Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: August 8, 2018 Guest: Glenn Kirschner
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And they always sound different at those fundraisers, don't they?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: Exactly. They're very, very, very sure that nobody is listening. And then you get revelations.
O'DONNELL: And it seems like the admission that Devin Nunes does on the tapes that, of course, some of Donald Trump's tweets make us cringe is the minimal thing you have to do for credibility even with a Republican audience because even they know, although they don't want to say it publicly, that some of these tweets are just nuts.
MADDOW: And it's interesting to like think about the real consequences of that. I mean, on the one hand, that's inarguable. Who on earth doesn't cringe at some of the president's tweets? Presumably, every human on the face of the earth.
On the other hand, you know, while that seems like a petty thing and an inarguable thing, that might really get under the skin of the president when it comes to somebody who has become his most important ally on Capitol Hill.
O'DONNELL: One of the things they did on that impeachment discussion they had about impeaching Rod Rosenstein is they lied to their contributors with this notion that it is Senate procedure to immediately take up a bill of impeachment from the House of Representatives and the Senate can do no other business. The House of Representatives sent over the impeachment of a federal judge in 1988 in August.
The Senate didn't take up the trial until 14 months later. And even then, they did it part-time, a couple of hours a day here and there. It doesn't in any way clog up the Senate on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
And so, my reading of that, Rachel, was them just lying to their enthusiasts who want an impeachment of Rod Rosenstein. It's just the other thing that they do with these fundraisers, is that they lie and they tell them what they want to hear.
MADDOW: It is striking, though, to see Republican leadership, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers in -she's in the Republican leadership right, she's the number four Republican, and there is Paul Ryan getting this credit for being, you know, the reasonable Republican who is keeping the crazies at bay when this -- that that's that small band of House Republicans that say they want to impeach Rod Rosenstein. Paul Ryan comes out and says, no, no, we're not going to pursue that at all.
But then actually, at her closed door fundraiser, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is like, yes, we got -- she and Devin Nunes are standing there, yes, we're not doing it after the election, but afterwards, once we get Kavanaugh in there.
MADDOW: I mean, the distance between what they're getting credit for publicly and what they're willing to say, again, to their donors, as you say, behind closed doors is something that at least requires an explanation. I really thought we would get a comment from Cathy McMorris Rodgers in her office tonight just because of the stark difference between that public persona and what she's really saying in private. But we've had no response thus far.
O'DONNELL: It's always amazing what they say in private.
MADDOW: Yes, thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, we'll be talking more about this and about the legal implications of the recordings that Rachel just revealed in this last hour. Rachel didn't get a chance to get into a discussion of those legal implications. Jill Wine-Banks will guide us through that.
But today, today is the 44th anniversary of most important day in the history of White House corruption and on this historic anniversary, there is an intense competition in Washington tonight for the title of most corrupt person in government because the president of the United States is on that list of possibly the most corrupt person in government once again as the president was 44 years ago, it is hard for the other people on the list to get the attention they deserve. And it may be that the non- presidential corruption in Washington will not or cannot come into sharp focus until or unless President Donald Trump says what President Richard Nixon said on this date, 44 years ago at 9:01 p.m.
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RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
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O'DONNELL: It may be that as long as Donald Trump is a president under investigation for possible conspiracy with Russians to help his presidential campaign, for obstruction of justice while president and for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from his businesses while president, that other Washington corruption stories that would be dominating the news will always be overshadowed by the multiple investigations of President Trump.
And today, the first Republican member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, Chris Collins, who also happens to be one of the very richest members of Congress was arrested and charged with insider trading and lying to federal agents.
But even that won't get Chris Collins the full attention he deserves in news coverage tonight because the president of the United States is still being investigated for obstruction of justice while serving as president of the United States and the president and his lawyers so fear that investigation of obstruction of justice that the president's lawyers have said publicly and said it once again today that the president will not answer any questions about obstruction of justice and other issues that the special prosecutor Robert Mueller would like to question the president about.
Regular viewers of this hour know I for one believe President Trump was never going to submit to any questions by my prosecutor under any circumstances, even back when the president said the chance of him doing that was 100 percent.
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REPORTER: So he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of this?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One hundred percent.
REPORTER: So, if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that you would be willing to talk to him?
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: One hundred percent. That was a year ago. And now, the chances of the president submitting to an interview with Robert Mueller is almost officially publicly zero percent.
Although the president's lawyers continue to play the public game that they are negotiating the terms of an interview with the special prosecutor, a central element of that game has been the Trump lawyers' repeated insistence that President Trump really does want to do the interview with Robert Mueller and it's just the lawyers who are reluctant.
This game is usually played out in Trump team interviews with "The New York Times" where the Trump spin is usually accepted as true. Today's report on this game by "The New York Times" carries the latest version of the Trump team's spin in a paragraph that has appeared repeatedly in "The New York Times'" reporting on this game for the last year.
The president's lawyers are concerned that if he is interviewed, Mr. Trump could perjure himself. That concern is in part driving the ongoing negotiations. They had been prepared last week to tell Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump would decline an interview. But the president, who believes he can convince Mr. Mueller that he is innocent, pushed his lawyers to continue negotiating.
Now, whenever you read that perhaps in "The New York Times" and elsewhere, you might want to re-write the last line in your head to something like this possible alternative.
But the president, who knows he can never convince Mr. Mueller that he is innocent, pushed his lawyers to continue negotiating in order to delay the Mueller investigation so that the president can then publicly complain that the Mueller investigation is still going on. That complaint is, of course, not limited to the president. The president's lawyers, who are actually delaying the investigation by proposing restrictions on a presidential interview they know the special prosecutor cannot accept, are also publicly complaining that the special prosecutor has not yet finished his work.
The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told "The New York Times" today we are re-stating what we have said for months. It is time for the special counsel to conclude its inquiry without further delay.
That's from one of the men who is causing the delay that he's complaining about there. So, now what will Robert Mueller do? Subpoena the president?
Today's "New York Times" report offers some insight into that question. Quote: In a meeting with Mr. Trump's lawyers this year, Mr. Mueller threatened to take the extraordinary step of subpoenaing the president to testify before a grand jury if he did not sit for a voluntarily interview.
Now, that was reported months ago. But we still do not know if any of that is true because the sources of the Robert Mueller threat to subpoena the president were the Trump lawyers, not Robert Mueller or anyone on Robert Mueller's staff. And so, "The Times" turned to sources who have worked with Robert Mueller in their report today, worked with Robert Mueller in the past to try to get a sense of what Robert Mueller might do.
Quote: Law enforcement officials who have worked with Mr. Mueller, a long time federal prosecutor and the head of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, believe that he will try to use every tool he has to get the president to answer questions and that he will probably subpoena him to testify if he does not agree to be questioned voluntarily.
Well, OK. That's one possibility.
And Trump lawyers offered "The New York Times" another very credible possibility this time, saying: Some of Mr. Trump's lawyers believe that Mr. Mueller will not subpoena their client out of fear of losing a court fight that could undermine the investigation's legitimacy to the public.
And so, Robert Mueller is approaching a very difficult decision point, probably the most difficult decision point that he will face in his investigation of the president of the United States.
And now to answer the question of what Robert Mueller will do, what Robert Mueller should do, we are now joined by Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst, and Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor.
And, Jill, thank you for being here on this historic day 44 years after you heard the president say he was going to resign the next day because your investigation had closed in on President Nixon. What is your reading of where Robert Mueller stands tonight on the issue of what to do with interviewing the president or subpoenaing the president or moving past any possibility of talking to the president and going ahead without that?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: First, let me say, Lawrence, that you gave such a good introduction that you have left very little for me to add to it. But -- and I do remember, by the way, the night of the resignation announcement like it was yesterday.
O'DONNELL: Jill, can we just stop you on that for a second?
O'DONNELL: Because we're not going to be at this day again.
Take us back to 9:01 p.m. on that night. All of you in the prosecutor's team I assume are sitting around televisions watching the president say those words that he would resign the presidency at 12:00 noon tomorrow.
WINE-BANKS: I think the first thing that came to our mind was now can we indict him? He won't be the sitting president anymore. And we had already been turned down by Leon Jaworski while he was the sitting president, despite the fact that we had more than ample evidence of his guilt. And once he wasn't the sitting president, we said now we could do it.
Unfortunately, he was pardoned by his successor, President Ford, before we could return an indictment. And so, he never got indicted.
O'DONNELL: And, Jill, so to where Robert Mueller stands tonight, this risk -- there is a risk in subpoenaing the president and that is the president will challenge the subpoena. And there is possibility the risk that the president could win in his challenge of that subpoena.
WINE-BANKS: I think the chance of his winning that are very, very small. I think that the decision which was 8-0 in the Nixon case really says that the president is not above the law. A president had to comply with a subpoena for documents.
It is different when it is a subpoena for his own testimony. But I believe that the concept of the opinion says for sure that Mueller would win that argument and the president would lose it.
I would say, however, that he may not need his testimony and he may not want his testimony. We are only hearing from the president's lawyers. We don't know what's in Mueller's mind at all.
If the president is, indeed, a target, even if it's only a target of a report rather than an indictment, then maybe he doesn't want to call him in because he would have to take the Fifth Amendment and that would be something that he might not want to have happen. So, it may be that the reason he's not pursuing this is that he doesn't really care. He doesn't need the testimony. The evidence has been in plain sight.
I don't think you have to ask him what his intent is. The president has expressed his intent over and over and over again, enough times that we don't have to ask him anymore. He said it to Lester Holt a year ago. Now he has said it again in tweets.
So we know what he's thinking. We know why he wanted to stop the investigation. He wanted to get rid of the Russia thing. And that's why he fired Comey.
O'DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, I know you don't know what Robert Mueller will do. And, so, I will if you if you are on Robert Mueller's team, what would you advise him to do at this point on the issue of speaking to interviewing the president of the United States?
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Lawrence, I think that, you know, all possibilities that the president will actually come in for a voluntarily interview have played themselves out. I tend to believe that the president was never going to voluntarily sit down with Robert Mueller for an interview. His lawyers knew what a danger that would present for him.
And, so, if we move past that, the next question is: should Robert Mueller subpoena the president? And I think as Jill was suggesting, it may be that Bob Mueller has now begun to view the president as a target of the investigation, and because the Department of Justice has a policy that they don't allow prosecutors to subpoena targets of the grand jury's investigation because of the might against self-incrimination.
Now, there is an exception to that, but I -- it is a rarely used exception, I think that may mean that we never hear from the president, not in a voluntary interview, not under subpoena before a grand jury and then Bob Mueller moves on to the next phase of his work and that may be returning indictments. It may be authoring a report that gets released to Congress. It may be a combination of the two. It may be that Bob Mueller decides to return a conspiracy indictment naming everybody but the president and just putting everything he's learned about the president's misdeeds into a report to Congress and let Congress handle it as a political issue.
And then again it may be, as I know Mrs. Wine-Banks, can tell us, that he will choose to name the president as an unindicted conspirator in a large conspiracy indictment. I worked for Bob Mueller directly when he was chief of homicide at the U.S.'s attorney's office for the District of Columbia, but I will not pretend to be able to look into his head and predict which way he's going.
The only thing I can promise everybody is that, you know, he will be governed by the rule of law and he will announce his findings accordingly.
O'DONNELL: We're going to listen to something that Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News tonight. And it's really quite shocking from Rudy Giuliani, a former Justice Department official himself, lying to Fox News viewers about Justice Department policy and saying that this investigation must be over by September, according to Justice Department policy.
Let's listen to this.
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RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think if it isn't over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules that you shouldn't be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, your reaction to that?
KIRSCHNER: I was a federal prosecutor for 30 years. I have never heard of such a policy.
I think so much of what we heard -- we've heard from Mr. Giuliani over the past year or so is self-contradictory. He's playing to not a court of law but a court of public opinion. He really is just trying to poison the well of the American people in the hopes that that may somehow work to the political advantage of the president down the road if this matter gets taken up in impeachment hearings.
O'DONNELL: I want to show one more thing that Rudy Giuliani said to Sean Hannity tonight because I think it proves what has been my case, that the negotiations are literally just a game. Shawn Hannity asked him why would you even bother with a counter proposal.
Let's watch this.
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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Why would you even more a counterproposal?
GIULIANI: When it is over with, I'll explain it to you.
HANNITY: Boy, I'm not getting anything out of you tonight.
Good to see you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Jill, it certainly sounds like a game to me.
WINE-BANKS: They have been playing this for public relations. They aren't being serious about it. I agree with you that they probably never intended.
And probably the most shocking thing that Rudy Giuliani said is that the president could perjure himself if he went in. The president could perjure himself only if he plans to lie and/or if he plans to cover up further what he knows he did.
So, it isn't a perjury trap unless the witness wants to lie about something. And it's shocking that we are at a state of affairs where the president of the United States' lawyer is saying that he could commit perjury.
O'DONNELL: Yes. The president's lawyer's public negotiating position is the president is so guilty of something that he will lie about it and commit perjury if he is interviewed by the Mueller team. That's their public position.
We're going to have to take a break here.
Glenn Kirschner, thank you for helping us start this off tonight.
And Jill Wine-Banks is going to be back with us when we come back because we're going to get Jill's legal reaction to those secret audio recordings of Devin Nunes speaking at a Republican fundraiser. These recordings were exclusively obtained by "The Rachel Maddow Show". Rachel played these in the last hour, but Rachel didn't get a chance to do any kind of a legal analysis of these recordings yet in her hour. We will do that, next.
O'DONNELL: As Rachel reported in the last hour, we now have tapes of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes telling us what he thinks or at least telling Republican contributors what he thinks they really want to hear. One thing Devin Nunes felt he had to say to Republican contributors gathered in Washington state to support the candidacy of Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers was that, quote: sometimes you love the president's tweets. Sometimes we cringe on the president's tweets.
That is something that every Trump supporter I have ever spoken to in private admits to, cringing at some of the president's tweets. Devin Nunes did admit that it is criminal to conclude with a foreign country or foreign nationals in an American campaign, but he seemed to identify a very narrow definition of criminal conduct.
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REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Now if somebody thinks that my campaign or Cathy's campaign is colluding with the Chinese, or you name the country, hey, could happen, it would be a very bad thing if Cathy was getting secrets from the Portuguese, let's say, just because I'm Portuguese, my family was. So Cathy was getting secret information from the Portuguese. You know, may or may not be unusual.
But ultimately let's say the Portuguese came and brought her some stolen emails. And she decided to release those. OK, now we have a problem, right? Because somebody stole the emails, gave `em to Cathy, Cathy released `em. Well, if that's the case, then that's criminal.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Because somebody stole the emails, gave them to Cathy, Cathy released them, well, if that's the case, then that's criminal.
No one is saying that that's the case with Trump campaign. What if they -- what if someone stole the emails, did not give them to Cathy but gave them to someone else to release them to benefit Cathy?
Devin Nunes and Congresswoman McMorris- Rodgers lied to their contributors, just lied to them when they said that the reason they were not moving forward quickly with the impeachment of the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the House of Representatives is that the Senate would then have to immediately take up that impeachment trial after the House voted to impeach Rod Rosenstein and the Senate trial of Rod Rosenstein would then prevent the Senate from confirming the president's choice for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. That is an outright absolute lie.
The Senate would be under in timing obligation to take up a bill of impeachment sent over to the Senate for trial. The House of Representatives will never vote on impeaching Rod Rosenstein and the Senate will never have an impeachment trial of Rod Rosenstein. But at Republican fundraisers, Republicans like Devin Nunes and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers will probably continue to lie to their contributors who are hoping for an impeachment of Rod Rosenstein.
Joining our discussion now, Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor, and Jill Wine-Banks is back with us.
Jill, I wanted to get your legal reading of the way Devin Nunes described what we considered criminal collusion if foreign power were to steal some e-mails and gave them directly to a campaign and the campaign were then to directly publicize those e-mails for the campaign's benefit, that would be collusion. That seems like a very narrow definition.
WINE-BANKS: It is a narrow definition. And I also want to say we aren't using the word collusion anymore. I started a #saythisnotthat. And we're going to will be calling it criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States or criminal conspiracy to violate the election laws because that's what it is.
It is a much broader legal problem for the Republicans than Devin Nunes described. What he said is true, that is criminal. It would be criminal. But it's also criminal if you accept anything of value from a foreign individual or a foreign government, especially when it happens to be an enemy of our country, not a friend or ally.
But you cannot accept anything even from our closest allies if it is a foreign person. So once you have his description was of a Portuguese giving something to the candidate. It doesn't matter what country it is. You can't take it. Anything of value is barred by our election laws.
And, so, there is a much broader thing. And it doesn't matter whether you publish it or you knowingly allow someone to publish it or whether you just send an e-mail that says "I love it, especially later in the summer", and then WikiLeaks publishes it later in the summer.
O'DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, the notion that the Senate has to immediately take up a bill of impeachment, the last time we saw an impeachment of this level was of a federal judge. 1988, in August, the House voted to impeach a federal judge. The Senate did not begin the trial until 14 months later in 1989. And then they did it part-time, a couple hours here, a couple hours there.
Senate business was never interrupted by that impeachment.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is like all these Republicans went to the same bad law school and they never picked up the Constitution and they know nothing about their jobs because what they say is essentially nonsense. Jill is right.
First of all, that's entirely wrong. Secondly, as Jill was saying, this criminal conspiracy is a broader issue. And what is illegal is to also solicit something of value, which is arguably what Donald Trump Jr. was doing when he said, I love it.
So, really, all of their legal bee's wax is nonsense. I will say this, I think it's a big political embarrassment once again for Paul Ryan, who has left an unserious irresponsible person in Devin Nunes in a very important job as head of the House Intelligence Committee. And now, we have Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who is the number four person, doing very badly by the way in her primary, who is sitting there like a lump in the log as this guy goes on waxing about his primary job is to protect the president, not to do his job.
These people look like stooges. They look like they have indulged a character like Devin Nunes and they haven't done their job. If there isn't a better reason to get rid of Paul Ryan's party, it's this.
They exercise no responsibility. It's always about the party, always about protecting the president, never about doing their constitutional obligation.
So, my takeaway is primarily political, that these people really are irredeemable. And if you want an effective constitutional check on the president of the United States, you're going to have to change parties.
O'DONNELL: Well, that is exactly what they seem to be worried. I want to play one more part of this where Devin Nunes says, we're the only ones. It sounds to me he says you have got to elect Republicans or we will have an impeachment of the president. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: So therein lies, so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where we were at a -- this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won't unrecuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones. Which is really the danger.
That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Jill, that sounded to me like if we don't keep the majority, the President gets impeached.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it sounds to me like if we don't keep the majority, the truth will come out and we will know what's happening. And that's what he's worried about. And what I think Americans should want to happen. We want to know the truth and we see the truth. It is right in front of our eyes. So when are Republicans going to realize what when they give reaches in fundraisers, they are being recorded and they are making mistakes.
O'DONNELL: I think tonight. I think tonight is when they are going to realize that. We are going to have to take a break in here.
Jennifer Rubin, Jill Wine-Banks, I think the Republicans might just figure that out.
When we come back, we will be coming back to the Trump swamp. The President's first congressional supporter gets arrested today and his secretary of commerce is accused by a business magazine of being one of the greatest grifters in American history.
O'DONNELL: When Donald Trump's campaign handlers told him to say he would drain the swamp in Washington, he didn't understand what drain the swamp meant. He had never heard that phrase before. He didn't want to use it. But then he read it on the tell prompter at one of his rallies and the crowd went wild because they understood what it meant. Clean up the corruption in Washington. And the way Donald Trump promised to do that was to put a rich guy in charge in the White House who could not be bribed and then he would hire other rich guys who would not be bribed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And, so, Donald Trump hired the richest secretary of commerce in history, who "Forbes" magazine is now calling among the biggest grifters in American history. And Chris Collins was arrested and charged with insider training and lying to the FBI. He pleaded not guilty today in federal court in Manhattan. Prosecutors allege that the congressman shared inside information with his son about a bio tech company in which they were both heavily invested.
Congressman Collins' son and his son's wife and family members immediately sold off their stock, avoiding $750,000 in losses when the stock lost 90 percent of its value as soon as the inside information, which was bad news for the company, became public information a few days later.
Prosecutors say that Congressman Collins actually made phone calls to his son to pass along the inside information while he was at a White House congressional picnic last year. There is video of him at that picnic with the phone to his ear making those phone calls.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden said the Collins indictment represents everything Trump and his allies have stood for since taking office. Insiders getting special deals while Americans are left in the dust. And new report in "Forbes" magazine says that Forbes has uncovered a pattern about the Trump secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross where several months in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern. Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole at least, if a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary.
At least if you consider them individually, but all told, these allegations would spark lawsuits, reimbursements and sec fine come to more than $120 million.
Dan Alexander, the author of that report in "Forbes" magazine about Wilbur Ross joins us next, along with Trump biographer, Tim O'Brien.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Chris Collins who was charged with insider trading and lying to federal agents refused to take questions tonight when he made a brief statement to the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
I believe I acted properly and within the law at all times with regard to my affiliation with an aide. Throughout my tenure in Congress. I have followed all rules and all ethical guidelines when it becomes to my personal investments including we donate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Joining our discussion now, Dan Alexander, reporter for "Forbes" Magazine and Tim O'Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion, author of TrumpNation, the art of being the Donald." Tim is an MSNBC contributor.
And Dan Alexander, I want to start with you and your extraordinary reporting on commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. I have to say, being familiar with Wilbur Ross' business and his business history, I have been waiting since he was nominated to be the secretary of commerce for the dam to break on the multiple very swampy involvements and business history of Wilbur Ross. And you seem to have done it with these interviews and the pattern of business he engaged in before becoming secretary and what he's done since becoming secretary.
DAN ALEXANDER, REPORTER, FORBES MAGAZINE: Yes. You know, there is a lot of rich guys who get sued for various things, but not like this. Not by so many former partners, by so many investors to have such consistent allegations and to have it all add up to such a significant amount of money. I mean, $123 million is a huge sum for anyone, including Wilbur Ross.
O'DONNELL: And, Dan, just take us through what he was supposed to do in terms of what he said he would do with his finances when becoming commerce secretary and what he actually didn't do.
ALEXANDER: Sure. So like all public officials, Wilbur Ross made agreements before he took office that he would divest the majority of his holdings and in November of last year he certified that he, in fact, had done that on a sworn statement when, in fact, he had not done that. Instead, he owned more than $10 million of stock in parent company of his former equity fund company called Desco (ph) that he didn't sell until about a month-and-a-half after that. And he told stock in an air leasing company that he held on to for more than a year after he was supposed to and he had shorted a company that he said that he thought that he had an interest in, so he was taking a short to cancel out that interest. But he didn't have an interest in it so the short wasn't necessary.
All of this stuff he said was the result of simple mistakes. But it is hard to believe that one of the most sophisticated investors in the country would make so many large mistakes at so many different companies.
O'DONNELL: Tim O'Brien, how could this have gone wrong for Donald Trump? He told his audience you don't want poor people doing this kind of work. He want rich guys doing this kind of work. He want rich guys in Congress who can't be corrupted like Chris Collins and rich guys in the cabinet like Wilbur Ross.
TIM O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Right. Lawrence, so we learned that Trump did not drain the swamp. He just filled it with bigger alligators.
And you know, Dan's great reporting which I admire so much, has really exposed just around the fact pattern everything that's untoward about Wilbur Ross' holdings while he's servings a the commerce secretary. And there has been a lot of great reporting in addition to Dan's around this.
And the list is almost so long it would be impossible to get through it in this program. In addition to the stuff that Dan has already pointed out, Ross was negotiating trade agreements with China during a time when he owned a company that was exporting natural gas to China. He had another, a shipping company that was doing business in China was and was partially owned by the Chinese government while he is overseeing trade policy with China.
He has another company that he's exporting steel from South Korea. At the same time that the Trump administration is imposing steel tariffs on some of our competitors, but giving South Korea an exception. All of this stuff just smells. It is amazing it has taken this long to come to a head.
O'DONNELL: Dan, how long have you been working on the Wilbur Ross story?
Well, there have been many Wilbur Ross stories. But I first started covering him about a year ago when we were looking to see how much money he was worth. That was when we uncovered that although he had been claiming to us for years that he had billions of dollars, he, in fact, did not. And once you figured that out, then sort all this other stuff startled unravelling.
And as one investor told me once you figure out the guy is essentially a fraud you figure out that anything he says really isn't quite correct.
O'DONNELL: Tim O'Brien, quickly. Take us inside the head of Donald Trump tonight. He's watching Chris Collins charged with these crimes, along with his son. Does he see the possible mirror of Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. because Chris Collins son might be faced with the choice of do I testify against my father in order to stay out of prison?
O'BRIEN: That's just a great observation, Lawrence. I have to believe that some of that resonates with Trump. A lot of his behavior lately, I think, lashing out on twitter, lashing out against law enforcement officials is because he can't control an investigation in its entirety that's also starting to target his son and may eventually in snare his son- in-law and his daughter. So he must be seeing this with Collins and wondering about all of this things.
The other interesting thing in all of this is Wilbur Ross's behavior is very similar to Trump's, inflating their wealth, treating business partners poorly. I think Trump probably looks in the mirror and sees Ross.
O'DONNELL: Yes. Tim O'Brien, thank you for joining us. And Dan Alexander, thanks for your great reporting. Thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
When we come back, Michael Cohen is in much worse trouble than we already thought Michael Cohen was in.
O'DONNELL: Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal lawyer is now in even more legal trouble than we thought. He is in so much legal trouble now that his TV lawyer Lanny Davis actually said no comment when asked about new reports that Michael Cohen could be facing a five-year sentence in federal prison, five years or more even.
2018 is the year of the TV lawyer, by which I mean not real trial lawyers like Michael Avenatti, who make many, many appearances on TV talking about the cases that they actually handle in court. I mean the TV lawyers who only go on TV to talk about the cases and never actually do any real legal work for their clients.
Donald Trump's TV lawyer is of course Rudy Giuliani whose only task is defending Donald Trump on TV. If President Trump goes into court to fight a subpoena issue by Robert Mueller, it won't be Rudy Giuliani arguing the case. It will be a real lawyer who knows how to handle real courtroom situations, which Rudy Giuliani has not done in decades.
Same thing with Lanny Davis, who is Michael Cohen's TV lawyer, whose job is simply to go on TV and try and defend Michael Cohen and speak to reporters on and off the record, trying to defend Michael Cohen.
If Michael Cohen finds himself charged with federal crimes, it won't be Lanny Davis standing beside him in real legal proceedings in a real legal courtroom that will be Guy Petrillo, a real legal defense lawyer hired months ago.
So when Lanny Davis, the lawyer Michael Cohen hired just to talk to the press says no comment, that's Lanny Davis' way of saying wow, this case just got a lot worse for us.
"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that federal prosecutors in New York City are investigating Michael Cohen for possible tax fraud. Sources told "The Wall Street Journal" that Michael Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from his taxi business in New York, cash that was paid to him by another taxi operator Evgeny Freidman.
The very bad news for Michael Cohen is that Mr. Freidman has already plead guilty to criminal tax fraud in a case brought by the New York state attorney. Mr. Friedman is reportedly cooperating with investigators. And for big timer or even small-time tax evaders out there, it is very bad news when you find out that your accountant has been subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury by federal prosecutors.
The "Wall Street Journal" reported yesterday that Michael Cohen's accountant, Jeffrey Getzel has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors. A report by CNN.com says that Michael Cohen's that Jeffrey Getzel was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors before the raid by the FBI on Michael Cohen's office, hotel room, and home in April.
These reports also indicated that Michael Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, including lying about his assets when applying for loans. Now the penalties for tax evasion and bank fraud are much, much more severe than possible penalties for violation of campaign finance law that investigators were already considering in relation to Michael Cohen's arrangements to pay women for their silence about their relationships with Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign.
We will be right back with a LAST WORD on the troubles Michael Cohen has now.
O'DONNELL: Convictions of violating election law rarely result in jail terms, but when they do, the prison time is usually measured in months. The maximum sentence for tax fraud is five years. The maximum sentence for bank fraud is 30 years. And now we discover Michael Cohen is being investigated for all of those things.
Back with us is Jennifer Rubin.
And Jennifer, these new revelations about the possible five-year sentences and 30-year sentences for possibly multiple counts that Michael Cohen could be facing really changes the dynamics of what he's facing.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it does. And might I say, I don't think I have ever seen an administration with this few people who are not in some kind of legal trouble. Really, if you're not being indicted or haven't been indicted or aren't considering a plea deal, you're really the odd man out. But Michael Cohen we knew was in some trouble. Now we know he is in a heap of trouble.
What's significant, he is also in trouble from state authorities. And as we know, he cannot be pardoned by the President of the United States for state crimes. So I think the time that he is going to have to start cooperating feverishly with the prosecutors is coming closer and closer.
O'DONNELL: And of course Michael Cohen knew what we have been learning about the investigation. He knew that long before we did. And so we now have to look back at his behavior, with the knowledge that he had, that he was being investigated for bank fraud and for tax fraud.
RUBIN: Correct. And the fact that he was apparently shut out of the President's inner circle, feeling abused and left alone to sort of flounder on his own, it also puts in context that raid on his office, his home, and his hotel. The President was carrying on about how this was unprecedented. There was no reason for it. My God, given all the possible avenues of conviction here, you can sort of understand why they were looking for evidence anywhere they could find it.
O'DONNELL: They had an awful lot of reasons for it.
Jennifer Rubin gets tonight's LAST WORD. Thank you, Jennifer.
THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS starts right now.
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