Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: August 14, 2018
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And we will have Steve Kornacki back at the other end of the hour tonight to update us on where things stand on that.
And today, Rachel, the defense rested. No witnesses, no testimony from Paul Manafort. We will -- the jury will have this case tomorrow night.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It seems like the defense was pretty restful before they rested. You know what I mean? Like not only did they not put the defendant on the stand, which of course would have been amazing blockbuster drama, but they didn't put any other witnesses on the stand, nor did they introduce evidence, substantial evidence.
So, it's -- I mean, this is a legitimate and mainstream legal theory about how you defend your client, you try to create the impression in the jury that the prosecution doesn't even bear responding to their case was so weak. But those closing arguments tomorrow are going to be a big deal. It's going to be fascinating.
O'DONNELL: I mean, there's one line of evidence in this case that stands completely unrefuted by the defense. There was no cross-examination on this. And that was a treasury official getting on the stand and saying, Paul Manafort did not report the existence of the following foreign bank accounts. That's the description of a crime, for the defense not to put something on the stand to refute that, to say it wasn't Paul Manafort's responsibility, something, anything. There's no defense on that.
MADDOW: No. There was discussion on cross-examination on -- I'm going to get this exactly. There was discussion of like, was Paul Manafort's signature on financial documents really his signature? Like conceivably in closing arguments they could raise the issue that like everything that it looks like Paul Manafort signed was actually secretly signed by big evil Rick Gates and he's the real criminal and Paul Manafort had no idea.
Like I could see maybe they'll make that claim. But you're right, in terms of the documentary evidence, they're not refuting the documents. They may mount some late effort to refute that he really signed off on those documents but other than that I don't know how they're going to -- I don't know how they're going to bring this around.
O'DONNELL: Well, there are limits on final argument. We'll see how strict this judge wants to be. But it becomes difficult at certain points to argue things that were never in any way put in evidence.
O'DONNELL: And that's to me -- it sounds like the defense argument is going to have to be things that were not put in evidence, but that's what we're going to find out tomorrow.
MADDOW: Exactly. Thank you, my friend.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
What is wrong with Donald Trump? What is wrong with the president of the United States? That is what most of America is wondering today, after the president of the United States tweeted one of the ugliest statements he has ever made in a long lifetime of very ugly statements.
The tweet was met with outrage by former director of the CIA, John Brennan, who will join us later in this hour, and countless commentators on television and online. Democrats across the country expressed outrage, and Republicans as usual were virtually silent.
There was one Republican tweet out of the United States Senate about the president's tweet today from retiring Senator Jeff Flake saying: this kind of language is unbecoming of a president of the United States. There is no excuse for it and Republicans should not be OK with it. That's it. That's what the Republicans had to say.
The president's language that Jeff Flake is talking about included calling a person a dog. The tweet was, of course, about Omarosa, who as part of a publicity tour for her book about working in the Trump campaign, in the Trump White House, released an audio recording on television this morning in which she and two other women campaign operatives discussed how to handle the possible revelation of an audio recording of Donald Trump using the N-word.
All of the women in the discussion, especially Omarosa and Katrina Pierson, assumed that such a recording probably did exist, and they were absolutely certain that Donald Trump knew that he had used the N-word.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KATRINA PIERSON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: I'm trying to find out at least the context it was used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it.
LYNNE PATTON: I said, well, sir, can you think of any time that this might have happened and he said no.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well, that's not true. So --
PATTON: He goes, how do you think I should handle it? And I told him exactly what you just said, Omarosa, which is, well, it depends on what scenario you are talking about. And he said, well, why don't you just go ahead and put it to bed.
PIERSON: He said. No, he said it. He's embarrassed.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: There is nothing more important to know about a president than the president's mental health. And this week, Omarosa is the one who is giving us the clearest picture of the president's current mental state, not by anything she says in her book or in her interviews but by what she is provoking the president himself to say. What she is provoking the president to reveal about himself. Donald Trump is now and has always been throughout his life the most damaging witness against Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is doing it again.
With Omarosa's publicity tour under way in which she switches sides from Trump defender to Trump accuser, accusing the president of being a racist, the president did everything he possibly could today to support the charge that he is a racist when he tweeted this. At 7:31 a.m., right after Omarosa played that tape on television of campaign operatives sharing her belief that Donald Trump did indeed use the N-word.
Now, I'm going to leave that tweet on the screen for you in the television audience to read but I apologize to our listeners on Sirius XM Radio at the moment because I'm not going to read this one aloud. It is just too disgusting, and saying these words of Donald Trump would sicken me.
Donald Trump's personal attacks on Twitter used to amuse me, when they were aimed at me. I was the first person in television news that Donald Trump decided to attack on Twitter when I started saying Donald Trump was not as rich as he claimed to be. He threatened to sue me on Twitter then. I responded that he would never sue me because he couldn't afford it because he's not as rich as he says he is. That was in 2011.
Donald Trump continued to attack me in 2011, and for years after that, because I was the first and for a very long time the only person calling Donald Trump a liar because of his relentless lying about President Obama's birth certificate. I used Twitter to invite Donald Trump onto this program knowing that he would refuse because he would only do television interviews that he believed he could control and so our exchanges were limited to Twitter.
In December of 2011, he said that I was not long for TV and he has a face made for radio. In 2012, he called me the dumbest political commentator on television, said I will soon be thrown off the air. He called me too stupid, the dumbest man on TV, a very dumb guy, and a fool.
But he never called me a dog. Why didn't he go all the way with me? Why did he stop far short of calling me an animal, a dog? What did I do to deserve his mercy?
Well, for one thing I'm white. So, were we seeing the outburst of a lifelong racist today who believes that substituting the word dog for the N-word is his presidential way of cleaning up his racism for public consumption? Is that what this week's news has provoked? A look into the racist mind of Donald Trump. Or is it a look into an increasingly crazed and dangerous mind?
If you worried about the workings of Donald Trump's mind when you listened to him pathologically lying about President Obama's birth certificate, he hasn't gotten any better. If you worried about the workings of Donald Trump's mind during his speech announcing his candidacy for the presidency, he hasn't gotten any better. If you worried about the workings of Donald Trump's mind in the first year of his presidency, he hasn't gotten any better. He's getting worse.
There is something seriously wrong with the president of the United States, and it is getting worse. Last year saw the publication of this book, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President". That was a big best-seller. Some of the authors of that book told us on this program last year that the president was going to get worse as the pressures around him increased, including the investigative pressures brought by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. They were right.
Donald Trump's tweet today was a plea for sympathy from his voters and supporters to the people who he promised he would hire the very best people and bring them into the White House. Today, he said that it was his decision as president to hire a person who he then says he knew was crazed at the time. That was his word, "crazed." He says he did it because he wanted to give a crazed friend of his a break.
The break he wanted to give her was a $180,000 a year job in the White House where she would be paid exactly the same as the White House chief of staff, the highest pay grade in the White House. Donald Trump told his followers today that instead of giving it to one of the best people, he gave it to a crazed person, an unqualified person, just to give her a break. In other words, he was giving away $180,000 of their taxpayer money to someone he knew did not deserve it and could not earn it. That was his story today.
And that is one of the very definitions of the swamp that Donald Trump promised to drain, giving top paid government jobs to your unqualified friends. Very, very swampy thing, but Donald Trump told that to his followers today because he believes that he has twisted their minds to the point where they would read that poisonous tweet and think what a nice guy. He tried to give a crazed friend a break.
How deeply crazy is that? How crazed is the thinking? How perverse is the working of the mind that composed that presidential tweet this morning? And what does it mean, for the country and the world, the most incompetent, the most ignorant, the most unstable president in history is not getting better? He is getting much, much worse.
Leading off our discussion now is Eddie Glaude, chairman of the department of African-American studies at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor. Also joining us is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at Sirius XM Radio and an MSNBC political analyst. And John Heilemann is with us, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is co-host and executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus."
Professor Glaude, please start us off with your reaction to what we've seen today.
EDDIE GLAUDE, CHAIRMAN OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's profoundly disturbing. It suggests that we are standing at the precipice of a crisis. It obviously reveals that the president of the United States was -- it confirms actually that he is a racist, that his reaction to Omarosa and the tapes this morning suggests at least to me that he is deeply concerned about more information being revealed.
It's interesting in your introduction, Lawrence, that you talked about his mental health. In Omarosa's book "Unhinged", she actually reflects on his mental health. She actually gives the president, puts it in his file, his stack, a study linking Diet Cokes to dementia, because she sees him in some interesting sorts of ways losing it, not exhibiting the kind of qualities that she's known, witnessed in him for the last 15 years.
But what we see here very clearly is a nation in crisis, that the office is being debased and that we have a person in the office who in so many ways, right, is just failing us at every turn.
O'DONNELL: Zerlina, what did you feel this morning when you read that tweet from the president?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SR. DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUS XM: Well, it's like you wake up to it and he's calling a black woman a dog. So as a black woman who doesn't want to feel like I have to go out and publicly defend Omarosa, I still feel empathy in this moment because nothing that she has done up until this point, she doesn't deserve to be called an animal or to be compared to a dog.
And I also think that the idea that her credibility is questionable is almost amusing because if you can think about the defense of the White House, they're saying she's a liar because she said all these nice things about Donald Trump. She said he was not a racist. Now she's saying he's a racist and that makes them a liar. Even though there's all this evidence in public that we can look at and verify for ourselves. But the idea that she lied about him not being a racist is interesting to me.
O'DONNELL: And, John, as usual, the worst possible witness against Donald Trump is Donald Trump. Here he is, he's accused by someone who used to defend him against charges of being a racist, he's now accused of being a racist, and there's something about that that is hollow after she has spent so much time defending him.
But then he comes out, he comes out and says here, add this as exhibit a to your proof that I'm a racist.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. It suggests not only that he is as she calls him unhinged but also just kind of a moron. I mean, just -- he's supposed to be such a great media strategist for himself. And, you know, and in some ways he has been.
But to send that tweet, again, not just in the context for accusing him of being racist but also the context of are there tapes out there with me using the N-word? Well, Mark Burnett called me last night. We still don't necessarily believe that's true because Mark Burnett has not yet publicly avowed that he made that call. Said I never called anyone the N-word. It isn't in my vocabulary. But I'll tell you what is in my vocabulary, it would be to call a black woman a dog.
I'll say though that to your point about what's really wrong with him, the particular kind of defect that you've been describing, one element of at least this the pathological narcissism and the most revealing tweet to me was the one he sent the previous morning in which he talks about how everybody said terrible things about her, was nasty to people, would miss meetings and work, but General Kelly came on board, he told me she was a loser and nothing but problems. Again, he called her crazed in the tweet today.
So he's got all that evidence we're talking about at the White House, everyone says she's terrible, I told hem to try to work it out if possible because she only said great things about me.
HEILEMANN: Right? That was the standard. Not just that he gave this high priced White House job to a friend of hers to give her a break even though she was crazed and a low life, he says even after 18 months in the White House or a year in the White House when he had all this evidence that she was failing utterly at her job, he said, please, let's try to keep her on board because she says nice things about me.
That is pretty much exhibit A in the case of Donald Trump as pathological narcissist.
O'DONNELL: Professor Glaude, you know, there is this notion of Donald Trump is much, much, much harsher and nastier when he's attacking black people, whether it'd be black athletes, black women, and whenever I watch that argument unfold, I look at the things he said about me. He says, you know, Don Lemon's the dumbest guy on television. Well, that's what he says now. He used to say that I was.
So you can take some of these things and match them up. But what you cannot do is you cannot find the spot where Donald Trump goes all the way to animal with me. And I'm very aware of what he said about me and I'm very aware of the obvious difference between me and the people that he has decided to call animals in this case, Omarosa this week.
Am I over-emphasizing this notion of he only went so far with me possibly because I'm white?
GLAUDE: No, I don't think so. I think if we look at the entirety of his comments, right? When he's talking about undocumented workers or he's talking about MS-13, they're animals, this is an infestation.
When he's talking about low IQ Maxine Waters or dumb black -- you know, when he's talking about dumb black people, throw the SOBs out, S-hole countries, right? It reveals in interesting sorts of ways, in very problematic ways, a deep-seated disdain for these folks and a willingness to dehumanize. So, it's in that mode, it's in that kind of discursive mode, right?
Where we see Donald Trump in some ways participating in a long line of assumptions and stereotypes about black people's capacities, about communities of color, and in some ways it fits I think, Lawrence, in his overall kind of stance as a cultural warrior, right?
So, there's a way in which he imagines -- remember he was just over in Europe saying immigration threatened to change the very fabric of Europe, echoing -- or Laura Ingraham echoing that point, right? There's a sense of whiteness that informs how Donald Trump sees himself, understands the country, and particularly how he relates to his base. So, I don't think you're being -- I don't think you're overreading the moment. I think you're spot on, actually.
O'DONNELL: I want to go to something that happened in the White House press briefing room today. And, of course, like every Trump White House press briefing a question was asked that was inconceivable in any previous White House, a question that we've never heard before. This time the question is, is there an audio recording of the president using the n-word?
Let's watch how this unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Can you say the party can guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I've never heard it.
REPORTER: Just to be clear, you can't guarantee it?
SANDERS: Look, I haven't been in every single room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Zerlina, just to be clear, she can't guarantee it.
MAXWELL: Well, the thing that's so funny about is I think that's the one moment we've seen her telling the truth in that she doesn't know if the tape exists because that's the honest truth. And that's the problem here, is that there may be a tape that exists of the president of the United States calling black people the N-word. In particular, he was speaking about allegedly Kwame Jackson, who was a contestant in season 1.
So, I think the idea that we need a tape in order to verify whether or not Donald Trump is a racist is also an amusing conversation, particularly for a black -- for black people. Because is a tape really going to change the minds of the 30 percent of Trump voters who up until this point post- Charlottesville, post there were good people standing with the Nazis, if they have not left Donald Trump's camp at this point, they are never leaving.
But we also need to talk to the rest of white America, the folks that are a little bit more moderate, the folks that don't necessarily talk about race or think about race every day, and we need to use this moment to point out how racism actually manifests. It's not manifesting in the N-word. I can count on one hand the times I've been called the N-word in my life. But the amount of micro aggressions and everyday racism that black people and people of color experience all over this country is something that is an every day reality.
In addition, Donald Trump has brown children incarcerated right now on the border, separated from their parents, still. That is racist as well.
O'DONNELL: John, what did you make about Sarah Sanders' moment? There's plenty of ways to handle that rather than just say I can't guarantee anything.
HEILEMANN: I think it speaks to partly what Zerlina said, which is that she somewhere in her gut thinks that maybe this tape's out there. She understands --
O'DONNELL: So what? She can lie and say I guarantee you there's no tape. There can be a tape tomorrow and she's been through that a thousand times.
HEILEMANN: And she's clearly lied about a lot of things, which gets me to the second point, which I think is that this gives you a sense of how explosive this particular piece of invective is. She has lied promiscuously about many things and has not cared many times not even tried to go back and clean up the lies. This particular word for the reason that's Zerlina said, you don't need the N-word to prove someone's a racist, Donald Trump's whole life whether there's an N-word or not is proof he's an obvious racist.
But that word has particular power, is particularly horrible as Donald Trump, favorite adjective of his. And I think it just gives you a sense of how much power it has that even someone like Sarah Huckabee Sanders who's lied so promiscuously, looks at it and says, you know, I need to hedge my bets on this one.
O'DONNELL: We're going to have to break it here.
Zerlina Maxwell, Professor Eddie Glaude and John Heilemann, thank you for starting us off tonight.
This morning, former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted this to President Trump: It's astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility and probity. John Brennan will join us next and tell us why he also said this morning that the president's indecency is, quote, dangerous for our nation.
O'DONNELL: Today in response to the president's most crazed tweet of the day, the Obama administration's former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted to the president: It's astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility and probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good decent and honest person. So disheartening. So dangerous for our nation.
Joining us now, former CIA Director John Brennan. He is our senior national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.
Director Brennan, what -- the last part of your tweet really captured my attention, saying that it's so dangerous for our nation. In what ways?
JOHN BRENNAN, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, good evening, Lawrence. Thank you for having me on.
Well, I think in two principal ways. First, I think Donald Trump has badly sullied the reputation of the office of the presidency with his invective, with his constant disregard I think for even decency as well as his befriending of autocratic leaders around the world. And his continued pursuit of relationships to benefit himself as opposed to the country. I do think that America's standing in the world has also been tarnished.
But I think even more fundamentally what he is doing here in the United States is very polarizing and he is I think the most divisive president we've ever had in the Oval Office. He is feeding and fueling hatred and animosity and misunderstandings among Americans. And so, I am very concerned when I look at some of the tweets that are out there and commentary, we are just fighting with each other as a nation.
And this is something that the president of the United States traditionally has been the one to try to heal these domestic wounds, these domestic problems. But I think Donald Trump has failed repeatedly to try to do that. He continues just to play to his base of support and feeds them basically with raw meat, a lot of this language that tends to get them riled up. That is not something that is in our nation's security.
O'DONNELL: I want to draw on your experience prior to being CIA director, when you worked in the Obama administration as an assistant to the president for homeland security, by the way, at exactly the same pay grade as Omarosa. That what this story reveals this week is that we have a White House in which the president is saying as of today that he knowingly hired someone who he believed at the time was unqualified, brought them in there at that top pay grade, and that this person has now proven that within the White House she was taping, she was recording conversations, including recording her final conversation with the White House chief of staff which apparently took place in the Situation Room or a room close to the Situation Room.
BRENNAN: Well, I think it's been very clear from the beginning of this administration that it has not done a very good job of vetting for senior personnel assignments, number one. Number two, the fact that there has been now acknowledged by the White House that senior staff officers have been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement I find mind-boggling. That is something that never would have occurred to President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton or others.
But the fact that Donald Trump feels this sense of insecurity, that he has to get people to sign these agreements really I think reflects just the lack of sophistication, the lack of competence, and the lack of trust that people within the White House have for one another. So I do not agree that Omarosa should have taped that conversation with John Kelly, but I also scratch my head to try to figure out, why did John Kelly have the conversation with her in the White House Situation Room, which is a venue that's usually reserved for national security matters to talk about classified information?
If he was going to relieve her of her duties, he should have done that in his office. That is the place where something like that would have been done. So, it's just very puzzling.
O'DONNELL: I want to get to a policy matter that is unprecedented and that is going to be with us long after the Omarosa controversy has been left behind. And that is a president of the United States who actually tweeted tariffs are the greatest, a sentence that has never been spoken by a president before, including some of our historic champions of tariffs in the distant past.
You responded to that by saying, using tariffs as a blunt force instrument against allies and partners is not only short-sighted but also plays into the hands of Russia and China. Same is true with bombastic rhetoric against Iran. We need to be smarter, more sophisticated, more strategic.
What is the tariff regime that Donald Trump has imposed doing to national security?
BRENNAN: Well, it's alienating our closest allies and partners. Whether you talk about Canada or countries within the European Union, using this tariff as a way to try to level all bilateral trade with other countries is just foolhardy.
And so, this is something that I think both Moscow and Beijing can point to and say to our former allies and partners that the United States cannot be counted upon, that we're going to treat you more fairly. We're going to try to replace the United States as a trusted partner and trade partner.
And so using tariffs across the board, I think it just again shows that Mr. Trump really doesn't understand international politics, international economics as well as how this global world operates and intra-operates today. It's something that I think he is very short-sighted about, and it may make for good noise on the campaign trail, but it is not good geopolitics at all.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: One of the important enlightenments of the second half of the 20th century was that international trade with countries dramatically reduces the likelihood of war with those countries. If we are shipping them Coca-Cola, Levi's, or anything else that we are making soybeans and they are shipping things to us, the economic theory was that will create an important and peaceful kind of interdependence. It used to be thought of as part of defense policy. This seems lost on this White House.
BRENNAN: Well, absolutely. And that's why when I mentioned that the world needs to be as intra-operable as possible, because the movements of goods and products and services and people across borders is what allows countries to prosper. And if we are going to halt that and put these tariffs on different goods and services and to prevent that flow of people as well as of technologies and other things, it really is going to inhibit the continued growth of our world.
And so again, this is something that I think Mr. Trump has really deviated from the former, you know, U.S. policy of previous administrations, which is that the United States, yes, is bigger and stronger than any other country but we are going to use our economic power, our political and military power, in order to bring peace and prosperity to the world because if all boats rise that helps the United States national security. Unfortunately, I do think that Russia and China are pointing now to the untrustworthiness of the United States as a way to make headway with a number of countries around the world.
O'DONNELL: Former CIA director John Brennan, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has decided, and this was a very big roll of the dice in the courtroom today, that his best defense is to remain absolutely silent.
O'DONNELL: Today after the prosecution of Paul Manafort put 27 witnesses on the witness stand Paul Manafort's criminal defense lawyers rolled the dice on silence. The Manafort defense is silence. Not one word of testimony from the Manafort defense.
Paul Manafort is facing the risk of a sentence that could put him in prison for the rest of his life, and he did not take the stand in his own defense. And his lawyers called no witnesses in Paul Manafort's defense. Instead the defense immediately asked the judge for a directed verdict of not guilty because they said the prosecution did not present evidence that Paul Manafort committed the crimes he is charged with.
The judge, T.S. Ellis, immediately denied the defense's motion for a directed verdict, as is customary in these cases. The judge indicated that he was satisfied that the prosecution did indeed present evidence that Paul Manafort was possibly guilty of all 18 counts that he is charged with. It will now be up to the jury to decide if the prosecution proved that Paul Manafort is guilty of those counts beyond a reasonable doubt.
Final arguments behind the prosecution and defense are scheduled for tomorrow morning. The jury will begin deliberating Paul Manafort's fate tomorrow afternoon. No matter what the outcome of this trial is, Paul Manafort faces a second prosecution by prosecutor Robert Mueller's team in Washington, D.C. next month on charges including money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobbying work in Ukraine.
Joining our discussion now is Chuck Rosenberg, a former senior FBI official and a former federal prosecutor. He's also an MSNBC contributor. And back with us John Heilemann.
Chuck Rosenberg, for courtroom aficionados when you really like to just sit there and watch the pictures on both sides, there are few things more tense than watching the defense rest without putting on a single witness that is a very tense roll of the dice for the defense in those cases.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: You know, Lawrence, you are right. But given two very bad options, putting on no defense at all, which is what they chose to do, and putting on a defense perhaps where Mr. Manafort takes the stand and is subjected to a withering cross-examination. And by the way, it would be withering. I think they made the better choice. In all of my years as a federal prosecutor I found that the prosecution case usually gets stronger when the defense puts on its case.
O'DONNELL: And John Heilemann, for Trump cheerleaders out there who were waiting for the Manafort defense, they have got nothing to work with tonight.
JOHN HEILEMANN, PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: have got nothing to work with. And you know, the thing that I -- I'm not a lawyer, so I listen to smart people like Chuck Rosenberg, and I have heard a couple different views about this. Some people in the defense world are a little surprised not that they didn't put on Manafort because clearly that would be a disaster, but they didn't at least put out a couple token witnesses to give something for people to hang their hat on.
I think you know, look, in the end, and again, not a lawyer or but even a legal analyst but the power of the case was always the paper. And that's what we heard over and over again from experts on both sides, prosecutors and defense alike. And for all of the things we saw, Rick Gates, everything on the stand, pictures of ostrich coats and everything else, in the end on this kind of a case the paper tells the story and the paper is as compelling as the prosecution believes doesn't seem to me that almost anything that's happened in the courtroom really is going to matter.
O'DONNELL: And Chuck Rosenberg, I heard -- I just want to isolate one section of testimony that when I read it in the transcript I believed I was looking at evidence of a crime. Evidence that was not in any way contradicted in cross-examination by the defense. And then since the defense put on no defense it hasn't been contradicted at all. And that was about the disclosure of foreign bank accounts.
A treasury official testified who's an investigator of these kinds of matters, a prosecution asked did you conduct a search of whether Paul Manafort filed an FBAR for the tax years 20112012, 2013 and 2014. These were reports indicating that there were no foreign bank accounts. The witness says there were none filed, absolutely none. Prosecution, thank you, they are done.
No contradiction of that from the defense. What can possibly be in the final argument that a juror could cling to, something in the defense final argument, that could lead to a not guilty on that count?
ROSENBERG: Excuse me. The argument that the defense will have to make here, Lawrence, is that Mr. Manafort lacked the intent to fail to report these foreign bank accounts, meaning he sure didn't, he sure had them, but the reason it's not a crime, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is that there was an omission, it was a mistake.
The government has to show that when he failed to report those accounts that he acted intentionally. And so imagine that will be the argument. But I think you're right. These are very, very difficult charges for a defendant to sort of evade. If you have foreign bank accounts, they produce income, and you report neither the income nor the existence of those accounts on your income tax returns, you're usually doing it for a reason. And that's to cheat the federal government.
O'DONNELL: We are going to have to squeeze in a break here.
John Heilemann, thank you for joining us once again.
Today the White House press secretary was asked if it would be a violation of department of justice rules if Robert Mueller's investigation continues beyond September 1st. Last week Rudy Giuliani insisted that it would be a violation of justice department rules for the investigation to continue. But we now have documentary proof that the Mueller investigation will continue after September 1st.
Chuck Rosenberg will explain that proof next.
O'DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani insists that Robert Mueller's investigation must end by September 1st but someone's going to have to fire Robert Mueller to make that happen because the special prosecutor's office has subpoenaed an associate of Roger Stone's to testify to the grand jury on September 7th.
Rudy Giuliani is of course lying when he says there is a justice department rule that requires the Mueller investigation to end on September 1st. The White House press secretary was unwilling to repeat that lie today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President or this White House believe that it is a violation of department of justice protocol if the special counsel's investigation goes beyond September 1st?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to say that we would say necessarily a specific violation but I think we have been very clear that not only do we but all of the American people want this to wrap up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: She proved once again that she does not speak for the American people. A new poll shows that 70 percent of Americans want President Trump to testify under oath to special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Chuck Rosenberg is back with us.
And chuck, the September 1st rule, Rudy Giuliani just invented somewhere, I guess.
ROSENBERG: Yes. Lawrence, in a shocking development, Mr. Giuliani does not know what he is talking about. There is a memo from then attorney general Eric Holder in 2012 which tells all department prosecutors that they may not interfere in an election. But leading up to an election you can still take covert, or quiet investigative steps. You just can't take overt investigative steps. And by the way, if the Mueller team feels that they need to suspend something between September 1st or October 1st, some date and the election, all they have to do is hit pause, and the day after the election they can hit pause again and do everything they could have done yesterday or tomorrow. So this makes absolutely no sense.
O'DONNELL: I want to take you back to the issue of the Paul Manafort defense and some people staring at it today say it looks like a defense that is geared to a pardon. Offering no witnesses, putting on no defense at all in the courtroom. What would be the result -- if Paul Manafort is convicted of any of the counts that he faces in this trial, what would happen if he -- if the President pardoned him after the fact of those convictions?
ROSENBERG: As the President may do at any time. So what would happen is that the slate would be wiped entirely clean. I imagine if there was a pardon it would include not only the charges in Virginia but the charges in the District of Columbia.
However, that doesn't mean that bob Mueller still couldn't question Paul Manafort. Nothing would preclude Mueller right then and there from issuing him a grand jury subpoena and requiring him to testify as to everything he knows in the grand jury. So a pardon wipes clean the convictions but it sure doesn't wipe clean the information.
O'DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, we have a winner in the democratic primary election for Paul Ryan's congressional seat tonight.
Steve Kornacki will join us next.
O'DONNELL: It is primary night in four states tonight including Wisconsin where we have a winner in the democratic primary for Paul Ryan's seat in congressional.
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki.
Steve, what is the latest on Paul Ryan's district?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC REPORTER: Let's take a look. You see it here. Southeast Wisconsin, Democratic primary. This name here familiar with a lot of Democratic activists nationally. His name is Randy Bryce. He had a viral video about a year ago. He is an iron worker, a union activist. He put a video up. He challenged Paul Ryan who at that point thought would be his opponent in this race. He challenged him to trade jobs with him.
Bryce raised millions of dollars. Got lots of attention. Of course, Paul Ryan has subsequently announced he is not running for re-election so this district up for grab in November. Randy Bryce, he had some issues here down the stretch in his primary campaigns and revelations of some old arrests, one for DUI came out. But he has won the Democratic primary. He hascertainly shown he can raise money.
Who will he face-off against? We have a winner as well in the Republican primary. His name is Brian Steil. Brian Steil is a former aide to Paul Ryan. So Paul Ryan's former aided will face-off against Randy Bryce, the Democrat in this district here in Wisconsin. It is a pretty competitive district when Ryan was the VP nominee with Mitt Romney on 2212. That ticket can only carry this district by four points. Not out of reach for Democrats.
Other races quickly we can get to here, number one for the governorship of Minnesota, this right now shaping up as the surprise of the night. We know this name, Tim Pawlety, former governor of Minnesota, former presidential candidate. He is waging a combat bid in Minnesota. And look at this, he has hit some serious trouble in the Republican primary in Minnesota.
Jeff Johnson, he was the Republican candidate for governor in 2014. He is leading now with more than half the vote in by ten points. So 16,000 17,000 vote margin over Pawlenty. Look at the map, it is getting tough to see where Pawlenty could make this up.
This also just a fascinating race because it illustrates so much about the Republican Party today. In 2016 Pawlenty called Donald Trump unhinged and unqualified. Johnson called Trump something I'm not even sure I can say on TV. Yet they had a debate in this campaign. They both debated over who meant it less. They (INAUDIBLE) with Donald Trump and his supporters in this campaign.
Johnson, though, again this could be the big surprise. And who would he face if he does hang on and win? In the Democratic side it looks like Tim Walz, Congressman Tim Walz from the southern part of Arizona. He is in very good position. Again, just when look at where the votes coming from here.
And finally, Lawrence, quickly. The other sort of headline race out in Minnesota tonight, let's see if we can get that, Keith Ellison in the race for attorney general he is going to win this thing comfortably. And of course the x-factor with Ellis in those last minute allegation of domestic violence ahead. Because right now Democrats are going to nominate him to be their candidate in the fall.
O'DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for the update.
KORNACKI: Appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: O'DONNELL: Tonight's LAST WORD is next.
O'DONNELL: Time for tonight's LAST WORD.
Last night, I opened the show with a tweet from Patricia McClary. She said if you talk about Omarosa tonight when there are 700 children still separated from their parents then I will turn you off. And of course I did open the show talking about Omarosa, and I tried to make the connection between the Omarosa story and those children who are still separated from their parents at the southern border. The incompetence of the Trump administration that has those children still separated at the southern border and the cruelty of the Trump administration that separated them in the first place. I tried to make that connection.
Today on twitter Patricia McClary (ph) gave us her reaction. She said about seeing her tweet on the show last night, it was pretty cool, took me by surprise. So then I had to watch the show. I considered it to be an honor to be mentioned on LAST WORD. I'm always watching. But held out hope the Omarosa would be put aside for more important matters.
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