Trump opposes Mueller testifying. TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests:
John Flannery, Mary Gay Scanlon, Neal Katyal, Lanny Davis, Bill Weld
Transcript:

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Thing there was to a key on election night. 

But what it was in those states, that`s an interesting question to get into

as well.  Former Senator Joe Donnelly, I wish we had more time to dive into

it.  But I appreciate you making a few minutes for us today.

 

And that is it for tonight.  We`ll be back Tomorrow with more MEET THE

PRESS DAILY.

 

And “THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now. 

 

Good evening to you, Ari.

 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Steve.  Thank you so much.  And good

evening to you at home.  It`s good to be back with you on THE BEAT.

 

And I will tell you, I think we have quite a show tonight.  Former Trump

lawyer Michael Cohen reporting to prison to begin his sentence today. 

Cohen`s lawyer joins us exclusively tonight on that very significant story.

 

Also, new pressure on Trump Attorney General Bill Barr.  Former DOJ insider

Neal Katyal is here to explain some of what he views as unprecedented in

that story that obviously is hitting a fever pitch.

 

And later, a Republican challenging Donald Trump for the Republican

nomination for president is here live for the first time.  So a lot to get

to.

 

But we begin with the legal and political hurricane that has been heading

towards Trump Attorney General Bill Barr.  They say elections have

consequences.  I`m sure you`ve heard that.

 

Tonight, Democrats are saying deadlines also have consequences.  Critics

arguing that Mr. Barr has used his short but very controversial tenure to

already become one of the most questionable Trump appointees of this entire

Trump presidency.

 

And today, Mr. Barr gave them more ammunition, blowing past Congress` long

known deadline to provide the full unredacted Mueller report.  House

Democrats are not having it.  They are moving towards a vote this week to

hold him in contempt.  Now if that happens, Mr. Barr would become only the

second attorney general ever held in contempt in U.S. history and the first

to be held in contempt during his very first year on the job.

 

Chairman Nadler issuing a 27-page contempt report against Barr.  It sites

impeachment for the very first time as a possible, possible end result of

the House probe.

 

Let me show you what I mean.  It notes that this House probe may decide

whether to approve articles of impeachment for this president or any other

administration official.

 

That clearly has Barr`s attention.  His department now responding to Nadler

today, suggesting that they meet on Wednesday to negotiate some sort of

“acceptable accommodation”.  Now, it`s noble and perhaps notable that at

this juncture, we have Chairman Nadler now name-checking impeachment,

because he didn`t have to.

 

As a legal matter, these topics when raised at all are raised quite

carefully.  We`ve reported that when Mueller touched on impeachment in his

report, he did it primarily in those little footnotes, a very careful way

to note what is legally possible but ultimately up to the Congress.

 

All of this wrangling, though, is ultimately about whether Mueller`s words

on paper come out amidst this wider fight over getting Mueller`s words in

the flesh.  Democrats now are in talks with Mueller`s team about a date, a

specific date that could come this month for him to testify.

 

And that, as you may have heard has the president shook.  He is now saying

he hopes Mueller won`t testify, but this is not Donald Trump`s call. 

Congress can force all kinds of witnesses to testify, and even Bill Barr

has been reiterating he`s not even against it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have no objection

to Bob Mueller personally testifying.

 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):  What about Bob Mueller?  Should he be allowed to

testify before the Senate?

 

BARR:  I`ve already said publicly I have no objection to him.

 

DURBIN:  And Don McGahn?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Bob Mueller`s report is done.  We know that.  His credibility is

now at an all-time high with Republicans telling pollsters they like

Mueller more now, given that he didn`t find a Russian chargeable

conspiracy.

 

So why is Donald Trump so worried about what else Mueller will say?  Is

Donald Trump worried that he and his attorney general have been excelling

during a P.R. war, largely on the fumes of mischaracterization of the

Mueller report, and that a fact check about the Mueller report issued to

the Congress and presumably on television sets across America by Robert

Mueller, that that fact check could undo a lot of what they`ve been doing?

 

I want to get right to it with Maya Wiley tonight, former counsel to the

mayor of New York City and a former SDNY civil prosecutor.  And former

Federal Prosecutor John Flannery.  Good evening to you both.

 

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY:  Good evening.

 

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Nice to see you.

 

MELBER:  John, what does it tell you that at what might be considered an

early stage in this dispute and certainly the first few months of Barr even

being on the job, he faces what looks like a very credible warning of being

voted in contempt as soon as Wednesday?

 

FLANNERY:  Well, and also, as you noted, the resolution that they hope to

pass on Wednesday cites possible impeachment for administrative officials

as well as our chief executive.  And that should tighten the sphincter

muscles of any person who has done what Barr has done, which is that

they`re being challenged both Mr. Trump and his consigliere Barr for having

tried to conceal what was in the report by bringing it to our attention

over Passover and Easter and while the Congress was in session.

 

And now, we`re getting a second chance to talk about it, and they don`t

want that to happen.  They don`t want people to study the obstruction

aspects of it, even as they are obstructing Congress` request for

information for oversight purposes.

 

So they`re sort of proving their obstruction even as they`re getting into

this fight with the House Judiciary and the other committees that are

seeking information from the White House and from the Department of

Injustice.

 

MELBER:  And there you have a turn of phrase.  Maya, there is a lot of

concern about that, and we documented here the way Mr. Barr has misled the

nation.

 

At the same time, we`ve also been careful to note that unlike some people

caught up in this, he does not stand credibly accused of any major crime. 

The misstatements that he`s made have all been quite lawyerly, which leaves

him wiggle room, even as he misleads.

 

So I put to you the question here that came from a Republican defender of

Mr. Barr, basically saying if this is all a fight over a couple of weeks of

P.R., is that really all the Democrats have left?  Take a look.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP.DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  We`re looking at 16 days or a little over that to

actually go to a contempt report on information that he knows he can`t get. 

My question to the chairman is why don`t he read what`s already available,

and if he wants more work, then with the Department of Justice to figure

this out instead of having the public show of contempt and trying to

discredit Bill Barr.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Maya, what does that get wrong, if anything in your view?

 

WILEY:  Well, the facts, that`s what it gets wrong.  Because the issue here

isn`t just what`s in the Mueller report.  It was William Barr`s decision

essentially to say no obstruction, his reasoning for why no obstruction.

 

And then his – as we have heard from Robert Mueller himself, he`s

confusing the American public around the context and substance and content

of his report, which really in any way, many lawyers that I know, including

myself, read that report is really saying Congress, I think this is yours. 

I`m kicking the ball to your court.

 

And that fundamentally means Congress has to understand that exchange

between Robert Mueller and William Barr, why William Barr did what he did

because that`s really about whether or not he`s interfering with Congress`

constitutional authority.

 

And it also makes it sound like this is just an issue around if Barr was

meant transparency as he said in his confirmation hearing, some of what

we`re talking about is grand jury material, in fact, much of it.  And

William Barr has refused to participate in getting a court order that would

enable the release of that grand jury material to the public.  Why?

 

So it`s really obfuscating the fact that there is a lot, a lot, a lot that

Congress absolutely has the right to understand, given its constitutional

authority.

 

MELBER:  And John, how do you view that with regard to the fact that what

makes Mr. Barr a seasoned attorney is his ability to think several moves in

advance.  He said he is fine with Mueller testifying.  He knew a lot of

this other stuff would come out and may further come out.

 

So how do you, as an analyst, reconcile that with the path that he`s taken? 

And as you think about your answer, I want to mention to our viewers we`re

going to stay in this discussion.

 

But we are keeping an eye on the festivities at the White House, where

you`ll see right here some Trump family members gathered outside.  Tiger

Woods receiving an award tonight and we`ll be keeping an eye on that.  We

probably won`t bring you any pro forma statements but if there is news or

if there`s Tiger news, we`ll give you the best of it.

 

John, your answer?

 

FLANNERY:  Well, I`m very curious to hear from Mueller, not so much as

analysis of the report as his analysis of the timeline going from March 5 I

believe when he met with Barr, and then he met with him on the 24, if

that`s the Sunday that they release that four-page letter.  And he was with

Barr in the afternoon.

 

And apparently, that letter wasn`t discussed because the very next day,

Mueller sent the letter to Barr saying why don`t you use our summaries? 

And we haven`t seen that letter.  I don`t believe anybody has.

 

And then there is the March 27 letter referring back to that letter saying

basically, that you`ve entirely misrepresented our report.  And then we

have from Barr, we have a translation of what he thinks his conversation

was with Mueller.

 

And it`s pretty questionable that we should rely on what Barr says he said

with anybody because his credibility is as good as Trump`s unless he is

making an admission against interests, in my opinion.

 

MELBER:  Well, in the hearing, of course, there was the exchange where he

talked about well, did you memorialize that call?  He didn`t.  But under

questioning, he admitted that someone at DOJ did.

 

So there is fully two-sided notes to that call.  These are professional,

seasoned lawyers.  They know each other.  Do you think –

 

FLANNERY:  I don`t think they`re friends anymore.

 

WILEY:  Yes, they`re not Roy Cohn.

 

FLANNERY:  Yes.  Well, not –

 

MELBER:  Well, at the end of the day, Maya, do you think that when you look

at that, Mueller was outmaneuvered to some degree if he was reduced after

turning in the report to saying, oh, please reveal this or that.

 

I mean the flip side, even though few questions Mueller`s integrity, it

doesn`t mean that he makes every right chess move, particularly if he

thought that Barr was going to be in his view perhaps more honorable.  But

was he outmaneuvered there when before that fateful Friday, he could have

controlled a lot of what else he put out?

 

WILEY:  Yes.  I mean it certainly appears that way.  We don`t know all the

facts of the exchanges, as John said.  I`m curious because remember William

Barr said well, I gave him opportunities to review and he said no.

 

Well, why?  And why would he say no?  And is it just because he is so

completely trusted William Barr or

Or because he already knew or had an inkling of what Barr was doing?  And

that`s why he had the letter ready to go the next day after the release of

the summary?  I don`t know.

 

MELBER:  That`s my – I mean I don`t know either exactly, but my reading of

it in terms of litigation procedure is that they had enough of a debate

about it, whether it was by signal or implied or explicit that they had

their letters and their notes ready to go about something that they knew

they disagreed on.

 

Both of you, stay with me.  As mentioned, we`re keeping an eye on Tiger

Woods and the president, approaching the lectern there at the White House.

 

But I turn now to Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, vice chair of the House

Judiciary Committee.  Thanks for being here.

 

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA), VICE CHAIR, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Thank

you for having me on.

 

MELBER:  Walk us through the significance of what we`ve been discussing

what your chair has written with the cooperation of you and your committee. 

What are you trying to achieve here?

 

Is the goal to rush toward a contempt vote?  Or do you hope in the final

hours to get something out of Bill Barr and not have to go that far on

Wednesday?

 

SCANLON:  Well, our goal for the past couple of months has been to see the

full unredacted Mueller report and the underlying evidence.  That`s why we

issued a subpoena for it.  The attorney general blew through that subpoena

last I guess, whatever, May 1.

 

And then again today has not turned it over yet.  So they really leave us

no option if they`re not even going to negotiate in good faith.

 

MELBER:  Do you think Mr. Barr has underestimated Chairman Nadler and his

willingness to use the powers afforded to the House?  He seems somewhat

surprised or at least is presenting as if surprised that ducking the

hearing and refusing the subpoenas would result in this.

 

SCANLON:  Well, there wasn`t a subpoena for him to appear.

 

MELBER:  Right.

 

SCANLON:  So I don`t want the get caught in that red herring.

 

MELBER:  No.  I`m referring to the subpoena for the report and then what

was a voluntary appearance that he then left out.

 

SCANLON:  Right.  Well, I guess I`m not surprised that anyone in the

current administration would be surprised when someone tries to do their

constitutional duty.  But I think the resolve of the House, the resolve of

the Judiciary Committee is very firm that we have a job to do, as you and

your guests just mentioned.

 

Bob Mueller wrote that report saying I may not be able to charge but

Congress has a job to do here.  And we`re going to do that job.

 

MELBER:  What would be the substantive bottom line result of Bill Barr

being held in contempt?

 

SCANLON:  Presumably, that he would have to turn over the documents.

 

MELBER:  And if he doesn`t?

 

SCANLON:  Well, at that point, we`re in the courts.  And presumably, I mean

fines, jail, those are the traditional remedies for contempt.  It is kind

of remarkable that we`ve never gotten there with an administration before.

 

MELBER:  You say jail.  You`re saying something that is on the table is the

idea that this results in a court battle where a judge formally underscores

the contempt finding and then what?  The attorney general would be jailed?

 

SCANLON:  Well, that is one of the remedies that a court has available, of

course, you know.  We`ve never gotten there because we`ve never had an

administration be that intransigent or so blind to their constitutional

duty.  I hope we`re not there now.

 

MELBER:  Mr. Flannery, your view.

 

FLANNERY:  I agree.  And I think that because the objection is so frivolous

and because the report itself, if you consider it, is a series of summaries

of the investigation.

 

So the argument that we need more is to evaluate the strength of these

different claims, particularly the 10 obstruction claims.  And we

understand that we have a conflict of interest from Barr and from Mr. Trump

because they have no interest in anybody knowing exactly what they did.

 

And if you were to just take McGahn and Donaldson and put them on the Hill

with their notes, we would have fleshed out that report in a way that a

summary can`t do and lead us to believe the credibility of the challenge to

the obstruction of Trump and the Department of Justice.

 

So I think if a judge in the District of Columbia were to see the pattern

here of avoiding the role that they`re supposed to serve as cooperating

with another branch of government, that they`d look pretty harshly about

that.  And I think that they would have behind it two things.

 

One is now a resolution that is inquiring into possible impeachment, and

that`s why they need the information.  And that is the power of Congress

that should not be interfered with.  And that we have a chief of state who

– chief executive who would usurp the separation of powers and the role

that Congress has to do what it`s doing.

 

And I think those are pretty powerful stuff to say executive privilege or

any of the things that they want to wave around, they`ll be pushed away

like a first-year law student I think in a courtroom.

 

MELBER:  Before I fit in a break, Congresswoman, my final question to you

is, this entire fight is just about the sliver of material that we know

about, partly because of the way Mueller did his job and the pressures that

was brought.  Do you have confidence that Mr. Barr is going to faithfully

and independently oversee the investigations of the 12 or so referrals that

Mueller has issued about which we have very little information?

 

SCANLON:  Well, I hope you`re not suggesting that he is going to subvert

the law.  I mean I wouldn`t expect that of any sworn officer of the U.S.,

particularly the attorney general, whose job is, as we`ve noted before not

to defend the president, but to enforce the laws of the United States.

 

I think we have a lot of very dedicated prosecutors in the Department of

Justice and I don`t think that they`ll let that happen.

 

MELBER:  Congresswoman Scanlon, John Flannery, and Maya Wiley, thanks to

each of you.

 

Coming up, we have a lot more as I mentioned.  Nancy Pelosi laying down a

marker for Donald Trump on defying Congress and bringing up this potential

impeachment.

 

And our series Opening Arguments With Neal Katyal coming up ahead.

 

And later, Michael Cohen going in and reporting to federal prison today. 

His lawyer joins me exclusively on THE BEAT tonight to discuss the

unanswered questions and why Michael Cohen says he still has stories to

tell.

 

And then later in the hour, a Republican governor, a former federal

prosecutor who says Donald Trump`s obstruction is literally worse than

Nixon`s.  Bill Weld, the first Republican to challenge Donald Trump in this

year`s Republican primary.  And he joins me live on THE BEAT for the first

time.

 

I`m Ari Melber.  And we`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  As you probably know, on

the articles of impeachment for President Nixon, article 3 was that he

ignored the subpoenas of Congress, that he did not honor the subpoenas of

Congress.  This is very, very serious.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi making it plain that defying subpoenas from

Congress can be an impeachable offense.  Historically, it has always

depended on what the subpoenas are for.

 

Congress doesn`t go to the mat for every shred of evidence.  Nixon was

defying subpoenas for White House tapes as well as handwritten presidential

notes that went to the heart of the obstruction probe.  Attorney General

Bill Barr is defying a subpoena for another obviously significant piece of

evidence, the entire Mueller report.

 

Democratic Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler leading the charge here now to, as

we`ve mentioned, hold Barr in contempt, and stating for the first time that

this process may lead Congress to debating whether to impeach the president

or any other official, which can include, of course, Mr. Barr.

 

I`m joined now for our series, Opening Arguments, with former Solicitor

General Neal Katyal who wrote the special counsel rules that governor

Mueller and he`s, of course, an MSNBC analyst.  Good to see you.

 

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL:  Good to see you.  Welcome back.  We

missed you.

 

MELBER:  Glad to be back.  Neal, walk us through what is important about a

potential contempt vote or proceeding here against a sitting attorney

general.

 

KATYAL:  So Chairman Nadler has said that there will be this vote on

Wednesday and the vote is occurring because of a very simple thing, which

is Barr has said I`m not going to turn over the Mueller report.  And he

hasn`t even bothered to go to court to try and get the grand jury material

lifted so that could be shared with members of Congress, unlike his

predecessors in Watergate and the Lewinsky investigations.

 

So Nadler is saying look, if you don`t turn this over, we`re going to hold

you in contempt.  And you`re right, Ari, he said something really

significant today.  He mentioned the I word.

 

Now, Jerry Nadler is not one to use the impeachment word lightly.  Indeed,

for the last two years, he has been the guy urging restraint saying we only

do this if we really have to.

 

But now I think because of what Barr has been doing with respect to the

report, he`s even, it looks like, starting to think about the I word.

 

MELBER:  When you look at that, it`s all a fight over getting the rest of

what Mueller has, as you mentioned the unredacted report, the grand jury

evidence, and Congress has a separate and wider role than simply what a

criminal prosecutor looks at.

 

Then we have former federal prosecutors, over 300 today, coming out and

saying their view is that the Mueller report shows Mueller himself thought

this would have been a charge for obstruction against anybody else if he

were not the president.  Your view of that letter?

 

KATYAL:  I mean, it`s hugely significant.  I`ve never seen anything quite

like it, to have 370 plus former federal prosecutors which span Democrats

and Republicans, including really prominent Republicans like Judge Martin

who is a legendary judge on the Southern District of New York appointed by

one of the two President Bushes and to have another position from the other

President Bush.  All of them saying when we review this evidence, it`s

obstruction of justice, and if this were anyone else but a sitting

president, this person would be labeled a felony and – felon and staring

down the barrel of a federal indictment.

 

That is really I think a remarkable thing, and it strikes at the heart of

what Barr has done so corrosively.  Because remember, Barr resolved in 48

hours what Mueller didn`t resolve in 22 months which was, has the president

committed obstruction?

 

And those of us who read the Mueller report when Barr finally allowed us to

read the redacted portions weeks later after his summary of it, which

wasn`t a fair summary.  We looked at it and we`re like, wow, this is

actually a really strong obstruction case.

 

Ben Wittes wrote a fabulous piece in “The Atlantic” all about it and there

are lots of other analysis that you can see.  And what you have in this

letter is 370 prosecutors saying yes, we agree with Wittes.  We agree the

Mueller report shows the president is a felon.

 

MELBER:  And so when you look at that, I wonder about the fight going on

outside of the courtroom.  You, as our viewers have come to learn, have

argued a lot of super important court cases.  And you care a lot about what

the nine are doing.

 

But everyone understands, well, this is the real world and the world

outside the courtroom can matter.  How much of do you think the 300 plus

folks there weighing in are doing so almost as a direct rebuke or reaction

to what you just described what Barr did?

 

I mean I wonder if whether we had a fair playing field from the start and

everyone just dealt with the evidence, whether as many people would have

felt the need to come out that way.

 

KATYAL:  Exactly.  I mean that these folks did so.  And these are pretty

resident folks.  I mean there are some people on there who will sign

letters and some.  There are a lot of people who I`m not aware of have

taken any public positions before.

 

But I think they did so here because of the gravity of the situation. 

Here, you`ve got someone who has been - a sitting president who has

committed acts that if committed by anyone else, we would call a felon and

put in jail.

 

And I think that they felt like that was their duty.  That`s all they could

do.  And particularly, in light of an attorney general, who has blown past

any notion of attorney general independence the way that his predecessors

have.

 

And so I think that`s part of what`s going on.  It`s about the Mueller

report and Trump but it`s also about Barr.

 

MELBER:  You mentioned Ben Wittes.  And he and others have also written

about how in Barr, Donald Trump may have finally found the protector he

wanted.  Reading here from the Mueller report, the president would bring up

other former attorneys generals such as Kennedy and Holder giving his view,

this is Trump`s view that they had “protected their presidents”.

 

That is brought up as a negative piece of evidence, although not as

loyalists would say, not dispositive but negative about Trump`s world view. 

How much does it concern you that at the very time we`re getting Mueller`s

findings, we`re also witnessing an attorney general who is increasingly

looking like he was created in Donald Trump`s image?

 

KATYAL:  Absolutely.  I think it`s worrying me greatly.  I mean this

attorney general is acting in unprecedented ways.  And the idea that he

could be compared to Kennedy or Holder is preposterous.

 

I mean this attorney general from the summary of the Mueller report to his

clearing of the president on obstruction and the teeth of so much evidence

against it is not acting like the attorney general of the United States. 

He is acting like the attorney general of Donald Trump.

 

And look, Donald Trump has lawyers to deal with this.  He has his personal

legal team.  He has the White House counsel whose job it is to represent

the presidency.

 

But the one thing that isn`t the case is that the attorney general acts as

the president`s lawyer.  And we have a long history about this.  I mean,

for example, when President Andrew Johnson was impeached in the 1860s, his

Attorney General Henry Stanbery actually resigned as attorney general

because he wanted to defend the president.

 

And so he went and became his lawyer in the impeachment trial.  And then

notably, after Johnson beat the impeachment conviction by a single vote,

Stanbery wanted to be attorney general again.  The Senate didn`t confirm

him.

 

And that`s an attorney general who is acting up and up.  This one is not.

 

MELBER:  Neal Katyal, a master of precedent.  The night is not over, and

yet I believe you may have the only Stanbery reference on all of the news

across America tonight.  And we learn so much from you.  Thank you for

being here.

 

And I want you to remind viewers, you can find this discussion and Neal`s

past analysis for us because this is a continuing series at

msnbc.com/openingarguments.  Check it out.

 

And former Republican Governor Bill Weld saying Donald Trump has committed

the crime of obstruction, and that`s part of why he is running against him

for the Republican nomination.  He`s here live when we`re back in 30

seconds.

 

Michael Cohen going to prison today.  I`ll get you all caught up when we

come back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MELBER:  Tonight, Donald Trump`s long-time lawyer and adviser will spend

his first night in federal prison.  Take a look here at this new footage of

Michael Cohen as he was turning himself in today at a federal prison in

Otisville, a village near the Pennsylvania, New York border.

 

You could see him walking in there and basically, overnight we saw a man

who was once the high ranking executive at Trump organization becomes an

inmate at a federal correctional facility beginning this three-year

sentence.

 

It is a swift an ignoble fall from one of the people that Donald Trump

relied on most.  And then in what were his final remarks to the public

before incarceration, Cohen talked about what will come and he won`t get

out until the next election.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP:  I hope that when I rejoin my

family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia,

injustice, and lies at the helm of our country.  There still remains much

to be told and I look forward to the day that I can share the truth and

thank you all very much.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Cohen they`re suggesting that he may have even more stories to

tell and it was quite a scene.  You`re looking at more of that footage

today.  But experts have also noted that Mr. Cohen has now spoken at length

to the authorities and Congress.  And it would seem that at least his most

significant legal stories have been told.

 

Cohen also asking why his punishment is so severe when he argues he was not

even the beneficiary of his confessed election crime saying, “I didn`t work

for the campaign I worked for him.  How come Cohen asked, I`m the one

that`s going to prison.  I`m not the one that slept with the porn star.”

 

That was one of his final interviews with The New Yorker before reporting

to prison today.  For an exclusive now, I am joined by Lanny Davis, Michael

Cohen`s lawyer, and advisor.  Good evening to you.  And I know as a lawyer

and the work – as a person doing the work you do, it`s not a good evening

obviously for your client or his family, and we understand the humanity of

that.  I wanted to mention that up front.

 

Walk us through the significance of what Mr. Cohen did want to share today

before going behind bars and what it means that there`s a fuller truth he

may someday tell.

 

LANNY DAVIS, LAWYER OF MICHAEL COHEN:  Well, first of all, I`m pretty sad. 

I think there was great injustice done in both the targeting of Michael

Cohen alone following as the federal prosecutors stated the direction of

Mr. Trump, now President of the United States who then after becoming

president, paid hush money in a $35,000 check that we put on national

television.

 

It`s remarkable that members of the Republican Party have not once asked

why Donald Trump wrote $35,000 hush money check as president of the United

States and why that in and of itself certainly is a crime that he`ll be

prosecuted for after he leaves office.

 

But Michael also asked me to remind the audience that the only crime that

didn`t involve covering up and lying for the benefit and at the instruction

according to the federal prosecutors of Donald Trump involved an unpaid

taxes of $4 million dollars, actually $3.7 million that at this level has

never been criminalized before but treated civilly, compared to others such

as Willie Nelson – I`m a great fan of his $16 million of unpaid taxes or

Floyd Mayweather $15 million.

 

H&R; Block says that you don`t ever see criminal prosecution of unpaid

taxes unless there are indicators of fraud.  In this case for Michael

Cohen, there was no hidden offshore accounts, no nominees, no stash of

cash, not even an audit.  In fact, the only legal violation in Michael

Cohen`s life was a speeding ticket, and yet he is the only person in the

entire Trump organization who`s been prosecuted and going to jail.

 

MELBER:  So someone listened to this especially our viewers who followed

the ins and outs are going to say well, what was SDNY after?  Is it over,

and this was some kind of in your view unfair glitch, or was there

reasoning behind them throwing the book at him as these other questions

remaining about as you put it the money spent by the president and

facilitated by Trump organization in a manner that is a crime, a confessed

crime in New York?

 

DAVIS:  Well, I don`t quite understand why the Southern District of New

York prosecutors who I surely respect as professionals not only took a

civil offense over a five-year time period under $280,000 of unpaid taxes

and made it into a criminal offense according to H&R Block.  That`s just

never happened.  And then ignore Donald Trump Jr. – forget about his

father not being able to be indicted now but could be if he leaves the

office.

 

His son wrote a $35,000 hush money check in March of 19 – excuse me 2018. 

And that hush money check of $35,000 came from the Trump Trust Fund which

wasn`t supposed to ever be used for the company for the benefit of the

incumbent president.

 

So no indictment of Donald Trump Jr.  Many others in the Trump Organization

according to Michael`s information that he shared with the Southern

District prosecutors and will continue to share with Congress should

imperil Mr. Trump once he leaves office and possibly while he`s in office

if Congress chooses to impeach him.

 

MELBER:  It is a very interesting set of facts, one that we`ve covered

before.  Lanny Davis, I appreciate you coming on the show tonight under the

circumstances.

 

DAVIS:  Thank you, Ari.

 

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.

 

DAVIS:  Thank you.

 

MELBER:  We`re going to fit in a break and then I`m going to show you

something you don`t see every day, a Republican who worked on the Watergate

era investigation of President Nixon who is declaring tonight that Donald

Trump`s obstruction is both worse than President Nixon`s and is the kind of

thing that should deny him the Republican nomination for president, live

next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MELBER:  The Mueller report document is substantial evidence the president

Trump committed crimes in office.  That`s a big deal just as a fact and it

may become a big deal on the politics as well if either Democrats decide it

does warrant impeachment proceedings or if there is a Republican awakening.

 

Now take a look at this.  The share of Republicans who even think the

Donald Trump obstructed justice is not only small but it`s been declining

down to 13 percent.  Now, history shows those numbers can actually shift

when political leaders shift.  Some of the first Republicans to turn on

Richard Nixon and Watergate we`re leaders in Congress, not grassroots

partisans who Nixon famously appealed to as a silent majority.

 

Think about the 17 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee in 1974 who stood

up to Nixon or look today at something we mentioned earlier in the show. 

This bipartisan group of 300-plus former prosecutors sending a joint letter

concluding the Mueller report shows Trump committed criminal obstruction.

 

It includes a prosecutor who advised – who advised the House GOP during

Watergate, Bill Weld.  He was counsel of the 1974 House Judiciary

Committee.  So there are some former officials standing up to Trump

regardless of party but most aren`t in Congress as you probably know and

are not taking larger actions that could impact Trump`s actual standing in

the party.

 

Are there Republicans who would actually challenge Trump`s path to

reelection?  After all, last time around virtually every prominent

Republican was on the record slamming Donald Trump as a disastrous cook who

had nothing to do with the true Republican Party.  And those are their

words.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I think he`s a cook.  I think he`s crazy.  I

think he`s unfit for office.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, FLORIDA:  I`m sick and tired of him going

after my family.  While Donald Trump was building a reality T.V. show, my

brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe.

 

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL):  There is no way we are going to allow a con

artist to take over the conservative movement, and Donald Trump is a con

artist.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  A con artist, on-the-record, adult statements from adults who of

course – of course have gone pretty silent on this.  But there is a

Republican who actually just jumped in to challenge Trump`s path to the

Republican nomination, a former governor, former federal prosecutor,

Republican Party veteran who served as counsel of the House Judiciary

Committee as we just mentioned.

 

And while it is very early, he clearly has some in the party nervous

rushing to change how delegates are awarded to protect Donald Trump and he

has the large 2020 Democratic field grinning over some political science

like this sitting president often lose after facing serious primary

challenges if they are bruised enough on their way to the nomination.

 

Bill Weld joins me now, a former governor, a former U.S. Attorney

appointment by President Reagan, and a current candidate running against

Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican Party nomination.  Thanks for being

here.

 

BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you, Ari.  My pleasure.

 

MELBER:  Why do you think you have a chance at actually becoming the

nominee and stopping Donald Trump who`s the sitting president.

 

WELD:  So I kind of think the facts are on my side.  You know, they say in

the law, if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.  If the law is

on your side, pound on the law.  If neither one is on your side, pound on

the table.  I don`t have to pound on the table.  I can pound on the facts. 

And today`s 400 prosecutors saying that they agree with me that the facts

in Volume two of the Mueller report constitute criminal obstruction of

justice by President Donald Trump which is what they said, that helps.

 

MELBER:  You talk about that.  What is the case in your view for Donald

Trump obstructing justice if as so many Republicans are emphasizing, that`s

your party, well there wasn`t a chargeable conspiracy.

 

WELD:  Well, there was.  I mean, I think it`s clear that my old friend Bill

Barr has said to my old friend Bob Mueller, I`m not going to let you charge

this guy, if you do I`m going to squash it.  So Mueller was left with no

recourse but to set out all the evidence which he did.  But to say we

decided not to make a federal prosecutor judgment.

 

The – what the 300 or 400 prosecutors said today is if you read the

principles of federal prosecution which govern charging decisions, this is

a clear case for obstruction of justice under those principles.  It`s not

even close, many of them said so.

 

MELBER:  In your view, how do you convince the Republican primary voters

that that`s the issue they should care about.  Because I just showed the if

anything, they`re turning against that argument right now.

 

WELD:  Well, you know, a year is a long time in national politics and

sometimes there`s a sober second thought of the community and things seep

into the water table as it were and that could well happen.

 

I also think that you know, I`ve been one who`ve been agreeing with Steny

Hoyer and others that impeachment might not be a wise thing to do right now

because the president might you know, not get convicted because of not 67

votes in the Senate, and then he would declare victory just before the

election.  I don`t know.  This stuff is pretty tough.

 

And you know, Bill Barr essentially daring Congress to hold him in contempt

of Congress which was article three of impeachment against Richard Nixon

that I worked on back in 1974, that`s tough stuff.  It may be –

 

MELBER:  So you look at – you look at the way Barr is acting and that is

pushing you closer towards being open to impeachment or something –

 

WELD:  Yes, I think – I think it deserves re-examination, the I-word.  And

I`ve been – I`ve been against it.

 

MELBER:  Everything I`ve read is that you have not supported impeachment up

until this –

 

WELD:  No, no, that`s right.  I mean, a year ago I thought yes, maybe.  But

as we got closer, I thought it was bad for political reasons not for legal

reasons.  But if the President and the A.G. are simply going to thumb their

nose at Congress and say we`re not going to play, and that`s what the

president says.  He says, we`re not going to comply with any subpoenas

because they`re partisan, they`re Democrats, remember.  We hate that. 

That`s what the president said.

 

It`s clear to me he`s not going to join issue on any substantive issue.  He

just wants to interfere with the ordinary workings of the Constitution and

that`s quintessential impeachable offense so you may have to rethink that.

 

MELBER:  So you – so you are open to impeachment now?

 

WELD:  Well, I think it needs a little rethinking in view of the brazenness

of the response by both the President and you know, my friend Bill Barr

about –

 

MELBER:  It seems – it seems that you as a veteran from DOJ, it seems the

DOJ is a little bit like the CIA in American life where if you don`t have

to think about it, it kind of recedes.  And then when America is spending a

lot of time debating it, it`s usually a sign that something`s up.  That was

the case and Watergate.  It`s certainly a lot of Americans feel right now.

 

And so with that in mind, the question of what does it take for people to

stand up, career prosecutors, career civil servants.  You did something

that so many people are calling on certain Trump officials to do now.  I

want to take a look at sound from you.  This was in 1988, March 29th, when

you resigned from a very senior position of the Justice Department in

protest over the then Attorney General`s conduct.  Let`s take a look at the

flashback.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WELD:  I resigned on March 29th, 1988 effective immediately because I had

come to the conclusion that the tenure of Mr. Meese as head of the

department was having and would continue to have as long as he held that

office a pronounced negative impact upon the department.

 

The question is whether Mr. Meese is taking official actions that he knows

are going to redound to the financial benefit of his friend and I suggest

that he did so.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  Is that an important part of your public service that people

should look to as what`s different from you and Trump?

 

WELD:  You can`t stay in office in the Justice Department if above you

things are going on that you feel are inconsistent with the rule of law. 

If people above you were saying let`s have a government of men and not of

laws, you have to resign, and so I did.

 

MELBER:  Simply put.  Let me talk to you a little bit about your platform. 

You are pro-choice, you are pro-same-sex marriage, you`re for legalizing

pot, you`re for rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and you`re a big

critic of Donald Trump.  At what point do you have to convince Republican

primary voters that you`re in the right primary?

 

WELD:  I think some of those issues are going to grow bigger.  I honestly

know that climate change is not everybody`s favorite issue but it`s very

serious and it`s not a hoax.  And president Trump has a one-word slogan

against it hoax.  It`s like wall and immigration, but he doesn`t want to

face the facts.

 

And I think over time that sort of thing is going to become more evident

and what`s that going to mean to the Millennials and the (INAUDIBLE) just

level-headed people.  They`re going to have to come to terms with the fact

that our shorelines are going to be rearranged, there`s going to be no more

snow in the White Mountains, all the mountain glaciers are going to melt,

300 million people are going to be without water.  You know, I`m not making

this up.

 

MELBER:  No.  No, you`re not.  And on the politics, before I let you go,

what state would be your best shot to win in the primary?

 

WELD:  My favorite state to win is the great state of New Hampshire.  Live

free or die, baby.

 

MELBER:  And you think if you – if you get close to a win there, then

everyone in the Republican Party gives you a second look?

 

WELD:  Well, I hope they`ll give me a second look maybe before then, but

certainly in New Hampshire has a lot of resonance.  And the Trump people

tried to cancel the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary this year. 

That didn`t get too far in New Hampshire.  So that shows you that not

everybody always doing what Mr. Trump wants.

 

MELBER:  And does that show you that some of Trump`s allies are scary if

they`d rather cancel an election than hold one?

 

WELD:  I don`t know what they`re scared of.  Probably not me, but they sure

don`t want an election.

 

MELBER:  Governor Bill Weld, thank you for coming on THE BEAT, the first

time.

 

WELD:  Thank you, Ari.

 

MELBER:  We`ll have you back if you`ll rejoin us.  We`ll fit in a quick

break and then an important story about a major boycott for Donald Trump as

Democrats probe the Puerto Rico hurricane response of this administration,

next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MELBER:   Today, House Democrats moving forward on an investigation into

the Trump Administration`s very controversial hurricane response,

discussing Donald Trump`s in their view, “abominable handling of the storms

that devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017.”

 

Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of that catastrophic storm.  Many

Americans still grappling with food shortages across the island.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is where I get my water.  I got a few cans. 

Some to take – the big ones to take showers.  This the little bit of food

that I have.  This is where I shower.

 

I pay my taxes during all of this year, you know, and I was thinking like I

deserve the help, and they`re not helping me, you know.  I don`t want to

beg no more.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER:  A bill to provide disaster funds nationwide has also stalled. 

President Trump clashing with Democrats in Congress about whether or how to

provide this financial assistance to Puerto Rico.  Democrats now giving the

Trump Administration a two-week deadline to respond to the investigative

demands for documents to get to the bottom of what went wrong.  A story

that we will stay on.

 

Now, before we go tonight, when we come back, you`re going to hear what

Tiger Woods just said while accepting the Medal of Freedom at the White

House.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MELBER:  And now some White House festivities I mentioned we`ve been

keeping an eye on for you this hour.  President Trump just honored golf

legend Tiger Woods presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom,

the highest civilian honor.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER:  To have the support that I`ve had for

all these years, and everyone here has seen and been with me for – some of

you for my entire life.  You`ve seen the good and the bad, the highs and

the lows, and I would not be in this position without all of your help.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MELBER: Tiger Woods opening up about that honor.  He is the fourth golfer

to have ever received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

That does it for us.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.

 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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