FBI raid targeted "access Hollywood" tape. TRANSCRIPT: 04/11/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Hank Shenkopf; Seth Waxman; Renato Mariotti

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 11, 2018 Guest: Hank Shenkopf; Seth Waxman; Renato Mariotti

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: And hey, we know Boehner is a real wine (INAUDIBLE). But guess what? We have learned, you don't need alcohol infused wine when you have marijuana infused wine out there now. So, go get your (INAUDIBLE) going ad have a good time former speaker John Boehner.

That's all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Chuck, I learned two things watching MEET THE PRESS.

TODD: Yes.

MELBER: In the news you broke some news with a lawyer very close to Donald Trump outlining a new way to silent Rod Rosenstein. I thought that was fascinating with professor (INAUDIBLE). Number two on a perhaps lighter note I learned that you think John Boehner is blunt. I think that.

TODD: There you go. You like that one, yes? Look. We are just going to roll away here.

MELBER: Roll it up and roll away here.

TODD: Beware.

MELBER: Yes, sir, 2018.

Let me tell you where out broadcast starts tonight. Bob Mueller, of course, has been probing whether anyone broke the law that help the Russians trying to elect Trump. But tonight, the feds are now probing something else, whether Michael Cohen broke the law to suppress the Access Hollywood tape to elect Trump.

This is breaking right now. The tape is back. It is now at the center of this criminal probe. Reports tonight the feds who stormed into Michael Cohen's office in a hotel room were not just looking for business records or information on the payments to women like Stormy Daniels. They were looking for evidence of a potential crime linked to the video that as we all remember at the time was widely believed including inside Trump land to be the greatest threat to the Trump campaign ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. That's her with the gold. I have to use some tick tacks in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It is like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star you they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want?

TRUMP: Grab them by the (bleep). You can do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Whatever you think of that tape how does it lead to a crime? Well, "the New York Times" reporting tonight, a true legal bomb shell. Feds probing whether Cohen illegally try to suppress damaging information on Trump during the campaign with the infamous tape now in the mix.

If you watch the reporting on this show, you know that we have reported it would be hard to build a federal case against Michael Cohen on the idea that any payment facilitated for Stormy Daniels was a campaign donation. Cohen celebrated that report I did. He tweeted out an entire link to the segment.

The good news for Cohen was the Feds don't typically bust down doors for that kind of campaign donation issue. The bad news is they just busted down his door which shows they have evidence of some kind of other crimes. And that implies offenses beyond campaign donations with the Access Hollywood tape fresh.

Now back in the mix tonight, a tape the campaign desperately wanted to keep from coming out n those final weeks of the campaign. The investigative question becomes this is what the feds are asking, what did Michael Cohen do to try to keep that tape from coming out?

I'm joined now by Betsy Woodruff, a political reporter from the "Daily Beast" who has been following every angle of this probe. "Vanity Fair" staff writer Abigail Tracy who has been reporting on this and Laura Bassett, a senior politics reporter from "HuffPost" to I have discussed the Access Hollywood tape before with you, but never in this context.

Let's start there, Laura. This was a huge threat to the campaign at the time. What investigators do is piece back people's motivations at the time. They didn't know we would go on to win. They didn't know that the tape was not the existential threat that we know today. And so walk us through that tape. It is perceived potency and danger to Donald Trump and what a man who says he would take a bullet for Trump may have done about it.

LAURA BASSETT, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, HUFFPOST: Right. Well, I think it is really interesting as a member of the media who was reporting on the tape at the time, that we may have missed the big story around this, I think everyone kind of thought when the tape came out and you have this man running for president saying I grab women by the you know what, basically confessing to having sexually assaulted women. Everyone kind of said, OK, well, that's the end of his campaign. That's the nail in the coffin. And was just reporting on the contents of the tape and how it would affect public perception of Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, an hour later the Podesta emails are leaked. The timing of that can't be a coincidence. And no one was really looking into what Trump's lawyer was doing to try to suppress the tape and try to suppress women who were trying to come forward, to try to silence these women and pay them off. We kind of missed the forest for the trees there.

MELBER: Well, suppression is something that is designed to be missed.

BASSETT: Right. Right.

MELBER: So if Michael Cohen made moves with very small numbers of people or organization and was potentially successful in the suppression part or the tape ultimately came out was basically pushing people in a way that they didn't want to get into at the time, if they call up anyone.

I mean, let me put it like this. If the feds are investigating crimes pursue on to this now. That suggests they didn't get credible calls about it at the time. And this isn't the first time, you know, Betsy, that it takes time to get a probe goal.

I want to play for you some of the reporting that we did with witnesses who have been in that room with Mueller's investigators. Most of them don't talk, a few of them do, but we learned from one, weeks ago that they were probing these payments to women and some of these issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Did Mueller folks ask anything that related to these issues around payments to people or women?

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Well, look. They asked if I ever heard anything about that. And my answer is I have never have.

MELBER: I have never heard you say that publicly before. In your FBI interview with Mueller's team, they were asking about payments to women?

NUNBERG: They were asking if I knew anything about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Betsy, when it goes to payments to women, when it goes to those kind of problems for Donald Trump it always goes back to Michael Cohen.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That's right. All road seems to lead through hand. It is very tempting to speculate here about the significance of Mueller's team asking questions about these payments and I don't want to do that. But suffice it to say Mueller is very aware of his mandate. He is very much is following the rules laid out for him by Rod Rosenstein.

MELBER: Well, I'm going to - I will jump in and then - I will jump in and let you keep going after. I'm not speculating about it. Just for the viewers it was interesting that in the open probe, they are asking witnesses about this because if what they are looking at are potential crimes, they are looking not at whether that is salacious or controversial but whether somehow along the line there was a federal crime committed.

WOODRUFF: What they are also looking at, though, of course, is the question of Russia. That is the project that Mueller has undertaken. And up until now, up until this news started immerging in large part, thanks to the interview that you did with Sam Nunberg, that Mueller had been asking about these payments to women, I haven't seen any indication there was an overlap between potential Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the presidential campaign and between this separate story of the Access Hollywood narrative.

That said though, as Laura pointed out, it was hardly coincidental that within less than an hour of the Access Hollywood tape coming out the WikiLeaks stolen emails from Jon Podesta were also released. Is there a Russian nexus there? We don't know.

But look. Toward the fact that Mueller is looking into this, that Mueller believes that asking questions about these women and payoffs to these women is part of his mandate indicates that he may be onto some sort of nexus. We will have to wait and see. I don't want to speculate. But the reality is that these things appear to be much more interconnected than perhaps we initially realized more than a year ago on that crazy day in October 2016 when all of these stories broke all at once.

MELBER: Right. And that connection, that nexus, Abigail, is only of interest offense if there's a crime.

I want to read from Stormy Daniels' lawsuit - and by the way, we are just looking at some of the footage of Michael Cohen who is really under a whole new level of scrutiny. But the stormy Daniels suit says within days of publication of the Access Hollywood tapes several more women came forward, probably to tell their stories about the sexual occurrence with Trump alleged.

Ms. Clifford likewise sought to share details concerning her relationship with the media. And her plans came to the attention of Mr. Trump and his campaign including Mr. Michael Cohen. That's her side of it.

But the next as you there is that this was a time of intense pressure on Donald Trump the man, Donald Trump the candidate and Donald Trump the business, the Trump org. And he did what allegedly he has done many times before which was lean hard on Michael Cohen, right, who is now under this pressure, who says he doesn't want to be the fall guy, who is facing the feds, lean hard on him to fix all of it. And the question is -- and based on your reporting with Cohen, is it possible that this attorney then committed a crime under that pressure.

ABIGAIL TRACY, STAFF WRITER, VANITY FAIR: Right. Well, I think some of these developments, what they really point is suggests that invested that investigators are interested in this kind of nebulous relationship that Michael Cohen has with the President. This idea that, sure, he might be his personal attorney and represent the Trump organization for many years, but he also is a self-described sort of Mr. Fix it guy. You know, this individual who is about as close as you can get to Donald Trump without being a member of his family.

So I think one of the questions become when we are looking at the attorney/client privilege question is whether Michael Cohen in his very close relationship with Donald Trump kind of crossed a line and possible trigger the exception of the crime fraud exception. So meaning that, you know, he participated in a crime with Donald Trump possibly suppression, possibly campaign finance violations and things of that nature. So just this idea that Mueller is interested in the blurring of lines.

MELBER: Right.

And Laura, this was a segment involving adult film actresses, involving the controversial tape, involving these allegations of this romantic encounters. To add the crime exception to it is to make the segment hotter than I was expecting.

BASSETT: Right.

MELBER: It is just a joke.

Let me play for you the (INAUDIBLE) who spoke to Michael Cohen about this loyalty issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Michael's words to me, he loyal. He said I would rather jump out of a building than to turn on Donald Trump, you know. He has a fiercely, that may change over time. But he has this fierce, fierce, you know, fierce loyalty that is almost inexplicable at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Almost inexplicable, the two of them were together today. They spoke today. That is the loyalty test. But the question with John Dean, the question with other lawyers in this situation is not are you loyal. It's are you give up potentially the rest of your life.

BASSETT: Right. I think that was a really interesting thing that he said. Because it's sort of a sweet level of loyalty between a fixer and his client, between two people who consider themselves family. But is it just that or is it that Trump has information about Cohen that could ruin his life. It would be even worse than him, you know. He is saying, if turn him, I would rather jump out of a building than turn on Trump. It sounds like somebody who is in a mafia family.

I mean, we know Cohen, years ago, when the "Daily Beast" tried to report on Trump's ex-wife claiming that he abused her. Cohen went to the "Daily Beast" reporter and said and physically threatened him and said I'm going to do disgusting things to you, in those words. So this is a guy that has been corrupt for years. He is kind of a thug, he is a fixer and he is willing to kind of take a lot of knives for Trump. And we will see how far he is willing to be pushed.

MELBER: Right. And you are referring to what has been reported about some of those threats. There are other types of threats that people sometimes undergo and they don't report them real-time. The more credible the threat the less likely it is to be reported. That is something that comes up in trials that involve actual violence. So we are in a very interesting period with all that pressure on just what Michael Cohen did or didn't do during that critical period in October as the tape came out.

Betsy Woodruff, Abigail Tracy and Laura Bassett, thank you so much for joining me.

Coming up, the man who was Trump's lawyer, well, Michael Cohen is not the only one. I just spoke to his predecessor. I'm going to show you some of the interesting things that come out of that.

James Comey, meanwhile, speaking out. And Trump's character attacks, they maybe be boomeranging.

Later tonight, my break down on Mark Zuckerberg's big days on the Hill and a fact check on Paul Ryan's exit and what it spells for Republicans, the future of the party.

And tonight, live on THE BEAT, Senator Mark Warner. We have a lot to talk about including his role as the top Democrat and the only Russia probe left the one in the Senate.

I'm Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: An unusual story leading the news tonight. The Access Hollywood tape is back because the FBI is probing it. All of this putting pressure on Michael Cohen. And that pressure could be getting to him. I will show you an AP report that says Cohen is afraid that he will be the fall guy for Donald Trump. That's quite a phrase.

But Cohen is not alone in thinking that there maybe legal exposure. I have something new for you that we are reporting right now for the first time. The lawyer who was his predecessor, who spent 15 years as the exclusive litigator for Donald Trump, his personal attorney agrees. We just caught up with Jay Goldberg. He did this until 2005. Cohen, of course, came in 2006 and he represented Trump in some of the most personal and important cases to him -- real estate, his own divorce matters. And I asked him about Michael Cohen. He believes that Mueller's deputy Andrew Wiseman is pursuing a bank fraud case here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY GOLDBERG, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: And what they did here is probably Wiseman fought that the money that Cohen had was secured from a bank to a loan in which he represented and was using it for a different purpose. Now that would be bank fraud. That's how it's the darling of the prosecutor's nursery.

MELBER: Do you think there's a case against Michael Cohen for bank fraud?

GOLDBERG: Well, I haven't seen the proof but I think that the statute is so all inclusive that anybody who takes money from a bank claiming that they are going to use it for purpose A and they in fact used it for purpose B is a candidate for prosecution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michael Cohen, a candidate for prosecution. A statement from the man who was his predecessor. That is something else entirely.

I want to bring two former federal prosecutors, Renato Mariotti and Seth Waxman, as well as Hank Shank Shenkopf. He is a New York Political strategist. He knows Cohen and Trump and do business consulting for Trump many years ago. Hank, has a lot of what we call juice. So I'm going to go to you in a second.

But on the bank fraud question, Renato, that is Jay Goldberg, Donald Trump's personal attorney, talking about the man who affectively replaced him and he said, I'm going to read it you. Quote "that would be bank fraud." Your reaction?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, I prosecuted many bank fraud cases and he is right that if you make a false statement to a bank about why you want to obtain money that looks a lot like bank fraud. What you also have to have, of course, is the intent to defraud the bank. You can't just -- it's not just by mistake. You checked the wrong thing in the form or you write the wrong thing. But you actually have to - you want to mislead the bank. And I will tell you that was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the reports.

I think the "Washington Post" reported yesterday, Ari, that bank fraud was one of the crimes that was sought in the search warrant. And what it suggested to me is, you know, (INAUDIBLE) bank fraud is where you attempt to obtain a loan for a purpose that's different than you stated to the bank. So you way, for example, to the bank, I want - I'm doing some home improvement. I need a home improvement loan. And instead, the money is going to a former porn star, for example.

MELBER: For example.

Seth, let me play a little from Jay Goldberg because it is really rare to hear someone who held the job Michael Cohen did. And Donald Trump keeps the loyalist pretty close. But he also, in his own way, and in careful, I would say loyally way eluded to the reputation of Michael Cohen in New York and legal circles. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDBERG: Well, I don't think that Michael Cohen comes to Trump's officer with some sterling record background that would be attractive to me. So I don't know whether he has ever happened led litigation from Trump.

MELBER: Do you think that Donald Trump made a mistake in putting so much faith in Michael Cohen?

GOLDBERG: Well, that remains to be seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Seth, does that remain to be seen?

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it does. I mean, look. Michael Cohen holds himself out, not really as a lawyer, but as he claims and takes pride in the fact that when people call him Ray Donovan, that he is President Trump's fixer. That he is out there taking care of problems, whatever it needs to be taking a bullet for him. And you know, it is yet to be seen when he faces the pull pressure of the U.S. attorney's office as we are talking about now possible bank fraud charges which have a 30-year criminal penalty, whether he will still stand tall for Mr. Trump, take that bullet for him or instead of being coming Ray Donovan and turned to Henry Hill and flip and work with Mr. Mueller and put the stones to the President in a way that the President would clearly be uncomfortable with.

MELBER: Hank, you know both these men so you know them individually and you know something of their relationship to each other.

HANK SHENKOPF, NEW YORK POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes.

MELBER: The allegation here in what is a high bar to raid the lawyer's office for the sitting president is that there were federal crimes. Do you think that Michael Cohen could have crossed the line there in 2016?

SHENKOPF: Michael Cohen is --, and this is not a partisan vain that I'm saying this. He is a very loyal fellow. He serves his principal well. I'm not confident to judge about whether there are crimes committed not. If you are saying, will he stand up? He is going to stand up as long as he can and that's his nature and that's the nature of their relationship.

MELBER: What is the nature of their relationship? I mean, is it a business relationship or something more?

SHENKOPF: Well, Michael Cohen and I briefly talked about this some years back. He has a very strong connection to Mr. Trump. It is one that he doesn't walk away from and one that he is not un-proud of.

MELBER: And what do you think it comes from? There are people in this world in New York who say that Michael feels that he went so much farther in life than he thought he would because of one man, Donald Trump.

SHENKOPF: That's the case. It's very much a New York story. Look, I worked all over the world. But there is one thing holds true when you get out of New York. People don't view loyalty in the same way, instead you are here. It is a quality that people expect and demand in from which you can rise from the lowest point to the highest.

MELBER: How about that, Seth? You are watching prosecutor there. It is no loyalty in your town.

WAXMAN: I think it's the same. I mean, I will tell you, having flipped does dozens and dozens of people when I was a federal prosecutor, when those kinds of crimes are put in front of a potential defendant or a defendant where there are 30-year offenses and someone could be going to jail for the better part of 10 or 12 years, missing their kids upbringing, you know, being taken away from their family --

MELBER: Miss your life. Miss your whole life.

WAXMAN: Yes. Loyalty is good to only a certain extent. I have had mothers flip against daughters. CEOs flipped against CFOs. I mean, it is a different situation.

MELBER: Hold on, Seth. I wouldn't say the mother/daughter link is a little stronger than CEO/CFO link.

WAXMAN: Well, I have seen it all. I have seen it all, Ari.

MELBER: I can't believe my Michael Cohen wants to home and see his see his kids. I can't.

Renato, I turn to you though and go to the point ability flipping. Andrew Weisman was not a household name but is one of the key, aggressive prosecutors that worked under Mueller and the Enron task force, now works for him again in this case, did flip people, did go after family, did go after spouses. It was striking to me that Jay Goldberg who told me he still speaks to Donald Trump by phone, went right to the Andrew Weisman card. What does that tell you?

MARRIOTTI: Well, I would tell you there is a lot of speculation that Weisman is going to flip Cohen. I got to tell you, I'm skeptic of leaving when I see you as just because Donald Trump has the pardon power. And I imagine that Cohen feels pretty confident that he is going to get that unless there is a state offense involved the Trump can pardon.

But I do think Trumps needs to be concern about something else which is that communications between him and going were retrieve in the search warrant and that means that whatever him and Cohen were talking about potentially about the Access Hollywood tape or something else was - is that part of the subject of this federal investigation. And that has to be make Trump and his camp very, very worried.

MELBER: Yes. And I raised that with a member of Congress this week, Hank, because if you care about these rules in the constitution, you care about them whether they help or hurt to the people you happen to like. And there is certainly an issue around the potential violation of anyone's protected right let alone the president. So I think that's a big question hanging over the FBI in New York. I think it is pretty serious. I suspect they are going to feel the need to be pretty careful. When you look at the road ahead is this politics whiz as you are, is this politics as usual in everything Cohen did in 2016 or does this feel like what happens with people who are used to it. As you put it the New York way come in and try to apply that. And what is a regulated feel which is the pursuit of federal power in America.

SHENKOPF: Anybody can predict what is going to happen here. And it predict politics really means to have be hospitalized right away because it is not clear. What is clear is Michael Cohen rose, and by your own words, Ari, just a few moments ago, who rose from nothing to be something, is he going to give that up to prosecutors or is he going to walk that line and say drop dead, strong letter to follow.

His previous behavior has been drop dead, strong letter to follow. There's an argument that that's a personal decision he is going to have to make. What does it mean about our politics? It means that guys that want to stand up maybe more reluctant in the future or maybe it means that people will do that are going to do that even more so.

MELBER: Yes. Or maybe people should run campaigns in a way that doesn't have the FBI probe and what do you did in October 2016.

SHENKOPF: Absolutely, I can.

MELBER: To get a judge to approve this. Again, I don't pre-suppose where the case goes. I just report on it. But I can tell you, if a judge approved this raid there's some stuff they found that relates to October 2016.

Renato Mariotti, Seth Waxman and Hank Shenkopf, thank you all for joining me.

Up next James Comey clapping back blistering words as the book tour is about to commence. I'm going to speak to a former law school classmate of him as well as the former spokesman for Eric Holder.

And later my live interview with the top Democrat in the Senate Russia probe tonight Mark Warner on why Bob Mueller is the most important thing in Washington. He will explain tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The other top story tonight, the man that Donald Trump fired with Russia on his mind, James Comey, he is coming back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How strange is it to sit here and compare the President to a mob boss? There are things that you know but haven't said that could damage President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is President Trump obstructing justice? Should Donald Trump be impeached?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Important story. Strong background channel (ph) music as well.

Now, James Comey, though he had publicly spoken once so far. That was under oath to Congress. So the new book and these interviews will add more details in what is still open criminal probe of Trump.

But Republicans, they have a counter argument to Comey. They can cast him as (INAUDIBLE) ex-employee who leaks, a man who Democrats many leaders used to re-vile (ph) and who could be spinning his own agenda. That we know Donald Trump is under scrutiny for obstruction partly because of that kind of attacks on witnesses, slamming the FBI in tatters, saying Comey is basically a lying nut-job, those are quotes and waging these war on Comey's deputy he ultimately was fired. Legal experts say those attacks are inappropriate for any president and especially one under this investigation. But could they work? Yes. I mean if reasonable people think that Comey and McCabe are just spinning and people in the government and the FBI do spin sometimes, then that may reflect a different view of this case. Comey's word alone isn't going to bail him out with critics but evidence might.

And that's what's actually bigger tight now tonight in this looming book tour. Those famous memos that are now in Mueller's hands, do they corroborate the worst things that Comey will be saying about Trump? And what about the other memos, not just Comey's but the ones written by other people who simply sat out, saw what they believe was a problem at the White House and wrote it down. Well, those memos are starting to come out right now. It might make for even better material than any choreographed book tour, Rachel Maddow broke the big scoop with some of them last night reporting key passages from another senior DOJ official Dana Boente who served under Trump and guess what? He backs Comey's account.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: According to these notes "cloud as a result of Russia business, this makes running the country difficult. What can I do to relieve the cloud? Kept coming back to it making it hard to do business for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I'm joined by Matt Miller who worked at the DOJ under Eric Holder and Colette Holt who knows a bit about James Comey, she's not only a practicing attorney but she went to law school with him at the University of Chicago, good school, graduated in the class of 1985. Thank you both for being part of this conversation.

COLETTE HOLT, LAW SCHOOL CLASSMATE OF JAMES COMEY: Thank you.

MELBER: Matt, the notes, what do they mean?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE ANALYST: I think they are important corroborating evidence to show that Comey was telling the truth about his conversations with the President because of course the President has disputed that publicly. There's a little bit of a he said, he said and the evidence from Dana Boente as well as Comey's memo, and remember he shared his accounts with other people inside the FBI who probably took their own notes and wrote their own memos are very important in establishing who told the truth. And I think if you look at the notes that Rachel was able to report on last night, those aren't the most damning conversations that the President had with Jim Comey. He was asking himself something really inappropriate, that's a conversation the President shouldn't be having with the President, asking him to publicly clear him. But it's not something illegal. The more damming notes I think we will eventually see in some context and we'll see them publicly are -- would be the ones of the conversation of that February 14th -- more or less on that February 14th conversation where the President asked Jim Comey to back off with Mike Flynn and then kind of see his way to letting him go.

MELBER: Right. And you didn't even get into the candlelit dinner.

MILLER: Yes. I didn't, the loyalty pledge.

MELBER: You know, Colette, there's an old saying if you are going to obstruct do it by candlelight.

HOLT: Right, exactly.

MELBER: Right. You know that saying. What I want to ask you about as someone who's known Mr. Comey for so long is he does seem to be dialing up the rhetoric and I wonder whether that might backfire. He was extraordinarily careful under oath and not willing to go farther than just the narrow facts he had. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I have with the President was an effort to obstruct. That's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intentions was there and whether that's an offense.

MELBER: Colette, as you know, as an attorney, and for the benefit of our viewers, there's a big difference between the facts section of hey, somebody punched and the law section. Was it assault and battery or was it self-defense or was it something else? But now we see the reports from the ABC clip I played that seem to suggest he alludes the President is some kind of mob boss. You could argue that's a bigger statement than obstruction. Do you think he's getting out over his skis?

HOLT: No. I don't think so. I think that it's not a finally time to take ton bullies and frankly the thuggish behavior that your earlier segment described. You know, even someone as calm and cautious as Jim Comey can only take so much. And he's trying to defend himself against these attacks, these attempts to destroy him, his reputation. And so frankly I'm kind of glad that he's you know, getting out there and letting people know that really his side of the story is correct. And Rachel's reporting last night just reifies that that he takes careful notes. He's a good careful lawyer, that's what we do and that he can defend himself.

MELBER: Yes, and the notes are so key. And he was very blunt about why he took them also in that hearing under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI. Those were lies, plain and simple.

I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Since you know him, what does that tell you about how he will be conducting himself going forward?

HOLT: Well, I think she is going to conduct himself the way he always has, which is a straight shooter, kind of tell it like it is. He's going to be blunt when he needs to be. And calling the President of the United States is a very strong statement and I think he's going to continue to make his point that what Trump did was at best inappropriate and certainly potentially criminal.

MELBER: We're going to move to one other item so Colette Holt and Matt Miller, I want to thank you both. Also a quick programming note, James Comey will be on Rachel Maddow live, that's a week from tomorrow, April 19th. Put it in your calendar. But I want to speak now to a friend of the show, former Senator Robert Torricelli. Consider that at this hour Donald Trump having dinner at the White House with Republican Leaders which including Paul Ryan who's announcing he's leaving Congress. That's new tonight. Ryan taking many approach to Trump. We were talking about the Access Hollywood tape, he criticised that when it surfaced.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our Party's principles and values. I am not going to defend Donald Trump, not now, not in the future.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: Not in the future unless you count the future. Here he was after the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Let me just say, this is the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime. Something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have full confidence in the president?

RYAN: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Ryan's other theme during the Trump era has been something really kind of painful for all of us involved. Our job asking the questions at him doing what he does with questions. Look at -- look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can we believe him though, Mr. Speaker, if we can't see the tax cut?

RYAN: I don't know the answer to your question, Gayle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the President vindicated?

RYAN: I'll defer to the White House on all of these questions. That pertains to them, not this branch.

I am not going comment on the tweets of the day or the other hour.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As promised, I am joined by former Senator Robert Torricelli who knows a thing or two about Washington and Paul Ryan. What does this mean, his very sudden unexpected exit from the top post in the Republican Party other than President Trump, what does it mean for the future of the GOP?

ROBERT TORRICELLI, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, historically, I think you have to see this in a context. There's an extraordinary confluence of events going on. A Mueller investigation which will come to some conclusion later this year, a fight for Speaker of the House, meaning the Republican leadership will be weakened and an untested new leader will come in, and what increased it looks like a Democratic controlled House of representatives.

MELBER: Do you think Paul Ryan may be leaving because he thinks he's going to lose the speakership anyway?

TORRICELLI: I think it's fairly clear that they think they'll going to lose control of the House and he's lost control of his caucus. This is -- I know this day belongs to him and we are not supposed to rain on him this day but --

MELBER: Senator, as I always tell you on this show, just do you.

TORRICELLI: OK.

MELBER: Don't worry about what day it is.

TORRICELLI: So you asked an honest question, here's an honest answer.

MELBER: Please.

TORRICELLI: Here's a man who gave his career to the federal budget. The idea of controlling, spending and balancing and restoring fiscal integrity of the United States, and I'm after the party but I respect that because it was a worthwhile role, and then decided to become part of the tax bill. Two days ago, CBO announces we're going to have a one trillion, trillion dollar federal budget. We are going to pass the next decade 100 percent of GDP. The standard of living we know in America today in our economic health is not sustainable with either of those facts. The only country to ever tried it is Japan and they went into a 20-year recession.

MELBER: But you're saying -- you're saying that Paul Ryan devoted his life to a type of economic policy and a set of claims about how to run the Federal Government. And he came to the most important job in Congress and you're saying it was a fraud and they're not doing it.

TORRICELLI: And I'm sorry, but he let America down. He decided to get along and go along with Donald Trump and voted for something, shepherd it into law which jeopardize this country, something he cannot possibly believe in. That has to be a calculation as he looks now about his career and his life and what he's done and why he shouldn't stay and he shouldn't stay.

MELBER: Do you think that this sends a message to younger Republicans? I mean, we are seeing a lot of Republicans who if they ever tried, we just showed the history to stand up to Trump, they stopped doing that. They went along or dodged the questions. Now, some of them are leaving. Doesn't that leave this more firmly Trump's party than ever?

TORRICELLI: Yes, without a doubt. First, it will now lead to -- I mean, I've been part of this in the House during my career. You identify with your leader, you're part of this team. When the leader goes your role in the Congress can diminish considerably. And if it is and you've been there a few years, it's time to go for the doors. You will see a wave of exits now and then that leads to exactly what you're saying. The institutional decline of the Republican Party that began with Donald Trump's victory will now accelerate. The traditional Republicans, the standard small-town conservatives will leave. This is becoming Donald Trump's party.

MELBER: And for a lot of Democrats as well as the moderate Republicans who are leaving, they viewed that as a negative thing to appreciate your analysis and your candor to paraphrase --

TORRICELLI: Well, but Ari --

MELBER: We're out of time so real quick.

TORRICELLI: The structure of the Republican Party is not in anybody's (INAUDIBLE) including Democrats. We need a strong Republican Party. We need the competition, we need the thoughtfulness, we need the balance. This serves no one.

MELBER: Right. And to your point, as you used to do it in the Senate, you need someone on that other side of the table. And if the people showing up only want to tweet fan fiction and not actually work out, as you said a bunch of --

TORRICELLI: The system doesn't function.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. Always good to see you here on THE BEAT.

TORRICELLI: Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead, Bob Mueller is closing in. Why did the feds raid Michael Cohen? Why is Access Hollywood back in the news and what does it mean for the Russia probe? Senator Warner joins me live. I'm also going to do a Zuckerberg fact check when we are back in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally faced down Congress and we learn two big takeaways. First Facebook isn't making any major changes to its business model to address these controversies. Here's Zuckerberg claiming that users already control the product.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: People that have a control over how their information is used in ads in the product today. On Facebook, you have control over your information. Every piece of content that you share on Facebook you own and you have complete control over who sees it and how you share it and you can remove it at any time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That's not exactly true. Most lawmakers didn't tangle with the detail of that and that may be because they didn't seem to have a lot of expertise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, we run ads.

HATCH: I see.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Is Twitter the same thing as what you do?

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: Let's say I'm e-mailing of a Black Panther within WhatsApp, do I get a WhatsApp -- do I get a Black Panther banner ad?

REP. BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI: What was Facemash and is it still up and running?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What was Facemash? Now, some members of Congress did raise important points like when did Facebook learn about the foreign meddling? What did they do over it? Why did they keep users in the dark over so many privacy breaches? But a lot of times we notice, when those questions got pointed, Mark Zuckerberg turned to corporate speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: I'll have my team get back to you.

We will review it and then get back to you.

I think we should have our team follow up with yours. I can certainly have my team get back to you on any specifics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That may sound evasive to any normal person, but in Wall Street, the markets liked what they saw. It was Facebook's best trading day in two years after Zuckerberg's testimony Tuesday. That boost his own net worth back up by $3 billion. Not a bad day's work. Makes you wonder whether he should have testified earlier. The optics game which is what often Washington devolves to also worked for Mark Zuckerberg. His company and the valley in general have given a lot of money to both parties. We pointed that out. And so he was allowed to testify without being sworn in. In the past, say, when oil or tobacco executives there talking about potential mistakes and affect all of us, they've had to do that hand raising and swear to tell the truth in public view. This is an observation of course about Congress because they let Mark Zuckerberg skip that step. Now Facebook still needs to address a lot more. There's the censorship of abroad that we've reported on, their willingness to work in countries like China and Turkey. They need to get much more specific about the overlap in the ad targeting between the Trump campaign and fake Russian accounts, something Mueller is allegedly probing and when Facebook discovered that Russians were using this platform to do all of their meddling. And the other things that are important are whether Facebook employees were doing the wrong kind of thing and knowingly so with all that time they were helping Cambridge Analytica or at least not falling up on what they did. Did Trump's digital firm ever do things with other governments that Facebook knew or had reason to know about and how did they deal with it in real time? And then there's the big question that hangs over any Congressional hearing, how should the entity involved in this place Facebook, how should they be regulated?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: There will need to be some regulation. So my position is not there should be no regulation but I also think that you have to be careful about what regulation you put in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We've reported a lot on Mark Zuckerberg's failures at the company. What he just said there is totally fair. You have to be careful with regulation and we just showed some of the members of Congress and why they might not be up to getting all these regulation done in a careful way. But Facebook, like much of the Valley, is misleading when they claim they're open to all of this. We documented how hard they have fought against all kinds of reasonable regulation to things as basic as disclosures of when you're looking at political ads. You see one on T.V., you know it's an ad. On Facebook, you often don't. And that opens the door to a lot more abuse. The biggest thing to come in all of this is the dialogue. It's finally started, it started under oath and it has to continue.

Now coming up, there are reports Donald Trump is in a full meltdown over the Mueller probe, the FBI raid on Michael Cohen, has changed the game in the White House. Now the news sighting on Access Hollywood, I'm going to ask the top Senate Democrat in the Russia probe Mark Warner live all about it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT. And as promised, live right now, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee involved in the Russia probe. Thank you for joining me on a very busy evening and news night.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: First question is, given these reports, do you view the FBI probing the Trump campaign's response to the Access Hollywood tape as a legitimate line of criminal inquiry?

WARNER: Listen, I'm not going to comment on what the FBI may be investigating or not or what we heard from Mr. Cohen or not. I will simply say that, and Ari, you're much more of a legal expert than I, there's an extraordinarily high bar for a special counsel to turn over to the another U.S. Attorney, then has to get approval by a judge.

MELBER: Certainly.

WARNER: You've got to have some pretty good material before you've had the kind of grant that was made for the search of Mr. Cohen's premises.

MELBER: I know that you're very careful what you can say. Was Mr. Cohen forthright in his dealings with the Congress? I'm not going to comment on that.

MELBER: Understood. Let me turn -- I was prepared for that so let me turn to something else that was quite notable. You took a big stance in December and went down to the Senate floor to issue a warning. And given recent reports, it's especially interesting. Let's look at that day in December.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARNER: I rise today concerned about the threats to the Special Counsel's critical investigation. Congress must make clear to the President that firing the Special Counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Many wondered why you were doing that then. Today, The New York Times reports that in that same month of December, there was another attempt by Donald Trump to fire Bob Mueller. Did you have indication of that?

WARNER: I didn't have any prior indication. There were a series of rumors and it had seemed again, it was a period where the President seemed to be going a bit off script in terms of his tweeting. And I raised those issues then and if they were important in December, they're even more important now because, since that time, we've had Mr. Mueller issue a series of indictments against Russians. We've had other confessions and guilty pleas. This -- his investigation has made more progress. Our Senate Intelligence Committee investigation has made more progress. We're still receiving literally thousands of documents even though the Trump transition is trying to claim a certain exotic privilege that I don't think exists in law. So if it was important then, it's even doubly more important now and it appears that the President's use of his Twitter account has gotten even more extraordinary and more unusual.

MELBER: You mentioned the Senate probe. On the House side, there are Republicans who are threatening to put pressure, contempt or even impeachment against Rod Rosenstein who oversees the probe. Is there any grounds for that?

WARNER: Ari, I believe what I've heard from the House is that they were not only going to potentially sanction a long-time professional Republican appointee, Mr. Rosenstein, but also sanction or impose penalties on Mr. Trump's own FBI Director, Republican Christopher Wray. And what I think this is, is this is an effort to try to divert attention and what I find so troubling is that you've got White House and White House allies trying to basically impugn the integrity of virtually everybody who works with the FBI and everybody who works at the Department of Justice. That's not the way our country operates. You have that ability to undermine people's confidence in our institutions of justice, the next thing is people start choosing which laws they want to follow and which ones they choose not to follow which may be the lead up to potentially executive action where I think the President would take us into a constitutional crisis if he starts going about firing people like Mueller or Rod Rosenstein.

MELBER: Well, I know that you choose your words carefully and you choose your moments when you push back and that's why it is striking to hear you say that tonight. Senator Mark Warner, I really appreciate you making time for us on THE BEAT.

WARNER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: That is our show and a busy one. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: House on fire. Let's play HARDBALL.

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