Trump tried to fire Mueller in Dec. TRANSCRIPT: 04/10/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Harry Litman, Mary Jane Fox, David Cay Johnston

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 10, 2018 Guest: Harry Litman, Mary Jane Fox, David Cay Johnston

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

And, of course, I was taking notes, learning all about Dana Boente, and actually taking notes about his notes. It was really extraordinary to see you revealing those actual handwritten notes which I would have not expected to see until they were introduced as exhibits either in a courtroom or in hearing in the Congress. It really is -- as far as the notes go, a word for word corroboration of what James Comey`s testimony is.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: You know, it -- what it tells me as a layman looking at this stuff is that people who are trained in the FBI and in the Justice Department, people who are trained as high level prosecutors in law enforcement personnel are trained to take really good notes for just such an occasion. And Comey obviously was relying on his own notes from his conversations with the president when he put together that very careful testimony for Congress, both his written testimony and his testimony under questioning. So he was relying on his own notes and he was probably relying on those same notes. He may have been relying on the same notes when he spoke to Boente or those comments from the president may have been so fresh that Boente was able to write them down immediately after basically James Comey heard them from the president.

And these guys put quotation marks in their notes. Their phrases are immediately echo each other. And that`s how you build a -- that`s how you build a body of evidence. These are trained professionals.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, I`m going to break with what I`ve got lined up here because I have Benjamin Wittes ready to go as one of our first guests this evening. He is ready to jump in here from San Francisco. He`s a friend of James Comey. He`s also, as you know, the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and MSNBC analyst.

Benjamin, I just want to get your reaction to what Rachel revealed tonight on Dana Boente`s notes, basically confirming James Comey`s testimony about the president`s interaction was him.

BENJAMIN WITTES, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, so it`s, of course, completely unsurprising to those of us who know Jim Comey and know that if he tells you something that happened in a congressional hearing and there is going to be corroboration of it, then that`s -- the corroboration is going to show you that`s exactly what happened. And, you know, I`m delighted that Dana Boente took notes of those conversations. But I`m not the least bit surprised that they show that as Rachel reported and that what Jim said was, you know, accurate in almost down to the level of the specific words.

And, you know, those of us who know Jim know that, you know, whatever you agree with him, you disagree with him, he is an honest and trustworthy individual. And I would urge people to go back to his testimony to watch that testimony and to think about the assistance of the things that he said. And if it helps, that, you know, we now have the then deputy attorney general`s notes corroborating it, then great. I think that`s wonderful.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, that`s the way you presented it tonight -- the notes and then cutting straight to the video testimony.

MADDOW: Yes. And we`re trying to, A, read the handwriting. B, make sure we`re look at what we think we`re looking at, and C, put it in context in terms of what they would have known at the time and how this ends up becoming relevant in this ongoing case that potentially involves the president and obstruction of justice.

For me, one of the things that was really interesting here, and I think it play have been kind of an accidental thing was this essentially cover letter from the counterintelligence chief at the FBI saying, I know these documents are stamped top secret, but I am hereby attesting that these are not classified documents. That for us was additional corroboration that these were, in fact, Dana Boente`s handwritten notes from his conversation with James Comey about on March 30th because the counterintelligence division at FBI had to step in to say this classification was improperly stamped on here.

So, we`re trying to follow the clues to make sure what we`re looking at is what we think we`re looking at. We are surmising the reason these things were prepared in the way they were, the reason the FBI had to sign off on the fact they weren`t classified is because we`re guessing that this was all handed over to Mueller, and this was part of Boente preparing for his testimony to Mueller as an important witness in this case.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, one second. Let`s get a quick expert opinion from Benjamin Wittes about that. Is that what likely has happened here, that this has been hand over to the special prosecutor?

WITTES: So I can`t imagine that the special prosecutor does not have automatic the parties` contemporaneous notes that would have been produced at the time. That would be something that they would do. I can`t -- I can`t tell you that that is what happened, obviously, because I don`t know. But it certainly sounds plausible, and it certainly would be implausible for the special prosecutor not to try to get his hands and not to successfully get his hands on all the notes that anybody would have made at the time.

Moreover, I think it is worth noting that, you know, a lot of people did take notes and write memos at the time. And we know from Comey`s testimony that he left meetings with the president, and back from the time he was president-elect, and immediately wrote down the interactions that he had. We also know that Andy McCabe had contemporaneous notes.

And so, I think, you know, this is clearly a group of people who were very aware that they were dealing with momentous events, and that they were participating in them. And wanted records of their interactions, and wanted very clear validations of their memory at the time. And so, you know, I think if you had been in those rooms, you would have taken notes too.

MADDOW: Yes. That`s exactly right.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it makes perfect sense.

MADDOW: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, thank you for your extraordinary reporting. You need two shows tonight. So, I wanted to give you as much of this one as you needed.

MADDOW: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And I really wanted to hear what Benjamin Wittes had to say about that.

MADDOW: Yes, me too. Thanks both of you. Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

And, Benjamin, we`ll be right back with you.

So, on a night when all reports from inside the White House indicate that the president is as enraged as he has ever been in his time as president, "The New York Times" is reporting that President Donald Trump tried to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller four months ago in early December. The president backed down from that attempt to fire Robert Mueller when his lawyers assured him that contrary to some news reports at that time, the special prosecutor did not subpoena records of his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. This is the first time it has been reported that the president tried to fire Robert Mueller in early December.

Previously, "The New York Times" reported that the president tried to fire Robert Mueller in June, and stepped back from that attempt only when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit over the firing of Robert Mueller. Tonight`s "New York Times" report contains this, startling, but perhaps for some comforting report of life inside the Trump White House. One former adviser said that people had become conditioned to wait until Mr. Trump had raised about a issue at least three times before acting on it.

We will soon see if that includes the secretary of defense and the United States military when and if the president orders a military response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria. It is yesterday`s FBI raid in New York City on the home, the office, and the hotel room of Trump associate Michael Cohen that has Donald Trump once again reportedly raging against the special prosecutor and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises the special prosecutor. After the special prosecutor brought his suspicions about Michael Cohen to Rod Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein took the information about Michael Cohen, developed by the special prosecutor away from the special prosecutor and transferred it to the U.S. attorney in New York City who is now in charge of the federal investigation of Michael Cohen.

At this hour last night, I suggested that it was highly likely that the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, would have to have recused himself in this case because he is a temporary appointee of the Trump administration who has not yet been formally nominated by the president for the position. Today, it was confirmed that Geoffrey Berman did indeed recuse himself as I suggested he would, which means the case is now being handled by career prosecutors and is now being run by the deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami.

Firing Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller will not now take care of the Michael Cohen case for Donald Trump. It will not take the case out of the hands of the career prosecutors in Manhattan who are now in complete control of that case. The president was reportedly scheduled to have dinner with a trusted adviser who insists that the president has the full legal right to fire Robert Mueller at any time. That legal adviser has been delivering free legal advice to the president on Fox News.

Retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz had private time with the president today. And tonight, "New York Times" Maggie Haberman tweeted: Some news. Dershowitz has been at the White House for part of the day as Trump seeks his input. And he`s supposed to have dinner with the president tonight, per White House sources.

Alan Dershowitz has been saying all year on Fox News that the president has the legal authority to fire Robert Mueller. Dershowitz has said in the past that it would be a political mistake, though, to fire Robert Mueller. CNN.com is reporting tonight that the president is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because he authorized the FBI raids on Michael Cohen yesterday. The raids sought information about payments to at least two women who say they had affairs with Donald Trump, and information about the "National Enquirer`s" payment of $150,000 to silence one of those women.

We are, of course, referring to Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with Donald Trump once in 2006 shortly after the birth of his last child, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, who says she began a sexual affair with Donald Trump around that same time.

"The New York Times" is reporting the FBI also searched for records related to Mr. Cohen`s taxi cab business, apparently a separate line of inquiry unrelated to Mr. Trump.

The president tweeted today: Attorney-client privilege is dead!

That is the kind of Trump tweet that is normally read as a rage tweet, short, simple, ending in an exclamation point, and completely and utterly untrue.

Back with us now, Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare. Also joining the discussion, Harry Litman, former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. He is now a professor at the University of California San Diego. And David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones", co-author of the current best-seller, "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Trump." He is also an NBC political analyst.

And, Harry Litman, I want to go straight to you on the question of does the president have the authority to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: OK, the short answer is there are probably ways he can do it. But the sort of Dershowitz line that some have been plying I think does not -- does not make it.

There would be two theories. One would just be I`m the president and you fire. It`s the so-called full unitary executive. It`s been discredited by the Supreme Court. It`s unlikely to fly.

So, where are we? There is a regulation there. And as long as there is a regulation, the court says it stays in place. You have to follow the regulation.

That`s why he would have to have cause. He would have to order`s Rosenstein to do it. Rosenstein would probably resign. The things we`ve talked about over the course of the last few months.

However, the possible route to bypassing that would be for the president. And I think he would have the power to do this, to order the regulation to be rescinded. And then he might have an open field.

It`s less easy than it looks, however. He can`t just wave a magic wand. There is going to be a lot of process involved and possible slow walking within the Department of Justice in order to rescind the regulation. But that is probably a fairly clean path if he wants to take it and take the political heat for it to eventually firing Mueller.

O`DONNELL: We have some after dinner reporting tonight from Phil Rucker of "The Washington Post." He spoke with Alan Dershowitz. He said: Just got off the phone with Alan Dershowitz who was at the White House for dinner with Trump, Kushner and others.

He said he was there to advise on Middle East policy. Asked whether they talked Russia/Mueller, he said, quote, I`m not going to discuss what I discussed with the president.

David Corn, that`s an interesting answer after just having discussed what he said he discussed with the president, he said he was there to discuss Middle East policy. But when the real question was asked -- just not going to discuss it.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, I don`t know if we`re going to bomb Syria or not based on Alan Dershowitz`s counsel, but coincidentally, last week, at the Comedy Cellar of all places in New York City, I moderated a debate with Alan Dershowitz. And the subject was whether the special counsel violated the rule of law. He, of course, took the position that the special counsel did and was a travesty of justice.

So I`m gathering or I`m assuming tonight that whether he is giving legal advice to Trump on whether to fire him or not, if he is talking about the subject that we debated last week, he is making a full-out case that the special counsel should never have been appointed, that it does violate the rule of law, and is giving Trump all these highfaluting ideas and concepts to justify getting rid of Mueller for the obvious reasons.

So, that`s what I would expect to be included in the conversation in addition to Dershowitz`s wonderful ideas about how to get peace in the Middle East. And we know with Trump, it doesn`t take too much egging on for him to find affirmation of what he already wants to do.

O`DONNELL: Benjamin Wittes, we have reporting from inside the White House saying the president is thinking about -- once again thinking about firing Robert Mueller. Also thinking about firing Rod Rosenstein, possibly both of them. And there is Alan Dershowitz in the White House tonight who we know publicly has said that the president has the ability to do -- to fire anyone, really, in the executive branch.

WITTES: Yes. So my message is don`t do it. Bad idea.

You know, it`s leave aside the question of whether you have the authority to do it. This is a serious investigation of already has uncovered and prosecuted Syria`s criminal activity. It continues to investigate Syria`s criminal activity.

And if the president removes the people who are engaged in this investigation, the only reasonable conclusion that somebody could draw from that is that he is trying to protect himself from, you know, the consequences of his prior actions. So it would be an incredible show of desperation and weakness. And, you know, the proper thing to do is to let the special counsel do his job, and let the deputy attorney general do his job.

O`DONNELL: Harry Litman, I want you to draw together a couple of legal strands here. One, Stormy Daniels is formally cooperating with the special prosecutor on this. Her attorney Michael Avenatti has publicly confirmed that. She is cooperating with Robert Mueller.

"Wall Street Journal" reporting that the special prosecutor asked the Trump Organization for documentation relating to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels and presumably, should have asked Michael Cohen for documentation about that. But ultimately, must have been dissatisfied with whatever they received in order to send in FBI raiders in three locations looking for same material.

LITMAN: Yes. I mean more than dissatisfied. There is an internal requirement, and you have to show to it the magistrate as well, that a subpoena would not have been practical here. So they obviously concluded and they would have needed some concrete showing here that Cohen couldn`t be trusted to completely comply straight up with a subpoena.

The inclusion of Daniels in the overall probe is potentially significant, especially for Cohen. But there is this feeling of a kind of harmonic convergence where everything is sort of beginning to point toward the president.

The -- but the basic crime that is being investigated has to do with the -- with whether the $130,000 can be construed as having been done for Trump`s electoral protection. This was two weeks before the election. And that would be a crime, and wire fraud, bank fraud, et cetera could follow from it, kind of a tough theory with a checkered record. But that`s what I think justifies the subpoena -- excuse me, the search warrant in the first place.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, Michael Cohen seems to be the Anthony Scaramucci of the Trump legal team. Here he was it seems just days ago publicly bragging about how he thought he might spend the millions of dollars that he was going to get from Stormy Daniels for violating the confidentiality agreement. Would he go on vacations with his family? Publicly speculating about what he would do with all that money.

Here he is tonight obviously under more heat than he`s ever been under in his life, raided by the FBI.

CORN: There is so much to look at with Michael Cohen. I mean, in his early days, Donald Trump took Roy Cohn as his mentor. You know, this guy was the preeminent fixer, mob lawyer, worked for Joe McCarthy.

And, you know, I`ve always thought that Michael Cohen was trying to live up to that, but was somewhat of a cheap and now it seems somewhat more incompetent imitation of that.

And don`t forget, Michael Cohen was all over some other Russia deals that Trump had. He worked for years with Felix Sater, a felon who helped set up Trump with some deals in Russia, including, including when Trump was running for president in 2015, this very odd arrangement between a Russian company that had no experience building a tower or a hotel, coming forward and trying to give Trump millions of dollars while he is a candidate.

And it`s all happening through Felix Sater and Michael Cohen. He is really at the center of -- I think not just one or two, but probably three or four or five or six different scandals that are indeed converging with this. And don`t forget the taxi cab medallions.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to get to the taxi cab medallions in the next segment.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Good. That`s my favorite part of the story, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Michael Cohen`s taxi cab medallions.

David Corn, Harry Litman, Ben Wittes, thank you very much for getting us through this first round tonight.

And as David said, the question being asked about Michael Cohen tonight: what`s going on with the taxi cab medallions? And more importantly, will Michael Cohen crack? Will he crack under the pressure?

A reporter who spoke with Michael Cohen tonight will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Michael Cohen`s famous last words before being raided by the FBI were, I will always protect the president. He tweeted that on Sunday with a link to a CNN article about him that he loved because it was all about how protective he has been of Donald Trump.

And the first thing that happened to him when he woke up the day after tweeting "I always protect the president" was getting raided by the FBI at his hotel room that he was staying in and at his office and at his apartment in New York City. At the end of the most terrifying day in Michael Cohen`s life, and possibly in Donald Trump`s life, Stormy Daniels` lawyer joined us at this hour last night and said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: 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 is 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The question Donald Trump is asking himself at the White House tonight is, will Michael Cohen crack? Will he tell the FBI and federal prosecutors everything they want to know about his dealings with Donald Trump, as well as Michael Cohen`s business dealings on matters like New York City taxi cab licenses that might have nothing to do with Donald Trump?

Yesterday, the president sent Michael Cohen the same kind of public message that he was sending Michael Flynn last year after Michael Flynn got in trouble with the FBI on his way to being indicted for lying to the FBI. The president said: Michael Cohen is a good man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Good man. Those are the words he always used for Michael Flynn before Michael Flynn got indicted.

"The Associated Press" is reporting tonight that Michael Cohen has, quote, confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy.

"Vanity Fair`s" Emily Jane Fox spoke with Michael Cohen tonight, and she joins us now for more of our discussion, along with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who founded DCReport.org.

Emily, is he afraid of being the fall guy?

EMILY JANE FOX, VANITY FAIR, SENIOR REPORTER: Michael Cohen is not someone who admits to being afraid very often. So I`m not sure I could ever imagine him using that word. I`ve interviewed him now many, many times over the course of the year.

O`DONNELL: There he is tonight, Emily. You know he was going to a restaurant tonight near the Regency Hotel?

FOX: Just around the corner from where he is staying at the Regency Hotel. This is someone who is obviously not hiding and trying to stay in the shadows or trying to remain undercover. I think from my reporting, he wants to go about his life and try and live it as fully as he can.

It is pretty remarkable to see someone go to a very public sort of see me New York restaurant the night after that happened. I think that is probably a deliberate message.

O`DONNELL: How long did you get to talk to him today?

FOX: I talked to him several times for a brief amount of time today.

O`DONNELL: So his reaction to the pressure he is under now with the FBI, did he -- did he try to suggest that he knows how to handle this?

FOX: I don`t think anybody who has never been through this knows how to handle this. So, he did not suggest that he`s got a playbook and he is going to run through it.

This is difficult. This is -- from what he told me, he got a knock at his door at 7:30 yesterday morning. So he wasn`t woken up by this, and they didn`t break down the door in his hotel.

O`DONNELL: Did they break down the door at his apartment or at his law office?

FOX: Not his apartment, but at the law office. They broke --

O`DONNELL: So, they did break down the door at a law firm.

FOX: At a law firm.

O`DONNELL: Which is way more extraordinary than break do you think a door at home.

FOX: He was not there.

So, his morning was not middle of the night or first thing in the morning, the sun was up and he was awake. They knocked on the door. He told me that at about 12 agents came in and he had very complimentary things to say about the agents.

O`DONNELL: Who was in the hotel with him when that happened?

FOX: I believe there are members of his family. I think his wife and he has two kids who may have been off at school at the time.

O`DONNELL: And what did they expect to take from the hotel? Do we know what they took from the hotel?

FOX: I do not know what they took from the hotel. I do know they took his cell phone immediately. They took it immediately from him.

O`DONNELL: Would have taken it right out of his hands.

FOX: Right.

O`DONNELL: And so, has he been a criminal defendant before?

FOX: I do not know the answer to that question.

O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, I want to bring you in on this. You`ve studied Trump businesses for quite a while now. But also, you know a few things about the taxi business in New York, which is one of the more complicated and historically very, very shady and politically connected businesses.

What is your reaction to this particular piece that`s being revealed that they`re investigating, special prosecutor Robert Mueller has referred something to the U.S. attorney in New York city where they`re investigating Michael Cohen`s relationship in the taxi business.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ROG: Well, I think it`s going to put us on a ride right back to the Russians. Michael Cohen at one point had about 200 taxi licenses in New York. A lot of people have individual licenses. There are people with two called mini fleets, and then there are big operators like Michael Cohen.

And behind all of this, the financing is heavily involved with Russian emigres. Russians involved in one case in a company that had a special benefit, a tax benefit, and was the last remaining remnant of Richard Nixon`s black capitalism program, although it was helping immigrants from various countries, not black Americans.

And the people in this business are heavily the people who came here in the last decade of the Soviet Union. Many cases been thrown out or urged to go, and have set up shop in all sorts of shady business with shady financing. So I suspect we will very quickly see once the taint team has done its work and the prosecutors can look at what was taken, that there will be a path that will take you to a whole variety of other Russians with whom Cohen has worked a lot.

His wife is Ukrainian, you remember. He tried to get a peace plan where Putin who took over Crimea would lease it for 100 years. And of course during the campaign, Felix Sater, the convicted violent felon and Michael Cohen were involved in trying to build during the campaign a Trump tower in Moscow.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We will be hearing more about the taxi business. Those taxi medallions soared in value to over a million dollars during some of the time when Michael Cohen owned some of them. So 200 of those would be more than 200 million. And this is Michael Cohen leaving the restaurant that Emily has told us he has been spending the evening at near the hotel.

But those medallions, the tax medallions have collapsed in value since Uber came online. They are now worth about $200,000 or less. So there could be some real panic maneuvering around those.

Emily, what else should we know about your conversation with Michael Cohen today?

EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: He said that he has not spoken to the President since yesterday. But he watched the President`s statements yesterday on television about him. And his takeaway was that it is a shame that at that very serious meeting about Syria, that the first question asked to the President of the United States was about him.

O`DONNELL: Does he think it`s a shame the President brought him up before anyone asked any questions about anything?

FOX: I can only tell you what he told me.

O`DONNELL: And also, does he -- when you say he hasn`t talked to the President since yesterday, does that mean they talked yesterday?

FOX: I do not believe that they spoke yesterday.

O`DONNELL: OK.

FOX: Though they are in very close contact. He spent two weekends over the past couple of months at Mar-a-Lago having dinner with him. And they frequently talk. These are people who spent every single day together for a decade.

Now, I will say there was period of time when I first interviewed Michael Cohen at the end of the summer, they were not speaking at the advice of counsel. It was something that was very difficult for Michael. He expressed over and over in the interview how he can`t even walk by Trump tower because it was so sad for him. He missed his friend, people who he considers like family. And over the course of the year, they started seeing each other. He was at the White House Hanukkah party. And there was a fundraising dinner New York. And at the beginning of this year, they started talking more and more and speaking over the phone.

O`DONNELL: So neither one of them can follow good legal advice of not talking to each other. Does Michael Cohen tonight still consider himself the President`s lawyer in any form?

FOX: He certainly considers himself a very loyal friend and adviser to the President. And I believe from my reporting, he believes that the President is still loyal to him as well.

O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston, we have had attorneys last night here saying that it is legally impossible now for Michael Cohen to in any form be Donald Trump`s lawyer.

JOHNSTON: Well, they are right about that. But that doesn`t mean there won`t be conversations or they won`t conduct themselves. Because neither one of these guys plays by the sort of rules of civilized society that we`re used to seeing. After all, Donald Trump has spent his entire life beating off law enforcement investigations, running out the clock, ratting out other people to protect himself. And Michael Cohen has been involved in really trying to engage himself in American foreign policy with this violent convicted felon Felix Sater over the Crimea. I mean, these are people who have no sense of boundary, rules, or propriety.

O`DONNELL: And Emily, quickly before we go, Michael Cohen has always prided himself on his thug-like behavior with people who he thinks are weaker than he is. And we have all read the threats to the daily beast reporter where he promised to absolutely destroy this person`s life. The most grotesque, ridiculous, actually childish kind of language if you understand what is really going on there from a lawyer. But he thinks it`s the toughest way you can possibly speak. Is this a different Michael Cohen that you are talking to now?

FOX: The Michael Cohen I am speaking to is the Michael Cohen that I have spoken to over the course of the last six months. But it is clear that there is a sense of gravity washing over him. This is not the Monday morning he expected. He had his eyes on the Stormy Daniels case. This was something that has a deadline, that he was very intent on seeing through. I interviewed him about this last month, and that`s where he said the line about going on a vacation on Stormy Daniels.

O`DONNELL: Yes. He said that to you. The bragging about how much money he was going to get from Stormy Daniels.

FOX: I believe he said it in jest, but yes. It was definitely a memorable line in an interview. A great way to end an interview for sure. But that`s where his eyes were focused. He did not wake up Monday morning thinking that those 12 agents were going to walk into the regency and knock on his door.

O`DONNELL: Emily Jane Fox, thank you very much for your valuable reporting.

FOX: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: From the mouth of Michael Cohen tonight in New York city. Emily Jane Fox, David Cay Johnston, thank you all for joining us.

Coming up, one very important Republican in the United States Senate did not get the memo today about what to say about Donald Trump and Robert Mueller. And so he used the word "suicide" as in political suicide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Dave Sherman`s latest piece for "Vanity Fair" describes a chaotic White House where staffers are worried the President could fire the attorney general, the deputy attorney general or the special counsel who is investigating him at any moment. He is sitting there pitching and moaning. He is brooding and doesn`t have a plan, a Republican close to the White House said last night. I could see him having a total meltdown and saying f-it, I`m firing all of them a Trump friend told me. This is very dry tinder. If someone strikes a match to it, you could see it catching fire, added a former official. But some Senate Republicans are writing ever more ridiculous lines for themselves to try to pretend that there is no reason at all to worry about the President firing anyone involved in the investigation of the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I haven`t seen clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed, because I don`t think that`s going to happen.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CALIFORNIA: I`m not worried about Trump firing Mueller because I think he is smarter than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It sounds like Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn`t get the memo today about how to play this game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: It would be suicide for the President to want to talk about firing Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California who is a member of the house intelligence committee. And that is the question of the night, congressman Swalwell. Will the President attempt to fire the special counsel?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Lawrence. And I believe all of the signs are there that he is entertaining this idea. And all of the people that he is looking to in Congress who would act or move on him if he did are essentially looking the other way or signaling that it would be OK.

Thank God that there are more people like Chuck Grassley starting to speak up. But there is not enough. And essentially right now, Lawrence, we have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell looking at smoke coming out of a building. And they`re telling the fire department to just hold off. It may not burn yet. Guess what? This President wants to burn down every single institution at the department of justice and the rule of law. And we better act immediately.

O`DONNELL: We have a new Quinnipiac poll showing 69 percent of voters do not think the President should fire Robert Mueller, 13 think that he should fire Robert Mueller. Republican senator Thom Tillis is now pressing the Senate for action on his bill, legislation to protect Robert Mueller`s position.

And also, tomorrow night there is a scheduled meeting at the White House, a dinner at the White House. This is for multiple sources saying that it`s for speaker Paul Ryan, majority leader Mitch McConnell, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate majority whip John Cornyn will dine with President Trump tomorrow evening at the White House. The White House official schedule lists the dinner to take place at 6:30 p.m. That is the preferred dinnertime for junior high school students and 71-year-old Presidents. And so what would you expect the congressional leadership, the Republican leadership to be saying to the President about firing the special prosecutor tomorrow night?

SWALWELL: If they cared about the country, Lawrence, they would tell the President remember who you told the country you were going to fight for. You were going to make sure that people`s paychecks were growing, that they had health care security, that they would be able to see their kids do better because we invest in infrastructure and education. And stop distracting the country and tearing down institutions of the rule of law and department of justice by making such threats.

But Lawrence, they are not going to do that. If past is prologue, we know that they are either afraid of him because of the way he has gone after senators Flake and Corker, and he has come out on top, or they just see in him somebody who is willing to say and do what they have always wanted to do.

And so, that`s why, Lawrence, I`m afraid, we have to hold on tight, get to November, win back the House and finally put in the stoplight, stop sign and cop on the beat that this President needs.

O`DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to what Rachel reported in the previous hour, Dana Boente`s handwritten notes confirming basically word for word, using some of the exact words that James Comey used in his public accounts and public testimony about his conversations with the President.

SWALWELL: Yes, Lawrence, I saw that segment. And it corroborated what James Comey told Congress. And to that I say the President tried to chill James Comey`s testimony. He intimated in tweets that there may be tapes. Essentially trying to make sure that James Comey didn`t come forward. Well, we know now that his testimony has been corroborated.

And to the President of the United States, I ask him this. Knowing that James Comey was telling the truth, the ball is in your court. And are you willing to come forward and tell your version? And if you`re not and if you refuse to cooperate and talk to Bob Mueller, should we treat you the same way we said we should treat anyone who refuses to testify? What she said is essentially what the mob would do.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, new details about investigators` interests in the women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Why this investigation has now gone in their direction. Why the FBI is on the case of Donald Trump`s relationships with these women.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY: You know, a lot of people mocked us. A lot of people mocked my client, said that 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. I wonder if some of those people are laughing now. The FBI just raided the personal attorney for the President`s offices over the exact matter that we have brought to the forefront and brought to the attention of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Michael Avenatti here on the LAST WORD last night. NBC News reports that Michael Avenatti`s clients, Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal investigators looking into the $130,000 payment that she received from Michael Cohen.

"The Washington Post" citing a person familiar with the matter reports that investigators` interest in Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal indicates that federal investigators are trying to determine whether there was a broader pattern or strategy among Trump associates to buy the silence of women whose accounts could harm the President`s electoral chances, and whether any crimes were committed in doing so.

That could be a dangerous line of investigation for Donald Trump. According to his former campaign manager, Steve Bannon is quoted in the book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff saying this about Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz.

Quote "Kasowitz has gotten Trump out of all kinds of all jams." Kasowitz on the campaign, what did we have, 100 women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.

Ashley Parker who co-wrote "the Washington Post" breaking news story tonight about the women involved President joins us now and David Corn is back with us.

And Ashley, I want to go to something that is in your report tonight. It says some White House allies think that this one, like many of the administration`s pockets of turbulence, was brought on by Trump himself, specifically by comments he made last week aboard air force one when he claimed he had no knowledge of the payment Cohen made to Daniels, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

And so is this something that those people are discussing with the President? Or is the President the only one in the White House who is not involved in this discussion, suggesting that what he said on air force one has provoked much of this?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So my sense is this is something that people in the President`s orbit, so those outside advisers and the people in the White House, are talking about, but I don`t get the sense that it has been directly communicated to the President. But basically the gist is when he says he was unaware of these payments -- and Michael Cohen said as much publicly as well. When you basically have a lawyer and a client saying there was no basically knowledge between them or no agreement between them, it then gets rid of the attorney-client privilege, and it made it a lot easier for the FBI to do what they did, which was raid Michael Cohen`s home and office the other day.

O`DONNELL: Yes. So what the President said on air force one was confirmation from both parties basically, Michael Cohen and at this point Donald Trump, that there was no attorney-client privilege. Donald Trump didn`t think there was an attorney-client relationship on this stormy Daniels matter when Michael Cohen, on his own, just drew up this agreement.

PARKER: Yes. That`s exactly right. If you believe those claims -- and some people are certainly fairly dubious of them. But if you believe them, it`s that Michael Cohen was acting entirely on his own, as he said, when he facilitated this payment. Therefore, there`s sort of no attorney-client privilege to breach by going after the President`s personal attorney.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more about what Michael Avenatti said here last night about where we would be if Stormy Daniels had never gone public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, would Michael Cohen be a subject of a 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And David Corn, add to that what Michael Avenatti has said publicly before, that every single time they have laid a trap for Donald Trump and for Michael Cohen, Michael Cohen has stepped in it. And now we hear from Ashley`s reporting that Donald Trump has also stepped in it.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, when Ashley was speaking a moment ago, I was thinking, these guys better call Saul. I mean the legal mistakes they have made, particularly Michael Cohen, have just been rookie mistakes. And, you know, remember, you know, this story began -- let`s give credit here -- when "the Wall Street Journal" reported the payment that was made to Stormy Daniels. That got the ball rolling. So it wasn`t necessarily just Stormy Daniels wanting to tell her story. It was the fact that there was hush money paid by the President of the United States, or we thought so. Maybe it wasn`t by him, but by his attorney. That`s still an open question, during the campaign.

And as the search warrant for the Michael Cohen raid shows, there were possible violations of bank fraud, wire fraud, and maybe federal election law and involved not just this case but other cases. Certainly Stormy Daniels by going public put more pressure on this and forced Michael Cohen and Donald Trump into these ridiculously basic, you know, errors that allowed this raid to go forward and that seems to have blown up their legal case, their civil legal case against stormy Daniels. So let`s just hope that Trump`s getting better advice on Syria than he`s getting on how to deal with this mess.

O`DONNELL: Ashley, your breaking news reporting in "the Washington Post" continues to add to the flavor of what`s going on in the White House and the mood. You say about the President, you quote a Republican strategist saying his anger is unabated and that the mood in the White House is extremely grim.

Also your reporting is suggesting that the prosecutors and investigators are trying to find a pattern of something possibly much wider than just two women, that there might be, as Michael Wolff`s book suggested from Steve Bannon, that there might be hundreds of these.

PARKER: Well, our understanding is what prosecutors are looking at specifically with Michael Cohen is this pattern or strategy of the Trump campaign to potentially try to silence these women. And that includes conversations that Michael Cohen may have had about these two women or potentially others we don`t know about, with David Pecker, who owns the media company that puts out the "National Enquirer" and often engages in something called catch and kill, which is what we saw with the former playmate where you basically -- it`s a version of hush money still. You pay a woman for her story, and then you never accomplish it. So that`s one thing they are looking into. and it seems like what we know so far, Michael Cohen is sort of the President`s fixer and conciliar, is sort of front and center in trying to keep these women silent and trying to handle all these women who they worried might come forward during the campaign.

And to your first question, you are right. The mood in the White House is incredibly grim. The President is furious and aides are worried about what`s going to happen next.

O`DONNELL: Ashley Parker, David Corn, thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s LAST WORD.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did Michael Cohen make this?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he said on camera, just to recap, you`ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Well, guess who watches TV? Robert Mueller. Because today on a tip from Mueller, the FBI raided Cohen`s office, seizing records related to several tops including payments to a pornographic film actress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Stephen Colbert gets tonight`s Last Word. Stormy Daniels` lawyer will respond to the news that Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal investigators. Michael Avenatti is in "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams, and that starts now.

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.