tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC June 15, 2018 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
lives. and it is now on us to do everything within our power to make this right. and that's what i'm committed to, and that's what i know a lot of good people in this country are committed to. i think we can still get this right. we still have time. >> beto o'rourke. thank you very much for your time. >> thank you. >> that is "all in" for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. good evening, rachel. >> powerful interview, man. very serious stuff. well done. >> thank you. and thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. lots of news to get to today. you knew this news week was going to be crazy. we sort of knew that friday was going to be crazy. we didn't know it was going to be this crazy. and this is historic. today is the day in american history that the sitting president's campaign chairman was remanded into federal custody. put in jail. and we know exactly how that went because we just got the transcript. so let me tell you what happened here. there were three prosecutors from the special counsel's office, also an fbi agent working with mueller's team. on the other side there were
three defense lawyers working for the president's campaign chair, paul manafort, and paul manafort himself, and paul manafort himself who's in the courtroom too. we start with an arraignment. paul manafort you remember was charged just a few days ago with new felony charges. an arraignment is where you stand up in court and face the charges against you and say whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. that's what they did first, the arraignment. courtroom deputy, "are you paul j. manafort jr."? defendant paul manafort, "i am." courtroom deputy, "are you the person named in the superseding indictment?" defendant paul manafort, "i am." courtroom deputy, "you are charged in criminal case 17-201-1 in a seven-count superseding indictment charging you with the following. count number 1, conspiracy against the united states. count number 2, conspiracy to launder money. count number 3, acting as an unregistered afth a foreign principal. country number 4:00 false and misleading statements concerning the foreign agents registration
act. count number 5, false statements. count number 6, obstruction of justice. and count number 7, conspiracy to obstruct justice." courtroom deputy continues, "do you waive formal reading of the superseding indictment? defendant paul manafort says "i do." paul manafort's attorney kevin downing says "we do." and then the judge says, "for the purposes of the arraignment how do you plead to the superseding indictment?" defendant paul manafort says, "not guilty." to which the judge says, "all right." so that's the start. the superseding indictment he just pled not guilty to, that's the new indictment where the president's campaign chairman is charged in part in a joint indictment with a russian guy. a russian citizen who the special counsel said today in court is in russia now and who the special counsel has said previously is believed to be actively linked to a russian intelligence agency. so paul manafort in this superseding indictment, the last two counts of this indictment,
he's charged jointly with a russian guy linked to russian intelligence. now, the russian intel guy manafort is charged with in the superseding indictment, the russian guy did not turn up in court for his arraignment on these charges today along with paul manafort, but we'll have more on that in a moment. now, what happened next was more dramatic. first we got him pleading not guilty to the new charges that he's facing along with his russian co-defendant, who's not there in court. and then we get the part that leads to him going to jail. you'll recall that paul manafort was first charged last october, then he was further charged in february, then he was further charged last week. but what happened today after he was arraigned on the newest set of charges today, the ones where he pled not guilty, what happened right after that was that then the judge took up the issue at length of whether or not manafort could continue to be out on house arrest while he's waiting for his trial to
start. the latest charges from the special counsel's office say that manafort secretly contacted witnesses in his case and tried to get those witnesses to lie for his benefit and he made those contacts while he's out on bail on these other charges. that's witness tampering, according to prosecutors. they brought these charges against paul manafort, letting the judge know that in their estimation he's been tampering with witnesses and therefore they should reconsider -- the judge should reconsider the fact he's out on bail. the judge then had to decide, given these new serious witness tampering charges, if paul manafort could still stay out on bail or whether she needed to revoke his bail and instead put him in jail. for the time between now and when his trial starts. and as you know, the judge ultimately did decide that she needed to put paul manafort in jail. and that jailing means of course there's an amazing amount of new pressure on the president's campaign chairman, who tonight as i speak sits in jail for the
first night. but because we got this transcript we also have a unique window into what the pressure is like on him already, what the pressure has been like on him in the courtroom. i don't know if there's any other way to get -- if you couldn't be in the courtroom, since there's no cameras in the courtroom, i don't know if there's any other way to get a sense of what happened here other than by getting it from this transcript. but check this out. what's happening here is manafort's defense team is trying to argue that when paul manafort in fact admittedly called and texted these people about his case he couldn't have beenpering with witnesses. they basically tried to contend today that he was just reaching out to people he knew. these people he was reaching out to to talk about his case, he didn't know they were witnesses in his case. so here's where manafort's defense lawyers make that case to the judge. and the judge considers it, and then she gives the prosecutor from robert mueller's office a chance to respond.
and the mueller's office prosecutor just destroys the case they were making. here we go. richard westling, who's one of manafort's defense lawyers. he says, "i think the difficulty here, your honor, is that this is a xwrobroad-ranging matter t is largely something the government continues to expand, and with that it puts mr. manafort in the position of not knowing whether any call he makes is a risk of violating the unknown list of witnesses in a situation where that's not made clear. and so from my perspective, a clear no-contact rule will solve the problem. i think if we simply cut off that line of contact it will solve the problem. we're trying in an appropriate way for the court to weigh the balance it is forced to weigh, where there's a general sense that where there are conditions remaining out of skral pending a trial is the proper result. and i know that these are the kinds of things judges wish they didn't have to deal with." and the judge says, "i -- yes." and the defense lawyer says, "we all get that." and then the judge says, "this
has been, it continues to be to this minute, an extraordinarily difficult decision." and manafort's defense lawyer says, cut i understand that. i understand that. but i believe that mr. manafort can be put in a position, you why honor, where conditions can be set," meaning conditions of his release. conditions of his bail. "i think that manafort can be put in a position, your honor, where conditions can be set, and i think that's largely a no-contact rule that's clear and unambiguous from this court. then this will not happen again. and the goal of what the court does here today is all about preventing it from happening again. if we jump to the thought that that means he should be remanded," meaning jailed," today, that may achieve the result but it will do so in a manner that is more harsh and creates more challenges for this defendant as he faces two trials in separate courts and preparing for those trials. it would be more harsh and create more challenges for this defendant than the bail reform act requires or compels under
these circumstances." to which the judge says, "all right. thank you." then she turns to the prosecution, turns to the special counsel's office, and says, "you have the burden, mr. andres, so i'll let you, since you're already standing." the prosecution from the special counsel's office is already standing at this point. it's greg andres, who's the prosecutor. and he jumps in and he says this. "my colleague," meaning defense counsel who i'm arguing against here, "my colleague has the law absolutely wrong with respect to witness tampering. absolutely wrong. a defendant can be involved in witness tampering without a list of government witnesses, right? it's any person who may give testimony. with the happsburg group which is the person mr. manafort is reaching out to persons d-1 and d-2 about, persons d-1 and d-2 they controlled the hapsburg group. it's inconceivable he doesn't know they're potential witnesses. and that's what the law is. not that they've been tolls that
it's the witness. it isn't about a no contact list. this is about influencing the testimony of a potential witness, a crime for which mr. manafort has now been indicted. he has absolutely violated the terms of his bail by committing a crime while on bail. that's one. two, he has the law absolutely wrong about threats of violence and witness tampering. when a witness, when a defendant tells a witness a false story and reminds him of that story, the courts have held repeatedly that that constitutes witness tampering. so mr. westling, the defense counsel, is wrong about what it means to be a witness. he is wrong about having to have a no-contact list or a list of government witnesses. he is wrong about the type of methods that can be used to tamper with the witness." so says the special counsel's office prosecutor. and the judge found that in fact mr. westling, the defense counsel, was having as bad a day as it seemed like he was having in that moment. the prosecutors then went on to say that paul manafort had
contacted these witnesses using encrypted apps and using a technique called foldering where he wrote e-mails, he saved the e-mails in a draft folder and then sent them, then he gives somebody else the password to that e-mail account so that other person could log into the e-mail account and read that written draft that paul manafort had written without the e-mail actually ever being sent or received. it's sort of a countersurveillance trick. so the prosecutors explain that that's what manafort has been doing to communicate. we didn't know that before this hearing today. but essentially they're spelling out how manafort has been trying to evade surveillance while he's been breaking the law and contacting witnesses while he's out on bail. here's greg andres, prosecutor from the special counsel's office. "it's important to note as well, judge, that this issue with the obstruction of justice, the government didn't learn about that by somehow subpoenaing or monitoring or getting a search warrant for mr. manafort's communications. we learned about it because a witness in this case, who was
part of the government's investigation, brought forth the information about the tampering. and that's when we started our investigation. that's when we asked the court for additional time to give our opinion about bail. and that's where we started our investigation." so there's no way to monitor mr. manafort's communications in some effective way. the only condition that defense counsel suggests will address the issue of hip him, mr. manafort, tampering with witness-s a no-contact list. it's just not sufficient to protect the community or to give the court any confidence that mr. manafort will not try to again. it's not a single episode. took place over five weeks. as we sit here today, judge, mr. manafort has committed a crime while he's on bail. as we sit here today, judge, mr. manafort is out on a $10 million recognizance bond and he's been indicted for a crime while on bail." and the judge responds, "thank you. i want to take some time to absorb it." and then at that point there's actually a little bit more arguing, more pleading from
manafort's defense counsel about the delicate balancing act the judge says is needed here. the judge says okay, takes a 15-minute recess. and then she comes back and she issues her ruling. and she explains why she's going to put the president's campaign chairman in jail. and this part of what happened today, this is the part that -- it's going to make your kid who's watching with you -- watching this tonight with you, it's going to make your kid want to grow up to not be just a lawyer and to definitely not want to be a defendant. this is the part that's maybe going to make your kid want to be a judge. so if you don't want that, time to turn me off. so the judge comes back from the 15-minute recess. and she says, "the touchstone of the bail reform act is still and always has been flight and safety," meani ining risk of fl by the defendant so they wouldn't have to go to trial. "flight and safety. the law is clear i cannot impose
pretrial detention to punish the defendant for the alleged contact in the new allegations. so i have struggled with the decision. here i don't believe there's any change in the defendant's risk of flight. the additional charged don't really change the calculus that much given what he was already facing. is he a danger? well, the grand jury has found probable cause to believe the defendant mr. manafort has attempted to corruptly persuade people to lie. there's been no evidence of even a threat of harm to any person. we don't have what one would consider the typical sort of harm to the community at large. dangerous substances being peddled on the corner, unlawful possession of firearms. the harm in this case is the harm to the administration of justice. it's the harm to the integrity of the court system." and the judge says, "i've wrestled with this. what conditions could there be? this is not middle school. i can't take his cell phone. and if i say, well, don't call the 56 witnesses that defense counsel tells me i need to clearly list in this order, will
manafort call the 57th? all the defendant has said to me is, well, there wasn't a clear enough order saying not to do it. and my problem is i don't think i can draft a clear enough order to cover every possible future violation of the united states code. and i shouldn't have to. i thought about this long and hard, mr. manafort. i have no appetite for this. but in the end i cannot turn a blind eye to these allegations. given the number of contacts, the persistence of the contacts, and their obvious intent and import. it's how they were perceived and received by the person to whom they were made. and this witness tampering occurred while the defendant was already on bond and already under an order by another judge to not do this. the indictment alleges a corrupt intent to undermine the integrity and truth of the fact-finding process upon which our system of justice depends. the defense suggested that it was inappropriate for the government to bring these matters to my attention. so i want to stay quite clearly that it absolutely was not.
you struck that note repeatedly in your papers. but this hearing is not about politics. it's not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. it's about the defendant's alleged conduct. i'm very troubled by the contacts with these witnesses are alleged to have taken place even after you were under an explicit order not to contact witnesses directly or indirectly. i am concerned you that seem inclined to treat these proceedings as just another marketing exercise and not a criminal case brought by a duly appointed federal prosecutor in a federal court. all of this at bottom affects my judgment about whether you can be trusted to comply with the court's directives. that is the finding that the statute also requires me to make if i release you. and i can't make it. you have abused the trust placed in you six months ago, and therefore the government's motion will be granted and the defendant will be detained pending trial as of today."
manafort's defense counsel, "your honor, we would ask that the court stay in position of any remand to allow us to appeal." the judge then turns to the prosecutors, "what's the government's position on that?" greg andres from the special counsel's office says, "judge, there are no conditions to address any of the concerns of the court. there are no conditions as the court has found to guard against the danger to the community. so we oppose that application." and then the judge says, "and i'm also concerned that now that i've issued this order the risk of flight has just multiplied substantially." so, the judge says, "i appreciate the request for appeal and it's a serious request, and i understand that, but i'm going to deny it." and that's how it happened. and then the president's campaign chairman was taken away to jail. he waved to his wife.
he was led out of the courtroom. a few moments after he was led out of the courtroom a u.s. marshal came back into the courtroom and handed mrs. manafort her husband's wallet and his belt and the very nice burgundy-colored tie that he was wearing. this week has been nuts. right? this week started with the president of the united states lavishing praise for hours on the dictator of north korea. after driving a hard bargain in which the north koreans got a summit with the u.s. president, hours of praise for their dictator from him, a cessation of u.s. and south korean joint military exercises, the apparent promise from the president that economic sanctions could be dropped soon too, and they got all of those things in exchange for them doing nothing. that's how the week started. by the end of the week today the associated press published news
that the pace at which the trump administration is ordering that children be torn away from their parents at the mexican border, the pace of that new policy of the trump administration is now running at nearly 50 kids a day. 50 times a day an intact family is being forcibly separated by the u.s. government and the children are being taken away and locked up separately from their parents. nearly 50 times a day. and also today the president's campaign chairman indicted and arraigned on new felony charges that he engaged in obstruction of justice and a criminal conspiracy with a russian citizen who's assessed by the fbi to have active ties to a russian intelligence service. the president's campaign chairman today sent to jail, potentially for months, to await one of his two federal felony trials. paul manafort's russian co-defendant has not entered a plea on these most recent felony charges that they both faced
together. nor was he jailed alongside paul manafort today. that's because he's in russia, where the russian government ll presumably continue to shield him from the special counsel's investigation and, like the other 13 russian citizens who have been charged thus far with felonies in the mueller investigation, the russian government presumably will continue to prevent him from being extradited to a u.s. courtroom to face these charges alongside manafort. so it is -- it's tempting to say this is a wild week in the news. it is certainly a wild time to be a living, sentient american citizen. but in some ways it feels like the news right now is maybe more of a piece. at least a lot of it is. susan glasser at "the new yorker" reports today that the president has now told his staff to start planning for what he wants to be his next summit, which he wants to be with vladimir putin. the president's unilateral concessions to the north korean dictator earlier this week
included a surprise gift that china and russia both have been asking for for months and that we now know putin personally lobbied trump about months ago. when trump announced in singapore this week that he was going to halt joint u.s.-south korean military exercises, that was reportedly a surprise to everybody else in the white house and to the u.s. military. the president just called an audible on that and announced it on its own. but we now know that russia had been asking for it. that president vladimir putin had personally asked president trump for that. president trump this week granted that wish. this is a president who benefited from russian interference in the election to try to help him win. a president who continued even today to rail against the investigation of that interference. a president who continues to help russia out, even in ways that surprise the rest of the people who now work for him. and the jailing of his campaign chairman today is widely being
described as having nothing to do with any of that. in a literal letter of the law sense that is maybe true. the trump campaign chair is now jailed while awaiting trial on charges of moind laumoney laundering, bank fraud, tax fraud, conspiracy to defraud the united states, false statements, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, et cetera, et cetera. here's the thing. paul manafort going to jail is the most dramatic sign yet that mr. manafort is not planning on cooperating with prosecutors no matter what they throw at him, no matter what they charge with him, no matter how hard they're going to make his life. and his life just got very, very much harder today. being in jail tonight is no joke. but what is it that they want him to cooperate with them about? paul manafort was charged in a joint indictment alongside a long-time business associate who is believed to work for russian intelligence and who is currently a fugitive from u.s. justice being shielded from u.s. courts by the russian government. paul manafort is known to have been in frequent if not constant communication with that alleged
russian intelligence operative throughout the time he was running the donald trump for president campaign. that russian intelligence operative is the person through whom paul manafort reached out during the campaign to a russian oligarch close to vladimir putin to offer that oligarch private briefings on the u.s. election while he was in charge of the trump campaign. that same russian oligarch alleges in multiple court filings that paul manafort owes him millions of dollars. the associated press reported last year that that same russian oligarch signed paul manafort up to a $10 million a year contract to promote the interests of the putin government. paul manafort's time running the trump campaign came to an end when there started to be too many press reports about surreptitious payments he'd allegedly been receiving from pro-putin political parties in ukraine in the former soviet union. before he left the campaign, though, the time he spent running the trump campaign coincided with the sharp rise in russian government and intelligence activity to benefit trump's campaign and help trump
win. and that's not even mentioning that cnn report last year that u.s. intelligence agencies collected intercepted communications among suspected russian operatives where they were discussing amongst themselves their communications with paul manafort and how paul manafort had been encouraging whatever help he could get for the trump campaign from russia. so no. the trump campaign chairman going to jail today technically has nothing to do with russia or the trump campaign allegedly working with russia on a foreign intelligence operation to swing our last election. that is not why paul manafort was jailed today. but that is presumably what prosecutors would like to talk to him about. if only he would talk to them. why won't he? is it because if he does talk he's scared of who will come knocking on his door and he's more scared of that than jail? is it because he really thinks he's going win his case, he's going to be acquitted on all charges?
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tonight is posted publicly in front of a house on a quiet street in brooklyn, new york. it says, "377 union street, the house that brought down a president. 377 union street will forever be known as the building that led to the collapse of the presidency of donald j. trump. originally acquired by trump campaign chairman paul manafort in january 2017 this building's finances would later become the foundation for initial charges of money laundering and conspiracy against the united states of america. under the direction of special counsel robert mueller these central criminal indictments were the tip of the iceberg in the federal investigation of collusion, conspiracy, and other illegal activities by donald j. trump and his associates. thought to be originally built around 1899, 377 union street is constructed 22 feet by 40 feet on a 90-foot lot in the classic brownstone style of the carroll gardens area." signed new york landmark preservation foundation. i should say the brownstone in
the classic brownstone style, the house is real, it exists. that sign is not a real landmark. it's a three-dimensional very pointed joke. but tonight the president's campaign chairman is spending his first night in jail. somewhere in washington, d.c. and yes, the charges against him are in part about real estate, including the finances that led to the purchase of that brownstone and alleged money laundering and tax evasion and everything else. now that he's in jail, though, the next obvious question is is that what prosecutors would want to talk to him about if he would talk to them instead of continuing to fight this thing? how much is this incredible pressure now, the jailing of paul manafort, about the big picture rauch case? and as paul manafort continues not to cooperate and to fight these charges against him up to and including enduring jail tonight, what are his actual chances of being acquitted, of fighting this and winning? joining us is devlin barrett, national security reporter with the "washington post."
mr. barrett, thank you for joining us today. really appreciate it. >> sure. >> when i look at what we know about paul manafort and the charges against him and the public reporting about what he's been up to, i have lots of questions about whether or not this -- these multiple indictments of manafort, the incredible pressure he's under now, particularly now that he's in jail, whether it is directly related to the russia case or whether this is about him and his financial malfeasance. how do we know? >> so first of all, you have to remember, the manafort investigation was sort of a legacy inheritance from the fbi and the justice department. who had been looking at manafort's financial conduct for a long time before mueller showed up on the scene. but it was very quickly decided when mueller was appointed that he would inherit that investigation. so these two things are very much connected and i don't think it's worth a ton of time trying to separate them out so much other than to say as you point out the financial charges against him and the degree to
which he may or may not be convicted and obviously now that he's in jail is a tremendous pressure point on manafort to cooperate with mueller on the bigger questions of possible conspiracy with russians. >> everybody thinks that paul manafort is being pressured by prosecutors to quochlt with tco them to alleviate pressure on himself. and we all assume that pressure on prosecutors is because paul manafort does that important information to give them about the larger case these prosecutors are pursuing. an alternate theory of the case here is paul manafort thinks he is not guilty of any of these things he's charged with, he can endure discomfort and legal bills right now because ultimately he's going to be vindicated, he's going to be aquilted and there's no reason for him to plead to anything he didn't do. >> right. >> how strong is the case against him? >> the case is pretty strong against him for two reasons. one, a lot of this is paper, right? this is about tax filings, documents from banks.
so that's one thing. two, some of the most important witnesses against him as far as we can tell from what we know at this point, some of the most important witnesses against him are for example his accountant, his lawyer. those aren't great witnesses if you're trying to beat a case. and so i think those two factors together, the extensive paper case that prosecutors describe, the fact that some of manafort's own service providers have given evidence against him according to prosecutors, those are pretty tough things to overcome as a defendant. but look, you never really know for sure until you get in court with it. >> looking at the transcript of the hearing today, it was daunting. just reading it as a layman and seeing how good the prosecutors are at making their case, at least they were today in front of this judge. and again, i'm no pro. the other really striking thing that happened today in addition to this hearing is that the president publicly made a statement that this was -- he called it a sentence. it's not a sentence. but he kald thcalled this very .
and then the president's attorney, rudy giuliani, started publicly musing about how the president might clean this all up with pardons. could a pardon be a get out of jail free literally card for paul manafort here, and is the president's lawyer, mr. giuliani, or potentially the president himself in trouble for sort of publicly dangling that today? is that something that you're not supposed to do? >> it's something you're not supposed to do as a legal matter. and we saw the president -- excuse me, we saw the president's lawyer walk that statement back to us within hours. so i think -- but look, in intelligence terms a dangle is a dang dangle. you throw the idea out there. and that's alarming certainly to law enforcement officials. i think a pardon would be -- you know, would be so politically damaging right now to the president that i think they understand the risks that even talking about it create. but look, somehow they keep talking about it, right? rudy giuliani is not the first
of the president's lawyers to suggest this. this happened earlier. and so this keeps coming up. and i think -- i do think there's reason to be at a minimum very curious as to what the president really believes about whether or not he should pardon any of these people and when. so i do think it's a big deal. >> devlin barrett, national security reporter with the "washington post." really appreciate you being with us on a friday night. thanks, devlin. >> sure. >> much appreciated. i should also mention on that pardon point it does complicate both the politics and the legal approach that a president might take trying to sort of save himself, paul manafort's potential testimony by pardoning paul manafort. mr. manafort is charged alongside somebody who's believed to be a russian intelligence agent. and unless the president's also going to pardon the russian intelligence agent, this prosecution would presumably continue along the lines that it has been pursued thus far, even if paul manafort got that get out of jail free card. so you think the president's going to pardon the russian guys too? maybe. we'll be right back.
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but they're from all over. some of them are seeking asylum from gang violence or domestic violence. all of these kids have been forcibly taken away from their parents by e u.s. government now because of this new trump administration policy that they're calling zero tolerance, announced in april. this is the policy to start taking kids away from their parents at the border, and then they're locking up the parents and also locking up the kids, but they're locking them up separately. this new policy from the trump administration is jarring enough but we now know as of today that it's also a very large-scale policy. 2,000 kids taken away from their parents and locked up already? the knock-on effect is hat trump administration is scrambling to find somewhere to put all of these kids that they have taken from their mothers. and remember, this isn't like older teenagers who got caught crossing the border on their own, which is a whole different problem that the government has dealt with through lots of
previous administrations. in this case this is new. we're talking about toddlers and babies who have been taken out of their mother's arms by the government and then the government has to figure out what to do with them. the trump administration's latest solution for handling these kids that they've taken is that they're opening a tent city for kids they've taken at the port of entry in tornillo, texas. 40 miles from el paso, on the mexican border. a reporter for the local nbc affiliate went there to see the setup. >> you take a look off in the distance, it might be difficult to tell with our camera, but off to the left of that brown building you can see that large white tent. our crews who were out here yesterday did receive confirmation that this is where the children were going to be temporarily housed. >> it's just under 100 degrees in tornillo today. but the trump administration, third-place not a proposal. they have picked that spot to hold 360 kids in tents outdoors.
some of them have reportedly already arrived and will be sleeping there as of tonight. and they will be there until they are released to a parent? a sponsor? who knows when? this is an emotional issue. this is something the u.s. government has never done before. outrage has been building for weeks. but today with the first new hard data about how many kids have been taken from their parents and locked up by the government separate from their families, the anger is at this point dialed up to 1,995. everybody keeps saying this is politically unsustainable. but we have no sense that the trump administration plans on ending this anytime soon and kids are getting to that tent city apparently tonight. [phone ringing]
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you know yesterday there was that surprise lawsuit filed by the attorney general in new york state, the lawsuit against president trump and his children alleging "persistently illegal conduct in running the donald j. trump foundation." this lawsuit alleges that the president used this foundation to benefit his presidential campaign, also to benefit himself. so you heard about this yesterday. lawsuit filed yesterday. now that experts in tax law and campaign finance law and charitable foundation law have started sifting through the allegations and the evidence in this new lawsuit, there seems to be a consensus forming. and the consensus seems to be that this could actually be very, very serious. this could be very, very, very bad for the president. donald trump and his children were board members of the foundation. they could potentially be in significant trouble here. the new york attorney general i should say brought this as a civil complaint. this lawsuit is a civil complaint. last night when i was talking
about it i referred to it as a criminal complaint. that's my mistake. it's a civil complaint involving the trump foundation. but the reason i was confused about it, the reason i got it wrong, is because there's this civil lawsuit but the new york attorney general also has referred the allegations in the civil lawsuit to federal authorities, specifically to the federal election commission and to the irs. she also copied her referral to the justice department's public integrity section. the person who ran the division of the irs that oversees non-profits during the clinton and bush administrations, he told "the new york times" that there have been several cases where people have been criminally prosecuted for filing false tax returns of charities they controlled, which is one of the things alleged about the president in this lawsuit. that former official said the difference in trump's case as far as he can see is those cases where people were prosecuted were actually less egregious than what's alleged about the trump foundation by the new york
attorney general. less egregious. not only did donald trump sign the allegedly false tax returns for his foundation, he was the political candidate handing out the giant foundation checks two days before the iowa caucuses. so it's not like he could say he didn't know what he was doing. the former head of the irs non-profit division says, "this is not a good case to try to defend." here's another one. former top attorney for the irs under the obama -- excuse me, under obama and bush writes that this "is in fact the type of case that the irs goes after with criminal sanctions." "i believe mr. trump is also criminally liable for his actions. if i were still at the irs, based on the lawsuit, i would make a criminal referral." again, a former top attorney for the irs under the bush administration and the obama administration. that is the question that the new york attorney general is calling. will the irs look at the conduct that she has described and alleged about president trump and the trump foundation? will the irs look at that
alleged persistent violation of state and federal law and actually do something about it? the irs could investigate the trump foundation. they could issue fines and penalties. they could refer a case to the justice department for prosecution of individuals. and any number of people looking at this lawsuit think it's exactly the kind of case that very easily could play out that way with criminal charges. "people have gone to prison for stuff like this," says jenny johnson ware, criminal tax attorney in chicago. she says, "if i were representing someone with facts like this, assuming the facts described in this petition are true, i would be very worried about an indictment. if i were representing someone who had committed these acts who was not the president of the united states, i'd be looking to negotiate a resolution." meaning i'd be looking to try to settle this. how would that work? and what if the person in this lawsuit is in fact the president of the united states? how serious is this?
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so yesterday the attorney general in the state of new york filed this lawsuit calling the trump foundation persistently illegal for benefitting both mr. trump himself and his campaign. the ag referred these allegations to the federal justice department and the irs and fec. a lot of people think this could be serious legal jeopardy for the president.
a criminal tax attorney in chicago told the "new york times" last night, quote, people have gone to prison for stuff like this. if i were representing for someone with facts like this, assuming the facts in the petition are true, i would be very worried about an indictment. joining us is jenny johnson ware. she's an expert in tax disputes with the irs. thank you for joining us, particularly on a friday night. >> thank you for having me. >> can you help us understand the basics. the new york ag didn't bring criminal charges herself but guarded it to the irs to look at it as a potential criminal matter. why did it go down that way and how will the irs consider this? >> the new york ag would have difficulty bringing a case here but this is up the alley of what irs criminal investigations
would likely be interested in looking at. these are very potentially far reaching allegations that go beyond just the president. it touches his campaign staff, his children, his business associates, his campaign donors. if you dig in to what the new york attorney general's office has uncovered here, it's really a hornet's nest that could impact a lot of people. >> how strong is the case, to your eye, somebody experienced in this area of law, how strong is the case chelashe laid out aw will the irs review it? do they have to review it now they received the referral? >> they don't have to. i think it would be politically damaged if they don't. i would expect someone would look into the allegations. >> you feel the strength of the the evidence laid out by the ag
would sort of require that, would lead that to that because i ap a serious enough set of allegations? >> it is and i think the irs would be inclined to look at the way this impacts a number of people and not just the president. so there are a couple of basic tax concepts that you need to understand to realize why this is such a big deal. one of them is that earned income is taxable. so if you've earned money by doing something for someone, it's taxable to you. when i look at the trump foundation's 990s, it looks to me like business associates of the president were paying money into his foundation, perhaps in place of money that they owed some of his business entities. the impact of that is two-fold. it means that those people who are paying the money to a 501c3
charitable organization get a deduction for making a charitable contribution that isn't real and the entity that should have been picking up that income isn't picking up the income and paying tax on it. so you have that set of problems. plus on the political versus charitable contributions side, political contributions are not deductible. charitable contributions to a 501c3 are. and if you look at the list of donors listed on the trump foundation's tax returns, the same names that are probably very high campaign donors show up as donors to the foundation to the tune of $2 million in 2016. i don't know how those contributors filed their tax returns. but if i were representing them and their lawyer, i'd be checking really quickly to see whether they took a charitable contribution for what really amounted to a political contribution.
>> jenny johnson ware, white collar tax attorney. really appreciate your time tonight. i feel like i understand this much better. thank you. >> thank you. >> i did not understand that the seriousness was just for the people running the charity but everybody who got financially intangled with it during the course of the trump campaign. that's probably a lot of people. we'll be right back. i brought you something. okay. we're getting out of here. you're welcome. run! holy! this is gonna be awesome. rated pg-13.
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i never had a canoe before. i bought it last weekend, i'm picking it up tomorrow. unless the world ends i'm planning as much time as possible in that canoe over the weekend. therefore i have two things to ask/tell you. first please make it so the world doesn't end and second before i'm back here on monday night you need to know there's going to be a red hot hearing on monday afternoon in congress. the director of the fbi and the inspector general from the justice department who just put out that 500 page report that made everybody so crazy yesterday. they're both testifying mid afternoon in the senate. you are probably going to want to watch that. just so you know. meanwhile i'll been in the canoe, see you on monday night. time now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell" good evening wi, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. thank you for ruini