THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER March 15, 2018 Guest: Seth Waxman; Natasha Bertrand; Kathleen Parker; Donna Brazile
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: So is Washington working for you? Not today, but maybe tomorrow or the day after or hey, if it's too inconvenient to celebrate a holiday in Washington, you just change the day.
That's all for tonight. We will back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
And there's nobody that loves St. Patrick's day two days early than Ari Melber.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That's right. You know that - that is in my heart, St. Patrick's Day and the green beer. Thank you, Chuck Todd.
I'm here live in Washington on a very big day. This bombshell has been drop and it is sending shockwaves from the White House all the way to Donald Trump tower. Bob Mueller is isn't asking, which he could, but he is demanding legally that the President's company, the Trump organization turn over key material relating to Russia and yes, potential crimes. That's how subpoenas work.
They want all documents related to Russia and other topics Mueller is investigating. Why does that matter? Well, you probably know this if you are watching the news. This is the very first time Bob Mueller has demanded documents relating to Trump's businesses.
Now a lawyer for the Trump administration falsely called this old news. But did add, they will fully cooperate with all investigations including special counsel Mueller's.
Now the story suggests something more. It suggests that for at least some reason, somehow, Bob Mueller felt the need to put pressure on that so- called promise of cooperation. He didn't ask for these documents, which you could legally do, he demanded them by subpoena.
This very big story is out in the open tonight, only because of reporting from the "New York Times" which notes that it is simply at this hour not clear why he would go directly for a subpoena.
A senior congressional source told me tonight, though, that it could be Mueller's way of trying to make it crystal clear to every staffer at the Trump administration they cannot destroy any evidence, that they have their own personal criminal exposure.
Now there have been other signs previously that perhaps Mueller was interested, of course, in the Trump administration. You remember the probing reports that he was looking at Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is a figure in the Trump administration formally. And on Monday, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg told me Mueller's team questioned him about Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: My relationship with Michael, which I consider most of it, and as I said to them, it's privileged because he is a lawyer and I'm a lawyer. So I can't disclose things like that to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cohen was we know also seeking some sort of deals that would take place inside Russia right in the middle of the Presidential campaign. They discussed those now infamous plan to try to build a Trump tower in Moscow. That was several times and that does contradict Donald Trump's repeated previous denials of Russia business dealings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm all over the world, but we are not involved in Russia.
I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, OK?
I have no dealings in Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we have stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None whatsoever. I don't have property in Russia.
I promise you I never made, I don't have any deals with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tonight's news proves that Bob Mueller does not take those statements at face value, and he is using a subpoena for the first time to look at whether there were, yes, deals with Russia.
I want to turn now to former federal prosecutor Seth Waxman, as well as Natasha Bertrand who covers Russia for "the Atlantic."
We wanted both of you for both sides of this. Number one, why a subpoena. Two, the Russia story that you have been so closely monitoring, what would he be looking for. Why a subpoena? Do you view it as an aggressive against the Trump organization?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it could be indicative of one or two things. One, standard best practices maybe to issue a subpoena, to make sure everybody is on notice for all the reasons that you stated.
On the other hand, it could also be because they have not been getting the cooperation that they want. That they are getting either half productions or productions that look like they are missing documents or they want to put everybody on notice within the Trump organization that if they destroy documents or do any kind of shenanigans, that they could face their own criminal problems. And that would be another reason for issuing a subpoenas.
MELBER: And based on your analogy, the kind of prosecution team that Bob Mueller put together, what's your theory of why they are doing that?
WAXMAN: Probably the latter, more than that. I mean, also an organization like the Trump administration, has a regular document destruction policy. So whether it's six months or a year, the corporation will purge records as a normal course of business. You put a grand jury subpoena out there that kind of Trumps that rule and makes sure that they are, you know, following the commandment of the subpoena.
The last point I would make is that this is a court enforceable document, the subpoenas. So if there is any shenanigans now, it is not you didn't voluntarily cooperate with what I ask you. It is I might go over to a district court, talk to a judge and start thinking about contempt charges.
MELBER: Well. And this is something that congressman Schiff, the top Democrat in Intel committee was speaking with me about last night and that Rachel Maddow was also reporting on last night. Which is that probe, which now have been they say -- Democrats say kneecapped by the Republicans this week, was actually getting into areas of business and money laundering questions.
Take a listen to how Schiff put it last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm particularly concerned about the issue of money laundering, where the Russians laundering money to the Trump organization? Is this a lever they can hold over the President of the United States? It would be derelict in our responsibilities not to find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Last night, Adam Schiff says that, today the subpoena hits that same organization, the Trump organization.
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: It's really interesting. And in my conversations with people on this committee, the Democrats were pretty much on the verge of really starting to delve into this question of whether or not money laundering occurred. And they were kind of cut short. They had tried to get a subpoena for Deutsch bank, and they were kind of blocked by the Republicans who, of course, wanted to subpoena Fusion GPS' bank instead.
And of course, we saw that in this kind of status report that the committee of -- the Democrats on the committee issued the other day, we saw that they had evidence that the Trump organization was trying to build a Trump tower Moscow with the help of a sanctioned Russian bank.
Now we don't know which bank that was. It's still a matter of community business. So they are not saying which bank it was. But all sources point to it being this huge sanctioned (ph) bank in Russia called Spur Bank. And so if there is evidence of the Trump organization was pursuing this Trump tower in Moscow with the help of a sanction Russian bank, which the committee kind of left the bread crumbs out there for investigative journalists or even Mueller to look at, then it is really problematic for them. I mean, we also know that --.
MELBER: Well, you said the thing about bread crumbs is they make you hungry for more.
BERTRAND: And that's exactly why they did this.
MELBER: So look at that in the context of again, it is not that we are pulling together random threads. Schiff says that about money laundering. The Democrats on your reporting is well, we are getting close to something that put so much heat on that the whole probe in the house gets wrap up.
And then I was just on the Hill today speaking with sources and speaking with some members of Congress. I talked to congressman Quigley who is on the intelligence committee. And to the point you are raising about what the Republicans were doing as these questions basically percolated, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (R), ILLINOIS: Literally from day one, we had committee intelligence with Republican leadership working in lock step to sandbag the investigation.
MELBER: You think the way Republicans shut down this Russia probe this week is obstructive?
QUIGLEY: Absolutely. It's a pattern of behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERTRAND: So Adam Schiff is actually come out and said that they have seen evidence of collusion and that the Republicans have seen it too, but they just chose to ignore it. Now whether or not that's true, I'm sure that the Republicans would say that's not true. That what the Democrats consider collusion or what they consider some kind of business ties between the Trump organization and Russia is just a matter of coincidence. But we do know that both Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump's sons have said in the past that the Russians make up a disproportionate interest in the organization. And we saw Eric Trump as recently as 2014 telling someone who then later told the press that he said that they secured a $100 billion loan from the Russians that very year to finance Trump's golf courses. So these are all just lose threads that are hanging out there that were really never completed by the committees.
BERTRAND: It is something that Bob Mueller will be able to get to the bottom of this.
MELBER: So THE BEAT viewers are smart. They listen to Natasha Bertrand lay out that overwhelming evidence.
And Seth, if this were a Perry Mayer (ph) - Mason episode, it would be near the end of the episode. You are talking about the money. You are talking about the cover-up. You are talking about public statements about where the money is coming from. Now you got the subpoena hitting the Trump organization. And then what I showed up there is well, why is Donald Trump always denying this?
You know, the comedian Billy Eichner came on the show and he said well, we know there is collusion because Trump said there was no collusion and that is the first clue. And I don't mean to make line of a serious inquiry. But when Donald Trump makes that many statements about there is no Russian deals while his sons talk about the Russian deals and the money and we have the written contemporary as evidence of Michael Cohen who is in the eye of the storm trying to make a Russia deal, what is left for Mueller as he goes through the Trump org documents?
WAXMAN: Well, so first as to it being close to wrapping up and that subpoena is going to require a lot of time to comply.
MELBER: No, I don't mean wrapping up. I just mean some of the clues are a little obvious at this point.
WAXMAN: Well, they are. And so, why does Donald Trump continue to do things that benefit the Russians? I mean, we saw it today, he imposed sanctions through one of his agencies, but those sanctions were against people who have already been sanctioned or have already been indicted. Where are the indictments or sanctions against the oligarchs, against the senior Russian officials who are close to Putin?
You know, one of the answers might be is that you don't want to sanction people that you have been involved in a criminal conspiracy with because they may have the goods on you.
MELBER: We will put on the screen what you are talking about which is there was the Russian takes that came out today. But when you look at these comparisons, like the internet research agency, that's in the Mueller indictment. Boom, it's in the Trump sanctions today. You look at all these other figures, they are all rolled into the sanctions.
On the one hand, Natasha, that is interesting because it shows the Trump administration, however, much it was dragged to it, acknowledging facts in the Mueller indictment. On the other hand, it does raise the question of what would U.S. foreign policy be right now if Donald Trump didn't so brazenly, stupidly remove the FBI director, leading to the appointment of Mueller, that lead to the left hand side of the screen I just showed.
BERTRAND: Well, it is really interesting question. And a number of experts that I spoke to today said that these sanctions are a good step in the right direction because they show that the Trump administration is in some way taking Russia's election interference seriously. But they also don't go nearly far enough because like Seth said, they don't sanction the oligarchs. They don't really hit Putin where it hurts which is in his pocket and of course the oligarchs are basically his agents of influence throughout the world.
So, this is something that expert looked at and they say, OK, well, this is basically a carbon copy of what Mueller's already put out there. Let's see if they can go a little bit further. And let's see if the President himself can come out and actually condemn the Russians and actually support -- issue a statement of support for these sanctions. We don't know whether or not the treasury department did leave open, the possibility that there will be more sanctions on these Russian oligarchs, but as of right now, it is really just, you know, more of the team that was on the Mueller indictment.
MELBER: So we started big, Seth, I want to end small. If you are a person working at the Trump organization in New York or at one of their satellite properties, and you are hearing about all this, and you get some pressure, hey, by the way, maybe forget about that, or as Donald Trump famously told, allegedly told director Comey, maybe leave Flynn alone, he is a good guy. What is your legal exposure to that? Could you go to jail for doing that?
WAXMAN: Don't do it. Call a lawyer, do what you are supposed to do under that subpoena, because whether it's the CEO, the COO or some other official within the Trump organization that says see these documents? Let's just put them over here in this desk and forget about them, that could be a criminal act. And that's what this subpoena does, it criminalizes anyone who hides or tampers with or destroys evidence.
MELBER: Well, you know, there is an old saying, you know Maya Wiley, but that seems like good legal advice.
WAXMAN: I will take it.
MELBER: It is not a real say?
BERTRAND: No one is Maya Wiley.
MELBER: What is that?
BERTRAND: No one is Maya Wiley.
MELBER: I'll end on that one. Very much appreciate both the journalistic and legal context here on the bog in Washington. We have so much more.
Thanks to Natasha and Seth, stay with me.
Coming up, how the Trump administration is the Nexus of these legal questions. We are going to hear from the former DNC chair, Donna Brazil.
And the team that first published the Trump-Russia dossier taking action on Stormy Daniels. They are going to join me live in an exclusive to talk about why these cases are now late.
Also, revelations about how another Trump organization lawyer was involved in the plan to try to silence Stormy Daniels and why that happened this year and why it matters that Donald Trump is admitting lying to a key American ally?
Also, I'm going to show you even more from my fun times today on Capitol Hill, hockey lessons from that Intel Democrat congressman Quigley and also tough words for speaker Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUIGLEY: So all the shortcomings of the investigation ultimately fall on speaker Ryan. He is enabling President Trump to obstruct this investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We will explain why he said that.
I'm Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: They probably have something on Trump. Trump did something pretty bad. I assume.
MELBER: What do they have?
NUNBERG: I don't know. I think they were interested in something with his business.
MELBER: With his business?
MELBER: Did they ask you how he ran his business?
NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business. And by the way, I have no idea what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Trump organization now at the center, his business, of two stories that could engulf this entire presidency. Consider the Russia probe and that Stormy Daniels saga are both rotating around this, the same business that has long been a punitive source of Donald Trump's personal pride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My father gave me a very small loan in 1975 and I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars with some of the greatest assets in it world.
We are very proud of our company. We have built one of the really great real estate companies of the world.
As a President I could run the Trump organization, great, great company and I could run the country. I would do a very good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Well, that's part of what's happening right now. And I'm joined by Donna Brazile, a former DNC chair, the author of "Hacks, the inside story of the break ins and break downs that put Donald Trump in the White House," making her made in voyage on THE BEAT.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Amen.
BRAZILE: It's about time.
MELBER: It is about time.
MELBER: You know what they say, Kathleen, what time is it? About time.
KATHLEEN PARKER, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: About time. I think it is about time I was sitting at this table, Ari.
MELBER: Well, you have been on this show before.
All right. That's enough banter, Kathleen Parker, I'm going to introduce as well, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "the Washington Post." And she was referred to on set recently as brilliantly.
PARKER: Thank you.
BRAZILE: Very brilliant.
PARKER: Thank you.
BRAZILE: Terrific writer.
PARKER: Yes. Yes.
MELBER: Donna --.
PARKER: I gave her $130,000 to say that.
BRAZILE: And if somebody gave me that amount of money, I wouldn't be hiding it.
MELBER: Can I ask you a follow-up question?
MELBER: Did you give her that money or did you facilitate that money?
PARKER: I did not personally give it to her. I had my people give it to her and I don't know anything about it, actually.
MELBER: So, if you don't know anything about it, I think that is the big question here.
Donald Trump ran partly on the business. It is now the business tonight that we learn Mueller is subpoenaing, and it is the business that had another lawyer, not just Michael Cohen, but a second lawyer we just learned involved in the payment to Stormy Daniels. Do you have an understanding, what kind of business is this?
PARKER: Well, when is called the Trump organization, it sounds a little bit like the Mafia business. But that's just, you know, the color aspect of it.
I don't know what kind of business this is. It seems to me that it sounds like -- I mean, it's an organization. You know, it's like the head of the organization says handle that. Handle that. I think he just, you know, obviously Trump wanted credible deniability in this case with the Stormy Daniels payoff. But whether -- I can also see him just saying, look, you handle it. I don't want to have anything to do with this, moving on.
So I don't know if, you know, this is business, the way I think that sounds like, the kind of business Donald Trump does. He is quite proud of the fact that he is with the big deals, right? He is cutting the big deals and the little details are handled by the little people.
BRAZILE: It's a family run business. And he is the head of the family. So in that sense, maybe you are right. It's a family owned business.
But it's also a business with a lot of moving parts. We saw it in Trump University. We saw it in these instances where Trump hired people, fired them, and then they sued him and now we are seeing it once again with this story of Stormy Daniels, and the role that Michael Cohen played and facilitating this creation of LLC called EC that another Trump organization lawyer now claims that she was doing this in her individual capacity, not as part of the Trump organization.
PARKER: Of course.
PARKER: And they are going to say that. And probably they are doing it in their individual capacity. I don't doubt that Cohen paid this person out of his own pocket. It's a small amount of money, come on, when you are talking about the level of operations that these people are involved in. It is Trump change. And by the way, you know, Donald Trump is --.
PARKER: That's pretty easy to come up with if you are in the organization, I should say.
BRAZILE: Yes. But weeks before the election, and then you hide behind it. And now Ms. Daniels, Ms. Clifford is alleging that because Mr. Trump's signature was not on it, she shouldn't have to keep her mouth closed.
PARKER: But wait a minute, I mean, did his lawyer not have power of attorney? This is the question I haven't heard answered or even discussed. If he has power of attorney, then he has the right to sign for his client, does he not?
MELBER: Well, I think it's a little deeper.
PARKER: You are the attorney so you answer that question.
MELBER: Well, I play a lawyer on television. But I think it goes a little bit deeper, right. It goes to the depth of Donald Trump went around the country, and he said about these women when he ran, they are liars and I'm going to take them to court.
MELBER: That's how confidently he put it. And his supporters, many of them believed him as people tend to believe this.
PARKER: Well, now we are talking about the whole another --.
MELBER: Well, I think we are talking about -- but this is the relation. Now one of those women says to him, calls him on the bluff, says, I want to speak. I want to go to court. And what's Michael Cohen doing, power of attorney or not? Michael Cohen is going and trying to silence her, take her to secret arbitration to keep her out of court. What are you so afraid of, Michael Cohen? Mr. President and the rest of them, what are so afraid of?
BRAZILE: And by the way --.
PARKER: He wants to save the burden.
PARKER: This is another iteration of bimbo eruptions, is it not? I mean, in this case, you are just trying to hush up the people that --
MELBER: Who are you quoting?
PARKER: I mean in the Clinton days.
BRAZILE: This could be a violation of the law.
MELBER: So what do you mean? Are you using that term against them or how do you mean it?
PARKER: I'm just saying that within the organization, this is probably being viewed as just, get these women out of here, get them to be quiet. But the fact of the matter is, look, people knew what kind of person Donald Trump was when they voted for him. They didn't care. The Republicans didn't care that this guy was obviously, you know, a sexual predator, player, however you want to put it. And that, you know, there's a lot of sleaziness --
MELBER: Donna, let me go to the politics.
BRAZILE: Did it violate the law?
PARKER: We don't know.
MELBER: What I want to ask you, Donna?
BRAZILE: I think that's what we need to find out.
MELBER: I went out to Trump rallies. I would see you on the trail. You are an in demand person. You were out there. I heard from Trump's supporters that they basically thought he was a great businessman. The Apprentice was more or less who he was. That is to say not a TV show. And that he would do for America what he did for the Trump organization.
My organizing question now tonight, as we see the Trump organization in the eye of the Stormy Daniels legal storm, and the Mueller legal storm, the first time they are hit with subpoenas, if voters learn more about what this organization actually is, will they come to understand it not as a true real estate empire, not as the next Apple, but as something else entirely?
BRAZILE: Look. I think the American people are going to find out a lot about President Trump when this investigation is over with. He also promised to bring a different politics to Washington D.C., drain the swamp. And if anything, he has created a lot of pockets of what I will call messiness, a revolving door, can't keep a staff, one-third of the people have left, can't fill key positions, he doesn't have ambassadors to key countries. This is a President who promised to be a disrupter and he has disrupt in the way in which our norms and the way in which we operates.
MELBER: Before we go, I want to also play on that point, the disruption and the so-called obstruction in some people's view. I was speaking to Mike Quigley, the House intelligence Democrat. And he says this isn't just about Donald Trump. People need to get real about the fact that it is also Paul Ryan at every step. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUIGLEY: All the shortcomings in the investigation ultimately fall on speaker Ryan. He is letting it happen. This is on him.
MELBER: You think as a matter of government, Paul Ryan is the steroids for Trump?
QUIGLEY: He is enabling President Trump to obstruct this investigation.
MELBER: Is he getting away with it?
QUIGLEY: So far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Final thought?
BRAZILE: I totally agree. They closed down this investigation prematurely before bringing forth some of the individuals that Mr. Mueller has indicted or pleaded guilty. It's bad. Paul Ryan has done a very bad job.
MELBER: Donna Brazile and Kathleen Parker, thank you for a spirited panel, if I may say so.
BRAZILE: Any time.
MELBER: Up ahead, my exclusive report tonight, legal action from Buzz Feed that targets President Trump himself, it involves Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels and the Russia dossier. Buzz Feed's editor-in-chief and lawyer will speak out for the first time about it tonight on THE BEAT. That's next.
And we are learning more about a second Trump organization lawyer involved in the Stormy Daniels hush money as I mentioned and the timing is important.
You are watching THE BEAT live from Washington here on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news and this is exclusive on THE BEAT tonight. The Buzz Feed dossier Stormy Daniels' case just hit the Trump White House.
I am holding a brand-new letter that was just sent to Ty Cobb, President Trump's lawyer, asking him to preserve documents relating to Michael Cohen, to the controversial Trump-Russia dossier and to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal.
I also just got off the phone with White House lawyer Ty Cobb. We spoke about the letter and I have his exclusive response which I will share with you in a moment.
Here is the story. This request t for Stormy Daniels' materials, actually part of the publication Buzz Feed's defense against a libel suit that was brought over the dossier by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Here is what is new. Buzz Feed has sent this letter to Ty Cobb, the President's lawyer at the White House. They are asking President Trump preserve any documents related to Cohen, and also any documents related to Stephanie Clifford, who is Stormy Daniels, as well as Karen McDougal. Those are two of the women alleged who have had affairs with Donald Trump back in 2006. They are also the subject of these alleged secret payments.
And what these all means tonight is that the fight Michael Cohen picked with Buzz Feed over what he calls defamation in the Russia dossier has boomeranged. And it just landed on his boss' desk at the White House.
Now what will the Trump White House do? I can also tell you exclusively as part of this story we're breaking right now, I got off the phone with Ty Cobb moments before coming to the set. He spoke to me and he provided response on the record. He said, "I believe this is the first time I'm seeing this letter, I'll review it and make sure the White House does the right thing." I'm joined now for their first television interview on this particular subject, Ben Smith is the Editor in Chief of the BuzzFeed News and Kate Bolger, the Lawyer for BuzzFeed. Thank you both for breaking this story on THE BEAT.
BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: Thanks for having us on, Ari. Good to see you doing the reporting.
KATE BOLGER, COUNSEL, BUZZFEED: Thank you.
MELBER: Let me -- let me start basically with the legal question. What is the purpose of this letter and what do you make of Ty Cobb's new response?
BOLGER: So to kind of back up Michael Cohen's lawsuit is based on the part of the dossier that says that he was sent by the Trump Campaign. And the dossier actually uses the words to clean up the mess that the Trump campaign had made. And that is the type of allegation that we're having examples of with the Stormy Daniels allegation and what we're looking for is really to know what it was Mr. Cohen did for the Trump Campaign because it would help us in our defense of the libel litigation.
MELBER: And so Ben, do you stand by your publication of the dossier, that's what Michael Cohen alleges is defamatory?
SMITH: You know, absolutely. And I think you know, a year, we published it a bit more than a year ago, and when we did publish it, you know, some people agreed with that, some people disagree with the decision to publish it. We -- you know, we published it because it had been reviewed by two president of the United States who was without clearly a document of enormous public interest. I think a year later, that is no longer a controversial. A year ago, Democrats thought those were important, Republicans were kind of skeptical. You know, the core of these dueling memos and the fight around Devin Nunez, was Republican saying no the dossier was incredibly important to us, too important it was used as the -- as the underlying document in the FISA warrant application. And so I think you know, the only thing Republicans and Democrats in that fight agree on at this point is it has central, the dossier was and really how hard it would be to understand what's going on over the last year if you hadn't read it.
MELBER: And so Kate, looking at what you're asking for here because this breaking right now so I want to be clear, you've sent this demand to the White House, Ty Cobb says they'll do the right thing. I will add in my reporting he declined to speak to whether he had or thinks the White House has the kind of materials you're seeking. But let's go through it to get to the bottom of it. You want to know about any documents related to Cohen's involvement with Trump's campaign for president, communications between Trump and Cohen, communications about Stephanie Clifford or Karen McDougal, and you wanted, you say, everything that they've given to Mueller. What is the basis for that? Do you really think a sitting president has to give you that?
BOLGER: Well, I think one of the keys to the reasons behind Ben's initial decision to publish the dossier and one of the keys to our legal defense is that this document was actually being investigated and being used by every government -- every branch of the government. And for us, from a legal point of view, the more evidence we have that that happened, the better arguments we have to make that this was either privileged, totally protected by the First Amendment or a document that we had every reason in the world to publish. So the kind of information we're asking for with those particular request are to emphasize again that this was a document that was being used by the government to make decisions about everybody's life, and that's just the kind of thing you should be publishing as a news organization.
MELBER: I think that argument makes honestly a lot of legal and journalistic sense. Let me push you on what some could see as overbroad. Can't you win your case and essentially defeat Michael Cohen's claims about definition without getting into Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal?
BOLGER: Sure but in -- obviously in federal discovery and in discovery in American litigation, you have an enormously broad scope. In fact, in defamation cases you have an unusually broad scope because you're talking about the reputation of a single person, right? So sure, if I could get any one piece of evidence that might be the piece that wins my case, but I'm certainly entitled to look around that I -- for information that I have a reasonable basis to believe can lead to information that helps me in my case. And all of these types of documents we think really builds the story that Ben began with, which was that this was document that needed to be published because it was part of -- central to a government investigation.
MELBER: And to be clear, what Mr. Cobb told me is he would do the right thing. Do you read that as the White House will then provide all of this or not? He also mentioned to me that tonight was the first time he'd seen your letter.
BOLGER: You know, I haven't -- I haven't -- actually this is the first time hearing about Mr. Cobb's response and Mr. Cobb is a respected and reasonable lawyer and I'm sure he'll fulfill all of his ethical obligations. I'm not -- I'm not convinced the White House is going to give me anything without a fight and I'm ready to fight that fight. But I'm sure he's going to do what he can do.
MELBER: It's great, the way you put it, lawyers all just getting along. We'll see if that happens. Go ahead.
BOLGER: That's just like what it's like in court every day, Ari.
MELBER: Well, and zeroing in though, on it. When you look at this basically going from Michael Cohen, suing your client, Ben and Buzz feed, Ben sitting next to you and the larger organization of BuzzFeed, and now it hitting in what you say is a justified way. I want to be clear, the White House Ty Cobb tonight not telling me as unjustified. They could have called it frivolous, the could have said something else. When you see all that happening, do you have a view? Does it look like Michael Cohen's attack has backfired or boomeranged on his boss?
BOLGER: I think it's a hard fight to pick. I think a defamation lawsuit is a very complicated thing to file and defend. So I don't know that I would agree with the boomerang, but I do think defamation lawsuits are pretty hard to bring for (INAUDIBLE) and particularly a year after the dossier was published and particularly given all we now know about the way the dossier has been used.
MELBER: Yes. So turning from the law back to the journalism, Ben, you're the Editor-in-Chief there, over time the view of the dossier has certainly been that it's more newsworthy. I mean, I don't see how anyone in the world, including people who hate the dossier at this point, would say not newsworthy. But what about the fact that there are things in there that have not been proven, that have not been verified. You and I have discussed this on air before. I don't think your claim can be everything in there is true. So what about people and critics who say, you still put something out that has not been fully verified.
SMITH: I mean, that's not something critics said, that's something we said when we reported on the dossier. We wrote a story about this document that had been briefed to two presidents that was of enormous public interest. We also said that the -- that the facts had not been independently verified. And since then -- before that and since then, we have done an enormous amount of reporting. I think that's really the job of journalist here is to report out specific allegations. We certainly reported on Mr. Cohen who I think we were the first to publish the inside of his passport. And I think, you know, there are elements of the dossier that most strikingly, you know, the big -- the big picture of a Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. election that have certainly born out as well as specifics and there are others -- reporters that continue to test.
MELBER: And so Kate, walk us through what comes next. As I explained when we broke this story a few moments ago, this is the first time we've seen this kind of request about Michael Cohen and these women who he's alleged to have paid, on behalf of whom he won't exactly say. The first time this has hit the White House, hit Ty Cobb, Ty Cobb telling us exclusively on THE BEAT tonight they'll do the right thing. So that's the big news. What happens next given all that? You then try to get this material from him? What is the timeline for that?
BOLGER: Well, it's very early days in the Cohen litigation. Although the dossier was published a year ago, as I said, he didn't sue until almost full year -- a full year later. So we actually just reserved with the complaint last week. So we are not -- the next step isn't -- hasn't quite been plotted out for us yet. So I think -- I think there could be a motion to dismiss. I think we could be entering discovery. We -- there's no -- there's no plot that I plotted out yet that I would be comfortable sharing.
MELBER: And I understand that from a litigation strategy perspective. I want to ask one more question that is I admit speculative but I want to put it to you here if you want to tackle it. Is it possible that the way this thing is playing out, which looks like a nightmare and a headache for Michael Cohen's client, Donald Trump, is it possible that all of this could lead to him wanting to back often or potentially drop this suit against BuzzFeed?
BOLGER: I have no idea. We'll see how it all plays out.
MELBER: Ben, anything you want to add in closing?
SMITH: No, I mean, I think you know, we aren't sure why Mr. Cohen chose to file this, you know. The President's personal lawyer sued us here, but we are very, very confident that we did the right thing in publishing the dossier and we're you know, glad to have -- glad to be represented by good counsel. And you know, honestly, a lot of it -- this is a very high profile case, high profile people, the President's lawyer, when you -- you know, when write things that people don't like, sometimes they sue you and we were very prepared to defend ourselves in those cases.
MELBER: Well, it has been newsworthy since the moment that obviously the dossier was published to its continue to lead to a lot of other revelations. And I got to say, it seem to me from my observation, Mr. Cobb was also very interested in this latest move in this case that you guys have put forward. So Kate Bolger and Ben Smith, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
BOLGER: Thank you very much.
SMITH: Thanks for having us, Ari.
MELBER: I appreciate it. We'll have a lot more ahead on several stories including the exclusive story we just broke on THE BEAT. Where does the Stormy Daniels legal fight go now that it hits the White House? Also, I caught up with a Democrat on the House Intel Committee today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: I think he's most interested in obtaining power and keeping it. I think that's the story of President Trump's life and he doesn't care what he has to do to maintain that power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What Congressman Quigley says comes next, we're back with a special report in 90 seconds.
MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT and more on this exclusive story a that's breaking right now. I'm holding a letter from BuzzFeed that was sent to Ty Cobb, the President's lawyer at the White House and it links together several stories, the Russia dossier and these lawsuits around Stormy Daniels. What's different tonight as I was just discussing with BuzzFeed representatives themselves is they're targeting President Trump and asking for these materials relating to Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Russia and a whole lot more. Let's get right back to it. Back with me is Donna Brazile, and Seth Waxman, a former Prosecutor and I'm joined by NBC National Political Correspondent Heidi Przybyla. Welcome to all of you. I'll start with the Federal Prosecutor, what do you think of this breaking news, BuzzFeed's legal strategy hitting the White House, and Ty Cobb's telling me just moments before I came on set that they're going to do the right thing?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, they have no choice but to do the right thing. I mean, they're going to have acquiesce, give whatever information the Prosecutors want, and you know they're connecting the dots in putting this all this all together. And so it looks like though the information you're collecting that the news is tightening a bit.
MELBER: Do you agree with the premise of the question stated on legal strategy that Michael Cohen picked a fight with BuzzFeed over the dossier that seems to be boomeranging.
WAXMAN: Well, it seems that way doesn't it? I mean, if he's going to take on BuzzFeed on that point and then try to shift the narrative away from the issues that are facing him, that might be a tactic, I don't think it's going to play well and I don't think it will play well with the prosecutors.
MELBER: You know, at the risk of focussing too much on expectation, which I don't think is ever all that valuable, I'll just tell you, Heidi,, I was expecting Ty Cobb to be potentially concerned because he said, well, he wasn't that familiar with the letter yet and he's a busy guy and no shade there, and I read into him. I said all communications with President Trump about Stephanie Clifford and about Karen McDougal and documents about Mr. Cohen that went to Mueller. And I thought, as lawyers sometimes do, he might say, Ari, this is a fishing expedition, this is a witch hunt as his client sometimes says, and instead, he just said we'll do the right thing.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ari, there has been that tension all along that Ty Cobb's role in this White House. And you've got this array panoply of lawyers and that his role has been simply to provide that documentation to Mueller, in this case, you know, this is a separate case, but BuzzFeed is making its case that it's involved. And you know what, just last week, the President was talking to a separate lawyer, to handle kind of his personal requests coming from Mueller. And So Ty Cobb, I think has a narrow mandate here and I'm actually not surprised.
MELBER: You're not surprised. And this goes to something that also broke which is the role of yet another Trump lawyer, Jill Martin, who we're discussing earlier on the show. Let's take a look at the role she has played.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL MARTIN, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I know him and I know his character and I've seen him around women, thousands of women that have worked for him including myself, and he's treated us nothing -- with nothing but respect. I believe him when he said he didn't do anything inappropriate with women. In my experience, in the past six years, that nothing like this has ever come forward about Mr. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was after Access Hollywood, "nothing like this has ever come forward. That's interesting coming from her because she's involved in these payments, she's now involved in the Michael Cohen piece, which is now as I mentioned breaking tonight, a document request hitting the White House.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, DNC: Well, once again, Ms. Martin on several occasions during the 2016 campaign went out publicly to deny all these allegations that were surfacing about Mr. Trump and his so-called behavior towards women. Now she's saying that she was acting in her "individual capacity," not representing the Trump Organization because we know if the Trump Organization was involved, this could possibly lead to what I call more legal problems because if the Trump Organization is involved and there's money involved, then that could --
PRZYBYLA: It's really when you line up the timeline, really brazen, considering that this is the same time that they're calling all of these women liars. And according to Ms. Clifford's lawyer, there's other women. And we don't know if these women were the women that Trump allegedly harassed or if there's other NDAs out there, but this is also the time when Trump sought out Bill Clinton's accusers and trotted them on stage at a debate and now to learn that all of this was going on behind the scenes, at least with one woman maybe more.
MELBER: Right. And as you said, we don't know, but that's what BuzzFeed wants to know, and that's where Michael Cohen's lawsuit at the risk of repeating this is rather extraordinary and it's hitting the White House because he picked the fight with BuzzFeed. Whether that's good lawyering or not we will find out in the long run. The letter is certainly fascinating. I want to thank Heidi Przybyla, Donna Brazile, and Seth Waxman for being part of our special coverage. Up ahead, a different turn, Donald Trump bragging about lying to an ally. I have a Pulitzer Prize- Winning New York Times Columnist to explain why this matters.
MELBER: Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley told me today that Trump's lying is hurting foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUIGLEY: I think foreign leaders don't trust this President. If he gets away with what we're investigating here, he will be empowered to do more things like it. He's most interested in obtaining power and keeping it. I think there's a bigger problem. This is a President who is so familiar narcissistic, he can never accept blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This comes after the tape surfaced of Donald Trump at a fund- raiser last night boasting about a lie he told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about trade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin, he said, no, no, we have no trade deficit with you. We have none. Donald, please -- nice guy, good-looking guy comes in, Donald, we have no trade deficit. I said, wrong, Justin, you do. I didn't even know. Josh, I had no idea. I just said you're wrong. You know why? Because we're so stupid and I thought -- and I thought they were smart. I said you're wrong, Justin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The President sticking by that lie today. You know, in the Art of the Deal, he also wrote about misleading his own business partners. They were touring a building site and he wanted to create the false appearance of progress rounding up bulldozers telling the crew to transform this two acres of nearly vacant property into the most active construction site in the history of the world. The bulldozers, dump trucks did wasn't important, he recalled so long as they did a lot of it. Joining me now is David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Editor for the New York Times. And you've written a lot about this President, these lies. That was the word the New York Times used to use less frequently about presidents --
DAVID LEONHARDT, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It used to be a less relevant word, right?
MELBER: What do you see as the import of this today?
LEONHARDT: What I found striking about it was we actually got a window into how Donald Trump thinks about this, right? If you look at the sentences you just put up on the screen, he said, I didn't even know, I just said. And it's clear to -- it's clear there that the idea of what's true doesn't really matter to him. He's not even concerned. It might be true, it might not be true. He's not worried about it. He just thinks about what's convenient and useful for him to say. And as he said, he just says it and that's what he did.
MELBER: This comes up here also in this audio which is revealing. I want to play some more of it. Another misleading claim where he sounds like someone who's marveling at the way he's been able to beat the video game as if there's no factual or ethical component to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out. I said check because I can't believe it. Well, sir, you're actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn't include energy and timber. And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year. It's incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does that affect policy making when you have Republicans who would claim they do care about the actual economic facts? Lord knows their constituents do.
LEONHARDT: Right, well, I think the first thing that's important to say here is in any meaningful way that you look at it, Trump is wrong about this, right? And so in fact, we have a trade surplus with Canada. And what it just tells you is that there isn't an underpinning of reality by which he is trying to set policy which is obviously deeply disturbing. He's doing it on whims, he's making up lies when he thinks it makes him look better, he's making up lies when it justifies policies that would help people he wants to help. And it's just a really damaging way to conduct life in a democracy.
MELBER: Right and boasting about it is so vital because it shows the state of mind, the intent, the guilt, if you will, as opposed to someone who might have just made a mistake. David Leonhardt, thank you so much for coming by.
LEONHARDT: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: And don't go anywhere because the "REAL LIST" got real on the Ellen Show. Why THE BEAT was there. We'll show you next.
MELBER: Here's something we wanted to show you, "THE REAL LIST" from THE BEAT meets the Ellen Degeneres Show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW: I was flipping through the channels the other day and I stopped on Ms. NBC and -- MSNBC. So I saw this.
ROBERT TORRICELLI, FORMER SENATOR FROM NEW JERSEY: Last year, the administration recommended allowing again overriding President Obama to bringing in trophy animals. Donald Trump took a stand. And he overruled it and he banned it until last week when he reversed himself.
DEGENERES: Thank you, Senator. Bob and I go way back. We -- I'm kidding. I don't know him. But I appreciate what he said. So thanks so much for doing that. Elephants aren't trophies. They're beautiful creatures and they need to be protected. I hope they keep talking about it on Ms. NBC and Mr. NBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You got it, Ellen. I didn't know that the Senator was going to go give you his "REAL LIST" award for your work on the elephants but he did he and you're welcome to come on and tell us who's on your "REAL LIST" anytime. We wanted to give that shout out. Now, as for everything else, well, it's been quite the hour. We had the breaking news that BuzzFeed is going directly to the White House asking for those Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels documents and Ty Cobb telling me tonight they'll do the right thing. That is our show. I'll be back live 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But don't go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: More at the White House gates. Let's play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END