Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 20, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti, Kim Wehle, Kurtis Blow, Kurtis Blow Jr., Jay Goldberg; John Flannery; Megan Thowey; Liz Plank; Jerrold Nadler
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: And that will be all for tonight. We will be back for more with -- back on Monday with more MTP DAILY.
And in the meantime, THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
I hope you have a really good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Katy, it looks like you had fun last night.
TUR: I did.
MELBER: What is that expression, how dare you that you were using? It sounds like --.
TUR: How dare you?
MELBER: How dare you?
TUR: How dare you violate my privacy as a sixth grader? How dare you? You want to spy on me, mom and dad? I would like to have my cheese fries without you knowing about it.
MELBER: Now, do you ever -- if you text, do you ever shorten it to HDY, how dare you, but as a text a brief?
TUR: No. I think it doesn`t get the same impact. You have to type it out in full words and with periods after each word, how, period, dare, period, you, period, question mark, exclamation point.
MELBER: And what is, and this is my last question because I know you have had a long and busy week.
TUR: No. I`m here for the 10:00 tonight, so keep going, yes, I got time.
MELBER: What is the best emoji to go after how dare you?
TUR: Oh, God, hold on, hold on. I don`t have it. The robot. I don`t know, that`s a funny one. The robot just is funny to me.
MELBER: Robot is good. I like a good bunny ear emoji. It kind of softens the blow of anything. But that is just me.
TUR: Yes. I think most of our viewers right now are doing the puke emoji.
MELBER: That hurts my feelings a little bit.
Katy Tur, we will see you at 10:00 p.m. tonight.
TUR: Ari Melber, always good to see you. Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.
MELBER: Thank you.
We begin tonight with new reports that there is a tape, that Donald Trump is on it, and that Michael Cohen made it. Now why is this news breaking right now as this legal pressure builds across the board on Trump`s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the White House has continue to battle back a scandal of Putin proportions that`s engulfed it all week?
Well, I can tell you, I`m very excited to learn some of the answers because we have several key people and reporters on the show tonight who can shed light on this question tonight.
Now is here what you need to know. "the New York Times" is reporting Michael Cohen taped Donald Trump two months before the 2016 election, and they discussed secret payments potentially to be made to former playboy model Karen McDougal who had a relationship with Trump in 2006. She has since prevailed in a suit with the media outlet related to all those allegations. We will get to that.
What else do you need to know? Investigators have this tape. The FBI seizing it from Cohen`s office in April after that raid. Cohen`s opponent in the Stormy Daniels case, the man you may know, Michael Avenatti, made some news on this show by declaring he knew for a fact this type of tape existed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY: I know for a fact that Donald Trump is on at least one of these recordings, Ari.
MELBER: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into details of how I know that, Ari.
MELBER: Would you say that in court?
AVENATTI: Absolutely. 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: Stands behind it. And today that fact being reported, Michael Avenatti joins me live tonight with more.
Now the White House is making clear it doesn`t like this news at all. And that it was caught off guard. A source saying Trump didn`t know he was being recorded while his lawyers are probing what other potential tapes could reveal.
They are also trying to put word out tonight that any other recordings that my exist are quote "not substantive." This story has moved fast. So it is worth keeping the context in mind.
These leaks make Cohen look like something of a threat to Donald Trump. As Michael Cohen relies on his own lawyers to defend himself and a top Hillary Clinton aide. But it was just three months ago, only three months ago in this lightning warp speed era we live in that President Trump was telling people on air force one Cohen was still his attorney, meaning on his side, and that Cohen could take all the tough questions on Trump`s behalf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney and you WILL have to ask Michael.
I haven`t spoken to Michael in a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A long time. In a moment I`m going to speak to former federal prosecutor John Flannery about the legalities of all of this, as well another lawyer for Donald Trump, his longtime litigator Jay Goldberg who has joined me before. So we have a lot to get to including as I mentioned Avenatti.
But I begin with Megan Thowey, investigative reporter for "the New York Times" who is covering this case extensively and Liz Plank, a senior producer for Vox who is also given us a reporting and analysis on many of these cases which involve allegations by women who say they had contact with Donald Trump.
Megan, when you look at the original allegation against Trump and Cohen, how did these women get us to this place, and why is Michael Cohen looking like he might be taking revenge out on the President?
MEGAN THOWEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this has been -- I think this has turned into a legal rat`s nest for the President. And what we know about what happened in 2016 toward the end of the Presidential race was -- well, two things. One, that there were payments made to women who claimed consensual affairs with the President. One was made directly by Michael Cohen. That is the Stormy Daniels payment. Another was made through American Media, Inc., the parent company to the "National Enquirer."
And you know, Trump has been insistent in the beginning saying that he didn`t know anything about these payments. Michael Cohen said that he handled them on his own. And I think what we have seen today is more new evidence that would suggest that the President was actually certainly aware, much closer to the time of the payments if not at the actual time of the payment. In the case of the American media.
MELBER: Which means what?
THOWEY: Well, these payments are significant because they are being investigated as potential campaign finance violations.
MELBER: And it would seem to imply that he was lying about it before.
THOWEY: That is one way to read it. And so the question is, yes, not just -- if he has been lying about it. But, in fact, was he a direct participant in these payments? Was he aware of them at the time? And if so, that could basically plunge him into the heart of this criminal -- one aspect of this criminal investigation.
MELBER: Yes. And Liz, let me read a little more from this reporting in your publication, Giuliani saying now today Trump had told Cohen if he were to make a payment related to Ms. McDougal, to write a check rather than cash, so it could be properly documented. "New York Times" also jumping ahead to what a lot of people want to know if there is a case, and used to say if there is a bear, well, if there is a case quote "it`s not clear whether a federal judge would rule on whether prosecutors can even listen to the recording." And we will get later to the lawyers here.
But whether or not prosecutors get it, it`s in the "New York Times" for a reason tonight. Do you think it is because Michael Cohen is continuing to try to give the President a hard time?
LIZ PLANK, SENIOR PRODUCER, VOX MEDIA: Right. I mean, maybe when Michael Cohen told Donald Trump that he wouldn`t record his conversations, maybe he meant that he would.
MELBER: Wow. I think that`s a double negative burn.
PLANK: Yes, right. But if there`s one person that would understand that, it would be Donald Trump, right? Making that kind of mistake. So clearly, you know, Michael Cohen has used different ways of communicating with Donald Trump in a very sort of sub-tweet (ph) kind of way where we are all aware of it and we see it happen out in the public spear (ph).
Whether it`s with, you know, tweets that he has done or meetings that he has had with, you know, vice that show literally called Trump tapes. I believe in sort of inching at the idea that there are these tapes.
Today, it`s very clear that, you know, we don`t know who leaked that story. We don`t know who leaked this information, but given the reporting, I think it`s pretty clear that it might be coming from Michael Cohen himself. And so, he is trying to speak to Trump. He is trying to, you know, always the idea of the pardon and him wanting this pardon is always in the backdrop. And clear, I think, with this story.
MELBER: Well, I think the point Liz makes, wouldn`t not be a bad theory. By which I mean, I`m sorry, double negative, I botched it.
PLANK: It`s really hard to do.
THOWEY: Well, it`s interesting, too, that Giuliani in defending Trump on this tape said that he wasn`t aware he was being recorded at the time. And that raises a couple questions. Which I, one, was Michael Cohen in the habit of secretly recording the President in the process of representing him? And two, why did he feel compelled to secretly record him about this matter?
MELBER: Let me bring in John Flannery on some of these questions.
Mr. Flannery, when you look at everything you just heard, what is the legal significance?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, in terms of the law, the campaign violations are an obvious one. But in terms of the strength of the evidence to show that, I thought the times story just before the quote that you had was significant because it shows knowledge of both men, Cohen and Trump, of what AMI is doing with playmate McDougal.
He says should we buy her story directly or should we buy it from AMI? And that suggests -- and then the question is, should we pay in check or should we do it by cash? And he is encouraging Cohen, Trump is encouraging Cohen to do it by check, which strikes me as bizarre. And you have to wonder if this was also a pattern to reimburse AMI for what they had already done.
MELBER: Right. So let`s slow down a bit because we are getting into the initials.
You are talking about the "National Enquirer" parent company and you are talking about whether there was an elicit plot to misuse or abuse that organization, that media company, to secretly try to buy people off and bury their story. And that`s a big no-no to use a legal term.
We spoke to McDougal`s lawyer about this. Take a listen to what he was saying because we have been reporting this out for some time. A lot of different reporters have been working different angles of the story on what does look very shady. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Was the "National Enquirer" acting as the arm of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, if so, is there something wrong with that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We strongly suspect they were.
MELBER: Can you prove it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if the lawsuit had continued, we would have been able to prove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLANNERY: Yes. Well, here is the thing about the abuse. I think what we have is we have a long standing relationship, which has been well reported, between AMI, Mr. Pecker, and Mr. Trump, and in which they have helped each other from time to time, and both favoring Mr. Trump and killing other stories.
What they did with the McDougal story was they paid her $150,000 and then kill it had story and tried to tie her down with that contract. That is certainly an abusive situation in which they said this is a story that`s going to run. You don`t pay $150,000 for a dog and then they didn`t run it. And the only person who profits from that is candidate Trump.
And so these conversations -- and they did that in August. So these conversations in September only a month later seem to fit naturally with an ongoing scheme. You know, should we now pay her directly? Should we buy the rights to the story from AMI or the Enquirer? And that shows a continuing knowledge of what`s going on. And all the denials by Trump are after that.
MELBER: And Megan, speak to the point that if Michael Cohen may have had some inkling that he had exposure on this, if he kept the tapes secret from Donald Trump, he wasn`t making the tape for Donald Trump. Was he making the tape at that time that he thought he had the presence of mind that there might be something shady that would backfire on him? Megan.
THOWEY: Yes. I mean, I think that that there are certain things we don`t know. But that certainly raises the question of what was the motivation to secretly tape the President on that issue at that time?
I mean, this is the thing about tapes, right, tapes don`t lie. I mean, you can have disputes about a conversation you had back in 2016 with a he said/she said. But you know, tapes don`t lie. And so I think it`s very significant. That`s a huge significance of this tape.
MELBER: Right. Well, Liz, as you know, push scales don`t lie. The tapes don`t lie either. And this is why Michael Cohen may have made it.
I want to bring in Jay Goldberg who was Donald Trump`s exclusive chief litigator from 1992 until 2012 and has been his adviser as well. And he has told me they retained attorney/client privilege.
Jay, always appreciate you are making time to come on THE BEAT. This is a big night. Do you think these leaks are in the "New York Times" because of Michael Cohen? And did you ever secretly record Donald Trump without his knowledge as a lawyer or is that something that only Michael Cohen did?
JAY GOLDBERG, TRUMP CHIEF LITIGATOR (on the phone): I don`t think that`s unique to Michael Cohen. It`s not unique to a wrong doer who is in a relationship with somebody who might be viewed as a coconspirator.
MELBER: You said that -- did you call it a (INAUDIBLE). Sorry, what word did you use? Not unique to a what?
GOLDBERG: To a coconspirator. If somebody is doing something wrongful, then they might be concerned about their own position. And they will tape record it to see if it can be used later on to win the cooperation of the government.
MELBER: Do you think -- you are saying something so powerful, Jay. I want to make sure we are hearing you right. Are you saying Michael Cohen viewed himself as having exposure as a coconspirator at that time?
GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. And I might point out that when I represented Donald actively, he referred David Pecker to me. So the relationship between the Enquirer and Trump is extremely close.
But make no mistake, Michael Cohen was concerned about his own position. He wanted to stay in the good graces of Trump because Trump essentially was his only client. But he had the presence of mind to know that he was treading on shaky ground. And he had to have something that he could sell to a prosecutor should the matter explode.
MELBER: Do you think David Pecker, who oversees this media empire, do you think he has any potential exposure for doing things that really weren`t under his obligations and fiduciary duties to that company, but rather were some other sort of scheme or plot?
GOLDBERG: I think he has a fiduciary duty to the shareholders. And he, too, has exposure. But I`m concerned about Michael Cohen. If you spend five minutes with Michael Cohen, you know that he is not strong. He is weak. It`s odd to say this. But when he said that he would stand up for the President, I knew from talking with him for less than five minutes that he was sufficiently weak. That he would cave in with respect to any wrongdoing.
MELBER: What do you mean by weak, though? Do you mean that he would tell the truth about his history or he would be intimidated by prosecutors?
GOLDBERG: Well, he couldn`t be counted on to protect the person who was paying him. Very few people who face the prospect of jail stand up. In fact, it`s difficult for me to recall any instance over decades of practice where somebody has stood up and taken it on the chin.
MELBER: But let me be -- let press you for a moment, Jay. I understand the point you are raising. But if the facts that he provides to the federal investigators are not negative or incriminating to Donald Trump, then it doesn`t matter whether he is weak or strong, right?
GOLDBERG: Well, the prosecutor makes a judgment as to whether the person is telling the truth negatively or positively. The idea is to win the affection, if you will, of the prosecutor. And if the prosecutor feels that you are telling the truth, albeit not measuring up to criminal activity on the part of the target, you still have the cooperation of the prosecutor.
MELBER: Let me bring in another former federal prosecutor colleague of sorts of yours.
John Flannery, your reaction?
FLANNERY: Well, my reaction is that you are being a little gentle about what`s going on here. It`s very suspicious since Cohen shared this tape with Trump when they were going through the tapes. And since it`s not clear that the government has a green light to disclose it, and I don`t think they would, there are only two real possibilities of disclosing this tape. One is Cohen and the other is Trump.
And Lanny Davis is a skilled -- I don`t know, a skilled publicist, shall we say. And it feels like Lanny may have hypothetically been responsible for the Cohen tape being revealed to show that Cohen has something worthwhile. And Rudy Giuliani perhaps should have remained silent because basically it is an inculpatory document. It does not exculpate Trump.
And so, I would say score one if Lanny did this for him. And another blemish on Giuliani`s jump to explain how exculpatory this document is and how the timing doesn`t matter when it is very close to the payoff in August that they are in September talking about maybe how they handle the money. Reimbursement, buying the story on itself.
GOLDBERG: You know, Giuliani is not --
MELBER: I`m out of time, Jay, but I will give you the final word briefly. Go ahead.
GOLDBERG: Giuliani has not been helpful to Trump. And he keeps a long, exculpatory statement, so he thinks, but then he says that Michael Cohen can be counted on to tell the truth. That`s an exact quote from the statement that he makes. And it`s in Trump`s interest to impute a negative hostility to his testimony with respect to any wrongdoing on the part of Trump.
And for Trump`s lawyer to say that he is somebody who could be counted on to tell the truth is not in Trump`s interest. And yet that`s exactly what he says. And that will come back to haunt Trump during the investigation and prosecution of any claims.
MELBER: I have got to fit in a break because we are going 18 minutes here and I also waiting on Michael Avenatti. He is live and a congressman.
But Jay Goldberg, your comments tonight, you calling Michael Cohen weak and Rudy ineffective while sharing with us your expertise has been fascinating.
Also my thanks to Liz Plank, Megan Thowey and John Flannery.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
MELBER: As promised, coming up, Michael Avenatti reacts live to all this news. And congressman Jerrold Nadler is here to talk about where these tapes will ever get a hearing on the Hill.
And there`s a new twist in the Russia probe, Mueller looking to subpoena the woman known as quote "the Manhattan Madame," and she has a very long connection to Roger Stone.
Plus later, hip-hop icon, Curtis Blow and he is bringing his son for our first ever father/son fallback Friday.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Michael Cohen`s secret recording of Trump discussing payments to a former Playboy model months before the election has called into question all kinds of accusations that the President has previously denied, including those that are of interest to investigators, both in the Mueller side, and in Congress.
Now, we are getting closer to what many people remember from Watergate, a moment when White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield revealed for the first time to the Congress there was a taping system in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the oval office of the President?
ALEXANDER P. BUTTERFIELD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by New York congressman Jerrold Nadler, a top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
This is not an oval office taping system. In that respect, this is not Watergate. But what does it mean to see leaks of these tapes? And are they have an interest to Congress?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, they may be of interest of Congress. We will have to see.
You put this in the context of what`s going on now, the walls are closing in on the President. The Mueller investigation has come up with 35 indictments, including very detailed indictments of how the Russians hacked into our systems, how they interfered in our elections. The President denies the obvious. The President sides with the Russians and their denial against his own intelligence people. He refuses to protect our current elections from an ongoing threat that all these intelligence people say is an ongoing threat from the Russians.
And yet we see -- and orchestrates a campaign of slander by his people and people in -- Republicans in Congress to discredit the special council and the investigation so that people won`t believe the report whenever it comes out. And yet the special counsel, who from whom we hear no leaks, we just see the 35 indictments, the guilty pleas, as is proper, no leaks.
NADLER: It`s apparently developing a very, very solid case of criminal conspiracy of various people in the Trump campaign, maybe including the President with the Russians and subverting an American election and subverting our laws. These tapes may be evidence of the President being involved in a criminal conspiracy to hide evidence of campaign finance violations, or of worse. I think they are flailing out in different directions because they see the walls closing in. Now, will Congress be interested in this? Quite possibly.
MELBER: Let me ask you this. If Michael Cohen ever did things that relate to Bob Mueller`s core portfolio and mandate, collusion issues, do you think this type of news makes it more or less likely from an investigator`s perspective that he taped those conversations?
NADLER: Well, if one is taping conversations with your client, or whether it`s proper to call them a client when Michael Cohen is really a fixer, not a lawyer, but if you are taping conversations with him on one thing, I don`t see why it`s probably not logical you taped him on a lot of other things.
MELBER: Take a listen to Donny Deutsche who has spoken to Michael Cohen and said something on MSNBC that matches what Reverend Al Sharpton who had breakfast with Cohen this morning. As you can see Michael Cohen knows a lot of people and he keeps telling everyone things that make it seem like he is getting ready to cooperate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: I believe at the end of the day Michael Cohen is going to do, and I have said this before, what you would do, what I would do, to do what`s best for him and his family. I think whatever comes out involving Michael will have to do with what -- with some Stormy Daniels things, possibly, perhaps there will be some missing links to solve the problem with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Are we seeing a kind of a rollout that lands with him testifying before Bob Mueller or before the SDNY, and if so, do you find a way to get him in front of the Congress if demes retake the House in the midterms?
NADLER: I suspect we are seeing that unless we are seeing the final begging for a pardon before the President with his testifying to Mueller in the absence of that pardon. As to whether we ask for testimony, I think we would wait until the criminal investigation is over. We wouldn`t want to - - well, I don`t know, we would be careful not to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation.
MELBER: You would hold your fire?
NADLER: I`m not sure that we would do it. We would either do it in such a way as not to interfere, or if we couldn`t figure that out, we wouldn`t ask for those tapes. But again, because this investigation is very important, we have to find out who was involved in conspiracy with the Russians to undermine our elections, which is the basic crime here. And again you just saw the President siding with the Russians against our own intelligence people, his own intelligence appointees in order to cover up a plot to subvert our elections, and an ongoing plot.
So we can`t trust the President to safeguard the interests of the country, the special prosecutor, and hopefully democratic Congress will have to do it. Because certainly, the Republicans in Congress are aiding and abetting in a cover-up, and maybe even aiding and abetting in an ongoing obstruction of justice.
MELBER: Well, we heard some of the view from investigative reporters and Jay Goldberg, the President`s former lawyer, before, and now we are hearing from you as a Democrat in Congress.
I appreciate you coming on, Congressman Nadler.
And up next, what would Michael Avenatti think about all this? And does it match his prediction? I`m going to ask him when he joins me live in 30 seconds.
MELBER: I`m back with Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels.
You made this prediction. You were proven right. How did you know it then that there was a tape, and what does it mean tonight?
AVENATTI: Well, good evening, Ari. You know, there is not just one tape, there`s multiple tapes. And, you know, I think ultimately when all of these tapes come out, it`s going to be very problematic for Michael Cohen and the President.
You know, I called for their release back in late May. We are calling for the release now. I agree with one of your guests in the assessment that this clearly came from Michael Cohen`s camp. And I think it`s the last flare gun, if you will, in a long list of flare guns, shots, if you will, aimed at getting Donald Trump`s attention and telling him that the shoe is about to drop unless he brings Michael Cohen into the tent to mix metaphors.
MELBER: And that makes sense. We have definitely seen that interpretation.
The other theory that I will ask you about is that Donald Trump had, perhaps, the worst week of his presidency given the credible accusations that impugn the rather bizarre display in Helsinki as well as the ensuing things that he said, unsaid and resaid about Vladimir Putin, and that this is some kind of massive distraction, or is coming out from the Giuliani side. Your response to that theory.
AVENATTI: I just don`t buy it. I don`t think it`s accurate. I think look, Ari, there`s a series of tapes. There`s more than one tape. That`s why I called for the release back in late May of the tapes plural and not tape singular. And you know again, I mean, the clock is running out on Mr. Trump and I think this is going to be very, very problematic. I mean, this is the one guy, Michael Cohen is the one guy who has more information on potential misdeeds of the President than anyone else, well, with the exception perhaps of Vladimir Putin.
MELBER: A big -- a big statement there but not one that is a different from what some former intelligence officials have suggested in various ways. Let me play for you a Jay Goldberg who represented Donald Trump before Michael Cohen but they had a very similar role speaking just moments ago on THE BEAT and calling Cohen weak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY GOLDBERG, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: If you spend five minutes with Michael Cohen, you know that he`s not strong. He`s weak. It`s odd to say this but when he said that he would stand up for the president, I knew from talking with him for less than five minutes that he was sufficiently weak, that he would cave in with respect to any wrongdoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you agree with that assessment? Do you know why Goldberg is saying that on television? I agree 100 percent. Michael Cohen is not a general. He`s never been a general. He`s a corporate -- corporal, Ari. And you know this was not a guy that was calling the shots and this just goes to show you, you know, what I`ve been saying a long time. I mean, Michael Cohen was not smart enough or tough enough to serve in the role that he was placed in by Donald Trump. And eventually, Donald Trump is going to pay the price for that. And this is another example Ari of the lack of judgment by Donald Trump and the people that he surrounds himself with.
MELBER: Michael Cohen retaining Lanny Davis in this role, a longtime Clinton aide, and a lawyer and a former White House Counsel. It`s something we reported, something you track, something that seems significant. Lanny Davis is a huge critic of trumpet because he said he`s a liar who can`t be trusted. Now he, of course, is working with Cohen which would suggest against Trump. Take a listen to Mr. Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANNY DAVIS, LAWYER OF MICHAEL COHEN: I`ve never worked for a client that has lied to me or that I could trust not lying to me. That`s the reason he can`t find a great lawyer it`s because he has lied to the American people, we know that, but he`s also lied to his own lawyers and no lawyer will take a client who lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Are we seeing this new Lanny Davis chapter on behalf of Cohen this week? Is that why this stuff is leaking and what do you think is holding them back from moving forward and trying to get a cooperation agreement and getting it done if that`s the goal?
AVENATTI: Well, I think a lot of things may be happening behind the scenes here, Ari, that aren`t necessarily public or have not been disclosed yet but I think that you`ve seen a progression. I think you had me on last week and I talked about the progression. It was either on your show or on your podcast where you know we`ve seen a drumbeat now from Lanny Davis relating to an effort to rehabilitate Michael Cohen and a series of flare gunshots aimed at Mr. Trump. I will say this and I have a lot of respect for Lanny, I don`t agree with Lanny or don`t believe him when he says he`s never had a client lie to him in the history of his law practice. I`d be very surprised if that were the case. But look, I think that this is consistent. What happened today is consistent with what we`ve seen as it relates to sending a warning message to the President. I think that Michael Cohen has been placed on an island. I`ve said this in the past. I think it was a grave mistake by the President. If there was anyone that the President should have been looking out after, I mean, he`s clearly looking out after Vladimir Putin, we know that right? He`s been inviting them to the White House. He should have been inviting Michael Cohen to the White House a long time ago.
MELBER: Cohen retaining Davis also shows that he is looking for tough lawyers willing to take on Trump. You are probably known as the number one person in that category. Would you ever consider representing Michael Cohen in any way and have you ever discussed it with him?
AVENATTI: Well, I`m not going to get into discussing what I may or may not have discussed with Michael Cohen and I`m not going to speculate -- I`m not going to say no as it relates to potentially representing Michael Cohen.
MELBER: You would not rule out representing your civil adversary in the other proceeding. You would not rule out trying to represent Michael Cohen in this matter?
AVENATTI: If he was prepared to do the right thing and come clean and basically turn state`s evidence, I would absolutely consider it in an effort to disclose information to bring the truth to the American people, Ari.
MELBER: Prior to this television interview, is he aware of your willingness to do that?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to answer that question. What I will answer --
MELBER: Does that mean that -- does that mean that it`s likely yes because if it were no you could just say no you`ve never discussed it with him.
AVENATTI: Ari, you know, you are -- you are a very skilled questioner and a very smart lawyer and you know that I`ve always thought that about you so I`m not --
MELBER: I`m not interested in flattery, sir. I`m just saying what it seems to you`re implying is that this is something that is not news to him through this interview but something that may have disgust is what I`m getting.
AVENATTI: Well, you can draw your own conclusions. Here`s what I`m going to say, Ari, I recently had occasion in the last few days by sheer happenstance to run into Michael Cohen at a restaurant that I`ve been going to for 15 years in New York and by sheer happenstance we happen to be seated about six feet apart from one another. And during that run in, Michael Cohen and I actually had a chance to converse and we had a very -- what I`ll described as a very positive meeting and I came away from that meeting -- I came away from that meeting very encouraged by ultimately how may -- how all of this may work out and we`re going to see what happen --
MELBER: You feel encouraged based -- you feel encouraged based on your recent face-to-face with Michael Cohen. His retaining Lanny Davis sends a message as a Hillary person. Do you think as a hypothetical retaining you would send an even bigger message to Donald Trump?
AVENATTI: Oh, I think it would send quite the message and I think it would advance the cause of the American people as it relates to finding the truth 100 percent and that`s why I`m not going to rule it out.
MELBER: Michael Avenatti, you have said many things that have been born out here. We showed some of them in our reporting. You are a man in demand tonight. You could have been anywhere in the world, you`re here with us, I do appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thank you, Ari. And remember, flattery will get you nowhere.
MELBER: Nowhere, but thank you, Michael Avenatti. Meanwhile, we do have other angles on the story. Mueller`s team now once hear from the so-called Manhattan Madam who boasted of providing sex workers to New York`s rich and famous and had the link to Roger Stone. That`s coming up.
MELBER: There is more. We`ve been reporting on Michael Cohen and his tapes back in the news which could be a dangerous combination for Donald Trump on everything from allegations of his contact with women, to his own finances, to the original Russia probe. Mueller investigating Cohen`s purported secret trip to Prague during Trump`s presidential campaign. He`s denied it. That, of course, relates to the famous dossier. Cohen also playing a key role in those attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and he was involved in trying to set up an alleged back-channel regarding Ukraine.
There`s a lot of material for Mueller to look at and he`s operating on many fronts tonight because now there`s this news breaking today, Mueller looking to subpoena the so-called Manhattan Madam Kristin Davis. You may remember her from the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. The governor of New York brought down by that back in 2008. Mueller reportedly wants to talk to her because of her links to a former Trump adviser Roger Stone. She told NBC today she doesn`t have anything on Russian collusion and said this is all out of the blue and also "very upsetting." I`m joined by MSNBC Analyst Howard Fineman and former Federal Prosecutor Kim Wehle. Thanks to both of you. Kim, what would Mueller be looking for here from Miss Davis?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Mr. Cohen had connections with Guccifer, the Romanian hacker that formed the basis of the most recent indictments against Russian operatives that we`re attacking our democracy in our electoral system. So if she had a close relationship to Mr. Stone then it would make sense that he would want to talk to her to find out what she knows to confirm or deny the other pieces of information that that they have which I`m sure the mountain of it. I mean, I was also in the Whitewater investigation and was interesting, it was a much smaller thing than what we`re seeing right now but what happens behind the scenes is very, very different than what`s public.
MELBER: And Howard, you have reported on Roger Stone for some time including on this show. What are you learning tonight?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I texted with Roger Stone a little while ago and he sent me a reply in which he described this as harassment. He said and I can read it if you want.
FINEMAN: Hold on one second.
MELBER: I think we have a version of it. We can put it ahead on the screen.
FINEMAN: He said, have you lost your sense of humor? That was his opening to me. Kristin Davis has been a friend of mine and has worked on and off for me for ten years. She is a brilliant woman who has remade her life. I am the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business. She has no knowledge of Russian collusion during the 2016 election. I cannot imagine why the Special Council wants to interview her other than for purposes of harassment. Now, I followed up by saying, harassment of who? You know, you or her or both. And he said both. I would describe the interest in Kirsten Davis as a sub squeeze. He can call it harassment and certainly from his point of view he may view it that way because apparently, he is close to her personally. But what the Mueller people are looking for are people who know what Roger Stone knew. And Roger has said a variety of things about what he knew about Guccifer, what he knew about what was going on in Russia in the campaign, and the Mueller people are obviously trying to pin him from the outside and if they can.
MELBER: Right, I think you`re reporting Rogers a rebuttal and Kim`s contacts all serve to underscore that the fact that someone might be called for questioning is not to infer anything negative about them in all fairness and yet we`re seeing these grinding gears go on in a way that obviously swirls around Stone. Kim, the other big news that is a relatively unusual beyond the Cohen tapes with Mr. Avenatti who has a track record of predicting certain things telling me this just moments ago. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into discussing what I may or may not have discussed with Michael Cohen and I`m not going to speculate -- I`m not going to say no as it relates to potentially representing Michael Cohen.
MELBER: You would not rule out representing your civil adversary in the other proceeding. You would not rule out trying to represent Michael Cohen in this matter?
AVENATTI: If he was prepared to do the right thing and come clean and basically turn state`s evidence, I would absolutely consider it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Kim, that would certainly be unusual and be a rocket at the White House, your reaction?
WEHLE: Well, it would also be a conflict of interest as an attorney. I mean, I think it`s interesting somewhat what Mr. Avenatti is doing both with respect to his clients and respect to his own personal career and his national reputation now. But the bigger issue really is what are the implications for our democratic process? I mean, I think this is -- the thing -- the drain -- the Trump administration is somewhat circling the drain here in many different levels and the question is going to be how is this going to turn out? I mean, what Congress is doing nothing. There`s real questions as to what whether the Mueller investigation can produce indictments at the highest levels of office and the American people are deeply divided here. And I think the message has to be how is this going to resolve in a way that minimizes the trauma on the American populace as well -- as well as our democratic system.
FINEMAN: Ari, can I -- can I --
MELBER: Sure, yes.
FINEMAN: -- for a second, OK. Edward Bennett Williams the great defense lawyer here in Washington used to say he didn`t represent a client he represented the situation. Michael Avenatti is the closest thing to representing the situation. What`s going on here is that all the people around Donald Trump who are worried about going to jail maybe the situation and they need coordination. And even if Michael Avenatti ends up not representing Michael Cohen in any way, I can assure you that the coordination is growing among all the people who are worried about going to jail and that is bad news for Donald Trump.
MELBER: Well, ringing the alarm and people who feel Donald Trump hasn`t been as loyal to them as they once were and the Howard Fineman perhaps with an inadvertent Jersey Shore reference, the situation needs a lawyer. And Kim Wehle, thanks to both of you. Coming up I am excited to tell you the legendary rapper Kurtis Blow with hear bringing his son for a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY."
MELBER: It`s been quite a week. It`s Friday so it is time for "FALLBACK FRIDAY." And this is our first ever father-son "FALLBACK" takeover by hip- hop legend Kurtis Blow and his son Kurtis Blow Jr. Kurtis Blow, of course, recorded the first certified gold record rap song The Breaks. He`s worked on hits by The Fat Boys, Run-DMC, Wyclef, Kurtis Blow Junior, his son also a rapper and its company is Trap Phone Mobile. These are The Breaks. This is awesome. Thank you for doing it and who needs to fall back?
KURTIS BLOW, RAPPER: Well, fall back. I was just thinking about this IHOP. The President of IHOP needs to fall back.
BLOW: I mean, I just found out that this whole change in the name into IHOB, International House of Burgers was employed just to get people to complain about it. It`s just for press and media and to get more exposure for IHOP. They recently changed back to IHOP. It`s no longer IHOB --
MELBER: So we all got kind of played.
BLOW: So we got played. So they need to fall back and don`t you ever do that again.
MELBER: Kurtis, who needs to fall back?
KURTIS BLOW JR., RAPPER: Well, you heard this story about this guy who took a girl out on a date. He wind up stealing her car and going and taking another girl out on the date and then got caught and went to jail.
MELBER: That`s audacious.
BLOW JR.: You got to fall back bro come on, that`s crazy.
MELBER: I`ve heard of stealing lines.
BLOW JR.: Yes, but stealing car --
MELBER: But stealing the whole car for the date --
BLOW JR.: Yes, that`s crazy.
MELBER: Yes, that really good. That`s not good I`ll do one which is the one of the week that everyone`s been thinking about. I`ll just tell Vladimir Putin to fall back. Stop messing with the elections as charge and as evidence has said and stop working over our president. I mean it`s at times it`s disturbing and at times a little embarrassing.
BLOW JR.: Right, right. I meant to say wouldn`t.
MELBER: The double negative.
BLOW JR.: Come on. Come on.
MELBER: I will say this on the show this week, there`s a saying I wish you would, you know that saying? No one ever says I wish you wouldn`t and then it takes a day later to come back that I meant would. I meant would. I mean, it`s not -- it`s not plausible. You got any other fall backs?
BLOW: Well, we wanted to do one together like father and son and --
BLOW JR.: In the generation gap in hip hop you know, it was like the old guys talking about the young guys. Young guys talking about the old guys. The old manners we all love, you know what I mean? Let`s come together, lyrics, mumble rap, you know the mean?
MELBER: Yes. It`s a one big party, man. All love.
BLOW: Fall back on the hate.
BLOW JR.: Fall back on the hate.
MELBER: That`s beautiful.
BLOW: Fall back on the hate between the generation because there is a generation gap and I want to just show support to all the young rappers out there coming up doing their thing. The world is yours do you thing. This is an awesome, awesome culture. We have hip hop $645 billion a year and it`s all yours. The future is yours guys so go for it man. Get the money.
BLOW JR.: That`s my man Drake too.
MELBER: Well, Drake has become controversial. You know, he`s a big -- he`s bigger than more -- he`s more than Taylor Swift now.
BLOW JR.: Number one, like 10 billion streams I think his hits.
MELBER: But what you`re saying for our viewers you know, we have people who love rock and roll. I was talking to Colonel Peters earlier in the week about the Grateful Dead. It seems like in all music this is a generational thing that happens where -- because my father and I had a long-running debate when I was growing up where he would say he didn`t feel like hip-hop was music the way that the 70s era was music. And this seems to happen in every genre, the new guys. The first conversation is "maybe that`s not real music."
BLOW: Well, you know, everybody has those stories where grandma or mom is in the background turn that music down. So that`s it. I mean you know, but the only way we`re going to bridge this gap is love. So each party, each section, each -- all of my peers, all my fellas I`m telling them, stop hating all the young kids. Give them inspiration. Show them love that they can do this too.
MELBER: And the respect has to be both ways because you have some of the young rappers (INAUDIBLE) hating on Tupac (INAUDIBLE) where the loves has to be mutual but we can learn from the -- from the elder generation. The hat -- the hat you`re wearing says I am hip-hop that happens to be true. I really appreciate you doing this.
BLOW: My pleasure, my pleasure.
MELBER: Kurtis Blow, Kurtis Blow Jr. thank you very much. You can also catch Kurtis Blow emceeing the fifth Annual Hip Hop Nutcracker tour this fall and we will be right back.
MELBER: Our broadcast began with Trump`s former lawyer Jay Goldberg saying that Michael Cohen is weak and will flip and then included a current lawyer who`s been a nemesis of Michael Cohen, Michael Avenatti telling me he would not rule out representing Michael Cohen and that they have spoken recently, in general, he wouldn`t get into the details that conversation. If he were to get a full written waiver, he might be able to do that representation without a legal conflict. We`ll keep an eye on the story. That does it for us. "HARDBALL" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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