Stormy Daniels cooperating with fed. investigators. TRANSCRIPT: 04/10/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Caroline Fredrickson; Neera Tanden; Nick Ackerman; Jack Quinn; Howell Raines; Mike Lupica

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 10, 2018 Guest: Caroline Fredrickson; Neera Tanden; Nick Ackerman; Jack Quinn; Howell Raines; Mike Lupica

KATY TUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.

We begin with breaking news, something you may not have expected to hear. Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal agents investigating Michael Cohen.

This is breaking news. The adult film actress at the center of the Cohen scandal is talking to the feds. This comes, of course, after something quite unusual, the FBI raid of the President's lawyer Michael Cohen hitting his office and hotel. Seizing documents that we believe are related to at least $130,000 payment that Cohen facilitated to Daniels' hush money about an alleged relationship. Donald Trump had denied knowing about the payment. In fact, he famously said "asks Michael."

Agents looking for potential documents on a separate arrange arrangement to get $150,000 to a former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 but that payment allegedly made by the "National Enquirer" which is run by a close confidante of Donald Trump as well.

As we are learning documents that related to a New York City taxicab medallion company that Michael Cohen owns. Trump calls this whole thing a quote "break in." In fact, it was a lawful and carefully executed planned by the FBI. It all sparked, of course, originally with something that was undercover -- uncovered, I should say, in Bob Mueller's special counsel probe.

A rattle Ronald Trump firing of these tweets today. And if you watched show, you know, we don't often read his tweets unless they have something important.

Attorney/client privilege is dead. TOTAL WITCH-HUNT, in caps. That's a remarkable statement from a President whose own lawyer has just been basically surveilled and evidence gathered approved by his own deputy attorney general. I guess the witch-hunt is coming from inside the House.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump seems to be trying to leave some door open to having Bob Mueller removed. Here's the White House on that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Though the reason the President believes he has power to fire Robert Mueller?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know a number of individuals in the legal community and including at the department of justice that he has the power to do so. We have been advised that the President certainly has the power to make that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We have been advised the President has the power to make that decision. That is unlikely unless they are getting DOJ advice run that runs directly against the written rules of the DOJ. Donald Trump cannot personally fire Bob Mueller. He cannot unilaterally fire him. The law actually states through DOJ rules that Mueller can only be removed by the acting attorney general, in this case Rod Rosenstein that has to be removed for cause, he has to be removed in writing. Rosenstein, of course, has recently said there's no reason he has seen for removal. There is also the fact that it is Rosenstein, as I mentioned, who has green lit this raid on the President's lawyer's office.

So we are in quite extraordinary territory. Before I go out to an excellent panel if I say so myself I want to show you where we are at. Trump's lawyer under investigation in Manhattan. Jared Kushner still being scrutinized by prosecutors in Brooklyn. Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, the only other person raided, he is under indictment. Donald Trump's former national security adviser already pleading guilty to false statements and then the two former aides we know about who are still cooperating with Bob Mueller. That is a lot.

I'm joined by former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman, former White House counsel to President Clinton Jack Quinn, Neera Tanden, president and CEO for the center for American progress and Caroline Fredrickson, a lawyer with White House experience who is President of the American constitution society. Dealers' choice, I could start anywhere.

I will go to Jack as a White House lawyer. Did you ever see anything like this, the FBI doing something like this in your tenure? What does it tell you?

JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: No. We didn't experience anything like this during my tenure. It tells me at a minimum that Mr. Cohen faces grave legal jeopardy. Precisely what crimes they are tracking down here is unclear. But I think one can safely assume that these are not things that would have been directly within the mandate to Bob Mueller and in terms of either Russian influence on the election or obstruction of justice related to that.

MELBER: Neera, listen to Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor in his own right, who is believed to still be close to the President and people who are really close to him speak to him as we all do, through the television. Here's Chris Christie, what's on his mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he understand what firing Robert Mueller would mean?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think he does. I think he does, but I think what John said is right. I mean, I think the President is angry about this and expressed that yesterday. It's a big problem. I have told him that. I mean, you know, you can't fire the special counsel. You just can't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Neera, why is he saying that now?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT/CEO/ CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think obviously people are trying to talk the President out of firing the special counsel. But I just like, which is an extraordinary issue in and of itself, but I would just like to say, I mean, look at where we are. We are having a kind of reality question of whether he is going fire the special prosecutor or not. And you know, let's try to analogize this to a normal situation, which is hard, I appreciate. But if a regular, you know, ordinary criminal basically had the power to fire the prosecutor or have look, fire the police who were investigating them you would say that's kind of a piece of evidence that they are guilty.

The fact that the President consistently talks about eliminating the threat of the special prosecutor who is investigating his crimes seems to me an indication the President is not interested in expressing his innocence but is essentially confirming his guilt.

MELBER: Caroline, speak to that. You have also this White House legal experience and you are a constitutional expert in your own right and this really goes to what we see when people deal with these situations. On one extreme is lawyers and clients who say I welcome a thorough review of the facts because even if some things look bad at first the holistic process will clear me.

And on the other extreme is what Neera is talking about, a kind of El Chapo-esque approach that says let me get rid of the witnesses, let me get rid of the evidence and then maybe I will get through this thing or get rid of the prosecutor.

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: Well, I think, you know, I really, understand score what Neera a said in that, you know, the firing of Robert Mueller would just be another item under the obstruction of justice of bill of that Donald Trump that is going to have to pay. There may no longer be Robert Mueller but there will still be an investigation and trying to get rid of Robert Mueller in order to avoid being investigated because there's something to hide is the definition of obstruction of justice.

And you know, the President can't just bully his way out of this. We actually, thankfully, still have rule of law in this country which seems to be represented right now by Robert Mueller. It's quite an extraordinary circumstance to have the President in the public deriding the FBI, our law enforcement officials, our rule of law and all about the pain that he or somebody made on his behalf to a porn star.

MELBER: Right. And that -- you are speaking to the larger pattern here of taking on the FBI at the top and also what he has done here in New York. I have a Special Report on that process later tonight.

I want to go to Nick Ackerman on the stormy of it all because it appears that one theory is this is just about some sort of payment to this woman, maybe a second woman and that's all there is. And then there's a wider theory that you have been exploring and I have reported out on this show which is, although, we cannot say with certainty what is in there, we are going to follow the evidence. What we would say about the law, Nick, is that it's highly unlikely that you would take these measures to this high in the DOJ, to the President's siting attorney simply to delve into one discreet hush money payment that legally, it would stands to reason there is more.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: There's got to be a lot more. It is much broader. You don't, first of all, you have to probable cause that a serious crime was committed. And I say serious because DOJ is not going to approve a search warrant unless -- for the President's lawyer, unless you got very strong probable cause of a serious crime. And on top of that, you have to have probable cause and evidence of that crime exists in his office, exists in his home and exists in his temporary home.

TANDEN: You are making a very subtle point that I want to underscore. You are saying that -- I hate to sound lawyerly, but the actual locus, the location for each search has to be independently approved?

ACKERMAN: That's right.

MELBER: You can't say we think there's something in the house and we'll hit his hotel room as well.

ACKERMAN: I think where the press has gotten this wrong is that because the search warrant was obtained in the southern district in New York by the U.S. attorney's office in the southern district of New York that somehow Robert Mueller passed this matter off.

MELBER: Right. That it is a total referral which we don't know. We don't know.

ACKERMAN: Well. It's pretty unlikely and I'll tell you why. First of all, you have to have the southern district of New York as the locus to get the search warrant because that's what the statute says. Secondly, I was in that office for over eight years. No one ever came in from the department of justice to get a search warrant. It was always done by the assistants in the southern district of New York. That's why they call it the sovereign district.

MELBER: Sovereign district of New York. Nick Ackerman going all the way in.

Neera, Nick said, you know, the press has gotten some of this wrong. I would just add that's what we do, you know. I don't know if you were around in 2016, you know, but go back there.

TANDEN: I can spend a little time on what the press got wrong in 2016.

MELBER: I read your twitter. I know about it.

TANDEN: As we are learning from Mark Zuckerberg's testimony today and Russian interference and a whole host of issues. But I think -- look, the central issue here is that we don't know what Bob Mueller knows. We know - - I mean, we can only see how Trump behaves. We can only see how all the other actors behave. It's absolutely the case this is an extraordinary, extraordinary act to raid the offices of the President's lawyer.

Obviously there's a lot here. And we can see in the President's reactions the fact that this is a significant expansion. The fact that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is talking openly about some flimflam justification for firing the President, firing the special prosecutor when they have never gone that far tells you that the President see this is as a real dangerous threat to him and he sees that likely because he knows of criminal acts himself.

MELBER: Well, and Jack that goes to what the President knows that Michael Cohen has in his office and up until yesterday nobody else knew. Now the group of people has expanded from Michael and Donald to the feds and that's quite a new group to know, including, according to the "New York Times," attorney/client privilege communications.

Speak if you would, Jack, to how to you manage a client like the President in that situation. I will read from the reporting Neera was I believe citing. He spent much of Monday afternoon glued to the TV watching cable news coverage of surprise raids, stewed all afternoon at times raising his voice.

QUINN: I don't know you can manage Donald Trump. And that's part of the problem. But, look the other part of that has him, that apparently has him so upset, as you put your finger on it, you know, they are looking into Cohen's office. But remember, Cohen is more than just his lawyer. And a lot of the material that was swept up in this raid may be things that don't even qualify as attorney/client privilege. My guess would be that a heck of a lot of it doesn't. So, you know, who knows what boxes of Pandora's have been opened up by the collection of all of this material.

MELBER: Right. You are speaking to the centrality of the role of Michael Cohen in Donald Trump's business life in his outreach to Russia, his personal life in the hush payments. You have said more than a lawyer which reminds me of the classic Bee Gees song, "More Than a Lawyer to Me."

QUINN: You bet. And, you know, the connection between Donald Trump and the "Enquirer" and his role and handling the women in connection with the "Enquirer" and the lawyers for the women there, it is interesting that this has gotten the President more upset than anything that has come out so far about Russia. It is just weird. And I think it speaks to just how close he and Cohen are and how much Cohen knows --.

MELBER: What else does he know and why is the President so exercised.

I'm going pin it right, Jack Quinn, Nick Ackerman, Neera Tanden and Caroline Fredrickson, thanks to each of you.

Up ahead, breaking coverage here on this unusual story, Stormy Daniels talking to the fed. What does that mean for Cohen and Trump?

Also, later tonight I mention I have a special report on how Bob Mueller is working this case and how it compares to other FBI tough tactics.

And then a story we have been bringing you since the beginning. Mark Zuckerberg finally has his day in Congress, facing a grilling over Russia, Facebook and privacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you've messaged.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Senator, no I would probably not choose to do that publicly here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that may be what this is about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And I'm joined by comedian Billy Eichner who is getting involved in the midterms. Billy, back on The Beat tonight.

I'm Ari Melber and you are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Stormy Daniels is now cooperating with federal prosecutors. This comes on the heels of the raid of Michael Cohen's office and adds pressure on Donald Trump himself and the question of what both men know. Cohen, of course, has been at Trump's side since 2006 as a fixer, handling everything from the serious to even the absurd. He sells disputes with tenant groups. During the campaign, he had threatened a reporter over a story about messy details from Trump's divorce. He shouted at a movie producer once for not giving Trump a cameo in "Sharknado 3." You know, classic lawyer stuff.

He also is reportedly carried a gun in an ankle holster. He said he would take quote "bullet for Trump." He is known to be loyal which always made everyone wonder why such a loyal long-time aide who currently certainly is paying for some of that loyalty was not brought along to Washington with Trump. It's something he was asked about right before inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, a lot of people have asked me because they know we've been friends a long time, why isn't Michael going with the president-elect? Have you decided --.

MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Look. I get that question a lot. I'm obviously very loyal and dedicated to Mr. Trump. I'm going to be the personal attorney to Mr. Trump. I'm not going to be in government but I'm going to remain technically in the same rule for Mr. Trump, for President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I'm joined by the "New York Daily News" Mike Lupica and Howell Raines, former executive editor of "the New York Times" and Pulitzer-prize winning author.

Mr. Lupica, I'll begin with you because you are from a less prestigious newspaper.

I don't think that's a welcoming thought.

MELBER: I have always wanted to do that. What do you think other than the rivalry I'm trying to stoke between you two distinguished friends of THE BEAT. What do you think matters in the arc of Michael Cohen who was the guy then Trump says ask Michael Cohen and now there's all this heat this week?

MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: You know, Ari, I was wondering if when Michael Cohen was in law school, he wanted to grow up to be known as a fixer because this is kind of the one about a fixer being in the fix. When Hal was running the "New York Times," he talked about flooding the zone. And right now it's not just Trump that feels like his sewn is getting flooded, it's Michael Cohen as well. He is not a family member but he has been treated like a family member. And you just spoke about his greatest quality in the eyes of this President which is being loyal. And now we are going to see how far this gets him because Ari, you know as a lawyer, it's extremely unusual for a lawyer to be gone after the way Cohen was gone after yesterday.

MELBER: Certainly. I guess we are doing our favorite Howell Raines quotes. I got one. You used to talk about raising the creative metabolism of an organization. Is that correct, sir?

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's correct. And on that point, let me say having had the experience of being scooped by the "New York Daily News" on more than one occasion, I have absolute respect for our sister publication.

MELBER: Trying to stoke a rivalry and you end up in a mutual admiration journalist. It is beautiful. We could use more of this in our lives.

Howell, the creative metabolism of the Trump organization, if you like it, if you believe in it and there were voters who thought it would be good for America, it's the creation of something out of nothing. If you don't like it, if you think it's a con like the students of Trump University and others have alleged and make a lot of money their case, what you think is people like Michael Cohen go running around making promises they can't keep. How do you analyze that in light of what we have learned this week?

RAINES: Well, it's an interesting contrast to think about the White House metabolism as it were, which is running amok and completely shapeless. And today we heard from Mr. Zuckerberg who has a meticulously organized company and yet it was clear in his conversation with the senators that a lot of things fell through the cracks there as well. So I think the thing I would like that see the press, the Congress and the government focus on is the fact you noted at the top, Ari, this is a fraught moment in American history. And it's important for us to address it seriously but try not to become apocalyptic in our language.

Here's where I think we are. Mr. Trump has terribly entangled himself. He takes us each week into more dangerous territory. There is a space between Presidential eccentricity and irrational recklessness and it's the latter space that the constitution is not built to accommodate and today it got more bizarre when Sarah Sanders said something about the law that we know could not be happening, that there are lawyers in the Washington legal community and in the justice department telling President Trump he can fire Robert Mueller.

Even the Watergate parallel can seem comforting here because President Nixon was a beautifully educated lawyer and when the congressional leadership came to him and said you have to go, he understood the constitutional resonance of that moment.

MELBER: Right. And as you put your hat, I want to give Mike one more shot. As you put your finger on it, Howell, it is Sarah Sanders saying these lawyers said it, well, give us their names, who are they? Rosenstein might remove them if they are saying things that are contrary.

Mike Lupica, Howell referred toing a centricity and recklessness and I think the performance of eccentricity of Donald Trump can normalize recklessness that is far from a performance but an attack on our system of government itself.

LUPICA: Ari, look how you began the show tonight, by talking about how Stormy Daniels is cooperating with the feds. If you are in a story where the adult film star who allegedly had a relationship with you is cooperating with the feds, your life has taken a wrong turn. And I keep watching what's happening with this President and I think of a great line from sports that Arthur Ashe once said about John McEnroe's tennis game when McEnroe is at his best. Arthur said a nick here, a nick there and pretty soon you are bleeding to death.

MELBER: You know, this is one of those surreal segments where I'm glad that we covered everything.

Gentlemen, I appreciate you both being on. Mike Lupica and Howell Raines, thank you.

Up next, we go inside the Michael Cohen raid, how it went down, why it's so unusual. That's my Special Report.

And then the story we were just discussing later this hour. If it's THE BEAT you know we will give you the key highlights from Mark Zuckerberg's testimony today. He says sorry but will that cut it?

And then later, a little political fun with the comedian Billy Eichner on his midterm secrets for the Democrats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The other top story tonight, our Special Report on the FBI striking farther inside Donald Trump's inner circle than it ever has before. Raiding the office of Trump's long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen and setting the White House on edge with Donald Trump casting the lawful raid as some kind of break in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man. And it's a disgraceful situation, it's a total witch-hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: If there's a hunt here, we know who is leading it. Under justice department rules searching a lawyer's office is such a big deal it has to be signed off at the highest levels.

And that's not all. In addition to that there are the special rules we talked about for Robert Mueller and they provide his boss, Rod Rosenstein, has to approve anything that goes beyond Mueller's original portfolio. And after all that, then prosecutors have to, of course, convince a judge that the whole thing is a reasonable search to each of those boxes were checked before anyone kicked in Michael Cohen's door. If there is a hunt, that means it's a hunt led by a Republican Trump appointee and approved by an independent judge.

Now to the context of just how aggressive this move is, consider that in the entire Mueller probe, you see there have been all these interviews and evidence requests or subpoenas for dozens of people and companies. But then you look at the right and that is the only raids we have seen. The only two raids we know about are on Michael Cohen yesterday and Paul Manafort. And while Cohen is, of course, presumed innocent, he hasn't been charged this kind of raid is both scary and typically a bad legal sign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a surprise pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reportedly waking him up, knocking on his bedroom door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the first FBI raid we've learned up in the Trump/Russia investigation.

MELBER: A federal judge had to find cause there was evidence of a crime in Manafort's home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't trust Manafort not to destroy materials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Trust then criminal evidence. Remember, those are the reasons that the FBI resorts to this kind of raid. So this news that we're all still processing, this one day into it, it's all about suspicions against Cohen, the target of the raid. It's not about whether the feds are being mean or unfair, although that is how Trump has cast any raids on his aides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought that was very -- that was pretty tough stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: To wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that's pretty tough stuff. They do that very seldom so I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, it is seldom done because the FBI has generally found that even companies or people who have some kind of criminal exposure when they get caught up in a probe they tend to comply with evidence requests. Now, when the FBI has evidence of an ongoing conspiracy, say a corporation that runs on fraud or a politician continually abusing his office or mob boss on the run, then and only then is when the tougher tactics come out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now to the Enron collapse, the FBI is in the building tonight, the Enron headquarters in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A former executive says she saw box after box of shredded evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 6:00 this morning, while his children slept in their bedrooms, the Governor of the State of Illinois was arrested like a common criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the FBI, Governor Blagojevich expected a lot in exchange for his election to fill Barack Obama's seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Gotti, America's most powerful godfather was picked up by the FBI. This time the FBI had a bug, a microphone hidden upstairs above the storefront club the Ravenite used by Gotti as his headquarters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Everything we just showed you is tough but lawful. You can't make those kind of moves or those kind of searches without a warrant and you have to show the judge your target deserves that treatment. That's the kind of heat on Michael Cohen tonight. The warrant executed by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and there are signs this is exactly the kind of heat in New York that Trump tried to avoid. Let me show you because it is so important. The top DOJ prosecutor in New York right now is Geoffrey Berman. Now, there are some reports he might not be involved in this probe. But remember, that's the same post that Trump got so personally involved in as a first order of business when he was still in the transition. He asked the prosecute or at the time, Preet Bharara, to stay on the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREET BHARARA FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The President-elect asked -- presumably because he's a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me to discuss whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on as United States Attorney. I agreed to stay on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Presumably because he was a New Yorker. That would be the innocuous reason that Donald Trump wanted to have the New York prosecutor in to Trump Tower to talk about what he was going to do. But why would a president-elect want to keep a particular prosecutor on the job? Why such an interest in the person with jurisdiction over Trump Tower? What we now know makes it look worse. James Comey testified that Trump tried to keep him on the job in exchange for inappropriate loyalty and pressure to drop probes into Trump aides who've now pled guilty. And Bharara who I just showed you there, he'd soon find himself out of his prosecutor job, fired after, guess what? Yes, after he refused to talk to Donald Trump in private phone calls that Jeff Sessions' own DOJ advised against. And Bharara is now saying this week he's not convinced this is a full-on referral to his old office. He writes I could be completely wrong but such a referral seems peculiar. The key question is whether this is a separate referral for issues with Michael Cohen that maybe have nothing to do with Bob Mueller or whether it's still a way to gather evidence that could go back to Mueller. We don't know yet. What we do know is that after Trump got rid of Bharara, the New York Prosecutor, he returned to his odd interest in personally vetting prosecutors in just a couple places in the country. The places Trump lives or headquarters his business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It's a weird thing for a president to meet with potential nominees to be federal prosecutors, to be U.S. Attorneys. But when you look at the ones we know that President Trump has met with, they'd be the ones in charge of prosecuting crimes in Washington, D.C. and in Manhattan and Brooklyn, very much the President's home turf both in politics and business, places where he might conceivably have skin in the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Skin in the game. Well, the game changed last night. Until last night, the only people in the world who knew what Michael Cohen's secret attorney Trump files said were Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. Tonight the feds are learning what's in them. I cannot underscore that enough. The feds are learning the things that only Michael Cohen and Donald Trump know. Is there something in there that Trump already knows about that drove him to these lengths to try to grab control of the DOJ at the top and its agent specifically in New York making those things meet? Would that explain Donald Trump's laser focus pressure on, again, not only the top of the DOJ and the FBI where he fired a director and got a deputy director fired and blasted his own attorney general repeatedly but also this pressure that we may have forgotten about on the line prosecutors in New York and Washington, people who would -- you know, people who would typically sign off on -- well, high level unusual moves like raiding the office of a lawyer to the President in New York. We've talked about this on the show before. The combination of power and cunning can be dangerous. You take cunning, power and you add a misplaced perception of ignorance and stupidity, which is what a lot of people assume about Donald Trump, you may have a new level of stealth danger. Now, these efforts might have worked if it wasn't for the prosecutor that at this hour Donald Trump can't seem to pressure or control, that's Bob Mueller and he's already proven very willing to aggressively take on lawyers if he thinks they're acting like criminals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller will go after lawyers and will go after them regardless of how small the violation may appear.

MELBER: And we know Mueller isn't afraid to get tough with lawyers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they have to be concerned and you know, it's unclear exactly what's going on. And one possibility is that now Dowd himself is part of the criminal investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Bob Mueller also got a judge to approve a very special request to force one of Paul Manafort's former lawyers to testify. So Michael Cohen clearly has a big problem tonight. Is he all alone or this Trump's problem, too?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: If you know anybody at the Trump Organization that spends any amount of time with him like I do, we all feel the same way about him. He's more to us than just a boss. He's a mentor, he's a sage, he's like family. And when you have a problem, Mr. Trump feels like he has a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: When you have a problem, Mr. Trump feels like he has a problem. Before we pre-judge every person in this entire play and we don't know how it ends, let's remember Mr. Cohen may have believed that when he said that. He may believe that tonight. When he has a problem, Mr. Trump has a problem. But will he believe that when this is all over? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Commerce Committee. On a personal note, Senator, I believe your day started as early as mine on "MORNING JOE" as you prepped for what has been momentous. I want to get to Facebook as promised but first, all of the news on Michael Cohen, including his statement in the last few hours that he said he'd be lying if he said he wasn't worried. He doesn't want to go through this. His lawyers maintain that the raid was somehow inappropriate although as we've reported, it was approved by a judge. What does this raid mean to you in the wider probe?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: What it means -- and you have done great work in describing how extraordinary a raid on any lawyer's office, his home, his hotel room is in any criminal investigation. Certainly, it means that this investigation is circling and coming closer and closer to the Oval Office. In fact, Robert Mueller is at the door of the Oval Office and knocking hard because his personal lawyer has all of the keys to that kingdom. It's the vault where all the secrets are and nothing is more abhorrent to a prosecutor than a corrupt lawyer. You have rightly said that Robert Mueller has the medal to go after a corrupt lawyer. But well he should because nothing is more abominable in terms of criminal justice than a lawyer who has in effect gone over to the side of criminal activity and become an accomplice, an aider, and abetter or otherwise involved in criminal activity.

MELBER: And that would seem to be at a minimum the kind of evidence a judge would need to see to approve this. What I want to do is ask you one more question on this and then I'm going to add to our conversation someone who just got off the phone with Michael Cohen as part of our breaking coverage. But Senator, let me flip it and say even if all of that is problematic based on what we know, do you have any concern about the precedent of reaching this far into a sitting President's conversations with a lawyer with attorney/client privilege, if this were Barack Obama's lawyer, would you have the same view and vigor? Is there any constitutional protection there that concerns you?

BLUMENTHAL: There is a constitutional protection for certain rights, the right against self-incrimination, obviously and the lawyer/client privilege is enshrined in our law so the Department of Justice no doubt will take precaution through a walled-off procedure to review the documents and other evidence seized to avoid any infringement on the attorney/client privilege. But let's reflect for a moment on where we are here. The President is talking about firing the special counsel. His spokesperson said today that he has the power to fire the special counsel because he believes that a statute is unconstitutional. On his own, he's going to declare it unconstitutional. Under Article 28, USC 509 says he lacks that power.

MELBER: Right.

BLUMENTHAL: And so I have no reservation in saying that the special counsel has to adopt all of the aggressive means that are necessary to uncover the truth and take this investigation where it goes based on facts and law.

MELBER: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining me in this busy day. I turn as promised to Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox, an Analyst for us as well. She phoned to THE BEAT control room because she just got off the phone with Michael Cohen. What can you tell us?

EMILY JEAN FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. So I got off the phone with Michael Cohen and he was just describing a little bit more about the raid yesterday at his hotel. And he said, there was no knocking down of the doors, that about 12 agents did come to the door to his hotel at about 7:30 in the morning so he wasn't woken up very early in the morning. He said the agents were incredibly respectful of his property and of his family, that they were polite and courteous and respectful and that he did thank them as they release him --

MELBER: Sure. Did he say anything about Russia or Stormy Daniels?

FOX: He did not. He did not comment on that. I asked him though if he had spoken to the President since yesterday and he said he did not speak to him but he was not expecting to hear from him since yesterday. He did, however, watch the President's comments and he thought that he was ashamed that at that very important meeting, that the first question the media asked was about Michael Cohen.

MELBER: Well, it is interesting to get his perspective. And we wanted to get that on air. Emily Jane Fox, I want to thank you for calling right in. I'm going to fit in a break and then something very special. Comedian Billy Eichner joins us to talk about why he's taking on Trump in the midterms.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump has long been obsessed with celebrities but many celebrities not feeling Trump and they're boosting the resistance, joining students at the March for Our Lives where you could find a friend of THE BEAT and Star of Billy on the Street, Billy Eichner out marching. He also stars in the new American Horror Story season with a Trump themed plot. And his comedy has been long walked that thin line between our celebrity trivia and trenched punch line exposing the growing rot at the center of the American experiment we call democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY EICHNER, COMEDIAN: Would you sign this goodbye card?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would love to sign this goodbye card.

EICHNER: Here's a pen. We're saying goodbye to the freedom of the press.

We are going to run through an obstacle course today that takes us on a tour of the United States of America. The more guns that you acquire along the way the safer and more American you become.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Eichner joins me to talk politics, comedy and this glam midterms, a new push he has to encourage voter turnout and fight Republicans and change who turns out. Of course, that was a key part of Dems winning the Senate seat in the red state of Alabama, also Dems elected Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, a state that Trump narrowly won. Forecasts now have Democrats winning back the House. And we turn to Billy Eichner and begin with the big question. Are the Democrats surging because of your work?

EICHNER: Absolutely. I was watching that and thinking about what a hero I am. Sometimes I'm so busy doing the work that I forget.

MELBER: You forget to reflect --

EICHNER: On how much I have meant to American democracy and you know, the republic in general. I've gone to a few museums lately, history museums and I just walked around thinking God, I'm a great person. I don't have to be here.

MELBER: You're very funny. You're known to be funny.

EICHNER: Thank you. Thank you.

MELBER: But we did show that some of your punch lines go to the dark place. Ha-ha, freedom of the press is in danger.

EICHNER: We're sat arising a very dark moment in our history the way that many people are. And with Billy On The Street for many seasons it had been a very silly, absurdist riff on pop culture, and pop cultural obsessions, but now culture and politics are fully merged, I believe, and so to not talk about that would make the show feel completely irrelevant. I think Ryan Murphy felt that way with the prior season of American Horror Story which I was on too. I think a lot of artists are feeling that way. But one of the reason I wanted to do the glam up the midterms campaign is because it's an optimistic approach to what's happening as opposed to something that's just complaining and angry and snarky.

MELBER: You talk about that difference because the cliche about any artist or celebrity getting involved, right, is maybe you don't know what you're talking about. But you seem to be channeling feelings that a lot of people have and you're obviously a good communicator. You tweeted as horrendous as I knew Trump would be, what's truly remarkable is he's somehow worse than I thought.

EICHNER: Yes.

MELBER: And a lot of people in Washington say that.

EICHNER: Yes. Well, you know, I guess like I say -- I said in the tweet, as awful as I knew he would be, there was a more hopeful part of me when he first got elected thinking, yehey, he's from Queens, I grew up in Queens. I'm a New Yorker, I've been aware of Trump all my life because --

MELBER: Queens is the first thing I think when I see you.

EICHNER: Ari, now, you just lost your glad award by the way, if that's what you were going for. I don't even know what you're talking about.

MELBER: I don't even know what that means.

EICHNER: No, I don't know. But you know, Queens seriously, is the most diverse borough in the most diverse city in the world. And I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, Trump and his dad grew up in Queens, as well. And so, there was a part of me that thought maybe now that he has the job and he's getting all the press and all the attention, that he'll somehow step up to the plate and be a slightly more normal. You know, and not as disturbing and not as you know, anti-American as I feel that he is in terms of his values and his choices. But that he went extreme in the opposite direction. And that, I don't know, I guess I was ignorant or naive and I certainly was no supporter of his but I guess I hoped for something that I was wrong to hope for.

MELBER: One of the funny things you do on your show is For A Dollar, and we'd like to play again with you.

EICHNER: OK.

MELBER: For a dollar, Billy, name someone on Trump's cabinet who has lasted over a year.

EICHNER: Scott Pruitt.

MELBER: Good. For a dollar --

EICHNER: You think I'm some idiot, Ari, that because you know, I'm on a couple of T.V. shows, I don't know who's in Trump's Cabinet? Let me ask you a question, who was on Designing Women? Exactly.

MELBER: Wait, Designing Women was very smart sophisticated women in a group setting.

EICHNER: Yes, name one -- if I can name someone in Trump's cabinets, I need to you name someone on Designing Women.

MELBER: All right, all right, Sandra Bernhard.

EICHNER: No, she wasn't.

MELBER: OK, I took a risk.

EICHNER: Wrong.

MELBER: For a dollar, who's going to pay for the border wall?

EICHNER: Not me.

MELBER: For a dollar, what is easier to buy in America, an iPhone or a gun?

EICHNER: I would imagine they're equally easy to purchase actually.

MELBER: And you find that to use a millennial word, problematic.

EICHNER: Well, I'm no millennial because I'm old but I think that's very problematic. We did an obstacle course on Billy On The Street long before what happened in Parkland, and we just went through all the lack of gun safety laws in almost every state in the union and it's just shocking.

MELBER: You are getting your first Netflix special.

EICHNER: I'm doing a Netflix special, yes.

MELBER: Which is huge. I love watching comedy at Netflix. It's seems that it's come much later in your career than many other comics.

EICHNER: I was busy.

MELBER: It was -- they asked earlier?

EICHNER: Yes, they were interested.

MELBER: When was the first time they ask you?

EICHNER: They came to me. I don't remember the date. What is this, freaking McCarthy hearings? Ari Melber, we're talking about my Netflix comedy special. Why don't we talk about my glam up the midterms event happening in San Diego? Me and Will Ferrell is Ron Burgundy live in San Diego. You can sign up headcount.org/glamup2018. The tickets are free. But in order to attend, you have to either register to vote or if you're already registered sign up for election alerts by going to that Web site. Headcount.org/glamup2018.

MELBER: Full disclosure, I've always been a fan of your comedy. It is very interesting to see you using your platform to engage young people and get all these people involved, so it's really awesome. And Billy On The Street, we always appreciate you doing a little Billy on THE BEAT.

EICHNER: I appreciate that. You need some designing women in your life.

MELBER: Do you want to hold it.

EICHNER: What's that?

MELBER: This is the thing we do.

EICHNER: I held your hand last time.

EICHNER: You forgot. Excruciating amount of time. When can I meet Rachel Maddow?

MELBER: I promise if you do five to seven more appearances on THE BEAT, we will -- we will work on it.

EICHNER: That's all I have to do? It's not worth it.

MELBER: Billy Eichner, thank you for being here.

EICHNER: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: An update on that breaking news, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer speaking out about the FBI raid on his office and hotel. He tells our analyst that the feds were respectful and he says he has not spoken with Donald Trump since yesterday's raid. Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels is cooperating with these federal agents working on the Cohen case and her lawyer Michael Avenatti will be on "THE 11TH HOUR" tonight. I'll be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Will he fire -- will he Mueller? Let's play HARDBALL.

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

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