tv Deadline White House MSNBC April 9, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
office of donald trump's long-time lawyer michael cohen. cohen has been in the news on two fronts in the last week. one for his payment to porn star stormy daniels, and two, because he is of interest to special counsel bob mueller. let me read a little bit from the story that just crossed our desks. the fbi on monday raided the offices of president trump's long-time personal lawyer michael cohen, seizing records related to several topics, including payments to pornographic film actress. federal prosecutors in manhattan obtained a search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel robert s. mueller according to mr. cohen's lawyer who called the search, quote, completely inappropriate and unnecessary. the search does not appear to be directly related to mr. mueller's investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in new york. let me read one more quote from the piece, from cohen's lawyer who says, quote, today the u.s.
attorney's office for the southern district of new york executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client michael cohen and his clients, said steven ryan, his lawyer. i have been advised by federal prosecutors that the new york action is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel robert mueller. let's just remind our viewers again as we said at the top, cohen at the center of two political and legal storms for donald trump, both a payment to porn star stormy daniels and he is said to be of interest to special counsel robert mueller for his dealings for trump organization and questions around any ties to russia. peter baker, chief white house correspondent for "the new york times" is with us. peter, i know this is your colleague's story, but any sense of, of -- from the white house that something like this could have been imminent after all of
the headlines and after the president himself going to the back of air force one at the end of last week and when asked about payments to that porn star said, you're going to have to ask michael cohen. a lot of people saw that as throwing his long-time personal attorney under the bus. >> yeah, it did sound like that at the time. of course he's trying to distance himself from all of this as if he had nothing to do with it. obviously that is in his interest. but it's not -- it's both surprising and not surprising that we see this action happening today. this case has raised all sortsz of legal issues now for weeks, what kind of legal basis is there for this kind of payment. does it violate campaign finance laws, as an example, are there other laws that might be at issue. in that sense, you know, prosecutors obviously decided they're going to look at these kbez. it is interesting that robert mueller is the one who referred them there. it also shows that he has decided there are limits to his jurisdiction and his mandate. he's going to stick to things that are closer related to the russia probe and try not to go
out -- color outside the lines, in effect. it doesn't mean things he finds out are just going to go wasted or left on the cutting room floor. he's going to find other avenues to make sure authorities look at them. >> and, peter baker, you bring up the essential argument people who are philosophically opposed to special counsel investigations always raise, that they can become derailed, that special counsel investigation that you covered of the white house in which i worked was about the leaking of valerie plam, a cia operative, the person who was indicted was scooter libby for leaking or perjury. this seems to be the kind of thing that may reignite the critics of special counsel robert mueller's investigation. but your colleague makes clear that this was referred, that this was executed by the southern district of new york, and that, you know, a crime is a crime. if crimes were committed in the payment or the hush money -- and i think stormy daniels's lawyer has raised a lot of questions about possible intimidation of
ms. daniels who was -- she described in that 60 minutes interview that was viewed by millions and millions of americans being followed and sort of jumped when she was getting in her car at a parking lot at a fitness center with her young infant. so, this could be related to any one of those things. is that right? >> yeah, there are certainly different aspects to the story that raise legal issues that you could see being of interest to the prosecutor. and i think to your point about robert mueller, i imagine if it had been the other way around. imagine if he were the one conducting this raid or conducting a new investigation that looked into the stormy daniels case. everybody would say, well, this is an example of mission -- special prosecutor going anywhere without boundaries. instead what he's chosen to do is say this is not within my mandate, not related to things i'm supposed to be looking at. i'm going to turn it over to the regular u.s. attorney who is supposed to look at things in the city of new york and he or she can decide -- can decide
whether or not there is a case here to be investigated. and so in that sense he's probably saved himself a little bit of political grief. >> let me just recap this breaking news. we came on the air as "the new york times" was reporting that the fbi raids the office of donald trump's long-time lawyer michael cohen. it's a matt apuzzo story. he's broken a lot of news in the investigation. this is his beat and he reports that the fbi on monday raided the office of president trump's long time personal lawyer michael cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to pornographic film actress. let me bring in chuck rosenberg, former u.s. attorney, former senior fbi official, now an msnbc contributor, which is our good fortune. you figure prominently in the one-hour special that aired on msnbc about robert mueller and this seems to underscore the special counsel's adherence to all of the kind of letter of the law of how a special counsel is supposed to operate, that this was referred to the southern
district. but if you could speak to, one, what this tells us about the mueller probe, and two, what this tells us about the president's attorney and any legal hot water he could be in based on today's raid. >> let me try and answer both questions together, nicolle. so, having a search warrant executed at your business on a monday is never a good day. let's take a step back, though. what does it mean and how does it happen? so, the fourth amendment protects us and our stuff from government intrusion unless an application is made to a federal judge and she signs a search warrant based on probable cause. and so the government must have concluded two things. probable cause that a crime had been committed, and probable cause that stuff or evidence that would prove that crime would be located in mr. cohen's office. so, that's what it means. it also demonstrates, i think, much of what your headliner showed about bob mueller the other night, showed the country.
he follows the facts. he follows the law. he plays it close to the vest. we didn't hear about this until the search warrant apparently was executed, which is not terribly surprising to me. and it's not good news for mr. cohen and it's not good news for his client, the president. >> let me ask you about something you just said. so, it was found to obtain a search warrant. you have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed. you know, this story was too sordid. stormy daniels was in the news for more than a week before we covered it here on this program and it really wasn't until michael avenatti, her attorney, took a very aggressive public relations posture around the case that we started covering it as potentially a significant legal threat for the president. but can you answer another double header for me? what potential crimes could have been committed to justify a warrant like this where you go in and seize records? could there have been a sense that mr. cohen wasn't cooperating with things that have been requested from him?
>> well, not cooperating isn't a basis for a warrant. again, the basis for a warrant is that there is a crime and you have probable cause to believe that the stuff demonstrating that crime will be in a particular place. in this case, his office. which crime could it be? well, one logical guess might be related to the payment to ms. daniels to buy her silence before the election because, under certain constructions of the law, nicolle, that could be a type of campaign contribution in excess of the legal limit. but, you know what? it could be anything else. it could be financial fraud crimes. it could be completely unrelated to the russia investigation. that may be, in part, why bob mueller's team kicked this over to the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york. as they should do, frankly. >> but this is still in the federal system. the u.s. attorney is still a federal prosecutor. there is still a lot of, i won't say partnering because that may be overstating it.
but a lot of coordination obviously between the fbi and the u.s. attorney's office, is that right? >> yeah, i don't think partnering is overstating it at all. there is complete coordination and partnership between the fbi and between the u.s. attorney's office. and between different fbi offices around the country and between different u.s. attorney's offices around the country. i don't want to portray it as one seamless web where balls never get dropped because occasionally they do. but in the main, nicolle, prosecutors and agents around the country work together. another thing i think is important here for context, if bob mueller and his team come across something that they believe to be a federal crime or evidence of a federal crime, they have a binary choice. they either do something with it or they do nothing with it. and doing nothing with it is almost never a good choice, forgive the double negative. so, in this case, they kicked it over to the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york and let the men and women in that office run with it. >> let me bring peter baker back
in because, peter, i watched that video come in from aboard air force one. the pool report broke during our hour and i saw the video a little later. i think i was doing a double header of my own and showed it that night on the 11:00. it was clear that the president was either unprepared for questions about stormy daniels and the $130,000 payment to keep her quiet, or it was his plan all along to throw his lawyer, michael cohen, under the bus. but neither -- if you stood at a fork in the road and those were his two choices, neither one really frees him from legal jeopardy. my sense is that by his statements aboard air force one, he strengthened mr. avenatti's case. any reaction from folks in the white house? i've heard from your paper and others that many white house staffers view stormy daniels as a credible individual who is telling a credible story. she doesn't come across as a
fire breathing member of the resistance, pretty much the worst thing she said about donald trump in that "60 minutes" interview was that she didn't want to have sex with him and she spent a long time in the bathroom before she went out and ultimately did. but it's all the questions around the payment, around the hush money, around the nda and around that intimidation scene that she depicted in "60 minutes" in the parking lot that seemed to be leading to the president's and his lawyer's legal troubles. >> yeah, no, look, this is for the white house a radioactive subject. nothing good comes of it. i was struck by what the president said on air force one as you were, partly because he just tried to shut it down basically. you're right, he was kicking it to his lawyer michael cohen. but president trump is not usually shy about offering his opinion about all sorts of subjects, whether or not it's wise to, whether or not another politician might. and the fact that he didn't choose to engage, the fact that he didn't choose to hotly deny it or characterize stormy
daniels' credibility as a witness or to engage in some way just shows how sensitive it is and how much he himself is trying to keep away from it. that is an unusual thing, again, for this president who is willing to wade into all sorts of controversies, no matter how, you know, difficult they might be. >> difficult and skeevy. it's s skrkeevy, we're talking t hush money to a porn star. i'm going to let you go. we're joined by tom winter. you are an expert on many things, one of them the fbi and their tactics. what does the specificity of the tactic that the fbi obtained a search warrant and went in and raided donald trump's lawyer's records and seized records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic film actress? this is reported at nbc news, you and your colleagues were not able to confirm. >> nicolle, the basic of the reporting, to be clear i don't
know for certain whether or not this includes payments that may have been made to stormy daniels. but what i understand from our person that has knowledge of the matter has been briefed on the matter is that the fbi today was able to execute a court authorized search, according to mr. cohen's statement that included prosecutors from the southern district of new york and, again, according to mr. cohen's statement, the new york action he said is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel robert mueller. that's not quite the technical definition. it's the special counsel's office. those two things are different. be that as it may, that's what we understand. we know that the southern district from reporting that i've done involving paul manafort and a chicago banker steven caulk, that the southern district has been handling various aspects -- has been doing some aspects of the investigation -- >> is that for geographical purposes or is that a division of labor? >> great question. so, a lot of the original work that was being done on paul manafort originated out of the southern district. robert mueller gets appointed.
he says, give me all your casework. so, he started to take that over. and then my understanding is over a period of time he said, okay, some of this is not jermai germane to my case. >> certain potential crimes? >> certain potential crimes, certain avenues of investigation. according to mr. cohen's statement, some of this has to do with statements that were made -- some of this has to do with certain things that pertain to an investigation in new york and some of it has to do with robert mueller's investigation. so, again, that may be things where he says, hey, this has got nothing that's tied to my original mandate, but there could be other federal crimes here. and since the southern district would have venue, we believe that mr. cohen's offices may actually be in another part of this building where we're broadcasting from. that's one of the things we're trying to work on exactly where the search warrant was executed. >> you need to hop up and go run that down. we'll follow you with the camera. >> i have tremendously qualify
cleegds in the process of doing that now. either way it would be the manhattan office. the southern district of new york has what we call venue meaning this is their turf. they have purview to look into the crimes. >> again, crimes would be crimes around the payment of hush money to stormy daniels? >> it could be that. i don't have that reporting specifically, nicolle, but it certainly could be that. if there was a federal statute or federal violation that had to do with that wire payment -- >> right. >> -- then that could be something that could be looked at here in new york. but there could be a whole host of other reasons why they are looking into michael cohen. we've done a little bit of reporting my colleague and myself about mr. cohen's travels. things he strongly denied during the campaign. this will be part of that. we'll have to see. in certain districts we can get a peek at the warrant over time, but mr. mueller's office has been very, very careful making sure those documents are sealed. >> we all know that by now. >> i don't think we're going to see that just yet. >> let me bring into the conversation "the new york
times" matt apuzzo who broke the story. first congrats on your scoop. it had been a day and a had a scoop. tell us what you're reporting this hour. >> what we know is today fbi agents in new york raided michael cohen's office looking for a huge swath of materials. obviously stormy daniels is very much part of it, but that was one aspect of a very large list of things that were being looked at including communications with other clients, including obviously president trump, his own finances, and a number -- you know, any number of documents and e-mails. this was not a small request. and obviously this is going to require some degree of special handling because it does involve communications between clients and their lawyers. and we do know that this is a referral from the special counsel, bob mueller.
now, our understanding is that that doesn't -- that doesn't mean that mueller has outsourced any aspect of the russia investigation to the southern district of new york. rather, it is evidence that mueller has said, look, i found some things that warrant further investigation, but they're not in my mandate and has referred them to the united states attorney in new york to investigate further. >> let me ask you about -- you talk about a long list of things. your colleagues and yourself have also reported that the trump organization has been subpoenaed by the special counsel. do you have a sense of where that dividing line is and who is doing what? it sounds like there is a bit of a division of labor perhaps taking shape between the u.s. attorney's office at the southern district and the special counsel's investigation. do you have the sense from your reporting today that hush money paid to a porn star may fall on the outside of special counsel's
interest, but inside another bucket of crimes being investigated? is that your sense from today? >> that's right, nicolle. i do -- that is my understanding. i mean, it would be hard to see, you know, kind of the legal contortions you'd have to get into to say that the arrangements with stephanie clifford or stormy daniels had some relation to the counter intelligence investigation into russian meddling in the election. i think mueller is thinking that his -- that his mandate is the 2016 election, his mandate is russian meddling and the trump campaign. and i think cohen and his own finances and his own communications with his clients, including the president which date back over a decade, would seem to fall very squarely outside the mandate that d.o.j. gave bob mueller. >> this also seems to blunt any criticism that this is a special counsel who is going to color outside the lines. i know that is one of the big
critiques of special counsels as an investigative tool. lots of people are critical that they get mission crete. peter baker and i were talking about that a minute ago. this seems like a proof point that bob mueller is playing it straight. >> certainly, if you're team mueller, you can point to this and say, we didn't go on a fishing expedition. the flipsid3 to that is it's, you know, the other side would probably say, yeah, you had your guys go and haggle on the fishing expedition. >> another person might say if you hadn't paid $130,000 to shut up a porn star, you'd never be in this situation to begin with, right? >> true. although, i mean, to cohen and his counsel's credit, you know, they would say, look, we are cooperating in this. we voluntarily turned over documents. we sat for depositions with the hill. we've said we're willing to cooperate and turnover whatever you want. a search warrant is a pretty extraordinary move rather than a grand jury subpoena which says
turnover the documents and requires a certain level of trust. this was, you know, kind of the full, the full paul manafort where they show up and, you know, they shove a search warrant in your face and get to work. this is a much more aggressive move than that. so, you know, from cohen's standpoint, i think he would argue this was an unnecessary escalation by a federal prosecutors. and while, sure, mueller didn't have a hand in it, he certainly set it in motion. >> let me let chuck rosenberg respond to that then we're going to bring in emily jane fox who recently interviewed mr. cohen himself. so, chuck, a quick response to why a prosecutor might use a tactic like this, which is as matt apuzzo says, is a little reminiscent to that no-knock warrant that was executed for paul manafort. >> it's a good point. they want the stuff and they're not convinced they're going to get it simply by asking for it, nicolle. but there is another point i wanted to make. we were expressing concern, we
collectively, about the president interviewing the u.s. attorneys for particular districts sometime ago, if you recall, including the southern district of new york. the concern seemed to be that these men and women who received these jobs with the president's blessing would then do his bidding. and i always push back on that. i'm not often right, so when i am, which is rare, i just want to mention it. >> i feel the same way. >> it almost never happens to me, nicolle. but i had always believed and i continue to believe that the men and women in these districts around the country are going to abide by the law and follow the facts regardless of who puts them into that position. and that's what they're doing here. >> we're going to let matt apuzzo go. matt, you have to promise us if you get anything else, you'll jump in front of the camera for us. congrats on the scoop. >> i'll do my best. >> let me bring in by telephone msnbc contributor, she's written about michael cohen and is reporting that cohen's hotel the
regency was also raided. tell us what you know and what you understand. >> sure. so, i had a source come to me this morning saying that their there were fbi agents at the regency hotel which is on park avenue. so, i called michael cohen, who i have interviewed a bunch of times in the last six months, and his phone went straight to voice mail, which is for anyone who spent time with michael cohen, they know his phone usually rings off the hook and oftentimes he answers it. so, i took that as a sign that something was going on so i actually went up to the regency to see if i could spot anything. i didn't see any agents there and i spent quite a bit of time there. i didn't see anything firsthand except for paparazzi outside looking for the ufc fighter connor mcgregor. but this is something that i don't think michael cohen was expecting. i think he had his focus on the court battle with stormy daniels. i do not -- i obviously think the mueller investigation is something that's always on his
mind, but i think from my reporting he had his eye on the current court battle this week. i do not believe that this is something he was anticipating would start off his monday morning. >> all right. anyone listening in their car, and i read all your tweets for those of you who list not on sirius xm, you're listening to emily jane fox, a vanity fair reporter who has interviewed michael cohen numerous times. let me just reset the breaking news that we came on the air with. fbi raids office of trump's long-time lawyer michael cohen. the fbi on monday raided the office of president trump's long-time personal lawyer michael cohen. seizing records related to several topics and matt apuzzo, "the new york times" reporter who broke that, underscored the idea that records were seized well beyond the scope of the stormy daniels payment. but they did include records related to the payments to pornographic film actress. and let me come back to you. are you saying that his office is at the regency or that's a second venue that you understood to have been searched, emily? >> a source told me that that was a venue that has been
searched that would be separate from the office. >> is that one is a residence and an office in >> yes. >> okay. and tell us, when did you last speak to michael cohen? you entered viewed him last week, right? >> i interviewed michael last month, but we keep in touch and speak about various news that's breaking throughout the weeks, days. our last on the record interview was last month. >> we're going to pull that up and pull from some of that because i think you got more from him than anyone has about being in the center of really two political storms for the president. one, the $130,000 in hush money paid to porn star stormy daniels. and two, being of interest to robert mueller who wants to know a whole lot more about possible plans for a trump tower in moscow. and i wonder if you can speak to how you would guess from knowing him, from being in such constant contact with him, how you would
have guessed he would have felt when donald trump went to the back of air force one at the end of last week and did what a lot of people described as throwing michael cohen under the bus when he was asked about the payment to porn star stormy daniels. he said, i don't know, you're going to have to ask michael cohen about that. >> i think, from my reporting and from what i know, that is in line with what michael cohen has been saying. it's what he said to me. it's what he said in numerous statements. but the president did not know about this. so i do not think that he necessarily viewed this as a betrayal or throwing him under the bus. i think the way he might have seen it is this is exactly what i've been saying all along. where many people maybe saw this as him being thrown under the bus by the president, perhaps he saw it as a corroboration for what he has been saying publicly. >> and just a bystander might see it as a sort of hallmark dysfunctional relationship that donald trump has with the people in his orbit. chuck roenz berg, let me come back to you on the questions emily is reporting would raise
about the legal argument that michael avenatti is making. if donald trump and michael cohen are right, that he didn't know anything about the payment, doesn't that sort of seal in michael avenatti's argument that the nda was not operative if the parties didn't even know about it? one of the parties? >> possibly, but i don't know very much about civil law or nondisclosure agreements, nicolle, but i do know this. and i think this is an important context, too, for your viewers. number one, it's not unusual to have multiple search warrants executed on the same day at the same time, and obviously they're coordinated by the fbi and the prosecutors. and number two, when you raid or search a lawyer's office, you need something called a taint team, a team of lawyers within the u.s. attorney's office to very carefully review documents before it goes to the prosecution team. the reason for that, attorney/client communications are typically privileged. he may have other -- he, michael
cohen, may have other clients who have done nothing wrong and you'd want to segregate those files. and then for those files that pertain to cohen and perhaps the president or others who might have done something wrong, that taint team needs to ascertain that there is an exception to the attorney/client privilege. they need to show, for instance, that the crime has been committed and that the prosecutors can have it and use it because ordinarily they cannot. >> let me try to dumb that down a little bit. it had to look pretty bad for them to go to the step of violating what most sort of nonlawyers think of as attorney/client privilege. you can confess things to your lawyer and your lawyer isn't going to go tell on you. is that a simple explanation? >> no, that's a perfect explanation. >> see, we're a good team. >> no, you're better at this than me. but there are limits to that attorney/client privilege. >> right. >> and a crime is one of those limits. if a crime has been committed, that normal attorney/client privilege, that cloaks the
communications in confidence, that disappears. >> let me do two things. i'm going to read to our viewers a statement from mr. cohen's lawyers. i'm also going to introduce our panel who thought they were here to talk about very different topics, but here we are talking about porn stars again. statement from mr. cohen's lawyer reads, today the u.s. attorney's office for the southern district of new york executed a series of search warrants and seized the privilege communications between my client michael cohen and his clients. i have been advised by federal prosecutors that the new york action is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel robert mueller. the decision by the u.s. attorney's office in new york to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. it resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protecting attorney/client communications between a lawyer and his clients. these government tactics are also wrong because mr. cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities including providing thousands of nonprivileged documents to the congress and sitting for
depositions under oath. chuck rosenberg, this has some familiar tone to the president's war on the justice department and the fbi. they seem -- and paul manafort's attacks really on the legitimacy of the scope of the special counsel. this seems to be a tactic and everyone's got the memo and this is going to be part of their strategy to attack the process. >> yeah, we seem to have heard this song before, nicolle. but don't forget, prosecutors and agents can't execute search warrants on their own accord. they need to go to a federal judge. and she needs to authorize it. and so they needed to show her that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and probable cause to believe that evidence would be found at these places. and so mr. ryan's protestations aside, there obviously was some quantum of evidence that convinced the federal judge that the appropriate way for prosecutors to proceed was with a search warrant. >> all right. let me add our table to the
conversation. joining us today brett stevens columnist for "the new york times" and an msnbc contributor. jason johnson, politics editor for the root, also an msnbc contributor. and a.b. stott art, real clear politics. not an msnbc contributor, hopefully some day soon. we were in the makeup room thinking we were going to be talking about something different. here we are, fbi has raided michael cohen's -- sounds like from emily's reporting, not just his office, but his home. >> every single person who works with donald trump tangentially or directly, if you come to his defense, you will fall under this umbrella. that's where this becomes a problem. the fact that the fbi did this and robert mueller's fingers aren't directly on it even if he said, hey, you might want to check this out over here, at the end of the day this is why the trump legal team -- you had so many people quitting. this is why they're having so many difficult at this getting people who want to defend him because there are so many different levels to potential
violations and corruptions that this president might want to be in, that anybody associated with him might have a bunch much blue jackets with fbi breaking into their home sometime soon. >> it is such a good point, a.b. all the lawyers are getting lawyers. when "the new york times" last week reported that john dowd, the one-time, now no longer chief counsel for the president in the russia probe had dangled pardons in front of some of the now cooperating witnesses, people who pleaded guilty. at least in the case of mike flynn has pleaded guilty. it raised all sorts of questions about whether or not john dowd might need an attorney to protect him from any suggestion that he was engaged in witness tampering. >> it's remarkable when you look at not only the people who ended up being legally vulnerable and potentially in jeopardy just because the president continued to speak about the russia probe when he wasn't supposed to, was instructed by his legal team not to. so, he exposed, let's say, people like hope hicks and those
advisors and close staff around him. >> his own white house counsel. >> but then in addition you have people willing to actually put themselves, willingly like michael cohen, into legal peril for donald trump. and in this situation we've also seen really an aggressive number of people willing to lie to the fbi, which indicates they didn't know what mueller had and they got caught for lying to the fbi. michael cohen today was raided in two locations for something we know is beyond the stormy daniels nondisclosure agreement which might be an in-kind contribution and might violate a campaign finance law. this is obviously something more severe. and if it doesn't actually pertain to russian collusion in that investigation, it will be interesting to know -- they obviously did not trust they'd get the information and as your experts pointed out, they convinced a judge to provide a warrant to go and get it. this information. there is something in between the mueller probe and stormy
daniels that's significant and is really put michael cohen in serious peril. >> chuck and i talked last week, there were some theories posited that simple bribery around the recrafting of the republican platform, the change to a more pro-putin plank around i think it was ukraine, could be something -- >> that wouldn't be under mueller? >> it could or couldn't be. but you're talking about crimes that are in the mueller probe, crimes that are outside the mueller probe. there may be new york state investigations. i think we're just talking about a massive criminal enterprise by that statement. >> look, i think bob mueller is on very dangerous political terrain because i can almost write the editorials that will be a reaction to this. at the center of those editorials is the question, what on earth does this have to do with russia? as far as most people know, michael cohen is the guy who apparently paid $130,000 to a
porn star with whom the president appears to have had a liaison over a decade ago. there is already a real question out there as to whether the president should fire mueller. and if you talk to a lot of republicans they'll say he's way out of his -- just to finish. so, mueller -- we need to find out very quickly how this connects to -- to, at least in its broadest sense, a russia investigation. >> chuck, do you need to tie it to russia? is there an obligation -- a teacher that suggested abuse has an obligation to turn it over to authorities. does a prosecutor who suggests a crime have an obligation to turn it over to other prosecutors? >> sure. it doesn't have to tie to russia at all. here's why. if bob mueller came across something else in his investigation, something extraneous to the sort of what he was looking at, but it was nevertheless a crime, he hands it off to another prosecutor to handle it. and so, first of all, i don't
think bob mueller cares about the editorials, he cares about the facts and the law. and if he found something here -- let me give you an example, nicolle. let's say he was looking at someone's computer for a crime related to the russia investigation, but found child pornography. not related to the russia investigation. that is nevertheless a crime. it's prosecutable perhaps somewhere else, like the southern district of new york. i'm not suggesting that's -- that that is what was on mr. cohen's computer. >> right. >> but you have to do something with it. right? >> let me respond. and let me just agree with your political point. i think you're making -- >> i agree with everything chuck said. >> i know you do. >> i was making a political point, which is bob mueller's investigation stands or falls on the willingness of republicans in congress to go along with, with, with rosenstein and say, let this investigation continue. otherwise, there is going to be enormous political pressure among republican editorialists, conservative editorialists to
persuade the administration and persuade congress to shut mueller down completely. and i think that would be -- >> you don't think this was careful enough? he handed it off. >> bob mueller is obviously an extraordinarily careful man and i would be astounded if there wasn't some very good reason why he didn't pass on this information. but you also have to understand that this is, this is a profoundly political enterprise. now, having said all that, i find this kind of hilarious because i sort of started out in the commentary when white water was underway, an investigation that was supposedly about land deals in arkansas and ended up being about dna evidence on a blue dress. >> right. >> so these things do have a way of, of, of moving very quickly. >> you used the word skeevy for the second time in six minutes. let me keep it here in politics. in the time of trump they're inseparable. let me just, just press you on the analysis i got when after
resisting the stormy daniels story for a week we finally started covering it. a former, extremely senior intelligence official who worked for democrats and republicans said you have to think about stormy daniels this way. if a porn star could blackmail him, just imagine what vladimir putin could do to him. >> that is what -- nicolle, that is exactly what i've always said is the biggest issue. from a campaign perspective, yes, oh, he cheated on his wife. i don't know what kind of situation they have. it's bad, it's embarrassing, it may not matter to his voters. it means this guy is vulnerable to all sorts of blackmail. >> right. >> we're not just talking about -- it's one thing in all honesty if he was involved with a prostitute or a call person. they have an obligation to privacy. this is an actress. it is a public individual. the fact that you're that sloppy means that you could be open to all sorts of blackmail and so any national security person, any republican, any democrat should find that to be the greatest danger in the entire stormy daniels story. >> and this, a.b., is one of the central arguments that michael
avenatti makes, not that ndas in and of themselves are illegal, they're not. this was an incompetently -- an illegally, incomplete, i don't know the right word, but this was a cruddy nda, uninforcible. >> he tweeted when this news broke, people place too much faith in michael cohen. if his argument -- >> let's put that up. you're monitoring for me. here's the tweet a.b. stoddard mentioned. see below and resue my comments and predictions. on cnn and msnbc, an enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on m.c., i'm guessing that's michael cohen's shoulders. i'm getting good at this. if he does not hold up this could end very bad for d.j. t., donald j. trump, and others, fbi raids cohen offices. >> michael cohen is a great p.r., show man, meister. he is going to make a good point on the news break of the fbi
raid of michael cohen's office and residence and not miss an opportunity. but he makes a good point, which is that even going back to michael cohen's statement about the payment he said i facilitated a payment, remember that two months ago? really exposing the fact that it really truly was an arrangement to protect donald trump. >> and he defended it on both levels, on the logistics -- three levels. logistics, the honorable nature of it, he said he's my friend, i will protect him. one of the ways "the wall street journal" first found out about it, a flag was raised on the payment by the bank at the treasury department. that donald trump-run-mnuchin led treasury department. it obviously wasn't a very good nda. >> i think it is also important to your point about blackmail, and to your point about mueller. right now twitter is a flame with conservatives saying this is a police state, it's another reason to bash the special counsel, this investigation. unfortunately for donald trump, if he's ever done anything wrong with michael cohen, it will be
found out. >> yeah. >> and if he is blackmailable and compromised by the russians because of financial crimes, having nothing to do with active collusion in the spring or summer of 2016, over the campaign of hillary clinton with government officials in russia, he is still vulnerable to blackmail. >> it reminds us that the salacious and unverified details in the steele dossier are eminently plausible. >> yes, yes. >> more so every day, right? >> salacious, people are mostly concerned this is a man -- >> salacious. >> with, along with michael cohen wasn't afraid of some rules standing in his ways as businessman. he wanted to do a trump tower deal in moscow and isn't in the books. that is in mueller's purview. republicans will fight you on the nail. it's from 20 years ago so it's okay. it's not. it's part of the investigation if it's true.
>> chuck, let me bring you in. i won't call it an admonishment, but i get chided sometimes for thinking too big about donald trump or thinking that the crimes are things that i couldn't think of. and the source always tells me dumb it down. these could be -- you and i talked about bribery. these could be things, you know, lapses in character that he believes his base will always forgive. these could be things that he simply wanted to keep secret from his wife either because he cares about embarrassing her, which seems debatable. and or he could have been by a pre-nup that prevented some behaviors like the kinds of things we're talking about, sex with a porn star and whatnot. what other things are sort of low-tech crimes and less sophisticated crimes? he wasn't this titan of business. he's not a bernie madoff. there wasn't a sophisticated financial scam. he basically ran a mom and pop operation with his kids making public appearances and it was a
less sophisticated operation. do you agree with any of that analysis? >> well, based on my experience, nicolle, that's what i tended to see, right? so, the master criminals, the master, you know, evil doers. that was in the movies. in real life where we tend to live our lives, crimes tend to be more pedestrian. and so it could be something as simple as overstating assets to get a bank loan. or hiding assets in a bankruptcy. these sound like complicated crimes, but for a good prosecutors and good agents, they're really rather pedestrian. what you need to prove them, of course, are documents. and where is a good place to go to get those types of documents? to your lawyer's office. >> all right. let me add nick, political reporter from "the new york times" to this conversation, because you have done reporting that relies very heavily on not just paper documents, but electronic documents. what do you make of the tactic today to seize records from michael cohen's, at least two of
his locations today here in new york by the fbi? >> well, nicolle, i had a couple reactions. first of all, it is important to remember that aside from being trump's personal lawyer or his fix er fixer, as his own attorney has pointed out, cohen was a big investor in real estate in his own right for millions and millions of dollars, a lot more money than you would make as a personal lawyer to donald trump. he has a lot of transactions with russian money, with investments in new york. there's been a lot of questions swirling around his investments. there could be a separate world of hurt here if michael cohen, aside from bob mueller's investigation. second, when you look closely, it appears that mueller made a referral to the fbi, but that the raid was not totally based on the referral. so, it could be that there is an investigation here that was already active and mueller found out some things that were useful to that investigation and kind of passed it over. so, whatever happens with the
special counsel, there may still be something here involving cohen. finally, let's go back to the dossier and the question of whether michael cohen who traveled to prague or a different michael cohen. he had a passport. it's possible to have a second or third poassport. if you have his travel documents, financial records, you can answer the question which michael cohen it was who made that trip that was mentioned in the dossier. >> all right. so, let me -- you just stacked like three plates on top of each other. let me try to unpack them for my little brain. there have been a whole bunch of people whose crime for the crimes that they've been charged with and they pleaded guilty to was lying to the fbi. are you suggesting that it's possible that he simply got caught lying? and because it's outside the purview of russian collusion, that that maybe was referred to the u.s. attorney's office in the southern district to be dealt with as a separate case? >> that's possibly a fourth plate, nicolle.
>> fourth plate. >> in the process of doing these interviews that there may be a separate investigation here by the fbi into michael cohen who is involved in a bunch of interesting transactions with russian money and others. and it could be that mueller found something interesting and referred it back over. he could also have lied to the special counsel. i suspect based on what we've seen so far, that if cohen had lied directly to special counsel, at some point he will be held accountable for that lie as we have seen with some of the other witnesses. >> chuck rosenberg, let me bring you in on the correspond yog ho the mueller investigation. he seems to not be on anyone's time line but his own. is it possible that michael cohen is already known to have committed crimes like what nick is talking about, but that there is still more investigating to go on before any sort of charges are brought, or do you think this is still an investigation
in the early or middle phase? >> so, the answer is yes and yes. to nick's point, it could be that the special counsel, bob mueller, has a crime that's part of his purview and found other stuff that he thinks is better handled by the southern district of new york. >> right. >> it could also be that bob mueller has referred something out and after it's developed in another part of the country by other agents, comes back in. nothing is foreclosed here, nicolle. what the government is doing, writ large, by appropriate process, and by that i mean a search warrant, is gathering evidence. and where that evidence leads and how cohen is charged, if he ever is, will be determined. remember, manafort has been charged in two different districts, right. stuff can go out, come back, go out again, be developed, and end up in places where you never imagine it to be. >> you're all nodding. let me start with you, nick. you used the word interesting four times. are you going to drop a story at
5:01 with more details on this? >> i'm not personally, no. the stories i'm working on have a slightly longer burn time right now. but always keep an eye on "the new york times" website and y times.com. >> we do. like a woman possessed, i have a trigger refris trigger refreshing the page. you were nodding, too. >> when we're looking at trump or any people associated with him, he's not ape bond villain. he's not sitting in a chair with his finger, i have these multiple things he's doing. most of this is like a law and order crime. it's real estate, it's bribes, it's dirty money. it's the kinds of things we would have found if he ever had to reveal his tax returns which is why he didn't want to do it during the campaign. what's happening is now that have someone like mueller who is responsible for digging into details of an international issue, all the other things that trump managed to scare people away from or not have any attention paid to are all of a sudden coming out and everyone associated with him is getting in trouble. and this will not be the end of
it because, again, for every week we're not talking about cohen, it goes back to jared. it goes back to don junior. it goes back to housing and real estate. this will be an ongoing problem for this administration. i don't think he can fix it because he's not willing to come forth and be honest about maybe the things he did do that were wrong that he's willing to sort of make amends for or say that he made a mistake. >> david -- go ahead. >> i mean, he's not a bond villain. he's a mike myers villain. this is what we're talking about here. look, this is -- i think you just put your finger on it, which is that trump's entire career has been based on what he calls hyperbole, but hyperbole of a sort most of us would describe as lying. and this is, this has got to be something that worries him profoundly. nick had a long list of things which are important to mention. i think it's also important to mention one reason to go after michael cohen is the same reason you go after george papadopoulos and others, is that you need to
start squeezing these guys because they know things, they know things that trump is conspencer christian lco conspicuously been unwilling to reveal. >> i want to go back to the never released tax returns. the time we covered it incorrectly. we covered it as a norm that was busted. it was obviously a much bigger and different story. david farenthold from the washington post had a story last week where he laid out the three legal devices that are squeezing him and his financial records. the least sexy of which is the emoluments case in virginia and d.c. or maryland and d.c. the other is avenatti's legal case and the other is the mueller probe. do you think those three investigations, we will eventually see those tax returns? >> i don't know. i obviously think -- we are all wondering whether robert mueller is going to produce a report for the public to digest. i think it is very important that he does. but if anyone is going to get his hands on the tax returns it
will be the special counsel. there's a lot of smoke here. all the different avenues you just described, all the different angles, just what nick said about michael cohen. there's going to be some fire somewhere. about michael cohen. there is going to be some fire somewhere, and someone going to pay a price. politically i'm thinking about republicans on a hill today, and i know every time that mueller indicts someone else, someone else is caught lying to the fbi or there is a raid that indicates that a warrant was necessary because they don't trust the subject this becomes more serious. and i believe the investigation becomes more credible. and more of a political threat to them. so it will be interesting to see their response this the days to come about how much meat there is and how much fire there is. >> let me bring into our conversation, frank figlusi a former employee of the fbi. let me hit with you the headline that the fbi on monday raided the office of trump's long time
personal lawyer michael cohen, seizing records relating to records related to a number of cases, including payments made to a former porn access. there were records not just about stormy dan yls but records related to all sorts of things seized today. a judge authorized that search warrant. that does that tell but michael cohen's trill and legal liabilities at this hour? >> anicolle as we process the news there are a couple of things to keep in inmoo. it's tough to get probable cause and senior d.o.j. approval to search an attorney's office. it goes all the way up to d.o.j. and you have to show there is a substantial pertinent reason to believe there is evidence that exists there of crime. you create a tank team. perhaps you already talked about this, but a tank team is created so that agents who actually grab
the evidence of attorney-client privileged material do not actually work the substantive matter themselves because they become tainted from viewing the privileged material. so it's a complicated matter. this tells us that mueller -- it's in keeping with what we thought previously, that mueller is looking backwards in time at financial transactions that might show a nexus to compromise, potential compromise by foreign powers, foreign individuals that might shed light on foreign meddling, and foreign money involving the campaign for president. this is more of same. it's not outside the scope. it's all about the core of the mueller investigation, which started as a russian counter-intelligence investigation. and eahe is looking at whether not the financial transactions of the trump organization and he coulden shed light on possible compromise. >> and you figure prominently in
the mueller special that aired on this network last night, the headliner special. i want to know what you think it says about bob mueller and the way he is running this investigation, that he sent this over to his colleagues in the southern district, also fed wrath ral prosecutors obvious and also able to work with the fbi but that he referred it to that office. what does that say to you about the substance of what they are looking for from michael cohen? >> it says a couple of things. first, there may be evidence that came to light from mueller's team that is not exactly on point with his mission. and that's going to get referred and worked by the southern district of new york. so that's likely the case, that there is a mixture of things going on here, some of which, perhaps even the whole stormy daniels issues, may get just referred and flipped to the southern district. but there's another thing here, that's logistics. you are talking about manhattan. you are talking about a search
warrant. you need bodies. you need experienced bodies. and it makes sense to have fbi new york southern district agents doing that. >> there is reporting today that as jim comey gets ready to go on a national book tour that the white house hasn't prepared much of a rapid response strategy because they know that the president will simply tweet away. and someone actually had a funny line in the politico reporting. they said well responding to comey would be punching down. that wasn't their concern when they fired him and attacked him reelle lendlessly for months and months. do you think the stakes are getting higher for the mueller probe as the president grows more agitated by people like jim comey and jill mccabe sort of telling their versions of their interactions with the president revealing things like the president asking andy mccabe how it felt to be married to a loser. jim kemy you have to assume on his book tour is going to relive the things he wrote in his memos
after he was unceremoniously fired because of his actions regarding mike michael flynn, who is now under indictment. what do you think are going through the minds of robert mueller and the people working on that team? >> i will say this. much of this is a disstrags for the mueller team. they are going to focus. actually they wish all this drama wasn't going on around this. it's going to create more of a siege mentality regarding the president. as comey comes out and the book comes out giving further insights how the president treats people, how he fires people, to include whether he asks for loyalty tests and whether or not you voted for im, the president is going the become increasingly agitated. it doesn't help things if that's happening particularly if you remember that mueller is trying to negotiate a sit-down with trump right now. none of this is helpful.
for the public it gives us insight as to how the president ticks and interacts. it is not helpful. >> nick, same question to you. >> i think there is a important issue we haven't discussed yet. if the stormy daniels investigation is now in the hands of federal prosecutors, recall how we talked about the potential election law violation of a contribution by the trump strain campaign of paying off stormy daniels. the answer was well the that agency is toothless, they don't enforce anything and it will take years and years. but the justice department has jurisdiction over certain kinds of election law if they are willful. it's possible it could get fast tracked. forget the ftc, justice department could suddenly come back into play, which is important. >> chuck, rosenberg i
couldn'tcity your face, was that a nod of agreement? is it your sense that that would be something that the justice department would prioritize. >> that was a nod of complete agreement. let me nod again. the justice department does not need the ftc to help it bring campaign law violations. by the way the question of whether or not a non-disclosure agreement is valid orrin valid doesn't matter because a grand jury would trump a non-disclosure agreement. that means the grand jury could have ms. daniels testimony. >> we sat down with serious topics to discuss. and donald trump will probably rage away on twitter at fake media. he did all weekend long. a story in the "washington post" with 16 sources about his chief of staff losing support among
him and others. the specter of possible air strikes for the most egregious and horrific kind of humanitarian crimes. we are talking about this not because we are the lame stream media as sarah palin who popped back up in our national conversation said today. but because of the position of michael cohen. where are we? >> we are an america that's adrift. we were coming on the show to talk about the possibility of the united states taking military action in syria after a chemical weapons attack. i was just on the israeli/syrian border. you have a middle east stumbling into war. it is impossible for the united states or the administration to focus on these issues because we are living in this kind of alternative reality drama of the president's character flaws intruding on our national political discourse and also on the international stage in a way that's profoundly damaging.
i wrote a book during the obama years called america in retreat, an inward looking america. i think i wrote that book one administration too soon. we now have a presidency whose central defects which are to say the narcissism, the self obsession, the triviality and the meat and the putiness. >> criminality. >> pettiness and he po tension criminality of the president make it difficult for the united states to act as a responsible power on the world stage. so it's not just a matter of are we going to get the president? where is the mueller probe going to go? it's about the long term institutional and geopolitical damage that these detects of the president have on the united states. >> a defective president. last word. >> yeah. and i think in the midst of all of this, whether it's comey giving his book tour this summer or cohen getting raided, all this is also happening in the context of robert mueller trying
to lure and negotiate trump into coming in and talking to him. every time something like this happens if it's perceived negatively by the right or this white house it makes it less likely that mutual kerr actually talk to him. >> my thanks for an extraordinary whirlwind hour to my panelists. that does it for our hour. i'm micolle wallace. "mtp daily" starts right now. never been happier to hand over the baton than i am right now to katy tur who is in for chuck. >> let me asure you we've got this. thank you very much. if it's monday, bombs are dropping, both figuratively, and literally. good evening, and welcome to "mtp daily." i'm katy tur in new york in for chuck todd. breaking news on multiple fronts