Trump open to Manafort pardon. TRANSCRIPT: 11/28/18, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: So the prelude, your appetizer, is the White
House. The main course is Rockefeller Center. That`s at 8:00 p.m. Eastern
on your NBC Network.
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP
“THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening and Merry Christmas, Chuck.
Bob Mueller`s collusion investigation hitting a fever pitch right now.
Trump talking about a potential pardon publically for Paul Manafort. There
are new clues about Mueller`s next indictment. Jerome Corsi leaking the
draft plea deal and statement of offense that he was offered by Mueller and
he joins me live right here tonight.
We also later have some news on Manafort`s alleged lies to Mueller and how
they may backfire. But we begin with this breaking news in the Russia
Washington on edge right now over this truly unusual news. Convicted felon
Paul Manafort busted for feeding information back to Trump while claiming
to cooperate with Bob Mueller. Now, the new reporting here is that
Manafort was trying to basically be an apparent double agent and that
explains the news you may have heard earlier this week when Bob Mueller
suddenly canceled the plea agreement with Manafort.
And it gives context to this other story tonight. Donald Trump telling the
“New York Post” that pardoning Paul Manafort is not off the table. That
right there alone, those words are farther than Donald Trump has gone on
that topic so far and it would further tie Trump back to a convicted felon
at the center of the collusion probe who currently stands accused of both
obstructing that probe and meeting with Julian Assange. That is if he
actually gave him the pardon.
And then there`s this, Donald Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani making waves by
bragging about this newly exposed ongoing secret alliance with Manafort,
saying it delivered valuable insight as to where it was all headed. So
that is a lot right there. Let me tell you what it means in terms of where
Before Paul Manafort came forward and confessed he was guilty, a criminal,
he had what`s called this joint defense agreement, you probably heard about
these, where he would share information with Trump. And one of those
agreements is fine as long as you`re still a normal defendant.
Now that was supposed to end when Manafort flipped. His continued effort
to try to double cross Mueller and stay on team Trump may have been a bid
by Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special
counsel in the hopes of a lighter sentence.
That`s how the “New York Times” put it in their careful reporting. Note
that that was a kind of a supposition, maybe there would be a pardon
reward. Now, if Manafort`s goal was to trick Mueller into getting a
lighter sentence, he failed. But if his goal was to commit one more crime
to increase the odds of a Trump pardon, well, tonight I have to report for
you this news that is leading our broadcast, that very pardon not off the
table. It would appear Trump is getting the message.
Now, remember, during Watergate, Richard Nixon could have tried pardoning
all those burglars early on to shut them up just like Trump could have
tried pardoning Manafort, Flynn, or Gates, say, two years ago. For all the
bluster, Trump has not done that yet for the same reasons Nixon didn`t do
it even as things got worse. Because pardoning the guilty people in a
conspiracy in the middle of an open probe does make you look like you are
part of the conspiracy.
And Trump continues to insist he`s not part of this conspiracy. And
there`s word leaking tonight that he has submitted those written answers
and some of the answers coming out that he says he didn`t know about the
Trump Tower meeting or about Roger Stone`s WikiLeaks intelligence in
advance. Big claims to make to Bob Mueller.
Let`s get into it with a few people who know a lot about this. “Wall
Street Journal” Shelby Holliday, Natasha Bertrand, a staff writer at “The
Atlantic” and former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler.
On the pardon news, how do you read Trump`s statement tonight, Paul? As a
prosecutor, will you look at that as linked to what`s going on with
Manafort or Paul Manafort is so reckless and so allegedly criminal, it`s
hard to draw any conclusion yet?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So Paul Manafort is a stone-
cold thug who in September confessed in open court to at least 10 crimes
involving lying and cheating. So in a way, it`s not a surprise that even
after that guilty plea, he`s still lying and cheating. The surprising
thing, Ari, is that in the past, Paul Manafort`s crimes have always been
about helping Paul Manafort.
BUTLER: His lies to Mueller help Donald Trump and they put Manafort at
great risk. Now, he`s likely –
MELBER: Let`s pause on that.
BUTLER: Yes, sure.
MELBER: I want to let you build on that because it`s very important what
you just said. We are dealing with – you call him a thug, I would call
him a guilty convicted felon but, you know, those are words of art, they
mean the same thing. So here is this felon who previously was busted for
witness tampering to try to get out of his own prosecution for foreign
lobbying crimes. So that was for him.
Your point is the new thing that`s going on is not necessarily to duck his
own crimes, because he was going to get leniency for Mueller. So what`s it
BUTLER: Yes. And, now he puts himself at great risk for exactly what
happened which is he`s likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
MELBER: Right. Natasha?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. So I think what you
said is really important. It`s really hard to distinguish between, you
know, Manafort`s just general recklessness and whether there was an actual
strategy here. I think it might be a little combination of both. I mean
Manafort had proven himself to be a very reckless figure. He went to trial
against all odds. He wrote an op-ed in violation of a court gag order and,
of course, he was engaged in witness tampering which is what put him in
So for his whole life, I think it`s shown from his – that the way he`s
built his career, he`s thought that he is above the law. He basically
thought that he could engage in all of this foreign lobbying without
registering with the Justice Department. He thought that he could pull the
wool over the eyes of Mueller and then potential of a jury.
And so I`m not surprised necessarily that he would maintain this back
channel to Trump because it provided him with an ability to angle for a
pardon throughout all of this. Now, whether or not Trump actually does
that, we have to wait and see. As you said, it would potentially be
obstruction of justice. But Manafort is always looking out for himself and
at the same time, his hubris is just absolutely amazing.
MELBER: Yes. You`re calling it a back channel to Trump, which is one
dramatic way to put it. We`re always searching for our spy movies and
thrillers and ways to understand this stuff. Also, Natasha, tell me if you
see it differently, it`s an obstruction channel to the White House.
BERTRAND: It`s possible and, of course, legal experts that I`ve spoken to
said it really depends on what was discussed. I mean if there was this
dangle of a pardon by Trump`s lawyers to Manafort`s legal team, then that,
of course, could be potential obstruction of justice but they were
MELBER: I think the pardon is dangling in the “New York Post” right now.
BERTRAND: Exactly. So I think there`s been an open acknowledgment that
Trump expects to give Manafort a pardon and that Manafort has been lying to
the special counsel. Another issue that we have to look out for is whether
Manafort took this plea agreement to begin with because he was trying to
get information about the investigation and then funnel it back to the
But this could backfire because, of course, Trump has submitted his written
answers to Mueller already and if any of those answers match the lies that
Paul Manafort was telling to Mueller and if Manafort and Trump both thought
that Mueller did not have information to the contrary, then that could
really prove damaging to Trump.
MELBER: And Shelby, this goes to another point which is the president has
his lawyers, he`s submitted his answers. He doesn`t need inside
information from a convicted felon about what`s going on if he`s wholly
innocent and the facts are exonerating.
I mean, again, not everyone knows how this works, why would you? But you
cover this stuff, I`ve practiced law and covered this stuff. This is not
how it works. You know, and I want to – for your analysis, I want to play
Eric Swalwell saying, “Yes. Why do you need help from Manafort to get out
from under this? That doesn`t make sense if you`re innocent.” Take a
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s not appropriate. Manafort was a
cooperator. It sounds like he`s breached his agreement with the
government. Again, it`s not the way that innocent people conduct
themselves. If the president was not colluding with Russia, why is he
colluding with Manafort to get a window into the special counsel`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLLIDAY: And I would also add, it`s not just Paul Manafort. Rudy
Giuliani is saying that they`re speaking with 30 plus people involved in
the probe to get information from various people who are witnesses, who
could be witnesses, who could be cooperating against the president or
helping him. It`s unclear. But we know that there`s a lot of information
being shared with the White House.
I also think it`s notable that the president is saying that other people in
this probe, Jerome Corsi who you`re going to have on your show and Roger
Stone, are being brave to stand up to Mueller. We interviewed Corsi on
camera at “Wall Street Journal”, he`s basically telling the special
counsel, “Stick it.” He was offered a plea deal to plead guilty to lying
to the FBI and he`s saying, “I didn`t lie and you can prosecute me, you can
put me in jail.”
MELBER: You think, though, that Donald Trump saying they`re brave is more
than just an opinion about their personal courage?
HOLLIDAY: It could be a signal. It could be a signal to hang in there,
don`t cooperate, don`t plead guilty and, yes, be on my team. And Jerome
Corsi is also telegraphing to the president that he`s very loyal to him.
He has said all along, “My crime was that I supported Donald Trump.” So
they do appear to be talking to each other through the media if you want to
look at it that way.
I think a few other things that are really interesting here. The special
counsel, if you read the tea leaves in the court documents that NBC broke
yesterday, the prosecutors are also – they have evidence that Roger Stone
actually had information about WikiLeaks` dumps and Roger Stone denies
having any advanced knowledge but there are these e-mails that don`t look
good for him and they`re also probing potential witness intimidation.
This is something “The Journal” has reported on previously but Roger Stone
was involved in writing stories about his alleged back-channel Randy
Credico who he says was his confirming source for the WikiLeaks information
and Robert Mueller is taking very seriously the fact that Roger Stone is
out there telling people like Jerome Corsi and some other associates to
write stories about Credico being his back channel.
Now that we have these e-mails that NBC revealed yesterday, it looks like
maybe Roger Stone had a different back channel. Maybe he had somebody
telling him what Assange would release.
MELBER: Right. And all this Manafort conspiring, according to Mueller`s
charges, Paul, comes at a time where the president has now been exposed,
been busted, for trying to abuse the justice system to order illegal
prosecutions of James Comey, of Hillary Clinton.
And then he put out an incredibly irresponsible piece of propaganda,
blithely accusing multiple DOJ officials of treason, retweeting this thing
and saying, you know, when will this trial for treason begin? And you can
see there, Rod Rosenstein, Mueller who is, of course, doing this
investigation behind bars. What is your view of that, Paul?
BUTLER: You know, there comes a point where there`s such a pattern with
regard to the president of obstruction, of trying to impede the
investigation. We look at his firing James Comey. We look at him
dictating that lie on Air Force One about the meeting, Don Jr.`s meeting
with the Russian lawyer. And the kind of conventional wisdom has been none
of those acts by themselves are obstruction but they`re evidence of a
criminal intent, of an intent to impede the investigation.
And, again, I think what Robert Mueller will do is to look at this pattern
and – I mean, the evidence seems fairly inescapable now that the president
will stop at nothing. He`s not interested in an investigation that`s a
search for truth. He`s interested in clearing his name even if that`s not
consistent with the evidence.
MELBER: Doesn`t that give, Natasha, an alternative reading? Giuliani is
often described as brazen or reckless or gaffe-prone which is possible. I
have seen evidence of that. But another reading is he represents his
client and his client has made it clear, according to Paul`s analysis, that
the goal is not so much to cooperate or show the facts but to effectively
obstruct and destroy any full investigation.
And if that is the goal, then that`s why Rudy talks this way. That`s why
he openly brazenly brags. I can`t think of the last time any lawyer, any
member of the bar has bragged about getting, receiving information from a
convicted felon who allegedly lied to a degree that his plea deal blew up.
BERTRAND: Right. And Giuliani for all of his bluster, he appears to
actually have been telling the truth about this one. Just after Manafort
signed his plea agreement, he came out and he said, “No, the joint defense
agreement is actually still in place.” No one believed that because it was
just so implausible and so rare and so unusual.
MELBER: Such a great point.
BERTRAND: Every legal expert I spoke to said this is not possible. But it
turns out that he was actually telling the truth, that he did not – he
never actually pulled out of this agreement. And I think that that is so
telling about how this from the very beginning seems to have been the plan.
I mean experts are telling me that it really is clear now that Manafort
never had an intention to fully cooperate, fully align his interests with
prosecutors because he still had that one foot in the door with Trump.
MELBER: Yes. It`s remarkable. And in some ways, it`s legally scary.
Natasha Bertrand and Shelby Holliday, thanks to both of you. Paul, because
I`m just talking to Jerome Corsi, I want to get you on reaction to that
later in the show so please stick around.
As I mentioned, coming up, I`m going to have a live interview with a
Mueller witness and potential target at the heart of the Russia probe.
Jerome Corsi has talked many times to Mueller`s team. He says they may
indict him and he`s here to talk to me and take the questions.
We`re also getting new leaks about how Trump answered those questions on
collusion. We`ll have that later. And Ivanka Trump defends her e-mail use
that led to, yes, her own father`s fans chanting “Lock her up.”
And later, Stormy Daniels breaking with Michael Avenatti and saying some
things that question his role as an attorney in the defamation suit against
Trump. We have that for you as well.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Bob Mueller`s office doesn`t leak, but one of their potential
criminal targets is leaking. The entire draft indictment and statement of
offense, I want to show it to you right here. This is a draft court
document that Mueller said he could use to charge Jerome Corsi, a Roger
Stone associate with lying to the FBI and the Mueller`s office about
several things, including conversations he had with Stone that relate to
And that`s why the name of a very controversial figure who, according to
this leak could be charged with a felony in the Mueller probe any time, why
his name is in the news in a big way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corsi having conversations with Roger Stone.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: This e-mail from Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone associate.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The Corsi story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Jerome Corsi is live on THE BEAT.
Thanks for being here.
JEROME CORSI, ROGER STONE ASSOCIATE: Hi. Great to be with you. Thank
MELBER: You were offered a plea deal by Bob Mueller`s team?
CORSI: That`s correct.
MELBER: Why did you reject it?
CORSI: Well, I felt the deal was fraudulent. It required me to lie and it
required me to violate various regulations, and even I thought commit
fraud. And I won`t do that. I will not lie to keep myself out of jail and
I realize that I could go to jail for the rest of my life. I`m 72-years-
old. I might die in jail but I`m still making this decision.
MELBER: You think what you`re doing today increases the risk that you will
be charged, be convicted, and die in jail?
CORSI: Yes, I do.
MELBER: When you look at this plea negotiation, you did enter into some
kind of discussions with them. What would you have accepted? What would a
plea deal look like that you would take?
CORSI: I would have taken immunity.
MELBER: Jerome, that`s not a plea deal. That`s just immunity.
CORSI: That`s my terms. They proposed this and said we want you to
consider it. Now, this first count which they said you only have to agree
to one count but you have to go in front of a federal judge and swear this
on a bible. All right.
Now, for me to do that, I believe in my heart would have been a lie. That
counts says that I knowingly and willfully presented information I knew to
be false with an intent to deceive federal authorities. I do not believe I
did that. In my heart, I went in to tell the truth, did my best to tell
the truth and I will not swear before God and a judge something I consider
to be a lie.
MELBER: But you did say something at the time that you now acknowledge to
CORSI: No. I acknowledge that what I testified day one because I had not
seen my 2016 e-mails –
MELBER: I understand but I`m going to hold you on this.
CORSI: Go ahead.
MELBER: You had led them to believe that you did not have contact with
someone on behalf of Roger Stone when you did?
CORSI: The first day, the statement I gave was wrong.
MELBER: Wrong, OK.
CORSI: And it was wrong because I forgot the e-mail that they`re referring
to. I had not seen it in two years.
MELBER: But let`s show this, so viewers can understand because this stuff
is pretty important. It`s obviously important that your life is important
to the probe.
CORSI: Sure. And it`s in detail.
MELBER: Here it is. The Mueller document on this says Corsi contacted an
individual in London to pass on person one, Roger Stone`s request to learn
about WikiLeaks materials for the campaign. You did do that?
CORSI: And the special counsel allowed me to amend the original testimony
and I testified after I saw the e-mail that that was true and a fact and I
didn`t deny it.
MELBER: Right. And here`s that e-mail which you had provided to NBC News
from Roger Stone. And I`m going to read a part of it. Word says this
individual, Malloch should see Assange.
MELBER: At the time, what were you guys trying to do? Were you trying to
get information about the stolen Clinton e-mails back to the Trump
CORSI: Yes. Yes. And obviously, I wanted – would haven`t sent that if I
didn`t want Malloch to go. Everybody in the world who is in news or
political operations after July 22, when Assange 2016, when Assange dumped
all these e-mails on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said he had more, everybody
wanted to know what they were.
MELBER: You wanted them out, though, to help the Trump campaign?
MELBER: Did you see anything wrong with that?
CORSI: No. Under – first of all, under “New York Times” v. “U.S.
Pentagon Paper`s” case, even if Julian Assange had stolen material that was
classified, as a journalist, I can see him, I can get that material, and I
can publish it. I`m not committing a crime. So I was happy to do it and I
was happy that it would benefit Donald Trump. But –
MELBER: OK. And I appreciate you putting that on the record. Now then,
this is also from the Mueller documents that you`ve leaked. Your e-mail,
you`re telling Stone you`ve got a friend in the embassy planning two more
CORSI: That`s Assange.
MELBER: Yes, that`s Assange. One shortly after I`m back, you write.
Second, in October, impact planned to be very damaging, time to let more
than the Clinton campaign chair be exposed as in bed with the enemy if
they`re not ready to drop HRC. Is that a reference to John Podesta?
CORSI: Yes. And let me explain that. Because this was one of the main
points of contention with the special counsel. I maintain and it`s my best
recollection that I figured that out. Now, special counsel couldn`t
believe that. They said Dr. Corsi, we`ve got e-mails. You knew it was
Podesta. You knew he was going to drop them in October. You knew how he
was going to drop them. You knew almost what they included and what they
contained. I said yes, that`s true. Well, how did you know? I figured it
MELBER: So you tell Roger Stone about Podesta.
MELBER: He goes on to publically predict it and tweet about it.
MELBER: That was based on you?
CORSI: Well, I don`t know what Roger based it on but I certainly did tell
him and it could have been based on me. You have to ask Roger what he
thinks. I didn`t –
MELBER: Well, Roger spoke – I`ve interviewed Roger as well. He also
spoke a lot about it. He also touted his intermediary to WikiLeaks at the
time. I mean during the campaign. Let`s look at Roger Stone, this was
before you all knew –
CORSI: Sure, sure.
MELBER: – that there would be a criminal probe into your conduct. This
was Roger Stone saying he had an intermediary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: Yes, I have not met with Mr. Assange
and I never said I had. I said we communicated through an intermediary,
somebody who is a mutual friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that you?
CORSI: I don`t know. You`ll have to ask Roger. Now, Roger told me on
August 15 or 13, and I published an article saying that Roger had made
contact with Assange. I didn`t think it was me because I didn`t think
Roger believed that I contacted Assange.
MELBER: What about now that the main thing that links Roger to Assange
with private intelligence, with things that no one else seemed to know at
the time is Podesta and that came from you. Could you be Roger`s
CORSI: Sure. But it was not because I talked to Assange. It was because
I figured it out on my own. I`ve never spoken within Julian Assange. I
don`t know him and I have no contact that I was an intermediary. There was
no third party who said Roger Stone`s got this.
MELBER: But you`re making an important point tonight in this interview
which is that Julian Assange as an intermediary, the fact that there was
information believed to be private that proved to be accurate, Podesta`s
time in the barrel, that could have come from you in Roger Stone`s mind
that you would be that intermediary?
CORSI: You have to ask Roger Stone. I told Roger Stone – let`s get this
clear. In July, I was on vacation with my wife in Italy, 25th anniversary
in the family. I think flying over, I figured out that Assange had
Podesta`s e-mails. I told Roger in this e-mail and subsequently, I thought
it was Podesta`s e-mails.
MELBER: Right. So let`s get –
CORSI: OK. One more point on that.
MELBER: OK, go ahead.
CORSI: The other point is, this was my conclusion, my supposition. It did
not come from Assange and it didn`t connect back to Assange. So there`s no
link for me to Assange. The link is from me figuring this out and telling
Roger. Now, if I was the source, it was because Roger believed me figuring
it out, not because Roger believed I had a source.
MELBER: So you gave that defense to Mueller`s prosecutors?
CORSI: It`s actually the truth.
MELBER: It`s also a defense.
CORSI: Well, you call it – it`s fine. It`s a defense. It`s the truth.
MELBER: You said that to them. How did they take that?
CORSI: They didn`t believe it. Jeannie Reed, one of the prosecutors said,
“Dr. Corsi, you are asking us to believe that on an extended international
flight with your wife for an anniversary, you had divine intervention and
God inspired your mind and told you Assange has Podesta`s e-mails, he`s
going to dump them in October and they`re going to be dumped in a serial
fashion, is that what you`re saying?” I said, well, I guess, Ms. Reed,
that`s about what I`m saying.
MELBER: Did they give you the impression that they were upset with you?
MELBER: Did they raise their voice?
CORSI: Yes. Stormed out of the room.
MELBER: Did they yell at you?
CORSI: Yes. Well, I mean yell. They don`t have to raise their voice to
MELBER: Because they have power.
CORSI: And they make their points with such strength that you know they`re
saying if you don`t give us the source, you`re going to jail for the rest
of your life.
MELBER: So that`s how they reacted to this defense of yours. How did they
react to this other defense that you made on behalf of Roger Stone which is
you agreed to help Roger mislead Congress about how he found out about
CORSI: Well, see, in fact, that was the first – there`s two rounds of
this that I went through. Round one, I openly discussed that with them and
admitted it all because it was true. I was telling the truth.
MELBER: You were telling the truth about a lie.
CORSI: No. Well, OK, yes.
MELBER: Yes. You were telling them the truth about a lie.
CORSI: I`m going to clarify that if you will allow me to.
MELBER: You are allowed. You`re getting time here but you and Roger –
CORSI: I`m going to clarify that.
MELBER: But you and Roger put forward false information to the
Congressional Committee about the source of the Podesta tip.
CORSI: Would you allow me?
MELBER: You are allowed. You`re getting timed but that`s about a lie?
CORSI: But would you allow me?
MELBER: Go ahead.
CORSI: I`ve been trained in public relations by Edward Bernays. British
Petroleum becomes BP and now they`re beyond petroleum. Is that a lie?
It`s a repositioning. In politics, there`s a lot of reposition that goes
on. If that were a lie and people were guilty of a crime for doing that,
there would hardly be a politician alive today in the office.
MELBER: Well, you want to debate it. I didn`t say crime, I said lie to
Congress because – let`s hold on, you told the Mueller folks, as I
understand it that Roger wanted you to come up with a false cover story for
the Podesta part. There`s some reason why Roger Stone thought that he
needed to not tell the truth about Podesta but to work with you on a lie.
CORSI: If you will allow me. In front of the grand jury, Aaron Zelinski
said, “Dr. Corsi, was that a lie?”
I said yes.
CORSI: He said, “Was this a lie?” I said yes. “Was this a lie?” Yes.
So I openly admitted to them that in their terms this was a lie.
MELBER: Why did you do that?
CORSI: Because of the truth.
MELBER: And why did Roger Stone want you to lie about the Podesta
CORSI: You have to ask from Roger Stone because I – at Harvard, I
neglected to take the mind-reading course. Now, I`ve got one more point I
want to make to you and that is when this testimony came up over the issue
of the House Intelligence Committee, I was given immunity by the Mueller
prosecutors in order to make this testimony because my lawyer didn`t want
me to be held for suborning perjury because Roger used that memo in his
testimony, the House Intelligence committee sworn testimony. And I did not
object to it. OK.
MELBER: He used that memo. Do you think he used you?
CORSI: I don`t know if he used me. He used Credico as a source he said he
had. I go back to say I could have been Roger – I don`t believe Roger
ever thought that I had legitimate information because I never represented
to Roger that I went to see Assange or had a connection with Assange.
MELBER: And you think he used Credico? Credico, this is important, has
publically denied that he was the intermediary.
CORSI: Well, you have to talk about –
MELBER: Let me show you that.
MELBER: Here`s Randy Credico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you ever carry messages from Julian Assange about what he might
plan to do or the nature of his work to other people anywhere else in the
RANDY CREDICO, COMEDIAN: No, absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So he says he was definitely not the intermediary. You say
tonight that Roger may have thought you were the intermediary. When you
gave Roger this hot information about Podesta, whatever its origin, he must
have told Trump about that.
CORSI: Well, you know, again, Roger didn`t report everything he did to me.
I don`t know what Roger did. You`ll have to ask Roger.
MELBER: But you know Roger Stone who`s at the center of this and he is an
adviser to Donald Trump and that was hot information that proved to be
true. You would expect he would tell Trump rather than keep that from
JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE: When I figured out, it was
Podesta, I told Stone, I told about everybody I knew and I knew it would
help Donald Trump and I was happy to do that. I was speculating but I was
sure I was right.
MELBER: Is it accurate to say you expected Roger to tell Trump?
CORSI: I didn`t – look, logically should I have expected it? Yes, of
MELBER: Yes, you did.
CORSI: Well, no. You asked me – I didn`t know – see, you`re asking me
questions about somebody else`s state of mind and I can`t answer those
MELBER: Well, the expectation, sir, would be your state of mind.
CORSI: Well, OK.
MELBER: You said you thought it would help Trump. Roger is a Trump
adviser. Roger has come to you with a very special request. This is not
just everyday business. Roger has came to you with a request, have someone
as an intermediary in London, go to Assange, then you come back, give him
this hot intel about Podesta which proves to be true. And I`m asking in
the context of that arrangement, did you expect that information to go to
CORSI: The part you`re missing is that I never – I told Roger, Malloch is
never going to see – it`s not going to happen. Malloch is not going to
see Assange. I didn`t think anybody was going to see Assange. Certainly,
I told Joseph Farah my boss at World Net Daily, buy me an airplane ticket,
I`ll go and see Assange. But I didn`t think – Assange hadn`t told me
anything. Hi Julian, glad to meet you. I`m Jerry Corsi. Would you please
tell what else you got?
MELBER: Right. You didn`t think that was viable?
CORSI: Would you – would you please give me a few so I can scoop you? It
was not going to work. So nobody – Assange wasn`t going to tell anybody.
I happened to figure it out and I don`t think Stone thought I was a
connection to Assange because I didn`t represent that.
MELBER: And you understand that the reaction of the Mueller investigators
is a reaction many people would have. That your defense is you magically
figured this out yourself without other leading information, got it right,
and told Roger Stone?
CORSI: Yes, mystery, that`s exactly what happened on the flight going
across to Italy.
MELBER: When you look at this, you also have a joint defense agreement
with President Trump, is that still active?
CORSI: Yes, but it was not formal written but we`ve acted that way and we
represented such to the special counsel. They know that.
MELBER: You do or do not have a joint defense agreement?
CORSI: There`s nothing in writing but my attorneys and the President`s
attorneys are communicating as if there were an agreement in writing.
MELBER: You have a verbal understanding of an agreement.
CORSI: A verbal agreement. Yes, that is correct and that exists.
MELBER: And what type of information pursuant to that agreement have you
provided to Trump`s lawyers?
CORSI: My instruction is to the attorney, and I did not participate.
These were lawyer to lawyer.
CORSI: I didn`t listen to them or you know, hear any recording of them.
My instructions were one way. In other words, we`ll tell the President
what we`re doing so he`s informed. Again, I support the President. I want
him to be able to survive the Mueller investigation, I want him to run for
reelection and be reelected. That`s all my political preferences. So I
said, let`s let the President know what`s going on in the Mueller
investigation. I didn`t want advice. I didn`t want to know about anybody
else`s case. Jay Sekulow was not saying tell Jerry Corsi to do this. It
didn`t happen and I wasn`t interested in it. You know, and I`m not
counting on Donald Trump for anything, including a pardon. That`s not the
basis on which I made my decision. I don`t –
MELBER: Why are you bringing up a pardon in a television interview?
CORSI: Well, because that`s what everybody – you were talking about it
MELBER: But I didn`t ask you about the pardon. You`re bringing up a
CORSI: I`m bringing it up because I want to make it clear that I don`t
expect one, I`m not asking for one, and I`m making my decision completely
on the basis that I know I have to face trial if they indict me and the
consequences are I may go to prison for the rest of my life.
MELBER: I understand – I understand you face – sir, I understand serious
CORSI: And I understand that, and I understand that.
MELBER: Would you accept a pardon?
CORSI: No – well, accept a pardon is hypothetical.
MELBER: The whole conversation – you brought up a hypothetical pardon
CORSI: I won`t give you a hypothetical answer. I don`t – let`s say I`d
be offered, then I`ll tell you what I`ll do at that time.
MELBER: So people listening may draw the inference that you actually are
right now auditioning for a pardon when you end that statement saying let
it be offered.
CORSI: You know, I would say – you`re asking me to tell you what people
who are listening think. I don`t know what they`re thinking.
MELBER: But you`re not asking for a pardon is you`re – is what you
CORSI: I`m not asking for a pardon.
CORSI: And I`m not anticipating a pardon.
MELBER: Do you understand why people don`t believe you?
CORSI: Yes, of course. I`ve had this problem all my life. I told my
mother when I was in kindergarten, I said to my mother at first day in
kindergarten, I came home early, she said why, Jerry? I said, well, I`m
not going back. I`m done with this. And I knew at five years old my
mother wasn`t going to accept that.
I`ve had this issue all my life and when I come to decisions, I don`t think
the way people otherwise normally do. When I come to one of these things
and put it together, often it`s right but nobody is going to believe me
that I put it together. I`ve had that over and over again so I don`t
expect the special prosecutors to believe them. But I`m not going to tell
them a lie that they want to hear because they can`t invent somebody who
MELBER: You are here because it is news word that you are a target of this
MELBER: You also politically are known as a leader of the Birther movement
CORSI: Oh, yes.
MELBER: – which is a total and complete lie that you believe. Is there -
- let me please – let me finish the question.
CORSI: Finish your question, yes.
MELBER: Is this the same defense you are now trying to use with Mueller as
you`ve used in that political operation which is that you stand for a lie
that you say you believe and your defense is that because you genuinely
believe the lie, you shouldn`t be held accountable for it.
CORSI: So you have a copy of the original Hawaii 1961 birth registration
for Barack Obama. I haven`t seen it. I went down with law enforcement
(INAUDIBLE) Sheriff Arpaio, Hawaii wouldn`t show it to law enforcement. I
don`t think it exists. Now, if you could show me that, all agree I was
wrong. So far, all that we have is a computer printout from the White
House that didn`t exist in 1961 that forensic analysis says is a fraud. So
I`ll stand by what I really said as true even though you think it`s a lie.
You believe the state warranted conventional assumption and I`m the
conspiracy theorist which was a term invented by the CIA for people who
doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald, not at the peak of his game as a shooter with
a used Italian rifle that didn`t shoot straight one was made and a site
that was misaligned killed Jack Kennedy shooting past a tree with three
shots. I don`t believe that happened.
Now again –
MELBER: But my question to you is –
MELBER: Do you think that that will help you in your defense that because
you have believed this other lie you say and you`ve devoted time and energy
to this other lie, that now that you have this apparent law in front of
you, you can just say well I believe lies that`s sort of my thing.
CORSI: Mr. Zelinski actually asked me, they said Dr. Corsi, you`re very
good. You take a fact from here and fact from there and a lie and the
packaging convince people that it`s true. I`m looking at Zelinski –
MELBER: You talk about the Mueller prosecutor.
MELBER: Did he ask that in relation to birtherism or other issues.
CORSI: You`d say birtherism but that`s when I suggested he was –
MELBER: You knew he was talking about that because you know – because you
know that that is a lie.
CORSI: No, because I know he can`t accept what I have written yet as true.
MELBER: So he brings that up with you and says what?
CORSI: He says, you don`t know the difference between true and false. He
said we – you know, you`re so confused in your mind you can`t answer
MELBER: Which does make it harder to prove a false statement –
CORSI: No, it`s not a tactic. I`m sitting here tonight and I`m telling
you I do not believe Barack Obama has legitimate 1961 original birth
certificate. I don`t think it could ever be produced. I defy you to
produce it or anybody else. I`m telling you here secondly, that when I
flew to Italy on that flight, I did figure out on my own without any
outside help or influence that Julian Assange had Podesta`s e-mails and
exactly how he would use them.
MELBER: Well, a lot of what you`ve said does not add up and you know that
because you`ve admitted that some of what you`ve said in the context of
this topic are lies that you had to admit to. You`ve also admitted that
you and Roger Stone work together to mislead this government investigation
on the congressional side –
CORSI: I object your characterization, counselor.
MELBER: I understand and that`s why you`re here because you get – you get
to be part of this, sir. I – this is me wrapping. I appreciate you
coming in though.
CORSI: Fine. Where`s my wrap?
MELBER: You can have a final statement.
CORSI: OK, first of all, I don`t think I lied.
MELBER: You admitted in this interview you lied.
CORSI: I had – oh, no, that`s – we`re talking – there`s two things.
When I did the work for Roger there –
MELBER: Yes, I`m referring to the out-of-court lies.
CORSI: And I said your terms it was a lie, and my terms it was politics.
Politics is that way. I don`t consider that to have been –
MELBER: But you did admit in this interview today that you told those lies
because you had to update them to Mueller.
CORSI: And I told the grand jury because in front of the grand jury
they`re not going to believe my longer explanation, OK, what I believe in
my heart, OK. So I said fine you want to call it a lie call it a lie. But
I`m telling you right now is I did not have a source going back to Assange.
I did get this all put together on my own. I was not an intermediary
between Stone and Assange and in fact, I`ll stand by that.
MELBER: You`ll stand by that and I told you you`d get your final
CORSI: And I appreciate that.
MELBER: And I appreciate you coming in and taking the questions and what
you did say that`s true is you are in a situation that has pressure, that
has potential criminal liability. I appreciate you coming in and taking
CORSI: And I`ll come back.
MELBER: All right, Mr. Cosi, Jerome Corsi, a man in the news. We`re going
to have reaction from prosecutors in this interview when we`re back in just
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORSI: In front of the grand jury, Aaron Zelinsky said Dr. Corsi was that
a lie, I said yes.
CORSI: So was this a lie? I said, yes. Was this a lie? Yes. So I
openly admitted to them that in their terms this was a lie.
MELBER: Why did you do that?
CORSI: Because it`s the truth.
MELBER: And why did Roger Stone want you to lie about the Podesta
CORSI: You have to ask Roger Stone because I – at Harvard I neglected to
take the mind-reading course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Jerome Corsi just moments ago. I`m now here with several
experts to help us understand what we just heard. Watergate Prosecutor
Nick Akerman, Matt Miller who worked at the Justice Department, and another
former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler back with me. Nick –
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, let me start off with my
legal opinion. Liar, liar, pants on fire. This guy is not telling the
truth. First of all, when you look at somebody and you decide whether
they`re telling the truth, you don`t leave your common sense at the
doorpost. I mean, what he says about suddenly coming up with the exact
timing for the Podesta e-mails to come out doesn`t ring true.
But what I think is the real killer here that really puts the lie to him is
that later on between January 13, 2017, and March 1st, 2017, he deleted
those e-mails, the very emails that you were questioning him about that had
to do with these contacts with Julian Assange.
MELBER: You`re saying the proof at the time about trying to get the goods
is stuff that he tried to hide.
AKERMAN: And he hide – he did. He deleted it. And he deleted it that
time period is extremely significant because that`s when the Congressional
Committee, the Senate Committee was bringing in Roger Stone and was
starting to ask questions about this. This is not something that somebody
forgets. You don`t forget the fact that you`re asked to make a contact
with Julian Assange – I mean, how many times do people in America suddenly
decide oh I`m going to speak to Julian Assange. And it`s not something you
forget when you`re called to a Senate committee and you wind up destroying
the very evidence that shows that you were right in the middle of this
MELBER: Matt Miller.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think Nick
hit on the – on the absolute key point. I mean, that`s the thing for me
is look you can sometimes go in and say look, you know what, you asked me
this question I forgot that I just got this e-mail, I forgot all about it.
The fact that he tried to conceal this by deleting his e-mails is a thing I
think that makes him look so guilty. It`s hard to come in and convince a
prosecutor and convince a jury convinced even anyone listening the
interview that you know, I just forgot about that when before the
investigation start – right when the investigation started you went and
tried to destroy all of the evidence of this conversation that you now say
you forgot you had it, just look suspicious.
I also have to say, I found it you know, pretty interesting that the first
thing he said in his interview is that I can`t sign this plea agreement
because it would be a lie. Jerome Corsi is someone who built his career as
you well referenced in one of your final questions on being a professional
liar so it is I think rich with irony now that he says – that the thing
that is blocking him from signing this plea agreement is that it would be a
lie. It doesn`t make sense.
I think you know, the pardon thing that he kind of danced around and
wouldn`t really talk to is really the only explanation because other than
that his behavior isn`t rational. He`s looking at time in jail. The case
is pretty serious against him I think the evidence is pretty – is pretty
strong and him not taking this plea agreement leads me to think he`s
looking at some other path out.
MELBER: And he does seem, Paul, to understand that jail is a very real
thing. He has spent real time with these prosecutors. He`s felt their
seriousness. He mentions the elliptical reference to birtherism, the lie
that he`s associated with, and to Matt`s point, he not only is associated
with lies, in this interview, he admitted to the lies and says that he
admitted them to Mueller. So if he`s already done all that and he can sign
a statement that spares him jail time that is one more lie, why not do
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s because he`s a good liar. He
turned the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States into
a New York Times bestseller. But as you`re very effective cross-
examination indicated, Ari, he`s not a great liar. And so you did what an
effective prosecutor does, you don`t berate the witness, you let him
incriminate himself with his own lying words. So to Nick`s point, no way
he figured out that the WikiLeaks e-mail of Julian Podesta was forthcoming.
Again, nobody knew that and he doesn`t seem like the brightest bulb on the
tree, to begin with. So the Mueller prosecutor is right. It would have
been divine intervention for him to know that.
The other thing is the forensic evidence his own e-mail contradicts his
story and that it says that he was in touch with Julian Assange. So again
that`s inconsistent with what he said. And the third thing Ari is the
point that you just brought up about his now in his own admission telling
the truth about a lie so he made up this story with Roger Stone about the
first lie. To a prosecutor lies or evidence of consciousness of guilt.
MELBER: And then I want to broaden out from Jerome – and Matt Miller talk
about the fact that Roger Stone had some motivation to concoct a cover
story and a fraudulent memo to hide the Podesta sourcing. What is that –
what does that tell you?
MILLER: It tells me a couple things. The first that I think the most
important thing it tells you is that Roger Stone went and lied to a
congressional committee. You know, Jerome Corsi got – use immunity to
testify to the grand jury about this and he had to get that immunity
because his lawyer feared that if he testified truthfully that would be
suborning perjury. What that tells me is that Roger Stone when he went in
and gave this false statement to congressional investigators very likely
and you know committed a crime.
And so when you look at this plea agreement, there`s obviously the
ramifications for Jerome Corsi if he doesn`t accept that he`s going to be
charged I think with a false statement. But then you look at Roger Stone
and his culpability, there is obviously the potential conspiracy to defraud
the United States charges. These are the collusion charges. But I think
it looks like a pretty serious case and a pretty obvious case of line to a
congressional committee that Mueller will have him on as well.
MELBER: Right. Well, so there`s a lot that emanates out from this even
though some of the sordid details can get quite wheezy. I want to thank
our prosecutors and legal experts here for helping us get through it.
Nick, Matt, and Paul, thank you very much. Up ahead, Paul Manafort`s
double cross and the secret Trump Tower meeting and what Trump`s aides are
now saying he told Mueller about that meeting. Also, but her e-mails,
Ivanka responds tonight.
MELBER: The Russia Probe has been on the news and Donald Trump`s lawyers
are keeping it that way because I can report tonight that there are three
of his answers leaking that he submitted to Mueller. ABC News reports the
Trump told Mueller he was not aware of any big changes to the 2016 RNC
platform. Those were considered Russia friendly. NBC reporting Trump says
Roger Stone who we`ve been talking about did not ever give him advance
Intel about WikiLeaks. And then a big one, Trump also telling Mueller that
he was not told about his son`s secret meeting in Trump Tower with Russians
offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump reportedly saying that he was
answering to the best of his recollection.
I`m joined now by former Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi. He`s a former
colleague of Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ. Let me start with the basics. Why
would people on the Trump side leak this?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, here`s my view. The attorney
for Paul Manafort is basically an insider trader and the Trump people are
using this information to possibly coordinate Trump`s answers to the
questions with what they know Paul Manafort is saying. And if there`s a
consistency in what they say even though they may not be truthful, that
only helps Donald Trump. The problem is it destroys the plea agreement
that Paul Manafort negotiated. So that`s probably what`s happening.
I did want to add this though, Ari. I`ve negotiated and supervised
probably a thousand guilty pleas. Many of those had cooperation language.
And as a former federal prosecutor for almost 30 years, I am absolutely
appalled that the attorney or attorneys for Paul Manafort would sit in on
briefings with Paul Manafort and then leaked the insider information to a
subject if not a target of an investigation. That is preposterous, it`s
absurd, and those are the kind remarks I can say.
HAYES: Have you ever seen in your practice – you`ve mentioned a thousand
prosecutors blow up a plea agreement over this kind of double-agenting.
ROSSI: Yes, Gene Rossi has. And what happened in one of my cases is I
found out that my cooperator was lying to me in debriefings and in the
grand jury and I had that individual plead guilty to lying in front of the
grand jury and this is unheard of. I had – I had my cooperator plead
guilty to lying at a guilty plea. So I took it very seriously.
MELBER: Let me get you – let me get you out one more thing which is Trump
has publicly said oh he didn`t know about the Trump Tower meeting. That`s
different than saying it to the feds I just talked to someone who`s on heat
– under heat for lying to the feds which is a crime. But before the Trump
Tower meeting, Trump was already publicly bragging that he had new stuff,
new dirt coming in on Hillary. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major
speech on probably Monday of next week and we`re going to be discussing all
of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you`re
going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does Mueller ultimately answer this question and find out if
Trump was lying about not knowing about the meeting?
ROSSI: All right, one way is you get cell phone records. And that blocked
call that Donald Trump Jr. made, that could be the key to the throne. Also
you could get people that are on the periphery that said that Donald Trump
the father knew that the son was going to meet. And let me tell you this.
There is absolutely no way that the presidential candidate Donald Trump did
not know before, during, and after that there was this huge meeting to
obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. That defies imagination. It`s almost as
bad as drone courses epiphany that he had flying over Rome in the papacy.
MELBER: Well, Gene, you know how to nail it down and as you say sometimes
things that aren`t believable aren`t true. We will find out. Gene Rossi
as always, thanks to your expertise. When we come back, there`s actually
some breaking news about Michael Avenatti that may surprise you in a
MELBER: Another important story tonight. Stormy Daniels now publicly
criticizing her lawyer Michael Avenatti. Daniels is telling The Daily
Beast publication that Avenatti has not treated her “with the proper
respect and deference.” She also says that when Avenatti sued Trump for
defamation, it was against her wishes and also references a fundraising
site that he started allegedly for her legal defense without telling her,
and that she`s not actually sure whether she will keep him on retained as
Avenatti says he`s always been an open book with Daniels and that the
fundraising site was designed to defray some of her expenses. An
interesting exchange there between client and attorney.
That does it for us. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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