Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 12, 2018 Guest: Ken White; Michael Avenatti; Nick Kristof; Mike Murphy
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Oh, good evening, Rachel.
I`ve just -- I`m reading the end because I want to see how the investigation turns out, so I`m just going to -- if you want to take a few more minutes, I just have like a couple of pages to go and then I`ll know what happens.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You know, I can tell you the last few words, but --
O`DONNELL: Well, let me just tell America this.
I don`t want to, you know, break the embargo on all the big stuff in here, but toward the end of this book, James Comey says, I am writing in a time of great anxiety in my county, I understand the anxiety but also believe America is going to be fine. So, there`s that.
MADDOW: Sleep tight everybody.
O`DONNELL: Someone believes America is going to be fine, someone who knows an awful lot about exactly where America is right now.
MADDOW: Yes. And we all have a part in making sure that`s true. So, yes, thanks, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
My first guest tonight Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels`s lawyer, says that Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, plans to take the Fifth Amendment in the lawsuit Stormy Daniels has brought against Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. And that is a huge turning point in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit. I mean huge.
But there was a much more important legal turning point in the investigation of the president of the United States today. It has been a day of constantly cascading news about the special prosecutor`s investigation of the president of the United States. Today was the day the doorman speaks, the doorman, who says that he heard a rumor about Donald Trump fathering a child with a woman he had an affair with. Today is the day that James Comey speaks or his book begins to speak for the first time, excerpts leaking out and the "New York Times" review is out and it says former FBI Director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a forest fire.
Into that forest fire tonight, a late breaking story from "The Washington Post" says that Trump associate Michael Cohen has recorded many of his phone conversations and that the FBI might now have those recordings after raiding Michael Cohen`s home, his office, his hotel room in New York City on Monday. And I wish we had had a camera on Michael Avenatti when I just said that.
The reaction to Michael Cohen recording telephone calls and those calls possibly being in the possession of the FBI now.
But procedurally, procedurally, the biggest turn on the road to the truth about what the president knew and when he knew it, what the president did and when he did it, was reported by NBC News today in an exclusive report indicating that the president of the United States will not submit to an interview with the special prosecutor, who is investigating him for obstruction of justice. NBC News report says special counsel Robert Mueller`s office and President Donald Trump`s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
That is the choice you make if you`re guilty. If you know you`re guilty of the crime you`re being investigated for or any other crime, you absolutely do not submit to an interview with the FBI or federal prosecutors or any prosecutors any time, anywhere. It is also the choice that you should make under many circumstances if you are not guilty of anything. It is a perfectly reasonable choice to refuse to be interviewed by the FBI, even if you are convinced that you are not guilty of anything.
But it is an absolutely mandatory choice if you are guilty. If you are guilty, you really have no choice, you must never submit to an interview with the FBI and federal prosecutors and then, when they subpoena you to testify to a grand jury under oath in a much more tense and difficult environment than an FBI interview, you must be prepared to take the Fifth Amendment if you`re guilty because your answers will incriminate you. And so, this week marks the moment when Donald Trump stops talking as if he has nothing to hide, stops saying things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it, actually.
REPORTER: Mr. President, would you still like to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller, sir?
TRUMP: Thank you. Sure, I would like to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Viewers of this program know that I for one never believed that. I always thought that was a pose that he was using to draw out the negotiations for an interview with Mueller and in the end would decide what he has apparently decided this week, he cannot submit to that interview. The president seems to have decided that all of his friends on Fox News who have been telling him not to testify or submit to an interview are right because it is a perjury trap.
All of Donald Trump`s friends on Fox News who say that, that an interview with the special prosecutor would be a perjury trap, are, of course, saying that they firmly believe that Donald Trump would commit a crime in the interview, a crime of lying to the FBI, essentially the same as perjury. And they are saying that Donald Trump would commit perjury because he is guilty and he must lie if he is interviewed by the special prosecutor and so we have now entered the deadly serious part of the special prosecutor`s investigation of the president of the United States.
The president will not cooperate by giving an interview. And so, the most dangerous confrontation between a president and a prosecutor since Watergate is now fast approaching. That confrontation becomes more dangerous for the special prosecutor every day as the president contemplates firing everyone he would have to fire in order to reach into the Justice Department, to fire the special prosecutor himself. And it becomes more dangerous to the president as the special prosecutor considers his option of issuing a subpoena to the president to testify under oath to the grand jury in a room where the president`s lawyers cannot go and it becomes more dangerous to the Constitution because the president of the United States might refuse to submit to constitutional processes.
If the president agreed to an interview with investigators, his lawyers could be right beside him freely conferring with him the entire time about every answer. If the president goes into a grand jury room, he will be alone. A grand jury witness can stop at any moment and ask to leave the room to consult with a lawyer, but otherwise Donald Trump would be alone in a room with prosecutors, FBI agents and 20 citizens who have taken an oath as grand jurors to impartially consider the evidence presented to them and evaluate the honesty of witnesses.
Donald Trump knows that his presidency might not survive an appearance in that grand jury room. And so, we step closer to the phrase we`ve heard so often lately, constitutional crisis. The constitutional crisis that would occur if the special prosecutor subpoenas the president of the United States, the president of the United States refuses to comply with that subpoena, the court orders the president to comply with the subpoena, and the president refuses the order of the United States Supreme Court. No one knows what happens then.
Who goes to the White House with what badge to physically seize the president of the United States, to drag him to that grand jury room? And what does the Secret Service do? The Secret Service has sworn to protect the president of the United States, to physically protect him, to surround him, what do they do?
The Constitution prevailed against President Richard Nixon, because President Nixon, a well-trained lawyer, allowed the Constitution to prevail. When the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to comply with the subpoena, President Nixon didn`t think he had a choice. Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon, he always thinks he has a choice, he always thinks he has a way out, and he obviously believes that everyone in the federal government is supposed to work for him.
Tonight, Donald Trump sits in the White House as Robert Mueller decides whether he should subpoena the president of the United States to testify to a grand jury, and as Robert Mueller considers that, he knows he is stepping ever closer to being fired.
And Donald Trump is no doubt spending the evening watching his favorite cable news network where Robert Mueller has been portrayed as the moral equivalent of the Nazis. The president will be watching the cable news network where there will be no mention of James Comey`s book revelations, that the president asked James Comey to investigate, quote, what he called the golden showers thing, added that I bothered him that there even 1 percent chance his wife Melania thought it was true. He will be watching the cable news network where there will be no mention of the Trump doorman.
But even when he`s watching his favorite escapist TV shows tonight, Donald Trump has to feel the heat. He has to feel the heat getting hotter, the heat of the forest fire that he created.
Joining our discussion now, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. Also joining us is Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and professor of law at the University of Michigan. She`s an NBC News and MSNBC legal contributor. And Mike Murphy is with us, he`s a Republican strategist, who`s advised both Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain`s presidential campaigns.
And, Michael Avenatti, I want to start with you because so much of where we are tonight is related to what has happened since Stormy Daniels emerged in our news. We have the doorman tonight, we have Michael Cohen and the tapes, and I just have to get your reaction to that right off the bat. We`re going to talk about Michael Cohen a lot later in the show.
But the revelation tonight that Michael Cohen commonly taped telephone calls, played some of those telephone calls for Donald Trump himself to show him what a good job he was doing, and that the FBI and investigators may have known about that and might be in possession of those now.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Lawrence, if you thought the pucker factor was significant on Monday night after the raids, that`s nothing compared to the pucker factor that is present tonight in light of this "Washington Post" story. If this "Washington Post" story is true that there are actual tapes of Michael Cohen communicating with opponents, potentially leaning on folks, threatening them that he then played because he was proud of them, potentially tapes between him and Mr. Trump, I don`t know how to describe that it`s so shocking. It makes the Nixon tapes look like a church picnic potentially.
You know, I will say this, a lot of people when we first started this used -- started comparing this to Watergate and said this is going to be similar to Watergate. I didn`t agree with that, I thought it was overblown. I think we`re beyond potentially Watergate at this point if this story is true. I think this is beyond a constitutional crisis.
I think the president is in an enormous amount of trouble. Michael Cohen is in an enormous amount of trouble. You know, I feel like I`m running out of -- I`m running out of adjectives to describe what we`re seeing day in and day out. I mean, I`m getting exhausted because every day, it`s another revelation, and it`s another negative development for the president and Michael Cohen.
But the idea when you hear your attorney`s offices and home have been raided, you`re upset about that. That is very disconcerting to say the least. When you then find out there are recordings that have been seized by the FBI, you don`t even know where to begin.
O`DONNELL: Michael Cohen is taking -- he said -- his attorneys have told you he`s going to take the Fifth Amendment in your case and file some pleadings asking for delay based on that. Presumably, Donald Trump also would take the Fifth Amendment in your case at this point.
What do you see in those -- in Michael Cohen`s response to your case that tells us how he will respond to where the federal investigation has him?
AVENATTI: Well, what we learned today -- and, look, let`s not lose track of the following. Seven days ago, I appeared on your show and you played the statements of the president of the United States on Air Force One, and we talked about --
O`DONNELL: Wait, that was seven days ago?
AVENATTI: It was seven days ago. It feels like it was seven years ago.
AVENATTI: It was only seven days ago.
I talked about how I thought he placed Michael Cohen in the crosshairs and he directed the American people to his personal attorney to answer questions. He said, basically, talk to my personal attorney and he`ll answer your questions, OK?
Monday, we have a raid of Michael Cohen, three separate locations, and now, we learn that Michael Cohen`s not going to be answering questions. He`s going to be pleading the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. This is the right hand of the president of the United States, his personal attorney, who`s going to be pleading the Fifth Amendment against self- incrimination.
And now, you just asked me, is it likely or you made a mention of it that maybe the president of the United States would plead the Fifth Amendment in response to questions. I mean, we should let that wash over us for a minute and realize the seriousness of which we`re talking about here. I mean, this is a big deal. Never before in our nation`s history have we had a president of the United States that I know of plead the Fifth Amendment in response to questions about his conduct in connection with the presidential campaign.
O`DONNELL: Let me squeeze in a legal footnote here. Your case is a civil case. There`s nothing criminal about it.
In civil litigation, the Fifth Amendment does not come up as nearly as often as it does in criminal process. So, to be in the middle of a civil case and have a witness or a party to the case say, I`m taking the Fifth Amendment about all questions involving this case is a pretty extraordinary event in a civil case.
AVENATTI: It absolutely is. Let`s contrast what we learned today from Michael Cohen through his counsel with what we heard in the last 24 or 48 hours from Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen has said that he`s not worried about the raid. He`s not concerned about it. He`s concerned about his family, but he`s not concerned about it and he`s confident that he`ll be exonerated.
Well, how do you square that with I`m going to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination? You can`t.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, reports indicated that the raid on Michael Cohen`s office, apartment and hotel room really pushed Donald Trump across the line where he finally decided he absolutely did not want to cooperate with the investigation. I personally find that hard to believe, I find it hard to believe he was ever going to cooperate.
Let`s talk about where that legal crossroads is tonight. This is the moment we`ve been waiting for or the first big moment we were waiting for in Mueller versus the president, would the president agree to be interviewed and now, NBC News is reporting there is not going to be an interview.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, it seems like the last straw was this search warrant at Michael Cohen`s office and as you say, maybe he never intended to go through with it at all, and this is the fig leaf he needs to say that`s the end of it. But, so, Robert Mueller has a decision to make. Does he use a grand jury subpoena to compel President Trump to testify, which as you pointed out could create a true constitutional crisis? That`s a phrase that gets overused all the time.
But if President Trump were to defy that it could create a constitutional crisis, or does Robert Mueller simply forego that, which could take a lot of time in litigation, does he simply say, I got enough evidence, I don`t need to hear your side of the story, I gave you your chance and I have got plenty of evidence to reach any own conclusions about obstruction of justice? I wanted to hear your side of the story and hear whether there was anything other than corrupt intent here, but I`ve got the evidence and I`m going to go forward?
So, my guess is he may choose to go forward with his report and forego Trump`s side of the story since he`s refusing to give it voluntarily.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, when a politician is under investigation, you can often use political analysis to figure out what their next legal response is going to be because politicians under investigation want to maintain their political viability, their political careers matter to them. I`m not sure any of that matters to Donald Trump, I`m not sure we can use any political analysis in trying to figure out how he will handle himself in this investigation.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think the Trump laws of gravity are a little bit different. And he`s always worked base politics where he doesn`t have the majority of support. He`s focused on the Republican primary electorate, which still likes him.
So, what you do instead, in his situation, is you create a different narrative. You put testimony investigation on trial. You put the prosecutors on trial, and you try to debate everything other than the center thrust of the investigation.
But, you know, the walls are closing in a bit here. You know, we will see, we`re trying this by cable TV because we don`t have the facts yet. We have these leaks and these reports, but, you know, if there are tapes and they`re germane, that could be a tremendous bombshell.
Beyond Michael Cohen is the worst lawyer in America, but there could be other things germane to what Mueller is looking at. There`s also the issue of a Federal Election Committee find. You know, all of us who have run political enterprises know you don`t do big in-kinds like that. It is an absolute violation of the FEC.
So, that triggers another thing, which is not about, you know, whether a porn star got paid enough and what rights she has. It is into breaking the laws by which we conduct elections and how dirty money being involved. So, this thing just keeps widening with more cracks and more cracks. And the president is responding as the president does, emotionally and getting more erratic about it.
And just finally, one point in this whole Mueller -- excuse me, "will he testify" issue. I think -- there was a lot of coverage about this and I believe it, that his legal team was afraid to let him testify, for two reasons, kind of a different of opinion. One is he would willingly perjure himself and not tell the truth, because he seems to do that a lot. The other is he is somebody who pleases the room and lives in a moment and he may not ultimately know what the truth is. He can convince himself of his own crazy reality, which again puts him in a perjury situation.
So I agree what the others have said. I think he had no choice but to not testify. And I agree that I don`t know if Mueller needs to make a constitutional crisis out of that. He might say as the other panelist did that hey, I gave him a shot to correct the record and he didn`t do it.
O`DONNELL: We will see. Barbara McQuade`s prediction is the one to keep an eye on.
Barbara McQuade, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate.
We`re going to squeeze in a break here and when we come back, later, the doorman speaks. Everyone knows that the doorman hears everything, every rumor, in this case, including the rumor about Donald Trump having a secret child.
And later, how long will John Kelly last in the Trump White House after James Comey`s new book reveals what John Kelly really said about Donald Trump?
O`DONNELL: Dino Sajudin was a doorman at Trump World Tower, a building near the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan. Today, Dino Sajudin released this statement.
Today, I awoke to learn that a confidentiality agreement I had with AMI, the "National Enquirer", with regard to a story about President Trump was leaked to the press. I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower, I was instructed not to criticize President Trump`s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.
The "Associated Press" broke the story overnight last night, reporting, quote, "The Enquirer" signed the ex-doorman to a contract that would effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump`s campaign for president. Michael Cohen acknowledged to the "Associated Press" that he had discussed Dino Sajudin`s story with the "National Enquirer" when the tabloid was working on the story in late 2015. Cohen said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the "Enquirer" payments to the ex- doorman.
We know that the search warrants that the FBI used to search Michael Cohen`s home, his office and a hotel he was staying in in targeted communications between Michael Cohen and the two top people at the "National Enquirer." David Pecker, the publisher of "The National Enquirer", who is a close friend of Donald Trump`s, and Dylan Howard, the "National Enquirer`s" editor-in-chief.
AMI, the parent company of the "National Enquirer", released this statement: AMI categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a love child that it determined was not credible.
Now, it`s moments like this when the "National Enquirer" is putting out statements about what`s true and false. That it would be really great if the "National Enquirer" never printed outright screaming lies on the cover of the "National Enquirer," which it does on a regular basis.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization denied the story that Dino Sajudin told the "National Enquirer", but Mr. Sajudin in an interview with "The Washington Post" said, you know, I took a polygraph test, he said, adding that he believes his story was buried as part of the larger strategy by the tabloid to quash negative articles about Trump. It seems like the writing is on the wall about that. It`s pretty clear, Sajudin said. He said the story had to come out and he referred further questions to his lawyer.
The woman Dino Sajudin is referring to in his story about Donald Trump has denied to the "Associated Press" that she ever had an affair with Donald Trump. The news organizations that know who she is are withholding her name since none of what Dino Sajudin has said about her has been verified by any news organization.
The "Associated Press" reports that Dino Sajudin did take a lie detector test administered by the "National Enquirer" and that he passed that test, which only tested how he learned of the rumor but not the actual truth of that rumor. When NBC News reached people in the White House for comment about this, multiple officials said they do not intend to comment about the doorman`s story that the president has a sixth child with a fourth mother who he did not marry.
Joining our discussion now, Ken White, former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney at Brown White and Osborn, and back with us Michael Avenatti.
Ken White, I want to get your reaction to this "National Enquirer" story tonight and the concept of the "National Enquirer" spending money on a regular basis to bury stories about Donald Trump and doing it during the presidential campaign, and how that looks in terms of a possible in-kind contribution to a presidential campaign.
KEN WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it looks quite bad. The important thing isn`t whether the story is true, whether the rumor is true. The important thing is what they did to cover it up, whether or not it`s true, because that`s where the crime is. There`s no crime in an affair, not even a crime necessarily in paying someone to shut up.
But there is definitely a potential crime in undisclosed campaign contributions in the form of paying people off to shut up. And yes, AMI`s story has been no we just made a good journalistic decision not to run this story because we decided it wasn`t true. Well, after the third or whatever number of people they pay off, that starts to become factually difficult to believe.
And if the search of Michael Cohen`s office turns up communications with AMI that`s inconsistent with that story, that suggests that the purpose is not journalism but helping the Trump campaign, then that`s going to be very damaging both to AMI and Michael Cohen legally.
O`DONNELL: And, Michael Avenatti, "The New Yorker" is reporting that two AMI -- two former AMI employees say that Michael Cohen was in close contact with AMI about the -- this story about the doorman.
AVENATTI: Well, I wonder if AMI released that statement before or after "The Washington Post" article about the tapes. Because, you know, the audio recordings if they exist, Lawrence, are not going to lie and may completely undercut all kinds of things that we`ve heard over the last six months, 12 months, two years. It may undercut what the president knew about my client`s agreement, where the $130,000 came from, the involvement of AMI, and the list goes on and on.
I mean, audio tapes, I can`t think -- well, maybe a videotape is a more powerful piece of evidence than audio tape, but an audio tape is a close second. It doesn`t get much better than that, than an audio tape, with the exception of a video. So, this revelation tonight in "The Washington Post" if true, it could completely reset the entire table on this saga and really pose huge problems for Michael Cohen and ultimately the president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: And the reason for this is that Michael Cohen is at the center of everything. He`s been with Trump for so long. He`s at the center of everything. They have reports of him possibly taping phone calls with members of the campaign staff. Campaign staff got wind of that and thought we don`t want to be on the phone with this guy.
So he may have tapes that involve all the stories we`re talking about, including as you point out this "National Enquirer" story.
AVENATTI: Look, Lawrence, I`m a lot smarter than Michael Cohen.
O`DONNELL: That`s not a boast. That`s just --
AVENATTI: Look, I think there`s a lot of people in America -- there`s millions of people in America that can make that claim. There`s nothing special about that claim that I just made to be clear. OK?
But I wouldn`t want my recordings with my clients or my opponents taped at all. I would never tape them, for obvious reasons, OK? The fact that if this happened, the fact that this guy would actually tape these recordings -- I mean, this is worse than "Dumb and Dumber". I am forever amazed at the stupidity that is demonstrated on a nearly daily or every other day basis. I don`t understand this. I mean, this is not the guy that you want to be trusting your internal state secrets, if you will. That could potentially bring you down. This is about the worst pick that you could possibly make.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Ken White, what is the -- the trouble that Michael Cohen is in, what does it mean possibly for Donald Trump in this special prosecutor`s investigation? Because let`s remember, the Michael Cohen investigation here in New York City is not being conducted by the special prosecutor, it`s being conducted by the U.S. attorney in New York City. But you have someone very, very close to the President and historically close to the President who is under tremendous pressure from federal investigators and what kind of worry does that represent for the President?
KEN WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I`m sure it`s a huge worry. Donald Trump has not established a basis for anyone to be trustful or loyal to him. And that`s why already they have had some success flipping people against him. I think he has to be terribly worried that Michael Cohen is going to make the decision to cooperate to protect himself and what he will be able to say when he does.
We saw today with his decision to plead the fifth, which is the first sensible decision I have seen him make in this whole affair, that he is starting to think about his own best interests. And if he continues to think that way, what his lawyers may be telling him is look, you need to get out of this. And the way to get out of this is start telling the truth, cooperate with the special prosecutor, cooperate with the prosecutors in New York and tell them everything you know and see the best way you can possibly get out of this. You can`t be a fixer from federal prison.
O`DONNELL: Michael, "Daily Beast" is reporting as we speak tonight that Michael Cohen is saying that he has not made a decision to -- Michael Cohen`s lawyers saying he has not made a decision to plead the Fifth Amendment in your case. But consider that when you also consider the question of where is your case now and what does your case mean to the President of the United States? We have focused on your case`s impact on Michael Cohen, but the President of the United States is still a party to the litigation you`ve started.
AVENATTI: Well, there`s no question about that. And we have a pending motion that`s going to be heard now in the first two weeks of May by Judge James Otaro, a U.S. district court article three lifetime tenured judge. He is going to make a determination as to whether we are entitled to the deposition of Michael Cohen and the deposition of President Trump. And if he orders those two individuals to be deposed then we are going to expect to show up at the White House or whatever location is agreed upon to take the deposition of the President of the United States. He is not going to have an option. It is not optional when there`s a court order. He may think he has an option with Mr. Mueller right now. He is not going to have an option with me if he had --.
O`DONNELL: Your deposition is the same as the subpoena to the grand jury in effect.
O`DONNELL: Carries the same force and effect, absolutely. And so if the judge Otaro decides, and he is going to make the decision, not President Trump, not me, not anyone else, the judge Otaro is going to make the determination as to whether the President will sit for a deposition in our case, and that order is not optional. It has going to have to be followed.
O`DONNELL: Quickly. Latest report on your case, that judge Otaro ordered you and the lawyers for the other side to get together and see what you can work out. A lot of times nothing comes from those conversations, is that where we are?
AVENATTI: Yes. We had at-length discussion today. Nothing was resolved. They are not willing to go to proceed in an open court. We are not willing to go to arbitration. They want us to withdraw our attempts to depose the President and Michael Cohen. It`s pretty obvious from what you just heard that we are not going anywhere. We want those depositions.
So we are exactly in the same place. And in connection with the call today is when we found out -- I don`t know what the "Daily Beast" is reporting but I heard it directly from Michael Cohen`s attorney`s mouth it`s his intent if this case is not stayed that he would be pleading the fifth amendment.
So this is news to me. I don`t know what the "Daily Beast" is reporting. But needless to say, we are going away. We are not packing up. This isn`t an optional proceeding. Until the judge Otaro tells us that we are not entitled to take these depositions, we are going to continue to press forward and we are going to plan on taking them.
O`DONNELL: We will have to squeeze in a break here.
Ken White, Michael Avenatti, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really, really appreciate it.
And when we come back, the President Trump asked James Comey to help him out on a little problem he was having with his wife, Melania.
And what John Kelly told James Comey about Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are having a meeting today on Syria. We are having a number of meetings today. We will see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In his confirmation hearing today, the President`s nominee for secretary of state was unable to cite any constitutional authority for the President to launch an attack on Syria. But most of Washington seems to think a constitutional crisis is possible only when the President fires people not missiles.
And the man who is a victim of the most controversial firing in the Trump presidency, James Comey, is now days away from publishing a book that is sure to enrage the President. The book called "A Higher Loyalty" will be released on Tuesday, but excerpts of the book in a "New York Time" review showed that the book compares Donald Trump to a mafia boss and includes this description of the President.
The President is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.
Rupert Murdoch, "the New York Post," the President`s favorite newspaper was the first to report what the book says about what the "New York Post" called the "P tape." That is referenced, of course, to the famous dossier complied about Donald Trump`s relationship with Russia and the Russians. The dossier contains a description of a time that Donald Trump spent in a Moscow hotel suite with prostitutes who urinated on his bed. That episode in that hotel room has not been confirmed. That is part of the dossier that has never been confirmed.
James Comey`s book said Donald Trump brought up what he called the golden showers thing, adding that it bothered him if there was even a one percent chance his wife, Melania, thought it was true. He just rolled on unprompted, explaining why it couldn`t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him.
According to "the Washington Post" Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the prostitute`s portion of the dossier, raising it at least four times with the FBI head. I`m a germaphobe, Trump told him in a follow up call on January 11th, 2017, according to Comey`s account. There`s no way I would let people pea on each other around me. No way. Later, the President asked what could be done to lift the cloud because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.
The "New York Post" goes on to report Comey said he privately wondered why Melania might think there was a one percent chance the allegations were true claiming there is zero chance his own wife would believe such a claim. In what kind of marriage to what kind of man does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn`t do that.
Joining to the discussion now Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "the New York Times" Nicholas Kristof and Mike Murphy is back with us.
And Nick Kristof, here is the President tonight presumably trying to decide, with a clear head, how to respond to the situation in Syria, meeting with his military leaders and others and he has this to contend with and the Comey book landing on him as we know it is like a sledge hammer.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, there`s all these salacious elements -- who have thought about a few years ago that you and I would be talking on evening television about golden showers. I mean, it is extraordinary. But maybe beyond these salacious elements, one of the things is that Comey writes about is the President living in many an alternative reality.
And obviously that`s troubling in terms of domestic policy. It is troubling in terms of law enforcement, trying to impress his spouse not by offering her a tour but rather by manipulating the law enforcement system to give him, you know, he didn`t do it card.
Beyond that, I mean, it is in issues like Syria, like the Iran deal, like North Korea where this alternative reality really becomes an issue of life and death for people all around the globe and that is where this alternative reality truly becomes frightening.
And I just want to read one other passage about this because I think it shows how Donald Trump believes that he can just snow anyone, that he can make anyone think about things the way he does.
According to Comey`s account in the book, Trump strongly denied the allegations asking rhetorically, I assumed, whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women and seemed to have memorized their allegations.
And Mike Murphy, this is Donald Trump trying to plead his innocence on these matters after he knows that the director of the FBI has heard him on the "Access Hollywood" tape bragging about his preferred methods of sexual assault.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. There`s an old saying in Texas politics that the guilty dog barks the loudest. But that said, you know, I`m torn about this book. I`m a day one Donald Trump critic. I have been pretty precipitous (ph) about it. And I agree with former director Comey`s summary of Trump`s huge character flaws.
But there is something, and I have only read the excerpts. But there`s something kind of petty and (INAUDIBLE) about some of the stuff. He could have made the larger observations in an op-ed piece and gone to the world of quiet dignity, which is apparently now illegal in Washington among former officials.
Instead, we have this book rushed in with a lot of the - and again, I haven`t read the whole thing, but these details are getting press now. And if you are Comey and you know the President has an alternate reality problem and you know the President is -- doesn`t understand how things sort of work and he is a fragile personality, do you really poke him now with some of these gratuitous stuff in the middle of a crises and the pressure of the Mueller thing. I think if there is a narcissism to Comey that I find a little troubling in all this. But I can`t disagree with his fundamental opinion of the President and he was there to see it up-close.
And Nick, this was the first - I mean, all presidencies now have the insider book come out. This is the first one from someone who was inside the Trump administration for a relatively short period of time, it turns out, but in a very important position. And so he is delivering us what his experience of this was.
KRISTOF: Yes, and I see Mike`s point. But I also do think that there is something illuminating about a President who is trying to use the head of the FBI to, you know, for incredibly domestic purposes.
KRISTOF: And you know, the remarks about -- that John Kelly apparently made. This is - obviously, we in the news media are pouncing on these statements, his assertions, but this may well lead to General Kelly being ousted as chief of staff, his statement that it was dishonorable for President Trump to fire Comey.
I do think - I mean, I take the point that, especially we in the media are jumping on this particularly sensational elements, but I do think there is something genuinely illuminating about what they say about our President.
O`DONNELL: All right. We are going to take a break there. And when we come back, we are going to talk about the John Kelly part of this. James Comey has a report in his book about a phone call he had with John Kelly after the President fired him. And the President is not going to like what John Kelly had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He is a show boat. He is a grand stander.
Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us mike Murphy and Nick Kristof.
And I want to go to a point in Comey`s book where he describes what John Kelly said to him after the firing. This is James Comey talking about John Kelly.
He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest, Comey writes. He said he didn`t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this President, especially this President.
And Mike Murphy, tonight John Kelly is saying that that`s not the way it went. It was a very brief phone call. James Comey has a witness on his end of the phone call who says that the Comey version is accurate.
MURPHY: Yes. I mean who knows, but we have seen a couple of these general Kelly U-turns and it`s starting to remind me of the old Niagara Falls vaudeville routine. Slowly I turn. Step by step. Go ahead and quit, you know. If he doesn`t want to serve a dishonorable person, I think John Kelly -- and we have seen all these leaks about how fed up he is. I don`t believe in giving any of these guys` halos for working for Donald Trump. Go ahead and quit.
And you know, I believe Comey is (INAUDIBLE) because it resonates of other things I have heard around town about kind of Kelly`s secret opinion. And now that it`s going to be all over the media, we will see if Kelly makes it to lunch because Trump may indeed fire him. Trump wants to fire somebody.
O`DONNELL: Well, yes. That`s the question. How long can John Kelly survive that quote because Donald Trump`s going to have to decide who does he believe, John Kelly, Nick Kristof, or what he believes in James Comey`s book? And that might be a tricky decision for them.
KRISTOF: I mean, he has been on thin ice before. And I think now this maybe he plunges through.
Nick, I want to get your view on the scooter Libby, the possibly scoter Libby pardon. NBC News is confirming that the President is planning to pardon Scooter Libby. He was Dick Cheney`s former chief of staff. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice. And as you know very well, James Comey was the deputy attorney general who appointed the special prosecutor who got the conviction on Libby of obstruction of justice.
KRISTOF: You know, I obviously disapprove of what Scooter Libby did. But in general, I do think that our justice system is too punitive and he has been punished. He has been barred from practicing law, his profession. He broke the law, but it was not to enrich himself. And if President Trump wants to pardon him, I have no objection.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, it does seem to be a Trump opportunity to make the point that obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI are pardonable offenses, especially if James Comey is anywhere in the chain of that prosecution.
MURPHY: Yes, exactly. I`m torn on this because I kind of agree with Nick about Scooter, and I have a lot of sympathy for his situation. But I don`t like the President or his people laying down the predicate to start stamping out pardons by starting with Scooter to kind of use whatever merits of his case to establish a rationale for a wider maybe misuse of pardons in these cases. So I`m kind of troubled by it in the larger sense.
O`DONNELL: And Nick Kristof, on the Comey book, which we have right here, this is going to be, one assumes, the tidal wave of next week when everyone really gets a chance to open it up and really dig through everything in it. Comey is going to do a series of dramatic interviews, including next week on Rachel Maddow`s show.
KRISTOF: And this is a completely self-inflicted wound for President Trump, of course. I mean, you know, Comey -- nobody would be reading Comey`s book if Trump hadn`t made it a bestseller. And it underscores President Trump`s capacity to shoot himself in the foot, his country in the foot.
I hope that he learned a lesson by firing Comey and then doesn`t try to follow that up by firing Mueller or Rod Rosenstein and in some way, you know, try to hamper the investigation again. Let`s hope that he looks back and sees Comey as number one on the bestseller list and learns a lesson from that.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy, we have never seen anything quite like this, and we are going to see a week of it with all the big interviews that James Comey is doing. And Donald Trump is not one to sit back and just watch.
MURPHY: Yes, he is totally reactive. The book is going to play big. It`s going to drive him crazy. He is increasingly got a staff around him that has yes manitis (ph) and reinforces his bad instincts because that is the only way to survive in his inner circle. And for a lot of these people, career is apparently more important than country.
So I am said to say, because I don`t really love the idea of a banana republic acting super power, but I think it is going to get worse in terms of Presidential erratic behavior before it gets before, and the Republican Party in this election year is looking at paying a pretty heavy electoral price.
KRISTOF: And in the process, for missile strikes certainly increasing.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Exactly. All of this while the President has this issue in Syria to consider.
KRISTOF: Yes. I mean, I think that missile strikes were very likely already, but I think with this on the TV news, I mean as Mike suggests, I think this makes that chance almost 100 percent.
O`DONNELL: And it`s impossible to watch the action the President takes and not think or wonder if these other issues like James Comey`s book actually increased the number of missiles fired or in some way informed his reaction to Syria.
KRISTOF: I mean I would say, though, that I think that`s absolutely true. I do think that we in the media have to also look ourselves in the mirror because President Trump has been very successful at making us chase the latest shiny object and making us change the subject. And you know, I think we need to be more careful about that ourselves.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Mike, quickly.
MURPHY: Yes. In defense of missile strikes, I think the real -- I`m all for destroying the Syrian air force as a weapon of terror, but diplomacy should never be driven and national security policy by emotion. So what Trump could do is screw up a needed policy by being erratic or demanding something in time for a news cycle and that would be terrible.
O`DONNELL: Mike Murphy and Nick Kristof, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Last Word.
With the President reportedly ready to pardon Scooter Libby, here is what special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said on the day Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2006.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It`s sad. It`s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of vice President, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that had not happened, but it did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was 2007. Patrick Fitzgerald gets tonight`s Last Word.