Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 14, 2018 Guest: Maya Wiley; David Corn; Seth Waxman; Patrick Cotter; Jay Goldberg, Seth Waxman, David Corn, Bill Kristol
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
Ari, I know you`re doing a split screen lead as well. Take it away.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: No question. We have a lot here tonight. Chuck, thank you very much.
As mentioned, we will have later tonight in this show live reporting on tropical storm Florence. Much to get to as so many Americans are concerned.
But we begin with the breaking news you don`t hear every day. President Trump`s campaign chief just pled guilty to felonies and flipped. The news tonight is a true rarity in politics and in law. A man who ran the current president`s campaign marched into court today, pled guilty to two federal counts and then made a deal to cooperate with Special Counsel Bob Mueller.
This is the highest ranking Trump political aide to plead guilty in this very much still active probe. In fact, you can`t get higher on the campaign because he was running it for a period of time. And this high stakes legal and political move comes after, of course, months of resistance. Consider how Manafort`s world shrunk to that cell that he was inhabiting in pre-trial detention based on his illegal resistance in the form of witness tampering.
Well, today, that resistance stopped. That tampering stopped. Those games stopped. Manafort pleading guilty just days before he was going to face his second federal trial at the hands of Bob Mueller and his aggressive prosecutors. And note, this deal comes after weeks of hints from Trump that he was thinking about some kind of deal or pardon on his side and even publicly praising Paul Manafort for not being a flipper. That has been made untrue today, Manafort flipping. Prosecutors can now ask him anything they want.
So right now before we get to some very talented experts on all of this breaking news, I want to go through the facts with you tonight. When the judge asked Manafort in court today how do you plead, he answered as many defendants has, there is simply, "I plead guilty." His deal orders him in writing to cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with the government, that`s Mueller, in any and all matters that the government, that`s Mueller, deemed relevant. Which means he can be interviewed about his participation, his knowledge of all criminal activities.
Those documents that we`ve seen and fight over in many cases, well that ends now, that fighting. He has to turn over all the documents. He can even potentially have to participate in undercover activities. We don`t know if he would according to Mueller`s order but he has to agree to and he has to, and this is a big one, take a look, testify at any proceeding Bob Mueller orders. That could include grand juries. It could include open court.
So while the White House is rushing out to say that these crimes that Manafort confesses to were not related to Trump, that`s the argument, that may not mean anything. It may not be true and it`s going to be up to, under the law now, Paul Manafort to tell Mueller`s team anything they want to know which can include, of course, his work for the Trump campaign or anything that involves Trump before and after.
So that, of course, goes into the strike zone of this whole probe, what did happen inside that Trump Tower meeting? Why did the RNC mysteriously change language to help Putin on Ukraine at that RNC Convention? What other contacts were there with Russians? Were there any cutouts and anything else about the ties between Donald Trump`s campaign and Russia?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there are not. It`s absurd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Manafort tonight is back in jail before what will ultimately be sentencing for all of this. Now, he faces a decade in prison for those two crimes he confessed today plus separate time for the conviction in Virginia. Mueller`s team was in a celebratory mood as they have filed into the court room today. They were led by Andrew Wiseman. He is the one you may have heard about on this very show because Trump allies have warned that he is ruthless with defendants and that he virtually always wins. Well, we`re seeing that tonight.
Now, Manafort has to forfeit several of his very luxurious properties and includes homes in Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Hamptons but perhaps, most importantly, to many people, it will include his infamous apartment in Trump Tower itself. Of course, that residence was part of Paul Manafort`s pinch to Trump that he should be hired as a volunteer "On the campaign."
Tonight, Paul Manafort joins a new group, a group of people who have been Trump aides who have gone onto plead guilty at the hands of the federal government. Let`s get right to a very important panel that we put together for this very important news night.
Former counsel to Mayor of New York City Maya Wiley who`s also served as a civil prosecutor in the Southern District which is so relevant to these issues. David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief from Mother Jones, as well as two former federal prosecutors Seth Waxman and Patrick Cotter who prosecuted mob boss John Gotti.
My thanks to all of you. This is one of those days. Maya, when you look at what Bob Mueller got here, is there anything he wanted that he didn`t get out of Manafort or is this a complete fold?
MAYA WILEY, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: This is a complete fold. You can`t read it any other way. And I thought about you tonight, Ari and I thought about Vince Staples. It`s about hot as 6500 degrees in the White House right now as a result of this. So if you look at what happened, Paul Manafort had said before that he didn`t want to cooperate where Donald Trump was concerned.
And now, here he is fully cooperating where ever Mueller`s questions take him and into any venue that Mueller wants to take him. That is huge. And remember, it`s both the Trump Tower meeting, it`s also the fact that he, Mueller said in the Virginia filings that he thought that there were reasons to want to know about creating a back channel to Russia. That was explicit and that`s something we know he`s got to be talking to Manafort about.
And another thing to just remember, he didn`t agree to give Manafort a cooperation agreement unless he had heard sufficiently enough from Manafort to make it worth his while.
MELBER: Well, that`s very important what you say there. And Patrick, you were analyzing this earlier today and saying there is just a tremendous amount of valuable information that changes today, that yesterday that information may have been under Paul Manafort`s right as a defendant to withhold and try to use strategically as he prepares for trial. And today, that ultimately all becomes basically Robert Mueller`s intellectual property. Explain.
PATRICK COTTER, PROSECUTED JOHN GOTTI: Paul Manafort was in the inner circle with Trump during all the time period that Mueller is most interested in. So now Mueller that that. Paul Manafort was chairman of the campaign so he knows where the money moved. So Mueller has all that. That includes the money to Cohen, that includes the money to mistresses, et cetera.
Manafort was at the famous Trump Tower meeting. He knows who knew about that meeting. He knows who talked about that meeting and he knows who got reports about that meeting. Mueller has all that. Manafort, I also think, a huge contribution he makes to Mueller is that he is going to corroborate a lot of what Flynn and Gates and Papadopoulos and other people are going to say and have said. That is huge. He has made every single witness that Mueller has stronger.
MELBER: David Corn?
DAVID CORN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, the way I look at it, Paul Manafort had a choice. He had two guys. He had to decide who to trust. One was Donald Trump who couldn`t be more explicit in saying, "I will give you a pardon. If you don`t wrap me out, I will give you a pardon." They sent that message over and over again.
Or Bob Mueller who said, "Cooperate with me, you`ll probably still have to do time. You`ll have to give up millions of dollars in your assets and you`ll have to cooperate and tell me everything." And he had to decide which way to go. And he ended up trusting Bob Mueller more than he trusts Donald Trump. So that`s where he is today.
And in addition to talking about the Trump Tower meeting and campaign money issues, he knew that George Papadopoulos was trying to set up a back channel between Putin`s office and the Trump campaign and we know he was also good friends with Roger Stone and would have been Roger Stone`s point of contact if Stone was involved. And I say if he was involved in (0:04:01) to try to help the campaign with or without the Russians.
So he`s the guy at the center of so much. And we`re all sitting here waiting for the Trump tweets because this puts Trump into even a, what is it, a deeper corner how far back can he be pushed?
MELBER: Well, Seth, what message does this send to anyone else who thinks they could stare down Bob Mueller and defy him and win?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They are thinking about giving up. They are thinking about where they`re going to go and where they can get their bread buttered and that`s with Bob Mueller. You know, for everyone else that`s sitting out there, Roger Stone, for example, this is bad day. Obviously, a very bad day for the president.
My biggest take away from this in the broad spectrum of what`s going on from a prosecutor`s perspective is that Mueller has been climbing this ladder and he is reaching the highest rung of this ladder. And I think the next step for Mr. Mueller is to target the closest to the president. That`s Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner who are participants in that infamous Trump Tower meeting and more may be a part of this quid pro quo, this idea of accepting dirt on Clinton in exchange for a future promise to reduce or eliminate sanctions against Russian oligarchs and Russian senior officials.
If that illegal quid pro quo took place, you could have incredibly serious federal charges brought against Don Jr. and Kushner. If you get those two under indictment, you are on the doorstep to the presidency. So if I`m the president, I`m sitting very uncomfortably tonight.
MELBER: Right. And you`re zeroing in on whether there was a crime that was conspired or committed through the Trump Tower meeting, Seth. And so Maya, that, of course, is an issue both as an investigative side did that happen and then as all fair prosecutors have to do on a probative side, which is you have enough to win the case? In other words, you wouldn`t necessarily as a responsible prosecutor want to hang that entire case against a senior person or a presidential family member, on only George Papadopoulos, our proverbial barista in this story.
But if he is a barista, Paul Manafort is Howard Schultz. No offense to Howard Schultz but he`s running all of Starbucks nationally. I mean he`s in charge. And so I put that to you, Maya. And I`m reading here from the agreement that says the defendant, that`s Manafort, "Agrees to testify at any proceeding requested by Mueller." Where does that fit into any case they might ever want to prove regarding what happened in the meeting?
WILEY: Yes, I mean if it`s indirectly, the point being that Manafort is a person who must have salient information and he is now obligated to provide it. And he`s also someone who has, by the way, has demonstrated that he`s going to obstruct justice. So, you know, the question becomes what did he know about also how they were obstructing justice in terms of the conversations about that meeting. Because as we know, they lied about why they were having that meeting in the first place.
I completely agree with Seth, there`s nowhere else for this to go to the next rung of that ladder and it can`t look good for anybody. Plus, I just think there`s so much we can`t know about what else Robert Mueller knows about who else. I`m not sure that we know yet all the folks who are going to be implicated in this. And now that Manafort has to share that information, we`ll see.
MELBER: Well, you just put your finger on something that goes to the difference between politics where lying can be commonplace and court, where certain types of lies to obstruct justice, are themselves separate felonies. And David, again reading, we have these rich new documents so I`m going to keep reading from them. It`s the only time the special counsel`s office ever speaks is through these formal documents.
They made a point here to get him to plead, David, to a conspiracy against the U.S., "To obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses while on pre- trial release." What do you think of Bob Mueller`s repeated message here that regardless of what Alan Dershowitz or Rudy Giuliani says on TV, conspiracy to obstruct justice is a felony?
CORN: You know Robert Mueller plays it hard. He didn`t blink in this case. He`s willing to bring the second trial to trial. As Maya said, he got Manafort to completely fold. So if you`re involved in this case and you haven`t come to that conclusion yet, you`re going to I think end up in a world of hurt. And one line of inquiry that we haven`t seen a lot of yet but which could be a threat to many of the participants here, including people who Seth was referring to a moment ago, is lying to Congress.
A lot of these guys have come up and given private testimony to the Congressional committees and if you have Manafort out there talking about what really happened and if he can show as other witnesses have tended to show that some of these testimonies were not accurate, it opens up a whole another realm of exposure for some of these very senior people in the Trump-Russian scandal.
MELBER: Patrick, you have prosecuted the mafia. Do you see parallels to how Mueller has slowly but surely made this progress culminating in this conviction tonight?
COTTER: Absolutely. This is classic climbing up the ladder as Seth said to get to the top of the organization. I think the fact that he gets Mueller is very analogous --
MELBER: It`s Manafort.
COTTER: I`m sorry. When he gets Manafort is that it`s very analogous to what happened when we got Krovano (ph). It led directly to bringing down the boss and everybody else in the family then realized that if Krovano can be taken down if Gotti could be taken down, then what chance do we have. And I think that`s what everybody else who was involved in the Trump campaign and the Russia connections has to be thinking to themselves tonight. If Manafort and his money couldn`t do it, what could we do?
MELBER: And Patrick, my last question before I lose you because you are a mafia prosecutor, you have seen tough people and you could be tough in a good way or bad way in this world. But you`ve seen tough people who have had their minds changed. We know Paul Manafort saw himself as very tough.
I mean he was out in other countries where he knew he was in physical danger. He was dealing with some very unsavory characters. He came back here with still witness tampering as a last beat. Do you have any insight for our viewers who are trying to understand this, just as we all are, when and how was it that he went from all of that to this change that culminates to tonight`s news?
COTTER: Sure. There`s tough and then there`s stupid. You could be tough but you don`t necessarily have to be stupid. He did the math. He saw what the government did to him in Virginia. He saw was what was coming. And as tough as he was, he figured it out. And as it was pointed out earlier, he decided he couldn`t trust President Trump so he decided to trust Robert Mueller.
MELBER: Right. Which is so interesting you say that from your experience dealing with some of these hardening folks. David Corn saying, and I think from a journalistic perspective, that that is what hangs over all of this especially with the White House that is, shall we say inconsistent as this one about whether Donald Trump was going to do what he intimated he might do.
My special thanks to Patrick, as I mentioned our mafia expert tonight. Maya, David, and Seth all stay with me. We have some other important stories I want to go by with you on.
Now, later in the hour, we report on Florence which was thankfully downgraded to a tropical storm but unfortunately has a rising death toll. We`ll have live reports from the Carolina Coast. That`s later in the hour.
Also, tonight, get this as the walls close in, new reports Michael Cohen who, of course, has already pled out, he would now be speaking to the special counsel. "Vanity Fair" is reporting that.
I have exclusive reactions with the man who was Trump`s lawyer right before Cohen. Also, we go a lot deeper into the Manafort plea deal. Was Donald Trump blindsided when you consider all of Rudy Giuliani`s talk this week? And what did Manafort reveal about incriminating information that cuts to the heart of Donald Trump`s family and dynasty?
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: They did not see it coming. That is a quote from how one expert on the Mueller probe is describing Donald Trump`s legal team`s reaction at this hour. Trump`s lawyer looks surprised because over the past few days they were publically boasting that Manafort was still on their team. Rudy Giuliani touting coordination with Manafort`s lawyers and even telling reporters they had an active joint defense agreement.
"We have an open communication with them," he told "Politico" this week providing a better idea of what`s going to happen or not since they clearly didn`t know this is going to happen. It`s a long ways from back in the day just a month ago when Trump would be tweeting a defense of Manafort and his lawyers would welcome it the same day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Downing, what was your reaction to the president today?
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT`S LAWYER: We`re very happy to hear from the president and that he`s supporting Mr. Manafort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But today, Manafort`s lawyers was hearing from Mueller`s prosecutors who gathered in two rows in court shaking hands, you can see it there in the sketches, on another guilty plea. Now, a new question tonight is whether the facts just changed quickly or whether Manafort`s side was Actively duping his former boss at the White House. And that brings us back to the blindsiding point.
That reporter I just quoted is Josh Marshall. He follows this case closely and is reporting, "It seems clear Giuliani and his team were duped too. They did not see it coming." Back with me at the table here, Counsel Maya Wiley. What do you make of Rudy Giuliani touting a joint defense agreement this past week which we know was happening at the very time Paul Manafort was in the meetings, not jointly defending Trump but cutting a deal with his nemesis, Bob Mueller?
WILEY: Well, I have so many questions about how Giuliani has been approaching this from the beginning. He`s made so many mistakes in his representation of Trump in public. Whether it`s unfortunate statements about how he has described transactions, he`s been a mess. So I wonder if they have a written agreement because it`s standard operating procedure to write the agreement down.
Normally, you would include provisions about how the agreement could be dissolved and it would be common practice to dissolve the agreement if you`re going to start if one party was going to start cooperating. So was it written? Was he relying on an informal and verbal agreement which everyone would say you don`t do? I don`t know. It`s impossible to know because he shouldn`t be blindsided.
So the only thing you can figure out is either events moved so rapidly, which is possible that they were blindsided that way or Giuliani was flying by the seat of his pants and wasn`t really actually lawyering up quite the way you should with a very clear agreement, with very clear provisions on how you handle it if your interesting are no longer aligned.
MELBER: Right. You`re making two key points there. One, although you have provided analysis that`s critical of Donald Trump, you are making a point in fairness to him which is in a fair joint defense agreement, he should have some notice about what`s going to happen. That`s why it`s an agreement. But two, you`re speaking to the limits of presidency that is governed sometimes exclusively by spin or by the four corners of a TV appearance in the case of Mr. Giuliani.
Because You could have a TV appearance that sounds good but is actually subsequently bad if you don`t know what you`re doing or lying or misleading everybody in a way that blows up in your face. That`s just what happened with Giuliani which again goes to the fact that you can claim whatever you want but then there`s the proof in court.
But that in line, I want to compare another Trump friendly lawyer because it`s interesting to hear from Mr. Dershowitz who has made all sorts of claims, including that maybe obstruction isn`t a crime when the president does it. But he too said tonight, it`s one of those nights where there`s no other way to look at it but a victory for Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: If he`s given a pardon, then he can`t take the Fifth Amendment. He would have to testify anyway. He could be called in front of a grand jury. I think in the point of view of Mueller, this is a big win. This is a big gain because he gets access to somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: Yes, absolutely. I won`t agree with Mr. Dershowitz on many things but I`ll agree on that point. This is a huge victory. The fact that Rudy Giuliani actually had a tweet out there referencing Manafort telling the truth, they actually have a public statement actually supporting his credibility as he`s going to proffer a lot of facts to Robert Mueller.
What they`re going to do is try to attack his credibility because that`s all they`ll have. And they have a public statement from Donald Trump`s attorney out on Twitter saying that Paul Manafort will tell the truth. That`s called really bad lawyering.
MELBER: Right. And they`re trying to walk that back tonight just as they try to walk back the joint defense agreement which again raises the more physical question about Mr. Giuliani`s TV lawyering which is what is it.
Maya Wiley, my thanks to you as always. We`re back in 30 seconds looking at Michael Cohen now reportedly talking to Mueller. That`s also new tonight which involves Paul Manafort already agreeing to it. How is Trump reacting? His longtime lawyer joins me exclusively when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight, Paul Manafort cooperating. Our key focus here is Mueller thinks Manafort has the goods. Manafort agreeing to tell him everything he knows about potential criminal activity. And that`s by anyone according to this new plea deal in writing including Trump. I`ll read it to you so you can assess it yourself. Cooperation in any and all matters as to what the government deems cooperation relevant and Manafort agrees to be fully debriefed by the Feds at any time.
And then as we emphasized tonight, agrees to testify at any proceeding Mueller orders. You can see the other guilty Trump aides here. Manafort is joining quite the team. In fact, think about it like this. Every American who has been indicted by Bob Mueller has now flipped. Trump said it`s all about loyalty. He once said that`s more important than anything.
Roger Stone says you have to support Trump in anything he says and does no matter what. Trump`s longtime friend for decades says loyalty to him is allegiance. His biographer has noted it`s not allegiance to the flag or to the country, it`s, of course, just to Trump. It reminds some people of another kind of allegiance. We remember from Good Fellas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m proud of you. You took your first case like a man and you learned the two greatest things in life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at me. Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those are the rules in life as an art but Manafort not keeping his mouth shut. Remember, Trump had praised Manafort even after the guilty verdict for refusing to "Break for a deal." And he says he had respect for a brave man. Well, today that man broke, there is a deal and Donald Trump has yet to comment on it which is itself unusual.
I bring back in former federal prosecutor Seth Waxman and I have some breaking news to ask Seth about in a moment. But as promised, we also have another interesting perspective and we like our nights like this. Jay Goldberg joins me by phone. He was a lawyer for Donald Trump. He has a fourth coming book, The Courtroom is My Theater, and he has been quite candid on THE BEAT before on a range of issues.
Jay, do you think Paul Manafort had to make this decision and had no other way out?
JAY GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, THE COURTROOM IS MY THEATER: Andrew Weisman is a very, very powerful weapon in the government`s arsenal. Andrew Weisman runs the case. Bob Mueller doesn`t run the day-to-day case. Andrew Weisman is a very, very questionable prosecutor. And I`m concerned about Weisman being in control of the destiny of Donald in the testimony of Manafort.
MELBER: You think that Andrew Weisman who was in court today, who I also have some breaking news with Seth on because he described his deal with Paul Manafort today. You think that he is being too tough and you`re afraid of what he`s going to use Manafort`s new information for against your client, your former client Donald Trump?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think Donald has taken the position that there is no and was no collusion. And your guests are frequently as hungry to devour him as a vulture. But you`ve got to understand that Manafort and Cohen are anxious to avoid prison and get the kind of sentence that Papadopoulos got and under the direction of Weissmann, the testimony could be suspect. Weissmann is the prosecutor in the Arthur Andersen case that led to the destruction of Arthur Andersen. And the conviction was reversed because in part of the misconduct in a six-month trial of Andrew Weissmann.
I don`t like Andrew Weissmann heading this prosecution. And I don`t like people anxious to avoid jail because the cases are legion in terms of people seeking to win the support of the prosecutor by testifying in a way that they think what the prosecutor wants to have them testify.
MELBER: And sir, since you know Donald Trump so well and I understand your perspective, you`re critical of the prosecutors here, do you think that -- how do you think Donald Trump will take this? He is unusually quiet thus far today.
GOLDBERG: Well, I think Donald and I speak with some knowledge, personal knowledge, believes that they will not be hurt by Manafort, that he is not party to collusion, and despite the willingness of your guests to condemn him, he is firm in his view that the proof will show that there was no collusion.
MELBER: Right. Stay with me, Jay. I want to bring in Seth. Seth, we have just gotten hold our newsroom of the actual transcript of what Mr. Weissmann who Mr. Goldberg was just referring to was saying in court. And he reveals for the first time on the record in court that they had several proffer sessions with Mr. Manafort. He says what`s not in the statement of a today is it doesn`t rely information obtained from Manafort in the course of his proffer sessions, plural. That led to the cooperation today. Your reaction, what does that mean, Seth?
SETH WAXMAN, PARTNER, DICKINSON WRIGHT: Yes, I mean, that`s very significant. That means that Mr. Manafort in some days or weeks or who knows how long has been sitting with prosecutors already and feeding them information and they have been able to independently corroborate themselves to make themselves feel comfortable to accept that plea agreement and that he has information that would provide substantial assistance to the government.
You know, sometimes these kinds of deals start off with the lawyers making proffers on behalf of their clients. The prosecutors hear what the lawyers say, and then after the deals cut they sit down with the client and start to hear what`s -- you know, what`s straight from the horse`s mouth. This is obviously the opposite. Mr. Manafort himself has provided this information so we`re already a significant step into this cooperation and the prospectors have obviously credited it.
MELBER: Now, the obvious question, Seth, the viewers at home are wondering is if Paul Manafort wanted to do proffer sessions, if he wanted to be as we`ve called it a queen for a day, if he wanted to get something back for all this, wouldn`t he have been better off doing that at the beginning of this process rather than after he got one conviction in one trial.
WAXMAN: Yes, well he rolled the dice. I think before that Virginia trial, he said to himself look, I`m going to roll the dice. If I win in Virginia I`ll go on and fight it in D.C. I`ll roll the dice there. If I happen to you know, rolled twelve or four the best roll you can roll then then he walks and he gets a free pass. He lost in Virginia and now he`s done what he the only avenue he had left which is to walk into the prosecutor`s office.
It was always my opinion that the prosecutors would still take him in. They view him as just that important for the Trump Tower meeting and many other things potentially. The only X factors that complicated everything over time was this idea of a pardon. But obviously, Mr. Manafort, what David Corn said earlier, just put his faith in Bob Mueller more than he put his faith in Donald Trump.
MELBER: It`s fascinating and we`ve heard criticism and analysis from several prosecutors as well as my thanks to Jay Goldberg for his view of the case as a former lawyer to Donald Trump. I`ll turn now to as promised, coverage of this storm slamming the Carolinas today. We can tell you, unfortunately, this death count is now five people and it`s knocked power out for hundreds of thousands. Florence is technically downgraded to a tropical storm but as you can see from the reporting, it is in action and it is dangerous to many. Tammy Leitner has been covering this for us in Myrtle Beach Tammy what is the latest?
TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari. Even though the storm has been downgraded to a tropical storm, you could see that we getting hit here in Myrtle Beach. The winds have really picked up. There have been reports of damage. You can see over here some awnings have come down. We`ve been driving around town to assess the damage. Not too bad at this point but a lot of wind damage. You can see how strong it is. Just me trying to walk against it.
Now -- but they have a bigger problem on their hands. I just got off the phone with the mayor here and she tells me that says in the next three to five days, the three major rivers in this county are expected to crest. That is going to cause catastrophic flooding washing out the main road in and out of Myrtle Beach. What this is going to do, this is going to completely cut off access. That means the residents that are here in Myrtle Beach will not be able to leave and the residents that are -- have evacuated will not be able to return.
But even a bigger problem, Ari, is that all the fuel supply and grocery stores were depleted before this storm. They will not be able to get any fuel or food here to Myrtle Beach. Right now they are trying to figure out what they are going to do because there`s a major problem. I spoke with them about ten minutes ago, they are extremely concerned. Ari, back to you.
MELBER: Thank you, Tammy. And of course, please stay safe as you report on that out there. Up ahead, we turn back to one of the key things Paul Manafort can offer what are these newly revealed proffer sessions, the Trump Tower meeting, and what is flipping on Donald Trump mean for his family members. That`s next.
MELBER: Paul Manafort`s cooperation with Mueller could reveal one of the biggest mysteries in this Russia probe. What happened inside Trump Tower at that mysterious meeting with Russians? Well, it`s a signature moment of course, in the investigation Mueller eyeing it asking for all the records related to anyone there. We knew that and that, of course, includes Donald Trump`s family members, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Don Jr. And while they can claim a kind of political ignorants, Manafort who`s now going to proffer sessions he can`t.
So what does that mean for them and what happened inside the meeting, and did Trump know more than he`s let on. NBC is reported that Manafort`s notes on the meeting which Congress got a hold of had a reference to political contributions or the RNC, the intrigue of bounds, but Bob Mueller now knows a lot more than we do. Howard Fineman is NBC News Analyst, David Corn back with me.
Howard, the news doesn`t stop as you know. This is a huge deal on its own full stop. Then you get within the last hour what I was breaking on our show that Paul Manafort did more than one proper session which Andrew Weissmann found useful, viewers can decide what they think of Andrew Weissmann, a lot of prosecutors say he`s tough. We just heard from Trump`s former lawyer on THE BEAT saying he`s too tough or unfair. Walk us through the significance of that and the questions raised.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS ANALYST: Well, I think this is all about the money. Follow the dollars, follow the rubles, call it whatever you want. I think Weissmann is very good at following that kind of thing. That`s one of the ways in which he made his reputation and I think that`s been a focus from the beginning. I think part of what Robert Mueller is looking for here is that Paul Manafort was dipping into the same pool of oligarch money in Russia and Ukraine to run his Ukraine operation, and I think they feel, the prosecutors feel that he can help them follow the money trail to find out what money was behind whatever collusion there was.
I think that`s his main purpose here. This is mostly about the collusion branch of the investigation not so much the obstruction branch I think. They want to deep dive into what those relationships were. Don`t forget, when Manafort --
MELBER: And you`re saying --
MELBER: Let me -- let me let you build on that point. You`re saying that while Paul Manafort may have touched say five plus different illegal things, the one remaining thing that Mueller is most interested in is whether there is to use the casual term dirty money that touched anyone who might be on the receiving end of Russian help.
FINEMAN: Yes, I think -- I think that`s what they think that Manafort is in the position to know the most about. He`ll also know some details about who said what to whom and that would involve Jared Kushner, that would and that would involve Don Jr., that would involve perhaps Roger Stone, that would involve, of course, the President of the United States.
He was in Trump Tower, he was in the building, he was in the 26th floor, there`s a lot he would have heard, a lot of conversation, there was a lot of moments in a lot of rooms that Manafort will be asked about. But I do think because he was drawing for his own activities in Ukraine from the same pool of money that the oligarchs were filling, that`s one of the key aspects of what Mueller wants to go after with him.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: There`s one name that we haven`t talked about yet on the show, Oleg Deripaska.
CORN: On the top and oligarchs from the closest oligarchs to Vladimir Putin. Donald -- excuse me, Paul Manafort and he had been business partners for some time but they had had a bit of a falling out. By the time that Manafort came to run the Trump campaign, he owed Manafort. We don`t have the full number yet, maybe as much as $30 million. He owed $30 million to Putin`s close buddy while running a presidential campaign.
We know from earlier Mueller filings that his partner, Manafort`s partner, a guy named Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian military intelligence officer with current ties to Russian intelligence was a go-between between Paul Manafort and Oleg Deripaska during the campaign in which you know Manafort might have been passing information to Deripaska.
We don`t know the full breadth of this relationship, what happened there, but I tell you through these proffer offers if not by now then very, very soon Mueller will know everything right about it. And that could open up a whole other avenue of Investigation of inquiry that those on the outside haven`t seen yet.
MELBER: And that then goes to our organizing question for this discussion here which is what Donald Trump knows or expects Paul Manafort knows. Now, Howard, you had reported and written that Trump was not expecting Paul Manafort to flip reading from your reporting Trump said that he`d decided that he was not going to flip or sell him out and he told friends that that meant things were quote going great. He may feel different tonight. I wonder if you could put that from your reporting and the evolution in context, Howard, because you know to paraphrase Drake about federal cooperation, he said, I`ve seen what you do for fame. What would you do for freedom? And Paul Manafort for freedom or at least less time in the slammer has clearly done something that you reported Trump didn`t expect.
FINEMAN: No. I think -- I think Trump was -- I think it`s possible that they might have heard about some of the proper discussions going on. But I think in general, I think -- I think Trump was surprised. That would be my guess at this point. But the key thing here not only that is -- that is Manafort chose to trust Mueller rather than Trump, it`s also and this is an informed guess here that you know Paul Manafort and his wife Kathy and their family have been through hell and back at this point on a personal level. I would like to know whether Mueller and the FBI and other federal agencies have offered to protect Paul Manafort, and I mean physically protect Paul Manafort.
MELBER: You mean -- you mean witness protection which I don`t have reporting on that yet.
FINEMAN: I don`t -- I don`t mean send them the you know, to the Idaho Panhandle but I mean you know, there are a lot of people in Russia and Ukraine who are probably extremely unhappy with the fact that Manafort has flipped as well.
MELBER: No kidding. But witness protection doesn`t have to be simply a disguised identity. It can simply assuring someone that their family is going to be looked at --
FINEMAN: I think -- the point -- the point here is that I think Manafort at this point decided to put himself in the full embrace of the federal investigative and protective bureaucracy. I think it has -- that`s a point that we should make here because he`s got a lot of concerns on a lot of levels in a lot of places in the world right now.
MELBER: And I`m furiously going through my notes because we had a quote from Kevin Downing his lawyer and it was to paraphrase. I`m not -- I prefer to give the exact quote whenever I can, but he said he made a decision Paul Manafort today that he thought would keep his family "safe" which overlaps us some of what you`re saying. So a lot here. My special thanks to Howard Fineman and David Corn on this incredible news. Thank you both. Up ahead, the bombshell here has Trump allies urging to make a move on Bob Mueller, no surprise, a potential epic clash. Bill Kristol joins me next.
MELBER: The big story tonight. Paul Manafort pleading guilty, cooperating with Mueller and holding more than one proffer session with this powerhouse prosecutor Andrew Weissmann. Plus, reports in Vanity Fair that Michael Cohen is now talking to Mueller`s team as well. Who better to round out this special show than Bill Kristol, Founder, and Editor at Large of the Weekly Standard and a close student of these issues. Let`s start with Cohen. Your view of where that fits in.
BILL Well, Mueller is getting a lot of cooperation. It turns out people don`t want to spend a lot of time in jail and don`t what to you know go to court. I mean anybody -- each tried to sort of see whether they could game the system and get off and they each found in different ways that they can`t. So you got everyone talking and I do think in some of the coverage -- I understand it I`m not a lawyer, I don`t even play one on T.V. but if you`re cooperating, you`re cooperating. You don`t get to selectively cooperate, you don`t get to say, well, I`m not really interested in talking about that. You -- if you stop talking about something, then you`re not cooperating and then all of the sanctions --
MELBER: Well, Bill, our viewers -- our viewers have come to understand what a hardcore hip-hop head you are and --
KRISTOL: Well, that`s what I mean.
MELBER: That`s your thing. Mobb Deep would always say there`s no such thing as halfway crooks and there`s no such thing as halfway cooperation agreements. You can`t say I cooperate on everyone but John Gotti. And we`ve gone through and read this to folks today and we have it here in the studio, it is an ironclad agreement to provide all information in any proceeding including testifying an open court which could, of course, cause problems for Paul Manafort. Let`s get into that with you now. That could cause a strain for Paul Manafort given his relationships ranging from Russian oligarchs to his former political allies on the Trump campaign.
KRISTOL: Yes, and Roger Stone. But again, if -- I`ll come back to Stone in a second -- but with Manafort cooperating, he was at the Trump Tower meeting. I mean, suddenly Mueller has not just documents and contemporaneous, you know, evidence from others who were told about the meeting which might include Michael Cohen. He`s got someone who was there and will be you know, if he doesn`t tell the truth and if Manafort can show he`s not telling the truth, suddenly the whole cooperation agreements down the two, but he`s looking at the rest of his life in jail.
And so I think I can`t underestimate just how much Mueller now knows, how much ability has to get everything pretty much. Roger Stone it seems to be the biggest piece apart from family members I would say missing because Stone seems to be the direct connection to WikiLeaks. What Manafort and Stone might have discussed in 2016 would be an interesting thing I`m sure that Bob Mueller is going to try to -- not going to try, going to find out. I guess -- my main point is we have to stop saying -- you know, we don`t have to stop saying, but we could stop saying, Mueller is going to try to learn this or Mueller may be able to learn this.
MELBER: He has -- he has it.
KRISTOL: Mueller is learning everything, right?
MELBER: He has it. He has the live witnesses, he has the documents, he has the corroboration. So final question to you, Bill. Donald Trump unusually silent on this reports about ways that he could try to take back the probe by firing Jeff Sessions but who could he get through the Congress etcetera. Your view of where that figures in under pressure heading into the midterms.
KRISTOL: I don`t put anything beyond Trump. I think he mostly will try to buy time, perhaps challenge various things legally, but firing Sessions, trying to put someone in there, letting that be litigated, try to curb and slow down before the probe, I think Trump will not sit quietly if he thinks he`s guilty of things that Manafort might or Cohen could talk about, will not sit quietly and just let Mueller amass all this evidence. So I am worried and expecting counter attacks by Trump.
MEKBER: And you think those counter attacks could in some sense create a larger argument for impeachment if they are a high level obstruction than anything he`s done yet? I mean, if he tries to take out Sessions and Rosenstein for the purpose of controlling this.
KRISTOL: Yes, I mean, Republican senators who have been pretty acquiesce in to say the least so far, it seems to do the one thing they have said, you can`t fire Sessions, you can`t fire Rosenstein, you can`t fire Mueller. Let`s -- I hope Trump doesn`t put them to the test for the sake of the country honestly, but I`m not confident that he won`t, if not before the election incidentally, the day after the election. Everyone has been taking some comfort in the fact that well, he doesn`t seem to be firing anyone before the election. What if he fires Mueller or Rosenstein on November 7th? That`s no good either.
MELBER: Yes, yes, and I know you`ve kept an eye on all of those aspects of it is as we see a probe that is increasingly as you put it taking cooperating witnesses from inside the room where the alleged criminal conspiracies are being probed. It`s serious stuff. Bill Kristol, as always, we appreciate you joining us on THE BEAT, and we right back.
MELBER: What a busy night. And that does it for THE BEAT. We`ll see you back here live Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. But there`s a lot more special coverage on through the whole night tonight starting with "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews up next.
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