Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 18, 2018 Guest: Peter Stris, Karen Weaver
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Final data point. A poll out of Texas showed Ted Cruz only up three points on Beto O'Rourke who's challenging, which is very interesting. That's going Interesting race to watch as it unfolds.
Michelle Goldberg, Josh Earnest, Christina Greer, thank you all.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Wednesday.
We lead tonight with an exclusive interview, an exclusive interview with the lawyer we have never talked to on the show before. Someone who will likely be new to you as a character in this ongoing national drama, we are all living through as Americans. But our exclusive guest tonight, is somebody who is right in the middle of what appear to be the president's legal troubles right now, or at least used to be in the middle of the president's legal troubles until this story took a sharp, surprise turn this evening, one that I will admit to you right now, I don't get. I do not yet totally understand it.
But, I'm hoping that the one guy on earth, who can actually explain it, because he did it. I am hoping he will explain it to me and to you. Live on this show in just a minute.
OK. Here's the story. All right. As you know, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, have announced in open court, the president's long time personal attorney former Trump Organization executive, Michael Cohen is under federal criminal investigation right now. This in itself is an interesting to know, interesting thing to know in the life and fate of Michael Cohen who has been associated with this president for a very long time.
But even though we the public have not seen all that much detail about the criminal case that prosecutors are pursuing against Michael Cohen, the exact charges that he is being investigated for, for example, are redacted in the court filings thus far. Prosecutors have explained in publicly available court filings that they obtained previously secret search warrants, months ago, to start reading and searching all of the communications that Michael Cohen engaged in on multiple e-mail accounts.
But most of the information about, what they learned from that surveillance, and, what, what in that surveillance helped them obtain another search warrant that sent federal agents to go physically raid Michael Cohen's home and office and safe deposit box last week, all the specifics are redacted. So, we know that he is under investigation. We know something about what the criminal investigation is about. But a lot of it we are not allowed to see.
We haven't seen for example, the search warrants themselves that allowed the raid on Michael Cohen or that surveillance of his e-mail accounts. We haven't seen law enforcement affidavits that may have been used to persuade a judge to sign off on one or both warrants.
But just because that stuff is secret to us doesn't mean secret to everybody. The judge and the lawyers involved in Michael Cohen's criminal case, they have seen all that stuff. Nothing is redacted for them. They have seen all of the supporting documents that have been put to the court thus far. And as we reported last night, in what appeared to be a moment of maybe confusion, definitely a moment where, where some of Michael Cohen lawyers seemed flustered in court. There was a moment in, in open court, couple days ago, when, when one of Mike Cohen's attorneys said that, in a nonpublic document, which we the public haven't seen, the lawyers involved in the case and judge have seen it, in something called attachment A related to Michael Cohen's case.
According to one of Michael Cohen's lawyers, quote, there are five paragraphs within that attachment A that deal directly with seeking the papers of the president of the United States, papers that are in possession of my client. So, that's the -- that's the basis of why this is a national story, right? The president's personal lawyer had his home and office raided by the FBI the president's personal lawyer is the subject of act of criminal investigation, and the president's personal lawyer has lawyers, who have admit the in open court, that that criminal case involving Michael Cohen is directly related to the president.
When the FBI came in to seize documents from Michael Cohen, they were specifically looking for documents related to President Trump. We got that from open court. Now, since the FBI raid on Cohen, since the criminal case against Cohen became matter of public record, there have also been a whole bunch of news organizations who have reported on what federal agents were looking for.
Bunch of different news agencies have reported that among documents and materials that FBI agents were looking for, among the stuff that was spelled out in the search warrant for them to go grab, from Cohen, were materials related to the "Access Hollywood" tape -- a tape that was made public in October 2016, right before the election, a tape in which the president, future president, bragged in crude terms about what he was able to get away with in terms of man handling and assaulting women without getting in trouble for it.
It's also been reported that, as spelled out in the search warrant related to Michael Cohen, federal agents were also looking for material in his office, in his home, related to -- a payment. Money that was paid to adult film actress, Stormy Daniel, right before the election to keep her from talking about her alleged sexual affair with Donald Trump. Also reportedly spelled out in the search warrant, and therefore a target for FBI agents when they raided Michael Cohen last week was information related to money that was paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The payment effectively to keep her from telling her story what was an ongoing, 10 months long, sexual relationship with Donald Trump.
So, again to be perfectly clear about this and to be -- to be honest about what we know what we don't know, what has been reported versus what we have seen, we the public haven't seen the search warrants. Only some of these cases is public to us. A lot its opaque.
But a bunch of news sources have reported that the documents that the prosecutors were seeking and building the case against the president's lawyer, include stuff that relates to basically how Trump and his lawyer might have reacted to women claiming sexual contact or sexual interactions with the president. Even with all of that reporting though, what none of us know is why that would be the basis for a criminal investigation into anyone?
I mean, I believe whole heartedly in the sacred nature of our campaign finance laws in the country. It may be that making a large payment to a woman so she won't talk about an affair, so as to help the dude she allegedly was having the affair with win an upcoming election -- I concede that might be a violation of America's campaign finance laws. But it is still hard to imagine that being the basis for a federal judge signing out a search warrant for FBI agents to go raid a lawyer's office to obtain evidence of a campaign finance violation, for which the ultimate remedy, worst case scenario, might be, maybe a fine in alternate universe where we actually enforce campaign finance laws in this country? Huh? I don't, it doesn't seem --
So, we know what we know, we know what we don't know, right? We've got this sort of mix of information, this mix of ingredients doesn't quite bake into a single cake. We've got the president's lawyer being raided. We've got an admission in open court that the raid definitely relates to the president. We've got multiple sourced, apparently solid reporting the raid in part relates to these payoffs to women. We've got a blunt assertion from the government that this is a federal criminal investigation, and all of the details are fascinating. And I have no idea how they all fit together.
And now, we can add to that, this, whether or not the payoffs to women before the 2016 presidential election are being construed by prosecutors as criminal matters. Those payoffs have been the subject of some civil lawsuits, right? A criminal case is when the government is bringing a case against a person, it is, the people versus defendant. Civil lawsuit is a lawsuit between two parties. There are civil lawsuits about these payments. The most high profile one relates to Stormy Daniels, and $130,000 payment to her before the election. This one is being pursued in most high profile way.
Ms. Daniels herself and attorney have been physically, personally in court this week in the Michael Cohen case. Stormy Daniels and her lawyer have done a ton of media appearances around their lawsuit, around Ms. Daniels' alleged affair with the president. Their lawsuit against the president about this agreement has produced a side bar, separate lawsuit, a defamation suit. Another civil lawsuit brought by Ms. Daniels and lawyer against Michael Cohen. That separate lawsuit against Cohen said he defamed Stormy Daniels in the way that he has talked about the payment and scandal.
Even just today, the Stormy Daniels matter led to the president making online statement attempting to undercut Stormy Daniels' credibility, related to her claim she was once threatened by a man who told her to leave Trump alone. The president's online statement attacking Stormy Daniels on the matter led to Stormy Daniels and her attorney threatening yet another lawsuit in this case. Now, they're threatening to sue the president again not just over the initial agreement, but now for defaming Stormy Daniels today based on the president's online tweet.
So, the Stormy Daniels part of this is like very, very high profile. Lots of new stuff happening in that every day, tons of media coverage, lots of - - you know, lawsuits, spawning lawsuits. The president himself being sued already once in that matter, maybe soon it will be twice.
But if you look at that, sort of step back from all of the, media noise around that, when you drill down and look at that substantively, the basis of that civil lawsuit on the Stormy Daniels matter is actually very small and technical.
Stormy Daniels sued President Trump over that $130,000 payment, specifically because of this. Because, see where that is highlighted? See her signature there. But that's highlighted line there, see, there's no signature? The president didn't sign the agreement.
That's the basis for the whole Stormy Daniels civil lawsuit. The conflict between Stormy Daniels and the president is that he didn't sign on the yellow highlighted line there. So, therefore, the deal is not valid. So, that's the Stormy Daniels lawsuit.
A lot of noise boils down to a very small matter. Didn't sign it.
There's also been a civil case about the other payment that happened right before the election, and even though this one has been much lower profile, it's actually a much more substantive legal case. It's the case involving Karen McDougal, who's the Playboy model, who says she had a ten-month long relationship with the president.
She sued -- she brought a civil law suit. She didn't sue the president directly. She sued the business that paid her for her story, the business that effectively paid her to not talk about her alleged affair with the president. That business is American Media Incorporated, publisher of "The National Enquirer".
The basis for Karen McDougal's civil lawsuit against that media company was not just like somebody forgot to sign somewhere, there was some technical problem with some legal document along the way. No, Karen McDougal's lawsuit claimed fraud, serious -- claimed serious fraud, claimed that American Media entered into this agreement with her basically under false pretenses. The lawsuit said AMI promised to feature her in their publications, publish all sorts of stuff by her. She says they never made good and sort of seemed like they never intended to.
More importantly, and, of way more interest, sort of way more or national interest of those who now have Donald Trump as our president, Karen McDougal's civil case said this agreement was basically a scam by Trump's lawyer. She said the legal representation that she had that led to her signing that deal in the first place, that was a fraudulent arrangement. She alleged in her lawsuit that she basically believed she was working with an attorney, who had her best interest at heart, who was working at the deal on her behalf.
But her lawsuit says, in fact, the guy who she thought was her lawyer was secretly working on the Trump side of the deal. That Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, was secretly involved in the arrangements about this deal and basically secretly in cahoots with Karen McDougal's lawyer, thus depriving her of real legal representation. She didn't really have anybody looking after her interests at all. She got tricked.
When that same lawyer who allegedly tricked Karen McDougal turned up in other payment deals, where he appeared to be on the opposite from Michael Cohen. It started to look like there might be a pattern here of Michael Cohen essentially rigging the legal representation for people who had claims to bring against the president. It's a very interesting case, serious contention, serious case.
Just days ago, AMI, publisher of "The Enquirer" was on a tear about fighting this case. They went to court and demanded that the case be thrown out on First Amendment grounds, signaling that they were going to fight this very aggressively. But now, a couple things have changed and a couple of things have surprised everybody.
In recent days, prosecutors, of course, have announced that Michael Cohen is under federal criminal investigation. Again, we don't know how the payoffs to these women may factor into the criminal investigation. But we believe that they are related, that this was part of what the search warrant authorized federal agents to seize from Michael Cohen's home and office.
And, we have learned in the past few days that federal prosecutors picked Michael Cohen clean. They got everything in his office, everything at his home, everything at the hotel room he was staying, stuff in the safety deposit box, everything on all his electronic devices, they got everything out of his multiple email accounts. For months, while Cohen was presumably still using the accounts. Not knowing they were being surveilled by federal agents.
"The New York Times" reports tonight that among the materials seized by the FBI, are, quote, e-mail communications, audio recordings and other documentation, related to AMI, and Karen McDougal's civil lawsuit.
Well, it appears -- I may be wrong -- but it appears that that news may have had a salutary effect on AMI, because they appear to have changed legal course over the last few days. They appear to have changed their mind about how hard they're going to fight this civil lawsuit by Karen McDougal. And tonight, both sides announced they settled it. It's over.
Stormy Daniels civil stuff goes on. The criminal case presumably goes on. But the civil lawsuit about Karen McDougal and AMI, it poofed tonight.
Why is that? That's my first question. Why is that? Second question, why now? Why did this case get settled now when it is right in the middle of what we are just learning is an ongoing active criminal investigation being carried out by federal prosecutors who are as serious as a heart attack? How does it affect the criminal case against the president's lawyer? And indeed the president's own legal jeopardy that may attend to that case now that the civil case at the heart of the matter has gone away?
But also satisfy my curiosity here. According to reporter, Jim Rittenberg at "The New York Times", who is first to report this settlement tonight, had this case not been settled this evening, Karen McDougal's lawyer says he was prepared to start pretrial discovery.
Pretrial discovery sounds like a ride at Disneyland. In law, it is a very scary roller coaster. Pretrial discovery in this case might conceivably have forced AMI to hand over e-mails, communications, any records they've got that relate to this case.
The FBI has got Michael Cohen's stuff. They don't have AMI stuff. Not that we know of.
According to Karen McDougal's lawyer, pretrial discovery in this case would have also included submission of written questions to President Trump and a request to him that he should hand over any internal documents related to this matter. So, the president being forced by the discovery process in this lawsuit to answer questions about and hand over materials related to this settlement. That might have happened. But now, this lawsuit has been suddenly settled this evening, and so that discovery process will not go forward.
Now, one might expect in a case like this that that discovery process would be a freaking nightmare scenario for American Media, for AMI, but also for the White House itself. Because of that, if you are Karen McDougal, and that tool is available in your very substantive ongoing lawsuit about this matter that relates to the president, which is now in the middle of what you know is a criminal investigation, you would think you have got all the leverage in the world, right? You would think you can get the world in exchange for making that threat of discovery going away. You could probably get anything to make your lawsuit go away at this point.
But they have published the settlement tonight, and it does not look like Karen McDougal the world. AMI isn't covering her legal fees. She does get the rights to tell her story about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. You might remember a recent hour of CNN in which she has done that fulsomely already. Presumably, she now can also do it for money. But even if she does that, the first 75 grand she gets paid, she has to pay to AMI.
So, why did this case get settled now? Why did she get what she got at what looks from the outside like a point of maximum leverage, at least a point of maximum concern from the president, whose lawyer is under federal criminal investigation on matters related to this?
I am not a lawyer. What am I not seeing here?
Joining us now exclusively is Peter Stris, the attorney representing Karen McDougal in the case.
Thank you so much for being here.
PETER STRIS, ATTORNEY FOR KAREN MCDOUGAL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I have explained with every word available to me what is interesting to me and also what doesn't make sense to me about this.
I look at this from the outside and see your client having leverage to get anything at this point, because of the threat that this civil case posed to the president and his lawyer in the middle of this investigation. I don't feel like she got that much.
STRIS: This is probably the most rewarding result I have ever gotten in my career. And, you know, we are a firm that does serious cases. I came this morning from D.C., there because my partner was arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. And what's so rewarding about this case is it shows what makes this system great.
One brave woman with competent counsel can get a quarter billion dollar company to do the right thing. We said from day one. You started your piece by saying, people haven't seen us on TV. That's deliberate. We've said from day one, our mantra has been, they're going to void this contract or they're going to face the music.
And as far as I'm concerned, I was indifferent. You know, I studied composition. I was a music major before I went to law school. So, I like music.
But what Karen McDougal wants, and what she always wanted was to get out of this contract. Now, let me tell you why because this is critical to what happened. This contract was being used by AMI, to control what she did. When reporters contacted her, and they wanted to do a story, they wrote information about what she was supposed to say.
She doesn't want to be on a reality show. She doesn't want to make a movie. She wanted to do what she did recently, which was go on CNN and tell her story.
MADDOW: That's the thing that is hard for me to understand because Ronan Farrow had a long piece in "New Yorker" publishing her handwritten notes about her alleged affair with Donald Trump and getting her to comment on those. She did this long, long interview on CNN talking about it.
If this agreement was so restrictive to her, then why, and, she wants to be able to do things like that, clearly under the agreement before you came to the settlement tonight, she was able to do that sort of media.
STRIS: So, that's actually not true. I think -- so, Karen is kind of standing on the shoulders of other people. It's because of reporting by Ronan Farrow and Jim, it's because people like Stormy have come forward that she actually had the strength to file this lawsuit. Before we filed this lawsuit, Ami was telling her, if you give information, if you do things like this, you're going to be sued to the tune of millions of dollars. She was unbelievably frightened.
So, she wanted to get out of the contract.
MADDOW: But wait, she was still under the contract when sheep did the CNN interview?
STRIS: That's right.
MADDOW: So, how was the contract preventing her from doing the CNN interview?
STRIS: Because the things AMI was saying privately are very different than what they said publicly. Make no mistake, if we hadn't filed this lawsuit, she wouldn't have been able to do that interview. They took this contract for a year and they basically said, if you provide information, if you tell your story in your words, your reputation is going to be destroyed or you are going to be sued.
This is all she's wanted. You say maximum leverage.
STRIS: We were prepared to take the deposition of David Pecker, to take the deposition of executives, to get these documents, these recordings that you mentioned, this correspondence. Nothing would have made me personally happier.
But that's not what Karen wanted. What Karen wanted was to not be beholden to this company. She doesn't want to be on their magazine. She doesn't want to work with them. She was tricked into a catch and kill contract and that's her right.
MADDOW: The settlement that she's got, though, actually -- it's been reported that the settlement will include her getting a magazine cover from AMI. It's been reported but it's not accurate?
STRIS: It's not accurate.
STRIS: It actually makes me upset because we worked hard to negotiate this. And we made it clear she didn't want money. She just didn't want to deal with these people.
MADDOW: Does she want to get columns --
MADDOW: So, she's not getting any material from herself published in any of their publications.
STRIS: Hear me out on this because it's so to understand what happened. AMI insisted that they have the right to repurpose old pictures and articles because they want to save face. They want to put her on their magazine, and say, oh, there's nothing going on here, this is a commercial relationship.
It's a fraud. She was tricked into a deal so that her lawyer who was working with Michael Cohen, and AMI could kill a story. That's what happened. They can spin it any way they want.
MADDOW: The thing that is difficult for me to understand is that she was able to tell the story while still under contract even if it was under dispute because of the lawsuit. When she gets out of this now, she is not getting her legal fees paid. She's got to come up with money to pay you. She's --
STRIS: No, no, no. We donated hundreds of thousands of dollars --
MADDOW: OK. But AMI isn't paying your fees?
STRIS: No, that's right.
MADDOW: And if she does sell her story to anybody else, if somebody wants to pay her money to publish her story, she still has to pay 75 grand to AMI out of whatever she's get paid, right?
STRIS: But this is a total victory if --
MADDOW: It doesn't feel like a total victory I have to say.
STRIS: Well, answer me this then. If this contract had been voided, she would have to pay them $150,000, give the money back and she'd be done. Here, she got out of every obligation under the contract. She doesn't have to do articles. She doesn't have to take pictures. They gave her her life rights back immediately.
MADDOW: Minus 75 grand.
STRIS: Well, minus 75 grand if she happens to sell it, which she doesn't want to. And that's the maximum they get. They get 10 percent up to 75 grand. That's basically the best that we could have gotten had we litigated this to the end.
MADDOW: Do you -- did you get any pressure from anybody in political circles that this should be settled rather than getting -- moving forward alongside the criminal matter and the president's lawyer?
STRIS: No, the opposite. What made this so difficult is people want to see a fight. People want to see this used to essentially expose the things that are going on.
And, you know, Rachel, I think the most important thing is, when you're a lawyer and you represent a client, the reason people like Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson are creating all of this mischief is because they're not faithfully representing people. We have a client who had an objective. And that objective, and if people can't understand this, I don't care frankly, because I've never been as proud as anything as I am of this.
Karen came to us and she said, I want out of this contract. I've don't care what people are going to say. I don't want money. I want to be able to correct the lies that people are telling. I don't want to be affiliated with that company.
She was panicked when I said we could sue. She said, well, they're going to sue me. And with Stormy Daniels, $20 million lawsuit, that's what she thought was going to happen to her.
MADDOW: She wanted this to go away.
STRIS: She wanted this to go away. And, you know, she has the right. And we see a pattern of powerful men, and often happens to be the same ones here, Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson doing these deals. If people can't appreciate the fact that someone who is caught up in that has the right to have their voice and to have someone represent them to get them out of it, then I really have no tolerance for that. I mean, that's how the system should work.
MADDOW: Well, certainly having an advocate gets you what you want. The thing is hard to see bringing the lawsuit in the first place and then ending it this way at this point of maximum leverage. I hear you she is getting what she wants out of this. And I -- you are her representative. I would love off to speak to her about this. I realize she was not available tonight. So, I'm only talking to you about it.
I leave you with one last question. The serious allegation that was raised here I thought was substantive matter in the civil lawsuit was this case that -- the case that you made that Michael Cohen and Mr. Davidson, Keith Davidson, were basically colluding to create a legal fraud here. Do you think they did that in other cases?
STRIS: Yes. And let me be clear: Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen are carved out of this lawsuit. So, we'll see where things. Right now --
MADDOW: That matter of it may still be live?
STRIS: Yes. I mean, Karen wants to enjoy her privacy. But, you know, we'll see where things go. There is a lot of information that I have learned over time and I am very confident that Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson and others will have to account for the things that they have done.
MADDOW: Peter Stris, attorney for Karen McDougal, thank you for fighting with me about this tonight. I appreciate you being here in person.
Please tell Ms. McDougal, if she wants to ever talk to me about it in person, I do not pay, but I'd be happy to have a really fulsome conversation with her about it.
All right. Thanks a lot. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, I'm still baffled. There was a surprise settlement today of a civil lawsuit brought by one woman who says she was paid off before the election to not talk about her affair with Donald Trump. Karen McDougal says she has -- had a ten-month long affair with the president. She was paid 150 grand right before the election by a Trump friendly media company to effectively not tell her story about Mr. Trump.
That media company and Karen McDougal just, surprise, tonight settled their civil lawsuit. Lawsuit has gone away. It's interesting on its own terms. But then there's also the fact that the terms of that payoff to her are also now part of the criminal investigation into the president's lawyer by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
So, I have -- we heard from the lawyer involved in settling this case. We've heard his take on it. I have heard his argument about it.
I have legal questions that remain, though. If the criminal investigation and this civil lawsuit were about the same thing -- is it important that the civil lawsuit just went away? Is that a strange thing? Does it matter for the criminal investigation here? Particularly because it looks like the criminal investigation here is a serious thing both for the president's lawyer and potentially for the president himself.
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg. He's former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official.
Chuck, thank you very much for being here. Much appreciated.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You saw my interview there with Mr. Stris.
ROSENBERG: I did.
MADDOW: So, the FBI has raided Michael Cohen's home and office. AMI said that it would fight Karen McDougal's lawsuit right up until today when they settled. This follows the raid. This follows threats that there would be -- they would start to enter into discovery in this civil suit.
What do you make of the timing and this dynamic between the two cases?
ROSENBERG: Can I answer you in the abstract?
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
ROSENBERG: A bank gets robbed and you find a guy down the street holding a bag of money and covered in dye pack ink. Coincidence? Maybe, but probably not. It's probably the bank robber.
So, is this a coincidence that they would dismiss the suit or settle the suit right after Cohen's office got raided? I don't think so. I'm not a big believer in coincidences.
MADDOW: And so, what about the raid would have pushed this to settlement?
ROSENBERG: Well, a couple of things. But probably first and foremost, whatever is going to come out in the civil suit is going to be influenced by the fact that there is a parallel ongoing criminal investigation.
ROSENBERG: And so, folks who might have been deposed or might have been inclined to speak in connection with the civil suit may now be taking the Fifth for instance, plead the Fifth so they don't face exposure in the other thing that matters a lot more. That's ongoing.
It also just complicates the lives of attorneys in the civil matter. I don't blame -- I don't know what Ms. McDougal's goals were. I take Mr. Stris, her lawyer.
MADDOW: Me too.
ROSENBERG: Good enough, right? Not for us I guess to decide.
But from Mr. Cohen's vantage point, from the folks at AMI, boy, they just want this whole thing to go away. They can't do that. They can't make the federal prosecutors go away.
ROSENBERG: But they can at least make this piece of it go away.
MADDOW: When -- I was thinking just about what, you know, what might be the explosive evidence in this case? It's a worst case scenario for the people involved. And there is this prospect that with discovery in the civil lawsuit, that could have resulted, and it would have been litigated by, but it would have resulted in the media company and AMI having to hand over their own communications and documents that led to this agreement with Ms. McDougal.
MADDOW: If this payment to Ms. McDougal is of interest to prosecutors who are pursuing this as a criminal matter, is there any reason why they can't get that stuff from AMI too?
ROSENBERG: No reason at all. In fact, Rachel, they're going to get all the stuff and probably more than would have come out in civil discovery. So nothing about this settlement undermines or undercuts the work that the federal agents and federal prosecutors are going to do.
ROSENBERG: They get this stuff. They get to put people on the grand jury. We have seen from other indictments in the Mueller case, for instance, how good federal prosecutors are at following the money. They're going to follow the money.
MADDOW: OK, that's the key issue here I guess for me. On this issue then of the criminal case, I haven't had a chance yet to ask you what you make of the jurisdiction issues here. Obviously, this is described as -- this matter with involving Cohen, described as something that started with a referral from the special counsel's office to the prosecutors in New York.
I am not -- I get that is how it happened. Still not quite sure how unusual that is or important that is. What's your take on that dynamic?
ROSENBERG: Not that unusual. So, there is 94 U.S. attorney's offices around the country. But we are all part of the same system, right? We all rely on the FBI, or the ATF or the DEA to bring us cases.
And so, when we're re working well, we're working together. And if I see something that happened in the district of Minnesota or in Tulsa, Oklahoma, me sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia, as a federal prosecutor would hand the piece off. By the way, that doesn't preclude it from coming back.
ROSENBERG: Right? If folks in Southern District of New York say, hey, you know what, we found three things. Two seem to be ours. But one seems like it would fit with Bob Mueller is doing.
MADDOW: They can kick it back.
ROSENBERG: They can kick it back.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official, invaluable asset to us here. Thank you, Chuck.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Totally appreciate it.
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, now we've learned that CIA director, the outgoing CIA director, Mike Pompeo, had a secret meeting over the Easter weekend with the dictator of North Korea.
Hey, Director Pompeo, how did it go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Director Pompeo, what did you learn from your conversations with Kim Jong-un?
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I'm just here today, working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just here today, working.
It turns out, that answer was actually directly related to that question. Sounded like a non sequitur, it was not a non sequitur. I will explain ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been all most four years now, exactly, since, Flint, Michigan, switched from clean, predictable, Detroit water, to drinking from the Flint River instead. That decision was not made by locally elected officials in Flint. Locally elected officials in Flint has been stripped of their power by the state government who game in and installed state appointed emergency managers to run the town and instead of local people.
Those state appointed emergency managers, put in place not by the people of Flint, but directly by the governor, that's who made that fatal terrible decision in Flint, which became an unforgettable national disaster four years ago. The state switched the water without proper precautions or, proper treatment of the new supply. The new not properly treated water ate the pipes. The pipes leached toxic lead into the water. The people of Flint drank the toxic lead filled water for months and months and months and months. And they were poisoned by it.
And now, the name Flint has become shorthand for that city's water disaster. But the whodunit here doesn't even really need shorthand. It's very simple.
Under Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, the state of Michigan made an overt, dumb, terrible decision that resulted in the poisoning of the population of the city of Flint with lead, from the very oldest people in Flint to the very youngest. Anyone who drank the water was exposed to the potent neurotoxin, irreversibly.
Now over the years we have spent following what happened in Flint, Michigan, few things have stood out. For starters, it's the obvious, visceral suffering and fear and trauma and displacement of the people who live in Flint, the loss of faith in government, the sheer epic ongoing hassle and expense and inconvenience that goes along with living in Flint now.
Thousands of people faced search for clean water, for water they can trust without second guessing. Meanwhile, their city is going through a serial construction job. Flint is halfway done replacing thousand of lead pipes after this crisis. New pipes will be an improvement. But in the meantime, the construction itself raises fears that old lead scale will get dislodged and, and sent down the pipes, and into household faucets.
The city started the construction work up again today after a break for the winter weather. They expect to be at this through at least 2019. That's one thing that stands out in Flint. How difficult this lead crisis has been for the people who live there.
Also, standing out in Flint, is the way that the governor, Governor Snyder, has sometimes need to be dragged into dealing with it, whether it was admitting that there was a crisis at all, or acknowledging the extent of it, or deciding how much help he should offer. I mean, despite being the governor who was in charge when Flint got poisoned, the governor whose appointees made the decision that did it, or maybe because of all of that, Governor Snyder has not had the smoothest relationship to the recovery effort.
And now, Governor Snyder has just announced, no more bottled water for Flint. Governor Snyder says it's time for the state to stop sending bottled water to Flint. That things are better enough now.
So, he turned off the shipments of bottled water. Let the water distribution centers run dry. And then last week, closed them. The reaction in Flint to the governor's decision was immediate. From Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a hero pediatrician in Flint, quote, this is wrong. Until all lead pipes are replaced the state should make available bottled water and filters to Flint residents.
From the state attorney general who has been prosecuting Snyder administration officials over the lead poisoning. Quote: bottled water distribution in Flint should continue until lead pipes have been replaced and trust in government has been restored.
And from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, an allegation that the governor laid on an extra layer of callousness in telling her that Flint needs to get over it. And move on.
Also, an announcement that she is ready to take the government there to court to sue him for what happened to her town and for what she says needs to happen there now.
Joining us now is the mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver.
Madam Mayor, it is nice to see you again. Thank you very much for being here.
KAREN WEAVER (D), MAYOR OF FLINT, MICHIGAN: Thank you. I'm still fighting.
MADDOW: I know. I know. Well, did you -- did you know this was going to be the next fight? Did you know the governor was about to shut off the water supplies for Flint?
WEAVER: You know what, I'm not surprised, because he has been trying to shut it off since September. And we have been fight since September to keep the water pods in place. September, when he tried to do that, we said, no. You know, we're not there yet.
We are still removing the lead service lines. That was the word that it had been given to us was we will see you through the lead service line replacement and water pods will stay in place, so people could get -- you know, have the access to clean water that they needed and deserved.
MADDOW: That's not an infinite timeline. I mean, when you say that you were told, that until the lead service line replacement project is done, you'll still be able to get bottled water. I mean, that's a project that you have been working on fast that as far as I understand it, there's a possibility that that will take you into next year, possibly into the year after. But this is not something that has an infinite time horizon.
WEAVER: That's exactly right. It was supposed to be done over three years. And you got the numbers exactly right, Rachel.
We are, you know, we have, gone ahead of schedule. We have looked at or changed almost 9,000 lead service lines. We started back up today. So, we had this year next year to complete the project. We are ahead of schedule.
So, to take that from the residents, you know, like, pulling the scab off of a healing wound.
MADDOW: When the governor says that as far as he is concerned, as far as the state is concerned, the city's water system has recovered enough to not need this continued support from the state. What do you say to that? I mean, in a way, he tried to make it sound look, a compliment, like Flint has come so far. We are no longer need.
WEAVER: And you know what? It's not true. We have -- what is true is we have come a long way. But we're not where we need to be. That's why the fight is continuing.
We know that with all of this construction going on in our city, we still have a public health issue and we have to protect ourselves while the lead service lines are being replaced. We had concerns about testing in the school.
And the other thing was it's an issue of trust. You gave your word that these would stay in place. And then you take it from us.
MADDOW: Madam Mayor, last question for you. I know it is not an easy decision to, to, threaten a lawsuit against the state. Obviously, you need to work cooperatively with the state in a way that almost no other city has in U.S. history, because of what happened here, because of whodunit, and who caused this crisis in the first place -- what are you hoping from this lawsuit?
WEAVER: You know what, this lawsuit is about more than water pods staying open. In addition to that, we talked about things we need. We need fixtures in the homes. We need in home plumbing. We need hot water heaters, these things have been damaged.
We talked about the reputation and how this has impacted the reputation of our city. During the switch, there was a loss in property values, they went down. You know, we've had civil liabilities that have happened as a result of this and the list continues.
We've had permanent loss of residents and so, the money we would have been collecting is gone. So, this is about much more than water pods. It's about justice for the city of Flint.
MADDOW: Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint, Michigan -- thank you for talking to us tonight, Madam Mayor. Please as always --
WEAVER: Thank you.
MADDOW: -- keep us apprised. You're welcome back any time, Mayor.
WEAVER: Thank you so much.
All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Director Pompeo, what did you learn from your conversations with Kim Jong-un?
POMPEO: I'm just here, today.
REPORTER: Director, can you say anything about what you learned from your meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea?
Director, do you think they're committed to denuclearization?
REPORTER: How did your meeting with Senator Warner go?
POMPEO: Great day. I'm enjoying my time here. I have to earn every vote I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Capitol Hill today chased by reporters asking about his recent trip to North Korea, where he met the dictator there. Also being asked about his currently shaky chances of being confirmed as secretary of state. Those things as it turns out are related.
This is fascinating. Politico.com reporting that last night when it leaked that Mike Pompeo had gone to North Korea and met the North Korean dictator, that leak was deliberately timed by the White House to, quote, shore up Pompeo's image as a diplomat capable of executing sensitive negotiations on the president's behalf.
Basically, they're trying to shore him up so we can get confirmed as secretary of state. Pompeo is nominated to succeed fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, he's due for a committee vote, very soon, as soon as Monday perhaps, but doesn't appear to have the votes. It looks like Mike Pompeo will be the first nominee for secretary of state to not be able to get a vote out of committee in over 90 years. If he does fail that vote in committee, Senate Republicans say they plan to just put his nomination on the floor any way, but they do that, nobody knows if he will have the votes to get him confirmed.
Pompeo in trouble -- and it's not just him. This afternoon, the Trump nominee to lead NASA barely advanced, following an unexpectedly dramatic vote. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake initially voted against NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine, which resulted in a 49-49 tie. That would have usually brought in Mike Pence to break the tie, but Mike Pence was nowhere to be found, so everybody leaned on Flake to switch his original no vote to a yes, which allowed the nomination to proceed, if not Jeff Flake's dignity.
Today, we also learned that the confirmation hearing for Trump's next CIA director, Gina Haspel, that has been pushed off until next month at least, amid bipartisan questions about her record on torture. A confirmation hearing for Trump's nominee to lead the V.A., White House Dr. Ronny Jackson, that will take place next week, but he faces lots and lots of skepticism in the Senate, including by Republicans about whether he has anything near the management experience to oversee that agency.
So, a whole bunch of the president's cabinet picks are having trouble right now, but none more so than the highest profile job of all, Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, working senators furiously on Capitol Hill today and he's had the White House leaked details of this North Korea trip to try to save his flailing nomination, but he still has a real mountain to climb.
More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, former FBI Director James Comey was a guest on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert". He's talking about his book and his experience being fired by President Trump while overseeing the Russia investigation into President Trump.
At the Colbert show, Mr. Comey was fortunate enough to run into two members of the Wu-Tang Clan backstage. That was him last night smooching in the colder green room with Method Man and Ghostface Killah. That was last night.
Tomorrow night, James Comey will be here live with me. We have no members of the Wu-Tang Clan booked at all, which is an unfortunate oversight on my part. I do however have a lot of questions and tomorrow night, James Comey will be right here live.
That does it for us tonight. I'll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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