Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 28, 2018 Guest: Nick Akerman, Burt Neuborne, Cristina Beltran, Jonathan Dienst, Paul Butler, Ty Kelly, Natasha Bertrand, Katty Kay, Richard Painter, Elyse Goldweber
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: It`s too far to call but be sure to stay with us. We`ll have updates on the latest developments. May I remind you, it`s August 28th, you know, pumpkin spice season. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. And it is Ari that is in the seat. Good evening, Ari and happy fall to you.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Happy fall. I`m a big gingerbread latte person myself.
TODD: There you go.
MELBER: But pumpkin`s great too. Thank you, Chuck.
Tonight on THE BEAT, we are following several big stories. There is fallout from this first ever leak, that Paul Manafort`s open to a plea deal, plus Manafort`s banker had his New York home burglarized last night. We have that story.
Also, new reports that Trump ally Devin Nunes went all the way to London to undercut the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. The journalist who broke the story, I`m happy to say, is live with us tonight as well.
And later, my exclusive with a former prosecutor who personally tangled with Donald Trump back in the day. But we begin with this mystery that still hangs over the remarkable events of last week. It`s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different threads here.
Paul Manafort`s now a convicted felon with two trials to go and these leaks that he might plea. Michael Cohen`s a convicted felon who admitted it as a lawyer for Trump, he knowingly helped Trump break the law to influence an election. Roger Stone is a potential target who`s darkly predicting both his own indictment and that of Donald Trump Jr. now, this week. It`s a lot.
But tonight, exactly one week out from that Cohen plea deal, we still don`t know why Cohen pled guilty this particular way. We don`t know if he`ll ever cooperate with the Feds in New York or Bob Mueller. And when you think about it, that`s remarkable. Because unlike, say, Stone who just resists cooperation or Manafort who faced down a whole trial before any conversations about a plea, Michael Cohen had been openly auditioning for cooperation.
He was leaking that he had a story to tell. His new lawyer Lanny Davis was telling everyone who would listen, including my colleague Rachel Maddow, that Cohen knew things of interest to Bob Mueller, and still knows them which is kind of a Trumpian way to communicate with Mueller, basically yelling on T.V., come interview us. And yet, there are zero reports up to tonight that Mueller`s team has interviewed Cohen and Cohen`s own legal team hasn`t suggested it happened either.
And Cohen has now pled guilty without this cooperation agreement in public of any kind. In fact, it was in that remarkable appearance Tuesday that we learned the details. Of course, there were no cameras in court but those words, they certainly jumped off the page of the transcript.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Judge, now, Mr. Cohen, your attorney has informed me that you wish to enter a plea of guilty. Do you wish to enter a plea of guilty? Defendant, Michael Cohen, yes sir. Judge, have you had a full opportunity to discuss your case with your attorney and to discuss the consequences of entering a plea of guilty? The defendant, yes, Your Honor. On or about December of 2016 in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for Federal office, I and the CEO of a media company at the request of the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing this information. I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan for the principal purpose of influencing the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So we know all that which leaves a big question hanging out there. Is that it? Does Cohen beg for leniency and move on? Does Mueller know something that we don`t and has concluded that Cohen`s just not an important enough figure in this Russia probe? Well, tonight there are new clues and the news is no, based on reporting from our sister channel CNBC.
While Mueller did handoff the investigation of Cohen himself, Mueller`s team has continued to investigate how Cohen fits into the larger picture, asking witnesses about Cohen`s involvement in the Trump campaign itself, well after the April raid on Cohen`s property, which of course is when things shifted to New York. Stretching into May, they were asking witnesses if Cohen did his own personal business while he worked for Trump, and why such a loyal lawyer for Donald Trump, never got a job in the Trump White House.
And, that last question, in this new report`s important because it could be ominous for the Trump White House. It goes to who knew what about Cohen`s legal problems. Did people at the White House know about these new crimes that Cohen has confessed to? Were they part of it? Did they want to keep him out of the White House for that very reason?
Because it was always curious that Trump did not find any government role for Cohen. Consider these high profile departures from the Trump administration, their hiring policy is pretty loose and has a lot of people coming and going. Yet, Cohen wasn`t one of them and he, himself, was clearly publicly sad about not getting asked to do anything.
So again, with this new reporting tonight that we`re learning Mueller is asking about this, not because he cares how the White House is staffed, but because the curious avoidance of Michael Cohen may be of investigative interest. It may relate to potential criminal intent. To find out why the president`s lawyer and fixer and Trump Org executive didn`t get hired. Well, the president would be a key witness to interview about that. And Trump`s allies are now saying they`re girding for a grand jury subpoena from Bob Mueller to do exactly that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: The tactic of the Trump team, I have no inside information on this, but the tactic of the Trump team is to make the Mueller team an offer they can`t accept so that in the end there will be no sit down, and the Trump team can say, "Look, we made them an offer, it`s their fault. They didn`t accept it." I suspect that Mueller is on to this tactic and is now looking forward to filing some kind of a legal action compelling the president to appear in front of a grand jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Former Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman, Burt Neuborne, the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice and a civil liberties expert and Professor Cristina Beltran. Thanks to all of you.
Burt, your view of this unusual style of Cohen pleading and what it portends?
BURT NEUBORNE, FOUNDING LEGAL DIRECTOR, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Well, I don`t think it`s particularly unusual. Don`t forget now, you`ve got two teams of prosecutors, there`s the New York prosecutor that worked out this particular plea deal, but then there`s Mueller hovering, thinking that maybe he`s going to be able to get more information from Cohen that will take him closer to the president.
So it doesn`t surprise me that they`re operating on parallel tracks and that I suspect that Mueller is going to try very, very hard to use Cohen to get as close to the president.
MELBER: Right. So you think that`s what he`s tracking. Take a listen to Sam Nunberg who talked about the Mueller questioning. He`s been inside that room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG: I was in there for around like five to six hours. And there could have -- a lot of it had to do specifically with Michael and the fact that they then -- they put out Michael`s case to the Southern District meant to me that they didn`t really believe that Michael had anything of value.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nick, your view?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: My view is Michael Cohen is cooperating with Mueller and he`s cooperating with the Southern District. The plea that he entered into, that plea agreement was exactly the same plea agreement that I did with a client about a summer ago where there was also contemporaneous cooperation agreement that was put under seal at the same time in the Judge`s chambers.
I think the same thing is going on here. There`s no way that Cohen would take a six-year exposure that the entire allocution in the plea agreement would be tailored the way it was unless it was being orchestrated by the Mueller team. On top of all that, you also had this odd situation in the last day where Lanny Davis came out and said, "Well, I really can`t tell you whether or not Mueller -- that my client knows anything about the Russian investigation."
I can tell you exactly what happened there. He went over his bounds. He started talking too much about what it was that his client does know about the Trump Tower meeting and other aspects of the Russian investigation. And the Mueller team came down on him like a ton of bricks and told him that if he continued to do that or his client continued to do that that there would be no cooperation agreement. That is basically been the way that the Mueller team has worked.
You haven`t heard Flynn say a word about anything with respect to the Russian investigation. You haven`t heard Rick Gates say anything about the Russian investigation. We know that there was another matter that was brought before the judge in Northern Virginia that was done under seal. We know that certain materials, Rick Gates` statements had to be turned over to the defense at that time. They have an idea and Manafort has a good idea now what Gates is saying about the Russian investigation.
MELBER: So your theory here is the reason why -- the way it looks in public doesn`t make sense is because the way it looks in public is not the full story, that Michael Cohen didn`t just plead out of the blue with no other idea that he could get leniency and that Lanny Davis sounds wishy- washy, not because he`s a potential idiot, but because he is responding to pressures that are greater than his previous media strategy.
AKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean he was basically told by the prosecutors you cannot be making statements about what your client`s going to say. I mean, the reason that Lanny Davis has been trying to humanize his client and put him out there in the media is because they`re trying to raise money for his defense fund. That`s the reason they`re doing it. It`s the only logical reason you can think of as to why they`re doing that.
MELBER: Which goes to the curious case of Michael Cohen, there`s been the saying that many people that work for Donald Trump are ruined by it. But there`s also something that happens where when Donald Trump ruins someone, it drastically shifts their public perception, almost overnight. We had reporting that Michael Cohen was being congratulated and high-fived after pleading guilty to crimes, which is weird.
James Comey was widely reviled by the partisan Democratic Hillary Clinton supporters for the unusual choices he made but then became something of a public hero and truth teller. Let`s listen to Michael Cohen here explaining the role he was going to play that was not really in the White House but was still for the president before all this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN: I`m going to be the personal attorney to Mr. Trump. I`m not going to be in government, but I`m going to remain technically in the same role for Mr. Trump, for President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That clip which made him sound like someone who didn`t get the ring spinning it is now, as we report, something Mueller`s investigating. Why was that decision made? He doesn`t look that happy about it. And what is your view politically on the wider scale of this sort of resuscitation of Michael Cohen?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, PROFESSOR, NYU: Right. These are fascinating because I think one thing I keep thinking about is when Melania told Donald Trump you should pick Pence because he`s clean, right. Cohen is not clean, right. So Cohen didn`t get into the White House because of real -- so there`s a real sense of intimacy between him and Donald Trump. They know each other and so the betrayal between them is deep.
And I think one of the things I think of now is for the passion of the converted. You have Cohen, they`re not just -- this isn`t Comey, somebody who`s sort of doing his job. We might disagree with it, but we know he did what he thought was right. This is also, you know, the relationship with Cohen and Trump is a relationship based on intimacy and passion.
And the kind of a rage and desire to get back at Trump and the desire for Trump to get back at Cohen, these are now really intense relationships that are going to impact how and when and how he speaks to Mueller. And it`s going to have a real impact on the entire political dynamic here because these are long-standing relationships with deep intimacy and the man who said I`m going to take a bullet for Donald Trump now wants to reel the gun in a different way and that`s going to play out.
NEUBORNE: Well, and don`t forget one tremendously important thing happened. They went in with a search warrant and got all of Cohen`s files. That changed -- that`s got to change the way Cohen thinks and Trump thinks. I think there was a period when the president thought he could make Cohen his private lawyer, and that would mean an attorney-client relationship and he was dropping a cone of silence over Cohen.
And then when the prosecutor broke that door down and got all of his files, that entire strategy went up in flames. And at this point, I think, Cohen has probably turned on the president and turned on him in self-defense because Mueller`s got all of that information.
MELBER: So in that comparison then, Nick, how do you explain that unlike Flynn and others, there is no public statement of cooperation? Is it just that, as Burt is referring to, there`s so much evidence to go through and that Cohen is, in many ways, has more credibility problems than even Mike Flynn which is saying something. And so the prosecutors effectively wanted him to get in and before the 60-day window and everything else that`s coming down the pike here say you`ve got to plead to this if we`re going to consider leniency.
AKERMAN: No, I don`t think they would have done that. They would not have pleaded to a six-year felony. The idea that he is not supportable, I mean, the fact that there is a search warrant, the fact that there are these documents and there are these tapes make him actually a more credible witness because that`s where the corroboration is going to come from.
Just like you saw the prosecutors with respect to Rick Gates corroborating everything he said with documents in Manafort`s own handwriting, you`re going to see the same thing with Cohen. I mean even on this whole issue of the payoffs to the two women, you`ve got Trump on tape. He tape-recorded Trump. I mean, that supports what he says.
So in some ways, Cohen is going to be no different than any of the other accomplice witnesses. I think what they did by hiding the cooperation agreement is really detract away from what Cohen really knows and what he`s doing. And I think that Mueller wants to keep the attention on the Southern District right now, not make it look as though he`s necessarily the star witness for the Mueller team, which I believe he is, and he`s --
MELBER: You think he`s a star witness?
AKERMAN: Oh, I think he`s one of them.
MELBER: Because he knows something about Russia.
AKERMAN: Oh, yes. He`s one of the three stars along with Flynn and Rick Gates.
MELBER: And Manafort is --
AKERMAN: And Manafort is on deck to -
MELBER: Manafort is --
AKERMAN: -- suddenly become the new canary.
MELBER: It depends on your analysis whether his cousin agent here, his lawyer wants to make him a star.
NEUBORNE: I mean the key that`s hanging out there is Cohen. Cohen is the link to the president. And I think that Mueller is pushing that as hard as he`s going to go, maybe through a secret cooperation agreement or maybe through just putting continued pressure on him. But it just doesn`t surprise me.
BELTRAN: Yes. And longstanding relationships that are based on a certain level of sort of self-interest and mistrust as well. So I mean I think when you think about the politics of celebrity combined with this and the fact that Cohen has been described as an evidence hoarder, you know. And when you`re dealing with Donald Trump, that makes sense, right.
So Omarosa`s point about having receipts, Cohen has 10 years of receipts. So the amount of information that he has combined with the sort of emotional dynamics at play here are going to make this fascinating to watch.
MELBER: Right. And when you mention that, it also raises the question of what were they all thinking during the campaign. Well, gosh, this is getting really serious and if we do win, is it going to be the worst thing that ever happened to us personally and the evidence that they gathered.
I`ve got to take a break. Thanks to Nick Akerman, Burt Neuborne, and Cristina Beltran. Thank you so much.
Up ahead, Paul Manafort`s upcoming trial has new intricacies with the idea that he`s open to this plea deal. And a bizarre story in New York City where Manafort`s banker who was considered a potential witness was just robbed of his briefcase and iPad in the middle of the night.
And later, why is Trump ally Devin Nunes went to London to undercut the Trump-Russia dossier and my exclusive interview with a former prosecutor who deposed Donald Trump.
Plus, later in the hour, Stormy Daniels ready for a new fight against Trump and a new Vogue photo spread. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news, a key banker for Paul Manafort just had his Manhattan home burglarized in an unusual robbery in the middle of the night. This banker was linked to the loans that Bob Mueller prosecuted in Manafort`s recent trial.
And the banker David Fallarino says that after last night`s break-in, quote, only items missing from his home are a briefcase, iPad, and sneakers. That`s according to a report from NBC journalist Jonathan Dienst who writes that Fallarino was one of the three key figures not called by Bob Mueller`s office to testify at the trial of Paul Manafort. The break- in came on the same evening that news broke that Manafort had begun negotiations with Bob Mueller about a plea deal.
Now, this new report of the burglary does not identify any suspects or a motive. Authorities have not said whether they`re investigating any potential link between this burglary of Paul Manafort`s banker`s home and the current legal pressure on Manafort who is now a convicted felon. And you don`t need to be a detective to know there are random burglaries in Manhattan, it`s possible to see this as a random unsolved burglary.
Take one of the most burglarized areas in Manhattan, the garment district near Penn Station, which has had 27 different burglaries since the start of 2017 according to city records. Now, that`s a place where there are some burglaries to choose from. But how about where Manafort`s banker actually lives? It`s an expensive neighborhood, by Central Park lined with fancy doorman buildings.
A random home burglary is as common there, maybe instead of 27, there are 20 or 10 or 5. Nope. We checked city records today and found that since January 2017, that block has zero burglaries, not one. And we confirmed those records with NYPD assistant commissioner Deborah Kaye tonight who says, "Yes, there have been no residential burglaries on that block at all since January 2017." Now, authorities are, again, not saying more about the suspects or motives. There`s no reporting that says this is linked to Paul Manafort directly, it could be an unusual event at an unusual time or could be unusual for a reason.
In a moment, I`m going to speak about the wider Manafort issues to two former federal prosecutors. But first, I go right to the reporter on the story, Jonathan Dienst, chief investigative reporter for WNBC.
JONATHAN DIENST, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WNBC: They responded to a call placed by that banker David Fallerino that his home was broken into overnight. And as you said, sometimes a burglary is just a burglary. But what makes it unusual, as you said, who the victim is, where this happened, and what was taken. So again, the NYPD now trying to find out who took this banker`s iPad and briefcase, trying to review surveillance video along that block to see if they can identify a suspect.
The 911 call came in overnight around 1:30 in the morning, the banker claiming that he had left the door to his penthouse, the balcony door to his penthouse unlocked and that somebody come in and left a crowbar behind. And he woke up when he heard his front door slam. Again, unclear who broke in. Police are not telling us what was in the briefcase or what`s contained on that iPad.
MELBER: But Jonathan, let me jump in with the final question, is the fact that something like a briefcase which is not considered outwardly all that valuable on a block that never, you know, has had a burglary in the last year and a half, is that significant do you think?
DIENST: I guess the only question is what`s in the briefcase and did the person who entered that apartment know what they were looking for or was it just random and was the burglar scared off because the victim woke up during the burglary and he may have heard the victim coming out of his bedroom and thus fled out the front door? It`s unclear.
There`s nothing to say that this was any sort of pre-planned incident. This is a ninth floor balcony overlooking the back of the building. It has a terrace. There are adjacent buildings nearby. It is on a block near what`s called billionaire`s row where all these luxury high rises are views of Central Park. Or as you noted, there are very few break-ins. The only crime that I could find anywhere near that block was the robbery of a truck parked about a block or two away but that was parked out on the street.
So again, the investigation early, ongoing, and certainly something that`s a talker. But as of now, you would think that given the Manafort trial and the conviction that just happened from this bank fraud case that prosecutors already had a lot of the information they already needed to prove their case and they did with those convictions.
MELBER: Jonathan Dienst on the story. Thank you very much. I want to bring in Ty Kelly, Former Federal Prosecutor and DOJ Lawyer who worked with/for Rod Rosenstein, as well as Former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler.
Paul, what do you make of this one? You heard Jonathan there reporting this in a measured way. We spoke to the NYPD. There aren`t a lot of ninth floor crowbar robberies on billionaire`s row. Indeed, there hasn`t been any home invasions, as I mentioned, since January 2017. Your reaction?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMAL FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Most likely random, a coincidence, weird stuff happens except for two things. One, this is Donald Trump and Paul Manafort`s New York where folks have fixers and shady financial deals and Donald Trump talks like a mafioso wise guy asking for loyalty pledges and complaining about witnesses who flip.
And so in that context, it has to be looked at with more suspicion and Paul Manafort is already indicted for witness tampering. That`s also going to make the prosecutors look at this more than they will look at any just random burglaries. So, Ari, what happens is Federal prosecutor, you get your FBI agent to make a call to NYPD. Look, this is your case, you guys handle it but let me know if anything looks weird.
BUTLER: And the difference that makes, burglary has one of the lowest clearance rates. Ari, if I called the NYPD`s, my sneakers and iPad were stolen, they`re not going to do a whole lot. They`re going to pay attention to this case.
MELBER: So Ty, speak to that point. Paul, of course, makes connection that is so important. This is in a case where there has already been charges of that kind of obstructive conduct, of trying to fix the evidence. Now, here, again, authorities aren`t telling us they`re investigating it this way. But do you think this is something that the prosecutors would be interested in?
TY KELLY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There is no doubt that the prosecutors have already made contact with NYPD to make sure that they know everything about how the call was made, what the first statement by the banker was, what`s missing, what was in the briefcase? Undoubtedly, there is going to be some work together there to see if, in fact, this has anything to do with the Manafort case.
MELBER: I actually have some breaking news right now. Let me go to that. Breaking news hitting our newsroom right now, "The Washington Post" reporting Donald Trump has been privately reviving the idea of firing Jeff Sessions as recently as this month. This is according to at least three people familiar with the discussions.
According to "The Washington Post," this is a significant report because it comes amidst the conviction of Paul Manafort, the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, and a belief that basically Donald Trump could take control of Bob Mueller and this investigation, get Rod Rosenstein out of the picture if he removed Jeff Sessions and could put in someone else, someone who the president himself said who would provide more loyalty on these issues than Jeff Sessions.
A breaking story from "The Washington Post," which as we know, basically I think we know, Ty Kelly, this is something that we`ve seen from these papers late at night, big stories. You work directly with Rod Rosenstein. I want to read to you a little more from the story because as a breaking, I know you haven`t had a chance to consult it yet but I`m curious of your analysis.
I`m reading here from the story. President Trump who has levied extraordinary attacks on Jeff Sessions in recent weeks has privately revived the idea of firing him in conversations with his aides and personal lawyers this month. According to three sources, his attorneys conclude they have persuaded him, quote, for now, not to make such a move while the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign is ongoing.
But there`s growing evidence that Senate Republicans who`ve cautioned Trump against firing Sessions are now, quote, resigned to the prospect he may do so after the midterm elections, a sign that one of the last remaining walls of the opposition of such a move is crumbling. Ty, your response to this breaking story?
KELLY: My response is that Rod Rosenstein will continue to do the work of the special counsel. He will continue to oversee it as before and that this will be just one more piece of news that goes by him. He`s got a team of lawyers who are working very hard on this case. And I don`t think that this is going to be the thing that derails him.
MELBER: What does it tell you that Donald Trump, according to this new report, is looking to oust Sessions? That would be presumably to get the mandate back from Rosenstein and put in a loyalist or put in someone who can actually try to end the Mueller probe?
KELLY: I`m sure that he would definitely try to do that. The only issue he has is that with Sessions, he has somebody who is willing to keep with the policy of criminal enforcement that he wants for the rest of the united states. So he`s going to have to balance that as well.
BUTLER: Except he doesn`t care about the rest of the United States. All he cares about is himself. Again, Sessions is the most effective cabinet member at accomplishing Trump`s agenda. Sessions was a cheerleader for family separation, for bringing back the failed war on drugs. So for just about the agenda of the American people, as much as I disagree with that agenda, Sessions is the dude.
Again, the concern that Trump has is that Sessions won`t stop the investigation. He`s admitted that. What he wants is an attorney general who takes the loyalty pledge who will do what Trump tells him to do.
MELBER: And Paul, one more question. Again, reading from this reporting. It says that Rudolph Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, the president`s attorneys, advised that Mueller could interpret firing Sessions as an effort to obstruct justice and thwart the investigation. A veritable Saturday night massacre. Do you agree that that is a concern, removing Sessions in Mueller`s eyes would itself be obstructive?
BUTLER: I agree. It would be just one of a number of things that Trump has done. But Giuliani`s right that the audience isn`t a jury or prosecutors for Trump. The audience is the Republicans and Congress and, frankly, at this point, I think they let him get away with anything.
MELBER: Well, it`s a breaking story. Paul Butler and Ty Kelly, two able attorneys riding along with us as we unpack it. I want to turn next to what was Donald Trump`s ally Devin Nunez doing in London that had U.K. spy officials so worried. That`s when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was rejected by British spy agencies. This is a somewhat bizarre story that`s brand-new. Trump ally Congressman Devin Nunes flew to London to try to circulate apparently or get a hold of negative information on Christopher Steele. That`s the man behind the now infamous Trump Russia dossier.
Now, it`s normal for House Intelligence officials to meet with these kinds of foreign intelligence folks but what`s different is the meeting didn`t even happen. The Brits basically rebuffed Nunes. The Atlantic`s Natasha Bertrand reporting they were wary and thought Nunes was not necessarily acting in good faith but trying to stir up controversy back home.
I am joined by that reporter who broke the story, Natasha Bertrand and Katty Kay an Anchor for BBC News in Washington. Natasha, what happened here?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, so basically Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he flew over to London and he tried to arrange meetings with officials at MI6, MI5 and GCHQ which are the three main British intelligence agencies.
Now, the purpose of his of his request for those meetings was to get more information I`m told about Christopher Steele, about his service record in MI6. He left the service a little over a decade ago and interestingly about his relationship with Bruce Ohr. Apparently, Devin Nunez wanted to know whether MI5, the domestic intelligence agency in Britain had any knowledge of his communication with the Justice Department official going into 2017, between 2016 and 2017.
The officials at MI6, MI5, and GCHQ ultimately did not find time for him and I`m told that that was because they were wary that Devin Nunes was walking into this trying to politicize the intelligence or anything that they --
MELBER: Right. Which -- let me just jump in. I mean that -- to your reporting, that`s what a lot of American viewers would know him for. He himself says he`s there to defend Trump in the audio that leaked that Rachel Maddow obtained. He was basically saying that`s his whole role not to be an independent fact finder. Let me read from your story for you and then Caddie. You say that Nunes is effectively on a political island along with a handful of other Trump allies in Congress as he continues to search for wrongdoing by the Justice Department. What is your reporting in your view of the rebuttal that you know this is his job and he can fly around the world and try to find out any "intel?"
BERTRAND: Is this for Katty or --
MELBER: Sorry, for you first.
BERTRAND: Oh, OK. No, I think that that would be a more credible argument if it weren`t for Devin Nunes` track record also of disclosing classified information to the public and making every effort to make this very sensitive information available to us essentially. And this is something that of course, we as journalists welcome but this is not something the FBI or the DOJ has ever wanted going back to the Nunes memo of course which has made unfounded and ultimately debunked allegations about the FBI`s FISA process for obtaining a surveillance warrant going back to the issues surrounding the unmasking scandal that that Devin Nunes kind of made up when he made that midnight run to the White House in March of 2017.
So this is a pattern that Devin Nunes has of taking this intelligence that he`s given by the FBI, the DOJ and making it public and that, of course, is something else that officials in the U.K. were very concerned about.
KATTY KAY, WASHINGTON ANCHOR, BBC NEWS AMERICA: Yes. I mean, I think Nunes` case that -- it`s within his rights to try and get the information that he needs would be stronger if he hadn`t -- two of his staffers hadn`t gone to London earlier this summer trying to get information on Christopher Steele and actually trying to get to Christopher Steele himself by going to Christopher Steele`s lawyer and they went totally unannounced. They didn`t tell the British intelligence services and they didn`t tell the American Embassy there and that`s not going to endear Devin Nunes the British secret services and make them think that he`s on the level and playing everything straight.
He has also developed a reputation for fiercely going after the messenger in this case rather than looking at the message itself and questions about whether Christopher -- you know, all of Trump`s supporters I`m sure now refer to this as the dodgy dossier but it hasn`t been discredited yet and there are valid questions as Natasha points out in her piece to ask about what Christopher Steele was after and what information he had, but that`s not what Devin Nunes is doing. He`s trying to discredit directly Christopher Steele rather than trying to find out the veracity of the information that he has in the dossier.
MELBER: Right. I think you`re both basically putting your finger on the fact that it`s the use of this intelligence committee not to be an arbiter of information or intelligence but to sort of drill at anything they don`t like in the DOJ which of course brings us -- and brings us to the other breaking story which I want your views on and I also want to bring in a former Republican White House lawyer Richard Painter who joins me to discuss this Washington Post headline breaking right now this hour.
Trump privately reviving the idea of removing Jeff Sessions as a way to take control of the Mueller probe. Katty and Natasha stay with me. Richard Painter, your reaction to this story and I posed to you the same question I posed earlier when we just got the story which is this account very interestingly "Rudy Giuliani who was seen often in public as a kind of a sloppy booster of this President as making a much more careful argument allegedly in private telling Donald Trump you remove Jeff Sessions in this way that itself could be obstruction." Your response, Richard.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER ETHICS LAWYER, WHITE HOUSE: If President Trump tries to undermine the Mueller investigation in any way including removing Jeff Sessions to put someone else in there to control the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump tries to undermine this Mueller investigation then he is going to be obstructing justice and Bob Mueller is going to be coming after him. If Bob Mueller gets fired, somebody else is going to come after him.
It`s way past time for United States House and Senate Judiciary Committee`s to be having hearings is that it 1973 with respect to Richard Nixon. This president has already obstructed justice. He already removed the FBI Director James Comey. He has tried to fire Jeff Sessions, tried to fire Robert Mueller. He has drafted a statement for his son that was a lie about the Trump Tower meeting, repeated instances obstruction of justice. It`s a very serious situation and he had better let it along. He is getting himself in very hot water. He`s already in hot water. He`s making it a lot worse.
And I`m amazed that Congress doesn`t stand up to him, that they don`t do anything and all we`re hearing about as Congressmen running over to Great Britain to try to cause trouble and obstruct justice over there. You can have a lot of people end up in jail if they keep behaving this way.
MELBER: Well, you say that and Katty Kay, this was the question in the Nixon Administration. That was a president who tried to have his campaign manager be a political head of the Justice Department as Attorney General. And when it was all said and done, to Richards point, we don`t know where this leads but historically that Attorney General did end up in jail. That`s a question about the long term criminal exposure of people who are looking at a world where even a reelected Donald Trump is not going to be President forever.
Katty, let me read to you some more from this article for your view of it. It says at least twice this month Trump vented the White House advisor about the endless investigation. One such discussion occurred in early August during the trial of Paul Manafort. On August 1st, the second day of the trial The Washington Post reports right now in this breaking story Trump was then tweeting about it and saying of course as we remember in public, Oh Jeff Sessions is terrible and should stop the rigged witch-hunt.
And then it goes on, Katty, to say that those tweets were not bluster but rather reflected a private effort to gin up support for removing Sessions and it was only Giuliani and Sekulow that talked him out of it for now, Katty.
KAY: Yes. What`s interesting in this report is that he may be having some success, Donald Trump, in terms of the Republican Senators. Anyway, the report is quoting three senators on the record Blunt, Shelby, and Corker, all of whom seem to be suggesting well, you know, we may not like it but as Corker wonderfully puts it in this piece, the fix is in and at some point they think that Sessions probably is going to have to go even though we`ve had reporting this week of a group of Republican Senators going to have breakfast with Jeff Sessions and trying to persuade him to stay on because the last thing they want is the spectacle of confirmation hearings for a new Attorney General in the run-up to the midterm elections.
MELBER: Especially when they also have confirmation hearings for their Supreme Court nominee. So Richard, your view of the telegraphing that`s going on from the Republican Senators. I mean Lindsey Graham famously went from saying this was a redline to now saying it was OK, to then saying well there`s a secret breach a sort of a mysterious way of justifying what he may view as an eventuality an if not an if but a when for the removal of Jeff Sessions.
PAINTER: Well, these Senators do not want to stand out the President Trump and I don`t know what kind of baggage they`ve got and whether Putin has anything on them, you know, what they know, but the bottom line is we have no willingness on the part of the Republicans in the Senate and in some of the Democrats to stand up to Donald Trump but do something about this. This is a very dangerous situation. It`s much worse than Watergate because it involves a foreign power that is undermined our democracy conducted espionage inside the United States, colluded with a political campaign, there`s an ongoing investigation and now the president is trying to fire the investigators and it`s amazing.
MELBER: And finally, I want to get -- Natasha one more time before we go, we`re out of time but Natasha, in your view is there a situation here where the removal of Sessions is roughly equivalent to Rosenstein or Mueller or does that play out differently in Washington? Has Trump found a way to beat the video game?
BERTRAND: Well, I think that the question that Senators would have to ask any nominee and their confirmation hearings is whether or not they would commit to not firing Bob Mueller at a capricious -- on a capricious request from the President. That they would actually assert they would protect Bob Mueller`s investigation even if the president was applying political pressure and trying to get them to shut it down. It`s not -- you know, Democrats have been put in the very awkward position now of defending Jeff Sessions.
I don`t think that any of them would say that they want Jeff Sessions to remain as Attorney General for any other reason but the fact that they -- that Trump wouldn`t appoint someone new who would fire Mueller but I think it`s going to be very important that the Senators you know, inevitably when Jeff Sessions is inspired that they ask and make sure that any new nominee and anyone who gets confirmed is going to protect that investigation.
MELBER: Natasha Bertrand, Katty Kay, and Richard Painter on this breaking story as well as your story Natasha, thank you so much. Meanwhile, there is also the new reporting on the Jeff Sessions issue but I have an exclusive interview with a former DOJ attorney who`s actually deposed Trump and understands the way he looks at these fights. That`s next live.
MELBER: There is new reporting from The Washington Post this hour. Donald Trump again reviving the idea of potentially firing Jeff Sessions to get more control over the Mueller probe. And earlier this morning wow you can see how Republican Senator Lindsey Graham may have known something about this, look at him talking about their relationship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We need an attorney general that can work with the president, that can lead the Department of Justice. This relationship is beyond repair I think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Senator Graham, I mean, the only beef the president seems to have against him is that he`s not going to get rid of the investigation into President Trump.
GRAHAM: Let me -- let me finish the second part. It`s much deeper than that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What else, what are we missing?
GRAHAM: Well, we won`t say on this show but it`s a -- it`s a pretty deep breach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A secret deep breach and such as Jeff Sessions, Trump of course has gone after Comey, McCabe, Bruce Ohr who was testifying today. There`s a federal prosecutor who`s seen Donald Trump`s attacks in the DOJ long before this fight. Tonight she is live on THE BEAT exclusively. Elyse Goldweber deposed Trump in a DOJ suit over housing discrimination in 1973. And she said even then Trump showed a total lack of respect for prosecutors.
This was a landmark moment in his real estate career, was the first federal suit he faced, the first time his name even appeared in the New York Times when Trump was calling the case ridiculous. The goal whoever seemed got him ultimately to enter a consent decree promising not to discriminate and rent to tenants regardless of race. Joining me now is that very prosecutor Name.
ELYSE GOLDWEBER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Hi!
MELBER: Hi! Did you ever think the person you were suing then to prevent discrimination would become president?
GOLDWEBER: Never that he would become president, never.
MELBER: What do you see in the echoes today?
GOLDWEBER: Well, it it`s so much that he`s so the same even when he was 27, 28 years old when we started the case. He was represented by Roy Cohn from the Army-McCarthy hearings and that was his attorney. And the first thing that they did was to sue the government the Justice Department for $100 million. Well, you can`t sue the government for $100 million. And it was very -- you know very exciting. We had a big developer -- not so much Donald nor his father who owned what was called Trump Village in Brooklyn which was a huge housing unit.
And basically what happened at Trump Village is that if a person of color came to look for an apartment, they would be told there were no apartments available and a fair housing group had said a group of testers, white and people of color to come in and the white people were offered apartments, the people of color we`re told there were no vacancies or that they could go and look at apartments at patio gardens or El Patio which was in a neighborhood that was a neighborhood of color.
MELBER: So what do you think you achieved through that suit, I mean, in a sense the decree means that the DOJ won but he also learned that it does pay to fight back really hard if you have no scruples.
GOLDWEBER: Well, I don`t think it paid for him so much. It became the largest consent decree for any housing discriminator in the country and we tried to bring cases all across the country out of main justice for housing discrimination so he always put it down and said it was you know nothing but it did change the way they could rent apartments at Trump Village and other buildings in Brooklyn.
MELBER: I want to read from something that Trump`s team said about the lawyer who ultimately replaced you. Miss Goldweber was replaced by Donna F Goldstein and the "turned it into a Gestapo like interrogation" which is rather a provocative and discriminatory way to refer to a Jewish lawyer as the Gestapo. What did those tactics mean in New York or you wouldn`t think that`s a way to endear yourself to this city?
GOLDWEBER: No, no. And it was a really terrible thing and there was a hearing in court where Miss Goldstein testified and they said there was no -- the judge found, (INAUDIBLE) found that there was no bad interrogation techniques and everything that he said was not true. They try to make that attack against her.
MELBER: Do you think he will ultimately try to fire Jeff Sessions and you think he`ll serve out a full term?
GOLDWEBER: I don`t think he`ll serve out a full term but I don`t know what`s going to happen after the midterm elections. And if he can, he will.
MELBER: But you see him as the same rambunctious 28 year old that you faced off against?
GOLDWEBER: That`s what`s so jarring is that I have watched his career over the last 40 years and what`s always struck me even before he started to run in the presidential primary is that he was so the same as he was when he was 27, 28.
MELBER: Yes, yes,. Interesting. Well, you`re someone that has been in there with him in the trenches and we haven`t heard from a lot so I`m glad you came on THE BEAT.
GOLDWEBER: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you very much. Up ahead, Stormy Daniels is volleying new legal actions that are getting quite personal about Donald Trump.
MELBER: Today Donald Trump`s legal team is actually taking a new action against Stormy Daniels. They`ve asked a judge to throw out her entire defamation suit. They argue that Donald Trump can tweet that she`s a liar and that`s a protected opinion and they argue that she can`t prove she suffered any damages anyway.
Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels is back out and in the press. In fact there is a glitzy new profile in Vogue magazine where she openly mocks Trump. She says, she could have gotten away from him if she wanted to. I`ll read you the quote. "I`m sure if I would have taken off running he wouldn`t even give him chase. And even if I had there`s no way he could have caught me. He`s even less likely she says to catch me now." And provocative talk aside, legally it`s actually Donald Trump who`s on the run in this case.
Daniels has authorized her lawyer Michael Avenatti to seek a deposition from the President himself and they argue that will be more likely now that Michael Cohen has pled guilty.
MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT. We`ll see you back here tomorrow night live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. There`s a lot of news left and "HARDBALL" is up next.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The fight for the Senate runs through Florida in Arizona. Let`s play "HARDBALL."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END