Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: July 19, 2018 Guest: Glenn Kirschner; Harry Obst
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, don't surprise me like that. That was a little too quick.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Sorry.
O'DONNELL: You know, I'm used to little --
MADDOW: Here I come --
O'DONNELL: Yes, one of those kinds of things.
MADDOW: I'm around the corner.
O'DONNELL: One of those kinds of things.
So, Rachel, last night, I had this news to break for you.
O'DONNELL: About the president's briefing that he got on January 6 and it has changed everything about what we've been hearing the president say for the last year and a half. Since then, I'm going to show some of the videos later in this hour about how after he knew what he knew, he continued to just relentlessly lie about it could have been someone else, it might not be the Russians.
MADDOW: Well, if he knew and he expressed at the time that he was persuaded by the evidence that he was presented, then presumably he'll have to give some explanation publicly at some point as to how he became unpersuaded, who unpersuaded him. There weren't that many people in the world other than Donald Trump who are arguing at that time that Russian didn't do it, other than, of course, the Russians.
So, I'm not sure who he's going to say persuaded him otherwise if he was initially persuaded that it had been Russia. But I'd love to hear his sort of origin story for how he came to that different understanding.
O'DONNELL: I have to assume that as of tonight, he doesn't think the game has changed at all. He -- I suspect he thinks he gets to continue to play the game of yes, I accept that it was Russia, but it could have been someone else.
MADDOW: Right. Well, we'll see I mean now that he's got Putin coming over for the midterms, presumably that might call to question.
O'DONNELL: We'll see. We will see.
MADDOW: Yes. Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, at this hour last night, it was we're just saying, we learned the dramatic story told in a breaking news report in "The New York Times" about how Donald Trump was presented with specific evidence of the Russian attack on our election two weeks before he was inaugurated, "The New York Times" reported that on January 6, 2017, President-elect Trump in Trump Tower was shown texts and emails from Russians who engaged in the attack on our election and other highly classified sourced materials showing that President Putin directed and ordered the direct -- directly ordered this attack.
And now this morning, in an interview on CNN, we learned more from James Clapper who was then the director of national intelligence and was in the room with the president-elect when that evidence was presented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DNI: I think the best insight into the level of detail and the fidelity of the information we had which gave us such high confidence can be found in a careful read of the most recent indictment of the 12 GRU officers by special counsel Mueller. That to me is I think great insight into the detail that we had which we exposed the president and his team to on the 6th of January of 2017.
In addition, we left very highly classified written document which laid out in more detail the evidence that we had. And so, the fact that President Putin was directly involved and directly ordered this, no big decisions are made in Russia anyway without Putin, and all that was laid out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And so, Donald Trump has known from the start of his presidency that Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on our election and from James Clapper this morning, we learned that Robert Mueller has known from the beginning of his investigation about at least some of those Russian military officers who Robert Mueller indicted last week and that means that Robert Mueller probably could have brought that indictment against those Russians months ago.
And so, the timing of that indictment on the Friday before the Monday that the president was scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin now seems all the more calculated and deliberate and shows that in addition to the investigative skills that Robert Mueller and his team have, the Mueller team is also in possession of masterful tactical strategic skills. The strategic timing of that indictment meant that the indictment was the lens through which the news media and the world watched the catastrophe that was the Trump Putin summit.
Donald Trump has a pattern. After he makes a disastrous mistake which leads to worldwide public humiliation, Donald Trump and Donald Trump alone believes that he can prove that it wasn't a mistake by publicly announcing he's going to make exactly the same mistake again. And so, President Trump did that again today, and he did it when the cable news world was riveted to an interview that the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was giving to Andrea Mitchell here on MSNBC.
The interview was deemed so important by other cable news networks that they actually simulcast part of this MSNBC interview at the Aspen Security Forum. It was an extraordinary television event because, of course, Donald Trump has just this week equated Dan Coats and Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others they said -- they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And so, as expected, Andrea's interview with Dan Coats today began very badly for the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST, "ANDREW MITCHELL REPORTS": Moments after the president appeared to be siding with Vladimir Putin over you, you personally by name you stood up and spoke out. I'm wondering why did you do that?
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm not surprised we're starting with Russia.
COATS: I was just doing my job.
MITCHELL: I'm wondering, when you watch that in Helsinki, what was your gut reaction watching him validate Vladimir Putin's assessment over yours?
COATS: Well, my thoughts there were that I believed I needed to correct the record for that and that this is the job I signed up for and that was my responsibility. Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement but I think that now that has been clarified based on his late reactions to this. And so, I don't think I want to go any further than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And Donald Trump certainly didn't want him to go any further on that. And so, with the news world's riveted to Andrea Mitchell's interview with Dan Coats, Donald Trump decided to shake things up by having his press secretary tweaked an announcement that in Donald Trump's mind and in his mind alone proves that his one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin was not a colossal, disastrous mistake.
Watch Dan Coats reaction when he learned from Andrea that the White House press secretary just tweeted that Donald Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
COATS: Say that again?
MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --
COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear --
MITCHELL: Yes, yes.
COATS: That's going to be special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Dan Coats had already told Andrea that he has no idea what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed on Monday. And so, obviously, Dan Coats has no idea why President Trump is rewarding Vladimir Putin with an invitation to the White House.
When Andrea opened up the questioning to others in the room, Carol Lee of NBC News said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The White House announcement that Andrea referenced earlier said Putin was invited to Washington this fall, were you aware of that? Just want to clarify because you seemed to be --
COATS: I think I based on my reaction, I wasn't aware of that.
MITCHELL: Would you recommend that there not be a one-on-one without note takers?
COATS: If I were asked that question, I would look for a different way of doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell tried to find out what Dan Coats and no one else in the Trump administration seems to know, which is what President Trump and Vladimir Putin talked about when they were alone, Congressman Swalwell will join us in a moment to describe their attempt to get the House Intelligence Committee to subpoena the notes of the State Department interpreter who was in the room with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
The Senate showed how quickly it can actually do something today when the Senate really wants to. It took the Senate's Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer exactly three minutes and eight seconds to convince the Senate to vote on a resolution, quote, expressing the sense of Congress against the making available of current and former diplomats officials and members of the armed forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.
The Senate vote was 98-0 in favor of that resolution after Donald Trump on Monday publicly said that it was a good idea to hand over among others Obama administration ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, who Vladimir Putin specifically mentioned on Monday as he stood beside Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin accused Ambassador McFaul of being a criminal and said he would trade the extradition of the Russian military officers who have been indicted by Robert Mueller for Ambassador McFaul and other Americans to which the president of the United States said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: When asked about that yesterday, the White House press secretary said that the Trump administration was still considering Vladimir Putin's offer, still considering whether to hand over Ambassador McFaul and other Americans to Vladimir Putin. A State Department spokesperson yesterday immediately said that that was ridiculous and that the State Department would never participate in such a deal.
And then the United States Senate voted unanimously today to condemn the idea and so, the most incompetent bumbling White House staff in history and the most incoherent and weakest president in history once again completely backed down on what Donald Trump called an incredible offer from Vladimir Putin.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California, who's a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and Nicholas Burns, former ambassador to NATO and former undersecretary of state for political affairs for President George W. Bush.
And, Ambassador Burns, I just want to go to you first on what Donald Trump called an incredible offer, this cooperating with Vladimir Putin and how Vladimir Putin wants to investigate among others Ambassador McFaul, possibly have him arrested extradited to Moscow for trial.
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It was such an outrageous offer from Vladimir Putin. You have to wonder, Lawrence, why didn't Donald Trump just turn it down on the spot. I think all of us who are watching that extraordinary press conference from Helsinki thought this sounds like the worst deal that the United States could ever agree to. It took President Trump four days.
Can you imagine the United States turning over a David Kramer, a Michael McFaul, outstanding public servants to Russian intelligence agents? You can't imagine it because we've never had a president so cynical and so ignorant of what's right and what's wrong, and you see this huge chasm between the president and everybody else in the government.
You can't believe in Jim Mattis or Mike Pompeo or even John Bolton thought this was a good idea, but the president apparently did until today when his hand was forced by that 98-0 vote.
O'DONNELL: Ambassador, with your experience in the White House, tell us what would you would expect to happen in a White House. It's inconceivable that a president could say something like that other than in Donald Trump but let's just displace assume some other president said something that you really want to take back, that an offer made by Vladimir Putin or some other head of state sounded like a really good deal, president says that in public. Everyone in the administration knows it's not a good deal, here's what's wrong with it.
Describe for us what would be the scene on Air Force One, the scene back at the White House working on the problem that has just been created and would it take any other White House more than half the week to come out with a statement saying, no, we're not going to do that?
BURNS: Well, first, you can't imagine any American president in our lifetime who would think about taking that offer for a second. But hypothetically, you have to speak truth to power. And in a normal White House, with a normal rational president who put the country's interests first rather than his interests first, you'd have a conversation when you say you cannot accept this and we have to strike this down and announce that we're striking it down immediately, and you send the White House spokesperson out or the national security advisor out to say something like you know the president must have misunderstood this proposal or it wasn't communicated properly but we're not going to do it.
To take four days and let honorable people like Mike McFaul and others have to wonder if their government was going to stand up for them, think about the message to our NATO allies. I mean, here we've had this extraordinary week where Trump is treating Putin significantly better with more respect than Angela Merkel or Theresa May where he calls the E.U. a foe of the United States but treats Putin to a second meeting this autumn.
He has an upside-down foreign policy and it has no basis of morality or a common sense or strategy that could possibly help the United States to succeed in the world.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, tell us about your effort to subpoena the interpreter's notes.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, good evening, Lawrence, and, Ambassador.
You know, Lawrence, we had an open hearing in the intelligence committee today, very rare that we do that and just happen to be by accident the same week where the president had this one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin. And because the president is, as a former prosecutor, I'll just say, he has priors, he has disclosed national security information in the past to Russians in private. Because there's suspicion that he was executing secret deals by wanting to turn over Ambassador McFaul, there's a high concern that we want to know what he has exposed us to or what he has told them.
So, we asked the Republicans so many of them on this committee, by the way, they put out tweets over the past couple days of concern. We wanted to see if they were serious and so, Ranking Member Schiff and I put a motion forward during our hearing to subpoena the translator and bring that person in a closed hearing so we could just learn what national security deals are at risk and what secrets have been exposed. They voted it down along party lines, Lawrence, which shows me that they are not quite there yet as to wanting to protect our country over this president.
O'DONNELL: And Senator Jeff Flake has said he's wondering whether you should get the interpreters notes. The unprecedented nature of the request or of other and even the request for the subpoena is what has slowed down a lot of Republican senators. That's what they're citing. But this is I think you would make the case an unprecedented situation, and it's not like you and Congressman Schiff are constantly asking for interpreter's notes.
SWALWELL: That's right, Lawrence. And we gave careful consideration to this and that's why we asked for it to be first you know in a closed session, so there was no spectacle of a public hearing.
But again, the president has demonstrated time and time again that he should not be given the courtesy of precedent because he acts in such extraordinary ways, and to see today that the lesson that he has taken away from the way he acted and the way the American people have themselves reacted to his meeting with Vladimir Putin, to invite him back the White House shows that he either has missed the message or doesn't care.
Lawrence, Vladimir Putin attacked America. When your house is broken into, you upgrade your home security system. You don't invite the burglar over for dinner. So, that all we can do now in Congress is to make sure that we upgrade the security system and that includes right now prevent -- protecting the United States against our own president and his relationship with Vladimir Putin.
O'DONNELL: Senator Chuck Schumer said today: until we know what happened at that two-hour meeting in Helsinki, the president should have no more one-on-one interactions with Putin in the United States, in Russia or anywhere else.
Ambassador Burns, your reaction to that?
BURNS: Oh, I think it's just common sense you always want to have a record of what our guy or gal says and what the other person says. You always have the national security advisor or a White House staffer in the room. You don't want the Russians to come back, which they will, to say that President Trump promised this or that, even if he didn't promise it, you want to be able to defend yourself and they've really left himself exposed here, the White House, and you got a hope that the president will find some common sense if he does have another meeting, which I think is extremely ill-advised anyway.
To invite our most dangerous adversary to Washington, D.C., a visit of honor, he should be inviting Angela Merkel, Theresa May, the European leadership and put NATO back together after his wrecking ball tour of Europe.
O'DONNELL: Ambassador Burns, a quick one before you go. Dan Coats said today he suspects it to be likely that the Russians at least tried to record that meeting or very likely they do have a recording of that meeting. Do you agree with that in your experience?
BURNS: Yes, diplomatic practice is that you don't record meetings, but the Russians I think have a practice of violating most understanding. So, Dan Coats is a man of great principle and honor, and I think he's probably right.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, and former Ambassador Nicholas Burns, thank you both for starting us off. I really appreciate it.
SWALWELL: Thanks, Lawrence.
BURNS: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, we're going to show you video of the president lying but these are lies you've actually seen him tell before. But tonight, there is a whole new context for more than a year and a half of lying by the president of the United States.
And later, an interpreter for seven presidents will join us and tell us exactly what the State Department interpreter who was in the room with the president on Monday has been doing since Monday, and why she has more than just her notes.
O'DONNELL: We have breaking news at this hour from "The Washington Post", indicating that Dan Coats is now in trouble, thanks to his interview with Andrea Mitchell today.
"The Washington Post" is reporting, inside the White House, Trump advisors were in an uproar over Coats' interview in Aspen, Colorado. They said the optics were especially damaging, noting that at moments, Coats appeared to be laughing at the president, playing to his audience of the intellectual elite in a manner that was sure to infuriate Trump.
Coats has gone rogue, said one senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide a candid assessment.
Now, we're going to show you more of Dan Coats interview with Andrea Mitchell and you can make your own judgment about how you think this president would react to that.
But we also have new video of the president lying tonight. You've actually seen some of this video over the last year and a half, but we will now see it in the new context of the fact revealed at this hour last night by "The New York Times" that President-elect Trump was fully briefed by the heads of our intelligence agencies on January 6, 2016 in Trump Tower about exactly how Russian military officers following the specific orders of Vladimir Putin attacked our election with the intention of hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign and helping Donald Trump to win.
And we know that Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to win not just because the American intelligence agencies found that, but because Vladimir Putin said that on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Did you want to win and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that? Yes, I did, yes, I did.
Donald Trump was told that by the heads of our intelligence agencies on January 17th, 2017. He was shown emails and texts from some Russian military officers, possibly including some or all of the officers who were indicted on Friday, showing what they were doing online to attack our election. Donald Trump was shown all that. He was shown what they were doing to help Donald Trump win.
So, Donald Trump has known that, known that it was the Russians following Vladimir Putin's orders who attacked our election. He has known that every single day of his presidency.
And so, now, let's listen again to President Donald Trump lying about that over and over again for the last year and a half, beginning five days, five days after he was told in Trump Tower that the Russians did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.
INTERVIEWER: You don't think it's phony that they the Russians tried to meddle in the election, you believe that?
TRUMP: That I don't know. It could have been China. It could have been a lot of different groups.
I think it was Russia but I think it was probably other people and/or countries and I see nothing wrong with that statement, nobody really knows.
There was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He's the co-host and executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus". And Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama. He's also a former chief counselor to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And let's go straight to the breaking news of the hour. John Heilemann, big surprise, inside the Trump White House, Dan Coats seems to be in big trouble.
JOHN HEILEMANN, "THE CIRCUS" CO-HOST & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Not the least surprising news of the day, Lawrence, and in fact, it really bolsters the speculation that we've had around already today, the possibility that Trump watching Coats talking to our colleague Andrea Mitchell was so enraged that he decided to send out the tweet through Sarah Huckabee Sanders announcing that Putin was coming to Washington in order specifically to try to basically troll or diss or whatever you want to call it, Dan Coats, who was in the middle of the interview that he was doing. This reporting it seems to provide some basis for that kind of speculation and, of course, Coats is in trouble because he did not toe the line in the way that Trump would want him to.
I just -- I watched the -- as I watched the interview today, I said to myself, Dan Coats' days are numbered.
O'DONNELL: Well, let's then therefore listen to more of what Dan Coats had to say.
Here he is with Andrea Mitchell saying, you know, what was it like to have the president alone for two hours with Vladimir Putin. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: In Helsinki, the president was alone with Vladimir Putin for two hours, more than two hours, with only translators. Basically, how do you know what happened? You are in the dark side of the moon. How do you have any idea what happened in that meeting?
COATS: Well, you're right, I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president's prerogative.
If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role. That's not my job. So, it is what it is.
MITCHELL: Is there a risk that Vladimir Putin could have recorded it?
COATS: That risk is always there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Ron Klain, there's someone sitting there stating the obvious, but that's the kind of thing that the Trump White House can't stand.
RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, they can't stand the obvious. Obviously, President Trump kick this off by doing the solo meeting with no real accountability and then standing up in front of the world and saying basically, he trusted his director of national intelligence less that he trusted the president of Russia. And I think that, you know, it's no surprise we are where we are.
But I do think it's worth noting that it's shocking really that Dan Coats still hasn't been briefed on what happened in that one-on-one meeting. He said there with Andrea Mitchell he doesn't know what happened, even after the fact.
So, that means the president essentially, the Russians, and the Russian side of this, they know what happened that meeting. They are using that information. They are pulsing their intelligence networks.
And our intelligence officials don't know what happened that meeting. They don't even have Trump's account of what happened in that meeting. That's a disparity in the intelligence world right now that's potentially harmful to the United States.
O'DONNELL: And the great thing about having Andrea doing this interview is that she knows that not all important stories occurred this week. Here she is taking us back to that oval office meeting with the Russian ambassador. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Did you know beforehand that Kislyak and Lavrov, the ambassador and the foreign minister, were going into the Oval Office that day?
COATS: I did not.
MITCHELL: What was your reaction afterwards? I mean, we all learned about it from TASS.
COATS: Well, probably not the best thing to do, but no, I was not aware of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, take all the time you want and come up with a better answer than that. I mean, the Trump White House doesn't seem to understand that there isn't some other answer that Coats could have come up with.
HEILEMANN: No, and I mean, look, I mean, given the circumstances, it's not clear to me on the basis of what he said in that interview that he still doesn't necessarily know what happened in the meeting with Lavrov.
HEILEMANN: Not only in the meeting with Putin. And what Coats learned today is what we all learned. We all learned something about what happened with Putin today. We learned that one of the things they talked about in that two hours is that whatever Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump is enough to win him a summit meeting with Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. after assaulting our democracy, after putting his thumb on the scale, after waging this information war against the United States, while he is still ongoing with those same kind of activities, he has enough leverage over Trump that he could get Trump to invite him to Washington this fall. That is the kind of leverage that he has. And that is one of the many things that should make people terrified about what else happened in those two hours because this is mostly a symbolic thing. But it is the most embarrassing symbolic thing you could possibly do.
Vladimir Putin basically has executed one of the most successful counterintelligence operations in the history of humanity against the United States. And for that, he has not been punished by Donald Trump. He has been rewarded by Donald Trump and he is humiliating the President of the United States and America at the same time in the most flagrant way possible and Donald Trump is not only taking it, but taking it with a smile on his face.
O'DONNELL: Ron Klain, I want you to go back to your Democratic strategist today as both in the senate and the White House, and just to one note of politics on this. You are the Democrats. You hear today that Donald Trump, who has just had the most callously disastrous summit in the history of summits with Vladimir Putin wants to have another one, apparently, during campaign season in the fall.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes. I mean, honestly, don't really need to be a democratic strategist to figure out that is not good strategy for the Republican party. I mean, but there is a serious point here. You kind of eluded to this at the top of the show, Lawrence.
I think the word crazy gets thrown around way too much about politics and this White House. But it is the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect it to come out differently. And if we send Donald Trump into completely unprepared into a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the result is going to be the exact same as what happened in Helsinki. And that's crazy.
O'DONNELL: We are going to have to leave it there and take a break.
John Heilemann, thank you for joining us tonight.
And when we come back, why hasn't Robert Mueller subpoenaed Donald Trump? Why does Robert Mueller allow Donald Trump to continue to play the game and Rudy Giuliani play the game pretending that Donald Trump would like to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller but they just have to work out turns.
A former federal prosecutor has a theory today about exactly why Robert Mueller has not subpoenaed Donald Trump, and that's not a good theory for Donald Trump.
O'DONNELL: Last night when I told Rachel about the breaking news "New York Times" report that President Trump was told before he was inaugurated by leaders of our intelligence services that Russia attacked our election and they showed President-elect Trump conclusive proof of that, Rachel made an important observation about what that could mean to the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: If that reporting is true, then every single time the President since then has cast doubt on whether or not Russia did it or whether or not Vladimir Putin should be believed when he denies responsibility for the attack, that's the President actively covering up something that he knows to be true. But if you are actively participating in the cover up of a crime that you know was committed, there is a legal question as to whether or not you are helping essentially in a conspiracy after the fact. Right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And that is yet another reason why Donald Trump could never survive an interview with Robert Mueller. But President Trump continues to play the game where he pretends that he really wants to talk to Robert Mueller. Here's yesterday's version of that game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My lawyers are working on that. I have always wanted to do an interview because, look, there's been no collusion. There's been no talk of Russia. There has been no phone call. There has been nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Why? Why is this game still going on? Why is Robert Mueller allowing Donald Trump to pretend to be willing to submit to an interview while spending the entire year refusing to submit to an interview. Why doesn't Robert Mueller just subpoena the President?
Joining our discussion now, Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor whose new piece for NBC News think is entitled why hasn't Robert Mueller subpoenaed Trump? Free theories about the Mueller investigation.
Glen, lay out your theories about why we are where we are and that there has been no discussion between the President and Robert Mueller.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, sure, Lawrence. You know, first of all, I think we are past the point where any of us believe the President will sit down for a voluntary interview. That's not going to happen.
So I spent literally decades in grand juries investigating and indicting cases and we have to make decisions as prosecutors about who we're going to subpoena, who we're not going to subpoena. Now, the subpoena power is very broad and actually we can subpoena anyone who even if they don't have relevant evidence they could have information that could lead the grand jury investigation to relevant evidence.
I think there are three possibilities here as to why Robert Mueller has thus far declined to subpoena the President. And I think they go from less likely to most likely.
First, I think the least likely is the Bob Mueller's investigation has already accumulated enough information, enough evidence to reach informed opinions without hearing from the President. But I think that less likely because I can tell you that when it comes to prosecutors, more evidence is more evidence. We always want more good, reliable evidence if we can get it.
The second possibility is that Bob Mueller may not want to inspire the somewhat lengthy legal battle that would obviously erupt if he were to serve a grand jury subpoena on the President. I do think Bob Mueller would win that battle because of the opinions that are out there that are at least relevant to the issue. The Nixon opinion, Clinton v. Jones, both of those militate in favor of a subpoena to a President for grand jury testimony being enforceable.
But I actually think with the passage of time, the third possibility is becoming more likely by the day. And that is that Bob Mueller has decided that he has collected so much evidence that the landscape has changed dramatically and that the President may very well now be a target of the grand jury's investigation. And I can tell you the department of justice has a policy whereby we don't subpoena targets to the grand jury.
The reason for that, Lawrence, is because just as we can't force a defendant to trial in his own criminal trial because he -- or to the stand rather in his own criminal trial because he has a fifth amendment right against self-incrimination, we generally have a policy against serving a grand jury subpoena, which is a court order, on a witness who is a target of the investigation because not unlike the trial scenario that would be basically compelling a target of an investigation to give incriminating information about himself.
I will say there is an exception to the policy that can be pursued, but in my 30 years as a federal prosecutor, I have never once subpoenaed a target and I have never seen a target of the investigation being subpoenaed. I think that becomes more likely by the day.
O'DONNELL: And you pointed out in your piece that Paul Manafort was not subpoenaed, and that is the common practice that someone who they were going to charge was not subpoenaed.
KIRSCHNER: Nor was Rick Gates. Nor was Alex Vander Swan. So we do see a pattern emerging that's quite telling.
O'DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: And coming up, there is one government official who knows what was said in that meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. And so up next a former interpreter for seven Presidents will join us to tell us what is in the interpreter's notebook.
O'DONNELL: The only American government official who knows what happened in President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin is Marina Gross. She is the state department interpreter who was at the President's side in that room.
Here she is in Russia 2008 on an easier assignment interpreting for first lady Laura Bush. Here she is in a serious business meeting in (INAUDIBLE) with secretary of state Rex Tillerson last year.
Marina Gross never had more pressure on her as an interpreter than she did on Monday. And because she was in the room with the only President ever elected with the help of Vladimir Putin and because Donald Trump is now under investigation by a special prosecutor, Democrats in Congress and some Republicans really want to know what was said in that room, and they think Marina Gross is the only person who can tell them because the President of the United States is a proven liar. And so Democrats are trying to subpoena marina gross's notes.
But there is another important document that Marina Gross has by now prepared that is probably much more illuminating than just her handwritten notes. As I said last night, at this hour, interpreters normally prepare what they call a mem-con, Memo of Conversation. They use their sometimes illegible notes to prepare a full memo of what was said at the meeting.
And when we come back, we will tell you who has that memo tonight and when you might be able to see it. And if Robert Mueller has already subpoenaed that memo.
O'DONNELL: As I said before the break interpreters prepare a memo of conversation, a mem-con. They use their had written notes from the interpreting session, which sometimes those notes are only legible to the interpreter. It's a very personal kind of script, high-speed. They type that up into a memo that they then submit to the secretary of state. That memo is subsequently delivered to the national archives.
The secretary of state should have Marina Gross' memo, mem-con of Monday's conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Secretary of state Pompeo should have that already. The national archives should be getting it soon, and the national archives normally holds those memos as top secret for about 17 years. And at that point scholars and researchers might get access to that memo for books and other research projects.
There is more pressure and attention on Marina Gross tonight than there has ever been on a Presidential interpreter.
And joining us now to share his experiences as a Presidential interpreter is Harry Obst who was an interpreter for seven consecutive United States Presidents beginning with Lyndon Johnson all the way to Bill Clinton. And Ron Klain is also back with us.
And Harry Obst, you were interpreting German in meetings with presidents. And so, tell us what the process is both during and immediately after those sessions.
HARRY OBST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL INTERPRETER: During the session you usually have two professional interpreters. One from our side and one from the other side, you know, the prime minister, the chancellor, whoever it might be. If it's a one-on-one and there are no note takers or anyone else in there, it is up to the interpreter to prepare some memorandum of conversation. We call it mem con.
This memorandum is written on the basis of interpreting notes that have nothing to do with verbatim narrative and the memory of the interpreters. The interpreters have well trained memories. So when this document goes to the secretary of state and goes to the national archives at the bottom of it, it will say this was prepared from interpreting notes and memory and is not a verbatim transcript of everything that was said.
O'DONNELL: And the secretary of state has authority to share that memo with other members of the administration?
OBST: No, not necessarily. The interpreters being located at the state department and being civil servants under the secretary of state, they would turn the memo to the secretary for safekeeping. And if it's a one- on-one, however, with a President and a foreign leader, it will then have to go to the White House. And normally the secretary of state can keep a copy, but most of these memoranda are classified top secret, no discs. Do discs means other people that have a top secret clearance cannot read it. It can only go to the participants of the meeting and as the President's only participant of the meeting, it sort of becomes his property.
O'DONNELL: And Ron Klain, it seems this would be of interest to Robert Mueller. The congressional committees seem unlikely subpoena. We saw the house on vote today. That committee failed to issue a subpoena. But it seems there's nothing that would prevent Robert Mueller from subpoenaing the memoranda conversation and the original notes.
KLAIN: Well, nothing to prevent it except I'm sure a vigorous effort by the White House to suppress it.
You know, I think this memo, we don't really know if it went through the usual process. We don't really know if secretary Pompeo has seen it. We don't really know exactly what instructions the interpreter got for where this memo should go and who should or shouldn't get it.
The fact that Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence says that he still don't know what happened in that meeting suggests that maybe the meeting wasn't even circulated. The memo wasn't event circulated to the most high level sensitive people in the government.
So, you know, I would be shocked if this winds up in Robert Mueller's files anytime soon. That's for sure.
O'DONNELL: Harry Obst and Ron Klain, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
OBST: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
O'DONNELL: Tonight's LAST WORD is next.
O'DONNELL: Today former senator Dan Coats now the director of national intelligence described with some fondness how the United States Senate worked in the 1990s when she was serving as senator from Indiana and I was working at the Democratic Senate staff. And we both remember it pretty much the same way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Bob Dole, George Mitchell had I think a very successful relationship. Even though we were on a different page policy wise and so forth, in using a process to come to a conclusion. And I think that we have lost that now, apparently from a procedural standpoint, apparently because there's so much animosity between the two groups. Things have been accomplished but I think it could be a much better atmosphere if we could get some kind of commodity (ph) in terms of how we work with each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Dan Coats get tonight's LAST WORD.
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