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Trump campaign refused pledge. TRANSCRIPT: 2/22/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Nelson Cunningham, David Cay Johnston, Neera Tanden, Malcolm Nance


RACHELL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  The state Elections Board has rule that that election was so tainted they will have a do-over, but now finally, we are hearing about potential criminal charges in that case as well. The district attorney in Wake County, North Carolina today said she is planning to bring the case to a grand jury.

She says she is receiving information that was obtained over the course of the Elections Board investigation into this matter. She says that she expects to be convening a grand jury to bring potential charges on this matter within the next month. No rush.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Joy Reid filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Joy. I can see you talking but I can`t hear you. No crossover.


RICHARD LUI, MSNBC HOST:  Well, looks like we`re having some technical difficulties. Joy Reid there in for Lawrence O`Donnell this evening. I believe we`re going to take a quick break to see if we can reestablish connection with Joy. Is that what we`re going to do now?

So we will continue with programming. Hopefully we can reconnect there with Joy, again filling in for Lawrence O`Donnell. We`ll continue and pick up from where she was at just moments ago. It looks like the southern district of New York`s investigation into Donald Trump may be a whole lot bigger than just hush money payments to a porn star.

A new report tonight in "The New York Times" says the president`s former attorney, Michael Cohen, has met with prosecutors in the southern district to offer them information about possible irregularities within the president`s family business, including information about insurance claims the company had filed over the years.

Last week, we learned that prosecutors in that office have already begun conducting interviews with members of the Trump organization but this is the if first time we`re learning about what "The Times" is calling irregularities in any alleged issues involving insurance claims.

"The Times" also reports that Cohen has offered prosecutors information about Trump`s inaugural committee, something we know prosecutors in that office have been looking into, specifically prosecutors questioned Cohen about a donor to the committee named Imaad Zuberi, a venture capitalist from California who donated $900,000 to the committee and attempted to hire Michael Cohen as a political consultant.

Now, "The Times" report does not say why Cohen is giving this information to prosecutors or what it all means. But lucky for us, we might not have to wait very long to find out all about that. That`s because Michael Cohen is set to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee next Wednesday.

And we now have a list of the topics that Cohen has agreed to talk about in that hearing. In that list, it includes the president`s debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election. Things like hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, for example and any potential violations of campaign finance law or financial disclosure law the president may have committed in making those payments.

It also include a range of other topics from the president`s compliance with tax laws, his conflicts of interest, his business practices, his D.C. hotel, the accuracy or inaccuracy of his statements to the public, potentially fraud and inappropriate practices by the Trump Foundation and public efforts by the president and his attorney to try to use intimidation to keep witnesses like Michael Cohen from testifying.

Now, those are the issues that House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings will be questioning Michael Cohen about, along with some of that committee`s newest members like Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Presley. Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and a New York congresswoman you may have heard of by the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In other words, clear your DVR if you`ve got some space and get the popcorn ready. Joining us right now are three people who can help us understand what to make of this new reporting, what to expect from Cohen`s upcoming testimony.

Ken Dilanian is the intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News. He is closely following the Mueller investigation. Nelson Cunningham is a former assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York. He was also a general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then Senator Biden.

David Cay Johnston is a veteran investigative journalist who has covered Trump`s businesses for decades. He also founded and is author of "It`s Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."

Ken, kick it off for us here with this new reporting that is coming in. Of course, we`re just mentioning Michael Cohen and what he may be covering, the information that he may provide as we do hear some of his testimony in the upcoming days. But let`s start with "The Times" Report.

KEN DILANIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS:  Well, I`m pleased to tell you, Richard, that NBC News has confirmed some of this "New York Times" reporting tonight, particularly we`ve confirmed the fact that Michael Cohen has met with and is providing information to southern district prosecutors, and some of that has to do with this donor, Imaad Zuberi.

And we`ve spoken to a spokesman for Zuberi tonight who confirms that there was a $100,000 consulting arrangement between Zuberi and Cohen and $100,000 check was written to Cohen which was never cashed. Somehow that fell apart. This is when Michael Cohen was holding himself out as a consultant who could grant people access to the Trump campaign.

So, there is a lot of mystery around why prosecutors are interested in this particular donor, Zuberi, who is a venture capitalist from Los Angeles who gave $900,000 to the inaugural committee. But Michael Cohen appears to know something about it and he`s talking to prosecutors about it.

And as to the Wednesday hearing, that promises to be an amazing hearing, Richard. I think we`re sort of not giving it the attention it deserves because Michael Cohen, my sources are telling me, is prepared to tell a series of lurid and sordid stories about how Donald Trump has behaved behind the scenes in his business practices.

He`s not allowed to talk about the Russia investigation in public, but he will talk about those hush money payments to women. He`ll talk about alleged corruption in the Trump Foundation. He`ll talk about tax practices and business practices at the Trump Hotel. So, it`s going to be something we`re all going to be riveted to next week.

LUI:  Nelson, dig into what Ken was describing there because come next Wednesday we will learn items in terms of practices as Ken was saying here about the culture of the Trump organization within itself. And that will help us put "A" plus "B" plus "C" together in ways that we may not have heard as of yet. That`s what Michael Cohen could provide for us.

NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  That`s absolutely right. Don`t forget, Michael Cohen is not the only person from within the Trump organization who has provided information to the prosecutors. The Trump organization`s CFO has also agreed to cooperate.

He was not given a sentence. He was not forced to plead guilty, but the CFO has been giving testimony to prosecutors behind the scenes and he will know every check, every dollar. He will know every tax filing that the Trump organization has filed for years.

If you`re a prosecutor, this is a gold mine. You have the CFO of the organization and you have now the president`s and one of the organization`s lawyers who have agreed to provide evidence to you. It`s a gold mine if you`re a prosecutor.

And don`t forget this, Mueller`s jurisdiction is fairly narrow -- the Russian interference, obstruction of justice, other matters directly arising. The southern district of New York`s jurisdiction is any federal crime that occurs in Manhattan, the Bronx and certain upstate counties.

That`s the seat of the Trump organization. So they have a purview to be able to investigate anything that has happened within the Trump organization going back to the statute of limitations and beyond. That`s pretty broad.

LUI:  Pretty broad. And you know, David, when we look at what some of the irregularities might, which may be filled in a little bit when we do hear from Michael Cohen on Wednesday, one of which an example here, which is the Trump organization receiving hurricane damage payments, right?

Donald Trump saying he received $17 million of insurance payments in 2005. This is according to the Associated Press. For hurricane damage that was sustained by one of his resorts, Mar-a-Lago, his private club which he resides in many a weekend in Palm Beach.

The Associated Press also was saying they found little evidence of such large-scale damage to coincide and another damage not necessarily commensurate with the payment itself. SO David, we`re just getting a little bit of an idea of some of the details that could really blow this case open.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG:  Yes. And Donald, you know, claimed damages because of 9/11, even though his real estate was not at all affected by it. He has made claims in the past of tax deductions that two different judges threw out, found and he engaged in civil tax fraud.

And he`s filed many insurance claims over the year -- over the years. And one of the most curious ones, although they may not go back this far to look at it, was the crash of a helicopter that killed three Trump executives and the payout. That particular helicopter`s never been involved in any other crash like the very unusual circumstances of that crash.

LUI:  What do you make here, David, of Imaad Zuberi illegal lobbying, that whole point that Ken was bringing up in terms of the details that might come out?

JOHNSTON:  Well, the fact that they`ve acknowledged there was a check written now establishes without any question that Cohen at least was trying to sell access to the president, whatever went wrong there. And that this is connected with the inauguration, should draw a lot of attention.

The minute we found out they had raised $107 million, I started saying we need a thorough audit of where that money went because this was a Spartan (ph) inauguration compared to say Obama`s in 2008.

LUI:  Nelson, because we`re watching this, it could happen at any moment. That certainly we might hear from the Mueller team in terms of the details around Manafort. What may come of that, do you think, in the next, well, we`ve got another two hours left in the day here?

CUNNINGHAM:  Well, Paul Manafort`s had a pretty bad month. He is -- he is about to find out what the real -- what the real penalty will be for the games that he has played with Robert Mueller over the past months. Remember, he went to trial on a case that a former prosecutor friend of mine described as the slowest guilty plea he`d ever seen.

That long trial last summer, he was convicted on most of the counts. He then, right before his second trial in September, he pleaded guilty. And then according to the judge, finding just two weeks ago, he immediately began lying to the prosecutors while pretending to cooperate. He gave them misinformation. He failed to give them correct information and he broke his cooperation agreement.

So, he is now in the worst of all possible worlds for a defendant. He is convicted of serious crimes, of millions and millions and millions of dollars, of tax fraud and tax evasion and other crimes, and he`s got a prosecutor who is mad as heck at him, and a judge who agrees that he`s already been lying.

That is not where I`d want to be. And if I were Manafort, I would -- I would not be staying up late with eager anticipation to see what Robert Mueller will file tonight.

LUI:  Well, a person who might be saying up, Ken Dilanian. You always have your ear to the ground. What are we hearing about the Manafort documents that we expect to happen before midnight?

DILANIAN:  So, Richard, it`s not clear that they actually be filed tonight. There seems to be some technical difficulties in terms of the court having to approve redactions that Mueller`s office is proposing. So that is holding it up a little bit.

It could land later tonight. It may not be until later in the weekend or Monday, we`re not entirely sure. But we`re hoping that we learn something from this document. Each time one of these transcripts from a sealed hearing in the Manafort case or redacted document has emerged we`ve learned a little bit more about what prosecutors are honing in on in terms of Manafort.

It`s a great mystery, Richard, because, you know, Manafort`s moving towards sentencing. He has not been charged with anything related to Russia or collusion, but there are these tantalizing clues in this transcript and this hearing about what he lied about.

In particular, he lied about his contacts and relationship with a guy who is connected to Russian intelligence. And the Mueller prosecutors said during the hearing that this is central to their case. Now, they could have just been saying any meeting with a foreigner is central to our case because that`s one of the things they were tasked with investigating.

But it`s always been the huge question, why did Paul Manafort lie and expose himself to a virtual life term in prison to cover up his relationship with this Russian intelligence asset, Richard?

LUI:  And will there be a pardon? Is that being discussed? Is that thought of? And that`s a whole other segment which we will get to perhaps later tonight. Ken Dilanian, Nelson Cunningham, David Cay Johnston, thank you all three.

Coming up for you, every presidential campaign was asked whether they would commit to not using hacked materials in the 2020 election. Every campaign agreed except one. Guess who refused there.

And next, since the day Donald Trump declared a national emergency to extract the money from taxpayers for his border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for, Democrats have vowed to stop him. Now, they`re making good on that promise.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Donald Trump finally broke his silence on the Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist who was arrested for allegedly plotting the mass murder of Democratic politicians and members of the media.


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  When were you briefed sir, on the Coast Guard member who was arrested for threatening Democrats and other members of the media?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m actually getting a very final briefing and a very complete briefing in about two hours after this.

JACKSON:  And do you have any thoughts on this man --

TRUMP:  I think it`s a shame.

JACKSON:  -- who went after members of the media?

TRUMP:  Yes, I think it`s a very sad thing when a thing like that happens, and I`ve expressed that. But I`m actually getting a very complete briefing in about two hours.

JACKSON:  Do you think that you bear any responsibility for moderating your language when it comes to that?

TRUMP:  No, I don`t. I think my language is very nice.


REID:  Those answers to NBC`s Hallie Jackson and not a proactive presidential statement were Trump`s first comments on the plot by a domestic terrorist, which was revealed on Wednesday. If Donald Trump had not been asked those questions, we don`t know if he ever would have spoken publicly about the plot to kill some of the frequent targets of his public vitriol.

Trump`s comments came after the White House press secretary was asked if the president has any plans to tone down his rhetoric. And she said this --


SARA HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I certainly don`t think that the president at any point has done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else.


REID:  Of course that`s not true. Donald Trump praised a Republican congressman, Greg Gianforte after he body slammed a reporter who tried to ask him a question.


REP. GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA:  We`ll talk to you about that later.

BEN JACOBS, POLIICAL REPORTER, GUARDIAN:  But there`s not going to be time, I`m just curious --

GIANFORTE:  OK, speak with Shane, please.


GIANFORTE:  I`m sick and tired of you guys. The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. You with the Guardian?

JACOBS:  Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE:  The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS:  You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE:  Get the hell out of here.


REID:  Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to assault for his actions which were recorded on that tape. And then Donald Trump literally applauded Gianforte for his assault.


TRUMP:  Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never.


Any guy that can do a body slam, he`s my kind of --


He`s my guy.


Meanwhile on Capitol Hill today, House Democrats are moving forward with plans to block Donald Trump`s last-ditch strategy to please the far-right and get money for a border wall. A resolution to terminate Trump`s emergency declaration at the southern border was introduced by Congressman Joaquin Castro with more than 220 co-sponsors, including one Republican.

The House will vote on the measure next week and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, well, he cannot block the Senate from voting on it soon after that, which is the scenario that McConnell warned the president about earlier this month when he privately cautioned Trump, according to "The Washington Post."

That a vote on the national emergency could divide GOP senators and force the president to contemplate issuing his first veto ever in the face of opposition from his own party. But Donald Trump is brushing off the coming vote on his unprecedented use of a national emergency declaration to solve a political standoff with Congress.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think that the congressional Republicans will stick with you on the -- on your emergency declaration and vote against this joint resolution?

TRUMP:  I think they`ll stick with it. Everybody knows we need border security. We need a wall. I think it`s a very bad subject for the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Will you definitively veto that resolution introduced today that would block your national emergency if it passes?

TRUMP:  On the wall?


TRUMP:  Will I veto it? One hundred percent. One hundred percent. And I don`t think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want border security. So I can`t imagine it could survive a veto, but I will veto it, yes.


REID:  All right. We`re joined now by two conservative critics of the president, Jennifer Rubin is an opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor, and Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief of The Bulwark and an MSNBC political analyst. Thank you both for being here.

Charlie, I`m going to start with you. I`m going to play Nancy Pelosi responding to what you just heard a moment ago, and that`s Donald Trump`s threat to veto any bill that comes to his desk overturning his emergency declaration.


NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The president`s attitude is not going to color whether I honor my oath of office to uphold the constitution of the United States. I wish he would have the same dedication to that oath of office himself.

But we will be fighting him on this usurping of power, of violating the constitutions of the United States in the Congress, in the courts and with the American people. So this is a path I would not recommend he go down.


REID:  You know, Charlie, I think there has to be some irony for you as somebody who was in conservative talk radio and you know that a thing conservatives have long done is talk about the constitution, adherence to it, the perception that a president, you know, that President Obama or President Clinton is violating the constitution, doesn`t understand it, doesn`t understand originalism.

How odd is it to hear Nancy Pelosi now be the person who is literally championing and explaining to the president of the United States what these powers are?

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it`s extremely odd and it`s something we`ve gotten used to in the Trump era, but look, you know, every Republican that`s going to vote over the next couple of weeks in this, you know, was outraged at the use of executive power by Barack Obama. You know, and has campaigned on, you know, smaller government, on constitutionalism.

Look, this is really not a Republican versus Democratic issue. This is not a vote whether you`re for or against Donald Trump or even Donald Trump`s policies. This really is a matter of upholding your oath of office. This is about protecting the Article I powers, the concept of checks and balances.

The constitution`s explicit granting of the power of the purse to the House of Representatives, which is fundamental to congressional power. So I`m hoping that there is more than a handful of Republicans who are going to stand up and say, look, this is about the constitution. This is about the prerogatives of this institution, the people`s house, not to simply blue and red.

So, I do think this is going to be a define vote, maybe one of the defining votes of this congress for Republicans, and this is a red line and we`re going to see whether or not, you know, they`re willing to stand up for their oath of office and against Donald Trump.

REID:  You know, Jennifer Rubin, I saw you smiling and I don`t know -- I`m not going to interpret your smile for you, but, you know, there`s a lot of doubt out there that Republicans are going to do that. Adam Schiff wrote a letter sort of pleading with his Republican colleagues. And I`ll just read a little bit of it. This is today. It was reported in "The Washington Post."

"To our Republican colleagues; when the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he`s implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as an enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary labeling judges and decisions he didn`t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word.

And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out. If we cannot rise to the defense of our democracy now in the face of a plainly unconstitutional aggrandizement of presidential power, what hope can we have that we will do so with the far greater decisions that could be yet to come?"

And now I want to play you a little bit of Lindsey Graham. Lindsey graham used to sound like Charlie Sykes when he would talk about the constitution and about the powers of the various branches of government and here is Lindsey Graham today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Border security, Democrats are pushing this resolution. Will you vote with them when it comes before the Senate --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Absolutely not. I`m 100 percent with president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How many Republicans do you believe will vote with them?

GRAHAM:  Well, a handful, but here`s the point.  I think he`s got all the authority he needs and there will be enough to sustain a veto.


REID:  OK. He said a handful, Jennifer, not enough to --


REID:  Give us a guess. How many? How many will vote with the Democrats?

RUBIN:  Oh, I think the over-under in the Senate is probably about five. You know, this is the same Lindsey Graham who a week or so ago was saying to the president, don`t do it. Then changed and said go ahead and do it. The reason I was smiling earlier on is that in the earlier press conference that Nancy Pelosi gave on Friday morning with Joaquin Castro, who is shepherding this thing through, she sounded almost exactly like Charlie Sykes or Charlie sounded exactly like her.

It was almost word for word. She took us through the constitution. Right after that wonderful preamble she told us is Article I with enumerated powers, she used that phrase. And this, of course, is why people like Charlie and I are so disgusted with the current Republican Party because they`ve become damn hypocrites and they have really completely set aside their oaths of office, any sense of principle.

And when Lindsey Graham says he has all the power he needs, he can beat a veto, that`s not a statement of constitutional authority, that`s a statement of sheer power. And that`s what conservatives were supposed to be against.

REID:  Right.

RUBIN:  Against an executive who operates by power of his whim. So we`re in a sorry state in this country I think right now.

REID:  Yeah. I follow both of you on twitter, of course. Charlie Sykes, I`ve been following you. I`ve seen that you`ve been trying to name check individual Republicans like Mitt Romney. Is there somebody who can emerge as the new John McCain, exert some leadership in that body to get at least, you know, to get a veto-proof majority for this resolution?

SYKES:  Look, I would like a unicorn for my birthday. I`m hopeful, but I`m not that naive. Look, but interesting you put it that way. Who wants to be the next John McCain? And I remember during the funeral, I was wondering whether or not there were senators sitting there thinking, how do I want to be remembered? What should my legacy be?

You know, do I want to be just a rubber stamp, a potted plant in the Senate or do I want to stand for something bigger, for principle? So, this is a moment. Look, again, I`m not really that naive to think that Mitt Romney is going to turn the tide on this.

But you know what? He`s got to move past writing op-eds. You know, this is your moment and I`m hoping that somebody will stand up and seize this historic moment.

REID:  Yeah. Jennifer rubin and Charlie Sykes saying sad tweets are not enough. You need to stand up for your own branch of government. We`ll see who does. Thank you both very much.

And ahead, new questions about the role that one of Donald Trump`s cabinet secretaries played in securing a lenient plea deal for a convicted sex offender who targeted children.

And up next, every major campaign has pledged not to use hacked materials in the 2020 election except one. Let`s see if you can guess which campaign is refusing and why. The answer after the break.


REID:  This is why you watch.  Donald Trump`s campaign refused to answer a question or to pledge to avoid using stolen data during the 2020 presidential campaign.  That`s according to a new exclusive report in "The Daily Beast", which asked each presidential campaign whether they would commit to not knowingly using or referencing hacked material that appears online on grounds that it may have been obtained illegally.

All of the Democratic candidates agreed.  Every single one.  Only Donald Trump`s campaign refused.  Trump`s campaign`s National Secretary Kayleigh McEnany sent the following note to "The Daily Beast".  We are not in the business of taking pledges invented by the liberal online media.  But the pledge reflects real concerns about weaponizing stolen data after Russians stole thousands of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton`s campaign chair during the 2016 election.

This week, we learned that a sustained and ongoing disinformation campaign on social media targeting Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, some of it driven by foreign state actors, is already underway.  "Politico" reports there are clear signs of a coordinated effort of undetermined size that share similar characteristics with the computational propaganda attacks launched by online trolls at Russia`s internet research agency in the 2016 presidential campaign, which Special Counsel Robert Mueller accused of aiming to undermine the political process and elevate Donald Trump.

The analysis by "Politico" found that the same suspicious accounts engaged in this attack on 2020 Democratic hopefuls were also linked to the wide- scale influence campaign during the 2018 midterm elections.

And after our break, we`ll discuss what all of this means for the 2020 presidential election with Neera Tanden, who had some of her correspondence revealed in the 2016 hacking of the DNC and Malcolm Nance, who literally wrote the book on attacks on our election.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.  We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other`s experiences and efforts in previous elections.  We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies.


REID:  That was Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at a congressional hearing last month warning about the dangers the United States faces from foreign meddling in the upcoming presidential election.

Joining us now is Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress who had some of her e-mails exposed during the 2016 hacking of the DNC.  We`re also joined by Malcolm Nance who is an MSNBC counterterrorism and intelligence analyst and Author of "The Plot to Destroy Democracy, How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West."  Thank you both for being here.

Neera, I`m going to start by reading you a little of this "Daily Beast" article.  And this is the talks between the parties about not using the kind of data that was used against the Clinton campaign in 2016.  It says efforts were made between the two political parties to strike a pact that would effectively bind them from weaponizing stolen or hacked content, again, but those conversations never culminated in an actual agreement.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee came close in the 2018 cycle but talks broke down after the NRCC bulked at the idea that they or their candidates couldn`t reference or highlight press reports that were based on materials that had been hacked.  The committee`s logic was that it would be virtually impossible to simply not acknowledge information that was already in the public domain."

That was part of the justification for people using the information that was stolen from people like you, was this is now news.  It`s now fodder.  We`re allowed to use it.  What do you make of the fact that that is the NRCC`s argument for why they should not pledge to avoid using the same kind of material again?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I mean the reality is that what Republicans did in 2016 and were willing to do in 2018 was to use the, you know, basically winnings or spoilage of a foreign adversary.

And, you know, I`m not surprised that Donald Trump will not make a commitment to do this, to not use this information in the future because I think in part he was, you know, his election was deeply helped by this before.  You know, he`s an unpopular president and he might have to count on it again.

I think Republicans -- I really think the public has to discipline both Republicans and Democrats around these issues and really demand that when you use this information, you are basically achieving the political ends of Russia, of a foreign adversary, in their efforts to disrupt our democracy.  And it is the base of really, you know, a lack of patriotism.

REID:  And, you know, Malcolm, you know, you wrote extensively obviously about what happened in 2016 but I think this was the moment for a lot of people that indicated that Donald Trump was willing and, in fact, perhaps even eager to benefit from what these foreign intelligence services had done to the DNC.  Here, he is saying, Russia, if you`re listening.  Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


REID:  Is there any reason to believe that the Trump campaign wouldn`t simply want to just benefit a second time?

MALCOLM NANCE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM INTELLIGENCE OFFICER:  No.  They absolutely want to benefit a second time because the system is rigged in their favor.  It`s rigged in their favor because they have state intelligence agencies of the Russian Federation who have still been working into their benefit over the last two years.

The Russian hacking and the Russian disinformation campaign and spreading information has not abated.  It has not stopped at all.  We saw that in the run-up to the 2018 election.  Now, we`re seeing the bots and trolls come out and start attacking the Democratic candidates of the 2020 election.

I think Donald Trump and his campaign, his social media team, they are looking forward to this information because they still believe that it`s a catnip to the U.S. news media and that Russia will be greatly rewarded and Donald Trump will be greatly rewarded if in fact they get this information and can spread it to hurt their enemies.

These are win at all cost players.  They don`t care.

REID:  And Malcolm, to stay with you for just a moment.  The candidates that we`ve seen in the political article that are being targeted, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Beto O`Rourke who is not even running yet.  The "Daily Beast" said that it was described as the intelligence community sees 2020 a perfect storm, according to a DHS official familiar with the teams.

We know that Russia is going to be engaged.  Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations.  So it`s very curious why the task forces were demoted and the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.  These budgets are being cut.  The staffs are being cut rather than increased in size by the Trump administration.  What does that say to you?

NANCE:  Well, it tells me that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork for this to happen again.  They see benefit to dividing the Democratic party and dicing it up into little groups.  And if you have these subgroups who are each going and supporting one candidate and are willing to do the attacks on the other candidates that you will not see the candidate themselves -- their candidate do, then what you have is the perfect sort of, you know, dicing machine for the Democratic Party opinion.

And if you amplify that and crowbar that and wedge it open, using disinformation, using social media as the, you know, the weapons platform of choice, then what you`re going to see is if we have 10 candidates, you`re going to see 10 massive pushes to make sure that the Democrats tear each other apart.

We saw it with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the first day of the Democratic National Committee Convention in Philadelphia and now it`s going to happen on a macro scale.

REID:  Neera Tanden and Malcolm Nance, thank you guys very much.  Wish we had more time.  Thank you all.

And up next, a clear abuse of power.  That`s how Democrats are describing Labor Secretary Alex Acosta`s role in securing a lenient plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein when he was a federal prosecutor.  Now, they`re calling on Acosta to resign.  More on that next.


REID:  Tonight, we are following three major stories involving allegations of sex crimes against celebrities and billionaires.  Two of them have ties to Donald Trump.  First, embattled R&B Superstar R. Kelly has surrendered to police tonight after being charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.  Chicago prosecutors allege that the abuse involved four victims, at least three of them minors, incidents from 1998 to 2010.  R. Kelly will appear in court Saturday afternoon.

Also happening today, a close billionaire friend of Donald Trump`s, the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft who`s charged with soliciting prostitution.  Police said Kraft was caught on video paying for and engaging in sex acts at a massage parlor in Florida, not just once but twice.

This is all part of a six-month-long investigation into a human trafficking ring in Palm Beach County, Florida.  According to police, nearly 200 people have been charged but only a fraction have been arrested so far.

Now, to be clear, Robert Kraft is not charged with human trafficking but he is facing misdemeanor charges on two counts of solicitation.  A spokesman for Robert Kraft issued a statement saying, we categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.  Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.

Here`s how Robert Kraft`s friend Donald Trump responded to the charges.


REPORTER:  What about the charges against Bob Kraft?  He`s a friend of yours.

TRUMP:  Well, it`s very sad.  I was very surprised to see it.  He`s proclaimed his innocence totally, and -- but I`m very surprised to see it.


REID:  And our third sex crime story of just this single 12-hour news cycle.  Today, House Democrats called on the president of the United States to demand the resignation of his Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.  The push comes after a federal judge ruled that Acosta when he was the U.S. attorney in Miami, broke the law in cutting a deal for Jeffrey Epstein, an accused child sex abuser and billionaire friend of Donald Trump`s.

The letter from Trump to House Democrats stated, "Despite abundant evidence and multiple witnesses still willing to come forward, then-U.S. Attorney Acosta failed to charge Epstein under federal trafficking laws which could have put Epstein away for life.  We strongly believe that Secretary Acosta was negligent in his duty to represent the best interest of the victims and the U.S. government.  As such, we request that you immediately demand his letter of resignation."

Here is how Donald Trump responded to a question today about Alexander Acosta`s handling of Jeffrey Epstein`s case.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, do you have any concerns about the labor secretary`s handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case?

TRUMP:  I really don`t know too much about it.  I know he`s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago but I know he has been a fantastic labor secretary.  That`s all I can really tell you about.  That`s all I know about it.


REID:  And when we come back, what is next for Donald Trump`s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Donald Trump`s billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein.


REPORTER:  A federal judge rebuked the current Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, for his handling of a case involving alleged sexual crimes against then-young girls.  What is the White House`s response?  And I guess the question that a lot of people have is, why should Alex Acosta be trusted to have a job at this level?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  My understanding is that it is a very complicated case, something we`re certainly looking into but that they made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at that time.  But again, that`s something we`re looking into.  We`ll keep you posted as soon as we have something.


REID:  Neera Tanden and Jennifer Rubin are back with us.

And Neera, it doesn`t seem all that complicated.  Just from the court opinion yesterday, just a little bit of it, in addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Jeffrey Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually.  Epstein used, paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.  Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors, not only for his own sexual gratification but also for the sexual gratification of others.

It is repugnant but it isn`t complicated.  What does it mean that Donald Trump was so eager to force out his own Justice Department officials that they didn`t do his bidding and save him from the Mueller probe, but this guy is still there out, Mr. Acosta?

TANDED:  Yes, it is not like Donald Trump is loyal to people.  The fact that the Labor Secretary Acosta is still in his job 24 hours after this judge`s opinion is outrageous.  And I know we`re immune the kind of ridiculous behavior of Donald Trump but this is a person who is lenient on a man who abused 30, not 1, 2, 3, or 4, 30 underage minors.

This person should not be anywhere close to government, let alone enforcing our labor laws.  And I know that the president is basically like we`re just immune to the misogyny.  But I just think the whole event is speechless, that this is the moral values that Conservatives uphold in this day and age when they support Donald Trump.

REID:  And Jennifer Rubin, not only did the court opinion point out the fact that this deal was concealed from the victims which is how he broke the law.  But I think a lot of people just have this sense that there is rich man`s justice in this country.  I mean this guy was able to have --

RUBIN:  Absolutely.

REID:  -- both Ken Starr and Allen Dershowitz representing him, Epstein did, and was able to cut a deal that no ordinary person would be able to, to be home and go to his office all day and essentially get away with it.  It`s pretty shocking I think for most people to get that look at our legal system.

RUBIN:  It is.  And there are really two offenses here.  One is cutting a deal of this minor magnitude with someone who had perpetrated such heinous crimes that these girls` lives were forever ruined and forever changed.

And the second was literally breaking the law.  Under the Victims Act, he was obligated, they gave a piece of paper to these girls saying you will be contacted in the event the case is resolved.  He lied to them.  He didn`t.  He covered it up.  Why?  Because there was going to be a public outrage over it and these girls would be outraged as well.

So he conspired with a child sex molester to keep this bottled up so that he could go back to his billionaire lifestyle and these girls would be again victimized.  They were victimized ones by Jeffrey Epstein and a second time by Acosta.

He is irresponsible, completely unprincipled individual.  The State Bar should take away his license and he should be out of government for good.

TANDEN:  And also why did he do it.  There are several questions still like why did he actually decide to do this plea deal with such a rich powerful person in Florida who obviously is really well connected with the Republican establishment and the power brokers of Florida.

I mean it`s a big question that I think Acosta has to answer but he should answer it after he is out, you know after he is out of government.

RUBIN:  And by the way -- yes.

TANDEN:  Because he obviously should not be in government any longer.

RUBIN:  And by the way, someone should ask Donald Trump about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.  He was around him.  He was his buddy.  Did he never see these underage girls?  What is his association?

That`s what`s so bizarre about this president that any other president would be in a fire storm over an association with someone who let off a friend of his who is a child sex molester and yet no one has put a question to Donald Trump what did you know about Jeffrey Epstein, what did you see, why were you friends with this individual.  He just waltzes through life because he`s just such a terrible person.  Nothing seems to matter anymore to the media.

REID:  Yes, indeed.  And now, a second friend, Robert Kraft, it`s pretty remarkable.  Two out of the three stories today, friends of Donald Trump.

Neera Tanden, Jennifer Rubin, thank you both very much.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.