Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 5, 2017 Guest: Barbara McQuade, Michael McFaul, Margaret Carlson, Timothy Lewis
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Good evening, Steve. Thank you very much.
We begin with breaking news on Bob Mueller`s Russia probe. Bob Mueller is subpoenaing key financial records related to Donald Trump from a foreign bank. "Reuters" and "Bloomberg News" both reporting that Mueller is using his legal power to demand Deutsche Bank hand over its files on Trump`s money.
Now, this is the bank to hit. Trump reportedly owes it about $300 million. The story rattling the Trump White House tonight. Trump`s spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denying this story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The news reports that the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are completely false. No subpoena has been issued or received. We`ve confirmed this with the bank and other sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, she cites Trump`s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who says, "no financial records relating to the president have been subpoenaed."
That is a denial, but it actually could be a narrow one. Records related to the president could refer only to Trump`s finances since he took office this year or only his activities in government, not the older finances relating to his private businesses or old debts relevant potentially to the Russia probe.
In fact, it is Donald Trump`s pre-presidential activities that are under the most scrutiny at this bank because after Trump`s earlier bankruptcies, this was the only big bank that will still do business with him.
And while Trump`s team says they have confirmed no subpoena for records relating to the president, the bank is not publicly denying it.
On your screen there, you see their different response, saying they will cooperate with authorized investigations into this matter. So, that is the state of play right now.
And I`m about to ask a reporter who broke this story about this new Trump denial in a moment. But let me explain that Deutsche Bank is not accused of any wrongdoing in the Mueller probe, but it is in the ballpark of some pretty big issues.
For example, it was implicated specifically in Russian money laundering before. Just this year paying out over half a billion to authorities in the US and the UK to end investigations with $10 billion in Russian trades allegedly violating anti-money laundering laws.
That`s the bank that still does business with Donald Trump after his multiple corporate bankruptcies, and it is Trump`s financial past that could catch up with him in the Russia probe.
A supreme irony that the only president who`s insisted on running a business during his presidency is now under scrutiny for how he ran a business before his presidency.
Back before the bankruptcies, there was the high life, there was the spending. This was a time when Donald Trump explained irrational spending was a success strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even his peers, few that there are, hold him in awe. He puts deals together like other people play monopoly.
DONALD TRUMP, THEN BUSINESSMAN: I believe in spending extra money. I believe in expending maybe more money than other people would think almost rational because, in the long run, you`re talking about a very small difference in terms of the money spent, but you`re almost guaranteeing success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the 80s. In the long run of six years later, Trump`s casinos were in trouble. He got $65 million of bailout to make payments. And it was eventually a financially humiliating period.
There were bankers putting Trump on an allowance, a household spending cap of $450,000 a month. His annual salary capped at $200,000 because of those creditors.
He would go on to weather, as many people may remember six corporate bankruptcies, landing his net worth back down somewhere between $150 and $250 million.
Now, that doesn`t make you a billionaire. Trump was so mad about it, he sued "The New York Times" journalist who reported about his net worth, a case he did not win.
But that long forgotten case did force Trump to talk about his money under oath and he recounted how he was willing to spend money to sue the writer over how much money he allegedly had because he wanted people to know he was really rich.
But what about that up and down wealth figure? Well, he said it ebbs and flows like an ocean of feelings. "My net worth fluctuates and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings."
Fact-check. The markets do change one`s net worth. Feelings do not.
But here`s where this all leads. Tonight, Bob Mueller zeroing in on one of Donald Trump`s greatest personal obsessions and potential vulnerabilities. We know that because Trump says so. We know that because Trump sued over it. Sued over the money he has and the money he owes and how that is all publicly understood.
Now, I want to be clear and fair. We`re not reporting tonight on any direct public evidence that Donald Trump`s financial records draw any line to collusion. There may never be such reports.
But there is evidence that for all his bankruptcies and debts, Donald Trump`s brand and political success is based on his perceived riches, a mythology of success rather than greed.
And as Bob Mueller closes in, one can`t help but be reminded of the rapper Lil Wayne`s confession on the risks of greed when he rapped, "too much money, it ain`t enough money," adding the cautionary note that when the feds are listening, you have to say what money?
With me now, as promised, from Frankfurt, Germany, Steven Arons who broke this story for "Bloomberg"; and former Watergate prosecutor, Nick Akerman, now a partner at Dorsey & Whitney; and David Frum, a former speechwriter for Bush 43.
Steven, your response to this carefully worded White House denial of your reporting?
STEVEN ARONS, REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": We stand by our story. We went back to our sources. We acknowledge the denial. It`s in our story, of course. We fairly represent the denial. We quote verbatim, but we stand by our story and we still believe it`s true.
MELBER: David Frum, let me bring you in here because this bank, as you have said before, is key. And right now, for folks at home who don`t follow the trail of lenders and debts, and who would want to, it`s complicated and can be boring, folks do know the things that this bank is behind. I`ll put up on the screen.
They`re behind the DC hotel. They`re behind Trump International in Chicago where there`s mortgages. They`re behind Doral in Miami.
What`s important here as you look at this story, David?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": Three points. The first is, I remember back on election night, or in the 48 hours after the election, looking at the performance of the stock market.
Stock market jumped, of course, when Donald Trump was elected. Financial stocks outperformed stocks in general. Deutsche Bank outperformed financial stocks. That probably had something to do with market expectations that they would get an easier deal on the Russian money laundering that you mentioned from Donald Trump who owed them so much money. Point One.
Point two, Tim O`Brien, the Trump biographer you mentioned, he noted that Trump made a point, a habit of hiding his debt in special purpose vehicles. So, when the White House says that Donald Trump "records" have not been subpoenaed, that could well be true, but these vehicles may be.
Last point, Donald Trump has said in the past that investigation of his finances was a red line that he would not allow the special counsel to cross. We`re about to see whether that`s true.
MELBER: Right. He said that in response to a "New York Times" question, although, Nick Akerman, I would note that that is a case where the media was pushing him. He didn`t bring up the red line.
But David makes several key points. We`ll add another for your response, which is an anchor and journalist on this channel used to work at this bank and she was talking just today about all of these long-known links.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST, "VELSHI & RUHLE": Deutsche Bank, I worked there from 2002 to 2011. After the 1998 Russia crisis, Deutsche was the only bank to stay in Russia. Everyone retreated and came home.
So, their ties in Russia cannot be overstated. They are so closely tied as far as the banking community goes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As a prosecutor, how does Bob Mueller look at this when you have Trump, you have this bank, and then you have over here Russia?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: What you`re looking at is the Russian connection. I mean, were any of the mortgages, for example, or any of the loans that Trump had, were they sent over to any Russian banks? I mean, that`s a possibility. They could have been assigned to a Russian bank, which could have been one of the banks that`s being controlled by the Russian government.
There`s also the question of how it fits into what Mueller is looking at. What Mueller is looking at right now are two conspiracies relating to the campaign and the Trump - and the election.
MELBER: Potential conspiracies.
AKERMAN: Two potential conspiracies. One has to do with the stolen e- mails from the DNC. The other has to do with a possible deal over sanctions. And you kind of get this from looking at the Flynn guilty plea because the materiality of his lie somehow connects back to what occurred during the election.
So, if Trump has connections in Russia and he`s got money that he owes and you can explain how some of this came about by virtue of monies owed between him and people in Russia, it goes a long way to explaining how we got where we are.
For example, we know that Ron Goldstone was acting on behalf of a Russian oligarch who had dealt with Trump during the Miss Universe pageant. And that`s somebody - we don`t know what the financial arrangement was there.
But it`s reported that Trump received $20 million for the sale of that franchise. Well, that seemed like an awfully lot of money when he wasn`t getting that much in other sales of the same franchise.
So, what was the deal with the Russians? Does somebody there have a connection with him that basically brought the Russians on to support his campaign?
MELBER: And, David, this all comes on a week when Washington is reeling from a guilty plea from a former national security advisor pledging to cooperate and Trump`s lawyers are doing something that lawyers rarely do, and we`re going to be covering later in the show, which is publicly undercut each other when they`re on the same team.
What do you think this all says about the pressure on Donald Trump and the White House this week, which is shaping up to be a tough week indeed?
FRUM: It`s a very tough week. Things are about to get tougher because they may be having Roy Moore joining them as the decisive vote in favor of the Republican tax plan. That`s going to be difficult.
But I think a lot of people have noted that just the tempo and intensity and tone of the president`s tweets, which give us all of this strange opening into his mental state, they become more disturbed over the past two or three weeks.
And the velocity of the special counsel`s investigations surely is an important part of that story.
MELBER: And so, Steve, on the bank side, what does your reporting tell us about their view of this? You said you stand by this account that has been sort of narrowly denied by the White House, but what does the bank do from here?
And even if one stipulates in fairness that a review of these records might find no wrongdoing connected to Donald Trump, this is a foreign bank that now seems to be caught between two different wings of a very powerful country, the US government here.
ARONS: That is true. They will need to tread very carefully, but I do think now they`re actually in a more comfortable position than before because they have been able now to say we were forced to release these documents. We`ve rid ourselves of this problem, whatever they reveal. They`re going to reveal something about the bank perhaps, but at least it`s out in the open.
Let`s not forget, the Democrats in Congress have been trying to get Deutsche Bank to release its documents for many months now and Deutsche Bank has steadfastly refused to release them, always saying it would be a violation of law to release this confidential information.
The subpoena now has released them from this ban, and so they have been able to give it away. And people inside the bank have told me that it`s actually something they were quite happy to do.
MELBER: And that goes to a point, Nick Akerman, I mean no insult to anyone in Congress in any party, but Steve is reporting for something that folks may or may not remember, which is there has been a push by congressional investigators to get all kinds of stuff and they have gotten some. But when it comes to a foreign bank, it`s very hard.
And so, what Democrats in Congress couldn`t do for months reportedly, Bob Mueller can do apparently quickly.
AKERMAN: That`s right, because he has a grand jury subpoena. He can get records much quicker. You don`t have to get the committee chairman to authorize a subpoena. You don`t have to have a vote of the committee to get a subpoena.
That`s why the Mueller investigation has a much, much wider range of investigative options than do any of the committees.
MELBER: Nick Akerman, David Frum here on a Tuesday, and Steve Arons joining us from the future on Wednesday because I believe it`s after midnight where you are. And I appreciate you staying up late with us. Thank you very much.
NBC exclusive report later this hour on the Trump Tower meeting. Don, Jr. allegedly made a request. We`re going to tell you what that is. New reporting from Ken Dilanian. And Congressman Ted Lieu joins for analysis.
Also, confusion on this Trump legal team. As we were just discussing, lawyers contradicting each other on the same Trump team. And I just spoke to Ty Cobb. I`ll tell you what he said later.
The RNC is back in the Roy Moore bandwagon despite new and troubling evidence against him.
Also, Trump`s highest profile accuser, perhaps, well, she`s in court today. More on that.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news in our newsroom right now. Donald trump Jr.`s meeting with the Russians during that June 2016 Trump Tower huddle, very famous. Well, a report that Trump, Jr. asked the Russian lawyer for illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation.
That, according to this Russian lawyer`s new statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee, with NBC News reporting that exclusively tonight.
Now, it sets up a defense for some of the Russians implicated in the Trump Tower meeting. The claim is that Trump, Jr. asked for dirt on Clinton and did not get it. If true, the Russians might be positioning themselves on the receiving ends of requests that they say they didn`t fulfill rather than as alleged co-conspirators in a plot to swap information or evidence to defeat Hillary Clinton.
The question for Trump, Jr. is whether he faces new allegations of soliciting material that could be illegal. Now, campaigns routinely seek oppo on opponents. But taking something of value from a foreigner is, of course, a felony.
Let`s get right to it. Congressman Ted Lieu of California is with me. Sometimes I get to ask the simple question, congressman. What does this mean?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Ari. It means two things. The Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits soliciting anything of value from a foreign national. In this case if Donald Trump, Jr. did that, then he would be guilty of a felony.
Second, it shows that the president and Donald Trump, Jr. lied to the American people with the first two press releases they issued on this matter where they denied that they were seeking any information about the Hillary Clinton campaign.
If you remember, they said this was just a meeting about -
MELBER: Does it? Let me push back for your views on that because a counterargument on behalf of the Trump administration would be that this is basically a statement from a Russian lawyer who`s not considered the most credible by anyone on any side of this debate.
LIEU: That`s correct. If what she`s saying is true, and I assume she did it under oath before the congressional committee, then Donald Trump, Jr. solicited something of value from a foreign national, which is a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
But keep in mind, the first two press releases that he and President Trump wrote about what happened there was - they said this was just about Russian adoptions. It had nothing to do with the Hillary Clinton campaign. And now, we know that they were lying to the American people when they said that.
MELBER: Right. And, I guess, a big difference if we`re looking at finding the facts is that was contradicted by Donald Trump, Jr.`s own statements, right? So, that looked like a total lie, whereas here we`re parsing all the different statements. But, as always, I appreciate your attention to detail.
I have to ask you about this other set of reporting we had, including a Bloomberg reporter tonight who stands by his story even as the White House is smacking it down, the money trail.
Your view of, A, how important that is in the Mueller investigation? And, B, a point that we were just discussing that it appears that Bob Mueller may be getting financial records that Democrats in the Congress have not been able to get.
LIEU: We know from the very beginning that Special Counsel Mueller was interested in the money trail and the money laundering. Why? Because one of his first actions was to hire prosecutors who were the top experts in money laundering on to his team.
We also know that he`s not seeking records from Deutsche Bank because he wants to go after lower level individuals like Roger Stone. He`s doing this because he`s interested in potential criminal misconduct of the president or potentially his family as well.
Congressman Lieu, thank you, as always, for your time. I hope to see you again.
LIEU: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: All right. I want to look at something really big. And Howard Fineman is here to help us walk through it. How do other administrations compare to this young Trump administration when it comes to prosecutions?
Ronald Reagan all told had 26. Bush, Sr., just one when you look at top aides. Clinton, only two. George W. Bush had more. Obama left office with zero prosecutions. Trump already has four. And let`s be clear, that is only ten months into his term.
And then take a look at this. These seven administrations in their first year, zero prosecutions of people in the administration. Donald Trump already has four top aides who have either pleaded guilty or faced an indictment. It is quite a contrast.
I want to turn to global editorial director for "Huffington Post," Howard Fineman. This is a comparison that has two big takeaways, I think, and then I want your view.
One, if you serve long enough with big administrations, some people get in trouble. There are two historical aberrations that the numbers show.
Number one, Barack Obama never had any aides indicted for anything, let alone convicted. That`s one aberration. The other is that Donald Trump is already smashing these records at under a year in office.
HOWARD FINEMAN, GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, I think it`s significant. I think there`s some reasons for it.
Donald Trump came into office trailing a cloud of controversy about his finances, about who was helping him, who wasn`t. That was a live issue before he ever got here.
And the second thing is that he exuded an attitude of either ignorance or contempt for the law. I`m not sure knew that the world was changing between New York real estate and legal matters in Washington, where it`s not PR, it`s Black Letter Law.
And third, you had a situation where the FBI director, in an unprecedented move, was fired within days of Donald Trump`s taking the oath of office as president. You had an attorney general recusing himself. You had a special prosecutor named.
And Bob Mueller is like a diver with huge lung capacity. And he`s diving deep down, searching for the bright pearls of motive here. Not just the motives of Donald Trump, but I think the motives of the Russians as well.
What did the Russians want out of this? They wanted, I think, a lightening up of the investigation of money laundering. Don`t forget, this is Putin and his crowd and Trump and his crowd. And what Mueller is looking for is motive.
MELBER: But you know what -
FINEMAN: Motive for collusion, that`s what he`s after. That`s the deep dive. That`s why he`s going after Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cypress, all this stuff. It`s about following the rubles.
MELBER: But you know what I have to ask you then, if Mueller then is doing this deep dive with this incredible lung capacity, is Mike Flynn this jellyfish? And if you get him the right way, he can sting other people?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think he`s collected a lot of - not to pursue this sea analogy too far - but, yes, Mueller has picked up a lot of stuff in his net so far. And don`t forget -
FINEMAN: And don`t forget that Flynn was with Trump all the way along. This bears repeating. Campaign, early days of the administration, and also had a really good handle on the financial flows, I think, and on the Russia ties.
Again, what Mueller is looking for here is motive. And I think the key thing for people to understand, it`s not just Trump`s motive and Trump`s circle or Jared Kushner and his circle, it`s the Russians. So, what did they want out of playing the dangerous game of getting involved in the American election.
MELBER: What did they want and what did they get? I mean, the Godfather question, cui bono, who benefits.
FINEMAN: Well, what they wanted -
MELBER: But let me push back, though, on one thing, as is part of my job.
MELBER: What about the Clinton defense? When people say, you know, it started with Whitewater and it ended up on all these other issues. And I am seeing Trump folks today saying, wait a minute, why are you going after the money he made before he maybe was even president? How does that relate to collusion?
FINEMAN: Well, first of all, everybody knows that Donald Trump`s main motivation, and he`s proud of it, is money. OK, so if you`re following the money, you`re following Donald Trump`s motivation.
And if the charge of the special counsel is to look at possible obstruction of justice and collusion, then you have to look at motive for both.
Why risk obstruction? Now, you could say Donald Trump is just too oblivious to the law to care, so he can`t have the criminal intent. But on collusion, you want to know, OK, if there`s collusion, why would it be? Why would Donald Trump want to do favors to the Russians? Why would he tell Comey to get rid of the Flynn investigation? Why would he and Jared Kushner and others in the circle want to go light on the new sanctions put in by Barack Obama?
I`m not saying any of this is the case. What I`m saying is, from talking to prosecutors, present and former, what Mueller is looking for with his deep dive on the financial records is motive from both the Russian circle of Putin and the Trump circle in America.
MELBER: And as you know, the deeper underwater you get, the greater the pressure. We`re done. We`re out of time.
FINEMAN: Before I drown -
MELBER: Out of time. Howard Fineman, I always learn something from you. Thank you very much.
Ahead, there is other breaking news on that story we brought you last night. Paul Manafort allegedly violating his bail order by trying to secretly communicate with a Russian with ties to Russian intelligence to ghostwrite an op-ed. Sounds like a movie; it`s actually the news.
Also, a very public legal fight breaking out, as I mentioned, between two lawyers on the same team for Trump. I just got off the phone with Ty Cobb and I have more on that.
Also, three weeks after cutting ties, the RNC right now back to supporting this alleged sexual predator, Roy Moore. An important story here tonight.
And the former "Apprentice" contestant accusing Trump of groping her. She`s in court today. A story you may not have heard yet, but it deserves to be told. That`s later this hour.
MELBER: A lot of news tonight. And I want to begin with the context for tonight`s news with a fascinating time capsule from Thursday, which we now know today was more momentous than anyone understood at the time in Bob Mueller`s investigation.
Consider this. On Thursday, Mike Flynn signed his plea deal. That didn`t break until Friday. And he signed that he admitted making false statements, aka lies to the FBI.
We now know hours later that Bob Mueller`s team directly called Paul Manafort`s lawyer to say they discovered that Manafort had been communicating with a Russian with alleged ties to Russian intelligence about ghostwriting an op-ed that Mueller says is a violation of the current bail deal.
And now, the plot thickens further. A federal judge ordering Manafort to prove that he didn`t violate that bail deal as Bob Mueller alleges and as that op-ed allegedly explains.
And we now know publicly the identity of the Russian that he was contacting. The name is Konstantin Kilimnik. A former member of the Russian army who was working allegedly with Paul Manafort to offer secret private briefings about the Trump campaign to a Russian oligarch. Manafort`s lawyer has insisted that all the dealings abroad were lawful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, LAWYER OF PAUL MANAFORT: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. He was seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukraine come closer to the United States and the E.U.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by former Federal Prosecutor Barbara McQuade and a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. Barbara, have you ever seen anyone violate a bail deal quite like this?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: No, I never have. And you know, usually, when somebody is newly charged and is under bond conditions and is negotiating for the terms of those conditions, they`re incredibly humbled and on their best behavior. If these allegations are true, they`re really astonishing that Paul Manafort was ghostwriting an op-ed in violation of the gag order that the judge has issued in this case. No, I`ve never seen anything like it.
MELBER: How do you think Mueller`s investigators would come to know something like that which they themselves allege in court was secret.
MCQUADE: I don`t know and they have filed it under seal. I mean, I can only speculate one way may have been that they were monitoring the communications of the colleague that Paul Manafort was dealing with, the Russian and that he was picked up incidental to that. It is possible that they could have been monitoring Paul Manafort, but only if they believed he was engaging in new criminal activity and they were authorized to do that by Mueller in that they had a filter team to filter out any attorney-client privilege communications. So that would be fairly extraordinary. So it seems more likely that they collected the information from the other end.
MELBER: From the other end, and we`ve seen that come up in these intel issues before, Ambassador, and yet, of course, it brings to mind the famous Russian saying, wiretap me once, shame on you. Wiretap me twice, shame on me. Wiretap me three, four, five times, what am I doing as a defendant in this case? I mean, doesn`t Paul Manafort know when he`s calling Russia, as you`ve done many times in your career for lawful purposes, there is a -- I would say significant risk of intelligence interception?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, first, that`s a new Russian saying I didn`t know, Ari, so thanks for the --
MELBER: It`s not really a Russian saying, I have to admit.
MCFAUL: Of course. I mean there`s so many strange things about this as you just discussed. If he`s calling Kiev, he was probably -- he was calling Kiev, the Russian base in Kiev. It sounds like it was his long- time partner. Why would you be calling a Russian to ghostwrite an op-ed attended for American -- intended for American audiences? It makes no sense to me. In fact, it makes so much no sense that I wonder if there`s more to this story. Not unlike, by the way, Mr. Flynn lying about his conversations with Kislyak. That makes so much non -- it`s so nonsensical to me that it suggests to me that maybe there`s something more to that story as well.
MELBER: I`ve heard of a double negative. I feel like you`re using a super negative.
MCFAUL: Yes, I`m sorry.
MELBER: There`s so much "non." I understand what you`re saying, Ambassador --
MCFAUL: I`m sorry.
MELBER: -- so what more -- what more could it be?
MCFAUL: Maybe, you know, he`s got some other business deals he`s trying to tidy up. I mean, I`m really speculating here. I want to be clear about that.
MCFAUL: But the -- what we -- what we have been told just is kooky, it makes no sense to me. That he`d be reaching out to some Russian former intelligence officer in Kiev to help him ghostwrite an op-ed to influence public opinion in America. You know, I`ve dealt with a lot of Russians and Americans and Ukrainians for many decades. I`ve never encountered something like this.
MELBER: Barbara, I want to turn to the other giant thing that was leaked over the weekend that has not gotten the attention it normally would. Of course the Trump administration from the President on down has strenuously doubted the finding by the intelligence community that Russia did intervene and yet this newly leaked e-mail of K.T. McFarland on the transition team states flatly and I`m quoting, "If there`s tit for tat escalation, Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia which has just thrown USA election to him." An interesting piece in foreign policy argues that even the most generous interpretation of that e-mail suggest at the least the Trump campaign knew Russia had intervened in the election, decided to lie systematically from Trump on down about the reassuring outreach it did to Russia during the transition. Your view from a prosecutorial perspective of how incriminating that e-mail is even as I read from a generous interpretation of it.
MCQUADE: On its face, it sounds incredibly incriminating, right? I mean, to say thrown the election sounds as if they believe that Russia, in fact, threw the election. But you know, e-mails are really tricky, just like text messages. It`s very easy for someone to say I meant it facetiously, I meant -- that`s what our critics are saying, so I would think that Robert Mueller and his team would want to pin down K.T. McFarland and ask her exactly what she want at the time. And I think before they asked her that question, they would also want to look at other e-mails that she may have sent, other e-mails sent in response to try to glean from those what the context was so that they can come from an informed position when asking her to explain that.
MELBER: No, I take your point. The shorter the e-mail or text as you say, the more it can be taken out of context or not be as meaningful. The great legal scholar, Miley Cyrus, famously said if you mean it, I believe it. If you text it, I`ll delete it, and so we will see if this was a meaningful e- mail or not. Barbara McQuade and Ambassador McFaul, thank you for a fun and weird conversation. Up next, Republicans are coming back into the fold to support Roy Moore three weeks after the RNC claimed it was pulling out. We will explain the politics there. And can the President ever obstruct justice? Trump`s legal team can`t decide and a former federal judge is my special guest. Later, we have an update on one of Trump`s accusers and her day in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think he`s going to do very well. We don`t want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama. We certainly don`t want to have a liberal Democrat that`s controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer. We don`t want to have that for Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: President Trump today supporting Roy Moore. Nine women have accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teens. He has denied those charges. But now the RNC reversing course, backing Moore, opening up a financial spigot. Here was the news just three weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Republicans continue to back away, at least at the national level. Politico reporting tonight the Republican National Committee has pulled out of its fund-raising pact with Moore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican National Committee is essentially cutting out of Moore campaign. No more field operations and more importantly, no more money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican National Committee has just pulled out of a financial agreement with the Moore campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican National Committee has cut fund-raising ties with Roy Moore, according to filings with the federal election commission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was then and here`s Senator McConnell`s new tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I had hoped that Judge Moore would resign. If he were to be elected, I think he would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee, which they would take up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Judge Moore should be in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: I`m going to let the people of Alabama make the call. This election has been going on a long time, there`s been a lot of discussion about it. They`re going to make the decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Other people make the call. A surrender from Mitch McConnell`s call for Moore to step aside three weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe these allegations to be true?
MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes. I think he should step aside. If he were to be sworn in, he would immediately be in a process before the Senate Ethics Committee.
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MELBER: I`m joined by Margaret Carlson from the Daily Beast. What changed?
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, he asked him to drop out and he didn`t. And so now McConnell has a new doctrine, which is if you don`t do as I ask because of these credible allegations of your having abused young girls, serious enough, I believe the women. Well, if you don`t do it, then it`s OK because I`m going to go along with it. It`s kind of a stunning turn-about. Nobody -- parents don`t behave that way with their children. Managers don`t behave that way. People don`t behave that way. And I think it is also -- it`s an announcement from McConnell that the Republican Party is now the Trump party. The tax bill, Roy Moore, they want to win. They want to win at any cost.
MELBER: And so when you look at that and you see that issue, is it Mitch McConnell also operating on a premise that Roy Moore is going to win?
CARLSON: I think it`s more that if Trump has thrown his weight behind him, McConnell doesn`t want to be against Trump. He was willing to be against Moore. And Moore way win, but it`s a bigger problem for McConnell when he does win. I think it is more about Trump than it is about Moore, Ari.
MELBER: And then you have some other Republicans, retiring Republican Jeff Flake who says here, $100 check he`s sending to the Democrat. You know, we cover a lot of Trump, but he titles that country over party. There are some other notes to this story.
CARLSON: And congratulations to him for doing that, but how ineffective. You know, I wish Corker and Flake and sometimes McCain, yes, they`re going to leave. But if they had not announced their resignation, imagine the mini-caucus they could have in the Senate. Instead, they`re kind of -- Flake and Corker are, you know, not listened to as much because, OK, well, of course, they`re leaving. So, of course, they can say that. Giving cover to others in the Senate who aren`t so brave.
MELBER: Margaret Carlson.
MELBER: Thank you for being here.
CARLSON: Great to be here.
MELBER: And on set, not in Washington.
CARLSON: On the mothership. Thank you.
MELBER: Ahead, this is important, the obstruction debate inside the Trump legal team, including my new discussions with Ty Cobb over at the White House. And later this former Apprentice contestant accuses Donald Trump of misconduct. She`s in court today.
MELBER: -- criminal defense attorneys are in a big fight with each other. The fight is basically embarrassing because it shows that on one of the biggest questions facing this White House, does the President have exposure for committing a crime in office or while campaigning, his own lawyers cannot publicly agree and are making their case against each other in public. Now that is the optics you may have heard about. I want to go in deeper though right now to why this could matter in the actual case. You may have heard of good cop/bad cop. Well, right here we`re looking at Joe Friday from Dragnet versus Richard Nixon. Allow me to explain. Trump lawyer Ty Cobb is now pushing a factual denial. He is arguing that the facts will show Trump didn`t collude and didn`t obstruct. Dragnet`s Joe Friday was known for his no-nonsense, just the facts approach, a style famously captured in this 1953 parody.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why are you asking me all these questions for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just routine, ma`am, we just wanting to get the facts.
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MELBER: Just the facts. And that is the context for this new statement from this Trump lawyer, Cobb saying this will be a "fact-based exoneration" and dismissing Alan Dershowitz` argument as an academic discussion. And that is Cobb`s basically public smackdown of the other Trump lawyer, John Dowd, who is Trump`s assertive counsel and you may have heard sometimes Twitter ghostwriter. Because it was John Dowd who publicly advanced the Dershowitz argument saying the President cannot commit obstruction. And this is the Nixon side. It`s the argument that because you`re president, your criminal activity becomes decriminalized. If that sounds ridiculous, that`s because it is. It also has a terrible track record. This has been rejected by past Congresses and was famously stated in a 1977 Nixon interview.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president can decide that it`s in the best interests of the nation or something and do something illegal.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
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MELBER: Does it? This is the fight right now and it`s playing out in public. And even Alan Dershowitz, who`s been a big defender of the President`s legal position on this show and others, he`s now saying the Nixon argument has its limits, posting on Twitter my argument is not that a president can never be charged with obstruction of justice, it`s that he cannot be charged with that crime if his only actions were constitutionally authorized.
And tonight in researching this story and reporting it out, I got to speak to Ty Cobb on the phone and he added this. "My belief is that the arguments will be fact-based, though I can`t deny that there are extensive legal arguments prominent in the press regarding the President`s constitutional authority, and he said this was primarily as described by Professor Dershowitz. Well, we got a lot of legal issues and I bring in for our exclusive tonight a legal expert, Judge Timothy Lewis, was a Federal Prosecutor. He`s a Republican appointed Federal Appeals Court Judge and he is one of the most interesting legal minds if you don`t mind me saying, sir.
TIMOTHY LEWIS, FORMER UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT: Thank you very much Ari and it`s good to be with you again.
MELBER: Good to be with you and as our viewers may know, it`s rare to get federal judges on-air, so it`s a real treat to have you.
LEWIS: Thank you.
MELBER: Walk us through your view of this constitutional debate about whether a president, any president can as a legal matter potentially obstruct justice.
LEWIS: Well, Ari, these are serious times. These are of course very serious questions. It`s unfortunate that we are at a point in this administration or really any administration where we have to address them yet again. So forgive me for not wallowing in academia or sugarcoating this in any way. The answer is yes, of course, a sitting president can obstruct justice. There is in my mind no question about that. And as a matter of fact, in recent history, we`ve had a president impeached for allegedly obstructing justice. He was acquitted, of course, in the Senate and years before the referral involving President Nixon referred to obstruction of justice. So there really is no question about that. There are some questions as to the timing. There are some questions as to whether or not a criminal prosecution could happen while a president is sitting. These are questions that we haven`t had answers to. But on the fundamental premise, you`ve raised, yes.
MELBER: Sure. And Judge let me -- and let me ask you, in your experience overseeing trials, we are seeing the hint of an argument that while maybe it`s no big deal to fire the FBI Director even if you had an illicit goal or maybe it`s no big deal to sort of do obstruction like we`re seeing from some Trump allies, in your view is there any support for that legally, or is there any diminishment for what is potentially a serious felony, obstruction of justice?
LEWIS: Well, that`s a fair word. It is a diminishment of not only the act but it`s also a diminishment of office of both the President and the FBI Director to suggest that this is nothing. This is everything. You know, I`m sitting here this evening talking to you from Philadelphia. I`m only a few blocks away from where 241 years ago our Founding Fathers signed the declaration of independence. And one of the charges against the King of England at that time was the obstruction of the administration of justice. This is -- this is embedded in our history, our laws. We fought a war to be free of that sort of thing, that sort of tyranny.
We have developed a body of law and a culture that respects certain norms and certain -- we have certain expectations of the behavior of our leaders and of our office holders. And so to suggest that this is not a big deal, I think is maybe to be even more blunt, to demean the office. And to do so in a way that elevates a human being, a person above the law, which is something that we simply do not do. It`s not a part of our laws, and it`s not a part of our Constitution. It`s not a part of our history, and we have to take this very seriously.
MELBER: And the final question for you as an experienced expert on litigation. What does it mean to you? What does it say that Trump`s lawyers are having this fight in public tonight?
LEWIS: I don`t want to get into the manner of which Trump`s lawyers have chosen to represent him. Let me just say that it is not the most artful performance I have seen in my years. What I can tell you is that Cobb is right in one sense. The facts ultimately will determine what happens here. And we don`t know -- we don`t know the facts yet. So to that limited extent, I would agree with him on the question of --
MELBER: Well, because we`re -- yes, because we`re out of time, I open with a compliment if you don`t mind judge I`ll close with one. In a sea of hyperbole, we get a great deal of precision and class from you and I appreciate that. You`ve been on the show before. I hope you come back.
LEWIS: Thank you very much, Ari. It`s always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you, Judge Lewis, thank you very much. As promised we`re saving time for one more update. A former employee of Donald Trump on the Apprentice alleges that he groped her and forcibly kissed her. She`s in court today. That`s next.
MELBER: As we`ve reported tonight there are many people who think the Russia probe could be the case that hobbles the Trump presidency. But at this time, Bob Mueller hasn`t made any public case that explicitly focus on Donald Trump. But tonight there is another case all about Trump. Former Apprentice Contestant Summer Zervos in court today. Arguments related to her allegations that Donald Trump made unwanted sexual advances towards her in 2007.
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SUMMER ZERVOS, FORMER APPRENTICE CONTESTANT: He then asked me to sit next to him. I complied. He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.
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MELBER: Zervos, one of 16 women who came forward with sexual accusations in the weeks before the election, which Trump denied.
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TRUMP: False stories. All made up. Lies. Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.
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MELBER: Trump never sued, but he got sued.
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ZERVOS: I called on Mr. Trump to retract his statements about me calling me a liar. He has, therefore, left me with no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation.
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MELBER: Her lawsuit could shine the light on other allegations. It requests information about any woman alleging Trump touched her inappropriately. Trump`s lawyers say the case should wait until he leaves office. And Zervos` lawyers are invoking a Clinton era precedent that they say allows you to sue the President. That does it for our show. I`ll see you at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
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