LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali, and we`re going to be adding onto that reporting tonight on that subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee. We have a "Washington Post" reporter who`s actually now seen the subpoena and be able to read some specifics on it, including one particular name. So, we`re going to be adding, and I think as these hours wear on, this will not be the end of it.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is an interesting story, and I`m glad you`re doing it.
O`DONNELL: Yes, we`ll be developing a lot more tomorrow, I`m sure. Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Willful ignorance. That is what people say he brings to work. And so, it might be good for America and the world that President Trump does not work very much. Those two points are established in two huge leaks to the news media this weekend from people inside the Trump administration who apparently want us to believe that Donald Trump is caught somewhere between doing a very bad job as president and doing no job at all.
The information in these two leaks is historic, and we can`t say that about every leak from Trump world, but these leaks, these leaks will be cited by future historians of this period when they describe how Donald Trump did his job or failed to do his job as president of the United States. Someone who works for President Trump decided to leak his daily schedules to "Axios". According to the schedules, there are workdays when the president is scheduled for about one hour of work.
And that so-called work is not what most workers in America would consider work. For President Trump, work is simply sitting and talking and sometimes listening. There is no minimum wage worker in America who gets to call that work.
That`s what most American workers do on their day off. That`s not what high school students call work. Serious high school students spend many more hours a day working than President Trump does, according to his schedules.
Serious high school students spend several hours of a day in class, intensely paying attention and taking notes, and then spend more hours on homework. They spend hours studying, they spend hours reading, but even serious high school students don`t work as hard as Barack Obama did in the presidency, putting in 10-hour days routinely of briefings and meetings and study sessions, only then to take home a mountain of homework that he had to master. And, of course, President Obama was the best speechwriter working in his White House, so he also did far more writing than most presidents.
But Donald Trump has now turned the presidency into if not the easiest job in the federal government, certainly the easiest elected position in the federal government. Of course, any job is easy if you`re willing to fail at it. And that`s what President Trump has done, according to a new poll today that shows America does not believe Donald Trump should be reelected. Fifty-seven percent believe Donald Trump is a failed president and should not be reelected.
The one way to follow the presidential campaign from this day forward is to keep that number in mind, 57 percent who believe Donald Trump should not be reelected which matches the 57 percent in another poll who say they definitely will not vote for Donald Trump. Keep that 57 percent in mind every day of the presidential campaign and ask yourself, what did Donald Trump do today to change the minds of about 20 percent of those people who have decided to vote against him? Because that`s what Donald Trump has to do to win reelection. He has to change the minds of people who have already made up their minds that he does not deserve reelection and that they definitely are not going to vote for him.
Donald Trump did nothing today to change any of those minds. And these leaks from inside the Trump administration this weekend will do nothing to change those minds. One of those leaks reinforces the image of Donald Trump as a reckless man in a job where recklessness presents a danger not just to Americans but to the world.
John Walcott of "Time" magazine who will join us in just a moment obtained accounts of President Trump`s approach to intelligence issues. In his report, John Walcott said, senior intelligence briefers are breaking two years of silence to warn that the president is endangering American security with what they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessments. Citing multiple in-person episodes, these intelligence officials say Trump displays what with calls ignorance when presented withal knees generated by America`s $81 million a year intelligence services. The officials who include analysts who prepared Trump`s briefs and briefers themselves describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.
And leading off our discussion now are John Walcott, who broke that story for "Time" magazine about what senior intelligence officials call Trump`s willful ignorance that cannot be overcome by our most sophisticated intelligence analysts. Also with us, Chris Whipple, he literally wrote the book on how a White House is supposed to be run. It`s called "The Gatekeepers: How the Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency." And we are joined by Mieke Eoyang, who knows the value of intelligence briefings from her years of experience on the staff of the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives.
John Walcott, I want to start with you, and the sources you`re using here are people who -- some of them are people who have actually been in the room briefing the president, is that correct?
JOHN WALCOTT, TIME.COM CONTRIBUTOR: That is correct.
O`DONNELL: And they are telling you that among other things they have to try to reduce it to a couple of sentences, that there is an attention span issue? What other challenges did they face in that room?
WALCOTT: Well, certainly, there is an attention span issue. I think all of us know that from various sources. Second, there is a problem getting a president up to speed who has very little experience in foreign affairs. That`s not unique to President Trump. Other presidents, including President Obama, have come into office without deep experience in foreign policy.
That brings us to the third difference, which is the stubborn disregard for anything he disagrees with. We`ve seen that in the intelligence briefings and we`ve also seen it on the outside. He tends to reject opinions and analysis that conflicts with his own opinions and beliefs.
O`DONNELL: And, Chris Whipple, you`ve spoken to people in the Trump White House as well as the Obama White House. I think in your experience, it`s impossible to compare Donald Trump`s ignorance to any other president who has preceded him.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, "THE GATEKEEPERS": No, it`s true. I mean, he`s in a class of his own, as we know. And, you know, we`ve had three White House chiefs of staff under Donald Trump who were all of them unable to tell the president what he did not want to hear. And now, according to John in his terrific story, it`s the intelligence briefers. And in a way, that`s even more disturbing than it is with the White House chiefs, because you think about it, these guys are the last line of defense. They are the thin line between the president and his own delusions and really his own fantasyland. This is a president for whom discipline and process are anathema, and in a crisis that way lies disaster.
O`DONNELL: And, Mieke Eoyang, President Obama, for example, served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Donald Trump, there is no evidence that he`s ever even read an article about any of the subjects that presidents have to deal with on a daily basis. There was certainly no evidence that he had read any "New York Times" article or "Washington Post" article, any basic reporting when he was in presidential debates leading up to election night. And so, the ignorance we knew about.
The willful ignorance that John Walcott is describing is something we could have only gotten from the inside.
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That`s right, and it`s very frustrating. You think that the intelligence communities have been presenting intelligence briefings to the presidents even before they were sworn in as candidates. At a certain point, both candidates received daily intelligence briefings in case one of them wins so they understand what`s going on in the world.
What you see in Trump is he`s not been interested in understanding the way the world works. He does not ask follow-up questions about the consequences of the course of action he`s going to take, and so you see the world not reacting in the way that he wants to this world that he is trying to invent.
O`DONNELL: And, John Walcott, you have briefers telling you that they have been warned, as you report. They`ve been warned to avoid giving the president intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.
What do those briefers, then, do when they have information that contradicts the president?
WALCOTT: Well, they have a very difficult decision to make. The warning is that if you tell him things that he`s publicly disagreed with or taken a different stance on, you`re in danger of losing your access to him. He doesn`t want to hear from you anymore.
So, the tough decision that all these people face and that the chiefs of the intelligence services faced when they testified last week on the Hill, is do I tell it straight or do I try to maintain my access to this guy? Jim Mattis at defense had that problem, John Kelly and H.R. McMaster had that problem, and where are they now?
O`DONNELL: But, John, on the intelligence briefers, would they just be replaced? If an intelligence briefer tells President Trump something he doesn`t want to hear, and then maybe does it repeatedly a couple times, would that briefer be replaced by another briefer, or would the briefings just stop?
WALCOTT: For the most part, Lawrence, the briefings have stopped. The president doesn`t take them, unlike President Obama who took home three notebooks at night. The president doesn`t read them, often doesn`t take them. Security adviser John Bolton takes some of them, Vice President Pence takes some of them. He simply ignores them.
O`DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang, what is the president missing by not taking that homework home with him that Barack Obama took home every night?
EOYANG: He`s missing how the world works. He`s missing the kinds of facts he would need to make wise decisions to guide the nation. He`s missing the reactions of our allies. He`s missing the strength of our enemies. He`s missing the way the rest of the world works and how the U.S. economy is affected by that and how Americans could be at risk all over the world.
He`s not interested in understanding the details of the complexity of the world and the threats arrayed against America. That`s actually very troubling and that`s why I think you see these intelligence briefers coming forward now, to warn us of the president`s danger when he so publicly disagreed with the intelligence assessments after the presentation in Congress.
O`DONNELL: Chris Whipple, John`s extraordinary reporting reveals an episode in which the president was being briefed on something and it involved islands in the Indian Ocean that are extremely crucial, and the president`s only question about it was -- about those islands were, are the people nice and are the beaches good? Is that something you found in your study of past presidencies?
WHIPPLE: No. I have to say I`ve never seen anything like that. We`re used to throwing around adjectives like "unprecedented" and "never heard of before", and that`s certainly the case here.
You know, at the end of the day, if the president is unwilling to hear hard truths from his intelligence briefers, you know, the other two people who have to step up and become the honest brokers of information are the national security adviser and the White House chief of staff. Now, I don`t think anybody expects John Bolton to be an honest broker. We know that he`s a real ideologue.
So, then it lands on the White House chief of staff. But at the end of the day, as I`m sure anyone would tell you, at the CIA, it`s really only the intelligence community that can give him that raw data and that analysis that he needs to understand the world.
O`DONNELL: And, John Walcott, your reporting follows a week in which the president publicly attacked the leaders and presumably everyone working in the intelligence community, saying that they are wrong -- those are his words after they testified publicly about the threat assessment worldwide to the United States. He also said they should go back to school and that that was apparently aimed at everyone in the intelligence community. You then presented this leaked story from the intelligence community this weekend.
Is that sequence a part of what provoked these leaks?
WALCOTT: There`s no question about it. But the sequence actually started very early in the presidency when President Trump went out to CIA headquarters, stood in front of the Wall of Stars that commemorates intelligence officers who have fallen in the line of duty, and talked about himself and his inauguration.
But I think it really started to crack open two things. One, when he publicly sided with Russian President Putin against the intelligence community, and two, when the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came out and talked about some of the same qualities that are in that article. And then the last straw, if you want to put it that way, was his knock-down of the intelligence community and the suggestion that they should go back to school, which one of the officials off the record replied, he ought to go to school.
O`DONNELL: Makes a lot of sense.
Chris Whipple, in your study of presidencies, have you ever seen schedules like what was leaked about President Trump`s schedule now? And I`m not counting FDR when he was dying. I`m not counting Woodrow Wilson when he was physically incapacitated. I`m talking about physically capable presidents who spent as much leisure time during the workday as Donald Trump.
WHIPPLE: No, nothing like it. And, you know, even Ronald Reagan, who was famously detached as president, would show up at 9:00 sharp in the Oval Office every day, and he would hilt his marks. As long as he had a good director like Jim Baker around.
So it`s unprecedented. Both of these stories, John`s story on the intel briefings, the story of Donald Trump unbelievable, quote, unquote, executive time, might have been something we knew each other for a while.
But I think this is chilling confirmation of it. That is that this White House is full of people who are not only incompetent at governing, but many of them are, you know, profoundly uninterested in governing.
Dennis McDonough on the first day, January 28, 2017, sat in his office and waited for the chief of staff to arrive, and no one showed up. He gave up. He turned off the lights, and he left the White House. And, you know, not very much has changed, you could argue, and here`s Donald Trump with his executive time.
O`DONNELL: John Walcott, thank you very much for joining us with your exclusive reporting tonight on the president`s willful ignorance, as the intelligence officials call it. And Chris Whipple and Mieke Eoyang, thank you for starting us off right tonight.
And when we come back, we have breaking news of a federal investigation into money that went into the president`s inaugural committee, over $100 millions. You first heard the details of this within the last hour, but our new details breaking by the hour. "The Washington Post" now has reporter who has seen that subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee. She will join us.
And President Trump tries to explain why he can`t be impeached. But President Trump has ventured into a bit of legal scholarship that -- not surprisingly -- he doesn`t know much about.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news at this hour about financial dealings involving the president of the United States that are now being investigated by federal prosecutors. One of the most mysterious mountains of money that Donald Trump has raised and controlled is the record $107 million raised by President Trump`s inaugural committee, the most any inaugural committee had ever raised.
Federal prosecutors in New York City are now trying to trace every penny of that money. The "Washington Post" is now the preferred news organization tonight along with the "New York Times" to confirm that federal prosecutors in New York City issued a subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee today, a wide-ranging subpoena which was read by the "Washington Post." In it, prosecutors are seeking, quote, an array of documents including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors and foreign contacts to the committee.
The document indicates that prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Joining us by phone is "Washington Post" investigative reporter Rosalind Helderman.
And, Rosalind, I read in, when your report came over my phone, that there was one individual in Los Angeles who donated $900,000 approximately to the fund. And so, there are specific -- does the subpoena mention specific people like that that the subpoena is interested in?
ROSALIND HELDERMAN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Yes, it`s interesting, the subpoena is generally very broad, as you mentioned. It seeks documents in this very sweeping array of topics, but it also mentions this one particular donor and company, a Los Angeles financier named Imaad Zuberi.
This is the one name mentioned specifically in the subpoena. He was a major Democratic donor. He had given a large amount of money to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and then suddenly in January of 2017, his company gave $100,000 to support the Republican convention, which had been a few months earlier, and then $900,000 to support Donald Trump`s inaugural. He`s actually the first bullet point of the subpoena.
O`DONNELL: And why is this subpoena being issued by federal prosecutors in New York City and not the special prosecutor Robert Mueller?
HELDERMAN: We had done some reporting a while back now that the special counsel had been asking questions specifically about the topic of the possibility of foreign donors at the inaugural. It`s not legal for foreigners to donate to an inaugural committee. You have to be a U.S. citizen or resident. This subpoena comes from the Southern District of New York, so Manhattan prosecutors, so that would seem to be an indication that the thrust of this investigation is not being handled by Mueller`s office but instead by prosecutors in kind of the ordinary course of business.
O`DONNELL: And there`s a big difference between campaign contributors and inaugural committee contributors, isn`t there? There is no real necessity to reveal who your inaugural contributors are.
HELDERMAN: Actually, there is an FCC requirement to reveal an inaugural donor. So, we have the FCC documents that had been released by President Trump`s inaugural committee that shows the companies and people they say donated.
Interestingly, part of what the subpoena seeks is sort of a restatement to donors as well as kind of their records that were put together by the inaugural committee in order to file those FCC documents. So it looks like one of the many, many things they`re looking at here is whether the FCC filings accurately reflect who really gave to the committee.
O`DONNELL: Rosalind Helderman, thank you for joining us with your breaking news tonight. Really appreciate it.
And what the "Washington Post" is reporting tonight along with "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" follows a separate report from "The New York Times" this weekend that Donald Trump, candidate Donald Trump, requested a $10 million loan from Deutsche Bank during the 2016 presidential campaign. Deutsche Bank turned down that Trump loan request. "The times" reports, quote, senior officials at the bank, including the future senior executive, believes Mr. Trump`s divisive candidacy made such a loan too risky, the people said. Among their concerns was that if Mr. Trump won the election and then defaulted, Deutsch Bank would have to choose between not collecting on the debt, or seizing the assets of the president of the United States. The previously unreported loan request could draw further scrutiny from Democrats who are already preparing to launch an investigation into Donald Trump`s dealings with Deutsche Bank because of the bank`s past involvement in Russian money laundering schemes.
Joining ours discussion now are two people who have followed the money of Donald Trump and both have spent years following the money trail of Donald Trump and both have written books about the business of being Donald Trump.
David Cay Johnston won a Pulitzer Prize as a tax reporter for "The New York Times". He is now a founder of DCReport.org, and the author of most recently, "It`s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Organization is Doing to America."
Tim O`Brien is the author of "TrumpNation". He was unsuccessfully sued by Trump for publishing that book and he is now an executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion" and an MSNBC contributor.
And, David, I like to start with you. The federal prosecutors now investigating the Trump inaugural committee for crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering. Who could ever have seen this coming?
DAVID JOHNSTON, DCREPORT.ORG: It`s amazing it`s taken this long to get there. Since we found out, Lawrence, that they had raised $107 million, I`ve been calling for a forensic, a criminal level audit. There is no indication they spent even a quarter that much money on the really minimal sort of inaugural celebration that they had. Who put the money in? Where did it go? And we really need answers.
I think it`s very important to the public that we learn that these subpoenas are out there, and I`m sure there will now be a fine-tooth comb run over the books to find out where the money came in and who it went to and why.
O`DONNELL: And, Tim, not surprisingly, one of the crimes that the federal prosecutors are investigating in relation to the inaugural committee is false statements. So they`ve already been investigating and others have been investigating what happened with the $107 million. And it seems as though some of the Trump people involved in this might not have told the entire truth to investigators.
TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": Are you shocked, Lawrence? Are you shocked at this?
O`DONNELL: But that is, of course, exactly where you expect them to be caught up is on the false statements.
O`BRIEN: You know, it`s not just the money itself but it`s where the money came from. They also want to know if this money came from foreign donors. And this is the larger issue that`s hung over almost everything Donald Trump touched before, during and after the election. It touched his business, it touched his campaign, it touched the inauguration, it touched the transition.
Foreign money coming into the Trump coffers with questions now raised by prosecutors whether or not that was influence peddling. It`s really no more complex than that. The complexities are did his team know about it and did they lie to cover it up? Were there quid pro quos? What were the quid pro quos? How extensive were they?
But the fundamental issue here were foreign entities or foreign interest paying money to Trump concerns in order to get favors.
O`DONNELL: And, David, everyone in politics and political campaigns, the people that know how to do it in an honorable and legal way, know that there are bad donors who want to come into your world. There are people who want to come into your campaign who you do not want on your donor list, and some of them are completely legal to contribute. They are Americans, but, you know, they might have had some problems with the sec or some kind of things associated with them that you don`t want associated with your campaign. That involves turning down money that comes your way.
Has Donald Trump ever turned down money that has come easily his way?
JOHNSTON: Did the sun fail to rise in the east this morning? That`s exactly right.
Remember when Bill Clinton got in trouble because of some hinky character in Marina Del Ray, California, who made contributions. And politicians have to police this and when somebody slips around them, and that happens, the honorable thing to do is you own up to it and you give the money to charity or back to the individual, depending on circumstances.
We haven`t seen a single thing by Trump or the people around him to correct the record here, or to express any concern about it. That`s because, of course, to the leader of this group, Donald Trump, there is nothing wrong with any of this. What`s wrong with you, Lawrence, for questioning this?
O`DONNELL: Maggie Haberman is tweeting as part of the "New York Times" report tonight saying: This subpoena is huge in scope and what the Southern District of New York, the federal prosecutors involved, what they`re looking at another reminder that as Mueller prepares to wind down, legal issues related to Trump are going to continue to hang around in lower Manhattan for a long time. And Tim O`Brien, there are some who have said Donald Trump`s biggest problem is the one here in Manhattan, the one who already has Michael Cohen`s conviction and who has already in effect named Donald Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case.
O`BRIEN: Yes. You know, it`s always been the sort of joke that the Trump team thinks they`re playing three-dimensional chess, or they`re actually just playing bingo, and it`s Robert Mueller who`s been playing three- dimensional chess.
At some time, a while in a point -- in point`s past, he decided to hand off parts of his investigation to the Southern District of New York. And this is when he was under a lot of pressure in Washington to define the limits of his investigation, to make sure it was just a collusion investigation, or an obstruction investigation when, of course, the whole thing could become high crimes and misdemeanors investigation, which would be impeachable.
Regardless of the direction that takes, he`s clearly uncovered a number of financial problems and crimes in the course of the investigation that he`s given to other jurisdictions that are outside the president`s reach. That not only includes the Southern District of New York, it`s also the New York State attorney general`s office.
And all of those things, as Maggie pointed out in her tweet, are going to possibly haunt Trump much longer than his presidency. And what the interesting developments of all that may mean that in sort of an unthinking embrace of the presidency and the White House, he put his entire family and business in jeopardy.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, David, the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan federal prosecutors who are on this case, they are the ones who have already obtained the cooperation of people working in the Trump Company, inclusion the chief financial officer. They got cooperation from him during their investigation of Michael Cohen, and presumably cooperation for anything else they might be inquiring about.
JOHNSTON: Yes. And remember, when Donald Trump got rid of all the U.S. attorneys as cover so he could get rid of Preet Bharara running the Southern District Office, in his mind -- and I`m sure I suspect Tim would agree with me about this, he figured, well, I`ve taken care of that problem. He does not understand the integrity of people in law enforcement.
That doesn`t mean they don`t screw up now and then and do things that they shouldn`t do. But overall, they are resolute in going after people engaged in wrongful conduct.
And the ability they have now, because of people like Michael Cohen and Alan Weisselberg cooperating to some degree means that they are going to be able to put together serious cases if any money was out of place at all and if they lied about the money. And the subpoena seems to make it pretty clear that there was already some lies told about this astonishing amount of money, $107 million for the inauguration.
O`DONNELL: David Cay Johnston and Tim O`Brien, thank you both for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
And when we come back, why President Trump says he can`t be impeached. We`ll see if Legal Scholar Neal Katyal agrees with Donald Trump`s legal scholarship.
O`DONNELL: "CBS" broadcast a portion of an interview with President Trump this morning in which the president talked about his own impeachment, something most presidents have never talked about because they`ve never asked about it because it`s never come close to being even possible.
It should come is as no surprise that the president said a few things that aren`t exactly true. He said that the only way that Democrats can get rid of him is through impeachment "because they can`t win the election". We have never had polling two years into a presidency in which 57 percent of voters say the president should not be reelected and polling that says 57 percent - 56 percent of voters definitely will not vote for the president in his reelection.
So according to the polls, the person who cannot win the next election is named Donald Trump. And that`s one reason why some Democrats actually don`t want to impeach Donald Trump, no matter what the evidence shows, because they would rather leave him on the ballot as the weakest possible Republican the Democrats could face in the next presidential election.
In the "CBS" interview, the president also ventured into his own version of legal scholarship. He said the president can only be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. And he said there was no high crime, there was no misdemeanor.
The problem for the president there is that in the end, the only people who get to decide whether what the president has done merits removal from office are United States senators. They are the jury in impeachment trials. And Donald Trump`s legal scholarship is not going to impress them.
Here is what President Trump said about President Trump`s impeachment this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET BRENNAN, MODERATOR, FACE THE NATION: Are you prepared for an attempt to impeach you?
TRUMP: The only way they can win, because they can`t win the election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment. And the problem is you can`t impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president in the history of our country for the first two years. And people have seen and people have watched what we`ve done, whether there`s tax cuts --
BRENNAN: It`s political --
BRENNAN: Are you prepared for it?
TRUMP: It`s political but it`s supposed to be high crimes and misdemeanors. Well, there was no high crime. There was no misdemeanor. There was no problem whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We are lucky to be joined tonight by the legal scholar who had a hand in the writing of the rules for special counsels when he was working in the Justice Department. Neal Katyal is a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and had years of service in the Justice Department before that.
Neal, I want to get your reaction to what the president said about impeachment and about the high crimes and misdemeanors. And there was no high crime, there was no misdemeanor, therefore, case closed.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yes, it`s not surprising to me, Lawrence, that Trump is saying no one can beat him in an election, because the last time he ran for an election, he cheated on the campaign finance laws, he had help some Russia -- from Russia. And so it`s understandable why he would say no one can beat him now.
But that`s actually the point when we talk about impeachment because it seems to me all these allegations are so serious, Congress has to look into it. They swear an oath, after all, to uphold the constitution.
And just think about, Lawrence, what`s going to happen tomorrow. The president is going to give his State of the Union address and sitting behind him holding a gavel will be Nancy Pelosi.
And remember what she said last week? She said, you know, think about the fact that there have been 37 indictments in the Mueller probe. Think about the fact that so many people around him, serious people, you know, the national security adviser, the head of his campaign, had pled guilty to very high felonies.
You know, and there`s been cheating on the election, there`s been allegations of obstruction of justice. And you have to ask, what does Putin possibly have on the president? Why is the president, for example, talking about pulling out of NATO, which would be one of the greatest gifts ever to Russia and to Putin?
So all of those questions together, I think, raise the question if you`re a member of Congress, how do you not think about an impeachment inquiry, at least just starting one and asking these questions.
O`DONNELL: And it`s pretty clear that Donald Trump has demonstrated complete ignorance of any words that appear in the constitution. And for him to even be able to use the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors which does appear in the impeachment clause indicates that he has been in conversations about his own impeachment inside that White House aware -- he`s probably being told by, who knows, Rudy Giuliani or anyone, don`t worry, it doesn`t reach the level.
But what senators -- and I`ve discovered this in talking to senators personally during the Clinton impeachment trial, what senators discovered was that it was entirely up to them. They all were looking for the magic words that could tell them exactly what the threshold was for removal from office. And they all realized, oh, it`s just up to each one of us as individuals and some of them voted to say this does not reach the level and others voted to say it does reach the level of removal.
KATYAL: Yes, absolutely, Lawrence. Look, it`s good the president is finally reading the constitution, even if it`s just a few words. That`s a good start. We have to start somewhere with him.
But at the end of the day, I think that there is this big worry if you`re advising the president, at least if you`re a responsible lawyer, be careful about opening that can of worms. Now, Lawrence, I actually think that the president kind of wants to be impeached. I think he likes this impeachment talk because he doesn`t have much else.
At the end of the day, his agenda is the wall and Twitter. And neither is working particularly well for him. So he loves to be the victim snowflake. Everyone is beating up on me, I`m the only rational person in town, all of that.
But at the end of the day, I think you`re right to say, if you start going down that path, the standard is whatever senators believe a high crime and misdemeanor is.
And look, I don`t think it`s like just not doing your job effectively or something like that, it can`t be that low. So he said in that interview he`s the greatest president in history and I think we all have to take that with a grain of salt. I mean, after all, he`s had more executive time than any other president, so much so he`s probably the first president to get unemployment insurance.
But at the end of the day, that`s not the question on impeachment. The question is, has a crime been committed or something really serious, collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice? Those are the types of things and those are the things that Mueller has been looking into.
O`DONNELL: Let`s consider what we`re learning tonight about this wide- ranging subpoena for federal prosecutors in Manhattan to the Trump Inaugural Committee. Now, this indicates that this investigation is at some point early, relatively early, because if they`re just subpoenaing the document information now, they have to then get all that, they have to then study all that.
The Congress, the Democrats have been saying, we have to wait for Robert Mueller to finish before we can consider anything involving impeachment. Might Democrats now be saying even if the Mueller report were to come in somewhere in the next 90 days, we have to wait for the Manhattan federal prosecutors to finish doing what they`re doing before we consider any impeachment questions?
KATYAL: I don`t think so. I think both of these investigations are far enough along and there`s enough that`s been produced to say to the Congress, you know, it`s time to open an impeachment inquiry, not to prejudge it and say what the outcome is.
And I wrote a piece with General Michael Hayden, a four-star general who is an American patriot. He was President Bush`s head of the CIA which we basically said that you know, obviously don`t want to interfere with an ongoing investigation but there are a lot of questions that Congress can ask and they should have been asking for the last two years.
And it`s now time that those questions start to be asked because, you know, after all, every one of those members of Congress takes that solemn oath and there`s nothing more solemn than these questions about what happened and are -- do they give rise to an impeachable offense.
O`DONNELL: And Neal, quickly before you go because as the -- one of the authors of the rules on special counsels, I`m going to get you on this issue that the president also talked to "CBS" about. They asked him, you know, should the Mueller report become public? He said, "It`s completely up to the attorney general. It`s just completely up to the attorney general." Will we see the Mueller report?
KATYAL: I mean it sounds ridiculous that now he`s like it`s up to the attorney general, but in everything else, he`s tried to second-guess the attorney general whenever they investigate him or his family or the campaign or things around him. So, you know, I don`t think anyone can listen to any of that.
But at the end of the day, I think the special counsel regulations as written, the spirit of that really do require that report and at least the bulk of its detail, maybe not the privacy, very salacious details about someone`s privacy, but the rest of it has to come out.
After all, these are the most sensitive questions that democracy faces. We have a very experienced team of investigators led by Mueller who`s been a lifelong Republican looking into it. And yes, the American people have a right to know. Now, Trump can disagree with it. He can say it`s wrong or whatever but at the end of the day, we got to see it.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren have finally made taxing the mega-rich an issue after decades of Washington ignoring that subject. One of the economists who worked with Senator Warren when she was developing her tax wealth plan will join us.
O`DONNELL: A new "Politico" poll shows voters support Senator Elizabeth Warren`s plan to raise taxes on the very richest among us. Sixty-one percent support her plan for a wealth tax on wealth more than $50 million. Her plan is also supported by half of Republicans.
The poll comes after billionaire Howard Schultz calls Senator Warren`s plan "ridiculous". Today, Senator Warren tweeted the new poll results and this. "Dear Howard Schultz, if you`re looking for bold ideas with a broad bipartisan appeal for your centrist presidential campaign, may I suggest my ultra-millionaire tax."
At last month`s gathering some of the richest people in the world in Davos, Switzerland, none of them had a real answer to Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman who said this about the 70 percent top marginal tax rate for incomes over $10 million, now advocated by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTGER BREGMAN, DUTCH HISTORIAN: Almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right, and of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean it feels like I`m at a firefighters` conference and no one is allowed to speak about water. Just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes, taxes, taxes.
We need to -- I mean just two days ago, there was a billionaire in here, what`s his name? Michael Dell and he asked the question like name me one country where a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent has actually worked. And, you know, I`m a historian. The United States. That`s where it has actually worked in the 1950s.
We can talk for a very long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes, we can invite Bono once more but come on, we got to be talking about taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Next, we will be joined by one of the people who Senator Elizabeth Warren consulted with when she was designing her proposal to tax wealth over $50 million.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: For me, there`s a fundamental fairness question here. The fact that we don`t tax wealth is one more way in which the system has been rigged by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, one of the economists who consulted with Senator Elizabeth Warren about that wealth tax plan. Gabriel Zucman is a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley.
Professor Zucman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And you and another economist there at Berkeley worked with Senator Warren on this. What is the case for taxing wealth instead of the income that that wealth generates?
GABRIEL ZUCMAN, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: Well, the case is that many wealthy individuals have a ton of wealth but very little taxable income. Now, take Warren Buffett, for instance. According to "Forbes Magazine", he has more than $80 billion in wealth but because his company, Berkshire Hathaway, doesn`t pay dividends, his taxable income is very small and so he just pays a few million dollars a year in taxes which is tiny compared to his wealth of $80 billion.
So that`s why, you know, to properly tax the wealthy, you need not only income taxes but you also need wealth taxes. If you only increase income taxes, you`re not going to be able to properly tax Warren Buffett and other billionaires like him.
O`DONNELL: Is there an example of a wealth tax like this somewhere in the world? I know everyone thinks of the state tax, state and local taxes, property taxes, in the United States, that is our American example of wealth taxation, and that`s taxing the biggest aspect of most people`s wealth, taxing their homes. But that`s the state doing that, not the federal government and not on the vast kind of holdings you`re talking about. Is there something out there in the world that resembles the tax you`re talking about?
ZUCMAN: I mean many countries have or had taxes on net wealth, total assets, not only real estate but including financial assets, net of debts. Today, country like Switzerland, the wealth tax generates about one percent of GDP in tax revenue, which is what we estimate the Warren wealth tax would generate in the U.S. and those wealth tax works relatively well.
So, yes, there are a number of compelling cases where wealth taxation works. I would say what makes the proposal of Elizabeth Warren original is that it targets the ultra-rich, you know, people who have more than $50 million in net wealth and that has never been done in any country.
Today, the countries that have wealth taxes, the wealth tax stops around $1 million or $2 million net wealth. In the U.S., it would be above $50 million. But because wealth is so concentrated in the U.S., even by taxing people who have more than $50 million in net wealth, you would collect one percent of GDP in revenue which would be about as much in Switzerland where the wealth tax starts around $1 million in wealth.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, FOUNDER, STARBUCKS: When I see Elizabeth Warren come out with, you know, a ridiculous plan of taxing wealthy people, a surtax of two percent, because it makes a good headline or sends out a tweet when she knows in a fact that`s not something that`s ever going to be passed, this is what`s wrong. I mean, you can`t just attack these things in a punitive way by punishing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What`s your reaction to that, Professor Zucman?
ZUCMAN: You know I think what is radical is to not tax the wealthy. Wealth inequality has increased enormously in the United States. The 0.1 percent wealthiest families now own about as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of the distribution. In both cases, about total -- about 20 percent of the total U.S. wealth. So that, you know, that is doable and that`s everything but radical.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there. Professor Zucman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Gabriel Zucman gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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