Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 7, 2018 Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Michael Avenatti
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari.
You`re going to have to text me your questions for Stormy Daniels`s lawyer.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, "THE BEAT": I`ll do it.
O`DONNELL: I mean, I`ve got a bunch, but I need more from you.
MELBER: I`ll do. I`ll do it right now.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Ari.
We will get to that. We will get to the Stormy Daniels` lawyer`s story, what he has to tell us.
But first, the big question of the night is, has the president been trying to obstruct justice by interfering with witnesses in the special prosecutor`s investigation? President Trump, we all remember, was turned down by all of the best Washington lawyers when he went shopping for a criminal defense lawyer to deal with the special prosecutor`s investigation and congressional investigations. The best lawyers turned Donald Trump down because of his public reputation of not doing what his lawyers tell him to do and not paying his bills.
And tonight, we have more evidence of just how right those Washington lawyers were about Donald Trump when they turned him down. The president keeps doing things that lawyers normally don`t have to advise their clients not to do, like attacking the federal prosecutor who is investigating him and attacking the Justice Department and the entire FBI because they are investigating him. It wouldn`t occur to Washington lawyers to tell their clients do not attack the prosecutors or the lawyers or the FBI or the Justice Department.
But it does occur to every lawyer, every lawyer, to tell their clients not to talk about the case with anyone, especially not to talk about the case with other potential witnesses and people involved in the case. But Donald Trump has done that, and he has done that repeatedly and that is tonight`s breaking news story in the "New York Times", which carries the headline, Trump spoke to witnesses about matters they discussed with special counsel.
"The New York Times" reports on the president`s reaction after "The Times" published an article in January which revealed for the first time that White House counsel Don McGahn told special prosecutor that the president had asked him to fire the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. After that story became public, "The Times" reports, the president told an aide that the White House council, Donald F. McGahn II should issue a statement denying "The New York Times" article.
"The Times" also reports the president asked his former chief of staff Reince Priebus how his interview was with the special counsel`s investigators. "The Times" report contains an extraordinary and detailed description of how the president tried to get Don McGahn to change his story. This would amount to changing his testimony. It shows how the president deliberately involved other White House staff, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, in the president`s attempt to get Don McGahn to change his testimony.
One of the staff members who did the president`s bidding in this episode was John Kelly`s favorite staff member and Hope Hicks boyfriend, Rob Porter, who has since left the White House after it was revealed that his two former wives both accused him of domestic abuse. "The New York Times" reports Rob Porter told Mr. McGahn that the president wanted him to release a statement saying that the story was not true. Mr. Porter who resigned last month amid a domestic abuse scandal told Mr. McGahn that the president had suggested that he might get rid of Mr. McGahn if he chose not to challenge the article the people briefed on the conversation said.
Mr. McGahn did not publicly deny the article and the president later confronted him in the Oval Office, in front of the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, according to the people, the president said he never ordered Mr. McGahn to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn replied that the president was wrong and that he had, in fact, asked Mr. McGahn in June to call the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell him that the special counsel had a series of conflicts that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation and he had to be dismissed.
The president told Mr. McGahn that he did not remember the discussion that way. And so, there you have the president of the United States, in the Oval Office, using White House chief of staff as a witness to that conversation where the president told Don McGahn that he did not remember ordering the firing of the special prosecutor. John Kelly was not yet what the White House chief of staff when the president ordered the firing of the special prosecutor. And so, Donald Trump was trying to turn John Kelly into a witness after the fact.
And John Kelly willingly participated in that conversation where Don McGahn reminded the president of the president`s order to fire the special prosecutor, and the president said, I don`t remember it that way. John Kelly willingly stood there, according to this account, without objection as the president tried to change the testimony of a witness in the special prosecutor`s investigation. The president tried to convince Don McGahn that the president did not say what Don McGahn says the president said.
For this and so many other moments of failure in the role of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly`s only defense is that he is unfit for the job, completely unqualified to be a White House chief of staff. If John Kelly knew how to do his job and knew how to do it with honor, he would not have allowed that conversation to take place or participated in it. If John Kelly knew how to do his job and knew how to do it with honor, he would not have allowed his favorite staffer, Rob Porter, to convey the president`s wish that Don McGahn change his story and accompany it with a threat. Convey the president`s threat that Don McGahn might get fired, that the president might get rid of Don McGahn if Don McGahn did not change his story about the president ordering the firing of the special prosecutor.
And so, tonight, John Kelly sinks to a new low, taking his spot now in the thick of the special prosecutor`s investigation of obstruction of justice in the White House. And Rob Porter is now in the thick of it, too, reportedly passing along the president`s threat to the White House counsel.
Also tonight, "The Washington Post" has the breaking news that the special prosecutor has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in the Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of the participants, according to people familiar with the matter. A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries.
Joining us our discussion, Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University, and former federal prosecutor and MSNBC contributor. Also with us, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at "The Atlantic", covering national security and the Russia investigation. And Sam Stein is with us, politics editor of "The Daily Beast". He`s also an MSNBC contributor.
And, Paul Butler, I want to go to this scene in the Oval Office where you hear the president of the United States talking to Don McGahn about a story that`s emerged in the "New York Times" about what Don McGahn has told the special prosecutor. And there we see in that moment the president trying to get Don McGahn to change his story.
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. So, the impression is that the president is trying to coach witnesses to relay the president`s version of events, even if the president`s version of events is a lie. So, there`s a crime called witness tampering. What we`ve heard so far probably doesn`t rise to that level because witness tampering requires some kind of threat or intimidation.
What the president did though is more evidence of obstruction of justice. Like he tried to -- or did fire James Comey, if he`s trying to get witnesses to come around to his version, that counts as trying to impede a investigation, trying to derail the investigation, and it also creates the impression that the president is hiding something. So it`s what lawyers call consciousness of guilt.
And finally, Lawrence, as you said at the outset, his lawyers have to be saying, Mr. President, please don`t talk about the case with anybody. And so, he`s the world`s worst client for a lawyer because he does not listen and that`s not in his best interests.
O`DONNELL: And, Natasha Bertrand, we now know that John Kelly is a person of interest to the special prosecutor, who`s going to want to know exactly what he heard the president say in that conversation that was just described in "The New York Times" and what he heard Don McGahn say, rob porter also now has to be a witness, telling the special prosecutor everything that the president said to him to convey to Don McGahn, including the possible threat of getting fired.
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Right. And one of the biggest reasons why it`s such a big problem for the president to be kind of venting about the Russia investigation to his aides in the Oval Office is that it creates more legal exposure for him because these are just more witnesses that can then tell Mueller if they`re called in to be interviewed by him about what the president has been saying and about his state of mind when he did all of these things, and state of mind, of course, is the most important thing when you`re trying to figure out whether someone has attempted to obstruct justice.
Now, if this entire episode had happened in a vacuum, say, and Donald Trump was just, you know, complaining about, you know, something that he thought he remembered differently in terms of McGahn`s testimony to Mueller, then perhaps you could give him the benefit of the doubt. But when you take this in conjunction with everything else we`ve seen from this president, you know, asking his CIA director, the director of national intelligence, to put pressure on the intelligence community to drop the case into Michael Flynn, venting and erupting at his attorney general for recusing himself in the Russia investigation and firing FBI Director James Comey back in May, then it really starts to create a pattern that you can`t ignore.
O`DONNELL: And, Sam Stein, the -- as the Mueller witness list expands almost daily when we get accounts like this, of course, this adds to this legal jeopardy that every member of the White House staff seems to be experiencing every day, and that is the possibility of Donald Trump can send you on an errand across the hall to go tell Don McGahn this and suddenly that`s going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars, at minimum, in legal fees dealing with this investigation.
SAM STEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: And we sort of had the real life illustration of the emotional, psychological toll that can take a few nights ago, when Sam Nunberg went on a cable news bonanza rant and said he wasn`t going to produce e-mails. And part of that was the cost, it`s prohibitive. We`re talking about tens of thousands of dollars, and for aides who aren`t making a lot of money already by the fact they`re in public service, that is a costly, costly endeavor. It`s part of the reason why Trump is having so much trouble hiring people is they don`t want to expose themselves legally.
I would like to add one thing that it may seem sort of simple and a non- sophisticated analysis here, but what struck me about this story and the Seychelles story in "The Washington Post" is just how easy and simply these people lie. What Donald Trump did, essentially, was he told Don McGahn go lie. Go lie. Either that or Donald Trump had lost his memory about their conversation.
And what Erik Prince did to members of Congress is he lied. He basically said, no, the meeting wasn`t for a back channel, I happened to be having a beer and there was an Russia emissary there, and I got to talk and that was that. Well, it turns, a separate witness for the Mueller probe says, no, that`s a lie.
Maybe I`m naive to think that this shouldn`t be normal, but it is remarkable to me how cavalier these people are about the truth.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Paul, I want to go about the ease with which they lie in situations where it can involve legal jeopardy. But first, I want to listen to what Erik Prince actually said. This is in a sense a version of what he told the House Committee, that these new reports tonight are disproving.
Let`s listen to Erik Prince`s description of what happened in the Seychelles in those meetings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK PRINCE, FOUNDER OF BLACKWATER: I met him in a bar, chatted for 20 or 30 minutes and that was that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why should you meet him? So, you were in the Seychelles, why should you meet that Russian guy? What was the reason to meet him?
PRINCE: The Emirati said it`s someone they done business with before and it would be an interesting guy for you to know. So I had a beer with him. I don`t know if he had a beer. He probably had vodka. But --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that meeting --
PRINCE: And after that, I had no contact with him or any of his colleagues at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Paul Butler, the reports tonight indicate no this meeting that Erik Prince participated in was deliberately set up and scheduled exactly as it unfolded before he got there.
BUTLER: So, Prince lied about the purpose of the meeting, he lied about who set it up and he lied about who else was there. So, what Robert Mueller is doing now is subpoenaing e-mail travel records, if he can prove, which he can that George Nader was also at the meeting, Mr. Nader is cooperating with him, then he`s caught Prince in a lie.
And we know that special prosecutor Mueller has a bad attitude about people lying to federal investigators. We look at people who`s already charged with crimes, people who pled guilty, we`ve got Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Gates all pled guilty to lying to the government. So, Prince might very well be next.
O`DONNELL: Natasha, the new details about this meeting, where does that lead now in this investigation?
BERTRAND: Well, it`s going to help Mueller establish even in a stronger sense whether or not and to what extent, the Trump transition team and later the administration and, of course, earlier the campaign was trying to create back channels to Russia. We still don`t know necessarily why that is, but this meeting in the Seychelles is very, very important.
And the fact that George Nader, who`s this, you know, Lebanese-American businessman with extensive ties in the Middle East, a fixture in Washington, D.C., for the last couple of decade, the fact he was there and representing the Emiratis really is very, very telling, because George Nader and Erik Prince have known each other since at least 2003, well over a decade. And the fact that Erik Prince felt the need to fly all the way to that island just to meet with someone and people that he was with, Emirati officials he was with, who he could have easily met with in the UAE where Erik Prince lives just stretches all credulity. I mean, there must have been another reason for him to fly to the Seychelles, you know, apart from just meeting with someone who he has a very close relationship with already.
O`DONNELL: Natasha Bertrand gets the last word on this round of the discussion.
Paul Butler and Natasha Bertrand, thank you for joining us.
Sam Stein, please stick around.
Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump and President Trump and his lawyer are doing everything they can to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. And strangely enough, Donald Trump has never denied what Stormy Daniels has had to say about him. Donald Trump attacks anyone who gets in his way, including the special prosecutor, but he is afraid of attacking Stormy Daniels.
We will see if Stormy Daniels` lawyer knows why. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: The two people who the president of the United States seems to fear the most are Vladimir Putin and Stormy Daniels. And it may be that Stormy Daniels is one of the reasons that Donald Trump fears Vladimir Putin so much if Putin`s agents have been searching for information with which to blackmail Donald Trump for some years now, there would be no reason to limit their interest to what Donald Trump might or might not have done in Moscow hotel rooms.
So, it may be that Vladimir Putin knew much more about Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels and knew it before the rest of us did. Tonight, we all know a lot more about Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, thanks to Stormy Daniels` lawsuit against Donald J. Trump, aka David Dennison and that is actually how the lawsuit reads, and that has Donald Trump and his lawyers all the more worried.
NBC News reported today Donald Trump`s lawyer Michael Cohen is trying to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels obtaining a secret restraining order and a private arbitration proceeding and warning that she faces penalties if she discusses her relationship with the president. Stormy Daniels is suing Donald Trump to void an agreement -- an agreement that she signed with Donald Trump`s lawyers to prevent her from ever revealing any information about her relationship with Donald Trump.
Stormy Daniels signed that agreement 11 days before the presidential election in 2016. In 2011, Stormy Daniels gave an interview to "In Touch Weekly" which they did not then publish in which she described some of the details of having sex with Donald Trump in a hotel suite at Lake Tahoe that occurred a few months after Donald Trump`s third wife Melania gave birth to their son.
Stormy Daniels told "In Touch" that she asked Donald Trump that night about his wife and he said, oh, don`t worry about her. She also said this, the sex was nothing crazy. He wasn`t like chain me to a bed or anything. It was one position. I can definitely describe his junk perfectly if I ever have to. He definitely seemed smitten after that. He was like I want to see you again, when can I see you again.
Stormy Daniels`s lawsuit claims that her confidentiality agreement has been breached by Michael Cohen when Cohen told the "New York Times", quote, in a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford, that`s Stormy Daniels real name. Neither the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign was party to this transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.
The lawsuit also claims that the confidentiality of the agreement is void because Donald Trump never signed it in the space provided for the signature of David Dennison, his alias for that agreement.
Today, the White House press secretary said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed this directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true. This case has already been won in arbitration and anything beyond that I would refer you to the president`s outside counsel.
REPORTER: You said there`s arbitration that`s already been won by whom and when?
SANDERS: By the president`s personal attorneys for details on that I would refer you to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And for details on that, we now turn to Stormy Daniels` lawyer, attorney Michael Avenatti.
Mr. Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
I want to get your reaction first of all to what the White House press secretary just said there.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: How do I say this kindly? Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
You know, I personally like Ms. Sanders. I think she has a near impossible job but the fact of the matter is -- I`m confident she didn`t know that it was nonsense when she effectively told that to the world.
But it`s absolutely bogus. It`s nonsense. Any claim by the administration that Donald Trump won in arbitration is no different than me claiming I won the Super Bowl a few weeks ago. It`s complete hooey.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I read the arbitration order today. It`s a temporary order that is superseded as far as I can tell by your lawsuit which simply includes that as one of the things that your lawsuit is being brought against. I want to talk about --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
AVENATTI: Well, let me just interrupt you if I could. I mean, it`s even more simple than that. If you look at the temporary restraining order, there`s one party adverse to PP, which is my client, which is EC. That`s the entity that Mr. Cohen set up to facilitate the payment -- to hide the payment, at least that`s our position.
Donald Trump is not even a party to the arbitration. How can you win an arbitration that you`re not even a party to? It`s impossible.
And if there`s one thing we know from the last five or six weeks, it`s that -- and if there`s one thing that Mr. Cohen has made absolutely clear in his statements to "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" and anyone who would listen is that supposedly EC is different than Donald Trump.
Well, if EC is different than Donald Trump for the purposes of the payment, then EC is different than Donald Trump for purposes of the arbitration. You can`t win something you`re not a party to.
O`DONNELL: Did Stormy Daniels tell the truth to "In Touch" magazine the details of her relationship with Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. And I think ultimately, if she`s provided a forum to tell the complete story, I think the American people are going to conclude that she`s telling the truth. And really, Lawrence, that`s what this is about.
This is about my client being able to tell her story, tell her version of the events and let the chips fall where they may. Let the American people decide who`s telling the truth. Let the American people decide, is it Stormy Daniels shooting straight with them or is it Donald Trump? Is it Stormy Daniels or Michael Cohen? Is it Stormy Daniels or Ms. Sanders?
And we`re confident in the outcome were that to take place.
O`DONNELL: So, Stormy Daniels`s story is she had sex with Donald Trump, she described that in some detail in the "In Touch" interview. Donald Trump, to my knowledge, has never contradicted Stormy Daniels. He`s never attacked her.
This is the one person, the one woman who has come out and stood in Donald Trump`s way, for some reason Donald Trump seems to be afraid of her. Can you give us any insight as to why Donald Trump remains absolutely silent about Stormy Daniels? This is the one woman he refuses to attack.
AVENATTI: The truth hurts. And I think really that`s what it comes down to. I mean, this is a search for the truth. And quite honestly, if he doesn`t have anything to hide, I don`t understand what the issue is.
You know, that old saying that people that have nothing to hide, hide nothing. And here --
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s talk about -- let`s talk about some of the things the agreement -- signed agreement was trying to hide. One of the things it specifies is that Stormy Daniels was agreeing to completely divest herself and it lists a bunch of things, including video images, still images or any other type of creation by David Dennison, meaning any video images or still images created by Donald Trump.
Did she have any video images or still images created by Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: That`s a question I`m not going to answer. That`s a question my client will answer at the appropriate time if she`s ever permitted to talk and give her side of the story.
O`DONNELL: And it also says at another point in the agreement that Stormy Daniels represents that she has actually turned over such things. There`s a line where it says she represents that the only copy of the images and property that has ever existed at any time has been turned over to Donald Trump`s counsel. Are you aware of her having turned over anything like that, images, to Donald Trump`s counsel?
AVENATTI: Again, Lawrence, this is a question that`s going to have to be addressed to my client at the appropriate time and she`s going to be fully prepared to answer.
O`DONNELL: OK, there`s just one other detail of what they were trying to hide in this confidentiality agreement that I`d like to go over with you and tell us what you can about it if anything. I just want to read it for the audience. This is something that`s their definition of confidential information. It includes all intangible private information relating to or pertaining to Donald Trump, including business information, familial information, any of his alleged sexual partners, alleged sexual actions, or alleged sexual conduct related matters or paternity information.
Do -- are you aware of your client having anything to say about paternity information involving Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: Again, Lawrence, when my client is provided the opportunity to speak freely and honestly and openly to the American people, I don`t think she`s going to hold back. I think she`s going to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and we`re going to let the American people decide who`s telling the truth.
O`DONNELL: Can you give us an outline of what you`re expecting with the next legal steps here?
AVENATTI: Well, quite honestly, I wasn`t expecting Ms. Sanders` statement at the White House, which is patently false. So, it`s always an interesting ride I guess when you`re dealing with the administration. So, we don`t know what to anticipate.
But here`s what we`d like to anticipate. Here`s what we`d like to see. A few very basic questions, this case really boils down to a few basic questions, and it really is this simple.
Number one, did the president know of the negotiation, the agreement, the payment of the $130,000, and the issues relating to our client. That`s number one. That can be answered in less than 140 characters. It`s either yes or no. It`s very straightforward.
Second question. Did Donald Trump sign the agreement, yes or no?
Answers to those two questions is really going to frame this lawsuit and it`s really going to decide a lot in connection with this case. This doesn`t have to drag on for a significant period of time. Our position is clear. He never signed the agreement, even though he knew all about it, and therefore, she`s free to speak.
If the White House or Mr. Cohen has any evidence that he actually signed the agreement, they should be disseminating it not tomorrow morning, tonight. Let`s get it out there. Let`s find out if he actually signed the agreement.
And at some point -- at some point, Lawrence, the president of the United States needs to answer the very basic questions relating to his relationship with Ms. Daniels. He needs to do so just like Bill Clinton did, just like Gary Hart did, just like countless other politicians have done over the last 30 years, period.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Michael Abbenante, I guarantee you that years of this program at this moment are tweeting your questions to Donald Trump right now. We`ll see if you get the answers that way. Michael Abbenante
ABBENANTE: Lawrence, it`s been a long day, and suffice it to say I`m not going to be holding my breath.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate you sticking with us tonight. And staying with us this late, really appreciate it.
ABBENANTE: thank you. Thank you Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well Donald trump has set a record. He has fired more people and had more people quit on him in his first year than any other President. And now there are reports that Rachel`s big board is going to have to get way bigger. That`s next
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Ned Price, former Senior Director and spokesperson for the National Security Council, former CIA Analyst and an MSNBC Contributor and Sam Stein is still with us. And Ned, I want to talk about what we just heard in terms of the security clearance circus that we`ve seen in this White House. And just imagine Donald Trump having been selected say to be Secretary of Commerce in another Republican Administration and he went through the security clearance, the background check that the FBI would go through. And we know now the kinds of things they would have come across, but let`s just talk about this. Let`s just talk about they come across this confidentiality agreement with Stormy Daniels about the existence of all this possible imagery and video and questions of paternity all of these things buried into a confidentiality agreement, what would be the FBI`S reaction with that background check?
NED PRICE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well Lawrence quite frankly I don`t think Donald Trump would have made it that far. First of all he would have had to turn over his tax returns, something he would have been loathe to do. So that would have eliminated him right there. But were he to make it past that step, Lawrence, what investigators look for when they`re determining suitability for a security clearance more than anything is leverage, whether there`s any party that could have leverage over that individual in a high level government job. Typically that is leverage on the part of a foreign government, has someone done something embarrassing in foreign country, does someone own foreign assets, does someone have foreign interest that would make him or her susceptible to influence on the part of that foreign party.
But leverage need not to be exclusive foreign. And clearly Donald Trump, if these allegations are true, there are people who clearly have what seem to be a lot of leverage over him. We may not know the full extent given some of the details that you read from that gag order that leave more questions than answers.
O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, it seems in this one case that Donald Trump and the White House are using the classic play book of scandal management which is don`t say anything about it, hope that other news will overtake it and don`t say anything that keeps it alive. So that`s one theory by which Donald Trump has refused to say a single word about Stormy Daniels. But this is the very same guy who attacks every other woman who comes out and says anything about him.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I`m glad you came to me. My major in journalism school was the legal machinations of nondisclosure agreements involving porn actresses so this is right up my alley. I think what`s happening is there`s not much for him to say. If you step back and say would your lawyer, your personal attorney in this case Michael Cohen, sign a nondisclosure agreement of $130,000, without tell you, just forking over his money, the answer of course is no.
I mean if were just about thinking about this soberly and practically, it seems very evident that Donald Trump knew about this, helped orchestrate it. And the reason he`s not saying anything about it is that if he were to say something inevitably something bad would happen. So he`s showing a little bit of discipline. I supposed that news because because he usually can`t help himself.
But I do think the alternative options are all bad. And also there are other things overtaking this, as juicing and target as the story is, there are a lot of other more -- even more legitimate scandals here that the President is dealing with.
O`DONNELL: But Ned, that is the tricky thing about these situations. It seemed, at various points that the whitewater investigation was about what the media perceived to be more serious things that Paula Jones` accusations against Bill Clinton but it was her accusation that is did the most damage.
PRICE: Well that`s right. And I think there are certainly parallels to what we see in the Mueller probe. You have to remember that this started -- this investigation was predicated on the allegation there may have been collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. But there`s a little clause in the directive that Rod Rosenstein gave to Bob Mueller and it said he has the authority to investigator any ancillary matters. Matters attendant to the core investigation here. and while we don`t know a lot of what Bob Mueller is doing, we`ve certainly seen a lot of reporting that seems credible about his investigation into Donald Trump`s finances, into Donald Trump`s overseas business deals into those of his societies.
So this investigation is moving in any number of direction and of course layered on top of that you have Donald Trump`s own efforts to obstruct Bob Mueller`s investigation which in turn be one of the straws that breaks this President`s back.
O`DONNELL: Sam, I think as you know as you`ve seen other interviews with Michael Avenatti that I wasn`t the first one to ask him does Stormy Daniels have videos, does she have photographs, you know, what does she have, so he`s not in a position to answer that now. But that`s a question that could be put to the White House, because in this confidentiality agreement, it says that she is ordered to hand over what they call video images and still images and then it says she has already handed over some images.
And so a very simple question to the trump side of this, to Michael Cohen, to the White House, what images did you get from Stormy Daniels? What videos did you get from Stormy Daniels?
STEIN: I mean my -- if the question were to be asked, my theory would be that the White House would punt all of this off to Cohen or just assume they are not going to say anything about it because there are some legal prohibitions from him talking about it, but it`s a totally legitimate question to ask. And I think it`s fair to say, at least tonight, that we`re heading to a place where there`s going to be enough political pressure and perhaps enough legal room to maneuver for those images, texts, whatever they are, to actually be made public.
I`ve no idea what`s in those texts, I don`t know, I can`t even message what`s in those texts, I`m curious. But it was only a couple weeks ago we assumed the story would die and then the Washington Post broke it open. So I assume there`s going to be a couple more chapters.
O`DONNELL: You know and Ned there`s another about this story. I didn`t say much or anything about the Stormy Daniels story as it started to break in the last -- I don`t know, it feel like first couple weeks now. That`s unusual that we would be this far down the road of a Trump scandal and it`s only now getting a significant amount of coverage in this hour because usually these things are overtaken by the next Trump scandal. And that`s apparently what they were betting on. This one has a life to it that is a bit surprising.
PRICE: Well, it has a life to it that`s surprising. And when you take a step back and look from affair where we are, this is a scandal involving the President of the United States with a massive payoff -- or what appears to be a payoff, I should say to a prostitute with whom he allegedly had an affair. The payoff was orchestrated and facilitated by his attorney. And this is now just starting to percolate, just now weeks later after some of these details first started to came out.
This is just starting to gain traction. Look I cannot imagine that being the case in any other administration, and I think you`re right in some ways the administration has benefitted from the fact that there`s a scandal dajour in most cases. They benefitted from the fact that if you wait long enough the next shiny object will come. Unfortunately for them this shiny object has not gone away and it seems like it`s starting to heat up.
O`DONNELL: And Sam, Michael Cohen is in his own kind of trouble in the New York State Bar. In the lawsuit Avenatti points out that it is a violation of 1.4 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to not pass on offers of settlement to a client or to reach a settlement without informing the client, without the client`s consent, without the client`s direction. All of that is specified in here and Michael Cohen is claiming he was doing all of that in what would be the violation of lawyers` rules in these cases.
STEIN: Well and this gets to your last question which why has this thing persisted as a story to the fact we`re talking about it three weeks or a month later. And the truth is it`s the handling of it by Michael Cohen. I mean Michael Cohen came out at first refused to say, deny anything, deny anything happened, denied the story. Then casually admitted that you know he may have set up an entity in Delaware to pay this. But certainly Donald Trump didn`t know about this. And now we`re actually starting to see primary documents that call into question the entire merit from start to finish. And until Michael Cohen gets his story straight I imagine we`ll still be asking questions.
O`DONNELL: Well we didn`t get to talk about all those people being fired or quitting from the White House.
STEIN: You have a porn star scandal. You can only do so much.
O`DONNELL: I have a feeling if Michael Cohen was a White House staffer he might be on Rachel`s big board by now as being getting kicked out of there. We`re going to have to covering that one another night. Ned Price, Sam Stein, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks Lawrence.
PRICE: Thanks very much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well they said it couldn`t be done. But the kids have done it. The kids have moved the mountain. On their first day back to regular classes. The student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school won a big legislative victory on the guns in the overwhelmingly Republican Florida legislature. That story is next.
O`DONNELL: The kids are moving the mountain. Today on the first full day of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since the Valentine`s Day Mass Murder there, the Florida House of Representatives actually did something today on gun safety. They did something. The overwhelming Republican Florida House overwhelming Republican Florida House of Representatives by a vote of 67 to 50 passed a bill that imposes a three- day waiting period for most purchases of long guns and raises that minimum age for purchasing those weapons in Florida from 18 to 21.
It also provides $100 million to improve school security. None of that. None of it would have happened without the protests led by the students of Stoneman Douglas High and also today, the Trump Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the Stoneman Douglas High School but did not allow reporters to cover her visit to the school.
Many of the student had reactions to her visit on Twitter. Ally tweeted, do something unexpected, answer our questions. You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minute you were here. How do you do your job? Never again. Do your job? Secretary DeVos finally spoke to reporters after leaving the high school when she stopped at a hotel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETSY DEVOS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Let`s be clear. I think to say arming teachers is an over simplification and a mischaracterization really. I think the -- the concept is to for those schools and those communities that opt to do this as they have in Texas and as they have Polk County and other places around the country, to have people who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of training in order to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is David Hogg. He is a survivor of the attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school. David, thank you very how much for joining us Once again. I first of all wanted to get your reaction to what you actually accomplished today, and you get the credit for it, the legislation that passed the House of Representatives in Florida.
DAVID HOGG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think my reaction -- my reaction to that is, it`s a small step in a much bigger movement. I`m glad to see we`ve finally seen some movement. But the fact is that until Governor Scott signs off on this bill nothing -- none of this really matters unless it`s signed into law. And along with that, it`s just the fact that everything that we`ve been doing -- I shouldn`t be taking credit for this, it`s everybody that`s been there, everybody that was there in Tallahassee from the beginning, and everybody that stood up, spoken out on twitter, spoken to their local legislators, and really gotten this action to be pushed through because we`ve seen time and time again these bills have failed for the assault weapons ban and different things that are around gun control.
Now we`re starting to see this action because we`re showing our persistence. These politicians know they should be scared because we are the future voters and we are the future.
O`DONNELL: David I got tell you I`ve been watching this legislatively for a very long time and I can`t think of a tougher place to pass that bill than the Florida House of Representatives. And that -- especially that issue of raising that age from 18 to 21. That was something you people made happen. some of those representatives who voted to did that today were arguing against it even after the shooting, as you know, in Tallahassee, you heard them arguing against raising that age. But you got them there. And I also want to get your reaction to Betsy DeVos have a do is` visit to the school today.
HOGG: My reaction to Betsy Devos` visit to the school, she was talking about a bunch of different things while she was there. But one of the main things I think people need to realize is she didn`t go to a public school. She basically has no experience in public school. She donated $200 million to the Republican Party and that`s how she got into this place, pay to play politics, it`s disgusting. She has no previous experience in this area.
She`s on from corporate America that`s working on behalf of the Trump Administration and really isn`t doing anything. Because if she was going to do things, she would have done that before she got in this position. And one of my friends asked her, how are you going to increase spending, like for schools and stuff like that? She didn`t have an answer.
She was honestly like, I don`t know. That`s the disgusting state of politics this country is in. She went too a school that was in an active shooting, where 17 people died, just to make herself look better. She didn`t actually do anything, she hasn`t done anything, and she probably won`t. I`d love for her to prove me wrong. But at this point, will she?
O`DONNELL: David, I think you might know that the president`s next scheduled meeting about what he says is about school safety, the subject is going to be video games. What do you think the President will learn from video games?
HOGG: has he ever even played a video game? I don`t think that`s what we need to be focusing on in this situation. Schools are important. And what I would love to see is perhaps a 5 percent to 10 percent tax on all firearms sales that goes specifically as a categorical grant from the Federal Government to state governments where they spend all this money to harden schools.
The way they can push these things through, put in bullet-proof glass, they could diversify it to every congressional and state legislative district so every person gets jobs in the district. the price is high right new are now but when more schools start implementing these methods of hardening their schools with bullet proof glass, bullet proof doors and different locks, we will see the price going down and lives being saved. But it`s also important to focus on the fact that this isn`t about video games. This isn`t just about schools,
This is about lives. That is what we need to be focusing on. It`s not just about schools. It`s important to focus on hardening schools because that`s where a lot of the these atrocities happen. That`s like at pulse, Las Vegas. so many concerts, so many amazing people have died in these incidents now we`re only starting to see action. When is it going to stop? that`s my question.
O`DONNELL: David Hogg, thank you for joining us again tonight. I`ve been admiring how you`ve conducted yourself since this shooting brought you to our attention. I`m only sorry that you and I have had to meet the way that we have. I wish we could be talking about something else. Thank you very much again for joining us tonight.
HOGG: Thank You.
O`DONNELL: Well we have some breaking news from the White House that`s just in. we`re going to have that for you next
O`DONNELL: breaking news tonight about what the president is not going to do tomorrow. We are now joined by phone by Stephanie Ruhle, who has some reporting on this. Stephanie, what have you learned?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Indeed I do. President Trump spent his day being lobbied by men against moving forward on these tariffs, or at least working on carve-outs. Those trying to convince the president to pull back had gotten him to carve out ally nations, Canada and Mexico. But the President, though it was never on the official schedule, had plans to have a signing meeting, a ceremony tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. at the White House. And there they were inviting some steel executives, some steel workers. Based on my reporting, that is no longer going to happen. It appears that President Trump, though he`s got a lot to say, is now not quite ready to sign this tariff.
O`DONNELL: So the schedule shows that he is going to have his meeting about video games tomorrow. But he is not going to launch a trade war tomorrow?
RUHLE: And remember, the meeting about video games is far more in line with President Trump and his listening tours. You know how he likes those. He nods and says yes to whatever group or whatever stakeholders are in the room. And then when that meeting`s over, he changes his tune. So on tariffs, this is where the rubber meets the road. You sign that agreement, it`s a go. It seems he`s not quite ready to do that.
O`DONNELL: Stephanie, the understanding is that Gary Cohn is kind of out of the debate in the white house, but he`s still technically working there. Has he been influential in what`s happened today?
RUHLE: Definitely I would not say Gary`s out of the debate. Gary out of the White House in a little over a week but he`s definitely engaged in this. I mean it was Kevin Brady, though, today who had over 100 signatures, from what I understand, of other Republicans urging the President to think again. And while Gary is leaving the administration, he and others are definitely lobbying the President to really think about this. And not as a policy idea. They know what the President`s policy ideas are. But if the President wants to make an America first plan to help the American worker and help the American economy, it`s not America alone. And a 10% and 25% tariff, that`s not going to do anything but hurt us.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: Very important reporting, Stephanie. Thank you very much for joining us with that important reporting tonight. Stephanie Ruhle gets tonight`s "Last Word."
RUHLE: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: "The 11th Hour With Brian Williams" starts now. END