tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC November 29, 2018 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
good night from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. thanks at home for joining us this hour. are you ready? just going to start right in. deputy clerk. change of plea hearing. united states versus michael cohen. counsel please state your appearance. for the government? rush atkinson, a prosecutor working for the special counsel's office stands up and says, good morning, your honor. rush atkinson on behalf of the united states. with me is my colleague jeannie. we are joined by special agent michelle taylor from the fbi. the judge says, and for the defendant? then we hear from michael cohen's defense counsel. for defendant michael cohen, guy petrillo and amy lester. good morning, your honor. the judge says, good morning.
my understanding is that mr. cohen would like to waive indictment and plead guilty to a criminal information pursuant to an agreement with the government. is that correct? cohen's defense lawyer, that's correct, your honor. the judge, okay. the judge then says, please state your full name. the defendant says, michael dean cohen. the judge, how old are you? cohen, 52. the judge, how far did you go in school? cohen, j.d. degree. judge, are you currently or have you recently been under the care of a physician? cohen, no, sir. judge, have you recently seen a psychiatrist or psychologist or had any mental health counseling? michael cohen. no, your honor. the judge, have you been treated for any psychiatric condition? cohen: no, sir. judge: have you ever been hospitalized for drug abuse or alcohol abuse? michael cohen: no, sir. judge: all right. does defense counsel have any rights about your client's come p/e tensz to proceed? cohen's defense lawyer says, i do not, your honor. the judge says, counsel for the government? prosecutor rush atkinson says,
no, your honor. the judge says, i find mr. cohen appears alert. he has answered the questions appropriately. i find he is competent to proceed and we will continue. the judge says, quote, mr. cohen, i want to make sure you are being charged with a felony offense. do you understand, sir? michael cohen: i do, sir. the judge: the sole count of the information charges false statements. it states, on or about august 28th, 2017, the defendant michael cohen in the district of columbia and elsewhere in a matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch of the government of the united states -- caused to be submitted a written statement to the senate intelligence committee containing materially false statements about the moscow project. including false statements about the timing of the project, discussions with people in the company, the trump organization, and in russia about the moscow project, and contemplated travel
to russia in connection with the moscow project. the judge says, do you understand the nature of that charge, mr. cohen? michael cohen says, i do, your honor. the judge, do you have any questions for me before we continue? no, your honor. defense counsel, are you aware of any reason why your client should not plead guilty? defense counsel guy petrillo says, no, your honor. the judge says, are you aware of any legal defense to the charge? cohen's defense lawyer guy petrillo says, not that would prevail at trial. the judge says, mr. cohen, are you satisfied with your legal representation up to this point? michael cohen, yes, your honor. the judge, mr. cohen, are you willing to give up your rights to a trial and all the other rights we have discussed? cohen, yes, sir. the judge, how do you plead to the sole count of the information? michael cohen, guilty, your honor. and then it gets a little confusing. so the judge says how do you plead? michael cohen says, guilty, your honor. the judge says guilty or not guilty?
and then michael cohen says, sorry. the judge says, that's fine. guilty? michael cohen says, yes, sir. real quick, i'm here to plead guilty. sorry, were you not done? guilty, did i say guilty? but then at this point in the proceedings is where the spotlight really turns on michael cohen, and this is the surprise proceeding. everybody who is there in the courtroom has arrived on short notice. there was no advance press this was going to happen. the plead says a little something, but now here is michael cohen in court really getting to explain. put a little narrative on what's going on here. the judge, after he's just pled guilty, the judge turns to michael cohen and says to him, quote, okay. tell me what it is that you did that makes you guilty. michael cohen says, so, if i may stand, your honor, if i may stand up for it. the judge says, what's that? michael cohen, may i stand for you on this? the judge, you may. you don't need to. the acoustics aren't great.
it may be easier if you sit and speak into the microphone. michael cohen, then that is what i shall do. the judge says, all right, go ahead. michael cohen clears his throat. ahem. thank you. prior to the 2016 presidential election i had been executive special counsel to donald trump manhattan real estate business. by 2017 i was no longer employed in this capacity but continued to serve on several matters as an attorney to the former ceo of the trump organization who is now president of the united states. he has referred to as individual one in the criminal information. as i had in the years before the election, i continued in 2017 to follow the day to day political messaging that both mr. trump and his staff and advisors repeatedly broadcast. and i stayed in close contact with these advisors to mr. trump. as such, i was aware of mr. trump's repeated disavowals of commercial and political ties gw
between himself and russia, it was politically motivated and without evidence and that any contact with russian nationals by his campaign or the trump organization had all terminated before the iowa caucus, which was on february 1st, 2016. in 2017, i was scheduled to appear before the senate intelligence committee as well as the house intelligence committee concerning matters under their investigation including principally whether russia was involved in or interfered in the 2016 campaign and election. in connection with my appearances, i submitted a written statement to congress, including among other things a description of a proposed real estate project in moscow that i had worked on while i was employed by the trump organization. that description was false. i knew at the time. it was false in that i had asserted that all efforts concerning the project had ceased in january 2016 when, in fact, they had continued through june of that year. it was also false when i asserted that i had very limited discussions with mr. trump and others in the company concerning
the project when, in fact, i had more extensive communications. and it was false when i said i'd never agreed to travel to russia in connection with the project and had never asked mr. trump to travel when, in fact, i took steps to and had discussions with mr. trump about travel to russia. he then says, i would like to note i did not in fact travel there nor have i ever been to russia. he says, quote, i made these misstatements to be consistent to mr. trump's political messaging and out of loyalty to mr. trump. at that point it kind of feels like it's over. but it turns out he left something out, something that turns out to be important. and so the prosecution sort of jumps in to fill that in. the judge at this point says, quote, any further allocution requested by the government? and the prosecutor from the special counsel robert mueller's office, rush atkinson, says, yes, your honor. as set forth in the criminal information, which is like an indictment except you get a criminal information when you
plead guilty instead of going to trial. as set forth in the information, they reached out to the kremlin in 2016, he had not received any response. in fact, he had received a response from the kremlin. so, in essence, mr. cohen minimized his contacts with the russian government and stated so falsely in his submission. the judge says, you want that as part of this allocution? rush atkinson says, yes, please. mr. cohen, did you hear that? michael cohen says, i did, your honor. the judge says, well, is that correct? and michael cohen says, it is correct, your honor. there was one contact. the judge says, any further allocution requested by the government? prosecutor says, no, your honor. thank you. and that's where we get to the curtain call. the judge says, quote, i find that mr. cohen is competent to proceed. i find that he understands the rights he is waiving by pleading guilty. i further find there is a factual basis for this plea and i accept his plea of guilty.
so today the president's long-time personal lawyer, long time executive of his business pled guilty to a cover up, a criminal cover up. he pled guilty to lying to congress about the extent of the real estate dealings that president trump and his business were engaged in in pursuing russia with the help of the kremlin while trump was running for president, and while the kremlin was simultaneously mounting an international military intelligence operation to skew our election in order to tilt it toward trump. the lies that michael cohen told congress about this matter, i should tell you, had consequence. his lies about this trump tower moscow thing made it lock, stock and barrel into the report house republicans produced months ago when they announced they completely investigated all the allegations against trump and russia. turns out trump didn't do anything, and it is one big witch-hunt. remember when republicans came out with that report months ago?
michael cohen's lies to congress with the house tower project made it into the house republican report. this from their report. cohen attempted to reach out to members of the russian government and attempt to make the project proceed but apparently did not have any direct points of contact. it does not appear cohen ever received a response from anyone affiliated with the russian government. neither president putin nor anyone from the russian government was involved in the project. those were all lies. but the rub cans in congress bought them all, hook, line and sinker. they regurgitated them in unprocessed form as their report about what happened between trump and russia during the campaign. now michael cohen has confessed in open court that those were lies. now, that was just the house republican report on what happened between trump and russia. you might remember the democrats on the intelligence committee, they didn't sign onto that report. they were sort of furious about it when the republicans issued that report. you might also remember the democrats put out their own
report, their own minority report explaining what they had come to learn, what they had come to believe about trump and russia during the 2016 campaign. and it's a minority report. people in the minority in the house have no real power whatsoever, so it is an object of academic interest, but it wasn't going to go anywhere. theirs turns out to be remarkably prescient. one of the things the democrats in the house under the leadership of adam schiff on the intelligence committee, one of the things they helpfully published months ago as part of their democratic report was this e-mail which we have never previously seen. and this e-mail shows where the money was going to come from to build trump tower moscow. this is on page 50 of the democrats' report. it was an e-mail we'd never seen before. it was dated october 12, 2015, so that's during the republican primary season, right? it was from felix seder ho worked at the trump organization. it was to michael cohen who also worked at the he trump organization. it was titled, andre kos tin, ceo of vte bank.
the subject line of e-mail. in the body of the e-mail it said this. kos tin is putin's top finance guy and ceo of the second largest bank in russia. he is on board and has indicated he would finance trump moscow. this is major for us. not only the financing aspect but kos tin's position in russia extremely powerful and respected. the e-mail concludes, i will call you later to discuss getting the letter of intent signed. and sure enough, within a couple weeks on the night of the third primary republican debate, during the 2016 election, that same day, donald trump, in fact, signed the letter of intent to go ahead with trump tower moscow. to be financed by a russian bank called vtb. apparently they were that far along in the negotiations. they could do a letter of intent because they had one of the main things you need to go ahead with the project like this on board. they had the financing on board. it was going to be vtb. it is a very large bank in russia. it is state-run. it is also sanctioned by the u.s. government. americans aren't allow today do business with them.
maybe that's a small point in the larger scheme of things, but i point this out because there is a really neat trick that happened in today's news. so today we have this court transcript, the surprise federal court in new york, long-time trump lawyer michael cohen turns up in court, pleads guilty to lying to congress. what happened today with michael cohen tells us a few things that are really interesting in terms of where we are as a country now and where the presidency is and is going. number one, it tells us mueller's prosecutors are willing to bring felony charges to people who have lied to congress in conjunction with the scandal. vanity fair reported the eldest son, don junior, has been very concerned and there have been serious concerns in the white house that he would be indicted for having lied to congress. that was never quite sure how seriously to take those kind of reported worries. but if you didn't take the prospect of felony indictments for lying to congress, if you didn't take it seriously before, somebody just pled guilty to
lying to congress, you take it seriously after today. the fact that this prosecution today was for lying to congress, it also raises really interesting live questions, new questions about the relationship between congress and the mueller investigation. at a time when democrats are poised to take over the house. if mueller will bring charges against people who lied to congressional committees, this is now a live issue for members of congress as to whether or not the committees are going to hand over the transcripts from witness testimony on the russia investigation, so mueller can review those transcripts for potential perjury and potentially bring more charges. congressman adam schiff made clear today that when he and democrats do take over in the new year, at least at the intelligence committee, they're going to be sending to mueller immediately all of the transcripts of all of the witnesses who have testified who may find their testimony newly relevant to the mueller investigation now that people are starting to plead guilty to felonies for lying to congress in conjunction with this scandal. another thing today's court
appearance tells us is that robert mueller is alive and well. the last time michael cohen plid guil pled guilty in federal court in new york, prosecutors from the southern district of new york. today it was prosecutors from robert mueller's office and it was robert mueller's name and signature on the court filings. if matthew whitaker was installed at the justice department to bring the mueller investigation to a halt, today shows that that has not happened. this was a significant new step in the mueller investigation. whitaker didn't stop it, and, in fact, msnbc's nicolle wallace reported today that matt whitaker, in fact, is not directly supervising the mueller investigation on a day-to-day basis. the mueller investigation, according to nicolle's reporting today, is still being overseen by rod rosenstein in the deputy attorney general's office on a day-to-day basis. and what that means, in a practical sense according to the washington post tonight, is that
matthew whitaker was notified about what was going to happen today, but he wasn't asked. he wasn't asked to approve it. it was approved by rosenstein. so whitaker knew it was happening, but he didn't get to say yea or nay. that seems important. another thing this action tells us today is that we are about to get a whole much more -- a whole big new bunch of information out of mueller. in the plea agreement that michael cohen signed onto today, there was a statement of the offense, right, the criminal information also a plea agreement, sometimes it's hard to tell how much of this stuff is boilerplate. but even if it is boilerplate, this line from cohen's plea agreement still seems important. it says in cohen's plea agreement today, quote, the government reserves the right to describe fully both orally and in writing to the sentencing judge the nature and seriousness of your client's misconduct, including any misconduct not described in the charges to which your client is pleading guilty. oh, michael cohen is due to be
sentenced on december 12. on the previous felonies to which he pled and the felony to which he pled today. the special counsel's office is there by reserving the right to tell all in open court on the occasion of cohen's sentencing. which is in just a couple weeks. reserving the right to tell all, even stuff that's not in the charges. stuff that cohen happens to know about or have been in on. and this, of course, comes just a few days after the special counsel's office told a different court in d.c. they intended to file a detailed report outlining the crimes and lies of trump campaign chairman paul manafort. so this is essentially robert mueller reserving himself a podium and a live microphone atop both of these active cases for use and occasion of his own choosing. there will be a hearing tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. we don't know whether the judge will ask mueller's prosecutors to start elaborating on
manafort's crimes and lies, but we will be watching that proceeding very closely tomorrow when it convenes in the morning. the big picture here, of course, is that robert mueller and his team of prosecutors at the special counsel's office, they know about and they have evidence of a sort of ridiculously damning scenario involving the sitting president, and mueller has now start today lay it out in public. what we now know that mueller knows is that the president, during the campaign in 2016, he was secretly trying to arrange what would have been the largest business deal of his life in russia through direct contact with the kremlin. he was trying to do this business deal while the kremlin was orchestrating a military intelligence attack by the g.r.u. on our election to help trump win. the deal was kept secret at the time. he and his business associates lied about it publicly. they then launched an elaborate cover up campaign to keep it secret including lying to congress about it. now that it has been exposed,
one big knee on question mark blaring on and off of this revelation is whether there was a direct connection between putin mounting that attack on our election to benefit trump, and trump simultaneously trying to do this big real estate deal in moscow involving the kremlin. now, buzzfeed news had previously reported six months ago that when michael cohen had discussions with foreign contacts about the trump tower moscow deal, those foreign contacts included more than one person who was directly involved in russia's attack on our election. why would you be talking to people attacking the election when you're supposed to be talking about a real estate deal? why are those two things connected? tonight buzzfeed news follows that up with somewhat revelation that part of the trump tower deal was vladimir putin personally would be offered a free $50 million penthouse apartment on top of trump tower moscow, basically to
sweeten the deal. sure, why not? the least you can do for the guy who is rigging the election for you. what a nice hostess gift. you give me america, i give you a deal. this is deal in any language. here's the neat trick about all of this in today's news. on the same day that all of this happens, right? on the same day michael cohen, surprise, turns up in federal court to plead guilty to lying about the trump tower moscow deal, to be financed by a sanctioned russian-state controlled bank by vtb, when he turns up to plead on that today, we get all of this new information about that deal that the president was secretly involved in, involving the russian government, the offices of high-ranking officials in the kremlin, and a state-controlled russian bank. as we get all of that today, boom. today also in germany the world headquarters of deutsche bank was raided by german authorities. and here is why that is the other book end on this remarkable, remarkable story in the trump presidency today.
deutsche bank famously is the biggest lender to donald trump by far. long after other banks would turn off all the lights and pull the drapes and pretend they weren't home when he came knocking, deutsche bank was happy. somewhat inexplicably happy to keep funding trump and his business to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars even after he had, forgive me, screwed them multiple times. deutsche bank's bountyous florid over the top generosity toward donald trump has always been a little bit of a fiscal mystery. why were they so willing to shove money in his direction? that led to questions about where the money came from that they were so willing to shove in his direction. deutsche bank last year got nailed for laundering a gigantic amount of money out of russia, like $10 billion. $10 billion. and it was $10 billion from vtb. now today, as michael cohen is
pleading guilty to lying to congress about the vtb financed trump tower project, deutsche bank's world headquarters got raided and what is said to be fallout from the panama papers leak. the panama papers leak, deutsche bank was accused of more russian money laundering linked to vtb. so that's the news god's neat trick today. they make it pretty easy to follow the dots when there are only two dots, right? i mean, if russia wants to by itself a u.s. president, they need to figure out how to screw up our election, and they need a candidate that they have compromised to win that election. go back to the friking tracking christopher steele dossier. how was he trying to compromise trump over the years? you need financing from a state controlled russian bank? the kremlin can help with that.
if that state controlled russian bank is involved in massive criminal money laundering schemes with the bank that bank rolls you and your business, who is going to know about any of it? just lie. they'll never be able to track this stuff down. well, now today we're learning that they have tracked it down. trump told "the new york times" months ago it would be a red line for the mueller investigation if they ever got into his business and his business finances. that red line is crossed. we are past it. we are wiley coyote having runoff the edge of the cliff, afraid to look down. or maybe that's the president out there, and i don't know if he's capable of looking down. but this thing has entered a whole new phase. stay with us. the zip code you're born into can determine your future. your school. your job. your dreams.
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click, call or visit a store today. in may of this year, buzzfeed news published what they called the definitive story of the effort to build a trump tower in moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. that piece is where it was first reported that the efforts to build trump tower moscow didn't end before the first primary started, which was the official trump line on the story. buzzfeed had it back in may. that actually the trump tower moscow project went on for months into the campaign, into the summer of 2016 by which time the primaries, frankly, were over. biz feed at that time published texts between felix seder on the left and michael cohen on the
right. texts that summer between the two men and putin to discuss the deal. i had a chat with moscow, assuming the trip does happen, the question is before or after the convention. cohen writes back, that day, my trip before cleveland, before the convention, trump once he becomes the nominee after. that very same text message which was first reported by buzzfeed news in may, now today six months later it turned up again in today's criminal charges against michael cohen. anthony and jason had this story before anybody else figured it out. and now they are reporting once again is borne out by what mueller's office just charged michael cohen with in federal court. well, now, tonight as cohen has just pled guilty, these same reporters from buzzfeed have broken something new on the same story. and as a little public service announcement, if you are eating or drinking anything right now, pause, swallow, i don't want you
to spit anything out on your nice couch. i like your couch. this is their headline tonight. the trump organization planned to give vladimir putin the $50 million penthouse in trump tower moscow. quote, president donald trump's company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at trump tower moscow to russian president vladimir putin as the company negotiated the real estate development during the 2016 campaign. two u.s. law enforcement officials told buzzfeed news that michael cohen, trump's personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with the representative of da me tri peskov, the press secretary. that represents of the trump organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about president trump's relationship with the kremlin. oh, i don't know. doesn't every presidential candidate in every election offer a $50 million gift to a foreign leader who at that time is running a military intelligence operation to help that candidate become president
in the united states? don't they all do this? janne. isn't this normal? joining us now is anthony cormier with buzzfeed news. congratulations. >> thank you. >> first, let me ask you, obviously a lot of what was charged today by mueller and that michael cohen pled to is stuff that you had previously reported. is there anything else that you have previously reported that relates to cohen that you are surprised to not cecum up today? >> no, not really. i mean, this came out of left field a little bit. i don't think there were a whole lot of people that knew he was negotiating at this level. we had heard some rumblings. i was surprised they actually confirmed he made the phone call to peskov. as you recall, he has long held -- i just went to kremlin.gov basically and sent an e-mail. i never had any contact with peskov who is a high ranking official. it is curious that you see the special counsel's office as
nailed that down. >> what does that suggest to you about their access to intelligence information and sources? >> they have signals intelligence or michael is just giving up the goods. either they've got him and he's -- or he's simply cooperating. i can't tell at this point which one it is. >> michael cohen did not free l previously have a formal cooperation agreement with the government, he now does. what's the difference? we know he was cooperating before, now he's cooperating under an agreement. it's been suggested to us that maybe the difference is that under cooperation agreement, you don't have a choice to hold anything back. you actually have to tell them everything. back to like stealing gum balls when you were 8. given your reporting and your extensive sources on this subject, do you feel like if michael cohen is now a wide open book to prosecutors, there's nothing he can hold back? are there areas in which his potential testimony is quite dangerous? >> oh, god absolutely. things that that man knows, the amount of notes he kept, potential recordings he has?
michael cohen is a very dangerous threat to the president of the united states of america -- he is. and it's very clear the white house has been trying to bury michael cohen through a series of leaks over the past sort of few months. and i know michael a little bit and i know people that know him, and the people that are familiar with his thinking are very clear that he is acting in what he has decided to be, a patriot. he is acting, in his mind, to help the public understand exactly what happened in 2016, come hell or high water. >> do you believe that the trump tower moscow deal, or anything else that michael cohen was personally involved in during the course of the campaign, is directly related to russia interfering in the election to help trump, any coordination, conspiracy, collusion between the russian government and the trump campaign to work together to help trump get elected with foreign assistance? >> there is a small line in the story, both the one with you
published in may and published today in which two fbi agents with direct knowledge of this inquiry before mueller got involved, told us that michael cohen had communications with more than one individual who either knew about or took part in the election interference. >> so he's talking to them about trump tower moscow, but they themselves were involved in or had knowledge of the interference operation. >> that's right. >> why are those two things related? why would those two people be involved? >> i don't know who they are. we're up a tree with our sources trying to get them to tell us who it is. in fact, spoke to them today. slow down, we're still working it. i don't know. i can't tell. i don't know which individual it was, i don't want to speculate. but there is something about this particular deal, this moscow tower and the interference that connect. there is a nexus there and i don't get it yet. >> briefly, and this is not your reporting so i don't want to can you to comment on something you don't know about personally. "the new york times" reported
tonight one of the people involved on the russian side of this is a russian general who has military background. >> we reported on that. >> very good. they're furthering your reporting on that tonight. >> that's right. >> does that indicate that there is a military intelligence, there is a russian intelligence operation element to the trump tower moscow deal? >> i understand it and i've heard that you don't -- no one ever leaves the g.r.u., right? no one ever leaves russian intelligence. but my understanding is this person who was a bit of a gray hat, that he may have aided the u.s. in a number of intelligence missions in the past. i'm not certain. that wouldn't be the guy that i bet on. he is a friend of felix sater, felix sater is involved in this deal. none of my sources have suggested it and i am not certain he's the guy i would immediately pivot to. i'd be more curious to know who either at the banks or at the kremlin were these individuals talking
to. who was working that behind the scenes? >> who at the banks or at the kremlin. okay, i feel like i'm following your bread crumbs a lot these days. >> sorry. >> anthony cormier, buzz need news. much more to get to tonight. stay with us. to remember at the lexus december to remember sales event. lease the 2019 es 350 for $399 a month for 36 months. experience amazing at your lexus dealer.
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12-count indictment against russian intelligence operatives who had hacked into our election. so, when mueller filed those charges, president trump was on his way to meet with the guy who ordered those 12 russian intelligence operatives to hack into our election in the first place. good luck with your meeting, sir. we packed you a snack for your trip. this indictment of putin's guys should give you two plenty to chat about when you meet face to face. then today, the president left for argentina for the g20 summit. while he's there, he may or may not have a meeting with vladimir putin. the president said today that he probably would meet with putin, then less than an hour later he announced on twitter that the meeting was canceled. i should tell you the kremlin still appears to think that it's on. either way, president trump and president putin will be at the same summit together all weekend and so now just like last time, the president has been sent off on his trip with another travel gift from the special counsel. here's your inflatable neck pillow for this flight, sir.
robert mueller picked today to charge president trump's personal lawyer in the russia investigation about lying with the secret financial dealings in russia. right before trump and putin are set to bump into each other in argentina. the mueller operation is opaque in terms of what they're doing and why they're doing what they're doing. but we've got pretty good evidence now that they seem to time some of the most provocative shots at russia and the proeft provocative evidence about what russia did to land right before trump gets a chand to see his guy, gets to see putin. we have a lot more coming up tonight on this new guilty plea from cohen and what it means from the russia investigation and what it can tell us about the new guy in charge at the d.o.j. surprising revelations about that today. stay with us.
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limited time only. ♪ applebee's bigger bolder grill combos are back. now that's eatin good in the neighborhood. washington post reports tonight that acting attorney general matt whitaker was told in advance that michael cohen was about to plead guilty to a charge of lying to congress about the president's business dealings in russia during the presidential campaign. whitaker was told this was going to happen today, but he was not given the opportunity to approve or disapprove of this step. msnbc's nicolle wallace reporting matt whitaker is not supervising the mueller investigation. he is not having run by him decisions about the new felony charge against long-time lawyer. rod rosenstein according to
nicolle's reporting today is still doing all of that just like he used to. i have questions. will we be allowed to know -- will congress be allowed to know, particularly with democrats taking over the house, will there be any visibility into whether or not mueller's operations are being impeded, especially if they are being impeded improperly in the justice department? should we have confidence mueller's actions means he is acting in an unimpeded fashion? when the house is tarik enover -- taken over you in january by democrats, what will mueller do after bringing charges against witnesses for lying to congress? do they believe other witnesses should be submitted to the same penalty given the house democrats have expressed concerns some of the testimony given by trump allies and trump aides in the course of the investigation has been untrue? joining us now is congressman jim himes, democratic member of the
intelligence committee. congressman himes, thank you for being here. >> good evening, rachel. >> let me first get your reaction today to this guilty plea by michael cohen and the new revelations that it brought us about the president's involvement in this business deal with russia involving directly the kremlin during the campaign. >> well, it's stunning. i mean it's particularly stunning for the congress. the charge obviously being that he lied to congress. i mean, you sit back and you look at this thing and you realize that everybody -- everybody is lying about their contacts with russia. i mean, it started with mike flynn to papadopoulos to manafort and now to cohen, lying to congress is a pretty big deal. people don't do that as a normal course. so it obviously raises the question, why? why would there be all this lying? what's underneath? that's obviously something i suspect we're going to hear from mueller. and as you were just saying, you know, this certainly give us some threads to follow-up on. of course the transcripts of the various witnesses that came before the house intelligence
committee before it was abruptly ended now i think are going to be subject to some extra scrutiny. >> in terms of those transcripts, obviously they take on renewed interest now given that we are told that mueller was allowed to review the transcript of cohen's testimony to the senate committee in the presence of cohen's lawyer. there has been ambiguous information from the senate intelligence committee in terms of what kind of criminal referrals they might have made or handed on to mueller. in your committee in the house, as far as i understand it, there was actually a vote that these transcripts should be made available, should, in fact, be made public. what is the status of these transcripts now? >> so, before that, of course, the democrats on the committee had made a motion that all of the transcripts be conveyed to the special counsel because at the time we had suspicions that there had been, in fact, lies told to the house intelligence committee. that motion was defeated by the republican majority on the committee, but subsequently, as
you point out, a vote was taken to make all the transcripts public. my understanding is that that process is getting pretty close to being finished. it had to go through declassification. some of the transcripts contained classified information. of course, once those transcripts are out in the public realm, it won't be mueller and others who are looking for possible lies. everyone, including the media, will have the opportunity to do so. >> given what you saw from cohen's testimony and from the other people who have testified behind closed doors to your committee, do you believe that there are other people either within the administration or people who are associated with the campaign, with the president's business, who will be on the hook for the same kind of charge cohen faced today for bluntly lying to congress? >> it really wouldn't surprise me. and without getting into the specifics of the testimony and what is still a closed investigation, i'll tell you this, which is that needless to say we asked a lot of questions about contact with russia, precisely what michael cohen lied about. we asked that of lots of witnesses. and at the time, again, without
getting into specifics, at the time i don't recall thinking, well, there's obvious inconsistencies here. so i do suspect that michael cohen is probably not the last one to come under scrutiny for possibly lying to congress. there is a whole other topic here, too. when this investigation was being run by the republicans, they effectively stopped us from asking follow-up questions, from executing subpoenas, from getting corroborating information that might either prove a witness having been truthful or not. the republican majority allowed anybody associated with the white house to claim executive privilege in one of the most, you know, outrageous and broad ideas of executive privilege you can imagine. and so i do think that after january, we will have plenty of threads to follow-up on. >> i know that you can't be specific about the testimony of witnesses who spoke behind closed doors, but just to pick on something you just said there, you said that when you heard answers to questions about contacts with russia, including for michael cohen, the answers from witnesses didn't seem
inconsistent with one another. we now know that michael cohen's answer was full of lies. are you suggesting that a number of different witnesses may have all told the same lie, as if it were a coordinated effort? >> i'm not quite sure i'm ready to say it was coordinated, but, again, we would have notice. you made the right inference. if somebody else had told a radically different story about contacts with russia on the subject of the president's business interest, we probably would have noticed and said, wait a second. this is completely inconsistent, and i don't recall noticing that. examine, of course, now everybody's testimony is -- remember, it was 48 hours ago paul manafort was lying while he was cooperating with the special counsel. so, yeah. i think particularly since we weren't allowed to do follow-up, i think every single witness that was there, you know, talking about the president's investments and business interests in russia, those transcripts need to be
scrutinize and had examined with a crit critical eye. >> congressman himes, thank you. emily jane fox joins us next. stay with us. argh! i got your back. based on an inspirational true story. they knocked me down, but i've created a world where i can heal. hey, looking good. welcome to marwen. ♪ i got dreams in my head and they won't go ♪ welcome to healing... you need to face those jerks who beat you up. welcome to hope. i have my friends, and they can't take that away from me. hell yeah. woohoo! whoa! the mercedes-benz winter event is back, and you won't want to stop for anything else.
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joining us now is our friend emily jane fox. she's a senior reporter at vanity fair. she has been following the travails about michael cohen and breaking news for months now, including this new piece from her tonight. cohen's guilty plea came together very fast. the latest from emily jane fox, just posted at vanity fair.
emily, thank you for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> very fast, you're saying this happened in the last two weeks. this is not something that's been percolating a long time. >> no, two weeks also happens to be the period of time during which the president submitted his written questions to robert mueller's team. now, this, as we know from other reporting from "the new york times" and others today, was something that the president's team had been concerned about, was this a -- what they called a perjury trap. was the guilty plea entered today related to the answers in the timing around that. i will say, let's put it in context for a second. michael cohen's plea in august also came together quickly. that was over a period of five days. it's possible when they come to cohen they move quickly. but i don't think the timing here is something we should look past entirely either. >> in terms of the president potentially having lied to the mueller investigation about the trump tower project, having said
things about the trump tower project that were congruent with cohen's previous statements to congress or statements in public thinking that cohen would stick with those. once cohen pro claims thoclaims lie, the president is now lying about it, too. >> rudy giuliani, the president's attorney, said today the answers they submitted lineup. >> rudy giuliani says thing -- that's how i hear that. >> i was on your set this summer when rudy giuliani also said that -- i had talked to him just before i came out on your set, that the tape that michael cohen had of the president was the president saying that they couldn't pay the "national enquirer" for the story about a woman who had an alleged affair with him by cash. that was cohen's suggestion and the president corrected him and they had to pay by check. then we heard the recording three days later t was actually the opposite. so take what we heard today with
a grain. >> you have had a long reporting a arc when it comes to mr. cohen. one of the things i want to ask you about, you highlighted this like nobody had and i found it useful, after he pled in august urgs he started cooperating with the prosecutor and other prosecutors as well. he didn't sign that plea agreement. >> he still has not. >> but he did sign a plea agreement today. so he now does have a formal cooperation agreement. he didn't have one before. >> i don't think it is a traditional cooperating agreement, the kind that paul manafort had signed before he was released from it. i do not think it's the same kind of cooperating agreement that michael flynn had signed. this is not the kind of cooperation -- the way i understand from people around cohen is that this is not the kind of cooperating agreement where he has to start from the day he was born until today and confess to everything that he has done wrong and everything --
>> you are correct ing my understanding if that's the case. >> this is from people in the cohen world. >> why would it be important for him to sign that kind of deal? >> i think there are a number of reasons people don't sign that kind of deal. some of the reasons include that you want to be seen as doing the right thing. other reasons include that when you are a formal cooperating witness, you not only have to confess to what you have done wrong, but what you have known others around you to have done wrong. >> do we know if anybody was granted immunity in conjunction with cohen's legal proceedings today, anybody else around him? >> i'm not aware of anything. >> emily jane fox. this is a very exciting story. i feel like it's developing faster than any story. thank you for being here. >> thanks. >> we'll be right back. stay with us. over 100 years ago, we were talking about the model t. now here we are
just so you know what is going on here behind the scenes in the commercial break, i'm with the control room right now reading every line of michael cohen's plea agreement. very exciting. the story continues to develop as does our that does it for us tonight. i want to get back to reading the plea agreement again. see you again tomorrow. now it's time for the "last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> good evening, rachel. and i have something else you probably haven't read yet which is the president of united states has tweeted. this actually looks like it was typed up by the staff. it's basically a fox news transcript. he quotes greg jarrett. speaking of fox news -- >> wait, is the president quoting the fox news guy? >> yeah, a kind of legal commentator on fox news, and this is greg talking, giving the tire real estate of a presidential tweet to greg jarrett saying this demonstrates that robert mueller and his partisans have no evidence, not a whiff of collusion between