Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 4, 2018 Guest: Harry Litman, Kurt Andersen, Lauren Wright
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Have a good evening. And we look forward to tomorrow night`s results.
I`m Ali Velshi, as Rachel said, sitting in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
Breaking news tonight: NBC News has obtained a new court filing from Robert Mueller`s investigators asking a court to revoke Paul Manafort`s pretrial release, saying that President Trump`s former campaign chairman attempted to tamper with potential witnesses. The court filing states that Paul Manafort called, texted and sent encrypted messages to two witnesses in February, quote, in an effort to secure materially false testimony.
This outreach apparently occurred following the public disclosure of a superseding indictment of Manafort. Federal prosecutors are now asking for a hearing to discuss the allegations brought forth by the FBI tonight and to see whether the court`s release order should be revoked or revised.
Joining us now, Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and fellow at Pace University Law School. She`s also an MSNBC legal analyst. And Harry Litman, former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton.
I`m grateful that you`re both here to help make sense of this.
Mimi, let`s start with you. What does this all mean?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: It likely means Manafort is going to go to jail now. I would be surprised if the judge did not revoke his bail based on this. You know, when prosecutors find out that someone is trying to tamper with a witness, which is what happened here, often, it`s kind of you`re dealing with subtle attempts and you have to sort of explain to a judge and really sort of cut through, you know, why this is witness tampering.
VELSHI: But it`s not like in the movies where someone sends someone over and says I`m going to break your legs if you don`t this.
ROCAH: Right. But let me tell you something, this is pretty crystal clear. I mean, I`ve read this kind of quickly, but the facts that are laid out, I mean, he explicitly was trying to get a witness -- more than one witness, to lie in the trial. You can`t get clearer than that.
And one important point I think, you know, is it does not appear -- although we obviously don`t know all the details yet. It doesn`t appear he used threats of the kind that you`re talking about or any kind but you don`t need to, to violate this statute. This statute talks about corruptly trying to persuade someone. And that is very important here, and may be important in other parts of this investigation as well, not just with respect to Manafort.
VELSHI: This is not something that those of us who are not lawyers will understand as clearly. But, Harry, let me read you the filings. One is that they`re referring to person D1. Person D1 has told the government that he understood Manafort`s outreach to be an effort to suborn perjury. And like person D1, person D2 understood that Manafort and person A were reaching out to him and person D1 in an effort to influence the testimony of potential witnesses.
Harry, try and he me understand why this would happen. Paul Manafort has got to know at this point that everybody is watching his every move. What could he or person A possibly have been thinking?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It`s incredibly thinking. And as Mimi says, it`s something that prosecutors despise, the court tends to look very adversely on. You only have to prove by a low standard of probable cause and then his conditions of release get yanked.
But here`s what was happening. Manafort in the superseding indictment is charged with putting together this group of European former politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine. If they lobbied in the U.S., as they almost certainly did, that`s a big legal problem. So that was going on here is Manafort was very ham-handedly, he used, you know, simple encryption technology, reaching out to two persons, D1 and D2, who worked in a consulting firm, or asking his -- almost certainly, person A is Konstantin Kilimnik, his right-hand man in Kiev, to do the same thing.
Reach out to them and say, hey, we only worked in Europe, right? Nothing the U.S. right? And both D1 and D2 obviously understood what was going on. They were being asked to lie to avoid the charge of lobbying in the U.S. which would be a problem under Foreign Agent Registration Act.
So as Mimi says, it`s pretty ham-handed and I think the best explanation is, he was just really stupid.
VELSHI: So, here`s something interesting because until this news came out, Mimi, the matter at hand was Donald Trump carrying on about he can pardon himself, but he wouldn`t pardon himself because why would he pardon himself? He hasn`t done anything wrong.
Garrett Graff, Robert Mueller`s biographer, tweeted out: Curious these events took place in February and Mueller is only moving out.
Is there any relationship here to -- is this a signal maybe to anybody?
ROCAH: Look, I do think it should send a signal because the statute that we`re talking about here is the statute that would apply for example if anyone were to be charged with respect to coming up with a false story about the Trump Tower meeting, you know, tampering with a witness or witnesses as to that meeting.
But I will say that prosecutors, when they get information about witness tampering, they come to a court with that as soon as they are able to. Now that doesn`t mean -- I realize this happened in February, but for some reason, we don`t know why yet, they weren`t able to go to a court with it until now. But if you`re going to try to revoke bail, you really try to go with it in a timely fashion because obviously it would cut against your argument that this person cannot be out on bail and cannot be trusted if you waited.
And courts really look at that, did you delay or act quickly? So I don`t think this was done now in the sense to send a message given what Trump has been tweeting about or talking about, but I do think it should send a message.
VELSHI: Right, Harry --
LITMAN: Ali, I want to add, the motion makes itself makes clear, they had to do some investigation here.
LITMAN: They had to get phone records here and have personal interviews with D1 and D2, who are presumably are somewhere in Europe.
I agree with Mimi. You get this kind of stuff. You go right in. And, yes, you sent the message, but it`s not just that. Witness tampering is really serious.
VELSHI: It`s a serious thing in and of itself.
LITMAN: That`s right.
VELSHI: All right. Mimi Rocah and Harry Litman, stay with us.
LITMAN: Thank you.
We have more on the Mueller investigation tonight.
VELSHI: Let`s turn to more breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post." President Trump`s legal team is preparing to do battle with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Despite Trump`s declaration this morning that he has the power to pardon himself, private moves by Trump`s attorneys and advisers indicate that, quote, his legal team is preparing for the possibility of a presidential interview or a legally precarious subpoena battle over such a sit down.
According to "The Washington Post", newly hired White House lawyer, Emmet Flood, this man, and other attorneys are strategizing about how to handle a subpoena from Robert Mueller that would seek to compel the president to testify in the investigation. Several White House officials told "The Washington Post" that Emmet Flood has cautioned Trump about the unpredictability of a subpoena fight that could be decided by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani and other advisers have reportedly begun making plans to prepare Trump for a possibly sit-down interview with Mueller. "The Post" reports that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who played the role of Hillary Clinton in Trump`s 2016 presidential debate preparation, is being considered to help conduct practice Sessions with the president.
"The Post" also reports new Trump lawyer Jane Raskin talks with Mueller James deputy James Quarles at least three times a week. She`s reviewing the classified conversations that Trump and other top aides have had with foreign leaders like the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to two people familiar with her work. But she`s also working to negotiate possible terms and limit the questions Trump might face in an interview.
Of course, all the prep work depends on one thing, the cooperation of the president. And according to "The Post" reporting, he`s not completely on board. Quote, the fledgling briefings have not gone very deep because of the president`s anger about the probe, according to a person familiar with the situation.
That anger was apparent when the president Trump called the Mueller probe unconstitutional. Now, if trump declines an interview and Mueller subpoenas him, both sides face major risks in a Supreme Court battle that would likely ensue.
Joining the conversation now is Josh Barro, senior editor at "Business Insider", co-host of the KCRW podcast, "All the President`s Lawyers", and an MSNBC contributor, and Kurt Andersen, host of the Public Radio Program "Studio 360" and author of the book "Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire," which is coming out in paperback tomorrow. Mimi Rocah remains with us.
Thank you to all of you for being with us.
Josh, let me start with you.
Once again, if one is to believe this reporting, the president`s team are not all on the same side about how this is going to go, and most importantly, the client doesn`t seem to be on the same page. He seems to be moving down the road of a public relations battle, generally speaking executed on Twitter and at rallies. But there is real consequence. Rudy Giuliani wants to say that the president can`t be subpoenaed, but most experts I talk to say it`s just not that clear.
JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR, BUSINESS INSIDER: Right. Well, I mean, given the president`s propensity to change his mind, it would be sensible of his legal team and his advisers to be preparing both for fighting a subpoena and preparing for the situation where he ends up deciding to sit for an interview. So, I think that is wise on their part unlike some of the other decisions they made.
These reports about the nature of the prep sessions for possible interview remind me of the reports that we saw around the presidential debates back in 2016. You had these debate prep sessions described where the president was not succeeding in keeping focused, where you had all of these people in the president`s orbits sort of around with different agendas, some of them distracting him, getting him off on tangents, and it`s funny that you get some of those same people like Giuliani and Chris Christie ending up in the orbit here again. This time in more of a legal capacity.
Now, I think, you know, those debates in retrospect seemed to have worked out fine for the president in that he managed to win the election, but obviously, the stakes and terms are somewhat different in a -- or quite a bit different in a deposition rather than in a presidential debate.
VELSHI: So, Kurt Andersen, the Chris Christie stuff makes some sense, right? He understands Donald Trump. He`s a real lawyer. He was a real prosecutor. That could actually make some sense.
I`ve been away for two weeks so I was wondering if the world changed as with regard to Rudy Giuliani, and it has not. Rudy Giuliani is still running a campaign of confusion around the president. He`s going out there on the media, spinning all sorts of yarns that are very hard to decipher.
KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR, "FANTASYLAND": Well, he is indeed. And it`s often as though he doesn`t realize the cameras are on and the recordings are moving -- recording. As though he`s just talking to buddies about what could happen. And then he says, well, no, the president could have assassinated James Comey, the FBI director.
VELSHI: Unbelievable he actually said that.
ANDERSEN: But, no, but, of course, and he can`t be impeached. He can self-pardon, he won`t self-pardon.
ANDERSEN: In a matter of hours or days on television, he has raised, what, half a dozen different constitutional issues about whether the president can obstruct or is capable of obstructing. It`s really -- you know, Richard Nixon after he was out of office famously said the thing, oh, what the president does is legal because he`s the president. Well, they are now, Rudy Giuliani singlehandedly is throwing out all of these -- at the very least, unsettled and in many cases, it appears absolutely cockamamie constitutional questions about the president is all of these different ways above the law.
So I don`t see that he`s doing any good, except as you say, sowing confusion. Maybe that in terms of his base, the political base has an effect in his fantasyland way, he tries -- that the Trump strategy is to make all facts be possibly not true --
VELSHI: Let me give you one example. He was on "Meet the Press," Rudy Giuliani was on Sunday. I just want to -- in case our viewers didn`t see it, give them an example of what you`re talking about, the way Rudy Giuliani is describing these things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Does this mean he can terminate any federal investigation? Is that the argument here? Any federal investigation he can terminate?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: Yes, I mean, that is pretty clear. Constitutionally, it sure looks that way. I haven`t made that argument. You don`t have to make that argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: OK. Then he was on "This Week" Sunday, let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Do you and the president`s attorneys believe he has the power to pardon himself?
GIULIANI: He`s not, but he probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself. But he probably does. Doesn`t say he can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: I mean, Mimi, again I`m going to use the defense I seem to use a lot these days, I`m not a lawyer. What is he trying to do?
Because in the end, the discussion of whether or not the president needs to face a subpoena and abide by it is going to be dealt with by district court in D.C. or it`s going to be dealt with by the Supreme Court and possibly both of those things. What does this do? What does this -- what is Rudy Giuliani doing?
ROCAH: Well, I think what he`s trying to do is to create confusion, give talking points to Trump`s base and the legal commentators that do go out there on his behalf, give them something to hang their hat on when things come down and are not good for Trump and his inner circle.
VELSHI: Does it matter? If Mueller decides to go down this road, does it matter?
ROCAH: No. And, you know, I mean, look, two things, one, these are complicated legal questions. I mean, you have people on both sides of the aisle, saying, no, he can`t be subpoenaed. Yes, he can`t pardon.
I mean, these are constitutional questions and complicated legal questions like this, don`t -- they`re going to be played out in briefs, in the court, if they`re going to really get decided.
It`s going to be in a more substantive way than certainly Giuliani is doing or we`re doing here. But I think that what gets lost in this and this is where I think the strategy comes in, you know, we have now, first of all, an admission that Trump dictated a false letter, a cover story. We also now them saying --
VELSHI: That he denied and that the White House denied repeatedly.
ROCAH: Repeatedly. And that story again is that this Trump Tower meeting was about adoptions. Well, no, it wasn`t. It was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and something that they denied, denied, denied. And again, I keep coming back to me because to me it`s really important if you`re a prosecutor looking at potential witness tampering charges.
I`m not saying standing alone it`s enough. But it`s a big important piece. We`ve all been focused on the Comey firing in terms of obstruction, I think this can also be a big piece of it, of a potential charge.
And then second, you know, we`ve gone from -- there were no meetings with Russians. OK. There were meetings but they weren`t illegal to, OK, maybe committed a crime, but I can`t be prosecuted for it because I`m the president. Well, I can`t be prosecuted for it -- I mean, it just keeps growing and I think what this is doing is diverting from some very damaging facts. And that`s what they`re trying to do.
VELSHI: But, Josh, in fairness, Rudy Giuliani is giving lawyers in general, and the president`s lawyers specifically a bad name. There are actually some lawyers working on behalf of the president who are really looking at precedent. They`re really looking at cases. They`re really looking at arguments that they can make if a subpoena happens to show up.
BARRO: They are. But I mean, I think, also, a key part of the president`s conviction behind his strategy and then also part of their messaging strategy is that the president`s fate is a political question. That`s the way a president is held accountable is through the impeachment power, that that`s what the framers put it in the Constitution for a reason.
And if that is a strong power and if the president behaves in an untoward manner he can be impeached and removed by Congress. That it is improper for the Justice Department to be engaging in that role. So, I think all of that is part of that messaging.
And even when he talks about the possibility of commuting Rod Blagojevich`s sentences and when he pardoned Scooter Libby a few months ago, both of these are cases where the contention is basically that the judicial branch improperly got into evaluating the political actions that occurred within the executive, that those things are not properly considered by the Justice Department. That`s just another case where he`s saying this is Congress`s job and I think he takes that position because he`s confident that a Republican Congress will not remove him through the impeachment power.
So, I think this is one of several things that they`ve been saying as part of the message.
VELSHI: And, Kurt, this is important because a number of people ask, why doesn`t Congress do what it should have done at this point in the Nixon administration? Congress should realize lines had been crossed and it was their responsibility to play more of a role, particularly Republicans in Congress. But the fact is, there is no -- there are very few Republicans in Congress who enjoy the support that Donald Trump does. He`s got an edge over them in terms of the public.
ANDERSEN: There is that. And again, if you look back at Watergate, it wasn`t until late in the game where this sort of phase change of Republican support happened. And he had it, had it, and then he suddenly didn`t, not many weeks or months before he resigned. And, of course, he was never impeached as well.
I think Josh is exactly right. I think he -- this is mostly a political game in trying to give his current majority in the House an ability to say, well, it`s a witch hunt, whatever version of the Trump line is going to be and to keep enough of -- you know, it`s two-thirds in the Senate to convict. So, I think that`s what he`s playing to.
VELSHI: In other words, he`s aware of the fact that the chance of being impeached is very low.
ANDERSEN: The chance of being impeached is very high, in fact, if the Democrats take the House. The chance of being convicted and remove from office is very low under any circumstances.
VELSHI: That`s an important distinction.
ANDERSEN: But when Chris Christie just says because he`s relatively speaking a reality based character says, no, no, he`d never self-pardon because that would cause impeachment. Well, I`m not sure that would.
But all of these other things, all these other constitutional challenges of, oh, I can -- there`s no crime I can commit for which I can be punished by indictment or anything but impeachment, at a certain point, if he actually through on those things, starting with refusing subpoenas to testify in Mueller, up to and including preempted self-pardoning, which I understand is impossible, you have to be convicted, right, to be pardoned.
ROCAH: There`s debate on that, too. But --
ANDERSEN: But those are the things when they reach the courts and reach the Supreme Court, that -- lots of Republican members of Congress would start saying, no, this guy is, we`re going to start cutting bait. But, of course, we`ll what happens.
VELSHI: That could happen or I could grow a big afro. We`ll have to see.
All right. Stick around, guys.
Mimi, good to see you as always. Thank you for helping us through this.
Stay with us. We got a lot of breaking news on the Trump-Mueller front tonight. Coming up, a Republican senator`s reaction to the President Trump`s claim that he can pardon himself. We`ll discuss that on the other side.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator, the president says he can pardon himself. Would you agree with that? Would you agree with that?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: That is not a constitutional issue I`ve studied, So I will withhold judgment at this point.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, you might have thought that we had made a mistake there because there was all this noise of footsteps. That was Senator Ted Cruz waiting a full 18 seconds before telling reporters he wasn`t sure if the president could pardon himself.
Joining us now is Lauren Wright, lecturer in politics and public affairs at Princeton University, where she teaches about the American presidency and executive power. And back with us is Harry Litman, who is, by the way, a former attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton.
Lauren, I guess we should start by saying it`s just not 100 percent clear. None of this stuff. The pardoning, the subpoena. There are legal arguments, and sometimes they are led bipartisan but sometimes they`re not. Sometimes they are people like you who study this thing and say, look, it hasn`t necessarily been well enough tested to know 100 percent whether or not the president`s statements on Twitter today about being able to pardon himself are true.
What does your research tell you?
LAUREN WRIGHT, POLITICS REPORTER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yes, this is obviously very unclear. And, man, was that a long silence, that`s like your whole show here almost. So -- but I think it`s way too early to call this a constitutional crisis, I really do.
What we know and what we also saw today in the Mueller filing is that this is a presidency in crisis. The president is in very serious trouble. I see this as the culmination of years and years since the founding of administrations of both parties trying to expand presidential power and one of the ways they do that is through vaguenesses in Article II, including the pardons clause.
And both parties are to blame for that. When our team`s in office we want a strong executive. When they`re not, we want to rein back those powers.
And now, we have a president that`s willing to go to the very extent of those tendencies and he`s not crossing the line, but he`s looking right over it, and that`s very different from past administrations.
VELSHI: This is an interesting distinction, Harry, because much has been written about the Obama administration doing a lot with executive orders, with the Bush administrations -- Bush 43 administration pushing the limits of executive authority. But that -- to Lauren`s point that just could be what presidents do over time.
When does it cross over into being a constitutional crisis?
LITMAN: Right. Well, first, I agree with Lauren that we are not in a constitutional crisis. It`s a determine that`s been bandied about a lot in the past couple years and it`s important to distinguish between, say, a constitutional challenge where the Constitution has the tools to address and solve it and a true crisis, for example, as would happen if the Supreme Court ordered Trump to testify and he just refused.
And the question would be, what can the Constitution do now? Now, we`re in crisis territory.
I would take issue with the fact that this is a natural expansion since the New Deal era with both parties trying to flex their muscle on presidential power. I think Trump is a true departure from that trend, in that he has tendencies of real royalism, I guess you could say, real inclination to put himself above the law, contempt for constitutional norms, disregard for the rule of law, that don`t just push on the executive powers, but would, if he had his way, break them in two.
So, to me, we`ve had a point of departure in the last two years notwithstanding the general legal trend that lawyer identified since the New Deal.
VELSHI: Lauren, if somebody dropped in from Mars and said, earthling, tell me about your legal -- your government system, they may not believe by looking at it today we have co-equal branches of government. So, the bottom line is, they may get the impression, certainly, if they were just reading newspaper and watching cable news for the last year and a half that the president is in some cases more important. They might think from time to time the judiciary has flexed their muscle. They would wonder what this Congress thing is.
WRIGHT: Yes, absolutely. So, you know, I don`t always want to be the let`s hold our horses not panic person, but I sometimes play that part, definitely in my classroom. And I would say this -- the avenues for Democratic responsibility are elections and impeachment.
And Congress does not actually have to impeach the president to see their influence take head here. They just have to threaten it. It`s just the idea that President Trump might feel pressure to resign. It`s the idea that this is going to be a big cost in public opinion terms.
And so, you know, from my studies, what I really look at is the political context is so important here, as Harry indicated. There are many checks on presidential power, but the person in the office does matter. It does matter who we elect, character matters. Their world view matters and the person has tremendous influence over constitutional interpretation. Way too close for comfort in a lot of people`s view.
VELSHI: Harry, let me ask you, is the president at some point still depending not on the congressional action but on the fact that he keeps pointing out at every one of these rallies, he is appointing judges and if you are concerned about the matters that many of his supporters voted for him on the basis of, that might be the most important part of this. He understands the judiciary to understand that loading the courts might be his legacy.
WRIGHT: You know, it`s actually been, from his standpoint, a very successful part of his presidency. It`s kind of been under the radars, but just in terms of the numbers, of appointments, especially higher appointments, he`s done quite a bit.
I don`t see that as being his whole card in terms of getting out of jail, in the sense that this will go if there`s a subpoena fight to the Supreme Court. But if he were impeached tomorrow, I would agree with -- and removed tomorrow, I would agree with you that this would be a lasting part of his legacy already. And they`re really acting a pace. They have a really well oiled machine in their judicial appointment mechanisms.
VELSHI: All right. Harry, good to see you. Thank you very much for joining us. Harry Litman and Lauren Wright, thanks to both of you.
Coming up, Donald Trump admits he dictated the statement that Donald Trump Jr. released about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting that the younger Trump convened to get, quote, dirt on Hillary Clinton. I`ll ask Congressman Eric Swalwell about that next.
VELSHI: For almost a year the President`s lawyers in the White House have said he did not dictate or draft a misleading statement from Donald Trump Jr. or from Donald Trump Jr. about the infamous Trump tower meeting promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton. There`s been much speculation about the truth of those statements, and now we know for sure they were lies.
This weekend, the "New York Times" published a 20-page letter that Trump`s legal team sent special counsel Robert Mueller on January 29th. Here`s the key part of the letter that pertains to the Trump tower meeting.
Quote "you have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the "New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion."
Now back in August 2017, the White House press secretary was asked about a Washington Post report that the President dictated the statement. Here`s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The statement that Don Junior issued is true. There`s no inaccuracy in the statement. The President weighed in, as any father would base on the limited information he had.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you clarify the degree to which the President weighed in?
SANDERS: He certainly didn`t dictate but, you know, he, like I said weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: He certainly didn`t dictate. Of course, the White House press secretary was asked about that discrepancy today. Here`s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: This is a letter from the outside counsel, I direct you to them to answer that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Interesting. Joining us is Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California who sits on the House intelligence committee.
Congressman, good to see you again.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You too, Ali.
VELSHI: It seemed implausible at the time largely because whoever you thought dictated the letter, it wasn`t true, the conversation about and you know more about this than most Americans. But the fact is we knew that the conversation wasn`t about adoptions. We also know that the Magnitsky act is the biggest thorn in Vladimir Putin`s side and that no citizen lawyer would be asking to meet a Presidential candidate`s top advisers to discuss adoption.
But the bottom line is we now know this to be a lie. In the grand scheme of this what does it mean to you?
SWALWELL: Thank you, Ali. Good evening.
What it means to me is that we have a campaign businesses, Trump family members, and a President who is willing to deceive the American people day after day.
And Ali, as a former prosecutor, to me, it just shows more and more consciousness of guilt. Often times the way that a person acts after an investigation is launched can tell you a lot about what they were doing about the underlying conduct that is being investigated. I think here it`s so clear, just with so much of the other behavior, like the James Comey firing and the shifting and moving statements about why he was fired that they are trying to cover up what they did with respect to the Russians and also with what they want the American people to believe.
VELSHI: So much time has passed between when we first learned about that infamous meeting in Trump tower, and as you recall information was just trickling out one after another, anew person who is in that meeting.
So just to remind people, why would there had been reason to lie about what the meeting was about? Because if really was a representative of Russian interests or Russian government interest wanting to meet with the Trump administration to overturn policies that the Russians didn`t like, that is a much more serious matter?
SWALWELL: That`s right, Ali. And it just doesn`t add up that in the midst of a Presidential campaign, just about a month before the Republican convention, they would sit down for a meeting to talk about Russian adoptions. No. This gang was all too willing and eager to meet with the Russians and receive their help.
And when you look at the email that set up the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. moved heaven and earth to try and make that meeting happen. He wanted to have that meeting as soon as possible. And he wanted to make sure they can have the dirt way to come out in the fall when it would be most devastating.
But proximity here, Ali, matters a lot and in three ways. One, Donald Trump the candidate was just one floor above where the meeting took place. Two, Donald Trump the candidate was very close with the family, the (INAUDIBLE) family who asked to set up the meeting. And three Donald Trump the candidate was very close with his son. And we have evidence that they talked throughout the about the work that Donald Trump was doing for the campaign. It would be unbelievable for Donald Trump our President to not have known about the meeting at the time.
VELSHI: I want to just read you an excerpt from the letter that was sent by Trump`s lawyers to Mueller on January 29th. An excerpt here that "New York Times" published.
The subject is a private matter with the "New York Times." The President is not required to answer to the office of the special counsel or anyone else, for his private affairs with his children. In any event, the President`s son, son-in-law, and White House advisors and staff have made a full disclosure on these events to both your office and the congressional committees.
The bottom line here, congressman, is that if that meeting did have to do with either dirt on Hillary Clinton or a quid pro quo about overturning or somehow mitigating the effects of the Magnitsky act, which the President can`t overturn, it`s a congressionally passed act, that does involve the public. It does involve the investigation. That`s not a private matter.
SWALWELL: That`s right, Ali. And I wasn`t the best law school student but I learned enough to know that there is no -- you are allowed to collude with your kids, exception to crimes and what the American people and the special counsel is allowed to investigate.
And here, this just goes back to the President would serve the country well if he just sat in Bob Mueller`s chair, shot straight with the American people and came clean about what happened. But when your campaign team members tamper with witnesses, when your former advisers lie to investigators and when you obstruct the investigation, it`s going to take longer and that`s going to hurt the country.
VELSHI: The testimony that, you know, I just want to put up some of the testimony that Don Junior made to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he said several times he was not clear on who was involved, what role his father had in the drafting of the testimony. He said I never spoke to my father about it. He said there were numerous statements drafted, other people were involved, and opined. He was asked very, very clearly about this, I assume by your committee as well.
What are the implications of the fact that it is now evident that Donald Trump Jr. lied to Congress?
SWALWELL: What it means if this were to go to a jury is that the jury would be told if you find that a witness lied about a term fact in a case, you can choose to just throw out everything else that they said. And so that goes to his credibility.
But we did ask, Ali, Donald Trump Jr. a number of times about this conversation with his father and he refused over and over to answer. And again, cooperating witnesses, they just come forward and they tell you the truth. Witnesses who want to obstruct or invoke privileges that don`t exist, those are typically people that have something to hide.
There`s every reason to believe up and down the Trump organization, the campaign and the family, that they have a lot to hide and hopefully Bob Mueller is given the ability to find that because the Republicans on our committee were completely unwilling -- not only unwilling, they took out the shovels to bury the evidence we kept unearthing.
VELSHI: Yes, they certainly did. And even if you are not inclined to believe that there was collusion or you are inclined to believe that the media is piling on, or it`s a conspiracy, why the lying? There is so much lying going on. It makes one wonder what`s actually going on.
Congressman, always good to talk to you. Thank you for joining me.
SWALWELL: Yes. You too, Ali. My pleasure.
VELSHI: Congressman Eric Swalwell.
All right, coming up, conservatives had enough of President Trump at least when it comes to his trade policies and that`s making it pretty uncomfortable for some Republicans in Congress and those who are on the ballot. That`s next.
VELSHI: President Trump`s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are upsetting a lot of allies.
British Prime Minister Theresa May told the President Trump in a phone call today that his decision to apply new tariffs was quote unjustified and deeply disappointing, according to the UK`s official readout of the call. That came a few days after French President Emanuel Macron told Trump, the new tariffs were quote "illegal and a mistake."
Donald Trump`s tariffs have also managed to anger a group of people that never seems to publicly get angry with the President, Republicans in Congress.
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SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think that the authorities are being abused and I think a number of people around here do. And so, you know, we are crafting some legislation, working with other officers to try and pull back some of those authorities to Congress.
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VELSHI: That was Republican Senator Bob Corker today. Over the weekend, he also tweeted that the Trump tariffs quote feel like something I could have read in a local Caracas newspaper last week, not America. Venezuela here we come.
The powerful Republican donors, the Koch brothers have turned against the Trump`s tariffs. Today, their political network said it will be launching quote "a multi-year multimillion dollar initiative to champion the far reaching benefits of trade and a post-tariffs and other barriers."
Donald Trump has been tweeting his arguments in favor of tariffs. Today, he sent this tweet.
Quote "the U.S. has made such bad trade deals over so many years that we can only win. But American families and workers are not going to see any winning on trade in a short term according to Donald Trump`s own budget director.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they are going to face short term pain in the process is what you are saying.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Again, but that`s the way the world works when it comes to international affairs and trade policy, specifically. Yes, there may be some short term paying, but in the long term, American workers, American families are going to be better off.
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VELSHI: President Trump is upsetting a lot of allies but he may soon be meeting with two of America`s biggest adversaries, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin. That`s next.
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SANDERS: Imposing the 232 tariffs protect the steel and aluminum industries because they are very critical to our national security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn`t that reinforce the U.S. national security? In what form the U.S. feels more secure now that Canada has been targeted by tariffs?
SANDERS: The President feels strongly that the steel and aluminum industries are critical to our national security and our ability to protect ourselves.
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VELSHI: Back with us are Josh Barro and Kurt Anderson.
Josh, let me start with you. There is a valid economic argument to re- evaluating trade relationships, even very strong ones like NAFTA over time. It`s been around for a long time. There`s a valid economic argument for looking at China and taking some action on things China does.
But the arguments that the White House is using in favor of these tariffs and the way that it is going about arguing and creating fights with our allies doesn`t seem to make economic sense.
JOSH BARRO, SENIOR EDITOR, BUSINESS INSIDER: No. I mean so the official legal rationale for these tariffs is they are in the interest of national security. And the claim is basically that, you know, if we got into a war where we needed to build a whole bunch of tanks and ships and stuff, we would need access to these basic metals to build things out of and that importing is therefore risky. The problem with that argument is first of all we produce most of the steel we use in the U.S. And we import most of the steel that we import from allies -- Canada, Mexico --.
VELSHI: The likelihood of being in a war with Canada is low.
BARRO: Right. One hopes. I mean, so it`s not like we principally import steel from China and Russia and other countries that we are worried about hostility with. So this national security rationale for these tariffs has really weak. And frankly, that`s not why the President is imposing them. He has got a long record of protectionism. It`s one of the few policy topics in which he has had a basically -- he basically consistent position for decades. He thinks that is good for the economy. That basically make the stuff being used in the country within the country.
The problem is, you know, about 400,000 people in the U.S. work in steel and aluminum production. There`s about four million people who work in industries like metal fabrication, machinery production, aerospace, autos and auto parts that use steel and aluminum.
When you impose these tariffs, it increases costs for them, discourages them from hiring, and even encourages people to import other finished products because you don`t pay this tariff on things made out of steel from other countries. You only pay it on the raw material.
So this is likely to cost a lot more jobs than it creates in the U.S. But it`s a hobby horse of the President`s. And it`s something that he is doing at a time when you think he would want to be looking for it to cooperate with these countries. Like we want Mexico to accept people for asylum from Central America rather than sending them here. We ask Mexico for that. At the same time we impose these tariffs. (INAUDIBLE).
VELSHI: And in fact we need South Korea to do things for us as it relates to North Korea. We need a lot of allies.
BARRO: We need our NATO allies.
VELSHI: So it is odd because Donald Trump has picked fights with a lot of our allies. And as he continues to build stronger relationships with those we might not think of as allies.
KURT ANDERSON, AUTHOR, HOW AMERICA WENT HAYWIRE: Indeed. And beyond the brilliant macroeconomic analysis that Josh just gave us, I think, I actually think that part of this is Kim and Putin, gangsters. He can sort of deal with gangsters.
Our allies in Europe, Canada, I think he feels as though these are the sort of elite swells who have contempt for him and for whom he has contempt, and there is an emotionalism. In addition to his long-standing protectionism which of course happens to be antithetical to one of the very core Republican ideas of free trade. I really think he resents the Europeans and, in this case, Canada as well as people who because they don`t like Donald Trump and Trumpism. I really think that is part of his motivation.
BARRO: I mean, I think there`s some of that. Although, I think the thing that cuts against that, the one Democratic nation leader, the one that Trump really seems to have developed a strong personal rapport with is Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan. And it doesn`t seem to have done Japan one bit of good on these trade disputes. Japan didn`t even get a temporary reprieve from metal tariffs. He is talking about this auto- import tariffs that hurt Japan a lot. So the golfing doesn`t seem to have helped there.
ANDERSON: There is this anti -- the globalist boogeyman, he seems to buy that on a certain level.
VELSHI: And the Europeans don`t, and the Canadians don`t. They see themselves as big players in this global market. They only see themselves as more successful, at least on a governmental level, although there`s something to be said for this growing European populism.
Thanks to both of you Josh Barro and Kurt Anderson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.
VELSHI: All right. Tonight`s Last Word, time for it now. Well, we`re going to take a break, and I`m going to tell you about the LAST WORD on the other side of this break. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Now it really is time for tonight`s LAST WORD.
This weekend in Bell County, Kentucky, high school valedictorian ben bowling told the crowd of students, teachers and parents that he had pull inspirational quotes from Google for his address. And then he said this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t just get involved. Fight for a seat at the head of the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table -- Donald J. Trump.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m kidding. I`m kidding. That was Barack Obama.
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VELSHI: Ben Bolling told the Louisville courier journal that he didn`t mean anything bad by it but said most people wouldn`t like it if I used it. So thought I`d use Donald Trump`s name. It is southeastern Kentucky after all. That quote from President Barack Obama came at his commencement address in 2012 at Barnard College in New York.
That`s tonight`s Last Word. I`m Ali Velshi.
Coming up, Brian interviews Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee.
THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.
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