IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 9/21/22

Guests: Michael Cohen, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Litman


New York`s Attorney General Letitia James announcing her office is suing the former president, his three eldest children, and their family company for $250 million, alleging a more than a decade-long pattern of fraud. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joins Hayes to discuss Trump`s lawsuit and the state of the economy. Fed Chair Jerome Powell announcing today, along with the rest of the Fed, of another interest rate hikes of 0.75 percent. A Federal Appeals Court just ruled in favor of the Justice Department, putting a partial stay on the order from Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon that would have prevented the government from using the Mar- a-Lago classified materials in their ongoing criminal investigation.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: We will have much more on that tomorrow. Big news though, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN.

LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW YORK: The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization for their own financial benefit is astounding.

HAYES: The massive Trump fraud suit.

JAMES: Falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud.

HAYES: Tonight, the evidence gathered against the disgraced ex-president and his company, the legal jeopardy for Trump and his oldest kids, and what prompted the investigation in the first place?

Lacy Clay, (D), FORMER MISSOURI REPRESENTATIVE: Did the President or his company ever inflate assets or revenue?


HAYES: Trump`s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen joins me live on set. Then --

JAMES: There cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state. Former presidents are no different.

HAYES: Senator Elizabeth Warren on the depth of the fraud, and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman on the possible charges facing the Trump family and their business.

Plus, breaking news about Trump`s stash of classified documents when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Today New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit alleging what was already obvious to anyone who has ever paid attention, Donald Trump is crook. In a more than 200-page filing, James accuses the ex-president and his oldest children Don Jr. Eric, and Ivanka, his company, and some of its top executives, of a long standing widespread scheme to commit fraud by inflating the value of his properties in order to get more favorable deals from banks.

Here`s how New York A.G. James put it today in her groundbreaking announcement.


JAMES: They violated several state criminal laws, including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud, and engaging in a conspiracy to commit each of these state law violations. We believe the conduct alleged in this action also violates federal criminal law.

Some of the common tactics they used include, representing that Mr. Trump had cash on hand that he did not have, ignoring critical restrictions that would significantly impact property values when setting valuations, changing the methodology used to value properties from year to year without reason or notice, and using vastly different methods to value different properties even in the same year.

They received a series of bank-ordered appraisals for the commercial property at 40 Wall Street in New York City that calculated the value of the property at $200 million as of August 2010 and $220 million as of November 2012. Yet, in his 2011 statement, Mr. Trump listed 40 Wall Street with a value of $524 million which increased to $530 million over the next two years, more than twice the value calculated by the professionals.

Even more egregious, the $500 million-plus valuation was attributed to information from the appraiser who valued the building at just over $200 million.

The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr. Trump at the Trump Organization for their own financial benefit is astounding, inflating the values of assets by whatever means necessary to increase Mr. Trump`s purported net worth.


HAYES: Leticia James accused the ex-president of, in her words, staggering fraud, filing a civil lawsuit against him and three of his children for $250 million. Trump`s attorney denied any wrongdoing on behalf of her client, but this alleged fraud has essentially been hiding in plain sight for years. Accusations of shady business tactics have dogged Trump`s since well, well before he sought political office.

More than 30 years ago, 1991, Spy Magazine published an expert essay on Trump`s financial scheming, including, get this, publicly inflating the value of his properties. So, today`s revelations do not really come as a surprise eyes to anyone. New York Attorney General`s Office just have the time, resources, wherewithal determination, not to mention subpoena power to spend three years poring over documents, interviewing more than 60 witnesses to try and prove what much of the country basically already felt to be true.



JAMES: Over the course of our investigation, we found that Mr. Trump, his children, the Trump Organization created and used more than 200 false and misleading asset valuations on his statement of financial condition over that 10-year period.


HAYES: Now, typically, when Trump is accused of wrongdoing, he has a patsy lined up to fall on his sword. The ex-president has an uncanny ability to walk right up to the line of personal incrimination without actually crossing it himself. Today, though, the New York Attorney General said that was not the case here, that Trump was directly involved in the scheme to inflate his net worth.


JAMES: Mr. Trump and Mr. Weisselberg would meet to review and approve the final statement every year. Mr. Trump made known through Allen Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth reflected on the statements to increase, a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the statements.


HAYES: James also went out of her way to mention the investigation was predicated on Congressional testimony from Trump`s one-time lawyer, Michael Cohen.


JAMES: I will remind everyone that this investigation only started after Michael Cohen, the former lawyer, his former lawyer testified before Congress and shed light on this misconduct.


HAYES: Now, you might recall that Cohen disclosed Trump`s financial dealings to Congress under questioning from Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.


CLAY: Did the President or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the President said this?

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?

COHEN: Yes. And you`d find it at the Trump Org.


HAYES: Michael Cohen will join me on set right here in just a moment to discuss what he witnessed at the Trump Organization. You might have heard there he mentioned a guy named Allen Weisselberg. That`s the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Org. You may remember that just last month, that individual that you see there pleaded guilty to financial fraud as a part of a separate investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office.

Now, that same office issued a statement today announcing its investigation into the Trump Organization is ongoing. New York Attorney General James also said she`s sharing information with the IRS and the Southern District of New York, which is where federal prosecutors could conceivably bring criminal charges if deemed appropriate.

But to be very clear, even though this is a civil investigation, she`s filing a civil lawsuit, it`s still a very serious threat for the Trump Organization as an entity because James is seeking to bar the Trump family from serving corporate leadership and from doing business in New York, to ban the family and the Trump Org from buying real estate in New York or taking out a loan here for five years.

That`s in addition to requesting an independent monitor to oversee the Trump organization`s finances and a demand of a quarter of a billion dollars in financial restitution. All told, that would likely be the death knell for the existing Trump Org. as we know it. Right now, the Trump`s family`s dealings with its labyrinth of various legal and financial structures is firmly in the New York State Government`s crosshairs for its alleged misdeeds. And that`s before even discussing the possibility of criminal charges which are absolutely still on the table based on what we know.

Michael Cohen was Donald Trump`s personal attorney for years. As you saw there, his testimony before the House Oversight Committee back in 2019 led directly to today`s lawsuit. He is the host of the Mea Culpa podcast and author of the new book Revenge which is out next month. Good to have you here.

COHEN: Good to be here, Chris.

HAYES: Listening to the recitation by Tish James of the scope of these fraudulent practices, what was your reaction to that sound familiar?

COHEN: Well, it was interesting because like everyone else I was watching, I had no idea what Attorney General Tish James was going to say. And so, when she mentioned my name, I was obviously quite elated, to be honest, because I`m finally getting the recognition for what I`ve been sitting on the mountaintops yelling for three and a half -- four years, which is that the Trump Organization is a criminal enterprise and that I got thrown under the bus by dear old Donald simply, as you stated in your intro, somebody has to always fall on the sword for him. Right now it looks like it will probably be one or both of his kids and possibly himself as well.

The one correction that I do want to make, Chris, is --



COHEN: -- what Tish, James said was not that it`s a $250 million request, that`s the baseline. And I`ve been known to also now state that I believe that that number will be at least two to three times -- at least two to three times is a penalty for all --

HAYES: Oh, you`re saying, in terms of what she`s seeking and restitution.

COHEN: Yes, because she didn`t have an opportunity to go through, as you said, the labyrinth of organizations. And so, when they finally do when they realize the extent of the IRS issues, the usage of these personal financial statements and so on, each one of those carries a responsibility, and in this case, a financial responsibility. And I believe it`ll be somewhere in the ballpark of about $750 million.

HAYES: You know, the magic of real estate development is the use of leverage, and the use of the equity that you have in the structure, right, in a property to get bank loans, right? And as that value rises, if you`re using leverage, you can just make a ton of money, right? You put a little bit in, the asset value rises you pay it off, and all of a sudden you create all this money. It seems to me that --

COHEN: Non-taxable, by the way.

HAYES: Non-taxable money, right, particularly in the -- in the realm of commercial real estates like these developments.

COHEN: Absolutely.

HAYES: That the key here is --

COHEN: It`s just mind-boggling.

HAYES: He`s creating -- you`re just creating tons of profits out of thin air by systematically lying about the how much your buildings are worth, right?

COHEN: So, let`s just call it Phantom --

HAYES: Right.

COHEN: Phantom net worth, because that`s really what it was. He used that system in order to dupe the system. But the way that he did it is the part that Tish James was so angered about, which is to make allegations, for example, that his home, the triplex apartment here on Fifth Avenue, is 33,000 square feet. And there was a number that they claimed price per square foot that has not only, never been even in the realm of the building, it`s actually never been achieved in the entire city of New York regardless of the sky rises that are going up here at the most expensive price per square foot ever seen anywhere in the country. But his exceeds it by two to three times.

HAYES: It`s so flagrant. So, I want to play this clip, because it`s a great example. And it`s also just black and white. Like, we know what the -- you can go and take a tape measure of the apartment, right? If you lie about the square footage, it`s like --

COHEN: Why, Chris? Why do you need to take a tape measure? The guy built the apartment himself. He`s the developer.

HAYES: Right. But my point being is this is --

COHEN: And the owner.

HAYES: -- this is an easy thing. This is a knowable fact in the world to lie about so flagrantly. Take a listen to how she walked through exactly this fraud. Take a listen.


JAMES: Mr. Trump represented that his apartment spanned more than 30,000 square feet, which was the basis for valuing the apartment. In reality, the apartment had an area of less than 11,000 square feet, something that Mr. Trump was well aware of. And based on that inflated square footage, the value of the apartment in 2015 and 2016 was $327 million. To this date, no apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount. Tripling the size of the apartment for purposes of the valuation was intentional and deliberate fraud, not an honest mistake.


HAYES: My question is, why doesn`t anyone -- why were you guys when you were there able to get away with this?

COHEN: Well, let me be very clear. Donald would call us in and he would say, I want to -- I want to be higher on the Forbes list.

HAYES: Right.

COHEN: And so what I need to do is, I`m not worth $6 billion, I`m worth seven. And then seven would become, I`m worth eight. In fact, I`m actually really worth 10. So, this guy added $4 billion of net worth in a matter of eight to 10 seconds. Our job, what we were tasked with, was to take the assets that existed in the previous year`s personal financial statement, and come up with a way to get as close to that $10 billion as possible.

HAYES: Right. So, there`s a target and you`re just there ratcheting it up?

COHEN: Well, what we`re doing is we`re backing it into a number.

HAYES: Right.

COHEN: But you know, one of the things that Tish James puts into her indictment, into her papers, which is very different, and it`s actually worse than even this as an example -- and you have, by the way, this is an example with Mara Lago, you have it with --

HAYES: Everywhere.

COHEN: Everywhere.

HAYES: Clearly -- I mean, at least as alleged and as you said --

COHEN: Every single asset is overinflated.

HAYES: Right.

COHEN: But the part that was by far the most egregious is when Donald was subpoenaed to provide documents that dealt with his taxes. Now, remember that`s after Donald filed an objection to the subpoena. It went to court. He lost. It went to the appellate court. He lost. It went to the Supreme Court. He lost. Then they ultimately gave a series of documents.

And that was supposedly all the documents that had -- and this is in Tish James`s papers. In fact, when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, what ended up happening is they found documents that would have been responsive to the subpoena. So, therefore, on top of everything, this dope has now added obstruction of justice as yet another claim. I mean, in fact, there`s more claims for him than I think his hair on his head.


HAYES: You know, there`s a question here about why this persisted for so long, to your point here about the tax documents. I mean, it does seem to be she talked about referring to the IRS, right? The obvious enormous no-no is to inflate for bank lenders and insurance purposes and deflate for the tax authorities, right?

COHEN: Which is what he did.

HAYES: Right, which is what you said. I remember you saying that. You said, look, this was standard, right? Like, when it`s time to pay taxes, property is worth nothing. When it`s time to get a loan or insured, properties are worth --

COHEN: Genius.

HAYES: Right. But when you get caught with that black and white, like, the IRS does not look that favorably on it. I mean, that seems to be another issue for him here to the extent that she`s referring this to the IRS because they have his -- they have his documents.

COHEN: Right, bank fraud, wire fraud, they throw in money laundering there, you have misrepresentation to a bank, you have the whole plethora of crimes.

HAYES: Can I ask you a question that you may not be answered -- able to answer? How common is this in New York real estate? Like how much is this a Donald Trump thing?

COHEN: Look, I don`t know because -- I don`t know --

HAYES" You were just there.

COHEN: Right. I was at Trump for a little over a decade before that private practice in a white shoe firm.

HAYES: Right.

COHEN: I don`t know but it`s not common.


COHEN: All right, it is not. I know many real estate developers with a lot of money, right? Legitimate, a lot of money. Not one of them values their apartments, which are newer, higher floors, and in certainly better buildings with more amenities than his Trump Fifth Avenue Apartment. And not one of them is claiming that that unit is worth $375 million, when in fact, it`s worth probably 50.

HAYES: Who -- how close does it have to get? I mean, I guess the question I have here is, I have watched this -- I`ve been covering this for seven years as he came down the escalator. There`s this kind of crazy thing with him where it just seems like the fraud is flagrant, the going over the line, and yet he seems to have gotten away with it.

Now, it seems like we`re in a different space. He doesn`t have the power of the presidency anymore. He`s got a smaller circle around him. The amount of legal peril he has is so acute. I don`t think he`s ever been this acute before. What is your assessment of where it`s at?

COHEN: The reason that where we`re at, and I again, I thank our courageous and our fearless and our just absolutely fantastic Attorney General when she complimented me for basically being the start of it. I testified for over 400-plus hours between seven different Congressional committees, the Attorney General, the district attorney, and so on. It`s that documentation which nobody has ever had before, and he never would have given it, that ultimately sparked this and sent this into the investigation that`s going to ultimately terminate the Trump Organization, Donald, Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Weisselberg, McCarney, and the rest of them. This could have put an end to the entire company.

HAYES: You think that?

COHEN: I believe so?

HAYES: Michael Cohen, who has seen it from the inside and the outside, it`s good to have you here. Thank you so much for making the time to come by.

COHEN: Pleasure.

HAYES: I appreciate it.

Today, New York`s Attorney General made it clear Donald Trump has been casually engaging in fraud for years.


JAMES: Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us.


HAYES: How did he get away with it for so long and just how many other rich people are getting richer that way too? Senator Elizabeth Warren joins me on that next.




JAMES: Every day people cannot lie to a bank about how much money they have in order to get a favorable loan to buy a home or to send their kid to college. And if they did, the government would throw the book at them. Why should this be any different? It is a tale of two justice systems, one for everyday working people and one for the elite, the rich and the powerful.


HAYES: The Trump lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James against the ex-president and his adult children Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka is the story of one flagrantly corrupt man and family, Donald Trump. But as Attorney General James said, it is also the story of two systems of justice. The fraud that Trump is accused of was supposedly happening out in the open for years. It makes you wonder about the level of accountability at the highest echelons of corporate America and what people can get away with when they are not under scrutiny.

Someone who`s been hammering on this for years, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spent the majority of her career talking about the need for the law to take financial crimes and fraud seriously. And Senator Elizabeth Warren, who`s a member of the Finance Committee joins me now.

It`s great to have you Senator. I was thinking of you as I was watching that today because your start was in bankruptcy law where there really didn`t feel like there were two systems. You know, if you were just an average working day person, what bankruptcy look like, and if you`re a big corporation trying to get rid of your pension or screw your labor union. And this doesn`t seem like a perfect example of this kind of twin systems of justice, particularly around finance and financial crimes.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): You know, this is why I have such great respect for Attorney General James. She`s someone who just said, no, the law applies equally to everyone. No one is above the law, including former presidents of the United States. And I just -- I have a lot of respect for that. I think that`s the right way to handle this.

HAYES: There was some other news today I wanted to get your reaction to before we turn to that big fed announcement today. And that is news that Ginni Thomas, the wife, of course, of Clarence Thomas will actually be meeting with the January 6 Committee. They have agreed to an interview. I know that you`ve said before, including on this program, that Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from any Supreme Court cases having to do with January 6 because of Ginni Thomas` involvement. Are you happy to see that she will be talking to the committee?

WARREN: Of course I am. But I really have to reiterate the rest of it. We - - not only is it the case that Clarence Thomas should be recusing himself. This is just more evidence of why it is that we need ethics rules that are the law and that apply to the United States Supreme Court. You know, conflicts of interest, having a family member that may be engaged in a matter that`s before the court. We need rules in place so it is not up to the justice himself or herself to decide whether or not to say all step back, but we`ve got a set of rules that apply to everyone.

That`s true in the lower courts in the federal system, but the Supreme Court is the one place where they get to make up the rules for themselves. I think that it`s wrong. We need legislation to put a stop to it.

HAYES: Yes, just so folks, if they don`t know that there`s a Judicial Code of Conduct that`s binding on lower court judges, federal judges. But at the Supreme Court, if your own son or daughter say -- we`re arguing the case, you wouldn`t have to recuse yourself. I mean, you would think public pressure would make you do it, but right now, right, you could just go ahead and just listen to the case.

WARREN: That`s exactly right. Or if you had a financial interest, or you had a spouse that had a financial interest, or if you had taken free vacations from somebody who had business in front of the court, all of it.


WARREN: And what -- right now, the rule is, hey, to each of the nine justices, it`s up to you to decide when to step back and when to go forward. And I just think that`s wrong. I think it`s wrong across the board. We need a clear set of rules in place, and a set of rules that will be enforceable, regardless of the issue, regardless of who`s engaged in conflict, just to say, no, we`re not going to do this. That`s what I want to do. That`s what I`ve got to bill to do. And I want to push that forward.

HAYES: Yes. It does seem likely that some of this will come before the court sooner or later as they litigate it. I want to turn to the Federal Reserve announcement today from Jay Powell, Chair Jay Powell. You`ve been very critical of Powell. Powell announcing today, along with the rest of the Fed, another interest rate hikes, 75 basis points, that`s 0.75 percent.

This is what the chart looks like of what`s called the federal funds target rate which is been going up and up and up. You see that little blip there at the bottom going almost straight up asymptotically. They say look, inflation is the highest it`s been in 40 years, it`s not cooling down, assumptions are beginning to become embedded in the economy, we will end up having a harder time getting it under control, we have to get this under control now and hike rates no matter what it takes. What do you say to that?

WARREN: So, look, don`t treat this as well -- they`ve done it before, so now it`s business as usual. We have to stop and take a deep breath here. These are extraordinary rate increases, and there have been three of them now back to back with this cumulative effect. My concern here is that the Fed just has one tool in its toolbox, and it`s the interest rate tool.

And it will certainly have some impact on inflation. No one denies that. But there are other factors that are driving inflation. COVID continues to be a problem all around the world shutting down economies at different points. We continue to have supply chain cranks, the war in Ukraine. We`ve certainly watched energy prices begin to come down, but we also have a problem Ukraine is not producing the food and putting that into the international supply. And we`ve still got companies that are engaging in enormous price gouging.


So, I have asked Chair Powell in open hearings, can your rate increases have any influence on those? And his answer is no, it can`t do anything about them. So, what`s going on here is that Powell is using the one tool he has which also will have the effect of driving up unemployment across the country. Estimate on this latest one is somewhere around a million jobs that could be lost from this. And that`s people -- that hurts.

I get it, high prices are a problem. And we need to deal with those high prices, but we deal with them by attacking COVID, by attacking the supply chain problems. We deal with them by pushing on the corporations and calling them out for price gouging and even prosecuting them if they break the law. But not by continuing to use extreme increases in interest rates that are going to put people out of work.

We have to remember, high prices, yes, very painful. But do you know what`s more painful than high prices and low unemployment? It`s high prices and high unemployment. And that`s where I`m afraid we`re headed.

HAYES: Yes. This is the big -- I mean, the soft landing is what everyone wants, right, which is that inflation comes down whether through a mix of interest rate hikes and the kinks working out of the system, growth remains stable, labor markets remain robust, all is good in the world. The nightmare scenario is the stagflation scenario, which is they hike and they hike and hike and we also get mass unemployment and a slowing economy and the prices stay elevated. And I share your fear about that as well.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

WARREN: Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, the weird thing that happens whenever Donald Trump is around numbers.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 401(K)`s are up 30, 40, in some cases, much higher than that percent.

Well, they have 90 -- they have 92 and they have 93 percent.

They have massive tariffs on us, 50 percent, in one case 100 percent. In some cases, more than that.


HAYES: We did not coordinate Michael Cohen doing that exact bit, but how Trump`s pathological need to inflate every single thing could lead to the end of his real estate business with a bonus clip of an old thing one thing two episodes to demonstrate. That`s next.



HAYES: As we have said, the allegations against Trump are not exactly surprising given what we have all seen of his behavior over the years, especially when it comes to inflating numbers. There`s something he does almost pathologically. We`ve documented here time and again when he was in office. Like that time he struck a big arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and the thing just kept getting bigger and bigger every time he mentioned it.


HAYES: Now, the original deal was supposedly going to create 40,000 jobs, then Trump made it bigger.

TRUMP: I worked very hard to get the order for the military is $110 billion. I believe it`s a largest order ever made. Its 450,000 jobs.

HAYES: OK. Now, two things here. The $110 billion number itself, we know to be an exaggeration, but 450,000 jobs, now that is a lot of jobs. Although I think it might sound a little better if you round it up a bit.

TRUMP: They have a tremendous order, $110 billion. Every country in the world wanted a piece of that order. We hit 500,000 jobs.

HAYES: 500,000 jobs. We`re up to 500,000 jobs. Nothing has changed about the deal, of course, but in two days, we somehow went up 50,000 more jobs.

TRUMP: We have $450 billion worth of things ordered from a very rich country, Saudi Arabia. 600,000 jobs, maybe more than that.

HAYES: 600,000. Do I hear 600,000? And now it`s a $450 million deal. Every time this guy talks, the numbers go up.

TRUMP: This is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia, $450 billion. I think it`s over a million jobs.

HAYES: This is kind of not even funny anymore.

TRUMP: I think that`s over a million jobs, a million to over a million jobs.


HAYES: Man, we missing one thing too around these parts. We`ll post that whole segment on our Twitter and Facebook for your viewing enjoyment. But it is that exact kind of exaggeration, numbers exaggeration that can get a guy into legal trouble if he does it on official financial documents. And the Attorney General`s Office has dealt with Trump before. When we return, the amazing story of the fraudulent Trump Foundation. Don`t go away.



HAYES: Donald Trump is now facing a lawsuit from the New York State Attorney General Letitia James accusing the ex-president, his company, and members of his family of widespread fraud. This is actually the second time that a New York Attorney General has moved to take down the Trump institution.

Back in early 2016, then-Candidate Donald Trump`s skipped a Fox News Republican primary debate amidst his feud with then-Fox host Megyn Kelly. He was angry about her questions on his disparaging comments about women, among other things from a previous debate. And so, Trump counter-programmed hosting a rally in Des Moines, Iowa that he billed as a fundraiser for veterans. And who can get behind that? According to Trump, it was highly successful raising millions of dollars.


TRUMP: We just cracked, the sign was just given, we just cracked $6 million, right? $6 million. And we have outside a list of the organizations and folks that are going to be getting this money. We`re going to divide it up and they`re going to get a lot of money. Everybody`s going to get a lot of money.



HAYES: Over the following few days, Trump did deliver some of that money to various veterans organizations in the form of giant checks. As you can see in the upper left-hand corner of those checks, this money was funneled through the Donald J. Trump Foundation, his personal charity. But soon it became apparent that donations were lagging, definitely not adding up to $6 million.

And so, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold followed up the Trump campaign to find out what happened to all that money. More than a month later, in early March, only about half of the money, roughly $3 million have been donated to veterans charities. That was according to a summary released by the Trump campaign in response to inquiries from the Washington Post.

So, it certainly seemed like Donald Trump had cheated veterans out of millions of dollars, $3 million. And so, David Fahrenthold kept investigating. It took nearly three more months, a lot of public pressure from Fahrenthold and others in the media for Trump to confirm that all the money had finally been given out.


TRUMP: The money has all been sent. I wanted to keep it private. If we could, I wanted to keep it private because I don`t think it`s anybody`s business if I want to send money to the vets. But I will say that the press should be ashamed of themselves. And on behalf of the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves. They are calling me and they are furious because I sent people checks of a lot of money, and we`re going to give you the names right now, which is what you want. And instead of being like thank you very much, Mr. Trump, or Trump did a good job, everyone said who got it, who got it, who got it, and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.


HAYES: But that was just the beginning for David Fahrenthold who continued to investigate the charity organization that had been the kind of means by which this money was given. Over the next several months, he revealed a slew of apparent abuses by the Trump Foundation. The details were crazy. Fahrenthold found that Donald Trump used money donated to the foundation to buy himself a $12,000 football helmet signed by star quarterback Tim Tebow.

In 2007, Trump spent $20,000 of the foundation`s money on a six-foot-tall portrait of himself that he hung in his resort in Miami. He also use more than a quarter of a million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle his own legal problems, including $100,000 for an unpaid fine to the town of Palm Beach, Florida, resulting from a dispute over the height of a flagpole.

In fact, the foundation`s largest ever gift was more than $260,000 used to renovate a fountain outside the windows of Trump`s Plaza Hotel. And the smallest came back in 1989 when Trump used his charities money to pay the - - this is serious -- $7.00 registration fee for his then-11-year-old son Don Jr to join the Boy Scouts.

Now, these abuses were all basically hiding in plain sight. But David Fahrenthold expose them bringing public scrutiny, won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. And in September of 2016, the announcement came from the New York Attorney General`s office. They were investigating the Trump Foundation. Of course, Donald Trump was elected president that November and one month before his inauguration he announced he would dissolve the foundation.

The New York Attorney General blocked that from happening while the investigation was ongoing. And in June of 2018, then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood finally put the Trump Foundation out of its misery. She filed a civil suit, sound familiar, alleging widespread misuse of resources and shut the charity down.

So, we`ve seen this before, carried out by Letitia James predecessors from the very same office. And while criminal charges did not materialize then, it could now.



HAYES: It has been a rough day on the legal front for Donald Trump because in another blow, tonight, there`s breaking news on the investigation into the classified documents that Trump stashed at his retirement home at Mar- a-Lago. A federal appeals court just before we went to air just ruled in favor of the Justice Department, putting a partial stay on the order from Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon that would have prevented the government from using the Mar-a-Lago classified materials in their ongoing criminal investigation.

Harry Litman is a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice. And he joins me now. Harry, this ruling just came out. It`s a three judge panel. We should say, two of them, those judges appointed by Donald Trump. All three finding that for the government. Give us a rundown of what they said.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, it couldn`t be more definitive. There`s a matter-of-fact tone to it, and you read it, and really the -- what comes through is this is so obvious. It`s like waking from a nightmare. We have people who have looked at these other opinions by Judge Cannon tried to explain these were not in some subtle way arguably right. They were completely off the reservation.

And you read these 27 pages. It`s a per curiam, by the way. The three judges decided to show their unity and all be together. They all must surely have been writing it over the course of the week. So clear was it what she did was wrong. And they just set it down and rebuked everything she said. Possessory interest, we cannot discern that -- you don`t want to hear a Court of Appeal say that. We cannot discern a reason why there`s a possessory interest.

Grievance or irreparable injury by -- for having to be subject of a criminal investigation, like anyone else, because she had given him special treatment, forget about it. One after the other very methodical, undramatic. But when you of course, take a step back and see how comprehensive it is, it just completely rebukes everything she did. You know, it`s some restoration of faith after a truly heartstoppingly bad set of opinions from her.

And what they get, by the way, is exactly what she refused to give them in her second opinion. They now have the 100 classified documents. They`ve taken other things off the table. It augurs poorly for her continued mischief in the case.


HAYES: Yes. I mean, this was -- there was a near -- not unanimous, but a near-unanimous sense among people that were watching this closely in legal circles that these Cannon decisions were really wild, right, just untethered to sort of the basic issues. We`ve now seen back-to-back days in which other judges brought in to deal with the matter.

Yesterday, it was Judge Dearie who has been appointed the special master in the hearing saying, well, what -- what`s your affirmative argument that you possess them that they`re not classified? Well, we`re not going to make it. Well, then, what you want me to do, guys? And then today, a sort of similar thing to the 11th Circuit.

LITMAN: Right.


LITMAN: (INAUDIBLE) one side and another who wins. Again, not a liberal versus conservative, just judging 101 or even one. And she had flunked it and it`s just very, very sort of straightforward, set them up, mow them down one proposition after another.

HAYES: So, I want to just read one point that they made that you mentioned about this idea that the extraordinariness, right, of the stay here. In order to get the stay, right, to get them to stop -- to command the government to stop investigating which you said and others said, look, this just never happens. And every defendant -- he`s not even defending. He`s not been indicted. But everyone being investigated with love for a judge to find that there`s irreparable harm and then being investigated.

Here, they say no doubt the threat of prosecution can weigh heavily on the mind of someone under investigation. But without diminishing the seriousness of that burden, if the mere threat of prosecution we`re allowed to constitute irreparable harm, every potential defendant can point to the same harm and invoke the equitable powers of the district court.

Meaning, if we let this go, like, everyone could just say, well, there`s irreparable harm if they investigate me for the crimes they think I might have done.

LITMAN: And here`s why it`s significant. When she said otherwise, she made a big point about Trump`s special status as a former president, and people really revolted at that because the note -- it was such clear unequal justice. Their quote there just gave a regular case. He`s like anyone else. Again, they could have slapped around more harshly, but they didn`t need to. It was an implicit but very strong rebuke to the her idea of giving special treatment to the former president.

HAYES: So, the question now is where this goes. My understanding is that these are not -- they can`t get an unbanked review because it`s a stay. So, as a procedural matter, the only place to go is to SCOTUS, right, to preserve Judge Cannon`s ruling. And I wonder if you think they`ll pursue that.

LITMAN: You know, it`s a question of delay because it`s not a fruitful idea. And by that, right now, the linebackers are frozen. So, unless the Supreme Court would reach down and undo this stay pending review, the change has come.

HAYES: Right.

LITMAN: So -- and I don`t expect that to happen. I think what really matters now -- this was just give us a stay so we can go forward on this important aspect. But there`s the whole huge, you know, 1000-plus documents that are no -- by no possible conception his will they now appeal. There can still be an appeal on the merits of her broader opinion or will they say, as they told her then, we`ll muddle through somehow with the rest of this unnecessary, legally wrong opinion because it doesn`t harm us so much. That`ll be a DOJ decision, and they`re making it now.

Another quick point. They did it so quickly. They knew there was injury here every day to the national security interest. And so, this all worked through in just a few days.

HAYES: In the 30 seconds I have left, the threat to the Trump Org. from the Tisha James` suit today. How acute is it?

LITMAN: Very acute. I mean, it look, it`s not him in prison, but it`s everything but. It`s the Trump brand which matters mightily. 200 pages comprehensive, it -- and I don`t think they can go to trial. This is the worst day he`s ever had legally.

HAYES: Harry Litman, as always, a pleasure. Thank you very much.

LITMAN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night. "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT" starts right now. Good evening, Alex.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. You know, it is a stunning series of developments for Donald Trump and his legal woes.

HAYES: It was quite a day.