawyers, yeah.
GOLDBERG: Personal lawyers to be indicted, right, because we have a lot of discussion about whether or not the president can be indicted. We have no -- there`s no question that Rudy Giuliani can be indicted.
HAYES: You know, Natasha, there`s also -- it strikes me in this whole conversation about pardons that for the president, even the perspective inducement of the pardon is so much more powerful than the retroactive granting thereof, right, like, there`s no point at this point with Manafort. Like, sorry, buddy. This guy is -- Donald Trump screwed over so many other counter parties. But the idea that in the future you might get it is an important thing for him to keep in the minds of everyone.
BERTRAND: Right, of course, because he doesn`t want them flipping. I mean, it`s very basic, it`s like bribery 101, right. I mean, it`s just very obvious what the intention was and what the intention remains with these people by keeping the pardon on the table, that is something that has been reframed throughout this entire ordeal is that we`re not discussing this now, but we`re not taking it off the table. That`s nothing short of a wink and a nod, right, I mean, to all of these people who pose really big legal liabilities to the president. It`s a signal saying, look, behave, and I can help you out in the future.
And I think, you know, for Paul Manafort it might be a little bit too late because going into 2020, the president might not want this huge backlash that comes with pardoning Manafort who was convicted for very, very serious, you know, tax and financial crimes that didn`t have anything directly to do with the Russia investigation. And he`s going to go to jail with a lot of secrets about the Russia probe.
Mueller will probably reveal a lot of those secrets in the final report, or so we`re hoping, but I really can`t see Trump getting any immediate, you know, benefit from pardoning Manafort, and that is what he`s thinking about. He`s thinking about how these people can help him and in return what he can give them. And the best thing he can give them is, you know, lessening their jail time.
HAYES: Harry, there`s also -- it`s so striking the way these people all operate like wannabe mobsters. I mean, you know, you`ve got friends in high places. Sleep tight. And then this sort of -- like how stupid do they think we are that, you know, oh, I was quoting Garth Brooks. Like it`s just a weird -- like taking a step back, it`s a weird way for people to communicate, it`s a weird way for people to operate, not the least of which for the president and his lawyer to operate.
LITMAN: No kidding.
I mean, people often draw the analogy to the mob and Goodfellas, but I`ve been struck it`s more like Married to the Mob. These are a bunch of real sort of nickel and dimming kind of shyster would be the formal legal word. And, yeah, it really is at time at kind of a burlesque. There`s no dignity in presidential crime anymore, it seems.
HAYES: I was thinking about like, you know, a mobster coming before and being like, your honor, my client here when he said sleep with the fishes, he meant that the dead man in question should be booked a hotel room next to the aquarium.
Like, we understand the code. Like everyone understands. And I think that`s also what ultimately when we look for a smoking gun, it`s like -- everybody has been saying everything right in front of our faces the whole time.
GOLDBERG: Well, and in a way, that`s their sort of perverse alibi, right?
HAYES: That is the alibi.
GOLDBERG: We`re not hiding it, so what...
HAYES: Russia, if you`re listening, Manafort`s a good guy.
GOLDBERG: Right, and so it`s sort of -- I mean, which is kind of what`s so maddening about it, right, is that it`s all out in the open, which means that if you can see it you kind of can`t believe that everyone`s hair isn`t on fire about it, and yet they`re kind of using the fact that it`s allowed in the open to be like, you know, as Trump always says, what, so what. I wanted to, you know, with Trump Tower, I wanted to build it.
HAYES: So I lied about it for two years.
Harry Litman, Natasha Bertrand...
LITMAN: But here`s a really quick point, in order to do it you`ve got to go to a Costello. If Giuliani wouldn`t do it direct, you`re going to go to somebody who really has something to lose and is going to have pressure on him to tell the truth and won`t want to do it, that`s the only way to do this ham-handed thing. And that`s going to be the first stop for prosecutors or congressional investigators.
HAYES: That`s a good point. Harry Litman, Natasha Bertrand, and Michelle Goldberg, thank you all.
Still ahead, why it took the Trump administration so long to ground the the Boeing planes connected to two deadly crashes, plus meet some of the freshmen congressmen making a lot of noise. That`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing one tonight, freshman Democratic congresswoman from California, Katie Porter, who has been quite literally schooling witnesses from her perch on the House Financial Services Committee. Last week, Porter read from a textbook that she herself wrote while questioning/educating Donald Trump`s hand-picked CFPB director about predatory lenders.
Two weeks ago, she grilled the CEO of credit reporting agency Equifax, which is facing a class action lawsuit for exposing the personal data of tens of millions of Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATIE PORTER, (D) CALIFORNIA: My question for you is whether you would be willing to share today your social security, your birth date, and your address at this public hearing?
MARK BEGOR, CEO, EQUIFAX: I would be a bit uncomfortable doing that, congresswoman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yeah, no kidding. So if exposing personal data, you know, bad...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER: Why are you lawyers arguing in federal court that there was no injury and no harm created by your data breach?
BEGOR: Congresswoman, it`s really hard for me to comment on what our lawyers are doing.
PORTER: Look, sir, respectfully, excuse me, but you do employ those lawyers and they do operate at your direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Just yesterday, Porter came face to face with the CEO of Wells Fargo, who has repeatedly insisting he`s working to are store customer`s trust after his company opened up millions of fraudulent accounts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER: Then why, Mr. Sloan, if you don`t mind my asking, Mr. Sloan, are your lawyers in federal court arguing that those exact statements that i read are, quote "paradigmatic examples of non-actionable corporate puffery in which no reasonable investor could rely?"
HAYES: Yikes. Katie Porter is very good at her job, but has she considered props? And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Democratic Congressman Joe Cunningham wanted to make a point about the environmental impact of seismic air gun blasting, so he did what, well, we all dream of doing in a congressional hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE CUNNINGHAM, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: Was that disruptive, Mr. Oliver?
CHRIS OLIVER, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATION NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: Sir, it was irritating, but I didn`t find it particularly disruptive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Really, irritating, but not disruptive?
The Trump administration allows energy companies to blast seismic air guns underwater while searching for oil and gas deposits. And Trump official, Chris Oliver, whose job description literally including protection of marine mammals, had played down the impact of that practice in the lives of mammals, including whales, which depend on sound for hunting and communication.
So, Cunningham made clear just how absurd that stance was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUNNINGHAM: Was that disruptive, Mr. Oliver?
OLIVER: Sir, it was irritating but I didn`t find it particularly disruptive.
CUNNINGHAM: How much louder do you think seismic air gun blasting sounds than this horn you just heard?
OLIVER: I honestly don`t know.
CUNNINGHAM: Take a guess?
What if I were to tell you it`s 16,000 times louder than what you just heard here? Do you see how that would be impactful on marine species and mammals?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9, and planes associated with that line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: After several days in which the U.S. was increasingly isolated in allowing Boeing 737 Max aircraft to fly, the Trump administration today finally acceded to growing international consensus and ordered the planes grounded, this comes after two deadly crashes, and as reported yesterday, complaints to the federal government from pilots who found the plane`s nose suddenly tipping down dangerously after engaging the autopilot.
So why was the U.S. the international laggard on this issue of air safety when it has for so long been an international leader? It`s hard to say. But what we do know is Boeing gave the president`s inaugural committee $1 million, an inaugural committee under investigation from the Southern District of New York. The company`s CEO has also traveled to the president`s private for profit club to schmooze, a place that is basically a petri dish of improper influence.
And we know the company CEO spoke with the president on the phone yesterday. And so when it comes to the decision-making process, both to keep the planes in the air and now to ground them, life and death matters to be sure, it would be nice to have faith the decision was made on the merits.
But part of what`s so insidious and toxic about the ubiquitous corruption of this administration is that of course we can have no such faith. We do not know if Donald Trump`s decisions are made because of improper influence or expert recommendation or some cockamamie idea implanted in his brain while kibitzing at the Mar-a-Lago omelet bar.
Members of congress generally welcomed the president`s decision to ground the planes, though Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted in part, quote, "this step is right though unacceptably overdue. Our nation should be leading, not lagging, in air safety.
And Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, joins me now. Why was this -- you were quite outspoken and vocal about this. Why was this such a point of focus for you?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: It`s a point of focus because it is part of the dysfunctional Washington so impacted by special interests and influence, it`s part of the Trump MO, modus operandi, which reacts to potentially those kinds of special interests. All the facts that you`ve just described are highly suspect, and add to it the fact that this decision was apparently based on facts still undisclosed to the American people, because they say they have new evidence. Well, the rest of the world grounded these airplanes based on evidence well-known before now.
And among the most chilling of those facts, and Rachel Maddow did such a great job last night of describing them, are the pilots` reports. Today, I asked the NASA head, Jim Bridenstine, to provide all of those pilot reports, which are in the possession of NASA to me. And he agreed to do so, because the indications as far back as November of this problem are disconcerting, to say the least.
HAYES: There`s a question about what this does to the American air system, and the general sort of oversight of the Trump administration on air safety. There`s been a dramatic drop in enforcement fines for major U.S. airlines in the last two years, 88 percent drop, which is really pretty remarkable. Are you confident in an FAA with full acting positions and this administration overseeing airline safety at this moment?
BLUMENTHAL: I am entirely unconfident in the FAA, which is why I`ve called for hearings before congress, bringing the FAA to testify, but also Boeing executives and Secretary Chau, who has supervisory authority over the FAA.
At the end of the day, it was Secretary Chau recommending to President Trump that they ground these airplanes, but everyone involved in designing, constructing, approving for flight and continuing in flight has really some accountability to provide. And we need to know who knew what when and why they failed to act.
HAYES: Since I have you here, senator, there is two pieces of senate business I`d like to talk to you about that are in motion. Today, something historic happened in the United States Senate, the Senate voted to pass a war powers resolution ordering the U.S. to end its involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen. The U.S. has been providing all kinds of support to that war, refueling for planes particularly as well as support in training for Saudi fighters.
This was a big deal. What does it mean now?
BLUMENTHAL: It means, first of all, that congress is taking back some of its war powers power, which is to the good. It means practically speaking that there should be an end to the equipping and training of Saudi war crimes, very simply the Saudi bombing of civilians, many of them children, and the Saudi interference with humanity aid is causing famine in that country and death and disease.
And it means that the United States will no longer be complicit in those war crimes.
Now, it still has to be approved by the House, but this is a profoundly important first step.
HAYES: The other big question before your body is the vote that`s happening tomorrow. This is on the president`s declaration national emergency, a one-page resolution ending said national emergency was passed out of the House. It now comes to the Senate. It looks like the yeas, right, the people who want to end the emergency, who are going to vote for the resolution, have the votes from Republicans. There has been tremendous pressure put on them by the White House, and Mike Pence has been over there. What is your sense of where things stand right now?
BLUMENTHAL: Despite the really overwhelming squeeze exerted by the White House, very transparently so, the votes seem to be holding firm among that handful of Republicans who are necessary to overturn this emergency declaration.
Remember, never before in our history, never has a president clearly usurped congress` powers. This measure should be bipartisan. The power to spend and appropriate funds is in the constitution, given only to congress. Never before has the president spent money after congress has refused to give him the authority to do so, not just neglected, but refused.
And so this kind of vote I think is a challenge to the institution, and my Republican colleagues are deeply worried, more than may vote the right way tomorrow, about the precedent that is set here for the president seizing power from the congress.
And eventually, I believe the courts will overturn it, regardless of what the congress does tomorrow.
HAYES: Yeah, that seems likely there has been some talk about negotiating some kind of one-time mulligan where this emergency stands, but then they put up some vote, some show vote, which is essentially a show vote, to change the Emergency Act going forward just to get people to yes. But it sounds like you think they`re confident the Republican votes are holding. We will see I think tomorrow whether that bears out. I`m not sure whether I would place my bet.
Senator Blumenthal, thank you so much for taking the time. Appreciate it.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. We have more details on a very exciting event that`s coming up on All In. In just five day, I will be hosting MSNBC`s first town hall of the election season. We`re going to be talking with 2020 hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand. We`re going to meet in the all important state of Michigan, where she`ll make her case to be the Democratic nominee for president.
And here is the thing, you can be part of this special event. We are taping in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on Monday afternoon. There are full details on how to register for the town hall on our Web site, allin.msnbc.com. It`s going to be a great time. Learn a lot. I`d love to meet you and see you, so please, please, please come join us.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END