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Intel leaders contradict Trump on Russian meddling. TRANSCRIPT: 2/13/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Ned Price,Ben Cardin, Anne Gearan, Maya Wiley, Leah Wright Rigueur, Mike Quigley, Dan Alexander, Liz Plank, Jim Moret

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 13, 2018 Guest: Ned Price,Ben Cardin, Anne Gearan, Maya Wiley, Leah Wright Rigueur, Mike Quigley, Dan Alexander, Liz Plank, Jim Moret

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more of "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, as I say in the business, I`m excited for any race involving canines.

TODD: there you go. OK.

MELBER: Thank you, Chuck Todd. You are here.

We begin with the most important story in politics tonight. And I have to tell you, it`s also the most important story in national security right now. You are looking at the array there. The top six intelligence agency leaders united right now with the message that I guess they couldn`t help it. A message that undercuts Donald Trump`s own claims all year about Russia. Don`t call it a come back, Russia, they say has been meddling and could strike again this year.


DAN COATS, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts has successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russia influence operations.


MELBER: This was not just a hearing. It was a warning. The intel chief`s releasing a report to go along with it. So everyone can read it themselves. Russia getting even bolder and more disruptive in their cyber operations with hack and leak operations for influence that attacks our infrastructure which could include the electrical grid or nuclear power.

Now that is an assessment from the media or independent analyst or congressional Democrats. Again, I have to repeat this, because there is so much debate about the facts these days. That`s an assessment from team Donald Trump. And it is obviously damning.

So what is President Trump directing be done about it? Nothing. Here was a truly disturbing revelation in this hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the President directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Directed by the President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not as specifically directed by the President.


MELBER: What is Congress going to do about that? Well, in a few moments I`m happy to tell you I will be joined directly by a Democratic senator with a plan on Trump and Putin. We also have a report tonight on whether that Russian false flag operation worked to confuse President Trump.

But I begin with our guest, Maya Wiley, a former counsel to the mayor of New York City and Ned Price, a former counterterror analysist at the CIA.

Ned, did you see anything wrong or concerning with the picture painted in the that hearing?

NED PRICE, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERROR ANALYST: Well, absolutely, Ari. We have heard that President Trump has personally himself done absolutely nothing to help our national security establishment and infrastructure stop the next round of Russian meddling that should be hugely troubling to all of us.

We learned not too long ago that the President has not convened his national security council on this subject. But in addition to an absence of things, we also have evaluate what he has done. He has billed secrets in the oval office to the Russian. He has savored his time with Vladimir Putin. He has refused to implement sanctions. So all of these, both what he has done and what he has not done are very clear signal to Moscow, a clear signal that they have the green light to continue.

MELBER: So that is the security part. And that`s why you are here as a CIA expert.

Maya, I turn to you as a lawyer for your theory of the case. Here is the most damming theory. That Bob Mueller is gathering evidence on Donald Trump and it does relate to Russia. And it concerns President Trump. So he is actually doing a different job, a worse job as President on these issues because he is so worried and so sort of scared of doing anything that feeds into this Russia narrative, right. So he is just hands off and letting Putin run the table.

The alternate theory in the case that I want your analysis of is that Donald Trump didn`t do anything wrong. Nothing has been found. Certainly nothing has been released on him from the Mueller probe so far. But he now has a personal ego problem with directing even his own folks who say there is a Russia issue to do anything about it because he just worries it will feed a perception, not a reality, that the Russians helped him or had a big impact in 2016 and he doesn`t want them to get the credit. And so it comes from a place of looking guilty but not being guilty. Analyze those two pieces of the theories of the case for us.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ADVISOR TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, if you start with the fact that he actually has as far as I can tell, probably committed some crimes. He may have committed them unintentionally. But that doesn`t mean there isn`t a theory of the case that is a crime that has been committed probably more than once, because you have the obstruction of justice claim which means even if he didn`t actually collude with Russia in a way that violated the federal elections laws, that he nevertheless tried to obstruct justice.

Secondly, and he would need to actually worry about how he appeared there. I think that if he accidentally violated laws, which is he was benefiting from what Russia was doing. He wasn`t intentionally colluding with them, but yet using the information ways that made him appear to be guilty, he certainly would have to worry at this stage.

I would actually argue though, he would have to worry about appearance, but he would, if he was acting Presidential and taking the national security interests of the country to heart, he would actually appear more innocent than he currently does.

MELBER: Right. You are saying - so I wondering, Ned, I want you to weigh in on that. If you want to call it the eagle theory of the case. The idea that there isn`t a there there, just for the sake of argument, but he just doesn`t like the idea of doing anything that it makes it seem like Russia was so impactful in 2016. Maya is saying, well, you could look at the other side of it and say if he took these actions that would make him look more innocent and yet he doesn`t. Your view?

PRICE: Well, that`s right. Look. I think we have to talk this up to the fact that President Trump is very sensitive on this issue. He doesn`t want to do anything that could undermine what he perceives to be the legitimacy of his win in the electoral college. And if he were to take a hard line, if he were to punish Russia for its meddling, if in fact he were to admit that Russia meddled, in his warped view, he would be giving credence to the fact that his electoral victory was illegitimate.

I think what worries so many of us in the national security realm, is that with that victory in the electoral college, he became the commander in- chief, he became the one that`s responsible for our national security. And he has been completely derelict in executing that most important authority that was bestowed upon him especially in this context.

MELBER: Yes. And Maya, let me play for you what happened in the hearing. There is a saying in hip-hop that can also apply to Russian meddling, can`t stop, won`t stop. And that was really what each and every intel chief was emphasizing whether Trump wants to hear it or not today. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with director Pompeo that we haven`t seen a decrease in the Russian activity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with director Pompeo. This is not going to change or stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It is not going to change nor is going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout the entire community, we have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with director Pompeo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been waiting for that answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have had that one in the pocket for a while, yes, sir.


MELBER: It`s not going to change. It is not going to stop. It is a little bit of congressional giggle because these are long hearings and it goes and on and on and it`s almost funny that we all obviously agree.

The problem I submit to you is, if the President were the last person being questioned on that row, would he say can`t stop won`t stop. Would he say Russians are coming out? Or will he concede to undermine his intel?

WILEY: Well, what he has actually done throughout his presidency is undermine the intel. I mean, there is nothing actually new with this national security community saying we have a problem with Russia. In fact, we had obviously, a bipartisan panel of senators saying we need a bipartisan strategy on Russia in 2016.

What Trump has done and as "Politifact" said the biggest falsehood of 2017 was actually Trump`s saying no Russian interference.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: And so, the real question in my view, putting aside Trump`s legal problems, is that the Republicans aren`t actively demanding a significant look at what`s happening in our -- with Russian interference.

MELBER: And you said the reports of meddling or not, there is certainly a case, but this report to day which I was reading saying that Russian midterm activities could also include targeting our nuclear system and our electrical grid, You see it up there. That is new. That is tonight. That is from inside the Trump administration. So there is a lot to get to.

Maya Wiley, thank you. Ned, stay with me. I want to dig into one other key moment in today`s hearing today.

The intel chiefs discussed one of the most secret things spies ever do, an effort to test the international black market for stolen cyber weapons which U.S. spies were doing, according to the "New York Times," and the market for allegedly secret tapes of President Trump.

Now before I go any further, because this is as explosive a story as you get. I want to be clear. This story I`m about to show you, does not corroborate any compromising videotape of Donald Trump that may or may not exist. It does offer, though, an important and tangled plot to sell such a tape by a Russian intermediary, to our own American spies. Now public discussion of a potentially incriminating tape of Donald Trump famously spilled into public view in 2016 and 2017 when "BuzzFeed" published the Trump-Russia dossier and then Trump blasted the leak.


TRUMP: It`s all fake news. It`s phony stuff. It didn`t happen. Does anyone really believe that story? I`m also very much of a germaphobe by the way, believe me.


MELBER: Today that same account back in the discussion at this hearing, because there are U.S. senators who asked the CIA director about a report, that I mentioned here, that the U.S. spies paid $100,000 towards a promise to hand over one, stolen NSA cyber weapons material and two, an allegedly compromising video of Donald Trump. And the CIA director stressed that they were only interested in the cyber tools stolen from the U.S., not a compromised videotape.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: The information that we were working to try and retrieve was information that we believed might well have been stolen from the U.S. government. It was unrelated to this idea of compromise that appears in each of those two articles.


MELBER: The director also insisting this "New York Times" reporter was inaccurate and he disputed that the CIA even made this alleged payment.


POMPEO: Reporting on this matter has been atrocious, it`s been ridiculous, totally inaccurate. In our view the suggestion the CIA was swindled is false.


MELBER: Ned Price is with me along with Leah Wright Rigueur, professor of foreign policy at Harvard`s Kennedy School.

Ned, wow. And here we are again. And I want to be fair and clear, there is no confirmation of the underlying video part of the story and yet your analysis of the CIA director disputing that they involved themselves in paying for this material, but also at times saying things that did seem to, I would say, confirm aspects in the "New York Times" report that there were Russians out there offering all of these alleged goodies.

PRICE: Well, that`s right, Ari. Director Pompeo`s response was both narrow and in some ways contradictory. It was n arrow because if you listen to precisely what he said, he said the CIA did not pay for this information. What the "New York Times" actually reported is that U.S. intelligence acted through a cutout, a third party, to provide this some to an individual in Berlin, who would then offer this information. So what director Pompeo said and what the "New York Times" said, they can both co- exist. They can both be true.

But it was also contradictory in a way because in offering this reputation, director Pompeo also confirmed the operation. He said the U.S. government was out there trying to look for, to retrieve this information that presumably Russian hackers had stolen. And there are only so many carrots and sticks available to the CIA, one of which was money.

MELBER: So Ned, let me ask you. You have been at the NSA and the CIA. You know more about this than most of us. We all don`t necessarily have that inside view you do. When we read that this happened, what is the level of sort of B.S. detection that the CIA does? Because obviously anyone around the world could mention anything they have read online or in a dossier, it doesn`t mean it exists. How do they ferret out that there`s any chance that what they are being offered is legit?

PRICE: Well, to use your term, Ari, the B.S., Ari, at the CIA is very sensitive and very high. I understand in this case, that the Russian was known to American intelligence officials. In other words this is not just some random Russia who came up -- exactly. And U.S. intelligence officials had good reason because of past track record to believe that this individual had bona fide connections to Russian intelligence. If this someone - if this was someone who had sent them an email via the CIA website or as you said, walked into a U.S. embassy somewhere, they would not have gone to such great lengths one would presume to try to recover this information.

So anyone who offers this kind of information will be vetted using every tool, every database at the disposal of the U.S. President.

MELBER: So let me go to professor on the leadership pointing the President because this was quite a story to begin with before the President responded. One aspect of the story that the article made clear is that there`s always the risk that these folks around the world who are adversaries are just trying to kick up dust and get the Intel community fighting with the President. And the article made clear, as I have in our coverage, that there`s no confirmation of the tape. And yet here is President Trump`s response.

According to the "New York times" a Russian told phony secrets on quote "Trump to the U.S. asking price was $10 million brought down to $1 million to be paid over time. I hope people are now seeing and understanding what is going on here. It`s all now starting to come out. Capitals, DRAIN THE SWAMP.

It all appears he was trick by the very thing if you finish the article that they were trying to do.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Right. So meanwhile the FOX is in charge of the hen house. I mean here we are again, another kind of scandalous moment in the Trump administration, with, you know, questionable leadership. Here`s someone, here`s Donald Trump jumping into, you know, jumping into the fray and starting discord, you know, engaging in all kinds of, you know, in all kinds of battles, unnecessary battles with the very agency and agencies that he should be working with.

I think it`s, you know, it is representative of an administration that really is not taking any of this seriously. But that also is giving very little oversight and attention to the real concerns. And instead has decided that this is a political, you know, there`s political capital in turning this into a fight with the very intelligence agencies that are supposed to support -- support the White House, and support, you know, national security within the United States. This is, you know, typical Donald Trump.

MELBER: Yes. And it`s remarkable when you look at just how much is packed into that story.

Ned Price and Leah Wright Rigueur, thank you both for joining me.

I turn now, as promised, to senator Ben Cardin. He is the author of the bill to sanction Russia.

Senator, I have a lot I want to get to with you given everything we just discuss. But starting with your focus on sanctions, what are you pushing for?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Ari, first, it`s good to be with you.

MELBER: Thank you.

CARDIN: We would like to see the law enforced. That`s passed by 99 percent of the votes of the House and the Senate that we want Mr. Putin to understand that if he continues his conduct, there will be a heavy price. So we gave a list of mandatory sanctions for the President to impose, and he hasn`t imposed a single sanction under this law against Russia. The message to Mr. Putin is, you can keep doing what you are doing.

MELBER: Senator, does that mean that you view the President as in violation of this law or to put it back on Congress that it wasn`t written tightly and specific enough to force action?

CARDIN: Well, you know, there are certain divisions of responsibility, Congress has the responsibility to pay -- pass laws, the President has the responsibility to carry out those laws. We believe that the President needs to impose this wall and impose sanctions against Russia. We have made that pretty clear to him. It was the President`s indicating that he is starting the process. He is holding open that he will use these sanctions. We think they should have been used by now.

MELBER: And on the other story I mentioned, which of course was discussed at the hearing, your view of that was the CIA according to the "New York Times," doing the right thing to try to run those leads down or is the President right that this was a plot against him or is the story wrong in your view?

CARDIN: Well, every one of our intelligence agencies have concluded that not only was Russia actively engaged in our elections in 2016. But they are continuing those activities. And they have if anything accelerated their activities against the Democratic institutions.

MELBER: But I mean - sorry, senator, I mean specifically, the "New York Times" account which director Pompeo was discussing today, the allegation that U.S. spies put $100,000 to get allegedly stolen cyber material and an alleged tape about the President.

CARDIN: Well, my point is that these intelligence agencies are doing everything they can to protect our country. They are taking this threat against Russian very seriously. They don`t know where everything is going to lead, but this account is that there was certain intelligence apparatus that we need to get back that the Russians was using against us. We needed to get it. So it just shows how sensitive the intelligence community is to this threat. The only person who is not taking this with the right grain of commitment is the President of the United States.

MELBER: Copy. I see what you are saying. And that`s part of the info they have to just gather up.

Before I let you go, a lot of criticism on the leadership of John Kelly at the White House. Does he still have your confidence as the White House chief of staff?

CARDIN: Well, I think that John Kelly has a very tough job. What I hope is that he would be more independent in allowing information to get to the President. He has done things that I find very, very questionable. But it`s important that the advisors to the President get access to him with information necessary to make decisions. At times it appears that President Trump does things that are against our national interest but also against the advice of his own advisers.

MELBER: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, the other big story. John Kelly`s White House under siege. A former aide, a reality star dishing it all out on national TV.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They lie. Everybody lies. They lie about, you know, everything, on their background thinking it won`t be found.


MELBER: And the Trump lawyer who reportedly paid off Stormy Daniels, now tonight news breaks he is topping his own tell all book. We have one of the few journalists who has interviewed Stormy Daniels about that history on the show tonight.

And later, Super Bowl champion Tori Smith, he has been in the White House before under Obama but he says he will not go to the Trump White House. I`m going to ask him why.

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.


MELBER: White House criticism now coming from a place close to Trump`s heart, reality TV.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became President. That`s all I`m saying. He is extreme. I`m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I`m like Jesus didn`t say that. It`s scary.


MELBER: A long ways from when Amarosa was a Trump defender.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.


MELBER: And she honed that kind of drama and that view of performance from being with Trump on "the Apprentice."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have got to have a lot of ammunition to combat that, and I didn`t have that ammunition.

TRUMP: He was fired up.


TRUMP: You know why he was fired up? He was fired up because of you.



MELBER: He was fired up.

Now she says this isn`t just a show, it a lie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They lie. Everybody lies. They lie about, you know, everything. On their background, thinking it won`t be found and then you get the folder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you think it wouldn`t be found if you are talking about the U.S. government. Obviously if you are toys are us looking for a job --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is impossible.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like everything from DUI, speeding, domestic violence.


MELBER: I`m joined by "the Washington Post" Anne Gearan.

Look, Anne, as you know, it`s quite common when people leave senior White House posts to go on reality shows and use that as a venue to discuss matters of state. What do you think of Amarosa`s role in this particular freak show that we are all living through as if it`s normal?

ANNE GEARAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that happens all the time. So, I mean, yes, there certainly is a history of people leaving White House jobs and doing tell all interviews or tell all books,. It doesn`t happen that often, but now we have tell all reality TV.

She is endlessly entertaining. And we shouldn`t forget that she really did have a front row seat for a year almost into the way this White House got up and running, the kinds of decisions that were made early on. She was there when Rob Porter was hired. She knows Rob Porter, so.

MELBER: No, her choice of venue and the utter lack of professionalism that I have seen her exhibit in her role as a -- she`s a taxpayer funded employee, does not detract from the access. They also talk spoke about some serious things. She talked about these immigration crackdowns. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guess what, the crackdowns are happening and they are aggressive. They are intentional. And they are going to get worse.


MELBER: And I suppose that`s the other question for you. We do see aids tell their story, but how unusual is it for here to act as if she is against all the things that were known knowns about how Donald Trump would be in government before she came in?

GEARAN: Yes, that is unusual. And it obviously raises the immediate question for anyone still in the White House or Donald Trump`s defenders to say, well, then why did you take the job or why did you keep - why did you stay there if you were opposed to so many of the things that were happening around you? And not only happening around her, but that were as you say, really pretty clearly going to be part of the agenda from the beginning? Why did she take the job at all?

All that said, I think her observations about immigration and the idea that there`s sort of a mean-spirited intent behind all of it is very interesting. Obviously, many people pursuing that at homeland security, justice department, ICE and elsewhere would disagree. But she is expressing something that is a fairly common criticism from outside the White House. This is the first time I have ever heard it from anyone with access inside.

MELBER: Right. With access and a prediction a crackdown`s continuing.

"Washington Posts`" Anne Gearan, thank you very much.

Up ahead, are Trump allies trying to smear key Mueller witnesses? Next.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: -- top story tonight. As Bob Mueller`s investigation bears down, investigators will interview Steve Bannon this week. More signs about how some Trump allies are trying to impede the probe. Consider a new report that then President Obama asked FBI Director James Comey if any Russia leads should be withheld from certain Trump officials. Obama`s concern there was to prevent briefings that might tip people off who could be targets of the probe risking, blowing leads or even witness tampering. And we know how that tension played out when you consider that Mike Flynn was under the eye of that probe and would later plead guilty to a felony in it. Now, as for the witness tampering, let`s be clear, that is illegal in all cases whether you are the President or just a regular citizen. Remember the Casey Anthony case? There was an acquittal and it was thrown into jeopardy over whether someone tried to change witness` testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida investigators are looking into a witness tampering allegation in the Casey Anthony trial. The Orange County Sheriff would not say which witness, though.


MELBER: You can`t witness tamper. It doesn`t matter who you are. But what about witness smearing? This tack first exposed in an important Foreign Policy Magazine reports that noted potential witnesses against Trump could demonstrate potential intent that would bolster an obstruction of justice case. The issue there is, here`s the issue, let me explain this. When you have people who are key witnesses, right? They could hold the key to the whole case, whether it`s obstruction, collusion, whatever it might be. And so, now we`re seeing these efforts to go after people who will be potentially the sources for any Mueller case. Take a listen to this attack on the man behind the dossier.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Either he lied in London or he lied to the FBI. Lying to the FBI is a crime. If it`s a crime against Flynn, it ought to be a crime against Steele.


MELBER: That was Senator Grassley discussing Christopher Steele. Trump has also attacked former FBI Director Comey as a liar, Comey, of course, has appeared under oath, Trump has not. Trump also attacking Comey`s deputy, Andrew McCabe. There was a White House statement arguing the FBI should clean the house and several other top staff. Now, these aren`t just government officials who can come and go with the normal churn of government. These are, as I stress, some of the key potential witnesses in any case that Bob Mueller ultimately builds. I turn now to Congressman Mike Quigley, he`s a Member of the House Intelligence Committee. When you see this level of public attack, I wonder what you think as a Member of Congress, I imagine you care about first amendment rights and people can say a lot of things and you in the Congress have a special protection to say all kinds of things as Senator Grassley has that protection, and yet, there are serious questions here about whether this is potentially going to undermine these people as witnesses in any future prosecution.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely, it`s a pattern of behavior. The President clearly has his allies who are willing to do anything and say anything to protect the President legally and politically. We saw this with this recent memo, a long list of obstructions, Mr. Nunez refusal to issue subpoenas. I mean, they`re willing to attack Mr. Mueller, a veteran, a war hero with impeccable bipartisan credentials, they`ll do it to just about anyone. As you, I think alleged or discussed earlier, the White House is getting nervous, right? There`ve been four indictments, they`re afraid of more. Clearly, General Flynn`s indictment has been spooked that it`s in the White House. So I`ve watched this for over a year now from the Intel Committee. I don`t believe there`s anything that they won`t do or say to protect the President.

MELBER: Do you think that at some point there are things that Members of Congress can say or do that go beyond their protective roles and that could hinder the investigation?

QUIGLEY: Well, I think that there are elements of what Mr. Nunez did in working in conjunction in the memo for example that bring them into the realm of obstruction of justice. I think there`s a very broad range that we give members in terms of their ability to speak freely but I do think that words and deeds, they can join the President --

MELBER: You`re saying -- you`re saying tonight that it`s possible that Congressman Nunez`s conduct could be part of the element of an obstruction case?

QUIGLEY: No, what I was saying -- I`ll put it this way. I think that the -- that the Chairman has helped the White House obstruct this case. Now, whether that`s part of a legal entanglement, that`s a different story.

MELBER: When you say the White House -- and you know, this is part of my job pushing everyone, but when you say the White House obstruct this case, are you saying that as a legal term of art that committing the felony of obstruction of justice?

QUIGLEY: I think that Mr. Mueller is probably developing a case, where there certainly -- what are we talking about when we talk about obstruction? It has -- there has to be an intent, in words and deeds. I think that an outsider looking at this would say that Mr. Mueller could develop a case like this. I mean pressuring Mr. Comey not to go after General Flynn, firing Director Comey, trying to fire Mueller twice. There`s a whole series of things he`s done. And I think that there are members of Congress in their words and deeds, I don`t know if it`s a legal issue, but clearly, they are helping him obstruct the investigation. Whether that`s a legal aspect of this or just you know, the general sense of we`re going to make it as difficult as possible for you to find out what took place here.

MELBER: Right, and that`s -- look, it`s a serious -- it`s a serious statement you make about a set of very serious issues, particularly because we`re speaking here in the two-week period after which there was this unusual release of classified information on a rank obvious partisan basis because the Republican memo was released, the Democratic memo has not been released. And then you have the number three official at the DOJ leaving last week. Now you`re saying that Nunez should be scrutinized for that. I guess that goes to my final question to you. Should he be fully recused at this point from any Russia probe?

QUIGLEY: Well, I thought he was, but clearly he`s still signing subpoenas or refusing to sign them which I think, again, obstruct this is case. That makes it especially difficult. And as you recall those transcripts that were made public, it was my question that he refused to acknowledge that they didn`t work with the White House to develop that memo, right? All he would say --

MELBER: Did you have hunch? We covered that a lot. I mean, that was a -- you made news, whether you meant to or not, because I know it was in the transcript, not the most exciting place, it wasn`t like a press conference, but we covered that. What made you ask that question to Nunez? Why did you think it would be hard for him to simply say what in a normal era is easy for an investigator to say, which is to disclaim coordinating with the potential suspects of their probe?

QUIGLEY: Well, he`s supposed to be an independent investigator. I`ve watched for over a year where he`s been anything but. I think he`s been an agent of White House to help obstruct this case. It all began with his midnight run to the White House to give information that would exonerate the President. We found out the information came from the White House in the first place. So I guess, the best indicator of future efforts of past efforts. So the reason I asked those questions is it fit a pattern and it was a fair question to ask.

MELBER: Congressman Mike Quigley, I think you made a little news tonight and I appreciate you time. Thank you.

QUIGLEY: Thank you. Take care.

MELBER: Turning to another important story, ethical conflicts in Donald Trump`s financial deals. Forbes reporting that Donald Trump used his own White House meeting to push his own business deal in the country of Georgia. You may have heard about this. My colleague Rachel Maddow has reported on these plans, trying to build a Trump Tower back in 2012 in Georgia and the issues were surrounding fraud and money laundering.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Trump agrees to license his name to brand this new seaside resort development in Georgia. He did a big publicity campaign for the deal with Georgia`s President. Nobody involved in the deal appears to have asked where are all this money was coming from, or why Donald Trump`s new partner in this real estate deal had been able to secure all this money from a bank that was literally all over the news at the time for being involved in this spectacular lurid fraud.


MELBER: That`s the history. Here`s the news. Forbes` Dan Alexander reports, Trump`s White House meeting I should say with the Prime Minister became an effort to push his own businesses. Why does this matter?

DAN ALEXANDER, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, FORBES: Well, you know, it`s sort of interesting. Basically what happened is, that deal had already been canceled. And they said, going into the presidency, hey, we`re going to pull out of that one because of concerns of the emollients clause which as you know, prevents foreign governments from paying public officials. And so -- then a couple of months later, the Prime Minister of Georgia goes into the White House and according to Trump`s two former business partners, it`s a really short meeting and he walks in and one of the first things Trump says is basically, hey, how is the old project going? So I want to be clear here, at the time he was not still involved in the project. But those two partners I actually met over in Georgia with them a handful of months ago and they said that they`re going to continue building the project and that if at some future time during the presidency or after the presidency, if Trump wanted to put his name back on the project, they`d be more than happy to have it.

MELBER: Which goes to whether he`s thinking about the United States or Trump Org when he`s doing these meetings. Also the reporting here, Trump Tower lists the attendant as the industrial and commercial bank of China, and you say, make no mistake who`s paying the rent, the Chinese government.

ALEXANDER: That`s right. So if you`re looking at the Trump Tower, the largest office tenant is that Chinese bank. You know, these guys are paying about $2 million a year. And what`s really interesting here, is they might actually be renegotiating that lease as we speak. So if you look at on a 2012 document, it says that the lease is up in 2019, which puts renegotiation right about now. now, that couldn`t mean that Donald Junior and Eric Trump right now are renegotiating with an entity controlled by the Chinese government, whether and how many millions Donald Trump should be collecting. I will say that we talked to Trump back in 2015 just as he was gearing up his campaign, and he said oh, yes, that Chinese bank, he`s walking us through the Trump Tower, he says, oh, yes that Chinese bank, they -- you know, I just signed a new lease with them recently. And it`s sort of let it passed, you know. At the moment it was early. Nobody really picked it up. But now in hindsight, we can see what a big deal that lease is.

MELBE: Well, I learn two things about you. Your investigative work here is important. Your digging into a story that needs more scrutiny and Donald Trump surely is going to distract people away from it. The second thing I learned is that your Donald Trump impression, Dan, it needs some work.

ALEXANDER: I`m sure that`s true.

MELBER: It needs a little work. Dan Alexander with a big story tonight, thank you very much. Up next, Donald Trump`s personal lawyer has a tell- all book and it involves Stormy Daniels.


MELBER: Stormy Daniels back in the news tonight, and this time the reason is a top Trump aide. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen now says he`s writing a new book to rebut Fire and Fury and will address his own role in an alleged payment to Stormy Daniels. The Daily Beast reporting on this today. I also spoke with Michael Cohen by phone who confirmed it and then referred questions to his literary agent. We are awaiting a turn call there. Now, this is news that is leaking because Cohen sent this book proposal around pledging a tell-all saying no issue, too big, too sticky or too odd ball for him to handle, an inside scoop on the dossier and then he takes a shot at Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers he says are now six feet under politically. He also promises a chapter teeing off this famous interview.


BRIANNA KEILAR, ANCHOR, CNN: You say it`s not a shakeup, but you guys are down and it makes sense --


KEILAR: Polls, most of them, all of them?

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Polls. I just told you, I answered your question.

COHEN: OK, which polls?

KEILAR: All of them.



MELBER: That exchange was ridiculed at the time. But you can see why Cohen wants to focus on it now. He did get the last laugh. Political insiders, reporters, and others thought those national polls meant Trump was losing. Well the polls did reflect Trump was unpopular, and he did lose more votes, he did win where it mattered, not the polls, but the Electoral College. I`m joined now by Liz Plank, Senior Correspondent with Vox Media and Jim Moret Chief Correspondent for Inside Edition. He questions Stormy Daniels in her first T.V. interview since this whole story broke out in the open. Liz, I come to you first. Books matter, Fire, and Fury mattered. It did something that a lot of other things, T.V., criticism, whatever, didn`t do. It dislodged Steve Bannon from Breitbart News and his role of supporting Trump. So it`s striking that Michael Cohen who`s not -- I would say, to be fair, not known for his literary contributions is out with this book, but he feels vindicated.

LIZ PLANK, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, VOX MEDIA: Well, I mean, expecting a tell-all book on Trump by Michael Cohen, is sort of like expecting a tell- all book about investigative reporting by like Fox and Friends. I`m not expecting that much to come out of this book except it`s basically being -- a like a love letter to Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump`s number one yes man. You know, he`s the one polls guy. And he`s not just sort of not the smartest tool in the shed, but he`s also kind of a bad lawyer, as you would know because you a great lawyer. He didn`t even know what marital rape was. Remember in 2015, when Donald Trump`s ex-wife, there were reports that she had made accusations about being raped by Donald Trump. He said you can`t rape your spouse. And then he also threatened a Daily Beast reporter who was asking him about that story on the record. So I don`t expect much of Michael Cohen, to say the least.

MELBER: So, yes, you think tell-all is a bit of Trumpian hyperbole in and of itself.

PLANK: Absolutely.

MELBER: And Stormy Daniels being brought back up by him, now, if you want to be charitable, you could say well, maybe he was hoping this book proposal wouldn`t leak. But you know, book proposals are sent to dozens of publishers, right, which is all over New York media. So it`s a ticking time bomb. So you know, from the Trump White House perspective, we`re talking about Stormy again, why, because of your ace lawyer.

PLANK: Right. And you know, if the President wasn`t defending men who are accused of beating up their wives, right now we`re being investigated for the Russia probe, this story would be all over the news, it wouldn`t be brought back and you wouldn`t be one of the very few people actually covering it. This is a huge story, and it gives us certain opportunity to repeat the timeline here and express the timeline of Stormy Daniels. She came forward and talked to the press one week after the Access Hollywood tape came out. That is important. And when she was paid one month before the election, she stopped talking to media outlets. And so, at best this a story about an affair, but at worst, we don`t know what she knows.

MELBER: Well, you know, it`s funny you mention that not to get too (INAUDIBLE), and Jim has covered this story and we`re about to look at some of your interview footage. We continue to cover the Stormy Daniels story on THE BEAT because in any presidency, in any administration list, this would be a huge story. So we`re not going to cover it less just because there is a kind of a carnival atmosphere to somebody. It`s a big story, it has a lot of big implications. Jim, let me play some of your interviews here with Stormy Daniels.


JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, INSIDE EDITION: Did you have a sexual relationship with Donald Trump? Have you been paid to keep quiet? Have you signed a nondisclosure agreement? Are you frustrated that you can`t talk about these things? You clearly want to say -- you`re looking at me like you can`t talk. I`m taking this that you can`t say anything. Is that accurate? I`m taking that as a yes.


MELBER: Now Jim, interviewing silent film stars has always been known to be challenging. Walk us through what you did learn with an individual, a woman who allegedly did make a legal agreement, a contract for her silence, allegedly her silence was purchased and we just saw what that looks like.

MORET: Well, we do know that in 2011, she gave an interview to In Touch, and gave tremendous detail about what she says occurred between she and Donald Trump. And we do know that after she was allegedly paid, that she didn`t say anything. I spent about four or five hours with her. What I got from her was, she is a mom. She has a seven-year-old daughter. She has a husband. They live outside of Dallas. She lives a fairly quiet life. She rides horses in competitions. Most people around her don`t know what she does or didn`t. They do now because she says she`s gotten death threats, she`s been -- she`s been frightened to speak. She didn`t say anything on or off the record but she said, look, I`m worried. And it was clear to me --

MELBER: Why would she be getting death threats?

MORET: She believes, you know, it`s one of these conspiracy theories, I suppose, but she thinks that certain jobs that she got were canceled because people close to Trump put pressure on these folks. She thinks that she`s getting threats from people who support Trump. Whether it`s true or not, she believes it`s true. And that`s all I gleaned from that.

MELBER: Right. And in the wider context, I mean, there are also reports as part of this story about -- you talk about killing jobs. There`s also reports about using the National Enquirer to buy up stories and then never run them, buy up columns. I want to play for you as well, from Rachel Maddow`s reporting on this, the money trail. Because a lot -- a lot of this goes to the money trail. Do we have it at all or no? Well, let me read to you. She basically interviewed the Wall Street Journal Reporter on this who explained Cohen arranged for the payment from this bank account of another individual Keith Davidson, that`s Stormy`s lawyer and then says there was not a clear trail of whether the source of the funds comes from Michael Cohen who arranged the deal or from Donald Trump or elsewhere. And Jim, as an investigative reporter, you know where I`m going with this. That matters a lot because the source of the funds and their accounting could spell the difference between whether this was a private legal payment which means then the voters can hear about it and care or not care, fine, or a potential violation of federal election law, Jim.

MORET: Right, that hearkens back to the John Edwards scandal. Look, I think if his were about somebody named Ari Melber or Jim Moret, then we would be brought up on charges. My fear is, concern is that this is just the saga, the scandal of the week, right? Now, I`m curious why Trump`s own lawyer says he wants to clarify this unfortunate saga. He`s bringing it up again. It`s not unfortunate saga. Either there was a relationship or there wasn`t. He paid her off or he didn`t. You know, it`s pretty straightforward I think. But you`re right, this could be federal election commission violation.

MELBER: And that`s another interesting part of it. Jim Moret who had the big interview and Liz Plank who has covered this story with us before, thank you, both. I have something else very special on the show tonight right after this.


MELBER: Can we talk about Black Panther because everybody is. And I`m happy to tell you tomorrow, one of the stars of this very hot movie Winston Duke will be on THE BEAT. He`s going to speak about his journey from Trinidad and Tobago and what had movie means tomorrow on THE BEAT.