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Trump on emails, Russians at Trump tower. TRANSCRIPT: 03/01/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Michael McFaul; Alexi McCammond; Neera Tanden; Seth Waxman; Caroline Fredrickson

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 1, 2018 Guest: Michael McFaul; Alexi McCammond; Neera Tanden; Seth Waxman; Caroline Fredrickson

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: It`s a joke, people. He is just kidding, right? Right? Sometimes you really have to see what`s being said.

We are used to seeing General Kelly like this, furrowed brow, staring into the distance. But it`s good to see the general let his emotions show a little bit and it probably helped his stress as well. So take a queue from your eyeball, Secretary Kelly.




TODD: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more of "MTP Daily."

"The Beat" with Ari Melber starts now. And he never rolls his eyes at us.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: No, but we happen to be rolling with you, Chuck. Thank you very much. Interesting report there.

Let me tell you what we are tonight. Several major stories breaking right now. One, Bob Mueller preparing a case for criminal charges against the Russians who hacked Democratic emails. This is an NBC exclusive posting just within the last hour.

Also new questions about whether Jared Kushner misused his White House power for personal financial gain which escalates the tension between Donald Trump and his attorney general who, of course, had to recuse over all of these Russia issues.

Meanwhile, also, this chaos in the west wing. Reports Trump`s national security advisor may also bounce and Trump`s longest serving aid, Hope Hicks, well, she` is getting out after admitting of course , to telling those quote "white lies." A lot to get to.

But we begin tonight with Bob Mueller bearing down on an ominous and pretty famous question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the President know and when did he know it?


MELBER: We can tell you that`s what Bob Mueller`s trying to figure out. The when, like when Donald Trump learned of the Russian email hack. That`s what Mueller is now asking witnesses. Intrigue over that Russia dirt on Clinton has been a big issue. Indeed, it arose when I interviewed Trump`s aide Sam Nunberg just last night.


SAM NUMBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: I think it`s probably at that meeting with Don Jr., I`m sure Don Jr. reported to his father, what they had heard. I don`t think there`s anything wrong with that, by the way.

MELBER: Wait. You think Don Jr. told his father everything he was hearing about getting offers of dirt?

NUMBERG: Yes, I`m sure he did.


MELBER: I`m sure he did. And is that a problem? Well, here is how a legal expert, Susan Hennessy responded analyzing that interview I just showed you from "the Beat."

She said, well, one crime here would be where Don Jr. told a congressional committee that didn`t happen. In Trump Jr.`s public statement to Congress, he did not explicitly say whether or not he had told his father about this meeting. But there was a kind of blanket denial and we will show it to you. He said the meeting was so insignificant, he quote "didn`t recall ever discussing it with Jared, Paul or anyone else." And then there were these leaks about the testimony telling committee staffers he did not tell his father about the meeting.

Bottom line, Trump Jr. says his father didn`t know. But if he did tell him about the meeting and then lied about it to Congress or other authorities, well, that is another crime right there.

Also, Sam Nunberg issue Trump seeming that he expected information, this is how he seem, he seemed like he expected to get and use the information that came out of the Trump tower meeting.


NUMBERG: Donald Trump said something, in other words, we will learn in a week or something like this.

MELBER: You think that Donald Trump, the candidate --

NUMBERG: Knew about that meeting, sure.

MELBER: Had advanced knowledge?

NUMBERG: Yes. I think he knew about the meeting and I think the meeting was a bust.


MELBER: He thinks Trump knew about the meetings with the Russians ahead of time.

Look at what was going on then. This is June 9th, 2016, coming together in days. Donald Trump Jr. telling them I love it for that Russian offer of dirt on Clinton from June 3rd. By the 7th, the meeting is on the books like a priority. And Trump Jr. not only confirming he would attend, but he would go along with the now indicted Paul Manafort and the now under investigation Jared Kushner, 6:14 p.m. on June 7th. Three hours later, Donald Trump makes this very unusual promise to give a big speech on new things apparently he is learning about Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech, on probably Monday of next week, and we are going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you are going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.


MELBER: You are going to find it very interesting. You know what`s even more interesting? He never gave that speech. So why did he promise something and then withdraw it? And is that one more thing that Bob Mueller`s investigating right now?

We have a power panel, Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and we will be joined in a moment by some other experts.

Seth, if Trump had advanced knowledge of any of this, what is that mean?

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it could be incredibly significant. What we are talking about here is a conspiracy to unlawfully influence this election, you know, a quid pro quo between the Russians on one side and the campaign on the other. And right now what we have heard, of course, is Don Jr. and others may have participated in those meetings. But if, you know, the President-elect or Don Trump Sr. himself had knowledge and participated in that kind of scheme that exposes him to conspiracy to influence the election, there could be potential bribery charges, a this for that, if in exchange for that kind of dirt he promised future potential benefits like reduction in sanction on the Russian or anything else of value.

So if these comments are correct, and if Donald Trump Jr. did in fact inform his father, before, during or after, and then there were steps taken by the President there after, then he could be part of this conspiracy.

MELBER: Right. Which is not nothing as they say.

And that`s - this goes back to what exactly the Russians were up to with these people? Were they cut out? Where they basically connected to something high level, or were they as the more innocuous explanations sort of bumbling people around getting bumbling campaign aides confused?

I want to play for you Sam Numberg`s view of this because he offered what sounded to me like the sloppy co-conspirator defensive Donald Trump with regard to Putin. Take a listen.


NUMBERG: I think if Vladimir pie Putin had a plot like this, he would have involved Donald Trump because Donald Trump wouldn`t be able to keep his mouth shut about it.

MELBER: You are saying he was Donald Trump in your view is innocent because he would be as such a sloppy co-conspirator?

NUMBERG: You said it like that. I will say it this way. That I think that Vladimir Putin would be too careful.


MELBER: Ambassador, your view?

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I disagree. I mean, Vladimir Putin is not a genius. He uses cutouts like this all the time in other foreign policy issues and other matters, I know that for a fact. Number three, where would this group, this bumbling idiots, group pf bumbling idiots led by (INAUDIBLE) get this information from?

They got it from Russian intelligence. They don`t have their own way to hack John Podesta`s email and the DNC. And in that system, there`s just no way that this group would fly to New York, to meet with -- remember who they met with. They didn`t meet with low level officials in the campaign. They met with the President`s son and the campaign manager. They would never do that without having it cleared from the Russian government at a very high level.

MELBER: And that`s such an interesting point you make, because that has been under significant debate and strain, what did this all really mean and how did it happen? And as you say, there is a pattern and precedent really for some of how these operations have worked in other times.

Seth, I have so much to get to. I wanted to play for you someone who`s also served in federal government as you have, who has knowledge of Bob Mueller, who had played many roles and who happens to be a very conservative Republican and she offers her assessment just very recently in the 4:00 p.m. hour right here on MSNBC.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Bob Mueller came into the FBI job just shortly after 9/11 happened. And he completely transformed the FBI from an organization that was really kind of a law enforcement organization to one that really was a counter terrorism organization. He did a really fine job. He is also one of the most honorable people I know.


MELBER: What do you think of that assessment from a Republican, and it comes again at a time that we now know Bob Mueller is now probing Donald Trump`s basically attempts to say all these other law enforcement people including Jeff Sessions are quote "dishonorable."

WAXMAN: You know, I think that echoes most people`s opinions of Mr. Mueller that know him or work with him. I mean, we have seen Bob Mueller right now looking into two aspects of this case, one pre-election misconduct and one post-election misconduct.

The pre-election is this conspiracy that we have been talking about thus far here tonight. The other is post-election, this obstruction case that the President may have engaged in. But for me it is always been the underlying case, the conspiracy prior to the election. In other words, without an underlying crime, the juice of an obstruction case isn`t really there as much. But if Mr. Mueller is able to prove that there was a quid pro quo or an illegal hacking or any real substantive criminal, federal crime, it puts obviously that crime into context as well as the obstruction that took place after the election.

MELBER: You know, I talked to a lot of people about these issues. I have never heard a prosecutor quite to take us to what sounds like the steroids analogy, that you know, you need to be strong. But if you have extra juice, that sort of boot straps the obstruction.

I want you both to stay with me. And adding in as promised, Neera Tanden was the president of center for American progress and a former senior aide to Hillary Clinton and Alexi McCammond, deputy news editor for "Axios" which has been all over some of these stories.

Neera, let me read to you this brand new report I mentioned about the hacking of your colleague. These are emails where, again, based on what we understand to be a crime, everyone could see what you were writing to John Podesta. Quote "the possible new indictment could delve into the details of and the people behind the Russian intelligence operation using hackers to penetrate these networks and steal the emails of the DNC and your colleague Clinton campaign chairman Jon Podesta. Ken Dilanian and others are reporting tonight that this is now the next thing Bob Mueller might seek to charge on.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, so I would just like to remind everyone what actually happened, which is that WikiLeaks dump their emails every morning between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., except for the first day that they dumped their emails. What happened that day is "the Washington Post" broke the "access Hollywood" story. They broke - they knew about it at 12:15. They contacted the Trump campaign at 4:15. That batch -- the "access Hollywood" video went live and within 17 minutes, WikiLeaks dumped its first batch of emails and its most damaging batch of emails against Hillary Clinton.

And for those people who haven`t worked on campaigns before, a normal tactic is when you are facing an existential threat like the "Access Hollywood" videotape. You dumped out the worst piece of information you have on our opponent. And in this case, The Russians dumped out the most damaging piece of information they had about Hillary Clinton. And now we know that there have been contacts after contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian assets, you know, actual assets.

And so, it`s an amazing coincidence, let`s put it this way, and I would be shocked if Bob Mueller wasn`t looking into it, it`s an amazing coincidence that the WikiLeaks information which was incredibly damaging to Hillary Clinton, came out right at the time the "Access Hollywood" video came out. And I think that is something that they should be probing as much as it`s possible to probe.

MELBER: Seth, what do you think of that theory legally? I mean, Neera is basically saying there are certain kinds of strategy and information that are far more likely to be executed based on one person set of goals, basically Trump or allies of Trump being in on it than it just being guessed and happening to work out really well.

WAXMAN: Yes. I think what she is talking about or in the legal terms overt acts in furtherance of conspiracy. So any time a person that is part of this conspiracy, remember, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to engage in illegal conduct, and there has to be what is called an overt act or a step that is taken in furtherance.

And so whether that`s a counter message to something that`s about to come out against you, or something to obstruct the case to distract law enforcement or to fire Jim Comey, so you can get rid of the lead investigator, or tell Jeff Sessions I need you to stay in office to protect me, protect me from whom? Of course, law enforcement, any one of those things ca be an overt act.

MELBER: Right. It can get pretty blame.

Alexi, I wonder what your reporting suggests about the counter argument, though. The idea that if Democrats and also legal experts and others say the Russians were pretty good at this. They clearly have some effective maneuvers, that that would stand to reason that they might have figured out to do this strategy through their research which we now know and Mueller expose included having people even on the ground of the United States, they might have figure out how to do it without any direct help from top Trump people?

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, DEPUTY NEWS EDITOR, AXIOS: Sure. And I think that`s the larger issue moving forward, is like how capable are these foreign entities, Russians specifically in interfering in our elections moving forward. And Trump can be upset with Sessions or Mueller, but the larger issue he needs to address is what is he capable and what has he known throughout the campaign and even now that he is unwilling to admit, if it is true that he knows something.

MELBER: And ambassador, when you hear all of this again what we were relying on you before for, how much of this do you think you have a firm handle on what is likely to be the capacity of what the Russians could do and what really they would have needed some extra knowledge to pull off?

MCFAUL: Well, just a couple of things. I mean if this indictment is coming and it`s been reported, it follows the pattern that we had with the internet research agency, showing that there`s a crime first among Russians, and I`m glad about that, because when Russians steal data from Americans, that is a crime. It`s not hacking, it`s theft, alright. That`s the first piece. That`s the predicate.

Now, there are other actors involved here. Let me remind everybody, WikiLeaks is not an American organization. So WikiLeaks is an actor in this too. And third, if we now learn that there`s coordination, I`m using my nouns here very carefully, communication between the Trump campaign and that data dump that suggests, once the predicate is set, is this was stolen goods, this was an illegal act, and then there were others that were working with that stolen data, that suggests another angle in terms of connecting these dots. I didn`t use the word collusion, did you notice that?

MELBER: I did notice that.

MCFAUL: But I think you are getting closer and closer to something like that.

MELBER: Right. And someday we will break out the scrabble board and get all the c-words, coordination, collusion, conspiracy together and we will give out the points accordingly.

Ambassador McFaul, Seth Waxman, Neera Tanden and Alexi McCammond, thanks to each of you. I learned a lot tonight. And we have a lot more coming up.

The Trump justice department closing ranks, look at this unusual dinner portrait from last night.

Also, brand-new questions on whether Kushner is misusing his government job to deal with his overwhelming debt. I have a financial reporter who was actually sued by Kushner`s father-in-law on "the Beat" tonight.

More on the MSNBC exclusive about what`s happening as well as a potential shake-up in the national security department. And we will tackle a key Donald Trump talking point on Russia.


TRUMP: There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians, no collusion.


MELBER: Tonight, my special legal report on what you need to know about that claim.

I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, does the President want to get rid of his attorney general?



MELBER: Not that I know of. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for attorney general Jeff Sessions, and there`s a new nickname, of course, this one it is Mr. Magoo. Donald Trump comparing his attorney general to that clumsy cartoon classic. That is allegedly private marking but Trump insults are anything but subtle and they may be illegal.

I will explain. He is calling Sessions` handling of Russia disgraceful. Sessions still doing the job though. In fact, you are looking at the White House today dealing with opioid issues. Last night he also sent a message not with words but by breaking bread.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having dinner together in a spot in Washington where they knew they would be photographed like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can bet the President was told of it by the time Sessions and Rosenstein were being asked if they wanted bottled water or tap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attorney general punching back a picture with the attorney general and several of his deputies and others showing unity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The symbolism here hard to miss, the three top ranking justice department officials in this country with a show of solidarity.


MELBER: That is a big deal not to be missed. The photo you are looking at, the analysis you just heard from all over the place, it`s a big deal when this response on Donald Trump`s attacks on the DOJ, the Mueller probe, the people of the FBI is for those people, two of whom he just appointed very recently, to stand up on what could understood as on behalf of the Mueller probe. All of this, of course, stems from something that happened exactly one year ago this week.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have said this. Quote "I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States."


MELBER: That seemingly dry announced caused a rupture we now know that appears permanent between Donald Trump and his attorney general. We quote a lot of wisdom around here, because there are people who understand things better than us. So let us quote Aristotle who told us nature of course is a vacuum. And the vacuum is what Sessions created that has the devil Trump (ph). It was filled by this man, Rod Rosenstein who then appointed Mueller. And for a year, Trump has now been unleashing this flow of insults against Sessions.

We built for you tonight a word cloud here so you can see these insults like Mr. McGoo, disgraceful, idiot, disloyal, disappointed, weak, very weak, beleaguered, very unfair, extremely unfair. That is not just a set of insults, though. That is now, we understand, and you can take it in there, all these things that Donald Trump has said about Jeff Sessions, not so much for what he has done, but for what he chose not to do which was intervene politically in the Russia probe.

Now the White House adds to this very big cloud that`s under investigation by saying Trump won`t even guarantee that he won`t still try to fire this man, Jeff Sessions.

I`m joined now by Caroline Fredrickson, attorney and President of the American constitution society. And full disclosure, someone who was my boss over 15 years ago. I appreciate you coming on the show.


MELBER: Caroline, your view of the legal import of the souring of this relationship?

FREDRICKSON: Well, you know, I think Donald Trump should not worry so much about Mr. McGoo but should really be focusing on Boris and Natasha, if he`s thinking about cartoon characters who are causing him trouble.

You know, I think this really has been a very important part of the investigation clearly that Mr. Mueller is engaged in. We see it in all the in depth reporting that`s coming out of the "New York Times," "the Washington Post" and of course from you, Ari, about how Donald Trump has tried to intimidate and pressure Jeff Sessions into initially not recusing himself and then berating him about decisions he made to back off from overseeing the investigation. And then ultimately, trying to get him to quit. All within an attempt, potentially to influence the Russia investigation that`s being carried out by Robert Mueller.

MELBER: Let me read to you from "the Washington Post" account. I don`t even know what to say about it, but that happens more and more lately. People who are paid to talk can`t even come up with the words, but "Washington Post" says on the anniversary of Sessions` confirmation earlier this month, senior aides decided to buy him a bullet-proof vest with his name emblazoned as a gift according to the person familiar at the matter -- Caroline.

FREDRICKSON: Well, you know, I think this along with the picture of him going out to dinner with two of his colleagues tells the story of what a bizarre situation we are all living in. It`s like the third dimension of Washington. You know, what is going on when it`s news that the attorney general is having dinner with a couple of people who work with him and that, you know, that his people are giving him a bullet-proof vest to protect him against whom? The President.

You know, I just -- it`s just so surreal. I don`t even know where to begin. But you know, sort of back to, you know, the Boris and Natasha piece, I mean, this is really a very serious matter. Because we have strong indications supported by all of our intelligence agencies that the Russians interfered with our election. And this President is not doing anything to help get that question answered. And as well as figure out how we -- what we have to do to make sure it doesn`t happen in the upcoming elections.

And so all this surreal swirl. The crazy twitter feed that comes out of the White House is all, I think, distracting us from what is the really serious matter at the heart of the investigation that Mr. Mueller is undertaking to figure out what Russia did and how it affected our election.

MELBER: And if there was obstruction, the fact that some of it happens in a very cartoonish or even reality show way doesn`t undermine the core legal probe which is whether there was a pattern and practice of trying to obstruct the outcome of an investigation into the White House`s own activities.

Caroline Fredrickson, always benefit from our expertise.


MELBER: Thank you.

FREDRICKSON: A real pleasure.

MELBER: Up ahead, this chaos at the White House NBC reporting tonight another top Trump official might be leaving, this of course coming after Hope Hicks` departure.

And the question of collusion, there`s a high-profile constitutional lawyer who has got a new comment on my reporting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was somewhat ironic to hear, you know, this doesn`t mean that Mueller doesn`t have something else. Of course it doesn`t. But you know, the lack of knowing that hasn`t stop many people from arguing that there is a lead pipe (INAUDIBLE) of collusion.


MELBER: Tonight I have a response to that response. My special report on the collusion question in this probe.


MELBER: The other top story tonight, a new Trump official on the verge of leaving. Multiple sources telling NBC General H.R. McMaster could leave his post as soon as next month. This comes, of course, right after Hope Hicks bounced yesterday, adding to a comically long list of Trump staff exits. And then, of course, the last 48 hours of bombshells.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President then retweeted just this, witch hunt!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared Kushner will lose his access to top secret intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Asked about the downgrade late this afternoon, President Trump wouldn`t answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officials in at least four countries have tried to discuss ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are all the fruits of nepotism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President with a new attack on the Attorney General.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: He`s undermined Attorney General Sessions in a lot of different ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House staff dynamic resembles the Montagues and the Capulets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Manafort now pleading not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Special Counsel was asking witnesses pointed quesitons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors have asked wide-ranging questions about Trump`s financial ties to Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gatekeeper to the President is out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope Hicks is resigning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She told the committee that her work for the President required her to tell white lies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you find her to be forthcoming?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: No, she was not forthcoming.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I missed every one of you every day but I did something wrong and god punished me I guess.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: From God`s punishment to God`s plan. A lot of pressure there and that`s just in the last two days. Then consider the new reporting, the Senate Intelligence Committee stating that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee secretly leaked private text messages that were from a lawyer and a Senator on that investigative committee, Mark Warner. NBC News says that Warner and his Republican counterpart Richard Burr took the unusual step of confronting Speaker Ryan about all this. And now, the conservative publication RedState says the man behind it all Devin Nunez must step down or be forced out. A lot happening. I`m joined by Bill Kristol, Founder, Editor-at-Large at the Weekly Standard, Adrienne Elrod, a former Director of Communications of Hillary for America. Bill, it`s been a messy two days. What does it mean?

KRISTOL: I mean, there`s so much chaos and you can`t quite tell what`s serious, and what`s you know, in a way trivial, who cares in a way who Trump`s Communications Director is honestly? He`s gone through five of them, he`ll go through five more I suppose and it doesn`t really change anything. For me though --

MELBER: Well, I`m going to let you keep going -- I`m going to let you keep going but I`ll just -- I`ll just jump in and say, as you know, people may care if she`s not only a Communications Director but potential witness to a crime?

KRISTOL: That`s exactly -- great minds work alike. I should have to say. But in this case, it does matter. I think -- I mean, who knows, who quit in the last week who we`re not expected to quit, I think. Josh Raffel, I think that`s how his name is pronounced, who was the kind of communications person for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump basically, and then Hope Hicks obviously, who were the people by all accounts in the July 8th, 2017 Air Force One statement that misleadingly, falsely said that the meeting with Don Junior was just about adoptions.

Those two, I think the press accounts have those two working on the statement and phone calls on the statement. Hope Hicks apparently telling (INAUDIBLE) later e-mails will never come out. I really wonder if Mueller has those two in a position where they can`t stay in the White House. They have to go, negotiate or cut a deal. I mean, this is speculation. I want to be totally clear. Maybe they just got frustrated, and they didn`t like it there or whatever. But it is interesting that no one expect that either of them I think particularly to leave at this point and suddenly they`re both out within the last week.

MELBER: Well, you`re making such an important point. Before I go to Adrienne, I just want to build on what you`re saying. I know what a fan of classic R&B you are of Bill Kristol, and this is sort of the Alicia Keyes argument because she had her famous track you don`t know my name, and often there are a lot of people who are one step behind the stage and we don`t know their names and sometimes they`re the people to focus on. You`re saying this guy Josh Raffel who I think don`t think is a household name, but you`re saying it`s important that he`s also left right now because he was part of the defense and the media strategy and the protection of Jared Kushner, yes?

KRISTOL: Yes, there were very few people involved in that discussions apparently on Air Force One flying back from Europe, I think it was, with the President where they crafted that false statement about when the Trump Tower story was breaking, the New York Times was breaking the story. And I think all of the accounts that Raffel and Hope Hicks as the key kind of -- Raffel represents in a way for the kids and Hope Hicks for the President working on the statement. And I believe we know Hope Hicks has testified before Mueller. I would assume Raffel has, as having been in that story.

And suddenly they both leave the White House. Now, You don`t have to leave the White House if you`re interrogated obviously by the Special Counsel, but if he has told you, hey, you know what, you could be a target here for various charges, you may want to come and cooperate with us and have serious conversations. Probably it`s easier to do if you`re no longer working in the White House. And so, I was just struck by those two leaving. The rest of the campaign --

MELBER: Yes, let me bring Adrienne in.

KRISTOL: Yes, go ahead.

ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Yes, well, you know, we`re also hearing reports, Ari, that Gary Cohn may step down because of this steel tariff issue. So I mean, this is -- this is the White House in turmoil here. Maggie Haberman who we all know and respect, she`s one of the best reporter in the business and who broke the story about Hope Hicks leaving last night has sworn up and down essentially today that Hope is not leaving because of her testimony yesterday, because she`s leaving -- because she`s ready to move on.

But it just seems like there`s such a coincidence here with to your point, Josh Raffel, who`s been one of Jared and Ivanka`s long time very loyal adviser in the west wing. And then, of course, Hope who was you know, by far the closest advisors that the President has. I`ll also say this. For the sake of our country, Donald Trump needs to get somebody in that White House who he trusts and who is his person to level -- who can level his temperament, whether that`s Jason Miller, whether to bring back one of his aides from the campaign who he trusts. He needs to have somebody back in there otherwise, you know, who knows how much more chaos we`re going to see in the coming weeks.

MELBER: And Adrianne, do you think that there is a kind of larger tension in the air for the White House? Is this a different kind of week?

ELROD: Yes, it seems like a different kind of week. And again, I mean, I think that the more that Mueller is clearly closing in on his investigation, the more chaos that we see.

MELBER: Adrianne Elrod and Bill Kristol, thank you both. I want to turn now to this new report exposing some of the blurry lines between Kushner`s White House work and his debt. The New York Times revealing two major loans the Kushner`s family business received. This was after executives met with Kushner at the White House, one from a private equity firm and other, Citigroup. They totaled half a billion. Kushner`s legal team says he`s taken no part in business dealings for his family`s companies since coming into the White House.

Now, the report hits days after Kushner lost his access to top secret documents, and amid reporting that Mueller is looking into all this including his efforts to finance a struggling billion dollar property in New York. Kushner`s company originally bought it -- check this out -- for about $1.8 billion. But look at that. It turned into a mountain of debt. They are searching for ways to pay off what you see on the right side of your screen, $1.4 billion in debt. Kushner ensnared by his business background, the very thing that was supposed to be an asset. In fact, take a look at him almost 11 months after taking this position.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And we`re business people, we`re politicians, and you`re a businessman, and you know that when you do deals, sometimes you have deals you think will go very quickly they take forever and then you have deals sometimes you think will take forever and they go very quickly.


MELBER: I`m joined by Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of Bloomberg View. He wrote Jared Kushner, Easy Mark, are you in the Kushner`s debt, makes him quite vulnerable. Explain.

TIMOTHY O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG: Well, you know, Ari, there`s an old poker (INAUDIBLE) that if you`re at a table with a bunch of card sharks and you don`t know who the mark is, guess what, you`re the mark. And this has been a pretty big week of revelations about Kushner. There`s was first the reporting from The Washington Post where intel reports had foreign officials from United Arab Emirates, China and Mexico all believing that they thought that Jared was an easy play, someone they could touch, manipulate, bend to their own wills because he was conflicted because of complex business relationships, because his family`s business is troubled and because he e`s naive and inexperienced. And this builds upon a long history of existing problems with him already. We know he was negotiating with Chinese investors to help the family bail themselves out of the 666 bit during the transition -- during the early days of the campaign and into the late stage of the transition.

MELBER: You`re referring to the somewhat unlucky address of this debt (INAUDIBLE) building.

O`BRIEN: Yes, you already bring that up, 666 Fifth Avenue.

MELBER: Well, you know me, Tim, I`m not an original person. I`m going to bring it up -- if you have a Lucifer address. It`s going to come up.

O`BRIEN: It`s the omen, it`s the omen. And then he met with Russian bankers at the end of 2016, famously introduced to Sergey Gorkov a prominent Russian banker close to the Kremlin by the Russian Ambassador to the United States.

MELBER: But it also comes back to what kind of wealth they have, right? It`s something you documented --

O`BRIEN: Well, and it also comes --

MELBER: Wait, wait, wait. It comes back to what you documented not only about Kushner, but about Donald Trump, which is are you rich and making a lot of money moves or you`re actually broke and you`re making a lot of debt moves? Take a look at this rare footage that our team here at THE BEAT just uncovered of Ivanka -- excuse me -- yes, Ivanka Trump talking about why Donald Trump once said that they had so much debt they were poorer than a homeless person.


IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: There is a homeless person sitting right outside of Trump Tower. I remember my father pointing to him and saying, you know, that guy has $8 billion more than me because he was in such extreme debt at that point, you know?


MELBER: Debt being a big issue there.

O`BRIEN: Debt being a big issue because Donald Trump almost went personally bankrupt in the early 1990s. He`s been through six corporate bankruptcies. He`s never was particularly good business manager. And one of the reasons he was vulnerable as a business person was he was willing to get into deals with almost anybody who would come in and put a bag of cash on his debt.

MELBER: Does Kushner have this same debt-driven approach to business?

O`BRIEN: Well, Jared Kushner inherited a piggy bank full of money from his father when his father went to jail, and he took that out of some stable properties in New Jersey and overpaid for a very sexy New York skyscraper that they can`t afford to own and it`s pulling down the family`s finances. And there`s an issue is now, any meeting that occurs in the White House, that Jared Kushner attend with anyone who has financial questions, is there a quid pro quo?

MELBER: Right, is there a quid pro quo and does that affect the national security of the United States? And the follow-up question, would they be better off if they change the address?

O`BRIEN: Well, that`s maybe the next step but it`s too late.

MELBER: I`m just kidding. It`s not a real question.

O`BRIEN: It`s too late.

MELBER: It`s not a real question.

O`BRIEN: All right.

MELBER: All right, Tim O`Brien, thank you as always. Up next, the question of Trump collusion and why some of Trump`s biggest defenders may be jumping the gun and even making some pretty big legal and illogical mistakes? My special report on that when we`re back in 90 seconds.


MELBER: Collusion. Did it happen? Did Donald Trump directly collude with Russia to impact the election? We don`t know. The public evidence does not say that he did, as I have often noted when reporting on this story.


MELBER: Over a year later, there`s still no public evidence of fully executed collusion.

I don`t think we`re going to be ahead of the investigators and the spies.


MELBER: We do know that key people in the Trump Campaign committed other crimes because they admitted it after Mueller caught them. But now, some people are using the charges Mueller has filed to argue that maybe this is all he has. That if he didn`t charge other things yet, maybe they never happened. That very argument came up in a discussion we were just having on MSNBC this week with Jonathan Turley, a skeptic of collusion who Donald Trump quoted this week. He is, of course, a respected law professor and he emphasizes there are no indictments about collusion.


JONATHAN TURLEY, AMERICAN LAWYER: As you know, I`m very skeptical about the suggestion that there is a collusion case to be made against the President or even an obstruction case on the evidence that we have. And I think to be fair to the White House is that we do have a year of indictments, plea agreements, what are called speaking indictments that give elaborate narratives, they conspicuously don`t include any type of nexus or suggestion of collusion.


MELBER: The claim there is that if Mueller did not indict something, maybe it did not happen. It almost sounds rational, but it does have a logical hole. Plenty of crimes never get charged, people steal a lot of cars but 82 percent of property crimes are never charged, a point I raised in that discussion.


MELBER: Professor Turley makes erudite arguments tonight -- today, this morning and that`s I think why the President tweets what he says, obviously because of his erudition. I`m just messing with you, John. He tweeted with you because he agrees with you or agrees with a quote of you, I should say. But I will point out respectfully, one potential logical hole in the case that the professor makes, which is well if Bob Mueller hasn`t said something, does that mean it hasn`t happened? I think that was part of the legal logical implication.

Well, Bob Mueller has not done any indictments about the criminal hacking, the felonious hacking that took place. Everyone knows that`s a crime. You cannot steal property, you cannot steal digital property. E-mails were hacked. I doesn`t matter who`s e-mails they were. They could have been Donald Trump`s e-mails or John Podesta`s e-mails. They happened in this case to be Podesta`s emails. We know there was a federal American felony. There`s been zero indictments on that yet. All that tells me is they either haven`t found the people or it`s coming later. It doesn`t tell me that it didn`t happen.


MELBER: And let`s extend this logic tonight to what Mueller`s probing. The four key things under investigation are Russia`s election interference online. Their hack of democratic e-mails, the Americans who cover-up lie or obstruct this probe and then, of course, the big one, potentially U.S. collusion. So take each of these things, did they happen? Well, U.S. authorities say interference, yes, hack, yes, the cover-up, yes. As for the Trump campaign collusion, well, it`s still totally undetermined.

Now, turn to what Mueller has indicted so far. On the interference, yes, 13 Russians already, on the hack, no, nine months into this probe, no one`s been indicted for the e-mail hack. The cover-up, yes. The most common charge against Americans so far has been lying and then there`s the collusion and empty box, no indictments. Now, if you look at that, why does that matter right now? Well, understanding the difference between whether a crime occurred and whether it has been charged actually shines a light on where this probe is headed.

Now, Professor Turley who Trump is quoting says he doubts collusion because, after a year of indictments and pleas, they conspicuously don`t include the nexus or suggestion of collusion. Now, that`s just an argument that because something hasn`t been criminally charged, it didn`t happen. But the lack of charges doesn`t legally determine whether the underlying thing happen. Take what we know today. Those empty boxes on the right, one is for the conduct that did happen, the hacks. The other is for conduct that it is undetermined, the collusion. It would be silly to argue either empty box proves what happened. In fact, as we mentioned earlier tonight, a story breaking right now is that Mueller is eyeing the e-mail hack to assemble charges against Russians for hacking and leaking e-mails to hurt Democrats.

So, actually, Mueller may be looking to check that very box on the board, which would only leave the collusion box unchecked. And maybe that box will stay empty. As I`ve reported, we don`t know. Whether it`s charged, though, does not answer the existential question of what happened, and that`s an important legal distinction for one of the most important stories of our time. Now with respect to Professor Turley, I would leave this all right here, but then after what I showed you, he wrote an op-ed about our (INAUDIBLE) and he discussed it on Fox News arguing collusion is "conspiracy theory" and he wrote "Melber said I was assuming that the absence of evidence means that a case could not be made." No, that`s not right. I was talking about the absence of indictments, which I`ve explained tonight and why it`s wrong to think a missing indictment would mean something did not happen. He is talking about the absence of evidence.


TURLEY: His point is a good one, that there can be evidence that comes out later, but I actually stated that more evidence could come forward, I was speaking of the evidence that`s available at this time. He was referring to a tweet that the President had sent out that quoted me, saying that I was skeptical about collusion based on the evidence that we know. So it`s somewhat ironic to hear, you know, this doesn`t mean that Mueller doesn`t have something else. Well, of course, it doesn`t. But, you know, the lack of knowing that hasn`t stopped many people from arguing that there is a lead pipe clinch of a case of collusion.


MELBER: The very last part is fair. There is no lead pipe case of collusion right now and I look forward to discussing all of this with the Professor again. I might just have to fact check that last part because the details matter. As Drake once said, you can`t listen to me talk and go tell my story, no, it don`t work like that when you love somebody. I love you Professor, and I know that we both love the law. Now, as for the largest question hanging over this whole probe, did collusion happen? And if so, will it be charged? Anyone prejudging that outcome must know a lot more than Bob Mueller. And unlike some legal experts, I can`t put myself in that category.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s been absolutely no collusion, there`s been no collusion between us and the Russians.

In the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction.

As we said, there`s no collusion, there`s no collusion whatsoever but a lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.



MELBER: Now, we turn to one more important story. New details about outgoing Trump aide Hope Hicks and when she came clean with Russia investigators because she admitted she sometimes tells "white lies for Donald Trump." Now Republican Congressman Tom Rooney is defending Hicks and saying that Democrats basically set her up with a "B.S. question." Meanwhile, Democrat Eric Swalwell leading the questioning said, most people would have had a hard time answering the question of whether their boss asked them to lie. CBS reports that Hicks said she never knowingly lied for Trump, which to be fair to her is important. And then she said apart from some white lies related to his availability for what were essentially in her view trivial matters adding she never lied about any matter related to the Russia investigation.

And that`s fair. We don`t have all the information about what happened inside what was not a public discussion, this interview. But there are bigger questions here like what is the difference between a lie and white lie and what does the Trump White House think is trivial and who are they lying to? That might be the most important. Consider that days after the election, Hicks told reporters there was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign. Not true. Did she know it wasn`t true? Was she lying and would she call that a white lie? We also know other people on the campaign were lying about Russia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: No, there are not. That`s absurd and you know, there`s no basis to it.


MELBER: What was absurd was him saying that a month after meeting with that Putin connected lawyer most infamously at Trump Tower. Or remember this?


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: I didn`t take any money from Russia if that`s what you`re asking me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then who paid you?

FLYNN: My speaker`s bureau. Ask them.


MELBER: He was paid by Russia, he failed to report it and it was part of what led to an investigation that led to a felonious guilty plea. Now, what about a white lie about other things? Does this matter? There is another person in the story who does not like lies and that`s Bob Mueller. Consider in total the four guilty pleas for false statements which range from the low ranking volunteers like George Papadopoulos or Alex van der Zwaan, people who hadn`t been heard from much in the public realm to as we just showed you, Mike Flynn to most recently Rick Gates who lied while trying to cut a plea deal. So when you take it all together, maybe they kept lying because they thought some lies are OK. And in life, that can be a legitimate and larger debate, depending what`s going on. But in this case, Bob Mueller`s made it pretty clear, when you don`t tell him the truth, it`s not just a lie, it`s a crime.


MELBER: That is our show. Thanks for watching. You can find me again tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern on THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A president alone. Let`s play HARDBALL.