Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 13, 2018 Guest: Emily Jane Fox, David Kirkpatrick
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": So, Congressmen, I`m going to invite you both back on the day that you pass compromise legislation next week to end the practice. I`m really serious about that. I would love for you to take a collective victory lap here.
Mark Meadows and John Garamendi, thanks for being with me.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Thanks, Chris.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You do great work, my friend.
HAYES: I`m trying to get it down. I`m trying to seal the deal here.
MADDOW: It is a pleasure to watch you work and juggle those plates, man. Well done.
HAYES: Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy hump day.
You know, we knew in advance that this was going to be a week with an impossible amount of news in it. That is definitely proving to be the case. But congratulations, you have reached the top of the mountain, or at least the top of the hump.
It is Wednesday. It is all downhill from here. We`re all going to be fine. President Richard Nixon had a personal attorney whose name was Herbert Kalmbach. Herb Kalmbach, Nixon`s personal lawyer, went to prison in the Watergate scandal.
Forty-four years ago, this week, Nixon`s personal lawyer was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but he only ended up doing about a third of that prison time. He only ended up having to serve about six months in prison because he plead guilty, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the Watergate scandal as the president`s personal lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kalmbach showed no emotion. He said, I`d like you to know how deeply embarrassed I am and how sorry I am to be here. Judge Sirica announced the sentence. Not less than six months and not more than 18 months, with a fine of $10,000. Kalmbach left the court and went straight to a waiting car without comment. He is the 14th person to be sentenced for a crime related to Watergate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As President Richard Nixon`s personal attorney, Herb Kalmbach and his law firm did a lot of run-of-the-mill personal legal tasks for the president. They, for example, signed the checks for president to make his mortgage payments. They made sure he kept up on his property taxes. They arranged the purchase of the mansion in San Clemente, California, that the Nixon administration liked to call the Western White House. Before Mar-a- Lago, there was San Clemente.
But as Nixon`s personal attorney, Herb Kalmbach also ended up, up to his neck in a lot of different kinds of shady and ultimately illegal Nixon stuff as well. Everything from Scott Pruitt-style straight up Nixon grifting to bribes and corruption and illegal campaign finance. Ultimately, Kalmbach ended up right in the heart of the Watergate cover-up that brought down Nixon as president.
Before President Trump`s refusal to release his tax returns, the biggest example in presidential history of a president getting in trouble with regard to his taxes was Nixon`s tax scandal about his vice presidential papers. This is sort of become an obscure thing. It probably never would have been resurfaced in modern discussions about the presidency were it not for Trump courting controversy about his taxes. But that`s what sort of brought up again what Nixon had done that got people so upset about his taxes that led to the modern president of presidential candidates all releasing their tax returns.
Before Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, of course, he had been vice president to Eisenhower for two terms. Separate and apart from the whole Watergate scandal, the reason we ended up with this tradition of candidates releasing their tax returns is because Nixon had a whole separate tax scandal. He cooked up this scheme where he declared that he was making a generous personal donation to the national archives.
What he was donating was his vice presidential papers from when he had been vice president to Eisenhower. He then put an enormous financial valuation on that donation of his vice presidential papers. He ended up claiming like a half million tax deduction because of that self-proclaimed valuable gift to the country.
And that was bullpucky in terms of tax law, but Nixon tried to get away with it. That Nixon tax scandal back in the day, that was a Herb Kalmbach joint. That was Nixon`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, his firm arranged that whole Nixon tax scheme.
Herb Kalmbach also served as a prodigious fundraiser. In that context, Kalmbach was involved in a scheme to take in what basically amounted to a $2 million bribe that was paid to Nixon`s reelection campaign from an association of milk producers. Herb Kalmbach arranged that bribe, that gigantic campaign donation in exchange for the Nixon administration changing its policy on milk prices.
Kalmbach then structured the illegal bribe, that gigantic donation to make it look like it wasn`t just a $2 million bulk payment. When that started to become a scandal, Herb Kalmbach destroyed campaign donor records from the Nixon presidential campaign, which itself was against the law, even before we got all the post-Watergate campaign finance reforms. Herb Kalmbach was a very, very, very successful fundraiser in terms of the amount of money that he raised for Nixon, by hook or by crook.
After the 1968 presidential race when Nixon won the presidency for the first time, the Nixon campaign actually had money left over that year, more than a million and a half dollars left over of money that they raised for that campaign but they never got around to spending. And after Nixon got elected, Nixon`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, essentially became custodian of that leftover campaign money. And that leftover campaign money basically became a slush fund that the Nixon White House tapped over and over again for all different sorts of Watergate related shenanigans and scandals, including the ones that brought Nixon down.
It was Nixon`s personal lawyer who managed that leftover money. It was Herb Kalmbach who doled out some of that money to Donald Segretti. Donald Segretti is somebody who Nixon put on the payroll secretly uses the slush fund, so Segretti would spy on the Democratic Party and play dirty tricks on Democratic candidates. It was the president`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, who arranged the secret payments to Segretti from the leftover campaign funds from `68.
Fun fact: Donald Segretti and Herb Kalmbach later ended up going to the same federal prison, aw.
A lot of what happened in the Watergate scandal was, of course, driven by Richard Nixon`s paranoia about whether or not he was going to get reelected in `72. Part of his election paranoia in `72 centered on the risk that he perceived from Alabama segregationist governor, George Wallace. Nixon was worried that Wallace was going to mount a national comeback and run for president again in 1972.
Nixon thought if that happened, if Wallace ran again in `72, Nixon thought for sure that would result in him losing the White House, because he thought that Wallace would siphon off the hard-core racist vote, Nixon needed that in order to get re-elected, at least as far as Nixon`s feverish mind calculated when it came to `72. And so, Nixon decided he needed to stop Wallace`s national comeback ahead of the `72 election.
In order the stop that comeback, he decided he needed to stop Wallace from getting elected governor in Alabama again. Wallace was running for governor of Alabama again in 1970, and Nixon decided in order to save his reelection campaign, he needed to put the kibosh on Wallace right then and there. In order to kibosh Wallace in 1970, Nixon sent his personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach to deliver cash to Wallace`s opponent, literally to deliver $100,000 in cash, in bills, money in a big bag that Kalmbach handed over to benefit one of Wallace`s opponents in that gubernatorial election in 1970.
The way it worked was Kalmbach showed up with $100,000 cash in a bag. He met a stranger, somebody he had never met before in the lobby of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York City. The way he knew that that particular stranger was the right person to give the bag with the $100,000 in it was when that stranger recognized the code words for that operation. Those code words were Herb Kalmbach`s personal lawyer introducing himself as Mr. Jensen of Detroit.
He was not Mr. Jensen of Detroit. He was herb Kalmbach of Newport Beach, California. But that was the code word, and that`s how they handed off the money.
Nixon`s personal lawyer, he was never part of the Nixon administration formally, but he ended up involved in all of this shady Nixon stuff. Nixon`s personal financial shady stuff, his tax shady stuff, his campaign fundraising, campaign financing shady stuff, Nixon`s dirty tricks and paying for illegal spying. I mean, Nixon had his personal lawyer up to his neck and beyond in all of it. And so of course the guy ended up being right in the middle of the Watergate burglary too, and the cover-up of that burglary and all the rest of it that ultimately turfed Nixon out of office.
Nixon actually used his personal lawyer, this guy Herb Kalmbach, to be the bag man when he decided to funnel hush money to the guys that had carried out the Watergate burglary. Nixon gave the Watergate burglars over $200,000 in secret cash so they`d keep their mouth shut about the burglary. He had his personal attorney, Herb Kalmbach, assemble that money from a bunch of various sources, from the campaign to reelect the president, creep, where herb Kalmbach was a deputy finance chair. He also used some of that leftover slush fund money from the `68 election.
He also added in some money from corporations that had started doing business with Herb Kalmbach`s law firm, because after all, Herb Kalmbach was the president`s personal lawyer. Probably a good idea to cultivate some good relationships there. Probably a good idea to send that guy some business. Sound familiar?
Even though Herb Kalmbach was the guy who delivered that hush money to the Watergate burglars, it`s interesting, he pled ignorance in terms of his own understanding of the scheme. Kalmbach said, yes, he knew he was delivering secret cash, a lot of secret cash to those guys who had been caught in the Watergate break-in, but he said he assumed it was for humanitarian purposes. He says he thought it was to help the burglars` families.
It was of course no such thing. It was Stormy Daniels-style hush money to shut those guys up, to keep them from talking about the burglary and who had ordered it and why it had been ordered. Herb Kalmbach insisted even under oath that although he was the bagman and delivered all the money, honestly, he had no idea that`s what the money was for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERB KALMBACH, NIXON`S PERSONAL LAWYER: But for the secrecy of this whole assignment, getting these funds to these people for this purpose, could get into the press and be misinterpreted. And then I remember using the figure of speech, they would have our heads in their laps, which, again, would indicate to me that it would jeopardize the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That didn`t suggest to you any impropriety when you`re doing that?
KALMBACH: No, it did not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
KALMBACH: It suggested to me that the concern was that this would have a - - if it got into the press, misinterpreted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could it be misinterpreted?
KALMBACH: Misinterpreted in whatever way. That funds were being given to these people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could your providing funds through either Mr. Dean`s egis, from Mr. Ehrlichman`s egis, through the committee, through burglars and wiretappers and conspirators be misinterpreted?
KALMBACH: Well, the misinterpretation would be that this was being done to silence these people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, could anybody have any other interpretation?
KALMBACH: I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Richard Nixon`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, saying during the Watergate hearings that he was under a different impression. When he delivered all that cash to the Watergate burglars, he didn`t know that it was for any nefarious purposes. He certainly didn`t know that it was to silence those people. You could hear the room laughing, right, that anybody would not understand that that`s obviously what that money was for. But he insisted, seriously, under oath, that he didn`t know that`s what the money was for.
Later, when the judge in the Watergate case, Judge Sirica, confronted Kalmbach with the fact that that, yes, that was, in fact, hush money, that is what he had been the bag man for, when the judge confronted him with that on the stand, Herb Kalmbach actually broke down and cried on the stand in judge`s courtroom.
This is "The New York Times" on July 1st, 1974, when Nixon`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, was on the way to prison. And, look, pay attention to the date here, July 1st, 1974. Nixon was still president, but not for long, right? Nixon ended up resigning in August `74.
But when this was written, when this was published in July `74, the president`s personal lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, was heading to federal prison and Richard Nixon was still president of the United States. Quote, Herbert W. Kalmbach will go to prison tomorrow carrying a deep hurt over President Nixon`s deep displeasure because of Mr. Kalmbach`s decision to cooperate in the government`s prosecution of the Watergate conspiracy.
Since his sentencing on June 17th, Mr. Kalmbach is said to have waited in vain for some worth of sympathy or encouragement from the president or at least an expression of gratitude for his 12 years of unquestioning loyalty. Kalmbach traced the president`s attitude back to April of `73, when Kalmbach initiated his plea bargaining with government -- excuse me, with government prosecutors with an offer of cooperation.
Just a few days later, on May 1st, the White House announced that Herb Kalmbach was no longer the president`s personal lawyer.
While he had been Nixon`s personal lawyer, it is amazing how many different aspects of Nixon`s criminal liability Herb Kalmbach ended up personally involved in. I mean, he was the guy who actually paid the hush money to the Watergate burglars. And Kalmbach ended up cooperating and telling prosecutors and telling the Watergate committee that tale.
What he ultimately went to jail for was a fraction of what he was widely believed to be implicated in. Kalmbach ultimately went to jail for an illegal campaign fund, illegal and secret campaign fund that he`d set up with the Nixon White House to help Republicans win in the 1970 midterms. He also went to jail for effectively selling an ambassadorship in exchange for yet more campaign donations to Republicans.
But even with just those two counts that they prosecuted him on, it looked like Herb Kalmbach would serve potentially years in prison, at least a year and a half in prison. Judge Sirica ended up springing him from federal prison after only six months, specifically because of Kalmbach`s thorough cooperation with prosecutors as they continued to press on with the Watergate investigation that led up to and including the president`s resignation from office.
And it was less than two months after Kalmbach reported to prison that Nixon was gone too, resigned in disgrace, right? And then instantly pardoned for all his crimes by the vice president who took his seat.
Today, when we got news that this president`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, appears to be making his own preparations to start talking to prosecutors, we called NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss to ask him once again, has anything like this happened before? All through the Trump`s scandals, all through the Trump administration, we`ve been asking Michael Beschloss seemingly daily, has this ever happened before? And the answer has always nope!
But in this case, when we asked him today if there was any parallel situation in U.S. presidential history, any time a president`s personal attorney had ever been in this kind of jeopardy and in this kind of position with regard to serious accusations against a sitting president, for once, Michael Beschloss was able to tell us, actually, yeah, this has happened before. Herb Kalmbach went to prison, and that is something in American presidential history that casts a kind of shadow that looks a little bit like what might be going on with Michael Cohen and President Donald Trump right now.
He also told us that the herb Kalmbach story has not just a shadow, but also kind of a long tail that reaches directly to the Trump presidency because the man who is widely believed to be President Trump`s best friend, the wealthy investor Tom Barrack, you might remember him speaking at the Republican National Convention, he then became head of the Trump inaugural committee. You might remember that the Trump inaugural committee, like Nixon`s presidential campaign apparently generated way more cash than it needed and was left with a slush fund thereafter that has now come under scrutiny by federal investigators.
Tom Barrack, you know what his first job was after law school? You want to know where he got his start in business? He worked for Herb Kalmbach, worked for Herb Kalmbach`s law firm and directly for Herb Kalmbach -- during the first Nixon administration, when Kalmbach was still Nixon`s personal lawyer, before he went to prison and lost his law license, during the time when he was serving as Nixon`s bagman, carrying around a bag full of $100,000 in cash, telling strangers in hotel lobbies that he was Mr. Jenson of Detroit to see who he was supposed to give the surreptitious cash for, that`s when Tom Barrack was working for Herb Kalmbach.
So, once again, the scandals of this presidency prove that the past is never dead. It is not even really past.
But right now, this week, over these next couple days and this incredible news week that we`re having, we are about to find out the fate of the guy who was playing the role of Herb Kalmbach this time around, in this iteration of presidential scandal and history. The reporting about the president`s lawyer Michael Cohen today centers on the fact that he is reportedly losing the legal representation that he has had thus far in his legal troubles thus far while he has been facing this criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
That scrutiny by federal prosecutors reportedly started with a referral from the special counsel`s office, from Robert Mueller`s office. That inquiry and that investigation by prosecutors in New York has thus far included a dramatic raid on Michael Cohen`s home, his office, a hotel room where he was staying, and a safety deposit box early in April. Early in April is when we also learned that the Donald Trump reelection campaign had been paying Michael Cohen`s legal bills for months.
And I think when some people saw the headlines around that in April, it looked like maybe the Trump campaign was paying Michael Cohen`s legal fees for him to represent Donald Trump? No. The Trump campaign was paying for Cohen`s own lawyers who are representing him, which is weird, because like Herb Kalmbach, Michael Cohen is not a member of the Trump administration.
And unlike Herb Kalmbach, Michael Cohen has never even technically been part of the Trump campaign. So what`s the Trump campaign doing paying his legal bills all this time? It`s never been exactly clear what Michael Cohen`s personal legal liability is about, or what he could potentially tell prosecutors about if, like Herb Kalmbach, he decides to go state`s evidence and cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenience in his own case.
The single most worrying possibility for the White House is probably what was reported by "BuzzFeed" several weeks ago concerning Cohen`s involvement in the secret pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow real estate project during the presidential campaign. During the campaign, you`ll recall that candidate Trump said that he had no dealings in Russia. We later learned that that was a lie. In fact, in the midst of the campaign, he had secretly signed a letter of intent to build what would have been the largest real estate project of his career, a Trump Tower in Moscow, which would require not just significant Russian financing, it would require high level approval and assistance from the Russian government, if not from President Vladimir Putin himself.
Well, several weeks ago when reporting that secret real estate venture during the campaign and federal investigators` interest in that venture, "BuzzFeed" news reported, quote, even before the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, FBI agents investigating Russia`s interference in the election learned that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about Trump Tower Moscow. And that some of those individuals had knowledge of or had played a role in Russia`s 2016 election meddling.
That "BuzzFeed" report cited two FBI agents as the source of that information. If, in fact, that is true, that means during the campaign, while secretly trying to arrange a major business deal for Donald Trump in Russia, Michael Cohen was in repeated contact with people who were directly involved in Russia`s election meddling at that time to try to elect Donald Trump. If that`s true, that would obviously be a serious concern for the Trump White House. Particularly if Cohen is going to start cooperating with prosecutors and telling them what he knows about that.
There is also the hush money payments themselves, which aren`t a secret anymore. In Michael Cohen`s case, the hush money payments are not to Watergate burglars, they`re instead to women who said they had sexual relationships with President Trump. There is a number of ways in which those payments could be not just embarrassing but potentially illegal.
The president himself has already radically changed his public story as to how much he knew about those payments. That in itself could potentially pose a significant criminal -- a significant element of criminal liability for the president.
But then there is the matter of all the other people who have been paying Michael Cohen since Trump was elected president. As part of a legal wrangling over the Stormy Daniels hush money case, we learned about a number of corporate entities that mysteriously started paying Michael Cohen around the time that Trump was elected or when he was sworn into office. Among those entities is an investment fund closely related to a Russian oligarch, an oligarch who Cohen is known to have met with multiple times since the election.
We don`t know why the oligarch`s investment firm was paying Michael Cohen, but "The Atlantic" magazine has since reported just a few days ago that that same oligarch was believed to be funding an effort to get the U.S. government to drop sanctions against Russia, an effort that Cohen was reportedly involved in during the presidential transition, one that was only interrupted by the "New York Times" exposing it. That`s just the stuff that is off the top of my head in terms of what Cohen`s been involved in, in terms of what liability and exposure the president might have if his personal attorney Michael Cohen is in fact dropping his legal team now because he now needs a different kind of expertise because he is now about to start cooperating with prosecutors.
How do we know if that is what is going on here? And what`s going on between the president and Michael Cohen as Cohen makes this almost unbelievably fateful decision?
We`ve got answers to those questions, next.
MADDOW: If you`re sensing a new wave of craziness in the air, it`s not you. It might be you. I don`t know what kind of day you had.
But there is a national wave of craziness that you can sense in the air, and that is the anticipation paired with a lot of sort of woolly reporting about that anticipation that the president`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is in the midst of dropping his legal representation because he is about to start negotiating with federal prosecutors to potentially cooperate with them in their inquiries. That anticipation, and again, the woolliness of the reporting around that issue is making everybody in national politics a little crazy.
It`s honestly a little hard to get a bead on how serious the risk is here for the president and how much of the anticipation around this issue and the reporting around this issue may actually be spin that is advantageous to someone, and we don`t know who yet.
Joining us to help sort this out is someone who is very, very well sourced on this issue. Emily Jane Fox is senior reporter at "Vanity Fair." She has been covering Michael Cohen from the very beginning as well as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. She has a brand-new book called "Born Trump", which comes out next week.
Emily, thank you very much for being here.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I describe woolly reporting here because I feel like everybody wants an answer to the basic question of whether or not the president has reason to worry that his personal attorney is going to start talking to prosecutors in a way that`s going to pose a danger to the president. And I feel like everybody is leaning from the few facts that we`ve got into a potential answer to that question.
But am I right that we really don`t know if Michael Cohen is going to cooperate?
FOX: I don`t think that Michael Cohen is 100 percent sure if he is going to cooperate right now. And I think that`s the honest truth. And I think there are a number of people who want this to go one way and some people who want this to go the other way. There are a lot of steps that have to happen between where we are and what we learn today.
And what we learned today was important, and it`s a decision that according to people around him who I spoke with today, this decision to change attorneys and the attorney`s decision to leave the case what will happen at the end of this week has been something that they have been talking about for weeks, if not a month.
So, that is a big development. But there are a number of steps that we have to take in order to get to the next place, if there is a step to take to get to the next place.
MADDOW: Was it a mutual decision by Mr. Cohen`s attorneys and Mr. Cohen that they should part ways at this point?
FOX: There are a couple of reasons, like any good breakup. It defends on who asked and there are a number of reasons why it didn`t work out. The first reason is this case is entering a new phase. So the document collection phase and sorting through between what is privileged and what is not privileged, that ends on Friday. The deadline is Friday, that`s over.
The law firm that has been representing him had 15 lawyers on this case, which is expensive and time consuming.
MADDOW: Yes, 15 lawyers around the clock.
FOX: Around the clock.
MADDOW: Working on the weekends.
FOX: Sleeping on couches in the law firm. They were very well equipped to handle this.
MADDOW: And just to be clear about that, millions of pieces of information and documents were seized by federal agents from Cohen`s home and office and hotel room. And he and his attorneys asserted that many of those documents, thousands, if not millions of those documents should be shielded from prosecutors because they were attorney-client work product. It was confidential communications between Mr. Cohen who is an attorney and his clients.
MADDOW: There had to be a process of adjudicating whether or not that was true. That process ends essentially on Friday?
FOX: It ends definitely on Friday. That is the court decided deadline.
MADDOW: And so far, it has really not gone in Michael Cohen`s direction, right? The court thus far, at least as far as we know has decided that less than 1 percent of the documents that were seized have any reference to his clients.
FOX: There are very few that have to do with attorney-client privilege. So, almost all of them will go over to the government.
MADDOW: OK. So with that process, that very labor intensive, very expensive process ending, that`s one reason why Cohen and his attorneys might be breaking up.
FOX: There is also a dispute over fees. So as we just discussed, this is a very expensive process, and who pays for that at the end of the day? And there has been a dispute between the lawyers who currently represent them, lawyers who represent the Trump Organization, and Michael Cohen somehow falls in the middle.
MADDOW: So what we know is that the Trump campaign, the Trump reelection campaign has been paying -- paid something around a quarter million between the end of last year and this spring to the firm that was representing Michael Cohen.
We had a funny incident actually that I`ll tell you, which is that initially when those payments came out of FEC filings, the Trump campaign wasn`t telling us what those payments were for. That firm could have been representing people other than Michael Cohen. What kind of work was that? Was it something completely unrelated to Mr. Cohen? Was it just a coincidence?
We then found in the FEC filings they actually sent the check for those payments to the law firm to Michael Cohen`s office in 30 Rock, which to us gave away that any ambiguity there. They were not just paying that firm for some other reason. They really were paying for Cohen.
That itself is a little bit of a question, right? Because Cohen was never part of the campaign.
FOX: He was absolutely left off of the Trump campaign for the express reason, so that he could handle matters like this. But he was acting as in his capacity for the Trump Organization.
FOX: So the issue of why the Trump Organization may or may not have to pay for these legal fees right now has to do with the fact of if Michael Cohen is in trouble because of what he had to do as part of the Trump Organization or if he`s under investigation because of his outside business activities. And I think from people -- two people who I spoke with who were directly familiar with the search warrants, something that the government was looking for were information related to the payments of Stormy Daniels and to other women and anything having to do with communication to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.
MADDOW: OK. I have a follow-up question for you than, because that is sticking in my craw. Can you stick with us for just one second?
Emily Jane Fox is a senior report at "Vanity Fair." She is not supposed to be staying for a segment second, but I`m calling an audible. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Emily Jane Fox. She is a senior reporter at "Vanity Fair." She has been covering Michael Cohen from the very beginning, and she is very, very well sourced on this story that has transfixed a lot of the political world today because of the prospect that the president`s personal attorney, his long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen may be starting the process of cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Thanks for staying with us, Emily.
We`re talking about the Trump Organization, the president`s business.
If part of the reason that Michael Cohen is breaking up with his lawyers is because there is a dispute over whether or not he can pay his bills, his quite considerable legal bills, why wouldn`t the Trump Organization be paying those bills? I mean, presumably, some of the stuff that Cohen is potentially on the hook for, the Stormy Daniels payment, maybe even some of the like Ukrainian peace plan stuff that there is reportedly interest in, a lot of that stuff that he was involved in happened at a time when he was an executive of the Trump Organization, right?
FOX: Well, you`re making Michael Cohen`s argument, or anyone who would want the Trump Organization --
MADDOW: He and I are often in the same mind-set.
FOX: I`m sure. That is what someone who would want their legal bills paid by the Trump Organization would say, and it`s a fair argument. I think that the Trump Organization has reason to distance themselves with -- from Michael Cohen right now. They don`t necessarily want to be tied to a legal defense for him. And also, the Trump Organization is not known for parting with its money very easily, and neither is the president.
So, I don`t think they`re in the business of just giving away tens and tens and tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for what could happen in this case.
MADDOW: You think back, though, to previous presidential scandals and the lengths that previous presidents, I`m thinking about Richard Nixon, have gone to prevent people from being tempted to cooperate with prosecutors, being tempted to tell prosecutors what they know, in part because they felt hung out to dry or that they were the ones being left holding the bag when it was really the president on whose behalf they were acting.
In this case, because Michael Cohen was a Trump Organization executive, the Trump Organization could legally pay him hush money.
MADDOW: Could even have a rational argument for paying him hush money by paying for his legal fees if they so desired because of that business relationship, and yet they`re choosing not to when his potential cooperation poses such a risk to the president.
FOX: You are speaking like a rational actor here, but the president has done nothing in order to make Michael Cohen feel like he has Michael Cohen`s back, and that has been a problem.
You forget that the president went on Fox News and basically said I barely know the guy. He`s like a coffee boy. He did a very, very small percentage of my legal work.
FOX: And then his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has gone on television repeatedly making this harder for Michael Cohen.
And the reaction for Michael Cohen, from everything I know from my reporting has been, these guys don`t have my back. And from the first time I interviewed him last August, the way that Michael Cohen spoke about the president was like, you were talking about his father, his boss, his hero in life.
He could barely walk by Trump Tower. He would get teary-eyed because he missed him being there so much, to now a man who is frustrated, isolated, feeling alone and feeling very, very angry at the Trump family in general and at the president.
MADDOW: Last question for you. If Mr. Cohen, either based on those feelings or any of these other dynamics we`ve been talking about, if he does decide that he is going to cooperate with prosecutors and tell them everything he knows about his interactions with President Trump over the year, is that a potential serious risk for the president in terms of the president`s own legal liability?
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair", whose got a book coming out next week called "Born Trump", thank you so much for being here.
FOX: Thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: Really appreciate it.
FOX: Thank you.
MADDOW: We have so much ground to cover tonight. We haven`t even gotten to the cat video. Cat video, very important cat video ahead.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIANNI INFANTINO, FIFA PRESIDENT: In particular in these days, to have a message coming from football, which says that actually Mexico, Canada, and United States together can organize the biggest sporting or social event in the world together. I think it is a nice message.
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MADDOW: Definitely a nice message. Also awkward, now that this American presidential administration has declared that there is a special place in hell for Canada`s president, and continues to declare that Mexico will pay for a thousand-mile-long wall on its own border because we want it even though they don`t.
But the U.S. will be hosting the men`s World Cup in 2026. Not as the United States of America, but as just one-third of a bigger thing called North America, along with countries we used to be neighborly toward, Canada and Mexico.
The governing body of global soccer today picked the United North American three-country bid today as the host for the World Cup in 2026. This year`s 2018 World Cup starts tomorrow morning in Russia, in the tender hours between breakfast and lunch East Coast Time. Because god is a political scientist with a sense of humor, the opening game tomorrow in the World Cup will be played between the national team for Russia and the team from Saudi Arabia, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, game one.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been talked about as his country`s Vladimir Putin. Mohammed bin Salman will be in Moscow for the opening ceremony and the game, sitting next to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. We may never know exactly what they`re going to chat about in the stands, but Achilles, the Russian predictor cat today made his prediction for this opening World Cup game.
Achilles selected the bowl of food representing Russia, dasvidanya. At least we know that much ahead of time.
We do have another question for Achilles the physic cat, though, if he is open for business. That`s next.
MADDOW: Over the past few weeks, one of the surprising terms in the special counsel investigation into Russia meddle with our presidential election has been the revelation or at least the reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking beyond Russia to see if there were other countries who are also involved in that interference effort.
Last month, "The New York Times" reported on a previously unknown meeting that happened in Trump Tower in August 2016 ahead of the election. In that meeting, Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with someone who`s now a cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation, somebody who`s reportedly been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation. That witness, a man named George Nader, according to "The Times", told Don Jr. at that meeting that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab emirates were eager to help his father win the election as president, and, in fact, they had a concrete plan to do so.
Reportedly, Don Jr. responded approvingly to the pitch. And George Nader, future cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers. We got that report not quite a month age.
The first indication that Mueller was investigating efforts by foreign countries to interfere in our election beyond Russia.
Well, today, we got another indication in that direction. This reporting centers on billionaire Tom Barrack, a close friend of the president and his inauguration chair. Tom Barrack made his fortune doing business in the Middle East. Today, "The Times" says that Barrack became a bridge between Trump and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates.
And in this in-depth, intriguing report, "The Times" spells out something that I`ve not seen anywhere else with such certainty, citing people familiar with the matter, "The Times" reports today that the special counsel probe is, quote, examining whether the Emiratis and Saudis helped sway the presidential election in Mr. Trump`s favor, potentially in coordination with the Russians. Really?
Not just Russia interfering in the election to help Trump but Russia and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, potentially working together to do that. Tell me more.
Joining us now is David Kirkpatrick, international correspondent for "The New York Times."
Mr. Kirkpatrick, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you being here tonight.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I`m not going to guess how you obtained these emails from Tom Barrack, who -- which made up the spine of your story today. But can you tell us about the process of -- of putting these pieces together, figuring out that the Mueller investigation is looking to other countries to see if there was potential cooperation with the Russian interference effort.
KIRKPATRICK: Well, the reporting about Mueller`s interest in the UAE and Saudi Arabia was prior to the Tom Barrack reporting. That`s reporting centered on George Nader as you said. And it all comes together in the Seychelles meeting which you`ve also discussed in past, a meeting convened by the United Arab Emirates, including George Nader, where they brought together a representative of the Trump administration in their view with a businessman close to Vladimir Putin.
And I think we know for sure that that meeting has caught the interest of the special prosecutor and that they`re asking questions about Nader, about Nader`s connections with Russia, about efforts by the UAE and possibly Saudi Arabia to try to help the Trump campaign and whether or not there was some communication there. All of that to the best of my knowledge does not involve Tom Barrack.
Tom Barrack enters the picture earlier, trying to build a bridge, as you say between the Trump campaign and those Arab leaders. When we were doing the Nader reporting I wondered, how is it the UAE and Saudi Arabia can feel so confident about Trump. How can they feel so positive about Trump that the UAE would send this emissary to the Trump campaign offering their help?
Some of that becomes clear when you look at the communications that Tom Barrack had with the Emirati ambassador.
MADDOW: Tom Barrack also had a preexisting relationship with Paul Manafort which you describe in some of your new reporting and he is, in fact, the person who`s credited with bringing Paul Manafort, this otherwise sort of a fringe figure in Republican politics, onboard the Trump campaign where he became chairman.
What role does Paul Manafort play in this potential part of the investigation?
KIRKPATRICK: I don`t know of any specific role. But there is an interesting part of this where Tom Barrack tries to set up a meeting between Paul Manafort and then the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. And that`s quite a thing.
It was discussed between Yousef Al Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador, and Tom Barrack, as a prelude to actually bringing MBS as he is known together with the candidate. And it`s a -- it`s a rather advanced effort to try to hookup the campaign with Saudi Arabia, and specifically with MBS as a time he wasn`t yet the successor to the throne, when he was still making his move within Saudi Arabia to put himself in that position.
So, although it sounds like the meeting didn`t come off, they got as far as Paul Manafort saying, let`s do it Friday, let`s do it at your hotel, let`s avoid the press. And in the aftermath, even though the meeting itself didn`t happen, the work that Tom Barrack did to try to sell the campaign on the Saudis and sell the Saudis on the campaign had some benefits.
We saw them changing their Republican Party platform in a way that help the Saudis. And we saw Manafort communicating through Tom Barrack to the Arabs to say, look, we are moderating this policy on a Muslim band. Don`t worry it`s not as bad as it seems.
MADDOW: David Kirkpatrick, international correspondent for "The New York Times" -- I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for helping us understand this new reporting.
KIRKPATRICK: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: I should tell new the commercial break between the last segment that I did and just talking to David Kirkpatrick a moment ago, I got a telepathic message from my mother, who is from Canada. And in that telepathic message, my mom tells me that I said that Canada has a president, instead of a prime minister. Apparently when I was talking about Justin Trudeau and the Trump administration saying there is a special place in hell for him, I called him the president of Canada.
My mom is -- I`m 45 years old and my mom just telepathically grounded me. I`m sorry.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I mentioned at the top of the show tonight that this is a big news week. One of the things that we know is going to happen tomorrow is that at about noon, the Justice Department is going to brief members of Congress and the president on the long awaited Justice Department inspector general`s report on various activities within the Justice Department and the FBI concerning the 2016 election, including the FBI and the Justice Department`s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
We are told that this report that`s due out tomorrow is about 500 pages long. It`s on a number of issues that are incredibly contentious, including the Clinton email investigation, including the behavior of James Comey around that, including the possibility that Rudy Giuliani was getting leaked about that investigation during the campaign in a way that was designed to advantage the Trump campaign on that subject.
We`re expecting a big hairy eyeball of an IG report on that tomorrow. It`s likely to dominate tomorrow`s news. Heads up.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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