Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 27, 2018 Guest: Seth Waxman, Corey Lewandowski
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.
Tonight, we begin with a possible break in Bob Mueller`s collusion investigation. "The Guardian" reporting Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, met with Julian Assange in the middle of the 2016 campaign. Now, tonight, one of the top Democrats investigating incoming Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler joins me momentarily.
Later, I want to tell you we have a deeper report on how Mueller busted Manafort for lying and whether this is all part of a pardon strategy. Also, the man that Manafort replaced as the head of the Trump campaign, he joins me later to react to what this all means. All that tonight.
But let`s begin with why this story is shaking Washington. "The Guardian" citing sources saying Manafort and Assange held a secret meeting at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, part of a series of meetings that actually they were doing dating back to 2013. Now the key to collusion could be this alleged meeting which was exactly around the time Manafort joint Trump`s campaign spring 2016.
A source saying all of this went down around March, the very month when Manafort started working for Trump. The sources telling "The Guardian" the key meeting lasted 40 minutes and they have details like that he was dressed in chinos, a cardigan, and a light shirt. Adding to the intrigue, Manafort wasn`t logged at the embassy, breaking protocol.
Now tonight, Paul Manafort is denying this story. I can report that. I can also report that Paul Manafort is a serial liar who is already convicted of crimes, involving lying including this bombshell last night that Bob Mueller is canceling Manafort`s entire plea deal because Mueller says he lied to their team after making the plea deal, that itself could be another new crime. I can also report for you that Julian Assange is denying this story and has pledged to sue over it.
Now, your normally voluble president has gone somewhat quiet refusing to address this Manafort plea deal news in a new interview he did with "The Washington Post". But here`s a little more context for "The Guardian" report and then we`re going to get to our experts. Manafort would have been taking this newly reported WikiLeaks meeting right around the time he joined the campaign as a veteran strategist lauded to come and bring some order heading into the convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, NEW DAY: Let`s talk now with Donald Trump`s newly minted convention manager Paul Manafort. This is not Manafort`s first rodeo. He is a veteran political strategist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Here`s another reason that this story is so explosive. It would put Manafort in secret dialogue with WikiLeaks to potentially get secret tips long before Julian Assange ever told the rest of the world that he did have the goods on Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, AUSTRALIAN COMPUTER PROGRAMMER: We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton. We have e-mails, right, Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: At a minimum, this report shows the man who released the e-mails hacked by the Russians met with the man who ran Donald Trump`s campaign and had longstanding ties to Russia at a crucial time. Again, before the e- mails came out. That`s a minimum.
Now, maybe you want the maximum. Well, the maximum legal theory you would hear would suggest that the head of Trump`s campaign could coordinate either the hack itself or the way it was deployed with WikiLeaks against a domestic political opponent in the United States. Now all of this comes obviously the time where you might be thinking why do I have to process this news, there`s all this other news related to Paul Manafort?
Last night, he lost his whole plea deal with Mueller for lying. And all this comes as a key Roger Stone associate says he`s turning down his offer of a plea deal which related to allegations that he lied about contacts with Assange. Now, we have the reporter on that as well tonight. Now, after Trump submitted his answers to Mueller, all of this comes when he had allegedly addressed collusion questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ve been finished. I finished them yesterday. The lawyers have them. I assume they`ll turn them in today or soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: One thought there, all this new stuff about Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks and collusion, if Donald Trump and his lawyers didn`t know about this stuff that`s in the news tonight, gosh, I bet they wish they did before they turned in those answers. Now, I do want to be clear. We know Manafort lies all the time. We don`t know whether he is lying this time about this meeting in his public defense or in what he said to Bob Mueller.
But we do know, he, according to Mueller, lied about something material. And if he was willing to lie to jeopardize getting any leniency in jail at his admittedly old age, he must have had a pretty big reason to do that.
So as I mentioned I`m thrilled that we have Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the incoming chair of the Judiciary Committee who joins me momentarily for reporting. NBC investigative producer Ana Schecter is here. As I mentioned, she just interviewed Corsi, that Stone associate. David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones, talented expert on this who brings a note of skepticism to "The Guardian" story and Terrorism Analyst Malcolm Nance, author of The Plot To Hack America.
Malcolm, briefly why is this story important if true?
MALCOLM NANCE, TERRORISM ANALYST, MSNBC: I think that if this story is true, this is the first real definitive evidence that we have of what I call the bridge, the bridge between Russian intelligence, their subcontractor Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and the Trump team. And to tell you the truth, I have to -- I`m quite surprised that it would have then involved Paul Manafort. It`s quite possible that they just decided to go to the top with a trusted agent.
Manafort has been very well known to the Russian government for decades but, you know, it`s quite possible also that there`s a -- that this is a B team effort that he was going to hand this off to other players. We don`t know right now but what we do know is that this information appears to have come from some very primary sources.
There was a reporting from "The Guardian" back in May about an Ecuadorian intelligence operation which tracked every individual that came in there that had a special activities fund in the millions. And the reporting that I`m seeing here from Luke Harding appears to emanate from Ecuadorian intelligence sources.
MELBER: You`re referring --
NANCE: So it`s probably credible.
MELBER: You`re referring to "The Guardian" reporting. Ana who`s been all over this story as well, let me read from that reporting. The article, by the way, bylined partly out of "Ecuador" says an internal document from Ecuador`s intelligence agency that "The Guardian" says it saw. So that`s more than just sources talking, lists a Paul Manaford, misspelled, as one of several well-known guests and mentions Russians.
ANA SCHECTER, INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER, NBC NEWS: Well, I think this is really key because this is the first time, if true, we`re seeing a direct link between WikiLeaks and the campaign. We know Stone was in the mix but he wasn`t really a part of the campaign at that time. He had already been pushed out.
But what`s interesting to me about this is we know that WikiLeaks was getting this trove of information from Guccifer in the spring of 2016 around the time of the meeting. So we don`t really know if Julian Assange could have told him at that potential meeting everything that he did have. We knew now that in June, a couple of months later, Julian then went on and told the world about the Hillary emails that were coming. So it`s interesting. It sounds like they have a report going back years but we don`t really know if Julian Assange even knew what he had at that time.
MELBER: David, you have been known to be hunting for clues of collusion, even for crumbs of collusion, sir. And here we are with more than a crumb, a real healthy serving. And yet you have some skepticism. Go ahead.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, no. Skepticism is the wrong word, Ari. The sourcing on this is mainly anonymous. There is a reference to an intelligence report that you note. Although they didn`t provide the report.
I know Luke Harding, reputable, hardworking reporter. I just think, you know, we`re all prefacing our remarks about the significance of this if true, if true. And I think the story needs to be matched before we can make what would be bombshell connections. If this is true --
MELBER: You say -- now, I got to go at to you and then we`re going to go to the Congressman but --
CORN: Yes, sure.
MELBER: You say my words are wrong but you just described taking a very serious international at "The Guardian" and saying they`re not good enough. You need other reporters to match it. I would call that skepticism.
CORN: OK. Well, I can quibble. On something this big, I would want to see -- to be utterly confirmed. I mean I give them the benefit of the doubt but before we go racing to what it fully means, I would want to see the intelligence report itself.
MELBER: Specifically, do you -- as an expert on this, you`ve literally written a book on it, do you have reason to think this doesn`t square? I spoke to someone in the Trump world today who is not a Manafort defender but said, "Look, he is dumb in many ways but not dumb enough to do that meeting himself. He would have sent the henchmen."
CORN: I think one reason this is having the impact it`s having, it`s almost unfathomable as Malcolm just said that you would -- that Manafort would be the person to make this connection. You walk into the embassy of Ecuador to meet Julian Assange. You know there are cameras there. You know British intelligence is watching. So if you just walk in, in chinos, I mean now we know Manafort has done a lot of stupid things, has said a lot of lies so it`s hard -- (CROSSTALK) yes. So --
MELBER: Had been brazing. In other ways, (CROSSTALK) attitude and made mistakes based on his arrogance.
CORN: Many. So it`s hard to sort of square this with a straight through logical narrative here. So it doesn`t make sense for him to have done this. But nevertheless, he has done things that don`t make sense.
CORN: So (CROSSTALK) logic.
MELBER: What`s fascinating, I want each of you to stay with me for your expertise but I turn now to New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee which means he`s expected to take over the chairmanship officially in January. Walk us through from your position what this story means, what more you would want to know, and what if anything you think Congress should do about this allegation?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think first of all that these are very serious allegations. Obviously, they are the connecting bridges, someone in your show said, for direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and WikiLeaks. We don`t know if these reports are true but we shouldn`t underestimate what Mueller knows.
He knows a lot and I`m waiting to see what he reveals in the documents he`s going to file in the court I think next week with respect to the crimes and the lies of Paul Manafort and see what that has to say about this if at all. And the so-called Attorney General Whitaker will not be able to keep that document from being public.
MELBER: Congressman, when you look at the allegation if Paul Manafort held these meetings and strategized or conspired with WikiLeaks but didn`t actually control the e-mails or the material, do you view that as a potential U.S. election-related crime?
NADLER: Well, I would think so. We`d have to know more about it but if he conspired with WikiLeaks to effectuate the release of those stolen e-mails, his obvious motive would have been to affect the election. Then yes, that would be a very directly related election crime and it would be the very top level involvement or the top level of the Trump campaign in a very serious criminal conspiracy against the United States with a foreign power.
MELBER: And what is your view of Bob Mueller making these filings yesterday, blowing up Paul Manafort`s plea deal and saying that he continued to lie to Mueller? Why would Paul Manafort do that? And in your view again in oversight from the Congress, does that raise for you questions about what exposure other people or the White House has on this?
NADLER: Well, it raises a lot of questions. Why he would -- why Manafort would have done that or why he would lie to the special prosecutor and blow up a plea deal and subject himself to very lengthy terms of imprisonment, I don`t know. One speculation is that he may expect or hope for, had been promised or hinted at a presidential pardon. But that would be playing with fire because any dangling of a pardon in front of Manafort or anybody else in this investigation would be perilously close to obstruction of justice by the President.
MELBER: Do you think --
NADLER: But we`ll have to wait and see what Mueller files with the court.
MELBER: And I appreciate your caution there. Do you think that if Paul Manafort was trying to play some sort of double agent role, pretend to cooperate, and then feed information back to the president`s lawyers or presidential staff, does that expose any of those individuals in your view to criminal liability? Because that would seem to strike at the heart of everything that you and the Democrats have been talking about in protecting the Mueller probe from obstruction.
NADLER: Well, I`m not sure I understand your question. If Manafort were playing a double game and feeding information back to other people, that would certainly be a crime on Manafort`s part. I`m not sure it would be a crime for anybody to receive information from him with respect to the questions he was asked or what he was saying or lying about.
But the question of what he was lying about is essential at this point. And again, we have to remember with these bombshell allegations from "The Guardian", we know there was collusion. I mean we know about the Trump Tower meeting with Manafort and Don Junior and various other people with the Russians when they agreed to accept "dirt" on Hillary Clinton which they were told was part of the Russian government`s attempt told by the Russians, was a part of the Russian government`s attempt to influence the election in Trump`s favor.
So we know there was collusion at the highest level of the campaign. We don`t know the extent of it. We don`t know to what extent they were involved in arranging it. We don`t know to what extent the president personally was aware of that. But I`m sure that Mueller knows a lot that we don`t know yet. And obviously, these are all questions that we`ll be wanting to see from the special prosecutor -- the special counsel`s report and from indictments, and if necessary from investigations by congressional committees.
MELBER: Well, those committees, it would seem are going to be as busy as ever. And Congressman Nadler, the top Democratic Judiciary Committee, thank you for making time for the -- for us on THE BEAT tonight.
NADLER: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it. I go back to the panel. Malcolm Nance, I wonder if you could build on the point that Congressman Nadler just made I think quite carefully but I will make even more bluntly which is he`s saying even if you want to give them a pass on the Trump Tower meeting and say ignorance, curiosity, whatever, if Paul Manafort was already conspiring with Assange before that meeting, then boy does it look a lot worse. And boy does it look a lot bigger than just a conspiracy. It gets you closer to the T-word if he went into that meeting trying to get more help from an adversary.
NANCE: He`s absolutely right. If this meeting -- and David is correct. We`re prefacing this with if this reporting is accurate, it is --
MELBER: Which is not as close to what you say, obviously.
NANCE: Not at all but just cautious. If it is accurate, what this does is it moves Paul Manafort from just being an applicant for the president`s campaign committee at that time to essentially being a Russian oriented director of dirty tricks, right. That this guy would have been the bridge between Russia`s overall strategic plan to influence the American election, would have met up with the facilitators at WikiLeaks to deploy that information well before it was known. And then would have come on to the president`s campaign and managed an American election in order to facilitate Russia`s goals and bring the Trump team on board.
And it makes the Donald Trump Jr. meeting even more nefarious because he would have sat in that meeting knowing the entire strategic plan to hijack and steal an American election --
NANCE: -- by a foreign intelligence agency.
MELBER: Yes. As they say in court, to doubt. I mean that is bad when you put it like that or as David Corn likes to say that if true, that is all a bunch of news we`re getting to. And then we have this, Bob Mueller doesn`t leak much but here in our NBC newsroom, we`re holding a draft indictment of Jerome Corsi, the famed birther and Roger Stone associate that we now have, that we`ve obtained, not from Mueller but because our colleague and reporter Ana Schecter has interviewed Corsi today, breaking news.
You obtained these materials. I want you to lay it all out there because your reporting is really invaluable to this story. Before you do though, let me show the viewers a part of the interview you`ve just recorded about how Corsi ended up in the soup, another legal term, and then you lay it out. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
What I told the special prosecutor was I thought I was giving Roger a cover story. In other words, I was allowing him to have an alternative explanation for why he said Podesta is going to be in the barrel based on my research on Podesta that --
So you were telling him that he could use this story even if it wasn`t true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
SCHECTER: Well, I would just want to say that Stone absolutely refutes that he didn`t need to have this alibi of Jerome Corsi`s opposition research but essentially Corsi made stunning admissions to me in this interview. This is just one of many actually. This refers to his opposition research on John Podesta and his brother Stone asked him to look into the Podesta`s getting money from Russians. And that was part of this opposition research operation that he was trying to set up to help candidate Trump at the time.
Now, Jerome Corsi -- what`s also in these documents which is really interesting is a series of e-mails from Stone to Corsi pushing Corsi to either get to with Assange or convince their friend in London, another conservative writer to get to the Ecuadorian embassy and see what they had. They just couldn`t wait to get their hands on what they had, the rest of the e-mails.
MELBER: And so you have this which shows Mueller very close to charging.
MELBER: Is Jerome Corsi`s defense basically "I did lie to other people but I didn`t lie knowingly to the feds"?
SCHECTER: That`s exactly right. He says, "I forgot about these e-mails that I had with Stone. I forgot that I forwarded the e-mail to Ted Malik in London and I just didn`t remember them. I don`t remember my 26000 e- mails."
MELBER: So that`s the Corsi side?
SCHECTER: That`s right. And the Mueller response to that is, "This doesn`t seem like the kind of thing you`d completely forget."
SCHECTER: Yes because there were multiple e-mails. There were also e- mails later from Corsi to Roger Stone saying something`s going to happen on October 2. Well, in fact, on October 3m Julian Assange announced that he was going to have a big dump coming soon. And on October 7, the John Podesta e-mails came out.
MELBER: This is -- it`s fascinating. There`s a lot of details. But at its core, David Corn, I want to get you to go big picture with this. We don`t usually see, I can`t emphasize this enough, draft indictments out of the special counsel probe. Mr. Corsi got close enough to get his hands on it and then obviously has decided to distribute it. He says he`s going to fight. I`m curious what you, if I may dub you your first rap name here on THE BEAT, David, Little Skeptic. I`m wondering what you Little Skeptic make of this part of the story.
CORN: Well, first, I have to say, Ana, I was very jealous when I read the story. Congratulations on a wonderful scoop. And what we see with both Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone is the defense saying, "Well, I`m a big liar. I`ve lied, lied, lied publicly but I didn`t lie to the -- to Robert Mueller. That`s the only time I didn`t lie."
And what`s really interesting here according to the e-mails that Ana revealed in this story is that in late July or early August, Stone is trying to get Corsi to get to Assange to get access to or figure out what he has regarding e-mails from the -- from Hillary Clinton or from the DNC. And why does he want to do that and then what happens when he finds out that Assange does have something, Corsi does report back to him, and then where did he take it from there?
So this story complicates Stone`s "I was a big liar when I said I knew something about Assange" because it does indicate, well maybe he actually did. So his lie may turn out to be a lie. I mean we`re in a hall of mirrors here and, you know, this is why Mueller is taking his time and doing step by step. And to the point from Jerrold Nadler, I think Mueller -- if there was a meeting between Manafort and Assange in March of 2016, my guess is Mueller knows about that too.
CORN: So all this stuff will be revealed I think in Mueller`s sweet time.
MELBER: Well -- and wasn`t it LL Cool J who said, "You`re lying about the lies that you`re telling"?
CORN: That`s exactly what he said.
MELBER: I didn`t mean to take the words right out your mouth, David.
CORN: Well, they were his words.
MELBER: So true. I got to fit in a break. I just have to. We have so much more news. My special thanks to Ana Schecter, David Corn, and Malcolm Nance.
Up ahead, Manafort on the hook for these new crimes. Was he trying to be a double agent? And Trump now attacking the Mueller probe. Wonder why.
And later, new light on Manafort`s role in that Trump Tower meeting. And I have a very special guest for reaction someone who`s been inside all of this. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Welcome back. Tonight, the White House rattled over the largest public collusion development since the Mueller probe began. "The Guardian" reporting Paul Manafort held these secret talks with Julian Assange. The news breaking hours after Mueller ripped up Manafort`s plea agreement for allegedly lying to the feds.
So we talk a lot about why this seems important but what are the specific potential criminal elements here? I want to bring in two former Federal Prosecutors Mimi Rocah and Seth Waxman.
Mimi, what in the WikiLeaks development suggests new criminal conduct potentially?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So for conspiracy charge, you need to show that people had a common objective, criminal objective like interfering with the elections, hacking e-mails, and that they did some -- they sort of agreed on and even if not explicitly, right, but agreed on it in some way. It can be unspoken, it can be said in few words, and did something to further that objective. It doesn`t have to be much.
So if this reporting is true, then what we have is, you know, Manafort actually going to a meeting in furtherance of this objective. That would actually be a very big step. It doesn`t need to be that explicit. It doesn`t need to be that big but that would be a big step that would show him in a conspiracy if true.
MELBER: So he`s already in a lot of trouble. People know that. What is big to you legally here is that this could be a Trump campaign collusion conspiracy based on this new information if proven in a way that we didn`t have yesterday.
ROCAH: Correct. And this is the latest reporting today, "The Guardian" that, you know, again if true which I know you debated earlier on the show, we have to wait to see how it plays out, there was reporting earlier and has been in the past about the e-mails obviously between Stone and Corsi about getting information from Assange, you know, sort of finding out what he has, making sure it gets out there, if they advised him on the timing like the timing that it should come in October, you know, when it should come out, things like that. I mean that -- those are all steps in furtherance of the conspiracy.
So again, they`re not going to sit down at a table and talk about and say, "Hey. Let`s all do this together." It`s going to be said in sort of unspoken ways, a nod here, a nod there, and met with the guy. And they`re going to either communicate with that sort of common objective in mind.
MELBER: Seth, I want to play for you Julian Assange just days after the time that was pinpointed by "The Guardian" for this alleged meeting. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASSANGE: We have upcoming leaks in replacement to Hillary Clinton which are great. We have accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton. We could proceed to an indictment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you make of that in light of this?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean incredibly significant, just three days after the Trump Tower meeting, Julian Assange is going public saying he has this information. So if you assume that a legal corrupt deal was struck during the Trump Tower meeting, a promise for the Russians to give dirt on Hillary in exchange for a promise from Trump that he will reduce or eliminate sanctions on the Russians should he be elected.
And then you figure that Trump doesn`t want his fingerprints on such a corrupt deal, it only, you know, begs the question is, did they rely on Assange and WikiLeaks to get that information out using Manafort or Stone as kind of the intermediaries. So you have a quid pro quo which could be the basis for serious federal charges and getting the information out through Assange to complete the transaction.
MELBER: Finally, I want to ask you both, is it possible that these stories are linked? Do you view based on the theory of the case the idea that maybe one of the things that was material that Manafort misled Muller about was this? First, Seth.
WAXMAN: Yes. For me, you know, it`s so hard to say. I mean they`ve been -- Manafort has been in countless debriefings with the government, whether it was this set of facts or some other set of facts that he was denying. We`re not admitting that the government just didn`t believe him. It`s hard to say. You know, is it a coincidence that the information comes out on the same day? It could be. Clearly what`s most important, of course, that is the government is no longer sponsoring Manafort, and that is a huge loss for the government, and frankly, a huge win for the President.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Mimi, your view on that?
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don`t necessarily take that view. First of all, I think that there`s no question for them to rip up the agreement with Manafort, to say that he breached it, it had to be about something important, right? I mean, they went to all this trouble, they`re not going to do it over some small lie about something immaterial. And it also is backed up by evidence, the fact that they know he`s lying because they have to be able to go to court and show that did a judge, if need be. It`s not a trial, but it`s got to be evidence satisfactory to a judge.
And remember, they said multiple lies. So I do think that the lies -- I think -- I don`t know that the timing of the story is breaking, but I think that we can surmise that Manafort`s agreement was torn up because he was lying about something central to the Russia investigation. That could be his involvement, it could be other people`s involvement, but something he was not willing to admit.
ROCAH: And that they have hard proof of. So that`s why i don`t know that the loss of Manafort is quite as big as everyone thinks because it`s always nice to have a cooperator, have a storyteller, have someone on the inside, but I think they have evidence anyway that is showing that Manafort lied and that will be -- can still be the basis of whatever charges might come.
MELBER: Right. And by your analysis, although obstruction is no small potatoes, there has been a long period of time where it felt like Bob Mueller was focused on obstruction. And what you`re saying is your interpret is the things, the things, the various subjects that Manafort lied about, may include collusion, which takes you back to what Mueller`s headed up to round this up, t0 end this, and why that appears to make some of the White House so nervous. Mimi Rocah, Seth Waxman, thank you both.
We`re back in 30 seconds with a breakdown of the news and why it shows when collusion can be a crime.
MELBER: If you`re defending yourself against potential collusion charges, the two groups you don`t want to have contact with are, one, the Russian government and two, WikiLeaks. Now remember, big picture, we all knew Paul Manafort had long and extensive links to the Russian government-affiliated oligarchs. What is new tonight is this reported meeting with that other group you don`t want to have contact with, WikiLeaks, specifically, its leader Julian Assange.
This meeting that Manafort took a bit after he first began trying to get a job with the Trump campaign in February 2016. There was that memo offering to work for free. Tonight for the first time we now see the report that he met with Assange that next month, March, and it was in that month that Trump took Manafort up on the offer, hiring him to work at the Republican convention.
Now, Manafort hadn`t done that kind of work in years and he had a reputation with controversial dealings, authoritarian business, but none of that held him back within the Trump campaign. And by May, he was campaign chair. Now, one month before the infamous Trump Tower meeting where all those people met with the Russians in an effort to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And then consider this. It was the very next month that the Republican platform mysteriously changed to be more friendly towards Russia. And by that time, WikiLeaks had begun putting out hacked material from the DNC, and Paul Manafort was getting publicly pressed on what I mentioned, his ties to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you, or your campaign, and Putin and his regime?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CHAIRMAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: No, there are not. It`s absurd and there`s no basis to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?
MANAFORT: That`s what he said, that`s what I said, that`s obviously what our position is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That may be what Manafort`s lies look like a little bit. That was July. And then I want to show you something that we dug up today. A truly epic T.V. moment on the same day Manafort went on "MEET THE PRESS" along with, on that day, Julian Assange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joining me this morning are the two top strategists from both campaigns. Also, hack attack and the Russian connection, I talk to WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Looks a little different now. And on that same show, both Manafort and Assange talked all about the Russian hacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Does it not also matter if a foreign government wants to take part in our election, do you condemn that?
MANAFORT: Of course we condemn that. That`s not the issue at all. Mr. Trump was making the point that isn`t it ironic 33,000 e-mails that our FBI can`t have are sitting probably in the vaults of foreign countries.
TODD: If a foreign government is involved, isn`t that crucial information to the -- to civilians?
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: I think that is an interesting question. We can`t you know, go around speculating on who our sources are. That would be irresponsible.
TODD: You can`t speculate, you know the answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He did know the answer. I`m joined by Nick Akerman, former Watergate Special Prosecutor. How does this bombshell impact the collusion part of the probe?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I think this is what the probe is all about. It`s about conspiracy not collusion. Conspiracy is the crime. And this is more evidence of that conspiracy. In fact, I think the big takeaway from Paul Manafort, the fact that his cooperation agreement was torn up is that Bob Mueller has significant evidence on conspiracy. The same conspiracy he charged the Russians with respect to the hacking and the dissemination and distribution of the e-mails and documents.
MELBER: Do you think this report makes it more likely that Paul Manafort or his allies on the Trump campaign could be on the other side of that original Mueller indictment of the Russians as coconspirators?
AKERMAN: Oh, I think that`s right. They`re going to be the co- conspirators on the American side. They are part of at least the staging and release of those e-mails. But this new evidence almost makes you believe that it`s possible that they were also involved in the conspiracy to hack into the DNC in the first place. Because the timing, it goes back to march, when in fact the Russians were actually trying to get into the Democratic National Committee and to take documents.
So you`ve got to ask yourself, what else is out there? I mean, there are so many things that Manafort could have lied about that Mueller has evidence on now.
MELBER: You say Mueller has the evidence. If there was all this about Manafort and Mueller already knew it, if The Guardians got it, Mueller, based on past practice, would have it. Why didn`t he charge on collusion already?
AKERMAN: Because he`s trying to put together the rest of his case. What he`s looking for is hoping to have Manafort as the person who would put together the story. What we don`t -- what he probably doesn`t have right now is a witness who completely puts together the whole narrative on what happened from the beginning to the end.
MELBER: And based on your knowledge, you`re one of the few people who`s been inside one of these types of probes, do you think Mueller`s team sat with Manafort and said, we know all about this Assange meeting, tell us what else happened, and that`s when Manafort seized up?
AKERMAN: I think it`s probably a number of things. That may have been one of them. But you can -- I mean, it`s very unusual to break a cooperation agreement like that for the prosecute tore say, you`re lying, we`re not going to do it.
MELBER: Because there are other experts who says, Mueller does lose something, potentially.
AKERMAN: Yes, he loses something but you`ve got to go before a judge and convince a judge that what you did was proper and is provable which bottom line is, Mueller`s got the evidence of conspiracy here between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. That is the big headline from yesterday`s news.
MELBER: You distill it so well for us as you often do. Nick Akerman, thank you.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, I`m going to speak with someone who`s seen it all, worked directly with Paul Manafort, and battled him. He says he`s a serial liar. We`re going to get into all of that next.
MELBER: Now we turn to my interview with former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, author of the new book Trump`s Enemies: How the Deep State is Undermining the Presidency. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Let`s start with the big news. The Guardian reporting that Paul Manafort did a secret meeting with Julian Assange. Now tonight he`s denying it. Do you believe him?
LEWANDOWSKI: You know, I have difficulty believing anything that Paul Manafort says basing -- you know, looking at his history as a serial liar on the campaign and then beyond. I think there`s high probability Paul will never be released from a federal penitentiary. He not only has been convicted by a jury of his peers for those crimes, he`s also pled to a series of other crimes, all of which took place prior to him coming to the Trump Organization.
MELBER: Let`s turn from law to politics. You ran a campaign for a while that was thought to be a major underdog operation. It went farther in the primaries than people expected. But now we`re looking at a nation that has just rejected Trumpism and overwhelmingly voted for Democrats. I`m sure you`ve seen the blue wave numbers, 39 seats now. This is the largest gain we`ve ever seen in the percentage margin. Why do you think voters overwhelmingly picked the Democrats and rejected Trumpism?
LEWANDOWSKI: I think there`s a couple things you have to look at. I think the structure of the White House, to get the President prepared for his Midterms, wasn`t in place the way I advocated. When you look, the President picked up seats in the U.S. Senate, almost unheard of for a Republican and it only happened eight times in 100 years he`s picked up seats. And if you look at races where the President had the most of his time invested, whether that was the Florida Senate race, the Florida Governor`s race, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota --
MELBER: Corey, you could talk about the Senate but you`re not answering the question. Look at the margin.
LEWANDOWSKI: The question on the House, sure.
MELBER: Let`s look at the margin.
LEWANDOWSKI: Here`s where we are in the House --
MELBER: In 2018, the margin nationally for the House, that was the national race, eight percent which is huge, it`s the largest ever recorded, and it`s larger than the 2016 campaign when actually Trump, as you can see right here, trailed by two percent and squeaked it out in the Electoral College. If you`re in denial about that blue wave, how do you even fight it?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, let me -- let me tell you what I think happened. There were ten races in the country that Democrats won by less than 1,000 votes. Those are places where by and large the candidates who were running ran away from Donald Trump. If they had run towards Donald Trump, they very well could have been re-elected.
MELBER: You look at -- this is interesting because i think you`re wrong and I think what you`re saying makes no sense. But it`s interesting to get you on the record. You look at that eight percent margin, the largest ever and you think they weren`t Trumpy enough?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, here`s what I think. The Republicans had a historic number of retirements, 43 retirements and many of those in seats that candidly Hillary Clinton carried two years ago. Eight seats specifically that she carried that Republicans won, and then those Republicans had retirements so we`re on the defense. So, on a whole, yes, the Democrats took over the House but do i think that this is a definitive that Donald Trump cannot get re-elected? Of course not. Because the historical precedent tells us.
MELBER: No, I didn`t -- I didn`t say he couldn`t get re-elected. I said they lost by a historic margin and the spin about the Senate doesn`t say that. I want to turn to the economy because I read your book, you interview President Trump. You ask him point blank, what`s your greatest accomplishment? He says, as president thus far, the economy.
MELBER: A lot of that as you know is inherited but he`s a steward. He did run, though, on lowering the deficit and debt. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to create a dynamic economy again. We`re going to bring the jobs back from China, from Mexico, from --
BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: But you still owe them money.
TRUMP: -- from Japan, from Vietnam.
O`REILLY: We still owe them money so you bring it back so how are you going to get the debt down?
TRUMP: Because the country is going to start growing.
O`REILLY: Even if you gin the economy up, how does that pay down $21 trillion?
TRUMP: It will work, Bill.
O`REILLY: The debt is still on the books.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s what he promised, we`re two years in after a Republican Congress. Is the deficit growing or shrinking?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, we have a higher debt today than we did when he took over office, but the reason for that is because we`re growing our way out of the recession that we were in. Look, we`ve had 4.5 million new jobs created in the first two years of the administration --
MELBER: But I want to hold you on the deficit because that`s what he ran on, that`s what Paul Ryan and other Republicans -- take a look. Let`s show the economic fact. Barack Obama leaves with a $587 billion deficit that was decreasing. Donald Trump and the Republicans come in, it jumped to $782 billion. And now they`ve lost control of the Congress. Is it wrong to run on something and then do the opposite?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, if that`s the case, then no politician would ever run for office because we see this from political party to political party, regardless. They say one thing, they get into Washington, D.C., they do something different.
MELBER: Well, now you sound like them because you`re blaming other people
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I don`t blame everybody.
MELBER: -- blaming the swamp, blaming the politicians.
LEWANDOWSKI: I do blame -- I do blame the Republican Party.
MELBER: I`m asking you, you ran the 2016 campaign --
LEWANDOWSKI: I agree with you.
MELBER: -- you went around and you told people in these other parts of the country, we`re going to help you and we`re going to shrink the deficit, and you`re growing it.
LEWANDOWSKI: But we also said we`re going to create new jobs, we`re going to bring back our manufacturing base, we`re going to increase our GDP from what was 1.2 percent, 1.3 percent as the new normal to 3.5- four percent. That`s where we are. And the other thing that this President did was he refunded the military to the levels that had been decimated in the previous eight years under Obama and gave the men and women in uniform the first pay raise in a decade. Now, that being said, we need to do a better job.
MELBER: Do you think -- can I ask you something? Do you think when you change the topic from the economy to the military, that makes it look like the economy is weak?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, no, no, but listen --
MELBER: Because you`re just -- I mean, I see what you`re doing, you`re just changing the topic.
LEWANDOWSKI: No, but what I`m saying is we`re spending money, but here`s what we`re spending money on. We`re spending money to put our military, the greatest military ever known to man, back on the path that it needs to be. You can`t do that and not spend money. Look, Ronald Reagan, he not only cut taxes, he increased our military spending, right? This president has passed a historic tax cut to give more people their money, but also we`ve increased our deficit --
MELBER: I`m going to tell you, because you know -- Corey, you know -- you know you`re on THE BEAT, and you know I keep it real. You`re sounding very swampy.
LEWANDOWSKI: But let me say this.
MELBER: I got one more thing to ask you.
LEWANDOWSKI: Wait, wait, you know under the --
MELBER: Finish your point and then I have one more question.
LEWANDOWSKI: Under the Obama administration our national deficit doubled in those eight years. That`s a fact.
MELBER: I just showed you the deficit going down under Obama and up under Trump and what you want to talk about is the military and history. We`re talking about your guy. You`re having a lot of trouble tonight defending your guy on the economy.
LEWANDOWSKI: I`m not. I`m not because we`ve created 4.5 million new jobs. It`s the lowest unemployment rate for African-Americans and Hispanic- Americans ever recorded. That is --
MELBER: I do appreciate you taking the questions. I want to ask you another item that I know you don`t want to talk about --
LEWANDOWSKI: Go ahead.
MELBER: But I`m going to ask you, OK?
MELBER: The New York Times reports that John Kelly grabs you by your collar, tried to push you against the wall, Secret Service got involved, it says, "Mr. Lewandowski did not get physical in response." Did John Kelly put his hands on you?
LEWANDOWSKI: Let me say this. What The New York Times is reporting is not completely accurate. I want to be very clear about that. John and I have had some very candid conversations, very heated conversations, just like I`m sure he has had with the President and other people that have been reported --
MELBER: Corey, I`m not asking you about candid, I`m not asking about conversations, I`m not asking you about heated, all of which is fair game. Let`s have a robust debate in America. I`m asking you, did the Chief of Staff of the United States put his hands on you?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, I don`t want to get into what John may or may not have done because I don`t think it helps anybody but what I do think --
MELBER: Well, I think it helps. I mean, I`m going to push you on this and then I`m going to let you respond. I know that you and the president are big Kanye fans, right?
LEWANDOWSKI: That`s true.
MELBER: So I`m going to let you finish, but this man is paid by the U.S. taxpayer. This man is Chief of Staff to the President. He deals with a great range of important matters. If he is getting physical, potentially misdemeanor or criminal in the White House, that is the people`s business, is it not? Did he put his handed on you?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I`ll tell you this, John and I have an understanding of where each of us have our strengths and weaknesses. He has a different management style than I do. I can tell you my goal is to support the President. My goal has always been to support the President --
MELBER: If he didn`t put his hands on you, don`t you owe to it clear his name from this report?
LEWANDOWSKI: I`ll let John comment on anything he wants and I refer it back to the White House if they want to make a statement on anything that John may or may not have done.
MELBER: Corey, you are a somewhat controversial person. You`ve been an effective --
LEWANDOWSKI: Is that true?
MELBER: I think so. You`ve been an effective person in politics. We like to hear from everyone. I do appreciate you coming by.
LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: And when we come coming back, some news on Donald Trump`s planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.
MELBER: We mentioned earlier this hour that in that new Washington Post interview with Donald Trump he didn`t get into any of the big Manafort questions, dodging, but he is talking in this brand-new interview that we just got in the newsroom this hour about that long-planned meeting with Putin. They were supposed to meeting at the G20 summit that was going to transpire this week.
Trump though in the new interview says he`s threatening to call it off because of yes, something that many people asked him to do, get harder on Russia`s clash with the Ukraine right now. And he said, "maybe I won`t have the meeting, maybe I won`t even have the meeting. I don`t like that aggression. I don`t want that aggression at all."
I want to be clear, when the President does take a harder stance on Russia, we report that fact. The meeting, though, also would be coming with Bob Mueller`s probe intensifying and a lot of questions that will be kicking around from that meeting if it occurs this week. Now, we`ll be right back with one more thing.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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