Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 10, 2018 Guest: Michael Tomasky, Richard Clarke, Evan McMullin
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`m going to time this so you can get home in time to watch Michael Avenatti.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": OK.
O`DONNELL: He`s not going to be on at the top of the show.
Those are all my questions this weekend, and because I had time today flying down from Toronto I which he`ll time to read Michael Avenatti`s filing on this because I did think this is it. It`s over.
O`DONNELL: The president has surrendered. Michael Cohen, they just surrendered to Michael Avenatti, so there`s no case anymore, but it turns out there is. And a close reading of Michael Avenatti`s pleading explained that to me. But it`ll be even better to have him here as he will be to explain it to all of us. This case looks like it is going to continue.
MADDOW: And it seems like he seems confident he`s going it depose the president in relation to this case, which of course would be a huge freaking deal.
O`DONNELL: I have to say having read all the documents in it, there`s a very strong whiff of confidence only in the Avenatti documents and not in the Trump and Cohen documents.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Thanks, my friend. Looking forward to it. Thanks.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, we have new devastating polls on President Trump released today that show the president getting what one poll says is his lowest grade for honesty since he was elected. With 60 percent of the country saying he is not honest. And an even larger group, 65 percent of the country saying he is not levelheaded. And that is the essential picture of the president that emerges in Bob Woodward`s new book, that he is not honest and he is not levelheaded.
And that is the same picture that emerged in the anonymous op-ed piece published in "The New York Times" last week by a senior official in the Trump administration saying that, quote, many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump`s more misguided impulses until he is out of office. A Quinnipiac poll done this weekend asked for a verdict from the public on that "The New York Times" op-ed piece with this question.
As you may know, there have been anonymously published allegations that senior advisers to President Trump worked behind his back to stop him from making what these advisers believe are bad decisions. Do you believe these allegations are true or not? Fifty-five percent believe that the president`s staff work behind his back to stop him from making bad decisions. Only 28 percent do not believe that. And 17 percent are not sure.
So, only 28 percent of Americans believe Donald Trump is in control of his presidency, 28 percent. And that poll was being taken this weekend in reaction to the recent revelations about the Trump administration. When that poll was being taken Mike Pence brought the vice presidency to a new low.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Do you think you know who anonymous is?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t. I don`t know. But I do know that they should resign and leave this administration.
WALLACE: Should all top officials take a lie detector test, and would you agree to take one?
PENCE: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And there Mike Pence took his place in history as the first vice president to volunteer to take a lie detector test. And he did it because he lives in fear of Donald Trump, a man who Mike Pence knows and we all know would never take a lie detector test about anything. And as Donald Trump has destroyed any pretense of the dignity of the presidency, Mike Pence has done the same for whatever remains left of the perceived dignity of the vice-presidency after Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew plea bargain, his conviction for tax evasion while he was vice president in order to avoid charges of bribery and he resigned the vice-presidency in a deal that allowed him to escape prison time.
And it`s at times like these when Vice President Mike Pence know that he can hope to escape history`s verdict as our worst vice president, thanks entirely to Spiro Agnew. Mike Pence would take a lie detector test in a heartbeat, why? Because the president won`t believe him if he doesn`t take a polygraph test?
So what? Does he think the president can fire him? Mike Pence is one of two people in the Trump administration who was elected to his job, and he`s the only person in the Trump administration who has repeatedly used the 14th century word, lodestar -- meaning a star that leads the way or guides our way.
The anonymous op-ed piece says Senator John McCain should be our lodestar. Quote, we may no longer have Senator McCain but we will always have his example, a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: One of the words in the essay is lodestar, which it turns out, people have looked, is a word that you have used many times.
Let`s again be our lodestar. With vigilance and resolve as our lodestar. It really was the lodestar.
WALLACE: Do you think someone purposely put that in the essay to try to set you up?
PENCE: Yes, I wouldn`t know. I wouldn`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He knows. He knows if he wasn`t the author of the op-ed piece then, yes, the author was definitely trying to set him up by using the word lodestar. That would mean the Trump resistance in the White House is as disgusted with Mike Pence as with Donald Trump. If you disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president as so many of Bob Woodward`s Trump administration`s sources do, and as the anonymous author of "The New York Times" op-ed piece obviously does, then you are part of an overwhelming American majority.
A Quinnipiac poll shows Donald Trump`s job approval at 38 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. And a new CNN poll tonight shows only a 36 percent approval and a 58 percent disapproval. But the most important number in the polls is the one that shows a majority agreement with the anonymous author of the op-ed piece and with the Trump administration sources in Bob Woodward`s book that Donald Trump is not fit to serve as president. Fifty- five percent of America say the president is not fit to serve as president.
Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, he`s the co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus" which returns this Sunday. Michael Tomasky is with us. He`s a special correspondent for "The Daily Beast". And Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, and an MSNBC contributor.
And, John Heilemann, Mike Pence, if he`s not the author of the piece, knows that word lodestar was put in there for him specifically to let him know he is regarded the same way the resistance inside the Trump administration regards Donald Trump.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS & MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYS: Other that or he`s really thick.
O`DONNELL: Oh, one or the other.
HEILEMANN: It`s hard to imagine Mike Pence`s performance as vice president, as you suggested, has been pretty desultory, it`s hard to imagine not to get this, what`s going on here. And, you know, look, I don`t think -- I think that if you think about people inside the Trump administration, you think about the kinds of people who might have written the op-ed, as you suggests now there, you know, there are dozens of administration officials who share these views.
They uniformly have a kind of disregard for Pence that is overwhelming because as much as Trump -- as much as they disregard Donald Trump, and as they fear Trump and they think Trump is a danger, they look at Pence not in the way they look at themselves. And I`m only talking about their mind-set now and not ours.
But they look at themselves as guardrails of democracy. They`re keeping the president from doing terrible things, if you believe what the op-ed says. And I think many of them do actually believe about themselves. They look at Pence and they see his behavior in the last 18 months and what they see is what we see in them in many cases, which they see an abject enabler of Donald Trump, someone who`s never stood up to Donald Trump either publicly or as far as I can tell from my reporting privately.
O`DONNELL: And, Maria Teresa, we`ve seen in the new polling a really big drop in any kind of support among independents for the president.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT, VOTO LATINO: Right.
O`DONNELL: There`s a 31 percent among independents in the CNN poll, 31 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove. Don`t know, 10 percent. And the Quinnipiac poll shows something similar. And those are -- that`s where a big, big drop is, and this, of course, is occurring over a period of time in which we`ve seen this recent internal chaos in the Trump administration. But also, of course, the policy of the southern border, separating children from their parents, all of this has been happening as we lead up to where we are now.
KUMAR: Absolutely. And this could not happen at a worse time for the administration. He`s basically -- they`re all hobbling into a midterm election. And what these polls are saying is that Americans, including independents, Democrats and moderate Republicans are fed up with the chaos that`s happening in the country.
People are sick and tired of basically coming in and feeling that they wake up every day and they`re just feeling uneasy. And that`s what the polls are talking about. And when you look at Pence, when Pence basically does not want to create any light between he and the president, is that he recognizes that he`s going to need -- if something happens to Donald Trump, if he were to get impeached, he`s going to need that base as much as possible. He needs to be able to demonstrate is the appointed heir when it comes to this administration in this White House.
And that`s one of the reasons why he may say that he`s not the lodestar, but he`s trying to be the lodestar for that Republican Party that`s on the fringe.
O`DONNELL: And Axios is reporting tonight that the president has figured out to the obvious sources for Bob Woodward`s book, Gary Cohn, and a former White House employee Rob Porter who, of course, was forced to leave on accusations of sexual assault against his former wife became public, Mike Tomasky, we have Axios reporting tonight Trump is privately furious with Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, and sources with direct knowledge of Trump`s thinking tell me it`s possible he publicly attacks Porter and Cohn this week.
What`s he waiting for?
MICHAEL TOMASKY, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, you don`t say. And boy, he`s never attacked one of his own people before. That would be unprecedented.
You know, Lawrence, we have here a situation obviously that`s unlike anything we`ve ever lived through. But it is reassuring at least to see these polls and to see that in poll after poll, a solid majority of the American public just on some really basic psychic level doesn`t accept that Donald Trump is a legitimate president of the United States. I mean, they might accept he`s there in the office doing the job such as he does it every day, but they don`t approve of him being there. They don`t trust him. They don`t think he belongs there. They wonder what the heck is going on, and that is solid majority and his support is shrinking.
You know, two months ago he was 43, 45. Well, that`s not so terrible. That`s not so different from where Barack Obama maybe was in 2010 when the economy was so terrible. But now, he`s down 36, 37, it`s a different ball game and it seems to have settled there.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, to that point Mike just made, the economic statistics are very good. The president couldn`t ask for better economic statistics and that isn`t helping him at all.
HEILEMANN: And it`s one of the most stunning things about it. You could argue maybe the economics are a bit better given that you might see more robust wage growth, a few things. But, look, the president has a lot to brag about and he does all the time. You have to work at it to have an approval rating in the 30s with unemployment under 4 percent and the kind of job growth, which is consistent with more or less what President Obama had in the last part of his term, you have to work hard to be where he is right now.
And what you`re seeing now is finally this moment where we`ve seen him in 36 and 38, a couple of times in this administration, before the bears and nadirs (ph), but what we now is a consistent downward ticking in the polls. The forecaster at FiveThirtyEight, tweeted tonight each one has approval ratings down from the previous ones.
The collective weight, not just from a couple of these big moments, Helsinki or kids in cages on the border, but the collective weight of all it is finally starting to settle as we get closer to election day. It`s not surprising that it`s happening. It`s how these things work.
O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa, in the CNN poll, there`s the question, is Trump someone you are proud to have as president. Sixty-four percent say no to the question of is Trump someone you are proud to have as president? And so, that kind of fundamental feeling that presidents are hoping they can have out there in the country, Trump doesn`t have any of that.
KUMAR: Well, and I think this actually really speaks to what kind of person we want in the White House and who`ve always -- we`ve always looked at our presidents as being the moral authority, basically the grownup in the room that basically tries to tone down any divisiveness and he`s the complete opposite. And I do believe the American people are tired, they`re also registering to vote in record numbers, they`re present.
And it`s not something that`s been happening slowly. It started after the very first special election in December after he was elected. And what`s going be interesting is whether or not the people that come into that Congress, if they`re going to do their job and be that front line, that checks and balances that the American people really want, to ensure that while this person is in the White House, that basically that he does not take any extreme measures and doesn`t put the country in undue harm.
O`DONNELL: And so, Mike, as usual the president is drawing as much attention as he can to a book that is highly critical of him. In a presidential tweet this morning, he said the Woodward book is a joke, just another assault against me in a barrage of assaults using now disproven, unnamed and anonymous sources. Many have already come forward the quotes by them and like the book are fiction. Dems can`t stand losing, I`ll write the real book.
TOMASKY: Yes, well, he`s not going to win an argument with Bob Woodward in this town or in the national media. I think that much is obvious. And, you know, Lawrence, the fact of the Woodward book and that "Times" op-ed piece coming out is the one-two punch. If I`m remembering correctly, "The Washington Post" publishes excerpts of the Woodward book last Wednesday and then the next day, "The New York Times" posted that op-ed, and those two events just so reinforced each other and so said the same thing.
And now, Woodward`s book is going to go onto sell I don`t know how many copies, 1 million to 3 million perhaps. I mean, people are going to read it. Americans are going to read that book and it`s really going to sink in.
And I will reinforce what John said a moment ago, we`ve now reached a point where this opinion of him seems to have really settled in.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and we have scratched the surface of the Woodward book. There`s just a mountain of horrifying things in there having to do with policy, the president`s lack of comprehension and basic things. And we`ll be covering more of that book as the week goes on actually.
John Heilemann, Mike Tomasky, Maria Teresa Kumar, thank you for starting us off tonight.
And coming up, as we said at the beginning to Rachel, Donald Trump has actually surrendered to Michael Avenatti. He has legally surrendered to him in the case Stormy Daniels brought against the president.
But Michael Avenatti is not accepting that surrender. Michael Avenatti will join us and explain why.
And up next, sources inside the White House are very, very worried about just what the president can do in terms of a possible national security crisis. There is a report in Bob Woodward`s book about a tweet that brought us possibly close to war with North Korea, a tweet from the president that someone convinced him not to send.
O`DONNELL: The most dangerous thing that we have seen president Trump do publicly is threaten and taunt North Korea`s dictator Kim Jong-un. And that, of course, was before the president then embraced that very same dictator and started saying more praiseful things about him than he has ever said about America`s strongest allies.
But during that dangerous period when it seemed that Donald Trump was creeping toward war with North Korea, we always knew that it wasn`t going to happen tomorrow or that week or the next week because one necessary prerequisite to any military action on the Korean peninsula would be to remove all of the families of American military personnel in South Korea. That`s about 28,000 people. Some experts told me that would take weeks to evacuate those people, and it would be impossible to do it secretly. So as long as we weren`t evacuating anyone, Kim Jong-un knew there was no immediate threat of war.
But in Bob Woodward`s new book, "Fear", we discover that we might have been one tweet away from a war. The books says that in January of this year, President Trump wrote tweets declaring that he would evacuate all family members of U.S. troops from South Korea. Woodward writes the possible tweets scared the daylights out of Pentagon leadership, Mattis and Dunford, a declaration of intent to do so from the U.S. commander in chief on Twitter was almost unthinkable. The North Koreas made it clear they would consider that a sign that the United States was preparing for war.
And then what would North Korea do? Just sit there and wait to be struck?
Luckily for the world as Bob Woodward reports, the tweet was never sent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": The people who work for him are worried that he will sign things or give orders that will threaten the national security or the financial security of the country or the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and a former independent presidential candidate, and Richard Clarke, former senior White House advisor to three presidents on issues from cyber security to counterterrorism. He is host of the new podcast, future state, which launched today featuring his first guest President Bill Clinton. Thank you both for joining us.
Richard Clarke, I want to get your reaction to that report in Bob Woodward`s book about the tweet that wasn`t sent, the tweet that would have said to North Korea the president is preparing to strike.
RICHARD A. CLARKE, "FUTURE STATE" PODCAST HOST: Lawrence, this underscores the fact that having a president being able to tweet and no one to edit his tweets is a terrible way to do diplomacy. I once wrote a threatening letter to the leaders of Iran, but before it was sent, before the president signed it, scores of experts poured over it and rewrote it. That doesn`t happen with tweets.
So, you have the risk of him doing something where no one can stop him and it being misunderstood and causing a financial crisis, a stock manipulation or causing a military scare.
O`DONNELL: And, Evan, this is one of the tweets that other people got to see before it went out. But we certainly have plenty of indications that are many, many other tweets that many don`t get to see before they go out. And, so, luckily the people who saw this tweet were able to prevent the president from sending this tweet about evacuating the families and military personnel in North Korea.
EVAN MCMULLIN, STAND UP REPUBLIC CO-FOUNDER: Yes, that`s right. You start to wonder, OK, well, in this environment how long will these people last in this environment under President Trump? I think President Trump now is smarting about the fact there are -- there`s an op-ed written about him and books, a stream of books and there will be more, cataloging all the instances of which his own staff think of him as a fool and as dangerous and stand in the way of him doing what he wants to do.
And I think at a certain point he`s going to say and he already has but increasingly will, why do I want these guys around, I should get rid of them and have people on my staff that are willing to do what I want to do. And that`s where I get concerned especially with regard to General Mattis which I think does the country a tremendous service in his status as a defense secretary. But now, we see reports that the president is considering removing him especially after Bob Woodward`s reporting which Mattis says allegedly or credibly I think that President Trump has knowledge of a sixth on the fifth grader about the Korean peninsula and other issues.
Perhaps General Mattis isn`t going to be there, be around too much longer, and that`s concerning, too.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something Bob Woodward said on the show this morning, because it`s a little -- it`s not clear to us, not -- people who aren`t professionals in the intelligence community. I like your reaction to it. Let`s listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: Here`s the problem, this has not been treated seriously enough, and the things -- some of the things Trump did and does jeopardized the real national security. This country does some things in the intelligence world which are so important to protect the country. They are astonishing. They are secret, they are called special access programs and he jeopardizes them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Richard Clarke, few reporters know more about that intelligence community than Bob Woodward does. What was your interpretation of what he was talking about there?
CLARKE: Well, I`m not sure I want to talk about special access programs, but I think it`s clear --
O`DONNELL: So let me just stop you there, that a particular phrase referring to particular things.
CLARKE: Special access programs are things above top secret. They are activities that go on in the world that are restricted to a very small handful of people, the knowledge of those activities. They`re usually collection activities and they`re extremely sensitive, which means knowledge of them would mean that they would end if they were exposed. And they are usually ways that we collect very vital information, often about foreign leadership.
I mean, just stop at the fact -- I don`t think the intelligence community is telling the president about them. They may be telling him some of the results, but they`re certainly not telling him how we collect it, because who knows what he would say to the Russians, who knows what he would say to the press. He doesn`t know what not to say and when not to say it. And so, there probably is a wealth of information that he doesn`t get.
O`DONNELL: And, Evan McMullin, you can see just in the way Bob Woodward was talking about it, he was doing it with as much care as Richard Clarke there, knowing how sensitive this arena is. It`s hard to conceive of Donald Trump being around information like that.
MCMULLIN: That`s right. And I think Richard may be right about information at this point isn`t getting to it the president, which is truly sad, because we need a leader who has this kind of information and can use it to make wise decisions. We need that for our own security.
But the reality is there are certain things that the intelligence community that the Central Intelligence Agency, for example, just simply can`t do without the president`s signature. And so, then the question becomes, OK, is that -- are those things happening or are they not happening under President Trump`s leadership. I think many of them are happening, which means the president knows about them.
Those are things that are done in a secretive manner to achieve our interests, to protect our security. But that if they were known could put people`s lives at risk or could put our security at risk, could trigger greater problems.
And so, yes, we have to be concerned about the president`s access to information. But what I`m more concerned about is what he will do with his power. Will he -- it may be the power to thumb 180 character tweet that triggers conflict or the preparations for conflict. It may be that he authorizes a military action that is then executed that was ill-informed and unwise, that triggers a broader conflict. That`s what I`m more worried about.
O`DONNELL: Evan McMullen thank you very much for joining us.
Richard Clarke, thank you for joining us and congrats on the new podcast. Richard Clarke`s new podcast called "Future State".
When we come back Michael Cohen and Donald Trump finally met their match in Michael Avenatti who has ruined both of their lives in so many ways, and so they have decided to surrender to Michael Avenatti. President Trump doesn`t want to fight Michael Avenatti anymore. And a president had his lawyer tell a judge in California he gives up. He wants to quit the legal fight with Michael Avenatti.
And Michael Avenatti said he`s not going to let him quit. Michael Avenatti will join us next and explain why.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has officially in writing surrendered to Michael Avenatti. One of the president`s many lawyers put that surrender in writing on Saturday in a filing in federal court in California in the case of Stephanie Clifford also known as Stormy Daniels versus Donald J. Trump, also known as David Dennison.
The president`s high priced lawyer, in that case, Charles Harder is finally doing what I`ve always said he should have done at the very beginning of the Stormy Daniels case and that is simply free Stormy Daniels from that non-disclosure agreement that she signed. Legal howl has ranged down on Donald Trump and Michael Cohen because they immediately tried every trick they could think of to try to stop Stormy Daniels from going public, including Michael Cohen publicly threatening to bankrupt Stormy Daniels with millions and millions of dollars in penalties that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen would visit upon her for violating her confidentiality agreement.
Michael Cohen is a convicted felon tonight and Donald Trump is an unindicted conspirator tonight because of the way they chose to fight Stormy Daniels, a fight they were so confident they were going to win until they heard from Stormy Daniels` lawyer Michael Avenatti in court and on this program and elsewhere. And they should have realized as soon as they saw Michael Avenatti that they should drop this case. And now they are finally trying to drop this case.
Both Donald Trump and Michael Cohen formally going in a court saying, "We release Stormy Daniels from the nondisclosure agreement." Therefore, the case is closed but Michael Avenatti says not so fast. And Michael Avenatti is joining us here.
Now, Michael, I have to tell you when I saw they were dropping the case, I thought, OK, they are slow learners but that`s the way out of a civil case. Either side can get out of a civil case simply by doing what the other side wants. And your case was we want Stormy Daniels to be able to speak so they said, "OK, forget it, she can speak. The case is over." And I thought that was it, that was the end of it until I started reading your pleading today that turns out there`s more to this case.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: Well, there`s a lot more to this case, Lawrence. And you know, let`s back up. I`ve been saying for a while that we`ve been playing chess and they`ve been playing tic-tac-toe. And that`s been true now for the better part of six months and it`s true in the last week, in the last 72 hours as well.
If you recall, we filed a very basic complaint to start this case in March. There was reason for that. We then made an offer of settlement shortly thereafter and we offered to return the $130,000 and there were some other parameters. And we gave Donald Trump and Michael Cohen a set period of time to respond to that offer. They blew us off. They refused to accept this offer which I anticipated that they would do.
And shortly thereafter, we filed what`s called an amended complaint where we amended our allegations and we made those allegations much more detailed and we asked for much more than we had in the initial complaint, and there was a reason for that. And the reason why we did that, Lawrence, is because I anticipated that someday I would be sitting in a seat like this and we would be where we are right now.
And the problem is that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump are in too deep. They waited too long. They didn`t do what you thought they should have done six months ago. They didn`t do what I thought they should have done frankly six months ago. And so now, what they want to do is they want to cancel the case, they want to call no glory, they want to completely surrender and we`re not willing to accept that surrender under the terms that they want to offer.
O`DONNELL: What are some of the claims in your case that would not be satisfied if they were allowed to drop out of this case now?
AVENATTI: Well, for instance, we still have the defamation cause of action or claim against Michael Cohen. We still have the defamation claim against Donald Trump. We have another claim against Michael Cohen relating to his conduct and conspiring with Keith Davidson to hide information and documents from my client. And furthermore, as it relates the NDA, we want a judicial finding, a determination that that NDA is not just null and void but that it was an illegal contract that was proposed by Donald Trump in an effort to violate campaign finance law. Now, obviously, he`s not going to agree with that.
O`DONNELL: You, I discovered today and only today specified this in your complaint that you want this as a finding which they could then do as an admission. They could just write it out as an admission in their next filing and say "OK, yes it was." And so you`ve ended up asking for much more than just she`d be released from the nondisclosure agreement. There`s also an issue of attorney`s fees. They`ve poured lawyers into this thing which ran up the costs on the Stormy Daniels` side of the case and your side of the case. And now they`re saying after having done that, well, let`s just everyone go home.
AVENATTI: Well, correct. I mean we put this finding of illegality that we saw in there for a reason because we boxed in Donald Trump because we knew that never in a million years would he be in a position where he could admit that. Because were he to admit that, he would have a much bigger problem.
O`DONNELL: You do now have that admission on record from the other party, in this case, Michael Cohen. He`s on record in federal court as saying exactly in effect what you`ve demanded here.
AVENATTI: Correct. So we`re halfway to home. Now, we need the other half which is we`re going to get an admission or a judicial finding by way of competent evidence that Donald Trump conspired with Michael Cohen to do this, to violate campaign finance law. We`re either going to get that by way of admission which I don`t think we`re going to get or by cross- examination and deposition and ultimately a trial. And that is our goal and it`s been my goal for six months and it`s going to continue.
O`DONNELL: It`s possible here that you might get all of that from Michael Cohen in writing because there`s no damage to him at this point and that might leave you only with Donald Trump as a defendant. Cohen might be able to work his way out of this. It is fascinating. When will the judge make a decision on whether this case continues?
AVENATTI: On the 24th of September, we have a hearing and we`re going to get some guidance from the judge and, you know, a number of things can happen between now and then. It`s a very dynamic situation and things happen at a very quick pace but I just hope they keep playing tic-tac-toe and I`m confident they will.
O`DONNELL: So here`s the thing, I`m going to be right here on the 24th of September at 10:00 P.M., so come on and we`ll talk about how it turns out.
AVENATTI: I`m looking forward to it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Michael. Appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thank you. My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: When we come back in the last hour former Senate judiciary committee staffer Lisa Graves who`s appearing on the Rachel Show accuse Brett Kavanaugh of lying under oath in the confirmation process. She is not the first to make that accusation. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Judge Brett Kavanaugh now takes his place in history as one of the very few Supreme Court nominees to be accused of lying in the confirmation process. But that hasn`t stopped Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley from scheduling a committee vote on Thursday on the nomination. Democrats might be able to use procedural rules to delay that vote by a week, but that could still allow the full Senate to vote before the end of the month.
The rush to confirmation is happening while Democrats raised concerns Judge Kavanaugh lied to the Senate. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy tweeted Saturday, "Untruthful testimony under oath and on the record." Senator Leahy`s tweet came after he questioned Kavanaugh about e-mails that appeared to show that in 2003, Kavanaugh received information stolen from Democratic members of Congress when he was working in the White House, Democratic staffer`s information stolen by a Republican staffer to try to help Republicans in their Senate confirmations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, VERMONT: In 2004 and 2006, you testified a number of Senators, both Republicans and Democrats asked you, and you said you never received any stolen materials. That doesn`t appear to be accurate. On June 5th, 2003, you received an e-mail from a Republican Senate staffer with subject line "Spying". That is not overly subtle. She says she has a mole for us and so forth. None of this raised a red flag with you?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It did not, Senator. Again, people have friends across the aisle who they talk to. At least this was my experience back then. Maybe it`s changed.
LEAHY: Judge, I was born at night but not last night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Brett Kavanaugh is accused of not testifying truthfully about at least four more issues. Judge Kavanaugh testified in 2006 that he did not know about a Bush-era wiretapping program. He said he was not involved in the Bush administration`s policy on the treatment of captured terrorists and he denied under oath that he was involved in the nominations of two controversial Bush judicial nominees. But e-mails published by "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" seem to refute those under oath statements. One Republican Senator said that if Judge Kavanaugh lied, it could be disqualified.
Susan Collins told "The Portland Press Herald" over the weekend that if, in fact, Kavanaugh was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me. Republican leader Mitch McConnell reportedly urged the president not to choose Brett Kavanaugh from the short list of finalists for this nomination because Mitch McConnell knew that Brett Kavanaugh was going to run into exactly these kind of problems in Senate confirmation.
Brett Kavanaugh was the only name on the short list that Mitch McConnell was not sure he could get through the United States Senate. And the longer this nomination lingers, the more trouble Brett Kavanaugh could get into and that`s why Republicans have been rushing it. In the last hour, Former Senate Judiciary Committee Staffer Lisa Graves appearing on Rachel`s show accused Brett Kavanaugh of lying. She is not the first to make that accusation. We will see that next. And John Heilemann and Michael Tomowski will join us next with more on the Kavanaugh nomination.
O`DONNELL: Lisa Graves was on the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Brett Kavanaugh was working in the Bush White House on Senate confirmations for federal judges. Lisa Graves believes not just that Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed for the Supreme Court but that he should be impeached from his current job as a federal judge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA GRAVES, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: I am convinced by that and some of the other documents that were provided that Brett Kavanaugh lied repeatedly under oath to the United States Senate about these matters. And it`s a very serious matter for the integrity of the courts and also for the integrity of the United States Senate itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann and Mike Tomasky are back with us and that was just in Rachel`s hour where she has elaborated on what she wrote in an article about this. We`ve never seen anything quite like this, John, to see a nominee challenged this way and so credibly on so these very specific points.
JOHN HEILEMANN: It`s true. There are many things about this confirmation process that are different from any that I`ve ever covered or seen. This is one example. Certainly, the questions around the lack of transparency on the documents to which this is connected or another, the extraordinary range of cases, even though he is citing Justice Kagan and others and Ginsberg, there are certainly a number of cases that he`s not willing to offer opinions on, even ones that are in the far distant past.
This is a problematic nomination on a lot of levels. The math still is very difficult for Democrats, but on Thursday I think they will get this delay of the committee vote and will buy them another week. And given the pace of news and the pace at which this is traveling, this is not just a Democrat stamping their feet. They`re buying this time because they think this time could actually change the outcome.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And Mike Tomasky, from the Democrats, I think strategically for them, they`re just thinking every day is another possibility for us, and this is what Mitch McConnell feared. This is what Mitch McConnell was telling the White House. Brett Kavanaugh already got into trouble up here in his first runs at confirmation hearings for the judgeship he has now, and Mitch McConnell saw this coming.
MIKE TOMASKY, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: And it makes me wonder why the White House went ahead with Kavanaugh in the first place. I touched on this in my "Daily Beast" column today. There are plenty of people out there who are just about every bit as conservative as Brett Kavanaugh who didn`t have this kind of paper trail, who didn`t spend all those years working in the Bush White House working on these things, who didn`t have these problematic confirmation hearings before in 2004 and 2006.
I`m a little mystified by why the White House chose him, but I think they probably -- I guess the only theory I have is that they did it because they could, just like the way the Republicans did what they did to Merrick Garland back in 2016 because they could.
And you know, it looks like they`re probably going to get away with this one, too. Although, we`ll see over these next few days how much pressure can be built in Maine and in Alaska on Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, because they are the key and they`re going to have to act together. One of them is not going to vote no if the other one doesn`t vote no because that does them no good. He still passes, he still gets confirmed and they have voted on the wrong side. So it`s going to have to be both of them, I think.
O`DONNELL: John, the big asset that Kavanaugh brought to this from the Trump perspective was Kavanaugh seemed to change his mind from when he was a prosecutor going after President Bill Clinton leading toward impeachment to develop a very protective view of presidents and presidents being beyond the reach of even possibly subpoenas.
JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: Yes. I mean I agree with almost everything Mike said with just one exception, which is it seems clear to me why they chose Brett Kavanaugh. There are a lot of conservative jurors who are as conservative as he is. There are not many who have more expansive view now of executive power.
And I think if you look at what the way Rudy Giuliani which is playing the game right now, daring Bob Mueller to subpoena Donald Trump. He`s daring him because he assumes Brett Kavanaugh will be on the court. He`s daring him because he thinks that if this gets to the court, that they can rely on Kavanaugh`s view about a variety of things, but particularly on this issue of subpoena power.
It seems the only answer to the question why you would put a risky nominee forward is that Donald Trump knows that there is a possibility he`s going to get subpoenaed and then he`s going to need that vote of the Supreme Court to probably protect him.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Let`s listen to Dick Durbin discussing enhanced interrogation with Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: Senator, I was not involved and I`m not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, ILLINOIS: You, under oath, told us you were not involved in any of the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants. You were involved in the discussions about access to counsels for detainees. You confirmed this through the meeting we had in my office and there are multiple media reports as well. You clearly were involved in discussions about rules governing detention of combatants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Mike Tomasky, it rarely gets more black and white than that but first part of what we saw was a video of Kavanaugh in his 2006 hearing saying he was not involved. He clearly was. That is absolutely untrue what he said in 2006.
TOMASKY: Yes. And the other instances that you cited at the top of the segment. You know, it`s kind of shocking we`re sitting here talking about Collins and Murkowski, long shots though they are. Kind of shocking to me that we`re just not even thinking about anybody else. There is not a single Republican, and they`re troubled by his position more on Roe v. Wade except Collins did say that one thing recently. But Republicans aren`t bothered at all by this. It doesn`t trouble them that he`s caught basically red-handed in four or five lies, and they`re all going to vote yes, of course.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I don`t think a nominee like this could have gotten through in the Bush administration, certainly not in the Clinton administration. I`m not sure when that corner was turned where the Republican can say anything and get through. John Heilemann, Mike Tomasky, thank you both for joining us tonight.
Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Look, what`s going on here and my old boss at "The Washington Post," Ben Bradley, the great editor used to say the truth emerges. Sometimes it takes time. These people -- these are political statements to protect their jobs, totally understandable. But this is as carefully done as you can do an excavation of the reality of what goes on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Bob Woodward gets tonight`s last word and we will hear more from Bob Woodward when he joins Rachel tomorrow night on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" 9 P.M. Eastern.
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