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Mueller eyes next Manafort trial. TRANSCRIPT: 8/27/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Aruna Viswanatha, Elie Honig, Shelby Holliday, Mara Gay, Michael Avenatti, Donna Brazile, Peter Wehner

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 27, 2018 Guest: Aruna Viswanatha, Elie Honig, Shelby Holliday, Mara Gay, Michael Avenatti, Donna Brazile, Peter Wehner

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That`s funny. That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. In the meantime, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari,

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much and thanks to all of you home joining us for THE BEAT tonight.

We have breaking news right now on Paul Manafort reporting a suggest he`s changing his entire approach to the Mueller probe. And I`m going to get into that with the reporter breaking the story but first I also have a necessary programming note.

I was on vacation last week because I`m very good at picking slow news cycles for my time off but I do want to thank Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi for anchoring while I was out. Now, what changed last week, was it actually a legal inflection point for this Trump presidency? The answer is yes and that is part of our top story tonight. We have reporting on how this conviction of Paul Manafort is only the beginning of his problems as he faces up to two more trials, new evidence about links to Russian intelligence and signs he`s changing his mind as we would get to.

Also, later, you should know I will be joined live by Michael Avenatti discussing all of the developments out of the Michael Cohen plea deal that could put his case on the fast track. There`s also later in the hour an important conversation with the White House Veteran warning Trumpism threatens America and is exposing an immorality in the Republican Party. That guest was a top Republican adviser to President Bush.

But we begin with how Trump is starting this week. This is the first week of his presidency that begins with two of his most senior aides as guilty men. Michael Cohen admits it, Paul Manafort of course was guilty status by a jury of his peers and there are signs that pressure is getting to him which does bring us to this breaking news.

I can tell you tonight brand new reporting from the "Wall Street Journal" that Paul Manafort was working actively to seek a plea deal with Bob Mueller to basically stave off the upcoming trial in D.C. Now, the reporting which is important is that those talks broke down. Plea discussions that were going on -- imagine this, how dramatic this was, these discussions going on while everyone was awaiting what that Virginia jury would do, deliberating on the tax and bank fraud charges against Manafort, stalling, "Over issues raised by special counsel Robert Mueller". The Journal not yet able to confirm what those issues are.

Now, this is remarkable reporting. If you follow these stories, if you think about the images last week that captivated the nation, all of this shows something we didn`t know until tonight, that something was getting to Manafort. Maybe it`s a potential jail time that he sees now is all too real in his own trial or maybe it is this mounting pressure across the entire Trump universe with Michael Cohen implicating Trump in a crime, with the Feds granting immunity to Trump`s money man and his tabloid ally plus his aggressive rules from New York State prosecutor as they eye the Trump Organization itself. In fact, it is that Federal probe in New York that is seriously worrying some Trump allies.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, THIS WEEK: Perhaps the special counsel is the least the president faces right now. You`ve got the Southern District, you`ve got the New York attorney general, you`ve got the Manhattan District Attorney. Where is the greatest threat?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR: Well, I said that right from the beginning because I think he has constitutional defenses to the investigation being conducted by Mueller. But there are no constitutional defenses to what the Southern District is investigating so I think the Southern District is the greatest threat.


MELBER: You hear the quote there, the greatest threat to Donald Trump according to Alan Dershowitz would be from this office that got the guilty plea out of Michael Cohen that is actively granting immunity for one of the highest ranking employees from those all the financial secrets to the Trump Organization.

Of course, there are other threats because while the initial investigation to Trump was focused on the question of collusion, the list is growing. It includes this campaign related to crimes, it includes alleged corruption in the Trump campaign and the potential administration, those deals that Manafort and others were working on. It includes the legal exposure of the Trump Organization tonight.

Obviously, it also includes these payoffs to women who allege past relationships. And then, of course, as we go through the legal woes that are raising the heat on the Trump administration, there is that mounting evidence of obstruction by Donald Trump and/or his aides that Mueller is investigating.

That is the backdrop for what we have learned of for the first time. If you follow the news, if you follow these cases, you know that Paul Manafort is the one who wouldn`t plea. He`s the one who wouldn`t negotiate. He`s the one who went all the way to trial as all these other people including Michael Cohen last week pled out. So it is big and new tonight. Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, all these other people could be potentially joined, according to this reporting by Paul Manafort which does suggest that he does not think a pardon is on the way.

But there`s one more thing I need to tell you. "Vanity Fair" also has a new report tonight that Trump at least took active steps to explore the idea of a Manafort pardon and he clashed with White House Counsel Don McGahn over it, McGahn reportedly, against the idea. And sources say Trump responded by threatening to get rid of McGahn and hire a new lawyer who would go along with the Manafort pardon.

Now, this is all top news for the Trump White House because it again suggests that Trump is his own worst enemy in this probe. The pardon power legal expert tells us can be abused in illegal ways. It also suggests that while Trump was publicly defending McGahn including on Twitter, privately he`s still considering other strategies and bracing for a war-time footing where he would want a lawyer who`s more aggressive towards Mueller than McGahn.

Of course, we all know McGahn is someone who is benefitted by leaks that portray him as very helpful to Bob Mueller, not an adversary and then you have Paul Manafort considering a deal with Mueller who suggest that rumors of whatever potential pardon there were, weren`t good enough for Paul Manafort and his lawyers last week as he considers the up to 80 years in jail with two trials to go.

So we`re about to hear directly from this journalist breaking the Manafort story right now. I also want to tell you I`m joined by a very special panel tonight, Maya Wiley, former counsel to Mayor New York City. I have a program announcement about her in a moment. Elie Honig, a former Federal Prosecutor who worked in the same office that was prosecuting Cohen and secured his plea deal, Mara Gay, member of the "New York Times" Editorial Board and Shelby Holliday reporting for the "Wall Street Journal" who broke this story and which is why we add another "Wall Street Journal" reporter Aruna Viswanatha breaking this story and joining us by phone.

Thank you for hopping on the line after this big scoop that I think everyone will be talking about tonight. What do you see as the import, the significance of what you (INAUDIBLE) that Paul Manafort`s lawyers were exploring discussions with Mueller to negotiate a deal on the D.C. charges?

ARUNA VISWANATHA, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks for having me. So yes, it does look like there is a little bit of a chink in the armor so to speak. I don`t want to read too much into this. It is relatively common as you sort of get down to the wire if they already went through a very grueling trial, they have another grueling trial coming up in another couple of weeks. You want to sort of sit down and explore what are the possible options for trying to get this off the table and is there some kind of a deal we can reach where we can kind of handle all this together, get him in front of the judge in Virginia to get sentenced. They can get it all over with together.

Now as you mentioned and we said in the story, they didn`t seem to reach a deal. They are moving forward to go ahead with this Washington trial. There is potential prospects for a third trial. We`ll find out later this week if they`re going to -- prosecutors are going to try to retry those deadlocked counts. So I don`t want to read too much into this but it does suggest that there is some softening of his position and maybe the potential for some kind of deal.

MELBER: Well, Aruna, I appreciate you don`t want to read too much into it. You sound less excited about your story than a lot of other people because you have dropped something of a bombshell although we appreciate your measured and humble telephone style. This is a bombshell because as you know up until this report for months, Paul Manafort has been the lone stone-cold resistor.


MELBER: And we`ve said nothing intimidated and Michael Cohen was out telling every reporter on and off the record that he could get, he`s ready to cop a deal, Manafort the opposite. Can you tell us from your reporting whether the D.C. negotiations would have necessarily included jail time? Was there some sweetener in there for Manafort, as you understand it?

VISWANATHA: We don`t know the terms that were on the table at this point. Always, when you`re going to reach a deal, to some extent they are going to drop some of the charges that you face so he would never have likely had to have pled to everything that was on the table. But we don`t know at this point what was specifically on the table.

MELBER: Aruna, stay with me. I want to bring in our panel. And Maya Wiley, first, your reaction in support and second, anything else you want to know with Aruna on the line with us about what she found.

MAYA WILEY: Well, first, I think for all the reasons you have already said, Ari, one it`s amazing how you lose friends when those friends are facing prison time. Not surprising that Manafort was softening. I think we don`t yet know whether or not there`s going to be continuing discussions. We shouldn`t assume that just because they broke down at this point, they aren`t going to continue.

One thing I want to know is do we have any sense of whether there are continuing conversations. Because just because prosecutors are getting ready to continue with a trial that`s been booked, doesn`t mean there aren`t continuing negotiations going on. The other thing though we don`t know is maybe Manafort didn`t offer enough. That`s actually a possibility. I would actually be very surprised if they weren`t necessarily looking to what Donald Trump might be willing to do, at the same time trying to hedge his bets with what he might be able to negotiate with prosecutors.

MELBER: To that point, Elie, when you hear this and Aruna used the language of well, maybe the lawyers could wrap it all up at once, that would seem to suggest they didn`t think they were getting a mistrial on all charges, that his lawyers got him into a place of saying, "Well, you`re already about to get some jail time here, do you want to bundle D.C. with it?"

ELI HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. Plea deals happen when both sides have something to gain and something to lose. And so in that respect, I think a plea could make a lot of sense for both sides. Manafort would limit his exposure, Mueller would lock in some more counts of conviction and both sides would save the resources and money of another trial.

But I`m more enthusiastic as well about Aruna`s reporting. The question I have is, were the talks for a straight plea or were the talks for cooperation plea? Because if there`s some talk of cooperation being part of a plea, that`s a much bigger deal.

MELBER: Aruna, go ahead.

VISWANATHA: Yes. We don`t know those terms right now. All we know is that they did have some talks to discuss and right, that is the biggest question. Would it just be sort of plead out to some counts and get sentenced then leave it at that or open the door to more cooperation? And we don`t have that reporting just yet.

MELBER: Let me bring in your colleague, Shelby Holliday who also follows this probe and take a listen to Roger Stone who you`ve reported on extensively with his own version of leaks and what he thinks is coming down the pipe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I predicted yesterday, based on excellent sourcing, that the special counsel is going to charge Donald Trump Jr. with lying to the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump Jr., you just mentioned him. Is Mueller going after him next? You said they`re going to try and get him for lying to the FBI?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe so. They`re not going after him for the underlying crime because there is no crime, he`s done nothing wrong.


MELBER: How does that figure into the president`s state of mind tonight, with this (0:01:46) and then you got to think in the White House Donald Trump who`s been talking about the pardon, leaking about Paul Manafort is a good guy, hearing what everyone has reported that there is talks under way?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. I think this is probably shaking the White House more than we know. there are various reports that the president is worried about not just his son but also his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, where this Mueller investigation could be going for them. I also think Roger Stone`s point is interesting. He is a well- sourced person. He`s very connected. I also think he`s trying to deflect a lot of his own legal problems and maybe share them and spread them onto other people.

We know that Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone have some things in common. They both, for example, communicated with these Twitter accounts connected to the hacked and leaked e-mails. We know that they have communications with Bob Mueller is looking at. And so as Roger Stone is saying, this is interesting. It sort of mirrors some of the legal issues he`s having.

I do think one thing that`s really interesting from Aruna`s reporting, we followed the Paul Manafort`s first trial very carefully and some of the exhibits that were uploaded by the special counsel didn`t get a ton of focus in court itself but the exhibits were interesting because they connect Paul Manafort even more closely to Konstantin Kilimnik, someone who is also indicted and part of the second trial and we saw a lot of evidence back and forth all the way up to 2015, 2016, even 2017 bank accounts connecting those two.

MELBER: Right. To put it in a single word, you`re talking about Russia.


MELBER: And the D.C. trial was going to deal more with Russia than tax evasion.



MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Just pulling back here, what`s really interesting to me is that it seems that the legal process seems to be playing out as it should, and, whereas the political process is not actually happening in any kind of a normal way and I`m at this point becoming far more concerned with what is going on or what isn`t happening in Congress, especially among Republicans, than the legal system.

Some branches of our government are working and some are not. I mean they keep -- Republicans in Congress keep moving that red line in terms of when they are willing to discuss impeachment when they`re willing to admit that maybe the president has gone too far. And I just fear, given where the Republican base is and given the instinct for self-preservation above country, that this may take us in a very scary place.

I mean there`s a world in which the legal process may play out, we may find enormously historic and tragic evidence of wrongdoing from the White House, which we`re already starting to see, although not with the president himself and yet Congress may do nothing.

MELBER: And Elie, this is the mindset of the president given from The Sherman Report tonight. Bill Shine, the former Fox Executive now inside the White House says that the emotional state of the president "very tender" like a soft for a very high-quality cut of meat. A former White House official and it`s a real source saying, "Trump spent the weekend calling people and screaming." Sources saying, he quote, "Feels cornered with no clear way out."

How do you put that in the context that emotional state which we have an unusual president who has difficulties dealing with his own emotions and often that leads him to make mistakes that are against his own interests? How do you couple that with what he`s going to think when he sees this reporting that`s broken just here this hour that Paul Manafort is considering a deal?

HONIG: I think we`d all like a commander in chief who`s a little cooler under pressure and who could hold his poker face a little better. But think about all the different legal troubles that are swirling around the president now. We have Manafort. We have Cohen. We have Weisselberg. We have Pecker. We have the State AG here in New York. We have the D.A. here in Manhattan. And so there is a storm around this president unlike what I think any president has ever seen. It`s of his own making but we`ll see how he holds up. He needs to get and listen to some really solid legal advice.

MELBER: And the other question, Aruna, as always when we get these tantalizing reports is the question from so many movies about crime and the mafia cui bono, who benefits. And obviously as a good reporter you are, you`re not going to get into any hints about your sources but the Mueller team is famously tight-lipped, this leak is coming out now.

I wonder within the bounds of what you`re able to share, what you can tell us about why something like this might be coming out. Or what, if anything, you can say about the tantalizing sentence in your article where you say these talks basically stalled over issues raised by Mueller. One of the people said, one of your sources told you but couldn`t determine what the issues were.

VISWANATHA: Yes, I`m sorry. I can`t really sort of get into that too much. At this point, we don`t know what the issues were that they broke down over. We just know that they did hold these talks, he`s at least considering trying to reach a deal and that`s the extent of what we know right now.

MELBER: Understood. Aruna Viswanatha, I want to thank you for bringing your breaking story to THE BEAT, a big story there in the "Wall Street Journal". I imagine your phone will continue to ring. Before we go though, this was our top new story where Trump`s legal troubles headed in the Manafort news. I also have a top story. That`s just right here in our beat, we have an announcement -

VISWANATHA: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. An announcement about a very special guest and a legal expert here, Attorney Maya Wiley. I am thrilled to announce that MSNBC is naming Ms. Wiley a legal analyst here. She has been an expert on THE BEAT since day one and I want to tell you with pride of course, not only your objectivity but the dignity and humanity that you often display when you do your work. So I`m very happy, you`re an MSNBC analyst and we`ve seen some of that on display this year.


MAYA WILEY, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: I think your family wants you home for Thanksgiving and I hope you will testify.

MALE: Here`s the thing, isn`t this ridiculous?

WILEY: No, it`s not ridiculous, Sam.

MALE: Is this November?

WILEY: It`s so not ridiculous. No. Just no. Just no. There`s a real issue about whether our commander in chief is actually a commander in thief. I`m going to agree with Mr. Avenatti, if I were sitting in Mr. Avenatti`s seat, I would also be doing a happy dance.


MELBER: Maya Wiley, thank you and thanks for continuing to being part of our team.

WILEY: Thank you, Ari. I`m thrilled and privileged to join such an amazing team.

MELBER: Thank you. We wanted to get that in on a busy news night. I want to, of course, thank not only Maya but Elie Honig and Mara Gay and Shelby Holliday for part of our coverage.

Up ahead, there is more in the breaking news of Manafort seeking a plea deal. Did you see that coming? Also, Michael Cohen implicating Donald Trump in a crime. Stormy Daniels says she`s ready to go live under oath. And do you know who else is live? Michael Avenatti on THE BEAT after this break.

And later, "Everyone and everything he touches rots". That`s what the former Republican White House official is saying. Why he is a new warning. And later, Trump takes on a speakerphone today and loses. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.


MELBER: There is a lot going on right now. The breaking news tonight is that Paul Manafort reportedly sought a plea deal for the upcoming trial in Washington. There`s also a fall-out from Michael Cohen`s own guilty plea tonight. That dramatic plea by the president`s former lawyer implicates the president in a campaign crime. That makes Stormy Daniels a witness to that crime and now she says she`d be happy to testify about it to Congress.

Because the Cohen criminal case is resolved, that also removes a maneuver that Cohen was using to try to duck depositions in, remember, the original civil case with Stormy Daniels. And now, her attorney, Michael Avenatti, says Cohen and Trump must go ahead and sit for depositions in that case. Michael Avenatti joins me live right now. He`s been exploring a run for president against Donald Trump.

Now, Michael, you have previously argued that this tactic in court by Cohen was not going to deter you from going forward with this case. That has now become apparent. Take a look.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: We`re going to see this to conclusion, whether it`s next week, next month, next year, no matter how long it takes, we`re not going away. To quote the court that there are gaping holes in the application by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to delay this matter, it has always been our intention to make sure this case proceed expeditiously.


MELBER: There you were making that argument, sir. Explain to us why Michael Cohen pleading makes, in your view, depositions of both him and the president more likely?

AVENATTI: Well, Ari, good evening. We`ve had an application on file with the court since April to take those depositions. The court has delayed ruling on the application because Michael Cohen and his counsel and Donald Trump asked for the stay in the case, basically for the case to be paused pending the criminal investigation.

Well, as your viewers all know, the investigation ended last week, at least as it relates to Michael Cohen. He pled guilty to eight counts, one count going directly to the allegations in our complaint. We have a hearing now on September 10th. We`re going to ask that the stay be lifted and that the court rule immediately on our application to depose Michael Cohen and Donald Trump forth with.

MELBER: And what do you see is the value to the case? Many people in the country would be interested in that, as you well know. But what is the value to the case in getting the president under oath, if by this time, much of this has already come out. Michael Cohen has pled to there being a campaign crime. And it doesn`t seem there`s much doubt left about the underlying relationship.

AVENATTI: Well, there`s significant doubt left. Well, at least, not in my mind there`s doubt. But we want to prove by way of testimony and evidence, Ari, exactly what Donald Trump knew, what he did about it, how he conspired with Michael Cohen to cover it up, how the payments were made. There`s many many details and facts that have yet to be disclosed to the American people, all of which go directly to the allegations in our complaint.

I mean Michael Cohen`s statements in open court certainly were very helpful to our case, certainly disclosed some general information to the American public, but we want to know the details of exactly what happened. And, more importantly, we want to show that Donald Trump was complicit in this conduct, and how he should face significant liability for the conduct.

MELBER: If Michael Cohen confesses that the payment to Stormy Daniels was a crime, couldn`t you argue that just voiced the whole contract and end the case?

AVENATTI: Well, I think you could argue that. But we don`t know that Donald Trump will go along with that. In fact, it appears that he`s going to fight that and he`s going to claim that Michael Cohen`s lying, that Michael Cohen`s not credible which furthers our effort to depose the president under oath and get his testimony on these substitutes under oath.

MELBER: Now, while I have you, you are known to some as a reasonably effective lawyer, is that fair to say?

AVENATTI: Sometimes, yes.

MELBER: So we wonder what your legal view is of another potential adversary of yours, at least someone who`s more on the other side of all this, Paul Manafort, who as you know like Michael Cohen faces tremendous pressure. And it would appear from this new "Wall Street Journal" report tonight, the pressure of some kind is getting to him. Your view of that. Does that surprise you? Do you think it would be wise for Paul Manafort as a legal matter to plead in the D.C. case? Your reaction?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it would be wise. But Ari, the problem is these players are waiting too long in the game to come to their senses. I mean I think we saw that with Michael Cohen. I was stating months ago that he should be making a bee line to the U.S. attorney`s office and cutting a deal. I think I first said that back in March or April or in April I should say. He was late to the party and now you have Paul Manafort who allowed a Jury to come back with a verdict in Virginia before he`s cutting a deal with Mueller and others. I mean that`s a mistake. I don`t know that he`s in a very good leverage position, a negotiating position in light a verdict.

MELBER: So how do you explain it? He has a law degree from Georgetown, plenty good school. He waited until, as you say, the Jury deliberation to discuss this plea potential as the "Wall Street Journal" reported, was explained to us just moments ago on this new story. How do you explain it? Ego?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it`s ego. He overplayed his hand. I`ve been doing this for nearly two decades and rationality does not always rule the day. And I think it was ego and I think that he thought he had a better defend case than he did and now he`s in a very difficult spot. I mean if you`re Bob Mueller, why are you going to give this guy much credence or why are you going to cut a deal with him in light of a verdict you just got in Virginia?

MELBER: Right. I also want to ask you about something you were just reported of saying, you`ve been going around raising a lot of speculation about a potential bid for public office. Here, we have you speaking to the "Hollywood Reporter" and saying people in Hollywood have been very encouraging and excited about the prospect of you running for president in 2020. Do you see yourself first and foremost as the candidate of Hollywood?

AVENATTI: No, not at all, Ari. I mean I think the support in Los Angeles has obviously been good. But I`m hanging my hat more on the support that I`ve received in Iowa, two trips to that state, Ohio, two trips there, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania. I`ve been very flattered and humbled by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm for my potential candidacy. I haven`t decided what I`m going to do yet.

But what I do know is this, in the event that Donald Trump is still in office in 2020, the Democrats better nominate a fighter and somebody that is engaged and can engage in a brutal cage match because we`ve got a lot at stake in this country.

MELBER: Well, let me close with one more tough question. I know you can handle the tough questions. What do you say to critics who look at these developments and hear you talking about Iowa and think, "OK, did you just want to be on TV in order to run for president or are you going to keep running for president potentially to stay on TV?"

AVENATTI: No. My TV appearances have had nothing to do with the potential run for the presidency, Ari. And in fact, I think if you look at last week`s developments in the Michael Cohen`s case, it`s tough to argue with the approach that we`ve utilized over the last five to six months. I think it`s worked incredibly well and a lot of the critics appear to have disappeared since that plea agreement with Michael Cohen. And I predicted when we get the deposition of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, we`re going to hear more crickets from those critics.

MELBER: Well it`s an interesting framework you provide. You were the lawyer, Stormy Daniels is your client. Michael Cohen was the lawyer. He`s pled guilty. Donald Trump was his client. And so we can continue to publicly track how the two of you and the two of them are doing and judge the legal strategies accordingly. Michael Avenatti, I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.

AVENATTI: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Up next, is Paul Manafort actually going to move forward and cut a deal? We`ll be back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: The other top story tonight, Donald Trump`s allies whirring these convictions of Cohen and Manafort are the beginning not the end. In fact, prominent Trump defender Attorney Alan Dershowitz says anyone associated with Trump is in for a rough ride.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, LAWYER: The biggest crime you can commit in America today is to have been associated with Donald Trump. If you`re associated with Donald Trump, they`re going to Manafort you, they`re going to Cohen you, they`re going to do all of these things to you. Businessmen are going to be deterred from running for office because they know it`s going to result in a kind of legal colonoscopy.


MELBER: Dershowitz isn`t alone. Top House Republicans prepping for a legal subpoena onslaught if Democrats win. A new GOP memo that leaked shows concerns over a hundred investigations that Democrats could launch including looking at Trump`s taxes, the Comey firing, as well as even the travel ban. And former prosecutors tell THE BEAT if there are more federal indictments, they would likely arrive within the next ten days because once September hits the feds generally hold back on politically sensitive charges in that 60-day window before the election. So that`s a lot, then there`s this breaking news on Paul Manafort which is about of course his second trial.

Now, if he doesn`t plea next month he`ll still face these separate charges in Washington that involved Manafort`s work as a lobbyist, his alleged obstruction and most alarmingly for the Trump administration his work with a "longtime associate prosecutors linked to Russian intelligence." Now, we are now learning that Manafort is open to potentially some sort of deal with Mueller. The Wall Street Journal was the one that got this big story talks breaking down reportedly over the issues that Mueller raised.

Now, if you are keeping score, Manafort potentially face is a total all-in of three trials, the upcoming D.C. trial, the Virginia trial, he just had, and then potentially the third trial in Virginia for the outstanding ten counts the deadlocked. You put it all up together and he would be facing just on the conviction so far up to 80 years in jail which puts the former Trump campaign chief in a position familiar to some other accused hustlers. In fact, this is a predicament that the writer Big Noyd once recounted in a classic song with Mobb Deep. Sometimes I wish I had three different faces, I`m going to court for three cases, in three places, one in Queens, Manhattan, one in Brooklyn. The way things is looking I`m a C central booking.

Well, Paul Manafort also has three cases, they`re in two places and he`s already seen central booking with two cases to go. Whether he has three faces and actually would use one of them to plea, well, that`s the big question tonight. I am joined by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile and Jason Johnson Politics Editor of and a Contributor for us right here at MSNBC. Donna, I want to get to you and the Congress in a moment but Jason, starting with the breaking news to put it in the in the mob deep vernacular, do you think Paul Manafort has a second face and he would actually potentially plea with Mueller?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I`ll put it in Pusha T`s words. You know, that flipping or snitching stands for sorry I need to come home. Paul Manafort does not want to face jail. He knows that cutting a deal or getting any sort of plea, whatever it is that he`s got to come forward and say is going to help him. There`s no chance that he`s going to get through three trials and (INAUDIBLE). He`s already been convicted in Virginia, it`s going to happen again.

So this puts not only John Trump in danger but anyone else that worked in that administration. So I kind of predicted this sort of thing was going to happen that he is going to be stitching all the way through his trials to get out of as much trouble as possible.

MELBER: Donna, I want to give you a turn at that before we go to the Congress.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, DNC: Well, look, I think -- I think Mr. Manafort as he, as he knows, is in deep trouble and the sooner that he can come to the table to cooperate and to finally come clean, the better off we are as a country, and I think the special counsel and finishing up his investigation. So this is a critical moment and while I don`t have a song that might rhyme with time, I do have a melody that will go with this moment and that is it is time to fess up.

MELBER: Time to fess up is I think that`s classic. That`s something parents also say to their children. The other piece to this Donna is what we mentioned here in the reporting Republicans really bracing for Democratic control of Congress. Number one, do you think it`s way too early to make those kinds of predictions, November a long way away? And number two, do you see this as helpful to the Democrats going into the midterms or do they also need to be careful that it`s not just a focus on investigations?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, this is a list that has been drawn up our Republicans and ironically they`re in control of Congress and they`re not providing the kind of oversight that is necessary to keep this administration in check. There`s no question that Democrats are going to run on pocketbook issues, raising wages, making sure that we can protect Social Security and Medicare. But the important thing area is that these are areas that Congress should be looking into.

That is the role of Congress. They are the legislative branch. They provide oversight to the executive branch and Congress has been MIA, missing in action are sleeping at the wheel and it`s time that we have a Congress that actually represents two people so that we can drain the swamp and get back to the issues that the American people care about.

MELBER: Jason, I wonder what you think is an analyst on this because on the one hand I think it is a fair factual point to observe that the Trump administration and Donald Trump as a candidate who wouldn`t release his tax returns, who has commingled his business interests, who has shown nothing but public scorn. I mean, he brags about his scorn for the rules makes for a very soft target for the oversight function the Donna just described as an obligation of Congress. On the other hand apart from all of the drama, there is the of course issue and the responsibility that elected officials have to have to their constituents about not making it a 24/7 investigation even though that is as discussed an important piece of this.

JOHNSON: Yes, look, if the Democrats win and that`s still a big if, Ari, like that`s the thing. We -- the Democrats aren`t guaranteed to win Congress. So if they win, they`re likelihood of engaging investigations has a lot to do with how big the victory is. Do they get 23 seats, is it just sound of a 50-50 tie, does it end up being 40, does it end up being 60, the likelihood of them turning the Oversight Committee into like CSI in Congress is directly dependent on how well Democrats actually do.

That`s why I think this is really just the Republicans being afraid because they know they`re going to lose some seats. Because if the Democrats are smart, they`re not talking about investigations right now, they`re out talking to people knocking door-to-door because if they don`t win anything, none of these investigations will happen anyway.

MELBER: And Donna --


MELBER: Go ahead, Donna.

BRAZILE: No, Amen. You`re absolutely right. You know, what the American people want to hear from Democrats and I`m sure they want to hear from others, they want how are you going to help us, what are you going to do to improve our lives, raise our wages. There not -- they don`t want to get involved in this Washington fishbowl, this drain the swamp corruption or corrupt -- culture of corruption, they really want to hear about pocketbook issues. At the same time it is the responsibility of Congress to provide Oversight responsibility especially to this administration that seemed not to care.

I mean, the President today finally lowered the flag again in honor of a patriotic American who has served his country. I mean, this is an important function of Congress. I think Democrats need to understand that but let`s go back to 2007. Everyone thought the Democrats would just come back into office and start impeaching Bush administration officials. Yes, they did hold oversight hearings on Hurricane Katrina as a Louisiana native, that was very important but they all thought -- they started to get down the business about raising wages and improving people`s lives, infrastructure reform. We got so many important issues that are not being addressed because everybody`s paying attention to the next tweet from the President of the United States.

MELBER: Fairly put. Donna Brazile and Jason Johnson, thank you both.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

MELBER: Donna was just mentioning the treatment of Senator McCain. Up next, I will be joined by a former aide to three Republican presidents warning that everything Trump touches rots. That discussion is next.


MELBER: The big news tonight is Paul Manafort considering a plea with Bob Mueller because he is a convicted criminal. The larger context though is Donald Trump`s Republican Party, the federal investigations cloning -- closing in Donald Trump`s own lawyer pleading guilty last week to a campaign crime, and the real threat that the Republicans could lose control over Congress something we were just discussing on this show. Well, my next guest is a longtime Republican strategist and speechwriter. He served in three different GOP administrations and he has a blistering new essay to the New York Times calling the "full spectrum corruption of Donald Trump a problem for our nation" saying "everything he touches rots."

And this is not the first time that Peter Wehner has had these strong warnings about Donald Trump. It was three years ago back when people were making up their minds before the election that he wrote that Trump would "redefine the Republican Party in His image and he warned that meant a potential moral decay. Today Wehner wonders if it may even be too late for this party saying, it has "thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall," referring to diehard Trump supporters, and asking "if this tax cut and regulate -- deregulation and court appointments are worth all of this."

I`m joined now by Peter Wehner, he`s a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Thank you for being here. You occupy a position that is difficult. If any of us imagine confronting something that we care about or groups we`ve worked with for decades, that`s never easy. You did it back when it mattered before the election and you continue to ring this -- ring this alarm today over the weekend. What made you write this piece in such strong terms this weekend and what are we learning about Trump`s impact on many people in the GOP?

PETER WEHNER, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Yes, the reason I did it this week and as I had a sense that the corruptions and scandals of Donald Trump are metastasizing and also that the Republican Party is becoming more servile, more complicit and more compliant. This has been as you indicated an argument that I`ve been making for a long time. My first piece in the New York Times which is a month after Trump announced.

So I was very worried about him and I thought that he would redefine the Republican Party. That wasn`t my chief worry about him, my chief worry was that he would hurt the nation on what he`s doing. But I think that he is leaving a crimson stain on the Republican Party and the worse he gets the worse they get, and right now I think it is it`s not just that Donald Trump is corrupt but that he`s corrupted an entire political party virtually.

MELBER: Well, that`s so important what you say there and what you`ve written because it`s bigger than the T-word which has become an obsession for the people who support them and those who are concerned about him or even a sort of hate watch some of what`s happening in the country. The larger concern is the Paul Ryan`s, the Mitch McConnell`s, the other people whose names we may not know who are going along with things that they literally initially ran for office claiming to be against. You write about a Republican Party that used to put what you call ethics morality and leadership as part of the character of people that should be an office under the nomination of the Republican Party. Walk us through why that concerns you as well.

WEHNER: Well, there`s just the rank hypocrisy of it. You know, Republicans have long believed that or argued at least and said that they believed that that character mattered in leadership not just infidelity, the character in the deeper and broader sense, people who had a sense of honor and decency and integrity, they told the truth, that believed that there were higher things and higher callings in life.

If you go back and you listen, and your network is done a great job of doing this to Republicans during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal they one after another just blistered Clinton because they said that he was a person who likes integrity. Then to flip it around like that and to say well, you know, we were just kidding. It really doesn`t matter. When you get a person like Donald Trump who is the most corrupt person I think who`s ever been elected president in terms of the range and the -- and the full spectrum corruptions of his life personal and private and all of the rest.

And then you not only don`t challenge him but you defend him and then you become -- yes, and then you become an institutional anarchist sort of (INAUDIBLE) attacking anybody that is going to hold them accountable. That`s just really bad and one of the things it does there are a lot of bad things from it but one of the things is that it makes people cynical. It makes people cynical about politics and about life and that`s just not right.

MELBER: Let me play for you a contrast to that one that has been ricocheting across the weekend with the passing of John McCain. Take a look.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t trust Obama, he`s an Arab.

MCCAIN: No ma`am, no ma`am. He`s a -- he`s a decent family man, citizen that I just happened to have disagreements with.

Serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet to hell with them.

The highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong.


MELBER: In closing to our discussion, your reflection on the passing of John McCain.

WEHNER: It`s a huge loss. He was a heroic figure. He was courageous obviously when he was at war and at a prisoner war but he was heroic in politics too. He was in perfect man he said that as well, we all are. But he was a person that was involved in politics in his entire life because he believed in higher and better things and he strove toward those things. And just because people fall short of that you can`t give up on that enterprise and he never did and he is such a stark contrast to the person in the White House now who is as best I can tell a person that has absolutely no interest in honor and an integrity.

And so at a very moment that we really need people like John McCain, he`s now gone from the scene and he will be sorely missed.

MELBER: Peter Wehner, I thank you for your clarity, I thank you for joining us and sharing your thoughts tonight.

WEHNER: I appreciate it. Thanks.

MELBER: Coming up, we turn to yes, Donald Trump`s announcement about a jobs deal with Mexico. What does it really mean? That`s up ahead.


MELBER: -- other news today that didn`t go exactly as scripted, Donald Trump wanted to make an announcement about trade with Mexico but he had some trouble setting up the conference line.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the president is on the phone, Enrique -- yes, you can hook them up. The big thing. A lot of people waiting. Hello? You want to what, put that on this phone please. Hello?


MELBER: Now, to be fair, that could happen to anyone. Just imagine if they had to merge calls. Now, the Mexican government is as a policy matter negotiating with the Trump Administration. This is months after formally complaining to our State Department that the President was referring to undocumented immigrants from their nation as "animals" that steal itself will be harder to orchestrate than a conference call but it does focus on some important things everyone agrees on that part like the auto industry.

There`s a new requirement that 75 percent of car parts would be made in North America in order to avoid potential tariffs and that would be a jump up from 62 percent. 45 percent of those parts would also under this proposed deal need to be made by workers earning over $16 an hour. The markets are up today, that`s one reaction. General Motors though is against some of Trump`s tariffs. And meanwhile, there is a Trump supporter who owns an auto supplier fearing that tariffs could even end her business.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If these tariffs were to take effect, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`d go out of business?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We potentially could, yes. We support the need for change but we would hope for a better execution. Tariffs are no more than a tax on American companies.



MELBER: The big news on a night of a lot of news is that Paul Manafort held talks to his lawyers with Bob Mueller during the deliberations in his trial last week. That is new information courtesy of the Wall Street Journal which broke the story and suggests Mr. Manafort maybe thinking about alternatives to sitting through these trials. Now, that does it for us on THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.



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