Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: January 26, 2018 Guest: Michael Wolff, Jill Wine-Banks, Ronald Klain, Matthew Miller, Adam Schiff, Jennifer Rubin
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And now it`s time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL. Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy, and I will see you tomorrow on your show.
O`DONNELL: And, oh, I really enjoyed hearing you speak with so much authority about 1968 when you were not alive.
O`DONNELL: But I know where you got that. I think you read a --
REID: I read an amazing book about it by somebody you might know. His name rhymes with Lawrence O`Donnell.
O`DONNELL: Still available in bookstores. But you have to climb through the piles of Michael Wolff`s book to find my one copy of mine somewhere.
REID: And it`s worth that climb.
O`DONNELL: "Playing with Fire." It has the word fire in the title. It should be selling.
REID: "Playing with Fire."
O`DONNELL: Yes. It should be selling.
REID: It`s definitely fantastic. You know what, I`m being honest. It`s a fantastic book and you should all read it because 1968, most momentous year in modern American history, I argue, Mr. O`Donnell.
O`DONNELL: Joy, we actually have Michael Wolff here with us tonight in exclusive interview. His first public reaction to what we learned yesterday that the President ordered the firing of the special prosecutor.
REID: Amazing. Well, I cannot wait for that. We will be watching.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Joy.
REID: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, last night the obstruction of justice investigation of the President by the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, took on a new and dramatic dimension when "The New York Times" reported that the President ordered the firing of the Special Prosecutor in June and that the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, refused to carry out that order and threatened to resign if the Special Prosecutor was fired.
Here is every word the President said about that important story today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President why did you fire Robert Mueller? Why did you want to fire Robert Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical "New York Times" fake story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the Nixon era, that`s what they called a nondenial denial.
Joining us tonight for an exclusive interview with his first public reaction to the reports that the President tried to fire the Special Prosecutor is the author of the best-selling book in the world right now.
Michael Wolff, the author of "The New York Times" best-seller, "Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House."
And, Michael, first of all, thank you very much for coming back.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY, INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE": Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Your book is filled with versions of the President complaining about the Special Prosecutor, making references to wanting to fire the Special Prosecutor.
The Special Prosecutor has talked to Reince Priebus. The Special Prosecutor is going to talk to Steve Bannon, who you spent a lot of time talking to. The Special Prosecutor has been talking to many of your sources in this book.
Has the Special Prosecutor reached out to you to talk to you about either the firing of the Special Prosecutor or any other elements of this story?
WOLFF: He has not.
O`DONNELL: And if the Special Prosecutor does want to interview you, would you cooperate with that?
WOLFF: Good question, and I don`t know the answer. But I think that the answer is, yes, because I have nothing to hide. Everything that I know is in the book.
O`DONNELL: What about the sources that are -- there are many sources revealed in the book and there`s many quotes that are attributed to people, but there`s an awful lot of unattributed quotes.
O`DONNELL: If the Special Prosecutor would open this book and point to --
WOLFF: And say who is the source here --
O`DONNELL: Who said that?
WOLFF: -- and if it`s a source that I can`t reveal, no, I clearly would not.
O`DONNELL: And you know there`s no privilege there. You would have to -- the Special Prosecutor could hold you in contempt, and you could end up in jail by refusing to answer that.
WOLFF: You know, I`ve had a lot of threats over the last few weeks. You know, we take them as they come.
O`DONNELL: OK. I want to go to a passage about Don McGahn that`s in your book because, I have to the say, for readers of this book, the detail that the President specifically ordered the firing is just one more little piece that fits into this story completely. And the characters behave in the way we understand them from your book.
Here is a reference to Don McGahn at page 212 of your book.
McGahn tried to explain that, in fact, Comey himself was not running the Russia investigation, that without Comey the investigation would proceed anyway. McGahn, the lawyer whose job was necessarily to issue cautions, was a frequent target of Trump rages.
Typically, these would begin as a kind of exaggeration or acting and then devolve into the real thing: uncontrollable, vein-popping, ugly face tantrum stuff. It got primal. Now, the President`s denunciations focused in a vicious fury on McGahn and his cautions about Comey.
And that`s just Comey. So we can presume that something similar to that went on with Mueller, with the attempt to fire Mueller.
WOLFF: Let me give a slightly different context than "The New York Times" gives. "The New York Times" makes it sound like Trump thought about this, sat down, determined that this was -- that he should fire -- that he should fire Mueller, that he should act on this, and then told McGahn to carry this out.
And that`s not untrue, but the difference is he does this constantly. Every day, the President is saying he`s going to fire somebody. Anybody who he feels is -- has annoyed him, irritated him, gotten in his way, disagreed with him is going to be fired.
The firing of Mueller was talked about by Trump, especially in this June, July period, before his legal team really got in and took over. This became an obsession with the President. He had to get rid of Mueller.
Now, but an obsession with this president becomes -- instead of an order, it becomes kind of like wallpaper. It just goes on and on and on. He repeats and repeats and repeats.
And is it serious? Is it just him spouting off? Ultimately, that`s what the Special Prosecutor will have to decide. And it`s a key, key thing because the Special Prosecutor has to prove intent.
If he`s just a crazy person -- which, in part, he is -- it`s going to be very hard to prove intent. So was there a moment in which he directed this to happen? Well, actually, yes, but there were hundreds of moments in which he does that and in which everybody sort of deflects.
And, equally, you know, the times has McGahn threatening to quit. McGahn has probably threatened to quit a hundred times.
I mean, actually, what they say in -- even now, McGahn would like to get out of there. They just can`t find somebody else to replace him, so they have to come and essentially, each time, beg him to stay.
O`DONNELL: You have Bannon in here saying -- quoting him now and attributing it to him. It is not one of the unacknowledged quotes here. It says -- Bannon is saying to you -- if he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker.
Was that the widespread view in the White House?
WOLFF: Completely. I mean, everybody believed firing Mueller would be suicidal. And everybody had to deal with this every day because it was always fire Mueller, we got to fire Mueller, how can we fire Mueller, get rid of this guy.
And again, this was kind of regarded as something less than real. It was just the stuff that comes out of the President`s mouth uncontrollably and often meaninglessly.
O`DONNELL: So in that sense, you`re describing a workplace in which they don`t take the guy saying this stuff seriously to the point where they actually have to execute it. But if he pushes it up to an order, then they have to issue threats to resign?
WOLFF: Yes. The question is -- but even that, that`s always going on, the efforts to resign because nobody wants to be there.
WOLFF: So it`s this -- it`s a kind of -- "The New York Times" curiously makes this sound normal. Even though --
O`DONNELL: What do you mean normal?
WOLFF: Well, even if -- it makes it sound like there is a man who has thought through something and made a decision. There are no decisions here. It`s just blather.
And when does blather -- and, of course, blather can become a decision. The Comey firing. Nobody expected the Comey firing to happen, and then it happened because he did it on his own. He just went rogue and suddenly, it happened.
So I believe that everybody expected and continues to expect Mueller to be fired. But how that happens is -- it`s a kind of a three-dimensional thing because, every day, he`s firing Mueller. So how does it become -- how does that go from this kind of, you know, the presidential gas to actually happening?
O`DONNELL: It`s making that case for his lawyers to try to make that presentation of the character -- is made virtually impossible because of his job. Meaning, a prosecutor and the people looking into this aren`t going to believe that a president is just that nutty and flaky and constantly saying things that aren`t real.
WOLFF: I don`t know if that`s true. I mean, I think that is what Mueller -- they ultimately -- that will be the ultimate question. Was there intent here or is -- or was this just daily stupidity, really, incompetence, disregard?
O`DONNELL: There`s a passage in here about the -- everybody in the White House believing that if the investigation moved long-term into the Trump financial transactions, that that would be disastrous for the President. And the President seemed to confirm that by having that be the thing that made him keep saying, I can fire Mueller, I can fire Mueller.
WOLFF: Completely. And then at one point, of course, he says -- he gives an interview to "The New York Times," and he draws the line. He says, Mueller can`t go here. You know, can`t go into his family finances.
And, you know, Bannon then pointed out to me -- afterward, Bannon makes this noise, err err (ph). He says, OK, let`s just tell the prosecutor what he can`t look at.
O`DONNELL: Yes, yes. Yes. Imagine for us, as you know this character, you know this Trump character -- and I think it conveyed him better than anyone has conveyed him because you get these dimensions that are very difficult to capture, all these weird dimensions.
Imagine him in an interview with the Special Prosecutor when the Special Prosecutor says, why did you order Don McGahn to have me fired? What does Trump say to that?
WOLFF: I think it`s almost unimaginable. And from the point of view of the prosecutor, it`s both -- you`re both going to get things that are immediately and stunningly incriminating, but you`re also going to have to step back and say this is so stunningly incriminating that maybe it`s not incriminating. Maybe he`s just --
WOLFF: And that`s where we are.
WOLFF: Plain --
O`DONNELL: The insanity defense.
WOLFF: -- stupid.
O`DONNELL: The stupidity or insanity defense. I`ve been asking lawyers all week. What happens if the President`s lawyers convince him, you cannot be interviewed by the FBI? You`ll commit perjury. It will be a disaster.
The Special Prosecutor then subpoenas him and the President simply refuses to accept subpoena service, refuses to respond to a subpoena? Is that imaginable to you, that the President would simply refuse to respond to a subpoena, and if he`s held in contempt by a court, he will refuse to respond to that?
WOLFF: I don`t know. I mean, it`s never happened before. So what happens then? I have no idea. I would say, just because I`m a reasonable person, it can`t happen and eventually, he has to respond.
You know, and I remember Bannon saying, you know, he would go in there -- the President -- and will say, I have executive privilege, executive privilege. And Bannon would say, no, you don`t. We`ve gone through this before. Presidents have to testify when they`re subpoenaed.
O`DONNELL: I put out on Twitter invitations for people to suggest questions, and one of the biggest questions they were suggesting was about Nikki Haley.
Let`s listen to an interview that Nikki Haley did today that apparently was -- this part of the interview was provoked by something you said last week. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: He told the comedian and television host Bill Maher that he`s pretty sure -- not sure enough to write in his book, that the President is having an affair and that close readers of his book would be able to figure out who the President is having an affair with.
So Wolff writes in the book that, quote, the President had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley -- that`s Nikki Haley -- on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future.
I don`t think you exactly have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what he is insinuating, but I`d like to get your response to that insinuation.
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive and it`s disgusting.
You know, if you look at what my -- and I have said this before. It amazes me what people will do and the lies they will say for money and power. And in politics, it`s rampant.
But here you have a man who`s basically saying I`ve been spending a lot of time on Air Force One. I have literally been on Air Force One once and there were several people in the room when I was there.
He says that I`m talking a lot with the President in the Oval about my political future. I`ve never talked once to the President about my future, and I am never alone with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Do you believe that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is having an affair with the President?
WOLFF: Well, what I know is in the book.
O`DONNELL: What`s your reaction to what you just heard Nikki Haley say?
WOLFF: Well, I don`t know who the reporter is who was, in fact, making the insinuation.
O`DONNELL: Oh, so you`re saying -- you invited people to read between the lines publicly.
WOLFF: Read between the lines.
O`DONNELL: And you`re --
WOLFF: If I knew it --
O`DONNELL: Are you saying she`s --
WOLFF: If I knew it, I would have said it.
O`DONNELL: And is she reading between the right lines, that reporter who brought this question to Nikki Haley?
WOLFF: And is she reading -- I`m not going to go further than what`s in the book.
O`DONNELL: Do you think it`s reasonable that this reporter brought this question to Nikki Haley based on what she read in the book?
WOLFF: Oh, I think all questions are reasonable.
O`DONNELL: That`s so -- but you did say you believed the President is currently having an affair. Not in the book, but you said that publicly.
WOLFF: I believe the President -- well, you know, it`s -- what is an affair? Remember that question?
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s put it this way, sex with someone who`s not his wife.
WOLFF: I believe there -- a number of reliable and, I would say, authoritative people within the White House have, yes, suggested that.
O`DONNELL: And Nikki Haley, in saying it`s absolutely not true, it`s highly offensive, it`s disgusting, seems to agree that the implication is that it`s her.
WOLFF: She seems to be, yes. I mean, I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: You`ve just --
WOLFF: It is literally what`s in the book. If you want to --
O`DONNELL: OK. And I --
WOLFF: If you want to infer, I --
O`DONNELL: Well, I do want to -- I just want to clarify for the public record. You never actually said Nikki Haley.
WOLFF: I did not.
O`DONNELL: You never said any name.
WOLFF: I did not.
O`DONNELL: So anyone who has brought Nikki Haley into this has done this through their own reading?
O`DONNELL: Going back to the obstruction case with the President. As you hear these various scenarios being played out, and you hear John Dowd, in one of the most interesting comments of the week, saying it`s not the President who`s going to decide. I am going to decide whether the President agrees to do this interview.
Do you think that`s how this will happen, that John Dowd will say to the President, yes, you can or no, you can`t do this interview?
WOLFF: Well, I think he will but this is Donald Trump.
WOLFF: He will do what he wants to do. And it`s very likely he will decide, I can go in there and charm these guys. I can sell them.
O`DONNELL: Michael Wolff, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. Really appreciate it.
WOLFF: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, our panel is here, joining us. They will consider everything that`s developed in this, some of them taking notes during Michael Wolff`s conversation right here. We`ll see what they think the Special Prosecutor is going to react to there.
Also with us tonight, Congressman Adam Schiff, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. He will join us. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFF: The firing of Mueller was talked about by Trump, especially in this June, July period, before his legal team really got in and took over. This became an obsession with the President. He had to get rid of Mueller.
Now, but an obsession with this president becomes -- instead of an order, it becomes kind of like wallpaper. It just goes on and on and on. He repeats and repeats and repeats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s the instant replay of my interview with Michael Wolff.
Joining us now, Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and former senior aide to President Obama. He`s also the former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and he was the chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.
We`re also joined by Jill Wine-Banks, former Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor; and Matt Miller, former spokesman for Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Jill, I want to go to you because my discussion with Michael, I wish we had a lawyer at the table with us because there were moments there when he talked about what the Special Prosecutor`s going to find from this witness, Donald Trump, and possibly from others.
That there was just this kind of vague blanket of noise that he described, ultimately, as wallpaper that was the fire Mueller wallpaper and that -- was that really a specific demand to fire Mueller? And Michael was speculating the Prosecutor is going to have to get inside the President`s head to figure out what his actual intent was in those statements.
What was your reaction to that?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think intent was one of the more interesting parts of that interview. He also said that the President likes to say, you`re fired, and he does it all the time. He apparently learned his lesson on "The Apprentice" all too well.
But as far as intent, it`s always tricky for a lawyer to be able to prove intent. But in this case, there are so many acts in furtherance of a particular goal that a jury can infer from that intent.
And the other problem is if he didn`t intent the corrupt firing of Mueller and, let`s face it, of Comey, then if Wolff is correct, he sounds like the alternative is the man is crazy.
And if he`s crazy and incompetent and stupid, which are the words that Michael Wolff used, then we have to look at the 25th Amendment. And the Cabinet and Congress have to stand up and do their duty and say the man is incompetent.
So those were the -- seemed to me the two choices he was saying, is it`s going to hard to prove intent because he`s crazy. And that leads us, instead of impeachment, possibly to the 25th Amendment. So either way, it`s a lose for Trump, it seems to me.
O`DONNELL: And the -- in Michael Wolff`s book, "Fire and Fury," the 25th Amendment is mentioned specifically by Steve Bannon. And Steve Bannon gives it a 33 percent chance, in his calculations, of it actually being used against this president for exactly this kind of stuff.
Ron Klain, Jill just said a jury can infer intent which is what I was thinking when I was listening to Michael.
RONALD KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.
O`DONNELL: If this was a normal criminal case we`re talking about, the issue that Michael Wolff was talking about is, does he really mean it? That would be left to a jury.
With the President, it`s not clear that this gets brought to a jury. It might be brought to Congress. And then in an impeachment proceeding, that`s one of the things that could be left for Congress to decide and to argue about.
KLAIN: Yes, look, Donald Trump may be crazy, but he is not legally insane.
KLAIN: And the standard on that is very, very high. That`s not going to get him off the hook on this. And I actually think -- with all due respect to Mr. Wolff, I think his legal analysis of this is kind of backwards.
And Jill pointed out that, first of all, there are some very specific acts of obstruction. He wasn`t just spouting off when he actually did fire FBI Director Comey, when he actually did instruct a false statement to be produced by Donald Jr. about that Trump Tower meeting from Air -- when he ordered it from Air Force One. So there are a lot of specific acts.
And what Mr. Wolff calls the wallpaper I actually think is powerful evidence of, indeed, intent. The fact that Trump is constantly saying, we ought to get rid of Mueller, we ought to go do this, we ought to go do that, just shows a focus on stopping this investigation.
That`s what this is about, not about conflicts of interest or supervising the Justice Department. It is about stopping the investigation. That would be powerful evidence of his intent.
This is not someone who acts like an innocent person, Lawrence, and that`s the most important thing, I think, that comes out of the overall picture Wolff paints.
O`DONNELL: Matt, I was struck by that term, wallpaper, that Michael Wolff used. I think it tells us a lot.
And if you`ve ever listened to the wiretaps of mafia headquarters in New York or in Boston or different places where they wiretap them, the wallpaper was, we need to get rid of that guy, we need to get rid of that guy. And at some point, that guy would be gotten rid of, with or without necessarily a specific order on those mafia wiretaps.
But, Matt, you`re all taking notes while Michael Wolff was talking. Your reaction to what you heard?
MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I think I was really struck by, you know, what I think he called the wallpaper and what we see.
We all -- what we see in this and in other reports is that the picture of Donald Trump constantly kind of straining against the legal and ethical complaints of -- constraints of office. You know, constantly kind of lashing out against prosecutors and FBI agents who want to just pursue the rule of law.
And so, you know, you see him, you know, complaining about it, but you also see him taking official acts. I mean, that was the thing that was clear in "The New York Times" story from last night. It was when he crossed the line, not just from complaining about Bob Mueller but actually issuing an order to fire him.
Now, that order wasn`t obeyed, but under the obstruction of justice statute, you don`t actually have to be successful. You just have to take an action where you intend to obstruct justice to be guilty of a crime.
And when, you know, you mentioned the wiretaps that -- you know, in mafia cases we`re able to look at and see, you know, actually listen to this conversations. We don`t have wiretaps, obviously, in this case, but what Bob Mueller has is conversation after conversation that aides to Donald Trump can reproduce because he`s taken all those aides. He`s brought them in for interviews.
And to the extent Donald Trump ever said something like, you know, if James Comey doesn`t end this Russia investigation, I`m going to fire him, you know, Donald -- Bob Mueller likely has talked to an aide about that conversation, and that is damning evidence as to his intent.
O`DONNELL: Matt, Ron, Jill, please stay with us, everyone. We`re going to squeeze in a break here.
Congressman Adam Schiff -- he is the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee -- will join us next.
O`DONNELL: Here`s what happened in the House of Representatives today when reporters tried to ask the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee about the President trying to fire the Special Prosecutor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your reaction to reports that President Trump ordered Special Counsel Mueller fired?
SEN. BOB GOODLATTE (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: I`m here for a hearing on copyright, and I don`t have anything to comment on any other issues beyond that. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Copyright law is, of course, in the view of the Judiciary Committee, one of their lowest priority issues. But, today, for Republicans, it was more important than the most important story in Washington, the President ordering the firing of the Special Counsel.
Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, who has given up on continuing his congressional career and decided not to run for re-election, is free to say things like this today: I believe now that this revelation has been made public that there will be increasing pressure to protect Mueller.
Joining us now, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. I want to get to -- I got to say, I mean, as a House watcher, I think you can -- you and I probably have never heard someone say, I can`t talk about the most important issue of the day, I have to go to a copyright hearing. I think that`s a new one.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Well, it is hard to top copyright in terms of interest.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I want to get your reaction, actually, to something that Michael Wolff just said on this show because it`s an issue that, in a criminal case, would be left to a jury and in an impeachment case, would be brought to you. And that is, if there is an obstruction of justice case, that is presented to the House of Representatives.
And one of the elements of an obstruction of justice case is that the President ordered the firing of Robert Mueller. What Michael Wolff just said is he was saying that all the time. He was saying "fire Mueller" all the time, "I want to fire Mueller" all the time.
Michael Wolff said it was like wallpaper, and so people around him did not take it seriously. And it might, in the President`s mind, never have been a specific order. And since it was never carried out, he may not believe that he ever issued such an order, no matter what people quote him as saying.
SCHIFF: Well, apparently, Don McGahn took it seriously and was willing to resign rather than carry it out, so this doesn`t sound like it was an idle comment. I wouldn`t describe this as wallpaper based on what "The New York Times" or "Washington Post" and others have reported, but rather a fixation that goes to the President`s intent.
What really leaps out at me about this disclosure, this new report, is how much in common it has with the Comey situation. With the firing of Comey, what the President had at his disposal were memos from Rod Rosenstein and from Jeff Sessions that provided a pretext, another explanation, to give to the public for why Comey was being fired. That is, he treated Hillary Clinton unfairly.
Now, that is obviously not very plausible. And, of course, the one who made it abundantly clear that was not the real motivation was the President himself.
But similarly, here, with the attempt to fire Bob Mueller, you had these explanations ginned up for him whether it was over golf dues, that Bob Mueller had a dispute with the golf club over -- or it was over, you know, some -- the fact that the Mueller firm worked for Jared Kushner even though Mueller didn`t.
So this is another effort to produce pretext to conceal the real reason for getting rid of Mueller. And that does go to intent, the key issue in an obstruction case.
One final point, Lawrence, is the fact that the President wanted so badly to get rid of Jeff Sessions. And why? Because Jeff Sessions recused himself. And why did that bother the President? Because it led to the appointment of Bob Mueller.
That wasn`t about dues at the golf club. That was about the President perceiving the Russia investigation as a threat and wanting to act on that.
O`DONNELL: And in the Sessions case, you also have Michael Wolff and other sources quoting the President as saying things like where`s my Roy Cohn and using the word, "protect." Who`s going to protect me, expecting the Attorney General to protect him. And it strikes me that the use of that word, "protect," would be of special interest in an obstruction case.
SCHIFF: I think that`s exactly right. The President made clear that what he believes he`s entitled to in an Attorney General is not someone who is loyal to the department, not someone who is loyal to the American people, but someone who is loyal to him. And not on just a garden-variety issue but on the Russia investigation, which is paramount for him.
So I think all of this does go to intent. And certainly, Bob Mueller, this "New York Times" and "The Washington Post" story is not news to him because he`s been interviewing all these people in the White House and around the President.
And I think Ron is exactly right, there`s probably a lot that we don`t know that the Special Counsel does that relates to the issue of the President`s intent.
O`DONNELL: How secure is Bob Mueller`s job, do you think, in the view of Congress at this point? I know that when he was first appointed, you got universal acclaim for him, especially on the Senate side.
There wasn`t a single Republican senator who had a negative word to say about him and, in fact, most of them were gushing praise about Robert Mueller. That has quieted down. You don`t hear that.
And today, no screams of outrage from any Republicans in Congress, no one rushing to a microphone to say this, absolutely, must not happen. He absolutely must not be fired. Has Robert Mueller`s support among Republicans in Congress collapsed? Could he be fired?
SCHIFF: You know, I wouldn`t say that it`s collapsed, but you certainly see a weakening of the spine of many of the folks in the GOP in Congress who -- when the first suggestions were made by Ruddy and others that the President could fire Mueller, and we had no idea that, actually, the President tried to fire him, you had a ground swell that was in favor of bipartisan legislation that would secure Mueller`s job, that would provide a right of appeal by Mueller if he were fired.
No one has acted on that in the majority. That legislation is still languishing. And what has happened in the interim, frankly, is very concerning. And that is, there has been an escalation of attacks on Mueller in the kind of right wing blogosphere as well as on Fox, and there has been a wholesale attack on the FBI in order to discredit the investigation.
All of that is a signal to the White House, unfortunately, that, hey, they might shrug if he took the step of firing Mueller. People need to speak out now. People that are asked what they think about this, they need to speak out now.
And it`s more important than ever for Republicans in Congress to speak out and say, this is a red line that must not be crossed, that would provoke a constitutional crisis that would bring down this administration. Don`t go there.
Because, Lawrence, I think, depending on where the Special Counsel investigation goes to -- if the Special Counsel, for example, is looking at money laundering, as I believe he should -- you could see another outburst, outrage, by the President that results in another order to fire Bob Mueller and the whole cascade of events that would bring about.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Does the President still want to fire Robert Mueller? Michael Wolff believes the President has not stopped thinking about firing Robert Mueller. More on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Bob Mueller should be allowed to finish his job, and this President should not be allowed to fire him just on a whim. I agree, in this case, with the President`s lawyer. If the President had carried through on that threat, it would have created chaos.
The actions of this President seem to not help his case that there`s no there there. These are not the actions of an individual who`s got nothing to hide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "The Wall Street Journal" reports President Trump`s legal team has been looking studying a 1990s federal court ruling that could be the basis for delaying, limiting, or avoiding an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In that ruling involving an independent counsel seeking White House records related to then-Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, the court ruled that prosecutors hoping to overcome arguments of executive and presidential privilege must show that such information contains important evidence that isn`t available elsewhere.
Also, "Foreign Policy" is reporting on how the White House war on the FBI was born. President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific officials were likely to be witnesses against him as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation.
Back with us, Ron Klain, Jill Wine-Banks, and Matt Miller.
And joining the discussion now, Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
And, Jennifer, so "Foreign Policy" is reporting tonight that in June, which, of course, is when "The New York Times" reported last night the President actually ordered the firing of Robert Mueller -- this very stormy June in the White House -- the President is telling people, we now have to attack the FBI, the higher-ranking people in the FBI because the Special Prosecutor is going to use them apparently to corroborate James Comey`s story.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This reminds me of law school. Find all the bits of evidence of obstruction of justice that you can, and the person who does the most gets the A.
RUBIN: Well, we can all get the A because there is the attempt to get rid of the Attorney General. There was the successful attempt to get rid of the FBI Director. There was the attempt to get rid of Andrew McCabe. There was the attempt now to smear the FBI. It goes on and on and on.
You know, I don`t think this excuse that he is somehow, you know, a babbling fool is going to get him off the hook.
You know, for one thing, he told us, you know, he got a 30 out of 30 on the mental exam. He can a rhino from a lion, so, you know, he`s in tiptop shape. He has got a great brain, so the President is not going to allow himself to be gotten off the hook by the crazy defense.
And I think this is an embarrassment of riches, frankly, for the Special Prosecutor. There are so many bits of evidence of intent. He wants to cripple, he wants to decapitate this investigation because he, obviously, is afraid of what they will find.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, on using the Mike Espy case, I believe that that was all about records as opposed to testimony. And when you`re trying to use executive privilege and you`re saying, you know, you can only have this if you have no other way of getting it, that`s usually something that`s applying to records as opposed to actual testimony.
KLAIN: That`s true, Lawrence, and I`d go farther. In that case, on page 28, it says very clearly that this would be a very different case if the person under investigation was a senior White House aide. Oops, here we are.
And then it goes on further and says, in such a case, it would be easy for the prosecutor to prove a need for the subpoenaed information. So I do not think that the President and his lawyers will get any real protection from this Espy case.
I think it`s a little bit of a fantasy effort on them to think that this Espy case is going to help them. The court specifically carved out the exact situation we have here and said, in that kind of situation, it should be easy for the prosecutors to get the information they want.
O`DONNELL: Jill, this strikes me as the kind of thing you tell a client who is desperate to hear there`s something. There`s just something you can hang your hat on, and maybe they`ll get a hearing day out of a court over it.
WINE-BANKS: Well, they might be able to delay it enough to get a hearing, but the Espy case is really not that different than U.S. v. Nixon, which made it very clear that the President cannot avoid producing evidence if it is about a crime. And that`s exactly what Mueller is looking at.
He`s not looking at something that has to do with political advice or policy advice, any kind of advice that he might have gotten from staff. It is about, how do I commit a crime? How do I obstruct this case? How do I stop the investigation?
That is, clearly, within the purview of what the Supreme Court said the President must comply with. So I think this would be very unwise for the lawyers of the President to be holding out this false hope. I agree with Ron that this is not going to get them very far.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, of course, the Special Prosecutor knows much more than we do about all of this.
And since these two stories we`re talking about here happened in June, I`m wondering if the Special Prosecutor is looking at evidence tonight and has testimony from White House staff saying the President ordered the firing of the Special Prosecutor in June, and, in June, the President told us we had to start attacking the higher-ranking people in the FBI because they will be used in the investigation against the President.
Those two stories could be coming together in this overall investigation.
MILLER: Yes, I assume that`s right. I assume he -- he obviously knows much more than we do, I think. One of the lessons of "The New York Times" story from last night.
Look, all the exculpatory evidence for the President is basically all out there. We know all of that evidence. The President and the White House have been very clear about making their public defense for the President`s conduct.
The evidence that`s damaging to him, we found out last night. A very significant new piece of evidence. And it raises the question, how much more is out there that we don`t know?
And I think if you kind of read between the lines of that story, you know, when you talk about obstruction of justice, it`s not just the President that has potential legal liability here. There are all the aides that could have -- you know, that could have participated in one of these schemes who could be indicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice.
You look at that story last night and you see Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Don McGahn -- all of whom share the same lawyer -- all of whom are portrayed in this story as, at least in this instance when the President wanted to fire Bob Mueller, standing up and saying no.
I think you read that as three aides, you know, trying to make clear that if there is an attempt to bring obstruction of justice charges, here`s at least one instance where they were standing no and can`t be held liable.
O`DONNELL: According to Michael Wolff, the President has not given up on the dream, if you want to call it that, of firing Robert Mueller.
When we come back after this break, let`s go through the scenario if the President actually does fire Robert Mueller. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No collusion. There`s no collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that --
TRUMP: Now, they`re saying, oh, well, did he fight back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what does that --
TRUMP: You fight back.
TRUMP: You fight back. Oh, it`s obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, if the President does continue to move against Mueller and eventually pulls it off -- meaning he fires Rod Rosenstein, he does whatever he has to do in the Justice Department to get someone there to fire the Special Prosecutor -- will Republicans in Congress take a stand against that?
RUBIN: I have come to the conclusion that they will not. Now, firing Mueller, of course, doesn`t end the investigation. The FBI goes on. Whoever replaces Rosenstein can replace the Special Prosecutor. That was the lesson of Watergate, simply firing Archibald Cox did not end the matter.
So the investigation will, frankly, go on, but will Congress do anything? No. And in fact, it`s not simply that they`re being passive. They are now complicit.
You have someone like Devin Nunes, running around trying to create distraction, trying to smear the FBI. You know who is colluding? It`s the White House and Devin Nunes against the FBI and against the Special Prosecutor.
So that group of people who tolerate that behavior, someone like Mr. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who allows Nunes to retain his post, is not going to take up impeachment. These people are not going to do anything.
And we may stumble along until we get to the midterms and then the people of the United States can decide whether they want enablers there or whether they want a Democratic Congress.
So I think we keep hoping for them to kind of figure it out or hoping them to -- it will be the straw that breaks the camel`s back. It isn`t. Nothing is. They live in Earth 2. They`re in the world of Devin Nunes, and they are not, I think, unfortunately, going to come around and do their constitutional duty.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, if the President reached down far enough and found someone after firing Rod Rosenstein, whoever it takes, and got -- and said to that person, you`re going to be, you know, the Acting Deputy Attorney General. You`re going to be empowered to fire the Special Prosecutor, and I also want you to disband the investigation, just completely disband it.
Could he do that?
KLAIN: Well, he can certainly try. I mean, we know that, in fact, the President did a version of this when he fired Sally Yates early on in the administration, reached down far enough to find someone who would do it and got it done. And I assume that`s what he`ll do.
But I think Jennifer is right. Ultimately, you can`t make this all go away. The FBI will be after him. He cannot escape accountability sooner or later.
O`DONNELL: Jill, did you have to consider this, that the possibility of the -- of Nixon actually getting someone to completely not just fire the Special Prosecutor but disband it?
WINE-BANKS: Well, we actually were abolished. If you remember the headlines on the day, the President fired Cox and abolished the office.
We were able to go on for two reasons. One is they didn`t actually bar us from the office, so we showed up on Sunday and Monday. But by Tuesday, we were reappointed and a new Special Prosecutor was appointed.
So it is instructive to look at Watergate. The public pressure forced the President to reverse course and appoint a new Special Prosecutor and allow us to continue. It is true that it could end up badly, though.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks gets a very important last word on this subject tonight.
Jennifer Rubin, Matt Miller, Ron Klain, thank you all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is Joy. I`ll be joining Joy Reid tomorrow morning here on MSNBC at 11:00 a.m. in her show.
And this Sunday night, Ari Melber and Recode co-founder, Kara Swisher, will talk with the CEOs of Google and YouTube in a special town hall event, "Revolution: Google and YouTube Changing the World."
Coming up next on "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS," a look at one of the biggest challenges inside the White House, protecting President Trump from President Trump.
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