Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 9, 2018 Guest: Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot, Paul Butler, Jim Messina, Michael Avenatti, Cheri Jacobus
KATY TUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Her second daughter, Miley Pearl Boulsby was welcomed into the world earlier today. Congrats to the senator and her family.
That`s all for today. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Lots of news, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A lot. Thank you very much, Katy.
Donald Trump denied paying Stormy Daniels any money on Thursday. Then he ducked further questions by memorably telling the world, ask Michael Cohen. Well, the FBI must have been listening, because today they are asking. FBI agents are raiding Michael Cohen`s office.
Now, tonight`s breaking news is also breaking a precedent. An FBI raid of a sitting President`s personal lawyer, all of this sparked by evidence gathered, yes, by special counsel Bob Mueller. Now let me report to you what we know and why it matters.
First, FBI agents in New York conducting a raid this afternoon on an office and a hotel used by Michael Cohen, who is Trump`s personal lawyer. He is also a longtime executive at the Trump organization. He is the man that Trump put that extra heat on in that unusual air force one statement Thursday. Now Cohen is also the center of two of Donald Trump`s largest legal problems, the Russia probe and the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.
Second, the raid collected evidence on Cohen`s role in getting money to Stormy Daniels, as well as other records, this according to "The New York Times," such as emails, tax documents, and business records.
So right there, you have the President`s lawyer and fixer, a confidant who predates Trump`s days in politics losing control of all kinds of obviously important material. The feds have it now.
And then there`s item number three. The reason that it`s always tricky to get a judge to approve a search on a lawyer`s office. Tonight the FBI seizing quote "private communications between Cohen and Trump himself."
Now, Cohen`s team says the search was inappropriate for that reason, among others. And Donald Trump may not use email, but we know Michael Cohen does. Now his private emails and any records he has about things that Trump said, from secrets about the Trump organization to Stormy Daniels to maybe other NDAs, again, they are all in the fed`s hands tonight which makes it all the more odd that Donald Trump said what he said on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney and you will have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: All of that is all coming home to roost tonight. And some of this is important because it shows why this matters and who has the most heat on them.
Now, consider the vast majority of people caught up in this probe have been asked for documents or they get a subpoena. Trump org got a subpoena. You see people on TV like Sam Nunberg who got a subpoenas. The only people, I can tell you this as a fact, the only people that has been publicly confirmed that they have had an FBI raid on their office is Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Manafort`s home, of course, was raided. Ninety-seven days later, he was indicted.
Now, Michael Cohen is a lawyer. He knows what it means when the feds raid. It means they convince adjudge there`s either evidence of a crime or credible concern that key evidence will be destroyed.
And I can also tell you tonight, this is historic in a bad way. You know during the entire Watergate scandal, which toppled a President, the FBI never raided any of President Nixon`s personal lawyers. That`s according to Watergate prosecutor, Nick Ackerman, who asked about this tonight.
And finally, the other reason why this matters, Bob Mueller doesn`t get a criminal referral for something up in New York, potentially outside of his jurisdiction, without going to Rod Rosenstein, which reportedly he did. And tonight Rod Rosenstein didn`t say stop, red, he didn`t say, yellow, slow down. He said green. And he sent these agents to Michael Cohen`s office and to his hotel tonight. And this is big news.
Let me turn now to an expert panel. Former federal prosecutor, Paul Butler. Krystal Ball, President of the people`s project, former New Jersey senator Robert Torricelli.
Let me start with the prosecutor. If you back when you were at DOJ, wanted to do something like this, how high does it go?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You have to go all the way up to the attorney general or the deputy attorney general. This is a search warrant on steroids. The President`s lawyer, his own personal lawyer, who on Thursday he is referring reporters to is now the target of a search raid, which means that the investigators do not trust this man. They are concerned that if they just issue a subpoena for the documents, he is going to take out the paper shredder. So, again, another gangster move by special counsel Robert Mueller. He follows the investigation, lets the investigation go whatever the leads take him.
MELBER: You are saying this is not white-collar or kid gloves. This is going after it like you would go after any other criminal enterprise?
BUTLER: Yes. And that`s constantly been his method. And I think the comparison to Manafort has been exactly right. Manafort had the same thing. Middle of the night, no-knock search warrant. So again, Mueller does not trust these guys. He has persuaded the United States attorney for the southern district of New York who is handling this investigation that Cohen is not trustworthy.
MELBER: There was a lot of talk about subject versus target with regard to Mueller`s view of the President. Can you say anything what this means about Michael Cohen`s exposure?
BUTLER: Yes. I think he is a subject about to graduate to becoming a target. You know, as a practical matter, the standard for a search warrant is probable cause. Common sense, realistic, if it`s the President`s attorney, it`s a way higher standard than that. You have to have pretty compelling evidence of criminality to get Rod Rosenstein to sign off on a search warrant for the President`s lawyer.
MELBER: Senator, do you agree with that?
ROBERT TORRICELLI (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY SENATOR: I do. I will tell you, as a member of the bar and as a civil libertarian, I don`t believe in raiding lawyers` offices. But more important, neither do the senior people in the justice department, absent compelling evidence.
To convince the deputy attorney general of the United States. The United States attorney for the southern district of New York, a Trump appointee, and a federal judge to allow a raiding of a lawyer`s office involved in a criminal case. It is hard to put sufficient weight on that for your audience. It does not usually happen.
Now, I think where a lot of your colleagues, all afternoon I have been watching, how wrong this is, they didn`t do this because they think there`s a campaign finance violation. They did this because either they believe he is in conspiracy to obstruct justice or because evidence is being destroyed.
MELBER: You think -- you are putting your finger on something very important. You think, because of the high bar it takes to go at any lawyer, given the attorney/client confidentiality rules, let alone the sitting President`s lawyer, this is more than a far-flung FEC campaign theory. You think there is some other indicia evidence of crime or conspiracy.
TORRICELLI: I have listened to that from your colleagues all afternoon. That is ridiculous. This is not a campaign finance violation. Under the Edwards case, that was a problematic case to begin with. It is a correctable offense. It is not that level of offense. They have evidence of some kind of obstruction of the process.
MELBER: Well. And we are On the Record on this show of reporting exactly why it is unlikely that you would bring a criminal charges based on the Stormy payment to Michael Cohen. Indeed, I have had communications with Michael Cohen about our reporting on that front. I would say as someone who has given, you know, given that analysis once, what I`m seeing tonight as a lawyer, and along with your analysis is, something bigger than the FEC is at foot.
TORRICELLI: Something bigger. Let`s take it to the next step. One of the reasons the justice department does not usually do this is, because they do have a probe going on -- obviously, these are sorted efforts. And when you raid a lawyer`s office, I don`t care if they have some kind of a Chinese firewall, you are still making your case problematic. You can violate attorney/client, you can complicate your case. So there was a compelling reason to do this. They were willing to take the risk with the case, willing to take a risk of going to a federal judge, and everybody said, yes, along the way.
So, here is what I have not heard said all afternoon. Is Rod Rosenstein in his job tomorrow? Does Donald Trump go through this evening without firing the U.S. attorney for the southern district or Rod Rosenstein? I think that`s an open question.
MELBER: Let me take that point to Krystal Ball and read the reporting from Bloomberg as well as some of our own folks working on this.
Mueller brought the information involving Cohen to Rod Rosenstein, who decided the matter should be handled by the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York rather than by Mueller`s team. When people ask, is the system work? I mean, that Preet Bharara`s former position, the question who was there now? Who runs the FBI after deputy director, the director have been removed? The pressure on Sessions and Rosenstein? Tonight is a night when the system appears at this hour to be working, the senator says, what happens next hour?
And Krystal, there`s reporting that Donald Trump is watching this all live on TV as he sees evidence gathered from Cohen`s office and Trump knows better than most people what Cohen has in there.
KRYSTAL BALL, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE`S HOUSE PROJECT: That`s exactly right. And to just talk about Michael Cohen as Trump`s personal lawyer understates that relationship. I mean, first, this relationship goes back more than a decade. Michael Cohen has said he would take a bullet for the President. Has told Katy Tur and others those exact words. He described working for Donald Trump. He said, he is more than our boss, he is our patriarch.
So if he was, indeed, the fixer, as he is essentially said he was on the Stormy Daniels issue, what else has he been the fixer on? What else does he know? What other documentation is there? And so I think the senator is right to focus on the fact that this wasn`t just about Stormy Daniels, right? The reporting says that this was tax documents, this was business records, this was other email communications.
And as you point out, Donald Trump is in a position to know, to some extent, he may not even know the full extent of what Michael Cohen has, but he knows how far this goes and how problematic it is for him, personally.
MELBER: Let me follow up with another question to you on that, which is, what we are seeing at this stage in the probe is evidence, an indication of intense interest in the older advisers, in Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. We are moving away from some of these other people who have either pled out or maybe didn`t know Donald Trump for all that long.
I want to play Sam Nunberg, who did have his falling out with the President and with roger stone, talking about Michael Cohen during our interview here on THE BEAT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I worry about Michael. I`m not going to say Michael is going to lie. I`m worried about Michael. Michael Cohen got screwed the most I ever saw by anyone, by Donald Trump. And what I worry about is what Michael`s going to say when he`s called in by someone like Andrew Wiseman about the banks.
MELBER: Was it Mueller?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Krystal, you have worked in politics. It is a nonpartisan fact that loyalty is prized in politics. The difference is whether you have ethical and legal lines around how you pursue loyalty because there`s also loyalty to the country.
MELBER: Your view of these people and their view of loyalty -- you mentioned the bullet -- is Michael Cohen in a place where as the FBI goes through this material, as he is under this heat, his loyalty remains only to Donald Trump, not to his higher obligation as a lawyer or a citizen?
BALL: Well, up to this point, what we have seen is exclusive loyalty to Donald Trump. So if past is an indication of what we expect to continue to see, you know, that loyalty has been second to nothing else including claiming to pay his own personal funds to Stormy Daniels in the amount of $130,000 to try to cover Trump on that piece. So I think that absolutely is the direction that he would go in.
And I think it`s worth, also, backtracking a little bit, where this all comes from. It was Jared Kushner who pushed Donald Trump reportedly, to fire Comey. Comey leads to the special counsel and that`s what leads to this referral. So when they said they were going to really look at everything that was going on, that they were going to take the evidence wherever it leads, I mean, this is part of that piece, where you end up raiding the President`s personal lawyer`s office.
MELBER: I want to do a lightning round, yes or no to all of you, and as we continue. Do you think Donald Trump, who is not known for regret or self- assessment, self-reflection, I think it`s fair to say, Krystal.
MELBER: Do you think as he watches this TV coverage, because we have out on good authority that he is watching and he knows they are going through the files and he knows what`s in those files, do you think he regrets saying on Thursday, "ask Michael Cohen"?
BALL: I think he regrets it. And I think he regrets allowing the special counsel to cross that red line he laid down earlier of going into the business transactions. Because he knows there`s a lot of dirt there.
MELBER: I`m actually going to interrupt the lightning round. I think we have some breaking news, I`m being told.
"Washington Post" is reporting that there are a range of allegations here against Michael Cohen, that this includes potential bank fraud, potential wire fraud, and a probe of the wider campaign finance issues.
So that`s fresh from "the Washington Post," breaking as we sit here. And this is -- this is germane to the question, which I turn to each of you on. If that`s what happens when you ask Michael Cohen, if this is what pressure looks like, Paul, does the President regret saying that Thursday?
BUTLER: Unless he is crazy about the idea of now having not one, but two great teams of prosecutors and investigators looking at him. So apparently Mueller asked Rosenstein, can we look at this? And it sounds like Rosenstein said, this is something that might be more appropriate for this other district, for the U.S. attorney for New York. And so the result of that is, he`s got two hard-core prosecutors looking at not only the lawyer, Cohen, but also Trump.
And Krystal`s point about Cohen`s very expansive role is germane here, because there is an attorney/client privilege. There is not a privilege for Mr. Fix-it. There`s not a fix-it privilege.
BALL: Or a privilege on taxes or financial transactions or business records.
BUTLER: And you can`t use conversations with your attorney to evade criminal activity. And so what the FBI does is have what`s called a tank team. So these are lawyers and prosecutors who aren`t working on the investigation. They go through the documents. They conduct the raid, go through the documents, and they only turn over to the investigators documents that aren`t -- that aren`t protected by the attorney/client privilege.
TORRICELLI: And that`s very risky for the government, for a defense team to go after which is why I`m so convinced this is a serious case. They wouldn`t have taken that risk. There are two things --
MELBER: Does he regret it?
TORRICELLI: There`s two things Donald Trump is not capable of. Regret. And playing defense.
TORRICELLI: Which means watch the next 24 hours. He will pivot on the offense.
MELBER: And he will try to change the conversation.
Also for the whole panel, when you hear "bank fraud," does that sound like something that is constrained to Michael Cohen as a lawyer? Or does it sound like something that could infect a wider circle, when you know he was a senior Trump org executive?
TORRICELLI: Let me tell you. I have watched the Trump organization for years, because --
MELBER: Because you live --
TORRICELLI: The Donald was once the largest employer in New Jersey. Let me explain the Trump organization. There`s a wonderful scene in "the Godfather." But Tom Hagen is asks about his representation of Michael Carleone. He says, I have a very unusual law practice. I have a single client who insists on hearing bad news immediately. This is not a law firm down the block, that has a variety of clients. This is a lawyer with a single client. And they are inseparable and the actions of one are the actions of the other.
MELBER: It sounds like you are coming very close to saying an investigation of bank fraud by Michael Cohen is an investigation of bank fraud by Donald Trump.
TORRICELLI: And again, I think the standard to have raided that office today, I can`t say this enough to your audience, is so high that they believe that in that bank fraud, not just that it exists, but something must be done to undo --
MELBER: So Paul, I go back to you, because we are full circle. And the reason why the Stormy Daniels case so instructive because it is a template of a legal strategy that is used in more than just that kind of case. The fact that Donald Trump both pushed hard allegedly for an NDA, he entered the case claiming the NDA protects him, but wouldn`t sign it, gives a hint to his approach to incriminating evidence and tells you why it might be so hard in a collusion probe finding him signing or touching anything if he wont even sign the NDA we wanted.
With that in mind and the senator`s very careful line, do you see any other echo here? Do you think that it`s possible that the going rogue defense they used on Stormy Daniels will be teed up on bank fraud or anything else, if Michael Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud, which is what "the Washington Post" is reporting, even if it`s rogue bank fraud, wasn`t for the Trump org.
BUTLER: When I hear bank fraud, from a prosecutor`s perspective, that`s an easy crime to prove because it`s all on paper. It is all computer transactions. And so, if he is being charged of that, there`s pretty compelling evidence that he is guilty of that. And what do we know that Mueller loves to do? He loves to flip witnesses, you know. He likes to coheres people or really --.
MELBER: I`m cutting in, not to be rude, but to be breaking.
"The Washington Post" Carol Leonnig has phoned into "THE BEAT." She broke this story on the "Washington Post."
Carol, what can you tell us?
CAROL LEONNIG, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (on the phone): First off, you know, this story began with a raid on multiple homes and offices of Michael Cohen`s. And it ended with us learning today, later on today, actually, that the search warrant seeks information and cites particular statutes that prosecutors are eyeing they believe Michael Cohen possibly is somebody they should be investigating for bank fraud, wire fraud, and violations of election law. Wherever a prosecutor issues a search warrant and seeks one, they have to say, what is the crime you think you are investigating? These are the three crimes they have named.
MELBER: And so, when you look at those crimes, do they have any indication of whether they are Michael Cohen crimes or larger conspiracies that could involve other people?
LEONNIG: So we spent a lot of time today talking to everyone in Michael Cohen`s world, trying to understand what this raid sought and what it could be examining. And we have heard from a couple of different sources close to him that a lot of the search is about his personal business, his personal finances. And the importance of this is, of course, did he misstate how he made this payment, did he misstate to a bank where the penalties are quite severe if you lie to a bank. Did he state that the money was for particular purpose and that wasn`t what it was for? Did he say something on his tax return that was inaccurate? Most of what we`ve heard has to do with requests for information about him personally.
However, remember that the payment is alleged to have been made to silence a woman who had information and said she was going to claim that Donald Trump and she had an affair. So does this lead back ultimately to the President? Only the investigators know the answer to that question. But it`s a big question looming over this.
MELBER: Do you have indications from your reporting over how surprised or expected the raid was? We have been reporting here about just how unusual this is by any standard.
LEONNIG: So, our understanding is that very soon after the door was kicked in, at Mr. Cohen`s office, that the White House was alerted that the President`s lawyer and longtime friend, Michael Cohen, was under scrutiny. So the President had been aware of this information much sooner than we were.
MELBER: And that, itself, obviously, unusual. What was the process or do you have any indication on how he was alert queued?
LEONNIG: My understanding, although we have not confirmed this with the lawyer himself, was that Michael Cohen`s lawyer contacted the White House.
MELBER: So that was through the receiving end of it, not the DOJ?
MELBER: And do you know, in any way, what stage they are at? I made the point, and again, these things are rough, but I made the point that it was about a little over three months between in the Paul Manafort case, a raid and an indictment. Do you have any sense of where they are in this case?
LEONNIG: Well, I like your time frame and it`s true that some cases go exactly as that one did. But I think every case is different. Everyone has a different recipe. For all we know, Mueller kicked this case to the southern district of New York months and months ago. We just don`t know.
MELBER: Carol, I`m going to read the notes I just received. I want to be clear with viewers, this is not an exact quote. This is a note transcript of the President speaking on this case. Have you heard this yet? He just spoke about Cohen.
LEONNIG: Let`s hear.
MELBER: OK, you will hear and my panel is still with me.
Seated next to the vice President and John Bolton, the President says, I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, it`s a disgraceful situation, a witch hunt. Here we are talking about Syria and I have this witch hunt constantly going on. You could say right after I won the nomination it started. It`s an attack, he says, on what we all stand for.
And then Donald Trump, who`s known to talk about the rigged system said, I heard it like you did, and I said, that`s a whole new level of unfairness. And then he goes on to speak about some other things including Hillary Clinton. And they he goes on to say, they raided an office of a personal attorney. It is a disgraced. The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he, I believe is a reference through recusal, I`m reading notes. And he says, he should have let us known and goes on from there.
We are going to play. I believe we are going to have video of that. It`s a pool spray in a few minutes. But I want to read that immediately. I`m going to add Richard Painter to this conversation. Bull Carol, first, as someone reporting this out, your reaction to the President`s comments.
LEONNIG: Well, I see that this is a continuation of the President`s intense frustration with the Mueller probe. He believes it`s unfair. He believes it`s raised questions about the legitimacy of his presidency. He has been furious internally and privately that this makes it look as though Russia and Putin inserted him into the oval office.
However, in this instance, Robert Mueller has come across something and appears, at least on the pieces of information that we have so far, and remember, we don`t have all the pieces, but this appears to be a case where Mueller is saying, I`m not interested in investigating this, but other U.S. attorneys may be. And other U.S. attorneys served this search warrant. So this -- while it may have come to Mueller`s attention, it`s one that`s actually being pursued by the normal criminal justice system that has been in existence long before Mueller was appointed and long before there was an investigation of Russian interference in our election.
MELBER: Right. And you make that point against the backdrop of a President who has fired the FBI director and deputy director, who has complained about what he views as the politics of the DOJ, while according to most experts, politicizing the DOJ and this process playing out with what we might call out the extent DOJ resources and prospects.
Carol, I want to thank you for your reporting.
I want to bring in Richard Painter who is a former White House ethics chief under George W. Bush. My panel stays with me.
As we approach the half hour, Richard, I want to mention for viewers tuning in, the breaking news tonight is an historic and unusual event. The lawyer for the President of the United States, his personal attorney and a longtime executive of a Trump organization having, as Carol put it to me moments ago, his door kicked in for an FBI raid. "The Washington Post" following up with reporting that that relates to bank fraud and campaign finance violations. This coming out of the New York FBI field office. And moments ago, the President saying this is a witch hunt. That`s not all that new, but he calls this a new level of disgrace.
Richard Painter, is this a new level of disgrace? Is the DOJ working as it`s supposed to? What is the significance, in your view, as someone who`s worked at a White House lawyer yourself?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CHIEF UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: The DOJ is doing its job. And I should emphasize that Robert Mueller is also doing his job. He may very well have discovered evidenced of money laundering and other crimes outside the scope of the Russia investigation. And he did what any prosecutor does who discovers evidence of a crime outside the scope of their jurisdiction, he turned it over to another prosecutor. The southern district of New York obtained this warrant.
This is not Robert Mueller exceeding the scope of his investigation. And I am concerned that President Trump is going to try to use this as an excuse to fire the attorney general, to fire Robert Mueller. That`s going to create a constitutional crisis if he does that.
What we have is evidence that was uncovered of money laundering or other financial crimes outside the scope of the Russia investigation, but that are being investigated by the attorney, the United States attorney in the southern district of New York, under the law. And the President of the United States is not above the law. And if he tries to fire the attorney general, fire Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein or anyone else as a result of this, he is going to be in violation of his office under the constitution and he will be obstructing justice.
This investigation is going to have to proceed and it`s certainly very worrisome that a lawyer for the President of the United States is engaged in conduct so sufficiently egregious that the FBI can get a search warrant. Because that is extremely unusual.
I very, very, very rarely have seen prosecutors get a search warrant on a lawyer`s office to obtain information about what that lawyer is doing for clients. It`s very difficult to get that. It requires a high degree of evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
MELBER: And we were discussing that on the show tonight, that the fact that you have got the door kicked in at Trump lawyer Michael Cohen`s home and -- excuse me, hotel and office, suggests that a lot of people signed off on it. The reporting being the acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and then, of course, a judge in our constitutional system.
I wonder, then, Richard, what you think of Donald Trump`s statement that this is something that for him brings back the recusal issue, as he says. When he says, the attorney general made a material mistake when he recused himself moments ago, does that suggest that Donald Trump is yet again, like the Lester Holt interview, expressing an inappropriate view of the justice department, the implication being the attorney general should not have recused himself, so he could protect against this kind of thing, i.e., obstruct justice.
PAINTER: Yes, he think the attorney general`s job is to cover up for President Trump. And to engage in obstruction of justice. That`s not what the attorney general does. My concern is that President Trump is once again indicating that attorney general Sessions has not done his job, however wrong he is, President Trump could try to fire attorney general Sessions and put someone else in there. He was thinking of putting Scott Pruitt in there before Scott Pruitt was discovered in bed with a lobbyist, taking payoffs from lobbyists. So, he may have to find someone else.
But bottom line is if he tries to fire Robert Mueller, he is going to himself be guilty of yet more obstruction of justice, and so will anybody who helps him do it. And I am concerned about a constitutional crisis resulting from that. If the President does more than just tweet and talk about this.
MELBER: And that`s something that senator Torricelli was referencing as well on this broadcast.
I also want to read one more thing and then throw to these tapes so viewers can see it for themselves. Certainly, unusual day for any President, even this President with his tumultuous first term.
The pooler, which is you know, we have a pool group of reporter who go in there and try to get what they can in the President. The pooler asked if there were concerns about what the FBI would find, and I`m reading here. The President says, no. There was a discussion of how Rosenstein himself had written that letter critical of Comey. And it appears from my notes that the President then cites the FISA warrant that Rosenstein signed and a discussion of whether he will be removed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The office of one of my personal attorneys, good man, and it`s a disgraceful situation. It`s a total witch hunt. I`ve been saying it for a long time. I have wanted to keep it down. We`ve given over I believe over a million pages worth of documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward and here we are talking about Syria, we are talking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. And actually much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination, it started.
And it`s a disgrace. It`s frankly, a real disgrace. It`s an attack on our country in a true sense. It`s an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did. I said, that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.
So this has been going on -- I saw one of the reporters who is not necessarily a fan of mine, not necessarily very good to me, he said, in effect, that this is ridiculous. This is now getting ridiculous. They found to collusion whatsoever with Russia. The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all, no collusion. This is the most biased group of people -- these people have the biggest conflicts of interest I`ve ever seen. Democrats all, or just about all, either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that work for President Obama, they`re not looking at the other side. They`re not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They`re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about. I can tell you, from the Republican side and I think even the independent side. They only keep looking at us. So they find no collusion and then they go from there and they say, well, let`s keep going. And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning. And I think it`s a disgrace.
So we`ll be talking about it more. But this is the most conflicted group of people I`ve ever seen. The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you`ll figure that out. All I can say is after looking for a long period of time, and even before the special counsel, because it really started just about from the time I won the nomination. And you look at what took place and what happened and it`s a disgrace, it`s a disgrace. I`ve been President now for what seems like a lengthy period of time. We`ve done a fantastic job. We`ve beaten ISIS. We have just about 100 percent of the caliphate or the land. Our economy is incredible. The stock market dropped a lot today, as soon as they heard the noise of, you know, this nonsense that`s going on. It dropped a lot. It was up, way up, and then it dropped quite a bit at the end, a lot. But that we have to go through that, we`ve had that hanging over us now from the very, very beginning. And yet the other side, they don`t even bother looking.
And the other side is where there are crimes. And those crimes are obvious. Lies under oath, all over the place, e-mails that are knocked out, that are acid washed and deleted. Nobody has ever seen 33,000 e-mails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress and nobody bothers looking at that and many, many other things. So I just think it`s a disgrace that a thing like this can happen with all of that being said, we are here to discuss Syria tonight. We`re the greatest fighting force anywhere in the world. These gentlemen and ladies are incredible people, incredible talent, and we`re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus and it will be met and it will be met forcefully. And when, I will not say, because I don`t like talking about timing. But we are developing the greatest force that we`ve ever had. We had $700 billion just to prove, which was the reason I went along with that budget, because we had to fix our military. General Mattis would tell you that above anybody. We had to fix our military.
And right now, we`re in a big process of doing that, $700 million and then $716 billion next year. So, we`re going to make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter and you`ll be hearing the decision. But we can`t let atrocities like we all witnessed -- and you can see that and it`s horrible, we can`t let that happen in our world. We can`t let that happen. Especially when we`re able to, because of the power of the United States, because of the power of our country, we`re able to stop it. I want to thank Ambassador John Bolton for joining us. I think he`s going to be a fantastic representative of our team. He`s highly respected by everybody in this room. And John, I want to thank you very much. This is going to be a lot of work. Interesting day, he picked today as his first day. So generals, I think he picked the right day. But certainly, you`re going to find it very exciting, but you are going to do a fantastic job and I appreciate you joining us.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thank you, it`s an honor to be here. Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you all very much.
TRUMP: No I`m not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you just fire Mueller?
TRUMP: Why don`t I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fire the guy.
TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on. We`ll see what happens. But I think it`s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him. Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that`s a big statement. If you know the person who`s in charge of the investigation, you know about the Deputy Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, he wrote the letter very critical of Comey. One of the things I said, I fired Comey. Well, I turned out to do the right thing because you look at all the things he`s done, and the lies, and you look at what`s going on at the FBI with the insurance policy and all the things that happened, it turned out I did the right thing. But he signed -- as you know, he also signed the FISA warrant. So Rod Rosenstein, who`s in charge of this, signed a FISA warrant and he also, he also signed a letter that was essentially saying to fire James Comey. And he was right about that, he was absolutely right. So we`ll see what happens. I think it`s disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you all very much.
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thanks, everyone. Thank you.
TRUMP: We are getting clarity on that, who was responsible for the weapons attack. We are getting some very good clarity, actually. We have some pretty good answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your options?
TRUMP: We have a lot of options, militarily and we`ll be letting you know pretty soon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone. Thank you all.
TRUMP: Probably after the fact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have been listening to a remarkable war cabinet briefing there as first time it`s aired on T.V, it wrapped moments ago. It ended with Donald Trump`s unusual statement about Bob Mueller`s boss, Rod Rosenstein, a discussion of the options on Syria. The President saying at the end there, we`ll know after the fact, something many presidents say about any potential military action. But he also spoke in very brash terms, criticizing what he called a new level of unfairness as his personal attorney found himself under an FBI raid and door knocked down today. I want to bring in Washington Post Jennifer Rubin, who`s been reporting on this story, Jim Messina, who`s a former White House Deputy Chief of Staff in the Obama administration, as well as Max Boot, a former Adviser to Mitt Romney and John McCain and former Federal Prosecutor, Paul Butler, who was with me before all of this news broke, still with me for the federal prosecutorial view. Jennifer, I start with you. As someone who has been eyeing the Stormy Daniels case, not so much for what happened between miss Daniels and Donald Trump, but for everything that happened afterward, I wonder your view of both what the President just said, his apparent criticism of Bob Mueller`s boss, as well as the raid, which he was reportedly watching on television, the raid of his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen today.
JENNIFER RUBIN, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s been a remarkable few hours, hasn`t it? As far as the President goes, that was about as incoherent and pugnacious as he has been in recent days. And the implication that Rod Rosenstein did something wrong by signing off on that FISA warning and that entire rant against the Justice Department should be very disturbing. And this goes back to a point that I`ve made many times, which is that Congress here is completely delinquent in not moving to protect Mueller and Rosenstein and the rest of them. And if something does happen and we find ourselves in a constitutional crisis, it will largely be because of Congress. I also want to make one point about his insistence that they have found no collusion. That is false. It`s a lie. In fact, there have been 72 contacts by 22 different members of the Trump campaign with Russian individuals. Now, have we found a smoking gun of Donald Trump picking up the phone and calling Vladimir Putin? No, but we have a lot of evidence.
We have indictments. We have people who are cooperating with the special prosecutor. We are far away from exonerating Mr. Trump. And whenever he says this, my mind goes to the other problem he has and that is obstruction of justice. If not for all of this evidence that Mr. Mueller is collecting, if not for all of the indictments, Donald Trump perhaps would not be so concerned about getting rid of the special prosecutor. So why is it that he`s so bothered if nothing`s there? Why did he fire Mr. Comey? Why did he seek to smear Mr. Comey? Why did he seek to lean on the FBI to exonerate and to lay off of Michael Flynn? This is all of a piece. And what happens in these fascinating situations is Donald Trump becomes a witness against himself. This is the typical admission against interest, because every time he speaks in this way, he confirms, number one, he has a guilty conscience, number two, he wants to interfere and stop the FBI. Number three, he wanted Jeff Sessions to be his protector. None of that is helpful and there, I am sure, will be Mueller and his team taking notes, writing this all down, fitting the pieces of the puzzle into --
MELBER: Well, let me take that -- let me take that to Max Boot because it could be a guilty conscience or it could just be a strategic conscience, that he knows that there are certain things that he has to hide. Blasting Rod Rosenstein, Mueller`s boss at the end there was pretty fascinating, given that Rosenstein is signing off on the raid of his -- Trump`s personal attorney today. It seems, Max, that Rod Rosenstein is now facing what other law enforcement officials have faced, which is the evolution from Donald Trump saying nice things when it suits him to pinning a lot on him.
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, it`s pretty clear that Trump is trying to intimidate Sessions and Mueller -- Sessions and Rosenstein to reigning in Mueller and that`s what this diatribe is all about. I mean, my initial reaction, frankly, watching this was it was so unseemly on so many levels. My initial reaction was, wow. Bashar al-Assad better watch out. There`s going to be a few extra airfields added to the targeting list, because Trump is so perturbed, he`s going to take it out on Assad probably in the next 24 hours, which is fine by me. But what was really I thought truly outrageous about this diatribe that Trump went into was this was ostensibly a national security meeting. This is with the Joint Chiefs, this is with his so-called war cabinet, discussing the most serious issues in the world, issues of war and peace and American military action in Syria. And instead of all of that, he`s going to be a diatribe against the Department of Justice, against the dedicated servants --
MELBER: Well, you`re -- Max, you`re a former foreign policy adviser to some pretty heavy hitters in the Republican Party. You`re making a point that goes to the opposite of usually happened. There`s often a complaint about wag the dog, using military to distract. This was the opposite. It was the not the country being distracted focused in Syria, it was the President being distracted. It was almost as if he couldn`t hold in a day to gather the facts. He had to comment on the FBI raid of Cohen immediately.
BOOT: Right. I mean, he has no sense of propriety. He has no sense that these national security issues need to be decided above the level of politics. And in fact, he`s surrounded by these Joint Chiefs, these generals who have dedicated their lives to the service of the country. And guess what? They are very similar to the kind of FBI agents and prosecutors that Trump is now attacking. These are all a political civil servants, dedicated to our country. And so I can`t imagine what these generals are thinking, knowing how dedicated these FBI folks are, how dedicated the Justice Department prosecutors are and Trump is trying to throw them under the bus. And so what happens with the military if something goes wrong? He`s going to throw the generals under the bus. He has no sense of a way a President is supposed to act.
MELBER: What I want to do is play a little more of what the President said, a short bite, regarding Jeff Sessions. Then we`re going to turn to add a very special guest by phone, I believe, in the coming moments, a lawyer who knows a lot about Michael Cohen. In fact, let me jump right to it. Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels` lawyer joins me by phone. Michael, you and I spoke on Thursday when the President made the odd statement on Air Force One, ask Michael Cohen about all of this. Tonight, the breaking news is the FBI appears to be doing that, breaking down his office door. Your response?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: Well, you know, Ari, I think this is a very, very serious development for Michael Cohen and a very serious development for the President. There`s no doubt about it. You know, even a stop clock is right twice a day and as I told you on Thursday, I predicted the noose was tightening and I stated that Mr. Cohen was being placed in the crosshairs. And to the extent that the amount of faith that has been placed on him was uncalled for or in the event that he could not withstand it, that very, very bad results could occur. And I think that this is probably the first step in that process to a very serious matter --
MELBER: Michael, you`re -- Michael, you`re making an interesting point. You are, obviously, in the courtroom, an adversary of Mr. Cohen`s right now, but you appear to be saying that his client, Donald Trump, may have done him a disservice here?
AVENATTI: Well, I think that`s right. I mean, he placed him in the crosshairs. I mean, if you really take a step back, Ari, and you think about this, I mean, this is -- it`s unbelievable. On Thursday, the President basically said, talk to my lawyer, Michael Cohen, and less than two business days later, the FBI raided that lawyer`s office. That is a remarkable chain of events and, you know, I think, and I predicted this last week, I think there is a strong likelihood that they`re going to be able to pierce the attorney/client privilege based on a crime-fraud exception here, possibly. And you know, they`re going to pull on this string and I don`t know where it`s going to end, but it may not end at a very good place.
MELBER: You`re referring to a very high bar for a prosecutor and the judges oversee and we`ve discussed it earlier on the show tonight, Michael. The fact that you can discuss almost anything with your lawyer in secret and that will be protected in court, unless what you`re discussing is an on-going or future crime. And so Mr. Avenatti makes that point. I want to widen that out to our panel. Paul Butler, as I often emphasize, and we interview participants who bring a great deal of primary knowledge, Paul, the issue that he raises may be true and accurate, even though for him, it`s in his interest to say this. Do you share that view that we were discussing earlier that the key here is not that they grabbed the docs because then they have to go through them, the key is, depending on what`s in there, they might be able to get this secret info and use it?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. So you cannot use the attorney/client privilege to evade your own criminality. We already know there`s been a very high showing by the prosecutors to get this no-knock warrant done at the President`s lawyer`s office. And in that press conference, you just showed, we saw the President of the United States becoming unhinged. As soon as this raid happened, his lawyer, whoever he or she may be now, would have had to instruct him, don`t talk.
MELBER: Do you think he was -- your word was "unhinged." Do you think what we`re seeing there, him in the war cabinet, supposed to be talking about Syria, went on and on about this, do you think you see Donald Trump as a client who is nervous about what Michael Cohen knows or what`s in his office?
BUTLER: Yes, I saw the President of the United States running scared and therefore laying the predicate with his political base to try to get rid of Mueller. And to do that, he would have to get rid of Rosenstein.
MELBER: And so that goes to the Sessions/Rosenstein matrix. Back to Jim Messina. Jim, sometimes you get delayed by lawyers. They call in, they talk a lot, we appreciate you being a good-natured and patient guest. I`m going to play for you what I promised earlier. Take a listen to the Jeff Sessions point to moments ago Donald Trump bringing up yet again the famed Russia recusal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They find no collusion and then they go from there and they say, well, let`s keep going. And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning. And I think it`s a disgrace. So we`ll be talking about it more. But this is the most conflicted group of people I`ve ever seen. The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself or he should have certainly let him know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You work for President Obama. Would he have made a statement like that about the attorney general and is it appropriate?
JIM MESSINA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Never. And it`s absolutely not appropriate. And I want to take on something else the President said. He talked about the Democratic bias of these people. And let`s just be really clear, because this is an important point. Bob Mueller is a Republican. He called Rod Rosenstein a Trump Republican appointee, made this recommendation. They decided to kick it to the Southern District of New York, which is run by a Republican Trump appointee, who went to a federal judge and got a very big legal ruling here that they could kick down the door of President Trump`s personal attorney. There`s no Democrats we`ve been talking about here. These are all Republicans who are finally beginning to act in the interest of this country. And meanwhile, you have Trump giving this unbelievable press conference, you know, talking about this attack on him. And I think he is rattled. And here`s the question. What else are they going to find in Cohen`s office? They`ve seized all those records. And if there`s -- you know, we`ve always thought about Cohen is he has more skeletons in his closet than a grateful dead concert. We`re about to find out.
MELBER: Wow, a big grateful dead reference there for another touch of gray, I turn back to Michael Avenatti by phone. We had lost the connection briefly. Michael, the panel was just discussing whether or not Donald Trump looks rattled and whether he appears nervous given what he knows Michael Cohen knows. My question for you is while this raises obviously heat and criminal pressure on Michael Cohen, your adversary in the civil case, it doesn`t in and of itself make your victory for Stormy Daniels more likely. Indeed, it would appear to be a separate case or do you disagree?
AVENATTI: Well, I may disagree because I think the likelihood of Michael Cohen doing what they call taking five, which is pleading the Fifth Amendment in the event that we are successful in our efforts to get an order allowing his deposition just went up exponentially. And of course in federal court --
MELBER: Let`s pause on that. Let`s just pause on that so we can break it out. You are saying that although this is a separate matter involving federal prosecutors, if it continues against Michael Cohen, and he invokes his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself there, you`re saying that will then affect a lot of the overlapping issues in your Stormy Daniels NDA case?
AVENATTI: Well, I think there is no question about that. And because we`re in a civil matter in federal court, there can be what`s called a negative inference, which means that the court or the jury can draw a negative inference or negative belief as a result of a witness pleading the Fifth Amendment when asked questions under oath. So I think it could have a dramatic impact on our case.
MELBER: And Michael, the negative inference here in your case, if this goes forward against Cohen, Trump`s personal lawyer who had his office raided by the FBI today, the inference being that Cohen is a liar, is guilty, or that there is no NDA?
AVENATTI: Well, I think the -- it could be all of the above, quite honestly, Ari. It could -- it could be that be he is not being honest, it could be that there is no NDA, it could be that he engaged in campaign finance violations with the knowledge and assistance conspired with the President. It could be a whole host of things depending on the questions and depending on which questions he invokes the Fifth Amendment on. I think it`s very likely that he`s going to -- that he would take Five in connection with a civil deposition at this point and lie to the FBI earlier today. But I want to comment on something that one of the panelists mentioned moments ago when discussing what the President had said about the FBI and how conflicted they are, et cetera. You know, Ari, where I come from if there is a federal investigation into people that are around you or close to you, the last thing you want to be doing is upsetting them or taking shots at them publicly. That`s not very smart. I don`t care what your position is. I don`t care how strong you think you are or how arrogant you are, that`s not smart, period.
MELBER: When I last spoke to you on this program Thursday night, you made a bit of news with your reaction to the President`s news on Air Force One. You also described yourself that night in a legal capacity as elated because of the heat that the President put on Michael Cohen. You said on Thursday night he threw him under the bus. There`s a lot of public evidence that`s true. Was Thursday a better day for your case or is tonight an even better day?
AVENATTI: Well, Ari, that`s tough to say. I mean, let me -- let me say this. I take criminal investigations and criminal charges very, very seriously. And they can have dramatic impacts on people in their lives and their families, et cetera. And you know, if Michael Cohen has put himself in this position or if the President has put him in this position, you know, part of me feels sorry for him, quite frankly. A lot of people will be surprised to hear me say that, but it`s true.
MELBER: You feel sorry -- you feel sorry for Michael Cohen? Why, Michael?
AVENATTI: Well, part of me just because of the seriousness of this matter. You know, this guy I think has been put in a position where he is going to be -- he is going to be expected to be the fall guy, the scapegoat. I don`t think he is going to hold up. In my experience, any guy that has to constantly tell you how tough he is really isn`t that tough. And this is a guy that has consistently made it a point to refer to himself as Ray Donovan and the (INAUDIBLE) and the tough guy. And I think when push comes to shove, he`s going to fold like a cheap deck of cards, Ari. I really do. But you know, with that said, I don`t -- I`m not applauding or high-fiving anybody`s offices being raided by the FBI. It`s very, very serious matter and I think that this is the first significant domino to fall. And I think that history is going to look back upon this day and this is going to be a monumental day when the President on a Thursday refers everyone to his personal attorney, and Monday, that attorney`s offices are raid by the FBI. That`s pretty remarkable. The next big moment will probably be when he takes the Fifth Amendment.
MELBER: And before I let you go, your statement about him taking the Fifth Amendment is based on your experience in legal practice that that would be a safe route for him or your knowledge of something about this case?
AVENATTI: Well, I`m going say that it`s both. I think that any attorney that would represent him in a civil deposition relating to the NDA, the payment on the $130,000, et cetera, I think it would be legal malpractice to allow him to testify and not take the Fifth Amendment, quite honestly. I would fully expect that. I think that an attorney that would allow him to answer those questions without that advice would be absolutely out of their mind.
MELBER: Before I let you go, is there anything else you wanted to convey on this very unusual legal evening?
AVENATTI: No. I mean, not at this time. It`s a great dynamic case, Ari and you know, who would have imagined after my comments on Thursday that we would only have to wait two business days to see a number of those comments come to fruition. That`s not that I`m particularly smart, I think perhaps I`m just lucky.
MELBER: Perhaps you`re lucky, perhaps your case has been boosted by events. Some of which I think it`s fair to say you and your client have engineered. Some of which we have observed to have happen completely unpredictable, certainly the Air Force One comments. Mr. Avenatti, I want to thank you for your time tonight, and I appreciate the points you raise, that there is a humanity to all this when real people are caught up in a criminal probe as well as a constitutional dimension when we think about what the President just said. Michael Avenatti joining us for his first response to that news on THE BEAT. I want to bring in a new voice to our panel who`s been also very patient which I appreciate, Cheri Jacobus, who`s worked as a Republican Strategist who`s a friend of THE BEAT. Cheri, when you look at all this starting with Stormy Daniels, someone many people noted was maligned, was perhaps underestimated, but has proven (INAUDIBLE) in multiple ways. We`ve just heard from her lawyer. Walk us through the Stormy Daniels origin of all this.
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, this is somebody that I think you know, the President and Michael Cohen thought that they could just walk all over. They never thought it would be a big deal. But now the American people, according to polls believe her more than they believe him. So you know, never put anybody in position where they`ve got nothing left to lose because they will fight back and it looks like she is winning. Ari, I want to make one point. We`re talking about Michael Cohen in terms of being the personal lawyer of the President. Michael Cohen is also the Deputy National Finance Chairman of the Republican National Committee. And I haven`t heard anybody really explore that. I don`t think we`ll be -- we`ll know over the course of the day and weeks of the full reverberations of that but that is a huge albatross around the necks of Republicans running for reelection and other candidates out there.
MELBER: Do you think that`s something the RNC should reconsider? Is that what you`re saying?
JACOBUS: At the very least. But look, we`ve seen a lot of the Republicans in Congress and leadership sit back and kind of hide from the many controversies of the President And they act like it`s none of their business that it`s separate from them. This is not separate. This is somebody who is in a major position with the RNC, with their finances. They can`t keep running away from this. They are accountable. And as these Republican members of Congress and other candidates get past their primaries and have to appeal to somebody other than Trump`s core supporters, they`re going have to answer to this. I just don`t see how they can continue to act like this is no big deal and support the President with his rhetoric.
MELBER: That`s -- and let me -- and that`s some of the politics. I want to go back to the leadership, to you, Jim Messina, having served President Obama, and been in that room that so few of us have been in today. We speak against the backdrop of chemical attacks in Syria and the generals gathered to deal with that. We speak against the backdrop of the independence of the FBI, the DOJ, and those institutions. Your view of the leadership test that Donald Trump is facing tonight and how he`s doing?
MESSINA: Oh, he`s absolutely failing it. I mean, you just don`t do what he did today. You have a really big crisis in Syria. You have the joint chiefs sitting around you. You`ve got to make a decision. You this availability, the one thing any other of the 44 presidents of the United States before this guy would have done is stick to message, talk about Syria, talk about the choices in front of us, and not go on a 15-minute rant in which he picked a fight with a bunch of people who have subpoena power over him and his people. It`s absolutely the craziest thing ever done, and no normal president that all of us on this panel used to work for, Republican or Democrat, would do it. And I think he`s failing this leadership test in front of the whole -- the whole nation.
MELBER: I want to thank each of our experts tonight, some of whom got less time than they normally would because we had so much breaking news. Jim, Jennifer, Paul, Max, and Cheri, thank you to each of you.
JACOBUS: Thank you.
MELBER: That is the end of our formal programming, this show. I do have one more news alert that came in within the last five minutes. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer with a new statement saying the President must not use this raid of his lawyer to try to remove Special Counsel Mueller. I am sure there is a lot more news coming in because this has been quite the hour. And thus you should probably keep it locked right here on MSNBC because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Raid. Let`s play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END