Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: May 16, 2018 Guest: David Murray, David Cay Johnston, Eric Swalwell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And, you know, the second biggest joy about this particular time slot here at MSNBC, the biggest joy being I get to say good evening to you. The second biggest joy is I get to say good evening to your guests in the hallway, like say Ronan Farrow tonight when he has the breaking news story of the night.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": This is a remarkable story.
O`DONNELL: He walked you through it, what`s so fascinating to me about it is there`s a deeply personal story inside that technical reporting that he did tonight. That`s the deeply personal story of his source, who remains secret, but is a government official who knows that releasing that was a violation of law and he or she, whoever it is, lives in fear of what will now happen to that government official.
MADDOW: Yes, and, you know, we know from reporting like Ronan`s and some of the other reporting where people are trying to figure out how this banking information came into the public domain, we know from the reporting the way that database of those reports works is that you can tell who looks at what. There`s a record when anybody looks at those things, let alone accesses them in the kind of way that presumably would have been necessary to give them to reporters and give them to Michael Avenatti last week for dissemination to the public.
So, this person clearly knew they were taking a big risk by doing it, now learning the rationale behind why they took the risk, that they thought there was a danger that some important records related to the case were being disappeared potentially for nefarious purposes. And so, the public had to know. It`s incredibly human, it`s incredibly dramatic and that person really is at serious risk.
O`DONNELL: And there`s a bunch of other unnamed heroes, or certainly hard workers in this story. I`m going to talk to David Maury, as one of the my first guests, and ex-treasury official mentioned in Ronan Farrow`s report, he gives a reaction to this information to Ronan in the report as a former treasury official himself, saying that there are red flags all over these transactions.
And so, there are all these people at the banks who work for the banks, who are compliance officers, who are doing an extraordinary amount of due diligence investigating these Michael Cohen transactions, looking at them and saying, these don`t make sense for this LLC that he told us was about real estate deals.
MADDOW: Yes, we`ve got revelations about the number of suspicious activity reports that there were from this one bank, the number of suspicious activity reports that were filed in other banks associated with the transactions that he was making and people he was dealing with. I mean, the thing that -- and I`m glad you`re talking to Murray about this because he will know the answer to some of these questions.
Lots of people are raising very intriguing possibilities about what might have happened here, maybe these documents were shielded inside the database somehow or taken off the database somehow, suppressed somehow within the database for a good reason because the Mueller investigation or the prosecutors in southern district of New York felt that information needed to be protected from the tens of thousands of people who would otherwise have access to it within law enforcement.
It`s interesting to find out that`s where people`s minds have gone, people who understand the stuff. What I`m desperate to know is whether or not there`s any historical evidence that`s ever happened before? Do we know of any other instance in history where one of these banking reports has been hidden? Whether it`s for a good reason or bad reason, is it even possible to do it? And where would the order have to come from? How could you pull it off if you were going to try?
Just those logistics, those forensic details about how it happened are going to be so revealing when we get them? We`ll probably get it from one of these experts like you`re going to talk to tonight.
O`DONNELL: Well, David Murray has been listening a you`ve been speaking and so, now, he knows what his questions are.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Well done.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, as we just said, thanks to reporting by Ronan Farrow at "The New Yorker", we now know the source of the information about Michael Cohen`s bank transactions that Stormy Daniels` lawyer Michael Avenatti made public last week. Ronan Farrow has revealed that the source is an unnamed law enforcement official.
"The New Yorker" article does not specify whether this official is a federal law enforcement official, but the official does reportedly have a high degree of expertise about suspicious activity reports about Michael Cohen`s banking practices. Those reports are filed with the Treasury Department and maintained by the Treasury Department`s financial crimes enforcement network known as FinCEN.
It is a crime to publicly release those suspicious activity reports. The official who made the Michael Cohen suspicious activity report public knows the legal risks involved. The official told Ronan Farrow, to say that I`m terrified right now would be an understatement. The official added, this is a terrifying time to be an American.
All of the information that Michael Avenatti first made public about Michael Cohen`s bank accounts comes from one of three suspicious activity reports that banks filed on Michael Cohen. That suspicious activity report refers to two previous suspicious activity reports that the official who leaked the report says are now missing. The two previous reports do not appear on the Treasury Department`s financial crimes enforcement network.
The official told Ronan Farrow, I have never seen something pulled off the system when something`s not there, that should be -- that should be, I immediately became concerned. That`s why I came forward. This is a permanent record. They should be there. And there is nothing there.
The suspicious activity report that has been released shows bank compliance officers repeatedly trying to figure out what Michael Cohen was up to, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney filed a suspicious activity report saying that the transactions in Michael Cohen`s account there showed signs of, quote, bribery or gratuity. Previous reports have indicated that the FBI raid on Michael Cohen`s home and office and hotel room was -- those were in search of evidence of multiple criminal offenses, including bank fraud.
When Michael Cohen opened a First Republic Bank for Essential Consultants LLC, he told the bank the LLC was set up to use his experience in real estate to consult on commercial and residential deals. Cohen told the bank his actions would be modest and based within the United States. In fact, the compliance officers wrote, a significant portion of the target account deposits continue to originate from entities that have no apparent connection to real estate or apparent need to engage Cohen as a real estate consultant.
A significant portion of the deposits continues to be derived from foreign entities. David Murray, who will join our conversation, told "The New Yorker", there are a ton of red flags here. The pattern of activity has indicators that are inherently suspicious and the volume and source of funds do not match the account profile that was built when the account was opened. There is evidence of possible tax fraud in Cohen`s use of the Essential Consultants bank account for personal expenses.
Ronan Farrow reports that Michael Cohen used it to pay his American Express, AT&T, and Mercedes-Benz bills, marking account numbers on the memo lines of his checks. He paid initiation fees and dues to the Core Club, a social club that the times once described as a portal to power. He also cut himself multiple personal checks from Essential Consultants amounting to more than a hundred thousand dollars on top of the million he had already deposited into his Morgan Stanley accounts.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller have been investigating these since at least last year. Some of the companies that paid Michael Cohen for questionable purposes have revealed that the special prosecutor has questioned the companies about the payments. One of the people who was paid by Michael Cohen from the Essential Consultants` account is Mark Ko. He`s listed of the CEO of Demeter Direct, a Korean food company based in Los Angeles.
"The Washington Post" reports tonight that Mark Ko insists he served only as a translator for Michael Cohen in his deal with a South Korean aerospace company that paid Michael Cohen $150,000. The South Korean company insists that it was paying Michael Cohen for advice on accounting procedures required under government contracts, something Michael Cohen knows absolutely nothing about.
Joining us now is David Murray, a former U.S. treasury official who focused on illicit financing. He is currently the vice president at Financial Integrity Network.
David, I want to get more of your action as you reported to Ronan Farrow, in his reporting, about what you see in these reports about Michael Cohen`s banking transactions. You said there`s a lot of red flags here. Like what?
DAVID MURRAY, FORMER U.S. TREASURY OFFICIAL FOCUSED ON ILLICIT FINANCE: Yes, thanks, Lawrence, for having me.
The biggest red flag really is that the account activity does not match the profile that the institution established on boarding. So when First Republic one boarded Michael Cohen, when they on boarded Essential Consulting, they established an idea of what his company -- what the company`s activity would look like through that account. The activity that actually went through the account did not look like the profile they established.
That`s a major red flag, and that in and of itself conspirator cause for a financial institution to file a suspicious activity report.
O`DONNELL: David, I`m so struck by the amount of work it would take for a bank to monitor this kind of activity. This is a major New York bank with a vast number of accounts, massive amounts of money coming in, multi- hundred thousand dollars checks passing through banks like this is routine. What would get their attention to say we need to spend real man hours here with our inspectors trying to figure out what Michael Cohen is up to?
MURRAY: That`s right, Lawrence. It`s a tremendous investment for banks in terms of human capital and information technology. The information technology makes this somewhat easier for banks. You know, the suspicion can come from a number of sources within a bank. It can come from an employee or it can come from an automated monitoring system.
You know, this kind of activity will most likely be detected by the automatic monitoring system and when a bank establishes an account, it should establish a ban, an acceptable ban for the account. The criteria could include things like monthly turnover, it could include whether the account is receiving incoming and outing wires, or just one or the other. It could include whether the account is receiving money just domestically or from aboard.
So, if an account moves out of a band, then an alert will be generated, an alert should be generated by the bank`s automated monitoring systems. At that point, a human being would start to look at the information, both the transaction history and the information collected on boarding. And then if a human being decides, you know, this looks suspicious, then the human being would escalate that up their chain and eventually that would cause a suspicious activity report to be filed.
O`DONNELL: And, David, you heard my discussion with Rachel Maddow about what happened to the other two suspicious activity reports, the two missing reports that provoked this current government official to decide to leak the suspicious activity report that remains.
MURRAY: Right. I did. So that would have been outside of my -- it`s really outside of my scope at the Treasury Department. I could really only speculate on that, and it would be irresponsible for me to speculate.
O`DONNELL: Let me try a couple things on you.
O`DONNELL: The only thing that I can think of that makes a certain sense and would be understandable, is were those reports removed by the special prosecutor because the special prosecutor wanted to isolate those for their own purposes? Even though, in normal circumstances, all of these reports remain available basically as a data bank for investigators all around the country to be able to look at in whatever cases they might be using? In this particular case, since it involved an investigation close to the president, the special prosecutor might want to say I want those two.
Now, the flaw on my question is, why wouldn`t they have isolated all three of them? But this is where we are tonight. Is it possible that the special prosecutor wanted to isolate two of those?
MURRAY: Yes, I mean, I suppose it is possible. Ronan reported in his story that there was a provision in FinCEN`s recordkeeping policy that allows them to segregate reports that are deemed to be highly sensitive. You know, certainly, I think, something that is being referred to or referred to by the special prosecutor, is highly sensitive.
But really, we`re in the realm of speculation here. It`s very difficult to know what happened. And, you know, I mean, of course the report has been reportedly leaked, but, you know, I haven`t seen the report, obviously, you haven`t seen the report. So, you know, I mean, it`s difficult to know because so much of this is really, necessarily, shrouded in secrecy.
O`DONNELL: I would assume that many of the bank inspectors who do this kind of work within banks might themselves have previous work experience working in Treasury at various levels, it`s not unusual for people to migrate out to the private sector in an area of expertise they have.
What I`m so impressed with, David, is -- is a whole level of investigative interest that I really wasn`t aware were capable of working this way, because when I look at what the bank inspectors were doing in-house, it`s quite extraordinary. They -- whether it`s a computer that triggers their interest or whatever triggers their interest, once they start looking at Michael`s actual transactions, they apparently go out on Google and start finding articles about Michael Cohen and linking up public information about Michael Cohen and about what he does and they start drawing conclusions that he actually has no expertise in the areas that -- for example, the Korean aerospace company wants to engage him.
And they start writing up reports based on information they`re gathering in a wider ranging investigation beyond just the bank`s information.
MURRAY: That`s right, Lawrence. Banks have made a huge investment in monitoring for this kind of activity, and also in sanctions compliance. You know, I mean, really the suspicious activity reporting program, the sanctions compliance programs, I mean, they`re really public/private partnerships where the government and the financial institutions work very closely together. A number of banks do have former Treasury officials working there, people who were experts in intelligence, or sanctions or money laundering, or regulatory policy.
So, you know, they understand, you know, not only what money laundering or sanctions evasion looks like, but they really understand and internalize the importance of the mission. The investment they made, along with the human capital the banks have brought in, it`s really what made this program so effective.
O`DONNELL: David Murray, former Treasury official, thank you for your expertise tonight and joining us up on the program. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the Senate Judiciary Committee released Donald Trump junior`s testimony today and some of it is hard to believe, and lying to the committee is a federal crime.
We`re also going to have more on this report on what happened with Michael Cohen`s bank transactions and the president had nothing but bad choices to make today in his financial disclosure form regarding Stormy Daniels as we discussed at this hour last night. And the choice he did make just might be the start of another Justice Department investigation of President Trump.
O`DONNELL: And here is President Trump`s financial disclosure report which will he filed at close of business yesterday as reported last night that he would. You see right up there in the top right corner of the form, page 1 of the form, it says United States Office of Government Ethics preventing conflict of interest in the executive branch. It really should say, preventing conflict of interest in the executive branch from 1978 to 2016, because they ain`t doing that anymore.
Joining us now David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and founded DCReport.org. He`s the author of "It`s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America". And also with us, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, and an MSNBC contributor.
And, David Cay, you remember when there was no Office of Government Ethics, it`s a post-Watergate invention, as Jill knows, started in 1978, and did a great job right up until they get overwhelmed by the Trump administration. Before we get to the Stormy Daniels revelation in the financial disclosure form, I want to pick up on what we were reporting on with Ronan Farrow`s reporting tonight, that it is a current government official who has decided to leak, illegally, this suspicious activity report on Michael Cohen. The government official knows that it`s a crime, knows what the government official is risking in this and the government official says that he or she is terrified by what he or she has done but believes that it`s important.
We have so much information that we are learning in these reports, including tax implications, which we didn`t get to in the previous segment and Rachel wasn`t able to get to tonight. I`m reading in there that Michael Cohen is using the Essential Consultants LLC to pay his Mercedes bill, to pay an AT&T bill, to pay personal consumption bills.
Now, you and I are sitting here with a strong assumption that Michael Cohen took the Essential Consultants and paid Mercedes whatever it was, a couple thousand a month on a lease or a payment, whatever it was, and did not declare that as income to himself on his income tax return. And, so the Mercedes alone is a tax fraud, tax evasion case. But there`s also in there is these massive cash movements that could also be tax evasion.
But what people like Michael Cohen are trying to get away with is this kind of nickel and dime tax evasion that ends up at their expense level, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know, car lease payments, and these AT&T payments.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, absolutely correct, lots of people do this. And there`s almost no enforcement. The cuts that have been made since 2000 in the IRS budget are turning the income tax into a wage tax system where those who get wages or pensions and other what`s called verified income are fully taxed, and other people who owned their business, like me, we could cheat left and right if we wanted to because there`s no real enforcement plan.
In this, the IRS practice and the Justice Department`s practice is, you got to understate your income by more than $10,000 or you got to have a number of examples of doing things like paying the lease on your Mercedes, not declaring that as income when it comes out of a wrongful account. But every indication would be if they wanted to scrutinize Michael Cohen, this is likely to be a worthwhile activity.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, this is the kind of thing that Michael Cohen absolutely would have gotten away with it because one of the things we know about enforcement at the IRS is that they have specifically taken enforcement capability away from small personal corporations and large corporations and LLCs and the only way an LLC like this was going to come to tax attention was through an investigation by the special prosecutor.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I would say it`s also like Watergate, and the enemy`s list, which is you only investigated the people who were on Nixon`s enemy`s list. They were subjects for IRS targeting. And clearly, Michael Cohen would not have been on that list. He would have been protected because that`s how it works in this administration.
So, it`s interesting the story that we can see unfolding through the release of these documents. And we can only imagine, with all the other complimentary information that Mueller has, how vivid that story is going to be and what it is going to show about criminal activities by the people involved in the Trump administration and campaign.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill, as an experienced federal investigator, one of things you see when these documents come out is that someone like Michael Cohen had no idea what kind of footprints and fingerprints he was leaving all over these transactions and had no idea how easy it was going to be once Robert Mueller started looking at it to find these things.
WINE-BANKS: I think people under estimate exactly how easy it is to find things these days. But I think even an average citizen realizes, if you take out $10,000 from your bank account that triggers a report. And Michael Cohen was playing with much bigger funds than that. So, why did he not realize he would have been seen to have had possibly suspicious activities that would be reported to the treasury and that would be then clearly available to Mueller or any other prosecutor, the Southern District of New York, for example.
So, he, really -- I think we`ve seen over and over again, he`s not the smartest lawyer that`s ever existed. He`s not the one that Donald Trump should have ever had. And certainly he needs a good lawyer himself now.
O`DONNELL: David, the president was in a box of his creation and Rudy Giuliani`s creation when the president said on Air Force One I didn`t know anything about payments, and Rudy Giuliani comes out and said, no, he reimbursed Michael Cohen for the payments to Stormy Daniels. He has to do a financial disclosure, and he did it this week. He had to pick a story to tell.
We`re not saying any of this true, we`re saying this is the story to tell when the deadline came, and that story is a footnote on page 45 saying, it`s none of your business, but I reimbursed Michael Cohen between $100,000 to $250,000. And the Office of Government Ethics immediately this morning said it is our business. It`s not just our business, it`s the Justice Department`s business. They send a referral letter to the Justice Department, to Rod Rosenstein, saying, you might want to investigate why this didn`t show up on his report last year.
JOHNSTON: Well, absolutely correct. Now, during the campaign, Donald Trump was quite clear and after the Electoral College victory, he does not believe he`s subject to any conflict of interest laws, he`s made that clear repeatedly. So, the notion that the president is not above the law, he`s not part of Donald`s take on things.
Here`s the thing I think will be most interesting about this. If we believe that Steve Bannon was correct and telling the truth when he said to Michael Wolff, there are lots and lots of cases like Stormy Daniels`, are we to believe from the time of the election up until now that`s the only case?
If there is a single other hush money cake out there in the time covered by these reports, now you`ve got multiple examples. And let`s remember there have been 40 revisions to Jared Kushner`s financial reports. At some point, you have to reasonably say, you`re hiding things, you`re violating the law, this law is principally a civil law, but you sign what`s called a jurat, that is you signed under penalty of perjury and that exposes you in theory to criminal prosecution.
Of course, luckily for Donald, the Justice Department is headed by a man he appointed.
O`DONNELL: A quick bit of your guidance on this report because there are numbers on here that are big. This is supposed to reveal your personal income. Donald Trump puts down $40 million from a Washington, D.C. hotel. It is impossible that he personally derives $40 million in income from the hotel.
Is he putting down the total revenue number of the hotel without subtracting any expenses of the hotel?
JOHNSTON: He is putting in these categories revenues, not income. And as somebody who founded a little tiny hotel management company, it`s a business I know well and studied, he is not filling these out in a way that I think is appropriate. He overstates the value of all sorts of assets. He lists revenue rather than income.
Imagine how well Apple would be if it kept every dollar as pure profit.
O`DONNELL: All right. I had to squeeze that in. David Cay Johnston, thank you very for your guidance tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Senate Judiciary Committee released Donald Trump Jr.`s testimony today. And if you believe it, you`re probably a member of the Trump family.
O`DONNELL: The breaking news never stops on Michael Cohen. We have more breaking news tonight on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Yahoo news is reporting prosecutors and congressional investigators have obtained text messages and emails showing that President Trump`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was working on a deal for a Trump tower in Moscow far later than Cohen has previously acknowledged. The communities show that as late as May 2016, around the time Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, Cohen was considering a trip to Russia to meet about the project with high-level government officials, business leaders and bankers.
About a month after Michael Cohen was still reportedly working on a Trump tower Moscow deal, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with Russian officials in Trump tower.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee released thousands of pages of interviews from Donald Trump Jr. and other participants of that meeting. Donald Trump Jr. took that meeting on the promise of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton. Investigators asked Donald Trump Jr. about Prosecutors asked about the exchange with music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Investigators asked, you say if it`s what you say, I love it. What is the it that you love in that email? Donald Trump Jr. responds potential information about an opponent.
Potential incriminating information on Hillary Clinton? Trump Jr. replies, yes.
Despite that statement, Donald Trump Jr. claimed in his interview that he didn`t actually ask for incriminating information on Hillary Clinton during the meeting saying I don`t believe I specifically asked that, no.
One Russian associate, (INAUDIBLE), the Russian lobbyist and former soviet counterintelligence officers together investigators that Donald Trump was in charge of the meeting. He was definitely in charge. He said, I believe you have some information for us and Ms. Veselnitskaya said yes, indeed I do have information.
A second Russian associate businessman (INAUDIBLE) contradicted Donald Trump Jr. saying Donald Trump Jr. asked both Ms. Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin if they got anything on Hillary. Phone records indicate that on the day Donald Trump Jr. was planning the Trump tower meeting June 6th, he placed two phone calls to blocked numbers. Days later after the meeting occurred Donald Trump Jr. placed a third call to a blocked number.
The Senate judiciary committee investigators asked who Donald Trump Jr. had spoken with, he replied. I have no idea.
Former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has told the House intelligence committee that Donald Trump senior has a blocked phone line in his primary residence. Donald Trump Jr. was asked if his father ever used a blocked number and his reply, I don`t know. And when asked specifically if he ever discuss the Russia investigation with his father, Donald Trump Jr. said, no, not that I remember.
Multiple times throughout his testimony, Donald Trump Jr. denied that he ever informed his father of the Trump tower meeting saying, I never discussed it with him at all, and I wouldn`t have wasted his time with it.
But hours after Donald Trump Jr. Confirmed the Trump tower meeting would take place, Donald Trump with candidate said this in a campaign speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am going to give a major speech, on probably Monday of next week, and we`re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you are going to find it very informative and very, very impressive.
No, Donald Trump Jr. Never -- never talked to him about that Trump tower meeting.
Congressman Eric Swalwell and Michael Isikoff will join our discussion next.
O`DONNELL: Today, on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee released its interview transcripts describing what Donald Trump Jr. said in his meetings with Russians in Trump tower, the Senate intelligence committee released a statement saying that Russia did indeed interfere in the 2016 Presidential election with the explicit intention of helping Donald Trump.
Joining our discussion now, Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, and Michael Isikoff, co-author of the new book, best-selling book, "Russian Roulette, the inside story of Putin`s war on America and the election of Donald Trump."
And Congressman Swalwell, I know the House intelligence committee -- the Republicans on the House intelligence committee said they could not find anything about Russia in any way trying to influence the election. It must be a bittersweet moment for you that the Senate intelligence committee says the obvious yes, Russia interfered and they interfered to help Donald Trump.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Lawrence. And also bittersweet for the country because unity is the best antidote for future Russia interference or interference for any country. We are going to have a hearing tomorrow on China. It is an open intelligence hearing. And I will be asking questions about other countries with similar capabilities.
So the House Republicans are now isolated. Isolated from bipartisan reports, from Senate Republicans and Democrats, isolated from the intelligence community assessment and just isolated from the facts.
Also the Senate Judiciary Committee, they released the transcripts of the June 9th meeting. Their investigation is narrow. They have only focused on that June 9th meeting. However, we have learned a lot more about a lot of other approaches, very similar to what we saw the Russians do on June 9th.
So we should release our transcripts too. There is no reason for the Republicans to continue to block them. We should let the people see for themselves how eager and willing the Trump team was willing to work with the Russians. And also make sure that we do all we can so Bob Mueller and insurance policy here has the ability to follow all of these evidence and finally subpoena these records that the Republicans were unwilling to do.
O`DONNELL: Michael Isikoff, in your book, "Russian Roulette," you have that meeting at Trump. You have been studying these players closer than most of us have for quite a-while. What`s your reading of the transcripts today?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, it confirmed a lot that we reported in the book. Although, there are some fascinating new nuggets that we didn`t know before. One, which I found absolutely fascinating and we posted a story tonight on Yahoo! about it is the day after -- remember, this meeting was set up at the request of Aras Agalarov, the billionaire Russian oligarch who was Donald Trump`s business partner in the Ms. Universe pageant and in the first attempt for a Trump tower deal in Moscow, that was signed and arranged during that 2013 visit that Trump made to Moscow. And that was part of an ongoing relationship that the Agalarovs, father and son, Aras and the son, the pop singer and then had with the Trumps.
So it was Aras Agalarov who requested this meeting through Emin, and Rob Goldstone, the music publicist sets it up. The day after the meeting, Rob Goldstone finds out that the Agalarovs have a gift for Donald Trump, a rather sizable gift. It was a painting that they wanted to deliver to Trump tower.
Now -- and they did arrange to do so. There was some technical difficulties about, you know, because they had special security at Trump tower. But I found that rather curious that the Agalarovs wanted this meeting to take place. They got the meeting, and then right after that, there`s a sizable personal gift for Donald Trump himself, who according to Donald Trump Jr. knew nothing about the meeting, although as you pointed out, there`s lots of questions about that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, Donald Trump Jr. didn`t want to take any credit for running this meeting, and so you have this difference in the testimony about Donald Trump Jr. saying I don`t -- he didn`t ask anything about, you know, what do you have for us? And you have the Russian witnesses saying he asked right away, you know, what`s the information you have for us?
SWALWELL: When he says, I don`t recall. That is code for, yes, you are getting too close. That`s something we heard from so many witnesses. They showed a tremendous willingness to make this meeting happen. If you look at it, this is a very busy campaign, yet they moved heaven and earth to accommodate this meeting.
And on the question of whether Donald Trump knew about the meeting, he either knew about it and they are all lying or they knew enough, the family did, to not tell him because proximity matters here in three ways.
One, the proximity of how close the Agalarov family was to Donald Trump, proximity in that the meeting was one floor from Donald Trump and proximity with Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were. And how much they talked about the campaign for a year. So it`s hard to believe he didn`t know.
O`DONNELL: And Michael Isikof, when Donald Trump Jr. Says I didn`t want to bother him with it, this is someone we heard talking on the "Access Hollywood" bus, we see him spending his entire weekends playing golf. This is a guy who publically, Donald Trump, has all the time in the world to discuss the most trivial things that cross anyone`s mind close to him, the credibility of I didn`t want to bother the big guy with anything as small as this is rather strained in this situation.
ISIKOF: Yes, sure. Look, you played the clip before of the comment Trump made right after this meeting is being set up, which he says he`s going to give a speech about some very interesting information about the Clintons. And this is right after the email trail shows that Rob Goldstone is promising the Russians meeting at Trump tower are going to have some very interesting incriminating information from Kremlin files about Hillary Clinton. So the parallel in the comments there are rather striking.
O`DONNELL: Michael Isikoff and Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both for joins us tonight. I really appreciate it.
SWALWELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what Robert Mueller did not say to Rudy Giuliani even though Rudy Giuliani said he said it before Rudy Giuliani changed his mind tonight and now said that Robert Mueller didn`t say it.
O`DONNELL: Radio Rudy Giuliani inadvertently revealed exactly what he is worth to Donald Trump today. He said he`s not being paid anything for his services in defense of President Trump. And so the President`s defense is getting exactly what it`s paying for from Rudy Giuliani.
Earlier today, Rudy Giuliani tried to create a good news story for the President. And it wouldn`t be a good news story for any other President. But Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have lowered the bar rather dramatically for good Presidential news. And the good Presidential news Rudy Giuliani thought he was delivering for the President was that the special prosecutor Robert Mueller has told Rudy Giuliani definitively that he knows that he cannot indict the President for crimes because of it is against justice department policy to indict the President.
And so the good news is the President is not going to be indicted. That`s what Rudy thinks is good news for the President. The trouble is, Robert Mueller never said that to Rudy Giuliani. And we know that because Rudy Giuliani changed his crazy story a few hours later, telling "the Washington Post," Mueller didn`t say that. One of his, I have to check with Jay. He`s in Israel right now. One of Mueller`s top people told him that.
When Rudy Giuliani was making up that story about Robert Mueller, it seemed he was hoping to draw attention away from the release of the Senate judiciary commit transcript from its investigative interviews. It didn`t work. We will have more from those transcripts after a break.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump Jr. to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I never spoke to my father about it. There were numerous statements drafted with counsel and other people involved. And, you know, opined. That`s Donald Trump Jr. explaining to the Senate Judiciary Committee how a completely false statement was delivered to "The New York Times" about his meeting with Russians at Trump tower during the campaign.
Joining us now Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer for "the Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
And Jennifer, I suppose if you are a member of the Trump family, you can believe the Donald Trump Jr. testimony, but it seemed very protective of his father.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And very improbable for anyone with an IQ over room temperature. Donald Trump Jr. would not be meeting with Russians. He would not be looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton without his father knowing. Do we really think that Donald Trump Jr. Had the independence, had the authority to be acting in this fashion without the knowledge of the President? It`s absurd on its face.
And what we do know, even in these little lies is oh, by the way, he does acknowledge talking to Hope Hicks. Well, talking to hope hicks is just as -- he might as well have been talking to the President himself. So even their lies upon lies and their evasions don`t really hold up. And let me tell you, there is that blocked number that you and Rachel were referring to that he spoke to after setting up the meeting and then after the Trump tower meeting itself. Who can get through that blocked number? The special prosecutor. So the lies they tell are silly. They don`t show any awareness of the powers of banks, of prosecutors, of all sorts of evidence. And so he digs himself deeper and deeper and deeper.
O`DONNELL: And Hope Hicks` testimony becomes really interesting in this because Donald Trump Jr. does say that he may have -- talking about his father, he may have commented through Hope Hicks.
She asked if I wanted to actually speak to him and I chose not to because I didn`t want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with.
Now surely Hope Hicks` testimony will flesh that out. When she`s saying to Donald Trump Jr., would you like to speak to him, there`s, you know, a strong chance that she can just physically hand him the phone on air force one. He knows she`s on air force one.
RUBIN: Right. And he also knows that Hope Hicks is at that time, was the longest serving, most reliable aide that Donald Trump had. So even talking to her was the same as talking to his father. Maybe they didn`t want to communicate or maybe they gist made up this little lie.
It also became extremely relevant, as you said, Lawrence, because remember hope hicks` words about all of these communications and emails. They are never going to get them. That was a peculiar phrase which set off a former spokesman Mark Carallo for the legal team. And it does take on an ominous tone where she is acting as a buffer, some would say. Some would say a cut-out so there`s not a direct record of Donald Trump Jr. speaking to his father.
This is all becoming unraveling. It`s like a sweater with a loose thread. You pull on it and you pull on it and pretty soon, there`s not going to be very much left of it.
O`DONNELL: And we discover Donald Trump`s free TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani is in high speed reverse on his comment of several hours ago saying that Robert Mueller has told him that he knows he cannot indict the President.
RUBIN: Yes. Isn`t that amazing?
Listen, my own theory about this is that Rudy Giuliani has been essentially kicked off TV. We haven`t seen him in a number of days. And so, he is desperate to do something for Donald Trump. He`s not a real lawyer, he`s a TV lawyer. So, what he is doing, guess the next best thing that -- except from ridiculous story. Tells it to the "Washington Post," has to rewind, has to pull it back in, makes another statement. So I think at this point, the only one less equip to be a lawyer than Rudy Giuliani. You know the other lawyers (INAUDIBLE) for Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin gets tonight`s LAS WORD.
Thank you, Jennifer. Four people who had all worked with special counsel Robert Mueller will join Brian to talk about the special counsel`s investigation and that is next on the 11TH HOUR WITH Brian Williams which starts now.
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