Michael Cohen says he violated campaign law. TRANSCRIPT: 8/21/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Tom Winter, Megan Twohey, Clint Watts, Jessica Levinson, John Harwood, Ty Kelly, Seth Waxman, Natasha Bertrand, Bill Kristol, Christina Greer

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 21, 2018 Guest: Tom Winter, Megan Twohey, Clint Watts, Jessica Levinson, John Harwood, Ty Kelly, Seth Waxman, Natasha Bertrand, Bill Kristol, Christina Greer

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: My panel here: Eugene, Sara, and Howard. Quick programming note, Omarosa Manigault-Newman will be on "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS." I have a feeling they will talk about the book. They are going to be talking about the Cohen plea deal. She has got a lot to say about Michael Cohen. They are very close.

That`s all coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. The breaking news coverage continues right now on "THE BEAT." It`s Ali Velshi, in for Ari. Ali, Ari, I don`t want to get that mixed up. Ali, it`s all yours.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Why not, everybody does. Chuck, great hour. Great to see you. Thank you, my friend. See you soon. I`m Ali Velshi tonight, in for Ari Melber.

Two explosive stories that we`re tracking on this historic night. One directly implicating President Trump himself in criminal wrongdoing. Today the jury in the Manafort trial delivered eight guilty counts and deadlocked on the other 10, but it`s the Michael Cohen case that is shaking the political and legal worlds tonight.

Trump`s long-time personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to eight counts, including two criminal campaign finance violations he said occurred, quote, at the direction of the candidate, end quote. Cohen did not name the candidate in court, but the meaning appears clear.

Cohen detailing a payment of $150,000 to a woman whose silence he wanted to secure. Those details match what`s publicly reported about a payoff to Karen McDougal. Cohen saying it was done, quote, for the principal purpose of influencing the election.

Cohen also pleading guilty to making an excessive campaign contribution. That`s related to the payment of $130,000 made to a woman in October of 2016, just weeks before the election at the direction of the same candidate. Those details match what we know about the Stormy Daniels payment. Moments ago, here`s the prosecutor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT KHUZAMI, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY: He worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign and to the candidate and the campaign. In addition, Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement for that money by submitting invoices to the candidate`s company which were untrue and false.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: The bombshell news raising all sorts of questions, chief among them, what liability does the president now have? Amid all of this, the Paul Manafort news, Trump`s former campaign chair found guilty today on eight counts, five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to file a foreign bank account, and two counts of bank fraud.

The judge declaring a mistrial on 10 other counts after the jury failed to reach consensus. Trump landing moments ago in West Virginia for a political event said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Paul Manafort is a good man. It doesn`t involve me, but I still feel, you know, it`s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion.

This started as Russian collusion. This has absolutely nothing to do -- this is a witch hunt and it`s a disgrace. It had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what about Michael Cohen? Any comment on Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: Let`s move, guys. We got to move.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: No comments at all about his old friend Michael Cohen. The bottom line tonight, the list of Trump associates found or pleading guilty grew. The danger for him has increased exponentially and the scandal is now right at the doorstep of the White House.

Joining me now from outside the courthouse is NBC News Tom Winter who first broke the story of Cohen`s talks of a plea deal, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, former FBI special agent Clint Watts, and the The New York Times` Megan Twohey. Thanks to all of you for being here.

Tom, let`s start with you. I have something you haven`t had a chance to get your hands on yet. I think you said it to me, but I don`t know if you read through it. It`s the information that details everything that he said, everything that Michael Cohen has told them he knows. It`s a lot.

TOM WINTER, INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yeah, it is a lot. I mean, we had a full allocution from Michael Cohen. The proceedings took place nearly an hour and a half. Michael Cohen appeared to be anxious to speak. Once he got up, he told the judge that he wrote down some notes.

He said that he was going to tell the judge exactly what he did and he went through the counts. The first five counts are fairly simple because they just involve tax evasion. But they are fairly significant amounts of tax evasion to the tune worth of four million, according to deputy U.S. attorney Robert Khuzami.

And then from there he detailed an effort to get a home equity loan, a HELOC loan that he did not forthright -- was not forthright with the bank as far as detailing the liabilities that he had, basically the expenses that he had, what he owed other people.

And then it got to the charges that are obviously ricocheting across the political universe tonight which are the ones that involve -- appear to involve the president of the United States, that he was directed to make payments in coordination with the candidate and with the campaign of President Donald Trump to two women.

One was in -- one involved a payment to a woman for $150,000, that is believed to be Karen McDougal. The second to a payment believed to be Stormy Daniels in October of 2016 for $130,000. And for that payment, Michael Cohen told the court that he received restitution for that payment or he received the money back for that payment from the candidate who is believed to be President Donald Trump.

So, throughout this investigation, this particular investigation which stemmed from the special counsel`s office, from Robert Mueller, has been done in coordination with that office and prosecuted by career and seasoned public corruption -- public corruption investigators here in New York both on the FBI side as well as with the United States attorney`s office.

Today they brought home a significant criminal information that Michael Cohen has pled guilty to, eight counts in total. He faces several years in jail at a minimum, Ali. He could face north of six years in jail as part of his agreement.

So this was not a slap on the wrist by any means, what he was able to coordinate and what he was able to agree to with the help of his attorneys, with prosecutors here. I think right now this is an investigation that has taken itself right into the president`s campaign directly --

VELSHI: Yeah.

WINTER: -- and into actions that may have occurred once the president was elected. So, we`ve got a lot of information and a lot of things to develop over the coming -- and read that criminal information --

VELSHI: It`s remarkable. I`ve been going through it.

WINTER: -- you`ve been referring to. It is voluminous.

VELSHI: You`re the detail-oriented guy, so you`re going to get more out of it than I am. I`m just reading now count seven, seven and eight are the ones that refer to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. We`re talking about the $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal.

It reads here, Cohen caused corporation one to make an advance $150,000 payment to woman one, including through the promise of reimbursement so as to ensure that woman one did not publicize damaging allegations before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence the election.

Nick Akerman, Tom is being generous saying that it implicates the campaign. The president has repeatedly denied knowledge of these things and repeatedly denied while president and while in office. This implicates the president of the United States. NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: There`s no question about it. This makes the president of the United States an unindicted co-conspirator. This is the first time this has happened since Richard Nixon was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Watergate trial.

VELSHI: Yeah.

AKERMAN: This is a big deal.

VELSHI: I don`t tend to disagree with you much, but you are actually wrong because Rudy Giuliani has just released a statement that counters exactly what you`re saying. He says there is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government`s charges against Michael Cohen.

It is clear that as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen`s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time. I don`t know if you expected a different statement from Rudy Giuliani. AKERMAN: Not at all. This is the exact same kind of nonsense that Rudy Giuliani has been putting out for months. The fact of the matter is if you read this indictment, he`s doing it at the direction of Donald Trump.

If he`s doing it at the direction of Donald Trump, there`s a conspiracy. It`s an agreement, an agreement to commit campaign financing crimes. It`s a five-year felony. This is a serious matter.

Cohen didn`t do this on his own. He didn`t suddenly come up with the idea, oh, I`ve got to go pay Stormy Daniels $150,000. He had no connection to Stormy Daniels. He didn`t know who Stormy Daniels was.

The only way he would have had the ability to know any of that was because Donald Trump told him about it. Donald Trump told him that there was a danger that she was going to release all this information before the election. VELSHI: And it`s very, very well detailed in here, Megan. The question, of course, most thinking people realize that what Nick said, that there`s no reason why Michael Cohen would have been paying random people.

MEGAN TWOHEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, what`s clear is that, I would actually sort of clarify that in the case of Stormy Daniels, her allegations that she had engaged in consensual sexual relationship with Trump had been percolating --

VELSHI: Right.

TWOHEY: -- prior to the time of her payoff. It was something that had been sort of rearing its head, going back down. So it was something that Cohen and Trump were both well aware of for some time prior to the payment to her prior to the election.

And so the question, though, is just there were these repeated denials. This is a mystery that`s been kind of unraveling over the course of a year. At first, Trump and his representatives said he had absolutely no -- he was not aware of these payments. Clearly today that blows their statements out of the water.

And so it`s remarkable that, that these -- it`s not just -- it`s not just Trump. I mean, it`s important if you are looking at potential other -- the other people involved in this, potential campaign violation conspiracy, you`re also looking at American media --

VELSHI: Right.

TWOHEY: -- and CEOs involved in this, David Pecker.

VELSHI: The information is very detailed about American media and the fact that they had conversations with the campaign about helping Donald Trump out by buying stories or figuring out ways to avoid the publication of stories negative to Donald Trump.

TWOHEY: Right. Prior to the day, we knew that Michael Cohen had made the $130,000 --

VELSHI: Right.

TWOHEY: -- payment to Stormy Daniels. VELSHI: That`s been acknowledged. TWOHEY: Right, exactly. It wasn`t clear that he wasn`t -- there wasn`t a sort of smoking gun that had tied him to --

VELSHI: Yes.

TWOHEY: -- the $150,000 that was paid to Karen McDougal --

VELSHI: Correct.

TWOHEY: -- by American media to purchase, to basically catch and kill her story of the affair. So today we got not only Cohen directly involved in that, him admitting that, but also once again this huge bombshell that all of these things were done at the direct -- direction of Trump. VELSHI: So, let`s narrow into what the issue actually is here. Michael Cohen is to many people an unsavory character and not particularly relevant if he did things with his taxi medallions. The question is, what the liability is for the president of the United States.

Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s newest attorney, has just tweeted. "Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, why wouldn`t they be a crime for Donald Trump?" Clint? CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: There has been a tell in this from the very beginning. The squads that showed up to do the search warrant were public corruption. This wasn`t a white collar (ph) case.

VELSHI: Right.

WATTS: This is not a fraud case they were investigating. We`ve got actions of the president to be. We`ve heard tapes. We`ve heard tapes that even say, let`s do it in cash. Essentially saying, I knew what I`m doing, I knew what the intent was, I knew that I should probably do it in this way.

The question that I think we`ve been discussing is, does the president or then candidate Trump even realized that this is a violation? Is this a charge that you really can do this? These guys all seem to be operating almost kind of like business as normal. They were very sloppy in terms of how this went down.

In terms of the investigation, there`s direct connections. Usually in a criminal conspiracy they would try and cloak or shelf the money -- shell money in pieces to try and cover what the payments are for.

This seems to be a very rapid case and as just we saw with the special master, this moved very quickly after that evidence was proved. This means this case is very solid, in my opinion. They have the evidence lined up and that`s why Cohen is going this route today.

VELSHI: So, Tom Winter, you know, a lot of people are going to say, Donald Trump is going to say this line. He said it already. They put out a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time. But this information has details. It talked about how Michael Cohen set up essential consultants, the company. It talked about the encrypted services that were used to communicate.

I would imagine Michael Cohen wouldn`t be in that conversation if he didn`t come with information that the southern district of New York would find compelling and have proof of. WINTER: Yeah, I mean, I think a number of people have asked me, they said, so what about a cooperation agreement and what does it say in his plea agreement?

And I think, you know, when you directly implicate and when you provide the context that Michael Cohen was clearly able to do in court today under oath, he was sworn in when he did that, and then you directly implicate the president and you`re able to provide information which is contained in the criminal information as far as the specifics about it and he also testified that he did these things with intent, and that`s something that the U.S. attorney`s office in court, the prosecutor said throughout.

They want to point out that he had intent, not just on the charges that relate to the president, but on the tax fraud charges, on the count six, as far as the charge tied to banking, all of that. He was in a position where he was, Ali, where he was doing this with intent, and he said so.

So, I think when you come across and you say those things, when you have the allocution that he did today and he so clearly laid out all the things that he did, those are things that are going to be corroborated. And I think the criminal information and what the investigation was able to find clearly spells that out. We are also talking about banking issues here and we`re talking about crimes that involve a paper trail.

VELSHI: Right.

WINTER: I mean, when you have money that`s transferred from person X to person Y, these are not things that you need somebody`s testimony for. The bottom line is that`s what happened. Money was transferred from one person to another and that there`s communications that can be found back and forth. So I think when you look at this, I think you look and you say there`s a lot of underlying evidence to anything that Michael Cohen allocuted today in court.

VELSHI: Tom, you kept us ahead of this thing by a few steps all day with your amazing reporting. Thank you for that. Megan, I have to ask you. At some point, the statement that Rudy Giuliani has put up -- again, nobody surprised by the talking about Mr. Cohen`s action -- reflect the pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time. That`s not entirely untrue. For a lot of people this is tricky. OK, Michael Cohen is all of a sudden my hero tonight? He was a bit of a bad egg. TWOHEY: Yeah, I mean, Michael Cohen had -- he was known as Trump`s fixer, a total bulldog, somebody who would go on the attack against anybody who is coming at Trump with allegations, stories, even if they were true. He was known to fiercely attack reporters who were preparing stories that were going to reflect negatively on Trump.

And so he -- to also change his story over time, but it`s also interesting Giuliani himself is somebody who has changed, has been part of a changing narrative on this story. I mean, first they said they didn`t know anything about these payments. Then Giuliani acknowledged that Trump had been reimbursed Cohen for the payments made to Stormy Daniels.

Trump tried to sort of walk back some of the things that Giuliani had said. They`ve had a very hard time getting their story straight. So I think -- once again, the reimbursements, what happened with the money after the fact, it`s interesting what we`ve learned today is that Cohen actually submitted invoices to the Trump Organization.

VELSHI: Correct.

TWOHEY: He claimed before that the Trump Organization was not part of this, that, you know, that there was no reimbursement through the Trump Organization. VELSHI: There are details in hereof not only invoices submitted, but extra money Michael Cohen was paid I guess in goodwill or for services rendered.

TWOHEY: Right.

VELSHI: This thing is backed up by documents and receipts.

TWOHEY: I think the interesting documents that everybody will be looking for is, you know, go beyond the reimbursements that happen after the fact. It would be what was the communication that happened on the front end.

VELSHI: Correct.

TWOHEY: What does directing -- when Cohen says he did this at the direction of Trump, a federal candidate, what did that look like in practice? Were these conversations that they had? Was this something that was put in writing? And I think those are the records that basically the proof that Trump was involved on this on the front end, not the reimbursements on the back end, but the communication and the direction on the front end. I think that`s where all eyes will go moving forward. VELSHI: Yeah. There are details in count seven about this. Clint, I want you to sort of help us understand the degree to which this isn`t some rando (ph) who has been charged with some crimes. The fact is there is now no way that the president, despite what Rudy Giuliani has put out, can creatively excuse himself from this discussion. This isn`t about just people in the campaign. WATTS: No. VELSHI: He is talking about having been directed to do this by a federal candidate, by the candidate. He does not -- Trump`s name does not appear in here, but you`d have to have lost all your marbles not to be able to put two and two together unless you happen to think it`s Hillary Clinton. WATTS: He was charged to try and keep outcomes in the election from occurring.

VELSHI: Right.

WATTS: That`s what he was charged from doing. The other thing that is important to note here that is different from the obstruction case, we talk about this all the time. He said, he said, he said, she said, whatever it might be. This is not the case here because there is documented evidence in that deal, in that agreement today which is not just Cohen said this, Trump said this.

It`s Trump said this, Trump said this. There is a tape out there. And, oh, by the way, here are these bank transfers, here are the financial transfers, here are these communications. That is a much stronger case than you`re going to see -- VELSHI: This is easy to read. This is not complicated reading.

WATTS: Any sort of conversational thing. Money and communications. That is where the strongest cases always fall. And that right there is indictment that is filled with those. TWOHEY: I thought it was interesting if you listen to the prosecutor when he came out of the courthouse and was addressing the crowd. He said after sort of spelling out the charges, he kind of went back to the campaign finance issue. And if I heard him correctly, he said that he would be prepared to pursue additional campaign finance charges. So that really raises questions --

VELSHI: Seemed to imply the Trump Organization as well and maybe the president. TWOHEY: And maybe American media. VELSHI: Yup. What we still don`t have clarity on, because we don`t know because we haven`t done this since Richard Nixon, is how the president faces his liability. Back in April, Donald Trump was asked about the payment to Stormy Daniels that had been coordinated by Michael Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. What else? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you have so ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Hard to hear, but the bottom line is the president was asked if he knew about the payment and how it was made, he said no. John Harwood, CNBC`s editor-at-large. Jessica Levinson is a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on campaign finance.

Jessica, first of all, for those who think this is a campaign thing, that conversation in April that we just played the recording of makes it a presidency thing because the president was the president in April and he said he didn`t know about all the stuff that`s documented in here.

But in the end, in answer to my question, campaign finance laws are often not prosecuted. The enforcement division of the Federal Election Commission is weekly staffed and not well resourced by design. But in the end, is this a serious charge if we connect all the dots and realize the president is the other conspirator? JESSICA LEVINSON, PRESIDENT, LOS ANGELES ETHICS COMMISSION: I think this absolutely is a serious charge. So, if we look at what happened today both with respect to Michael Cohen and with respect to Paul Manafort, the only charges here that could directly implicate the president and cause him legal problems are the campaign finance charges.

Because, again, what Michael Cohen has said is, at the direction of a candidate, and we all know as you`ve said unless we lost our marbles, that is President Trump, essentially has conspired with me to commit campaign finance violations. And that is a serious charge.

Now, yes, you are absolutely right. When it comes to the daily ongoing of super PAC spending, when it comes to spending by congressional candidates, is there a hideous lack of oversight by the Federal Election Commission? Absolutely. The commission, as you said, is designed essentially for deadlock and for inaction.

But this is different. This is the president`s personal fixer saying that President Trump directed him, meaning they were in a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. That poses a huge legal threat to the president. VELSHI: So, John Harwood, I just want to read back Lanny Davis` tweet from a few moments ago in which he talks about -- here it is. He is talking about Michael Cohen, his client. "Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn`t they be a crime for Donald Trump?"

That is the question that good thinking people should be asking tonight. Rudy Giuliani has basically done what you would have expected him to do. They have thrown Michael Cohen back under the bus because the guy doesn`t have a stellar reputation. JOHN HARWOOD, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNBC: First of all, on Rudy Giuliani, pretty much 100 percent of what comes out of his mouth any more is ridiculous. So let`s set that aside. We have in Lanny Davis` statement a comforting reassurance to Jessica`s point earlier that we haven`t all lost our marbles because Lanny said specifically that he was talking about President Trump.

So, we have the president, in effect, identified as an unindicted co- conspirator in a federal felony. So, that may not be relevant criminally so long as this Justice Department adheres to the guidance that said you don`t indict sitting presidents, but it may be relevant to how long he`s a sitting president, because that is a relevant factor for the political reaction in Congress.

And I don`t discount even the idea that we`re going to see a different Republican reaction --

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD: -- 16 guilty -- counts of guilty today.

VELSHI: Reacted to virtually nothing. We have two or three Republicans who can be relied upon to criticize the president when things happen. This is different. This is just really very different.

Now, we can ask Nick Akerman in a little while about what happens the day Donald Trump isn`t the president. Do these charges still remain and can he be put into handcuffs the day he relinquishes the presidency? But aside from that, what does Congress do about this? HARWOOD: There is something about hearing the word guilty over and over and over again in more than one courtroom, more than one defendant. That has the effect of focusing people`s attention on just what is going on here. Do I expect that the Republican reaction to turn on a dime? No, definitely not.

But as Nick Akerman knows very well from Watergate, the allies of Richard Nixon hung in with him very deep into that process until the truth and the reality smacked them in the face so hard that they couldn`t ignore it.

VELSHI: Is this a smack, Nick? Is this the smack? AKERMAN: The real smack here is that you`ve got Manafort convicted of eight counts, serious counts. VELSHI: We haven`t even touched on.

AKERMAN: Right. Facing 30 years in prison. You got Cohen facing upwards of 66 years plus in prison. And what we`re really not talking about is the Russia investigation.

VELSHI: Correct.

AKERMAN: Because you`ve got two people that are primed to testify against Trump, his family, his other cohorts that were involved in the Russian matter. VELSHI: And to talk about what happened, Clint, in that meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016.

WATTS: Yeah. I mean, we have basically three threads running right now. And one of the things that I immediately want to ask, because I don`t know the answers, we talk about can the president pardon himself. But we`re talking about things that happened before he was president. These actions could have changed the outcome of the election.

Remember, could you imagine both of these stories coming out in parallel in the fall, in the lead up to the election? This is what the violation is about. These stories were suppressed. That could have changed the outcome of the election.

So when we talk about these charges, what I don`t know, I`d love to hear from Nick and others is, can he be charged for things that happened before he was president? How can he pardon himself? I don`t know what the break down is on this, but this literally could have changed the outcome of an election that was really decided by about 100,000 votes. TWOHEY: Let`s add a fourth track here which is the civil case that Stormy Daniels has brought against Trump regarding this whole settlement --

VELSHI: Michael Avenatti said tonight on Nicole Show (ph) that his chances of deposing the president just went through the roof.

TWOHEY: Right. What`s clear is that the judge in that case had stated while the criminal case was hanging and now that it`s been resolved, I mean it would suggest that this case is going to move forward.

And that`s something -- I mean, it`s not a criminal charge but this is going to be sort of looking to dissect what happened here in civil court. And there is no -- there`s nothing to suggest that case won`t be able to move forward and that Trump could be entangled in it even more.

VELSHI: Nick, what is your view on this? Hold on a second. John? HARWOOD: I just want to say, I want to step back and look at the larger picture from the president, his statement, he said nothing to do with Russia, no collusion, all that stuff. But think about the people very close to the president who are either admitted or convicted felons now. Michael Cohen was not only trying to develop Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign -- VELSHI: Correct.

HARWOOD: He is also somebody who has -- had a stake in a family bar that was a hang out for Russian mobsters, OK? Secondly, Paul Manafort, yes, he was not convicted today of charges connected to Russian collusion.

However, he`s somebody who was convicted of charges related to vast sums of money he received from a Putin-allied leader of Ukraine who talked during the campaign about trying to get right with some of his funders, Oleg Deripaska, among them, and participated in the Trump Tower meeting.

And then finally, Michael Flynn, who is a cooperating witness, who was the national security advisor in the White House pled guilty to a crime about lying about his contacts with Russian diplomats. So Russia is bathed all through this process.

VELSHI: Right. HARWOOD: And it becomes the ability of the president to construct anything like a plausible denial about knowledge or activity with Russia. It just gets more and more difficult with every development like this. VELSHI: So, Jessica, let`s just go back to this for a second. On the face of it, we have campaign violations which you and I discuss. They don`t get enforced. But more importantly to Clint`s point, what you are now seeing is -- it`s always hard to know what effect a campaign violation has.

But Michael Cohen has now stated it is in this information, it is in his guilty plea, that he did what he did, he paid these two women for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the election.

How do you put that in the mix of the crime? In other words, the crime is, one, illegal contribution and one excess contribution. But really, now we realize the effect might have been substantially more serious than what we think of as an election spending violation.

LEVINSON: Well, I mean in terms of the effect, that`s something that certainly we will look at. So I would say, you know, is this different from the, quote-unquote, run of the mill violation that we see where somebody -- I mean, there`s been many stories, for instance, about super PACs recently deciding only to spend money 13 days before the election so they don`t have to report or just not reporting at all and it becomes a cost of doing business.

This is separate and apart from a violation that simply is the cost of doing business. Now, we could argue that in a number of different congressional races and a number of different Senate races, ballot measures, the campaign finance violations have swayed the outcome because people merely have not known who is trying to speak to them, who is trying to effect their ballot box decision. But this is, again, this is something that is distinct.

VELSHI: Right. LEVINSON: This is the president`s personal lawyer saying the president told me to violate campaign finance laws right before the election and let`s also rember that this show, based on that video that you showed on Air Force One, that the president not only, when he was candidate Trump, violated federal law, but that it also shows that the president, when he was president, lied about it. VELSHI: Right. LEVINSON: And so --

AKERMAN: Consciousness of guilt. VELSHI: Consciousness of guilt. Nick, you and I have talked about this.

AKERMAN: Right. VELSHI: That`s where we are. But again, you know, Rudy Giuliani said truth isn`t really the truth the other day, so I`m curious, Megan, as to what this does. What happens next, right? Because there are a whole lot of Americans thinking that`s got to be it. This has to be the end of the legitimacy of the Trump presidency if you believed there was any shred of legitimacy left. But the fact is what happens next? TWOHEY: Yeah, I think one of the big questions is -- and I don`t know if this is happening while we`re on the air right now, but what are Republicans in Congress saying?

VELSHI: I haven`t seen anything yet.

TWOHEY: What is the political reaction going to be if this is not something that`s going to be handled in criminal court against Trump, you know, honoring the not indicting a sitting president. What are the political implications are, what are those going to be.

And then I think that there`s also just this -- I think there`s also this, you know, I was involved in the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein story and the whole Me Too movement. And I just think culturally it`s important -- campaign finance violations and the technicalities of these aside, it`s really important to note that this was really a conspiracy to silence women who had stories to tell. These women didn`t say they were victims of sexual misconduct. In both cases they said they had been involved in consensual affairs with Trump. But I do think it`s important to step back and recognize that culturally this was -- these were powerful men who were making payoffs to silence women.

VELSHI: But we could make the argument all the publicity around the Me Too movement has moved the needle a little bit, has shifted things. I guess that`s the question with Donald Trump. What moves the needle with him?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: What`s going to move the needle is that you`re going to have Michael Cohen cooperating with the U.S. Attorney`s office and Mueller`s office. He`s going to be laying out everything he knows what Trump did. We know from Christopher Steele he was supposedly in Prague after Manafort left to take care of loose ends with the campaign to try and bury hackers that broke into the Democratic National Committee.

We know that Manafort now facing 30 years in prison, life imprisonment basically, is going to have to turn in his ostrich jacket for a jumpsuit, it`s going to be incentivize to cooperate. That`s where the action is going to be. It`s going to be focused on the Russian investigation and putting together that case that`s going to put an end to this whole idea that nothing happened on the campaign side with the Russians.

VELSHI: All right. We`re going to talk a little bit about the Manafort trial now. John Harwood and Jessica Levinson, thank you both for joining us. I want to turn to that other bombshell news. Paul Manafort guilty, convicted on eight counts including false tax returns, failing to file foreign bank account reports and two counts of bank fraud. The judge declaring a mistrial in the remaining 10 counts. Trump choosing to talk about Manafort but not Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort`s a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years. And I feel very sad about that. Because it involved me, but I still feel, you know, it`s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Prosecutors have eight days to decide what they want to do about the mistrial chargces. Ty Kelly is a former federal prosecutor and former Department of Justice lawyer where she worked for Rod Rosenstein. Seth Waxman is a former federal prosecutor.

Ty, let me just ask you, at this point what`s the signal that you read into Donald Trump saying what he said about what a great guy Manafort is and how he worked for Reagan and he worked for Bob Dole and it`s terrific and it`s awful what`s happening to him? Is that a signal to Manafort, his legal team, don`t fold?

TY KELLY, FORMER DOJ TRIAL LAWYER: Well, I mean, it could be looked at that way, but I think that President Trump is doing what he`s always been doing, which is to distance himself entirely from whatever he can. This is a significant conviction for Paul Manafort. Even though there`s a number of mistrials, the significance of the criminal convictions are large, and so just to distance himself from someone who has just been convicted of very serious crimes is what it looks like he`s doing.

VELSHI: Seth, talk to me about the mistrials versus the convictions. There were no acquittals. What does this mean in the context of this trial and its success?

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I mean, you can`t look at this as anything but a sweeping victory for the prosecution. You know, to get someone on serious bank fraud, tax evasion charges, you know, Mr. Manafort will be facing essentially a life sentence given his age. Whether that`s 11 years or 15 years, the judge will have a decision on whether to stack those crimes in sentencing.

And, you know, the key point to all of this may be when the smoke clears, is Paul Manafort going to cooperate? Is he going to walk into Mueller`s office, say, you got me, I need a deal now. And then of course the X factor that`s very difficult for all of us to answer is the president going to issue a pardon.

VELSHI: Ty, I`m just looking at e-mails -- tweets from Lindsey Graham that came out a little while ago where he said the American legal system is working its will in both the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases. Thus far there yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. So, somebody is holding out hope that this isn`t connected.

KELLY: Well, I mean, I`m sure there`s plenty of people who are holding out hope that this isn`t connected. But I think Judge Ellis said it best. I mean, it`s very routine in an investigation and prosecution to put pressure on people to do what Seth was just talking about, cooperating. And now, Mr. Manafort is absolutely looking at a very significant jail time and he`s going to have to make some really difficult decisions.

VELSHI: All right. And let me ask you, Megan, what you think, what you`re expecting. We saw the first response from a senator. Do you think this turns yet or do you think everybody is going to keep --

TWOHEY: I think we`re all going to be watching. I mean this really feels like one of the more remarkable days of the Trump presidency, which is saying a lot.

VELSHI: Which is filled with remarkable things.

TWOHEY: Which is saying a lot. But yes, I mean to go back to what happens next, I mean it`s also interesting to note that, you know, it`s now -- right now it`s not directly connected to the Russian investigation, but it`s clear that if Cohen were to provide valuable information to Mueller that that could, in fact, affect his sentence. And I think that`s another thing that there`s going to -- you know, to be watching as we move forward.

VELSHI: Right now he`s looking at 43 to 64 months or something in that category. That`s what the guidelines say.

TWOHEY: Right.

VELSHI: He might be looking at getting a reduced sentence if he`s able --

AKERMAN: He would not plead to that without a cooperation agreement. I mean normally I do these all the time in the criminal practice. And you get a cooperation agreement that`s under seal and you have a plea agreement like you have here that`s public.

VELSHI: Right.

AKERMAN: So I would bet anything there is a cooperation agreement with Mueller`s office and he`s looking to bring down that sentence, which the judge can bring down to zero if he wants under enough cooperation. So, I don`t think we would he`ll ever plead guilty to anything approaching 5 or 6 years without a cooperation agreement.

VELSHI: Let me bring Natasha Bertrand in from The Atlantic. She was in the Manafort courtroom today. What do you think happens with that? I mean we have to remember, Manafort has a whole anther trial coming up. And the sense was regardless of what happens in this trial, the government continues to be able to put more pressure on him. Do you think he heads into that other trial given what happened today, or do you think he starts to think of either figuring out whether he`s getting a pardon or figuring out whether he has to sing like a bird about what happened in Trump Tower and other things having to do with the Russians?

NATASHA BERTRAND, THE ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: I think it is possible that he chooses to cooperate with Mueller now that he faces so much prison time, having been convicted on eight counts. It was somewhat of a surprise that he was found -- that the jury could not come to a consensus on 10 counts when the jury gave a note to the judge saying that they could not reach a consensus on one count. Everyone in the courtroom kind of assumed it just meant one count and that they would reach a consensus on the other 17.

So you could see that is somewhat of a small victory for the defense. But this was really a sweeping success for the prosecution. And we have to remember that Mueller`s team has already said that they have three times as much evidence for the September trial as they did for this trial, over a thousand pieces of evidence versus just under 300 for this trial.

So, there is definitely an incentive for Paul Manafort to work with the government now, now that he`s seen a jury is willing to convict him on charges like these. But I would also not hold our breath because no one thought Manafort could go to this trial either.

VELSHI: Ty, you know, this case while it was all -- a lot of it was documentary and paper trail-y. The fact is these complicated cases are hard for juries because people don`t understand some of the terms that are in them. Is that second trial going to be easier for the government? Does Paul Manafort get to think, all right, if they got me on eight charges here, I`m in trouble in the next one?

KELLY: I think what Paul Manafort`s team is looking out right now and noticing is that the jury didn`t convict on any of the conspiracy to commit bank fraud charges. So out of all the bank fraud charges, the jury only came to a guilty verdict on two of them and had a mistrial on all the conspiracy to commit bank fraud. That could be something that the Mueller team needs to focus on which is, can we rely on Gates?

The jury could have been signalling, we`re not going to convict on something we need to believe Gates on, and so you may see Mueller`s team shuffling to figure out which of their counts, which of their evidence they can sure up without needing Gates.

VELSHI: Right. So, Seth, when you think about this from the perspective Nick gave us, the real prize here for the Mueller investigation is going to be Russia, not the payoff to Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal. Does the government, does the prosecution in Manafort -- do they get -- do they tie him to it in the second trial? Are they able to do that? Because it`s still conspiracy to defraud the United States trial.

WAXMAN: Yes, I think it`s going to be similar to the one we saw in Alexandria. Russia will be in the background. You know, conspiracies don`t just drop out of the sky in spring of 2016. There`s a back story to all conspiracies. So Manafort`s interactions with the Russians to the extent there were foreign accounts related in the D.C. trial in the fall, there will be some, you know, discussion about that, but I think very similar to the Alexandria trial, it will be kind of a straightforward white collar criminal prosecution that will be document based, maybe a cooperate error two sprinkled in here or there. And the question for me is whether that case is ever going to take place, is Mr. Manafort going to walk in and say, right now I`m facing 10 en years, that`s tantamount to a life sentence essentially. Let me work with you. And of course again the pardon is the X factor.

VELSHI: So, Natasha, again, I`m keeping an eye out for tweets and comments from Republicans on the Senator Cornyn of Texas have said -- had said, I don`t think this implicates him at all, particularly on the Russia investigation. So, again, the pattern continues of Republicans not being able to face facts that this president has been dishonest on so many fronts and in this case this has now been something that he`s been dishonest about while president, not just in the campaign. He`s now been named whether it`s legally important or not, he`s been named as the other side of a conspiracy to commit fraud on an election. It doesn`t seem to move Republicans.

BERTRAND: No, not at all. And you`re seeing a few kind of never-Trump Republicans who have been wary in the past of saying that, you know, president should potentially be impeached or impeachment is a remedy for this. But now see them kind of starting to say, well, actually now that he`s been named as a potential conspirator in this kind of election fraud, maybe it is time to start considering that as a possibility. Like Democrats, for example, should maybe start vocalizing that more.

But no, Republicans by and large are saying that the Manafort trial, for example, does not have anything to do with Russian election interference, that neither does Cohen and of course that`s just not true with regard to the Manafort trial. Against the backdrop, just like Seth said, is all of the work that Manafort did for pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine and his attempts to cover that up while he was working on the Trump campaign and over the course of the decade, of course, that he was working for the pro- Russian government and Ukraine.

So, it`s more about reading between the lines here, but I think it`s safe to say Republicans are not going to abandon the president any time soon.

VELSHI: Megan there is a little bit of an achilles heel here for the president. In July when we started to hear that Michael Cohen might talk about knowing that Donald Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting, I think it was July 26 or 27, the president tweeted in defense of his son.

TWOHEY: Right.

VELSHI: I`m really worried about Don Junior and what`s going do happen. That seems to be the soft spot here. We know Don Junior was in that meeting with Paul Manafort and a whole bunch of other people. We seem to have discovered, as every layer of that onion is peeled back that they`re all lying about it.

TWOHEY: Well there had also been suggestions that Cohen himself had information about that meeting and Trump`s knowledge of it. I think we don`t -- we still don`t know exactly what Cohen has that could be of value to Mueller and his investigation. But to go back to the -- it is important to sort of acknowledge that what happened today in these two cases does not implicate Trump in Russian collusion.

And so I also think what we`re seeing in some of these political statements that are coming out, the statements that are coming out from Republicans is that it sounds like we may be getting a preview of the response to today, that they`re going to say, you know, they`re going to repeat this line that this doesn`t implicate Trump in Russia collusion while ignoring the fact that --

VELSHI: That he implicate himself against.

TWOHEY: -- he is for the first time being, you know, implicated --

VELSHI: Right.

TWOHEY: -- you know, in criminal campaign finance violations, yes, exactly.

VELSHI: In the normal world they should be outraged.

TWOHEY: Right.

VELSHI: Somebody should resign in the normal world but we`re not in a normal world, right? We`re not actually there. Within an hour President Trump is set to hold a rally in Charleston, West Virginia. And moments ago, the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I understand the president`s on his way to a rally. He better not talk about pardons for Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort tonight or any time in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Well, that sounds like a dare to me. With me from the White House is NBC`s Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson. If there`s one thing the president doesn`t like to do is take instructions from Chuck Schumer. What an incredible afternoon, Hallie.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is one adjective, one of many adjectives you could use on all of this, Ali. And I tell you what the president is set to be speaking in West Virginia, as you said mentioned within I think just about the half hour here. And I don`t know if I`m Chuck Schumer or if I`m betting on what Chuck Schumer is talking about that I would take that bet because the president has already talked about Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

Right as he got off the plane on Air Force One, you might have shown this, but the president said I feel badly for both. A rather cryptic sounding sentence that seemed to presumably refer to both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. The president then went on as you know to make more extensive comments about Manafort his former campaign chair, and did not elaborate on Cohen. But it is possible that given how upset the president has been about the special counsel investigation, given how much he has called this a witch hunt and continued to do so even within just the last hour, that this may be under his skin and in front of a crowd of cheering supporters, people who are backing up every word he`s saying, the president may want to let off a little steam frankly. We have seen him do this before. That is a pattern for this president and so it is entirely possible that he will talk about this investigation, that he will talk about maybe Paul Manafort, perhaps Michael Cohen`s plea agreement here.

And again, you called it incredible. But I think another word for it, Ali, for this afternoon from what we`ve seen, is incredibly significant, and perhaps extraordinary. Put this into perspective here. This is the president`s former long-time lawyer walking into federal court implicating the president in what prosecutors call an illegal hush money pay out, at the same time a guy who used to run his campaign who was intimately involved for a period of several months at a crucial time of the election is getting convicted of other crimes, for a Trump campaign where the phrase lock her up, rang out at nearly every campaign rally I was at towards the end of 2016, you now have five people close to the president and his campaign who since election day have been convicted of breaking the law, Ali. That is what today`s reporting --

VELSHI: Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort added to that list, Rick Gates has pleaded guilty. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty. George Papadopoulos, unless he changes his plea, has pleaded guilty. He sent out a weird tweet out today suggesting that might happen. Lanny Davis tweet was interesting to me because, look like Lanny Davis is an articulate guy. But he sort of captured the sentiment of a lot of people who are saying, today Michael Cohen stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn`t they be a crime for Donald Trump?

Hallie, I think you can`t overstate the degree to which this is a very, very serious issue. A crime has now been laid at the doorstep of the White House.

JACKSON: That is exactly right. And so what is the response, right? The White House has been picking up what`s on its doorstep and referring the comments over to the president`s outside legal counsel, right. They`re saying anything related to this Michael Cohen issue goes to the president`s outside team.

And let me tell you within the last couple of minutes, I can tell you this. We heard from Rudy Giuliani, the president`s outside attorney who as you know is pushing back on this saying there is no allegation of wrongdoing that the prosecution lays out, and significantly talking about a pattern of lies and dishonesty from Michael Cohen. But I asked for some clarification. I said listen, did or did not the president direct Cohen as Cohen claims to make these payments? Did that happen or not? Is Cohen accurate or not? And I was referred by the president`s legal team back to that original statement just in the last couple minutes here.

As far as the White House situation, I`ll just tell you that interactions, in my conversations with sources here late this afternoon, there was sort of a question of how they`re going to be dealing with this, how they would be handling this. The president`s comments at the steps of Air Force One about Paul Manafort almost in a way gave West Wing staffers here a kind of out, Ali. Because now the president has talked about it. Now it`s the president`s own words that are going to be driving pieces of the conversation as the discussion is happening so they can say, hey, look at what he said, don`t worry about what I said. That might last as long as the next briefing for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We don`t know when that will be.

VELSHI: Right. The narrative changed today for better or for worse, the narrative change, the story has changed, the legitimate ski of the presidency is under greater threat than it has been than any other time during this presidency. Hallie, thanks very much. Hallie Jackson, our chief White House correspondent.

I want to bring Bill Kristol. He`s the founder and editor at large of the Weekly Standard, Christina Greer, Professor at Fordham University. Welcome to both of you. Christina, your take on this, what I think Hallie says is crucial for us to understand. Something did change today. There may be people who didn`t think there was any legitimacy left to Donald Trump or this presidency, but the fact is this is different. Today is different than it was six hours ago.

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: I hope so. But here is part of the problem. We still don`t have any republican leadership speaking out saying, you know what? Something has changed. The media is saying something has changed. Democrats are saying something has changed. But this lack of separation of powers, the fact that this president has kept his thumb on his entire party and they`ve fallen in line, the fact they`re talking about Kavanaugh, we shouldn`t be talking about a Supreme Court justice nominee when this is going on.

So, I hope something has changed. I hope someone is going to look into the fact that Donald Trump is a 40-year history of leaning on the lines of legality, of lying, of surrounding himself with people who are of ill repute, to say the very least. Anyone in New York knows this. Anyone who can read has seen the documentation. I don`t know if chickens are coming home to roost because when he`s at his rally, he has already established that the media is a liar. That Mueller is out to get him. So, he`s already created this scenario where truth isn`t truth, right?

VELSHI: Right.

GREER: And he`s doing that since the campaign that everyone is after him and it`s just up to him and his 33% supporters, sort of us against the world because everyone is trying to just make up stories that aren`t true about us.

VELSHI: So while everything has changed, maybe nothing has changed. Bill Kristol, you and people like you have been trying to get their party back for awhile. One might say strategically you`ve been handed the gift today, maybe this is a moment in which you can call up people and say, come on, guys, putting out statements about how this doesn`t implicate him in the Russian investigation isn`t really the relevant part of this right now. Your president is lying. What do we do about it?

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD FOUNDER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Look, I think things have changed. And reality has changed. A guilty plea from the president`s personal lawyer with whom he was very, very close in very many ways. And guilty verdicts on the president`s campaign manager. Those are facts. You can say truth isn`t truth he said, she said.

VELSHI: We accept in this county that verdict too.

KRISTOL: And guilty verdicts have a real effect. Is there a hard core supporters who will never leave him, sure. There was with Nixon too. 52% approval among the Republicans (INAUDIBLE). But there are a lot of reluctant Trump supports. Now I think at this point they get more reluctant in their support, and less willing to simply say, well, he tweets a lot, he`s a vulgar guy. But we got the Supreme Court justices and we get the (INAUDIBLE). I do think it begins to change things. And I think their last line of defenders in the way now if its defenders you can read couple of those (INAUDIBLE), it`s not Russia. But how do we know it is not Russia. Michael Cohen seems to be cooperating. Michael Cohen may well know about the Trump Tower meeting. He may well know of the president about the Trump Tower meeting.

VELSHI: And we definitely know that Manafort does.

KRISTOL: And Manafort was at that meeting. He flipped but he hasn`t flip yet.

VELSHI: Right.

KRISTOL: But Cohen has. And Cohen has was in talk with Trump throughout 2016 and 2017. He`s contemporary and he has knowledge and probably documentary evidence and phone records of Trump`s actions and all kinds of aspects of the obstruction side of it. As well as perhaps the collusion side of it. So I don`t buy the argument that this isn`t important for the Russia side of the investigation.

VELSHI: This is a point that you have been making.

AKERMAN: Yes. But, you know, what`s really striking to me on how history has repeated itself here. Back in the Nixon`s days in the Watergate, Herb Kalmbach, who was Nixon`s personal lawyer was actually his bagman, sort of the same role as Michael Cohen was the guy who carried around all the cash, the illegal cash to spread around. He wound up pleading guilty. And then you also have Manafort being convicted today who was Trump`s campaign manager. And you had John Mitchell who was Nixon`s campaign manager who had been convicted. So, what I`m really struck by is just how history has repeated itself today with both a president`s personal lawyer and his campaign manager.

VELSHI: Let`s just play this out just a little more. If there is somewhere between 33% and 43% of Americans who continue to support Donald Trump as the evidence piles on, that gets harder to do. But there a lot of people that Bill was just talking about. Republicans were not interesting in supporting Democratic candidates. They`re not interested in up-ending their party would like their party back. How does this play out politically? We talked a lot about the legal side. But how does it play out politically for people who are not Democrats and are reluctant supporters of Donald Trump who can`t get away from the evidence anymore.

BERTRAND: Well it`s remarkable how the narrative has really been shifting. I mean it used to be, of course, that there is no communication at all by between the campaign and Russia. That was Paul Manafort`s line throughout the campaign. Then it was, well, there may have been a few contacts but they were really, you know, inconsequential.

And now we`re seeing this new kind of talking point emerged which is people on the right are saying, well, it would have been kind of a dereliction of duty for the campaign not to be have taking these meetings with the Russians and to see what kind of dirt they had on Clinton.

So, politically, I think that even if a ton of evidence came out that definitively said that the campaign conspired with Russia to undermine the election and to coordinate with the Russians to get this dirt on Clinton and that way, they promised, you know, for example sanctions relief or they promised to up end the entire international order that we`ve, you know, hear for decades. Then I think that, you know, people on the other side of the aisle would say, on the Republican side would say, well, you know, this was all -- this was standard, this is was just opposition research. It seems like that argument has really started to take hold in the right wing circle..

KRISTOL: I think they have made that argument but I don`t think it will take hold enough. I think at that point you lose enough House members, enough senators, enough party leaders that impeachment becomes a possibility. If there is real collusion --

BERTRAND: You think it changes things.

KRISTOL: Not vague when you knew about some meetings -- there`s real collusion on WikiLeaks --

VELSHI: You think it changes things?

GREER: You are more optimistic than I, you know, because maybe for the past two years, we have witnessed a race baiting president who`s had, you know, caucus with white supremacist to the silence of his entire party. So, I don`t know why all the sudden they would wake up and say, you know what, this is a bridge too far. How many breaches do we need?

KRISTOL: I am saying as a practical matter the Democrats are likely the women House representatives in November. If they win the House --

GREER: If Russia doesn`t collude and actually affect our election. That`s a big, I mean, that`s a possibility --

KRISTOL: It is but looks to the House.

GREER: -- but you haven`t addressed in 2016 yet.

KRISTOL: I hear that also (INAUDIBLE). But it looks for now that the Democrats will win the House if they do and if there is real evidence on either the collusion or the obstruction side, and maybe it`s -- I`m not sure that the cooperation being a dog -- just in the payoff isn`t enough. That`s a real crime. It`s a federal crime. If you are the House of Representatives, what do you say? We are not going to look into this? They at least have hearings.

(CROSSTALK)

GREER: But these are the people who are trying to push through Kavanaugh.

KRISTOL: Democrats -- I mean, look, obviously, Republicans of the House that will be different story. But I think today`s even --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I just make one point.

KRISTOL: -- is much less likely, less likely that Republicans of the House. And I think once you get into real, this (INAUDIBLE) to Clinton, once you get into real impeachment hearings, and real looking into the evidence, it`s a little harder for people to say, well, look, there`s evidence is a crime. Not that he`s distasteful, unpleasant --

VELSHI: Natasha?

KRISTOL: -- even bigoted guy. I think it changes.

BERTRAND: I just want to make one final point which is I think that Trump, if he did conspire with the Russians, and all evidence points to, you know, him doing that, then he did it in a way that Vladimir Putin would do it, which is to preserve plausible denyibility by forming out the most significant aspects of such conspiracy to people like Michael Cohen, to people like Paul Manafort, to people like George Papadopoulos just like Vladimir Putin formed it out to hackers that perhaps were not directly associated with the Russian government, to preserve that kind of plausible deniability.

So, if we take that to be true, and people like Michael Cohen are found to, for example, have traveled to Prague to pay off these hackers, if Trump himself didn`t do it, then I can definitely foresee Republicans saying, well, the president himself may not have authorized that. How do we know?

KRISTOL: Well, unless Michael Cohen testified that he did tell the president about it or unless this contemporaneous evidence that he did. This is --

BERTRAND: To which Donald Trump could respond well, he was given a plea deal to maybe reduce his prison sentence. I mean --

KRISTOL: Well, they can say whatever they want. But I do think it`s -- I`m not defending the Republicans. I`m not saying they -- there is a huge amount of rationalization as possible.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: No. But I just think the guilty plea and guilty verdict --

BERTRAND: So I hope you`re right.

KRISTOL: -- make a big efforts, I think.

AKERMAN: And we don`t know what all the tapes are. I mean Michael Cohen is got a whole series of tapes. You know, what are on their tapes.

VELSHI: We have another Omarosa tape two and a half minutes actually. Can`t imagine what`s on that. All right. Christina to you, I hear you. When is the bridge that`s a bridge too far going to show up, right? To a lot of people I think maybe today might have been it but a lot of people --

GREER: These are same people who are waiting for the N-word three days ago, right? I mean -- so, we know that Donald Trump has surrounded himself and possibly given instructions to Michael Cohen, someone is trusted for a very long time. We know Donald Trump is engaged in this behavior in Atlanta City, in Queens, in the five boroughs for decades. This is just, you know, a (INAUDIBLE) that`s going gone a little too far and now the federal government is involved.

But I don`t see and this is -- I`ve been bringing the alarm on the show for months now. The separation of power is not working because the Republican Party has not stood up to this president not once. So, even if there is a guilty verdict from Manafort. Even though Cohen has turned himself in, eight counts, eight counts there, I still think that they have been so willing to move the goal post every single time with this president. No matter what he says, no matter what he does, right?

The fact that he was sworn in as president after the "Access Hollywood" tape let me know for a fact that the Republican Party is actually not working on behalf of the American people. They are working on behalf of Donald Trump, and he`s been able to bully them into their silence. And I don`t think that today changes as much, unfortunately. I`m sure we`ll hear what he had to say about at this rally. But Fox News is talking about, you know, a girl in Iowa and not this, right? And tomorrow morning we know he will wake up and tweet and sort of, you know, besmirch the reputation of Michael Cohen and all the people around him, and really go back to Mueller. And this is obviously going to boil down to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

KRISTOL: The bigger threat is the pardon power which I think is -- I think someone said -- someone say is the wild card.

VELSHI: It might be floating that.

KRISTOL: And could be that could happen, yes.

VELSHI: All right, we`re on time. Thanks, to Natasha Bertrand, thanks to Bill Kristol, Christina Greer, and everybody else who has on with us. Nick Akerman is been with us for the whole show. That does it for me. I am going to see you back here tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. As I said, we`ve got more tapes. This time it`s Omarosa. "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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.