Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: May 30, 2018 Guest: Mike Lupica; Michael Avenatti; Frank Figliuzzi, Bill Kristol, Kenneth White, Amanda Marcotte, Jess McIntosh
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Oh, yes, seriously, we get a call when that happens. Do not roast marshmallows or anything else over the Hawaii volcano. This is the s`more you know.
That`s all we have for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more "MTP DAILY."
THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Now Chuck, I have heard of molten chocolate lava cake, but what I`m getting from you in the news tonight is don`t use real lava.
TODD: That`s my tip. You can, as long as it`s gluten-free.
MELBER: OK. Well, as you said the s`more it gets crazier every day. Thank you, Chuck.
Tonight, we begin with a very big question. What documents did Michael Cohen put in this now as of this hour infamous shredder? And are there Cohen tapes? And, if so, who is exactly on them?
Those are some of the big questions after Trump`s fixer and personal attorney appearing today in that federal courtroom New York and a fight over the records and electronics seized in the famous FBI raid in his home in April and his office that was back in April.
Prosecutors say that they have now turned over more than 3.7 million items. And those are going to be reviewed for anything that might not ultimately get into court. That would be attorney-client privilege or otherwise highly personal.
Now, there are two locked blackberries, the contents of this shredder which everyone is wondering about. And they were trying to piece it back together.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking because the judge says Cohen`s lawyers will have to finish going through any remaining items and documents by June 15th. So about two weeks. If they don`t finish by then, then another team of prosecutors will do the work live for them.
The other news, coming from Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who you see here is live on set on "THE BEAT." He revealed in court today, that a reporter called him last week about a recording of a phone call between Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels` former attorney. Cohen`s lawyer, not denying that these tapes exist but says they have not been leaking anything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Just like the Nixon tapes years ago, we now have what I will refer to the Trump tapes. Mr. Ryan admitted that there are audio recordings that Michael Cohen was taking for years. Not only do they exist, but they are under lock and key and some of them relate to my client and her attorney/client privilege commune cakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Avenatti later saying he believes that Trump himself was recorded. Now, let`s be clear, the evidence coming out of today`s proceeding does not speak exactly to that. Avenatti calling on Cohen to go ahead and release the recordings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: People can make their own determinations as to their importance relating to the President and what he knew and when he knew it and what he did as it relates to conspiring with Michael Cohen to commit one or more potential crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Much to discuss. I am joined by Maya Wiley, a former counsel of New York City, Mike Lupica, a columnist for the "New York Daily News" and Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant FBI director and as mentioned, Mr. Avenatti will speak to us in a moment.
But Maya, this is at least intriguing.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: It is very intriguing.
MELBER: You look happy.
WILEY: Well, look, at the end of the day, we know that this case is going to proceed and it`s going to proceed a pace. Because Judge Wood has said two weeks, if you don`t get through it, Michael Cohen attorneys were just going to send it over to the prosecutors. They have to go through all those documents in order to proceed with the case.
But the fact that we have shredded documents that they are trying to piece back together suggests that -- well, it raises the question, why are there shredded documents?
MELBER: Why are there shredded documents, is a big one. And I say this not just because anytime you bring up a shredder, it gets more interesting. I mean, it just does.
MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: No, no. If are you in a story with a shredder, your life is taking a wrong turn.
MELBER: Right. Something is going down. But this, of course, is actually also legally significant because the feds were citing their assertions, that`s what they are because we haven`t proven in court. But as part of the probable cause for why they went in on Cohen in the first place.
I`m reading here from a court filing, they said look, absent a search warrant, these very records could have been deleted without recourse for law enforcement. And you see about that the redactions suggesting in that filing that there were things going on that made the feds move because they thought there was either destruction or about to be destruction.
LUPICA: Yes, unless you think it`s one of those crazy coincidences that you get if life sometimes that these documents happen to be shredded that day.
You know what I was thinking? Reading all these stories about this today, Ari, and Maya, Kimbal Wood, the judge in this case must feel like she lost the bet to get involved in the middle of something like this. Which is like the grifters (ph) meets usual suspects, meets the gang that couldn`t shoot straight. But I was asking Maya this before we come on tonight.
MELBER: Does that make David Dennison in suspect?
MELBER: I`m just trying to follow the movie right there.
LUPICA: No, I can explain it to you. But what is, what is the worst thing for the President of the United States in these potentially in these shredded documents?
MELBER: Are you talking about --?
LUPICA: No, I was saying.
MELBER: I have, you know, all right.
WILEY: Money laundering.
AVENATTI: That`s a softball pitch, you know, thrown to Babe Ruth.
MELBER: Go ahead.
AVENATTI: Using a baseball --
LUPICA: The worst thing.
AVENATTI: Well, I mean, look, hypothetically speaking, I mean these documents and these recordings could have the President of the United States complicit with Michael Cohen as it relates to potential serious federal criminal acts relating to money laundering or other untoward criminal conduct. I mean, if hypothetically speaking, you are asking, you know, what`s possible. That`s possible, hypothetically.
MELBER: Do you have a reason that`s more than possible?
AVENATTI: Well, I don`t have a reason to believe that that in particular is more than possible. But I have every reason to believe, Ari, that these recordings that were seized by the FBI, which Michael Cohen and his attorneys have a copy of, include recordings between Michael Cohen and the President of the United States as well as others. And it`s never a good idea to be recording conversations period, especially if you are an attorney, especially if you are dealing with sensitive information.
It`s really not a good idea if are you going to do that, to record them with people that later become the President of the United States. It`s especially a bad idea to then keep those recordings in your office or your home or your hotel room and have them seized by the FBI.
WILEY: I, yes, but -- why is he recording phone conversations? Why? I mean, this is where you start to get into is there some kind of criminal enterprise? Does he need some kind of leverage over people? Because lawyers typically do not need a recorded phone conversation record to zealously represent their clients.
MELBER: Well, that`s a big part. And I`m going to press you a little more on the underlying evidence. But just at the hypothetical level, I want to also bring in Frank.
Because Maya makes a point that is familiar to lawyers, which is, if anything lawyers often do the opposite when they are dealing with sensitive information. They will say, let`s not record too much. Let`s have a broad discussion without any memorialization. And later we will write a very vague memo is often the practice that refers to it.
This seems to be different and, Frank, from your investigative hat, from the FBI perspective, what does that do for them?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: So Ari, you are absolutely right. The best practice if you are really practicing true law is put down as little down as possible when you are interacting on sensitive lawyers.
MELBER: True law. You sound like Michael Cohen is doing something other than true law. But go ahead.
FIGLIUZZI: Well, yes. Well, I will get to that in a second because that has to do with his claim that he needs more time to determine what is privileged and what is not. Which I think is a bunch of horse manure (ph). Because I think if you are practicing true law, you have things marked attorney-client privilege. You run a software program. You determine where those words exist in the document and you got your universe of documents to work with.
But let`s move on to much more interesting topics, which is the shredder and the recording calls. With regard to the recorded calls, a couple of things.
One is I`m fascinated by how this might impact Trump`s decision to sit down with Mueller or not. Because up until now Trump has been sitting back saying I don`t use emails. So I`m sitting pretty, nothing is documented.
MELBER: Great point.
FIGLIUZZI: Now he has to scratch his head and wonder, I wonder how much I was being recorded. I don`t know what Mueller has regarding my voice. What the FBI can analyze in terms of voice signature and determine is my voice. So now that they have him thinking twice.
With regard to the shredder. Let`s also not just isolate the possibility that the FBI grabbed shredded material during the raid, but let`s expand that to the possibility that the FBI seized discarded shredded trash once it left the office space and for how long, we don`t know. We don`t know the true volume of the shredded material. But once it`s discarded, there is no possession of it lawfully by Cohen and if he went cheap on his purchase of a shredder, he is going to regret it. Because the FBI can absolutely put it back together.
MELBER: I don`t know if we are on the news right now or deep in a home depot sales pitch about what you need the best shredder possible. But I take your point that if the material is not really, really gone, sometimes they get it back.
Michael, I want to now turn into the other piece of this which is you went out on the courthouse steps as you have done before. And you said things that got a lot of people interested. You are calling these the Trump tapes. That is very interesting. It is very exciting. But you don`t, in fact, know whether Donald Trump is or isn`t on any of these tapes yet?
AVENATTI: Well, I know for a fact that Donald Trump is on at least one of these recordings, Ari. I`m not going to get into details.
MELBER: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not getting into details of how I know that.
MELBER: Would you say that in court?
MELBER: So you are saying as a matter of fact you know at least on one occasion she on the tape?
MELBER: And you know that because you have heard that tape?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into how.
MELBER: Because if you haven`t heard that tape, do you really know that or you just think that because someone told you that?
AVENATTI: Let me answer your question, OK. On at least one of these recordings Donald Trump is on one of the recordings at least one of them. I know that for a fact. I stand behind it. I think if you look at my track record over the last almost three months, its impeccable relating to --
MELBER: Would you describe that as something have you personal knowledge of.
MELBER: Let me read to you what they read in court. This is very interesting what you just said because that would advance this story, because there is a guessing game about whether Donald Trump, himself, is on the tapes.
AVENATTI: Are you going to read to me Mr. Ryan`s comments?
AVENATTI: Because I think they are important.
MELBER: Good. See, you get enough lawyers around a table and they know what the other lawyer is doing.
Yes, that`s what I`m going to read. The audiotapes that we have if any that pertain to him are under lock and key. They are controlled by my law firm and potus, to the extent there may be a claim (INAUDIBLE). I am unaware of any release of an audio file of this kind. Your response to that.
AVENATTI: There is no question these audio tapes exist. They are under lock and key, according to what Mr. Ryan has stated. Now it`s important that we clarify that there are at least two copies of these recordings. There is the recording under lock and key at Mr. Ryan`s office evidently pursuant to his statement and then the government has a copy of these recordings when they were seized by way of the FBI raids.
So there is no question these recordings exist. They ought to be released. We are especially disturbed by the fact that evidently my client`s former counsel had communications with Michael Cohen during which they discussed attorney/client privileged information that my client had disclosed to her attorney who then passed it to Michael Cohen who then recorded it and kept it.
MELBER: That`s very important. Let`s slow down so people could grasp what you are saying. That`s very important.
Because there, as you know, in more than one case, the allegations, unproven, but allegations that Mr. Cohen basically worked with this other lawyer, you are referring to Mr. Davidson, your predecessor, in a manner that might have been adverse to his client`s interests in order to help Donald Trump. You are now saying you believe there is smoking gun tape evidence of that?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. I mean, this was the call that I received from the reporter last week. I was minding my own business in California. It was early in the morning.
MELBER: As you do.
AVENATTI: Not exactly.
MELBER: You are known for, you mind your own business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go along to go along with.
AVENATTI: That`s very funny, actually. I would agree with that. I might use that again without attribution. I get a call from this reporter who asks me to comments on a recorded conversation that the reporter has heard between Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cohen discussing my client and attorney/client privileged information.
Now you can imagine as someone who is learned in the law my shock upon hearing this, that this recording would exist, a, and that her former counsel would be disclosing attorney/client privilege information to his known adversary Mr. Cohen. B, very disturbing set of events.
So we filed the document with the court. We asked the court to inquire about it. And during today`s hearing, this is how we got Mr. Ryan to make this a mission in open court, that, a, these courts exist. And b, they are under lock and key.
Our next position is we are going to be demanding tomorrow that they be turned over to us immediately, all recordings relating to my clients, especially those discussing attorney/client privilege information. They should not be in the possession of Mr. Ryan. They should not be in possession of Mr. Cohen. And we want them so that we can determine what was said and what to do with them period.
MELBER: And let me ask you this and I`m going to it around the table.
You just made an assertion here on live national TV that you have to believe in -- you are staking your credibility on it that Donald Trump is, indeed, on one of these recorded calls. And if you are on one, that opens up the idea that you may be on more than one. I think the difference between zero and one is far greater than the difference between one and 20.
If that`s the case, do you believe that Donald Trump already knew that or do you think he is learning that tonight as you break this news?
AVENATTI: No, I think he already knows that. But let me say this, Ari. If I`m wrong, let Mr. Ryan or Mr. Cohen come on your show or any other show and state unequivocally that there never was and there is not currently a tape of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen.
MELBER: Maya, what do you make of that? Because again if this assertion is true, Mr. Avenatti says he can back it up, then Donald Trump either already knew this and was going through those calls, which might make him, my guess, more careful if you know you are on the recorded line or he found that after the fact or finds out tonight as this makes news, because it`s news worthy, what is your view of Donald Trump`s likely mental state about this?
WILEY: I am assuming he is going through the roof. I`m sure he is not taking this well. I, frankly, either scenario. If he didn`t know, of course, he is definitely, if he`s not taking it well, that Jeff Sessions didn`t recuse himself, that he spent months trying to get Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself, if he`s beside himself about Roseanne Barr, I mean, let`s face it, this is a lot more central to his personal interests than Roseanne bar, he has got to be losing his mind.
LUPICA: You know, as you watch the Cohen saga play out, somehow the world convinced him that the world was a mark waiting for him to play it. That he had been conditioned to believe, it`s like they said ten seconds (ph) where it said the ten stages of drunkenness and they can be drunk with power. Nine is invisible. And ten is bulletproof. This guy started to think he was invisible and bullet proof. And now --.
MELBER: And that`s why he bot the cheaper shredder, you think?
LUPICA: I was going to ask Michael what kind shredder he had. My favorite of all --.
AVENATTI: A crosscut shredder. You have to buy a crosscut shredder, not a strip shredder. You can`t be cheap when it comes to your shredder.
WILEY: They are actually not that expensive, to be quite honest.
LUPICA: Well, my favorite think that Ryan said was about you today. He said he never seen a lawyer behave the way you behaved. And I`m thinking he is obviously unfamiliar with Rudy Giuliani`s work.
MELBER: Yes. Well.
And Frank, before we go, I actually want to play, because you were talking about the attitude here. And we have footage of Michael Cohen that is interesting in this context, which is talking about the way Donald Trump deals with people and their connection. Take a listen to this, Frank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: If you know anybody in the Trump organization that spends any amount of time with him like I do, we all feel the same way about he is more to us than just a boss. He is a mentor. He is a sage. He is like family. And when you have a problem, Mr. Trump feels like he has a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Frank, how does that apply today and affect how Cohen is dealing with all this pressure?
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, two things come up when I hear that. First, it`s so reminiscent of listening to La Costa Nostra wiretaps, I can`t tell you how close it is in terms of, you know, we are like family. We are family.
The other thing is the reality at some point you have to choose between your actual family and your like family. And at some point when Cohen sees the federal sentencing guidelines, sees what he is criminally exposed to, I believe he is going to choose his real family over his like family and I think he is going to do the right thing. It`s a question of how long that will take.
MELBER: Very interesting in putting that respect.
Frank Figliuzzi, thank you as always for your insights. Michael Avenatti and the panel in New York State stays. I want to get into more of what we have learned in court today.
Also later, something Maya just mentioned, Donald Trump trying to get Sessions to un-recuse from the probe, Bob Mueller is now investigating that.
I am also going to dig into Trump`s conspiracy theories on Russia and why some of them have been debunked from a surprising stores.
And a strange response to the Roseanne racism scandal. Why does Donald Trump think he gets an apology?
Plus tonight, a report we have been working on for a while, trolling in the Trump era, how it works and how to stop it.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Our coverage of the Cohen raid today continues. And on set with me here in New York is Michael Avenatti, Maya Wiley and Mike Lupica.
One of the things that happened in court today, Michael, as you know it, I want to play for your benefit is a reference to your public advocacy for your client, the judge referring the things you have said like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: Michael Cohen has zero credibility. We are going to prove it. This is a man who has a history of thuggish behavior.
There is no question in my mind that Michael Cohen, a, is going to be indicted within the next three months. He is not a registered lobbyist. He hasn`t made required disclosures related to lobbying activities. We don`t know where this is, but it doesn`t smell right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today the judge said you currently have the right to make those kinds of statements as most any Americans does. But if you were more formally involved in this case, you would not be able to speak to, for example, your opinion of Mr. Cohen`s guilt.
AVENATTI: Well, that`s what she said. And I heard what she said. And let me just say this, Ari.
I think I listened carefully and watched carefully. I think everything that I said and every one of those statements can be backed up and is proven to be true. Nothing has been proven on the false.
But look, Ari, this isn`t a publicity tour. Let me tell you what it is, it`s a truth tour. And it`s going to continue. And it`s going to continues today, next week and next month. Because we are going to get to the bottom of what happened here. And we are going to continue to disclose evidence and facts as necessary for the American people. And they can decide what ultimately happens with those facts and that evidence.
We are not going to change our tactics. We are not going to pack up and go home. We are not going to change our media strategy. It has worked I think perfectly for the benefit of my client, for her cause and for the benefit of the American people and what they want to know as it relates to Michael Cohen.
MELBER: Does that mean you will stay out of speak income court, though? Because the judge was implying it`s one or the other?
AVENATTI: Well, we withdrew my motion for admission (INAUDIBLE) because it`s not necessary, because our motion to intervene has been tabled by agreement of the government and us. We have resolved a lot of issues.
MELBER: You know I get excited when you that say (INAUDIBLE).
AVENATTI: Yes, I know you do.
MELBER: You know that.
Were you referring to the idea you would be enter out a stay in a case that you otherwise don`t have any interest?
AVENATTI: At this point in time, we don`t need that motion decided at this juncture. So to clean it up procedurally, we withdrew the motion. And so, for the time being, we are going to continue to do what we have done in the past. And we are going to continue to disclose information. And I think we brought a lot of information and evidence to bear. And I think we furthered the conversation.
MELBER: And I think you furthered the conversation as well. Again, in fairness, that`s what we do on the show, what Mr. Cohen`s side says is that quote "you have involved yourself in ways to call attention to yourself. That you have grandees a single attorney quote and Lupica was referring to this, quote "I have never seen an attorney conduct himself in the manner Mr. Avenatti has. It shakes me in my boots."
AVENATTI: Well, I have seen some of Mr. Ryan`s conduct in this case, including the buffoonery associated with announcing Sean Hannity`s name publicly in court as opposed to writing it on a piece of paper when he was given the option of doing so, which is one of the dumbest things I have seen any trial attorney do in a very long time.
So look. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Ryan has never seen an attorney conduct himself in this way, but perhaps he should take notes.
LUPICA: It just occurred to me. Listen, you talked that nobody has been more formally informally involved in a case in history than you have been involved in this. Michael, when you say -- is it OK if I can him a question, right?
MELBER: Go ahead.
LUPICA: When you say this is a truth tour. What is the ultimate truth of Stormy Daniels` case against Cohen and case against Trump that you want the American people to know unqualifiable at the end of this?
AVENATTI: Well, I think let me answer in this way. I think that any and all information relating to the $130,000 payment to my client, where it came from, how it was routed, how it was handled, what account it went into is certainly fair game and should be disclosed. Anything and everything relating to this entity that was originally set up to pay my client Essential Consultants LLC and the bank accounts associated with it. That is all within the realm of what we believe should be disclosed.
MELBER: And let me ask, Maya, is there any danger for other people around Michael Cohen including potentially the President if anyone knew that as alleged they were trying to destroy material?
WILEY: Yes, that would be called, it could be aiding and abetting. They may be a part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. I mean, it depends on the facts and circumstances, but there absolutely could be if there was knowledge beforehand and even potentially a conspiracy and some discussion about whether there should be documents disposed.
MELBER: Because I think that is an interesting part it goes. And I will give you the last word on this.
It goes to the way you conducted this case. You have obviously been an advocate for your client in a manner that has put pressure on other people, made them respond. But you don`t control and the media does not control, you know, contrary to the popular belief in the White House, how those people respond.
The fact that there are credible allegations from the feds that one of the responses was to potentially either destroy evidence or they were on the precipice of doing so is a new crime that is relevant to your case because it seems to be in response to things that were done with or after in relation to your client. And that sort of seems to be a big thing that`s now hanging over this case.
AVENATTI: Well, Ari, I think that our approach to this case and our media exposure and the publicity that we have generated around our case has led to a furtherance of the discussion most certainly, a furtherance of the American people having access to evidence and documents and facts about this. And I think it has resulted in considerable additional information coming to light whether it be from other corporations that paid Michael Cohen for access to the President or otherwise.
So I think the benefits have been immeasurable. The only people that don`t seem to like it are Michael Cohen and his attorney and it`s obvious why they don`t like it. Because they don`t want this information out there. They don`t want people to know about it. That`s why they haven`t tried to get out in front and release the bank records. That`s why they haven`t released the audio recordings. And that`s why we are continuing to press forward as it relates to prosecuting our case and bringing truth to the American people.
MELBER: Michael Avenatti, a busy day in court. A busy night tonight. I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.
Maya Wiley, Mike Lupica, always a pleasure.
We have a lot more as well from Donald to Roseanne, how to handle trolls in America.
And first, Mueller eyeing attacks on Jeff Sessions. Why is that now under investigation? We will be back in just 60 seconds.
MELBER: To the other top story tonight. Donald Trump saying he wished he never picked Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Now our cameras were just spotting Sessions leaving the White House. This was just moments ago. No word officially on what he was doing there. Meanwhile, the deputy press secretary won`t say anything about why.
Now it comes after a blunt statement from Trump and after these reports that Bob Mueller is actually eyeing a tensed confrontation Trump had with Sessions. In March the "New York Times" Trump berated him telling to reverse the recusal. It`s highly unusual and potentially inappropriate demand. It comes, of course with the obstruction probe well into a serious phase. And Mueller had questions like this for Trump, what did you think or do regarding the recusal? And what efforts did you make to try to get Sessions to change his mind. But Trump has been vocal about all this. Here is what he said in July.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the Attorney General. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutor Kenneth White and Bill Kristol Founder of the Weekly Standard. Bill, the President talks a lot. This seems to be again against his interest if he`s feeding these stories.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I guess it is against his interest. I mean, we -- he`s a very unhappy guy that Robert Mueller is conducting this investigation. So far Sessions in recent time have stood reasonably firm and there`s been enough I think pressure on the President not to fire either of them, that Mueller has been able to investigate and that`s by far the most important thing. You know, Mueller is a very able man and he`s got a very able team and they found out an amazing amount of stuff I suspect, much more than we think and I think it`s -- we`re hitting the home stretch here and the President is awfully unhappy about the prospect that he doesn`t quite think -- I think he doesn`t think he can fire well, Mueller and Rosenstein remains I think would be the key link where Trump offices will be extremely tempted to do something there. That`s why I`m heartened by Gowdy and by others beginning a little bit maybe a step forward among Republicans and say come on let us probe you know, go ahead and finish.
MELBER: And what are you afraid you about Gowdy?
KRISTOL: Well, Gowdy said last night after the -- you know, he thought the FBI had behaved appropriately. He said elsewhere that Mueller should be allowed to finish this investigation. Gowdy is a conservative Republican. A lot of credibility with his fellow House Republicans and I think it`s important that he`s out there a little bit, it`s not just people like me who aren`t big fans of Donald Trump. Gowdy is kind of a Trump supporter saying that.
MELBER: Kenneth, how typical would it be for someone who recused because of their closeness to the campaign under investigation to then un-recuse at the request of the beneficiary and candidate from that campaign?
KENNETH WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it would be extremely unusual and the appearance of it would be terrible. One of the purposes of recusal is not just that you think the law absolutely compels you to recuse yourself but you think that the appearance of fairness and justice require it. And I think that if Attorney General Sessions had changed his mind particularly after the appearance of pressure from the President that it would have dramatically undermined the credibility of his involvement and I`m sure he knew that. He seems to have been in a very difficult position having made this decision and then having his boss, the president put some pretty strong pressure on him to change his mind.
MELBER: Yes, and so Kenneth, when you see this, what does it add to the portrait of Donald Trump because Bill and I have had a kind of a discussion across the peaks and valleys of 2018 that when it comes to legal strategy, Donald Trump is better at it than he often gets credit.
WHITE: I don`t know if this is legal strategy right now, the attacking of Sessions after this revelation or whether it`s public relations strategy. He`s laying a mattress where they`d see how the idea of firing Session sounds, whether he`s signaling to his base and his allies in Congress that this investigation is illegitimate because he doesn`t have someone on his side overseeing it.
MELBER: You said laying a mattress?
WHITE: Sorry that`s an old prosecutor term.
MELBER: What does that mean?
WHITE: You know laying it down for something that`s going to happen later for --
MELBER: OK, because Travis Scott always says better bring a mattress if you`re sleeping on me. It sounds like you`ve made it a little bit different way though.
WHITE: Yes, I`m not going to the mattresses either from the godfather, this is something else. But the really interesting thing from Mueller`s point of view I suspect is how eager Trump was according to this New York Times reports to pressure Sessions to change his mind and to be the loyalists on Trump`s team overseeing the investigation. Now that may not be itself obstruction of justice because I think --
MELBER: But it`s -- let me take that to Bill. Whether or not it`s a federal crime, Bill, it`s again, concerning about independent law enforcement.
KRISTOL: It is but I very much agree with Ken too. I mean, this is all about it. Didn`t Giuliani say this other thing get as much attention should have? So ultimately this is about impeachment, it`s about public opinion, it`s not what Congress thinks. I do think that they know that they`re are going to end up with Robert Mueller reporting somehow other Rosenstein or report the Rosenstein facility will make available to Congress in some way or other that will find plausibly or possibly impeachable offenses and it becomes a political fight. And that`s what Trump is all about. Whether he will try to curb the investigation before we get to that point remains a big question for me and it`s why I very much hope Republicans do rally to support Mueller and also Rosenstein and Sessions. And Trump hasn`t quite figured out a way I think to get rid of them at this point. So instead they`re just laying the groundwork for trying to discredit the investigation as much as possible.
MELBER: Bill Kristol and Kenneth White, interesting stuff. Thank you both. Up ahead, we turn to as promised my special report. What happens when Donald Trump provokes people with those outlandish insults and why is the guidebook to trolling so essential now?
MELBER: Now, we turn to a special report in discussion on a political trap deployed by Trump and many other agitators as well as how to avoid it. I`m talking about trolling, the tactic of doing something in order to just upset other people. Days after the election, comedian Dave Chappelle captured our new era, life under a commander in troll.
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DAVID CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: America has done it. We`ve actually -- we`ve actually elected an internet troll as our president.
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MELBER: Trump didn`t invent trolling, just like he didn`t coin make America great again. He stole that from Reagan. But Trump copies the internet trolling style and he applies it to politics which is a natural fit for a Twitter-obsessed reality star more interested in reaction and attention than any particular policy or substance. Now, this has consequences for our politics because one, Trump`s better at trolling than many of his opponents and he uses it against them. Two, trolling works by tricking people and exploiting their overreaction, it works less when people properly identify the trolls in their midst. And three, trolling is devastating for the media, for us, because the media tends to cover conflict and emotion more than stories where everyone agrees where there`s no exciting debate. So tonight, we want to explore this problem and the solutions. Trolling is basically rooted in the pranks, an internet culture of the 90s. It refers to making offensive comments not because you believe them but to upset other people. Trump has trolled his whole career and some have started to notice his political trolling.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he`s what they call trolling and I think he`s kind of messing with them, sort of jangling a stick in their cage to get him freaked out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His goal was to troll the press, meaning to inflame with the national press corps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is the world`s biggest troll and everybody falls for it everyday hook, line, and stinker.
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MELBER: Some trolling can be low-stakes like random pranks, internet headlines are links that go to the wrong content. Think of rickrolls, there`s trolling where people take pleasure in acting out without expecting a response like trolling celebrities even if they probably won`t see the comments, something Jimmy Kimmel has had his fun with. Another type of trolling is confrontational, tricking or baiting someone for an almost guaranteed reaction like MTV`s Punk`d where Ashton Kutcher showed us all how lovable he is, or before the internet there were prank calls or the kind of relentless workplace trolling that Jim practiced in the office.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hold on, hold on. The judge is in session. What is the problem here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put my stuff in the (INAUDIBLE) again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know it was me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Which can be fun. Political trolling is a little different because it exploits political differences to present different messages to different ideological audiences through the same single act of trolling. Take Trump`s infamous Cinco de Mayo tweet which promoted Trump Tower taco bowls and said "I love Hispanics." You`re looking at classic trolling right there. The pic says one thing to Trump`s bates who liked his message and they liked even more how it will certainly make his critics heads explode. Earnest reactions to this kind of thing risk falling into the trolling trap. Everyone lecturing Trump about how that was the wrong way to do Cinco de Mayo are giving him the negative attention that the trolling needs to be effective. So critics are sometimes caught between normalizing the behavior and overreacting to it. Sarah Palin posed that challenge with her trolling on topics ranging from one politicians ban on sugary drinks to the media.
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SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: (INAUDIBLE) is not around (INAUDIBLE)
About a year later I got to ask those supporters of all that. How`s that hopey, changey thing working out for you?
Join me in telling the lamestream media then that we wear your scorn with pride.
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MELBER: Scorn. Palin tapping into the core of trolling, it`s not about just being liked by your side, it`s earning the scorn of the other side is proof of your potency and your power and your relevance. It`s not a strategy born of real goals like passing a bill or forging world peace, it`s a strategy born of strife. Upset your opponents enough and you must be winning. You know the cliche about Trump back during the campaign was that no gap seems to stick to him but that took his words at face value when you see his words as pure trolling designed to only be over the top and draw scorn. Well, it all looks a little different.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve called women you don`t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account --
TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell.
He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK. I hate to tell you.
The MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now this link between Trump style and trolling is not just an observation tonight. Trump`s campaign was boosted by trolls. His supporters organized on forums like Reddit and (INAUDIBLE). They talked about Trump as the ultimate human troll who would enrage the nation. Trump`s campaign chief Steve Bannon said he tried to recruit young men upset about gamergate and other online battles to harness their energy for Trump. He argued Trump style worked perfectly for that and I`m quoting, he said that Trump was like the famous honey badger meme Trump don`t care. Now, there are tactics for dealing with trolls, the old staying online, of course, is don`t feed the trolls because that`s literally the only thing they want. Some of that applies to Trump. So that`s part of the answer.
Just because Trump is president doesn`t mean every slur or tweet has to be discussed and debated or fed. But it`s not only a binary choice between feed are ignored, there`s also context here because the very culture and language of our politics is changing. It was all the way back in 1962 that Daniel Boorstin wrote a book about pseudo-events in America arguing that corporations and politicians were improving their propaganda by confusing the public on the difference between actual developments and the manufactured content posing as a development. You know, that one is described an emerging tactic. Now it feels like our entire pseudo-reality. I`m joined by Salon`s Amanda Marcotte, author of the book Troll Nation and former Clinton Campaign Aide Jess McIntosh.
AMANDA MARCOTTE, POLITICS WRITER, SALON: Well, this is exactly what my book is about, I would say. It`s an interesting thing. I think one of the reasons that trolling has kind of risen on the right and has, in fact, I think I`d argue completely taken over their rhetoric is that they`ve lost the argument in a lot of ways. You know, they don`t want to have real debates. They don`t want to have these kinds of interesting debates that you say we`ve lost in our politics. They want instead to have a bunch of spectacles because spectacles are all about emotion, they`re not about rationality, they`re not about logic and they`re certainly not about evidence. And so Donald Trump is kind of the perfect epitome of that kind of way of arguing because he makes everything anger and emotion and rhetoric and nothing about evidence and nothing about debate.
JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER AIDE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes, absolutely. And I think that what`s happening today is the logical extension of what Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich started in the Republican Party in the 80s and 90s when they decided that rather than fight on the merits of a conservative strategy which favored individualism and tax reform that was going to benefit the wealthy because they believed in trickle-down rather than making those arguments, they decided that they were going to play to a southern strategy and inflame the racist base. That they were going to win on that by calling their -- Newt Gingrich circulated a series of words to talk about your opponent`s to call them bizarre, to call them weirdos, say they were anti-flag. This was the beginning of it.
And that really solidified this Republican idea that they were going to fight on that front rather than have an intellectually honest argument because I think they know that they can win an intellectually honest argument because their policies don`t benefit most of America. So logically what happens after decades of this is that they elect an actual honest-to-god troll. At this point, it`s totally out of their hands. They have -- they have fed these trolls for so long that they got too big and strong and now they`re in charge and now there`s no way to take it back.
MELBER: So what do you do besides starving the troll of attention?
MARCOTTE: Well, I think it`s too simplistic thing to say start the troll of attention I think, because that implies to a certain extent that they`re only doing this for attention. I would say, you know, for instance when Donald Trump says something racist that inflames people`s passions he does mean it. And a lot of these trolls mean the vile things they say even as they`re there simultaneously meaning it but also trying to for both people. So we have to react with that knowledge in mind. And what I recommend most the time when people ask me about this is that we have to learn to not ignore them but to try and go around them. And I think that the Parklands students are a really good example of people that know how to do this. They acknowledge the trolling you know, comments, they acknowledge the NRA`s arguments but they do -- they talk to the hand and maneuver and they kind of just keep on moving and keep on making their arguments. So I think that`s the best way to do. It`s acknowledge but in a sort of abrupt you know your full way and then make your argument.
MCINTOSH: I think it`s directly related to the power that the troll has if somebody -- you know, if somebody was 64 followers jumped into your mansions and says something mean, probably just ignore that because it`s a waste of your time. If the troll in question is the leader of the free world, the commander in chief and in charge of what happens to your federal tax dollars and military, then that`s something we should probably take the time to contextualize.
MELBER: What about when you saw Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren both turned to the juvenile insults that Trump had used which didn`t seem to work for them the way it worked for him.
MARCOTTE: Yes, I mean the fact of the matter is if you don`t have the guts to do it, if there`s nothing -- if you don`t have that meanness of soul that Donald Trump has to sort of sell it, people aren`t going to buy it. There`s an authenticity to that kind of trolling.
MELBER: You`re saying it`s not as if he`s being huge jerk.
MARCOTTE: It`s also -- it`s about --
MELBER: You`re an honest jerk.
MCINTOSH: You also have to play to the base that`s going to care about your jerkiness. Like Elizabeth Warren`s fans aren`t waiting for her to come up --
MELBER: But it was off. She talked about his small hands.
MCINTOSH: Right. Like ---
MARCOTTE: He doesn`t care about that.
MCINTOSH: No, and neither do the people who love her. They actually love her for the issues that she champions, for the intellectually honest argument that she was trying --
MELBER: What about the culture -- and this is actually our headline under this segment right now, is everyone mean now? There`s that part of this that the Internet, while it`s a place for diversification and people who don`t have access to traditional corporate platforms, can speak and there`s all this podcast, interesting stuff going on, but there`s incredible amount of runaway meanness.
MARCOTTE: I think that that`s true but I also think that can be a little bit overrated. You know, and then I write about this in my book. I think of a lot of this goes back to talk radio, I think it goes back to Fox News, I think it goes back to a culture of trolling that was really kind of created in right-wing media long before people had the Internet. And I think that it meshed well with the fortune trolling culture but I don`t necessarily think that it came from it. And I think it has a lot more to do with where the American right is now emotionally and logically and rationally than anything else.
MELBER: Amanda Marcotte who literally wrote the book and Jess McIntosh thank you both. I have one more important thing to tell you when we come back.
MELBER: More fallout over the Roseanne controversy today. Donald Trump weighing in with this. He says that ABC should have apologized to him. White House going on to defend this tweet saying it`s about the media,
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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President simply calling out the media bias. No one is defending what she said. The President is the president of all-Americans and he`s focused on doing what is best for our country.
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MELBER: No one is defending what Roseanne said but Mr. Trump who has publicly praised her did not find anyway, any time, any reason to condemn what she said either and we wanted to make sure to put that on the record.
MELBER: A whole range of people, including Michael Avenatti have been publicly wondering if Donald Trump could be on these Michael Cohen audiotapes. Tonight on THE BEAT, Mr. Avenatti went further. He now says he knows Trump is on at least one.
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MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: I know for a fact that Donald Trump is on at least one these recordings, Ari. I`m not going to give you --
MELBER: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into details of how I know that.
MELBER: But would you say that in court?
MELBER: So, you`re saying, as a matter of fact, you know that at least on one occasion he is on the tape?
AVENATTI: Yes, Donald Trump is on one of the recordings, at least one of them. I know that for a fact. I stand behind it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is news. Avenatti wants to get all the recordings released and that`s the headline tonight, Avenatti saying Trump is on at least one audio recording according to him. That`s our show. I`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump bashes Disney. Let`s play HARDBALL
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