Former Trump Administration White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal talk to Zerlina Maxwell about the Trump campaign’s attempt to overturn election results and why it won’t work.
joining me now is former white house communications director for the trump administration anthony scaramucci and justice correspondent for the nation ali mastal uh the mooch let me start with you uh to to the extent that you can happy birthday take us inside oh thank you thank you so much i appreciate that um you know take us inside the trump orbit what is the president’s end game here i mean obviously he’s throwing everything at the wall but what ultimately is his goal does he actually believe any of these efforts will make a difference well i think the end game is a non-prosecutorial agreement and so that’s different from a pardon remember a pardon you have to be accused of the crime indicted of the crime and then you get pardoned he wants a non-prosecutorial agreement in new york state new york city and the federal government and so he’s going to wreak havoc on our society in an effort to do that so he’s going to act like the tasmanian devil trapped inside that non-scalable wall around the white house uh i don’t think he’s leaving that white house by the way watch he won’t go to mar-a-lago for thanksgiving he likely will not leave the white house for christmas because he’s afraid they’re not going to let him back in the white house and he knows if he has the white house he has some leverage over other people so that’s what i think is going on right now i think he wants that for his family and for himself uh and that’s why he’s stirring the power spot excuse me the pot so vigorously so we do have some breaking news nbc news can confirm that donald trump jr uh just tested positive for covid19 anthony i can’t even believe that people in trump’s orbit are still testing positive like they did not take the hint from the first person in their orbit and then start wearing masks what the heck is going on here what’s your reaction to donald trump’s junior testing positive if you if you if you poll them they think it’s a hoax and they were saying repeatedly that on november 4th no one would be talking about the covet 19 crisis or the pandemic so it’s no surprise to me that every day you’re going to read about more people i understand and i like andrew giuliani a lot and i wish him well i like don jr i don’t agree with his politics of course but i i wish these people good health it’s just it’s unfortunate that nobody would listen to the epidemiology behind this and it was ultimately the president’s undoing that they took this path uh somebody told me today that he had a bad october i’m like what he had a bad march through october he mishandled the pandemic he lied about everything and that’s why we are where we are and that’s why everybody’s getting sick and i feel like if he had handled the pandemic just at all i mean like i feel like he’s done so little that if he had just you know been like wear a mask and i’m gonna you know make sure that we have rapid testing the the election could have gone a lot differently ellie a lot of people are looking at what’s happening in michigan um also in pennsylvania where the trump campaign is fighting in the courts today georgia obviously certified uh their election results and their recount um but trump says there’s a major lawsuit on the way and so i i’m i feel like people are getting nervous um you know they hear legal experts say you know joe biden will be the president trump cannot overturn the results of this election um make me feel confident about the fact that that is true there’s nothing that donald trump can do to stop this from happening legally we are now well into the illegal phase um of his attempting to run you know it’s it’s it’s it’s a coup d’etat brought to you by four seasons landscaping i mean that’s that’s kind of where we are right now um look there there’s no there’s no legitimate argument for for trump to be doing any of this does anybody remember i just want your viewers to think does anybody actually remember the legal argument that they’re making in michigan no nobody that’s not a legal argument they’re just straight up saying we should throw out votes of black people that’s the only argument that’s not legal um uh uh a congressman um bill parcell jr today filed bar complaints ethics complaints against rudy giuliani that’s what needs to happen now because donald trump literally admitted on twitter that the entire point of his michigan lawsuit was to delay certification of the vote that is an extra legal means that is using the court to get an extra legal um outcome that is textbook unethical there is a rule it is called rule 11 that is supposed to be used to sanction lawyers who bring frivolous unethical lawsuits and it should be used against all of trump attorneys it likely won’t be because people are cowards but like that’s where we are now okay so when i when people want to feel safe and feel and feel better about where things are going make no mistake there’s no legal grounds anywhere they are one for 32 one for 31 in court and the one that they won was whether their poll walkers watchers have to be 15 feet away or six feet away that’s their win so there’s no legal argument anywhere to be found here but trump doesn’t care and so and that’s what we’re trying to so i think that leads me to my next question anthony in terms of who is advising the president obviously ellie points out that none of these arguments are legal arguments so likely donald trump who is not a lawyer you know isn’t coming up with sort of some of these theories but do you think he’s listening to anyone who is giving him advice or is this just all coming from him no this is 100 coming from him and i would tell you that the last six weeks of that campaign 100 coming from him his movements the strategy what he was preparing to do after he got him himself kovac 19 all of that is coming from him and so he’s hunkered down uh you’ve got people inside the white house that i’m still close to that have said okay we got to begin the transition process we have to release the funding we have to start the process i mean he lost by six million plus votes five states flipped but i do think uh that he did something very cunning he delayed the absentee ballot counting and so what ended up happening was if we got every single vote counted by 11 pm on election night it was a route he had five states flip on them lost by six million votes it was a total repudiation of trumpism but by switching up the mail servers taking away the post office boxes delaying the count delaying the ballots uh he’s trying to convince and he’s got 50 60 million people convinced of this uh that those ballots that came in afterwards totally legitimate totally legal were false and there’s a problem with the election so he believes that 50 or 60 million of his followers believe that but ellie knows the court system doesn’t believe that america doesn’t believe that by december 1st all of the battleground states will be certified and then my question to the gop is then what what are you going to do after that you know the the the you know the thing is is over as it could be yeah it feels to me like you know they’re accepting the wins and losses in their congressional races i say it every day like mitch mcconnell accepted the win in his race but somehow the election was fraudulent it doesn’t make sense to me ellie and with the president refusing to concede um you know there’s a question about short-term damage to the biden transition team as we try to prepare for a vaccine hopefully and the long-term damage it does to just the whole democracy um we know joe biden will become the president but what worries you about the long-term damage trump is doing to the democracy right now well this is how i understand your breaking news about don jr who i don’t know and don’t wish well um these people are the ones who are leading to additional unnecessary deaths in this country that’s the cost it’s not to me i’m pouring down i’m hunkered down and quarantined i basically have a moat around my house right it is to it is to the people um who are being led astray by this administration um and the people who cannot get the help and the services they need and the delay that there’s going to be in distributing a vaccine that we apparently are on the verge of having a proof these that’s the hurt that’s the harm it’s the harm is death and biden said it directly more people will die because of the charade that the republican party led by mitch mcconnell um sorry led by donald trump endorsed by mitch mcconnell and republicans up and down their entire ticket that’s that’s what the cost is of this anthony to that point do you think that the president cares about the death happening um and additionally do you think he will ever admit that he lost this election we saw him for the first time in public today uh in many days and you know he couldn’t he he basically stood there like i won and and walked out yeah talking about prescription drug prices as an aside uh do you think he’s ever going to you know get it through his head yeah well the short answer is no and no but just remember one thing about him when he’s doing a news surge he’s searching trump he is not searching usa and he’s definitely not searching y-o-u he could care less about y-o-u so when ellie says he doesn’t care about donald trump jr uh donald trump jr and donald trump senior don’t care about us so i i hear you and i will say this i thought i had good hair until i met you ellie i mean that thing is absolutely terrific i’ve never seen it like it so i mean i have hair envy tonight but uh but what that’s because you got a moat around the house a barber can’t get in there with like actually but but i gotta i gotta tell you though you know we gotta move past these people and i’m going to make a prediction on the peacock that once we move past these people the half-life of power of trumpism is going to decelerate very very quickly uh because you’ve got all these ambitious geopeers they’re going to be throwing the trumps into the prairie fire as quickly as they possibly can and then they’re going to have to have a reckoning in that party because you’re going to have a reconciliation with the truth and where were you when we needed you related to life and safety and principle so if they’re not careful the republican party is heading for the ash heap as well it’ll be an aging group of white people that are buying my pillows and catheters from fox news commercial interruptions there’s definitely weird commercials on fox news i just have to say that as an aside ellie and john they can’t get any real responses that’s true i remember when it was very very strange commercials at what during one of the boycotts um ellie it seems to me that the president uh to anthony’s point is not going to accept the results of this election he’s obviously doing at you know to your point extra legal things in order to muck up the works here um are there laws being broken like are there additional things he’s doing in order to make pay over this election result which we all know is one where joe biden won are there any additional laws he’s breaking i mean i i assume that the presidential records act is being shredded every night uh um um who knows uh uh what access to information we are being denied um by this holdup but again i don’t think that this is a i don’t think right now he’s breaking laws he’s still the president until january 20th at noon right at 1201 um he becomes potentially a trespasser in the white house but until noon on the 20th he’s still the president um so i don’t think that their laws being broken by his shenanigans again their their ethics and and i i say ethics not not as a dodge as a thing that used to be important as a thing that we used to expect lawyers to uphold the ethical violations of this administration that we’ve all just kind of gotten used to because it’s just every day is a violation right we’ve gotten used to them like we shouldn’t be because that that that that is the ethics are the guard real and that’s what we don’t have right now so again these this attempt by by this congress person um the attempt to hold trump lawyers accountable like jenna ellis needs to needs to fill the the sting of a rebuke right like at some point these people who help him these people who enable him have to feel like they themselves will be rebuked in some way um to warn them off of doing it like that that’s actually at least as important um as you know at some point obama joke the other day like at some point the navy seals will get into the white house and and deal with trump if he’s if he’s still there right but i need something to happen to jenna ellis i need something to happen to rudy giuliani i need them i need i need the the legal structures yeah because there are there actually are to your point about the ethics of it you know lawyer lawyers get a bad rap while i’ve never practiced i’m gonna defend lawyers like you can’t just straight up lie like you can finagle uh and and spin but you can’t just straight up live that’s actually unethical and a lot of these folks are getting up in front of microphones on tv just straight up lying about the law and the fact and it’s not because trump is the bad guy like i think that one of the best things that lawyers do is defend the indefensible like i i i am proud of lawyers who will defend terrorists and criminals and this guy right but you can’t lie you can’t stand up in court and make purposefully frivolous arguments that actually breaks the whole system down so again we need we need these people to be held accountable for their misdeeds i agree anthony scaramucci and ali mestal thank you as always for being on the show tonight
Did Trump run in 2016 mostly to boost his business profile? Adam Davidson says yes.
There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the end game of this presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded.”
We are now in the end stages of the Trump presidency.” What is it that’s gone on in the last few weeks or months that’s made you think this?
Adam Davidson: For a year and a half now, I’m one of several reporters who’ve been studying intently Donald Trump’s businesses, his relationships with people around the world. And as a rule, this group of reporters finds it increasingly shocking just how flagrant the Trump Organization was in dealing with some of the shadiest—frankly, in cases, purely evil—people who made their money in wildly illegal and corrupt ways.
I do think most Americans, including Trump’s hardcore supporters, have a general sense that this is a guy who isn’t going to be a stickler for the rules, and has probably done some sort of technically illegal things or shady things. But I don’t think the full lawless and also kind of pathetic and lame nature of the Trump business has entered the national narrative in the way I think it should... I’m suspecting, but I can’t say for sure—that Michael Cohen will have recordings or emails that show that the Trump Organization knew they were basically helping fairly evil people continue their crimes by putting the Trump brand on their projects so as to make them less suspicious, I think we’re going find it very hard for an awful lot of Republicans to support... Do you think Donald Trump is a good businessman, as a businessman, setting aside ethics?
No, definitely not.
He has, in sort of financial terms, either lost money or certainly barely made money over the course of his career. So if you start with control of $200 million of your father’s money, and one alternative is you just invest that safely in the stock market, and the other alternative is you do whatever business you do, he has lost compared to that sort of benchmark, at least for much of the time frame that he’s been in business.
So that is just a sign of, “OK, he’s a rich man,” but it’s different to start as a rich man and end up as sort of roughly exactly as rich. That’s less impressive to real business people.
.. The other thing is, especially in the real estate industry, you want to see someone amassing wealth—that over time, their holdings, their empire, is bigger, not smaller, and they’re not going to be taking as wild a risk as they were when they were younger because they’ve been able to amass a kind of sustainable wealth, a bundle of assets that are really worth something.
We certainly see that. There’s certainly plenty of people in New York real estate who, over the course of Trump’s career, have done exactly that. He hasn’t. He’s this brash guy doing big, loud projects in the 1970s, and he’s a brash guy doing less big, less loud projects in the 2000s, and by 2010, he’s basically a failed real estate guy who then starts a new career as, basically, a pitchman.
.. he’s richer than I am, and I know his followers seem to see that as really relevant. But if you look at his peers, if you look at any sensible benchmark, this is not a guy who’s really impressing a lot of people.
.. Regardless of how many bankruptcies he had, or how he’s compared to other real estate developers, he made himself into a universally recognized brand. It seems to me that even most of us who were given $200 million of our father’s money could not do that, so I’m wondering what you think that is and how you think that fits or doesn’t fit with what you say is his not-very-good business sense.
.. Over the course of Donald Trump’s life, branding has become much more central to how American businesses strategize, how they measure their success, etc. To say the obvious thing that everyone points to, Coca-Cola is sugar water that has the Coca-Cola brand on it. But even Boeing and others are very aware of the brand as a central part of their value, and we’ve learned a lot about how to manage brand.
Brands are a new thing. They’re commonly understood to have started probably with Ivory soap, maybe 130 years ago—1879, I think—and have developed into one of the central tools of American business. I think there’s been a dramatic sea-change over the course of the ’70s and ’80s and how we manage brands, how we think about brands.
If the test is simply, “Have people heard of it?” then I guess a lot of people have heard of him. But if the test is, “Has he been able to monetize that brand? Has he been able to turn that into real brand value and sustaining brand value and growing brand value, so that each year the brand itself is worth more?” that is not the case... There are, I think, 14 Trump hotels in the world, and that’s a fairly stable number. When you look at the projects that he’s been doing over the last decade, there was an attempt at a Trump Baku, Azerbaijan, an attempt at a Trump Mumbai, an attempt at a Trump Uruguay. It’s nothing like the incredible expansion of Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton.
From a branding standpoint, it’s a pretty pathetic business, and we saw that in the just throwing his name on anything, no matter how peripheral or lousy the product is. I think one of the many things we can learn from Trump support is that a lot of people conflate fame with success, and trappings of wealth with actual wealth.
.. [Michael Cohen’s ] main job was not as a lawyer of any kind. His main job was as a deal-maker, as a guy who would travel the country and the world looking for possible projects, looking for partners who might want to get the Trump name on their hotel or buildings.
Within the Trump Organization, that was a very clearly distinct role—the deal-maker versus the lawyer role—and that was his primary role. So the reason I think he’s so significant is there’s this period of very rapid expansion into these overseas licensing deals. It’s sort of remarkable. Between 2006 and then really speeding up in 2010, ’11, ’12, into 2016, they’re just going all over the world. By “they,” I mean three people—Don Jr., Ivanka, and Michael Cohen—and they are signing deals with really famously corrupt people in famously corrupt parts of the world, doing virtually no due diligence that we can tell or that they can claim, and taking some enormous legal risks, all the while saying, “Well, we didn’t know they were bad. We didn’t know the details,” etc., etc... So he will have the email traffic that will tell us what, exactly, is happening. What, exactly, did they know about these partners? How aware were they of these partners’ illegality? Or how careful were they to not know? Because in an American law, being deliberately … it’s called willful blindness. So if I do business with you, and you constantly show up with all the telltale signs of a notorious criminal, and I never ask you, and I ask everyone not to tell me, that’s deliberate ignorance. That’s willful blindness and that’s, essentially, legally the same as actually knowing.
.. We know the role Michael Cohen played in trying to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow several years ago. You’ve been looking at the Russia story and at the Trump business story, and earlier you referred to journalists who are on the beat of the Trump business story. To what degree do you think that these are going to eventually meld and become the same story?
.. I think the bigger story is the Trump business story, and the Russia stuff is a subset of that. Look, Donald Trump is somebody who’s been trying to score big through business since the 1970s or 1960s. He’s a guy who’s been trying to make it politically for a couple years. So I’m pretty sympathetic to the argument that this really was not a presidential run. This was an effort to burnish his brand, to sell more properties around the world, and specifically to get a Trump Tower Moscow. I think that was a major, major goal for Donald Trump for reasons that still don’t quite make a lot of sense.
.. When the Paul Manafort charges broke and it became clear how much illegal activity he was engaged in, separately from his work on the Trump campaign, it was pretty striking that a guy like this could go around, and commit this many financial crimes overseas, and still be a lobbyist and work in Washington. Have you been shocked at how much white-collar crime seems to go unprosecuted or investigated until it is closely examined?
Yeah. It’s been really upsetting. I think one of the key lessons of all of this is just how little we prosecute white-collar crime in general, and particularly international white-collar crime
.. I will say, even in that Trump is an outlier, that the Trump Organization took risks, did work with partners that very few Americans would ever consider working with. So I don’t want to give the impression that he’s just run-of-the-mill, he’s just like everybody else, because that’s something I hear a lot, and that always drives me crazy. He’s not.
.. That’s not because, necessarily, all business people are moral. It’s because business people are supposed to be good at balancing risk and return. Take the Mammadovs that he did this deal in Azerbaijan with. As far as we can tell, Trump made $5 million or so from that deal. If he had done his due diligence and if he had learned, as he would have, that they were likely to be money laundering partners of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, he faced a life-changing amount of fines and potential criminal liability. If you’re a billionaire, as he claims, then you shouldn’t do that for $5 million. It’s an absurd risk to take. It makes no sense at all, and we see him taking such risks again and again and again. So he really is an outlier. He’s not like everybody.