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Mueller prosecutes former Trump WH Aide Transcript 12/1/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Nick Akerman, Joyce Vance, Betsy Woodruff, Brian Wice, Michael Isikoff, Bill Kristol, Ned Price, Christina Greer

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 1, 2017 Guest: Nick Akerman, Joyce Vance, Betsy Woodruff, Brian Wice, Michael Isikoff, Bill Kristol, Ned Price, Christina Greer

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: It`s a big night. Thank you, Chuck Todd. This is December 1st, 2017. You can mark it down. This is the day that everything changed in the Russia probe. This is the first time a former White House official has pled guilty to a Russia-related crime.

Former national security adviser Mike Flynn admits he lied to the FBI about Russia and he will cooperate. This bombshell coming on day 315 of the Trump presidency.

Now, tonight, for a special coverage on THE BEAT, we have a panel of experts. They`re going to join me in a moment.

But first, what just happened? Consider that while much is in dispute in this Russia probe, the news we have for you tonight, which I`m about to break down, is material. That`s not in dispute at all because the days of Mike Flynn and Bob Mueller fighting are over.

Mike Flynn and Bob Mueller right now agree on what Mike Flynn did wrong. And, tonight, they begin collaborating on the same goal. Flynn signing a cooperation agreement to help Bob Mueller solve crime.

So, we begin tonight with a few facts that Mike Flynn admitted today. Everything I`m about to report has been admitted to and signed by Mike Flynn.

Point number one, Flynn lied about Russia contacts. He lied about all of his dealings on Russia, the core of the substance of what he was doing in the transition. He lied about it to the FBI.

Number two, Flynn lied about sanctions on Russia. He lied to the FBI about the Trump transition team`s plot to coordinate with Russian officials and to undermine those new sanctions that Obama had put in place against Putin, so that the very moment that the Obama administration was punishing Russia for election meddling, Mike Flynn was trying to undercut those sanctions and then hide that plot from the FBI.

And, third, I can tell you, the fact here tonight, Flynn did not act alone. The nation is processing a remarkable story right now at the end of this week. It is a story that Bob Mueller got Mike Flynn to tell, and it`s a story that Flynn didn`t act alone.

Now, that might be good news for Flynn as a cooperating witness and it might be bad for other people. I can tell you these documents note that he worked with a "very senior member" of the transition team when coordinating foreign policy goals with Russia.

That very senior member of the Trump team, we can report tonight, was Jared Kushner. So, those are the undisputed facts here at the top of our broadcast. Lies. Sanctions. And direction from senior officials who we know often speak for the president.

What does it all mean? I`ll tell you this. If Bob Mueller is painting is picture, he has been doing his work quietly, methodically. He feels no need clearly to fill in the whole picture at once.

But there is a picture taking shape. And the picture has alleged mercenaries like Paul Manafort and Rick Gates serving foreign powers. It has obscure witnesses like George Papadopoulos.

But, tonight, it also has new characters who are close to the president. A national security official cooperating with the feds and talking about already the marching orders he got from Jared Kushner.

Joining me now to dig more into these questions, NBC`s chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson; Nick Akerman, a former Watergate special prosecutor; Joyce Vance, a former US attorney; and Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" covering the Russia investigation.

I`m going to go to these prosecutors in a moment. But, Hallie, starting with you reporting all this out, how is this bombshell rocking Washington and the White House?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": In a big way, I think is the answer to your question, Ari.

This is significant. You cannot understate it. In the past, the White House has been able to come out, stand at that podium at the briefing room and representatives to, successfully or not, try to distance themselves from whoever was being caught up in this special counsel cloud.

The president is not able to distance himself from Mike Flynn. That`s just a fact. He picked him to be his national security adviser. He served in the administration. He was a high-ranking member, the inner most of the inner circles for Donald Trump during the beginning part of his administration.

And regardless of the questions that we have or that will come, Ari, that is indisputable. The questions of judgment now for President Trump have become indisputable.

As for how this is playing inside the West Wing and here on Capitol Hill, there have been a variety of reactions, as you might imagine. Here on the Hill, I spoke with even some Republicans, top Republican senators, for example, who said they are concerned about this. They are acknowledging that.

Democrats, of course, say that they are concerned as well, including Mark Warner, who holds that important position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, obviously, that is doing its own investigation in the Russia inquiry.

Inside the West Wing, where I`m doing usually my day job, Ari, there is surprise. This, I think, blindsided folks inside that building, according to our political team`s reporting on this. Yes, the White House will say the president was focused on tax reform today. He wanted to get this tax plan done here on Capitol Hill.

But you know what he was watching at 10:00 this morning? He was getting informed about what was happening with Mike Flynn. We know that. That is what`s being confirmed by folks inside the building.

And I`ll tell you, at least one source close to the president reacted to this with fore words, very, very bad. That sums it up.

MELBER: Very, very, very bad. And I go to Nick Akerman on how to put some content and context to those three verys because this is the first time Bob Mueller has breached the White House gates.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: That`s right. And on top of that, he`s also breached the Russian collusion.

One element of a false statement charge is that it is material. And even though the false statements that are made were after the campaign, it had nothing to do with the campaign. The information that Mike Flynn agreed to sticks.

Flynn`s false statements and omissions impeded and otherwise had a material impact on the FBI`s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the campaign and Russia`s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

So, the big question is, what was going on here? What was the prior contact that Flynn had in the campaign that makes his lies material?

MELBER: Well, let`s go to Joyce Vance. Nick Akerman is doing what prosecutors do. He is going through the statement of the offense. This is one of those nights where we will do a little legal practice live on air, Joyce.

But Nick is making the argument I`d like you to handicap that that point two in the statement of the offense, the impact on the Russia query does materially pull in the underlying allegations and investigation into campaign collusion. Your view?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER US ATTORNEY: I think Nick`s interpretation is a legitimate one. No one just lies. Right? The lie has content and it has context. And the context here is what is the lie covering up?

So, what Nick is saying, and I think it`s a reasonable read, is that Flynn`s lies were material. That is, they were important in a legal sense because they were covering something up. And because what they were covering up had to be something within Bob Mueller`s investigative jurisdiction as special counsel, which is primarily about the Russia investigation, although it does include a few other things, I think it`s logical to conclude that there is a lot more here than Ty Cobb, the president`s lawyer, would lead us to believe when he said this didn`t reach into the White House or the White House team.

MELBER: And Betsy Woodruff, on that point, again, folks who are sympathetic to the Trump White House often say, who cares if Paul Manafort did money laundering a long time ago, who cares if George Papadopoulos oversold himself?

And again, I think up until tonight, up until December 1st, there was that remaining counterargument, that what if there were a few not only bad apples, but what you might random apples? And who knows them? And who knows what`s really going to go down with them?

Mike Flynn is not a random apple. He is at the top of the barrel. Speak to the points raised by these prosecutors and Hallie.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": What`s important to remember here is that, up until this morning, there was plausible daylight between the Trump White House and the folks who had been implicated in crimes by Mueller`s team.

Now, there is no more daylight. Additionally, the crime that Flynn admitted that he committed this morning was a crime that he committed just days after Trump was inaugurated, January 24th, if memory serves.

That means that, within less than a week of Trump being president, his own national security adviser, a man that he put in an extraordinarily powerful position, had already lied to the FBI in a way that impeded their efforts to figure out how the Russians tried to change or influence the American 2016 presidential election.

That`s a pretty extraordinary revelation that that type of crime happened, that we now know that`s the case, that it`s indisputable.

And it speaks to the nature of the people the president surrounds himself with. One thing that any reporter who covers the White House can tell you is that many of the folks in President Trump`s inner circle, not all, but many, both inside the White House as well as, and perhaps even more so outside advisers who talk to the president and talk to reporters on his behalf, lie really frequently.

Now, every White House, every campaign has its own fair share of liars. But the liars who surround Donald Trump are sort of unique, in that they lie reflexively, they lie regularly, they do it often for petty reason and often they do it in ways that are extraordinarily reckless.

This is what we`ve been seeing with some of the biggest legal problems that Mueller has been able to demonstrate of Trump insiders.

MELBER: I appreciate your clarity and your candor, Betsy. And you are also raising a point about what is going to happen in America in 2017 with a government like this? You refer to the habitual and routine lying by public officials who are paid by taxpayer dollars.

There is a view out there that nothing matters, right? Or, gosh, everyone can get away with everything. And when it comes to the workings of the federal government, the national security apparatus, Bob Mueller clearly saying today, no, things do matter, you can get into trouble for lying.

And, Joyce, in Mike Flynn`s case, you get into trouble for lying in a lot more because this is open, right? I mean, the way these cooperating agreements work, the decision on jail time will be made later.

Also, Joyce, for your comment, take a listen to Adam Schiff, the top Democratic investigator on these issues today.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s, obviously, pretty shocking when the national security advisor of the country is pleading guilty to lying to federal authorities. This is clearly not the last shoe to fall. Here he hasn`t disclosed which transition official or officials.

In the Papadopoulos plea, there was also a lot of information left out. That tells me that there is further investigation of those other individuals going on. And in the case of both Papadopoulos and now Flynn, they are providing real value in terms of information.


MELBER: Joyce, your response.

VANCE: There are a lot of people in the Trump White House who won`t be sleeping well tonight. Because they know who they are and they know what interaction they had with Mike Flynn, what he might be able to tell Bob Mueller.

One element of this plea agreement that I think it`s worth focusing on - and plea agreements are contracts. It`s essentially a contract between the government and Mike Flynn. And if he wants the benefit of his bargain, that low sentence recommendation, he has to perform the agreement.

And part of that agreement is he has to turn over all evidence that he has to Bob Mueller. So, there is no telling what he might have, but, obviously, Bob Mueller thinks it`s important.

MELBER: And, Hallie, briefly, that`s a lot of law on the politics and the planning. What is the White House doing next?

JACKSON: Your guess is as good as mine at this point. Listen, that`s being a little bit glib about it. But I think that it was significant you did not see the president today. You`re supposed to see him in the morning, right?

There was supposed to be a brief spray in which reporters would have been able to shout questions at him, which puts a lot of pressure now on the weekday and Monday morning, frankly, when it is likely we will, at some point, see the president.

He will at some point have to answer to this. I can tell you that, in my conversations with sources today, late this afternoon, there is a sense of wanting to digest some of this, wanting to see how it sort of plays out, at least from a media perspective.

But I do think there are some real questions that the president and his team are going to have to be answering to very soon.

MELBER: Right. And as you say, it is telling to see such uncharacteristic silence from this president. Hallie, Nick, and Betsy, thank you all for your coverage. Joyce, stay with me. I have more to ask you on the law.

Coming up, how did the Mueller team handle Flynn at the court proceeding? I`m going to go speak to a reporter who was in the courtroom. And what is Flynn giving Mueller? I have new reporting tonight on who else in the Trump world can be feeling the pressure.

And later, my special legal breakdown. The Russia time line, I would argue, you need to see because I`m going to show you what Flynn and Trump were saying publicly versus what`s been revealed today behind the scenes.

I`m Ari Melber and you are watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.




And you know why we`re saying that? We`re saying that because if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.


MELBER: Well, today, Mike Flynn, he`s not in jail, but he did go in and look at his serious criminal exposure in court. He pled guilty to a felony and he signed a document that suggest there are more. That`s what we know right now.

Now, Flynn has always known that, even if that is the news breaking tonight. Because all of this, when you step back and realize what a proceeding like this is, it`s information about things Mike Flynn did. It`s information he knows.

So, leading up to today, he was in the position, if he wanted to avoid jail, to pick between two doors. One, the door where President Trump would save him. Either pardoning him soon or blocking an investigation to begin with.

And that`s the backdrop for Jim Comey`s account of Trump`s interest in Flynn.


SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: This is the president speaking. I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words. Is that correct?

JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Correct. And the reason I keep saying his words is, I took it as a direction. It is the president of the United States with me alone saying, I hope this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn`t obey that. But that`s the way I took it.

I remember saying I agree he`s a good guy as a way of saying I`m not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.


MELBER: That would have been door number one, which Jim Comey at least didn`t agree to, let Flynn go.

Then there would be door number two, where we are today, cooperating. That is what Flynn is doing. And now, he is required to turn over all evidence of crimes relevant to the case and to testify fully, completely and truthfully.

But testify about what? And about who? For more on that, I bring in a criminal defense attorney Brian Wice. And back with me, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

Brian, what could Bob Mueller get from Flynn?

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that`s the $64,000 question, Ari. What he can get for the first time is, as all of your guests have succinctly said, is a view inside the Oval Office, a view onboard Air Force One.

Look, Bob Mueller made his bones prosecuting mob cases when the president was seducing Marla Maples. He recognizes that you build a case like this from the ground up, not from the top down.

What he can get from Mike Flynn for the first time, he`s got one of the capos. We`re not talking about a chucklehead like George Papadopoulos. We`re talking about somebody who was a key player, a non-family member.

And, remember, all of the talk about the c-word, collusion, the important c-word that should be on the minds of the people in the White House today, Ari, is conspiracy, what it is that Mike Flynn can tell them about the other players in this ongoing legal drama about Russia.

MELBER: And, Brian, just generally, if you do flip, does it work if you tell on people who work for you or you tell on your assistant or who do you have to tell on?

WICE: Generally, the rule of thumb from anybody who has ever seen the "Godfather" trilogy is that you have to trade up. I mean, Frankie Five Angels didn`t give them anybody below him. He gave them Michael.

So, in this situation, it`s critical for Mike Flynn to be able to advance the story beyond that which Bob Mueller already knows, and that ought to be the scary part for everybody who works in the White House. They don`t know what Bob Mueller knows.

MELBER: And to that point, Joyce, the theory of the case is either that Mike Flynn outsmarted Bob Mueller and got a sweet deal and isn`t giving much up or that Bob Mueller outsmarted Mike Flynn and is getting a lot in the deal. What`s your bet?

VANCE: Plea agreements are a lot like business deals. Depending on how much you value something, you may be willing to pay a bigger price for it. And to prosecutors, paying a big price means offering someone fewer chargers and a lighter sentence.

If you look at this plea agreement that way, Bob Mueller, obviously, thinks that Mike Flynn brings a lot of value to his case. And so, I`d say that the prosecution here is getting a good deal, they`re getting a good bargain, they obviously believe that this is yet another rung on the ladder moving up to whatever their ultimate goal might be.

MELBER: And then also, Brian, take a look at what Sen. Dianne Feinstein was saying today. And she`s very careful on these issues.

But she said, "This shows the Trump associate negotiating with Russians against US policy before Trump was in office and after announcement that Russia has interfered, a stunning revelation."

It could be a violation of the Logan Act. I want folks to understand that is a very serious law, but one that`s very rarely prosecuted. The Logan Act is basically a traditional rule that private citizens can`t just go and negotiate with foreign powers to undermine what the US is up to. I think most citizens wouldn`t think of doing that in the first place.

Brian, if you are in there defending a client and they`ve got exposure for something that`s that extreme, but also that rarely prosecuted, what does that mean?

WICE: Well, I think what it means is that you`ve got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. And Robert Kelner, Mike Flynn`s lawyer, in my estimation, did an extraordinary job.

I think that this was a trade that helped all clubs because there was somebody, Ari, who didn`t get indicted, there was somebody who didn`t appear in federal court, and that`s Mike, Jr.

I really think that that was part and parcel of Mike Flynn`s decision to take door number two.

MELBER: Well - and you put it well and it`s easy to forget. It may be very good lawyering on the Flynn side that he got to this place. And if it is good lawyering, that means that he could have been in a much worse place with much more criminal exposure. That`s one of the other headlines here embedded in this very big day.

Brian Wice and Joyce Vance, thank you so much.

Up next, we`re going inside Michael Flynn`s connections to the Kremlin, his work with a key propaganda arm. In fact, I am very excited to tell you, I have the investigative reporter here who led the way on this story.



FLYNN: You`d have to ask my - the folks that went over there to - well, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.

ISIKOFF: I`m asking you.


MELBER: I`m asking you. And later, we dig into the motive. Why did Mike Flynn and other senior officials in Trump`s orbit want to appease Russia?


MELBER: Our breaking story tonight. Mike Flynn got busted and he flipped. And you put his history with Vladimir Putin on the line, like this controversial 2015 paid speaking event, it all looks a little different right now.

Journalist Michael Isikoff was shining a light on that incident long before Bob Mueller came along.


ISIKOFF: Were you paid for that event?

FLYNN: You`d have to ask the folks that went over there to -

ISIKOFF: No, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.

FLYNN: Yes. I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. And what difference does that make? When somebody go, oh, he`s paid by the Russians?

ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump made a lot of the fact Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.

FLYNN: Well, I didn`t take any money from Russia if that`s what you are asking me.


MELBER: What difference does it make? Well, we can report the Russians did send $45,000 by RT to Flynn. There is a paystub and everything.

Joining me now is the man leading that reporting, who was in the courtroom today, Yahoo!`s chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff.

Michael, when you look at what is documented and alleged here, does it look typical foreign policy activity or something worse?

ISIKOFF: Well, it`s certainly not typical foreign policy activity. What`s extraordinary about the charges that were laid out today is that this is during a transition and Flynn is admitting he lied about efforts he was making to essentially undermine what the then-president, Barack Obama, was trying to do on the foreign policy front. Not just on Russia, but also on the question of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the security council resolution.

And if you few read the court papers closely, he was doing it under the direction - at the direction of senior officials in the Trump transition. We know one of them, in the case of the Israeli settlements question, was Jared Kushner.

MELBER: So, Michael, is that -

ISIKOFF: We have not publicly identified who the other one was.

MELBER: Here`s the question. Is that tacky and sloppy and relatively unprecedented or is it something worse?

ISIKOFF: Well, look, you mentioned before the Logan Act and it is a statute on the books since the John Adams administration.

Nobody has ever been criminally - successfully criminally prosecuted under that law. So, whether or not Michael Flynn could have been prosecuted for violations of the Logan Act is extremely problematic.

But, certainly, it raised - we know it raised a lot of questions among officials within the Obama administration saying, what are they doing? They`re not in office yet. They`re contacting foreign governments and telling them to go against what we are trying to do on the foreign policy front and at the United Nations.

And that`s not something you see every day of the week or every four years -

MELBER: Certainly not. Mike Isikoff, who, as I mentioned, has been all over this story from the start. Thank you for being a part of our special coverage.

The Flynn guilty plea is crucial because it puts Mueller at the heart of Trump`s inner circle, which leads to a big question, who is next?


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This admission of guilt by the former national security adviser is a shattering moment for the Trump presidency. For the first time, the special counsel is penetrating the White House gates.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Today is a historic day in the Trump Presidency because it is perhaps the beginning of the end.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I think the American people and a lot of us ask why is he so desperate to have this investigation stopped, particularly as we see more and more people either plead guilty or come forward on their indictments?


MELBER: I`m joined by two people who know this issue well. Ned Price was on Obama`s National Security Council as a Director and Advisory, former CIA official I believe as well, Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard among other things.

I`m not listing all your titles gentleman to save time. Bill, we`re 30 minutes into the broadcast, I`ve been covering this all day as I`m sure you have. I going to ask you a question I haven`t asked anybody yet tonight. Does what you learned today give you a view that collusion and conspiracy between Trump officials and Russia more likely occurred during the 2016 campaign?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. And it gives me the view that Mueller now has access to everything Flynn knows and participated in from the campaign, from the period between the campaign and when they went into the House and the transition and then from the White House. And one fact that I don`t think -- it just occur to me as I was listening to the show earlier. When does -- the (INAUDIBLE) Flynn, what, four days, into the administration, right, January 24th, Tuesday or Wednesday of that first week.

Flynn -- Friday night of that week, the President has Jim Comey the Head of the FBI over for an extremely unusual one-on-one dinner. Doesn`t that suggest that Flynn went to tell Trump, I mean, assuming you would have, hey, I had an FBI interview, they`re really looking at this stuff. Trump`s immediate reaction, call Comey over.

And what did he say to Comey that we know from Comey`s testimony? Let up on Flynn. Trump has always been focused on Flynn as the sort of -- I don`t know -- the weekly, the key link that could cause him damage, right? Trump didn`t ever say, to our knowledge, to let up on Manafort, let up on Jared, you know, it`s -- it always -- so I think that I just come back and back to the centrality of Flynn and it may not be that December meeting that`s central.

You can get a plea deal, you know, for whatever reason you want on anything obviously and sometimes you actually don`t want to reveal what your most central light of investigation is to the other defendants so you get a plea deal -- plea deal on something. And then you got Flynn, he`s required now to testify truthfully to the FBI and to Mueller`s people on everything, and whatever they ask him. This notion, (INAUDIBLE), I will stop one little point, you know, sometimes you see some on the T.V. stuff and you know, how much will Flynn now give him? He doesn`t have that choice. He has to answer every question truthfully.

MELBER: No, I mean, that`s --

KRISTOL: So it can be about 2016, it can be about 2017, it can be about Comey, it can be about the meeting in Trump Tower, in June. I think that is why this is such a big moment.

MELBER: Yes -- no. I mean, the deal is done. I mean, this is why we go back to the deal. The deal is right here in U.S. via Mike Flynn. This was signed yesterday and it`s done. And it`s a deal that as you (INAUDIBLE) Bill Kristol, it says he will cooperate fully, truthfully, completely. He will immediately turn over all evidence of crimes he knows about whether he was involved in them or not unless there is some late-stage intervention through the lawful Commander in Chief, you know, powers to do something about a pardon, which were not there, we`re not reporting that.

But barring some extra-legal intervention, this is the deal and so, Ned Price, I want you to speak to the same question that Bill Kristol answered. And I think Bill spoke about it at the line between evidence and inference. The evidence is bad because have you this obsession with Flynn and the pressure on Comey. The inference is that Bill raises the question of was that a direct result of Flynn going to the President and saying they`re on to us or the deep state is messing with us or we got to get the FBI off our back. Speak to that and to the question I put to Bill Kristol, does this evidence make you think collusion was more likely?

NED PRICE, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, AND SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, Ari, I don`t think we know anything from today`s actions about the question of collusion. What we do know, what was released today is that Bob Mueller has his tentacles into Michael Flynn and what we learned is especially interesting that Michael Flynn claims that he was just following orders. And of course, that raises the question, well, who was giving these orders? Who exactly, who was calling the shots?

Was it Jared Kushner? Certainly, all roads seem to lead to Jared. He seems to be the senior transition official mentioned in the -- in the charging document today. But how high does this go? Does this go above Jared Kushner even?

We know you don`t make a plea deal with a big fish unless you think that fish can help you get a larger fish. And so the larger question in my mind is does this go all the way to President Donald Trump? And I think there is some circumstantial evidence leaning from today`s document that suggests as much with the outreach to Russians when it came to Russian sanctions, the day after the Obama administration mounted these sanctions and other punitive measures, President Trump tweeted that Vladimir Putin was very smart and very wise not to retaliate.

He said in fact that he always knew Putin was a very smart guy. When it came to the Israeli settlements, President Trump held a call with the Egyptian President el-Sisi, after which it was claimed that the Egyptian President decided to postpone that U.N. vote. And so there --

MELBER: Ned, why do you think that Mid-East stuff was in there? My view looking at it legally is Mueller did not need to include it. He had enough. But as you a allude to, it`s something we spent last time in this hour on, it`s in there, why?

PRICE: Well, I think it`s in there for a couple reasons. One, is it allows Mueller to get his again, his tentacles into Flynn with potentially the Logan Acts. Although, I would agree with what your guests have said about the viability of criminal charges under the Logan Act, but it provides some leverage.

But two, I think there is a case that it does lead back to President Trump because President Trump was very much involved in the same lobbying effort that Jared Kushner as the Senior Transition Official was involved in. President Trump, himself, spoke to the Egyptian President about this very issue and actually had a concrete impact in that the vote was delayed because President Trump intervened.


PRICE: And so clearly I think that shows another connection to President Trump and ties this back to him potentially as at least one of the people who is providing orders to Michael Flynn.

MELBER: Right, and with a lot of roads, did you say to Kushner, we`re going to fit in a break. I will note in the other hand as Bill Kristol knows as a students of global geopolitics that Jared Kushner did achieve Middle Eastern peace. It hasn`t gotten a lot of attention, I know the media can be unfair sometimes, but that was a breakthrough.

I`m just kidding, it didn`t happen, it was something they were working on though. Ned, thank you for joining. Bill, we`ll be right back with you. After the break, why was Michael Flynn so eager to do Russia`s bidding? This is our special report tonight we`ve been working on all day. Also later, the fear and uncertainty inside the Trump White House tonight, some political details that are fascinating. My politics panel breaks it down later.


MELBER: December 1st, 2017, now a significant date in American history. It`s the worst legal day the Trump Presidency has had so far because the Russia probe now has a cooperating witness close to the President. It could be the first of more rough days. Tonight, we have covered what Mike Flynn admitted and how Bob Mueller can use it and who else has criminal exposure. But now we turn to a special legal report on what this story is actually at its root fundamentally about.

Not just the law broken along the way but the conduct, the state craft, the actual effort. Now, today, increasingly exposed by Trump officials to do something that still sounds reckless for security and actually counterproductive politically. Their effort to appease Russia at the very moment the U.S. was punishing it for its election meddling. So let`s walk through it. It was December 2016 when the news broke that the U.S. was sanctioning Russia for election meddling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news at this hour. New U.S. action against Russia over allegations of hacking. The Obama administration takes broad action to expel nearly three dozen Russian diplomats from the United States and enacts sanctions on some of the senior-most members of Russian intelligence.


MELBER: That was the news, big news, and it was that very same day, December 29th, 2016 that Mike Flynn sprang into action. We can report tonight that he was talking to his senior Trump official about how to appease the Kremlin and then Flynn got on the phone with the Russian Ambassador to discuss undercutting the sanctions asking not to escalate the situation. Flynn admits to that today. So as the U.S. government sanctions Russia, Flynn pleading for put on the lay low and he did and President-Elect Trump then praises Putin in a tweet viewed as bizarre at the time.

But there was no public evidence showing why Trump aides were so eager to undercut people in jobs they were going to take over by January 20th. On January 12th though, the Washington Post then reported that Flynn had phoned Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times and the Trump aides denied the sanctions were discussed on those calls. Now, if that was just an innocent sanctions discussion, why deny it? Why dispatch the most senior officials to insist that Flynn did not talk with the Russian Ambassador to undercut sanctions?


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: What I can confirm having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.


MELBER: Nothing whatsoever. That was not true. Mike Flynn said so today. Was Pence lying? Well, Mike Flynn knows, and today he says he`ll be cooperating fully. The reason he is cooperating is that just four days into Trump administration the FBI asked about the sanctions and Flynn falsely stated he didn`t ask the Russians about the sanctions. Now, let`s pause. It would be reasonable at this point to wonder if Flynn lied about this then, why believe him now?

But there is an answer. And it`s that Mueller has evidence about what really happened, including Intel revealing what was discussed. Mueller is not alone either, it was the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who also had the evidence showing that he did discuss sanctions which alarmed her so much, she marched over to the White House warning Flynn lied and the Russians knew it.


SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: That the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done and the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the Vice President and others and that created a compromised situation. The situation where the National Security Adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.


MELBER: That`s bad. But as the old honey badger saying goes, the White House don`t care. They kept Flynn on the job, and instead of pressing Flynn on what he did, Trump pressed the FBI for scrutinizing Flynn. Just think about that. The crime that Flynn confessed to today is the impetus for Donald Trump asking the FBI to leave Flynn alone. It was the next day after Yates warned the White House that Trump suddenly invites the FBI Director to dinner asking for a loyalty pledge.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: The dinner was an effort to build a relationship. In fact, he asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay.


MELBER: You`re not supposed to ask the FBI for personal loyalty. And it looks worse if you ask right after learning your top aide is compromised. Then when Trump was pressed about this very public accounts of Flynn sanctioned lies, which had been on T.V. for roughly like a week. He goes on Air Force One and tells reporters, he hadn`t seen the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of reports that General Flynn had conversations with the Russians about sanctions before you were sworn in?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t know about it. I haven`t seen it.


MELBER: I haven`t seen it. Don`t know about it. Three days later, Flynn was out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has resigned his post.


MELBER: Flynn gone but not forgotten because then Trump started pressing Jim Comey to drop any Russian inquiry on Flynn.


COMEY: Flynn had been forced to resign the day before. On the 14th, the President makes specific reference to that. And so that`s why I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do is drop any investigation connected to Flynn`s account of this conversation with the Russians.


MELBER: At the time that was also secret. So we only know about it because Trump later fired Jim Comey over Russia and then we heard that testimony there. In public, Trump was spinning this defense in February.


TRUMP: Mike Mike Flynn is a money person and I asked for his resignation.

When I looked at the information, I said, I don`t think he did anything wrong, if anything, he was doing something right. You know, he was doing his job. The thing is he didn`t tell our Vice President properly.


MELBER: It was all about the Vice President. Then Trump went on and made a more public specific denial which Mueller is now probing. Trump saying he did not direct Flynn to make those Russia sanctions calls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian Ambassador --

TRUMP: No, I didn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- prior to your inauguration?

TRUMP: No I didn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And wouldn`t you have fired him if the information hadn`t leaked out?

TRUMP: Excuse me. No, I fired him for what he said to Mike Pence, very simple.


MELBER: But today`s Mueller docs basically say Flynn did get direction from senior Trump officials at Mar-a-Lago in December. Translation, people with the President and more than one of them. Now, those people aren`t technically named in the document but we have begun reported on some of them. Flynn has pledged to tell Mueller all the names and then those people will be interviewed. The fact that Flynn knew so much looks relevant to Trump`s ongoing interest in Flynn. He was still defending him in May.


TRUMP: This man has served for many years. He`s a general. He`s -- in my opinion, a very good person.


MELBER: And that may be true. Mike Flynn is now flipped which means it`s Mueller and Trump`s critics that are going to be invoking his veracity and his service as a witness. And Trump will have to decide if he agrees with all of this praise he publicly gave his once loyal aide.

But the most ominous part of Flynn`s criminal statement today is this, a piece of pretty standard language at the top, "these facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties about this crime." Think about that. Bob Mueller doesn`t need to tip his hand on all the other facts.

And the law doesn`t usually work that way. But there`s a story in these documents and it shows an effort on the part of the Trump campaign and the early Trump administration to appease Russia. It suggests this was an urgent priority with top aides involved with the flurry of calls and coordination before they even took office.

So when you move beyond what happened today of the lie and the false statement, you have to say why? Does this look like policy as usual or were there other interest at play? Was there something desired or was there something owed? Now Flynn had taken money from Russian interest and huddled with Vladimir Putin and Trump advocated warmer Russian relations.


TRUMP: I believe an easing of tension, an improved relation with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Some say the Russians won`t be reasonable. I intend to find out.


MELBER: And now apply what we`ve learned, what Mike Flynn admitted today, what is not in dispute in America tonight, the Donald Trump`s infamous request during campaign to Russia to help him steal Hillary Clinton`s e- mails.


TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


MELBER: Bob Mueller has a lot on Flynn right now. And Flynn says he`s got info on other people. And the question here is what`s not in today`s documents? What are those other facts? That`s a question of whether anything between Donald Trump and Russia in 2016 could have been driving this now-documented flurry of outreach to Russia which now involves at least one crime on the record and admitted lying and potential other crimes about Mike Flynn being a foreign agent and the clear suggestion in a cooperation agreement, that yes, there are more crimes yet to be charged.


MELBER: We`re back on a big news night and I`m joined by Christina Greer, Professor of Political Science at Fordham University. Bill Kristol is back with me. Christina, reports tonight that Donald Trump has been saying he`s upset that Mike Flynn "turned on me."

CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right, because Donald Trump sees the Presidency and the Office of the Presidency as a series of just friendships and relationships that he`s been able to manipulate. What he doesn`t realize is this isn`t queens anymore, right? We`re dealing with the federal investigation.

You can -- he has been lying, cheating and stealing his entire career, ask any New Yorker who`s ever done business with him. He`s no longer in that realm. So he thought, well, you know, he left, we`ve seen the tweets where he said you know, it`s not fair that he`s leaving. He wanted him to come back. He thought it was about the Dems.

What he doesn`t realize is you know, Michael Flynn likely has been talking to Robert Mueller for quite some time. Jared Kushner met with Mueller last week, so we don`t know what kind of Shakespearean/Greek tragedy this will turn into. The people the people who will ultimately suffer are the American public. Because we have a Republican Party right now that does not stick up to this President, anyone who touches him you know, essentially goes down in flames.

And we have them sort of trying to do his bidding in Congress where we know that the constitution clearly states that we should have a separation of powers, they should be checking this president constantly. So this tax bill wrapped up in this day of Flynn is not a coincidence to me. We have a Congress that`s trying to push things through while we`re also distracted by this very long-standing problematic relationship that Donald Trump has always had with Russia and foreign agents since before he was even president.

MELBER: And so Bill, speak to Christina`s point. She says you know, we`re not in Queens anymore, we`re not in Kansas anymore, maybe we`re not even in Brooklyn anymore. As you know, Bill, Jay-Z when talking about not cooperating with the feds said you know, he`s basically pleading the Fifth when it comes to the fam.

I`m like a dog, I never speak but I understand. But that`s not what we`re seeing here from Mike Flynn. He is speaking. He is pleading the Fifth no more. He talked about doing that. He is now speaking. So walk us through this idea that Christina`s saying that the President was ill-equipped to understand this isn`t just about loyalty.

KRISTOL: Yes, you know, I think that could be true. But let me make one point about Kushner too, I mean, which was just mentioned. I mean, why did Mueller, just trying to think hard about Mueller, what he knows what he`s got here. Why did he have Kushner in ten days ago? To talk about Flynn? Well, to establish a record. He`s` been cooperating with Flynn since not cooperating. It would be interesting to see.

If I were Mueller`s (INAUDIBLE) attorney tonight, I`d be going very carefully over the transcript of that to make sure that obviously that Kushner spoke the truth and that worrying about what Flynn has said and has recalled and maybe has some evidence for, that might contradict that. And you think about -- I was thinking about as you did that excellent report, Ari, I was thinking about the whole -- the charge. I mean, he could have charged him on anything, right? He could have charged him on the Foreign Agent Registration Act, FARA.


KRISTOL: He chose not to. He chose to write the charge, it seems to me, the way that invites the question, who`s next? And invites an answer to the question, who`s next?

MELBER: I definitely see that.

KRISTOL: Which is Jared Kushner. And he is -- I think his strategy here is to go right from Flynn quickly I would guess to Kushner and to try to tighten the screws on him.

MELBER: Right. He`s clearly got other people in his sights. I`ve got to fit in a break because it`s been such a crazy news day. Bill Kristol, Christina Greer, thank you, both. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: As we`ve been reporting today, a lot of breaking news with Mike Flynn pleading guilty to false statements and a lot of other implications. A day that started this morning when that news broke and has been busy and one of the evenings when I`m looking forward to watching "HARDBALL" and Chris and Rachel and everyone continue this reporting. That does it for THE BEAT. Thanks for watching. "HARDBALL" is now.



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