The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 8/3/17 WSJ: Mueller impanels Grand Jury in Russia Probe
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: August 3, 2017
Guest: Robert Ray, Bill Krystol, Evelyn Farkas, Barbara McQuade, Shelby
Holliday, Ken Delaney, Jim Manley, Pramila Jayapal, David Wohl
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: You`re going to be using a lot more,
I think, this hour than usual.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Chuck, I have a JD on me and I have a
lot of JDs in the building. Good to see you, as always.
TODD: You got it, brother. All right.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight, special counsel Robert Mueller has convened
a grand jury in Washington DC to pursue his criminal investigation into the
Trump campaign`s possible ties to Russia and potential obstruction of
This is bad news for the White House. It means Mueller is deploying his
maximum prosecutorial power to pursue this investigation wherever it leads.
Grand juries are secret proceedings used by prosecutors to build a case.
Now, they do not always lead to indictments, but they are generally good
for prosecutors and dangerous for any subject of an investigation.
So, this news tonight, what Chuck was just mentioning to me, that Mueller
is now using a grand jury in Washington suggests he`s moving forward on a
process that empowers his growing team of prosecutors to put a laser focus
on anyone in town potentially linked to the Russia inquiry.
President Trump`s lawyer tonight telling NBC, they`re not aware of a grand
jury in Washington and they don`t believe the president is under
investigation, a statement already contradicted by Trump`s own June tweet
about being under investigation.
And this news is breaking at the very same time that the Senate is going on
a full recess, which, as you may remember, does leave a door, at least
cracked open, for the president to do something that his aides have
discussed he`s exploring, to potentially fire Jeff Sessions and, to be
clear, lawfully name a new attorney general through recess appointment,
which would cut Congress out of the process.
Now, Republicans were just warning the president against that ploy before
leaving town today, but will he care? Let`s get right to it on a big
breaking news tonight.
Robert Ray is a former independent counsel. In fact, he was the last
independent counsel leading the Whitewater investigation of the Clintons
and succeeded Ken Starr, whose pursuit of the Clintons ultimately led to
those impeachment hearings in 1999.
Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia,
Ukraine and Eurasia. Bill Kristol, editor-at-large for “The Weekly
Standard” and a former federal prosecutor. Barbara McQuade, appointed by
President Obama and has served briefly in the Trump Justice Department
until she and 45 other US attorneys were asked to resign by Jeff Sessions.
So much to look at here. Barbara, what does this mean? And is Mueller
just getting started?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF
MICHIGAN: Well, I think there`s two things significant about this. One,
clearly, the anticipates more work to do if he`s entailing a new grand
But two, I find really interesting, the location. There are reports
previously that there was a grand jury that was already at work in the
Eastern District of Virginia, which made some sense because Michael Flynn`s
business was located there. So, then you would be appropriate there.
To have a new grand jury now in Washington DC suggests that Mueller
expanding the scope of the investigation to include crimes that might be
venued in Washington DC. One example of that would be obstruction of
justice occurring in Washington.
MELBER: Bill Kristol, this is by any accounting a serious development.
Will the president start taking this investigation seriously?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”: I don`t know. What
does that even? Maybe he has already done things that he shouldn`t have
done, which he can take it as serious as he wants.
I think you mentioned earlier that the president has, obviously, been
itching, I think it`s fair to say, fire Robert Mueller and presumably
Attorney General Sessions too. I think he was exploring that recess
I think here, one very important development, John Kelly becoming White
House Chief of Staff. I do not believe - I base this not on conversations
with him, but just knowing him some. I do not believe John Kelly would
stay as White House chief of staff if President Trump tried to fire
Sessions and make a recess appointment, so as to be able to fire Mueller.
In fact, it was reported just yesterday that Kelly called Sessions to
reassure him that he is not being fired. So, I think Trump has actually
handed himself in. I don`t think he can do what he thought he might be
able to do just a week or two ago.
MELBER: We`re tracking all this. And just recently, I think we something
into the news room that we`re going to play here on MSNBC for the first
time. The president being asked about this. Unclear whether he could
actually hear the question, but you can decide for yourself. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you considering firing Robert
Mueller? Will you hold a news conference again? Are you going to fire
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Evelyn, if he could hear, he may have been exercising restraint.
Obviously, I don`t think the lawyers want him discussing this on a walk-by,
but there is a rally coming up that we`re going to be covering later in the
hour. Not going to it, but keeping an eye on it in case he says something.
Your view, especially given the intricacies of Russia on what this means
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR
RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: I mean, I think it`s pretty serious coming on the
heels of everything that`s happened.
The president, meaning Congress passed the sanctions bill, essentially
saying we don`t trust you when it comes to Russia. And Congress speaks for
the American people. So, by extension, the American people have also said
we don`t trust you on Russia.
At the same time, the president now is going to be, as you said, as you
indicated, feeling the heat on the judicial front.
I think it`s still disconcerting because there`s still a part of this that
we aren`t looking at even in the media. We`re not really talking about
what Russia did.
And by the way, what is the United States` policy towards Russia because
while all of this is going on, everything is in limbo with regard to Russia
MELBER: Well, Mueller can indict Russian nationals, if he finds they were
part of a felony.
FARKAS: Well, that would be interesting. Of course, the Russians will not
make them available.
MELBER: It`s happened in the Southern District of New York, Robert. It`s
happened when federal prosecutors find - they investigate crimes, right,
not people? And they go after whoever has done a crime in their view.
RAY: Yes. But you may - if it`s a Russian national, you may not be able
to return them to the United States for prosecution. So, extradition
becomes an issue. It`s difficult with Russia unless Russia voluntarily
wants to deliver up one of its citizens?
MELBER: What do you make of the location of this? You work with a grand
RAY: Well, look, I handled the Whitewater and ultimately the Lewinsky
investigations. It wasn`t surprising, not long after I was appointed in
October of 1999, that by the summer of 2000, I had a grand jury empaneled.
It was publicly disclosed. And it was in DC where you would expect it
Now, this investigation has the little wrinkle of an inherited portion of
the investigation related to Michael Flynn that originated in the Eastern
District of Virginia.
But I wouldn`t make too much of the fact that a grand jury has been
impaneled and that it`s impaneled in the District of Columbia. Grand
juries handle everything from the ministerial, which is the issuance of
grand jury subpoenas, through and including the investigative stage, which
would be the testimony that would appear before them in the form of
witnesses who respond to grand jury subpoenas, some who involuntarily
appear before a grand jury where their testimony is compelled, pursuant to
an immunity order.
And finally, ultimately, the ultimate (ph) job of a grand jury is to decide
whether or not charges should be returned against an individual upon a
finding of probable cause. So, all of those things are possible.
I think what it does suggest, though, clearly, and it`s consistent with Bob
Mueller`s hiring decisions is that this investigation is going to last for
some time. And as I`ve, I think, already publicly stated, I think you can
expect well into 2018.
MELBER: 2018. Barbara, do you agree with that? And I want to put up on
the screen here what we also know is, there`s the who and there`s the
where. The where now being Washington. That`s new tonight. The who has
been trickling out.
Fourteen of the Mueller team members have been identified out of about 16,
includes Michael Dreeben, James Quarles, Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres.
These are individuals - they might not be household names, but they are
certainly big fish in legal circles, Barbara.
MCQUADE: Absolutely. And they are well known to people who prosecute for
I think one thing that`s important to remember is the scope of this is
Robert Mueller`s task is a quest for the truth and to find out what
Russia`s role was in this and any coordination or links to the Trump
campaign. So, that`s a very big scope. That`s why he`s building this
I thought one really interesting addition was just the most recent one,
Greg Andres who is background is in organized crime and foreign bribery.
That suggests to me that Mueller is at least thinking that those are areas
where he wants some expertise.
Bill Kristol, the White House, has had many messages on this because they
have so many messengers. Bob Ray here telling us this is going well
through 2018 based on his expense, having worked with grand juries. Where
does the White House go from here because many years of this is a lot of
test for them and can create a lot of public concern, even though as we`ve
stressed, the existence of a grand jury doesn`t presuppose anyone`s guilt.
KRISTOL: Right. And a lot - so much will depend on, obviously, what the
truth is? I`m very struck by the fact that as recently as - what was it,
early June, less than two months ago, Donald Trump flying back on Air Force
One from Europe, was so concerned about what might come out about the
meeting in Trump Tower that he took over the writing of the statement for
his son Donald Trump Jr. and wrote a statement - a misleading statement -
a very misleading statement about what had happened at that meeting.
I mean, that`s very - I mean, one has to really think about that. Why did
he do that? First of all, it`s ridiculous - I`m not a lawyer, but I will
just say. Any lawyer would tell him, keep arms` length, stay out of it.
The traditional thing presidents do and presidential aides do in the White
House to say, that`s investigation, good luck, everyone should get their
own lawyer, the president is not going to get in the middle of writing
Put your head around the prior thing. Why is he so worried about the truth
about that meeting coming up?
MELBER: Well, you mentioned the truth. Let me ask you a follow-up, Bill.
I mean, the premise of your question raises what`s so uncomfortable for the
White House about that. What possible accurate value could the president
bring to a meeting he didn`t attend?
KRISTOL: Right. Maybe learned about it from one of the people who did
attend it. But even on the account - what`s amazing is, when you think
about - even on the not-nice-account of the meeting that it was delivering
info on Hillary Clinton or whatever, there is nothing against the law, I
suppose, for someone to come out of that meeting and tell the president
about it. I don`t think.
So, the fact that he`s so - he`s been so - I come back to very simple-
minded view. If he is terrified of this investigation, wanted to shut down
this investigation, called James Comey over to the White House one week
after being president to have a one-on-one meeting, fired James Comey, has
done his best to discredit the Mueller investigation, why is he doing on
The conventional DC interpretation sometimes is he`s always very thin-
skinned, he`s erratic, he is vain, he doesn`t want his election called into
question. Really? Maybe the simpler explanation is he`s very worried
about what truth will come out about Russian ties with him, either in is
businesses and/or in the 2016 campaign.
MELBER: Barbara, do you buy that theory of the case? Bill Kristol saying,
this is an individual who looks nervous about the facts. And number two,
do you think the public disclosure of this as a proceeding means the people
at the White House have to be more careful about avoiding anything that
could amount to tampering or obstruction?
MCQUADE: I do think that all indications are that President Trump is very
worried about this. Issuing the misleading statement, his request to Jim
Comey to let it go, all of his conduct suggest that he`s very worried about
the outcome here, which I think is a red flag for the investigator Robert
Mueller That there is perhaps some obstruction of justice going on here
because of a bigger truth that he wants to get to.
And, certainly, if you`re inside the White House, I think that all of them
are probably - have an elevated sense of leaks and preventing leaks,
especially in this climate and especially now with Kelly serving as the
chief of staff.
MELBER: I want to thank former independent counsel Robert Ray who has been
in his shoes, one of the few people who has. We`re going to have you back
later in the hour for another thing I want to ask you about. And I also
want to thank Evelyn, Bill and Barbara for your expertise on this breaking
So, how will the Mueller grand jury affect congressional investigations
that are just heating up? I have a lawmaker who oversees the Justice
Department on the judiciary committee here live.
And is Bob Mueller now focused on finances as well? There is an analysis
here from the man who actually uncovered some of Donald Trump`s tax
Meanwhile, let me show you what I mentioned. You`re looking here at
Huntington, West Virginia. President Trump holding a rally tonight, people
are going to hear about this news. Will they hear about his view of it?
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news this evening. Special counsel Bob Mueller deploying
a grand jury in Washington for his investigation of the Trump campaign`s
links to Russia. This, coupled with reports that Mueller is still
enlarging his team of prosecutors, and that has many in the White House
Now, progress in an investigation does not mean anyone will be indicted.
But even still, the story is bigger than just the DOJ and the White House.
It also sets up test for Congress, where today leaders from both parties
were warning Trump with new legislation that would try to make sure he
can`t remove Bob Mueller.
Any investigation that reaches the White House raises many other questions
for Congress because a special counsel does not just make decisions on
whether to indict. It can also send a formal report to Congress,
contemplating even more serious actions.
Here to discuss is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She serves on the House
Judiciary Committee and we will speak in a moment.
First, I want to bring in our political panel. Shelby Holliday is a
reporter for “The Wall Street Journal”, which broke this story, her
colleagues. Ken Delaney, NBC`s intelligence, national security reporter.
And Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Ken, state of play tonight as you know it?
KEN DELANEY, NBC INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Ari,
there seems to be some dispute in the reporting as to whether Robert
Mueller impaneled a special grand jury to hear this Trump Russia
investigation or whether he`s merely using an existing grand jury already
sitting in Washington DC.
That seems to me the significant thing that we should try to get to the
bottom of. But either way, it`s some movement in this case. It shows
that, at the very least, Mueller wanted the convenience of having a grand
jury near his offices in Washington DC after having been using one in
And as you well know, the most powerful tool a grand jury affords a
prosecutor is the ability to compel testimony. A witness does not have to
sit voluntarily for an FBI interview, but you do have to go down to a grand
jury if you`re subpoenaed.
And you can take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, but if a
prosecutor offers you immunity, you have to testify, and that`s a powerful
MELBER: Right. Much narrower. Shelby Holliday, a big story from your
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Yes.
MELBER: Your views on the politics of it
HOLLIDAY: Well, politically, it`s interesting because we`ve seen multiple
investigations run parallel to each other. So, Congress is also
investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
There is a question of what this means for the congressional
investigations. We saw the Senate committee last week - two weeks ago,
maybe it was, try to subpoena Paul Manafort. And they brought Jared
Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. to the Hill to question them.
But they, ultimately, don`t have as much power as a grand jury does to
compel witness testimony, to subpoena documents.
And so, this is a signal that the investigation is growing. It`s not
winding down. We know that heat is on.
The fact that Congress is looking at protecting Mueller`s position is
absolutely huge. This is a bipartisan effort. Republicans control
Congress, doesn`t matter, they are on board with this. And what they want
to do is essentially make it so that if President Trump wants to fire
Mueller through the Justice Department, Mueller could challenge that and he
would have a three-judge panel decide whether or not he should be removed.
MELBER: Right. I want to bring Jim in on that point. I mean, it shows
that the Senate, Jim, sees its role - you worked there with Harry Reid as,
obviously, buttressing some of this. And the point about how these
proceedings go down, I mean, congressional hearings can be rough, they have
an element of public shaming, but a grand jury proceeding, as folks who
will remember from the Clinton investigation, make those hearings look like
a cocktail party.
JIM MANLEY, FORMER AIDE TO SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID: They sure
do. It`s one thing to lie via the press, but it`s a whole other ball of
wax to live before a grand jury.
A couple of things. First of all, I think the Hill is going to give due
deference to Mueller, to the extent they can. They have a lot of trust in
And number two, I think you and your readers need to understand that these
bills introduced today are interesting.
But what I find fascinating is that it`s indicative of more and more
Republicans, especially in the Senate, are going out of their way to try
and find ways to distance themselves from Trump. They are not going to
carry water for this guy on something as serious as this.
However, there is a problem if we`re talking about this legislation. If
they need to, I assume it can get through the Senate. I`m not convinced it
can get through the House. That`s going to take Speaker Ryan standing up
to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte, who is busy
trying to investigate Hillary Clinton`s emails.
So, I`m not so sure it can get through the House.
MELBER: And the other Senate question I have for you, Jim, we have all
these lawyers that didn`t get as much attention in the old days. You,
parliamentary experts, also getting a little more attention with all of
your boring book of knowledge.
If we get word today that when they go into recess and McConnell does make
it a pro forma recess, your interpretation of that?
MANLEY: Well, it`s done - purely and solely designed to try and prevent
Donald Trump from doing a recess appointment of replacing the new -
replacing Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice.
MELBER: And we`re looking here at the Senate - go ahead.
MANLEY: Unbelievable. It`s just unbelievable. What they`re saying is
they don`t trust this president to do the wrong thing.
HOLLIDAY: You bring up a good point. It also comes on the heels of
Congress passing a bill that not only tightens sanctions, but limits the
president`s power to lift sanctions.
They basically said, we don`t trust you to negotiate with Russia, we don`t
trust you believe in being with Russia`s meddling in the election, and so
we`re going to take your power away.
And I think, as you point out, we`re seeing Congress increasingly concerned
about this investigation and where it`s heading.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, it`s a great point, Shelby. And, Ken, speak to that
because it would seem from the national security side, where you talk to a
lot of folks who see themselves as relatively non-partisan, the message
they`re getting from a Republican Senate - McConnell makes this call - is
that apparently if you buy - Manley`s interpretation, he wants to put the
brakes on potentially bad security-related decisions the president could
make in the Senate`s absence.
DELANEY: Absolutely. Look, there is a growing disquiet with this
administration among both Republicans and Democrats in the national
security community. I was at the Aspen Security Forum couple of weeks ago,
filled with sort of decision makers from both parties of all stripes.
And the unifying field theory of that place was deep disquiet about Trump`s
relationship with Russia, about where this investigations and about where
they`re taking foreign policies. There`s no doubt about that, Ari.
MELBER: Ken Delaney and Shelby Holliday, Jim Manley, a busy day for all of
you at your respective places of work. Thanks for joining.
Now, I want to go right to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She serves in
the House Judiciary Committee and joins us from beautiful Seattle. A
personal side note, my hometown. So, I love seeing the space behind you.
But, obviously, have a very serious role on the Judiciary Committee. What
is on your mind tonight? Do you want to speak to what we just were
discussing about whether they go into pro forma session, what that means,
and what the Judiciary Committee is going to do, now that you know
according to these accounts that there is this Washington grand jury in the
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: Well, let me say that I think that
this - the reality of where the Senate is today, the fact that they
probably are going to go into a pro forma session because I think, your
panelists are right, they don`t trust the president to not do something
that they wouldn`t approve of.
And they have made it very clear by the way that if he fires Jeff Sessions
that they are not going to appoint another attorney general.
They also now, with the bills today, they`re making it very clear on a
bipartisan basis that Robert Mueller, when he was selected, received wide
bipartisan praise for his role. People were clear that he was going to be
thorough, that he was going to be fair.
And so, now, the constant tweets and things coming from the president
indicating that he might fire Mueller have got everybody on edge, as they
should, because this is the special counsel. The problem with the special
counsel versus an independent counsel, if we had an independent prosecutor,
independent counsel, then that person would not be able to be fired by the
But because it`s a special counsel, it does mean that technically he
reports up to the chain of command. So, I think they are signaling very
clearly that this is a bipartisan effort to make sure that Mueller
continues to do his job.
Now, in the House, unfortunately, we have been met with continued
obstruction of our own sorts in the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary
Committee where I sit, I`m a member of that committee, it is the only
committee of record in the body, both chambers, that has not yet even had a
hearing on any of these matters.
So, last week, I introduced a resolution of inquiry, with my colleague
David Cicilline from Rhode Island. And it called for us to actually get
some information about some of these matters related to Russia, related to
the firing of James Comey and we were shut down - not just shut down, but
that was actually hijacked. And the Republicans just tried to turn it into
MELBER: Who shut you down?
JAYAPAL: Well, the chairman, there was essentially an amendment introduced
that stripped the resolution of inquiry, which is one of the few tools that
the minority has to put a question forward.
They essentially replaced all of the language that called for
investigations and information into these matters that we`re talking about,
they replaced it with essentially language that said we want to investigate
Hillary Clinton and her emails and Huma Abedin.
I mean, in the midst of what is an important time, to say that, I think,
was really distressing.
MELBER: That`s a fascinating sort of subtext to some of this because
there`s so many different threads to pull on.
I hope you`ll come back on THE BEAT Congresswoman. Appreciate your time
JAYAPAL: Good luck to you.
MELBER: These are live pictures of folks getting ready to go into
President Trump`s political rally here in West Virginia tonight. While
people are working in Washington, he is holding this big event. Will he
speak to these developments?
And stay with us ahead, we have a politics segment right after this.
MELBER: As we consider the breaking news tonight regarding a grand jury in
Washington in the Bob Mueller investigation, the first time that`s ever
been confirmed, consider Donald Trump`s prior statements - where else - on
Twitter about this issue, calling the Russian probe a witch-hunt, saying
people are laughing at an excuse for a lost election, Democrats and
I want to bring in a very special political panel. David Wohl is an
attorney who also has served as a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump and
Jamie Harrison is associate chair of the DNC and a past state party
David, I start with you. As an attorney, I`m sure you would agree, a grand
jury is always something to be taken seriously. Your view on it in the
context of the ongoing questions about Donald Trump`s campaign`s ties to
DAVID WOHL, ATTORNEY AND FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: I agree. And
remember, this is a very high-profile matter. And a matter of this
magnitude, a grand jury is a good idea.
The last thing we need is a circus like that Jim Comey presided over at the
end of last year where he laid out a powerful case against Hillary Clinton
for obstruction of justice, destruction of federal property and other
And then, at the end of this powerful recitation of the case, he said, we
think about it, we`re not going to file any charges.
MELBER: Let me jump in and then I`ll let you respond. Are you a surrogate
for news from a year ago or do you want to answer the question about this
particular criminal proceeding?
WOHL: No, no, no. No, I want to answer the question about this. It adds
legitimacy to the process. I think it`s important. So, he`s doing that.
It`s not going to be that he`s going to come out and make a decision. He`s
going to allow the 23 members of the grand jury to make a decision after
the evidence is laid out.
However, when that does take place and they come back and say there is
absolutely no evidence of collusion then the mainstream media can`t attack
the process. The Democrats can`t attack the process because it`s pristine
and legitimate and that`s why it`s a good idea.
ARI MELBER: I think you make a very important point Mr. Wohl which is the
criminal process is investigative, we do not presume guilt in advance, and
for those who are around Donald Trump who feel frustrated with the idea
that certain discussion political or otherwise has gotten into innuendo
Jamie, this is a process where if at the end of the day Bob Mueller who has
been praised by everyone and Grand Jury which is a process we use in this
country finds either no high-level indictments or nothing touching the
White House or indicts say foreign hackers, that should put it to rest.
Would you agree Jamie?
JAMIE HARRISON SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: I would agree with
that, Ari. Listen, this is about the rule of law and the sanctity of the
American Presidency. I know the Republicans want to make this about
Hillary Clinton and fighting the 2016 campaign but that`s not what this is
all about. That`s not why Donald Trump is so upset about what Bob Mueller
is doing and why Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are coming
together to draft legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation.
This is serious business. So if you are someone who loves this country and
loves this government that has allowed this great nation to be, then you
need to take this seriously. And Donald Trump is scared about what will
happen and what will come out of this investigation.
MELBER: Mr. Wohl, when you look at this report tonight for the first time
we`re learning there is a Grand Jury in Washington, you can ask the Clinton
administration under Bill Clinton how long that can take and how difficult
it can be. Would you advise Donald Trump as someone who`s been a surrogate
and supporter of his not to give coaching or advice anymore to people who
may ultimately become witnesses?
WOHL: Well, he`s not going to do that. I mean, he`s not going to
interfere with the process at all. I think he`s made that clear. By the
way, I don`t know that he`s ever said anything about firing Mr. Mueller. I
think that`s something that`s been fabricated. And look, here is the good
thing, Ari, is that I agree with your previous guest. This could take up
to a year. Now, remember it`s a confidential process, hopefully, it
remains that way. That way in and over the next year we can actually get
back to doing the people`s work. I mean, right now, as of the first six
months of this administration, we have a record low unemployment, 16-year
low. We have almost a million new jobs created. We have stock markets
skyrocketing through the roof. And it`s time to get back to the things
that count. And this process as it will be secret will allow lawmakers to
actually do that and gosh how critically important is that.
MELBER: Jamie, you know, Mr. Wohl here, I should call you both by your
first name. David -
WOHL: You can call me David, Ari, no problem at all.
MELBER: Jamie, David is making a point here as someone who supports Donald
Trump that the whole country, the government, certainly the Democrats now
that the process is going forward ought to be able to focus on other things
for all the reasons we just discuss. Do you agree Jamie? Do you think,
when you looked at Democrats in Washington they are getting the balance
right or they getting Russia obsessed when really this is a process that
should play out while they govern?
HARRISON: Well, listen, it`s not about us being Russian obsessed, it`s
this administration. It`s lie after lie after lie. It`s like watching
Maury Povich. I mean, it`s amazing the reality TV show that we have here.
We had Donald Junior who basically said no, I didn`t meet with the Russians
and we found out that he did meet with the Russians. And then he said
well, we talked about adoption. And then we find out well, there`s more
than just adoption that they talked about in those discussions. And so
it`s leak after leak, it`s lie after lie and that`s what`s feeding the
beast here. It`s not Democrats who want to fight about what`s going on in
Russia. We want to get the American people`s business done but we can`t
get it done because of the reality show in the White House.
WOHL: Well, let me say -
MELBER: David Wohl and Jamie Harrison, it was both of your first times on
THE BEAT. I got to go because I got a water gate prosecutor waiting to
come back on set while you`re on. I appreciate you both. Let`s have you
HARRISON: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it.
WOHL: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you very much. Now, how does a Grand Jury actually work?
Are witnesses allowed to have lawyers with them? Do they have the normal
right? Is the Mueller Grand Jury different from other types of Juries?
We`re going to hear live from as I mention, someone with firsthand
experience. Stay with me.
MELBER: We`re back with today`s breaking news. A Grand Jury impaneled in
Washington for the Russia inquiry but what you`re looking at is what Donald
Trump is doing. He`s in route to Huntington, West Virginia for a campaign
style rally. Now late today on the south lawn of the White House as we
noted, reporters tried to get some answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you considering firing Robert
Mueller? Will you hold a news conference again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to fire Mueller?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: NBC`S Hallie Jackson also at the White House and we`re going to be
joined in a moment there by Robert Ray, a former Independent Counsel in the
Clinton inquiry. Two people here who know a lot about how the White House
feels. Hallie, sometimes it has collective feelings or mixed feelings.
What are you hearing?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don`t know there`s
anything mixed about it, Ari from what we have seen coming out of this
White House. Both the brand new by the way Internal Counsel to the
President Ty Cobb who was just installed specifically to deal with all of
this Russia stuff and then you`ve also got the President`s personal
lawyers, his outside team as well as we`re here at the White House in front
of what really turned into tsunami in the last couple of minutes.
So forgive me if the lens gets a little bit wet there as the rain blows in
from behind us. I will say this, the messaging on this has been clear.
You`ve heard two things. Number one, that President Trump, they say,
there`s no reason to believe that he himself is under investigation. I
will add, as you are aware, that once former senior intelligence official
who has knowledge of the discussion is telling NBC News that in fact, it
has told NBC, Robert Mueller is looking into whether potentially the
President did obstruct justice. The other part of this though is pointing
to something that James Comey -they say James Comey has said that he didn`t
tell the President at the time that the President was under investigation.
We have talked about this quite a bit over the last five, six months or so.
And so, I would just note here that doesn`t necessarily indicate that after
Comey was fired that something didn`t change. That said, it is consistent
messaging from the President`s team here. I will say this, Ari, this is an
investigation as you know that has infuriated the President. He`s talked
about it again and again. I wouldn`t be surprised if he might call it a
witch hunt for example tonight. We`ll see if he does that. He has done it
on the road before. And this yet another story that is obviously
dominating headlines that cannot please Donald Trump tonight.
MELBER: Yes, Hallie, I mean, infuriated him so much they spent the closing
argument of ObamaCare attacking his own Attorney General over one reason,
Russia, so fascinating. Well, I`m sure we`ll be checking back in with you
throughout the night Hallie Jackson at the White House. Now, this
explosive news of the new Grand Jury in Russia (INAUDIBLE) has shaken
Washington, a town where everyone knows Grand Juries can rattle a White
House. Consider Bill Clinton, the first sitting President to ever testify
before a Grand Jury which was led by aggressive Prosecutors Ken Starr and
then Robert Ray.
We were going to play for a little bit of that but we don`t have it, it`s
breaking news day. Robert Ray, you may remember from earlier in the show,
nice to see you again.
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Good to be here.
MELBER: You look at this and you think, wow, Grand Juries must be powerful
if so many powerful people are worried about them. I wanted to have a
little more time with you putting Donald Trump to the side for a moment.
Explain to us why do prosecutors like to work with Grand Juries.
RAY: Well, it`s unnerving to be on the receiving end of federal
prosecutorial power. It doesn`t matter who you are including the President
of the United States. But the - you know, the point is, is to not be
unnerved and unglued and go on and do your job. And fortunately for the
President, he has a professional Ty Cobb who I knew well, he`s a
profession. The appropriate comment is to say we`re cooperating fully with
the Special Counsel`s investigation and we look forward to a speedy
resolution of this matter.
MELBER: You`re -
RAY: That`s the best - that`s the best and really the only answer you
should be giving.
MELBER: Jay Sekulow is someone that I`ve been inviting here in the program
since we launched which isn`t that long but he hasn`t come to us yet but he
did go on Fox News today to speak to these issues. let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: I think Bob Mueller is going to
move expeditiously forward in this process as it relates to the President
of the United States. I don`t expect this to be going on for years. I just
-as it relates to the President, I just don`t see it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that the right tone?
RAY: It is. But they need to stay on that tone not vary on that tone and
of course, the message is not always well received by the client.
MELBER: In this case the client, Donald Trump.
MELBER: But when you look at what you can do, I mean, you could bring
what? Just about - could you bring White House aides before the Grand
RAY: Of course. I mean, the old joke used to be that Betty Currie who was
the President Clinton`s Personal Assistant - Secretary, that every time she
talked with somebody, whoever it is she talked to ended up getting a Grand
MELBER: Right. And some folks at the time were saying that was because -
I mean, especially during the Ken Starr period of it that they were overly
aggressive. Friends, confidantes, all sorts of folks caught up in it and
when they`re in that Grand Jury, do they have lawyer with them?
RAY: No. It`s a one sided proceeding. It`s the presence of the
prosecutor asking questions, the witness under examination, up to 23 Grand
Jurors, possibly an interpreter. And that`s it.
MELBER: And that`s it. You`re just alone in there. I think we do have-I
was mentioning this earlier because we want to folks some of the -
RAY: And a court reporter.
MELBER: Sure and a transcript - let`s take a look at some of this period
from Bill Clinton. There he is. This - walk us through this because this
was something incredible. August 2000, sitting President giving Grand Jury
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY: Well, it`s an unusual point in our history. It was somewhat of a
compromised solution which is that he didn`t actually appear in a Grand
Jury room. But it was the first time, at least to my knowledge, that a
sitting President had ever appeared before a Grand Jury.
MELBER: Was it constructive for Clinton to do it and should Trump be open
to doing the same thing?
RAY: Well, I think you know, every situation is different. That`s a
situation where he really was left with little choice. Hopefully, most
defense lawyers seek to avoid having their client either a target or a
subject of a Grand Jury investigation voluntarily appear before a Grand
Jury. Typically the default position would be if you had any belief at all
and a reasonable belief that you had exposure, you would be advising the
client and the client would be well advised to accept the advice to take
the Fifth Amendment. That was not really an option for President Clinton
under the circumstances.
MELBER: Fascinating. Robert Ray, who`s been down his past, not many of
you living former Special Prosecutors, I appreciate your time. Now, the
Mueller investigation isn`t just about people, it is also about money.
This is an angle we haven`t (INAUDIBLE) yet but we have some very important
reporting coming up next on THE BEAT.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight. Bob Mueller impaneling that Washington
Grand Jury for the Russia inquiry, legal experts say Mueller thinks he`ll
subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses which means Trump aides
could be forced to testify. And remember, Prosecutors can jail those who
refuse to comply. But this is not just about people. The FBI doesn`t
start by investigating people. It investigates crime and follows the
evidence and there were reports here that evidence, in this case, means
money. Money leaves a trial, records, for every account opened or closed,
or every wire transfer and investigators now looking for any evidence of
possible financial crimes. Happy to say we have David Cay Johnston, a
Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist and Trump Biographer as well as Mike
Lupica, a celebrated Columnist with the New York Daily News. Mike, plain
English, follow the money or the rubles. Will that be a big part of this?
MIKE LUPICA, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST: That line, by the way, was
written by William Goldman in a screenplay for all the President`s men and
it has become part of the language of this country. Ari, an old Hitchcock
movies, they used to talk about the McGuffin. The McGuffin was the thing
at which the plot turns. What the McGuffin here? What is the thing that
this President is so desperate to hide that he might have gambled his
Presidency on it? Because that`s the question. What are the lengths that
he will go to, to keep Robert Mueller from finding the McGuffin?
MELBER: Are you - are you - Sir, are you asking me or can you tell me?
LUPICA: No, me, it`s the unknown thing about this. It has been the
unknowable thing from the start. And as a - as a New York lawyer I know
said to me today, this is the beginning of the end, the impaneling of this
Grand Jury or the end of the beginning, OK. This is the end of the
overture. And maybe Robert Mueller has got a Grand Jury now and he`s going
to start picking people off one by one.
MELBER: Well, here a theory of the case, your respond. One, the McGuffin
is some elicit activity related to the election. Two, the McGuffin is some
unrelated financial issue. Three, the McGuffin is that Donald Trump is an
unusual man, he said so himself with a great deal of feeling about the loss
of the popular vote in the 2016 election and a great deal of responses to
what he views as the de-legitimization of that election unrelated to any
actual misconduct. Those are three theories.
LUPICA: I think it`s going to be money. (AUDIO GAP) something in the
(AUDIO GAP) or something when he was facing bankruptcy back in the 1990s
that maybe somebody bailed him out but. But it is something that if it is
made public, will diminish the idea that this guy is one of the great
titans in the history of all time.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, AND AUTHOR: Well,
it is money for sure and every time this issue comes up, Donald is actually
transparent about this. He doesn`t want Mueller looking into his family
business and its money. Donald has been involved with Russian money going
back to the late `80s. His family is - had numerous connection with the
Russians. And one of the things he may be very worried about is the Trump
SoHo lawsuit they`ve been trying so hard to get rid of in which the profits
from this hotel project in New York in which both banks and investors lost
money, and yet it had profits, disappeared in a deal Donald signed off on.
He was an 18 percent owner of the project into an (AUDIO GAP) Russian
oligarchs. And (AUDIO GAP). And a Grand Jury would be very useful for
investigating these things, both for getting documents as well as
leveraging people in getting information out of them.
MELBER: That`s right. I mean, that`s certainly true as an investigative
process, I will mention here, we had some Trump surrogates on earlier in
the hour. The Trump folks have strenuously denied all this. They`ve said
that an investigation or hunt of past activities before November doesn`t
seem very fair because the feds could have looked at that any other time
and they`ve raised that issue. Having said that, David, look at this New
York Times reporting. It seems more and more relevant as the big news
breaks tonight, “A former senior official saying Mueller`s investigation
looking at money laundering by Trump associates, a suspicion that
cooperation with Russian officials would have been done in exchange for
financial payoffs. That would have been an effort to hide the payoffs most
likely by routing them though offshore banking centers. David, based on
your reporting, how does that work and would there ultimately be records to
JOHNSTON: There would be records and we have a very important federal
agency FinCen which is mostly IRS people who are very good at finding
needles of money in hay stacks of global commerce. The transactions Donald
has been involved with, and I`m sure he`s worried about, will end up being
connected to Deutsche Bank, the bank that loans the money, that bank that
was laundering money for the Russians, the purchases of properties from him
at high prices and hopefully, Mueller will go all the way back to the
1980s, and Donald`s inexplicable deep entanglement that I go to in depth in
the Making of Donald Trump, with a major international drug trafficker he
went to back for.
MELBER: And so, Mike Lupica, final thought, more money, more problems.
LUPICA: Yes. I mean, one of the lawyers I`ve talked to comes out of
(INAUDIBLE) cases in New York City and he said don`t kid yourself. If he`s
got Grand Jury now, he`s looking to indict people.
MELBER: Right. And that`s what Grand Juries often do, not always because
we want to be fair but that is often what they do and they are such a
LUPICA: And again, start picking people off one by one.
MELBER: Mike Lupica with the McGuffin, David Cay Johnston with the money,
thank you both. Now, what is a Grand Jury? I have a prosecutor coming up
next who going to explain just why it`s so powerful.
MELBER: In our breakdown tonight, what is a Grand Jury besides a powerful
tool for prosecutors? Why does it paralyze White Houses from both parties
and why is it so different from a normal jury? Well, I have former Federal
Prosecutor Kendall Coffey here. Let`s start with this. If it`s a secret
why are we hearing about it?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that`s a great question.
I`m sure Robert Mueller is having some high decibel conversations with some
of his team about all the leaks. It`s actually a federal crime for
prosecutors to disclose what goes on inside the Grand Jury. But this is
about the Presidency. We`re not going to have radio silence during this
period. There`s going to be people who talk about it and there`s going to
be a huge amount of public interest in finding out as much as possible.
MELBER: Prosecutors are known to be strong, they like the win. Why is
this such a good tool?
COFFEY: Well, first of all, it is intimidating. And once a Grand Jury
word is getting out, then all of a sudden, everybody`s going to lawyer up,
the witnesses, the possible subjects, and it starts to be every man and
every woman for themselves. Their lawyers are telling them, don`t worry
about protecting somebody, worry about protecting yourself. And as we
know, the tools of the Grand Jury are very, very one-sided. It`s not a
two-way street where there`s a pursuit of an even handed both sides to the
story. It is a one-way street and the prosecutors drive the bus as to what
documents are subpoenas and what witnesses are called before the Grand Jury
and who gets indicted.
MELBER: We keep hearing about these undisclosed meetings with Russians by
top White House official and former officials. We`ve seen them come out
and speak occasionally to the public or to this closed door committees. Do
current federal officials, these top White House people that are so
powerful, can they be called in? Do they have to go?
COFFEY: They`re going to be called in. They`re going to have to testify.
And as we know, it is an intimidating environment. They go in without
friends or family, without even their lawyers, just a room full of people
and the federal prosecutors asking them tough questions.
MELBER: And then, I got to ask you the big question we did touch on this
earlier showing Bill Clinton`s precedent setting testimony. But if Donald
Trump is called in, what kind of testimony do you think he would give?
Would he be good at this?
COFFEY: Well, I`m not sure if he`ll be good at it because rather than sort
of follow script, I think he`s going to be pretty aggressive and if he
attacks Comey, says Comey is lying about this, Comey is false about that,
remember, more has a lot of respect for James Comey. And one of the worst
things Trump could do is go in and create a situation where they conclude
that he`s testifying falsely because as we all know, at the end of the day,
when this report gets submitted to the House of Representatives, as much as
anything else it`s going to be about false statement, potentially perjury
and obstruction. Indeed Donald Trump is in the firing line.
MELBER: Right. And we can`t - we can`t predict the future but past
impeachments have had obstruction in the Nixon and Clinton examples.
Kendall Coffey, thank you so much for your expertise. That is THE BEAT.
We`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and “HARDBALL” starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A Trump Grand Jury. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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