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Rosenstein staying at Justice Department. TRANSCRIPT: 3/19/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Vicky Ward, Francesca Chambers, Neera Tanden

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.  You have a good night.  We`ll see you tomorrow.  Thank you.


VELSHI:  I`m Ali Velshi, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Coming up tonight, "Kushner Inc.", the author of a new book on Jared and Ivanka, explains how a New York City high rise could be key to understanding Jared Kushner and President Trump`s relationship with dictators in the Middle East. 

And as the president continues his attacks on the husband of a senior aide and continues his attacks on the late John McCain. 

Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, has given new details tonight to "THE BEAT`s" Ari Melber about the time he almost recorded President Trump during a proposed phone call in March of 2017 because of the president`s erratic behavior. 


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  We actually considered, and it sounds not as crazy as it did back then.  Now we know about Michael Cohen recording the president and Omarosa recording the president.  This competing --

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  You considered what?

BHARARA:  Taping the president in a phone call.

MELBER:  You considered recording the president if you called him back? 

BHARARA:  Yes, because I wanted to make sure, because I had a certain amount of mistrust.  It would be my word against him if he decided to say something inappropriate, which I didn`t necessarily know is going to happen. 


VELSHI:  All right.  More of those stories later.

But, first, President Trump was confronted today with several new developments in the investigations into him, his campaign and his business.  NBC News has confirmed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will stay at the Justice Department, quote, a little longer, according to a senior department official.  Rosenstein had previously implied that he would leave by mid-March, but no firm date was ever set. 

After consulting with the new attorney general, William Barr, he`ll now stay in his position a bit longer.  Asked whether the delay in Rosenstein`s departure means that Robert Mueller is still not ready to deliver his report to the department, the senior official declined to comment to NBC News. 

But according to a new report from CNN, Rosenstein apparently wants to stick around, so he can be the heat shield if there`s fallout from the Mueller report.  Now, this comes on the heels of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff pledging to investigate whether the president or anyone around him is currently -- currently under the influence of a foreign government. 

Schiff tells NBC News, quote: It`s very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at.  Schiff adds, quote: If the president has been successful in chilling the DOJ from looking at his finances, then the Congress needs to do it.  Anyway in which the president or those around him might be compromised by a foreign hostile power is front and center in our probe, end quote.

And tonight, we`re learning new details about the scope of Robert Mueller`s investigation into Michael Cohen.  Hundreds of pages of court documents in the Cohen case were unsealed today, giving us a rare look at the investigation`s earliest phase.  The records were heavily redacted, more than 150 pages were fully blacked out after a judge ruled to keep details of ongoing investigations sealed, mostly because they were related to the on going investigation of the Trump Organization.

Take a look at some of these reductions.  Arguably the most intriguing, the bulk of a section titled the illegal campaign contribution scheme.  Out of the pages we can see, it reveals that Robert Mueller obtained a warrant to surveil Michael Cohen in July of 2017.  This date is important, because it`s nine months before the FBI raided his home, his office and his hotel suit.  Investigators were able to search his e-mails going back to January of 2016, inauguration month. 

Mueller`s team later obtained warrants for Michael Cohen`s iCloud account, another e-mail account, and for emails dating back to 2015.  We also learned that prosecutors were looking into potential crimes that Michael Cohen was never charged with, including acting as an unregistered foreign agent. 

Joining us now, Mimi Rocah former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MSNBC legal contributor, and Tim O`Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion" and an MSNBC contributor as well.  He`s reported on Donald Trump for decades.  He was sued by Donald Trump and he won. 

Thank you to both of us.

Mimi, let`s start with you.  You got the information about the stuff that was released relating to Michael Cohen`s arrest records, the warrant that led to the arrest and the search of his office and his home and his hotel suite.  What stands out to you? 

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Well, Ali, what stands out to me is the length of the search warrant that we saw today is frankly the length of the search warrant, the amount of detail in the search warrant and the amount of evidence in the search warrant.  So I have reviewed, I`ve written, I`ve reviewed probably hundreds of search warrants during my time as a prosecutor.  And, you know, they sometimes are very detailed.  They sometimes aren`t. 

I will tell you this is one of the most thorough detailed ones I have ever seen and that`s saying a lot.  You know, I think it tells us really by the time they got these search warrants to go in and do the -- execute the search warrants on Michael Cohen`s premises, physical premises.  They already had so much evidence about various crimes he had committed, including the campaign contribution scheme, the illegal campaign contribution scheme.  We know that, because that`s 18 pages worth out of the affidavit. 

The reason there`s so many pages is there`s a lot of attachments and whatever, but it`s really 18 solid pages, just about that scheme.  That tells me that at that point, they probably could have written a complaint at that point.  But they were looking for more evidence, probably against Michael Cohen, but also for potential co-conspirators.  And that`s what`s so intriguing to me about this. 

VELSHI:  But 18 redacted pages, what is it we don`t know about what Michael Cohen was involved in regarding a campaign scheme? 

ROCAH:  Well, exactly, that`s what I`m saying, if it`s 18 pages, it`s not just about Michael Cohen.  They have to establish why they think the evidence about this crime would be at these particular locations.  But one of the things you do when you`re looking for a search warrant, you say, here`s what we have against this person.  And we think the evidence is at this premises, but here`s what we`re looking for, and it often pertains to other people involved in that scheme. 

So I think that you`re right.  I think there`s a lot we don`t know yet, we think we know everything, because we`ve heard Michael Cohen.  But I think there`s still a lot of evidence we have not yet seen as to this campaign finance scheme, and potentially other crimes that relate to it. 

VELSHI:  Kind of fascinating how much we know about Michael Cohen and there`s stuff we don`t know yet. 

Tim, I have to ask you.  NBC News spoke to a former Obama DOJ official who said it`s actually much more important to know what Donald Trump is up to now than what he was up to before he became president.  It`s more important to know what Donald Trump is up to now, to know what he did in 2016, said Martin Lederman, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration, it`s more important to know whether he`s been compromised as than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime. 

What do you think?

TIM O`BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I don`t know if I really agree with that, because I don`t see them as separate things.  I think that there`s a continuum in Trump`s behavior that dates back to 2003, 2004 when he started financing golf courses overseas and projects in New York, and elsewhere that had questionable sources of funding.  And I think once you`re in that world where you don`t know the source of the funding for Trump`s projects, and he`s telling you that somebody to put a bag of cash on his desk, he`ll do a deal with you, it raises questions whether that created leverage 10 or 15 years ago by anybody who`s playing a long ball, i.e. Kremlin. 


VELSHI:  You can`t get money from a bank.  So, generally speaking, you get money from private source.

O`BRIEN:  Yes, but leverage creates kompromat, right?  So, if you -- if someone does you a financial favor in the past, with the expectation that you`ll return that favor at some point in the future.  And then, lo and behold you become president, it creates the circumstances in which you have leverage over you, that`s not confined only to Donald Trump.  It`s an issue that exists in spades for Jared Kushner. 

VELSHI:  We`re going to be discussing that tonight.

O`BRIEN:  Hanging over his head.

VELSHI:  Let me ask you about that, Mimi.  Is there a distinction in your mind between the things Donald Trump may have done potentially illegally, to get elected, including the payments to these two women who claim to have affairs with him?  And the things he may have done as president?  Because investigations may be looking at both. 

ROCAH:  Yes, no, I agree with Tim.  I think it`s hard to separate them into before and after.  I mean, absolutely, it matters whether at this moment, Trump is making decisions based on national interest or based on his own financial interest or, you know, personal security because of some kind of kompromat. 

But I don`t think you can separate that from financial entanglements that he may have had or entered into before or during the campaign.  I think it`s -- and that`s how investigators approach things, you`re going to look backwards to figure out what is going on now.  You`re going to look historically, follow the money backwards. 

VELSHI:  I`m going to be talking to Ari Melber in the next block about his interview with Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York where you worked, Mimi. 

I want to play to you something he said about Rod Rosenstein sticking around to be the so-called heat shield.  Let`s listen. 


BHARARA:  Rod Rosenstein, who`s the deputy attorney general who has been overseeing a lot of this, I heard a report just before coming on set, that he`s planning to stick around for a while longer.  That may not mean anything, but to me, it indicates that we could be spending a long time waiting. 


VELSHI:  I don`t know if you work with Preet.  But what do you think that means? 

ROCAH:  I did work with Preet and I worked for Preet in his two different incarnations.  Look, I think, you know, Preet is looking at -- there`s so many different signs here.  I mean, the idea that Rod Rosenstein is staying around, makes us think this could be going on longer. 

The idea the other night that we heard Andrew Weissmann was leaving makes use think that this could be wrapping up.  We`re all trying to look at sort of what prosecutors would call circumstantial evidence and figure out what`s behind it.  You know, Rosenstein is he staying a month or is he staying a year?

I think the more interesting part about Rosenstein staying is this idea he`s staying to be, as you said, a heat shield is the report of his reasoning for staying.  Well, that makes you think that whenever we do get sort of the Mueller report or the Barr report or final indictments or whatever`s going to come, they`re going to be something that is going to make Donald Trump`s head explode.

VELSHI:  Right.

ROCAH:  And that Rosenstein should be the one sticking around to absorb some of that blow. 

VELSHI:  I don`t know why he`d do that, I have to tell you.  This is a guy who`s been thrown under the bus by everybody.  What do you mean of the heat shield?  Because I got to tell you, if anything goes down with anything around me, I`m not sticking around to be the heat shield. 

O`BRIEN:  No, it`s interesting after the reporting came out that Rosenstein had contemplated tape recording the president, just as Preet Bharara had, in my mind for good reason, because Donald Trump has weaponized lying, if you`re a prosecutor how do you deal with that?

Nonetheless, in the environment that existed after that happened, Rosenstein just seemed like a crash test dummy.  You wondered how much longer he can take a beating in the press.  He seemed like he had a foot out the door at least. 

Whitaker was in there at that time.  Whitaker has since left.  To me, this suggests that you are coming down to the wire.  That he`s anticipating reports about to be filed and he needs to be there too insulate the team, and insulate Mueller from what is probably going to be a mud fight between the Justice Department and Congress. 

VELSHI:  Mimi, your sense of what a heat shield is in that position? 

ROCAH:  Yes, look, Rosenstein, you know, definitely has taken a lot of criticism.  But at the end of the day, he`s a patriot, I think.  I think he`s someone who believes in the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law, and I think a heat shield probably means trying to protect that independence from what they may fear as further political encroachment in trying to interfere with whatever results are going to come out of the Mueller investigation. 

VELSHI:  All right.  Thanks to both of you, I should in all honesty say that we have recorded this conversation. 

Mimi Rocah and Tim O`Brien, thank you for starting us off tonight. 

Coming up in a revealing new interview with MSNBC`s Ari Melber, the former U.S. district attorney for the Southern District of New York explains his brief notion to record that conversation with President Donald Trump because he knew when the president crossed legal or ethical lines, it would be his word against Donald Trump`s.

Ari Melber and his interview with Preet Bharara is next. 

And the author of a new book on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump is here to explain why she says the couple is more dangerous than most people in the White House, because you cannot see the damage the two of them are doing.  The author of "Kushner Inc." will join me. 

And later, the CEO of a major bank acknowledges that President Trump is failing to stem the growing rift between the rich and the poor in America, which is exactly the message most of the Democrats running for president want to campaign on. 


VELSHI:  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein isn`t the only person who reported secretly recording President Trump.  Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York ,Preet Bharara, this guy, revealed that he too considered secretly taping the president after a series of unorthodox phone calls that Trump made to the federal prosecutor before and after he took office. 

In a new interview with Ari Melber, Bharara describes the mistrust and unease that he felt about those interactions with Trump that led him to weigh recording a phone conversation with the president in March of 2017.  He decided against it.  He never returned Trump`s call. 

Two days later, Trump fired him.  And while Rosenstein has denied that his comments about taping the president were serious, Bharara maintains it would be a reasonable thing to consider. 


BHARARA:  In that moment, we actually considered, and it sounds not as crazy as it did back then.  Now we know about Michael Cohen recording the president and Omarosa recording the president.  We considered and we have this competing --

MELBER:  You considered what? 

BHARARA:  Taping the president in our phone call. 

MELBER:  You considered taping the president if you had called him back? 

BHARARA:  Yes, because I wanted to make sure, because I had a certain amount of mistrust.  It was an odd phone call to be making.  It would be my word against him.  If he decided to say something inappropriate, which I didn`t necessarily know was going to happen. 

MELBER:  I mean, this isn`t in the book, this is pretty interesting. 

BHARARA:  Yes, you know, that`s why this whole debate about whether Rod Rosenstein was joking when he said, I`ll wire up against the president or not, sort of rung in my ear a little bit.  I tend to believe that he was not joking, there`s been a certain kind of conduct that happens, and when you`re used to someone -- seeing someone, you know, tell untruths about your own situation, and you care about your own integrity, I didn`t want anybody to say, you had some side conversations with the president of the United States.  It`s something we discussed and talked about.  Did not think it was appropriate.  Did not think it was the right to do.

MELBER:  So, when Rod Rosenstein discussed that in a meeting, your point is that is the kind of thing that you think that prosecutors can legitimately discuss? 

BHARARA:  I think as a general matter, so long as it doesn`t violate some law and in New York, it wouldn`t violate a law, if you have a concern -- we all know people like this, a concern that someone will not be truthful about the conversation later, or you want to protect both the integrity of your own reputation or another person`s reputation, there are a number of things you do. 

You know this, you`re a practicing lawyer.  You need to take contemporaneous notes, as virtually everyone who`s dealt with the president does, or you make a recording.  I want to make clear, we talked about it for three or four minutes and said, that`s crazy, I`m not going to record the president of the United States.  And I decided not to call.

MELBER:  Did you have anyone checked the legal authority for it?

BHARARA:  We discussed it among ourselves and thought it`s not a proper thing to do.  So, we didn`t.

I think the interesting part of it was, that was an impulse that we had, and ultimately decided the best thing to do is not to return the call until we know what it`s about.  I returned the call of the secretary, and said, oh, by the way, after consulting with Jeff Sessions, the chief of staff, you agree with me, do you not that it`s odd and inappropriate for me to have a direct conversation with the president. 

MELBER:  And did you get any guidance that you thought was helpful or valid from them? 

BHARARA:  Yes.  They were in total agreement.

MELBER:  So, Trump`s own appointed DOJ folks said, yes, don`t call the president?

BHARARA:  Yes, until you know what it`s about and until we can figure out whether it`s proper or not.  His own appointed people realized this is not going to look good for the president.  If it looks that the president was reaching out, as now we know he has done in other occasions, by telling Jim Comey once in a private conversation to lay off of Michael Flynn, conversations he apparently had more recently with the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, about getting my successor to unrecuse himself from the Michael Cohen case. 

These are the kinds of conversations that have happened since.  That make me more comfortable with the decision I made not to return the call. 


VELSHI:  It`s kind of wild. 

Joining me now, Ari Melber, MSNBC`S chief legal correspondent, the host of "THE BEAT", he interviewed Preet Bharara earlier on the show, and Tim O`Brien is back with us. 

Ari, what do you make of that?  I mean, that is just -- it`s wild, it makes sense when Preet Bharara says it.  And, by the way, we`ve got recordings of other people having said similar things.  But it`s highly unusual for United States attorneys to worry about taping their conversation with the president of the United States because he might misrepresent the conversation. 

MELBER:  Number one, it`s significant because it shows a career prosecutor looking at the president as a potential subject trying to interfere with the probe.  Number two, as Mr. Bharara told us here in this interview tonight, it`s significant because it sheds new light on Rod Rosenstein`s state of mind and whether that was something to discredit him as some critics and Trump allies have posited.  Or whether it actually is a view that many people behind the scenes dealing with this president in the middle of these probes held. 

You heard Mr. Bharara say for himself, he thinks Rosenstein was dead serious.  And the idea that you could push back on that exclusive "New York Times" story by saying it was sarcastic was some type of cover. 

And number three, whatever happened, and they didn`t ultimately decide to record it.  They decided not to call him back.  As you reported, he got fired along with others, it is a reminder that Donald Trump has been obsessing over SDNY, long before it was on the news.  Long before this is something that news junkies and political junkies --

VELSHI:  It begs the question as to why?

MELBER:  What did Donald Trump do or no, that before he was picking cabinet officers, Preet was walking through the lobby as you showed, and then that he was calling him throughout the transition, and then calling him in March before the U.S. attorney firings and ultimately the Comey firing which led to a special counsel --

VELSHI:  To our viewers that don`t know what you`re getting at.  What would Donald Trump have known?  What would he been have been concerned about?  What are the possibilities what Donald Trump could have been worrying about that cause him to call Preet Bharara? 

MELBER:  A lot of what you had at the top of the show, a lot of whatever he thinks went down in the jurisdiction of Manhattan and Trump Tower, or other dealings he has or other financial exposure he has, or whatever it was they got at Michael Cohen`s office that`s still redacted.  Or whether he had some inkling of the 2016 payments, which he has not been charged for, but Michael Cohen confessed to, had legal exposure. 

Only Donald Trump knows why he was fixated on SDNY.  And Bharara also told me in the interview and I appreciate you playing such a lengthy part of it, I think it`s interesting what Bharara said, he also told me, Barack Obama put him in this post, he served it for eight years, he said they never had a one on one. 

VELSHI:  Unbelievable.  I was going to ask you how unusual that is that he would do that.  But I want -- you mentioned Rod Rosenstein.  So, I want to play what Andrew McCabe said in a "60 Minutes" interview, talking about Rosenstein wanting to record Donald Trump.  Let`s listen to that together. 


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR:  The deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House.  He said, I never get searched when I go into the White House.  I could easily wear a recording device.  They wouldn`t know it was there. 

Now, he was not joking, he was absolutely serious, and, in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had. 

The reason you would have someone wear a concealed recording device would be to collect evidence.  And in this case, what was the true nature of the president`s motivation in calling for the firing of Jim Comey. 


VELSHI:  And that`s another part of this question, right, what`s the motivation for him wanting to talk to Preet Bharara, what was the motivation for him than firing Jim Comey.  The president`s actions as it relates to lawyers in the Justice Department and prosecutors raise more questions than they answer. 

O`BRIEN:  Look, there`s two communities in the United States that still know more than most average Americans about what happened during Trump`s presidential campaign and thereafter -- the intelligence community and the law enforcement community.  And both of those communities had ample reason to be alarmed by information that they were gathering, the full scope of which we still don`t know. 

And all of these people were doing what they entered these jobs to do, which is to enforce the law and protect the national security of the United States.  It is good practice in a situation like that to gather evidence that can`t be disputed.  Tape recordings go to that directly. 

Reporters did it.  I had two years of exposure to Trump.  I recorded a large portion of our interactions for exactly this reason, people who worked for Donald Trump -- Michael Cohen and Omarosa -- taped him because they suspected he was taping them. 

MELBER:  Although as you say, you did it for your reasons.  We`re being told prosecutors never do this to their bosses? 

O`BRIEN:  Well, that`s the thing, their concern here is that their boss isn`t acting as a distant and fair-minded manager of the law enforcement process, and the judiciary. 

VELSHI:  Or they may be involved in the very law enforcement process. 

O`BRIEN:  They feel -- they were very aware, Trump had just fired Jim Comey.  So, you had the FBI and the Justice Department rattled by that, and trying to figure out the best course of responding to that. 

Perhaps they made mistakes, but I think what they were trying to do was come up with a record that could not be disputed as they tried to understand what was going on here.  Preet Bharara had the distinct advantage of being a New Yorker, and New Yorkers who were exposed to Trump for decades before he ran for president, knew exactly how he rolled. 

He`s coming at this from being a New Yorker and a law enforcement official.  They all had good reasons for wanting to have tape recordings. 

MELBER:  And Bharara was in Trump Tower during the transition and got a sense of Donald Trump`s state of mind and the few other aides around him in why he was so interested in SDNY.  And he confirmed for me tonight, there are no records of Donald Trump calling other --


VELSHI:  So, this is what I was wondering. 

When he said that, I remember at the time, when he got fired, saying he had to consult someone.  He didn`t think it was appropriate to call the president.  Laypeople like me don`t know that it wouldn`t be appropriate for the U.S. attorney of the southern district of New York to talk to the president or the attorney general or anybody else.

MELBER:  And here`s a reason why.  You asked a great question, Ali.  It`s the operational equivalent of lock her up.  That`s big talk on the campaign that people thought was inappropriate. 

VELSHI:  Right.

MELBER:  Operationally, what`s worse than yelling "lock her up" in public?  Is calling in private and trying to cultivate these relationships to bring these people in, and to also potentially make them seem so locked in with Trump, that whether they like it or not, they are compromised, they have to defend things. 

And again, why was Donald Trump so obsessed with this?  Rachel reported in her show He took this acute interest in the prosecutors in Florida, where there`s also jurisdiction and D.C.  And so, the narrative that Donald Trump is bumbling and doesn`t know anything, runs into the idea.  And doesn`t have a lot of interest in staffing government agencies, when it involves his criminal exposure, he suddenly has an acute interest. 

O`BRIEN:  You only needs two lenses to understand almost everything Donald Trump does.  It`s either self-aggrandizement or self-preservation.  And everything that`s happened around the law enforcement process is about self-preservation.  And we now have a fact pattern that`s emerged.  Michael Cohen has been prosecuted in the southern district for a number of crimes. 

The New York state attorney general has investigated the Trump Foundation for being a sham.  They`re looking at Trump`s relationships with Deutsche Bank.  Trump had to anticipate that once he entered the White House, some of this stuff was coming, and I think --

MELBER:  You said self-aggrandizement -- 

O`BRIEN:  Or self-preservation.

MELBER:  Self-preservation.

O`BRIEN:  Yes.

MELBER:  There maybe a third self, and that is playing yourself. 

VELSHI:  Right.

MELBER:  Because the way that Donald Trump has attacked law enforcement and fired officials, and removed James Comey, that`s what led to the special counsel that`s haunted him and indicted more than any probe. 

VELSHI:  Had he not done a bunch of these things, there would be no Robert Mueller and there would be no special counsel. 

Guys, great interview.  I`ve been thinking about rap lyrics to quote to you and I`ve come up short.  So, another time.

MELBER:  Maybe next time.

VELSHI:  There is always a next time.

Tim O`Brien and Ari Melber.

Coming up next, a new book on Jared Kushner creates a picture of a recklessly self-interested Kushner whose family and businesses are tainting his official government work.  And that could be causing real policy issues for the United States, and the president doing nothing to stop it.


VELSHI:  "The New York Times" is reporting about the Saudi hit squad that is believed to be responsible for the death of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  According to "The Times", Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, this man, MBS as he is sometimes known, authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters over a year before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

"The Times" reports "Clandestine missions were carried out by members of the same team that killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul in October suggesting his killing was a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents."

The hit squad has reportedly been so busy over the past two years that its leader reportedly asked a top adviser to MBS about whether the crown prince would give the team bonuses for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, like a bonus for how hard they`ve worked.

The news comes as a new book just out today shedding new light on the relationship between MBS and President Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner.  In Kushner Inc., investigative reporter Vicky Ward details how the leaders of multiple Middle Eastern countries may have manipulated Kushner at a time when his real estate company was desperately seeking foreign investment in its flagship Manhattan Tower to avoid financial catastrophe.

The book paints a picture of a recklessly self-interested Kushner whose businesses and family connections frequently found their way into his official government work.  It also reveals the incredibly high stakes implications of some of Kushner`s Middle East dealings, arguing that Kushner may have been responsible for nearly setting off a major violent conflict in the region.

As author Vicky Ward writes, instead of bringing peace to the Middle East, one might argue that Kushner almost started a new war there.  Vicky Ward will join me to talk about her new book and about the dire consequences of Jared Kushner`s role in the White House, next.


VELSHI:  More dangerous than Trump, that`s how author Vicky Ward describes Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, after writing her new book Kushner Inc., Greed, Ambition, Corruption, the Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Joining me now, Vicky Ward, an investigative reporter and the author of the aforementioned Kushner Inc.  Vicky, thank you for being with us.  I want to get right to it --


VELSHI:  -- because there are such interesting things in the book.  In it, you talk a different topic but it`s about the Affordable Care Act.

WARD:  Yes.

VELSHI:  This is a moment that Donald Trump had campaigned on getting rid of Obamacare.

WARD:  Right.

VELSHI:  And he gets into office.  And all the sudden, Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, was deeply frustrated by Kushner`s steadfast opposition to the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Gary Cohn and others noticed that Kushner kept trying to get his younger brother involved.

"Josh knows more about this topic than anyone else, " he bragged.  He was referring to the fact that Josh had co-founded the online health insurer, Oscar, which was predicated on Obamacare.  It`s an important part of the story.  The self-enrichment part of the story.  Jared Kushner`s brother had an interest in Obamacare not being repealed.

WARD:  Right.  Gary Cohn was concerned because he knew from his Goldman Sachs days that Josh and Jared had had a partnership, certainly in Cadre, a real estate technology platform that they had co-founded.  And as I report in the book, they also had in the past had something called BFPS which stands for Brothers First, Partners Second.

VELSHI:  This is Jared and his brother.

WARD:  Well, yes.  Jared had described it, sort of three years before going into the administration, to someone he was hiring as a profit-sharing vehicle, 50 percent profit sharing vehicle.  And he thought it was an attractive way actually to hire people to Kushner Companies because they might want to go and work for Thrive which was -- as well, which was Josh`s venture capital firm.

VELSHI:  Right.

WARD:  Now, Josh Kushner was very clear that this profit sharing, BF -- they no longer have a current profit-sharing arrangement.  But BFPS is still on Jared Kushner`s financial disclosure, interestingly.

VELSHI:  So people -- other people who work in the White House in theory like Gary Cohn have to divest of their investments.  Or in the case of Gary Cohn, had to agree to not to be in communication with other officials at Goldman Sachs.

However, Lloyd Blankfein who Gary Cohn couldn`t deal with --

WARD:  Right.

VELSHI:  Right?  Shows up at the White House.  Blankfein was then CEO of Goldman Sachs which was an investor.  And you just mentioned Cadre --

WARD:  Cadre.

VELSHI:  - the real estate investment startup by Kushner, co-founded with his brother Josh, from which Kushner had not divested an arrangement which would draw the scrutiny of ethics watchdogs.  It`s kind of remarkable.

WARD:  Well, what`s actually most remarkable about it is that the closure of the White House logs, the lack of transparency, that not only was this going on, right, when, as you say, Gary Cohn divested.  Rex Tillerson must have divested a fortune.

And there`s Jared Kushner, who hasn`t divested, didn`t disclose actually Cadre, it was wrapped up in BFPS.  It took a few goes round, even --

VELSHI:  Which I just can`t get enough of, Brothers First, Partners Second.

WARD:  Partner Seconds.  Yes, didn`t even -- Cadre`s not on there.  But then as he`s meeting Lloyd Blankfein, he closes the White House logs.  Trump closes the White House logs.

VELSHI:  Right.  These are public logs that show who shows up at the White House.

WARD:  I mean it`s extraordinary.  The White House works for the American public.  And at the time, they said it was for security reasons.

VELSHI:  Right.  Unless it`s a national security reason, why wouldn`t we know that Lloydfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs was meeting with Jared Kushner at the White House?

WARD:  Right.  I mean it`s just -- you would have never seen this in any previous White House.  It`s one rule for Jared Kushner and a different rule for everyone else.

VELSHI:  Right.  Except for Ivana -- Ivanka Trump.

WARD:  Except for Ivanka, yes.

VELSHI:  So you`ve got a personal enrichment.  You`ve got conflict of interest.  And then you`ve got this other issue in which they all mix together and create possibly a national security issue.  And this has to do with 66 --

WARD:  Right.

VELSHI:  -- Fifth Avenue.

WARD:  Yes.

VELSHI:  This was Jared Kushner`s family building. He was negotiating, financing with Qatar, right?

WARD:  Right.

VELSHI:  These are real estate agency -- real estate companies that don`t get money from banks, typically.  They have to find money elsewhere.  They were negotiating with Qatar.

WARD:  Well, this building was a disaster.

VELSHI:  Right.

WARD:  Nobody was going to --

VELSHI:  Nobody was going to finance this thing.

WARD:  Yes.

VELSHI:  Now, we find out that a year later, there`s this blockade of Qatar orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, understandably at the behest of the United States, after this deal to finance his building goes south.

WARD:  Right.

VELSHI:  And Jared Kushner is said to have spent a night with Muhammad bin Salman talking about the world.

WARD:  Well, no, it was worse than that.  Jared Kushner actually lobbied Trump to make the first official visit, not to a country with shared democratic values, but to Saudi Arabia, conducting --

VELSHI:  Not to Canada, not to Mexico which typically what happens.

WARD:  No, no, no.  With MBS as you mentioned earlier, had a track record that really worried Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis, people who actually knew something about Saudi Arabia and what was going on in Yemen, et cetera.

So -- and they have this summit and it`s all about cooperation.  And then days after the summit ends, MBS sort of makes a mockery of the whole idea, makes a mockery actually of Jared really in a way, because this blockade takes place, because MBS`s real motive, he wants -- Qatar is richer than Saudi Arabia.  He wants money but that`s our security, that`s air base.

VELSHI:  Yes, we have bases there, an air base troop.

WARD:  Exactly.

VELSHI:  It`s a remarkable book.  Vick, thank you very much.

WARD:  Thank you.

VELSHI:  Vicky Ward is the author of Kushner Inc., Greed, Ambition, and Corruption.

All right.  Coming up, President Trump won the presidency where the campaign message to promising, people who felt the American success story was leaving them behind.  The CEO of one of the wealthiest banks in the world is speaking out, saying the problem is getting worse.  That`s next.


VELSHI:  When Donald Trump is campaigning for re-election in 2020, he`s going to have to answer for his promises about the economy.  Here`s one of the big ones.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The forgotten men and women of this country, and they were forgotten, by the way, you`re not forgotten any longer.  You will never be forgotten again.  Together, we will raise incomes and bring back our jobs.


VELSHI:  But many Americans are still forgotten.  One high profile CEO seemed to acknowledge that this week.  Jamie Dimon is the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase which made an additional $3.6 billion, thanks to Donald Trump`s tax cuts, which he supported.

No one was surprised when Jamie Dimon said this week that J.P. Morgan is doing fine.  But Jamie Dimon did make a surprising admission about the U.S. economy.


JAMIE DIMON, CEO, J.P. MORGAN CHASE:  I should say I don`t want to be a tone-deaf CEO.  While the company is doing fine, it is absolutely obvious that a big chunk has been left behind.  So 50 -- 40 percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour.

Forty percent of Americans can`t afford a $400 bill, whether it`s medical or fixing a car or something like that.  Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages.  OK.  Seventy thousand die from opioids.  And so we`ve kind of bifurcated the economy, I got these terrible things out there.


VELSHI:  We`ve bifurcated the economy.  Donald Trump promised not to do that.  Donald Trump promised to bring higher wages and jobs to what he called the forgotten men and women.  Forth asking what those forgotten men and women will think of Donald Trump in 2020, especially as they now are hearing things like this from Democratic presidential candidates.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We will deliver the largest working and middle-class tax cut in a generation, and we`ll pay for it.  We`ll pay for it by reversing this administration`s giveaways to the top big corporations and the top one percent.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, we say to the top one percent in large profitable corporations, we are going to end their massive tax breaks and remove those of the current.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We got to rewrite the rules in this economy.  And part of that is putting more power back in the hands of workers.  We get a two percent tax on the 75,000 richest families in this country.  We will have enough money to provide universal childcare and universal pre-K, universal pre-pre-K for every child in America and still have $2 trillion left over.  Let`s make it happen.


VELSHI:  What does all this mean for the presidential election?  Neera Tanden and Francesca Chambers join me for tonight`s last word.  That`s next.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The challenges in our economy that works too well for too few and not well enough for too many.  I think of schoolteachers and educators who are working two and three jobs just to make ends meet.

We`ll make sure that they and everyone who works in this country is able to earn and expect a living wage.  Again, not just good for those families but for us and good for our economy.


VELSHI:  As the 2020 Democratic candidates continue to hone their economic message, the Trump White House admitted the United States economy won`t get the three percent growth the president promised unless he gets more new tax cuts.

So how does the Trump economic record factor into the 2020 campaign?  Joining us now is Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress and the policy director for Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign.  And Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for the "".

Francesca, I only told half the story today.  The president -- the White House says we won`t get to the three percent without some major policy changes, do you remember back in the campaign and just after that when President Trump said that his economist told him six -- three percent but he thinks four percent or five percent and six percent.  Look, America was hurting.  They wanted better economic success and he sold them a bill of goods.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILYMAIL.COM:  Well, he did say that four percent number several times but the aim was three percent, as you said.  And so looking into this year, Kevin Hassett, the chief economist has said that they expect the beginning of the year to be soft but that it could go up.

I think that the Trump administration is really encouraged however by the rising hourly wages and the low unemployment rate.  It`s at 3.8 percent.  And, of course, that`s significantly down from when Donald Trump took office.  So they`re very encouraged by those numbers.

Will it be enough for the voters?  I don`t know but the administration is at least encouraging.

VELSHI:  So I guess Neera, here is the question that Francesca asked, will it be enough for voters?  The reality is there are a lot of disaffected Americans.  They`re not brand new disaffected Americans.  They were disaffected before.

And Donald Trump as did Bernie Sanders and others, everybody promises a solution.  We are not closer to the solution.  As Jamie Dimon said, we may be farther from it.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Absolutely.  I think the challenge for Donald Trump is that the reality on the ground is that true wages have to fit a little bit.  But in terms of job creation, we do not have more job creation under Donald Trump than we did under Barack Obama.

And the key difference is that Donald Trump made promises like no plants would close in Ohio, for example.  And now we have, you know, pretty seminal examples, GM is closing its plant, shifting jobs, outsourcing.

And really doing so after a series of policies, the banner which is the Trump tax cut which as we all know added to the deficit $2 trillion but really gave corporations a massive tax cut, 81 percent of the benefits over the life of the tax cut will go to the top one percent, that did a massive tax cut to corporations who in turn didn`t invest in workers and we could see that in the GM example that are really giving it to shareholders.

And that has been a strong critique of Democrats over the last year and a half.  And I think it will continue to be a critique over the next two years and to November 2020.

VELSHI:  Francesca, one of the interesting things about the Democratic candidates, some of them are campaigning on various things.  But one of the things that catch my eyes are the degree to which some of them are campaigning on very very specific policies that people may not agree with but they are there to be challenged.

Elizabeth Warren, a tech policy last week, a housing policy.  She`s talked about the electoral college that Donald Trump tweeted about tonight.  But there are real some policies that are worthy of discussion.

CHAMBERS:  Well, on top of that, one policy that almost every single candidate has had to answer questions about in-depth has been Medicare for all.  So that is very important in the context of the economy because that could add trillions of dollars to the deficit.

And so Democrats are going to have to figure out as they push this healthcare message how they plan to pay for it.  Now, most have said that they would undoubtedly have to raise taxes to do that, that they would prefer to raise taxes on corporations on the wealthy to do that but there has been quite a debate and it will continue to be over how much money and how much they want those to go up on the wealthy, on those corporations.

Then you also have the green new deal, which would also cost trillions.  Now, no candidate that`s running for president is actually saying that we should implement the green new deal as it was written.  They say it`s more aspirational and you should work towards climate change programs like that.

But nonetheless, those are also programs that would cost -- that would theoretically cost more money and taxpayers would be on the hook for that.

VELSHI:  The White House has responded, Neera, to the constant talk about Medicare for all.  They said Medicare for all would be neither more efficient nor cheaper than the current system and could adversely affect healthcare.  That may be empirically false but the bottom line is it is a point that Democratic candidates are going to have to overcome.

TANDEN:  I am really looking forward to do a debate in healthcare in 2020.  Health care is a seminal issue in the electorate.  It is one that campaigns -- really campaigned on in 2018.  And I think that there`s a lot of scaremongering.

I appreciate the White House talking points on these issues.  But again, we are going to have Democrats who talk about how they`re going to ensure that every American has healthcare versus Donald Trump who tried to get the ACA and take healthcare from 20 million Americans.  I look forward to that debate.

VELSHI:  I look forward to it too.  Thank you to both of you, Neera Tanden and Francesca Chambers.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.