Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: April 30, 2018 Guest: Eric Swalwell; Michael Avenatti
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I know you have right there in your position a good, I don`t know, 40 minutes of television, that you have written 45, 50, that you had written better than I cover for tonight`s 9:00 hour, would you mind just dropping by here and slipping me, like in the second half hour, I could just do all of those -- some of those segments of yours.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": No, because I`m not planning on there being any news tomorrow, and then I`m just going to run tonight`s show tomorrow, so you would be scooping me.
O`DONNELL: Yes, or you could wait and bequeath them to the museum of broadcasting, all of the scripts that got bumped by breaking news.
MADDOW: You know, it`s funny, though, you bump stuff every day because something happens between 7:00 and 9:00 every night that bumps -- changes the show and everything. But then in my life at least, I keep all of these things in a fire trap pile next to my desk. And then if you let these things cook for another day or two, they always end up having some horrible, terrible new two days on development. And so, even though these stories die a slow death on fast nights, they often come back a few days later.
O`DONNELL: Well, it was amazing to watch you deal with this with about, I don`t know, three minutes notice. I`ve had a little more time but I don`t feel as well-prepared as you are. But reading all 49 questions, I`m counting on my audience to have heard your reading of all 48 questions. We`ll deal with a lot of them.
O`DONNELL: There are so many areas here, Rachel, that it is kind of hard to understand when you get through all the questions, the idea that the president is not a target of this investigation. If those are the questions for someone who`s not a target, I don`t know what a target`s questions are like.
MADDOW: Well, you know, it`s clear, and Chuck Rosenberg said this right away, and he was observing it as I was, he didn`t have any advanced notice either, he said right away like, what`s clear here is that the president is a subject of this inquiry. This is not a person who`s being interviewed for whom these questions have been designed because they are a witness to somebody else`s behavior that is the subject of criminal inquiry. This is someone who`s own behavior is under scrutiny, which makes the president a subject of this investigation.
And again we should say, you know, the special counsel has not verified, has not confirmed publicly that these questions are, in fact, their questions. They haven`t confirmed that if these are some of their questions there aren`t more. We don`t know who Michael Schmidt`s source is. He tells the story about the negotiations that have been happening between president`s legal team and Mueller`s team, including Mueller`s team last month being willing to give the road map basically to what they want to ask the president, to give that roadmap of questions to the Trump legal team, and so that may be the origin of these questions.
But just by the virtue of the phrasing of some of these questions, we`re learning more about what Robert Mueller knows because he`s asking the president to comment on stuff that we didn`t even know was in question before.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and we`re going to have one of "The New York Times" reporters who worked on presenting these questions join us later in the program. We`re going to have Michael Avenatti who filed a new lawsuit today and he might have an interesting perspective on what happens when you give written questions ahead of time because in civil litigation that happens all the time.
And there`s a certain approach to it that involves I think when I`m reading the special counsel`s version, a tremendous amount of confidence, that no matter how much time you give Donald Trump, he`s not going to come up with easy answers to some of these questions.
MADDOW: Yes, and honestly, some of the questions themselves are -- I mean, what knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign? Like what can you say about your campaign contacting Russia that`s going to be good for you? You know what I mean? Like that`s a question there isn`t a good answer to. The question itself kind of sinks you.
O`DONNELL: And how many follow-up questions does the special prosecutor have ready to go depending on what the answer is, and those are the questions Donald Trump can`t see coming.
MADDOW: Yes, this is a big turn in a big story.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, tonight`s breaking news, as you know, is the "New York Times" story. They have published a list of about 50 basic questions that "The Times" says special prosecutor Robert Mueller wants to ask the president of the United States.
The special counsel`s investigators actually read the questions to the president`s lawyers and the president`s lawyers made their own list, their own written list of those questions, and it was that list that was, quote, provided to "The Times" by a person outside Mr. Trump`s legal team.
These questions are the tip of the iceberg. It will be virtually impossible for the president`s lawyers to prepare him for answering all of the additional questions that will arise from the president`s answer to any one of these questions. Just an example. What was the purpose of your January 27th, 2017 dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
Now, there are countless follow-up questions to however Donald Trump answers that question, the Comey memo about that dinner, says the president asked for James Comey`s personal loyalty. The memo says that the president lied to James Comey about how much time he spent in Moscow. And then there are a range of follow-up questions that have nothing to do with the substance of the Trump/Comey dinner conversation.
For example, the president will surely be asked, how many other times have you had a one-on-one dinner with anyone in the White House? And if James Comey is the only person Donald Trump has ever had a one-on-one dinner within the White House, the reason for having that one-on-one dinner becomes more suspicious.
The big question for Donald Trump and his lawyers tonight is, can Donald Trump possibly survive an interview like this with the special prosecutor and how will Donald Trump handle the follow-up questions that he and his lawyers cannot see coming?
According to tonight`s "New York Times" report, the president`s lawyer, former lawyer, John Dowd, former lawyer, received these questions in early March when he was still the president`s lawyer, the questions made John Dowd even more convinced that the president should not sit for an interview with the special prosecutor. "The Times" reports that the president disagreed with John Dowd`s advice and on March 20th, John Dowd announced that he was leaving Donald Trump`s legal team.
Joining us by phone now is "New York Times" reporter Matt Apuzzo who helped break this story tonight.
Matt, I want to get you on the point of the authorship of the questions, the ones we`re reading were actually written by the Trump legal team after John Dowd heard all of these questions verbally presented to him by the special prosecutor`s office? Is that how this list came to be?
MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Yes, I mean, so as Mike was explaining to Rachel, this is the result of this back and forth between the Trump legal team and the Mueller team. You know, in which Mueller is trying to convince Trump lawyers to let him sit down for this interview.
As we describe in our story here tonight, the document that was provided to us was provided by somebody outside Mr. Trump`s legal team. So, I`m not going to get too in the weeds there. But, yes, you know, we condensed some of the language in our list. But, yes, it`s a good -- it`s a pretty good takeaway that the list you`re reading on "The Times" Website that we annotated is the list that was provided to the lawyers.
O`DONNELL: Is it a fair interpretation of the way you`re describing the sourcing and the way "The Times" is publicly describing the sourcing, that we are to take it that the source is not the special prosecutor`s office?
APUZZO: I mean, I would just say the way it was described in the story is it was provided to the times by someone outside Mr. Trump`s legal team.
O`DONNELL: And what is the -- what do we know to be the Trump legal team`s reaction to these questions?
APUZZO: Well, I think one of the things to really keep in mind here is, it`s not clear that the president is going to sit down with Bob Mueller, and these questions kind of show why it might be perilous to do so. So, even though you have the president of the United States coming out publicly in saying, I totally want to sit down with Mueller, I feel like I think this is going to work out fine, I`ve got nothing to hide and I would do it under oath. In reality, his lawyers recognize there are all sorts of problems here. Not the least of which is this is a president who is known for, charitably, being extremely hyperbolic, and least charitably, just saying things that aren`t true. And that`s obviously a big risk.
The other risk is, Mueller don`t -- excuse me -- Trump doesn`t know what every witness has said. So, a lot of these questions are essentially Mueller testing Trump on what Mueller already knows. So every question has its own -- has its own pitfalls. I think that`s why you see some of the lawyers saying, I don`t think this is a very good idea. But the president goes back and forth on whether he actually wants to do it.
O`DONNELL: Matt, it`s hard to imagine Donald Trump sitting down and reading every one of these questions, but have they been read to them? What do we know about the president`s own personal knowledge of these questions? They`ve been available to him since March.
APUZZO: Yes. I mean, I would have to know he`s seen this document and not learning this tonight. You know, there have been a lot of discussions with the president about testifying. So, I mean, we -- I think we should assume that his lawyers have given him this list or at least verbally told him what`s on the agenda.
It`s obviously -- you know, this has been reported in the times and elsewhere, that part of the goal for the Trump legal team is to try to narrow this to try to narrow this scope and limit the exposure and limit the problems that the president might face if he did sit down with Mr. Mueller. So --
O`DONNELL: Matt, what do we know about any continuing negotiations on that front?
APUZZO: Well, I mean, we just saw just -- was it last week, last year, last month, that Rudy Giuliani was introducing himself to the Mueller team and getting things back on track, so the are -- they appear to be live. But, you know, whether that means also it`s a go or whether that means they won`t, I`m not sure.
O`DONNELL: Matt, I know you were joking about the how long has it been since we discovered Rudy Giuliani was on the legal team, but not everyone in the audience gets that. And, yes, it`s only been a matter of days functionally. But it does feel like a year ago.
Matt Apuzzo, thank you.
APUZZO: I`ve been sitting at my computer all day long, writing out backgrounds for Mueller questions. So, you know, forgive my account to this, the last year -- sometimes feels like a long ten years.
O`DONNELL: We completely understand. And Rachel and I thank you and your colleagues at "The New York Times" for rewriting these two hours of coverage on MSNBC, which are now pretty much all about your work tonight.
Thank you, Matt Apuzzo, for joining us. Really appreciate it.
APUZZO: So, it`s --
O`DONNELL: And we`re joined by Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor and columnist for "The Washington Post", Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, former senior aide to President Obama, and Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer at "The Washington Post", and an MSNBC contributor, and also one of our law school graduates on the panel.
And, Ron, I just want to go to you. We`ve had time now to read all of these questions. What do you make of the design -- what designs do you see here in the pattern of these questions?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes, Lawrence. I think it`s striking that these questions have foundation, they are factual, they are fair and answering them would be fatal for Donald Trump. I mean, it is a very straightforward road map through things that are known here, some new facts here, interesting new revelation that Paul Manafort actually reached out to Russia to see how it could work with the campaign, but the heart of this is taking the contradictory and inexplicable things that Donald Trump himself has said over the course of the past year and laying them out in a very straightforward, very factual way in a way that clearly President Trump couldn`t possibly explain.
O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, also Harvard Law school graduate, so we have a full team here, the firm of Klain, Rubin and Marcus here.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: We get to argue about who gets to have their name go first.
O`DONNELL: That`s right. Yes, we`ll work that out. We`re going to have to do it alphabetical, I guess.
So, Ruth, I just want to point out the various things here that -- the number of questions in here that exist only because of mistakes Donald Trump has publically made are quite stunning. He`s being asked about tweets that he gave, he`s being asked about statements he made in public interviews on subjects that he either should not have been interviewed about or should have had a better answer about. So much of this is Donald Trump being asked to explain Donald Trump.
MARCUS: That`s a very good point, Lawrence. And it -- you know, to some extent, obstruction of justice is a crime -- or a potential crime of self- inflicted proportions, right? And so, all of these -- the majority of these questions really were both predictable and they`re stunning as you see them laid out, what did you know about this, what was your intention in that, what was the point of this dinner?
The one that really sticks out, that you`ve already identified, has to do with the what did you know about any reaching out to the Russians and Paul Manafort. But so many of the rest of them really are about the hole that the president has helped to dig himself into. I think probably all of us on the -- in the law firm that we`re not really a part of, would love to be taking the president`s deposition and interviewing him on this.
And I think probably speaking for my not law partners, we would all be astonished, as Ron said, if he ever would submit himself to questions like this, because it would be, if not fatal, very foolish to allow yourself to go down the road of being given the way he performs, being questioned by dogged prosecutors who are able to do the kinds of follow-ups that we as reporters on the rare moments we get to question the president are not able to do. That would be an extraordinary moment.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And we all know that one of the most difficult questions for Donald Trump that you can ask him is anything that begins with, what did you mean when you said? And so, I just want to go to one question. And this is one of the most famous moments now in the Trump self- incriminating presidency.
One of the special prosecutor`s questions is, what did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia? And as we all consider what Donald Trump`s answer to that question might be, let`s take another look at what he said to Lester Holt.
(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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, how do you tell your client how to answer the question, what do you mean in your interview with Lester Holt?
KLAIN: Yes. So, you know, Lawrence, there`s the old saying, it`s not the crime, it`s the cover up. In this case, it`s not Mueller`s investigation. It`s the idiot he`s investigating.
Trump said this in an interview with Lester Holt and just laid out -- I mean, he had gone through elaborate rituals to try to claim he was firing Comey because of his handling of the e-mail investigation and then he just says on television, I fired him because of the Russia matter. What`s interesting is if you look at all these questions, Lawrence, the heart of the Comey part of this is Mueller going back and saying, hey, you know, here is this time period where Comey had finished the e-mail investigation and you weren`t going to him, and then you weren`t going to fire him, and you weren`t going to fire him, and all of a sudden, after the Russia thing heated up you fired him. I think the case laid out in these questions is a powerful case for the president having instructed justice.
O`DONNELL: I just one to footnote Ron Klain`s use of the word idiot there was no doubt a reference to John Kelly being quoted in an NBC News report today as calling the president an idiot, that was not pulled out of the air.
We`re joined by NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Pete, this is an extraordinary list of questions that the origin is the Justice Department, technically, the special prosecutor`s office, but these questions were verbally given to John Dowd, the president`s former lawyer, the legal team for the president, turned these questions into a written list of questions that they then -- or that -- and that is the list that somehow made its way to the "New York Times."
John Dowd has since left the president`s legal team, no doubt retaining access to these questions, and so, the source of them sounds like it came from the Trump side of the case.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That`s a good guess. We certainly don`t know that. I -- my sense of looking at these questions is, if you had asked any reporter who`s been covering this investigation from the beginning to draft a list of questions, it would look pretty much like this.
What did you know about Flynn`s phone call to the Russian ambassador, why did you fire him? Were there any efforts to pardon him? Tell us about your meetings with Comey.
How was Comey fired? Why did you keep criticizing him? What did you mean by that you better hope there were no tapes?
What about Sessions recusal? Did you think Sessions would protect you? Why did you keep criticizing Sessions? Did you consider firing the special counsel?
And then, of course, things that happened before the campaign, the 2013 meeting in Russia. The Trump Tower meeting then in June of 2016. Any discussions during -- were you aware of discussions during the campaign about trying to have contacts with Vladimir Putin. You mentioned the interview with Lester. He also wants to ask, according to this list, what did you mean when you told Russian diplomats in May 2017, that firing James Comey had taken the pressure off?
So I think this is basically, it tells us that what we thought Mueller was looking into is what Mueller is looking into.
O`DONNELL: And, Pete, there is the extraordinary question from the special counsel asking the president about firing the special counsel. The question is reported as, what consideration and discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel in June of 2017?
And, Pete, that`s the kind of question where it is very likely that the special counsel has some kind of information indicating that the president did have such discussions with someone.
WILLIAMS: Well, of course, that`s been publically reported that the White House counsel had sort of talked the president off the cliff about doing that. So, there is a -- there is a -- as often happens in investigations, we shouldn`t be surprised about this, as reporters try to pry out what investigators are doing, investigators are also reading news reports independent of that and that`s folding into their investigation. So, it`s sort of a two-way window.
O`DONNELL: And they`re also reading the president`s tweets. As we said, there`s a number of the questions in here refer to -- are basically why did you say this, you know, what were you thinking, and -- including a tweet in which the president seemed to be threatening James Comey with the possibility of the so-called tapes. And I`m just -- the special prosecutor wants to know, what was the purpose of your May 12th tweet, this is the May 12th tweet, May 12th, 2017.
James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.
And, Pete, the key word there is purpose. What was your purpose of that tweet?
WILLIAMS: Yes, of course. And, of course, Mr. Comey has said that he hopes there are tapes because he believes they would back up his version of what happened.
O`DONNELL: But the question of purpose seems to be going toward that intent issue that the special counsel says this is why we need to talk to the president, we have to know his intent. Was his intent, for example, in that tweet, to try to intimidate James Comey from telling the truth? That seems to be what`s behind their use of the word purpose there.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I agree. And, of course, they use a similar phrasing in all of the tweets, what was your purpose in sending these tweets, the tweets about Comey, the tweets about Sessions and the other criticisms he`s had for other people in the Justice Department, including Rod Rosenstein, although there apparently isn`t a question about Rosenstein that I`ve seen in this list.
O`DONNELL: Pete Williams, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Jennifer Rubin, Ron Klain and Ruth Marcus.
And, Jennifer Rubin, this issue of purpose, the word purpose keeps coming up in these questions. What was your purpose, what was your purpose? And that as I say is the issue of intent, that the special prosecutor keep -- has been saying, this is why we need to have the conversation with the president, we have to know what he was intending in firing James Comey. What he was intending when he told -- and what he meant when he told the Russians in the Oval Office the next day that the pressure was off because he fired James Comey.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. A key element of the crime of obstruction of justice is a corrupt intent. And that`s a synonym, if you will, for a purpose or purposes, a synonym for corrupt intent. The only reason that James Comey was fired, according to Donald Trump, was because of the Russia investigation.
The corrupt intent being that the president wanted to get rid of an investigation into himself. And this goes to the point we were talking about earlier. If not for Donald Trump continually blabbing about why he was doing something or what was bothering him, we wouldn`t know this. And, frankly, the special prosecutor wouldn`t have very good questions to be asking him. But because Donald Trump in essence confessed to the reasons for him doing something or other, then, of course, the special prosecutor has a way of following up.
Now, I would add a couple more points. One, some of these questions are likely to fall into attorney/client privilege if the discussions were held with a lawyer for Donald Trump. That doesn`t necessarily shield questions between him and the White House counsel. There is no privilege there.
So, if people are thinking, well, he had the conversation with Don McGahn, Don McGahn is a lawyer, he doesn`t have to talk about it, wrong he does. Secondly, if Donald Trump chooses not to sit down, we`re back to the question, will, in fact, in fact he receive a subpoena from the grand jury, and will we spend a few months up and down the federal courts as Donald Trump tries to litigate and escape the obligation to testify. The only alternative if that does not fail, refusing an interview, and getting out of a subpoena does not work, is for him to take the Fifth Amendment.
And if that doesn`t look like a poor choice and a controversial choice, and an almost unimaginable choice for the president of the United States, who is, of course, the chief executive, the person in charge of implementing the laws, I`m not sure what is. So, I think there is -- he`s in a box canyon, there`s no real way out for him. It`s going to be interesting to see which way he goes and what devices he tries to use.
I would also add one last thing and that is, there`s really nothing about - - aside from the reference to Russia and to the Trump Tower, there`s really not a lot about Trump`s prior dealings with Russia. It doesn`t seem that he is looking for Trump to confirm information about investments, money laundering and the rest.
And we don`t know why that is. It may be that his documentary evidence, he has other evidence or that`s not really a concern with Trump specifically. But that was noteworthy simply because it wasn`t there.
O`DONNELL: And, Ruth Marcus, that`s another thing about this list. This is a kind of deliberately trimmed down list by the special counsel. They`re trying to give the tightest list they possibly can. And so, there might be some areas in here they ever really minimizing and they`re actually ready with a lot more follow-up questions and that`s the thing you discover when you get in the room with them.
MARCUS: They`re certainly ready with follow-up questions. There may also be areas that are not yet ripe for them to question the president about. It`s been reported that Mueller`s plan is to first write a report on the obstruction related area of his investigation.
And so, most of these questions go to the possibility of obstruction. There are some questions, certainly, about potential collusion earlier in the campaign. The thing that -- and during the election. The thing that really strikes me is how predicated, and Ron mentioned this earlier, all of these questions are.
These are not crazy, off the wall, fishing expedition questions. These are questions that any reasonable person who had the opportunity to ask them of the president would ask of the president. That said, I`m a little bit less convinced than Jen is that we`re going to see Mueller taking the step, if President Trump doesn`t agree to voluntarily interview with the special counsel, to see Mueller subpoenaing him and going up and down the federal court system only to get the likely result and certainly embarrassing result for the president of him taking the Fifth.
That is going to eat up a lot of time on the clock. I think the special counsel is aware that time is of the essence in an investigation like this. And if he thinks, at the end of the day, what he`s going to get is a president in the position of taking the Fifth Amendment, he may just decide, say, OK, I had these questions, the president didn`t answer them, I have the evidence that I`m going to get no matter what, here`s what -- here`s my findings.
RUBIN: I think when we -- a member of the -- the partners of the firm to confer on this one. But I actually think that Mueller has to give it a chance. He has an obligation to get Trump`s side of the story, even if Trump initially rebuffs him. And it`s going to be very hard I think for him to explain to the American people why he didn`t seek to compel the president`s testimony.
So, I think that is a question mark. Obviously, he`s going to have some discretion. But I also think -- I`m not sure time is such an essence for him. I`m not sure he wants this wrapped up, for example, before the November election. It might be in his interest, frankly, to have this slop over to next year.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to have to squeeze in a quick break here. Thank you all for getting us started on our first pass through these questions. We`re going to have more on these breaking news story.
Ahead, Jill Wine-Banks will react to the list of questions that Mueller wants to ask the president of the United States.
And Michael Avenatti is here. He will join us with his latest move against the president of the United States. He is using a Trump -- an old Trump play against Donald Trump.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And Michael Avenatti is here, he will join us with his latest move by the President of the United States. He is using a Trump, an old Trump play against Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: We are joined now by phone by former Watergate prosecutor and MSNBC contributor Jill Wine-Banks.
Jill, I wanted to get your reaction to the list of questions. You have seen lists of questions like this from prosecutors before, especially ones developed internally that are not shared to others.
What do you see as the President`s biggest challenge in the special prosecutor`s questions to him?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR (on the phone): The biggest challenge to him is that he doesn`t stick to the truth. And these are very specific, very factual questions and it will be hard to just make up answers. He is going to have to deal with facts. And he also doesn`t know what Mueller actually knows about these facts. He doesn`t know the testimony that Mueller already has. So he could be walking into a very bad situation, where he will be saying something that he may actually even believe to be true, because as I said before, I think he has deluded himself into believing some of these things and they aren`t true and the facts will be clear to Mueller and that`s a problem for him.
I think the list is a very obvious list. I think Pete Williams said it very, very well. That if you were a lawyer on his side, these are the questions you would have been preparing him for because they`re quite obvious it would be the things you want to know. They do focus on intent. They do focus on obstruction. And this could be a very major thing. I think it lays out a very good case for anyone who is paying attention for the American public to look at and say, goodness gracious is this what the President was doing.
O`DONNELL: And Jill, there are several questions in here about the President`s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who, of course, the President had to fire. Michael Flynn has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. And so, presumably, the special prosecutor already has answered from Michael Flynn about every question that the special prosecutor has for Donald Trump about Michael Flynn.
For example, this question. What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon? Now Robert Mueller already has information about that from Michael Flynn, doesn`t he?
WINE-BANKS: Absolutely, he does. And there was already a lot of stories about John Dowd having discussed pardons. So it`s going to be very hard to deny these things when the evidence is very clear. I can`t remember how long ago it was that Rudy Giuliani said I will get this taken care of in a week or two, it will be all wrapped up. I don`t think we are anywhere near that, though. And I would like to be part of your law firm of Rubin, Kline and Marcus. They did a very good job on this.
O`DONNELL: You are the senior partner. Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.
WINE-BANKS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And we are now joined by phone by Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a member of the House intelligence committee.
And congressman you are a former prosecutor yourself. You had a chance to look at these questions. I just want to ask you as a tactician in a legal practice, I think a lot of people watching tonight will think that this gives the President a great advantage to be able to get these questions in writing ahead of time. What`s your reaction to that?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (on the phone): Certainly, Lawrence. I never want to hear again from the President that this is a witch-hunt. He is getting the questions in advance. I have never done that before with any defendant or high-level witness that I have questioned. And also that this is nothing more than an obstruction of justice hunt or a conspiracy hunt.
So for all the fears out there this was about going way back into his questionable business dealings. This is a pretty straight forward investigation. And it wants to know did you have knowledge of what the Russians were doing when they were doing it? Were you talking to them and mixing your political campaign with business dealings? And once you were elected, were you seeking to obstruct the investigation into what others were doing during the campaign?
It`s pretty straight forward. I don`t see why he can`t sit in that witness chair and answer the questions and finally come clean with the American people.
O`DONNELL: The likelihood that the President would be able to tell the truth in any extended conversation with anyone has never been publically demonstrated that he can do three consecutive minutes without a script where he would actually not be lying. We have never seen him do that.
SWALWELL: No. He has never met, I think, the truth a day in his life. This is someone who, you know, time after time, you know, is not honest, you know, about who he has met with, who he has dealt with, and, you know, that`s going to be a challenge for him. That`s his problem. That`s not Bob Mueller`s problem. And you know, no one in congress, no lawyer can protect him from that. But he is the President of the United States now. And Presidents don`t take the Fifth Amendment. Presidents don`t run from lawful investigations. Presidents come clean with the American people or they don`t do the job anymore. That`s what happened with Richard Nixon.
So he needs to decide what his priorities are because all of this is affecting his ability to lead the people he promised their lives would be better because he was in office.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very for joining us tonight, helping us cover this breaking news.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Up next, Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti has a new lawsuit against the President and Michael Avenatti will join us tonight to get his perspective on Michael Cohen`s appearance in the special prosecutor`s list of questions.
O`DONNELL: If there is a Me Too movement of people suing Donald Trump for lying about them, Donald Trump is going to be in court for the rest of his life. Threatening people with lawsuits for lying about Donald Trump used to be a Donald Trump and Michael Cohen specialty. And Donald Trump`s legal threats were effective at scaring people about telling the truth about him.
Donald Trump tried it with me actually. It is beginning of the second year of the show when he threaten to sue me in a tweet saying I heard because of shows I watched that Lawrence has made many false statements last night about me, maybe I should sue him.
I was the only person on TV then calling Donald Trump a liar in those days when he spoke about President Obama`s birth certificate. And that was just shocking to him because no one had ever attacked him on television before. No one had ever called him a liar that way, the way everyone does now.
And what was even more shocking to Donald Trump that I was not intimidated by his threat to sue me and I dared him to sue me so I could get him under oath in a deposition. And then, of course, he never mentioned suing me again.
And so, tonight there is an exclusive irony in watching Donald Trump`s old tactics be used against him. But this time it is being used by someone who`s not using the Donald Trump version of the game. This is not a Trumpian (INAUDIBLE) lawsuit.
A couple weeks ago, Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, threatened to sue Donald Trump for defamation. And today Michael Avenatti actually filed that lawsuit here in federal court here in New York City, claiming that President Trump defamed Stormy Daniels in this tweet.
A sketch years later about a non-existed man, a total con job.
The lawsuit filed today by Michael Avenatti says Mr. Trump`s statement is false and defamatory by calling the incident a con job. Mr. Trump`s statement would be understood to state that Ms. Clifford was fabricating the crime and the existence of the assailant, both of which are prohibited under New York law as well as the law of numerous other states. It was apparent that Mr. Trump meant to convey that Ms. Clifford is a liar.
Michael Avenatti and Jonathan Capehart will join us next on this and the Mueller questions to Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels and Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for "the Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
And Michael, we thought about an hour before the show that we were going to be talking to you about the new developments with you suing Donald Trump. And we are going to do that. But I also want to talk about Michael Cohen`s appearance in the special prosecutor`s list of questions for the President. Because this is relevant to all that evidence that`s been gathered in the case here in New York in the southern district, which was provoked apparently by your case with Stormy Daniels.
And one of the questions that the special prosecutors has for the President is, what communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others including foreign nationals about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
What`s your reaction to that particular question given what we know about all the evidence that the FBI seized from Michael Cohen?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Well, my reaction, Lawrence, is that clearly they know the answer to that question. They know at least the predicate, namely that there were such communications. Now, they are trying to get at the extent of those communications. They are probably trying to test the evidence or the veracity, I should say of Mr. Trump in response to what they have already know.
And you know, I have been saying this for a while, the amount of evidence that was obtained by way of those three raids is significant. And it is a mountain of evidence. It`s pervasive. It`s electronic. It`s hard copy. And when Michael Cohen flips on the President, he is going to flip on the President not only relating to the stormy Daniels situation, not only relating to a host of things we have never even talked about because we don`t even know about. There`s no question about that. But clearly also as it relates to the Ukraine and Russia situation from these questions.
O`DONNELL: So here is what`s so striking about this question also, Jonathan Capehart, is that this question was provided to John Dowd in early March, long before the FBI raids of Michael Cohen`s office, his home, his hotel room. So they knew back then, if you take this -- what Michael is saying about this question, that there`s some kind of communication. Their question is what communications did you have with Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign? And so it could be that what Robert Mueller already knows about that is part of what he was referring when he referred the case to the southern district of New York to say, you better go and raid that place because there`s stuff up there that you have to get now.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Right. It seems to me that these questions and what you just laid out in your question to me shows once again that Bob Mueller, special counsel Mueller, knows everything. He is the closest we are going to come to a God-like figure, omniscient.
CAPEHART: Tough competition, but we are talking about two different investigations here.
CAPEHART: So with Mueller, he knows everything, and as Michael said, they know the answer to that question. And you know, there`s that saying that a lawyer never asks a question he doesn`t already have the answer to. It sounds as though special counsel Mueller has all the answers. And maybe this is exactly why John Dowd doesn`t want the President to talk to Mueller. He knows that the President -- and we have seen it for a year and a half. He can`t -- one, can`t tell the truth. But, two, he cannot answer a question, any of these questions, truthfully. He will totally get himself in trouble. This is a man who spent decades in New York bluffing and blustering his way through life. He tried to bluster you into standing down and saying I`m going to sue you.
CAPEHART: But you stood your ground, and you saw what happened. Nothing. Can`t do that when you are up against Mueller. Can`t do that when you are President of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Michael, Michael Cohen`s name appears twice in these questions. Now, when Donald Trump first saw those questions in March, he already, according to "the Wall Street Journal" reporting, didn`t trust Michael Cohen. He already -- his attitude toward Michael Cohen was he is in a bull in the China shop. He causes more trouble sometimes when he is trying to solve a problem, he causes bigger problems. So he already had that view of Michael Cohen.
Now after the Michael Cohen raid, when Donald Trump looks at Michael Cohen`s name appearing repeatedly in Robert Mueller`s questions, it has to scare Donald Trump all the more.
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, I mean the pucker factor that must be apparent with Mr. Trump at this point relating to Mr. Cohen is probably immeasurable. And each day it gets even worse and worse. I mean we saw that -- we saw now -- or we see an attempt by Mr. Trump through, you know, his friends at the "National Enquirer" to start undermining the credibility of Michael Cohen by calling him a liar, et cetera.
O`DONNELL: Here, the "National Enquirer" cover, which is controlled by Donald Trump, is attacking Michael Cohen this week.
AVENATTI: And you are going to see -- I`m going to predict that you are going to see in the coming days and weeks an even further effort by Donald Trump to distance himself from Michael Cohen because it is becoming apparent to him, something we have been talking about for a long time on this show, Lawrence, Michael Cohen is going to roll over on the President. And he wants to try to undermine his credibility. And I`m going to predict that within the next two to three weeks, Mr. Trump is going to be openly attacking Michael Cohen as being, you know, dishonest and a liar, et cetera, because he knows exactly where this is going.
O`DONNELL: Let me get you on the defamation, new case you filed today saying that Donald Trump called your client a liar. And by the way, I just want to point out the media does not understand this. Donald Trump has never said, I did not have sex with Stormy Daniels. He has never denied having that encounter with her, ever. And that`s why that`s not one of the elements of your defamation, because he has never lied about or tried to call her a liar about that. He is only called her a liar about the sketch and nothing else.
AVENATTI: And he claims that this man that my client has talked about repeatedly, and I think she`s 100 percent credible about what happened in Las Vegas. Mr. Trump came out and by way of this tweet, and called him nonexistent, basically said it didn`t happen.
Well, I have got a question. Very simple one. If Mr. Trump never had a relationship with my client, if Mr. Trump never knew anything about the Vegas incident, if Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement, knew nothing about the payment, Michael Cohen did everything on his own and basically knew nothing about Stormy Daniels, then how does Mr. Trump know if the man is nonexistent or not? It doesn`t make any sense, Lawrence. It makes zero sense. Very simple question. Another question he can`t answer. And they`re just making it up as they go along.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan, which questions would you rather answer if you were Donald Trump? Michael Avenatti`s or Robert Mueller`s?
CAPEHART: Neither. Not a chance.
O`DONNELL: They are good ones. We are going to have to leave it there.
Michael Avenatti and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We are going to be right back.
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. Two of the reporters who broke "The New York Times" story tonight about Robert Mueller`s questions for the President will be joining Brian in "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams, which starts now.