Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 9, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti, Ron Wyden
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What do you mean there might be more podcasts coming?
HAYES: That`s what we call in the business a tease.
MADDOW: But I work down the hall from you and we`re supposed to be colleagues. That`s the sort of thing give me a knowing glance, I`d be like, oh, yes, he does have big news.
HAYES: More info to come soon. But maybe we`ll talk more about it.
MADDOW: OK. I feel a little out of the loop.
All right. Thank you, Chris, my friend.
HAYES: All right.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Much appreciated.
We`ve got kind of a big show tonight. One that`s structured a little differently than the way we usually do things, but there is a good reason for it.
All right. There is one airplane manufacturer in all of South Korea. South Korea obviously makes a lot of great cars. They have an excellent electronics, manufacturing sector, an excellent high-tech manufacturing sector. But they`ve only got one airplane company in the whole country.
And last year, that one airplane company in South Korea was almost destroyed by a giant corruption scandal. A whole bunch of top executives at the company were implicated in a scheme that basically boiled down to a massive accounting fraud.
Part of what they did is that they apparently faked prices on helicopter parts that the company was selling to the South Korean armed forces. So, basically, the way it works is on paper it looked like the company was selling those helicopter parts for a certain price, and most people in the company thought they were.
The military, though, was actually paying a much higher price for those parts. And what the scam was is that apparently, these top executives at the company cooked the books to make it all look kosher, to make it look like the same price was being paid and received, and the difference between those two prices, between the fake price and the real price is actually money that they just pocketed themselves.
So, this is an important company in that country, right? A singular role in their manufacturing sector, and it`s got important national security implications, both because the entity they were ripping off was their own military, but also because the ability to manufacture aircraft, particularly military aircraft is an important part of any country`s national defense. And in South Korea, that is a fraught issue at the moment for obvious reasons.
So, that scandal, what happened with that aircraft manufacturing company last year, that was always going to be a big deal scandal. But it ended being more dramatic and tragic than most. The CEO of that company wasn`t just fired in this scandal, he was arrested, and the vice president of the company killed himself as prosecutors closed in and started to uncover the fraud.
Now, the company in question was called Korea Aerospace Industries. And all this stuff happened last fall. The vice president of the company killed himself in September. The CEO was indicted in October, and then in November, the following month, Korea Aerospace Industries for some reason sent a check for $150,000 to Michael Cohen, the personal attorney of President Donald J. Trump.
That $150,000 payment to Michael Cohen from Korea Aerospace Industries, it was first reported in documents that were released late yesterday by Michael Avenatti. Michael Avenatti is the aggressive, and telegenic lawyer who is representing Stephanie Clifford, aka, Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who is suing the president to be released from a nondisclosure agreement, which she signed to prevent her from speaking publicly about her alleged affair with President Trump.
And that lawsuit involving Stormy Daniels has produced some really weird split-screen moments in American life and law and culture. Who would have thought we`d still be talking about that now? But -- I mean, simultaneously, because the nature of this lawsuit against the president and its origins and the substance of Ms. Daniels` claims about her alleged relationship with the president and what kind of alleged relationship that was -- I mean, simultaneously right now, not to put too fine a pint on it, we really do have a cover story and interview of a very not safe for work nature with Ms. Daniels all about the president in "Penthouse" magazine.
I have not seen it, I swear, but I`m told that the interview is accompanied by a nude photo shoot. On the other side of the split screen, the lawsuit led "The Wall Street Journal" to initially report that the president`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, set up a Delaware registered shell company to anonymously and at least somewhat secretly handle the $130,000 payoff that went to Ms. Daniels, along with that nondisclosure agreement that she is now suing to be released from.
So, it`s this one lawsuit has brought us lots of revelations of lots of different kinds. But, again, you know, we`re standing -- we`re standing there in the woods and we`re looking at this particular stand of trees, and we`re thinking, huh, this is -- this is a lawsuit, this is a scandal about an alleged sexual relationship involving the president. That`s remarkable enough in U.S. history, right?
But now, the revelations that have sprung from the allegations about that supposed affair, that there was a business entity called Essential Consultants that was set up to facilitate that payment secretly -- well, what`s derived from that next piece of that story makes the stand of trees look like it`s in a whole different kind of forest, right? Now, we`re on to a financial story that pertains to the president, that pertains to his lawyer and this administration, and that pertains to the investigation into Russia interfering with our election and the question of whether or not the Trump campaign was in on it.
How did we get from the alleged affair to this really serious stuff? Now, that this part of the story is cracking open, though, it is -- it is getting bigger and weirder almost by the hour. And the explanations we`re getting from the people and companies involved are getting longer and more elaborate and more damning with each new iteration.
So, for example, that detail about the $150,000 check that Korea aerospace industries sent to Michael Cohen to Essential Consultants in November right after that company`s vice president killed himself and their CEO was indicted in this giant corruption scandal, the news of that $150,000 payment to Michael Cohen at that time, it was first reported in these documents released last night by Michael Avenatti.
Subsequent to Mr. Avenatti putting that information out there, "The Washington Post" got to work trying to track down and confirm that part of the story, and a lot of other people had called them and initially Korea Aerospace Industries gave everybody else who was looking for explanation, gave them all a no comment, but Korea Aerospace Industries finally came up with something to say. They finally came up with an initial explanation for that payment in time to say this to "The Washington Post."
Quote: Korea Aerospace Industries confirmed to "The Washington Post" that it paid $150,000 to Cohen`s company, but spokesman Oh Sung-koon said that Korea Aerospace Industries was not aware of the company`s connection to President Trump. The company said it paid Michael Cohen`s firm, quote, to inform reorganization of our internal accounting system.
This is a company, a major company that had just been through a devastating and literally fatal corruption scandal involving accounting fraud by its top executives in a nation-shaking corruption scandal. In what universe would a company in that situation seek out Michael Cohen and specifically his little company, Essential Consultants LLC, which was recently formed as a Delaware shell company just days before it was used to pay off a porn star who said she had an affair with the president, in what universe would a company in that situation funnel money to Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants?
I mean, what`s actually the most amazing part of this initial statement from Korea Aerospace Industries is the part where they say they had no idea when they sent that check that the company they were paying had any connection whatsoever to President Trump. Oh really? We`re just supposed to believe that in all the world, Michael Cohen is the guy who you would hire to review and improve your internal accounting practices at your Korean aerospace firm? Out of all the lawyers in the world.
Well, tonight Korea Aerospace Industries has decided to take another crack at explaining this. They have given a new statement to CNN. A spokesperson for the company telling CNN, quote, Korea Aerospace Industries received legal advice on the cost accounting standards regulation from Essential Consultants LLC through a contracted deal.
The payment was all legal based on the contract. Korea Aerospace Industries is doing its best to comply with accounting regulations that are up to global standards. Now here is the really good part, the spokesperson clarified that Korea Aerospace Industries did not have direct contact with Michael Cohen at the time of the contract. The company said that the, quote, deal was done by someone else.
To be clear, it`s not like Essential Consultants has employees. It`s not like there is other people at that company, right? It`s a shell company that Michael Cohen set up at a P.O. box or like a shared work space in Delaware somewhere.
They had no contact with Michael Cohen? Someone else did the deal? Who is someone else? Who is going to the national aviation company of South Korea and telling them hey, write a check for 150 grand and we`ll say it for you upgrading your accounting regulations? Who is the someone else who set up this deal? Was his name John Baron?
Korea Aerospace Industries is up for a potentially huge U.S. defense contract to build jet trainers with Lockheed Martin. Obviously, it will be a U.S. decision whether or not they get it. And now we know that somewhere along the way this important and potentially promising company that might have this really big contract coming its way from the U.S. government, this company that`s had a very major very recent, very big corruption problem, they got steered somehow to drop 150 large in Michael Cohen`s bank account, specifically into the secret LLC he set up to handle the secret payments to the porn star.
I think we can all now join hands and go out on a limb together and say that whatever happened here with this aviation company, it was not that Michael Cohen was personally helping that company get its accounting practices up to international standards. Can we all agree that we can go out on that limb together?
Since Michael Avenatti posted these detailed financial allegations about Michael Cohen online last night, it has cracked open a whole lot of news. The giant telecom company AT&T has confirmed that it, too, did pay Michael Cohen. Avenatti`s document had AT&T down for $200,000 paid to Michael Cohen in four monthly installments of $50,000 each, ending early this year, January 2018.
Well, AT&T now confirms that the company did pay Michael Cohen, but they say actually they paid him a lot more than that. They say they paid him triple that. Those $50,000 monthly payments to Michael Cohen didn`t just happen four times at the end of this past year and into January. They say they paid him 50 grand a month for an entire year. So, AT&T is admitting they paid Cohen, but they`re saying they didn`t pay him 200 grand, they paid him 600 grand.
Initially, AT&T put out a statement saying that what they paid Michael Cohen for was to get his expertise on the issues of regulatory reform at the FCC, also corporate tax reform, and antitrust enforcement in the federal government. After a few hours, perhaps because AT&T realized that even Michael Cohen would probably find that explanation of his expertise laughable, AT&T decided that they would change their story. By the end of the day today, they put out a new explanation for why exactly they paid this man $50,000 a month, and their later explanation later in the day was slightly less implausible. Quote, it was to pay for an understanding of the inner workings of Trump.
Several hours after that statement, realizing I think that they were still leaving a little something important out of this explanation, AT&T put out yet another addendum to this explanation, admitting just a couple of hours ago tonight that the transaction with Michael Cohen had also ended upbringing them in contact with the special counsel`s investigation into the Russia scandal. Quote, when we were contacted by the special counsel`s office regarding Michael Cohen, we cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017. A few weeks later, our consulting contract with Cohen expired at the end of the year.
To be clear, this means that AT and freaking T was paying Michael Cohen in November 2017. What were they paying for? For an understanding of the inner workings of Trump. They`ve got him on the payroll. They`re paying him 50 large a month.
November 2017, Mueller`s office comes and knocks, can we talk to you than? They kept paying him in November after that, and in December as Mueller kept asking more questions. And into January. That wasn`t even an occasion for them to cut off the payments.
The other ginormous corporation brought into the scandal now is Novartis Pharmaceutical Company. And whoever is doing their public relations on this matter has been having an off day. The initial statement from Novartis was basically, not it! This is -- literally, the company`s first statement on this matter, quote, any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered into before our current CEO took office. Not it!
Statement number two was longer, but also still a bit of a head-scratcher. Quote, in February 2017, Novartis entered into a one-year agreement with Essential Consultants shortly after the election of President Trump focused on health care policy matters.
Oh, Michael Cohen, health care policy consultant. This is the guy who told a reporter from "The Daily Beast" what I`m going to do to you is going to be F-ing disgusting. But now he is a health care consultant for the Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation, which is a respected multinational.
Novartis also did note in that second statement, that revised statement that they put out that the company was, quote, contacted in November 2017 by lawyers from the special counsel`s office reporting agreement with Essential Consultants. Novartis cooperated fully with the special counsel`s office and provided all of the information requested.
I don`t know if Novartis then spent the day today getting questions about why Michael Cohen was their health care policy consultant, but late in the day, Novartis came up with yet another revision, a third revision of their statement, a third explanation for what had happened here. This is the statement where they actually admitted that what they really paid Michael Cohen for was nothing. They paid him for doing nothing.
And this is where we learn that they didn`t just pay him $400,000, as it said in the Avenatti document last night. They paid him $1.2 million. Again, and they paid him for nothing.
Quote: The agreement was for a term of one year and paid Essential Consultants $100,000 per month. In March 2017, Novartis had its first meeting with Michael Cohen under this agreement.
Following this initial meeting, Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to U.S. health care policy matters. The decision was taken not to engage further. However, as the contract unfortunately could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018.
Do big publicly traded international companies really work this way? I mean, this is their own explanation for what happened here. Agreed to do $100,000 a month deal that is binding, that requires them to pay this dude $100,000 a month for something that anybody who has ever met him could tell him he is incapable of doing.
But nevertheless, they do that deal and it`s binding, and when they make the deal, they have never met the guy. They didn`t meet him until a month after the deal was signed, and they were already paying him. Once you meet him, you realize ah, maybe, umm, huh-uh, huh-uh. And then having come to that realization, they then continued to pay him $1.2 million over the course of the year.
Is that really how companies work? Like big publicly traded multinational companies that are in an intensely regulated environment, and lots of countries in which they operate. Really, Novartis, that`s how you do business?
Those questions or questions like them led to the fourth revision of Novartis` statement today. A spokesman for the company now telling reporter Ed Silverman at statnews.com, which is a health care reporting outfit, a spokesman for the company telling Stat News, quote, this episode was clearly a mistake.
Novartis also admitting in this final statement, and who knows if it`s a final statement, maybe there will be yet more revisions. But Novartis ultimately admitting tonight that not only did they get questioned as a corporation about this deal with Michael Cohen, but their previous CEO, who quit unexpectedly last fall, and he is being blamed now for having set up this deal with Michael Cohen, the company is now admitting that they`re previous CEO, he also was personally interviewed by the lawyers from Mueller`s office.
And, you know, Novartis has had its own problems with corruption. Two years ago they paid $25 million to settle an investigation that they bribed people in China to help their business. The year before that Novartis agreed to pay almost $400 million for -- to settle what was essentially a bribery scam, a kickback scam to boost their drug sales in the United States. Just last month, "Reuters" reported that Novartis is under investigation again in the nation of Greece this time for another bribery and kickback scheme.
So, whether it -- whether or not it is surprising to see a company like that in the middle of this Michael Cohen story trying to get away for a second with calling him a health care policy consultant and then telling us the story that they just put him on the payroll for $1.2 million for a year for nothing, whether or not it`s surprising to see them in the middle of this scandal, honestly what is surprising to me, for a company like this, is with that recent legal history that they`ve got, they haven`t figured out how to make innocent-sounding public statements when they get accused of being involved in something this shady? You haven`t figured out that your first answer shouldn`t be not it!
The headline allegation for Mr. Avenatti`s documents continues to be that one of the entities that paid money into the shell company set up by Michael Cohen is a company associated with a sanctioned Russian oligarch named Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg was sanctioned by the U.S. government last month along with his gigantic holding company which is called Renova, an investment firm linked to Renova also appears to have had Michael Cohen on the payroll since Donald Trump has been president, from January through August of last year for a total of a half million dollars.
"The New York Times" reported last week that Vekselberg was personally stopped at a U.S. airport and questioned by Mueller`s team. It has since been reported that Vekselberg`s American cousin who runs that investment firm associated with Renova, his American cousin has also been questioned in the special counsel`s investigation. It`s the cousin`s firm that reportedly paid Cohen. That said the firm is denying any connection between Vekselberg himself and those payments to Michael Cohen.
The company does confirm that they paid Michael Cohen. They say they paid him as a business consultant. They say they paid him as a business consultant, quote, regarding potential sources of capital.
Question number one, why do we know this stuff? Michael Avenatti somehow got access to these financial transactions now. And they`re at least partially confirmed, these detailed financial records about this secretive business entity associated with Michael Cohen.
Other news agencies have been able to obtain financial documents which they say obtained Avenatti`s reporting -- excuse me, which they say corroborate Avenatti`s reporting. And we`ve had a whole day of these big companies bumbling around, eventually confirming the truth of what he alleged.
So why do we know this stuff? Is it potentially dangerous to the criminal case against Michael Cohen or to the Mueller investigation that we do know this stuff? Is this stuff integral to their case? Will it hurt their case now that it`s out in the open?
The Treasury Department`s inspector general announced today that they`re investigating whether banking documents were improperly leaked in this case.
There is also the question of how much of it is true. Although these big companies involved have confirmed the payments or said they actually paid Michael Cohen even more than what Avenatti alleged, Michael Cohen has submitted a court filing tonight in the Southern District of New York that takes issue with some of the smaller dollar amount claims in Avenatti`s documents alleging that smaller payments that Avenatti says were paid to Cohen through an account at Standard Chartered Bank, those payments according to Cohen have been improperly attributed to him. Some of those allegations he says appear just to be cases of mistaken identity.
If Cohen and his attorneys are right to take issue with some of the smaller dollar amounts, that`s interesting, right? Why do we have a mix of confirmed information about these big companies, these big dollar payments, mixed in with stuff that maybe isn`t true in terms of these smaller payments?
A mix of true and untrue information raises important questions about where this stuff came from, right?
Bottom line, though, pulling apart this -- or putting aside this still unfolding nature of this information and these evolving explanations from these surprisingly hapless companies that are now implicated in this story, putting aside the origin of all this information coming from this lawsuit against the president for the porn star nondisclosure agreement, the bottom line here when you step back from this, what have we learned exactly? Have we now figured out what exactly Michael Cohen does for a living and how it relates to the president?
Mr. Michael Avenatti joins us live here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Michael Avenatti. He is the attorney for Stormy Daniels. He is also the attorney who released this seven page document about Michael Cohen`s bank records, which has turned everything upside down in the last 36 hours.
Mr. Avenatti, thank you for being on with us tonight. You`ve been on with my friend Lawrence a lot, and I`ve never had you on the show. I`m happy to have you.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I`m happy to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to ask you about the most recent thing that`s happened in this story which is that Michael Cohen and his attorneys have filed a document with the court in the southern district of New York where he`s fighting his case, and he is complaining about this document that you`ve released, raising issues in particular with the small dollar amounts that you attribute to a bank account associated with him. They`re saying that all of those small dollar amounts were different Michael Cohens. They weren`t him, that it casts aspersions on your whole document.
AVENATTI: Well, let`s address that, okay. This is really a clear example, Rachel, of ignoring the elephant in the room and concentrating on the fleas on the floor.
And what do I mean by that? So, in the report that we issued, we identified about $3,180,503 worth of financial transactions. So, $3,180,503. They`ve taken issue with a whopping $20,583, OK?
So, we struck a percentage. Our report appears to be 99.35 percent accurate, which if we this was an election, that would be pretty good for the popular vote.
MADDOW: But the -- I mean, I think part of the reason that this is resonating, the argument is resonating, because everybody, people who are sympathetic to your case, people who are hostile to your case, people who are intrigued by what you are reporting, everybody wants to know where you got this information.
AVENATTI: Well --
MADDOW: And it raises interesting questions, because all the big dollar amounts that you attribute to these big companies have been validated by these big companies today, or they said yes, we actually paid them more than that. It`s weird to have the big dollar numbers, to have those validated in this when the smaller dollar numbers are being contested. It`s weird to have a mix of true and false information.
AVENATTI: Well, it`s not necessarily weird in a case, in a litigation case. I mean, sometimes things check out perfectly and sometimes they don`t. I mean, that`s just the nature of the beast.
Let me say this. We knew of the additional $800,000 that Novartis had paid. We didn`t include that in the report for a reason. We wanted to see what happened. We wanted to see if they actually came clean about it.
And initially last night, they did not. And then they found religion today and came clean about the additional $800,000.
MADDOW: So why did you hold that back? You wanted to see if they were going to lie about the amount?
AVENATTI: We wanted to see what was going to come out. We wanted to see what Michael Cohen was going to say. We wanted to see what Novartis was going to say. The same thing as it relates to AT&T in the additional $600,000.
So we basically gave them $1.4 million of benefit on the initial report. We made it known that it was a preliminary report. Had we included that, had we included that, we would have identified somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 million worth of transactions. Michael Cohen and his attorneys want to talk about $20,583.
But here is what they don`t want to talk about. They don`t want to talk about Novartis. They don`t want to talk about AT&T. They don`t want to talk about the Korean Aerospace Company that you mentioned. They don`t want to talk about the Russian oligarch and that entity. They haven`t poked any holes in that.
And by the way, I should have apologized when I sat down. I`m going to apologize now. I hope everyone understands I`m only a lawyer. So, I`m not a doctor or an accountant. I`m not an expert in FCC or telecommunications or real estate or business consulting or capital raising. I`m sure I`ve left something out.
I am not the Renaissance Man, the Michelangelo, the Leonardo Da Vinci that Michael Cohen is clearly. I hope everyone will bear with with me.
MADDOW: So, you are suggesting that Michael Cohen is being ostensibly being hired for thing things he is not capable of doing?
AVENATTI: No, he is being hired under the guise I guess --
AVENATTI: -- of doing things he is completely unqualified to do. There`s no expect -- and you see this in the ever changing statements, Rachel. He was not hired to do any of these things. It`s all a bunch of nonsense. It`s B.S.
He was hired for one reason and one reason only. And that was he was selling access to the highest office in the land at best that`s what he was doing. At best.
And ultimately, Robert Mueller or myself or someone else will get to the bottom of exactly what he was selling and perhaps more importantly, Rachel, where did all of this money go? Did all of it go only to Michael Cohen? Did some of it go to the Trump Organization? Did some of it make its way to the president?
I mean, that`s really in my view right now where we are, because we have confirmation of millions of dollars in payments.
And also, I think it`s important, Rachel, let`s remember, we`re talking about a very brief period of time. We`re talking from approximately October, November of 2016 until earlier this year. We`re not talking about years on end. That`s a lot of money in a short period of time.
So in my view, the most important questions right now are where did that money go? And Michael Cohen and Mr. Ryan who filed this attack on us earlier tonight, they can clear all of this up. All they have to do is submit the bank statements, provide the bank statements on this account for 16 or 18 months.
MADDOW: Well, let`s say that Michael Cohen is marketing himself as a business consultant. He told the court in the SDNY case that he has business consulting clients. And let`s just say he is good at talking people into giving him money.
Yes, sure, I can help you out with your tax problems. I can help you out with your regulatory issues, and he`s just -- he is a good salesman, and he is convincing these companies to hire him because he is a business consultant who can solve their problems.
Doesn`t that just show that he is a good talker? I mean, there is nothing necessarily nefarious in him getting business consulting gigs for which he is unqualified. It doesn`t necessarily mean that the money is being passed through to him some other nefarious purpose. It could just mean that those companies didn`t do their due diligence, right?
AVENATTI: It could mean that. But here is what we know. We know he is not registered to be acting on behalf of my foreign entity, as he is required to do by law. We know he is not registered as a lobbyist. We know he is not making requisite disclosures as required by law, federal law related to being a lobbyist, OK?
We also don`t know what resulted by way of all of these monies. We know there are some things that appear rather suspicious. We know Novartis got a lunch or dinner with the president, which appears to be a very important one as it relates to some actions that they were looking to succeed on. So, we don`t know what flowed from this.
Here is the other thing that we don`t know, Rachel. We don`t know whether the president knew about this or not, whether the president turned a blind eye to it, whether the president was in on it. We don`t know any of that.
But what we do know is you`re talking millions of dollars in a very brief period of time. You know what? I actually was encouraged by the filing. I laughed when I saw the filing this afternoon. I`ll tell you why.
All of this money that we point to, all of these big multinational corporations, and the best they`ve got is $20,583? I`ve taken a lot of exams in law school and college and elementary school and high school. And I tell you what? I`ll take 99.35 percent on any exam I`ve ever taken.
MADDOW: The question -- the prospect that you just raised about the connection to the president and the Trump Organization is -- needs to be asked, and I want to ask you about that if you can hold on through the break.
Michael Avenatti is our guest. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Michael Avenatti. He is the attorney for Stormy Daniels. He released a seven page document about Michael Cohen`s bank records yesterday.
Mr. Avenatti, where did you get this information about Michael Cohen`s bank records?
AVENATTI: Well, just like journalists don`t disclose their sources, attorneys aren`t required to disclose theirs either. It`s covered by the Work Product Doctrine, and we`re not going to disclose where we got the information. But again, it`s 99 point -- I think it`s 35 percent accurate. So, we`re going to stand by it.
MADDOW: You may dodge this as well, but was the source of some of this information suspicious activity reports?
We know that -- the reason I`m asking this, we know that Mr. Cohen`s one bank that was associated -- that he used for some of these transactions did file suspicious activity reports related to his transactions. That`s been reported in public source documents.
Is -- are those suspicious activity reports part of how you got this information?
AVENATTI: Again, I`m going to go back to the answer that I provided and that is we`re not going to disclose the source of the information except to say that it`s accurate, very accurate.
And the "Wall Street Journal" -- you raise a good point, and you had the article earlier, Rachel. "The Wall Street Journal" reported in early march that a SAR had been filed by First Republic Bank, a suspicious report had been sent to the Treasury Department in connection with the account that we`ve been talking about, OK?
I will tell you we`ve since learned it one SAR, it`s three SARs that had been submitted to the Treasury Department. We have been actively pursuing those SARs and be demanding that they be released publicly to the public so that they can see what is contained within them so, that they can make their own determinations.
Now, normally, SARs are confidential. And the reason they`re confidential is you don`t want to tip off the target of the SAR. In this instance, the target of the SAR or SARs would be Michael Cohen.
Well, guess what? When "the Wall Street Journal" did their article the first week of March, Michael Cohen became aware that at least one SAR had been filed. So, as of today, there is no need to keep these SARs confidential.
The Treasury Department, Mr. Trump`s Treasury Department has no reason to keep these from the American people. They should submit them to the American people. They should disclose them, and people can judge for themselves as to the information in them together with the bank records, and let the chips fall where they may.
And guess what? If our percentage is lower than 99.35 percent, then I`ll come back on your show and I`ll take those bullets. But guess what? I believe it`s going to check out, and I think the American people are going to be very upset about what they learn relating to not just these monies, but additional moneys that were taken by Michael Cohen during this time period and where that money went. We`re talking about millions of dollars, Rachel.
MADDOW: You keep raising the prospect of where the money went, and you said you have more information that you haven`t yet disclosed. Do you have information about where the money went and you haven`t let us know about it yet, or are you wondering -- are you wondering aloud?
AVENATTI: We don`t have a complete picture as to where the money went. We certainly have more information as to where the money went. We`re not going to disclose it now.
But, again, tonight, Michael Cohen and his attorney can just release the bank statements and they can prove us wrong.
MADDOW: Do you believe or do you have reason to suspect evidentiary reason to suspect that President Trump or the Trump Organization was involved in any of this?
AVENATTI: I don`t want to opine on that except this is what I`ll say. Even up until this day, Michael Cohen identifies himself as an attorney for the president, and I believe identifies himself on his LinkedIn page, or at least he did as of yesterday as an attorney with the Trump Organization.
It`s unclear as to when he left the Trump Organization. So, you can make an argument this entire time period that we`re talking about, he only really has one employer and that`s the Trump Organization. So I don`t know how he could be carrying this out on his own or for his own reason. I mean, it`s very blurry as to who he is operating for and when.
MADDOW: What do you think is going to happen next in this case and in your representation of Ms. Daniels? I mean, one of the things a lot of people have asked about you and your role in this is that obviously you`re an accomplished attorney. You`ve had a very successful career. You charge a lot of money for your services.
Ms. Daniels is well-known but is not necessarily a super rich person. I think it`s worth asking if there are other people who are paying your legal fees or if you`re doing this work pro bono. Who is paying you and how long do you think this case is going to go on? And do you have confidence that you`ll get paid the whole time?
AVENATTI: We took a de minimis amount of money have, taken a de minimis amount of money from Ms. Daniels. All the additional money we have been paid have come from crowdjustice.org funding page that we created in connection with the case. There`s no big fat cat donor. There is no left wing conspiracy funding us. There is no political party, there is no PAC, it just isn`t there.
People are fabricating this because they want to undercut what we`re doing. You know, Rudy Giuliani I think yesterday said that I`m not a very successful lawyer and he couldn`t find a single case that I had been affiliated with. Well, guess what? Last year I had the largest verdict in the state of California, $454 million in federal court, a fraud case. That was the third largest in the nation. I`ve had over a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements to my name where I have been lead counsel.
So I`ve had a fair amount of success. So, I don`t know what Rudy`s problem is, but he is not doing his homework or his research. Maybe he needs to spend a little more time doing that as opposed to being on "Fox & Friends," although I do not want to discourage him from going on "Fox & Friends." I want to be clear about that.
MADDOW: Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. The Stormy Daniels case has now turned into a lot of things besides the question of her nondisclosure agreement. Thanks for coming to talk about it.
Appreciate it having you here.
AVENATTI: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: For more than four years after the 9/11 attacks, we the American public didn`t know that the CIA was using American taxpayer money to run a network of secret prisons around the world where the CIA was locking up terrorism suspects and torturing them to try to get information out of them.
We didn`t know about it for years. We didn`t find out about it until the news broke in 2005. November 2nd, 2005.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9/11 is captured in Pakistan. The CIA whisks him away on this Gulfstream V jet. Destination: a former Soviet prison in Eastern Europe now run by the CIA.
NBC News decided not to reveal the location of this so-called black site because of government concerns that terrorists might retaliate. But as first reported in "The Washington Post" and confirmed by NBC News, the CIA has been interrogating scores of al Qaeda suspects in two European companies at this base near Kabul, and even at one point in Thailand, all with little oversight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: November 2nd, 2005. And it turned out to be the beginning of a week, one week of really intense pressure on the CIA on that issue. I mean, there is that jaw-dropping revelation they`ve been running a network of secret prisons. The Senate that week took up a proposal to create a commission like the 9/11 Commission to look at what the CIA had been doing to people in these prisons.
That same week the judge in the case of an accused conspirator for 9/11 ordered the CIA to turn over any videotapes or audio tapes of their interrogations. And what the CIA did in response to that suddenly growing scrutiny on their previously secret torture and prison program, the action the CIA took that week when all of the sudden, the pressure was publicly on them, we wouldn`t learn what they did for another two years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Yesterday we learned that when CIA interrogators used waterboarding to question al Qaeda operatives, some of it was apparently videotaped. But those videotapes were apparently destroyed two years ago. The problem here is waterboarding is considered by many a form of torture. And when investigators asked for those tapes, they were told they never existed.
REPORTER: Who ordered the tapes erased? The CIA points to this man, Jose Rodriguez, until August in charge of clandestine activity, supposedly to protect the identities of his interrogators. But other officials say the real reason was concern about criminal charges because waterboarding now banned by the Pentagon violates the Geneva Conventions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It turns out that Jose Rodriguez and others at the CIA had been asking for permission to destroy those tapes for years. And over the years, they were told no, over and over again by the lawyers at the CIA, by directors of the CIA, by the director of national intelligence, by two different White House counsels, even by Dick Cheney`s top lawyer who was seen as the hawk of all hawks in the George W. Bush White House.
But in 2005, when the public learned about the black sites and the judge ordered the CIA to hand over any tapes, and Congress started sniffing around say they were going to form a commission on this subject, that week, Jose Rodriguez turned to his own deputy, Gina Haspel, who had once run the secret CIA prison in Thailand, and he told her to write a cable ordering the destruction of those tapes. They had asked for years and been told no a million times.
He said, Gina Haspel, write a cable ordering it, and she did. And those tapes were destroyed. They were feed into an industrial strength shredder.
Justice Department later appointed a federal prosecutor named John Durham to investigate the destruction of the tape specifically. He found that the CIA had destroyed 92 tapes containing hundreds of hours of interrogations of two different detainees. But after a two-year investigation, Durham decided not to file any charges in the case. So, his final report on the matter was filed away in the Justice Department and never released.
And now that Gina Haspel has been nominated to run the CIA, appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee for her confirmation hearing today, she is answering for the CIA`s torture program, but she is also not denying she is the one who wrote the order to destroy those tapes. The CIA has released an internal report that cleared Haspel of any wrongdoing, but the Justice Department has allowed only a handful of senators to see the Durham report, to see that two-year investigation by that federal prosecutor.
Well, now, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee who have seen that report have written to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking to make that report available to all senators before they cast their report on Gina Haspel`s nomination.
Quote: We believe this report is highly relevant to the nomination of Haspel to be director of the CIA. We believe that no senator can consider Haspel`s nomination in good conscience without first reviewing this document.
One of the senators who signed that letter and who has been pushing very hard for this joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden is on the Intelligence Committee. At today`s confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA, Senator Wyden tried to get Gina Haspel to answer whether she had once advocated expanding the CIA`s torture program, a program in which she played a key role. Gina Haspel would not answer Senator Wyden when he asked her about that.
After the hearing today, Senator Wyden announced he will vote no on her confirmation.
Senator Ron Wyden, great to have you with us tonight. Sir, thank you for being here.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), RANKING MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: What was Gina Haspel`s role in the CIA torture program? Is that clear to you now?
WYDEN: Well, what I can tell you is that this was a virtuoso performance in self-serving abuse of power. The fact is with respect to the key information she gets to decide what is classified and what isn`t, that is a sweeping conflict of interest.
Now, with respect to the entire story, I think one of the most interesting new developments today is Jose Rodriguez in an interview with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tm Golden basically contradicted Gina Haspel`s story with respect to the handling of the videotapes of torture. So, somebody isn`t telling the truth here, and I`m going to stay at getting the fact (ph) out to the public.
MADDOW: What you`ve been able to discern, what you`ve been able to ask Gina Haspel and what you`ve been told by the CIA and others, what do you think her role was in the destruction of those tapes?
WYDEN: I am particularly troubled by the fact that year after year that she really drafted that cable believing that it was going to be approved by the CIA director, Porter Goss, now we`ve got Jose Rodriguez saying that that wasn`t the case. So, this is a key question about her character and you couple that with what you touched on earlier when I asked her, hey, during those years when it seemed that these torture proceedings were dwindling down, what was she doing? Was she in favor of continuing it or expanding it?
She basically said she had no objection to continuing with something that John McCain said today was simply immoral.
MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know this is not yet cooked, but this is a remarkable hearing today, sir. Thank you very much for being with us tonight. Much appreciate it.
WYDEN: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Three American citizens were released from a North Korean prison today and they are on their way home right now. The three men flew out of Pyongyang with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They touched down in Alaska just before 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. They`re expected to land at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland after midnight tonight, probably around 2:30 a.m.
We only learned yesterday about Pompeo`s trip to North Korea. Even as he left, though, the release of these three men was not a sure deal. According to the "A.P.", it wasn`t until an hour before Secretary Pompeo`s flight took off that North Korea actually freed these three men from prison. One of them has been detained since April 2017 when he was arrested by North Korean authorities for unknown charges. He`d been teaching at a university in Pyongyang.
Another one of the men was arrested in May 2017 for, quote, hostile acts. He was an agricultural consultant at a Pyongyang university.
The third man was in charge of a hotel services company, he`d been in prison since 2015. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage and subversion.
But again all three men have now touched down on U.S. soil, they touched down in Alaska. And they`re on their way to Joint Base Andrews with Secretary Pompeo. President Trump says he will wait there to greet them when they land in about 4-1/2 hours.
MSNBC will be covering that arrival live tonight, if you`re a night owl.
That does it for us tonight. We will 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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