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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  December 12, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PST

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michael cohen. the judge taking the seat here. we know that cohen is in court, according to our team in the courtroom, his lawyers, prosecutors are all in place. we're going to have craig melvin pick up that coverage of this developing story now. >> all right, good to see you, hallie jackson. craig melvin msnbc headquarters in new york. two big stories we're following, that breaking news hallie just mentioned, michael cohen being sentenced. president trump's former lawyer and his former fixer michael cohen facing that judge. how much prison time could he get for his role in a hush money scandal involving a president, a porn star and a playboy model. also, exit interview, outgoing united nations ambassador nikki haley sitting down exclusively in her first interview since announcing her departure to talk about how her boss's unpredictable rhetoric affected her job and whether she has her own oval office ambitions. we'll get to that in just a moment. we start off with the fate of
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president trump's one-time personal attorney and possibly the president himself, the judge has taken the bench. sentencing has started for michael cohen in that federal courtroom here in the city today. cohen and others involved in the russia investigation will find out just how much turning against president trump is worth. cohen pled guilty to nine charges brought by the justice department including one from special counsel robert mueller. he is looking for leniency for his assistance in multiple investigations. the feds say cohen's assistance has tied the president directly to campaign finance violations, a felony. bob mueller's team says his assistants also tied the president directly and politically to the russia investigation. the two teams of prosecutors have offered different takes on the level of cohen's assistance, though. nonetheless, both agree that cohen's help to the mueller investigation should be a factor during the sentencing that has started. our huge team of nbc reporters
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to cover this thing in washington. intelligence and national security reporter ken delaney, at the course house in new york city, legal analyst, danny is cevallos and two former prosecutors, elliott williams, a former deputy assistant attorney general at the doj and jill wine-banks former assistant watergate prosecutor. mr. cevallos, we'll start with you there at the courthouse. cohen expected to address the court at the top. do we have any idea what he might say? and what are the range of sentencing options here? >> reporter: allocution for a defendant where the defendant often has his only opportunity to speak to the court and the judge, it can be a risky proposition. cohen will be very prepared and make sure he doesn't fall into one of the many pit falls that defendants often fall into, which is to be overly narcissistic. i'm so sorry. i'm going to miss my daughter's graduation or that he doesn't
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overapologize for the entire universe. undoubtedly cohen's attorneys have prepared him. this is a defendant that's sophisticated enough to be able to address the court in a manner that won't damage or hurt his sentencing range. secondly, cohen can expect his sentencing guideline range is between 51 and 63 months. we already know the government's on board with what's called a downward variance and has tacitly approved a sentence of even as low as 42 months, but looking at statistics, cohen could reasonably expect an even lower sentence, something in the range of 20 to 40 months would not be completely unreasonable. the government has essentially approved something below 42 months. so that's what the range is that michael cohen can reasonably expect today. >> and again, danny, just remind our viewers and our listeners on sirius satellite radio precisely the charges that michael cohen's
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facing here. >> reporter: several different charges. the southern district of new york involves tax evasion, most notably being involved in campaign finance law violations, but later on just a couple weeks ago, michael cohen rushed in to plead guilty to another crime brought by the special counsel's office, and that was lying to congress, section 1001. not sworn testimony, not perjury, but unsworn testimony lying to congress. the special counsel's office and the southern district have both filed sentencing memoranda with the special counsel's office saying that it's okay with us if he is sentenced with concurrently with the southern district's charges and the southern district of new york saying, both of them saying rather that cohen's cooperation does not rise to the level of substantial assistance warranting a 5k 1 downward departure motion.
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basically that he has not substantially assisted the government, but he's helped us enough that that should be taken into consideration. what the judge ultimately does with that we'll find out shortly. >> all right, again, this is the scene just a short time ago here in new york city as michael cohen and his family made their way to that courthouse where, again, the judge has taken the bench. sentencing is underway. mr. delaney, let me turn to you, mueller's team, prosecutors here in new york city offered two different takes on the value of michael cohen's assistance. how does a judge marry those two opinions? >> it's all one justice department, craig, so the judge has to take into account the southern district's argument that cohen was not cooperative fundamentally on the issue of his past criminal conduct. even though the special counsel is saying he was moderately cooperative and he helped them pretty significantly in their russia investigation, although as danny said, not enough to earn that substantial assistance term of art.
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but they're going to have to essentially the judge in all likelihood is going to agree with the southern district of new york's sentencing recommendation, also because most of the charges have been filed by that office, and substantial charges that carry a hefty prison term and as danny said the probation office has recommended a term of about three and a half years, and he may get a little less than that because of his cooperation. but the fact that he helped robert mueller in the russia investigation does not appear to be saving had him from going to prison. >> elliott, that brings me to my next question here. people are naturally going to try to read the judge's determination today like tea leaves into the mueller investigation and the amount of evidence that cohen has provided. should they? >> yeah, absolutely they should because perhaps we're going to see him -- because he'll have a chance to give an allocution to sort of make his case, and he may actually name names, and he may actually go further than he has before and identify further
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contacts he had with the trump family and so on. to some extent he has an incentive to if he knows there has been wrongdoing either on the part of the president or other individuals who have been interactions with russia or other individuals within the trump organization. he certainly has an incentive because that's cooperation that could potentially affect his sentence down the road. obviously the prosecutors later on can file an additional document, you know, seeking to lower his sentence even below what the sentence is that he gets today, so, you know, we are in this process now of constantly reading tea leaves. we saw it with manafort. we saw it with flynn, and we see it today because we are getting this trail of crumbs as to how broad and the extent of these connections with russia through the trump organization and so on. so you know, we shouldn't all be conspiracy theorists but at the end of the day, there's a lot of information here, and given how few coincidences there are, we should pay very close attention to what we're hearing in court. >> jill, so monday night we
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heard president trump essentially say that michael cohen's guilty plea is akin to the simple fine the obama campaign received a few years ago. we've heard that from the president and a number of folks, ab attempt to compare the two. is there a comparison? >> there is no comparison between the two. the obama error was a bookkeeping error. this was a deliberate use of campaigns to affect the outcome of an election, and that makes it very different from a bookkeeping error. so this one deserves a much different kind of penalty, and it will be interesting to see how the judge evaluates his lack of cooperation in the southern district with his partial cooperation. and one thing i'd like to add to what's already been said is if he was going to name names and if he was going to cooperate, wouldn't the time have been to
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do it before the memo was written by mueller and the southern district, a memo that could affect his term? is he waiting for a pardon? that would be incredible because he has identified the president as an unindicted co-conspirator, so once he's done that, he can't expect help from the president. so he can't be waiting for a pardon, why is he not cooperating fully? what is he afraid of? is it the mafia, the russians? is it something else? we don't know what it is. i'm sure he knows a lot, and i'm sure mueller knows a lot from his documents and phone recordings that were seized very early on in the investigation. so it's going to be very interesting to see what the judge does today. it's a big question, though. >> julia ainsley, the president's take is essentially not to over simplify it, but his take is essentially to this point, it wasn't my fault. it was my lawyer's fault.
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is that an argument that holds water? >> yeah, i mean, craig, usually you would hear ignorance of the law is no excuse, but when it comes to dealings with your lawyer, sometimes it can be. it would have been cohen's position to tell the president that he couldn't use campaign finance funds in order to pay hush money to these women, and so if they could find that, in fact, cohen counseled him incorrectly or misleadingly, that could be an excuse, but i think that what all of this comes down to -- and we see this again ask again through these filings -- is we need to know the president's intent. we need to know his mind-set. we need to know more of these conversations. that's why it is still so critical that mueller gets answers from the president, if not written -- you know if not in person, at least written on some of these things, and you can expect the southern district of new york to want to know more about those conversations as well as they pursue how the president was informed before he paid this hush money. >> julia, the mueller filing, it
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also details what cohen told them about this moscow project. i want to remind folks, i'm going to read a snippet here. cohen admitted lying about the timing. the extent of talks with russia. it says that by september 2015, cohen, quote, conferred with trump about contacting russia. cohen says that by november of that year, a quote, trusted person in russia proposed, quote, political synergy. a lot of folks have drawn the comparison of political synergy to collusion, but political synergy, that's the language that's used there in the filing. cohen also quoted in the filing as saying that the meeting could have quote, phenomenal impact, not only in political but in business dimension as well. how valuable was cohen's help in this area, julia? >> yeah, craig, we're all seizing on that word synergy on friday. this was a monumental filing, this cohen sentencing memo that we got.
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it seems that his testimony is very valuable, and the fact that they found this conflict between what he told congress and what he's told prosecutors could be very damaging to him, so i think his information is valuable, especially when you look at the time line and he could trace all this back to 2014, even before a lot of the president's campaign associates would have come- on board. how valuable is he as a witness, particularly to mueller, if he's trying to use cohen as a witness to draw out things the president might have done and he's only been partially cooperative in the southern district, does that damage how he is being viewed? and prosecutors i've talked to have said the fact that you would have someone on a stand who's only been partially truthful could really hurt their credibility. >> danny cevallos, let me turn to you again. we're getting some information from inside that courtroom now. this is courtesy of the investigator reporter at nbc 4 here in new york. the judge right now hearing from the defense.
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the judge saying the guideline range calculation is between 51 and 63 months for the new york charges, zero to six months for the mueller charges. does that line up with what you were hearing and expecting, danny? >> reporter: absolutely. those were the accepted guidelines range. cohen's attorneys were arguing for a slightly lower range, but realistically, he was also going to be 51 to 63 in the southern district of new york case and zero to six on the second mueller team charges. which, remember, the special counsel's office has already agreed to allow those to be sentenced concurrently. so for math purposes, we can essentially disregard the zero to six month range in the second charges. so in this case, michael cohen's guideline range 51 to 63, but again, we should look as the trend has been since 2006 for judges to sentence below the
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guidelines because the guidelines were rendered advisory approximately 13 years ago by a supreme court case named booker. so nowadays, judges cal clculat the guidelines range, but then consider a number of other factors, and often, particularly in the southern district may go below, even though this judge has a reputation for being tough but fair. >> danny, do we know whether he would be remanded immediately, or would he be allowed to leave with his family and then report to prison at a later date? what do we know, if anything, about the conditions under which he would be housed? >> reporter: if incarcerated, he would likely be remanded immediately, although his attorneys may make a motion for him to stay out pending- normally you can do that pending appeal, but there's not going to be an appeal in this case because he pleaded guilty. in all likelihood if he's sentenced to incarceration he will be remanded immediately unless a miracle happens, less
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than 10% of defendants nationwide in his situation get it, which is a straight probation sentence. very unlikely to happen today. >> all right, again, the judge there hearing from the defense saying that the guideline range calculation 51 to 63 months for the new york charges, zero to six charges for the mueller charges. the panel's going to stick around. again, michael cohen in court right now. we are going to continue to keep a very close eye on what's happening there. also today, exit interview. my exclusive with outgoing u.n. ambassador nikki haley. she shares the secret to her success when it came to dealing with the president. >> so you were playing good cop, bad cop. >> i was trying to get the job done, and i got the job done by being truthful, but also by letting him be unpredictable. >> and again, a live look there outside the courthouse here in new york city where former fixer and lawyer michael cohen
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and two-hour appointment windows. click, call or visit a store today. in an nbc news exclusive, nikki haley, the u.s. ambassador to the united nations sat down with me for the first interview since announcing she is going to leave her post at end of the year. her departure comes at a time when u.s. relations with major powers like china and russia are strained and at a time when the u.s. reaction to the killing of
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journalist jamal khashoggi by saudi agents has raised a lot of questions about the administration's ties to the saudi regime. i sat down with the ambassador here in new york for her exit interview, and started by asking her about the administration's response to the khashoggi execution. >> i think we need to have a serious hard talk with the saudis to let them know we won't condone this. we won't give you a pass and don't do this again, and then i think that the administrations have to talk about where we go from here. what i can tell you that's so important is that the saudis have been our partner in defeating and dealing with iran, and that has been hugely important. >> the president, as you know, has still entertained the possibility that perhaps the crown prince wasn't aware, despite his intelligence agencies saying otherwise. some have suggested that it is because reportedly the president's son-in-law, jared kushner and his senior adviser
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still maintains a fairly close relationship with the crown prince? >> in reference to jared, i mean those rumors fly all the time. we have relationships with lots of countries and our goal is to make those relationships better, but when these things happen, we have to step back and never back away from our principles. >> in her time at the u.n., haley has had to deal with a host of global hot spots. her proudest achievement, tightening sanctions on north korea and trying to slow their nuclear ambitions. >> to be able to pass the strongest sanctions in a generation that brought the world together and brought north korea to the table was really important. >> president kim has not indicated when or if he plans to dismantle his nuclear capabilities. has the victory lap been premature? >> craig, ask any ambassador to the united nations what it was like when north korea was
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testing every other weekend. it was a dangerous situation. the idea that we now have them in a place where they've stopped the testing, the idea that we have them at the table, even if they're going slower, don't ever underestimate how dangerous that could have been. >> let's talk russia. friend or foe? >> depends on the day. >> you've been more critical arguably than any other voice in the administration of russia. >> i'm critical when it's warranted. >> what's your chief concern with regards to russia? >> the united states wants a relationship with russia, but as long as they keep doing the actions that they're doing, they're making it impossible. you can't go poison someone in another country and like they did with the skripals and get a pass. you can't go and invade ukraine and think the rest of the world's not going to notice. >> you have done a fantastic job and i want to thank you very much. >> when you made your announcement that you were stepping aside, there's a lot of speculation as to why.
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why now? it would appear to some that the special counsel's investigation is growing closer to the president. did you say maybe this is a good time? >> not at all. i have not had any time to even pay attention to the mueller investigation. >> not at all? >> i have tuned it out. i can't do anything about it. the one thing i've said publicly and i strongly believe is i think the investigation, if it's going forward should go forward but they need to hurry up for the good of the country. they need to hurry up and let us now what they know. >> the president says it's a witch hunt. >> we'll find out. >> while the world may see a president who speaks off the cuff, haley says at times it's by design. >> is it true that you use the president's unpredictable rhetoric to our advantage diplomatically? >> if i needed to pick up foent and say this is what i'm going to do, or are you good with this, we kind of partnered with
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that. he would like ratchet up the rhetoric and i'd go back to the ambassadors and say he's pretty upset. i can't promise you what he's going to do or not, but i can tell you if we do these sanctions it will keep him from going too far. >> so you were playing good cop, bad cop? >> i was trying to get the job done, and i got the job done by being truthful but also by letting him be unpredictable and not showing our cards. >> what's the secret to working with this president? >> being honest with myself and being honest with him. >> what do you mean being honest with yourself? >> to be able to tell him when i think we're going in the right direction or the wrong direction and him be willing to listen to that and discuss it has been hugely helpful. >> you're going to be unemployed here in a few weeks. so we decided that we would help you sharpen your interviewing skills. where would a nikki haley see herself in the short-term a few years from now? let's just say six years from now, where did you see yourself?
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it would be 2024, it's a presidential election year just so we're clear. >> thanks. i have no idea. i think a lot of people have talked about what i may be doing in the future, but i can promise you michael and i have never talked about running for president, what that would look like, anything like that because our lives have been such a fun surprise. the only decision i've made right now is that i'm looking forward to sleeping in. >> and she also told me doing some binge watching as well. i want to bring in nbc news white house correspondent kristen welker. i also talked to the ambassador about her possible successor, heather nauert. ambassador haley addressed the criticism about nauert's relative inexperience in international diplomacy. she told me in part, quote, i think that we should give her the opportunity to prove to the american public what she can do. what are you hearing about ms. nauert? >> look, craig, first of all,
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fantastic interview with ambassador haley. i think that heather nauert enjoys the respect of the president. he thinks that she has been very forceful in her position at the state department as a spokesperson, but i think it's also important to note, you're absolutely right. there has been some skepticism because she lacks foreign policy experience. of course, prior to her post at the state department, she was a fox news analyst, and so if you talk to republicans and some democrats, they say there are concerns about that. will she get confirmed. she would take over that job in a very different position than ambassador haley because it has been downgraded to a non-cabinet level position. that, by the way, we should point out, that position has gone back and forth between being a cabinet level position and non-cabinet level position under different administrations. it's really under the discretion of the president. that raises the question of how much respect she would enjoy on the international stage if she
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does get confirmed. i think that's where a lot of the questions are. you talk to ambassador haley about some of her proudest achievements, north korea, and also her language when it came to russia. she was very firm with russia -- i don't want to say in recent months but when she needed to be, when it came to election meddling, and in some instances went much further than the president, and that sort of helped her to have that international standing. will heather nauert be able to continue that if she is confirmed? that's what we'll be watching for. >> thank you for helping me chew it over. we continue to watch the courthouse here in new york city where the president's former fixer, former attorney general michael cohen, he is being sentenced as we speak after pleading guilty to tax charges, campaign finance violations and lying to congress. president trump comments on impeachment as well in a new interview. i can't believe it.
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dla and welcome back, i'm kristen welker. i will be sitting in for craig melvin for the rest of the hour. craig will be back tomorrow. we're continuing our breaking news coverage of president trump's former lawyer and fissionfixer michael cohen. the president hasn't let the
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fast-moving developments in the case keep him quiet. in a new interview with "reuters" president trump addressed the hush money payments cohen said he was directed to make to two women ahead of the 2016 election saying, quote, it wasn't a campaign contribution. if it were, it's only civil, and even if it's only civil, there was no violation based on what we did. msnbc legal analyst danny cevallos is at the federal courthouse in new york joining us. i want to bring our viewers up to date. there is some breaking news from insides courthouse. the defense just finished speaking, and just to give a sense of some of what was said, the defense argued no other defendant would be treated in this fashion. cohen had the misfortune of being counsel to the president, the defense asking for mercy saying he did cooperate. he made a personal and rational decision for personal and family decisions not to be in the glare of the spotlight for years, and that is why -- and this is of course, sort of a summary of
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what was said -- that is why he did cooperate with prosecutors. the defense wrapped up by saying he's, quote, a very good man. the special counsel now beginning to speak, so danny, what do you make of what we heard from the defense or what the court heard? >> reporter: this is a standard argument by the defense. congress has instructed the courts to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities, so it's incumbent upon defense counsel to demonstrate to the court why their particular case warrants a sentence that is below the sentencing guidelines or to present to the court reasons why this case is similar to other cases where defendants received downward variances or sentences below the sentencing guidelines. the court is instructed to consider all kinds of different factors in sentencing, including the kind of person that this defendant is, and that is, again, the duty of the defense counsel to make that argument to
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the court and show that generally this is a good man. this is an unusual situation that he found himself in. it's a very special situation because he was ordered to commit these acts by arguably the most powerful man in the united states and perhaps the world. that's why his attorneys are arguing his case is unique. his case warrants special mercy, and they are certainly shooting the moon asking for a straight probation sentence, no prison or jail time whatsoever. >> and danny, just remind our viewers, if you would, essentially prosecutors in new york are asking for a different sentencing than the special counsel is. why is that? talk about that disparity, and how do you expect the judge to reconcile the two? >> reporter: michael cohen is being sentenced essentially on two very separate cases. the first is the southern district of new york, which includes charges such as tax evasion, and most notably charges that he pleaded guilty
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to, that he violated campaign finance law at the direction of and in coordination with individual 1, who we know to be the president. case number two is much more limited. it's brought by the special counsel's office, and michael cohen just a week or so ago rushed into court to plead guilty to one count of lying to congress. those cases are essentially going to be sentenced concurrently today. the special counsel's office has essentially signed off on that. so the major case for sentencing purposes today is the southern district of new york and those initial charges that cohen pleaded guilty to back in the summer. and the southern district of new york is asking for a sentence essentially below the guideline range of 51 to 63 months and most likely in the area of 42 months, possibly even below that, which is still measured in years but below the sentencing guidelines range, which i should
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add for the last 13 years sentencing guidelines in federal courts have been only advisory. the judge can go below that range. >> and i want to bring in hans nichols now who's standing by at the white house. hans, overnight president trump gave an interview to "reuter" in which he ordered, look, those payments prior to the election, that's just a civil matter. talk about the strategy we're seeing from this president from this white house really digging in in the face of all of this. >> reporter: what you see from the president this morning is studied silence. the president hasn't really come out on michael cohen. he has been talking about his border wall and what he is accusing nancy pelosi and chuck schumer is doing and that is not funding it to the detriment of the country. you're seeing the president clearly trying to keep the focus on what he wants to talk about, which is border security, funding of the wall, and tstudid
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indifference on what's happening with michael cohen. the president isn't in the west wing yet. he's had all morning to watch tv and watch these unfolding developments in the residence if he so chooses. >> we'll be watching our twitter feed. that may be where we hear from him. danny, would you weigh in on that idea, president trump arguing this is just a civil matter? >> reporter: it is clearly not a civil matter, and that's not opinion. you look no further than the government sentencing memorandum filed this week wherein the doj for the first time stated in a court filing that it believes that the president, individual 1, directed or coordinated michael cohen to commit conduct constituting a crime, and we know it constitutes a crime because michael cohen pleaded guilty to that conduct. so essentially, the government has now taken the position that the president ordered or directed that act that michael
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cohen pleaded guilty to. the government clearly does not consider this a civil infraction. it considers it a crime. that's why we're out here in front of the federal courthouse here in lower manhattan today because michael cohen committed a crime. >> all right, danny cevallos, thank you for keeping us posted from a very chilly new york. and hans nichols, thank you for your reporting from the white house. joining me now is former senior adviser to jeb bush and former spokesman for john boehner and susan page, washington bureau chief for usa today. thank you for being here. susan i want you to pick up on something we were talking about. how remarkable it is what we are witnessing the fact that the president's former attorney and personal fixer is being sentenced today on eight different counts? >> and likely to spend some extended period of time in jail, likely to spend years in jail as a result. a person who has been close to
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the president over a period of years, someone who has been his fixer, been his personal lawyer. this is really extraordinary. think about the last time we've seen someone so close to the president plead guilty to crimes, to felonies that sent him to jail, and yet in the investigation we've seen for the past few years we've seen this happen several times with people who were close to the president. >> and michael, if you talk to republicans, if you talk to the president's allies, they are concern concerned, but he was asked directly last night about the possibility of impeachment. this is what he said. it's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country. i'm not concerned. i think the people would revolt if that happened. what do you make of how the president's handling this? >> he understands that he retains the loyalty of that 35 to 40 to 45% of the country that he used to refer to by saying i could shoot a man in the middle
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and they wouldn't convict me. none of these revelations about his fixer, women, money, campaign finance, real estate deel deals, none of this is moving those voters. >> you know what's extraordinary, the people would revolt. impeachment is a step outlined in our constitution. it is a legal process that if members of the majority of the house decide to pass articles of impeachment they are allowed to do so. it goes to the senate, where you need two-thirds to convict the president. what does that mean, the people would revolt? >> and that's -- i mean, i think we're all watching so closely to see what lawmakers have to say. i'm being told by my producer now that both sides are being asked questions by the judge as we continue our coverage here of michael cohen's sentencing which we anticipate at any point in the next hour or so, and we'll of course update our viewers as that happens. i want to play something that mimi rocah said last night which really speaks to what you were saying. take a listen. we don't have it.
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let me read you what she says. if the judge adopts the findings of the presentence report you essentially have a judge saying i'm adopting, i'm agreeing with those findings. it's not as powerful as a trial or anything like that, but i think it's something that congress should consider and take into account if they were to go to impeachment. >> i think impeachment is unlikely. it's a big step. everyone remembers the experience with impeachment with bill clinton, which strengthened bill clinton. >> it back fired, right? >> on the other hand, there is a lot of energy in the democratic party in favor of taking the most aggressive investigations possible against the president, and this will be, i think, a task for nancy pelosi who expects to be elected speaker to negotiate with her caucus about how do you aggressively investigate the president. do you then take the ultimate step of trying to remove him from office? >> michael, i actually disagree. i think impeachment is inevitable. i think all the energy in the democratic party is in their base, the hatred of the
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president. if you're a democratic member of congress talking to a town hall doing an interview saying the president is terrible. he's committed these crimes. it's the worst thing in american history, how do you not agree that the results should be impeachment? >> michael cohen is just starting to speak inside court. we should let our viewers know. as soon as we get any sense of what michael cohen is telling that judge, we will let our v w viewers know. michael you're saying it's inevitable. a lot of democrats are saying we don't want to overplay our hand here? >> they know that impeachment is unpopular. it's always viewed unfavorably but at the same time they're going to be driven by some of the facts that we're seeing coming out in court hearings like the one we're watching today. court actions like the one we're watching today. they're going to be driven by the facts and the fact that the energy in their base demands it. >> republicans hope that democrats impeach. >> they see it as politically powerful. >> there's an alternative way to remove the president.
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that is to defeat him in re-election. that is another path available for democrats. >> next friday we're all wondering if we're going to be in washington all night long because the president is threatening a potential government shutdown over funding for his border wall. take a look at this remarkable exchange yesterday. >> you know what i'll say? yes, if we don't get what we want one way or the other, whether it's through your, through a military, through anything you want to call, i will shut down the government. >> okay. fair enough. we disagree. >> i am proud. i tell you what, i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck. >> michael, the president's proud to shut down the government. does he own it now? >> yeah, the first rule of a government shutdown fight and i've lived through a couple of these is you have to be -- convince the american people you don't want to shut down the government. you have to be able to blame the other side for the government shutting down and he just violated the number of one rule of a government shutdown fight. he owns it. he said it. that's it. >> susan a lot of conservatives
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are cheering what he did. he's fighting for the border wall finally. there isn't any new wall that's built. they see this as a court campaign promise. >> i think maybe a shutdown is more inevitable than impeachment. i think it is difficult to see how you don't have a shut down. the one way is if president trump backs down from what he said yesterday, that is and passes maybe a short-term spending measure without that much money for the border wall that it's possible, but that does not seem likely at the moment. >> it will be interesting. sources i've been speaking with say the concern is he doesn't have the political capital to do it, in part because of the losses in 2020 and the russia investigation. great conversation, michael and susan thanks to both of you. appreciate it. and michael cohen's speaking right now making a plea for leniency before a judge at his sentencing hearing. we'll have the very latest developments from that courthouse in new york. stay with us. you're watching msnbc. ♪
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ignition sequence starts. 10... 9... guidance is internal. 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... ♪ michael cohen just finished his comments. back with me our panel of reporters and former prosecutors, danny cevallos, ken dilanian, and jill wine-banks. thanks to all of you for being back with us. we know that michael cohen has been addressing the judge from inside the courtroom. what do we know about what he's telling the judge? >> reporter: he's definitely doing the standard allocution of a defendant. he's saying to the judge essentially i was led astray.
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i trusted in someone that i shouldn't have trusted. he's mentioning his family. he's are all key points to consider, and it's a really challenging thing to thread the needle for a defendant. he wants to look like he's taking responsibility for his actions, and he has to be careful not to pass all the blame onto other people like the president. he must still take responsibility for what he did, but demonstrate to the judge that his case is unique, and he is a unique defendant warranting mercy in this situation. so that's what we're hearing, and it's no surprise because undoubtedly his lawyers have prepared him extensively, and his lawyers have very good reputations and certainly know what they're doing. >> and elliott, just as danny said, the focus of his comments is on responsibility. we just got our first readout from wnbc jonathan dienst inside the courthouse. here's a sense of what michael cohen is saying to that judge
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right now. he's apparently said i stand before your honor humbly and painfully aware that because of my actions i pleaded guilty to all of those range of different charges. i take full responsibility for the ones that relate to me, i take full responsibility to those that relatet to me and the president of the united states. and this is one of the most important days of my life, because i am getting my freedom back, and i blame myselves for the conduct that has brought me he here, and blind loyal ti to that man led me to choose darkness over light. and powerful language, el kwot. with what do you make of it? >> powerful language, but the skwuj judge may say, too little too late, and if you read the southern district memorandum they take some of it on saying that he is sorry, but he has not fully cooperated with the government, and the other thing that the sentencing memo going into is his sophistication with
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the law, and he is presenting himself as a expert and studied taxation and that facilitated his crimes. and this background is someone with that level of sophistication, and so these are all u things that can count against him. and it is wonderful that he has come the jesus now facing incarceration in 15 minutes, but to the extent that the judge will rely on the sentencing memorandum, it is about the bad acts and how they harmed the fabric of society, and talk tact campaign violations and striking at the transparency of government, and all of the crimes were crimes against the banking system and so, and yes, he is sorry, but he is still going to the jail. >> and ken, pick up there, and are we anticipating that we learn anything new based on the comments from michael cohen? so far no new information here and again the words are remarkable, because he says blind loyalty to that man led me
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to choose darkness over light, and are you anticipating any bombshells though? >> no, kristen. but it is significant that he is staking the fact of leniency is that he has cooperated with the mueller investigation, and i am seeing that the mueller prosecutor genie are rea saying that he helped with the prosecution. and so they say that he came forward against the most powerful man in the united states and that is super hard to do, and they will see him through the lenses in the fact that michael cohen may not be in the courtroom without the connection of his tax fraud and tax medallions and why was he being investigated in the first place? is that because of the fact that he was cooperating with donald trump and is that enough to
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knock a little bit off of the sentence? the bottom line is with the probation recommending 3 1/2 years, and the southern district coming down on him like a hammer, he is going to the prison, and that is with what seems nott in doubt. >> you raise an important point, ken, and let me follow up with you, and this is on the russian meddling piece of this, which is what the investigation all began. what do you make of how that is coming to shape main the sentencing documents that we all poured through when they were released. >> yes, we are getting tantalizingly closer and we don't have evidence in the public domain that donald trump or anybody around him conspired with him and russians to conspire about the election, but what we oknow is they they lie about the contacts with the russian, and i don't use lie lightly, because it is the lying
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over the trump tower moscow deal over the campaign, and donald trump said flatly when asked about it, no, i am not aware of any contacts of my team with russia, and there is a huge contradiction there and why did they lie about it? because donald trump's position could have been, of course, we were talking to the russian, and we were trying to change the relationship with the america's rehaitianship with rush sharks and w-- with russia, and was he trying the cover something up? we know that cohen provided broad and substantial assistance and talked about the trump campaign transition team activities and so it seems that mueller has made significant progress in the russian conspiracy side of the investigation, kristen. >> and danny, back out to you standing out sooside of that courthouse in new york where we see the throngs of the media lined up behind you.
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we are just being told that apparently the judge is now speaking. what do you make of where with are in terms of this court ro process? are we close to a sentencing, because he is apparently reading the different charges against michael cohen? >> yes, at this point, once both sides have spoken, this is the phase where the judge must calculate the applicable guidelines and essentially show his work. he can't just sit up there and announce a sentence. the judge will go through all of the things that the judge has consider considered to arrive at the sentencing guideline range which won't be a surprise, but then also the ultimate sentence that the judge imposes. in federal court, it is going to be day for day, and michael cohen if he is incarcerated beyond a year will serve virtually the entire sentence, and the judge at this point is going to go through the standard procedure which is to calculate the actual sentence.
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>> and elliott, let me have you weigh in at this point on both what we are reading that michael cohen has said to the judge. no surprise, but again, that very powerful language. what do you make so far of these court proceedings and of course, we are all wondering if he is going to be remand pod the court. we anticipate that he is going to be able to go home afterwards, and we might even hear from him, and that is what we are hoping for at least. >> this is a standard court proceeding, and so we have heard from the government, and the defendant, and he is, it seems that he has laid it on pretty thick as he did in the filings and son and now we are hearing from the judge, and so it could be a matter of minutes and it depends how long the judge has spoken for, and frankly been to these before, how mad the judge is. he has probably the order written out, and reading a script in a sense, but if the
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judge is really bothered by the conduct, and if the judge feels that defendant hasn't expressed significant contrition, and if the defendant is just, you know, if the judge finds the conduct particularly problematic, and the judge could take longer to speak. so within minutes we will find this all out, and unfortunately, we are all leaving at noon, and that is a different group of folks coming in, and it breaks my heart, so we will see. >> maybe we will keep you aroun around,le elliott. we will see. >> yes. >> and so, ken, i want to go back to you, but before we do, this is a readout from wnbc's jonathan dienst and more of a read out of what michael cohen said in court. he just finished speaking, and the judge is speaking now, and this is moments ago. michael cohen said that i love my family more than anything in the world and my weakness was a blind loyalty to donald trump. very powerful words there. and he talks about the undeserved shame and pain on my family, and i deserve that
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shame, he said, and they do not there. was a long pause, and he may have choked up at that point. and i have chosen this unorthodoxed path, and i would like to return to my family, and i putt my family and my country first. my departure from the loyal soldier no the president of the u.s. has a heavy price. despite being vilified by the press, history is going to remember me, and he then he goes on the talk about how he hopes to be remembered. then he apologizes to his entire family, and it will be my life's work to make it right and to become the best version of myself and i want to apologize no the people of the united states because lying to you is unjust. i am truly sorry, and i promise to that i will be better. ken, really strong language there from michael cohen? >> it is, but the unorthodox
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path that he is talk about mean s that he plead guilty without a cooperation agreement, and that is why he is going to prison and he is not getting the downward departure motion, and the reason is because the southern district prosecutor said that he would not answer questions about the past criminal conduct, and that is is glossed over here. he is clearly sorry and regretting the decision to be blindly loyal as he put it to donald trump now the president of the united states, but he was also unwilling to play ball with the powerful and tenacious prosecutors in new york who wanted to talk to him about other conduct, and that is why i am seeing now that the judge is reading in ominous language the details of the crimes. >> and danny, ken, elliott, i want to ask you the standby, because i want to do a a quick reset at the top of the hour. i'm chrkristen welker in washinn and continuing the breaking news coverage and moments away from learning michael cohen's fate as he is going to be sentence bade a federal judge in manhattan.
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right now the judge is reading the charges after mr. cohen told the court, i am truly sorry and i promises to do better. he apologize nod country. and the defense team is asking for full consideration of mercy and telling the judge that the client came forward to offer evidence against the most p powerful man in the country not knowing the result. the prosecutors are responding forcefully and saying that powerful and privileged individuals cannot violate laws without impunity, and back with me, this tremendous panel, danny cevallos, ken delainian, and elliott and jill winebank. and jill, what do you make of what we have heard so far in this robust apology that we have heard from michael cohen saying that he was acting out of blind loyalty to donald trump. >> of course, the phrase blind loyalty to donald trump remi


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