Feds putting together shredded Cohen documents. TRANSCRIPT: 05/30/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: May 30, 2018
Guest: Mike Lupica; Michael Avenatti; Frank Figliuzzi, Bill Kristol, Kenneth White, Amanda Marcotte, Jess McIntosh
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Oh, yes, seriously, we get a call when that
happens. Do not roast marshmallows or anything else over the Hawaii
volcano. This is the s`more you know.
That`s all we have for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more “MTP
THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Now Chuck, I have heard of molten chocolate lava
cake, but what I`m getting from you in the news tonight is don`t use real
TODD: That`s my tip. You can, as long as it`s gluten-free.
MELBER: OK. Well, as you said the s`more it gets crazier every day.
Thank you, Chuck.
Tonight, we begin with a very big question. What documents did Michael
Cohen put in this now as of this hour infamous shredder? And are there
Cohen tapes? And, if so, who is exactly on them?
Those are some of the big questions after Trump`s fixer and personal
attorney appearing today in that federal courtroom New York and a fight
over the records and electronics seized in the famous FBI raid in his home
in April and his office that was back in April.
Prosecutors say that they have now turned over more than 3.7 million items.
And those are going to be reviewed for anything that might not ultimately
get into court. That would be attorney-client privilege or otherwise
Now, there are two locked blackberries, the contents of this shredder which
everyone is wondering about. And they were trying to piece it back
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking because the judge says Cohen`s lawyers will
have to finish going through any remaining items and documents by June
15th. So about two weeks. If they don`t finish by then, then another team
of prosecutors will do the work live for them.
The other news, coming from Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who
you see here is live on set on “THE BEAT.” He revealed in court today,
that a reporter called him last week about a recording of a phone call
between Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels` former attorney. Cohen`s lawyer,
not denying that these tapes exist but says they have not been leaking
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Just like the Nixon tapes years
ago, we now have what I will refer to the Trump tapes. Mr. Ryan admitted
that there are audio recordings that Michael Cohen was taking for years.
Not only do they exist, but they are under lock and key and some of them
relate to my client and her attorney/client privilege commune cakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Avenatti later saying he believes that Trump himself was recorded.
Now, let`s be clear, the evidence coming out of today`s proceeding does not
speak exactly to that. Avenatti calling on Cohen to go ahead and release
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: People can make their own determinations as to their importance
relating to the President and what he knew and when he knew it and what he
did as it relates to conspiring with Michael Cohen to commit one or more
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Much to discuss. I am joined by Maya Wiley, a former counsel of
New York City, Mike Lupica, a columnist for the “New York Daily News” and
Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant FBI director and as mentioned, Mr.
Avenatti will speak to us in a moment.
But Maya, this is at least intriguing.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: It is very intriguing.
MELBER: You look happy.
WILEY: Well, look, at the end of the day, we know that this case is going
to proceed and it`s going to proceed a pace. Because Judge Wood has said
two weeks, if you don`t get through it, Michael Cohen attorneys were just
going to send it over to the prosecutors. They have to go through all
those documents in order to proceed with the case.
But the fact that we have shredded documents that they are trying to piece
back together suggests that – well, it raises the question, why are there
MELBER: Why are there shredded documents, is a big one. And I say this
not just because anytime you bring up a shredder, it gets more interesting.
I mean, it just does.
MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: No, no. If are you in a
story with a shredder, your life is taking a wrong turn.
MELBER: Right. Something is going down. But this, of course, is actually
also legally significant because the feds were citing their assertions,
that`s what they are because we haven`t proven in court. But as part of
the probable cause for why they went in on Cohen in the first place.
I`m reading here from a court filing, they said look, absent a search
warrant, these very records could have been deleted without recourse for
law enforcement. And you see about that the redactions suggesting in that
filing that there were things going on that made the feds move because they
thought there was either destruction or about to be destruction.
LUPICA: Yes, unless you think it`s one of those crazy coincidences that
you get if life sometimes that these documents happen to be shredded that
You know what I was thinking? Reading all these stories about this today,
Ari, and Maya, Kimbal Wood, the judge in this case must feel like she lost
the bet to get involved in the middle of something like this. Which is
like the grifters (ph) meets usual suspects, meets the gang that couldn`t
shoot straight. But I was asking Maya this before we come on tonight.
MELBER: Does that make David Dennison in suspect?
MELBER: I`m just trying to follow the movie right there.
LUPICA: No, I can explain it to you. But what is, what is the worst thing
for the President of the United States in these potentially in these
MELBER: Are you talking about –?
LUPICA: No, I was saying.
MELBER: I have, you know, all right.
WILEY: Money laundering.
AVENATTI: That`s a softball pitch, you know, thrown to Babe Ruth.
MELBER: Go ahead.
AVENATTI: Using a baseball –
LUPICA: The worst thing.
AVENATTI: Well, I mean, look, hypothetically speaking, I mean these
documents and these recordings could have the President of the United
States complicit with Michael Cohen as it relates to potential serious
federal criminal acts relating to money laundering or other untoward
criminal conduct. I mean, if hypothetically speaking, you are asking, you
know, what`s possible. That`s possible, hypothetically.
MELBER: Do you have a reason that`s more than possible?
AVENATTI: Well, I don`t have a reason to believe that that in particular
is more than possible. But I have every reason to believe, Ari, that these
recordings that were seized by the FBI, which Michael Cohen and his
attorneys have a copy of, include recordings between Michael Cohen and the
President of the United States as well as others. And it`s never a good
idea to be recording conversations period, especially if you are an
attorney, especially if you are dealing with sensitive information.
It`s really not a good idea if are you going to do that, to record them
with people that later become the President of the United States. It`s
especially a bad idea to then keep those recordings in your office or your
home or your hotel room and have them seized by the FBI.
WILEY: I, yes, but – why is he recording phone conversations? Why? I
mean, this is where you start to get into is there some kind of criminal
enterprise? Does he need some kind of leverage over people? Because
lawyers typically do not need a recorded phone conversation record to
zealously represent their clients.
MELBER: Well, that`s a big part. And I`m going to press you a little more
on the underlying evidence. But just at the hypothetical level, I want to
also bring in Frank.
Because Maya makes a point that is familiar to lawyers, which is, if
anything lawyers often do the opposite when they are dealing with sensitive
information. They will say, let`s not record too much. Let`s have a broad
discussion without any memorialization. And later we will write a very
vague memo is often the practice that refers to it.
This seems to be different and, Frank, from your investigative hat, from
the FBI perspective, what does that do for them?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: So
Ari, you are absolutely right. The best practice if you are really
practicing true law is put down as little down as possible when you are
interacting on sensitive lawyers.
MELBER: True law. You sound like Michael Cohen is doing something other
than true law. But go ahead.
FIGLIUZZI: Well, yes. Well, I will get to that in a second because that
has to do with his claim that he needs more time to determine what is
privileged and what is not. Which I think is a bunch of horse manure (ph).
Because I think if you are practicing true law, you have things marked
attorney-client privilege. You run a software program. You determine
where those words exist in the document and you got your universe of
documents to work with.
But let`s move on to much more interesting topics, which is the shredder
and the recording calls. With regard to the recorded calls, a couple of
One is I`m fascinated by how this might impact Trump`s decision to sit down
with Mueller or not. Because up until now Trump has been sitting back
saying I don`t use emails. So I`m sitting pretty, nothing is documented.
MELBER: Great point.
FIGLIUZZI: Now he has to scratch his head and wonder, I wonder how much I
was being recorded. I don`t know what Mueller has regarding my voice.
What the FBI can analyze in terms of voice signature and determine is my
voice. So now that they have him thinking twice.
With regard to the shredder. Let`s also not just isolate the possibility
that the FBI grabbed shredded material during the raid, but let`s expand
that to the possibility that the FBI seized discarded shredded trash once
it left the office space and for how long, we don`t know. We don`t know
the true volume of the shredded material. But once it`s discarded, there
is no possession of it lawfully by Cohen and if he went cheap on his
purchase of a shredder, he is going to regret it. Because the FBI can
absolutely put it back together.
MELBER: I don`t know if we are on the news right now or deep in a home
depot sales pitch about what you need the best shredder possible. But I
take your point that if the material is not really, really gone, sometimes
they get it back.
Michael, I want to now turn into the other piece of this which is you went
out on the courthouse steps as you have done before. And you said things
that got a lot of people interested. You are calling these the Trump
tapes. That is very interesting. It is very exciting. But you don`t, in
fact, know whether Donald Trump is or isn`t on any of these tapes yet?
AVENATTI: Well, I know for a fact that Donald Trump is on at least one of
these recordings, Ari. I`m not going to get into details.
MELBER: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not getting into details of how I know that.
MELBER: Would you say that in court?
MELBER: So you are saying as a matter of fact you know at least on one
occasion she on the tape?
MELBER: And you know that because you have heard that tape?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into how.
MELBER: Because if you haven`t heard that tape, do you really know that or
you just think that because someone told you that?
AVENATTI: Let me answer your question, OK. On at least one of these
recordings Donald Trump is on one of the recordings at least one of them.
I know that for a fact. I stand behind it. I think if you look at my
track record over the last almost three months, its impeccable relating to
MELBER: Would you describe that as something have you personal knowledge
MELBER: Let me read to you what they read in court. This is very
interesting what you just said because that would advance this story,
because there is a guessing game about whether Donald Trump, himself, is on
AVENATTI: Are you going to read to me Mr. Ryan`s comments?
AVENATTI: Because I think they are important.
MELBER: Good. See, you get enough lawyers around a table and they know
what the other lawyer is doing.
Yes, that`s what I`m going to read. The audiotapes that we have if any
that pertain to him are under lock and key. They are controlled by my law
firm and potus, to the extent there may be a claim (INAUDIBLE). I am
unaware of any release of an audio file of this kind. Your response to
AVENATTI: There is no question these audio tapes exist. They are under
lock and key, according to what Mr. Ryan has stated. Now it`s important
that we clarify that there are at least two copies of these recordings.
There is the recording under lock and key at Mr. Ryan`s office evidently
pursuant to his statement and then the government has a copy of these
recordings when they were seized by way of the FBI raids.
So there is no question these recordings exist. They ought to be released.
We are especially disturbed by the fact that evidently my client`s former
counsel had communications with Michael Cohen during which they discussed
attorney/client privileged information that my client had disclosed to her
attorney who then passed it to Michael Cohen who then recorded it and kept
MELBER: That`s very important. Let`s slow down so people could grasp what
you are saying. That`s very important.
Because there, as you know, in more than one case, the allegations,
unproven, but allegations that Mr. Cohen basically worked with this other
lawyer, you are referring to Mr. Davidson, your predecessor, in a manner
that might have been adverse to his client`s interests in order to help
Donald Trump. You are now saying you believe there is smoking gun tape
evidence of that?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. I mean, this was the call that I received from the
reporter last week. I was minding my own business in California. It was
early in the morning.
MELBER: As you do.
AVENATTI: Not exactly.
MELBER: You are known for, you mind your own business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go along to go along with.
AVENATTI: That`s very funny, actually. I would agree with that. I might
use that again without attribution. I get a call from this reporter who
asks me to comments on a recorded conversation that the reporter has heard
between Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cohen discussing my client and attorney/client
Now you can imagine as someone who is learned in the law my shock upon
hearing this, that this recording would exist, a, and that her former
counsel would be disclosing attorney/client privilege information to his
known adversary Mr. Cohen. B, very disturbing set of events.
So we filed the document with the court. We asked the court to inquire
about it. And during today`s hearing, this is how we got Mr. Ryan to make
this a mission in open court, that, a, these courts exist. And b, they are
under lock and key.
Our next position is we are going to be demanding tomorrow that they be
turned over to us immediately, all recordings relating to my clients,
especially those discussing attorney/client privilege information. They
should not be in the possession of Mr. Ryan. They should not be in
possession of Mr. Cohen. And we want them so that we can determine what
was said and what to do with them period.
MELBER: And let me ask you this and I`m going to it around the table.
You just made an assertion here on live national TV that you have to
believe in – you are staking your credibility on it that Donald Trump is,
indeed, on one of these recorded calls. And if you are on one, that opens
up the idea that you may be on more than one. I think the difference
between zero and one is far greater than the difference between one and 20.
If that`s the case, do you believe that Donald Trump already knew that or
do you think he is learning that tonight as you break this news?
AVENATTI: No, I think he already knows that. But let me say this, Ari.
If I`m wrong, let Mr. Ryan or Mr. Cohen come on your show or any other show
and state unequivocally that there never was and there is not currently a
tape of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen.
MELBER: Maya, what do you make of that? Because again if this assertion
is true, Mr. Avenatti says he can back it up, then Donald Trump either
already knew this and was going through those calls, which might make him,
my guess, more careful if you know you are on the recorded line or he found
that after the fact or finds out tonight as this makes news, because it`s
news worthy, what is your view of Donald Trump`s likely mental state about
WILEY: I am assuming he is going through the roof. I`m sure he is not
taking this well. I, frankly, either scenario. If he didn`t know, of
course, he is definitely, if he`s not taking it well, that Jeff Sessions
didn`t recuse himself, that he spent months trying to get Jeff Sessions to
un-recuse himself, if he`s beside himself about Roseanne Barr, I mean,
let`s face it, this is a lot more central to his personal interests than
Roseanne bar, he has got to be losing his mind.
LUPICA: You know, as you watch the Cohen saga play out, somehow the world
convinced him that the world was a mark waiting for him to play it. That
he had been conditioned to believe, it`s like they said ten seconds (ph)
where it said the ten stages of drunkenness and they can be drunk with
power. Nine is invisible. And ten is bulletproof. This guy started to
think he was invisible and bullet proof. And now –.
MELBER: And that`s why he bot the cheaper shredder, you think?
LUPICA: I was going to ask Michael what kind shredder he had. My favorite
of all –.
AVENATTI: A crosscut shredder. You have to buy a crosscut shredder, not a
strip shredder. You can`t be cheap when it comes to your shredder.
WILEY: They are actually not that expensive, to be quite honest.
LUPICA: Well, my favorite think that Ryan said was about you today. He
said he never seen a lawyer behave the way you behaved. And I`m thinking
he is obviously unfamiliar with Rudy Giuliani`s work.
MELBER: Yes. Well.
And Frank, before we go, I actually want to play, because you were talking
about the attitude here. And we have footage of Michael Cohen that is
interesting in this context, which is talking about the way Donald Trump
deals with people and their connection. Take a listen to this, Frank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: If you know anybody in the Trump
organization that spends any amount of time with him like I do, we all feel
the same way about he is more to us than just a boss. He is a mentor. He
is a sage. He is like family. And when you have a problem, Mr. Trump
feels like he has a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Frank, how does that apply today and affect how Cohen is dealing
with all this pressure?
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, two things come up when I hear that. First, it`s so
reminiscent of listening to La Costa Nostra wiretaps, I can`t tell you how
close it is in terms of, you know, we are like family. We are family.
The other thing is the reality at some point you have to choose between
your actual family and your like family. And at some point when Cohen sees
the federal sentencing guidelines, sees what he is criminally exposed to, I
believe he is going to choose his real family over his like family and I
think he is going to do the right thing. It`s a question of how long that
MELBER: Very interesting in putting that respect.
Frank Figliuzzi, thank you as always for your insights. Michael Avenatti
and the panel in New York State stays. I want to get into more of what we
have learned in court today.
Also later, something Maya just mentioned, Donald Trump trying to get
Sessions to un-recuse from the probe, Bob Mueller is now investigating
I am also going to dig into Trump`s conspiracy theories on Russia and why
some of them have been debunked from a surprising stores.
And a strange response to the Roseanne racism scandal. Why does Donald
Trump think he gets an apology?
Plus tonight, a report we have been working on for a while, trolling in the
Trump era, how it works and how to stop it.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT” on MSNBC.
MELBER: Our coverage of the Cohen raid today continues. And on set with
me here in New York is Michael Avenatti, Maya Wiley and Mike Lupica.
One of the things that happened in court today, Michael, as you know it, I
want to play for your benefit is a reference to your public advocacy for
your client, the judge referring the things you have said like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: Michael Cohen has zero credibility. We are going to prove it.
This is a man who has a history of thuggish behavior.
There is no question in my mind that Michael Cohen, a, is going to be
indicted within the next three months. He is not a registered lobbyist.
He hasn`t made required disclosures related to lobbying activities. We
don`t know where this is, but it doesn`t smell right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today the judge said you currently have the right to make those
kinds of statements as most any Americans does. But if you were more
formally involved in this case, you would not be able to speak to, for
example, your opinion of Mr. Cohen`s guilt.
AVENATTI: Well, that`s what she said. And I heard what she said. And let
me just say this, Ari.
I think I listened carefully and watched carefully. I think everything
that I said and every one of those statements can be backed up and is
proven to be true. Nothing has been proven on the false.
But look, Ari, this isn`t a publicity tour. Let me tell you what it is,
it`s a truth tour. And it`s going to continue. And it`s going to
continues today, next week and next month. Because we are going to get to
the bottom of what happened here. And we are going to continue to disclose
evidence and facts as necessary for the American people. And they can
decide what ultimately happens with those facts and that evidence.
We are not going to change our tactics. We are not going to pack up and go
home. We are not going to change our media strategy. It has worked I
think perfectly for the benefit of my client, for her cause and for the
benefit of the American people and what they want to know as it relates to
MELBER: Does that mean you will stay out of speak income court, though?
Because the judge was implying it`s one or the other?
AVENATTI: Well, we withdrew my motion for admission (INAUDIBLE) because
it`s not necessary, because our motion to intervene has been tabled by
agreement of the government and us. We have resolved a lot of issues.
MELBER: You know I get excited when you that say (INAUDIBLE).
AVENATTI: Yes, I know you do.
MELBER: You know that.
Were you referring to the idea you would be enter out a stay in a case that
you otherwise don`t have any interest?
AVENATTI: At this point in time, we don`t need that motion decided at this
juncture. So to clean it up procedurally, we withdrew the motion. And so,
for the time being, we are going to continue to do what we have done in the
past. And we are going to continue to disclose information. And I think
we brought a lot of information and evidence to bear. And I think we
furthered the conversation.
MELBER: And I think you furthered the conversation as well. Again, in
fairness, that`s what we do on the show, what Mr. Cohen`s side says is that
quote “you have involved yourself in ways to call attention to yourself.
That you have grandees a single attorney quote and Lupica was referring to
this, quote “I have never seen an attorney conduct himself in the manner
Mr. Avenatti has. It shakes me in my boots.”
AVENATTI: Well, I have seen some of Mr. Ryan`s conduct in this case,
including the buffoonery associated with announcing Sean Hannity`s name
publicly in court as opposed to writing it on a piece of paper when he was
given the option of doing so, which is one of the dumbest things I have
seen any trial attorney do in a very long time.
So look. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Ryan has never seen an
attorney conduct himself in this way, but perhaps he should take notes.
LUPICA: It just occurred to me. Listen, you talked that nobody has been
more formally informally involved in a case in history than you have been
involved in this.
Michael, when you say – is it OK if I can him a question, right?
MELBER: Go ahead.
LUPICA: When you say this is a truth tour. What is the ultimate truth of
Stormy Daniels` case against Cohen and case against Trump that you want the
American people to know unqualifiable at the end of this?
AVENATTI: Well, I think let me answer in this way. I think that any and
all information relating to the $130,000 payment to my client, where it
came from, how it was routed, how it was handled, what account it went into
is certainly fair game and should be disclosed. Anything and everything
relating to this entity that was originally set up to pay my client
Essential Consultants LLC and the bank accounts associated with it. That
is all within the realm of what we believe should be disclosed.
MELBER: And let me ask, Maya, is there any danger for other people around
Michael Cohen including potentially the President if anyone knew that as
alleged they were trying to destroy material?
WILEY: Yes, that would be called, it could be aiding and abetting. They
may be a part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. I mean, it depends on
the facts and circumstances, but there absolutely could be if there was
knowledge beforehand and even potentially a conspiracy and some discussion
about whether there should be documents disposed.
MELBER: Because I think that is an interesting part it goes. And I will
give you the last word on this.
It goes to the way you conducted this case. You have obviously been an
advocate for your client in a manner that has put pressure on other people,
made them respond. But you don`t control and the media does not control,
you know, contrary to the popular belief in the White House, how those
The fact that there are credible allegations from the feds that one of the
responses was to potentially either destroy evidence or they were on the
precipice of doing so is a new crime that is relevant to your case because
it seems to be in response to things that were done with or after in
relation to your client. And that sort of seems to be a big thing that`s
now hanging over this case.
AVENATTI: Well, Ari, I think that our approach to this case and our media
exposure and the publicity that we have generated around our case has led
to a furtherance of the discussion most certainly, a furtherance of the
American people having access to evidence and documents and facts about
this. And I think it has resulted in considerable additional information
coming to light whether it be from other corporations that paid Michael
Cohen for access to the President or otherwise.
So I think the benefits have been immeasurable. The only people that don`t
seem to like it are Michael Cohen and his attorney and it`s obvious why
they don`t like it. Because they don`t want this information out there.
They don`t want people to know about it. That`s why they haven`t tried to
get out in front and release the bank records. That`s why they haven`t
released the audio recordings. And that`s why we are continuing to press
forward as it relates to prosecuting our case and bringing truth to the
MELBER: Michael Avenatti, a busy day in court. A busy night tonight. I
appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.
Maya Wiley, Mike Lupica, always a pleasure.
We have a lot more as well from Donald to Roseanne, how to handle trolls in
And first, Mueller eyeing attacks on Jeff Sessions. Why is that now under
investigation? We will be back in just 60 seconds.
MELBER: To the other top story tonight. Donald Trump saying he wished he
never picked Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Now our cameras
were just spotting Sessions leaving the White House. This was just moments
ago. No word officially on what he was doing there. Meanwhile, the deputy
press secretary won`t say anything about why.
Now it comes after a blunt statement from Trump and after these reports
that Bob Mueller is actually eyeing a tensed confrontation Trump had with
Sessions. In March the “New York Times” Trump berated him telling to
reverse the recusal. It`s highly unusual and potentially inappropriate
demand. It comes, of course with the obstruction probe well into a serious
phase. And Mueller had questions like this for Trump, what did you think
or do regarding the recusal? And what efforts did you make to try to get
Sessions to change his mind. But Trump has been vocal about all this.
Here is what he said in July.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the
Attorney General. He should not have recused himself almost immediately
after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should
have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutor Kenneth White and Bill
Kristol Founder of the Weekly Standard. Bill, the President talks a lot.
This seems to be again against his interest if he`s feeding these stories.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I guess it is
against his interest. I mean, we – he`s a very unhappy guy that Robert
Mueller is conducting this investigation. So far Sessions in recent time
have stood reasonably firm and there`s been enough I think pressure on the
President not to fire either of them, that Mueller has been able to
investigate and that`s by far the most important thing. You know, Mueller
is a very able man and he`s got a very able team and they found out an
amazing amount of stuff I suspect, much more than we think and I think it`s
– we`re hitting the home stretch here and the President is awfully unhappy
about the prospect that he doesn`t quite think – I think he doesn`t think
he can fire well, Mueller and Rosenstein remains I think would be the key
link where Trump offices will be extremely tempted to do something there.
That`s why I`m heartened by Gowdy and by others beginning a little bit
maybe a step forward among Republicans and say come on let us probe you
know, go ahead and finish.
MELBER: And what are you afraid you about Gowdy?
KRISTOL: Well, Gowdy said last night after the – you know, he thought the
FBI had behaved appropriately. He said elsewhere that Mueller should be
allowed to finish this investigation. Gowdy is a conservative Republican.
A lot of credibility with his fellow House Republicans and I think it`s
important that he`s out there a little bit, it`s not just people like me
who aren`t big fans of Donald Trump. Gowdy is kind of a Trump supporter
MELBER: Kenneth, how typical would it be for someone who recused because
of their closeness to the campaign under investigation to then un-recuse at
the request of the beneficiary and candidate from that campaign?
KENNETH WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it would be extremely
unusual and the appearance of it would be terrible. One of the purposes of
recusal is not just that you think the law absolutely compels you to recuse
yourself but you think that the appearance of fairness and justice require
it. And I think that if Attorney General Sessions had changed his mind
particularly after the appearance of pressure from the President that it
would have dramatically undermined the credibility of his involvement and
I`m sure he knew that. He seems to have been in a very difficult position
having made this decision and then having his boss, the president put some
pretty strong pressure on him to change his mind.
MELBER: Yes, and so Kenneth, when you see this, what does it add to the
portrait of Donald Trump because Bill and I have had a kind of a discussion
across the peaks and valleys of 2018 that when it comes to legal strategy,
Donald Trump is better at it than he often gets credit.
WHITE: I don`t know if this is legal strategy right now, the attacking of
Sessions after this revelation or whether it`s public relations strategy.
He`s laying a mattress where they`d see how the idea of firing Session
sounds, whether he`s signaling to his base and his allies in Congress that
this investigation is illegitimate because he doesn`t have someone on his
side overseeing it.
MELBER: You said laying a mattress?
WHITE: Sorry that`s an old prosecutor term.
MELBER: What does that mean?
WHITE: You know laying it down for something that`s going to happen later
MELBER: OK, because Travis Scott always says better bring a mattress if
you`re sleeping on me. It sounds like you`ve made it a little bit
different way though.
WHITE: Yes, I`m not going to the mattresses either from the godfather,
this is something else. But the really interesting thing from Mueller`s
point of view I suspect is how eager Trump was according to this New York
Times reports to pressure Sessions to change his mind and to be the
loyalists on Trump`s team overseeing the investigation. Now that may not
be itself obstruction of justice because I think –
MELBER: But it`s – let me take that to Bill. Whether or not it`s a
federal crime, Bill, it`s again, concerning about independent law
KRISTOL: It is but I very much agree with Ken too. I mean, this is all
about it. Didn`t Giuliani say this other thing get as much attention
should have? So ultimately this is about impeachment, it`s about public
opinion, it`s not what Congress thinks. I do think that they know that
they`re are going to end up with Robert Mueller reporting somehow other
Rosenstein or report the Rosenstein facility will make available to
Congress in some way or other that will find plausibly or possibly
impeachable offenses and it becomes a political fight. And that`s what
Trump is all about. Whether he will try to curb the investigation before
we get to that point remains a big question for me and it`s why I very much
hope Republicans do rally to support Mueller and also Rosenstein and
Sessions. And Trump hasn`t quite figured out a way I think to get rid of
them at this point. So instead they`re just laying the groundwork for
trying to discredit the investigation as much as possible.
MELBER: Bill Kristol and Kenneth White, interesting stuff. Thank you
both. Up ahead, we turn to as promised my special report. What happens
when Donald Trump provokes people with those outlandish insults and why is
the guidebook to trolling so essential now?
MELBER: Now, we turn to a special report in discussion on a political trap
deployed by Trump and many other agitators as well as how to avoid it. I`m
talking about trolling, the tactic of doing something in order to just
upset other people. Days after the election, comedian Dave Chappelle
captured our new era, life under a commander in troll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: America has done it. We`ve actually – we`ve
actually elected an internet troll as our president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump didn`t invent trolling, just like he didn`t coin make
America great again. He stole that from Reagan. But Trump copies the
internet trolling style and he applies it to politics which is a natural
fit for a Twitter-obsessed reality star more interested in reaction and
attention than any particular policy or substance. Now, this has
consequences for our politics because one, Trump`s better at trolling than
many of his opponents and he uses it against them. Two, trolling works by
tricking people and exploiting their overreaction, it works less when
people properly identify the trolls in their midst. And three, trolling is
devastating for the media, for us, because the media tends to cover
conflict and emotion more than stories where everyone agrees where there`s
no exciting debate. So tonight, we want to explore this problem and the
solutions. Trolling is basically rooted in the pranks, an internet culture
of the 90s. It refers to making offensive comments not because you believe
them but to upset other people. Trump has trolled his whole career and
some have started to notice his political trolling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he`s what they call trolling and I think he`s
kind of messing with them, sort of jangling a stick in their cage to get
him freaked out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His goal was to troll the press, meaning to inflame
with the national press corps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is the world`s biggest troll and everybody falls
for it everyday hook, line, and stinker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Some trolling can be low-stakes like random pranks, internet
headlines are links that go to the wrong content. Think of rickrolls,
there`s trolling where people take pleasure in acting out without expecting
a response like trolling celebrities even if they probably won`t see the
comments, something Jimmy Kimmel has had his fun with. Another type of
trolling is confrontational, tricking or baiting someone for an almost
guaranteed reaction like MTV`s Punk`d where Ashton Kutcher showed us all
how lovable he is, or before the internet there were prank calls or the
kind of relentless workplace trolling that Jim practiced in the office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hold on, hold on. The judge is in session. What
is the problem here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put my stuff in the (INAUDIBLE) again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know it was me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Which can be fun. Political trolling is a little different
because it exploits political differences to present different messages to
different ideological audiences through the same single act of trolling.
Take Trump`s infamous Cinco de Mayo tweet which promoted Trump Tower taco
bowls and said “I love Hispanics.” You`re looking at classic trolling
right there. The pic says one thing to Trump`s bates who liked his message
and they liked even more how it will certainly make his critics heads
explode. Earnest reactions to this kind of thing risk falling into the
trolling trap. Everyone lecturing Trump about how that was the wrong way
to do Cinco de Mayo are giving him the negative attention that the trolling
needs to be effective. So critics are sometimes caught between normalizing
the behavior and overreacting to it. Sarah Palin posed that challenge with
her trolling on topics ranging from one politicians ban on sugary drinks to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: (INAUDIBLE) is not around
About a year later I got to ask those supporters of all that. How`s that
hopey, changey thing working out for you?
Join me in telling the lamestream media then that we wear your scorn with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Scorn. Palin tapping into the core of trolling, it`s not about
just being liked by your side, it`s earning the scorn of the other side is
proof of your potency and your power and your relevance. It`s not a
strategy born of real goals like passing a bill or forging world peace,
it`s a strategy born of strife. Upset your opponents enough and you must
be winning. You know the cliche about Trump back during the campaign was
that no gap seems to stick to him but that took his words at face value
when you see his words as pure trolling designed to only be over the top
and draw scorn. Well, it all looks a little different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve called women you don`t like fat pigs, dogs,
slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account –
TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell.
He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t
captured, OK. I hate to tell you.
The MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now this link between Trump style and trolling is not just an
observation tonight. Trump`s campaign was boosted by trolls. His
supporters organized on forums like Reddit and (INAUDIBLE). They talked
about Trump as the ultimate human troll who would enrage the nation.
Trump`s campaign chief Steve Bannon said he tried to recruit young men
upset about gamergate and other online battles to harness their energy for
Trump. He argued Trump style worked perfectly for that and I`m quoting, he
said that Trump was like the famous honey badger meme Trump don`t care.
Now, there are tactics for dealing with trolls, the old staying online, of
course, is don`t feed the trolls because that`s literally the only thing
they want. Some of that applies to Trump. So that`s part of the answer.
Just because Trump is president doesn`t mean every slur or tweet has to be
discussed and debated or fed. But it`s not only a binary choice between
feed are ignored, there`s also context here because the very culture and
language of our politics is changing. It was all the way back in 1962 that
Daniel Boorstin wrote a book about pseudo-events in America arguing that
corporations and politicians were improving their propaganda by confusing
the public on the difference between actual developments and the
manufactured content posing as a development. You know, that one is
described an emerging tactic. Now it feels like our entire pseudo-reality.
I`m joined by Salon`s Amanda Marcotte, author of the book Troll Nation and
former Clinton Campaign Aide Jess McIntosh.
AMANDA MARCOTTE, POLITICS WRITER, SALON: Well, this is exactly what my
book is about, I would say. It`s an interesting thing. I think one of the
reasons that trolling has kind of risen on the right and has, in fact, I
think I`d argue completely taken over their rhetoric is that they`ve lost
the argument in a lot of ways. You know, they don`t want to have real
debates. They don`t want to have these kinds of interesting debates that
you say we`ve lost in our politics. They want instead to have a bunch of
spectacles because spectacles are all about emotion, they`re not about
rationality, they`re not about logic and they`re certainly not about
evidence. And so Donald Trump is kind of the perfect epitome of that kind
of way of arguing because he makes everything anger and emotion and
rhetoric and nothing about evidence and nothing about debate.
JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER AIDE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes, absolutely. And I
think that what`s happening today is the logical extension of what Lee
Atwater and Newt Gingrich started in the Republican Party in the 80s and
90s when they decided that rather than fight on the merits of a
conservative strategy which favored individualism and tax reform that was
going to benefit the wealthy because they believed in trickle-down rather
than making those arguments, they decided that they were going to play to a
southern strategy and inflame the racist base. That they were going to win
on that by calling their – Newt Gingrich circulated a series of words to
talk about your opponent`s to call them bizarre, to call them weirdos, say
they were anti-flag. This was the beginning of it.
And that really solidified this Republican idea that they were going to
fight on that front rather than have an intellectually honest argument
because I think they know that they can win an intellectually honest
argument because their policies don`t benefit most of America. So
logically what happens after decades of this is that they elect an actual
honest-to-god troll. At this point, it`s totally out of their hands. They
have – they have fed these trolls for so long that they got too big and
strong and now they`re in charge and now there`s no way to take it back.
MELBER: So what do you do besides starving the troll of attention?
MARCOTTE: Well, I think it`s too simplistic thing to say start the troll
of attention I think, because that implies to a certain extent that they`re
only doing this for attention. I would say, you know, for instance when
Donald Trump says something racist that inflames people`s passions he does
mean it. And a lot of these trolls mean the vile things they say even as
they`re there simultaneously meaning it but also trying to for both people.
So we have to react with that knowledge in mind. And what I recommend most
the time when people ask me about this is that we have to learn to not
ignore them but to try and go around them. And I think that the Parklands
students are a really good example of people that know how to do this.
They acknowledge the trolling you know, comments, they acknowledge the
NRA`s arguments but they do – they talk to the hand and maneuver and they
kind of just keep on moving and keep on making their arguments. So I think
that`s the best way to do. It`s acknowledge but in a sort of abrupt you
know your full way and then make your argument.
MCINTOSH: I think it`s directly related to the power that the troll has if
somebody – you know, if somebody was 64 followers jumped into your
mansions and says something mean, probably just ignore that because it`s a
waste of your time. If the troll in question is the leader of the free
world, the commander in chief and in charge of what happens to your federal
tax dollars and military, then that`s something we should probably take the
time to contextualize.
MELBER: What about when you saw Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren both
turned to the juvenile insults that Trump had used which didn`t seem to
work for them the way it worked for him.
MARCOTTE: Yes, I mean the fact of the matter is if you don`t have the guts
to do it, if there`s nothing – if you don`t have that meanness of soul
that Donald Trump has to sort of sell it, people aren`t going to buy it.
There`s an authenticity to that kind of trolling.
MELBER: You`re saying it`s not as if he`s being huge jerk.
MARCOTTE: It`s also – it`s about –
MELBER: You`re an honest jerk.
MCINTOSH: You also have to play to the base that`s going to care about
your jerkiness. Like Elizabeth Warren`s fans aren`t waiting for her to
come up –
MELBER: But it was off. She talked about his small hands.
MCINTOSH: Right. Like —
MARCOTTE: He doesn`t care about that.
MCINTOSH: No, and neither do the people who love her. They actually love
her for the issues that she champions, for the intellectually honest
argument that she was trying –
MELBER: What about the culture – and this is actually our headline under
this segment right now, is everyone mean now? There`s that part of this
that the Internet, while it`s a place for diversification and people who
don`t have access to traditional corporate platforms, can speak and there`s
all this podcast, interesting stuff going on, but there`s incredible amount
of runaway meanness.
MARCOTTE: I think that that`s true but I also think that can be a little
bit overrated. You know, and then I write about this in my book. I think
of a lot of this goes back to talk radio, I think it goes back to Fox News,
I think it goes back to a culture of trolling that was really kind of
created in right-wing media long before people had the Internet. And I
think that it meshed well with the fortune trolling culture but I don`t
necessarily think that it came from it. And I think it has a lot more to
do with where the American right is now emotionally and logically and
rationally than anything else.
MELBER: Amanda Marcotte who literally wrote the book and Jess McIntosh
thank you both. I have one more important thing to tell you when we come
MELBER: More fallout over the Roseanne controversy today. Donald Trump
weighing in with this. He says that ABC should have apologized to him.
White House going on to defend this tweet saying it`s about the media,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President simply
calling out the media bias. No one is defending what she said. The
President is the president of all-Americans and he`s focused on doing what
is best for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No one is defending what Roseanne said but Mr. Trump who has
publicly praised her did not find anyway, any time, any reason to condemn
what she said either and we wanted to make sure to put that on the record.
MELBER: A whole range of people, including Michael Avenatti have been
publicly wondering if Donald Trump could be on these Michael Cohen
audiotapes. Tonight on THE BEAT, Mr. Avenatti went further. He now says
he knows Trump is on at least one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: I know for a fact that Donald
Trump is on at least one these recordings, Ari. I`m not going to give you
MELBER: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into details of how I know that.
MELBER: But would you say that in court?
MELBER: So, you`re saying, as a matter of fact, you know that at least on
one occasion he is on the tape?
AVENATTI: Yes, Donald Trump is on one of the recordings, at least one of
them. I know that for a fact. I stand behind it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is news. Avenatti wants to get all the recordings released
and that`s the headline tonight, Avenatti saying Trump is on at least one
audio recording according to him. That`s our show. I`ll see you tomorrow
at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. “HARDBALL” starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump bashes Disney. Let`s play HARDBALL
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