LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And one of the things that`s left as a mystery tonight is why, the motivation from Mike Flynn to have lied to the FBI. The lying is described and the sequence of the lying, and the range of the lying is described. But at no point does the special prosecutor say this is why he lied.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": He lied, and we know that there were other senior members of the transition. Tom Bossert, K.T. McFarland, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, a lot of other people who were fully read in on the fact that Mike Flynn was talking to the Russians about sanctions. They were CC`ed on e-mails in which they discussed the fact he was doing it.
Why did they all lie about those conversations as well? I mean, Flynn was lying about it publicly, lying to other members of the Trump administration apparently about it, lying to the FBI about it. But there were other people who knew about it, too, and they lied about it, too. And why were they all lying?
O`DONNELL: Well, I am still recommending to people that they rewind the beginning of your show on Friday night for the best possible analysis of the why did Mike Flynn lie and why did they all lie, about anything involving Russia. It`s the best explanation we have so far, that it is all one project, this Russian interference in our election, the Trump attempt to do business in Russia by building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and the reveal that we got on that last week through Michael Cohen, that that, as you described Friday night, is the big project in which everyone had to lie.
MADDOW: It`s the thing that makes lying about sanctions make sense. And given that`s what a lot of people are in big trouble for, it gives you some sense of the gravity of why they might have felt they need to. I mean, we`ll learn more as they unredact more.
O`DONNELL: So, in those redactions, might there be something in there that reveals that Mike Flynn knew as national security advisor, he was working for a president who was trying during the campaign to do business in Moscow, and possibly was hoping that his children in the company would be able to do business in Moscow during the Trump presidency.
MADDOW: The other thing that -- I mean, the other thing with Mike Flynn specifically is that there has been reporting subsequent to when he pled guilty that indicates that Mike Flynn himself might have had a little business deal going secretly --
MADDOW: -- that he was lying about. That would have also only gone forward had Russian sanctions been dropped.
And so -- I mean, that`s how foreign governments compromise people, right, is that they give everybody a little taste of something that people think they`re acting in their own interests. But they have to lie about it. Russia knows what the truth is. They know that you`re lying.
You`re incentivized to act on Russia`s behalf, both because it would help you get this business deal, but also because you want to keep Russia happy because if Russia ever turns on you, they could expose you for what they know that you`ve been trying to -- that you`ve been trying to cover up. I mean, you only have to read like third grade level spy novels in order to know that this is how compromise works. But it seems like that may have been the operative tendency of Russia toward the president and toward multiple other members of the administration.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, when these documents hit here at 8:30, 30 minutes before you had to begin your show, I thought, OK, here we are. Here`s the big test of Rachel`s super powers, and you rose to that test beautifully. It`s amazing how you managed to deliver everything that`s in these documents in this last hour.
MADDOW: You are very kind, my friend. Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, as I say, just 90 minutes ago, 90 minutes ago, about 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the federal district court in Washington, D.C. finally released the documents that Washington and all of the American news media have been waiting for all day. These are filings by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
With the special prosecutor`s recommended sentence for Donald Trump`s first national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, the special prosecutor is recommending, quote, a sentence that does not impose a term of incarceration. After weeks of President Trump signaling to witnesses and defendants like Paul Manafort that he is considering pardons, particular pardon for Paul Manafort, tonight, Robert Mueller showed that one way to get no jail time, no prison time at all, is to cooperate with Robert Mueller.
Now that we have the documents, we can see why it took so long for the court to release them today. There are substantial redactions in the second documentary release tonight, which specifies exactly what kind of information Michael Flynn has provided and is continuing to provide to the special prosecutor.
On page 2 of that document, section A begins with the words, the defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation. And then, the rest of that sentence is redacted along with the next 22 lines in the document.
There are smaller redactions throughout the document, and then on page 4, there is the line, quote, the defendant also provided useful information concerning -- and quote, and the rest of that sentence is redacted. And then the next 25 lines are redacted.
Robert Mueller describes the reason for the redactions this way. Quote, because the addendum includes sensitive information about ongoing investigations, the government is seeking to partially seal the addendum and has filed publicly a redacted version of the document that excludes the sensitive information.
Leading off our discussion now, Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News, and Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal contributor. John Heilemann is also with us, he`s a national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus".
And, Ken, this is what we`re waiting for all day. What have you learned with what is not redacted?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: It`s a bit disappointing, Lawrence, because we didn`t answer the crucial question you and Rachel were talking about which is why did he lie, and did the president tell him to lie and did the president know he was talking to a Russian ambassador?
But we learned -- we did learn that he was an all-star cooperator. He`s been working with Robert Mueller for a year. Nothing has leaked about that cooperation. I don`t believe that the Trump team, Trump`s lawyers know what he has provided.
And let me just read one excerpt that I thought was particularly telling. His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and first-hand insights regarding events and issues under investigation by Mueller`s office.
So, you know, he`s so great that they`re recommending no jail time. Now, what can we read from that? We can read from that that he`s probably not implicated in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States by cooperating with Russia. But did he know about a conspiracy? Did he talk about such a conspiracy? That we don`t know.
We can read from that that he probably isn`t implicated in a scheme to kidnap the cleric Gulen and spear him back to Turkey in exchange for $15 million, because there`s no way he`s getting jail time if he was implicated in that scheme. But were there early conversation about that scheme? Perhaps.
And then, as you said, this whole other criminal investigation that appears to be not related to the special counsel, that`s my next reporting target is, what is that investigation about?
O`DONNELL: Yes, the big redactions right in the middle.
Mimi Rocah, your reaction to what you`ve been able to read tonight in these filings?
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, like everybody else, I was frustrated and sort of said, really, when I first looked a at it because it`s so redacted. But I do think there is -- first of all, I think we can be sure that it`s redacted for good reason. One thing people might not understand is that the government doesn`t get -- just get to decide by themselves whether or not to redact something. They generally have to ask the judge for permission and sort of explain why.
I think on its face here, it probably was obvious to the judge because it`s dealing with ongoing investigations. But I think that`s important to note that this isn`t just, you know, a plot to drive us crazy. It`s redacted for good reason.
Second, you know, I think the fact that we now know that Flynn met with not just the special counsel office, but other attorneys from the Department of Justice I believe is the language, and that could pertain to this other mysterious criminal investigation. It could pertain to the even more mysterious third category we`re not sure what it is.
But still, 19 meetings with prosecutors of some sort is very substantial. And, again, that word substantial, he`s providing substantial assistance, so it may sound like an obvious point, but it means contrary to what Trump and Giuliani is already tweeting about, it means that Flynn doesn`t -- you know, he isn`t just sitting there with prosecutors and saying, I don`t have anything for you. He does have relevant information, as Ken said. It sounds like it`s first-hand information about things he heard and witnessed.
And that`s very important because that`s the most valuable kind of information that a witness can provide, not the only kind, but it`s not just, I heard from so and so, but it`s I saw and heard something myself.
And then the other thing is it does mention that he provided documents and other evidence. And I think that`s very important, too, because, again, we now know that Mueller thinks that Flynn is telling him the truth, right, in contrast to Manafort and even Papadopoulos. Mueller does not hesitate to say when he thinks a cooperator is lying.
Flynn apparently has been truthful and he`s not just taking his word for it. He`s testing it against other evidence, some of which may have been provided by Flynn himself it sounds like. So I think there are some important takeaways, notwithstanding the redactions.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, president of the United States, very famously asked the FBI director to go easy on Michael Flynn, knowing that Michael Flynn was under investigation. That has become a central element in the investigation of the president.
But we learned from the special prosecutor tonight that Michael Flynn was a quick cooperator. Once there was a special prosecutor, the filing says shortly after the special counsel`s office reached out to the defendant to seek his cooperation, the defendant accepted responsibility for his unlawful conduct and began cooperating with the government.
So, John, that was a fairly quick decision by Michael Flynn after an attempt by the president to try to get the FBI to back off.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He began cooperating and kept cooperating. I mean, to me, reading this very heavily redacted document, there are two words and one number that are really the only things that -- a lot of questions, but the things that -- big things I focused on.
One is the number, 19 -- 19 times he sat with the special prosecutor and gave testimony. Nineteen sessions with Robert Mueller`s investigators, he has potentially many, many hours of testimony, which means he was not only quick, but he`s singing. I mean, everything Mike Flynn knows, he has told.
And the second thing is the still ongoing element, right? We had the conversation after the last week or so as we saw the Flynn thing coming, the Cohen sentencing coming, the Manafort discussion coming. The various documents that are tumbling out in the month of December, there has been reporting from very well sourced reporters who said maybe we`re reaching the end game here.
I think what this document says we`re not even near the end game. We are still in the ongoing phase and Michael Flynn`s role is now over. But I think Robert Mueller is laying down -- is signaling very strongly there that this is not an investigation that`s coming to an end anytime soon.
O`DONNELL: In reaction to this breaking news, we are joined now by phone by NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson.
Hallie, what do we know about President Trump`s reaction to this tonight?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, so far, Lawrence, I can tell you, I just got off the phone with the president`s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The White House is referring questions about this to the president`s outside legal counsel. And Giuliani is, frankly, down playing the headlines that are coming out tonight, telling us he is not concerned that Flynn shared anything with the special counsel that could point the finger at president Trump. In fact, Giuliani brought up a Yiddish word, bupkis, he said. They don`t have bupkis.
He says that if Flynn had information to share with Robert Mueller to hurt the president, he would know it by now because Giuliani argues that what he called publicity hungry angry Democrats, that`s how he`s characterizing the special counsel, would have revealed it, not redacted it essentially. Asked Giuliani, when was the last time President Trump spoke with his former national security advisor, and Giuliani responded, I don`t know, I don`t care.
Here are a couple of pieces of context here. Number one, the president repeatedly, even after Flynn was out of the administration after that brief three-week extent, his national security advisor, he repeatedly praised Michael Flynn over the course of the last couple of years, and it is worth reminding folks, Flynn was a part of not just the administration, but a critical part of the transition and the campaign as well. This is somebody that was in the inner circle as much as the White House and the president may want to downplay it now.
Now, we`ve gone back to the White House on this or they may want to refer to outside legal counsel, he was a part of government. He was in the West Wing. He was in confidential meetings talking about sensitive information, so we`re working on more reporting throughout the night here, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Hallie, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Back to our guests here, I want to read from the addendum that Robert Mueller filed tonight. Says the defendant has assisted with several ongoing investigations, a criminal investigation, there is a redaction. The special counsel`s office investigation concerning any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump. There is a redaction after that.
Says, as part of his assistance with these investigations, the defendant participated in 19 interviews with the special counsel`s office or attorneys from other Department of Justice offices, provided documents and communications. Then there is a redaction there. While this addendum seeks to provide a description of the benefit the government has thus far obtained from the defendant`s substantial assistance, some of that benefit may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing.
Mimi Rocah, what does that tell us about where we are? I mean, that`s a sentence that could have appeared at the beginning of the Mueller investigation or in the middle of the Mueller investigation. I`m not sure we know where we are in terms of the progress of the Mueller investigation tonight.
ROCAH: Well, that`s right. And it`s hard to guess on the timing. But I think it does tell us that what was just reported by Hallie about what Rudy Giuliani said is absolutely wrong. He cannot say at this moment, given what you just read, that Flynn has not or will not or is not providing information that is damaging to the president.
I`m not saying he has. We don`t know. But it is way too early, as usual, for Giuliani to be making that -- drawing that conclusion. That`s his spin and that`s what he`s going to do. But I think the lines you just read really are the answer to what Giuliani is saying and what I`m sure Trump will soon tweet.
You know, I think that we`re really -- I know it`s frustrating because we keep thinking we`re coming to a point, but we have reached several turning points. I mean, we can`t look at what`s happened here with Flynn in isolation. It goes together with the Cohen plea on Friday, you know, which really did give us a lot of new information about the investigation, and we`re not getting as much about what Flynn provided.
We did about Cohen because it`s a different type of agreement that he has and maybe different type of information that he`s providing. It almost tells me because they`re keeping Flynn`s information so much more under wraps than Cohen`s, that Flynn`s information is of a more, you know, unique and damaging, frankly, nature to maybe the president and maybe people around him in the campaign and in the transition.
O`DONNELL: Well, yes, Ken Dilanian, when they say the reason -- they don`t say the reason we want to keep this redacted is national security.
O`DONNELL: They do not say this is about national security. They say it`s about an ongoing investigation, and the reason you want that redacted is that you don`t want the subjects of the ongoing investigation to know that information.
DILANIAN: That`s absolutely right. That`s why I agree with John 100 percent this shows there`s a lot more investigating to do.
And I agree with Mimi that Giuliani`s comments are absurd because this has been one of the most disciplined and relentless federal criminal investigations I`ve ever seen. These people do not leak and Mike Flynn`s lawyers were not leaking. So there is no way that Giuliani or anybody in the Trump team knows what Mike Flynn has given them. It could be substantial.
Let`s not forget, Mike Flynn was on board with the idea of a rapprochement with Russia. He was obsessed with radical Islam. He believed that you could team up with Russia to fight that threat. He had many conversations with Donald Trump about this subject and he was aware of meetings that were taking place between the Trump team and Russians.
And here`s what else he knows. He knows why he decided to lie about his own interactions with the Russian ambassador, even though it wasn`t -- it might have been okay had he admitted them. It wasn`t necessarily criminal or even improper for him to have met with the Russian ambassador. Yet he lied just as Michael Cohen lied about the Trump Tower meeting.
O`DONNELL: And, John, there is a reference to the Logan Act in what the special prosecutor filed tonight. That law that has never actually been brought to a trial and tested, but a very old law that says you cannot conduct foreign policy when you are not a part of the government, which he was not yet. It was during the transition.
O`DONNELL: That they were investigating.
But, but the -- ultimately here, all he was facing, all he was pleading guilty to was one count of lying to the FBI, for which his maximum sentence for that one count was going to be six months. And so, in the -- in what they agreed to charge him with, there was already a kind of compromise made because in these documents, they say he lied several times to several different members of the federal government.
HEILEMANN: Right. I mean, there were other equities here that people have discussed and speculated about related to his son and whether or not there may have been some kind of deal where he was trying to do this as much to protect his son from other potential vulnerabilities that he has. We don`t know about that right now.
But, look, it makes the case, I believe the Logan Act reference in the document does refer, I think, to the fact that it was raised --
O`DONNELL: Raised by the press, yes.
HEILEMANN: -- when it was first reported he may have had this conversation with Kislyak in real time.
I just want to go back to one point in context and Ken alluded to a second ago. It is hard for people who didn`t cover the Trump campaign to remember how important and how omnipresent Mike Flynn was for periods of time. Donald Trump was an unruly, difficult, undisciplined candidate to get a handle on.
And so, on every presidential campaign, as you know, Lawrence, who is the minder? Who is the person on the bus, who is on the plane who keeps the candidate calm, who chitchats, who plays bridge, whatever the thing is that keeps the candidate under control? This is a bigger challenge with respect to Donald Trump than almost any presidential candidate, I would say any presidential candidate I ever heard of.
And Mike Flynn was the guy who in many cases who the children -- Trump`s kids and others on the campaign were like, when Flynn is with him, it keeps him calm, keeps him distracted. They talk for hours, right? The conversations about these topics, about the history Trump might have had with Russia, about what Trump`s ambitions were, questions of policy, about questions of old relationships, those conversations spanned months and went on day after day after day.
Mike Flynn has a lot to say about Donald Trump`s mindset with respect to Russia and what his aims and ambitions might have been even though his role as national security advisor was brief, his time spent alone effectively with Donald Trump talking about matters of interest to this investigation, very large.
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, what does this do in terms of, in effect, Mueller`s communication with other possible witnesses or defendants? If you`re Paul Manafort tonight and you`re seeing that you`re the next one who is going to have a sentencing memo, and tonight`s defendant gets a recommendation of no incarceration time at all, is this something that Robert Mueller is thinking about when he makes this filing, that this could influence the thinking of other people involved in this investigation who would be trying to get no incarceration time?
ROCAH: I`m sure he`s aware of the fact, you know, I don`t think he`s doing it because of it, but he is certainly aware of the fact that he has now drawn this contrast between Flynn who apparently cooperated fully, truthfully and completely and is doing that and is getting a full-on recommendation of no jail time, which I think really almost guarantees that he will get no jail time. In contrast to, you know, Papadopoulos, Manafort, even Cohen who has not yet been sentenced and even once he`s sentenced, sounds like he will agree to continue cooperating. So this is a signal to him, you better stay on that road because even once you`re sentenced, you can be found in violation of your terms of your agreement if you don`t keep cooperating, if you`re supposed to, and I can be sentenced to additional time.
And the other point is, remember, you know, Giuliani and Trump and everybody, there was for a while even this theory out there that, you know, Flynn hadn`t really lied. This was all a big trap. Well, I mean, look at this, right? You don`t have this kind of sentencing letter from the government, this kind of report back for a big trap that Giuliani and Trump keep trying to talk about, right?
Flynn came clean here. He admitted that he lied because he got caught. And I think he cooperated so quickly in part because he probably got caught really red-handed in a way that he could not deny.
So, you know, once again, I think it`s important to point out when Mueller speaks and puts the lie to things that Trump and Giuliani and others, surrogates go out there and just say with no evidence whatsoever.
O`DONNELL: John, I reminded us how much time Flynn spent with candidate Trump during the presidential campaign, and who can forget Michael Flynn`s appearance at the Republican National Convention. I think we have some video of that ready to go. This is the night to look at this one more time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
AUDIENCE: Lock her up. Lock her up.
FLYNN: Lock her up, that`s right. Yes, that`s right. Lock her up.
You know why we`re saying that? We`re saying that because if I, a guy who knows this business -- if I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York City. He is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He will become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives in January.
Congressman Nadler, I just want to get reaction. I`m sure you saw that as it happened during the Republican Convention. He was talking about the candidate you were supporting for president. Your feelings when you saw that that night, an unprecedented moment, I think, in the history of our political conventions, someone out there on a convention stage saying the other candidate should be locked up. And this candidate tonight being -- getting the recommendation from the special prosecutor, that he not be locked up.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, my reaction when I saw that was that, oh, my god, you`ve got a candidate and spokesman for a candidate who have lost all sight of American traditions and the Democratic tradition, and who try to make enemies of their opponents and use the power -- and threaten to use the power of law for political purposes. And that is very dangerous.
And, of course, we now know that this president lies incessantly about everything. One thing I think we know now is his period of being able to lie incessantly and not being called to account is coming to an end, both because of the Mueller investigation, because of what they are revealing, because the fact that at least one house of Congress is now going to do a proper job of holding him accountable.
O`DONNELL: The redactions tonight in the special prosecutor`s filing or the things that we`re all fascinated by, I`m sure the House Judiciary Committee will be equally fascinated, and your staff will be studying these documents tonight.
And how will you approach, as you take the chairmanship next year, information like this that becomes public, that is of public interest, and yet is being held back by the special prosecutor? You have a competing interest that I suppose you want to, in some sense, make a cooperating interest with the prosecuting investigator. How do you handle that going forward?
NADLER: I think our first duty is to protect the integrity of the special counsel`s investigation. And we are not going to do anything knowingly that would interfere with that investigation. We would certainly, before doing certain things, consult with him to say -- to make sure we`re not, by accident, stepping up -- stepping on the investigation in any way, because we are dependent on that investigation to give us a lot of the facts.
I mean, we know the president lies all the time. We know he`s surrounded by liars, but we need to know a lot more as to -- so that the American people know what`s going on and so that we can take steps to defend our democracy.
O`DONNELL: The president yesterday issued a tweet about Roger Stone not testifying. Roger Stone promising not to testify against the president. That was interpreted by several legal scholars and former prosecutors as being, in effect, witness tampering, public witness tampering.
President Nixon`s articles of impeachment, as I described here last night, included elements that President Trump has already done, that we already know he`s done. When you become chairman of judiciary, you will have the sole and unique power vested exclusively in you to decide whether the Judiciary Committee should discuss, debate, and/or vote on articles of impeachment. That will be a decision that is yours and yours alone.
NADLER: It could be mine alone --
O`DONNELL: The chairman of judiciary has total power over the question of what the committee is going to do on any given day, including articles of impeachment. How will you approach this, given that the president is already crossing lines publicly that Richard Nixon crossed?
NADLER: Well, we`re going to have to look at all the evidence. All the evidence that the special counsel comes up with, the things that are being done in public, the things we find out are being done, and make decisions. There are certainly things he`s done, such as what you just mentioned, that give the appearance of witness tampering, that give the appearance of obstruction of justice. Whether they amount to that and whether you can prove those charges is a different question.
But they are certainly evidence, and we`ll have to look at all of that and we`ll have to look at, as I said, the special counsel knows a lot more than we do at this point. And down the line, we`ll have to make some judgments.
O`DONNELL: Is the impeachment question something that will wait until the special counsel has completed his work?
NADLER: It may very well. It depends how long the special counsel takes to complete that work. We don`t know that. But it may. I mean, because without the special counsel`s report, we may not have enough information to make such decisions.
But, again, initiating a formal impeachment inquiry is a very serious step. And I have articulated a three-part test for it.
Number one, do you believe that you have real solid evidence the president is committing impeachable offenses?
Number two, are those offenses of such gravity putting the country through an impeachment process?
And number three, because you don`t want to tear the country apart -- you don`t want half the country the next 30 years, we won the election, you stole it from us. Do you think that the evidence that you have is so sufficiently clear and sufficiently convincing of deeds so clearly impeachable and necessary to impeach, that once you have laid it out, that you believe that once you have laid all that evidence out, an appreciable fraction of the opposition vote base will say they had to do this. Those are, I think --
O`DONNELL: Well, that seems to make -- your third condition seems to make impeachment a political judgment and a political judgment --
NADLER: Impeachment is a political judgment.
O`DONNELL: A political judgment that would be surrendered to Trump supporters. In other words, if Trump supporters cannot support impeachment, then the Democrats in the House would not support impeachment.
NADLER: No, I wouldn`t say -- remember first, you`ve got two different things. First of all, simple arithmetic. You can`t remove the president without two-thirds vote in the Senate which means if you`re going to complete the process, you have to get some Republican votes.
I think a simpler test is can you -- people who voted for Trump, some of them -- not a majority but you have to think that your evidence is sufficient enough so that you get enough -- some of them -- I don`t know what percent, but an appreciable percentage of them to agree that you had to do it because you don`t want to tear the country apart. And if you can`t do that, you`re not going to have a successful impeachment anyway because you need the votes of the Senate.
O`DONNELL: We`ve had two impeachments during your lifetime, during my lifetime, neither one of them tore the country apart. The Bill Clinton impeachment which did not result in removal in the United States Senate did not tear the country apart. The trial in the United States Senate was not even suspenseful. There wasn`t even a sense that there was even a possibility of him being removed.
O`DONNELL: His popularity went up during the impeachment process. Doesn`t the Congress exaggerate the drama involved in impeachment when in fact the country has rolled two impeachment processes without any real stress at all?
NADLER: Well, it depends on the circumstances. The Clinton impeachment was so clearly frivolous and so clearly nonsense and so clearly political that I don`t think anybody really took it that seriously. And there was going to -- it was going to backfire on the Republicans. In fact, the midterm elections which occurred before they carried on the impeachment in the lame duck session showed that. So you didn`t have that problem.
The Nixon impeachment, you had the tapes. Remember, the Republicans didn`t turn on Nixon until the very last moment when the tapes came out and then there was no question at all. Maybe we`ll have something so clear this time. Maybe we won`t.
O`DONNELL: But should the House surrender its unique initiation of impeachment power to the Senate just for the fear that --
O`DONNELL: -- the Senate will not convict?
NADLER: No, no, no. I don`t think that`s the case. But remember, impeachment is a political act. It`s intended to be political. It`s not a legal punishment. It`s intended to be political to defend the constitution, to defend the Democratic order against a president who would aggrandize power. And you have to make judgments as to whether an impeachment in given circumstances would accomplish that or not.
O`DONNELL: Let me just -- one final point on this, which is if you -- if the Democrats in the House made the judgment that we don`t want to do this because we don`t believe the Republicans in the Senate would get to a conviction and a removal if that was the judgment --
NADLER: But I don`t think that`s the test.
O`DONNELL: OK. But if -- OK, good. Do you fear the possibility that if the House of Representatives does not act, that it will be historically condoning the behavior of this president and, therefore, historically setting the precedent that future presidents can publicly try to influence and tamper with witnesses?
NADLER: No, no. I do think there is a problem that we have, though, that gets into this. I do not agree with the office of legal counsel that a president cannot be indicted for crimes committed while in office. The justice department, however, is bound by that opinion. The special counsel thinks -- considers himself bound for that.
So you can`t indict a president as a practical matter right now. But once the president is no longer president, you can indict him. But the statute of limitations may have run. So, we ought to -- and I`m considering introducing legislation to this effect, call the statute of limitations on any president while he is president so that he can`t be above the law. If he can`t be impeached for improper conduct, if there are crimes he should be made to be prosecuted.
President Ford pardoned Nixon. I thought at the time it was not the right thing to do. I still think it wasn`t the right thing to do. It`s debatable, but you can`t -- you should not have a system where a president, anybody is above the law.
O`DONNELL: I just want to double underline the breaking news that you`ve just added to our breaking news tonight. And that is that you as the chairman of the Judiciary committee next year, considering legislation that would, in effect, suspend the timing of statutes of limitations on any offenses applying to a sitting president so the clock would stop ticking, in effect, on those statutes of limitation so that they would extend after his term of office?
NADLER: So that a president -- the president, according to this opinion by LOC is the only president in the country not subject to indictment for breaking the law. I don`t think that is right. But if that`s what we`re going to do, then you should extend the statute of limitations so that he`s not permanently, what`s the word?
O`DONNELL: Above the law.
NADLER: Above the law.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I agree with you about that, about the precedent, the notion that the president cannot be prosecuted. I don`t see where that exists in the constitution. Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you very much for joining us tonight on this important breaking news tonight. Really appreciate your time tonight.
NADLER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And back with us, Mimi Rocah, John Heilemann, Ken Dilanian, they are all staying in this discussion.
When we come back, there will be another Mueller sentencing memo coming up, and that one, the next one is going to be Paul Manafort`s.
O`DONNELL: On Friday, we will have another big sentencing memo from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. There is no doubt that it will not carry the same sentencing recommendation of no prison time that the special prosecutor has now requested for Michael Flynn tonight. Michael Flynn was revealed in tonight`s sentencing memo to be not just a cooperating witness, but a very helpful cooperating witness, who became a cooperating witness shortly after he was charged by the special prosecutor.
Paul Manafort, on the other hand, put the special prosecutor through a trial in federal court in Virginia in which Manafort was found guilty. Then Manafort pleaded guilty to charges in federal court in Washington, D.C., and became apparently a cooperating witness until the special prosecutor decided that Manafort was not really cooperating. And so we can be sure that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will be asking for some prison time for Paul Manafort.
Joining our discussion now, Jed Shugerman, Professor of Law at Fordham University and Ron Klain, former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He`s also a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama.
And Ron Klain, if you`re Paul Manafort, you`re looking at that recommendation tonight for Michael Flynn of no incarceration time. That`s got to look pretty good.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It does look pretty good. And he had a chance potentially to strike the same deal. But as you noted, Lawrence, he did just the exact opposite. Not only has he broken his cooperation agreement with special counsel, special counsel says that he has actually lied and committed crimes after entering that agreement. And that means that I think we`re going to see a sentencing recommendation for Paul Manafort on Friday that may well put him in jail for the rest of his life.
And obviously, we are going to see whether or not President Trump pardons him or not and what kind of crisis that will create. But I think we`re going to see the full range, alpha to omega, of possible outcomes here with what happened with Mike Flynn tonight and we`re going to see about Paul Manafort later in the week.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, Paul Manafort has -- he`s got tonight to sleep on it. He`s got tomorrow. He`s got Thursday and his lawyers have a telephone. They can call Robert Mueller and start talking again.
JED SHUGERMAN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: The problem is that his credibility, whatever is left of his credibility, was shot. And, in fact, in some ways, Mueller was strategizing. You can see how this works together. It was a bit of Flynn and a Manafort show. If you cooperate, you get what Flynn got, no jail time.
Remarkable, given that Flynn was where a lot of this started. And Flynn was involved with setting up a secret line with Kushner. December 1, 2016. The two of them, Kushner and Flynn and Kislyak are setting up a secret line of back channels and yet Flynn today is getting no jail time based on Mueller`s recommendation.
On the other hand -- that`s the carrot, right. And on the other hand, there`s the stick, Manafort. And one other thing people haven`t noticed is what else is at stake for Manafort? His family. He was making sure that this plea deal allowed his wife to keep a house. That is in jeopardy now, right? Because if they bring more charges, now they could seek to get everything back and that would leave his family with nothing. So there is a game of carrot and stick today and Friday that is a message to other witnesses.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, the devil is in the redactions tonight.
O`DONNELL: And that`s what everyone is going to be staring at. But I have to say I don`t see how anyone is going to read through these redactions. They are so thorough, 22 lines at a clip, 25 lines on another page. A couple of small ones but they don`t -- they`re not really leaving any room for us to try to figure out what`s going on there.
KLAIN: You know, Lawrence, obviously it is a challenge to read between the lines when all the lines are black. But, you know -- but look, I would say two things. First of all, to recommend no jail time for General Flynn, when you consider the seriousness of the crime, he was the nation`s chief national security official. He lied to the FBI about contacts with Russia. The acting attorney general said made him a possible blackmail risk as the nation`s chief national security official. That is a very big offense.
For Bob Mueller to say no jail time, that means what he must have provided was very, very substantial. Not just 19 contacts but substantial cooperation. I think that`s the important thing to flag tonight. And I think the second thing is, you know, Hallie Jackson reporter earlier in your show, that Rudy Giuliani said that this doesn`t mean bupkus to the president. Well, I would use a different Yiddish word. That would be tsuris which is a word for trouble.
I think this thing tonight means a lot of trouble for President Trump because we now know there is an iceberg here. we haven`t even seen this redacted criminal investigation. We know there`s a whole redacted session about the special counsel investigation. I think there is a lot of trouble for Donald Trump in whatever is in -- underneath those black lines tonight.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, if you have a quick word of Yiddish to add before we go to a break, go ahead.
SHUGERMAN: How about mazel tov? One thing I would say is even there`s elements redacted, you can tell that there are four parts. Only one is revealed. So that is the transition in Russia. There`s what you can see redacted is a block probably for the campaign crimes, a block for obstruction, and then there is something that`s outside the special counsel`s office which may be elsewhere in DOJ. That`s what I`m really curious about.
O`DONNELL: That`s the big mystery. Jed Shugerman, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.
And when we come back, yesterday President Trump urged Roger Stone to basically plea the fifth Amendment, don`t testify. And today Roger Stone pleaded the Fifth amendment with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
O`DONNELL: Today, Roger Stone took the Fifth amendment the day after the president urged him to take the fifth Amendment. Roger Stone appeared on television Sunday morning saying that he would not testify against Donald Trump. And yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted this. "I will never testify against Trump. This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by A rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about President Trump. Nice to know that some people still have guts."
That was very clearly the president of the United States trying to influence the testimony of Roger Stone. The presidency has changed Donald Trump`s attitude toward the fifth Amendment. Here`s what Donald Trump said about the fifth Amendment when he was a candidate for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you have your staff taking the fifth Amendment, taking the fifth so they`re not prosecuted, I think it`s disgraceful. Pleading the fifth Amendment. Pleading the Fifth amendment. Taking the Fifth Amendment. The fifth Amendment. The fifth amendment, fifth amendment, fifth amendment, horrible. You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you`re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? Have you ever seen anything so corrupt in your life? Have you ever seen a greater embarrassment to our country? Fifth amendment. Bomb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with us, Mimi Rocah, John Heilemann, Jed Shugerman.
John Heilemann, there is a video for everything. There is a tweet for everything. There is Donald Trump world.
HEILEMANN: But I got to say the main thing I really want to focus on is the tweet from yesterday because it`s the first time in the history of the Trump administration where Donald Trump has tweeted something that everyone who watches this program are going to agree with, which is that the words President Trump should have quotation marks around them.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I mentioned that last year.
HEILEMANN: What you`re looking at, you`re like that kid -- you know, that`s exactly right. You know, Roger Stone now, there`s the -- we talked about the Michael Flynn relationship between Donald Trump. The relationship between Donald Trump, Roger Stone we talked about many times on this show. I`m all true familiar with it. It is complicated, right?
And one of the things we`ve been trying to disentangle for a long time is during this campaign after Stone had been Trump`s political Svengali for years and years and years, he finally gets in the president`s race, and then Stone is forced out of the campaign. So the question for months was, how much does Roger talk to Trump? How much have they been in touch? Stone would always say, from time to time.
And it was a thing where he could be lying because he talked to him all the time or he could be lying because he didn`t talk to him at all, right? We still don`t really know the answer although we`re starting to get there. But this kind of behavior suggests that at this moment, the behavior of Stone following Trump`s instruction and taking the Fifth today suggests that Roger Stone, whatever ups and downs the relationship had in that period during the campaign, they are now yolked together. Roger Stone is all in with President Trump and he thinks that if there`s going to be salvation for him, he`s going to need salvation, that it`s only going to come from Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: And Mimi Rocah, Roger Stone`s lawyer actually made a statement today saying that the reason he took the Fifth amendment with the Senate Judiciary Committee is that the committee leaks. Now, you don`t have a legal right to take the Fifth amendment because you`re afraid somebody might leak. The fifth Amendment says that you`re taking it because you fear you might incriminate yourself in a crime by speaking. There is no other legitimate reason to take the fifth Amendment.
ROCAH: That`s right, Lawrence. There is no leaking provision in the Fifth Amendment in the Constitution. And specifically here, remember, he has taken the fifth with regard to a request for documents, a document subpoena. That right is sort of even more narrow, if you will, because turning over documents doesn`t always incriminate someone. It`s only if the actual act of turning over the documents would incriminate someone.
So in other words, if I steal some documents and I have them and someone asks me for them. By turning them over, I`m showing that I have those stolen documents, that would incriminate me. But if just the content of the documents would incriminate me, then I still can probably turn them over with some kind of immunity, an act of production immunity, it`s called.
So without getting too much in the weeds, I think this is a long way of saying I really don`t even think this claim as to the request for documents has any merit. This just seems like an attempt to, you know, just further delay and obstruct and show Trump that he`s on team Trump and not cooperating with the investigation.
O`DONNELL: Jed Shugerman, where do you see the Roger Stone chapter playing out in everything that we`re looking at this week?
SHUGERMAN: Well, I agree with Mimi with what she`s saying about the legal question. What`s odd is that how quickly he`s pleading the fifth, right. He`s pleading the fifth because he`s really pleading for a pardon. He`s jumping the gun. There is no subpoena.
So you only need to plead the fifth if you`ve got something with legal consequence. A subpoena does that. This was just a request for an interview. So if he were as confident that Trump had his back, he could sit tight and say, well, I`ll wait until a subpoena comes and then I`ll plead the fifth. He seems more anxious about this because he`s so eager to say, "I`m on team Trump." He may be more nervous.
Now, I will say that a pardon unlike Manafort and Flynn and Don Junior where pardons can`t save them from criminal jeopardy because they face so many state crimes, right, so a presidential pardon only affects federal crimes. There are plenty of state crimes for these other co-conspirators. The issue for Stone is that he`s only facing federal crimes for perjury or false statements.
So that is one place where a presidential pardon could make a difference, but it could also be used against Trump because offering a pardon to co- conspirators would put him in more jeopardy for both impeachment and later criminal indictment.
O`DONNELL: John, there was a time when Donald Trump would make as favorable public comments about Michael Flynn as he possibly could, even after Michael Flynn was charged, even after Michael Flynn pled guilty, there was a period. But at some point, Donald Trump seems to have given up on Michael Flynn. But tomorrow is another day for Twitter, and we will see tomorrow what Donald Trump, I guess, has to say about Michael Flynn, if anything.
HEILEMANN: Yes. Think about how Donald Trump turned on Michael Cohen, and you could imagine that is the fate that awaits Mike Flynn at this point. And as you say, over time -- and, you know, we don`t know what -- we know there is a vast amount of stuff that Rudy Giuliani does not have a clue about, right?
There are a few things he may have a clue about and one of the things that he may -- that the president may have started to learn over time was that those numbers that we talked about before, the 19 interviews, that he may have gotten wind that the numbers were starting to pile up from 1 to 2 to six to 12 to eventually 19. And he started to realize that Flynn was doing what he`s been doing which was singing.
And the president has started gradually to cool on Flynn. As I think tomorrow, he may warm up again but in a slightly more thermonuclear way rather than in the kind of warm embrace way that he used to wrap his arms around Mike Flynn.
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, John Heilemann made the point that Michael Flynn spent so much time with Donald Trump on the plane and would easily find himself with someone who rambles the way Trump does. Probably hearing information about things that had nothing to do with Michael Flynn`s specialty of national security and things that could have reached back many years in Donald Trump`s life on many different fronts. And that seems to be suggested in certain ways in the filings tonight where the special prosecutor is saying how generally Michael Flynn has been helpful as a kind of general guide into Trump world.
ROCAH: Right. That`s true. And that idea that perhaps Flynn was providing information that might incriminate other people, including Trump, but not necessarily incriminate Flynn in such a way that Flynn had to plead guilty to other crimes could explain some of the, you know, why did Flynn only plead to this but how could he have so much other valuable information? And it could also explain why he`s talking to other prosecutors in other offices as well, because it may pertain to other investigations like even the Trump organization.
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, Jed Shugerman, and John Heilemann, thank you all for joining us. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is a quick review of the news Congressman Jerry Nadler just made on this program about extending the statute of limitations for a sitting president so that the president could be prosecuted for crimes after leaving office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: You can`t indict a president as a practical matter right now. But once the president is no longer president, you can indict him but the statute of limitations may have run.
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