LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`m so glad you played that final word from Michael Cohen today because there is so much video in this hearing --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes.
O`DONNELL: -- that I`m not going to be able to include in the next hour. That`s one of the things. When I saw it, I thought, oh, we have to use that. By the time we get this all done, there is no room.
O`DONNELL: It`s one of those days.
MADDOW: What we did for my show today, first of all, there were so many amazing dramatic, personal and even kinetic funny moments. We`re not doing any of that. We`re going to create a giant list of concrete, discreet revelations about stuff that we didn`t know before. There`s about 30 of those. We`re not going to do any of that.
Now, we need to focus on the serious, you know, multi-variant criminal allegations this guy is making about this president since he`s been in office because you have to prioritize that because of its importance. But this is -- this is 30 days worth of material today.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and none of it, not a single thing that we saw today, none of it would have happened, the hearing would not have occurred if the Democrats did not win the House of Representatives --
O`DONNELL: -- on election night. Tonight`s lesson in your vote really, really matters.
MADDOW: Yes. And to hear Elijah Cummings in his emotional roundup at the end when he talked about -- he gave his own closing statement and even when he spoke to reporters thereafter, talking about what he hopes for this committee and what he wants in terms of decency and civility on this committee and what he wants to be able to do with members reaching across the aisle and pulling in the same patriotic direction on these things was I think heartfelt in part because of his frustration that none of this stuff could be pursued at all, at all, at all, at all until the Democrats took over.
O`DONNELL: And he --
MADDOW: Shouldn`t be that way.
O`DONNELL: He remembers a world in which things actually did run smoothly in the House of Representatives, and you could have hearings that were conducted on a bipartisan basis.
O`DONNELL: That`s the dream he has of trying to get back to that.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. It`s so much to get through. I`m going to sit down and watch you do it.
O`DONNELL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, we have everyone we need tonight to cover this historic day. We have one of the members of the committee who questioned Michael Cohen today, who revealed information we would not have known without his particular line of questioning.
We have a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Eric Swalwell, who will be questioning Michael Cohen tomorrow in a closed-door session.
We have former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah, formerly of the U.S. attorneys` office in the Southern District of New York. You heard a lot about the southern district of New York today. The legal filings on Michael Cohen by the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York became a major component in all of the Republicans` questioning in that hearing today.
We have Tim O`Brien who wrote a book about Donald Trump and his businesses. A book that got Tim O`Brien sued by Donald Trump, a lawsuit that Tim O`Brien won. Tim O`Brien was the first person who said the words "Allen Weisselberg" to me when he identified Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization as a key player in the investigation of the Trump business. And we heard Michael Cohen making repeated references today to Allen Weisselberg, who may now be called before that committee.
And no one can take up inside the Trump business -- no one can talk about the inside of the Trump businesses better than Tim O`Brien. So we`re very lucky to have him here tonight.
And we have a first guest tonight who has played a very special role in the Michael Cohen story for me personally. You know, whenever I meet members of our audience out there in the world walking down the street or in the airport, you always ask me what`s going to happen, what`s going to happen next, and I always tell you that I don`t know because I don`t know anything that I`m not telling you right here, and that has always been true throughout the Trump presidency, except for one very important conversations that I had with a friend of Michael Cohen`s last summer when I was told that the information Michael Cohen would eventually reveal about Donald Trump would be devastating and that that information could definitely be developed into articles of impeachment.
That friend of Michael Cohen is also a friend of mine, and he didn`t tell me any more detail than that at the time. He just gave me that guidance that somewhere down the road, it would come to this. It would come to what the Democrats are now calling the smoking gun.
My leadoff guest tonight knew it was going to come. He knew it long before the rest of us did. He knew that Michael Cohen was going to make the history that Michael Cohen made today.
We have all the experts assembled who we need for this momentous night, but for me, I wouldn`t want to do this show tonight without that one mutual friend who Michael Cohen and I have, and he will join us in a moment.
The Democrats now have the smoking gun. Today, Michael Cohen wrote the first article of impeachment against President Trump in his testimony in the House of Representatives, the place where impeachment of a president begins. Democrats believe Michael Cohen gave them the smoking gun today. That`s what Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna called this contribute that Michael Cohen introduced in the all-day hearing in the House Committee on Oversight.
This check made to Michael Cohen carries the now recognizable signature of Donald Trump and was signed by the president six months into his presidency. It marks the first time in American history that we have seen a check signed by a president for an illegal purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: As exhibit 5A to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1st of 2017, when he was president of the United States, pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The crime as described by federal prosecutors and in Michael Cohen`s guilty plea testimony took place weeks before the presidential election when Michael Cohen used his own funds to arrange a payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence. What America learned from Michael Cohen today is that that criminal scheme extended forward in time into the presidency of Donald Trump. Because President Trump arranged a reimbursement schedule for Michael Cohen that included 11 checks delivered to him during the first year of the Trump presidency. Some of those checks were signed by President Trump. Some of them were signed by Donald Trump Jr. and by Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump businesses.
The smoking gun check, the one with Donald Trump`s bold signature, will now take its place in popular culture. You will be seeing it in tweets forever. You will be seeing it on T-shirts. It will be imprinted on toilet paper, on coffee mugs and it will take its place in history as the most important check Donald Trump has ever written because it is the check that could end his presidency.
And so, the Trump loyalists in that hearing today had one job to do, and that was attack that check, attack Michael Cohen`s explanation of the crime that check is part of and not one Republican member of the committee dared to do that. Not one of them went after that check. Not one Republican member of the committee tried to defuse that bomb for Donald Trump. They left the smoking gun untouched in their cross-examination of Michael Cohen. And instead of attacking that evidence, instead of attacking that check, they attacked Michael Cohen and they used the words of the attorney in the Southern District of New York against Michael Cohen.
That is the office of the federal prosecutor who got Michael Cohen`s guilty plea. And today, it was if those federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York were sitting right there in the Republican side of the hearing room as counsel to the Republican members of the committee who put full faith and confidence in every word that they quoted from those federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Take what the southern district of New York said, Cohen did crimes that were marked by a pattern of deception and that permeated his professional life.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: According to the southern district of New York, you failed to disclose more than $20 million in liabilities.
REP. MICHAEL CLOUD (R-TX), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Southern District of New York in their statement, their sentencing memo says this. Cohen`s criminal violations in the federal election laws were also stirred, like others, crimes by his own ambition and greed. I ask unanimous consent to submit the sentencing moment from the Southern District of New York for the record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And I ask your unanimous consent to read you portions of the sentencing memo that the Republicans did not read today.
During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories, each from women who claimed to have had an affair with individual one, so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election.
And who was individual one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVEN LYNCH (D-MA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: And who are you referring to here when we refer to individual one?
COHEN: Donald J. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That part of the sentencing memo that the Republicans did not read continues. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls about the fact, nature and timing of the payments, in particular and as Cohen himself as now admitted with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one.
And so, the federal prosecutors in New York who the Republicans repeatedly quoted today as if they were quoting the bible are the very same prosecutors who in the very same memo say that the president of the United States committed crimes with Michael Cohen and that those crimes were committed at the direction of Donald Trump. Donald Trump was the boss of the criminal enterprise described by the federal prosecutors who the Republicans quoted today, but were very careful to never quote the part where those same prosecutors accused the president of the United States of having committed crimes.
The Republicans on the committee told America, you cannot believe Michael Cohen now because he is a convicted criminal and one of his crimes was lying to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: A guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.
REP. JODY HICE (R), GEORGIA: Lying to Congress.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Lying to Congress.
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Intricate, elaborate lies.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: Liar, liar, pants on fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I`ll never forget, the first convicted criminal who I saw testify to Congress, and he was guilty of crimes much worse than lying. He was a murderer. He was a made man in the mafia.
I was a little boy in 1963 watching Joe Valachi testify to Congress about Italian organized crime in America on black and white TV. And though we knew Joe Valachi was a criminal and murderer, we also found him very believable. I don`t mean just the kids. The senators thought his testimony was believable and worth hearing.
In testimony that I remember to this day, Joe Valachi described to the Senate and America watching on TV the initiation ritual for the criminal organization that we learned that day was called the Cosa Nostra by its members. The ceremony was in Italian and the new member had to take a piece of paper and burn it in his hands. I`ll never forget the way he said the word "burned", in his New York accent, it became boyned (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demonstrate just what you did. What?
JOE VALACHI, MOBSTER: This piece of paper is burned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?
VALACHI: And then you light it and in your hand you say -- then they give you words in Italian, but I know what it meant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In other words, while you were repeating the words, you were burning the paper.
VALACHI: This is the way I burn if I expose this organization. And then he pricks your finger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who?
VALACHI: The godfather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He pricks your finger?
VALACHI: Pricks your finger, with a needle. In other words, the blood relation supposed to be like brothers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And the Senate and America believed every word. Six years later, Mario Apuzzo published his mafia novel "The Godfather" and three years after that there were long lines in front of movie theaters all over the country for audiences to see Marlon Brando playing "The Godfather."
And America has known since then and probably before that the most hardened criminals in the world lie, cheat, steal and murder, but sometimes, sometimes some of them tell the truth. And when criminals like Joe Valachi tell the truth, their criminal friends turn on them and call them a rat, which is what Donald Trump now calls his former friend Michael Cohen.
Leading off our discussion now: Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal contributor. Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg opinion, an MSNBC contributor. He has reported on Donald Trump for decades and, of course, was sued by Donald Trump and won.
And we are joined by MSNBC contributor and friend of Michael Cohen, Donny Deutsch, the man who told me many, many months ago that this day was coming.
And, Donny, when you told me that in that short but powerful conversation in that hallway, I thought when the day comes, I need Donny on the show as the first guest. Tell us what you saw in that hearing room today with your friend Michael Cohen.
DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: Well, the day hasn`t come yet because this is a -- this is --
O`DONNELL: There`s more?
DEUTSCH: This is an open act. The day that you`ll have me back on is when the Southern District RICOs the Trump organization, that`s the Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization Act, which is introduced when people sit atop a criminal organization where basically they will go every everything this criminal organization has done from the charities to the Trump -- to the money laundering to bank fraud to wire fraud to insurance fraud. They`ll take the empire apart. They`ll take buildings away.
That`s when I`ll come back on the show because that will be the closing act. This and Mueller will be the opening act. And what you saw today, and I still think that Russia is going to be a sidebar into this, is a peek inside this criminal enterprise.
You saw the little pieces coming into play. You saw the word insurance come up for the first time. You saw him mentioning the children in different ways. You saw obviously the campaign violation, but that`s not where this ends.
This ends where if you live in New York City, I ran a big advertising agency for years. There were bankers and lawyers and real estate developers. What everybody knows about Donald Trump and his organization, it is the slimiest of the slime. It is just the way they do business.
It is dishonest. It is unethical. It is criminal. And the Southern District will take it apart.
So what Michael Cohen did today that I knew was coming, I knew a lot of the things that Michael knew but I also know a lot of things about how the Trumps do business, this is the opening act.
O`DONNELL: Mimi Rocah, your old shop, the Southern District of New York, kept coming up in every Republican question, but they left out the part where the same prosecutors said Donald Trump directed these crimes.
ROCAH: Exactly. I mean, you hit the nail on the head. What they wanted to do was paint Cohen as a liar, which really isn`t surprising since the first thing Cohen did was admitted he`s a liar. He`s lied on behalf of Trump. And that`s the part that they wanted to just, you know, ignore, right? Because if you believe Cohen`s testimony today, it`s very, very damaging for Trump.
And so, that`s why instead of, as you said, going after the facts and trying to counter some of the actual assertions he made about what Trump did like direct him in essence to lie, although he was careful not to overstate it, you know, help concoct this scheme of silencing women and then reimbursing through this essentially a fraud scheme. If you believe all of that, that`s very damaging for Trump. And so, the only thing they can do is to attack him as opposed to going after the facts because to leave it under attacked, to leave his credibility in tact is just devastating for Trump.
O`DONNELL: And Tim, Allen Weisselberg came up. He suddenly started to become a featured player in the hearing because people kept saying, well, who else can we go to for more information about whether it would be insurance fraud possibilities or other issues? And that name Allen Weisselberg kept coming up. And we now are hearing from the committee that he may be one of the witnesses they call.
TIM O`BRIEN: Right, along with Matthew Calamari and Rhona Graff, all these names that people didn`t know before, but who have been sitting in the Trump Organization for decades.
You know, Trump chose people pretty quickly, but there is a core group of people who have been with him for a long time. They`re not terribly sophisticated but they buy into the cult of personality around Trump. They don`t argue and they do what they`re told.
Allen Weisselberg specifically joined the Trump Organization at the same time Donald did in the 1970s. He was Fred Trump`s accountants. He`s handled Donald Trump`s personal tax returns. He signs off on every major deal that Trump does.
Michael Cohen`s only been there since 2006. He`s got a window on some things, but Trump used him as the pitfall. Allen Weisselberg has deep institutional knowledge. So, what Donny was saying about, you know, when the Southern District decides to pounce and start to take apart some of the pieces of what Trump`s doing, particularly I think around issues like money laundering --
O`BRIEN: -- Allen Weisselberg is going to be a cog in the middle of that because he authentically knows where all bodies are buried.
DEUTSCH: You`re not going to have to go through Enron. Tim will know this. If you`ve been up to the Trump Organization, it`s a dusty office. Here is Donald. Here are the three kids. Here is the CFO.
O`BRIEN: Stuck in the 1980s.
DEUTSCH: You go back to Valachi, if you went to one of those little, you know, coffee bars.
DEUTSCH: So you don`t have to pick through a lot of layers. It is a mom and pop licensing company. So, it is -- and it was run that way.
And as you see Donald Trump at -- see the way he conducts himself as president? Just in front of everybody beyond the law, imagine as a private citizen when nobody`s watching. Imagine in the real estate business, which is a pretty slimy business even if you`re a straight shooter to begin with. Imagine the antics that he was up to.
Well, we`re not going to have to imagine. So, I thank you for those nice things that you said, but I want to extend a future invitation to myself when the --
O`DONNELL: Permanent invitation.
O`DONNELL: So, Mimi, Donny tells us more -- certainly to say this is going to end up in a RICO prosecution. And my experience with Donny on this subject is he doesn`t exaggerate anything, anything. Everything is as solid as you could ask it to be.
How would we get from here to a RICO prosecution?
ROCAH: Well, it`s not crazy, I will say that, in this sense. Look, RICO - - there is very technical requirements, but it is --
O`DONNELL: And Donny didn`t go to law school, so you can correct him.
DEUTSCH: I barely got -- I did go to Wharton with Donald Trump, though.
ROCAH: Interesting. But RICO is meant to capture is when you have all sorts of different kinds of criminal activity being committed on behalf of one centralized person and organization and, you know, it`s kind of -- I mean, it`s exactly what you think of. It`s almost like a spider web and all the different spiders are in it and they`re all doing different kinds of crimes. It`s to capture it all together, because to charge any one single crime alone doesn`t capture the essence of the organization.
So that`s why I say, as you`re right, the more different kinds of crimes we hear, insurance fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, you need crimes that are considered predicates like specified under the statute, that you can use in RICO. But I do see the idea that if the Trump organization is being used as a vehicle to commit many different crimes of state and federal crimes, it can capture state crimes and become federal under RICO as well. Then, you know, that`s when RICO becomes useful.
O`DONNELL: Which brings us to one of the scariest answers and questions that the Trump organization and President Trump had to experience today. That is when Michael Cohen was asked if there are any other illegal acts that he`s aware of that he hasn`t mentioned today. Let`s watch this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven`t yet discussed today?
COHEN: Yes, and, again, those are part of the investigation that`s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was one of my jump out of the seat moments, Tim.
O`BRIEN: Well, you know, following upon what Mimi said, I think in addition, one of the atmospheric things about RICO is there is someone at the head of the web or in the center of the web orchestrating this. This has come out. It came out today.
At one point, Michael Cohen was asked, so are you saying that Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal fraud with Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg? Yes. At this moment, are there other frauds we don`t know about or other crimes that were committed? Yes.
Of course that`s going to make Donald Trump jump out of his socks. He`s in Hanoi. He just got epically trolled by Michael Cohen thousands of miles away. He did to Trump what Trump has done to everyone else. He has damning testimony, he`s insulted him personally and Trump`s in a box halfway around the world and can`t do anything about it.
The next leg of this, I think, is people inside the Trump Organization are going to start to have to decide do they take care of themselves, do they take care of Trump or do they try to find a middle ground? I don`t think they`re going to ultimately be able to have a middle ground.
DEUTSCH: Mimi, how does that work?
O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, it sounds like Allen Weisselberg, for one, has already made a decision about that. He reportedly has an immunity agreement with the southern district.
ROCAH: Well, I want to be careful there because I don`t know for sure, but just based on the reporting that we`re gleaning, maybe you have more specifics, I think his immunity was pretty limited. So there is cooperation agreements and then there is immunity agreements. Cooperation agreements are you tell us everything about everything. Immunity is we`re going to bring you in on this one day to the grand jury.
O`BRIEN: Which was August of last year.
ROCAH: And you`re going to answer questions and that`s it. And so that can be very limited.
So I think Allen Weisselberg still has that decision to make that we`re talking about. Is the going to get on board and cooperate? Which it sounds like he should or he is in some serious legal jeopardy himself.
O`DONNELL: Donny, talk about the man we saw today in that committee room. I mean, you over the months have tried to tell me that Michael Cohen is actually a nice guy in certain ways. I didn`t want to hear it. I focus on what he has done and what he`s participated in.
But I saw the man today. You couldn`t miss him. We were exposed to him for hours on end. We saw him cry. We saw him talk about the pain this has caused his family in very convincing ways. There is no one who can doubt that part of it.
We saw him stay composed, never fall for the bait that the Republicans were trying to get him to fall for, never getting angry, never giving more of an answer than was necessary, and being, you know, as solid a witness in terms of performance as you can see in those kinds of hearings. What did you see in that range of emotion in the range of what you saw him go through? I`m particularly interested in what you felt, what you thought when you saw him address Donald Trump directly into that camera.
DEUTSCH: I saw what I`ve, seeing over the last couple of years. What the public has seen is basically the old clips.
O`DONNELL: That`s all I know.
DEUTSCH: Look, Michael Cohen was Trump`s kind of thuggy lawyer and did dishonest things, and his explanation, which is the real explanation if you know Michael personal, if you know Donald personally, he was in the glow. He went from being a taxicab attorney to Trump`s attorney on his lapel pin. That`s intoxicating. He`s described it as a cult. That doesn`t excuse, but it explains a lot of his behavior.
What I saw over the last couple of years is a guy who knows he did wrong things and says, wait a second, I`m the guy taking the fall? Look what`s happening in the world here. The very thing that we are -- our heads almost explode about every night.
Imagine if you are becoming aware of that, you realized you were a part of it, a piece of it, you`re paying the consequences while the other guy is circling in Air Force One. And I saw I guy who would break down every time we`d talk about his family. I saw a guy, look, if this hadn`t happened, would he have gotten to this place? Probably not. But it did happen.
And he is in this place and it`s genuine and it`s real and the camera does not lie. His life is destroyed. He is a family -- you know, Congressman, I can`t remember his name, put out that thing the other day about his wife potentially, that is the -- we`re not even going to dignify it. I`ve already gone through that, but to see the effect on this man.
I was on the phone the night that Trump went after his father-in-law. He said, I`m not doing this. I`m not doing this. He`s a family guy. He is a good man that did some stupid, bad things.
And I would not talk the way I talk about him. I`m a pretty cynical guy and I`m a street guy, I know people. I`ve known guys like this my entire life, as I said.
Is he a choir boy? No. Does he deserve to go to jail for what he did? Yes. But he`s a good guy.
O`DONNELL: Donny Deutsch is not someone who`s going to be fooled by people. He understands the complexity of people and that they come with many shades.
Donny, are you doing "MORNING JOE" tomorrow?
DEUTSCH: I am.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for staying up late.
DEUTSCH: Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Couldn`t get through this hour without you.
Mimi Rocah, thank you for joining us.
Tim O`Brien, I really appreciate it. We needed you here tonight more than ever.
And when we come back, one of the senior Democrats on the committee today, Gerry Connolly, stunned the room when he got Michael Cohen to reveal he had a meeting with Donald Trump in 2017 before Michael Cohen falsely testified to the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Connolly will join us next.
And Michael Cohen will testify tomorrow to the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session. Congressman Eric Swalwell will be in that closed committee meeting and he will join us later in this hour.
O`DONNELL: In today`s hearing, Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly led Michael Cohen through questioning that revealed that Michael Cohen had a meeting in the White House with President Trump and the president`s private lawyer Jay Sekulow before Michael Cohen provided a false statement to the House Intelligence Committee in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-WA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: You had a conversation with the president of the United States about your impending testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, is that correct?
COHEN: That`s correct.
CONNOLLY: What was the nature of that conversation?
COHEN: He wanted me to cooperate. He also wanted just to ensure by making the statement, and I said it in my testimony, there is no Russia, there is no collusion, there is no deal. He goes, it`s all a witch hunt. And this -- he goes, this stuff has to end.
CONNOLLY: Did you take those comments to be suggestive of what might flavor your testimony?
COHEN: Sir, he`s been saying that to me for many, many months. And at the end of the day, I knew exactly what he wanted me to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now after a long day in that hearing room, Congressman Gerry Connolly. Congressman Connolly, really appreciate you staying with us tonight after that long day of work in that hearing room.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I know what those hearing rooms are like. Really appreciate it. What do you think is the most important thing that we learned in that hearing room today?
CONNOLLY: Well, I think we certainly had confirmation that the Trump Organization headed by Mr. Trump is by any other name a criminal enterprise. And very much like, you know, the organizations described by Joe Valachi. You mentioned it earlier in the report. I brought it up this morning in the hearing reminding my Republican colleagues that Joe Valachi revolutionized how Congress dealt with organized crime and made a huge difference in law enforcement`s dealing with organized crime.
And as you pointed out, he was a lot more than a convicted liar, he was a murderer. But his testimony nonetheless was pivotal to unlocking the keys to how the Mafia was organized. Mr. Cohen is going to be, I believe, one of the pivotal figures in unlocking the key -- the keyhole to how the Trump Organization, in fact, operates. And in many ways, it does resemble a criminal enterprise.
O`DONNELL: You kept making the point to your Republican colleagues that it is possible to take testimony from convicted criminals and invest belief in that testimony. This happens in courtrooms around the country every day. Criminals turn on each other, testify against each other.
But one of the most important things that is an element of those kinds of cases is something -- is any evidence that exists beyond the word of the criminal. And there was Michael Cohen showing you, submitting to you that check with the president`s signature on it six months into the Trump presidency, presumably signed somewhere in the White House, possibly the oval office. You don`t have to take Michael Cohen`s word for that check. That check is real.
CONNELLY: That`s right, Lawrence. And if we really just go back a little bit in time, let`s remember how this began. The president denies any knowledge whatsoever of an affair with the two women described, let alone hush money payments to them to keep silent.
And then we evolve to Giuliani, his media attorney, saying, "Well, so what if he, in fact, paid them? That`s a private matter and so what if he reimbursed his personal attorney?" Having denied everything up to that point.
And now we know shades of Spiro Agnew, that in the oval office itself he is actually signing one of these reimbursement checks to his personal attorney for hush payments made to these two women with whom he had an affair in order to circumvent the federal election law so it wouldn`t interfere with the election results in 2016. That`s against the law.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Chairman Cummings said today when he was asked after the hearing if he thought that he heard evidence that President Trump committed a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Based on what you heard, do you believe that the president committed a crime while in office?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Based on what -- looking at the text and listening to Mr. Cohen, it appears that he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Do you agree with the chairman, that it appears that the president committed a crime?
CONNOLLY: I do. And I believe that what Cohen did today wasn`t to give us new evidence to that effect but to confirm what we already knew in one case. Remember that when the filing documents were unsealed from the Southern District of New York with respect to Mr. Cohen, he was convicted of a crime that the Southern District U.S. attorney said was coordinated and directed by individual number one. Individual number one we know is Donald J. Trump.
So it`s not news that Mr. Trump, in fact, has exposed himself to criminal activity by coordinating and directing a criminal act that he helped his personal attorney commit. And for which that personal attorney is going to go to jail.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Gerry Connolly, we really appreciate you extending your workday to include us and --
CONNOLLY: Any time.
O`DONNELL: -- please come back. You`re welcome any time you can join us at this hour. Really appreciate it.
CONNOLLY: I`d love to do it, Lawrence. Big fan.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Congressman.
CONNOLLY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, Michael Cohen will testify to another congressional committee tomorrow in a closed-door session with the House Intelligence Committee. The chairman of that committee Adam Schiff has already said that he wants to follow up on Trump Tower Moscow and Roger Stone`s conversations with WikiLeaks and other things that he heard in that hearing today.
Congressman Eric Swalwell is a member of the Intelligence Committee who will be in that meeting tomorrow. Congressman Swalwell will join us next.
O`DONNELL: Today, Michael Cohen connected Julian Assange, Roger Stone, and Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked documents of the Democratic National Committee e- mails ahead of time, and the answer is yes. As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of e-mails.
In July of 2016, days before the Democratic Convention, I was in Mr. Trump`s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect, "Wouldn`t that be great."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That will be a point of extreme interest in the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow when they interview Michael Cohen in a closed session.
And joining us now, one of the members of that committee, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California. Congressman Swalwell, I know that in your hearing tomorrow, some of what gets said in that closed session could be public. It`s just that there`s enough that will be said that is -- that couldn`t be public that it needs to be closed.
Of the -- of what you can share with us, did you hear things in today`s hearing, in today`s public hearing that you expect to be expanded on in tomorrow`s closed hearing?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Lawrence. Yes, we did. Particularly around three areas. One, that Donald Trump had knowledge of WikiLeaks. He was previewed what they were later released. Two, that he did talk to his son in what appears to be the Trump Tower meeting that his son had with the Russians as they were about to dump information about Hillary Clinton. And third, that he would routinely ask what`s going on with Russia as it related to the Trump Tower project.
But it`s just so disturbing to imagine a candidate for president of the United States of America from any party, to imagine that that individual would be told that a U.S. adversary who is working against our interests every day is helping his campaign or that any adversary would be helping his campaign and that he doesn`t say, "Stop it." He doesn`t say, "Don`t do it." He doesn`t say, `That`s not what we do. Go to the police." Instead, he says, "Wouldn`t that be great."
And so that`s what we`ll probe further, but, of course, we`ll get into the Mueller investigation as well.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to two things that were said today about the - - related to the Trump Tower meeting. One is a question by Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz about the way the Trump family shares information. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: If Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr. are involved in the Russian Trump ower deal, is it possible the whole family is conflicted or compromised with a foreign adversary in the months before the election?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And with that possibility, let`s now also listen to what was Michael Cohen`s description of Donald Trump Jr. Discussing that Trump Tower meeting before it happened with his father. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, "The Meeting is all set." And I remember Mr. Trump saying, "OK, good. Let me know."
So I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representatives when he walked behind his dad`s desk that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s the point you`re going to be looking for more detail on, I assume.
SWALWELL: Yes. We believe there are more witnesses to what the candidate`s interest was and what the candidate`s family was doing or not doing as this information was offered to them. And, Lawrence, also when you put into perspective what we heard today from Michael Cohen, this is not Michael Cohen`s word versus Donald Trump`s word.
This is Michael Cohen`s word without Donald Trump ever going under oath, not going under oath with Mueller, not going under oath after Comey testified. You now have more and more witnesses raising their right hand, willing to go under oath, and Donald Trump says nothing under oath.
So the evidence -- the state of the evidence is uncontroverted that these facts exist and that`s why I think the American people should be very concerned that we have a corrupted president who presided over a corrupted business and ran a corrupted campaign.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, what`s the most important piece of evidence you would point to for your constituents today to focus them on what happened in that hearing?
SWALWELL: Lawrence, to me the most important piece of evidence was the president`s knowledge of the Trump Tower in Moscow, the Trump Tower in New York meeting with the Russians and the WikiLeaks work on his behalf. He, throughout the campaign, invited the Russians to keep hacking, previewed future dirt coming out on Hillary Clinton.
We always believed in our House Intelligence Committee investigation that he knew this was going on, but he denied it all the way up to right now as we sit here today. And so the president has lied to us. And now it`s time for those chickens to come home to roost and for he and anyone on his campaign who worked with the Russians or knew what the Russians did to finally be held accountable.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, we really appreciate your availability to us tonight, and generally on this program, and please come back. We really appreciate having you.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez steered Michael Cohen into territory where no one else went today in a line of questioning that could lead to many more problems for Donald Trump and the Trump family business.
O`DONNELL: In a meticulous series of questions, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opened up another Trump can of worms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I want to ask a little bit about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about acid inflation. To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?
COHEN: Alan Weisselberg, Ron Leibman, and Matthew Calamari.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?
COHEN: Yes. And you`d find it at the Trump Org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After a break, our legal team of Rocah and Shugerman will get the last word on the legal risks to the president and his family that were exposed in today`s hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history. He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The infomercial has morphed into an investigation, an investigation of the president, his family, and his businesses.
Joining us now is Jed Shugerman, a professor of law at Fordham University who`s closely followed these investigations of Donald Trump. Mimi Rocah is back with us.
And Jed, I want to go to the point raised by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She`s talking about asset inflation. Has Donald Trump ever engaged in asset inflation to which she got a very quick yes from Michael Cohen? It seems to be a matter of asset inflation for insurance purposes which then could lead to insurance fraud and are there other worms in that can?
JED SHUGERMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right. So let`s say a couple of things. First, the insurance fraud is implicated here directly. But that`s both federal and state insurance fraud. The key thing is always looking whether it`s a state criminal liability because that deals with which other prosecutors might get involved, New York State prosecutors, and that prevents the pardon problem.
But that also implicates state tax fraud. And so all of these actors could be implicated. And the bigger picture, there could be indictments of Trump Organization, additional indictments of Trump Foundation because it`s implicated and potentially the dissolution under a New York State law. The New York State attorney general could bring about an action under Quo Warranto to dissolve the Trump Organization in New York State.
O`DONNELL: And Mimi, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the third last member to speak. She`s one of the three junior members who were at the very end of the panel. And in my experience in congressional hearings, you don`t learn anything at that point in the hearing. And they don`t leave anything good for the junior members. It`s all been eaten up and used by the time you get down there.
And yet there it was, there was all this new territory for Ocasio-Cortez to cover. Were you as a former prosecutor just sitting there throughout the hearing taking notes on, oh, there`s a new possibility, there`s a new possibility?
ROCAH: I was. I have my list of leads. And I mean it`s interesting because she approached her questioning like a real investigator. Let me ask questions where I can find out who should I talk to next, what documents should I get. I think probably the Southern District and the New York State Law Enforcement are already down those paths. They`re going to have to make Sure they de-conflict. But that was smart.
And that is where they should go next. And look, we talked about this earlier in the show. But Allan Weisselberg is obviously someone who needs to be questioned in some form. It`s going to be tricky because he`s going to need some kind of immunity or he`s going to get charged by someone.
I mean there`s sort of two paths here for him. But he is the next central figure here I think to talk. And, of course, the documents at the end of the day are really what`s going to tell the case, right. Because whether you have a Cohen or Weisselberg, they`re going to walk through the documents. They`re going to be the narrators.
O`DONNELL: To go back to the big picture of this, Jed, you haven`t had a shot at this. What do you think was the most important evidence in the hearing today?
SHUGERMAN: Well, first of all, I think that there was more evidence about suborning perjury or false statements, right. I think there was a big question out of last night about the allegations that what was Trump doing and it was I think a shortcoming of the prepared statement. It was really vague.
I was concerned coming in what evidence did Cohen have that Trump was directly involved, not during the election. That wasn`t significant. That wasn`t sufficient enough.
I think he laid out more clearly how Trump was directly involved with not explicitly -- suborning perjury or false statement doesn`t require flash cards saying go perjure. But the signals were clear enough and I think he laid that out. I thought that was significant.
And I also think the campaign finance felonies. It is beyond a doubt now that there`s probable cause that Trump engaged in an intentional campaign- finance felony and now that raises some questions about Southern District of New York. It`s time to start talking about indicting a sitting president.
O`DONNELL: And Mimi, the development that -- the felony that we thought occurred three weeks, a couple of weeks before the election, extended into the first presidential year.
ROCAH: Yes. And look, that`s huge. We`re talking about a scheme here that helped get Trump into office and continued once he was in office. And that raises the seriousness of the crime.
O`DONNELL: We need more time tonight that we do not have. Jed Shugerman and Mimi Rocah, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
That is tonight`s last word.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.