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Cohen made "Illegal" payments" TRANSCRIPT: 12/7/2018, The Last Word w. Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Steve Cohen; Ron Klain; Jill Wine-Banks; Barbara McQuade, Tim O`Brien

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: December 7, 2018 Guest: Steve Cohen; Ron Klain; Jill Wine-Banks; Barbara McQuade, Tim O`Brien

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, MSNBC: Now it`s time for the Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, MSNBC: Good evening, Rachel. And it`s fascinating to see the two different Michael Cohens in these two different cases --


O`DONNELL: -- the two different pleadings. And if you read all the documents, they actually make sense. I mean, when I was just hearing the first reports of this across the television this afternoon, I said, wow, it was such a different interpretation of this guy from the two different sets of prosecutors, but he behaved very differently with each set of prosecutors. MADDOW: And the expectations were different in the two different offices. I mean, what Dan Goldman (ph) was just saying about SDNY versus Mueller and what they`re looking for from cooperators and what they count as meaningful cooperation, it`s very different. And, you know, we shouldn`t lose sight of the fact that six of the eight things that the SDNY prosecutors got them to plead guilty to didn`t have anything to do with Trump.

They were financial and tax crimes and business crimes related to his own personal history and his business history, and they take those things very, very seriously. They also take seriously the campaign finance charges that they got him on with Trump.

So, I mean, to me, the president is right in the middle of both of the stories of Michael Cohen tonight as told by these two sets of prosecutors. The White House trying to say this isn`t about the president is now sort of officially nuts.


MADDOW: And it will be fascinating to see if Cohen actually decides to go into some sort of new agreement with those prosecutors now that they say they want to do real jail time. O`DONNELL: Well, to resist it means that Michael Cohen has to think. He does more damage to himself by opening up more --


O`DONNELL: -- to the southern district prosecutors. He`s the one who knows. He`s the one who knows why he`s not opening up more. He`s the one who knows what he`s risking by not opening more. He sees what they`re recommending, substantial prison time. MADDOW: Yeah. And I don`t know if it`s about him. I don`t know if there are other -- I mean, what they say in terms of SDNY, what they expect for cooperators, you need to tell them everything you`ve ever done, any criminal behavior you`ve ever been involved in, whether or not it could ever be charged as a federal crime.

But also anything that you know of. And it`s possible that he knows of criminal behavior by people who he is unwilling to implicate under any circumstances. And if that`s the case, that may or may not have anything to do with his involvement in the Trump campaign. He does seem pretty willing to implicate people from the Trump campaign and Trump himself.

But it may be something, you know, in his past. It may be something connected to his family or other associations that he has. But right now, we do know from the special counsel`s filing that he`s given them plenty of information on Trump himself. O`DONNELL: Well, you`re helping me form my questions for Tim O`Brien who has written a book about Donald Trump, who has dealt with Michael Cohen extensively over the years, and he might have a sense of what else might there be in Cohen world --


O`DONNELL: -- that needs to be protected from these prosecutors in the southern district.

MADDOW: Indeed.

O`DONNELL: We will find out. Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Well, today was actually the second time that Donald Trump was accused of committing federal crimes by federal prosecutors in federal court right here in New York City. The first time was exactly 108 days ago on August 21st, in the same case when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to those federal crimes that he said he committed "at the direction of" Donald Trump, who`s identified only as individual one in the case.

Michael Cohen said then that those crimes were committed for the principle purpose of influencing the election of the president of the United States. Today, the prosecutors filed their sentencing memo in that case saying that Michael Cohen should get, as Rachel and I just discussed, a substantial prison term for his crimes against the United States of America.

Donald Trump was identified in the prosecutor`s filings simply as individual one. But the filing notes that in 2015, individual one "began an ultimately successful campaign for president of the United States." In committing two of Michael Cohen`s many federal crimes, prosecutors say, "he acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one."

So, individual one has committed two federal crimes, according to federal prosecutors, working in the Trump Justice Department. Now, there is actually nothing in the constitution that says the president of the United States cannot be indicted and charged with a crime.

There is nothing in the constitution that says the president of the United States can never be charged with a crime and never put on trial in court while serving as president of the United States. That is not written in the constitution anywhere.

In fact, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the president of the United States is subject to personal civil litigation and can be dragged into court and into trials in civil cases while serving as president of the United States. Paula Jones established that legal principle in her civil case against President Bill Clinton.

It`s merely a relatively recent Justice Department tradition outlined only in memo form that says the president should not be indicted. And so the only conceivable reason why Donald Trump has not been indicted as a co- conspirator in the Cohen case is that he won the presidential election, that he conspired with Michael Cohen to illegally affect.

If Donald Trump lost the election and federal prosecutors were pursuing this same case, he would be facing exactly the same consequences as Michael Cohen. He would be charged with exactly the same two campaign finance violation crimes for arranging secret payments to two women during the campaign to buy their silence about their sexual affairs with Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen said under oath repeatedly that Donald Trump was a co- conspirator in his crimes. The prosecutors have now said repeatedly that Donald Trump was a co-conspirator in Michael Cohen`s crimes. And now Michael Cohen is facing substantial prison time for those same crimes. And Donald Trump is facing what? Will Donald Trump be the only president in history accused by federal prosecutors of committing federal crimes who does not then face impeachment for those crimes?

Congress moved to impeach Richard Nixon when the special prosecutor described his crimes. The House of Representatives moved to impeach and did in fact impeach Bill Clinton when the special prosecutors showed that he committed perjury in that civil case involving Paula Jones.

And so if history means anything in the Trump era, if precedent means anything in the Trump era, Donald Trump will be, must be impeached because of the crimes prosecutors say he committed in the Michael Cohen case.

Prosecutors outlined other crimes unrelated to Donald Trump that Michael Cohen committed including multiple counts of tax evasion, some of which involved his taxi business, and false statements to financial institutions when applying for loans.

A separate sentencing document on Michael Cohen was filed by the special counsel`s office today. In that document, Robert Mueller describes Michael Cohen lying to Congress about his efforts and coordination with presidential candidate Donald Trump to pursue what Mueller calls the Moscow Project, which included business opportunities in Russia for Donald Trump including building a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The special prosecutor`s sentencing recommendation was for leniency based on Michael Cohen`s very helpul cooperation with the special counsel`s investigation. The special counsel`s filing indicates that there could be much, much more for Donald Trump to worry about in what Michael Cohen has been telling Robert Mueller.

The defendant has met with the special counsel`s office for several proffer sessions, many of them lengthy, and continues to make himself available to investigators. His statements beginning with the second meeting with the special counsel`s office have been credible. The defendant`s assistance has been useful in four significant respects.

First, the defendant provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts. The defendant provided a detailed account of his involvement and the involvement of others in the Moscow Project.

Defendant also provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign. Cohen spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a trusted person in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign political synergy and synergy on a government level. The defendant recalled that this person repeatedly proposed a meeting between individual one and the president of Russia.

Second, Cohen provided the special counsel`s office with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with company executives during the campaign.

And third, Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period. And fourth, Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries.

Now, we have got a big lead off panel tonight. All of them returning stars to this program. So we won`t run through that lengthy introduction that we normally do. We`ll just take them one at a time.

Jill Wine-Banks, as a former Watergate special prosecutor, I want to get your reaction first to this development and what it means in the history of investigating presidents. Here we have a president of the United States accused in writing in federal court by federal prosecutors of committing crimes. What happens next? JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, this is the second time that that`s happened, where federal prosecutors named a president, because we did it in Watergate. Richard Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator and was allowed to have all of his evidence, which included the Watergate -- all the tapes from the Oval Office introduced in evidence against his co-conspirators.

And this is a very dramatic and big day. This is the linkage between Donald Trump and Russia in crimes. That`s what this means. And there could be much more because you have a lot of redacted information in both the Manafort part of it and some things that are not redacted by being blacked out but are redacted because they are so vague as to what other information Cohen has provided to Mueller.

It also is interesting because there are really three Cohens. There`s the Cohen that the southern district saw. There`s the Cohen that the special counsel saw. But there`s also the Cohen that his lawyer presented in his earlier filing in his request that there be no jail time except for time served.

And I have to say I fell for that. I felt sympathy for Cohen as portrayed in his lawyers document. And it`s a good thing that you always wait until you hear the full evidence before you jump to conclusions, a lesson that I hope Whitaker is paying attention to since he already formed a conclusion about evidence.

Obviously, my original opinion of Cohen was correct. He cannot be trusted except when he is confronted with corroborating evidence. So that`s the other thing we learned, that Mueller must have significant corroborating evidence in order to have believed him now and to have put forward this evidence that links him to the president in a conspiratorial way. O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, as a former federal prosecutor, when you look at these two different filings today about Michael Cohen and you see these two different versions of him, what`s your reaction to that and what leaps out with you -- leaps out at you from a prosecutorial perspective from these documents?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it`s possible that these two stories can be reconciled, that he was forthcoming with the special counsel, and that he held back on certain things in the southern district of New York. To be considered a cooperator and get credit for cooperation, you have to answer all the questions.

You can`t say I`m not going to talk about that subject matter. And it sounds like that`s what happened in the southern district of New York. Whether he`s trying to protect someone else or some of his own misconduct there, it`s hard to say, but he would not be fully forthcoming there.

But in Robert Mueller`s case, they thought that he did answer their questions to their satisfaction. But I think a couple things come out. Number one, the special counsel says and would not say this without corroboration that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to violate campaign financial laws. That`s a serious crime and he is named there as individual one with doing it.

That`s not just a regulatory offense. That is a crime -- a law that exists to protect the integrity and transparency of our elections. And they say in there that President Trump committed that crime not just based on the say so of Michael Cohen but have corroborating evidence to say that.

And I think the other thing that comes out here is that Michael Cohen has also provided information that goes to the core, they use that word, of the investigation of the special counsel. And that is interference with the election.

So he`s talking about so-called collusion. There`s a Russian individual who`s referred to as political synergy, but they`re getting to the heart of the matter and Michael Cohen has information relating to coordination with Russia about the election.

O`DONNELL: Tim O`Brien, you wrote the book -- one of the books on Donald Trump and his businesses. You know Michael Cohen, you`ve dealt with Michael Cohen. What is it that would prevent Michael Cohen from becoming a fully cooperating witness in the southern district and today be getting a recommendation for leniency instead of the recommendation for substantial prison time because he has not been cooperating?

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR: I suspect and this is just a suspicion, that it`s the same thing that`s made Paul Manafort, you know, go back on his word multiple times. I think it`s worth remembering about Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort came from rough and tumble business worlds with rough and tumble clients. In both cases, they had clients in eastern Europe, they had investors from eastern Europe.

Michael Cohen went to high school with Felix Sater, who is a career criminal. They did these deals together. We know that Manafort was tied to a number of Ukraine billionaires and a very prominent Russian oligarch. And so I suspect at some level they`re trying to protect either their families or their own hides from retribution given the kinds of careers they`ve had and the people they`ve associated with.

However, and we`ve talked about this a million times, Lawrence, these aren`t a particularly smart group of people, right? This is sort of the latest installment in stupid Watergate. And I -- just these people stumbling over their own feet can`t be dismissed. O`DONNELL: And Ron Klain, we have reached a political crossroads here because the prosecutors in the southern district have done everything that they believe they can with individual one. They have named him in these documents. They have shown him to be a co-conspirator with Michael Cohen. They have shown him to be the person who was directing Michael Cohen to commit the crimes.

The crimes are committed at the direction of and with the cooperation of individual one, who is now the president of the United States. The next way to deal with this, the only alternative way to deal with the crimes described in these documents committed by the president is the impeachment process. RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: Yeah, Lawrence. And I think it`s going to obviously have to get a hard look. Look, we now know we`re in the middle of R-rated Watergate. Watergate with some salacious sexual elements to it. But when you peel back all that, this is really spot on Watergate.

Donald Trump paid someone money to do something illegal to help him win the 2016 election. That`s what those papers say today. He paid Michael Cohen money to violate the campaign finance laws and cover up these two affairs he had by paying off women to help him win the 2016 election.

And it doesn`t really matter whether or not the information coming out would have changed minds or not. Watergate was prosecuted and pursued even though Richard Nixon won 29 states in the 1972 election. So, using crimes to win a presidential election, that should be a question the House Judiciary Committee takes up next year. O`DONNELL: Ken Dilanian, you`ve been following all of these cases closer than any of us on a daily basis for NBC News. What are the news items today in these filings? What are the things we learned today that we didn`t know yesterday?

KEN DILANIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: I think you`ve already articulated them, Lawrence. But just to emphasize the fact that federal prosecutors, not Michael Cohen who stood up in court and said it before, but federal prosecutors are now endorsing the idea that Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to make illegal payments to women that were a violation of campaign finance law.

Now, the issue with that law is that unlike many laws, to convict somebody of it, you have to prove criminal intent. Sometimes ignorance of a law is no defense. In this case it actually is. It`s not so simple as linking Trump to ordering the payment that makes him guilty of the crime.

But nonetheless, it seems clear from the fact pattern. Michael Cohen is clearly saying he had criminal intent. He knew this was about protecting Donald Trump for the election. And he would testify at a trial it would seem that was Donald Trump`s intent.

And another piece of evidence of this criminal intent is that when this first came out, Donald Trump lied about it. He said he didn`t know anything about the payments. And of course the other big piece of news which you alluded to is the level of cooperation that Michael Cohen is providing on the heart of the investigation which is Russia collusion.

And it`s not completely spelled out here, but it`s not just about the Trump Tower Moscow. There were a number of issues here that are alluded to where Cohen talked to Mueller`s office about contacts with Russians. And it goes into the White House. It also talks about Cohen dealing with people in the White House up until this year. And that is the first mention of Mueller coming into the current White Houses as opposed to the campaign.

And the last thing I`ll say, Lawrence, is that this document shows once and for all that Donald Trump lied. And I don`t say that lightly as an objective reporter.

When he said at the first news conference he held as president that he had no contacts with Russians and was aware of no one in his orbit that had any contacts with Russians during the campaign, because clearly in September 2015, according to this court document, he conferred with Michael Cohen about reaching out to the Russian government about having a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

It`s right there in black and white. And for Donald Trump to say this exonerates him is simply absurd. O`DONNELL: Yeah. As you pointed out, there are several spots where the special prosecutor is saying Michael Cohen is basically telling us all about everyone he`s ever talked to within Trump world about the Moscow Project and including conversations that he has had as you said going right into this year, with the administration, people in the administration going all the way into 2018.

And also in Robert Mueller`s sentencing memo for Michael Cohen today, he said the defendant provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others. Who are those others? Discussions with others in the course of making those contacts.

The defendant provided a detailed account of his involvement and the involvement of others. Which others? In the Moscow Project, Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries.

Joining our discussion now, Michael Isikoff, who has been studying for years now the Trump`s involvement in Russia. Michael, when you hear the special prosecutor saying that Michael Cohen filled them in on his discussions with others about the Russian businesses, there could be a lot of others that they`re talking about there. MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Right. And what it only underscores for me is that this ought to be the responsibility of the Congress because if we`re relying purely on Mueller to get us the answers to these questions, I`m not sure we`re going to get them.

If you look really closely at the language in the Cohen sentencing memos, including the one by the special counsel, there`s language that could have been used to flag the fact that they`re going to use the information Cohen gave them to bring additional criminal cases.

We saw it in the Flynn memo in a non-Russia matter, substantial assistance to the government. That`s the key. They don`t say that with Michael Cohen, including in Mueller`s memorandum. There`s nowhere where they say that Michael Cohen provided substantial assistance to the special counsel that will allow the special counsel to bring additional criminal cases.

So all of these unanswered questions that are out there, and I believe there are many, and wave learned additional ones tonight as a result of these, I think Michael Cohen ought to be called by the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee right away and testify openly in public about all of these matters. Then we can get some answers. Because if we keep waiting for Mueller, we may never get the answers to a lot of the questions you`re raising.

O`DONNELL: Ken Dilanian, the thing that comes right here at the tail end of what Mueller says Michael Cohen has provided, he says that he described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to congressional inquiries. Now, that`s where he lied. He lied to the congressional inquiries about the dates of the Moscow Project, what was involved with the Moscow Project.

But that note there that he circulated, he circulated what he was going to say to Congress raises the question of who did he circulate that with? Did he send that to the president`s lawyers? Did he send it directly to the president? Did the president say back to him this is what I want you to say?

DILANIAN: It absolutely raises that question, Lawrence. And if you remember, in the plea documents that were filed a few days ago in the Cohen case, they say that he was in contact with White House staff during the time he was preparing this congressional testimony.

It`s really hard to believe, it`s hard for any of us to believe that Michael Cohen concocted these lies on his own. And in fact he said that the reason he lied was to align his story about the Trump Tower Moscow Project with Donald Trump`s story, which is that this was over long before the Republican primaries started.

In fact, it went up to and through the Republican national convention. And all that information was kept from the American voter. And these documents shed more light on the fact that Russians knew this. They knew that and they were offering to help Cohen with the Trump Tower Moscow Project and with the approval of Vladimir Putin`s government as part of an effort to reach out to Donald Trump the presidential candidate.

So it`s all hand in glove, the money, the Russian influence, and what some would call collusion, Lawrence. O`DONNELL: Tim, I just want to highlight for you this element that Mueller indicated how much money is at stake here. He said the defendant`s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought and likely required the assistance of the Russian government.

If the project was completed, the company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. Hundreds of millions of dollars sound like a real motivation for Donald Trump.

O`BRIEN: It certainly is a real motivation for Donald Trump. But I think anybody who has ever worked with the Trump organization knows that all you really have to do is show up with a sack of cash and plop it on his desk and he`d do business with you. That`s how Trump University got started. That`s how the Trump SoHo got built.

I think we have to take some of the stuff with a little bit of a grain of salt because I think clearly one of the sources of information for prosecutors is Felix Sater and he is the same individual who said that a 50-million dollar penthouse is being offered to Vladimir Putin, but don`t really have evidence that occurred in Moscow.

Nonetheless, these sort of statements in that document get to the kind of horse trading that people are curious about. Why did Donald Trump treat Vladimir Putin with kid gloves in Helsinki? What did they talk about when they met alone in Helsinki? What was Trump going to get beyond, you know, just getting elected president if he was going to try to engineer the lifting of sanctions against Russia?

Money is an obvious answer. And I think it`s even more important in the context of what we know about the run-up to the general election, which is that Trump didn`t think he was going to win. And none of the people around him thought they were going to win. Everybody in the Trump universe from, you know, from the summer of 2015 until the fall of 2016 were drifting.

You know, Flynn, Manafort, Cohen and Trump himself, they were all trying to do deals to make money and they never anticipated that they would end up under the magnifying glass of Robert Mueller.

O`DONNELL: And Michael Isikoff, I think any reader of your book, "Russian Roulette," is not surprised about what we`re learning tonight about how long the Moscow Project was pursued. Everything we`re discovering seems to be consistent with all the research that you delivered in your book. Were you surprised by any of the developments that have been revealed in these pleadings?

ISIKOFF: I was surprised last week by the Cohen guilty plea about the direct communications between Michael Cohen and Vladimir Putin`s office itself, the special assistant to Demitri Peskov, his press secretary, who did respond to that e-mail that Cohen sent to Peskov, and that there were discussions about securing land and financing for that deal.

During the presidential campaign, there was a representative of Donald Trump speaking directly with the Kremlin about securing their help for financing for a business deal that was going to make Donald Trump a lot of money. That was even further than we had known before and was pretty stunning.

And I agree with Ken, it totally gives the lie to what Donald Trump was saying about he had nothing it do with Russia, he didn`t know anybody who worked for him who had any contacts with Russians.

But, you know, again, that said, you know, a lot -- a lot of -- you know, Michael Cohen -- if Robert Mueller was looking for a witness, a John Dean to testify against the president, he`s going to have a hard time with Michael Cohen especially reading that southern district memo which says he wasn`t even forthcoming after he agreed to cooperate and wouldn`t testify, wouldn`t give them information about his past criminal conduct.

That really undercuts Michael Cohen as a witness and obviously Paul Manafort is not anybody who can be used as a witness. So two key people who could have been witnesses against Donald Trump have serious baggage and are probably unusable by Robert Mueller.

O`DONNELL: Even in Mueller`s pleading, they specify that Cohen`s first impulse was to lie to them and so he didn`t start telling the truth until the second round of their discussions. Michael Isikoff, Tim O`Brien, Ken Dilanian, thank you for helping us start this off tonight.

Everyone else is going to stay with us. We`re going to continue our discussion of what has happened today in these legal filings. And there`s the Paul Manafort legal filing, which we haven`t even gotten to.

How crazy is Paul Manafort? According to Robert Mueller`s filing in the Manafort case today, the answer is very, very crazy. Even Paul Manafort`s own lawyers seem to agree with the prosecutors that Manafort was lying to the prosecutors.


O`DONNELL: Only three presidents of the United States have been accused of federal crimes by a special prosecutor -- by a federal prosecutor of any kind while in office and Donald Trump is now one of them. Bill Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, and that was enough to get Bill Clinton impeached by the House of Representatives.

Richard Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator by Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and then the House Judiciary Committee voted approval of articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, which then provoked Richard Nixon to be the one and only person who has resigned the presidency of the United States.

So what happens to Donald Trump? Now that he`s the third American president to be accused by federal prosecutors of committing crimes, will he now be the first American president accused by federal prosecutors of committing crimes whose crimes are then ignored by Congress?

Joining our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee where impeachment proceedings begin. Congressman Cohen, your reaction to what we`ve learned today about the president of the United States in the Michael Cohen case?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think that what we`ve learned today is what many of us have known for at least two years and some for maybe 10 or 15 and that Donald Trump is a criminal enterprise, the Trump family is a criminal enterprise, and that most of the people he`s involved with like Michael Cohen and Manafort are shady folks. And it`s astonishing that they have taken the White House in the contrast that George Herbert Walker Bush, a man of distinction and class and character and this man, it just so manifest.

O`DONNELL: As the prosecutors of New York went as far as the Justice Department guidelines allowed them to, they are not allowed to charge the president of the United States formally with crimes, indict the president of the United States. That the remedy is left only to you in Congress according to the way the justice department sees this now, that given that those crimes have been outlined, is this enough reason for the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment investigation?

COHEN: We`re going to start investigations in many committees and particularly in the judiciary of Trump activities. We`re not going to start with impeachment. You know, I feel that he`s committed many impeachable offenses, and there`s no question, even doubt that broke the other day. He`s not exactly the most liberal guy, that he may be the most impeachable president ever.

But you got to have at least 20 Republicans to agree with you and you got to have information come out which can either be through Mueller or as I know Michael is concerned that might not come out, that may not come out. But it could come out through hearings in the Judiciary Committee, information that shows to Republicans that this man is an albatross and they need to jettison him or else, they`re going to just be get -- the wave in 2020 is going to be even greater. It`s going to be a wave that`s going to hit the Senate.

I think the proof is going to come out. They probably have recordings of Trump that Michael Cohen had. They probably have recordings of other people, the family members. And it`s going to be so clear that this has been a criminal enterprise from day one with the Russians and Trump, that the Republicans will jump off of the ship and say we`ve got to get rid of this guy.

O`DONNELL: So it`s been very clear --

COHEN: So we`ll have hearings. We`re going to have hearings that`s going to be like impeachment because it`s going to bring out the facts but actually--

O`DONNELL: Let me ask you. What does it take to get an impeachment hearing against this president? He`s accused of federal crimes by federal prosecutors in New York City. That makes him one of three presidents in history. Are the Democrats prepared to allow this to be the only president in history who gets accused of federal crimes like this who then does not face an impeachment hearing in the House of Representatives?

COHEN: I don`t think that will happen. I think -- but it`s going to have to be Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler to be the leaders. Nothing gets scheduled in Judiciary Committee without Chairman Nadler, the chairman making it on the agenda. And he would not do that without consultation with the speaker and I`m sure the majority leader and Mr. Clyburn as well. At some point, the team will come together.

O`DONNELL: Is it the Democrat`s position, because I keep hearing this that Democrats will not take any action without the support of Republicans both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate and therefore, the Democrats are simply surrendering their own powers in the House of Representatives to the control of Republicans?

COHEN: I don`t think that`s the case, Lawrence. Because I think what it is, is we want to see some Republicans either have their eyes opened or their backbones reinstalled and come forth and show that they`re willing to at least shoulder some of the responsibility and be open to this. And I think --

O`DONNELL: And if they don`t because this is a party that does not shoulder responsibility under any circumstances? If they don`t, are the Democrats in Congress prepared to establish the precedent that presidents are allowed to commit federal crimes the way Donald Trump has been charged in New York with this federal crime, that Democrats would then establish that as an acceptable precedent by presidents not to be challenged by the opposing party in Congress?

COHEN: I can assure you that I will be on the inside urging that we take action and that we not wait too long and that we develop -- that the proof be developed and the facts be out there where the American public says that it`s just been too much. And I think you`re going to find some Republicans who are going to say their skin will come around.

And that`s what happened in Watergate. They realized he was a -- there was a cancer on the presidency. There`s a cancer on the presidency now or cancer in the White House, whatever John Dean`s terminology was but it exists again. And we should have this man come to have to respond and be impeached, but you don`t want to necessarily have it be before it`s so obvious to even members of the Republican party that have their own security to be concerned about.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Steve Cohen, really appreciate you joining us tonight. You have a very important position on the Judiciary Committee. We`re going to need to hear a lot more from you, especially when you take over the majority in January. Thank you very much for joining us on this important night.

COHEN: You`re welcome, Lawrence. And believe me, I`m simpatico with you but I`m part of the -- I`ve got to be part of the team and I`ve got to work with Jerry and Nancy.

O`DONNELL: I know how it works. Thank you very much, Congressman. Really appreciate it.

COHEN: Yes, you too.

O`DONNELL: And Jill Wine-Banks and Ron Klain are still with us. And Jill, we go again to your experience with impeachment, your experience as a special prosecutor. What I`m hearing -- what I`ve been hearing from the Democrats especially throughout the campaign season where Nancy Pelosi issued an order that said don`t any of you talk about impeachment, don`t do it. I understand the political calculation made there. I don`t necessarily agree with it.

But now we`re crossing very big legal lines here. And it seems to me that Democrats are running the risk of possibly allowing crimes like what the president has been accused of to stand because they consider it simply a political calculation, whether you go forward with an impeachment hearing.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: This is the time for bipartisanship, not just for the Democrats to shoulder the responsibility, but for the people who have been enabling Donald Trump to do this since the day of his election. And I think that there`s a difference between the political judgment and calculation that you have to make as to whether you can succeed in impeachment and conviction and with having a public hearing so that at least the people will know.

We concluded that the president was indictable or I should say at least many of the members of my team concluded that he was indictable. But Leon Jaworski said that impeachment was the politically correct procedure. So that means that if you don`t indict and the office of legal counsel is prohibiting it, then you have to follow impeachment as the only way to do justice in this case.

And the evidence here is, to me, quite clear that crimes have been committed. So the only question is, do you let him get away with it or do you try to do some justice either through the criminal system or through the political system, which would be impeachment? And I think we have to address that and take one of those actions because otherwise someone is above the law and that is not democracy.

So we should take action. And I think that the crimes have been laid out quite clearly. And I think you made a very persuasive case of why even politically, it`s the right time to do something.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Ron, sometimes there is simply a right thing to do. There may be another thing to do that is the political thing to do, but sometimes there is a right thing to do. And at some point, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are going to have to face this question of do we do the right thing or do we do the political thing.

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, Lawrence, I absolutely agree with that. I mean I do think it makes sense for the Democrats, when they take over the House, to do some legislating first, make it clear that they`re fighting for the American people. I think it might well make sense to wait for Robert Mueller`s final report so they have all the facts before them.

And it definitely makes sense to put together a substantive, not political but sound legal approach to this issue. But at the end of the day, whether it winds up being good politics or bad politics, the Democrats have a constitutional duty to do their jobs as members of the House of Representatives and look at whatever evidence comes forward here, and if necessary go forward with impeachment.

And look, I don`t know if that`s going to be good politics. I don`t know if it`s going to be bad politics, but it is their role under our constitution, it is their duty in our system. Once all the facts are mustered, once they do it the right way, they should take their time, do it right but they have to do their duty in the end.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to get a break in here. And when we come back, according to Robert Mueller`s filing in the Manafort case today, Paul Manafort`s lawyers seem to be agreeing with the prosecutors that Paul Manafort was indeed lying to the prosecutors.


O`DONNELL: There is an extraordinary revelation on the special prosecutor`s filing in the Paul Manafort case today showing how "defendant Paul J. Manafort, Jr. has breached his plea agreement by making false statements." The stunning revelation inside that filing is that Paul Manafort`s own lawyers apparently agree with the prosecutors that Paul Manafort was lying to the prosecutors.

Robert Mueller`s team reveals that they had several meetings and discussions in November with Manafort`s lawyers about Paul Manafort`s lies. "In none of the communications with Manafort`s counsel was any factual or legal argument made as to why the government`s assessment of Manafort`s credibility was erroneous or made without good faith." In other words, Manafort`s lawyers never voiced any disagreement at all when the special counsel`s office told them that Manafort was lying to them.

The special prosecutor outlines several subjects Manafort lied about including interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of Manafort`s who he worked with in Ukraine. Most of the Kilimnik material is redacted in the filing but one significant area has only one redaction which apparently is the person referred to in this part of the filing. It says that Paul Manafort provided information, that "was pertinent to an investigation in another district".

But Manafort changed his testimony about that subject and then changed it again according to special prosecutor`s filing. "He then subsequently changed that version in order to more closely conform to his earlier statements, after defense counsel in the government`s presence showed him notes that defense counsel represented had been taken off the earlier proffer session."

In other words, Manafort`s lawyers reminded him of what he said the first time he talked about that subject so he could get his story straight and the prosecutors were right there in the room watching this happen. There are no redactions in the filing about Manafort lying about his continued contacts with the Trump administration, contacts that continued as recently as May of this year.

To discuss this, we`re joined again by Barbara McQuade, Jill Wine-Banks, and Ron Klain.

Barbara, your reaction to what we learned in the Manafort filing?

BARBARA MCQUADE: Yes. Well, Manafort can`t help himself from lying, it appears. Even after he decides to come clean and try to cooperate, he continues to lie. I think some of the really interesting aspects of this relate to his conversations with Konstantin Kilimnik. That really goes to the heart of the Russia investigation.

Robert Mueller has assessed that he is a Russian intelligence officer. And there are two circumstances where they allege that Paul Manafort lied about Konstantin Kilimnik. One was his cooperation with Manafort to tamper with witnesses in the foreign agent registration case to which he pleaded guilty. And the other is heavily redacted and so we don`t know what is going on there.

Now, there have been reports of things like Paul Manafort offering to give a briefing on the campaign to a Russian oligarch. There were reports of a change in the platform of the Republican party at the convention. And how did those things come about? And are those some of the things that Konstantin Kilimnik was talking about and that they`re now redacting? Hard to say but that`s the part I think that`s most intriguing about Paul Manafort. And it seems that he`s still unwilling to be fully forthcoming about some of those matters.

O`DONNELL: And Jill, the scenes that emerged from this filing are really quite striking. I mean the picture there describing where Paul Manafort`s lawyers in the room with the prosecutors have to show him, look, this is what you said the first time. You got to try to find your way back to that.

And then the part where the prosecutors say in the whole month of November where they were talking constantly about possibly ripping up this deal with Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort`s lawyers never once, never once said, "Oh, no, no, he`s not lying to you. He`s telling you the truth." They never contradicted the prosecutors in any of their discussions.

WINE-BANKS: It`s amazing. But it`s probably because when you read this document -- although redactions are extremely frustrating because you really want to know all the details that are laid out there but they have identified sources of corroborating evidence for their conclusion that he was consistently lying to them. And they lay out that there are documents and tapes and recordings and other information that will support their case if they have to prove it to the court to justify their having violated or having voided the plea agreement.

So it means that the lawyers really are in a tough position. They can`t say he`s not lying when they know what the corroborating evidence is. That would be very unethical and would put them in a very difficult position. So I think the case for his lying is really strong. It`s a shame because he stands to benefit not at all from this.

If he does get a pardon - which is obviously what he`s playing for, I`m helping the president, he`s going to save me, he really won`t save him because he will still be called back to testify. And then if he says the same things which we know to be lies, he will be held in contempt of court, he will be charged with perjury, and the president would have to pardon him a second time and a third and a fourth until he came forward with the truth.

And at some point, people are going to say the president cannot continually stop people from testifying against him, that that is a clear case of obstruction of justice.

O`DONNELL: I think we have the video ready to go of Paul Manafort being asked a tough question during the Republican convention. Do we have that? OK. Let`s just take a look at this because you have to remember, this is the guy, this is the guy who`s in the room talking to the prosecutors handling tough questions. Let`s watch this.


NORAH O`DONNELL, NEWS ANCHOR, CBS NEWS: So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?

PAUL MANAFORT: That`s what he said. I don`t -- that`s what I said. That`s obviously what our position is.


O`DONNELL: So, Ron, that`s the kind of answer with the prosecutors that can kind of lead to problems.

KLAIN: Yes. You know, I`ve probably watched that a hundred times in the past two days. It`s an irresistible piece of videotape. But look, on the more serious side, Lawrence, in the Cohen filings today they talked about political synergy with Russia. Here in the Manafort filings, we`re seeing the sin side of that synergy, which is his dealings with a Soviet Russian intelligence officer, Mr. Kilimnik, who clearly was well-connected in the Russian government and was basically hand in glove with Paul Manafort.

And, you know, as Jill said, it`s very frustrating that so much is blacked out and so much is redacted. But even if what is not redacted, what we`re seeing is the incredible integration of a Russian intelligence official with the person who was running the Trump campaign at the time President Trump secured the Republican nomination for president. And nothing good came from that. And we don`t really know why Paul Manafort`s lying now, but that is really at the heart of this Russian collusion thing.

Ron Klain, Jill Wine-Banks, Barbara McQuade, thank you all for guiding us through this very important hour of coverage on this important news tonight. We will be right back.


O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s last word.