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New legal pressure on Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 03/20/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Nick Akerman, Bethany Mclean, Colette Holt, Evan Barr, Vince Warren, Neal Katyal; Gloria Allred

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER March 20, 2018 Guest: Nick Akerman, Bethany Mclean, Colette Holt, Evan Barr, Vince Warren, Neal Katyal; Gloria Allred

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari. I know you have a big show coming up.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I think we have a special show. Thank you very much, Chuck. Appreciated it.

Tonight, we bring you as discussed, a special edition of THE BEAT law and orders Trump versus the FBI. And this is news tonight not only because of that unusual firing of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. But because of events that actually led to the Mueller probe.

It was a year ago tonight that James Comey dropped that bombshell that the FBI had an open Russia probe including investigating Russia-Trump links. Now Donald Trump then ousted Comey within two months and that of course led to Mueller`s announcement.

So tonight, a year later, think about what is going on. Donald Trump re- shuffling his legal team, escalating these new attacks on Mueller. And here tonight, we also are hearing from Republican senators publicly warning that firing Mueller could lead to impeachment.

I will be joined by this special by a federal prosecutor who worked directly with Comey, plus his law school classmate, an author who has covered Comey and Mueller`s FBI tenures and top Obama DOJ official Neil Katyal who has criticized Comey`s term at the FBI but says he remains a credible witness against Trump.

All of that is tonight as we devote most of this hour to what we think is this important special.

But our first story before the special is building on some very unusual breaking news.

Tonight a new woman is suing to speak out about her links to Donald Trump. She argues she deserves the right to speak out about her history and her name is Karen McDougal. You see her here. She is a former playboy model. And she has previously had suggested she had a 10-month relationship with Trump dating to 2006.

Now like Stormy Daniels, she did sign an arrangement, a deal, that would include her silence on the issue. But tonight, her new suit says that she was quote "tricked into signing it while being misled as to its content including by her own lawyer.

And this move comes amidst another new report that Stormy Daniels actually passed a 2011 lie detector test about her claims about her links to Trump. This newly released test tonight says she passed it while asserting that she had quote "intercourse with Donald Trump." And she discussed her claim that Trump offered her to get on the "Apprentice."

Also, a third woman in the news tonight, former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos has a defamation suit at judge green lit it today. She had accused Trump of groping her in 2007. Donald Trump has denied all three sets of those allegations.

But as he faces this mounting pressure from Mueller in a criminal probe, we are also tonight seeing years of these different allegations from different places all arriving to hit him today in civil court.

Note that each of these allegations began years ago. It was 2006 there that you see Stormy Daniels alleges she got her payments for not discussing that relationship. That`s the same year 2006 you see in the middle where Summer Zervos alleges Trump groped her. Today it is Stormy Daniels` lawyer who says Donald Trump was in on all of this.


Mr. Trump has been fully aware of all of this, does that mean you have evidence or reason to believe he was aware of the threat against Ms. Daniels?



MELBER: That is new. That is the now category.

And if you look in the middle, this was the news breaking today, that the suit from McDougal would go forward right here on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A former playboy model who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump sued on Tuesday to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence.


MELBER: That suit implicates Trump and hiss lawyer Michael Cohen, it`s technically against AMI, the publisher of the "National Enquirer."

And then you look to the right side of your screen where, also, and we didn`t planned it this way, but the news breaks today, a judge ruling that "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos` suit is not frivolous and it will also go forward and go to court.

With me on these stories, Vox media`s Liz Plank, the "Wall Street Journal" Shelby Holliday who has been covering the story and Gloria Allred who represents Summer Zervos.

I want to turn to you, Liz, because you said something on this show a while ago that got some attention, that it might be an adult film actress who ultimately outsmarts Donald Trump. How do you take that point and extend it to these other stories that all just happen to be breaking tonight?

LIZ PLANK, VOX MEDIA: Right. I mean, it`s only fitting that a President who spends so much of his time in office trying to control women`s bodies that he might go down because he isn`t able to control his body. And that is honestly the best case scenario, right, in all of these stories, not all of them, but the two, you know, involving adult film stars is that he had affairs with these women, right. That he is a cheating pig. That`s the best-case scenario right now.

The worst-case scenario, is that, you know, we don`t know what these women know that Donald Trump doesn`t want us to know. We know that there is, you know, possibly a threat of violence coming from the President or someone, you know, that the President sort of connected to the President. We have now, you know, there is a possibility of a felony that he did use campaign funds to pay off some of these women?

So we have to -- a lot of people are saying, why is this story important? Because we don`t know what the story is.

MELBER: Well, you put it that way. The McDougal suit is brand-new. I was just reading through it while running from different MSNBC sets to set today. And one of the claims she makes is election related.

Another I want to read to you because I think it built in the point you just said. Because she argues that she was misled, that she was fraudulently induced and she said she didn`t realize she would be treated as a puppet by powerful men colluding to achieve their own financial and political ends, Shelby.

And it is different than some of the other suits, because we are learning through her suit in these allegation, which I know are disputed, the allegation that "the National Enquirer" and these other publications were basically in cohort or in concert with Michael Cohen, Trump`s long time lawyer, so silenced while tricking her into thinking that she was going to be signing a publishing deal.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right. And the President denies these allegations as you said. But what`s so important about this story is, not just that it`s another voice, not just that it`s another lawsuit, not just that it`s another credible person who people will start to believe when it comes to Trump`s treatment of women, but it is amazing politically (ph) because when you look back on the campaign, the President and his team organized this big strategy to respond to the Access Hollywood tape. And even bragged about their response, that it worked, that voters didn`t care, that people who elected Donald Trump anyway.

That is coming back to bite them now, as they are trying to fend off multiple suits. People close to the President or close to his campaigns say the reason they are going so hard after Stormy Daniels and ticking $20 million and saying she breached 20 different times is because they done want other women to come forward. If they allow her to come forward --.

MELBER: Right. That was a theory that was bubbling --.

HOLLIDAY: Correct.

MELBER: Do you look at this new suit from Karen McDougal as evidence that that theory adds up?

HOLLIDAY: Yes. And I think a lot of voters too are raising their eyebrows like this is the beginning where nowhere near the end. And what else will see. And I think to Liz`s point, what is extremely important is, can the President be blackmailed? And what is Michael Cohen`s role in covering things up? Those are two important questions.

MELBER: You mentioned the strategy during the campaign. I want to look at what Donald Trump claimed he would do. And as is often the case, I`m showing you this video not because it`s true, but because it turned out to be false. Donald Trump appealing to voters by suggesting he would drag these women accusers to court. In fact he has been dragging them legally as of Friday out of court and into arbitration.

Here was Donald Trump on the campaign trail.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.


MELBER: None of them were sued. I turn to Gloria Allred who has represented many women in and out of court in what we know to be a difficult situation. Your view of why that statement proved false and the wider significance of these cases tonight?

GLORIA ALLRED, REPRESENTS SUMMER ZERVOS: Well, only of course President Trump can say why he said what he said. But I do want to also add that I think there was a suggestion that Karen McDougal who I do not represent might have been an adult film star and I don`t believe she is or has been.

MELBER: She was in Playboy, wasn`t it right?

ALLRED: Yes, Playboy, but not, you know, pornographic material. So having said that, you know, I think these women obviously, that is Ms. McDougal and Ms. Daniels would like to be able to share what their story is. They have set forth the reasons in their lawsuit. And, you know, there are many, many women who just refused to be silenced anymore. They want to stand up. They want to tell what their truth is. And they feel that the arbitration clauses that they were -- that they entered, that were in their arbitration agreements, their nondisclosure settlement agreements, you know, should be challenged.

So a court will decide whether or not there is a basis for that challenge or whether their disputes need to be in arbitration. Usually what happens, and I have done thousands of confidential settlements in the 42 years I have been practicing law. I just did some last week.

But generally, there will be a motion to compel arbitration by the defendant. And then the court will decide whether or not it`s going to go and be decided by an arbitrator, in a confidential arbitration, or whether or not it can remain in county superior court, state court and be decided in public.

MELBER: Sure. What do you think is better?

ALLRED: I always think it`s better for a jury to decide. And for a judge in a public forum, in a public venue, a courtroom to decide. But often, in exchange for money, the plaintiff will agree to the arbitration clause. If she does not, she will not receive payment for her claim.

MELBER: This dog tail`s (ph) back to what Liz was discussing, which is you believe for women in these situations it`s better to be in open court. A lot of voters even at Trump rallies apparently believe it`s better to be in open court too. Because Donald Trump didn`t go out there and say, you know, what I`m going to do? I`m so sure I`m right, I`m going to sneak a binding arbitration clause provision into a footnote so no one will ever really know what happened. He didn`t say that. He very blatantly as we showed, I`m going to take them to court.

So there`s something going on here that is broader, which is even Trump supporters think that would be a good thing. What happens when they learn over time, that there are so many cases that he is fighting not to win in court? And does that means you are not a winner, which, you know, I know it is a big threatening thing to hear. Maybe he is not a winner here.

PLANK: Right. And that is the best last thing he wants to be seen as, right? And it is also important to put all of this into context. There is a really big historical context of Donald Trump paying women to be silent. Even, you know, in his divorce deal with Ivana Trump. He basically -- there was a gag, full on gag order where she could not speak about, you know, anything related to him. And when in her deposition during the divorce she basically, you know, said that Donald Trump raped her. And then a reporter reported on that deposition, Donald Trump`s lawyers just crafted a statement that basically said that that wasn`t true.

And even in his divorce with Marla Maples there was the same order of gag order. And in 1999 when he said maybe he wanted maybe to run for President, she said it will be my responsibility to speak out about his character and tell people what he`s really like and then she stopped getting her alimony payments.

MELBER: And those are hotly confessed. And then I should note, of course, several of these cases including the two that we are reporting on tonight. Two of them don`t allege nonconsensual activities. I have to say that.

But Shelby, on the politics broadening out, there are a lot of folks who say, well, whatever you think, this was litigated. And when you talk about the avenue of consensual allegations, whatever one thinks privately is for something a lot of democrats defended Bill Clinton for to the max.


MELBER: Do the politics of this, having covered the law, in your view, matter? Do they hurt Trump in any way or not?

HOLLIDAY: At this point, when you look at polls, it`s a very polarized electorate, if you can believe it. Republicans tend not to believe the stories of these women at this point, Democrats do. I do think the issue of the treatment of women is a big deal for voters both on the left and the right. And that will play out over the next couple of months and there is a national security concern. And I lot of people in the national security community are really just shocks by this. Because not only is the President dealing with lawsuits, the Russia investigation and now these lawsuits, but also he is firing people in his cabinet. He is threatening tariffs against China. He might be meeting with North Korea`s leader. There`s a lot of uneasiness about where the President is.

MELBER: And you mentioned where that goes to also the criminal cases and the larger end which is part of our special tonight.

Shelby Holliday, Liz Plank and Gloria Allred, thank you to each of you.

Coming up, we turn to our special tonight, Trump versus the FBI. I`m going to speak to the man who actually wrote the rules that govern Bob Mueller.

I also bring you new details on James Comey`s big plans to break his silence.

Also tonight, growing demands for Mark Zuckerberg to testimony before Congress in his new undercover video featuring the head of Donald Trump`s digital firm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met President Trump?



MELBER: More on that. And our law and orders specials when we continue.

I`m Ari Melber and you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: And now we turn to our special edition of THE BEAT tonight. Law and orders: Trump versus the FBI.

Tonight, Donald Trump`s lawyer are trying to limit the scope of the Mueller interview with the President. Trump shuffling his legal team, adding FOX News commentator Joseph diGenova, but how did Trump get here? How did he find himself facing this criminal probe in his first year, something no President has faced?

Well, a key chapter began one year ago today when James Comey dropped this bombshell on the hill.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I have been authorize d by the department of justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counter intelligence mission is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.


MELBER: That right there, a year ago was the first confirmation the FBI was investigating Trump and Russia. Pretty striking considering Comey also kept the secret that he was doing a Hillary Clinton probe during the whole campaign.

Now experts say the announcement I just showed you there, about Donald Trump and that probe paved the way to Comey`s now infamous firing, which itself triggered the entire Mueller probe. Now that`s how we got here.

I`m speaking to you on a night when two Republican senators are warning Trump he will be impeached if he fires Mueller and Comey preparing to break his silence with this book tour as well as now highly anticipated interview with my colleague Rachel Maddow next month. All of this happening after these extraordinary past couple of days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The justice department just last night firing the FBI former number two Andrew McCabe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he is being singled out for supporting former FBI director James Comey after he was fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is when I`m talking to the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe but you will not destroy America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not the normal behavior in the democracy. And that is the kind of behavior you see in authoritarian regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have here is a White House that has orchestrated a massive cover-up, more serious than that of Richard Nixon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His firing Mueller would precipitate in this country a constitute --


MELBER: The first question in our special and the issue that could decide whether Trump did criminally obstruct justice is where there real legitimate reasons to fire Comey and McCabe?

MELBER: Donald Trump is the first President to ever fire an FBI director and hiss deputy. Both times, Trump claiming the firings over FBI officials breaking rules in the Clinton probe. Did they really break the rules? And if so, was that the actual reason for these firings?

We turn now to one of the nation`s top authorities on federal law. Neal Katyal argued dozens of cases at the Supreme Court working at the DOJ during the tenures of McCabe and Comey and he was acting solicitor general. Thank you for being here.


MELBER: Your thoughts on whether the firing of Andrew McCabe is normal or suspicious.

KAYTAL: More than suspicious. I mean I think that it demonstrates really Trump`s contempt for process and contempt for the rule of law more generally. I mean normally, you have a very intensive discipline procedure at the FBI. It`s a process that goes through multiple layers and so on. You don`t have a President truncating that by putting his thumb on the scale at the outset saying here`s what I want to have happen, Mr. Sessions.

MELBER: Right. And it was very publicly directed which goes to the Clinton case yet again.

I want to play for you what acting FBI director Andrew McCabe told the senate last May after Comey`s dismissal.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I think morale has always been good. However, we had -- there were folks in our agency that were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case and some of those folks were very vocal about those concerns.


MELBER: How does that look to you now?

KAYTAL: I think it looks, you know, we don`t know exactly what Mr. McCabe did and did not do. Well that a report in a discipline process that we are waiting to unfold. The one thing we know is what Trump did. And that he overall just kept on saying in his twitter account over and over again. Things like we got to get rid of this guy and the like. And that is just exactly the wrong way to go.

MELBER: Then you have Jeff Sessions himself who very publicly said he was recusing from all of this. And then said he would not be involved in anything involved in the Clinton foundation.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton emails and any matters involving the Clinton foundation, if there are in?



MELBER: Any matters involving the Clinton foundation. This was a firing over his description of the Clinton foundation issue? Was this a violation of that statement?

KAYTAL: A 100 percent. I cannot possibly understand how the attorney general of the United States says he has recused from the Clinton foundation investigation but then metes out discipline to one of the investigators in that investigation. It`s just nonsensical. The whole point of recusal is to avoid any accusations that you are interfering. And obviously, if you are firing someone who has been one of the investigators, that`s quintessentially being involved.

MELBER: I want to turn now to James Comey, another part of this special. Everyone can recall in 2016, the press conference where he said there would not be charges in the Clinton case.


COMEY: Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Although the department of justice brings final opinions on matters of this, we are expressing to justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.


MELBER: That was highly unusual. Normally the FBI director does not make those kinds of announcements. I want to show people, for example, when Bob Mueller was FBI director. He would show up at indictment announcements, but always the attorney general at the podium announced the charge and decisions. You could see that as well in 2001 and 2002, under Ashcroft, Mueller in the background. It was also the case under Holder, I should say. You could see that there.

The point in the picture is the same in the law, it is not for the FBI director to do that. Was Comey wrong to do that?

KAYTAL: I think he was. Mr. Comey is a legendary public figure, public servant. He has done a lot of good. But when he did that, he made a mistake.

MELBER: Apart from the charges decision, Comey made more freelancing during that decision. He talked about his view of Hillary Clinton.


COMEY: There was evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of highly classified investigation. Any personable person in secretary Clinton`s position should have known that san unclassified system was no place to have those discussions.


MELBER: Did that breach protocol? And does that affect his status as a witness today?

KAYTAL: It is certainly a breach protocol. I mean, there is a reason why you don`t have such statements made. And the justice department only acts through indictments. When you decline a prosecution, you don`t go and tar and feather someone who you might have brought a case against and say you did some bad stuff, because that person has no real avenue for recourse. After all there is no criminal case for them to defend themselves anymore.

MELBER: You`re seeing echoes of that today where Jeff Sessions says McCabe was fired over Clinton foundation media contacts and then Trump goes on twitter and talks about him as a witness.

KAYTAL: That`s the million dollar question. And so far these folks in the Trump administration, from the President on down who have not built any credibility with the American people, it`s an ever shifting story and one that always looks at every turn like they are just trying to protect their own hides.

MELBER: Neal Katyal, veteran of the justice department. Thank you for being part of our special coverage.

KAYTAL: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

MELBER: And we have a lot more. There is breaking news tonight from current FBI director Chris Wray, Pete Williams asking him if he threatened to resign over these requests to fire certain people. That is going to get some attention.

Also, on our special edition of THE BEAT, we look at the right wing attacks against Comey, the impact they could have on Trump.

And my exclusive interview tonight with Comey`s law school friend who has never spoken out before.

Plus, that new undercover video with the head of Trump`s digital firm emerging. Facebook under federal investigation. And now new calls from Mark Zuckerberg himself to testify before Congress.

All that as our special continues on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special tonight.

Law and orders, Trump versus the FBI. And I turn now to a deeper look at some of the actions James Comey took during that fateful campaign and that he didn`t take because it was only after the entire campaign that Comey famously revealed the FBI was investigating both nominees that there was a Trump-Russia probe. That`s a contrast to his very loud revelations, of course, about the other nominee.

Remember, July 2016, when he came out to announce no charges against Clinton and also denounced his opinion about how she`d handled classified information, and then 11 days before the election that October surprise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 11 days to go, the Head of the FBI dropped a bomb in the race for President this afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI unexpectedly reopened its criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail servers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The October surprise came in the form of a three- paragraph letter to Congress from FBI Director James Comey.

MELBER: Jim Comey may have been trying to do the right thing legally but has done it so poorly and so vaguely that practically it is a mess and distortive and something he may ultimately feel he needs to clean up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are furious that this came 11 days before election day. This was a total bombshell to this campaign at the highest level.


MELBER: A bombshell that Comey did make moves to clean up. But during that fateful weekend, it was Candidate Donald Trump praising Comey.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made. I was not his fan, but I`ll tell you what, what he did, he brought back his reputation.


MELBER: Trump`s praise would not last. A year ago today, as I mentioned, Comey confirmed for the first time the FBI was investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and then the pressure began building. In May the firing of Comey, and then Donald Trump did something important we`re reporting on tonight. He turned his focus to Comey`s staff including his Deputy Andrew McCabe who talked with Comey about Trump`s pressure to end the Russia probe.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I discussed the lifting the cloud in the request with the senior leadership team, who in typically and in all of these circumstances was the Deputy Director, my Chief of Staff, the General Counsel.


MELBER: When Comey says Deputy Director, he`s referring to Andrew McCabe. That`s the link from 2016 and the Clinton probe to 2017 and the Comey firing to 2018 in McCabe`s unusual firing just this past Friday night. So we turn now to this question because this is the question the obstruction investigation. Were these historic, unusual FBI firings actually over the Clinton case, because Trump was praising them for that reason at the time or were they for some other reason? And if they are, is that reason part of a crime? I`m joined by Nick Akerman, a former Watergate Special Prosecutor, Bethany Mclean Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair, she`s written about Comey`s role in the Clinton probe and his view of his own reputation, as well as Terrorism Analyst Malcolm Nance. Nick, that question to you.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think this was just another pretext. I mean, clearly almost parallel. You had a pretext as to why he fired Comey. He had Attorney General Sessions write up this whole report basic detailing all of the things that Comey did wrong in terms of his announcement on Clinton, which it was wrong. But this was a long time afterwards. He basically used that as a pretext to fire him and he later admitted to Lester Holt that the real reason for fired him was to get rid of the Russia investigation.

MELBER: So take that to the case because Friday night, Jeff Sessions who we have shown claimed he would be recused from Clinton Foundation matters says Andy McCabe is fired in the middle -- of almost the middle of the night, short-circuiting an internal review that`s not even done. Does that also look like a pretext?

AKERMAN: It sure does. I mean, unless we learn more facts, even if McCabe did something wrong, as Comey did as well in that announcement he made, it all looks like a pretext for trying to just destroy McCabe and to go after the FBI again. There was no reason to fire him a day before he was going to retire. It is just so vindictive to go after this man who has served his country for 20 years in a super honorable fashion and who has gone after time and time again, asking about his wife, asking who he voted for.

MELBER: Right, and you`re talking about McCabe, and Bethany, to oversimplify, McCabe may become the new Comey. Take a listen to James Comey talking about the record which we know are memos in such that he shared with McCabe that have become so central.


COMEY: I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in. Look, I`ve seen the tweet about tapes, Lordy, I hope there are tapes.


MELBER: Bethany, with all of you reporting on Comey and Mueller, your view of where this goes based on these two men?

BETHANY MCLEAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, VANITY FAIR: Well, I would agree with everything Nick just said. I think this is -- it`s just a crazy situation. The great irony here is that the FBI is actually seen as inadvertently aiding Trump to win the election. And certainly, the FBI has a reputation at least in the New York office of having been very pro Trump. And so the incredibly crazy surreal is that Trump is doing so much to turn the Bureau against him. And the only thing I can see is that he is -- the only strategy, I can possibly see behind it assuming there is one is that he is trying to undermine American`s faith in all of our institutions, such that if there are charges, he will have been able at least to a swathe of the American population to have discredited the institution that bring them.

MELBER: Do you think he -- do you think he expects charges and that`s why he`s going this hard?

MCLEAN: That is really -- that is really hard to say. Certainly, the ratcheting up of all of this points to -- points to something but within the mind of Donald Trump. I think only Donald Trump has a prayer of understanding what`s going on there.

MELBER: Malcolm, I want to broaden out the context of these public servants, who like you have served their country because it`s not nothing when the Director of the FBI and the Deputy Director say in public they think they were fired to affect the outcome of a probe. I mean, that is a key element in obstruction and these are reliable witnesses. McCabe and Comey both happened to have been Republicans for most their life from what we know about their voting records. McCabe said that Friday night, and but for what was admittedly the lead of our show tonight, and what`s been also been unusual, the civil litigation from multiple women with Donald Trump and a lot of other stories. But for that, I think what McCabe said Friday night would be the biggest story of the week. here was James Comey saying it`s similar allegation under oath.


COMEY: I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a -- that is a very big deal.


MELBER: Malcolm, how do you compare that, which grew out of as I note tonight a year ago today`s fateful announcement of the probe to McCabe saying on Friday the same thing was done to him?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: You know, I`ve been saying for some time that this White House is operating precisely as Vladimir Putin did when he rose to power. Whenever he met an obstacle, he met a person who was in front of him who had power, he removed that power away from him. He didn`t care what the results of that were. You know, I have joked from time to time that there`s a RAT in the White House, a Russian Advisory Team. And that actually was a strategy that the Russians used against the CIA and the FBI, discredit the leadership, make people not trust their word. Donald Trump has learned that lesson. He knows that there`s two parts of this story. There is a legal side and he probably will be caught up in the legal -- you know, the legal technicalities of obstruction of justice. But he`s also playing this sort of worldwide professional wrestling side where he is playing to the crowd and he is trying to discredit the leadership of the FBI personally.

MELBER: Right.

NANCE: And he knows that at some point they`re going to be bought as witnesses and this is critical for him.

MELBER: Right, and if this was about witnesses that raises the obstruction question as well. Final thought, Bethany. You were a close observer of Mueller`s effective work on the Enron Task Force, his history as a Prosecutor. What does that tell you about where he goes from here?

MCLEAN: Well, he`s an aggressive, incredibly well-respected prosecutor. I think you have to admire Mueller for having been able to play his cards very close to the vest so far. The guy who works directly under Mueller Andrew Weissmann was the Director of the Enron Task Force, and I said this once before but I ran into a former Enron Board Member at a coffee shop right after Weissmann was appointed and this guy was not a fan of Donald Trump in any way and he said I almost feel sorry for President Trump because he`s going to have to deal with Andrew Weissmann. He`s known as a pitbull, no holds barred. So certainly when you look at Trump`s legal team versus the people, Mueller has assembled around him, there`s a dramatic difference.

MELBER: The dramatic difference in your dub tailing with the news today that they sought and were rejected by the conservative heavyweight lawyer Theodore Olson, which suggest that sometimes the people around you that is willing to work for you are reflection of you. I want to thank Nick Akerman, Bethany Mclean and Malcolm Nance for joining our special coverage. I appreciate it.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Up next, the coming clash, Comey about to tell his full story, Trump going at his credibility. We have something special tonight. Two people who knew Comey long before any of this got started and who rarely speak out, that is back in 90 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special edition tonight on THE BEAT, "LAW & ORDERS: TRUMP VS. FBI. We turn now to the question of credibility. James Comey is saying he`s going to tell his side of the story. His new book is shooting up to the top of Amazon over the weekend. And that`s after Comey said the public will be able to see "who is honorable and who is not." Now, at the moment I`m going to speak to a former federal prosecutor who worked for Comey and a law school classmate of his and knew him long before this attacks and before he became the kind of a political symbol for Trump supporters.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He went outside the chain of command and politicized an investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that went on in the Comey testimony was basically ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many people believe he had really lost it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Comey deserved to be fired.


MELBER: Colette Holt is a practicing attorney, and she knew Comey long before his time in the public eye at law school at the University of Chicago, graduating the same class all the way back in 85. Evan Barr worked with Comey as a prosecutor handling cases that ranged from WorldCom to Martha Stewart`s prosecution. And I`m also joined here in New York by Vince Warren, the Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of our Legal Eagles. Thank you all. Colette, when you see these people come out and say that Jim Comey is dishonest or dishonorable, does that match with what you learned about when you saw him out of the public eye?

COLETTE HOLT, LAW SCHOOL CLASSMATE OF JAMES COMEY: Well, no. I mean, not at all. Jim was a very smart, meticulous, cautious person, always very kind, very honorable. These attacks are ridiculous and has nothing whatsoever to do with the person I know, the person he was certainly then or anything that we`ve seen in his time in public life. It`s just a scurrilous attack. It`s really part of the propaganda machine to undermine Jim Comey, the investigation, Robert Mueller, this attack that says that anybody that comes after Trump or that asks any questions must be dishonorable, and really it`s an attack on the norms that certainly we were taught to uphold at the University of Chicago Law School.

MELBER: And Evan, you served along with him, federal prosecutors take their non-partisanship very seriously. They decide who goes to jail, sometimes they decide who dies under the legal process. So they in my experience tend to view it as bigger than politics. Here`s Jim Comey saying that what he viewed is political and partisan pressure from Trump made him so uncomfortable he would actually try to find any way to avoid contact.


COMEY: You`ve seen the picture of me walking across the blue room and what the President whispered in my ear was, I really look forward to working with you.


MELBER: I want to play where he talks about hiding behind the drapes, he basically was saying there was a meeting and he was so uncomfortable he wanted to avoid being seen by President Trump. You can see the footage here. This is what I`m referring to. He basically was in that room and said later that he hid, he`s a pretty tall guy to hide in the blue drapes but Trump still called him over anyway. I wonder what that story which is both weird but I think revealing tells you, Evan, about this person you served with?

EVAN BARR, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, it`s completely consistent with the Jim Comey that I knew. He was a towering figure. I mean, everybody looked up to him both literally and figuratively. He was inspiring, he was tremendous for the morale of the office, he believed in integrity and he taught everybody in the office to follow the evidence wherever it goes without -- and to prosecute without fear or favor. I mean this guy is a straight shooter right down the line. And he demonstrated that time and time again, tremendous for moral for all of us serving under him. We really admired him.

MELBER: Vince, what do you think as we process all this because if what we`re hearing is right, it`s the personal credibility of Jim Comey and Andy McCabe that`s going to be tested if there is wider case?

VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: There`s no question that this is a credibility battle and I think that what we`ve seen from this point in the Presidential term is that almost anything that Donald Trump says is almost automatically un-credible. And I think what they`re doing is they`re spending a lot of time and energy trying to discredit folks that they know have information that are going to be testifying as witnesses and that`s their strategy. I think at the end of the day --

MELBER: You think these firings were effectively witness tampering?

WARREN: Oh, I think there`s no question about it. I mean, I think it`s hard to prove and so I`m telling you my opinion but I think that --

MELBER: Or your legal view.

WARREN: Well, I think when you put all of those things together and look at the context and you look at who said what to whom and then when the firings began to happened, there`s just no doubt in my mind that they`re trying to discredit folks that they know are going to be giving evidence against them.

MELBER: Yes, and Evan Barr, then you add to that that the current FBI Director appointed by Trump, Chris Wray was widely reported to have threaten to resign if they improperly in his view removed Andy McCabe which is pretty damning since that as I`ve reported that seemed to happen Friday in unusual circumstances. Our own Pete Williams just asked him about that, and he did not decline those reports which itself is notable and might bother the White House. Take a look.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It`s been reported that you threatened to resign over being urged to fire people, is that correct?

CHRIS WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: You know, I have been very clear from the minute I was nominated to the minute I walked in the door to countless opportunities since then that I am unwaveringly committed to doing this job by the book independently following our rules and our processes free from political or partisan influence.

WILLIAMS: So it`s sounds like you`re saying those reports are not wrong?

WRAY: I`m not going to talk about specific conversations.


MELBER: Evan, how do you view that and could we end up in any kind of proceeding where the current and former FBI Director and Deputy Director and Rod Rosenstein who was involved in the firing of Comey are all witnesses?

BARR: Well, look, so on McCabe, it appears the circumstances are suspicious, right, and it looked vindictive to a lot of us that he was terminated within, you know, days of his qualifying for a pension. That said, I think we need to wait for the investigation report by the Inspector General, Michael Horowitz to come out.

MELBER; But they have the burden of proof, I mean they fired him in a Friday night non-transparent process for a probe of the Clinton case that now is over a year running that`s an internal review. And so it would seem that the burden shifts when they do that to them having to justify an unusual move. No president in history has ever fired a Deputy FBI Director, this one through Jeff Sessions but urged on publicly by Donald Trump.

BARR: Absolutely and I think what we can expect is that McCabe will challenge this in court and so we may well have people called to testify to see exactly why the termination occurred.

MELBER: Do you think McCabe might still sue for unlawful termination?

BARR: I think he can take his case in front of the Merits System Protection Board which applies to any federal employee including McCabe so we may well not have heard to reviews this.

MELBER: You raised -- you raised an interesting point. I`m out of time. Colette, final thought on what we`re going to see from James Comey on his book tour.

HOLT: I think he`ll be honest, he`ll be forthright, he`ll tell the truth and I think that he will make it clear that he thought he was upholding the norms and the ethical standards that he was required to do even though I personally disagreed with some of the things, the -- you know, the memo in October was a disaster but I never have doubt that he would have done what he thought was right.

MELBER: Colette Holt and Evan Barr, and Vince Warren, thank you each for joining our special coverage. Up next, the digital firm tied to Trump, breaking news. They`re suspending their CEO over that hidden camera scandal and Congress asking Mark Zuckerberg to finally show up in person. All that and a little more on Stormy Daniels` lie detector test. Stay with us.


MELBER: As our special continues, consider James Comey`s last public remarks to Congress when he warned Russia weaponized the internet.


COMEY: The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose, they did it with sophistication, they did it with overwhelming technical efforts.


MELBER: Tonight, a key part of Trump`s digital operation in free fall, suspending their CEO after reports that we brought you as well as others last night, they were promoting dirty tricks and misusing data. New video leaking tonight that the man who was just suspended, Alexander Nix, also touted his links to Mr. Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met Mr. Trump?



NIX: We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data-informed all the strategy.


MELBER: Cambridge also sought to contact WikiLeaks so the closer they are to Trump personally, the worse that could be for Trump. But this scandal also hitting Facebook. Consider this new federal probe announced over whether they broke rules on data, new calls for Mark Zuckerberg to testify personally. He hasn`t done that. And all this raises a question, will Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress? Remember, when our elections were under attack, Facebook sent their lawyer, the guy on the left, to Congress. But when Mark Zuckerberg on the right wanted to seal Facebook`s business standing in it Russia, he went personally to meet with Russia`s number two person at the Kremlin.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We made a shirt for him.



MELBER: You`re looking at an image that could haunt Mark Zuckerberg. Famously hands-on about his own priorities and tuned out to anything he thinks is a distraction. That`s him with Putin`s number two. And these issues were clearly not his priority in 2017. Tonight, members of Congress want him to change. And the question is, will Mark Zuckerberg stand up and face the U.S. Congress like he faced those Kremlin officials, or does he only do that when there`s money on the line?

Up ahead, another report on Stormy Daniels` work and what her lawyer is saying now about this controversial new photo.


MELBER: I tell you this. Some news we did not get to tonight, but I will be sitting in for Lawrence O`Donnell on "THE LAST WORD." My guest will be Michael Avanatti, Stormy Daniels` lawyer. That`s later tonight. I`m going to ask him about this news and the lie detector test and her claims this means she was truthful about her claims. So if you want that, it`s tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Don`t go anywhere now though, "HARDBALL" --