Mueller spotted and photographed today. TRANSCRIPT: 3/21/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Michael Bennett going hey. No pander. So just
throwing it out there. Maybe Michael Bennett is not running.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have two words for you, Chuck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go blue.
TODD: I have no horse in there. I have no horses here other than the one
and only CC final four. Anyway, KC, Kim, Matt, Adrian, thank you very
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP
“THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Quick question.
TODD: Ari, I`m not OK.
MELBER: Was that go blue, was that a Michigan reference?
TODD: Yes, it is an –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Yes, it was. It was a Michigan reference.
TODD: It`s an awful Michigan reference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chuck said the worst thing about Michigan off-camera,
TODD: No, I didn`t. I just said it`s not the UM. When you say UM,
there`s only one UM and it`s down in coral gables.
MELBER: I`ll give you that.
We say UM in Ann Arbor.
MELBER: We say UM in Ann Arbor but it`s go blue Mason blue.
TODD: There you go.
MELBER: Ride or die.
TODD: It is. Man, I`m getting ganged on by you millennial Michiganders.
MELBER: Bye, Chuck. We`ll see you soon.
MELBER: We have a very big show tonight here at THE BEAT. Democrats now
demanding the White House fork over evidence on Jared Kushner`s use of
private messaging apps. And an author is going to make her debut
appearance on THE BEAT tonight on that story. We love new voices and we`re
excited to get to that.
Also later, when you think about this debate about indicting a president,
there`s been a lot of talk from a lot of different people. Well, tonight,
two former SDNY U.S. attorneys will join me, a discussion with Preet
Bharara and Rudy Giuliani`s successor that you literally won`t see anywhere
else this week.
And our own Tony Schwartz is here later for the State of the Mind series
that we do on THE BEAT.
Meanwhile, President Trump is talking up the Mueller report again today.
He`s stressing the final decision rests with his attorney general. What I
called last night the good cop, bad cop punt.
Meanwhile, Washington, as you may have heard if you follow the news, it
does remain on edge about whether tomorrow could be the Mueller Friday to
end all Mueller Fridays. Now, there is no public indication for Mueller`s
office about anything different tomorrow as opposed to any other Friday or
any other day.
In fact, I checked in with Bob Mueller`s spokesperson today, and I will
detail what we learned there in just a moment. But first, take a look at
this picture today. This is what may mark the TMZ phase of this probe, but
you are looking at what a photographer caught, the special counsel in his
ball cap on his way into work this morning, getting ready for another day.
Now, the special counsel`s office is not inside the regular DOJ building.
In fact, it`s technically an undisclosed government fact. Although
insiders and lawyers in Washington do know where it is. And including
apparently, let`s – we`ll put it back up. I want you to see this again.
Including the photographer, who at this point, I mean, Mueller`s been going
to work for 20 months, but we`re now in some sort of mood where
photographers are camped out, trying to get this. And when you see his
baseball cap, you think, well, maybe he isn`t that into being photographed
like this. It is a rare window into what it looks like when Bob Mueller
shows up for another day of work.
Now, he is far harder to find than his boss, Attorney General Bill Barr,
who was at the White House today. And if Mueller`s previous supervisor,
Rod Rosenstein remains on the job despite some of the stuff he said, he was
also spotted leaving the White House. The two also went to a ceremony
No cameras allowed in there. They were honoring the attorney general who
Trump raged at every over one thing, this very Russia probe and Jeff
Sessions` refusal to take control of it when he was advised to recuse. So
all of that is where those big players were today. No sign on when they
may get word from Bob Mueller that he`s done.
And as of this moment, I want to tell you, Bob Mueller is not done, at
least not at this moment, and most of his prosecutors are still working for
him. Today, I asked for a full count. This is the kind of thing, the kind
of piece of information that Mueller`s office will confirm on the record.
So we`re going to walk through what he told us through his spokesperson,
Special Counsel Mueller basically has 10 full-time prosecutors that you see
still working. That`s actually the majority of his team.
And one well-known prosecutor, Andrew Weismann “leaving soon”. Now, that`s
been reported previously. He was in charge of all the Manafort trial
action. We also know, two prosecutors left last year and three other
And now I`m reading what you see on the screen is what Special Counsel
Mueller`s office told me. And again, they rarely speak on the record, but
this is a normal fact they can confirm. Three have left working on matters
assigned to them during their detail.
These are the quotes from Mueller`s office. This is how they are
describing the people working on the job in the present tense.
Meanwhile, investigators in Congress are also working on a range of
activities. They are, of course, by definition, more public. The chairman
of the House Oversight Committee pressing the White House over Ivanka and
Jared Kushner`s use of personal e-mail messaging apps and warning of more
severe alternate means to obtain this evidence if they don`t comply.
Today, Julian Assange defying now there`s a request for documents into
actions related to Trump. Roger Stone also refusing to provide material
and citing his own Mueller prosecution as the reason he`s invoking the
Fifth Amendment, which you do when you have a criminal exposure.
Democrats also now considering a whole second wave of document requests,
this is for people like Rudy Giuliani, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, and
Michael Cohen`s former lawyer, according to “The Wall Street Journal.”
While Trump confidant, Hope Hicks, we should note, is reportedly
So that is a lot of other action and probes on the Hill, seeing what
Congress is doing, while Bob Mueller is maybe occasionally this morning
seen, but rarely heard. In fact, the only way you usually hear him is in
what they call those speaking indictments, where there are 37 people or
organizations who have now been indicted.
Let`s get right to it. Nick Akerman is a former Watergate special
prosecutor. Daniel Alonso, a former federal prosecutor, former chief
assistant D.A in Manhattan, where the Manafort case has moved. And “The
Daily Beast” Betsy Woodruff. Hi, everybody.
Nick, what do you think?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think things are
going along just as I would expect. I assume we`re going to see more
indictments before this is over. Congress is doing what it`s supposed to
be doing. They`ve put out lots of document requests. They`re going to get
those documents. They`re going to decide where they`re going to put their
I`m sure they`re coordinating this with the Mueller office so that they`re
not impinging on any of the investigations that are going on. They have
been very careful to stay away from certain areas, such as, you know, with
Michael Cohen`s testimony. They`ve been very careful on that.
So I don`t see that there`s going to be anything other than, let`s see what
– I mean I`m expecting an indictment. In terms of the Mueller report,
we`ve seen the Mueller report now in many iterations. I mean it is an
ongoing report in installments.
We`ve had a number of indictments of Russians, of Trump associates, Trump
high echelon appointments. And I think we`re going to see more of that.
DANIEL R. ALONSO, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN DISTRICT
ATTORNEY`S OFFICE: Am I expecting an indictment? I don`t know. I`ve got
to wait and see. I am expecting that at some point, this investigation
will end and there will be things that have probably been parceled out to
other districts, like the one that we well know about the Southern
District, that little clue about those prosecutors taking cases with them
back that they had during their –
MELBER: Yes. Walk us through that from your perspective. And again, I
mentioned New York is, of course, a totally separate jurisdiction but here
it is. This is what we have tonight. Go ahead.
ALONSO: Yes. I mean it`s not uncommon for cases to travel with a
particular trial attorney from the Department of Justice, and particularly
when you don`t think that the conflict that led to the original appointment
of the special counsel in the first place is what is going to – is going
to affect that person back at their home U.S. attorney`s office or
component of the Department of Justice.
So I think that is probably a clue that this is heading towards some kind
of conclusion. But it doesn`t mean that the matters that are being
investigated and certainly not the ones that are indicted without
resolution are done.
MELBER: Do you think, for both of you, as lawyers, and I`m going to bring
Betsy in, that at this time, if it is sort of near the ninth inning, which
doesn`t mean that you know the exact timeline, but there`s a lot of
evidence about, we just showed some of it, about where they`re at.
Do you think that means that Barr really knows what the core of Mueller`s
findings are and the format he`s going to get it in? Because we`ve
reported on this show that under the rules, it could be very sparse or it
could be voluminous.
AKERMAN: Oh, I think that Barr has been clued in as to what is going on at
this point. I think he knows. He knows if there`s going to be an
indictment. He knows if there`s going to be a report.
I might just add, the fact that some of these people have left is not a
very big deal and some of them are still working on the assignments that
they had. I mean in the Watergate prosecution, we had a number of people
who left during the course of that and that didn`t mean that we were
winding down. I mean people leave for all kinds of reasons.
MELBER: Well, I`ll push you a little bit. It doesn`t mean anything
automatic or short-term. But when you have a crew of say about 15 and
about 5 leave and none are replaced, it is some kind of indication. Just
like when you say, you`re done with Manafort, you`re not getting a new
brief. I mean Weismann is a heavy hitter.
If there was another really complex trial, you might keep him around. And
from what we`ve learned about him, he might want to stay around. So it`s
not – I`m not doing the timing game but it doesn`t mean nothing.
AKERMAN: Yes. But it doesn`t mean a lot either. When you look at those
numbers which you put up on the board, I mean they are obviously people who
are still engaged in what they were doing there. Keep in mind that Bob
Mueller doesn`t want to bring more people on to the – his prosecution
He`s concerned about the budget and staying within a budget, so it doesn`t
look like a lot of money is being spent. Because prior, former special
counsels have been criticized for that. So he has been very smart in terms
of farming out different cases to different people, keeping people within
the department. So it`s more of a Department of Justice investigation. So
MELBER: Right. Also, what did you think of his hat?
AKERMAN: I kind of liked the hat because it`s the same hat I usually wear
when I`m driving to work.
MELBER: You try to stay low key, yes?
MELBER: Betsy, take a listen to Senator Klobuchar pressing Bill Barr on
the exact question that everybody`s wondering. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Will you commit to make
public all of the reports` conclusions, the Mueller report, even if some of
the evidence supporting those conclusions can`t be made public?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, that certainly is my goal and
intent. It`s hard for me to conceive of a conclusion that would, you know,
run afoul of the Regs, as currently written.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You know, Betsy, I do this for a living and I`m not even sure what
he committed to there.
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Basically nothing. Bill Barr is a very
smart lawyer who`s been doing this for decades. He knew exactly what he
was saying in that answer, which was maybe hopefully no promises and here`s
a little bit of commentary that you will not be able to hold me to.
The reality is, Barr is also quite politically savvy. He`s been an
operator in D.C. for most of his professional career. He`s been very
successful both in the government DOJ side and the corporate side. Both
lanes that require a fairly sophisticated understanding of politics.
And he sailed through his confirmation process in large part because of
that, because he sort of maintained himself as a black box. I agree with
the earlier comment that Barr almost certainly has a sense of the shape of
the Mueller report that`s going to be coming.
My expectation from talking to people who have a decent amount of
visibility into the process is that once Barr gets the report, there`s a
very good chance that he will hang on to it for quite some time.
It`s possible it can be one week, two weeks, potentially even more because
he`s going to go through it. If it`s quite long, if we`re talking
potentially hundreds of pages, he`s going to go through it. He`s probably
going to run it by White House lawyers and assess if the White House wants
to make any claims of executive privilege.
So even if Barr were to get the report tomorrow, even if Mueller claps on
his baseball hat and drives it over to main justice, I don`t think it`s
going to see the light of day for quite some time.
MELBER: And Daniel, this goes to the, you know, the Samuel Beckett aspect,
if you know what I`m talking about.
MELBER: Godot. Well, classic –
ALONSO: This is classic, Waiting for Godot.
MELBER: Classic Waiting for Godot. By which I mean, not that we`re
waiting, because everything that is in the future, you might wait for if
you`re looking forward to it. But rather that as – well, I don`t want to
do any spoilers, the play has been around for a while.
MELBER: People know.
ALONSO: They`re waiting.
MELBER: Godot doesn`t show up.
MELBER: And so if Godot is a voluminous or detailed report, I mean Betsy
just referred to the idea that it could be long and there are preferences
for that Iran-Contra and Starr long reports. But these rules don`t by any
means suggest or require a long report. Patrick Fitzgerald, who operated
previously under these rules did not issue a voluminous report. What is
your view – not asking you to predict, but your view of what it means if
the report as something big and long to be reviewed and released is a
ALONSO: Well, there`s two things about the report that I should say. I
think that a long report is probably what`s going to happen here because
there`s been so much public attack that you really want it to be as
bulletproof as possible.
MELBER: And yet, although I love you, yet I asked you, what about if it`s
ALONSO: If it`s not a long report?
MELBER: Yes. What if it`s Godot? What if – because again, it`s very
important here, there`s a lot of talk about “Mueller report, as if that`s
the only option.” By which we mean let`s call Mueller report something
over 10 pages. That`s an option.
But there is another option under the rules if it would be nothing a list,
there would not be a cover-up where he says, these are my decisions of who
I charge, here`s who I decline to charge, and that`s it. And it`s very
ALONSO: There`s very little downside to making a long report since it is
confidential under the regulations and it would be, frankly in my view,
MELBER: So you just don`t buy it? You think there will be something big?
ALONSO: I think it will be something big. I think it`s also confidential.
I also think that if they`re smart, which they very much are, they would
make it easily separable so that things like grand jury information and
classified information can –
MELBER: Right. Would it be as long as the show and tell that Nick brought
AKERMAN: Yes. This is the Watergate report that we issued 12 months after
Richard Nixon left office. We could show right here.
MELBER: So I mean Nick Akerman, this is why Nick Akerman is unlike anyone
else. I believe this is your original copy?
AKERMAN: That`s the original copy.
MELBER: So you`ve been holding on to it for how many years?
AKERMAN: Oh, 45 years, maybe.
MELBER: I mean this is what we call a boss move. You think it will be
this kind of a report?
AKERMAN: Oh, I think, sure. And it also may come long after the
indictments come out or it could be part of the indictments. I mean this
summarizes the indictments that were filed in the Watergate case.
AKERMAN: So we don`t know what it`s going to be. But I think we`ve gotten
the Mueller report on the installment plan, starting with all of the –
MELBER: Starting with the Russians.
MELBER: Betsy, bring it all home for us. You`re in Washington. You`ve
been covering this from the start. You`re steeped in it. What`s the mood
down there tonight and what do you think of what we just heard here from
the Watergate example?
WOODRUFF: I would say it`s very uneven. In D.C. over the last week or so,
I`ve talked to some people who are on pins and needles and are sort of
frantically expecting the report to drop in the next five seconds. And
I`ve talked to other folks who think everybody needs to take a deep breath
and potentially go on vacation for a couple of days.
One strategy that I know has been effective for some focus covering this is
to e-mail otherwise reticent DOJ sources and say, “Should I cancel my lunch
plans today? Should I skip my weekend trip? Do I need to be in town?”
And that`s been sort of a not fruitless way of taking the temperature.
MELBER: What do you say as a reporter to people who are living on
tenterhooks like that?
WOODRUFF: Well, I reach out to people at DOJ and I say, hey, I have a long
lunch plan, should I cancel it? And if I get the green light, going out to
lunch and potentially leaving my phone in my purse, then I feel comfortable
sharing that vital information with other folks who are also interested.
MELBER: I would say if it`s getting out minute by minute, that`s where you
have to go full EPMD and say you`ve got to chill.
WOODRUFF: Although, you know, I`m going to be out of town this weekend and
my phone is probably not going to be on most of the time. So fingers
crossed. Hopefully, Mueller doesn`t pull a fast one.
MELBER: OK. Well, there are the views. And Daniel and Nick, I think both
are on the record expecting a lengthy report. We`ll hold you two and we`ll
replay the sound as I did for Preet Bharara earlier this week if you`re
ALONSO: Confidential one. The public wants –
MELBER: No, I heard you. I got you. I got you.
AKERMAN: It depends when.
MELBER: And it depends when. All right. My special thanks to a very very
interesting panel, Daniel Alonso, Betsy Woodruff. And Nick comes back.
Coming up, investigations now demanding answers from Kushner and how he`s
conducting government business. The author of a new book joins me.
Later, co-author of “The Art of the Deal” Tony Schwartz on Trump`s banking
problems and a pattern he says of playing to other people`s self-interests
that can work, at least in the short run.
2020 candidates meanwhile calling to end the very thing that actually made
Donald Trump president. We`ll get into that.
And I`m very excited to tell you we have a special look inside the SDNY,
the elite legal team with oversight to Trump Tower with two former chiefs
of that office.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: But his e-mails. Democrats today demanding the White House turn
over evidence on Jared Kushner using technology to avoid documentation of
his messages. Instead of a private server, it`s a private messaging app.
Kushner deploying it to secretly talk with autocrats like the Saudi prince.
A controversial relationship explored in a new book by Vicky Ward, my guest
tonight and the author of “Kushner Inc.,” an account making waves right
now, exploring how someone essential as Ivanka Trump managed to avoid
facing Mueller`s investigator thus far as while her husband Kushner did it
for nine hours and then broke his usual silence to say he didn`t rely on
Russian funds in business, which stoked questions about what else he got
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Let me be very clear. I
did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign
who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian
funds for my businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That Ivanka Trump asked to travel on Air Force One when it wasn`t
appropriate, raising questions about nepotism. A former Trump legal
adviser says that Trump`s former famously T.V.-obsessed lawyers just didn`t
get it, the difference between a regular PR issue and a criminal
investigation, noting problems about advisers becoming witnesses and new
problems that were caused basically by the team being reckless and on the
Author Vicky Ward joins me now and Nick Akerman is here for the legal
perspective. I want to get right to it. You analyze a story about how
Donald Trump asked an aide to help fire his kids because he didn`t want to
VICKY WARD, AUTHOR, KUSHNER INC.: Yes. So when John Kelly became chief of
staff, the president said find a way to send Jared and Ivanka home, their
vulnerability – they`re making my presidency vulnerable. Make life so
unpleasant for them that they come to me and they ask to go home.
And John Kelly did exactly what he was asked to do. The problem was that
the president at the end of the day couldn`t pull the trigger. His
daughter is his great Achilles heel.
MELBER: What does it tell you that he put himself in this position? I
mean you don`t have to bring your kids into the White House.
WARD: Well, I think this is one of the themes in the book that Republicans
who actually want to support Trump are really, really frustrated by the
presence of Jared and Ivanka in the White House. I mean Mark Corallo, the
spokesperson for Trump`s legal team briefly, I mean basically quit entirely
because of them.
It was precisely what you said at the opening of this segment that they
kept wandering in and out of the meetings with the president and the
president`s lawyers that he had to hire once this special counsel and the
investigation was underway and they just didn`t –
MELBER: They didn`t get it.
WARD: They didn`t get it.
MELBER: But in fairness, Nick, Jared Kushner reportedly was a big
proponent of firing James Comey. He said the Democrats would embrace it
and it would be a unity moment for President Trump. Obviously, that was a
AKERMAN: What a great judgment he has, right?
WARD: I mean the original sin, right?
AKERMAN: Right, exactly. I mean how ridiculous can he get? I mean that
just played into what Trump really wanted to do anyway. I mean what you`re
describing really is the complete breakup of the attorney-client privilege
that Donald Trump had with his lawyers.
WARD: Right. Yes. And Don McGahn, by the way, was just, I mean,
exasperated by it. Said it`s the bane of my existence.
AKERMAN: Because now if they want to call anybody, even his lawyers before
a congressional committee, how are they going to take attorney-client
privilege? How can Trump even assert it if all of these other third-
parties, his kids were walking in and out, part of the conversation, I mean
that – if I were Jerry Nadler, I would be looking at that as great
evidence to put before the committee.
MELBER: I`m curious in drawing this portrait what you think of their
actual understanding, in their own hearts, when they`re alone, about the
role nepotism has played in both of their lives, the privilege that they
have. Here they were – I want to show a cameo they did in “Gossip Girl”
back in the day when they had other types of privilege.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Jared. And thank you, Ivanka for marrying
Jared and giving Someone else a chance to win bachelor this year. Now,
this is quite an honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How do they view those benefits they`ve had? Do they get it?
WARD: Look, I think everything we`ve seen, the story that`s just come out
today, right, about the e-mails and the use of WhatsApp, these are two
people that – who are naive and reckless because they have an
extraordinary sense of self-importance.
They – you know they are extraordinarily unaware. They are disdainful of
rules. They think that rules are for other people. I mean, you know –
MELBER: Have you seen “Star Wars”?
WARD: I have.
MELBER: Do you remember the last thing Luke says to the emperor before the
big battle with Vader?
MELBER: Your arrogance is your weakness.
WARD: There you go. I think that you – I should have – that would be a
brilliant epigraph for my book.
WARD: For the paperback.
MELBER: Is it like a blog you can edit? No, people might – we don`t read
anymore. We`re out of time. Nick, final thought?
AKERMAN: Bottom line, where did they get all of this? It`s from their
WARD: Both each of their fathers.
AKERMAN: Each, yes.
MELBER: The money or the judgment?
MELBER: I like you two together. This could be a Fallback Friday. Vicky
Ward and Nick Akerman.
WARD: Thank you.
MELBER: You guys are great. Appreciate your reporting.
WARD: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, what is better than one head of SDNY? Two. And I`m
excited to tell you, we`re about to go inside with two former U.S.
attorneys on the threats they face and the debate you may have heard about.
Can that office after Mueller indict a sitting president?
But first, Donald Trump`s latest outburst sparking questions about, yes,
how does he make his decisions and how did he get like this? “Art of The
Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz is here for “State of Mind” when we`re back
in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: You know what it is. It`s “State of Mind” with Tony Schwartz.
And tonight, we`re going to dig into these revelations about Donald Trump`s
connection to something very important, something very financially
powerful, Deutsche Bank.
You may have seen “The New York Times” reporting bank executives ignored
the warning signs about Donald Trump`s problematic finances. Tony
Schwartz, a friend of THE BEAT, co-author of “The Art of the Deal” in our
series says the banks` enabling of Trump is actually about a larger pattern
where Trump plays on other people`s greed and self-interest, not just his
own, and how that works out.
Deutsche Bank first loaned Trump over a hundred mil or a hundred M`s as
they say in 1997. Later, an executive there concluded that loan relied on
a banker`s forged signature. That alone could be illegal but the
relationship went on.
Eventually, Donald Trump`s casinos defaulting on the bonds issued by, yes,
Deutsche Bank. It was called a forgery that led to a disaster. Deutsche
Bank also would Conclude Trump had exaggerated his net worth, surprise, by
In 2005, though, they lent him another half a mil. 2016, Trump was
publicly bragging about all of this, taking advantage of banks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have taken advantage
of the banks probably more than any human being on earth. I love banks,
right? I love banks. And I love fighting with banks if I have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, author of “The Way We`re
Working Isn`t Working.”
TONY SCHWARTZ, CEO, ENERGY PROJECT: You got it.
MELBER: Yes. Nice to have you back.
SCHWARTZ: Nice to be back.
MELBER: We`re zeroing in on something that is specific that you are going
to explain as part of our series tonight. People have heard about Trump
lying. People have heard about the media buying into it. That`s all over
But this idea was that he could go to the people who have the most self-
interest in getting financial information correct, these banks, and it
worked on them, too. Explain.
SCHWARTZ: Well, when you don`t have – when you`re not guided by any deeply
held set of values, you – a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards
the rest. It`s not a rap –
MELBER: Paul Simon.
SCHWARTZ: Good for you. And –
MELBER: I was looking for a dap.
SCHWARZ: Oh, I`m with you. I went into reflection. I`m not supposed to
MELBER: I thought you were going into Graceland.
SCHWARTZ: My God, you are on it tonight, Ari. So I think he found a bank
that was desperate and he is incredibly good at doing that. This is a
grifter culture. He`s been a king of grifter culture for a long, long
time. And he finds fellow grifters who want to beat the system, who don`t
have the goods credibly and substantively to do it, and he sells them on
One of the things that actually prompted Deutsche Bank to lend him all that
money was he promised to take the salespeople, the roadshow people down to
Mar-a-Lago and entertain them which then he tried to renege on and finally
decided he would do. But I mean what kind of bank makes decisions based on
the possibility that you`ll get a weekend at Mar-a-Lago? It`s nuts.
MELBER: I didn`t know we were going to do Paul Simon tonight but I`m
thinking 50 ways to leave your lover. It`s this bank, and then the next
bank, and then the next bank. It`s this oligarch, and then it`s that
funding scheme, and then it`s taking money from working-class people at
Trump University. Is he using the same tricks on each of these or with the
banks is it`s something different than what you might call a con for
SCHWARTZ: No. It`s an – it`s an absolutely consistent con. I mean, one
of the core elements of it forever has been the vast inflation of his
wealth. You know, they estimated here he was going around saying I`m worth
$7 billion, I`m worth $8, $10, $12 billion and they estimated that he was
actually worth $800 million at that time.
MELBER: Let`s look at Cohen`s damaging testimony like you weren`t in as
deep as him, so it`s not a full analogy, but you spend time with him and
came out with this view. So did Michael Cohen. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: I am giving to the
committee today three years of Mr. Trump`s personal financial statements
from 2011, 2012, and 2013 which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a
loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. It was my experience that Mr.
Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARTZ: So I just want to widen the lens, Ari, because what`s more
troubling even than what Trump does is how not only with the people who
he`s drawn in to do his nefarious acts, but with the culture more broadly.
It`s the – really it`s the death of character. It`s the death of the idea
that deeply held values actually matter.
It makes me almost long for civics class. And believe me, none of us loves
civics class but it does make you want it. You know, we`ve seen – here`s
what we`ve seen. We`ve seen the value of honesty shift to deceit under
Trump. We`ve seen courage now turns to cowardice. We`ve seen humility
congeal into grandiosity. And we`ve seen selflessness become self-
That`s set of values I just described are deeply disturbing and undermining
to who we are as a people. And the Deutsche Bank folks are just one
example of it. There are hundreds of them. What about what Trump has said
about – and I understand this has been said over and over, over the last
48 hours of the news cycle, but what Trump is saying about McCain is one
thing. It`s unconscionable. But is it not more unconscionable that the
Republicans who were allies and friends with McCain are so pusillanimous
that they won`t even step up and say no, that`s not OK. That`s the
debasing of American character.
MELBER: When you put it like that, it`s sort of a bummer.
SCHWARTZ: It`s more than a bummer. I mean, it really – it really puts
you know, it puts – it sets human beings back from an evolutionary
perspective. It`s so much more primitive. It`s so much more survival
You know, every human being has a worst self in a best self. We`re seeing
the primacy of the – of the worst self. And each of us has a choice on
MELBER: And that – and that doubles back to the con that relates to
wealth, wealth as a substitute for other things, wealth as an American
obsession above and beyond its role in simply earning a living or having
safety for your family. There was a great philosopher who once referred to
the idea that you needed to brandish wealth so much you would put diamonds
on the soles of your shoes.
SCHWARTZ: Well, you`ve covered the waterfront on Paul Simon. He`s feeling
good about you tonight.
MELBER: Well, he`s welcome to come on the show. He`s one of our great,
great icons we`d love to have. I didn`t know you were going to bring him
in here. We`ll tell him you said hello if he ever comes on. Tony
Schwartz, “STATE OF MIND,” we`ll see you again. Coming up as promised, we
go inside SDNY, Preet Bharara, and more next.
MELBER: One of the most powerful prosecution offices in the country sits
in Lower Manhattan prosecuting everyone from bankers, to mobsters. They
threw the book at Michael Cohen even after Mueller credited his
cooperation. And they`re currently probing these issues touching Trump
Org, the National Enquirer, Trump Tower. And the prosecutors who run this
office go on to pretty big things.
Rudy Giuliani ran it before becoming New York`s mayor. He was succeeded by
Benito Romano. James Comey ran it before getting tapped his number two at
DOJ and was exceeded by David Kelly. Preet Bharara ran it under Obama
through the start of 2017 until Trump fired him. Bharara dedicating his
new book to the former colleagues there writing, “For the fearless women
and men of the U.S. Attorney`s Office for the Southern District of New
York, the best place I will ever work.” These prosecutors have been
fighting the good fight in the spotlight for years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The indictment alleges that he both made attempts to
influence Mr. –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This trial was about crimes, very serious crimes.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: To announce what we believe is the
largest identity fraud case in the United States history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) as the chairman so aptly observed earlier
has become a powerful weapon in the government`s efforts against organized
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Our
unfinished fight against public corruption continues. You should stay
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We turn now to two former U.S. Attorneys from that very office
Preet Bharara and Benito Romano. Thanks to both of you for doing this.
BENITO ROMANO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Sure.
Thank you for having us.
MELBER: Preet, you dedicate the whole book to the people who work in this
BHARARA: And also my family. He left that out. Well, my family don`t
know it`s also dedicated to them. Look, I think at this time when everyone
is thinking about what the Southern District does, why it does what it
does, I wanted to reflect on those things. And the greatest honor of my
life was working the place that had a great tradition but also had some of
the best people I`ve ever met.
And so people like me and Benito were sometimes being in front of a camera
and our names were on the indictments during the time we you know, had the
honor of leading the office, but the real heroes are the men and women, the
investigators, the staff, the prosecutors, the civil lawyers who do all the
work of that place.
ROMANO: When you – when you talk to an assistant after he`s left the
office or she`s left the office and they look back on the office, the one
thing they say most often is you know, I didn`t want to be a supervisor, I
wanted to be in line assisting because that was the best job you could
possibly have just being a line assistant.
MELBER: You walk in that office that both of you ran, and you look down
the hall and you`ve got a room where Michael Cohen, the President`s lawyer
spilled the beans. And you`ve got another room where mob bosses and their
captains as you write in the book were debriefed about a whole life of
crime. What are the scariest people you dealt with and how do you – too
those of us who don`t understand how this works, how do you not get scared
when you`re dealing with mobsters?
ROMANO: Well, sometimes you do. I mean we`ve had assistants that had
protection provided to them by the Marshal Service –
MELBER: Because of death threats?
ROMANO: Because of death threats. And some of them have really sacrificed
tremendously in their inconvenience in their personal lives because they`ve
had marshals living with them in their apartments for months at a time. So
yes, you do – you do the – you do get scared. I mean, I was threatened
once and I`m sure it`s happened to Preet as well and you just learn to live
with it. You know you`re doing the right thing if you making people like
that angry at you.
MELBER: A lot of people are asking about whether a president could be
indicted and another person who held the same post that you each did, David
Kelly, spoke to that question on this show. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KELLY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It`s a
policy, it`s not the law. Policies can be bent, policies can be broken.
MELBER: If you were back in that office, I`m not naming, a president. Say
any president, President Johnson, President X, would you have considered
that a potential option on the table?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Benito, do you agree?
ROMANO: Yes. And I`m not surprised at all to hear David say that.
MELBER: So that`s a count of two if we`re doing a head count that yes,
it`s a policy, but warranted not naming the president, you think the office
could move forward that way?
BHARARA: Yes. So I`m going to disappoint some people. If the policy of
the department written down even if you disagree with it, with respect to
something so important like the immunity of a President of the United
States and you have a campaign finance violation that you think you can
prove beyond a reasonable doubt if you went to trial against the president,
against the backdrop of that policy, I`m going to be bold here and say no I
would not – I would not indict that case.
ROMANO: But it sounds like you`re exercising discretion.
BHARARA: Because of the policy. In part because you know –
ROMANO: Yes, policy. It sounds policy but it – but it – as policies –
BHARARA: If you`re going to do something – if you`re going to do
something like indict the President of the United States which is going to
cause a rift in the country, which is going to cause some people to think
that you`re political and result oriented, and you don`t even have on your
side the policy of – the stated policy the Justice Department, I think you
going to cause a lot of people to lose faith in the decision. Even if it`s
the correct decision, given that that policy is in place, we should change
ROMANO: But the fact that you can indict president, doesn`t mean you
actually indict the president. You may decide for all the reasons you just
enumerated that you would – you would exercise judgment against a
prosecution because it would tear the country apart, because the crime that
you`re prosecuting for with whatever the – whoever the president is, is a
relatively minor offense that does not typically prosecuted in the federal
system or some other reason.
But you – but it sounds like you`re saying – it sounds to me like you`re
saying you – the policy will survive as a policy as long as you don`t –
but you would not want to use it in this case, in the case you –
BHARARA: Yes. I guess depending on how you – how you`re parsing it am I
saying that I would behave in accordance with the policy or what I in
consideration of the policy among other factors choose in a campaign
finance case not to indict the sitting president. And maybe that`s more
accurate. I`m not – it`s a little bit splitting hairs, but to the extent
you may be correct. I`ll say that if I did have proof beyond a reasonable
doubt that the President had like he likes to say he can shot someone in
broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and kill that person, then I might not abide
by the policy.
ROMANO: That`s – yes. Or instead of arguing over profits taken out of a
the Trump Hotel, it`s a direct payment like a bribe, you might feel
differently. So I think we`re not in –
MELBER: I think the matter is –
ROMANO: – not in significant disagreement.
BHARARA: Yes. I guess what I`m saying is –
MELBER: It sounds like Benito has pressed you beyond one hypothetical as
prosecutors and lawyers sometimes do into the notion that if the policy is
you`re never allowed to indict, that would be a blank check for anything.
And while Preet seems more skeptical than you and David, you have pulled
Preet towards saying there are situations where you would override the
policy and indicted president.
ROMANO: Preet said that.
BHARARA: Yes, I said that. I said that, actually. He`s very persuasive
but I`ve said it before.
MELBER: So you agree on that?
BHARARA: Yes. I think – I think – there`s a reason why the president
has treated a little bit differently. No one is supposed to be above the
law and I agree with that. But you do have this argument over the
Constitution in the indictability of the president. You also do have the
president among very few others who subject to a different kind of check
which is impeachment and conviction in the Senate.
You also as we`ve been learning that a President of the United States can
flout all sorts of laws including doesn`t have to be qualified for security
clearance, gets one anyway, can tell anyone else to override professionals
saying that someone gets the security clearance or not, doesn`t really have
to divest himself of anything.
And when you taking an action against a public official – and I dealt with
this at a much smaller stage in New York, you know, we were fearless in
charging publicly elected officials, but we always thought really hard
about it. And thought, you don`t want to change the will of the people
because you`ve decided to take an action unless you really have your I`s
dotted and your T`s crossed. It`s very important.
ROMANO: I`m very glad Preet brought that up because as we`re debating this
question of whether you can invite a president, it`s the same process that
would have gone on in the U.S. Attorney`s Office for you deciding to indict
a congressman or some elected official. You sweat and suffer the details,
you talk it through. You talk it through repeatedly. You make sure not
only that you have the evidence to support it because it would be a
terrible thing to bring an indictment and then lose the case.
But you want to make sure that you`ve doing the right thing. That it`s the
correct proper exercise of discretion that they`re – you`ve considered all
the mitigation – certain mitigating circumstances and all of the
aggravating circumstances and you`ve come to the right decision.
MELBER: Hearing both of you tease that out responsibly is fascinating. It
really is. Why are you smiling?
BHARARA: I`m glad you enjoyed it. I`m glad you enjoyed it, Ari.
MELBER: Preet Bharara, Benito Romano, my thanks to both of you. I really
BHARARA: Thanks for having us.
ROMANO: Thank you.
MELBER: That was fun and interesting. Coming up 2020 Dems say they don`t
want an Electoral College imbalance to ever happen again. My next guest is
right inside the fight.
MELBER: And now to a big story of what some call radical reform and some
say is long overdue. I`m joined by Barry Fadem who runs the non-profit
that`s been leading the fight to abolish the Electoral College with a
popular national vote. What is your problem as you see it in a sentence
and what is the solution as you see it in a paragraph?
BARRY FADEM, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE: First of all, our proposal
does not abolish the Electoral College which I`d be happy to explain. And
the reason for this proposal –
MELBER: Let me interrupt because you`re using time but I said abolish the
way it works with a solution.
FADEM: And the solution – well, the reason for the proposal is pretty
simple. Every four years we elect a president and only 10 to 12 states
participate in that presidential election. So the voters in over 38
states, every four years do not participate in the presidential election.
That`s reason number one.
The reason number two, of course, is that five times in our presidential
history the president has been elected –
MELBER: Sure. Let me catch you up. We`re all over that. We`ve been
covering all week. I don`t know if you ever watch the show. How the
system works, what`s wrong with it, the slavery antecedences. But the
question tonight, why you`re here on the activism is what`s the solution
that you have because it is a pretty ingenious one.
FADEM: Well, yes, thank you. The solution is based on two divisions of
the U.S. Constitution which I never leave home without. The first
provision is the Founding Fathers gave state legislatures the exclusive
right to decide how to work electoral votes. They also gave state
legislatures the right to enter into agreements among themselves, and
The national popular voter interstate compact guarantees that whichever
presidential candidate receives the most votes in all 50 states is elected
president. So by combining those two provisions of the U.S. Constitution,
the Founding Fathers gave state legislatures the tools to accomplish the
national popular vote.
That`s how it works. And the most important part of the agreement is when
does it go into effect when. This agreement only goes into effect when
enough states pass it that equals a majority of the Electoral College
votes. That`s 270. The exciting news of today is that we`re more than
two-thirds of the way towards that 270 because as you have reported, in the
last 30 days the states of Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico have voted to
join the compact.
That means 15 states have approved this change. That equals 189 electoral
votes, so we`re only 81 electoral votes worth of states away from this
proposal going into effect.
MELBER: Briefly, do you think you could pull this off before the next
FADEM: We don`t like to the make projections about 2020, but I will tell
you this. The amount of momentum that has been generated especially this
year and the amount of grassroots support we`re receiving from around the
country, we`re not going to rule anything out. Our job is just to keep
working additional states to get to that 270.
MELBER: Yes. And Barry, it`s a fascinating activist approach to deal with
something that many people think is literally immovable. You`ve outlined
arguments tonight why it`s changeable. Thank you very much for joining us.
FADEM: Thank you for your time.
MELBER: Absolutely. When we come back, we will be looking ahead to what
some people are calling a potential Mueller Friday tomorrow. We`ll be
MELBER: I`m thinking about Bob who once said I am waiting, waiting to put
my cards on the table. That`s Bob Marley I`m thinking of, but it`s Bob
Mueller that a lot of us are thinking about and whether tomorrow would be a
Mueller Friday. As we`ve explained today, no public clue say one or the
other. We just saw arrive to work, and that`s all we know. We`ll see what
That`s it for me. I`ll be back with you tomorrow. “HARDBALL” starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
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
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the