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Avenatti asking judge to fast track Trump case. TRANSCRIPT: 05/24/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jelani Cobb, Heather McGhee, Tony Schwartz, Stacey Honowitz, Jonathan Dienst

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: May 24, 2018 Guest: Jelani Cobb, Heather McGhee, Tony Schwartz, Stacey Honowitz, Jonathan Dienst

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

Tonight, we begin with something quite important, a new line crossed as the Trump administration's controversial classified meeting on the Russia probe got even worse, because reporters caught Donald Trump's criminal defense attorney for the probe sneaking into the meeting.

Let me tell you right up front, this is not normal. This is a breach. And tonight the White House is rushing out a spin that this breach was actually some kind of legitimate move and planned all along. That is false. This inappropriate meddling into the probe is actually so incriminating, the White House sought to hide it from ever being public.

Let me show you exactly why we know that because of this evidence. It is simple evidence right here. An unusual press release that the DOJ released 10:00 p.m. last night. And it states first a second meeting was added with the gang of eight intelligence leaders. And second, this thing lists all the attendees.

So it states who was supposed to go to this very formal, very important classified meeting. But today the Trump administration was busted and that makes the list untrue because it's missing the one person who has no business being at this internal classified gang of eight meeting, but who was spotted entering the meeting right there, you see, the evidence. That's Donald Trump's Russia attorney, Emmett Flood, and he waltzed into this meeting, along with, you see with him, Donald Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly. An attendee the Trump administration clearly did not want announced.

Now if you watch this show and our coverage, you know there are nights we report on this widening criminal probe on the Trump presidency and we stress all the possible ways to view the evidence. We note sometimes a subject might even seemed guilty but it is presumed innocent. So we might tell you Jared Kushner spent a lot time with investigators but that doesn't mean he did anything wrong.

I want to be clear with you. This is not one of those nights, because as a matter of law and precedent, there is no other factual way to view this meddling in the probe.

What we saw in that meeting today was improper. And it was unprecedented and it does risk undermining parts of the Mueller probe for Trump's chief of staff for walk his criminal defense attorney into the meeting of the prosecution and these intelligence leaders.

Now that's the facts, which I give to you. I will also report for you tonight on what's happening as people are seeing those photographs and seeing what really happened. The ranking member of the intelligence committee noting there has never been a gang of eight meeting, including a Presidential defense attorney, and adding that Mr. Flood had quote "no business showing up."

Now no other defendant in the country gets their attorney to secretly crash a law enforcement meeting about an open probe. EL Chapo's lawyer does not get to bum rush classified DEA meetings.

But that is what Trump did today at this controversial meeting which in context was, of course, to discuss his conspiracy theory that the deep state is basically out to get him. This is Donald Trump melding his role as Donald Trump, the subject of a probe, and his other role, the more important one, Donald Trump, President of the United States.

Now, as a legal matter, we don't know if Trump will ultimately face allegations of obstruction or collusion from Robert Mueller. But as a factual matter, we know today Donald Trump was exposed for melding his role as subject and President. Much along the same lines that Richard Nixon infamously did. And when Nixon did it, when he blatantly and even obsessively tried to bend the justice department into his own personal defense team, it raised an obvious question for the nation.

Was he doing it out of some kind of misplaced arrogance, regardless of the facts of the case, or was he doing it because he was guilty? And because he knew he was guilty so he knew that even blatant and guilty-looking obstruction was a better path to self-preservation than allowing authorities to gather the evidence of his guilt.

I turn now to former Watergate special prosecutor, Nick Ackerman as well as Heather McGhee, President of the public policy group DEMOS. And former federal prosecutor John Flannery who served as special counsel in three different congressional investigations.

John, I put the question to you, how unusual is this? And does it track in any way with concerns about how Nixon comported himself towards the justice department?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It makes Nixon look like a minor player as compared to what these guys are prepared to do. You have them -- basically the gang of eight or Nunes, the compromised individual who pretended to run an independent investigation who seemed to be just a delivery boy for the White House.

But we have rules against disclosing these things in an investigation. There's an exception number seven in the (INAUDIBLE) rules that would prevented this -- should have prevented this. They should have never complied. They should have gone to court about it.

It also strikes me that it's a pretty clear indication of corruption. And when they have allied themselves with the White House in this way to get evidence that nobody else as you suggested in your opening could get in any other investigation. It's an abuse of power. I think it exceeds even what happened in John Mitchell's department of justice when he was the attorney general. So I just can't imagine how far we have gone and how little the resistance was. The people in the justice department should have said take us to court. Absolutely.

MELBER: You are saying -- you are saying, and we are looking at these images again and we will put them back up on the screen, because these are the images that got them busted today. The man you're seeing there, Emmett Flood, is not the TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He is the actual day-to-day criminal defense attorney for the President.


MELBER: And he was not on the list tonight. This is very important. He was basically hidden from view. But because we don't have still an open society and open press, he was caught by these photographs. You are saying tonight in your view, John, that this is part of what you view as meddling that is worse than Nixon?

FLANNERY: Yes, I do think so. And as I understand it from the reports, and you correct me if I'm wrong, the chief of staff for the President was also present.


FLANNERY: What is that about? I think that the combination, the role Nunes has played and the way that they demanded to see this and they made this sound political and partisan, when in fact it's interference with an investigation with only one possible reason. They seek to discredit every element of this investigation in the final hours before the charges of filed in a report, in an indictment, in an unindicted co-conspirator charge, however it comes out, so that they have created doubt about the credibility of the major players in this investigation. That is an outrage. It's a shame and a disgrace. I think it's unethical. I think it may be criminal.

MELBER: Nick Ackerman.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: This is exactly what happened in Watergate. John Dean, who was the White House counsel, actually with the approval of the then director, L. Patrick Gray, the director of the FBI, sat in on 14 interviews of White House individuals, employees. He also received from the FBI 302 reports, which were interview reports of individuals that the FBI had interviewed in the Watergate investigation.

MELBER: So what I have to ask you, and viewers will be forgiven for feeling like this is a painting of collapsing that keeps collapsing in on itself, but if what you and John are saying is legally true, then does -- what happened today also have to go into something that Mueller investigates?

ACKERMAN: It's all part of a pattern that's been going on, a pattern of obstruction. An effort to try and impede the investigation. An effort to try and provide information to Donald Trump and others in the White House so that they can tailor their stories to whatever it is the evidence is that's out there. That's why this is an obstruction of justice. What they are trying to do is learn what the government knows so that they can then come up with a story that they can put together before anyone is called into a grand jury where they have to answer questions without being able to confer with each other to know what the government's evidence is. That is clearly obstruction of justice.

MELBER: Heather, this is what congressman Schiff is saying about this now, that the Russia defense lawyer, Mr. Flood's involvement in any capacity was quote "entirely improper and only underscores what Rudy Giuliani said. The President's legal team expects to use this information to glean improperly from the justice department or the allies in Congress their legal advantage.

HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT OF THE PUBLIC POLICY GROUP, DEMOS: This is why we have felt for so long that we cannot trust the House committee and leadership to do what they should be doing, which is operating as a separate and independent branch of government, investigating and understanding what is going on with the vital national security interests of this country.

You know, I remember sitting at a desk like this when it was breaking news that Devin Nunes had gone back to the White House to share information. We know that this is a -- this is I would say a conspiracy between members of the Republican party on the House, on the House side particularly, and the White House to try to have a same set of talking points, a playbook, a narrative in the media.

MELBER: And so, if you are right, does that show that Rod Rosenstein was wrong in starting to buckle piecemeal to do these meetings? Because there are people, including people who are critical of Trump who said, most of them live in Washington and are still basically stuck in a Washington mindset, but they said, well, this half measure, they have said it on this show, is rod's way of keeping his job. But what you are saying would seem to suggest that Rosenstein buckling invites more of this meddling?

MCGHEE: That's right. I mean, they are very clear that this is a game of survival here. They are willing to go to the mat to say anything, to impugn the entire intelligence operations of the United States, to threaten our national security, all to keep Donald Trump and his allies and his campaign staff, his family, out of the crosshairs of legal accountability. And so I think Democrats need to wake up.

MELBER: And John -- let me say, John, listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying earlier in the week that what just happened, what was busted, what was caught, what was revealed only through the free press, would not indeed happen. Take a listen.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you the President asked chief of staff Kelly to set up the meeting. It is scheduled to take place on Thursday of this week. No one from the White House staff will attending.


MELBER: Of course one White House staffer attended in John Kelly, of course. He's not only staff, but chief of staff. Number two, I will put up on the screen, when Mr. Flood's appointment was announced, it was made very clear Emmett Flood would be joining the White House staff and then today he was, as I've been reporting, snuck in and crashed the meeting.

FLANNERY: Well, their cover story was that they wanted to do oversight of the FBI. I didn't know Mr. Flood was in a position to conduct the oversight. And I think that the fact that we have two Houses of Congress dominated by a President who is hell bent on making this a constitutional crisis suggests that despite the department of justice rule against indicting a President, that Mueller should seriously consider indicting this President if he has the evidence we suspect that he has for obstruction and for conspiracy to sell out our campaign system.

MELBER: How do you -- John, how do you support that position when the DOJ that you worked for does have written guidance against it?

FLANNERY: Well, Nick and I both served in the southern district of New York, and sometimes they called it the sovereign district of New York because they wrestled to have the southern district conform to some of their rules and regulations.

But I'm talking about the law. And when we had the investigation in Watergate, Jaworski said as a matter of law, the President could be indicted. Starr said the same thing in the Clinton investigation. I'm saying that in this case, where we can't rely on Congress absent a spinal implant to do what is their duty and obligation to do --

MELBER: But I have got to press you on this. Jaworski can say what he wants. Ken Starr solicited that view from a law professor, which is as good as any other lawyer. But you know, and I'm asking you, the written guidance under both parties has been advising against that.

FLANNERY: Yes. Well, they may advise against it, but the constitution, which is the principal law of this land provides these are mutually exclusive remedies. When we prosecuted Spiro Agnew, and he raised the objection that since he hadn't been impeached, he couldn't be indicted. The court said yes, you may be. And that is a rule that I would seek to enforce against this President in the absence of a system that is constitutionally challenged by the errors and misconduct and crimes that are occurring in the west wing.

MCGHEE: And can I just add that the American people don't think that anyone should be above the law, even the President of the United States. Given that we incarcerate more people in this country than most of the rest of the world combined, the idea that someone could break the law at the highest level and get off scot-free just grates against our sense of fundamental fairness.

MELBER: A fitting point to take a pause on. Heather, I'm going to see you later in the show.

I want to thank Nick Ackerman and John for being part of our coverage and important story.

Now coming up, I'm going to speak to Michael Avenatti live tonight about the legal fight of Stormy Daniels's case against Trump and Michael Cohen.

Plus, Trump's racial comments on racial divisions and immigration and the NFL and, yes, the anthem.


TRUMP: You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.


MELBER: And moving beyond Trump, later tonight we have breaking news on Harvey Weinstein facing criminal charges as soon as tomorrow.

Also live tonight, Tony Schwartz is here to talk about what the justice department should do to stand up to bullying. Something he learned working alongside Donald Trump.

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


MELBER: Today Stormy Daniels' lawyer is asking a judge to continue their case against Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, which had been delayed given Cohen's bigger legal headaches beyond, of course, this civil case. Now Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is about to join me live. Cohen facing reports he could actually be charged with another crime related to foreign lobbying which Trump's top diplomat also addressed today.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: That's not how business is done. I have not seen that be the way business is done certainly with me, but I haven't seen it in this administration either. I think there is an investigation will be done. I'll try not to talk about it, but yes, I would tell the world this is not how one engages with America.


MELBER: Not how one engages with America.

I'm joined now by Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.

Thanks for making time. What do you think, A, of the Trump administration appearing to distance itself from what is alleged against Cohen. And B, what were you getting at in your new filing?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: Well, Ari, I think that the Trump administration is coming to the conclusion that Michael Cohen is indeed in a lot of trouble. And you know, with each passing day or every other day, Ari, it just gets worse and worse for this guy.

There's little question that he is going to be indicted. He is going to face some very serious charges. You had his business associate plea out a few days ago or plea out. A few days ago or flat-out. Now you hear the comments that your viewers just heard. I mean this is getting more and more difficult for Michael Cohen. He ought to be doing everything in his power to get into the U.S. attorney's office in the southern district of New York with his attorneys and should cut a deal sooner rather than later, because I think this is going to get far more complicated for him as time goes on. In fact not only do I think that, I know that.

MELBER: You say you know that. And of course some of your statements and information is as proven prescient. When you look at Michael Cohen though as an individual with these headaches, why isn't it more fair to give him extra time to deal with them rather than fast tracking your case. I mean, just from a general view of fairness?

AVENATTI: Well, lawsuits aren't fair, Ari, frankly. And they are just not. And this lawsuit and many others I have been involved in, it's likely not going to be fair either. You know, fair is one of those four-letter words.

But let me say this, we are seeking to lift the stay in our case. We think that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump shot themselves in the foot, if you will, by making these very public statements about their ability to defend themselves and making statements and admissions about what Mr. Trump knew and when he knew it and about the $130,000 and the way that it was handled. I think those statements are going to come back and bite them in a very big way. I don't think this case is going to be put on hold for months or years on end.

And ultimately, Ari, I think that the statements are going to prove to be fodder for us being able to depose the President in the coming months and placing him under oath.

MELBER: You think you are more likely to get the President under oath now than you were before all of the Cohen problems?

AVENATTI: There's no question in my mind about that, Ari, especially in light of Mr. Giuliani's statements, which are very, very helpful. And I hope he continues to go on FOX as many times as he possibly can and he should provide as many facts and statements as he has like to, because we are counting them and we are very appreciative of his efforts.

MELBER: Were you struck that Mr. Giuliani says he hasn't talked to his client in weeks?

AVENATTI: You know, I don't believe that.

MELBER: You think he is lying?

AVENATTI: Well, I don't believe much of what Mr. Giuliani says. I don't know if he is lying, Ari, or maybe he's just dazed and confused, which he appears to be on a fairly regular basis. I mean, this whole thing doesn't make any sense to me. I don't understand why he was hired to begin with. I don't understand why he hasn't been fired in light of the appearances that he has made and the statements that he has made.

But look, if Mr. Trump wants to continue to employ this guy to go out and represent him on television and make very damaging legal statements, God bless him.

MELBER: Well, it's interesting you mentioned dazed and confused because of course the plot of that movie involves whether you want to sign something and be accurate about it, and they don't want to sign it on the center of the football feed, as I recall. And David Dennison in the visage of Donald Trump didn't want to sign the NDA that you are litigating. So a very apt reference that you make.

I want to also ask you because you put Michael Cohen's legal career under scrutiny. I want to ask you about your law firm. You are familiar with these reports that says law firm of Stormy Daniels' attorney hit with $10 million judgment. Are there problems in payments or the financial history of your law firm that are relevant to all this?

AVENATTI: No, Ari. This is a complete sideshow and it's absolutely irrelevant. It's not even the same firm that is representing my client in the case. It's absurd. It's a bunch of nonsense, Ari. And you know, I'm confident that the American people are going to see through this smoke screen that's being created. There's additional personal attacks coming against me and my client. I'm aware of those. They are doing everything in their power, Ari, to distract away from the case and the facts and the circumstances surrounding this NDA, the $130,000 payment, what the President knew and his subsequent lies about it.

MELBER: But when you say "they" and you do have political detractors, we have covered that, but one of the individuals I'll put on the screen is a former legal business associate of yours with the allegations that millions of dollars went unpaid, that there was a settlement agreement and then you have this allegation that you've basically failed to pay part of your settlement. I mean is that individual an ally of Donald Trump or is that a person that you have some law firm-related business history with?

AVENATTI: Ari, I'm not -- certainly I have some history with that individual. I'm not going to malign him on your show publicly. There's a lot of things I could say and I could go on the attack and talk about claims for fraud and the like we've had against him. And I don't want to do that because it's irrelevant. I mean, why aren't we talking about the personal business and financial history of all the other attorneys in the case? And I will you why.

MELBER: Well, we have covered -- I will give you a chance to respond, Mr. Avenatti, as you know, Michael, but we do cover that. We have covered Michael Cohen's legal and business history. He started as a lawyer for Trump, but the attention and scrutiny raised other issues, so obviously I want to give you a chance to also address these, but it's relevant as these lawyers are fighting it out.

AVENATTI: Well, Ari, but here's a big difference. Michael Cohen is a party. I'm not a party. I'm an attorney. I represent a party. And you know as well as I do that if this was a trial, evidence relating to Michael Cohen would come into evidence. No evidence comes in about the attorneys and their business dealings or what law firms they have had or anything of that nature. It's a complete sideshow and it's meant to discredit my work on behalf of my client. It's absolutely irrelevant.

They want to talk about the parties in the case, they want to talk about the legal facts or issues in the case, that's one thing. But I think it's a bad day and a sad day when you start attacking attorneys who are representing parties in cases. I mean we are not making or lodging any attacks about Mr. Harder or Mr. Ryan or others that were involved in this case. I mean we need the focus to be on the parties in the case and the facts and the circumstances in the case.

MELBER: And I'm almost out of time. I did want to get you one more item, trying to get a lot of news coverage here. Rudy Giuliani now being reportedly talking about the discussions of the Mueller interview as soon as January.

Final question to you, sir. When you talk about pursuing Trump under oath today in a deposition, do you think you are more likely to get him first or Mueller?

AVENATTI: I think there's no question that I'm more likely to get him first, Ari. I don't think he's ever going to sit for a sworn statement or sworn testimony before Mr. Mueller.

MELBER: Michael Avenatti, always appreciate you making the time and taking the questions.

AVENATTI: Thank you, sir.

MELBER: Up ahead on THE BEAT from bullying to business to the bully pulpit, Trump's "Art of the Deal" co-authors, seen it all Tony Schwartz here on the history and why Rod Rosenstein should stand up to Trump. I'm looking forward to that discussion.

But first, Donald Trump now saying maybe NFL players should be deported.

We will be back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: The NFL catching heat for kneeling to Donald Trump with its new policy finding players for kneeling during the national anthem. Donald Trump going even farther saying maybe the response to exercising your free speech rights is deportation.


TRUMP: You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.


MELBER: Jelani Cobb and Heather McGhee are here to talk about this policy. It began with many players talking about police brutality. Milwaukee police have released body some cam video of rest of NBA Sterling Brown. He was tackled and tased back in January after his being -- OK, I'm going out to you guys. Tell me what you think about this issue.

MCGHEE: So this latest move by the NFL is, as you actually really I think well said, they are kneeling and capitulating to a politician who many of the owners personally supported. They are really violating, I think, the spirit of the constitution. They are in many ways saying to the American people this is a place that this sport likes to wrap itself in the flag. This sport likes to lionize military service and what our country stands for and we are saying that these mostly African-American players do not love our country just because they want to make it better.

And I mentioned Sterling Brown. And we do have that videos. I want to play some of that. It has gone a lot of attention since coming out. And this is the context for all these so think this is going to come back to hurt the NFL. Frankly I think this is at a time for the league when they need all the fans that they can get. And when, you know, this is a separate issue, but the issue of concussions and how players are treated and how the league, you know, protect them in the long run is something that's very, very important. The fact they did not consult with the union before releasing this new rule I think is going to come back to bite them.

MELBER: And I mentioned Sterling Brown and we do have that video, so I want to play some of that. It has got a lot of attention since coming out. And this is the context for all of this. Overwhelmingly African-American players, though not only, raising these issues because of videos like this. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you to back up. I'll do what I want, all right? I own this right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't own me, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taser, taser, taser.


JELANI COBB, THE NEW YORKER: You know, the NFL apparently wants to have black people without everything that comes with blackness. That these are African-Americans. And even we talked about owners in that language like sometimes I think people may take that a little bit too literally. These are actual adult human beings who have agency in their own decision-making process and allegedly the right to free speech as well. And so, when you see something like this like this is something that a league that is more than 60 percent African-American go down the line and ask all of these young men how much experience they have with circumstances like this and law enforcement. And you know, the NFL, of course, like around labor law, there are these particular issues of employers having rights to curtail speech in the workplace and so on. We understand that but the NFL doesn't bill itself is simply an employer. It builds itself as a kind of essential cultural institution of America and Americanism. And so, this is why Trump's statement about them being SOBs has so much a broader implication and obviously kind of racial implications to it. And so, what happens the next time some NFL players in a position like Michael Bennett was last year, are they going to say that they're supposed to just shut up and play football, that their American citizenship ends at the goal line?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well and as you say, it's so blatantly political by which I mean it's not about some sort of universal standards NFL. I mean, they don't even have a good policy on finding people you know, with domestic abuse.

COBB: Right.

MELBER: You know, LeBron James has been pulled into the Trump debate and then Trump's good at obviously getting debates going but let's take a look at what he famously said.


LEBRON JAMES, FORWARD, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's basically at a point where I'm kind of you know, just a little frustrated. Obviously, we all know what happened with Charlottesville and the divide that caused. And now it's even hitting more home for me now even more because he's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us. For him to try to use this platform to divide us, even more, it's not something I can stand for and it's not something I could be quiet about.


MELBER: And so Jelani, how much of this is the NFL deciding that even with all of the different stakeholders they have, the best thing is to just buckle to Donald Trump.

COBB: I think that's exactly what it is. And when you saw -- I mean, even let's look at Donald Trump's history with the NFL with you know him being deemed as a person who wasn't of the calibre they wanted as a team owner. And some people may have voted for him certainly and supported him out of a kind of pragmatism but he's not one of them especially when we look at the actual verifiable wealth that these men possess. And the really questionable card shuffle version of wealth that Donald Trump possesses. So he's not -- this is purely a kind of pragmatic capitulation to the person who occupies the White House and also the cultural value that has to the people who support him. And then, on the other hand, this -- the weird coincidence of the Jack Johnson pardon being given at the same time that this happens where Jack Johnson is really the exemplar of the things that these young men who are kneeling believe in, that starts with him. We start talking about the politicization of sports and the way it connects to race. Jack Johnson is where that story begins.

MELBER: And Heather, without putting too fine a point on it, if you want to work on criminal justice reform that affects African-Americans, what about living African-Americans?

HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT DEMOS: That's exactly right. I mean, that is why this decision to pardon Jack Johnson was safe. It had become a cause celeb for people like John McCain, for Harry Reid, for Sylvester Stallone. It had in some ways become like so much of the civil rights movement something that conservatives could embrace as well without dealing with the issues here and now. But I just want to be really clear about what the political strategy is behind him continuing to make the NFL an issue, right? Because he brought so many NFL players which were not -- whom were not standing or kneeling with Colin Kaepernick into the fray and feeling like they had to make a comment when he called them SOBs. And that's because he understands that a crucial part of his political success is to rig the rules of our economy so that wealthy people and billionaires can have their way while also pointing the finger at Black people, at immigrants to divide Americans from one another. That's just --

MELBER: Right. It's such an important context. Heather McGhee and Jelani Cobb, thanks both for being a part of this. I want to mention MSNBC has a town hall on racism in America with Chris Hayes and Joy Reid Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. Ahead, big news in the Harvey Weinstein case which is turning into a potentially defining moment in prosecutions in the MeToo era. But what happens the next time Donald Trump pressures the DOJ and the Russia probe? The Art of the Deal Co-Author Tony Schwartz warns that he will keep asking for more Donald Trump until someone stops him. That's next.


MELBER: Donald Trump lashing out at the Russia probe and larger questions of how leaders buckle to his fury. My next guest, Tony Schwartz, Co-Author of The Art of the Deal and a friend of THE BEAT says Trump's rage does make people try to appease them. Take Rod Rosenstein famously buckling to Trump's demand to find some way to probe allegations that the informant involved in investigating his campaign was somehow inappropriate. But history actually shows the acquiescence strategy does not work. Paul Ryan planning to step down and leave Congress at the end of the term despite treating Trump with kid gloves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the President vindicated?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I'll defer to the White House on all those questions. That pertains to them not this branch.

I've decided I'm not going to comment on the tweets of the day or the other hour.


MELBER: There are other ways of responding to Trump bullying note. Take back in the '90s, Trump attacking an elderly widow who refused to sell her house when he wanted to build a casino there. She stood her ground.


VERA COKING, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY HOMEWONER: He doesn't have no heart, that man. The only thing he has is he's worried about himself.


MELBER: And she won keeping her house. Trump's casino obviously ultimately closes doors as well. Or those Trump University students who sued Trump accusing him of a scam. Now, Trump went after some of them by name after they stood up to him.


BOB GUILLO, FORMER STUDENT, TRUMP UNIVERSITY: Donald, you have all the money in the world. Why did you pick on a little guy like me?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bob Guillo, and here's this report card of the school, and it talked about excellent. What makes your quality of presentation, quality of everything excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent. Why would anybody settle a case when we have reports like this?


MELBER: Trump clearly willing to attack those students with his bully pulpit but they didn't back down and as we know they ultimately won. I'm joined now by Tony Schwartz, he's also the CEO of The Energy Project and the bestselling author of The Way We Were Working Isn't Working. Thanks for being here.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CEO, THE ENERGY PROJECT: The appropriate title for the moment.

MELBER: For the moment. People seem to think the way to deal with him is to give him something so he'll leave you alone. Why is that wrong?

SCHWARTZ: Because he doesn't operate logically or rationally and that is a logical or rational response. He operates from emotion, he operates from the gut. You could tell today in the note that he wrote to Kim Jong-un that he clearly dictated himself that he was operating from impulse and from emotion and there was no logic or rationality in it. And when you try to respond to him in that way, you're out of luck. And one other, thing that using the word capitulation from the last segment, when you capitulate to Trump, what you're doing is you're making his blood run thick. He loves when you capitulate. And --

MELBER: It wets his appetite.

SCHWARTZ: He's a bully. And the right way to go to with a bully is to stand up to that bully because bullies always -- since they have an underlying weakness -- will always fold in the face of somebody strong.

MELBER: So category two is Mitt Romney stand up at first and that excited people during the campaign but then capitulate. You have Mitt Romney's humiliating Trump reversal, that was how the New Yorker put it.

SCHWARTZ: Well, across the board what you've seen is that the reaction to Trump has been to capitulate because Trump's advantages is he's unencumbered by a conscience and he's unencumbered by values. And that's an enormous advantage when you're willing to make the end justify the means. The end justify the means always. So he's willing to do anything as we know including lie repeatedly. If you're up against that, it's very disarming literally. And so, it's very hard for people because they're scared of his emotion. They're frightened by his emotion. They don't necessarily -- I think people don't necessarily recognize that he is throwing them off their game but he's pushing them in to their own emotion as opposed to the capacity to think more reflectively. And as a result, they're not coming forward with the best.

MELBER: Well, and this is where the emotional piece which you've written about and we've been talking to you about on this show clearly overrides the other skills. Rod Rosenstein is known as having legal acumen and other types of skills. And he was -- as I mentioned earlier in the show -- praised by some for the half measure of this meeting today. Well, this has blown up in his face. It is embarrassing and possibly legally problematic for Rod Rosenstein that he got bullied into creating a forum today where the President's Criminal Defense Attorney crashed the meeting because that raises the question of who's in charge of these meetings and Donald Trump in your view here has rattled Rosenstein.

SCHWARTZ: Well, there's no question he's rattled. And this is -- what's so frightening about it, Ari, is this is the history of tyranny, is that you begin to break down people's willingness to resist. And whatever Rosenstein motive might have been that is the consequence, is he's pushed one more -- he's pushed one more level toward fascism.

MELBER: So let me ask you the obvious question. It's part of what I do. Would Trump have tried to pull this maneuver today on Mueller and try to crash a Mueller meeting with his criminal defense attorney?

SCHWARTZ: I genuinely do not think so. And for the reason that I suspect you're thinking which is that I don't think he thinks Mueller would back down. And that's what's so frightening. However, I think his genuine temptation to do this interview and I hope he does because he will fold like a cheap umbrella in it, his temptation to do it is that he thinks he can outsmart Mueller in the room. Let's hope he tries.

MELBER: A fitting thought to pause on as we consider how Donald Trump is using these tactics. Tony Schwartz, as always, thank you for being here. Up ahead, we may be at an inflection point. Harvey Weinstein now expected -- this is news -- to surrender to New York authorities on sex crime charges tomorrow, a special guest next.


MELBER: Breaking news this evening. Harvey Weinstein turning himself in. There are two sources familiar with this case that tell NBC News this disgraced media mogul will surrender for the first time in New York City tomorrow, 7:00 a.m. to face charges of sexual misconduct. The New York Daily News is reporting these stem from at least one accuser Lucia Evans. She broke her silence to The New Yorker memorably back in October alleging Weinstein forced her to perform "oral sex on him." Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing. The rape and sexual abuse allegations against him though have now collectively spanned four decades with nearly a hundred different women. And that includes very public statements from Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and as we mention many, many, others who are less famous.

There is an argument here that this may be a defining case in this MeToo era and happening in New York City where the Attorney General, of course, stepped down because of credible allegations that he was also abusing women while serving in that post. I'm joined with WNBC Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst who has been reporting this story out for us and gave some of the information we just used in our opening statement there, and Stacey Honowitz, an Assistant State Attorney in Florida, Supervisor of the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit. Thank you both. Jonathan, I would usually go to you because as I mentioned we've been indebted of your reporting but Stacy, as someone who prosecutes these kinds of cases, why traditionally have they been harder to bring and what does it mean that this is happening tomorrow.

STACEY HONOWITZ, SUPERVISOR OF THE SEX CRIMES AND CHILD ABUSE UNIT, FLORIDA: Well, everybody knows that rape cases are very difficult especially when they're one-on-one or he-said-she-said case. But this case is landmark, and that's because we know that these allegations were brought a long time ago and I'm sure when this victim met with the District Attorney, the facts were gone over and maybe because it was a he said-she said with not you know, enough evidence to take it into court, they held off. Now, we've seen in the last six months what opened. The doors have been wide open. There was -- the floodgates are open with a ton of women coming forward saying that this same pattern of behavior happened to them. And so, it's not unusual for the D.A. to take a second look, a fresh pair of eyes, new evidence comes up and then later on a case is developed and the person is arrested. And I think that's what you're seeing here. We saw the press covering all of these cases. We've seen these women come forward and now that's what you're saying.

MELBER: And so, part of what you're arguing does cut against -- are you -- can you hear me OK?

HONOWITZ: Yes, I'm fine.

MELBER: OK. It cuts against some of the story that prosecutors like to tell which is that they don't pay attention to the press or the politics or the public pressure and they take the facts as they get them and they decide whether to try cases. You're suggesting something that I think cuts against their narrative which is it does matter that there's a movement out there and it does matter that there's been public pressure.

HONOWITZ: Well listen, you know, this is a big movement and we've seen it, but as prosecutors, we don't always look at it as a movement. We've got cases and I've had cases before, before MeToo. I'm doing this, you know, thirty years where let's say somebody attacks a woman or there's a sexual assault and maybe that person's not famous, nobody knows who that person is, but the person will come to me and I don't have enough to get it into court. I might find the person to be very credible but beyond a reasonable doubt, I won't be able to prove it. If the police officers then go into a press release and they ask other people in the community if there's information, we often get witnesses. So it's not just the MeToo Movement that's brought it about. I mean, it's widespread now and everybody gets to see it but it's not just me MeToo that brings other victims out, it could be other things. And in this case it was MeToo but it's not a historical thing that prosecutors don't prosecute unless it's the MeToo you know, situation.

MELBER: Copy. I think you're making a very important nuanced point there which is that the public attention itself may not be what changes the process but one outcome of it is other people coming forward which creates what prosecutors need which is evidence, testimonial, and corroboration.

HONOWITZ: Absolutely.

MELBER: Yes, and I think -- I think you're speaking to that process which in a way, Jonathan, sounds better, at least legally better than the notion that prosecutors are just responding to "pressure." When you talk about people speaking out power matters and many people talked about this in Hollywood as a secret, not an open one initially, and powerful people have come out. Here's Gwyneth Paltrow describing her incident with Weinstein.


GWYNETH PALTROW, ACTRESS: We had one instance in a hotel room where he tried to -- where he made a pass at me. And then I really kind of stood up to him, I told my boyfriend at the time --


PALTROW: -- Brad Pitt, I was very shaken by the whole thing. And I had two movies -- I had signed up to do two movies with him --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you afraid that the movies would be canceled or --

PALTROW: I was afraid.


MELBER: Where does that fit into your reporting on the corroboration or the testimonial evidence they're getting in New York?

JONATHAN DIENST, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WNBC: I think those public statements are irrelevant to the criminal cases that are being brought right now. There are at least two cases that the NYPD and the DEA have been focusing on. Lucia Evans believed to be one of them and that testimony a grand jury in New York is hearing evidence in connection with that. We are told there's no indictment yet but the D.A. decided to move forward because he now believes he has enough evidence to move forward with a criminal prosecution that the indictment will come in the coming week or two weeks but they want to arrest Harvey Weinstein now, get him under court supervision and file charges and let it be --

MELBER: They must confident.

DIENST: They are confident because they're moving forward with an arrest and they're having him turn himself in tomorrow to the first precinct at 7:00 a.m. and he's going to be booked fingerprinted, mug shot and appear in court to face the charges and face bail. Now as Defense Attorney Ben Brafman insists Weinstein never engaged in non-consensual sex, that there's no criminality here and he you know, is the finest of defense attorneys and that you know, he's confident they're going to win this case.

MELBER: Right, and he had a lot of power heading into this. We will see how that works as he steps out on the stage is certainly an important defendant with a lot of corroboration about some of these claims against him, innocent until proven guilty as we always are required to say. Jonathan Dienst's and Stacey Honowitz, thank you both and we will be right back


MELBER: One more note on the Rudy Giuliani, he's explaining why he is worried about Trump sitting down with Mueller. He says Mueller might set a perjury trap because "truth is relative and they may have a different version of the truth than we do." Spoken like a true college student. That does it for us. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.



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