Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 3, 2018 Guest: Lisa Graves
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, nice to see you.
And you`ve just reported that the White House has the investigation will be submitting to the Senate tonight, and I think the response from anyone on the receiving end of that, including Mitch McConnell would be, great, we`ve got a report, let`s read it. And then we decide what we do next.
But he`s already announced that he plans to hold the first procedural vote Friday before which he says the Senate members will have plenty of time to review and be briefed on the supplemental investigation. Why can`t we read it first, why can`t they read it first?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Right, if there`s anything in the FBI background investigation that suggests there`s not going to be a vote, they`re not going to take that chance and go and schedule a vote before anybody`s looking at it.
VELSHI: In 50 years, they will watch these tapes and say, you just had to rush it, you just couldn`t take the adequate time to at least pretend that it`s worth studying and looking into. But alas, there will be some procedural vote, probably on Friday, and after 30 hours of debate, maybe a next vote.
All right. Rachel, thanks very much have a great evening.
MADDOW: We shall see. Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: Senator Jeff Merkley is going to join me to discuss the bombshell "New York Times" report on the president`s tax troubles and the problems it could cause for his federal judge sister.
But first, as you just heard, the FBI report that everyone is waiting to read, breaking just moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just said on the Senate floor that senators will receive the FBI report on Brett Kavanaugh tonight. McConnell also set up a procedural vote for as early as Frida on Kavanaugh`s nomination.
NBC News confirmed a short time ago, senators will start viewing the report on Brett Kavanaugh on a schedule starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. That`s according to sources briefed on that schedule. Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley will go first at 8:00 a.m. Ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein, 9:00 a.m. After that, Senate Judiciary Republicans at 10:00 a.m., followed by Democrats on that committee at 11:00 a.m.
Other senators will be able to view it after that. The report is expected to include summaries of interviews about Kavanaugh`s conduct in high school and college. But Bloomberg reports the FBI hasn`t interviewed Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford because it doesn`t have clear authority from the White House to do so, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
Instead, the White House has indicated to the FBI the testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is sufficient. In the newly released letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, lawyers for Dr. Ford are rejecting the request from the committee to provide certain materials like Dr. Ford`s therapist notes from 2012 when she reportedly first discussed her alleged sexual assault.
Dr. Ford`s lawyers say they will turn over those documents to the FBI if the FBI reaches out to her, which it apparently hasn`t. It`s not just Kavanaugh and Ford, by the way. NBC News is reporting tonight that more than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI. Sources close to the investigation as well as a number of people who know those involved say the FBI has not contacted dozens of potential corroborators or character witnesses.
The issue extends to the allegations of this woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her while the two attended Yale. According to the same NBC report, more than 20 individuals who know either Kavanaugh or Ramirez have not heard from the FBI despite attempts to contact investigators, including Kavanaugh`s roommate at the time and a former Ramirez friend. They`ve been trying to get to the FBI.
Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, says this raises serious concerns that this is not a credible investigation, and begs the question what other restrictions has the White House placed on the FBI? Regardless of those concerns, as we reported at the top of the show, senators will start reading the report tomorrow morning. It will not be made public.
As "Axios" notes, that could mean that we`re in for some selective leaks from senators. Expect Republicans to leak areas where the FBI didn`t find evidence of an assault and the Democrats to leak areas where investigators found new dirt or desired more time.
While all senators will eventually be able to read the report, Mitch McConnell has rejected a request from Chuck Schumer for the FBI to brief all the senators on the findings. McConnell has remained committed to holding a vote as soon as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Then pursuant to last week`s agreement of a delay no longer than one week, the Senate will vote on this nomination this week. The Senate will vote on this nomination this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: As the vote on Kavanaugh`s nomination draws near, all eyes are on three critical Republican senators, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, to see what will happen after they read the FBI report.
All three of them blasted President Trump today after he mocked Dr. Ford at his campaign rally last night in Mississippi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There`s no time and no place for remarks like that, to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just -- it`s just not right. It`s just not right. I wish he hadn`t have done it. Just say it`s kind of appalling.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president`s comments were just plain wrong.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don`t approve of the comments from last night. I thought that they were wrong, and extraordinarily unfortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, so big questions remain at this hour. Did the president make it more difficult for Senators Flake and Collins and Murkowski to get to yes? Did he make other Republicans think twice about their vote?
And the biggest unknown -- what is actually in that FBI report? Will it contain some truths about Brett Kavanaugh or will it be an unfinished document hampered by a constrained investigation leaving more questions than answers?
Joining me now, Lisa Graves, former chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was also deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department. Jennifer Rubin is a conservative opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. And Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC News.
Welcome to all three of you.
Julia, let`s start with you because you`ve been involved in our reporting that there were many people who the FBI could have interviewed, didn`t interview, some who approached the FBI. And all week we`ve been speaking to FBI experts, something Lisa can confirm to us, who said the FBI could have interviewed 10 times as many people. They can more agents on the case. They could have done it. Something has constrained them from doing so.
What do we know about this, Julia?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That`s right, Ali. It`s not a lack of will on the part of the FBI, but this works really differently than a criminal investigation where the FBI can lead wherever the bread crumbs take them. They were given at the beginning of the week a list of only four witnesses that they were allowed to interview. That later expanded but we believe by only a very small window, and they still had to go back to the White House when they wanted to go interview additional witnesses.
And as we learn today, more than 40 of those witnesses, potentially some who went to Yale with Ramirez and with Kavanaugh, others from high school who were able to be a character witness were not contacted. As we understand from the FBI perspective, that`s because they`ve been constrained by the White House. The White House wants this to wrap up quickly, and frankly, they aren`t looking for bombshells.
And so, purely based on the people we believe the FBI has been allowed to interview, there may be others we simply don`t know about that haven`t come public. But based on the ones we already know about, we don`t believe there will be any bombshells tomorrow. And I think it`s telling that Mitch McConnell is already scheduling his vote and getting that underway, who want to look at that report tonight. But I don`t think he`s expecting anything in that report to change his schedule to get Kavanaugh confirmed this week.
VELSHI: It does feel a little, Lisa, like we`re prejudging, because -- but I just don`t understand, if Mitch McConnell could schedule that vote as soon as he`s seen the report.
But, Lisa, last Friday,. there was this sort of collective sigh of relief against those institutionalists like Jeff Flake or those people thought, look, a potential cloud is being lifted over -- you know, lifted from the Senate judiciary committee and Supreme Court around this nomination by moving forward this investigation.
Could we be in a situation where it`s the worst of all worlds, where they had some sort of investigation and it wasn`t thorough?
LISA GRAVES, FORMER STAFFER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think we are in the worst of all worlds, because it certainly looks like a White House whitewash. You have a situation where they in essence have dictated, according to all reports, a few number of people who could be interviewed. The vast majority of people who have information pertinent have not been interviewed by leaps and bounds. And they`re turning in the report early.
They could take tomorrow even to interview more of those people who have come forward, including Brett Kavanaugh`s college roommate from his freshman year who said he was never interviewed by the FBI, not back in the initial FBI investigation or this one. And so, this looks like very much like the fix was in, which is exactly what the White House counsel`s office wanted to do in trying to constrain this.
The idea that the FBI would not go back and interview Brett Kavanaugh, he certainly wasn`t interviewed about these matters in any significant way during the hearing which was limited to five minute increment questions. The idea they would not go back to Dr. Ford also is appalling. I`m not going to blame the FBI itself. It`s clearly been operating on this leash, but it`s outrageous, outlandish. And so, I hope (ph) that it`s inaccessible (ph) to Senators Flake and the others who`ve been on the fence.
VELSHI: Jennifer, it`s a little ridiculous for Democrats to think that if Brett Kavanaugh were to withdraw or his name were to be withdrawn because of anything that`s found in this report, that suddenly Donald Trump is either not going to nominate somebody for two years or is going to nominate a liberal to the bench. Why then for conservatives for whom it is important to have another conservative on the Supreme Court, why does this become about it being Brett Kavanaugh?
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the president has just dug in as he usually is. He`s made this into another one of the divisive issues, a gender war that he`s using to rev up his base for the midterms. And I think at this point, they wasted so much time, had they pulled him weeks ago, they might have gotten someone through. There`s probably a genuine concern now that they won`t.
But I think we should keep in mind two things. One is, the White House is playing chicken with these three senators. They asked for a real investigation. They`re not getting it, and the White House is daring them to simply crumble.
That may be a very good bet. These people may find the pressure too much to bear and may give way. But none of this is going to stay confined to the FBI. When and if the Democrats win one or both houses, they`re going to call up Christopher Wray, they`re going to ask about constraints put on the investigation, they`re going to call up all of these witnesses who weren`t talked to by the FBI and ask them.
And after they`ve collected all of this information, don`t you think they`re going to pursue an impeachment proceeding against a sitting Supreme Court judge? That`s why this is so shortsighted, so really cavalier in its disregard for the institution of the Supreme Court.
This will not end. And instead, the FBI will be embarrassed, the court will be embarrassed, Judge Kavanaugh will be embarrassed. This will not end.
The only way it ends, frankly, is if those three senators get the nerve to vote no.
VELSHI: Or -- or, Julia, an investigation that passes the smell test of being thorough is conducted and everybody gets to be satisfied that the best investigation was done and comes to their own conclusion, because we`re still in this world where people are dug in on either side. And by not interviewing these 40 people or 400 people or six more people, I don`t know, I`m not an investigator.
But by not investigating them as Jennifer says, it leaves the whole process open to investigation. It leaves the Judiciary Committee open to question, and it leaves the Supreme Court open to question and challenge.
AINSLEY: Exactly. There will be a lot of people left out of in the open here without a lot of cover.
But I want to go over what these senators are going to look at tonight or potentially tomorrow. It`s probably past the bedtime of a lot of senators already. But when they see this tomorrow and on the schedule that we understand, they`re going to be looking at reports. These are summaries of interviews that they`ve done with these witnesses.
The FBI does not come up with its own conclusion. So nowhere in there will they say we did not find any evidence that supported Dr. Judge`s or Ms. Ramirez`s allegations or, you know, let Kavanaugh off the hook. In this case, they`re just going to be looking at summaries of the interviews that they did. They won`t be able to talk about the interviews that they could not do.
So, really, it`s up to these senators to be watching this conversation, to be reading the newspapers, to understand who was left out of this conversation, because what`s not in the report might not be in front of them tomorrow morning. And as far as the FBI being worried about this, I`ve spoken to a number of people who say that field offices across the country, the rank-and-file that make up the FBI are really worried that they are going to be put through another PR disaster.
VELSHI: Right, they`re getting thrown under the bus here, because your reporting speaks to people who went to the FBI, wrote a letter to them, who said I`d like to tell you -- I think for regular Americans, it`s kind of puzzling that you can`t get the FBI to listen to you when you have information.
I mean, if I`m the FBI agent and you give me a report and it`s no good, I throw it away. I say it was not of any use. But to actually not listen to some of these people, Lisa, maybe the problem is we`re all lying to ourselves about the robustness of this process, right? Maybe bringing in Rachel Mitchell in, the prosecutor from Arizona and making it feel like a court case was fooling everyone into thinking the Senate Judiciary Committee is in a position to actually get to it bottom of this.
GRAVES: Well, I think you point that out very well, because this is upside down. It`s backwards.
What happened in the Anita Hill circumstance was the FBI did its investigation and then there was a hearing that included 20 witnesses. Right now, what`s happened is there was a very truncated hearing that didn`t include many witnesses. Now, there`s no further opportunity to ask questions, no further hearing.
All these people are being excluded from the process and all their information bears on key facts about Brett Kavanaugh`s behavior, whether he was belligerent when drunk, whether he had the capacity to attack a woman when drunk. And he`s lied about that I think. He`s lied about that and many other things in his testimony.
And the question of why they would want to put someone on the Supreme Court who has such disrespect for the rule of law in terms of his own candidness in testifying before the Senate is beyond me. The court is supposed to be held in the highest esteem, the highest respect. It`s our most -- supposed to be our most neutral and trusted institution, and they`re about to trash it by trying to put this guy on the court as quickly as possible with this sham investigation.
VELSHI: Jennifer Rubin, the danger now we are seeing, by the way, that for a lot of Republicans this is, it`s working what the president`s doing, it`s becoming a cultural rallying cry. We`ll talk about it a little later, but it`s becoming a cultural rallying cry on some levels, with Donald Trump saying that he`s scared for young men.
It`s -- you know, what -- who you believe should be on the court and what politics you believe they should have or what ideology you believe they should have is a conversation we`ve been having for more than 250 years in this country, and it`s a relevant and valid conversation. But it`s becoming something else. This has become a strange wedge issue.
You believe Kavanaugh if you want a conservative on the court, and you believe Christine Blasey Ford if you don`t.
RUBIN: This is the tribalization of all of our politics as we`ve seen. That the goal determines your thinking process all the way through, and it corrupts our thinking, it corrupts our debate so that everyone is simply trying to get to the place they wanted all along. And I think you have to go back to some basics, you have to go back to Kavanaugh`s own words about the judge`s responsibility to be a neutral arbiter.
VELSHI: Called it an umpire.
RUBIN: You have to go back to the canons that the lower court judges all abide by, which is to eschew politics, to not be a partisan, to not have any hint of bias. And, you know, it`s interesting. I was speaking to Senator Blumenthal who was on the committee earlier tonight, and he said two things of great interest. One is that he really has trouble understanding how his colleague, his good friend Jeff Flake, could accept this as anything approaching a reasonable investigation.
The other thing he said which I think is so important, he along with Jerry Nadler as you know are both leading the investigation and the lawsuit, one of the three lawsuits concerning the president`s emoluments. Senator Blumenthal told me if that ever reaches the Supreme Court, he would demand the recusal of Justice -- then would be Justice Kavanaugh. He`s already declared his allegiance to one party.
RUBIN: And what about all those lawsuits that are brought by Democratic attorneys general from the state? How could they appreciate, how could they plan on getting a fair shake? What about the ACLU? What about all the liberal interest groups that come before the court? They have already heard this judge pronounce himself as someone who feels really victimized by grand leftwing conspiracy.
So I think he does himself and the court huge damage, and right now there are about three people who can stop this.
VELSHI: Well, one week ago tonight, our eyes were on those three people, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins. And one week later, our eyes are on the same three people.
Thank you to all three of you, Lisa Graves, Julia Ainsley, and Jennifer Rubin.
Coming up, the fallout of "The New York Times" expose on the Trump family tax schemes. New York state is already investigating and tax experts have weighed in with just how much the Trump family could owe in penalties.
And how all this is playing out with Americans who will vote in just 34 days. We have the latest polls which might trigger alarm bells for Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So a totally false attack based on an old recycled news story. I`m not going to sit and go through every single line of a very boring 14,000-word story. The only thing -- I will say one thing the article did get right, was that it showed the president`s father actually had a great deal of confidence in him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s the strength of the argument, it`s boring and old. I`m boring and old but I`m still real.
Today, the White House is fighting back against an expose by "The New York Times" that debunks the myth of Donald Trump as a self-made billionaire, detailing how Donald Trump was given hundreds of millions of dollars by his father. Not a million dollars as he often says, hundreds of millions of dollars who repeatedly bailed him out when he was at risk of defaulting on his debts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I borrowed very little money from my father.
My father gave me a small loan of $1 million.
My father gave me a very small loan in 1975.
I built a company that`s worth more than $10 billion, OK? With a million dollar loan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: OK, according to "The Times," as for that $1 million loan, Fred Trump actually lent him at least $60.7 million or $140 million in today`s dollars. The president attacked "The Times" this morning, tweeting they used the concept of time value of money in doing a very old, boring and often told hit piece on me.
All right. Based on more than 100,000 financial documents, "The Times" also reveals how Donald Trump and his siblings engaged in potentially illegal tax schemes, including filing improper tax deductions, undervaluing real estate properties and setting up a sham corporation to help their parents dodge taxes. The president`s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 65 percent tax rate that was then imposed on gifts and inheritances.
The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million or about 5 percent as tax records show.
Now, based on those numbers, Crain`s reports that President Trump and his siblings could owe New York state more than $400 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. New York state tax officials are already investigating these allegations of tax fraud and Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to recoup any money that Donald Trump owes the people of New York City, period.
House Democrats are renewing calls for Donald Trump to release his tax returns. And today, Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch, told reporters the president might have to do just that.
All right. Joining us now is Tim O`Brien. I thought we were going to listen to Orrin Hatch, but we`re going to listen to you guys.
Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion and author of Trump biography, "Trump Nation". His investigations into Donald Trump`s financials were cited in "The New York Times" report. And Josh Barro, business columnist for "New York Magazine". Both are MSNBC contributors.
This is a big story that digs into a couple -- a few interesting issues, one of which, Tim, is that there are all sorts of different things floating around about how rich Donald Trump is or how successful he is. Given what the truth is if he inherited anywhere close to this kind of money or took transfers from his parents to this sort of money, he should be a lot wealthier than he actually is right now, but the whole narrative of I got a million dollar loan and I turned into this $10 billion business starts to fall apart.
TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Garbage. It`s total garbage. He relied on his father to get started in the business, he routinely relied on his father essentially to piggy bank, to paper over problems he encountered when he wasn`t running his business as well.
At one point, when I was reporting my book, I reported that he borrowed $30 million from the estate because -- to stave off personal bankruptcy, which was accurate, he told me I gave you my word, I never borrowed money for estate. I printed that in my book, we went to court, he sued me for libel.
We had him under oath in a deposition. We showed him the bank records. He had to acknowledge that. In fact, he had borrowed $30 million from his father.
"The Times" has made that exponentially larger. They say it`s $60 million.
The notion Donald Trump has been borrowing money from his father during the period his father was alive is not new. The extent to which he relied on his father`s finances is new. Then the extent to which Trump, his siblings and his parents orchestrated a bunch of tax maneuvers to lower both inheritance and gift taxes so they could keep more in the family is also new.
VELSHI: So, Josh, let`s talk about this, because something I saw from you earlier today mentioned something we all know. That lots of rich people do this. Lots of people who hand property over in their family or in a family business do this sort of thing.
So what we have to try to determine is what`s bad practice that tax authorities just don`t follow up on, what`s fuzzy in this and what might be absolutely illegal?
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, I saw -- so, first of all, some of the things that are illegal are some of the things commonly done by other wealthy people. And just because they`re almost never enforced doesn`t mean that they`re legal. So, I sort of do the tax avoidance and evasion schemes that are described in "The Times" stories falling into two buckets.
There`s some of the stuff that has been very common among wealthy people who owned illiquid assets like real estate. They`re difficult to value. You do these things where you get appraisals that say they`re worth less than they`re really worth, and you put those through, and because the value is a matter of opinion, because it`s difficult to demonstrate an appraisal is wrong --
VELSHI: And because the tax departments are under-resourced.
BARRO: Right. So, it`s not enforced enough and people get away with that. And the Trump family are certainly not the only family who have done this.
There are some other things described in here though that really do sound quite unusual and brazen, particularly this borrowing thing to basically process invoices for the buildings that they own to inflate --
O`BRIEN: All County.
BARRO: Excuse me, All County. To inflate expenses of businesses they own and then pass that money through to the Trump children as though it were just reimbursements for expenses when really that is effectively a transfer from parents --
VELSHI: Transfer of wealth.
BARRO: -- to the children.
VELSHI: Which would have been taxed at a rate of 55 percent at the time.
BARRO: Right. And so, that strikes me as quite unusual and quite a bit more brazen than just getting an aggressive and favorable appraisal. So, I think you can say lots of rich people do stuff like this, and yet the Trumps did more of it in a more aggressive and brazen way.
O`BRIEN: And there was a history of doing this. This wasn`t in the Trump article, but -- or in "The Times" article, but Fred Trump built his empire on government subsidized housing.
O`BRIEN: He got called in front of a federal committee in the 1950s and a state committee in the 1960s because he had setup little shell companies that were overcharging the government for supplies and for mortgages, and he was pocketing the differences. This is exactly what they did with All County. He got pushed out of his programs and essentially ended his life as a public builder by the late 1960s.
So the family had this long history of actually scamming payments, taxes, et cetera, et cetera in their own interests by setting up little shell companies that they proved things through in an overvalued way.
VELSHI: Let me ask you this, Josh, you were describing how families with properties sometimes do this because evaluating the value of this property is difficult. If your property is worth $500 million and your evaluation comes in between 450 and 550, that`s the kind of thing you`re talking about, it`s hard to know whether it`s 450 or 550, so maybe the government let`s you go at 450.
We`re talking about shaving off 80, 85, 90 percent value of these properties. No reasonable person would have valued these properties the way the Trump family have been managed.
BARRO: Right. That was one of the remarkable things in "The New York Times" story, and this is something that even non-rich people can relate. This comes up when people are trying to get mortgages, and get appraisal to --
VELSHI: Yes, you think your house is worth this, and you get frustrated when the bank`s appraiser doesn`t say the same thing.
BARRO: Right, exactly. But, yes, the scale of the differences and even some that were appraised -- there was one example in "The Times" story, one that was contested by a tax authority and they got a tiny adjustment to it that was still drastically below fair market value was, I believe it`s demonstrated by the fact that the building sold not that long ago --
VELSHI: Which is the best proof how everything else in the neighborhood sold.
BARRO: Yes, so to your point it`s remarkably aggressive. It`s not necessarily within the window with -- you know, whose to say it worth $2.5 million or $3 million. It`s really sort of absurdly 80 percent lower numbers than anyone taking an honest look at it.
VELSHI: Tim, real quick. Anybody get in trouble for this, do you think?
O`BRIEN: I think they`re going to face severe civil penalties. They`re not going to face criminal penalties. I think the damage for this will be Trump`s -- the popping of this balloon that he`s a self-made person. You know, Donald Trump is a man who was born on third base and said he had a triple.
BARRO: There`s one other thing, I wouldn`t assume these practices are over. An element of the Michael Cohen case, something state authorities have looked at is falsification of business records, and whether sort of, again, with the moving around of expenses, whether they were improperly paying some of these things out of the Trump Organization. So even if this stuff is too old to prosecute, who knows what they might find similar.
VELSHI: You know that New York City and New York State Tax and Finance people are on the case tonight trying to get to the bottom of this. If there`s money to behead, they`ll try and squeeze it out of them.
Thanks to both of you, Tim O`Brien and Josh Barro.
Coming up, "The New York Times" expose on the Trump family taxes is not just a problem for the president. Another Trump on the federal payroll was mentioned several times in the article by name. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Let`s keep in mind, Donald`s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry is a sitting judge on the third circuit court of appeals. She`s a senior judge. I tweeted today that I think she should immediately remove herself from the bench. We should not have a tax cheat in the White House are on the federal bench.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: "The New York Times" detailed report on possible tax fraud by the Trump family is raising questions about the role of Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump`s sister, in the scheme. MSNBC legal expert Danny Cevallos reported today, "If Barry was knowingly participating, she could be impeached."
"The Times" report mentions Maryanne Trump Barry by name. It says she often consulted with Fred Trump on legal matters and says she was present at a 2003 meeting at Trump Tower for one of their periodic updates on their inherited empire. It attributes potentially fraudulent behavior to the Trump siblings saying that Donald Trump and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents.
Maryanne Trump Barry is an inactive senior federal judge, so she no longer hears cases, but she could return to being an active judge. And if "The New York Times" story is accurate, she might have violated tax law while on the federal bench.
Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, good to see you.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Good to see you.
VELSHI: It`s not a major surprise to a lot of people that Donald Trump, not only exaggerates his wealth but also his money-making prowess. Most Americans don`t get a million-dollar loan from their parents, let alone illegal transfers of what amount to millions of dollars` worth of assets. But the president still hasn`t released his tax returns because they are apparently under audit and his sister is a federal judge. Is this the kind of behavior that Democrats might want to investigate if you get control of Congress?
MERKLEY: Well, I can tell you that this type of criminal activity, certainly tax fraud, should be investigated, whenever significant evidence comes forward for anyone. I think there`s a lot of issues that a democratic house would be holding hearings on for sure.
VELSHI: Senator, you and I have been talking about this for more than a week, about your particular concerns about Brett Kavanaugh. You filed a motion in federal court today in D.C. asking for an order requiring the disclosure of details around the 100,000 withheld records of Brett Kavanaugh`s time in the White House. This is separate in part.
You started this before these allegations about Christine Blasey Ford came out there. Your concern as a Senator is that you still don`t have enough information about Brett Kavanaugh. How do you -- where do you stand on this now?
MERKLEY: Where we stand right now is that the judge in the case has ordered the White House to respond to the demand for the records. Our request was for the courts to compel the White House to deliver a hundred thousand pages that have been marked presidential privilege with no justification, no explanation, no index of what standards have been met that would provide a constitutional screen for this or test for this.
This is a case of the president intervening in the ability of the Senate to review the record of his nominee. We have never seen this type of action before. It`s a gross violation of separation of powers, and none of us in the Senate can do our job if we haven`t seen those records.
VELSHI: Let me put aside the allegations of sexual assault. If you were concerned that you wanted to see these 100,000 documents, some of which pertain to Brett Kavanaugh`s time in the White House, to understand his ideology or anything he was involved in of a partisan nature, does Brett Kavanaugh`s testimony -- again, putting aside the sexual assault allegations, his discussion and his temperament around partisan issues give you pause?
MERKLEY: Well, it does if it`s a pattern. He was brought in to be kind of an attack dog against President Clinton. That shows a very partisan presidential role that`s unsuitable for a judge. Plus, when he was confirmed in 2006 for his current position, there are a number of things that he said that have turned out not to be accurate.
He had claimed that he wasn`t involved in certain discussions over certain nominees, and yet he was. He claimed he didn`t know about the stolen Democratic records from the Senate and it turned out he received them. And so when you see that kind of misrepresentation then, and then you combine it with all of the whoppers he told in his testimony last week, you have a real picture of someone who basically is not honest and is extremely partisan. And used the words what goes around, comes around. So he is promising retaliation. Every bit of this makes him unsuited to serve in that beautiful Supreme Court building.
VELSHI: You -- and I`m trying to do the math on when someone like you who`s not on the judiciary committee is going to see the report that starts with Chuck Grassley at 8:00, Diane Feinstein at 9:00, then Republicans on the Judiciary Committee at 10:00, Democrats at 11:00 and then I guess after that, Senators like you get to see it. What are you looking for in the FBI report?
MERKLEY: Here`s what`s absurd. We`ve been told there`s only going to be one copy. And so essentially, a hundred Senators would have to line up sequentially. This is yet another gross violation of any of sense of fairness and access.
VELSHI: Why does that even make sense?
MERKLEY: It makes no sense at all. And I certainly hope they`ll reconsider because you have 100 Senators who should go and read this material. And quite frankly, none of us really expect to see much of value. The president said that he wanted a very thorough, very comprehensive review. That`s what he said to the public.
But behind the scenes, he apparently put huge limitations on it that many, many dozens of individuals who had information they wanted to share with the FBI have not been contacted to share that information, even though they had contacted the FBI. So we`re looking at what looks like a significant cover-up in lieu of having an actual thorough, comprehensive FBI investigation.
VELSHI: Senator Merkley, perhaps we will talk tomorrow. Thank you for joining us.
MERKLEY: OK. Thank you.
VELSHI: Thank you for joining us.
All right. Coming up, we`re just 34 days away from midterm election day. What effect is the Kavanaugh confirmation day having on voters, especially women voters? That`s next.
VELSHI: We are 34 days away from the midterm elections. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will have an impact on voters casting ballots on election day. Despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump thinks the confirmation battle is helping Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Everywhere I go, I`m going to Pennsylvania, it`s the same thing. They are so in favor of Judge Kavanaugh. You`ve never seen anything like it. I actually think it`s like a rallying cry for the Republicans. They are so in favor of Judge Kavanaugh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. We`ve got new polling that shows the impact that Kavanaugh`s confirmation battle may have on the midterm elections. According to a Marist Poll, support for Kavanaugh`s confirmation is underwater among registered voters, 31 percent supporting Kavanaugh, 40 percent opposing. But the wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has defined the 2000 campaign up to this point is narrowing.
Marist Polling shows a two-point gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans saying the midterms are very important. That`s down from 10 points in July. And Democrats advantage on the generic congressional ballot has been cut in half since last month. Democrats have a six-point advantage over Republicans down from 12 percent in September. According to a new "Fox News" poll, Republicans are now just as likely as Democrats to say they`re extremely interested in the midterms in five key battleground states.
When we come back, we`ll take a look at how women, especially the 52 percent of white women who voted for Trump are saying they`ll vote this time. We`ll discuss that next.
VELSHI: All right. Here`s Donald Trump`s take on how Brett Kavanaugh is playing in the midterm elections. He just tweeted this. "Wow, such enthusiasm and energy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Look at the energy. Look at the polls. Something very big is happening. He`s a fine man and a great intellect. The country is with him all the way." That`s President Trump just tweeting that a few moments ago.
Joining us now, Karine Jean-Pierre, senior advisor and national spokesperson for moveon.org. Jennifer Rubin is back with us.
Karine, the president must have seen your tweet that we were about to talk about this and decided to jump the gun on it. But has he got a point when he says that something, something has set a fire under Republicans who until now were not as enthusiastic about the midterms as Democrats were?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR & NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: I think Republicans have to be awake right now because it`s not winter is coming. It really is November is coming for them. And I think what they have done is they have underestimated women. They do not realize what they have unleashed, especially with Brett Kavanaugh and how they behaved around him the last 10 days or two weeks or so, which is standing up for the men - - the man and attacking the woman.
And everything that I have seen just looking at what`s going on across the country, you have Democrats who have posted record numbers of fundraising. You have Democrats who are on the offense while Republicans are on the defense. And it is -- time after time, you`re seeing situations that we shouldn`t be in. Like for example, the Senate, just a few months ago early this year, we were saying "Oh, yes, you know what? The Senate, the Democrats are not going to be able, the political climate is too toxic, there`s no way that we`re going to have a chance in the terrain of the Senate."
And here we`re talking about Texas, Tennessee, Arizona. So there is something happening that Republicans started and I don`t think they`re aware of what`s about to happen in November.
VELSHI: Jennifer, let`s just talk About how this has all gone down in terms of this cultural divide, right. We`ve got an issue in this country in which women, whatever you want to divide it, however you want to sub tabulate it, whether it`s Republican women or all women. Women tend to believe Christine Blasey Ford more than they believe Brett Kavanaugh. Men are believing, generally speaking, Brett Kavanaugh more than they`re believing Christine Blasey Ford. And then you`ve got the situation of Republican women who broke for Donald Trump last time around. How does this play out for Republicans in the long term?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think this is really a short-sighted strategy. Donald Trump has just about the full amount of white non-college educated men he`s going to get. He got them last -- in the 2016 election. They`ve been with him ever since.
The problem he is now facing, you alluded to it, is that he is losing women. He`s losing white women, who he won by, as he keeps improperly quoting, 52 percent, not all women but white women. He is losing college- educated whites. These are the groups that are fleeing the Republican Party. We saw it in 2017 in some special elections and in the state elections in my home state and that`s continuing on.
So by doing this, I think he is doubling down on his very narrow base. He can only get so many votes out of those people. And what he`s doing is breaking loose a whole chunk of other voters who are much more likely to leave the Republican Party. There`s also the intensity problem.
You look in the latest Quinnipiac poll 55 percent of women strongly disapprove of him. That`s compared to 36 percent of men who strongly approve. That`s an intensity gap that I don`t think the Republicans are going to be able to make up. Now, will it make a difference in some races? Perhaps.
On the other hand, you look at the House races, political report just moved another seven seats in the direction of Democrats. So the House is practically gone at this point. We`ve just had Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, drop $20 million in the Senate Republican races. There`s a reason for that. He doesn`t throw away his money. And that is that those races are all nip and tuck and could win -- you know, they could go either way frankly about six or seven of them.
VELSHI: And Karine, you and I have talked about this on this show before, the record number of women who are running for Congressional seats this time around. This has got to be a sort of -- so many of those women are running for some of these very particular reasons, because of the Me Too movement, because of some of the realizations that this country has come to face in the last few years. This has got to be wind in their sails.
JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. It`s because of this president. It will be a rebuke on this president when we see the results of November. I mean, you have the Rob Porter. You have Roy Moore. I mean, it goes on and on and on with this president and women are finally stepping up and saying, "We`re not playing by these rules anymore. We`re not standing for this."
Like Jennifer said, he`s losing women by double digits. He`s losing independents by double digits. I do believe that women and young people are going to be the defining factor of this race in November. And also, just to add, NRCC, who is kind of the Republican House side of the committee, have pulled out in key districts. They`re pulling money out. I mean, they don`t do that unless they know that this is not looking good for them in November.
VELSHI: All right. And, of course, the new rallying cry from the president, from Donald Trump Jr., is that it is a very scary time for young men in America. We`re going to have to see how well that ends up working out. But you know what? I think, Jennifer, there are young men in America who are thinking that, who are thinking that this is a zero-sum game. If they win, we lose.
We`re out of time to discuss it but we will continue this discussion again. Thank you to both of you, Karine Jean-Pierre and Jennifer Rubin.
JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: Tonight`s last word is next.
VELSHI: Time for tonight`s last word. With 34 days to go until the midterms, America remains deeply divided over President Donald Trump and now whether Brett Kavanaugh should be the next Supreme Court Justice. But it turns out there is one issue virtually every politician in Washington agrees on, and that`s opioids.
Today, the Senate passed a sweeping opioid bill, 98 to 1, with only Senator Mike Lee of Utah voting no. That`s after the House passed it 393 to 8 last week. Seventy-two thousand people in the United States died of drug overdoses last year.
That`s tonight`s last word. I`m Ali Velshi. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.