Top Trump aide Cohn out tonight. TRANSCRIPT: 03/06/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Simona Mangiante, Jess McIntosh

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 6, 2018 Guest: Simona Mangiante, Jess McIntosh

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: Ari? You know, you can go four or five different directions tonight and I wouldn`t blame you. A lot of ways we can go.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: One of the things we are going to do is play some excerpts from the very interesting interview you had with your own sets of witness.

TODD: The WikiLeaks. Yes, WikiLeaks` characterization on Russia is very - - coordination and colluding with WikiLeaks is not coordinating our collusion with Russia.

What do you think of that, counselor?

MELBER: Well, counselor, I think (INAUDIBLE) moving and the question is why.

Chuck Todd, thank you, as always.

TODD: Thanks, brother.

MELBER: Tonight here is the latest. A new White House shake-up. More key witnesses in the Mueller probe are speaking out, as I mentioned. But also, breaking right now, Donald Trump`s top economic advisor, Gary Cohn out.

And in the Russia probe, the storm now hitting after the calm. It has been if you think about it, months of silence. Several witnesses in the Mueller probe, keeping their silence until this week. They are speaking out. It began of course with Sam Nunberg who did his first on camera interview on this show last night. He first vow to defy Mueller. More on all of that later.

But this is much broader than Sam Nunberg. Because after he spoke so much about his mentor Roger Stone, the former Trump advisor. As I just mentioned, Roger then spoke out in this brand-new unusual interview with Chuck Todd. That`s another unusual development in news about the Russia probe. And I`m going to have a legal breakdown of Roger and why he matters and why he makes Trump nervous later in the show.

So that`s two witnesses right there. But in a moment, it will be three. I will be joined by Simona Mangiante, a witness who was interviewed by Mueller`s team about George Papadopoulos.

Simona, thank you for joining me tonight. I`m going to speak to you in a moment.

Now first, some context. You don`t have to listen all that closely to these stories to see something is happening in the Mueller probe right now. He is bearing down on new leads. He is hitting new people with subpoenas. Witnesses are leaking. And while they usually do that anonymously, then you get Sam Nunberg, telling his stories out in the open.

He offered us a rare inside look at the probe, telling us who Mueller`s eyeing, what documents he is seizing, even clues to the strategy for when and why Mueller does put a witness into that intimidating grand jury box. And whatever one thinks of Mr. Nunberg`s public statements yesterday, it was clearly partly a thought of going into that box that scared him.

He made news on this show last night, initially vowing on camera to defy Mueller`s subpoena, which my guest, attorney Maya Wiley cautioned against.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Sam, you got immunity, so you certainly don`t have any reason not to testify, right, as you told us today. Not only that, it actually makes it appear that Roger Stone has something to hide because you will not go testify.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: He has nothing to hide.

WILEY: Well then go testify.

NUNBERG: I think that in our discussion and what you said, I would have no problem going to the grand jury. But I once again don`t want to have to spend 80 hours going over email?

WILEY: You would rather spend possibly a year in jail than 80 hours going through emails?

NUNBERG: I`m not going to jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And then he said, am I? So what is he really asking? And did the answers that he got there from Ms. Wiley and others have an impact? Well, I can show you this news tonight. Nunberg is saying, yes. He is telling a news outlet, he will comply, basically because of the counsel of professor Maya Wiley whom he spoke to on "the Beat."

Now, some viewers have told me that that segment at times felt like an intervention. I`ll tell you it was certainly unlike any interview I have ever been a part of, on or off camera. Whatever it was, though, it also become part of the story. And tonight, we also asked Wiley for her response to Nunberg crediting her for this new decision today to pledge to comply with Mueller.

Let me read you what she says. I joined the set after Sam Nunberg referenced his racially offensive statements that got him fired from the Trump campaign dismissing their relevance because they wouldn`t have lost Trump a vote, she says, she says. Unspoken was his willingness to use the n-word in reference to black leaders. That Nunberg actually recognizes the value and intelligence of a black woman is, I hope, a life lesson for him. I assume he has sought the advice and counsel of his lawyer. I hope what I gave him was a sense of the humanity we need now more than ever in this country.

It`s humanity we need now. You could see some of it in Nunberg`s tortured public reaction and also in other people`s reactions to him. Nunberg saying he wanted to explain himself. And he has done that before on this show by the way. And he also wanted to ask others what he should do. And for whatever reason he wanted to do that in public on TV, it became this mediated and at sometimes reckless public negotiations with his own lawyer, his former colleagues or even as he thought with Mueller`s team itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: I am not a subject of the investigation.

MELBER: Which would, if true --

NUNBERG: But they wanted something I said to them in that interview, they wanted at the grand jury.

MELBER: Do you think they wanted to put on record to put on record for testimonial purposes for later?

NUNBERG: Of course.

MELBER: They want you in that jury room to build a case against someone else?

NUNBERG: Yes.

MELBER: And that person is?

NUNBERG: I don`t know.

MELBER: You don`t know.

NUNBERG: And if it`s Roger, I`m not going to testify against Roger. Roger did not do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: At a certain point, though, he also hit his limit. He cancelled a planned interview this morning with another network and ultimately asked for the cameras following him to be turned off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: Stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Late last night, off camera, I`ll tell you I spoke to Mr. Nunberg as well as his father. They do appear to be working through this. And it would be easy enough to dismiss Mr. Nunberg or just judge him from afar. In a short time he was from saying he was a cooperative witness, to a defiant one to tonight once again pledging cooperation.

Now he may have simply lived out in public what many people caught up in these situations feel in private. He could also be easy to consume this spectacle while claiming a kind of distance from it. In fact I see some in Washington tonight, people who live off scandal and clicks, now declaring this particular one was suddenly too much for them.

But the legal import of these stories, of Mr. Nunberg and tonight Mr. Stone and soon other witnesses is not the show. It`s not just the will they or won`t they iterative updates. It`s actually a rare thing I can tell you for a grand jury probe, it is the disclosures of information and evidence from primary sources, from people who have actually been in that room in Mueller`s office, or people who are headed there. And for all the reaction of Mr. Nunberg, he is not the first witness to disclose this information or do so with an ax to grind.

Most of the stories we get about this probe, these headlines that all of us read, they come from witnesses leaking anonymously, and that`s how we know what little we know about the probe. Those people leak, anonymously, out of self-interest.

Think about this, Nunberg leaked On the Record, probably against self- interest.

Roger Stone also took that risk today. And the same goes for many other people. In a moment I am going to speak to, as I mentioned, a witness who has dealt with the Mueller probe. But given all of the other breaking news, I want to turn immediately to John Harwood who has the breaking news on a departure -- John.

JOHN HARWOOD, MSNBC REPORTER: Ari, this is the stunning word from the White House that Gary Cohn, the head of the national economic council, is resigning. This comes as the President is turning towards these protectionist tariffs on steel and aluminum. If you are a pro-market Republican, this is a bad development for you. And you can expect markets to turn down tomorrow on this news. Don`t know if it will sustain that during the course of the day, but you can expect them to open down.

What we don`t know is whether or not this is a decisive sign about where the administration is going to go on trade more broadly going forward. There are a lot bigger trade issues outstanding for the administration than simply these tariffs. Gary Cohn`s been there for 14 months. It`s a difficult job. But this is what happens when you have a President who is so unconventional, traditional Republicans, when they confront the split between the blue collar wing of the party and the pro-market, pro-business side, typically side with the business side on tariffs. Donald Trump is not doing that. And Gary Cohn is out the door.

MELBER: Stay with me. I want to also bring in Betsy Woodruff, who has an eye on the White House on the Russia story as well as a lot of staffing.

Betsy, as you know, Mr. Cohn also made waves when he seemed to leak that he had disagreements about the President`s approach on Charlottesville. Here, he is leaving over tariffs. The "New York Times" breaking the story as it quote, you know, "from people saying he is a rare talent. I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people. That`s according to President Trump. So they are trying to put the best face on it. Your view of what`s happening?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, Cohn`s response to the Charlottesville scandal is going to be an important part of his legacy in this White House. Obviously, those issues weren`t necessarily part of his portfolio, but when you are working with a President like Donald Trump and a crisis grips the nation, the way that those Charlottesville protests did, and you`re a White House advisor, the wave that the President handles a crisis like that, for better or for worst, deserve or not, is going to reflect on you and your legacy.

More broadly, though, I think the really important takeaway here, in addition to that, is the fact that Gary Cohn`s departure is sort of the last gasp of the quote-unquote "globe-less" in the White House. From the first - from inauguration day, the key tension within the White House wasn`t Republicans versus moderates. It wasn`t tea party versus Jeb Bush types. It was and always has been folks who are more interest in increasing and liberalized global economy versus economic nationalists which is also for people coming over that hasn`t faded. With Gary Cohn leaving, the nationalists are going to dominate the conversation going forward.

MELBER: And that is a policy part of it that is important. I also want to bring in Cheri Jacobus, joining. a Republican official.

Cheri, another way to say it is he is quote-unquote "one of the adults." And in the Trump White House, that phrase always odd because it brings to mind the idea of who is everyone else. Is it the Trump --?

We would like them all to be adults.

MELBER: Right. Is it other Trump family children? Is it other childlike aides or what have you?

And yet, Betsy and John speaks to the policy. I was wondering what you could speak to what this means on the politics and (INAUDIBLE) in this coming amidst the time where there has been a significant strains on a number of fronts on this White House.

WOODRUFF: Yes. And Cohn was somebody that we often heard his name pop-up as a potential White House chief of staff at some point down the line since Trump seems to go through a lot of staff. So as you said, there are no adults left. And who is going to be, you know, the last person who leave the Trump White House, please turn off the lights.

It`s getting a little bit scary. I mean, at some level, there is certain people we sort of cheer when they leave, that we think don`t belong there, but you kind of get a little nervous, when the people we perceive as adults, the once we say, well look, as long as this one is here, the general (ph) is there or Cohn is there, we feel a little bit better.

So there`s a lot to be nervous about just in terms of what`s going on at the White House and the leadership and who can actually keep this administration, this President in check, with one person who is perceived as an adult, one of the few now gone, it`s a little bit frightening. I would hate to think some of the people sitting around the table making big decisions with the President now.

MELBER: Well. And you say that, Cheri, and this is the larger context, to Sherry and then John Harwood. People following this have that feeling and my colleague Rachel Maddow has put up on the screen, the incredibly large number of people, as you said turn out the lights who are out the door. I mean, you talk about Gary Cohn from the Goldman wing out tonight. You talk about Hope Hicks, who is supposed to be the ultimate insider. You talk about the pressure, vis-a-vis, John Kelly according to the "New York Times" to get Ivanka and Jared out.

Cheri and then John, the context of that on this news.

CHERI JACOBUS, OPINION COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: This is not a stable White House. You know, the President likes to brag that he is a stable genius, but this is clearly a very unstable situation. And when the White House is unstable, that means the country can become unstable and everybody can feel uneasy for very good reason.

So at this point, regardless of what your politics are, everybody should be and probably is a little bit nervous that a serious grown up has now just departed this White House. So this is -- it`s disturbing. I`m uneasy about it. And it doesn`t make the President look good. He seems to think it`s a good thing. He likes all that turnover and likes the chaos and that`s disturbing as well.

MELBER: John?

HARWOOD: It`s not a good thing. This is a dysfunctional White House. Everybody ought to be concerned about that. There`s two separate issues, obviously. There`s the ideology, but there is also the normal orally functioning of the White House. This was not an orderly rollout of this policy. It wasn`t well thought out crew.

On the ideological part, I will say that, you know, Gary Cohn is going to be replaced by somebody. Who does Donald Trump pick? If there are going to be other market oriented republicans available to him, although fewer and fewer people are going to want to go under this White House. And I suspect if the markets punish him on a sustained basis for what he is doing. And by the way, I`m coming to you from Pennsylvania where there is a congressional race a week from now, that Donald Trump had in mind with these tariffs. It is steel country outside of Pittsburgh. And this one of the reason he is appealing.

But if you in fact have somebody with a similar profile to Gary Cohn in response to a market downturn from this, then the ideology may not change much all of the dysfunction will remain.

MELBER: Well. And Betsy, doesn`t that go to the point of Donald Trump`s boastingly last week, trade wars are great and they are easy to win? It seems like he just lost his general for this trade war.

WOODRUFF: Right, exactly. And I think "Axios" has reported that already, it seems, as if as the White House has cancelled a meeting that Gary Cohn had been trying to put together with CEOs of manufacturing companies that use steel and aluminum that will be negatively, detrimentally impacted they these tariffs. That meeting, according to their report, is not going to happen. One of the first immediate reactions to Cohn leaving the White House.

We don`t have to theorize about what Cohn`s absence is going to mean. We already see it. And what means is, potentially a slightly more stable White House, but stable in the direction of protectionism, stable in the direction of economic nationalism. And in way that Paul Ryan and Republican leaders on the Hill are going to find deeply, deeply frightening.

MELBER: Cheri, what does it say to you that this was what moved Cohn to leave and not other things?

JACOBUS: You know, I think there`s probably a lot of people that work for this President who have had moments when they have had one foot out the door and then there is -- you can say that it is the straw that breaks the camel`s back. My guess is there - I mean, I don`t know if Cohn falls in to this category and if there is some people who will give any reason to run for that exit door, just the next thing that happens. So I don`t know how much I read in to that this --.

HARWOOD: So many reasons to leave this White House.

JACOBUS: There`s so many reasons to leave this White House. It will be interesting to see what the Hill have to say about this. What Republicans on Capitol Hill have to say, if not specifically about this particular departure, just the disturbing number of, high number of people who are just -- I mean it`s like they are being thrown out of windows over there. And this is not a good thing. It`s alarming.

And at some point our leaders are going to have - congressional leaders are going to have to comment on it. They can`t act like this is normal, that this is OK, because then they loses credibility. We know this isn`t OK. This is not normal. So somebody has to at least be honest about that.

MELBER: Right. This is not normal. And as John was explaining, this comes out of a policy making process that is wildly described even by friends of the administration is completely and even embarrassingly broken.

John Harwood, for viewers who have heard a bit about trade wars, but aren`t necessarily certain exactly what this all means about what comes next, give us your best reporting and analysis on whether Cohn`s departure can be interpreted as a sign that Donald Trump is going forward full steam with all this rather than what we have seen on so many Trump in issues from Russian to guns to taxes, which is when people do intervene and say I might leave, sometimes it gets him to back off ideas that he hadn`t all the way thought through.

HARWOOD: Ari, I think inherent in the way Donald Trump is practicing the presidency is impulsiveness and contingency. That is to say, whatever the reaction to any given step that he takes may determine the next action.

So that is why I was talking about the market reaction that Cohn leaving. The big case for trade this year in 2018, is not the one we are talking about now. It`s not steel and aluminum tariffs. It`s the case against China on intellectual property.

The administration and the economic report of the President said China was costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars by stealing our intellectual property. If this tariff decision is a sign that the President is going to go all out against China to try to recoup that money, then you are talking about a full blown trade conflict that will result in higher prices for everybody. And it will likely put us into recession.

That`s why I would be cautious about interpreting that Donald Trump is going to go there, because he can watch the movements of the market, he can count the bottom line and you have to think he is at least going to hesitate before a huge straight step like that rather than this smaller of what he is taking right now.

MELBER: You know that this is a big economic political and American story when we have right here at the table in a rolling coverage, my friend and colleague Stephanie Reuhl, who many people know is an economic expert.

Let`s brought it out and talk about what it means to have someone like Gary Cohn walk out the door.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Gary Cohn isn`t just a Wall Street guy. This is a guy who before he came to the White House has had one job his entire adult life. He came to New York City after going to American University in Washington and he worked at firm that was then acquired by Goldman. But his Goldman Sach`s ID was the same picture he has when he was a young kid. He left Goldman where he was the President and the COO to join this administration. So it`s a big deal to see Gary walk away.

Now many people speculated that once Gary got tax reform done, he was most likely going to leave, because he came there for a mission, he got that done, he had never had political aspirations before. But, you can ask yourself why now, why today?

Charlottesville wasn`t enough. You know he was highly offended after President Trump`s remarks after Charlottesville. Gary, not just as being a Jewish American but being a sensible American, was highly offended. But not so offended that he decided to leave

This over the tariffs, why is that so offensive? It is so offensive because Gary is there to works specifically on economic issues. And if Gary is now getting road blocked, if the President won`t even listen to him, and if someone named Peter Navarro - Peter Navarro who couldn`t get a job at Goldman if his life depended on it, if he has the President`s ear on trade issues that affect our country, corporate America, every citizen, if Peter Navarro has the President`s ear and Gary doesn`t, Gary`s simply going to say, thank you, sir, but I`m going to go.

MELBER: Cheri, I want to put this in a larger context of the musical chairs at the White House because it wouldn`t be a Trump departure story if there wasn`t one more weird, final indecisive Presidential wrinkle. I`m reading from the "New York Times" story out team just handed me, that says Mr. Cohn`s plan to leave fall on conversation he had in recent weeks with the President about the possibility of quote "replacing John Kelly as chief of staff," said people who were briefed on the matter.

The President quote "never formally offered Mr. Cohn the job. These people insisted." But Mr. Trump had had discussions with him about whether he would be interested.

I mean you kind of get the feeling that the help wanted sign is just always out and they move it from office to office. And so I guess the question is, is this any way to run the White House? And what does it tell you that he might have become chief of staff and the most important guy around, guy or gal, and then now is gone.

JACOBUS: Well, couple of things. I just said a few minutes ago, Gary Cohn`s name is one that is floated around all the time as a possible White House chief of staff. So it doesn`t surprise me that it just came out a minute ago now that you are reading it - this to me.

But look. We already know that Donald Trump loves pitting people against each other. And I think he is very intimidated by the grownups in the White House. The adults as we are calling them, and the generals, and the Gary Cohn.

Ultimately, he is intimidated by these people. He likes controlling them. And he likes seeing them fight. He wants them to feel like they are not quite safe. That at any moment he can get rid of them. And I guess he thinks that is a bad thing. I think some of them would say thank God, get me out of here.

But I think a lot of it is just that. He likes to keep people at the edge of their seats and pits them against each other. We have seen this time and time again in this White House. And we have heard that this is how he has always handled his business. So the fact that he had Cohn in there talking about replacing Kelly, doesn`t surprise me one bit.

MELBER: Stephanie, tie it all together for us.

RUHLE: Gary has also learned that no one has leverage over Trump. While people could say all the time, listen. We are so happy that, you know, people in the market would say, we are really glad that Gary`s there. It is safe hands.

Trump doesn`t like to hear that. Trump never wants to feel like there`s an adult in the room other than him. And there have been a lot of reporting that Gary has threaten to go. He is unhappy. Trump doesn`t like to hear that. He feels like, remember this --.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you saying Donald Trump is an adult?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: No, you remember this is Donald, I and I alone Trump. And so Gary Cohn is finally saying, you know what? I`m going to go. And maybe he thought he had leverage over President Trump, saying, President Trump, I`m going to leave over this. And maybe Trump said fine, go. But guess what the market isn`t going to like? This.

MELBER: Yes. This is a big story on economics, on politics, and on the structure of the White House is, as we have reported, for a range of reason, is under a ton of strain.

I want to thank my experts here, John Harwood, Betsy Woodruff, Cheri Jacobus and Stephanie Ruhle doing breaking news with me.

And mentioned again, the other big thing on "the Beat" tonight. More witnesses speaking out. I have a live interview with a Mueller probe witness, we are going to go live inside the room, what is he asking? What does he want to know? We are going to hear directly from the wife of George Papadopoulos.

And later, Roger Stone back in the news, the longtime Trump aided emerges in this new interview. My legal breakdown on what it means and bad news for the White House.

Also, the man who literally once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, Michael Cohen also a focus of the Mueller probe. What does it have to do with the plans for Trump tower in Moscow?

I promise you, we have a lot more on "the Beat" tonight.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: And now as promised, I turn to my exclusive interview tonight, Simon Mangiante joins the ranks of Mueller witnesses speaking out. And her case, to tie comes by family. She is married to the former Trump aide who reportedly kicked off the FBI probe and to Trump-Russian collusion in the first place. Mangiante was George Papadopoulos`s fiance when he first pled guilty in this probe on October. He was the first person to plead. They were married, I can say, last Friday.

Simona, congratulations. And welcome back to the show.

SIMONA MANGIANTE, WIFE OF TRUMP ADVISOR GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, Ari.

MELBER: Good afternoon to you.

As you know, we are in an interesting period, hearing from multiple witnesses, Mr. Nunberg yesterday, Roger Stone today, and you here tonight on "the Beat." When you heard Mr. Nunberg criticize the Mueller investigators and say their search was overbroad, he felt initially unfair, how does that compare with your experience since you did an interview with them?

MANGIANTE: First of all, there is something that being interview with the FBI teach me. And it is basically that is a witness. He is the worst place (INAUDIBLE) of each contribution in the context of the testimony. So I don`t agree at all with Mr. Nunberg when he says it`s completely useless. He refuse to cooperate a time that to comply with tis invitation, the subpoena.

He is surprised to be subpoenaed, but until the moment of the interview, I couldn`t understand myself the real events of my contribution. The FBI and the prosecutor have certainly have biggest picture to which we can contribute is to be truthful.

And I will say something as well concerning my situation. I was not simply voluntarily talking to the FBI. I was subpoenaed to appear in front of the grand jury in Washington myself. And if Mr. Nunberg is surprised that being an American citizen and having worked with Trump, you can imagine how surprising I was being a foreign citizen on foreign in the U.S. soil and having nothing to do with the Trump campaign, about my relationship with George Papadopoulos.

So even in this context, which was surely particular, and some lawyers in Europe challenged also the legitimacy of the subpoena itself. Because again, it was not a voluntary cooperation, as it often after work. It was an order to appear in front of the grand jury. It was dropped off.

Yes, it was an order. So I was happy to cooperate and either or not you think this contribution is going to be significant, it`s something you have to do for your country. And as I said, I did it as an Italian citizen and when George already pled guilty. So it was even less clear to me the reason why they would like to subpoena, to talk to me, or subpoena me because he was pleading guilty. I don`t think they were going to indict him, using me to indict him out of crime.

MELBER: Right. You are raising -- you`re raising an important legal point as we hear from different witnesses, which is the whole way the probe works, you don`t necessarily know why they want you or what it means. It sounds like you`re suggesting you learned more once you participated. I also want to read to you some brand-new news that came out about this professor that tied you into this, who you worked for, Joseph Mifsud, because BuzzFeed has this rather extraordinary report that his biography has disappeared from the university where he taught, he quit his job, his e-mail and cell phones went dead.

And now politicians, colleagues, journalists can`t find him, neither can Anna, who is his 31-year-old Ukrainian fiance, and she says he was the father of their newborn child. The implication in that article is that his role as an intermediary in these offers of dirt on Hillary Clinton and other things that may or may not have occurred regarding Russian interference may have led to him either going underground himself or in some other way disappearing. You knew him, your response?

MANGIANTE: Yes, I knew Mifsud and as I said, I realized how important was my testimony when I was with the FBI and they have me about this connection. To me, it makes perfectly sense it could be a Russian asset. The fact that he disappeared completely confirmed my first idea that he was the most shady figure I ever met in my life, his connection to Russia are clear right now. It is appeared also to the one who is now the mother of his child and he disappeared also from Rome. I tried to contact the people that knew Mifsud, just to inquire about if they knew big about him, and no one of them seemed to know where he is. So he completely disappeared from earth. To me this is highly suspicious and confirms that he`s a key person in this Mueller investigation and confirms why the prosecutor was interested in talking about Mifsud --

MELBER: You say the prosecutor was -- let me ask you this. You said the prosecutor was interested. Did they ask questions that seemed to try to ascertain whether Mifsud who`s now missing, whether he was in their view potentially a Russian asset?

MANGIANTE: I think they were interested, absolutely. They had it already figure it out. I think at the stage that they talked with me, they wanted to know my connection with Mifsud and if I introduced George to Mifsud. That was one of the biggest question mark and I helped them with the chronology of facts and I clarified that it was simply coincidence, but it makes perfect sense that they talk to my witness was so important. That`s why I said it`s really big to say no, it`s -- I`m not going to testify because I don`t think it`s important. We don`t know actually.

MELBER: Right, we don`t know what lead their working. I want you to stay with me, I`m going to bring in a Legal Analyst and colleague of ours Nick Akerman and if you want to continue participate as I like to extend that offer to people who take their time to share with us, that remains open. Nick, your response to what we`re learning?

NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think what we`re learning is what you absolutely expect from a prosecutor`s office. What they`re trying to do is put together the facts. She had information that supplemented or complemented what George Papadopoulos was telling the government. They want to corroborate what he`s saying and certainly, she was in a position to do that. And she was probably in a position to offer other facts that the government didn`t necessarily know about. So if you`re doing a thorough investigation, it seems to me that what`s being described here is totally reasonable.

MELBER: And Simona, take a listen to what was said about your then-fiance, now-husband, George Papadopoulos who has figured so prominently into aspects of this by the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that Papadopoulos is an example of actually somebody doing the wrong thing while the President`s campaign did the right thing. All of his emails were voluntarily provided to the special counsel by the campaign. What Papadopoulos did was lie and that`s on him, not on the campaign and we can`t speak for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What`s your response of view of that?

MANGIANTE: Well, they decline to phase the substance of the lie. We are talking about a professor offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and they simply said he did something wrong when he lied, as I said, about the dates of this professor. But to me, it`s a way to avoid to face the substance of the matter.

AKERMAN: Yes, I mean, I think that`s right. I mean, they -- sure, they`re going to try and accuse George Papadopoulos of being a liar. That`s going to be their theme at trial. They`re going to accuse Rick Gates of being a liar. They`re going to accuse Michael Flynn of being a liar.

MELBER: You think if Trump folks have to make some kind of defense against these other people implicated that.

AKERMAN: Exactly.

MELBER: By cooperating with Mueller?

AKERMAN: Right. But you can`t -- they`re all going to be saying pretty much the same thing. I mean, there`s going to be lots of corroboration, there`s going to be e-mails, there`s going to be documents and I`ll bet there`s even tapes that they will have that will corroborate these witnesses.

MELBER: And briefly, do you know why we`re hearing more from witnesses now?

AKERMAN: I think part of it is that there are more witnesses being spoken to, more people are feeling comfortable talking to the press about it. They don`t have to but I think you`re just finding more and more people that are willing to say what`s being asked. Now, if you`re a defense lawyer, you want to know what all these people are saying because that gives you an idea of where this whole probe is going and what they think is going on and it gives you an idea, into the minds of the cooperating witnesses and what kind of information they`re providing.

MELBER: Right. And that is so crucial. I want to thank Nick Akerman and Simona Mangiante, thank you both tonight.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

MANGIANTE: Thank you.

MELBER: We have a lot more. There is the breaking news, this top White House aide out, Gary Cohn. This is a shakeup that has come at a time when Donald Trump has been reported to be angry and unglued. We have reports on that. Plus, more on the Russia probe. Why Roger Stone is speaking out after Mr. Nunberg and live from the White House with all of this in just 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news this hour. One of Donald Trump`s top advisors resigning. This is the economic aide I was mentioning earlier, Gary Cohn from Goldman Sachs. And this follows this big fight over Donald Trump`s controversial move. And then look at all the other departures including down there at the bottom, Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn. Those are two key departures at a time when the White House has been under significant strain. I want to go to Jess McIntosh who has worked for the Clinton campaign, she`s Executive Editor of Shareblue and you have joined me at this table at moments like this.

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE: Yes.

MELBER: Any one departure, whether it would be Hope Hicks, or Rob Porter, or Sean Spicer, or Reince Priebus, or the National Security Adviser, any one could be explainable if you want to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. Here we are at this table again at this night, we have Gary Cohn, may not be a household name, very important to Wall Street and to Goldman Sachs, there are plenty of people who disagree with Goldman Sachs running policy for both parties by the way. But it does feel, tell me your view bigger than that because we`re back here again.

MCINTOSH: I think we`re at the point where all of the ancillary cast characters are now gone, like to go with the reality show theme because that`s clearly the kind of White House he intends to run the whole way through like we`re down to the core characters now. So now when people leave, it really -- Hope Hicks was someone that we knew, we were invested in that character, and now she`s gone. What I`m just shocked by every time is that somebody -- the reaction seems to be why didn`t Gary Cohn leave during Charlottesville, why -- he was so upset about that apparently. He wrote a resignation letter that the President didn`t accept or he decided not to give it. He decided to stay. Like, why tariff? Why the trade war?

And I think at a certain level, we have to understand, these are all people. Every single one of them who decided to work for this White House, they decided to work for this man, after the campaign that he ran which included over racism, credible allegations of sex assault and lots of pandering to Nazis. They all said OK and they signed right up. So eventually there`s a straw that`s going to break the camel`s back, but it`s never going to be that thing. It`s always going to be their pet piece which for Gary Cohn I guess was you know, stability in Canadian import prices.

MELBER: Right, so it won`t always be the white supremacist straw. It will be the latest straw

MCINTOSH: No, it will never be. It will never be the white supremacist straw.

MELBER: I spoke -- I spoke to someone in Washington recently who said you know, what Trump aide hasn`t told some friends they`re thinking of leaving, which has been the thing that you hear when they finally leave, because there are other people who need an off-ramp, but have to find a good reason to get out.

MCINTOSH: Yes, well, I think at a certain point, they are all undermining their own credibility by continuing to work for this person. He makes them do really -- like degrading the lies that, especially the coms team has to do. That`s going to make it tough to really take you seriously ever again in your career. I don`t know where Sean Spicer is going to wind up, but whoever he has as clients, they have to know that he doesn`t come with a ton of credibility. We all know he`s willing to lie for his boss. The same goes for Hope Hicks now. I just think you know, they all decided to get in. It`s going to be hard to get out but that it`s that first decision that really matters.

MELBER: Right. Put this in the context of what has been another rough week for the President. Mr. Nunberg`s domination of the public discussion of the Russia probe, but as I mentioned at the top of our hour, what everyone thinks about him and what he said, he disclosed very real information, including these 10 individuals under scrutiny in the Mueller probe, right?

MCINTOSH: Right.

MELBER: Then you add to that Donald Trump`s appearance today where I think it`s safe to say based on what we`ve gathered now, he knew then that Gary Cohn was leaving. He seemed very sort of disheveled, down. I don`t want to do a lot of body language, it`s not my expertise, but it was not the normal voluble President. And then he looks up and again, this is the context for this. And within the last hour and a half, he has his longtime advisor Roger Stone going on T.V. and trying to make sense of what Mr. Nunberg at one point said yesterday, which was I`m willing to go to jail to defend Roger Stone, but he didn`t do anything wrong. And you at to that what I saw a journalistic account say today in a nonpartisan publication, in Bloomberg basically said to say that any one of these things is a sideshow or just a function of who Mr. Nunberg is or who Mr. Stone is or who Mr. Papadopoulos is, is to forget the point you just led with. Every single one of these people was hired by Donald Trump.

MCINTOSH: Yes. And of course, yesterday, before we were talking about what Sam Nunberg did on your show, we were talking about the bombshell report that the Kremlin maybe tipped the scale of who became America`s Secretary of State. We have very important stories about the fate of our democracy coming out one after another, as the Mueller Russia investigation closes in and really starts drilling down on this. So it`s almost impossible to keep tabs on, like, what matters on any given day, but I 0think we`re starting to see this mass exodus more because the staff knows that they`re liable every day they stay there, every conversation they overhear. I mean, they know that the White House is a liability now. And maybe they`re finally --

MELBER: Although to be fair, exodus was 40 -- took 40 years.

MCINTOSH: Yes, it`s true.

MELBER: It took longer. Stay with me. Kristen Welker, this is a big breaking story, and she has agreed to join us from the White House, where I know you`ve been furiously reporting this out. What can you tell us?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ari, first of all, the timing is stunning. It came just a few hours after the press conference that the President had today, a number of the reporters in the room noticed that there was an empty chair for Gary Cohn, a placard with his name, Sarah Sanders wound up sitting in that chair. And President was asked at that press conference if they were going to be more staff shake- ups. He didn`t want to talk in specifics, but he talked about the fact that in his words, everyone wants a piece of the Oval Office and at the same time, of course, he`s looking at his staff all the time to try to make them better.

He likes conflict, he said. He likes differing opinions. And then we got this stunning news. To put this into context, we have been reporting about the fact that Gary Cohn has been privately been infuriated by the President`s threat of new tariffs, by the threat of a trade war, something that the President doubled down on today and we know that he was threatening to quit. And so today he, in fact, took that step but of course, this isn`t the first time.

MELBER: Kristen, you said -- I want to pick up on what you just said, which is, we`re talking about a real estate magnet here, you said, this is valuable, this piece of real estate at the White House. I think the question here based on the Trump on filling some post is whether this President has devalued this property?

WELKER: Well, and to some extent, he may have, I mean, look, this voice within the White House, many people saw as a stabilizing voice. Gary Cohn is a Democrat, he`s a free trade Democrat, he`s someone who`s been a counterbalance to President Trump in so many different instances, someone who can say he disagrees with the President when it comes to economic policy. And so there are real concerns about who will fill that void. Steve Mnuchin is not seen as filling that void, not having that counterweight to the President and also Ari, this announcement was made after the markets closed. That was likely done on purpose. This White House is bracing for a response in the markets. They`re going to be watching the Asian markets closely overnight.

MELBER: Right. Unless the markets don`t open tomorrow, you can always hope as a contingency plan. You don`t have to answer that. Kristen Welker, thank you for running to a camera and joining THE BEAT with your special coverage and Jess, thank you as always for joining me. Up ahead as promised, we turn to the other big news. Roger Stone, breaking his silence, a potential witness. I have my legal breakdown, a special report on what this means in his defense of WikiLeaks, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now our special report, why is Bob Mueller asking for information on Roger Stone, and why did Roger Stone just join Sam Nunberg in speaking out? Nunberg told me he believes Mueller`s building a case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: They`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone and I`m not going to have them. Roger is my mentor, Roger is like family to me and I`m not going to do it. I`m not going to do it. Roger is my mentor, like a father to me. I don`t care. I`m not going to go into a grand jury for them to set up a case against Roger, whatever case it is which could be ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, those could be just theories of a stressed and loyal lieutenant. But then tonight Stone, this long-time media strategist, affectedly batted clean up in his mentees media tour and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: He is not speaking it at my behest or my direction. I would certainly not have advised him to ignore or refuse a document production subpoena. I was pleased to read today that he`s changed his mind about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Stone stressing he wants Nunberg to cooperate. But why do so many roads seem to lead to Roger Stone? The Trump advise is one of ten people on the subpoena which I discussed of course last night. Of all the things Nunberg said, his insistence on defending Stone was striking. Roger Stone a famous political operative, one of the closest advisers to Trump, a self- proclaimed provocateur, and dirty trickster. He`s long pushed the limits in politics and argued a kind of equivalence for gutter politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: One man`s dirty trick is another man`s political civic action. Everything I do, everything I`ve ever done has been legal. Politics isn`t beanbag and losers don`t legislate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: He was a loyal Nixon operative. He worked for Reagan`s re- election, and then he ran that profitable political consulting firm with you see it there, Paul Manafort. When Trump first flirted with running for president in 2000, Roger Stone was there and he was there when Trump began running this time. And while he did leave the formal campaign, he was an outside ally attacking opponents from Cruz to Clinton, creating organizing groups to try to help Trump at the convention as well as the general election. But what`s proven most controversial and of interest to Mueller was the support for Julian Assange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: First of all, I think Julian Assange is a hero. I think he`s taking on the deep state both Republican and Democrat. I expect you`re going to see more from Mr. Assange who again, I think is a hero.

We have mutual acquaintance who is a fine gentleman. I happen to be one who thinks that Assange is a hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Mueller probing whether that hero was involved in helping the Russians, Stone`s own record raising those questions. Look at this. August 2016, Stone says he knew about key information against Clinton from at Assange intermediary. He also seemed to predict the hacking of Chairman John Podesta saying trust me, it will be his time in the barrel. Assange Web site, of course, WikiLeaks release those e-mails and then these messages from WikiLeaks to Stone leaked in it the Atlantic just was just last with this message, happy we`re now much more free to communicate after the election. Now, tonight, Stone disclaimed any advance knowledge of Russian hacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: My direct messages with Guccifer 2.0 if that`s who it really is come six weeks -- almost six weeks after the DNC e-mails had been published by WikiLeaks. So in order to collude in their hacking which I had nothing whatsoever to do with, one would have need a time machine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: After Trump`s election, but before Mueller was appointed, I myself asked Roger Stone if he`d been to Russia and his view of WikiLeaks given what we`ve learned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Have you been to Russia?

STONE: I have never been to Russia. I have no contacts in Russia. I had no contact with any representatives of the Russian state or Russian intelligence. I had no knowledge -- pardon me -- I had no contacts with people who might have been go-betweens. Some say Assange is publishing stolen documents. Well, The New York Times published the Pentagon papers. The courts has said it was legal to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Lots of love for Assange. Now, the most benign explanation would be that maybe Stone`s everywhere because he wants to think he`s everywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: The only thing I can think of worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Self-promotion could be his best defense. But note what else Stone just told MSNBC within the last two hours. He hasn`t been called in by Mueller as a witness even as Mueller asks other people about Stone. And the question becomes, if you`re the last one into court, is that because the prosecutor wants you to be the defendant?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The breaking news that started this broadcast, White House Economic Adviser Gary Cohn out and he joins a large list that you`ve seen before, high profile departures under Trump, the lower right-hand corner two important people Hope Hicks, a Trump confidant and Gary Cohn leaving over tariffs a past critic of Trump`s white supremacist comments. Sometimes it can`t stop because it won`t stop. That does it for me. Thanks for watching THE BEAT. We`re here every night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Now I hand it over to HARDBALL with Chris Matthews starting now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bend overboard. Let`s play HARDBALL.

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