tv The Beat With Ari Melber MSNBC December 14, 2018 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
from the republican side of the aisle we'll hear from roy blunt of missouri and plus william castro on his first interview since he filed his papers. good evening. >> hey, good evening, chuck. i bet you thought you'd make it through the hour without any break news, right? >> it's just acting chief of staff these days -- >> i was going to say the odds are against you. in for ari melber. and tonight a storm of investigations slamming into donald trump on multiple fronts. and late today trump announcing a new point man to help deal with it all. current trump budget director nick mulvaney will be new chief of staff and he will be facing a deluge of investigations immediately from day one. his appointment coming just hours after michael cohen spoke out for the first time since his sentence rebutting key claims made by the president. and as newly surfaced audio of donald trump obliterates his own defense on hush money payments,
you heard there's a tweet for everything. in this case there's an actual recording, and we are going to play it for you. also today, bob mueller undercutting trump's arguments about michael flynn. in a new court filing. but we begin with nick mulvaney coming in as the new chief of staff for the white house. this as michael cohen gives his very first nrlt view since being sentenced to three years in prison that trump told cohen to make hush money payments to women even though trump knew it was wrong. >> nothing of the trump organization was ever done unless it was run through mr. trump. he directed me as i said in my elocution and i said as well smt plea, he directed me to make the payments. he directed me to become involved in these meters. >> he was trying to hide what you were doing, correct? >> correct. >> and he knew it was wrong? >> of course. >> and he was doing that to help his election? >> yes, he was very concerned
about how this would affect the election. >> to help his campaign. >> to help him and the campaign. >> all right, so you heard it there, cohen making it absolutely clear. two key claims. one, trump directed the payments. it builds on nbc reporting that trump was in fact in the room with cohen and the national enquirer david pecker discussing those hush money payments during the campaign. and the second cohen claim is that trump knew it was illegal. and here's the potentially damaging news for trump today. new audio emerging from 2012 showing that trump was indeed familiar with the relevant campaign financial laws. specifically it features trump discussing how the law applied to the john edwards case. edwards of course arguing that payments to his mistress back then were not campaign finance violations. in fact, there were personal payments. now, here's trump in 2012 revealing that he was watching the case very closely.
>> i always thought he was a sleazebag frankly. this is very, very tough trial to start off with and a lot of people are saying it's not a try that the government's going to win. and frankly a lot of people are saying, a lot of very good lawyers are telling me the government doesn't have a good case. i think despite what the lawyers are saying there's not a good case from the government. >> all right, so trump saying there on that recording he spoke to a lot of very good lawyers about the case. that isn't michael cohen saying trump knew about the campaign finance law. it's trump destroying his own defense. with me now is maya wily, daniel goldman, and alexa mccanon, political reporter for axios. let me begin with you and the news nick mulvaney has now been tapped as the new chief of staff at the white house. give us a sense why nick
mulvaney. >> this chief of staff search has been anything but normal. and what is so wild to me in particular about this announcement today is that the first time i heard from a source familiar with the transition is that john kelly was out as chief of staff and nick mulvaney was going to replace him was july 24th. i think it's because now it's finally happened trump sort of views him as someone who will be loyal to him and who will do what he says. maybe not necessarily a john kelly type who runs a tight ship, but someone who he's seen behind the scenes fighting for this position. >> so loyalty is obviously high on the president's list. let's talk a little bit about nick mulvaney's expertise. does he have any kind of experience dealing with legal
crises? not just necessarily as a lawyer but even as a counsel to the president, does he have that sort of legal expertise? >> it is not clear he has that legal expertise as a time you're alluding to when democrats take back the house they'll have subpoena power across the board, they vowed to launch an onslaught of investigations of trump and everyone around him. but at the same time going through this, i think what president trump will really want and need on a personal level, he thinks, is someone who can again tell him what he wants to hear and make him feel better personally, but that's not going to get him out of any legal trouble or help him with any legal matters. >> obviously it comes on a day when the president has a new chief of staff. let's start with what michael cohen had to say today and how that moves the needle forward against the president. what was your take away from the michael cohen interview where he
really said the president directed him every step of the way? >> reriatiterated and said this something he understood and directed me to do. i actually think the most important thing he said was making very explicit and very clear that donald trump knew everything that was happening in the trump organization. and the reason that's important is both because of the potential campaign financial crimes but also because there are other investigations that are going on out of the southern district of new york and also out of the state attorney general's office around the trump organization. and if that's a provable fact and now you have michael cohen who's cooperating and says he's going to continue to talk to prosecutors that means presumably that he's going to be able to give information that demonstrates that -- but
presumably he might be able to present that knowledge. and knowledge is critical if you have to show if someone had criminal intent. >> interestingly enough the point michael cohen also made in the interviews is that a lot of what he was telling mueller, mueller to some extent knew about it because they had supporting documents and evidence. how damaging is that going to be for the argument we heard goodly try to make today saying michael cohen was a liar from day one, he should not be trusted? >> so i actually think what's more important than michael cohen's interviews this morning is the fact that the southern district asserted to a court that donald trump coordinated and directed michael cohen to make these payments because the southern district of new york you'll remember in april did those searches. and what they obtained is likely a treasure-trove of information. and so that -- the fact they could say that cohen was credible about that indicates to me that they have a lot more evidence. but the problem that we run into or the problem that the southern
district runs into in not only this investigation but any investigation into the trump organization is that michael cohen is not cooperating with the southern district of new york. he is not a witness available to them right now, and this is why he got three years in prison is that he did want go the full-length that he needed to in order to become a full on, signed up witness. he has provided information that they say is credible and forthright, but because he won't be fully debriefed and fully vetted, they can't use him. >> so to that point do you think the president is kind of, you know, kicking himself a little bit saying i shouldn't have been speaking disparagingly of michael cohen, because michael cohen as you say he wasn't as forthcoming as a witness or a cooperating witness, he probably hasn't attempted since the president has been calling him a
liar -- >> i think this is where the fact that the president cannot be indicted actually hurts trump. because if this goes to impeachment and a trial in the senate for example, michael cohen can testify there. it's just he wouldn't testify in a criminal case right now against donald trump for the campaign finance, but it doesn't mean donald trump didn't do it, and you still have enough evidence to believe that he did it, there's michael cohen, div udpecker, documents, recordersion, there's the cover-up that hasn't gotten enough attention how they cooked the books and records in order to funnel this through there trump organization. there's all sorts of evidence to say donald trump did it, but he could not necessarily be charged with it in a criminal court. >> the other part of the president's defense has been that michael cohen told him deal with it, he played that card as
if he didn't know what campaign finance laws were, and now we have a recording of the president demonstrating very well he knows what the campaign finance laws were. is that argument shattered now because of that recording? is that recording something lawyers can look at one day and say you do know what the law was? >> i will start by saying it wasn't a credible argument based on all facts we have out in public including the fact that donald trump himself lied about whether he even knew about the payments. if you weren't participating willfully in a crime, why are you lying? you know you're lying. you know you knew what you knew unless he has undiagnosed mental i illness we don't know about. so there's tons of facts in this case including what michael cohen said and there's a pattern of practice in the way of organizing the work that also ami is reinforcing in the case
of karen mcdougal. but i think we to be fair to donald trump are overstating potentially the meaning of his statement. meaning, saying you talked to lawyers about a different case and whether or not it was strong or not is not the same thing as saying you understand what a violation would be in your particular case. because i would actually argue while it's the same type of case in terms of payments, it's not enough that someone said i once talked to a lawyer about a different case and therefore i've blown my argument. i just don't think it was a credible argument to begin with. >> i was going to say how many white collar crimes can you get away with the defense being i didn't know it was the law, sorry. >> particularly when you have to certify it on your campaign finance disclosures as the head of the campaign. >> joining me now is congresswoman jackie spear. and she's out with a new article today where she asks bluntly did putin buy donald trump. let's start with a big picture
assessment of your reaction to what we're now hearing from michael cohen. what did you take away from everything you've heard about him? >> well, watching him he looked like he was so exhausted he couldn't tell a lie anymore. i think it's very clear that the special counsel has the goods on donald trump as it relates to his involvement in trying to secure the silence of these two women. the tapes that michael cohen had in his possession that the special counsel was able to obtain probably have more than enough evidence. and you have david pecker who says that he made that payment intending to assist donald trump in his campaign for election. and donald trump was in the room. so there's no question that donald trump knew about all of this. he was a one-man show. he's always been a one-man show. he had a small family company
with about 50 employees. he knew precisely what was going on all the time. >> congresswoman, there's been two components to michael cohen's, if you will, cooperation here. you've got hush money payments and the ami david pecker connection. you also have the connection to russia and the trump tower. take a listen to michael cohen talking about russia today. >> the special counsel did say you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to russia. do you think president trump is telling the truth about that? >> no. >> how does this end for donald trump? >> that sort of gets into the whole investigation right now. i don't want to jeopardize any of their investigation. >> what more do you think we're going to learn from michael cohen about that issue, the russia connection to all of
this? >> the russia connection i think gets stronger and stronger by the day. i don't know president trump ever thought he was going to win, so this whole effort to move forward on the trump tower in moskow was his, you know, his winning so to speak because he was going to get that prize that he has wanted for long time. and so he wanted that project to move forward during the campaign. so it doesn't surprise me at all. now, michael cohen i believe will have lied not just to the special counsel but to the intelligence committee as well when all is said and done. >> let me pose a question to you that you yourself asked in the article that you wrote. did putin buy donald trump? i'm going to give you a chance to answer that for your viewers tonight. what is your assessment? >> i think he did. i mean, one of the elements of kompromat, which is the russian word for, you know, getting something on somebody, is sometimes you just pay them so that they are indebted to you. and that mansion in florida
that -- actually purchased from donald trump during the height of the recession in which it was a $45 million increase in value, he never saw the property and yet made that kind of an accelerated and expensive payment to him. i think was all part of a deal that was concocted by putin. >> all right, we'll see if the investigation turns any of those stones. congresswoman spear thank you very much. and coming up today bob mueller debunking trump's claims about the lies of his former national security advisor michael flynn. plus new revelations about how jared kushner replaced cohen as trump's link to the national enquirer. and a real life mueller mystery. a secret witness trying to defy a subpoena with an entire court on lock down. we're going to talk to a reporter who was there at the
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yesterday. >> what's going on right now with general flynn, the fbi said he didn't lie. >> i saw your tweet about that. >> but mueller said he did lie. so they took a man who's a squenersque general and respected person and a nice man, they took a general and convinced him he did lie and he made some kind of a deal. >> it came after flynn's lawyer suggested he treated him unfairly because they didn't warn him it's a crime to lie to agents before his interview with those fbi agents. but mueller today said this, nothing about flynn's interview was setup to make him lie. and in fact he decide today lie about his contacts with the russian ambassador weeks before the interview when the media started asking about it. he repeated the lies to top trump officials, and when it came time for his fbi interview he knew in advance what they'd ask him about. the fbi's deputy director told
him the questions would be about his contacts with the russian ambassador. he agreed to do the interview voluntarily and agents tried to give him a chance to correct his lies. when flynn said he didn't remember something the agents knew that he had said it. they used the exact words he used in order to prompt a truthful response, but he never corrected the record. and if anyone should have known better it was michael flynn, mueller writing, a sitting national security advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired lieutenant general, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents. with me now is frank mon toya and malcolm nance, who's the author of the book "the plot to destroy democracy." frank, let me begin with you if i may. does anyone with law enforcement
experience know it's actually illegal illegal to lie to the fbi? it almost seems like you don't have to have a law enforcement background to know you shouldn't lie to federal agents. >> i was thinking about this as i read through the documents today and i did thousands of these kind of interviews and i don't ever remember once having to remind somebody of that notion. you know, there's a difference between this as well and a miranda warning, which you do after someone's been arrested. but, you know, the other part of this interview process that is peculiar to me is while they had -- while mike flynn had a pretty easy rapport with a lot of guys in the fbi, including myself. i worked closely with him also when he was at dia. what really is peculiar to me is he even indicates in the document, in the interview he knows not only why he's being interviewed and he probably knows the answers as well, andy
being andy mccabe and he acknowledges in sworn testimony in district court that in fact he did lie to the fbi in the course of that interview. >> malcolm, i want to pose you the same question in this caveat, it red the defendant was undoubtably aware in his many years of working with the fbi that lying to the fbi carries serious consequences. do you buy any of the arguments made by trump or flynn's attorneys that, hey, the fbi agents didn't warn him not to lie? >> no. it's completely and totally utterly implausible. it's not just that everyone who works within that community, within the white house, within the defense intelligence network understands that you don't lie to the fbi but we also know that they're the principle agency for counter intelligence. he also knew we conduct own force monitoring of foreign
officers like ambassador kislyak in the united states and that anyone who would be communicating with him would be part of the collection process from the fbi. he knowing all of that conducted a deception operation against the fbi when they walked into his office. he was well aware of what the facts were. they led him on using the actual wording he used in order to give him a break, and he still had a reason to lie. within the world of counter intelligence this would be a red flag that this man has something to hide, which exceeds his security clearance, his loyalty to the country, and the common sense that everyone knows never lie to an fbi officer. >> so, frank, to that opponent that malcolm just raised about all the red flags, why? why would michael flynn try to now or through his lawyers try and spin this in any other way
that he's simply lying. why say the agents were somehow d diss disengen wn abo disengenuine about it? >> no question mike flynn was a great warrior for this country but at the same time it's hard to not believe he was a pretty lousy politician. i give him credit for standing up or manning up and admitting to the crime but at the same time there is that, the tear on that reputation in what was otherwise a great 33 years of service to our country. >> what thfiling today, malcolm, that kind of undercuts the flynn
argument and the trump argument due to trump's argument that flynn was entrapped? >> well, to a certain extent this really damages his argument he should get no jail time. if i were the judge i would look at the askance of this filing because it really goes back on his belief that he's remorseful about what he's done. maybe this his lawyers trying to be too cute by half. but by making this argument it's almost as if you're making an argument for a pardon, and that would again make me feel if if i were the presiding judge -- >> that there's something suspicious. >> yeah, not just suspicious but he's still keeping the effort up and despite the fact he was a great intelligence warrior he's not just an awful politician but he in fact may have been one step away from treason to a certain extent and he pulled back by guantanamoing but look at him now, he's going back on even what he cooperated with. >> thank you guys very much this
the daily beast reporting growing tight with pecker during the early months of the administration. kushner bonded with ami's chief executive who caught and killed negative stories about trump and admitted to working in concert with trump campaign to cover up the alleged karen mcdougal affair that she had with trump. nbc confirming trump was in the room for a meeting with pecker and cohen on hush money payments. cohen and pecker are cooperating with the feds. kushner is loyal son-in-law and has played a pivotal role in trump's administration. >> jared, i want to thank jared for what's happening on prison reform because you've really been leading it. it's something very close to your heart. to have jared in our family with all of his relatives and all of our friends is a great thing. i'm proud of him. i'm very proud of jared. jared's actually become much more famous than me. >> joining me now is a white
house reporter for the daily beast. he broke the exclusive reporting on kushner's relationship with david pecker. and back with us once again maya wily. let's talk about the relationship between kushner and pecker. >> because of all the legal news that happened earlier this week regarding ami, david pecker and of course michael cohen and president donald trump. it's obviously been firmly established that for the period of time before donald trump entered the white house and particularly in the heat of the 2016 campaign michael cohen as an envoy of donald trump worked very closely to ami and the national enquirer and of course david pecker to basically run a behind the scenes hush money operation that both ami and cohen say was at its core about the election and the trump campaign. trump and his lawyers obviously
vociferously depute that but that's to be expected. when the trump transition in 2016 and 2017 rolled around and it became very clear to pecker and his associates that michael cohen would not be landing a plumb job in the trump administration even though michael cohen was going around telling people close to him that he might even get something as senior as chief of staff in the white house, that obviously did not happen for a multitude of reasons. pecker went searching for someone who could be his new michael cohen, essentially. his new point person and direct a line to donald trump and the oval office. he found that person in trump's son-in-law and senior white house advisor jared kushner who pecker talked on the phone with numerous times since the dawn of the trump era in 2017 and the conversation -- topics ranged from things as weighty as relations with saudi arabia, ami, and much like the trump
administration and jared kushner both had their separate interests in cozying up to the regime in saudi arabia. and also topics of discussion includes things much more petty and tabloid centric than that including the dirt the national enquirer supposedly had on msnbc -- excuse me -- colleagues of yours joe scarborough and misha cobeensky when he jumped on the phone and talked about it last year. >> you brought up a lot of great points. maya, what would prosecutors want to learn about the relationship between pecker and jared kushner? >> what they were talking about and why. so if you have a president who by apparently corroborated evidence used his connection to
ami to actually divert negative stories about himself in order to win election so you already know that he is absolutely willing to abuse authority. so you would translate this now as president to what ways would he use his authority and relationship to ami or pecker through jared kushner to protect his administration? and it's possible that there may have been various forms of abuse of power in doing that. what the actual crimes would be would depend on what the conversations are. but one question would be are there other people you're paying off? what are you paying them off to cover up? >> where's all of this going for jared kushner? has become a central figure in all of the kind of loose thread investigations hovering around the trump organization, the inauguration, the white house, the president, his hush money payments? >> i think we don't know with regard to the trump organization per se. meaning, i have not at least heard any evidence that connects jared kushner to the operations
of the trump organization. but obviously as it relates to conspiracy to defraud the united states in the context of russia there are lots of reasons to be wondering what connections jared kushner has in that actually was in the june 9, 2016, meeting with the russian operative obviously with paul manafort and with don junior. so you do want to know what he knows and what he was connected to. there's no question it could be any number of things, but we'll only know as the evidence starts to become public. >> maya, thank you very much. and now to some breaking news on a mystery mueller hearing today and it is highly intriguing. mueller's team at the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit to hear a mysterious argument about a witness defying a grand jury subpoena. you can imagine it was on lock down with the court staff closing the entire courthouse floor where the case was actually being heard. joining me now is a reporter for
talking points memo who was at the d.c. courthouse today where all of of this unfolded. walk us through what was going on today. do we have any sense, are we any closer to what actually happened in that courtroom? >> no, it was a crazy day because we have not received any public confirmation that this mystery case is mueller linked. what we've had so far is hints in terms of when court filings have been filed, what's been observed in the court when court filings are filed that suggests this is linked to a mueller situation. but the whole docket is under seal. we can only see when things are filed or not filed. but we haven't been able to read any of the filings. what we did know is there was a hearing today. so what myself and about two dozen other reporters did is position ourselves right in front of the courtroom where the hearing was supposed to happen in hopes of seeing mueller's attorneys and the other sides
attorneys who are still a mystery to us. but what they did was close down not just the courtroom but the entire floor where the courtroom was, down to going through the tear wells to make sure reporters weren't lingering in the stairwells trying to see attorneys exit or enter. >> so very quickly how do you guys even know about these hearings? how did you know to show up to the courtroom and how long was the hearing? >> so what we can see is basically what's known as a docket. so we can see when things are being filed, but we can't open those filings. we can see when one side files a brief and when the other side files their brief. on the same page we're seeing when judges are given instructions on when they're going to be filing the documents and holding their hearings. there's a couple of reasons why we think this is mueller related. one is early in the proceedings
an appellate judge who used to work in the trump white house recused himself from the issue in appellate court. and a filer was in the court's office and heard an attorney was going respond to it. >> if you hear anymore of these types of filings let us know. thank you very much. and ahead the trump pelosi showdown got even more explosive. she's going for the tax returns. but potentially the crooked schemes to sell access at the trump inauguration. new details on foreign money and ivanka trump's role in all of it. next. i can't tell you who i am or what i witnessed,
swirling around trump's inaugural committee. "the new york times" today detailing exactly who new york federal prosecutors think may have been involved in a crooked scheme to curry favor with the incoming administration. the feds looking at whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to president trump's committee and a pro-trump super-pack. using straw donors to disguise their donations. in a moment i'm going to talk to the president of president obama's inaugural committee about this long-standing mystery. what in the world happened to the record setting money the team raised but nowhere near what the trump campaign brought in. much than twice as much what president obama raised just four years earlier. and now we may be starting to find out where all that trump money went and came from. joining me now is the president and ceo of obama's 2013
inaugural committee. gentlemen, great to have you with us. i want to put up that graphic once again because take a look at the stark difference and the money raised from past presidents. when you look at something like this, why would president trump double in your explanation what previous administrations were able to raise? you sat in that position of having to raise money but this is something really unexplainable. >> it is. i was chief of staff in 2009. he raised more than what we did in both of president obama's inaugurations which were the two largest in history, but we'll leave that for another conversation. look, the opportunity to give to an inaugural is a unique one and particularly for a candidate like donald trump where, you know, as has been reported, he setup a super-pack in the summer of '16 because frankly his campaign was waning in money. when it came to inaugural
spending this was a chance for folks to him with millions of dollars in fact and say look, i'm here and i support you in your presidency and in your inauguration. there was no need for $107 mill yp. they had probably a third of the staff we had, a quarter of the events we had, both of us had and they raised twice as much money. it only sends up a red flag why is there need for that much money. because people want to give that to curry favor and buy an opportunity. that's why i've been calling it the inaugural slush fund for the past year and a half. he chose almost every single time to take the easy way out and frankly show us he has no integrity and refuses to be transparent with the american people. >> so you've been in this position. you've talked about red flags. a, did you guys ever -- walk us
through the due diligence you guys did when someone wanted to come and give the oobama inaugural committee a big chunk of change, and did you in your position ever turn away money, saying, hey, we can't accept this for this event? >> absolutely. we do what's called vetting in the donor and politicess business where you investigate the person to determine whether or not they meet your standards that you as an inaugural committee sets. and we had very strict standards. back in '09 you couldn't buy an inug ral ticket if you didn't meet our standards. frankly, we turned away an awful lot of money. look, this is an opportunity for a presidency right at the outset to set the pace and the example of what their presidency is going to be about. president obama for both of his inaugurations wanted it to be about serving the american people, giving people an opportunity to serve each other
and work together. and that's why we set our restrictions on money. we set a very strong set of principles on who we would take money from and which well above and beyond the legal limits. and yes, we returned a lot of money. >> and i think it's probably folks of this current investigation. seth, is this simply mismanagement of funds or do you think something else is going on here when you look at the spike in the numbers from previous administrations? >> well, whether i do or not clearly the southern district of new york, the prosecutors looking into this do. what you have are two questions. the money coming into the committee and the money going out. the money coming in foreigners, not americans are not allowed to donate to these types of committees. if you have foreigners donating funds through americans, in other words straw donors to conseal the nature and source of those funds, that could be a campaign finance violation.
and if those funds are being donated to curry favor with the president or the then candidate or president-elect, and was promising favors in return you have a potential bribery case. and then on the other end the money coming out, if any of those funds were being used for noninauguration purposes, if anyone was using them to pay their mortgage or take fancy trips or anything noninauguration related then you could have a campaign finance case. >> how do federal investigators figure this out, seth? how do they go about piecing this together? >> you look at bank records, e-mails and texts and you start talking to people. you try to flip them and then they tell you what the purpose and how the transactions were structured. so much like we've heard through much of the mueller investigation there are building blocks.
you start low, you work your way up and you try to figure out if there was criminal wrongdoing. >> and there's even some reporting of e-mails exchanged with ivanka trump suggested there was some concern if in fact this was at some point audited. nancy pelosi is ready to cross trump's red line. the fight to recover trump's tax returns is starting. that news next. ...i just got my ancestrydna results: 74% italian. ...and i found out that i'm from the big toe of that sexy italian boot! so this holiday season it's ancestrydna per tutti!
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tax returns. pelosi saying democrats will take the first steps toward obtaining the president's tax returns. the incoming chairman of the tax panel will insist trump release them confirming the news that ari broke on election night. >> we have some news on that front. our friend ari melber has been doing reporting in terms of what to expect now that the democrats seem assured of control in the house. >> that is right, rachel. i've spoken to a senior democratic source on the ways and means committee and breaking news, they do intend to request president trump's tax returns. >> so that fight is coming and it is coming now from all sides. this new yorker headline today, incoming intelligence chair adam schiff plans to obliterate trump's red line and vowing to get his personal finances and get his bank records, all of this coming as mueller and federal prosecutors eye trump's family business. and michael cohen breaks his silence on what went on behind
closed doors inside of the trump organization. >> he's saying very clearly that he never directed you to do anything wrong. is that true? >> i don't think there is anybody that believes that. first of all, nothing at the trump organization was ever done unless it was run through mr. trump. >> joining me now, we have ej deon and columnist for the washington post. great to have you with us this evening. >> great to be with you. >> let me get your reaction to the move by the democrats to insist on going after trump's tax returns right at the gate? >> well, i think it is the right thing to do and i think it is important that they begin by putting this in the right context, which is this is not a phishing expedition. they are simply asking trump to live up to a norm that every president since the nixon years has lived up to in putting out his tax returns. it is something that was expected because the american people have a right to know what conflicts of interest might this
person have. did this person pay their taxes properly? we asked potential cabinet officials to give all kinds of information to congress and yet trump is saying i don't have to give up anything. now, it is also true, as your lead-in suggested, there may be a lot to learn here about whether trump is in violation of the emoluments law of the constitution. has he done business with foreign entities in the past that he might be paying back now. i'm making an assumption about i'm saying what we could learn. we could learn things that affect the russian and probe and might learn if trump is as rich as he says it is. >> and those points are valid and the conflict of interest but how could they get them beyond requesting them. if they request it, they will not get it. so is there anything they can do to compel or agencies to provide those tax returns? >> well i thi-- i think they ca subpoena the tax returns and
assert that congress does have a right to see these things and cite precedent of all of the other times that congress has gotten tax returns on request. but i suspect that this will be fought out in court. one assumes that robert mueller has seen some of the tax returns so we might see them any way. but again, i think it is important that they keep underlining this principle that this is something not only congress but citizen and voters have a right to look at. >> and how does president trump push back against this? is there a legal defense to say this is private and not offer this or is this too much of a public inquiry at this point that it could be a critical piece of the puzzle. >> he's used the excuse he's under audit but he's been under audit forever and that didn't stop him from releasing returns not under audit. he could argue some kind of executive privilege.
and he may argument some kind of privacy but i'm not sure it is a public fight to do much good but you could point back to other republicans like george w. bush, and they may not have been happy to do it but willing to release their tax returns. but i suspect he'll use any means at his disposal to try to prevent it. >> and the central question people are asking is what is the president hiding by not releasing the tax returns. e.j. deon, thank you so much. we'll be right back. and if i can get comfortable keeping this tookus safe and protected... you can get comfortable doing the same with yours. preparation h. get comfortable with it. ♪ ♪ the united states postal service
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so finally tonight, check out ari's latest episode of mavericks featuring snl star chris red. i'll see you here sunday at 4:00 and monday at 5:00 a.m. with morning joe for a first look. "hardball" starts right now. citizen cohen, let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. we begin tonight with two big developments from two critical witnesses in the robert mueller investigation. first there is president trump's former fixer michael cohen. a man who once said he would take a bullet for donald trumps speaking out. this time he says for the country. in his first interview since being