Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 9, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And like you, I had a few things in mind that I planned to talk about tonight, which I won`t be talking about --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes.
O`DONNELL: -- because the news has hit us. And Michael Avenatti is going to be my first guest tonight to react to what may be, what history may see as the moment when Stormy Daniels pushed the special prosecutor closer to getting fired than anyone before her has done.
MADDOW: It is -- this has been a remarkable saga all along. Obviously, the news sort of blew up in the face of this today.
I felt like the thing that this really brought home for me is that the president has really not put together an actual legal team on the Russia scandal. He actually does have some real lawyers on the Stormy Daniels scandal. I mean, he has Michael Cohen but he has additional lawyers working with him on the scandals related to these women have been supposedly paid off.
That`s where he has really lawyered up. And maybe the president saw this before we did in terms of the legal jeopardy that he`s in here.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and moving today`s case, this -- today`s investigation to the southern district of New York is truly fascinating, because as you know, they do not have a confirmed U.S. attorney working there. The U.S. attorney who`s in place there, temporarily, his appointment is a 120-day appointment that runs out on May 5th.
So, the president doesn`t have a prosecutor there to fire and replace because the next -- the people who replace this one are the judges who run the district. They get to decide, because the president hasn`t chosen anyone.
MADDOW: You know, the Mueller investigation has taken some interesting turns. One of them was to spread a little bit of the work around. We had the filing from Mueller last week that said, you know what, when we charged Manafort we had the national security division of the Justice Department sign off on those charges and we had the tax division sign off of those charges. And, by the way, the lead prosecutors who are taking Manafort to court are duly empowered to pursue this prosecution even if the special counsel goes away.
Now, we`ve got this action by southern district of New York, with the president`s personal lawyer. You are getting the sense that they are putting roots wide so that if anyone tries to chop down that tree, they won`t be able to get all of it.
O`DONNELL: That`s the way it`s looking tonight.
MADDOW: Yes, thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, Donald Trump had a conversation with himself today in public in which some of the words said to reporters at the time appeared to be part of that conversation but they really weren`t. When President Trump asked himself aloud today why don`t I just fire Mueller? It seemed he was repeating a question he just heard from a reporter.
But when you listen to what he had just heard, you will hear two questions. One of which the president completely ignored. That was the louder of the two questions, the one that he ignored.
So, let`s listen now to the two questions that the president was asked at the same time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER 1: Did you have an affair with Stormy Daniels?
REPORTER 2: Why don`t I just fire Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don`t I just fire Muller?
REPORTER 2: Why don`t just fire the guy?
TRUMP: Well --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Did you have an affair with Stormy Daniels? That came through loud and clear. The president heard it, but that wasn`t part of the conversation that the president was already having with himself. Why don`t I just fire Mueller was right there in the conversation that the president was already having with himself. And that is a conversation that the president is probably having with himself every day and all day today.
After the president was among the first to discover, hours before the news media knew it, that the FBI raided the New York City office, New York City hotel room and New York City home of Michael Cohen today. And here is what the president said about Michael Cohen late Thursday afternoon on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen.
Well, it sounds like the FBI and the Justice Department got that message loud and clear. Stephen Ryan, a lawyer representing Michael Cohen today, issued a written statement saying, quote: Today, the U.S. Attorney`s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen and his clients. I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is in part a referral by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The decision by the U.S. attorney`s office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney- client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all governmental entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.
NBC News has confirmed something reported by "The New York Times" today, that in their raids today, FBI agents were seeking records related to the $130,000 payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels that Michael Cohen claims he made without President Trump`s knowledge.
Leading up our discussion now is Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. Also with us tonight for this first round, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant special prosecutor, and MSNBC contributor, and, of course, Ari Melber, chief legal correspondent here at MSNBC and host of "THE BEAT", weeknights, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
And, Michael, I know you had some of this conversation by phone with Ari earlier tonight, but I want to get your reaction to the simple chronological fact here, that we heard Donald Trump say on Thursday, late Thursday, you have to ask Michael Cohen. And here it is, basically the first order of business today for the FBI in New York City is asking Michael Cohen in the harshest possible way.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Lawrence, on Thursday, the president made those statements on air force one and you had me on Thursday night and we spoke at length about this. And I told you my thoughts at the time relating to the fact that I thought the noose was tightening around Michael Cohen and I also foreshadowed what might happen if, in fact, that noose tightened significantly.
And I`m going to stand by those comments. This was a very, very serious development today. The FBI raid occurred about 36 business hours after the president made those comments on Air Force One.
It sounds like they`ve seized documents and e-mails and communications, and Michael Cohen and the president, better hope that they`ve been 100 percent honest and above board related to the agreement, what the president knew about the agreement and this $130,000 payment. Because if they have not been 100 percent above board, I will tell you this, crimes associated with that conduct, if they occurred, are far easier to prove that Russian collusion, period, far easier from a legal perspective. It`s not that complicated at the end of the day.
This is a very serious development for Michael Cohen. It is putting him in the crosshairs. It is going to put him under a tremendous amount of pressure. And I don`t think he has the mettle to hold up, as I told Ari and others, and I`ve been saying this for a while, I just don`t think he`s built that way.
And if I was the president of the United States or others, I would not have many sleepful nights from here on out if I knew that my fate rided on his ability to with stand the heat.
O`DONNELL: Michael, I want to talk to you about how this affects your case. A big development last week was the president saying I had no idea, that`s his -- going to be his position. I had no idea that this agreement was being arranged with Stormy Daniels. So, that was a big step in this case. Big development for you, which you consider very positive for your case, how can there be an agreement if Donald Trump doesn`t even know he`s a party to an agreement.
So, that -- let`s put that aside for a moment and go to what happened today, because now you have Michael Cohen in a criminal and FBI investigation. It seems absolutely mandatory that if your civil litigation is going to go forward and Michael Cohen, for example, is going to be deposed to try to determine the validity of the confidentiality agreement that he will have to take the Fifth Amendment for virtually every question after his name and address.
So, I want to know in your civil case if Michael Cohen takes the Fifth Amendment in that case, does that pretty much close the case? I mean, I can`t quite see what the testimony would be on the Michael Cohen side of the case that could lead to a finding in favor of Michael Cohen if there is, in the end, virtually no testimony?
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, I agree. You know, we`ve heard for weeks from David Schwartz, Michael Cohen`s spokesperson and others, all this chest- thumping about how they were going to sue my client for $20 million and take her for everything she`s worth. If Michael Cohen takes the Fifth Amendment, that`s never going to happen. And I agree with you, and I mentioned this earlier on Ari`s show. I think the likelihood of him being able to testify and not take the Fifth Amendment is very, very slim.
However, regardless of whether he takes the Fifth Amendment, whether the president takes the Fifth Amendment, if we get his deposition is a completely different story.
O`DONNELL: Michael, can he now get -- is he likely to get continuances in this civil case because there is a criminal case that has entered into the same arena?
AVENATTI: Well, that`s an interesting question. They may go in and seek a stay of the proceedings. It wouldn`t surprise me. They`ve done everything in their power to slow this case down, delay it, have it decided in a private arbitration, et cetera, from the very moment that we filed it. But, you know, Lawrence, I want to go back to something. When we filed this case about four or five weeks ago, you know, a lot of people mocked us, a lot of people mocked my client, said she wasn`t in it for the right reasons, that it was a money grab, et cetera.
That`s been blown out of the water. She hasn`t accepted a dime. She`s shown incredible courage and fortitude over the last five weeks. And I wonder wondering if some of those people are laughing now.
The FBI just raided the president`s personal attorney for the president`s offices over the exact matter that we had brought to the forefront and brought to the attention of the American people. I don`t think Michael Cohen is laughing tonight. I don`t think the president is laughing tonight. And for a lot of the people that thought that this was something other than it was, and it`s always been a search for the truth, I hope they`re not laughing tonight either.
O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, would Michael Cohen be a subject of the criminal investigation by the FBI tonight if Stormy Daniels had not come forward this year?
AVENATTI: I don`t think so. I don`t think the raid would have happened. I don`t think the scrutiny would have happened. I don`t think any of this would have happened.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, I want to go to the issue that jumps out immediately in this situation because Michael Cohen has a law degree -- and I say that -- I phrase this somewhat differently for most people because it is questionable to me whether we can really call Michael Cohen Donald Trump`s lawyer, he has never filed an appearance in any of the endless streams of litigation that Donald Trump has been involved in.
So, he`s never appeared in court for him. He`s never been engaged, hired by Donald Trump for a particular matter. He was sitting in Trump Tower in an office in the Trump Organization doing a variety of things for which you don`t need a law degree. He himself says that Donald Trump never specifically engaged him in this Stormy Daniels matter.
So, can there be an attorney-client privilege between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump over anything involving Stormy Daniels if both of them have said, publically, that Donald Trump did not engage Michael Cohen as an attorney in that case?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think the evidence may be to the contrary, because in negotiating the NDA, the hush agreement, with Stormy Daniels, he certainly was acting as an attorney. He also formed, as an attorney, an organization to pay the money. And I think that he did hold himself out as the president`s lawyer. The president always has referred to him as his attorney.
So, there is some confusion in them now saying, oh, I never hired him for a specific matter. I`m sure that Mr. Davidson, who was Stormy Daniels`s original lawyer, thought that he was dealing with an attorney in this matter and I`m sure that Stormy Daniels thought that he was the legal representative and in terms of the attorney-client privilege, however, you can`t have a privilege if you haven`t talked to your client about it, you can`t have a privilege if you`re engaged in criminal conduct. The privilege simply does not apply in those cases.
So, I think that there`s arguments in both directions. But I think it would be hard to say he didn`t act as the attorney just because he didn`t appear in court for Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, I watched every minute of your coverage at 6:00 today, and you were basically in live coverage because this story was breaking on you as you were getting through the hour and you got Michael Avenatti to join you by phone. But one of the comments that really struck me was Paul Butler in your hour when he said to you what happened today was like a subpoena on steroids.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lawrence, there`s so much going on. It`s easy to forget the context of what just happened. FBI agents busted down the door of Donald Trump, the sitting president`s, long- time lawyer and an executive at the Trump Organization. There`s an old occasion, kicking the door, waving the four-four, you don`t want to be on the other side of the door, it`s happened twice in the entire probe, when it happened to Paul Manafort, 96 days later he was indicted.
Every other individual, the people we`ve seen on our TV screens, from Sean Spicer, Sam Nunberg who had subpoenas, or cooperated with the special counsel, they get requested, hey, give us some documents, e-mails or even a grand jury subpoena, which is more serious. No one else, except Manafort who`s indicted, and now today, Michael Cohen had his door kicked in. It is a huge deal period.
And you add to that the extra bar that is generally understood when you`re dealing with a lawyer as opposed to a civilian.
O`DONNELL: Ari, your interpretation of what the president said today when he got down to that conversation, which was really a conversation with himself, about should I fire Robert Mueller?
MELBER: Well, the phrasing is wrong because Donald Trump as so often is working not off knowledge of the situation but off his own ignorance. It might be willful ignorance. It might be strategic ignorance. But the question is not whether Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller, he cannot under our laws and rules.
And the question is not even whether Rod Rosenstein can fire Mueller sort of out of the blue. The Administrative Procedures Act treats the DOJ rules as law and they state that a special counsel duly appointed can only be removed for a cause in writing by the acting attorney general. So, what Trump was doing was imagining a kind of a fan fiction where he is king but he`s not. Now, whether there`s increasing pressure, which struck me about his comments during a supposed Syria war cabinet meeting, was that he kept returning to Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein.
So, he knows where the leverage is, and he may pressure them to try to remove or even unlawfully remove Robert Mueller, he can`t do it alone, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, I always flash back to your experience on Watergate on days like this and the special prosecutor went after the president`s attorney general. Your people, your team, went after John Dean, the White House counsel. But I don`t think you ever went after any of Richard Nixon`s private lawyers.
WINE-BANKS: We never went after any of his lawyers. They all acted in -- I would say with great integrity, although that`s not true for one of the lawyers for the committee to re-elect the president. First of all, Liddy was also counsel to them but so was Ken Parkinson who ended up a defendant in the case.
I want to add two things that Ari mentioned. One is that Mueller is not the person who executed this warrant. So, if Donald Trump has a complaint, it`s against the U.S. attorney, a Republican, approved by a federal judge and approved by higher ups in the Department of Justice, all Republicans. It is not Mueller.
And secondly, there was no break-in at his office, at Michael Cohen`s offices. This was the execution of a lawful search warrant. So, when the president says they broke into my lawyer`s office -- and again he called him his lawyer which sort of undercuts any argument that he isn`t a lawyer -- they didn`t. They used a search warrant and did it in a valid way, with approval of a judge.
MELBER: Well, and just to be clear, it`s certainly lawfully, but it is a physical act. As Jill and all the lawyers on the panel know, it is far more aggressive move --
MELBER: -- than a court ordered request. It is a physical intervention because there`s either a time limit on the evidence, there`s a belief of a potential conspiracy or destruction of evidence or some other reason approved by a judge. So it`s a biggie.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean, you think --
AVENATTI: Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead. Go ahead, Michael.
AVENATTI: Yes, Lawrence, there`s two points that I wanted to make. In light of this search warrant today and the action by the FBI, there is no question that from this point forward, Michael Cohen cannot represent Donald Trump. That is a non-waivable conflict of interest at this point.
So, to the extent he was Donald Trump`s lawyer, as of this morning, moments before the FBI raided his office, that ceased to be the case as soon as the FBI came through that door. That is an absolute conflict of interest. It doesn`t matter what the disclosure level is. It`s non-waivable.
So, the days of Michael Cohen being Mr. Trump`s lawyer, at least for the foreseeable future are over. So, that`s number one. I think it`s an important point because what it means is that their level of communication is going to have to end or be drastically reduced because otherwise that would be discoverable likely in connection with our case or in connection with this potential criminal investigation. So, that`s the first point that I wanted to make.
And then the second point that I want to make is this, if the president wants to fire Mr. Mueller or others, that`s between him and Congress. But he can`t fire me and we`re not going anywhere.
O`DONNELL: That is the perfect last word to go into our first commercial break here.
Michael Avenatti, can you please stay with us to extend this discussion just a bit longer?
We`re going to be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney, and you`ll have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen.
Joining our discussion now, someone who knows Michael Cohen, Tim O`Brien, the executive editor of "Bloomberg View", the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald". He`s also an MSNBC contributor.
And back with us, Michael Avenatti and Ari Melber.
And, Michael Cohen -- I`m sorry, Michael Cohen. Tim O`Brien, on a day like today, what do we need to know about the biography of Michael Cohen?
TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, he first emerges in Trumplandia as n adviser to Trump on a dispute with tenants and coop owners at one of Trump`s buildings. And I think he essentially did Trump`s handiwork in that dispute, and Trump brought him into his organization to play a very familiar role that we`ve seen over the years with Trump, which is a lawyer who`s not really a lawyer. He`s a lawyer who`s a fixer. He`s a lawyer who helps Trump weaponize the legal system to take on opponents, to take on critics, to take on journalists, and to solve problems.
And Trump himself I think has sort of a predilection for thugs and for people who talk and act tough. And Michael Cohen certainly fills that role. I think what`s different here is it`s the first time, I think, that Trump has ever had a lawyer who`s been a close adviser who`s now the subject of a major investigation. And by all indications, the attorney- client privilege is going to get pierced here. And the U.S. attorney`s office had enough evidence to go there.
O`DONNELL: And, Michael Avenatti, on the attorney-client privilege, how do you expect what -- let`s reverse engineer this for a second. How do you expect what happened today with the FBI to affect the case -- the civil case that you are pursuing? And what would be left of Michael Cohen`s attorney-client privilege even within that case?
AVENATTI: Well, if the attorney-client privilege is pierced or vitiated due to the crime fraud exception in connection with this criminal investigation, then the same would hold true in connection with our civil case. And that could have a far-reaching impact depending on what those communications were, what the documents showed, et cetera.
You know, one of the things, Lawrence, that I wanted to talk about briefly if I could was, and I`m going to speculate a little bit, but in connection with Michael Cohen`s banking associated with this Essential Consultants and the wire payment of $130,000 to my client, there were a number of what I`m going to describe as potential trip wires that federal prosecutors could use to bring charges against Michael Cohen. I`m going to talk briefly about three of them.
One is when he took out the home equity loan, he had to have provided a purpose to the bank for that loan. I doubt that he said, it`s to pay $130,000 to a porn star that we don`t believe and she`s lying. I`m fairly certain he didn`t tell the bank that. So, that`s the first trip wire, if he lied in connection with that home equity loan.
The second potential trip wire is when he established the accounts for Essential Consultants, when he open those accounts at the bank. Banks have to go through KYC, know your client, know your customer analysis. And you have to tell a bank when you open up a business account for a new business what it`s going to be used for.
Again, I seriously doubt he told First Republic Bank, I`m using it to send $130,000 to a porn star that we think is lying. So, that`s the second trip wire.
And then the third tripwire, Lawrence, is in connection with the SAR that we`ve heard us talking about, his suspicious activity report. When the bank did their international investigation, I`m highly confident they contacted Michael Cohen after the $130,000 payment and they asked him what it was for exactly. And again, I doubt he told them the truth.
So, those are three potential instances where he lied or made misrepresentations to a federally insured bank. That in and of itself could cause significant problems for Michael Cohen.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, I think Tim O`Brien would tell us everything that Michael Avenatti just described would be standard operating procedure in Trump world.
MELBER: Well, sure. There`s a lot of that which goes on. You know, Michael Avenatti had so many acronyms I would not want to ever have to play Scrabble with him quick with the letters there.
I think we could be getting ahead of ourselves anytime the analysis presupposes a crime. Of course, we`re not there yet. It is a huge deal that they convinced the judge there`s reason to go in, which means there`s evidence of a potential crime, or evidence of destruction, obstruction, that kind of thing.
I think the key question here, when you go back to what you raised, Lawrence, which was the attorney-client privilege and the secrets. I mean, Michael Cohen holds more of Donald Trump`s secrets than any other living person. We know that, I`ve dealt with Michael, Bob Mueller knows that, Trump knows that. The only thing that`s not a secret is that he holds the secrets.
Now, do you pierce the attorney-client product? I don`t think we know that yet. In fact, I don`t think we can know, because the big question that the New York prosecutors are going to look at, and if they find anything about Russia collusion, of course, they kick back and share that to Mueller. But the big question is, did Michael Cohen break the law? And if so, did he do it rogue, which, of course, has been the Stormy Daniels defense, he goes out just facilitating payments and doing this stuff rogue, I don`t believe it, but did he do it rogue or did he do it for and with Donald Trump?
And that`s the category that matters. If they land there, if there`s knowing coordination or conspiracy to do crimes on behalf of the client, on behalf of Donald Trump, now you`re in a tough spot for the sitting president because you can pierce attorney-client privilege, you have ongoing conspiracy arguments. And what else is in there?
Remember, Donald Trump famously does not keep e-mails. That as far as we know has been confirmed. But Michael Cohen e-mails and he may e-mail notes to himself coming out of Trump Tower about what Donald Trump said to him five years ago. That would be hot for any probe.
O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien, Michael Cohen gets hit with three FBI raids at three different locations today early morning, his home in New York City, which is being renovated from some damage that occurred, then his office and the hotel room that he`s staying in, and the FBI takes his phone right out of his hands.
Given what you know about Michael Cohen, how does that feel for Michael Cohen when he realizes the FBI is coming through the door for him?
O`BRIEN: I have to imagine some of it was shocking to him in the same way that Paul Manafort and his wife were shocked when Mueller`s people came through the front door of they`re home early in the morning and executed a subpoena while they were still in their pajamas. And I think the other important thing to think about here is how does the president think about it? Because we`re now at a place where, you know, Mueller has executed a subpoena on the Trump organization, his personal attorney has been raided by the FBI.
I think that Trump is not someone who just sits back and lets these things happen. I think -- some of the stuff could come to a boiling point in terms of the president`s own response to all of it.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Michael Avenatti, what is your next legal move?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, AMERICAN ATTORNEY AND ENTREPRENEUR: Well, we`re going to release this sketch of the assailant here in the next day or two and we are going to publicize a very significant reward relating to seeking the public`s assistance in finalizing our identification of that assailant.
And this is the individual that threatened my client in Las Vegas. So, that is our next significant move, but I want to touch more and so if I could on the question that you just posed about what did Michael Cohen or what was his feeling when this happened today.
You know, I don`t know him the way that your other panelists know him, but I have got to believe that it was very disconcerting. I mean, when your friend and your client is the President of the United States, you probably think that you`re somewhat protected or shielded, and that he`s going to protect you and take care of you.
When the FBI shows up at your door not just one door, but three doors, with multiple agents in blue jackets, et cetera, that calls into question your faith and confidence in your relationship with Mr. Trump. That I can assure you.
O`DONNELL: And everything we know about Michael Cohen before the Presidential Election and during, indicates he actually thought is the kind of fun he and Donald Trump would be having in the White House if Donald Trump ever got there, that they could send the FBI and the IRS and all Federal agents out against their enemies whenever they wanted to. and Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen is living with a very different reality tonight.
AVENATTI: Yes, it`s a very serious matter. I mean, I mentioned this to Ari. You know, no one on our side of the case is high fiving or celebrating this. I mean, it`s a very serious thing when someone is in the cross hairs like this. I feel for Michael`s family and his wife, quite honestly.
O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, Ari Melber, Tim O`Brien, thank you all for joining us tonight. Really, really appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, more on the President`s public discussion today about the possibility of firing Robert Mueller, but as you just heard Michael Avenatti say, he cannot fire Michael Avenatti.
(VIDEO CLIP STARTS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a disgrace. It`s frankly a real disgrace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is seismic.
TRUMP: It`s an attack on our country in the true sense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably one of the most significant, most seismic events in the Trump/Russia investigation.
TRUMP: They raided an office of a personal attorney early in the morning, and I think it`s a disgrace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the United States Department of Justice to raid a lawyer`s office and his residence is absolutely extraordinary.
TRUMP: Why don`t I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fire the guy?
TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on. We`ll see what happens. Many people have said, "You should fire him."
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
LAWRENCE: We`re joined now by Matt Miller, spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder, and an MSNBC contributor and back with us, Jill Wine- Banks. And let`s listen to the President`s full response to that question that he asked himself of, "Should I fire Robert Mueller?"
(VIDEO CLIP STARTS)
TRUMP: Why don`t I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fire the guy.
TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on. We`ll see what happens, but I think it`s really a sad situation when you look at what happened and many people have said, "You should fire him." So, we`ll see what happens. I think it`s disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt.
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller the President asks himself if he should fire Robert Mueller and his answer to himself is "we`ll see."
MATTHEW MILLER, SPOKESMANS FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Yes, which is what he said before when he wants to leave possibilities like this dangling out there. I think what we saw from the President today was a real melt down.
This is a President who kind of came unhinged and was raging at the faithful execution of law. This was a search warrant that was executed after multiple reviews in the Justice Department and signed off by a Federal magistrate judge, wondering why his own Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General wouldn`t obstruct justice for him. And it was the same kind of like you`d seen a Banana Republic. You had the President sitting there surrounded by his generals wondering why no one will step in and protect himself from lawful investigations and then, at one point even going off on repeated rant about Hillary Clinton kind of throwing out some of his old lines from the campaign about acid washed servers and stolen e- mails.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the President said about Rod Rosenstein because at a certain point, he was asked if he would fire Rod Rosenstein, and it is after all, Rod Rosenstein who controls the special prosecutor and who approved of these raids.
(VIDEO CLIP STARTS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Rod Rosenstein keep his job?
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Rod Rosenstein keep his job?
TRUMP: Thank you all very much.
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, very deliberately no answer to the question, "Will you fire Rod Rosenstein?"
JILL WINE-BANKS, UNITED STATES LAWYER: That`s what he does very frequently when he doesn`t want to answer, thank you very much. And saying, "We`ll see" is usually a prelude to actually having something bad happen to the person he`s being asked about.
But I want to say that this is not a witch hunt, and like Watergate, this system is working. The criminal justice system is proceeding as it is intended to in lawful ways. It is actually proving that our system of justice works and we ought to keep that in mind. That`s very important for us to remember.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, we have reporting tonight indicating the President is absolutely outraged by today`s events. He sees it as Robert Mueller even though it was done by the US Attorney in the southern district of New York. He just sees this as master minded by Mueller all the way, and if he wants to fire the US attorney of the southern district of New York, Geoffrey Berman, he has only got a few days left to do that because his appointment - temporary appointment expires on May 5th.
The President has not gotten a US Attorney confirmed for the southern district of New York. And so, when this one expires, as you know, it falls to the judges in that circuit. They are the ones who will decide who the next US Attorney is, and that US Attorney serves until the Senate confirms a US attorney.
MILLER: That`s exactly right, Lawrence and the President - the White House has leaked out earlier they were planning to nominate Geoffrey Berman to this position at a fulltime basis. Of course, it would take some time for that nomination to go...
MILLER: ...through the Senate. I think given the President`s vindictiveness, it`s unlikely that we`ll see that nomination go forward, but of course, we`ll have to wait and see.
But I think we did see the President very angry today. You know, there`s been reporting that he`s angry behind the scenes. You know, he launched into this tirade completely unprompted at the beginning of this event where he was supposed to talk about the chemical weapons strike in Syria.
And you know, about a year ago, in the spring of last year, we saw the President really kind of coming unhinged about this investigation and we saw him you know, eventually lash out, after trying to get it stopped repeatedly and fired Jim Comey.
And then we went to these periods where we`d have these occasional eruptions, sometimes publicly, sometimes behind the scenes, but the President could be always talked down off the ledge where he wouldn`t do something, but when you take this anger about this like today and you combine it with what we have seen, you know, reported as his increasing confidence in his own ability to do this job, and his increasing unwillingness to take advice from any others around him, the people like the Chief of Staff, John Kelly, it makes you wonder if either Rod Rosenstein or Jeff Sessions or Mueller himself, really are in positions of danger at this point.
O`DONNELL: You know, you mentioned that the President intends to nominate Geoffrey Berman for the US Attorney spot in the southern district, which raises the very distinct possibility that we may discover in the next couple of days that Geoffrey Berman recused himself from this case and left it to one of the career prosecutors in the southern district of New York and if the President discovers yet another recusal has led to today`s FBI raids. I am sure we are going to hear some - we are going to get some tweets about that one.
Matt Miller, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both very much for joining this discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, how today`s FBI raids might influence the President`s decision about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria. That is something that with this President, in this situation, we have to consider and that`s next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the most ignorant, incompetent and emotionally unstable President in history has a decision to make in consultation with what he likes to call his generals about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria that occurred this weekend.
And so, of course, at a meeting today about the situation in Syria, the President linked today`s FBI raids in New York City on Michael Cohen`s home and hotel room and office, to the situation in Syria.
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TRUMP: And here we are talking about Syria, we`re talking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.
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O`DONNELL: The President`s comments today indicated, among other things that he believes he and his friends should not be under investigation because the President has such serious matters to deal with, such as the crisis in Syria.
The only President in history driven from office by a special prosecutor`s investigation was Republican President, Richard Nixon, who was managing the strategy of the Vietnam War every day of his presidency while he was being investigated by the special prosecutor.
The question tonight is, will President Trump`s response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria be influenced by the FBI`s investigation of payments made to a porn star to protect the President?
That`s the country we`re living in. That`s the question here tonight. Will the President use this situation in Syria to distract attention from the FBI`s Stormy Daniels investigation in New York and the special prosecutor`s investigation in Washington or will Donald Trump calmly put all of that out of his mind and choose from the options presented to him by the generals with no thought whatsoever to how he might use missiles and the American military to rally his supporters in a week that began with the FBI kicking down the door at his friend, the lawyer`s office. We`ll consider those questions, next.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to repeat a question I asked before the commercial because it is such an extraordinary place for this country to have arrive that tonight and that is will President Trump`s response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria be influenced by the FBI`s investigation of payments made to a porn star to protect the President of the United States?
Joining us as part of our discussion now, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist at "The Washington Post" and Rick Stengel, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Obama administration. He is now an MSNBC political analyst.
And Ruth, it has come to this. It has come to this question now about Stormy Daniels collides with Assad and Syria, and what will be going through the President`s mind when he`s making his decision about how to respond to this possible chemical attack in Syria?
RUTH ALLYN MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, it`s really disturbing that we have to even be asking ourselves this question, but I have to say we`ve kind of been here before. I don`t know if you remember, but back in 1998, Monica Lewinsky was back before the Ken Starr grand jury, and Bill Clinton launched some retaliatory bombing raids against - in Afghanistan and Sudan to retaliate against some attacks on embassies.
And there was a lot of wag the dog talk back then and accusations. Was he doing this just to distract attention from Monica Lewinsky`s testimony?
So, this is what happens unfortunately when you have a situation where a President is both caught up in an investigation, a criminal investigation, and still must continue to be President of the United States.
Now, President Trump did not help himself today when, at the start of a war cabinet meeting, he launches into this petulant and aggrieved denunciation of what seems to me to be a perfectly appropriate set of responses on the part of the prosecutors and talks about this as an attack on our country.
So, that doesn`t give him a lot of credibility in his decision making here.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, as Undersecretary of State, you were in meetings with the Secretary of State with the President, and I just want you to imagine being in meetings with the President considering a response to the situation in Syria given some of this reporting we`re getting from Maggie Haberman tonight from the Trump mood inside the White House tonight while he`s considering his response to Syria.
Trump is angrier than he has been at any point in many fuming news cycles according to two people close to him. What that ultimately translates to is unclear. But both Trump and Cohen believe this is really Mueller and that farming it out to the southern district of New York was a fig leaf. Both sources say that this has crossed the red line that Trump laid out for Mueller, going outside his purview in an interview with the "New York Times" last July.
And Rick Stengel, you`re expecting the President when gathering all the strategic advice about what to do from Syria, to make those decisions from a calm and reasoned position, which is hard to imagine Donald Trump on any day.
RICHARD ALLEN STENGEL, AMERICAN EDITOR, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Yes, common reason don`t really go with Donald Trump. I mean to use Ruth`s good analogy, I mean, one of the things that we used to talk about with Bill Clinton was that he was able to compartmentalize.
And unfortunately, Donald Trump is not able to compartmentalize. Everything seems to bleed into each other. So, this wag the dog scenario seems like it`s entirely possible in part because he can`t seem to separate his own anger about what`s going on with his attorney and the Special Counsel with what`s going on in Syria, which is a disaster of world historical proportions.
STENGEL: In fact, he`s swayed by his emotions even there because of these videos that, as horrific as they are, it touches him emotionally when in fact this situation is much graver than that.
I mean, Assad is the leading mass murderer in modern history. He has killed more than 400,000 people, not just the 40 people that were poisoned by gas in the last week or so, but there are hundreds dying grisly deaths every day.
And so rather than contemplating just a single strike that might distract attention from what`s going on with Stormy Daniels, there needs to be an actual policy. How do we deal with this? And frankly what I would say to President Trump is use your vaunted relationship with President Putin, who is the military leader of Syria where they have a military contract and everything they do is governed by Russian military officers. Try to come to an agreement about Syria.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight. Ruth Marcus, Rick Stengel, thank you both for joining us. Really appreciate it.
We`re going to have more after this.
That`s tonight`s "Last Word." Robert Mueller is now investigating a $150,000.00 payment made to the Trump Foundation by a Ukrainian billionaire in 2014 or 2015. That story is in "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams, and that starts now.
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