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Trump facing legal pressure from Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 05/07/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Sam Nunberg, Seth Waxman, Tim O`Brien

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: May 7, 2018 Guest: Sam Nunberg, Seth Waxman, Tim O`Brien

KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Of course it is not that simple, but watching Dave there were moments I found myself asking why isn`t it? That is all for tonight.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts now. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I didn`t know you were such a movie buff, Katy.

TUR: I am a very buff movie fan.

MELBER: Other favorite political movie other than "Dave"?

TUR: Oh, gosh. Political other than "Dave"? I don`t know. I`m thinking of news movies now. "Wag the Dog." I liked "wag the Dog."

MELBER: "Wag the Dog" is good. Great film.

TUR: But if we are talking about news movies I think "Network" takes the cake.

MELBER: Do you have a "Network" impression you want to do for us?

TUR: No.

MELBER: Every anchor does. There are days when you feel like doing it.

TUR: No. I will never do it as well as others have done it. Or as in the original movie so I will leave that to you, my friend.

MELBER: Katy Tur, thank you very much. We tried. We tried to tempt you.

Tonight we begin with something that you know about but is actually getting very serious. This legal pressure on Donald Trump is entering a different phase. And one way we can see that is pretty simple. Donald Trump`s aides are now admitting incriminating things that they used to lie about. Like that Trump was behind that payment to Stormy Daniels and his team has been lying about that. When you think about it, since October 2016.

In a moment, I will speak live to Michael Avenatti where you see her, Stormy Daniels` lawyer about that new legal exposure.

For another way you can see this pressure building tonight is how much Trump aides are struggling to defend these new things they have admitted.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: It was not a campaign contribution because it would have been done anyway. This expenditure would have been made whether he was running for President or he wasn`t running for President.

There`s a long standing agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this then gets paid for them. This was not uncommon for him to do that. Every lawyer that does that kind of work has. Even if it was for campaign purposes, if it was to save his family, to save embarrassment, it`s not a campaign donation. It was done for other purposes in addition to possible campaign purposes. End of case.


MELBER: So much going on there. Rudy Giuliani is not just cleaning up for Trump right now. Giuliani is clearly cleaning up for Giuliani. That`s because it is Giuliani who initially said Trump paid Stormy for one reason that would make that kind of payment illegal under campaign activity.

Under the election law, this kind of payment is not campaign item if the candidate would make the payment anyway. But if he wasn`t running for office. In March, I reported on how that kind of rule actually could help Cohen and Trump which Cohen tweeted out because he liked where that segment led.

And here is what`s important about this tonight. Back then before the FBI raid, Michael Cohen grasped the entire key to this election law issue. That the payment in this case to Stormy Daniels can`t be campaign activity. In fact, he later told "Vanity Fair," I would have done it in 2006. I would have done it in 2011. If she would have come to me a month before, I would have done the same thing.

The White House also today saying they know of no such payments to other women.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there other women out there who received money from the President to stay quiet?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m not aware of any other activity. But I would refer you to Rudy Giuliani to respond to any of those questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have been in his circle for a long time now. You were on the campaign. Is that anything that came across your desk?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not aware of anything like that. But I would refer you to the President`s outside counsel.


MELBER: Before I turn to Michael Avenatti, let`s get some analysis from former New Jersey U.S. senator Robert Torricelli and "Wall Street Journal" Shelby Holliday who has discussed with us many times including the way the Stormy Daniels` case has really turned into a White House level problem.

But I begin with the Rudy of it all. Michael Cohen, as we just showed, seemed to grasp the key election law issue you want to avoid. Don`t say you paid for the campaign in the way that the much vaunted new member of Trump`s legal team, Rudy Giuliani, does not yet seem to grasp. He seems to be figuring out as he goes on TV.

ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), FORMER NEW JERSEY SENATOR: Well, of course, they are going to live with the comment whether they try to bring it back now or not. That he said a foundation that did have campaign relevance. I have never thought that was the center of any particular case against Donald Trump based on the Edwards case. And all you have to do is amend your reports. So I`m not sure why they are spending quite so much energy on it.

I think the important thing of the weekend more than that was "The New York Times" story on Sunday morning about Michael Cohen will be seen as a seminal event in this. The Trump people have been to be prepared. He is going to be a government witness. The extent of his legal problems, what appears to be the laundering of money in real estate purchases, his association with organized crime figures.

This is a man who has multiple targets for federal investigators. They may have nothing to do with Donald Trump, but the leverage on him is going to be considerable. He is going to be on the other side.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. And I also think Rudy`s shifting statements and the effort to clean up continues to hurt the White House. So I`m curious how many more times he will end up on television. He has been saying various things about Stormy. He said she should have gotten a seven figure payout. But then he says none of this is true and the President denies it.

I think the most interesting thing is Michael Cohen told "the Wall Street Journal" after my colleagues broke the story that he was never repaid directly or indirectly. Now, that`s in question, obviously, and Rudy is saying he was repaid. But now that raises questions about who Michael Cohen may have talked to to get his stories straight as "the Wall Street Journal" story was breaking.

MELBER: Based -- I mean, on what the White House is now saying, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump were lying about that then.

HOLLIDAY: They are saying that he is a liar, absolutely.

MELBER: And the reason this is coming out, the reason they have admitted to this lying is because of this new series phase. They are more worried about having to stick to those lies in federal proceedings where those lies become crimes than they have any sort of shame about all of the public line.

HOLLIDAY: And I will also point out with respect to lying, you know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders took a lot of heat for whether or not she was giving misleading statement. My colleague brought this up this weekend. When we broke the story, the President was briefed on the story. He knew about the payment. Yet two months later told the press the very people whom he was briefed that he didn`t know anything about the payment.

MELBER: Briefed? He lived this story, senator.

TORRICELLI: So I think the more meaningful Rudy Giuliani quote of the many over the weekend was -- is the sudden law disposable. Is the line, the circle around Donald Trump being narrowed --?

TORRICELLI: Yes. Speak in a little more detail about what you are talking about.

MELBER: Well, when referred to Ivanka and Jared, the comment was made by Rudy Giuliani that a son-in-law is disposal. That would lead one to think the core to be defended here at all costs maybe not necessarily the family as we see it but a smaller group that may just be Ivanka, the sons, and the President himself.


MELBER: At least if I were Jared, I would be worried about it. The point is blood is thicker than water but in-laws aren`t always blood.

TORRICELLI: I assume that comment was not made by chance. One never knows. But it certainly got my attention.

MELBER: It was fascinating. I`m going to get to Michael Avenatti as promised.

So senator, Shelby, thank you both for being here.

Picking up on this context, considered that it was six weeks after Donald Trump told reporters he knew nothing about the stormy Daniels payment that now he needs another lawyer tapping Giuliani. He is literally learning the laws that apply to his client in real-time on live television.

There`s another lawyer, Cohen adversary, Michael Avenatti, who gave his real-time reaction to this kind of lawyering.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: It`s an absolute unmitigated disaster for Rudy Giuliani and the President. It is a train wreck. I can`t believe that that actually just happened. I mean, what we witnessed by Rudy Giuliani may be one of the worst TV appearances by any attorney on behalf of a client in modern times. He now expects the American people to believe that he doesn`t really know the facts. I think it is obvious, George, to the American people that this is a cover-up. That they are making it up as they go along.


MELBER: Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels` lawyer is here with me now. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT tonight.

AVENATTI: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Lawyering involves adversarial combat. The question for you tonight given everything we are witnessing is, are you on a roll or is Donald Trump`s legal team just falling apart?

AVENATTI: Well, I think both, Ari. I mean, I think that, you know, certainly we have had a lot of luck in this case. There is no question about that.

MELBER: You think you have been lucky?

AVENATTI: Well I think -- there`s no question we have been lucky. And if anybody that was in our position claimed otherwise, they would be egotistical and completely out of touch, in my view. So I think that we have been very lucky. But I also think we have created a lot of our luck by way of our strategy and by way of being out there in the media. You know, a lot of people have criticized me for how often I appeared on television and how active I have been publicly and in the media. Well, guess what? It`s working. It`s been --

MELBER: Maybe they are criticizing you because they are jealous?

AVENATTI: Well, maybe that. Or maybe they are criticizing us because they are nervous and scared and they are concerned about what`s going to happen with this President.

And Ari, I`m going to tell you. They should be very concerned about what`s going to happen with this President because this situation has digressed for the other side considerably over the last few weeks. And what we have witnessed in the last four to five days was their effort to try to get out in front of a story that they lost track of.

MELBER: So you just -- you put your finger on it. They had to do this, they felt. Why?

AVENATTI: Well, they had to do it because they know what`s coming next, Ari.

MELBER: What`s coming?

AVENATTI: What`s coming next is evidence that we have and evidence that I`m sure is in the hands of law enforcement by way of the FBI raids and by way of the fact that Michael Cohen is going to flip on this President as I predicted weeks ago. Now everyone else is coming over to my side and agreeing with me. They had to try to get out ahead of this because they don`t want somebody else to frame when the evidence hits. But here is the problem.

MELBER: On that point, and then I will let you continue, on that point a few yes or no questions. Do you have reason to believe that evidence includes financial documents in the money trail, yes or no?


MELBER: Do you have reason to believe it includes emails or contemporaneous writings by Michael Cohen about these matters?


MELBER: And do you have reason to believe Donald Trump is personally implicated in this?

AVENATTI: Yes. But not by some of the writing. Because as we know Donald Trump doesn`t do a lot of writing, doesn`t do a lot of text message or emails.

MELBER: So on point one and two, that speaks to the theory of the case that if the feds have it and Giuliani knows the feds have it because he is literally the southern districts of New York investigators that he used to work with and now he apparently sometimes criticizes, then he knows how this work.

But on point number three which is as you know is what most people in the country are really interested in is does Donald Trump at the end of the day walk away from it all by saying I don`t know what Michael did, you don`t have anything on me in writing. You don`t have any record evidence on me?

AVENATTI: Well, I don`t think that`s going to be the case because I also think that the testimony that Michael Cohen will ultimately provide relating to Donald Trump, what he did, when he knew it, and how he proceed is going to be devastating for him. And that`s been my position, you know, for some time.

But here`s the problem with this theory. This theory of let`s get out in front of it, Ari, that might have been a great theory in strategy two or three months ago back in January or February. But that`s not what happened. "The Wall Street Journal" piece broke. We then subsequently filed our lawsuit. In between you have Michael Cohen who went On the Record. We then came in after we filed our lawsuit, came forward with a number of accusations, allegations, some evidence. And we have taken the fight to them for the last two months. And other than David Schwartz who made a cameo appearance on behalf of Michael Cohen, a disastrous cameo appearance, they have been nowhere.

MELBER: You think his character arc is over?

AVENATTI: There`s no question it`s over. But I have to tell you. Never did I think that the other side would find an attorney that would actually make David Schwartz look good. But they did. They found one five days ago. Giuliani`s performance actually makes Mr. Schwartz`s performance look epic.

MELBER: So this is something I definitely want to talk to you about. As you know, when you prepare for court, you are taught never to ask a question you don`t know the answer to. One of the fun parts of working on this show is I get to ask questions I have no idea the answer. And I really don`t. And I have been thinking about it. And I have been in and around Rudy Giuliani as a legal figure for a long time.

Do you know why his performance appears so bad and whether he at the end of the day just has not mastered the details and the facts and the law in this matter in which case he shouldn`t go out there until he has?

AVENATTI: Well, I couldn`t agree with you more. But look. Let`s be clear about something. This isn`t quantum physics, OK. This is not that complicated of a case. When Rudy Giuliani says, well, I`m not up on the facts. And when President Trump says, well, he hasn`t had enough time to get up on the fact.

What are you talking about? It doesn`t take that long to get up to speed on the facts. This is very simple. Was there an affair? Was there a cover-up? Did he know about the agreement? Did he reimburse the payment? When did he know about it? When did he reimburse the payment? How long does it take to get up to speed?

MELBER: You did six from a federal election law point which is a side point to your case as a civil matter. But the federal election law question point seven is, what was the intent of the payment? And as we showed in our reporting tonight, the only thing you have to do if you`re an election lawyer, right, telling your client is, listen. This is personal. Repeat after me. Personal, not campaign. You cannot have the intent to misuse the money. And Rudy not even Donald Trump, Rudy goes out there and says initially maybe it was for the campaign, October. That means to me -- that says to me as a lawyer that perhaps he has not read the basic election law undergirding the case.

AVENATTI: Correct. Rudy`s understanding of election is that if the payment reimbursement, the $130,000, if it did not come from campaign funds, then there is no election law violation and everything is fine. He demonstrated that understanding Wednesday night. That`s not the law. You know it and I know it.

MELBER: Then why is he doing so poorly?

AVENATTI: Well, because "a," I think he`s mistaken on the law. "B," I don`t know how but I think he has mistaken on the basic facts. And "C," he hasn`t mastered the other thing that they teach you in law school as it relates to advocacy. And that is sometimes you need to know when to shut up. Sometimes the best thing you can do as an advocate is to say nothing.

MELBER: I think it was rocky who said sometimes the best advice is no advice. And with the advice that Rudy had been giving Trump apparently through the television maybe, it should be just less advise overall.

I do want to play Giuliani speaking to George Stephanopoulos about whether there was even a meeting between his client and Stormy Daniels. Take a look.


GIULIANI: I`m not really involved in the Daniels thing. So I don`t know. I mean, he denies that it happened. She has written a letter denying it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, we do have a picture of them together.

GIULIANI: Well it depends -- it depends on what you mean by met her, right?


MELBER: I guess it does depend what you mean by met her. But when he says legally that he is not involved in the Daniels matter, this is your client you represent, he has literally been brought in after Michael Cohen`s ouster to be part of the Russia probe and the federal cases. How do you then say then that you are not involved in this matter?

AVENATTI: Ari, I have no idea. I mean, I`m going to stand by what I said yesterday. I mean, this is probably the worst performance that certainly I have ever witnessed by an attorney on television on behalf of a client in modern times. I mean, he is making it up as he goes along. There`s no concise message here. He doesn`t even come prepared to answer the questions. It just makes no sense.

And I want to go back to something else you said because I think it`s important. He even contradicts himself a few times within the same interview. He initially said that the payment had nothing to do with the campaign. And then there`s two instances in the transcript where he suggests that it may have had something to do with the campaign but it was also personal.

Well, that`s not good enough. As you referenced, it`s got to be all personal. It can have nothing to do with the campaign. Otherwise you subject yourself to a potential campaign finance violation.

MELBER: I don`t know if you`re in the mood for a little FEC law seminar. But it is called the irrespective test because the test of the FEC rules is the payment would have been made irrespective. So all you have to do is get on the right side of line. As you say, he continued to blur it while claiming to clean up for it. It was wild.

I want you the stay with me because we are going to do something a little special here on THE BEAT. Michael Avenatti stays. But former Trump aid Sam Nunberg is up here live next. He is, of course, a former witness to the Mueller probe. He is going to talk about why he was worried about Michael Cohen.

Also new reports that Trump hired an Israeli spy firm to dig up dirt on Obama. Officials on questions about where Trump got hundreds of millions of dollars in cash before he became President. I`m going to speak to the journalist sued by Trump for reporting what he was really worth.

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


MELBER: Investigations are barreling forward on TWO Trump insiders, Roger Stone and Michael Cohen. And tonight I`m about to speak to someone who knows both men. Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide who has been interviewed by the special counsel himself. It is Sam`s first time on THE BEAT since this raid on Michael Cohen`s office, home and hotel room. They were looking for information about, of courses as we have been discussing, Stormy Daniels.

Michael Cohen himself has not talked to Mueller`s team. And this morning Stone said he hasn`t talked to Mueller either. And that he is not nervous about a potential Mueller interview.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I have not. I`m not involved in any collusion, coordination or conspiracy with the Russians or anyone else. And there`s no evidence to the contrary.


MELBER: CNBC reporting in recent days that Mueller is, quote, focused sharply on Roger Stone and his team`s interested in Stone beyond his interactions with WikiLeaks` founder, Julian Assange.

I`m joined now by Sam Nunberg and Michael Avenatti is back with me. Two people who have seen this process far more closely than most Americans.

AVENATTI: Should I be intimidated?

MELBER: You tell me.


MELBER: Michael has --

NUNBERG: Michael`s a talented lawyer. I`m not his adversary so I`m not intimidated. I`m not his adversary.


MELBER: I start with you on Roger Stone.


MELBER: Speaking out today. When was the last time you spoke to him?

NUNBERG: I spoke to Roger the weekend before my grand jury testimony after my voluntary interview. So before our famous Monday bonanza. Sort of in that weekend. And I spoke to him on that Saturday. I told the grand jury this too. I just said, look, I received a subpoena and your name is on it. And once again, Roger, you know, they`re calling me in there and it`s going to be about the Assange stuff.

MELBER: And when you look at what he is doing today, as someone who knows him well, what is he trying to do when he knows like you he could eventually have his day in an interview?

NUNBERG: Well, I think Roger has been clear about this. Ari, I said to you when roger official initially told me he met with Assange I believed him. Subsequently, I didn`t believe him during the rest of the election. This is something Roger, you know, Roger may not like it that I say it. Roger likes to insinuate himself in these events. And you never know because somehow he is involved in them and somehow he`s not.

I think that he is basically getting it out there that, look, I never met with Assange. Perhaps I told people I did. I`m not the only one he told. I`m not. There has been other stories about it. But he never met with him.

MELBER: Yes. You are casting him as a kind of an equal opportunity exaggerator and liar and told different people the same false story and now is getting in front of that.


MELBER: And when I want to look at Cohen as well.


MELBER: I want to play two things you`ve said about Michael Cohen which are interesting given what you have learned and then, of course, turned to Michael. Number one, in February you said --

NUNBERG: I remember this.

MELBER: -- you said you were concerned. This is before everyone else knew what we know now. Take a look.


NUNBERG: I worry about Michael. I`m not going to say Michael`s going to lie. I worry about Michael.


MELBER: You were worried about Michael.


MELBER: And then later when you were in the room, you told us on this show that the Mueller investigators were asking some questions about payments to women which does not naturally obviously relate to the brief to look into Russia collusion. Let`s see that.


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

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

MELBER: But I have never heard you say that publicly before. In your FBI interview with Mueller`s team when asking about payments to women?

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

MELBER: Right.


MELBER: Now we know they took some of the information they gleaned from wherever they got it about payments to women and ultimately referred this case out to federal prosecutors in New York. Does that surprise you?

NUNBERG: Sadly, it doesn`t. I`m not necessary -- I once again feel badly for Michael because this whole episode, all these problems he is having now would not have happened had the President not hosted the Russians the day after he fired James Comey.

But I think it`s been open and Rudy has even admitted this as Michael has been pointing out. This was Michael Cohen`s role. Michael has done this for years. So this was the role Michael was going to have in the election.

MELBER: Why do you think he`s not better at it if he`s been doing it for so long?

NUNBERG: I don`t know. I`m not going to -- I don`t want to criticize Michael. He is a friend of mine. Look, I think -- I`m going to guess -- and this is conjecture by me -- that the reason that they are fighting or they were fighting very hard against Mr. Avenatti`s client is not because they care about stormy Daniels but there are other deals. And the minute this deal -- the minute Mr. Avenatti wins in court which I think he is likely to, you are going to have other women coming out that have signed agreements.

AVENATTI: I mean, that`s great news. We`ll see what happens. I mean, if we keep up with the streak that we have had, then, you know, certainly it`s going to be a bowl of cherries. But we will see what happens. But I had a quick question, actually. Can I ask a question?


AVENATTI: Excellent. In the year after the election, so 2017, obviously Michael was not asked to join the administration, did not go to Washington. I mean, did he undertake any business dealings along the lines of, like, selling access to the President? Or did you get the impression that he was trying to put himself out there as a guy that could put people in touch with the President?

NUNBERG: No. I had limited contact with Michael because it wasn`t going to be -- my position was I was a pro-Steve Bannon guy. Michael is a Jared Kushner guy.


NUNBERG: So, you know, even though I like Michael a lot, Michael is a very good snake when it comes to stuff like that. So he would sit there across to me and pretend to be my best friend and just report back to them.

MELBER: What do you mean by snake?

NUNBERG: I mean, for instance, he will sit there and then he will just report everything I tell him back to Jared Kushner, let`s say.

MELBER: So you didn`t trust him?

NUNBERG: I didn`t per see when I was a Bannon guy. Sure, I didn`t trust Michael.


MELBER: Did you think he thought he was someone who was always thought he was outsmarting other people?

NUNBERG: Yes. For instance, in these deals like this, in the Stormy Daniels issue, I think for sure he thought he was. Look at the deal he got. He got her to take 130 grand and not go on TV. Right? She didn`t go on TV two weeks before the election. You know, hindsight is 20/20, but I don`t think it would have mattered had she gone on TV. It wouldn`t have affected Trump`s numbers, frankly. That`s the real tragedy of this for Michael. I don`t think it would have.

MELBER: Define real tragedy.

NUNBERG: Well, the tragedy he`s being investigated for a deal that perhaps, I don`t know, there are money -- you know, I`m sure Weisman had a nice little list of possible issues for the U.S. district attorney here. So I don`t know what the legalities are.

MELBER: What do you mean? You are talking about Andrew Weisman, the prosecutor?


MELBER: And what are you saying?

NUNBERG: I`m saying I`m sure Andrew Weisman has a, you know, could come up with a reason that the deal they did for some reason goes against wire fraud or something like that. I`m not an expert in these laws.

MELBER: You also mentioned who was aligned with whom in this rapidly shifting game where there is a lot of pressure on Donald Trump and the White House. Probably more than he has ever felt in his private life.

I want to play Rudy on Sean Hannity with another point that was raised earlier in the broadcast about this whole son-in-law who is disposable thing. And why would you put that out there at this early stage on television, I don`t know. But here was that clip.


GIULIANI: Ivanka Trump, I think I would get on my charger and go right into the offices with a lance if they go after Ivanka.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What about the son-in-law? They talked about him.

GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.


MELBER: What`s happening there? Because you know these people. And who is Cohen aligned with? And what does that tell you about who is turning on whom?

NUNBERG: Well, I think the President from what I have heard and I haven`t spoken to in a very, very long time, from what I have heard he realizes in hindsight that his son-in-law caused a lot of problems for him. As people like me were saying from the very beginning.

He has tried to skirt financial laws in front of everyone. He was -- he is one of the Democrats I know in New York that`s not good at corruption. I mean this guy tried to raise money at 666. He had the Chinese in 666, you know, for a diplomatic issue. He met with Koetter (ph). I mean, these are just issues that the President in general was always going to be upset if people make money off of him. He hates that. And certainly if it`s giving him political and legal problems. And Jared has been a major problem.

Now Rudy does not like Jared. This has been reported publicly. But I can tell you I have heard it from other people, never directly from Rudy. Because Jared fought very hard against Rudy becoming secretary of state.

MELBER: The other big change that actually can involve both of you is the removal of a White House lawyer who has been the most cooperative for Donald Trump. That`s Ty Cobb. That is something people may forget. But you and I also spoke about and you said and I want to read it to you, you said I think Trump needs to fire Cobb. I think Cobb said the Mueller investigation will exonerate Trump by the end of the year and you said it will not, Ari. And Cobb should be out.

NUNBERG: And everybody says I`m crazy when I come on here. Look at all these predictions I have had.

MELBER: Well, I always leave it up to everyone to make up their own minds about everything I had in the show. But I tried to have everyone (INAUDIBLE).

You felt that about Cobb. He is out. Does that tell you that Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and this team are moving forward in one way or another to try to kneecap this probe rather than the cobb strategy which was to provide --

NUNBERG: I: I think that they`ve made the calculation finally which is what people like me have been saying, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, people like us, this is a street fight. This is not a legal fight. This is a political fight. And at the end of the day, if you put this out as these are a bunch of unelected bureaucrats, this is James Comey`s best friend and Robert Mueller not liking the fact that Trump fired him, this or that. You can put this up because this is going to go -- when this gets to impeachment proceedings, if it does, it`s a public -- it`s in the public opinion. It`s not going to be fought on legal issues. I do not think Robert Mueller --and I think this is an important legal and constitutional issue -- can subpoena Donald Trump to a grand jury. That is a very, very bad precedent. I think President Trump should submit to a Mueller interview if and only if the scope is what happened to the election. Not what the President was thinking about why he fired James Comey, not what he was thinking when he thought about firing Mueller. I mean, this is ridiculous.

MELBER: Right. And that is as you know, a very different standard than say Republicans applied to Bill Clinton where perjury and obstruction were front and center of what they wanted and they did go to grand jury. But --

NUNBERG: But it was a civil matter --

MELBER: But -- no, it was Ken Starr was also a criminal probe and they got their grand jury. We will see. We will see. I want to thank you for coming back in THE BEAT as always, Sam.

NUNBERG: Thank you. Good to be back.

MELBER: Michael Avenatti, I want to thank you. And I have one more report given Roger Stone`s new statements today that I want to share with you. You know, one of the key areas of the criminal investigation in this probe is whether people broke the law while lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. Now, that put scrutiny on one of the leading Republican firms in the field, Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly. Manafort, of course, indicted for that kind of work and we know Mueller is questioning witnesses about Stone`s work. We also know that Rick Gates who famously pled guilty was first connected with those folks when he interned at that firm. He became Manafort`s protege and right-hand man. Now, apparently, this fact bothered Roger Stone because he brought it up today in a CNN interview. Apparently, he didn`t like it when I said this on Friday.


MELBER: Manafort, Gates, and Stone are linked of course through the lobbying firm that they ran for many years. That`s where Gates got his start as an intern.


MELBER: That`s where Gates got his start as an intern which isn`t even automatically a bad thing. It`s just how these lobbyists for foreign governments first hooked up. But Stone was insistent on distancing himself from Gates today.


ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I had one dinner with him with other people to discuss the makeup of the New York delegation into the Republican National Convention. I have no meetings with him whatsoever in 2016 in -- at Trump Tower. I didn`t know him until 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth of your relationship with Gates may be nothing. All right, that`s your supposition.

STONE: No, no, let`s take Ari Melber on MSNBC. Stone worked with Gates at Black, Manafort, and Stone. No, he didn`t because he never worked there. That`s fake news.


MELBER: This is just a weird thing to lie about. Everyone knows as I just showed that Rick Gates did intern at the firm and that fact alone doesn`t tie him very closely to Roger Stone anyway. So why is this the thing that Stone is seizing on? I mean, consider his ally Alex Jones, known for all kinds of conspiracy theories and they`re there spending the election night together, you can see, with a class of champagne. Well, now Jones is jumping into this and attacking THE BEAT`s reporting of Roger Stone as well. We have done several reports about Stone`s stated links to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, Russian intelligence, and his long-running roles as an adviser to Trump. Who could have guessed that a passing reference to an intern from nearly three decades ago would be what set Mr. Stone off today? But unlike Paul Manafort and Julian Assange, that former intern is cooperating with Bob Mueller. Maybe that`s what`s on Mr. Stone`s mind right now. Now, straight ahead on THE BEAT, how is Donald Trump able to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of property in cash? I have a Trump biographer with me. And also, does Rudy Giuliani think Trump will have to testify or not? All that when THE BEAT is back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Sometimes it is hard to tell if Rudy Giuliani is the lawyer defending Trump or the lawyer suing him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the President, will you comply?

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: Well, we don`t have to. He`s the President of the United States. We can assert the same privilege as other presidents have. President Clinton negotiated a deal in which he didn`t admit the effectiveness of the subpoena --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did testify -- yes, but he did testify before the grand jury. Is the President willing to do that?

GIULIANI: But only for two and a half hours, only with an arranged format.


MELBER: There was limitations on the Clinton interview. It lasted actually about four hours. On another question, if Trump would take the Fifth Amendment if he gets a subpoena, Giuliani`s legal assessment is, who knows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident the President will not take the Fifth in this case?

GIULIANI: How could I ever be confident of that? When I`m -- when I`m facing a situation with the President and all the other lawyers are in which every lawyer in America thinks he`d be a fool to testify. I`ve got a client who wants to testify. I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he`s taking, so he may testify.

MELBER: He may, he may not. He`d be a fool to do it. It`s a deference that is all over the place. But there is a point Giuliani did make repeatedly. Trump`s team believes that they have some cover from this federal judge we reported on the Manafort case who did question if Mueller is overstepping his bounds.


GIULIANI: Judge Ellis gave a pretty good indication that he might toss the case for government misconduct. Judge Ellis` comments -- Judge Ellis was so concerned about. We have situations like Judge Ellis saying that they`re out of control and they`re not authorized.


MELBER: Of course, even if Judge Ellis did give into the Manafort argument, it would only be moving the prosecution of him to different jurisdiction. I want to bring in now Seth Waxman, a Federal Prosecutor we have relied on for many important points. I put to you the same question I was discussing with Mr. Avenatti. What is the deal with Rudy?

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No, I`ve watched everything this weekend like everyone else and it`s kind of hard to figure out exactly what they`re doing. But I try to step back and think to myself, you know, not to underestimate my opponent. Is there some cognizable legal strategy? Now, I think I`ve come up with one, one that may actually work in the long run. And I think what the Trump team is thinking is that there`s never going to be a criminal indictment against the President. A sitting president has never been indicted. So the ultimate arbiters or deciders, in this case, are going to be Congress and the American people. And like any good defense lawyers learn, you front your bad facts. If there`s a bad narrative about your client, you get it out there in front of your jury, in this case, Congress and the American people --

MELBER: But that`s -- but Seth, that`s sort of -- that`s the get out ahead argument.

WAXMAN: Correct.

MELBER: Which was not done crisply as we have documented because it was a muddled explanation of what happened that Rudy Giuliani himself had to clean up and contradict. My question to you is -- and I don`t know if you watch South Park but whether this looks more like the Chewbacca Defense. Do you know about that?

WAXMAN: You know what, I`ve missed South Park. I hate to admit it.

MELBER: The Chewbacca Defense is where you just make it so confusing where you say, look, Chewbacca`s a ten-foot rookie, does that even make sense? Pay no attention to the facts in the case and eventually people get confused and it`s sort of a haze of potentially reasonable doubt. Because it looks a lot more like Rudy just saying stuff than any kind of straight strategy.

WAXMAN: Yes -- no. I mean, that could be the case. But I always try to look at it -- you know, these are smart people. Mr. Giuliani has been doing this for decades. Mr. Trump is obviously the President. To say that they`re just kind of arbitrarily kind of having at it day by day, I think underestimates them. And so, I think they could be putting out what I would call trial balloons. Whether it`s the idea of pardoning people or taking the Fifth, seeing how that will play with their Republican base because at the end of the day, all they need is 34 Republican Senators if the House were to issue articles of impeachment, 34 Republican Senators to in the Senate to vote not to remove him. And with that long game in mind, as long as that Republican base stays by the President, these 30 to 40 percent poll numbers we`re seeing in front in favor of the President, he wins at the end of the day. He may take the country and tear the country apart through it, but I think he`s focused on himself and self- preservation. If he have that -- if they have that long game in mind of those 34 Republican Senators and their base, you know, throwing out the evidence that`s negative to them or, in fact, what I think is the prosecutor is either in SDNY or the Mueller team are sharing evidence with the Trump team or the Cohen team. And they see -- they see that as it`s coming out at some point, so let`s get in front of it. Let`s attack it. Maybe the American people will become numb to it, you know, in the months and months it`s going to take for Mr. Mueller to hand up his package to Congress and at the end of the day again, if they get 34 Senators, he`s good to go.

MELBER: A slow grinding numbing that ultimately results in a lack of accountability. Seth Waxman --

WAXMAN: I don`t know if that`s perfect, but yes, that`s what I come up with.

MELBER: Thank you for that vision. Thank you. I appreciate your analysis as always, sir. Up next, we`re going to turn to this bombshell report looking the Trump Organization with his money and his taxes, a mystery. The Washington Post has dug into what he was up to going into 2016. And trump officials -- have you heard about this, this is new tonight -- trying to use foreign spy operations to attack Obama White House aides. That`s later.


MELBER: Turning to a new report that cracks the lid on Donald Trump`s finances. His taxes, of course, were still secret but the Washington Post has an investigation of Trump`s businesses and how he got flush with cash right before entering politics. Donald Trump`s company spent $400 million on new properties but the weird part is it was often in cash, not bank financing. Eric Trump who of course is involved in the company says that the cash is a good thing because it meant they were making money. Now, Trump is a private company, the Trump Organization so we can`t tell you whether that`s true. But the post report is important because it raises the question of why there was so much cash. Now, back in 2014, all this came up when Eric Trump was talking to a reporter about golf courses.


JAMES DODSON, AMERICAN SPORTS WRITER: So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off, I said Eric, who`s funding? I know no banks because of the recession, the great recession have touched a golf course. And this is what he said. He said we don`t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.


MELBER: Eric Trump denies that account. I want to turn to a man who knows this story better than most. Tim O`Brien has written a book about Donald Trump that got him sued. He`s at Bloomberg. And you have been charting this for a while. This Post report doesn`t sound like a bad thing. They bought stuff with cash. And yet it raises the question of why after decades of debt they suddenly had so much cash.

TIM O`BRIEN, Not just decades of debt, Ari, but he had been excommunicated essentially by the banking community starting in the early 1990s. Remember roll this back to around 1991 or so. Trump, his businesses are in hock. He ends up going through six corporate bankruptcies. He`s almost personally bankrupt. And several of the biggest banks in the country end up in debt-- he`s indebted to them for over $3 billion, most of which he can`t pay back. And because of that, the banks won`t deal with him. And from about the early 1990s until the Apprentice rolls up, Trump doesn`t have huge businesses generating of a lot of cash. So the only way he`s really going to be able to do business is by borrowing from others. And then suddenly as the Post stories pinpointed in this mid -- in the mid- knots, he suddenly starts spending lots of cash on stuff, $400 million worth. Where does that money come from? That`s the million dollar question that I think is part of the Mueller investigation. It`s part of anybody looking at Trump`s funding a and the way he runs his businesses. What`s not said in the Washington Post story as they were circumspect are two words, money and laundering. And that`s a thing that looms over the Trump enterprises in almost every account you`re reading about them now including accounts about Michael Cohen.

MELBER: The idea being that there would be a rush to put cash into properties because it`s not a normal transaction, but it involves an illegal attempt to help someone else launder their money?

O`BRIEN: That`s a possibility here. We don`t know. Until I think, you know, the President could help everybody with this by releasing his taxes. That would give us some sense of the source of his income. I saw those tax returns during my litigation with them. I`m not allowed to talk in any specificity of them. But certainly, it would be in the President`s interest if he`s concerned about the appearance of the minimum to release those returns.

MELBER: But Tim, I don`t know if you`ve heard about this because I heard you`re very busy. I don`t know how many stories you follow. Some people who sign NDAs with Trump don`t follow them.

O`BRIEN: That`s right. That`s right. Well, I`m going to-- I`m going to -- I didn`t sign an NDA with Trump. I had to follow what the court put up so I`m going to have to bag off of a little but -- for now.

MELBER: But you know about that?

O`BRIEN: I do know about that and I think -- I think there`s -- I think I could speak to four general areas that I think explain why Trump doesn`t want the tax returns to come out. One is it would show whether or not he`s authentically philanthropic, the other would show how robust his businesses really are, the other would show the source of the income particularly income coming in from overseas, and the last most importantly, it would -- it would reveal any kind of conflicts that could present themselves while he`s the President of the United States.

MELBER: Do you think he would be more threatened by the theory that the tax returns would show that he`s broke or that he owes Russia?

O`BRIEN: I think -- I think he`s threatened by both things. They probably both loom large in his imagination. I think he doesn`t want people to know about the source of his funding and I think he doesn`t want people to know about the level of his indebtedness or the size of his businesses.

MELBER: Well, I always appreciate having a conversation on live television around the prescribed court-ordered mandates for what you can say. You know more than many of us because you`ve been up in battle with him as well from your reporter. Tim O`Brien, I appreciate you being here.

O`BRIEN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Up ahead, this bombshell report that Trump associates asked former spies from foreign governments to impugn and target Obama officials over the Iran deal. This is a big one next.


MELBER: Donald Trump is announcing that tomorrow he will tell us what his decision is on a very key Obama foreign policy matter, the Iranian Nuclear Deal. But today the news is about a report of what some Trump officials were willing to do behind the scenes against this deal, allegedly trying to discredit the entire Iran Nuclear Deal by impugning the Obama staff who worked on it through a very elaborate and relatively unusual dirty tricks campaign coordinated with former spies from abroad. This is a report from the UK`s Observer as well as the New Yorker and they state, "the Trump officials were basically reaching out to former Israeli spies to get personally damning information on White House aides to Barack Obama. This outreach apparently happening just days after Trump visited Israel in May 2017 when he attacked the Iran Deal.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal. And believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. That ican tell you.


MELBER: This newly exposed program involved targeting these Obama staff, National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, and Deputy Assistant Colin Kahl. The New Yorker stating that these former spies were targeting their families with fake identification, deploying tactics in addition to the fake identities that were used by agents from the Black Cube, the Israeli firm that Harvey Weinstein had hired to try to get dirt to impugn women who called out his alleged misconduct. Now Ben Rhodes handled Obama`s foreign policy and thus his outreach to many different governments, peaceful allies as well as authoritarian governments. And he says tonight this tactic the Trump aides were deploying is a chilling example of what authoritarian governments do. Quite a story. Up ahead, I want to show you Jeff Sessions out thing a new policy to try to separate immigrant families and show why it matters. That`s next.


MELBER: Today Jeff Sessions touted a Trump policy to separate immigrant families.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It`s that simple. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you as required by law.


MELBER: Smuggling presumably your own child. Now administrations in both parties historically have tried to avoid splitting up families. Sessions, says though, the only people to blame are the immigrants.


SESSIONS: If you don`t want your child to be separated, then don`t bring them across the border illegally. It`s not our fault that somebody does that.


Melber: Not their fault. The Trump Administration says about 700 children have now been separated from their families since last October. We wanted to bring you that update on what Jeff Sessions is up to. That is our show. I`ll see you back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews