Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: August 22, 2018 Guest: Ron Klain, Harry Litman, David Cay Johnston, Mike Murphy, Barbara McQuade, Franklin Foer>
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So, Rachel, if Paul Manafort is examining his options, as his lawyer put it, could that mean that there could be a slow down in the production of these kind of things like exhibit lists because Paul Manafort maybe has begun a conversation with the prosecutors about what happens next?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know how much -- A, I don`t know how much transparency we would have in that process. And, B, I don`t know what to expect in terms of timing from this court.
With the previous Paul Manafort trial, it was in the eastern district of Virginia, which is not only known for being fast, it`s famous for being fast. It is the rocket docket and other jurisdictions around the country aspire to that title. But they`re the originals.
So, we knew to expect things to go fast and we knew to notice any delay as interesting and potentially suspicious in Virginia. In D.C., we don`t have those kind of cues to set baseline expectations. So, it`s really hard to know.
It is remarkable that prosecutors have more than double the number of pieces of evidence in D.C. than they did in Virginia. But I don`t know when we`re going to get that list to start going through them.
O`DONNELL: Well, Paul Manafort has to think fast about what his options are. We will know.
MADDOW: Yes. We`ll know when we know.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, we have breaking news tonight from the president of the United States. In an interview with FOX News that will air in its entirety tomorrow, the president confessed that he was wrong when he said that he hired the best people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understood Michael Cohen very well. He -- well, it turned out he wasn`t a very good lawyer, frankly. But he was somebody that was probably with me for about ten years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We will have more of what the president had to say to Fox News later in the hour.
But, first, whatever happened to the best people?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to use our best people.
The best people.
I know guys that are so good.
The best people.
We got the best people.
I know the best people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Trump`s first thought today, which was expressed in his first tweet this morning, was about one of those best people.
He said: If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don`t retain the services of Michael Cohen. Like all Donald Trump tweets, that one was directed only at his most fervent supporters. The rest of us know how absurd that tweet is on its face. And like all Trump tweets, it is completely and indefensibly absurd.
But what are the remaining Trump supporters supposed to do with that tweet? And what the president just said on Fox News about Michael Cohen not being a good lawyer. Do they have a shelf in their brains where they can put that tweet right beside Donald Trump saying I hire the best people? Can they put what Donald Trump just said on fox news about Michael Cohen not being a good lawyer right beside that spot where they have got Donald Trump saying, I hire the best people?
At what point there will be no more room in the minds of Trump supporters for all of these self-contradictory messages that Donald Trump has put there? At what point will half of them or even just one-fourth of them lose the strength to hold all those contradictions in their heads at the same time? When will they lose that strength and just give up, give up on Donald Trump?
Because if that happens, if half of Donald Trump`s fervent supporters reach the point where they just can`t take it anymore, can`t take any lie about how he arranged a payoff to a porn star, then we know how the Trump presidency is going to end, the president will be removed from office after an impeachment trial in the United States Senate or like Nixon before him, he will resign from office before being convicted in the Senate, and I mean being convicted by Republican senators because if Donald Trump loses anywhere between one-fourth and one-half of his fervent Republican base, the bottom will fall out of the Republican Party.
And the 16 current Republican senators who voted for the conviction of Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial and removal from office would do it again. And vote for the removal of Donald Trump, not just from the White House, but from the Republican Party and they would do it to save the remnants of the Republican Party. There is no courage left in the Republican Senate. There is only craven self-preservation. And the day that self-preservation depends on abandoning Donald Trump, they will do it. But we`re not there yet.
So Republicans in the House and the Senate spent another day in fear of Donald Trump and even greater fear of the new evidence against Donald Trump. Assistant United States Attorney Andrea Griswold described two crimes she believes were committed by the president of the United States with the president`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Both crimes involved an illegal contribution to the Trump presidential campaign and Andrea Griswold took her place in history as the first federal prosecutor to describe a large, illegal presidential campaign donation made with criminal intent and done as she put it, at the, quote, suggestion of a candidate.
When Michael Cohen got his turn in court to describe his crimes yesterday, he was even more specific when it came to the active participation in those crimes by Donald Trump. Michael Cohen described arranging two large illegal campaign donations, one for $130,000, and one for $150,000, quote, in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. Michael Cohen said that he knew that that conduct was criminal when he was engaging in that conduct and he said that Donald Trump and he committed those crimes, quote, for the principal purpose of influencing the election, which led to the first question today in the absurdest theater that is the White House press briefing.
The first question: did President Trump commit a crime?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Thank you, Sara. Michael Cohen under oath pleaded guilty to, among other things, paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the campaign. He says he did it at the direction of the president of the United States. Did President Trump commit a crime?
SARA HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president has said, we have stated many times he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. And we have commented on this extensively.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Did the president commit a crime? That was a question that was never asked in the Obama White House press briefings, eight years of them, never asked. There are few White House press secretaries that have had to answer the question, did the president commit a crime? Very, very few.
And this White House press secretary`s approach to that question was, of course, to lie. She said he did nothing wrong.
Donald Trump has proved that he knows that he did something wrong in paying off Stormy Daniels and other women during the campaign. It was always so clear to him that he did something wrong that he lied about it when he was asked about it on Air Force One, which became the next question in the briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So many people now look back at that tape of him on Air Force One saying he knew nothing about these payments, when in fact we now know he knew everything about those payment, so has he lied?
SANDERS: Look, again, I think that`s a ridiculous accusation. The president in this matter has done nothing wrong and there are no charges against him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, now, it is a ridiculous accusation if you ask the question, has the president lied after the whole world has watched the president lie on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. What else?
REPORTER: Then why did Michael Cohen make if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.
REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don`t know.
REPORTER: Did he lie to the American people when he talked about this on Air Force One?
SANDERS: No. The president addressed this a number of times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, it`s all about the minds of Trump voters now. Can they watch the president lie on Air Force One and hear the White House press secretary say, no, he didn`t lie and be OK with that? There are going to be fewer and fewer White House press briefings now because every White House press briefing from now on is going to include questions that would be asked in an impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives where the impeachment process beginning.
In federal court yesterday, the prosecutor described for the judge the evidence that proves Michael Cohen`s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in the crimes that he says he committed with Donald Trump. Prosecutors said that that evidence includes, quote, records obtained from an April 9th, 2018 search, including hard copy documents seized electronic devices and audio recordings made by Mr. Cohen. Audio recordings made by Mr. Cohen.
We know Donald Trump is on at least one of those audio recordings already released by Michael Cohen`s TV lawyer Lanny Davis.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: 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 --
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is not the only conspirator identified yesterday by the prosecutors. In their charging document, the prosecution team identified David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of the company that controls the "National Enquirer" as one of the members of the conspiracy to buy the silence of women who claimed relationships with Donald Trump during the presidential campaigns.
So, will David Pecker be charged with a crime or will David Pecker cooperate with prosecutors to avoid being charged with a crime? Is David Pecker already cooperating with federal prosecutors and telling them everything he knows about the president of the United States.
But David Pecker is not the only person under pressure tonight, along with Michael Cohen from federal prosecutors, for both of the illegal campaign contributions that Michael Cohen helped arranged, he had more help committing that crime, help that was identified in the prosecutor`s charging document this way. Quote, he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls about the fact, nature and timing of the payments.
This is the single most overlooked piece of the evidence in the case against Michael Cohen as we know it now. At least one person other than Donald Trump in the Trump campaign was involved in the meetings and phone calls and knew about the payments, including the timing of the payments.
Now, who would that be? Donald Trump`s favorite press operative, Hope Hicks? The prosecutors know who that person or people are who worked in the campaign and knew all about the illegal payments. Those people are under pressure tonight unlike any they have been under before.
Are some of those people on Michael Cohen`s recordings? The prosecutor did not say recording. She said recordings, plural. How many?
What is the likelihood that Michael Cohen made a recording of every person in the campaign who was involved in this crime? That`s the question you are asking yourself tonight if you worked in the Trump campaign.
There is so much more evidence that is going to come out about the crimes that Donald Trump is now accused of having committed with Michael Cohen and other members of the Trump campaign. We have seen not even the tip of the iceberg of the evidence that Michael Cohen has, and that is why the FBI took the unprecedented step of raiding Michael Cohen`s home and office and hotel room. They don`t do that with attorneys every day, very, very rare.
They did it because they had reason to believe just how rich that evidence trove would be. We know David Pecker is in trouble tonight, and we have ever reason to believe that David Pecker, like Michael Cohen, will do nothing to protect Donald Trump when he has to choose between telling the FBI the truth or protecting Donald Trump. That`s an easy choice. And it is an easy choice for Hope Hicks or Kellyanne Conway or whoever the members of the Trump campaign are who helped Michael Cohen commit those crimes.
They are not going to take any chances now trying to protect Donald Trump now that the man who once boasted that he would take a bullet for Donald Trump has delivered the smoking gun in the investigation of Donald Trump.
How many other smoking guns are there? And who can give them to the special prosecutor? That discussion is next with Ron Klain, Barbara McQuade, Harry Litman, and David Cay Johnston.
O`DONNELL: And we have more breaking news now. This from "The Wall Street Journal" confirming a question just raised before we went to this commercial break. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Incorporated, which publishes "The National Enquirer", provided prosecutors with details Mr. Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with President Trump, including Mr. Trump`s knowledge of the deals.
Joining our discussion now, Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor. She`s a professor of law at the University of Michigan and an MSNBC legal contributor. And Harry Litman, a former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. And Ron Klain is with us, a former senior aid to President Obama and a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And I saw David Cay Johnston there, but someone left him out of my little teleprompter there. David Cay Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, who is running the organization DCReport.org, which studies the Trump investigation.
Barbara McQuade, first to you, this information just reported by "The Wall Street Journal" that David Pecker, who was clearly identified in yesterday`s proceeding of Michael Cohen`s guilty plea is now, is now -- it`s confirmed by "The Wall Street Journal," he is already cooperating with the prosecutor and had already cooperated with the prosecutor before they even made that presentation yesterday, which seems to make sense when you read every part of that presentation.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. This is very significant news, I think, because I think one of the skepticisms of what Michael Cohen had to say is just, you know, he`s talking out of his own self-interest. You would need to corroborate what he`s saying with other witnesses.
And now to have David Pecker, someone who is speaking against his own self- interest to have provided that information, I think is strongly corroborative. And if as you said, he implicates President Trump as well, this is really a huge development. It`s not just Michael Cohen with an ax to grind, trying to save his own skin. It`s now corroborated by two witnesses.
And chances are, they`ve got documentation that supports that as well. So, very significant piece of news there.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, president today telling Fox News something kind of vague about his knowledge of the payments when he was asked about, did you know about the payments. He said later, later.
We have no idea what that was supposed to mean. But here is David Pecker, according to "The Wall Street Journal," saying that President Trump was part of arranging the payments and that President Trump had knowledge of the deals and knowledge of the deals being arranged.
RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: That`s right, Lawrence. I think your introduction made such an important point, which is we know so much more about this today than we did yesterday, but to paraphrase an old pop song, not half as much as we`re going to know tomorrow. I mean, Robert Mueller knows a lot of things we don`t know yet. Thousands, tens of thousands of pages from Michael Cohen`s office, months of investigation starting to come to light now, the scope of it is really quite stunning.
But there is still a lot here we don`t know. All we do know is it is going to point in a very bad direction for the president. He clearly lied to the American people. He clearly lied to anyone who he talked to about it.
And, you know, we now have two witnesses corroborating the fact he directed people to commit a crime. That`s a very serious piece of business with a lot of unknown stuff still out there.
O`DONNELL: David Johnston, you have been following Donald Trump and his circle for longer than any of us. I think the easiest prediction you could have made for us tonight is that, of course, David Pecker is going to cooperate with federal prosecutors. "The Wall Street Journal" has beat us to even making it as a prediction. They have got it as already underway.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, and the other people are going to step forward now. Donald has always been able to beat back law enforcement, beat back grand juries, compromise people, get people to advance his interest. And now, all these other people understanding that Donald Trump is only loyal to Donald are going to start abandoning him.
And this is a dangerous time for our country because Donald`s erratic behavior will likely become much, money more erratic. He`s going to have a lot of internal conflict over this because, remember, in his delusional mind he is greater than all of us. We`re idiots. We`re stupid. We don`t know, and he is the superior person.
O`DONNELL: And, Harry Litman, in the material revealed by the prosecutor yesterday, we saw a description of members of the Trump campaign, unnamed members of the Trump campaign, as full participants in this criminal conspiracy for these illegal campaign contributions to be made. And I think we have every reason to believe tonight that they are at least under as close scrutiny as David Pecker is from the prosecutors and whoever they are, they are likely already cooperating with the prosecutors.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. Whoever they are, you know Bob Mueller knows who they are and you know they know Bob Mueller knows who they are.
But if I could make a quick point about David Pecker, an interesting part about the information, the statement of facts that he pleaded to is that in 2015, a year before this all goes down, there is an agreement with Pecker and AMI to handle the problems and the hush agreements that would be necessary. Arguably, that will be the beginning of the criminal conspiracy here. It actually starts with an approach from AMI to say we know this is coming and we are ready with our dump and kill tools to handle the hush agreements when they become necessary. So that puts Pecker really in the hot seat.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, that`s such an important point that Harry made. I noticed that when I was reading it, I didn`t highlight it the way Harry just did. I`m so glad he did because this introduces an element of premeditation and rather distant premeditation from the events that actually erupt the next year with the two women that created the dynamics that forced or encouraged, I should say, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen and others in the campaign to commit this crime.
And so, it wasn`t something that was suddenly upon him and these inexperienced people just kind of frantically tried to put something together that could protect the candidate. This was something planned. This was a premeditated, planned criminal plan.
MCQUADE: Yes. It has all the earmarks of a conspiracy, you know, an agreement to commit a crime, and then an overt act, and then they pull the trigger as the election approaches, very close to the election. And so, anybody who was involved in the agreement to violate the campaign finance laws, even if they did nothing more than agree, could be on the hook here, as long as someone performed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
And we know that there were many overt acts in these payments, in the financial transactions that went along with them. And so, anybody that was part of that agreement could be guilty of conspiracy. That likely includes all of these people identified sort of by code name only in the current charging documents, but whose identities will become known over the coming months.
It may be that some of those people are already cooperating and it may be that President Trump himself is one of those co-conspirators.
O`DONNELL: And, David, the president now saying that I talked about this. I talked about the payments and in his answer to Fox News today, he says something about the fact that I tweeted about the payments. That is something that happened only after Rudy Giuliani had that moment on TV where he blurted out Donald Trump`s involvement in the payments not long after Donald Trump had denied any knowledge of the payments.
JOHNSTON: Well, Donald has told so many lies here about so many things that I don`t think he could keep them straight. I can`t keep them straight without a written list. And so -- and there are problems going beyond this.
I think it is very significant that Michael Cohen was served with a subpoena about the Trump Foundation matters which also could involve criminality by Donald Trump and his family and he immediately responded to that subpoena to the State Department of taxation and said, gee, I want to tell you everything I can, which by the way, we`re very glad to see at DC Report because nine weeks ago, we`re the ones who said they need to do a criminal investigation of the Trump Foundation.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, the Congress now wants to hear more possibly from Michael Cohen. The Senate Intelligence Committee does. Lanny Davis said Michael Cohen, as far as he knows, is willing to testify to Congress. Not only that, there is a report today that Michael Cohen himself responded to a contact from the New York state attorney general that was interested in hearing what he might know about the Trump foundation and things that the New York state attorney general is investigating.
So, Michael Cohen as we see him now appears to be it is impossible for him to be more eager to get out there and testify about Donald Trump.
KLAIN: That`s right, Lawrence. And it is important to remember that, though it sounds kind of technical, the significance of this New York state attorney general investigation you just mentioned and that David Cay Johnston just mentioned is this, it is an investigation in which Donald Trump`s pardon power has no power. He cannot pardon state crimes.
So, if Donald Trump goes over the top here and starts pardoning everyone, the New York state attorney general`s investigation is going to continue. It is an investigation that can send people to jail. And it is an investigation that Donald Trump can obstruct. That`s why it is so important.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, Ron Klain, Harry Litman, David Cay Johnston -- thank you for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, you did not miss the Republican outrage today after the president was accused of federal crimes in federal court yesterday. We`ll cover that next. What happens to that outrage?
And later, the president of the United States praised his convicted former campaign chairman, and he has refused to rule out a pardon for Paul Manafort.
O`DONNELL: Today, Frankfort NBC made this audio recording of an interview with the majority leader of the United States Senate Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any reaction to the Cohen-Manafort news from yesterday? Do you think that it`s concerning at all? Do you think it will affect the midterms? You still support Mueller, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Absolute silence to all of those questions. Mitch McConnell is one of the 16 current United States Senators who voted for the conviction and removal from office of the president of the United States in the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.
And today with the president of the United States accused of two felonies by a conspirator in those felonies that Donald Trump is accused of something far worse than what Bill Clinton ever did, and here is the longest-serving Republican Senator Orrin Hatch today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in terms of the substance of the payments, I mean, this was hush money paid to porn stars. What do you make of that?
ORRIN HATCH, SENIOR SENATOR, UTAH: Well, I`m not very happy about it. I`ll put it that way and it should never have happened to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Not very happy about it, a little chuckle. He was even more unhappy with President Bill Clinton who was never accused of committing felonies, "For the principal purpose of influencing the election."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
This isn`t about sex. This is about abuse of the office of the president. This is abuse of power. It is about obstruction of justice, trying to stop the investigation or deter the investigation or disrupt the investigation or make it impossible to do the investigation. Those are serious felonies. Those are high crimes. And under the constitution, those are impeachable offenses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It is too bad Bill Clinton did not come from New York City, did not live on Fifth Avenue because in tonight`s breaking Orrin hatch news from the "New York Times," Orrin hatch said this to "The New York Times", "I think most people in this country realize that Donald Trump comes from a different world. He comes from New York City. He comes from a slam-bang difficult world. It is amazing he is as good as he is. If anything, you have to give him plaudits for the way he has run the country as president."
New York City has more than triple the number of Americans than the entire State of Utah that Orrin Hatch represents, but he believes that those three million people in Utah are real Americans. New Yorkers are not, and therefore New Yorkers cannot be judged by the moral code of the people in Utah or anywhere else in the country. And if a rich Republican from Fifth Avenue or Manhattan becomes president of the United States, well, you got to give him credit. Could be worse.
Joining our discussion now, Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who was adviser to Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain`s presidential campaign. He`s also an MSNBC and NBC News Political Analyst. And back with us is Ron Klein.
Mike Murphy, you know many of these Republican Senators. I know many of them. I used to work with Orrin Hatch in the Senate. I never could have predicted that Orrin Hatch would have come to the position that it`s OK if you`re from Manhattan. It is not okay if you`re from little rock.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, maybe I have been around politics too long, but I`m always reminded of Von Bismarck`s quote that the greatest lies are told after the hunt, before the marriage and in during the election. In this 80-day period, it`s not a real time to look for the kind of moral leadership I`d like to be seeing coming from the Republican party.
Now that said, I`m depressed enough now to think that if we had an epically rogue democratic president now, 80 days out of the election, I have a feeling the Republicans would be full of high moral dudgeon about this and the Democrats will be sounding a lot like Orrin Hatch. It`s just our system now where career seems to be important.
But look, there`s no doubt, after what we now know from Cohen and my guess is we`re going to learn more, the president was involved in directing at least an alleged crime and presidents can`t do that. So we have crossed the line now and a fuse has been lit that may not pay off until after this election as the parties lock into their positions. But this is like rust, it doesn`t stop and I think it is the beginning of a real turn to the miles of the Trump presidency.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klein, you were there listening to those speeches during the Clinton impeachment trial, as I was. And I know you cannot have lived through that and not be hearing those speeches today just as you walk the streets. I remember what Chuck Grassley was saying, I remember what Lindsey Graham was saying, I remember what all 16 of these Republican Senators were saying then, and I`m listening to their silence or, in Orrin Hatch`s case, their amusement today.
RON KLEIN: Yes, Lawrence, as you said, not to excuse what President Clinton did, it was wrong. He shouldn`t have done it but what President Trump is alleged to have done in a sworn statement as part of a guilty plea is to have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to try to influence the election. And let`s remember, these payments to Stormy Daniels went out the last two weeks of the campaign. As Jim Comey is making his charges about Hillary Clinton in her e-mails, Donald Trump is paying off someone to suppress information that would have had a big impact on this campaign. So very, very serious charge.
And you have to go back 20 years ago, these Republicans in the House and Senate who were inspectors when it came to Hillary Clinton`s e-mails are now inspectors when it comes to the crimes piling up around Donald Trump. And there`ll be a price to pay for that. Last thing I`d say about it, Lawrence, one of the prices may be in terms of Robert Mueller. The whole rationale for not indicting a president is it is up to the Congress to hold the president accountable. If the Congress is going to walk off their job, Robert Mueller may see his job a little differently.
O`DONNELL: And Mike Murphy, the Republicans running in these swing districts, in districts that can go the other way or in districts that have previously felt safe and we have seen they`re losing 20 point margins in some districts, how would you advise a Republican running in these districts where Donald Trump`s popularity is way below even the Republican officeholders popularity?
MURPHY: Yes. There is no easy way out. If I told them the truth, which I would do, it would be to build a time machine, go back two years and find some character and address Trump from day one. That`s the solution. Problem is, don`t have time machines. So what a lot of them are going to do is dig in, scream about Nancy Pelosi, put their head down and try to force their way through it. This is the kind of wave election, most likely, looking at what we`ve learned from the special elections were mere political tactics of evasion will not save you if you are in one of those dangerous seats.
Now, a few are trying to distance themselves here and there from the president. But again, it`s awful late. And the sins that have been committed are big enough that people are already starting to make their judgment. So there is no clever political trick to get people out of this mess one that I think frankly being a bit complicit and Trumpism for too long has put them into.
O`DONNELL: Sometimes politics is just as difficult as it looks. And even Mike Murphy doesn`t have a political trick for you to get on the trouble. Mike Murphy, Ron Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate.
Coming up, presidential candidate who promised to drain the swamp of criminal lobbyists now think lobbyists committing crimes is perfectly OK. What happened to the zero tolerance presidency or does zero tolerance only apply to mothers on the southern border and not to lobbyists in Washington?
O`DONNELL: Have you noticed how panicked President Trump is about Paul Manafort since Paul Manafort`s lawyer said yesterday that Paul Manafort is considering his options about what to do next? It is incredibly obvious how terrified Donald Trump is now of Paul Manafort.
Tonight Donald Trump is clinging to the wreckage of the Paul Manafort trial and desperately trying to hold on to Paul Manafort, desperately trying to prevent Paul Manafort from cooperating with special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Are you considering pardoning Paul Manafort?
TRUMP: I have great respect for what he`s done in terms of what he`s gone through. He worked for Ronald Reagan for years, he worked for Bob Doe. I guess his firm worked for McCain and he worked for many, many people, many, many years. And I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No matter how many times you listen to that answer you are not going to hear an answer to the question of whether he would pardon Paul Manafort. President Trump is trying to excuse Paul Manafort`s crimes by saying that most lobbyists in Washington would commit the same kind of crimes, so the presidential candidate who promised to drain the swamp of these kinds of criminal obvious now thinks lobbyists committing crimes, perfectly OK because they all do it.
Paul Manafort`s own lawyer didn`t even bother to say that Paul Manafort is a good man yesterday. Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight Federal felonies. Instead, Paul Manafort`s lawyers simply thanked the judge for a fair trial and said Paul Manafort was now examining his options.
Not that Paul Manafort was going to appeal, not that he was going to fight it all the way to Supreme Court, examining his options which means Paul Manafort is deciding whether to continue to pay very high priced defense lawyers in another criminal case in Washington, D.C. next month where he is more likely to lose than the case he already lost. Or the other option, start working on reducing his prison time by cooperating with and working with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. President Trump has been portraying Paul Manafort as a victim of the special prosecutor.
What if Paul Manafort switches from claiming he`s not guilty to confessing that he is guilty and reaches a deal with Robert Mueller to plead guilty instead of going to trial again on September 17th? How can Paul Manafort be the victim of a witch hunt if Paul Manafort himself says he`s guilty? And what else does Donald Trump have to fear if Paul Manafort pleads guilty? That`s next
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president now planning on or intending on pardoning Paul Manafort?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Manafort case doesn`t have anything to do with the president, nothing to do with his campaign, it doesn`t have anything to do with the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And tonight the "New York Times" is reporting that Rudy Giuliani has discussed the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort with President Trump.
Joining us now once again, Barbara McQuade and joining our discussion now is Franklin Foer, national correspondent at The Atlantic and the author of World Without Mind.
And Franklin, you have been following the Paul Manafort story closely. You`ve asked the question in your latest reporting on this, how much longer can he take this, basically? How long longer can he afford this? And as he considers his options, is he going to decide to flip? What is the best state of our understanding of Paul Manafort`s options, at this point?
FRANKLIN FOER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Right. It`s he`s facing a very expensive set of choices. We know that he`s financially constrained based on everything we learned during the last trial. And so over the course of the next couple of weeks, before this trial kicks off in Washington, D.C., he`ll need to decide if he has faith that he can get the pardon from Donald Trump or does he have to forge ahead and potentially take the risk of seeing jail time, of squandering the rest of his family fortune.
I think Paul Manafort is a guy who`s been able to live in denial up until this point. I mean he had incredible self-confidence. He also had incredible capacities for self-delusion. I think that the time for denial and self-delusion has essentially ended. Even somebody with incredible capacity for self-delusion has to face certain extremely obvious facts.
O`DONNELL: And, Barbara, here is what the "New York Times" is reporting about the president`s own discussions with Rudy Giuliani about pardoning Paul Manafort and Giuliani is the source. Mr. Giuliani said the two have discussed the political fallout should Mr. Trump grant a pardon to Mr. Manafort. Yesterday`s plea in Manafort`s -- this is Giuliani talking on yesterday`s plea in Manafort`s conviction, none of it had to do with collusion, none of it has to do with obstruction, Mr. Giuliani said echoing much of what the president has said in public and in private. "He really thinks Manafort has been horribly treated.
And so Barbara, there`s the confirmation. Rudy Giuliani and the president discussing a pardon.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think a pardon, at this moment in the procedural posture of the case, would be really extraordinary. Pardon is ordinarily reserved for people who`ve shown remorse, shows forgiveness and allowing someone to get on with their life after they`ve completed their sentence, usually, after five years have passed so that you can see that the person has done things to get on with their life and be a contributing member of society.
To grant a pardon at this stage would be extraordinary. We`ve just completed the first trial. He hasn`t been sentenced yet. He`s facing another trial that starts in a few weeks. So a pardon at this stage, I think would look majorly political. So, ordinarily, what you often see is presidents granting more controversial pardons on their way out of office. Maybe we would get one down the road but I think if he did one right now, it would be politically risky for Trump.
O`DONNELL: But Franklin, there`s another complication and that is that Paul Manafort could then immediately become a witness for the special prosecutor. Because Paul Manafort could then be subpoenaed. He would have no Fifth Amendment protections against the things he`s been pardoned for.
FOER: Yes, exactly. And we exist right now in something like a cave where we`ve seen Paul Manafort`s -- we`ve seen a lot about Paul Manafort revealed in the way that he operated during the campaign and the risks he was willing to take and abuse the campaign for his own self-interests. We don`t really know how it stitches together to whatever broader narrative Robert Mueller is pulling together.
But Donald Trump`s behavior, as you suggest, clearly shows that he thinks that there`s something that Paul Manafort would be able to provide to the special prosecutor that will be damning and that will lead in the direction of him.
O`DONNELL: Barbara, anyone else, a politician would want to avoid any association with Manafort, wouldn`t want to talk about him. Donald Trump seems eager to say good things about him, very suspicious situation here. Franklin Foer and Barbara McQuade, thank you both for joining us tonight.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: The first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump was Congressman Chris Collins who was indicted two weeks ago and dropped his re-election campaign. The second member of Congress was Congressman Duncan Hunter and Congressman Hunter and his wife were indicted yesterday on Federal corruption charges for spending a quarter of a million dollars of campaign funds on personal expenses like tuitions and family vacations.
Today, Congressman Hunter told NBC`s Alex Presha that the fishing trip that he was on today was paid for by his campaign because it was a campaign event. Duncan Hunter`s lawyers can`t be very happy about that comment today. California law does not allow candidates to be removed from -- their names to be removed from the ballot at this stage. And it does not allow write-in candidates.
The third member of Congress, by the way, in case you`re wondering, who endorsed Donald Trump, was Jeff Sessions. That is tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Tonight, the White House being described as the eye of a political hurricane after all the president has now been implicated in a crime. While the west wing defense repeated over and over today is that he did nothing wrong and hasn`t been charged with anything. Plus the mounting legal threat as Mueller --
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