LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And, yes, we`re going to continue the breaking news coverage of what the president had to say tonight. One word that I want to focus on with you just for a second in everything the president said. When he got to the hypothetical of a foreign country, a foreign national, foreign citizen helping a campaign making a contribution of opposition research to a campaign, he cited in his version of the hypothetical, the country of Norway.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Norway. I knew you were going to say that.
O`DONNELL: It`s not going to be Norway. It`s not. It`s kind of close to Norway. I mean, close enough.
MADDOW: Given the --
O`DONNELL: Russia, North Korea. Yes.
MADDOW: Given the other ways he`s like randomly brought up Norway in other contexts like we can sort of get around to the idea of what he was trying to imply by suggesting Norway as the benign friendly nation that might be offering this stuff, but yes, the president admitting that the FBI director would be wrong in his estimation for suggesting that the FBI should be contacted in light of such an overture that he`d be happy to accept this information essentially telling world he`s ready to get this stuff for his 2020 campaign.
I mean, I never cover anything the president says and I threw my whole show out tonight because of that, I can`t believe it.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and let`s remember this is in the middle of a presidential campaign.
O`DONNELL: Middle of a presidential campaign. Donald Trump is the worst presidential campaign we`ve ever seen. Now that doesn`t mean the worst presidential campaigner can`t squeak out the Electoral College, as we saw last time with fewer votes than the actual winner of the vote in this peculiar format we have with the Electoral College.
But he`s a terrible -- if you look at this in terms of you`re running the Trump re-election campaign, how did my candidate handle himself today. Well, he said he`s willing to commit federal crimes to get re-elected.
MADDOW: And if in fact this next time around, he once again accepts help from a foreign adversary, this time, we`ll have his full complete confession of criminal intent on tape in advance for any prosecutor who needs to look at it.
O`DONNELL: So, Rachel, I know you have to work on questions for the debate. This one tonight gives you something to think about to put it mildly.
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, do you even have to ask the Democratic candidates, would you guys call the FBI?
O`DONNELL: Yes, I have a feeling it`s going to come up no matter what you ask at the debate.
MADDOW: Has Norway called?
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, tonight, the president of the United States said he would break the law to win re-election. That is the essential headline of the night. The president of the United States is willing to violate the law to win his re- election.
And in an interview with ABC`s George Stephanopoulos, President Trump was asked if a foreign government offers him information on his opponent, will he accept that help from a foreign government, or a foreign national. Will he call the FBI?
President Trump said you don`t call the FBI. Those were his exact words. You don`t call the FBI. That`s what he said.
He also said, I think I`d want to hear it. Those were his exact words. I`d want to hear it, meaning he would want to hear exactly what the foreign national or foreign government was actually illegally offering him.
Here`s what federal law says about this. It says, it shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly to, make a contribution or donation of money or -- this is the important part -- other thing of value, or to making an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a federal, state, or local election.
That law also says it shall be unlawful for a person to solicit -- and here`s the president`s role in this -- accept, that word accept, solicit or accept or receive a contribution or donation from a foreign national. The president said he would accept it.
The law does regard opposition research as a thing of value for a political campaign. But in his interview with George Stephanopoulos, the president showed no evidence that he has any understanding of the law that he will seems to be willing to violate. George Stephanopoulos began his sequence of questions by asking about Donald Trump Jr.`s appearance once again today in a closed-door session of the Senate intelligence Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Your son Don Jr. is up before the Senate Intelligence Committee again today. He was not charged with anything. In retrospect, though --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not only wasn`t he charged, if you read it, with all of the horrible fake news -- I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go to jail. This is a good young man, that he was going to go to jail.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In June of 2016, just months before the election, Don Jr. received an email from a business associate promising dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Don Jr.`s response, if it`s what you say, I love it.
The conversation led to a meeting in Trump Tower that included the president`s son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer. Don. Jr. insists nothing came of it.
And special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was not enough evidence to charge a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
TRUMP: And then the report comes out and they didn`t even say --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email?
TRUMP: OK, let`s put yourself in a position. You`re a congressman. Somebody comes up and says, hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI?
STEPHANOPOULOS: If it`s coming from Russia, you do.
TRUMP: I`ll tell you what? I`ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don`t think in my whole life I`ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life.
You don`t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office. You do whatever --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book, he called the FBI.
TRUMP: Well, that`s different. A stolen briefing book. This isn`t a stuff -- this is somebody that said we have information on your opponent. Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn`t work that way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI director says that should happen.
TRUMP: The FBI direct ser wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?
TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don`t -- there`s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I`d want to hear it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It`s not interference. They have information. I think I would take it.
If I thought there was something wrong, I`d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.
But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, oh, let`s call the FBI. The FBI doesn`t have enough agents to take care of it.
But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it and they always have. That`s the way it is. It`s called oppo research.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s what FBI Director Christopher Wray said about that last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I think my view is that any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation state about influencing or interfering with your our election, then, that`s something that the FBI would want to know about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight: Chuck Rosenberg, former senior FBI official and former U.S. attorney. He was also former counsel to Robert Mueller at the FBI and now hosts the MSNBC podcast "The Oath."
Also with us, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence.
And Rick Stengel is with us. He`s a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration.
All three are MSNBC analysts.
And, Chuck Rosenberg, let me start with you. President Trump said tonight, if they have information, I think I`d take it. At that point, he was referring to Norway. Is it OK to take the information if it comes from Norway?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It is not OK to take it from Norway, from Ireland, from Canada, from Russia, from China, name a foreign country, Lawrence, it`s not OK.
And, by the way, this is not really a close call. You know, in the universe in which we live, in the real universe, there are bad ideas and there are incredibly bad ideas. An incredibly bad idea is to take information from a foreign national. Federal law prohibits it.
And I`m sure Frank Figliuzzi will tell you, it`s also a really bad idea because it is the start, it is the beginning of a foreign influence operation. And so, one thing we can be sure of, Mr. Trump did not read the Mueller report. In fact, in the Mueller report, they spend a lot of pages and a whole bunch of ink discussing why this is not OK.
Now, in the end in the Mueller report, they say we may not be able to charge the Trump Tower offer of information under federal criminal law. But nowhere do they say it`s OK. It`s not OK, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And here`s the president saying he would accept it and I just read the law that makes accepting it illegal as well as it`s illegal for the foreign national to offer it. I want to isolate something in particular the president said and this is president of the United States as mob boss talking about his own personal notion of when you call the FBI and why he in his entire life, his entire life, has never called the FBI.
And let`s all remember, this is somebody who operated casinos in Atlantic City. This is someone in the commercial real estate business in New York City where the FBI has actually had a lot of investigative leads over the years. Let`s listen to the president talking about why you don`t ever call the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don`t think in my whole life I`ve ever called the FBI in my whole life. You don`t call the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Frank Figliuzzi, what does that sound like to you?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC ANALYST: Sounds like the Copo in La Cosa Nostra saying that, we take care of things in this thing of ours. We don`t get anybody from outside involved. We don`t talk to the feds. That`s what it sounds like to me.
Lawrence, I want to focus on something the president said which is it`s OK to listen. It`s OK to listen if you`re offered some as he called it research oppo from a foreign nation. Here`s what`s wrong with a counterintelligence perspective -- the moment you agree to sit down and listen, the moment they agree to sit down at that Trump Tower and listen to dirt being offered on Hillary Clinton, they are owned by that foreign power. That is the recruitment operation.
You don`t have to accept it. You don`t have to receive it. Yes, you`ve just cited the law and those are statutory elements for a crime.
But on the counterintelligence side, the second you sit down and agree to do something shady, they own you. And I`m more convinced than ever over what we`ve heard from the president regarding CIA not being able, he wouldn`t allow CIA to recruit the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, he doesn`t believe anything`s wrong with taking oppo research up to an including the next election, I`m more convinced than ever this president may well be owned or will soon be owned by the time the 2020 election is over.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, you are the only one among us who has worked on a presidential campaign. You worked on the campaign that came in second for the Democratic nomination in 2000, Senator Bill Bradley.
You`re working on that campaign. You get a call from a Russian or from someone in Norway or North Korea, some source saying we have some information on Al Gore, we have some information on your opponent.
What do you do?
RICHARD STENGEL, MSNBC ANALYST: You know, the expression call the FBI is a bit of a misnomer. You would take and that to the head of the campaign and say I got this solicitation, I got this call. You would then call the Federal Election Commission. There is a whole range of activities that pretty much anybody in a domestic American campaign knows that you can`t do that kind of thing.
So, you would certainly alert the other people in the campaign to it and call the federal election board.
O`DONNELL: The president tonight is saying everyone does it. He`s saying every member of Congress would do it, which means every Republican member of Congress must now tell us how many times they have done this.
STENGEL: Well, that would be good to know. I mean, what he doesn`t seem to understand the law is meant to restrain some impulses we have. His impulses is that he would do anything. He would talk to the devil in order to defeat his opponent which also wouldn`t be legal.
And, by the way, the only time -- he didn`t even call the FBI when he fired the head of the FBI.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Well, Chuck Rosenberg, the one time he did call the FBI is when he wanted the FBI to go easy on Mike Flynn.
ROSENBERG: Yes, you know, I recall that. The other thing I recall the president saying, Lawrence, which is also a really odd thing for a president to say is that -- remember when he said he`s been around flippers his entire life?
ROSENBERG: He knows flippers. He knows what they`re like, referring to cooperating witnesses with that slang term. I mean, who is around flippers, back to Frank`s point? People around flippers their entire life, people who never call the FBI tend to be criminals. That`s who they hang out with, that`s who they know, that`s their currency.
So, it`s really not all that surprising. It`s incredibly disappointing, but it`s not all that surprising because it`s really more of the same.
O`DONNELL: Frank, it is very difficult to imagine anything that we talk about in Trump world happening in a previous presidency, but imagine if you will, during your time of service in the FBI, that the president of the United States on a very simple black and white letter of the law matter simply said, publicly, emphatically, the FBI director is wrong. What would the FBI director do in any other world other than Trump world?
FIGLIUZZI: Well, if we had normalcy, we would have the director offer to sit down in the Oval Office and explain the law and the counterintelligence mission of the bureau, but we don`t live in normalcy. We might have an FBI director come out and say, I want you to understand, public and Congress, everyone needs to know we`re on the same page here, you call us and here`s why.
But we don`t live in normalcy. So, what`s going to happen? Likely nothing. Why?
Because of fear that the attack on the institution of the FBI has now reached the point of a personal attack on Trump`s own hand-picked director. The Republican director of the FBI that Trump picked is now being personally attacked. We`ve hit the end of the spectrum in terms of attack on the institution and it`s about time that the public stood up and said that`s enough. That`s enough of attacking people who are simply trying to protect the country.
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, you were once a counsel to the director of the FBI who was then Robert Mueller. You`re at home. You`re watching TV. You watch the president of the United States say the FBI director is wrong.
You pick up the phone. You call the FBI director and advise him to do what?
ROSENBERG: Wow. Tough question.
I think in this case, Chris Wray has said everything he needs to say. He just happens to have said it a month ago. I mean, it`s awfully tempting to come out every time the president says something that`s wrong and rebut him.
But then Chris Wray would be doing nothing else in his job other than rebutting the president. The law is clear. The director of the FBI was clear when he testified before Congress about the law. The men and women in law enforcement and the intelligence community know what`s required.
Rick Stengel explained to us that people who work in serious campaigns know what`s required. I`m not sure I would tell Chris Wray that he needed to say something else. And I don`t expect that he will. He was perfectly clear.
O`DONNELL: Chuck, what about the attorney general?
ROSENBERG: Well, right. So the attorney general is in a different and more political position. I would hope at the very least, to Frank`s point that the attorney general would sit down with the president and say, Mr. President, if this is your understanding of the law, then your understanding is flat out wrong. I don`t know that he will.
But somebody ought to advise the president because if others are taking advice from the president on this point, they`re also going to find themselves in trouble.
O`DONNELL: Joe Biden tweeting within the hour saying President Trump is once again welcoming foreign enter in our elections. This isn`t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American president should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.
Rick, aiding and abetting.
STENGEL: And you know what else this was, Lawrence? This was a signal to Russia because you know who would have opposition research on the Democratic candidates and Joe Biden in particular? Russia.
What Trump was saying is, look, I will welcome this information. I will suborn the law, I would undermine the law to defeat my opponent and work with a hostile foreign power trying to undermine our democracy. That`s what I`m going to do.
O`DONNELL: And, Chuck, to that point, Donald Trump has committed so many of the violations of norms and possibly violations of laws publicly by saying during the campaign Russia, if you`re listening, you know, give us the e mails. This seems to be another one of those instances where Donald Trump publicly declares a willingness to violate the law and he seems to believe that there is protection for him in doing this stuff as long as he does it publicly and on TV.
ROSENBERG: Yes, although ignorance is never a defense of the law, Lawrence, as you well know.
And so, the fact that the president doesn`t know the law, misstates the law and violates the law is really not going to help him. What`s going to help him quite frankly is existing Department of Justice policy which says you can`t indict a sitting president. I mean, in an odd way here, we have the president telling the truth. I would take it, I would be the call the FBI and everybody does it.
I don`t know about that last part. I don`t think everybody does it. But the first two parts I would take it, there`s nothing wrong with it, really is a window on to his soul.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. He`s a member of the House from Illinois. He`s also on the House Oversight Committee and Intelligence Committees.
Adding her voice to our discussion is Jennifer Rubin. She`s an opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
And, Congressman, I want your reaction to what the president said today. He said in his interview with George Stephanopoulos, I think I`d take it. And what he was talking about was help from a foreign power or a foreign national to win re-election.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): It was astonishing. I mean, he contradicted not only his FBI director but today in our intelligence hearing, even Fox contributor Andrew McCarthy said he wouldn`t take such a meeting with a hostile foreign power.
Another thing that he said is he thinks every congressman does this type of thing. I can say for a fact, I have not yet met a single member of Congress who would accept opposition research from a foreign power, not even from Norway which he kept talking about in that interview. But this is all ludicrous.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, what about Republican members of the House? Their president tonight said they all do this, they would all be willing to do this. Do you expect them to come forward and say, no, we don`t do this?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, again, I haven`t met a Republican member of Congress who privately or publicly has said anything like this. But if somebody is out there who actually does had type of thing, I would like them to step forward and tell us that they do or someone else to tell us because I would assert that this is illegal. You know, there`s a campaign finance law that says that you cannot accept anything of value from a foreign power.
Now, one of the reasons that Robert Mueller did not charge members of the Trump campaign with this campaign finance violation is because he said that they did not know that it was wrongful or illegal to accept such information. However, now, I don`t think anybody can say that they will have such ignorance of the law with regard to this campaign finance rule.
So I think at this point, I hope that every elected official and candidate for office out there in America does not do what the president says that they should do and instead goes to the FBI as Chris Wray advised them.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, is it possible that the president`s interpretation, I won`t say reading because I think we all know he`s never read a word of the Mueller report, but his interpretation of the result of the Mueller report is he got away with everything, and he`s continuing to get away with everything in that described in that report? Which means he can do it again and he can do it as directly as he stated to George Stephanopoulos tonight, he`s willing to do it.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that`s exactly right. That`s his mantra is -- no collusion, no obstruction. He`s doing nothing wrong.
He claims to have been exonerated by the Mueller report. We know that`s not true. We know there`s substantial evidence of obstruction, but in Trump`s mind, he`s gotten a clean bill of health.
And this is the problem with not taking swift congressional action. This is the problem with Mr. Mueller not coming out to explain the contents of the report on the assumption that Americans it actually read a 448-page report which they don`t. And I think we rein dire need of hearings and maybe we`ll get them now with direct witnesses, Mr. McGahn, Hope Hicks, and others that explain and explicate the crimes that this president has committed.
I must say, this episode has also left me scratching my head a bit. Why didn`t Mr. Mueller find that president had violated this campaign finance reform? It seems pretty obvious that he knows what he`s doing. He is seeking help from a foreign power and ignorance of the law is not really an excuse as Chuck has said.
So, wouldn`t it have been better for all concerned if Mr. Mueller found and had pointed out that the president of the United States an unindicted co- conspirator by the way with Mr. Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, did in fact break the law?
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, take that one and thread the legal needles for us the way you interpret Robert Mueller did on those issues that Jennifer was just talking about.
ROSENBERG: Yes, good question. In fact, the Mueller team spends quite a few pages on this very issue. For those who don`t want to read all of the report, start at page 184. I think that`s where the discussion is most important.
So, the Mueller team says a couple of things, Lawrence. They say number one, willfulness is hard to prove in this case and, by the way, that`s always true in white collar cases. Willfulness is always hard to prove. Much easier in a bank robbery than in a tax fraud.
And second, they talk about the difficulty of establishing that the information that was to be passed at the Trump Tower meeting was, quote/unquote, a thing of value. And so, without getting into the legal weeds here, there is a lot of thought and a lot of consideration given to whether what happened at the Trump Tower meeting is a violation of federal criminal law.
My reading is that it is. But I understand why the Mueller team was being careful and folks who want to see their reasoning can start at page 184, read three, four, five pages and you`ll see what they`re getting at.
O`DONNELL: But, Chuck, one follow-up to what Jennifer said. If you were making this case again on the re-election campaign, there would be no issue of ignorance of the law that could possibly survive and it would seem to me it would be much easier to clear the intent threshold especially after you heard the president tonight.
ROSENBERG: Yes, I think that the president probably took care of the willfulness element for everybody tonight.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and everyone working on his campaign.
ROSENBERG: And everybody working on his campaign and anybody who is alive and breathing and paying attention to the words of the president of the United States.
While willfulness is difficult to prove, Lawrence, it`s not impossible. And when the president of the United States misstated the law tonight, I would hope that somebody on his staff went to him and corrected him, perhaps it will be the attorney general. But I think he just took willfulness off the table. That becomes easier to prove if this happens again.
O`DONNELL: Rick, I have a feeling one of the next chapters coming in this is actually watching the attorney general of the United States find some kind of defensive language for what the president said tonight. Since he has managed to our surprise to find that for virtually everything the president says.
STENGEL: Yes, remember his first excuse for the president is wouldn`t a person in the president`s position be upset about this kind of behavior? Wouldn`t he naturally react this way?
But, of course, naturally reacting to want to have the information is also a violation of the law. The attorney general should be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He shouldn`t excuse this kind of behavior.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told Rachel in the previous hour.
This is Congressman Adam Schiff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There is no ethical standard. There is no bar below which he will not go.
What I find so striking about this is he went to such trouble to deceive the country about that Trump Tower meeting. He dictated that false statement about adoptions to mislead people. So, if this was so perfectly OK as he would have us believe, why did he go to such trouble to deceive the country about that meeting.
I think what the president is really saying is, yes, I knew this was unethical and maybe illegal and I would do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, you served on that same committee, the intelligence committee, with Chairman Schiff. Your reaction to what you just heard the chairman say.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: That`s exactly right. I agree with the chairman on this particular point which is, you know, if it wasn`t something that was a problem, why did they go to the lengths to cover it up, what are they trying to hide, right? That has really been the question that we`ve asked with regard to a lot of their behavior.
And certainly in this situation, whether it was the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 or in other episodes, there was a lot of behavior that indicated that they knew that the underlying conduct was wrong, unethical, wrongful, and perhaps they also knew that it was illegal.
O`DONNELL: Elizabeth Warren has just tweeted: The Mueller report made it clear a foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help and Trump obstructed the investigation. Now, he said he would do it all over again.
And her last line is: It is time to impeach Donald Trump. That`s something she has said before.
Let`s listen to what another presidential candidate Kamala Harris said earlier tonight on this network with Stephanie Ruhle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen, he`s the commander in chief and has a duty and a responsibility to the American people to be a defender if not the greatest defender of our democracy. And but to quite the contrary, what we hear tonight is that is yet again open to the idea of working with foreign governments to undermine the integrity of our election system. It`s outrageous and it tells me the guy just doesn`t under the job and can`t do it very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jennifer Rubin, he is commander-in-chief. He`s also a candidate for president.
How is this campaign day working for President Trump?
RUBIN: Well, I think every Democratic candidate down to the lowly of the lows is going to be able to exploit this one. And we forget because we are so hung up on the legality, we`re so hung up on impeachment. You have to ask a much more fundamental question, which is how can anyone in their right mind and good conscience support putting this guy in office for another four years which is what every single Republican is advising that we do?
He is a mess. He has betrayed his country. He will do it again.
If he`s reelected, can you imagine how much bolder he`s going to be? What he`s going to do then? It`s really catastrophic.
I do want to go back to something about Mr. Barr. If you remember during his confirmation hearing, he was asked whether you should report something from a foreign power to the FBI. There was a long pregnant pause.
And finally he said, from a foreign intelligence service? Yes. That was a very interesting answer in retrospect. Was he trying to carve out some area for the president where it`s OK in his mind, the attorney general of the United States now, to accept help from a foreign government or foreign actor as long as it isn`t someone who is working inside the security services of a foreign government?
Now, that`s really stunning. And I think that`s worthy of some investigation and an open hearing to find out what exactly he meant by that.
O`DONNELL: Jennifer, you have sent our control room searching for that video right now.
I remember the moment, but only now that you`ve mentioned it. But if I remembered it earlier, we would have had that video for us. We`ll find it before the hour is over.
Frank Figliuzzi, take us inside the FBI right now, and let`s not for the moment consider what the Director might or might not do publicly, including by the way the possibility of resigning, which in previous administrations, there was such a thing as the honorable resignation, if the President crossed a line like this with someone`s department.
But inside the FBI, what should Christopher Wray do, what should the agents in the FBI who hear the President, who is at the top of their organizational chart, saying the FBI Director is wrong, I am willing to commit a crime, how should the FBI and FBI agents react to that? What should they be thinking about in terms of what this President is capable of?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, FBI: So first, I know that Christopher Wray is a respected leader internally and I think what we`ll probably - will hear from folks in the rank and file is that he will likely send a message to the troops. He might do it as soon as tomorrow.
And it will be a couple of paragraphs in an all-employee email that says, look, we`ve got to do our job and keep our head down. Here are the laws and the counterintelligence concerns regarding accepting data, money or thing of value from a foreign power. And no matter who has a different opinion and what level that person is at, our job is to enforce the law and protect the nation from foreign adversaries and we`re going to do that every single day.
I think that we`ll see something like that from him internally. I think Chuck`s right. I don`t think he will make a public statement about it. But I think in the weeks and months to come, as he has appearances on the Hill, as he gives lectures and keynote addresses, you will see him subtly or not work this into a speech and say, we`re going to protect this country and our elections from foreign adversaries.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, we`ve never seen this before. I`m not aware of any time in our history where a President has publicly declared his willingness to commit a crime. Impeachment processes have always been about something the President has already done.
You`ve heard Elizabeth Warren ended her public statement tonight with the statement that he should be impeached; that`s something should believe before tonight. What does this statement do to impeachment momentum in the House of Representatives?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I`m not sure. But I think that what it does is it further unifies our caucus on one issue, which is breaking through the obstruction with regard to the investigations that are happening in the Intelligence Committee, the Oversight Committee, Judiciary and elsewhere.
One thing which we didn`t touch up on today was actually in the Oversight Committee, we held Mr. Barr and Mr. Ross in an unrelated matter in contempt of Congress. And I think that these types of matters are unfortunately going to recur unless the Trump administration begins to cooperate with these investigations.
One last thing I just want to point out, which is one thing that he brought up in my mind when he answered those questions the way he did with George Stephanopoulos is, has he potentially been approached about receiving information now on Mr. Biden or others.
We know that Mr. Giuliani was about to make a trip to the Ukraine with regard to potential information about one of the Bidens, and then he stopped that trip. I`m just concerned that perhaps something might be unfolding right now in this regard. And therefore, I hope that the FBI is ever vigilant.
O`DONNELL: We`ll have to take a break here. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jennifer Ruben, Rick Stengel, Frank Figliuzzi, thank you very much for starting us up tonight, really appreciate that.
We have more on this breaking news after this break. And one of the President`s closest advisors Hope Hicks has broken the wall of defiance - the Trump wall of defiance on responding to House Committee subpoenas. She has agreed to testify to the House Judiciary Committee next week.
O`DONNELL: Here is some of that interview where George Stephanopoulos led the President through a series of questions in which the President said that he was absolutely willing to break the law and accept help from a foreign national or a foreign country in his re-election campaign. Let`s listen to this piece of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve seen a lot of things over in my life. I don`t think in my whole life I`ve ever called the FBI, in my whole life. You don`t call the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O"DONNELL: You don`t call the FBI, that`s what the President of the United States says. The Director of the FBI in testimony just a month ago to Congress said you absolutely do call the FBI, you must call the FBI in that situation.
Joining our discussion now is Sam Stein, he`s the Politics Editor at The Daily Beast; he is also an MSNBC Political Analyst. Chuck Rosenberg is still with us. Sam, you`re reading on what this story means for the President tonight.
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, on the one hand, it`s stunning. It`s a stunning admission that in fact he probably does feel like he needs a foreign government`s help for re-election. It`s stunning to hear someone utter the words that he did in that position, knowing of course that he`s in the midst of a two-plus year-long investigation into actions directly like this.
It`s just a sheer almost political and legal malpractice. And then on the other hand, it`s not stunning at all. This is who Trump is. He views the world in a very binary fashion. Things that are good for him are good, and things that are bad for him are bad. And therefore, a government wants to help him, then that can`t be bad. And so, what struck me tonight is not necessarily what this means for Trump honestly. What struck me tonight is what this means for Democrats.
For two years, before we took over the House, the constant refrain when we heard Trump say things like this was, will the Republican Party ever say anything and stand up to him, and of course the answer was almost universally no. Well, that changed in January of 2018 - sorry 2019, I`d say, when the Democrats took over the House. Suddenly, the onus of responsibility fell on them because they had the power to do something about it.
And this is one of those inflection points and there have been many, but this is a very important one, where no longer do we say, well the Republicans we know what they`re going to do. It`s what will the Democrats do? Will it be enough to just say we`re going to look into this, will it be enough to haul someone before a Committee, or will there be an amplified pressure to begin impeachment inquiry over his comments like this? And my reading is - it`s an early reading - my early reading is that the answer is probably no and that this will fall into the ether of traditionally loony Trump comments.
O`DONNELL: Well, we`ve got someone to answer that question for you, Sam. We`re joined now by Congressman Lloyd Doggett. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the senior members of that Committee, Congressman from Texas.
Congressman Doggett, to Sam Stein`s question, what does this breaking news about the President do to the impeachment momentum in the House of Representatives?
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): I think it adds more reason for us to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry. The President`s comments are astounding, they`re alarming, they`re a threat to our national security. It`s as if we were back in 2016, and he is saying Russia, if you are listening. Well tonight, he`s really saying the same thing, not only to Russia but to all our adversaries.
He is for once telling the truth about what he would do and I suppose the heads of criminal organizations don`t tell the FBI, but we expect more of our President. And so, I do find - I think Sam is absolutely right. I do find it`s still astounding that Republican enablers will be silent or will make some excuse for the President.
But now we`re to June, halfway through this year, and Democrats have yet to go to court to enforce subpoenas, requiring anyone to come before the Congress, or requiring the production of documents of late.
It`s time for us to act, to begin this inquiry. And if your member of Congress won`t act, then I think the public needs to say why not and to ask their member to reflect their concern that we have a President who is engaged in one criminal act after another who always puts himself first and our nation last.
O`DONNELL: And Congressman, we now have a President tonight who is saying he would violate the law. He is willing to do that. And so, I`ve never seen in the impeachment process, I don`t think there has never been in the impeachment process an issue involving the President`s future behavior.
You now have - it seems possible now to craft an article of impeachment eventually that would say, because the President says that he will do this, he will violate the law in the future, we vote to remove him from office.
There`s some version of an article of impeachment here that actually has a future tense in it and I don`t think we`ve ever seen that before.
DOGGETT: Lawrence, I think that`s right. And of course, we need an impeachment inquiry to perhaps narrow it down a bit, because when you look at all the criminal wrongdoing that is apparent here, it would be an encyclopedic impeachment document.
We need to inquire carefully. We begin with the presumption of innocence, but there is so much to suggest that high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed here, and that it is our responsibility to act and act promptly instead of continuing to delay and delay. That`s the Trump game, is to delay and delay, and we need to not be aiding and abetting it.
O`DONNELL: Chuck Rosenberg, this is one of those examples of what could have been in the Robert Mueller interview of Donald Trump that never happened, because Donald Trump refused to submit to that interview, and then eventually Robert Mueller decided not to try to go through the subpoena process with the President, which could easily have taken a year or so.
But imagine, if you will, the President is being interviewed by Robert Mueller and it moves into a territory like this. We saw how easily with George Stephanopoulos the President simply went ahead and said what he would do in a future situation, even with the knowledge that he has today.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: Yes, this seems to be a good illustration, Lawrence, of why the President`s personal lawyers probably were very much opposed to having him talk to Mr. Mueller and to Mueller`s team. The President is a free speaker, he just sort of wanders down paths, he doesn`t give much thought to the truth, and he doesn`t give much thought to what he said previously.
And so, from a criminal defense lawyer perspective, that`s perilous. Now I understand that the Mueller team thought they had most of what they needed and they were worried about the report taking too long, if they have to litigate an issue over a subpoena to the President, but this does illustrate as you note, why you want to sit down with the subject of the investigation and talk to him. You want to hear in his own words what he was thinking. Today, he told us.
O`DONNELL: I just want to read for the audience one more time what the law actually says about this. It says it shall be unlawful for a foreign national directly or indirectly to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or a donation in connection with a federal, state or local election. The same law makes it against the law for a person to accept such a thing.
And Sam Stein, President Trump said tonight he would accept that, he would violate the accept portion of that law. There`s no other moment in our historical record of a President saying that he was willing to commit a crime, willing to violate a law. What law would the President have to announce he`s willing to violate for the House to start to take action against him?
STEIN: I think that`s a better question for your other panelists here, the distinguished Congressmen. What I will say is--
O`DONNELL: Well, Congressman Doggett is all ready to go to impeachment. So, he`s not one of the Democrats who`s waiting for more.
STEIN: No, no. I will say this and this was mentioned on your previous panel. One of the things that the President and his team pointed to when this was first being litigated after 2016 election was their lack of familiarity with campaign finance laws and laws in general. And that served them well in that capacity, I believe Mueller referenced that, in fact with Don Jr. Now, they don`t have that excuse.
They know that the letter of law outlaws this type of behavior and beyond that, they are living in the political outcome of having engaged in this type of behavior. There has been a two-year long scandal and investigation by several Congressional Committees and the Special Counsel`s Office into this type of flirtation with assistance from a foreign power.
So, it`s mind boggling like I said that he would do it again. But, like I said also, it`s almost expected at this juncture. This is who he is. Chuck mentioned that maybe Trump is someone who - will be comfortable saying mistress. In this case, I happen to think that he was being completely honest. He doesn`t see anything ethically wrong with accepting the assistance of a foreign power and he wonders why other people don`t see the world as he does.
I will just note, there was one historical parallel. We`ve talked about this before. Al Gore received the stolen George W. Bush campaign debate prep book. They got it in the mail. The first thing they did, when they got it in the mail, was alert the FBI. So there is a historical precedent for doing something right in this situation. Trump clearly does not either know the history or doesn`t care for it.
O`DONNELL: And in an interview, George Stephanopoulos made that point.
O`DONNELL: The Al Gore example to President Trump; that didn`t slow him down a bit. We have to squeeze in a break here. Congressmen Lloyd Doggett, Sam Stein and Chuck Rosenberg, thank you all very much for helping us cover this breaking news. Appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks much.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. When we come back, two brothers own the largest meat packing company in the world. And they are now the largest beneficiaries of the Donald Trump tariffs because the American taxpayer is paying those two Brazilian billionaires tens of millions of dollars to compensate them for their losses in the Trump tariffs. The "New York Daily News" has new reporting on that including what the Agriculture Secretary knows about those two brothers. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: As promised, the control room has found that video from William Barr`s confirmation hearing that Jennifer Rubin alerted us to, reminded us about, earlier in this hour. When William Barr was asked if a campaign should go to the FBI if they are offered information from a foreign government, President of the United States tonight said, no problem if a campaign is offered something from a foreign national or a foreign government, the campaign and if it is the Trump campaign, they will absolutely take it. Those are his words. I`ll take it. He would accept it, which the law says as we`ve repeatedly shown you in this hour is against the law.
Now to that moment, in William Barr`s confirmation hearing when he was asked that question, let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Going forward, what if a foreign adversary, let`s now say North Korea, offers a Presidential candidate dirt on a competitor in 2020, do you agree with me that campaign should immediately contact the FBI?
If a foreign intelligence service-
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Foreign government? Foreign intelligence service?
COONS: A representative of a foreign government.
COONS: Says we have dirt on your opponent.
COONS: Should they say, I love it, let`s meet, or should they contact the FBI?
BARR: If a foreign intelligence service does, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He is very careful to say if a foreign intelligence service does. What if a foreign national does as the law provides? What if something other than a foreign intelligence service says it? We have reason to expect William Barr will probably try to fashion some kind of new answer that protects what Donald Trump said today.
Sure we`ll hear more about that tomorrow possibly from William Barr. That was not in his confirmation hearing, by the way. That was at a hearing about the Justice Department Budget shortly after the Mueller report came up. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the New York Daily News is adding to its earlier reporting that the biggest winners in the Trump tariff war are a couple of Brazilian billionaires who are brothers, who have now received $64 million in American taxpayer money to compensate them for their losses in their agriculture businesses in the United States because of the Trump tariffs.
The Trump Administration has promised to simply hand money to American farmers who are getting crushed by the Trump tariffs. And while they`re at it, they have handed $64 million to two Brazilian billionaires who have served time in prison. Tonight, the Daily News is reporting that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had a meeting with the brothers before he became Secretary of Agriculture, a meeting that Sonny Perdue at first denied, but now might be changing his story because of the Daily News reporting.
Joining us now his Chris Sommerfeldt. He is a Politics reporter for the New York Daily News. Chris, Sonny Perdue now seems to be admitting, if I`m reading the latest updates, that okay, I guess there was a meeting at some point.
CHRIS SOMMERFELDT, REPORTER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: After we reached out, he changed the story. Initially, the Agriculture Department provided me with a brief comment saying, "No, Agriculture Secretary Perdue has never met with either Joesley or Wesley Batista," the billionaire brothers that you just referred to. Some time passes, I find records in the Governor`s, in Perdue`s old Georgia Governor records showing that he did in fact meet with Wesley Batista in 2010.
We published a story on it and then the Agriculture Department reaches out and says, I`m paraphrasing - but, "Oh, yes, we forgot about that meeting."
O`DONNELL: When we are at the paraphrasing, they issued a statement tonight saying that he met - attending that meeting were Wesley Batista and his brother Joesley Batista Junior. And so, and the big scandal in all of this is, they are receiving massive amount of money from the Trump Government because of the Trump tariffs.
SOMMERFELDT: Correct. Essentially, you have this part of money, right, that is supposed to alleviate the burden of the trade war on the farmers who are struggling to sell their products. Instead of giving the money directly to the farmers, you have this giant meat packing corporation owned by these corrupt brothers, JBS, taking that money and then being given the benefit of the doubt to redistribute it to farmers. We haven`t seen if that has actually happened.
O`DONNELL: Chris Sommerfeldt, great reporting. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
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