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Trump Finance Chief mentioned in Cohen tape. TRANSCRIPT: 7/26/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber.

Guests: Tim O`Brien; Jay Goldberg; Donna Edwards; Tim O`Brien; Howard Fineman

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 26, 2018 Guest: Tim O`Brien; Jay Goldberg; Donna Edwards; Tim O`Brien; Howard Fineman

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

The man who might know more about Donald Trump than anyone else is his money man, who did his taxes, who bought his boats, and helped run his company when Donald Trump became president. And that man is now being ordered to speak to the Feds. That is a true bombshell when it comes to these investigations that touch on the Trump Organization, a story first broken by the "Wall Street Journal," a long-time executive Allen Weisselberg subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury.

Now, here is what you need to know. This article reports that he is considered a witness and this is regarding the criminal probe into Trump`s former lawyer and self-described fixer, Michael Cohen. So that is a separate investigation than Mueller, thought, they can be related.

Now it`s possible this man has already testified. "The Wall Street Journal" report, which is a big deal and is rocking Trump land right now, does not state when he is scheduled to talk or if he already has, let alone if it would be secret grand jury questioning. But there`s a lot of ground to cover.

We do know that beyond that even the family Trump business, Weisselberg reportedly handled personal matters for Trump, paying household expenses, boats and planes, preparing something Donald Trump has fought hard to keep secret, unlike every other major candidate, those tax returns. Now if Allen Weisselberg`s name sounds familiar, it could be because Michael Cohen was mentioning him by name in the conversation recorded with Donald Trump about buying a rights to a former Playboy model story who claimed to have a relationship with Trump.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know. So that -- I`m going to do that right away. I have actually come up and I have spoken --.


COHEN: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: Funding -


MELBER: How to set the whole thing up. Later in the conversation, you can see how central this person is, Cohen mentions him again.


COHEN: Because here you never know where that company --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it.


MELBER: He spoke to Allen about it. And for good reason. Allen does seem to be involved in everything in Trump`s business interests. When Donald Trump told the world he was actually stepping away, Allen Weisselberg was right in the middle of that too. Here was Trump`s lawyer making that key announcement.


SHERI DILLON, TRUMP ATTORNEY: He has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump organization to his sons Don and Eric, and a long- time Trump executive Allen Weisselberg. President elect Trump are committed to ensuring the activities are beyond approach.


MELBER: If that moment looked maybe boring or like dry legalese, it is because it was supposed to. But we also know it was important to Donald Trump. That was his first press conference as President elect.

So, no, Allen Weisselberg is not a household name, but to the people who follow Trump and his businesses, he is the man. In fact, my next guest, Trump biographer, Tim O`Brien was writing back in April. Weisselberg has more expansive information on the President`s business activities than Cohen. And when Weisselberg`s came up on tape this week, O`Brien reported he worked for the Trump family since the 1970s, has detailed information about the company`s operations, business deals and finances and could, get this, potentially provide more damaging information to prosecutors than Cohen ever could about Trump`s deal-making.

With me now is Tim O`Brien. I should mention he has also interviewed Allen Weisselberg for his Trump biography, "Trumpnation." And Mr. Weisselberg testified in the lawsuit that Donald Trump filed against you, Tim, over your book and your reporting on his finances which apparently he did not like. So you are literally one of the best people in the world for the story. I`m very happy you`re here on THE BEAT tonight. What does this all mean?

TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, TRUMPNATION: Well, to the extent that, you know, the money trail surrounding President Trump becomes problematic for him in the course of the Mueller investigation or in the course of the Cohen investigation, or in the court of the New York state attorney general`s investigation of the Trump foundation, someone like Allen Weisselberg becomes very pivotal because he knows a lot. Not only about Donald Trump`s personal finances, but about the Trump organization`s comings and goings.

As you have noted and as I reported, he first came into the Trump family business back in the 1970s. He was Fred Trump`s accountant. And then he graduated over the years, you know, up the ladder. He became Donald Trump`s CFO.

And I have always felt that, you know, the Michael Cohen, the issues surrounding Michael Cohen could ultimately very well only accrue to Cohen himself. I`m not clear yet how much any of the stuff he is being investigated for potentially bank and tax fraud will ultimately, you know, devolve to the President.

MELBER: Well, part of it goes to, as you have written, part of it goes to the portfolio. Michael Cohen was solving allegedly problems as they arose. Mr. Weisselberg had, to use the parlance, the receipts. He has all the receipts.

O`BRIEN: Right. And you know, Michael Cohen really didn`t do any classic legal work for Donald Trump. He was a fixer. He was in the Roy Cohn mode. And he only came into the Trump organization in 2006.

Allen Weisselberg and another individual in Trump organization, Jason Greenblatt, were really the two pivotal people in that company who knew about finances and deal-making and signed off on things. Sometimes the President wouldn`t do anything unless the two of them were involved to some extent.

So this presents a real vulnerability. And I think ultimately it goes to things in the probe that might touch on financial quid pro quos.

MELBER: It goes to whether there are crimes related to money, even pre- 2016 is what you are saying. And that goes -- I want to read from your reporting, when there were these questions about what Donald Trump was really worth.

Weisselberg claimed Donald was worth $6 billion, you write. But the list of assets he quoted totaled was $5 billion. There is a major different, a billion, a billionaire. Where might the rest have been? I`m going to go to my office and find that other billion. Weisselberg assured me. Did he ever return? No, he never returned.

What were you getting at there in the book? And what is the difference between missing a billion when someone talks to you, versus, say, federal authorities?

O`BRIEN: Well, what I was getting at in the book was just basic math. You know, during the course of -- I spent a lot of time with Donald Trump when I was a reporter at the "New York times," and then working on this book. And one of the things he and I batted back and forth, because he put it in the news all the time, was how much money does he actually have. And that was always a difficult thing to pin down. And he would give me these wildly varying numbers between $1 billion and $10 billion. So he and Allen Weisselberg had me there into the Trump organization one day in the Spring of 2005, and they were detailing to me - for me, how much money he has.

MELBER: Right. So that point being, do you think he was as fast and loose with others as he was with you?

O`BRIEN: I think he has been fast and loose with everyone, Ari. This is part of the Donald Trump operating manual.

MELBER: So you think he has legal exposure when he walks into this grand jury?

O`BRIEN: Does Allen Weisselberg have legal exposure? I think everybody around Donald Trump right now has legal exposure.

MELBER: Hang with me. I want to bring in Howard Fineman, a fellow writer who has covered many of these issues, and former Maryland congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Donna, how do you view the significance of this?

DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER MARYLAND CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I mean, I think it`s true that Allen Weisselberg actually could be the thing that -- around which all of these investigations actually come to a convergence. And, I mean, he is the money guy. And I think that, you know, each one of these investigations really touches on where the money was running, whether it was the Trump foundation, the campaign, or the Trump organization. And Allen Weisselberg is at a place where he might understand how it is that these dots connect.

And so I think it`s going to be a really important conversation. And certainly his testimony before the grand jury. And I think that, you know, Cohen right here has his own exposure, and he needs to figure out when it is that he`s going to sit down with prosecutors because the more the investigation goes forward without his cooperation and begins to center on him, he is exposed in a way that others are not.

MELBER: Howard, I want to get emotional. It`s been a long week. It`s not over.

HOWARD FINEMAN, WRITER, NBCNEWS.COM: Well, come to me, Ari, I`m ready for you.

MELBER: Well, we do reporting here, and we rely on reporting. And the reported narrative around Michael Cohen has tapped into his feelings and his stated feelings, which he has been leaking constantly to his friends, as he has every right to share thoughts and feeling.

These are some of them. Wounded, abandoned, frustrated, panicked, furious. These all come from the "Washington Post`s" account of his feelings. How does that play into this? And what is his reaction when he sees Weisselberg head into this grand jury box? Which again, I have to say for clarity, we don`t know when or if that already happen. But whenever that kind of thing happens given their relationship.

FINEMAN: Well, let`s from the inside out.

First of all, Cohen and Weisselberg presumably know a fair amount about each other. Tim is absolutely right, Cohen was the fixer, he wasn`t the guy signing the checks. It was Trump signing the checks and Weisselberg giving Trump the checks to sign. But when you get two different people from an organization testifying separately before a grand jury, that makes both of them really nervous. And that`s exactly what Bob Mueller and the feds want to do here.

The big picture here, Ari, don`t forget, the big question is, did Donald Trump and his organization collude with the Russians, and are they covering that up?

I have always thought, and I have reason to think that the theory of Mueller`s case is follow the money, going back to Watergate, follow the money. Where is the Russian money? How did the Russian money get in here? This is one of the things that Tim who did a fabulous job on that book looked into. Where does the Russian money come from? And how does the Russian money, which was prevalent in the Trump organization in late `90s and the (INAUDIBLE), how did that money affect Donald Trump`s behavior and cooperation with Russians, if at all, in the campaign?

So Mueller`s going deep here. The feds are going deep. And now they are getting to the people who really, really know.

As Tim points out, Weisselberg is a guy who knows every check, presumably every loan. Don`t forget, also, that the feds have the tax returns. There`s nothing that prevents the feds from getting the tax returns. They have got the tax returns, even if they are not public.

Weisselberg knows every jot and tittle of those tax returns and what they really mean. And by the way, there`s very weak privilege, legally. Not like a lawyer, very weak federal law and state laws on client accountant privilege. They can get everything from Weisselberg. Lastly, I would say Weisselberg who is described by others as fading into the wall paper generally is not the guy one would think would enjoy going in front of a grand jury. Tim would know more about that than I. but this is the feds, again, squeezing from the outside in, and now they are getting real close.

MELBER: Tim and then Donna. Tim to that point.

O`BRIEN: Well, I think he even - I think Howard`s spot on here. I guess we are in happy agreement about these things. But I think beyond even the tax returns, the other thing that`s been exposed here, remember in the tape that came out the other night, he and Michael Cohen -- or Michael Cohen and Trump are talking about creating yet another LLC or some sort of vehicle to pay off a Playboy model to keep quiet about alliance potentially with the President. All of these things -- Trump has hundreds of LLCs. He parks debt in these things. He gets paid through these things. To the extent that all these things pierce the veil around these LLCs and give the feds an opportunity to also probe and go on a field trip around the Trump network of LLCs, that opens him up.

MELBER: Right. Well, that goes to what - why this has been so kooky, Donna, I mean, we don`t have most of those LLCs out in the open. There is a lot of secrecy. Avenatti, whatever one thinks of the way he has been a part of this case did help lead to the release of information that exposed a Putin-sanctioned oligarch behind one of them. And the question was did he get super lucky? And that was the one time, there was a Putin oligarch funding something or the more reasonable investigative theory which has to the tested and proven would be are there other oligarchs poking around? And did they get something else in return?

And so, Donna, speak into that. And then the other thing that we have enough time to get into out lead which if there is one person who acted like they knew that this day might come, it was actually Donald Trump because this is a southern district of New York federal case. And Donald Trump became President. He held that press conference that we just showed dealing with all this, and then he started meeting with the then SDNY U.S. attorney Preet Bharara and trying to do a Comey on him. So Donald Seems aware. There`s a personal interest in that office. As you know, he didn`t hold those kind of meetings with other U.S. attorney`s offices.

EDWARDS: Well, so, let`s be really clear here because the President is behaving exactly like someone who has something to hide. And each of these investigations is going to do it. Now, it may not -- the investigations may not get there as fast as some of us want to politically, but it is tick to tick-tock, tick-tock. And what you can see from, you know, from the Cohen connection is that Cohen knows a little bit. But clearly Weisselberg who has been there, as Tim said, from the `70s throughout `80s and all through that bad down period that Donald Trump had financially and then had to find the money to support his various LLCs and the Trump organization. And I think that these investigations are going to get to every single one of them.

MELBER: And that`s the big question why this seems like a genuine break, at least, not New York case.

Donna Edwards, Howard Fineman, and Tim O`Brien, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, we go deeper inside the Trump organization. I have Trump`s long-time lawyer here to face the questions.

Also, new reporting on how Mueller is deepening obstruction looking into whether Donald Trump intended to break the law.

And hours away from a key deadline on a story we continue to stay on top of. Migrant kids who are supposed to be reunited with their parents. We have new information on that from the government within moments.

And later, our Special Report tonight on an attempt to gut the law that protects many endangered species from going extinct.

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


MELBER: At the top of our show, we are reporting on what is happening in the New York side of the case in Michael Cohen and a new grand jury subpoena. Now, we turn, of course, to the other side of Trump`s many legal problems, the Mueller obstruction probe.

A new report is in the "New York Times" showing that he is bearing down on Trump`s state of mind and looking very deeply at whether there was an intent to obstruct justice. Three people briefed saying that Mueller is scrutinizing many things, including Donald Trump`s statements, his tweets, and what he did in direction to attorney general Sessions and to try to undercut former FBI director James Comey. Mueller eyeing private interactions between them and wants to question the President about them, obviously a big deal, including Trump asking Comey to get out, that he was not under investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After April 11th did he ask you more, ever, about the Russia investigation? Did he ask you any questions?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We never spoke again after April 11th.


MELBER: And Mueller now wants to ask the President what he meant when he said this one day later.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it a mistake not to ask Jim Comey to step down from the FBI at the outset of your presidency? Is it too late to ask him to step down?

TRUMP: No, it`s not too late. But you know, I have confidence in him. We will see what happens. You know, it`s going to be interesting.


MELBER: Donald Trump telegraphing what would later be, of course, a dramatic firing about Comey that he then pinned on the Russia probe.

Now Trump`s allies, meanwhile, are looking to try to remove Bob Mueller`s boss. They are House Republicans still trying to impeach Rod Rosenstein. Now today, a top GOP leader again coming out on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would vote yes?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To impeach Rod Rosenstein?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now Rosenstein has not done his job in complying with congress.


MELBER: That is scoring Congress while Mueller continues to bear down on obstruction.

My next guest has been following this all quite closely for us, former federal prosecutor Paul Butler.

When you look at Mueller doing this, the critical bad news for Trump would be that he is really taking obstruction seriously. The potential good news according to Trump`s defender is maybe he doesn`t have much on Russian collusion?


So Ari, first off, congratulations to you and your amazing staff.

MELBER: Thank you.

BUTLER: On a great year of THE BEAT. Thanks for helping us lawyers look so good. Because you know, as you know, there`s a lot of cynicism about the legal process about lawyers and judges.

MELBER: There are.

BUTLER: And people concerned that the big guys try to abuse their power. And that`s really what Mueller is focused on, these bully moves by President Trump to try to impede the investigation of him and his boys, especially Michael Flynn.

And so there`s always been a question about if there`s no conclusive evidence about collusion. But there is evidence about obstruction, what Mueller would do. And it looks like he`s taking this concern that Trump is acting like the rules that apply to everybody else don`t apply to him. And he is saying that`s not how the rule of law works in the United States. And so --

MELBER: Do you think to - you know, I want to be clear, do you think that Trump defenders may have a point if it`s only obstruction that Mueller`s looking at?

BUTLER: Legally, Ari, we know that they don`t have a point. Look at the Martha Stewart case. Martha Stewart was under investigation. She was asked about alleged criminal activity. In her answer in this investigation, she lied. It turned out that she didn`t commit a substantive crime, but she ended up getting locked up for lying about it. So what`s good enough for Martha Stewart is good enough for President Trump.

MELBER: OK. Let me get you and Rudy Giuliani who has all kinds of defenses, he says, if you are going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public. We found that a lot ad sort of looked back at the record. As you know, there`s many crimes that are committed in plain sight. Aaron Hernandez, dismantling a phone outside a police station. The saint valentine`s day massacre. And armed robbery streamed on Facebook live.

What do you think Rudy Giuliani is trying to say when he know as a former prosecutor that sometimes you do catch people committing crime in public?

BUTLER: You know, so, first of all, Mr. Giuliani`s client doesn`t do anything quietly or secretly, including impede justice. So he may have expected that some of these wild conversations he had with Mr. Comey, can you see your way to giving my boy Flynn a break? Can you pledge me my -- your loyalty? And then when Mr. Comey doesn`t go along with him, he first tells FOX Business that his -- Comey`s tenure is in jeopardy and then he ends up firing him. Again, that`s very conclusive evidence of obstruction.

MELBER: And how do you know he said yo beforehand?

BUTLER: Again, you know, these are -- because I know hip hop. I don`t know wise guy, mob lingo.

MELBER: Right. Is that poetic license or is it legal license?

BUTLER: I would so love to do a closing statement in a trial in this case. Because I would lay it all out, both what Mr. Trump tried to do, not only with regard to Comey, but with regard to Sessions.

MELBER: Right.

BUTLER: You know, the way that he kept trying to say, man, if I had known that you were going to recuse yourself, I would never have appointed you. Dude, I really wish you would resign. And then there`s the dangling of pardons before other witnesses.

MELBER: Right. You put the yos and the dudes together and you get a public -- a set of tweets, and as you say, also, contra Rudy`s claims, a set of private attempts to say, hey, Sessions needs to protect him. And you say why do you need protection if you`re innocent? Which is the big question and clearly Mueller is bearing down on.

Paul Butler, thank you. And thanks for your kind words.

MELBER: Up next on THE BEAT, we talk about money man getting a subpoena. Trump`s long-time personal lawyer Jay Goldberg is here along with Nick Akerman when we are back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Now, to the other big story in our special interview tonight.

The feds zeroing in on a man who could know more about Donald Trump`s finances than just about anyone. In a moment, I`m going to speak with someone with many unique insights into what`s at stake, Donald Trump`s former long-time litigator.

Here is the story as mentioned. The "Wall Street Journal" shows that prosecutors are subpoenaing this man as parts of a grand jury probe into Michael Cohen.

Now, Allen Weisselberg is a key player in the Trump organization. He is described as the gate keeper. Ivanka Trump once saying he is deeply passionate and fearsly loyal. And he stood alongside my father and our family for over three decades.

I`m going to get to Nick Ackerman in a minute for analysis. But we begin, as promised, with Jay Goldberg, who was Donald Trump`s exclusive litigator from 1992 until 2012, and became his adviser, including up to the President.

Jay, what does it mean that Weisselberg is headed to the grand jury?

JAY GOLDBERG, TRUMP`S FORMER LITIGATOR (on the phone): Do you mind if I just say that, with respect to Paul Butler, Martha Stewart lied under oath and was prosecuted for making a false statement, not obstruction of justice. And that for obstruction of justice, you need -- the conduct was intended to make it more difficult to complete the grand jury proceeding. And that`s not true.

MELBER: Well, let me get back in on you and then we will still have to do our interview topic. But I don`t mind you saying that at all. I think Mr. Butler is referring to the nature of obstruction as you and I know. And I think the viewers have been learning as we all dig in to this. There are a whole battery of different statutes that involve the kind of conduct that can impede an investigation - false statements to authorities in the case of Ms. Stewart in SDNY. But other types of obstruction in the Presidential context, it wouldn`t be a statue for Donald Trump anyway, right. It would only be whether the Congress decides that`s an abuse of power.

GOLDBERG: And whether he made it more difficult for Mr. Mueller to complete his task. And his statements of opinion don`t measure up. The court, the Supreme Court has taken pains to narrow obstruction of justice. I want to get this in quickly, I expected obstruction of justice to be raised because Weissman, the chief deputy, tried -- in Enron case, secured a conviction, thousands of people lost their job, Arthur Anderson was destroyed and then it was reversed.


GOLDBERG: Weissman was behind obstruction of justice.

MELBER: Jay, you know I respect you. And you have a lot more years of litigation experience than I do. But can we talk about the news of the day for our interview?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we can. We can.


GOLDBERG: There`s no better person that I met in my years than Allen Weisselberg. He is a person who knows everything. And it would be a shame to bring Trump down with respect to this silly payment of monies to women and the conduct of Trump pales in significance when measured against prior presidents.

But in terms of Allen Weisselberg, he knows everything. And he is a gentle, fine person who will tell the truth.

MELBER: You agree that he knows everything. Does that mean that if there were any financial problems in the history of the Trump organization, which may not be fair for the SDNY to pursue on a current President. And I think that`s a debatable question. But if there were problems, if there was money laundering, if there was misstatements to the authorities, do you think he would cough that up accurately to the grand jury?

GOLDBERG: I doubt that that occurred, but he would know everything. No one is closer to Donald than Allen Weisselberg. He is more on top of things than anybody in the entire organization because he is a decent guy who does the right thing. And I found him to be so in the 20 years that I was there. And it would surprise me that he was involve in covering up for money laundering. He can`t do that.

MELBER: And Jay, what do you think his relationship is with Michael Cohen at this point? Do you think that he has a positive relationship with Cohen or that they are now in some kind of dispute or at odds?

GOLDBERG: No they`re in a negative position and so is the government hostile to Cohen as the government doesn`t like the release of these tapes so early in an investigation. This is Lanny Davis`s action. A prosecutor likes to keep all the tapes quietly in addition --

MELBER: Do you think, Jay, let me ask you this, do you think --

GOLDBERG: Wait, wait, it alerts Trump to the danger --

MELBER: Of course.

GOLDBERG: Because things might be taped and a prosecutor often uses these conversations, now Trump is on notice.

MELBER: Now, Jay, one more -- I got to get one more question in and then I`m going to go to another guest. My final question to you, do you think Lanny Davis is doing a good job as a lawyer here or do you see anything inappropriate in what he`s done this week for Cohen?

GOLDBERG: Inappropriate. This is not something that furthers the interests of Cohen. Cohen should be doing whatever he`s doing to the U.S. Attorney. And the US Attorney`s should decide when things have to be released. Lanny Davis is not serving the interests of his client but he could be counted on to do what he thinks is best to the Clintons. And if it means maligning the Clintons through Cohen, that`s what he`ll be doing.

MELBER: You think -- well, hold on. That`s very interesting and we always appreciate you giving us your unvarnished view. You`re making an assertion that of course, would be negative about Lanny as a lawyer. Your view is that Lanny Davis is basically selling out Michael Cohen to do the political work of the Clintons?

GOLDBERG: I have an opinion, an opinion that Lanny Davis is motivated by a belief that the -- there was meddling and it had the effect of taking the election victory from Mrs. Clinton. And there are a couple of people, him, Paul Begala, Terry McAuliffe, that will do anything to further the interests of the Clintons at the expense of anyone. And Lanny Davis is doing something that if Nick Akerman is on the line witnesses don`t do. This premature disclosure of taped evidence alerts the target, be it Trump or any other person.

MELBER: Well, here`s what I`ll do.

GOLDBERG: With the fact they`re taping --

MELBER: We`ve run long. I don`t control time, we`ve run long. Jay Goldberg as always thank you for being here. You mentioned -- you mentioned Nick Akerman who is here. I`m going to get you a response. I want to give some context though as we think about the money man. It`s pretty interesting. If you`ve ever seen any court drama, you know that the bookkeeper is a key figure in any potential conspiracy. Who can forget this classic scene from The Untouchables?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in charge of disbursements for Mr. Capone?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you tell us the amounts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a three-year period, I personally disbursed monies Mr. Capone in excess of one $1.3 million.


MELBER: It all came down in that one to the accountant. Now that`s just a movie. Jay Goldberg name-checked you. I give you the floor.

NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Mr. Weisselberg -- I mean if you take Jay at his word, Mr. Weisselberg could be a powerful witness for the government. He actually prepared Donald Trump`s tax returns. I mean, when you have a tax case or you have a tax return, there are a lot of items on that return that are ambiguous that don`t really tell you a lot unless you get behind the companies or the individual entries on there. And what Weisselberg can do is really illuminate where all this money came from, whether these were Russian involved or not. What was behind these numbers, what was behind the entries --

MELBER: So you and Jay -- this is what`s so interesting and why we like getting everyone in the conversation. You and Jay agree on a narrow factual part of this which is that this is a key witness to everything who knows everything.

AKERMAN: Yes, and he can also explain -- the key is he can explain the ambiguity, ambiguities that are in those returns.

MELBER: Now, do you agree based on your knowledge of any of this or are you not able to say whether Weisselberg will ultimately be loyal to the truth or Donald Trump if they are at odd?

AKERMAN: Well, if you take Jay Goldberg at his word, I think Jay is giving this guy a character reference in the sense that he thinks he will be honest. When you deal with numbers like this and you deal with accounting, and you`re asking about numbers on a tax return, he may know things that he doesn`t even realize would be damaging to Donald Trump.

MELBER: Right, but if he just walked through certain things, where that account was, what the tax intent was on it, who was behind it as we were discussing my show with their other oligarchs. What about the Lanny -- the Lanny of it all?

AKERMAN: Well, I think that we`re dealing with one tape here. I mean, the problem that I think Lanny Davis had and Michael Cohen had was that Rudy Giuliani was going out and lying about what was on that tape. He was mischaracterizing the tape. He was saying that Trump was saying that it should be in cash. Anybody listening to that not to use cash but a check, any normal person listening to that tape is going to realize that Trump was suggesting cash, that it wasn`t as rare it`s not exculpatory as Rudy Giuliani claimed it was. It shows that Donald Trump had his staff lie about that whole incident and --

MELBER: Yes, but it seemed more politically bad than legally bad because it did show line any straight reference was they denied this and Trump now on tape knew about it was in the loop about.

AKERMAN: That`s right.

MELBER: It didn`t seem to show alone on its face a crime on the tape, a legal problem.

AKERMAN: No but when you put it together with everything else when you put it together with the Stephanie Daniels, you put it together with the other statements that have been made with respect to both women, it puts together a case. Now --

MELBER: Now, finally --- I got to -- I got to go. Quickly, one more important thing. I want to play Preet Bharara. We mentioned this in the show. While everyone`s saying what`s going to happen, Donald Trump seemed keenly aware there was some kind of interest to him at SDNY. These are initials most Americans may not have thought about. Donald Trump was thinking about his legal exposure and he summoned that prosecutor at the time at the Trump Tower. Take a look.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: President-Elect asked presumably because he`s a New Yorker, and is aware of the great work our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me. We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on.


MELBER: So we agreed to stay on and then later it was exposed Trump was personally calling that federal prosecutor and in a way that they thought was inappropriate and trying to buddy up to him then ultimately he was fired. Does that fit into any of this?

AKERMAN: Sure it fits into exactly what he was trying to do with Comey. He was trying to get a pledge of loyalty. I mean, Donald Trump has put his fingers into every aspect of our criminal justice system. I mean, he is even involved in jury tampering to the extent that he`s going out there and telling the public that this is a witch-hunt. If you look at what happens in the next couple of days in that Manafort trial when the jury is weird when they`re questioned you`re going to find a lot of people repeating the lies that Donald Trump has spread out there which in effect is jury tampering.

MELBER: Right, which is a big question. Well, we always like hearing from Jay as a Trump person, you as more of a prosecutorial critic. We`ll get you on together sometime with Fat Joe and call it another BEAT week. Nick Akerman, thanks for being here. Coming up, it may go down as a Trump Administration`s biggest immigration fail yet. We`ve got the news on the key deadlines. But up next, I have a special report for you on landmark environmental regulations they save the bald eagle and why it is back on the chopping block. That`s next.


MELBER: Now turning to something a little different. Our special report tonight on an ancient challenge, you could call it humanity versus nature. This story involves a man versus nature specifically this man President Trump versus some special animals species that face the risk of extinction. Take the bald eagle whose population in the U.S. rebounded after 29 years on the endangered species list Trump famously tousled with one at a photo shoot.



How`s my hair look?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No good, no good, no good.

TRUMP: You don`t show the Aspirin over here do you?



MELBER: Our focus tonight is not on re-airing that memorable footage. We could do that any night. But Eagles are actually back in the news because the Trump administration is willing to undercut a significant environmental law that protects them and other endangered species. Trump`s staff trying to make it easier to boot some species off the protected list and give financial concerns greater weight than saving animals which would give mining companies more power in these fights. This is the corporate agenda the Trump Administration is pursuing often without much scrutiny. While his administration veers from crisis to tweet, this is also an agenda that Trump campaigned on. He said he was more worried about destroying businesses than destroying the environment.


TRUMP: Environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations that make it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re protecting the environment.

TRUMP: We`ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit but you can`t destroy businesses.


MELBER: And while these changes are not immediate, they`re coming down the pike. Trump giving less than 60 days for comments from the public on these changes. Congress working to overhaul the law before the midterms. Now Republicans put a big critic of the EPA in charge of the Natural Resources Committee. His name`s Rob Bishop and he said that of all the laws ever pass which include hits like the fact that it`s a crime to injure a government-owned lamp, it`s illegal to sell hammed turkey, it has to be called turkey ham, or say alcohol prohibition. There`s been many laws out there. But here`s what he says is the most inefficient law ever.


REP. ROB BISHOP (R), UTAH: The Endangered Species Act quite frankly is the most ineffective and inefficient piece of legislation that we have in the history of this country. It doesn`t work it does not meet its goals. It never has and it never will.


MELBER: If you look at its goals, the National Wildlife Federation reports more than a hundred species have actually been saved under the law. The whole debate sounds familiar. It is when lawmakers last decided to deal with this, environmentalists and fact checkers noted the law benefits many animals and preservation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s saved from extinction, America`s symbol. It rescued from hunters, Florida`s wildness. And it restored to the west coast ocean majesty. In fact, a report card shows while the peregrine falcon leads the list of 149 species better off today --


MELBER: So contrast the Republicans today to Teddy Roosevelt who famously said were heirs to the most glorious heritage of people ever received and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune. Roosevelt kicked it all off and President Nixon another Republican-enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Each of us all across this great land has a stake in maintaining and improving environmental quality. Clean air and clean water, the wise use of our land, the protection of wildlife and natural beauty, these are part of the birthright of every American. To guarantee that birthright, we must act.


MELBER: It turns out clean water pulse pretty well as compared to say toxic water, 83 percent of Americans back the Endangered Species Act today. Now back in the old days, that kind of support was actually reflected in both parties. Nixon was signing a law to protect animals which 95 percent of the Congress voted for. We checked only four members opposed it. Today environmentalism is as popular among Americans as it roughly was then if not more. What`s changed is that politicians mostly in the GOP appear out of step with this green voting bloc. Nixon was following the footsteps of another voting bloc, a blue one from Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat who laid the groundwork with a 1966 law.


LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Action has been taken to keep our air pure and our water safe, to protect our wildlife. No single Congress in my memory has done so much to keep America as a good and wholesome and beautiful place to live.


MELBER: This history is not just history, it`s the laws that have now saved over 700 animals in America. Some rebounding so much they`re not considered endangered anymore that includes as often noted our own national mascot the bald eagle, plus the humpback whale which is rebounded to about 20-thousand worldwide, or the Florida manatee. So where does this man versus nature story go right now? The polls show Republicans appear out of step with the public on some of these environmental protections just like Trump was out of step on his border policy. When that was exposed he partially backed down but it only occurred because the policy was reported and understood. People have to hear about government action before they can decide what they think about it and whether to oppose it.

So I can tell you tonight there are some signs Republicans are hitting turbulence on this important debate. Just this week they remove an attempt to water down these environmental protections in an unrelated defense bill. Well, there`s a long tradition of bipartisan conservation in American politics. It appears that tradition still popular with the public. The question is whether the public will find out just what this administration is up to right now. Now, that is our report. Up next, I`ll be joined by an activist Erika Andiola to discuss the latest news on this immigration deadline facing Trump tonight.


MELBER: Breaking news, the Trump Administration released this new numbers on reuniting families. They say 1,400 children have been reunited, 1,100 have not. Immigration expert Erika Andiola is here for this breaking story. Your understanding of what this means tonight.

ERIKA ANDIOLA, DACA RECIPIENT: Well, this means that there`s still hundreds of children and their families who are in detention. And unfortunately what we have seen is that the condition -- the conditions with detention of the children you know, some adolescents and some children were actually saying that they didn`t even have water to drink, they didn`t have a lot of necessities and a lot of you know, needs that they need needed to be met. They weren`t there. And so for me you know, I want to make sure that we do as much as possible to pressure the administration to make sure that these families are reunited but also that we prevent this from ever happening again. We cannot have this happening again.

And there`s a lot of organizations right now that are working to make sure that they`re reunited. There`s a lot of funds that are coming together to get more and more of these children and their parents to reunite by buying them flights, by buying them the necessary travel arrangements to meet each other because the government didn`t do it.

MELBER: So for people who have been critical of this policy or want to see families together, you know what is your view? Is this progress that would not have happened but for this sustained pressure and attention or is it not nearly enough given that there was a court deadline and the administration is telling reporters and telling the public tonight well, they did everything they could, anyone not reunited was effectively "ineligible."

ANDIOLA: They were not ready for this. They created this crisis without having a plan of how they were going to reunite families and that is this grateful. That is not okay. You cannot just say I`m going to take a child away from their parents without knowing how I`m going to get him back together. And that`s exactly what this government did and what we can do right now is first make sure that these families are reunited and second make sure that during election time we remember this and that we make sure that this does not happen again under any administration. In 2020, we have to remember what happened.

MELBER: Right. And so briefly --

ANDIOLA: But before that we need --

MELBER: I just want to get you on the record. When the administration says they`ve effectively met this deadline tonight, you say that is what?

ANDIOLA: That is not -- that is not the case. There`s hundreds of children who are still not with their parents and they need to make sure that that happens and they need to step up and they cannot continue to do this. They cannot continue to use racist policies to attack our communities.

MELBER: Erika Andiola, we wanted to get your view on this given your experience and expertise. I thank you for coming on THE BEAT.

ANDIOLA: Thank you so much.

MELBER: I appreciate it and we will be right back.


MELBER: Donald Trump has always focused on loyalty.


TRUMP: Loyalty can be a wonderful thing.

We could use some more loyalty I will tell you that.


MELBER: The news tonight is whether he will be getting loyalty from the man subpoenaed in this Cohen probe, his money man. That is where all eyes are as federal prosecutors bear down on a new angle in this case. That does it for us, I will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow with THE BEAT and this special "FALLBACK FRIDAY" but "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Obstruction in plain sight. Let`s play HARDBALL.


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