CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: So the prelude, your appetizer, is the White House. The main course is Rockefeller Center. That`s at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on your NBC Network.
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening and Merry Christmas, Chuck.
Bob Mueller`s collusion investigation hitting a fever pitch right now. Trump talking about a potential pardon publically for Paul Manafort. There are new clues about Mueller`s next indictment. Jerome Corsi leaking the draft plea deal and statement of offense that he was offered by Mueller and he joins me live right here tonight.
We also later have some news on Manafort`s alleged lies to Mueller and how they may backfire. But we begin with this breaking news in the Russia probe.
Washington on edge right now over this truly unusual news. Convicted felon Paul Manafort busted for feeding information back to Trump while claiming to cooperate with Bob Mueller. Now, the new reporting here is that Manafort was trying to basically be an apparent double agent and that explains the news you may have heard earlier this week when Bob Mueller suddenly canceled the plea agreement with Manafort.
And it gives context to this other story tonight. Donald Trump telling the "New York Post" that pardoning Paul Manafort is not off the table. That right there alone, those words are farther than Donald Trump has gone on that topic so far and it would further tie Trump back to a convicted felon at the center of the collusion probe who currently stands accused of both obstructing that probe and meeting with Julian Assange. That is if he actually gave him the pardon.
And then there`s this, Donald Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani making waves by bragging about this newly exposed ongoing secret alliance with Manafort, saying it delivered valuable insight as to where it was all headed. So that is a lot right there. Let me tell you what it means in terms of where we are.
Before Paul Manafort came forward and confessed he was guilty, a criminal, he had what`s called this joint defense agreement, you probably heard about these, where he would share information with Trump. And one of those agreements is fine as long as you`re still a normal defendant.
Now that was supposed to end when Manafort flipped. His continued effort to try to double cross Mueller and stay on team Trump may have been a bid by Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel in the hopes of a lighter sentence.
That`s how the "New York Times" put it in their careful reporting. Note that that was a kind of a supposition, maybe there would be a pardon reward. Now, if Manafort`s goal was to trick Mueller into getting a lighter sentence, he failed. But if his goal was to commit one more crime to increase the odds of a Trump pardon, well, tonight I have to report for you this news that is leading our broadcast, that very pardon not off the table. It would appear Trump is getting the message.
Now, remember, during Watergate, Richard Nixon could have tried pardoning all those burglars early on to shut them up just like Trump could have tried pardoning Manafort, Flynn, or Gates, say, two years ago. For all the bluster, Trump has not done that yet for the same reasons Nixon didn`t do it even as things got worse. Because pardoning the guilty people in a conspiracy in the middle of an open probe does make you look like you are part of the conspiracy.
And Trump continues to insist he`s not part of this conspiracy. And there`s word leaking tonight that he has submitted those written answers and some of the answers coming out that he says he didn`t know about the Trump Tower meeting or about Roger Stone`s WikiLeaks intelligence in advance. Big claims to make to Bob Mueller.
Let`s get into it with a few people who know a lot about this. "Wall Street Journal" Shelby Holliday, Natasha Bertrand, a staff writer at "The Atlantic" and former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler.
On the pardon news, how do you read Trump`s statement tonight, Paul? As a prosecutor, will you look at that as linked to what`s going on with Manafort or Paul Manafort is so reckless and so allegedly criminal, it`s hard to draw any conclusion yet?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So Paul Manafort is a stone- cold thug who in September confessed in open court to at least 10 crimes involving lying and cheating. So in a way, it`s not a surprise that even after that guilty plea, he`s still lying and cheating. The surprising thing, Ari, is that in the past, Paul Manafort`s crimes have always been about helping Paul Manafort.
BUTLER: His lies to Mueller help Donald Trump and they put Manafort at great risk. Now, he`s likely --
MELBER: Let`s pause on that.
BUTLER: Yes, sure.
MELBER: I want to let you build on that because it`s very important what you just said. We are dealing with -- you call him a thug, I would call him a guilty convicted felon but, you know, those are words of art, they mean the same thing. So here is this felon who previously was busted for witness tampering to try to get out of his own prosecution for foreign lobbying crimes. So that was for him.
Your point is the new thing that`s going on is not necessarily to duck his own crimes, because he was going to get leniency for Mueller. So what`s it for?
BUTLER: Yes. And, now he puts himself at great risk for exactly what happened which is he`s likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
MELBER: Right. Natasha?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. So I think what you said is really important. It`s really hard to distinguish between, you know, Manafort`s just general recklessness and whether there was an actual strategy here. I think it might be a little combination of both. I mean Manafort had proven himself to be a very reckless figure. He went to trial against all odds. He wrote an op-ed in violation of a court gag order and, of course, he was engaged in witness tampering which is what put him in jail.
So for his whole life, I think it`s shown from his -- that the way he`s built his career, he`s thought that he is above the law. He basically thought that he could engage in all of this foreign lobbying without registering with the Justice Department. He thought that he could pull the wool over the eyes of Mueller and then potential of a jury.
And so I`m not surprised necessarily that he would maintain this back channel to Trump because it provided him with an ability to angle for a pardon throughout all of this. Now, whether or not Trump actually does that, we have to wait and see. As you said, it would potentially be obstruction of justice. But Manafort is always looking out for himself and at the same time, his hubris is just absolutely amazing.
MELBER: Yes. You`re calling it a back channel to Trump, which is one dramatic way to put it. We`re always searching for our spy movies and thrillers and ways to understand this stuff. Also, Natasha, tell me if you see it differently, it`s an obstruction channel to the White House.
BERTRAND: It`s possible and, of course, legal experts that I`ve spoken to said it really depends on what was discussed. I mean if there was this dangle of a pardon by Trump`s lawyers to Manafort`s legal team, then that, of course, could be potential obstruction of justice but they were encouraging --
MELBER: I think the pardon is dangling in the "New York Post" right now.
BERTRAND: Exactly. So I think there`s been an open acknowledgment that Trump expects to give Manafort a pardon and that Manafort has been lying to the special counsel. Another issue that we have to look out for is whether Manafort took this plea agreement to begin with because he was trying to get information about the investigation and then funnel it back to the Trump campaign.
But this could backfire because, of course, Trump has submitted his written answers to Mueller already and if any of those answers match the lies that Paul Manafort was telling to Mueller and if Manafort and Trump both thought that Mueller did not have information to the contrary, then that could really prove damaging to Trump.
MELBER: And Shelby, this goes to another point which is the president has his lawyers, he`s submitted his answers. He doesn`t need inside information from a convicted felon about what`s going on if he`s wholly innocent and the facts are exonerating.
I mean, again, not everyone knows how this works, why would you? But you cover this stuff, I`ve practiced law and covered this stuff. This is not how it works. You know, and I want to -- for your analysis, I want to play Eric Swalwell saying, "Yes. Why do you need help from Manafort to get out from under this? That doesn`t make sense if you`re innocent." Take a look.
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s not appropriate. Manafort was a cooperator. It sounds like he`s breached his agreement with the government. Again, it`s not the way that innocent people conduct themselves. If the president was not colluding with Russia, why is he colluding with Manafort to get a window into the special counsel`s investigation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLLIDAY: And I would also add, it`s not just Paul Manafort. Rudy Giuliani is saying that they`re speaking with 30 plus people involved in the probe to get information from various people who are witnesses, who could be witnesses, who could be cooperating against the president or helping him. It`s unclear. But we know that there`s a lot of information being shared with the White House.
I also think it`s notable that the president is saying that other people in this probe, Jerome Corsi who you`re going to have on your show and Roger Stone, are being brave to stand up to Mueller. We interviewed Corsi on camera at "Wall Street Journal", he`s basically telling the special counsel, "Stick it." He was offered a plea deal to plead guilty to lying to the FBI and he`s saying, "I didn`t lie and you can prosecute me, you can put me in jail."
MELBER: You think, though, that Donald Trump saying they`re brave is more than just an opinion about their personal courage?
HOLLIDAY: It could be a signal. It could be a signal to hang in there, don`t cooperate, don`t plead guilty and, yes, be on my team. And Jerome Corsi is also telegraphing to the president that he`s very loyal to him. He has said all along, "My crime was that I supported Donald Trump." So they do appear to be talking to each other through the media if you want to look at it that way.
I think a few other things that are really interesting here. The special counsel, if you read the tea leaves in the court documents that NBC broke yesterday, the prosecutors are also -- they have evidence that Roger Stone actually had information about WikiLeaks` dumps and Roger Stone denies having any advanced knowledge but there are these e-mails that don`t look good for him and they`re also probing potential witness intimidation.
This is something "The Journal" has reported on previously but Roger Stone was involved in writing stories about his alleged back-channel Randy Credico who he says was his confirming source for the WikiLeaks information and Robert Mueller is taking very seriously the fact that Roger Stone is out there telling people like Jerome Corsi and some other associates to write stories about Credico being his back channel.
Now that we have these e-mails that NBC revealed yesterday, it looks like maybe Roger Stone had a different back channel. Maybe he had somebody telling him what Assange would release.
MELBER: Right. And all this Manafort conspiring, according to Mueller`s charges, Paul, comes at a time where the president has now been exposed, been busted, for trying to abuse the justice system to order illegal prosecutions of James Comey, of Hillary Clinton.
And then he put out an incredibly irresponsible piece of propaganda, blithely accusing multiple DOJ officials of treason, retweeting this thing and saying, you know, when will this trial for treason begin? And you can see there, Rod Rosenstein, Mueller who is, of course, doing this investigation behind bars. What is your view of that, Paul?
BUTLER: You know, there comes a point where there`s such a pattern with regard to the president of obstruction, of trying to impede the investigation. We look at his firing James Comey. We look at him dictating that lie on Air Force One about the meeting, Don Jr.`s meeting with the Russian lawyer. And the kind of conventional wisdom has been none of those acts by themselves are obstruction but they`re evidence of a criminal intent, of an intent to impede the investigation.
And, again, I think what Robert Mueller will do is to look at this pattern and -- I mean, the evidence seems fairly inescapable now that the president will stop at nothing. He`s not interested in an investigation that`s a search for truth. He`s interested in clearing his name even if that`s not consistent with the evidence.
MELBER: Doesn`t that give, Natasha, an alternative reading? Giuliani is often described as brazen or reckless or gaffe-prone which is possible. I have seen evidence of that. But another reading is he represents his client and his client has made it clear, according to Paul`s analysis, that the goal is not so much to cooperate or show the facts but to effectively obstruct and destroy any full investigation.
And if that is the goal, then that`s why Rudy talks this way. That`s why he openly brazenly brags. I can`t think of the last time any lawyer, any member of the bar has bragged about getting, receiving information from a convicted felon who allegedly lied to a degree that his plea deal blew up.
BERTRAND: Right. And Giuliani for all of his bluster, he appears to actually have been telling the truth about this one. Just after Manafort signed his plea agreement, he came out and he said, "No, the joint defense agreement is actually still in place." No one believed that because it was just so implausible and so rare and so unusual.
MELBER: Such a great point.
BERTRAND: Every legal expert I spoke to said this is not possible. But it turns out that he was actually telling the truth, that he did not -- he never actually pulled out of this agreement. And I think that that is so telling about how this from the very beginning seems to have been the plan. I mean experts are telling me that it really is clear now that Manafort never had an intention to fully cooperate, fully align his interests with prosecutors because he still had that one foot in the door with Trump.
MELBER: Yes. It`s remarkable. And in some ways, it`s legally scary.
Natasha Bertrand and Shelby Holliday, thanks to both of you. Paul, because I`m just talking to Jerome Corsi, I want to get you on reaction to that later in the show so please stick around.
As I mentioned, coming up, I`m going to have a live interview with a Mueller witness and potential target at the heart of the Russia probe. Jerome Corsi has talked many times to Mueller`s team. He says they may indict him and he`s here to talk to me and take the questions.
We`re also getting new leaks about how Trump answered those questions on collusion. We`ll have that later. And Ivanka Trump defends her e-mail use that led to, yes, her own father`s fans chanting "Lock her up."
And later, Stormy Daniels breaking with Michael Avenatti and saying some things that question his role as an attorney in the defamation suit against Trump. We have that for you as well.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Bob Mueller`s office doesn`t leak, but one of their potential criminal targets is leaking. The entire draft indictment and statement of offense, I want to show it to you right here. This is a draft court document that Mueller said he could use to charge Jerome Corsi, a Roger Stone associate with lying to the FBI and the Mueller`s office about several things, including conversations he had with Stone that relate to WikiLeaks.
And that`s why the name of a very controversial figure who, according to this leak could be charged with a felony in the Mueller probe any time, why his name is in the news in a big way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corsi having conversations with Roger Stone.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: This e-mail from Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone associate.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The Corsi story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Jerome Corsi is live on THE BEAT.
Thanks for being here.
JEROME CORSI, ROGER STONE ASSOCIATE: Hi. Great to be with you. Thank you.
MELBER: You were offered a plea deal by Bob Mueller`s team?
CORSI: That`s correct.
MELBER: Why did you reject it?
CORSI: Well, I felt the deal was fraudulent. It required me to lie and it required me to violate various regulations, and even I thought commit fraud. And I won`t do that. I will not lie to keep myself out of jail and I realize that I could go to jail for the rest of my life. I`m 72-years- old. I might die in jail but I`m still making this decision.
MELBER: You think what you`re doing today increases the risk that you will be charged, be convicted, and die in jail?
CORSI: Yes, I do.
MELBER: When you look at this plea negotiation, you did enter into some kind of discussions with them. What would you have accepted? What would a plea deal look like that you would take?
CORSI: I would have taken immunity.
MELBER: Jerome, that`s not a plea deal. That`s just immunity.
CORSI: That`s my terms. They proposed this and said we want you to consider it. Now, this first count which they said you only have to agree to one count but you have to go in front of a federal judge and swear this on a bible. All right.
Now, for me to do that, I believe in my heart would have been a lie. That counts says that I knowingly and willfully presented information I knew to be false with an intent to deceive federal authorities. I do not believe I did that. In my heart, I went in to tell the truth, did my best to tell the truth and I will not swear before God and a judge something I consider to be a lie.
MELBER: But you did say something at the time that you now acknowledge to be false?
CORSI: No. I acknowledge that what I testified day one because I had not seen my 2016 e-mails --
MELBER: I understand but I`m going to hold you on this.
CORSI: Go ahead.
MELBER: You had led them to believe that you did not have contact with someone on behalf of Roger Stone when you did?
CORSI: The first day, the statement I gave was wrong.
MELBER: Wrong, OK.
CORSI: And it was wrong because I forgot the e-mail that they`re referring to. I had not seen it in two years.
MELBER: But let`s show this, so viewers can understand because this stuff is pretty important. It`s obviously important that your life is important to the probe.
CORSI: Sure. And it`s in detail.
MELBER: Here it is. The Mueller document on this says Corsi contacted an individual in London to pass on person one, Roger Stone`s request to learn about WikiLeaks materials for the campaign. You did do that?
CORSI: And the special counsel allowed me to amend the original testimony and I testified after I saw the e-mail that that was true and a fact and I didn`t deny it.
MELBER: Right. And here`s that e-mail which you had provided to NBC News from Roger Stone. And I`m going to read a part of it. Word says this individual, Malloch should see Assange.
MELBER: At the time, what were you guys trying to do? Were you trying to get information about the stolen Clinton e-mails back to the Trump campaign?
CORSI: Yes. Yes. And obviously, I wanted -- would haven`t sent that if I didn`t want Malloch to go. Everybody in the world who is in news or political operations after July 22, when Assange 2016, when Assange dumped all these e-mails on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said he had more, everybody wanted to know what they were.
MELBER: You wanted them out, though, to help the Trump campaign?
MELBER: Did you see anything wrong with that?
CORSI: No. Under -- first of all, under "New York Times" v. "U.S. Pentagon Paper`s" case, even if Julian Assange had stolen material that was classified, as a journalist, I can see him, I can get that material, and I can publish it. I`m not committing a crime. So I was happy to do it and I was happy that it would benefit Donald Trump. But --
MELBER: OK. And I appreciate you putting that on the record. Now then, this is also from the Mueller documents that you`ve leaked. Your e-mail, you`re telling Stone you`ve got a friend in the embassy planning two more document dumps.
CORSI: That`s Assange.
MELBER: Yes, that`s Assange. One shortly after I`m back, you write. Second, in October, impact planned to be very damaging, time to let more than the Clinton campaign chair be exposed as in bed with the enemy if they`re not ready to drop HRC. Is that a reference to John Podesta?
CORSI: Yes. And let me explain that. Because this was one of the main points of contention with the special counsel. I maintain and it`s my best recollection that I figured that out. Now, special counsel couldn`t believe that. They said Dr. Corsi, we`ve got e-mails. You knew it was Podesta. You knew he was going to drop them in October. You knew how he was going to drop them. You knew almost what they included and what they contained. I said yes, that`s true. Well, how did you know? I figured it out.
MELBER: So you tell Roger Stone about Podesta.
MELBER: He goes on to publically predict it and tweet about it.
MELBER: That was based on you?
CORSI: Well, I don`t know what Roger based it on but I certainly did tell him and it could have been based on me. You have to ask Roger what he thinks. I didn`t --
MELBER: Well, Roger spoke -- I`ve interviewed Roger as well. He also spoke a lot about it. He also touted his intermediary to WikiLeaks at the time. I mean during the campaign. Let`s look at Roger Stone, this was before you all knew --
CORSI: Sure, sure.
MELBER: -- that there would be a criminal probe into your conduct. This was Roger Stone saying he had an intermediary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: Yes, I have not met with Mr. Assange and I never said I had. I said we communicated through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that you?
CORSI: I don`t know. You`ll have to ask Roger. Now, Roger told me on August 15 or 13, and I published an article saying that Roger had made contact with Assange. I didn`t think it was me because I didn`t think Roger believed that I contacted Assange.
MELBER: What about now that the main thing that links Roger to Assange with private intelligence, with things that no one else seemed to know at the time is Podesta and that came from you. Could you be Roger`s intermediary?
CORSI: Sure. But it was not because I talked to Assange. It was because I figured it out on my own. I`ve never spoken within Julian Assange. I don`t know him and I have no contact that I was an intermediary. There was no third party who said Roger Stone`s got this.
MELBER: But you`re making an important point tonight in this interview which is that Julian Assange as an intermediary, the fact that there was information believed to be private that proved to be accurate, Podesta`s time in the barrel, that could have come from you in Roger Stone`s mind that you would be that intermediary?
CORSI: You have to ask Roger Stone. I told Roger Stone -- let`s get this clear. In July, I was on vacation with my wife in Italy, 25th anniversary in the family. I think flying over, I figured out that Assange had Podesta`s e-mails. I told Roger in this e-mail and subsequently, I thought it was Podesta`s e-mails.
MELBER: Right. So let`s get --
CORSI: OK. One more point on that.
MELBER: OK, go ahead.
CORSI: The other point is, this was my conclusion, my supposition. It did not come from Assange and it didn`t connect back to Assange. So there`s no link for me to Assange. The link is from me figuring this out and telling Roger. Now, if I was the source, it was because Roger believed me figuring it out, not because Roger believed I had a source.
MELBER: So you gave that defense to Mueller`s prosecutors?
CORSI: It`s actually the truth.
MELBER: It`s also a defense.
CORSI: Well, you call it -- it`s fine. It`s a defense. It`s the truth.
MELBER: You said that to them. How did they take that?
CORSI: They didn`t believe it. Jeannie Reed, one of the prosecutors said, "Dr. Corsi, you are asking us to believe that on an extended international flight with your wife for an anniversary, you had divine intervention and God inspired your mind and told you Assange has Podesta`s e-mails, he`s going to dump them in October and they`re going to be dumped in a serial fashion, is that what you`re saying?" I said, well, I guess, Ms. Reed, that`s about what I`m saying.
MELBER: Did they give you the impression that they were upset with you?
MELBER: Did they raise their voice?
CORSI: Yes. Stormed out of the room.
MELBER: Did they yell at you?
CORSI: Yes. Well, I mean yell. They don`t have to raise their voice to yell.
MELBER: Because they have power.
CORSI: And they make their points with such strength that you know they`re saying if you don`t give us the source, you`re going to jail for the rest of your life.
MELBER: So that`s how they reacted to this defense of yours. How did they react to this other defense that you made on behalf of Roger Stone which is you agreed to help Roger mislead Congress about how he found out about Podesta?
CORSI: Well, see, in fact, that was the first -- there`s two rounds of this that I went through. Round one, I openly discussed that with them and admitted it all because it was true. I was telling the truth.
MELBER: You were telling the truth about a lie.
CORSI: No. Well, OK, yes.
MELBER: Yes. You were telling them the truth about a lie.
CORSI: I`m going to clarify that if you will allow me to.
MELBER: You are allowed. You`re getting time here but you and Roger --
CORSI: I`m going to clarify that.
MELBER: But you and Roger put forward false information to the Congressional Committee about the source of the Podesta tip.
CORSI: Would you allow me?
MELBER: You are allowed. You`re getting timed but that`s about a lie?
CORSI: But would you allow me?
MELBER: Go ahead.
CORSI: I`ve been trained in public relations by Edward Bernays. British Petroleum becomes BP and now they`re beyond petroleum. Is that a lie? It`s a repositioning. In politics, there`s a lot of reposition that goes on. If that were a lie and people were guilty of a crime for doing that, there would hardly be a politician alive today in the office.
MELBER: Well, you want to debate it. I didn`t say crime, I said lie to Congress because -- let`s hold on, you told the Mueller folks, as I understand it that Roger wanted you to come up with a false cover story for the Podesta part. There`s some reason why Roger Stone thought that he needed to not tell the truth about Podesta but to work with you on a lie.
CORSI: If you will allow me. In front of the grand jury, Aaron Zelinski said, "Dr. Corsi, was that a lie?" I said yes.
CORSI: He said, "Was this a lie?" I said yes. "Was this a lie?" Yes. So I openly admitted to them that in their terms this was a lie.
MELBER: Why did you do that?
CORSI: Because of the truth.
MELBER: And why did Roger Stone want you to lie about the Podesta information?
CORSI: You have to ask from Roger Stone because I -- at Harvard, I neglected to take the mind-reading course. Now, I`ve got one more point I want to make to you and that is when this testimony came up over the issue of the House Intelligence Committee, I was given immunity by the Mueller prosecutors in order to make this testimony because my lawyer didn`t want me to be held for suborning perjury because Roger used that memo in his testimony, the House Intelligence committee sworn testimony. And I did not object to it. OK.
MELBER: He used that memo. Do you think he used you?
CORSI: I don`t know if he used me. He used Credico as a source he said he had. I go back to say I could have been Roger -- I don`t believe Roger ever thought that I had legitimate information because I never represented to Roger that I went to see Assange or had a connection with Assange.
MELBER: And you think he used Credico? Credico, this is important, has publically denied that he was the intermediary.
CORSI: Well, you have to talk about --
MELBER: Let me show you that.
MELBER: Here`s Randy Credico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you ever carry messages from Julian Assange about what he might plan to do or the nature of his work to other people anywhere else in the world?
RANDY CREDICO, COMEDIAN: No, absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So he says he was definitely not the intermediary. You say tonight that Roger may have thought you were the intermediary. When you gave Roger this hot information about Podesta, whatever its origin, he must have told Trump about that.
CORSI: Well, you know, again, Roger didn`t report everything he did to me. I don`t know what Roger did. You`ll have to ask Roger.
MELBER: But you know Roger Stone who`s at the center of this and he is an adviser to Donald Trump and that was hot information that proved to be true. You would expect he would tell Trump rather than keep that from Trump.
JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE: When I figured out, it was Podesta, I told Stone, I told about everybody I knew and I knew it would help Donald Trump and I was happy to do that. I was speculating but I was sure I was right.
MELBER: Is it accurate to say you expected Roger to tell Trump?
CORSI: I didn`t -- look, logically should I have expected it? Yes, of course.
MELBER: Yes, you did.
CORSI: Well, no. You asked me -- I didn`t know -- see, you`re asking me questions about somebody else`s state of mind and I can`t answer those questions.
MELBER: Well, the expectation, sir, would be your state of mind.
CORSI: Well, OK.
MELBER: You said you thought it would help Trump. Roger is a Trump adviser. Roger has come to you with a very special request. This is not just everyday business. Roger has came to you with a request, have someone as an intermediary in London, go to Assange, then you come back, give him this hot intel about Podesta which proves to be true. And I`m asking in the context of that arrangement, did you expect that information to go to Donald Trump?
CORSI: The part you`re missing is that I never -- I told Roger, Malloch is never going to see -- it`s not going to happen. Malloch is not going to see Assange. I didn`t think anybody was going to see Assange. Certainly, I told Joseph Farah my boss at World Net Daily, buy me an airplane ticket, I`ll go and see Assange. But I didn`t think -- Assange hadn`t told me anything. Hi Julian, glad to meet you. I`m Jerry Corsi. Would you please tell what else you got?
MELBER: Right. You didn`t think that was viable?
CORSI: Would you -- would you please give me a few so I can scoop you? It was not going to work. So nobody -- Assange wasn`t going to tell anybody. I happened to figure it out and I don`t think Stone thought I was a connection to Assange because I didn`t represent that.
MELBER: And you understand that the reaction of the Mueller investigators is a reaction many people would have. That your defense is you magically figured this out yourself without other leading information, got it right, and told Roger Stone?
CORSI: Yes, mystery, that`s exactly what happened on the flight going across to Italy.
MELBER: When you look at this, you also have a joint defense agreement with President Trump, is that still active?
CORSI: Yes, but it was not formal written but we`ve acted that way and we represented such to the special counsel. They know that.
MELBER: You do or do not have a joint defense agreement?
CORSI: There`s nothing in writing but my attorneys and the President`s attorneys are communicating as if there were an agreement in writing.
MELBER: You have a verbal understanding of an agreement.
CORSI: A verbal agreement. Yes, that is correct and that exists.
MELBER: And what type of information pursuant to that agreement have you provided to Trump`s lawyers?
CORSI: My instruction is to the attorney, and I did not participate. These were lawyer to lawyer.
CORSI: I didn`t listen to them or you know, hear any recording of them. My instructions were one way. In other words, we`ll tell the President what we`re doing so he`s informed. Again, I support the President. I want him to be able to survive the Mueller investigation, I want him to run for reelection and be reelected. That`s all my political preferences. So I said, let`s let the President know what`s going on in the Mueller investigation. I didn`t want advice. I didn`t want to know about anybody else`s case. Jay Sekulow was not saying tell Jerry Corsi to do this. It didn`t happen and I wasn`t interested in it. You know, and I`m not counting on Donald Trump for anything, including a pardon. That`s not the basis on which I made my decision. I don`t --
MELBER: Why are you bringing up a pardon in a television interview?
CORSI: Well, because that`s what everybody -- you were talking about it before.
MELBER: But I didn`t ask you about the pardon. You`re bringing up a pardon.
CORSI: I`m bringing it up because I want to make it clear that I don`t expect one, I`m not asking for one, and I`m making my decision completely on the basis that I know I have to face trial if they indict me and the consequences are I may go to prison for the rest of my life.
MELBER: I understand -- I understand you face -- sir, I understand serious consequences.
CORSI: And I understand that, and I understand that.
MELBER: Would you accept a pardon?
CORSI: No -- well, accept a pardon is hypothetical.
MELBER: The whole conversation -- you brought up a hypothetical pardon conversation.
CORSI: I won`t give you a hypothetical answer. I don`t -- let`s say I`d be offered, then I`ll tell you what I`ll do at that time.
MELBER: So people listening may draw the inference that you actually are right now auditioning for a pardon when you end that statement saying let it be offered.
CORSI: You know, I would say -- you`re asking me to tell you what people who are listening think. I don`t know what they`re thinking.
MELBER: But you`re not asking for a pardon is you`re -- is what you maintain?
CORSI: I`m not asking for a pardon.
CORSI: And I`m not anticipating a pardon.
MELBER: Do you understand why people don`t believe you?
CORSI: Yes, of course. I`ve had this problem all my life. I told my mother when I was in kindergarten, I said to my mother at first day in kindergarten, I came home early, she said why, Jerry? I said, well, I`m not going back. I`m done with this. And I knew at five years old my mother wasn`t going to accept that.
I`ve had this issue all my life and when I come to decisions, I don`t think the way people otherwise normally do. When I come to one of these things and put it together, often it`s right but nobody is going to believe me that I put it together. I`ve had that over and over again so I don`t expect the special prosecutors to believe them. But I`m not going to tell them a lie that they want to hear because they can`t invent somebody who didn`t exist.
MELBER: You are here because it is news word that you are a target of this probe.
MELBER: You also politically are known as a leader of the Birther movement --
CORSI: Oh, yes.
MELBER: -- which is a total and complete lie that you believe. Is there - - let me please -- let me finish the question.
CORSI: Finish your question, yes.
MELBER: Is this the same defense you are now trying to use with Mueller as you`ve used in that political operation which is that you stand for a lie that you say you believe and your defense is that because you genuinely believe the lie, you shouldn`t be held accountable for it.
CORSI: So you have a copy of the original Hawaii 1961 birth registration for Barack Obama. I haven`t seen it. I went down with law enforcement (INAUDIBLE) Sheriff Arpaio, Hawaii wouldn`t show it to law enforcement. I don`t think it exists. Now, if you could show me that, all agree I was wrong. So far, all that we have is a computer printout from the White House that didn`t exist in 1961 that forensic analysis says is a fraud. So I`ll stand by what I really said as true even though you think it`s a lie.
You believe the state warranted conventional assumption and I`m the conspiracy theorist which was a term invented by the CIA for people who doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald, not at the peak of his game as a shooter with a used Italian rifle that didn`t shoot straight one was made and a site that was misaligned killed Jack Kennedy shooting past a tree with three shots. I don`t believe that happened.
Now again --
MELBER: But my question to you is --
MELBER: Do you think that that will help you in your defense that because you have believed this other lie you say and you`ve devoted time and energy to this other lie, that now that you have this apparent law in front of you, you can just say well I believe lies that`s sort of my thing.
CORSI: Mr. Zelinski actually asked me, they said Dr. Corsi, you`re very good. You take a fact from here and fact from there and a lie and the packaging convince people that it`s true. I`m looking at Zelinski --
MELBER: You talk about the Mueller prosecutor.
MELBER: Did he ask that in relation to birtherism or other issues.
CORSI: You`d say birtherism but that`s when I suggested he was --
MELBER: You knew he was talking about that because you know -- because you know that that is a lie.
CORSI: No, because I know he can`t accept what I have written yet as true.
MELBER: So he brings that up with you and says what?
CORSI: He says, you don`t know the difference between true and false. He said we -- you know, you`re so confused in your mind you can`t answer questions.
MELBER: Which does make it harder to prove a false statement --
CORSI: No, it`s not a tactic. I`m sitting here tonight and I`m telling you I do not believe Barack Obama has legitimate 1961 original birth certificate. I don`t think it could ever be produced. I defy you to produce it or anybody else. I`m telling you here secondly, that when I flew to Italy on that flight, I did figure out on my own without any outside help or influence that Julian Assange had Podesta`s e-mails and exactly how he would use them.
MELBER: Well, a lot of what you`ve said does not add up and you know that because you`ve admitted that some of what you`ve said in the context of this topic are lies that you had to admit to. You`ve also admitted that you and Roger Stone work together to mislead this government investigation on the congressional side --
CORSI: I object your characterization, counselor.
MELBER: I understand and that`s why you`re here because you get -- you get to be part of this, sir. I -- this is me wrapping. I appreciate you coming in though.
CORSI: Fine. Where`s my wrap?
MELBER: You can have a final statement.
CORSI: OK, first of all, I don`t think I lied.
MELBER: You admitted in this interview you lied.
CORSI: I had -- oh, no, that`s -- we`re talking -- there`s two things. When I did the work for Roger there --
MELBER: Yes, I`m referring to the out-of-court lies.
CORSI: And I said your terms it was a lie, and my terms it was politics. Politics is that way. I don`t consider that to have been --
MELBER: But you did admit in this interview today that you told those lies because you had to update them to Mueller.
CORSI: And I told the grand jury because in front of the grand jury they`re not going to believe my longer explanation, OK, what I believe in my heart, OK. So I said fine you want to call it a lie call it a lie. But I`m telling you right now is I did not have a source going back to Assange. I did get this all put together on my own. I was not an intermediary between Stone and Assange and in fact, I`ll stand by that.
MELBER: You`ll stand by that and I told you you`d get your final statement.
CORSI: And I appreciate that.
MELBER: And I appreciate you coming in and taking the questions and what you did say that`s true is you are in a situation that has pressure, that has potential criminal liability. I appreciate you coming in and taking the question.
CORSI: And I`ll come back.
MELBER: All right, Mr. Cosi, Jerome Corsi, a man in the news. We`re going to have reaction from prosecutors in this interview when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORSI: In front of the grand jury, Aaron Zelinsky said Dr. Corsi was that a lie, I said yes.
CORSI: So was this a lie? I said, yes. Was this a lie? Yes. So I openly admitted to them that in their terms this was a lie.
MELBER: Why did you do that?
CORSI: Because it`s the truth.
MELBER: And why did Roger Stone want you to lie about the Podesta information?
CORSI: You have to ask Roger Stone because I -- at Harvard I neglected to take the mind-reading course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Jerome Corsi just moments ago. I`m now here with several experts to help us understand what we just heard. Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman, Matt Miller who worked at the Justice Department, and another former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler back with me. Nick --
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, let me start off with my legal opinion. Liar, liar, pants on fire. This guy is not telling the truth. First of all, when you look at somebody and you decide whether they`re telling the truth, you don`t leave your common sense at the doorpost. I mean, what he says about suddenly coming up with the exact timing for the Podesta e-mails to come out doesn`t ring true.
But what I think is the real killer here that really puts the lie to him is that later on between January 13, 2017, and March 1st, 2017, he deleted those e-mails, the very emails that you were questioning him about that had to do with these contacts with Julian Assange.
MELBER: You`re saying the proof at the time about trying to get the goods is stuff that he tried to hide.
AKERMAN: And he hide -- he did. He deleted it. And he deleted it that time period is extremely significant because that`s when the Congressional Committee, the Senate Committee was bringing in Roger Stone and was starting to ask questions about this. This is not something that somebody forgets. You don`t forget the fact that you`re asked to make a contact with Julian Assange -- I mean, how many times do people in America suddenly decide oh I`m going to speak to Julian Assange. And it`s not something you forget when you`re called to a Senate committee and you wind up destroying the very evidence that shows that you were right in the middle of this whole thing.
MELBER: Matt Miller.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think Nick hit on the -- on the absolute key point. I mean, that`s the thing for me is look you can sometimes go in and say look, you know what, you asked me this question I forgot that I just got this e-mail, I forgot all about it. The fact that he tried to conceal this by deleting his e-mails is a thing I think that makes him look so guilty. It`s hard to come in and convince a prosecutor and convince a jury convinced even anyone listening the interview that you know, I just forgot about that when before the investigation start -- right when the investigation started you went and tried to destroy all of the evidence of this conversation that you now say you forgot you had it, just look suspicious.
I also have to say, I found it you know, pretty interesting that the first thing he said in his interview is that I can`t sign this plea agreement because it would be a lie. Jerome Corsi is someone who built his career as you well referenced in one of your final questions on being a professional liar so it is I think rich with irony now that he says -- that the thing that is blocking him from signing this plea agreement is that it would be a lie. It doesn`t make sense.
I think you know, the pardon thing that he kind of danced around and wouldn`t really talk to is really the only explanation because other than that his behavior isn`t rational. He`s looking at time in jail. The case is pretty serious against him I think the evidence is pretty -- is pretty strong and him not taking this plea agreement leads me to think he`s looking at some other path out.
MELBER: And he does seem, Paul, to understand that jail is a very real thing. He has spent real time with these prosecutors. He`s felt their seriousness. He mentions the elliptical reference to birtherism, the lie that he`s associated with, and to Matt`s point, he not only is associated with lies, in this interview, he admitted to the lies and says that he admitted them to Mueller. So if he`s already done all that and he can sign a statement that spares him jail time that is one more lie, why not do that?
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s because he`s a good liar. He turned the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States into a New York Times bestseller. But as you`re very effective cross- examination indicated, Ari, he`s not a great liar. And so you did what an effective prosecutor does, you don`t berate the witness, you let him incriminate himself with his own lying words. So to Nick`s point, no way he figured out that the WikiLeaks e-mail of Julian Podesta was forthcoming. Again, nobody knew that and he doesn`t seem like the brightest bulb on the tree, to begin with. So the Mueller prosecutor is right. It would have been divine intervention for him to know that.
The other thing is the forensic evidence his own e-mail contradicts his story and that it says that he was in touch with Julian Assange. So again that`s inconsistent with what he said. And the third thing Ari is the point that you just brought up about his now in his own admission telling the truth about a lie so he made up this story with Roger Stone about the first lie. To a prosecutor lies or evidence of consciousness of guilt.
MELBER: And then I want to broaden out from Jerome -- and Matt Miller talk about the fact that Roger Stone had some motivation to concoct a cover story and a fraudulent memo to hide the Podesta sourcing. What is that -- what does that tell you?
MILLER: It tells me a couple things. The first that I think the most important thing it tells you is that Roger Stone went and lied to a congressional committee. You know, Jerome Corsi got -- use immunity to testify to the grand jury about this and he had to get that immunity because his lawyer feared that if he testified truthfully that would be suborning perjury. What that tells me is that Roger Stone when he went in and gave this false statement to congressional investigators very likely and you know committed a crime.
And so when you look at this plea agreement, there`s obviously the ramifications for Jerome Corsi if he doesn`t accept that he`s going to be charged I think with a false statement. But then you look at Roger Stone and his culpability, there is obviously the potential conspiracy to defraud the United States charges. These are the collusion charges. But I think it looks like a pretty serious case and a pretty obvious case of line to a congressional committee that Mueller will have him on as well.
MELBER: Right. Well, so there`s a lot that emanates out from this even though some of the sordid details can get quite wheezy. I want to thank our prosecutors and legal experts here for helping us get through it. Nick, Matt, and Paul, thank you very much. Up ahead, Paul Manafort`s double cross and the secret Trump Tower meeting and what Trump`s aides are now saying he told Mueller about that meeting. Also, but her e-mails, Ivanka responds tonight.
MELBER: The Russia Probe has been on the news and Donald Trump`s lawyers are keeping it that way because I can report tonight that there are three of his answers leaking that he submitted to Mueller. ABC News reports the Trump told Mueller he was not aware of any big changes to the 2016 RNC platform. Those were considered Russia friendly. NBC reporting Trump says Roger Stone who we`ve been talking about did not ever give him advance Intel about WikiLeaks. And then a big one, Trump also telling Mueller that he was not told about his son`s secret meeting in Trump Tower with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump reportedly saying that he was answering to the best of his recollection.
I`m joined now by former Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi. He`s a former colleague of Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ. Let me start with the basics. Why would people on the Trump side leak this?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, here`s my view. The attorney for Paul Manafort is basically an insider trader and the Trump people are using this information to possibly coordinate Trump`s answers to the questions with what they know Paul Manafort is saying. And if there`s a consistency in what they say even though they may not be truthful, that only helps Donald Trump. The problem is it destroys the plea agreement that Paul Manafort negotiated. So that`s probably what`s happening.
I did want to add this though, Ari. I`ve negotiated and supervised probably a thousand guilty pleas. Many of those had cooperation language. And as a former federal prosecutor for almost 30 years, I am absolutely appalled that the attorney or attorneys for Paul Manafort would sit in on briefings with Paul Manafort and then leaked the insider information to a subject if not a target of an investigation. That is preposterous, it`s absurd, and those are the kind remarks I can say.
HAYES: Have you ever seen in your practice -- you`ve mentioned a thousand prosecutors blow up a plea agreement over this kind of double-agenting.
ROSSI: Yes, Gene Rossi has. And what happened in one of my cases is I found out that my cooperator was lying to me in debriefings and in the grand jury and I had that individual plead guilty to lying in front of the grand jury and this is unheard of. I had -- I had my cooperator plead guilty to lying at a guilty plea. So I took it very seriously.
MELBER: Let me get you -- let me get you out one more thing which is Trump has publicly said oh he didn`t know about the Trump Tower meeting. That`s different than saying it to the feds I just talked to someone who`s on heat -- under heat for lying to the feds which is a crime. But before the Trump Tower meeting, Trump was already publicly bragging that he had new stuff, new dirt coming in on Hillary. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we`re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you`re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does Mueller ultimately answer this question and find out if Trump was lying about not knowing about the meeting?
ROSSI: All right, one way is you get cell phone records. And that blocked call that Donald Trump Jr. made, that could be the key to the throne. Also you could get people that are on the periphery that said that Donald Trump the father knew that the son was going to meet. And let me tell you this. There is absolutely no way that the presidential candidate Donald Trump did not know before, during, and after that there was this huge meeting to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. That defies imagination. It`s almost as bad as drone courses epiphany that he had flying over Rome in the papacy.
MELBER: Well, Gene, you know how to nail it down and as you say sometimes things that aren`t believable aren`t true. We will find out. Gene Rossi as always, thanks to your expertise. When we come back, there`s actually some breaking news about Michael Avenatti that may surprise you in a moment.
MELBER: Another important story tonight. Stormy Daniels now publicly criticizing her lawyer Michael Avenatti. Daniels is telling The Daily Beast publication that Avenatti has not treated her "with the proper respect and deference." She also says that when Avenatti sued Trump for defamation, it was against her wishes and also references a fundraising site that he started allegedly for her legal defense without telling her, and that she`s not actually sure whether she will keep him on retained as her attorney.
Avenatti says he`s always been an open book with Daniels and that the fundraising site was designed to defray some of her expenses. An interesting exchange there between client and attorney.
That does it for us. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END