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Lawyer releases Trump audio recording. TRANSCRIPT: 07/24/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Michael Avenatti, Kurt Andersen, Adam Schiff

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: July 24, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti, Kurt Andersen, Adam Schiff

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Good thing you had a bunch of lawyers around for the release of the Cohen -- Cohen tape number 1. There`s going to be many more. We`re going to play it in its entirety for people to decide what it is they`re hearing here.

But let me begin by telling you who`s not going to be on our show tonight. Rudy Giuliani declined to come on and explain what his client Donald Trump is actually saying on that audio that we`re going to play in a moment. But Michael Avenatti is here and he has a novel take on what`s going on with these tapes.

Adam Schiff was here already to talk about what Rudy Giuliani`s been saying about the president possibly cooperating or not with the Mueller investigation. We`ll get his take on what his read of this tape is as both a former prosecutor and member of Congress.

But Rachel, I think this is -- this is the night that the president has been preparing his followers for. Just today saying, don`t believe what you see.


O`DONNELL: Don`t believe what you read. He knew this was coming because Rudy Giuliani had been working all day on the response to the public release of this because CNN told them that they had the tape and it was coming.

MADDOW: And it remains an open question as to why we learned about the existence of the tape when we first got word that this tape existed. To my eye, my sort of practiced eye watching these guys, it feels to me like this was leaked from the Trump side to sort of get out ahead of this story and put their own spin on it before the tape inevitably came out. Now that the tape is out, certainly, the interpretation of what actually happens on that tape is one thing.

As you say, this is tape number one. We`re told by the authorities dealing with Michael Cohen`s -- the documents that were seized from him under search warrant that there may be as many as a dozen of these tapes.

Michael Avenatti, your guest tonight, has been very, very prescient about the fact there were tapes and that there would be more than one of them. He`s turned out to be right all along.

So I`m really looking forward to what he says about this tonight.

O`DONNELL: We are going to right to the tape, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, tonight, America and the world are hearing for the very first time Donald Trump`s voice on a tape made by his former lawyer Michael Cohen which was released to CNN tonight by Michael Cohen`s lawyer Lanny Davis.

We will now play you that audio recording in full so you can listen to it and judge for yourself what is said, when Michael Cohen brings up the subject of creating a company in order to make payments to silence a former Playboy model who says she had a year-long sexual relationship with then candidate Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me know what`s happening, OK? Oh. Oh.

Maybe because of this, it would be better if you didn`t go, you know? Maybe because of this, for that one -- you know -- to get rid of this because it`s so false what they`re saying. It`s such bullshit.

I think -- I think this goes away quickly. I think what -- I think it`s probably better do the Charleston thing just this time. Yes. In two weeks, it`s fine. I think right now, it`s better, you know?

OK, honey. You take care of yourself. Thanks. Yep. I`m proud of you. So long. Bye.

What`s up, Mike?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Great poll by the way. CNN, great poll.

TRUMP: We`re making progress.

COHEN: Big time.

TRUMP: And your guy`s a good guy.

COHEN: Oh, Pastor Scott?

TRUMP: No, Pastor Scott. What`s happening?

COHEN: Oh, no.

TRUMP: Can we use him anymore?

COHEN: Oh, yes. You`re talking Mark Burns. He -- we told him last (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: I don`t mean that. Mark Burns. Can we use him?

COHEN: No. No.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sorry. (INAUDIBLE) just called. He just said he had an idea for you.

COHEN: So, we got served from "The New York Times." I told you this regarding to unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. We`re fighting it. Kasowitz is going to --

TRUMP: They should never be able to get that.

COHEN: Never, never. Kasowitz doesn`t -- they don`t ever be able -- they don`t have a legitimate purpose.

TRUMP: Give me a Coke, please?

A woman that doesn`t want them unsealed (INAUDIBLE)

COHEN: Correct.

TRUMP: You`ve been handling it.

COHEN: Yes, and it`s all --

TRUMP: That`s been going on for a while.

COHEN: For about two, three weeks now.

TRUMP: All you have to do is delay it for --

COHEN: Even after that, it`s not going to ever be opened. There`s no -- there`s no purpose for it.

I told you about Charleston. I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what do we got to pay for this (ph)?

COHEN: Yes. And it`s all the stuff, all the stuff, because, you know, you never know where that company -- you never know where he`s going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck. COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) What financing?

COHEN: We`ll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won`t pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --

COHEN: Hey, Don (ph), how are you?


O`DONNELL: And leading off our discussion is Michael Avenatti, who is the attorney for Stormy Daniels.

Michael, what are you -- what are you hearing when you listen to that tape?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, I`m hearing two criminal co-conspirators conspiring on making a payment and I`m hearing Michael Cohen, being the sycophant that he is, for the president, for Mr. Trump.

You know, I saw this interview that Lanny just gave at CNN. You know, I believe Lanny`s a very good lawyer. I like Lanny.

But that was quite a marvelous performance that he just gave over on CNN trying to paint Michael Cohen, who`s an absolute criminal thug, as a victim and as anything other than what he is, Lawrence. I mean, he`s a co- conspirator. They`re trying to convince the American public of something that just is not accurate.

Look, Michael Cohen could come on your show or any other show right now and disclose what really happened and the context around this discussion, and we could dispense with any debate about, you know, who said cash or who didn`t say cash or what did they mean by cash or did they really mean cash as in greenbacks or not. And they`re not doing that. And that should be telling to people on what`s going on here.

O`DONNELL: Michael, when you say criminal co-conspirators, what is the crime that you`re hearing?

AVENATTI: Well, it`s not necessarily on this tape, Lawrence. But look, there`s no doubt that Michael Cohen has the goods. And I`ve been saying this for many months. Just as I predicted, that there was going to be tapes.

There`s no question that Michael Cohen has the goods on the president. And instead of coming clean and disclosing that information in full and being full and honest with the American people, he continues to hedge his bets. And, you know, they sprinkle out this morsel, this one-minute tape.

There`s multiple tapes. There`s over a dozen tapes, Lawrence, to be clear, OK? There`s over a dozen. They could come clean and disclose what they know, and they`re not doing that.

Lanny Davis is trying to curry favor with the American people while at the same time holding out hope that somehow Donald Trump is going to appear in the middle of this very dark forest and lead Michael Cohen to salvation.

O`DONNELL: I think there`s something on this tape that clarifies something about why it`s public. There`s been some discussion prior to us hearing this tape that Donald Trump strangely did not claim attorney-client privilege, just waived attorney-client privilege for this kind of recording. But there is no attorney-client privilege if third parties are in the room.

And Donald Trump asks for a Coca-Cola at a certain point. Someone could have walked in the room and served him that. That breaks the attorney- client privilege. We hear a voice in the room at the beginning of the Michael Cohen conversation with Donald Trump. And so, this conversation might never have been protected by the privilege.

AVENATTI: Well, I actually think that it probably was protected by the privilege even if there was another member of the staff or someone else that would have entered the room. That would not vitiate the privilege.

I think that there was a question as to whether there was ever an attorney- client privilege surrounding this conversation because I don`t think Michael Cohen is engaged in providing legal services to Mr. Trump under the circumstances. I think this is a stretch at best. I think the White House knew, Rudy Giuliani knew that eventually this tape was going to come out, and so, they decided not to press forward on the privilege.

But I find this very curious, this interview that Lanny Davis gave, again, Lawrence, and I`m going to go back to this. You know, my B.S. detector`s off the chart right now as to what`s going on here. Michael Cohen could have issued a written statement even if he didn`t want to go on television about what happened here.

Where are the rest of the tapes? Where`s the rest of the evidence? You don`t get to claim love of country and being a patriot unless you do the right thing and he`s not doing the right thing.

O`DONNELL: What do you think that Lanny Davis acting tonight as Michael Cohen`s lawyer and releasing this audio, what do you think Lanny Davis is trying to accomplish?

AVENATTI: I think he`s trying to push the reset button relating to his client`s reputation, among the American people. I think he`s trying to paint his client as a victim and as a guy that`s adverse to President Trump and who really was just along for the ride and wasn`t at the center of this. And Lawrence, that`s laughable. Did you hear the comments from Michael Cohen telling the president what a great poll he had?

And if you look at -- look at all the comments that Michael Cohen made about Donald Trump after this telephone call in 2016. Look at all the comments that Michael Cohen made through his other lawyers at the very beginning of our case where he was a staunch defender of the president month after month, week after week. I mean, the only reason Michael Cohen supposedly found religion, if you will, at this point is because he realizes that he`s about to be indicted for some very serious offenses and he`s trying to push the reset button.

MADDOW: We`re going to add a couple of Trump experts to this discussion here in New York. Tim O`Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion", the author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald." He`s an MSNBC contributor.

Kurt Andersen is also with us. He`s host of the public radio program "Studio 360". He`s author of the book "Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire."

And Jennifer Rubin is with us in Washington.

And, Jennifer, we`re going to try to get you in here. Jennifer is a conservative opinion writer for the "Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.

In fact, Jennifer, let`s begin with you. You`re listening to this tape. What are you hearing? What do you think voters are hearing?

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: First of all, I`m hearing two people who have a way of discussing these things that is not unique, that is not a first-time occurrence, that is not a surprise. Does anyone think this is the only time other than the Stormy Daniels situation in which this kind of arrangement went on? This is matter of fact. This is how we deal with it.

Oh, we have this one, we have another company we have to set up. We`re going to have to put the money in. This sounds to me from the vantage point of someone just hearing the tape as two people who have a routine, who have a pattern, a way of dealing with these things.

The other thing that I`m hearing is that to the extent to which this is yet another attempt to clear someone out of the way to make a payment so as not to interfere with his campaign, it is a illegal campaign contribution. If it came from the "National Enquirer" company, it`s a corporate contribution, which is illegal. If it came from Trump, in other words, if Trump reimbursed him, then it`s an unreported campaign expenditure.

But in any case, what we`re doing is seeing a pattern, a pattern of deception of the American people, a pattern of campaign-related payments that have been disguised and hidden until now.

O`DONNELL: Our Trump experts here in New York do not look shocked yet by what they have heard on this tape tonight.

And, Tim O`Brien, you wrote the book on Donald Trump. You`ve been in litigation with him. He failed in his lawsuit against you because of your book. You`ve studied his business practices. Here he is in Trump Tower two months before the presidential election and Michael Cohen has a little bit of business to bring up involving our friend David.

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": Right. Is that David Pecker of AMI, the publisher of the "National Enquirer"? Or is that David I think Dennison, the pseudonym that Trump used to mask his role in some of these payments? I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: It sounds like in these comments it`s probably David Pecker because he`s talking about setting up a company to deliver money to cover the story that David Pecker ended up delivering money to buy and then kill at the "National Enquirer."

O`BRIEN: You know, I think what`s significant here, Lawrence, is that I don`t know how much legal exposure Donald Trump will get because of what Michael Cohen has done. But Michael Cohen is exposing Donald Trump to all sorts of legal peril. And in this particular conversation, they reference Allen Weisselberg I think at least twice, and they refer to the fact that Allen knows about the structure of these LLCs that they`re using to channel payments.

Allen Weisselberg was Fred Trump`s accountant, and Allen Weisselberg was the CFO of the Trump Organization for years. He knows far more about the finances of the Trump Organization than Michael Cohen ever did. And to the extent that Allen Weisselberg, by virtue of being mentioned in these tapes, gets pulled more deeply into this investigation, it exposes Donald Trump`s business practices to greater scrutiny.

O`DONNELL: He was Donald Trump`s father`s accountant?

O`BRIEN: Yes, he was.

O`DONNELL: Is he still working?

O`BRIEN: He`s still working. He`s been with the Trump organization since the 1970s. He`s still at the Trump Organization. He`s the person overseeing the trust that was established after Trump became president to this sort of fake insulation that Trump and his sons set up to run the family business. He runs it in conjunction with Eric Trump --

O`DONNELL: Is it your judgment, having studied this business as you have, that Allen Weisselberg would know how to get his hands on, oh, say, $150,000 in cash or more to handle a problem like this?

O`BRIEN: At the drop of a hat.


Kurt Andersen, there it is. There`s Cohen-Trump tape number 1. Michael Avenatti promises there`s more to come.

KURT ANDERSEN, HOST, STUDIO 360: And, of course, other than providing you with entertainment value night after night as they release the tapes, I still don`t understand despite what Michael Avenatti said earlier, what the game from Lanny Davis`s point of view is in releasing this except perhaps signaling to somebody, signaling to Weisselberg, to Trump, what they have, and obviously, there are 11 or 12 tapes to come.

But I think it`s interesting to look at both what Rudy Giuliani said in the last couple days about the exchange where Trump says cash, cash, and Michael Cohen says no, no. Giuliani is look, what that really is is Donald Trump saying not cash, it should be recorded properly as a check, it should be a check, which I didn`t hear in that tape. Maybe Giuliani has a different tape in mind.

And then Lanny Davis says no, look at my client, Michael Cohen. He`s saying no, no, no, we can`t pay cash. I have -- and it seems to me Michael Avenatti probably shares this idea, that neither of those lawyers` spin on that exchange is very close to the truth.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s listen to the short version of this again where Michael Cohen begins the conversation about creating the company and everyone listen for the word "cash" because the dispute as of now is Rudy Giuliani saying Michael Cohen brought up the matter of cash, Donald Trump said no to cash. That`s what Lanny Davis is saying no, Donald Trump says the word cash, suggests cash, and you hear Michael Cohen then say no, no, no and the word check.

So, listen for out there in the audience which voice is on which of these words. Let`s start it again.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what do we got to pay for this (ph)?

COHEN: Yes. And it`s all the stuff, all the stuff, because, you know, you never know where that company -- you never know where he`s going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) What financing?

COHEN: We`ll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won`t pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --

COHEN: Hey, Don (ph), how are you?


O`DONNELL: OK. If I`m a juror, I heard Donald Trump say the word cash.

Michael Avenatti, that is the dispute tonight, and that word is the reason Lanny Davis gave for releasing this tape tonight. When the tape was first mentioned, there was a dispute, Rudy Giuliani saying it will help Donald Trump when this tape comes out. Lanny Davis saying no, it won`t help Donald Trump when this tape comes out. And so, Lanny Davis publicly tonight has said he wanted the tape to be out there so we could all hear Donald Trump suggest paying in cash.

AVENATTI: Lawrence, I agree. There`s no question that Donald Trump is the individual on the tape who mentions the word "cash." I don`t even think that should be in dispute, frankly, because I don`t think that anyone can arguably state that it`s anyone other than Donald Trump.

But I want to make something really clear. Let`s review what Lanny Davis` role in all of this is. Lanny Davis was not brought in to defend Michael Cohen in connection with the potential criminal charges. That`s Mr. Perillo`s (ph) job.

Lanny Davis was not brought in to defend Michael Cohen in connection with the litigation that we have pending against Michael Cohen. That`s Brent Blakely`s job out in Los Angeles.

Lanny Davis was brought in for no purpose other than to effectively put a spin on the facts and the evidence and to be Michael Cohen`s mouthpiece, if you will. And I have a lot of respect for Lanny, but that`s what he is in this context, on television and otherwise. Lanny Davis was brought in, people are asking -- well, why would they release the tape and what is the strategy?

It`s clear as day to me. The strategy is for Lanny to try to reset the narrative around Michael Cohen. And one of the ways to do that is to be the provider of information, to provide this tape to CNN tonight, get it out there, and put a spin on it. And that`s exactly what he`s trying to do.

O`DONNELL: But, Michael, just quickly, how does that help Michael Cohen with the real problem that he has, which is with the FBI, which is with federal prosecutors in Manhattan? Federal prosecutors in Manhattan don`t care a word about what Lanny Davis has to say.

AVENATTI: Well, they don`t care about what Lanny Davis may have to say, but what they might care ultimately, Lawrence, is what the public perception is around Michael Cohen. And if Lanny Davis was able to create a situation where, all of a sudden, Michael Cohen looks like a patriot or a hero, that may have an impact, and it may have an impact on Michael Cohen`s family, it may have an impact on a lot of things in Michael Cohen`s life.

But I don`t want the American people to be fooled by this because that`s exactly what -- this is an attempt to snow the American public about what`s going on here. Michael Cohen is a co-conspirator. He still hasn`t done the right thing. There`s umpteen other tapes. There`s umpteen other evidence.

And, Lawrence, look, I just want to go back to something I said earlier. Michael Cohen could have issued a written statement of two paragraphs that described in detail what happened here, OK? He could have issued that. You would have put it up on the screen and read it. CNN would have done the same thing.

He didn`t do that. And the reason is because these guys want to continue to hedge their bets.

O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us tonight with your unique perspective on this. Really appreciate it.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And we`re joined now in our discussion by Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And, Congressman Schiff, you`re here to talk about other things. We will get to some of those. But I need to get your reaction tonight to what you`ve just heard.

The president of the United States as a candidate for president two months before the election in a conversation with his personal lawyer about creating a company to make payments to silence a woman who claims she had a one-year relationship with Donald Trump.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Lawrence, what leaps out at me as a former prosecutor are a few things that seem apparent. The first is quite obvious. The president had knowledge that they were going to be making these payments.

So, Giuliani`s earlier claim was patently false, that the president didn`t know about this at the time. Clearly, he has knowledge. He`s not surprised at all when this topic`s brought up.

Second, it`s brought up in the context of things they need to make go away until the election. So, they talk about the divorce proceedings and the president says, well, you only need to make that go away for four weeks and Cohen says, don`t worry, it will go away for longer than that. And that`s the context in which this is brought up.

So, it`s an effort to basically prevent voters from getting this information. And that`s important as to the issue of was this a campaign expenditure. And, finally, I would say on the issue of an expenditure for the campaign, the whole purpose of setting up this company to make this payment is to conceal the payment.

So, to me, whether it`s cash or check is less material than the fact they`re using this organizational structure to hide the payment. If they were planning on reporting it as a campaign expenditure, there would be no need to set up that company. So to me as a prosecutor, former prosecutor, I`d say you have evidence of knowledge, you have of an intent to violate the campaign laws, you have evidence that this was about concealing information for a campaign purpose.

So, that`s how I think that the prosecutors would look at this.

O`DONNELL: And to add some campaign context to the discussion that we hear on this tape, it begins. Michael Cohen`s portion of the tape begins with him talking about poll numbers in the presidential campaign. He opens it up as a campaign discussion. The next thing he talks about is troubling information that the "New York Times" is trying to obtain about President Trump`s first divorce, his first divorce from his first wife.

The president said -- and they talk about how we only have to get by the next two months with this. That same timing issue was present in the conversation about the president`s first divorce. So, there seems to be very clear campaign focus in this conversation.

SCHIFF: I think that is abundantly clear. I also think, you know, in terms of who brings up cash this is Giuliani trying to get out ahead of this very damaging tape by characterizing it or trying to create a doubt in the public mind where as if people just heard that tape without his preview there wouldn`t be any question that it`s Donald Trump who at least appears on this tape to be suggesting that they make the payment in cash.

O`DONNELL: What does this do to complicate the president`s position in considering an interview with Robert Mueller?

SCHIFF: Well, I don`t think this really has that much bearing on that question. I think that the president`s legal team has already concluded there`s no way they`re going to put him in front of someone where if he lies, he could be held criminally liable. They just can`t have any confidence that he could get through a whole interview without making false statements, particularly on the subject of Russia or obstruction of justice.

So, we see this moving playing field with Giuliani saying, well, first we`d need this to put him forth for an interview, then we`d need that. The most -- latest preposterous proposal is we`ll let you ask about collusion but not about obstruction, we`ll let you ask him questions that he can only answer no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, but beyond that that`s the length and breadth of what we`re willing to submit.

The bottom line is if Mueller wants to interview him he needs to issue a subpoena. That`s the only way that`s going to happen.

O`DONNELL: And what would you -- what would you expect to happen next? If Robert Mueller knows that the president is never going to actually in a cooperative way sit down for an interview, which I assume by now he`s figured out, he`s seen the Giuliani game played as far as it can go, what do you -- how does Robert Mueller make the tactical decision of do I subpoena this president?

SCHIFF: Well, look, I think that the Mueller team has probably concluded and I think they would be right, if they do subpoena him they win that court case. But it takes time. And the White House view, and they may not be wrong about this, time is working on their side. The longer they can draw this out while appearing to blame Mueller for, it the longer in the public mind the Russia investigation has been going on and the more appetite there is for the president`s argument it`s time to bring this to an end.

So, Mueller isn`t away fighting the clock. And is he prepared to use up the amount of time it would take to litigate this? How much value does he think he would get from that presidential interview? I assume that`s what he`s debating.

There`s a finite number of witnesses on the obstruction issue. And by now, I would imagine Mueller has interviewed almost all of them. It`s not like the conspiracy or collusion issue in which there are witnesses all over the globe. This is a discrete number, and I think the decision he`s trying to make is, is this something we want to try to present to the Justice Department in the next month prior to the blackout period or are we prepared to litigate this and push it until after the election?

O`DONNELL: One final point on the subpoena question. You said that Robert Mueller has every reason to believe that if he issues the subpoena he wins after the president appeals the issuance of the subpoena. That appeal could conceivably go to what would be a Supreme Court where there are two Trump justices.

Would a prosecutor today be as confident of winning with a Supreme Court that could include Justice Kavanaugh?

SCHIFF: Well, there would certainly be reason for more concern than there should be. You know, the precedent I think is fairly clear. But you have someone who`s been very outspoken, that is, Kavanaugh, about presidential power, about how presidents should not be to investigation or prosecution while they`re in office, someone who`s talked about overturning the very precedents that we`re talking about.

So, you know, it certainly seems very realistic to imagine that this is why Donald Trump picked this judge. Of all of the candidates that the Federalist Society put forward, he picked the one most likely to rule in his favor in any dispute between he and the special counsel should it get to the Supreme Court.

But I still think he wins, that is, social counsel wins if this goes to litigation because the precedent is simply too clear.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining our breaking news coverage tonight. Really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And our panel is still with us. Tim O`Brien, Kurt Andersen, Jennifer Rubin. And I want to reset the table here on the Cohen-Trump tape by replaying the key portion of this conversation between Michael Cohen acting as Donald Trump`s personal lawyer in Trump tower in Donald Trump`s office in Trump tower two months before the presidential election.

Let`s listen to Michael Cohen describing to Donald Trump what he believes he had to do to create a company to pay substantial amounts of money for the silence of a woman who claims she had a one-year sexual relationship with Donald Trump. Let`s listen to that tape.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what do we got to pay for this (ph)?

COHEN: Yes. And it`s all the stuff, all the stuff, because, you know, you never know where that company -- you never know where he`s going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) What financing?

COHEN: We`ll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won`t pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --

COHEN: Hey, Don (ph), how are you?


O`DONNELL: And, Tim O`Brien, you told us that Allen Weisselberg is the longtime account -- was Donald Trump`s father`s accountant, knows where all of the money is in the Trump organization. So Michael Cohen saying, I have spoken to Allen about setting this up and the financing, that is where the money comes from.

TIM O`BRIEN, OPINION EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG: So someone needs to talk to Allen about what Allen knows and when he knew it and what the money was being used for. I highly doubt that anyone in the Trump organization really wanted to create a record of this payment.

Anytime it has come up from Rudy that he has said Donald Trump wanted to write a check so this could be recorded but they are using an LLC to mask the whole thing and false identities to make sure no one can actually see who the parties are that are involved. I have a hard time believing that they actually wanted to create a record of this.

Second, I don`t know in all of this how much a campaign finance violation really has to worry Donald Trump. A campaign finance violation is not going to bring down his presidency. But an investigation that goes into the core of his financial dealings and looks at possible financial quid pro quos with people in his company that did work with people who had connections to Russia does raise the issue of high crimes and misdemeanors.

O`DONNELL: And Jennifer Rubin, when you get Allen Weisselberg under oath and you begin to ask him these questions as the prosecutors here in Manhattan probably plan to do, there`s a whole range of possibilities that could come up.

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. How many of these payments were there? Where did Donald Trump get the money from? Was he reimbursed by anybody as we were just discussing who has a connection to Russia?

And the fact that Donald Trump wanted to use cash, and I think it`s very clear from listening to it, he is in the background. He says cash. And then very strongly you hear Michael Cohen say no, no, no, by check.

Donald Trump`s offer or desire to pay by cash raises a host of other issues. Have they been complying with bank requirements, which generally when you are withdrawing or depositing sums in excess of $10,000, those have to be recorded. So are we talking about banking violations? Are we talking about wire fraud? Are we talking about criminal conspiracy to break campaign finance laws. There`s a whole lot there.

O`DONNELL: We are going to have to squeeze in a quick break here.

When we come back, we will replay the tape again. The audience can judge what they are hearing again. We have much more coming up. Stay with us, please.


O`DONNELL: Michael Cohen`s lawyer, Lanny Davis, released a recording tonight that Michael Cohen made when he was working as Donald Trump`s personal attorney of a conversation Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in Trump tower. We have played it this hour. We will play it again. Michael Cohen explains to Donald Trump two months before the Presidential election that they need to set up a company, a company that will pay money to silence a woman who claims she had a one-year sexual relationship with Donald Trump.

We are joined in our coverage of this now by phone, by Emily Jane FOX, senior reporter for "vanity fair."

And Emily, you have very good contacts with Michael Cohen. You have been able to speak with him from time to time. What is your reading of what`s going on here tonight on the Cohen side of this story? Why did Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s lawyer, decide to make this audio public tonight?

EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR (on the phone): I think there are a couple of reasons we saw this happen tonight. The first reason is that since Friday, people in Cohen world have been telling me at that time narrative that Rudy Giuliani put out was incorrect. That he was able to spin what was on the tape if his recollection and that that stuck until today. And I think that falsehood deeply bothered people in Cohen`s orbit.

And I also think you have the fact that the President waived privilege on these. For days he is now known that privilege has been waived. And so, there`s no reason for them to stay quiet when the recording was different than what Rudy Giuliani had put out. So I think you saw a lot of frustration and a lot of desire to set the record straight.

O`DONNELL: This is a peculiar case in which Michael Cohen has a TV lawyer, played by Lanny Davis. And then he has a courtroom lawyer who is a real litigator, former federal prosecutor here in Manhattan. We never hear a word from the lawyer who has actually representing Michael Cohen in court. How does their division of labor work and is there a conflict between these two lawyers?

FOX: I think that their division -- they are working together in general is also new. They were just recently hired earlier this month. An so, I think all of that we are watching in real time. And I think it could shake out differently over time. Obviously, Lanny Davis has a responsibility in that he is basically brought on board to control the narrative, to take down what he believes is innuendo and incorrect information and to set the record straight in order to press reset on Michael Cohen`s reputation. That is his role. That is not the role of his courtroom attorney.

And I think that if the courtroom attorney had his way, that none of this would be public. But the reality is so much of this has been playing out in the public eye, in the media. And so, there is a desire certainly from Lanny Davis but also from Michael Cohen to be able to speak publicly about this too.

O`DONNELL: And Emily, just quickly, why does Michael Cohen think that his public reputation matters at all when if he is a criminal defendant in federal court his case is going to be decided by a jury that will be basically no awareness of his public reputation?

FOX: I think it`s impossible to say a jury in this day and age and given the saturation of the coverage will have no awareness of the situation. I think that is part of the calculation here. And then there`s also the calculation he wants to be seen potentially as a credible witness if he is going to cooperate with the government in some way. So part of this is to restore his reputation with the public at large but part of that is perhaps to restore his reputation with investigators who are looking into him.

O`DONNELL: Emily Jane Fox, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

And Emily will join Brian in the 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS coming up.

And George Will will join us next. We will get his view of what America is hearing tonight.


O`DONNELL: The history of audiotapes for Presidents is not a good one for Presidents. The audiotapes of President Richard Nixon are the tapes that brought down his presidency.

Let`s listen tonight to the first tape we have heard from what is believed to be a Michael Cohen collection of tapes of his conversations with his then client Donald Trump two months before the Presidential election. This is the short version of this audio in which Michael Cohen explains to Presidential candidate Donald Trump that they have to create a company in order to provide money to a woman to buy her silence, a woman who claims that she had a one-year affair with Donald Trump.

Let`s listen to how that conversation went two months before the Presidential campaign.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know. So that -- I`m going to do that right away. I have actually come up and I have spoken --.


COHEN: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: Funding -- yes. And it is all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I`ll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: Pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no. I have got.

TRUMP: Check. How are you?


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is George F. Will, Pulitzer prize- winning columnist with the "Washington Post" and NBC political analyst.

And George, you have heard your share of Presidential tapes. This one now takes its place in history. What are you hearing when you listen to this tape tonight?

GEORGE F. WILL, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`m hearing redundant evidence that Mr. Trump is a seedy man whose incontinent sexual appetites get him into trouble with seedy woman. Now, this is not news at this point in his presidency. I`m not hearing anything remotely like you referred to earlier tapes, the tape in which Richard Nixon says, well, let`s get the CIA to lean on the FBI to cover up a criminal conspiracy. In the one case Donald Trump was a private citizen when that tape was made. Richard Nixon is President of the United States.

I`m also hearing something else on the part of people analyzing this, and that is an attempt to turn all of this into a campaign finance violation. We really do not want, Lawrence, to go down the road where we say anything that happens that can be helpful to an ongoing political campaign should be monetized and counted as a contribution and therefore contribute to the criminalization of American politics. I think that`s a terrible way to go. There are lots of ways of judging Donald Trump without getting into that swamp.

O`DONNELL: And the tape tonight comes on a day that the President began by tweeting, "tariffs are great." These are tariffs that have already begun to separate him from some of his support in the agricultural states which were crucial to his electoral college win. That day ends with this tape of the Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who needs the affection of those voters who are now suffering under his tariffs more than he has ever need it before.

WILL: Yes. This is just another day in paradise.

We have this wonderful scene here. You know, we conservatives have a theory that government often is the disease for which it pretends to be the cure. The day begins with Mr. Trump saying I`m going to take 12 billion taxpayer dollars to pay off the agricultural community for the injuries I have done them in keeping a promise I made to them that helped them vote for me. I mean, he promised to wage a trade war that would cause them all the trouble they are now having because they can`t sell their beef and their pork and their soybeans. It`s almost a relief at the end of the day from that absurdity to be talking about this other absurdity.

O`DONNELL: The connection of a politician to his or her voters is something that has always been considered precious and delicate. We are seeing a kind of cement holding the Trump base support, which is a minority support of this candidate, but at some point does an accumulation of these tapes -- this is one of what might be 12 of these tapes that we will be treated to over the next two knows what period of time. At some point is there an erosion that would occur in the President`s support of people who have withstood every other thing that the President has put them through?

WILL: Well, that`s the question. The superglue that adheres Trump`s supporters to him is one of the scientific wonders of our age. Now, when you have a farmer talking to the "Financial Times" in Iowa looking out at his field of soybeans saying one in three of those rows is supposed to go to China and it can`t go to China, that`s one test. And another test is again at the end of the day, we have good decent Americans listening to not John Quincy Adams and Lincoln and Roosevelt, Eisenhower, but listening to this lowlife from queens talking about paying off his lowlifes from "Playboy" magazine.

I mean, I think there does come a point at which the American people will say enough. See, I don`t think, Lawrence, that the American people by and large are angry. I think they are deeply embarrassed and I think they are sad about what has come to the country. And I think at the end of the day embarrassment and sadness are more explosive than anger.

O`DONNELL: And that is certainly what we are seeing in the polls, which are overwhelmingly negative for the President in the majority of the country. Certainly not with his Republican support.

George Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WILL: Glad to be with you.

O`DONNELL: We are going to have much more about this new tape released tonight by Michael Cohen`s lawyer where we hear the President of the United States discuss how to make payments and whether that payment should be in cash to a woman who says she had a year-long sexual affair with Donald Trump.


O`DONNELL: And we have a new statement from a Trump organization lawyer at this hour to one of the central disputes or possibly the only dispute between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in the tape released tonight by Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s lawyer in which we hear Michael Cohen and then candidate for President Donald Trump discussing how to setup a company in order to pay money, sums of money to a woman who claimed that she had a yearlong affair with Donald Trump.

We hear the word cash on that tape, which we have played now several times during this hour. And tonight Rudy Giuliani, the President`s lawyer, says that Donald Trump was not suggesting that they pay cash and that it was Michael Cohen who used the word cash. Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s lawyer is saying, no, that`s Donald Trump`s voice saying the word cash. The unanimous agreement on our panel tonight is it is Donald Trump`s voice suggesting the word cash.

And so Trump organization lawyer (INAUDIBLE) issued this statement. Anyone who knows the organization or how the President operates knows that there`s no green cash, no currency in the business. Everything is documents. There are accountants. There are audits.

And Tim O`Brien, you`ve studied the business, and what he`s saying here is that he didn`t mean cash as green currency. He meant it as a short hand for not financing. Meaning we won`t get a loan for this, we will pay cash.

O`BRIEN: You know, I have no idea what he is talking about because at one point actually Trump -- at one point in the 1980s, Trump had gold bars in a box in his office. OK, that`s true.


O`BRIEN: OK. So the idea that Trump might not have had a shoe box with cash sitting in it is also a bit beyond the pale.

The other thing that can`t be discounted is in Trumplandia, there are a lot of stupid people. Trump is not a particularly bright man. He is street smart. He screwed about people. But he is not particularly bright. And he tends to surround himself with people who aren`t very bright either. And when you have this massive collision of people with low IQs they do stupid things. And a lot of what`s going on here is the actions of people who are ignorant and are trying to preserve themselves.

O`DONNELL: And Jennifer Rubin, Michael Cohen is absolutely the country`s front-runner for stupidest lawyer of the year if not all-time. Donald Trump was the one who thought I want Michael Cohen working for me. What does that make Donald Trump tonight?

RUBIN: Exactly. And what is going on here? He walks in with a wire to tape his client? I`m trying to picture the scene here. Is he taking notes so he will remember why his client constantly changes his mind he said to him? Or is he actually like wired up to catch him in something? That`s baffling to me.

At one point I thought we were talking about, you know, making notes maybe over the phone so that he records what his client wanted. But this is guy walking in with a wire to talk to his legal client. All that`s a little bit peculiar.

So listen, Donald Trump couldn`t get good lawyers to work for him because he would pay good lawyers. That`s the problem he had before and that`s the problem he has now. So he has to rely on the likes of Michael Cohen.

And the fact that now they are trying to pass off his words as somebody else`s or trying to deny that they were -- not really talking about paying in green bags but paying by check on the secret payment to let hush up a "Playboy" bunny before an election shows you how far we have gone down the road here.

O`DONNELL: And Kurt, Michael Cohen may well be in trouble with the New York bar association, the idea of taping a client without the client`s knowledge in the room with a client, with other people passing through the room, which threatens the attorney-client privilege of the conversation. I mean, Michael Cohen did serious damage to his client in that room with that recording device.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, and apart from the consequence he may face in his legal profession, it is legal in New York state to do that. I could be taping you now and that would be legal. One part, one person consent.

But yes, it is extraordinary -- and Jennifer makes a great point, I think. The idea that as Michael Avenatti was arguing earlier that he was putting up these tapes to improve his public reputation, really? I mean whatever you think of Donald Trump, your lawyer is in there taping you a dozen times or more? I don`t think that does much for your public persona.

O`DONNELL: And Tim, we have a little window right here in this audio into the strategic mind of Michael Cohen. And so when we Are sitting here tonight trying to escribe -- I mean, what we are actually doing is trying to find the intelligence behind a decision, the intelligence behind the strategic decision by Lanny Davis with Michael Cohen`s support to release this tape tonight. Are we looking for the wrong thing behind this decision? Might there be no wisdom behind this decision?

O`BRIEN: I will get back to the stupid factor. You know, there could be a lack of strategy around all of this other than sort of desperate reaches for self-preservation. Right now I think he realizes there`s not a big likelihood that Trump`s going to pardon him. The people prosecuting him have lots of evidence and he`s throwing hail Mary passes through.

O`DONNELL: But Jennifer, Lanny Davis has great experience with publicly defending people in trouble, and he has been very good at it over the years. And so we have to consider how Lanny Davis came to this decision tonight.

RUBIN: Well, we don`t know who is the driving force. It may have been Michael Cohen, it may have been Lanny Davis. But I think we learned from Rudy Giuliani there are some people at which people are past their prime. And whatever talents Lanny Davis had 10 or 20 years ago may not be in effect now.

Listen, he has been dealt a cruddy hand, and he is trying his best to throw up enough dirt and enough confusion, which is exactly what Trump`s side is doing. So in that regard at least he has company.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer, gets tonight`s last word. Jennifer Rubin, thank you. Kurt Anderson, Tim O`Brien, thank you for staying with us throughout this hour.

Of course Brian has much more on this breaking news story in the 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS and that starts right now.


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