Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 24, 2018
Guest: Harry Litman, Mike Murphy
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And the hearing that seems increasingly unlikely by the minute is the Ronny Jackson confirmation hearing which I`m betting against. I don`t know -- I don`t think he is going to be the nominee a week from now. This is happening way too fast.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": The thing I don`t understand is why the White House released the inspector general report into Ronny Jackson tonight. They gave that out to reporters. This was supposedly part of an effort to save his nomination.
That I.G. report into Ronny Jackson is really, really scathing and negative, and not at all good for him. The fact that the White House is handing that out as part of trying to save his nomination to me is oppositeville. And I don`t -- I can`t quite figure it out.
O`DONNELL: Well, I see it as the White House handing it out actually to persuade Ronny Jackson to by, say, oh, I don`t know, Friday night withdraw his nomination. Because the president, of course, today said it`s up to him. That`s what he is saying publicly. It`s up to him.
And the president said, I wouldn`t do it myself. I wouldn`t go through this stuff. The president is saying everything he can publicly to basically encourage Ronny Jackson to just give up.
MADDOW: Yes. And it`s interesting. As you say it that way, that is a very convincing argument to me. And it just makes me realize you can`t just -- there may be a different dynamic at work when you`re expecting the guy to come back and be your doctor afterwards. If this is somebody else, you could be like, dude, you`re out. We didn`t know all that stuff about you.
But when the dude is likely to come back to his old job which is being your doctor, it might be uncomfortable if you yanked him like that. So, that may be adding weight to the idea they want him to pull his own name.
O`DONNELL: Everything about this is uncomfortable, beginning with Ronny Jackson`s endorsement of Donald Trump`s diet when he was -- after he did the physical exam.
MADDOW: I share the president`s taste in food. So I have no opinion on this matter.
O`DONNELL: OK, no comment from Rachel Maddow. OK.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to be Donald Trump`s new best friend to save the world, to save the world from possible future World War III sparked by Iran`s possession of or use of nuclear weapons. That is what is at stake in President Macron`s public friendliness and charm offensive with President Trump, nothing less than trying to prevent World War III or some lesser nuclear catastrophe, by trying to preserve the deal made by the United States and five other countries to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
And President Macron is also trying to convince President Trump not to impose harmful tariffs on France and other European countries, tariffs that would be harmful to France and would be harmful to the United States. In other words, Emmanuel Macron spends all of his time with Donald Trump trying to prevent Donald Trump from doing harm to himself, his country, and the world.
And, of course, President Macron is obviously far more intelligent and articulate and wise and younger and more attractive in every way than Donald Trump. And that has to drive Donald Trump just crazy -- crazy to the point of possibly pretending to see something that only his 71-year-old eyes can see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, they`re all saying what a great relationship we have. And they`re actually correct. It`s not fake news. Finally, it`s not fake news.
So, it`s a great honor. A great honor that you`re here. But we do have a very special relationship. In fact, I`ll get that little piece of dandruff, it will be -- we have to make him perfect. He is perfect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If he is perfect, he was perfect before Donald Trump touched him, because there isn`t even any photographic evidence that there was a piece of anything on the perfect French president`s perfectly fitting suit coat.
That was more likely Donald Trump`s buffoonish attempts to exercise some sort of superiority over the French president who did not find anything on Donald Trump`s ill fitting jacket that he thought he had to remove. It was Donald Trump`s way of saying Macron might be perfect, but I am more perfect.
And moments later, as that photo op in the Oval Office was ending, President Trump answered a couple of reporters` questions about the Iran deal. And then ABC`s Jonathan Karl squeezed in a question about pardoning Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, what about Michael Cohen? Are you considering a pardon for him?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Stupid. Stupid question.
THE LAST WORD`s copyrighted software for translating Trump language to what Trump language actually means shows that stupid, stupid question actually means that is the best question of the day, and I have no idea how to answer it. But I spend the day thinking about nothing else.
It is the most difficult question Donald Trump is facing tonight in the White House. The question of pardoning Michael Cohen, and here is the hardest part of that question for Donald Trump and the people working for him who have no doubt been ordered to figure out the wording, the drafting of a possible pardon for Michael Cohen for the president to consider. For what? Pardon Michael Cohen for what?
Pardons are granted for specific crimes, usually specific crimes that the person has been convicted of. That`s what President Trump did in his practice pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who had been convicted on the federal charge of contempt of court. That`s what President Trump did in his spring training pardon of Scooter Libby who was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators while working in the Bush/Cheney White House.
But Michael Cohen hasn`t been convicted of anything. Hasn`t even been charged with anything. So pardon him for what? President Trump issued the Scooter Libby pardon days after Michael Cohen and President Trump were shocked by the FBI raid on Michael Cohen`s home, his office, his hotel room, and his safety deposit box in Manhattan.
Several observers have noted that the sudden patterned of Scooter Libby in the same week as the Michael Cohen raid was probably intended to show Michael Cohen how ready the president is to use his patterned power for his old friend Michael Cohen.
And after pardoning Scooter Libby, President Trump delivered the message through one of Scooter Libby`s lawyers that he didn`t even really care about Scooter Libby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA TOENSING, LAWYER: I saw him, and I talked to him when he gave Scooter Libby a pardon. And he was thrilled. He called me and he said, listen, I don`t know this guy. All I know is he got screwed, and I am so happy to give him his life back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The message to Michael Cohen is if he`ll pardon Scooter Libby, obviously he`ll pardon you. Listen, I don`t know this guy is Trump speak that means I don`t care about this guy.
President Trump has done everything he can to communicate that he does care very much, cares about his old friend Michael Cohen who is in the worst trouble of his life, which means Donald Trump is in the worst trouble of his life because Michael Cohen`s e-mail signature still says Michael D. Cohen Esquire, personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump.
And when your personal attorney gets raided by the FBI you are in trouble.
Federal investigators who are poring through the evidence in the Michael Cohen raid are no doubt pouring through mentions of Donald Trump`s name and possibly recordings of Donald Trump on the phone with Michael Cohen, recordings that Michael Cohen was known to have made and kept, and that is why everyone is talking about the possibility of Michael Cohen flipping and becoming a government witness against Donald Trump.
The president himself has tweeted about Michael Cohen possibly flipping, saying he doesn`t believe Michael Cohen will flip. You heard on this program, Jay Goldberg who served as Donald Trump`s attorney for decades and knows Michael Cohen, insisting that there is more than a 99 percent chance that Michael Cohen will, of course, flip and testify against the president. And so, there is no more urgent question in Donald Trump`s life than what can I do to stop Michael Cohen from flipping, which leads immediately to the question of pardoning Michael Cohen, which is easier said than done.
For what? Pardon him for what? Prosecutors are no doubt ready for that. So, they perhaps could charge Michael Cohen with one thing to see if the president pardons him. And if Michael Cohen gets a pardon, then maybe federal prosecutors will come back with more charges that require more pardons.
The most famous and most important pardon in American history was delivered by a president to a president. President Gerald Ford`s pardon of former President Nixon a month after President Nixon resigned the presidency. That pardon, in that pardon, President Ford chose a very unusual form of pardon.
But President Trump`s lawyers are no doubt studying tonight. Here is the exact wording of the most important pardon in American history.
Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, president of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, have granted by these presents to grant a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon has committed order may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20th, 1969 through August 9th, 1974.
It was a calendar pardon. President Nixon was pardoned for any possible crimes committed during a fixed period of time on the calendar that covered every day of his presidency. Not one day more, not one day less. If Donald Trump wants to pardon Michael Cohen right now, that`s the kind of pardon he would have to issue, a kind that would pardon a time period and not a particular offense.
OK. So what time period? To keep Michael Cohen out of federal legal trouble, Donald Trump would have to offer a pardon that extends backward beyond the statute of limitations for every possible federal crime that Michael Cohen could be charged with. And that would extend long before the time of the Trump presidential campaign. And the explanation of that part would be the Trump speechwriters` greatest challenge yet.
Joining our discussion, Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. Mike Murphy, Republican strategist who has advised both Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain`s presidential campaigns. And John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and he is the co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus", Sunday nights on Showtime.
Harry Litman, they are in a box if they`re trying to draft the wording of a pardon for Michael Cohen now.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The box is even stricter than you say, Lawrence, because if they try to give him this sort of peremptory pardon, Eric Schneiderman in New York is in the wings. There is a double jeopardy statute in New York. And if he is charged in a federal matter, if a jury is empanelled, then New York as it now stands can`t go into the breach.
But if he just gives this kind of all in pardon, that doesn`t cover Schneiderman`s ability to follow through under New York law, which is broadened. Cohen is the one guy who Schneiderman`s jurisdiction most covers.
So, I think they need to let him be charged first and then pardoned or else Schneiderman is in the wings?
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Mike, Donald Trump doesn`t want to wait to see him be charged.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.
O`DONNELL: Because that allows the FBI and the prosecutors all that time with all that evidence. And so, he wants to stop them from working on that evidence.
O`DONNELL: From developing a case against Michael Cohen. What does he do?
MURPHY: Well, any pardon is a political disaster because it`s obviously so linked to the president`s self-interest that covers something up. But if I were Michael Cohen, I`d be thinking, do I trust Donald Trump, having been his henchman for so many years, having seen him break so many commitments to so many people.
And then I think, well, what would Donald do if he were I? He`d flip. He`d flip in a New York minute. He would race over there to protect himself.
So, nobody is a bigger expert on the banality of Donald Trump than Michael Cohen. So, with that great learning, I would expect him to act in his own self-interests just like his old boss.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann reports that Michael Cohen is stunned by the size of his legal expenses already, kind of reeling under them. They only get much worse if you end up going to trial. You know Michael Cohen. You`ve dealt with him. You`ve dealt with Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
How do you read this situation tonight?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I read the situation a lot like how Harry and Mike Murphy do. I think that that every day that passes, Michael Cohen, where he is not charged and where the pressure is building, the legal expenses are building, and to Mike`s point, the fundamental unreliability of Donald Trump, Michael Cohen -- I think -- you know, you`ve seen various messages that have been sent. They`ve been sent in the form of pardons. They`ve been sent in the form of pardons dangled. They`ve been sent in the form of the Twitter that Donald Trump is trying to let Michael Cohen know, hey, buddy, I got your back.
I think that Cohen has seen Donald Trump do some pretty awful things to people after telling them that he had their back. And I think Michael Cohen is looking at if there is a proffer to be made here and a deal to be cut that involves full immunity, that has that degree of certainty, you can cut this deal, you`ll have immunity, and you won`t have to worry about, do you trust Donald Trump? You won`t have to worry about Eric Schneiderman. You don`t have to worry about anything of these things, full immunity.
I just can`t imagine that Michael Cohen given his family, given the expenses involved and given the prospect of one small slip leading to jail time, I just can`t imagine Michael Cohen is not going to make that deal.
O`DONNELL: And, Harry, one more dilemma involved with the pardon. The second issued to the president, if he can come up with it than Michael Cohen has no more Fifth Amendment rights with Robert Mueller and any other investigators investigating Donald Trump. They pull him into a grand jury.
He cannot plead the Fifth Amendment. He has to answer every question, because he can no longer self-incriminate because he has been absolved of that possibility in the federal courts.
LITMAN: That`s exactly right. Probably in that context, he is not so forthcoming, but he has to tell the truth.
It`s really interesting. We`ve been hearing all analogies of Trump as a mob family, et cetera. What`s happening to Cohen right now is a lot like Sammy the Bull situation. It`s not just the big sentence dangling over his head which as John says is imposing, but he`s being -- this is what you do with, you know, mob guys. He says he feels isolated. They`re telling him Trump doesn`t really respect him. That`s the big thing.
They`re sort of -- they`re making it seem like oh, Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, they`re closer to Trump. They didn`t bring him into the White House there is a whole kind of head game going on with Cohen even beyond the actual sentence that all works toward sort of separating out that deep bond he`s had to take a bullet for the boss for years.
O`DONNELL: And "Vanity Fair`s" reporting tonight through Michael Cohen`s friends that he was encouraged by Donald Trump`s tweets, saying he doesn`t think he is going to flip. I`m going to read a passage of this that includes the P-word which includes to pardon. It`s not referring to anything involving Donald Trump in Moscow in a hotel room.
And so, this is from "Vanity Fair" report tonight, saying he knows -- he knows the president is in his corner, this person added, even though they are not speaking right now, messages were sent. I don`t want to use the P- word. I don`t want to use it. I think the president was making it very clear that he is not abandoning Michael. And so, Mike Murphy, the president seems, to according to Cohen`s friends, been successful in giving him the feeling he is not abandoning him.
And, of course, you`re going to say Michael Cohen says yet. Hasn`t abandoned him yet.
MURPHY: Talk is cheap in this sort of thing. Being charged is reality. Maybe, maybe he is the one guy in America who trusts the president to have his back, even with a tortured pardon that legally is quite tricky and other vulnerabilities, as Harry say.
So, he might be that dumb. But if he has good counsel or somebody looking at his interest, not any emotional connection he has to the president, he can pay a huge price for Donald Trump if he wants to. And hope for a pardon. We`ll see.
I wouldn`t trust the president based on history. Maybe he knows a better Trump than I do.
O`DONNELL: We will see. We have to take a quick break here.
When we come back, the accusations are piling up against Dr. Ronny Jackson, as Rachel and I talked about, the Trump nominee to be secretary of veterans affairs. Dr. Jackson will surely no longer be the Trump nominee by this time next week. And Donald Trump sure sounds like he already knows that.
And later, President Trump`s first national security adviser pleaded guilty to the crime of lying to the FBI. But Donald Trump lied to the FBI director. Is that a crime yet?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: Some people have just great genes. You know, I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson is desperately in need of the credibility that he threw to the wind the day he stood in the White House briefing room and praised the cheeseburger lifestyle of the obviously physically unfit president of the United States.
The president rewarded that performance with the nomination of Dr. Jackson to be the next secretary of veterans affairs.
Senator Jon Tester, the senior Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, which has postponed Dr. Jackson`s confirmation hearing indefinitely, spoke this afternoon about allegations against Dr. Jackson that the committee is now investigating.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TESTER: They`ve fallen in three different areas: improper dispensing of prescription drugs, repeatedly drunk while on duty while traveling, and creating a toxic work environment. By the way, we had 20 military folks and retired military folks tell us these stories. In the previous administration, we were told the stories he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That`s not acceptable.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And it got even worse for Dr. Jackson when Senator Tester said on CNN tonight that Dr. Jackson`s nickname in the White House was "candy man", because he casually handed out prescription drugs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TESTER: That`s not a nickname you want in a doctor. If you consider the prescription drugs we have a problem with in the country, it`s not an example we need to have set.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Jackson is not going to be the next secretary of veterans affairs. But he doesn`t seem to know that yet. Here he is on Capitol Hill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLPI)
REPORTER: You`ve seen the allegations, a hostile work environment, allegations of obviously drinking on the job, overprescribing medication. Are you saying those are categorically untrue?
JACKSON: I`m saying I`m looking forward to the hearing so we can sit down and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators` questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But Donald Trump knows there is not going to be a hearing. Donald Trump knows it`s all over for the good doctor. Here is what the president had to say this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for? So, we`ll see what happens.
I don`t want to put a man through who`s not a political person. I don`t want to put a man through a process like this. It`s too ugly and too disgusting. So, we`ll see what happens. He`ll make a decision.
But here is man who has just been an extraordinary person. And he has to listen to the abuse? I wouldn`t, if I were him -- actually in many ways I would love to be here. But the fact is I wouldn`t do it. I wouldn`t do it. What does he need it for?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back in our discussion, Mike Murphy and John Heilemann.
John Heilemann, you spent the day at the White House. Did they actually think there is any chance of this nomination surviving even into next week?
HEILEMANN: I was about 10 feet from Donald Trump when he made those comments, Lawrence. I was sitting right to his left in the front row. And I have to say you could -- your interpretation of what Donald Trump was doing there was about as obvious to I think me and everybody else in the room, anybody who has ever been, who has ever seen a nomination go down in Washington, D.C., have to be able to be withdrawn.
You see the president was -- I mean, he could not have been clearer. He does not want to have to tell the guy to actually cut him lose. But he wants the guy to get the message. He was hinting as strong as he could. When Donald Trump, the ultimate narcissist says, hey, if it was me, I would drop out that is his way of saying dude, you should drop out.
You think about the situation with Ronny Jackson, this candy man thing that Tester talked about on CNN, that is a phrase that is new to the public discourse in relation to Ronny Jackson. It is something that have I heard from others in the White House in not just in this White House, but in the previous White House that that nickname was attached to him. It is the case that he was going to have a hard time getting confirmed under any circumstances because he is not really qualified to run the V.A., but the combination of what`s coming out now, his lack of general qualifications at the management level, and the opioid crisis that we`re facing in the country right now, there is an un -- there is no scenario that I can imagine in which this guy can possibly get through.
I think that he will probably be out by the weekend.
O`DONNELL: Here is one episode described by the witnesses to Dr. Jackson`s conduct in "The New York Times" tonight. It said on one trip during Barack Obama`s presidency, White House staff needed to reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking, Tester aides said. The staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.
And, Mike, it just -- more things just keep coming out at this stage, almost by the hour.
MURPHY: This is Washington death by leaking. Tester is a guy with a political agenda and a tough re-elect race. I will say he was -- the doctor is the wrong guy for the job from day one. And that is what happens when you don`t vet.
On the other hand, there has been a lot of Ambien on presidential cross time zone trips since Ambien showed up in the early `90s. It`s kind of for good or bad part of a diplomat`s tool kit. And a lot of Obama partisan Democrats who worked with him in the White House have spoken up for the guy at least as a human and a doctor.
And there was a massive power struggle between him and another captain in the navy over controlling that operation, which divided the thing into half. Not a management compliment. But there are no shortage of unnamed people who can spill to a Senate staff about how terrible it is.
I think the good news for Trump, who clearly sent the message today that it was over, I think, is there is a great candidate out there, Toby Cosgrove, who ran the Cleveland Clinic, Bronze Star from Vietnam, one of the best heart surgeons in America. He is the best guy for the job. He would be one of the most competent people in the entire administration. He`s been mentioned before as a perspective candidate for this in the Obama administration. They ought to clean this up with him as fast as they can.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, the reports indicate that Dr. Jackson, as Mike said, was handing out Ambien for these long trips on Air Force One. And then another drug that I don`t even know the name of to keep you awake once you arrive at these destinations. And that was a common practice they`re saying through the Obama presidency and the Bush presidency before that.
But there are 20 people, 20 people who have come to Senate committee, some of whom still work in the White House medical office --
O`DONNELL: -- who are telling staff submitting to formal interviews with staff about this nominee. That is an unprecedented outpouring of negativity directly to Senate staff in a confirmation. That just doesn`t happen.
HEILEMANN: Yes. I think that`s right, Lawrence. The naming of the drug you`re look for is a drug called Provigil which is an anti-narcolepsy drug that students take to stay up and study. It`s a mild form of speed. Provigil was pretty common in both the Bush administration and the Obama administration where people pulled long nights working in the administration and also on the overnight trips, as Mike said. The Ambien or some other sleeping pill plus the Provigil to stay awake for long stretches, again, very common.
The drinking on the job is the real problem, much more so I think than some of the prescription stuff. You can make too much of that, but you can`t make too much of the notion of a doctor drunk on duty, and the fact that there are multiple witnesses that seem to be coming forward to the Senate staff and to the press just makes it untenable.
I mean, I just -- like I said, I think the question is just a matter of when it`s going to become real to him and inescapable to him, not a question of whether. It`s just going to be a matter of timing and that means the end of this week or if he drags it out into next week, I don`t know.
O`DONNELL: And, Mike, this is a public figure who already in his one big moment in the spotlight just brought ridicule upon himself for the way he described Donald Trump`s health. The way -- and it turns out he left out all sorts of information that is negative about Donald Trump`s health in that physical exam. And that`s -- I mean, he came out of that with no credibility. But I`m not sure there is any so-called credibility that could get him past where he is now.
MURPHY: He wounded himself then. And this whole thing was ill-conceived because they`re jumping him from a job to a massive bureaucratic management job of a huge agency, which is a special skill set. Very few people in the country are able to do this.
And so, it was a bad fit to begin with. And now, we have this cloud around him. So, yes, I think he should take one of those wake-up pills tomorrow, read the headlines with a clear awake head. And we can thank him for his service.
The Obama guys from David Axelrod on down say he was a good White House doctor. He served in the military. He was in Afghanistan. He`s not -- I don`t think he`s a bad guy.
So, some of the character stuff that tester is jumping toward has a little whiff of McCarthyism to it. Let`s just focus on is he the right guy to run the most troubled mega bureaucracy in the government. And I think in that case he fails.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It tells me like Tester is relying on exactly what they are getting out of those interviews that the interviews that the committee staff is doing. And it`s bipartisan. Johnny Eisen, Republican chairman is relying on that very same staff with the very same information. Well will see how far this one goes.
Mike Murphy, John Heilemann, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Lawrence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Trump`s then FBI director James Comey said that Trump told him that he did not stay overnight for the Miss Universe pageant. Thomas Roberts, the co-host of the Miss Universe pageant says that that`s not true. And Trump`s flight records now say that that`s not true. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: No comment. No comment is what Thomas Roberts said when he was asked by "the Daily Beast" whether he has been interviewed by Robert Mueller`s team of investigators. No comment. But the comment that Thomas Roberts did give to "the Daily Beast" about Donald Trump proves Donald Trump lied to the FBI about how much time he spent in Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.
Now, we all know that lying to the FBI is a federal crime. But no one has ever been charged with that crime because of lying to the director of the FBI. It`s always a matter of lying to FBI agents in the field who are clearly doing investigative work.
When James Comey was FBI director and was having what was supposed to be a friendly social dinner at the White House with the President, director Comey was not on an investigative mission. And so any lies Donald Trump told in that setting weren`t going to rise to the level of federal crime. As James Comey`s book tells it, and as his recently revealed memos of his conversations with President Trump show, Donald Trump repeatedly told James Comey that it was impossible for him to have had an encounter with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room because as Comey`s memos state, he didn`t stay overnight in Russia. That was the first time the President mentioned that during the Comey dinner.
And then at a second time in the oval office, the President said according to the Comey notes quote "he hadn`t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip."
Thomas Roberts did stay overnight in Russia for the Miss Universe trip. He spent a few nights there because Thomas Roberts was the co-host of the Miss Universe beauty pageant. Thomas Roberts was also then an MSNBC News anchor and a friend of this show where he sometimes appeared and remains a friend of mine. And so count me among what I`m sure are the millions who believe Thomas Roberts over Donald Trump on this one.
Thomas told "the Daily Beast" quote "the first time I met Donald Trump, it was in Moscow on November 8th, 2013. I taped a sit-down interview with Trump the next day on November 9th. That was also the date for the Miss Universe broadcast. During the after party for the Miss Universe event, Mr. Trump offered to fly me and my husband back to New York. He said he would be leaving directly from the party. We were unable to accept the invitation. That was the early morning hours of November 10th."
So Thomas Roberts knows for sure that Donald Trump spent at least one full night overnight in Moscow. Flight records obtained by "Politico" also indicate that the President is not telling the truth when he tells James Comey that he never spent a night in Moscow.
"Politico" reports in fact Trump arrived in Moscow where he attended the Miss Universe pageant which he owned at the time on a Friday. He left in the early morning hours the following Sunday, spending one full night and most of a second one in the Russian capital.
So "Politico`s` records confirm Thomas Roberts` account. And NBC News reported last November what Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller said in an interview with the House intelligence committee.
After a business meeting before the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to send five women to Donald Trump`s hotel room in Moscow according to three sources who were present for the interview. That night, two sources said Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room. And Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump`s hotel room for a time and then went to bed. One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump`s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.
So why did Donald Trump lie to James Comey about how long he was in Moscow? That`s the question next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Honestly, never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don`t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It`s possible, but I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And back with us is Harry Litman.
And Harry, there is this question of Donald Trump says the FBI director at least twice I didn`t spend the night in Moscow. We know that`s completely untrue. Is there a lying to the FBI possible crime in that conversation with the FBI director?
HARRY LITMAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don`t think it`s a crime. But man is it bizarre?
O`DONNELL: And my understanding is it`s not a crime. Because James Comey is not there in an investigative capacity and that`s really when the FBI goes with that.
LITMAN: That`s right. That`s right. But nevertheless, at this dinner, he keeps circling around and coming back to it. He is like a narrator in an Edgar Allan Poe story. He is just obsessed with it. And he comes back and back. He says it`s because of Melania. And this is the same guy who had an affair four months after his son was born. He lies about the alibi, as you say. It`s the sort of thing, there is no crime on the surface. But man, would it get an investigator`s antenna going. Something is psychologically strange about the whole episode.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more from the man who actually experienced the strangeness of all of this talking to the President, James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I didn`t ask about the business with the prostitutes, but he launched into an explanation as to how I should know that wasn`t true and that he remembered now from talking to friends who had been with him that he had never stayed overnight at the hotel. He just changed clothes there and went to the Miss Universe pageant. (INAUDIBLE) this is true. But this is what he said. And then went right back without staying overnight. And then he said, another reason, you know, it is not true is I am a Germophobe. There is no way I would let people pee on each other around me. And that caught me so much by surprise. I actually let out an audible laugh. It was one of those I was startled by it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And today the Germophobe appeared or claimed to reach over to move the dead skin of a Frenchman off of his clothing. So the Germophobe has some inconsistencies.
LITMAN: It`s true. I mean, there is this weird also over denial to it. Of course, I never even slept there. And he is the one who keeps bringing it up in that whole dinner with Comey. He brings it up maybe three or four times back to it. There is some kind of strange obsessive thing going on there.
O`DONNELL: No contest for me. Donald Trump versus Thomas Roberts on credibility on nights spent in Moscow. I`m with Thomas Roberts.
Harry Litman, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
And coming up, Donald Trump makes history once again, this time as the first time a President of the United States to call a North Korean dictator honorable.
O`DONNELL: We are watching the special election in Arizona`s eighth congressional district tonight to fill house seat vacated by Republican Trent Franks who resigned in disgrace after offering one of his female staffers $5 million to be a surrogate mother for his children. He was also accused of other inappropriate interactions with his staff. It will take a very big blue wave for the Democrat to win in what has been a very safe seat for Republicans.
Steve Kornacki has of course been following this one closely. Steve, what`s the latest?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Happy election night, Lawrence. And this is an unusual election. So first of all, as you said, Tipirneni. This is the Democrat here. She clearly the underdog tonight. Trump won this district by 21. Romney won it by 25. Deeply Republican district in the west valley there outside Phoenix.
For Democrats, obviously the would like a win tonight. That seems unlikely. But the question is can they cut into that Trump margin significantly? That is something we`ve been seeing in some very unlikely places in other special elections around Wichita. They cut 20 points off Trump`s margin in the special election. In South Carolina around rock hill last year, they cut 15 points.
Of course, we saw them win Pennsylvania. We saw them win an Alabama Senate race. So again, if they don`t win, can they get it to six, seven points margin is the thing? If this is a single digit race, Democrats are talk wave.
The other thing, though, when I said this this is unusual, get this, Lawrence. About 15 minutes from now, almost 80 percent of all the votes that are cast in this special election are going to be released. The results all at once. Early voting, heavy early voting state. They`re already counted. They are waiting for that clock to hit 11:00 eastern, and they`re going to release probably 80 percent of all the ballots cast. So guest what? How about 15 minutes from now, we are pretty much going to know what this thing looks like.
O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki delivers the best tease that Brian Williams has ever had.
Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for joining us. We will see you back here at 11:00 with Brian Williams when those results come in.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is the only President who has specifically threatened to annihilate North Korea`s dictator and everyone else in North Korea when he threatened to rain down fire and fury on North Korea. And now Donald Trump is the first President of the United States to refer to a North Korean dictator as honorable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are having very, very good discussions. Kim Jong-un was -- he really has been very open. And I think very honorable from everything we are seeing.
Now, a lot of promises have been made by North Korea over the years, but they have never been in this position. We think it will be a great thing for North Korea. It will be a great thing for the world. So we will see where that all goes. Maybe it will be wonderful, and maybe it won`t. And if it`s not going to be fair and reasonable and good. I will, unlike past administrations, I will leave the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, retired four-star general Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander and a senior fellow at UCLA`s Burkle Center.
General Clark, I want to get your reaction to what the President had to say about Kim Jong-un today and the adjectives he used for him today.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, he is building the suspense. It`s like a reality show. And, you know, this is all about transactional diplomacy. So Donald Trump`s very transparent. He says if you like him, he likes you. So right now, Kim`s coming his way. He is throwing some plaudits.
The word "honorable" doesn`t mean anything in particular. It`s just a way of saying -- his trying to say something nice that will bring Kim in his direction. So both Kim and President Trump have something to gain from this summit.
The real question, Lawrence, is what happens afterwards. There are going to be a lot of photos. There will be a lot of smiles probably, but what will it actually result in? If it results simply in the denuclearization effort in North Korea, we could end up with the same kind of agreement that we have with Iran, which is unsatisfactory. North Korea`s done a lot of things that make it a bad actor in the world community beyond trying to get nuclear weapons. So he has got to go beyond denuclearization to make this successful by his own standards on Iran.
O`DONNELL: What about the President publicly trying to undo the Iran deal while he is trying to make a nuclear deal with North Korea?
CLARK: It`s complicated. Iran is -- their economy is stumbling badly. European companies are lined up waiting to invest in Iran. They can hardly wait. So President Macron`s over here saying, let us go after it.
So this is a way of, again, using leverage. The tricky part in this with Iran is that you have got Saudi Arabia, a great friend of President Trump, but they want $100 or at least $80 a barrel for oil. That runs up the price of gasoline in the United States. Not good for the President. But on the other hand, they also want to sort of punish Iran. So how does he play all these transactions? It`s a lot more complicated than a real estate deal.
O`DONNELL: And as the President approaches the negotiations with Iran, this is unprecedented. It`s never happened at this level before. What suggestions would you make to the President going into this kind of discussion with Kim Jong-un?
CLARK: Yes, I would say get as much done below his level as possible and come out of it with a roadmap to move forward. He wants to play it all personally. It`s more dramatic. It`s the way he likes to operate. But he is not the first President to think of transactional diplomacy. Every President does it. It`s just that they usually do it at a much lower level. It`s done at the staff level. I will give you this. You give me that. And it goes back and forth, and that way when the President gets there, he is assured of an outcome. It takes away the suspense. It also takes away the risk. So if I were advising the President, I would tell him to do as much as he could before. He knows how to play and get suspense anyway, but get the agreements. Get the road map for what happens after ward locked in before he goes to do the meeting.
O`DONNELL: There`s usually a very solid bio on who the President will be negotiating with. Now he is meeting with the President of France. He has told everything about or can be told everything about the President of France he needs to know. There`s very little known about Kim Jong-un. That`s an unusual position for a President of the United States to be in.
CLARK: It is an unusual position, and it creates risks.
But here`s what we do know about Kim. We know, first of all, that he`s very strategic. So he thinks in big terms. He knows his country is failing. He knows he has got to get South Korean money and skills and big industries into the north. He wants them in there. He doesn`t want to give up his country, but he wants that investment in the north so he can strengthen himself. The problem that President Trump has is if you agree to that and he denuclearizes, how do you prevent him taking all that economic strength and rebuilding his military?
General Wesley Clark gets tonight`s last word. Thank you, general.
"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.