LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I wish your interview with Senator Klobuchar have more time because I know -- I`m sure you would have got to the question of does she use her fingers when she eats fried chicken, which became an explosive issue on the campaign trail this weekend for Senator Gillibrand who actually asked politely and in a humankind of way whether she should use a fork or fingers eating fried chicken in South Carolina. And so, a bunch of people on Twitter went crazy about this because, you know, this is what`s important.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": No, no food came up. I mean, I did talk to her about being wicked cold while she was giving her speech.
MADDOW: I mean, I don`t -- Senator Klobuchar, you have interviewed her. I have interviewed her. She`s a third term as a senator. And I did not necessarily expect that she was going to make a run.
Now that she is making a run, I think she`s such a freaking capable politician that I think it`s very, very hard to predict how the Democratic primary is going to go. I think she`s got a heck of a shot in terms of getting the nomination. If she gets the general election, I think she may have the best shot of maybe any of the Democratic candidates that had said they`re running at least thus far.
But I never thought she would run in the first place and when she did, I felt my whole understanding about how this race is going to go for all them kind of changed.
O`DONNELL: I got to say, I`ve never seen anyone who thought they had a chance of winning not run for president. So, the hardest thing in the world is to get me to be surprise that a senator is running for president.
What they all have a shot at, all of these candidates is the ticket. I mean, they are all great vice presidential candidates and one of them is going to be a very strong presidential candidate.
O`DONNELL: But so, it`s -- there is no way of telling what this field -- normally, there is some predictability. This field is fascinating because I`m with you, Rachel, I don`t have a prediction at all.
MADDOW: There is a lot of plainly qualified very popular, very effective candidates running, none of whom is mean, none of whom has ever run for president before, at least in the top tier that`s thus far declared, so we don`t know how they will compete against each other. We don`t know what kind of skill they`re going to have in presidential environment. The primary itself is going to be fascinating, but I think experience and experience winning big elections by large margins is going to end up being a pretty heavy weight in somebody like Klobuchar`s favor.
O`DONNELL: And they are all good performers on debate stages. We`ve never seen Elizabeth Warren versus Cory Booker versus Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand on a debate stage at the same time. I mean, these debates are going to be amazing.
MADDOW: It`s hard to imagine them versus any other Democrat, you know what I mean? Because none of them are like that or out there back stabbing their colleagues in any way we can see. So, when they actually have to start fighting, all of them trying to get the same brass ring. I really don`t know how it`s going to go. It`s going to be amazing.
O`DONNELL: And Sherrod Brown and Cory Booker had a great moment over the weekend where they showed just how positive these candidates can be while interacting with each other. Sherrod Brown hasn`t announced but very likely, and so, I think that may be a model going forward. I don`t expect any real clashes among these candidates.
MADDOW: At least at the start.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We have big breaking news at this hour, there will not be another government shutdown over the Trump wall according to congressional negotiators. Bipartisan leaders of a congressional conference committee reached a deal tonight on continuing funding of the government.
We will be joined in a moment by a member of that conference committee. This is the person we need to hear from about what is really inside of this deal because details of that deal are not yet public but it has been a very consistent Democratic demand that the there will be no funding for a Trump wall on the southern border in any deal. That bipartisan deal was taking shape this afternoon when President Trump boarded Air Force One headed for El Paso, Texas.
And so, what happened tonight in El Paso was not really about governing. That was happening back in Washington. It was really about the presidential campaign coming to El Paso, Texas tonight. Donald Trump won the presidency saying Mexico would pay for a wall on our southern border and he went to our southern border tonight to insist that American taxpayers should pay for that wall now that Mexico has refused to pay for it. That is his reelection campaign position.
The president`s campaign for the wall and for reelection met resistance in El Paso tonight by El Paso`s native son and possible presidential candidate Beto O`Rourke. Former Democratic Congressman O`Rourke promised that his rally tonight would quote meet lies and hate with the truth.
El Paso, Texas, is a major American city with a population the same size as Boston. It is more than big enough to hold two competing presidential campaign style events at the same time and it did that tonight.
Here is Beto O`Rourke speaking tonight very close to where the president was speaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: We stand for America and we stand against walls. We know that there is no bargain in which we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little of our security. We know that we deserve and will lose both of them if we do. We stand for the best traditions and values of this country. For our fellow humanity and who we are when we`re at our best, and that`s El Paso, Texas. I`m glad the country is here to see us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, to that breaking news about the deal in the congressional negotiators, we`re joined by Democratic Congressman David Price of North Carolina. He is one of the members of that Bipartisan Conference Committee working out this deal.
Congressman Price, what can you tell us about the elements of the deal? Is there any funding for a Trump wall in this deal?
REP. DAVID PRICE (D-NC), PART OF NEGOTIATIONS TO AVERT SHUTDOWN: Yes, there is funding for a wall of this deal but it is a something considerably less than the concrete barrier that he was talking about and it is far less than the funding in any of the alternatives that we were dealing with. In other words, the number is less than the $2 billion that would be available, a good deal less than the $2 billion that would be available if we passed a continuing resolution for the rest of the year and, of course, many billions less than what Trump shut down the government over.
So the wall didn`t fare too well.
O`DONNELL: So, Congressman, just to underline this for the audience. In the -- the Congress had already passed some initial funding for some of -- certainly the planning at least of the Trump wall in the southern border and you`re saying that if the Congress just continued spending as is, there would have been more funding for that than there is in the deal that you reached tonight.
PRICE: Yes, that is what I`m saying. I also think it needs to be said, although you never know it listening to the president, that we have a lot of fences down on the southern border. You know, it was built back eight, ten years ago and has been added to some since then -- about 650 miles of fence in places where you could argue a physical barrier is needed.
But so much has changed since then. The attempted crossings are at a historic low, a 40-year low. The mix of people coming to the border is now people turning themselves in, families, unaccompanied children, a wall of course is irrelevant to that and then there are all kinds of other security measures to say nothing of homeland security priorities and the Coast Guard and elsewhere that just make a lot more sense than the wall.
So this was about the president making a campaign promise that even the Republicans hadn`t stressed but he did of course get it into the mix here, but I think we -- in these negotiations, pretty well minimized what that would be compared to any other alternatives.
O`DONNELL: Has -- to your knowledge, has Speaker Pelosi given her blessing to this deal?
PRICE: I can`t tell you that. This was just concluded, you know, an hour ago, an hour and a half ago. I`m really not able to give you precise details. In fact, some of those have yet to be worked out. It`s not -- it has to be called tentative at this point but it does look like in principle, there is an agreement and I would assume the leadership has checked in on this. But I can`t give you chapter and verse.
O`DONNELL: Did you -- on the House side, the leading Republican in the negotiation is a Texas congresswoman, did you sense much fight really on the Republican side for the Trump wall?
PRICE: Well, it has not been a priority for Republicans. That`s one of the ironies of this.
You know, the question of the tension practices, not just detention beds but who is in those beds and what we`ve had in North Carolina just in the last 48 hours, 200 or so people picked up and more or less random raids and ICE poking law enforcement in the eye in the process. This is just out of hand. And so, for years now, we have debated about detention beds and about detention practices and so, that`s an ongoing issue. That`s been an issue for a decade. And it was an issue throughout these negotiations.
The wall has not been -- as I said, we built 700 miles of wall but Republicans haven`t pressed it in recent years. This is something the president came up with on the campaign trail.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, what about those beds? That seems to be according to the news reports the final negotiating point.
PRICE: Well, it was very disappointing to see the president tweeting about this and a very, very untruthful way. He said this was last-minute issue like somebody was moving the goalpost. Goodness, we debated this for a decade and certainly debated this during this three-week period. Nobody threw this up at the last minute. It`s been a critical element. We`ve always known there are a number of elements here, funding for ICE, funding for border patrol. The kind of agreement we would reach on the wall, all these things were related to each other.
So it was something that has been discussed all along and there is an element in this agreement that is going to make it possible to reduce the number of those beds. The point is, though, who is in the beds. And how is our policy focused and it is Democratic dating from the time when we came in leadership in `07.
We`re the ones who said focus on dangerous criminals, focus on people who will harm our communities and don`t get away from this indiscriminate workplace raids or, just going after people in many cases who have been here for years just putting terror in the community. That is unacceptable. It is way, way too prevalent in this administration.
So, the bottom, that`s really what this debate is about.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Price, when I was working in the Senate, I saw two conference committees, one in which administration is heavily involved, that would be the leaders, bipartisan leaders would be consulting with the administration, the White House to make sure that the White House was on board and they would have a presidential signature. I`ve seen conference committees where they ignored the White House, saying, we`re going to do this and pass this and in effect, short of jam the White House, force them to sign it.
Do you know how much consultation there has been with the leaders of the conference committee and White House?
PRICE: I think there is consultation all along. Senator Shelby, the head of the Republican conference group in the Senate had a well-publicized meeting with the president last week. We`ve known all along that the president could blow this up and I suppose he still could. I mean, Mick Mulvaney was talking over the weekend about a shutdown still being on the table. He shut down the government before. He could do it again.
But Republicans really got burned with that shutdown and Republican senators after waiting way too long did come around, I think, and sent the message to the White House to their own leadership and to the White House that this was just not working and it had to end. And so, I think the president pretty well had that message and I -- so when he says he had turned this over to the senators and House members to negotiate it, then he was likely to go along with the result, I do believe that`s true.
I don`t expect a shutdown to come but, of course, we`ve been through a shutdown. The longest in American history and the only one really instigated by a president.
O`DONNELL: And our discussion is joined by John Sandweg. He`s the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Obama, also as Jason Johnson, he`s the politics editor at theroot.com, and MSNBC contributor.
And, John Sandweg, I want to get your reaction to what you`re hearing about the elements of this deal tonight.
JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, ICE: Well, it sounds to me like we went through a shutdown for basically the same deal the president put on the president`s desk in December. And I applaud the congressman for holding the line on the wall. That would be an excessive waste of money.
But I think with the frustrating thing is we cannot seem to have an accurate, you know, an immigration debate in the country that`s based on the facts. As soon as immigration issues come up, it all gets filled with, as the congressman said, demagoguery, talking about, you know, drugs coming across the border, terrorists coming across the borders and criminals.
The reality is we have a unique opportunity right now to talk about immigration issues because we never had a more secure border. We`ve never had fewer people crossing the border and over 50 percent, amazingly, over 50 percent of all the people crossing that border are parents with their children or unaccompanied minors. But, you know, it`s unfortunate if you can`t have a debate about immigration today that`s based on facts. I`m not sure when you can have it.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, it`s sounding like the deal as Congressman Price has outlined for us means that Donald Trump got absolutely nothing from the shutdown.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes. He didn`t. He got a worse deal than he got before, Lawrence.
Well, I will say this, let`s be fair. What the president did gain is a huge drop in his popularity numbers. What the president did gain is the fact he`s going to take a hit as our economy fails to recover this fall. What the president did gain is an opportunity to lose a lot of weight with congressional seats he`s going to lose in 2020.
This was an abject failure at almost every single level. He failed to negotiate. He failed to provide his own party with any leadership and what he did was empowered Nancy Pelosi in a way he never could have imagined before the shutdown began. I cannot think and we often talk about this, Lawrence, is this the worst week of this presidency?
I don`t know if this was the worst three weeks of the presidency. I don`t know if the shutdown was the worst three weeks of presidency, but it certainly was the time in the presidency where Donald Trump completely seated the narrative and power to Nancy Pelosi and I don`t think if he`ll be able to get it back any time during this legislative session.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what Beto O`Rourke had to say in El Paso, Texas, while the president was speaking there, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`ROURKE: We stand for the Constitution of the United States of America and against emergency national security declarations that would allow the president to subvert an equal branch of government, build a wall when we do not need it, 1.6 million apprehensions, the first year of the George W. Bush administration, a little more than 300,000 apprehensions last year and you know who we are apprehending? Kids, children, if they are lucky, they are there with their moms or dads.
We will not send them back to certain death. We will not believe that walls can or should keep them out. Instead, we welcome them with open arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Price, your former colleague, former Congressman O`Rourke talking about a possible emergency declaration, by the president. Were you getting any indication from Republicans that they expect after this deal that the president might go into some sort of emergency declaration, to try to put more funding into a wall?
PRICE: I haven`t heard that as much lately. I think he very definitely was thinking about that as recently as the State of the Union Address. My observation was that he was possibly laying the basis for an emergency declaration, but he`s gotten a lot of push back on that and he should. It would be a really, really bad idea, a very dangerous precedent. And so, I don`t see our Republican colleagues pushing him in that direction with maybe very few exceptions.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something else Beto O`Rourke said tonight, countering what Donald Trump has been saying about the criminal history of the city of El Paso, President Trump presented it as one of the most crime- ridden countries in the city until there was a border wall built in that area and all of the real facts of the case say that that isn`t true.
Let`s listen to what Beto O`Rourke said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`ROURKE: Here, a city that has been one of the safest in the United States of America for 20 years and counting, safe long before a wall was built here in 2008, in fact, a little less safe after that wall was built. We can show with the rest of the country, as we make our stand here together tonight, that walls will not make us safer. Walls will require us to take someone`s property, their house, their farm, their ranch.
We together, we are making a stand for the truth against lives and hate and ignorance and intolerance. We are going to show the country who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Sandweg, it was Beto O`Rourke, life-long resident of El Paso, versus Donald Trump, visitor to El Paso tonight.
SANDWEG: It`s Beto O`Rourke and data versus Donald Trump, visitor to El Paso.
Look, the reality is that the border communities along the border have been some of the safest communities in the United States. When I was at DHS, we spent a lot of time looking at the nexus between flow and unlawful flow of individuals at the border and crime rates in the United States and couldn`t find a nexus. So, look, it`s the wall there are places where a wall can be helpful. I think El Paso, there were some immigration related reasons why a wall can be effective there.
But this is not a one size fits all border and this notion that somehow the wall or border security has a direct correlation to crime but it`s rebutted by the data across the board.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, there is a new chant tonight, we now saw a preview there in El Paso tonight on the Trump side of what the campaign chant will be. Donald Trump is now instructing his audiences the new chant has to be finish the wall because he is telling them that he is already building it and building significant portions of it and so the new chant for the reelection campaign, Donald Trump wants it to be finish the wall.
JOHNSON: Yes. You know, Lawrence, there was a lot of tonight that I think it tells us a lot about 2020. I think we just saw a preview of the finals here. Look, if Beto O`Rourke gets into this race and I`ve said all along as strong as the Democratic field is, they do not have a white male running who is prominent. There are white men who announced but don`t have a high- profile top tier white candidate running. I think what Beto O`Rourke demonstrated tonight is that he can rally crowds. Being at the border, it gives him a unique perspective on an issue he can attack Donald Trump on.
And the president is basically trying to rehash old things here by finish the wall versus build the wall. The president has to have a new message in 2020 because he`s definitely going to be facing a new candidate and I think look, I think O`Rourke has established tonight that he can stand head-to- head with President Trump and if he announces he`ll run by the end of this month, Democrats should be happy.
O`DONNELL: Jason Johnson, thank you for joining us tonight. John Sandweg, thank you for joining us with your expertise.
And most especially, Congressman David Price, one of the conferees on this conference committee, thank you for joining us and bringing us the news what is exactly in this deal.
Just a final question, Congressman, do you expect this deal to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate?
PRICE: Yes, I do. It`s of course not everything that anybody wanted. It is a compromise but we did hold out successfully for getting that wall number down just as low as it could possibly be. We also got the detention beds down.
But then again, that`s not about beds per se. It`s about an absolutely reprehensible deportation policy. And we`re going to live to fight another day on these other issues. The flow of refugees has just been cut off. The separation at the border, there is the betrayal of the Dreamers. So much but we`ll fight those battles another day.
I do believe this will keep the government open and keep the department funded until we have a new fiscal year.
O`DONNELL: Congressman David Price, thank you very much for joining us for what we all hope is good news.
And when we come back, federal prosecutors may have revealed a key focus of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation about possible collusion between people connected with Donald Trump and the Trump campaign and Russia and at the heart of all of that, of course, is Paul Manafort, which is no surprise.
And later, how the political media will continue to fail you by covering the nonsense that they observe in the campaign and trying to turn those things into real stories. This weekend, it was all about fried chicken.
O`DONNELL: One of the top prosecutors of Robert Mueller`s team revealed in court last week what he says goes to the heart of the Mueller investigation. On Thursday in a hearing in Paul Manafort`s case, federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann laid out the case Manafort mislead the government about a series of meetings Manafort had with Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian political consultant with ties to Russian intelligence.
According to prosecutors, those meetings between Manafort and Kilimnik began when Manafort was Trump`s campaign manager in 2016 and continued all the way through 2018, the second year of the Trump presidency. During those conversations, prosecutors say Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a potential peace plan for the nation of Ukraine after Russia`s invasion and annexation of Crimea.
When Judge Amy Berman Jackson pressed Weissmann about why Manafort was misleading them, misleading the prosecutors about the meetings, why that was so important, Weissmann told the judge, quote, this goes to the larger view of what we think is going on and what we think the motive here is. This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel`s office is investigating.
And joining us now, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and a former assistant U.S. attorney. He`s also an MSNBC legal analyst.
And Tim O`Brien is with us. He`s executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion", the author of the book "TrumpNation". He is also an MSNBC contributor.
And, Glenn, we really need you know because we`re taking, we`re taking a little piece of a transcript, people are kind of running with this -- that this is a huge little bomb that`s in the middle of this thing. What do you make of it?
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, sometimes, you accidently blurt something out and it`s like, you know, I didn`t mean to say it but I meant what I said.
O`DONNELL: Well, it`s kind of -- they have the ability to kind of restrict our access to some of the information in here. They can redact things in these transcripts if they want to. This isn`t redacted
O`DONNELL: Right? So, what does that tell us?
KIRSCHNER: It tells us that for whatever reason, this might have been important to them to put out there. I mean, the phrasing when the prosecutors said we believe this goes right to the heart of what the special counsel is investigating, I mean, that`s actually a big ticket admission because they were debating about the import of Manafort`s lie about his ongoing communications with him after Manafort had been charged criminally. That`s pretty mind blowing.
I will say, I dealt with a lot of cooperating witnesses over the years. Manafort is like the worst cooperating witness ever, but there was something so desperately important to Manafort and by extension, I`m sure others who might be culpably involved to lie to the special counsel about what he was talking and conspiring with Kilimnik about, even after he`s a signed up cooperator.
We don`t know what`s behind that, but I can tell you it`s actually pretty significant to me.
O`DONNELL: And, Tim, we`ve all seen from our spectator seats, not like Glenn up close working as a federal prosecutor. But we`ve seen cooperating witnesses and we`ve seen the way those stories unfold. I can never remember seeing one like Manafort where actually during the cooperation, they are judged to be lying to the prosecutors they are cooperating with.
TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Manafort has been outstanding in a number of levels because he also, I think, he appears to be afraid of something beyond just what he`s got in front of him, which is Robert Mueller`s team which is enough for somebody to be afraid of in and of itself.
We know that he owed Oleg Deripaska more than $10 million and tried to stiff him. Oleg Deripaska`s connected oligarch close to the Kremlin. There was always the question to whether or not Manafort was engaging in the stuff even after the cooperation agreement to protect his family. That`s still a big unknown.
I think the other thing that`s amazing about all of this is the fact that this got out into the open. What Andrew Weissmann said in court came into the open. Glenn and I were talking about this earlier. That may have been an accident.
They could have papered it over if they wanted to. They chose not to because what they put out there is the quo, a change in policy and economic sanctions and a change in policy around Ukraine.
So it gets back to this question what was the quid? What did Donald Trump or the people around Donald Trump want in exchange for trying to deliver policy changes? Was it money in their pocket? Was it money for projects in Moscow?
That`s still the stuff that`s being investigated and that`s what comes up in all of these incidents where floods of money come into the inauguration, floods of money are in the transition, floods of money are coming into these campaigns and there is no real question about what the motivation was for that other than what we now know is policy changes.
O`DONNELL: Glenn, to this phrase that is in here that you have the prosecutors saying it goes to the heart of what the special counsel`s investigation is about, that -- it could be that it goes to the heart of what the investigation is about but we haven`t found that.
I mean the investigation was originally about collusion. It`s about look to see if there`s any collusion between Trump people and Russia. And so we know that`s what it`s charter is but the way he said that in court, doesn`t it leave it open that it`s also possible that they haven`t found anything in that space?
KIRSCHNER: Possible? Perhaps. Likely? I don`t think so. I mean when we look at all of these what I`ll call satellite indictments of Flynn for talking dirty as we say. When you`re saying something on the phone and you shouldn`t be saying it, and you`re not dirty that way, and you`re caught, we call that talking dirty on a wire for example.
And then you have Papadopoulos lying about his Russian contacts. You have Cohen among other crimes that he`s admitted to lying about the timing and the nature of the Trump Tower Moscow deal. It`s like Russia, Russia, Russia.
KIRSCHNER: Flynn. And all of this you can see the central conspiracy dancing around on the fringes of each one of these other indictments. And I`ll tell you, I will be shocked if we don`t see sometime fairly soon a large needy conspiracy to defraud the United States indictment returned by Bob Mueller.
O`DONNELL: Also in this, Tim, is Weissmann, the prosecutor talking about the possibility of Manafort angling for a pardon, one talking about why is he not accurately and honestly cooperating with prosecutors and the other prosecutors saying it could be that what he thinks is more important is to angle for the pardon.
O`BRIEN: Well, given how far down the road he`s gone at blowing up his relationships with Mueller`s team and essentially abrogating the whole cooperation agreement, at this point about the only thing he can hope for is a pardon.
But I think as everyone knows who`s in the Trump circle, he usually throws everyone else under the bus. And he probably will only at the end of the day protect his children and himself and there may be some of his children that he won`t protect.
O`DONNELL: Glen, if you are -- if it`s Paul Manafort and he`s looking for a long sentence, he could be looking at that sentence and say, "If they sentence me tomorrow, then the sentence is really two years because I`m going to get a Donald Trump pardon on his last day in office two years from now or after the next -- after Donald Trump gets reelected. So roughly within this two-year window, I`ll be getting this pardon."
KIRSCHNER: So a pardon might help Paul Manafort avoid an extended jail sentence but a pardon will not help President Trump and here is why. Because Manafort was cooperating for a significant period of time, I can promise you Bob Mueller and his lawyers put Paul Manafort in the grand jury probably multiple times. That`s called locking in testimony.
Once you have that locked in, you can take that transcript, you can give it to a jury at trial and all of that evidence comes in against the defendant. So whatever he is already told Mueller, Mueller has it and it cannot be taken back. So the only thing a pardon helps is perhaps reduce the prison sentence that Manafort is looking at. Trump is still sunk based on whatever Manafort told Mueller.
O`DONNELL: That is all the time we have for tonight`s episode of talking dirty with Glenn Kirschner and Tim O`Brien.
When we come back, the brother did it, report syndicate that the source of the Stone text messages between Jeff Bezos and a woman was the woman`s brother.
O`DONNELL: The brother did it. According to reporting in "The Daily Beast," which has been leading the way on the story of the "National Enquirer" versus the richest man on the world, Jeff Bezos private texts to a woman were given to the "National Enquirer" by the woman`s brother who was a Trump supporter and friend of Roger Stone.
"The Daily Beast" reports the documents show the woman`s brother Michael Sanchez and Roger Stone "were in touch about the "National Enquirer" story in the days after it ran." "The Daily Beast" also reviewed documents showing that Michael Sanchez believed "The Enquirer" pursued its story about Bezos with President Trump`s knowledge and appreciation.
Jeff Bezos said last week, the Saudi Arabia could have an interest in harming him since the newspaper he owns, "The Washington Post" has been so critical of the Saudi Arabian dictatorship especially after the Saudi government had "Washington Post`s" Columnist Jamal Khashoggi murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.
NBC News confirmed the "Wall Street Journal" report that the "National Enquirer" was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia that it "sought advice" last year from the U.S. Justice Department over whether the publisher should register as a foreign agent after publishing a 97-page glossy magazine praising the kingdom and the Saudi crown prince.
As predicted on this program, when this story broke on Thursday night, federal prosecutors are investigating possible crimes committed by the "National Enquirer" and people working there who participated in the possible extortion and intimidation of Jeff Bezos.
The legal team joining us now, two legal minds who can break this down for us, Rebecca Roiphe is a law professor at the New York Law School and a former Manhattan assistant district attorney Glenn Kirschner is back with us.
And Rebecca, you have the experience we need involving New York State law, which is critical here and also, New York Bar issues because Attorney Jon Fine, he`s the Deputy Counsel for the "National Enquirer" sent this astonishingly threatening e-mail to Marty Singer, one of L.A.`s biggest, toughest lawyers.
And when I read that Thursday night, I thought that Attorney Jon Fine was at risk of getting disbarred, charged with federal crimes. I mean everything. What do you see in this legally?
REBECCA ROIPHE, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: Well, first of all, I think that the federal crimes are actually harder to prove than the state crimes because the federal crimes require that there actually be a wrongful threatening of somebody in order to gain property. And the state crimes actually only require coercion for somebody to do something that they wouldn`t -- that they would otherwise be permitted -- legally permitted to do.
So it`s easier to prove that state crime. Now, that`s just a classic misdemeanor so it`s not a very serious state crime but it`s a crime and his cooperation agreement with the Southern District of New York doesn`t say you won`t commit any federal crimes as just as you won`t commit any crimes. So he would have broken that agreement regardless of what he did.
O`DONNELL: And this is David Pecker who runs the "National Enquirer", who has that agreement.
ROIPHE: Right. And the key thing to me -- I mean I know a lot of people have been talking about this question of whether it was a threat to gain property but there is also this question of wrongfulness because the whole thing kind of -- I mean you`re right that it`s totally shocking and really awful but the thing is that it`s kind of masquerading like a normal settlement agreement. And we don`t want to criminalize a normal settlement agreement.
I mean you could -- let`s say you have a like a MeToo issue and somebody wanted to say like, OK, you won`t go forward with this and in exchange, we`ll give you this money. That is not extortion. That`s a settlement agreement.
So the keyword there is wrongful and the difference between a normal negotiation like that, like a normal settlement agreement and what happened here is that this looks wrongful. But it`s a little bit hard for a prosecutor, a federal prosecutor to prove that.
And so in the state system, you don`t have to. The statute is extremely broad. So he clearly violated that state coercion of a statute even if he didn`t commit any federal crimes.
O`DONNELL: And Glenn, so this is an extraordinary situation where you have David Pecker who`s already made a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors in New York City in the Michael Cohen case where the "National Enquirer" was shown to be a participant in Michael Cohen`s scheme to, as they put it, to fraud the voters in the last presidential campaign by hiding Donald Trump`s affairs with women. And "National Enquirer" was part of that.
And so here they are operating under this agreement with federal prosecutors that includes a pledge to be very good boys and then you see Jon Fine, these letters, these e-mails that they are putting this in writing. They are putting these things in writing while they`re in this cooperation agreement with federal investigators.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. And two things, Lawrence. First of all, I agree with Rebecca that state crime is probably easier to prove than the federal crime. Although I was a pretty aggressive prosecutor. I think I can find extortion here.
Setting that aside, they clearly violated their non-prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York. Not only that, as part of that agreement, they confessed to committing the campaign finance violation- felony and they waived their right to object to those confessions being used against them.
So they are like lose, lose, lose here and the big question is why. What were they so desperate to cover up by saying to Bezos do not investigate where we got this information or we`re going to publish horrible pictures of you.
And I saw the reporting from "The Daily Beast" and I credit it that it was Sanchez` brother. Is that what`s desperately motivated "AMI" to do this? They didn`t want it to be known that it was Sanchez` brother? I`m sorry, something smells wrong there.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And Rebecca, there is a third jurisdiction here which is the State of California. Because these e-mails were sent to Marty Singer in Los Angeles. California has a statute that feels close to relevant that is about revenge porn. It`s one of this 21st Century statutes that they passed to stop boy -- jilted boyfriends or angry boyfriends from putting up pictures of their girlfriends that they might possess.
This is that kind of material that the "National Enquirer" has possession of. They were threatening to make it public and I`m wondering what that -- how that might come under some of these California statutes?
ROIPHE: Most states have these revenge porn statutes. New York has one too. I haven`t looked at the California one but the New York one requires you actually publish the pictures. So it wouldn`t fall under the New York statute. And the reason why is because they know they have the coercion statute to cover the same conduct if it`s a threat.
But California statute might well cover this kind of conduct, and I know California is very proactive about protecting people in these situations so it`s entirely possible.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there tonight. Professor Rebecca Roiphe and Glenn Kirschner, thank you both for joining us. I really appreciate it.
And we have some breaking news about the congressional negotiations to avert the shutdown and that is coming up next.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news. NBC News has new details about that deal reached tonight by bipartisan leaders of a Congressional Conference Committee on continuing funding of the government to avoid a shutdown that would have occurred this Friday night.
Joining us now by phone is NBC News Congressional Reporter Frank Thorp. Frank, what more details can you give us? We had Congressman Price on earlier who gave us some of the general outlines of the bill. What more specific information do we have?
FRANK THORP, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS (via telephone): Well, we know that -- what we definitely know is that this is a deal in principle. So everything needs to be written down in paper and agreed to by all sides before it`s all actually agreed to.
But what we know is that the four top appropriators that met this afternoon -- met this evening to come to a deal came to some numbers that they think everybody can agree to and that the White House can agree to as well, and that includes $1.3 or $1.375 billion for a border barrier.
Now, that would include new fencings like steel slats and other existing technology but it`s not going to include anything -- it is going to specifically exclude the idea of creating a concrete wall like President Trump has initially said and that he has moved away from that. He has been saying steel slats,
But the idea is that this would actually fund enough for about 55 new miles of barrier. And again, that would not be for a concrete wall. And there would be some restrictions in there for geographic restrictions like, you know, situations where the Rio Grande Valley sector, you can`t really actually build a barrier there.
The other thing that they agreed to is that there`s not going to be a cap on the number of beds for interior enforcement, for ICE, and that had become an issue that Democrats had raised in recent days, that has been an issue in the negotiations during the entire negotiation but had been raised as a sticking point for Democrats in previous days. That`s where this recent impasse had been basically created.
What this new deal would result in is it`s not a cap like Democrats had been asking for on the number of ICE -- beds for ICE. And it would fund about 40,000 of those beds overall, which is a little higher than what Democrats had initially been offering but then also lower than what President Trump was asking for.
Now, the reality is that, like I said, they need to write this down and they need to get sign-off by all of the people that are important. And the most important person is President Trump. So we don`t know whether or not President Trump is on board with this deal yet.
And that`s the most important thing here. They have three days or four days to pass this. They need to pass something by the end of Friday. And if they don`t the government shuts down again.
So it seems like this is a very, very positive step and leaders were optimistic coming out of negotiations this evening when they had this tentative deal. But like I said, we`re long ways away from actually getting this signed into law.
O`DONNELL: So Frank, this is 55 miles of new barrier, not wall, new barrier, 55 miles on a 2,000-mile border. And so the president is getting less than one percent of that border covered possibly with some new barrier form of some kind.
Frank Thorp, thank you for joining us with that breaking news. Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: She used her fingers. There`s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in South Carolina eating the local fried chicken with her fingers after she asked the woman in the striped shirt sitting beside her, who owns the restaurant, whether she should use her fork or her fingers.
And Twitter went wild when "CNN" Political Reporter Jasmine Wright delivered that moment in a finely observed series of tweets about Senator Gillibrand`s campaign stop in South Carolina.
In one of those tweets, Jasmine Wright delivered an overheard, completely human moment when Senator Gillibrand asked the owner of the restaurant, "Um, Kiki, do we use our fingers or forks for the chicken?" Kiki said, "Use your fingers." And use her fingers she did.
No one cared about the tweet before that. Citing how more black women die from childbirth than other races, she said, "I will take on institutional racism, I will take it head on."
The important thing for too many political observers was that Senator Gillibrand had failed a local eating test on the campaign trail. They did that to John Kerry in 2004 in Philadelphia where he got his cheesesteak order terribly wrong by asking for Swiss cheese. Who would do that?
The news media felt they had the proof right there that John Kerry was not a real man of the people, or at least not a real man of the people of Philadelphia or at least not a real man of that subset of the people of Philadelphia who wolf down cheesesteaks at Pat`s Cheese Steak, a ritual stop for presidential campaigners.
When Twitter got up in arms about Senator Gillibrand even thinking about using a fork for her fried chicken, Sam Stein tweeted this photograph of Donald Trump ready to use his knife and fork on a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Donald Trump was doing that on his private plane. A private plane kind of proves that Donald Trump is not a man of the people. But Donald Trump`s voters wisely did not care about that and anti-Trump voters didn`t care about it either. No one voted against Donald Trump because he uses a fork to eat a bucket of fried chicken.
But the news media will continue to pretend that this stuff matters. It is a habit they just cannot kick. Matthew Iglesias of "Fox", with whom I cannot remember the last time I disagreed, observed that this kind of authenticity test is something that the news media takes much more seriously with Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.
Every Democratic nominee is inevitably put through a series of authenticity tests that Republicans are exempted from because it`s in the interest of the rich people who run the media to sideline the substantive stakes in American politics.
Yes, that is what happens but no, that`s not why that happens. The rich people who run the media could not care less about cheese steak or fried chicken. It is the reporters and pundits themselves making these choices to emphasize these things and try to infuse them with some larger meaning, that somehow tells you something important about what this person will do as president of the United States.
It is much easier to do that than ask a smart question about the Trump tariffs or foreign policy or tax policy. It is political reporters themselves and the political pundits themselves who, as Matthew Iglesias puts it, sideline the substantive stakes in American politics.
They are going to continue to do that and it is your job to continue to ignore it. That`s why every presidential candidate interview we have done on this program has been exclusively about what policies that candidate will pursue and support as president. Every candidate interviewed here will be about the substantive stakes in the presidential election.
That`s what every voter should be focused on. But don`t expect the political news media to make that easy for you. That`s "Tonight`s Last Word." "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams" starts now.