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Trump silent about alleged affairs. TRANSCRIPT: 03/23/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Maria Teresa Kumar, Ruth Marcus, Tom Nichols, Betsy Woodruff, Judd Legum, Ryan Deitsch, Adam Alhanti

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL March 23, 2018 Guest: Maria Teresa Kumar, Ruth Marcus, Tom Nichols, Betsy Woodruff, Judd Legum, Ryan Deitsch, Adam Alhanti


Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, from Washington where we`re going to have some of the students join us later in this hour.

I will be out on the street with them tomorrow, talking to them as they work their way through this march. Some of them will join me here in the studio tomorrow night when it`s all over.

MADDOW: Excellent.

O`DONNELL: I`ll be doing the 9:00 hour tomorrow night on MSNBC with our coverage. But, Rachel --


O`DONNELL: -- you stopped me cold in the middle of your T.V. show tonight when you predicted for us what is going to happen in the news on Sunday to overshadow the Stormy Daniels interview on "60 Minutes." Do you want to repeat that for the nation?

MADDOW: Purely a guess.

O`DONNELL: Because --

MADDOW: Purely a guess. I just --


MADDOW: Just looking at the fact that, so last night, there was the interview with Karen McDougal on CNN. And 90 minutes before that happened, there was this dramatic announcement from the President that the national security adviser had been fired and was being replaced by John Bolton.

Open speculation, including by people in the White House, that that surprise timing by the President was about trying to overshadow that interview.

Another interview that is probably even higher stakes is planned for "60 Minutes" on Sunday night. If that distraction -- if that announcement last night was planned as a distraction, what could we expect to distract from the "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday?

My -- well, I have a betting pool with my staff -- where there`s no money at stake, it`s just tacos. But what -- the box that I picked was the action will be pardon for Mike Flynn and the timing will be early afternoon on Sunday.

And so I have tacos riding on that, but it doesn`t mean I`m hoping for it.

O`DONNELL: One more thing, Rachel.


O`DONNELL: Does that mean I`m going to have to work on Sunday? That sounds like a really big story.

MADDOW: Well, if you`re working Saturday night and then that happens on Sunday, the problem is that you won`t get credit for Saturday. They`ll be like, oh, he`s around and near the studio. Let`s get him in. So, yes, probably.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know who you`re talking about who`d be unfair about the credit, Rachel. I don`t know who that could possibly be.


O`DONNELL: But I think you`re going to have to work on Sunday if that happens, Rachel. If that actually -- if your prediction comes true, forget about the rest of your weekend.

MADDOW: Days of the week don`t even matter anymore, Lawrence. Have you looked around any time recently?



O`DONNELL: Hey, hey, if it happens, Rachel, I will join you Sunday to talk about that.

MADDOW: All right. Deal.


MADDOW: Deal, my friend. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, this is not Donald Trump`s Washington. Not tonight, not this weekend. The President has fled to Florida and the kids from Florida have taken over Washington.

Everywhere you go in Washington today, tonight, and the rest of the weekend, everyone is hoping to run into, to catch a glimpse of, to have a moment with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who decided that this weekend would be their weekend in Washington. Some of them will join us later in this hour.

The students scheduled their March for Our Lives for tomorrow, and they instantly attracted people from all over the country, including some very famous people who don`t normally participate in public protests. The kinds of people -- the kind of Hollywood stars who Donald Trump really hoped would attend his inauguration, but, of course, they would have nothing to do with that inauguration.

The Republican Congress made sure that they got out of town before the protesters took over this town. They voted on their massive budget bill yesterday and delivered it to the President for his signature today. And, of course, the President did what he said he would not do -- he signed the bill.

Because this is Donald Trump and he has no idea what he`s doing in the presidency, he promised to sign the bill when it was being negotiated in the House and the Senate.

And then when the bill was completely finished and ready to be voted on, the President promised Paul Ryan -- personally promised Paul Ryan -- that he would sign Paul Ryan`s bill.

And then the President started hearing complaints about the deficit spending in the bill on Fox News. And so then because of his bumbling incompetence, because that incompetence knows no bounds, the President threatened to veto the bill on Twitter this morning after the House and Senate had voted on it.

He said I am considering a veto on the omnibus spending bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats. Not even mentioned in the bill. And the border wall, which is desperately needed for our national defense, is not fully funded.

OK. Not only was the Trump wall not fully funded in this bill, it was not funded at all. The President wants $25 billion to fund his wall, and this bill has just over $1 billion for what is called secondary fencing and repairs to the current border structures, which are mostly fences.

But the bill does not provide for building any new structures on the southern border. No new Trump border wall. Not one foot of the wall.

And when Rush Limbaugh watched the President sign that bill, he didn`t feel very good.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW": I`m not liking the way I`m feeling. I`m feeling like I just saw Donald Trump get on the escalator and go back up.


O`DONNELL: During the campaign, Donald Trump promised Rush Limbaugh and everyone he tricked into voting for him that what happened today would never happen. Donald Trump would always dictate the terms of legislation that he signed because being a winner dealmaker with the Congress would be just so easy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need a leader that wrote the art of the deal.

Lots of wonderful deals, great deals. That`s what I do.

I do hundreds of deals. I deal -- the deals come out of my ears.

If you can`t make a good deal with a politician, then there`s something wrong with you. You`re certainly not very good.


O`DONNELL: Certainly not very good. And here. Here is what the President said today about the bill that he promised to sign then threatened to veto and then signed.


TRUMP: There are a lot of things that I`m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn`t have had in this bill, but we were, in a sense, forced. If we want to build our military, we were forced to have it.

I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I`m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It`s only hours old.


O`DONNELL: Nobody read it. That`s his complaint. Donald Trump famously is incapable of reading. He just can`t stand reading.

Donald Trump certainly didn`t read it, and now he`s angry because everyone else followed the President`s lead on this one and didn`t read it before they made up their minds about it.

As the President was leaving the bill, signing off the bill that he threatened to veto before he signed it, and then complained about it, he was asked about the two most important women in his life this week.


TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal lying about the affairs?


O`DONNELL: And that moment shows once again how Donald Trump is the worst strategist and worst presenter of self in the history of the American presidency.

If you`re going to be a politician at any level, never mind the presidency, if you`re going to be the mayor of the small town, there are going to be many, many moments when the best thing for you to say, the only thing you can say is nothing. Silence.

That means you have to be prepared to walk away from questions, to ignore challenges, but Donald Trump has never done that. Donald Trump has always fought back against everything said about him that he does not like. Always. Except for when he is afraid.

The only time Donald Trump uses silence is when he is abjectly terrified of saying a single word. And I cannot say that about any other politician because other politicians are smart enough to use silence in a variety of ways so that we usually don`t know what the silence actually means.

But Donald Trump has foolishly turned silence into a tell. Donald Trump`s silence always tells us exactly what he`s feeling. And that feeling is terror.

Donald Trump is not just afraid of Stormy Daniels. He is terrified into silence by her. Donald Trump is not just afraid of Karen McDougal. He is terrified into silence by her.

Karen McDougal is a former "Playboy" model who allegedly had an ongoing romantic sexual affair with Donald Trump at the same time that Donald Trump was allegedly sexually involved with the porn star Stormy Daniels.

And I`m not sure how the word allegedly got into this teleprompter right there, but last night, Karen McDougal said that Donald Trump said "I love you" to her many, many times.

Donald Trump was saying "I love you" to Karen McDougal just months after his third and current wife gave birth to his fifth child.

And Karen McDougal says he often mentioned his first daughter, who was born to his first wife.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did he ever compare you to any of his kids?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER MODEL, PLAYBOY: You know, he -- he is very proud of Ivanka. As he should be. I mean, she`s a brilliant woman. She`s beautiful. She is -- you know, that`s his daughter, and he should be proud of her.

He said I was beautiful like her. And, you know, you`re a smart girl. And there wasn`t a lot of comparing, but there was some, yes. I heard a lot about her. Mm-hmm, yes.


O`DONNELL: In a report in "The Wall Street Journal" tonight on the chaos inside the Trump White House, one White House official said, quote, never been this wild.

White House Counsel Don McGahn is 49 years old going on a hundred. He gets home late every night as White House Counsels always do. He doesn`t spend as much time as he should with his young children, which is always true of White House counsels who have young children.

But every other White House Counsel has taken time away from their kids in the service of a presidency they believe in. Don McGahn is doing it for Donald Trump.

Don McGahn reportedly threatened to resign when Donald Trump tried to fire the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller.

Inside accounts of the White House show Don McGahn in constantly near panicked stressful situations, trying to prevent the firing of the Attorney General and other legally reckless moves by a president who is being investigated for obstruction of justice because of things the President tried to do in his very first days in office.

And so it comes as no surprise that POLITICO is reporting tonight, President Donald Trump`s top White House lawyer, Don McGahn, is expected to step down later this year. Though his resignation is contingent on the President finding a replacement and several other factors, according to four sources familiar with McGahn`s thinking.

I think it`s all up in the air, said a source close to McGahn. I think he`d like to quit very much.

Don McGahn will have many, many regrets the day he finally quits. Chief among them will be, why didn`t he quit sooner?

Joining us now, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post."

Also with us, Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Maria Teresa, I want to go back to something Donald Trump said today when he was -- when he`s angrily signing the bill. He thought about vetoing after he promised to sign.

And he talked about how the Democrats have just forgotten or they don`t care about the DACA kids, which, of course, is his way of saying, I`m really angry I didn`t get money for that wall.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: That`s exactly right. And let`s not forget, he forgot to say that the reason that the DACA kids are in the predicament that they are in is he decided, cruelly and unusually, on September 5th that he was going to rescind DACA. And the courts have demonstrated that that -- he does not have the authority to do that.

So right now, it`s battled in the courts but this idea of putting it on the hands of the Democrats is unfair. The Democrats went up three times and provided him exactly what he wanted, which is funding for the wall in exchange for the DACA relief. And instead, he`s decided not to.

What`s at stake right now if he really wants to have DACA, all he needs to do is pick up the phone, call Paul Ryan. There are three, four different pieces of legislation that Paul Ryan, today, tomorrow -- because now we`re working all the way.


KUMAR: He could literally put it to the floor. But he has decided not to have that sort of leadership that he claims he wants, and Congress, basically, doesn`t -- could -- unfortunately Congress could care less right now about the fate of these young people. That`s irresponsible.

O`DONNELL: Ruth, a faithful listener of Rush Limbaugh who`s a dear friend of mine texted me today the moment that Rush said it was as if Trump just went back up the escalator.

RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I love that image. Just -- if we could just roll it back and have him gliding back up and pretend this all never happened.

O`DONNELL: But it`s kind of -- it`s one of the worst things Rush could say.


O`DONNELL: In at any moment in the Trump presidency, basically saying it`s all been for nothing or Donald Trump has given up on what he came down that escalator to do.

MARCUS: Because Donald Trump overpromised. That is Donald Trump`s M.O. throughout his career.

He tells you what he needs you to believe or he -- you know, to try to convince you to do whatever deal he`s trying to sell you. And then he doesn`t deliver it and then he gets other people to bail him out and manages to go on to his next deal. And that`s what he did with this.

And, you know, you were talking about Donald Trump`s tell before. One of his tells is he`ll -- when he accuses his opponent, it`s -- he`s accusing him of something he does himself.


MARCUS: So when he accuses the Democrats of not caring about the DACA kids, we know who doesn`t care about the DACA kids.

I`m thinking about the puppet, puppet, you`re the puppet, I`m no puppet, you`re the puppet moment --


KUMAR: Right.

MARCUS: -- during the debates with Hillary Clinton. That`s another one of his tells.

O`DONNELL: And, Maria Teresa, there`s an accumulation here. I mean, Rush Limbaugh didn`t talk about all of these things that we just talked about in the introduction, but -- and you know -- and Rush Limbaugh has been married, I think, a little bit more often than Donald Trump, and so he`s not going to go into these stories about the women that have been getting bigger and bigger all week

But there`s a weight. There`s a publically observable weight to being a Trump cheerleader. And it -- and today that weight, you could see, was very heavy for Rush Limbaugh. It was really hard to carry the weight of being a Trump supporter.

KUMAR: Again, this idea that he wants to basically reverse and go back in time is basically saying --


KUMAR: -- let`s go back to that point because we didn`t -- we actually don`t -- we don`t want to see not only the side tricks but we also don`t want the chaos. But I think it speaks to a larger problem that the Republicans are going to have. And that is that Americans, in general, all voters, they don`t like this chaos. They don`t like this feeling of instability.

And so when we see a wave election, even in Pennsylvania, for example, where it was gerrymandered to be for a Republican and have a Democrat win, that is telling us that the American people, regardless of party, they don`t like this instability.

O`DONNELL: Ruth, Don McGahn wants out. Big surprise.


O`DONNELL: And I`ll -- the notion in this leak about him wanting to resign, the idea that he`s going to wait until the proper replacement is found, it`s hard --

MARCUS: Bring in the victim.

O`DONNELL: Yes. First of all, they`re not lining up for this job. And it`s hard for me to believe that he would actually feel the need to wait that long if it takes that long.

MARCUS: Well, it -- I`m having a hard time actually generating a lot of sympathy for Don McGahn. He kind of knew what he was getting into. He signed up for it. He enabled an enormous about of it.

I have a particular dog in this fight because I wrote this week about the nondisclosure agreements --


MARCUS: -- that the White House counsel sought --

O`DONNELL: You have not just wrote, you got the scoop. The most extraordinary scoop about what`s going on in there, that Donald Trump actually thought this was like Trump Tower. I can make everyone sign nondisclosure agreements. McGahn helped come up with what he thinks are ineffectual, unenforceable pieces of paper to fool the guy.

MARCUS: Right.

KUMAR: That`s right.

MARCUS: This is --

KUMAR: Right, right.


MARCUS: Yes, this is the great thing to say about Don McGahn. Having lost this fight with Donald Trump not to have this nondisclosure agreement, maybe he drew up one that was kind of legally feckless.


MARCUS: Not what you want in your White House counsel. I`ve known a lot of White House counsels, big disappointment. But as with everybody else who is a replacement in the Donald Trump White House, God knows the next one could be worse.

KUMAR: Yes, but he`s been --


KUMAR: Yes, but he has been efficient. He basically has been the one that -- the head of deregulation. He`s the -- he`s also been the one that has placed and really identified the bench for the next 20 years by placing young lawyer -- excuse me, young judges in federal benches.

So he has basically came in to do what he wanted and that is unravel the institution and the federal government that we have. He has been very good at that.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar and Ruth Marcus, thanks for being with us tonight.

Coming up, Steve Bannon says the President is ready for war with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller now. And we know that the President`s new national security adviser is ready for war with North Korea.

And we know that the President needs to distract from all the stories about all the women who he has had relationships with. Just during his third and current marriage, by the way. We`re not even considering anything that happened before that.

We`ll consider that combustible combination, coming up.

And later, we`ll be joined by the high student who confronted Senator Marco Rubio about assault weapons, the kind of assault weapons that killed his classmates, and has provoked the protest that we are going to see all over this country tomorrow, including that will march -- one that will march right down Pennsylvania Avenue here in Washington.


O`DONNELL: Yesterday, Steve Bannon gave his reaction to the changes in the Trump legal team, including the loss of the President`s lead criminal defense lawyer.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think President Trump is going to war. I think it`s very obvious he`s going to go to war in this.


O`DONNELL: Bannon is talking about a war against the Special Prosecutor. But with John Bolton joining the White House as the next national security advisor, there is talk about an actual shooting war.

Last night, reports said to get the job of national security adviser, John Bolton promised Trump, quote, he wouldn`t start any wars.

By this morning, Axios reporter Jonathan Swan tweeted, a source close to John Bolton tells me he made no promise to Trump that he wouldn`t start any wars, contrary to reports. Not true, wasn`t discussed, the source says.

Richard Haass who served on the national security council under President George H.W. Bush summed it up this way.

Donald Trump is now set for war on three fronts -- political versus Bob Mueller, economic versus China, others on trade, and actual versus Iran and/or North Korea. This is the most perilous moment in modern American history, and it has been largely brought about by ourselves, not by events.

Joining us now, Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the author of "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters."

Also with us, Betsy Woodruff, a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Tom, I want to get your reaction to the possible shooting war that`s now being reduced to Twitter exchanges about John Bolton. And did he really have to promise not to get us in a war?

TOM NICHOLS, AUTHOR, "THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE: THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST ESTABLISHED KNOWLEDGE AND WHY IT MATTERS": I think one thing people have to remember is John Bolton can`t start any wars on his own. There`s nobody in his chain of command. He doesn`t command the Defense Department or the State Department or the CIA.

What he can do is convince the President that military action is important, and then that starts that ball rolling. But then a lot of other people are going to get their say. So John Bolton, by himself, can`t go to war by, but he can make military conflict a lot more likely by the kind of advice that he gives the President. Which is the advice he`s going to give the President.

O`DONNELL: And, Betsy, this president saw just what kind of impressive distraction firing missiles can be when he did it in Syria, and this is someone who needs distraction. There`s open speculation now about what kind of distraction might he want on Sunday to distract from Stormy Daniels. This is a really combustible combination.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s certainly correct. And you have to add to that the fact that there was at least one person standing in the gap between Trump and Mueller. And that was, against all odds John Dowd, the former attorney for his personal legal team who stepped down last week.

Dowd was a colorful, eccentric, sometimes surprising character, to say the very least. He also was an important figure in keeping the President from interviewing with Mueller. At the same time, though, Dowd was basically a supporter of the Mueller probe.

Down told the President regularly that if only he cooperated with Mueller, only the White House turnover the information Mueller wanted, that good things would happen.

And in fact, when Mueller handed down those indictments of 13 Russians about a month ago, Dowd told me that he thought Mueller was doing a hell of a job. Now Dowd is gone. That`s one less person in the President`s orbit who is sticking up for Mueller`s probe. That`s important, that`s a big change.

O`DONNELL: And, Tom, what we just heard there is that President had a criminal defense lawyer who basically supported normal procedures that all criminal defense lawyers would follow in the representation of a client in this situation. John Bolton is someone who stands apart from most of the foreign policy establishment and the defense policy establishment.

You have made a very interesting point about him, Tom, that I haven`t read anywhere else because we`ve been talking about John Bolton`s being -- favoring what we would call preemptive -- many of us have been calling preemptive war with North Korea. A preemptive strike on North Korea.

You`re distinguishing in what you`re saying about this between what we`d call preemptive and what we`d call preventive. And there`s a big difference. Can you take us into that?

NICHOLS: Sure, there`s a huge difference between them. Preemption is anticipatory self-defense. That`s when somebody`s about to punch you and you punch them first. You`re just defending yourself.

A preventive war, that`s kind of a strangling the baby in the cradle war. That`s trying to get way ahead of the problem and taking what might be a war and definitely making it to -- into a war. That`s Japan tacking the United States in 1941. Frankly, that`s us attacking Iraq because we`re worried about what they could do in five or 10 years.

And preventive war is a very, very dangerous business. The statesman Bismarck once referred to preventive war as committing suicide out of a fear of death. And it`s a very risky business and it requires you to think ahead as though everybody in the world is potentially your enemy, which I think is the way Bolton kind of views the world.

O`DONNELL: And, Betsy, there are many uses of presidential credibility, none more important than in national defense, national security.

If you had a president of the United States leading what would be called either a preventive or a preemptive strike of some kind on North Korea, you would want the credibility that this was necessary.

You would want people to be able to look at this president and believe, if the facts were presented, that this was necessary. This presidency doesn`t have that kind of credibility.

WOODRUFF: That`s absolutely correct. Over the course of this presidency and also, frankly, over the course of the campaign and of Trump`s time in private life before he was running for office, credibility was never his strong suit. He`s a long-term fan of saying he`s going to do things and then not doing them.

Ask the host of women who accused him of sexual misconduct during the campaign who he said, for sure, he was going to sue and who he didn`t sue. Which fantastic for them, but, look, if you`re talking about your credibility, by the fact that you`re going to follow on your threats, Trump doesn`t frequently follow through on his threats.

What that means from a geopolitical and strategic perspective is incredibly consequential. You know, like diplomacy only works, preventive nonwar -- to use another term for diplomacy -- only works if people believe that you will follow through on the threats you make.

And at this point in Trump`s presidency, he has scant credibility build up. And that`s something that`s certainly going to present an interesting challenge for his incoming national security adviser.

O`DONNELL: Betsy Woodruff and Tom Nichols, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

Well, we all know where we`re going to be on Sunday night. And that is in front of a T.V. watching Stormy Daniels, especially after the warning shot that Stormy Daniels` lawyer fired directly at Donald Trump here on MSNBC tonight.

Warning shots are supposed to be fired not directly at the target, but this one was. Wait until you hear what Michael Avenatti had to say this time.


O`DONNELL: Warning shot. That`s what Michael Avenatti called his tweet today, a warning shot.

Michael Avenatti is Stormy Daniels` lawyer. Each day he has been representing Stormy Daniels, he has made life more difficult for Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s lawyers.

And today, he has no doubt created sheer panic in Donald Trump`s very fragile mind and in the week and fragile mind of Donald Trump`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, because of what Michael Avenatti said earlier tonight on MSNBC.

You will hear that in a moment, but, first, here is what Michael Avenatti tweeted late last night. It was a photograph of a DVD with the words, if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this worth? "60 Minutes." Please deny it. Basta.

I was one of many who was a bit confused by the -- by that tweet. And then, others started theorizing that the DVD must include photographs and/or video to prove that Stormy Daniels had a relationship with Donald Trump.

And then tonight, on "HARDBALL," Michael Avenatti clarified for Chris Matthews what his tweet meant in the most painful, possible terms for Donald Trump.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Let me tell you this, Chris. That DVD contains evidence of this relationship. And let me tell you why I sent the tweet.

I sent the tweet as a warning shot to Michael Cohen and any other supporter of the President and to the President himself to the extent that they plan on disparaging my client, lying about what happened, or spinning facts that have no basis in reality after this "60 Minute" interview.

Let that tweet be a warning to them.


O`DONNELL: Hey, warning shots are not supposed to hit anyone. But you know that that warning shot is like nothing that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen have ever seen in their years of trying to bully people with lawsuits and the threats of lawsuits.

Since he became a politician, Donald Trump has discovered that there are people he cannot bully that way.

When he threatened to sue me, I dared him to do it. I begged him to do it. And, of course, he was afraid to sue me.

But when it comes to crushing Michael Cohen and Donald Trump`s legal bully, I`m nothing. I`m just a rank amateur compared to Michael Avenatti. We have seen no one like this. No one.

It doesn`t look like they`ve met their match in Michael Avenatti. It looks like they have met the lawyer who can crush them both.

So what should we expect from Stormy Daniels on "60 Minutes" Sunday night? I`ll ask Ruth Marcus next, along with Judd Legum has been covering the unique challenges that Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal present to the President of the United States.



AVENATTI: Chris, here`s what I`ll tell you. The threat was delivered in person.

My client is going to describe it in detail on Sunday. The American people are going to hear from her. They`re going to judge her credibility. It was very frightening to her.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Was the threat part of the reason she signed?

AVENATTI: I think absolutely. When the President`s fixer exerts pressure on you to sign a document, you don`t ask a lot of questions. You do as you`re told.


O`DONNELL: Joining the discussion now, Judd Legum, editor and founder of "ThinkProgress." And back with us, Ruth Marcus.

And, Judd, the threat that he is talking about is the threat delivered to Stormy Daniels. Michael Cohen specializes in threats like that. He seemed to be saying there that Michael Cohen will be exposed Sunday night on "60 Minutes" as having threatened Stormy Daniels.

JUDD LEGUM, EDITOR AND FOUNDER, THINKPROGRESS: Yes. And as far as we know, this was a physical threat.


LEGUM: Which the woman, Karen McDougal, last night said there wasn`t a physical threat there but she is. And I think this is really just another moment where this is spinning out of control for Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: Where is the Trump presidency going to be at 8:00 p.m. Sunday night after we have heard from Stormy Daniels having already heard from Karen McDougal this week?

LEGUM: Well, I think the President is worried about it, and that`s why you`ve seen him ratchet up what is an already fairly volatile personality, fairly, you know, unpredictable.

He was tweeting out that he was going to veto a bill that he had said he was going to sign the day before. And I --

O`DONNELL: You think that behavior is related to all of this?

LEGUM: I think so. I mean, I -- you don`t know for sure, but I do think that he has, for his entire life, had these situations under control.


LEGUM: He trusts Michael Cohen.


LEGUM: He`s been able to keep them under wraps. And as president, he`s not able to do that. And I think that this has created a real urgency, but what`s to do -- what can you do?

O`DONNELL: Ruth, Donald Trump clearly did not understand how presidency and presidential campaigns change how much pressure is on the pressure cooker.

When you`re Donald Trump, the guy with the NBC show and the real estate business and you`re trying to contain an -- these kinds of stories and execute confidentiality agreements like this with people, it`s not that hard to do.

In the presidency, the pressure cooker makes these things come out.

MARCUS: It does and yet, I -- two words, Fifth Avenue. Shorthand for Donald Trump`s famous statement that he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn`t care.

He has been able -- yes, the presidency is different, you`re totally right, but he has been able to get away with things that no other candidate has been able to get away with, "Access Hollywood" tape, and that no other president has been able to get away with.

And so the thing that`s really striking as we go into this Stormy Daniels interview is that, what would be very dangerous for another president, he had an affair with this woman -- I thought that Karen McDougal was really remarkably credible, just bullet proof credible.

We`re not any longer really having a serious conversation about whether he had an affair with Karen McDougal, asked and answered, whether he had an affair with Stormy Daniels. I think that`s going to be pretty clear. And you know, how interesting is the way Michael Avenatti has played all of this?

What`s really perilous for Donald Trump is the self-inflicted wound that he created with his fixer, Michael Cohen, by trying to shut this down in his typical way.

And so because now the problem -- potential problem, very serious potential problem for President Trump is, where did the money come from to try to pay the hush money to Stormy Daniels? What money was paid through American Media with -- to Karen McDougal, and what kind of threat was there?

And that is much more dangerous to him than extramarital dalliance because, really, let`s be serious at this point. Who -- no one -- the evangelicals don`t care. The other Trump supporters don`t care. That`s not what`s going to bring him down.

O`DONNELL: We all remember the Trump reaction and public statement about if Mueller goes -- wants to know about my business, that`s crossing a line. Michael Avenatti has sent letters to the Trump business crossing that line, saying he wants them to preserve all documents because he intends to subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about where that $130,000 came from.

LEGUM: Yes. And I think that`s where this becomes very serious for him.


LEGUM: Because I do -- I agree with Ruth that people really have this sort of baked into the cake as far as the sex aspect of this. This is his third marriage. I don`t think people really had had this idea that he was a paragon of virtue in this regard.

But you do have the issue of the Trump Organization. You also have the issue of this was going on during an election and that this money was being used -- and I think in both lawsuits they bring this up.

This money was being used very clearly to try to benefit his election and should have been reported. And then in the case of Karen McDougal, could constitute an illegal corporate contribution to his campaign.

You add that to what we heard the clip that you just played about a potential threat, and this becomes about a lot more than sex. And that`s where I think it really creates problems.

O`DONNELL: The next chapter of the story is Sunday night.

Judd Legum, Ruth Marcus, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate it.

Today, Donald Trump left Washington for Florida. And the kids from Florida came to Washington where they will march tomorrow in protest of the National Rifle Association`s continued campaign to make sure that America`s mass murderers are the best-equipped mass murderers in the world. A campaign fully supported by Donald Trump.



RYAN DEITSCH, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I`m in a closet with 19 other kids waiting, fearing for my own life.

Now, I`d like to ask you, that after me and several others have been going out of their way, going to the state capital, speaking out, we`d like to know, why do we have to be the ones to do this?

Why do we have to speak out to the capital? Why do we have to march on Washington just to save innocent lives?


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ryan Deitsch, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Adam Alhanti, a junior at the high school.

Ryan, that was quite a moment and a question. Do you feel you`re closer to an answer to that question of why you, why do you have to do this?

DEITSCH: I`m definitely closer to an answer than Marco Rubio would ever give us. That`s for sure.


DEITSCH: I feel like, why we have to be the ones to march on Washington, I mean, you think back to every bit of these incidents, when you look back all the way to Columbine -- but then if you go as soon as Sandy Hook.

Like they`re these elementary school students. They are these children that are being gunned down innocently. And because they weren`t the ones speaking out, that means nothing is taken care of, no action is taken. That`s ridiculous.

So now that we have these high school students, these relatively educated individuals all coming out there, speaking out their own minds from their own true experiences, that`s why we`re the ones marching. That`s why -- and just marching on Washington, in general, is just because of all this, because there isn`t been action in years and years.

O`DONNELL: Adam, we were just talking before we came about how spontaneously this started and how some of you ended up in these kinds discussions on T.V. because a friend of yours was going to do it but couldn`t and they handed it off to you. And has it taken a more organized form in the past month?

ADAM ALHANTI, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Yes, I think so. I mean, you know, we`ve been speaking to a bunch of people. We`ve gotten a lot of help from people, whether it`s our parents or whether it`s people who do this for a living.

You know, we`ve all taken specific roles in this journey and we`ve all gotten ourselves a clear role of, you know, who we are and what we do for this.

O`DONNELL: And how has it -- this is -- Ryan, in your case, it`s your senior year in high school.


O`DONNELL: You have stuff to do.

And, Adam, as a junior, that`s the most important year in many ways that colleges are going to look at.

How has this affected your work as a student? I want to get that from both of you.

DEITSCH: I mean, like personally as a student, like I`ve been at school the past week just because of the march ramping up and making sure that everybody gets the word out because this is the most important thing happening in our nation and our planet right now.

But as far as like school goes, I still want to get that education. I still want to learn and I`m still ready to learn. I mean, as far as colleges and everything, I`ve gotten several rejection letters. I`ve gotten some acceptances too, but, like, I don`t know where I`m going to be in November.

O`DONNELL: I don`t understand why the colleges aren`t calling you up and begging you to come. Because, Adam, what I`m seeing in what you`ve all done is extraordinary leadership and extraordinary kind of responsibility.

You know, I have to say, as a parent, it`s like -- you people are what we`re hoping our kids will have as roommates when they go to college. You have something to teach.

ALHANTI: You know, I think -- a teacher told me that this is the best education you can get right now.

O`DONNELL: It is, yes.

ALHANTI: Marching on Washington is something that you can, you know, like live through and something that`s going to be written in history textbooks. And, you know, I think that`s absolutely fantastic, you know.

Of course, the reason why we`re doing it is, you know, absolutely unthinkable. But the fact that we are here and that we`re the ones bringing the change is, you know, unfathomable to us.

DEITSCH: And I mean, like, I like the way you put that just because -- like saying, like, we should be the ones teaching, like things like that. Like, everything that I`ve learned in this journey, like a lot of it`s been from congressmen.

A lot of it has been from people who`ve been advising us, people who`ve been, like, asking us, like, to do things. We don`t really listen to them that much, but when they were talking to these people, like, the majority of the information we receive is from our phones. It`s from the Internet. It`s from Twitter.

Like, the majority of the things that I`ve been dealing with, I learn about from Twitter before somebody can text me about it. Like, the Internet, social media, in general, all of these, like, we have the whole of human information in the palm of our hands. And that`s all we have to do. We got to use it.

O`DONNELL: Adam, you have another year of high school after this. What do you think it`s going to feel like there after the march on Washington, after you go through a whole summer break? You come back to Douglas in September -- or in August. What will the feeling be then, do you think?

ALHANTI: Well, I think, you know, even right now, in about a week, we`re going to have to go back to school. We have our spring break coming up. But even so, we`re going to have to come back, and we`re old enough to wear clear backpacks.

And you know, they`re ramping up security at the school. And I think, you know, right now, it`s really nerve-racking for a lot of the students. And, you know, putting this security measures on actually kind of like triggers some students.

And I think, you know, this isn`t going to just wash away in a couple of weeks. Like, we are really getting the forefront of all of these. People around the world are, you know, kind of dropping this slowly and slowly.

Obviously, the march is coming up and it`s in everybody`s minds. But once the march is done, you know, it`s going to start to fade but we don`t want that to happen.

And, you know, we`re going to be starting voter registration, and we`re going to be doing things around the country, speaking at schools. But even so, this is still so fresh for us. And I think, for the next couple of years, it will be so fresh for us.

And things like, you know, ramping up security, having more police officers, you know, wearing clear backpacks is something that really affects a lot of the students at the school. And it`s not going to go for -- away for a while.

O`DONNELL: Ryan, what are you hoping for tomorrow?

DEITSCH: I`m hoping that people can unify. I`m hoping that people out there -- like, all over the world, we have confirmed over 800 marches around the planet, seven continents. One in every 50 of the states.

And I just hope that after this long battle of just people feeling disheartened, feeling without hope, like I hope that it -- that hope will come back. I really hope that we`ll live in a world where we can come together and just solve the problems we need to solve.

It doesn`t have to be in exact policy. It doesn`t have to be something that you might not agree with. But as long as we can all speak together in a room, as long as we can sit down at the table instead of throwing chairs, that`s what I hope the march will achieve.

O`DONNELL: You know, we opened with you talking about being in that closet in the school, fearing for your life. How have you dealt and what has been the most helpful thing in dealing with what you went through emotionally that day at school?

DEITSCH: I`d say personally, like, Never Again -- the Never Again movement, March for our Lives, it`s become my family. Like, these people, like some 25 kids, that we`ve been coming together almost daily. Like, this has become my family.

This has become our support group. We become better than friends. Like, and we`re just trying to make sure the world`s a better place, trying to make sure the world is a safer place.

We do take that time to look back and realize why this has all started. We take time to be at those memorials. We took time to be just silent and to ourselves.

And I watched as my school was bathed in the lights of police cars. And it was tragic, but at the same time, the have those people, that shoulder to cry on, these people right next to me.

Like, if I`m ever like two-tenths -- if I feel like too much has been going on, I can just step into another room and then David Hogg will sit down with me or Emma Gonzalez will sit down with me. Because at the end of the day, we`re just a bunch of high school students and we`re all just trying to get through this together.

O`DONNELL: Ryan Deitsch gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us.

DEITSCH: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Adam.

ALHANTI: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate you being here. We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s last word. I`ll be on Pennsylvania Avenue tomorrow covering the march here in Washington, D.C.

We will have a special edition of the LAST WORD tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m., and there will be live coverage of the March for our Lives all day right here on MSNBC.