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Trump's first presser since FBI raid on Cohen. TRANSCRIPT: 04/17/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Carmen Ortiz; Eric Boehlert; Ekoh Yankah; Nancy Erika Smith

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 17, 2018 Guest: Carmen Ortiz; Eric Boehlert; Ekoh Yankah; Nancy Erika Smith

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. And there is no denial of service on Ari. His Web site is working.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Let me tell you something. They say death and taxes are the only two things that aren't avoidable and I prefer taxes.

TODD: Fair. If you are going to make me pick, I will take taxes too. OK.

MELBER: Thank you, Chuck. I will see you soon.

Sean Hannity is in trouble tonight for secretly employing a Trump lawyer and not Michael Cohen. Another one in a story breaking right now.

FOX anchor Sean Hannity has, of course, been facing heat since the bomb dropped in that New York courtroom Monday exposing him as the third mystery client of Michael Cohen, the Trump lawyer under federal criminal investigation.

But tonight, that odd revelation is morphing into something even odder. An apparent pattern with Sean Hannity employs several of Donald Trump's top lawyers while reporting on them and interviewing them without disclosing them. In fact, as recently as 2017, Hannity tapped two prominent lawyers linked to Donald Trump, Victoria Toensing and Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, of course, the top attorney who is left on Trump's defense team in the Mueller probe. Toensing's husband you may remember briefly joined Sekulow's team and she was rumored to be headed over as well, then they both bowed out over alleged conflicts.

Sean Hannity tonight now trying to explain why he hires so many Trump lawyers and hides the fact from his viewers. And FOX is on the defense as well. They says they have surprise at this odd news although they say they are backing Hannity. And he, meanwhile, has called the scrutiny on him corrupt.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Yes, I did have an attorney client conversations mostly over real estate. You know, it is just so corrupt. It is such a double standard and it is so obnoxious on so many different levels.

MELBER: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees. I did have occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen. He is a great attorney about legal questions I had. They never involved any matter, any, sorry to disappoint so many, matter between me or a third party or third groups at all. My questions exclusively almost focused on real estate.


MELBER: Pay no attention to the lawyerly denials fitted in there. Here is what is important. Hannity did use sew Cohen for something and he still wants to keep that something secret. And to be fair and clear for you tonight, I want to tell you, as a matter of law, Sean Hannity does have the solid claim to attorney client privilege if he believed Cohen was representing him at the time and would have the same privilege with the Trump's top Russia lawyer as well.

But the bigger question for Sean Hannity, why hide it and why when you think about that drama yesterday? Why did the President as allies again find themselves playing defense on controversy sparked by the stormy Daniels saga? And why do Trump and Cohen seem so incensed about whatever it is feds may have found in Michael Cohen's office?

I'm joined by former Watergate special prosecutor Nick Ackerman, Ekow Yankah, a professor of criminal law at Cardozo law school, Eric Boehlert, a senior writer at Shareblue Media and a known critic of the way FOX News operates as well as Carmen Ortiz, a former federal prosecutor. She handled many high profile cases including, you see her there discussing the prosecution of the Boston marathon bomber.

Nick Ackerman, I begin with you. If it wasn't bad, why hide it?

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, it makes no sense because the privilege belongs to Sean Hannity. It belongs to the client. He could have simply decided not to do anything here because if he did nothing and he has nothing to hide and he didn't do anything criminally, the odds are this information on whatever in the files relates to him would never see the light of day.

This stuff doesn't becomes public afterward. There's no FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, request that could be honored. There is no way. This is all covered by grand jury secrecy. So you have to ask yourself what is going on here. It's one of two things. He was either lending his name to the Michael Cohen defense so they could come up with another client and claim attorney-client privilege over a million documents which they couldn't justify with Trump and the other individual.

MELBER: Right. That's - let's slow down. That is important. That's door number one which is it relates back to trying to help Trump which is a person here at the nexus of these two clients, if they are clients. That's door number. What's door number two?

ACKERMAN: Door number two is if Hannity was involved in some criminal matter. That's the only way any of this evidence gets out, it will be covered.

MELBER: Right. We don't know anything like that to be true.

ACKERMAN: We don't know anything like that other than it was involved in real estate apparently. That could be Trump tower.

MELBER: And almost all real estate, but not only exclusively to real estate. Does this tell you something about FOX News which is a powerful podium for Donald Trump?

ERIC BOEHLERT, SENIOR WRITER, SHAREBLUE MEDIA: It's beyond a podium. I mean, they are working in concert. I mean, FOX News has obliterated all boundaries between media politics law. It is all one big stew.

You know, Cohen, Hannity, Trump, they are all came of age in New York City, right. This is the game they played in New York City. They used New York Post when they wanted to. They used FOX News when they wanted to. They talk to Cohen when they needed a fix. Now they are taking it to Washington, D.C. and there's a lot of eyes on them.

Look. This is off the charts in terms of FOX News, in terms of behavior, in terms of journalism and ethics which we really shouldn't talk in the same sentence to FOX News. Anyone who is surprised that they are standing by Sean Hannity hasn't been paying attention to FOX News. The only surprise is they waited 20 hours to give the appearance they cared about optics, about anything. They are all on board for this pseudo criminal enterprise that we are watching in the White House.

MELBER: You are a student at FOX News although you are one of those students that is very angry in class. You are studying but you don't like - I don't like what I see.

When you look at this, why do you think this was important to Sean Hannity? In other words, do you think that he liked the association with the President through various counsel? Do you think he was just not that creative and thus reached into the green room as one does? You know, I stop by green room for coffee. Sometimes you pick up a coffee in the green room. Sometimes you pick up, you know, counsel, two lawyers, whatever. Is it that?

BOEHLERT: No. It's all part of being part of the sphere, part of being the inner circle, of being - yes, of being part of the few people that Trump will talk to. We know he talks, you know, he calls Hannity for advice on the Middle East about national security and things like that.

So it's using his platform. These people are far more powerful with their TV jobs than they are inside the White House working for Trump, well, after two weeks they dismiss them. He doesn't listen to any of them.

So I think it is all part of being part of the power center. And again, there are no boundaries for Sean Hannity. He doesn't think twice, gee, should I hire his fixer? Should I be part of this pseudo administration? It is all part of what they do? It's astonishing. It's off the charts.

MELBER: Carmen, you have a lot of experience in complex litigation but this is a weird one. I don't know if you have ever been asked the question should a prominent news host who interviews the President and his lawyer disclose that he also secretly employs those lawyers in the middle of covering that when one of those lawyers has been, you know, raided by the feds. Tell us something.

CARMEN ORTIZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think he had been really concerned about appearing objective and neutral and fair that might have been an issue. But the reality is that we all know that -- and certainly appearances indicates that Sean Hannity is part of that inner circle. He is constantly complimenting the President. The President compliments him.

And I think here though, he wants to have it both ways. He doesn't want the appearance that Cohen as his attorney because he doesn't want any indication that perhaps he involved with, you know, that Cohen was representing him in dealings with third parties or any kind of payments or anything enlisted.

So it very well may have been questions involving real estate transaction, opportunities, investment opportunities. So he wants to protect those conversations. So he have kind of indicating that when he did have some conversations with him, they were sort of privilege then he might have given him $10 that would have set up that attorney-client relationship. But he goes out of his way to say that Michael Cohen never represented him. Never billed him. Never handled any matter for him.

And so, I think that it is really important that we realized that I don't think they try to pretend to be have the degree of objectivity. And certainly, Hannity has not. He is very biased in his reporting. I'm not even sure he really considers himself a real journalist as opposed to sort of an opinion or a columnist.

MELBER: Let me play -- echo Michael Avenatti who viewers know has been involved in all this. But is Michael Cohen's adversary and has some insights on it. He was saying today the timeline he sees for potential charges in the Cohen matter.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: We have got a federal investigation now into alleged criminal conduct by Michael Cohen. And I think that's multi-facetted. It looks at a number of different issues. I think there's little to know doubt that he is going to be indicted in short order, likely within the next 90 days if not sooner.


MELBER: You teach criminal law. How would you teach the same point that he is speculating on there?

EKOW YANKAH, PROFESSOR, CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL: You know, this is actually - it is a difficult case because I think we are so engaged in what is a reality television presidency that if you are teaching it in lie, you feel much less sexy, right.

For the average viewer, it feels like this is slow. The Mueller investigation has been going on forever while these people have indicted. And if you are watching one of the million television shows with initials we would be halfway through by now, right. But in fact, this investigation going credibly quickly, right.

The comparison would be, forgive my having say so, but the comparison would be a long, drawn out multi-year investigation of, for example, a mafia organization or criminal corporate entity. And those take years.

MELBER: I see you have been inspired by James Comey's mafia analogy.

YANKAH: I actually, as much as I truly despise what this presidency has come to stand for, I take no pleasure in being able to so easily make an analogy between the President of the United States and the mafia re-count investigation.

But I actually think, we ought to be calm about whether or not an indictment comes in 30 days or 60 days. Kimba Woods has put some bricks on this.

MELBER: Right. Or - and we ought to be calm about the fact that like every other potential defendant or subject of probe that I have covered on Michael has not been charged and even when charged is presumed innocent. And so there is a lot more to learn.

Having said that, we like to gather all views on this show. I think viewers of THE BEAT know that. And we had the opportunity to sit down with the man who was Donald Trump's top lawyer before Michael Cohen, his exclusive top litigator.

And so, when you think about the focus over the last day on Cohen's clients and the heat on Cohen, remember, he is of course is under investigation for these serious federal crimes which include bank fraud. And so, I spoke with Jay Goldberg who is I mentioned was Donald Trump's lawyer for many years up until Cohen took over that role. And one of the things he told me is that even though he is a big Trump loyalist, he sees criminal exposure for Michael Cohen.


JAY GOLDBERG, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: The most recent situation, I don't know if you realize that bank fraud carries a penalty of about up to 30 years and a $1 million fine. That's a very big hammer to hold over a person.

MELBER: You are referring to the pressure on the person who become Donald Trump's main lawyer after you?


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 use it for purpose b is a candidate for prosecution.

MELBER: Well, as you know as a lawyer there's opinions of law and then there is our view of what the law does. Some of what it does may be unfair. It sounds like you are saying this law is overbroad and perhaps in your view unfair but you are also saying there's criminal exposure here for Mr. Cohen?



MELBER: And he went onto echo, Carmen, that he does see that. Do you share that legal analysis that these types of federal bank laws can be very tough on potential defendants and what is your analysis in the Cohen case?

ORTIZ: They can be very difficult. But honestly, I mean, the bank fraud is lying using deceptive practices to defraud the bank to get the money. So yes, if he tried to get, for example, an equity loan or used an equity loan to pay, make a payment for another purpose, that could constitute bank fraud.

But remember, they - these are very - they are serious allegations right now. I mean, he is presumed innocent. But for the government to be able to obtain search warrants to search his home, hotel, office, safety deposit box. That's a lot of probable cause. And we really don't know. We are talking about bank fraud but there could be other federal crimes that maybe implicated here. We just don't know enough at this time.

MELBER: When you used to get these kind of warrants, just briefly, you would have to show what to a judge? You have to show actual evidence and leads?

ORTIZ: You would have to show that you had evidence to believe that the individual targeted, in this case Michael Cohen, is suspected of certain criminal activity. And I just -- you have to specify what statutes, federal statutes you have been violated and why you believe there's probable cause in the different places that are to be searched. And each individual played that there is evidence of those particular crimes that you are alleging. And it's not just showing the judge. Before you get to the judge there's this whole hierarchy of approval levels that you ever to go through within - certainly, within the U.S. attorney's office and then at the department of justice because searching an office, certainly an attorney's office is not a matter that is taken lightly because of the attorney-client privilege, you know, and other possible, you know, situations that can arise when dealing in situation like that.

MELBER: And as you know, for people who host a TV show, you have attorney- client privilege with most of your quest guests. I mean, that's pretty standard.

Carmen Ortiz, I want to thank you for joining us first time on THE BEAT. And we appreciate your expertise. And to some of our other heavy hitters repeat players, Nick Ackerman, Ekoh Yankah and Eric Boehlert, thank you all very much.

Coming up, we turn to Stormy Daniels with a new $100,000 reward unveiling a sketch of the alleged man she claims threatened her on behalf of Donald Trump.

Also my break down of Sean Hannity's disclosures and conflicts. I'm going to show the tape later on tonight.

And live on the beat tonight, Alan Dershowitz tonight will chop it up and get into the law, Trump and Michael Cohen.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR, MARYLAND LAW SCHOOL: Sean, I do want to say that I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show.


MELBER: I'm Ari Melber. You are watching the beat on MSNBC.



STORMY DANIELS, FILM ADULT STAR: A guy walked up on me and said leave Trump alone. Forget this story. And then leaned around and looked at my daughter and said a beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom and then she was gone.


MELBER: Legally, that was probably the most significant thing Stormy Daniels allege in that now famous "60 Minutes" appearance that she was allegedly threatened to keep quiet about her link to Donald Trump. Now, today, they are releasing this, a sketch that they say reflects the man who threatened her. She and her lawyer also went on the "View" to offer a reward for information about who this is.


AVENATTI: We are offering $100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of this man. And if people go to, they could send us the information that they have.


MELBER: Even as Michael Cohen continues to deal with the criminal investigation into his work, this civil case against him and Trump is still active. And the list of women who silence Cohen reportedly bought, well, that is growing.

And for a deeper look at these issues I'm turning to attorney Nancy Erica Smith who has handled these kind of cases as well as the "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Shelby Holliday.

Nancy, there are elements of spectacle and PR to this. But there's also a person, a human being that we see here in Stormy Daniels who appears to be standing by her word that she is not going away.

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, ATTORNEY: She is. She is tired of being bullied as she said today. And I think after the MeToo movement started, a lot of women are feeling this way. They are tired --.

MELBER: Although, she does not allege anything nonconsensual. She emphasizes.

SMITH: I know. But that's really funny because - maybe it's because of the kind of work she does, but really it is text book sexual harassment to dangle the job out say for "the Apprentice" for instance. She said, well, when I got there, I felt I kind of put myself in the situation so I have to go through with it. That's a weird way that women are forced to consider of consent. And then when she said no the second time, the job immediately was no longer dangled. That's actually textbook sexual harassment.

MELBER: So, you are making an important point which is there are the alleged fact here in this matter which is a civil matter. And then there is the interpretation of them. And her interpretation the way she has spoken out is not to draw a legal allegation or inference of harassment or mistreatment. You are saying in your expertise you might come to a different legal conclusion.

SMITH: Exactly. I'm not telling that she has to change her view. It's very important that in the law, we recognize it as the reasonable woman standard. Frankly, somebody who is an adult film actress might not be considered a reasonable women for purposes of deciding when you are a victim of sexual harassment.

MELBER: Very interesting.

Let me play more of her on the "View" today, Shelby.


DANIELS: I would have gone to the police and would have gone, OK, a man approached me. This is what he said to me. He told me to, you know, leave Mr. Trump alone. And the very next question the detective would asked me, why would somebody tell you to leave Mr. Trump alone? I would had to answer that question which was not public at the time? And I would have to tell an entire police department and police reports are public record, I know that for fact, I had sex with Donald Trump.


MELBER: She is describing the bind she is in for a situation that in the public realm people historically have gone on the attack of saying why didn't one immediately report everything.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. And I think this was a really interesting interview. We got a lot more information from Stormy than we did, not more than a 60 minutes interview, but a lot of information that added to that 60-minutes interview.

I think she was believable. I think she was compelling. But one thing I just can't really figure out how to square is that my colleagues at Journal who broke this original story the reason why we are all talking about Stormy Daniels today have done some amazing reporting on how she had been trying to sell her story since 2011. And they have published emails from her manager to different magazines and she wanted the story out there.

So when she says that she - and I would need to look at the timeline because we are not talking about dates of this threat. But I'm just not - I don't know how to square fact that she was embarrassed to admit it yet and wanted to sell her story multiple times and then came back during the 2016 election and also was trying to sell her story.

But I do think that this was a great interview. And I think Stormy - when Stormy talks and her lawyer let Stormy talk, it is compelling.

SMITH: Yes. I find her to be very credible. And I think that she -- the world has changed. And the MeToo movement has really changed the way women view ourselves and what we are willing to be put up with and what are we willing to shut up about.

So I can imagine being very frightened. My clients who have sued powerful people, who (INAUDIBLE) has admitted surveilling and threatening felt very. Very threatened. It feels scary. So if we can connect the dots between this gentleman and (INAUDIBLE) who is very close to Donald Trump or to Michael Cohen, I think that's an important element of understanding where Stormy Daniels was coming from. And I also think many women don't think the police are going to be the best place to go when you feel --.

HOLLIDAY: I can understand feeling terrified here in those words. I understand she is still getting threats today which has got to be a terrible feeling, yes.

MELBER: There are very important points from each of you. Thank you very much Shelby Holliday and attorney Nancy Erika Smith.

A programming note, Rachel Maddow will be interviewing James Comey Thursday night. I will not be missing that.

Up ahead, Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity failing his owned test on disclosures. We have the video to prove it.

And Stormy Daniels' toll on Trump, there is a political analyst who has been on THE BEAT who made this very prediction. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump, I can't believe this is coming out of my mouth but I think the person to have out played Donald Trump is a porn star.




DERSHOWITZ: Sean, I do want to say that I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show.

HANNITY: You understand the nature of it, professor?

DERSHOWITZ: Yes. I understand.

HANNITY: I'm going to deal with this later of the show. It was minimal.

DERSHOWITZ: You should have said.


MELBER: Sean Hannity taking heat from all sides for hiding some of his links to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. That was legal scholar Alan Dershowitz speaking truth to Hannity last night.

And tonight, Hannity is actually in additional hot water because he used other Trump linked lawyers who appear on his show without apparently disclosing their work including Trump defenders on FOX like Victoria Toensing and the top Trump lawyer left on Donald Trump's Russia defense team jay Sekulow who joins Michael Cohen in what is now apparently a secret club of Hannity guests who do legal work for Hannity.

Here is Hannity interviewing Trump's lawyer who is also his lawyer about the Trump and the Russia probe.


HANNITY: So let me guess. So then I'm going to go into finances and the fact that Donald Trump sold a property to some Russian oligarch in what, 2008 and made a profit because the Russians knew then that he would run for President and win. Is that how that worked ten years ago?

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Well, that is so beyond the mandate that is existence for the special counsel that our position would be they cannot reach any of those issues.


MELBER: I'm joined now by the man you just saw on television, Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School and the Author of Trumped Up, How The Criminalization Of Political Differences Endangers Democracy. And I want to mention in a few minutes, I'm also going to speak to our other legal friend Maya Wiley, a former Counsel to the Mayor of New York City. But I begin with you Professor Dershowitz, you told me to call you Alan?


MELBER: I want to say to get it out of the way, to the best of my knowledge, you're not my lawyer.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, we can talk about that. But you know, people come to me every day, hand me a dollar on the street or at cocktail parties and say I just need you to give me a little of legal advice about my brother in law, and I say having taught legal ethics for 35 years, no, I don't give legal advice to anybody except that they're my client. We need a retainer agreement. That (INAUDIBLE) for money, I do have my kids as pro bono, but we have to have an agreement that I will not disclose what you've told me.

MELBER: Last night, you made the point we just showed about Michael Cohen. Tonight, we learn that Sean Hannity also used the legal services of Jay Sekulow. Should he have disclosed that?

DERSHOWITZ: Yes. I think you make full disclosure when in doubt. Having said that, I don't think anybody believes that Hannity would have said or done anything different had he never met Michael Cohen, had he never met Jay Sekulow. Hannity is Hannity. He's going to do anything to defend Donald Trump and to attack Mueller. Everybody knows that. So he didn't substantively deceive his audience but he should have made the disclosure.

MELBER: Why do you think he's employing so many lawyers who also work for the President?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, because they all have the same interest. They all love Donald Trump. He can do no wrong and they're part of a club. I'm not part of that club. You know, people try to lump me together with these people. I'm an independent defender of the Constitution. I am free to criticize Donald Trump as I have. For example, when Trump sent out a tweet saying Comey ought to go to jail, I railed at President Trump and said, you're doing the same thing they're doing to you. You're trying to criminalize political differences. No, Comey ought not to go to jail and neither should you.

MELBER: There is something a little different though, which is unlike most Americans, perhaps because of your career and status, you do dine with the President, which I believe you did recently. I saw on Fox News, I'm going to play this as well because it's consistent with the point you raised when asked about advice to the President, you explained the only way he's going to get your "advice." Take a look.


DERSHOWITZ: Look, I don't give advice to the President except on television. If he wants to listen, he can listen.


MELBER: If he's watching Fox or THE BEAT he does hear from you though. What is most important that he do in the middle of this Mueller probe?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, first of all, I was on television about Clinton, I've been on television about everybody who has been charged with crime.

MELBER: Many things.

DERSHOWITZ: And people can listen or not listen. Look, what I said on television is don't pardon, don't fire, don't tweet and don't testify, very simple advice.

MELBER: That's four don'ts.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, the testifying is really important because we now learned a secret from Comey. Here's a secret, he said why did I write an exoneration letter of Clinton before we interviewed her. Well, he said, in an investigation, we make up our minds first. We figure it out and then we bring in the person like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to see if they're going to lie. Comey is telling Trump.

MELBER: He did write that in the book.

DERSHOWITZ: He's telling Trump, if you come and testify it's only because we want to put you in a perjury trap. That's a very good argument for why Donald Trump should not speak to special prosecutors if he can avoid it.

MELBER: Well, prosecutors as you know, say that they're not looking to do a perjury trap just because they want to test someone's veracity. Let he play something else that James Comey said that's turning a lot of heads as he's on this book tour because he is of course involved in the Mueller probe.

DERSHOWITZ: He's a major witness.

MELBER: He's a major witness and no one can prejudge what they find and what should be done about it. I think (INAUDIBLE) and yet James Comey just said this.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.


MELBER: Does he show poor judgment this week in weighing in that way when the probe isn't over and he's a witness?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely. And if I were Donald Trump's lawyer, which I'm not, I would be jumping up and down for joy about Comey's book tour because he's going to have to be cross-examined, and you love to cross-examine a witness who have written a book, who has manuscripts, earlier drafts of the book, who is being paid to write the book. It is the joy of a criminal defense attorney's day when he can get to cross-examine a witness who has exposed himself in this way.

MELBER: If you're right that Comey is hurting himself and I have reported on this show about some of the apparent lapses in judgment based on his own writings in the book, why do you think he's doing this?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think he needs to vindicate himself. Look, I understand being hated by both sides. Believe me. But he's being hated with a passion.

MELBER: You feel that you have haters?

DERSHOWITZ: I know I have haters. You should read my e-mails. The Trump people don't think I'm supportive enough of Trump and my old friends on the left think I'm a Trump lapdog.

MELBER: Did you ever tell them don't hate the player, don't hate the lawyer, hate the lawyer game?

DERSHOWITZ: I talked about McCarthyism a lot. That when I defend the Constitution -- you know, I started when I was in Brooklyn College. I defended the right of communist to speak. I hated communist, and they called me communist, the McCarthyites did. And then I defended the rights of Nazis (INAUDIBLE). They called me a Nazi. I defended the rights of unpopular criminals, I'm a murderer. That's McCarthyism. Now, however, the enemies of McCarthyism are railing against me because I'm supporting the Constitution. Remember, it was (INAUDIBLE) who said, first they come after the SOBs, they establish the precedents and use it against the rest of us.

MELBER: And it's a point many free speech litigators make. I want to play for you --

DERSHOWITZ: You know, the issue of free speech litigators --

MELBER: But let me play for you -- well, before we go there, let me play for you Michael Avenatti who is another lawyer who does appear on television. I don't know if you've seen his work but he's making some big claims. I want you to handicap.


MELBER: Here he was today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is the intersection between your case specifically which is about invalidating an NDA and the raid on Monday?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: Well, it could be way of money laundering, it could be by way of bank fraud or it could be by way of campaign finance violations as it relates to this $130, 000 payment. Al Capone was not convicted of murder. He was convicted of tax evasion.


MELBER: He's in a civil matter involving the President and Michael Cohen. What do you think of him weighing in on this other criminal case and what do you think of Michael Avenatti's lawyering up to this point?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, first of all, he's making my point completely. That as you can find crimes anywhere if you look hard enough. He's already looking and finding crimes, money laundering, bank fraud -- what else? You know, you can find crimes if you look hard enough. It was I think Beria Lavrenti -- Beria, the head of the KGB who said to Stalin, show me the man and I'll find you the crime. Special prosecutors --

MELBER: Are you comparing Michael Avenatti to the KGB, sir?

DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no, I'm not. I'm just saying you can find crimes. That's why civil libertarians have to be --

MELBER: Is he being an effective lawyer here?

DERSHOWITZ: He is. He's being a tough lawyer, effective lawyer. He's representing his client and he's absolutely right. Civil matters can turn into criminal matters, ask Bill Clinton.

MELBER: And before I let you go, and I also turn to Maya Wiley for her take on much of this, I have to get into the famous collusion question because you have argued very forcibly and on THE BEAT special, we did about this as you may recall that people overstate collusion as a process that isn't a crime. But take a look at this new report at McClatchy which NBC, I want to be clear has not verified, that says they have sources about Mueller finding evidence that Michael Cohen did go to Prague during the campaign where there's an allegation that he may have strategized with a Kremlin figure about Russian meddling, including potential felonious e-mail hacking. If that kind of thing comes on the board if there's evidence of that, would you say that's the kind of crime that's connected to collusion?

DERSHOWITZ: Let me tell you it depends on what he means by Russian hacking. If the Russian hacking already occurred and the Trump campaign said oh you've hacked. Give us the information. We want to use it. That's like the New York Times publishing Manning, Snowden, and the Pentagon Papers. If on the other hand, he said, hack. Let me tell you who to hack. Here's the Republican -- the Democratic National Committee. Of course, that's accessory to a felony.

MELBER: That would be accessory to felony. Professor Alan Dershowitz, we always learn a lot from you hearing about you, hearing about your haters, hearing your analysis. I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT, sir.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

MELBER: Maya, I want to turn to you. We went through a lot picking up though on the Prague point. This is a place where Michael Cohen would have exposure that relates back to the thing that Mueller is investigating.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Absolutely. And first of all, he also may have a perjury charge or charges added depending on what he had said under oath around Prague. He's actually been quite vocal about saying I didn't do it. I didn't go. We don't know. And I think it's important to say we don't know. But certainly, if he did go, then the question is what happened there? What were the conversations? It's going to be a long process and I think it's critically important that we do lot the process play out without making conclusions. But I would say Michael Cohen has a lot to worry about.

MELBER: And what do you think about Sean Hannity employing or having legal work done by so many Trump lawyers which is something I just didn't know we would be covering tonight.

WILEY: Well, there's nothing illegal about who you choose as your lawyer.


WILEY: So I think, first of all, we want to make sure we're not conflating that with the criminal investigation unless or until some additional information comes forward. I think the fact that Sean Hannity did not disclose is in and of itself very problematic for our democracy and for the notion that we will be told what kind of relations people have when commenting. I certainly agree with Mr. Dershowitz that there's no secret to who Hannity is friends with or not friends with. It's not really a close secret but it's still important I think that we hold journalistic ethics, just like we hold legal ethics, just like we hold the (INAUDIBLE) that protect us.

MELBER: And let me ask you about something I was learning about tonight. The best part of coming on THE BEAT is you learn things. What do you think about Dershowitz' four laws for Trump who is known to watch television so he may have heard the laws, don't tweet, don't pardon, don't testify and don't fire prosecutors?

WILEY: I think it is very sound advice. If I were Donald Trump -- and I think his legal team has been saying all the above to him quite frankly.

MELBER: All the above but he doesn't follow it.

WILEY: But he hasn't followed it and I think it's -- all you have to do is read news reports to know he would be in a stronger position today if he followed those three pieces of advice.

MELBER: Final word before we go.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, if he hadn't fired Comey, we would not be here today.

MELBER: It wouldn't be this way.

DERSHOWITZ: But I do think that the defense team has been focusing too much attention on the Comey investigation, about obstruction of justice and collusion where I don't think he has as much vulnerability as the potential vulnerability for pre-presidential activities of a business and an allegedly sexual nature. That's where his problems are.

WILEY: Can I --

MELBER: Briefly.

WILEY: Just briefly, I do want to say though, this is where I do disagree with you Mr. Dershowitz because I think there really is a lot more indication that there may be some serious crimes here that have been committed and that it is critically important. I think we would be sitting here if Comey had not been fired. I just think the obstruction charge would not be one of the charges.

MELBER: Right, but then there may not have arisen a special counsel. I want to give my thanks to the law firm of Dershowitz and Wiley tonight. Thank you.

DERSHOWITZ: We'll make it Wiley and Dershowitz.

MELBER: Wiley and Dershowitz, even better. Thank you both. Up ahead, I'm going to speak to a special guest of THE BEAT who is one of the very first people to predict Stormy Daniels might be Trump's Achilles heel when we're back in 90 seconds.



LIZ PLANK, SENIOR PRODUCER AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, VOX: Look, I think that the first person to have outplayed Donald Trump, I can't believe this is coming out of my mouth but I think the first person to have outplayed Donald Trump is a porn star.


MELBER: That was Vox's Liz Plank on this very set in January. Were you right?

PLANK: Was that like ten years ago? Was that only January? Yes, I remember that night.

MELBER: We remember it too that's why we played it.

PLANK: Yes, I'm glad we experienced that together and are experiencing tonight together. Every day feels like a new -- feels like the twilight light zone.

MELBER: I can tell you I agree with that because there's been a lot of unexpected stuff. But when you look at Stormy Daniels putting this heat on and it now on two cases, as I was just discussing with Alan Dershowitz, what does it tell you?

PLANK: Well, it's really fascinating because there is a potential here where history books actually remember Stormy Daniels as the woman who undid Donald Trump, not just Donald Trump the President but also Donald Trump the human being, the businessman, right? The -- you know, due to these perhaps these payments done you know, that were made to women or made to media outlets, the FBI now has obviously raided Cohen's office and has information on Donald Trump that Donald Trump does not want them to have information on. And so the set obviously goes beyond him as a President but him as a person, you know, his business, his perhaps shady business dealings with --

MELBER: And she seems to feel that she knows him and she's got a read on him. She said I'm a better actor basically than Donald Trump.

PLANK: Interesting. I mean, silence -- trying to silence Stormy Daniel may have been the worst mistake that Donald Trump ever did especially since we -- you know, Donald Trump was accused of non-consensual sexual misconduct with so many women but would it have made a difference at that point if there would have been this story with this you know, woman that was a consensual story? You don't really know but --

MELBER: And you feel -- and you feel to your point that this may be one of the assignments that Michael Cohen regrets the most from Donald Trump. Liz Plank on a busy night, Thank you.

PLANK: Thank you, Ari. Great job.

MELBER: Our second handshake on THE BEAT. Up ahead, we look at Sean Hannity's lack of disclosure and what the tape tells. That's next.


MELBER: It's getting hot in here and Sean Hannity does not deny he went to Michael Cohen for legal guidance.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: I never gave him a retainer, never received an invoice, never paid any fees. I might have handed him ten bucks, I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this something like that. I requested that privilege with him.


MELBER: He might have handed him ten bucks. Legally, as we've reported, the money's not the factor. And if Hannity does reasonably believe that he was seeking legal advice, the privilege could attach there unless another fact brings something to light like an effort to abuse the privilege or hide some other crime. Now, Hannity says his relationship with Cohen was also minimal and minor and we don't know as of this hour exactly when those ten bucks may have been handed over or when this exact legal relationship blossomed.


TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: It turns out Michael Cohen's secret client was Sean Hannity which I'm sorry is not a good look. But you know, right now Sean Hannity is probably on the phone with his wife like, hey honey, it's so weird how I used the guy who pays off mistresses to get me out of that parking ticket.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Shockingly that client turned out to be my pal Sean Hannity of Fox News, is client number three. Isn't that interesting?

By the way, I'm thinking of hiring Michael Cohen as my lawyer because he only has three clients. Apparently, he works for free. He doesn't take money from any of them.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: That's a big detail to leave out, Sean. What else haven't you been telling us, that you share a barber with the Lego man?


MELBER: Snap. Now, there are other details we don't know at this point. We know thought that Hannity was a client of Cohen's at least in this period of 2017 until this year which would meanwhile Trump was president or in the 19 days in January, he was president-elect, and we do know Cohen made at least ten -- look at this, ten different big, primetime appearances on Hannity's T.V. show, five in 2017 with the last appearance in April of last year with Trump in office. And we haven't found at any point that Sean Han stepped up and honestly disclosed the legal relationship to his viewers. He did disclose a friendship.


HANNITY: Michael Cohen, you told me day one he's going to win.

MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I did. I was on a competing station on their show.

HANNITY: There is no competing station, Michael.

COHEN: Well, there's no one that competes with you, Sean.

Who would have ever thought there could be two Michael Cohen's in this world?

HANNITY: Impossible.

COHEN: Impossible.

HANNITY: I never heard that name before. One of my best friends growing up, Michael Cohen, and you're one of my better friends in life.

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


MELBER: Are they here for a good time or a long time? Well, in appearance from April of last year -- well, again, to be clear, Trump was president, the two of them actually joked about language that was used by some on the left. And we don't even know, this is super interesting, THE BEAT producers found this tonight. We don't know if Hannity was Cohen's client at this point but listen to the exchange all the more striking with this new news.

HANNITY: But Michael, if I use the same incendiary language, somehow I don't think it would become --

COHEN: It would be -- you would be -- you would be off the show. That's certainly for sure and possibly have to leave the country. But again, the level of disrespect --

HANNITY: I would hire you as my lawyer. You would keep me in.

COHEN: I would try.


MELBER: I'd hire you as my lawyer. That joke itself may have been a lie in real time because he did hire him as his lawyer and he did not disclose it. And then he went on of course to use his power and Sean Hannity has a lot of influence to rail against the FBI raid on his lawyer, Michael Cohen.


HANNITY: Mueller is out to get the President and it appears at any cost. Here's what happened. Upon referral from Special Counselor Robert Mueller, the FBI has raided the office, the home and the hotel room of Michael Cohen. Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump Campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and if possible impeach the President of the United States. What people are not understanding here is when the Special Counsel raids the offices of the President's private attorney, Mueller is now basically backdoored his way into every single Trump business deal.


MELBER: Meanwhile, when Sean Hannity was covering the other people in the media who he said did not disclose their links to political people that they reported on, guess what. Sean Hannity chided them for not being transparent.


HANNITY: George Stephanopoulos has given anywhere -- it was first reported $50,000. Now they're saying $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And he didn't publicly disclose this while he was reporting on the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation.


MELBER: While he was reporting on them. Sean Hannity arguing it was obvious that Stephanopoulos, a fellow T.V. news anchor should have disclosed the donation he made which benefited the Clintons while covering the Clintons.


HANNITY: Stephanopoulos apologized. He said he should have disclosed the donations to ABC News and its viewers. Do you think, George? Maybe you thought you were going to get away with it, you wouldn't have gotten caught?


HANNITY: You wouldn't have gotten caught. Tonight, having gotten caught, now hiding his employment of two the different Trump lawyers while reporting on Trump and those very lawyers, you see it there, you see Hannity's standards, his test. He's failing it tonight, his own test. Instead of owning up to this disclosure, he's now just blaming others, his radio show today.


HANNITY: Yes, I did have attorney-client conversations mostly over real estate. You know, it just is so corrupt, it is such a double standard and it is so obnoxious on so many different levels.


MELBER: You know, psychological projection can be really revealing. I wonder why tonight, Sean Hannity is talking so much about double standards.


MELBER: That's it for me. I'll see you back on THE BEAT tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews stats now.


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