Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 24, 2018 Guest: Shelby Holliday, Seth Waxman, Glenda Blair, Elliot Williams, Donna Edwards, Howard Fineman, Martin London, Leah Wright Rigueur, Adam Entous
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Democrats have a blockbuster midterm movie? Why not, right? I mean the Republicans already have theirs. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back Monday with more MTP DAILY. And if it`s Sunday, it`s Meet the Press on NBC. "THE BEAT" thought starts right now. Ayman Mohyeldin is in for our friend Ari. Good evening, Ayman.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Hey. Good evening, Chuck. What a good soundtrack that was.
TODD: Oh, it`s a good one, yes.
MOHYELDIN: Really appreciate it. All right.
TODD: Groove it out, man. Let`s go.
MOHYELDIN: A great way to finish a week. What a week it`s been, right?
TODD: Yes. Good luck. Don`t get knocked up the surfboard.
MOHYELDIN: Thanks, Chuck. I`m Ayman Mohyeldin, in tonight for Ari Melber. Lots of news to break down.
Donald Trump`s finance chief has been given immunity by the Feds, Trump is trying to get Jeff Sessions to investigate Bob Mueller. And a key figure from the Watergate era says Trump should resign. I`m going to talk to the man who was the lawyer for Nixon`s vice president.
But we start with extraordinary new legal pressure on Trump. Trump`s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg is now talking to the Feds with immunity. Weisselberg is the guy who prepared Trump`s tax returns, tax returns we haven`t seen yet. He oversaw all of the Trump Organization financial transactions and infrastructure, including, apparently, the hush money.
The Feds referred to Weisselberg as executive one in the Michael Cohen court documents. He`s the one who arranged for, "Payment for services rendered", the hush money to cover up Trump`s alleged affairs. Weisselberg is at the center of Trump`s business world. He`s literally the guy put in charge after the election.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization, to his son Don and Eric, and a long time Trump executive Allen Weisselberg. Don, Eric, and Allen are committed to ensuring that the activities of the Trump Organization are beyond reproach.
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MOHYELDIN: All right. So those activities of the Trump Organization may soon lead to criminal charges, brought by the district attorney here in Manhattan. Weisselberg becomes the latest Trump associate to get immunity or to cooperate with the Feds. Now, that includes David Pecker, the publisher of the "National Enquirer" who allegedly worked with Cohen to silence Trump`s women. The AP reports that there was a secret safe at the "Enquirer" headquarters where they locked up stories that were damaging to President Trump.
And another executive was known to have a recording device, believe it or not, in his office. So as a result of these immunity deals, there could be even more evidence, including new tapes, in the hands of the Feds tonight. And there are more people that Trump once trusted who are now spilling secrets.
Right now, Trump is speaking at a GOP fundraiser in Ohio, you see live pictures there. If he says anything about his legal problems, we will certainly bring that news to you right away.
Joining me now is Former Federal Prosecutor Seth Waxman, Shelby Holliday from the Wall Street Journal, and Glenda Blair, Author of "The Trumps". Great to have all of you. Listen, Glenda, we should say is obviously an expert on the Trumps, writing one of the I guess definitive books on the family.
Shelby, let me begin with you and let`s talk a little bit about Weisselberg. Who exactly is this man in the center of Trump world, if you will?
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: He`s an incredibly important figure and hats off to my colleagues at the "Journal" for breaking this story that he has immunity. There are some questions about the extent of his immunity, what questions he has to answer if he`s sharing information just about those hush money payments or information well beyond those.
But he`s an incredibly important figure who`s been with the Trump Organization for decades before Trump even took over from his father. So he`s been with Trump through bankruptcies, through the reality TV saga, through all of his booms and busts. He knows where the proverbial bodies are buried. We`ve heard that a lot today but he`s also very much in control of Trump`s finances now that Trump is president.
And so he could know really important things for the grand jury and Mueller`s investigation, for example, if he is actually cooperating with them and sharing information with them as well.
MOHYELDIN: So, I don`t know if you`ve ever had a chance to interview Weisselberg.
GLENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR: I did.
MOHYELDIN: Tell us a little bit more about him as a person and what did you learn about him, what did you leave from him as a personality, the way he functioned within that world? Was he meticulous? Did he sound or did he come across as like the person who would be extremely loyal to President Trump? And why would you think he would seek immunity?
BLAIR: I don`t want to suggest we were BFFs, but what I did -- my impressions and my recollections when I did interview him when I was doing my book, he came - he worked for Fred first, for Donald`s father, so he was a continuity from the earlier version of the Trump Organization under his father.
And Donald Trump, we have to remember, the big influences on him, School of Fred, that was one of them. So this was a guy who already, this Allen Weisselberg, was somebody was somebody who had already been part of that world where the incredibly sharp business dealing, squeeze everything you can out of your --
MOHYELDIN: So he`s definitely a holdover from the Fed era. Excuse me.
BLAIR: Fed era.
MOHYELDIN: How much do you think he actually knew about the Trump world?
BLAIR: A lot.
MOHYELDIN: I mean if you had to quantify it.
BLAIR: Pretty much everything. And when I interviewed them, the Trump Organization, one of the things I think people learned through the campaign, it had a remarkably small number of people working there. So whoever did work there knew a lot.
MOHYELDIN: So how worried do you think Trump is since you know the Trumps and the Trump world, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, since they were the ones along with Weisselberg after the election who were in charge of the Trump Organization, how worried are they all this evening?
BLAIR: I would say pretty much 100 percent. This guy was right at the center, super loyal, eyes down. He was -- when I interviewed him, very a low profile but meticulous guy, totally focused on getting -- doing the best for the Trump Organization in terms of taxes and everything else. But he knew it all, he knew it all.
MOHYELDIN: Seth, let me ask you a little bit about Weisselberg and the fact that he has sought immunity, don`t know if it was necessarily something they offered initially or something he sought and the Feds ultimately offered it to him. What does that tell you the fact that they were willing to grant him immunity, that he has immunity, what kind of he may have and what it is investigators can be looking for that he would know?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean he may have the keys to the castle. I mean, in white-collar criminal prosecutions and investigations, it`s the books and records, it`s the documents, it`s the business transactions. And to land someone like the CFO, the chief financial officer, someone by all accounts, as your guests are saying, has been tight with the Trump Organization for decades who can walk prosecutors through those transactions, like one of your guests said, where the bodies are buried and breathe life into those documents, that is a huge get for the government.
Along with Mr. Pecker and, of course, Mr. Cohen potentially into the fold. Those kind of professional advisers that lend their expertise can really build a white collar criminal prosecution. And of course, corroborate each other which is key to any kind of investigations.
MOHYELDIN: Seth, do you know in a situation like this, I mean -- and it`s hard to speculate about this case, but do you know, is it something that Feds or investigators offer up early on immunity because they know somebody legally is liable, or to try to win him over easily, or do you think that it`s something that you negotiate, you trade information back and forth to get to this point?
WAXMAN: Yes, the latter. I mean prosecutors hate to give out immunity. They want to get the testimony straight up. And if at worst, get someone to plead to something because they clearly have exposure if they`re pleading or seeking immunity. But if you can`t get any of that done and kind of as a last resort you immunize someone to get the information.
And so you only do that in circumstances typically where the person has something really good and you really want it. And so it seems like from what we`re seeing, that may be the case here.
MOHYELDIN: Yes, it seems certainly. And what a week it has been for some of these associates. Shelby, I wanted to ask you that, when it comes to the associates who are guilty or those that have been given immunity like David Pecker and Weisselberg. You have them there on the screen, the Trump associates granted immunity on one side, the Trump associates that are guilty and cooperating on the other.
A lot of people in Trump`s inner circle working with the government now. What does that tell you?
HOLLIDAY: Well, I think there are three sort of pillars here. You have the foundation, you have the business, and you have the campaign. And the people cooperating come from all of those worlds, which is probably a very scary thing for the president because we know all three of those things are being investigated.
I think the people who are cooperating in terms of what they know on the campaign, some of them know a great deal. I think Rick Gates was there through the home stretch, he was close not just to Manafort but also on the campaign and stayed to help through the inauguration. And then you have people like Weisselberg and Cohen.
Cohen`s been in Trump`s world and I know Trump is trying to distance himself right now and say, "He just did small deals for me, he wasn`t really a fixer." He`s downplaying Cohen`s role, but Cohen was in a lot of meetings. He was setting up a lot of arrangements. I think that tape where Cohen is talking about Weisselberg is fascinating. Because you could probably argue that Weisselberg didn`t really know all the dirty details. And then when you hear that tape, it suggests he actually, in fact, did.
MOHYELDIN: OK. So let me pick up on that point, which is a really interesting question. Weisselberg knowing about what the payments were necessarily for. "The Wall Street Journal reports "that Mr. Trump was known for being meticulous about payments the company made. Mr. Weisselberg would bring Trump checks to sign for the company on a daily basis.
Is it at all plausible that any of the Cohen reimbursements that were made were, A, maybe not necessarily aware to Weisselberg what they were for? In fact, if they were just told like these are reimbursements, he would just process them as such? Or could it be possible the other way around that Trump did not necessarily know but Weisselberg would certainly know what they were for? What do you think based on what you`ve learned over the years with the Trump Organization?
BLAIR: Trump was a real micromanager. He signed every check, they all went in front of him, he wanted to know what they were for. Sometimes he wouldn`t pay them as the Journal reported. Sometimes he`s like put up payment, squeeze this guy a little bit more, don`t pay the full amount. He was a guy who knew what he was doing. So the idea that he ever signed a check and didn`t know what it was for, I think, that`s not a non-starter.
MOHYELDIN: For Trump?
BLAIR: For Trump.
MOHYELDIN: And Weisselberg?
BLAIR: And Weisselberg, that guy was on top of it. He was central. The staff was hardly anybody there. That was one of the startling things to me when I interviewed Donald at his office. There were not very many people working there, and there never were very many people working there.
MOHYELDIN: And we`ll put this back up on the screen when we show these five people, two that have been granted immunity, David Pecker as well as Weisselberg, and on the other side those that are cooperating with the government that has pleaded guilty, Michael Flynn, Papadopoulos, Rick Gates. From somebody who`s researched the Trump world, are you at all surprised that loyalty has not turned out to be as strong of a force in the Trump orbit, that these men are all cooperating or to some extent are willing to offer information on their bus who has always put a premium on loyalty?
BLAIR: Well, end of day, they`ve stayed it off as long as they can. One of the telling things, I think, is that Weisselberg, so far, Trump has not tried to diss him. He`s tried to say Cohen didn`t matter, Paul Manafort, he`s just there for a few days, we have not heard that Allen Weisselberg wasn`t the main guy in charge of finances for decades. He has not said that. And he hasn`t come out with some kind of like kind of dissing nickname for him.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. I mean he`s distanced himself from Michael Cohen, saying he did small deals. He distanced himself from Paul Manafort saying he only worked on the campaign a little bit. Why do you think he hasn`t done that with Allen Weisselberg and why do you think Allen Weisselberg has sought immunity or now has immunity?
BLAIRE: There`s a lot of talks, a lot of comparison of Donald Trump to some kind of a mob boss, that kind of a model. But is, Allen Weisselberg, is he a made-man? Maybe that`s the question. I don`t know.
MOHYELDIN: We`re going to talk a little bit. We are definitely going to talk a little bit about that kind of culture that exists in the Trump world later on in the show.
Seth, really quickly, would state charges take away a Michael Cohen pardon as a potential tool for Trump? We know he`s trying to kind of perhaps signal that to Paul Manafort with some of the comments and language and the tweets, saying he`s a brave man and all that. If there are state charges, would that neutralize a presidential pardon?
WAXMAN: Yes, it sure would. I mean Mr. Trump, the president, has the power to pardon in the Federal system, but not in the state system. The Governor of New York could pardon someone. Of course, there`s no indication that could happen. To the extent the Manhattan D.A. brings charges against Michael Cohen or anybody else, the president will not be able to pardon those.
MOHYELDIN: What do you think right now, Seth, in terms of the investigators, what is the big picture here they`re trying to put together when it comes to President Trump through the people like Michael Cohen, David Pecker, and Allen Weisselberg, what is the big picture that they`re trying to assemble?
WAXMAN: Two stages. The first is Don Jr. and Kushner, and the second is the president himself. Getting these close associates within criminal context, and when I was a prosecutor, used to call top lieutenants, either in the financial area or people like Michael Cohen, getting them into the fold brings you that much closer to the president.
And if it`s not the president right away, maybe it`s Jared Kushner or Don Jr. and if you get to one of those two, then maybe you`re right on the doorstep to the presidency. So Mr. Mueller is working this up as a classic Federal investigation. He`s checking all the boxes, dotting all the I`s and T`s and he looks like he`s moving closer and closer.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. And to Shelby`s point, you have this kind of triangle between the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, and the campaign. Seth, I`m going to ask you to stay with me for a little bit longer. Shelby Holliday, Glenda Blaire, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate your time.
Coming up, Trump`s new pressure on Jeff Sessions. Now, he wants the Justice Department to investigate Bob Mueller. Also, new reporting on the Obama conspiracy theory promoted at the highest levels of the Trump administration. I`m going to talk to the reporter who broke that story.
Plus, a new focus on Trump`s use of mob language to talk about the Russia probe. And my interview with a key figure from the Watergate era, the lawyer for Nixon`s vice president, calling on President Trump to resign.
I`m Ayman Mohyeldin in for Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MOHYELDIN: Today, President Trump doubling down on his attacks against his own attorney general demanding Jeff Sessions investigate Democrats in what he calls Bob Mueller`s conflicts, tweeting "Look into all the corruption on the other side." These new tensions have prompted some Republican Senators to warn Trump against firing Sessions.
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MALE: I think it would be a mistake. I don`t think it would be good for the country.
MALE: The president can fire him. I sincerely hope that he doesn`t.
MALE: I don`t think Jeff Sessions should be fired.
MALE: He understands. He`d be in great trepidation if he were to fire Sessions.
MALE: It would be a very, very, very bad idea to fire the attorney general.
MALE: People worry about the dominos if Jeff Sessions goes, who`s next, is it Rod Rosenstein?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: All right. But one key Republican Senator is backpedaling, just compare where Lindsey Graham stood on Jeff Sessions a year ago versus now. Watch this.
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LINDSEY GRAHAM: This effort to basically marginalize and humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate. If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn`t have the confidence of the president. After the election, I think there will be some serious discussions about a new attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: All right. So the bigger story here is Trump`s attack on the rule of law in this country. "The Washington Post" reporting that National Security and Law Enforcement officials say that Trump is doing lasting damage by using his office to target those he sees as his political enemies.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch hunt. The rigged witch hunt. It`s a total witch hunt. It`s a totally rigged deal, they should be looking at the other side. They should be looking at all these FBI guys who got fired and demoted.
This is the most conflicted group of people I`ve ever seen. All these investigators, they`re Democrats. Everybody sees what`s going on in the Justice Department. I always put justice now with quotes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: All right. Joining me now is Elliott Williams, the DOJ official under President Obama, and Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards. It`s great to have both of you with us.
Elliott, let me begin with you and talk a little bit about the president today, leaning on Jeff Sessions to investigate Obama, to investigate Mueller. A lot of people are watching this and saying the president is politicizing the Justice Department. He`s going after political enemies. And as we were just saying, it is going to have a lasting damage, a lasting negative impact on the rule of law in this country.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DOJ OFFICIAL: No question about that. And frankly, you said a lot of people are watching. You know who`s watching? The 113,000 career employees of the Justice Department who need to go to work every day feeling that the entire executive branch has their back.
Look, the idea of disputes within the Federal government or the executive branch are not new within the Justice Department. Historically, the Southern District of New York always fights with the Justice Department over territory issues and the FBI and the White House and everybody. That`s how governments work.
But when the feud between the president of the United States and the attorney general becomes personal, simply for the attorney general, frankly, doing his job, what you`re doing is undermining faith and simply the execution of legal duties or lawyers doing their jobs. It has to have an impact on the way the people feel doing their work. It has to have an impact on the way the public trusts the Justice Department and so on.
So absolutely this will have a long-standing impact on the rule of law. And now, the rule of law indoors, it`s bigger than any one of us and bigger than any one president, thank God and we will survive this. However, certainly, everything "The Washington Post," said in that piece is accurate. MOHYELDIN: Donna, do you believe that Trump is, in fact, getting closer to firing Jeff Sessions, or do you think he`s been politically persuaded to at least wait until after the midterms? Is this a matter of life and death for the president depending on what happens come the midterms?
DONNA EDWARDS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, it really doesn`t matter whether the president waits. And the reason is because he is preparing to fire Jeff Sessions and has launched these attacks against Jeff Sessions, not about the job that he`s doing, but for the fact that Jeff Sessions did not recuse himself and the president expected Jeff Sessions as attorney general to act as his lawyer.
And so I think it`s really important for us not to overlook that because all of these, even more recent attacks against the attorney general, mean to me that the president is actually setting himself up, whether he does it now or he does it later, to be further looked at for getting in the way of justice because he`s attacking Jeff Sessions, not because of the job that Jeff Sessions is doing, but because Jeff Sessions failed to recuse himself in the Mueller investigation.
And this is where I think Senate Republicans need to get it right. And you could hear some of that because they were basically sending a warning in some ways to the president, careful what you wish for. Because the way that you do it, it will inevitably have a political impact.
WILLIAMS: And you know, along those lines, when the Senator -- the senate -- pardon me, the Senate Republicans certainly have not demonstrated any sort of willingness to step in. The congresswoman`s right, they need to step up and really take a stand here. But Lindsey Graham who for years had been a supporter and a friend and an ally and a loyal colleague of Jeff Sessions turning around today, we`re seeing a lot of this from the Senate Republicans. And it`s quite disappointing, frankly, seeing as how the Senate is supposed to be the check on the executive branch.
MOHYELDIN: So Congresswoman, if, in fact, the president goes ahead and fires Jeff Sessions, the message that he`s sending for the incoming, the next potential attorney general is going to be what, according to you, if, in fact, Jeff Sessions is being fired, not for what he`s doing, which is according to Jeff Sessions implementing the president`s agenda.
But for what he`s not doing, which is he`s not taking control of the Russia investigation, he`s not trying to block Bob Mueller in any capacity, the fact that he recused himself and took himself out of that equation from defending or shielding the president? I mean this is an alarming and dangerous territory if, in fact, we`re going into a new place where the next attorney general is expected to do that for the president.
EDWARDS: Well, Ayman, I think therein lies the problem because any incoming attorney general actually in the confirmation process will first have to answer dozens, if not hundreds of questions about the conversations that they`ve had with the president, whether the president asked him to take a different posture with respect to the Mueller investigation.
And I don`t think that Senate Republicans are going to be able to have a leg to stand on answering those questions. It remains for me to be seen whether, in fact, a new attorney general can even get through a confirmation process.
MOHYELDIN: Elliott, you referenced the Department of Justice and morale there. I wanted to get your thought, do, you speak to colleagues, former colleagues, get a sense of how they`re feeling day in, day out being the target of this president and the Justice Department in quotes as he likes to say?
WILLIAMS: It`s horrible and it`s withering. And look, again, it is a bigger and stronger institution than Donald Trump will ever dream to be and it will last. Frankly, it will outlive his presidency. But it certainly has an effect on their morale. The amazing thing is, look, when your sole criterion for picking a member of the cabinet, was his loyalty to your campaign, you`re going to be disappointed when he actually does his job.
And I can`t believe I`m saying this but Jeff Sessions has actually been doing that and carrying out the functions of an attorney general as a responsible and reasonable one should. And it`s quite disappointing and disheartening to attorneys, to people who believe the rule of law, to people who believe in the Justice Department. Loretta Lynch, my former boss, used to say it`s the only government entity named after an ideal justice.
And so the idea that, you know, it`s now being asked to go after the enemies of the president or political opponents is certainly bad for the rule of law and morale of every individual there.
EDWARDS: So Ayman, let`s be really clear because we don`t want to ensure that we are justifying the job that Jeff Sessions has been doing.
WILLIAMS: No questions.
EDWARDS: Because from the separation of children and all of the range of things, that`s not true. But he did the first good thing, which was to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.
WILLIAMS: No question there. I`m with you on that.
MOHYELDIN: Guys, we`re going to have to leave it at that. We`re going to see how all this plays out. Elliott Williams and Donna Edwards, thank you both very much.
And coming up, I`m going to talk live to the lawyer who represented Nixon`s vice-president and today is telling President Trump to resign. But first, rats, loyalty flipping, it`s kind of mob baffling which coming from the White House we`ve never heard before. We`re back in 30 seconds.
MOHYELDIN: All right. Now that Donald Trump potentially undermining his own claims of innocence by using language that is more commonly associated with crime bosses and mob movies. Today, NBC confirming another top Trump figure struck a deal with the Feds, the Trump Organization`s CFO getting immunity in the Cohen probe.
It`s part of a pattern of Trump associates spilling the beans. This, just a day after Trump blasted what he calls "Flippers."
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TRUMP: There`s this whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years, I`ve been watching Flippers. It almost ought to be outlawed. It`s not fair. I`ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It`s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.
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MOHYELDIN: All right. So in recent days, Trump has been saying that the White House Counsel isn`t a rat. He`s been praising Paul Manafort because he "Refused to break" and blasting Jeff Sessions for failing to match Trump`s, "Loyalty". It`s a mindset not often found in the White House but in films like this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t ever take sides with anyone, against the family, again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ll learn the two greatest things in life, never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All our people are businessmen. Loyalty is based on that. One thing I learned from pop was to try to think as people around you think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: All right. Joining me now is NBC News Analyst Howard Fineman and Seth Waxman who spent eight years prosecuting organized crime figures like some of those we saw portrayed on TV.
Seth, let me begin with you, you`ve been in this position before. Is the way Trump acting a sign that he feels backed into a corner, the language, the posturing, is it defensive in nature?
WAXMAN: Of course it is, it is exactly that. When I was a Federal Prosecutor, I used to sit on wiretaps for weeks or months and this is the kind of language that hardened criminals would use, you know, head kingpins and drug dealers, you know, who`s flipping? Who do we -- who do we want to go after? Who`s on our side? I mean, listening to this is like listening to Tony Soprano. You know, this is really shocking to me this kind of language.
You know, I don`t want to go too far but you know, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, they might be rolling over in their grave to think that a President of the United States is criticizing people who own responsibility, plead guilty, and decide to change their life but yet you know, standing by the person who isn`t going to be a rat. It`s really, really upsetting.
MOHYELDIN: Howard, it`s one thing for the President to kind of use this language among his own inner circle in private but he`s using this language open in public to demean, to distance himself from interviews in an official capacity. What are your thoughts about the way Donald Trump is talking like a mob boss?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS ANALYST: Well he wants to do it publicly because this is the image he wants to project. He wants to be known as the mob boss in the White House. That`s his whole -- the whole manner of his upbringing, everything he was steeped in New York in the construction business and in dealing with people there, the way he`s raised money including from people who are reputed to be in the Russian mob, etcetera. He was coming into his own in New York and beginning in the business right around the time the Godfather movies were in the in the theaters in `72 and `74 and that`s how he has consciously shaped himself.
It`s how he grew up in New York, it`s what he thinks power is supposed to look like. So he`s not going to hide it at all. He`s going to advertise it. He also thinks that public threats are the way to go. In a way he`s like a bad mob boss because the mob bosses didn`t do it in public. He`s playing that role on television and playing it in the White House and playing it the way he thinks power is supposed to look.
MOHYELDIN: Do you think it`s going to -- do you think, Howard, that it undermines him in the long run, undermines any chance he`s got in the long run?
FINEMAN: Well, one would think so. But he`s played -- it`s interesting because he -- the longer he goes and the more he gets back into a corner legally, the more he`s behaving that way. He has some kind of faith that sells to the people who care about him most. It may but in the process, he`s going to lose the perimeter of whatever support he has. Those suburban voters, the people who believe in the idea of decency and the rule of law ultimately are going to recoil, maybe not now but as soon as the report comes out and as soon as other facts are known. And I think somewhere in his mind he has that sense and he`s preparing himself for that day.
MOHYELDIN: Seth, you brought up the issue that you`ve sat in on many wiretaps over your career -- excuse me. Listen to the type of people that Trump surrounds himself with because I`m going to play you this Michael Cohen talking to a reporter in 2015.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I know exactly what you are and I know exactly what you do. And I know exactly the story you plan on writing. So I`m warning you, tread very (BLEEP) lightly because what I`m going to do to you is going to be (BLEEP) disgusting. Do you understand me?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MOHYELDIN: What do you make of that language stuff? What do you make of that threatening tone? This was one of the President`s lawyers, one of his fixers so to speak, a part of his inner circle.
WAXMAN: Yes. That`s the true Michael Cohen. I mean, I understand Lanny Davis now is coming out and saying you know, Mr. Cohen is found religion or is back to his family or is putting country first. Look, I learned one thing as a federal prosecutor. People that are in the crosshairs of federal law enforcement care about one thing and one thing only, it is themselves.
You know, I don`t believe for a minute that he has now found his country. He has found himself in a corner and he`s doing everything that he can to help himself. That what you heard on the tape, that is the true Michael Cohen and when he was still a member of the conspiracy assuming it existed.
MOHYELDIN: All right, Howard Fineman, Seth Waxman, gentlemen, great to have both of you with us this Friday evening. Thank you, guys.
WAXMAN: Thank you.
MOHYELDIN: Ahead, a conspiracy theory in Trump`s White House accusing the Obama administration of an attack. I`m going to speak to the reporter who broke that story. But first the attorney for Nixon`s Vice President now calling on President Trump to resign live on THE BEAT next.
MOHYELDIN: The cloud over the Trump White House sometimes compared to the legal storm that took down the Nixon White House decades ago. In a moment I`m going to talk to Martin London, an attorney who represented Nixon`s vice president Spiro Agnew who resigned in disgrace. He is out with a new piece today telling Donald Trump to do exactly that, resign. Agnew`s resignation coming nearly 45 years ago on the same day he pled guilty to tax evasion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The matter of Spiro Agnew who resigned his vice president yesterday hung over Washington today like air pollution. No one except perhaps the president knows who will be chosen as Agnew successor and Mr. Nixon isn`t saying.
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MOHYELDIN: All right, joining me now is Martin London who also represented a client sued by Donald Trump in 1985 and one he is the author of the book The Client Decides, also with me is Harvard Professor Leah Wright Rigueur Martin who -- sorry excuse me. Martin, let me come to you first. I want to get your take on why should President Trump resign.
MARTIN LONDON, FORMER LAWYER OF SPIRO AGNEW: Look, he`s going downhill. This is just the beginning. He`s lost several of his close friends and associates Flynn, Gates, Cowen, Papadopoulos, now he`s just lost Pecker. Seth Waxman got it right. When that doorbell rings and the guy says I`m from the FBI, let me tell you it`s every man for himself. So that suggests to me that the longer he waits the worse it`s going to get.
I think they`re going to go after the Trump Corporation now. I think Wesselburg is a -- Weisselberg has got immunity. You know there`s an interesting story they had -- the complaint says the information says that they gave the phony invoice to Weisselberg who gave it to Executive Number Two. And we don`t know who Executive Number Two is but I want to bet a nickel that the last name of that executive was Trump. Those are all state crimes by the way.
MOHYELDIN: So let me ask you this, Martin. Since that -- since you brought up this interesting point about when the doorbell rings and it`s the FBI at the doors, every man for himself, where do you think the Trump kids, that Trump children Donald Trump, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, where do they fit in all of this? What do you think is going to happen with them?
LONDON: Well, look that June meeting in Trump Tower is dynamite. Despite the Rudy Giuliani who I referred to this morning as Moody the Clown saying well they didn`t know they were Russians. Of course, they knew there were Russians that had the e-mail that said the Russian government wants to help find evidence to help your father win the election. He goes to -- and he says I love it, it`s great. I think there was a crime there already. So I think -- then he covers up the crime, he hooks up with his father a false statement that it was about adoption, it wasn`t about adoption at all.
I think he`s in the soup and I think I know one percent or ten percent of what`s going on. So I think that the longer this goes on the greater the exposure is going to be. The federal government is very good at this.
MOHYELDIN: Leah, speaking of exposure, do you envision President Trump -- can you see President Trump from his personality and psychology a person who would resign the Office of the President if he is, in fact, facing the FBI?
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Absolutely not. I think that you know, Martin makes a wonderful point that particularly drawing on this history, this really important history. You know, first things first, let me say game recognizes game. So he clearly is drawing on this really important historical moment almost 40 years to the -- to the day where you know, Spiro Agnew recognized that this was the right thing to do. This was the necessary thing to do particularly as the walls were closing in.
But what we`ve seen from Donald Trump historically, what we`re seeing from Donald Trump now is that as the walls are coming in, as the legs are coming out from under the organization that his tendency is to double down and to fight back even when he is in the wrong, even when faced with overwhelming odds, even faced with evidence that a crime has occurred, that corruption has occurred. And I think that`s especially true when if we see that his children may be involved and maybe you know next on the chopping block.
MOHYELDIN: Yes, Martin, do you want to add something?
LONDON: Yes, look, when we represented Spiro Agnew, we were -- we were upset at Spiro Agnew. The guy who was exposed there was Mr. Agnew, Vice President Agnew. We didn`t have to worry about children, sons, a pair of sons, son-in-law who also had exposure. The longer this thing goes on the greater that exposure is going to be. And if he`s going to cut a deal the farther down the line he goes the greater is the pile of evidence the government gets, the tough of that deal is going to be. I happen to agree that I don`t think he would do it because I don`t think he`s got -- this takes a lot of contemplation, it takes a lot of balancing, it takes a lot of consideration, I don`t think he`s capable of that.
MOHYELDIN: So to that point -- sorry to cut you off, Martin. I wanted to ask real quickly because it`s great to have two brilliant legal minds here. The issue of a president being indicted and whether or not he can face trial in the present seems to be resolved. He -- some have said that he can be indicted but he wouldn`t necessarily face the trial while he`s sitting in office. What do you think? What is the legal matter, tell us, in terms of a sitting president being indicted or at least facing trial?
RIGUEUR: So I think that there are a couple of different ways of speaking it and I think that Martin is far more equipped to speak to the specifics. But one thing that I`ll say is that his children can face charges in a number of different ways. We also don`t know what happens. I mean, again, we give the context so we`d have to -- we`d have to actually have to see in there a couple of different ways of interpreting it.
But once he steps out of office and he`s no longer sitting president, that also incorporates -- that also means there`s definitely different ways of looking at it and that he could still be brought up on charges particularly you know, to Martin`s point as this laundry list keeps coming and coming and more and more and more comes out.
MOHYELDIN: Martin, what`s your legal take on that? Well, you know, an interesting story. There had never been even any legal writing on the subject until the Agnew case. When the Justice Department was investigating the Vice President, we wrote a brief and we said you have to stop the investigation because the Vice President is immune from prosecution while he`s sitting in office and we cited you know the articles in Article 1 and Article 2, the impeachment articles.
And the -- Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General said I`m going to turn this over to Mr. Bork who was this Solicitor General who wrote a brief and he came back in his brief and said well you know you`re right there is a strong argument that Article 1 officers should not be indicted while in office but I make a distinction. My client President Nixon he can`t be indicted. The President can`t be done but your client the Vice President can be indicted. And Bork`s memo was the first of two DOJ memos that have concluded that a sitting president cannot be indictment.
MOHYELDIN: Well, it certainly may be something that is going to be revisited in the coming months or possibly even in the coming years. Martin London, I certainly appreciate your time. Thanks very much. Leah Wright Rigueur as well, thank you so much for your insights.
RIGUEUR: Thanks for having me here.
MOHYELDIN: All right, coming up, does the Trump White House think it`s the target of a coordinated attack from former Obama officials? The New Yorker Reporter breaking this story next.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Comey lies and leaks. He`s a liar and he`s a leaker. No, it`s -- I mean, why -- is this guy being looked at. It`s the most incredible thing people have ever seen what`s going on but we`re going to straighten it out. It`s going to get straightened out.
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MOHYELDIN: All right, so that was President Trump just moments ago talking at a GOP fundraiser in Ohio blasting former FBI Director James Comey. Comey, of course, a holdover from the Obama administration until Trump fired him. It comes as we get new reporting about a conspiracy theory that circulated in President Trump`s White House accusing Obama officials of attempting to undermine Trump`s foreign policy. The New Yorker obtained the 2017 memo which also circulated within Trump`s National Security Council. The memo claims that Obama officials had built an elaborate network called the Echo Chamber which organized attacks in the press against Trump and his advisors.
Eight top officials are named in the memo. The memo goes on to say the group was led by former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl Vice President Biden`s national security adviser. Both men deny those allegations. Today Rhodes is warning those conspiracies are dangerous.
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BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This conspiracy theory type of mindset that sees normal opposition discourse as something much more nefarious, I think it connects directly to what we saw with John Brennan for instance where just people leaving government speaking their mind it`s somehow not welcome in this country. They`re defining as an enemy of the American government normal dissent.
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MOHYELDIN: With me now is the reporter who broke this story, the New Yorker`s Adam Entous as he co-wrote the piece with Ronan Farrow. Adam, great to have you with us this evening. Thanks for joining -- for joining us. Tell me a little bit as much as you can how did you come about to learn about this memo and its existence?
ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, you know, as often happens here in this town, it was a -- it was a leak. A person that had a copy of the memo sent it to me and Ronan and I spent several weeks trying to determine whether it was in any way connected to very similar operation that we were -- we were reporting on, connected to an Israeli private intelligence firm called Black Cube that was also singling out both Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl as being you know kind of the organizers of opposition to Trump.
MOHYELDIN: How many staffers? Did you get a sense from your reporting or able to see the memo? I mean, how widely circulated would you say it was within the Trump White House?
ENTOUS: Yes. I don`t -- I don`t know if the President ever saw it. You know, I know that it was circulated you know, with particularly within the NSC and within Steve Bannon`s former unit that was part of the White House. And so it was passed in that group. You know, I think what`s important to keep in mind here is that as these -- as you know the transition was taking place and as you know, Steve Bannon and others were getting into position in the White House, there were a series of very you know, certainly from their perspective damaging leaks that were coming at an incredibly fast pace in that period of 2017.
At the time both Ben Rhodes and Colin were very aggressive on Twitter and in other places in criticizing Trump and his policies. So you know, I think one can understand if one puts ourselves in their shoes why they might be interested in trying to figure out what`s happening to them and trying to determine who or who`s organized against us. Obviously, they took it to a degree that went beyond I think what actually existed and especially their use of --
MOHYELDIN: So to that --
ENTOUS: Go ahead, sorry.
MOHYELDIN: Sorry, to that point, Adam, because it`s a really interesting point that you brought up, Trump obviously once claimed that Obama wiretap Trump Tower. We know that`s been false. He constantly alludes to it whenever he says that Obama was spying on his campaign. Why do you think he has this obsession with Obama and Obama holdovers trying to work against him or spy against him?
ENTOUS: Well, I think you know, when you when you look at what was happening as he was preparing to take the oath of office, you had information that emerged about how the intelligence community believed that Russia had intervened in the election to help him win which from his perspective seemed to dent his what he saw as this accomplishment, this historic accomplishment that he saw.
And then when you go a little bit further in time you realize suddenly these leaks start. So you can imagine that they that they felt encircled right during that period. And now --
MOHYELDIN: Absolutely -- it`s absolutely -- it`s an absolutely fascinating and riveting piece of journalism. Adam Entous, I really appreciate your time and the reporting. Thank you very much.
ENTOUS: Thank you.
MOHYELDIN: We`ll be right back, everyone.
MOHYELDIN: All right, that does it for me. Have a great weekend everybody. Ari will be back here on Monday and of course, you can always reach out to me every time on social media. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Turning on Trump. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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