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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  April 9, 2018 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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and then i'll inform you as soon as i hear about it. watch this space that does it for us tonight. we le sue you tomorrow. now it's time because the news has hit us. and michael avenatti is going to be my first guess to talk about what may be, what history may see, as the moment when stormy daniels pushed the special prosecutor closer to getting fired than anyone before her has done. >> it is -- this has been a remarkable saga all along. obviously the news sort of blew up in the face of this today. i felt like the thing that this really brought home for me is that the president has really not put together an actual legal team on the russia scandal. he actually does have some real lawyers on the stormy daniels
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scandal. he has michael cohen but he has additional lawyers working with him on the scandals where these women have been supposedly paid off. that's where he lawyered up. maybe the president saw this before we did in terms of the legal jeopardy he's in here. >> and moving today's case to the south everyone district of new york is fascinating because as you know they do not have a confirmed u.s. attorney working there. the u.s. attorney who's in place there, temporarily, his appointment is a 120-day appointment that runs out on may 5th. so the president doesn't have a prosecutor there to fire and replace because the next -- the people who replace this one are the judges who run the district. they get to decide, because the president hasn't chosen anyone. >> the mueller investigation has taken some interesting turns. one of them was to spread a little bit of the work around. we had the filing from mueller last week that said when we charged manafort we had the national security division of
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the justice department sign off on those charges and the tax division sign off of those charges. and the lead prosecutors taking manafort to court are empowered to per sue this prosecution even if the special counsel goes away. now we have this in the south everyone district of new york. you are getting the sense they are putting roots wide so if anyone tries to chop down the tree they won't get all of it. >> that's the way it looks. >> thanks, lawrence. >> thanks, rachel. donald trump had a conversation with himself in public in which some of the words said to reporters appeared to be part of the conversation but they weren't. when the president asked himself aloud today why don't i just fire mueller? it seemed he had repeated a question from a reporter. but when you listen, you hear two questions he ignored. the louder is one of two questions he ignored.
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let's listen to the two questions that the president was asked at the same time. >> did you have an affair with stormy daniels? >> why don't i just fire mueller? >> just fire the guy? >> did you have an affair with stormy daniels? that came through loud and clear. the president heard it, but that wasn't part of the conversation that the president was already having with himself. why don't i just fire mueller was right there in the conversation that the president was already having with himself. and that is a conversation that the president is probably having with himself every day and all day today. after the president was among the first to discover, hours before the news media knew it, that the fbi raided the new york city office, new york city hotel room and new york city home of michael cohen today.
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and here is what the president said about michael cohen late thursday afternoon on air force one. >> did you know about the $130,000 payment to stormy daniels? >> no. >> then why did michael cohen make it, since there was no -- >> you have to ask michael cohen. michael's my attorney and you have to ask michael. >> you'll have to ask michael cohen. well, it sounds like the fbi and the justice department got that message loud and clear. steven ryan, a lawyer representing michael cohen today issued a written statement saying, quote, today the u.s. attorney's office for the southern district of new york executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, michael cohen and his clients. i have been advised by federal prosecutors that the new york
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action is in part a referral by the office of special counsel rachel maddow. the decision by the u.s. attorney's office in new york to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. it resulted in the seizure of protected attorney client communications between an attorney and his clients. these are also wrong because mr. cohen has cooperated with all governmental entities, including providing documents to the congress and sitting for depositions under oath. nbc has confirmed something reported by the "new york times" today. in their raids today, fbi agents were seeking records related to the $130,000 payment of hush money to stormy daniels that michael cohen claims he made and the president says he knows nothing about. joining us is michael avenatti, jill wine-banks and ari melber. michael, i know you had some of this conversation by phone with
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ari earlier tonight but i want to get your reaction to the simple chronological fact here. we heard donald trump say on thursday, late thursday, you have to ask michael cohen. and here it is, basically the first order of business today for the fbi in new york city is asking michael cohen in the harshest possible way. >> well, lawrence, on thursday, the president made those statements on air force one and you had me on thursday night and we spoke at length about this. and i told you my thoughts at the time relating to the fact that i thought the noose was tightening around michael cohen and i also foreshadowed what might happen if, in fact, that noose tightened significantly.
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and i'm going to stand by those comments. this was a very, very serious development today. the fbi raid occurred about 36 business hours after the president made those comments on air force one. it sounds like they've seized documents and e-mails and communications, and michael cohen and the president, better hope that they've been 100% honest and above board related to the agreement, what the president knew about the agreement and this $130,000 payment. because if they have not been 100% above board, i will tell you this, crimes associated with that conduct, if they occurred, are far easier to prove that russian collusion. period. far easier from a legal perspective. it's not that complicated at the end of the day. this is a very serious development for michael cohen. it is putting him in the cross hairs. it is going to put him under a
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tremendous amount of pressure. and i don't think he has the mettle to hold up, as i told ari and others, and i've been saying this for a while, i don't think he's built that way. if i was the president of the united states or others, i would not have many sleepful nights from here on out if i knew that my fate rided on his ability to with stand the heat. >> michael, i want to talk to you about how this affects your case. a big development last week was the president saying i had no idea, that's going to be his position, i had no idea that this agreement was being arranged with stormy daniels. so that was a big step in this case. big development for you, which you consider positive for your case, how can there be an agreement if donald trump doesn't know he's a party to an agreement. let's put that aside for a moment and go to what happened today. now you have michael cohen in a criminal and fbi investigation. it seems absolutely mandatory that if your civil litigation is
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going to go forward and michael cohen, for example, is going to be deposed to try to determine the validity of the confidentiality agreement that he will have to take the fifth amendment for virtually every question after his name and address. so i want to know in your civil case if michael cohen takes the fifth amendment in that case, does that pretty much close the case? i can't quite see what the testimony would be on the michael cohen side of the case that could lead to a finding in favor of michael cohen if there is, in the end, virtually no testimony? >> well, lawrence, i agree. we've heard for weeks from david schwartz, michael cohen's spokesperson and others, all this chest thumping about how they were going to sue my client for $20 million and take her for everything she's worth. if michael cohen takes the fifth amendment, that's never going to happen.
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and i agree with you, and i mentioned this earlier on ari's show. i think the likelihood of him being able to testify and not take the fifth amendment is very, very slim. however, regardless of whether he takes the fifth amendment, whether the president takes the fifth amendment, if we get his deposition is a completely different story. >> michael, can he now get -- is he likely to get continuances in this civil case because there is a criminal case that has entered into the same arena? >> that's an interesting question. they may go in and seek a stay of the proceedings. it wouldn't surprise me. they've done everything in their power to slow this case down, delay it, have it decided in a private arbitration since we filed this. i want to go back to something. when we filed this case about four or five weeks ago, a lot of people mocked us, my client, said she wasn't in it for the right reasons, it was a money grab, et cetera. that's been blown out of the water.
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she hasn't accepted a dime, she's shown incredible courage in the last five weeks. i'm wondering if some of those people are laughing now. the fbi just raided the president's personal attorney over what we brought forward. i don't think the president is laughing tonight, michael cohen is laughing tonight. and for the people who thought it was, they're not laughing tonight either. >> would he be a subject of the investigation if stormy daniels had not come forward? >> i don't think so. i don't think the raid would have happened, the scrutiny would have happened, i don't think any of this would have happened. >> i want to go to the issue that jumps out immediately in this situation because michael
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cohen has a law degree -- and i say that -- i phrase this somewhat differently for most people because it is questionable to me whether we can really call michael cohen donald trump's lawyer, he has never filed an appearance in any of the endless streams of litigation that donald trump has been involved in. so he's never appeared in court for him. he's never been engaged, hired by donald trump for a particular matter. he was sitting in trump tower in an office in the trump organization doing a variety of things for which you don't need a law degree. he himself says that donald trump never specifically engaged him in this stormy daniels matter. so can there be an attorney-client privilege between michael cohen and donald trump over anything involving stormy daniels when both of them have said, publically, that donald trump did not engage michael cohen as an attorney in that case? >> i think the evidence may be to the contrary, because in negotiating the nda, the hush agreement, with stormy daniels,
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he certainly was acting as an attorney. he also formed, as an attorney, an organization to pay the money. and i think that he did hold himself out as the president's lawyer. the president always has referred to him as his attorney. so there is some confusion in them now saying, i never hired him for a specific matter. i'm sure that mr. davidson, who was stormy daniels's original lawyer, thought he was dealing with an attorney in this matter and i'm sure that stormy daniels thought that he was the legal representative and in terms of the attorney-client privilege, however, you can't have a privilege if you haven't talked to your client about it, if you're engaged in criminal conduct. the privilege does not apply in those cases.
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so i think there's arguments in both directions. i think it would be hard to say he didn't act as the attorney simply because he didn't appear in court for donald trump. >> ari, i watched every minute of your coverage. you were basically in live coverage because this story was breaking on you as you were getting through the hour and you got michael avenatti to join you by phone. one of the comments that struck me was paul butler in your hour when he said to you what happened today was like a subpoena on steroids. >> yes, there's so much going on. it's easy to forget the context of what just happened. fbi agents busted down the door of donald trump, the sitting president's, long-time lawyer and sitting executive, there's an old occasion, kicking the door, you don't want to be on the other side of the door, it's happened twice in the entire probe. when it happened to paul manafort, 96 days later he was indicted. every other individual, from
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sean spicer, sam nunberg who had subpoenas, they get requested, give us documents, e-mails or a grand jury subpoena. no one else, except manafort who's indicted and now today michael cohen had his door kicked in. it's a huge deal period. you add to the extra bar when you're dealing with a lawyer instead of a civilian. >> your interpretation of what the president said today when he got down to that conversation, which was really a conversation with him, about should i fire robert mueller? >> the phrasing is wrong because donald trump as so often is working not off knowledge of the situation but off his own ignorance. it might be willful ignorance, strategic ignorance. but the question is not whether he can fire robert mueller, he cannot. and the question is not whether rod rosenstein can fire mueller out of the blue. the act treats the rules as law
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and state that a special counsel can only be removed for cause in writing by the acting attorney general. so what trump was doing was imagining a fan fiction where he is king but he's not. whether there's increasing pressure, which struck me about his comments during a war cabinet meeting, was he kept returning to jeff sessions and rod rosenstein. so he knows where the leverage is, and he may pressure them to remove or unlawfully remove robert mueller, he can't do it alone. >> jill, i always flash back to your experience on watergate on days like this and the special prosecutor went after the president's attorney general. you people, your team, went after john dean, the white house counsel. but i don't think you ever went after any of richard nixon's private lawyers. >> we never went after any of his lawyers. they all acted in -- i would say with great integrity.
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although that's not true for one of the lawyers for the committee to re-elect the president. first of all, liddy was also counsel to them but so was ken parkinson who ended up a defendant in the case. i want to add two things one is mueller is not the one who executed the warrant. it's against the u.s. attorney, a republican, approved by a federal judge and higher ups in the department of justice. it was not mueller. and second there was no break-in at michael cohen's office. this was the execution of a lawful search warrant. so when the president says they broke into my lawyer's office -- again he called him his lawyer which undercuts any argument that he isn't a lawyer -- they didn't. they used a search warrant and
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did it in a valid way, with approval of a judge. >> just to be clear, it's certainly lawfully, but it is a physical act. as jill and all the lawyers on the panel know it's far more aggressive move than a physical request. there's a physical intervention because there's a time limit on the evidence, a belief of destruction of evidence or some other reason approved by a judge. so it's a biggy. >> go ahead, michael. >> there's two points that i wanted to make. in light of this search warrant today and the action by the fbi, there is no question that from this point forward michael cohen cannot represent donald trump. that is a nonwaivable conflict of interest at this point. so to the extent he was donald trump's lawyer, as of this morning moments before the fbi raided his office, that ceased to be the case the moment after
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they raided the door. that's a conflict of interest. it's nonwaivable. so the days of michael cohen being mr. trump's lawyer, at least for the foreseeable future are over. that's number one. i think it's an important point because what it means is their level of communication is going to have to end or be drastically reduced because otherwise that would be discoverable with our case or the criminal investigation. the second point i want to make is this, if the president wants to fire mr. mueller or others, that's between him and congress. but he can't fire me and we're not going anywhere. >> that is the perfect last word to go into our first commercial break here. michael avenatti can you please stay with us to extend this discussion just a bit longer. we're going to be right back. you totaled your brand new car. nobody's hurt, but there will still be pain. it comes when your insurance company says they'll only pay
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you have to ask michael cohen. michael's my attorney, and you'll have to ask michael. >> you'll have to ask michael cohen. joining our discussion now, tim o'brien, the executive editor of bloomsberg news. and back with us michael avenatti and ari melber. tim o'brien, on a day like today, what do we need to know about the bograpmy of michael cohen. >> he first shows up in a dispute between tenants in a trump building. and i think trump brought him in to play a familiar role we've seen over the years with trump.
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a lawyer who's not really a lawyer. a lawyer who's a fixer. a lawyer who helps trump weaponize the legal system to take opponents, critics, journalists, and to solve problems. and trump himself has a predilection for thugs and for people who talk and act tough and michael cohen certainly fills that role. i think what's different here is it's the first time, i think, that trump has ever had a lawyer who's been a close adviser who's now the subject of a major investigation. and by all indications, the attorney-client privilege is going to get pierced here. the u.s. attorney's office had enough evidence to go there. >> and michael avenatti, on the attorney-client privilege, how
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do you expect what -- let's reverse engineer this for a second. how do you expect what happened today with the fbi to affect the case -- the civil case that you are pursuing and what would be left of michael cohen's attorney-client privilege even within that case? >> well, if the attorney-client privilege is pierced due to the crime fraud exception in connection with this criminal investigation, then the same would hold true in connection with our civil case. and that could have a far-reaching impact depending on what those communications were, what the documents showed, et cetera. one of the things, lawrence, that i wanted to talk about briefly if i could was, and i'm
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going to speculate a little bit, but in connection with michael cohen's banking associated with this essential consultants and the wire payment of $130,000 to my client, there were a number of what i'm going to describe as potential trip wires that federal prosecutors could use to bring charges against michael cohen. i'm going to talk briefly about three of them. one is when he took out the home equity loan, he had to have provided a purpose to the bank for that loan. i doubt that he said, it's to pay $130,000 to a porn star that we don't believe and she's lying. i'm fairly certain he didn't tell the bank that. so that's the first trip wire, if he lied in connection with that home equity loan. the second potential trip wire is when he established the accounts for essential consultants, when he open those accounts at the bank banks have to go through kyc, know your client, your customer analysis. you have to tell your bank when you open up a business account for a new business what it's going to be used for.
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i seriously doubt he told the bank i'm using it to send $130,000 to a porn star we think is lying. that's the second trip wire. the third is in connection with the suspicion activity report. i'm sure the bank contacted michael cohen after the $130,000 payment and asked him what it was for exactly. and again, i doubt he told them the truth. so those are three potential instances where he lied or made misrepresentations to a federally insured bank. that in and of itself could cause significant problems for michael cohen. >> i think tim o'brien would tell us everything that michael avenatti just described would be standard operating procedure in trump world. >> sure. there's a lot of that which goes on. michael avenatti had so many acronyms i would not want to
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play scrabble with him quick with the letters there. i think we could be getting ahead of the analysis. it's a huge deal they convinced the judge there's reason to go in, meaning there's evidence of a potential crime, obstruction, that kind of thing. i think the key question here, when you go back to what you raised, which was the attorney-client privilege and the secrets. michael cohen holds more of donald trump's secrets than any other living person. we know that, i've dealt with michael, bob mueller knows that. now do you pierce the attorney-client product? i don't think we know that yet. i don't think we can know. the big thing the investigators are going to look at, did michael cohen break the law and if so did he do it rogue, which has been the stormy daniels defense, he goes out facilitating payments and doing this stuff rogue, i don't believe it, but did he do it rogue or did he do it for or
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with donald trump. if there's knowing conspiracy to do crimes on behalf of the client, donald trump, now you're in a tough spot for the sitting president because you can pierce the privilege and you have conspiracy arguments. remember, donald trump does not keep e-mails that as far as we know has been confirmed, but michael cohen e-mails and he may e-mail notes to himself coming out of trump tower about what donald trump said to him five years ago. that would be hot for any probe. >> michael cohen gets hit with three fbi raids at three different locations today early morning, his home in new york city, which is being renovated from some damage that occurred, then his office and the hotel room he's staying in, and the fbi takes his phone right out of his hands. given what you know about michael cohen, how does that
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feel for michael cohen when he realizes the fbi is coming through the door for him? >> i have to imagine some of it was shocking to him in the same way that paul manafort and his wife were shocked when mueller's people came through the front door of they're home early in the morning and executed a subpoena while they were still in their pajamas. i think the other important thing to think about is how does the president think about it? because we're at a place mueller has executed a subpoena on the trump organization, his personal attorney has been raided by the fbi. i think the president is not someone who sits back and lets these things happen. some of the stuff could come to a boiling point in terms of the president's own response to it. >> what is your next legal move, michael avenatti? >> we're going to release the sketch of the assailant in the next day or two and publicize a
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very significant reward relating to seeking the public's assistance in finalizing our identification of that assailant. this is the individual that threatened my client in las vegas. so that is our next significant move. but i want to touch, lawrence, if i could, on the question that you just posed about what did michael cohen or what was his feeling when this happened today. i don't know him the way your other panelists know him, but i have got to believe that it was very disconcerting. when your friend and your client is the president of the united states, you probably think that you're somewhat protected or shielded, and that he's going to protect you and take care of you. when the fbi shows up at your door not just one door, but three doors, with multiple agents in blue jackets, et cetera, that calls into question your faith and confidence in your relationship with mr. trump. that i can assure you. >> everything we know about
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michael cohen before the presidential election and during, indicates he actually thought this was the kind of fun he and donald trump would be having in the white house if donald trump ever got there, he could send the fbi and the irs and all federal agents out against their enemies whenever they wanted to. and michael avenatti, michael cohen is living with a very different reality tonight. >> yeah, it's a very serious matter. i mentioned this to ari. no one on our side of the case is high fiving or celebrating this. it's a very serious thing when someone is in the cross hairs for this. i feel for michael's family and his wife, quite honestly. >> thank you all for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. coming up, more on the president's public discussion today about the possibility of firing robert mueller, but as you just heard michael avenatti say, he cannot fire michael avenatti. [burke] at farmers, we've seen almost everything
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it's a disgrace. it's frankly a real disgrace. >> this is seismic. >> it's an attack on our country in the true sense. >> probably one of the most significant, most seismic events in the trump/russia investigation. >> they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning, and i think it's a disgrace. >> for the united states department of justice to raid a lawyer's office and his residence is absolutely extraordinary. >> why don't i just fire
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mueller? >> just fire the guy? >> i think it's a disgrace what's going on. we'll see what happens. many people have said you should fire him. >> we're joining by matt miller spokesperson for eric holder, and back with us, jill wine-banks. let's listen to the president's full response to that question he asked himself of should i fire robert mueller. >> why don't i just fire mueller? >> just fire the guy. >> i think it's a disgrace what's going on. we'll see what happens. i think it's really a sad situation when you see what happens. many people have said you should fire him. we'll see what happens. i think it's disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. this is a pure and simple witch hunt. >> matt miller the president
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asks himself if he should fire robert mueller and his answer to himself is we'll see. >> which is what he said before when he wants to leave possibilities like this dangling out there. i think what we saw from the president today was a real melt down. this is a president who kind of came up hinged and was raging at the faithful execution of law, this was a search warrant that was executed after multiple reviews in the justice department and signed off by a federal magistrate judge, wondering why his own attorney general or deputy attorney general wouldn't obstruct justice for him. it was like what you would see in a banana republic. you had the president surrounded by his generals wondering why no one steps in. and at one point going off on this rant about hillary clinton throwing out old lines from the campaign about acid washed servers and e-mails. >> let's listen to what the president said about rod rosenstein. because he was asked if he would fire rod rosenstein, and it is after all, rod rosenstein who controls the special prosecutor and who approved of these raids. >> will rod rosenstein keep his job? >> thank you. >> will rod rosenstein keep his job?
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>> thank you all very much. >> jill wine-banks very deliberately no answer to the question will you fire rod rosenstein. >> that's what he does very frequently when he doesn't want to answer, thank you very much. and saying we'll see is usually a prelude to having something bad happen to the person he's being asked about. i want to say this is not a witch hunt, and like watergate, this system is working. the criminal justice system is proceeding as it is intended to in lawful ways. it is actually proving that our system of justice works. and we ought to keep that in mind. that's very important for us to remember. >> matt miller we have reporting tonight indicating the president is absolutely outraged by today's events. he sees it as robert mueller even though it was done by the u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york he sees it as master minded by mueller all the way. if he wants to fire the u.s. attorney of the southern
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district of new york, he has a few days left to do that because his temporary appointment expires on may 5th. the president has not gotten a u.s. attorney confirmed for the southern district of new york. so when this one expires, as you know, it falls to the judges in that circuit, they are the ones who will decide who the next u.s. attorney is, and that u.s. attorney serves until the senate confirms a u.s. attorney. >> that's exactly right, lawrence. and the white house has leeked out earlier they were planning to nominate jeffrey berman to this position. of course, it would take some time for that nomination to go through the senate. i think given the president's vindictiveness it's unlikely we'll see that go forward. there was reporting that he was angry behind the scenes. he launched into this tirade where he was supposed to talk about the chemical weapons
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strike in syria. in the spring of last year we saw the president coming unhinged about this investigation and we saw him eventually lash out, after trying to get it stopped repeatedly and fire jim comey. then we went to these periods we'd have eruptions, sometimes publically, sometimes behind the scenes, but the president could be talked down off the ledge and he wouldn't do something. but when you take this anger and with the reports of his unwillingness to take advice from others, people like the chief of staff john kelly, it makes you wonder whether jeff sessions and rod rosenstein are in danger at this point. >> you said the president intends to nominate jeffrey berman in the southern district. which raises the distinct possibility that we may discover that jeffrey berman recused himself from this case and left it to one of the career prosecutors in the southern district of new york.
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and if the president discoveries yet another approval has led to today's fbi raids we'll get some tweets about that one. thank you both very much for joining this discussion tonight. really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> thank you, lawrence. coming up, how today's fbi raids might influence the president's decision about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in syria. that is something that with this president, in this situation, we have to consider and that's next.
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tonight, the most ignorant, incompetent and emotionally unstable president in history has a decision to make in consultation with what he likes to call his generals about how to respond to a suspected chemical attack in syria that occurred this weekend. so, of course, at a meeting today about the situation in syria, the president linked today's fbi raids in new york city on michael cohen's home and hotel room and office, to the situation in syria. >> here we are talking about syria, we're talking about a lot of serious things with the
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greatest fighting force ever. and i have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. >> the president's comments today indicated, among other things, he believes he and his friends should not be under investigation because the president has such serious matters to deal with, such as the crisis in syria. the only president in history driven from office by a special prosecutor's investigation was richard nixon, who was managing the strategy of the vietnam war every day of his presidency while he was being investigated by the special prosecutor. the question tonight is, will president trump's response to the suspected chemical attack in syria be influenced by the fbi's investigation of payments made to a porn star to protect the president? that's the country we're living in. that's the question here tonight.
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will the president use this situation in syria to distract attention from the stormy daniels investigation in new york and the special prosecutor's investigation in washington or will donald trump calmly put all of that out of his mind and choose from the options presented to him by the generals with no thought whatsoever to how he might use missiles and the american military to rally his supporters in a week that began with the fbi kicking down the door at his friend, the lawyer's office. we'll consider those questions next.
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i'm going to repeat a question i asked before the commercial because it is such an extraordinary place for this country to have arrived at tonight. and that is will president trump's response to the suspected chemical attack in syria be influenced by the fbi's investigation of payments made to a porn star to protect the president of the united states? joining us as part of our discussion now, ruth marcus, deputy editorial page editor at "the washington post" and rick stengel, an msnbc political analyst. ruth, it has come to this. it has come to this question now about stormy daniels collides with assad and syria, and what
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will be going through the president's mind when he's making his decision about how to respond to this possible chemical attack in syria? >> so it's really disturbing that we have to even be asking ourselves this question, but i have to say we've kind of been here before. i don't know if you remember, but back in 1998, monica lewinsky was back before the ken starr grand jury, and bill clinton launched some retaliatory bombing raids in afghanistan and sudan to retaliate against some attacks on embassies. and there was a lot of wag the dog talk back then and accusations. was he doing this just to distract attention from monica lewinsky's testimony? so this is what happens unfortunately when you have a situation where a president is both caught up in an investigation, a criminal investigation, and still must continue to be president of the united states. now, president trump did not
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help himself today when, at the start of a war cabinet meeting, he launches into this petulant and aggrieved denunciation of what seems to me to be a perfectly appropriate set of responses on the part of the prosecutors and talks about this as an attack on our country. so that doesn't give him a lot of credibility in his decision making here. >> rick stengel, i just want you to imagine being in meetings with the president considering a response to the situation in syria given some of this reporting we're getting from maggie haberman tonight from the trump mood inside the white house tonight while he's considering his response to syria. trump is angrier than he has been at any point in many fuming news cycles according to two people close to him. what that ultimately translates
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to is unclear. but both trump and cohen believe this is really mueller and that farming it out to the southern district of new york was a fig leaf. both sources say that this has crossed the red line that trump laid out for mueller, going outside his purview in an interview last july. rick stengel, you're expecting the president when gathering all the strategic advice about what to do from syria, to make those decisions from a calm and reasoned position, which is hard to imagine donald trump on any day. >> yes, calm and reason don't really go with donald trump. i mean to use ruth's good analogy, one of the things that we used to talk about with bill clinton was that he was able to compartmentalize. unfortunately donald trump is not able to compartmentalize. everything seems to bleed into each other. so this wag the dog scenario seems like it's entirely possible in part because he
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can't seem to separate his own anger about what's going on with his attorney and the special counsel with what's going on in syria, which is a disaster of world historical proportions. in fact, he's swayed by his emotions even there because of these videos that, as horrific as they are, it touches him emotionally when in fact this situation is much graver than that. i mean assad is the leading mass murderer in modern history. he has killed more than 400,000 people, not just the 40 people that were poisoned by gas in the last week or so. but there are hundreds dying grisly deaths every day. so rather than contemplating just a single strike that might distract attention from what's going on with stormy daniels, there needs to be an actual policy. how do we deal with this? and frankly what i would say to
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president trump is use your vaunted relationship with president putin, who is the military leader of syria where they have a military contract and everything they do is governed by russian military officers. try to come to an agreement about syria. >> we're going to have to leave it there for tonight. ruth marcus, rick stengel, thank you both for joining us. really appreciate it. we're going to have more after this. what does it take to make digital transformation actually happen? do you just flip a switch... and presto your business is magically transformed? not quite. it takes a ground-breaking company like dell technologies. a family of seven technology leaders working behind the scenes to make the impossible... reality. for instance, we're helping to give cars the power to read your mind from anywhere. ♪ we're helping up to 40% of the nation's donated blood supply... to be redirected to the areas and people that need it most. and we're even developing technology to create a whole new
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that's tonight's "last word." robert mueller is now investigating a $150,000 payment made to the trump foundation by
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a ukrainian billionaire in 2014 -- 2015. that story is in "the 11th hour" with brian williams, and that starts now. swivel war. "the 11th hour" on a busy monday night starts right now. good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. i'm nicolle wallace in for brian.

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