tv Deadline White House MSNBC December 15, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
and put their country above their career, that's what nancy wilson did. may she rest in peace. that does it for me. thank you for watching. i will see you book here tomorrow live with a brand-new show at 5:00 eastern. up next, "deadline: white house" hosted by john heilemann. >> aloha, everyone. i'm john heilemann sitting in for the one and only but absent today nicolle wallace. michael cohen once famously said to someone actually sitting at this table that he would take a bullet, in quotes, for donald trump. that was then. and now, the president's former lawyer and fixer is sending a message to his old boss. i know the truth. the feds know the truth and everyone else is about to know it, too. in his first interview since being sentenced to three years in prison, cohen undercut trump's legal argument in the case that appears increasingly likely to be brought against him in the southern district of new york.
that case revolving around hush money payments to stormy daniels and karen mcdougal. >> he's saying very clearly that he never directed you to do anything wrong. is that true? >> i don't think there's anybody that believes that. first of all, nothing at the trump organization was ever done unless it was run through mr. trump. he directed me as i said in my allocution and in the plea. he directed me to make the payments. he directed me to become involved in these matters. including the one with mcdougal, which was really between him and david pecker. and then david pecker's counsel. i just reviewed the documents. in order to protect him. i gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty. >> he was trying to hide what you were doing, correct? >> correct. >> and he knew it was wrong? >> of course. >> and he was doing that to help
his election? >> you have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about. two weeks or so before the election, post the billy bush comments. so, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election. >> help his campaign? >> to help him and the campaign. >> on that last point about the stormy daniels payment, here's what cohen is talking about per "the washington post." the timing of all this matters because it is very plausible to assume that trump thought one more such revelation coming after the "access hollywood" video would permanently destroy his campaign. this payment like the other one but even more so appears to be all about his candidacy. a crucial element in making this a criminal campaign finance violation. all of that puts even more pressure on trump's, my hands are clean, i had no idea defense considering the latest nbc news reporting that trump was the mysterious third person in the room in an august 2015 meeting with cohen and david pecker when they made a plan, what amounts to normal people, sounded like a
conspiracy, for how the tabloid could help suppress and cover up salacious stories about donald trump and women. joining us now from "the washington post," the white house bureau chief phil rucker, joan winebanks, msnbc legal analyst and sporter of brilliant pins and with me at this table, katy tur plus, not quite one but close to another one who, of course, covered the trump campaign and reverend al sharpton, the host of "politics nation" and president of the national action network and emily jane fox, senior reporter with "vanity fair" and the person to whom michael cohen once said he'd take a bullet for donald trump. phil rucker, you say along with your colleague that trump's falsehoods on the hush money payments are coming home to roost. and that people around the president are basically freaking out over what might come next. please tell us more. >> yeah, john, so there's a lot of concern within the
president's orbit, but also among republican allies on capitol hill that all of these investigations are intensifying and reaching a very uncomfortable phase for the president. that this is more serious than they thought. you know, the allegations that came forward out of this southern district of new york in the last week are really troubling for the president in part because it exposes his past statements as well as the past denials by white house spokespeople as outright lies. as falsehoods. the president has not been telling the truth about this, and that is catching up to him. and i interviewed a number of people close to this white house and in the white house in the last 24, 48 hours. and they are very concerned about the state of play. >> jill, i'm going to ask you a question, at the end of this eventful week in which for a lot of people it felt like another in a series of weeks that felt like a turning point but this one maybe more so. on the basis of what you saw in
the watergate days, you've seen turning points and know when the tide starts to turn. does that look luke that to you as a moment that reminds you of weeks in that investigation when suddenly the ice started to crack and the dam started to break? >> this feels very much like a turning point to me. it's the first time that i really feel the momentum starting to go. it's sort of the equivalent of finding out that there were white house tapes that confirmed john dean's testimony or maybe it's even as big as finding the june 23rd smoking gun tape because this really puts the president in the room when crimes were committed. it's not just michael cohen's word anymore. now you have ami confirming that he also was involved in a campaign violation, and it's a serious one. he starts arguing ridiculously that it looks like the john
edwards case. it's nothing like that. the john edwards affair was an ongoing one. there was a child being born, and money was being paid to help pay for the baby. this is an affair that happened years before the election and the payments were right before the election to make sure that it didn't interfere with the election. the american people have been fooled and deprived of a fair amount of information and their vote was affected by that. so it's a much more serious case. i really feel this is a big week for justice. >> katy tur, as you know, i covered the 2008 election. the timing thing is so different. the reality is john edwards after the iowa caucuses was never going to be the democratic nominee, let alone become the future president of the united states. so just to -- talk about the comparison but also particularly because of your experience covering this campaign, just remind everybody of where donald
trump's head was at in october of 2016? >> i think jill makes really important points there in talking about the timing of this. these were not affairs ongoing that he was trying to silence, to protect from melania finding out. these were things that happened in the past and they were done -- they were trying to be hushed up right before the election. back in october of 2016, the "access hollywood" tape had just come out. donald trump was facing a lot of pressure about his behavior with women across the board. there were a number of women who came out, over 12 women who came out saying he sexually harassed them or groped them or did worse to him and there he was on tape talking about grabbing women by the genitals and how he can do it because he's a star. so getting these women not to tell their stories and paying them money to do so would have been top of mind. michael cohen says it was top of mind in order to make sure that donald trump still had a good chance of winning the election. they were super worried about the women.
my only qualm or quibble with the idea that maybe this might have changed the election is that there was so much information about donald trump and women and his behavior with women that was already out there. it makes me wonder whether two more allegations would have changed the course of the 2016 election. >> i do think -- you'll agree with me about this qualms and quibbles aside. the reality was in that period after the "access hollywood" tape, the president and his team were doing an incredible job throwing up obfuscation and trying to discredit the women who were coming out. this, i think, because of what we now know, there was evidence on tape, money changing hands, there was more concrete evidence, much harder for them to take out stormy daniels and karen mcdougal than with some of the other accusations they faced just purely in the realm of political theater. >> 100%. they didn't know that the election was going to turn out the way it did.
they were trying to protect his candidacy. they were trying to make sure that he had the best chance he possibly did to win in november. he hadn't yet won. they hadn't yet -- they didn't yet know what would matter to voters and what would not matter to voters. so silencing these women and keeping them quiet, their stories quiet, all of the allegations that they had still would have been paramount to their effort to get donald trump elected. i'm just saying looking back on it now, i don't know if two more would have changed, but -- >> it's actually kind of immaterial to the question of whether there was a criminal offense that took place. and rev, i ask you. when you hear michael cohen make this point, the first thing i thought as i watched that tape with morning with george. he's saying things that are so patently true. this notion that, of course michael cohen was not doing any of this without donald trump's direction. of course, what we know about how donald trump ran his companies, the relationship we
had with michael cohen, the notion cohen would have been freelancing in some way is beyond preposterous. >> first of all, i think it's beyond preposterous to think that anyone did anything in the trump organization that donald trump didn't sign off on. everyone just understood that in the trump world. but for him to be spending money, that donald trump was going to have to reimburse, that would be unthinkable. does anybody really believe someone that really does pay his bills, just give money away, let someone else decide to spend this kind of money. and let's not forget, we have a tape where michael cohen and donald trump talked on the phone about a transition -- transaction. so the tape is there. you have pecker there. you have michael cohen there. and it really doesn't matter what katy's point it. doesn't matter if it would have turned the election. if they thought it would turn the election it means they were
engaged in a criminal act. if they thought so. doesn't matter what the results were. if they were operating under the frame of mind this could do them in after the tape that had already gone with "access hollywood," that's the crime right there. >> not to put too fine a point on it. you and i both know some rich new yorkers, right? >> one or two. >> they are almost to a person, they're cheap, right? >> absolutely. >> is there anyone you've ever met cheaper than donald trump? >> no, i've never met anyone cheaper, and i think you have a litany of lawsuits to establish that. so i certainly don't think he'd have the michael cohen run around cutting deals with his money. >> without his say so. >> i'm going to go up to 30,000 feet. you know, i'm not surprised to see michael cohen do an interview with george stephanopoulos.
there's a relationship there. i was a little surprised to see him do an interview with george stephanopoulos that aired this morning. what's that about? >> i think the timing is very interesting. from my reporting earlier this week, there was not really a media plan this soon. it was not long planned, supposed to happen. what we saw today is a pattern of behavior that has been playing out over the last eight months where michael cohen has been focused on his legal situation and then the president will tweet something that is incredibly upsetting to him. this happened, i remember one morning, the first morning michael cohen was due in court in the southern district of court was the first time the president did an interview on "fox & friends." it was a total surprise to him. in that interview, the president said for the first time, i think it was he did such little legal work for me and the trouble he's in is nothing to do with me. michael cohen was in the hotel room he was living in. the fire alarm was going off in that room and he was watching this on phone or tablet and he was like, why is he saying that? he knows i'm going to be in court today. i think the president attacking him on twitter the last two days riled him up and made him feel like, i haven't been able to
talk about all these other times the president has said to me because i've been waiting to be sentenced. i'm sentenced now and i'm going to respond for the first time. >> i want to play more sound from this interview. the interview with cohen and stephanopoulos. this was something that really stood out to me. take a listen to this. >> why should we believe you now? >> because the special counsel stated emphatically that the information that i gave to them was credible and helpful. there's a substantial amount of information that they possess that corroborates the fact that i am telling the truth. >> the special counsel did say that you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to russia. do you think president trump is telling the truth about that? >> no. >> are you still cooperating? >> if they want me, i'm here, and i'm willing to answer whatever additional questions they may have for me.
>> you're saying there are certain issues you can't get into because you're still cooperating with them? >> correct. and out of respect for process. >> a lot of respect for process. jill wine-banks, i ask you this question. this seems like an important thing. the southern district, people were not that happy with michael cohen's, the level of his cooperation. we also know that robert mueller was reportedly very happy and robert mueller is focused mostly on russia. is it possible that as much of a bombshell as this week has been, as much of a turning point as you think it is that, in fact, there's greater bombshells and greater turning points in some sense to come when we find out what michael cohen has turned over to the special counsel? >> there certainly is. we are all just speculating on everything that both cohen knows, that weisselberg has turned over and all the things that were in the safe at ami.
we don't know what other information will come out. and once you start a criminal investigation, you follow the leads where they take you. so it could lead to maybe saudi arabia. it could lead to who knows what. but i'd like to add one thing to what katy said which is, yes, it certainly is true at this point. we can say there's a group of loyal supporters who will accept anything that donald trump says and who wouldn't have cared if he had two more affairs that they didn't know about. but let's remember that in watergate, the same thing was true. in that case, richard nixon won 49 states. he had a landslide victory. nothing that he did was necessary to win the election, but it was still a crime. and it's so exactly here. donald trump committed a crime, whether or not it actually had an impact is irrelevant. he thought it might. he wanted to make sure to increase his chances so he committed a crime. >> it's like what chuck rosenberg says. because you try to rob a bank but you're not successful, it doesn't mean you didn't try to commit a crime.
you did commit a crime. >> i have so many questions for this group. i have almost as many questions that donald trump has legal problems. i'm going to keep everyone here at the table and on remote. we'll take this break. when we come back, we'll ask the question, did donald trump's lawyer just admit that the president did, in fact, commit a crime? also, the special counsel's office just out with a new court filing related to michael flynn. what they are saying about the interview that landed michael flynn in so much trouble. and we're learning more about the story that broke at this time yesterday. the investigation into the trump inaugural committee and questions about illegal foreign contributions. stay with us. you'll want to hear it all. - [narrator] the typical vacuum head has its limitations,
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according to the latest account by "the washington post," the president of the united states has lied more than 6,000 times since taking office. 6,000. just as stunning as the sheer number of trump's lies is the now-familiar pattern by which a lie evolves in trump world. step one, the flat-out denial. >> did you know about the $130,000 payment to stormy daniels? >> no. >> then why -- why did michael cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations? >> you have to ask michael cohen. michael is my attorney, and you'll have to ask michael. >> step two, the partial admission followed by the insistence that whatever the bad act was it definitely was not a
crime. >> it's not campaign money. no campaign finance violation. so -- >> they funneled it through a law firm. >> funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it. >> oh, i didn't know -- >> he did. >> i always love that video. it's awesome. step three comes next. that was the bad act was a crime but donald trump didn't do it. >> i never directed him to do anything wrong. whatever he did, he did on his own. he's a lawyer. a lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. that's why you pay them a lot of money, et cetera, et cetera. >> finally, step four, where we are now which is, okay, okay, it was a crime but, you know, not all crimes are created equal. here's a rudy giuliani, the president's lawyer, what he said this week. nobody got killed. nobody got robbed. this was not a big crime. giuliani told the daily beast. and then added, i think in two weeks they'll start with parking tickets that haven't been paid. joining us now, former fbi assistant director for counterintelligence, the frank figliuzzi, and former u.s. attorney joyce vance who is my
favorite southerner. at least my favorite southerner who is on television with us right now. phil and jill are back. phil, all the lies, the lies, the lies, so many lies. are they finally starting to catch up with the president in the view of the people around the president? >> i mean, they are, john, but they've been there from day one. this president has told so many falsehoods. such a difficult, fragile relationship to the truth that my colleagues at "the washington post" fact checked or had to create a whole new category this month. there is now the bottom list pinocchio which is for lies or falsehoods or misstatements that have been made so many times that it exceeds the normal count of pinocchios. and that's been awarded to trump. he's the only one who has received them. this is a problem for the president. it's something his aides and his outside advisers recognize. and it's becoming even more problematic from a legal standpoint because we now have the situation with the payoffs.
the hush money payoffs he denied. >> joyce, i have a two-part question for you. the first is, i do believe that what we heard rudy giuliani say two days in that quote that i read was that he basically admitted his client committed a crime. first of all, kind of amazing. but secondly go back to another thing we just talked about which is the fact of michael cohen sitting in front of that camera yesterday with george stephanopoulos and whether that was a bright idea from the standpoint of a lawyer, a prosecutor or someone who works for the united states government. >> right. well, rudy giuliani certainly took a different view about what crimes were important when he was the u.s. attorney cleaning up manhattan and would charge just about anything. so his views have evolved over time.
maybe he's become a kinder and gentler rudy giuliani. but he certainly seemed to imply that his client, the president of the united states, had committed crimes but since they weren't crimes of violence, they shouldn't count. and, you know, even your 4-year-old sitting at home at the dinner table knows that's not how the world works. if that's the best defense the president's lawyer can muster, then he's in a whole lot of trouble. and you know, looking at the other things that we're seeing at this point in time, i guess the michael cohen interview, which would have really shocked me a year ago, was almost expected today. it certainly is not something that as a prosecutor i would ever want to see a cooperating witness do because what it does is it creates material that can be used to cross-examine that person when they take the witness stand. and it makes me wonder a little bit if the end game here isn't an end game that doesn't involve michael cohen ever being a witness, if there is, perhaps, some truth to the rumors that bob mueller is beginning to wind up, and if what will ultimately what we'll see will be a report that the special counsel issues that goes hopefully up to the hill rather than a series of trials with michael cohen sitting in the witness stand. >> frank figliuzzi, i -- you and
i, i believe, share a little common view about one thing. and we played the cohen conversation about russia with george in the previous block. i'm going to throw you into the middle of this here. the common thing you and i agree about is this notion that there's a conventional wisdom built up over time. the southern district of new york represents the biggest legal threat to the president. we've heard that now for 18 months, at least. this week, because it's so close to the surface and because there are actual felonies involved, it makes it easy for people to point to the sdny, and yet when you hear michael cohen talking about russia, it brings me back to what i think is the main event, which is russia and robert mueller. >> yeah, look, i'm biased because i headed counterintelligence. i'm all about looking at it
through that lens. but here's how i break this down. i think the sdny represents the greatest threat to the president after he's the president. but look at the reaction that we're getting from gop members of congress and from trump's base on what's been alleged so far. well, he paid off a couple of women. we expected that. no big deal, right? orrin hatch said something to the effect of, i don't care. look at what that's going to translate to if there are impeachment proceedings in realtime. it's going to get through the house and two-thirds of the majority of the senate will have to say, yeah, that's really bad stuff. we're going to impeach. i don't think that's going to happen with those charges. i think the russia case, i think cohen's cooperation, i think cohen's future value and his place in history is going to be that he served to corroborate very sensitive intelligence that likely mueller already had, that he put a human face on that. who was in the room, how did that work? mueller has already said in filings that cohen cooperated in information at the core of the
russian inquiry. i think that's what gets through impeachment. i think that's where senators have to say, look, this guy was sleeping with the enemy. he knowingly was involved in russian assistance to a campaign. they are an adversary. he knew it, directed it, approved it, knew who did the hacking, knew when the hacking was going to get released. that will win the day and may shape cohen's legacy as we move forward. >> i want to read from an op-ed written by kellyanne conway's husband, which i think is important and gets to a bigger picture issue here that we're nibbling around the edges of. the quote from the piece that i want to read is this. the bad arguments being floated in trump's defense are emblem attic of a deterioration in the respect for the rule of law in this country. we are united in the view our country comes first and our
political party second. and chief among the values of our country is its commitment to the rule of law. no one, whether a senator or a president should pretend america is something less. joyce, i'm going to actually ask all the lawyers to weigh in on this. but, joyce, what's your view about the depth of the problem -- the depth of the president's problems and about this broader point about how important the resolution of all of this is for the continued strength of the rule of law in america? >> so i'll start with the second part, john. i think this op-ed piece is dead on the money. and the fact that we've seen george conway, kellyanne conway's husband, writing with neil catiall to a number of rule of law questions tells us what an urgent juncture our country is at. they are willing to put aside their political mantels for a little while, but, really, in this moment, we need to say there are things more important than republicans and democrats and who wins the next election and preserving the rule of law
so that we'll be preserving a country that still has meaning and that still has value, is really an emergency situation at this point in time. trump is trying to turn us into a banana republic, a place where the criminal justice process can be used to punish your enemies and reward your friends. and that's a very slippery slope once we cross over that. it will be hard to get back our integrity, the respect that our fellow countrymen have for our system and are willing to believe that we're something better. so at this point in time, the most important job that we all have is to help everyone understand what the rule of law is, why it's important and take the critical steps necessary to preserve it. >> all right. i said that i wanted to hear from all the lawyers on that question. now i'm informed, i have the ability to stretch the time continuum. with all the power i have in this seat, i'm not allowed to do that. so i have to say good-bye to phil rucker and jill wine-banks.
thank you very much. we have to take a break. robert mueller's office just filed new documents responding to claims by michael flynn in that he may have been tricked into lying to the fbi. what mueller is saying about flynn's lies coming up after that break. it was here. i couldn't catch my breath. it was the last song of the night. it felt like my heart was skipping beats. they said i had afib. what's afib? i knew that meant i was at a greater risk of stroke. i needed answers. my doctor and i chose xarelto® to help keep me protected from a stroke. once-daily xarelto®, a latest-generation blood thinner significantly lowers the risk of stroke in people with afib not caused by a heart valve problem. warfarin interferes with at least 6 of your body's natural blood-clotting factors. xarelto® is selective, targeting just one critical factor. for afib patients well managed on warfarin, there is limited information on how xarelto® compares in reducing the risk of stroke. don't stop taking xarelto® without talking to your doctor, as this may increase your risk of stroke.
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like this device to increase volume on your cell phone. - ( phone ringing ) - get details on this state program call or visit special counsel robert mueller with a forceful response in the last hour to michael flynn who will be sentenced next week to lying -- for lying to the fbi. a federal judge ordered mueller's office to respond to how the former national security adviser was questioned in a january 2017 meet with the fbi. flynn and his lawyers and supporters have been saying he was unfairly treated in that interview. mueller's filing today states nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the fbi. flynn, quote, chose to make false statements about his communications with the russian ambassador weeks before the fbi interview when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming vice president and other members of the
presidential transition team. katy, the rev are back at the table along with frank and joyce. i go to the lawyers really quickly here. this is big important stuff today frank figliuzzi, or is this just kind of like an incremental development that doesn't move this story along very far which is what i sense at this moment? >> here's the importance of this, in my opinion. first, mueller has skillfully and very articulately called bs on michael flynn. michael flynn should be embarrassed by this defense that the fbi made me do it. i was tricked into lying. and secondly, i actually think it's significant because this is going to backfire on michael flynn. i predict a judge will look at this nonsense and say you really are not on board, are you? you want to have it both ways. you want to keep holding out the possibility of a pardon so you're going with trump's narrative that the fbi is a bad group of people, tricky, tricky people and hope for a pardon by
stating you were tricked. but you said the facts. he was lying at least two weeks to everyone around him about this. he was told he was going to be interviewed by the deputy director. did he want someone else present? did he want a lawyer? he says come on board. they go to the white house. they interview him in his office. he lies to them as he's been lying about this to everyone else. and now he says i didn't know. i wasn't warned that you can't lie to the fbi? you've got to be kidding me. he's a general. the head of dia. he knows it's a federal crime to lie to federal agents. why is this significant? mueller slammed him in this filing, and i think the judge will do the same thing. >> joyce, i ask you, up until this week when this back and forth began, you had this -- it was a perfectly sensible, perfectly understandable series of events. you had flynn cooperating fully, fulsomely in a way that totally
satisfied the special counsel. they come in and say we're not going to recommend -- we're going to recommend he serve no prison time. everything seems to be going right in the life of michael flynn to the extent the life of michael flynn can go right under the circumstances. he's headed in the right direction. all of a sudden now as frank suggests, he seems to be provoking the special prosecutor. i don't really understand what the game is. people think he's angling for a pardon, but it seems really unwise to be doing these things and seems the special counsel is saying, back off, jack, or you'll get yourself in some kind of trouble more than you're already in. >> yeah, i don't think he was angling for a pardon here. i think this was a little bit of a miscalculation. the sentencing judge is known as a bit of a wild card. in their sentencing document, flynn's lawyers were trying to give the judge plenty of reason to differentiate their client from others who pleaded guilty to 1,001, faking a false statement to the government and being given some prison time to serve. they want to make sure the judge stuck to the low end of the guideline range and let flynn go with probation. in doing that, they stumbled
into it a little bit. and i think frank is dead on the money when he says that mueller was right to call them on it. it's clear this wasn't some misadventure that flynn stumbled into. the fbi showed up to interview him because he'd been making these sorts of statements in the press already and anybody like mike flynn who as the nsa knows when someone tells you that two fbi agents want to show up in your office to talk to you, everybody knows that that's what it's about. if it's a friendly visit, it may be one agent but, frank, correct me if i'm wrong. two agents means there's an interview that's going on that has some seriousness. one of those people is there to write the 302, the record of interview. flynn knew what was at stake in this conversation. this is just an effort that backfired a little bit as it came off. >> frank, it's not -- go ahead, frank. >> when he got the call from the deputy director that two agents were coming over, two very senior agents he said is this
going to be about contact with ambassador kislyak? and the deputy ambassador said, yes. do you want anybody there? answer, no. >> i want to come to the table and set back to an earlier topic. as much as michael flynn is interesting, i continue to be obsessed with michael cohen. one of the things i thought was fascinating in the last day or so has been donald trump weighing in on his interpretation of what's been going on with michael cohen. i want to play this sound and then unpack it with some of the people around me right now. let's play it. >> let me tell you the other thing. his father-in-law is a very rich guy, i hear. his father-in-law, i thought was the guy that was the primary focus. well, what did he do? did he make a deal to keep his father-in-law out? make a deal to keep his wife who supposedly, maybe i'm wrong, but you can check it, did he keep -- make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble. >> inaccurate. he knows the truth. i know the truth. others know the truth.
and here's the truth. the people of the united states of america, the people of the world don't believe what he is saying. the man doesn't tell the truth and he should take responsibility for his dirty deeds. >> the people of the world know that donald trump is a liar. michael cohen is right about that. it's also the case that donald trump doesn't lie about everything all the time. he lies about almost everything all the time but occasionally donald trump says something that has the ring of truth to it. do you think, katy tur, that donald trump may actually be suggesting something here that is part of what is motivating michael cohen and the kind of of curious choices he made in particular not doing a full-scale cooperation with the sdny? is he trying to protect someone in his family? >> you know, i think you have to ask michael cohen that, and i think that's something you have
to ask cohen also you nnokoen and you know his motivations. michael cohen has been -- he is a loyal guy. he was loyal to donald trump. and now he's trying to be very loyal to his family. he realizes that he's put them in a very bad position for a number of reasons. and he wants to keep them out of the spotlight as much as possible. does that mean he's trying to shield his father-in-law? i have no idea. but donald trump is very obviously trying to deflect as much as he can. he's trying to tear down michael cohen's credibility. he's trying to give michael cohen another motivation for coming out and speaking out against donald trump. and for turning on him. he needs to give him another motivation because what michael cohen potentially has to offer could be very damaging for donald trump and his presidency. the sdny, as you were talking about a moment ago, said, yeah, michael cohen, we don't think he's a hero. but the special counsel's office has called him helpful and significant. his information is significant and useful. and they've said he hasn't exaggerated and he's been honest
about what he knows and what he does not know. if you were donald trump and somebody is saying, hey, i know a lot of things about you and you aren't being truthful about russia, i would imagine you'd be kind of nervous. >> it continues to be a mystery why michael cohen did not do a full-scale cooperation agreement with the sdny. they have been -- have expressed they are annoyed about that. and it's an ongoing question because we know now that there's a chance if cohen decides to cooperate further to reopen his cooperation with them, he may be able to get a reduced jail sentence. you've spent more time talking to michael cohen than any other journal oyst the planet and understand his psyche, his rationale and reasoning. what's your sense of this, and there a possibility that donald trump is on to something, that what cohen is doing here? he has some other equities to protect in his family and he's trying to protect them and in so doing he's managed to not do the full cooperation and manage to annoy the sdny? >> the president was putting a finer point on something people
have been speculating about to me privately and on television all throughout the week. that in order to be an official cooperating witness in the southern district of new york, you not only have to say everything that you have done wrong from the day you were born until today but everything you know that anyone around you has done wrong. what the president is alleging is that some of those bheem have done something wrong are michael cohen's wife and potentially his father-in-law. michael cohen is loyal to his family. and as much as the judge and the prosecutors in the southern district are making a point he was motivated to be in donald trump's orbit because of greed and financial gain and power, he was motivated to make money because he wanted to do well by his family. this is someone who family is very important to. i just think that if this were all about protecting his wife or his father-in-law, wouldn't the southern district give these people immunity if he were going to give up everything else? if it was just about protecting two people, you'd think perhaps
prosecutors would give those two people immunity. >> i have to go to break, but i've been watching you react. >> that's the critical point. two quick points. one is, it doesn't matter what his motivation is. if he is not giving them information that is true and helpful, it really doesn't matter. he can't lie and help somebody else. so, obviously, if he's telling the truth, what does it matter if he's doing it for that reason? the other thing is, what donald trump has done is what we used to call in brooklyn dry snitching. he's now trying to make the father-in-law and others, his wife, michael cohen's wife, criminals. they have to dig up the truth about the father. he's telling on them. there was no reason for donald trump to be specific. he could say he's making a deal for other reasons. he's trying to deviate so we will now see over the weekend probably some right wingers go after michael cohen's family and the allegations there with no
evidence at all this is what he was doing it for because if he's lying on donald trump, it doesn't matter if he was doing it. they wouldn't take it anyway. >> all right, joyce vance, i'm going to have to let you go. i'll call you over the weekend to have a discussion about the legal principles involved in dry snitching because i'm sure you have something to say about that. maybe a different definition south of the mason-dixon line. thanks for being on with us today. the latest legal shoe to drop for this white house. prosecutors now zeroing in on donald trump's inauguration. new details about the scope of that investigation and where the money for that event may have come from. - [narrator] the typical vacuum head has its limitations,
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the inquiry focuses on whether people from middle eastern nations such as qatar, saudi arabia and the united arab emirates used straw donors to disguise their donors to the two funds. federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugurations. adding yet another trump investigation to the file. our friend matt miller sums it up, thus, so donald trump's private business, campaign, transition, inaugural committee and white house are all under federal criminal investigation. very legal and very cool. all of our guest at this table are still here. frank figliuzzi is with us. so the -- it's not illegal, according to the united states supreme court to pay for access, right, but it is illegal to pay to play, to pay for some kind of a quid pro quo. at least as i understand it. first, am i right about that
and, second, just talk a little more about the ways in which this investigation opens up a can of worms that a foreign can of worms that goes well beyond russia. >> first, you are correct. and the -- it's particularly bad when you're taking money from and a quid pro quo involves foreign governments. so this now really signals that it was -- people were on notice that this president, this white house were for sale. why is this important? for a myriad of reasons. but there are also trump family members involved here. let's look at kushner and his role. for example, with saudis. and how is all of this money flowing and kushner involved in negotiating personal and business deals while governments are trying to fenangle their way into this white house and taking that money. how does that impact this
president's decision making, vis-a-vis those countries? on a daily basis, if and when the president gets and reads his intelligence briefing, he has to make significant decisions globally, geopolitically. geopolitically. and if those decisions are governed by who gave me money for my inauguration or who jared says is a good or bad country based on who helped him and his business interests, we've got a serious problem and this president has a serious conflict. >> there's so much financial complexity to donald trump's world and where it intersects with politics. when he was running as a candidate he said he wouldn't be relying on anybody's money. then you end up with this superpac. the superpac in question we're talking about now. the super pac we're building now was short of cash and out of favor with many major republican donors. in an interview with investigators a year ago, tom
barrack and paul manafort seemed to view the committee as an arm of the campaign despite laws to prevent such coordination. so talk a bit about -- you, again having covered this campaign as closely as you did, talk the super pac and how this is another window opening into the shady ways in which donald trump deals with money and politics. >> it was a lifeline for the campaign at a critical time. remember when he was coming up in the primaries, he was essentially -- well, he wasn't self-funding but he was relying on small donors. he wasn't relying on the normal money men that most -- >> the donor class. >> because he had shunned them. when he became the candidate, that did change. he got a lot more money once he was officially the republican nominee. but this super pac was a lifeline in many ways when needed the most. donald trump talked about spending a lot of his money on
the campaign but he didn't spend as much as he said he would have. donald trump is not someone who likes to spend his own money. he does so very warily. but this story, what's so interesting about it is when you put it into the broader picture, there are so many questions about why donald trump, his family, administration are pursuing one policy over another. why are they not more forceful with saudi arabia and the murder of the journalist jamal khashoggi? what was going on with that blockade of qatar? there are all these open questions because you don't know where the money that donald trump's organization or his son-in-law, where their money happens to be coming from. because it's all so murky. >> and i will say that some day someone will write a book just about the period from election day or the day after the election until inauguration day because that period of the transition and this period of all this inaugural period happening is one of the messiest, sloppiest, and
damaging periods of time for the administration. i want to ask you this question because there is this new character that's emerged in this reporting. in april raids of mr. cohen's home, he is the source in this investigation. the "wall street journal" says in raid of his home, the fbi agents obtained a recorded conversation between him and stephanie winston walkoff. in the conversation, miss walcoff spoke about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the investigation. she is someone who you have come across a bit in your reporting as we understand it. what can you tell us about her? >> first of all, it just shows you how valuable witness cohen could be to all of this and how he had a hand in so many things and how many things we don't yet know.
as many things we do know about what he had and what he knows, there are still things that are going to come out. stephanie winston walkoff is someone who is perhaps not a household name. but anyone around the planning will know he she is. she is a close friend of the first lady. incredibly involved in planning every aspect of the inauguration. not only was she setting up all the inaugural events and dealing with tom barrack, she was briefing the president or president-elect at that point and the first lady to be at that point on every decision she was making. she was going back and forth with all of the trump kids who wanted to be incredibly involved in all the details of that planning. if there is something nefarious that went on during the inauguration planning, stephanie winston walkoff knows about it. >> do you have any duet -- doubt that something nefarious went on
during that period? >> this is one of the things we focus on this week. the trump family as basically a crime family in some sense. and we're getting deeper and deeper into this story. the other is the trump family as a bunch of cleptocrats. this inaugural story seems to be one of the first places to throw the door open on how a cleptocrat begins flexing their muscles. >> absolutely. when you do something for something, not access. quid pro quo. that's how donald trump conducted his business. that's how his children conducted their business. so what epiphany did they have election night that they would all of a sudden change? and when you start seeing the kinds of people particularly foreign powers that were giving money to the inauguration, what incentive did they have? and why does it in many ways correspond with some of the policies or lack of enforcement of policies that we saw?
so i would think that we're headed down the right road. where it will lead, i do not know. but i know it is the right road to go down. >> we got to go to break, but i will say this. there are 11 more recordings of michael cohen's that they have. when those come out, i would like to listen to them with you over a beer. thank you for being with us. we will be right back after this last break. our dad was in the hospital. because of smoking. but we still had to have a cigarette. had to. but then, we were like. what are we doing? the nicodermcq patch
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would eventually get to the point where jared kushner would be in the running to be a chief of staff in the white house. that's one thing we've talked about this week. no one else seems to want the job. chris christie turned it down today. is donald trump ever going to have another chief of staff? >> if it is jared we can make the joke he went to jared. >> there's only been one chief of staff of donald trump. it's donald trump. it doesn't matter who he appoints. >> i was just going to say who cares, doesn't matter. >> that's a good friday sentiment to bring us out of this show. this is the who cares hour on msnbc. that does it for this hour. i'm john heilemann in for nicole wallace who will be back next week. citizen cohen. let's play "hardball."
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