Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: May 2, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti, Jonathan Chait
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: I do. Good evening, Rachel. And I have to confess, I did not watch all of your show tonight because Rudy Giuliani went on the other network, went on Fox News, and he stayed on longer than he should have because that`s when he got to the Stormy Daniels admission, which is gigantic, which is blockbuster.
Rudy Giuliani telling Sean Hannity, who was asking good questions about this stuff that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000, and Rudy Giuliani specified exactly how the president did it. Rudy Giuliani also said that the money for paying off Stormy Daniels had been funneled through a law firm.
And it was very clear, as you were watching Rudy Giuliani, that he had no idea that everything he was saying was new information about the Stormy Daniels case. He clearly did not go on Sean Hannity`s show to reveal that. He spent the previous half hour talking about the Mueller investigation and talking about the decision that he -- I don`t know how to characterize this, but seems to be pretending that he`s facing about whether or not to cooperate and recommend an interview to the president.
He then went on to call the investigation a witch hunt, full of trap questions and all that sort of thing. So, he sounded like someone whose mind is made up, but it was fascinating on every level including the Mueller investigation stuff.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Well, and -- but -- I mean, forgive me if I`m too simplistic about this. But didn`t the president flat-out say that he didn`t pay Stormy Daniels, and you had to ask Michael Cohen and Michael Cohen dealt with that?
MADDOW: And now his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says, oh, yes, he paid it?
O`DONNELL: Not only that, not only that. He took it beyond that and said, of course, Michael Cohen did these kinds of things for Donald Trump and Donald Trump knew that, these are the kinds of things that people like Michael Cohen do for people like Donald Trump.
So, Rudy Giuliani gave it an even wider blanket of knowledge in effect to Donald Trump about the general operations of Michael Cohen, which I have to say sounds realistic, and also intersects, kind of importantly, with the story you`re talking about in terms of the Michael Cohen raid material and what`s in it and how Donald Trump and Michael Cohen aren`t really telling the president`s lawyers what they think is in it.
MADDOW: Yes. So, Michael Schmidt just reporting here on our air just moments ago that the president`s lawyers don`t know what`s in those documents because Michael Cohen and President Trump won`t tell them. Michael Cohen and President Trump definitely know what`s in those documents but they won`t tell Trump`s own lawyers what`s in them, and so, President Trump`s lawyers can`t prepare what to make of that case or what threat the president might be under in that case.
But it now sounds like Rudy Giuliani as a new member of the president`s legal team -- I mean, the way you describe it it`s like he`s prepping it like, oh, yes, there`s a gazillion Stormy Daniels. This is what he does. He doesn`t have to update him when there were new ones because they were doing this so frequently. The president paid for it as a matter of course, this is like a standing order.
I mean, that sort of sounds like prepping us for there being more.
O`DONNELL: And he kept using the word irrelevant to apply to Stormy Daniels and all sorts of other issues as if it`s irrelevant, to your understanding of Donald Trump, anything in the Stormy Daniels case, it`s all irrelevant to your understanding of him. And he seems to be saying that it`s irrelevant legally, which, of course, it is not. He referred to the raid as being conducted by storm troopers.
Now, those people he`s calling storm troopers used to work for Rudy Giuliani, FBI agents in the southern district of New York where Rudy Giuliani was the U.S. attorney. Not in the history of American U.S. attorneys has any U.S. attorney turned on the FBI that he used to supervise and called them storm troopers for conducting a raid.
MADDOW: I mean, storm troopers is a Nazi reference, right?
O`DONNELL: Yes, a Nazi reference.
MADDOW: So, he`s saying that the prosecutors and FBI agents in the Southern District of New York are Nazis.
O`DONNELL: And Rudy Giuliani hired James Comey as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District, gave him his first job as a federal prosecutor. And, Rachel, what he said about James Comey is beyond the worst things that President Trump has said about James Comey.
MADDOW: Happy Wednesday.
O`DONNELL: This is where we are at this hour.
MADDOW: Good luck, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to play this in the next hour.
MADDOW: Good luck, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Pathological liar, that is what Rudy Giuliani just called James Comey on Fox News. That was the first thing he called him. It was just the beginning.
Rudy Giuliani, as I said, hired James Comey in his first job as a federal prosecutor in the 1980s also called his own friend, James Comey -- these are Rudy Giuliani`s words -- a perverted man. And Rudy Giuliani was just warming up. Just getting started in his attack on James Comey and on special prosecutor Robert Mueller`s investigation and everyone working for Robert Mueller, and everything they`re doing in the investigation of the president.
When Rudy Giuliani joined the Trump legal team just two weeks ago, he said that it would take him a week or two to resolve the entire case. And tonight, Rudy Giuliani said that he is now just trying to keep an open mind about whether President Trump should submit to an interview with Robert Mueller.
That`s how Rudy Giuliani began his extraordinary interview tonight with Sean Hannity on Fox News. And Rudy Giuliani sounded professional and judicious for about the first 90 seconds of his interview, and then he went off the rails. He said that he would not allow the president to submit to an interview if Rudy Giuliani concludes that Robert Mueller and his staff are not being fair. Giuliani then went on a rambling interview calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt, calling it a perjury trap, using all of Donald Trump`s own language about it, saying that the president could be trapped. Not saying that the only way a perjury trap can work is if the president decides to commit the crime of perjury.
Giuliani also attacked what he called his old friend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and he attacked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Everything Rudy Giuliani said tonight suggests that he will advise the president not to submit to an interview with Robert Mueller because the Mueller investigation is, as Giuliani calls it tonight, unfair and a witch hunt.
And Sean Hannity kept that interview going longer than was safe for Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani then wandered into what I`ve already referred to as these explosive revelations about the Stormy Daniels case, including that Donald Trump did in deed know that Michael Cohen was handling these kinds of things like the Stormy Daniels for Donald Trump and was doing it all the time and that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for that $130,000.
We will get to that Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, Trump reimbursement bombshell later in this hour. Michael Avenatti will join us with his analysis of that.
But here is a look at how Rudy Giuliani explained why the president fired James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: He went on Lester Holt, Lester Holt`s interview was as good as anybody could do, better than I think any of the people around Mueller could have done. Lester Holt asked him, why did you do it? He said, I did it because I felt I had to explain to the American people the president was not the target of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re going to hold that right there. Hold that thought. When we come back to it we`ll show you what the president actually said to Lester Holt, which was nothing like that.
We are joined by phone by Michael Avenatti to get his first reaction to the president saying tonight to Sean Hannity on Fox News that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 that Michael Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels.
Let`s listen to that exchange in the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000, I mean, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I`m giving you a fact now that you don`t know. It`s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through the law firm.
GIULIANI: Funneled it through the law firm and the president repaid it.
HANNITY: Oh, I didn`t know -- he did?
HANNITY: There`s no campaign finance law?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And we`re joined now by Michael Avenatti.
And, Michael, I think you can hear -- I don`t know if you can hear there, there`s a pause and a shock by Sean Hannity, when Sean Hannity says quite rightly, I didn`t know that, after Rudy Giuliani says that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY (via telephone): Well, Lawrence, thanks for having me on. I have to tell you, I am rarely, as your viewers know, rendered speechless. But I am absolutely speechless at this revelation and this admission.
And I hope that your viewers, and I hope the American people, upon hearing this and watching that clip, they should be outraged.
I don`t care whether you`re on the left or on the right or in the center. I don`t care what your party affiliation is. You deserve to be told the truth by your president and the people that stand at the podium at the White House briefing station or podium at the White House briefing conference, press conference, and answer questions. I don`t care what your political persuasion is, that`s what you deserve as an American citizen.
And this is an outrage what has gone on here. The American people have been lied to about this agreement, about the $130,000, about the reimbursement, and this is consistent with what we have been saying now for months, that ultimately it is going to be proven and ultimately was going to come out. We just didn`t know that Rudy Giuliani was going to go on the Sean Hannity show and admit it on national television.
But make no mistake about it: justice needs to be served as a result of this, and we are going to work morning, noon, and night to ensure that that is exactly what happens.
O`DONNELL: The president on Air Force One, we have the video ready to go but I think people are familiar with it. The president on Air Force One, the first time he spoke about this case said he didn`t know anything about it, that Michael Cohen handled it and any questions about it they would have to ask Michael Cohen. There`s Rudy Giuliani tonight saying not only that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen, but he also issued a blanket statement saying that Donald Trump knew that Michael Cohen was always handling these kinds of things for Donald Trump.
AVENATTI: You know, Lawrence, I`m familiar with the Air Force One statement, you had me on the night that they were made. We now find out that they are completely false, absolute lies about a very serious matter.
You know, again, I don`t know what to say. I mean, this is clear as day at this point what happened here. This is no minor issue. This is no situation where somebody will say or should say, well, this is no big deal.
The president of the United States and the people that are closest to him should not be lying to the American people about matters that are this significant. They just shouldn`t.
O`DONNELL: I want to take you through --
AVENATTI: And that`s before we even get to the significant criminal aspects of this payment now. There may be potential campaign finance violations, felonies, there may, in fact, be money laundering issues, there may be bank fraud issues. I mean, this is a very, very serious matter that deserves the attention of the American people, regardless of your political persuasion, period.
O`DONNELL: Michael, you`ve been saying before that there might be money laundering issues and there might be bank fraud issues and there`s been much speculation beyond you about possible bank fraud issues. I want to go to a phrase that Rudy Giuliani used in speaking to Sean Hannity about the payment to Stormy Daniels.
He said -- these are his words -- it was, quote, funneled through a law firm. We have never heard that language from anyone on the president`s side in this matter. What is your interpretation of Rudy Giuliani saying that the payment to Stormy Daniels, the $130,000 that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for, that`s all the information we got from Rudy Giuliani tonight, that that payment was Rudy Giuliani`s words, funneled through a law firm?
AVENATTI: Well, what that suggests to me, Lawrence, is that a payment was made by Donald Trump, or someone close to him, directly to an intermediary law firm, whether it be Michael Cohen`s law firm or another law firm, and then was repaid to a central consultants or Michael Cohen. That could very well take on significant aspects of money laundering, there could be serious charges that may result from that, depending on how it was structured.
But it also shows if, in fact, it was done that way, and again, I don`t want to get over the tips of our skis here because we don`t know the details, but if, in fact, Lawrence, it was done that way, then it shows a significant amount of thought into how to structure this in order to avoid detection and in order to avoid having this traced back directly to Donald Trump. And that should tell people something very, very significant.
O`DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani was also wrong on the law when he said there`s no campaign finance violation possible because there was no campaign money used. We already knew there was no campaign money used. There`s no record of this expenditure occurring in campaign funds but the issue has always been did this function as a campaign contribution of $130,000 from Michael Cohen because it was a payment that did benefit the campaign because it helped Donald Trump survive a possible scandal in the campaign.
Rudy Giuliani doesn`t seem to grasp that very obvious point of law in campaign finance law.
AVENATTI: Well, I think -- Lawrence, let me tell you what they`re trying to line up. And, you know, again, I see these guys coming a mile away.
Here`s the argument that they`re going to make, and I don`t think it`s going to be successful. But here it is. They`re going to argue that ultimately this money was paid by Donald Trump individually, and because it was paid by Donald Trump individually, who has no limit to the amount of money that he can put in to his own presidential campaign, that somehow the reporting requirements or the limitations, et cetera, did not apply to him, and therefore, there was no campaign violation because of that fact.
That`s the -- that`s the foundation or the predicate, Lawrence, they`re attempting to lay at this point.
O`DONNELL: That does make perfect sense legally, but then that goes up against what Donald Trump said on Air Force One, and we have that video ready to go. I think this is a good point to remind the audience, because I think, Michael, the legal point you just made is an important one. They will claim because of the reimbursement, this really was Donald Trump`s money and there is no limit to how much the candidate can distribute to his own campaign.
Let`s again then listen to what Donald Trump said on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no. What else?
REPORTER: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney, and you`ll have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Michael, of course, the famous answer was that just one word "no" when he was asked did you know that Michael Cohen made this payment? So, if he didn`t know Michael Cohen made a payment to benefit his campaign, they are in trouble on the campaign finance law.
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, I would agree with that. Look, we`ve seen a lot of conduct by the president and by Mr. Trump when he was running for office. And a lot of people laugh a lot of things off and they give him a pass on things.
I sincerely hope that we have not reached a place in this nation, and I don`t think this can be overstated. I really hope that we have not reached a place where it`s OK for the president of the United States to stand aboard Air Force One, on video and audio, and lie to the American people. I hope that we have not reached a place where that is accepted.
O`DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani said tonight that that is irrelevant. That the - - everything about the Stormy Daniels case is irrelevant. He kept using the word "irrelevant".
AVENATTI: Well, if he thinks it`s irrelevant, he should wait around for the next few months and see how this plays out, because I can assure you that it`s going to be absolutely relevant. And we will not sleep until it is clear to him and others that it is 100 percent relevant, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Michael, we are still harvesting video from this interview and we have another piece of it that is about your case and when you hear it, I too will be hearing it for the first time. This is more from Rudy Giuliani about your case. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: That was money that was paid by -- by his lawyer, the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn`t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of a several months.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: He had said, I distinctly remember, that he did it on his own --
GIULIANI: He did?
HANNITY: -- without asking.
GIULIANI: Look, I don`t know. I haven`t investigated that. No reason to dispute that. No reason to dispute his recollection. I like Michael a lot, you like him a lot.
HANNITY: Known him a long time.
GIULIANI: I feel very bad he`s been victimized like this. The president feels worse. The fact is, just trust me, they`re going to come up with no violations there.
HANNITY: All right. Meaning, the payment --
GIULIANI: Yes, the payment is perfectly legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, your reaction to that? And this time, Rudy Giuliani said that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen over a period of several months.
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, the plot thickens, right? So, you know, I certainly hope that what Giuliani -- Rudy Giuliani is not suggesting is, is that, in fact, the reimbursement took place over several months in an effort to avoid triggering a $10,000 monetary requirement relating to payments. Namely, if they structured reimbursement payments -- and again, I don`t have any basis to believe that they did. But that statement causes me great concern.
If they structured reimbursements in amounts of less than $10,000 in an effort to potentially avoid detection, that`s a serious, serious problem. That`s called structuring and it`s a violation of federal law. It`s a criminal act in order to do that.
So, again, I don`t know if that`s what he`s talking about but it doesn`t make any sense as to why this reimbursement would take place across several months. It just doesn`t make sense unless they were trying to avoid detection or there was some other reason that would appear to not have a reasonable, legitimate legal basis.
O`DONNELL: Michael, please stay by your phone because I have a feeling over the next several hours, Rudy Giuliani, the White House are in full panic mode right now about what Rudy Giuliani said in that interview. He clearly was not prepared to go on Sean Hannity`s show and talk about the Stormy Daniels case in a way that was conforming to what the Trump defense team is trying to do.
And so, he may have created a whole bunch of problems that they`re going to try to repair and we`ll be hearing changes in what Rudy Giuliani has to say for sure tomorrow morning or through the day tomorrow.
Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us with this breaking news tonight about your case.
AVENATTI: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. I appreciate it.
We`re going to get some more lawyers here. Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, is joining us. Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and a professor at the University of Alabama Law School. They`re both MSNBC contributors.
Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and MSNBC political analyst, is with us. And Jonathan Chait, columnist for "New York Magazine".
And, Jill Wine-Banks, I want to start off where we left with Michael Avenatti because this is a stunning development in the Stormy Daniels case that Rudy Giuliani seemed to me to be saying things that he has learned in his proximity to the president and the president`s lawyers, but he has not mastered what the public side of their case is versus the private side of their case. And you really had the feeling that Rudy Giuliani did not know that he was revealing for the first time, in complete contradiction to the president, that the president reimbursed Michael Cohen.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s more than that, Lawrence. I think you`re correct. But I would add that he`s speaking before he thought through what he`s saying. He is giving out information -- he said I didn`t investigate that so I can`t say that.
But that means he shouldn`t have said anything. I`d like to add to something Michael said about the possible structuring of the repayment. If it was a loan from Michael Cohen to the campaign, which the president repaid over time, unless the president paid him back with interest, that`s a contribution and something of value, so it`s still a campaign contribution. It may not exceed the limit that would be allowed for a contribution, but it was unreported. So that`s still a campaign violation.
So, there`s a lot of crimes going on here that Rudy Giuliani is foolishly admitting. He isn`t a good chess player, not a good trial strategist because you would never get yourself into this situation where you haven`t thought three steps ahead and said something that you didn`t realize the next step was dangerous for you.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, I want to get your reactions to what Rudy Giuliani said about the Stormy Daniels case.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: So, everything Jill said I think is dead on the money. When it comes to campaign finance, you have to think about contributions on the one hand and campaign expenditures on the other hand.
And it looks like Giuliani may have tried to put this payment in the posture that he thought exposed the president to the least risk. If it was Trump`s own money and if it was an expenditure, then perhaps he thought it was, at worst, a failure of reporting. Something that the FEC is relatively lax about dealing with.
That as Michael points out there`s the possibility of structuring, which is a federal felony. It`s a felony crime, people go to jail for it. It`s illegal to make these cash transactions above a certain amount. There`s also the problem of whether it was, in fact, an illegal contribution. And if that was made willfully and intentionally in an effort to influence the election and we know that this was, because it happened right on top of the time that the election occurred, just when Ms. Daniels was at greatest risk of going public with the story, there was a lot of an effort here for damage control.
So, it looks like Giuliani`s effort to posture this in a very neutral territory has backfired and will have repercussions that we`ll watch fallout over the next couple hours.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, there are few things in life that take a sharper mind than standing in a federal courtroom in litigation as Rudy Giuliani has done, but has not done for decades now and when the president chose him as a so-called member of his legal team, it certainly looked to some of us he was choosing him more as a spokesperson because Rudy Giuliani is so far out of trial practice that he`s just -- it just doesn`t have that swing of the bat anymore.
And he certainly proved that tonight when it came to the Stormy Daniels case and Sean Hannity asked him some very simple and very important questions and Rudy Giuliani clearly stepped in a way that surprised Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity declared to him when he said the president reimbursed Michael Cohen, that Sean Hannity didn`t know that. And, of course, none of us knew that.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALST: No, none of us knew that. And 30 years ago, 35 years ago, Rudy Giuliani was a great prosecutor. He was a great lawyer. He and Michael Chertoff and a few others took down the New York mob. He was really good.
But that was then. And if you have followed Rudy in recent years, remember his speech at the Republican Convention in 2016, for example, which was -- unhinged is a polite way of describing it. He is not on top of his game or any game I would argue, and I couldn`t understand why he was chosen for the legal team except to be someone the president likes, someone around the president trusts and maybe he could communicate with the president in a way that others can`t. So I thought maybe that could be useful.
But for him to come out tonight and just sort of destroy their previous position on the Stormy Daniels case and possibly expose the president to -- and Michael Cohen to all sorts of legal jeopardy they`ve been trying to avoid is just stunning. It`s absolutely stunning.
O`DONNELL: And so, Jonathan Chait, the clock starts ticking tonight on how long will Rudy Giuliani last in Donald Trump`s legal team because even Donald Trump is going to see the size of the mistakes Rudy Giuliani made for him, for his client, tonight on television.
JONATHAN CHAIT, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: He might. It depends on what Fox News tells him about Rudy`s own mistake. I mean, he`s always selected people on the basis of loyalty and not talent.
And the reason Donald Trump has done that is because he`s had a lot of secrets to hide. That`s the reason people with secrets to hide surround themselves on their basis. He`s not looking for the best and brightest. He finds cronies, people who will keep their mouths shut. That`s why Rudy Giuliani is there in the first place. He`s collecting the country`s worst legal minds and surrounding himself to them. Because that`s all you can get if you need people that will keep their mouth shut about what you`ve done.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to where we broke in to get Michael Avenatti into our discussion here because we had a limited window to get him in here. And that is Rudy Giuliani talking about why the president fired James Comey, and Rudy Giuliani described that the president`s answer to Lester Holt -- and he said that the president`s answer to that question to Lester Holt, and Lester`s question was as good as anyone would ask in the special prosecutor`s office.
And so what I`d like to show once again is exactly how Rudy Giuliani described what the president said to Lester Holt and we will run right after that what the president actually said to Lester Holt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUILIANI: He went on Lester Holt, Lester Holt`s interview was as good as anybody can do, better I think than any of the people around Mueller could have done. Lester Holt asked him, why did you do it? He said I did it because I felt that I had to explain to the American people that President was not the target of the investigation.
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)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Gene Robinson, I didn`t hear the President say to himself anything about the American people or anything about explaining.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: So Rudy Giuliani offers a completely false characterization of what the President said to Lester Holt thinking what? That we have lost the Lester Holt video and we can`t run it right now after his answer?
ROBINSON: Right. He thought that somehow we lost every copy of that tape and we had also forgotten what the President said. So no one would remember so he can make up a response that sounds better than what the President actually said. But, in fact, the President said it was this Russia thing, that`s why I fired him.
Again, why do you want this guy representing you? I think Jonathan Chait is right, of course, that Donald Trump does surround himself with people who are willing to be loyal and I guess Rudy is willing to be loyal to Trump, but he is not doing him any good right now.
O`DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani did say at a certain point that he thought the odds were probably against him recommending that the President submit to an interview with Robert Mueller. But here are some of the things Rudy Giuliani said about the investigation. Talked about the special prosecutors, they want to use trap questions and calling it a witch-hunt. Let`s listen to that characterization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: This has become a witch- hunt, like the President said. If you look at those questions that are being asked, they are trap questions. A first-year prosecutor would do better than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks your reaction to that?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think that the list of questions that he is referring to was actually drafted by Sekulow, as I read it, that the special prosecutor gave some subjects that they wanted to talk about and that Sekulow produced a list of questions and that list is a very thorough list, as far as it goes, it`s a good start. It`s not complete, in my view. But it is a very good start and it is a list that any defense lawyer would say, if I`m preparing you to be questioned, these are questions that you are likely to be asked. And that`s an important thing to keep in mind.
So that`s just -- it is juvenile to be attacking the level of competence of what we know to be a very skilled team of lawyers in the prosecutor`s office. And we have seen how unskilled the President`s defense team has been. I don`t know if the newest edition, Mr. Flood, will add some sophistication to it. But clearly there`s a big problem with how he has been defended. You had John Dowd and Ty Cobb speaking in public next to the "New York Times" about the investigation and a reporter overhearing them. That`s juvenile behavior, not the list of questions.
So I think we are not making the kind of progress in resolving this case. This is only going to prolong the investigation. It`s really -- it is stunning. I mean, there aren`t enough words to express the shock at how this is being handled. And even though they may have eliminated a campaign finance violation, they may have created a banking one. They certainly have created a lie by the President on air force one. And I think it`s already been said and I can`t be stressed enough that, when is enough for the American people to say the White House is lying to us? And this is not a witch-hunt.
I hate to be sexist, I think witches are generally women, but if there`s a male name for witches, Mueller has found a lot of them. They have pled guilty. So it`s time to stop calling it a witch-hunt. It`s not.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of the language Rudy Giuliani used tonight in addition to witch-hunt and trap questions. All it seems intended to characterize the investigation as completely unfair got the President and therefore build a public rational for the President to not submit to an interview.
But there was an extraordinary moment when he was discussing James Comey. And remember, this is the man who hired James Comey to be a federal prosecutor. He said tonight that was the biggest regret in his career.
And let`s listen to this exchange where Rudy Giuliani actually says this. He says, this is a very perverted man. And of all the people that you could be talking about in the cast of characters involved in these stories, if you use the phrase very perverted man, there are at least one name that comes to mind but it`s not Comey. Let`s watch this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Comey, he said Hillary deeply respects the rule of law. Comey said that. Wow! This is a very perverted man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, your reaction to that?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Jim Comey made decisions in a very difficult situation that not everyone agrees with. He certainly flew in the face of established DOJ policy. And there`s a lot to criticize there whether you are a fan of Jim Comey`s or not.
But one thing Jim Comey doesn`t appear to have done is lie. He appears to have been truthful even when it is damaging to his own interest. He appears to have been self-critical in many ways and told the truth when the truth does not present Jim Comey in a positive light.
So these comments seem unwarranted. They seem targeted not at the truth but rather it influencing Trump`s base and increasing this litany, this story line that the investigation is illegitimate so if the time comes the President just subpoenaed before the grand jury or if people very close to him are indicted at some point, then perhaps Giuliani`s role will be to be the bull dog out there decrying the process, the special counsel himself and his legitimacy as opposed to making sound legal arguments. If anything, this just sounds unhinged.
O`DONNELL: Sean Hannity did ask the big question tonight about the subpoena, what happens if the President is subpoenaed? That`s the question we have been asking on this program for months now. We are going to have Rudy Giuliani`s answer to that -- maybe the biggest question of the night when we come back after this break.
O`DONNELL: In our breaking news report tonight about what Rudy Giuliani had to say about the Mueller investigation, Sean Hannity on FOX News tonight asked Rudy Giuliani the big question. What would happen if the President is subpoenaed to testify? If the President refuses to agree to an interview with the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has told the President`s lawyers that he might or could then subpoena the President. Because of that, Sean Hannity asked that question tonight, what if the President is subpoenaed. And Rudy Giuliani gave this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: If they issue a subpoena, that will be -- that will be unprecedented in the sense that it`s pretty clear that a President can`t be subpoenaed to a criminal proceeding about him. Now, why is that? And fortunately -- or maybe unfortunately, we have the real-life circumstance going on that the founding fathers thought about which is a President cannot be distracted by a criminal investigation. You can always prosecute him after. They can get him when he leaves the White House. You can always prosecute him after. But we -- I could not -- if Mueller said to me tomorrow, bring him in two hours like you want, no questions that you don`t want and we are pretty much ready to clear him, I could not go to the President of the United States and say take two days off to get ready to go to that and screw the whole thing with North Korea. How can any American do that? He`s our President. He is going to negotiate, I believe, a non- nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody thought about it.
GIULIANI: Are you going to interfere with that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, Rudy Giuliani does not remember that Nixon was conducting the Vietnam War every day of your investigation about President Nixon. But to go to Rudy Giuliani`s line saying a President can`t be subpoenaed to a criminal proceeding about him.
WINE-BANKS: Apparently, Rudy doesn`t remember the law either. The Supreme Court said, in very clear terms, that the President had to comply with a subpoena. Now that was a subpoena for his documents, not for testimony. So in that regard, it is undecided about testimony. But there is no reason that a court would distinguish between the two.
And if Donald Trump has time to play as much golf as he plays and to have as much executive time as he has, he has time to prepare for this. This reminds me of Richard Nixon saying, I am not a crook. Well, we know how that ended. And he is going to have to find the time to defend himself. He is going to have to find the time.
And the other thing that Rudy said is that you can always get him after he is out. Yes, clearly, you can indict the President after he is out of office. But there is a statute of limitations that could run during that time and there is a right to a speedy trial. And unless he waves those, that won`t work.
O`DONNELL: And Jonathan Chait, we clearly see the strategy developing here. Rudy Giuliani earlier in the day have said I thought something reasonable about this, which was he would like to delay any interview with the special prosecutor until after the summit involving North and South Korea, which would be within the next month or so. That sounded to me like a reasonable delay for a reasonable reason. And courts grant delays for lesser reasons all the time. Fine.
But tonight that`s not what Rudy Giuliani was saying. He was -- he was emotionalizing his response to how the President would respond to a subpoena by adding North Korea in there after saying, after laying down the legal doctrine that can`t be found anywhere outside of Rudy Giuliani`s head at the moment that the founding fathers made sure that the President would not be distracted by a criminal investigation. Founding fathers never did that. And we have, in our recent history, seen two Presidents distracted very strongly, not to mention the Reagan special prosecutor. This has become almost a standard of presidencies now.
JONATHAN CHIT, AUTHOR, AUDACITY: Right. And let`s be honest. Donald Trump is the most destructible President we have had in the history of the United States. It`s been widely and repeatedly shown that he can`t sit through intelligence briefings, can`t absorb written materials of longer than a few bullet points at once. Has no patience for any of the stuff and watches hours and hours of television, which he reveals to the country daily through his twitter feed by live tweeting "FOX & Friends." So he is more importantly position in any one ever to hold this office to say he is too busy to sit down for a legal proceeding. He is obviously not.
O`DONNELL: And Joyce Vance, Barack Obama is the only one who managed to run his entire presidency without a special prosecutor investigating anything in the Obama administration. But the special prosecutors investigating presidential administrations and the Presidents themselves have been a distraction, to put it mildly that most recent Presidents have had to put up with.
VANCE: They have. And Giuliani has seemed to manufacture this legal doctrine that you can`t bother a President out of thin air. But what`s clear, Lawrence, is that Mueller came to this fight fully loaded for bear. He probably saw the subpoena fight coming from the moment he was appointed. Brought over from the solicitor general`s office at the justice department. One of the most highly esteem Supreme Court practitioners at the justice department. Someone who will capably litigate the subpoena issue, someone who will be fully up to speed on the nuances of the issue. And it seems clear that Mueller, who after all has provided to the President`s lawyers, the possibility that a subpoena would be forthcoming and made it clear that`s part of his possible arsenal of tools that he will use, he has obviously already made the decision that he can win that fight.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Rudy Giuliani said when Sean Hannity asked him about the special counsel`s investigators possibly interviewing Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: If they do do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the country will turn on them.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: They are going after his daughter? What about his son-in-law? We Talked about him.
GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, the President`s so-called lead lawyer is saying that his son-in-law, the President`s son-in-law is disposable.
ROBINSON: Well, you know, the President at the end of all this will have a great issue for appeal, inadequate representation, because if this is the best he has. I mean, again so you have to just take this with the knowledge that Rudy Giuliani, in some parts of this interview, is just not making sense. Is just totally off the wall.
That said, I have said before, and will say again now, that any competent lawyer, I think, would not ever let President Trump sit down for that interview if they could possibly help it, including throwing themselves bodily between him and Mueller. And as evidence, look at that train wreck on "FOX & Friends" last week that we talked about then.
So if he does have an interview, I think he has to take the fifth. He can`t have an open ended interview. He will confess to three felonies before the first bathroom break. Three felonies at moment he didn`t even know about.
O`DONNELL: Jill, we need your reaction to what Giuliani just said about the country would turn on them if they dare question Ivanka Trump. But Jared is disposable.
WINE-BANKS: That wasn`t the part I responded to so much if -- I don`t know if I was on camera. But flames were coming out of me because what does he mean, Ivanka has a White House position. She is an advisor to the President. And what is this business about she is a woman. She can`t be questioned. She is an adviser to the President and that is the most sexist thing I have heard in most recent times. I`m outraged.
O`DONNELL: I don`t think any of us were surprised to hear that sort of thing from Rudy Giuliani.
Jonathan Chait, Eugene Robinson, Jill Wine-Banks, and Joyce Vance, thank you all very much for joining us in our breaking news coverage of this tonight.
Coming up, Congressman Eric Swalwell we will get his reaction to what the President`s lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had to say tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I would say right now, the odds it wouldn`t (INAUDIBLE). But I don`t close my mind to it.
Joining us now, Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the House intelligence committee.
And that, of course, congressman was Rudy Giuliani saying he thinks it is unlikely, the President will submit to an interview with Robert Mueller. What`s your reaction to that?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is time to come clean, Lawrence, with the American people. And no more deception, obstruction, sit down in the witness chair, answer the questions that have already been provided to you, which doesn`t normally happen for most witnesses in an investigation, and allow us to move beyond this mess that the President has created, which affects everyone`s jobs, healthcare, education investments. He has made a mess of our democracy. It gets worse every single day. And it is time to just sit down and get this over with.
But Lawrence, we also learned tonight that the President is willing to go to great lengths to deceive the American people in the lies that he has told. But also, he is a shadowy operator. And the Stormy Daniels stuff, that is the least of his concern. There`s now very good reason to believe that he has not been straight with the American people about his dealings with the Russians, about what he knew in the last election. And a lying President is a weak President who is ineffectual for the American people. And that`s a much larger issue that we all are going to have to grapple with.
O`DONNELL: No questions, those are larger issues. But the Stormy Daniels issue is one of the simplest of all the you shall shoes out there for voters to comprehend. And I just want to read you quickly what Rudy Giuliani said to Sean Hannity about that.
Rudy Giuliani said that the money to Stormy Daniels was funneled through the law firm and then the President repaid it. And so there is Rudy Giuliani saying that his client did not tell the truth to the American public when he said he knew nothing about it.
SWALWELL: Yes. Lawrence, again, it shows that he is willing a shadowy operator. If you are using the word "funneled" and you are referring to the President of the United States, then we have a problem with the integrity of the office. And this is in the context of other real questions about a large interference campaign that was run by a foreign adversary that the candidate was so close to. So if he was willing to funnel money to silence someone from his past, what was he willing to do with so many people from a foreign adversary who wanted to invest in his businesses, so many people who wanted to help his campaign. His own lawyer who was working with the Russian and email where they said we can engineer this by getting Donald Trump and Putin together to elect Donald Trump as President.
Again, it shows us, Lawrence, he has not been straight with the American people. He would serve our country well by just sitting down with Bob Mueller. And this is a very binary thing. Either he can answer questions about what he did with the Russians or he cannot. And if he cannot, we should assume that he is taking the fifth for the same reason he think people is taking the fifth because he work with them.
O`DONNELL: The issue of how Rudy Giuliani is conducting himself as the President`s lead lawyer is going to become the news of the next 24 hours. Rudy Giuliani as predicted here is already back peddling off of what he said to Sean Hannity tonight when we first discussed it.
I said in this hour that Rudy Giuliani was going to be told very quickly how wrong he got it for the President on terms of defending him on Sean Hannity tonight. And so, here we have "the Wall Street Journal" reporting that Rudy Giuliani is telling them that President Trump -- these are Rudy Giuliani`s new words -- probably was not aware of the payment when it was made. And then Rudy Giuliani said Cohen was his lawyer and had discretion to settle, as I have had for clients ultimately paying for it.
And of course, congressman Swalwell, as an attorney yourself, you know that a lawyer only has the discretion to settle in a case that the client knows he is in. And Donald Trump has claimed he didn`t even know any of this was going on.
SWALWELL: Probably lies, Lawrence. A new phrase that we learned over the weekend. Probably lies that we are hearing.
Also, Lawrence, I will just say this. It`s time to stop sending out surrogates to defend the President. He should just come clean with the American people. He has made this mess and if there`s an honest explanation, we need to hear it from him.
O`DONNELL: Another really important point tonight, raised by Sean Hannity. He asked what would happen if the President was subpoenaed. As you know, Robert Mueller has told the President`s lawyers that if he doesn`t agree to an interview, then he will be subpoenaed.
Rudy Giuliani said that he cannot be subpoenaed. He said a President can`t be subpoenaed to a criminal proceeding about him. Your reaction to that?
SWALWELL: He is clearly wrong. Three Presidents have been subpoenaed before. Jefferson, Nixon and Clinton. They worked it out each time. It`s never actually made its way to the Supreme Court because each President worked it out in its own way. Nixon, of course, resigned. So the President is doing something that no one else has been willing to do. Say that he`s above the law.
And so he should again just stick to coming straight with the American people. Let`s move past this, Lawrence. It gets worse every day when he sends others out to speak for him. Only he knows the truth. And there`s only one version of the truth. And this is going to come down to, do the American people trust bob Mueller or do they trust Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Since James Comey revealed that he took notes immediately after his meetings with Donald Trump, many legal observers have wondered how Donald Trump could possibly counter James Comey`s testimony about those meetings given the chance Comey took detailed notes.
Tonight, we got from the President`s lead lawyer the following about James Comey. Rudy Giuliani said that James Comey is a pathological liar. And Rudy Giuliani also said that James Comey is a very perverted man. Those were Rudy Giuliani`s words to describe James Comey. And that seems to be the way they are going to take on James Comey`s testimony.
SWALWELL: Well, James Comey was man enough to come to Congress and raise his right hand a number of times to tell his version of the events. Again, something that President Trump has not been willing to do. And juries are told every day in the courtroom that if you hear from a single witness, if you believe that witness, you can accept that as the only testimony in the case. And so we have one credible witness so far. Where are you, Mr. President?
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: There is more, much more, on what Rudy Giuliani had to say tonight. Our coverage will continue in the 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS, and that starts now.
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