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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  August 21, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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sentence in this case and you agree to cooperate. and i think from robert mueller's perspective it would be worth it because even if paul manafort doesn't have anything incriminating i think robert mueller's quest is to get to the truth and paul manafort certainly knows a lot of what happened. he was present at that june 2016 meeting at trump tower. he has all the connections with the russians and the ukrainians and so it seems that he's in a position to know a lot of what was happening with regard to any connections with russia. so i think we might see that. >> barbara mcquade, former u.s. attorney in michigan. thank you, barb. really good to have you here tonight. >> thanks, rachel. >> what a day. that does it for us for right this second. see you again tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. and i was so struck by your interview with lanny davis which is making news in that last hour. not only did he tell you that michael cohen has information that as he said should be of interest to the special counsel, there's this specificity he got
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into at the end of that answer where he said it includes knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not mr. trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on. we know he publicly cheered it on but did he also do that in private and did he have private information? and that was as far as lanny davis was willing to go tonight. but that sounds like the tip of an iceberg. >> he did literally make the offer on tv right here live that his client would be happy to talk to the special counsel. i think it's fair to note we don't know if michael cohen already has talked to the special counsel. there's no indication that he has. it's possible he has. it was remarkable ton see any mention of the special counsel in michael cohen's guilty plea today, but listen, if cohen now goes to the special counsel and does offer the special counsel's office information that they find very valuable, as paul fishman just said here a moment ago, there's no reason why the
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special counsel couldn't go to the judge that's going to be sentencing michael cohen in december and say he actually gave us a ton of help and you should look upon him with lenience because of that. there was no plea agreement -- no cooperation deal in this plea agreement today. but if he's going to now start talking to the special counsel, that could still have implications for cohen's own fate. >> rachel, the reference to the special counsel that i believe i saw in the charges today -- in the agreement today, the plea agreement, were the words "washington, d.c." that's one of the places michael cohen is allowed to travel. along with all of the new york city region and long island and then also chicago, florida. he has family in florida. he has business in chicago. and washington, d.c. where robert mueller works. >> where he technically has no business or family that we know of. >> that's right. >> but he is allowed to go there. yeah. i mean, the manhattan jurisdiction in this case sirnting. it ends up being super relevant to a lot of the stuff he pleads to. there are problems for the trump organization, for the
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president's business that turn up in the criminal information that might make this jurisdiction in the southern district of new york very relevant. but the idea that cohen is free to travel at will to washington, d.c., that stooz od out for me well. >> yeah, that is. thank you, rachel. >> thanks, lawrence. >> well, this is the day that changed everything in the trump presidency and donald trump knows it. because today the trump presidency took a giant step toward impeachment. it happened in a courtroom in manhattan when these words were spoken. "at the direction of," meaning at the direction of the president of the united states. and when a defendant is pleading guilty in court, it is very difficult for the defendant to say something more important than the word guilty. that's usually the most important word a defendant speaks during a guilty plea session. but today in federal court in manhattan michael cohen said
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"guilty, your honor" eight times and he's also said "at the direction of" twice. and both times he meant at the direction of the president of the united states. and so today donald trump made history by becoming the first president of the united states to be accused under oath in federal court of ordering someone to commit a federal crime to win a presidential election. at the direction of. today michael cohen said under oath "donald trump made me do it. my boss made me do it. he told me to break the law." at the direction of. michael cohen then pleaded guilty today to two counts of campaign finance violations. reading from notes michael cohen then described to the judge in his own words how he committed those crimes. he said as to count number 7 on or about the summer of 2016 in
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coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office i and the cref a media company at the request of the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing this information. "after a number of discussions we eventually accomplished the goal by the media company entering into a contract with the individual under which she received compensation of $150,000." he was describing how he arranged at donald trump's direction for the publisher of the "national enquirer," david pecker, to pay $150,000 to karen mcdougal so that the "national enquirer" could bury her story about having a year-long sexual affair with donald trump. michael cohen described the other violation of campaign finance law this way. "your honor, as to count number 8, on or about october of 2016 in coordination with is at the
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direction of the same candidate i arranged to make a payment to a second individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign to keep the individual from disclosing the information to accomplish this i used a company that was under my control to make a payment in the sum of $130,000. the monies i advanced through my company were later repaid to me by the candidate." michael cohen svg talking about stormy daniels, who was paid $130,000 to stay silent about her sexual affair with donald trump. stormy daniels' lawyer michael avenatti, who helped her break her sienltlence, will join us ir discussion tonight. michael cohen told the judge the motivation for committing these campaign finance crimes at the direction of donald trump, michael cohen said, "i participated in this conduct which on my part took place in manhattan for the principal purpose of influencing the
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election. michael cohen said that twice. the same motivation for each campaign finance crime. "i participated in this conduct which on my part took place in manhattan for the principal purpose of influencing the election. the principal purpose of influencing the election. so michael cohen is now saying under oath that he believed and no doubt donald trump believed that in order for donald trump to be elected president the silence of these two women would have to be illegally purchased. crimes would have to be committed to elect donald trump. michael cohen is saying that donald trump ordered him to commit these crimes so that donald trump could win the presidency. tonight on a rally stage in west virginia donald trump said this. >> where is the collusion? you know, they're still looking for collusion.
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where is the collusion? find some collusion. we want to find the collusion. >> here's some collusion for you. donald trump colluded with michael cohen and david pecker in an interstate conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance law, and that's not me making that accusation. that is donald trump's personal lawyer and confidant today in federal court under oath making that accusation about the president of the united states participating in two federal crimes. "for the principal purpose of influencing the election." bill clinton was impeached for less. bill clinton was never charged with committing crimes in order to get elected. bill clinton was never accused of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the american voter in order to get elected. there are 16 current members of the united states senate who voted to convict bill clinton in
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his impeachment trial and remove him from office for less than what donald trump stands accused of tonight by michael cohen and one of those republican senators was actually a member of the house of representatives at the time, and as many of you might recall, in senate impeachment trials the prosecutors are actually members of the house judiciary committee. and here is the standard for removal from the office of the presidency. that lindsey graham argued for in the clinton impeachment trial in the united states senate. >> so the point i'm trying to make is you don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. because impeachment is not about punishment. impeachment is about cleansing
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the office. impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office. >> you don't even have to be convicted of a crime. impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office. you will not hear lindsey graham say that again. lindsey graham and all of the republican senators who voted for bill clinton's removal from office have proven in the last two years that they did not mean a word that they said when they vote informed remove bill clinton from office. not a single word of it. they do not care about restoring honor and integrity to the office. but impeachment begins in the house of representatives. and if democrats win the house in november, then we are tonight already on the road to impeachment hearings in the house of representatives. impeachment hearings that republicans cannot stop. "the new york times" is reporting tonight that the white house realizes this and is worried about impeachment as
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never before. white house correspondent maggie haberman tweeted, "trump folks are worried about impeachment more than before. the thinking goes like this. this is something tangible, not a theoretical, and it didn't come from mueller. does not mean it will happen, but this has moved to a different stage in their minds." today when michael cohen pleaded guilty, the prosecutor and the judge made it clear that michael cohen will have to pay restitution for the damage he has done with his crimes. but how can michael cohen pay restitution to the 65 million people who voted for hillary clinton for president? or to some, some of the 62 million people who voted for donald trump but would not have if they had heard stormy daniels story about donald trump telling her that she reminded him of his daughter before he had sex with stormy daniels. how do you pay restitution to
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the 330 million people who now live in a country where the president was accused today in federal court of conspiring to commit two crimes for the principal purpose of influencing the election? there is no campaign finance violation in history that comes close to the enormity of the crimes that michael cohen confessed to today and accused the president of the united states of ordering him to com t commit. leading off our discussion now, john heilemann, co-host and executive producer of showtime's "the host." jill wine-banks, former assistant prosecutor. they are both msnbc contributors. we knew michael cohen had something to say but we did not know we were going to hear the words today right from michael cohen's moith "at the direction of donald trump." >> we did not. and i think one of things that -- there's a thought say about today obviously and we're focused on michael cohen
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rightly. i'll say it. it was a good day for the american people and a good day not because it's badfor donald trump but it's bad for donald trump. but it's good because wheels of justice were running on overdrive today in two different venues where we saw the system is still functioning. the stuff people worry about is are the wheels about to come off the wagon? they're not. and we're seeing that happen. it's obviously also the worst day in the trump presidency since may 17th of last year when bob neweller was appointed. we all thought michael cohen was going to flip. he's been sending clear signals about that. for months all the people close to him all the people reporting on him, all my reporting, everything has suggested this was going to happen, something like this. but you're right. the precision, the clarity of it, the damningness of it, those things you couldn't quite anticipate. and the fullness that -- he's all in now. and as rachel suggested on the hand-off, what's about to happen is clear. there's some suggestion he may already be commenting with bob mueller. but if he's not already he's going to be. and the reason he's going to be is there's that sentencing
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hearing coming in december where bob mueller can walk in to the judge, can walk into the process and say you know, what michael cohen has helped us out a lot, he's not going to -- we don't want him to go to jail for five years, we want him to go to jail for fine months and that is incentive enough for michael cohen to give bob mueller absolutely everything he knows about absolutely everything that donald trump has done wrong. >> jill, you tracked the special prosecutor's investigation of a president, worked on that investigation. you know the kind of emotional roller coaster that it is, the peaks, the valleys. and so i'm so interested in the way you're tracking this one tonight. and where you mark this on the road map of where this investigation has been and what the marker -- what the marker means for where this investigation is now going after the president was accused under oath in federal court today of committing two campaign finance crimes in order to get elected. >> well, it's not quite the smoking gun where you have the clear proof of obstruction that
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we had in the watergate case, but this is a dramatic day. it's a thrilling day for anybody who wants to see the truth come out. this is clear evidence that the president committed crimes. and that is grounds for impeachment. there's no question of it. i know he will defend in saying well, this isn't rush. well, i don't care that it's not russia. it's not russiagate, but it's still trumpgate. this is crimes by the president of the united states, and it affected the election. that is a terrible thing, is that we have that happen in our country. and your opening is quite correct about the millions of people who might not have voted for him had they known the truth. and we can't get restitution for that. there is no way. but we could get some relief from this presidency. >> and we're joined now by phone by mimi rocca. she's a former federal
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prosecutor who worked in the southern district of new york, the office that is prosecuting michael cohen. and mimi, as to smoking guns, in the testimony in court today there came a point as is a standard point in these proceedings where the judge wanted to know from the prosecutor if the prosecutor really does have enough evidence to convict michael cohen on all of these counts. and so on the campaign violation counts in which the prosecutor also said these crimes were committed at the direction of the candidate, the prosecutor actually told the judge that this is the evidence that they have. records obtained from an april 9th, 2018 series of search warrants on mr. cohen's premises including hard copy documents, seized electronic devices, and then here is maybe the smoking gun. she said, "and audio recordings made by mr. cohen." so mimi, there the federal
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prosecutors today in court telling the judge that there are audio recordings made by mr. cohen that prove mr. cohen's guilt of these crimes and prove his version of the way he committed these crimes, which is at the direction of donald trump. >> right, lawrence. that's common for the prosecutor to give a summary of evidence like that at the judge's request in a plea in the southern district of new york. and i think the point about the recordings, we heard one of those recordings a couple of weeks ago that cohen had made sort of surreptitiously of himself and mr. trump speaking. and you know, standing alone without cohen's testimony or input, it was -- would be a little hard to decipher, but there was a lot there. i think when we heard that recording we said -- i think i
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was with you that night and we were talking about how much that recording told us about the fact these payments were for the purpose of influencing the election. because you could hear them talking about polls and the election and keeping things quiet until after the election. so there woos a lot in that recording and i'm sure there's others that we haven't heard. i think the prosecutor also mentioned text messages, encrypted messages. so you know, they clearly had a lot of evidence, which is why cohen pled guilty so quickly. the evidence against him was backed up. he was either going to take the fall or sort of cooperate, if you will, sort of a half cooperation. and tell the truth, which he did under oath, which is so important. that's why i think this feels so different to everyone. it's not just cohen through his lawyer on tv sort of giving their version. but when you go under oath in front of a judge like judge
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paulie, who i now r auchlt, is an excellent judge and very, very strict and tough on defendants and everybody, and very high standards, this is not someone you're going to go in front 1/2 lightly say something under oath. so i think it's a very big deal, both what the prosecutor said and what michael cohen said under oath. >> and everyone wants to hear more from michael cohen. let's listen to richard burr. he's the chairman of the senate intelligence committee. the intelligence committee now wants to hear more from michael cohen. let's listen to this. >> what we can say is that we recently re-engauged mr. cohen and his team following press reports that suggested he had advance knowledge of a june 16th meeting between campaign officials and russian -- and a russian lawyer at the trump tower. mr. cohen had testified before the committee that he was not aware of any meeting prior to this disclosure in the press last summer. we hope that today's
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developments in mr. cohen's plea agreement will not preclude him from an appearance before our committee as needed for ongoing investigation. >> john heilemann, not surprisingly, they'd like to hear from him again. >> not surprisingly at all. and look, i mean, there's obviously going to be a lot of focus now, there already has been a lot on michael cohen. i do think it's important, we're seeing this reporting coming out, maggie haberman, you cited the tweet earlier where she says the white house is now much more focused on impeachment than it was before. and i think it's important to understand part of why. they have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort since may of last year trying to discredit the special counsel, trying to discredit the deep state, now trying to discredit john brennan. all these people who relate to the thing the president likes to talk-b which is the collusion issue, the russia story. again, we all think that's a legitimate story but they've spent a lot of political energy on that. what they have not spent political energy on because it's really almost impossible for the president to do this, is to try to discredit michael cohen. what are you going to say?
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these are not -- he's not bogeyman. he's not a stranger. he's not a washington insider. he's not an establishmentarian. he's not a member of the deep state. he's the president's personal lawyer and fixer for more than a decade. and he's now in a position where having spent all that ammunition politically trying to discredit one investigation he's now faced with a much more credible witness who's implicated him in a crime and it's a political matter that's a much more dangerous place to be than even the russia inquiry, which obviously has all its own dangers for the president. >> and joining our discussion now is michael avenatti, attorney for stormy daniels. and michael, i think history's going to show that you led us and the investigators to this point today, that michael cohen would not be pleading guilty possibly to anything today, if you had not taken stormy daniels' case and showed her the way that she could find her voice in this, the voice that michael cohen now confesses in
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federal court to illegally have tried to silence. >> well, you know, i think, lawrence, that my client deserves a lot of gratitude from a lot of people in america for her courage and her fortitude that she has shown over the last five to six months, frankly. you know, today was a very interesting day in the history of the presidency of the united states. this was the first time that you had an individual stand up in a court of law and basically point the finger at the president credibly and clamt that the president was a co-conspirator in criminal conduct. i think we're in the second quarter of a four-quarter game. i think there's a lot of additional information that's going to come down the pike. and the problem for the president -- he's got a lot of problems. but one of the problems is for donald trump is that so much of this now is out of his control because you have paul manafort and michael cohen. they're going to be looking to protect themselves and their families. they're not going to care a lot
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about what donald trump has to say. and i think they're both going to disclose quite a bit. >> rudy giuliani issued a written statement tonight saying there is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government's charges against mr. cohen. it is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, mr. cohen's actions reflect a part of lies and dishonesty over a sint period of time. your reaction to rudy giuliani. >> you know, lawrence, it just gets more comical by the day. i mean, the truth isn't the truth. this is -- if you look at the statement, it's a parsed statement. he's playing word games relating to government charges. the american people can read these documents that are available online. you've noted them tonight. it's clear as day what michael cohen has said, that the president told him and conspired him to do these acts. >> and the sequence in the courtroom today, the prosecutor said it first. the prosecutor made a presentation saying that this was done at the direction of the candidate and michael cohen said it even more emphatically with
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his own words when it was his turn. >> you're absolutely right, lawrence. and i sat in this chair that john's in on at least two if not three occasions on your show, and you showed the air force one tape of the president of the united states standing on the people's plane and when he was asked by the associated press reporter if he knew anything about the payment he denied all knowledge. and here's the kicker. he pointed everybody to his personal attorney, michael cohen, and told them go ask michael cohen the facts. michael cohen will tell you the facts. well, guess what? in that courtroom here today we've learned the facts acco according to michael cohen and now rudy giuliani and the president are going to say no, no, don't ask michael cohen the facts because he doesn't know what he's talking about. and i want to go to a very important point that the prosecutor made. i mentioned it earlier in the program. about the evidence that the prosecution has to prove michael cohen's guilt on all of these counts. and on the two counts involving donald trump ordering him to commit the campaign finance crime, they said that their evidence includes "audio recordings made by mr. cohen."
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you have been saying for a long time that there are a lot more michael cohen recordings and that they are a lot more problematic for the president. so is that an indication that the federal government, the prosecutors have recordings of michael cohen and donald trump discussing these two particular crimes? >> i think it is. and i also think that there's additional recordings -- i know there's additional recordings relating to conversations that michael cohen had with keith davidson relating to these two payments. there's a lot of recordings out there. >> and keith davidson was stormy daniels' original lawyer, and he was involved in the other payoff through the "national enquirer." >> that's correct. keith davidson served as counsel for miss mcdougal and for the counsel for miss daniels before i took over her case. and so i think that this notation is a reference to those recordings. lawrence, again, we're in the second quarter of a four-quarter game. this president's in trouble, and we're coming for him because i'm going to take his deposition
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under oath. we're going to get michael -- >> the president's deposition. zplt president >> the president's deposition. i'm going to get michael cohen's deposition under oath. and i'm anxious to disclose all of this evidence to the american people so they can determine who's been lying to them and who's been telling the truth. >> and that's because your civil suit to obtain stormy daniels' release from the non-disclosure agreement is still active and that's where the deposition would be. is michael cohen to your knowledge cooperating with robert mueller? >> i do not know that, the answer to that question, but i know he's cooperating with sdny. >> and why today did he go into court and plead guilty without an actual sentencing agreement already obtained or any real agreement obtained as to what his future is? there's no promises about his future in this agreement. if he's cooperating, why didn't they make a deal with him now? >> well, because i think the prosecutors want to see the extent of the cooperation. right? so this is the hammer. a lot of people have noted while
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there's nothing in writing requiring him to cooperate, that is true. however, prosecutors have the ultimate hammer as it relates to sentencing because they're going to know at the time of sentencing in december the level of cooperation that he's provided during the preceding three or four months. so they have the ultimate hammer. so that's why they don't necessarily need anything in writing that requires his cooperation. but the prosecutors would have never entered this deal if they did not have some confidence that he was going to provide information. now, it depends what they do with that information. they can take the information in and ultimately not do anything with it. >> where would we be tonight if stormy daniels never found you as a lawyer and if you never found the way to make her story public, to bring her on to interviews like "60 minutes" and the interviews that you have done to make the focus on exactly how this non-disclosure agreement was executed? where would we be if stormy daniels and you had never come forward? >> well, lawrence, i don't think we would be in this exact spot. but you know, you don't want
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o'speculate as to where we would be. i'm going to let you and others speculate as to that. i think we're in a better place because of the courage and fortitude of stormy daniels. >> we're going to have to go to a break. michael avenatti, jill winebanks, john heilemann, mimi rocah, thank you for starting us off on this very important night. and when we come back, details of the conviction against president trump's former campaign manager paul manafort on the same day that his personal lawyer pleads guilty to eight federal crimes. paul manafort is convicted by a jury of eight federal crimes. where does that leave donald trump tonight? as donald trump contemplates the future of his presidency. ♪ adults are just kids with much, much better toys. introducing the 2018 c-class sedan, coupe and cabriolet.
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simple, easy, awesome. in many cultures, young men would stay with their families until their 40's. the former chairman of the trump campaign is trying to sleep tonight in a federal prison contemplating the possibility of spending every fig night for the rest of his life in a federal prison. 69-year-old paul manafort heard the word guilty eight times today from a federal jury in virginia, who remained undecided on ten other counts paul manafort faced. manafort was convicted of every category of crime he was accused of. tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report a foreign bank account. but the jury was undecided on other similar counts. paul manafort faces already a maximum of 80 years in prison for today's convictions, and more immediately he faces a second trial in federal court in
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washington, d.c. in a courthouse where jurors are thought to be less sympathetic to accused white-collar criminals like paul manafort and where the judge will not be taking every opportunity to try to help the manafort defense as reagan-appointed judge thomas ellis did on a daily basis in this first manafort trial. the typical public comment from defense lawyers after a defeat like this one today for paul manafort includes the mandatory promise to continue to fight the case on appeal, fight it all the way. but that is not what we heard from paul manafort's lawyer today. >> he would like to thank judge ellis for granting him a fair trial, thank the jury for their very long and hard-fought deliberations. he is evaluating all of his options at this point. >> evaluating all of his popgss. that includes how much money does he want to spend on his
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next criminal trial, which he's even more likely to lose than the one he just lost. another option is of course what does paul manafort know that he can tell special prosecutor robert mueller in order to avoid spending the rest of his life in prinsz? gin joining us now, gene rossi, a former federal prosecutor and former assistant u.s. attorney in that eastern district of virginia where the trial was held, and ken dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for nbc news. he was outside the courthouse today as the jury was returning that verdict. and ken dilanian, tell us about that anticipation today, the questions that the jury had sent indicated a little bit of confusion today of were they asking the judge about what happens if they can't reach a verdict on just one count? and then shortly after that it turns out the jury comes back with the eight convictions. >> yeah, lawrence, now we know what they meant is for any of the counts that they're deadlocked on they were asking the judge essentially what do we do and how do we fill out the jury form and how does it affect
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the final verdict? and it turns out they were deadlocked on ten counts. and the judge asked them to go back and distribute and they did that for about four hours and apparently they could not reach consensus. and i think what this tells us, a couple of things. one, manafort's lawyers actually did a pretty good job. in the face of overwhelming evidence and a terrific presentation by the prosecution, a powerful presentation, manafort's lawyers were able to raise some doubts in the minds of some jurors on 10 of the 18 counts. but that's really irrelevant for paul manafort because he's a convicted felon, or will be when the judge passes sentence. eight counts of felony convictions of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to declare a foreign bank account is a victory for the prosecution. no other way to look at it. a huge vindication for robert mueller and his team in their first test in a major trial. and the other thing we can say i think is that this jury did not appear to be swayed by any of the noise, nif donald trump's comments. honestly, we don't know whether the jurors were looking at
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outside news coverage or whether they heard this stuff. but if they did, it didn't seem to affect them because as you said they convicted on each part of the three trantranches, the e categories of charges. and they appeared to do so thoughtfully. some counts persuaded jurors more than others clearly, but at the end of the day paul manafort is facing some seven to nine years in prison just on these charges alone. >> gene rossi, your reaction to the result today and what you think paul manafort's lawyer meant when he said he is evaluating all his options. >> i think this was a tremendous victory for robert mueller's office. i worked closely with two attorneys on the manafort trial team for the government. and i know pretty well three of the defense attorneys for paul manafort. and i've got to say that paul manafort's defense team did a fantastic job. trials are like poker and they
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had a very terrible hand and they did the best they could. let me talk about the options. the one option of course is to do a pickett's charge, to appeal this case to the supreme court of the united states and to go into d.c. and just to fight, fight, fight and just hope for a pardon, a commutation, or an acquittal and a reversal in the 4th circuit. that's not going to happen. the most likely option i would recommend if i were his attorney is to cooperate. what you have now are two battles still pending. one, you have the mistrial counts that academically, theoretically could be brought by the prosecutors in evdva. that's one battle. you obviously have the trial in d.c. so i would go to the prosecutors and i would say this. i can't fight anymore. what can you offer me? and i think the prosecutors would say we will dismiss the charges in d.c., maybe have him
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plead to a thousand and one or a minor charge. we won't retry the counts in edva and the prosecutors will say okay, let's talk about the trump tower meeting, let's talk about the republican platform when you, paul manafort, helped negotiate a removal or an amendment of something having to do with russia, let's talk about what happened in august and september possibly. there's a lot of things that could be given to the prosecutors. and here's something that nobody has talked about since last week. there was a sidebar when rick gates was testifying. it is now under seal. it will become unsealed if the prosecutors don't go forward on the retrial. that sidebar i -- based on my experience was this. rick gates is cooperating big-time about the campaign, about the transition, about the trump organization, and i'm sure paul manafort has the same information times five.
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so those are the options that kevin downey, who's a fantastic attorney, did a great job, those are the options that i think he was talking about. >> gene rossi, ken dilanian, thank you very much for joining us tonight. up next, the jury hearing paul manafort's next trial. as we just discussed, could be even more difficult to convince of his innocence than the jury that convicted him today. ♪
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today, life-changing technology from abbott is helping hunt them down at their source. because the faster we can identify new viruses, the faster we can get to stopping them. the most personal technology, is technology with the power to change your life. life. to the fullest. three men are contemplating the rest of their lives tonight as they never have before. michael cohen, paul manafort,
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and donald trump. two of them know they are going to prison. and the only thing the other one is sure of in his future is that he will play golf this weekend. paul manafort has less than a month to decide what to do about his next criminal trial, one which all legal analysts agree will be even more difficult for paul manafort to win than the trial that he just lost. september 17th is the day paul manafort is scheduled to go to trial for the second time. and today the special prosecutor filed a motion to set the sentencing date for michael flynn on that very same day, september 17th, in that very same courthouse. so tonight paul manafort is surely wondering how much longer he should pay his very high-priced defense lawyers for trials he might not be able to win. paul manafort has to be wondering whether he should save that money, plead guilty in return for reduced prison time, and of course tell the special prosecutor everything he knows about the president of the united states. paul manafort must also be
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wondering how donald trump might be able to help him now. and donald trump has to be wondering the same thing. should he pardon paul manafort? or might the president just fire his attorney general, fire his deputy attorney general, and fire robert mueller before september 17th? we will take up all of those questions next with jon meacham, john heilemann, and jill wine-banks.
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paul manafort, but he would be screaming to the world, i am guilty. and he would so undermine the credibility of his office that it would be a disaster for the nation and it would very possibly be an obstruction of justice. >> joining our discussion now, jon meacham, presidential historian and the author of the best-selling book "the soul of america:spt battle for our better angels." he's also an msnbc contributor. john heilemann and jill wine-banks are back with us. and jon meacham, we need the steady hand of a historian to guide us through these choppy waters tonight. i want to show on the screen to you and the audience what is a photograph of what will be the front page of the print version of the "new york times." "the new york times" tweeted this out tonight with the headline, bold headline saying "pleading guilty, cohen implicates president." and then that subheadline, quoting what the prosecutor has said about this crime, "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for
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federal office." jon, where are we tonight? >> well, i think we are -- one of the things the trump era has done, as you know so well, is it has now taken us beyond superlatives. i googled "worst day of trump presidency" earlier and got something like 600 different candidates for it. but i do think given that the legal time is now catching up with political time, and that always -- the wheels of justice always move more slowly than the press, than a lot of the people who are deeply engaged in the conversation. and this is rather like the third week of june 1973, when john dean went to the senate and began his testimony. it's not un, like it seems to me, the second week of july in the same year when alexander butterfield revealed that there
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was a white house taping system. it's the kind of moment that you can begin to see a genuine inflection point. and if the president is implicated, what's going to be fascinating to see going forward is to what extent does the legal process and the political process track one another. because the legal system may be closing in on the president. unclear to what extent the political system will also close in on him given the loyalty of the base. >> and jill, you worked through those historical points in the watergate investigation that jon just mentioned. and so what are the options that president trump has? pardon paul manafort. what does that achieve for him? what does firing jeff sessions, special prosecutor, what does that achieve for him now if he chooses to do that? >> well, it was a very dramatic
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day, and hearing the words "at the direction of" did bring back the memories that jon has just mentioned. a pardon is a dangerous thing. it is a totally unlimited president ford pardoned nixon while he was still looking at the fact he was no longer a sitting president and he could easily be indicted. he got pardoned for all crimes he might ever be charged with. we were, therefore, unable to indict him. so the president could go ahead with the pardon, but in this case, he would have to pardon him, not just for the crimes that have been charged and in the case of manafort to which he was convicted, but he would have to pardon him for contempt of court for failing to testify
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because otherwise he has no fifth amendment privilege left. both of those men would have to testify anyway. if they refuse to testify, they would be guilty of contempt of court. they would have to be repeatedly pardoned for contempt of court. it doesn't actually help the president a lot. and one thing we know about president trump is that his self-interest takes top priority and if it's not going to help him, he may not act to pardon anyone. and it would, at some point, get the republicans riled up enough if he pardons for a crime and pardons for refusing to testify over and over again that could get the republicans on board >>well, impeachment is in the air tonight. certainly among democrats in the united states senate these crimes helped trump win the election. any effort to pardon michael cohen or paul manafort in and of
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itself would be a gross assault on the rule of law and constitute high crimes. he wants to fire jeff sessions, bob mueller, he wants to paul manafort. >> he wants to fire you, too. all of us. [ laughter ] >> and pardon michael cohen and pardon paul manafort. pardon anyone who might testify against the president. what can he do? >> he can, essential, he can, as jill said he has the ability to pardon. but this is the thing about john's point that is right. in a precise way the rules of justice or timing of justice and the legal system and politics will come to a head now. because the president has got to make a decision about whether he's going to pardon paul manafort in a time frame almost certainly before november and the election. and what does that do to the
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politics of the midterm elections? does that generate enthusiasm in his wanted base? which is as we discussed a little bit of a shinny object. can they be more enthusiastic? does it gain him anything there. does it just cause the voters who really matter in the election, which is largely democrats who are already stirred up, but particularly a bunch of college-educated women in the suburbs who kind of vacillate between republican and democrat who aren't necessarily committed dependents african-americans women in big cities. does it generate more outrage and anger on their part. does pardoning manafort ensure the democrats take control of the house. it's a terrible political conundrum he faces because of the calendar. >> john, we've seen two extraordinary things in two presidencies in a row. if you go back to lbj and nixon.
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lyndon johnson, who seemed to be the most powerful incumbent president and the wilest politician to be in the oval office deciding not to run for re-election. forces closed in on him and he dropped out. the next president ends up resigning the president of presidency eventually richard nixon. tonight it is not that hard to imagine either one of those things in the trump presidency. >> it's not. and, you know, one of the things that is so interesting about our divided country is from 1960 to 1980, we functionally had five four-year presidents. we lost one to assassination, one to vietnam, one to watergate, one, really, in the political cause of the pardon when president ford lost to president carter and carter to reagan. there was a choppy period there.
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interestingly, given our divisions, we've only had one one-term president since 1980. but this is one of the things that, you know, john knows so well. everything about trump takes all the buoys, all the sign posts, everything that is defined the way we think about american politics and blown them up. and my own sense is that he's got 30 to 35% of the country with nixon down to about low 20s at the very end. joe mccarthy's approval rating was 34% three months after he was censured. you can get 34% of americans to follow anybody. what i think is going to be interesting is that there are going to be two different stories here. i think there's the manafort story and then the cohen story and the president makes the manafort story from front
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center. >> and the manafort story goes to the meeting in trump tower with the russians if manafort cooperates. that's the big question. we have to leave it there. thank you all for joining our discussion tonight on this important night. i appreciate it. tonight's "last word" is next. owners always seem so happy? because they've chosen the industry leader. subaru forester holds its value better than any other vehicle in its class according to alg. better than cr-v. better than rav4. better than rogue. an adventure that starts with a subaru forester will always leave you smiling. get 0% percent apr financing on the 2018 subaru forester. you wouldn't accept from any one else. why accept it from an allergy pill? flonase relieves sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose, plus nasal congestion, which most pills don't. it's more complete allergy relief. flonase.
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time for tonight's "last word." >> melania trump gave a speech denouncing cyber bullying.
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immediately after wards president trump called her a loser immigrant on twitter. [ laughter ] [ applause ] >> conan o'brian gets tonight's last word. there's more word for the eight guilties for michael cohen and paul manafort today in "the 11th hour" with brian williams which starts now. tonight we have witnessed what is likely the worst single day of the trump presidency and perhaps the most dangerous, as well, in a matter of minutes. two huge developments in two different courtrooms. his long time lawyer, michael cohen pleads guilty to eight kounltds and admits in open court he was directed to break the law by his boss donald trump. and the president's former campaign chairman guilty on eight counts with his second trial now free to begin. now here are the people from trump's circle who have either been indicted or

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