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Cohen parting ways with legal team. TRANSCRIPT: 06/13/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ryan Goodman, Michael Avenatti, Jeff Merkley

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 13, 2018 Guest: Ryan Goodman, Michael Avenatti, Jeff Merkley


I tune in early at this point in your program because this is where I get my homework assignments for tomorrow. So I have 500 pages coming at me tomorrow?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes. If you -- the way to prep for it is to look at the Justice Department inspector general`s Website, where he lays out all of the questions that report is supposed to answer, and it is like a table of contents of nonpartisan anxiety about law enforcement and the election. It is going to be a huge hairy deal tomorrow.

O`DONNELL: Team, cancel my schedule tomorrow.

Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Sorry.

O`DONNELL: You`ve ruined another -- what was going to be a perfectly pleasant afternoon.

MADDOW: It`s going to rain. You`ll be fine.


MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We`ve got work to do. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Well, Michael Cohen is just not rich enough. That`s one of his problems. President Trump`s personal attorney Michael Cohen said that he had to take out a home equity loan to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to never tell her story about having sex with Donald Trump, a story she then told.

If Michael Cohen had to take out a home equity loan to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen cannot possibly afford the team of 15 lawyers who have been representing him in federal court in Manhattan who cost well over $130,000 a week. Some of Michael Cohen`s lawyers bill significantly more than $1,000 an hour. And they are not lawyers whose law firms are comfortable with promises to pay. They are law firms that generally demand immediate payment.

And so, on a financial basis alone, it should come as no surprise today that Michael Cohen no longer has those lawyers. ABC News` George Stephanopoulos reported today that Michael Cohen has dropped that law firm that has been defending him in federal court.

The ABC News report also said, quote: Cohen, now with no legal representation, is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York, sources said. This development, which is believed to be imminent, will likely hit the White House, family members, staffers, and counsels hard.

NBC News has verified that Michael Cohen is parting ways with his legal team. "The New York Times" attributes the move to, quote, the payment of legal bills to his lawyers and their relative lack of experience with the federal prosecutors` office in New York.

"The New York Times" cites two unnamed sources who say that Michael Cohen has not yet been approached by the prosecutors seeking his cooperation, but those sources expect that, quote, the pressure on Mr. Cohen to cooperate may well intensify. The Manhattan U.S. attorney`s office is investigating Michael Cohen for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations and other possible crimes.

"The Washington Post" is reporting, big worries in Trump world tonight, quote, after working for a decade as Trump`s personal attorney, Cohen has extensive knowledge of the president`s personal dealings and the Trump campaign family business. The president`s allies are worried that the prosecutors in Manhattan are attempting to build a criminal case against Cohen to push him to cooperate with the special counsel probe, a prospect they see as potentially dire.

According to "Vanity Fair`s" Emily Jane Fox who has direct communication with Michael Cohen, including today, Michael Cohen has felt isolated by President Trump and his inner circle in Washington who have distanced themselves from him. Earlier this year, he heard that Eric Trump was telling associates that he felt Cohen was sloppy in the way he handled the Daniels agreement, which rankled Cohen.

I feel like Don Quixote, he has said to people close to him. It`s ruining my children`s lives. It`s ruining my wife`s life. It`s worst than a pit in your stomach.

Well, OK, Don Quixote didn`t have any children or a wife, and he was never raided by the FBI. So, maybe, he meant Don Corleone or some other fictional don.

"The Washington Post" is also reporting that Michael Cohen, quote, is feeling neglected by the president, his long-time patron for whom he has long professed his loyalty.

Here`s what Sam Nunberg said about Michael Cohen earlier this year on MSNBC.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I worry about Michael. I`m not going to say Michael is going to lie. I worry about Michael.

Michael Cohen got screwed out. He got screwed the most I ever saw by anyone, by Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: Special prosecutor Robert Mueller referred his findings about Michael Cohen to the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York where the Cohen case is now being heard by a federal judge. He was considering what evidence might be protected by attorney/client privilege among all the evidence that was seized by the FBI in raids of Michael Cohen`s home, office and hotel room.

But "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight having referred that evidence to the U.S. attorney`s office in New York, special prosecutor Robert Mueller is not finished with Michael Cohen, whose name apparently has resurfaced in testimony by a former member of the Ukrainian parliament. According to "The Washington Post," Andrii V. Artemenko, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, said in an interview that many of the questions he faced during several hours of testimony Friday were focused on his interactions with Cohen, Artemenko met with Cohen in January 2017 to discuss a back channel peace initiative for Ukraine. I realize that Michael Cohen is a target of special interest to Mueller, Artemenko told "The Washington Post" this week, days after he was questioned.

Leading off our discussions are Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor. She`s a professor at the University of Alabama law school and an MSNBC contributor, and Ryan Goodman, a law professor at NYU and co-editor-in- chief of the online forum

And, Joyce Vance, I want to get your reaction to these developments with Michael Cohen.

JOY VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It`s very interesting, but I think it`s also in many ways very unclear what the exact situation is with Cohen. And so, what we`ll have to watch for, the most important thing, Lawrence, will be if there comes a time when Cohen actually sits down with federal prosecutors. Because it`s not a situation where you suddenly wave a magic wand and someone`s cooperating.

It`s really a very involved dance where details will have to be worked out. Cohen will have to understand that the Cooperation he would provide would have to be full and complete. So we`re many steps removed from being able to say he will be assisting the Mueller prosecution.

O`DONNELL: And, Ryan Goodman, we have one report, just indicate the kind of expenses here. The special master who was appointed by the judge to examine the evidence in the case and decide what might be protected by attorney/client privilege, the special master cost, according to one report, $47,000 in the first week alone. That`s one week of the special master who`s been on this for week. That cost was supposed to be split between the prosecutors and Michael Cohen`s side. And that`s just one expense.

Michael Cohen`s own attorneys could easily be being hundreds of thousands a week.

RYAN GOODMAN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: That`s right. That could break anybody. Even if you find cheaper attorneys he`s not going to find a cheaper way out of this talking about costs at this level. So, that`s another indication it`s almost like a perfect storm greeting him both with the president isolating him and all of these costs and all of this pressure in which he seems to be legally exposed on so many fronts. You would think his time for cooperation is coming.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Joyce, "Vanity Fair" is reporting that the break up with the lawyers was spurred, break up with the lawyers, was spurred by a disagreement over payment and how much the Trump Organization was expected to foot on Cohen`s behalf, according to two sources with knowledge of the dispute.

So the issue there seems to be Michael Cohen expecting the Trump Organization to be paying more of the attorney`s fees involved in this evidentiary procedure.

VANCE: This is this unusual situation where Trump actually could foot the bill for some of Cohen`s fees because Cohen did work for the Trump Organization in the past. It`s perhaps a little bit surprising that they haven`t seen the wisdom of paying his fees. You know, prosecutors love former girlfriends as witnesses. It`s always the spurned ex-girlfriend who ends up telling a lot of good information to investigators.

Here, Cohen seems to be playing that role in many ways. He`s been left behind. He seems to have a lot of angst over having been left behind by Trump. And now, he may have the opportunity as his relationship with prosecutors becomes cultivated to actually share some of his feelings and the information that he has because in many ways, the Trump Organization has pushed him away and almost him into cooperation.

O`DONNELL: But, Ryan, one of the parties that`s in court is the president of the United States, Donald Trump, represented by other lawyers. And so, they have the same or a similar objective to Michael Cohen, and so that`s a situation where there`s another set of lawyers being paid by Donald Trump in that room, where there`s more than one way for Donald Trump to be covering the costs of this.

GOODMAN: That`s right. So, he can at least try to get some of it to happen that way. But I still think that Michael Cohen must feel quite aggrieved that his bills aren`t being paid for as well, and you would think it would be a normal sign. So, it seems another sign the Trump folks are sending to him that he`s on the outs.

O`DONNELL: Joe diGenova, who the president tried to hire as one of his lawyers in this case, and is closed to people involved, spoke to "Politico" about this and "Politico" is reporting Joseph diGenova, an informal legal adviser to Trump, said in an interview Wednesday that Cohen`s legal status remained a mystery to the president and others around him.

I don`t know what Michael Cohen is doing. I don`t think anybody does, he said.

Joyce Vance, what`s your interpretation of that?

VANCE: That`s a really unusual statement. Just even the fact that they would feel the need to make it is surprising. Cohen`s status could be one of many things. I mean, this could all be a dance being done for the public and there could have been a cooperation agreement concluded a long time ago. We don`t really know, Joe diGenova doesn`t know. But what his comments highlight how interesting and how important this is to the president and perhaps to members of his family.

That seems to be their focus right now. I think really everyone is holding their breath waiting to see where Cohen will land in this entire investigation.

O`DONNELL: And, Ryan, we have an occasion that Michael Cohen`s name keeps coming up with Robert Mueller. And what is it that Mueller and his prosecutors might circle back to Cohen about?

GOODMAN: I think there are two big, big issues. The first is that Cohen might have played a significant role, actually, in the relationship between the Russians and the Trump circle during the campaign. If there was collusion, there`s pretty interesting signs of it. The Steele dossier, which has been corroborated in different ways and as Senator Feinstein recently said it`s never been disproven, actually identifies Cohen as taking a lead role when Manafort stepped off the campaign.

And secondly, there`s a recent report, a fantastic investigative report in "BuzzFeed" news that also said they spoke to two federal agents, FBI agents, who said that Cohen was in frequent contact with people trying to work the Moscow deal that were also either had knowledge of or were playing a role in the Russian interference in the election. That really puts him at the center of what the entire investigation is about, that`s important.

And then also this other back channel plan with Ukraine has Russia`s fingerprints on it. The Russian impose story that you identified. Cohen actually speaks to "The Washington Post" today and says to them that Russia endorsed it, which is a self-incriminating move on his part. But here we have it again, that`s right in the target set for Robert Mueller.

O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, in your experience as a prosecutor, when you have someone like Michael Cohen at this point in an investigation like this, and you see a move of dropping these lawyers, these very expensive lawyers, and it`s not clear who he`s moving to. I have to say, usually when a defendant or a potential defendant or plaintiff changes lawyers, the replacement lawyers are right there ready to go. It`s usually the announcement is made at the same time we`re leaving this law firm and this is the one taking over.

We don`t know who`s going to take over here. What does that say to the prosecutors? What are they thinking tonight as they watch the developments with Michael Cohen?

VANCE: So, we`ve seen this before in this investigation with both General Flynn and then again with Gates. We receive seen this flurry of activity surrounding a change in lawyers and then Cooperation becoming apparent within the next day or two.

Prosecutors will likely want to see this moment if they`re, in fact, interested in having cooperation from Cohen, and it seems to me there are a lot of reasons that would make Cohen a very attractive prospect for cooperation. All of the reasons Ryan just identified and his ability to complete some of the pieces of the story that they`re trying to understand. So, certainly they`ll have some form of outreach to him as soon as the counsel issue settles.

O`DONNELL: Ryan, what is their first approach? If it`s up to the prosecutors to make an approach to Michael Cohen, to say would you like to talk, how do they frame that?

GOODMAN: I think they would maybe pass him a page like this one and then just list various laws that he is exposed under and that they have evidence of, and there`s a lot besides the mail fraud, bank fraud, there`s potentially a FARA violation, Federal Agents Registration Act, so like they got Manafort and Gates and Flynn, there`s also an indication he was operating as an agent of a foreign power with the Ukraine deal. There`s so many ways he`s exposed. They can show him that, he can think about the minimum penalties for all of this, and I think a rational person with a good lawyer or without one, would start cooperating.

O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance and Ryan Goodman, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

When we come back, Michael Avenatti is here with his reaction to Michael Cohen`s lawyers problems. We`ll see if Michael Avenatti thinks Michael Cohen is Don Quixote.

And Republican Senator Bob Corker says that his party is now behaving like a Trump cult.

Also, NBC`s Jacob Soboroff was allowed into one of the facilities at the border who was taken away from their parents. He was allowed to see what Senator Jeff Merkley was not allowed to see. Jacob Soboroff and Senator Merkley will both join us later in this hour.


O`DONNELL: Michael Cohen is changing lawyers and Rupert Murdoch is trying to get President Trump to change lawyers, or to at least get rid of Rudy Giuliani.

Rupert Murdoch obviously sees Rudy Giuliani as not helping to protect Rupert Murdoch`s investment in the White House. And so, Rupert Murdoch`s "New York Post" today were in a two-page spread about Rudy Giuliani`s most recent escapade of marital infidelity as described by Rudy Giuliani`s most recent wife.

Rupert Murdoch`s "New York Post" included surveillance pictures of Rudy Giuliani`s new alleged mistress. But if Rupert Murdoch really wants to protect his investment in the White House, he might have to consider paying for Michael Cohen`s new lawyers because Michael Cohen clearly cannot afford to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a week to defend himself in a federal investigation in New York City and continue his civil case against Stormy Daniels to try to enforce the nondisclosure agreement that he wrote that was designed to prevent Stormy Daniels from telling her story about having sex with Donald Trump, a story which she told.

But Michael Cohen, of course, forgot to get his client, Donald Trump to sign the agreement. So Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is fighting Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in court in California.

But tonight, Michael Avenatti is here in New York, and Michael Avenatti joins our discussion now.

I want -- you did a calculation about how much that this case is costing Michael Cohen in New York City that you put out today. You estimated it could be a half a million dollars a week?


O`DONNELL: Fifteen lawyers, some of them getting over 1,500 an hour. Some of them -- a low would be $700 an hour?

AVENATTI: Correct, under New York rates. I mean, I think you`re looking at 15 lawyers, about 50 hours a week, you do the math and it`s on average a hybrid rate of $700, $750 an hour, and that`s before you factor in Mr. Ryan who`s probably billing $1,200 an hour. I mean, the burn rate, Lawrence, here is significant. It`s probably about a half million dollars a week.

And look, this is no different than many other criminal white collar prosecutions. You know, you have a defendant that starts off defiant, like Mr. Cohen, that talks about he`s willing to take a bullet for his co- conspirator. And all of a sudden, the burn rate sets in, and you realized you`re burning through your cash and you`re never going to get that money back, that money is going to be gone forever, and you put on an island by your co-conspirators, which is what has happened to him with this president, with Mr. Trump. They put this guy in an island, which is beyond stupid, OK?

This is a president that demands and values loyalty but provides none. And we`ve seen that time again. In this case it`s going to ultimately cost them because they`re basically putting this guy on the island, not to mix metaphors, but when the music stops, he`s not going to be left with a chair.

And this is a very, very dangerous situation for the president. I mean, I said this nine weeks, over two months ago, I said that Mr. Cohen was very, very dangerous to the president, I said he was going to be indicted, I said he was going to flip on the president and that he posed a big threat than the Mueller investigation because --

O`DONNELL: Why wouldn`t the president help him out financially with these legal fees?

AVENATTI: Because he`s not smart, Lawrence. I mean, why would the president of all the attorneys in the world, all the attorneys in the United States, why would the president hire a guy like Rudy Giuliani, you know, dazed and confused Rudy, to go out on the airwaves and spew the nonsense and the sexist comments that he has? I mean, this guy is a walking disaster. I mean, every day he speaks, our case gets better and people get more and more outrage.

O`DONNELL: Well, Rudy isn`t speaking lately I think for obvious reasons.

Let`s listen to Emily Jane Fox in the last hour with Rachel Maddow. As we know, Emily Jane Fox has direct contact with Michael Cohen. She has the best source about Michael Cohen, which is Michael Cohen.

Let`s listen to what she told Rachel about how Michael Cohen is feeling.


EMILY JANE FOX, REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: The president has done nothing in order to make Michael Cohen feel like he has Michael Cohen`s back. And that has been a problem. You forget the president went on Fox News and basically said, I barely know the guy, he`s like a coffee boy, he did a very, very small percentage of my legal work. And then his attorney Rudy Giuliani has gone on television repeatedly making this harder for Michael Cohen.

And the reaction from Michael Cohen, from everything I know from my reporting, has been these guys don`t have my back. Now, a man who is frustrated, isolated, feeling alone and feeling very, very angry at the Trump family in general and at the president.


O`DONNELL: Angry at the Trump family in general and the president. And he has information about the Trump family and the president.

AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, I think what`s going to happen is, look, nothing lasts forever, OK? I know a lot of people think things last forever, they don`t last forever. And so, what`s going to happen here is the narcissism of this president, you know, his arrogance, his stupidity is going to catch up to him because he`s not covering -- he`s not providing air cover for the guy that knows where all the bodies are buried. I`ve been saying this for a while.

I mean, this is the guy that handled all the nonsense for the better part of 12 years, OK? If there`s one guy you provide air cover for, that you provide legal fees for, that you bring in the tent and you make him feel loved and welcomed, it`s this guy, OK? But that`s not what we`ve seen. In fact, we`ve seen just the opposite.

And this arrogance and this narcissism is very, very dangerous, OK? This is the guy that knows where the bodies are buried and I believe that he`s going to sing like a canary because he`s not going to have any choice but to try to save his family and the people he cares about and he`s going to be out of money.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to this powerful one word answer that Emily Jane Fox gave to Rachel`s question that laid it all out. Let`s listen.


MADDOW: If Mr. Cohen based on the feelings or the other dynamics we`ve been talking about, if he does decide he`s going to cooperate with prosecutors and tell them about his interactions with President Trump over the years, is that a potential serious risk for the president in terms of the president`s own legal liability?

FOX: Yes.


O`DONNELL: That`s got to be the scariest moment that Donald Trump has had on TV this year.

AVENATTI: I mean, Lawrence, you know, again, I`ve been saying this for two, two and a half months. I mean, you know, I predicted this and people say to me, well, how did you know? How could you predict this? How did you know?

I mean, this really isn`t difficult if you have experience in this game and you`ve seen other cases. This case even though it involves some rather large and important figures in other life is no different than many other white collar prosecutions. But what is astounding to me is that we`re talking about the president of the United States who promised the American public he`s going to surround himself with the best and brightest, and this guy, he`s surrounded himself year in and year out with morons, people that are completely incompetent and certainly not up to the task at hand, and it`s going to come back and it`s going to bite him in a very big way.

O`DONNELL: Part of Emily Jane Fox reporting is that today, today, Michael Cohen was engaged with his California lawyers who are fighting you and Stormy Daniels over that civil case. Why doesn`t Michael Cohen just drop that case?

AVENATTI: Well, at this point, Lawrence, because we put him in a box, he doesn`t have the ability to drop that case. That ship sailed many, many weeks ago. It was a trap, a tripwire that we laid and he fell right into it, as he`s done time and time again in connection with these cases.

You know, I have to tell you, people ask me Lawrence over the last three or four months what has surprised you the most in connection with what has happened. The answer is very, very clear. And that is the incompetence of these lawyers, the incompetence of Michael Cohen and the fact they keep falling into every trap that we lay. And again, ultimately this is going to prove to be a very, very big problem for this president.

O`DONNELL: It sounds by the way like Donald Trump has been listening to you, because Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times" tweeted Trump has been fuming about Cohen in private blaming him for the messy Stormy Daniels situation. But he also is fearful of making that public because of chances it further pushes Cohen toward the Southern District of New York. So Donald Trump, according to that, agrees with you about how messy the Stormy Daniels situation is because of Michael Cohen.

AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, here`s the bottom line, all the king`s horses and all the king`s men can`t put humpty-dumpty back together again. And it doesn`t matter how concerned he is or how much he fumes or how much he yells and screams at the White House. He is too far down the path. This is not going to end well for the president. I`ve said it before, I`m going to say it again.

O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. I appreciate it.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: When we come back, Senator Bob Corker says the Republican Party has turned into the cult, cult of Donald Trump.

And also, NBC`s Jacob Soboroff reports from one of the facilities that is incarcerating immigrant children at the border, the facility that Senator Merkley was not allowed to see. Senator Merkley and Jacob Soboroff will both join us.


O`DONNELL: The United States senator has a constitutional right to visit and examine federal facilities because of Congress` constitutional authority to oversee the conduct of the executive branch. But when Senator Jeff Merkley went to Brownsville, Texas to examine a facility used by the federal government to incarcerate immigrant children who have been separated from their parents, this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, yes. Can I go in with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sir. This is private property.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Let me introduce myself. I`m Senator Jeff Merkley from Congress. And my team contacted this facility and asked permission for me to come and see what`s going on inside with these children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we don`t have any permission on that. So I`m going to have to ask you to please step away, sir.


O`DONNELL: That facility is a former Walmart that was remodeled to incarcerate immigrant children. Today MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff was the group first of reporters allowed inside the facility since Senator Merkley was asked to leave the premises.

Jacob Soboroff joins us live from outside that facility in Brownsville, Texas. And Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon is also with us.

Jacob, first of all, to you. Tell us what you saw, and can you show us anything that you saw inside there?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lawrence. I think right around the same time we are coming on the air right now with you. We are getting some of the firsthand out photos from the U.S. department of health and human services which operates this facility. We were not allowed to bring our cameras inside. And that is because there are almost 1,500 boys almost, between the ages of 10 and 17 years old, that are going to sleep in there at tonight. At 9:00 the lights go out.

And it`s essentially a prison or jail without cages or cells for these young boys. The majority of them who arrived in America as unaccompanied minors. They crossed on their own. But an increasing number as you know and have been reporting on are separated from their parents because of the zero tolerance policy from the Trump administration. And it`s truly an unbelievable things is.

I mean, it is almost hard to wrap your head around but you go inside and there are hundreds of kids at a time in line for chow, doing activities. But they are all there because they were picked up by the border patrol and locked up. And they are not going to be able to get out of there for the next couple months, at least that`s the average stay.

O`DONNELL: Jacob, have you seen any of the images or video that we are showing right now from the facility?

SOBOROFF: I did catch a glimpse of them, Lawrence. I mean, one of the most striking ones, I don`t know if you have put it up on the screen, is there`s a lot of American history all over this place. And the kids go to school for six hours a day and they want to teach these kids about America.

But there`s a mural, you know, of anybody they could possibly pick, Donald Trump, right in that cafeteria. It is the first thing you see when you go in there. And essentially, what it says is you don`t always win the battle but you win the war. You can probably read. You know I don`t have it in front of me right now.

It`s a striking thing to think about. That an increasing number of these kids are being ripped apart from their parents and brought in to a facility like this, sleeping in a former Walmart because of a Donald Trump policy. And there`s Donald Trump up on the wall for them to see every single day.

O`DONNELL: Jacob, was your access restricted or were you allowed to look at anything you wanted to?

SOBOROFF: No, we could. I mean, in terms of restrictions, they asked us actually not to speak with the children but I was able to kind of, you know, exchange hellos with many of them. And I asked them how are they doing? Most of them said they are doing OK.

And I want to emphasize, you know, this is a licensed facility with, you know, child service professionals. And I think that they are doing, for all intents and purposes, a relatively good job of taking care of these kids. There`s a large medical staff on duty at all times, 48 people and three doctors on call. There`s teachers.

It is one to eight in terms of staff to detained children. But the big thing, and I`m interested to hear what the senator has to say about this, that was flagged to me by the operators of the facility, which again, was opened before this migrant policy change by the Trump administration to zero tolerance is now it`s going to be overflowing because kids are being ripped away from their parents and they are putting in to centers like this.

They are going to open these tent cities. And the administration is looking at federal property like military bases or ports of entry. What they told me inside here today me is that those facilities don`t have to be licensed. They don`t have to have practitioners that are professionals in their field because essentially, those are emergency setups. And it wasn`t something that I had heard before and I would imagine could have, you know, very big consequences when you have hundreds if not thousands of undocumented children, you know, as young as infants not being taken care of necessarily by professionals.

O`DONNELL: Senator Merkley your reaction to what Jacob has been reporting?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, D-OR.: Well, yes. And Jacob, I have a couple of questions for you. One is, were you able to determine whether kids who were taken away from their parents are able to have regular contact with their parents?

SOBOROFF: What I was told, senator, is that it`s up to basically to penal institution that these parents are placed into. And now, the administration is trying to charge these immigrants that come into the country as illegally as criminals. Often time that means it`s up to a federal prison whether they can make phone calls to their children that are inside here. They said that most of the children are able to make contact once they are separated, but at the end of the day that`s something scheduled by the prison that that parent is ultimately placed into.

MERKLEY: Well, I have heard from the folks who work with the refugees that it`s extremely difficult for the kids to reach their parents or the parents to reach it will kids. And that previously, this facility was used as a temporary spot from which kids were placed in smaller more appropriate homes, foster homes around the country, but that now because those homes have been flooded, they are filled up, that they are having to really turn this in to the place where kids stay for a long period of time. Is that your sense of it?

SOBOROFF: Yes. You know, Senator, there are virtually --in fact, it`s not that there are no available beds. There are negative bed space when it comes to the allotted capacity for this facility. They had a variance issued in May to allow additional beds inside the facility itself. We walked around in some of these dormitory style rooms that are supposed to have four beds each, they have five beds each inside it. And they literally cannot handle any more people. And now a challenge is the administration may be turning over the fingerprints and the biometric data, people sponsors that want to come and pick up these kids. Maybe its family members and maybe they are undocumented. Now that that data has been turned over, it was raised inside. And potentially these people may not come to pick up as sponsors, these undocumented children that are inside which is creating a whole new set of problems. Where do they go from here if not to a sponsor? If people are turning away from coming to pick them up.

MERKLEY: And one more question. We have heard that from child specialists that the trauma is enormous for these kids to be separated from their parents. Do you have any sense from the specialists who were there on site that they are seeing this trauma and that they geared up the appropriate type of counselors to provide assistance?

SOBOROFF: Yes. You know, one of the really fascinating things that came up when we were inside, Senator, is that the office of refugee resettlement becomes the guardian of these children. And some of them are actually prescribed medication for psychological issues once they are inside here. And normally that would be the decision of a parent. But because the parents are not with these children. Again, some who have arrived on their own, now an increasing number that are separated from their parents, it`s up to a government agency to decide what prescriptions these kids are going to get and many have to rely on that in these types of situations.

O`DONNELL: Senator Merkley, Jacob has been allowed to see one facility, it`s the biggest facility, but it`s one facility among many around the country that are being used this way. We have no idea of how the girls are being treated if in their separate facilities. We have no idea how the children of younger ages, below 10 years old are being treated. We have no reports on that. What can you do as a senator to get into these places to see how these children are being treated?

MERKLEY: Well, the first thing is to really highlight the problem. And I thank you so much for focusing attention on it tonight. I think it`s only because of the protest that I staged a week ago that reporters are now being let in. But it needs to be possible for members of Congress to go in with just a day`s notice to see how they are actually operating. Not how they are cleaned up, spruced up, you know, the show put on when you have to get reservation a week or two in advance.

And we are pushing for a bill, Senator Feinstein`s bill, I`m a co-sponsor of it that will keep the families together. These are families that are fleeing persecutional (ph) resist. They are applying for asylum. And we have a new message for them which is if you are being persecuted and watch up on the shores of America, we no longer greet you with the statue of liberty with a flame, a torch in her hand. Instead, we greet you with a pair of handcuffs, lock you up and take your kids away, even though we know this injuries the kids. And this is completely immoral, evil destructive policy just has to be ended.

O`DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley, I have no doubt that we would not be getting this report tonight from Jacob Soboroff if you had not gone there first and staged that protest. The only United States senator to do that.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Jacob Soboroff, thank you both very much for joining us on this important issue tonight.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, two Republican senators now so embarrassed by the cowardice in their party that one of them is calling it a Trump cult.



O`DONNELL: Remember when politician used to be thought of as power hungry, ego maniacs. Now they are thought of as weak-minded sheep.

Members of a cult with no room for the round egos in their daily devotions to the cult.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Look. We are in a strange place. I mean, it`s almost, you know, been -- it`s becoming a cultish thing isn`t it. And it`s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be of -- reportedly of the same parties.


O`DONNELL: That`s Republican Senator Bob Corker who cannot believe that his fellow Republican senators have surrendered their constitutional authority over tariffs to the President of the United States. Most presidents of the United States have not have the authority to raise tariffs or change tariffs in any way. It wasn`t until the 20th century that Congress started handing over tiny pieces of tariff authority to the President.

At the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union in 1962, Congress decided to give the President the opportunity to raise tariffs for national security. National security was everything in those days. It was the most important thing to everyone in Congress. And that near panic over national security, Washington made some very big mistakes over that, like the Vietnam War.

And in 1962, Congress never anticipated that we would have a President who would abuse the power to use tariffs for national security. Congress never dreamed that a President would impose tariffs om-Canada for national security. And if you would asked me what Congress would do if that ever happened before the Trump presidency, I would have told you that the chairmen of the senate finance committee and the house ways and means committee with jurisdiction over emergency, the tariffs would have introduced an emergency bill to remove or limit the President`s power to impose those tariffs for national security.

And one of the reasons they would have done it is that in the pre-Trump era committee chairmen had very big egos and they did not allow anyone to tamper with their jurisdiction, including the President of the United States. But those egos are gone. And Congresses respect for its own constitutional authority is gone because the committee chairmen are now all Republicans. The committees are all run by Republicans which Republican Senator Bob Corker now calls a cult-like situation. It may be that Republican Senator Bob Corker is speaking out against this only because he is not running for reelection. Republican Senator Jeff Flake is not running for reelection either.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: This institution, the article one branch of our government is not an accessory to the executive branch. And we demean ourselves and our proper constitutional role when we act like we work for the President. That we are only here to do his bidding especially now.


O`DONNELL: How did it happen? Our next guest, Jason Johnson is a Ph.D. in political science. We will see if political science can explain the collapse into a Republican congress into a cult-like situation.


O`DONNELL: Republicans used to vehemently object to the idea of the President of the United States shaking hands with the North Korean dictator, but then when the Trump cult took over Washington, everything changed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama had said that he would meet with some of these mad men without any preconditions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is bowing and scraping before dictators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`m going to reach out to these crazy people around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the thing is fear the most is Barack Obama catering to the world dictators is literally the Neville chamberlain of our time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump proves the experts wrong again and scores a stunning diplomatic triumph.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States had agreed to sit down face to face with Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea. It is clearly historic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I gave the President of the United States a standing ovation. I think it is breathtaking, it`s audacious, it is bold. It will be historic.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The commander-in-chief`s leadership is now leading to a major foreign policy break through as it relates to North Korea.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jason Johnson, politics editor of and MSNBC contributor.

Jason, how did it happen? Bob Corker complaining about his Republican Senate colleagues as a cult at this point.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: You know, the Republican branding to cult 45 has been going for a couple of years now, right? This idea that you can get elected, that you can be in power, that you can push through policy, not because of some long existing principle, but just because you have a personality that people like. And the Republican Party has been pushing for this for years, right?

I mean, look. This goes back to Reagan, you know. There was a cult of Reagan that we were talking about all the way up to Romney. I don`t know if you remember this, but remember a couple of years ago, there was actually like a bid for some of Reagan`s blood. I mean, that was as cult like as you can get. There were people who worshipped Reagan. But what has been happening with Trump is that there`s no policy associated with it. It`s just who people think Trump is and the Republican Party is going to follow him down this path and it ends up like most cults end up, which is death and destruction to everybody involved.

O`DONNELL: The fascinating point that brought out Bob Corker is this Presidential use of tariffs which is limited to national security. This is clearly a violation of the intent of the law written by Congress. It will be found to be a violation of international trading rules in the world trade organization.

America wins its cases in the world trade organization. This time it`s going to lose. Under Trump it`s finally going to lose. And Bob Corker is stunned that his colleagues in the Congress have surrendered their power over the President over this. And I have to say this is the thing during the Trump campaign that I never anticipated, that Congress, Republicans in Congress would not use their powers in relation to the White House.

JOHNSON: Yes. They have become completely supplicate, you know. The tension between the different branches of government is sort of it is built in. It is based into the cake, right. Congress doesn`t want to have complete filthy (ph) to the President. The judiciary wants to remain independent. And that conflict, that sort of team of rival situation that we have between our branches of government is how we have stop gaps, it is how we keep control.

And this Congress under Mitch McConnell and under Paul Ryan have decided that we don`t care. We are going to give up any of our responsibilities. We are not going to do any oversight. We are going to pass sanction against Russia. And Donald Trump is going to say I don`t feel like it. We are going to allow this President to make proclamations and make policies one way or another. We are not going to stop him.

And look. What frustrates me about this, it is great that Jeff Flake says things, it`s great that Bob Corker says things. But they are not really doing anything about it. They are basically fireman standing around with the limp hose next to a fire saying, man, I wish somebody would do something about this.

They should be spending every waking moment of their remaining months in Congress saying I will not vote for this person, I will not allow this person to be approved. I will stop everything that can occur in this Congress until we get some of these amendments past. And they are not doing that. They are just complaining. That`s why a lot of these sort of, you know, virtue signaling by these Republicans doesn`t impress me.

O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.


O`DONNELL: We have a breaking news report from "The New York Times" on the Michael Cohen legal fee dispute apparently involving Michael Cohen and the Trump family. "The New York Times" is reporting the Trump family has been paying for the time-consuming and enormously expensive process of reviewing the voluminous materials seized in the raids on Mr. Cohen, according to people familiar with the case.

Recently, however, the dispute has erupted over the amount that Mr. Cohen`s lawyers want to charge the Trump family enterprises for the review, which the lawyers have said they are running with a large team of associates and data specialists. The disagreement could serve to further isolate Mr. Cohen from Mr. Trump, a risky move for the President.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD. Brian will have more on this in the 11th HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS, which starts now.


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