Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 28, 2018 Guest: David Fahrenthold, Jill Wine-Banks, Harry Litman
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I needed every one of those seconds to try practicing saying this name, Andrew, that`s the part I can say. Ekonomou -- I`m not sure.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: I think of him as the author of the book about the Byzantine popes.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And he`s also, as of tonight, President Trump`s critical lawyer. As we recall at this hour last night, the president did not have a criminal lawyer while the special prosecutor is investigating him for possible obstruction of justice.
But now, enter 69-year-old Andrew Ekonomou. And when the movie is made, this is the part you want. Every lawyer in America turns down the unmanageable client and in Brunswick, Georgia, population 16,346, we find the small-town lawyer who comes to the president`s rescue. And that`s who the president is relying on as of tonight.
MADDOW: It`s like an inside-out Georgia version of "My Cousin Vinny", isn`t it?
O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, that`s the part you want. You come from Brunswick, Georgia, up to Washington and you take on --
MADDOW: To slay the dragons.
O`DONNELL: Whatever happens.
O`DONNELL: Can`t wait to see that.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, in an editorial today entitled: all the president`s thugs, "The New York Times" said: We live at a time when a porn star displays more credibility and class than a president.
Now, if you`re old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon lying about the Vietnam War, the idea of porn stars having more credibility than presidents is not new. Everyone can point to presidents, Democrat and Republican, who they think have less credibility than a porn star, not to mention the fact that we have no widespread societal agreement on the credibility rating of porn stars.
So, "The Times" editorial is inherently if unintentionally condescending to porn stars. The editorial presumes a porn stars credibility level is low or supposed to be low and that presidential credibility is usually higher than porn stars. We have no evidence of that. We sometimes have polling on the credibility of trustworthiness of various occupations.
Gallup`s last poll on honesty and ethical standards and professions had as usual nurses in the well-deserved number one spot that has the most honest occupation. And members of Congress were as usual down at the bottom of the list, one notch above car salespeople, and that the very bottom of the list were, of course, lobbyists, which is to say former members of Congress.
Porn star was not one of the occupations in the Gallup poll about credibility. President wasn`t either. But now, for the first time in history, thanks to Donald Trump, a president and a porn star are in a poll together and it`s a poll about credibility.
And in the one and only poll in history that balances a porn star`s credibility against the president`s credibility, the porn star wins big. Sixty-three percent believe Stormy Daniels is telling the truth about Donald Trump and 21 percent believe Donald Trump, whatever that means because Donald Trump has not personally denied anything that Stormy Daniels has said.
Now, I for one have not used the term porn star to describe Stormy Daniels because the term has a condescending ring to it whenever it`s used outside of the porn business. So, I`ve been using it now tonight here simply because I`ve been quoting "The New York Times" use of it. But for the record, Stormy Daniels herself doesn`t seem as sensitive as I am about describing her occupation. In a recent tweet, she said she`s had a, quote, long career in front of, behind the camera in porn.
John Dowd has had a long career as a criminal lawyer and since his most recent client was Donald Trump, John Dowd now has less credibility than most lawyers, an occupation which by the way scores very low on the Gallup poll about honesty in occupations. "The Times" editorial today about all the president`s thugs did not include John Dowd. It was an article about lawyers and private detectives around Donald Trump for the last few decades who have used threats and intimidation to try to silence people about Donald Trump.
But tonight, John Dowd is well on his way to earning his own editorial in "The New York Times" as one of the president`s thugs and possibly something much worse. Tonight, John Dowd has shifted categories from criminal lawyer to possible criminal suspect.
"The New York Times" reported today that John Dowd discussed the possibility of presidential pardons last summer with the attorneys representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. That`s according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men and they raised questions about whether the lawyer John Dowd who resigned last week was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. "The Times" reports that John Dowd`s conversation with Michael Flynn`s attorney Robert Kelner occurred last summer, quote, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes.
If John Dowd was acting as a co-conspirator with the president of the United States in an attempt to obstruct justice by dangling the possibility of pardons, then he could be charged in an obstruction of justice case along with the president and his conversations with the president about the pardons would not be protected by attorney-client privilege if those conversations were part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. "The New York Times" reports Mr. Dowd has said privately that he did not know why Mr. Flynn had accepted a plea, according to one of the people he said he had told Mr. Kelner that the president had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy and was prepared to pardon him, the person said. Was prepared to pardon him.
"The Times" reports that John Dowd`s discussion with Paul Manafort`s lawyer came before Manafort was indicted in October on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. John Dowd denies to "The New York Times" that he discussed pardons with Flynn and Manafort`s lawyers. There were no discussions, period, Mr. Dowd said. As far as I know, no discussions.
"The New York Times" confirms earlier reports that the president discussed pardons with White House staff. In one meeting with lawyers from the White House counsel`s office last year, Mr. Trump asked about the extent of his pardon power according to a person briefed on the conversation, the lawyers explained but the president`s powers were broad. The person said and in other meetings with senior advisors, the president raised the prospect of pardoning Mr. Flynn according to two people present.
In December, the president was asked about pardoning Michael Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: About Michael Flynn, would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want to talk about pardon with Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. He`s now a professor at the University of California. Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC contributor. And John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
And, Jill Wine-Banks, I want to go to you first on this issue of what was John Dowd up to. "The New York Times" reporting on the face of it indicates a possible obstruction of justice case involving John Dowd possibly.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It absolutely does. Now, we have to keep in mind that he denies that it happened. They had multiple sources that say that it did, and if he was offering a pardon in exchange for influencing the testimony, that`s clearly a part of obstruction. It`s exactly what happened during Watergate when they talked about pardons, when they offered hush money to keep people quiet. And now, we have hush money being paid to porn stars as you`ve just designated them.
So, it could be that he is in very deep trouble right now, John Dowd.
O`DONNELL: And, Harry Litman, give me your reading legally of where John Dowd stands and what this report in "The New York Times" means to the case.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I agree with Jill. He`s in the soup and I think he can be questioned by Mueller. I think the crime fraud exception means that it wouldn`t be privileged, and I think if not the first, either the second or third question will be Jill`s favorite, what did the president know and when did he know it?
Because the question is, is there conspiracy here to obstruct? And it wouldn`t simply be, it`s not even a part in as for quiet. Here, it`s this sort of secret backroom deal is the potential issue, where the president through doubt is saying just keep quiet, don`t do anything, do exactly what Manafort has done in fact for these months, and there`ll be a pardon at the end of the day.
So, that`s even more sort of sinister and corrupt because it means there`s no political check. There`s no way of bringing it up for impeachment. It`s just a backroom wink and a nod.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, so John Dowd was reported to have quit the Trump defense team. I said at the time with that we have no idea, we don`t know whether he was fired, we don`t know whether he quit. That`s just the story. The story`s putting on.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBCS NEWS & MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: It may now be that John Dowd was forced to leave the defense team because of this reporting that John Dowd may well have known was coming out in "The New York Times" because we know "The Times" doesn`t work on these stories in a matter of hours, they take days, sometimes weeks to confirm this material.
HEILEMANN: This is story that has deep reporting in it and it`s the story that would have to be lawyered intensely. It`s a story that you would you would need White House reaction from you`d need John Dowd`s reaction from this a story that did not pop out. It`s also a long story but for it by "New York Times", by newspaper standards is a story that has been in the works for a while.
And so, not only would John Dowd have known it was coming, but people around the president and the president`s -- rest of the president`s legal orbit and its political orbit would have known. So, there`s a lot of different potential places where the looming threat of this story could have created pressure points that now to your point call into question whether or not he quit.
I do want to make two points, one a legal point, although I`m not a lawyer, unlike our two other guests tonight. I just will say, you think about John Dowd`s tenure, this was the guy along with Ty Cobb who was supposed to provide there was a sheen of respectability and the kind of white shoe gravitas that Donald Trump needed. And you think about the time that he spent between the lunchtime conversation in front of "The New York Times" reporter, the tweet that he claimed that he had written when Donald Trump it seems got out of her skis on Twitter, this was a -- this is a debacle for John Dowd.
And if this if this reporting in "The New York Times" is true is a fitting end -- fitting crown to his various depredations in his time.
And then the political point, is there anyone who doesn`t believe this is true?
HEILEMANN: That that Donald Trump is -- of course. The question of who offers the pardon, how the pardons get of or what the form of the pardons are, but the notion that Donald Trump is dangling pardons to people who might flip on him is a really important piece of news to break, but is the least shocking thing that I`ve heard all day.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s one of -- it has instant credibility.
And, Harry Litman, I want to go back here to a legal point here.
O`DONNELL: And this happens sometimes in cases. I said earlier that John Dowd may have shifted categories from criminal defense lawyer to criminal suspect. That sometimes can happen in a case what is the obligation of a lawyer when he gets the sense or gets any indication that he`s moving, he himself, she herself is moving into suspect territory in an investigation where he`s representing a client?
LITMAN: Well, look at Michael Cohen. The music stops, you get your own lawyer, you take it for there. But his obligation really preceded that, where he moving as he apparently was last summer into territory where he was going to be a party to a fraud, his clear obligation would have been to withdraw then and there.
Now, he`s a suspect and he he`ll just be a normal suspect. He`s got to lawyer up and hope that he can somehow soldier through. It`s -- I agree with what John said, but it`s -- you know, Dowd is a respectable person and that he`s come out of the blocks with such a clear "I never said it, never did it". There may be more to the story.
But he`s now changed categories and is in the sights of the Mueller probe.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill, just to underline this. It is -- it seems to me possible that this New York Times story had something to do with John Dowd withdrawing from the case or being fired from the case while this story was being developed by "The New York Times".
WINE-BANKS: It absolutely could. Of course, we will not know for quite a while, but he`s had a rough go of it because in addition to the tweet which I think was very, very inappropriate for him to have said he did it. If he did it, it was wrong and it`s a fireable offense to have gotten your client into trouble for a tweet that said something that could implicate that person, your own client, in an obstruction.
He also had a very inappropriate conversation in a public place with Ty Cobb that was very -- gave away too much and shouldn`t have happened in public.
So, I think there`s a number of things that could get him in trouble both with the bar and with the prosecutor.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, enter Andrew Ekonomou who I was talking to Rachel about. He -- this is a 69-year-old lawyer who was a federal prosecutor in Atlanta in the `80s, took some time off from the practice of law, now describes himself as kind of a -- a kind of substitute teacher style assistant district attorney.
HEILEMANN: A contract prosecutor.
O`DONNELL: In Brunswick, Georgia, four hours south of Atlanta, small town on the coast and this is as of tonight according to the Trump legal team the guy who`s in charge now of the criminal defense. He does have some experience with criminal cases, but nothing on this scale. And as I said to Rachel, when the movie gets made --
O`DONNELL: -- this is the part you want to play. The guy who comes from a small town up to D.C. can take on the special prosecutor.
HEILEMANN: You know, you -- we ask this question over and over again, why does Donald Trump have to turn to a fellow like this? Why is he having such trouble hiring good lawyers? We have an answer tonight, John Dowd is a good example. You look at anybody who`s didn`t know in the Washington legal firmament looks at what`s happened to John Dowd and what -- where he now sits in the soup and in the sights as Harry Litman put it, in the last two segments, in those last two comments. That`s why you have to turn to a guy like this.
Now, you turn to a guy like this and let`s not diss him because he`s done - - he could have been done -- imply no, you`re not. I`m just saying -- he could have a reputable career, have done important work, local law enforcement matters, he`s probably prosecuted some important cases and puts some people behind bars who deserve to be behind bars.
So, let`s give the guy his due. But then let`s also say that he is, at best, a maybe a really good single way shortstop who`s being asked to pitch in the World Series, which is not really that thing you generally want to do in the World Series. He`s someone who obviously just on the basis of what we know about him on the basis of his resume and his record is not suited to the job he`s now being compelled to take on and, man, there`s nothing -- almost it more dramatizes Donald Trump`s difficulty with hiring a decent legal team more than not having a lawyer is having this lawyer as your main criminal defense lawyer under these circumstances.
O`DONNELL: Now, you`ve got me rooting for him. I mean, the guy -- you couldn`t have a bigger underdog in this story. It reminds me of an observation that Jimmy Breslin wisely made about Watergate, Jill, when he said that the night law school guys in the House of Representatives, meaning Peter Rodino and some of these people, knocked over all those Harvard Law School guys that Richard Nixon had defending him..
But we`ll come back to Andrew Ekonomou when we know more about him. And I`m sure we will learn more about him.
HEILEMANN: How to pronounce his name.
O`DONNELL: Including that, I`m open to suggestion.
Harry Litman, Jill Wine-Banks, John Heilemann, thanks for this round of discussion. I really appreciate it.
Coming up, Stormy Daniels wants two more hours with Donald Trump, but this time under oath.
Also tonight, the special prosecutor may have publicly identified for the first time a direct line of communications between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that line has a Russian name.
O`DONNELL: The first time special prosecutor Robert Mueller has specified a connection between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, that connection was described in the court filing yesterday related to the upcoming sentencing of Alex Van Der Zwaan who has pleaded guilty to lying about his context with deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates. And the person identified in the court filing as person A.
Person A appears to be Konstantin Kilimnik, a former aide to Rick Gates and Paul Manafort who was the Trump campaign chairman, of course. The document outlines what the prosecution calls aggravating circumstances that it wants the judge to consider during Van Der Zwaan`s sentencing next week.
Here`s the key paragraph in that court filing. The lies and withholding of documents were material to the special counsel`s office since investigation that Gates and person A were directly communicating in September and October was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents assisting the special counsel`s office assess the person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.
We already knew that Konstantin Kilimnik served in the Russian military and attended a military foreign language program that has been used by Russian intelligence agents. What is new and the special prosecutors filing is the FBI`s assessment that clinic still has ties to the Russian intelligence service and had such ties during the presidential campaign in 2016.
Joining us now, Betsy Woodruff, a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC contributor. And Jed Shugerman, professor of law at Fordham University.
Betsy, this precise connection as it was drawn today is something we haven`t seen before from the special prosecutor.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right, and what else is fascinating about this filing is that it`s Mueller actually saying what he and his team thinks is important. Part of the context of these filings is that it has to do with the sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, the very suave looking attorney who viewers saw on screen a few moments ago.
Mueller is making the case for a sentence against van der Zwaan and arguing why the judge should take van der Zwaan`s guilty plea so seriously.
Mueller says part of the reason it`s important is because van der Zwaan lied about person A, who I believe to be Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller then says that person A is an important person in this story, that he matters and that the fact that he talked to a senior Trump campaign official Rick Gates the month before the presidential election is material to Mueller`s investigation.
This is Mueller essentially showing his hands. It`s him telling us what he thinks is important. He almost gets to the point of telling us why he thinks it`s important and that`s what makes this document just so tantalizing.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, Konstantin Kilimnik has denied any ties to Russian intelligence, but in this pleading we saw the FBI insisting that he does have those ties, but he`s also said that he did speak to Manafort during the 2016 campaign. He says every couple of months.
JED SHUGERMAN, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Yes and I think there are a couple things that are really important here. The first is that that Kilimnik, the FBI assessment that he was actually part of Russian intelligence is very important. But also, we`re also getting to the frame of mind in Rick Gates and Alex van der Zwaan and Manafort.
So, what`s really important about the filing today is that it says that van der Zwaan thought that Kilimnik was part of Russian intelligence because Gates told him so. And you wouldn`t see this in a Mueller report if Mueller didn`t have the goods on this. It`s in the past filing, we know that van der Zwaan recorded one of the conversations, the one that he lied about. He had a conversation with Gates and Kilimnik, person A, in September 2016.
One can speculate that Mueller may now have a copy of that recording and so, that that puts more pressure on Gates and I think the other big thing here is now being able to flip other people. With this kind of hard evidence and this kind of -- we might imagine Mueller has, this is the way that he starts flipping up from van der Zwaan and Gates to Manafort and maybe others.
O`DONNELL: Betsy, last year in February, Paul Manafort told "The New York Times" in an interview, this is long before he was indicted. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today and then he added it`s not like these people wear badges that say I`m a Russian intelligence officer turns out according to the FBI he was employing one in his business in the Ukraine.
WOODRUFF: That`s right, and it strains credulity to think that Rick Gates would have known something about one of the employees in that business that Paul Manafort didn`t also know, although to be clear, we don`t know for sure. Additionally, one piece of this that`s important is that Kilimnik himself has in the past disputed the statements that he had affiliations with Russian intelligence. So, there`s a good chance going forward that he will that he will disagree with the FBI`s assessment. That itself is something that ultimately will probably be argued in court, and it will be fascinating to see what evidence Mueller may or may not have to defend the assertion that he made in his filing that one of Paul Manafort`s trusted employees actually was connected to Russian intelligence.
Additionally, though, the statement that Paul Manafort made that you just read is a little bit -- it feels a little funny, right? Of course, members of foreign intelligence services don`t introduce themselves as, "hi, my name is Konstantin and I`m a spy". But sophisticated political operatives are responsible for knowing who they work with and for knowing what identities -- what political parties governments intelligence services the people they work with or affiliated with.
This is one of the bedrock principles of the Justice Department`s rules about foreign lobbying. You have to know who you`re working for. Paul Manafort registered with the Justice Department though not to the extent that Mueller expected, he should have known how these rules works. The idea that he would have accidentally whoops-a-daisy worked with somebody who was a Russian spy doesn`t make sense, doesn`t mesh with Manafort`s own characterization of the very work that he claimed to be doing.
O`DONNELL: Professor Shugerman, what`s going on with this guilty plea of van der Zwaan is it likely that there`s already a plea agreement in place about what the sentence should be, what van der Zwaan thinks he`s pleading to in terms of a sentence, and this filing is just kind of necessary paperwork before this is all formalized with the judge?
SHUGERMAN: Well, it`s a little hard to know exactly what`s going on usually a prosecutor has a set of conversations with the defendant when they`re pleading guilty. It was really remarkable that the judge in the hearing apparently was very unsympathetic to van der Zwaan in his request for no jail time. And so, it`s possible that what Mueller might be doing is trying to show the importance of van der Zwaan and indicate to the judge it`s really a -- this is a big deal, his wrongdoing was significant.
So -- but what also might be going on is Mueller is trying to show more of his cards to other people and establish what he has. It`s possible that what he`s showing the world and particularly some of the potential future defendants is that he`s got this material in hand, and this is going to be very significant to have this material for other kinds of guilty pleas down the road.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman and Betsy Woodruff, thanks for illuminating our coverage tonight. Appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump had another big, big loss in court today and this one could lose lead straight to his tax returns and cost him some real money.
Also today, the president of the United States completed his third full day in hiding since Stormy Daniel`s address the nation Sunday night on "60 Minutes".
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Another big legal setback for the President today. A federal judge ruled today that a courtroom, not Congress, is the best place to decide if the President of the United States is violating the constitution by running a for-profit business in Washington and elsewhere around the world that derives profits for the President from foreign governments and others who spend money at the President`s places of business and thereby deliver profits to the President.
The Maryland Federal Judge ruled that the Washington D.C. and Maryland plaintiffs who are suing the President for violating the emoluments clause of the constitution do have legal standing to bring that case to court. The President has used the Justice Department as his taxpayer funded defense team in this case. The judge ruled against the Justice Department`s claim that the proper place to consider possible violations of the emoluments clause was in Congress.
The judge rejected that position saying the thrust of the President`s argument that only Congress can act is particularly concerning. Suppose a majority, simple two thirds of Congress, the House, the Senate, both is controlled by one party that of the President. And suppose the Congress never undertakes to approve or disapprove the President`s receipt of the such emoluments. The President could continue to receive unlimited emoluments from Foreign and State Governments without the least oversight and with about impunity.
Joining the discussion now David Fahrenthold a reportor for the Washington Post and an MSNBC Contributor. And Jill Wine-Banks is back with us. David, you have been on the case of Donald Trump and the money since the campaign where you did that labor-intensive job of trying to find out what Donald Trump had really done by way of charitable giving and it turned out to be very, very little. This is a cousin of that. This is the money flowing into Donald Trump and in this case, according to the plaintiffs, in violation of the constitution. This really positions this case to go forward now and probably lead to more than we`ve ever known about the President`s finances.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. One of the extraordinary things about Donald Trump is not just that he wants to be the first President to sort of own an active multi-national business while in office. He also owns a very, very secretive company. A company that this is its right it`s quite as a private about what it does, who it`s customers, how it operates. It`s quite an opaque institution.
Now we`re starting to see through this case and a few others but especially through the case the possibility that because Trump has not severed himself from his business, his business could be opened to scrutiny. So if this case goes forward, the next case is discovery and Attorney Generals of the Maryland and the District of Columbia are hoping to get into the records of Trump Hotel in D.C. to find out who it`s foreign customers are and they want to get Trump tax return to figure out what kind of income is coming in from foreign governments.
O`DONNELL: JILL, Donald Trump knows what it`s like to go up against David Fahrenthold on this kind of discovery if we can call it that and David won his Pulitzer Prize looking at Donald Trump`s charitable giving. . But David didn`t have subpoena power. The process now deliver subpoena power to the plaintiffs who find to out exactly how much money Donald Trump is making in his various enterprises, exactly whose paying and where that money is coming from and where it`s going.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well we`ve all been trying to see the tax returns from the beginning of the campaign. And now maybe the time the public will get it through this discovery process. There`s a lot to be learned by the two prosecutors in this case or the plaintiffs really in the case, because let`s face it the emoluments clause was the anti-corruption laws of America.
It was intended to stop the government or any member of the government from profiting from their government`s service. And that`s what`s happening here. And I think we`re going to finally be able to see it in black and white and real numbers. So it`s a good thing and it is a wonderful tool to have subpoena power and grand juries that you can call in and depositions in this case will be very effective in getting to the bottom line.
O`DONNELL: And David, there`s a nightmare scenario for Donald Trump because his defense lawyers in this case are his employees over there at the-Justice Department. Basically these are lower level people serving under the Attorney General in the Justice department. These are lower level people serving under the attorney general in the justice Department.
And they will be part of this discovery process. They will be viewing the President`s Tax Returns if those become documents in the case through discovery subpoenas and so forth. And so it isn`t just the lawyers on the other side. Before those documents ever get to the lawyers on the other side, they will be in the hands of people who Donald Trump does not want to see his tax returns.
FAHRENTHOLD: As you know, the IRS has Trump`s Tax Returns and they have successfully taken a lot of measures to make sure they don`t get out. Tax returns are not supposed to be revealed of a private citizen. That you`re right that Trump has been very careful in making sure this particular information does not get out. The more cases like this -- we`ll see how this case goes. There`s a lot, you know, ways that these could be thrown out on appeal or could be a lot of reasons that it stops before they get to Trump`s tax returns. But obviously the more people that have it in hand the greater the chance that it leaks out somehow.
O`DONNELL: Quickly Jill before we go. Now that the plaintiffs have standing it looks to me like this case is going to have traction and there will be discovery. What`s the next earliest point at which the President can get the case thrown out?
WINE-BANKS: He can appeal this decision immediately and possibly put a stay on any discovery at this point. So that`s probably what`s going to happen is that there will be at least an attempt to stay it. But the decision was very well written and very clear that no man is above the law, including in this case, he has to be compliant. And so, I think that it could proceed very quickly. And the courts could act fast in reviewing it.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, David Farenthold thank you for joining us.
FARENTHOLD: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Well the President of the United States has been in hiding. he really has since Stormy Daniels described in detail on Sunday night how she spanked and now she wants her lawyer wants to get a chance to spank the President in a deposition under oath.
O`DONNELL: Stormy Daniels has pushed the President of the United States off the stage. Not just off the stage, but into hiding. The President has not been seen in over three days. Let me repeat that because I have never said that before.
The President of the United States has not been seen in over three days since he returned from Florida Sunday afternoon, in plenty of time to find a comfortable chair in the White House to settle into and watch Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes Sunday night at 7:00 P.M. The President is obviously living in fear that if he does show his face publicly reporters will yell questions to him about Stormy Daniels that he will have to pretend not to hear. But he knows the questions themselves are damaging to him.
But the reporters` questions do not involve the perjury risk that President Trump will experience if he is put under oath in depositions about Stormy Daniels as Stormy Daniels lawyer, Michael Avenatti is trying to do. Today Michael Avenatti filed a motion in Federal Court in California seeking to force the President of the United States to testify under oath in a deposition.
Michael Avenatti asked for two hours to question President Trump, two hours to question President Trump`s Associate, Michael Cohen, and 10 targeted requests for production of documents. Michael Avenatti said this after filing the new documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS LAWYER: The motion is not crazy. I mean we`re relying on U.S. Supreme Court precedent and whole long -- line of cases in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. It is well founded. It was well thought out. ITs incredibly documented --
GAYLE KING, CBS REPORTER: What do you want?
AVENATTI: What we want is we want the truth. I mean we want to know the truth about what the President knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it. As it relates to the agreement we`re going to test veracity or the truthfulness of Mr. Cohen`s, his attorney`s, statements. And we`re confident Gayle that when we get to the bottom of this we`re going to prove to the American people they have been told a bucket of lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A representative for Trump Associate, Michael Cohen has released a statement calling Michael Avenatti`s motion a reckless use of the legal system in order to continue to inflate Michael Avenatti`s deflated ego and keep himself relevant. There was of course not a single legal point made in Michael Cohen`s associate`s comment about this lawsuit. Michael Avenatti`s legal filing today cites the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the most recent deposition of a sitting President. In 1997 Supreme Court unanimously ruled over the lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Clinton could go forward saying "the constitution does not offer sitting President`s significant protections from potentially distracting civil litigation.
That lawsuit set the stage for President Clinton to be question under oath. Ultimately the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton on charges of lying under oath. So what will happen if President Trump has to testify under oath about the time he spent with Stormy Daniels? That`s Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Subpoena would the President sit for a deposition?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again I`m not going to get into a hypothetical question. And i would refer you to Michael Cohen on that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us John Heilemann and Harry Litman. And John Heilem one thing all the President`s lawyers seem to agree on is that putting the President under oath is by definition a perjury trap. They just say if he has to go under oath it`s a perjury trap and so because the man obviously cannot tell the truth. And so here`s he`s running another risk of being put t under oath by Stormy Daniels Lawyer.
John Heilemann, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And you know look I mean when you think about it just the prima facie case you know if you were Donald Trump`s friend or his family member, let alone his lawyer. If you look at the fact that he lies, he purposely, obviously lies all the time. And then there is the questions of his memory.
Then there`s the questions of places where you think he might not be lying in the sense but he knows he`s telling an untruth but he`s deluded, he thinks he`s accomplished things he hasn`t accomplished. And he thinks he`s done -- he`s not done certain things he clearly has done. You think about all of those or that range of behaviors, you`ve got a huge problem. And I don`t think any of it qualifies as a perjury trap. Harry Litman could speak to what perjury trap technically is. But certainly the man is a walking perjury machine. And almost inevitable as soon as he starts speaking he will commit some form of perjury.
O`DONNELL: Well a perjury trap of course is the phrased used by people who commit perjury. There is no is such thing as a perjury trap. You`re put under oath, you`re supposed to tell the truth, it`s simple as that.
Harry Litman, the President is now on his way to going under oath one way or another, probably in the special prosecutor`s investigation, probably in the emoluments case that we just talked about in the last segment. And now possibly in the Stormy Daniels case. What do you make of Michael Avenatt `s approach? He did everything you`re supposed to do when you`re asking to get the President under oath. He said it would be very time limited. It would be very precise, he made it very narrow what he`s asking for.
HARRY LITMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he has really outmaneuvered them completely. They`re now all of a sudden in the open field facing incoming from everywhere and really don`t know what to do. On John`s point, this is a perjury trap, yes.
It`s not a perjury trap, it`s not simply that Trump is a pathological liar, which he is. But it`s that the facts here are I think everybody, including Trump supporters, pretty much understand, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels. So if he`s put under oath and asked about that, he either lies, commits perjury, or he cops to something that shows him to have been a public liar to the American people though he`s been very careful, very careful here, not to say it expressly.
But you`re right, he`s now got three or four different individual courts where he could have this dreaded appointment with an actual testimony. And the important thing there is, whereas in the Mueller Probe the ultimate sort of arbiters or power brokers are the Republicans in Congress who don`t seem to have much stomach for pushing back. Here we`ll have an individual judge who can really punish him if he or she thinks he commits perjury. T
This happened in the Clinton case. The Paula Jones Judge, Susan Webber Wright, concluded he`d committed perjury, fined him $750,000, took away his license, and he pretty much just had to take it. So there`s a real risk now that an individual judge could be the person who comes down hard on trump.
O`DONNELL: And John, what Michael Avenatti`s also asking for is that he wants Michael Cohen to be deposed. Now Michael Cohen does not have the claim, oh, i`m too busy you know. The President of the United States has an argument --
HEILEMANN: Or too important.
O`DONNELL: Yes, has an argument to make there. Michael Cohen does not. And so if there`s delay getting the President to be deposed, you can always get Michael Cohen deposed, assuming he can get anyone deposed in this case.
HEILEMANN: Yes, and in both cases, think about it, in some ways Michael Cohen is a more potentially damaging witness in the sense that, as Harry points out the facts of the Stormy Daniels case alone the politics are not particularly damaging to Trump. As everybody believes Trump had an affair with an adult film actress. People believe Bill Clinton had affairs with multiple women.
The American people are forgiving of extra marital affairs among politicians, especially among Presidents. His support will not diminish by admitting that. But the question of how many of these documents are out there how much is this a form NDA, when you start to widen and have questions about the pattern of behavior here, you start to get out into the very deep weeds. And Michael Cohen will be suddenly find himself, if he`s not -- to avoid perjury, will find himself telling stories that will lead to other questions. Those other questions as you`ve been pointing out are potentially very dangerous for Donald Trump, depending on the behaviors that those NDA`s were designed to, and in fact so far have concealed
O`DONNELL: Yes, with Michael Cohen, he doesn`t have to limit himself to two hours. He can go through every line of that confidentiality agreement and ask him, what was this paternity stuff about?
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, Harry Litman, thank you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.
LITMAN: Thanks Lawrence
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s Last Word is next.
O`DONNELL: Last night at city hall in California`s capital city of Sacramento, a city council meeting was disrupted by protesters outraged at the killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark 10 days ago by police when he was unarmed in his grandparents` backyard. Sacramento Police Officers say they believed that Stephon Clark had a gun. But after they shot and killed him, they discovered that he only had a cell phone. Here is some of what protesters had to say last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just letting you guys know this is not a gun. It`s a phone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are sick and tired of being tired. And killed by those with whom we pay and are supposed to protect us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: we want you to return to true meaning of public safety because we don`t feel very safe right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s Last Word. Up next, the President got rid of another cabinet member today. The head of the Veterans Administration and he wants to replace him with the doctor who says that Donald Trump is perfectly healthy and absolutely not obese. Brian has all the details on that next in "the 11th hour with Brian Williams which starts now.
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