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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  November 29, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PST

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people have made to congress to buttress the russian side of the collusion investigation. >> thank you for that. we thank you for watching this hour of msnbc live throughout, i mean, from the very beginning craig melvin who's about to pick up our coverage from the day that robert mueller was appointed thrappoin appointed, this story has never been far from the headlines. among these many days, this is huge. >> this is an infection pointing deep. we're going to continue our coverage. good morning, craig melvin, msnbc headquarters here in new york city. that breaking news on the mueller investigation is where we start. shortly before president trump left for his meeting with world leaders in argentina, last hour just a few moments ago he called his one-time attorney and fixer michael cohen a quote, weak person, who is lying. cohen made a surprise appearance in a federal courtroom in manhattan this morning. he named the president. he named president trump in a shocking new plea deal involving trump tower moscow. for the first time cohen has
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pled guilty to charges brought by the special counsel's office. in august you'll remember that cohen pled guilty to federal prosecutors who oversee the southern district of new york. those charges involved tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. today the special counsel landed a guilty plea for lying to congress. the president lashing out at the special counsel's investigation just hours before that new plea deal was announced. one read in part, quote, did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? here to break it all down for us, top of the hour nbc's intelligence national security ken delaney, ari melber is with us, and natasha bertrand has been closely following the russia investigation since it started. let me start with you. cohen naming the president in the indictment, tell us a little bit more about that ari melber.
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>> reporter: cohen here is basically being busted for lying to congress, and he's identified as individual 1, donald trump. so we're seeing basically some of the strongest links in a -- basically a pleading, which is different than allegations. sometimes we cover these things, we say this is what mueller alleges. here you have cohen admitting to it, which is what makes this one of the most significant advancements we've seen on the russian side of this investigation. i think some brief highlights here for folks joining your show at the top of the hour, craig. number one donald trump's family members in the loop about this high level russian outreach. number two, michael cohen lying about it, which raises the question what was there that you were trying to hide. number three, donald trump himself according to what michael cohen at least is saying also misleading and lying about it at the time during the campaign. number four, moments ago donald trump on the white house lawn with a pushback among some of the misstatements he made, which will be important to track here,
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and the question of course raised of whether he made any of these misstatements in his newly submitted answers to bob mueller, donald trump said oh, well, cohen's lying about all this stuff because he's in trouble for stuff he did that has nothing to do with me. that's false. michael cohen has already confessed to cam ppaigncampaign crimes and payoffs he made explicitly on behalf of donald trump. those were not crimes of personal enrichment, those were things he did for trump as a person and as a candidate allegedly according to the confession, and that's where we got to here. i think what's really significant here and i'm sure the other panelists will add a lot, is that bob mueller has russia information here. has high-level attempts by the trump organization over time with family members involved to enrich themselves, to make money in russia at a time that they were misleading about it, and that raises the question of what else there is because all of this is obviously coming out after trump has committed part of his story in writing to bob mueller. did he say anything in those
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written answers on these russia questions that was false? >> kristen welker is at the white house for us. kristen, we just saw and heard from president trump there a few moments ago as he gets set to depart for the g20 there in south america. tell us a little more about what the president said and perhaps just as importantly what the president did not say. >> reporter: well, craig, the president tried to down play these developments, but he is increasingly feeling the pressure from the special counsel investigation, which is frankly ramping up and has been in the wake of the midterms. he called michael cohen weak and tried to frankly say nothing to see here as it relates to this. take a listen to what he had to say about michael cohen. >> everybody knew about it. it was written about in newspapers. it was a well-known project. i didn't do the project. i decided not to do the project, so i didn't do it. michael cohen, what he's doing is he was convicted, i guess, you'll have to put it into legal terms, but he was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence on
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things unrelated. he's a weak person, and by being weak unlike other people that you watch, he's a weak person, and what he's trying to do is get a reduced sentence. there would have been nothing wrong if i did do it. if i did do it, there would have been nothing wrong. . i run for president, that doesn't mean i'm not allowed to do business. >> reporter: craig, the president has been increasingly lashing out in the wake of this week's developments not just there on the south lawn but earlier today on twitter. did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? and he said of the special counsel investigation, it's an illegal joseph mccarthy style witch hunt, so he's increasingly taking aim at the special counsel. let's take a step back and consider the broader context of this week, what we have witnessed this week. the fact that his former campaign chair paul manafort had his plea agreement with the
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special counsel collapse because mueller accused manafort of lying to investigators. those are allegations that manafort has denied, but that has raised the spector and the speculation about whether president trump may be considering a pardon for paul manafort. yesterday he told the "new york post" that that's not off the table, and i pressed him on that today on the south lawn, and the president reiterated that it is something that would be on the table. you heard the difference in tone when he talked about paul manafort. he said no one's been treated worse, and then compare that against what he said about michael cohen who has clearly flipped on the president calling him a very weak person. that's the backdrop as he heads to argentina for this critical g20 summit. high stakes he's going to be meeting he says probably with russian president vladimir putin. it seems as though that pull aside will happen, and of course all of eyes will be on that not only because of russia's recent aggression against ukraine but because of this critical issue that continues to loom over the white house.
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how tough will bumper-to-bumppr be when he talks to putin. >> the south lawn a short time ago with regards to his business dealings in russia and what he has said in the past about his business dealings with russia and tweeted as well, we've got this tweet from the president. this is from -- it would appear as if july 26 of 2016, for the record i have zero investments in russia. the president reiterated something to that effect in that interview with lester. he said at one point, quote, i will tell you right now zero, i have nothing to do with russia. yes, when asked about his specific financial interests in russia. nothing. it would seem as if he changed his tune a bit there on the south lawn? >> reporter: right, and what he's essentially trying to say is, look, yes, i was looking into this as a candidate, wasn't clear i was going to win, and so there's nothing illegal or wrong about that, but to your point, craig, it certainly does raise
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questions about whether he was looking to invest in russia, and how much communication there was between president trump, between not only michael cohen but potentially other advisers and russia, and that gets to the central issue of the special counsel investigation into russian meddling. of course what cohen is charged with today and what he pled guilty to today is separate from that part of the discussion, but craig, it certainly does muddle the president's message when he says he has no investments. clearly there were discussions about potential investments, craig. >> kristen welker for us at the white house. thank you. we'll come back in just a moment. let me bring in stephanie gosk who is outside that courthouse where michael cohen pled guilty just a couple of hours ago. what more do we know about what went down inside the courtroom there? >> reporter: craig, well, you know, if you think about this, this week started off with everyone focused on paul manafort taking this sudden turn. you can't help but be struck by how the mueller investigation is able to keep the developments of
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his investigation under wraps. this morning was another example of that. you have basically this surprise appearance by michael cohen where he pleads guilty to these misstatements to congress, and as you know, it comes two weeks before he is to be sentence instead a separate case in federal court where he pleaded guilty to six felonies, and you heard the president talking about them earlier. he mentioned the tax evasion. he mentioned the misstatements to banks. what he did not mention was the campaign finance infractions, and that's what cohen said when he pleaded guilty. he had made these payments that he understood to be done to influence the election on behalf of donald trump. that sentence expected in a couple of weeks. you have to wonder whether this current deal will change what that sentence and that outcome will be, craig. >> stephanie gosk for us there outside the courthouse.
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ken delaney is with me. i understand that you spoke to another trump organization associate in just the last few minutes or so. who was it? what did he tell you? >> craig, a man named felix sader who appears to be identified as individual 2 in these michael cohen court documents. he was intimately involved with michael cohen in trying to get this trump tower moscow deal done. he is a convicted felon, had ties to russian organized crime, had a long history of cooperating with the u.s. government. a very colorful character, also worked for the trump organization. what these documents show, though, the significance of them is that there was much more interaction with the russian government than was previously understood. we knew that michael cohen had reached out an e-mail a top aide to president putin about this project, but we thought there was no response from the russia russians. what this document shows is that the russian government reached out to michael cohen, discussed the project with him, and these discussions were ongoing long after michael cohen said they stopped. they continued to june 2016,
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right in the heart of the presidential campaign, and donald trump said there this was a well-known project. that is absolutely not true. at the time no one knew about this project. the voters who were contemplating donald trump's presidential candidacy and his ties to russia had no idea that his aides were pitching a trump tower deal in moscow, and the larger significance of this is in what we're not seeing in these court documents. what this suggests is that michael cohen is cooperating very closely with robert mueller, telling everything he knows, and let's not forget that christopher steele dossier that in many ways got this whole thing started alleges that michael cohen was deeply involved in coordinating between the trump campaign and russia on election interference and alleges he went to europe and met with russian officials. cohen has always denied that adamantly, and that may or may not be true, but it suggests there's more to this story here, and if cohen is telling everything he knows, that could portend very badly for the president of the united states. >> stand by for me if you can. we have managed to pull this
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soundbite, this is from january 11th of 2017. january 11th. this is the newly elected president talking about his relationship with russia. >> i tweeted out that i have no dealings with russia. i have no deals in russia. i have no deals that could happen in russia because we've stayed away, and i have no loans with russia. as a real estate developer, i have very, very little debt. i have assets, now people have found out how big the company is. i have very little debt, i have very low debt. i have no loans with russia at all. >> here's kristen welker standing by for us at the white house. kristen, if what michael cohen is claiming in these court documents, if that's true, then what the president just said cannot be true? >> reporter: well, what the president is talking about is that moment in time after he was elected. michael cohen is talking about
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that period during 2016 when he was still a candidate, and where it conflicts is this notion that there was never any discussion about a potential deal with russia because clearly that was something that was under consideration. now, what would the president's answer be to this discrepancy. he would argue, look, ultimately the deal didn't happen. that's what you heard him say on the south lawn moments ago, craig, and that's what he's digging into. the fact that ultimately there was no deal. but the challenge, and i think where the focus is going to be is the fact that there was clearly discussion, ongoing discussions between michael cohen. michael cohen briefing then candidate trump about a potential deal with russia, and that's where i think the real challenge is going to be for this president moving forward as he tries to explain this, this major development, this major twist in the russia investigation, craig. >> natasha bertrand is also with me again, msnbc contributor has been following the ins and outs
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of the russia investigation closer than just about any reporter out there. natasha, i want to call our viewers' attention and our sirius satellite radio listeners' attention to 7a. this is 7a in the court documents. the moscow project was discussed multiple times within the company and did not end in january of 2016, instead as late as approximately june 2016, cohen and individual 2, and ken again delaney reporting that individual 2 is believed to be this man named felix sader discussed efforts to obtain russian governmental approval for the moscow project. cohen discussed the status and progress of the moscow project with individual 1, which is believed to be donald trump on more than three occasions cohen claimed to the committee and he briefed family members of individual 1 within the company about the project. again, according to court documents, michael cohen didn't just brief the president but also briefed members of the president's family about this
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deal natasha. what does that tell us? >> yeah, so this tells us that they were intimately involved with all aspects of the trump organization and trying to make this deal happen. of course donald trump's family members are very much a part of the trump organization. donald trump junior was asked about this by the senate judiciary committee when he testified last year, and he said that he wasn't really involved, and he didn't really know that much about it. so if it turns out that donald trump junior was also not being totally forthcoming with the senate judiciary committee, then that could pose problems for him moving forward. there's just so much to unpack here. i think that the biggest takeaway from all of this is that it could contextualize all of donald trump's bizarre overtures to russian president vladimir putin during the 2016 election, all of his praise of vladimir putin that no one could really make sense of. it now seems like it was motivated or could have been motivated by something that donald trump has cared most
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about his entire adult life, which is money. real estate projects. that seems to have been like he didn't want to get on the president's, russian president's vladimir putin's bad side when he was campaigning for president. it's really telling that in the court documents, michael cohen said he wanted to wait for any potential trip that donald trump was going to take to russia until after he actually became the formal nominee for president suggesting that he thought that donald trump's position there could provide further leverage to make this deal actually happen, and that's one of the things that he lied apparently to congress about saying that this all happened before the iowa caucuses, before donald trump was actually the presumed nominee. so there is a lot here, but i think that one of the biggest, again, takeaways is that the president was actively pursuing a business deal in russia during the 2016 election, which is a major conflict of interest. like ken said it was not made known to the voters at the time. it was not known that the potential reason why donald trumps cozying up to vladimir
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putin and has been ever since then is because he has been pursuing this deal, something that he has been pursuing since the '80s. another point i wanted to make was that the russians never seemed to take donald trump's overtures very seriously. he has been pursuing deals in russia for decades, but it never actually panned out. i wonder if the russians were dangling a real estate deal before the president in order to invent vise him to undermine the hillary clinton candidacy. >> we just got this note in from your colleague and mine, tom winter from the investigative un unit, and according to tom, according to michael cohen's plea agreement he is cooperating with the special counsel's office. in the document it says that the government will agree to bring to the court's attention at sentencing the lying to congress case and the earlier case about campaign contributions, quote, the nature and extent of the defendant's cooperation with this office, mueller's office on the condition that your client,
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cohen continues to respond and provide truthful information regarding any and all manners as to which this office deems relevant. what does that mean, ken? >> it means, craig, and i'm grateful to tom for buttoning that up for us. it means that michael cohen is now working for robert mueller. we said this about paul manafort, right, and that turned out not to be the case in the end, but tom reports that inside the courtroom michael cohen seemed absolutely serene, at peace, understanding what was happening. in contrast to his previous appearance where he pleaded guilty to those campaign finance and fraud charges where he seemed very rattled. this is a man and in his public appearances and interviews in the months since that time, he has seemed to be at peace with his decision to tell the truth, to cooperate with the mueller inquiry, and go where that takes him, even if it's hostile to the interests of the man he once said he would take a bullet for.
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he has switched sides, essentially in the classic sense, and that's got to be deeply concerning to donald trump. this is a man who was a fixer for trump for years and knows a lot of his secrets and we're seeing in this court document, we're learning secrets and things we had no idea about that happened during the campaign. donald trump says michael cohen is lying, but many of the facts are backed up by e-mails and other evidence. >> ari, how unusual is it to craft a new deal like this after a previous deal? >> it's somewhat unusual, though prosecutors are free to update things for their own goals, but special counsel probes themselves are unusual because usually everything is by geography, by the map. you deal with the new york prosecutors in new york, done. here you have them carrying out certain things that relate to that local jurisdiction, crimes that michael cohen's confessed to on behalf of donald trump committed in new york as well as the broader jurisdiction of this probe. the other key point here that i think can get lost or forgotten,
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craig, we talk about donald trump lying. he lies all the time. that's kind of his thing. but this is pretty important because the key here isn't whether or not he was trying to make money while he was a candidate. he's already moving towards trying to blur it and make that the defense. the key here is this is not private commerce. this is michael cohen confessing to outreach to the kremlin, to the leadership of the russian government because as people know, as people have learned from all the extra reporting we've done on russia, there isn't really a private market when it comes to big important things in the country. the oligarchs deal with putin, and obviously michael cohen and donald trump had that basic understanding because they weren't just calling up ceos or banks or hedge funds, they were doing outreach to the kremlin. the documentation also shows there were plans of trying to do meetings with the leaders of the russian government including potentially putin at davos, so we're not just talking about business. i think that is to some extent
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the emerging defense we heard from the president on the lawn. what we're talking about is the first deep written evidence with a confession from someone inside the trump organization that they had actively, ongoingly done outreach to the kremlin to try to enrich themselves and make money and they lied about it, and one of them lied about it to congress in a felonious manner. as we say in the law, craig, that is a biggie. >> you know what, you say that, though, but the reality is as you know lying to congress is not something that is frequently prosecuted. this does not seem to be something that prosecutors go after on a regular basis. >> bingo. >> what was it about this particular lie to congress that led to the special counsel's office deciding to prosecute and charge? >> you ask a great question about what's not in the picture, what's outside of the painting, craig as you so often do because of your able journalistic mind, what you're getting at is these
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confessions that michael cohen's making, these crimes that he's pleading out to are the floor, not the ceiling. this is the better deal, craig. this is the good stuff. this is the light stuff, so what is implicated, what is implied here that he's not pleading to that other people could be on the hook for? well, more serious felonies beyond just misstatements chr s which of course i'm not minimizing them but those are less than a conspiracy to defraught the united states or campaign finances that could involve co-conspirator crimes with a foreign adversary to defraud the united states. that's a big question. i'm not saying we're there. we do know that mueller indicted russians on the other side of this conspiracy, so the question remains are there americans who could be indicted on the receiving end. i want to say one more thing to you, this is not to be viewed in
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isolation. we are living in a week where the president's campaign chair was busted and had his plea deal blown up for actively lying to the feds and mueller when he was supposed to be cooperating because he was feeding information back to the president, which the president's own lawyer rudy giuliani bragged about in the same week that roger stone's key tipster on stolen russian e-mails that assange ultimately published comes out and admits he lied to congress with a cover story and a fake memo to try to protect roger, at the same time "the washington post" reports roger stone and trump were talking late into the night at the same time that mueller gets written statements from trump, which legally commits him to a russia story. and i leave you with that question, craig, do you think donald trump and his lawyers wish they could have turned in those questions a couple days later? because boy, a lot of things have happened since then. >> ari melber, stay close. i may want to come back to you if you have time. i want to turn to natasha. one of the things that struck me as we heard the president of the
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south lawn was the way he talked about paul manafort and the way that he talked about michael cohen. the president lamenting how poorpoo poorly paul manafort, his former campaign chairman has been treated by the special counsel's office, and of course reportedly earlier this week manafort, his plea deal was snatched back by the special counsel's office because he allegedly has been lying to them after the deal was reached. natasha, what do you read into the contrast between michael cone and paul manafort, the way that they've behaved with the special counsel's office and the way the president has spoken about them publicly? >> yeah, i mean, i think it's fairly straightforward, craig. i think it's just that the president knows that paul manafort has not flipped on him. he knows that because of course he has had this kind of deal with paul manafort for the last several months as manafort has been cooperating with the special counsel, and he knows that michael cohen has completely turned on him. michael cohen has said publicly
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that he does not expect a plea deal, that he does not expect a pardon, that he does not want a pardon, and he has said his loyalty is to the country, not to the president. this is someone who as ken said earlier, he has said he would take a bullet for the president. that's a complete 180. i can imagine it's really freaked out the president. according to my sources, michael cohen has not been sharing any information with the president's legal team. there has been no joint defense agreement. there never was between him and the president. that also has left trump's legal team in the dark. so i think the fact that cohen now has just gone all in on his cooperation with mueller, something that the president sees as, you know, a betrayal, but as anyone else would see as, you know, cooperating with law enforcement authorities has really rattled him, and of course he's about to go on this big trip where he will be preoccupied meeting with among many other leaders the russian president, so he won't really have time to respond in the way that he might want to.
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but i think that his treatment of paul manafort versus his treatment of michael cohen is extremely telling. he's very afraid of one and not the other. >> meanwhile, reaction continues to pour in there from lawmakers in washington, the top democrat on the senate intelligence committee, virginia senator mark warner. he spoke a few minutes ago. again, a reminder here, it's the senate intel committee that cohen is accused of lying to. all right, we don't have that soundbite. we'll get it up for you in just a moment. i can paraphrase what the senator said. this is just one more example of the president's closest allies lying about their ties to russia and russians. at first blush looking just remarkable that you had -- okay. we do have the soundbite. >> this is one more example of one of the president's closest allies lying about their ties to russia and russians.
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and again, at least first blush looking just remarkable that you had the president's personal lawyer still dealing on a trump tower project through the whole campaign and it appears even into 2017. >> again, that's from virginia senator mark warner who is on the senate intelligence committee. i want to bring in jake sherman, senior writer at "politico," msnbc capitol hill correspondent, garrett haake as well. you heard senator warner there. is there a sense of outrage on the hill this morning? >> reporter: a victory here for the senate and house investigations here who now feel like they've got a little bit of teeth. you have to see this, i think, as a good day for all of the investigations into the russia interference angle here because now there are witnesses and their future witnesses know there will be consequences, potentially severe ones for
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coming in and trying to lie, even in closed-door sessions, even just with staff as was the case with this michael cohen interview. i've talked to a number of lawmakers on the senate side who have made exactly that point, including richard burr, the chairman of the senate intel committee, and on the house side adam schiff has been out for quite a while the ranking democrat, on the house intel committee saying he believes there were witnesses who lied to that committee in their investigation over the last year, and you're any of those witnesses who might have said something that you might now perhaps regret, today is potentially a day of reckoning. i can't help but think in the indictment itself rather the complaint against cohen talking about trump family members, remember that both jared kushner and donald trump junior have given testimony to committees on the house and senate side, and presumably would have been asked about some of these same business dealings that now cohen is saying he lied about in his testimony. there are a lot of additional threads for congressional investigators here to follow, and now they know they got some backup in the form of an actual
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prosecution for lying to congress when their material gets in front of the special counsel. >> jake sherman, senator kamala harris, she tweeted within the last hour as well, california senator, this is part of her tweet, it's clear special counsel bob mueller has more work to do, and he must be allowed to complete it free from interference. the bipartisan legislation to protect the special counsel must be brought to the senate floor for a vote immediately. what more do we know about that, jake? is that something that's likely to happen? >> reporter: you've seen senator mitch mcconnell and paul ryan in a "the washington post" event with cane. he said he's not worried about bob mueller and if he was worried about it he'd do something about it. the speaker and senate majority leader don't seem interested in legislation to protect bob mueller. i want to follow up on something garrett said and paint the picture for you. people on capitol hill, senators and members of the house hate being lied to, especially under
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oath, and when democrats take over, it's completely possible that they'll haul some of these people in in open session on television, and they'll be forced or they'll be asked to testify about these things, and did they also lie. so you're going to go from a house of representatives and a senate that has been protective of the president and deferred to the white house to at least a hostile house of representatives that will and could and most likely will bring people in front of open committees and have them testify under oath, which is not a hospitable thing for the president especially if it's his family, son and close associates. >> for folks that might be joining us at 11:30 on the east coast, breaking news we continue to follow here at msnbc, a new filing in a federal courtroom today says michael cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney and fixer is now cooperating with bob mueller. the special counsel last hour president trump adamant that nothing cohen has said about possible business dealings with
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moscow was a crime. >> even if he was right, it doesn't matter because i was allowed to do whatever i wanted during the campaign. i was running my business a lot of different things during the campaign. so very simply, my cichael cohes lying and he's trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me. >> again, jake sherman standing by for us on the hill, garrett haake also standing by for us on the hill as well, and jake, let me come back it to you. you just said something, and it piqued my interest. you know, sometimes people will say things and you know in the back of your mind that what they're telling you may not actually be true, but you let them finish. have you gotten the sense there on the hill from lawmakers that several of the people who have been interviewed in those committees, whether it's senate intel or one of the other committees that conducted the investigation into possible collusion, do you get the sense from lawmakers that maybe they
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knew they weren't being honest with, that maybe they knew that the witnesses were lying to them? >> reporter: i mean, of course people speculate that they -- i want to say on this issue, republicans and democrats have pretty firm views, right? there isn't a lot of room for interpretation or a lot of room for imagination here. of course members of the house and senate have said, listen, i doubt the story's true. i just want to underscore here, it's very rare to lie under oath to congress. i mean, yes, it's rare to prosecute it, but people are not just coming up here and going under oath, especially with attorneys who are advising them and just lying in a blanket sense: i mean, that is extraordinarily rare and extraordinarily risky, especially when you're in these closed sessions when you can speak freely. not only is this a dangerous thing for michael cohen to have done, it's also very rare in the broad brush of people testifying to congress in an investigative setting. it's important to keep that in mind.
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>> we also have our chief foreign correspondent, nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel is standing by for us in buenos aires. this is where president trump is headed for that g20 summit, and again, we're told that the president is going to be having a conversation on the sideline at some point with the president of russia, vladimir putin. richard, provide some insight here, if you can, please, sir, on what that conversation could very well be like based on conversations that the two of them have had in the past? >> reporter: well, that's a good question because if you remember the last conversation they had was not here in buenos aires, but it was in helsinki, and effectively, trump and putin were bouncing off of each other using each other to back up their own arguments. we had president trump saying, look, putin says that i'm telling the truth. putin is tell me that russia didn't interfere in the election, and putin telling the
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world standing next to trump that he did, in fact -- trump to win the election, but that he didn't do anything untoward. we could see the two of them come out and make similar arguments defending each other, backing up each other's word. the logistics are more or less as following, president trump is expected to arrive here tonight, start meetings tomorrow morning. that is when the main body of the g20 sessions begin. on friday there will be protests on the street. there's talk of flying that trump baby balloon, that trump blimp that we saw during protests in london earlier this year, and then on the sidelines of this meeting we're expected to see president trump and president putin, according to the kremlin, meeting for about an hour, not sure if we will see joint statements coming out, but we did see those joint statements in helsinki where the two of them were using the
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opportunity to back each other up. >> reporter: richard, you spend a fair amount of time overseas and is this something in moscow that followed as closely as it is here, and how is all of this viewed by people there in russia? >> reporter: so first of all, opening a trump tower in moscow would not be a straightforward business deal. you don't just open a major skyscraper in the middle of the city, skyscraper that would cater to russia's ruling e lite, to people in the inner circle, russian oligarchs without political support. this has been a project that president trump has wanted to do for many, many years, and the fact that michael cohen now came out and said that it was ongoing, there were ongoing lobbying efforts to try and build this tower even during the campaign is quite significant. also quite significant that he
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would feel the need to cover that up. in russia how are people looking at this whole conspiracy? they're looking at it with a mixture of denial and pride because the russian government, the kremlin denies that it had any influence, but it continues to deny it with a bit of a wink and a nod because it is proud that the russian people feel that russia has this much influence, that russia is now back on a world stage, that vladimir putin has the amount of power that he can shape world events according to the kremlin's wishes. so while they are publicly denying it, ridiculing it, saying there is absolutely no truth to it, they also want the people to know we're back. this is the -- we are as strong as we were during the soviet union. look how the united states is shaking and being manipulated by our intelligence. >> richard, while you were actually reporting there, the president just tweeting -- i don't know if we can pull it up
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on the screen, but the president tweeting that he is, in fact, now canceling that meeting with vladimir putin based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to ukraine from russia. i have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting. again, president trump there tweeting that he is not going to be meeting with vladimir putin, literally just 45 minutes ago the president said that he was open to having that meeting based on a briefing he was going to be receiving aboard air force one. richard, what do you make of the president's decision? >> reporter: well, i think that's quite significant. first, he was going to get a lot of criticism if he went ahead with this meeting because of the situation in ukraine. i just arrived here literally a few hours ago from ukraine. i was meeting with the ukrainian president, and the ukrainian president was outraged. last weekend russian ships attacked a series of ukrainian
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ships, two small warships and a tug boat. they not only rammed the ships, they fired at the ships, and they captured the sailors on board, 24 of them. those sailors are still being held in russia. in fact, some of those sailors were put on russia tv making alleged confession tapes saying that they deliberately entered russian territorial waters in order to create a pretext, in order to create a crisis. the ukrainian president absolutely denied that, and he wanted president trump to tell vladimir putin that russia needs to back off, that they need to stop making aggressive moves towards ukraine. four and a half years ago it was russian troops that took over crimea, now with this naval confrontation, according the ukrainian version of events, russia is attempting to seize territorial waters that are currently shared between both russia and ukraine. so already he was going to get a
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lot of pressure from meeting with vladimir putin while russian forces are seen as making territorial advances against a u.s. ally. now today with this new revelation, he would have gotten even more questions about being cozy with the russian leader when his own former lawyer came out and said that the trump organization was pursuing -- during the campaign. so i think it is -- the two things came together for him to cancel this meeting, at least from an optics point of view probably a good idea from his perspective. >> chief foreign correspondent richard engel there in buenos aires. we'll be checking in with richard over the next few days as the g20 gets underway. natasha bertrand is still standing by, what do you make of this decision just announced by president on twitter, that he is canceling this meeting with
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vladimir putin in buenos aires? >> yeah, i think it was a very strategic move and obviously something that was very recently decided because as you said, about 45 minutes ago the president was saying that he was still open to meeting with putin in buenos aires. so i think that there's an awareness, perhaps, among the president's staff at least, that they don't want this to end up like the president's meeting with putin in helsinki when they gave that joint press conference, and it turned out to be completely disastrous, especially now with all of russia's aggression in ukraine and of course the news that trump was pursuing a business deal with moscow in 2016. it just would be terrible optics. i don't know how putin himself is going to react to this. i expect that he'll say that it's all because of pressure by the u.s. intelligence committee on trump to worsen relations with russia, but this is all around a very good move. i think the united states has to show russia they're not going to accept this. this behavior is completely out of all norms of international
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behavior, and it's something that the president is doing, i think, to mitt fwigate the atta on him for this michael cohen news and of course over any potential, you know, optics that it might seem like he's rewarding vladimir putin at a moment when they are directly attacking the ukrainians. >> chief global correspondent bill neely is in moscow for us right now, and bill, again, the kremlin confirmed that this meeting was going to, in fact, happen between vladimir putin and president trump. just a few hours ago it confirmed the meeting, and now the president of the united states via twitter saying the meeting is not going to happen. what's likely going to be the response there in moscow? >> reporter: yeah, craig, i mean, pretty extraordinary, and there has been no response so far from the kremlin, but as you said, as far as they were concerned, the meeting was on. they were preparing for it. i think that's what donald trump was also saying, suggesting within the last hour, and now
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it's over. obviously the proximity of his cancellation of that meeting to the michael cohen developments, it can't just be a coincidence, but there was one other huge item on the agenda, and that was ukraine. there is no question that vladimir putin in what he did in ukraine on sunday, the collision with those boats, there was going to be a test of president trump. everyone in the region believes that russia is laying claim to the sea and to the strait and everyone was waiting to see what president trump's response would be in buenos aires because so far it's been very lukewarm, very tepid, no direct criticism of vladimir putin, no direct criticism of what russia did simply saying i don't like all that aggression, so this
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cancellation pretty big, as our previous colleagues have been talking about. the helsinki press conference, and that meeting in july, was not considered a success and perhaps president trump certainly his aides simply didn't want him walking into another mine field in buenos aires given what's happened in the last couple of hours. >> bill, thank you. let's go back to buenos aires if we can, our chief white house correspondent hallie jackson is there ahead of the president's visit for the g20. and hallie, here's the thing, the facts as they relate to the russia/ukraine standoff, those facts have not changed materially within the past few hours. but one thing that has changed -- >> but here's what may -- >> go ahead, go ahead. >> reporter: you're probably going to say the same thing. i'll let you finish your sentence. >> the only thing that has changed is the michael cohen guilty plea. have we gotten any sort of explanation from the white house
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about why it is now they've decided to scrap the meeting? >> reporter: the explanation from the white house is the explanation from donald trump on twitter, right? the president revealing that he is scrapping this meeting because he says the vessels have not been returned back to ukraine, because of the aggression that they have talked about that happened over the weekend. you're right, the only thing that changed. the only difference from this weekend to today and mind you, reporters have been pressing white house officials for four days now about this very issue. why the president would still meet with vladimir putin after what happened in the black sea. the thing that changed is the michael cohen guilty plea. remember what the president said as he was getting out of the white house, getting on to the chopper and heading here to argenti argentina. he said i'm going to be reading that finalized report, right? this report that the white house staff had presumably put together related to the activities that happened over the weekend. so what i imagine happening is the president and white house
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aides when we get a chance to do more reporting with him, will say the president read the reports. had the concerns, he said he canceled it for this reason, and that is why he called off the meeting. as early as this morning the kremlin was saying the meeting is still moving forward. the meeting is happening. it is possible the president has in the span of time between getting on air force one, and sending that tweet, read this report. that said, the details of this incident have been known for several days now the i asked the ambassador john bolton, the national security adviser, who will be making his way to the g20, whether the president will be pressing vladimir putin on this ukrainian issue when the two of them met face-to-face prior to the cancellation, and ambassador bolton said nikki haley is speaking for the administration right now. for this week, the administration had been more than happy, the white house rather to let ambassador haley speak for them in response to what happened. clearly that has changed at this point. it is optically a very interesting move from donald trump because it does, of course, raise the question of are you canceling it because of
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the details that have come out related to michael cohen and related to this guilty plea. again, the president did say himself, well, i'm going to read this report. my question now is what vladimir putin's response will be. up until now the kremlin has staked their claim on the idea they would have this face-to-face. they would sit down and continue to engage on the topics like security that had come up in helsinki. remember, there is one other piece of it too is that the president hinted earlier in the week that maybe he would cancel this meeting. i don't think a lot of folks took that too seriously. the meeting was still on the schedule. the all things seemed to be green lit. he did lightly scold putin for the ukrainian aggression indicating that perhaps he might end up pulling the plug. clearly that's what happened. it's another dimension to what is going to be a whirlwind 48 hours once the president touches down here later tonight. >> rain in argentina, always better than rain in new york city, though. our chief white house correspondent hallie jackson
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traveling with the president for the g20. michael youly joins me now, senior foreign affairs correspondent for "politico." the timing of the special counsel's announcement a bit curious to some because if you'll recall, the special counsel several months ago did the same thing announcing an indictment right before the president of the united states was scheduled to meet with the president of russia. what, if anything, can we glean from the timing? >> reporter: i think we can only speculate. you're right that it was a major theme before that summit in helsinki this summer, there was a big indictment, and you know, that really -- that timing did feel extremely loaded. the president was going there for his first really major bilateral meeting with president putin. people weren't sure what kind of deals he might be willing to strike, and then mueller dropped an indictment that was just packed with really overwhelming
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convincing detail showing that russian intelligence, military intelligence operatives had interfered in the 2016 election, and really boxed trump in. i think the stakes were lower with this meeting with putin. i wouldn't rule out the possibility that mueller's timing this summer was connected to the trump/putin meeting. in this case i'd be a little surprised but we can't know for sure. there is no question that once again it did put pressure on trump as your correspondents have so ably explained, there was also pressure around this ukraine situation. i would note that this puts trump in sync with the rest of his administration, notably nikki haley, and i'm sure what other senior officials are thinking privately because they tend to be more hawkish on russia than he is. one of his first responses to the russian aggression against ukrainian ships was i don't like it on all sides. it almost was like that famous line from charlottesville, both sides are to blame here. that was not the position of his administration. he now seems to be placing blame squarely on russia putting him
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in sync. finally, what a summit. the focus is going to be the meeting with the chinese president. there are now two foreign leaders who are land mines for him, not only vladimir putin who he's not going to see, but then you have mohammed bin salman, the crown prince of saudi arabia. >> michael, thank you. i want to turn back to tom winter here in the studio, of course, nbc investigative unit tom winter who was there at the courthouse this morning, legal analyst danny cevallos. we also have chuck rosenberg, an msnbc contributor, a former u.s. attorney, and kim way lee, a law professor at the university of baltimore. tom, i will start with you. you managed to sift through these documents you were there in the courtroom this morning. talk to me about the top lines here. it would seem to me that the biggest nugget of news is that michael cohen is clearly cooperating with the special counsel's office? >> that's exactly correct, craig. according to the court filings, we know that michael cohen has not only been talking with
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prosecutors in fonew york, we kw that before. that's how we got to a guilty plea back in august in his case brought by prosecutors in new york, now we know from today that he's cooperating with special counsel robert mueller's office. his plea agreement explicitly p says so, and they will be notifying the judge not only in the case that is brought today in new york with are respect to the senate select committee and also in the case of the campaign donations tied to payments made to women tie ed d to the presids office, and so mueller is saying, hey, we will let the judge know, and probably we will get a 5k announcement which is some sort of a notice to the court saying that this person has provided a lot of information and we would like it if you could take it leniently on him, and at sentencing time, and there are seven proffered sessions or proffered documents
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back and forth and i have to get clarity from the special counsel's office, and craig, what it means is that at least seven occasions, michael cohen definitively said to prosecutors, hey, this is some of the information that i can provide or at least this is some of the information that i will admit to. and that has been over the past several months, and so this is something ongoing as we have reported before, but today, we r are getting more clarity on exactly what this type of cooperation has been. >> and chuck, again, there are some tidbits of information in the documents. we have learned a fair amount about what the special counsel's office is claiming that it knows, thanks to the conversations with michael cohen. how real is the possibility, chuck, that is just a fraction of what the special counsel has. >> it is always a fraction, craig, of what the special counsel has. and there is an interesting thing here, but it is a subtle point. you don't need to plead guilty
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to everything that you did. everything that you did comes in at sentencing is relevant conduct and whether he pleads to eight counts or ten counts or 14 counts is somewhat besides the point. so why would they have him to plead guilty to this thing, too, and this thing, too, it is a fraction of what bob mueller's team knows, and they would have him plead guilty, because it is better as a prosecutor, and i was one for a long time when you are trying a case against somebody else and using somebody who plead guilty as a witness at that trial to have that witness already under oath acknowledge their own guilt and culpability in open court, and so my guess here is that they are going to be doing a lot more with the information that you see in this newest plea agreement. they are going to be doing a lot more, because they didn't need cohen to plead to it other than if they wanted to use him on this set of operative facts. >> chuck, can you make anything of the fact that clearly bob mueller has landed two fish here
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sh here, and two big fish in addition to the others, but two big fish with different results. you have paul manafort who earlier in the week was revealed not essentially playing ball, and then you have michael cohen, and they seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum and what does it the tell you? >> well, they did land two big fish, and by the way, with respect to manafort, craig, it is not unusual for people who have plead guilty to subsequently even in light of the fact that he could get consideration for telling the truth, it is not unusual for them to dissemble and lie and minimize. remember that manafort is a crook and a criminal. so that is with what criminals do, they lie and assemble, and that is not shocking to me at all that manafort would do that and that he would be playing both angles and trying to get cooperation credit for mueller and perhaps seeking a pardon. with respect to cohen, they landed that fish a while ago and this is another step on that
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journey. again, the reason they had him plead guilty to these facts and crime is that they want to use him further down the road against others on the transactions. >> danny cevallos is in the studio, and you have been poring over the documents, and what has been jumping out to you? >> with the charge of the section 10001 and most people don't real ize that you can be charged under oath if you tell lies to congress in the course of the investigation, and that is appears to be a what cohen was charged with here. it is the not under oath of the federal law that criminalizes lying to congress, but going forward, one of the things that jumps out is that it appears now that michael cohen has gone with guy of questionable value to robert mueller, because he didn't have cooperation before to now demonstrating that he does have information is valuable enough to robert mueller to give him that pr
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precious cooperation agreement in which the prosecutors go hand in hand with someone who they acknowledge as a criminal in order to catch other criminals, and it is a significant development, because as a defense attorney, it is easy for me to say this, but the reality is that the pros ecutors don't want people the tell them what they want to hear. they want someone who will tell them the truth and a truth that can be verified, backed up and for which there is corroborating evidence. for example, michael has backed up data, and seized with southern district with the phone, and i don't know if it is apocryphal, but they took the phone right out of his hand when they searched the warrant, and so since then he has provided information through those
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document documents or other sources, and now, only now has he earned that precious cooperation agreement and the shot at the even more precious 5k1 motion by the government which could potentially reduce a sentence very, very significantly. >> kim whaley is with me, and we have heard from ft.'s attorney, and rudy giuliani, and he said that michael cohen is a liar, and no surprise that he is a proven lawyer who will do anything to get out of a long-term serious crimes of bank and tax fraud and had nothing to do with the trump organization, and going on the say that the special counsel did the same thing as the president was leaving to helsinki with the hotel summit at the hotel, and the president has been open-end transparent, and that is coming from rudy giuliani, the president's current attorney, and kim, what can we make from the president's attorney in response to the president's
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former attorney's guilty plea? >> well, they deny until they can't deny anymore and shift the narrative in a way, and on a macro level, one thing is that here we do have the house going to the the democrats in january and these investigations are going to pick up, and the mueller team is sending a signal that they are going to the back up that process, and that is a legitimate process and we will see two branchs of government coming together to hold to hold the president and those around him accountable. and the piece that the viewers need to keep in mind is why all of this matters from the legal h perspective which has to do with the concept of quid pro quo, and we see it with the emollients clause, a tmd campaign finance and presidential disclosures for the candidates before they run, and we see it with the question
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of whether the president should have divested his interests. and we don't want a system where you get goodies if you cooperate behind the scenes, and that is really what is happening here. i wanted to make two micro points about the facts. one is that i think that what is missing here in the public sphere the president of the united states and the connections with the russians and how much did he know and when did he know it, but now we know from the agreement or the plea that the conversations regarding trump tower took place through the conversation main t trump tower in new york in june of 2016 where mr. cukushner was there, and trump jr. was there, and the president has been very clear, that i knew nothing about it. and if mr. cohen has information on that, that is really significant, and the second has to do with the steele dossier to say that he went to ukraine to try the brush under the rug the information about the potential collusion about the campaign, and that is mr. manafort's
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discussions with the campaign, and payments to the kremlin-backed hackers and so those two pieces of information and the extent to which mr. cohen has verifiable facts or testimony relating to, i think that those two pieces could blow this up for the president. and then the question will become, what happens next? is there going to be accountability through the congress? is there going to be accountability through the justice can department, and now of course we have mr. whitaker in charge which is a huge question mark as to how much he is going to or he can, but would be willing to interfere with this process. >> kim wehle, big thanks to you and danny cevallos, one of our legal analysts. thank you so much. and again, breaking news here, and we will continue the follow michael cohen, the president's one-time personal attorney and fixer with a surprise appearance this morning in a federal courtroom pleading guilty to a new charge, and it would also appear that he is cooperating
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fully with the special counsel's office, and the other big breaking news this hour is that president trump is announcing that he is not in fact going be meeting with vladimir putin on the sidelines of the g20 sideline and that is hours after the kremlin announcing that the meeting would in fact be happen i ing, and again, we will continue to closely follow the breaking news stories. andrea mitchell is picking up the news coverage right now. and right now now on "andrea mitchell reports" breaking news on all fronts. michael cohen pleading guilty to lying to congress when he denied to try to do a trump tower deal in russia in the campaign. and more breaking news from air force one just now. en route to ar jgentina, the president canceling the saturday summit with vladimir putin because of the new aggression against ukraine. and first, the president's reak sh reaction today slamming michael cohen before leaving the white house. >> he was given a fairly long jail


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