Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: May 9, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, Diana Pilipenko
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And, of course, I was on the edge of my seat for your Michael Avenatti interview.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I was following in your footsteps trying to -- trying to -- trying to follow your lead for how to talk to this man and extract information from him. You were better at it than I am.
O`DONNELL: We have double-teamed him as has the world on this question of where did you get the information? And at what strikes me is so interesting today is no reporters have caught up with that. There`s no report in "The New York Times", "The Wall Street Journal" and "Washington Post" -- no one`s figured out where Michael Cohen, where Michael Avenatti got all this banking information about Michael Cohen.
MADDOW: Right, and we`ve got and we`ve got little pieces of it, right, and prospects of little pieces of it. We do have news organizations, including NBC News, saying that they too have seen financial documents that corroborate what Avenatti has reported. We`ve got all these big companies corroborating what he reported, saying, yes, we did actually pay that money to Michael Cohen.
And now, we`ve got the treasury inspector general reportedly investigating to find out if somebody leaked suspicious activity reports from the banking sector and that`s how we got this information. If that is the way he got the information and the way these news organizations got it, it might be a legal problem for whoever leaked those inform -- whoever leaked that information in the first place.
But, I mean, I got to think, at some point, we`re going to figure it out, but probably not before we get yet more revelations about what it is that Michael Cohen does for a living.
O`DONNELL: Well, I think, thanks to Michael Cohen`s lawyers, Judge Kimba Wood might force Michael Avenatti to tell us. That`s one of the things they asked for in court today. That seems like the most likely route of us eventually finding it out.
And, Rachel, I was -- I was very pleased to see my math check out because I had done this calculation about an hour before Michael Avenatti did it on your show where he pointed out that the amount of -- the amounts that are in dispute in his reporting are $20,000 out of what he said was three and a half million.
O`DONNELL: He said that was 99.3 percent accurate. There`s actually four and a half million in the total flow that we know about now, and so, that makes Michael Avenatti`s number 99.6 percent accurate which I had figured out all on my own before Michael Avenatti said that.
MADDOW: You know, but it is -- it is an interest. I mean, tactically, it`s an interesting thing, right, to take a document that has been substantially admitted to, right? Novartis and AT&T, and this -- the company associated with the Russian oligarch and the Korean Aviation Company, they`ve all said, yes, yes, yes, all those hundreds of thousands of dollars adding up to millions of dollars -- yes, that`s all true.
So, this -- it`s a tactically interesting move to say, yes, the part of it that we`ve got issue with is the $700 that went through the Kenyan bank account or that might not be -- but you know, it`s -- tactically, it`s interesting that will be the way that the right and maybe Cowen`s lawyers and courts seized on this document, trying to discredit it, and it makes me all the more curious as to where the information came from, because clearly, some of the information is definitely true and it seems like some of it might not be true. It`s weird to get a mixed bag of half true and half untrue information, or 99 percent true and point, you know, and one percent untrue information. It makes me desperately interested to know where it all came from.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Well, Michael Avenatti is clearly driving Michael Cohen`s lawyers crazy because they rushed into court today with this document which basically said he`s more than 99 percent right.
O`DONNELL: But we`re really, really angry, we`re really angry about this less than one percent that he got wrong, and he should be slapped on the wrist for that and he should be forced to reveal where he got that and that -- that`s an understandable pleading, I can understand legally why they made that pleading. But they ran the risk -- which they did actually -- of completely confirming all of the big transactions in those bank records.
MADDOW: And making that whole document and all those allegations about that part of Michael Cohen`s business life part of that case.
MADDOW: I mean, the only reason a document released by Michael Avenatti would end up in that case is because Michael Cohen`s lawyers made it that way. The only hook they`ve got to even go after Cohen -- to go after Avenatti with the judge is that Avenatti sought at one point to join that case he did not end up joining that case. He`s not associated with that case. He`s not a party in that matter, and yet they`re asking this judge to reach out beyond the -- beyond the edge of the case to go after him on this.
All this -- all they`re doing is succeeding and moving these pretty damning allegations right into the center of this otherwise intriguing criminal case involving Cohen in the Southern District.
O`DONNELL: Ad these are the things when you follow Michael Avenatti that he talks about as the errors that he forces them to make, and that`s what that pleading in federal court today in New York looks like to me.
MADDOW: He is a sure-footed man. He`s a good talker and he is sure- footed, and I imagine that is unnerving to his opponents.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, it was like every day since Michael Avenatti entered his life a crazy day for Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: How are you doing today?
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER: It`s great.
REPORTER: Any comment about Michael Avenatti? Any response? Any response to Avenatti?
COHEN: His documents is inaccurate.
REPORTER: How do you feel about you may have changed an election?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: People who`ve known Michael Cohen a long time tell me this is what he`s always wanted, to be a celebrity, a celebrity and sunglasses surrounded by the paparazzi. That`s why he wanted to be in Trump world. He wanted to be at least near a celebrity Donald Trump. That`s what people who knew him before he knew Donald Trump tell me about Michael Cohen.
And so, the good news for Michael Cohen is finally paparazzi are gathered outside his door and so, he loves that part. That`s what he walks out of the Regency Hotel and says "good morning" to the awaiting cameras and when asked how is, he says, I`m great, as if he`s a movie star and the Oscars red carpet.
And for that second Michael Cohen is standing on the tip of the highest peak he`s ever been on in his life way up there in the thinner air of his very own celebrity. And then in the next second he`s brought crashing back down to earth by the two words that have made him such a celebrity -- Michael Avenatti.
Any comment about Michael Avenatti? Any response? And Michael Cohen coming as close as he can to speaking grammatically correct English says, his documents is inaccurate.
And for once, Michael Cohen is right. The documents the Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti presented to us on this program last night, showing four and a half million dollars going into and out of the LLC that Michael Cohen created in order to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her quiet, those documents contains some minor inaccuracies that Michael Avenatti has been owning up to as soon as they were discovered.
Sitting here last night, Michael Avenatti described four million four hundred twenty five thousand thirty three dollars and forty six cents that flowed through Essential Consultants LLC, and Michael Cohen`s bank accounts. The document Michael Avenatti released that summarized the flow of that money contains possible inaccuracies about four transactions amounting to twenty thousand five hundred eighty three dollars. So, that makes Michael Avenatti`s document 99.6 percent accurate.
One of the inaccuracies in Michael Avenatti`s document was a wire transfer from Kenya to Michael Cohen for nine hundred eighty dollars, but it was not Michael Cohen, the man who has said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, it was a twenty six-year-old Israeli named Michael Cohen who told NBC News, I am an avionic technician in El Al Airlines. The 26-year-old Michael Cohen said he had no idea how the mix-up could have occurred but said he`s been getting lots of attention. My whole family was surprised. Friends called me, it was a crazy day.
So, it was a crazy day for Michael Cohen`s all over the world because of Michael Avenatti`s 99.6 percent accurate revelation of giant flows of corporate money into the accounts of the man who`s always liked to call himself Donald Trump`s fixer.
Last night, Michael Avenatti told us, there were possibly more payments to Michael Cohen than he discovered and today, that was proven true. Michael Avenatti showed the pharmaceutical company Novartis paying almost $400,000 to Michael Cohen. But today, the company was forced to admit that it paid Michael Cohen $1.2 million over the course of a year, that`s a hundred thousand a month which the company or Michael Cohen seemed intent on recording as something less than $100,000 a month, each payment was $99,980.
All the companies involved with Michael Cohen are now offering explanations of why they funneled massive amounts of money to a man with no known skills, a man who couldn`t even successfully execute a payoff to a porn star to stay quiet about the most embarrassing sex of her semi-public sex life.
The corporate payments of Michael Cohen are -- to Michael Cohen are the very definition of filling the swamp with money, the Washington influence swamp that Donald Trump lied about to his voters when he promised to drain that swamp.
AT&T paid Michael Cohen $50,000 a month at the beginning of the Trump presidency most likely in the hope that Michael Cohen would somehow convince the president to support AT&T`s merger with Time Warner, and assorted other interests AT&T has with federal regulators.
AT&T failed to get Trump administration support for their merger, but who knows what else AT&T might have gotten in exchange for their Michael Cohen money with regards to the myriad federal regulations that affect AT&T`s business.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis tried to get away with simply blaming their former CEO in their public statement last night but we learned much more about the Novartis deal today. An unnamed Novartis official told NBC News that Michael Cohen reached out to the company after the election and promised access to the new administration.
Novartis says that they paid Michael Cohen a hundred thousand dollars a month for advice on us healthcare policy matters. And according to sources at the company, Novartis had exactly one meeting with Michael Cohen three months into the deal and by the end of that meeting, they realized they were wasting their money.
One unnamed Novartis employee told the healthcare publication Stat, quote, they decided not to really engage Cohen for any activities after that. The employee continued, rather than attempt to cancel the contract, the company allowed it to lapse early in 2018, and not run the risk of ticking off the president. It might have caused anger, this person said, if they cancelled that contract, when they discovered that President Trump`s friend Michael Cohen was absolutely useless to them.
New reporting in "The Washington Post" tonight quotes Michael Cohen as saying, I`m crushing it, when all the money was pouring in and now it is apparently crushing him. "The Washington Post" reports that as he`s facing mounting legal bills, Michael Cohen refinanced his Park Avenue condominium in recent days, according to public documents.
As expected last night, everyone tried to get the answer to my first question to Michael Avenatti last night, which is, how did he get this information about money flowing to and from Michael Cohen? No reporters have figured that out yet, but Michael Cohen`s lawyers may have landed on the best way to find out.
In a letter to the judge considering how to handle the evidence in Michael Cohen`s case in federal court in Manhattan, Michael Cohen`s lawyers said that Michael Avenatti, quote, appears to be in possession of some information from Mr. Cohen`s actual bank records. He should be required to explain to this court how he came to possess and release this information.
And we`re going to be right back with more discussion of this with our panel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: He was hired for one reason and one reason only, and that was, he was selling access to the highest office in the land at best. That`s what he was doing, at best. And ultimately, Robert Mueller or myself or someone else we`ll get to the bottom of exactly what he was selling and perhaps more importantly, Rachel, where did all of this money go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Michael Avenatti talking about Michael Cohen with Rachel in the last hour.
We`re joined now by Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama. Barbara McQuade, former federal prosecutor. She`s a professor of law at the University of Michigan and an MSNBC legal contributor, and Diana Pilipenko, a former corporate investigator currently with the Moscow Project at the Center for American Progress.
And, Ron Klain, the speculation continues of where Michael Avenatti got this information. There`s one expert quoted in one report saying that this is the kind of information that could be obtained from one of those suspicious activity reports or from a series of suspicious activity reports about bank transactions. But, so far, it`s Michael Avenatti leading the way on this.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It is. And you know, he will I imagine that Judge Wood will order him to disclose the source of this information, and he`ll have to do so. And if indeed it did come from the illegally disclosed SAR, the person who disclosed it will be in trouble.
But as you said earlier, the fundamental point I think for the broader perspective here is that the information he has put forward has turned out to be 99.6 percent accurate. And, look, I mean, who could have imagined just a few days ago that the single least slimy transaction from Essential Consultants would be paying a former adult film star $130,000 to be quiet about her affair with the president. I mean, what is now piling up here is a powerful tale of corruption and undisclosed payments and the question of timing on those and where they came from, particularly the payments from a Russian oligarch I think are really troubling. And there`s a lot more to come out about that.
And, Diana, the explanations from the companies about the way -- why they spent money with Michael Cohen vary in I guess laughability in a way and so, the company that`s backed by the Russian oligarch is claiming that there`s no Russian influence whatsoever here. There`s no reason to claim that.
And then the reasons they give for paying Michael Cohen have absolutely nothing to do with anything Michael Cohen has ever done in business.
DIANA PILIPENKO, ILLICIT FINANCE EXPERT: Absolutely. I mean, the statement that we`ve had from Columbus Nova is that these were payments made for investment advice and this is not consistent with what Michael Cohen has been engaged with, and when we pair the statement from Columbus Nova with some of the explanations from the other companies, we see that there`s great inconsistency in what they`re saying, the services were from Michael Cohen.
And this raises a red flag in my mind because if you`re typically a bona fide company if Michael Cohen was in fact providing consulting advice or lobbying advice, you would expect to have consistent services that you`re offering.
And here, we have sort of an array of different clients that are you know providing different reasons for why they engaged his consulting, an advice.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, I`m particularly struck by the way the story has unfolded with Novartis. First of all, last night, we all heard their comment where they just issued a statement saying this was -- this deal was done under the CEO who no longer works here, disowning it as much as they possibly could. Today, it`s revealed that they discovered about three months into paying Michael Cohen a hundred thousand dollars a month, that there was no real business reason to do so but they were afraid to stop paying him because they were afraid of the reaction of the president of the United States.
And so, they went on to pay Michael Cohen an additional nine hundred thousand dollars because they were afraid in effect of retribution from the president of the United States.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, you know, definitely some red flags here. First, the shifting stories of, you know, they`ve issued a couple of different statements and then the fear of retribution. Now, it may be something that they have assumed themselves without any warnings from anyone else. So I want to be careful not to make any allegations about anybody at this stage.
But I think if you`re a prosecutor investigating this, some of the red flags that go off are you know is this some sort of pay-to-play scheme. You know, in some of the cases that my former office investigated against a big city mayor, there were the -- the mayor was surrounded by all kinds of consultants and you had to pay the consultant if you wanted access to the mayor and the consideration of your contract or your business being done in the city and everybody got a little piece of the action.
And so, there`s certainly some concern that maybe that`s what`s going on here. And you know, it`s bribery if it`s offered and it can be extortion if it`s demanded. And so, that it`s certainly something I would think that Robert Mueller want to look might want to look at or the public corruption unit at the Southern District of New York which is assigned to this case.
O`DONNELL: The perhaps most ridiculous reason given for paying Michael Cohen, the winner of that goes to AT&T, and what part of the reason they released publicly was, it was to pay for an understanding of the inner workings of Trump -- his thought process, how he likes to operate, how he likes to make decisions, how he processes information.
Ron Klain, I guess they never watched the apprentice and they never read a word about Donald Trump that was available in the press. But six months --
O`DONNELL: They were paying Michael Cohen $50,000 a month for a look inside the mind of Donald Trump, and six months into paying that, this book came out from Michael Wolfe, 30 bucks, could have saved them half at least of the six hundred thousand dollars that they paid to Michael Cohen.
KLAIN: Yes. I mean, as the old joke goes, the inner workings of the mind of Donald Trump would be the shortest book ever written. So, I don`t think they needed to pay fifty thousand dollars a month for that.
I mean look I think I think that raises a lot of questions I do think, obviously, the payments from the Korean aerospace company raised serious questions of course, as do the payments from Novartis. But I do think the most troubling when are these payments from the Russian oligarch, because we really don`t know what was involved there, what was being -- what kind of advice or whatever was being sought there. And obviously, it juxtaposes against this whole story of various Russian efforts throughout 2016 to, you know, help the Trump campaign, to work with the Trump campaign, to try to influence our election.
I think that`s obviously the one thing here, Lawrence, all the red flags is the reddest of the red flags.
O`DONNELL: Diana, your reaction to that?
PILIPENKO: Absolutely. I think what`s also interesting with the payments made by Vekselberg connected entity is that we also know that there was a contribution to the Trump inaugural committee $250,000 that was also made. So, this fits sort of a trend that we`re seeing. And, of course, the company put out a statement that it`s owned by Americans, that it`s a U.S.- based corporation.
However, we also have to ask who is exerting the ultimate control over the company and who is directing these actions that are being made? And I think we`ve had plenty of evidence that Vekselberg`s Renova Group has been very influential in the operations of Columbus Nova. So, again, I think the pattern having seen that Vekselberg connected entity made donations to the Trump before, this again raises questions as to what they intend for this particular payment for.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, Michael Avenatti keeps saying that the recurring chorus here from him, is he wants the suspicious activity reports on Michael Cohen released. He believes they should be made public now. Can they be made public now is one question.
But the other part of it is what is it that Michael Avenatti believes? He -- it`s as if he knows something about what`s in those and that there`s something in there that will create a whole new round for this story to put it mildly.
MCQUADE: Yes, first, I don`t think they can be released. These are not public documents. These are private documents that law enforcement sensitive. These are reports that banks file with the Treasury Department. They`re required to file them under law when they observe something that suspicious, an unusual activity in a particular bank account, and then they can be accessed by law enforcement for purposes of investigation.
And so, I don`t think they can be released publicly by the Treasury Department or even Michael Cohen. I don`t think he has access to them. So I don`t think so.
And your question is, why is Michael Avenatti pushing to have those suspicious activity reports released? I don`t know. I wonder if there isn`t additional information in them or he is just bluffing knowing that no one will release them, and he can point to, you know, this is a more effort to cover up what`s really going on here.
I don`t know exactly what his endgame is. I mean, I imagine he`s just trying to put pressure on President Trump to resolve his lawsuit with Stormy Daniels. But I do worry that all of these things in the public domain could be harming Robert Mueller`s investigation. He is no doubt several steps ahead of all of us, but this could be tipping off people, causing them to, you know, tamper with witnesses or evidence.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Barbara McQuade and Diana Pilipenko, thank you all for joining this discussion. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the latest Michael Cohen scandal is now moving in more interesting directions every day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will drain the swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: According to a new report, the Trump swamp is now crawling with at least 187 former lobbyists who have been appointed to positions inside the Trump government and thousands of lobbyists outside of the Trump government profiting from the Trump swamp, including huge profit tiers like Michael Cohen, who never registered as a lobbyist but was in effect being paid as a lobbyist of some sort by giant international corporations.
When fired Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski set up the lobbying shop in Washington, his partner said they had more clients than they could handle and they had to turn some away. And President Trump is constantly creating new openings for lobbyists, like threatening tariffs that lobbyist then try to get exemptions from for companies and countries. And the same thing is happening with President Trump threatening to impose sanctions on companies doing business with Iran. That just means hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying fees will be paid by companies that will then be exempted from the Trump sanctions which might never be imposed on any company once he lobbyists go to work.
In a new report from "the Wall Street Journal," Michael Cohen helped a law firm recruit a corporate client with ties to Jared Kushner`s family company. Among five clients Mr. Cohen delivered before the (INAUDIBLE) before the firm terminated the contract with him in early March was U.S. Immigration Fund LLC, which last year organized a trip to China for several Kushner company officials, including Mr. Kushner`s sister Nicole Mayer to seek investors for commercial and residential towers in Jersey city, New Jersey in exchange for residency visas that would allow the Chinese investors to live in the United States.
Joining us now is David Frum, a senior editor for the "Atlantic" and author of "Trumpocracy, the corruption of the American Republic" and Matt Miller, the former spokesman for attorney general Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.
And David Frum, the Michael Cohen saga is but one window into what has truly become an unprecedented size swamp that the Trump swamp now is.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Lawrence, the question I think you have been asking the past half hour and that Rachel was asking for the hour before that, is a variant of, you know, an episode from the old sew soprano show. Many people remarked him how much Michael Cohen looks like. He is a performer from that show.
You remember, if you watch the "Supranos (ph)," the thing that got you into the most trouble that might get you dead was not kicking up, you got the fat envelope full of cash, you took your piece of it, and then delivered the thicker envelope to the next ranking person in the organization. That`s the thing everyone is struggling with.
Donald Trump notoriously hates people making up money off him without sharing. Michael Cohen made a lot of money very fast, did he kick up?
O`DONNELL: And that`s exactly what Michael Avenatti has been suggesting in our discussions is that the possibility that there might be very dark answer to that.
Matt Miller, here`s a President who creates opportunities for lobbyists unlike anything we have ever seen, including, when he apparently randomly decides to attack a particular company on twitter for whatever its perfectly legal business is on the United States. What happens for the lobbying bills for that company the day the President launches a twitter attack on that company?
MATT MILLER, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CHIEF SPOKESMAN: Yes, that is exactly right, Lawrence. I mean, if you look at Michael Cohen`s sudden his influx of business, I think you have to go back and remember what was happening during the transition.
The President was randomly attacking companies like GM, like Ford, like Toyota. And every time that happened, all of these companies were scrambling trying to figure out what to do in response and other companies, every major company in America was trying to figure out what to do to head that off.
And in the middle of that, Michael Cohen comes cold calling CEOs, cold called the Novartis CEO and offers, you know, what is essentially a protection racquet. I will introduce you to people in the Trump world. I will show you how this world works. And I think, you know, there`s the classic all-time influence peddling. We are just trying to make some introductions, and then there`s this new, you know, new era of the Trump world where you have a President who is out bullying companies in public and you have someone offering, you know, to use the see analogy, if you want these attacks to go away, hire me. I`m someone that can you how to do it.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Eric Swalwell told Ari Melber today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Just like most Trump family members or Trump employees or Trump campaign team members, you know, any tree that you shake in this Trump forest, a Russia falls out. The President is in a position where he and his lawyer are deceiving the American people. And a President who lies is a President who is weak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And David Frum, here we see in the Michael Avenatti massive flows of money, of course, standing behind one big pot is a Russian oligarch.
FRUM: Right. And we have discovered, thanks to the amazing reporting of David (INAUDIBLE) that beginning in about 2006, the Trump organization suddenly seemed to have a lot of catch to spend but they spent it in weirdly unwise ways, on money-losing golf courses. And there is this larger question of where do these flows of very large money into the Trump organization come from? We shake the tree and we think we know the answer.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller in terms of what we`re seeing Michael Avenatti unearth every other week it seems there`s something kind of extraordinary coming from him, who`s feeding off who here? Is Avenatti working off of what appear to be fruits of federal investigations or is he feeding the federal investigations?
MILLER: I think it`s probably a little bit of both. We know that he has been cooperating with the investigation in the southern district of New York looking into potential company finance violations, he said that publically. But it does appear the release that he made yesterday was probably the result of an internal federal investigation I would suspect from the treasury department, possibly leaked from the justice department but most likely leaked from the treasury department.
And it does lead you to ask the question, are other people going to come forward? If someone did thought that would be, you know, in inappropriate act and someone who probably had to pay the consequence for. But there are other people, whistle blowers either in the private sector or in the public sector who might look at Michael Avenatti now as someone who is out taking on the President and saying this is someone I can bring information to, he will take it public, he is not afraid to back down, and someone I can share, you know, damaging information and make sure it gets in the right hand.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, one thing I learned about Michael Avenatti is he always knows more than what he tells us in any given round. And you can actually feel it when you are sit here with him and he is talking to you.
Last night he was very clear about having information about where the money went. Last night`s discussion and today`s discussion with him has been the money that has come in to Michael Cohen. He seems to know something about where the money went and he has in effect promised that`s the next chapter of this story for him.
FRUM: Well, I have been worrying for a long time, worrying and hoping, the United States government is in the grip of what you might call an auto immune disorder. All through the government there are people seeing things that are not appropriate for the President of the United States to do, worse than not appropriate. And what do they do about that? Well, many of them, as we have been suggesting here, they are doing things that aren`t appropriate for them because the system is reacting to this alien intrusion of something it`s never seen before.
And it is shedding information in directions where it thinks it can do some good for self-protected purposes. There are enduring systematic ethical and institutional questions. How do you carry on the government if people develop these habits of leaking in order to protect the country from leaders who they see as improper?
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, as I say, it does sound like the next chapter for Michael Avenatti at some point in the next couple of weeks is going to be where that money went and he is strongly suggesting it didn`t all go to Michael Cohen.
MILLER: Look. Whoever provided him the information about Michael Cohen`s bank accounts clearly was able to see what money was coming into the bank account. There`s no reason to think they wouldn`t be able to see where that money was going to when it left his bank account, whether it was going to finance his other businesses or to someone else in the Trump organization, in the Trump world, maybe in the president himself. There`s no reason to think that the person that leaked that information in him stop there and doesn`t have the second she ready to drop.
O`DONNELL: Matt Miller and David Frum, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight. Appreciate it.
FRUM: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump`s nominee to be CIA director contradicted Donald Trump in her Senate confirmation hearing. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes, I`m in favor of water boarding. OK. Would I approve water boarding? You bet your ass I would approve it. You bet your ass. In a heartbeat.
I think water boarding is excellent but you have to go further than water boarding.
As far as I`m concerned you can go a lot stronger than water boarding if you would like. Don`t tell me it doesn`t work. Torture works, OK, folks? Only a stupid person would say it doesn`t work. It works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here`s the President`s nominee to be the next director of the CIA, Gina Haspel at her confirmation hearing today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President has asserted that torture works. Do you agree with that statement?
GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Senator, I don`t believe that torture works. I believe that in the CIA`s program, and I`m not attributing this to enhanced interrogation techniques. I believe as many people, directors who have sat in this chair before me that valuable information was obtained from senior al-Qaeda operatives that allowed to defend this country and present another attack.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a yes?
HASPEL: No, it`s not a yes. We got valuable information from debriefing of al-Qaeda detainees. And I don`t think it`s knowable whether interrogation techniques played a role in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then in the most traumatic portion of the hearing, Senator Harris asked the question that ended up deciding Senator John McCain`s position on Gina Haspel`s nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?
HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA officers to whom you referred --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I`m not asking do you believe they were legal. I`m asking do you believe they were immoral.
HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a yes or no --
HASPEL: -- did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on the country given the legal tools that we are authorized --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe, in hindsight, that those techniques were immoral?
HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today, is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please answer the question?
HASPEL: I believe I have answered the question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you have not. Do you believe the techniques -- now armed with hindsight, do you believe they were immoral? Yes or no?
HASPEL: Senator, I believe we should hold ourselves to the moral standard outlined in the army field manual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So I understand that you` have not answered the question, but I`m going to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator John McCain was watching at home. That was all he had to hear to decide his position on this confirmation. Gene Robinson and Nick Kristof join us with that next.
O`DONNELL: Here`s what happened when Gina Haspel was asked today if President Trump ordered her to torture anyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASPEL: I would not restart under any circumstances an interrogation program at CIA under any circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now Nicholas Kristof, columnist from "The New York Times" and Eugene Robinson, opinion writer for the "Washington Post" MSNBC political analyst. Both are Pulitzer Prize winners.
So Nick, she was pressed knowing that she`s going to serve a President who thinks torture is great, nothing can change his mind about it. She apparently hasn`t changed his mind about it. What does she do if the President orders her to do it? And she said she would not restart under any circumstances. So I don`t know if that means resign. I don`t know what that means.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Unfortunately she was also very evasive. She didn`t really renounce it. Boy, I so much would like to support Gina Haspel for this job. I think she is very smart. The folks at CIA strongly support her. Women there would love to have a woman director of central intelligence. But how can you support somebody who not only oversaw torture, but refuses to renounce it now, refuses to renounce the fact that she destroyed these videotapes as an investigation was approaching.
And I guess I also worry, Lawrence, that a little bit about whether she`s sort of a stalking course for Mike Pompeo. And to the extent that she doesn`t have a lot of independent connections on the hill, for example. Mike Pompeo supports her. And I guess I worry that if he`s at state and has a protoge at Langley, that there is some risk that he could get intelligence to support his policy decisions, which I think is another major concern to have.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, it seems Senator Kamal Harris, Democrat, questioning about the morality of torture was what did it for John McCain, Senator McCain watching from home on television. He issued this statement after the hearing.
Ms. Haspel`s role in overseeing torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture`s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.
So Senator McCain still speaking on this even when watching from home.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. And good for John McCain for doing that. I`m with him on the subject.
You know, John McCain, being one of the few Americans who has experienced torture, he knows that water boarding is torture. He knows other things that were done to those detainees constituted torture.
And I wrote a column opposing this nomination. And nothing that I heard today changed my mind, you know. It was a very -- that period in the CIA, it`s a fiction that there was some sort of broad national consensus in 2002 and 2003 that we should take prisoners to terrorism suspects to secret prisons in foreign lands and torture them.
I was never asked about that. You were never asked about that. And yet this revisionism maintains that somehow we all agree that that was OK for them. It wasn`t OK. It was illegal then, it was immoral then.
And while I grant that you can`t disqualify the entire CIA for its participation, in fact, there was not a unanimous view inside the CIA. And certainly it was opposed by many in the FBI by virtually all in the Pentagon who thought that was crazy. That this was terrible. That this was an awful thing. And we can`t just forget that. And someone who participated in the destruction of the evidence of that crime, which (INAUDIBLE) consciousness of guilt, I think she`s disqualified.
O`DONNELL: Nick, one of the extraordinary moments for me listening to her testimony this morning was she was asked on the destruction of the videos of the torture. She was asked why -- the idea was to protect the identities of the agents involved. She was then asked, why not just digitize the face of the agents so there would never be any issue about who was involved in the torture and then the video could be preserved, which most of the authorities who spoke about the preservation of this video wanted it preserved, even when it was destroyed. Her answer to the question of why not just digitize the face was, I`m not a technical person. I don`t know that works.
Now, we think of the CIA director as knowing an awful more about an awful lot of levels of sophisticated technology than any of us do. And a CIA director who doesn`t know if you can digitize a face and video was a real kind of stunning moment to me.
KRISTOF: It was a, as you suggest, it was an enormously implausible answer. The timing of the destruction came just after the announcement of this Senate investigation. It is also just completely implausible. And it does injustice to her. I mean, she is a smart, savvy person. Clearly she knew that there were other avenues. This is the kind of thing that people do when they go on the hill and can`t tell the truth and so they dissemble. And Gina Haspel dissembled today. And she may well end up as director of the CIA. Looks like she may indeed end up with the votes.
O`DONNELL: Gene, very quickly. The goodwill she does seem to have with Democrats comes from the Obama administration apparently relying on her and welcoming her into their deliberations.
ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely. She seems to be a -- she is very popular inside the agency. She seems to be a competent person. And I think she would be confident. Maybe she would be an effective CIA director. I just think the problem is her very public, and I think shameful role in the torture program.
O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson and Nick Kristof, thank you for joining us.
We will be right back.
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s LAST WORD. We are doing a special edition of Facebook live tonight a few minutes after the show.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.