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Trump ignores questions on Cohen tape. TRANSCRIPT: 07/25/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Trump ignores questions on Cohen tape. TRANSCRIPT: 07/25/2018. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: July 25, 2018 Guest:


And you're lucky because I love the tapes.


O'DONNELL: I'll take all the tapes they can send me, 100. So, that's, you know, let's say, I'd go for one every other day.

MADDOW: Yes. I don't know why it makes me so crazy. Part of it is we only have access to them because they are being leaked to us by people who want us to think and conclude and have feelings about them in certain ways that they think is to their advantage, which I am just allergic to anyway.

But the other part is like, you taped your client. Gross. Like I don't want to live in your world, but I guess we live in their world.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, having grown up in courtrooms where I was listening to wiretaps that run by the government, and then living through Watergate where information did come out in the way you are talking about, meaning information was at certain points leaked by people with agendas, definite agendas, and you just kind of took it and rolled with it and waited until the end to see if it took a shape.

MADDOW: I know, you're exactly right. And evidence is evidence. And I just -- I just need to like, you know, take a shower, get on with it. Like you know what I mean? Some of this stuff you just got to plow with it.

These are the people we have to deal with this national news now. These are their methods. We've got to live with it in order to make sense of it. You are totally right. I will back up.

O'DONNELL: So my idea of an MSNBC network special of Rachel and the tapes, would you -- can I -- tomorrow, can we sit down and just sketch that out, the Rachel and the Cohen tapes segment?

MADDOW: You know I did the cocktail moments where there were drinks at the end of the show?


MADDOW: We would have to do some sort of combo.

O'DONNELL: OK. So it would start with the drinks.


O'DONNELL: OK, that could be a way to do it.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President? Did Michael Cohen betray you? Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors? Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?

Donald Trump's answer to each of these questions today was: thank you -- when he was being bombarded by questions about the tape of his conversation with Michael Cohen as reporters were being ushered out of the president's Oval Office meeting with the president of the European Commission.

And in classic Trump White House style, the CNN reporter who yelled those questions to the president was banned from the president's next appearance in the Rose Garden where another CNN reporter was allowed to cover that event for the network. But it didn't matter because the president immediately turned and left before reporters could attempt to shout their questions across the grass.

If you are one of those people who thinks that Donald Trump does not have a good answer to any one of those questions that were yelled at him today, you are not alone. You are not alone tonight if you believe Stormy Daniels story about her having sex with Donald Trump a few months after Donald Trump's third wife gave birth to his fifth child. And you are not alone if you believe former Playboy model Karen McDougal is telling the truth when she says she had a yearlong sexual affair with Donald Trump along the same time.

If you believe Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, you are part of an overwhelming majority of the American people. A CNN poll shows that 63 percent of Americans believe the women, and only 21 percent believe that Donald Trump did not have sex with those women. And that poll was taken before this week.

And now, those 21 percent who believe Donald Trump might be a smaller number tonight after 24 hours of exposure to the audio recording of Donald Trump discussing how to create a company specifically to make payments to Karen McDougal to buy her silence and prevent her from ever telling her story, of her year of dating the married Donald Trump. Now, we don't know if First Lady Melania Trump was in the 21 percent who believed Donald Trump, and we don't know if her mind was changed by hearing her husband talking to Michael Cohen on an audio recording that made its worldwide debut last night on what is Melania Trump's favorite cable news network.

Under the headline: Trump Rages Against Reality, "The New York Times" reported on Monday on the first couple's recent trip overseas, Melania Trump's television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased. He raged at his staff for violating a rule that they should be tuned to Fox.

That same report says the White House is ordering additional television equipment so Mr. and Mrs. Trump can watch the TV shows of their choice while traveling. The new equipment is, quote, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel. Separate hotel rooms might be an indicator of whether Melania Trump believes that Donald Trump had sexual adventurers with at least two other women surely after Melanie Trump gave birth.

But we have no idea what the first lady of the United States actually thinks about the president of the United States being caught on tape discussing a payoff to one of those women because the third Mrs. Trump has said absolutely nothing about her husband today. She has not rushed to his defense. She has not denied creating tension for the president and his staff on Air Force One by refusing to watch Fox News.

No one who knows Donald Trump best is defending Donald Trump tonight about what we heard on Michael Cohen's recording. And that is always a very important thing to watch, watch for when a politician is in sex scandal trouble. Who is standing up and say I know Donald Trump, and he would never do that?

Donald Trump's three adult children by the first Mrs. Trump who spring to his defense in every situation are absolutely silent in the middle of Michael Cohen's tape crisis. Not one of those adult children had stepped forward and said, I know my father better than anyone, including his third wife and I can tell you my father would never violate his marital vows. They can't say that, of course, because their father publically broke up with their mother while having a very public affair with the woman who was to become the second Mrs. Trump.

And so, with a public record like that, it is hard to believe anyone would accept Donald Trump's denials of any extramarital sexual affairs. And it would seem among the people least likely to believe Donald Trump's denials are the three Mrs. Trumps who know him so well.

And that's the problem at the base of the Michael Cohen tape story. Most people believe that Donald Trump is guilty. Guilty of having the sexual affairs that he has been caught plotting to pay big money to cover up.

No one in the Trump family has ever said that they would take a bullet for Donald Trump. The only person who has said that is Michael Cohen. And now Michael Cohen has decided to unload his ammunition on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen decided to release that audio last night through his lawyer, Lanny Davis, and today, Lanny Davis said there is more.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: There are more tapes of Donald Trump?

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER: There is certainly more tapes that Mr. Cohen has discussed that he normally did in order to take notes. He used his telephone. Beyond that, I'm not going to comment.


ODONNELL: And after that, this morning, the president of the United States tweeted: What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? To which the only reasonable reply is, what kind of an idiot would have a lawyer who would tape a client?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got the best people. I know the best people. We're going to use our best people. The best people. The best people. I know guys that are so good.


O'DONNELL: Here again are Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, the best people, discussing creating a company in order to buy Karen McDougal's silence.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP 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've actually come up and I've spoken --

TRUMP: Give it to me and --

COHEN: And I've 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.

TRUMP: One fifty?

COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff --

TRUMP: I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company -- you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

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

TRUMP: Wait a second, what financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay him something --

TRUMP: We'll pay with cash.

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

TRUMP: Check --

COHEN: Hey, Don, how are you?


O'DONNELL: No, no, no, no.

This morning, "The Wall Street journal" reported, quote, Michael Cohen, then a top attorney at the Trump organization, created Resolution Consultants LLC on September 30th, 2016 to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal's story, which had been bought by the publisher of the "National Enquirer" a month earlier, a person said. Mr. Cohen's plan to use that company to buy the rights to Ms. McDougal's story hasn't previously been reported.

Mr. Cohen referred to his plan to create a company to buy her story in a September 2016 conversation with Mr. Trump that he secretly recorded and that was aired Tuesday by CNN.

Leading off our discussion now, Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, Tim O'Brien is with us, he's the executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion" and the author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald". Also with us, Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter for "Vanity Fair" and the author of "Born Trump". All three are MSNBC contributors.

And, Emily, you have good Michael Cohen sources, including Michael Cohen himself. So have you had chats with Michael Cohen today about this?

EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: I have talked to people generally in Cohen world over the past couple of days.

O'DONNELL: OK. That's the way we will set the table.

What -- why is Michael Cohen doing this?

FOX: I think there has been a tremendous amount of frustration since the recording was reported about on Friday because he felt, and people around him felt, like the narrative that was put out by Rudy Giuliani was incorrect. He felt like he was a sitting duck that was having a story written around him that was not true. And he was being kicked again for what he felt like was the millionth time by the president and by people around the president.

You know, he has this belief that there is a strategy in existence by the president, by people close to the president, including Giuliani, including Jared Kushner, including Don Jr. And that strategy is to discredit and to distance themselves from Michael Cohen.

So, this was just the tip of the iceberg where they felt like having this recording out there was just another attempt to discredit Michael Cohen, especially because Giuliani has said on the record that this tape was completely exculpatory for the president, that this show that the president was completely innocent, that he didn't know about the payments to AMI, and Michael Cohen felt differently.

And so, after three days of endless news coverage about that tape, about that narrative that Giuliani had put out, he was tired of it and I think he wanted to set the record straight by putting out the recording.

Now, does this recording completely exonerate either of them? No. Does it raise more questions to have this question? Yes. But I think that there is sort of a little bit of a sigh of relief today in Cohen world because it felt like the narrative had changed and perhaps slightly more in Cohen's favor.

O'DONNELL: What did Michael Cohen think of the president's tweets this morning saying what kind of a lawyer would tape a client?

FOX: I think the general thought process when something like that is said at this point is if you want to kick me, I will kick you back and I will kick you ten times harder.

O'DONNELL: One of the amusements of this particular round is watching how carefully Emily has to protect her sources while telling us what she can.

Jill Wine-Banks, you listened to what Emily just told us about what we believe is going through Michael Cohen's mind. Imagine yourself as Michael Cohen's criminal defense lawyer in this FBI investigation that he's in the middle of right now where no charges have been brought, and he has also hired Lanny Davis as a public speaker for the defense and Michael Cohen presents to you basically these feelings that Emily has just revealed for us.

What would you say to him as his criminal defense lawyer?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: As his defense lawyer, I would say cooperate completely. It is well believed that he knows a lot. Not just about the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, but other wrongdoing by the president.

And he could be the person who can explain exactly what the words on that tape are. Did the president say pay with cash, or did he say don't pay with cash? That's the debate that's going on now. And while it doesn't matter in terms of whether it violates campaign finance laws, it does matter in terms of how it is perceived.

And just like John Dean was the person who could say what the words on the tapes in the Oval Office meant and exactly what they were saying, so, too, could Cohen because he was a participant. He taped the conversation. So, it's very important that he be an open and honest witness and that he behave in the same way that John Dean did, so that we can learn what the truth is.

And we can't rely on transcripts anymore than we could when President Nixon tried to use Stennis to provide transcripts of the Oval Office tapes.

O'DONNELL: Yes. President Nixon tried to use a senator involved in the investigation to just say this is what were on the tapes.

Emily, quickly, what we just heard from Jill, is that the legal advice as far as you know that Michael Cohen is getting, to just cooperate?

FOX: I think the general advice for everyone close to him is look out for yourself.

And Michael Cohen said in an interview on the record with ABC, my loyalty is to my country and to my family. And I think there is no one in his orbit who is not saying that. But I will say that people familiar with his thinking over the weekend have told me that, you know, obviously, he's been leaning more in that direction.

But as Jill just made the point, it is not what is on the recording but it is the back story. And Michael Cohen is able to provide that back story. As it was relayed to me, that back story could be very valuable.

O'DONNELL: And, Tim, "The Washington Post" reporting, as Rachel just announced at the beginning of the hour, 100 tapes, that that's how many tapes they actually now have of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump or Donald Trump's businesses being discussed, issues involving Donald Trump being discussed on 100 Michael Cohen tapes.

TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": You know, I would go back to the tweet you reference in the top of the hour when Trump tweeted what kind of a lawyer tapes his client. I would answer that a little differently than you. I would say the kind of lawyer that tapes his client is a lawyer who has a client that's telling everyone he's taping everyone else. And that's been Trump's story forever.

When you, as a reporter, would go into Trump's office, he would say you don't mind if I turn on my tape recording system, do you? And he would reach beneath his desk and pretend to press a button. He told Jim Comey that --

O'DONNELL: You say pretend to press a button.

O'BRIEN: Well, I know in fact he was pretending because we deposed him later about this. But, you know, he threatened --

O'DONNELL: Instead of having a recording device in plain view, he would do this James Bond thing, or secret --

O'BRIEN: It was very Bond like or Slovelt (ph).

FOX: Why not just actually record you?


FOX: Why not just actually record you?

O'BRIEN: You know, he would have had to pay to get a system put in. That's money he didn't want to spend.

But when we litigated under deposition in December of 2007, my attorney said to him, Mr. Trump, you have repeatedly said that you had a recording system in your office and you recorded Mr. O'Brien and other reporters. One, why did you do that? And then two, does it exist?

And he eventually went to, no, it didn't exist, because he knew we would be able to get it during discovery. But then he said, the reason I tell them I do with those, I need to scare them because they're dishonorable people. I don't trust reporters. They're bad people and I knew if I said I was recording them, they would be on their best behavior.

And I think that's the attitude he took to most of the people who worked for him. And he certainly I think through most of his relationship with Michael Cohen treated him in a demeaning way. So, at some level, of course, Michael Cohen was thinking about insurance policies and tape recording this guy was one of them.

O'DONNELL: What other incentives, Emily, would Michael Cohen have for taping his client? You're suggesting, Tim, and the insurance policy would be against some possible criminal prosecution if the Trump business crossed the line somewhere and Michael Cohen would be able to protect his side of what he said.

O'BRIEN: Or even if Trump was going to fire him or he threatened to fire him or whatever came up in the course of the interactions. It was something that gave him a line of defense.

O'DONNELL: What do you -- Emily, what do you think the incentives are for Michael Cohen to record?

FOX: That is a big incentive. I would say there's -- Lanny Davis had said in interviews and conversations I've had with him that this is the way that Michael Cohen takes contemporaneous notes. He doesn't like to take notes in a notebook. So, these records are the way for him to document conversations that were important that he would need reference --

O'DONNELL: And, Jill, just as a lawyer, there is a lot of reasons why a lot of people in a lot of occupations might want to have a taped back up and there are many, many reasons why a lawyer would not want to have a taped backup.

WINE-BANKS: There are. But I think in this case, the reason would be that he was worried that at some point, he would be the fall guy for the president, that he was doing a lot of things that were possibly skirting the line or clearly illegal and that rather than allowing the president at a later point to say he did that on his own, I had nothing to do with it, he wanted to have the proof that he was carrying out Trump's orders. And that would protect him in that way.

O'DONNELL: A final note to Emily. We are always trying to impose a logic on Trump world, Cohen world. Is it possible that part of the whole Michael Cohen taping is just really bad thinking, really messy idea and not really thinking through why he's taping?

FOX: Anything is possible, right? I think there are certain conversations like this conversation that it seems to me, and this is just me talking to you, that there is a reason why this conversation in particular was recorded. It does not seem like an accident that these specific things were brought up in a conversation.

It was a recording that was done in person. It seems like a fairly standard meeting between boss and employee that this was brought up and recorded is an interesting thing to note. I don't think that these recordings were necessarily made accidentally.

O'DONNELL: We're going to have to leave it there for this break.

Jill Wine-Banks, Emily Jane Fox, Tim O'Brien, thank you all for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, polls now show that Donald Trump has really lost his grip on the Electoral College. The crucial Midwest states that flipped to Donald Trump had really turned against him in these new polls.

And Donald Trump suffered a very big loss today in a case that could end up revealing more about the Trump presidency than Robert Mueller's investigation and will certainly be the focus of questions for Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.


O'DONNELL: If you disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, you are not alone. You are part of a very strong majority. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 58 percent of American voters disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, with only 38 percent approving.

With 104 days until the election that will determine whether Donald Trump has a Congress that opposes him or supports him, a 38 percent approval rating for the president is very, very bad news for President Trump and the Republican Party. The poll shows that President Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin hurt him very badly.

You are not alone tonight if you believe that the summit was a failure for the United States. You are the majority.

Fifty-two percent of voters believe the summit was a failure for the United States with only 27 percent thinking it was a success. A stunning bipartisan majority of voters believe the summit was a success for Russia. Seventy-three percent of voters believe the Trump-Putin summit was a success for Russia.

You are not alone tonight if you believe that President Trump was not acting in the best interests of the United States during his meeting with Vladimir Putin. You are the majority. Fifty-four percent say they do not believe the president was acting in the best interests of the United States during his meeting with Vladimir Putin. We have never seen polling like this on an American president. Fifty-four percent saying they don't believe the president was acting in the best interests of the United States.

You are not alone tonight if you believe the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump. You are the majority.

Fifty-one percent of American voters believe that the Russian government has compromising information about the president of the United States. That's 51 percent of American voters believing that we are living in the middle of a movie plot from 1962, the height of the Cold War, "The Manchurian Candidate", the movie about a presidential candidate who was controlled by a foreign government. Fifty-one percent of Americans believe that movie has come true and the Russian government has compromising information about the president of the United States. American voters have never harbored a belief like that about the president of the United States. A majority has never thought that way about the president.

And so, what did the president have to say to the country where a majority disapprove of his work as president and a majority believe that his summit with Vladimir Putin was a failure and a majority believe the president was not acting in the best interest of the United States in the Putin summit, what does the president have to say to a country where a majority of American voters believe that the Russian government has compromising information about the president of the United States? What did Donald Trump have to say to a country where a majority of people believe all of those things?


TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


O'DONNELL: Brainwash. That's all Donald Trump has left, brainwash.

That's what his act comes down to now. That's what he brought to the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention yesterday in Missouri yesterday where he said that and the act is wearing thin even in Trump country states like Missouri, even in front of Republican-leaning groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The room the president spoke in was half full, according to the pool reporter Jordan Fabian of "The Hill". The Trump act could not fill the room at the VFW convention, and that was after the VFW had announced it had moved the president's speech to the smaller room from the larger main hall of the city's convention center where it had originally been scheduled.

The brainwashing isn't working as the new polling shows. But in the corner that Donald Trump has painted himself into, he doesn't have anything else. Brainwashing is all he's got.

And so, the president tried to tweet himself out of that corner. That corner where a majority of Americans disapprove of what he did at the Putin summit. That corner where a majority of Americans believe he is controlled by Vladimir Putin because the Russians have compromising information on the president of the United States.

This is the tweet that Donald Trump believes can get him out of the corner he painted himself into: I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump!

Now, Donald Trump apparently now thinks he has to pretend that he's concerned that Russia is going to continue to attack our elections. And so, he now claims the Russians will attack our elections but they will do it this time to help the Democrats.

Too bad Vladimir Putin has already publically explained exactly what he's up to.


REPORTER: President Putin, 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.


O'DONNELL: And so, today, Republicans filed articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives -- not against Donald Trump, against the man who is overseeing the investigation of Donald Trump. That's next.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump is now getting crushed in polling in Michigan and Wisconsin, which is part of why he offered a partial surrender today in his tariff war with Europe.

New polling shows Donald Trump has completely lost his grip on the electoral college. He has a 36 percent approval rating in Michigan and Wisconsin. He can't possibly win those states with polling numbers like that. His national approval rating is 38 percent.

No Republican President has ever won an election with polling numbers that bad. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush had a 43 percent approval rating when he lost his reelection campaign to governor Bill Clinton. In 1976, President Gerald Ford has a 45 percent approval rating when he lost to governor Jimmy Carter.

Joining us now is Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for the "Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. And back with us is Tim O'Brien.

And Jonathan, these new numbers on the President are really devastating and obviously have congressional Republicans very worried about what it means for them this year, in this year's election.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. The President has no coat tails. You used the right word, devastating. I think it is Minnesota, Michigan and the third state I can't remember. But the fact these were states that the President depended on to become President, his numbers are under water is significant.

When my husband and I were out in Minnesota. He is from North Dakota, which is a red state. Minnesota, which the President lost by I think one percentage point to Hillary Clinton. We asked relatives and friends of relatives what their Republican friends thought of Donald Trump. And the number one word we got back from them was soy beans.

The tariffs that they were being hit with because the President's war with China and the hit that that took on soy beans. The price had already dropped $2. And they were telling us that if it dropped $2 more to $6, those farmers would be devastated.

I bring that up because in addition to the President doing the dew in the Rose Garden with the head of the EU, I think it was yesterday he did that order basically trying to give welfare to farmers was so egregious that even Republicans on the hill who have been mute on a whole lot of other things had to turn around and say, Mr. President, this isn't the right way to go.

So between that and these poll numbers, it is a recognition in the White House that they are in trouble right where the -- right in the President's base.

O'DONNELL: And, Tim, yesterday morning began with the President tweeting tariffs are great. Today he did his first stage of surrender in his own trade war. He simply announced that there would be no more tariffs, no additional tariffs placed on the European Union. And the European union would place no additional tariffs. But the tariffs there are really hurting.

And here is some numbers from Michigan and Wisconsin states that the President would have to win. Does President Trump deserve reelection? Michigan 62 percent, no. Wisconsin 63 percent, no. Does President Trump deserve reelection. That kind of number has to be scary for the 2018 election this year for congressional Republicans.

TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, TRUMPNATION: Certainly it's probably scarier for 2018 than it may be for 2020. As you know the national election poll numbers can shift dramatically. But certainly right now, what you are seeing is I think this sort of coming home to roost of Trump having policies that he thinks puts him out on the world stage as an America firster. And in the very same breath, they are hurting the average Americans he said he was campaigning for.

So you have these perverse outcome where is the tariff war is tease engage and is hurting farmers in the farm belt, causing him then to propose a $12 billion federal subsidy to help them out. And he went to Washington on the argument that he was going to trim down federal spending and bring rational and clean management to this. What he's doing now because of this is he's placing giant fiscal band-aids on bad policy because he's surrounded by people that don't know what they're doing and he is a profoundly unsophisticated financial and economic thinker.

And I think one of the interesting phenomenon are using these pockets of dissent emerging around working class Americans who are finally seeing some of the realities of Trumpism. Whether they are a fishermen along the Louisiana coast or the Massachusetts coast or farmers out in the farm belt. This stuff is coming home to roost for people who vote with their pocketbook. And I think this could come home in the long run to really do some damage to Republicans permanently. Everything that he is doing is in a classic Republican platform that's not good for the economy.

O'DONNELL: And there's nothing he has done that created more opposition that the Republican senate anyway than the tariffs.

And Jonathan, today the solution for some Republican members of the House to this problem was to introduce articles of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation of the President. Exactly nine Republicans decided to put their names on this thing. That means that 227 house Republicans think it is crazy.

CAPEHART: Right. Because it is crazy. And it just seems like a Congress and a majority that can't see -- that doesn't see fit to hold the executive accountable or even to do anything that looks like governing has decided that it wants to do something else.

I don't understand why the Republican majority is even trying to do this. If you can't get a majority of your majority to sign on to something this important, why embarrass yourself, your caucus and your party by announcing that you are doing this?

O'DONNELL: Jonathan, you should tell your soy bean growing friends to send some soy beans to the White House because I think we can be sure that Donald Trump has never seen a soy bean.

Tim O'Brien, Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

Also today was another loss. Big, big, big loss in court for Donald Trump and another huge victory for those who are fighting to release the Trump tax returns. The case that might end up revealing more about Trump business and the Trump presidency. That's next.


O'DONNELL: We got one big step closer to Donald Trump's tax returns today and one big step closer to exposing how Donald Trump has been conducting his private businesses for profit while President of the United States.

A federal judge ruled against President Trump's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the President under the emoluments clause of the constitution. Today, the judge rules that the point of scope (ph) convincingly argued that the term "emolument" means any profit, gain or advantage Trump could receive from his businesses.

As "the Washington Post" points out, this ruling appeared to mark the first time a federal judge had interpreted those constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting President.

Joining our discussion now, David Cay Johnson, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who founded He is the author of the "It is even worse than you think, what the Trump administration is doing to America."

And David Cay, your book is about actual governing policies that the Trump administration has been conducting. But every day Donald Trump has been conducting the business of the Trump companies and the Trump organization. And this lawsuit seems to be the vehicle that has a chance of exposing more of that than even possibly the Mueller investigation.

DAVID CAY JOHNSON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, it certainly does because this lawsuit was very well crafted. And they got the judge to go back and see how dictionaries defined emolument.

The justice department wants us to think emolument means paying a bribe. Well, bribe is already in the constitution. We don't need it. It is redundant to do so. And at the end of this 52 pages, judge Mosat (ph) whose mother didn't raise any fools, goes through the Trump hotel rooms and points out that Donald Trump change who was at the government services agency, the people who run the least for the Trump hotel and then they gave this opinion that said that he could run the place even though the contract says no elected official of the government may be involved in that deal. And I think that's going to turn out to be very important when the justice department appeals this case and tries to stop this case again.

O'DONNELL: Because in these kinds of cases, the justice department functions at the President's lawyer in a lawsuit like this, right?

JOHNSON: Correct. They are defending the office.

O'DONNELL: They are defending the office, yes. And, so, one of the normal targets of discovery in this case would be the President's tax returns, including corporate tax returns, to try to find out through those tax returns exactly how much money, how much profits. Just the size of the emoluments.

JOHNSON: Correct. And I would expect that the CREW people are going to move very quickly to start discovery. They are going to want to look at the books and records behind Donald's tax returns. And his filings with the district of Columbia and the federal government. And Donald has a long, well documented history of hiding records, of claiming they were destroyed or unavailable and of signing letters authorizing what I would politely call unorthodox accounting methods as in all for me, nothing for you.

O'DONNELL: And, David, what do you see as the possible timetable of this lawsuit?

JOHNSON: Well, it depends on how quickly the justice department moves to appeal, which I assume they're going to do. And they have got -- I don't remember the court rule. I think they have got 30 or 60 days to do this. But CREW is going to push to act as quickly as they possibly can. The citizens for responsible in ethics in Washington, the people that brought this case crafted their complaint very smartly.

O'DONNELL: They have Professor Lawrence Tribe and other great legal authorities working on their side. So this case, through the appeals process, could end up going to a United States Supreme Court where Donald Trump might by the time have had two justices appointed.

JOHNSON: Yes. More likely to go first to the court of appeals, but there could be a direct appeal. I don't think this is over, and I don't think CREW is going to get access right away for this. But I think people who want to really understand policy, you know, get the judge's decision off the internet and read pages 48 and 49. They are very compelling. You don't need to be a lawyer to understand those two pages. They deal with the post office lease. And remember, we have emolument two clauses. One applies to all federal officials about foreign gifts. Then there is the domestic clause and that's the one that I think will cause Trump more trouble.

O'DONNELL: And we can expect questions in just Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing about this case?

JOHNSON: Yes. If we get any answers, I will be surprised.

O'DONNELL: Right. But this is an obvious case for Democrats especially to be looking at and saying what about emoluments?

JOHNSON: Yes. And I expect they will press very hard and Kavanaugh, I'm sure, in the fairest (ph) that will call judicial hearings is going to be ready to avoid answering them.

O'DONNELL: David Cay Johnson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: When we come back, Donald Trump surrendered again today. And this is something he does frequently. Donald Trump surrendered today, and he reversed himself on the scheduling of his next meeting with Vladimir Putin. Malcolm Nance will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Today, President Donald Trump once again surrendered to pressure and once again reversed himself, flip-flopped, this time on his next meeting with Vladimir Putin, in defiance of near-universal criticism of his last meeting with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump immediately very defensively announced last week he was inviting Vladimir Putin for another meeting, just to prove how great the first meeting was. And that this next meeting would be in the White House. And to Democratic campaign operatives' delight, he said the meeting with Putin would happen in the last weeks of the election campaign this year.

Donald Trump created a nightmare for Republicans running for election in Congress, another Trump/Putin spectacle in October with the President of the United States genuflecting again before Vladimir Putin and the majority of Americans believing Vladimir Putin has something on Donald Trump.

And so congressional Republicans convinced the President to back down once again, to flip-flop once again, and cancel the meeting with Vladimir Putin. The President left this latest demonstration of Trump weakness to national security adviser John Bolton, who did not dare show his face to say it, but instead issued this written statement.

The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we have agreed that it will be after the first of the year.

All this use of the phrase "witch hunt" proves his utter subservience to Donald Trump. And that is the kindest possible word you could describe for John Bolton's position in the White House.

And after the first of the year means we have no idea when that Putin meeting will be. And if Vladimir Putin is going to have a meeting with the President of the United States after Robert Mueller's investigation is complete and over, there is no guarantee that Donald Trump will still be President of the United States. Malcolm Nance joins us next.


O'DONNELL: With a new poll showing a majority of Americans believe the Russian government has compromising information about Donald Trump, today Donald Trump canceled his next meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Joining us is Malcolm Nance, MSNBC counterterrorism analyst and author of the book "the plot to destroy democracy."

Malcolm, you are one of our experts on all things Putin. What do you make of the indefinite postponement of the meeting?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's fascinating, because it appears that it was not the United States that canceled this meeting. It is that the Russians took an exceptionally long time to accept that they were going to go through this meeting. That's sort of diplomatic-speak for, we are really not that into you right now.

You know, I think it's also brilliant statecraft, when you think about it. Vladimir Putin held Donald Trump by a nose ring and then when Donald Trump makes this enormous offer to the detriment of his own politics in front of the whole world, Vladimir Putin doesn't pick it up. So take that as you will, but I'm sure right after the election if things go Trump's way, he'll call for this grand triumph.

O'DONNELL: The secretary of state was testifying to the Senate today, and he ran into disbelief from both Republicans and Democrats that even Mike Pompeo knows what happens in the President's meeting with Donald Trump. Let's listen to chairman Bob Corker.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I can't say it more forcefully. We really need a clear understanding as to what is going on. What our President is agreeing to and what our strategy is on an a number of issues. From where we sit, it appears that in a ready, fire, aim fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go.


O'DONNELL: Malcolm Nance, it seemed like there was no one there really believing that Mike Pompeo knew what went on in the private meeting.

NANCE: No. And when Mike Pompeo, when he was being questioned by Senator Menendez, really hemmed and hawed a long period of time when asked, did the President seek to you about what would discussed in private. And then he finally got around to, well, yes, I do have discussions with the President.

You know, I think he may have gotten a little bit of a briefing with the President. But, you know, Pompeo kept falling about saying, throughout the entire period saying, the President has the right to his own counsel.

O'DONNELL: And so what if Donald Trump tells you what he said in a meeting? That doesn't mean he said that in a meeting.

NANCE: Yes. We are not getting the Cohen --. All right.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Malcolm.

That is tonight's LAST WORD.



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