Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 5, 2018 Guest: Michael Avanatti, Josh Earnest, Jennifer Rubin, Ron Klain, Scott Pruitt, Ed Henry
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And as you reported, Michael Cohen`s life got more interesting today with the special prosecutor apparently talking to associates of his, trying to dig into what he`s been up to. And as luck would have it, guess who`s sitting next to me. You can`t see because I`m in this little tiny box.
But, you know, I`m in a bigger room than this. And sitting beside me right now, I`m going to make you let cheat, you have to guess -- hint, his name is Michael Avenatti.
O`DONNELL: He`s here to talk about what the president had to say, finally for the first time, spoke about Stormy Daniels. And now, we`ll find out what Michael Avenatti thinks of this intersection with the special prosecutor and Michael Cohen.
MADDOW: I would -- I would -- if you would please tell Mr. Avenatti that I would pay very good money -- I`m super cheap -- I would pay very good money to see him and Michael Cohen talking about anything, let alone either of the legal fights that they`re in together.
O`DONNELL: I think he might pay that money, too, just to do that. He`s itching to do that.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Well, Donald Trump did something today that we have never seen him do before. Not before his political career, not during his presidential campaign, and not during his presidency. We have never seen Donald Trump do this before. Donald Trump actually answered a yes or no question.
Now, he gets yes or no questions thrown at him all the time from reporters and he often says words in response from those questions but it`s often a barrage of words that does not include a yes or no and usually has nothing to do with the question. It`s never one word. I mean, never. It`s never yes or no, until today.
Donald Trump answered a yes or no question today with one word, that was it. Just one word. And no big rush of words following that one word. Donald Trump for once answered a yes or no question with one word and Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who`s going to be with us, called that one word, quote, a gift from the heavens. That`s what he told Ari Melber it was, a gift from the heavens, and that one word was no.
Here is the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And that, as future historians will record, is the very first word that president Trump has publicly spoken about Stormy Daniels. Until that moment, Donald Trump has done a shockingly good job for Donald Trump of doing exactly what his lawyer in the Stormy Daniels case wants him to do, which is the same thing the lawyers in the Robert Mueller investigation want him to do, which is to say absolutely nothing. Say nothing all the time. Nothing.
That is the hardest thing in the world to get Donald Trump to do. But Donald Trump didn`t check with his lawyers before following a common tradition set by previous presidents of stepping back into the press section of Air Force One today and taking a few questions from the traveling reporters. What could possibly go wrong?
Reports indicate that President Trump has been feeling very, very confident lately. The more White House advisers he loses from firings or resignations, the more confident he seems to feels. He felt very confident today in West Virginia where he went to speak about the Trump tax cuts and then forgot to speak about the tax cuts because he so confidently, literally threw away his prepared remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, this was going to be my remarks. It would have been taken about two minutes, but --
But that would have been a little boring. A little boring. Now I`m reading off the first paragraph, I said, this is boring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wow, that`s confidence, real presidential confidence.
That was the same confidence that led him back to the press section of Air Force One today. There was no one on that plane who might have been able to successfully advise him against talking to reporters today. Standing behind him is Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley who is so many steps down from the press secretary that he is not allowed to appear at the podium in the White House press briefing room even when the press secretary has decided to hand it off that day to a deputy.
Donald Trump has obviously made the judgment that nobody in America wants to listen to Hogan Gidley, and that no double includes Donald Trump. And so, you can see in the background all the heavy homework in policy preparation that the president was doing before he stepped back to talk to the reporters.
There on the TV screen you can see how confident the president was today on Air Force One. He wasn`t even bothering to watch Fox News to see what he should say to the reporters. It was a golf day on Air Force One today.
The only questions Donald Trump was confident to answer on Air Force One today were questions like, how is Tiger Woods doing at the Masters. Instead, he got the first few questions that Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who will join us in a moment, wants to ask the president under oath in a deposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was no truth to his allegations?
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don`t know. No.
REPORTER: Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from? REPORTER 2: I`m sorry, I couldn`t hear your response earlier about Scott Pruitt. Are you still --
TRUMP: About who?
REPORTER 2: About Pruitt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, the president answers three quick questions about Stormy Daniels before he finds his way back to the safer grounds of refusing to answer any more questions about Stormy Daniels. To question one he says, no, I didn`t know Michael Cohen made a deal with Stormy Daniels. The question two, why did Michael Cohen make the payment, the president says, I don`t know, you`d have to ask Michael Cohen. To question three, do you know where he got the money to make the payment? The president says, I don`t know.
Imagine, imagine how stunned Donald Trump was by that first Stormy Daniels question, so stunned that he gave a one word answered, so flattened by it that he didn`t overwhelm the question with a barrage of words and immediately change the subject. He was so stunned that it took him three whole questions to crawl back into position to take control of the interview and the question he refuses to answer is, did you ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from? Did Donald Trump ever set up a fund of money for silencing women like Stormy Daniels?
The president of the United States refused to answer that question today. And unlike every other time the president has been asked about a woman who has made an allegation against him, the president was still very, very careful to not say a word about Stormy Daniels herself.
Now, just think about how terrified Donald Trump has to be of Stormy Daniels to not dare contradict her publicly, to not dare say one negative word about her publicly, to not dare say anything, anything about her publicly.
Reporters on the next trip on Air Force One can keep doing whatever they were doing before the president came back to talk to them today because he won`t be coming back to talk to them again as long as Stormy Daniels is still in his life.
Leading off our discussion is Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. And joining the discussion is Joy Reid, an MSNBC national correspondent and the host of "A.M. JOY", weekends on MSNBC. And Ron Klain is with us, she`s the former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former senior aide to President Obama.
Michael, I want to go first of all to this breaking news tonight about the special prosecutor who`s very interested in Michael Cohen`s dealings for Donald Trump involving all sorts of activity, including possibly foreign businesses.
How does your litigation interact, if it does at all, in terms of pressure on Michael Cohen with the special prosecutor`s investigation?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, I think what we`re seeing, Lawrence, over the last two weeks is a concentrated effort by the president and his surrogates and Michael Cohen is playing along, to really put the focus as it relates to our case on Michael Cohen.
He is being placed in the crosshairs. He is being placed in a position where he`s going to be expected to take the fall. He`s going to be the one that is going to be expected to say that President Trump knew nothing about this.
He was off on his own. He was negotiating the agreement on his own. He paid it on his own. And if that`s a violation of the New York bar rules and if that means that he has to lose his license to practice law, well, then he`s willing to take that hit on behalf of the president.
I think that due to the report that you mentioned relating to the special prosecutor, the noose is tightening on that front as well. And let me just say this, there seems to be a lot of confidence by the president in Michael Cohen`s ability to take this much heat and this much weight, and we`re talking about a lot of heat potentially and a lot of weight.
O`DONNELL: You mean both weights, the weight of the Stormy Daniels` case and you mean the simultaneous weight of the special prosecutor?
AVENATTI: That`s exactly what I mean.
And let me say this, that`s a lot of weight and a lot of heat for any one person to take. And the level of confidence that they appear to have in Michael Cohen, in my view, is likely misplaced, because in the event that he folds under that pressure, whether it`s next week, or next month or next year, whether it`s the pressure we bring to bear by way of depositions in what we`re doing in our case or the pressure that the special prosecutor brings to bare, in the event he folds and rolls over on Mr. Trump, President Trump, that`s going to be a very, very bad day for the president, because there`s no question that Michael Cohen knows where a lot of bodies are buried.
He`s been with this man for a long, long time. He`s been entrusted with a lot of information, and the special prosecutor, for instance, will be able to get to communications potentially between President Trump and Michael Cohen, even though there was an attorney-client privilege relationship there by way of what`s called the crime fraud exception.
And in the event that that happens, that`s going to be a very, very bad day. But Michael Cohen today was not a stellar day for him by any stretch of the imagination. First, the president threw him under the bus on Air Force One by claiming that Michael Cohen did this on his own relating to Stormy Daniels, which by the way I don`t believe for one minute that`s accurate, but even taking the president at face value, that`s the first thing.
And then we have the special prosecutor report relating to them starting to knock on doors of associates and asking questions about Michael Cohen. So, no question Michael Cohen is in the cross hairs.
O`DONNELL: Did the confidentiality agreement in effect evaporate on Air Force One. The party, one of the parties of the confidentiality agreement said on Air Force One today, I knew nothing about it.
AVENATTI: Well, we think it did. I mean, we think this is basically game over as it relates to our claim.
We`ve heard, Lawrence, for the better part of a month this was a rock solid agreement, you have David Schwartz out there talking about what an excellent lawyer Michael Cohen is and how this was a model, this was a model NDA. It`s a lot of things but no way in hell it`s a model NDA. This thing is a piece of trash in reality, and everybody knows it, and any legal analyst who looks at it will tell you the same thing, who`s not biased.
But that`s what we`ve been hearing. And now, we have a principal party to the agreement, who admits on camera, that supposedly he didn`t know anything about a principle term of the agreement. Well, that means he didn`t know anything about the agreement, which means there is no agreement.
So, all of this chest pounding and threats how they were going to bury my client and they were going to seek $20 million and they were going to go on an extended vacation with the money and all this over buffoonery we`ve heard for the last few weeks, that all goes out the window. You can`t enforce an agreement where one party admits that they basically didn`t know anything about it.
It`s an absolute joke. And I also think it`s calls in veracity the statements all along the way. It`s going to provide a further hook, Lawrence, for us to be able to depose this president and Michael Cohen. And we`re going to make that motion again. We`re going to renew that motion on Monday and we`re going to see what the court has to say.
And I will tell you this, in the event that we get a two-hour deposition of Michael Cohen and a two-hour deposition of this president, I am highly confident that their statements are not going to hold up under cross- examination by me, period.
O`DONNELL: So, Joy, the president of the United States tonight has to be able to fall asleep with the thought in his head that his presidency might turn on the strength of Michael Cohen.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "A.M. JOY": Yes, it`s pretty amazing. I`m not a lawyer, obviously. Certainly, you know, don`t have the level of insight into this that Michael Avenatti has, although if I have a problem legally, I think I know who I will call.
But let`s just apply the common sense test here to what the president and Michael Cohen want you to believe. They would have you believe that his attorney, by himself, took $130,000 of his own money, to pay off someone after the "Access Hollywood" tape that did not impact in any way Donald Trump`s ability to be elected, and right before the election give her money, although they believe her to be not credible. Someone they described as having zero credibility, someone you don`t believe can implicate your client, that your client says he never had a relationship with.
So you give this person that he had no relationship with, other than taking photos with, $130,000 of your own money as the lawyer, you create an LLC to create a secret corporation. You on your own as the lawyer create an alias for your client, David Dennison, you put that alias` name on the agreement, never telling your client you`ve created an alias, you`ve created a company, you`ve taken your own $130,000, not expecting to be paid back, and you do all of that simply because you`re afraid a woman will make a claim that you believe to be completely false and not provable, so that she can`t even prove she had a relationship with him.
What would stop any woman off the street then to just walk up to Donald Trump and say, I too had a relationship with Donald Trump. Why weren`t there hundreds of women lining up to get $130,000 in free money from Michael Cohen? The whole thing makes no sense.
You don`t have to have gone to law school to understand that is crazy. We as civilians pay lawyers. We hire someone like Michael Avenatti.
They don`t pay for our issues, we pay them. So Donald Trump didn`t pay his lawyer. His lawyer paid a random woman, who all he did was take a picture with in California?
This is crazy. And so, I think Donald Trump`s problem is, to your point -- I think to both of your point, he never should have answered the question because the only logical answer to this, right, is, of course, I paid -- had my lawyer do this, and, of course, I meant to pay him back, which means they attempted to influence the election.
There`s no way out for Donald Trump here. I mean, the Mueller case on its own with the Russia stuff is tough. The Stormy Daniels case feels like an absolute vice for this president.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, I want to go to the intersection of the two cases, there`s $130,000 that moves here. And Robert Mueller has the authority to investigate any crimes committed during the campaign, involving the campaign, in any way. If there`s a campaign finance violation here, he has the power to investigate that. It seems to me that the special prosecutor would be interested in how that $130,000 moved, whose $130,000 was it, is that $130,000 that was it borne in Russia somewhere? When we see money has been trafficked around Trump world, you never know where it came from.
And so, it seems very likely there will come a moment when the special prosecutor is trying to find out, either directly from Michael Cohen or people around him, exactly where did that $130,000 come from?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: Yes, Lawrence, I think that`s a great point. Look, I mean, you said that Donald Trump did something he`s never done before which is answer the question with a single word, no. But in doing so, he did something he`s done every single day he`s president, which was lie, because there`s absolutely no way that`s true.
And so, it does come down to this question of where did the money come from? And as Joy just expressed, it`s inconceivable that without confirming with his client what happened here that Michael Cohen mortgaged his home to pay Stormy Daniels. I mean, if he mortgaged his home to pay every time someone came to his office and said they had an affair with Donald Trump with no proof at all, then -- you know, it`s amazing this guy has a home at this point in time.
So, where did that money come from? Did it come from overseas? How was Michael Cohen involved not just Russia but also with Georgia and other nations, other foreign countries mentioned in the "McClatchy" report tonight. I mean, it`s a key intersection with two scandals that have seemed unrelated to this point but are really coming together.
As they used to say in Watergate, follow the money. Where did the $130,000 come from? It did not come from Michael Cohen`s pocket. We can be sure of that.
AVENATTI: Lawrence, if I can jump in for a minute. One of the things that make it so absurd, as Joy so eloquently put it, and this is absurd, this thought process, these are two guys, President Trump and Michael Cohen that pride themselves on being tough guys. These are two guys that pride themselves on being tough negotiators, whether it being China, you know, we heard on the campaign trail various real estate deals, et cetera.
These are not guys that are supposed to roll over when, you know, when some adult film star shows up and claims she had a relationship, and they just get their checkbooks out and willy-nilly write a check for $130,000. They wrote the check for $130,000 because they knew that my client was telling the truth and the whole truth about what happened. And that`s the only reason they wrote the $130,000 check. Otherwise, they would have sent her packing with her pockets empty.
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s just everybody -- just hold in place here. We`re going to be joined by phone now by Kevin Hall. He`s the senior investigative reporter from "McClatchy" who broke tonight`s story about the Mueller investigation looking into Michael Cohen and his role in the Trump Organization.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We`ve been trying to digest your extensive reporting tonight as it`s been coming in. But what are the high points you think we should be concentrating on?
KEVIN HALL, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, MCCLATCHY (via telephone): Well, I think the biggest take away is now it`s broadened to include very specific companies that were involved in the foreign and expansion of his business. If you look at the -- kind of the evolution of his business once he couldn`t get loans in the United States, how he expanded to leasing his name abroad and Michael Cohen at a later point became an important point person who went out to kind of sell brand Trump around the world.
It wasn`t in places like Paris or Berlin, or kind of places we -- companies like the Marriott go, it was places like Baku, Batumi, Qatar, Dubai rather, places that aren`t more conventional places where you might go invest. Ands I think that`s what you`re looking at.
O`DONNELL: And is it likely, as we`ve been speculating here, that the special prosecutor could also be interested in for example where the $130,000 came from that Michael Cohen says he used in the Stormy Daniels payoff?
HALL: It`s certainly conceivable that somewhere in this investigation that`s what he`s going to be looking at. Mr. Cohen`s finances in and of themselves are fairly interesting. He`s a self-made millionaire. He has investments. If I`m not mistaken, I think he had quite a bit of taxi companies, owned a lot of taxicabs in the New York area. He was part of a joint venture to do ethanol in the Ukraine at some point.
So, he has kind of a varied interest of his own, separate from the Trump portfolio, and in real estate. My colleague Greg Gordon had an interesting piece about his ability to make a big return on some of his real estate that may be attracting some of the attention of investigators as well.
O`DONNELL: And, Kevin, I`m struck by the timing here. The Stormy Daniels case comes out, Michael Avenatti makes it public and the focus in it is very much Michael Cohen from the start. It`s Michael Cohen`s agreement that he has drawn up and he has signed and he -- he executed in whatever way it was done.
So, the focus has been on him kind of relentlessly. And the idea that the special prosecutor is now turning to Michael Cohen, I`m wondering how much Michael Avenatti`s public work on this may have focused the special prosecutor`s attention, especially when this story provoked Michael Cohen to say publicly, I came up with $130,000 and I, you know, handed it over in this situation two weeks before the election. And that kind of quickly raises questions about campaign finance.
HALL: Right. And it certainly raises questions about kind of the flexibility of how money might flow between related and unrelated entities. I think the fact that they were using pseudonyms and LLCs that by their very nature are fairly not transparent although interestingly enough he had his name on it, which is more than most LLCs have. But he -- I think it all speaks to why he is a key person that -- irrespective of what Michael Avenatti is doing, he would have been a person of focus but I think the focus is much more highlighted on him than before.
O`DONNELL: And so, just to get into the specific reporting for a moment. You report that armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller`s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate who was party to multiple interaction transactions connected to Trump`s efforts to expand his brand abroad, and this is someone who Michael Cohen has been close to.
That presumably Michael Cohen knew about this before you did. Which is to say it is very, very likely that that person, having been hit with these subpoenas, would have let Michael Cohen know that?
HALL: Hard to know, hard to know. Cohen is a pretty combative person, he has got a lot of friends but he has got a lot of people who he`s rubbed the wrong way. I think his abrasiveness is pretty well-documented. So, it`s hard to know how much advance warning there was.
In fact, our sense is there wasn`t any advance warning. That`s what was so striking about it, the speed and fluidity in which they were ready to move in and seek what they were after.
O`DONNELL: Kevin Hall with "McClatchy" with the big news of the night, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
HALL: Thanks for having us.
O`DONNELL: And we`re joined now by Jennifer Rubin. She`s a conservative opinion writer at "The Washington Post", and MSNBC contributor, and one of the law school graduates at the table.
Jennifer, as you`ve been digesting all of this breaking news here within the hour, I just want to get your reaction to the way it seems the Mueller investigation is now crossing into Stormy Daniels payoff territory.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. There are one of two possibilities, both are campaign violations. If Trump did know about it, he should have revealed that. He should have disclosed that.
If he didn`t know about it, then Mr. Cohen overshot the campaign limits by about, I don`t know, $128,000, something like that. So, I think $2,700 is the limit now. So, one of them is in a lot of trouble.
And, by the way, there are separate complaints that are filed both with DOJ and the FEC on exactly that point. So, you now have some other venues that may be seeking information. Granted those are in the executive branch.
I do want to raise one possibility. I`m curious if Michael has thought about this. And that is, what if as Joy put it, there are hundreds of women? What if Trump set up a slush fund for the hush money?
In other words, he gives a pool of money or authorizes Michael Cohen to get rid of any of these women who show up who have a fairly credible story and he says, you know, here`s $5 million or $10 million just pay them off, just take care of them. In that fashion, he wouldn`t have to know about an individual settlement, he could claim deniability. Yet he could be the fixer. Michael Cohen is exactly the kind of person who would be the fixer.
So I think that that`s out of the realm of possibility in which case how many other women were there, how much did they get, how much money are we talking about? Were did the money come from? So, I think that is the next level that we go to, to see was this really a one-time only kind of thing? That seems hard to believe.
O`DONNELL: Michael, I want to get your opinion on that, and let`s remember as a frame here, Michael Wolff`s book quotes Steve Bannon as saying there are hundreds of these. That was the number, hundreds. Secondly, that`s the question the president refused to answer today.
The question was, did you establish a fund for this kind of thing? And that was the moment the president stopped talking.
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, here`s one thing we do know. You don`t have a 24 hour, 7 day a week fixer which is what David Schwartz has recently described Michael Cohen as for the president, a 24/7 fixer, unless you`re breaking a lot of things, right? So, the only reason you have a fixer available 24/7 is if you`re breaking things on a regular basis every day.
So, there`s no question in my mind that Michael Cohen knows where a lot of bodies are buried, was fixing a lot of things for Mr. Trump over many, many years. So, I think it`s possible that a slush fund, if you will, was set up to compensate women. Michael Cohen may have been put in charge of it.
But what is key about the payment to my client, as opposed to other payments that took place in the years or months prior to that payment, is the timing over of it. And Michael Cohen and David Schwartz are now trying to sell the American people on the fact that this $130,000 payment had nothing to do with the election, was not in any way to influence the election.
Despite the fact they knew my client for five years, did not make the payment to her, did nothing to give the money to her, sign an NDA, et cetera. They want the American people to believe it`s a coincidence that ten days before the election, they decided to button this up and it had nothing to do with the election. And no one will ever believe that.
If it becomes an issues relating to a campaign finance violation, and if Michael Cohen or the president find themselves in the crosshairs on charges on this, no one will ever believe that the timing of that was just a coincidence.
O`DONNELL: And, Joy, Schwartz issued a statement tonight after the news came out about what the president said, and he said, OK, so this confirms exactly what Michael Cohen said. Michael Cohen said the president didn`t know about it and Michael Cohen took care of it.
So, in the Schwartz statement, and it`s hard to talk about these guys without making fun of them. Because they are the worst public speakers with the word lawyer beside their name in history. Schwartz`s statement says that Michael Cohen did it to protect President Trump`s reputation.
Now, in the next line he said it had nothing to do with the campaign. Campaigns are about reputation. Voters go and vote on your reputation, among other things on Election Day.
REID: Well, and, OK, right, to protect his reputation. Donald Trump when he was a realtor, real estate developer mogul in New York, desperately wanted to be famous, used to pretend to be his own publicist to tell the New York tabloids who he was sleeping with. Donald Trump wanted people to know that he was sleeping with beautiful women. This has never been someone who was shy about that.
Let`s recall in mid October he was revealed to have bragged to Billy Bush on that bus in Access Hollywood that he feels free to kiss women without their permission. He would appear on the Howard Stern Show and brag about walking in on half naked teenagers because he could. This is why it makes no sense. There are two reasons why the Stormy Daniels situation is odd. One is the amount. If you pay somebody off, a $130,000 is an odd number, why not give her 150 or $125,000 or sort of a number that seems round.
$130,000 makes you wonder is this a piece of a larger fund. The other piece of the question is after Access Hollywood and after it did nothing to his pole numbers, the absolute support he has, particularly among white evangelical voters, who said they don`t care if he`s sleeping with women, why sit this woman, this case, freaks him out. Is it because she is a port to knowing that he`s sleep with other -- his voters don`t care.
So is it that and this is a question I guess I would have for Michael, if there are other women, were these all consensual relationships? Because I can`t -- I mean remember, Donald Trump also by the election had, what, 14 or 15 women who alleged nonconsensual sexual behavior on the part of Donald Trump. My curiosity wonders is that why he`s worried? Are there women who got payments would not characterize their relationship the way that Stormy Daniels did and does she know about that? This one woman freaking him out this much raises so many questions.
MICHAEL AVANATTI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I have my own personal theory, its complete speculation, I`m happy to provide it. I think the reason why this freaks him out so much and why he is so concerned and scared to come out against my client is because of the timing of when this occurred because it happened to occur within months of the birth of his son. And I believe --
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The actual time spent with Stormy Daniels was four months after his last child one born.
AVANATTI: Yes. That is correct. And a lot of people have a lot of speculation relating to what that relationship with Melania looks like. A lot of people speculate to a host of things but the fact of the matter is no one knows because we`re not in that relationship. We don`t know what that relationship is, how it`s evolved or changed over the months or years they`ve been together.
Is it possible in any view, I think it is -- is it possible that this was the one time period in that relationship, around the birth of their son where Melania said if you want to carry on at other times, fine, but around the birth of our son, No Mas. This is going to be a sacred time period. it wouldn`t be unusual for a woman to take that position quite honestly or a spouse and so --
O`DONNELL: Well a woman whose dealing with someone like Donald Trump.
AVANATTI: Well correct. and so I think that`s a possibility and think the timing of this is really what drives it. And I`ve always believed that. The timing of when they got together in relation to the birth of his son.
REID: And you know Nicole Wallace, our colleague here at NBC said according to her sources when Donald Trump first hears about this situation arising his first question was when did I get married to Melania? What was the date? I need to do the math. So I don`t know if there`s some prenuptial agreement that this could trigger some interest --
O`DONNELL: All right but that`s the cliff-hanger. We have to squeeze in at least one commercial break this hour. Every ones going to stay -- Michael thank you very for joining us, really appreciate it.
AVANATTI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: The rest of the crew is going to stick with us. Coming up EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is sinking in scandal. so the president is thinking of making him Attorney General. of course.
O`DONNELL: The President`s Lead Criminal Defense Lawyer gave him some very serious advice today and he did it on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, UNITED STATES JUDGE: Stay away from that, Mr. President, that interview environment is extremely dangerous. If he`s a subject and not yet a target and want him to become a target, they`re going to ask him questions, the answers to which will move him into that target category.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK Andrew Napolitano was not yet the President`s Lead Criminal Defense Lawyer but the President doesn`t have a lead criminal defense lawyer anymore. So Andrew is probably as close as we`ll get. Let`s bring in to this conversation former Obama White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and the rest of the panel is back with us.
And Josh I`m joking, of course, about Andrew Napolitano. He`s happy at Fox News. He doesn`t need to represent the president. But he was on Fox and Friends this morning. He knows he`s talking to the President and actually does directly address the President from time to time in his legal advise.
And he like John Dowd, who was handling the President`s criminal representation and the Special Prosecutors investigation is firmly against this President going under oath talking to anyone, avoid it at all possible costs and it seems the deposition case we saw on the Stormy Daniels case on Air Force One today is a good example why don`t you want him going under oath
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well Lawrence I do think it is established after seeing President Trump in the Oval Office for a little over a year that his first instinct is always to not tell the truth. And I think it`s likely if he were to walk into a deposition with Bob Mueller, he`s likely to spend a lot of time following his instincts. You know Lawrence, the thing I keep going back to a couple weeks ago, Trey Gowdy, the Republican Congressman who built his reputation as a investigator and spent sometime as a prosecutor before entering Congress.
Somebody that I didn`t particularly have a high opinion of but he also had advice for the President on Fox News. And his advise was President Trump if you`re innocent, it`s time to start acting like it. And that`s the thing I`m struck by, the more we talk about these incidents whether it`s Stormy Daniels or the Mueller investigation and the interference by by Russia in the election. President Trump never acts like he`s innocent.
O`DONNELL: And Jennifer Rubin, he still tries to go out there and say, as he did the other day, That no one has been tougher on Russia than he has been.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Except for all the other Presidents that preceded him. But let`s go back to Judge Napalatano for a minute. Has he heard of the subpoena power? This is nuts.
Trump doesn`t get to decide if he goes before Mueller. His only decision is does he go voluntarily or does he wait for the subpoena from the Grand Jury. One way or another Mueller is going to get him under oath. And notion that he can just I`ll decide talk to him because I`ll be really bad under oath is kind of nuts.
What`s he going to do? Refuse to show up? Not open White House the door to the process server? Is he going to court and then he`s going to what? Refuse if the court enforces the subpoena. I don`t know what he`s thinking.
But perhaps these people have told him falsely. They`ve told him a lot of things I think that aren`t true. And he can get out of this. That this is a choice. It`s not a choice.
He`s going to be compelled. And then the question is, this is the favorite of the presidency, is the President of the United States going to take the fifth? As an individual he can, as a President that`s untenable. He`s blocking the investigation into himself because he thinks he might be indicted.
So I think this is a huge mess and every one of these people who go out there and say, don`t do it, Mr. President, I don`t know where they`re getting their advice or what they`re thinking because he`s not going to have a choice.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, defending the President in this investigation is clearly a one day at a time exercise for everyone involved.
RON KLAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Yes.
O`DONNELL: And so today is the question do you sit down for a voluntary interview, and the answer to that is no. we`ll cross the bridge of the subpoena when we get there. and Andrew Napolitano will be on Fox News when the subpoena arrives advising the President as to how and why he can simply defy he subpoena, and by way not accept service of the subpoena, do not let the U.S. Marshal with the subpoena through the White House gate.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean I do agree there`s a possibility we`re headed towards a real constitutional crisis where the President refuses to answer the questions voluntarily and then somehow believes he is literally above the law and will not honor a subpoena. But look what I do know as a lawyer is, it is no defense to questions, no defense to a subpoena, to say I Simply am incapable of telling the truth, and therefore, I will not answer your questions. That`s kind of the argument really that Napolitano and supposedly John Dowd, the President`s resigned lawyer made.
Basically their view is look this President -- and you heard the clip with Napolitano. His argument was basically he`ll go in there and get himself in trouble because he will start answering the questions. Well the only way he gets in trouble is if he lies. And basically this is an admission that the man cannot answer honestly. That either means he`s a congenital liar, we know that`s true. It also means he may well be guilty. That`s remains to be seen. But neither one of these things is a particular (INAUDIBLE) view of the President of the United States.
RUBIN: It`s almost the insanity defense.
O`DONNELL: Let me take josh --
RUBIN: He can`t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. That may come in handy later on.
O`DONNELL: Josh, I want to take you back to your experience with the presidency. And that is the President brings his whole life into the presidency whether he likes it or not, there are going to be some uncomfortable associations that may come up at different times. And to see us tonight sitting here with the special prosecutor zeroing in on Michael Cohen, for you in a general shape of things way, may not be that surprising. Someone the President has been associated with for years and years and years coming into the focus of the Special Prosecutor who is studying everything about Donald Trump.
EARNEST: Lawrence, this is I think, another one of the perils of especially President Trump running a non-professionalized Presidential Campaign and trying to run his White House the same way. People that have relevant skills and experiences in managing these large complicated enterprises are people whose advice President Trump just simply ignores.
And he relies on people whose only qualification is their loyalty and willingness to lie for him. And that certainly is -- is a big part of Michael Cohen`s job description from long before President Trump entered the white house. and it`s certainly true that we would expect president`s to have life-long relationships and people that they trust, these are people who gave them good advice before they became famous, and you would expect they would have their priorities in a situation or organized in such a way that they would care personally about this person and not the power they have e massed in the White House.
But those are not the kind of people that president trump has associated himself with. And that`s not, frankly, the kind of people that President Trump has been relying upon. I think that`s in part why he`s gotten such terrible advice.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to try to squeeze in another break in this almost commercial free edition of the last word.
When we come back, the president is thinking about naming the scandal plagued EPA Administrator the Attorney General. But the President denied that today. He said he absolutely is not thinking about doing that which means of course, which means it could happen tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: We know that the President has tried to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions so that he could get a new Attorney General who will then fire the Special Prosecutor. And that doesn`t seem any less likely today just because the President denied today that he is thinking about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with the Head of the EPA Scott Pruitt, who is currently a front runner for the most corrupt member of the Trump Cabinet.
On Air Force One today before the cameras were turned on to capture the video and sound, the President was asked are you thinking of switching him out for Attorney General? And the President said, no, no, no, Scott is doing a great job where he is because that is Trump answer it has no meaning.
The President could still decide to fire Jeff Sessions tomorrow and replace him immediately with Scott Pruitt, who would be allowed to serve temporarily as Attorney General, because he has already been confirmed by the Senate for another job. With the scandal surrounding Scott Pruitt now, he could never be confirmed by the Senate for another job, but he would be able to do what the President would want him to do as Attorney General in one day. And that, of course, would be, firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
There can be little doubt about Scott Pruitt`s willingness to do that, since he seems to have no ethical standards for how he conducts himself in his current job. He is under fire tonight for moving into a lobbyist`s house when he arrived in Washington and paying only $50 a night for his accommodation in the lobbyist`s house, although there is no public proof that he actually even paid that.
There`s no proof that he actually paid anything. No copies of any canceled checks, for example. And the lobbyist`s first represents companies with interests involving the EPA, including the oil giant Exxonmobil. even Fox News correspondent Ed Henry wasn`t buying Scott Pruitt`s story about living in the lobbyist`s house.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: This was like an Airbnb situation, Ed.
ED HENRY, REPORTER, FOX NEWS: It`s not. It`s a block from the capital.
PRUITT: It was like an Airbnb situation.
HENRY: So you only paid for the nights you were there?
PRUITT: That`s exactly right.
HENRY: But that`s kind of a sweetheart deal because --
PRUITT: No, it`s not.
HENRY: your house in Oklahoma, you pay a mortgage on that, and when you don`t sleep there --
PRUITT: unfortunately, yeah.
HENRY: When you don`t sleep there, you still pay the mortgage, right?
PRUITT: not when I`m not -- but this is a tremendous difference. I wasn`t using the facility Ed when I wasn`t there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Try getting that deal with your landlord. You only pay rent on the nights you actually sleep at home. Reports indicate that Chief of Staff John Kelly told Scott Pruitt to not do any interviews, for exactly what we just saw, And obviously now we know why. Scott Pruitt couldn`t even survive a Fox News interview. Our panel will be back after one more break to consider the possibility of Scott Pruitt getting promoted to Attorney General.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: President Trump said he would drain the swamp.
PRUITT: I don`t --
HENRY: Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington Lobbyist?
PRUITT: I don`t think that that`s even remotely fair to ask that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Our panel is back with us. And Ron Klain, this is the tip of the iceberg of Scott Pruitt`s ethical issues and giant expense issues that he`s been doing, including wanting to spend $100,000 a month on private air travel. But, as a former Chief of Staff to an Attorney General, what do you make of this -- these reports indicating the president has been thinking about dumping Jeff Sessions and putting Scott Pruitt In the temporary appointment?
KLAIN: Yes, look, let`s be clear. Donald Trump doesn`t care that Scott Pruitt has broken every ethics rule in the book. He doesn`t care that Scott Pruitt has the most improbable housing arrangement since those people had those apartments on the show Friends.
he doesn`t care about any of that. The reason Scott Pruitt stays at the EPA and doesn`t go to DOJ is that Scott Pruitt Is so busy delivering for trump donors on pollution, on deregulation, on mining, on basically just the complete destruction of our environment that the donors want him to stay at EPA and they don`t want him moved over to DOJ. So this idea that, like, he`s -- that he may not move Pruitt over there, that`s, that`s behind the Trump organization wants him to stay there.
O`DONNELL: And Joy, Ron`s point is really powerful, because that`s what you keep hearing. And that`s what the President keeps hearing.
REID: Absolutely. And I think what we have to realize is that Donald Trump admires Vladimir Putin in every way, including encouraging the proliferation of american oligarchs. What Scott Pruitt is busy doing is hawking liquefied natural gas for his landlord`s client in Morocco, taking luxury trips, treating his office as if it`s a personal fiefdom for his own enrichment and luxury. His entire cabinet is acting that way. the happiest person in the cabinet has got to be Ben Carson whose $130,000 desk now looks like a pittance compared to the way Scott Pruitt is doing and the way he was living. This is an American oligarch. We`re being robbed by a regime that`s no different than the cleptocratic regimes around the world. it`s just that Americans have not seen one up close.
O`DONNELL: Josh Earnest, you saw a cabinet settle into their jobs and manage to travel around the country without spending $130,000 a month on private airline travel and spend tens of thousands of dollars on new desks. That`s an awful lot of desks that the Federal Government already owns. Why can`t they even pretend for public appearances to be behaving well?
EARNEST: Yes, Lawrence, I think a lot of this just goes to, their priorities are all off. And they are much less focused on their jobs, and much more interested in trying to figure out how their jobs can make them look good. but, you know, Lawrence, there is one piece of this story that really does kind of stick in my craw, which is, there`s been a lot of discussion about how Scott Pruitt`s international travel actually is pretty similar to the international travel bills that were racked up by Gina McCarthy, his predecessor at the EPA.
What those stories and Pruitt`s defenders fail to tell you is that while Scott Pruitt was traveling around the world playing some lobbyist version of Carmen San Diego, Gina McCarthy was actually traveling all around the planet, because she was at the forefront of trying to secure an international claimant agreement that will literally save our planet. And she did it all while she was flying coach. So I -- so I think there`s a pretty stark difference. And too often the comparison of those numbers actually fails to leave out the context of what actually Gina McCarthy was doing when she was traveling around the world?
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, apparently no one explained to Donald Trump what drain the swamp" means.
RUBIN: Well, Donald Trump has no interest in any of the ethical rules. This is how he`s lived his entire life. On debt, on scamming people, taking money from Trump U. students so nothing has changed and he`s found people equally corrupt and equally bad at their job. And nothing is going to change until the midterm elections because the Republicans don`t care.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, Josh Earnest, Ron Klain, Joy Reid, thank you all for joining us on this extraordinary hour tonight, really appreciate it.
EARNEST: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s last word. Up next, Katherine Lucy, the Associated Press Reporter on Air Force One today who you heard ask President Trump for the very first time about Stormy Daniels and get an answer.