Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: June 5, 2018 Guest: Franklin Foer; Neera Tanden; Chuck Nice; Mike Lupica; Shermichael Singleton
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Chuck. Thank you very much.
Our top story tonight is fallout over Bob Mueller alleging that Donald Trump`s former campaign chair committed a new felony. A significant development that comes as Trump`s own legal team shows some signs of serious strain. Mueller filing this motion. It argues that Paul Manafort should be jailed or have his bail revised because of new alleged witness tampering. This is, by all accounts, a surprise move. No one knew up until Mueller said this, that there was alleged witness tampering going on.
And it comes at the same time that Trump`s lawyers admit they put out false statements denying that Trump wrote that defense of Don Jr.`s meeting with the Russians at Trump tower. And those same lawyers arguing Trump basically can commit the crime of obstruction because he is the President.
And all of this is happening, and I`m not going to let this go, because it is so important. This is all happening while the current President has been making the truly bizarre claim that he can pardon himself. But pardons are for criminals, for people who are convicted or think they need protection from likely conviction for their crimes.
Now, Trump`s defenders have argued that any focus on obstruction is a kind of a sour grapes for a lack of collusion evidence. That it`s a kind of a runner-up to any real crime that didn`t actually occur.
Now, as we have reported here, that`s not a serious legal argument. Obstruction is a felony. But, it could have some appeal to the general public or to Congress, which may ultimately adjudicate issues with the President.
Now, put that in the context here of tonight`s news, which shows something else. It shows hints of something far worse potentially for the White House. Elements of ongoing and even coordinated obstruction in order to try to prevent Bob Mueller from gathering the evidence of, yes, other crimes. That is to say, not just imaginary obstruction for its own sake.
And there are also signs in this filing now that we have all digested it that Bob Mueller is winning this part of the battle. The new motion against Manafort alleging that his tampering with an open case is quote "objective conduct, listing evidence" that he secretly tried to contact witnesses to influence their testimony and to conceal evidence. And the evidence, well, a lot of it we can see, it already includes a sworn public declaration from an FBI agent detailing how Manafort basically clumsy tried to use a secret encrypted messaging system to reach witnesses in the hopes that Mueller would not found out.
But Mueller did find out. And in his argument that Manafort should probably be jailed before trial, he lists out some of those texts, emoticons and everything. The filing is from Mueller and Andrew Wiseman. He is the aggressive prosecutor that Trump`s own lawyer has complained about. In fact back on THE BEAT in April, he alleged that this very prosecutor would try to set Trump up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: It depends on who`s asking the questions. If the deputy chief, Andrew Weismann is behind the asking of the questions, then it`s for the purpose of setting him up, because among the people he`s indicted, there will be one or two people who will be cooperating in form of witnesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That lawyer knew Weismann`s rep for pressing witnesses and to flipping.
Now, one way to do that is just to scare them in general. Another is to find a lawful means to jail them before trial. Which means the thing that might scare them at the end of the trial, day-to-day life in prison, that can come way earlier.
Now, is that legit? Sure. Bail agreements have the force of law violating them can put you in jail long before your trial, as Martin Shkreli learned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli now behind bars, after offering $5,000 for a lock of Hillary Clinton`s hair, prompting the judge to revoke his bail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Violating bail can also raise the cost of the bail agreement you are under. Lindsay Lohan learned that after her dui case, which caused a spike in her bail of $200,000. Now, that alone could put more pressure on Manafort, who recently faced reports he is running low on funds for his legal fees and looking for help from his friends.
So tonight, Paul Manafort faces real risk of jail before trial. And I want to mention, before we get to our expert panel, very important larger context to that risk in our justice system. Did you know that almost 500,000 people are in jail right now, awaiting trial? Presumed innocent, but too poor to afford bail?
Now, Paul Manafort is rich, so he has avoided that fate so far, although when you think about it, he stands accused of getting rich by laundering money and committing several felonies. If Mueller`s evidence holds up and Manafort really did commit another crime while on bail, trying to tamper with and obstruct this Russia probe, consider what it takes for him to spend just one day in the life of poor defendants accused in America of far, far less.
For all this talk of witch-hunts and deep states, you are still more likely to walk the streets as a rich man caught up in a collusion and money laundering international probe than a poor man caught up and say everyday drug use.
I turn now to former Watergate special prosecutor Nick Ackerman and Neera Tanden, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton and president of the Center for American Progress.
Nick, how real is it, as we say, for Paul Manafort? And speak to the bail system, which has Paul Manafort out because of his money, whereas, as I just showed, a lot of other people are in, because they don`t have money.
NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I don`t think the money is going to do him any good now. He is toast. He has got -- there`s two witnesses that will testify against him, that are corroborated by Paul Manafort`s own words in e-mails, that show that he was trying to tamper with these witnesses to get them to give a false story at his trial.
MELBER: So you think the judge will respond to this by jailing Paul Manafort? How likely do you think that is?
ACKERMAN: I absolutely think that`s what`s going to happen. And what`s even more significant, if you look at this filing that was filed yesterday in federal district court by Manafort, I mean, by Mueller --
MELBER: Mueller and Weismann.
ACKERMAN: Right. Right. Where it really kind of lays out what the witness tampering here is. It`s a corrupt persuasion occurs where a defendant tells a potential witness a false story, as if the story were true, intending that the witness believe the story and testify to it, and where a defendant tries to persuade a witness to give a false story.
What`s really interesting here is, that applies on all four to Donald Trump and his write-up on what Don Jr.`s statement was with respect to that June 9th meeting. That was a false statement that Don Jr. later gave to the Senate committee, later gave to investigators, and it`s a false story that Donald Trump has put out there for all of his minions to follow. So if we are talking about Paul Manafort, we also ought to be talk about Donald Trump.
MELBER: Paul Manafort is known to consider himself tough, to not break. If you are writing and he is jailed he has been around the world and he has dealt with all kinds of sundry individuals, do you see him as being more likely to break if he is in jail before trial?
ACKERMAN: Well, let me say this, before trial and after the trial, if they charge him, which they well could with witness tampering, which is a 20- year felony, I think this felony carries more years than any of the other felonies that he is charged with. He is looking at life in prison at this time. So he has got to make a very significant choice. It`s either him or it`s the higher-ups that he knows about.
MELBER: Neera, your view of this, as something of a political adversary of this individual. You held a high role in the Clinton campaign. He held a high role in the Trump campaign. And this behavior, as alleged, certainly makes him look guiltier than if it were not alleged tonight?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT/CEO, CENTERS FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Absolutely. Let`s be clear. The reason why you tamper with a witness is because you are guilty of the underlying crime. If you are not guilty of anything, there`s nothing to tamper. So, this act -- this act of tampering, basically, concedes that Paul Manafort is guilty of the accusations. And at the end of the day, we have a President who is talking much more about - - or dangling the idea of pardoning himself. I think we cannot -- we cannot forget the fact that Paul Manafort and these actions, closing in on Paul Manafort, really could be closing in on Donald Trump.
It`s not a coincidence that he is talking about pardoning himself and laying the predicate for that possibility as the walls are closing in on Paul Manafort. And that is why it is simply outrageous that more Republicans and more Americans aren`t saying how patently absurd it is that a President can pardon himself. Obviously, a pardon is for a criminal act, at the end of the day.
MELBER: Neera, I want to read from the charges here that show that Paul Manafort may have tried very hard to tamper, but didn`t actually prove very proficient at tampering. The government confirmed that messages were sent by Manafort. They reviewed his icloud account with a court-ordered search. Two witnesses contacted that they are provided the context of the text messages, which is another way around.
But this is a person and the Trump campaign in general is sometimes credited, as you know, for finding a path through the Electoral College for achieving this victory by spending less money than the campaign you are involved with. What do you think this says about his raw competence?
TANDEN: Look, obviously, it seems pretty idiotic to do these things, but I think the reality is, he is desperate to avoid the underlying facts. And the truth is here, if you are facing a prosecution, you can go ahead with your trial, or in his case, I think he is trying to tamper with witnesses, because the underlying case is probably clear cut. And he is facing the reality of going to jail or tampering with witnesses, which is, obviously, an absurd issue.
But I don`t think we should take away the fact that he seems like he`s kind of moronic, that he can`t be a criminal. I mean, obviously, a lot of criminals do really stupid things.
MELBER: No, they are usually the criminals we know most about.
TANDEN: We catch them because they do dumb things!
MELBER: Some of the more brilliant criminals tend not to be identified.
TANDEN: Absolutely. And I think in this case, look, he did an obviously stupid thing. But the alternative may well have been a clear-cut case that we would go to jail.
TANDEN: So he is facing jail time in either way and either route and he tried to avoid jail time and he obviously exacerbated his problems.
MELBER: Well. And that really, you say that he tried to avoid it and made it worse, which brings us to Franklin Foer, he has covered Manafort extensively, I should mention, for "the Atlantic," I believe -- the new republic?
FRANKLIN FOER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: The Atlantic.
MELBER: Atlantic. I should have doubt myself.
You know, Neera mentions this. In this latest piece, I want to mention Paul Manafort loses it cool. Neera mentions whether Manafort`s desperation or his attempt to run here brought him back to the original sin, which would be committing felonies. You know, Bob Marley said, you are running and you are running and you are running away, but you can`t run away from yourself, Franklin.
FOER: Right. He`s a drowning man.
MELBER: Walk us through your assessment of him. Because you have spent a great deal of time studying him as a person.
FOER: Yes. Well, I mean, there`s a lot of predicate in the rest of his career. I mean, he has been a guy from the very beginning who has observed very few moral limitations. He has set the rules from Washington. He has continued to push the envelope throughout his career. But then you get to this moment where this guy who is normally extremely strategically minded suddenly loses his cool. He is not -- he is acting with emotion. He is not acting with detachment. He is a drowning man willing to take all sorts of absurd risks.
Everything in every Mueller filing suggests that he was being watched, that even encrypted communications would be observed. And yet he took this absurd risk, that`s completely out of -- that should be out of character for him, but when you are panicked, you are willing to do things that you wouldn`t do in other circumstances.
MELBER: So look at what he said during a campaign when he was pressed on the very issues which are underlying in this criminal complaint including unregistered foreign lobbying in serving foreign masters while working for free for Donald Trump. I wonder if he was lying when he said the following. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: Has Mr. Trump asked you to stop working for certain clients? Stop doing work in Ukraine if it`s against America`s national security?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, the work I was doing in Ukraine was to help Ukraine get into Europe, and we succeeded. But I`m not working for any clients right now other than Mr. Trump.
TODD: And are you going to make a promise in the future that if he`s President, you`ll be careful what clients you take?
MANAFORT: I`m always careful what clients I take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Got that canary in the coal mine smile there.
Franklin, number one, isn`t it part of the allegation that he continued to try to serve foreign interests or make whole certain debts during the pendency of the campaign. That`s the obvious lie. And then second, the more debatable one, is he always careful with the clients he takes?
FOER: No, absolutely not. I mean, he has been willing to work for the world`s worst thugs and goons for over the course of decades. And here, he had one primary client over the course of the last ten years of his career, which was the pro-Russian clique of gangsters who were running Ukraine. And he was so entangled with them.
It wasn`t just a pure consulting relationship, he had business relationships with a lot of these guys. And those relationships were things that were not easily severed and there were a lot of untidy endings to his business affairs that he clearly was trying to deal, as he was running the Trump campaign.
MELBER: Neera, let me read the response from Paul Manafort`s spokesman today. Mr. Manafort is innocent. Nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense. We will do our talking in court. A short statement.
I would just note, Neera, that one of the allegations is that they are not doing their talking in court. The allegation is they are secretly talking to witnesses and getting busted for it.
TANDEN: Yes. I mean, I can`t take anything Paul Manafort`s spokesperson says seriously when, as you just demonstrated, he lied during the campaign. He has lied since the campaign. He, obviously, during this process is trying to tamper with witnesses. You know, I think the court will have to address how they deal with his bail. But the fact that he is likely heading to jail ahead of this trial.
We can talk a lot about Paul Manafort and we should, but obviously, Paul Manafort knows a lot about what Donald Trump was doing. He has key knowledge about this infamous meeting. He has key knowledge about Donald Trump and his mind-set during this entire campaign, particularly when he asked for Russia for help. And all throughout this period. He kept in touch, even after he left the campaign. So he`s a vital witness. A vital witness for Mueller, who is, you know, looks like he is in a prime spot, given the level of pressure on him to flip on the President or anyone else associated.
MELBER: Yes, it`s a big one. Neera Tanden and Franklin Foer, I want to thank you.
And turn to the other wild part of this story with another guest. There is something really odd we have alluded to about how exactly how Manafort got caught. He was using this secret encryption software, which was his attempt to reach people without Mueller seeing, to reach his old associates and hoping no one would find out. But those messages were also backed up on his Apple icloud account, making them easy for the feds to find, and literally defeating the purpose of using a quote "encryption tool." Or to put another way, and this headline speaks to it, it`s like putting your diary in a locked safe in your basement, but then leaving Xeroxes of your diary out on the front porch for everyone to read.
Now I want to bring in Chuck Nice, who is guest-hosted on "the View," on ABC, and been on our show before. And I want you to know why you are here, Chuck.
CHUCK NICE, COMEDIAN: Please tell me. Just give me a second while I finish writing in my diary, which you are welcome to read.
MELBER: We thought about having an encryption expert, and then we thought, we don`t actually need an encryption expert.
MELBER: Any person who knows how the icloud works would know you can`t use encryption, but then leave it out on the icloud, especially if you are walking around with an ankle monitor and under FBI suspicion. What is your reaction to this so bizarre, it is almost funny. Although, there are some serious staff going on underneath it to cut the story.
NICE: Listen. They are not mutually exclusive. It is so bizarre. It is hilarious. And Paul Manafort, I have one thing to say to you, my friend, and that is, you are old. You are old. Stop it. You know better, OK? I do sketchy stuff online all the time. But I got two teenagers. And I got the sense to say, hey, come in here, is daddy hiding this right? And they go, no. And then I`m good. So it`s a real simple thing.
MELBER: Is he old or also a luddite (ph), because we get emails and we read some of them from our "Beat" viewers and some of them are older, but very sophisticated.
NICE: Very savvy.
MELBER: It`s not just grandpa, its grandpa thinks he is international criminal mastermind but doesn`t understand the cloud.
NICE: Well, you know what? It`s very funny you say that because I don`t understand why people think that Paul Manafort is this kind of slick guy at all. Like, Nick said, he is toast, so he better start making breakfast, because quite frankly, it`s over for him. And he has never been smart. He has never been savvy. Where does he -- I think it`s the hair and the fillers. That`s what give us this image of this man who is worldly and sophisticated.
MELBER: You think he`s conned the political class into thinking he is savvier than he is.
NICE: Yes! But let`s be honest. This man has been caught at every single turn. He has gotten away with absolutely nothing. I take it back, you are not old. You are just not smart.
ACKERMAN: I have to agree with that.
MELBER: Is he a prosecutor`s dream? To say, oh, I got this secret thing, I got this secret thing, but I`m going to hand it out. Like, what kind of secret is that?
ACKERMAN: It`s not surprising. Most people don`t understand technology. They don`t realize how it works. They don`t realize how the cloud works. They think that it`s encrypted. You think you get Whatsapp, which I think is what he used.
MELBER: It was Whatsapp, yes.
ACKERMAN: Whatsapp, which anybody can get by downloading it on the Internet. But what he didn`t realized --.
MELBER: Of course, when Paul Manafort use Whatsapp, it`s more like, what`s that?
NICE: Not bad!
MELBER: Dad jokes. We got them on the show. Go on, Nick.
ACKERMAN: I`m just saying, this is not unusual. I investigate these kinds of things all the time. And it always just amazes me --
MELBER: Take us inside Mueller`s team. The FBI agents, what, they find this and then they go and look, we found him secretly committing this -- he thinks we`re not reading this?
ACKERMAN: Well, I think it`s more than that. I think the two people who were the witnesses here tipped them off and told them they were getting these calls. And then, once they realized, they looked at the emails at the other end and then went in and got a search warrant on Paul Manafort`s icloud account and then got everything.
So I think his big problem was he was dealing with two people that were extremely honest, that came forward, told the authorities exactly what was going on, just like nobody did at the June 9th meeting. I think one person that went to the authorities after the Russians showed up and they told the FBI. And they followed it up, just like you would expect them to do in a normal investigation.
MELBER: Yes. So, Chuck, you know what final question is.
NICE: Please, go ahead.
MELBER: What is the right emoji for witness tampering?
NICE: Oh, I believe it is two fists wrapped around bars.
MELBER: Chuck Nice, I`m going to give you both. Chuck Nice has bars. You get one. Nick Ackerman, Chuck, and the rest of our experts tonight, we took all the angles, I believe.
Coming up, Trump wrapping himself in the flag to avoid this embarrassment by the super bowl champs. We are going to dig into that story.
I also have an exclusive with the candidate to be New York`s attorney general and she wants to talk about the potential prosecution of Trump aides, even post-pardon. That should be interesting.
Also, my live interview tonight with a key witness in the Mueller probe, married to the man who literally sparked the Russia investigation. What I`m telling you is, we have a lot less. Stay tuned.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Today, the super bowl champion Eagles were supposed to be at the White House. But after President Trump realized many were boycotting his ceremony, he tried to flip the script and claimed he was boycotting and canceling the whole event. And then he returned to his chosen feud with NFL players.
As you listen to Trump today, keep in mind, not one Eagles player kneeled during the national anthem last season, although some, as you see there, did kneel in prayer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love our country. We respect our flag. And we always proudly stand for the national anthem. We always will stand for the national anthem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith said Trump has offered so many lies and he noted, no one refused to go simply because Trump insists folk stand for the anthem. Smith also spoke with us right after he won the super bowl and explained the issue was not Trump`s discussion of the anthem, but rather Trump`s attacks on his friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TORREY SMITH, FORMER EAGLES WIDE RECEIVER: The biggest thing for me in the White House is that I respect the office, but the way things are going now and President Trump just doesn`t really align with my values. He called my friends SOBs. You would feel like, all right, I understand why you don`t want to go? So why, because the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Mike Lupica, sports news columnist in the "New York Daily News" and Shermichael Singleton who worked on three Republican Presidential campaigns and is a writer.
Shermichael, what do you think?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, WRITER: I think if you truly want to test a man`s character and the measure of a man, give him power, right? And as we have seen throughout the presidency of Donald Trump that there are so many problematic, problematic parts of who he is, if you will. And it`s really complex. I think when you think about the Robert Mueller investigation, you think about what`s going on with Paul Manafort, there is, indeed, a dark cloud that continues to linger over this --
MELBER: You know, I`m going to go ahead and redirect you to the topic at hand.
SINGLETON: Yes, so my point, Ari, is this. I think the President is simply using this as a distraction.
SINGLETON: He has been the superlative, if you will, at sort of changing the narrative every single time the pressure heats up on him. And in the media, all of us, including myself, we have sort of followed. So he has had days of a lot of negative coverage and now what are we talking about? We are talking about the NFL. We are talking about this culture war, something that he loves instead of talking about complicated issues like policy.
MELBER: Well, I hear you up to a point. But you know, we spoke to people about this issue before and will again and will tonight. You know, because in part, Mike, what the players were highlighting was the rampant alleged police brutality and data showing the shootings of unarmed black men in a peaceful way to try to draw attention to that.
So, yes, there`s a culture war, and yes, Trump tries to fuse and sort of twist it for his own ends. But what do you think the significance of this is, Mike, that it ultimately landed in something that was kind of a self- embarrassment for the President, because he picked this fight in a way that boxed him in and he didn`t want to have a low or poorly attended celebration today?
MIKE LUPICA, SORTS COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes. I mean, what struck me about this whole thing, Ari, it`s like he was saying to the Eagles, wait, you are saying you won`t go to the prom with me, no, I`m not going to the prom with you! In fact, I will have my own prom with marching bands at the White House.
And this would be funny, except this is still serious business. I don`t know how many times we have talked about this. This cockeyed continuing narrative that protest means you are anti-flag, anti-American, and anti- military. It`s simply not true.
And he continues to push this narrative. And every time he does want to change the subject, all of a sudden the NFL has become a convenient target for him. And what`s ironic about this is, some of these owners thought that they would take a knee in front of him with this new policy of theirs. And the first chance he got, he threw them all under their team buses and said, no, no, it`s not even good enough that they stay in the locker room, because that makes them anti-flag and anti-anthem and anti-military.
MELBER: Yes. And all of this comes at a time of racial controversy in the country, as well as the President getting some of his way with the NFL in the policy.
SherMichael, take a listen to the Philadelphia mayor who had tough words for the President and likened him to a child, which we know the President doesn`t like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JIM KENNEY (D), PHILADELPHIA: Donald Trump is meaningless to this whole process. He`s meaningless to this city and the city`s success. He is a child. This guy has no concept of what it is to be a normal human being. And he happens to be in the White House now and that`s a shame.
MELBER: What do you think of that?
SINGLETON: Well, look, I mean, I agree. And from the perspective of an African-American, you know, you are raised to respect the office of the President. And here you have NFL players with a huge platform who are truly trying to bring attention to issues that really impact African- Americans disproportionately to everyone else. And what does the President do, Ari? He makes a joke out of it! So from the perspective of African- Americans, how in the world can you respect the President? When you look at the Republican Party, they have been silent. They have said nothing. You look at their party and you have to ask yourselves, you guys argue a lot about how you want to reach out, you want more diversity, and yet issues that impact our community, you are silent. You allow the President to make this to a joke which is not. There are so many people in this country and I can tell you as a black young male myself who fear walking down the street for the most part particularly if you encounter a police officer because you don`t know how that encounter is going to end. There`s nothing funny about this. This is not some culture war that you pull out of your pocket anytime you want to change the narrative, these are issues that have to be addressed and we expect the President to address them and he`s not doing that.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And so Mike, as someone who`s looked at the intersection of sports and politics, where does it go from here? You have a President who basically is going to be on tough terms with what, all of the major sports? I mean, they`re not going to hold these events anymore and does that matter?
MIKE LUPICA, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think LeBron has already said and Steph Curry has already said they`re not going whoever wins the NBA Finals. Ari, this is a continuing gaslighting of a certain segment of the population who believes that these players, that by expressing this sort of dissent which is as patriotic as any marching band or song that was played at the White House today are somehow going against the values of this country. And you know, that these guys are somehow perceived as a threat. You know what`s a threat to our values, taking kids away from their parents at the border or not doing anything about people go into high schools and shoot up high school kids.
MELBER: Mike Lupica and Shermichael Singleton, thank you both.
SINGLETON: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Interesting day at the White House to be sure. By the way, you can watch our full interview with Torrey Smith on our Facebook page @THEBEATWITHARI we had that discussion. Now up ahead the wife of a guilty Mueller witness back on THE BEAT. This is the first time since Rudy Giuliani joined the Russia probe. We want to ask her about all this pardon talk. But first, there`s a new candidate for New York Attorney General launching her campaign vowing to also deal with any fallout from the Mueller probe including if Trump tries to cut it off and revealing a private conversation she had with Eric Schneiderman. That`s my exclusive guest when we`re back in 60 seconds.
MELBER: The other top story tonight. There is a new candidate to replace former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Today, in fact, right outside of Trump Tower, Fordham Law Professor and a Constitutional Law Expert Zephyr Teachout announced her candidacy with a focus on, yes, the man behind Trump Tower.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, LAW PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: The owner of this Tower, Donald Trump, is tearing apart the very fabric of our nation. He mocks the law and those entrusted to enforce it. Trump believes he can pardon himself. He is saying, I am justice and justice is me. When I am the next Attorney General of New York, we will show the world what justice really looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Teachout filed a suit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution`s Emoluments Clause and also said she pressed Eric Schneiderman twice, but he didn`t act. She made that point today regarding Trump and the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEACHOUT: The President and his businesses are not above the law. It is through the Trump Organization, headquarters here in New York that he has turned the presidency into a personal ATM, engaging in business deals aimed at funneling money from foreign government into his own pockets. Here he has turned our democracy into a kleptocracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is not just shots at Donald Trump from afar. What I`m about to show you, which, again, is new today, has national implications for what -- for many people as the biggest story in the country. What will happen if Donald Trump uses or abuses his pardon power?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEACHOUT: President Trump, you may think you can pardon associates to protect yourself, but you hold no "get out of jail free" cards for people who violate the laws of the state of New York. No one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Zephyr Teachout is back on THE BEAT. Thanks for being here.
TEACHOUT: Great to be back.
MELBER: A big day for you.
MELBER: Why are you making an issue of potential use of pardons for crimes in New York State that have not been yet charged, let alone convicted?
TEACHOUT: Well, in this past week, Donald Trump and his lawyers have made a series of claims, essentially saying they`re above the law. Trump has acted in a way to signal that he might be willing to pardon associates in order to protect himself, a self-serving pardon. And we need to make very clear is that a presidential pardon of federal crimes will not cover all state crimes, that those associates would still be vulnerable to prosecution under New York State law. Even under existing New York State law, with its double jeopardy statute, if there are separate crimes that cover different acts than the federal acts. And there`s reason to believe that there would be, for many of his associates, a lot of separate New York crimes. New York has very extensive, powerful bank fraud laws, money laundering laws, bribery and larceny laws.
MELBER: Do you think there`s-- do you think there`s public evidence that would make you confident in bringing those charges against potential Trump aides?
TEACHOUT: What I`m saying is that we need to be investigating and ready for that. That the incredibly important investigation and work by Mueller shouldn`t then preclude states being prepared for the constitutional crisis that would happen if Donald Trump, you know, engages in this protective pardon.
MELBER: It sounds like you are asserting a relatively nuanced analysis of the fact that there is this possibility under state law, which has gotten a lot more attention than usual.
MELBER: What about the fact that you are a candidate running for office, and some people will hear you, hear what you`re saying, and think that you`re nodding and winking, and basically pledging to go after political opponents, or that your plan is to go charge Trump associates. Would they be mishearing you, if that`s your impression?
TEACHOUT: The Attorney General of the State of New York`s job is to uphold the law for all, rich and poor alike, powerful and weak alike and as we are facing this real threat of a presidency that disrespects the law, openly disrespects the law, it is incumbent upon all the states and in particular, New York state, because here in New York, it`s the center --
MELBER: But as someone -- but I`m pressing you as a candidate.
MELBER: If someone says, I`m going to vote for Teachout, because she`s going to go prosecute the Trump people. Is that the wrong reason to vote for you?
TEACHOUT: What people should hear is that I will not be cowed by presidential pardons or efforts to get out of the law.
MELBER: OK. Let me also play your discussion of the person who just lost this job after very serious allegations, highly verified of domestic abuse. You brought up Eric Schneiderman today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEACHOUT: I sat down with him, with a stack of legal precedent and told him New York State should sue the President for violating the Constitution because the violations are happening here in New York. He did not act. I pressed him to use business law. Again, Eric Schneiderman did not act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You`re not only criticizing the allegations regarding his personal misconduct, which may, itself, constitute crimes. That`s under investigation. It also seems important for you to criticize him as being, what, insufficiently tough on these issues?
TEACHOUT: I think the important point here is that New York law, in business law 1101 and other statutes provides the state attorney general with these really powerful tools to investigate fraudulent behavior in the Trump businesses and that one of my priorities as Attorney General would be engaging in investigations of business fraud.
MELBER: Why do you think Schneiderman didn`t act?
TEACHOUT: The second point is that there are new legal theories and I have been engaged in this lawsuit, the emoluments lawsuit --
MELBER: But you say here -- you know, this is part of my job. You say, Schneiderman didn`t act. I mean, using your words, why was it important for you to hit that point?
TEACHOUT: It`s important because I think people look at what`s happened in New York, and they are rightly proud of the hundred plus lawsuits that New York has filed and those were important lawsuits. It was really important to stand up against the Muslim ban, really important to stand up against the illegal rollback by Scott Pruitt of the EPA regulations. But a lot of the existing litigation has been focused defensively and focused on presidential -- official presidential acts. There are opportunities we`re not taking. We`re in a constitutional and corruption crisis. And those include --
MELBER: And final -- I just have to get in the final question because you`re talking about running for this office here. Based on what you know, do you think it`s possible that Eric Schneiderman should face prosecution?
TEACHOUT: You know, my focus today is on what we in New York can do about the constitutional and corruption crisis. And there`s so much more we can do. So, when I am an A.G., our focus is going to be Trump, Albany, corruption, taking on corporate fraud and mass incarceration and I think that`s what people want to know.
MELBER: Well, you mentioned -- you mentioned mass incarceration. We were talking earlier in the show about also a lot of the bail issues and economic disparities there so we`d love to have you back to talk about a lot of this. I know it`s a big, busy time for you and I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT Zephyr Teachout.
TEACHOUT: Yes, thanks for having me.
MELBER: Up ahead, THE BEAT interview with a key witness in the Mueller probe, Simona Mangiante has talked to Mueller`s team. She`s married to the first person to plead guilty in the probe and joins me next.
MELBER: George Papadopoulos is known as the match of the Russia probe. His conversations during the campaign helped spark the FBI probe into whether Trump aides were colluding with Russia. He was the first person to plead guilty and his wife, Simona Mangiante is here live tonight to discuss the road ahead and what convicts like her husband do think of Trump`s rising talk of pardons. Now, we first spoke after her interview with Mueller`s investigators where she said they were professional and she was happy her husband was cooperating after pleading guilty to lying to the feds. Lately, she has struck somewhat of a different tone online, retweeting Donald Trump`s reference to lives destroyed by Mueller and noting, well, there may be light at the end of the tunnel and that he could be remembered like John Dean. I`m joined now by Simona Mangiante, wife of George Papadopoulos. Thanks for being here.
SIMONA MANGIANTE, WIFE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: Hi, Ari, thanks for inviting me.
MELBER: Absolutely. When you re-tweeted Donald Trump and seemed to be discussing the idea that there are problems with Mueller`s approach, have you changed your mind? Do you think he has ruined lives?
MANGIANTE: No. Actually, I would make to make a little specification before I start talking. I declined to comment in respect of the Special Counsel any farther in the case, concerning my husband, George. I`m talking on my own, of course, and my attorney (INAUDIBLE) advised me it`s perfectly legal to share my opinion.
MANGIANTE: When I retweeted the tweet from Trump is that I partially agreed that young lives have been ruined because of this investigation which is lasting a lot. But I still respect the work of Mueller. I didn`t change my idea in any extent. I`m not saying it`s wrong. I`m just saying that, as I said yesterday, because of an incident, and I repeat what I already said in my previous interview, George is stuck. His life is on hold. He`s just waiting for sentencing and it has nothing to do with Russia. He is at the center of the Russia investigation, that`s --
MELBER: Well, right. Well, that`s a difficult process for anyone who`s awaiting sentencing. I understand that. When you say "light at the end of the tunnel," it comes in a context. I mean, is part of you hoping that Donald Trump may pardon George Papadopoulos?
MANGIANTE: First of all, George pled guilty for lying to the FBI. This is a crime. There is a misunderstanding about my mention to pardon. Of course, he did a mistake. He took responsibility. It got confused. In my opinion, again, I`m always talking on -- by myself, I`m not talking on George behalf, I just want to make it clear so everything I say reflects exclusively in my own opinion. Still, let`s say, his life is on hold. He`s not -- there`s not much that he can do and basically he`s stuck in this situation in which he has to wait. And he did cooperate. He did the right choice. So when I say cooperation, it doesn`t mean necessarily that I was suggesting that his contribution is going to prove any collusion and we don`t know the outcome of the cooperation.
MELBER: No, we don`t.
MANGIANTE: Nobody knows.
MELBER: Just to be clear, do you think Donald Trump should consider a pardon for George Papadopoulos?
MANGIANTE: Yes, as I said yesterday, I really wish, and I asked yesterday for a pardon. But this is all, obviously, my expectation, as a wife and as a lawyer, it doesn`t mean he`s innocent. Of course, being pardon and as opposed to being guilty. And in any --
MELBER: That`s certainly the case. I mean, is it something that you and - - it`s interesting. I mean, we`re here in the middle of pardon season. I appreciate you coming on. People who watch the show know, we have people on who have been involved in the Mueller probe because you bring a very particular experience having gone through the interviews. Is the potential pardon something you`ve discussed with George or anyone affiliated with the Trump team?
MANGIANTE: No, absolutely not. Actually, his lawyers were not happy at all me mentioning on T.V. the pardon, but I`m my own person and I really have this expectation. I really hope -- mostly in the light of the circumstances that came out recently and became public recently, I think that it would complete justify and make a pardon appropriate in this case and deserved.
MELBER: And with regard to --
MANGIANTE: That`s my own opinion. But I didn`t discuss anything of that with anyone on the Trump --
MELBER: Copy. And briefly, with regard to cooperating, do you know -- did George ever offer to do any extra steps, to wear a wire or anything like that during this process?
MANGIANTE: That`s absolutely I don`t know and I can`t comment on any of this.
MELBER: Well, I`ll tell you, you and I have spoken before and I appreciate that you mention the situation you`re in, and also lawyer often prefer people say nothing. I`m familiar with that concept but as a journalist, we do appreciate when people will share something.
MANGIANTE: Of course.
MELBER: And so it`s always interesting, Simona Mangiante, thanks for coming on.
MANGIANTE: Thank you very much, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you.
MANGIANTE: Sorry -- OK, thanks. Bye.
MELBER: I appreciate it. And we`re wrapping up there. I want to get to one other story which is the Trump Administrating is stripping migrant kids away from their parents. A reporting on what`s going on inside those border stations, directly ahead.
MELBER: For a stark reminder of just how unusual the current President`s approach to immigration is, consider Republicans, two future Republican Presidents in 1980.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent family-loving people that in violation of the law. These are good people, strong people, part of my family is Mexican.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than making them or talking about putting up a fence, why don`t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Make it possible for them to come here legally. Donald Trump though has a policy that is being enforced aggressively to separate immigrant families, to isolate children from their parents. NBC reporting today hundreds of these children stuck at the border stations without their parents for days at a time and Trump officials are considering maybe moving them to military bases. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Trump policy of separating kids from their parents is a key deterrent.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: You can`t be given immunity to people who bring children with them, recklessly and improperly and illegally. If people don`t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s a statement about the parents and their potential culpability. But a lot of this is the about the children who the President says are not --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the worst immigration laws of any country anywhere in the world. But they exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors. They look so innocent. They`re not innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They`re not innocent, a key phrase from the President. Now, the issue may end up back in the courts. The ACLU filing a lawsuit on behalf of immigrant parents trying to stop family separations. We will keep you posted.
MELBER: You ever want to listen to this show instead of watch it? Well, there is a way you can do that. We have a recently launched show podcast. You can get it by looking for the purple podcast icon on your iPhone home screen. You click on it, go to the search bar and just type in THE BEAT with Ari Melber or even just Melber and you click on our name and you`ll see our show page. You can see our latest episode, subscribe or give us your star rating. We appreciate it. Now, that does it for the show tonight. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Political football. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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