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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 9/21/22

Guests: Tali Farhadian Weinstein, David Fahrenthold, Kyle Cheney, David Cay Johnston, Joan Donovan


Federal Appeals Court grants DOJ classified records request in Trump case. Trump sued by NY A.G. James for staggering fraud. NBC: Jan. 6 Committee to meet with key witness. NY A.G. alleges years-long pattern of tax fraud.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As one of a leading country in the globe, in the world, when it comes to democracy -- fighting for democracy.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you very much.

O`DONNELL: This chair is here for you whenever you can stop by.

JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate it, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Karine Jean-Pierre gets tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the Trump Mar-a-Lago criminal investigation can move forward. A federal appeals court has reversed the controversial decision of a Trump judge over classified documents saying Trump had no business having them.

And in New York, the state attorney general brought her case against Trump and his family to the public, saying no one is above the law. Not even a former president. A bad, bad day for Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the worst day he`s ever had legally.


RUHLE: Plus, the former guy is already lying about the two big court defeats today, we`ll have a special look at how lies and conspiracies can threaten our democracy, as the 11th Hour gets underway on this important Wednesday night.

Take a breath because here we go. Good evening, once again. I am Stephanie Ruhle. This is a very, very big news night. One that has not been good for Donald Trump. Just a short time ago, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals handed Trump`s lawyers a huge defeat, three appeals court judges, two of them appointed by Trump himself lifted a judge`s order that prevented the Justice Department from using classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation. That ruling came just hours after the world learned, the former guy is now facing a potentially crippling lawsuit that poses an existential threat to him and his real estate business and his family.

Today New York`s Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, his adult children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric and his company. She`s accusing him of lying to banks, insurance companies, and the state fraudulently overvaluing his assets by billions and billions of dollars while trying to minimize his company`s tax bills.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr. Trump at the Trump Organization for their own financial benefit is astounding, claiming you have money that you do not have, does not amount to the art of the deal. It`s the art of the steal. And there cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state. And former presidents are no different.


RUHLE: And James offered several examples of what she called staggering fraud, including this allegation about the former president`s home and Trump Tower.


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


RUHLE: The Attorney General noted the investigation began after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress back in 2019.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the President interested in reducing his local real estate bills? Tax bills?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how did he do that?

COHEN: What you do is you deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction.


RUHLE: The New York State lawsuit seeks to recover 250 million bucks from the Trump Organization. And James says she hopes to essentially ban Trump and his kids from running any businesses in New York. Trump`s lawyer says the Attorney General`s claims are "meritless." And tonight, on Fox News for a full hour Trump himself said it was up to the banks to make sure his company was telling the truth.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We have a disclaimer right on the front. And it basically says you know get your own people, you`re at your own risk. But what we do is here`s a financial statement but be careful because it may not be accurate. It may be way off and when we go, I think it`s close to a page and a half of all of these things, get your own people, use your own appraisers, use your own lawyers, don`t rely on us.



RUHLE: I`m going to get into that, as if that was not enough excitement for Wednesday night. There was also breaking news tonight from the January 6 Committee. The source close to the House panel tells NBC News lawmakers plan to interview Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the coming weeks, she reportedly was in touch with the former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and lawmakers in both Arizona and Wisconsin. And guess what it was about, overturning Joe Biden`s legitimate 2020 win.

With that let`s get smarter and we need to tonight with the help of our leadoff panel. David Fahrenthold joins us, New York Times Investigative Reporter covering the Trump family and its business interests. Kyle Cheney, Senior Legal Affairs Reporter for Politico and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former Federal Prosecutor and State Prosecutor here in New York. She also clerked for Merrick Garland and Justice Sandra Day O`Connor.

Tali, I`m not even going to ask, is this the worst legal day Trump has ever had? Because I`m pretty sure the answer is yes. But I want to dig straight into Tish James` lawsuit, how strong is her case?

TALI FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN, FORMER NY FEDERAL AND STATE PROSECUTOR: Her case is incredibly strong, Stephanie. And I think that introduces the elephant in the room, which is why is the case this strong, not also the subject of a criminal prosecution, and not just a civil prosecution.

RUHLE: Alvin Bragg, she`s looking at you. Let`s remind our audience, Tali, you ran against Alvin Bragg, the whole all of New York City must be calling you today saying, sister, what`s up with this guy? Given everything Tish James told us seriously, though, how is this not a criminal investigation? What are we missing?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Right. That is the interesting question, because what she has said today in word, indeed, is that she thinks that he is completely given up, which is really something that we already knew, on prosecuting Donald Trump. You know, that`s interesting. On the first page, she says, Trump and his people have committed a host of state crimes repeatedly. She says there`s a persistent pattern of that. And then she says, federal prosecutors, you might be interested in looking into that the strong beat implication being that she doesn`t think that the Manhattan district attorney which is supposed to prosecute state crimes, is going to be taking the charge here.

And also, just indeed, because you don`t do a civil case before a criminal case. And this is her way, I think of saying that she`s tired of waiting, no, it`s been three years of all the men who have had jurisdiction here, criminal jurisdiction, not doing anything, she`s going to use her tools. There are lesser tools, but she made a strong case with what she had. And she showed us a lot of evidence in excruciating detail.

RUHLE: And she told us that was only a tidbit of what she had. David, you are the person I was thinking of when I was watching Tish James today, because you have studied Trump and Trump`s money, most specifically, the gross inflation of his wealth. For years, you won a Pulitzer Prize for it. What was your reaction? Watching Tish James, lay it all out letter by letter?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I have to be honest, a lot of it was jealousy. You know, I looked at President Trump`s finances for a long time and focused on the number of these properties. But I didn`t find a lot of things that she found it part because I don`t -- no one`s given me subpoena power yet.

But I was impressed by the breadth of what you found. And also, the sort of, there were so many little pieces of Trump`s empire that apparently were falsehoods that I guess I should have checked it. I didn`t. I mean, just to pick one, the size of his penthouse, the size of his own apartment, he tripled the actual size of it, and claim this incredibly high valuation.

Another one was Trump Park Avenue, this building in Manhattan where he still owns some of the units. But she said that many of those units are rent stabilized, meaning you can`t make the people who are renting them now leave without their permission. And so, Trump valued them as if they were empty, and you could sell them as condos tomorrow. And that was absolutely not the case. And so, the valuation went from some number in the millions, which is what he claimed, down to like 750,000, that just looking in every corner that she looked, and she found some false, he found some exaggeration, and the scale of them was even bigger than I thought they would be. So, I was very impressed. You know, after all these years of looking at this business empire, that there was so much out there that I hadn`t found yet.

RUHLE: You know, you touched on something right there, though, because Trump is saying we watched in that Fox news clip where he`s saying, listen, it`s up to the banks. You know, I have disclaimer pages say you guys do the math. He wasn`t just talking to one party though, right? Because I go through this with us, David, because on one hand, he would over inflate the price for the banks to say this is how much I`m worth. But on the other hand, when he talked to the government, he`d say those same assets were worth practically nothing because he didn`t want to pay taxes on it, so he can`t have it both ways, who he lied to, the banks of the government.


FAHRENTHOLD: That`s right. There`s two elements. I think that undercut what Trump says. That`s definitely the argument he will eventually make if there`s a trial. But there`s two elements that undercut that. One is that he didn`t just give them to banks. He also gave it to the federal government and was trying to bid on this property forever, for the hotel eventually became the Trump Hotel in D.C. And you`re right, he gave them to lenders as part of his personal guarantee.

The second thing is, even though there is a disclaimer at the front that says, you know, the disclaimer from his accountant, his accounts are saying, look, these numbers came from Donald Trump, not from us, our job is to put them in a sheet, justify them, make them look nice, but they`re his numbers, that they don`t come out and say these numbers are all lies or these numbers are made up, they say, just look where the accountants, we didn`t check that.

And that is an interesting thing, that is not just the dollar figures that she`s saying are wrong. She`s saying that there are specific facts about the condition of these properties. How many lots can he sell? Does he have permission to sell lots at all? And he`s lying about those facts, which then undercut the valuation and dollars that he gave? All those things make it hard to just say, well, you know, I tell people to buy everywhere.

RUHLE: Kyle, Trump`s adult children who either currently or formerly ran his business, they`re in a whole lot of trouble here, too. Is this a situation where they could turn on him to save themselves?

KYLE CHENEY, POLITICO, SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER: I mean, you know, you saw a lot of that in the Trump years, I think, clearly his presidency when a number of investigations, you know, you`d have eventually have people who felt like they were, you know, under the glare, investigators would break from Donald Trump. It didn`t happen that often. But it happened.

It seems like the family is just too closely knit together in all of us. I mean, Letitia James made a very clear point to say, this wasn`t -- this wasn`t just that they had knowledge of it, or they were involved. The entire Trump organization`s business model dependent on their close cooperation and involvement and partnership, knowing partnership in all of this alleged fraud here. So, this was them as a unit. So, it`s hard to see them turning on each other when you were also intimately involved in her, according to her lawsuit here.

RUHLE: Tali, when Trump testified, he took the Fifth hundreds of times, he said absolutely nothing, when he could get in trouble for perjury, that he goes on Fox News for a full hour tonight, and talks about anything and everything. Fox News where he can`t get in trouble from the law, but he can test out a bunch of disinformation stories and see what sticks. Can any of the things he`s saying on TV tonight be used by the DOJ?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Absolutely. And some of what I heard him say tonight sounded like admissions or something close to admissions. I mean, even saying, yeah, we made -- may have said some bogus stuff in these statements, but you shouldn`t have taken them seriously. You the bank at the other end. I mean, that`s already starting to sound like well, yeah, I knew what we were putting into there, which, of course, is the holy grail, did he have knowledge of what was going into these statements, but then he tries to brush it off.

And you know, Stephanie, I should also say that in a civil case, when you take the Fifth, that counts against you, unlike in a criminal case, the jury is entitled to draw an adverse inference that you had something to hide. So, his strategy up until now has also not been neutral. It`s going to hurt him.

RUHLE: We also heard today from Michael Cohen, Trump`s former personal lawyer, we know he went to jail. We heard from Tish James today, him testifying before Congress helped this thing move along. I want to share what he said.


COHEN: Donald would call us in and he would say, I want to -- I want to be higher on the Forbes list. And so, what I need to do is, I`m not worth 6 billion. I`m worth seven. And then seven will become, more saved. In fact, I`m actually really worth 10. So, this guy did $4 billion of net worth in a matter of eight to 10 seconds.


RUHLE: Here`s the thing, David, we`ve laughed at Trump doing that before, but inflating your wealth like that isn`t just a cheesy way to move up a rich list and get yourself on a magazine cover. This is how you cheat the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars, is that the case Tish James is putting forth before us?

FAHRENTHOLD: It is. Just to be clear, it`s totally legal to lie to Forbes Magazine, but you can`t tell the same lies to the government. You can`t tell the same lies to lenders if they`re going to make a lending decision based on it. So yes, that`s the argument that she`s made is broader and very detailed point by point property by property version of that argument that it wasn`t just the Trump would try to plus up his numbers to impress Forbes. He was doing it in little ways in every corner of his empire to impress all kinds of different audience that it was not just a one-time thing. It was basically a common steady practice throughout the business to lie about what their properties did, what they owned, what they made, what they were worth.


RUHLE: Kyle, parts of this lawsuit have now been referred to the IRS and the DOJ, what are they likely to do now?

CHENEY: Good question. I mean, I think a Justice Department would take referrals from a fellow prosecutor, state level prosecutor seriously where we hear about things like, will the January 6 committee make a referral to the Justice Department. I don`t think prosecutors look at those kinds of things, particularly favorably when they come from the sort of political branch of government. But a fellow prosecutor, even one who is herself a political figure presenting this level of evidence, it`d be hard for them to turn away from it. The question is, what we don`t really know is, to what extent have they looked at all of this already, you know, some of these financial records that some are in the IRS possession. So, you know, what extent have they examined these with the fine-tooth comb that Letitia James is now displayed for the public.

RUHLE: Totally. I want to know what you thought watching this today. You worked for the Brooklyn DA. We watched Tish James go through this. What was she speaking for 45 minutes, there`s hundreds of pages. What kind of work went into this? I mean, I`m thinking there had to be all of these Das, this summer, in the sweltering heat in their junky downtown offices with lousy air conditioning, going through paper after paper, she got up there speaking a black woman with Donald Trump sitting in his house watching this, what went through your mind?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Well, it is an extraordinary public service that she has done. And I was grateful for that. And for all the people who work for her, but also, Stephanie, I was frustrated, because, you know, there is justice. And what is she is trying to pursue. There is no doubt. You know, if Don Jr. can`t be an officer of a corporation in New York ever again, if the Trump organization can never get a loan from a bank that`s registered here, that`s important if they have to discourage all of that money.

But it`s not the same kind of accountability as somebody going to prison and especially somebody who may be on the brink of becoming a presidential candidate again. And so, you know, there`s accountability in the short term, but then there`s also accountability that can change the course of history. And that does still feel to me, like an opportunity that is missed, because what I see is a criminal case that has been put on the shelf.

RUHLE: I know I have to go to break. But then what about this frustration? If Donald Trump wasn`t President of the United States, he would have gotten away with all of this? How about the fact that the way real estate empires roll, it sure seems like it`s really, really easy to commit a whole lot of fraud and get away with it, nobody was going to notice that he overinflated the value of his apartment and said it was worth $327 million. He likely would have gotten away with this for the rest of his life.

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Well, but I might invert that and say that he is getting away with it, perhaps because he became president of the United States. And that is intimidating. Because now we are at the moment where we know all of this stuff. And some of this fraud is actually comical, it is so easy to understand, right? You could take out your tape measure and see that the apartment is not the size that he says that it is. So easy to explain that to a jury. And yet, right, and these are not crimes that he committed in the course of his presidency, because he was president. They don`t have a political dimension. They started and the bulk of it happened before he became president. And so really, it seems to me like becoming president has helped him out here and seriously undermine the idea that all of us are equal under the law.

RUHLE: This is a mad, mad, mad, mad world. All three of these guests are staying with us. There`s too much to cover.

When we come back, the fact challenge former president is sticking to his claim that the documents he took, the ones he took from the White House were all declassified. Now, how he said he did it just by thinking about it, thinking about declassification.

And later, decades of questionable financing could Donald Trump`s wheeling and dealing days finally be crashing to an end. The 11th Hour just getting underway or Wednesday night.



RUHLE: The former president is still complaining about the legal search of his Florida club. And tonight, he displayed a bizarre understanding of how the declassification process works.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a process? What was your process to declassify?

TRUMP: It doesn`t have to be a process as I understand it, you know, there`s different people say different things. But as I understand that doesn`t have to be -- if you`re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, it`s declassified even by thinking about it, because you`re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you`re sending it. And there doesn`t have to be a process. There can be a process, but it doesn`t have to be, you`re the president. You make that decision. So, when you send it, it`s declassified. We -- I declassified everything.


RUHLE: As we mentioned the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this evening ruled against Donald Trump. It is letting the Justice Department use the classifies documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago in their ongoing criminal probe. David Fahrenthold, Kyle Cheney, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein still with us.


Kyle, let`s get right to specifics. This court were two of the three judges who ruled were hand selected by Donald Trump. They ruled against him. So, what does that mean? Whatever Judge Cannon said about these documents is null and void, and their word matters?

CHENEY: Essentially about these 100 particular documents that were marked classify that this court said are classified, whatever Donald Trump says, there`s been no evidence to actually support this. These are, in their view, classified documents that belong because the government and the government should be able to use them as part of a criminal investigation.

Judge Cannon`s ruling on that kind of out the window. Now, there may be some appeals to this, this could be appealed to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump`s team has signaled yet what they`re going to do. But the fact that you have, you know, again, two Trump appointed judges on this panel, as he noted, you know, ruling as forcefully as they did, I mean, they really picked apart can and they really took down almost every element of her ruling in somewhat aggressive fashion. You know, makes me wonder whether the Trump team will actually go through with the with an appeal here, all the way to Supreme Court. So, it was a pretty thorough rejection of the Cannon rationale.

RUHLE: So, David, now the DOJ can go through these documents, do they need to go further. Because if you listen to what Donald Trump said, right there, if you`re the president, you can declassify them and send them to Mar-a-Lago or wherever. I want to underline, wherever, does that give a hint that maybe he just said the quiet part out loud and what the DOJ should be doing next is looking at Bedminster and Trump Tower and who knows wherever else he could have said things?

FAHRENTHOLD: I mean, I think that people who would know that are the National Archives and Records Administration, they know I think the universe of documents that existed in the first place and know what`s missing. So, if they think there`s still something missing, maybe there are other Trump properties to go to. But I think they`re -- I don`t think that there`s an infinite universe of documents we`re looking for. I think there`s a set one of them, and they will know how many of them they still don`t have. They still want to have some that they would know.

RUHLE: Tali, so Trump is back making the argument that everything is declassified, yet his lawyers have never made this argument in a court of law. So, are they arguing to a court of law and he`s trying to win the court of public opinion?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Well, yes, I think he is making an argument for the public. But I also do think he`s setting up an argument for court. And it`s not the argument that he`s going to try to prove that these documents were actually declassified. I mean, that`s silly. We can short circuit that. The current government, the current executive says they`re classified. And that`s the end of that.

I think he`s trying to do something a little bit more tricky here and set up the argument that whether or not they were declassified, he thought so. And if he thought so, how could he have criminal intent?

Now, he has -- he needs one more step. He needs to also say, I assumed that if I thought they were declassified, I could hoard them, I could maybe destroy them. I could obstruct justice.

RUHLE: So, I`m a dum-dum is a defense?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Well, I mean, haven`t we heard a version of that argument before from him? I didn`t know what I was doing. So, I think that this is where this has always been leading. And I think that it`s maybe possibly actually the best that he can do with what he has.

RUHLE: Is that a viable defense?

FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: I do not think it`s a good defense. But I think that we`ve certainly built up this idea that his criminal intent is the key. And he might think that he might be able to persuade a juror that that`s enough.

RUHLE: We`ve been talking that Trump is slow playing this, slow playing this. And suddenly, it seems like a lot is happening very quickly, Kyle, what happens next, where do we go from here?

CHENEY: So again, it will -- we`ll see if the Trump team decides to appeal this, but now, you know, it raises the question, you have this special master who`s going through all the documents that the FBI seized, well, under this ruling, those classified documents are now no longer part of that review. So, if that stands, DOJ is kind of happy. They move their criminal investigation forward, there`s no longer this threat hanging over them that if they do the wrong thing, they can be held in contempt of court.

So now that the investigation they start started, you know, earlier this year and really escalated with this, the raid and the seizure of these documents from Mar-a-Lago gets to continue a pace and, you know, they`ve talked, describe it as being in the early stages, you know, a few weeks ago. So, you know, maybe now they`re moving to the middle phase of that if they are allowed to go forward without any further appeals.

RUHLE: Well, the clock is ticking. David Fahrenthold, Kyle Cheney, I love David`s response, he felt jealous when he watched Tish James today, I sincerely appreciate your honesty, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, and what did she feel today? Mad, mad at you Alvin Bragg. Thank you so much.


Coming up, this is a wealthy family on accustomed to accountability said about to change? David Cay Johnston, who has written all about the Trump businesses and knows them inside and out is here next, when the 11th Hour continues.




NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: This new lawsuit is basically alleging that Donald Trump ignored outside experts and advice that he inflated his personal value. And he roped his family and friends into supporting the fraud. And, you know, saying that you will Donald Trump ran his business the way you ran the country. And you`re absolutely right. It`s pattern after pattern.


RUHLE: The New York ag says there were more than 200 instances of fraud committed over the last 10 years. And that pattern after pattern of the behavior within the Trump Organization, it actually may have been going on for decades.

Let`s bring in Pulitzer Prize Winning Investigative Reporter David Cay Johnston, he wrote, "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family." David, for years, you have been shouting much of what Tish James talked about today from rooftops. So, knowing what you know about Trump`s business history, put today`s news in context?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, what was significant today is that finally we have a law enforcement official who has civil authority not criminal laying out Donald Trump`s constant cheating. It`s just who he is. And doing so in a way that -- and in this is a really important aspect of this, will show that he does not -- he does this personally. Donald often will say, well, I just did what the lawyer said or what the accountants told me to do, or what the experts said.

In one case, an appraisal of one of his buildings was a $200 million. He then put in his net worth statement that it was over $500 million, and said that`s what the appraisers said. That kind of fraud is going to be very, very difficult for Donald when this comes to trial. And clearly, they`re going to be documents galore and witnesses. They`ve done a very thorough job. And they put together a very solid case.

RUHLE: Let`s talk about how this could hurt him. And I want to draw a comparison because already, Trump and his family are not allowed to sit on a charity board for 10 years in New York. That`s embarrassing, but where the real punishment was, they were forced to shut down their foundation. They actually had to give the money to charities that they promised to and they had to pay a fine. That`s the price.

Now what Tish James is looking for here, Donald Trump and his adult children could not be officers in any sort of business in New York, which that`s not really that bad, who cares? But the real painful thing would be that no New York bank, no U.S. bank could lend to them again. Talk to us about how damning that is. Because if you`ve got no liquidity, you got nothing.

JOHNSTON: No, that`s exactly right. If you don`t have liquidity, you have nothing. And Donald always has these cashflow problems. You know, he claims to be a multi billionaire, but he doesn`t have the cash flow to pay his bills. I`m a newspaper reporter who raised eight children, I always paid my bills on time.

So, Donald would be able to operate businesses in New York, but only if he owned them directly, he wouldn`t have the shield of a corporation to insulate him. You`d have to own them directly. And he basically is being shut out of business in New York if the attorney general gets a court to rule in her favor in this civil suit. And one of the problems Donald is going to have here is that he took the Fifth Amendment, when questioned by the Attorney General`s staff more than 400 times, Eric Trump`s something on the order of 500 times.

Now, in a criminal matter there`s -- you have an absolute right to do that. You can`t question it. But in a civil matter, a judge may -- doesn`t have to but may draw an adverse inference. The reason you wouldn`t answer the questions is that they were damning to your case. And that`s going to be also a very major problem for him but not being able to do business with banks that do any business in New York. Well, I would reduce them to some small bank in the middle of Iowa.

RUHLE: But could Trump just get cute here? Put the business under his other children`s names, move it to the state of Florida. Can you do anything like that?

JOHNSTON: Any move to do that, you`re going to see Leticia James in court instantly, hollering fraudulent transfer. And so no, he can`t do that. And his children, you know, he`s a man who is exposed his children. I mean, whatever you like, think of Michael Flynn, the general that Obama warned Trump not to hire, when federal charges came out and there was a choice between Flynn and his son, Flynn stood up for his son. I don`t expect to see Donald Trump stand up for his own children if push comes to shove.

RUHLE: Let`s talk about those children, because Bill Barr talked about that earlier today and I want you to watch this.



BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`m not even sure she has a good case against Trump himself. But what ultimately persuades me that this is a political hit job is she grossly overreaches when she tries to drag the children into this. Yes, they had roles in the business. But this was his personal financial statement.


RUHLE: Children, weren`t talking about Barron who`s 16. We`re talking about 44, 40, and 38. For years, Ivanka was a key executive in the company. She`s the one who negotiated the Trump Hotel in Washington, John Jr. and Eric, they ran the company when Trump was in office, what the hell is Bill Barr talking about?

JOHNSTON: Well, Barr is really trying to get it Letitia James who ran for office saying, essentially, I`m going to get Donald Trump civilly, I`m going to get him. That`s really an important thing to do. And you can bet that as they we move toward a trial, the Trump side will scream that this is unfair. But I don`t think it`ll get them in particular anywhere.

But Donald has in the past, you know, suggested that his son Don Jr. who`s in his 40s, you know, well, he`s just a boy, basically, you know, nonsense, you know, I mean, we`re not even talking about someone who`s what I call it to my children, a probationary adult from 18 to 30. They`re way past that, and they`re so deeply involved in the matters that are going on here. You know, if you and I were to lie to banks, the way that Donald Trump did, and the government became aware of it, we would be in deep trouble. And one of the questions -- yeah?

RUHLE: Hold on a second, though, let`s say he did lie to the banks. He`s saying it`s the bank`s fault. And it`s rare that I say, does Donald Trump have a point, but just stay with me, almost no bank in New York would do business with him, because they knew he was a liar. But Deutsche Bank did. In fact, when he tried to do business with Deutsche Bank, on the institutional side, I know this, I worked there. And he showed up and said, this is what the value of my brand is. They laughed him out of the building. But instead of walking out of the building, he just walked back in the side door and went to the private bank, and the private bank said, come on in, and they did business with him. So, is there some accountability for those who did business with him when everybody else on the street knew he was a big, fat liar?

JOHNSTON: Well, that`s the point I wanted to get to the banks are not innocent here. The insurance companies are not innocent here. There is a great deal of lawlessness going on among our big banks, especially international banks. We have a long history of banks like Citibank, helping the then president of Mexico, loot the public treasury and hide money. There`s just enormous amount of litigation that`s gone on about money laundering, helping criminals move money. And we need to really rethink, first of all, but the standards of white-collar crime in America, which we do very little to enforce, you know, you go rob a bodega with a water pistol, and we`ll put you in prison. But you rob a bank, and do it the way Donald Trump does it. And nothing happens to you.

Now, Trump is going to argue all of these loans were repaid, it doesn`t matter. If you reach him to the company, the banks have vaults and take money. And you put it back later, because you want the money -- the horse, you put it on, won at the racetrack, you still committed a crime. So, Donald has real serious problems here. But we do need to look at the failure of our system to enforce the law against big banks and insurance companies. And this is a significant factor in something I`ve been writing about for 25 years, which is our worsening inequality, because it`s really a form of subsidy for the super-rich, and it`s paid for by the rest of us through less access to credit and less beneficial credit terms.

RUHLE: Well, whenever you want to come back and talk about that, we`ve always got time for it. David Cay Johnston, thank you for joining us tonight.

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

RUHLE: When we come back, I`ve been saying it all night, Donald Trump is already lying tonight on Fox News. It`s getting pushed on social media, all about the lawsuits against him. These lies will then get amplified online. And that is how Trump supporters get their misinformation. The author who wrote about how that happens and how dangerous it is to our democracy will join us on this big, big news night when the 11th Hour continues.



RUHLE: It took absolutely no time for Donald Trump to attack Letitia James today, the former guy calling her a racist and calling the investigation a witch hunt exactly the type of misinformation that becomes internet memes, spreading lies to all corners of the internet.

Our next guest has written all about this. Dr. Joan Donovan, she`s the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy at Harvard. And the author of the new must-read book, "Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America."

Joan, people think memes are funny, they`re silly. They`re not, take me to tonight. Don Trump was on TV for an hour spreading lie after lie about Tish James and her investigation, how soon before that enters the meme machine and the misinformation is everywhere?


JOAN DONOVAN, AUTHOR, "MEME WARS": It`s already happening. So, one of the things that I did right before we came on air was just take a look at her name on Twitter and Facebook. And there`s quite a few people that are positively memeing her and saying, you know, she`s, you know, here for lawn orders. So, you know, you`ve got a lot of those memes out there. But ultimately, what we`re seeing, though, is that people are starting to want to dig up dirt on her, you start to see people spreading racist memes with her face. And of course, just in the same way that we`ve seen, Trump and his allies go after political opponents, he`s going to try to drag her in the investigation through this mimetic war, which is going to play out in many different ways on different platforms.

RUHLE: Say that again, what kind of war?

DONOVAN: A mimetic war, meme war so it`s ---

RUHLE: That`s a new term for us.

DONOVAN: Yeah. So, I mean, we`ve all kind of done it online, you know, someone will say something will respond with a meme. And it`s very funny. And it really promotes in group solidarity. But when you have a meme, like something like stop the steal, it really distills something very simple. That gets the message across. And then the other thing it does is it coordinates people. And so, they start to take action, sometimes small retweeting, sharing, maybe making another meme. But over time, it creates this network solidarity. And then people start moving from what we call the wires to the weeds. So, something like stop the steal becomes the January 6 insurrection.

RUHLE: So, does that mean you go from the wire to the weeds in someone like Tish James, her team could be in real danger? Because if he starts pushing this out to the MAGA set, to the January 6 crew, and she`s target number one, that`s not just jokes?

DONOVAN: Yeah. And we`ve already started to see him tapping into the QAnon crowd, a colleague of mine, Juliette Kayyem, was writing about this in The Atlantic today about how now that he`s really clued into QAnon and the memes around that, particularly this phrase, the storm is coming. He`s getting desperate. And these are not the kinds of people that are going to act like typical political constituents because they`re not people who are here for the party. They`re here for, in some instances, what they call the God Emperor or MAGA King in Trump.

RUHLE: The God Emperor or MAGA King.

DONOVAN: Yeah, so we talk a lot about the God Emperor meme and how that germinated --

RUHLE: What is that?

DONOVAN: It`s comes from video gaming, and there were a lot of memes of Trump being exalted, you know, in armor and looking as if he`s much bigger than he is, slaying dragons. And this was something that people were sharing online as a way of, you know, roiling up some of the liberals, you know, getting in the face of other people and trying to make Trump much bigger than he is. In fact, Trump himself has moved on be beyond a persona, and is now a manmade meme.

RUHLE: A man-made name, Joan Donovan, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your work.

When we come back, what is in Liz Cheney`s bill to prevent a January 6 repeat. But why is she calling out one of her own Republican colleagues voting against it? We`ll have that on the 11th Hour continues.



RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, protecting our democracy. Today the House passed the Presidential Election Reform Act. The bill was introduced by Representatives Cheney and Lofgren to reform the Electoral Count Act after the January 6 attack. The measure makes it clear that the Vice President`s role when counting Electoral College votes is purely ceremonial, and raises the threshold to object to electors. But Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois, he argued that changes aren`t needed.


REP. RODNEY DAVIS, (R) ILLINOIS: These systems have worked. At the end of the day, the outcomes were exactly as they should have been. It`s why people can and should have faith in our election system. This isn`t to say that our system is perfect. There`s always room for improvement. But unfortunately, that`s not what is happening here today. The Electoral Account Act has been in place for over a century and directly implements constitutional provisions. Members of all political parties have exercised their rights under the provisions of that law to raise constitutional objections to state electoral slates if they determined something may be improper. This is not an affront to democracy. Frankly, it`s democracy in action.


RUHLE: For facts sake, where the Republican objections on January 6, democracy in action I`m going to let Congresswoman Cheney take this one.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: If your aim is to prevent future efforts to steal elections, I would respectfully suggest that conservatives should support this bill. If instead your aim is to leave open the door for elections to be stolen in the future, you might decide not to support this or any other bill to address the Electoral Count Act.

January 6, contrary to what my colleague from Illinois just said, was not "democracy in action." And our oath of office is to support and defend the Constitution, which provides the method by which we elect our president. Legal challenges are not improper. But Donald Trump`s refusal to abide by the rulings of the courts certainly was.


RUHLE: What Liz Cheney just said to Rodney Davis, brother, please. In the end, the bill passed 229 to 203, nine Republicans broke ranks to vote with Democrats.


But here`s the thing, none of those nine Republicans will be returning to Congress next year. They either lost their primaries or they`re retiring. The Senate is working on a similar bill to protect elections. It will be reviewed by the Rules Committee next Tuesday. And Mitt Romney, we will be watching you.

And on that note, who it has been an hour. I wish all of you a very, very good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thanks for staying up late. I will see you at the end of tomorrow.