Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: April 18, 2018
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
James Comey is going to be so disappointed by who he runs into backstage tomorrow night when it's just me. It's like, that's it. Sorry, it's just me.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": You know, Lawrence, you underestimate the effect you have on people. I get asked about you in the strangest places my friend.
O'DONNELL: I'm going to be taking notes tomorrow, Rachel. I cannot wait.
MADDOW: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: I'm sure you're going to be spending the day trying to find all the unasked questions that have left after the interviews he's done so far.
MADDOW: There will be no sleeping between now and this time tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: I know exactly what you're going to do.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Well, you have heard Stormy Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, say repeatedly on this program that Michael Cohen will turn against his idol, his friend, his former client, Donald Trump, and cooperate with prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. And now we know that President Trump has heard that too.
The president has probably heard Michael Avenatti say it on this program and elsewhere, but the president definitely heard it on Friday, on the telephone from his favorite lawyer. Manhattan attorney Jay Goldberg has a framed, typewritten letter, hanging in the living room of his Upper East Side penthouse which says, among other things, there has never been a lawyer more important to me than you. It is very important to me that you know that. That letter is signed by Donald Trump.
"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that Jay Goldberg told the president on the phone on Friday, Michael will never stand up for you if charged by the government. "The Wall Street Journal" reports Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen isn't even a one he said he told Mr. Trump.
Jay Goldberg represented Donald Trump in what was the most important litigation of Donald Trump's life, until now, Donald Trump's first divorce. That was the case in which Donald Trump's first wife, and mother of his first three children, accused him of raping her during their marriage. Michael Cohen was the ignorant lawyer who said, when the Trump marital rape story was revisited during the presidential campaign, that it is legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife.
Jay Goldberg, who handled that case, an accomplished litigator, knows better and successfully steered Donald Trump through what had already become a very messy scandalous divorce before Jay Goldberg became Donald Trump's lawyer. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the White House confirmed that President Trump did indeed pick up the phone and call Jay Goldberg seeking legal advice on Friday, Friday, when Michael Cohen was foolishly hanging out in Manhattan pretending not to be worried and smoking cigars at the same time that Judge Kimba Wood was considering a motion by Michael Cohen's lawyer to block prosecutors from examining the evidence obtained in FBI raids of Michael Cohen's home, his office, his hotel room and his bank safety deposit box.
While during that first hearing in the case, Judge Wood was demanding to know if Michael Cohen is a real lawyer and actually has real legal clients who deserve attorney/client privilege, the most important client, Donald Trump, was on the phone with his old lawyer getting an earful of who and what he should be afraid of. Jay Goldberg told "The Wall Street Journal" that he told the president that because of the pressure the government can put on Michael Cohen, there is more danger to the president from the Cohen case than there is from special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation.
Mr. Goldberg said Mr. Trump told him on Friday that Mr. Cohen is very strong. Jay Goldberg wasn't buying that. In the call Mr. Goldberg, a former prosecutor who represented Mr. Trump in divorce and real estate matters said he stressed to the president that Mr. Cohen could even agree to wear a wire and try to record conversations with Mr. Trump. You have to be alert, Mr. Goldberg said he told the president, I don't care what Michael says.
Jay Goldberg said that he warned the president not to submit to an interview with the special prosecutor. Mr. Goldberg said he also warned Mr. Trump in the Friday call about the risks of submitting to an interview with Robert Mueller's office, prompted by the president for his advice, he also said he recommended Mr. Trump fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller. Mr. Goldberg who is 85 years old and has practiced law for more than five decades, said he suggested Mr. Trump add a well known New York lawyer to his legal team.
The president then sought legal help in New York City and hired the law firm of Spears and Imes where his lead counsel is former federal prosecutor Joana Hendon. Mr. Goldberg said he warned Mr. Trump against submitting to an interview with Mr. Mueller's team, telling him, talking is a certain trap, adding, don't ever do it.
Michael Cohen is the subject of a federal investigation because of his role in silencing women who had stories to tell about Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, as well as other things. He's being investigated for possible bank fraud and violation of campaign finance laws and arranging a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, and he's also being investigated for his role in arranging a $150,000 payment from "National Enquirer" to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Michael Cohen is being investigated because of rank stupidity, the stupidity of the schemes that he participated in and designed to silence those women. "The National Enquirer" is also being investigated because of the same stupidity, but "The National Enquirer" broke its stupid streak on this today, because today "The National Enquirer" dropped its case against Karen McDougal to enforce her silence.
Karen McDougal is now free to tell her story of what she thought was a genuine romantic love and sexual affair with Donald Trump which lasted for about a year, beginning around the same time the president of the United States allegedly had sex with Stormy Daniels, a sexual encounter that the president has never actually denied.
But the president did finally take to Twitter today about Stormy Daniels for the very first time, and he did not deny having sex with Stormy Daniels. He did not deny being spanked by Stormy Daniels with a magazine that had a picture of him and his family on the cover. He did not deny telling Stormy Daniels that he lives in fear of sharks. He did not deny telling Stormy Daniels that he might put her on his TV show. He did not deny that he called and pursued Stormy Daniels for the better part of a year.
Instead, the president tweeted about the sketch of the person Stormy Daniels says threatened her on behalf of Donald Trump several years ago, which was revealed yesterday on "The View".
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man, a total con job, playing the fake news media for fools. But they know it.
Michael Avenatti responded that he's now considering suing Donald Trump for defamation for calling Stormy Daniels story about the threat a con job. The legal quick sand that Michael Cohen is drowning in and dragging Donald Trump into was completely avoidable if Michael Cohen and Donald Trump simply followed my suggestion on this program several weeks ago and made the obvious choice to drop their civil case against Stormy Daniels.
As the "National Enquirer" showed today, a civil case is something each side is in complete control of. At any moment, each side can just decide to quit and let the other have its way. That's what the "National Enquirer" wisely did today. Better late than never.
Karen McDougal's story is already out there and for "The National Enquirer" to fight to continue to keep her quiet is simply trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. And because Michael Cohen and Donald Trump couldn't see that, they have continued to try to put toothpaste back in the tube, continued to pursue the Stormy Daniels case long after she had publicly told her story and they provoked the FBI raid on Michael Cohen that has Donald Trump's most trusted lawyer, jay Goldberg, now telling him, he has more to fear in the Michael Cohen case than in the Robert Mueller investigation.
Leading off our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, Jennifer Rubin, conservative opinion writer at "The Washington" and MSNBC contributor, and Jed Shugerman, professor of law at Fordham University.
And, Professor Shugerman, I want to start with you on this simply matter that the "National Enquirer" found its way, finally, and very, very late in the game, to doing the only thing that made sense for it, which is drop this case -- this civil case involving Karen McDougal. That doesn't do anything to slow down the federal criminal investigation which has already been provoked by all of this, but at least they got out of the way of the civil case that could put them into revealing things publicly in the civil case that they're going to have to reveal in the criminal case.
Donald Trump and Michael Cohen continue to make the same mistake on their sides of it. They haven't dropped their civil case against Stormy Daniels, which they should have done a long time ago.
JED SHUGERMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right. And I think the big thing that's happening is you have a series of federal and state crimes happening in parallel. So, Michael Cohen is facing what I list as 10 different areas of state crimes. And state crimes are unaffected by federal presidential pardons. And President Trump cannot fire state prosecutors.
So, right now, Cohen is -- when I hear the story about the Trump lawyer, Goldberg, I think it's obvious. Any lawyer will tell Michael Cohen, there's no pardon, no firing that can save you, because whether it's the Stormy Daniels that raises the bank fraud or false statements or whether it's New York election law or New York obstruction of justice law, there's a top ten list that a New York prosecutor can start with and Michael Cohen is facing many years in state prison, not just federal prison.
O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, the White House confirms that the president, while the Judge Kimba Wood hearing was going on on Friday, picks up the phone called his most trusted lawyer of his life, Jay Goldberg. And Jay Goldberg tells us that he told the president, Michael Cohen will not stand up for you, I don't care what Michael says.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Look, Lawrence, the one heartening thing about this is Jay Goldberg represents the notion that at some point in his life, Donald Trump hired actual lawyers who had actual brains in their heads and could make basic legal and strategic assumptions before the period when he switched to hiring clowns like Michael Cohen who don't qualify as lawyers in any meaningful way.
Jay Goldberg is making the obvious observation in the world. It is the, as you pointed out, it's the same observation that Michael Avenatti, who I've been spending a lot of time with this week as we get ready to do our second episode of "The Circus" on Showtime, I've been with him for the last three days, he's convinced, as Goldberg is, that Michael Cohen who Donald Trump did not take him to Washington D.C. when Michael Cohen wanted to go, that Michael Cohen, who's going to be looking at significant jail time in Michael Avenatti's view and apparently in Goldberg's view, that this man is going to stare down jail time and stand up for Donald Trump and say I'm going to go to prison rather than roll over on Donald Trump who has not treated me particularly well, has not stood up for me in this case, has done a series of things that screwed me over in this case and didn't want to take me with him to D.C., let me behind.
The notion that Cohen is going to be the tough guy and take the prison time is ludicrous, and Goldberg is making that point. It's a point that Donald Trump obviously should take seriously. When you have your former lawyer and your most fiercest opponent agreeing on a matter, it's probably true.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, President Trump is surrounded by lawyers all day. He's got Ty Cobb. He's got the lawyers engaged to handle the special prosecutor's investigation, what's left of them anyway, and his White House counsel. But he picks up the phone on Friday when there is this extraordinary evidentiary hearing in federal court in New York City, provoked by Michael Cohen and the raid on Michael Cohen and he wants to talk to Jay Goldberg, and Jay Goldberg tells him, Michael Cohen not only will not stand up for you, Michael Cohen might wear a wire to entrap you.
So, Jay Goldberg who knows these players is saying something in stronger terms than Michael Avenatti has ever used. I think Michael Avenatti is watching Michael Cohen from the similar distance of the rest of us and doesn't know him the way that Jay Goldberg knows this situation. Donald Trump made that call because he values that advice and now Donald Trump has to consider that advice as he goes forward.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think he should pick up the phone and call somebody else. Jay Goldberg should not have been blabbing to the Wall Street Journal about the advice he gave his client. That is attorney/client privilege. So Goldberg in my book is not behaving like a sane and sensible lawyer.
Secondly, he gave Trump the world's worst advice, suggesting he could choose not to sit down with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. That is false. It's not a choice. You can decide he doesn't want to cooperate, but eventually he'll get a subpoena and eventually he'll have to go talk to him.
So, I'm not sure what Mr. Goldberg's game is other than getting his name in "The Wall Street Journal". But Donald Trump should go out and get a real, real lawyer. Now as far as --
O'DONNELL: Go ahead.
RUBIN: Now, as far as the advice for Mr. Cohen, I think it is inconceivable that Cohen doesn't know things that are going to help both the New York prosecutor and the special counsel. Remember, Michael Cohen is the one who Felix Sater was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow deal. Felix Sater is the one who lived in the building and who helped funds Donald Trump's project.
Michael Cohen is the one who has the connection both to Russia and to the women. He's the nexus for both these parallel scandals that are going on. I totally agree with John on this point, there's no way in heck, Michael Cohen is going to jail for anybody.
So, to the extent he knows both things that are going to be of interest to the special prosecutor, as well as things that may be of use to the New York prosecutors, he is a fairly important character. And Donald Trump, you forgot to mention, of course, who spoke to Michael Cohen on Friday, another dumb move, because what is he doing talking to a key witness, is really, according to White House sources, everything we know has got Donald Trump absolutely panicked.
O'DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, we do know that the president did take Jay Goldberg's advice about getting solid New York lawyers to handle this. He has -- the president now has Joanna Hendon handling the case, very, very capable, former federal prosecutor herself. But now to Michael Avenatti's point, which is now echoed by Jay Goldberg, that Michael Cohen will probably face charges in this, is that an assessment that you can almost bet on because of how high the bar is in getting search warrants to go after a lawyer?
SHUGERMAN: It's remarkable that the search warrant they had to go through attorney/client, and get what they had. But I would also say, given the news reports, just about the campaign finance, it was so clear that Michael Cohen was left under the bus, was thrown under the bus for a campaign finance violation. But we know this investigation was going on before that admission.
And also, there's a lot of reporting about Michael Cohen's background, over a decade and all the work he was doing behind the scenes opinion. It wouldn't be surprising if it was much more than campaign finance violations that prosecutors had solid probable cause for.
O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, go ahead.
HEILEMANN: Yes, I mean, that's exactly right. I mean, Jennifer just alluded to the reality here. In the period of time that Michael Cohen has worked for the Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, it's the period of time that the Trump Organization was on its global expansion spree and they were trying to slap the Trump name on to buildings around the world. We've read a lot about the fact that Michael Cohen was the one who engineered the letter of intent to put up a Trump Tower in Moscow as late as October of 2015, when Donald Trump was an active presidential candidate.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Donald Trump's tentacles were tried to be spread all over the world in a lot of shady countries, doing business with a lot of shady people. Some of them connected to organize crime. Some of them connected to money laundering. Some of them connected to oligarchs of various stripes and various nationalities.
This is the stuff that Michael Cohen was doing. He was a biz-dev lawyer for Donald Trump in some of the worst parts of the world. So, is it likely that Michael Cohen was engaged in activity that may be criminal or edges up to the line of criminality. That is certainly worthy of investigation and serious criminal probing. That's undoubtedly true. So, the campaign finance violation opened the door here to the Stormy Daniels case.
But now, we're in a different world and the problems the president is facing is because of those issues that are now being raised as prosecutors go through on whatever basis the privilege issues are resolved. They're going to see a lot of stuff related to a lot of really, really nefarious -- again, I can't judge criminal because I don't have the evidence in front of me, but a lot of very shady activity.
O'DONNELL: We're going to have to squeeze in a break here. Jed Shugerman, thank you for joining us.
Coming up, with the president's favorite lawyer now urging him to fire Rod Rosenstein, he also as Republican allies in Congress who are trying to get rid of Rod Rosenstein, including the possibility of impeaching Rod Rosenstein.
And James Comey says the president just can't quit him, but Comey has quit the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you concluded that it's not worth the political fallout to remove either special counsel Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can say this, that there was no collusion. And that's been so found as you know by the House Intelligence Committee. As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they're still here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And we now know, as we learned from "Wall Street Journal" tonight that the president's favorite lawyer, Jay Goldberg, who the president told is the best lawyer he's ever worked with, advised the president specifically on Friday to fire Rod Rosenstein.
The Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte, and the House of Representatives is demanding that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein turn over memos written by former FBI Director James Comey which the Justice Department say remain confidential material in the special prosecutor's investigation.
Jerry Nadler, Democratic member of that committee, says if House Republicans refuse any accommodation short of the Department of Justice handing over custody of these documents, which it cannot do, I fear the majority will have manufactured an excuse to hold the deputy attorney general in contempt of Congress, if they succeed in tarnishing the deputy attorney general, perhaps they will have given President Trump the pretext he has sought to replace Mr. Rosenstein with someone willing to do his bidding and end the special counsel's investigation.
Joining our discussion now, Mieke Eoyang, former staff director of the House Intelligence Committee and the director of the national security program at the Third Way, and John Heilemann is still with us.
Mieke, your reaction to what you see developing in the House of Representatives, some extraordinary developments, including the discussion of the impeachment of a deputy attorney general, along with this attempt to secure memos, documents that are part of an ongoing criminal investigation?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I find this whole situation stunning that they would make such a frontal assault on the rule of law here. The only reason why the House of Representatives might consider asking for something like the Comey memos is if they were concerned that the president of the United States had, in fact, been obstructing justice. One could see that perhaps in a democratically controlled Congress that they would ask for the same memos as evidence for the president trying to undermine rule of law. But it's not clear that these Republicans, if they find that evidence, would actually do anything about it.
O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, the Republican -- some of these Republican House members continue to push Rosenstein, try to push the Justice Department, the FBI, in any way they can that they think is helpful to the president.
But that's not most of the Republican members of the House?
HEILEMANN: No, it's not. Look, I'm not convinced, Lawrence, I know we've both become pretty cynical and I think rightly so about the Republican caucus in the House. It's true that it's not most of them, but I do think they have given, the House -- the House Intelligence Committee, at least the Republicans on it, have given Donald Trump a talking point already, which you saw him employ at the press conference, the notion that there's been no conclusion, it was founded by the House Intelligence Committee, when, in fact, there was no such finding. There was a finding by the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.
I think the Republicans in general on the House side, less so, I think and hope on the Senate side, although I'm pretty skeptical about them too at this point, are constantly seeking to find various ways to create a pretext on which Donald Trump can act against some combination of Jeff Sessions, rod Rosenstein, Bob Mueller, if he so chooses. I think what we saw tonight, it's right to say that he would not commit to not firing Rosenstein or not trying to fire Mueller. It's right that he was trying to present a picture of calm about it, but we know that as with the firing of Jim Comey, when the day comes when Trump decides to make a move on any of these people, he will do it in a fit of peak, the one thing we know, although his peak from last week about Rod Rosenstein may have subsided, it will be back. The only question is when.
O'DONNELL: Let's look at what house Republicans did while James Comey was actually on the view this morning. They actually managed to get themselves inserted right into the middle of the program. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It appears that they are alleging potential violations of the law regarding the Clinton and Trump investigation. How do you respond?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you respond?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry to lay that on you --
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I'm doing a lot of shrugging. But I haven't read it. I don't know what to make of it. It seems like they've said it since the Clinton email situation. The accusations are not true, I guess I should have said that first, but that's OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That was a letter actually that those House members wrote that Sunny Hostin had to read on the air, on the show, saying I had this letter that was just drafted. An, Mieke, an extraordinary moment, and clearly they were timing that. They knew what time the view would be on.
EOYANG: Well, they are trying to get into the story and change the narrative here. What we see from these House Republicans, specifically driven by Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is an attempt to try and be running interference for the president on this narrative to try to create alternate stories they can put into this, all to try and distract people from the main focus, which is did the Trump campaign cooperate with Russians to try and get Donald Trump elected.
And they have no interest in trying to understand how a hostile foreign power might have interfered with the 2016 election. They only now want to try and distract the American people from this question.
O'DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, your assessment of how Comey himself is actually doing as we goes through this week, in dealing with this, including this kind of incoming fire that occurred literally while he was on "The View" today?
HEILEMANN: I think he is -- I candidly, Lawrence, I thought before this book tour started that Jim Comey was going to have a hard time. And I thought he was going to have a hard time because he is in a way a man without a country. I mean, he's someone who's facing criticism from the left, Democrats who believe he took the presidential election away from Hillary Clinton with his behavior in the late stages both in July with his press conference when he decided to decline to indict her or try to recommend an indictment but also thrash. And then, of course, in his October, more notorious, reopening the investigation 10 days before an election day.
He has -- there's not -- Democrats are reminded by his explanations for what he did, which are unsatisfying to them, intellectually placid, they violate a lot of policy and a lot of precedent. A lot of Democrats are angry at Jim Comey. And they have heard him over the last few days. They are upset. And of course, Republicans now have other reasons, reasons that have to do with survival Donald Trump's presidency, they are trying to trash him too.
So it's hard when you go out into this partisan environment, to be a guy like Jim Comey. And then if you -- without any real fan base and you add on top of that be kind of (INAUDIBLE) of sanctimony and self-righteousness that have come along with a lot of what he has said.
Even people who agree with many of the things he says about Donald Trump find the way which he presents himself to be sometimes a little bit condescending or self-righteous more than condescending. So I think he has done fine but he is not exactly a guy right now who is finding a lot of public commentary from anywhere that is four square behind him and singing his praises, at least to my ear.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Meike Eoyang, we have to go to a break. But quickly, Jim Comey has said that he believes even if Rod Rosenstein is fired, it will not stop the investigation. Do you agree?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think that there's a real possibility of that. What we saw today was the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman moving to try and ensure that he could continue any investigations, even if the President were to try to pardon people in this, so that people could be held to account for what they had done. So I think that's right. That this cannot just completely end. And there are also federal statutes that would prevent the destruction of evidence. And so it would be very difficult to just make this whole thing go away.
O'DONNELL: We are going to squeeze in a break here.
John Heilemann, thanks for joining our discussions. Meike, please stay with us.
James Comey has spent the week warming up, just warming for the big interview here tomorrow night with Rachel Maddow. And today he said he didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He has tweeted at me probably 50 times. I have been gone for a year, I'm like a breakup he can't get over. He wakes up in the morning -- I'm out there living my best life. He wakes up in the morning and tweets at me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And so the President woke up in the morning and tweeted at him. This time calling James Comey, slippery James Comey and saying that James Comey was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation. Donald Trump I guess thinks we have all lost that Lester Holt video that was two days after the firing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The Republican Party has done something that no party has ever done before. It has set up a special attack Web site specifically to attack a former director of the FBI. This is the same Republican Party that James Comey has been registered in most of his life. But not anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still consider yourself a Republican?
COMEY: No. No. The Republican Party has left me and many others. I need no better evidence than their new Web site, which I think is lying Comey, maybe, attacking me. I just think they lost their way. And I can't be associated with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That puts James Comey in the company of columnists and leading conservative thinkers such as George Will and Jennifer Rubin who have also left the Republican Party.
Jennifer Rubin and Neera Tanden join the discussion next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I could say one thing to Hillary Clinton, it would be?
COMEY: Please just read the chapters about you. There's two. And because I know you feel I shifted you, but I think you may feel differently if you read those two chapters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining the discussion now Neera Tanden and Jennifer Rubin is back with us.
Neera Tanden, you worked on the Clinton campaign. Are you all passing around those two chapters or having group readings of those two chapters and holding hands?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT/CEO, CENTERS FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Not a lot of group readings of the Comey book, I have to say. But I think there continues to be a deep dissatisfaction with Comey's responses in the fundamental question of how he handled both investigations.
Having said that, I think despite how he handled the investigations, so during the Presidential election there was an investigation of both the Trump campaign and the reopened as they say email situation with Hillary and he really only decided to share with the American people that one of those things ever really happening, I think he really never truly answered why that is the case. He based it on perceptions, but that's not really an answer.
But fundamentally, I think we can all say that he might have had errors of judgment but he still can be the victim of an obstruction of justice effort, which I think President Trump has tried to say he didn't do, but we all see him, we heard him, we heard him in the Lester Holt interview basically cop to it already.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to his -- how he explained to Stephen Colbert last night how surprised he was at getting fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Were you surprised that you got whacked? Because that's what they do.
COMEY: I actually was quite surprised because I thought I'm leading the Russia investigation, even though our relationship was becoming strained there's no way I'm going to get fired or whacked.
COLBERT: Why? Why wouldn't you get fired?
COMEY: Because that would be a crazy thing to do. Why would you fire the FBI director who is leading the Russia investigation?
COLBERT: Because you are leading the Russia investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Jennifer, it seems Stephen Colbert had a better, clearer view of the situation than the FBI director.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I do think so.
I do agree with Neera. There's a difference between being honest and by the way having a lot of confirming evidence like contemporaneous notes and other witnesses, and having good judgment. And I don't think Comey exercised goods judgment last year. And I think he has a very elevated sense of his own ability to ride to the rescue of the FBI and everybody else, including himself. I think nonetheless he makes a credible witness. And as I said there is other evidence.
Now, I will say this. If I'm the special prosecutor, I'm not thrilled about this book tour because Comey is making clear to everyone who will hear that he really does not have any affection for Donald Trump. That he really does not like the man. He has been quite insulting and doesn't like the Republican Party either.
Listen, I agree with him on many things, but I'm not a witness for the special prosecutor and he wouldn't want me. So I think it's not helpful actually for the special prosecutor for him to go running around and selling the book tour and giving his opinions about Donald Trump, but it wouldn't be the first time he used bad judgment, would it?
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what he said to Savannah Guthrie this morning about those moments with the President and his choices about how he handled himself in those moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS HOST: Why in all of those situations did James Comey, of all people, not stand up to the President?
COMEY: I guess the question is what does standing up mean in that context? I stared at him, didn't blink, didn't make a sound --
GUTHRIE: You can say, that's inappropriate. Are you asking me to let go of an ongoing criminal investigation?
COMEY: Yes, maybe. That's fair question. But if you didn't know it was inappropriate, why did he kick out the vice president and my boss, the attorney general?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Neera, your reaction to that?
TANDEN: I think that really is part and parcel of this whole book tour, which is, you know, again, I can say that the treatment of James Comey by Donald Trump - listen, it seems to me obvious effort to obstruct justice. He is right. Stephen Colbert is right. Why do you fire the guy investigating you for collusion, unless you really just want to get rid of the investigation?
At the same time, I mean, it just seems that Comey is unwilling to basically have any self-analysis, awareness, really understand what he did in the situation. So he paints himself as a hero, where Savannah is right, if you feel the President is making inappropriate statements, you should say it. If you feel like he is intimidating you, you should say it there. If you think he is trying to impede the investigation, you should say it there. And one of the reasons why I think Trump says the things he does, I never did anything, I never colluded is because, you know, Comey didn't stop him. And in just a similar way he is not really willing to be self- aware about the impact of what he did on the election. And the fact it's not really about Hillary winning or losing or Trump winning or losing but that the people who have been impacted in this election.
Those people have been impacted whether they are undocumented immigrants or other folks. You know, Comey has a part and parcel of responsibility for that situation.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer, on that point of standing up to the President. When Comey says he must have known there was something wrong about what he was doing because he asked everyone to leave the room, there's some real persuasive power in that, and law enforcement officials, police officers, very commonly, if you are willing to commit a crime in front of them, let you commit the crime and become witnesses to that crime, watch you do it, take notes about what you just did, and then they go tell prosecutors about it, which is what's happened here.
RUBIN: Yes. I'm not sure in my own mind whether that's what Comey was doing. He was busy making the case or helping somebody else make as it turn out to make the case or whether he was just so taken aback by the behavior. He had a very human reaction to kind of just be startled and sit there at a loss for words, I think either would be a credible answer.
But to Neera's point, you know, James Comey always has the sense that if not for him horrible things would happen. And in fact, if not for him Hillary Clinton would have gotten elected. So I think he does not understand his own insertion into the election materially changed events.
And listen, aside from Vladimir Putin, Comey is the person who had the most impact on the election.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, Neera Tanden, thank you both for joining us.
O'DONNELL: Up next, Donald Trump against Russian sanctions after he was for Russian sanctions.
O'DONNELL: Today, the President was asked about his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don't think it's going to be successful, mark, we won't have it. We won't have it. If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we are not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting and we will continue what we're doing or whatever it is that we'll continue, but something will happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: When the President tried to end that press conference today, he got multiple shouted questions about why no sanctions are being issued after his own U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the United States was going to impose new sanctions on Russia. And so the President turned back to the microphone and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will give them sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it, we will have -- that is a question. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump. There has been nobody tougher than me. With the media, no matter what I did, it's never tough enough because that's the narrative. But Russia will tell you there has been nobody tougher than Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Today the Russian foreign ministry confirmed that the Trump administration told the Russian embassy in Washington no new sanctions are coming.
Meike Eoyang is back with us.
And Meike, we have never seen anything like this. The U.N. ambassador says we are doing it, and then it turns out we are not doing it.
EOYANG: I mean, this is a President who has tried to undercut his own cabinet officials time and again. We saw this with secretary Tillerson saying that we should negotiate with the North Koreans. And then he said, no, it's a terrible idea. Now he wants to negotiate with them. He is saying we should have sanctions - no, we shouldn't have sanctions leaving Ambassador Haley out there when he changed the policy behind her back.
This is a president who cannot manage to coordinate the policy with his own team. And if he can't even coordinate his own team, how is he going to coordinate with our allies? And that's first comment that he is that toughest on Russia, I'm pretty sure that Ronald Reagan would beg to differ on that.
O'DONNELL: Yes. And the internal conflict within the administration, you had economic adviser Larry Kudlow saying that Nikki Haley was confused. That clearly angered her. And she shot down the newcomer in the administration saying that she was not confused at all.
EOYANG: No, she is not. She is a tough lady. And she absolutely should be putting blame where it is. Now, that's a little bit dangerous in this Trump administration because he only likes people who reinforce his perfectness, and that's how she described their relationship later on in the day. But they are talking out of both side of their mouth on this one. And it's really bad for American national security.
O'DONNELL: And what happens on the Russian end of something like this? The Russians see the U.N. ambassador make her statement and then they see what happens.
EOYANG: So it undercuts American diplomats and American policymakers at all levels where they were say to their Russian counterparts, this is what's going to happen. These are the consequences if you do these bad things. And then the Russians think, well, we will just go around you and go directly to the President and we don't believe what you are saying. It really undercuts the American government in trying to do just about anything.
O'DONNELL: The no consequences President.
Meike Eoyang, thank you very for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
Tonight's LAST WORD is next.
O'DONNELL: Tonight's LAST WORD is collusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning twitter went down for almost an hour. Yes. As a result, President Trump was forced to open a window and start yelling at people on the street.
Hey, you with the hat, no collusion!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Conan O'Brien gets tonight's LAST WORD.
THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS is next and that starts now.
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