Trump says he could "run" Mueller probe. TRANSCRIPT: 8/20/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Maya Wiley, John Flannery, Joaquin Castro, Daniel Goldman, Andy Kroll, Adam Entous, Evelyn Farkas, Mara Gay, E.J. Dionne

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 20, 2018 Guest: Maya Wiley, John Flannery, Joaquin Castro, Daniel Goldman, Andy Kroll, Adam Entous, Evelyn Farkas, Mara Gay, E.J. Dionne

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KATY TUR, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now, except Ali Velshi --

ALI VELSHI, SENIOR ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes.

TUR: -- is there filling in. Hashtag, where is "arigate?"

VELSHI: So, here is the thing. Every day at 3:00, I take a handoff from you to do the 3:00 show. I`ve never done this. You know that I`ve never had you on at 5:00 with me on at 6:00. But I do watch you and Ari, and I would say that handoff could be "handoffgate" or "transitiongate" or something.

TUR: "Awkwardgate."

VELSHI: It -- it -- it -- some days, it hurts me. TUR: "Awkwardgate." Ari Melber not being here on a day that he`s name- checked in our --

VELSHI: Really "awkwardgate."

TUR: -- gate scandal, our gate game. "Shamefulgate."

VELSHI: Yeah. "Weirdgate." Katy, have a "greatgate" afternoon, evening, whenever you call it now. See you tomorrow.

TUR: Bye, "aligate."

VELSHI: I`m Ali Velshi as you`ve now heard, in for Ari Melber who is not here. We are covering a lot of developing stories tonight. Jurors in the Manafort trial staying late tonight in their third day of deliberations.

New reporting that Donald Trump considered denying intelligence briefings to former President Barack Obama, but let`s begin with the new spotlight on White House Counsel Don McGahn and what exactly he has told Bob Mueller about key moments that could form an obstruction case. McGahn today ignored reporters` questions about his conversations with Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you speak so long to the special counsel, Mr. McGahn?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you comply because you thought the president would betray you? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret that decision?

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: Those questions after "The New York Times" revealed that McGann spoke to Mueller`s team for 30 hours. Trump`s lawyers have a limited account of what he said which they only realized after The New York Times reported on his interviews this weekend.

The White House is going into damage control. Trump tweeting that he allowed McGahn to testify and insisting he`s not "a John Dean-type rat." Rudy Guiliani downplayed the whole story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a good sense, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified to. CHUCK TODD, HOST, NBC: So you don`t know what Mr. McGahn -- you don`t know 100 percent of what he testified to -- to Mr. Mueller?

GIULIANI: I think that through -- through -- through John Dowd we have a pretty good sense of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: But McGahn was reportedly worried that Trump was setting him up to take a fall for any potential wrongdoing, so he decided to be completely open and told investigators about some events they didn`t already know about like Trump`s efforts to fire Mueller. All that as Guiliani continued to push back against Trump testifying and went viral with this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I`m not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he`s going to tell the truth and he shouldn`t worry, that`s so silly because it`s somebody`s version of the truth, not the truth. He didn`t have a conversation --

TODD: Truth is truth. I don`t need to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn`t truth. Truth isn`t truth. The president of the United States says, I didn`t.

TODD: Truth is a truth. Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I --

GIULIANI: No.

TODD: This is going to become a bad meme.

GIULIANI: Don`t do this to me.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: In a moment, I`m going to speak with Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. But we will begin with Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York City, and former federal prosecutor John Flannery.

I should be clear, Maya, you were not former counsel to that former mayor of New York City. But that really -- we`ve crossed a line into -- you know, well into weird at this point. Truth is not the truth.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

WILEY: All I keep thinking is, if this is your attorney --

VELSHI: Yeah.

WILEY: -- that you`re treating as your "spin doctor" --

VELSHI: Right. He`s not doing --

WILEY: -- maybe what you need is a shrink --

VELSHI: Yeah, very shrink.

WILEY: -- because this is really not good lawyering. We have to remember a couple things about Rudy Giuliani. I really mean it when I say he`s been much more of a "spin doctor" than a lawyer. He`s not spinning well.

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: But he`s really been out there as the front person to essentially lay out the arguments that the Trump administration wants the American people to believe, not so much what he wants the prosecutors to believe.

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: So he`s really signaling to the people even though Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to talk to Mueller, that he wants to participate in the interview and that he has been cooperative, that nonetheless he won`t do it, but the reason is because he will be trapped in perjury which is a really bizarre legal argument to make --

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: -- because you can`t be trapped in perjury if you`re not perjuring yourself.

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: You can have a dispute about what the facts are, meaning you can have Comey saying one thing and Donald Trump saying something differently. That in and of itself is not perjury.

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: So to use that as an argument to say, my client will be somehow trapped, is something not legally supportable. But I will say one thing. Giuliani was actually telling the truth when he said the truth is not the truth, because he has not been telling it very frequently.

VELSHI: John, let`s talk about the Trump administration or Donald Trump`s lawyers, really, seeming to be caught off guard by the extend to which Don McGahn spoke to the special prosecutor. Here`s a quote from The New York Times.

It says, "Mr. Trump was rattled by the Times report." "The president who is said to be obsessed with the role that John W. Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, played as an informant during Watergate was jolted by the notion that he did not know what Mr. McGahn had shared."

Explain to me how this works. The president did not invoke executive privilege. He said that he allowed Don McGahn to speak. The same article speaks about the fact that Don McGahn and his lawyer thought the president was going to throw him under the bus, so he thought it best to get out ahead of this thing and tell Mueller what he knows.

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I don`t know that there was any executive privilege that applied here. And the thing about the attorney-client privilege, if you will, is he represents the office of the president and I cannot be individual Mr. Trump --

VELSHI: Correct.

FLANNERY: -- who is dishonoring that office. And I think that his obligation would be to protect the office by disclosing what he knew. For instance, Yates came to him, you know, the acting AG, and said, Flynn has committed a crime, you should know that. Did he pass that on to Trump.

Also, we had meetings that violated the investigative protocol. For example, Jared Kushner would sit with Trump and McGahn objected to that. Also, McGahn was put in a very difficult position because Trump, when he went to fire Comey, consulted with McGahn. And finally, I`m sure there are more instances, but he was asked, McGahn was asked to fire Mueller.

I think that could take 30 hours and that these guys can`t figure out what he would be talking about is beyond belief. Edward Bennett Williams used to say that if you`re a litigator, you can`t be a good litigator unless you`ve got a strong -- it looks like -- I don`t know if Giuliani has aphasia or he just doesn`t have the energy to work and study the facts.

VELSHI: Right.

FLANNERY: But like an assist to the prosecution and to the world understanding that there`s a transparency right to Trump telling us lies on a daily basis. It`s no surprise that he doesn`t know what truth is. Somewhere along in his life, truth went this way and he went that way.

VELSHI: Yeah, no kidding.

FLANNERY: It`s evident in every performance that he makes on behalf of Trump.

VELSHI: Well, he`s got a new one, Maya, and maybe he was listening to you, because Donald Trump has just spoken with Reuters and he was asked -- I just want to give you few of the things he said. Asked if he would take away Mueller`s security clearance. Says he hasn`t given it a lot of thought. That wasn`t a no. It`s I haven`t given it a lot of thought.

It`s also reported that he declined to say whether he would do an interview with Mueller`s team. He said that speaking to Mueller`s investigators in the Russia probe could be, as you said, a perjury trap.

Finally, here`s the icing on the cake, John. I hope you`re listening to this one.

FLANNERY: I am.

VELSHI: Donald Trump said he stayed out of the Mueller probe but doesn`t have to and said he could run it if he wanted to.

FLANNERY: Oh.

WILEY: Oh, that`s interesting.

VELSHI: That is definitely interesting.

WILEY: Yes.

FLANNERY: Yeah.

WILEY: The person who is being investigated for potentially violating the law running the investigation about whether he violated the law would really be --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Let`s bring in the legislator who is on the panel here. I want to bring in Congressman Joaquin Castro, who is a Democrat of Texas. He is on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, this is highly problematic because people went from thinking that the president`s behavior with respect to John Brennan was punitive, it was petty, it was vindictive.

It`s actually more important than that because if the president is talking about the exercise of king-like powers, he has just crossed a line here and said, I could run the investigation into myself if I wanted to. That sends a chill down our Republican spines.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Yeah. I mean, the rhetoric itself for a democracy is scary. But those words better just stay as words and rhetoric and the president better not make a single move to fire Bob Mueller. If he does, the Congress should move immediately to impeach the president of the United States.

VELSHI: Did -- congressman, when you`re hearing this stuff, I mean, I really have to -- for people who maybe don`t follow it that closely, they`re not really understanding where this is going, the fact that this is just getting more and more serious everyday.

Last week, the president needed to change the narrative off of Omarosa, so he goes with this John Brennan thing which was dated July 26th, so he waited three weeks to do that. He has got a bag of tricks that are meant to be distracting Americans.

But increasingly we`re now talking about things in which he`s working around established principles and established norms. At some point, where do American people look for relief?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, the ultimate answer is the November 2018 election, the midterm election. That is the ultimate antidote to what we`re seeing from Donald Trump. You have to elect a Democratic House of Representatives and a Democratic Congress that can be a check on this president.

VELSHI: John, what do you make of these comments the president just made?

FLANNERY: What I make of them is that he is actually not living up to his oath. He speaks as if any individual power he has is limitless, when in fact he is circumscribed by the law and the constitution.

So, for instance, if he`s making self-serving judgments and he`s firing people investigating him, he is violating a fundamental notion of due process. A person can`t be a judge in his own matter. A person can`t be in charge of his own investigation. It`s a basic principle that goes back to merry old England and it`s impeachable among all the other things that he`s done.

And what he`s done within the Justice Department already to try to undermine the credibility of people who are his accusers or investigators just puts him in the jackpot seat for impeachment. I would hope that we would indict him instead. The obstruction is transparent. There may be more that Mueller has that proves even many more things.

I think it`s ironic that unlike John Dean, McGahn is no rat. McGahn is an honest man. And John Dean would be the first to say that he had implicated himself. But McGahn has done everything he could and thereby made him a good witness by the fact that he did not involve himself in the cover-up in the crime, he resisted it.

VELSHI: McGahn has stated that his work is representing the presidency and not the president, Maya. But again, Donald Trump tweeted today, calling the Mueller team thugs. He has discredit or attempted to discredit Bob Mueller, keeps talking about this angry group of Democratic thugs.

At some point, Maya, the president`s poll numbers aren`t moving down despite the increasingly desperate moves, the sense that he`s getting cornered into this White House. What do you make of it?

WILEY: I make a couple things of it. One is there are some Americans watching regularly and constantly all the news that is coming forward without regard to what position they have and watching very closely every step of this process.

There are many americans who are just going along with their lives, trying to get through their day-to-day, trying to save their houses or earn enough money to put their kids through school who simply are not watching all the facts unfold, are hearing a lot of rhetoric on a lot of different sides, and are simply saying, I`m overloaded, I think this is sensationalistic.

VELSHI: Right.

WILEY: I want to wait and see. And that doesn`t mean that`s where they will stay, that is not where they will say. But I think that we have to really understand that not all of us get our information from all the same sources.

VELSHI: Yeah.

WILEY: We are not paying attention to it in all the same way. I suspect that will change as we get some definitive answers out of this investigation rather than sitting and speculating like many of us must because we don`t have all the facts that Robert Mueller and his team has.

VELSHI: Right. We got the top of that iceberg.

WILEY: We got the top of that iceberg. We all -- I think everything that has been said on this program is incredibly important about our norms. That`s a very abstract concept to a lot of people trying to make -- VELSHI: John Brennan`s security clearance is an abstract concept to a lot of people. They don`t know what he does. WILEY: They don`t know what it means, right? VELSHI: Yeah. Maya, thanks very much. Maya Wiley is a former counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, she is at the new school now, John Flannery is a former federal prosecutor, and Joaquin Castro serves on the House Intelligence Committee, congressman from Texas. Maya and John, stay with me.

Coming up, breaking news from the Paul Manafort trial. The judge is about to address the jurors who are deliberating late for the first time tonight.

Also, new reports that Trump aides wanted him to revoke President Obama`s security clearance. We will talk to the reporter who broke that story.

Plus, new pressure on Michael Cohen being investigated for $20 million in potential bank fraud. And Trump wants you to study Joseph McCarthy. We are going to tell you about the irony of that. (INAUDIBLE) joins me a little later in the show. I`m Ali Velshi, in for Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Breaking news in the Manafort trial. The jury has now finished deliberating for the day. And the big news is that there is no verdict. The jury did stay late for the first time, going in extra 45 minutes.

Joining me now from outside the courthouse and Alexandria`s former federal prosecutor, Daniel Goldman. Also with me, Rolling Stone Washington bureau chief, Andy Kroll, who has been covering the trial. And back with me, former federal prosecutor John Flannery. Daniel, let`s start with you. What happened?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Not much, Ali. There was a lot of expectation or hope, I should say, that when the jury asked to stay an extra 45 minutes, that they might be getting close to a resolution or a decision, and that that`s why they asked to stay longer.

But, alas, I just walked out of the courtroom a couple minutes ago and the judge did not comment on anything, just said we`re going to let the jury go and they`re going to come back tomorrow morning at 9:30 and continue deliberating.

VELSHI: John, there have not been any meaningful questions in this trial since Thursday. There were four questions on Thursday. On Friday, they sent a note asking if they could go home at 5:00 p.m. And today, no questions.

It`s a complicated trial, as much as the government would like it to just be about Paul Manafort having lied. Does this third day of deliberation, more than 20 hours of deliberation, make you think of anything?

FLANNERY: Well, it`s 10 hours less than McGahn was debriefed. I thought that the question made sense the other day, which is they came up a cropper (ph) when they were considering the charges involving the bank forms. They seemed to sail through the first five charges on taxes. They had the question about the bank forms and they haven`t had a question since.

So I think they`re deliberately working through it. Because the judge didn`t have them read these documents or review them during the trial, some of them are seeing the document is compared to how they were described during the first time. VELSHI: This is an important point, John, that people may not realize, that there are different ways to present evidence to a jury once you presented it. Sometimes the jury gets the documents. In this case, I think with the exception of one exhibit, they didn`t. FLANNERY: Right. And that takes time. They want to confirm for themselves. We`re asking them to consider the elements of the crime as the three categories, taxes, the bank statements, and bank fraud.

They`re trying to tie, I`m sure, the charges to which exhibits and that wasn`t done very clearly in court. That`s why one of the questions last week was, can do you that for us? Can you tell us which of these documents goes with which count? The judge said, no.

I also -- I wonder if the jury wasn`t given pause by the interference of this judge in the fact finding. That is to say that in front of the jury, the prosecution was scolded. But another one that was really disturbing was the fact that the judge said, move on.

Why are you going over a bank loan that wasn`t granted? Well, because that`s not the element of the crime, it`s trying to mislead the bank about a material method -- about a material fact.

And also, I`m not so sure the judge served us well by not sequestering this jury. We know that he has been threatened and we don`t know what the threats are generally or more specifically, I should say. There are errors in the way this trial has gone. And no trial is a laboratory without error. But you can do better. VELSHI: Andy, you know, when you look at other big cases that involved similar types of things. Look at Oliver North. That count was 12 counts and it went on for 12 days. Scooter Libby had five counts and it went over for 10 days.

So I guess, you know, in this hyperactive social media world, we`re fascinated by three days of deliberation. What did you make of it? As somebody who sat there and observed this case, what did you make of the effectiveness of the government`s presentation of their case against Paul Manafort? ANDY KROLL, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ROLLING STONE: The strength of the government`s case from the first day to the last day was always the evidence. It was the documents, it was the paper trail. Greg Andres, the lead prosecutor for Mueller`s team, said this in his closing argument.

He said the star witness in this case is the document. So it was not Rick Gates. It was not the accountants. It was not the employee of the high-end men`s clothier in New York that we heard all about with the ostrich skin coat.

The documents spoke volumes. And I think if the jury comes back with a verdict and comes back and says they found Paul Manafort guilty, it will be on the strength of those documents that we saw every single day throughout this case, not one particular witness testimony or another.

VELSHI: But Daniel, you and I have talked about this before. The fact is, sometimes documents are complicated for juries.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. In this case, when you`re dealing with tax documents, you`re dealing with bank loan applications which are quite lengthy, that you can really become sort of stuck, I should say, on the complications of these documents. That is part of the reason that the prosecution tries to simplify it so much and tries to say that this case is about Paul Manafort`s lies, lies, lies.

You know, three days now of full days of deliberation on a trial that had about eight days of testimony is not out of the ordinary and should not be cause for alarm for the prosecution. But it may be cause for a little bit of worry and I would think they will be worried a little bit more if the jury was asking for testimony.

But the jury has sent out no notes for the last two days and none of the questions or notes have requested any testimony. They do not have the transcript of the testimony. The testimony is far better for the defense. That`s what their argument was really premised on.

And as everyone has been saying, the documents are far better for the prosecution. So the the extent that they`re really focusing on the documents, that favors the prosecution. And it could just be 18 complicated counts with different facts --

VELSHI: Right.

GOLDMAN: -- and that`s, you know, reflective of their questions as well.

VELSHI: So Andy, intellectually we understand that the documents are the star witness and that the documents -- I mean, there are people who -- I remember the day that those charges were disclosed. People were looking at them and saying, this is going to be easy because you don`t even need witnesses. They had witnesses but you didn`t even need them.

Did you, when listening to the presentation of that case and seeing that, thinks that, OK, I get intellectually that it`s a strong case, but the case has been made in a way jurors would be able to comprehend, understand and internalize?

KROLL: Yeah, I in a number of counts, that was the case. There are some allegations in play here about whether Paul Manafort failed to disclose -- knowingly failed to disclose foreign bank accounts. As the prosecution said in one of its -- I believe in closing argument or somewhere during the trial, that`s checking yes or no on your tax returns.

That`s pretty straightforward. I think any of the 12 jurors sitting there in the jury box understands that. I also think that some of these documents, as the other guests have pointed out, are more complicated. They are charts, they are following a flow of money from Cyprus to men`s clothing stores to home improvement contractors.

You know, I can see how and wed did see with the defense`s cross- examination how they tried to muddy that trail, how they tried to blur those lines. But in some cases, the evidence seemed pretty clear cut right on the face of these documents that we saw during the trial.

VELSHI: All right. Guys, thanks very much. Daniel Goldman, Andy Kroll, and John Flannery. John, stick around, I will come back to you and of course we will continue this conversation.

Just ahead, a new report that Trump considered blocking Barack Obama from intelligence briefings that are made available to all former presidents. That as more U.S. officials warn that Trump is weakening the country by revoking security clearances.

Former Obama official, Evelyn Farkas, signed that statement. She joins me in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: The other top story tonight breaking moments ago, Reuters asking Donald Trump if he would revoke Bob Mueller`s security clearance. Trump saying he hasn`t given it a lot of thought but that he could run the Mueller probe if he wanted to. This comes as 175 former national security officials sign a new statement blasting Trump for revoking security clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan.

In a moment, I`ll talk to Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama official who signed that letter. The statement comes amid a startling report that the Trump White House at one point had an even bigger target than Brennan, former President Barack Obama.

"The New Yorker" reporting that last year as Trump was publicly attacking Obama, "Some of Trump`s advisers thought that he should take the extraordinary step of denying Obama access to intelligence briefings that were made available to all of his living predecessors." Joining me now is a reporter who got those details, "The New Yorker`s" Adam Entous, and as I mentioned, Evelyn Farkas, a top Pentagon expert on Russia under Obama. She is one of the national security officials by the way who signed the letter condemning Trump`s move.

Adam, good to see you. Thank you for your reporting on this. What do you hear about what they were talking about with respect to Barack Obama and his security clearance?

ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: You have to kind of look back to that spring, that late winter, early spring of 2017. You had these warring factions within the White House. You had the nationalists who saw basically the Obama holdovers and Obama himself as the enemy.

They were the ones that they thought really threatened Trump and threatened his agenda. And so they were looking for ways to strike back. They looked at that point at stripping the security clearances for some of the national security officials that had worked for Obama, and basically H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor at the time, signed a memo which extended their clearances to insure that was not disrupted. He took some heat inside for when he did that.

At another point, the question was whether or not Obama should be given some of these briefings which he is entitled to and which his predecessors, including the two Bushes receive, and again McMaster pushed to ensure that he continue to get those briefings.

VELSHI: Evelyn, here is the weird part, right? There are reasons one may not like John Brennan or Barack Obama, but there are actual reasons why people have security clearances and they are very specific reasons to be able to revoke those clearances, none of which were met by John Brennan and I presume by Barack Obama.

So what we`re doing, we`re just going right by, we`re blowing by our norms and practices, to some degree we are being forced to accept the fact that the president of the United States, acting like a monarch, has just made arbitrary decision and from Adam`s reporting, would have made yet more serious arbitrary decisions.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right. Ali, he`s basically creating out of security clearances political weapons. It`s highly inappropriate. The reason that people have security clearances is because the government decided that it`s valuable enough for the government to spend a lot of time and money to investigate them.

Then, the government decided that they actually can keep secrets, that there`s nothing in their moral character or otherwise to indicate that they can`t hold government secrets. They give them the clearance. And then if they have government expertise and experience, they want to keep them sort of accessible.

VELSHI: Right.

FARKAS: You want to be able to, in an emergency call on them. And the other thing is, let`s not forget, we`re a democracy. So every four years the government changes, the personnel changes. And guess what, in North Korea that doesn`t happen. So you want to be able to call back the people --

MELBER: Right.

FARKAS: -- who have dealt with the actors that we`ve dealt for four years before.

MELBER: before since you. You have a --

FARKAS: Yes.

MELBER: You have a security clearance.

FARKAS: Yes. I have dealt with the North Koreans and I have a security clearance. And the government calls on me actually. They ask me to participate in war games, for example, so the Department of Defense will run scenarios. They`ll try to game out how will certain adversaries countries react in a certain situation, right? And they`ll call on people like me, why? I know a lot of privileged information. I have the judgment of somebody who`s been in a political office before.

MELBER: You have institutional memory.

FARKAS: Exactly.

MELBER: You were in the room when something happened.

FARKAS: And I`m still trustworthy, Ali. I`m not going to tell anyone these secrets. And so, again, because there`s an ongoing process to make sure I`m still trustworthy.

MELBER: Adam, here`s the thing, though. Is this White House just absent of the idea that there are reasons you have to provide if you want to pull somebody`s security clearance or processes to go through? Evelyn`s point that they`re politicizing it. I`m wondering whether were well beyond that, in others words, was there ever any in that -- these conversations that you`re reporting on, was there ever any sense that, that`s ludicrous, that`s just sort of against the basic principles of our democracy and republic.

ENTOUS: Well, I think what we saw in 2017 was that the system did push back. So you had people at the Nation Security Council who wanted to take clearances from some people and others including the National Security Advisory in that case, who resisted that pressure?

So in `17, you saw, you know, you didn`t have the events that we now saw in 1918 -- 2018. When you go -- now fast forward and you have H.R. McMaster - -

MELBER: Yes.

ENTOUS: -- he`s gone and you have a president I think who feels more isolated, more empowered. He doesn`t have the same resistance that he was encountering in 2017. And so maybe that`s part of the reason why he`s willing to do the things now that he was not prepared to do in 2017.

MELBER: Evelyn, to what degree -- I mean for those of us who are very worried about the actions that the president takes because of their effect on democracy and smooth functioning of our intelligence services, to what degree does the letter you signed and the letter that was signed the other day initially -- you know, there are people saying, look, if Congress isn`t dealing with this and courts aren`t dealing with this, is the pushback from the intelligence and law enforcement community going to have an effect?

FARKAS: Ali, I actually think it can. Because you have to look at who the people are. Leave me aside because I`m actually little bit atypically in the sense that like some of the other people who signed that document, we are little bit more political.

But many of those people who signed are former intelligence officers, former military officers. You have Admiral McRaven, a former Navy Seal, who I doubt voted for lots of Democrats in his life. I don`t know, I can`t say.

MELBER: Admiral McRaven was the guy -- who led the Navy Seal mission to get Osama Bin Laden.

FARKAS: Exactly. And he signed an open letter basically in the, I believe in "Washington Post" saying, you know, I`m with Brennan.

MELBER: He actually said, take my clearance away, I`d be honored to take my clearance away.

FARKAS: Yes, yes. He`s my brother in arms, if you will. The fact these people who normally would never even think about doing this --

MELBER: Right.

FARKAS: -- have done this, say as lot. And who is their audience? It`s really Congress. It`s really Congress and all the other people who are being silent right now. And those people, I do not think they will be able to remain silent if this continues.

So, for example, if President Obama is denied access to briefings which he should receive because he`s traveling around and meeting heads of state regularly he`s still in a sense represents the United States. He has to know the pitfalls of things he might say or things people might say to him.

If the current president, President Trump, denies him briefings, I believe the sitting president, the former -- sorry , the living former presidents, former vice presidents and former national security advisors, they`ll likely to sign a letter.

MELBER: Yes.

FARKAS: And again, a letter I know doesn`t change reality except that it gets to the perception, consciences, the minds of those in Congress who can check the executive.

MELBER: Evelyn Farkas, thank you for that. Adam Entous, thanks for your reporting as well.

Just ahead, new details into the federal investigation into Michael Cohen and why charges could come as soon as this month.

Plus, Stormy Daniels speaking out about the threats she`s received since going public about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And why Rudy Giuliani`s truth isn`t truth gaffe, it`s pattern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now, this could have the White House nervous. The feds could reportedly bring charges against Donald Trump as long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen by the end of this month, prosecutors reportedly drilling into more than $20 million in bank and tax loans given to taxi companies that Cohen and his family own. Now they reportedly still looking at Cohen`s involvement in the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, Daniels today talking about her regrets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you turn the clock back?

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where to?

DANIELS: I would never go to Lake Tahoe. I`m not rich. I would actually stay off of all golf courses forever. You never know what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The "Times" reports Cohen privately says he wants to strike cooperation deal with prosecutors. And then there`s this. Cohen`s attorney is now talking to former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. Dean`s testimony revealing Nixon`s role in Watergate famously helped bring Nixon down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPP)

JOHN DEAN, FMR WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL UNDER NIXON: I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed the president himself would be killed by it. I also told him that it was important this cancer be removed immediately because it was growing more deadly everyday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: With me now, "New York Times" Editorial Board Member Mara Gay and back with me, Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being here.

The John Dean connection is interesting, right? That John Dean for all of our Watergate experts who are following this is really the turning point with Nixon. And it almost feels like Michael Cohen to some degree modeled himself around that. He`s given some interviews and talked to some people that how his interests about the country come before those of his friend or his former friend, Donald Trump.

MARA GAY, THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I mean, to me, what`s interesting about this is, for all the talk about the Russia investigation which is still ongoing and extremely important, don`t get me wrong. So much of what we`re seeing right now is actually is a separate issue which is Donald Trump and a lot of the people around him are just shady characters.

And so this is just a lifetime of behavior that is coming out because of the scrutiny that they`re under. And I was struck, personally struck when the president called Dean a rat over the weekend. I mean you just think to yourself, that`s just the kind of words that you use when you`re a mobster. What does that mean? I mean a rat informs on criminal behavior.

MELBER: Right.

GAY: I`m not quite sure he wanted --

MELBER: That`s where he wants to go with this thing.

GAY: Right.

MELBER: But, as we were saying, Maya, the last couple of weeks has a different feel to it. The people, shady characters around Donald Trump have turned on him. I don`t think the country was a big fan of Omarosa`s, but people are saying she`s got tapes.

MAYA WILEY, FMR COUNSEL TO NYC MAYOR: She`s got tapes, and when she says something so far, she has a pretty good record of backing it up with the tape.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: I think Mara is absolutely right. First of all, let`s just call it what it is, Michael Cohen is no John Dean.

MELBER: Correct.

WILEY: John Dean actually talked about trying to prevent a cancer from growing on a presidency. Michael Cohen was trying to sell access to the president.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: Let`s be very clear on who he was and frankly has a long history of shady business deals and he`s in a very different position than John Dean was. Because John Dean actually, although representing the president and our legal standards were different around what that meant back then as it is today, but he was primarily the president`s lawyer as president.

Michael Cohen was really a business partner and also a fixer for the president, not really so much a lawyer. And I think what that means for Donald Trump is a lot of trouble, because Michael Cohen has a lot of information he can share, should he decide to enter a plea deal. And I think many of us looking at this from the outside looking in would say, why wouldn`t he?

MELBER: And he has hinted at that, he says, he`s looking at cooperate. In fact cooperate -- this is from the "New York Times," a cooperation agreement would likely include a provision that Mr. Cohen also provide information to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. To your point, Mara, this is not a special counsel investigation into Cohen but they`re all sort of working together on this.

Mara, at this point, I mean it`s an impossible question to figure out what`s going on in Donald Trump`s head. But that group of shady characters one after another do tend to turn on Donald Trump. Last week may just have been one to many with Omarosa, but we seen Michael Cohen, we`ve seen Papadopoulos, wasn`t really close in the circle. But everybody sort of turning on everybody. They`re eating their own.

GAY: Totally. I mean I think that`s why you see -- we wake up every morning and late at night, and when you see Donald Trump, you know, furiously tweeting away, misspelling counsel this morning is really quite something.

MELBER: C-O-U-N-C-E-L, I will put that up as the failing "New York Times" is writing but you guys, failing "New York Times" wrote a fake piece today implying because White House counsel, I did this twice, Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the special counsel with the C, he must be a John Dean type "rat." But I allowed him and all others to testify. I didn`t have to. I have nothing to hide.

The last sentence are interesting, I didn`t have to. The president then told Reuters a little while ago that he could run the Mueller probe if he wanted to. This is just -- I don`t even know -- I`m out of words to describe what this is.

GAY: So it`s scary. There`s an impact that we don`t frankly have time for it. But I will say about it is I really continue to believe it when you see Trump furiously tweeting that as he has been, it`s because he`s running scared. You know, we wake up every morning, we don`t know whether Manafort will be convicted, you don`t know if Cohen --

MELBER: Cohen is going to make a deal.

GAY: -- is going to be -- yo don`t know what. And so I think they`re pretty freaked out. I think they have good reason to be freaked out.

MELBER: Or whether Omarosa got another reporting.

GAY: That`s right.

MELBER: It`s remarkable. It`s just -- as I said to Maya earlier, the things that we discuss on a daily basis I would have never guessed. May Gay`s with the New York Times Editorial Board. Maya Wiley is the former counsel for the mayor of New York City.

Just ahead the message that Rudy Giuliani sends what is truth isn`t truth. And how Trump allies try to distort the facts that are in plain sight. The great E.J. Dionne would be next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: I don`t mean to go like --

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO THE PRESIDENT: No, it isn`t truth. Truth isn`t truth.

KELLYANE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: You`re saying it`s a falsehood and they`re giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Alternative facts and truth isn`t truth, two Trumpy slogans may be with us a while. But the ideas behind them aren`t new.

In 2004, top Bush aide mocked what he called, "The reality based-community" in the press saying that in the Bush White House, "We create our own reality."

A year later, Stephen Colbert gave us truthiness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: I will speak to you in plain simple English. And that brings us to tonight`s word. Truthiness. I don`t trust books. They`re all fact, no heart. And that`s exactly what`s pulling our country apart today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, Trump`s lawyer tells us that truth isn`t truth at all and Trump himself is encouraging "Study the late Joseph McCarthy, a treacherous demagogue who used lies to ruin lives in the red scare until he was finally called out in a public hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH WELCH, SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE ARMY: Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now, E.J. Dionne from The Washington Post, the headline of his new column "America is Slouching Towards Autocracy", he writes, "A slow motion dismantling of rules, norms, and expectation can be more insidious because we don`t even know what`s happening to us."

E.J., good to see you and I couldn`t agree with you more. That`s the danger, that these things that operate in the abstract, that the average American doesn`t relate to John Brennan`s security clearance and why he needs it. But when the president gets away with these things one after another without pushback from Congress, it just eats away at our democracy.

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: No, that`s a sad -- thanks, it`s good to with you. That`s exactly right. And you`ve got a real life examples out there in the world what`s happened in Turkey under Erdogan or what`s happened in hungry.

MELBER: That`s right.

DIONNE: That you have formal democratic structures, but leaders slowly eat away of them. They gerrymander districts so they can`t lose elections. They sort of killed the free press sometimes by having their supporters by the papers that are out there that are critical or putting journalists in jail, ultimately.

But this all happens very slowly and we don`t know this. I mean you and I are sitting here very free and our great America being able to talk about these things. But it`s the slow erosion rides. And I think that`s why the Brennan thing hit people hard. I mean it`s not that security clearances as such are on people`s minds.

MELBER: Correct.

DIONNE: But here are a group of people, including Brennan, who`s job it is to protect the country who are public servants, and you use something like a security clearance as a punishment, taking it away, as a punishment. And it`s like, well, what other ways will President Trump decide that he`s going to make it very difficult for people who choose to oppose him, people who have some power inside the government.

MELBER: You know, on Friday night a guest referred to us as journalists says being alarmists about the John Brennan thing. And you have a quote in your column which says those of us fearful that Trump is subverting basic freedoms and the arrangements that sustain them are frequently dismissed as alarmist who fail to recognize the endurance of checks, balances and other circuit breakers. In this view, asserting that Trump imperils our liberty, demonstrates a lack of appreciation, for the genius that is the American experiment.

DIONNE: Right. And I appreciate the genius that is the American experiment, but the founders and the people who expanded our democracy after them counted on the other branches of government to act as a check and a balance on the president one of the points I make in the column is that this Congress has just not done that. You have some obviously the Democratic minority is, but they don`t have power. Some Republicans at the margin, Senator Corker, Senator Flake, who notably are not funning for re- election have spoken out.

But the Republicans who hold real power in Congress, who chair the committees like the intelligence committees, they`re not using this to hold President Trump to account. On the contrary, in the case of Representative Nunez, he`s going after -- he`s using his committee to go after Trump`s opponents. So you can only have checks and balances be effective if the people who are operating the levers of power within one of the branches of government are willing to use them.

MELBER: Right. And they are not stepping up to that responsibility. E.J., good to speak to you. Thank you for writing that column.

DIONNE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

MELBER: Next, one more detail in the Manafort trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: OK, two big stories we`re tracking at this hour. Tonight, Donald Trump told Reuters he is totally allowed to be involved in the Mueller probe if he wants to be. "I`ve decided to stay out. Now I don`t have to stay out, as you know, I can go in and I could do whatever, I could run it if I want." I could run if I want. Trump is also expressing concerned that talking to Mueller could be a perjury trap when Reuters asked him if he would considered taking away Robert Mueller`s security clearance. He says he has not given it a lot of thought.

And earlier, he said that he could use a little bit of help from the Federal Reserve. He doesn`t agree with the fed raising interest rates. It is typical that the president does not involve himself in the decision of the independent Federal Reserve.

He also said, "If I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That`s no good. Echoes of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani saying on "MEET THE PRESS" yesterday truth isn`t truth.

We will be watching reaction that along with the developments in the Manafort trial. The jury has wrapped up deliberations this hour after staying an extra 45 minutes. They do not have a verdict. Just moments ago, Manafort`s attorney said this leaving court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL MANAFORT: The jury announce that they`re going to continue to deliberate, starting tomorrow morning at 9:30. Mr. Manafort`s very happy to hear that. And he think it was a very good day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The jury has now deliberating for 23 hours and 30 minutes.

That does it for me. I`ll see you back here tomorrow morning starting at 11:00 Eastern. You can always catch me on social media. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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